March 24, 2007

India to push for $7bn Iran gas pipeline project

NEW DELHI: India is committed to a multi-billion dollar pipeline that will transport gas from energy-rich Iran through Pakistan despite reported objections from United States, Oil Minister Murli Deora said yesterday."I don't see any problem (on the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline)," Deora was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency.

"No country can debar India from this project. We are committed to this," Deora said during a visit to Mumbai.

His comments follow reports that US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, during a visit here this week, had urged India to drop plans to construct the pipeline, saying it would help Iran build nuclear weapons.

Deora did not give any timeframe for completion of the pipeline though last month he said an agreement on the pipeline could be signed by June.

"I can't give any timeframe. The advisors have been appointed and they are preparing the feasibility report. It is too early to say at this stage," Deora said.

Talks on the proposed $7.4-billion project began in 1994, but stalled due to tensions between rivals Pakistan and India.

The discussions only gathered momentum after the launch of a peace process between the South Asian rivals in 2004.

Despite being US allies in its global "war on terror," India and Pakistan have said they want to go ahead with the 2,600-kilometre (1,600-mile) Iranian pipeline project as they need energy to fuel economic growth.

Iran plans to lay a pipeline from the giant South Pars gas field to carry 90 million standard cubic metres per day of gas.

One third will be used by Iran while Pakistan and India will get another third each.

Washington, which accuses Tehran of supporting terrorism and trying to make a nuclear bomb, says Iran will use the revenue generated from the pipeline to finance these activities.

Balochistan’s illegal occupation must end --Dr Wahid Baloch

Dr Wahid Baloch 

WSHINGTON DC: March 23, 2007. Baloch Society of North America (BSO-NA) president Dr Wahid Baloch said, that Balochistan is an occupied land, illegally occupied by Pakistan and Iran and that the illegal occupation of Balochistan must end. Speaking at the National press club in Washington Dc at the world Sindhi institute’s sponsored event, he said Balochs has nothing to do with Lahore resolution as Baloch were not invited nor they participated. He also said that secular Baloch people did not participated in any form in the creation of fundamentalist Islamic Pakistan. He said Balochistan was a free sovereign state and Pakistan after one year of its creation attacked the severing State and forced the Ruler of Balochistan to sign the Instrument of accession under duress while the both upper and lower Baloch parliament, (House of common and hose of lord) unanimously rejected the idea of merger with Pakistan. He backed his argument with historical data and facts and said that international community must help to end the illegal occupation of Baloch Land from Pakistan and Iran". "Balochistan sovereignty must be restored according to international laws", he said.

He said, since the illegal occupation of Balochistan by Pakistan and Iran, Baloch have been systematically oppressed and kept backward, while their resources were used by Islamabad and Tehran Pakistan to build nuclear arsenals, WMD and in promoting Islamic extremism and terrorism. He said,” Balochistan have been converted into a into a Mega prison. There are military cantonments in every city and more than 600 military check post throughout Balochistan to control the lives and activities of Baloch citizens in their own homeland. Baloch people have no say about their land, coasts and resources. Balochistan’s resources are being looted at the gunpoint and are being sold to Chinese and other multi international companies without the Baloch consent and will. He asked the international community to help stop the looting and exploiting of Baloch resources.

He said, since the start of the 5th military operation, more than 6000 Baloch people have been arrested and many of them are missing and are being tortured. Pakistan is building three more military cantonments in Balochistan to suppress the Baloch voice and to continue exploitation of Baloch resources. There are 80 thousand troops stationed in Balochistan and more troops are on the way. Balochistan have been turned into a military occupied war zone. Baloch people are living in fear and in hopelessness.

He said, Pakistan claims to be a U.S. ally in the war of terror but its recent “peace deal” with Taliban and Al-Qaida terrorist in Waziristan proves otherwise. The fact is that Pakistan has never been and never was an ally against the war of its own created Taliban and Al-Qaida terrorists. Small wonder even after five years, we have not been able to capture Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar.

Pakistani Air Force fighter jets, Army gunship helicopters and military hardware provided by US Government to kill or capture Al-Qaida and Taliban elements, are being used against the innocent secular Baloch people. More then 1600 hundred people, including women and children, have been reported Killed in the war in the last one-year, and according to UN report more than 80 Thousand Marri and Bugti Baloch have been displaced and who are living under harsh condition without any help.

The Gwadar port built and completed with the help of China, despite the strong Baloch opposition, to bring millions of non-Baloch Punjabi to change Baloch demography and to turn the Baloch people into minority in their own homeland, a typical mindset of a colonial attitude. The Baloch people’s resistance against Pakistani anti-Baloch plans is natural. They are demanding that Baloch resources should be used for Baloch people and that the military cantonments should be stopped and Pakistani Punjabi military should be withdrawn from Balochistan and be replaced by a Baloch force.

He appealed to United Nations, World Leaders, and International community, the International Court of Justice, Human Rights Watch and all other Organizations to urge Pakistani Army to stop the massacre of Innocent Baloch civilians.

The military operation must be STOPED immediately in order to prevent further civilian casualties. All the political prisoners including Saradr Akhtar Mengal, Ghulam Mohd Baloch, Lala Munir Baloch, Sher Mohd Baloch and Salim Baloch should and all others abductees must be released immediately.

Dr. Wahid Baloch, President of
Baloch Society of North America (BSO-NA), USA

HAF Pushes to Revamp Textbook Adoption Process in California

Washington, D.C. (March 22, 2007) – Under court order, the California State Board of Education (SBE) accepted comments and proposed changes to its textbook adoption process last week. The legal mandate resulted from the recent victory of the Hindu American Foundation’s (HAF) lawsuit against the SBE. The foundation had held that illegal procedures were being used in the adoption of instructional materials, namely sixth grade social studies textbooks, for use in California public schools.

Representing Hindu American parents in California, the foundation submitted to the SBE twenty-two "comments" that would streamline the textbook adoption procedures and incorporate "critical" protective measures requiring that the process be clear and transparent to members of the public.

"Last year Hindu parents were shut out of the textbook adoption process by the SBE implementing underground regulations and holding closed door meetings—subverting the public process," said Suhag Shukla, Esq., legal counsel for the Hindu American Foundation. "Our legal victory has opened the door to not only Hindu parents, but all California parents who are entitled by law to have a voice in how their children are educated—and we are taking advantage of that opening."

Among other demands, in its submission, HAF stipulated that experts retained by the SBE in future curriculum framework development and textbook adoptions have expertise in the specific subject area and be screened for potential conflicts of interest. Much of the current controversy began last year when for the sixth grade textbooks covering Hinduism, the SBE retained a professor of linguistics well known for his antagonism towards Hindu Americans.

The foundation also demanded that the public be given opportunities to influence and offer meaningful input and perspectives during the various stages of curriculum development and textbook adoption—something Shukla says was denied to Hindu Americans previously.

"It is our hope that the SBE will seriously consider HAF’s recommendations— they stem from direct experience of a system that had become unresponsive to the constituency that it serves," said Shukla. "The SBE must work proactively with the public in order to adopt curricula and textbooks that portray accurately and equitably the diversity of American society."

The full recommendations of HAF can be viewed at www.hafsite. org/pdf/HAFSBE. pdf.

March 23, 2007


By B. Raman

The Azam Warsak area of South Waziristan in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan has been the scene of violent attacks by sections of the local tribals on the Uzbeks living in the area following the alleged murder of a local tribal personality by an Uzbek resident of the area. The attacks started on March 19, 2007. The Uzbeks retaliated and in the ensuing clashes nearly 100 persons have been killed----about 70 Uzbeks and the remaining locals mainly belonging to the Darikhel and the Tojikhel sub-tribes. The Yargulkhel sub-tribe led by Noor Islam and his brother Haji Omar, two important pro-Taliban military commanders who had once fought in Afghanistan, have been supporting the Uzbeks in their fight against the Darikhels and the Tojkhels. Some Yargulkhels have also been killed. The Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao has claimed that 84 Uzbek militants and 30 local tribesmen, including nine civilians, have been killed so far and another 83 Uzbeks captured, but there is no confirmation of his figures.

2. This is the second time the Uzbeks, supported by the Yargulkhels, have recently clashed with the Darikhels and the Tojhkhels. In the previous clash on March 6, 2007, 19 persons were killed---Uzbeks as well as Darikhels. Among the Darikhels killed were the son and two brothers of Malik Saidullah Khan, a respected elder of the Darikhel tribe. Since then, the Darikhel tribe, supported by the Tojhkhels, has been looking for an opportunity to avenge the death of the son and two brothers of Saidullah Khan.

3. The intervention of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Islam of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of Jallaluddin Haqqani, a senior military commander of the Neo Taliban, Mulla Dadullah Akhund, another senior commander of the Neo Taliban, and Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the local Taliban in the South Waziristan area, has not succeeded in bringing about a ceasefire. The fighting between the Uzbeks and the local tribal groups suits the Pakistan Army, which has been facing pressure from the US, China and Iran to act against the Uzbeks, Chechens and Uighurs active in this area. It has, therefore, not intervened to stop the killing, despite the fact that many pro-Government tribals have also been killed. Lt. Gen. (Retd) Hamid Gul, Lt. Gen.(retd) Javed Nasir and Lt. Gen. (retd) Mahmood Ahmed, all the three former Directors-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence, have been unsuccessfully trying to stop the fighting. Despite their intervention, sporadic clashes are continuing.

4. A large number of Uzbeks----from Afghanistan as well as Uzbekistan--- have settled down in the South Waziristan area for many years. Many of them have married local women. The Afghan Uzbeks are largely former supporters of Rashid Dostum, the Uzbek leader of Afghanistan. They used to serve in the Afghan Army of Najibullah in Southern and Eastern Afghanistan. When Dostum, instigated by the US' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA),deserted Najibullah in 1991 and joined hands with the the CIA-trained Mujahideen, these Uzbek soldiers deserted from Najibullah's army and settled down in the South Waziristan area.

5. This area also has many Uzbeks from Uzbekistan belonging to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which is a member of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF).As reported by me in my paper of August 2, 2004, at, in December 1991, some unemployed Muslim youth seized the Communist Party headquarters in the eastern Uzbek city of Namangan, to protest against the refusal of the local Mayor to permit the construction of a mosque. The protest was organised by Tohir Abdouhalilovitch Yuldeshev, a 24-year-old college drop-out, who had become a Mulla, and Jumaboi Ahmadzhanovitch Khojaev, a former Soviet paratrooper who had served in Afghanistan and returned from there totally converted to Wahabism.

6. Yuldeshev and Khojaev, who later adopted the alias Juma Namangani, after his hometown, became members of the Uzbekistan branch of the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP). Following the IRP's reported refusal to support their demand for the establishment of an Islamic State in Uzbekistan, they formed their own party called the Adolat (Justice) Party, which was banned by President Islam Karimov. They then fled to Tajikistan. While Namangani fought in the local civil war, Yuldeshev went to Chechnya to participate in the jihad there. In 1995, he went to Pakistan, where the jihadi organisations gave him shelter in Peshawar. From there, he re-named the Adolat Party as the IMU and was allegedly in receipt of funds from the intelligence agencies of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. After Osama bin Laden shifted to Jalalabad from Khartoum in Sudan in 1996, he crossed over into Afghanistan.

7. After the end of the civil war in Tajikistan, Namangani settled down for a while as a road transport operator. He was also allegedly involved in heroin smuggling from Afghanistan. Subsequently, he too crossed over into Afghanistan and joined the IMU and became its leader. The IMU allegedly earns a major part of its revenue from heroin smuggling.

8. After the Taliban captured Kabul in September, 1996, Namangani and Yuldeshev held a press conference at Kabul at which they announced the formation of the IMU with Namangani as the Amir and Yuldeshev as its military commander. In 1998, the IMU joined the IIF. Bin Laden was reportedly greatly interested in the IMU because he was hoping to use it for getting nuclear material and know-how from Russia and other constituent States of the erstwhile USSR.

9. The IMU's initial goal was described as the overthrow of Uzbek President Islam Karimov and the establishment of an Islamic State in Uzbekistan.It reportedly changed its name to the Islamic Party of Turkestan (IPT) in June 2001, and called for the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate in Central Asia consisting of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and China's Xinxiang province. It has been recruiting members from all these areas, including Uighurs from Xinjiang. Initially, its recruits were trained by the Arab instructors of Al Qaeda in the training camps in Afghan territory and after 9/11 by Chechen and Pashtun instructors of the Taliban in the South Waziristan area of Pakistan. Despite its 2001 change of name as the IPT, it continues to be known in Uzbekistan as the IMU. The name IPT is not widely known.

10. After the reported death of Namangani in a US air strike in Afghanistan post-9/11, Yuldeshev took over the leadership of the IMU and crossed over with the surviving members of the IMU into South Waziristan where he and his Uzbek/Chechen instructors were reported to have set up a training camp for training jihadi terrorists. Among those reportedly trained in this camp were the members of the Jundullah (Army of Allah), a newly-formed Pakistani jihadi organisation.

11. In an operation launched by the Pakistani security forces in South Waziristan in March-April, 2004, to smoke out the members of the Al Qaeda, Yuldeshev was reported to have been injured, but he managed to escape. There are no reliable reports of the number of Uzbeks, Chechens and Uighurs in South Waziristan. Some Pakistani journalists, who had visited the South Waziristan area in March-April,2004, had estimated the total number of foreigners, who had been given shelter there by the local tribals , as about 600, about 200 of them Uzbeks and the remaining Chechens, Uighurs, Arabs and others. Other reports place the number of Uighurs as about 100. The presence of Uzbeks, Chechens and Uighurs in the Taliban and in Gulbuddin Heckmatyar's Hizbe Islami now operating in Afghanistan has also been reported. Their number is not known. Latest reports about the current fighting estimate the total number of Uzbeks in South Waziristan as between 1000 and 2000. This appears to be an over-estimate.

12. The Uighurs trained by the IMU were suspected of involvement in the explosion in Gwadar in Balochistan in the beginning of 2004 in which some Chinese engineers were killed and in the explosions on July 31, 2004, at the same town in which no casualties were reported. Following an unsuccessful attempt to kill Lt-Gen Ahsan Saleem Hyat, who was then the Karachi Corps Commander, on June 10, 2004, the Pakistani authorities arrested eight persons for their involvement in the attack. They claimed that they belonged to a new organisation called the Jundullah (the Army of God), which had been trained in the IMU training camp in South Waziristan. While the Pakistani Interior Minister described the eight arrested persons, including their leader, Ata-ur-Rehman as of Central Asian origin, the Karachi Police described them as Pakistanis belonging to Karachi.

13. Interestingly, after the arrests in Karachi, the Pakistani authorities announced the end of the joint operations by the Army and the Air Force against the members of Al Qaeda and the IIF in the South Waziristan area with effect from June 14, 2004. According to official accounts, the operations, which started on June 8, had resulted in the death of 55 suspected terrorists and 19 members of the security forces. The Pakistani officials projected those killed and captured as of Central Asian origin. Other reports of the intense fighting in the area also spoke of the involvement of Uighurs from the Xinjiang province of China in the fighting against the Army. According to Police sources, about 50 to 100 Uighurs from the Xinjiang province trained by Uzbek and Chechen elements of the IIF have joined hands with the Uzbeks and Chechens in their fight against the Pakistan Army.

14. Two Chinese engineers working in a hydel project in the South Waziristan area were kidnapped in October, 2004, allegedly by some Pakistani members of the Jundullah, three Uzbeks of the IMU and some tribal followers of Abdullah Mehsud, who was released by the US authorities from detention in their Guantanamo Bay detention camp in March, 2004. The kidnappers demanded the release of some Jundullah members in custody. One of the Chinese engineers was killed during a rescue operation mounted by the Pakistan army. The other was rescued.

15. The involvement of the Jundullah was also suspected in a suicide car bomb explosion near the US Consulate in Karachi on March 2, 2006, in which a US diplomat was killed. This explosion took place on the eve of the visit of President George Bush to Pakistan.Maitur Rehman, a 29-year-old Pakistani, from Multan in Punjab, was then reported to be the Amir of the Jundullah. He had previously served in the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), an anti-Shia terrorist organisation, and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI)

16. On February 15, 2007, the Karachi Police raided a house and arrested three suspected suicide bombers identified as Muhammad Shahid alias Kashif, Muhammad Farhan alias Nasir and Ghani Subhan alias Rashid. The police also seized three hand grenades, two pistols, one AK-47 assault rifle and a suicide jacket from them. The Police said that the three suspects belonged to a group headed by Al Qaeda leader Qari Zafar and they had been especially sent to Karachi from South Waziristan to carry out suicide attacks. According to the Police, Shahid and Farhan belonged to Hyderabad in Sindh while Ghani Subhan was from South Waziristan. The police subsequently arrested 10 others with suspected links to the IMU. They said that the arrested persons named Maulvi Abbas, Commander Javed and Qari Zafar as operators of their group and said that their headquarters were located in South Waziristan. All of them were trained in a training camp in South Waziristan where the instructors were Pakistanis, Uzbeks and East Africans.

18. The "Daily Times" of Lahore reported as follows on these arrests: " Investigations into the three alleged Al Qaeda suspects who were arrested in Karachi Friday have revealed that the influence of Uzbek extremists has grown on Al Qaeda in Wana. “An unspecified number of Uzbek mujahideen are still present in Wana. They are conceiving and planning most of the terrorist activities,” a senior Crime Investigation Department (CID) police officer told Daily Times, requesting anonymity. “We have found that compared to Arab-origin extremists, the Uzbeks are more anti-state and hence more anti-Pakistan.” Shahid (alias Kashif alias Mohammad) joined the anti-Shia Sipah-e-Sahaba in 1993. Following this, he went to Khost, Afghanistan, where he trained at the Khalid bin Waleed camp. He met the Al Qaeda’s Qari Zafar there. After fighting in Afghanistan, Shahid went to Indian-held Kashmir where he spent four months in 2003 at a camp of the Harkatul Mujahideen, one of the militant groups fighting Indian rule in Kashmir. From Kashmir he went to Wana (in South Waziristan) where he learnt how to make explosives. More than 15 terrorist cells are working in different cities across Pakistan and all of them are linked in some way or another to Qari Zafar in Wana, the police believe."

19. There has recently been a number of terrorist incidents in the Iranian Baloch territory by an organisation, which also calls itself the Jundullah. Initially, the Iranian authorities had alleged that these attacks were part of the USA's destabilisation operations and that the perpetrators were trained by the US in Pakistani territory. Now, they seem to believe that they were actually trained by the IMU in its training camps in South Waziristan. Thus, there has been pressure on Pakistan to act against the Uzbeks. This pressure has come from Uzbekistan, China, Iran and the US. The Pakistani authorities themselves have been showing signs of concern, over the involvement of Uzbeks in terrorism in Pakistani territory outside FATA. The ISI and the Pakistan Army have been encouraging the anti-Uzbek tribals to keep up their attacks on the Uzbeks, without the Pakistan Army itself getting involved.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail:


Rahul Gandhi plays on politics of communalism

Young pretender finds his voice

“They’re dipping his toes in the swimming pool to see if he can swim,” said Inder Malhotra, a political analyst and author of Dynasties of India and Beyond. “The party needs him because, apart from the first family, there’s nothing else to it.”

The crowd surged towards the white Land Cruiser, fists pumping the air, necks craning for a glimpse of the man who embodies India’s bloody political past and its uncertain future.

“Long live Rahul!” they shouted, tossing marigold petals in the air as security guards heaved them back to allow the vehicle’s doors to open. Suddenly there he was — Rahul Gandhi, the 36-year-old son of Sonia and the late Rajiv, making his symbolic debut as heir to one of the world’s great political dynasties.

Wearing a white tunic — and apparently no body armour — he hoisted himself on the side of the car with a shy, yet winning, smile. He waved and touched a few outstretched hands.

Then, just as suddenly as he had appeared, he climbed back behind the wheel and sped off towards the next cluster of curious farmers.

Such was the scene as Mr Gandhi embarked on a three-day road show this week before crucial state elections in Uttar Pradesh on April 7.

They may not have been his first public appearances — he has been an MP since 2004 — but they were without doubt his most significant.

Over the past three years he has avoided the media, made only two speeches in Parliament and confined his political work to his constituency of Amethi in this northern state.

Now he is spearheading the Congress Party’s election campaign in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state with 166 million people, and a bellwether for national elections in 2009.

Mr Gandhi’s first significant responsibility in the party is seen as confirmation that he is being groomed to take over as Congress leader and the next Prime Minister of India.

It is also a key element of the party’s drive to rejuvenate itself after defeats in two local elections and criticism of its failure to extend India’s economic boom to the rural poor.

“Rahul is a young man . . . and young people feel he has charisma,” Akhilesh Singh, a local Congress official, said. “And naturally if you’re from his family, and you’re in politics, people hope you’ll be prime minister.”

Mr Gandhi’s family has been synonymous with Indian politics since before the country won independence from Britain in 1947.

His great-grandfather, Jawa-harlal Nehru, was India’s first Prime Minister.

His grandmother, Indira Gandhi, was Prime Minister until she was assassinated in 1984.

His father, Rajiv Gandhi, was also Prime Minister — and was also assassinated in 1991.

His mother, the Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, is the current Congress leader.

She and other party bigwigs hope that Mr Gandhi, who studied at Harvard and Cambridge, can win new support among the 70 per cent of Indians who are under 35. But, as this week’s road show illustrated, his popularity and political acumen are still a matter of debate. His pedigree guarantees him the devotion of hard-core Congress supporters, such as Radhey Upadhyaya, a 50-year-old postal worker, who says that he walked eight miles (13km) barefoot to hear Nehru speak in 1956.

This week he was among 2,000 people at a scheduled rally for Mr Gandhi in the city of Bareilly. “There are no other people who’ve made sacrifices for this country like them,” Mr Upadhyaya said of the Gandhis. “In terms of intellect and money they are the best.”

The problem is that few people feel the same way in Uttar Pradesh, which Congress has not controlled for 15 years. In the last state elections it won 8.8 per cent of the vote.

Politics here is dominated by the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, both of which campaign along caste lines. It is also highly criminalised, with 200 of the 403 members of the state assembly facing charges — 93 for murder or kidnapping.

Mr Gandhi used his road show to call for an end to the violent caste-based politics that have turned Uttar Pradesh into one of India’s poorest and most lawless states.

“In the last 15 years these parties have broken up along caste and religious lines,” he told several hundred supporters in a village near Bareilly.

“If you want to progress from where you were 15 years ago, the youth must come and support us. Give me that chance.”

But turnout at Mr Gandhi’s rallies was thin compared with those of his mother and even his younger sister, Priyanka.

Congress officials said that 100,000 people attended one of his rallies in Muzaffarnagar. Witnesses said that there were more like 10,000. The Bareilly rally was supposed to attract 50,000, but was cancelled after 2,000 showed up.

Mr Gandhi’s political instincts were also cast into doubt by a remark about a mosque that was destroyed by Hindu nationalists in 1992, triggering weeks of communal violence.

In an apparent effort to win Muslim votes, he said that if a Gandhi had been in power the mosque would not have been razed. Opponents from all sides condemned the comment, pointing out that Rajiv Gandhi had opened the mosque to Hindu worshippers in 1989.

Few expect Congress to perform well in the election, but it has at least thrust the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to the forefront of Indian politics.

“They’re dipping his toes in the swimming pool to see if he can swim,” said Inder Malhotra, a political analyst and author of Dynasties of India and Beyond. “The party needs him because, apart from the first family, there’s nothing else to it.”

Rahul Gandhi’s ‘road show’

Friday, March 23, 2007 12:25:54 IST
Everything from living conditions to law and order are on decline and all that Rahul can think of is the Babri Masjid

By coincidence rather than journalistic design I travelled to Uttar Pradesh the day after Rahul Gandhi began what the Congress Party call his ‘road show’. The term has more to do with business than politics as it is usually an event at which businessmen seek to raise money by advertising their wares. Appropriately used, perhaps, in Rahul Gandhi’s case since he used his road show to raise Nehru-Gandhi family capital by reminding Muslim voters that only his family stood between them and doom. Rubbishing his mummy’s first handpicked prime minister he went to that den of fundamentalist Islam, the Dar-ul-Uloom in Deoband, and pronounced that had a member of his family been prime minister in 1992 the Babri Masjid would never have fallen.

No dearth of issues

As I drove into U.P. I found myself wondering why a young and ‘secular’ leader like Rahul Gandhi could not have raised more secular issues at the start of his campaign. God knows there is no dearth of them in our most populous and most backward state. According to a recent IMF study U.P.’s per capita growth has been around 1.4% in the last 35 years, lower than Bihar at 1.9% and half that of states like Gujarat and Karnataka. The consequence of this abysmal statistic stare you in the face from the moment you get beyond NOIDA’s glittering enclaves. Drive a little beyond the fancy, new malls and you come upon the tiny plastic and cardboard huts of the workers that built them. The sad, little dwellings rise out of land that is compacted garbage.
Municipalities in U.P. have failed so totally to deal with waste disposal that vast tracts of rotting garbage line the highway as do pools of stagnant water and villages so ugly and dirty that it shames you to look at them. In Dadri’s filthy bazaar the only sign of change I noticed were signs for Videocon, Tata Sky and Sony and, incredibly, a small shoe shop selling high heels and brightly coloured slippers.
I stopped in the village of Kot-Dehri to test the election temperature. On the edge of a drain whose black sludge lay in little heaps, the result of an attempt to clean it, I saw the primary school. The classrooms had dirt floors and huge chunks of masonry lay around. It was not a place of learning so much as a place that some politician may have made money out of through a building contract. The same was true of the secondary school which had dirt floors and battered desks but was spending money on building new classrooms.

Why? Because every time a new building gets built there is money to be made in commissions.

The village Pradhan, Shyamvir Singh, said he was really a ‘pradhan-putra’ since this post was reserved for women and was currently occupied by his aged, illiterate mother. In his home I talked to a group of village elders who said the biggest issue in next month’s election was corruption. What kind I asked. ‘Land’ they said in unison ‘when we sell our land to private people they give us Rs 11 lakhs a bigha but the government is acquiring it at Rs 3.22 lakhs a bigha. They say they need it to build Noida phase 2. They take the land from us and give it to rich people, that’s how they make money’.
The other problem was electricity. The village got power for barely four hours a day compared to sixteen hours when Mayawati was chief minister. In short they did not want Mulayam Singh back as chief minister.

Appalling conditions

My next stop was in the Muslim village of Daryapur where the ‘pradhan-pati’ (his
wife Nazneen was elected to the post but disinterested in politics) said that he believed Mulayam Singh would lose the election because people had made up their mind that they wanted change. ‘Everyone seems to feel these days that ‘satta-parivartan’ (government change) is necessary. And, no Mulayam has done nothing for Muslims’.
From here I went on to Khurja which could be, as I have said before in this column, one of U.P.’s tourist attractions as it is an old Moghul one-trade town and remains Northern India’s largest centre for pottery and china. But, instead of being preserved it is being allowed to decay. Most of its old buildings have vanished and its narrow, winding streets are so filthy and so filled with the stench of open drains and rotting garbage that you need to hold your nose as you go through them. Its not as if the people of Khurja do not understand the difference between filth and cleanliness they do. I went looking for the local Maulvi and entered a house built around a courtyard that was spotless but you had to jump over an open drain in which fat, hairy pigs wallowed.

Living conditions in U.P. are appalling, economic development is stagnant, corruption is rampant, law and order in decline, the roads are terrible, schools and public health facilities in dreadful shape and all that Rahul Gandhi can think of is the Babri Masjid. Come on Rahul you can do better than that as a young, secular leader can you not?

Rahul lacks elementary knowledge of politics: Shahi Imam

Rahul lacks elementary knowledge of politics: Shahi Imam

Badaun (UP), March 22: Responding to Rahul Gandhi's recent claim that the Babri mosque would not have been demolished had the Congress been in power in the state, the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid in Delhi said the Congress leader lacked elementary knowledge of politics.

"He lacks elementary knowledge of politics and only speaks what he has been tutored," Syed Ahmed Bukhari told Reporte last night at the farmhouse of former MP D P Yadav near here.

"The Nehru-Gandhi family has no right to rule the country," he said and claimed that Muslims were now aware of this political move and would not fall prey to it.

"The community knows that (former Prime Minister) Rajiv Gandhi had got the gates of the disputed shrine opened and how the Congress government at the Centre had remained a mute spectator when the mosque was demolished," he alleged.

Bukhari also said that the United Democratic Front, which has been floated by him, will contest the coming Vidhan Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh in alliance with Jan Morcha, Lok Janshakti Party and Rashtriya Parivartan Dal led by Yadav.

Bureau Report

"We are shocked to see how this young man and his party can stoop so low to please Muslims that they can go all out to insult sentiments of the Hindu community," senior BJP leader Vijay Kumar Malhotra

"His comments show that the Gandhi family lives in this belief that it is the one that knows how to rule the country. His comments show that the Gandhi family places other leaders of the Congress party in a different category,.Tomorrow, he (Gandhi) may say that had anybody from his family been the Prime Minister in place of Manmohan Singh, Nandigram and price rise would not have happened." BJP leader Sushma Swaraj

March 22, 2007

Rahul Gandhi , the politician : Talking without thinking

By S Viswam

The difference between a politician and a statesman, it is said, is that while a politician always talks without thinking, a statesman never talks without thinking. Mr Rahul Gandhi, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son, is currently being groomed in politics. He seems to be adapting himself quite well to politics considering that he has begun talking without thinking. Whether he will ever prove to be a statesman is in the realm of conjecture and wishful thinking.

Mr Rahul Gandhi, who is expected to rehabilitate the dying party in Uttar Pradesh by unleashing his charisma on that hapless State, is fulfilling the role of a politician to the hilt. He chose the Lucknow based Deoband Dar-ul-Uloom, the Islamic seminary, as the venue for a little bit of self-glorification of the Nehru-Gandhi family. What is more, after encountering wrathful criticism for naming his family as the only champions of Muslims, he told the media that he was sticking by his statement. Both are typically a politician’s play.

Alluding to the destruction of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, Mr Gandhi declared that the event would never been allowed to happen if the Nehru-Gandhi family had been active in politics at that time. The implication clearly was that had any member of the family headed the government in those days, the Babri Masjid would have been protected.

Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao was both the Congress president and Prime Minister on that fateful day when karsevaks of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal and the Rashtriya Sevak Sangh brought down the Babri structure brick by brick. Mr Rao, of course, was not a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family, but he was a senior Congressman and a duly elected Prime Minister. It may be that not all in the country would support his handling of the explosive situation on December 6, 1992. Indeed, even during his life time he faced flak for it, like the famous Nero fiddling while Rome was burning.

Mr Rao was having his afternoon siesta when the monument was being brought down, and all those who telephoned him to implore his immediate intervention, like the former prime minister Chandrasekhar, for instance, were told that he could not be disturbed. But, even so, he was head of a Congress government and the party was obliged to stand by him. In hurling a broadside against Mr Rao and his own party’s role in the masjid’s destruction, Mr Gandhi has shown a lack of political finesse and sensitivity. He has implicitly if not explicitly accused Mr Rao of failure to protect Muslim interests.

This is bad enough, but worse, he has quoted his father, the late Rajiv Gandhi, as telling him that had he been at the helm of affairs he would have never allowed the masjid to brought down. This is again typical of a politician who speaks before thinking. Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated three years before the Babri event and could not have discussed the event with anyone, leave alone his son. Dead men do tell tales in some form or the other, as we all know, but not the tales of which they knew nothing when they were alive.

Even if he missed the point of his late lamented father not being in a position to share confidences, there was an element of crudity in the manner in which Mr Gandhi was recalling an event which has ceased to be a reference point in any agitated discourse on the Babri issue. If it was Mr Gandhi’s intention to befriend the Muslim voters ahead of the impending elections in Uttar Pradesh, he chose an inappropriate issue to claim championship by the Nehru-Gandhi family of the Muslim cause. By visiting the past, which both the Hindus and Muslims feel is best forgotten, he has hit a raw nerve of both the communities, and he has generated a fresh round of controversies when the earlier ones were just fading away.

The fact, if he had taken the trouble to read up history, is that Muslims felt particularly let down by the Congress government at the Centre. Mr Gandhi obviously has not had a feel of the pulse of Muslims in UP despite his initiation into UP politics at least five years ago. They still feel let down because the Congress, neither at the Centre or at the State-level has taken any meaningful initiative to settle the Babri matter to the satisfaction of both Hindus and Muslims. Hindu-Muslim equations constitute a sensitive subject of public discourse in India, and calls for a high level of maturity and forethought in offering comments or criticisms. This is particularly so presently when the UP Muslims have no love lost for the Congress and the party is desperately wooing them to regain their support if not uncommitted loyalty as in the not-so-distant past.

So, why did Mr. Rahul Gandhi rake up the Babri issue at all and try to use it as an important factor in the Congress electoral strategy for UP? Not certainly to “expose” Mr Narasimha Rao’s failures since the Congress has nothing to gain by creating the impression that partymen can back-stab top party leaders and seek political advantages. Second, was he trying to get into the good books of Muslims by telling them that his family is the only one that can protect their interests? This is barely possible, since, Mr. Gandhi has yet to provide any reliable evidence of his interest in the minorities from the time he started learning the ropes of politics through political activity and training in the Amethi constituency.

Thirdly, if he has still not understood that Muslims need something more than mere assurances for returning to the Congress after hobnobbing with the Samajwadi Party after 1992, then he has a lot of catching up to do. They want tangible action. You don’t make or win Muslim friends in UP by disowning your own party or its erstwhile leaders. You win them back by interesting them in a new agenda which addresses their specific grievances. The UP Muslims know that the past has dealt them a raw deal. What they want to be reassured about is their future. Has Mr Gandhi something to offer them other than the leadership of the Nehru-Gandhi family? Has he any thoughts to share with them about the most acceptable means of re-building the mosque or building the Ram temple?

In brazenly entering a political minefield about the explosive potential of which he has no clue, Mr Gandhi has managed to re-open an issue which had gone dormant. He apparently wants to bait the Bharatiya Janata Party and put it on the defensive during the campaign. If this is part of a calculated electoral strategy approved by the Congress central leadership, then it makes only partial sense.

The BJP and its saffron allies undoubtedly must take the blame for destroying the Babri masjid, but the Congress too cannot escape responsibility for inaction to protect it. By raking up the issue at this stage, he has injected a dose of guilt in both the Congress and the BJP. This is unlikely to help the Congress win back Muslim support in the polls. The BJP is unlikely to benefit by charging him and the Congress with minority appeasement. The real beneficiary is likely to be the Samajwadi Party. The Muslims may decide to stay with it rather than stray away from it for no real purpose.

The Four Phases of the U.S. COIN Effort in Iraq

Reproduced from Source:
Professor Colin Kahl of the University of Minnesota’s Political Science Department has been kind enough to permit the Small Wars Journal to post an e-mail of his that was widely circulated. This e-mail concerns U.S. counterinsurgency (COIN) efforts in Iraq and a briefing presented by Andrew Krepinevich of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments titled The “New” Counterinsurgency Doctrine and the Baghdad Surge: Formula for Success?


There is a lot of confusion about precisely what approach to COIN the U.S. military has pursued since the fall of Saddam's regime. The [widely disseminated] Krepinevich briefing [discussing the evolution of the surge] is very helpful in this regard, although the bullet points, by their nature, only tell a surface level story. Part of the problem in generalizing about U.S. COIN in Iraq is that the approach the U.S. military has taken to COIN has varied by region and commander, and changed over time. That said, at the broadest level of generality, I think U.S. COIN efforts can be usefully divided into 4 phases.

Phase 1: Denial. This period lasted from the fall of the regime until April 2004. During this time, DoD civilians and some within the military denied that there was an insurgency or, if there was one, that it was growing in support and lethality. CJTF-7 under Sanchez had no campaign plan to conduct successful COIN ops, and division, brigade, and battalion commanders were left to "wing it" in their areas of responsibility. Some made attempts to engage and provide security for the population, like the 101st under Petraeus in Mosul (and, to a lesser degree, the 1st AD in Baghdad under Dempsey), while others, like the 4th ID under Odierno (and, to a lesser degree, the 82nd Airborne out west under Swannack) used overly aggressive, enemy-centered search-and-destroy tactics that proved counterproductive and alienated the Iraqi population in their areas. Denial began to erode from the late summer of 2003 (after the bombing of the UN and the substantial uptick in insurgent attacks), but it lingered until the simultaneous Fallujah and Sadr uprising happened in April 2004.

Phase 2: Learning curve. From the spring of 2004 to the late summer of 2005, the U.S. military woke up to the seriousness of the insurgency. CJTF-7 was replaced by MNF-I/MNC-I, a COIN campaign plan was finally developed, efforts were made to rapidly rebuild the Iraqi Security Forces, and American units employed a mix of direct, harder approaches ( e.g., the Marines in Fallujah -- but note: the Marines originally intended to adopt a softer approach, but after the butchering of four contractors in Fallujah in late March 2004, they were overruled and forced by the White House to lay siege to the city), and indirect, softer approaches ( e.g., Task Force Baghdad under Chiarelli and the 1st Cav). Overall, however, the U.S. approach to COIN during this period was still overwhelmingly enemy-centric/search-and-destroy/kill-capture. Only in 2005 does the military appear to really start systematically learning from its mistakes (and some successes), gradually figuring out that the Iraqi population is the center of gravity.

Phase 3: Getting it. By the late summer and early fall of 2005, the mindset of the U.S. military had changed substantially. Training back home was being altered, education revamped, doctrine reworked, etc. In Iraq, the U.S. military began to move gradually to focus more on the Iraqi population and indirect, less-kinetic approaches to COIN. The poster child for this shift was Tal Afar in September 2005, but similar approaches were taken in Anbar, especially by the joint Marine-Army task force in Ramadi, in 2006. Still, despite some limited efforts to implement this new approach in a handful of areas and the November 2005 announcement by the White House of a new "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" designed around the intent to "clear, hold, and build" Iraqi population centers, the ability to effectively implement these changes in much of the country was complicated by a number of factors.

First, beginning in 2004, an effort was made to reduce the American military footprint by removing smaller bases within many Iraqi cities and villages and consolidating into larger Forward Operating Bases in outlying areas. The goal was to lessen the perception of occupation thought to be driving the Sunni insurgency while also improving force protection. The military's conceptual shift to population security failed to reverse this process. Throughout 2006, most American forces remained hunkered down in large bases rather than nested within communities to provide local security, and plans were made to consolidate forces further.

Second, insufficient troop levels devoted to the "hold" portion of the administration's strategy also thwarted implementation. For political reasons, the Bush administration had long resisted sending more troops to Iraq. At the same time, knowing that a large influx of U.S. forces was politically untenable and that pressure was building for withdrawal, Casey and Abizaid increasingly focused on substituting American forces with Iraqi ones. Iraqi army and police units were thus given the responsibility of providing local security in areas cleared by American forces. Indeed, coterminous with the administration's announced intent to shift toward population security was a determination to hand ever larger swaths of Iraq over to Iraqi Security Forces, and significant U.S. force reductions in Iraq were expected by 2007-2008. But, due to a mix of incompetence and infiltration by insurgent and militia groups, Iraq's fledgling security forces were not up to the task. The resulting security vacuum, especially in Baghdad, accelerated the action-reaction spiral between Sunni insurgents and Shia militias that tipped Iraq into all-out sectarian warfare in the spring of 2006.

Phase 4: Doing it. None of this changed until January 2007, when Bush announced his intention to "surge" 17,500 additional forces to Baghdad (and 4,000 more to Anbar). More support troops have since been tapped to also go to Iraq. But, it is vital to remember, the surge is not the strategy -- it is a means to implement a strategy. The strategy is to to provide actual population security, tamp down sectarian violence, and create space for national reconciliation and reconstruction. To implement this strategy, Bush replaced Casey with Petraeus, who appears committed to implementing the COIN manual he co-sponsored, spreading American troops out into smaller bases from which they can work with Iraqi forces to provide local security. Moreover, even Odierno, the new MNC-I commander, appears to have learned something from his early mistakes, and he seems to be committed to treating the Iraqi population as the focus of operations.

As the Krepinevich briefing makes clear, this shift makes sense from the perspective of COIN best practices and the new COIN field manual. There are other successful approaches to COIN, including what the briefing calls "the Roman Strategy" ("make a desert and call it peace"), which was basically the approach Saddam used to prevent sustained insurgency in Iraq. But, as the briefing properly notes, adopting this approach (or even somewhat softer, but still highly coercive COIN practices, such as those used by the Americans effectively in the Philippines between 1899-1902), is incompatible with norms against targeting civilians embraced by the U.S. military and political leadership. So, with the Roman strategy off the table, that leaves the "clear, hold, and build" option. However, as the briefing makes clear, this strategic shift may simply be too little, too late. What the briefing doesn't say is that it is also unclear whether employing COIN best practices will work in the context of not only a raging insurgency (in Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala), but also a sectarian civil war (in Baghdad, Diyala, and increasingly Kirkuk), diffuse criminal anarchy and militia rivalry (in the South), and endemic separatist tendencies (in Kurdistan).


Iran Nuclear Energy Plants a Key to Iraq Peace?

IntelligenceOnline says Peace in Iraq is linked to American withdrawal from adn recognisition of Iran as regional power . In its latest newsletter published under title "Iran Nuclear Energy Plants a Key to Iraq Peace? " in Diplomacy section , it quotes "Just as a resumption of relations between the United States and China in 1972 was a necessary prelude to the US military’s withdrawal from Vietnam, peace in Iraq and the departure of American troops could well depend today on recognition of Iran as a regional power "

Russia : Alfa groups Worldwide Network of Consultants

Competing with governments for the control of three mobile telephone networks, Russia’s Alfa group has called on the service of a raft of consultants to defend its interests.

A private group, Alfa is crossing swords with the state-owned Norwegian firm Telenor to win control of Khyivstar in Ukraine and VimpelCom in Russia. It is similarly fighting to get the upper hand in the Russian operator Megafon over the IPOC investment fund, whose ultimate beneficiary is Russian telecommunications minister Leonid Reiman.

To counter its adversaries who have the might of governments behind them Alfa has forged a widespread network of consultants in London, Moscow and Washington to conduct public relations, lobbying and private intelligence operations (see graph below). The extensive use of consultants has often paid off. By investigating IPOC, for instance, Alfa was able to demonstrate the incestuous links between IPOC and the Russian government to several foreign courts.

But the strategy has also backfired on occasion. Instead of attacking Alfa head on, IPOC and Telenor have taken their consultants to task. The Norwegian company has just filed suit in the U.S. with documents showing that Alfa’s communications agencies had tried to campaign against it in Ukraine (see Page 5). IPOC, for its part, has specifically targeted the American intelligence group Diligence (IOL 520).

Intelligence Online: The Global Strategic Information

FACTBOX-Five facts on India's Maoist armed struggle

FACTBOX-Five facts on India's Maoist armed struggle

22 Mar 2007 07:34:24 GMT
Source: Reuters

Indian Maoist violence
More March 22 (Reuters) - Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called the country's Maoist, or Naxalite, insurgency the biggest internal security challenge facing India since independence.

Here are five facts on the three-decade-old armed struggle:

* Ideologically led by activist Charu Majumdar, killed in police action in early 1970s, the ultra-left rebels began their fight with an armed peasant revolt in West Bengal's eastern Naxalbari village on May 25, 1967, which was brutally crushed by the state government.

* Starting out poorly armed with spears and bows and arrows, the Maoists have acquired guns, hand grenades and guerrilla war expertise over the years. Thought to number up to 20,000, they say they are fighting for the rights of poor farmers and landless labourers.

* Some 749 people, including 285 civilians, were killed in the conflict in 2006, according to the Asian Centre for Human Rights. More than 3,000 have been killed in the insurgency between 2002-2006, analysts at Global Security estimate.

* At least 13 of India's 29 states have Maoists operating in them. The insurgency now affects 172 of the India's 602 districts.

* The creation in 2005 of a government-backed group, the Salwa Judum (Campaign for Peace), in Chhattisgarh -- one of India's poorest states, where tens of thousands have been displaced by the rebel violence -- has been criticised by human rights activists for aggravating the conflict.

Source: Reuters, Global Security (, The Asian Centre for Human Rights' Naxal Conflict Monitor (

Reuters AlertNet - FACTBOX-Five facts on India's Maoist armed struggle

March 21, 2007



By Roy D. Kamphausen

China is nearly a decade into a program to commission up to half of the new People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officers from its finest universities. In the near-term, this initiative will take advantage of civilian institutions of higher education to train large numbers of technologically proficient military leaders better able to function on the high-tech battlefields of the 21st century. Over the longer term, relying on civilian education may well increase the level of PLA officers’ professionalism and potentially even alter the dynamic of elite interaction in the formulation of Chinese security policy. The pace of growth and the future impact of the program will shed important light on the quality of PLA leaders, while also contributing to an enhanced understanding of overall PLA military modernization programs.

Program Origins

In early 1999, the PLA leadership came to the realization that its military education system was ill-prepared to groom officers with the technical expertise necessary to master the demands of high-technology warfare. The existing military academy structure, styled after the old Soviet system, maintained more than 100 academies—many redundant—and kept nearly a quarter of the PLA’s force structure tied up in military schools. Moreover, the sheer size of the PLA military-academic complex prevented the capital upgrades in computers and other equipment necessary for systematically training cadets to address looming technological challenges.

In response, the Chinese leadership undertook two important efforts. The first was to downsize the bloated PLA military academy organization by one-third, either by closing redundant academies outright, or by consolidating campuses on a functional or geographical basis [1]. By 2006, the PLA had just 67 military academies, including both commissioning academies as well as basic military specialty schools (Defense White Paper: China’s National Defense in 2006).

In a second, and perhaps more far-reaching initiative, the PLA also decided to “take advantage of the civilian education system” (yituo guomin jiaoyu) to commission military officers for service in China’s military—a PLA-style Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).

PLA officers had attended civilian universities in China since as early as 1991 (Jiefangjun Bao, April 2, 1999). Indeed, from 1996 to 1999 in the Beijing Military Region alone, more than one thousand officers were drawn from civilian universities, usually with majors in computers, engineering, electronics and other technical fields, and also in foreign language (Jiefangjun Bao, June 16, 1999). Nonetheless, in early 1999, China’s military leadership decided to turn the previous ad hoc practices into a more systematic arrangement, and in the process, fundamentally changed the way in which junior officers are recruited for the PLA. Employing a name for the plan quite similar to the U.S. program from which it drew its core characteristics, the PLA Reserve Officer Selection and Training Unit (houbei junguan xuanba xunlian tuan) was conceived [2]. The Reserve Officer Selection and Training Unit would serve to commission a portion of the officer corps from dynamic civilian universities in order to establish a leading edge capability that would result in important army-wide effects.

The initiative was launched from experimental status into a full-fledged PLA program by China’s Central Military Commission in March 1999. At the “All-PLA Cadre Training Work Meeting” in March 1999, orders were passed to the major PLA danwei (units) to establish feeder relationships with prominent Chinese universities, with the goal of improving the educational level of the Chinese officer corps and better preparing them for the requirements of 21st century warfare (Jiefangjun Bao, April 2, 1999).

In the months that followed, the “big 14 units”—the General Staff, General Political, General Logistics, General Armaments Departments; the seven Military Region Headquarters; the PLA Air Force, PLA Navy, and Second Artillery plus the People’s Armed Police—all established exclusive relationships with civilian universities to carry out this mandate. Examples included: Fudan University with the People’s Armed Police; Beijing Polytechnic and the General Staff Department; and Wuhan University in partnership with the Guangzhou Military Region, among others. Meanwhile, the elite Beijing and Qinghua University programs continued their direct reporting relationships with the General Political Department’s Cadre Department, the program’s bureaucratic patron.

Program Characteristics

From the outset, program implementation has incorporated all phases of officer accession. Cadets are recruited from the ranks of active duty soldiers, high school seniors and already-matriculated college or graduate school students and selection is made on the basis of an application, a physical exam and, importantly, a political reliability check (Guofang Bao, December 8, 1999). These “national defense scholars” (guofang sheng) then obligate themselves, after completion of their studies, to serve with the PLA unit which recruited them. In return, they receive scholarship assistance of 5,000-10,000 yuan per year.

While enrolled, the cadets have a military curriculum at their civilian universities in addition to their normal academic load. Military classes are taught by active duty officers assigned to the various university campuses, and while the curriculum notably includes political training, the cadets receive much less instruction in this category than their counterparts at military academies. In addition to their military education classes, the cadets also take part in other required cadet functions, such as providing support to the broader national defense education activities required of all university students (Jiefangjun Bao, November 19, 2003).

Upon graduation, officers serve in the units that sponsored them. This usually means that the officers will be assigned to the general department or military region headquarters units (Jiefangjun Bao, October 9, 2000). So, for example, a cadet who studies at Beijing Polytechnic University will, upon graduation, work at the headquarters of the General Staff Department.

The PLA Air Force and Navy intend to assign ROTC graduates on a nationwide basis. Army officers have also gained coveted assignments to troop units, and besides being assigned to technical staff positions, some ROTC graduates are moving into leadership or command positions. According to Chinese observers, entry into platoon and company level leadership positions by civilian university graduates has led to increases in training levels (Jiefangjun Bao, June 16, 1999).

ROTC Today

Despite its modest beginnings, the Chinese ROTC system has developed in ways that were unlikely to have been imagined by the Political Department cadres who had first conceived of it. From the original dozen-plus civilian universities in 1999 with exclusive relationships with PLA units, the total number of ROTC programs on Chinese university campuses had grown more than six-fold in seven years; by the time of the release of the 2006 Defense White Paper, 112 universities were commissioning officers for the PLA (China’s National Defense in 2006) [3].

According to PLA statistics, the program appears to have become an important, if not leading, source of new officers for the PLA. From 2000-2005, more than 8,800 students were enrolled in the program, and in 2004 alone, 1,800 graduates of civilian universities joined military units (Jiefangjun Bao, July 14, 2004).

Extrapolating from the published plans of the PLA Navy and the Shenyang Military Region to the larger PLA suggests that the number of officers graduating from civilian universities will grow several more times, perhaps to as many as 10,000 officers a year by 2010, or between 40-50 percent of the new officers commissioned annually [4]. Interestingly, this estimate is consistent with a PLA Navy announcement that more than 40 percent of its officers will come from civilian schools by 2010 (Xinhua, August 17, 1999).

Calculations and Implications

The PLA was determined to implement a civilian university commissioning program for a number of reasons despite the fact that its sheer size made the fundamental reform of China’s military academy system a daunting challenge. It was unclear to PLA leaders that the existing system could ever produce the quality of officers required to fight wars under modern high-tech conditions at the price the PLA was willing to pay. Establishing an ROTC program allowed for military leaders to ensure excellent academic training for its rising officers, but at a modest cost and without significant capital investments. Moreover, despite the reduced political training received by cadets relative to their military academy counterparts, the establishment of a formal program had the added benefit of providing more political control in universities than had previously been the case.

It is perhaps premature to assess the long-term impact of the program, since the first cadets only graduated in 2004. Nonetheless, as these new graduates will soon assume company-level command, some preliminary judgments appear to be in order. First, the programs’ rate of growth and the diverse fields into which graduates are assigned, including leadership and command slots, suggest that the initiative has moved from the novel into the mainstream and will continue to grow in significance over time.

Second, with as many as 50 percent of its new officers commissioned by civilian universities within the next five years, the PLA almost certainly will enjoy a more highly technologically adept junior officer corps. This could result in an even greater integration of advanced weapons platforms and related command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems coming online. The PLA leadership recognizes that without talented personnel, its modernization efforts—including the assimilation of these new systems into coherent operational structures—will not be as effective, and so the ROTC program will help realize the dramatic capability improvements offered by these new systems.

Third, the significance of the PLA ROTC program goes well beyond simply the high-tech training of future officers and touches on national-level defense initiatives. The ROTC program itself is part of a broad national defense education effort—codified in the 2001 National Defense Education Law—to strengthen the concept of national defense in Chinese citizens by mastering national defense knowledge as well as necessary military skills, developing a patriotic spirit and creating a willingness to fulfill national defense duties in students from pre-school through college (Jiefangjun Bao, November 19, 2003). Moreover, the use of civilian universities to train military cadres—“taking advantage of civilian education to train military officers”—is a fundamental principle of the national defense mobilization effort, which seeks to build peacetime capacity in preparation for a range of crisis contingencies.

The program may have some unintended consequences, however. PLA leaders may mistakenly discount the liberalizing effect of a university education, even (or especially) in China, despite efforts to vet the political reliability of cadets in the recruitment process. Moreover, despite the potential benefits to the officer corps, the fact that the program assignments of graduates are heavily weighted to headquarters billets risks marginalizing the program’s potential benefit to an increased operational integration of high-tech systems.

Nonetheless, the program bears further attention. While many questions loom, two seem most critical: Will the PLA become a more effective military force as an increasing number of its officers graduate from China’s most prestigious universities? And, in the formulation of national security policy, how will the role of the PLA change as the once-backward educational background of senior military leaders increasingly converges with that of the country’s diplomatic and economic leaders? All these, and many other questions, bear close scrutiny as the PLA continues to implement its “ROTC Program with Chinese Characteristics”.


1. For instance, the Information Engineering University in Zhengzhou was formed from the original Information Engineering, Electronics Technical, and Measurements Academies, all of Zhengzhou, thereby creating a new “comprehensive” university (Jiefangjun Bao. July 3, 1999).
2. A PLA delegation led by Major General Dong Wancai was invited to the United States to conduct an "investigation" of the U.S. ROTC system in November and December 1998.
3. By comparison, the U.S. Army has more than 250 ROTC detachments.
4. From 2001 on, Shenyang Military Region intended to recruit approximately eight hundred graduates per year from civilian universities around China for military service. (Jiefangjun Bao, December 6, 2000) From 1999 on, the PLA Navy planned to access six hundred students in civilian universities for military service. Jiefangjun Bao, July 7, 1999.

Rahul Gandhi's campaign ends in fiasco

[Telegraph, March 19, 2007]

http://www.telegrap 1070320/asp/ nation/story_ 7540461.asp

Rahul Gandhi at the seminary - "Pointing to persons in the audience, he said: “I only see every individual here as an individual. They are all Hindustanis. Who is a Muslim, who is a Brahmin, who is a Thakur? I don’t see any of this, I am blind.”

Translation - There is no identity as Hindus. There may be Brahmins, and Thakurs, but no Hindus. However, there is certainly a Muslim identity.

Here is the actual Story

If Rahul failed to see Muslims in the Deobandi school, which gave the ideology of Taliban, he is indeed blind. But there is a more interesting and significant story.

Why did Rahul cut short his campaign after Gaziabad and Bareilly (not to be confused with Rae Bareilli) and beat a hasty retreat? The official story is of course that the Board exams made it impossible to campaign. This is hard to believe. Board exam dates are fixed months in advance. The dates were known when the campaign was planned.

Here is the story IntelliBriefs got from some contacts in Pratapgarh, not from Amethi and Rae Bareilli, the supposed bastion of the Gandhi family. Rahul was getting a hostile reception from parts of the crowd which was bound to intensify as he moved closer to the 'bastion.' People there have not forgotten the December 3rd gang rape charges. Those who saw the video will remember witnesses saying that Rahul would be beaten with slippers if he set foot in Amethi.

And there is no assurance that it would not happen in other places in U.P. as well. This, not any board exam seems to be behind Rahul's inglorious retreat.

Secularism at play : Ajit Jogi and Kanchi Shankaracharya Arrests

The Kanchi Shankaracharya was arrested on trumped up charges and had to spend time in jail. The Tamil Nadu courts did not see any need to give him bail. And the secularists screamed 'let law takes its own course'. Secular politicians have special privileges, and the secularists are conspicuous by their silence.

Ashok Chowgule

Jogi wait for bail lengthens
Author: Rasheed Kidwai

Publication: The Telegraph

Date: March 20, 2007

URL: http://www.telegrap 1070320/asp/ nation/story_ 7540795.asp

19: Ajit Jogi's attempt to secure bail after his arrest in a murder case last night suffered a setback with hearing put off till tomorrow.

Jogi, now a Congress MP, was campaigning for the Rajnandgaon Lok Sabha bypoll when Raipur police arrested him in connection with the murder of Nationalist Congress Party treasurer Ram Avtar Jaggi four years ago.

Today a local court in Raipur asked him to move the sessions court. As Jogi's lawyers approached the sessions court armed with a report on their hospitalised client's worsening health, Jaggi's son Satish too appeared there, opposing the bail plea and demanding his right to be heard.

This means the former Chhattisgarh chief minister, recovering from spinal injuries, a heart ailment and fluctuating blood pressure, would spend another night at Escorts hospital's intensive care unit.

The arrest order was issued by the local court on Friday on an application by Satish after Jogi failed to appear before it despite repeated notices. After the arrest, Jogi was shifted to Escorts.

In Delhi, Jogi's party colleagues declined to go beyond expressions of sympathy.

A Union minister well-versed in law and politics said over the phone that Jogi's political future would hinge on whether the CBI names him as an accused. If it does, Jogi's political career would take a nosedive, he said.

"But his name has not figured in the list of accused presented by the CBI so far," the politician added, describing this as "the only ray of hope" for the embattled bureaucrat-turned politician.

Jogi baiters, though, continued to breathe fire. Balkrishna Agarwal, former Congress member who is now the Bahujan Samaj Party candidate in Rajnandgaon, threatened to testify against Jogi in the murder case. Agrawal said he would present all the evidence he had against Jogi and his son

But the Congress candidate in Rajnandgaon, Deovrat Singh, expressed hope that Jogi would be released soon. He said the arrest would tilt the vote in favour of the Congress.

Hameed Gul : The Army's Role in the Pakistan Judicial Crisis

[Interview] Defense analyst and retired General Hameed Gul speaks to OhmyNews

"Military as an institution is not collectively responsible for wrong doings of General Musharraf, they are hostage of strict discipline only," General Gul argued while defending the army of Pakistan.

A defense-strategist turned right-wing intellectual and defense analyst, General Hameed Gul is the torchbearer and vocal supporter of the Pan-Islamist revival movement. He advocates for the unity of Muslim countries and the establishment of an economic bloc like the European Union.

When the present judicial crisis started, General Gul automatically activated to protect the judiciary. Once he said: "After retirement I only changed my uniform but I never took off my military boots."

A fierce opponent and critic of the policies of General Musharraf, General Gul Hameed was the man who led the great secret war against communism and the Soviet red army in Afghanistan as the head of Inter services intelligence (ISI). He organized the resistance movement in the battlefields of Afghanistan and pushed back and ultimately defeated communism.

So the soldier is again in the battlefield in a different way, to defend the judiciary against the excesses of a serving general.

I interviewed him and asked the question about the role of army in the ongoing judicial crisis.

"We have come to show solidarity, not so much with the chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry as with the independence of judiciary in Pakistan. At this particular time when Pakistan is being subjected to all kind of external pressure from America, Afghanistan...and Iranian situation is evolving, to render Pakistan so unstable by hitting at the roots of our judiciary and the fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan."

"The nation has been shattered to its roots and country has been rendered unstable eternally and that is what is totally wrong. As a defense analyst I believe at this critical juncture of history we need stability rather than instability."

Role of Army as an Institution in the Present Judicial Crisis

"Pakistan Army as an institution is not responsible. They are the victims of the discipline because they are bound by the shackles of discipline. Now if this situation is going to continue then I am afraid that the stress will stretched too far and too much."

"From Ben Gurion to Netanyahu, every Israeli leader has said that Pakistan is their number one enemy.

... Pakistan was established in accordance with the ideology of Al-Madina. This is a widely accepted ideology and theory, because all other ideologies are false. These Israelis know this. When Al-Madina was established, it was established next to [the Jewish city of] Khaybar. Of course, as long as Khaybar was not destroyed, Islam did not spread.

When Mel Gibson, in one of his movies, played a role that was anti-Israeli, anti-Jewish, the Jews claimed that he was an anti-Semite. That American actor, Mel Gibson, said that the Jews caused all the wars. Now he is being sued. Therefore, all the wars, World War I and II, and others... Even at the advent of Islam, the Jews would incite the polytheists against the Islamic state in Al-Madina.

The Jews have always caused the wars. Mecca was only conquered after the destruction of Khaybar. Mecca was not captured in battle. This indicates that the war was not against the polytheists. Even today, our war is not against America or Europe. Our basic war is against Israel, or the so-called State of Israel."

March 20, 2007

Jihadi Terrorism Training Camps in Kerala

By Babu Suseelan

For several years Jiahdis and NDF have been active in Kerala. They have succeeded in bombing, murder, arson, violence and riots. Hundreds of Hindus were slaughtered and many became crippled. Jihadis have several objectives in Kerala. They want to bring about a union of all Muslims in Kerala and to create a Mini Pakistan. Towards that end, NDF is active in Muslim majority areas of Malabar. NDF's goal is to carry out a sustained struggle for the dominance of Islam in Kerala. According to its ideology, it is the duty of every Muslim to protect and defend the interest of Muslims where Muslims are under the rule of the non-Muslim in the democratic system. It has, thus chosen the path of Jihad war as prescribed in the Koran. They follow sayings of the Koran which preach cruelty, incite violence, and disturb public tranquility. "Believers, make war on the unbelievers who dwell around you. Let them find harshness in you." Surah 9:Ayat 123. "When the sacred months are over slay the idol-worshipers wherever you find them, besiege them." Surah 9; Ayat 5. "Do not yield to the unbelievers, but fight them strenuously with the Koran.". The terror practiced by Jihadis in Kerala are keeping the proclaimed mission of the Koran.

NDF use these Koranic messages for recruitment and terrorism training in Kerala. NDF and Jihadis in Kerala receive assistance from Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Dubai. Pakistan ISI provides instructors, weapons, and bomb making materials. Pakistan and Kashmir based terrorist organizations help them with smuggling weapons and bomb making materials into Malappuram, Kozhikode and Kasergode. NDF terrorists have established dozens of bomb and sword making workshops in Muslim majority areas. The weapons produced are used against Hindus. Terrorism training camps are organized in Malappuram, Nadapuram, Kuttiyad, and Valayam.

The goal of the terrorism training camp is to produce tough, resourceful, and fearless Islamic terrorists. Recent killing of Hindus in Tanur, Tirur and Panur were believed to be made possible, in, part, by the availability of special terrorism training in these camps. To reinforce their beheading skills and make them fearless, training is imparted in beheading running dogs. Trainers are asked to chase a running dog in motorbike and slash its tail or sever its head. Special training is provided to improve marksmanship by stabbing running dogs with a sharp dagger.

Muslims claim that Allah has given them power over animals and infidels and subdue them in the name of Allah. By slashing running dogs and beheading them as part of Jihad training, Muslims claim that they are serving Allah. The act symbolizes Jihadi's willingness to kill non-believers in the name of Allah. In order to strengthen beheading skills and induce fearlessness as well as motivate them to stay on the straight path, and willingness to fight infidels, Jihadis claim that this cruel acts against dogs is necessary.

Islam believes in utilitarian morality. Muslims have moral obligations and duties between Muslims. Muslims consider animals and unbelievers are not susceptible of the moral obligations which they owe to fellow Muslims. Muslims do not necessarily acknowledge any right inherent in animals and unbelievers. Islam treat animals and unbelievers as means and they have no rights. In the plan of Allah, unbelievers and animals are subordinated to the service of Muslims.

This is a very inhumane act. Many dogs are slaughtered and injured in exceptionally inhuman ways. Dogs are often forced to endure repeated stabs or blows and they are pierced with swords as part of the training.

While Jihadi terrorism training camps continue to function, the Marxist government is not interested in shutting down the camps.The Marxist government's counter terrorism efforts have been very weak and ineffective.

Each time a terrorist incident occurs, the Marxist government provides more financial aid, grants for neighborhood improvement and innovative programs to improve self-esteem of Muslims. Marxist intellectuals and the media are afraid to address the root cause of terrorism that is Islam for fear of escalating further Islamic terrorism. Each time, the government is afraid to react strongly and decisively enough to put an end to Jihadi terrorism, it would further motivate Jihadis to commit terrorism. All that matters now is abandon the psychology of appeasement and defeat the jihadi terrorist with firm action.

Mercenaries of the Pacific

Some recent events, ending in court cases, have thrown light on the little-known topic of mercenaries in the Pacific region, and on the implications of the proliferation of private military companies (PMCs) in general:
In Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, four remaining Fijian ex-soldiers supplied by the aptly named Fijian PMC Ronin surrendered to the authorities. They had been training a private army for pyramid-scheme conman and self-proclaimed “King of Papala”, Noah Musingku, until a deadly raid by a rival armed group, the Bougainville Freedom Fighters, late last year. One Fijian mercenary remains on the run. Musingku promised them F$1 million each which he could never have paid - and he certainly couldn’t afford the F$35 million he reportedly offered to Fiji’s army chief Voreqe Bainimarama before the coup. More info and analysis in a previous post.
In Lebanon, an Australian and a New Zealander, both ex-SAS, are in prison, after they were hired by Lebanese-Canadian Melissa Hawach to help her regain custody of her children - allegedly by kidnapping them.

A major PMC, DynCorp, has just received a $10 million contract to provide services to African peacekeepers in Somalia. It could be a new model of peacekeeping - the US provides cash, private companies supply the logistics, and poor countries the boots on the ground. Many analysts and bloggers prefer to concentrate on the positive potential of PMCs - their deployments could be more efficient, politically palatable, and militarily more effective than using a traditional army. But there is another side, suggested by the above stories.

Mercenaires won’t only be hired by respectable state militaries or international organizations, nor will their use be restricted to peacekeeping or humanitarian operations, as the PR suggests. Individual mercenaries will be hired by rich and powerful individuals and small groups, often on the wrong side of the law, and especially in countries where the law means little. Whether that’s a shady warlord or a caring mother is beside the point - the proliferation of PMCs levels the playing field. It changes the balance of power, and not in favour of the state.

That has potentially bad implications for global security, and particularly in the Pacific with all the Fijian contractors in Iraq (and places like Bougainville). Here is an excellent Vanity Fair piece on mercenary mogul Tim Spicer. It’s a fascinating and often unpleasant story. It’s relevant to the Bougainville case because Spicer - now working in Iraq - was in charge of the mercenary group hired by the PNG government to suppress the Bougainville rebellion. Predictably, their plan owed nothing to counter-insurgency thinking and would have relied entirely on airborne bombing and raids against villages - it could have been a bloodbath, had the PNG military, offended at the multi-million dollar contract, not mutinied and sent the mercenaries straight home. The high pay of mercenaries invites resentment from regular soldiers and locals alike, and their tactics usually, well, lack subtlety.

The dangerous trend, though, is withdrawal from Iraq. Mercenaries make up the second largest foreign force in Iraq, and they will be going home along with US and British forces sometime in the near future. What happens then for many of the contractors, especially from poorer countries like Fiji? Prices will drop, and some of those mercenaries will want to create their own work, and start their own groups. What then for the Fijians, and what will the effect be on the various flashpoints around the Pacific and the world when that happens?

Satellite based Communication Network to link border outposts

A project has been prepared by Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) for installation of satellite based Communication Network to link border outposts(BOPs) in their area of responsibilities including Sino-Indian borders. This project envisages providing complete secure communication on voice, FAX, Data, Video Conferencing and Internet facility. The proposal of ITBP is under examination of Ministry of Home Affairs.

Both Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the Border Security Force (BSF) have been provided with V-SAT based Communication Networking under POLNET Scheme which are able to provide Data, FAX and Voice Communication.
165 V-SAT Terminals for BSF and 32 V-SAT Terminals for ITBP respectively have been approved and against the approved terminals, 63 terminals of BSF and 18 of ITBP have been made operational. The remaining terminals will be added in the network in a phased manner. These terminals will be installed along the BOPs manned by BSF and ITBP in their respective areas of deployment

Nandigram gets Naxalbari advice

Naxalbari: It was for the control of land that Pawan Singh's mother Dhaneshwari Devi and eight other tribals were killed in police firing on May 25, 1967 in Naxalbari.

And now Pawan Singh, who was an active participant in the Naxalbari peasant uprising has a simple advice for the farmers in faraway Nandigram.

"These rallies, bands and meetings are of no use. There is only one way - take up arms and start a guerrilla movement."

In 1967, Naxalbari's peasants had taken up arms and launched the Naxalite movement which then spread to other parts of the country, though in Naxalbari itself the movement was short-lived.

With Nandigram and Singur on the boil now, veterans from '67 believe an armed Left radical struggle is still possible.

Says Co-Founder Naxalbari movement, Kanu Sanyal, "We gave the slogan 'protect land with arms in hand' and it became the Naxalite movement. In Singur and Nandigram where the peasantry is rising against the government, the situation can't remain in political vacuum."

Sanyal, a veteran of the Naxalite movement, however, has mellowed with time. He warns fellow Naxalites against mindless terror.

"They don't understand that revolution doesn't mean only destruction. It means creation also," says he.

And Naxalites like Avijit Mazumdar of CPI (ML- Liberation), son of Naxalbari's biggest ideologue, Charu Mazumdar, want the movement to adapt itself to 21st century requirements.

"It is quite a fact that history doesn't replicate itself in quite a same manner, but so far ideology is concerned, yes it does," says he.

And indeed, Naxalbari has lost some of its significance as the place that lent both strength and voice to the repressed and the marginalised, but in times of repression as in Nandigram, it suddenly becomes the reference point - a name that forever inspires the extreme Left all over India.

The Naxalbari movement an inseparable part of an ideology that has inspired generations of revolutionary thought whenever there has been a social uprising like the one that happened here 40 years ago

Atlantic Free Press - Hard Truths for Hard Times - Global Ruling Class: Billionaires and How They 'Made It'

Global Ruling Class: Billionaires and How They 'Made It'

Click Name for Bio of James Petras
Tuesday, 20 March 2007
by James Petras

While the number of the world's billionaires grew from 793 in 2006 to 946 this year, major mass uprisings became commonplace occurrences in China and India. In India, which has the highest number of billionaires (36) in Asia with total wealth of $191 billion USD, Prime Minister Singh declared that the greatest single threat to 'India's security' were the Maoist led guerrilla armies and mass movements in the poorest parts of the country. In China, with 20 billionaires with $29.4 billion USD net worth, the new rulers, confronting nearly a hundred thousand reported riots and protests, have increased the number of armed special anti-riot militia a hundred fold, and increased spending for the rural poor by $10 billion USD in the hopes of lessening the monstrous class inequalities and heading off a mass upheaval.

The total wealth of this global ruling class grew 35% year to year topping $3.5 trillion USD, while income levels for the lower 55% of the world's 6-billion-strong population declined or stagnated. Put another way, one hundred millionth of the world's population (1/100,000,000) owns more than over 3 billion people. Over half of the current billionaires (523) came from just 3 countries: the US (415), Germany (55) and Russia (53). The 35% increase in wealth mostly came from speculation on equity markets, real estate and commodity trading, rather than from technical innovations, investments in job-creating industries or social services.

Among the newest, youngest and fastest-growing group of billionaires, the Russian oligarchy stands out for its most rapacious beginnings. Over two-thirds (67%) of the current Russian billionaire oligarchs began their concentration of wealth in their mid to early twenties. During the infamous decade of the 1990's under the quasi-dictatorial rule of Boris Yeltsin and his US-directed economic advisers, Anatoly Chubais and Yegor Gaidar the entire Russian economy was put up for sale for a 'political price', which was far below its real value.

Without exception, the transfers of property were achieved through gangster tactics – assassinations, massive theft, and seizure of state resources, illicit stock manipulation and buyouts. The future billionaires stripped the Russian state of over a trillion dollars worth of factories, transport, oil, gas, iron, coal and other formerly state-owned resources.

Contrary to European and US publicists, on the Right and Left, very few of the top former Communist leaders are found among the current Russian billionaire oligarchy. Secondly, contrary to the spin-masters' claims of 'communist inefficiencies', the former Soviet Union developed mines, factories, energy enterprises were profitable and competitive, before they were taken over by the new oligarchs. This is evident in the massive private wealth that was accumulated in less than a decade by these gangster-businessmen.

Virtually all the billionaires' initial sources of wealth had nothing to do with building, innovating or developing new efficient enterprises. Wealth was not transferred to high Communist Party Commissars (lateral transfers) but was seized by armed private mafias run by recent university graduates who quickly capitalized on corrupting, intimidating or assassinating senior officials in the state and benefiting from Boris Yeltsin's mindless contracting of 'free market' Western consultants.

Forbes magazine puts out a yearly list of the richest individuals and families in the world. What is most amusing about the famous Forbes magazine's background biographical notes on the Russian oligarchs is the constant reference to their source of wealth as 'self-made' as if stealing state property created by and defended for over 70 years by the sweat and blood of the Russian people was the result of the entrepreneurial skills of thugs in their twenties. Of the top eight Russian billionaire oligarchs, all got their start from strong-arming their rivals, setting up 'paper banks' and taking over aluminum, oil, gas, nickel and steel production and the export of bauxite, iron and other minerals. Every sector of the former Communist economy was pillaged by the new billionaires: Construction, telecommunications, chemicals, real estate, agriculture, vodka, foods, land, media, automobiles, airlines etc..

With rare exceptions, following the Yeltsin privatizations all of the oligarchs quickly rose to the top or near the top, literally murdering or intimidating any opponents within the former Soviet apparatus and competitors from rival predator gangs.

The key 'policy' measures, which facilitated the initial pillage and takeovers by the future billionaires, were the massive and immediate privatizations of almost all public enterprises by the Gaidar/Chubais team. This 'Shock Treatment' was encouraged by a Harvard team of economic advisers and especially by US President Clinton in order to make the capitalist transformation irreversible. Massive privatization led to the capitalist gang wars and the disarticulation of the Russian economy. As a result there was an 80% decline in living standards, a massive devaluation of the Ruble and the sell-off of invaluable oil, gas and other strategic resources at bargain prices to the rising class of predator billionaires and US-European oil and gas multinational corporations. Over a hundred billion dollars a year was laundered by the mafia oligarchs in the principle banks of New York, London, Switzerland, Israel and elsewhere – funds which would later be recycled in the purchase of expensive real estate in the US, England, Spain, France as well as investments in British football teams, Israeli banks and joint ventures in minerals.

The winners of the gang wars during the Yeltsin reign followed up by expanding operations to a variety of new economic sectors, investments in the expansion of existing facilities (especially in real estate, extractive and consumer industries) and overseas. Under President Putin, the gangster-oligarchs consolidated and expanded – from multi-millionaires to billionaires, to multi-billionaires and growing. From young swaggering thugs and local swindlers, they became the 'respectable' partners of American and European multinational corporations, according to their Western PR agents. The new Russian oligarchs had 'arrived' on the world financial scene, according to the financial press.

Yet as President Putin recently pointed out, the new billionaires have failed to invest, innovate and create competitive enterprises, despite optimal conditions. Outside of raw material exports, benefiting from high international prices, few of the oligarch-owned manufacturers are earning foreign exchange, because few can compete in international markets. The reason is that the oligarchs have 'diversified' into stock speculation (Suleiman Kerimov $14.4 billion USD), prostitution (Mikhail Prokhorov $13.5 billion USD), banking (Fridman $12.6 billion USD) and buyouts of mines and mineral processing plants.

The Western media has focused on the falling out between a handful of Yeltsin-era oligarchs and President Vladimir Putin and the increase in wealth of a number of Putin-era billionaires. However, the biographical evidence demonstrates that there is no rupture between the rise of the billionaires under Yeltsin and their consolidation and expansion under Putin. The decline in mutual murder and the shift to state-regulated competition is as much a product of the consolidation of the great fortunes as it is the 'new rules of the game' imposed by President Putin. In the mid 19th century, Honoré Balzac, surveying the rise of the respectable bourgeois in France, pointed out their dubious origins: "Behind every great fortune is a great crime." The swindles begetting the decades-long ascent of the 19th century French bourgeoisie pale in comparison to the massive pillage and bloodletting that created Russia's 21st century billionaires.

Latin America
If blood and guns were the instruments for the rise of the Russian billionaire oligarchs, in other regions the Market, or better still, the US-IMF-World Bank orchestrated Washington Consensus was the driving force behind the rise of the Latin American billionaires. The two countries with the greatest concentration of wealth and the greatest number of billionaires in Latin America are Mexico and Brazil (77%), which are the two countries, which privatized the most lucrative, efficient and largest public monopolies. Of the total $157.2 billion USD owned by the 38 Latin American billionaires, 30 are Brazilians or Mexicans with $120.3 billion USD. The wealth of 38 families and individuals exceeds that of 250 million Latin Americans; 0.000001% of the population exceeds that of the lowest 50%. In Mexico, the income of 0.000001% of the population exceeds the combined income of 40 million Mexicans. The rise of Latin American billionaires coincides with the real fall in minimum wages, public expenditures in social services, labor legislation and a rise in state repression, weakening labor and peasant organization and collective bargaining. The implementation of regressive taxes burdening the workers and peasants and tax exemptions and subsidies for the agro-mineral exporters contributed to the making of the billionaires. The result has been downward mobility for public employees and workers, the displacement of urban labor into the informal sector, the massive bankruptcy of small farmers, peasants and rural labor and the out-migration from the countryside to the urban slums and emigration abroad.

The principal cause of poverty in Latin American is the very conditions that facilitate the growth of billionaires. In the case of Mexico, the privatization of the telecommunication sector at rock bottom prices, resulted in the quadrupling of wealth for Carlos Slim Helu, the third richest man in the world (just behind Bill Gates and Warren Buffet) with a net worth of $49 billion USD. Two fellow Mexican billionaires, Alfredo Harp Helu and Roberto Hernandez Ramirez benefited from the privatization of banks and their subsequent de-nationalization, selling Banamex to Citicorp.

Privatization, financial de-regulation and de-nationalization were the key operating principles of US foreign economic policies implemented in Latin America by the IMF and the World Bank. These principles dictated the fundamental conditions shaping any loans or debt re-negotiations in Latin America.

The billionaires-in-the-making, came from old and new money. Some began to raise their fortunes by securing government contracts during the earlier state-led development model (1930's to 1970's) and others through inherited wealth. Half of Mexican billionaires inherited their original multi-million dollar fortunes on their way up to the top. The other half benefited from political ties and the subsequent big payola from buying public enterprises cheap and then selling them off to US multi-nationals at great profit. The great bulk of the 12 million Mexican immigrants who crossed the border into the US have fled from the onerous conditions, which allowed Mexico's traditional and nouveaux riche millionaires to join the global billionaires' club.

Brazil has the largest number of billionaires (20) of any country in Latin America with a net worth of $46.2 billion USD, which is greater than the new worth of 80 million urban and rural impoverished Brazilians. Approximately 40% of Brazilian billionaires started with great fortunes – and simply added on – through acquisitions and mergers. The so-called 'self-made' billionaires benefited from the privatization of the lucrative financial sector (the Safra family with $8.9 billion USD) and the iron and steel complexes.

How to Become a Billionaire
While some knowledge, technical and 'entrepreneurial skills' and market savvy played a small role in the making of the billionaires in Russia and Latin America, far more important was the interface of politics and economics at every stage of wealth accumulation.

In most cases there were three stages:

1. During the early 'statist' model of development, the current billionaires successfully 'lobbied' and bribed officials for government contracts, tax exemptions, subsidies and protection from foreign competitors. State handouts were the beachhead or take-off point to billionaire status during the subsequent neo-liberal phase.

2. The neo-liberal period provided the greatest opportunity for seizing lucrative public assets far below their market value and earning capacity. The privatization, although described as 'market transactions', were in reality political sales in four senses: in price, in selection of buyers, in kickbacks to the sellers and in furthering an ideological agenda. Wealth accumulation resulted from the sell-off of banks, minerals, energy resources, telecommunications, power plants and transport and the assumption by the state of private debt. This was the take-off phase from millionaire toward billionaire status. This was consummated in Latin America via corruption and in Russia via assassination and gang warfare.

3. During the third phase (the present) the billionaires have consolidated and expanded their empires through mergers, acquisitions, further privatizations and overseas expansion. Private monopolies of mobile phones, telecoms and other 'public' utilities, plus high commodity prices have added billions to the initial concentrations. Some millionaires became billionaires by selling their recently acquired, lucrative privatized enterprises to foreign capital.

In both Latin America and Russia, the billionaires grabbed lucrative state assets under the aegis of orthodox neo-liberal regimes (Salinas-Zedillo regimes in Mexico, Collor-Cardoso in Brazil, Yeltsin in Russia) and consolidated and expanded under the rule of supposedly 'reformist' regimes (Putin in Russia, Lula in Brazil and Fox in Mexico). In the rest of Latin America (Chile, Colombia and Argentina) the making of the billionaires resulted from the bloody military coups and regimes, which destroyed the socio-political movements and started the privatization process. This process was then even more energetically promoted by the subsequent electoral regimes of the right and 'center-left'.

What is repeatedly demonstrated in both Russia and Latin America is that the key factor leading to the quantum leap in wealth – from millionaires to billionaires – was the vast privatization and subsequent de-nationalization of lucrative public enterprises.

If we add to the concentration of $157 billion in the hands of an infinitesimal fraction of the elite, the $990 billion USD taken out by the foreign banks in debt payments and the $1 trillion USD (one thousand billion) taken out by way of profits, royalties, rents and laundered money over the past decade and a half, we have an adequate framework for understanding why Latin America continues to have over two-thirds of its population with inadequate living standards and stagnant economies.

The responsibility of the US for the growth of Latin American billionaires and mass poverty is several-fold and involves a wide gamut of political institutions, business elites, and academic and media moguls. First and foremost the US backed the military dictators and neo-liberal politicians who set up the billionaire-oriented economic models. It was ex-President Clinton, the CIA and his economic advisers, in alliance with the Russian oligarchs, who provided the political intelligence and material support to put Yeltsin in power and back his destruction of the Russian Parliament (Duma) in 1993 and the rigged elections of 1996. And it was Washington, which allowed hundreds of billions of dollars to be laundered in US banks throughout the 1990's as the US Congressional Sub-Committee on Banking (1998) revealed.

It was Nixon, Kissinger and later Carter and Brzezinski, Reagan and Bush, Clinton and Albright who backed the privatizations pushed by Latin American military dictators and civilian reactionaries in the 1970's, 1980's and 1990's . Their instructions to the US representatives in the IMF and the World Bank were writ large: Privatize, de-regulate and de-nationalize (PDD) before any loans should be negotiated.

It was US academics and ideologues working hand in glove with the so-called multi-lateral agencies, as contracted economic consultants, who trained, designed and pushed the PDD agenda among their former Ivy League students-turned-economic and finance ministers and Central Bankers in Latin America and Russia.

It was US and EU multi-national corporations and banks which bought out or went into joint ventures with the emerging Latin American billionaires and who reaped the trillion dollar payouts on the debts incurred by the corrupt military and civilian regimes. The billionaires are as much a product and/or by-product of US anti-nationalist, anti-communist policies as they are a product of their own grandiose theft of public enterprises.

Given the enormous class and income disparities in Russia, Latin America and China (20 Chinese billionaires have a net worth of $29.4 billion USD in less than ten years), it is more accurate to describe these countries as 'surging billionaires' rather than 'emerging markets' because it is not the 'free market' but the political power of the billionaires that dictates policy.

Countries of 'surging billionaires' produce burgeoning poverty, submerging living standards. The making of billionaires means the unmaking of civil society – the weakening of social solidarity, protective social legislation, pensions, vacations, public health programs and education. While politics is central, past political labels mean nothing. Ex-Marxist Brazilian ex-President Cardoso and ex-trade union leader President Lula Da Silva privatized public enterprises and promoted policies that spawn billionaires. Ex-Communist Putin cultivates certain billionaire oligarchs and offers incentives to others to shape up and invest.

The period of greatest decline in living standards in Latin America and Russia coincide with the dismantling of the nationalist populist and communist economies. Between 1980-2004, Latin America – more precisely Brazil, Argentina and Mexico – stagnated at 0% to 1% per capita growth. Russia saw a 50% decline in GNP between 1990-1996 and living standards dropped 80% for everyone except the predators and their gangster entourage.

Recent growth (2003-2007), where it occurs, has more to do with the extraordinary rise in international prices (of energy resources, metals and agro-exports) than any positive developments from the billionaire-dominated economies. The growth of billionaires is hardly a sign of 'general prosperity' resulting from the 'free market' as the editors of Forbes Magazine claim. In fact it is the product of the illicit seizure of lucrative public resources, built up by the work and struggle of millions of workers, in Russia and China under Communism and in Latin America during populist-nationalist and democratic-socialist governments. Many billionaires have inherited wealth and used their political ties to expand and extend their empires – it has little to do with entrepreneurial skills.

The billionaires' and the White House's anger and hostility toward President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is precisely because he is reversing the policies which create billionaires and mass poverty: He is re-nationalizing energy resources, public utilities and expropriating some large landed estates. Chavez is not only challenging US hegemony in Latin America but also the entire PDD edifice that built the economic empires of the billionaires in Latin America, Russia, China and elsewhere.

Note: The primary data for this essay is drawn from Forbes Magazine 's "List of the World's Billionaires"published March 8, 2007

James Petras most recent book is The Power of Israel in the United States.(clarity 2006 third printing)his essays in English can be found at
And in Spanish at

Atlantic Free Press - Hard Truths for Hard Times - Global Ruling Class: Billionaires and How They 'Made It'