The Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Times
The fact that India and the US issued a vision document, Modi and Obama penned a joint op-ed, and then a comprehensive Joint Statement, speaks volumes for the breadth of discussions between them.
After a hectic, often frenetic five days in the United States, it is time to take stock of the achievements of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit. To begin with, the welcome he received, both in New York and in Washington, has firmly closed the door on a most awkward situation in bilateral ties: that of India voting in a leader proscribed by the U.S. Mr. Modi has been received at every level in the U.S., and if the Obama administration didn’t revoke the visa order, the gesture of President Obama right at the end to accompany Mr. Modi to the Martin Luther King Memorial came as a poignant signal that the U.S. genuinely wants to move ahead with India’s newly elected leader. Secondly, U.S. business, clearly disaffected by the difficulties they face in doing business with India, have also signalled its desire to renew investments. The fact that the two countries issued a vision document, the two leaders penned a joint op-ed, and then came out with a comprehensive 3,500-word Joint Statement, speaks volumes for the breadth of discussions between them in a short period. Yet, while the three documents contain all the parts of the relationship, they fail to convey the whole.
On issues where the countries agree, such as defence and energy, they show only incremental progress, without any big announcements. On issues where the countries differ, like the nuclear deal, trade and WTO, they seem to have deferred negotiations, indicating that no progress was made in resolving them. In that context, even the renewal of the strategic partnership, and reference to “joint and concerted efforts” to dismantle terror groups including al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, the D-Company, and the Haqqanis” do not indicate any particularly new action or formulation. The statements seem most opaque when it comes to spelling out a shared worldview for India and the U.S.: while referring obliquely to China’s aggression in the South China Sea, ‘global crises’ like the situations in Iraq and Syria, and cooperation in Afghanistan, and a confounding, long reference to North Korea (DPRK), they list no action or step that the two countries hope to take together. And while both sides made it clear ahead of the talks that the U.S. would request, and India would discuss, the possibility of joining the anti-ISIS coalition, there is silence on where those discussions led. On all fronts of the ‘comprehensive dialogue’, that is, eight issues including energy, health, space, women’s empowerment, trade, skills, strategy and security, Mr. Modi’s visit successfully brought India-U.S. ties, that were faltering for a few years, back on track. But in order to reach the finish line, Mr. Modi and Mr. Obama will need a clearer enunciation of their shared vision for the road ahead.
A renewed U.S.-India partnership for the 21st century
The Washington Post
As nations committed to democracy, liberty, diversity and enterprise, India and the United States are bound by common values and mutual interests. We have each shaped the positive trajectory of human history, and through our joint efforts, our natural and unique partnership can help shape international security and peace for years to come.
Ties between the United States and India are rooted in the shared desire of our citizens for justice and equality. When Swami Vivekananda presented Hinduism as a world religion, he did so at the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago. When Martin Luther King Jr. sought to end discrimination and prejudice against African Americans, he was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent teachings. Gandhiji himself drew upon the writings of Henry David Thoreau.
As nations, we’ve partnered over the decades to deliver progress to our people. The people of India remember the strong foundations of our cooperation. The food production increases of the Green Revolution and the Indian Institutes of Technology are among the many products of our collaboration.
Today our partnership is robust, reliable and enduring, and it is expanding. Our relationship involves more bilateral collaboration than ever before — not just at the federal level but also at the state and local levels, between our two militaries, private sectors and civil society. Indeed, so much has happened that, in 2000, then-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee could declare that we are natural allies.
After many years of growing cooperation since, on any given day, our students work together on research projects, our scientists develop cutting-edge technology and senior officials consult closely on global issues. Our militaries conduct joint exercises in air, on land and at sea, and our space programs engage in unprecedented areas of cooperation, leading us from Earth to Mars. And in this partnership, the Indian American community has been a vibrant, living bridge between us. Its success has been the truest reflection of the vitality of our people, the value of America’s open society and the strength of what we can do when we join together.
Still, the true potential of our relationship has yet to be fully realized. The advent of a new government in India is a natural opportunity to broaden and deepen our relationship. With a reinvigorated level of ambition and greater confidence, we can go beyond modest and conventional goals. It is time to set a new agenda, one that realizes concrete benefits for our citizens.
This will be an agenda that enables us to find mutually rewarding ways to expand our collaboration in trade, investment and technology that harmonize with India’s ambitious development agenda, while sustaining the United States as the global engine of growth. When we meet today in Washington, we will discuss ways in which we can boost manufacturing and expand affordable renewable energy, while sustainably securing the future of our common environment.
We will discuss ways in which our businesses, scientists and governments can partner as India works to improve the quality, reliability and availability of basic services, especially for the poorest of citizens. In this, the United States stands ready to assist. An immediate area of concrete support is the “Clean India” campaign, where we will leverage private and civil society innovation, expertise and technology to improve sanitation and hygiene throughout India.
While our shared efforts will benefit our own people, our partnership aspires to be larger than merely the sum of its parts. As nations, as people, we aspire to a better future for all; one in which our strategic partnership also produces benefits for the world at large. While India benefits from the growth generated by U.S. investment and technical partnerships, the United States benefits from a stronger, more prosperous India. In turn, the region and the world benefit from the greater stability and security that our friendship creates. We remain committed to the larger effort to integrate South Asia and connect it with markets and people in Central and Southeast Asia.
As global partners, we are committed to enhancing our homeland security by sharing intelligence, through counterterrorism and law-enforcement cooperation, while we jointly work to maintain freedom of navigation and lawful commerce across the seas. Our health collaboration will help us tackle the toughest of challenges, whether combating the spread of Ebola, researching cancer cures or conquering diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and dengue. And we intend to expand our recent tradition of working together to empower women, build capacity and improve food security in Afghanistan and Africa.
The exploration of space will continue to fire our imaginations and challenge us to raise our ambitions. That we both have satellites orbiting Mars tells its own story. The promise of a better tomorrow is not solely for Indians and Americans: It also beckons us to move forward together for a better world. This is the central premise of our defining partnership for the 21st century. Forward together we go — chalein saath saath.
Narendra Modi is prime minister of India. Barack Obama is president of the United States.
NEW DELHI: For the first time, an India-US joint statement specifically mentioned the situation in South China Sea as President Barack Obama and PM Narendra Modi expressed concern about “rising tensions over maritime territorial disputes” in that region.
The joint statement was issued after the bilateral meeting between the two leaders which took place days after the standoff with China in southeastern Ladakh ended with the withdrawal of both Chinese and Indian troops. The LAC impasse continued for several days even after President Xi Jinping assured Modi during his recent visit to India that the Chinese troops had been asked to withdraw.
According to the joint statement, Modi and Obama reaffirmed their shared interest in preserving regional peace and stability, which are critical to the Asia-Pacific region’s continued prosperity. “The leaders expressed concern about rising tensions over maritime territorial disputes, and affirmed the importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea,” it said.
This is significant because so far India has not gone beyond recognizing the US rebalance or pivot to Asia. In fact, the joint statement issued after the summit meet between Obama and then PM Manmohan Singh merely expressed a desire to partner more closely with other Asia-Pacific countries “including greater coordination with Japan, China and Asean, among others, including through the evolving institutional architecture of the region”.
President Barack Obama and India’s Prim Minister Narendra Modi visit the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial in Washington DC
There was no mention of maritime disputes in the region or anything to underline the significance of freedom of navigation. Whatever the provocation, the joint statement did not hold back this time as it even urged all parties to “avoid the use, or threat of use, of force in advancing their claims” without of course naming China.
“The two leaders urged the concerned parties to pursue resolution of their territorial and maritime disputes through all peaceful means, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” the joint statement issued after the Modi-Obama meeting said. It also spoke about the two countries looking to upgrade their trilateral dialogue with Japan to the level of foreign ministers.
Coming as it did immediately after Modi’s extended visit to Japan and President Pranab Mukherjee’s to Vietnam — which saw India extending a $100 million concessional line of credit to the country for purchasing patrol boats likely to be used in South China Sea — Beijing was seen here as sending out a political message to the NDA government through the Chumar “transgressions”.
During Mukherjee’s visit, India and Vietnam also agreed to expand oil and gas exploration in the disputed South China Sea in the form of a Letter of Intent between ONGC Videsh Limited, India and Vietnam Oil and Gas Group. Beijing later objected to it saying it would not support any such exploration in the contested waters.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Mahatma Gandhi Statue outside the Indian Embassy in Washington September 30, 2014. Credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
The get-tough-with-China-now camp is also blasting Britain for what some saw as a wobbly show of support for the protest movement. The government of Prime Minister David Cameron said it was monitoring the demonstrations closely and that the people’s rights need to be “preserved” even as the protesters need to exercise those rights “within the law.”
But some US-China experts counter that the US is right to take a cautious approach, especially in its public comments on what is still an evolving – and so far largely peaceful – struggle.
“Washington has to walk a fairly careful line here, especially when you have the Chinese already making the claim, unfortunately, that the Hong Kong protests are externally motivated,” says Dean Cheng, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center in Washington. “Any really overt level of support for the protesters’ demands would only reinforce those claims.”
What should be occurring behind the scenes, Mr. Cheng adds, is a strong message to Chinese officials – and in particular to President Xi Jinping – that repression cannot be an option, and that how Beijing resolves the crisis will have significant repercussions for Hong Kong’s and China’s relations with the world.
“I would hope that Washington is making it very clear that 25 years after Tiananmen Square, the world is smaller, the whole world is watching Hong Kong, and that any forceful suppression of the Hong Kong protests will result in an even stronger backlash against China than in 1989,” he says.
The Hong Kong protests were sparked by Beijing’s recent announcement that, while it will allow the city’s next chief executive to be elected by universal suffrage in elections set for 2017, it will now insist on vetting the candidates. Pro-democracy demonstrators say the new restrictions violate the “basic law” adopted when the former British colony was turned over to Beijing in 1997.
As Mr. Xi navigates what is arguably the first crisis of his tenure, Cheng says the Chinese leader is being pulled between two key demands: to “stay firm, stay strong” toward the protesters on one hand, but to “keep Hong Kong viable as a world financial center” on the other.
Especially with the Chinese economy slowing, the US can remind Beijing of its interest in seeing Hong Kong remain a top international investment destination and not a new symbol of Chinese repression, Cheng says – but again, that kind of diplomacy should be carried out in private, he says.
Xi also can be reminded that Beijing’s vision of “one country, two systems” is being tested in Hong Kong and watched closely, Cheng says – by the whole world in a general sense, but with particular interest by Taiwan, he adds, where Beijing wants to see that same vision applied.
Hong Kong democracy ‘grandfather’ says Britain was better than China
Photojournalist delivers forced propaganda message criticising Barack Obama’s strategy of air strikes and proxy armies against Islamist extremists
Islamist terrorists have released a third video of John Cantlie, a British journalist held prisoner for two years, in which he delivers a scripted propaganda attack against Barack Obama’s strategy in Iraq and Syria.
Mr Cantlie, wearing an orange Guantanamo-style jumpsuit, delivers the words directly to the camera using a sing-song tone as if to undermine the message.
In it he criticises Barack Obama’s tactics of using air strikes and proxy Kurdish and Iraqi ground forces against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
“Air power is good at taking out specific targets but it is not good at taking and holding ground,” he said, sitting behind the same desk as before. “For that you need effective and disciplined troops and it’s hard to see how this hotch potch army with a long history of underperforming is going to be any form of credible infantry.”
He added that organising the Iraqi army into a proper fighting force would take months and dismissed the Free Syrian Army as “undisciplined, corrupt and largely ineffective”.
Mr Cantlie was first paraded in front of the cameras two weeks ago, promising a series of videos giving the real story of Isil.
It was the first that had been heard from him since he was captured inside Syria close to the border with Turkey towards the end of 2012.
Analysts said it may suggest a change in tactics by Isil, which had previously released videos of the murder of other Western hostages, including two American journalists and a British aid worker.
A second video was released last week in which Mr Cantlie, 43, from West Sussex, said the American president was being sucked into Gulf War III, another unwinnable conflict.
This time he sits in front of the same black backdrop to disguise his location. His appearance is similar, with the same length of beard, suggesting the videos were filmed at about the same time.
His main target is Mr Obama’s speech delivered on the 13th anniversary of 9/11.
He quotes approvingly from a New York Times article critical of Mr Obama’s strategy, and accuses the American president of using predictable and simplistic language.
The words attempt to rebut accusations that Isil lacks a vision and is interested only in murder
“Islamic State does have a vision: they have created an autonomous and functioning caliphate,” he said, before promising future videos.
“Join me again for the next programme.”
A British taxi driver, Alan Henning, who was kidnapped while delivering aid to Syria, is also still being held by Isil.
Speech: In the footage Cantlie called Obama’s rhetoric ‘disappointingly predictable’, and criticised the Free Syrian Army as being ‘undisciplined, corrupt and largely ineffective’
Territory: This map, which appears in the new John Cantlie video, shows where ISIS is operational. The dark pink streaks – largely centered around main roads in northern Syria and Iraq – show where ISIS maintains a presence, while the red dots show towns or cities currently under the group’s control
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2774174/BREAKING-NEWS-New-video-released-British-hostage-John-Cantlie-talks-Obama-s-disappointingly-predictable-strategy-Isis.html#ixzz3Eo0ygth3
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President Obama during his “60 Minutes” interview with Steve Kroft which aired on CBS on Sunday, September 28, 2014
Obama: We’re better off, even if you aren’t smart enough to “feel it”
Another nugget from Barack Obama’s interview with 60 Minutes is making the rounds today, but it’s less surprising than one might think. Steve Kroft challenged the President to make a midterm pitch for his party, and Obama responded by insisting that the nation is better off today than it was six years ago. He acknowledged, though, that most people don’t “feel” it:
From the “60 Minutes” Transcript:
Steve Kroft: You’ve got midterm elections coming up. Are you going to get shellacked?
President Obama: Well…
Steve Kroft: Or do you think that, I mean, are you optimistic? What are the issues and what are you going to tell the American people?
President Obama: Here’s what I’m going to tell the American people. When I came into office, our economy was in crisis. We had unemployment up at 10 percent. It’s now down to 6.1. We’ve had the longest run of uninterrupted private sector job growth in our history. We have seen deficits cut by more than half. Corporate balance sheets are probably the best they’ve been in the last several decades. We are producing more energy than we had before. We are producing more clean energy than we ever had before. I can put my record against any leader around the world in terms of digging ourselves out of a terrible, almost unprecedented financial crisis. Ronald Reagan used to ask the question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” In this case, are you better off than you were in six? And the answer is, the country is definitely better off than we were when I came into office, but now we have to make…
Steve Kroft: Do you think people will feel that?
President Obama: They don’t feel it. And the reason they don’t feel it is because incomes and wages are not going up. There are solutions to that. If we raise the minimum wage, if we make sure women are getting paid the same as men for doing the same work, if we are rebuilding our infrastructure, if we’re doing more to invest in job training so people are able to get the jobs that are out there right now, because manufacturing is coming back to this country. Not just the auto industry that we’ve saved, but you’re starting to see reinvestment here in the United States. Businesses around the world are saying for the first time in a long time, “The place to invest isn’t in China. It’s the United States.”
The reason that people don’t “feel” the recovery is because it hasn’t been much of a recovery at all. The supposedly historic streak of private-sector job growth has barely kept pace with population growth for the last five-plus years of the technical recovery. We still have millions of workers sidelined, and job growth hasn’t gotten out of the 200K monthly range. Economic growth, which should have spiked after a sharp recession, has been in the 1.8%-2.2% annual range ever since. Obama takes credit for cutting deficits in half, but neglects to mention that it was his budgets that had to be cut from the $1.5-trillion deficit range, and that the deficit reductions for the next few budget cycles are based on wholly unrealistic expectations of economic growth. Our energy production growth has mainly come from the Bakken extraction in North Dakota and natural gas production from fracking, neither of which this administration supports; they just can’t do much about the former, and the EPA’s still working on the latter.
Still, though, this is the same sing-song argument that Obama made in 2010, 2012, as well as 2014. It didn’t work in either of the first two cycles. Obama got shellacked by his own admission in the first midterm election, and he won in 2012 by demonizing Mitt Romney rather than on his own merits — which is why he ended up with millions of votes fewer the second time around, the only President to win re-election while doing so. He’s not going to admit that people don’t feel the recovery because it’s been mostly stagnation in place since the Great Recession. The real question is why Kroft didn’t challenge Obama on some of those claims during the interview, although he did offer a rather skeptical statement at the end:
Steve Kroft: You think you can sell this?
Obama thought he could sell it in 2010, too, and look how that turned out. He ended up underestimating the anger over Democratic policies, and when that happens again this time, look for him to blame Debbie Wasserman Schultz for failing to alert him.
President Barack Obama has attended only 42.1% of his daily intelligence briefings
President Obama says the US intelligence agencies underestimated Islamic State activity in Syria and overestimated the Iraqi army’s role to fight back against militants
By Wynton Hall
A new Government Accountability Institute (GAI)report reveals that President Barack Obama has attended only 42.1% of his daily intelligence briefings (known officially as the Presidential Daily Brief, or PDB) in the 2,079 days of his presidency through September 29, 2014.
The GAI report also included a breakdown of Obama’s PDB attendance record between terms; he attended 42.4% of his PDBs in his first term and 41.3% in his second.
The GAI’s alarming findings come on the heels of Obama’s 60 Minutes comments on Sunday, wherein the president laid the blame for the Islamic State’s (ISIS) rapid rise squarely at the feet of his Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
“I think our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” said Obama.
According to Daily Beast reporter Eli Lake, members of the Defense establishment were “flabbergasted” by Obama’s attempt to shift blame.
“Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullshitting,” a former senior Pentagon official “who worked closely on the threat posed by Sunni jihadists in Syria and Iraq” told the Daily Beast.
On Monday, others in the intelligence community similarly blasted Obama and said he’s shown longstanding disinterest in receiving live, in-person PDBs that allow the Commander-in-Chief the chance for critical followup, feedback, questions, and the challenging of flawed intelligence assumptions.
“It’s pretty well-known that the president hasn’t taken in-person intelligence briefings with any regularity since the early days of 2009,” an Obama national security staffer told the Daily Mail on Monday. “He gets them in writing.”
The Obama security staffer said the president’s PDBs have contained detailed threat warnings about the Islamic State dating back to before the 2012 presidential election.
“Unless someone very senior has been shredding the president’s daily briefings and telling him that the dog ate them, highly accurate predictions about ISIL have been showing up in the Oval Office since before the 2012 election,” the Obama security staffer told the Daily Mail.
This is not the first time questions have been raised about Obama’s lack of engagement and interest in receiving in-person daily intelligence briefings. On September 10, 2012, the GAI released a similar report showing that Obama had attended less than half (43.8%) of his daily intelligence briefings up to that point. When Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen mentioned the GAI’s findings in his column, then-White House Press Secretary Jay Carney dubbed the findings “hilarious.” The very next day, U.S. Libyan Ambassador Chris Stevens and three American staff members were murdered in Benghazi. As Breitbart News reported at the time, the White House’s very own presidential calendar revealed Obama had not received his daily intel briefing in the five consecutive days leading up to the Benghazi attacks.
Ultimately, as ABC News reported, the White House did not directly dispute the GAI’s numbers but instead said Obama prefers to read his PDB on his iPad instead of receiving the all-important live, in-person briefings.
Now, with ISIS controlling over 35,000 square miles of territory in its widening caliphate in Iraq and Syria, and with Obama pointing fingers at his own Director of National Intelligence James Clapper for the rise of ISIS, the question remains whether a 42% attendance record on daily intelligence briefings is good enough for most Americans.
From The New York Times
“Some of us were pushing the reporting, but the White House just didn’t pay attention to it,” said a senior American intelligence official. “They were preoccupied with other crises,” the official added. “This just wasn’t a big priority.”
Read it all:
Terrorism: President Barack Obama’s decision to strike al-Qaeda backed jihadists alongside the Islamic State could unite two extremist organisations, writes Ruth Sherlock
When the United States and its international coalition of allies made good on their threat to bomb Syria this week, it came with a twist.
The barrages of Tomahawk missiles and air strikes by F-22 Raptors didn’t just target the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the jihadist power that President Barack Obama has vowed to “degrade and ultimately destroy”.
The bombs also struck the bases and hideouts of Jabhat al-Nusra, an extremist group with affiliations to al-Qaeda, which has been proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the US.
If we are going to bomb one jihadist group in Syria, we might as well bomb them all – or so the thinking in the White House may have gone.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Pentagon gave a more nuanced account, explaining that it had targeted a wing of Jabhat al-Nusra called “Khorasan”, whose members were foreign jihadists, who, the US claimed, had been plotting attacks against western targets.
However, this distinction will have little meaning to most Syrians – who have largely never heard of the Khorasan group, perceiving only that the US also attacked Jabhat al-Nusra.
And, whilst from Washington, Isil and Jabhat al-Nusra may seem to be two sides of the same evil, in Syria, bombing one group or the other produces dramatically different outcomes.
The decision to expand the air campaign to include Jabhat al-Nusra could backfire in its intent, paradoxically, strengthening the very jihadists that the US and its allies have set out to annihilate.
Destruction in Kfar Derian (AFP)
Jabhat al-Nusra enjoys much more popular support in Syria than Isil. Its emirs (leaders) have worked hard to win the hearts and minds of Syrians in towns and cities where they have a presence.
In Aleppo, for example, the group’s “humanitarian department” have established a distribution system that supplies heavily subsidised bread stocks to needy families across the city.
Attacking Jabhat al-Nusra therefore, will only alienate the Syrian population, who, terrified of living under US and allied bombardment, already by and large share little sympathy for the foreign campaign.
One of the biggest inhibitors to the jihadists’ hegemony over rebel-held Syria has been the splits and factional infighting among its own.
In February this year, al-Qaeda formerly disassociated itself from Isil, announcing, in a statement made by the group’s General Command that it did “not have an organisational relationship” with the organisation. The statement marked the first time al-Qaeda has formerly repudiated an affiliate.
Since the split (when some of its most extreme members defected to Isil) Jabhat al-Nusra has by and large behaved in a manner less radical than its al-Qaeda banner implies.
Supporters of Al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate Al-Nusra Front demonstrate in the northern Syrian city of Alepppo (AFP/Getty)
A largely home grown organisation, most of its fighters are Syrians who have not been indoctrinated with the radicalism of those practising international jihad. Their main focus is domestic.
Many of its units have even fought alongside some of the more moderate rebel groups – some of who are receiving western supplied weapons – in military battles against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
As one of the biggest and best armed groups in the country – and with expertise in car and suicide bombing – its fighters have often dealt the winning blow in these joint operations.
Bombing Jabhat al-Nusra as well as Isil will destroy this unusual status quo, and instead, likely push Jabhat al-Nusra into a reconciliation with its more radical jihadist counterpart.
In a development true to the old adage that one’s enemy’s enemy is a friend, there are already the beginnings of a rapprochement between the two factions. Some Jabhat al-Nusra fighters have defected to Isil and, in the northeastern province of Deir al-Zour there are rumours of a prisoner swap between the two groups.