September , 2014

JK Alternative Viewpoint

Challenges & Responses to Conflictual Politics

  BANGLADESH is again plunging itself into another phase of political turmoil and violence. The decision by ...
Neil Faulkner explains how an army of peasant guerrillas managed to defeat US imperialism in ...
President Obama is immensely popular overseas and his re-election will be welcomed by many. But ...
Low level clouds float over Dubai's Marina area as the sun sets on Dubai, December ...
THIS book deserves to be read widely in India. It records the travails of Britain’s ...
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh welcome Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and his ...
Once again the US Congress is finding it more convenient to play the China ...
Eric Hobsbawm, who died last October 1, aged ninety-five, has been much celebrated as one ...
  The suffering of ordinary Syrians is increasing, as the stalemate persists IT IS growing harder to ...
On January 22 a telling leak cropped up in the Internet. British defense contractor’s BRITAM ...

Archive for the ‘National / International News’ Category

In historic vote, Scots decide to remain with the UK-

Posted by admin On September - 19 - 2014 Comments Off


People who voted against the Scottish independence referendum celebrate an early result at a ‘No’ campaign event at a hotel in Glasgow, Scotland, on Friday. Photo: AP
The people of Scotland voted 55 per cent to 45 per cent against independence in a vote that saw an unprecedented turnout.
Scottish voters have rejected independence, deciding to remain part of the United Kingdom after a historic referendum that shook the country to its core.

The decision prevented a rupture of a 307—year union with England, bringing a huge sigh of relief to the British political establishment. Scots voted 55 percent to 45 percent against independence in a vote that saw an unprecedented turnout.
A majority of voters did not embrace Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond’s impassioned plea to launch a new state, choosing instead the security offered by remaining in the United Kingdom.
Salmond conceded defeat, saying “we know it is a majority for the No campaign” and called on Scots to accept the results of the vote.
Salmond had argued that Scots could go it alone because of its extensive oil reserves and high levels of ingenuity and education. He said Scotland would flourish on its own, free of interference from any London—based government.
Nonetheless, the skilled 59—year—old leader of the Scottish National Party came close to winning independence his long—cherished goal and still won a promise of new powers for Scotland from rattled London politicians.
Many saw it as a “heads versus hearts” campaign, with cautious older Scots concluding that independence would be too risky financially, while younger ones were enamored with the idea of building their own country.
The result saves British Prime Minister David Cameron from a historic defeat and also helps opposition chief Ed Miliband by keeping his many Labour Party lawmakers in Scotland in place. His party would have found it harder to win a national election in 2015 without that support from Scotland.
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a Scot, returned to prominence with a dramatic barnstorming campaign in support of the union in the final days before the referendum vote. Brown argued passionately that Scots could be devoted to Scotland but still proud of their place in the United Kingdom, rejecting the argument that independence was the patriotic choice.
“There is not a cemetery in Europe that does not have Scots, English, Welsh and Irish lined side by side,” Brown said in his final speech before the vote. “We not only won these wars together, we built the peace together. What we have built together by sacrificing and sharing, let no narrow nationalism split asunder.”
For his part, Cameron aware that his Conservative Party is widely loathed in Scotland begged voters not to use a vote for independence as a way to bash his party.
The vote against independence keeps the U.K. from losing a substantial part of its territory and oil reserves and prevents it from having to find a new base for its nuclear arsenal, now housed in Scotland. It had also faced a possible loss of influence within international institutions including the 28—nation European Union and the United Nations.
The decision also means Britain can avoid a prolonged period of financial insecurity that had been predicted by some if Scotland broke away.
In return for staying in the union, Scotland’s voters have been promised significant though somewhat unspecified new powers by the British government, which had feared losing Scotland forever.


China’s mammoth Silk Route plan would dynamise half the world-Pranay Sharma

Posted by admin On September - 12 - 2014 Comments Off


Old Silk Route

•Distance: Over 4,000 miles, stretching from China to the Mediterranean Sea
•The route linked ancient lands of China, India, Persia, Arabia, Bactria and Rome
•Combining extant, ancient trade routes, its golden age was from 2nd century BC till the 13th century
•Got its name from trade in Chinese silk, though cotton and spices from India and precious stones and other items from Persia, Arabia and Europe were also sold
New Silk Route

Nearly 20 countries—China, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Czech Republic, Germany, Netherlands, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Kenya—over three continents—are part of proposed project. The number may go up.


Silk Strategy

•China’s proposed Silk Route would uplink connectivity within China to the region and beyond and also give a boost to Chinese industry and investment in different parts of the world
•Build and develop ports and naval bases to ensure the important sea lanes carrying oil, gas and other minerals as well as Chinese goods from the mainland remain unhindered and without trouble
•By developing infrastructure in different countries, present the soft power of China and raise stakes of others to minimise confrontation with Beijing
•Lastly, it would allow China to develop a parallel trading network—a huge overland and maritime arc encircling the whole of Asia and running into Europe—that would challenge the ones by a US-led West

Shrouded in myths and legends, the ancient ‘Silk Route’ had for centuries been the main conduit for trade and cultural interaction between East and West, connecting old civilisations, encouraging merchants, scholars, pilgrims and nomads to travel to newer realms. Now, over 800 years after its decline, thanks mainly to a Chinese initiative, global attention is recast on the famed route. Countries from Malaysia and India, Kazakhstan to Germany, Kenya to Italy and Vietnam to Netherlands are busy debating whether the proposed project gives more muscle to China’s global power or helps in making it play a more responsible international role. Touted exclusively as a commercial venture and an enabler for connectivity, the Chinese proposal is now being studied by strategists, policy-makers and diplomats in various world capitals.

“New opportunities and a new future to China and every country along the road that is seeking to develop,” decl­ares Beijing’s sales-pitch to countries, hoping they would join the initiative. The new Chinese ‘Silk Route’ project proposes to run through both land and sea, connecting China with countries in three continents—Asia, Africa and Europe. (see infographic). In addition, China offers to spend billions of dollars in the countries along the route (on land and the marine corridor) on connectivity and infrastructure projects, involving construction of ports, docks and ship-building yards. To boost trade, the Chinese are also proposing the use of local currencies between countries along the route.

Partly, the proposed network is also a Chinese attempt to ensure that key land  and sea supply lines carrying oil, gas and other minerals to China as well as finished Chinese goods remain smo­oth. There is apprehension that some of the infrastructure that China proposes to build on the sea route could also be turned into naval bases by Beijing. In addition, it also allows China to develop a parallel trading net­work challenging the ones by the US-led West.

Though the Chinese offer to join the project was made to several countries, Beijing considers India to be an essential partner. The two countries have a long history of commercial, cultural and religious links and if India becomes a willing partner then the neighbours—dubbed by China-baiters as ‘rivals’—can indeed turn the 21st century into a truly Asian one.
“India is hesitant about the Chinese offer because it sees it purely from the strategic, not economic, perspective.”C. Raja Mohan, Observer Research Foundation 
“Due to India’s critical geographical location, its participation will ensure the success of the Silk Route initiative, especially for the maritime part of it,” says Li Li, a deputy director at the Bei­jing-based China Institutes of Con­temporary International Relations (CICIR).

Though the Chinese initiative had begun under former president Hu Jintao, it has gained in salience under the current incumbent, Xi Jinping, who has been campaigning for this ‘pet project’ of his around the world.

Twice this year, China sought a res­ponse from India—during the ‘special representatives’ talks in New Delhi in February and in June when vice president Hamid Ansari visited Beijing. India has been ambivalent so far. But the issue has triggered renewed discussion among South Block mandarins in view of Pre­sident Xi’s impending visit to India.
Though we are not averse to the Chinese proposal, we must not rush into it since many of the details are yet to be fleshed out by Beijing,” says a senior MEA official.

It undoubtedly involves striking a fine diplomatic balance. PM Narendra Modi’s recent comment during his Japan visit—on “the 18th century expansionist attitude”—was seen by China-baiters as something directed towards Beijing. Yet, officials point out that the complex relationship between India and China is not limited to their differences, but includes areas in which both have common positions. China, with its impressive foreign exchange reserve, is also a country to which India looks for investment.

Moreover, experts say that China’s Silk Route proposal is not the only one of its sort. In recent years, world players including the US, Turkey and Russia, have tried float their own projects along this route. But most of them have focused on linking their respective capitals and countries to Central Asia. The US plan aimed to link Central Asia with South Asia in an attempt to provide economic and political stability to Afghanistan
According to the US State Department, ‘the New Silk Road’ initiative was envisioned in 2011 as “a means for Afghanistan to integrate further into the region by resuming trading routes and reconstructing significant infrastructure links broken by decades of conflict”. Part of its plan was to link energy rich Central Asia—a vast repository of oil, gas and hydropower—to fast developing economies of South Asia—all of them hungry for inexpensive  and reliable energy—through the ancient trade route.

But nothing much came of the US initiative. Though stability and development in Afghanistan was always part of the plan, much of it aimed to isolate and increase pressure on Iran for its controversial nuclear programme. Now that Washington and Tehran are inching towards a peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue, US interest in its central Asian trade route might return.

However, it is the Chinese proposal on reviving the Silk Route that has generated debates and discussions around the world. This is mainly beca­use of the scale and scope of the Chi­nese plan. As mentioned earlier, not only does it span three continents thr­o­ugh land and sea and involve many nat­ions, for operating at an optimum level, it also calls for investments that runs into trillions of dollars. Investment and development at that level can transform half the world. The global response has much to do with the timing of the project—many countries in Asia and elsewhere are wary of a rising China, especially under a strong leader like Xi Jinping. The concerns have sharpened in view of recent dev­elopments, where China finds itself inv­ol­ved in claims and counter-claims with its neighbours in East and Sout­heast Asia over exclusive rights on important waterways and islands.
“Due to its location, India’s participation will ensure the success of the Silk Route plan, especially the maritime route.”Li Li, Deputy director, CICIR 
“In my understanding, the objectives of Silk Route initiative are more economic than political,” says Li Li. She points out that the initiative will help Chinese companies and investments ‘go global’ and alleviate the over-capacity of some of its sectors, like steel, aluminium, cement, solar panels and ship-building. It will also help sustain China’s economic growth.

She added that politically speaking, “It will help construct China’s image as a peaceful power”. Li argues that China believes economic interdependence may reduce the chance of confrontation. “Many Chinese also see it as a good way for China to take more international responsibilities, because China, through this project, is making contributions to others’ development.”

There are sceptics who point out that despite China’s promise to invest heavily in countries that join its Silk Route project, India should be cautious of its end result. However, much of the concern from a section of policy-planners comes from the maritime silk route project. The fear is that the development of Chinese ports in countries in the Indian Ocean and around India could lead to a situation where Beijing can fulfil its strategy of encircling India—the much-publicised “string of pearls” bugaboo.

“As Beijing becomes more involved in building infrastructure in the Indian Ocean, it will play a larger part in the security and governance of the ior, which could pose a challenge to India’s stature as a ‘security provider’ in the region and also adversely affecting New Delhi’s strategic purchase in its primary area of interest,” writes Abhijit Singh of the Delhi-based idsa.

But there are other Indian scholars and commentators who argue that while India should be cautious, it should also take advantage of the Chinese offer as well as other ones to develop its own infrastructure and connectivity.

“India is hesitant about the Chinese offer because it sees it purely from the strategic perspective,” says C. Raja Mohan of the Observer Research Foundation. But he argues that India should develop its internal connectivity to make full use of trans-border connectivity—such as the one being offered by the Chinese.

For the time being, China seems to understand India’s apprehension, tho­ugh there is hope in Beijing that under PM Modi a positive response may come from New Delhi to the offer to join the Silk Route project. At the moment, China draws satisfaction from the fact that both countries are cooperating with Bang­la­desh and Myanmar to develop and est­ablish regional connectivity through the bcim economic cooperation initiative.

“Since it is a long-term vision and will be made step by step, I think India can take time to decide. In other words, India can participate in the project when it feels comfortable. Of course, the earlier India participates, the best it is,” says Li Li. Hopefully, South Block policy-planners are listening carefully to what she has to say.


Imran’s miscalculated march -Rahimullah Yusufzai

Posted by admin On September - 3 - 2014 Comments Off


Unbelievable, unfortunate and ugly things have happened in Islamabad, the beautiful capital of our politically unstable country, these past two weeks. The constitution, the law of the land and the democratic institutions have been abused and challenged in full public view on Constitution Avenue. The use of force has been encouraged in ferocious speeches for short-term gains oblivious of the harm being done to Pakistan.

One wouldn’t like to make an issue of what the ambitious cleric-turned-politician Tahirul Qadri has been saying and doing because he has no stakes in the existing political and democratic system in Pakistan. It would serve his purpose if this system is wrapped up and replaced by his ‘revolution’ led and controlled by him through his so-called ‘revolutionary committees’. He and his Pakistan Awami Tehrik cannot come into power through any election as we found out in the polls held in the past and, therefore, the only way for him to take charge of Pakistan is to lead an ‘inquilab’ or ‘revolution’ with vague goals and not so hidden agenda.

Having pledged loyalty and allegiance to Canada and also Queen Elizabeth the Second, Qadri’s faithfulness to Pakistan has been debated at length. Under the law he cannot contest elections or hold public office in Pakistan, just like his sympathiser, British citizen Altaf Hussain of the MQM, and yet Qadri is adamant to play the role of a saviour in his original homeland. Both these gentlemen would do well to sacrifice their citizenship of an alien country to be able to play a more legitimate role in reforming and serving Pakistan. Unwilling to do so for the sake of the comfort and security that the citizenship of a western country has to offer, Qadri and others of his ilk come to a hard place like Pakistan for short-term assignments as if they are on an extended vacation.

It is difficult to be inspired by Qadri when he has no qualms in first celebrating and then lying to wriggle out of an unpleasant situation. There are many examples that could be quoted but the most recent one was when he denied that the stick-wielding, flag-bearing PAT workers who attacked and occupied the Islamabad centre of Pakistan Television and put its transmissions off air were his men. Rather, he claimed the angry ‘awaam’ did this and his followers forced them to vacate the building of the state-owned TV channel. The ‘eviction’ of the mob was done not by his men but by soldiers who needed a mic and a few sentences to peacefully secure the place and in the process even earn praise and ‘Long Live Pakistan Army’ slogans by the departing mobsters.

If Qadri is right, one could ask why the awaam didn’t storm PTV in the past. The only other people who have entered and occupied PTV Islamabad have been soldiers heralding a military coup, but even they didn’t damage the equipment, eat up the food stocked in the canteen or block the transmissions as was done by the mob wanting ‘inquilab’ or seeking ‘azadi’. All evidence, including TV footage, proved the presence of PAT activists and apparently also some PTI members inside PTV premises raising victory signs and chanting slogans for having conquered a state institution and making it clear that they could do more if and when instructed.

Qadri had a genuine complaint and a justified cause with regard to the non-registration of the first information report (FIR) by the police for the death of 14 PAT workers, including two women, at the hands of the police at Model Town on June 17. By delaying registration of the case and denying justice to the bereaved families, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and the ruling PML-N compounded their own problems and weakened their position. The same applies to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s delayed action in responding to the rigging allegations repeatedly made by the PTI Chairman Imran Khan.

In both cases, the Sharifs and the PML-N government could have managed things by giving away far less at the time than a lot more they are conceding and offering now. Embattled and weakened, the prime minister has now agreed to the registration of an FIR for the Model Town incident in which he and Shahbaz Sharif too have been named, in an unprecedented manner, as the accused along with 19 others on a number of charges, including terrorism.

A further sign of Nawaz Sharif’s weakening position is his government’s willingness to accept five out of the six demands made by the intransigent Imran Khan, who started believing the retreating prime minister was on the way out and could be brow-beaten into resigning from his office. That Nawaz Sharif has justifiably stood his ground is to a large extent due to the support given to him by almost all the political parties represented in parliament as well as by the other democratic forces.

With regard to Imran Khan’s foremost demand for the prime minister’s resignation even if it is for a month until the proposed Supreme Court commission completes its probe into the rigging allegations, it is obvious that the demand is unacceptable for the government as well as undemocratic and impractical. For the prime minister to step down would be to concede the unproven allegations that the polls were indeed rigged. He would have no other option but to quit once the allegations are proved.

Imran Khan should trust the Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk, who was praised by him to no end, and his fellow judges to do justice without being influenced by the prime minister. Believing that Nawaz Sharif can buy the loyalty of anyone amounts to belittling and insulting the integrity of honourable persons. It also betrays a feeling of victimhood as if everyone is out to block Imran Khan’s march to victory and stop him from achieving his goal of becoming the prime minister.

It was a huge miscalculation on Imran Khan’s part to believe that a million protesters would be part of his ‘long march’ to Islamabad and that he and his strange bedfellow, Qadri, would be able to topple the Nawaz Sharif government through street power. When the promised crowds didn’t turn up, his frustration knew no bounds and that is when he and Qadri began using tough language and making unacceptable demands. One was disappointed to note that Qadri was now leading Imran Khan instead of the other way round even though the PTI chief had more support countrywide due to his star appeal and clean image compared to Qadri’s narrow sectarian agenda and dubious credentials. It wasn’t surprising that stalwarts in his own party began questioning his policies and his authoritarian decision-making style.

The PTI is now suffering strife in its ranks as some of the MNAs have refused to resign from their National Assembly seats and more could revolt against Imran Khan if and when any decision to resign from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly or its dissolution is taken. The electorate in the province had voted the PTI into power as it promised ‘change’ and it still has almost four years to accomplish the task. There is still time to make amends instead of throwing KP into chaos and handing it over to a burdensome coalition of several parties with conflicting agendas.

The way Imran Khan first summarily expelled the PTI President Javed Hashmi for showing dissent and later issued him a show-cause notice showed the arbitrary manner in which the party is being run. Hashmi was probably the lone PTI leader who could speak his mind and stand up to Imran Khan and his expulsion could mean further weakening of the voices of reason and courage in the party.

Hashmi’s subsequent allegations regarding Imran Khan’s links with unnamed people in the military establishment have harmed the PTI chairman’s position and damaged the party’s cause. True or not, this will now define Imran Khan’s politics and turn away many devoted followers from him. It is sad that a promising non-politician who had caught the imagination of so many Pakistanis since his October 30, 2011 public meeting at the Minar-e-Pakistan grounds in Lahore has fallen from grace and is now fast losing his appeal.

The writer is resident editor of The News in Peshawar.


Forecasting India-Japan ties under Modi and Abe -Sourabh Jyoti Sharma

Posted by admin On June - 29 - 2014 Comments Off


India’s newly elected prime minister Narendra Modi and Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe enjoy a friendship which signals increasing co-operation and integration of both nations’ economic and defense plans in a new regional strategic partnership.

India and Japan, the two largest democratic powers in continental Asia, share very close and cordial relations. Thanks to India’s Look East Policy (LEP), the warmth of that relationship is now encouraging the emergence of the ‘strategic’ contours of bilateral diplomacy. So far so good, but what is the future of this ongoing, and mutually beneficial relationship, especially now that India has overwhelmingly elected Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as its Prime Minister. On the other side of India’s far eastern frontier, Japan has already elected Shinzo Abe, an ardent nationalist who represents ‘Japanese Dreams’ as its PM in the remarkable landslide poll of 2012. What beckons in the close relations between these two Asian democracies?

Understanding the ‘Modi-Abe’ personal chemistry
Even before the mass euphoria over electing India’s most popular leader Modi as its new PM receded, and while the new incumbent was still seated in his Gandhinagar election ‘war-room’ on the victorious ‘D-day’ of May 16, Modi was informed that someone wanted to talk to him. That ‘somebody’ was soon found to be none other than Prime Minister Abe from Japan. As Modi ended the fifteen minute long ‘congratulatory talk’ with Abe, it was decided that Japan would be the first foreign destination on Modi’s itinerary after ‘officially’ becoming India’s PM on May 26.

Modi and Abe already share a good personal rapport. Both leaders are dynamic, tech-savvy, and relatively young leaders representing the ‘nationalistic hopes and aspirations’ of their nations. It is worth mentioning here that Modi is the ‘only’ Indian leader and ‘only’ chief minister out of 29 states of India that PM Abe has been following keenly on Twitter. Abe is a known ‘lover’ of India whom he praised profusely in his memoir A Beautiful Country, and the ‘only’ Japanese PM calling India the ‘lynchpin’ of the Indo-Japanese global strategic architecture of the future in the Indo-Pacific region.

Modi for his part shares a strong personal interest in Japan, visited by his beloved ‘Guru’ and ‘Ideal Man’, the ‘Cyclonic Hindoo Monk’ Swami Vivekananda while en route on his maiden voyage to attend the World Parliament of Religions of Chicago in 1893. Swamiji was reportedly in awe of the sheer intensity of the love of the Japanese people for their nation and foretold its becoming a global giant. No power, he predicted, would ever dare to enslave such a patriotic nation.

Modi and Abe share some other commonalities between them, too. Both India and Japan have been experiencing an era of ‘successive coalition governments’ which has become the ‘natural’ way of government formation, since no single party could secure a majority on its own, till these two respectively appeared on the scene. In 2012, Abe, representing the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of Japan, was elected as PM in a landslide victory. In 2014, Modi was elected India’s PM in an overwhelming surge of an unprecedented ‘saffron tsunami’–the decisive majoritarian rejection of years of ‘pseudo-secular’ minority politics, a long overdue feat.

Both ‘strong men’ received a full majority for their parties, ushering in a new era of stabilized decisive governance and ending ‘coalition eras’ gripped by instability and indecisiveness and characterized as having lame duck prime ministers. Modi and Abe are well known for their strong nationalistic leanings and their respective economic models viz. Modinomics and Abenomics. Modi’s visa was cancelled by the US in 2005, citing the post-2002 Godhra Gujarat riots, and Abe’s visit to Beijing has been virtually banned by Communist China after he paid homage to the WW II Japanese soldiers who died fighting on Chinese soil, and whose ashes are being preserved in a “controversial” Buddhist Temple in Japan. Both are leaders who were born after WW II and the independence of their nations in the 1940s. Both are booklovers and writers, too, with keen interests in the latest trends in fashion.

India-Japan relations: areas of futuristic economic and strategic co-operation
India-Japan relations today rest on a very solid and mature ground of mutual respect and co-operation. In 2006, India and Japan signed the Comprehensive Economic and Cooperation Agreement (CEPA). Japan is India’s fourth largest investor, investing about $14 billion under Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and in various other projects. Bilateral trade in 2012 stood at $18 billion and is set to rise under Modi-Abe personal bonhomie-led initiatives to boost investment further to new heights. When Modi was still Gujarat’s CM, Japanese companies participating in his ‘Vibrant Gujarat: Global Investment Summits’ project invested about $2-$3 billion in various manufacturing and infrastructure projects. After becoming India’s PM, Modi can showcase the success of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) as the ‘model’ for scripting other future success stories.

In the pipeline of future Indo-Japanese co-operation are completing the ambitious Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) and the futuristic Delhi-Ahmadabad-Mumbai Bullet Train (DAM-BT). The Japanese government has also expressed interest in helping establish a Chennai-Bangalore Industrial corridor and a Dedicated Freight project in the south, which would connect the cities of Bangalore and Chennai.

Moreover, both Indian and Japanese companies can collaborate in the manufacturing sector, particularly in the automobile industry. There are so many Japanese car makers in India–Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Mazda–that can join hands with Indian auto majors like Tata Motors, Mahindra, Bajaj Auto, Premiere, and TVS, establishing ‘hubs’ in industrial areas of both nations on an agreed mutual reciprocity plan. While Japan can share its ‘advanced technologies’, India can share its globally admired ‘cost effective solutions’ in making the best cars at the lowest price end. In the IT sector, joint collaboration, for instance, between Toshiba and HCL, or in the mobile telephony between Sony and Micromax seems a good possibility. Here, the mutual competence and strength of both nations (viz India in software and Japan in hardware) will benefit each other. The sky is the limit, and a great future awaits India-Japan economic partnerships attracting huge FDIs, making both nations the best of the world’s exiting manufacturing hubs.

Today, China has a monopoly in this area, which could however be competitively challenged by an India-Japan partnership, thanks to the availability of enough low cost skilled labourers and raw materials in both nations. What was previously absent to date was the political will, but with both Modi and Abe joining together, these Asian giants will be ‘willed’ together to end China’s long-standing monopoly in this area, for sure.

Bilateral trade between India and Japan in recent years (in billions of USD)

Exports from India to Japan
Exports from Japan to India

Source: “Bilateral Trade with Japan”, Press Information Bureau (PIB), Govt. of India, 12 February 2014.

India and Japan concluded a security pact on 22 October 2008, India becoming one of only three countries in the world with whom Japan has a security pact, the other two being Australia and the United States. In the defense sector–still a virgin area–Greenfield investments can be achieved through joint-collaboration between Indian and Japanese defense manufacturing companies. Both are active naval partners, so there could be more emphasis on building both defense and merchant ships, a sector in which Communist China is calling the shots today. Maritime co-operation seems inevitable between the two seafaring nations which rely heavily on imported energy for its ‘safe passage’ via securing the crucial sea lanes of communication (SLOCs) across the Indian Ocean region towards the volatile South China Sea in the vicinity of Indo-Pacific region.

Most notably, Japan has opted to re-orient its export policies that banned it from exporting arms after World War II. With the recent negotiations of Shinmaywa’s US-2 Amphibian aircrafts under way, Indo-Japan defense ties are surely heading for a fresh reckoning. After the release of the ‘new’ defense doctrine espousing ‘pro-active pacifism’ brought out by Abe in late 2013, a realistic assessment of Indo-Japanese defense and strategic co-operation is set to be renewed by India’s new PM.

Both can opt to co-operate in exploring nuclear energy to lessen dependence on burgeoning energy imports to fuel their economic growth, especially after the signing of the Indo-US Nuclear Agreement plus NSG waiver. New areas of bilateral strategic co-operation could be found viz. co-operation in joint space expeditions and joint development of missile technologies (both ballistic and cruise), given their proven competence in those emerging ‘strategic areas’ which enjoy lucrative markets with increasing demands across the globe. 

Both countries are already revisiting their defense preparedness in the face of what they see as their arch-rival Communist China’s growing militarism. China’s ‘historical claims’ to sole ownership of India’s Arunachal Pradesh (Southern Tibet for China) and Japan’s Senkaku islands (Diaoyu islands for China) are confronting them on a daily basis. India’s ongoing defensive military infrastructure buildup in Arunachal Pradesh and periodical US-India-Japan joint naval exercises in its ‘solely claimed oceanic backyard’ in the East and South China Sea have already rattled Beijing, presenting them with an emerging ‘Troika’, especially after the US’s ‘pivot to Asia’ ‘rebalanced a growing maritime asymmetry in the region’. India, Troika thinking now has it, could help form Abe’s ‘democratic arc’ in containing Communist China’s maritime overdrives in the Indian Ocean.

Mutual expectations: what can Modi and Abe expect from each other?
If Modi visits Japan again, it will be his third visit. Previously, he met the Japanese PM in 2007 when Abe was on an India visit and again in July, 2012, when as Gujarat CM Modi visited Japan where he was accorded ‘state guest’ (reserved only for heads of state) hospitality, Abe ostensibly foreseeing his rise to the saddle in 2014.

There is a ‘new upbeat optimism’ for growing an India-Japan strategic partnership under Modi and Abe. A prominent thinker of India’s strategic community has already termed Modi as ‘India’s Abe’ and vice versa. Both Abe and Communist China have from time to time referred to Modi as the ‘Nixon’ of India–after US President Richard Nixon’s ice-breaking visit to Mao’s China in 1971 which led to developing closer ties.

When Modi visited Japan in 2012, he was shown the ‘economic miracle’ of Japan while travelling through the one of the world’s most heavily industrialized belts of the island nation on a bullet train. Modi was so impressed that he expressed a desire to emulate the ‘Japanese economic cum industrial growth model’ in India.  Abe, the self-proclaimed Indophile, will be happy to give Japanese wings to Modi’s dream of building a new dynamic India–a powerful India of hope and inclusive growth.

This may well be Asia’s fastest growing bilateral diplomacy or what both the Twitterattis would love to call “Twiplomacy” (Twitter Diplomacy), as the two peoples look with high expectations to these leaders of the emerging ‘great powers’ in global power politics. India under Modi, however, must carefully craft a cautious balancing act in its ongoing relations with the two Asian rival nations; continuing with more ‘business-like’ relations with Beijing while preserving the ‘warmth’ of a much closer bilateral diplomatic embrace with Tokyo.
–Sourabh is a research scholar working on ‘Chinese Navy in Indian Ocean and Strategic Implications for India” at the Department of Political Science at Delhi University.

U.S. Troops to Leave Afghanistan by End of 2016- MARK LANDLER

Posted by admin On May - 28 - 2014 Comments Off


WASHINGTON — President Obama, declaring that it was “time to turn the page on a decade in which so much of our foreign policy was focused on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” announced on Tuesday that he planned to withdraw the last American troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016.
Under a new timetable outlined by Mr. Obama in the Rose Garden, the 32,000 American troops now in Afghanistan would be reduced to 9,800 after this year.
That number would be cut in half by the end of 2015, and by the end of 2016, there would be only a vestigial force to protect the embassy in Kabul and to help the Afghans with military purchases and other security matters. At the height of American involvement, in 2011, the United States had 101,000 troops in the country.
“Americans have learned that it’s harder to end wars than it is to begin them,” he said. “Yet this is how wars end in the 21st century.”
Despite Mr. Obama’s attempt to signal the end of 13 years of American military engagement in Afghanistan, the United States will continue to have troops engaged in lethal counterterrorism operations there for at least two more years. The president also conceded that the United States would leave behind a deeply ambiguous legacy.
“We have to recognize Afghanistan will not be a perfect place, and it is not America’s responsibility to make it one,” he said. “The future of Afghanistan must be decided by Afghans.”
Republican critics in Congress said that even though Mr. Obama accepted the recommendation of his generals to leave behind a substantial residual force, the rigid deadline for the troops’ departure could expose Afghanistan to the same violence and instability that has erupted in Iraq since the pullout of the last American soldiers in 2011. Military commanders had recommended leaving at least 10,000 troops in Afghanistan for several years after the formal end of the combat mission in 2014.
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Besides carrying out operations against the remnants of Al Qaeda, the troops that stay behind will train Afghan security forces. But from 2015 onward, they will be quartered at Bagram Airfield and in Kabul, the capital. While they will be supplemented by NATO troops, alliance members are likely to follow America’s lead in pulling out by the end of 2016.
The unilateral nature of Mr. Obama’s announcement underscored the loss of trust between him and President Hamid Karzai, who has refused to sign a long-term security agreement with the United States. Any American deployments after 2014 will hinge on the Afghans’ signing the agreement, Mr. Obama said, though he noted that both candidates in the runoff election to replace Mr. Karzai have promised to do so.
Mr. Obama briefed Mr. Karzai by phone Tuesday morning, as well as leaders of three NATO partners with troops in Afghanistan: Britain, Germany and Italy. On Sunday, Mr. Karzai declined an invitation to meet the president at the Bagram base, north of Kabul, where Mr. Obama had made an unannounced trip to greet the troops.
A senior administration official said Mr. Obama was encouraged enough by recent developments in Afghanistan, particularly the first round of the presidential race, to avoid the “zero option,” which would have meant pulling out all troops at the end of 2014.
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“The priority for General Dunford and his team has been to keep as many troops as possible in Afghanistan for the 2015 fighting season,” said Jeremy B. Bash, a former chief of staff at the Pentagon, referring to the commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr.
The White House did not say how many of the troops remaining after 2014 would conduct counterterrorism missions, but it would most likely be a small fraction of the 9,800. The Central Intelligence Agency has gradually reduced its presence in the country as it turns its attention elsewhere, and some of the Afghan militias that the C.I.A. created to fight militants in the south and east are being quietly disbanded.
The president is clearly driven by a determination to shift the focus of his counterterrorism policy from Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan to a more diffuse set of militant threats, some linked to Al Qaeda, that have sprung up from Syria to Nigeria.
On Wednesday, an official said, Mr. Obama will emphasize Syria’s growing status as a haven for terrorism and signal greater support for the opposition. Among the options on the table, officials said, is expanding the covert training program for rebels, currently run by the C.I.A. in Jordan — perhaps by bringing in the Pentagon to conduct the training.
The training could also take place in nearby countries. But the official cautioned that the president had not made a decision and was unlikely to discuss the matter in any detail at West Point. He is, however, expected to pledge greater American support for the counterterrorism efforts of Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and other countries that border Syria.
Mr. Obama’s Afghanistan announcement has ignited a broader debate about military strategy and the most effective way to wind down a war. A senior administration official said a fixed withdrawal schedule would provide NATO allies and the Afghans with “predictability” while also driving home the limits of the American effort.
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Recent Comments
bergamo13 minutes ago
I will believe that the USA military leaves a country when I see it. Unless you are blind, you cannot fail to see that the USA wants to…

You would think that after Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan we would have learned our lesson.But, after almost 50 years in this country…

David S. Sedney, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia, said the decision “gives on one hand (9,800) and takes away on the other hand (deadlines).”
Even defenders of Mr. Obama said they were concerned that the rapid pace of the drawdown would not preserve the security gains made in more than a decade of war in Afghanistan.
“Time will tell whether we can meet that standard at this pace,” said Michèle A. Flournoy, who was under secretary of defense for policy during Mr. Obama’s first term.
Reporting was contributed by Michael R. Gordon, Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt and Mark Mazzetti from Washington, and Matthew Rosenberg from Kabul, Afghanistan.


When Gabriel García Márquez Went Back to Aracataca-BRENT STAPLES

Posted by admin On April - 19 - 2014 Comments Off


The novelist and maestro Gabriel García Márquez died Thursday , mourned by the world at the ample enough age of 87. But for a time during his youth in Colombia — when he was inhaling three packs a day — he was sure that he would die young, dissolute “and in the street,” as he put it in his 2003 memoir “Living to Tell The Tale.” At that point, his mother, Luisa Santiaga Márquez, appeared unexpectedly in the city of Barranquilla, determined to rescue her law-school dropout son from a wasteful life as a mere writer. She convinced him to travel with her to the desolate, hellishly hot Caribbean town of Aracataca, where he was born in 1927.
Thus unfolds one of the great sojourns in literature, easily on par with the voyage of the Pequod in “Moby-Dick,” or the trip upriver to find Mr. Kurtz in “Heart of Darkness.” Along the way, our nicotine-stained hero-to-be breathes in the scenes and sensations that would later emerge fictionalized in the pages of “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” He encounters, for example, a ruined banana plantation called Macondo — a name he remembered from childhood and that he would give to the lost village at the heart of the novel, where ghosts roam and exotic flowers fall from the sky.

Arriving in the withering heat, he writes:
The first thing that struck me was the silence. A material silence I could have identified blindfolded among all the other silences in the world. The reverberation of the heat was so intense that you seemed to be looking at everything through undulating glass. As far as the eye could see there was no recollection of human life, nothing that was not covered by a faint sprinkling of burning dust. My mother stayed in her seat for a few more minutes, looking at the dead town laid out along empty streets, and at last she exclaimed in horror:
“My God!’’
His mother wanted badly to dissuade him from the writer’s life. But the wave of desolation and reminiscence that swept over him that day sent him hurtling into the past and had precisely the opposite effect.

Qatari crisis in context-Mohamed Al-Said Idris

Posted by admin On March - 17 - 2014 Comments Off


The withdrawal of the Saudi, Bahraini and UAE ambassadors to Qatar has thrown the Gulf Cooperation Council into deep crisis

Since its inception on 25 May 1981, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has encountered difficult challenges that were instrumental in obstructing the realisation of unity, a goal that remained an aspiration of GCC members even if it had not been stated in black and white in their charter. The organisation’s goals, as defined by its charter, are “to achieve coordination, integration and interdependence among member states and to deepen and strengthen the bonds, ties and forms of cooperation existing between their peoples in all fields.” The document remained shy of a wording that would call for a unification formula higher or closer than cooperation and coordination. The founders were also clearly determined to obviate an expansionist concept that could bring on board other Arab states. GCC membership is closed; it cannot be extended to any other state or states. Also, under the charter, each member state has the right of “veto”, which effectively strips resolutions adopted by the council of any binding force, rendering them mere recommendations. In addition, the GCC’s Supreme Council, which consists of the heads of state of the six member nations (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE), has not appointed a president. Rather, there is a system of an annually rotating chairmanship, the authority of which is limited to presiding over the organisation’s summit sessions.


A LONG HISTORY OF DISPUTES: There are reasons for the foregoing. The rivalries among the six member nations have always been intense and the balance of powers has always been skewed in favour of Saudi Arabia. There is a long history of border disputes and problems that date back to the era of the British occupation. As part of their policy of splitting up the Arab region, in the Gulf area in particular, colonial architects drew up boundaries that ultimately generated a plethora of sources of tension and conflict.

Such were the factors that would subsequently account for the reluctance of the five smaller nations to enter into a joint regional security system with Saudi Arabia since the first and last ministerial conference for the “Regional System of the Arab Gulf”. Held in Muscat in November 1976, the conference was attended by the foreign ministers of the eight Gulf states: Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain. After it failed to obtain its objective, the six countries that would later go on to form the GCC continued negotiations aimed at creating a regional joint security framework for themselves. But nothing evolved, not only because of the aforementioned causes but also due to a range of other important regional and international factors. Prime among these were:

The constant meddling on the part of the two regional powers Iran and Iraq in relations between Saudi Arabia and the five smaller Gulf countries which, in turn, saw in Tehran and/or Baghdad a key to leveraging themselves with respect to Riyadh.

The fact that all these countries possessed huge oil and gas reserves and were, additionally, located in an area that was strategically vital to world trade and security. They were therefore a focus of major concern to international powers, which readily offered them sufficient protection to enable them to dispense with the need to enter a security and defence pact with Saudi Arabia.

All the above factors combined propelled against the creation of a regional security order in the Gulf during the five years that followed the collapse of the ministerial conference in Muscat, even if all the smaller countries, apart from Kuwait, entered into bilateral security agreements with Riyadh that were chiefly concerned with internal security matters. However, the overthrow of the Shah in Iran and the establishment of the Iranian Islamic Republic (on 11 February 1979) triggered alarm among the six Gulf states in view of the declared intention of the new rulers in Tehran to “export” their Islamic revolution. The fears were heightened with the outbreak of the Iraq-Iran War (in September 1980) the potential repercussions of which galvanised the leaders of the five smaller Gulf states into joining Saudi Arabia in the creation of the GCC.

We can therefore say that the GCC was born weak, as the majority of its members were driven to join it more by the perceived need to counter looming dangers than by the prospect of potential gain. As an organisation, it is also structurally weak. As the member states were determined to retain their full sovereignty and independence, the GCC as a “subsidiary regional organisation” was given no authority above that of its member states and its decisions are “advisory” rather than “binding”. Such structural deficiencies combined with ongoing rivalries and disputes continued to prevent the creation of a joint regional security order and the evolution of the GCC into an economic, political and security bloc capable of offsetting the weight of the two major regional powers in the Gulf, Iran and Iraq. Then, as of the outset of 2011, the shockwaves of the Arab Spring revolutions began to hit. The most affected by the repercussions were Bahrain and Oman, aggravating the causes of disputes that soon escalated into tensions and that began to jeopardise the continued unity of the GCC and its aspirations to develop into a Gulf Union.


THE PROBLEM OF CREATING A GULF UNION: GCC governments, and Saudi Arabia in particular, reacted quickly in order to contain the fallout from the wave of Arab revolutions and uprisings. Firstly, Riyadh injected huge sums of financial aid ($5 billion) into Bahrain and Oman so as to address the economic and social problems that lay at the root of discontent and unrest in those countries. A more significant development was the direct military intervention on the part of the GCC’s “Al-Jazira Shield Forces” to curb the deterioration in the state of security in Bahrain. Then Saudi King Abdullah Ben Abdel-Aziz proposed inviting the kingdoms of Jordan and Morocco to join the council. The proposal was roundly rejected by the other members, firstly because of the closed membership stipulated in the charter, and secondly, because they feared that relaxing this stipulation would pave the way to the inclusion of the three neighbouring countries — Iraq, Iran and Yemen — that had also been keen to join the GCC.

However, the most significant development occurred in the organisation’s summit in Riyadh in December 2011, when the Saudi monarch aired the call to transform the GCC into a “Gulf Union” along the lines of the EU. The idea was raised again in the consultative summit in Riyadh in May 2012, but discussion was deferred until the ministerial meeting scheduled for September that year on the grounds that it required more comprehensive study. Then the subject was supposed to head the agenda of the last GCC summit in Kuwait (10-11 December 2013) but — due to reasons pertaining to Omani opposition to the concept — not only was discussion deferred, the subject was taken off the agenda.

The tensions over this issue could jeopardise the future of the Gulf organisation. In the annual “Manama security dialogue”, Omani Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Youssef Ben Alawi Abdullah openly noted the existence of strong differences between GCC members of proposed projects concerning the foreign and defence policies of the council. He went on to state that his country refused to be a member of a Gulf Union project, a subject scheduled for discussion in the summit.

The Omani minister’s statement was a response to the earlier speech by his Saudi counterpart Nazar Madani who, in the Manama dialogue, which had been given the title “Regional Security, Conflicts and the Great Powers”, said that transforming the GCC into a union was “an urgent necessity compelled by security, political and economic changes”. Madani stressed that GCC members needed to work together to turn the Arab Gulf region into “a major strategic power zone”. He urged members to be “cautious and alert” in handling foreign interventions and “to reach collective understandings on the importance of an agreement on a unified framework for responding to the challenges and threats that loomed over the countries of the council”.

Ben Alawi’s sudden, frank and vehement response may have come as a shock to the participants in that conference. But it was not spontaneous; it had been carefully studied in advance. He made it explicit that his country was prepared to withdraw from the GCC should its members choose to pursue the idea of a Gulf Union. “If they create a [Gulf] union, we will not be a member of it,” he stated, adding, “we will not prevent the creation of such a union, even though we could since GCC decisions are taken by unanimous vote.” He also made it clear that Muscat opposed a regional joint security and defence pact. “If there are other or new [security] arrangements among the GCC countries as the result of currently existing or future conflicts, we are not and will not be a party in them.” He cautioned on the need for GCC members “to stay clear from regional and international conflicts” and went on to state: “We believe that, in the GCC and outside of it, power does not necessary mean that people have to militarise in order to enter into conflicts.”

Some Gulf officials who took part in the Manama dialogue responded to the Omani minister’s threat to withdraw from the GCC with remarks such as, “may they leave in peace.” Fortunately, the participants preferred to sustain the unity of the organisation by shelving the Gulf Union project, at least temporarily. However, neither the dismissive sneers of some of the participants or the inclination to sweep the subject under the rug will solve the GCC’s dilemma. This dilemma — indeed, crisis — is the lack of consensus over collective strategies in foreign policies and security and, to be more specific, strategies with respect to Iran. Some believe that Tehran has an expansionist agenda and regard it as a major regional threat. They are therefore pushing for the creation of a regional military bloc strong enough to counter Iranian military might. Among these are some who see Iran as the chief threat or the foremost strategic enemy, and believe that the only way to counter it is to do battle with it to the end, in the Syrian arena above all.

Oman is adamantly opposed to such thinking. It refuses to deal with Iran as an enemy. In fact, Muscat’s attitude towards Iran remains largely unchanged since the time of the Shah: it regards Iran as a strategic partner. Therefore, not only is it opposed to transforming the GCC into a military pact with the aim of doing battle with Iran, it favours promoting “Iranian partnership” with the GCC.

Since the departure of the British from the Gulf, Oman has developed its relations with Tehran (both under the Shah and then the Islamic Republic) as a counterweight to enhance its leverage with Riyadh. More importantly, however, Muscat has been determined to prevent the Gulf from becoming embroiled in avoidable conflicts. Therefore, unlike the governments of Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf countries, Oman moved to defuse the confrontation between Iran and the “P5+1” (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) over the Iranian nuclear programme. It was Muscat that hosted the secret US-Iranian talks (in which the UK participated at some junctures) aimed at reaching peaceful resolution to that crisis. The negotiations, which began in March 2013, led to the Geneva Interim Accord, a development that cast a shadow over Muscat’s relations with some other GCC governments that continue to regard Tehran as a primary source of threat.


QATARI REBELLION BRINGS GCC TO A CROSSROADS: Before the GCC could absorb the shock from the discord that led to the shelving of the Gulf Union project, the organisation was struck by the greatest crisis in its history. This took the form of the joint ministerial statement issued by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain on 5 March 2014 announcing their decision to withdraw their ambassadors from Qatar. Riyadh then followed through on this unprecedented measure with another stinging blow, which was to declare the Muslim Brotherhood along with a number of jihadist and takfiri groups terrorist organisations and to prohibit any Saudi citizen or resident in the country from affiliating or dealing with these organisations.

In justifying the decision to withdraw the ambassadors, the joint ministerial statement explained that GCC states had exerted considerable efforts at numerous levels to persuade Doha to adopt a mode of behaviour consistent with the GCC charter and the agreements signed between member states, inclusive of the security agreement, and to abide by the principles in those charters. Those principles are to refrain from intervening, directly or indirectly, in the domestic affairs of any GCC member state; not to support, directly or indirectly, any individual or group that threatens the security and stability of a member state; and not to support a hostile media.

These efforts had led to an agreement signed by the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Ben Ahmed of Qatar and all other GCC heads of state in accordance with which Doha pledged to conform to the abovementioned principles. The agreement was signed following the summit that was held in Riyadh on 23 November 2013 and attended by the Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed. However, according to the joint ministerial statement, during the subsequent three months, Doha failed to abide by the agreement, which prompted the heads of state of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain to instruct their foreign ministers to alert Qatar to the danger of its behaviour. The ministers issued this caution to Qatar in a meeting that took place in Kuwait on 17 February 2014 and that was attended by Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed of Kuwait, Sheikh Tamim Ben Ahmed of Qatar and the GCC foreign ministers. In that meeting, it was also agreed that the foreign ministers would set into motion a mechanism for monitoring the implementation of the aforementioned Riyadh agreement.

Several weeks later, on 4 March, the GCC foreign ministers met in Riyadh and attempted to prevail upon Qatar the need to take the necessary measures to put the Riyadh agreement into effect and to agree upon the monitoring mechanism. However, as Qatar during that meeting showed no willingness to comply with these demands, the governments of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain felt that they had no alternative but to proceed with that unprecedented step in the history of the GCC.

The subsequent Saudi decision to enter the Muslim Brotherhood on the list of terrorist organisations has further aggravated the crisis that now threatens the GCC. Qatar is faced with two choices. The first is to bow to the wishes of the other GCC members and cease its support for terrorist organisations and relinquish its alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood. The second is to persist in its current policies and alliances in the hope that this will precipitate a broader rift in the council and encourage other countries to rebel against the Saudi leadership and even to ally with regional forces opposed to Riyadh, most notably Iran.


THE GCC AND TOUGH CHOICES: What future awaits the GCC in light of the foregoing developments? What are the available options, especially in view of concurrent regional and international developments? In any decisions GCC members take, the questions of Iran (with regard to which the US appears to have put the option of war on a back burner in favour of negotiations), Syria (a looming military intervention scenario receded in favour of multinational diplomacy that includes Iran), the mounting Muslim Brotherhood terrorist threat (backed by the US and Turkey), not to mention the ongoing repercussions of the Arab Spring revolutions loom large. Such questions combined with the internal tensions among GCC countries bring the organisation to a critical crossroads in which its members will have to make some tough choices. The following are the most salient options:

1. To sustain communications with Qatar via the Kuwaiti intermediary. Some argue that this is the most viable option as Doha has been keen to keep channels of dialogue open with Kuwait, which did not follow suit with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain. At the same time, officials in these three countries realise that their peoples have common interests that are realised through the GCC and that there are strong economic bonds between GCC countries.

Working against this option, on the other hand, is the intensive financial, intelligence and media support that Qatar provides the Muslim Brotherhood within the framework of a larger alliance that includes the US, Turkey and — ultimately — Israel. The larger objective of this alliance is to engineer a restructuring of the Middle East order in a manner that serves US interests, and empowering the Muslim Brotherhood is a key element in this project. Qatar may not have the desire or opportunity to withdraw from that alliance.

 2. Freeze Qatar’s membership in the GCC. This may be the easiest option, especially since Riyadh appears serious in its resolve to clamp down on terrorist organisations and activities. Nevertheless, the option may not be welcomed by other GCC members, such as Kuwait and Oman, and therefore pushing for it could lead to further ruptures.

3. Restructure the Gulf regional security order in a manner that excludes US participation and, for the first time, brings on board Egypt and perhaps other Arab countries. This could be done by altering the GCC charter to provide for the membership of other nations or by creating a broader framework for cooperation and integration such as an Arab Union, which would operate in parallel with the Arab League and the Maghrebi Federation. This would pave the way for the inclusion of countries that are neither members in the GCC or the Maghrebi Federation in a larger bloc. Membership could be immediately extended to Egypt, Jordan and Yemen, although Lebanon and Syria would have to wait, given the murkiness of the situation there, and the same might apply to Sudan in view of its Muslim Brotherhood connection.

A possible disadvantage of this option is that Qatar might be prompted to promote the creation of a rival framework comprising Iran, Syria, Lebanon as well as such organisations as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizbullah and Hamas. Such an alliance would be perceived as a grave threat and aggravate the dangers of divisions, animosities and polarisations in the Arab region.

If such choices are tough, the worst option would be to leave the future of the GCC countries and their stability and security prey to the moods and whims of the ruling regime in Doha whose conceit and arrogance was amply expressed by its foreign minister, Khaled Ben Mohamed Al-Attiya. In a speech at the Institute for Political Studies in Paris on 10 March 2014, he said: “The independence of the foreign policy of the State of Qatar is, simply put, non-negotiable.” He added that his government is “committed to supporting the right of peoples to self-determination and to supporting their aspirations for the realisation of justice and freedom.” Who exactly he had in mind is a matter of conjecture. But his words were not well received in Riyadh.

The writer is head of the Arab Affairs Unit in Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.

Pakistani government to open preliminary talks with the Pakistani Taliban- Tim Craig

Posted by admin On February - 4 - 2014 Comments Off



European Pressphoto Agency – Pakistani Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid, right, with central commander Azam Tariq, said in a phone interview, “We have not yet put forward any conditions or demands for the talks.”
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — In its most ambitious step yet to address Pakistan’s most potent domestic threat, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government plans to hold preliminary talks Tuesday with representatives of the Pakistani Taliban.

The meeting is described as an introductory chat with the Islamist militant group, which is responsible for a decade-long insurgency that has claimed more than 45,000 lives. If the talks are unsuccessful, Sharif has signaled that he might order a military offensive to regain control of tribal areas that are effectively under Taliban control.



.Representatives from both camps confirmed Tuesday’s meeting. But many analysts doubt that a peace deal can be reached, citing the insurgent group’s violent history, decentralized command structure and harsh ideology.

Some Pakistani Taliban officials have circulated 10 demands they want to pursue in the talks, including a ban on women appearing in public in jeans or without head scarves, the release of all Taliban prisoners, immunity for the group’s commanders, the establishment of Islamic courts, a complete withdrawal of the Pakistan army from tribal areas and compensation for the victims of U.S. drone strikes.

The list has shocked Pakistan’s political and cultural elite.

“If this is true, it will not be acceptable to very many people in Pakistan,” Khalid Naeem Lodhi, a former Pakistan army general, said of the demands.

The Taliban is increasingly splintered, and the group’s chief spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, said any information about demands is premature.

“We have not yet put forward any conditions or demands for the talks,” Shahid said in a phone interview. “If there is a list of demands in the media, that is not ours but may be someone else’s.”

Sharif, who returned as prime minister in June after two previous terms in the 1990s, has made a negotiated settlement with the Pakistani Taliban a chief priority.

The Pakistani Taliban formed in 2008 in the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. It claims to be independent of the Afghan Taliban, but the two groups are thought to coordinate activities. Both organizations seek to replace their respective governments.

Although Pakistan’s major political parties gave Sharif broad support last summer to engage in talks, the prime minister has struggled to persuade Taliban representatives to participate.

 Over the past four months, the Taliban has asserted responsibility for a series of attacks that have killed hundreds of people. Last month, 20 Pakistani soldiers were killed in a suicide bombing in North Waziristan. The military responded with airstrikes that killed 40 militants and foreign fighters and caused thousands of residents to flee their homes.

Many analysts saw the bombardment as a sign that Sharif and Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, were preparing to launch a major offensive. Instead, Sharif announced last week that he was appointing a four-member delegation to make a final push at peace talks.

This time, Taliban leaders have appeared more receptive. They have appointed three representatives for the talks, including Maulana Sami ul-Haq, a top religious leader.

Analysts caution, however, that Sharif’s government may not have much leeway to bargain with the Taliban. Although Pakistan’s constitution is rooted in Islamic principles and law, it also includes provisions guaranteeing the rights of women and minorities.

Efforts to ban women from wearing jeans in public would probably run afoul of those principles, said Khalil ur-Rehman Khan, a former Supreme Court justice.

Although women in rural areas rarely wear jeans, it’s becoming more common to see young women wear them in urban settings.

“Under Islam, you have to dress in a way that is not profane, or abusive, but that choice is given, and it’s based on how society accepts you,” Khan said. “And the culture of society changes with the passage of time, more education.”

Zahid Hussain, an Islamabad-based defense analyst, said Sharif would run into resistance from military leaders if he agreed to any release of prisoners. Many military leaders are still angered that Taliban commanders freed under previous peace initiatives have returned to the battlefield, he said.

“There have been several peace deals with the Taliban, and none of them have worked, and I don’t think things have diametrically changed,” Hussain said.
Haq Nawaz Khan in Peshawar and Aimar Iqbal in Islamabad contributed to this report.


Karzai Arranged Secret Contacts With the Taliban- AZAM AHMED and MATTHEW ROSENBERG

Posted by admin On February - 4 - 2014 Comments Off


KABUL, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has been engaged in secret contacts with the Taliban about reaching a peace agreement without the involvement of his American and Western allies, further corroding already strained relations with the United States.
The secret contacts appear to help explain a string of actions by Mr. Karzai that seem intended to antagonize his American backers, Western and Afghan officials said. In recent weeks, Mr. Karzai has continued to refuse to sign a long-term security agreement with Washington that he negotiated, insisted on releasing hardened Taliban militants from prison and distributed distorted evidence of what he called American war crimes.
The clandestine contacts with the Taliban have borne little fruit, according to people who have been told about them. But they have helped undermine the remaining confidence between the United States and Mr. Karzai, making the already messy endgame of the Afghan conflict even more volatile. Support for the war effort in Congress has deteriorated sharply, and American officials say they are uncertain whether they can maintain even minimal security cooperation with Mr. Karzai’s government or its successor after coming elections.

Launch media viewer A convoy with Afghan National Army troops. American forces are turning over their combat role to Afghan forces. Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times Frustrated by Mr. Karzai’s refusal to sign the security agreement, which would clear the way for American troops to stay on for training and counterterrorism work after the end of the year, President Obama has summoned his top commanders to the White House on Tuesday to consider the future of the American mission in Afghanistan.
Western and Afghan officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the peace contacts, said that the outreach was apparently initiated by the Taliban in November, a time of deepening mistrust between Mr. Karzai and his allies. Mr. Karzai seemed to jump at what he believed was a chance to achieve what the Americans were unwilling or unable to do, and reach a deal to end the conflict — a belief that few in his camp shared.
The peace contacts, though, have yielded no tangible agreement, nor even progressed as far as opening negotiations for one. And it is not clear whether the Taliban ever intended to seriously pursue negotiations, or were simply trying to derail the security agreement by distracting Mr. Karzai and leading him on, as many of the officials said they suspected.
As recently as October, a long-term agreement between the United States and Afghanistan seemed to be only a few formalities away from completion, after a special visit by Secretary of State John Kerry. The terms were settled, and a loya jirga, or assembly of prominent Afghans, that the president summoned to ratify the deal gave its approval. The continued presence of American troops after 2014, not to mention billions of dollars in aid, depended on the president’s signature. But Mr. Karzai repeatedly balked, perplexing Americans and many Afghans alike.
Peace Contacts Fade
The first peace feeler from the Taliban reached Mr. Karzai shortly before the loya jirga, Afghan officials said, and since then the insurgents and the government have exchanged a flurry of messages and contacts.
Aimal Faizi, the spokesman for Mr. Karzai, acknowledged the secret contacts with the Taliban and said they were continuing.
“The last two months have been very positive,” Mr. Faizi said. He characterized the contacts as among the most serious the presidential palace has had since the war began. “These parties were encouraged by the president’s stance on the bilateral security agreement and his speeches afterwards,” he said.
But other Afghan and Western officials said that the contacts had fizzled, and that whatever the Taliban may have intended at the outset, they no longer had any intention of negotiating with the Afghan government. They said that top Afghan officials had met with influential Taliban leaders in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in recent weeks, and were told that any prospects of a peace deal were now gone.
The Afghan and Western officials questioned whether the interlocutors whom Mr. Karzai was in contact with had connections to the Taliban movement’s leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, whose blessing would be needed for any peace deal the group were to strike.
Though there have been informal contacts between Afghan officials and Taliban leaders since the very early days of the war, the insurgents’ opaque and secretive leaders have made their intentions difficult to discern. Afghan officials have struggled in recent years to find genuine Taliban representatives, and have flitted among a variety of current and former insurgent leaders, most of whom had only tenuous connections to Mullah Omar and his inner circle, American and Afghan officials have said.
Western Outreach
The only known genuine negotiating channel to those leaders was developed by American and German diplomats, who spent roughly two years trying to open peace talks in Qatar. The diplomats repeatedly found themselves incurring the wrath of Mr. Karzai, who saw the effort as an attempt to circumvent him; he tried behind the scenes to undercut it.
Then, when an American diplomatic push led to the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar, Mr. Karzai lashed out publicly at the United States. Afghan officials said that to them, the office looked far too much like the embassy of a government-in-exile, with its own flag and a nameplate reading “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.” Within days, the Qatar initiative stalled, and Mr. Karzai was fuming at what he saw as a plot by the United States to cut its own deal with Pakistan and the Taliban without him.
In the wake of the failure in Qatar, Afghan officials redoubled their efforts to open their own channel to Mullah Omar, and by late autumn, Mr. Karzai apparently believed those efforts were succeeding. Some senior Afghan officials say they did not share his confidence, and their doubts were shared by American officials in Kabul and Washington.
Both Mr. Karzai and American officials hear the clock ticking. American forces are turning over their combat role to Afghan forces and preparing to leave Afghanistan this year, and the campaigning for the Afghan national election in April has begun. An orderly transition of power in an Afghanistan that can contain the insurgency on its own would be the culmination of everything that the United States has tried to achieve in the country.
“We’ve been through numerous cycles of ups and downs in our relations with President Karzai over the years,” Ambassador James B. Cunningham said during a briefing with reporters last week. “What makes it a little different this time is that he is coming to the end of his presidency, and we have some very important milestones for the international community and for Afghanistan coming up in the next couple of months.”
Speaking of biting the hand that feeds him….This is the paroxysm of ingratitude and arrogance.after countless lives of our precious young…


Mr. Karzai has been increasingly concerned with his legacy, officials say. When discussing the impasse with the Americans, he has repeatedly alluded to his country’s troubled history as a lesson in dealing with foreign powers. He recently likened the security agreement to the Treaty of Gandamak, a one-sided 1879 agreement that ceded frontier lands to the British administration in India and gave it tacit control over Afghan foreign policy. He has publicly assailed American policies as the behavior of a “colonial power,” though diplomats and military officials say he has been more cordial in private.
Mr. Karzai reacted angrily to a negative portrayal of him in a recent memoir by the former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, and he is still bitter over the 2009 presidential election, when hundreds of thousands of fraudulent ballots were disqualified and, as he sees it, the Americans forced him into an unnecessary runoff against his closest opponent.
Domestic Interests
In some respects, Mr. Karzai’s outbursts have been an effort to speak to Afghans who want him to take a hard line against the Americans, including many ethnic Pashtuns, who make up nearly all of the Taliban. With the American-led coalition on its way out and American influence waning, Mr. Karzai is more concerned with bridging the chasms of Afghan domestic politics than with his foreign allies’ interests.
If the peace overture to the Taliban is indeed at an end, as officials believe, it is unclear what Mr. Karzai will do next. He could return to a softer stance on the security agreement and less hostility toward the United States, or he could justify his refusal to sign the agreement by blaming the Americans for failing to secure a genuine negotiation with the insurgents.
Mr. Karzai has insisted that he will not sign the agreement unless the Americans help bring the Taliban to the table for peace talks. Some diplomats worry that making such a demand allows the Taliban to dictate the terms of America’s long-term presence in Afghanistan. Others question Mr. Karzai’s logic: Why would the insurgency agree to talks if doing so would ensure the presence of the foreign troops it is determined to expel?
The White House expressed impatience on Monday with Mr. Karzai’s refusal to sign the agreement. “The longer there is a delay, the harder it is for NATO and U.S. military forces to plan for a post-2014 presence,” said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary. “This is a matter of weeks, not months.”


The military leaders expected to attend the planning conference at the White House on Tuesday include Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the commander of American forces in Afghanistan; Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the former Iraq commander now serving as head of the United States Central Command; and Adm. William H. McRaven, head of the United States Special Operations Command.
In recent statements, Mr. Karzai’s office in Kabul has appeared to open the door to a resolution of the impasse over the security agreement. The presidential spokesman, Mr. Faizi, has said that if one party is obstructing the American efforts to get talks going, the United States need only say so publicly.
“Once there is clarity, we can take the next step to signing” the agreement, he said.
Peter Baker contributed reporting from Washington.


Afghanistan Exit Is Seen as Peril to C.I.A. Drone Mission-DAVID E. SANGER and ERIC SCHMITT

Posted by admin On January - 27 - 2014 Comments Off



WASHINGTON — The risk that President Obama may be forced to pull all American troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the year has set off concerns inside the American intelligence agencies that they could lose their air bases used for drone strikes against Al Qaeda in Pakistan and for responding to a nuclear crisis in the region.
Until now, the debate here and in Kabul about the size and duration of an American-led allied force in Afghanistan after 2014 had focused on that country’s long-term security. But these new concerns also reflect how troop levels in Afghanistan directly affect long-term American security interests in neighboring Pakistan, according to administration, military and intelligence officials.
The concern has become serious enough that the Obama administration has organized a team of intelligence, military and policy specialists to devise alternatives to mitigate the damage if a final security deal cannot be struck with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, who has declined to enact an agreement that American officials thought was completed last year.
If Mr. Obama ultimately withdrew all American troops from Afghanistan, the C.I.A.’s drone bases in the country would have to be closed, according to administration officials, because it could no longer be protected.
Their concern is that the nearest alternative bases are too far away for drones to reach the mountainous territory in Pakistan where the remnants of Al Qaeda’s central command are hiding. Those bases would also be too distant to monitor and respond as quickly as American forces can today if there were a crisis in the region, such as missing nuclear material or weapons in Pakistan and India.
A senior administration official, asked about the preparations, responded by email on Sunday that as the possibility of a pullout “has grown in Afghanistan, we have been undertaking a methodical review of any U.S. capabilities that may be affected and developing strategies to mitigate impacts.”
The official added that the administration was determined to find alternatives, if necessary. “We will be forced to adapt,” the official said, “and while perhaps less than most efficient, the United States will find ways necessary to protect our interests.”
The issue is coming to the fore after the Pentagon recently presented Mr. Obama with two options for the end of the year. One option calls for a presence through the end of Mr. Obama’s term of 10,000 American troops who could train Afghan troops, conduct counterterrorism raids and protect the American facilities, including those in eastern Afghanistan where drones and nuclear monitoring are based.
Under the other, so-called zero option, no American troops would remain. The United States has said that if it is unable to reach a final security arrangement with Mr. Karzai, it is prepared, reluctantly, to pull out completely, as it did in Iraq in 2011.
Mr. Obama has made “no decisions” on troop levels, said Caitlin M. Hayden, the spokeswoman for the National Security Council. “We will be weighing inputs from our military commanders, as well as the intelligence community, our diplomats and development experts, as we make decisions about our-post 2014 presence in Afghanistan,” she said.
In his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, however, Mr. Obama is expected to say that by the end of this year the Afghan war will be over — at least for Americans — slightly more than 13 years after it began, making it the longest in American history.
Mr. Obama’s hope is to keep 8,000 to 12,000 troops — most of them Americans, some from allies — in Afghanistan after the NATO combat mission ends this year. The resurgence of Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, combining with insurgents in Syria, has offered a sobering reminder of the consequences of the American decision to withdraw all its troops from Iraq. Mr. Karzai seems to be betting that the damage that a withdrawal would do to American intelligence operations is so great that he may be able to strike a better deal.
Even though the zero option has few supporters in the administration, the idea has gained renewed credence with each day that Mr. Karzai delays signing the security accord and poses new demands to the United States. “Karzai has believed for some time that he has this leverage — that we need him and his bases more than he needs us,” said Daniel Markey, a former State Department official and the author of “No Exit From Pakistan,” published last year.
Secretary of State John Kerry is to meet Pakistan’s foreign and national security policy adviser, Sartaj Aziz, here on Monday, and counterterrorism operations are to be a major subject of discussion, a senior State Department official said Sunday. Talking with Pakistan about its nuclear program is especially delicate.
In recent years the country has accelerated its drive to build small tactical nuclear weapons — similar to what the United States placed in Europe during the Cold War — that could be used to repel an invasion from India. But those weapons are considered more vulnerable to theft or use by a rogue commander, and they are one reason that American intelligence agencies have invested so heavily in monitoring the Pakistani arsenal.
A scare in 2009, when the United States feared that nuclear materials or a weapon was missing in Pakistan, led Mr. Obama to order the basing of a permanent monitoring and search capability in the region.
Recent CommentsPillai49 minutes ago That might be the best thing for US and the Afghan civilians then. Let’s use the drones as a last resort.
Keith49 minutes ago I hope we can now focus on unemployment and injustice at home. The best hope for that is if we can find a role for the national security…
Tartarito50 minutes ago Cut his financial aid.he is addicted to us dollars!
See All Comments Write a comment
But the complexities of bringing those capabilities to an end are forcing the intelligence agencies, which run the covert strikes into Pakistan and monitor nuclear events around the world, to scramble. Their base inside Pakistan was closed after a shooting involving a C.I.A. security contractor, Raymond Davis, and the raid into Pakistani territory that killed Osama bin Laden, both in 2011.
Crucial to the surveillance of Bin Laden’s house in Abbottabad was the use of an RQ-170 drone. Pakistani officials talked openly in the weeks after that raid about their fear that the unmanned aircraft was also being used to monitor their nuclear arsenal, now believed to be the fastest growing in the world. The raid, and those drones, came out of American facilities just over the Afghan border.
“You hear about the president’s decision of the ‘zero option’ in the context of the future of Afghanistan, but this is really more about Pakistan,” said one former senior intelligence official who has consulted with the Pentagon and intelligence agencies about the problem. “That’s where the biggest problem is.”
The C.I.A.’s drone bases in Afghanistan, including one in the eastern part of the country, allow operators to respond quickly to fresh intelligence. The proximity to Pakistan’s tribal areas also allows the Predator drones and their larger, faster cousin, the Reaper, to fly longer missions without having to return to base.
“There certainly is an interdependence between the military and the intelligence community in Afghanistan,” one senior administration official said.

The Reapers, the newest, largest and most capable of the unmanned armed vehicles, have a range of up to 1,100 miles. That puts Pakistan’s tribal areas within range of some bases the American military has flown from, especially in Kyrgyzstan, where for more than a decade the Pentagon has conducted air operations, include cargo and troop flights, out of a base at Manas. But the United States said last fall that it would pull out of that base in July.
Other allied countries are within the Reaper’s range — in the Persian Gulf, for example. But the distances would be too great to carry out drone operations effectively, officials said, and it is very unlikely that any of those nations would approve launching the diplomatically sensitive strikes missions from their soil.
“There’s no easy alternative to Afghanistan,” one former senior American counterterrorism official said.

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