September 01, 2007

Iran-Pakistan hold talks on Peace Pipeline

ISNA - Tehran
Service: Economy

TEHRAN, Sep. 01 (ISNA)-Iran and Pakistan are currently holding talks on the Peace Pipeline project.

Iran's representative to these talks said, "Currently we are holding talks with Pakistan on the Peace Pipeline project and both sides are reviewing the agreement draft."

Hojatollah Ghanimifar expressed hope that this draft is approved and agreed upon within the three day talks which are held in Islamabad.

The Iran-India-Pakistan gas pipeline, also known as the Peace pipeline, is a proposed 2,775 km gas pipeline project to deliver natural gas from Iran to Pakistan and India. The project is expected to take three to five years to complete and would cost $ 7 billion.

The project is expected to greatly benefit both India and Pakistan which do not have sufficient natural gas to meet their rapidly increasing domestic demand for energy.

India is predicted to require 400 million cubic meters of gas per day by 2025, up from 90 million cubic meters per day in 2005.

The project was conceptualized in 1989 by R. K. Pachauri in partnership with Ali Shams Ardekani, former deputy foreign minister of Iran. Pachauri proposed the plan to both the Iranian and the Indian governments in 1990. The Government of Iran responded positively to the proposal. At the annual conference of the International Association of Energy Economics, 1990, Ardekani backed Pachauri's proposal.

The pipeline is proposed to start from Asalouyeh stretching over 1100 kilometers in Iran itself. In Pakistan, it will pass through Baluchistan and Sind. The total cost of the project was estimated to be over $ 7 billion in 2006. The 2,600-kilometer pipeline from Iran’s giant South Pars gas field will initially carry around 60 million standard cubic meters per day of gas.

The deal reached a setback on July 16, 2006 when Iran demanded a price of 7.2 dollars per mBtu of gas against India's offer of 4.2 dollars per mBtu.

India and Pakistan finally agreed in February 2007 to pay Iran $4.93 per million British thermal units for its gas but some details relating to price adjustment remained open to further negotiation.

End Item

HYDERABAD : What works for the South, works against it too

Aditya Ghosh, Hindustan Times

Hyderabad, September 02, 2007
First Published: 00:11 IST(2/9/2007)
Last Updated: 00:58 IST(2/9/2007)

They are brand ambassadors of a transforming India. Everyone realises their advantages and are migrating to this part of the country — technologists, scientists, bankers, MBAs, doctors, nurses. And terrorists.

Ironically, the reasons any aspiring professional would consider while shifting base to Bangalore or Hyderabad are the same as those that are attracting terrorists, says Sushant Mahapatra, Bangalore’s additional director general of police (cyber offence division).

As the upwardly mobile flock to Hyderabad and Bangalore for basking in the glory of India’s IT boom, for better connectivity, for the boom in real estate, and for a cosmopolitan culture — they are catching the attention of troublemakers aiming at India’s knowledge hubs.

Both the cities offer a high degree of technical support, particularly in IT, which helps the terrorists not only to network but also to draw up plans, which are believed to be becoming more and more “technologically sophisticated”. “The pace of growth in technology and the networking possibilities have caught the administration unawares. As they delay to react in forming counter strategies and put a safety system in place, people exploit the possibilities,” says Mahapatra. This aids their logistics directly, he says, adding that the Internet has now become the most important element in terror logistics.

The Logistics

According to intelligence officers, logistics — the real, not the virtual — is one thing that works better for terrorists when they operate from the South. With the HuJI and ISI having chosen Bangladesh as a base of operations, the road route through India that connects Kolkata with Hyderabad, Bangalore and Mumbai is flowing with cadres from terrorist cells.

“The Bangladesh border in West Bengal is the most porous and is a favourite entry point for terrorists. Bangalore is the next logical stop. Hyderabad is in between and offers a perfect hideout, with over 45 per cent of the population belonging to the minority community,”
says a senior intelligence official from West Bengal. He adds: “Hyderabad offers another advantage — it gets a lot of visitors from the Middle East.” Choosing safe houses in the nearby towns of Hampi and Visakhapatnam, too, is convenient.

The finances

Hardly any Indian city can beat Bangalore in real estate growth at present. And that’s attracting a large number of fly-by-night property dealers. “Nowhere else do you have an appreciation rate touching 400 per cent in a year or two. That’s big enough to attract investors from terror outfits,” says a builder on the condition of anonymity. He admits that he regularly hosts visitors from Arab countries at his MG Road office in the Garden City.

Miscreants are not only doubling up as agents who earn a few quick bucks, say the police. “There is a nexus between many of the agents and those who invest, both with dubious backgrounds,” says an official. He claims that intelligence agencies have specific information on members of insurgent groups using Bangalore to generate funds through investing money in property on behalf of their organisations.

The administration has been tipped off, but it is yet to find a solution. “We are trying to evolve a system to register all agents and cancel a deal if the agent does not have a licence,” says Karnataka home minister MP Prakash.

Cosmopolitanism of terror?

“It is always safe if you are in cosmopolitan surroundings. Migration to the southern cities has increased rapidly, and it is all the more easy for the terrorists to hide,” says MA Thimappa, psychologist and former vice-chancellor of Bangalore University.

“Why only Muslim fundamentalists? Even Naxals are making fast inroads into the city. These people are intelligent and are members of different global communities who share their thoughts over the Internet. In a cosmopolitan set-up, it is easier to find sympathisers as well,” Thimappa adds. Also, the number of students coming to the southern states has doubled over the past two years. “We realised how the student community in Bangalore and Hyderabad was becoming a part of globalised students movements. While people are free to interact with different beliefs, it is also important that they should not be misled,” says Ateequr Rahman, general secretary (south zone) at the Students Islamic Organisation.


The people championing growth in the region also understand that development has added to their responsibility of warding off attempts of unrest. IT, the industry which started propelling the growth, is now trying to play a pivotal role in tackling terror.

Bevin Thomas, joint director of Electronic City Industries Association in Bangalore, claims that trust has taken a beating. Now, at several IT campuses in the city, employees need to pass through retina mapping, and are not given access to anything but their immediate work domains. Suspicion is stalking the air.

Says Karthik Shekhar, general secretary, Union for Information & Technology Enabled Services India, a welfare association for IT employees across the country: “The battle is really between the speed of thought and that of technology. Till now, in Bangalore, the latter has won hands down.” The future may not be so sure.

In Hyderabad, the Software Exporters’ Association has floated a security council for employee safety. In this first such formal private security arrangement for an industry and an area, it plans to install electronic security and surveillance systems. “We need to have the system as it seems too vulnerable now. We cannot afford to be targeted or provide shelter for such activities,” says Mallikarjun Rao, secretary of the council.

Pakistan: Systemic Change in the Making

Source: Stratfor
Stratfor's Free Intelligence Reports
August 31, 2007 21 29 GMT


It no longer is a matter of if, but of when Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf will leave the helm in Islamabad. The judiciary and the man he ousted from power, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, are threatening to throw a monkey wrench into his evasive maneuvers. The issue, however, now turns from the day-to-day drama of internal Pakistani politics to the much deeper issue of whether Musharraf's fall from grace will be paralleled by that of the Pakistani military as a whole.


Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced Aug. 30 that he will return to Pakistan from forced exile Sept. 10. The same day, another exiled former leader, Benazir Bhutto, announced breakthroughs in negotiations with President Gen. Pervez Musharraf that would ease the general out of power. Meanwhile, the country's Supreme Court began proceedings on petitions challenging on constitutional grounds Musharraf's bid to seek re-election.

Stratfor forecast months ago that Musharraf would have to concede his position as military chief if he intended to stay on as a civilian president, and that he would have no choice but to work out a political agreement with Pakistan's opposition parties, specifically Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party. Prompted by advice from his closest aides, Musharraf is now quietly working toward securing an honorable exit from the scene. He could be forced to throw in the towel sometime after the appointment of a successor military chief on or around Oct. 8.

Once Musharraf vacates the presidency, events will pretty much unfold as per the constitution -- the way they did when the death in 1988 of Pakistan's last military dictator, Gen. Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq, created a power vacuum. A caretaker government headed by an acting president and an interim premier will be charged with holding fresh legislative elections, which will likely produce a highly divided parliament resulting in a coalition government.

Beyond the change in political personalities and groups, a far more important shift will take place in Pakistan in the coming months. For the first time since the army took control of the state in 1958 under Field Marshal Ayub Khan, the military's grip on the reins of the state is in the process of weakening.

This did not happen even when Pakistan's second military dictator, Gen. Yahya Khan, stepped down in 1971 after civil war led to the secession of a major chunk of the country and the surrender of some 100,000 troops to Indian forces. Neither did it happen when Zia-ul-Haq and his top generals died in a mysterious plane crash, ending his 11-year stint. In both cases, the military merely went into the background for some years -- only to return when the politicians could not agree to disagree. Even when the army was not directly ruling, the civilian leaders had to look over their shoulders continuously to see whether the generals were still with them nearly each step of the way.

That was in the past, however, when there were essentially two players in Pakistan -- the army and the political parties. Today, a vibrant civil society and increasingly independent and assertive judiciary have emerged within the country.

The empowerment of Pakistan's civil society was catalyzed by Musharraf's ill-fated decision to sack Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry in March. Chaudhry, breaking with tradition, would not fold, which set in motion a series of events that, within a matter of days, energized bar associations across the country. In turn, this emboldened the judiciary to assert its independence and challenge the military's hold on power.

The Supreme Court already has asserted its power, reversing a number of the Musharraf regime's decisions. The court reinstated the chief justice, released a top Musharraf opponent who was jailed on charges of treason and ensured Sharif's right of return. The judiciary also has taken steps to limit interference by the military and the intelligence agencies in matters of governance.

Meanwhile, the country's media, particularly the private television news channels, also have emerged as a powerful driver of events. In the wake of the judicial crisis, Musharraf tried June 4 to place restrictions on the electronic media through new ordinances empowering the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to block transmissions, suspend licenses and confiscate equipment of electronic media organizations deemed in violation of the new laws. But five days later, under intense domestic and international pressure, he was forced to withdraw the controversial restrictions.

Pakistan also has witnessed an unprecedented surge in civil society activism. Instead of the political parties that historically have led protests, civil society groups -- especially the legal syndicates -- drove the protests during the legal crisis. There also has been an unprecedented outbreak of social debate on national issues, not only regarding the military's role in politics but also on the issue of rule of law. This debate has included criticism of men in uniform, as well as politicians.

All of this has been made possible by several structural changes that took shape mostly during the first seven years of Musharraf's rule. In order to counter the perception that he was a military dictator, Musharraf created a hybrid political system with a significant civilian component. Despite having manipulated the constitution on a number of occasions, he relied heavily on it to strengthen his grip on authority. In the process, he inadvertently strengthened the country's constitutional roots, which is now weakening the very power he consolidated.

Even within the military, Musharraf's repeated reshuffling of positions has contributed to his own undoing. It has brought to the fore a junior crop of generals that is inexperienced in politics and government. For a long time, this worked to his advantage by preventing any of his subordinates from rising up to challenge him. Now, however, as he faces challenges from Pakistan's civilian sectors, his top generals are unable and/or unwilling to support him.

In essence, the law of unintended consequences has worked against Musharraf. Moreover, it has weakened the military's ability to dominate the state. For now, this is limited to the political sphere. Eventually, the judicial branch can be expected to empower the legislative branch by forcing the military and the intelligence community to open up their books to parliamentary scrutiny. The weakening of the military's hold over the country's economic sector will be the next stage in the ongoing systemic change.

The question moving forward is: How far will the military's grip slacken before arrestors force the generals to take a firmer role? For now, the trend is running against the military -- and historical positions are being reversed. As the civilians entrench their power, it is the military -- not the civilian politicians -- that will mostly have to contend with limitations imposed by the judiciary. And civil society will serve as the watchdog.

And yet, there are plenty of issues that have the potential to topple this emerging civilian structure, such as the ability of Sharif and Bhutto to get along with one another and cooperate in order to check the military's power; the Islamists' level of power in the political system; the level of security in the country's Northwest; the status of the war on terrorism; the amount of pressure from the United States; and, of course, how India reacts to the changing political dynamic in Islamabad.

Any of these issues could lead to the military's return. Pakistan might be moving into the hands of civilians, but half a century of political culture does not die easily.


By B.Raman

(I was in Chengdu, China, from August 26 to 31,2007, for a discussion on likely threats to security at the Beijing Olympics of 2008. Hence was not in a position to write on the Hyderabad blasts of August 25,2007, except for a small piece for, which was carried by it on August 26 morning. This article seeks to answer some of the questions received from readers in my absence)


The Pakistani jihadi terrorist organisations look upon Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh and Junagadh in Gujarat as rightfully belonging to Pakistan because, according to them, the then rulers of these two States, who were Muslims, had pronounced themselves in favour of the two States acceding to Pakistan at the time of the Partition of India in 1947. They allege that the Government of Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister, rejected their stand and forcibly occupied these States. They further accuse the Government of India of having followed double standards in 1947. According to them, the Government of India sent troops to Jammu & Kashmir on the ground that the then ruler of the State, who was a Hindu, had acceded to India, but they incorporated Hyderabad and Junagadh in India despite the expressed preference of the ex-rulers, who were Muslims, for accession to Pakistan. When the Government of India took military action in Hyderabad after 1947 to put down the rule of the Nizam and arrest the pro-Pakistan members of his Government, many of them escaped to Karachi. From there, they had been canvassing with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the various ISI-sponsored jihadi terrorist organisations to take up the cause of Hyderabad. The Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) was the first to come out in 1995 with a statement explaining that it looked upon J&K as the gateway to India and that after having "liberated" J&K from "Hindu rule", it would "liberate" not only Hyderabad and Junagadh, but also the Muslims living in other parts of India. The Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), in its present form, which came into existence in 1997 following a split in the Harkat-ul-Ansar (HUA), which was declared by the US as an international terrorist organisation, adopted the same objective after its formation. The Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), which was re-born in 1997 after the split in the HUA, and the Jaish-e-Mohammd (JEM), which was born in 2000 following a split in the HUM, also now subscribe to this objective of the "liberation" of Hyderabad and Junagadh and the Muslims living in other parts of India too. Thus, their original interest in Hyderabad was purely historical and religious. Their initial sleeper cells focussed on radicalising the local Muslim youth and creating a divide between the Muslims and the Hindus. Their efforts did not succeed. They, therefore, started a movement for radicalising Muslim youth from Hyderabad working in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). For this purpose, the LET set up a branch in Saudi Arabia and the HUJI in Dubai. Their overseas recruitment efforts among Muslims from Hyderabad met with some success. During the fighting between the Serbs and the Muslims in Bosnia in the 1990s, some of these Hyderabadi Muslims from Saudi Arabia and the UAE were taken by the LET and the HUJI to Bosnia for giving them jihadi experience. While practically no Indian Muslims fought in the jihad against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s, a few Indian Muslims, mainly from Hyderabad working in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, fought in the jihad in Bosnia in the 1990s. In the 1990s, a person,introduced as Aziz, an Indian Muslim living in Saudi Arabia, used to attend the annual conventions of the the LET at Muridke, near Lahore. He used to be honoured by the convention for his role in organising assistance to the Bosnian Muslims. Subsequently, he stopped attending, but he used to address the convention by phone from outside Pakistan. The LET organisers used to claim that he was addressing the convention from Saudi Arabia. His full identifying particulars could not be established, but he was believed to be from Hyderabad. Since 2000, the interest of the LET and the HUJI in Hyderabad has taken an additional economic dimension too when Hyderabad emerged as a growth centre of the Indian economy.Now, the Pakistani jihadi organisations in Hyderabad have a two-fold objective---radicalising the local Muslims in order to pave the way for "liberating" Hyderabad from "Hindu control" and damaging the Indian economy.


They have no historic pretexts for thei activities in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, but they project their interest as related to their over-all objective of "liberating" the Muslims not only in Karnataka and Tamil nadu, but also in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. While they have succeeded to some extent in spreading their sleeper cells to Karnataka, they have not succeeded in Tamil Nadu. Some Tamil Muslims, who had met one Abu Hamza (assumed name) of the LET in Saudi Arabia, did form in the early 2000s in Tamil Nadu a secret organisation called the Muslim Self-Defence Force, but it was detected in time by the Tamil Nadu Police and neutralised before it could cause any harm. It reportedly came out during the investigation that Abu Hamza had asked the organisers of the Muslim Self-Defence Force to come to the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka for another meeting. They did go there, but he did not turn up. They, therefore, returned to Chennai without any meeting. In Karnataka, the objectives of the jihadis have also an important economic dimension---namely, to damage the economy and shake the growing confidence of foreign investors in India in general and in Bangalore in particular.


Al Qaeda has two global objectives---operational and ideological. Its operational objective is to defeat the US and Israel and drive the US out of Muslim countries. Its ideological objective is to form a world Islamic Caliphate consisting of all the existing Muslim States of the world plus what it projects as historic Muslim lands, which are presently under the control of non-Muslim states. J&K, Hyderabad and Junagadh come under this second category. While Al Qaeda has not come to notice for any desire to damage the Indian economy, one of its tactical objectives is to attack the Americans and the Israelis whereever they are easy targets. In view of the growing contacts of India with the US and Israel, it looks upon India as providing suitable tagets of opportunity in the growing American and Israeli presence.


Presently, the jihadi organisations are depending on the Muslims from South India working in Saudi Arabia and the UAE for their recruitment and operations.Only the LET and the HUJI have a presence in these countries, but not the HUM and the JEM.When the US intelligence agencies stepped up their operations in Pakistan post-9/11, Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda organisations decided to transfer some of their activities to Bangladesh to escape detection and neutralisation by the US agencies.Jihadis from South-East Asia based in Pakistan were sent to Bangladesh. The HUJI (B) was asked to take over the responsibility for training and co-ordination in respect of the jihad in Southern Thailand, the Arakan area of Myanmar and North-East and South India. Now the operations are jointly handled by the Gulf branches of the LET and the HUJI of Pakistan and HUJI (B). The HUJI (B) does not have a presence in the Gulf.


It is assessed that they have succeeded in recruiting only a small number so far--- more from the Gulf than from the Muslim community in South India. In terrorism, what is important is not the number, but the motivation and determination. Though the number involved is small, their motivation and determination is strong, but not yet strong enough to give birth to suicide or suicidal terrorism, which has till now remained confined to J&K and has not spread to other parts of India.


Any foreign-inspired terrorist group needs local support for logistics and the ability to communicate. The foreign organisers of the LET and the HUJI, who can communicate only in Urdu and Arabic, find many Muslims in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka who can speak these languages, but not in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. Thus, the inability to communicate in a mutually-understood language has been an impediment in these areas.


The Police is the weapon of first resort in counter-terrorism. It has had a fairly good record in the past, but its hands have been tied due to the increasing politicisation of counter-terrorism.The solution lies not in creating more and more organisations, which would only further complicate the difficulties of co-ordination. It lies in giving the Police all the resources and powers they need and a free hand to deal with terrorism in accordance with the law with no political interference. Every political party without exception has been exploiting terrorism and counter-terrorism to serve its own partisan political agenda. After 9/11, in the US and many other Western countries, counter-terrorism plays an important role in influencing voter opinion. Any political leader, who is viewed by the public as soft on terrorism, finds it difficult to win an election.In India, perceived softness of politicians in dealing with terrorism has unfortunately no influence on voter opinion. This has to change and this change can be brought about only by public opinion. If half a dozen well-known politicians lose their election because of their perceived softness or ambivalence on this issue, the message will spread across the politial community that they risk losing their election. They will sit up and mend their ways. (1-9-07)

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

August 31, 2007

Russia: Moscow flexes its muscles and attempts to conquer status and influence

At 12am, on 17 August, fourteen Tupoleve Tu-160 heavy bombers took off from seven air force bases in Russian territory, signalling the first long-range reconnaissance flight undertaken in 15 years since the Cold War. The move was officially announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where, in the framework of the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), a massive joint military simulation took place involving Russia, China and several Central Asian Republics.

Alessandro Savaris (31 August 2007)

Russia's new foreign policy
Long-range reconnaissance missions are but one example of the Kremlin's provocations over the last several months. Just barely a week ago, several Russian bombers flew within 100 miles of the American air force base of Guam, in the Pacific, forcing American fighter planes to take precautionary flights. Almost simultaneously, Georgia announced the explosion of a Russian missile launched by a Sukhoi Su-24 fighter plane entering Georgian territory illicitly, in an uninhabited area in the North of the country. The news was promptly denied by Moscow.

As recent as July, two Tu-95 bombers were caught entering British air space, triggering an alert throughout British authorities, already at loggerheads with the government in Moscow in diplomatic rows concerning the Litvinenko case. In addition, Russian President Putin and other Russian army officials, such as chief commander of the Russian navy Admiral Vladimir Masorin, stated their intentions to send a fleet to the Mediterranean, near an old Russian base in the city of Tartus, in Syria, that has for long been in disuse.

In a visit to the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol, one of the main Russian bases in the Black Sea, Masorin went on to announce the production of a new series of intercontinental missiles with nuclear warheads. Putin's statements included the announcement of Russia's suspension of the CFE (Conventional Forces in Europe) Treaty, in response to US plans to build a controversial anti-ballistic American defence system in the Czech Republic and Poland.

The Kremlin's attitude internally has also changed, fuelling recent speculations in the press over a “new Cold War”. The Russian media, on the other hand, gave plenty of space to a Russian scientific exploration in the Artic. In a solemn celebration by the Kremlin welcoming back the explorers, analysts went on to compare explorer and Duma deputy Artur Chilingarov to the legendary explorer Ivan Papanin, twice awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union during the Soviet era. The main goal of the mission led by Chilingarov, which reached the Artic's deepsea waters near the North Pole aboard two mini-submarines, was to demonstrate that the North Pole is in fact none other than a “natural extension of the Russian territory”.

Fifteen years since the collapse of the USSR, however, Russia now seems to come on to the world stage with renewed power, and increasingly so due to its vast reserves of water fuels.

Real threat or false alarm?
Analysts' opinions are so far contradictory with regards to such events. Whilst many, on the one hand, have reacted sceptically and sarcastically to such “ostentations of power” (the US State Department bluntly joked on the effort, asking if the Russians' arsenal had yet “recovered from naphthalene”), others see it as a legitimate move from Moscow in reassuring its role internationally.

A number of factors contribute to confirming such hypotheses:

The Kremlin's new armament plans, signed by Putin at the beginning of 2007, at a value of 200 billion euros for a period of seven years, for refreshing the archaic Russian military arsenal;

Russia's membership of the SCO, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Created under Chinese initiative in April 1996 in response to growing terrorism, extremism, and separatism (the “three evils”) in Central Asia, the SCO has been adopting a conspicuously military character in recent years, thanks to Russian pressures. One example is the massive simulation of a terrorist attack, organised a few days ago at Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, at an annual SCO meeting that this year saw the presence of 6,500 men.

As China becomes increasingly stronger and US power wanes on the international stage, Moscow aims to win back global recognition, thanks to substantial revenues gained from a booming energy sector and whereby it will seek to establish control of the areas of Central Asia and the Caucasus, traditionally under US influence since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“The Near Abroad” – Russia's backyard
Although Russia may have at first allowed the influence of supposed “rivals” China and the US in the so-called near abroad area, the area comprising the 14 former Soviet republics (gone independent since 1991) can apparently no longer cope with such mismanagements. Moscow is slowly trying to extend its influence on three fronts: Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, and particularly Ukraine and Georgia (both feeling the impact of the “Orange revolution”) and Central Asia.


Relations between Russia and the Ukraine worsened following the election of pro-Western President Viktor Yushenko in 2004, in the so-called Orange Revolution alongside former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Moscow's response was to launch a series of economic constraints onto its neighbour, including an embargo on a number of Ukrainian products, particularly meat and cheese, for failing to comply with hygiene standards, and a drastic increase in the price of gas (usually lowered to more favourable and accessible prices for the former Russian ally, given the two countries' close economic and political links). In the night of the 31 December 2005, Moscow cut gas supplies to the Ukraine, catapulting a “gas war”, whose effects were further felt within the EU. The appointment of pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich in August 2006 paved the way for notable improvements in relations between the Kremlin and Kyev, spurring positive results both politically and economically.As such, the next Ukrainian presidential elections, scheduled for the 30 September, shall play a decisive role in the country's future direction, as Moscow will likely try to curb attempts of another possible rise to power by the Orange Coalition.


Relations between Moscow and Tiblisi have been notoriously stringent since the rise of pro-American Mikheil Saakashvili, elected with overwhelming popular support in January 2004, following the breakout of the famous “Rose Revolution”. Owner of numerous enclaves in the Georgian territory, apart from maintaining presence in the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, where it maintains “peacekeeping forces”, Russia has continuously bombarded the country with accusations over alleged support to Chechnyan terrorists. As such, relations between the two countries have been gone from bad to worse, as tough decisions on the Russian side, such as the imposition of an embargo on a number of important Georgian export products (for the supposed lack of compliance with hygiene standards - e.g.: wine and “Borjomi” mineral water) have gone in detriment of its neighbour. As of recently, however, Moscow has considerably aggravated tensions. The discovery of a Russian missile in South Ossetia (North of Georgia), for example, is a clear sign of these trends.

Central Asia

Relations between Russia and the former Central Asian Republics have always remained tense, as the area is considered of fundamental strategic relevance to Russia, in both geopolitical and economic terms.The war in Afghanistan significantly changed geopolitical conformations in the area, leading to the creation of an American military base, where the US has nonetheless failed to exercise much control. Whilst the US may have been quick to seize on the Afghan war as a way to establish a basis of support in the region, the Putin administration seems no longer tolerant of mismanagement in the country's conflicts and is aiming to spread its own influence instead.

In response to China's growing relevance in the region, Putin has decided to intensify political and commercial rapport between the two countries through the SCO whilst, at the same time, securing Russia a predominant role within the Organisation, particularly in the military field, where China still has a large gap. Thanks to the strategy, Moscow has successfully forged favoured relations with Beijing, including in sectors (most notably the energy sector) where the two countries have previously acted as competitors. As a matter of fact, the Kremlin recently approved the construction of an extension of the Russian Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean oil pipeline, giving China more access to Russian petrol sources. The pipeline extension spans 69 km, to be financed and built by the Chinese National Petroleum Company (CNPC), and is due to start functioning by the end of 2008, according to a recent statement by Russian Minister of Energy Viktor Khristenko.

A global ambition?
On a global level, the Kremlin seems determined to confirm its renewed influence, using methods previously used by the USSR, especially regarding military power. Although a comparison between the Soviet Union and present-day Russia would be a bit far-fetched, the recent upsurge in military expenditures and new re-armament plans announced by the Kremlin (for modernising the former Soviet arsenal) corresponds with the government's choice to invest heavily in the sector. Still, Russia has made it clear that, despite its considerable efforts and the amount of resources going towards increasing military capacity, the current move is far from rivalling the US in the military industry.

As a way to bridge the gap, the Kremlin seems to have adopted a two-pronged strategy. In terms of concrete actions, such as in the re-armaments campaign, Russia is pursuing exuberant actions and making steadfast declarations (e.g.: the long-range missile take-offs and statements by Admiral Masorin are both examples with significantly symbolic and practical implications). As such, analysts observe that what Putin aims to show is, not so much that Russia is again at the level of competing with the US globally, but rather that it is able to, once again, exert influence within its own region and particularly in the regions of the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Prospects and implications
Recent actions by the Kremlin, be it the expedition to the Artic circle, the country's expansionist ambitions in the Mediterranean, or the recent aggressive stance vis-à-vis the US, all represent the country's burning desire to not only make its presence known across the globe but also to confirm its renewed influence in the near abroad region, where the country is increasingly gaining control over with ever greater demonstrations of force, such as seen in the SCO and new relations with neighbouring states.

In the last few years, the Kremlin has learned to diversify its platform in dealing with countries worldwide. Whilst relations with Western Europe remain tied to the continent's economic reliance on Russia (which the latter has, to a great extent, explored in favour of its own interests), relations with China and former Soviet republics have entailed not only economic but also political and military cooperation. The country understands that the only way to counter Beijing's influence in the area is to come to terms with China by way of cooperation, particularly in sectors where China has been witnessing shortcomings.

Both the military and energy sectors represent the areas where the two countries are currently building on and intensifying existing relations. In the former, China has been investing substantially as it seeks to reach the status of “superpower” whilst Russia emerges as the most adequate supplier for the purpose. Between 2000 and 2005, China is said to have purchased over 11 billion dollars' worth of armaments, whilst Russia has sold the country over 200 Russian Su-27 and Su-30 bombers. Moreover, as it seeks to maintain high levels of production, the Chinese giant faces an urgent and constant need for energy supply, where Russia's petrol supplies come in as a crucial factor for the country and contributes to strenghtening relations between Moscow and Beijing. In turn, Putin intends to enjoy his privileges in the region in order to spread Russia's influence in Central Asia, showing the United States that, together with China and the former Soviet republics, the country contains the means and abilities necessary to control what is, strategically speaking, a very important sphere of influence.

In retrospect, the Kremlin is effectively guaranteeing itself a reputable space in international affairs through concrete actions, both in the form of former Soviet-style solemnities as well as (and according to military expert and Yezhednevny Zhurnal collaborator Alexander Goltz) resembling “..a blurry mixture of realistic goals and effective Soviet-style symbolism”.

Iran: regional alliances and the dilemma of stability in Afghanistan

The weakening of Sunni cells in Iraq, as a result of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, has recently prompted a rise of the Islamic Republic of Islam in the region. Diplomats in Tehran have kept close relations with the Afghan executive, as reconstruction in the country has helped Iran strengthen its presence both in Afghanistan and within Central Asia, apart form becoming a mediator of two opposing fronts, Pakistan on the one hand and Afghanistan on the other. As such, the country has guaranteed itself the neutrality of the two countries vis-à-vis continuously hostile US foreign policy.

Elisa Morici (31 August 2007)

Accused of fuelling instability in Afghanistan, expelling refugees and selling weapons to rebel groups, Iran's strategy in the war-torn country could seriously deteriorate relations with its neighbours and catapult an unpredictable crisis that would trigger the destabilisation of Afghanistan and pitting Pakistan as a future enemy in the process.

The Islamic Republic between Pakistan and Afghanistan
The recognition of the Taliban's illegitimacy and the consequential expulsion of the central Afghan government have led Tehran's diplomacy along a noticeably different path in collaborating with its neighbours, as it seeks to establish greater presence in Afghanistan and maintain its historic alliance with Pakistan. The Islamic Republic has succeeded in becoming the centrepiece of the region's two opposing forces (Afghanistan and Pakistan) by earning itself political and economic benefits as well as an insulation from potential US interference. In the context of the latter, neither General Musharraf nor the government of President Karzai are willing to let go of Iran's alliance in favour of a US military invasion that could see the region plunge into instability.

The beginnings of cooperation between Iran and Pakistan date back to the foundation of the Pakistani state. The two countries have achieved considerable results thanks to political and commercial agreements, as well as through joint military efforts. For one, the initial stages in Iran's nuclear programme saw, for example, the transfer of know-how and structures from Pakistan. In turn, recent Iranian mediation to transport gas to India helped the inclusion of Pakistan in projecting gas pipeline. Reciprocity between the two has been mainly dictated by strategic considerations, whereby the government in Islamabad sees it as necessary to cooperate with Tehran in order to avoid tensions with its southern neighbour. Tensions could potentially bring about a triple axis of allies between Iran, Afghanistan, and India, especially considering secessionist movements located in Balucistan, the Western province of Pakistan and where a number of important resources are located. Since the start of US military operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan has served as a point of reference from where Iran has been monitoring American influence in the region.

As a matter of fact, Iran's rapprochement with Afghanistan after the Taliban's exit has been significantly hinged on countering US influence in the region. Iran's role in helping re-build Afghanistan, for example, is allowing it to penetrate Afghan territory in response to US threats against Iranian nuclear sites. Iran's help, in turn, constitutes a good opportunity for Afghanistan to come out of internal turmoil. Since the fall of the Taliban, Tehran's funding for reconstruction has totalled billions of dollars, going towards programmes for strengthening links between the two countries and forging actions between national police forces against the narcotics trade.

Last year, President Ahmadinejad received numerous accusations from Washington and other members in the Afghan press, fuelling instability on many fronts whilst the Iranian government attempted to re-build the country. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), the Iranian government forced the repatriation of several hundred Afghan refugees since 2006. Official sources defended the government's good intentions, holding that the repatriations serve only to reduce the negative effect of individuals on the country's system of subventions and public subsidies, and that in no way do they serve to hurt the social and economic tissue of Afghanistan.

According to NATO, Iranian intelligence is used as a pathway for weapons and explosive devices from Iraq to the Taliban resistance. At the present state, however, it is not clear whether Iran may have satisfied weapons demands coming from the Taliban, with whom Iranian secret services have been supposedly cooperating. Rather, according to a survey carried out by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in London, weapons made in Iran could reach the Taliban by way of illegal trade links established by current and former combatants from the Northern Alliance who emerged in the 1990's in opposition to the rise of the Taliban. Preoccupied with improving the partnership between the two countries, President Karzai came out in public to defend Iran against the accusations.

On the other hand, relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been subject to greater suspicion and conflict. The replacement of a pro-Taliban government by Musharraf's presidency has not sufficed in obliterating Afghans' memories of Pakistan's role in helping the Taliban's takeover. As boundary issues still call for solutions, Karzai has often stated that internal violence within his country has its main roots lying over the border. Pakistan, in turn, fears that India may serve as an Afghan training ground for subversive militias entering its territory, threatening a potential blockage of the country's stance in managing crisis in Afghanistan. The statements made public by the two presidents after a meeting on the fight against terrorism (concerning ongoing actions and future intentions by the two countries) are still too recent to show if the facts shall follow suit and if relations shall be subject to further cooperation.

Destabilising Afghanistan? A dangerous game for everyone
For a number of reasons, both Pakistan and Iran could see themselves capable of fuelling violence in Afghanistan, albeit such strategies would certainly not go without serious consequences for all sides involved in the conflict.

As US efforts in Afghanistan crumble, Iran could be the benefactor of a considerable boost in image, especially among neighbouring Arab countries. On the other hand, the White House could become more cautious towards establishing a new front there, especially as the 2008 presidential elections approach and pressures against Iranian nuclear plans die down.
Still, the financing of the insurgency could also deteriorate relations between Kabul and Tehran, hampering progress made on commercial and political fronts to date between the two governments. In addition, Afghanistan's internal disorder could spread to the Central Asian region, triggering a “snowball effect” of unexpected proportions. Equally worrying for Iran would be the rise of Sunni movements or even the return of the Taliban, insofar as such groups may still find fertile grounds for developing in Pakistan.

Both in the Pakistani and Iranian cases, guerrilla training still consists in a highly risky operation, so long as results fail to materialise and operations are not restricted to within one border, still yet when considered the amount of disorder within Pakistan, including secessionist pressures in Balucistan, as well as dissent from the Iranian Islamic Republic. Both Musharraf's and Ahmadinejad's governments lack the popularity and ability necessary to control internal misunderstandings.

Iran could potentially use Afghanistan as a “hostage” towards countering US interests in the region, especially taking into account the latter's hostility to the Iranians' nuclear development plans. On the other hand, the possibility of staving off foreign pressures would only remain realistic if Tehran and Kabul agree to a common plan led by increased Iranian influence in Afghan territory, i.e.: only if Iran continues to fuel instability in the country and is then able to secure its increased presence and an exit of Western troops.

The regional web of alliances is a second aspect that Tehran will have to consider in establishing a strategy for Afghanistan. Allies in the region have yet to support US policies of containment and counterpositioning, as many fear that embodying such policies would frustrate the balance struck with Iranian authorities. If, on the other hand, Iran uses Afghanistan as a tool for keeping enemies away, it is likely to ruin its relations with Kabul and especially Islamabad, where interests in Afghanistan are still too remote to guarantee Pakistan's commitments to a potential regional alliance and where the US still possesses considerable influence. The Islamic Republic of Iran would then find itself surrounded by enemies, isolated by the embargo and becoming an even worse enemy in the eyes of the US.

Infinity Foundation : Openings for Research Assistant/Fellow Positions

Infinity Foundation has two announcements for positions below. The first is for individual applicants and the second is for institutional collaborations:

Individual Openings: Research Assistant/Fellow Positions

Infinity Foundation seeks scholars to help research, review, prepare manuscripts, and coordinate in various phases of publishing. The scope of the subject matter of interest is broad, and covers the study of Indic civilization/culture across the humanities and social sciences. For example, topics of interest include but are not limited to: history of Indian contributions to science/technology, economic history of India, India's precolonial educational institutions, the impact of Islamic intrusions and European colonialism on India, post-independence India, history of jati/caste, Indian religions and epistemologies, representations and misrepresentations of Indian civilization, and impact of Indic visions upon the world. Of special importance are areas with entrenched conclusions and ideologies that could be challenged with more objective and innovative approaches.

The research would be output in a variety of formats, including books, edited volumes, articles for scholarly journals as well as popular magazines, press and weblogs. A given researcher may be assigned a narrower area of focus depending on the individual's interests and specialty. The individual should be courageous and prepared to research and/or present data that may contradict well-established academic paradigms and opinions in specific disciplines.

There are two kinds of positions available:

A. Full-time: The individual would be mostly based in New Jersey,although an adjunct academic appointment in an academic nstitution is possible. Candidates must have an advanced degree in the humanities/ social sciences. Salary would be in the range of $50,000 - $60,000 per annum. The term would be one to two years.

B. Part-time: We would also entertain applicants who wish to pursue such work on a part-time basis while remaining employed elsewhere.

Please send your resume, availability dates, areas of subject matter interest and expertise, and any other relevant information to:

RFP from Institutions

Scope of the project

Infinity Foundation seeks proposals from academic institutions and not for profit organizations for cooperative research on Indic civilization/culture across the humanities and social sciences. Topics of interest include but are not limited to: history of Indian contributions to science/technology, economic history of India,  India's precolonial educational institutions, the impact of Islamic intrusions and European colonialism on India, post-independence India, history of jati/caste, Indian religions and epistemologies, representations and misrepresentations of Indian civilization, and impact of Indic visions upon the world. The Foundation is especially interested in proposals employing objective and innovative approaches  that seek alternatives to entrenched conclusions and ideologies.

Expectation and deliverables.

The research would be output in a variety of formats, including books, edited volumes, articles for scholarly journals as well as popular magazines, press and weblogs. Foundation seeks researchers to utilize objective data and communicate them to the academic and intellectual community even if such observations may contradict well- established academic paradigms and opinions in specific disciplines.


Funds will be available to hire researchers/fellows to carry out research and publications, either independently, or at the Foundation's discretion as part of a team effort. A total of $200,000 may be made available to support this RFP over three years. Funds will be released annually, with satisfactory progress and based on
milestones approved.


Proposals (maximum 5 pages) should be submitted by investigators qualified to lead such projects, along with a duly signed cover letter from institutional authority by September 30, 2007 to the Foundation by email: Proposals should clearly outline plans to approach and complete the projects of interest, milestones and deliverables, budget justification, and plans for collaboration with the Foundation.

Prospective investigators are encouraged to contact the Foundation for discussing research resources available at the Foundation library. Infinity Foundation's researchers will be expected to be closely involved in the research and project development with the Principal Investigator (PI). Research personnel may be eligible for joint appointments with the Foundation.

BALOCHISTAN : Net Pool says Dr.Wahid Baloch as their Leader

If we held national elections, who would you select as your leader?

Ambassador of China: China and the United States

Aug 21st, 2007

World Affairs Council of Oregon - Portland, OR

The Ambassador of China, H.E. Mr. Zhou Wenzhong discusses China and the United States

Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong served previously as Assistant and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs in Beijing. He was earlier China's Ambassador to Australia, as well as to Barbados and Antigua and Barbuda, He has previous experience in the U.S. as Minister in the Embassy in Washington DC and Consul General in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Ambassador Wenshong studied at Bath University and the London School of Economics in England.

China: Central Asian Rumbles

Source: Stratfor
Stratfor's Free Intelligence Reports

August 31, 2007 18 05 GMT


China is making a bid for Central Asia's energy resources -- a move that will ultimately expand into a bid for geopolitical control of the entire region. Russia is waking up to the threat and starting to take countermeasures, setting the stage for a broad Sino-Russian conflict in Central Asia.


Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov on Aug. 31 inaugurated the construction of a new natural gas project that will ship Turkmen natural gas currently destined for Russia to China instead. The event marks the formal beginning of a conflict between Russia and China for control of the entire Central Asian region.

The Chinese Gambit

China's desire for strong connections with Central Asia is neither new nor secret. Ever since China opened up to the world in 1979, it has been apparent that the country needs access to ample markets and resources, and that in turn has made China utterly dependent on maritime trade. Until China commands a sizable blue-water navy capable of reliably projecting power at least as far as the Persian Gulf -- which is to say, until it has a navy that can, without backup from its own land-based aircraft, pose a threat to the U.S. Navy -- China will remain at the mercy of U.S. foreign policy for its industrial, energy and trade policy. Since China desperately wants to avoid a confrontation with Washington so it can focus on its internal problems, the only way for China to square the circle is to develop a wholly land-based energy supply system that is out of the reach of U.S. fleets. Simply put, China's strategic imperatives dictate dealing with Central Asia.

A series of deals signed with Central Asian leaders Aug. 19 is actually the finishing touch on a project that has long been in the works. Since the mid-1990s, China has been engaging in energy projects, getting its foot in the door across Central Asia, particularly in Kazakhstan. This started with small oil fields in northwest Kazakhstan and gradually built into networks of fields, along with a few larger projects. In time, Chinese state firms built a pipeline to connect their projects to other infrastructure just north of the Caspian Sea.

Over the last few years, China has started linking up pieces of old Soviet-era pipes, with the goal of ultimately Frankensteining together a line reaching all the way from the Caspian across Kazakhstan to Western China. Parts of it already are operational, shipping roughly 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) from central Kazakhstan to China. One of the Aug. 19 deals provides the money for the last stitch in Central-Western Kazakhstan. Once it is complete, China's very first line -- the one near the Caspian -- will be reversed and linked in, and the entire project should be pumping approximately 400,000 bpd of Kazakh crude to China by 2009. Later stages will aim to increase the pipe's capacity to 1 million bpd.

Pipeline projects, of course, have political aspects, since they solidify relationships between producers and consumers (and cut out everyone else), but Russia has not shown much concern over this Kazakhstan-China oil pipeline. Russia understands energy politics better than most, and it knows that, ultimately, natural gas is truly the tie that binds -- far more so than oil.

Oil is a liquid, and liquids can be shipped not only via pipeline but also via rail, truck, barge and tanker. Oil also is used in such a range of products that there are many substitutes for many of its uses. So, while an oil pipeline certainly creates a relationship, it does not necessarily create a two-way dependency between the producer and consumer.

Natural gas does create that dependency. Natural gas is, well, a gas and therefore is very difficult to ship by any means other than pipeline. (It can be liquefied and shipped via ocean-borne tanker, but oceans are hard to come by on the landlocked steppes of Central Asia.) Unlike oil, natural gas is used primarily for energy generation in specialized facilities, which means -- among other things -- that there are no easy substitutes. Once a state is hooked into a natural gas network, breaking away is very hard to do. Russia has used this not only to bind the states of the former Soviet Union to its will but also to consistently affect the politics of states in Europe dependent on Russian supplies.

The other Chinese-Central Asian energy deal signed Aug. 19 involves just such a natural gas project linking Turkmenistan to China. Like the oil pipeline farther north, the natural gas line will consist of pieces of stitched-together Soviet infrastructure in a route that will take it through Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The proposed pipe would take 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Turkmen natural gas -- roughly half of Turkmenistan's export capacity -- and ship it to China.

For China, these are all business deals. China has the interest, the need, the market and the money, so it is building the pipelines. The Central Asians are suitably impressed by the idea of cold cash backing up new infrastructure, particularly after 17 years of Russia building little new infrastructure and allowing the old to rust on the steppes. But in running a pipe from Turkmenistan, China is in effect drawing a knife across the map of Central Asia, slicing off the southern four "stans" from their traditional overlord: Russia.

The Russian Interest

Russia has financial and geopolitical reasons for opposing China's move.

First is the money issue. China plans to take natural gas for its line that is currently supposed to be sent north to Russia. True, China's plans do involve developing greenfield projects in Turkmenistan -- on Aug. 30, China National Petroleum Corp. received Turkmenistan's first post-Soviet license to develop onshore natural gas projects in the country's Mary and Amu Darya regions -- but these deals will be insufficient. Not only will it be years before they begin producing appreciable amounts of natural gas, but 17 years of mismanagement also has made Turkmen output unstable. So, at least for the next five years, whatever natural gas is shipped to China must come from production that would normally be shipped to Russia. At European retail prices, that alone will cost Gazprom $9 billion annually in sales.

But this is about more than "just" money. Gazprom is responsible for supplying Europe with approximately one-quarter of the natural gas it uses, approximately 150 bcm per year. But Gazprom lacks the skills and capital to both fill its European export commitments and supply the Russian market. To bridge the gap, Russia maintains a stranglehold on Central Asian natural gas exports via Soviet-era infrastructure, buying up nearly every molecule of the stuff exported from Turkmenistan (45 bcm), Uzbekistan (10 bcm) and Kazakhstan (10 bcm).

If Russia did not have those Central Asian supplies, Moscow would either have to let Russians freeze or give up a goodly portion of its energy leverage over Europe. (Technically, most Turkmen natural gas is purchased by Ukraine, but since it must pass through Gazprom's pipeline network en route to Ukraine, for all intents and purposes, Turkmen natural gas is fully integrated into the Russian system, with all the political connotations that suggests.) With the Red Army only a fraction of its former size and the Russian nuclear deterrent weakening, the energy hammer is one of Russia's few easily usable, reliable policies. China's Central Asian gambit would brand Russia an unreliable supplier and remove that very useful hammer from the Kremlin's geopolitical toolbox.

It also is extremely unlikely that China's encroachment into Central Asia will halt with just a Turkmen natural gas deal. If the region's primary energy infrastructure flows east to China -- and through both Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan -- then it is eminently likely that Uzbek exports, too, will soon flow east rather than north. With the supplier states realigned, the consumer states of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan would have little choice but to look to China to ensure their energy supply security. The web of relationships that holds Central Asia close to Russia would be respun with China at the center, drastically revamping the region's balance of power to China's benefit.

For years, China's slow energy-spearheaded movement into Central Asia went unchallenged by the Kremlin; after all, it was limited for the most part to a disaggregated collection. But with the sudden surge in Chinese natural gas plans, Russia can no longer afford to do nothing while its erstwhile "ally" casually takes over Russia's southern flank.

The question in Russia, of course, is what to do about it.

Culturally, Russia has a blind spot as far as China is concerned dating back to the time of Josef Stalin. Russians traditionally (which is not to say accurately) see China as the little brother who would -- of course -- never do anything without Russia's permission.

So, in the Russian mind, rhetorically China is a Russian ally that is theoretically committed to building a multipolar world to hedge in U.S. power. As Russia is discovering, however, the key words in that sentence are "rhetorically" and "theoretically"; China looks out for China's interests, and it is in China's interests to have a strong economic relationship with Washington and ever-closer economic and political ties with Central Asia.

Russia's realization that its world view needs an update has been long in coming, but sources indicate Russian President Vladimir Putin has -- angrily -- come around. Realization will lead to retaliation, since Russia cannot hope to resurge its influence if its southern flank is not secure.

The first stage of the Russian pushback will be to hold quiet talks with Central Asia's leaders and remind them of their "priorities." Putin himself, who is of the mind-set that the Central Asian leaders are cheating on him, plans to deliver this message at an as-yet-unscheduled meeting with the Kazakh, Turkmen and - likely -- Uzbek heads of government. Should that fail, the next step would be a reminder to these same leaders that Russia retains a very long arm. The Kremlin tends to get personal in delivering such reminders, and it is likely there will be some reports of people close to Central Asian leaders committing suicide with five bullets to the head from a sniper rifle from across the street.

The bottom line is that the geopolitical imperatives of Russia and China -- always uneasily tolerating each other -- are now grating against one another in what is truly a zero-sum game. Only one of them can have Central Asian natural gas, and whoever controls that gas ultimately controls the region.
About Stratfor

Stratfor is the world’s leading private intelligence company delivering in-depth analysis, assessments and forecasts on global geopolitical, economic, security and public policy issues. A variety of subscription-based access, free intelligence reports and confidential consulting are available for individuals and corporations.

Azerbaijan: Mounting Pressure in the Space Between

Source: Stratfor
Stratfor's Free Intelligence Reports
August 31, 2007 17 54 GMT


Azerbaijan is finding itself in a very vulnerable position at the front line of the Russian resurgence. It also finds itself in a pressure cooker as Russia and Iran attempt to redefine their neighborhoods.


New Kremlin point man Sergei Naryshkin arrived in Azerbaijan for wide-ranging talks Aug. 31 with the Azerbaijani leadership. After 17 years of working with Western powers, Baku is finding itself drawn back into the Russian sphere of influence. Sparks really will begin to fly as the former Soviet republic returns to its standard geopolitical status as a (shrinking) buffer between Russia and Iran.

Azerbaijan has enthusiastically courted Western powers ever since the Soviet breakup, seeking investment in its military and energy industries. But it has always known that its pro-Western proclivities could only exist at the pleasure of Moscow. Unlike Georgia to its west, Azerbaijan shares no border with a NATO country, so Baku always tried to tread softly (politically speaking) when the issue of Russian preferences arose.

With Russian power now rising, Azerbaijan is adopting a radically different tack than Georgia. Tbilisi sees the coming evolution as a zero-sum game, and as such, its public face has turned shrill in an attempt to keep the West engaged in order to avoid being crushed by Russian moves. By contrast, Baku is attempting to appease Russian strategic needs, while keeping its Western investment -- and thus its source of income -- intact.

Azerbaijan's real problems, however, are just beginning. The Russian resurgence is not happening in a vacuum but in parallel with the resurgence of Iran to Azerbaijan's south. Iran and Russia are far from natural allies, something poorly understood outside the Caucasus. The two have come into conflict several times in the past. Iran's most recent foreign occupier was the Soviet Union. Historically, Persian and Russian power has clashed -- violently -- along their mutual border.

The two states' relative friendliness since the end of the Cold War was a product of their weakness. As Iran recovered from its revolution and Russia fell from Soviet-era highs, the two countries' spheres of influences shrank so precipitously that their interests no longer rubbed up against each other. With no interests in contact, there were no interests in conflict. The two countries found it useful to cooperate not only in ways rhetorical -- primarily lambasting the United States -- but also in terms of weapons sales and technology transfers.

But the year is no longer 1998. Russia has had 10 years to climb up from its post-Soviet nadir and Russian power is pushing against all of its borders -- including to the south. Similarly, Iran has recovered from its loss of 1 million people during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Tehran is now more confident than it has been in decades, and its influence is seeping into not only Iraq and the Persian Gulf, but also into the Caucasus and Central Asia -- areas Moscow considers its exclusive playground.

And so warm rhetoric is giving way to cold calculations. Russia has stalled, and probably outright abandoned, efforts to finish the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran, in part due to the (accurate) concern that a resurging, nuclear-armed Iran would be more of a threat to Russia than to the United States (and even Israel). Russia also is laying the groundwork for a geopolitical twist by mooting the idea of allowing the United States sustained access to the Gabala radar base in Azerbaijan, a radar base designed to monitor Iranian airspace.

And it should be no surprise that it will be in Azerbaijan that Iran and Russia will face off most directly. Azerbaijan, the buffer between the two, has a foot in each camp: Its population speaks Russian, but is historically Shiite in religion, making it a natural rope in the coming Russian-Iranian tug-of-war. An additional complication will be Armenia -- which both Russia and Iran unofficially have supported in its military efforts to take control of Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-populated enclave within Azerbaijan.

The most brutal, and unfortunately most likely, consequence in the midterm is that the two powers will fight a proxy war in the Caucasus using Armenia and Azerbaijan as their pawns. In large part, this is because such a war is inevitable. Azerbaijan's newly developed energy wealth -- it is now producing about 1 million barrels per day of crude and some 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas, and as a result is enjoying an annual gross domestic product growth rate in excess of 30 percent -- has empowered it to go on a military buildup of a sort the region has not seen since World War I as a step toward recovering its territory from Armenian forces.

With a war coming, and Russian-Iranian competition building, the two larger powers will be motivated to shape to their own advantage the conflict between the two minor powers. The only thing that remains unclear is which side Russia and Iran will support more thoroughly.
About Stratfor

Stratfor is the world’s leading private intelligence company delivering in-depth analysis, assessments and forecasts on global geopolitical, economic, security and public policy issues. A variety of subscription-based access, free intelligence reports and confidential consulting are available for individuals and corporations.

Needed: war on error in India

Ajit Doval

Posted online: Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 0000 hrs Print Email
Hyderabad blasts were waiting to happen; why they weren’t prevented is a longer story of deliberate diversion

For nations, it matters what happens to them; but the course of their history is often determined less by what happened and more by how they reacted. What is happening to India on the terrorist front is bad, but what is worse is the way we are reacting to it.

The worst reaction of a government to such a serious national challenge would be to underplay it, divert the discourse from core issues to the peripherals. Asserting that all is well and nothing needs to be changed, emphasising maintenance of social harmony as the core concern, complimenting people for bravely suffering losses and returning to normal lives, talking about human rights and protection of minorities — these are all laudable objectives. No one disputes them, but they do not address the core issues.

In the face of a threat as serious as this, the national focus should be on: how serious is the threat; its long and short-term implications; our capacities to counter the threat, both in policy formulation and policy execution; and how to address the deficiencies. This would involve considering ways to leverage civil society, media, the scientific community, religious leaders to the best national advantage; ways to neutralise the fast-growing domestic base of terrorism, including availability of hardware and human resource, collaborative linkages of the terrorists with organised crime, gun runners, drug syndicates, hawala operators, subversive radical groups, and how to break the nexus. Debate on the adequacy of the country’s laws, judicial administration, security systems and doctrines, etc, in the light of assessed threats is also important. The right discourse should also centre on our policy options vis-à-vis countries and groups involved in terrorist incidents in India. This is not happening, and that’s the tragedy.

It is not happening because a basic requirement is missing: a political culture that can subordinate electoral and other political considerations to the nation’s supreme sovereign interests. This requires the political will and ability to carry the whole country together. If the nation fails to do so, it may face many Hyderabads, and worse.

That Hyderabad is on the terrorist radar has been well known for quite some time. Here are a few illustrative events that could have served as alerts to undertake surgical operations, covert and overt, to sanitise the city, whatever the cost.

On April 1, 2007, an ISI agent, Maqsood Ahmed, was arrested while recruiting youths for sabotage and espionage activities. Neither was he thoroughly interrogated nor was follow-up action taken. On May 20, 2007, Mohamed Sayeed was arrested by the West Bengal police from Jharkhand’s Jantara district. He gave copious details of his links with terrorist modules in Hyderabad. On May 25, 2007, Shoaib Faqruddin Jagirdar, muttawali (custodian) of a local dargah, was arrested for sending RDX and youths from Jalna in Maharashtra to Hyderabad for terrorist actions. He was reportedly released under political pressure. On June 15, 2007, Mohamed Abdul Sattar, an ISI agent, confessed he had received armed training in Pakistan along with Shahid who was responsible for the May 18 Hyderabad blasts. On August 12, 2007, the Aurangabad police seized 29 kg of ammonium nitrate explosive, abandoned by a man who came from Secunderabad (near Hyderabad).

If we have to win the battle against terror, political considerations, communal pressures, administrative and police lethargy, and a weak legal-judicial regime will have to be negated. Let us not sugarcoat our response, like announcing that India and Pakistan as victims of terrorism are in the same league, lest we sent ambiguous signals to India’s enemies.

It is a myth that terrorists strike anywhere, any time and against any target. Had that been so, they would have caused havoc not just in India. Terrorists strike where their intentions and capabilities meet the opportunities. The success of counter-terrorism lies in degrading their capabilities, forcing them to change their intentions and denying them opportunities to strike. We appear to be failing on all three counts.

Their extended capabilities are obvious by their spreading the arc of violence to cover almost the entire country. The fact that masterminds and critical perpetrators of all the recent terrorist depredations remain by and large unidentified is a matter of concern. This brings the deterrence threshold down. There is no change in the intentions of those within and outside the country who seek to bleed India, appeasement within and peace parleys outside notwithstanding. We have also not been able to deny them the opportunities. All these infirmities can be corrected only through an integrated strategic and tactical action plan aimed at empowering and enabling security agencies, strengthening our legal-judicial response regime, upgrading intelligence, and complementing our defensive regime with defensive offence capabilities.

Besides the government and its security agencies, civil society has a seminal role in this. The nation has not been able to produce a powerful ideological movement within the Muslim community to counter the radicals and deprive them of religious legitimacy within the community. The last few years have witnessed alarming growth of Salafism and Wahabism at the cost of the indigenous variant of Islam, which is more tolerant and accommodative. Funding to such organisations from outside the country also has to be stopped, if need be, by further strengthening our laws on the subject and their implementation.

India’s neighbourhood, particularly Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, must be understood. Fundamentalist forces have acquired strengths, resources and capabilities to survive and strike on their own strength. They have global collaborative linkages, sustainable channels of funding, access to modern technology and an unending stream of jihadis keen to kill and die. The global growth of Islamic radicalism, proximity of jihadi epicentres close to Indian borders and the tilting of some sections of Muslims within the country pose real problems. The imported variety of terrorism whose planning, infrastructure and resources are of foreign origin will continue to haunt us for quite some time.

The current phase of terrorism has a marked Bangladeshi dimension, closely linked to illegal immigration. Most of the recent cases are linked to Harkat-ul-Jihad-e Islami, which operates from Bangladesh, where it has an extensive network. Al-Qaeda’s linkages with HUJI are old and intimate with total ideological convergence. Al-Qaeda is out-sourcing terror through franchised groups, who enjoy local advantages and can raise their own resources and operate as stand-alone entities. A special action plan needs to be formulated to contain HUJI’s entrenchment.

All this will happen if we bring the discourse on the right track and set priorities right. We need to do a quick VED analysis focusing on the vitals, keeping a watch on the essentials and leaving the desirables till the vitals have been achieved and essentials addressed. For those who govern, let political interests, at best, fall in the category of desirables.

The writer was director of the Intelligence Bureau

New Arabian Gulf Oil Pipeline Network Will Detour Hormuz

From DEBKA-Net-Weekly Aug. 10, 07 - Updated by DEBKAfile

August 27, 2007, 1:10 PM (GMT+02:00)

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen have launched the vast Trans-Arabia Oil Pipeline project with encouragement from Washington, DEBKA-Net Weekly 313 revealed on Aug. 10, 2007. By crisscrossing Arabia overland, the net of oil pipelines will bypass the Straits of Hormuz at the throat of the Persian Gulf and so remove Gulf oil routes from the lurking threat of Iranian closure.

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The 35,000-strong new Saudi security force, disclosed this week, will protect the new project, together with the oil installations of the world’s biggest oil exporter, from attack by such enemies as al Qaeda or Iran. The first 5,000 recruits are already in training, as plans advance to start laying the first section of the new pipeline system in November, 2007.

Because of the sensitivity of their mission, Saudi security experts assisted by American advisers are thoroughly screening each recruit about his family, tribal and past associations to weed out religious extremists. DEBKAfile adds that the new oil security force will be the third largest in Saudi Arabia, after the armed forces and the National Guard.

The first Trans-Arabia pipeline will carry 5 million barrels of oil a day, almost one third of the 17 million barrels produced by Gulf emirates. The crude will be pumped through pipes running from the world’s biggest oil terminal owned by Saudi Aramco at Ras Tannura, south to S. Yemen’s oil port of Mukallah and west to the Red Sea port and industrial town of Yanbu north of Jeddah.

The $6 billion investment in the first stage will come from the participating governments within the framework of the Gulf Cooperation Council – GCC.

Rising regional tensions and the vulnerability of the Straits of Hormuz, the only maritime outlet for Gulf oil, to hostile blockade has galvanized the partners into urgent action to get the project up and running.

The Straits of Hormuz are a chokepoint in every sense.

Only 37 km wide, they consist of two lanes able to accommodate oi tankers entering and exiting Gulf ports. Every 24 hours, an average 30 vessels transit the straits loaded with roughly one-quarter of the world’s oil consumption.

This volume varies according to weather conditions, currents and whether it is day or night. The traffic during the navigable hours tends to be heavy, no more than 6 minutes between each vessel. Even if the US Navy and Air Force deployed in the Persian Gulf succeed in keeping the Straits of Hormuz open to shipping in an emergency situation, their very presence must slow the traffic down. The flow could be reduced to about half its regular capacity.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Gulf sources report that the Trans-Arabia Oil Pipeline project’s second stage for rerouting South Iraqi oil will start in early 2009 without waiting for the first to be completed

Consisting of about 60% of Iraq’s oil product, the oil from the Basra terminal will be diverted from the Shatt al-Arb outlet to the Persian Gulf, which Iraq shares with Iran, and flow into pipes crossing the Iraqi Desert directly into Saudi Arabia – according to the plan.

On August 9, Tehran countered by announcing negotiations with Baghdad on a deal to build a pipeline to carry 200,000 barrels per day of southern Iraqi crude to refineries in Iran.

According to another part of the plan, Tapline will be resusciated. The story of how this pipeline fell into disuse mirrors half a century of Middle East conflict.

The Trans-Arabian Pipeline Company started operating in 1950 as the largest oil pipeline of its time, a joint venture of Standard Oil of New Jersey (Esso), Standard Oil of California (Chevron), The Texas Company (Texaco) and Socony-Vacuum Oil Company (Mobil). It transported Saudi oil from Persian Gulf fields to a Mediterranean outlet, whence it was shipped to Europe and the eastern United States.

The conflict in Palestine in 1946 caused the Tapline Company to seek alternative routes, which went through Jordan, over the Golan Heights and up to the north Lebanese port of Tripoli on the Mediterranean. The section running across Golan was discontinued after the 1967 war.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s oil sources report that Kuwait and Qatar, though members of the GCC, have opted out of the Trans-Arabia pipeline project.

The two emirates are deeply involved in building a gas pipeline network which is a higher priority for them than the transport of oil - especially Qatar which has large gas reserves but not much oil.

Southern Iraq’s oil is therefore projected to flow directly into Saudi Arabia and bypass Kuwait.

The Trans-Arabia Oil Pipeline network will consist of five main branches:

Pipeline No. 1: Work begins on this section in November. It will run 350 km from Ras Tannura on the Saudi easern coast to Al Fujairah in the United Emirates, also collecting cruide from Abu Dhabi’s Habashan oil field. Its 48-inch diameter provides a capacity of 1.5 million bpd.

Pipeline No. 2: This will link Ras Tannura to Musqat, Oman.

Pipeline No. 3: This will run southwest from Ras Tannura through Hadhramouth and onto Mukalla, on the Yemeni shore of the Gulf of Aden.

Pipeline No. 4: This pipeline will will also terminate at Mukalla, but first circle round from Ras Tannura to the UAE before turning back into Saudi Arabia and on to Yemen.

Pipeline No. 5: This line will slice across Arabia from Ras Tannura in the East due west to Yanbu on Saudi Arabia’s western coast on the Red Sea.

This route is already occupied by two older pipelines. They were laid in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war for the very same purpose as the contemporry project, namely to circumvent the Straits of Hormuz. One was built to carry Iraqi oil out to market away from the war zones of the Iranian-Iraqi frontier.

Alive to possible Iranian or al Qaeda sabotage attempts, the Trans-Arabia Pipeline partners have decided to sink large sections underground and secure the system with such obstructions as fences, earthworks, moats and roadblocks. The new oil force will man the system.

According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s estimates, even after the US pulls its army out of Iraq, it will retain troops for securing both the northern and southern oil fields and installations. They will be there to keep Iran at a distance, especially from the the Basra oil center.

The project also fits into the preparations underway in the Gulf oil emirates and Saudi Arabia to step up oil production by 4 million bpd to rein in skyrocketing prices before they hit $100 per barrel.

On the inter-Arab plane, Riyadh hopes Syrian Bashar Assad will appreciate the benefits accruing to his country from the pipeline across its territory - enough to draw away from his close clinch with Iran and mend his fences with Washington. The Saudis are pinning their hopes on Tapline’s resurrection helping to put Damascus-Washington relations on a new footing.

IRAQ: Shia rivalry sees cleric cease fire,25197,22335717-31477,00.html
Correspondents in Baghdad | August 31, 2007

RADICAL Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's surprise declaration that he was suspending his Mahdi Army militia's operations was seen in Iraq yesterday as an attempt to halt the outbreak of bloody inter-Shia violence, which erupted earlier this week in the holy city of Karbala.

The declaration came after Mahdi Army fighters waged running battles with Iraq's Shia government forces in Karbala, killing 52 people and wounding 279.

The government forces are dominated by the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and its armed Badr movement. Many fear the Karbala clashes were a sign of Shia rivalries between the Sadr and Badr movements, which are vying for power in Shia southern Iraq.

Reports yesterday said Sadr's ceasefire -- which includes a declaration not to attack US troops -- was seen as an acknowledgement that inter-Shia fighting had damaged the reputation of the Mahdi Army.

There was also a suggestion that the militia, which twice fought brutal uprisings against US troops and has been blamed for thousands of death-squad killings in Iraq, was no longer under Sadr's control.

Recently, US and British commanders have claimed some Mahdi Army fighters have slipped out of Sadr's control, operating as criminal gangs or receiving financing and training from Iran to carry out attacks on US and Iraqi security forces.

US officials in Baghdad and Washington greeted word of the suspension cautiously, calling it an encouraging sign but saying it would take time to determine the impact of Sadr's announcement.

The order for the foot-soldiers to stand down came just as the Mahdi Army seemed set to consolidate its dominant position over large areas of Iraq.

In a statement read out by Sheikh Hazim al-Araji, one of Sadr's senior aides, the young Muslim cleric said that his fighters should suspend operations until February and ordered his political offices closed for three days.

"I direct the Mahdi Army to suspend all its activities for six months until it is restructured in a way that helps honour the principles for which it is formed," read the statement, which was issued in the Shia Muslim holy city of Najaf.

Although no reason was given for the move, it was seen as an attempt to halt the outbreak of bloody inter-Shia violence that erupted earlier this week in Karbala, one of Iraq's holiest cities. Sadr may have been forced to act because of fears that the clashes threatened to spread to other Shia cities across southern Iraq.

The Mahdi Army, which was founded in 2003 as a rag-tag militia loyal to Sadr, has since emerged as one of the most powerful forces in Iraq. It boasts thousands of fighters, is accused of receiving arms, training and funding from Iran, controls large swathes of Baghdad and is the dominant force in Basra and other Shia cities, where it often controls the local security forces.

With Britain set this week to withdraw the last of its soldiers from the centre of Basra and with the likely drawdown of US forces from Iraq next year, the Mahdi Army should be in a position to become one of the most powerful groups in Iraq.

That may offer a clue into Sadr's unexpected order. The cleric, who rarely gives interviews but does deliver angry sermons against the US military occupation of Iraq, knows his ambitions will be wrecked if his loose band of followers are dragged into an inter-Shia war.

Until now, Iraq's majority Shia community has stuck together. Rival groups agreed to stand on one electoral list in the last elections, where they emerged with a comfortable majority.

But even before this week's fighting in Karbala, there were signs of deep cracks in the Shia ranks, with rival militias and leaders vying for power.

Sadr will have to use the next six months to reorganise his force, try to discipline unruly local commanders and turn this chaotic force into a capable organisation.

Agencies, The Times

INDIA : Women officers demand equality

Nitin Gokhale, Kadambini Sharma
Source: NDTV

Friday, August 31, 2007 (New Delhi)
For 15 years now, women have become an integral part of the Indian Armed Forces.

They fly transport planes and helicopters, have administrative and operational duties and yet the ministry of defence finds them unfit for a permanent commission.

Currently they can't serve for more than 15 years and they don't get pension when they retire.

But now two serving Indian Air Force women officers have decided to fight back.

They have filed a petition in the Delhi High Court, demanding a uniform policy for men and women. Their lawyer says the Air Force does not have a case. It's just hiding behind technicalities.

''All that we are asking for is a clear-cut policy on permanent commission for women. The argument put forth by the Air Force that women cannot be given that chance because the current policy does not allow women a combat role does not hold water,'' said Prashanti Prasad, Lawyer.

Not surprisingly, women constitute only about seven per cent of the total strength of the Indian air force officer cadre and they don't understand the government's resistance.

''I see no reason why woman cannot be granted permanent commission. At the time of our recruitment itself they had promised us that we will be given an equal opportunity. Why they have not done it so far is a mystery,'' said Deepa Nailwal, Ex-IAF Squadron Leader.

The Air Force has refused to react since the matter is in court.

The Air Force may have valid reasons for not having women as fighter pilots but in its 75th year, it defies all logic in not giving women a permanent commission in other branches.

IAF makes its first casualty evacuation using night vision devices
31 August 2007

The Indian Air Force (IAF) successfully completed a casualty evacuation at night using night vision goggles, in a narrow valley close to the border somewhere in the north-east sector, for the first time in its history.

An Indian Army division contacted IAF Eastern Air Command HQ with an emergency request at 1630 hrs on 20 August to evacuate two casualties, one with a serious head injury. The helipad was located in a narrow valley close to the international border.

Despite being on the same longitude as places that have a time zone a full hour ahead of Indian Standard Time (IST, based on the longitude of Nagpur, in central India), India's north eastern states are still forced to follow IST. This results in very 'early' sunrises and sunsets. Dawn breaks around 0330 hrs in the summer, and the sun sets at around 1600 hrs.

Consequently, by the time the request came in, darkness was rapidly descending. Considering the late hour of day, marginal weather conditions and the deteriorating health of the casualties, rescue personnel took a prompt decision to undertake the evacuation in a helicopter, using night vision goggles.

Just 12 minutes after the request was received, the most qualified aircrew at the Air Force Station, Mohanbari, scrambled an Mi-17 helicopter. In low visibility conditions and turbulent monsoon weather, the team flew a mission involving four hours of flight time and saved of the lives of two critically injured soldiers.

The patients were evacuated from Kibitoo helipad to Jorhat Air Force Hospital. This type of casualty evacuation at night using night vision goggles during difficult flying conditions in a narrow valley close to the border was undertaken for the first time in the history of the IAF