June 30, 2007

PAKISTAN : One swallow does a summer make!


One swallow does a summer make!

Source: The News International Pakistan

By Anjum Niaz

Anjum Niaz is the first Pakistani woman to qualify under US Government Immigration as possessing Extraordinary Ability in Journalism. She works as a correspondent for Dawn, has been editor of Dawn Magazine, Managing Editor of The Earth Times, columnist for The Friday Times, Coordinator at Johns Hopkins University and a Board Director The Population Institute in Washington DC. Anjum Niaz has interviewed hosts of Prime Ministers and Presidents of the Subcontinent and is a vast traveler.


Can one woman carry a crusade for democracy? Can one woman take on the military and the powerful establishment to demand an end to army rule? Yes if she happens to be a former judge of the Lahore High Court. Yes if her name ends with Iqbal. And yes if she has the support of the civil society and judiciary.

Reflexively, she is a doer; not an armchair begum or a drawing room whiner. Her greatest assert is her husband Javid Iqbal, the name that launched a million Javids after Allama Iqbal named his only son Javid. Even at the age of 84, the retired chief justice of Lahore High Court (LHC) stood with his brother judges all night long to welcome Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry at Lahore.

Nasira Iqbal, 20 years younger than her husband, worked the phones and coaxed everyone she knew from her profession to stand up and be counted. The end result: Seventeen serving and 15 retired judges of the LHC, three former judges of the Supreme Court and some serving and retired judges of subordinate courts were among thousands of lawyers and activists who greeted Justice Chaudhry in the parking compound of the high court on May 6.

Bravo!

When Justice Javed Iqbal took oath as the acting CJ on that muffed March 9 evening, Nasira Iqbal shot off an email to the Pakistani-American community in Washington that the acting CJ was not Allama Muhammad Iqbal's son. "You will be pleased to learn that Dr Javid Iqbal is not the person who agreed to be sworn in as acting chief justice when the chief justice of Pakistan was rendered 'incapable of acting' in an unceremonious manner by General Pervez Musharraf at the bidding of his American masters. As you are aware, Javid Iqbal is a common name shared by several thugs, dacoits, miscreants and other anti-social elements, including the man who murdered one hundred children as well as the present acting chief justice."

Encore!

The lady is now doing everything she can to stop General Musharraf from becoming our next president. "The fate of Pakistan is in the hands of 800 parliamentarians who will cast their votes for and against Musharraf," says Justice Nasira. "If a nation of 160 million decide that they don't want Musharraf, all they have to do is form pressure groups to convince their representatives in the provincial and national assemblies, including the senate, to vote for Musharraf's opponent." Remember, the vote is through a secret ballot.

Her plan of action: get the email addresses of the 800 from the national assembly secretariat and bombard them with messages not to vote for Musharraf but to vote for his rival, who Justice Nasira hopes, will be fielded by the combined opposition parties (COP). She's quite capable of launching a hunt for a presidential candidate should the COP fail to find one. My two cent advice to the opposition, still in terrible disarray and shamefully scatterbrained, is to hire gratis the lady who delivers what she sets out to achieve.

"The whole nation is being held hostage to Musharraf's whims. On May 12 he fiddled and his party danced the bhangra while Karachi burnt and got butchered," says the Harvard-trained lawyer. Putting out her legal opinion against Musharraf's ineligibility for re-election from the same assemblies, Justice Nasira argues that he cannot hold two offices after his current term. If he resigns as COAS, he cannot seek election for two years. "He just cannot be the president. Period!" Equally controversial is his uniform. "As COAS he is bound by his oath to defend the constitution which he has already violated; His duty is also to defend borders which he has already neglected by launching the Kargil misadventure and after 9/11 he has surrendered state sovereignty to US which calls all the shots including the preparation and scrutiny of electoral rolls by paying one billion rupees for (mis-) preparing them."

That's a very serious charge. Be honest, do we really think Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Qazi Farooq will care to rebut it? His factotum, Secretary Dilshad has ignored the request for a meeting by the 'Citizens Group on Electoral Process' (CGEP) of which Justice Nasira is an active member. Recently the group, headed by Justice (r) Wajihuddin Ahmad, with retired bureaucrats and generals, media heads and intellectuals as its members, screamed blue murder demanding an "inquest" in the corruption and mismanagement of the one-billion-rupee election project. The CGEP under the auspices of PILDAT (Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency) had sensed the Election Commission's knavery as early as January of this year. Nasira Iqbal's bell ringing against deceit and ego of the general and his party can turn into a thunderclap if the Election Commission continues its corruptibility.

We the public have a right to know why 30.6 million voters stand disenfranchised by Musharraf's handpicked Chief Election Commissioner! Benazir Bhutto has already gone to court over the missing voters lists through her counsel Senator Latif Khosa. Will the judges now stand up to Musharraf? "They will have to take an independent stand and judgments in all matters before them. They mustn't act as lambs being led to the slaughter by the lion chief executive," says Justice Nasira. The word 'lamb' got coinage by Aitzaz Ahsan this week in court while arguing the CJ's case. Justice Ramday, heading the 13-member Supreme Court bench on CJ reference asked meaningfully: "Are we really a lamb?" to which Advocate Ahsan replied, "This is time to establish that judges are not lambs."

The Washington Post gave an 'F' to our military two days ago. It quoted medical doctor Nusrat Riaz, practicing in the backwaters of rural Pakistan, as saying he was being monitored by a retired army officer: "This is part of the militarisation of the entire country. It is very insulting, and it is happening because of the man sitting at the top," said Riaz. Continuing, the Post editorialised "Active-duty or retired officers now occupy most key government jobs, including posts in education, agriculture and medicine that have little to do with defence. The military also dominates the corporate world; it reportedly runs a $20 billion portfolio of businesses from banks to real estate developers to bakeries. And everywhere lurks the hand of the feared military-led intelligence services."

Straddling ground realities, the Post said that the military was drawing "open contempt from civilians." But "they (generals) are not expected to go easily, and the wealth and influence they have attained during the Musharraf era helps explain why."

Sixteen generals versus 160 million people is the crux of Justice Nasira Iqbal's argument. "The example of CJ standing up to the COAS shows how one person sparked a spontaneous wave/movement for resistance to arbitrariness and authoritarianism by a usurper and his chamchas. We all are willing and ready to commit ourselves to restoring democracy and the rule of law. We have to remember that the buck stops with each one of us -- one swallow does a summer make!"

When people refuse to obey the dictator, then democracy comes alive, says Howard Zinn, author of the bestseller A People's History of the United States.



The writer is a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international reporting. Email: aniaz@fas.harvard.edu

Anjum Niaz is the first Pakistani woman to qualify under US Government Immigration as possessing Extraordinary Ability in Journalism. She works as a correspondent for Dawn, has been editor of Dawn Magazine, Managing Editor of The Earth Times, columnist for The Friday Times, Coordinator at Johns Hopkins University and a Board Director The Population Institute in Washington DC. Anjum Niaz has interviewed hosts of Prime Ministers and Presidents of the Subcontinent and is a vast traveler.

Bangladesh: Interim Authority Pushing the Political Parties for Internal Reforms

Source SAAG

Guest Column by Dr. Anand Kumar

The interim authority of Bangladesh has created “crisis situation” for established political leaders of the country by its insistence on internal political reforms of the political parties. The political culture of Bangladesh which was primarily based on personal rivalry between Shaikh Hasina and Khalida Zia appears has to change in the near future.

The demand for internal reforms by the interim authority has given an opportunity to the dissidents of the mainstream parties to seek reforms within. This in effect would mean curtailment of dictatorial powers of both the mainstream party leaders.

On the other hand, the two leaders accused of dictatorial rule have begun to thwart any effort towards reform by creating divisions in segments demanding reforms. Interestingly, some of the corrupt leaders have also used this reform wave to wash away their sins by joining groups that are in favour of reforms or by attempting to create new political party.

After taking over charge from the earlier caretaker government on January 11, 2007 the interim authority headed by Fakharuddin Ahmed launched a nationwide crackdown on corruption in which more than 170 political figures from both the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party have been detained. These charges of corruption and abuse of power have put lot of pressure on both the major political parties of Bangladesh to go for internal reforms aimed at curbing the powers of the party chiefs.

In the past, both Shaikh Hasina and Khalida Zia have been known for wielding absolute power in their parties. But at present, these leaders are busy in clearing their names from several charges they are facing. Hasina faces charges of extortion, which are being investigated by police. She is accused of graft and abetting murders related to political violence. The problem for Shaikh Hasina increased further when a former Bangladesh health minister, Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim arrested as part of the government's graft crackdown confessed on June 21, 2007 that he had shared extorted money with her. Selim told a Dhaka court in a statement that he gave a portion of $430,000 from a power company to Sheikh Hasina during her 1996-2001 rule. Selim and Sheikh Hasina, who are cousins, are both accused in the case. Selim's lawyers however have said that they considered his court statement unlawful as he was given insufficient time to think it over.

Hasina denies all the charges and says they have been framed by critics and opponents. However, on the basis of these charges Hasina was stopped from flying to the US after a court ordered immigration officials and police not to allow her to leave, saying her presence in the country was needed for the investigation of extortion charges.

Hasina's rival and the most recent prime minister, Begum Khaleda Zia, also faces allegations of corruption and misuse of power, especially in promoting her kin. Though she denies these charges, her elder son and political heir apparent, Tareque Rahman, is among more than 170 key political figures detained by security forces in the corruption hunt. Her younger son Arafat Rahman is also facing charges of extortion.

Reform Proposals within Awami League

Reformists in the Awami League have proposed that party decisions including financial matters should be discussed and passed with the consent of the majority. Speaking to media a senior Awami League leader said, "The party should also be transparent in financial matters. Collection of funds through donations and expenses should be audited, regularly."

Reform proposals have also been prepared by the influential Awami League party leaders including presidium members Abdur Razzak, Tofail Ahmed and Suranjit Sengupta. But Shaikh Hasina who had received these proposals informally has suggested that she wants further amendments in them. Speaking to media she said, "Not only the party president's post, but no other party position should also be held by the same person more than twice. Not only the party chief should be barred from becoming the prime minister, but all central committee office bearers should be prohibited from becoming ministers or state ministers."

Hasina, who will be 60 this September, has also given another proposal according to which no leaders above 60 will be allowed to remain a member of the AL Presidium and Central Working Committee. She has suggested that all leaders above the age of 60 will be accommodated in the advisory council of the party. If Hasina's latest proposal is implemented, only two AL presidium members--Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim and Kazi Zafarullah--can continue in their posts.

But a section of reformist leaders believe that Hasina would never stick to what she is saying now on reforms. An unnamed Awami League leader reportedly said, "Being irritated by the move for party reforms in the present situation, she might have spoken all this."

Reform Proposal within BNP

Demand for internal reforms is also getting stronger in BNP. Many BNP insiders including former ministers and lawmakers want Khaleda to reform her party that will ironically drastically curb her power in taking decisions. Leaders favouring reform in BNP are headed by Party Secretary General Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan. Khaleda on her part has now stated that she would welcome any suggestions from her party leaders and workers across the country to reform the party. About the call for her to leave the top post of the party, she said, "I was elected the chairperson by the council. Anyone can contest for the post and even become the chairperson of the party if the council elects (him/her)." She also denies having made any decision unilaterally and said she used to consult the senior cabinet members and the standing committee leaders on how to run the country as well as the party.

Pro-reforms leaders of BNP on the other hand want BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia to step down from the party-chief’s position. Simultaneously, they are also trying to lobby the councillors, the leaders who can bring changes in the party constitution. These pro-reform leaders are reportedly regularly holding meetings with BNP Secretary General Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan at his Gulshan residence to discuss reforms in the party.

Attempt to Create a New Political Party

Meanwhile, despite a ban on all sorts of politics, the process for floating a new political party is going on in full swing. The main initiative in this has been taken by former BNP leader Ferdous Ahmed Qureshi, who had been inactive in politics for a long time. The initiative got a new dimension recently as Jatiya Party (JP) leader Roushan Ershad along with a group of JP leaders got involved with the process. A few mid- and junior-level political leaders like Sayeed Khokon of Awami League (AL) and former lawmaker Nurul Islam Moni of BNP have also joined the move.

People attempting to create this new party are regularly holding meetings at different places in Dhaka and are pursuing some important political leaders to join them. But so far they have not been very successful in their efforts. Most of these leaders have no strong position in their constituencies and some of them are even facing corruption charges. Many served military dictator HM Ershad as ministers. The organisers are also trying to communicate with the district level leaders of different political parties as well as members of the civil society. To make the initiative a success they are trying to involve Dr Kamal Hossain in the process. They are also working to formulate a constitution for the new party. They have claimed that they are looking for honest leaders and that the new party will follow a policy which is not rightist or leftist.

Legal Steps to Stop Nomination Business

As part of the ongoing reform initiatives, the Election Commission in Bangladesh has already made a set of proposals for electoral reforms. As per these proposals, a political party must be registered with the EC to contest the parliamentary election and no registered political party shall form any front organisation with the students or teachers of educational institutions and no political party shall have any branch abroad. The EC also made proposals to ensure financial transparency of the political parties.

In addition to this, the caretaker government of Bangladesh has now taken some fresh steps to create a legal infrastructure so that political parties are forced to go for certain reforms. The Election Commission (EC) has drafted a new proposal to curtail the absolute power of political parties' parliamentary boards to nominate party candidates for parliamentary election in a bid to stop reported unbridled nomination of business persons.

According to the proposal, members of the local unit of a registered political party will primarily elect through secret ballots two or more tentative candidates for each parliamentary area and the party's central parliamentary board will choose from the list a candidate for the constituency. At present, the political parties' parliamentary boards composed of party chiefs and some other top leaders enjoy absolute power to choose the candidates to contest in the parliamentary election and grass- roots level leaders have little to say in the process.

Using this power, the major political parties, especially the BNP and Awami League reportedly made huge amounts of money by selling party nominations to businessmen and black money holders during the previous parliamentary elections, while the dedicated leaders were ignored in many cases.

The new proposal as well as the proposed conditions for a political party to get registration with the EC will be finalised on consultation with the major political parties after the ban on indoor politics is lifted. Once the proposal is made a rule, the political parties will have to include the provision in their constitutions and follow it to nominate candidates for the parliamentary elections. If the proposal is implemented, the parliamentary boards will no longer have the absolute power to choose candidates.

US Critical of Current Political Trends in Bangladesh

The US has decried current political trends in Bangladesh and has expressed itself clearly against military involvement in politics. In a media interview, outgoing US Ambassador Patricia A. Butenis also called for lifting the ban on political activity and for early elections - as of now likely only in 2008-end - saying the US-Bangladesh relationship was 'based on democracy'.

She urged the government to be transparent and explain why restrictions have been placed on two former prime ministers, Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina. Butenis has stated that Washington did not want to see any sort of military involvement in Bangladesh politics, 'as it will be a mistake'. However, she is not against any army personnel taking up politics after retirement. Butenis supported the reforms in political parties through discussions among themselves but said any attempt or plan to impose changes on parties was going to have troubles. She avoided a direct comment on 'minus-two' formula of reform by excluding the two former prime ministers Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina but agreed that parties have to bring changes. Perhaps part of that change may be their senior leaders. But they can't do that without being able to discuss it,' she observed.

Conclusion

The caretaker government of Bangladesh with strong backing of military is using several strategies to put pressure on both the leading political personalities to go for reform. These leaders have already been placed on the defensive by pressing several corruption charges either against them or their close family members. The interim authority is also encouraging dissidents in these parties to ask for reforms. It is trying to create a legal structure whereby it would be difficult for certain political leaders to impose their choice on local leaders. Initially, the attempt was made to use minus-two formula, whereby the two leading political leaders of Bangladesh were to be forced out of the country. But that strategy failed, as it immediately gave rise to domestic and international protests and presented the two ladies who have been ruling Bangladesh autocratically by turn as victims. The interim government at present is trying to use other methods to achieve the same objective. However, unless a new crop of leadership emerges which is strong enough to sideline these political dynasties, it will be difficult for Bangladesh to keep these reforms intact for long time. The old leaders are smart enough to regain the lost ground and the dissidents will be thrown out mercilessly once the threat posed by military reduces.

(The views expressed by the author are his own. The author can be reached at e-mail anandkrai@yahoo.co.in)

Pratibha Patil : UPA Legacy, Puppet PM and President

The case against Pratibha Patil is not one of personal corruption. It is one about moral and ethical standards and the kind of leadership this country deserves.

By going for pathetic personal attacks on her opponent without any sources, any evidence and not even direct links via either Institutions run by Shekhawat or direct acts of nepotism by Shekhawat, the Outlook has exposed itself for what it really is, a Congress rag-tag and Vinod Mehta for what he really is - a Sonia spin meister.

With just a day remaining for the lapse of the deadline for filing nominations for the presidential election, the BJP on Friday once again appealed to the UPA to withdraw Ms Pratibha Patil from the fray, and replace her with “any other suitable candidate.’’Leader of the Opposition LK Advani took up cudgels on behalf of the BJP, making yet another “withdraw-Ms Patil-from-the-field’’ plea “in the interests of the nation.’’ The Congress expectedly rejected the request, asking the NDA to withdraw the nomination of Bhairon Singh Shekhawat instead.

With the media campaign against Pratibha Patil beginning to make a difference the Congress has made a pathetic attempt at hitting at Shekhawat below the belt. The only difference is it is too late in the day and lacking in credibility.

So who is doing the hit job for the Congress - well yet another closet Communist and Sonia Spin Meister, Vinod Mehta and his Outlook Magazine.

In an article titled Monsoon Mud Slinging Outlook claims exclusive access to what the Congress has not gone public with. Ironical so if the Congress was not going public with this what exactly were Congress leaders doing speak to Outlook. So having presented itself as the gutter through which the Congress monsoon muck shall flow, the Outlook lists some allegations on Shekhwat.

Offstumped takes a hard look at them.

- First that Shekhawat as a 25 year old Police constable was suspended in 1947. It quotes no source but that does not restrain it from adding a rumor or two. Pathetic indeed.

- Secondly it makes a loud accusation about Shekhawat’s son-in-law. It is a different matter that in the same acccusation going into the details of the so called “crime” it actually discredits its own allegation saying the said “crime” was done by the father of the “son-in-law” even before he was born. Outlook is trying to make a case for pre-crime here so its basically saying that Shekhawat is guilty by association because he did not pre-empt crime by his future “samdhi” even before his future son in law was born. This folks is the best the Outlook could come up with.

- The third one is even better. It attempts to associate a corrup couple with Shekhwat while acknowledging that the Shekhawat government arrested and jailed them. So what exactly is the allegation - more innuendo that only the couple was arrested and not others. Which “others” - no names, no sources, no evidence, just sheer gossip and rumors.

- The fourth is the closest one gets to an allegation that had some documentary basis. But again it has nothing to do with Shekhawat but to do with a nephew tampering land records. So what is the allegation against Shekhawat here - nothing ?

- The fifth is comical. The VP who hails from Rajasthan flew to frequently to Rajasthan. Was this during an election ? No. Was it during the campaign ? No. But it was in the run up to it - So what does run up to it mean here ? The preceeding 12 months. What is the allegation - the VP’s office ignored neutrality ? Neutrality of what - there was no election, no contest, no campaign. Any specific incident - None ! All the Outlook has to say in typical media innuendo style “it raised eyebrows” almost sounding like the gossip loving aunty next door with her disapproving looks.

- The sixth is not even an allegation but general observation that Rajasthan under Shekhawat as CM between 1991 and 1998 had one of the worst records of atrocities against women.

- The seventh is hillarious. He used his stints as CM (June ‘77-February ‘80, March ‘90-December ‘92 and December ‘93-November ‘98) to make Rajasthan a Hindutva bastion. What did they expect ? He was going to make it a Congress Communist bastion ?

The real motive behind the Outlook’s at time’s comical and most of the time pathetic hit job becomes clear when it tries to name names on the BJP hit team and makes the allegation that most of the so called media investigative reports were actually lifted from Arun Shourie’s blog.

Clearly Vinod Mehta is not the in habit of reading Offstumped and the other media sources who produced original evidence.

Sahib Singh Verma dies in road accident


Sahib Singh Verma dies in road accident


Derided by its rivals as a party of the traders, the BJP’s loss in the death of Sahib Singh Verma, its “kisan face” in the metropolis, reports Hemendra Singh Bartwal.

Sanjeev K Ahuja, Hindustan Times
Email Author
Sakatpura (Alwar), June 30, 2007
First Published: 15:01 IST(30/6/2007)
Last Updated: 04:38 IST(1/7/2007)



Former Delhi chief minister and BJP vice-president Sahib Singh Verma and three others died in a car crash in Rajasthan’s Alwar district on Saturday.

Verma, a former Union minister who represented Outer Delhi in the Lok Sabha from 1999 to 2004, was returning to Delhi after engagements in Neem Ka Thana in Sikar district.

The accident occurred on NH-8 near Sakatpura village around 2.10 pm. DSP Rajesh Gupta, who was in an escort vehicle, told HT that Verma’s Tata Safari had a head-on collision with a truck.

SSP Alwar, Biju George Joseph, said: "A speeding truck coming from the opposite direction lost control trying to avoid a cyclist. The truck went over the divider and into the opposite lane. The Safari rammed into the truck head-on.” The truck driver, who has been arrested, was not drunk.

Gajender Singh, who identified himself as a relative of Verma, said: "I was at about 100 metres behind in my Skoda… The Tata Safari was so badly damaged that it took some time to extricate the occupants.”

Verma, driver Devesh and an aide, Naresh Agarwal, were declared dead at the nearby Shahjanpur Civil Hospital. Verma had major skull injuries. His gunman Jagbir Singh died on the way to SMS Hospital in Jaipur.

Delhi government offices and secretariat will remain closed on Monday as a mark of respect for Verma.

(Inputs from KS Tomar in Jaipur)



‘He could work for 18 hours without food and sleep’

V K Malhotra

http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=243643

New Delhi, June 30: I never knew Sahib Singh Verma when he was an RSS worker, or during the Emergency for that matter when most of us went to jail. I came to know him much later when I was Delhi BJP president and was in-charge of distributing tickets for municipal elections. Vermaji had then approached me for a ticket in the MCD elections.

I was very impressed with him. He was extremely energetic and rooted, and seemed to me a potential national leader — which he later emerged as.





He was one of the few leaders in the country who could work without food or sleep for 18 to 20 hours at a stretch. Especially if it was poll time you’ll have Vermaji in his full elements. He would go from village to village on dry chana and water for days. He would campaign from five in the morning till eleven in the night.

It was this energy and tenacity in Vermaji that prompted the party to sometimes give him additional charge of various states. I had once personally asked him to look after the election plans of Punjab and Himachal simultaneously. This is how he rose to the post of vice-president in the party.

Vermaji was also someone who could feel the pulse of the people. He would attend every funeral and wedding in his constituency and knew his constituents personally. This is also one of the reasons why he was perfect for the post of union labour minister. He understood the problems of the poor. Even within the party he had been for some years now lobbying for a BJP resolution on benefits for labourers and the unorganised sector. As labour minister he was responsible for implementing the social security scheme for workers in the unorganised sector.



Woh gaon ka sabse sharif chhora tha’

Amandeep Shukla

http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=243651


New Delhi, June 30: It’s a humid Saturday afternoon but streets of Mundka village on the Capital’s western fringe are abuzz. For, Mundka is still struggling with disbelief as news channels telecast reports of the accident that claimed its most famous resident Sahib Singh Verma.

Over a hundred people have gathered outside the house of Azad Singh, Verma’s younger brother. “The family members have already left for his Tughlak Lane residence. But he belonged to all of us here. We have come here to share our grief,” says Sawant Singh, Verma’s junior at school.



“Sahib Singh has made Mundka famous and developed,” says Mahavir Mann, a retired Army Havaldar. “The road that you came by, the community centre, the library… they were all his ideas. His doors were open to all of us even when he became the CM.”

As the old recollect anecdotes, the young too have their own impressions to express. “Sahib Singh-ji organised the annual wrestling tournament here,” 22-year-old Sanjay says. “It became so popular over the years that even Dara Singh visited this time.

“Sahib-ji encouraged sports and wanted the village youth to be strong and athletic.”

Another schoolmate Gopi Chand, 64, says Verma was a visionary, but very simple at heart. “He went on to become a big man but still could sit and play cards at the chaupal.”

Eighty-year-old Nusro Mausi watches from her doorstep. “Woh toh bachhpan se hi sabse sharif chhora tha is gaon ka… woh sabse bada neta bhi ban gaya.”

While Mundka mourns the death of the chief minister who brought development to the rural Outer Delhi, the sentiment is the same in the urban apartments in Keshavpuram, where Verma stayed at a flat in C-block years ago. Rajni Talwar, 38, calls herself his “bahu”. She says: “Verma-ji was a father figure to all of us. He attended my wedding and visited us on every social occasion.

“Even after he became CM he treated us like his own family.”

5-Tughlak Lane
Meanwhile, as senior politicians cutting across political hues and well-wishers rush to 5-Tughlak Lane, some of Verma’s old helps and supporters are gathered behind the house. Ram Karan Vaid, his Man Friday from Mundka, says they are yet to gather courage to break the news to Verma’s 90-year-old father Mir Singh.
Standing near a rural-style hut built in the lawns, longtime supporter Vedvati Yadav says, “He was a simple man and preferred to sleep in this hut rather than the bungalow. He even had two cows.”
Verma is survived by wife, three married daughters and two sons, besides three sisters and three brothers.




Sahib Singh Verma ~ a messiah for farmers

Statesman News Service

NEW DELHI, June 30: The sudden demise of senior BJP leader and former Delhi chief minister, Sahib Singh Verma, today shocked the Capital’s political fraternity. Mr Verma was popular among farmers, especially in the outer Delhi area, where he worked a lot for their development.
The cremation will take place only after one of his sons, Siddharth, returns from London. He was a cricket player and has reportedly gone to play for an English county. Soon after news of his death broke, leaders cutting across parties, rushed to his 5 Tughlaq Lane residence to offer their condolences to the grieving family members. The top BJP brass including Mr LK Advani, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, Mr Arun Jaitley, Mr Jaswant Singh, Mr Yashwant Sinha, Mrs Sushma Swaraj, Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad and Mr Vijay Goel went to his residence.
Hundreds of party workers, friends and relatives gathered around his house. For nearly half a kilometre there was no space to walk and the area was completely jammed with vehicles. The police had a tough time handling the VVIP movement. Among others present at his residence were former Delhi CM, Madan Lal Khurana, Delhi BJP chief, Dr Harsh Vardhan and local MLA, Vijay Jolly. The Delhi Congress chief, Ram Babu Sharma, also called on the family.
Mr Yashwant Sinha said: “He was passionate about helping unorganised labour. It is a moment of grief for us and his sudden death is a big loss to the party.” Mr Khurana, under whom Mr Verma became minister for the first time said, “He was a grassroots leader and made great sacrifices.”
Born on 15 March, 1943, in Delhi’s Mundka village, the former teacher rose from the ranks of a councillor in the Metropolitan Council of Delhi in 1977 to become the Union labour minister in 2002. His stint as the chief minister of Delhi was marked by his running feud with arch-rival in Delhi politics Mr Madan Lal Khurana.

Prathibha Gate : How Govt helped family build hostel empire

http://www.dailypio neer.com/ archives2/ default12. asp?main_ variable= front%5Fpage&file_name=story1% 2Etxt&counter_img= 1&phy_path_it= E%3A%5Cdailypion eer%5Carchives2% 5Cjun2907
Pratibhagate!

Navin Upadhyay | New Delhi

How Govt helped family build hostel empire

The Congress Governments at the Centre have helped UPA presidential nominee Pratibha Patil build an empire around two different trusts run and controlled by her family members over the past three decades.




The vast empire includes four hostels for working women, all financially assisted by the Centre, an engineering college, a sugar factory, a Krishi Vigyan Kendra, a school, and a bank that went bust.


Incidentally, the rise of the family fortune coincided with Pratibha Patil's rise in politics. Pratibha became Minister for Social Welfare in the Maharashtra Government in 1974, and in the same year her family-run Shram Sadhana Trust set up a sprawling hostel for working women in Mumbai with financial help from the Central Government.


The pattern continued till she became Governor of Rajasthan in 2004. Soon after, the Union Ministry for Women and Child Development sanctioned Rs 96 lakh for construction of another working women's hostel, Umanchal, by her family-owned trust in Pimpri in Pune. Pratibha Patil inaugurated the hostel in January 2005.


The Shram Sadhana Trust, which is run by Pratibha Patil's daughter Jyoti Rathore as its managing trustee, controls four major working women's hostels and also a college of engineering and technology in Jalgaon.


Pratibha Patil's brothers are also involved in running the college.


The Maharashtra Mahila Udyam Trust, also managed by Jyoti Rathore, is a charitable organisation, that also runs a working women's hostel and two schools in Jalgaon.


The hostels controlled by the two trusts were funded to the extent of 75 per cent for building construction as part of a scheme of the Women and Child Development department. That a particular family was helped so liberally by the Government to run as many as four hostels is in itself sufficient to raise eyebrows, but the story does not end here.


In case of the Umanchal Hostel in Pune, the Maharashtra Government gifted away Rs 1 crore worth of land to the Shram Sadhana Trust. The Centre provided Rs 95 lakh grants-in-aid for construction of the building.


On the face of it, there was nothing wrong with such assistance as it met the norms laid down by the Pimpri-Chinchwad New Township Development Authority and the Union Ministry for Women and Child Development. But a closer scrutiny highlights violation of several norms for eligibility to the Central fund.


According to the Ministry of Women and Child Development's guidelines, financial assistance for construction of hostel for working women would not "ordinarily be available for hostels with capacity of more than 100 inmates." However, the 72-room Umanchal hostel houses more than 250 women.


Similarly, the Shram Sadhana Trust in Mumbai runs two working women's hostels, each housing more than 300 women.


In Delhi, the trust runs the Shubhanchal working women's hostel, which once again houses more than 300 working women. On Thursday, when The Pioneer tried to contact the officials of the hostel, the correspondent was denied entry and policemen were found guarding the premises.


The hostel building doesn't have a board of its own and the only sign of its existence is a pointer on a Syndicate Bank branch hoarding near the hostel.


Ministry of Women and Child Development official told The Pioneer that there are nearly 900 such Government-aided working women's hostels across the country. But only in a handful of cases had the Government waived the provision of not funding hostels which have a capacity of over 100 beds. The fact that exceptions were made in case of all the four hostels run by Pratibha Patil's family, is another pointer to the "generosity" of the Centre towards the former Rajasthan Governor.


The Union Government guidelines also state that the working women's hostel should provide accommodation to women whose income does not exceed Rs 16,000 consolidated per month. It is also mandatory for the hostels to reserve 22.5 per cent of seats for women from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.


But inquiries in the case of the Pimpri hostel showed that most of the inmates were working in two top-notch software companies, where the starting salary for a software engineer was around Rs 2.60 lakh per annum. The provision for keeping aside 22.5 per cent seats for SC/ST women has also been violated. Clearly, the very purpose of aiding the construction of such a hostels has been defeated.


As more and more disclosures surface about Pratibha Patil, it is becoming obvious that her family members are an enterprising lot and they have clearly gained from the Congress Governments' munificence towards the family

Are Commies rethinking Pratibha?

Common Minimum President
Dipankar Bhattacharya - Indian Express, June 29, 2007
Why is CPM keen on Pratibha? Because her career proves she can really use power




June 29, 2009

By N.S. Rajaram

It is extremely unlikely that the CPM will miss out on this opportunity to deliver a debilitating blow the Indian nation state, which is the long term agenda of the Communists, Sonia Gandhi's sponsors and of course Karunanidhi who wants to create a hereditary Tamil Eelam country, jointly with the Sri Lankan Tamils.

Dipankar Bhattacharya is also a Communist, the CPI. His differences with the CPM are tactical not doctrinal. His comments on Pratibha are also not ethical but tactical.

The only hope seems to be to engineer defections through 'conscience' votes if there is such a thing in Indian politics. Look at the way Shiv Sena has fallen in line to supporta Sonia stooge.

Japan: Spotlight on a Noisy Political Landscape

Source: Stratfor

June 29, 2007 21 37 GMT


Summary

Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori has confirmed his plans to run in Japan's Upper House elections as the candidate of a minor coalition party. While his candidacy might brighten a dull list of Japanese contenders, Fujimori will do little to change the election's outcome or hasten the halting progress Japan has made in reasserting itself as a regional and global power.

Analysis

Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori announced June 28 that he will run for a seat in Japan's Upper House on behalf of the little-known People's New Party, despite being under house arrest in Chile. Fujimori is more interested in amnesty from Peruvian prosecutors and will not likely shake things up during the June 29 elections.

Nevertheless, his international celebrity has swung the spotlight onto Japan's domestic political scene, where Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's political future seems to be hanging in the balance. Despite all the attention, and no matter how the elections turn out, Japan's geopolitical course will remain unchanged as it tries to normalize its pacifist constitution and reassert itself as a regional and global power. Only Abe's political future will be affected by the elections.

With the end of the Cold War, guaranteed U.S. military protection of Japanese economic interests abroad came to an end. Since then, Japan has set a course toward establishing a more robust military capability (pushing its pacifist constitution to its limits) and expanding its regional and global influence. It views this strategy as the best way to secure its access to resources and trading partners in order to fuel its enormous economy. Economic cooperation with Brunei (a major oil supplier), infrastructure improvement projects in Africa and increased defense cooperation with the United States and Australia (among other countries) are only the most recent moves in this gradual strategic shift.

Local Japanese media have been focusing on Abe's record-low popularity, which has dragged public support for the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) down with him. A series of corruption scandals, including the disappearance of 50 million pension case records, and a failure to address voter priorities such as social security reform have cost Abe dearly. His conservatism and lack of charisma, in contrast to his popular predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, have also played poorly. Dramatic political gestures such as the forfeiture of a portion of Abe's summer bonus, and a hard-line stance on North Korea's failure to return all Japanese abductees, have failed to reverse his continuing tumble in the polls.

The LDP's dominance of Japanese politics will not be significantly impacted by elections to the Upper House (where it currently has a loose coalition with the opposition New Komeito party). Even if the LDP loses seats, the worst that can happen is that the coalition's potency will diminish or the LDP will be forced to expand it. What matters most is the LDP's dominance of the Lower House, which holds the power to appoint Japan's prime minister, and here it has a solid majority.

The Upper House elections have essentially become a crucible that will either make or break Abe's political future. Any significant losses in the Upper House will likely see him ejected from the LDP. If he leaves, a possible successor is former Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, a moderate more inclined toward Koizumi-era reform policies who lost out to Abe in the 2003 presidential election. Tanigaki would indeed bring a fresh new face to the LDP as he addressed social security reform (which would help reverse the LDP's lagging public support) and helped rebuild domestic support for further constitutional reform.

As for Fujimori, he is unlikely even to make it back to Japan to run for an Upper House seat in person. The former president of Peru is currently in Chilean custody as he awaits a Chilean Supreme Court decision on whether to extradite him to Peru.


About Stratfor

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Emma Nicholson's reply to Pak Ambassador


Pak Ambassador wrote to MEP Emma Nicholson who prepared the report "Kashmir: Present situation and future prospects" that Northern Areas (Gilgit and Balistan) were always part of Pak and was never a part of JK blah blah blah.....and Emma Nicholson wrote back giving as proof a map of India in 1909 and a letter from Rajah Hari Singh to Mount Batten proving that they were very much part of JK.


Source: The Hindu newspaper

Pak Ambassador to Belgium letter to Emma Nicholson
http://www.hindu.com/nic/ambassadorletter.pdf

MEP Nicholson's response:
http://www.hindu.com/nic/baronessresponse.pdf

Never Mind The Baluch

Never Mind The Baluch
Ben Hayes
Red Pepper, June 2007

http://www.tni.org/

While Pakistan and Iran terrorise their Baluchi minorities, the British government has designated the Baluchistan Liberation Army as ‘terrorist’. Ben Hayes reports

Barely an eyebrow was raised last summer when the Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA) became the 41st group to be proscribed as an ‘international terrorist organisation’ under the UK Terrorism Act 2000. The decision was not debated in parliament. Had it been, we might have heard more on the spiralling conflict in Baluchistan and the accusations that Pakistan is committing ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and a ‘slow motion genocide’ against the Baluchi people. We might also have questioned the UK’s motives for proscribing the BLA.

Baluchistan is split across western Pakistan, eastern Iran and southern Afghanistan. Much like the Kurds, the Baluchis are victims of empire, with their resource-rich territory conquered and divided by successive regional powers, from the Persians to the British. It was British colonial rule that determined the modern political geography of Baluchistan, in the 1947 agreement with India that created Pakistan.

The Baluchis resisted their forced assimilation into Pakistan and by the time Bangladesh had gained independence from Pakistan in 1971, they too were demanding greater autonomy from the political elite in Punjab. President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s refusal to grant any meaningful powers to Baluchistan’s first elected body in 1972 resulted in a bloody five-year war in which 3,000 Pakistani soldiers, 5,000 Baluchi fighters and many more civilians were killed.

The Pakistan air force carried out strikes throughout rural Baluchistan and napalm was used as part of a ‘scorched earth’ policy. Iran, concerned about the future aspirations of its own Baluchi minority, also joined the military action. The war ended in 1978 when General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who had ousted Bhutto in a military coup, offered an amnesty to Baluchi fighters.

Almost 30 years on, despite producing more than one third of Pakistan’s natural gas and accounting for only six per cent of the population, Baluchistan remains the country’s most impoverished region. In recent years, acts of violence against the continued presence of Pakistan’s military have increased. These include attacks by the BLA on power facilities, railway lines and military checkpoints. Alleged financial assistance to Baluchi fighters from India and countries in the west, renewed designs on the exploitation of Baluchistan’s natural resources and the presence of Taliban fighters have all fuelled tension in the region.

Following the alleged rape of a Sihndi doctor by a soldier at a hospital in Sui, in January 2005, Baluchi guerrillas launched a crippling attack on the Sui natural gas production facility, Pakistan’s largest. President Pervez Musharraf’s retaliation was swift and merciless. Warning that ‘this is not the 1970s’ and promising that ‘they will not know what’s hit them’, he dispatched Pakistan’s F- 16s and helicopter gunships (newly supplied by the US) into the mountains and deserts of Baluchistan to deliver the kind of collective punishment now all too familiar in occupied lands.

In the past year six Pakistani army brigades and a 25,000- strong paramilitary force have been deployed. Local groups claim that 450 Baluchi politicians and activists have been ‘disappeared’ and that more than 4,000 Baluchis are in detention, many in secret locations without charge or trial. As winter approached, Unicef called for immediate UN food and medical aid to 84,000 Baluchis displaced by the troubles, including 33,000 children, but the federal Pakistani government repeatedly blocked or ignored requests from aid agencies for permission to operate in Baluchistan.

Last August, 79-year-old Nawab Akbar Bugti, a tribal chief, former governor of Baluchistan and leader of its largest political party (the JLP), was assassinated in targeted Pakistani air-strikes. In December, two more prominent nationalist leaders were arrested. Iran has also stepped up its repression of Baluchi activists, arresting hundreds and sentencing many to death; public executions are commonplace. Last week it emerged that the extradition of Rashif Rauf, he of the alleged plot to bring down airliners using liquid explosives fame, could be dependent on Britain returning several prominent Baluchi activists to Pakistan.

The Home Office website provides the following explanation for designating the BLA as ‘terrorist’: ‘BLA are comprised of tribal groups based in the Baluchistan area of Eastern Pakistan [sic], which aims to establish an idependant [sic] nation encompassing the Baluch dominated areas of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.’

The failure even to describe the geography of Baluchistan correctly reflects an ignorant quid pro quo with General Musharaf: we need his help with our ‘war on terrorism’, so we support his. This position is at best counterproductive, and at worst reckless. Pakistan’s crackdown on moderate and anti-Taliban Baluch and Pashtun nationalists is strengthening the Islamist forces that coalition forces are fighting in Afghanistan, while the ISI (Pakistan’s internal security agency) is widely believed to provide extensive support to the Taliban. With crude geopolitics like this, who needs enemies?

INDIA : "INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND MARITIME AFFAIRS – STRATEGIC IMPERATIVES"

The admiral Ak Chatterjee Memorial Lecture by the Hon’ble External Affairs Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee

30/06/2007



“INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND MARITIME AFFAIRS – STRATEGIC IMPERATIVES”

President, Navy Foundation, Kolkata, Rear Admiral Parlikar,
Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Mehta,
Distinguished Officers of the Armed Forces,
Ladies and gentlemen:

It is always a pleasure to be here in Kolkata, a city that has a long and well-deserved tradition of being the intellectual capital of India. Speaking for myself, it is, naturally, always good to be on home ground. However, I am especially pleased to be here today to speak on a subject that is not only of academic or intellectual interest, but also one that is vital to India’s security and the sustenance of her economic development.

I am also particularly gratified at having the opportunity of delivering this lecture in the memory of the late Admiral A.K. Chatterjee. The state of affairs today with regard to the Indian maritime scenario in general and the capabilities of the Indian Navy in particular would have been a source of great joy and pride for someone like Admiral Chatterjee, who was so closely associated with many firsts in the Indian Navy.


As has been noted, Admiral Chatterjee was the first 4-star Admiral of the Indian Navy, an honour he was bestowed with following the induction into the Navy of India's first Aircraft Carrier, the INS Vikrant, which happened during his tenure as the Flag Officer Commanding Indian Fleet. He was also involved with the preparation of plans for both Naval Aviation as well as the Navy's submarine capability. In particular, he played a key role in the creation of the Navy's submarine arm and was closely associated with the induction of the INS Kalvari, India's first submarine, into the fleet. Indeed, on the day of INS Kalvari's arrival in Vishakhapatnam port on 6 July, 1968, Admiral Chatterjee was on hand to welcome it. On the same day, he also laid the foundation of the submarine base building in Vishakhapatnam. The institution of this lecture series in his memory is, therefore, a befitting tribute to a great leader, planner and hero of the Indian Navy.

The simple geographical fact that two thirds of the surface of our planet is covered with water gives rise to a peculiarly intimate relationship between international relations and maritime affairs. Yet, for far too many centuries of our history has India either neglected or devoted insufficient attention to this relationship. Fortunately, after almost a millennia of inward and landward focus, we are once again turning our gaze outwards and seawards, which is the natural direction of view for a nation seeking to re-establish itself not simply as a continental power, but even more so as a ‘maritime’ power — and, consequently, as one that is of significance upon the global stage.


Modern India is fortunate to have inherited a maritime heritage that is rich and diverse, dating back to 3,500 BC. It is a matter of simple and incontestable historical record that, as a civilisational entity, ancient India enjoyed active trade-links with Africa, Arabia, and Mesopotamia, the empires of ancient Persia, Greece, Rome, and China, and a number of kingdoms in Southeast Asia, including present-day Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Then — as now — the wide-ranging nature of this seaborne trade required the assurance of a complex and well-developed maritime strategy. Indeed, from antiquity up to the end of the 12th Century, several Indian kingdoms — especially those in the peninsula — possessed significant sea-going navies of their own.

And yet, although the maritime tradition of India certainly did manifest itself as an overseas presence, this was not a ‘Territorial’ but rather, a ‘Cultural’ and ‘Civilisational’ presence. This historical tradition survives to this very day. It underscores our oft-stated assertion that India has no territorial ambitions and no desire to establish any form of regional or extra-regional hegemony. However, the absence of hegemonistic intent ought not to imply any neglect of security, for it was only when the Indian ruling elites forgot the imperatives of maritime security that ancient and medieval India’s dominance of world trade was lost.


The realisation that this gross neglect of maritime security eventually led to the colonisation of the sub-continent and the consequent loss of India’s very independence for nearly three centuries should make a repetition of this strategic error utterly unaffordable. These harsh lessons of history are not lost upon the modern, independent republic that is India.

‘Maritime power’, in its true sense, is military, political, and economic power, exerted through an ability to use the sea or deny its use to others. It has traditionally been employed to control ‘use-of-the-sea’ activities undertaken by States for their general economic welfare and, often, even for their very survival. Maritime power and naval power are not synonymous, the latter being a sub-set of the former. Indeed, India’s maritime power includes a host of factors that are external to the navy, such as :- (i) the degree of our dependence upon the sea for our economic well-being; (ii) the maritime bent of mind of the government and of the people; (iii) the size and enterprise of the sea-faring population; (iv) our ship-building capability; (v) the size, age, and condition of our merchant fleet – both coastal, and foreign-going; (vi) the percentage of our imports and exports being carried by ships flying our national flag — as opposed to foreign flags, or flags of convenience; (vii) the number, types, and functional efficiency of our major and minor ports (viii) the infrastructure for multi-modal transport of sea-borne goods; and (ix) the state, size, and technological advancement of the coastal and deep-sea fishing fleets — and their geographic spread.


Lest you are led by this argument to assume that our Navy is peripheral to our maritime strategy, I must point out that within the larger maritime canvas, it is our nation’s military maritime power —as embodied by the Indian Navy, supported by the Indian Coast Guard, — that is the enabling instrument that allows all the other components of maritime power to be exercised. It is these ‘enabling’ functions that provide centrality to the Indian Navy within the country’s overall maritime strategy and allow it to act as a versatile and effective instrument of our foreign policy.

It is axiomatic that our maritime strategy can only be conceived in a ‘maritime environment’, which differs in a number of ways from the more familiar ‘land environment’. In the first instance, the natural geo-political condition of the land is to be politically controlled. With the significant exception of Antarctica, nearly all the landmasses of the world today have been politically organised by sovereign States. In sharp contrast, the natural condition of the sea is to be politically uncontrolled. Unlike the case with land, nation-states seek to ‘use’ the sea only for a specific purpose and only for a finite period of time. Consequently, armies most often have ‘occupation’ or ‘eviction’ goals, while Navies have ‘use’ or ‘denial-of-use’ goals.


Secondly, just as a coherent land-based strategy must maintain a close relationship to national laws and regulations, an effective maritime strategy must recognise and retain the intimacy and comprehensiveness of its relationship with International Law. This is because the oceans are an international highway, where ships of all nations ply. Thus, International Law makes it perfectly legal for ships to close the coast of another nation to as little as 12 nautical miles, which is the maximum breadth of any nation’s territorial waters. Even within this 12 nautical mile belt, all ships enjoy rights of ‘Innocent Passage’ as long as their movement and activities are not prejudicial to the interests of the State whose waters they are traversing.

Thirdly, maritime strategy forces us to re-think the nuances of geo-politically fundamental terms such as ‘borders’. In fact, for the ‘land strategist’, there is no border between India and, say, Oman. For the ‘maritime strategist’, however, there very much is, because the medium of the sea transforms every nation which has a coast-line into a “neighbouring” or a “bordering” country!


In this context, let me give a brief overview of the characteristics of our maritime environment. India’s geographical location — at the natural junction of the busy International Shipping Lanes that criss-cross the Indian Ocean — has a major impact upon the formulation of her maritime strategy in support of the pursuit of her national interests. You are, doubtless, aware that in terms of shipping density, the sea area around India is one of the busiest waterways of the world, with over one-hundred-thousand ships transiting the International Shipping Lanes of this region every year. The Straits of Malacca alone account for some sixty-thousand ships annually. India itself has a 7,516 kilometre-long coastline and several far flung island territories. These include the 27 islands of the Lakshadweep chain on our western seaboard and the 572 islands of the Andaman & Nicobar chain to the east. It is of note that the southernmost island of Great Nicobar is only 90 nautical miles from Indonesia, while the northernmost tip of the Andaman is less than 9 nautical miles from Myanmar.


The 13 major and 185 minor ports that mark our coastline constitute the landward-ends of the country’s sea-lines of communication. The development of additional ports is a high-priority activity and is taking place all along the western and eastern seaboards of the country. The decade that is now upon us will see a mega change in the pace of development of Indian ports and harbours and add further value to what is already a critical national maritime interest. In fact, in the furtherance of this interest, India was one of only two countries of the Indian Ocean Region that became fully compliant with the provisions of the International Ship and Port Security Code by the stipulated deadline of 01 July 2004, the other being Singapore. Flowing from and to these ports is the country’s maritime trade and the merchantmen that embody it. Though India’s share of global trade is still quite small, it is growing steadily. We have a modest, but rapidly-growing, merchant-shipping fleet, presently comprising 756 ships and totalling 8.6 million ‘Gross Registered Tonnes’, with an average age of around 17 years as compared to the global average of 20 years.


In terms of foreign trade, as much as 90% by volume and 77% by value transits over the seas. Ensuring the safety and freedom of this seaborne trade of ours is, consequently, a major strategic maritime imperative. More and more of our trade is now with the dynamic economies of the Indian Ocean Region and East Asia. In fact, there have been significant changes in India’s direction of external trade over the past decade-and-a-half. The UAE is today India’s largest export partner. China is emerging as among India’s largest trading partners and trade with South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, too, is extremely significant. In fact, our trade with the countries to our East is now vital to our economic well-being and this, among other things, underscores the growing centrality of the Straits of Malacca.

After trade, the next strategic maritime imperative is energy security. Of all the cargo that moves along the international shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean, perhaps the most critical is energy, as defined by petroleum and petroleum-products. Almost 1,000 million tonnes of oil from West Asia passes close to our shores annually. Some part of this is, of course, destined for our own ports, to feed the increasing demand for energy to fuel our current economic growth. A much greater proportion, however, is destined for the oil-intensive economies of the USA, China and Japan. Today, in fact, almost 45% of all new world oil demand is attributable to the rising energy-needs of China. Over 70% of China’s oil imports come from West Asia and Africa and all of this is transported by sea. We see the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard as major stabilising forces in this great movement of energy across the Indian Ocean, not just for India, but for the world at large.


Our Exclusive Economic Zone, which is set to increase to 2.54 million sq km shortly, is a repository of abundant living and non-living resources. It has enabled India to mitigate, to some extent, her dependence upon foreign sources of energy by way of crude oil, natural gas, and liquid petroleum gas, with about 20% of India’s overall petroleum demand being met by offshore production. Upstream activities, such as exploration and production, are now being undertaken in ever deeper waters, and efforts are underway to exploit fairly promising discoveries in the vicinity of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Any disruption of these activities would impose a cost on our economy that would be adverse in the extreme, and consequently, our foreign and security policy has to ensure that such disruptions are not allowed to occur.


Another major national maritime interest that shapes our maritime strategy including its international law dimension is under-sea mineral resources. At present, India imports nearly all its needs of cobalt and nickel and some 60% of its requirements of copper. Consequently, the plentiful under-sea resources of these scarce minerals in the form of polymetallic nodules form an important national interest. India has been recognised by the United Nations as a pioneer investor in deep sea mining and has been allotted a mining area of some 150,000 square kilometres in the central Indian Ocean. She thus keeps company with such technologically advanced nations as the USA, France and Japan. It is important to note that this mining site is well outside our EEZ. In fact, it is over 1,000 nautical miles — that is, some 1,850 kilometres — from the southern-most tip of the Indian mainland. If we consider Mumbai to be the main port of India, then we are talking about distances in excess of 3,000 kilometres. It would be readily appreciated that our maritime force levels need to be structured accordingly to provide sustained-reach, sea-keeping ability, passage-endurance and staying power.


Because it is so far away and a subject of much romanticism, the importance of Antarctica as a major maritime interest of India is very often underestimated by policy-makers. In actual fact, not only is Antarctica vitally important for the environment, it is a treasure house of potential mineral resources, including petroleum. Moreover, it is an enormous marine storehouse of the foundation of the human food chain, thanks to its abundant holdings of krill. Finally, and this is of the most immediate and continuing importance to India: Antarctica determines, in significant measure, the Indian monsoon — upon which our agriculture, and hence our economy, depends. In this context, we were privileged to host the 30th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Mechanism meeting in New Delhi recently and we continue to be actively engaged in international cooperative activities on preserving Antarctica as a unique and common heritage of mankind.

It would, by now, be obvious that the primary area of Indian maritime interest ranges from the Persian Gulf in the north, to Antarctica in the South, and from the Cape of Good Hope and the East Coast of Africa in the west, to the Straits of Malacca and the archipelagos of Malaysia and Indonesia in the east. It would be equally obvious that as India’s economy and her international role grows, the area of this benign but active engagement will also grow. You only have to look at the investments ONGC Videsh is making in extra-regional but energy-rich areas such as Sakhalin, Sudan, Nigeria and Venezuela to realize how our maritime interests are growing and defining gradually an area beyond the primary one.


I have given you a broad overview of the strategic imperatives that are shaping India’s maritime perspective. If there is one word that defines our current approach to the international dimension of this perspective, it is “engagement”, an engagement that is both active and constructive. We are engaged with a number of nations, including major maritime powers such as US, Russia, France, UK and Japan, in addressing the complex maritime security challenges of the day. Our maritime diplomacy, like our broader diplomatic effort, radiates out in expanding circles of engagement, starting with India’s immediate maritime neighbourhood. As a mature and responsible maritime power, we are contributing actively to capacity building and operational coordination to address threats from non-state actors, disaster relief, support to UN peacekeeping and rescue and extrication missions. To quote an example, in April last year, the Indian Navy undertook Op SUKOON to evacuate 2,280 persons from Lebanon. They included not only Indian nationals but also nationals of Sri Lanka, Nepal, Lebanon, and even the odd Greek! Even while Op SUKOON was at its peak, other ships of our Navy were simultaneously providing help and succour to the earthquake-stricken victims of Indonesia. This simultaneity and comprehensiveness of each of these operations, widely dispersed in geographical terms, demonstrate our maritime reach and versatility.


An important aspect of our maritime engagement is the creation and sustenance of international cooperation for the speedy, effective and humane application of maritime power for regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief operations. It took the terrible Tsunami of 2004 to drive this home with such telling effect. With the more recent example of the Yogyakarta earthquake in Indonesia, the criticality of working towards multilateral interoperability at every stage bears no repetition. This is the aim of some of the recent multinational and bilateral exercises that the navy has undertaken, including the exercise in the Sea of Japan with the US and Japan. In fact, maritime diplomacy is now an essential component of our ‘Look East’ policy. We have concluded bilateral arrangements with Thailand and Indonesia for joint coordinated patrols by the three navies in the Bay of Bengal at the mouth of the Malacca Straits. We are also ready to contribute to capacity building of the Littoral States in maritime security. Southeast Asian navies participate in the bi-annual MILAN exercises. Our cross border development projects with our ASEAN neighbours also have a maritime dimension. For example, the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Facility envisages connectivity between Indian ports on the eastern seaboard and Sittwe Port in Myanmar, thereby providing an alternate route for transport of goods to North-East India.


At the multilateral level and within the maritime domain, we have launched a series of initiatives to provide an inclusive and mutually-consultative forum in which the navies and maritime security agencies of the region — whether large or small — can meet and discuss common issues that bear upon international security. Amongst these initiatives is the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium — IONS — which is being nurtured under the aegis of the Indian Navy and which will be formally launched through an international seminar planned in New Delhi in February 2008. The dialogue in the ASEAN Regional Forum, of which India has been a member since 1996, now includes regular discussions on maritime security issues.

Having elaborated our national maritime strategic interests and their international dimensions, I want to touch on a longer-term shift before concluding. The huge energy-resources of the Indian Ocean Region, the economic and demographic dynamism of countries such as India, China and Vietnam as well as their growing economic importance to the established Asia-Pacific maritime powers, such as the US and Japan, are driving particularly strong maritime connectivities between the Indian and the Pacific Oceans. Indeed the conventional limits of geographic regions are getting increasingly blurred. For example, until recently, East Asia essentially consisted of the Pacific littoral of mainland Asia and the islands of Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines. Post-Cold War, as a ‘strategic’ construct, more than a ‘political’ or ‘economic’ one, ASEAN countries were incorporated into the ‘definition’ of East Asia. In April 2005, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers invited India, Australia and New Zealand to attend the inaugural East Asia Summit, thus widening the ambit of this strategic construct.


India is fully alive to this shift and the need to manage it not only in a non-disruptive manner, but in a synergistic one as well. Pessimists would look for seeds of conflict or at least balance of power scenarios in this oceanic shift. I for one see it as a potential stabilizer, an enabler of greater prosperity, and as another keystone in the edifice of global interdependence. India, with its growing capabilities and confidence, and its history of benign and active international engagement, is ready to contribute its maritime might to ensure such a positive outcome.

Thank you for your attention.

India, Pakistan and Iran Close To Gas Pipeline Deal

voanews.com
By Anjana Pasricha
New Delhi
29 June 2007

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India says it is close to finalizing a deal to transport natural gas from Iran to India via Pakistan. As Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, officials from the three countries have held talks in the Indian capital on the $7 billion project, which has been opposed by the United States.


Indian petroleum minister Murli Deora (center) shakes hands with Iran's special representative of Ministry of Oil Ghanimi Fard (l) before the start of a meeting, in New Delhi, 29 Jun 2007

India's petroleum minister, Murli Deora, said Friday that officials from Iran, India and Pakistan have resolved most issues relating to the gas pipeline that would carry gas from Iran to the two South Asian countries.


The Indian minister spoke to reporters in New Delhi after officials from the three countries held talks on issues such as price mechanisms and transit fees for the $7 billion pipeline.

"I am very glad that they have reached to a great extent on all the sides agreements…maybe small things are still pending," he said.

Indian officials say an Iranian demand to revise the price of natural gas every three years is still to be negotiated. Another pending issue is the transit fee that Pakistan will receive for allowing the flow of gas to India.


Indian officials say ministers from the three countries are expected to meet next month, first in Pakistan and then in Iran, to hammer out the final details.

The 2,600 kilometer pipeline has been billed as a "peace pipeline." It will initially carry around 60 million cubic meters of gas per day starting in 2011 to both India and Pakistan.


India and Pakistan are pressing ahead with the pipeline deal despite strong opposition from the United States, which wants them to abandon the project. Washington feels the mammoth project will undermine its campaign to isolate Tehran, which it accuses of having a clandestine nuclear weapons program.


India and Pakistan, however, say they want to ensure fuel supplies for their energy-hungry economies. They also say the project will strengthen regional cooperation.

Bharat Karnad, a security analyst at the independent Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, says the project has significant benefits for both India and Pakistan.


"The fact of the matter is both countries are enormously energy-starved, so a proximal energy source that you are getting at a reasonable economic cost is hard to resist for either Pakistan or India," said Karnad. "And the fact also is …Iran is a factor in the stability of the region, so you cannot afford to in a sense to make a pariah out of Iran."

Negotiations on the project began in 1994 but were stalled for years as India expressed concern over the safety of the pipeline that would run through Pakistan, its rival for decades. But the project got fresh momentum after tensions eased between the South Asian neighbors following a peace process that began in 2004.

INDIA : Encourage spirit of free questioning , Pranab Mukherjee

Pranab Mukherjee: Encourage spirit of free questioning

OPINION
http://www.business-standard.com/
Pranab Mukherjee / New Delhi July 01, 2007



The constructive participation of the Indian Statistical Institute should be restored at the government level.

As regards the planning for national development, the closeness of Professor Mahalanobis with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru can be traced to 1940, when they began in-depth discussion. In one of his writings, Professor Mahalanobis notes that after a particular day’s work was over, he and Pandit Nehru started talking and continued well past two in the morning.

In India, statistics came to the centre stage in national life through sample surveys consistently conducted since the 1930s by Professor Mahalanobis and his colleagues in the ISI to understand complex problems of national development and social welfare.

This involvement was enhanced when, after independence, Professor Mahalanobis was appointed honorary statistical adviser to the Cabinet. In 1950, through his initiative, the National Sample Survey was undertaken for a socio-economic survey of all-India coverage on a continuing basis. This provided the central government with a database for various developmental programmes for the first time, particularly with respect to the country’s five-year plans. In 1951, the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) was set up at the initiative of Professor Mahalanobis. In 1954, Prime Minister Nehru entrusted him and his colleagues in the institute with the responsibility of preparing the draft Second Five-Year Plan.

During the Cold War era, Professor Mahalanobis was perhaps the only Indian scientist who was equally welcome in the USA and the USSR as well as in China and Japan. This should be a noteworthy precedent, which could have some relevance in the midst of the present cross-currents of globalisation.

Professor Mahalanobis had pointed out, in his well-known speech delivered to the American Statistical Association on November 27, 1964 under the title “Statistics as a Key Technology”, that “it is not difficult to see what is wrong with official statistics in India. … There is lack of appreciation of the need to cross-examine the data, which is the first responsibility of a statistician”. Unfortunately “anything supplied or published by a government office is accepted as reliable. To have any doubt would be a challenge to established authority. The very idea of having cross-checks is frightening as conflicting results arising from independent checks would be ‘confusing’ and must be resisted and is being resisted even today. In this situation, statistical servicing is bound to remain weak despite knowledge of theoretical statistics”.

The constructive participation of the ISI in national policies should be restored at the government level, both at the Centre and in the states, particularly in the context of the recent amendments of the Indian Constitution, which have ushered in a process of decentralisation with emphasis on social justice. This requirement has been stressed by the Third ISI Review Committee, as the report of the review committee noted that “it is important for the institute to keep in view its relevance in the programme of national development and decentralised planning with social justice. This also would require formulation of suitable projects for investigation... A suitable body is needed for this purpose, with members in it who are given to keeping themselves acquainted with national issues and are experienced in concretising long-term plans. They would need to have interest in such developments like the report given by the National Statistical Commission and obtaining inputs from the central and the state planning bodies”.

While the ISI should systematically take up these important tasks, we should encourage the ISI’s cherished tradition of free questioning spirit.

(Excerpts from Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee's speech at the 114th birth anniversary of Professor PC Mahalanobis, June 29, 2007)

India looks seawards to re-establish itself: Pranab

http://www.zeenews.com/znnew/articles.asp?aid=380014&sid=NAT

Kolkata, June 30: India is looking seawards to re- establish itself as not just a continental power but also as a maritime power, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Saturday.

"After almost a millennium of inward and landward focus, we are again turning our gaze outwards and seawards, which is the natural direction of view for a nation seeking to re- establish itself not simply as a continental power but even more so as a maritime power," Mukherjee said while delivering the Admiral A K Chatterji memorial lecture here.

Mukherjee, who was Defence Minister before taking over as External Affairs Minister, said India has no territorial ambitions and no desire to establish any form of regional or extra-regional hegemony.

"However, the absence of hegemonistic intent ought not to imply any neglect of security, for it is when the Indian ruling elites forgot the imperatives of maritime security that ancient and medieval India's dominance of world trade was lost," he said.

Maritime power, in its true sense, is military, political and economic power exerted through an ability to use the sea or deny its use to others, he said.

India's exclusive Maritime Economic zone will soon increase to 2.54 million sq km and this will bring to the country immense wealth through exploration of undersea mineral resources and oil, he pointed out.

To add to this treasure trove, the UN has allotted India 1.5 lakh sq km for deep sea mining in the mid-Indian Ocean and this will help the country get access to huge energy resources, he remarked.

Bureau Report



Indo-Asian News Service
Kolkata, June 30, 2007
First Published: 23:47 IST(30/6/2007)
Last Updated: 23:54 IST(30/6/2007)




India is turning its gaze seawards to re-establish itself not simply as a continental power, but even more so as a maritime power, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in Kolkata on Saturday while underscoring the importance of maritime security for economic development of the country.

Contending that there was a "peculiarly intimate relationship between international relations and maritime affairs," Mukherjee said that India is now trying to make up for neglect of this vital area which is also crucial for the country's energy security as most of petroleum products are transported through sea lanes.

"Yet, for far too many centuries of our history has India either neglected or devoted insufficient attention to this relationship," the minister said while delivering Admiral A K Chatterjee Memorial Lecture at Bhasha Bhawan in Kolkata.

"Fortunately, after almost a millennia of inward and landward focus, we are once again turning our gaze outwards and seawards, which is the natural direction of view for a nation seeking to re-establish itself not simply as a continental power, but even more so as a 'maritime' power - and, consequently, as one that is of significance upon the global stage," he said.

In the same breath, the minister, however, added that India has no territorial ambitions and no desire to establish any form of regional or extra-regional hegemony.

Terming maritime diplomacy an essential component of India's 'Look East Policy', Mukherjee said India has concluded bilateral arrangements with Thailand and Indonesia for joint coordinated patrols by the three navies in the Bay of Bengal at the Malacca Straits.

"We are also ready to contribute to capacity building of the Littoral States in maritime security," he said, reiterating that India's cross-border development projects with ASEAN nations have a maritime dimension.

He said the Kaladan Multi-modal Transit Transport Facility envisages connectivity between Indian ports on the eastern seaboard and Switte Port in Myanmar, thereby providing an alternate route for transport of goods to northeast India.

Underlining the importance of India's strategic location at the natural junction of the busy international shipping lanes that criss-cross the Indian Ocean, Mukherjee said that this gross neglect of maritime security "eventually led to the colonisation of the subcontinent".

"The realisation that this gross neglect of maritime security eventually led to the colonisation of the subcontinent and the consequent loss of India's very independence for nearly three centuries should make a repetition of this strategic error utterly unaffordable," he said.

Alluding to "strong maritime connectivities" between the Indian and the Pacific Oceans, Mukherjee said that India was "fully alive to this shift and the need to manage it not only in a non-disruptive manner, but in a synergistic one as well".

"Pessimists would look for seeds of conflict or at least balance of power scenarios in this oceanic shift. I for one see it as a potential stabilizer, an enabler of greater prosperity, and as another keystone in the edifice of global interdependence," he said.

"India, with its growing capabilities and confidence, and its history of benign and active international engagement, is ready to contribute its maritime might to ensure such a positive outcome," Mukkherjee added.

"As a mature and responsible maritime power, we are contributing actively to capacity building and operational coordination to address threats from non-state actors, disaster relief, support to UN peacekeeping and rescue and extrication missions," he said.

"We see the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard as major stabilising forces in this great movement of energy across the Indian Ocean, not just for India, but for the world at large," the minister stressed.

Not A Cuddly Panda, But A Fiery Dragon : Burmese Perspective

Policy Paper from the Burmese Perspective : Not A Cuddly Panda, But A Fiery Dragon
Sun, 2007-07-01 01:59

Prof. Kanbawza Win
http://www.asiantribune.com/index.php?q=node/6355

A Burmese saying goes the snake sees the legs of another snake, meaning we Asian can see the motive of another Asian. For decades people from the Dragon throne have laboured to portray that China is benign, well mannered, and friendly and have no ulterior motive whatsoever and is to be counted as the front man in the community of civilized nations. Now to the world, seems that their labour has paid off for the Chinese Dragon appeared to be not so scary and once the visceral fear felt in many of the business quarters had quieten and President, Hu Jintao’s “Peaceful Rising” has swayed some of the hearts and minds.

Gone are the days when the Chinese army help the BCP (Burma Communist Party) and party to party relations was not with the ruling BSPP (Burma Socialist Programme Party) but with the biggest rebel force of Burma exporting revolution in every neighbouring country. Chairman Mao, which the Beijing Radio coined a new vocabulary in Burmese as Ma Hà Ma Har (r[mhr[m) Mao Tse Tung (not change to pin yin Mao Hse Dong yet) topped the Western world rogues. Now a tectonic shift in global power, elicits an international response is free trade, which may explain why the Caucasian tend to over look its less savory aspects.

As far as Southeast Asia is concerned China has effectively blocked the United States only in politics such as ARF or economically as ASEAN plus one or ASEAN plus three or even the Mekong projects, etc. Obviously all these make a perfect sense in the context of an on going region trade boom linking China. It was able to make the former rival economies to cooperate and integrate with China controlling the economic say from Tokyo, passed through Southeast Asia on to New Delhi and Mumbai (Bombay)

In Southeast Asia only the Vietnamese and the Burmese are wary of the Chinese encroaches. These are the only two peoples that have fought the Chinese for more than 2,000 years. The Indians have fought only very lately in the 60s. Every Burmese remember the battle of Ngasounggyan in1287 when the Chinese Mongols ended the first Burmese dynasty better known as the Pagan Dynasty and of course with fond pride when the Burmese monarch Hsinbyushin defeated the flower of the Chinese army invading our country posing as Yunannese army in 1768. The defeat of the Red Chinese army in the latest Sino Vietnamese War in 1979 ending the modern communist myth that a socialist country will never attack another socialist count, is still fresh among the Vietnamese who now trust more of their former enemy, America than the neighboring China. It seems that the world have not experienced the wrath of yellow peril.

In Africa, China’s emergence as the largest outside investor and the trading partner can be construed as a mixed blessings. In the late 2006 as the Sino-African summit in Shanghai attended by 48 African countries and dignitaries highly praised Beijing’s promised to double trade with Africa in 2010 by 100 billion dollars. But China’s minded purpose of raw materials and the way it has flooded the local markets with low cost clothing and other consumer goods have concerns that African economy will remain extraction based and never achieve the kind of manufacturing led revival which most of the Asian countries including Burma managed in the 60s.

On the surface, all appears well and good as the PRC and African states strengthen their partnerships. China’s strategy meets the immediate developmental objectives of the partnership. However, it fails to balance human and social costs with attendant economic growth. This imbalance, in conjunction with failure to adhere to international normative frameworks and practices, threatens to undermine the long-term ambitions of both China and other nations. The Chinese offer of an interest-free loan with no accounting required and on the terrain of traditional aid providers has caused apprehension among policy makers at the IMF and World Bank. They fear China’s pursuit of its narrow economic self-interests, coupled with its practice of noninterference, will prop up dubious regimes, produce a new cycle of unsustainable debt, and damage antipoverty efforts across the continent.

The Chinese Diaspora in Burma run everything from grocery stores and building material shops to restaurants and corner stores in even the most remote provincial towns. Beijing has zeroed in on pariah states like Sudan and Burma where Western firms are either barred by sanctions or constrained from doing business because of concerns over human rights, repressive policies, labor standards and security issues. The thirst of the of China for commodities and its no-holds barred approach, together with its close political relationships with rogue elites, has led to an explosion in Sino-African and Sino Burma trade.

Isn’t this a Chinese neocolonialism, seeing a re-run of the policies of Western countries 20-30 years ago, while China has a poor human rights record and its disregard for international frameworks for accountability? The elites in Burma Nigeria, Ethiopia, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Angola do not seem to share these sentiments. The Western donors tend to place on transparency and human rights. This reality is nowhere more evident than in Burma which provides a classic example of the negative dynamic critics point to when analyzing Sino-Burma ties. As Western nations have imposed sanctions, divested and pulled their companies out of Rangoon, China has taken the opposite tack - heavily investing in the oil-rich nation.

With the Shwe Gas pipe line in Arakan state, Rangoon is expected to supply progressively more of the People’s Republic of China’s energy needs. ‘Development by China’ is a calculated move on Beijing’s part. The presence of a Chinese Diaspora and access to coveted business contracts for Chinese companies are all linked to one powerful card Beijing wields - its tied aid and loans. The Burmese democrats predict that Burma will soon become the “Autonomous Region of China” like Tibet. This is a peaceful Chinese colonialism without an empire.

Chinese investment in Burma, like any shot in the arm, appears good for the Burmese people in the short term. Although the benefits of money flowing in right now are accruing to the military elites, the potential for the net of benefits spreading wider is undeniable. The Burmese Generals need to rectify its current plight is to focus on strengthening the institutions needed to correct its problems -- the state, the legal framework, corporate business, trade unions, rule of law and the political party system. Local political will is one half of the equation.

Need a Rethinking of the US Policy

The strategic landscape in Southeast Asia has begun to change in ways that demand a rethinking of U.S. policy towards Burma. China's economic and military capabilities have grown dramatically at a time when China's traditional security concern, Russia, has faded. Japan remains a long-term, but not an immediate security problem for China. This has left China free, in geopolitical terms, to shift its attention to the south. The most striking manifestation of this development has been a very assertive policy toward the South China Sea; i.e., the entire sea and all the land outcroppings within it are claimed as Chinese sovereign territory. This has been accompanied by a number of statements from senior Chinese civilian and military officials that seem to presage a kind of Chinese Mon-roe Doctrine for South-east Asia-a modern reprise of the historic preponderance of the Middle Kingdom. This, plus China's recent resort to bare knuckled military intimidation aimed at Taiwan, has reinforced a growing perception in Southeast Asia of China as a major security factor-and perhaps a threat. The discovery of Chinese facilities on a reef near to, and claimed by, the Philippines did nothing to dispel these concerns.

Southeast Asian uneasiness concerning Beijing's capabilities and intentions also has been fed by China's growing presence in Burma. On August 6, 1988, even as pro-democracy demonstrators clashed with police in Rangoon, China and Burma signed a border-trade agreement. Two months later a high level Burmese delegation went to China and the first shipment of Chinese arms arrived in Burma the following August. Thus began an increasingly intense relationship that has seen Burma drawn deep into China's embrace.

Veteran Southeast Asia correspondent, Bertil Lintner, recounts a conversation with a Chinese resident on the Burmese border who described one night time convoy of over 500 military trucks crossing the border from China headed south. Economically, China's presence, particularly in northern Burma, has exploded. In 15 years cross border trade went from $15 million to over $800 million on to one billion dollars. A flood of inexpensive Chinese goods now dominate the Burmese consumer market. Large numbers of Chinese traders and undocumented immigrants have changed the demographic profile of northern Burma. Today, Mandalay is described by Burmese visitors as a predominantly Chinese city dominated by Chinese money.

Chinese construction crews are now building and upgrading highways, bridges, and railroads through northern Burma to the sea, while Chinese officials describe Burma as a potential lucrative outlet to the Indian Ocean for Chinese trade. There has been occasional speculation, and some official concern, in Southeast Asia that China seeks more than trade along Burma's coast. Lintner reports: "Most alarming, from the perspective of ASEAN, was the fact that some of the equipment for the Burmese navy had to be installed and at least partially maintained by Chinese technicians. To ASEAN strategists, this meant that the Chinese had gained a toehold in the maritime region between India and Southeast Asia for the first time."

From a geopolitical perspective, Burma's approach to its huge northern neighbor is anomalous. The obvious point is that Burma has developed increasingly close ties with the only country in the world, that is in a position to seriously threaten its vital security interests. The issue is whether the Burmese Generals have fully thought through the implications of their policy. When this question was posed to Burmese military intelligence officers, it was evident that the whole issue was the subject of great interest and no little controversy among them. The Burma-China connection has captured the attention of ASEAN. The basic ASEAN approach to Burma has been "Constructive Engagement," i.e., normal relations with an effort to build economic and political ties to Rangoon. As such it is diametrically opposed to U.S. policy and has been the subject of recurring debate between ASEAN and Washington. ASEAN believes that a policy of isolation and pressure toward Burma only heightens the regime's insecurity, causing it to resort to greater repression at home and to turn to it’s only perceived friend abroad-China. China is using Burma to extend its military and political reach in the region.

An economic relapse will have the pernicious effect of reinforcing the Junta's siege mentality, exacerbating its tendency toward police state methods. Such an economically hard pressed regime will be likely to increase its collaboration in the narcotics trade and to turn to China. The result will be more cross border migration and increasing control of the economy by well-capitalized Chinese traders, at least in the northern parts of the country. More far-fetched, but not impossible, is an absorption of some of the country along the lines of Tibet. For many ethnic groups, their historical experience with the Chinese has been better than that with the Burmese, and the de facto territorial integrity of a poor, weak, and divided nation cannot be taken for granted.

Current US policy toward Burma authentically reflects American political values and is morally validated by the long record of human rights outrages by the Burmese regime. But Washington must ask itself whether current policy meets two other tests: First, does it have any realistic prospect of success in altering the character of the Burmese regime? And secondly does it jeopardize U.S. strategic and foreign policy interests in Southeast Asia, particularly as they relate to China and ASEAN? Chinese investment in Burma is grossly underestimated because it does not go through the National Investment Board. Chinese trade seems greatly undervalued and Chinese immigration into Burma has been extensive (estimates range from three to four million Chinese now in the country, compared to several hundred thousand before 1988). Three quarter of Mandalay is said to be Yunnanese Chinese, as is one-half of Lashio and the major Burmese cities.

Nor is there any open Chinese sympathy for the plight of its leader, Daw Suu, held under house arrest at her home outside Rangoon for nearly a dozen year? Within Burma, critics of NLD policies call for greater efforts to forge ties between the Burmese opposition and China, arguing that such a strategy would undermine the military regime’s propagandistic claim that Suu Kyi is just a puppet of the West. It can’t have escaped Beijing’s notice that Suu Kyi has never openly criticized China or its ties with Rangoon. Chinese foreign policy pundits must also be aware that Suu Kyi has also never expressed clearly pro-Western sentiments. Her aides describe her as a nationalist and maintain she would never, for instance, allow an American military presence in Burma—another source of comfort for Beijing. But the people at the Dragon throne deliberately did not do anything with Daw Suu, lest their support to the Junta might wane.

Burma offers China a direct route to the Indian Ocean, and railroad and oil pipeline projects are under scrutiny in Beijing and Rangoon. The oil pipeline would connect Kunming, capital of China’s Southwestern Yunnan Province, and Akyab on the Burmese coast, cutting 1,200 km from the present sea route between the Persian Gulf and China’s Guangdong Province, via the Straits of Malacca. More than 60 percent of China’s oil travels this route

The Invisible Pressure

China is generally pretty thick-skinned about human-rights criticisms. Its practices at home leave much to be desired, and it does business with more than its share of unsavory regimes abroad. But genocide to the ethnic Karen is different, and Beijing knows it. China is already embarrassed by its support for Burma in vetoing the UN Security Council. Surely Beijing does not want the world to see it as the main obstacle to sending a U.N. force to end the killing in Burma. But right now, that is exactly the case. Other countries, like Russia, are also hanging back. But if China dropped its objections, they would probably follow its lead.

China's leaders now see Burma as the cornerstone of their strategy toward Southeast Asia. It is no coincidence that the generals announced the planned resumption of the National Convention in mid-July just as the Junta's Prime Minister Thein Sein arrived in southwest China. He briefed senior Chinese leaders on the country's constitutional drafting process and the subsequent referendum. Thein Sein was given a lesson in Chinese-style democracy as he was the guest of China's parliament, the National People's Congress. This is likely to involve borrowing some significant components from the Chinese system - and may mean adopting a National People's Congress approach to parliamentary democracy and following the Chinese constitution on giving some form of ceremonial autonomy to ethnic areas.

But, China's leaders have consistently feared that Burma's military junta lacked real legitimacy and could collapse overnight, leaving Beijing powerless and its military and economic investment in the regime worthless, according to a senior CCP cadre who deals with foreign-policy issues. China's greatest fear remains that Burma is extremely unstable and poses a security risk, especially along its southern border. More than a million Chinese - farmers, workers and business people - have crossed into Burma in the past 10 years and are working and living there. The Chinese authorities fear that any upheaval in Burma would result in a mass exodus of Chinese back across the border, creating increased industrial and social unrest in their sensitive border regions.

China's other concern is that Burma's economy, far from expanding and producing business and investment opportunities for Chinese businesses, especially those based in bordering Yunnan province, is actually contracting. Two decades ago, China's leaders and economists saw that the development of their relatively backward southwestern provinces would rely on expanding bilateral trade with its southern neighbors, particularly Burma. So far Burma has not fulfilled that early promise.

In the past few years, Chinese businesses and government enterprises have boosted their investment in Burma - Lashio, Mandalay and Muse are virtually Chinese cities now. The Chinese are also involved in the building of a special tax-free export zone around the port of Rangoon. For the Chinese authorities, Burma has also become a strategic transit point for goods produced in southern China. They want to transport these by road to the Rangoon port for shipment to India, the Middle East and eventually Europe. Repair work is under way on Burma's antiquated internal road system that links southern China through Mandalay to Rangoon. Now there are plans to rebuild the road through northern Burma to northeastern India. The Chinese have agreed to finance the construction of this highway using 40,000 Chinese construction workers, according to Asian diplomatic sources in Rangoon. Some 20,000 would remain after the work was completed to do maintenance work on the road. "Soon, the northern region of Burma will be swamped by the Chinese - government officials, workers, truck drivers and businessmen” said Larry. It will no longer be Burma, but the autonomous region of China as Prof. Dr Khin Maung Kyi has predicted in his special lecture at the AEIOU, the Burmese university in Diaspora. The Chinese authorities are planning to use Burma as a crucial transit point, not just for the products grown or manufactured in southwestern China, but as a way of transporting goods from the country's economic powerhouses along the eastern seaboard. By shifting the transit route away from the South China Sea and the Malacca Strait to using Burma's port facilities to reach South Asia, the Middle East and Europe, they hope to avoid the dangers of crowded shipping lanes and pirates - the Malacca dilemma, as Beijing calls it,

Some time ago, the Chinese authorities decided that the only way to insure their existing investment in Burma was to strengthen economic and business ties with Burma," said a Chinese government official. China already has major oil and gas concessions in western Burma, and is planning overland pipelines to bring it to southern China from Akyab to Kunming. The Chinese have also agreed to finance and build several major hydroelectric power stations in northern Burma.

But Beijing is also well aware that the Junta's failure to implement political reform may backfire, not only on Burma, but on China as well and is slowly but silently pressuring the Burmese Generals. Already under increased international criticism for its unswerving support for what the international community regards as pariah states - especially Burma, North Korea, Sudan and Zimbabwe - Beijing has begun to take a more active role in trying to influence its allies to be more flexible. That has certainly been the case as far as Burma is concerned. Beijing has been far more proactive behind the scenes in pressing the country's military rulers to introduce political and economic reform as quickly as possible.

The Chinese are now pressing both the US and Burma, behind the scenes, to start a secret dialogue to try to overcome some of the issues that keep Burma internationally isolated. Beijing is also unimpressed by Burma's nuclear ambitions, and the recent deal with Moscow to build a nuclear reactor in the country. China's leaders have already communicated their displeasure, according to Chinese government source, and warned them that they cannot rely on Chinese assistance if anything goes wrong.

According to Larry Jagan, China's leaders were also extremely annoyed at Burma's re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Pyongyang. "They no longer trust North Korea and were dismayed that two important neighbors had effectively gone behind their backs and resumed relations," said a Chinese government source. Officially, of course, Beijing welcomed the development. But despite these irritations, China's leaders realized that Burma is its strongest ally in Southeast Asia. For some time Beijing has eyed suspiciously the growing US influence, especially in what it regards as its back yard and natural sphere of influence - Cambodia and Vietnam, and to some extent in Laos as well.

China's leaders now fear that in Thailand the opposition Democrat Party is going to sweep back into power if elections are held according to plan in December. The Chinese see the Democrats as avowedly pro-US and have already threatened to overhaul or rescind the free-trade agreement between Bangkok and Beijing.

China's only trustworthy and truly anti-American ally in the region is Burma, Rangoon has become increasingly important to Beijing and seen as pivotal to its relationship with Southeast Asia as a whole. While there may still be irritations between the junta and China's leaders, neither side is going to allow them to endanger what over the past six months has become a very special relationship indeed. It is one in which Beijing is likely increasingly to give the Burmese Junta everything it wants, what ever the case the Burmese ethno democratic forces stands little to gain.

On 26th instant following testimony and an open debate, the UNSC has call for the rule of law and judicial redress to be respected and implemented. "If there is one thing we need to do above all, it is to end the culture of impunity which underlies so many abuses," stated United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes, while the United States Deputy Ambassador, Jackie Sanders, told the Council that "there are widespread reports of serious human rights abuses, including rape, by Burmese military personnel in conflict areas and other ethnic minority areas." She went on to infer that there comes a time when, due to the lack of political will or capability of domestic government, the international community should consider intervening in the affairs of member states. The people of Burma are just yearning for that day.

- Asian Tribune -