February 15, 2008
Feb 6th, 2008
USF Center for the Pacific Rim - San Francisco, CA
Wiring India: Asia's Urban Adventure with Sabeer Bhatia.
As President and Chief Executive Officer, Sabeer Bhatia guided Hotmail's rapid rise to industry leadership and its eventual acquisition by Microsoft in 1998. A pioneer in web-based e-mail, he now heads Arzoo.com and in 2000 was named a Global Leader of Tomorrow at the World Economic Forum, seconded by TIME in 2002. His recent visionary project is the creation of the first wired city in India, called Nano City, in the state of Haryana designed from the ground up with modern infrastructure. Come see the future!
Patrick Lloyd Hatcher, Ph.D., a Kiriyama Distinguished Fellow at the USF Center for the Pacific Rim, will moderate - USF Center for the Pacific Rim
As President and Chief Executive Officer, Sabeer Bhatia guided Hotmail's rapid rise to industry leadership and its eventual acquisition by Microsoft in 1998. A pioneer in web-based e-mail, he now heads Arzoo.com and in 2000 was named a Global Leader of Tomorrow at the World Economic Forum, seconded by TIME in 2002. His recent visionary project is the creation of the first wired city in India, called Nano City, in the state of Haryana designed from the ground up with modern infrastructure.
Aurobinda MAHAPATRA (India)
Source: Strategic Culture Foundation
Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov made a two-day official visit to India from 12 February 2008. The main purpose of the visit was to inaugurate Russian Year in India, besides presiding over the second joint forum for trade and investment. The visit acquired significance due to the recent differences over the air craft career Admiral Gorshkov and nuclear cooperation in the overall ambit of bilateral economic and defence ties. It is the defence cooperation that was/is the crowning glory of bilateral relations; hence any dithering in its pace would likely dampen relations. However, despite long drawn debates and discussions about the defence ties the recent developments indicate that both the countries, taking into account the changing imperatives of the world order, would muster enough political acumen to give final shape to the Gorshkov deal. In this context, it may not be an exaggeration to consider the Gorshkov controversy as a real test of partnership between India and Russia.
Admiral Gorshkov is a Soviet era aircraft career built in Ukraine in 1980s and decommissioned after the collapse of the Soviet Union ostensibly due to its expensive maintenance cost. The negotiation between India and Russia regarding the career started in 1997 but concluded in January 2004 in New Delhi at the presence of defence ministers of both the countries at a cost of $1.5 billion. The career a was necessity for the Indian navy, as its only aging aircraft career INS Viraat was going to be decommissioned in 2008. The Gorshkov was supposed to be delivered in the same year in order to fill the critical gap in the Indian navy.
It would be worthwhile in this context to narrate Indo-Russian defence relations briefly. The relations dated back to the heydays of the cold war when the economic and defence capability of India, surrounded by hostile powers, was at a poor shape. The then Soviet assistance was timely. Its willingness to come closer as reflected in the friendship treaty of 1971 was noteworthy. Whether it was the establishment of heavy industries or the issue of securing national sovereignty and integrity, the Soviet assistance was phenomenal. In fact, India’s army would be unimaginable without the Soviet/Russian weapons. The post-cold war, except the initial hiccups, has almost retained the same spirit in bilateral relations including the defence ones. In can be mentioned defence is the only sector that has flourished well in post-cold war environment characterised by, among other things, competitive arms markets.
Despite the growth trajectory in arms relations the recent controversy about the Gorshkov deal has raised hackles, thus putting strains on the sustainability of bilateral defence ties. Russia announced in November 2007 that the aircraft career would require a further $1.2 billion (almost double the cost agreed on in 2004) for its delivery in 2012, instead of 2008. The sceptics in bilateral relations preferred to call it a day. However, it appears naive to proclaim doom to defence ties without examining the emerging issues. In fact, the deal was signed hastily without studying the details. As one Indian defence official admitted, ‘the original contract was sketchy.’ For instance, the recabling of the carrier at the time of signing of the agreement was estimated to be that of 700 km, but later it discovered to be about 2400 km. Similarly, the ship requires more sea trials than envisaged earlier. There are other technical issues such as converting the ship surface into flattop were earlier under evaluated.
Reportedly, India has already paid $700 million for refitting work at the Sevmash shipyard in northern Russia. It would be difficult to abrogate the deal at this stage. In the difficult terrain of international politics which is currently assuming murkier shape and witnessing the ghosts of the cold war stalking in different parts of the world, it would be but prudent to further strengthen bilateral relations instead of weakening it. Obviously, such a redesigning and restructuring of relations necessitate political acumen and courage which can foster mutually agreed compromise, addressing national interests of both the countries. The best course in the case of the aircraft carrier, hence, is to renegotiate the deal to the satisfaction of both the parties. As per a report, Russia has taken steps in persecuting the officials of the Sevmash for the gaffe. India too has agreed to pay about half of the hiked cost. It is expected that the visit of high level Indian defence team, led by the Defence Secretary, to Russia on 19 February 2008 would give final and conclusive shape to the deal.
In a sense, it is good that the Admiral Gorshkov controversy cropped up. It might serve a forewarning for things to be tackled in advance while negotiating deals in future. Indo-Russian defence cooperation is remarkable and no two countries share such close defence ties which extend to joint research, design and production of weapons. The emerging imperatives of the 21st century necessitate cementing of strategic cooperation, governed by mutually beneficial cooperation in diverse areas. In this context, controversy involving Admiral Gorshkov can be considered a real test of partnership, which both the countries with the record of friendship and cooperation must pass without entangling themselves in short-term calculations.
Communication and Information Minister Andres Izarra speaking to President Chavez on his cell phone during a forum with community media. (VTV) Caracas, February 14, 2008, (venezuelanalysis.com) - Venezuela's Communication and Information Minister, Andrés Izarra donated sixty-nine sets of audio-visual equipment to community television stations from around the country on Wednesday, with the objective of promoting a National System of Popular and Alternative Communication, to combat the "savage" opposition media campaign and increase the "communicational capacity" of Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution.
Speaking to over 400 community media representatives in the Cuartel San Carlos Historical Museum, Izarra stressed the importance of using community media to struggle for the truth, "to generate consciousness that allows for the creation of a new culture," as well as dealing with the day to day issues faced by the communities and promote values of solidarity.
Jhonny Pancho, a representative of Catia TV, one of Venezuela's oldest community television stations, whose slogan is "Don't just watch TV, make it!" said that the equipment would strengthen community production and consumption of communication. "The function of community media is to encourage the idea in our barrios, that the true protagonist of the new television is the people," Pancho stressed.
Pancho considered that the donation of equipment and the formation of an alternative media network "is to counterattack what the private media has done, the capitalist media, that wants to destroy our country."
Efrén Aguirre, an independent community TV producer who also welcomed the move by the government said, "The communication question reflects different interests. The private media obeys the interests of the capitalist class and our media reflects the interests of the community."
However, Gabriel Gil, President of Catia TV clarified that community media remains independent of the government. Catia TV doesn't hesitate to criticize public functionaries or incidents of bureaucracy Gil said.
"The editorial line of Catia TV responds to the necessities of the population with respect to the essential struggle against bureaucracy."
Collectives produce more than seventy percent of the programming of Catia TV, he added.
President Hugo Chavez, who spoke to the forum via telephone, also stressed the central role of alternative media in Venezuela's revolutionary process and reflected on an editorial published by a Venezuelan daily, titled "Politics is communication," that argued, among other things, communication constitutes 80 percent of success in politics.
For this reason, Chavez said, it's not strange that big capitalist interests devote their principal efforts to dominating the means of communication. "We can't allow this battle of ideas to weaken our process and our truth. It is necessary to strengthen this new communication strategy," he added.
He also called on the community media to use their programs to fight for the truth,
"We are battling for the dignity of the people and for the future of our youth. Go for the truth, criticize the government, criticize Chavez, criticize the ministers, criticize the enemy, attack hard and organized!" he said to loud applause.
A government decision not to renew the public broadcast license of private television station RCTV (which still transmits via cable and satellite), due to its consistent violations of Venezuela's Law on Responsibility in Television and Radio and active participation in the April 2002 military coup against Chavez, sparked an opposition outcry in May last year that there is "no freedom of expression" in Venezuela.
However, despite these claims, the vast majority of radio, television and print media remains in the private hands and are openly hostile to the government.
Gil argued that the Venezuelan people truly learnt the value of community TV during the military coup when the opposition forcefully shutdown media outlets such as Catia TV and state-owned Channel 8, while RCTV and other private TV channels broadcast false information.
Many government supporters argue that all the TV stations that actively participated in the military coup should be shut down and handed over to the people.
In recent weeks grass roots community groups have lodged a complaint with the Supreme Court calling for opposition private TV station, Globovision, to be investigated for violating media laws, saying it blatantly lies and manipulates information.
Even government opponents have slammed Globovision; a February 12 post on opposition blog site, Caracas Chronicles, criticized Globovision for its "frequently amateurish and breathlessly partisan reporting, at its role in keeping oppo supporters cooped up in a claustrophobic little bubble of know-nothing anti-Chávez fundamentalism."
"It's straightforward: Globo sucks," the post continued.
In recent weeks Chavez has argued that the means of communications should not be in the hands of capitalists who are "traitors to the people," and should instead be run by the people themselves.
In May and June community media collectives will hold a series of national conferences to discuss ways to further strengthen and develop the National System of Popular and Alternative Communication.
Posted online: Tuesday, February 12, 2008 at 2302 hrs IST The Indian Express
November 21, 2007: We were all at the weekly meeting of the BJP members of Parliament. L.K. Advani was presiding. Two of our colleagues represent Arunachal in the Lok Sabha — Tapir Gao and Kiren Rijiju. They drew attention to the fact that Chinese incursions into Arunachal were not just continuing — these were becoming more frequent and the Chinese soldiers were coming in deeper into our territory. They pointed to the statement of a senior official heading our force that is deployed on the border: the official had felt compelled to disclose in a public statement that there had been 146 incursions in just 2007. The MPs — who know the area well, who tour extensively across the state, to whom local inhabitants regularly and naturally bring information — said that the Chinese were now preventing locals from going up to regions where they had been taking their animals for grazing; that they were being supplied goods from Chinese shops...
They drew even sharper attention to an incident that had occurred just three weeks earlier. For as long as anyone could remember, there had been a statue of the Buddha — well inside Indian territory. Local inhabitants used to go up to it — pray, make their offerings. The local commander of the Chinese troops had told Indian soldiers that the statue must be removed. Our soldiers had pointed out that the statue was well within Indian territory, and so there was no question of removing it. The Chinese had come, and blown off the statue...
I raised my hand for permission to speak. It so happened that I was half-way through a book, Why Geography Matters, by the well-known geographer, Harm de Blij. Setting the stage, Blij points to the clues that one can get from maps, and why it is important to pay attention to them — especially when governments publish them. He recalls ‘a telling experience’ he had in 1990. A colleague of his, working then at the University of Baghdad, had sent him an official map that had been published by the Government of Iraq. The map showed Kuwait as the 13th province of Iraq. At a meeting in Washington, Blij had drawn the attention of the then chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the US House of Representatives to the map and its implications. The gentleman had told Blij not to worry, the US Ambassador, he said, was on top of things... A few days had not passed, and Iraq had marched its armies into Kuwait... The first Gulf War...
But it was the passage that followed that was of urgent interest to us, and I sought Advani’s permission to read it. The passage is as follows — please do read it carefully:
‘Cartographic aggression takes several forms. Some overt, as in the case of Iraq, others more subtle. In 1993 I received a book titled Physical Geography of China, written by Zhao Sonqiao, published in 1986 in Beijing. On the frontispiece is a map of China. But that map, to the trained eye, looks a bit strange. Why? Because in the south, it takes from India virtually all of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, plus a piece of the state of Assam. Now this book is not a political geography of China, nor is the matter of appropriated Indian territory ever discussed in it. China’s border is simply assumed to lie deep inside India, and the mountains and valleys thus claimed are discussed as though they are routinely a part of China. Make no mistake: such a map could not, in the 1980s at least, have been published without official approval. It should put not just India but the whole international community on notice of a latent trouble spot.’
BJP members of Parliament are acutely sensitive to national security issues. Here were two colleagues from the state testifying to what the Chinese were doing in Arunachal, and now here was a book that was warning about what was afoot — a book published far away, a book written by an author who had no interest in either running down China or upholding India’s position on anything. The effect was palpable. Advani said that the two MPs and I should attend the BJP press conference that afternoon, and draw the attention of the media to the facts. Advaniji said that, in addition to explaining the background, I should read out the passage too.
When Parliament is in session, the press conference is held every afternoon. The large room was packed with journalists. After Sushma Swaraj and Vijay Kumar Malhotra had dealt with events of the day, Tapir Gao and Kiren Rijiju narrated the facts. I set out the context — and read the foregoing passage.
I had hardly concluded that the usual clutch — pro-Congress, pro-Left — was up in arms. ‘When was the book published?’ one demanded. I couldn’t get the relevance of the question: what has the date of publication got to do with the warning that the author had penned, even more so with the facts that the MPs have set out? ‘No, no. As the book must have been available even during the NDA regime, what did your government do about the matter?’ I hadn’t looked up the date of publication. I did now. The edition I had in hand had been published in 2007! It records that the book was first published in 2005! The journalist subsided. In any case, I pointed out, trying to soften the deflation-by-date, the vital thing is not what the book says — the passage from the book just illustrates that, while others are concerned, we continue to sleep. The thing of vital consequence is what is happening on the ground, and this is what my colleagues here — who represent the area in Parliament — have just narrated.
‘But what did the NDA do about the incursions?’ another member of that clutch demanded. First, the head of the force at the border has spoken about the incursions that have taken place this year, in 2007, I pointed out. What could the NDA government have done about them? But assume that incursions were taking place then, and that the NDA government did nothing. Does that in any way become reason for not doing anything today? Please do have some mercy on our country, I said. Here is China claiming our territory; here it is, having begun that well-rehearsed series of steps which precede a grab. Are we going to divert ourselves from that reality by the usual ‘tu-tu, mein-mein, NDA vs UPA?’
‘No, Mr Shourie,’ — it was the pro-Left journalist — ‘but you have to acknowledge that there is no agreed international border between India and China. So...’ That is the Chinese position as articulated by your paper often, I said. It has not been the position of any Indian Government...
By now enough diversion had been created. The press conference was soon over. My Arunachal colleagues were, of course, disheartened — ‘If this is how much the national press cares...’ I was incensed. For years I have seen such clutches divert attention from life and death issues and been unable to do anything about it. Here was another painful instance.
Not only was the question at hand a matter of life and death for our country. It was one on which we had the most recent historical experience to keep us alert. When Acharya Kripalani, Ram Manohar Lohia, K.M. Munshi and others had first drawn attention to Chinese maps that showed vast swathes of Indian territory to be part of China, Panditji had replied that he had taken up the matter with the Chinese and they had said that these were old, colonial, faulty maps, and, as they had just gained independence, they had not had time to correct them. Later, these very maps were used to argue that the areas had always been part of China. Mao had then declared, Tibet is the palm of China, and the Himalayan kingdoms are the fingers of that palm... Did the journalists not remember any of this?
An anchor from a news channel phoned. I saw your press conference, he said. We have been following this story for many months. Can you please come to our studio?... No, I said, I really am very upset at what happened... But I give you my word, he said, we think this is an important issue, and we are going to follow it in the coming months also. I will send an OB-van to your house.
The van came. The late night news. The earpiece in my ear... All set. Delay — quite understandable: some new eruption in Nandigram... Eventually, the anchor and I are talking.
‘But are you sure about the facts or is the BJP indulging in its usual fear-politics?’ the anchor asks. But why don’t you ascertain them from the two MPs who represent the area? I respond. Better still, why don’t you send your own correspondents and photographers to the area? I inquire. We will, we will, I assure you. I was just making sure...
In any case, look at what the ambassador of China has himself said, I remarked. Remember, just days before Hu Jintao, the Chinese President, was to come to India, the ambassador declared, right here on Indian soil, that Arunachal is a part of China...
‘But maybe he was saying it for rhetorical effect,’ said the anchor.
Rhetorical effect? I skipped a heartbeat. Is the Chinese Ambassador also running after TRP ratings like the TV channels? Would an ambassador say such things just for effect? And that too the ambassador of China, of all countries? You mean an ambassador, you mean the ambassador of China of all countries would claim the territory of the country to which he is accredited, that he would lay claim to an entire state of that country for rhetorical effect? I asked. And remember, I pointed out, he repeated the claim in Chandigarh later. And look at the government of China — it has not distanced itself from the claim advanced by its ambassador. On the contrary, its ‘think-tanks’ have held ‘seminars’ in the wake of the ambassador’s statement. In this the ‘scholars’ and ‘diplomats’ and ‘strategic thinkers’ have declared to the man that Arunachal is ‘Chinese territory under India’s forcible occupation’; that it is ‘China’s Tawang region’; that it is ‘Southern Tibet’ which must be brought under the control of the Tibet Autonomous Region. And you call this rhetorical? That is just lunatic...
The anchor was off to the next item. ‘Be that as it may... Another controversy... Thank you, Mr Shourie. Always a pleasure talking to you. Moving now to a slightly less controversial story...’ ‘SHILPA SHETTY,’ he said, his voice rising, ‘has not been in the news since the famous Richard Gere kiss, but we have her back today. Here she is, SHILPA SHETTY...’
The sound on my earpiece cut. Shilpa Shetty had once again trumped poor Arunachal.
Both sets of exchanges — at the press conference as well as over the TV news channel — had been typical. In part, the problem is extreme, brazen partisanship — and this takes two forms. One is the premise of many: India can never really be in the right: you just have to see the play Musharraf’s devious formulae have got in many of our magazines — the presumption is that we are in the wrong in Kashmir, and so we are the ones who must bend, and go on bending till Pakistan expresses satisfaction. This premise is compounded in the case of many others by commitment: you can rely on several of our colleagues to see merit in China’s stance on everything. The second variant is domestic predilection: the BJP is evil incarnate; because the BJP has raised the issue, the issue itself must be trashed. That is how the mortal danger from Bangladeshi infiltrators has been shouted out. That is how the dual-faced, anti-national politics of many in Kashmir has been shouted out. That is how appeasement of narrow sections for votes is routinely shouted out. That is how what is happening in Arunachal is being shouted out.
And then there is what has become the nature of the media: the obsession with the sound bite on the one side and with the next ‘breaking news’ on the other. Issues like Kashmir, the nuclear deal, the way China is translating its economic strength into military might — these require more than a sound bite. The media has no time for that.
Similarly, to deal with China, to counter Pakistan’s proxy war, the country must sustain a policy for 20-30 years. And for that, you have to keep readers and viewers focused on that issue for decades at a time. But the media is fixated only on what it can project as ‘breaking news’ in this shift — what was ‘breaking news’ in the last shift is ‘old hat’ by this one.
Even more than partisanship, and the obsessions of the current media with the next ‘breaking news’, the problem is superciliousness — this has become the reigning ideology today. What we see every day in papers — that ‘Shilpa Shetty over Arunachal’ business — was brought home to me directly one day. We happened to meet while flying to Mumbai — the owner of one of the country’s foremost newspapers and I. I accosted him about what his paper was carrying on Kashmir — every allegation, every smear that any and every secessionist thug was spitting out at our country and our forces was being carried on the front pages of his paper as fact. Aren’t you reading the nonsense that your paper is printing on Kashmir? I asked. And I gave examples from the preceding few days. The entrepreneur listened. And then exclaimed: ‘Arun bhai, yehi to faraq hai aap mein aur hum mein. Aap abhi bhi hamara paper padhte ho!’ — ‘That is precisely the difference between you and us, Arun bhai. You still read our paper!’
That such a person no longer bothers to read his paper was just a pose. His real message was, ‘Kashmir, did you say? I am above such trifles...’
This weak-kneed government is a problem, of course: its nominal leaders have lifted helplessness to new heights. But the even graver problem now is that the one instrument by which it could be shaken up, the media, has become a problem of its own.
Make no mistake: China watches all this. It watches the feeble, confused, contradictory ways in which our government, and even more our society, reacts each time it advances a claim. And it pursues its policy:
• Repeat the claim;
• Go on repeating the claim;
• Let time pass.
And they will reconcile themselves to the new situation. Has the policy not succeeded in regard to Tibet? No Indian Prime Minister will dare mention the word ‘Tibet’ or ‘Taiwan’ — lest doing so offends China. But China will go on claiming what it wants — for reasons that we must understand!
But why think of Tibet and Taiwan? Has the six-step policy not succeeded in regard to Aksai Chin? In spite of the unanimous resolution that the Parliament passed at the time under Panditji, is there an Indian leader who will today demand that China hand back Aksai Chin? And do you think that when they deliberate over what they are to do in regard to Arunachal, the Chinese do not remember the success they have achieved in Aksai Chin?
The writer is a BJP MP in Rajya Sabha
Stating that there was a limited time and there were various other countries pursuing for Iranian gas, Iran's visiting Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Mohammad Ali Hosseini told FE that India and Pakistan need to agree on contentious issues as it would pave the way for signing the agreement.
Declining to comment on whether the delay in signing the deal was due to India's pro-US policy, Hosseini, however, said that public opinion in Iran was growing against Indian policy tilting towards the US. He also declined to comment on the proposed India-US civil nuclear deal.
As per the IPI pipeline proposal, after signing of the agreement, 60 million standard cubic meters per day (mmscmd) of gas is expected to be supplied in phase-I, which will be shared equally between India and Pakistan. In phase-II, 90 mmscmd of gas will be supplied to India and Pakistan.
Hosseini's comments come at a time when the steering committee meeting (SCM) of the participating countries has been rescheduled and is slated to be held in February 2008.
A bilateral meeting between India and Pakistan is also expected on the sidelines of the SCM meeting. So far six meetings of the trilateral joint working group (JWG) have been held, with the last meeting being held in New Delhi on June 28-29, 2007. The Centre is in the process of discussing the details of the project with the governments of Iran and Pakistan.
By Bhaskar Roy
Pakistan is bracing for the February 18 general elections that is supposed to be “free and fair”, and bring back parliamentary democracy to the nation.
The country has almost been at war with itself. This war is not like the ones being fought in some of the African countries these days. For a more sophisticated country like Pakistan with high intellectual property, commendable military strength, and nuclear arms the situation worries everybody. That the problems do not have any definite contours, adds to the concerns.
What Pervez Musharraf did in the last one year, that is, through 2007, tore to shreds what was otherwise still a vibrant nation, each interest section pursuing its own goal. As concurrently Chief of Army Staff and literally self-appointed President of the country, he lost whatever political balance that was left.
The Western countries led by the USA pinned their hopes purely on the General to deliver to them the Al-Qaeda leadership. The Taliban was of secondary consequence because its Chief, Mullah Omar was not sending terrorists and suicide bombers abroad to attack US and European interests. That the Taliban was fighting the US and NATO troops in Afghanistan and had sheltered Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda operatives, were matters to be dealt with separately.
The West also understood that Musharraf had made certain compromises with the radical elements, but as long as he kept delivering Al-Qaeda leaders at regular intervals, he proved his utility.
The US held its patience since September 11, 2001. But with increasing Al-Qaeda linked terrorist attacks in Europe, with a number of important arrests there, and the terrorist organisation’s unshifting focus on America, Washington saw the need to rearrange the power matrix in Pakistan.
Musharraf sensed early that Washington was planning to clip his wings. He reacted by creating more Islamist extremist problems to make his case for retaining dual power. His strategy, however, backfired. For example, the Lal Masjid conflagration last year which led to the death of several Islamic students and Maulavis in the Mosque, including its leader.
The developments in Pakistan are well known. Musharraf made two major mistakes. He alienated the extreme religious radicals, the tribals in the country’s Northern border areas, and the middle of the road religious parties. Second, by acting against the Chief Justice, Iftehar Ahmed Chaudhury and then dismissing Chaudhury and sixty top judges of the country, he strengthened the suffocated intellectual and liberal pride of Pakistan, the civil society.
Musharraf was allowed by the West to elect himself as a civilian President of Pakistan, but his mainstay, the post of Army Chief, was taken away.
The triangular power sharing formula envisaged by the US was also demolished with the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on November 27, last year. This formula envisaged Musharraf as civilian President, Benazir Bhutto as Prime Minister, and Gen. Ashfaq Kayani as the Army Chief. Now Musharraf and Kayani are left, and the February 18 polls are expected to throw up the third leg of a three-legged stool, at least in the Bush administration’s strategy.
Musharraf still enjoys support from the US and the West. The election results are not expected to affect him unless the new Parliament decides to impeach him and amend the Constitution. Gen. Kayani is widely reported to be Washington’s chosen man.
There is strong pressure on Musharraf to hold free, fair and peaceful elections. The European Union has warned him against rigging the polls. US officials have openly stated that rigging the elections cannot be ruled out totally. Otherwise, a victory for Musharraf’s party, the PML (Q), through a blatantly flawed election would make US political and military operations difficult in Pakistan.
The elections will be mainly a fight between Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (N) and Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP). The PML (Q), which broke away from the original PML of Nawaz Sharif to join Musharraf is now on a weak wicket. Its acceptance among the people is directly linked to Musharraf’s popularity. And Musharraf’s acceptance is hitting rock bottom according to recent public opinion surveys.
There are problems for the opposition parties. The security situation in the country is such that political parties have hardly been able to campaign. In a recent rally of the PPP a gunshot was reportedly fired. A suicide bomber killed more than 30 people at an Awami National Party (ANP) election rally on February 9 in Charsadda district in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). It is significant that no group has claimed responsibility. Any major extremist group like Beitullah Mehsud’s Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) would have proudly claimed responsibility if it was responsible for such incidents.
In due course Pakistan Interior Ministry may try to fix responsibility for the NWFP incident. NWFP is a volatile region with mostly tribal provinces and it would not be difficult to find some alleged culprit to pin the responsibility on. That there is no claimant for the incident yet raises questions because most of these anti-Musharraf tribal extremist groups are proud, and making a false claim would demean the leaders in the eyes of their followers.
The only institution capable of such acts to maintain the power status quo through security threats is Pakistan’s most dreaded military intelligence agency, the ISI. This agency benefits from the extension of the present power structure in the country through the coming election because the Musharraf led government has become dependent on this institution.
The ISI family has become something of a Mafia Kingdom within the government. Army Chief Gen. Kayani was the ISI Chief before his present appointment. He would have hardly been able to penetrate the “Family” and make the whole institution march to his command. The Family would perform the normal duties ordered by its Director, but if he is not one of their own, he would not be privy to their own operations.
The ISI Family is not necessarily dependent only on the government budget. The US support to the Pakistan Army and the ISI during the Afghan war against the Soviet funded regime of Md. Daud in Kabul taught them how to earn revenue from weapons running and Afghan narcotic smuggling. They also have their people in the armed forces.
The ISI Family raised a number of Islamic terrorist groups including the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), the Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami (HUJI), and Sunni extremist tanzim the Laskar-e-Jhangoi (LEJ). Al these groups have trained their own fighters and suicide bombers. Musharraf indulged them, used them, and ultimately became their prisoner.
The Family’s interest lies in preventing a political change. It also has its connection with the Al.Qaeda and the Taliban. Even Baitullah Mehsud was a creation of the ISI. But in this kind of a situation friends and allies need not always see eye to eye. The Family, therefore, is the main suspect responsible for terror threats to control the election powers. According to recent opinion polls in the four provinces in Pakistan conducted by a reputable American institution it was found that Musharraf’s popularity had dipped to 15 percent. The most popular was late Benazir’s PPP with 36.7 percent, followed by Nawaz Sharif’s PML (N) supported by 25.3 percent. The PML (Q) slumped to 12 percent popularity. The support for the Islamic parties had sharply dropped.
In a free and fair election the PPP should do well, with the PML (N) following closely. To achieve the common purpose of trying to rectify what Musharraf had done with the country and the Constitution since his coup in 1999, these two parties would have to enter into a coalition.
The PPP may be running on a sympathy wave. It is a cadre based party, but also loyal to the Bhutto family in Pakistan’s feudal culture. But Benazir’s widower, Asif Zardari suddenly revealing his hidden ambition to become the Prime Minister when the party had basically projected Makhdom Amin Fahim as the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate, has shocked party members. Zardari has been trying to make amends. The election is, however, too near to be seriously divided over Zardari, but post elections, it stands to become a major issue to trouble the politics of the country. The old suspicion about Zardari’s ethics may be returning.
The question is whether the radicals themselves are interested in disturbing the elections, or are some of the smaller radical leaders being guided by another force? The Pakistan intelligence agency, the ISI, has its own interest to see that the main opposition parties do not win. The ISI is known to have strong links with some of these radicals.
With very little poll campaigning and threat to life, the voter turn out could be small. The smaller the turn our the easier would it be to rig the voting.
Historically, rigging has been the final arbiter in Pakistan’s elections. The common people did not care much, and went about their lives. Businessmen subtly changed sides. And the army either ruled from the chair or from behind. President Pervez Musharraf is responsible for changing this happy cohabitation.
The people want Musharraf out, and he desperately wants to stay in power. So do his acolytes and enforcees who are equally culpable. A bad drubbing at the polls portends a rather grim failure for Musharraf and his team.
In spite of pressures from his western allies to hold at least a reasonably fair election, Musharraf is very likely to avail of all tools at his disposal to have the PPP-PML (N) broad band defeated. He knows that nothing succeeds like success, and is prepared to deal with accusations after he wins.
A group of 40 NGOs declared that the names of 1.5 million voters did not figure in the Election Commission’s final lists. Equally there were many names of false voters in these lists. This is only one part of the rigging that has been exposed. There will be much more to come on polling day and in the counting of votes.
The army’s role in the February 18 polls is still opaque, but may not be so in the next three or four days. Heavy army deployment across the country has already started to ensure security. This is a traditional ploy. If observers across the world expected Gen. Kayani’s withdrawal of army officers from most civilian posts indicated his estrangement from Musharraf, they would be mistaken. This move only corrected one of Musharraf’s unnecessary and unpopular policies. The armed forces stick together in their own basic interests.
As a footnote for the future, it may be unfair to leave out the civil society. The politicians and the army were together in suffocating the civil society activists who demanded accountability, transparency and probity. That may be slowly changing with the lawyers and judges defying physical attacks and his government. The media joined them and the public mood is slowly catching on. A time bomb may be growing.
All things considered, the election results, howsoever arrived at, is unlikely to throw up a clear result. Then the negotiations will start on who gets what at the end of it.
To conclude, Pakistan’s politics appears to have started moving towards a change. It does not matter how slowly. The only thing that matters is that the move towards a positive change has started. The fundamentalists and extremists will have to give way ultimately.
(The author is an eminent analyst with many years of experience. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Musharraf cannot afford to have a result that allows the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League to call the shots; he cannot even let his own loyalists — the Quaid or Q faction of the PML led by the Chaudhry brothers to have too much freedom. Since only a particular result will be acceptable, it requires fixing, managing or rigging before or after the elections. His backers too need a result that ensures his continuance for he is the West’s regional beacon in their Global War on Terror.
The contesting politicians seem to be the least important factor in this race. Musharraf, Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani and the jihadis are going to be the greater determinants on February 18 and in the aftermath. Political parties have probably got this message and Asif Zardari, the controversial leader of the PPP, is already talking of a post-election national government for five years. A party sure of winning, or even reasonably hoping to win, is unlikely to make such statements. Either Zardari, adept at making deals, has been told of the results or he has guessed. The sympathy wave in favour of PPP after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination may have dissipated under an onslaught from the jihadis who do not want a secular system of governance in Islamic Pakistan. Unless the wave extends to the Punjab it will make little difference to the results. The wave of terror in the North West Frontier Province and terrorist incidents in the Punjab and Karachi have driven away political leaders to the comparative security of their homes and frightened the electorate who do not wish to risk their lives for an event that will make little difference to their lives. The mood gaining ground is that the elections, for which the turnout has been very low in recent years, would see even poorer participation. In that case their management will be easier.Musharraf is no longer the hero of October 1999 and in fact Pakistani commentators have lately questioned his role in the Kargil war. For some time he tried to ride two horses — one American, in the war on terror and the other jihadi, in their anti-American campaign. The latter has bolted, leaving Musharraf clinging to the American horse. He began to lose his touch in August 2006 when he had the Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti murdered. The Lal Masjid episode showed Musharraf as being either helpless or in connivance with the Ghazi brothers and the March 9 sacking of the Chief Justice was unnecessary and arrogant.
The November 3 Emergency confirmed that Musharraf just wanted to stay on, while the assassination of Benazir Bhutto aroused anger in the Sindh and strengthened the belief that Musharraf did not want a dispensation that had the possibility of a Sindhi Prime Minister. The much-vaunted economic success has also been a mirage that is now haunting him. His earlier aplomb and candour in answering difficult questions has been replaced by rudeness and temper tantrums, as was seen during his recent visit to Europe, the sure signs of a weakening man. The role of the Army will remain paramount even though Gen Kiyani has professed neutrality of the Army in the election process, has asked his officers and men to stay away from politicians and has withdrawn officers from civilian assignments. It is very likely that in the aftermath of the messy elections the General may be the arbiter. The Pakistan army is a disciplined force as all professional armies are expected to be. It observes its army regulations strictly and with considerable pride. It does not, however, feel the same way about respecting the Constitution which is a civilian document and therefore expendable. General Kiyani has other problems as well. He must refurbish the fading image of the Army where not only are the actions of serving generals being questioned but also of those in the past. He must win the battle against the terrorists in the north-west, yet not be seen as an American stooge. Above all, Kiyani must get out from Musharraf’s shadow. Musharraf has been going international about Kiyani’s virtues and competence and talking about Kiyani being an honourable man. What Musharraf does not realise is that no successor wants this kind of certification and without his uniform Musharraf is a much weaker man, like Ayub was in 1969. Musharraf also does not realise, or accept, that he has actually been ousted from the throne. He now has a sinecure but the charade will continue because the army needs Musharraf as the fall guy for all the problems. However, there are clear and repeated indications that Pakistan’s leaders, civilian or military, present or future, are now facing the consequences of a blowback. The Pakistan Army has lost 1,100 men in the fight against terrorists in the NWFP since Musharraf began his operations in 2003 which is more than US/NATO losses in Afghanistan in six years. Even so, the US is not happy with the Musharraf report card on the war on terror and would like him to do more or do more itself inside Pakistan. The London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies recently assessed that the Pakistan-based Taliban pose a global risk. The study added that international terrorism remained the largest growth industry and groups in Pakistan had earned the “dubious honour” of making the biggest strides during the past year. More than a million small arms are estimated to be floating around in the NWFP in the hands of those who know how to use them. Terrorist activity in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and spreading to the rest of the NWFP, has marked a steady upgrade in its ability to overpower Pak security forces almost at will. The Army GHQ at Rawalpindi must be worried by the repeated incidents of the Frontier Constabulary and the Army detachments surrendering with ease to the Taliban, refusing to fight or vacating positions to them.
Apart from the high profile violence that was visible in Darra Adam Khel, where militants decamped with four truckloads of weapons — since NATO supplies are routed through Pakistan it is possible these supplies were meant for NATO — and the blocking of the Kohat Tunnel, the terrorist campaign against the secular and pacifist Awami National Party, the party of Frontier Gandhi, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, is particularly significant. There have been repeated attempts to assassinate Asfandyar Wali Khan, the grandson of Ghaffar Khan, former interior minister Aftab Ahmed Sherpao and Afrasiab Khattak. The attacks have not been against just another political party but against the ANP’s ideals that are anathema to the Taliban. In this backdrop of fear and terror, with a stultified press, major leaders either petrified or locked up and the army waiting in the wings, the average voter hovers between cynicism and despondency. It is difficult to predict who will win but if the turnout is low on February 18, hope will certainly die and Pakistan will have lost.
Source : Mail Today , 15th Feb 2008
He is only 37 years old born in 1971 and he is already making news taking on the Manmohan Singh Government’s pusillanimity in taking on China on Arunachal Pradesh.
Arun Shourie in yesterday’s Indian Express had a very concerning piece titled “Shilpa Shetty trumps Arunachal” on how the dimwits in the media have been obscuring the public debate on Chinese transgressions in Arunachal Pradesh.
Mr. Rijuju was also in the news for driving home the China question with a bold visit to Taiwan.
Back in his home state, Rijiju said over phone that people in Tawang “are confused” over the signals that Delhi was sending by not talking about the security of Arunachal.
Rijiju said he chose to visit Taiwan as an MP to make a point. “As an Arunachalese, I could not have got a visa to China but I can go to Taiwan,” he added
From speaking up for the Armed Forces to lobbying hard for the interests of the strategically important North Eastern Frontier Mr. Rijuju has had a far more stellar Lok Sabha tenure than Rahul Gandhi.
To understand how lacking in substance Rahul Gandhi’s performance in the Lok Sabha has been to date in stark contrast to Khiren Rijuju consider this
Special Mentions in current session - Rijuju had 9, Rahul Gandhi only 1
Questions - Rijuju 184, Rahul Gandhi 3
Private Member’s Bills - Rijuju 6, Rahul Gandhi had None
Participation in debates - Rijuju in 72 debates while Rahul Gandhi only in 2
Offstumped: It is a shame that the dim-wits in the mainstream media have spent more time sucking up to Rahul Gandhi than on highlighting the alarming issues of National Security that young parliamentarian Khiren Rijuju has been vailantly bringing to light. It is time we paid attention to the concerning events to the North East of our Frontiers. Offstumped hails Mr. Rijuju’s initiative and pledges full support.
1 . LOK SABHA Profile
2. Kiren Rijiju on telecommunications network in Arunachal - AOL Video
3. YouTube - Kiren Rijiju on Chinese claims on Arunachal Pradesh
‘Stop China before it’s too late’
BJP MP Kiren Rijiju alleges Chinese intrusion in Arunachal Pradesh.
By Preeti Sharma
A recent claim by BJP MP Kiren Rijiju from Arunachal Pradesh that China is consistently intruding into border areas of the state has rocked the nation. His claim holds critical significance in view of last month’s tenth round of Sino-Indian border talks and Cabinet Minister of External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee’s 10 May statement in the Rajya Sabha that India and China are exploring the framework for a final package settlement covering all aspects of the boundary issue.
The India-China border dispute has lingered since the 1962 Sino-Indian War. During the war, China seized Aksai Chin and overran Arunachal Pradesh. Later, China vacated Arunachal Pradesh to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which approximates the McMahon Line. Running through east India and signed by British India and Tibet in 1914, the line forms the border between India and China, but China does not accept it. In 1986-87, Indian and Chinese forces clashed in the Sumdorong Chu Valley in Arunachal Pradesh but in next few years, relations warmed.
On 7 September 1993, both nations signed an accord to control tensions on their border and decided to accept the LAC. In 1996, China and India specified the LAC and established confidence building measures (CBMs) along the frontier. In August 1997, both sides signed the CBM agreement.
Since 2003, India and China have appointed special representatives to hold border talks. They have met ten times to discuss the border issue, roughly thrice a year. India accuses China of illegally occupying 43,180 square kilometres and China says India possesses ninety thousand square kilometres of Chinese territory, including Arunachal Pradesh in its entirety.
BJP MP Kiren Rijiju has made startling revelations, which may reignite border tensions between the two countries, although the Central and state governments have rejected his claims. He discussed the situation with NewsInsight Correspondent Preeti Sharma. Excerpts from the interview:
You have claimed in Parliament that China is intruding into various areas of Arunachal Pradesh. What are the grounds for this allegation?
(The Chinese intrusions are in) my constituency and I have surveyed the area. China has intruded twenty kilometres into Indian territory. Such areas as Asapila, Lungar and Majak camps in the Taksin area have been recently captured by the Chinese. Most of the McMahon Line is already under Chinese control. Kibitu and Bumla are two points where India and China regularly exchange flags. But the other areas are largely inaccessible and thus the Chinese troops make an easy way into them. The villagers of these areas are selling their domestic animals as the grazing lands have been taken away by the Chinese army (the PLA). I cannot be accurate about the date when the Chinese intrusion started. It has been a slow and creeping activity going on for a long time.
So why is the state government denying the matter? The Arunachal Pradesh chief minister says that intelligence agencies have no such information.
The state government is not actually denying the matter but is saying that there is no formal intrusion of Chinese troops in that area. However, they accept that some areas are disputed. This is my whole point. The so-called disputed areas are now being taken over by the Chinese. Army authorities also support my statement but I am not in a position to disclose anything.
The state government does not want to accept the situation publicly also because in the Centre, the UPA government is backed by the (Left, including the Communist Party of India-Marxist), which has shown its pro-China stand on several occasions before. Therefore, to not to offend the Communists, the government does not want to address the border issue with China.
What is your demand from the government?
I have challenged the government authorities to come with me to the LAC and see the situation there. India should have solid infrastructure in the border areas to mobilize our troops and increase our dominance. While China has established huge infrastructure on the Arunachal border, including two lane roads and helipads and their military is also heavily deployed, on the Indian side, the area is inaccessible and poorly developed.
The Indian government is afraid of the Chinese, which is why they have not been able to take counter measures. In November last year, when the Chinese ambassador commented on their Arunachal Pradesh claim, the Indian government could not (reprove) him and the matter passed off without serious discussion.
The whole nation is interested in the Kashmir Valley where the problematic area from Anantanag to Baramula is smaller than Arunachal Pradesh. The people of Arunachal Pradesh are patriotic and want to remain with India. It is a rich state with abundant natural resources, but China is making things difficult there. The local people are sad because they are losing their land to China. My whole purpose is to wake up the Government of India about the need to protect Arunachal Pradesh before it is too late.
What is your next course of action?
I am having discussions with my party. We have raised the matter in Parliament to make everyone aware of the border realities. Government has to (devise a) strategy to (manage) the whole issue.
More on Kiren
1 . LOK SABHA Profile
2. Kiren Rijiju on telecommunications network in Arunachal - AOL Video
Some aspects of the relevance of the Arthashastra in the contemporary world
Balbir S Sihag
Kautilya understood some basic human tendencies and limitations inimical both to national security and prosperity—such as bounded rationality, time inconsistency and shirking (or moral hazard)—and devised measures to handle them effectively, efficiently and ethically. He was also aware of the problems caused by budgetary constraints. National security demanded expansion in spending on infrastructure and in military capability. But an increase in taxes was considered counterproductive, as that would retard long-term economic growth, make taxpayers discontented and prone to be turned against the king.
That meant a poor nation with a smaller tax base could not finance the building of the requisite military capability. It certainly could not match the power of a rich nation and consequently would become an irresistible target for attack by stronger nations. He argued that power breeds more power but the challenge was: how to initiate the process with limited resources. His genius lay in offering insights for meeting the challenge—that is of maintaining independence and becoming prosperous.
- First, according to Kautilya, economic prosperity strengthened national security and brought happiness to people, but it was not sustainable unless the gains were distributed fairly.
- Second, he emphasised the role of good institutions for internal stability. He considered rule of law (and not rule by law), essential for protection of private property rights and constraining the predatory or extortionary behaviour of rulers and bureaucrats. Internal stability, in turn, was essential for acquisition of knowledge and accumulation of capital.
- Third, he emphasised good governance, which meant clean, caring and competent administration so that resources were not siphoned off from building infrastructure to personal uses.
- Fourth, according to him, a judicious blend of moral and material incentives was necessary to elicit optimum effort from the king at the top to the herdsman at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
- Fifth, changes could be brought only through co-operation and co-ordination and not through confrontation and coercion.
- Sixth, it was a king’s moral duty and in his self-interest to behave like a loyal servant to his royal people.
This is an excerpt. Download the issue to read the entire article
Source: South Asia Analysis Group
By B. Raman
At long last, nemesis overtook Imad Mughniyeh, the head of the covert action division of the Hezbollah, who was trained by the Iranian intelligence. At Damascus on February 12, 2008, he died the way he had sent hundreds of innocent civilians---- Americans, Israelis, French and many others--- to their cruel deaths---- through a car bomb.
2. Nobody knows who planted the car bomb that killed him. The Hezbollah and Iranian sources have blamed the Israeli intelligence. One will never know, but whoever killed him has made a major contribution to the fight against terrorism. No tears need be shed over his death. There need be no qualms of conscience over the way he was killed, through the car bomb technique which he himself had developed in the Lebanon in the early 1980s and used with devastating effect to kill hundreds of American and French soldiers stationed in the Lebanon.
3. Since the explosion in the New York World Trade Centre in February,1993, the world has been talking of what has come to be known as new or catastrophic or mass casualty terrorism. Osama bin Laden has been projected as the father of this new terrorism. He is not. The real father was the Iranian-trained Imad Mughniyeh. Many of the new mass-killing and mass-intimidating modus operandi being used by different terrorist organisations all over the world--- the car bomb, the suicide bomber, attacks on mass transportation systems etc--- were born in the head of Imad Mughniyeh. bin Laden hated the Hezbollah and Imad, but at the same time admired their ingenuity in devising ever new techniques of mass casualty terrorism. He copied their techniques and imparted a greater lethality to them.
4. Bin Laden was not the only one to emulate this diabolical killer of people in their hundreds. So did Prabakaran, the head of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). His techniques of the suicide bomber, the suicide car and the suicide boat were based on a study of the MO used by Imad. The deaths of hundreds of civilians in Sri Lanka and of Rajiv Gandhi in India were the outcome of the ideas and techniques which Prabakaran and the LTTE learnt by studying the terror strikes carried out by the Hezbollah under the guidance of Imad.
5. Imad, bin Laden and Prabakaran--- have one thing in common. Their readiness to send hundreds of misled young people to death as suicide terrorists, while saving themselves from death. But, death in the form of a car bomb ultimately caught up with Imad just as it will one day catch up with bin Laden and Prabakaran.
6. Nemesis strikes not only terrorists, but also intelligence agencies, which use terrorists for achieving strategic objectives. That is what Pakistan has been learning for the last one year and that is what Syria has been learning. Imad was not the only terrorist leader to have operated from a sanctuary provided by Syria. So did Carlos, So did George Habash, who died recently. So did the leaders of the Red Army Faction of the then West Germany and Japan. So did many others. Iran was not the only country with which A. Q. Khan, Pakistan's nuclear scientist, was in touch. He was in touch with Syria too. In 2003, when the US-led troops invaded and occupied Iraq, I had reported about the secret visit of A. Q. Khan to Syria. The alleged Israeli Air Force strike on a suspected Syrian nuclear facility last year was meant to convey a message not only to Syria, but also to Iran. The message was: "If we want to, we can. Nobody can stop us."
7. The death of Imad would not be the end of the Hezbollah. Nor would it be the end of jihadi terrorism of the Iranian or the Pakistani or Al Qaeda brand. It will be the beginning of a new phase of terrorism ----- particularly directed at Israeli targets all over the world. Hezbollh is not known to have a presence in India, but that does not mean it would not try to attack Israeli targets in India if an opportunity presented itself. Both the Iranian intelligence and the Hezbollah have cause for anger against India because of the launching of an Israeli satellite by an Indian rocket. They may calculate that a terrorist strike against an Israeli target in Indian Territory would convey an appropriate message to Israel as well as India.
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com)
February 14, 2008
By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan.
Source: South Asia Analysis Group
Bhutan made history of sorts on 31 December 2007, when elections to the National Council were held in 15 of the 25 dzongkhags (districts). By using Electronic voting machines, the results were announced the very next day. Elections to the remaining 5 dzongkhags could not be held on the same day as sufficient eligible candidates were not available then, but were held subsequently on January 29.
Compared to the activities relating to the National Assembly elections , election to the National Council ( upper house) was rather a tame affair and the people did not evince much interest. The reason could be that the people were already excited about the National Assembly elections which were soon to follow.
The voter turn out was not at expected levels, but considering the fact this is the first election for a democratic set up, glitches should be ignored. It is said that at some places, voters were redirected to other places for voting. The Chief Election Commissioner declared that the election was a huge success and he was confident that the switch over to democracy will be smooth and according to their plans.
India hailed the conduct of the first ever upper house elections and said that it was a great moment in Bhutan’s history and an important step in Bhutan’s transition to a new system of governance.
National Assembly Election Date Announced.
The Election Commission announced that the first General election under the new constitution will be held on March 24. On that day 47 candidates will be elected. The process began with the two political parties DPT and PDP ( Druk Phuensum Tshogpa and People’s Democratic Party respectively) recognised by the commission submitting the list of candidates along with their election manifesto and audited financial status of the parties. Campaigning began on 8th February as stipulated.
Curiously one other party BPUP ( Bhutan People’s United Party) was refused registration by the Election Commission on the ground that it lacked “credible leadership” and that more than 80 percent of the members were “school drop outs.” The Election Commission also observed that it was out of tune with the noble aspirations of the Bhutan Constitution. The Party is led by one Sigay Dorji, a former Royal Advisory Councillor. An appeal has been filed before the Election Commission. It looked that the decision to disqualify the party was an arbitrary one.
It should be said to the credit of the administration that the election campaign of the parties have been allowed to be lively and intense. As expected there were complaints and counter complaints of the parties and individual members violating the election code, but these were not serious ones and did not foul up the pre election’s scenario.
National Day Address of the King:
The King addressed the nation on the national day ( 19 December- 2007). He started with a pledge to carry on with the vision of the former King in the nation being founded on the philosophy of Gross National Happiness and the principles and ideals of democracy. He specifically addressed the youth, the civil servants, those participating in politics and finally the people. He ended his address by calling for “One Nation- One Vision” and for moving towards achieving the goals of vision of gross national happiness and a vibrant democracy.
As expected there was no mention of the refugee problem of over 100,000 Bhutanese refugees languishing in the seven camps in eastern Nepal. However the refugee issue is getting to be solved due to benign intervention of external powers who have agreed to take the bulk of the refugees for settlement.
We had watched admiringly the developments in Bhutan with a King who is enlightened. He had a vision for his country and the people. He had on his own introduced democracy in a country where the majority of the people do not understand the meaning of opposition as we understand in our polity and he voluntarily relinquished power to his son. It is beyond comprehension how such a benign person could have allowed the refugees ( his own subjects by any measure) to suffer as stateless people in another country. This perhaps stems from the belief that GNH can be achieved only by proper ethnic management of the country!
More and more literature are seen coming on the concept of Gross National Happiness. If one agrees that the economic development and GDP by themselves do not automatically make people happy, the concept envisioned by the King gives an alternative view of the issue. GNH is said to be based on four pillars that encompass cultural, environmental and spiritual dimensions balanced with socio economic growth.
GNH is now being put on a proper structural basis with the government announcing the formation of a GNH commission which will combine the functions of the Planning Commission and the committee of Secretaries. This commission will stream line the philosophy in the country’s plans and policies.
Interestingly the economy has also shown a higher growth. For the year 2006, official sources mention that the GDP grew by 8.5 percent increasing from Nu29.2 billion to 31.6 billion. This growth was mainly achieved by partial commissioning of the 1020 MW Tala Hydro electric project, followed by mining and quarrying growing by 63 percent. Inflation rate was 4.5 percent and higher than the previous year.
It is said that structure of the economy has undergone a change in the last few years with the primary sector consisting of agriculture and mining declining to 23 percent from 29.3 percent in 2000, the secondary sector increasing by one percent over the same period and a bigger rise in the tertiary sector that comprises the entire service sector to 42.4 percent from 37.7 percent over the same period.
The Refugee Issue:
Finally and hopefully without any further hitch, preparations for third country settlement are going on at a fast pace with the USA taking the initiative in formally opening the office of “Overseas Processing Entity” (OEP) on 10th January, 2008. The US Ambassador while inaugurating function said that ‘resettlement’ was a compulsion because there was no prospect of repatriation despite efforts made for the last 18 years.
The Nepal government has also relented in agreeing to issue exit permits to all those selected for third country settlement and the first batch of the refugees numbering 10,000 may leave Nepal by the end of March.
As expected and as we feared, there has been certain radicalisation of the refugee youths in all the camps. The Communist Party of Bhutan ( ML) which had been underground in the camps has now come out openly and recruitment of their cadres for a militant wing has been going on. Some recent reports of the suspected activities of Maoist refugees in Bhutan should be of concern.
* On 16 January press reports indicated that the RBA exchanged fire with a group of militants in Lower Dhanessey in Tsirang. One of the militants captured later is said to have admitted that the group belonged to the Bhutan Tiger Force.
* Kuensel reported four bomb blasts on 20 January. The first blast took place in the vegetable market in Samste. No injuries or damage were caused by the blast. A second blast took place in Thimpu town and again there was no major damage. A third took place near the gate of the Tala Guest House in Gedu in Chukha district and a fourth took place in Dagapela in Dagana district. Police suspected the hand of the Bhutan Tiger Force and the Communist Party of Bhutan. In the Gedu blast one civilian succumbed to the injuries.
* On February 4, a powerful bomb blast occurred in a village in Samste district and two other bombs were defused.
Though denied by the Maoists of Bhutan, it is suspected that the disgruntled radicalised refugees would have been responsible.
Source: STRATEGIC CULTURE FOUNDATION
Serbia, a small, never wealthy, repeatedly debased European country that is nevertheless strong in spirit, is again attracting a great deal of attention of the world’s public. The situation in and around Serbia is the direct result of the degradation of such political ideals as national statehood and sovereignty, as well as the most sophisticated transformation of the international system and formation of an unipolar world structure. Ruling the world from just one centre is only possible if the world is in a state of chaos.
The United States has handled issues of pinpoint influence on the development of individual countries and whole regions since the 1960s. The stake for “the controlled chaos” opened new opportunities to Pax Americana architects. It is known that if a system is in a point of break-up (bifurcation), it can face tremendous upheavals even when affected by minutest impacts. Stephen Mann, one of the chief theoreticians of the state of crisis and a former special U.S. presidential representative in the Caspian region, U.S. Ambassador to Turkmenistan and currently first U.S. State Department undersecretary for South and Central Asia clearly states that “stirring chaos” is a necessary leverage in ensuring U.S. national interests. According to Stephen Mann, the mechanism for the “creation of chaos” in the adversary’s camp is “promotion of democracy and market reforms.”
And given that all the countries in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe are now dependent on the global (or, to be precise, U.S.-oriented) organisations and bodies. Serbia is an unusual case. Its is a system of a non-linear structure, unstable demeanour and a strong mustering effect, with an unexpected response to a direct influence, being capable of organising itself into a comparatively steady-ordered unit. So it was decided that in the Serbian gamble it would be the ethno-nationalist card.
It is exactly the paradigm of “the controlled chaos” that provides a clue to realise why the U.S. and EU are in such a hurry to grant Kosovo independence. As is known “frozen conflicts” have developed for dozens of years in many disputable territories. The North Cashmere issue has been unsettled since 1947, North Cyrus has been an issue since 1974, and West Bank of River Jordan – since 1967. There are not even suggestions, to say nothing of attempts, to impose unilateral solutions there. Serbia is an exception to the rule! We should all be aware that the Serbian case has nothing to do with near-sighted Anglo-Saxon policies. The matter is much more serious.
U.S. politicians count on the maximally possible spreading of the Kosovo virus, a virus of crime, extremism and terrorism that with time could breed havoc in the whole of Europe. “The solution” of the Kosovo issue is effectively an algorithm of activities of present-day and future separatists. As D.Young correctly argues in The Christian Science Monitor that in order to attain their goals all they need is to organise and terrorise local residents, forcing the government to resort to power, followed by an uprising, and claiming their honesty, loyalty to an ethic code and resolve, to entrap foreign troops into a disputable territory. Let us forget all the besotting “politically correct” arguments, rather giving a thought to what in essence is a monstrosity: Kosovo terrorists and cutthroats may form their own (a second Albanian) state in Europe quite soon! People who go on ousting and destroying Serbs, demolishing every trace of their presence in the province (explosions and arsons of Orthodox churches and bulldozing Serbian cemeteries) are now glorified in the West as fighters for freedom and democracy, and heroes!
Realising a threat to their own existence, many European states stand out against the hurried resolution of the Kosovo issue. Spain, Slovakia, Hungary, Greece, Cyprus, Rumania and even Germany are concerned over the potential Kosovo precedent for separatist movements.
Taking into consideration the growth of resistance to their plans, and apparently losing hope for the victory of their protégé Boris Tadic, global-minded architects of the European chaos decided to accelerate the process of declaring Kosovo independent as best they can. During consultations on January 24, 2008 Xavier Solana, coordinator of EU foreign policies and Hashim Taci, Kosovo’s prime minister agreed to declare the province independent within days.
The Serbian political process has directly to do with Russia’s national and state interests. Serbia is for Russia a point of some sort of bifurcation.
Looking through the prism of elections in Serbia the real attitude the West has taken towards Russia and Russians is still the clearer. Western media harp on Serbia’s future “in isolation” and “with doubtful Russian graces” (The Financial Times), speaking of “rigid nationalism” and “extremism” of Tomislav Nikolic (The Guardian). Extremism is the nice little word they use to refer to love of people’s native land, and the desire to live in their home country in conformity with traditions and heritage of their ancestors; they even call Serbian standing for truth and law “doubtful graces.” In this respect, an interview T.Nikolic gave to The Christian Science Monitor shortly before presidential elections is quite telling: “We have been under the influence of Western Europe for seven years now. We have done everything the West asked us for, and that was our mistake.” (display is mine – E.P.) The Serbian situation can also be viewed as a provocation.
As Giulietto Chiesa writes: Washington needs Kosovo to “make mad Putin’s Russia, no longer a friend or even an acquaintance… The acceleration of the processes in Kosovo is not a necessity, so why provoke it all? Not even all the European countries have supported the idea. Why tightrope them? The answer is evident: Washington is interested in separating and weakening Europe and in setting it against Russia.” (Il Manifesto)
We should recollect something in this connection. In his April 1999 interview to Sunday Telegraph Tony Blair vindicated the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia by saying that that was “a battle between the Good and the Evil, civilisation and barbarity, democracy and dictatorship.” But if NATO was then fighting the Milosevic regime (now dead thanks to Western “justice”), who do they in the West associate with Evil and barbarity now that they have turned their bayonets to defend Kosovo’s independence?
Is it Serbia? Or Russia?
We will get the answer soon.
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti commentator Tatyana Sinitsyna)
Russia and India have upgraded their unique cooperation in building civilian nuclear facilities by initializing an intergovernmental agreement on the construction of four additional energy units at the Kudankulam nuclear power station in Tamil Nadu and on joint work at other sites. Deputy Director of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency Nikolai Spassky, and head of the Indian Nuclear Power Corporation S.K. Jain confirmed the viability of this agreement in New Delhi on February 11. Now the document has to go through the last channels and be approved by the heads of state.
For Russia, the Indian order is a victory in the struggle for a new segment of the world market. Russia has won a big contract for its energy and industry sector. In turn, construction of new energy generating capacities is very important for the rapidly developing Indian economy. This event is also of global significance as evidence of the nuclear industry's revival.
The prospect of building nuclear reactors in India is of great importance for Russia. It is clear that this is not going to be the last order, but may be extended to 10 or even more units at other sites. There are some restraining factors, though. India has not yet signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and this fact is becoming sensitive when it comes to relations with nuclear suppliers.
Russia is going to build VVER-1000 reactors (or WWER -- Water-Water Energy Reactor, 1000 megawatt electric power) on India's new sites that encompass the latest achievements of its nuclear energy industry. Fifty three reactors of this type, including 14 in Russia, are operating without a hitch. Their aggregate service life exceeds 1,000 reactor years. Two units are built simultaneously to save money. The latest double unit was integrated into China's national energy system last fall.
Independent and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts believe that this Russian model is one of the safest in the world. Compared to nuclear reactors in European countries, the United States and Japan, Russian units are a better value for the money.
The nuclear power plant in Kudankulam has already stood a serious test when it was hit by tsunami caused by an earthquake in the Indian Ocean. The dam was partially washed out, but protected the plant at the exit into the open sea. The plant's location was chosen very well - it stands behind Sri Lanka, which absorbs the onslaught of the ocean. The Russian project provided for other safety mechanims that would prevent water from spreading on the plant's site. Russian experts will do even better on new Indian sites.
Russia and India started nuclear cooperation in the 1970s-1980s when they signed two documents - an agreement on scientific and technical cooperation in civilian nuclear energy (1979) and an agreement on cooperation in building nuclear power plants in India (1988). In November 2001, they signed a memo on the fundamental principles of cooperation in building the Kudankulam nuclear power plant.
The first scoop of concrete was poured into the foundation of the first unit of the Kudankulam nuclear plant in the Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu on March 31, 2002. According to estimates by Rosatom, the Federal Atomic Energy Agency, the first unit will be commissioned in late 2008, and the second one will become operational in 2009.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
TEHRAN, February 13 (RIA Novosti) - Iran will launch a commodities exchange for oil, petrochemicals and natural gas on February 27, the Islamic Republic's oil minister said on Wednesday.
Gholam-Hossein Nozari told Iran's Press TV satellite channel that the opening ceremony of the Oil Bourse would be attended by Minister of Economy and Financial Affairs Davoud Danesh Jaafari, who will head the bourse.
He said earlier the Oil Bourse will be located on the Persian Gulf island of Kish and that all financial settlements will be made in Iran's national currency, the rial.
The minister said his country's oil revenue will reach $63 billion by the end of this Iranian year, which ends on March 20.
He said oil sales reached $55 billion in the first 11 months of the year, and that "if crude prices stand at the current level, next year's oil revenues will be the same as this year."
Nozari announced last week that Iran's crude oil production had reached 4.184 million barrels per day, the highest level since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Iran to Launch Oil Bourse Sunday
TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari said the country's long-awaited Oil Bourse will be inaugurated Sunday.
The inauguration ceremony will be attended by Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Davoud Danesh Jafari, who will appoint head of the Iranian Oil Bourse.
Jafari earlier stated that the Oil Bourse will be located on the Persian Gulf island of Kish and the official trade currency will be the Iranian rial.
The bourse will act as a trading platform for oil, petrochemical, and gas products.
Experts say the success of an oil bourse would largely depend on cooperation with other OPEC members as well as a much-needed consensus from the Persian Gulf states.
Meantime, an electricity bourse will be inaugurated in the first six months of the next Iranian year (to start March 20).
Referring to the power plants as the main applicants, Mohammad Hossein Javid added that 25 percent of the energy will be marketed in Tehran Stock Exchange (TSE).
He called the measure a strategy to reduce the waste of power.
"This will remarkably increase the power plants' output by 25-50 percent," he added.
14:00 14/ 02/ 2008
MOSCOW. (Alexei Malashenko for RIA Novosti) - Badri Patarkatsishvili was no ordinary politician. He played a key role in Georgia's life, apart from his role in the country's economy.
Patarkatsishvili was a big name in business and very rich. Figures describing his fortune and his contributions to political campaigns vary wildly, and are difficult to verify. But out of all the independent leaders his financial influence on political life was the greatest.
There was a time when he also enjoyed high standing in Russia. It was there that he built his business career - so successfully that at one point he was known as one of the most influential businessmen in Russia. He was also proactive in political life, and headed several Russian television channels.
He was a cautious man, and if he took a risk he took care not to go too far. Even when he ran for president in Georgia (and got 7% of the vote), he did not really seem to want that post. Nevertheless, he was viewed as a serious contender by Mikheil Saakashvili and the Georgian political elite. His death has left the vacuum that follows the departure of a strong and powerful political leader.
His death is also a serious blow to the Georgian opposition, which now has no one to "lean" against, at least financially. It is also of some interest to see the response of politicians and officials in Tbilisi and those who followed him. The opposition's next moves are easy to guess - it will accuse Saakashvili of being the direct or indirect cause of Patarkatsishvili's death. They are unlikely to blame Russia.
As regards the Georgian president, he is also unlikely to mourn in his passing. To an extent the death of a leading opponent is not to his advantage. Rumors about his supposed involvement in this death could mar his public rating, but the absence of such a strong rival undeniably improves his chances in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Patarkatsishvili's death is bound to generate rumors and gossip, especially in Britain, where he died. The U.K. has seen too many dissidents dying, and people connected with Russia or Boris Berezovsky too often finding themselves in all sorts of mess. The British papers will discuss this theme avidly and at length.
Somebody is bound to play this card. Especially journalists, who will take up the issue and pursue it to the best of their ability. After all, the death of a 52-year-old with no history of heart trouble looks suspicious, although he had led a stressful life over the past few months.
Badri Patarkatsishvili is gone, but questions about him as a political figure remain as frustratingly unanswered in death as they were in life. The first of them is: What was his real aim in Georgia? He was talented both as a tactician and a strategist, and could not but make plans for the future. But what were they? How did he want to align his relations with the incumbent authorities? What were his ambitions and aspirations, what were the things he was prepared to abandon, and what did he stand for?
Was he determined to fight to the bitter end, or had he arranged other options? It would be interesting to know the answers, but these questions are unlikely to be answered any time at all.
Alexei Malashenko is an associate of the Moscow Carnegie Center.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
Source: OXFORD ANALYTICA
Clinton: wounded whale
The US media will this week cease to describe Senator Hillary Clinton as the frontrunner for the Democratic party's presidential nomination, following the thumping that she received in the February 12 'Potomac primary' at the hands of her rival, Senator Barack Obama. For by most statistical measures -- pledged delegate support, total popular votes won, and total delegates -- he will have nosed ahead of her for the first time. He may stay there, barring a major comeback by the Clinton campaign.
Watching the media pack circling the Clinton campaign is like observing a group of sharks trailing a wounded whale:
Clinton spent years painstakingly building a powerful political organisation, burnishing her centrist credentials, and bolstering her national security experience -- to the point where she loomed massively over the 2008 Democratic nominating process.
She so thoroughly dominated the 2007 political landscape and national polls that her defeat in Iowa struck many media observers as a sea change; they assumed that Obama would use the lightning he struck there to romp to the nomination, as John Kerry had four years earlier.
Thus, Clinton's unexpected comeback in New Hampshire, checking the polling surge enjoyed by her rival, came as a complete shock; the whale had rolled over and delivered a stunning blow to her doubters.
Yet she has not been able to shake Obama, and now the sharks are circling again. Despite widespread predictions that her strength in the largest primary states that voted on ‘Super Tuesday’ would see her home, he held on -- and took advantage of a serious strategic mistake.
The Clinton campaign did not seem to have a contingency plan, in the event that she failed to knock out the opposition on Super Tuesday. Thus, it was ill prepared to compete in the raft of medium-sized states that held primaries and caucuses during the weekend of February 9-10, which led to lopsided losses in Washington state, Louisiana, Nebraska and Maine.
This flurry was followed on February 12 by another three defeats in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. The latter was an especially demoralising loss, as less than 20% of the Democratic electorate in the state is black, and Virginia features several key demographic groups that have previously favoured Clinton -- especially working class whites and older women. Clinton campaign strategists insisted that she would be very competitive there, but Obama captured almost two-thirds of the Virginia vote (64%).
Therefore, Clinton finds herself in an exceptionally unfavourable position. The Wisconsin primary and Hawaii caucuses on Tuesday are the only Democratic contests that remain on the calendar this month, and both are likely to go to Obama. Her campaign faces a drumbeat of media speculation about the viability of her bid, following up to eight consecutive losses and a fortnight of negative coverage, before a new round of primaries begins next month.
Clinton has seized on the Texas and Ohio primaries on March 4 as the ‘true test’ of Democratic voters’ sentiments, deliberately downplaying or ignoring her mounting losses. Both states have demographics that strongly favour her: Texas includes a large tranche of Hispanic voters, and Ohio is filled will blue-collar workers who gravitate towards her proposed national healthcare scheme. A recent poll shows Clinton ahead in Ohio 56% to 39%.
Hillary's 'Rudy problem'
Yet the New York senator finds herself involuntarily thrust into a position remarkably similar to that of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani -- whose eccentric campaign strategy ceded a huge national polling lead to his opponents in December and January. The Giuliani campaign decided that he could ignore all the early Republican primary contests in January, and bank on his massive polling advantage in Florida at the end of the month to propel him into 'Super Tuesday'. Yet as his rivals for the Republican nomination, especially Senator John McCain, racked up victory after victory, Giuliani’s once rock-solid Florida position evaporated.
The Clinton campaign denies that such 'momentum politics' will undermine her backing in Ohio and Texas. Yet this analysis appears dubious:
Until now, the Democratic nomination campaign has been a seesaw battle in which the candidates have alternated victories. Prior to this week, neither candidate had achieved a series of clear wins, followed by a long delay before the commencement of further state contests.
Candidate wins have impacted the polling in subsequent state contests. For example, Obama's victory in Iowa transformed Clinton’s nearly 20-point late December polling lead in New Hampshire into a deficit. Although she ultimately squeaked to a narrow three point victory in the state, this was still indicative of a major post-Iowa 'Obama bounce'.
Obama has benefited from clear momentum in the national polls, surging approximately 15 points between late December and this month.
So the media sharks are circling. And the powerful Clinton campaign is looking less and less frightening, and more and more like lunch.