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From the Editor’s Desk

Dear FDI supporters,

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Strategic Weekly Analysis. This week, we begin by continuing our analysis of reform developments in Burma. Staying in south-east Asia, we examine the recent activities of Indonesian radical Islamic group ‘Front Pembela Islam’.

Next we head to Pakistan and a critique of the recently announced Pakistani defence budget. We then examine the continued decline of US-Pakistani relations and Washington’s pivot towards India.

Continuing westwards, we consider the food and water ramifications of the on-going crisis in Syria.  We conclude this week’s edition by reporting on the need for the upcoming G-20 meeting to focus on food security.

Among theStrategic Analysis Papers to be released over the next month, is an analysis of China’s South and North-East Asian foreign policy.

I trust that you will enjoy this edition of the Strategic Weekly Analysis.

Major General John Hartley AO (Retd)

Institute Director and CEO

Future Directions International

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Burma Violence Threatens Reforms

Background

The recent outbreak of religious violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine (Arakan) state, along Burma’s border with Bangladesh, poses a potential threat to the successful reforms being undertaken in the once-closed country. So far, the Burmese Government has been remarkably open about the violence. Such openness is in marked contrast to the secrecy of the previous regime, but a state of emergency has been imposed in the afflicted area. President Thein Sein has warned specifically of the danger posed to the reform trajectory by the violence.

Comment

Longstanding tensions between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims flared into violence on 3 June when a bus heading for Rangoon was stopped by a crowd of around 300 people. Ten Muslim passengers were lynched in retaliation for the rape and murder of a young Buddhist woman by three Rohingya men on 28 May.

Attempting to restore order, the government imposed a state of emergency on 11 June, with the army despatched to enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew. Rioting and violence continued unabated, however. Media reports indicate that at least 2,200 homes and buildings, including mosques and temples, have been destroyed, principally in the state capital, Sittwe. The death toll reportedly now stands at 50, apparently comprising equal numbers of Buddhists and Muslims. 

Ethnic Bengalis, the Rohingya have suffered institutionalised discrimination since colonial times. The majority are still denied Burmese citizenship and must obtain government permission to travel outside their home villages. Much of the local Buddhist resentment dates from the colonial period, when large numbers of Rohingya migrated to Burma from India. They came under the auspices of the Raj, as privileged minor officials, as part of a commercial class, or as indentured labourers.[1]

The imposition of a state of emergency, while perhaps necessary to prevent the situation escalating further or even spreading to other areas, also effectively replaces the rule of law. In a country such as Burma, tentatively emerging from decades of repression and self-imposed isolation and secrecy, reforms and the rule of law may well be subsumed by renewed military control, if the still powerful armed forces felt there was an unacceptable threat to national unity.

Indeed, President Sein has already remarked that, if such violence were to spread to other areas, it could ‘severely affect ... our nascent democratic reforms and the development of the country.’ Nonetheless, the government’s openness in acknowledging the violence in Rakhine, is in marked contrast to that of the former regime, which typically clamped down on such news.

For the Rohingya, some change may be on the way. Speaking the Thailand-based Irrawaddy news magazine, Htay Oo, a senior official and former General Secretary of the ruling military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, said that the violence must not be allowed to continue and that those responsible must be held to account, regardless of their ethnicity or religion. More importantly, he indicated that the government was at last willing to extend the rights of citizenship to Rohingya people. He stated that ‘… there should not be any stateless citizens …. We should be brave enough to recognise them as Burmese citizens after careful verification.’[2]Although qualified, these remarks, if implemented, could herald a new chapter for race relations in Burma. Equally, though, given the longstanding enmity between the two groups, the potential still exists for further outbreaks of violence, particularly if the once-authoritarian state apparatus continues to recede from daily life.

Leighton G. Luke

Manager

Indian Ocean Research Programme

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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FPI: Rising Radical Movement in Indonesia

Background

As the world’s largest Muslim country and third-largest democracy, it is interesting to see how Indonesian democracy is coping with the country’s increasingly dynamic social conditions. One recent phenomenon is the emergence of more radical Islamic movements, the most well-known of which is Front Pembela Islam (Islamic Defenders Front or FPI).

Comment

FPI has recently sparked public controversies through such actions as physically attacking the author Irshad Manji, a liberal Canadian Muslim who was about to launch her book ‘Allah, Liberty and Love’ in Jakarta; by threatening to storm a planned concert by the American singer Lady Gaga, claiming her music promoted Satanic teachings; and forcing the withdrawal from sale of another book, ‘Five Cities that Rule the World’, on the grounds that it defamed Islam. FPI has also violently targeted Indonesia’s Ahmadiyah Muslims.

FPI’s protests effectively led to the cancellation of Lady Gaga’s Indonesian tour and also gained support from other key national stakeholders. The National Police objected to the concert for security reasons. Legislators from parliament’s Commission III, responsible for law, human rights, and security, thought the performance contrary to Indonesia’s anti-pornography laws.   

The emergence of this hardline movement can be viewed as a part of the dynamic of Indonesia’s growing democracy. The group claims that its actions are acts of freedom of expression. Nevertheless, many human rights activists and liberal groups in Indonesia believe that FPI’s ideology and violent approach are serious threats to the country’s pluralism. It is well known among the public that FPI is not merely a religion-based organisation, but also a business that provides security to the members of the élite, cloaked in religious motives. An investigation by Al Jazeera found that FPI and other similar groups were linked to retired police officers and generals who had hired them to put political pressure on the government.[3]

The public has demanded the government take stronger action against FPI’s violent approach. The indigenous Dayak community of Central Kalimantan, for example, has banned visits by FPI because they see its ideology as being against the principles of pluralism and diversity. Thus, FPI’s ideology is also contrary to the third point of Indonesia’s national Pancasila principles, which stresses the importance of unity in diversity.

Several political parties have demanded that the government disband the organisation to hold it responsible for its violent actions. Former President Megawati Soekarnoputri and former Vice President Jusuf Kalla both made such calls earlier this year.[4]Unfortunately, the government seems unwilling to act in a stronger manner. National Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi stated that the Ministry had sent two warning letters to FPI in 2008 and in late 2011. He also explained that the Ministry has the right to freeze an organisation if it has been violating order and causing public insecurity.[5]In an interview with KBR68H radio, Ministry spokesperson, Reydonnyzar Moenek, stated that it was not easy to disband a group’s activity, because every process taken has to be based on the law. He also stated that the 1985 law covering “civil society organisations” is outdated and not specific enough as it does not identify the mechanisms that could be used in the current situation. He also added that to revise the law would take a long time.[6]Perhaps the government’s commitment to the law could be a justification not to pay more serious attention to this issue.

The FPI case shows that Indonesia’s growing democracy not only needs guaranteed freedom of expression, it also needs a stronger law enforcement effort to safeguard it. What is at stake now is greater than social cohesion – it is the foundation of Indonesia’s pluralism. As the 2014 presidential election gets closer, the more manoeuvres FPI will perform to get the public’s attention. If the government does not take decisive action soon, FPI and other similar groups will continue to grow. The emergence of such radical groups and the government’s handling of the situation could be setting a bad precedent for Indonesian democracy.

Cherika Hardjakusumah

Research Assistant

Indian Ocean Research Programme

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Pakistan Increases Defence Budget

Background

Pakistan will increase its defence budget for 2012-13 by 10 per cent, compared to last year. The increase is largely the result of Pakistan trying to maintain parity with India, whose defence budget was raised by 17 per cent earlier this year, and the growing expenses associated with the “War on Terror”.

Comment

The move to increase Pakistan’s defence budget by US$5.82 billion, or 10 per cent, means that money allocated to defence now makes up over 18 per cent of the country’s budget. The total is believed to be around US$28 billion.

The new defence budget will increase funding for the Army and Air Force, although there will be a slight decrease in funding for Pakistan’s navy. According to Defence News, of the additional US$5.82 billion, $2.8 billion has been allocated to the Army, an increase of $128 million; $1.2 billion for the Air Force, an increase of $64 million; and $562 million to the Navy, a $1.4 million decrease from the previous year.[7]

The defence budget does not include the military’s nuclear weapons programme, however. Pakistan’s spending on nuclear weapons, while shrouded in secrecy, is believed to be increasing, especially as it continues to develop “first-strike” nuclear capabilities and short-range tactical weapons.

In many ways, the War on Terror has left Islamabad with few options but to allocate more money to defence, despite a crippling financial crisis. Ayesha Siddiqa, a well-known military analyst, told the Pakistan Observer that militants have divided and weakened the country. Pakistan therefore requires helicopters, surveillance equipment and other technology to fight militants in the future, especially as coalition forces begin their planned withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

India’s decision to increase its defence budget by 17 per cent earlier this year, the largest increase in almost 65 years, is another reason why Pakistan has raised its budget. The Pakistani Government has traditionally allocated defence spending with the objective of maintaining parity with India. India continues to raise its budget, becoming one of the top 10 military spenders globally; New Delhi spends roughly $40 billion each year, almost eight times Pakistan’s defence budget. Pakistan’s increase in military expenditure may be viewed, in part, as a way of countering India’s growing military might. Further, as its military forces have not modernised since the 1980s, part of the increased budget will almost certainly be used for modernisation of its forces.

How sustainable Pakistan’s military growth will be in the long-term remains to be seen, however, especially as its economic woes continue to worsen. Terrorism, bad governance, poor economic planning, and high rates of debt, inflation and unemployment, have left the economy in ruins. Moreover, as the US cuts aid to Pakistan because it supposedly offers a safe haven to militants in the country’s north, Islamabad’s aims of expanding and modernising its military are looking increasingly improbable. As former Australian defence attaché to Islamabad, Brian Cloughley,told Defence News, ‘there is nothing in Pakistan’s economic forecast that makes it feasible for an annual increment in  line with the present one… the fact is, that with the withholding of US military aid, the money has to come from somewhere.’[8]

Islamabad has eyed China as a viable alternative, to make up for the cuts in US aid. So far, however, China has remained largely unwilling to replace the US$800 million in US military assistance suspended last year.

Pakistan’s defence budget, while making up almost one-fifth of its overall budget, remains meagre in world terms. It is largely based on providing a minimum deterrence capability against India. With few allies to call on and growing economic woes domestically, it’s unlikely that Pakistan can sustain this level of military growth in the future. Long-term, Islamabad will therefore continue to focus on its nuclear weapons programme, rather than conventional military capabilities, as a means of countering India.

Andrew Manners

Research Assistant

South & West Asia Research Programme

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US-Pakistan Relations Deteriorate as Washington Looks To India for New Regional Support 

Background

US-Pakistan relations are currently ‘the worst they’ve ever been’, according to a senior US official.[9]The tumultuous relationship continues to be hampered by an impasse over NATO supply routes to Afghanistan and the perceived reluctance of Pakistan to crack down on militants in its northern tribal areas. As US military aid to Pakistan remains suspended, there are now signs that the US is looking toward New Delhi, rather than Islamabad, as its key regional ally.

Comment

While the US has traditionally viewed Pakistan as its key regional ally in the War on Terror, recent events have seen the relationship hit a new low. In particular, the two remain at loggerheads over Pakistan’s six-month blockade of NATO troop supplies meant for Afghanistan and its supposed harbouring of militants in the northern tribal areas.

The blockade of NATO troop supplies meant for Afghanistan is the latest irritant threatening to derail a relationship that was already deteriorating rapidly. Pakistan shut its border to NATO supply convoys in November 2011, after a botched US air strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Negotiations to reopen the route, seen as a vital logistical link for NATO as it plans a large-scale withdrawal of combat troops and equipment by the end of 2014, have proven unsuccessful. In a sign of their cooling ties, President Obama, angered over the supply issue, refused a one-on-one meeting with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari last month at a NATO summit in Chicago.

The stalled negotiations coincide with remarks made by US Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, on
7 June. He accused Islamabad of failing to crack down on terrorists operating inside Pakistan, Agence France-Presse reported.[10]The US has given Islamabad over US$25 billion to fight terrorism since the start of the War on Terror and is said to have lost patience with Pakistan’s unwillingness to go after insurgents. The Pentagon’s latest semi-annual report to Congress noted that ‘the Taliban-led insurgency and its al-Qaeda affiliates still operate with impunity from sanctuaries in Pakistan.’ Given this, the US has suspended almost one billion dollars of military aid to Pakistan as a sign of its displeasure.

Pakistan’s widely recognised “double game”, has seen the Taliban become stronger today than it was before the US “surge” of forces in 2009.[11]Moreover, the US is particularly concerned about the Haqqani network, said to be the most dangerous militant group fighting in Afghanistan. In September 2011, the US warned Pakistan that it must do more to cut ties with the network and help eliminate its leaders.

Pakistan has denied any links to the network, but many analysts believe that Pakistan is reluctant to target the Haqqanis and other militants based on its soil. It believes that they could prove useful allies after foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan, especially in countering Indian influence.

Nevertheless, there are reasons to keep the relationship going. Pakistan is seen as a key factor in striking a peace deal with the Taliban and Afghanistan, which would allow the US to withdraw most of its troops by 2014. Indeed, Pakistan, using its Inter-Services Intelligence, may use its leverage to push the Taliban to negotiate with Washington and start a political dialogue with Kabul. So far, however, that hasn’t happened.

The US is therefore looking to other avenues to combat insurgents and stabilise Afghanistan. Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Panetta visited India and called for deeper defence ties between the two states. Panetta described India as the ‘linchpin’ of the Obama Administration’s pivot to Asia. He called on New Delhi to enhance its efforts in training and equipping Afghan defence forces. The US has been reticent about any Indian involvement in Afghanistan, for fear of angering Pakistan. Now, with what it views as Pakistan’s continued obstinacy, the US no longer feels obliged to tip-toe around Islamabad to find a solution in Afghanistan.

India can assist the US in training Afghan defence forces and strengthening its fledgling democracy. It can also call on a deep well of “soft power” in Afghanistan. In stark contrast to the US, India is widely perceived in Afghanistan as one of the most popular countries; as a result it can wield significant cultural and political influence. The convergence of India’s “soft power” and continued US “hard power”, could therefore herald a new strategic direction in Afghanistan in the coming decade.

At the very least, the latest US overtures toward India may well compel Pakistan to reconsider its current position and force it to encourage the Taliban to negotiate with Washington and Kabul. Should Pakistan prove unwilling, however, then the US has India and its soft power as a backup. It will increasingly look toward New Delhi, rather than Islamabad, for regional support in the coming decade.

Andrew Manners

Research Assistant

South & West Asia Research Programme

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Rise of Syrian Refugees – Ramifications for Food and Water Security

Background

The Humanitarian Bulletin on Syria, published by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on 5 June 2012, reported that at least one million people, from a population of 22 million, are in need of assistance in the midst of intensified political unrest. Further, more than 78,000 refugees, half of whom are children, have been displaced to surrounding countries: Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Refugee numbers have more than doubled in the past two months.

Comment

Political instability and drought conditions have compounded the vulnerability of Syrian farmers, according to reports by the Integrated Regional Information Networks’ humanitarian news and analysis in February 2012,SYRIA: Insecurity makes drought-hit farmers even more vulnerable.

‘Recurrent drought’ since 2006 has resulted in the internal migration of thousands of farming families from rural areas to urban centres. Since they were internally displaced, these families often did not qualify for refugee status. Consequently, they may not have been eligible to receive assistance from international aid programs. In addition, since the intensification of civil unrest in March 2011, many families have been forced to relocate back to their farming areas to escape the growing instability and violence in urban centres, but they have been unable to restart their livelihoods without assistance.

Increased transportation costs, due to a fuel shortage and political insecurity, have disrupted business and made the maintenance or sale of livestock and produce difficult. Instability has also disrupted the seasonal migration of herders. Despite improved rainfall in 2011, an estimated 65,633 families were unable to plant crops due to lack of seeds and other resources, as well as transport complications. In the past three years, an estimated 300,000 households have required ‘life-sustaining assistance’, but due to lack of funding less than 20 per cent of them were helped.

Rainfall in early 2012 was good, however the extent to which this could improve the situation, depends on whether the good rainfall is sustained and the resources that are made available to farmers. The UN Food and Agricultural Organization recently provided animal feed to 7,000 small herders and seeds to 2,000 farmers, but this falls far below the needs of over 65,000 families.

Future Directions International reported in April 2012(Syria Struggles with a Critical Resource: Water), that a critical food and water security crisis in Syria was unfolding because of political unrest, drought, inefficient use of water and the challenges faced in sharing the Euphrates river. Future Directions International proposed that priority should be given to better water management and that alternative sources of water, such as rainwater harvesting and water recycling, should be investigated, to stabilise and implement sustainable water use in the long-term.

These issues of water scarcity and the impact of a rapidly increasing refugee population are not restricted to Syria. In the surrounding region, pressures on food and water supplies are being strongly felt; large numbers of refugees are already exceeding the capacity of resources. The Washington Post reported on 4 June 2012, that resources and political stability in Lebanon and Jordan are becoming increasingly stressed by the influx of thousands of Syrian refugees; “Jordanian officials complain in private that the Syrian refugees are exhausting social and health care services and taxing the desert country’s sparse water resources. The officials say they especially fear severe water shortages during the dry summer season.” The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, estimates 21,432 refugees in Jordan, 27,541 in Lebanon, 4,838 in Iraq and 32,326 in Turkey.

The Syrian government has agreed to allow more NGOs and community-based organisations to work with the UN to bolster its efforts. A regional Humanitarian Coordinator has been appointed to oversee the response efforts to the Syrian crisis, both within Syria and in the surrounding region. Despite the efforts of all contributing organisations, a vast increase in funding is still desperately needed to deal with the increasing number of refugees and the resulting pressure on food and water resources. Of Syria’s total population of 22,530,746, around 56 per cent are urban and 44 per cent rural dwellers (2012 est. by the CIA World Factbook). Both demographic groups are at risk, with varied degrees of political or food and water insecurity. If these issues continue to intensify, the number of internally displaced refugees and those displaced to the surrounding region, could potentially reach unmanageable proportions.

Sarah Metcalfe

Research Assistant

FDI Global Food and Water Security Programme

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G20 Must Focus on Food and Nutrition Security: IFPRI

Background

As the G20 met in Mexico this week, the International Food Policy Research Institute called for summit participants to keep focused on global food and nutrition security. IFPRI Director General, Shenggen Fan, said more work needed to be done on the agreed action plan.

Comment

The G20 has shown its willingness to deal with food and water security. Last year it agreed to implement some important measures. The IFFPRI said the creation of the Agricultural Market Information System had progressed well, but progress with other actions, such as the development of the Agricultural Price Risk Management tool and risk-coping tools, had been disappointing.

The IFPRI Director General said “scaled-up investments in science and technology and support for improved country capacities are fundamental to accelerating progress and achieving development objectives.”

Among other things, the IFPRI called for clear accountability indicators, more information on food prices, stocks and production, and better weather forecasting.

The IFPRI also believes encouraging mutual accountability between government, the public, the private sector and civil society, was necessary to enhance food and nutrition security.

As FDI has suggested in the past, the G20, because of its broader membership base and its ‘youthfulness’, as a relatively new group, is in a strong position to implement action plans.

Food and Water Security issues, however, will always be challenged in international gatherings by what are often seen as more pressing concerns of the day, such as international trade and finance. A fundamental shift in thinking by government heads is required before a lasting legacy of sustained and enhanced food and water security is achieved.

Gary Kleyn

Manager

FDI Global Food and Water Security Programme

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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[1]International Crisis Group, ‘Myanmar Conflict Alert: Preventing Communal Bloodshed and Building Better Relations’, 12 June 2012.

[2]Yan, P., ‘Arakan Violence is Unacceptable: USDP’, Irrawaddy, 8 June 2012.

[3]Vaessen, S., ‘Gag on Lady Gaga stirs Indonesia Fears’, Al Jazeera, 30 May 2012. <http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/05/201252911249772546.html>.

[4]Siregar, D., ‘Mega dan JK Dukung Pembubaran Ormas Bermasalah’ [Mega and JK Support to Disband Troubled Organisation]. 17 February 2012. <http://id.berita.yahoo.com/mega-dan-jk-dukung-pembubaran-ormas-bermasalah-215723816.html>.

[5]Guslina, I., ‘Sekali Lagi Anarkistis, Gamawan akan Bekukan FPI’ [One More Anarchical Act, Gamawan Will Freeze FPI], 16 February 2012. <http://www.tempo.co/read/news/2012/02/16/173384456/Sekali-Lagi-Anarkistis-Gamawan-akan-Bekukan-FPI>.

[6]KBR68H Radio, 6 June 2012, ‘Jubir Kemendagri: Tak Mudah Membekukan Organisasi Pengrusak’ [Ministry of National Affairs Spokesperson: It is Not Easy to Freeze Troubled Organisation]. <http://www.kbr68h.com/berita/wawancara/19456-jubir-kemendagri--tak-mudah-membekukan-organisasi-pengrusak on 6/06/2012>.

[7]Ansari, U., ‘Pakistan Budget Up for Army, Air Force; Down for Navy’, Defence News, 6 June 2012.  For an analysis of Pakistan’s naval programme, see Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe, ‘Pakistan’s 21st Century Naval Modernisation Programme’, Future Directions InternationalStrategic Weekly Analysis, 9 May 2012.

[8]Ibid.

[9]Santana, R. and Abbot, S., ‘US, Pakistan beginning to look more like enemies’, Associated Press, 9 June 2012.

[10]Agence France-Press, ‘US pulls NATO supply route negotiators out of Pakistan’, 11 June 2012.

[11]Reuters, ‘Taliban stronger than before U.S. troop surge: lawmakers’, 6 May 2012.