March 08, 2008

QUOTE OF THE DAY : Prasanna on "generation next politicians"

"Compare and contrast this with political scene in the country and so called generation next politicians of the country who are celebrated by the Congressi Media .Other than luck of winning the lottery of being born to political powerful family with great financial fortune their CV reveals a sheer bankruptcy of accomplishments .Even the educational credentials of some of them are mysterious unknowns. As you( offstumped ) had proved with facts that parliamentary participation and contribution of these gennext Congress politicos is dismal.Unsung heroes like Kiren Rijiju are ignored by the media just become he comes from a political formation that they detest

Politics and media in India will continue to be islands of mediocrity as Nehruvian stranglehold still shows no signs of weakening in those fields.What a shame that this great country will be continue to be governed by charalatans from dynastic political families"

..................Blogger Prasanna

Thomas Fingar: Flaws In the Iraq WMD Estimate



Dr. Thomas Fingar was Assistant Secretary of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) from July 2004 until May 2005 when he was named Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis & Chairman, National Intelligence Council. While at the State Department he served as Acting Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research (2003-2004 and 2000-2001), Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (2001-2003), Deputy Assistant Secretary for Analysis (1994-2000), Director of the Office of Analysis for East Asia and the Pacific (1989-1994), and Chief of the China Division (1986-1989).

His intelligence career began in 1970 as the senior German linguist in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, USAREUR & 7th Army in Heidelberg, Germany. Between 1975 and 1986 he held a number of positions at Stanford University, including Senior Research Associate in the Center for International Security and Arms Control, and Director of the University's U.S.-China Relations Program. Other previous positions include assignment to the National Academy of Sciences as Co-Director of the U.S.-China Education Clearinghouse, adviser to the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, and consultant to numerous U.S. Government agencies and private sector organizations.

Dr. Fingar is a graduate of Cornell University (B.A. in Government and History, 1968), and Stanford University (M.A., 1969 and Ph.D., 1977 both in Political Science). He is a career member of the Senior Executive Service. His principal foreign languages are Chinese and German. Dr. Fingar has published dozens of books and articles, mostly on aspects of Chinese politics and policymaking.

AURANGZEBS OF TODAY

http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers27/paper2611.html

By B.Raman

In a statement made after the July,2005, blasts in London organised by suicide terrorists of Pakistani origin, Mr.Tony Blair, the then British Prime Minister, spoke of the need to counter jihadi terrorism not only operationally through better intelligence, better physical security, better counter-terrorism operations etc, but also ideologically in order to draw the attention of the public to the pernicious ideas being spread by Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda jihadi organisations and counter them energetically.

2. Amongst such pernicious ideas are that there was no civilisation in the world before the advent of Islam, that the Muslims have a right to re-capture all lands which historically belonged to them, that the Muslims do not recognise national frontiers and ,therefore, have a right to wage a jihad anywhere in the world where Islam is in danger and that the Muslims have the religious right and obligation to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and use them to protect their religion, if necessary.

3. The Pakistani jihadi organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), which are members of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF), project Aurangzeb as the greatest ruler in the history of the Indian sub-continent and describe their aim as the "liberation" of the Muslims of India and restoration of what they view as the golden era of Aurangzeb in the sub-continent.

4. This glorification of Aurangzeb was actually started by the Pakistan Government after the birth of Pakistan in 1947. The text-books got written and prescribed in schools by different Pakistan Governments depicted that there was no civilisation or culture in India before the Muslims came to the sub-continent and glorified Aurangzeb. In September 1996, Murtaza Ali Bhutto, the younger brother of Benazir Bhutto, was allegedly killed by the police of Karachi after he had returned from Islamabad, where he allegedly had a fierce quarrel with Benazir and her husband Mr.Asif Ali Zardari over his demand that he should be appointed as the Vice-Chairman of the Pakistan People's Party. In a piece on the rule of Benazir, the "Economist" of London compared her to Aurangzeb.

5. This created a lot of interest among analysts over the influence of the Aurangzeb model on the minds of Pakistani rulers----political and military--- who grew up after its independence and studied the text-books, which glorified him. It is now recognised by imany that one of the reasons for the spreading prairie fire of jihadi terrorism in Pakistan is the pernicious influence of the Aurangzeb model on the mind-set of the Pakistani youth. Many of them, who are spreading havoc across Pakistan, see themselves as the Aurangzebs of today. Aurangzeb as well as bin Laden are their role models.

6. The overwhelming majority of the Indian Muslim youth, who remain intensely patriotic, have not let themselves be influenced by this pernicious veneration of bin Laden and Aurangzeb and their ideas, but recent events such as the involvement of one or two Indian Muslims in the UK with Al Qaeda, the role of two Indian Muslim youth in the attempted terrorist strikes in London and Glasgow in June last and the recent arrests of some Muslim youth of the Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in Karnataka indicate that some of these pernious ideas might have started winning adherents in the India Muslim community too---- in India as well as in the diaspora in the Gulf and the West.

7. Before this spreads further, it is important to counter this phenomenon ideologically. This is what some respected Muslim clerics and scholars, who had met recently at Deoband, had done. One must welcome their initiative in condemning terrorism. That is also what some activists against terrorism under Mr.Francois Gautier, a well-known French journalist living in India for many years, have been doing. Whereas the appeal of the Deobandi congregation was addressed to the Muslim community specifically, the anti-terrorism campaign of Gautier and his small, but devoted band of associates is addressed to all people----whatever be their nationality, religion, ethnicity etc. It seeks to educate them not only on the evils of terrorism, but also on the mental origin of it.

8. To understand the mental origin of the jihadi terrorism emanating from Pakistan, it is important to identify not only their present-day mentors such as bin Laden, the Pakistani jihadi leaders and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), but also their historical idols. Aurangzeb is one of their topmost historical idols. It is important to educate the people of India on the real nature of Aurangzeb, his policies and actions so that they do not get easily carried away by the way Aurangzeb's rule is depicted by the jihadi terrorists.

9. An exhibition organised by Gautier and his associates as part of this education process had a successful run in New Delhi, Pune and Bangalore. In Pune, over 100,000 people visited it. In none of these places, did the members of the local Muslim community view the exhibition as anti-Muslim or anti-Islam. Unfortunately, some members of the community in Chennai viewed it as anti-Muslim and demanded that the exhibition be discontinued. This has reportedly been done on the advice of the Police.

10. I had attended the inauguration of the exhibition on the opening day (March 3,2008) and spoke on the importance of understanding the pernicious ideas about Aurangzeb being spread by Pakistani jihadi organisations. I had seen all the exhibits before the inauguration and did not find any of them of a provocative nature. More than the paintings, what was so eloquent in the exhibition was the collection of scanned copies of the various orders issued by Aurangzeb during his rule. These documents were authentic and the scanned copies were made over a period of three years from a Mughul Archive in Rajasthan which, I was told, contain a wealth of documents relating to the Mughul period.

11. One of the contentions of those, who protested against the exhibition, was that raking up the past would create a communal divide in Tamil Nadu, which has been relatively free of it.One of the lessons of history has been that remaining silent on unpleasant periods in history leads to a repetition of such unpleasant experiences. That is why Western school children are taught about the evils of rulers like Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin etc. That is why the Jewish people keep reminding themselves and the rest of the world about the holocaust. That was why some years ago Jean-Marie Le Pen, the French rightist leader, was severely criticised for denying the reality of the holocaust.

12. When we deny harsh truths of history, we are only playing into the hands of jihadi terrorists, who see themselves as the Aurangzebs of today.

13. The Annexure gives extracts from what foreign scholars, including scholars in Pakistan itself, have been saying on this subject of what a Pakistani scholar described as a creation of myths regarding the real nature of Muslim rule.When Pakistanis have themselves started realising the damage done to their society and country by this myth-making, leaders of our Muslim community should refrain from starting a similar myth-making exercise in India about the past

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )


ANNEXURE

From: The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition | Date: 2007

"Aurangzeb or Aurangzib , 1618-1707, Mughal emperor of India (1658-1707), son and successor of Shah Jahan . He served (1636-44, 1653-58) as viceroy of the Deccan but was constantly at odds with his father and his eldest brother, Dara Shikoh, the heir apparent. When Shah Jahan fell ill in 1658, Aurangzeb seized the opportunity to fight and defeat Dara and two other brothers in a battle for succession. He imprisoned his father for life and ascended the throne at Agra with the reign title Alamgir [world-shaker]. A scholarly, austere man, devoted to Islam, he persecuted the Hindus, destroying their temples and monuments. He executed the guru of the Sikhs (see Sikhism ) when he refused to embrace Islam. Although the Mughal empire reached its greatest extent under Aurangzeb, it was also fatally weakened by revolts of the Sikhs, Rajputs, and Jats in the north and the rebellion of the Marathas in the Deccan. From 1682, Aurangzeb concentrated all his energies on crushing the Marathas, but his costly campaigns were only temporarily successful and further weakened his authority in the north. The Mughal empire fell apart soon after his death."

2.FROM THE WIKIPEDIA

"Pakistan Studies departments and curricula have been criticized by academics and scholars in Pakistan and the West, for propagating jingoist and irredentist beliefs about Pakistan's history and culture. While no scholar denies Pakistan's rich historical and cultural diversity, the Pakistan Studies groups are criticized for being insufficiently objective in its portrayal, particularly with regards to political Islam and the treatment of minorities such as Hindus and Christians in the country. Irredentism is manifested through claims of "eternal Pakistan" (despite the country being created from British India only in 1947), narrow and sectarian interpretation of Islam, downplaying the tolerant aspects of the religion and focusing on Islamic Fundamentalist interpretations (such as all banking being un-Islamic), and making accusations of dual loyalty on minority Hindus and Christians in Pakistan.[1] One survey even found out that Pakistan Studies textbooks include derogatory remarks against minority religious groups, and the generalized teaching of religious intolerance as acceptable.The Pakistan Studies textbooks have been used as locations to articulate the hatred that Pakistani policy makers have attempted to inculcate towards their Hindu citizens as well as Hindus in India.

"A study by Nayyar & Salim concluded in 2003 that there is an increasing trend where children are taught Pakistan Studies as a replacement for the teaching of history and geography as full fledged disciplines. Previously, children were taught the very early pre-Islamic history of South Asia and its contribution to rich cultural diversity of modern-day Pakistan.This long historical perspective of Pakistan is absent these Pakistan Studies textbooks. Instead, children are now taught that the history of Pakistan starts from the day the first Muslim set foot in India. The study reported that the textbooks also had a lot of gender-biased stereotypes and other perspectives that "encourage prejudice, bigotry and discrimination towards fellow Pakistanis and other nations, especially against religious minorities, as well as the omission of concepts ... that could encourage critical self awareness among students”.

"According to Ayesha Jalal, "Pakistan's history textbooks amongst the best available sources for assessing the nexus between power and bigotry in creative imaginings of a national past." She points out authors whose "expansive pan- Islamic imaginings" detect the beginnings of Pakistan in the birth of Islam on the Arabian pensinsula. M.Ikram Rabbani and Monawwar Ali Sayyid's An Introduction to Pakistan Studies, a compulsory reading for first and second year college students studying for an F.A degree in history, begins with a chapter on the establishment of Pakistan based on a concept of Islamic sovereignty. "Allah alone is sovereign and the 'ruler of the Islamic State does not possess any authority of his own'. The coming of Islam to the Indian subcontinent was a 'blessing' since Hinduism was based on an 'unethical caste system'." M.D.Zafar's A Text Book of Pakistan Studies claims that Pakistan "came to be established for the first time when the Arabs under Mohammad bin Qasim occupied Sind and Multan'; by the thirteenth century 'Pakistan had spread to include the whole of Northern India and Bengal' and then under the Khiljis, Pakistan moved further south-ward to include a greater part of Central India and the Deccan'. [...] The spirit of Pakistan asserted itself', and under Aurangzeb the 'Pakistan spirit gathered in strength'; his death 'weakened the Pakistan spirit'."

"Jalal points out that even an acclaimed scholar like Jamil Jalibi questions the validity of a national history that seeks to "claim Pakistan's pre-Islamic past" in an attempt to compete with India's historic antiquity. K.Ali's two volume history designed for B.A students traces the pre-history of the 'Indo-Pakistan' subcontinent to the paleolithic age and consistently refers to the post-1947 frontiers of Pakistan while discussing the Dravidians and the Aryans.

"According to some author like Amar Jaleel "What is being taught to our children in the name of history and Pakistan Studies in schools is far from the truth" .


"Jalal points out the consistent religious bias in Pakistan Studies textbooks. "While 'the houses of the Muslims were more spacious, airy and open to light' that of the Hindus had 'small rooms, verandahs and less space open to sky [sic]' which 'shows the secret and exclusive attitude of Hindu mind [sic]'. For students who have had no contact with Hindus both statements, differences in style notwithstanding, can easily fuel a form of inverted bigotry. The more so since they are given abundant 'evidence' to underline the invidiousness of Hindu majoritarianism."

"used to articulate the hatred that Pakistani policy-makers have attempted to inculcate towards the Hindus. Government-issued textbooks teach students that Hindus are backward and superstitious, and given a chance, they would assert their power over the weak, especially, Muslims, depriving them of education by pouring molten lead in their ears. The report adds that in these textbooks, students are taught that "Islam brought peace, equality, and justice to the subcontinent, to check the sinister ways of Hindus." The report adds that "In Pakistani textbooks “Hindus” rarely appears in a sentence without adjective such as politically astute, sly, or manipulative."

"A new curriculum for Pakistan Studies is proposed to be implemented from the academic year 2007. According to reports [5], the government has made "drastic changes" in the new Pakistan Studies curriculum, including new chapters on the Musharraf government’s economic and privatisation policies and “enlightened moderation”, and less biased explanations of the Two-Nation Theory and Partition. According to the report, the new National Curriculum for Pakistan Studies for grades IX and X explains the Two-Nation Theory and Pakistan’s ideology “with specific reference to the economic and social deprivation of Muslims in India”. According to an education ministry official quoted in the report, “An effort has been made to exclude all such material that promotes prejudice against the non-Muslims of pre-partition India.”

"An earlier attempt to reform the curriculum failed in 2003, because of resistance by religious parties. The 2003 protests ultimately resulted in the removal of the education minister Zubeda Jalal. Pakistan's current education minister, ex-ISI director general Lt Gen (r) Javed Ashraf Qazi has called the anti-Hindu parts of the curriculum silly, and that "it was time to acknowledge realities instead of inciting hatred."
3.Pakistan's missile symbolism ( A commentary broadcast the BBC by Zaffar Abbas,its correspondent in Islamabad)

Pakistani officials say the successful test-firing of three of its surface-to-surface missiles in the last few days has confirmed the country's capability to strike deep inside enemy territory in the event of a war.

Interestingly, these tests have not only demonstrated the effectiveness of Pakistan's missile technology; the names given to these missiles are full of symbolism.

They suggest that Pakistan relates the present conflict in South Asia to the conflicts of the mediaeval period when Muslim warriors from Afghanistan frequently invaded India.

Ghauri, Ghaznavi, Abdali - these are the three ballistic missiles Pakistan test-fired in the last week.

But these are also names of three prominent Muslim warlords, or conquerors, who invaded India from Afghanistan between the 11th and 18th centuries in an attempt to expand their empires.

Historical histrionics

The medium-range Ghauri missile is Pakistan's answer to India's Prithvi missile, and here the symbolism is perhaps most interesting.

Muhammad Ghauri was a powerful Afghan warlord who in the 12th century had two fierce battles with the Hindu ruler of northern India, Prithviraj Chouhan.

Ghauri was defeated in the first battle and later on, he returned with a bigger army to achieve a convincing victory.

Although India insists that the name Prithvi given to its missile means "earth" and has nothing to do with any Hindu ruler of the past, Pakistan wants the world to believe otherwise.

Battle fetish

The other two missiles Pakistan tested during the week are also named after 11th and 18th-century Afghan conquerors, Mehmood Ghaznavi and Ahmed Shah Abdali.

Ghaznavi is described in history books as a temple-destroyer who attacked India 17 times.

Pakistan has never given any specific reason for naming these missiles after such historical figures.

But the symbolism is a clear reflection of the official mindset in the country.

It shows that for Islamabad, the present conflict with India is a continuation of the battles of the past between people described in Pakistani history books as just Muslim invaders and several of India's cruel Hindu emperors.

4.An article carried by the "Dawn" of Karachi on March 27, 2005

The myth of history

By Prof Shahida Kazi

History is a discipline that has never been taken seriously by anyone in Pakistan. As a result, the subject has been distorted in such a way that many a fabricated tale has become part of our collective consciousness

DOES mythology have anything to do with history? Is mythology synonymous with history? Or is history mythology?

Admittedly, the line between the two is a very fine one. From time immemorial, man has always been in search of his roots. He has also been trying to find a real and tangible basis for the legends of ancient days ? legends that have become a part of our collective consciousness. As a result, we witness the quest for proving the existence of King Arthur, the search for whereabouts of the city of Troy, and many expeditions organized to locate the exact site of the landing of Noah?s Ark.

During the 60s and the 70s, there was a worldwide movement to prove that the gods of ancient mythologies did actually exist; they came from distant galaxies; and that mankind owed all its progress to such alien superheroes. Several books were written on the subject.

We, in Pakistan, are a breed apart. Lacking a proper mythology like most other races, we have created our own, populated by a whole pantheon of superheroes who have a wide range of heroic exploits to their credit.

But the difference is that these superheroes, instead of being a part of a remote and prehistoric period, belong very much to our own times. A seemingly veritable mythology has been created around these heroes, their persona and their achievements, which is drummed into the heads of our children from the time they start going to school. So deep is this indoctrination that any attempt to uncover the facts or reveal the truth is considered nothing less than blasphemous.


Here are some of the most common myths:

Myth 1
Our history begins from 712AD, when Mohammad bin Qasim arrived in the subcontinent and conquered the port of Debal.

Take any social studies or Pakistan studies book, it starts with Mohammad bin Qasim. What was there before his arrival? Yes, cruel and despotic Hindu kings like Raja Dahir and the oppressed and uncivilized populace anxiously waiting for a "liberator" to free them from the clutches of such cruel kings. And when the liberator came, he was welcomed with open arms and the grateful people converted to Islam en mass.

Did it really happen? This version of our history conveniently forgets that the area where our country is situated has had a long and glorious history of 6,000 years. Forget Moenjo Daro. We do not know enough about it. But recorded history tells us that before Mohammad Bin Qasim, this area, roughly encompassing Sindh, Punjab and some parts of the NWFP, was ruled by no less than 12 different dynasties from different parts of the world, including the Persians (during the Achamaenian period), the Greeks comprising the Bactrians, Scthians and Parthians, the Kushanas from China, and the Huns (of Attila fame) who also came from China, besides a number of Hindu dynasties including great rulers like Chandragupta Maurya and Asoka.

During the Gandhara period, this region had the distinction of being home to one of the biggest and most important universities of the world at our very own Taxila. We used to be highly civilized, well-educated, prosperous, creative and economically productive people, and many countries benefited a lot from us, intellectually as well as economically. This is something we better not forget. But do we tell this to our children? No. And so the myth continues from generation to generation.

Myth 2
Mohammad Bin Qasim came to India to help oppressed widows and orphan girls.

Because of our blissful ignorance of history, we don't know, or don't bother to know, that this period was the age of expansion of the Islamic empire. The Arabs had conquered a large portion of the world, comprising the entire Middle East, Persia, North Africa and Spain. Therefore, it defies logic that they would not seek to conquer India, the land of legendary treasures.

In fact, the Arabs had sent their first expedition to India during Hazrat Umar Farooq's tenure. A subsequent expedition had come to Makran during Hazrat Usman's rule. But they had been unsuccessful in making any in-roads into the region. Later on, following the refusal of the king to give compensation for the ships captured by pirates (which incidentally included eight ships full of treasures from Sri Lanka, and not just women and girls), two expeditions had already been sent to India, but they proved unsuccessful. It was the third expedition brought by Mohammad Bin Qasim which succeeded in capturing Sindh, from Mansura to Multan. However, because of the Arabs' internal dissension and political infighting, Sindh remained a neglected outpost of the Arab empire, and soon reverted to local kings.

Myth 3
The myth of the idol-breaker.

Mahmood Ghaznavi, the great son of Islam and idol-breaker par excellence, took upon himself to destroy idols all over India and spread Islam in the subcontinent.

Mahmud, who came from neighbouring Ghazni, Central Asia, invaded India no less than 17 times. But except Punjab, he made no attempt to conquer any other part of the country or to try and consolidate his rule over the rest of India. In fact, the only thing that attracted him was the treasures of India, gold and precious stones, of which he took care and carried back home a considerable amount every time he raided the country. Temples in India were a repository of large amounts of treasure at the time, as were the churches in Europe, hence his special interest in temples and idols.

Contrary to popular belief, it was not the kings, the Central Asian sultans who ruled for over 300 years and the Mughals who ruled for another 300 years, who brought Islam to the subcontinent. That work was accomplished by the Sufi Sheikhs who came to India mainly to escape persecution from the fundamentalists back home, and who, through their high-mindedness, love for humanity, compassion, tolerance and simple living won the hearts of the people of all religions.


Myth 4
The myth of the cap-stitcher.

Of all the kings who have ruled the subcontinent, the one singled out for greatest praise in our text books is Aurangzeb, the last of the great Mughals. Baber built the empire; Humayun lost it and got it back; Akbar expanded and consolidated it; Jahangir was known for his sense of justice; Shahjehan for his magnificent buildings. But it is Aurangzeb, known as a pious man, who grabs the most attention. The prevalent myth is that he did not spend money from the treasury for his personal needs, but fulfilled them by stitching caps and copying out the Holy Quran. Is there any real need for discussing this assertion? Anyone who's least bit familiar with the Mughal lifestyle would know how expensive it was to maintain their dozens of palaces. The Mughals used to have many wives, children, courtiers, concubines and slaves who would be present in each palace, whose needs had to be met. Could such expenses be met by stitching caps? And even if the king was stitching caps, would people buy them and use them as ordinary caps? Would they not pay exorbitant prices for them and keep them as heirlooms? Would a king, whose focus had to be on military threats surrounding him from all sides and on the need to save and consolidate a huge empire, have the time and leisure to sit and stitch caps? Let's not forget that the person we are referring to as a pious Muslim was the same who became king after he imprisoned his own father in a cell in his palace and killed all his brothers to prevent them from taking over the throne.


Myth 5
It was the Muslims who were responsible for the war of 1857; and it was the Muslims who bore the brunt of persecution in the aftermath of the war, while the Hindus were natural collaborators of the British.

It is true that more Muslim regiments than Hindu rose up against the British in 1857. But the Hindus also played a major role in the battle (the courageous Rani of Jhansi is a prime example); and if Muslim soldiers were inflamed by the rumour that the cartridges were laced with pig fat, in the case of Hindus, the rumour was that it was cow fat. And a large number of Muslims remained loyal to the British to the very end. (The most illustrious of them being Sir Syed Ahmed Khan.)

Furthermore, the Muslims did not lose their empire after 1857. The British had already become masters of most of India before that time, having grasped vast territories from both Hindu and Muslim rulers through guile and subterfuge.

The Mughal emperor at the time was a ruler in name only; his jurisdiction did not extend beyond Delhi. After 1857, the Hindus prospered, because they were clever enough to acquire modern education, learn the English language, and take to trade and commerce. The Muslims were only land owners, wedded to the dreams of the past pomp and glory, and when their lands were taken away, they were left with nothing; their madressah education and proficiency in Persian proved to be of no help. As a matter of fact, it was a hindrance in such changing times.

Myth 6
The Muslims were in the forefront of the struggle against the British and were singled out for unfair treatment by the latter.

Not at all. In fact, the first gift given to the Muslims by the British was in 1905 in the form of partition of Bengal (later revoked in 1911). The Shimla delegation of 1906 has rightly been called a command performance; the Muslims were assured by the viceroy of separate electorates and weightage as soon as their leaders asked for them. After that, the Muslim League came into being, established by pro-British stalwarts like the Aga Khan, Justice Amir Ali, some other nawabs and feudal lords. And the first objective of the Muslim League manifesto read: "To promote feelings of loyalty to the British government."

The Muslim League never carried out any agitation against the British. The only time the Muslims agitated was during the Khilafat Movement in the early 20s, led by the Ali brothers and other radical leaders. Not a single Muslim League leader, including the Quaid-i-Azam, ever went to jail. It was the Congress which continued the anti-British non-violent and non-cooperation movement in the 30s and 40s, including the famous "Quit India" movement, while Muslim League leaders continued to denounce such movements and exhorted their followers not to take part in them.


Myth 7
The Muslim League was the only representative body of the Muslims.

It is an incontrovertible fact that it was only after 1940 that the Muslim League established itself as a popular party among the Muslims. Prior to that, as evident in the 1937 elections, the Muslim League did not succeed in forming the government in any of the Muslim majority provinces. In those elections, out of the total of 482 Muslim seats, the Muslim League won only 103 (less than one-fourth of the total). Other seats went either to Congress Muslims or to nationalist parties such as the Punjab Unionist Party, the Sind Unionist Party and the Krishak Proja Party of Bengal.


Myth 8
Allama Iqbal was the first person to come up with the idea of a separate Muslim state.

This is one of the most deeply embedded myths in our country and the one which has been propagated by all governments. In fact, the idea that Muslim majority provinces of the north-west formed a natural group and should be considered a single bloc had been mooted by the British as far back as 1858 and freely discussed in various newspaper articles and on political platforms. Several variations of the idea had come from important public personalities, including British, Muslims and some Hindus. By the time Allama Iqbal gave his famous speech in 1930, the idea had been put forward at least 64 times. So, Iqbal voiced something which was already there, and was not an original dream. After his speech at Allahbad was reported, Allama Iqbal published a retraction in a British newspaper that he had not been talking of a separate Muslim sate, but only of a Muslim bloc within the Indian federation.


Myth 9
The Pakistan Resolution envisaged a single Muslim state.

The fact is that none of the proposals regarding the Muslim bloc mooted by different individuals or parties had included East Bengal in it. The emphasis had always been on north-western provinces, which shared common frontiers, while other Muslim majority states, such as Bengal and Hyderabad, were envisaged as separate blocs. So, it was in the Pakistan Resolution. The resolution reads: ?The areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the north-western and eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states, in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.

Leaving aside the poor and ambiguous drafting of the entire resolution, the part about states (in plural) is very clear. It was only in 1946, at a convention of the Muslim League legislators in Delhi, that the original resolution was amended, which was adopted at a general Muslim League session and the objective became a single state.


Myth 10
March 23, 1940 is celebrated because the Pakistan Resolution was adopted on that day. The fact of the matter is that the Pakistan Resolution was only introduced on March 23 and was finally adopted on March 24 (the second and final day of the session).

As to why we celebrate March 23 is another story altogether. The day was never celebrated before 1956. It was first celebrated that year as the Republic Day to mark the passage of the first constitution and Pakistan?s emergence as a truly independent republic. It had the same importance for us as January 26 for India. But when Gen Ayub abrogated the constitution and established martial law in 1958, he was faced with a dilemma. He could not let the country celebrate a day commemorating the constitution that he had himself torn apart, nor could he cancel the celebration altogether. A way-out was found by keeping the celebration, but giving it another name: the Pakistan Resolution Day.


Myth 11
It was Ghulam Muhammad who created imbalance of power between the prime minister and head of state, and it was he who sought to establish the supremacy of the governor-general over the prime minister and parliament.

When Pakistan came into being, the British government?s India Act of 1935 was adopted as the working constitution. And it was the Quaid-i-Azam himself who introduced certain amendments to the act to make the governor-general the supreme authority. It was under these powers that the Quaid-i-Azam dismissed the government of Dr Khan Sahib in the NWFP in August 1947 and that of Mr Ayub Khuhro in Sindh in 1948.

Besides being governor-general, the Quaid-i-Azam also continued as president of the Muslim League and president of the Constituent Assembly.

It was these same powers under which Mr Daultana?s government was dismissed in Punjab in 1949 by Khawaja Nazimuddin, who himself was dismissed as prime minister in 1953 by Ghulam Mohammad.

However, in 1954, a move was started by members of the then Constituent Assembly to table an amendment to the act, taking away excessive powers of the governor-general. It was this move which provoked the governor-general, Ghulam Mohammad, to dismiss the Constituent Assembly in 1954, and thereby change the course of Pakistan?s history.

These are some of the myths that have been drummed into our heads from childhood and have become part of our consciousness. There are scores more, pervading our everyday life. And there are many unanswered questions such as:

* What is Pakistan?s ideology and when was the term first coined? (It was never heard of before 1907.)
* Why was Gandhi murdered? (He was supposedly guarding Pakistan?s interest.)
* What is the truth about the so-called traitors, Shaikh Mujeeb, Wali Khan, and G.M. Syed?
* What caused the break-away of East Pakistan?
* Why was Bhutto put to death?
* Are all our politicians corrupt and self-serving?
* W hy does our history repeat itself after every 10 years?

The answers to all these questions require a thorough study of history, not mythology. But history unfortunately is a discipline that has never been taken seriously by anyone in our country. It?s time things changed.

The myth of history -DAWN Magazine; March 27, 2005

Two Million Minutes



Two Million Minutes

http://www.2mminutes.com/about.html


THE DOCUMENTARY





Regardless of nationality, as soon as a student completes the 8th grade, the clock starts ticking. From that very moment the child has approximately -


…Two Million Minutes until high school graduation…Two Million Minutes to build their intellectual foundation…Two Million Minutes to prepare for college and ultimately career…Two Million Minutes to go from a teenager to an adult


How a student spends their Two Million Minutes - in class, at home studying, playing sports, working, sleeping, socializing or just goofing off -- will affect their economic prospects for the rest of their lives.



How do most American high school students spend this time? What about students in the rest of the world? How do family, friends and society influence a student's choices for time allocation? What implications do their choices have on their future and on a country's economic future?



This film takes a deeper look at how the three superpowers of the 21st Century - China, India and the United States - are preparing their students for the future. As we follow two students - a boy and a girl - from each of these countries, we compose a global snapshot of education, from the viewpoint of kids preparing for their future.



Our goal is to tell the broader story of the universal importance of education today, and address what many are calling a crisis for U.S. schools regarding chronically low scores in math and science indicators.



In many ways the six kids simultaneously fit and break national stereotypes.




Take Rohit in Bangalore. He is under intense pressure from his folks to get into a top engineering university but blows off steam singing with his "boy band" and dreams of sending demos out to record companies. In Shanghai we meet math whiz Xiaoyuan, who, while awaiting word from Yale to see if she gained early acceptance, tries out as a violinist for the top music conservatory in Shanghai.



In Indianapolis we go to school with Neil. The senior class president and former star quarterback who gave up football to focus more on his studies. He has cruised through school, but now, with a full academic scholarship to Purdue University, wonders if he is up to the college challenge. The other students profiled in the documentary -Ruizhang, Brittany and Apoorva - face many of these universal adolescent pressures as well.



To put these narratives in context we have assembled an array of interviews with specialists like former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, Congressman Bart Gordon, chair of the House Committee on Science, Harvard economist Richard Freeman as well as top Indian CEOs, and leading scientists in America.



Statistics for American high school students give rise to concern for our student's education in math and science. Less than 40 percent of U.S. students take a science course more rigorous than general biology, and a mere 18 percent take advanced classes in physics, chemistry or biology. Only 45 percent of U.S. students take math coursework beyond two years of algebra and one year of geometry. And 50 percent of all college freshmen require remedial coursework.



Meanwhile, both India and China have made dramatic leaps in educating their middle classes - each comparable in size to the entire U.S. population. Compared to the U.S., China now produces eight times more scientists and engineers, while India puts out up to three times as many as the U.S. Additionally, given the affordability of their wages, China and India are now preferred destinations for increasing numbers of multinational high-tech corporations.



Just as the Soviets' launch of a tiny satellite ignited a space race and impelled America to improve its science education, many experts feel the United States has reached its next "Sputnik moment." The goal of this film is to help answer the question: Are we doing enough with the time we have to ensure the best future for all?





THE FILMMAKERS

Executive Producer

The Two Million Minutes storyline was conceived by Robert A. Compton and he also has served as Executive Producer of the documentary. Compton has had a distinguished business career as a venture capitalist, as former President of a NYSE company, as the entrepreneur founder of four companies and as an angel investor in more than a dozen businesses. Compton has traveled the world extensively. His trips to India in 2005 and 2006 inspired him to author a blog , publish a book - Blogging Through India - and to create the documentary Two Million Minutes.


Director and Editor

Chad Heeter joined Compton on this film project in the spring of 2006, as he was completing his Master's degree in Journalism and Latin American Studies at U.C. Berkeley. Heeter has been the Senior Producer throughout the film making process.


Producer

Adam Raney joined Heeter as a Producer in January 2007. He also holds a Master's degree in Journalism and Latin American Studies from U.C. Berkeley. The two have worked as reporters and filmmakers in Latin America, Asia, Europe and the United States. Their last project together was a documentary on Brazil's landless movement for Frontline/World on PBS.org - http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/rough/2005/12/brazil_cutting.html



Both Heeter and Raney have been interested in education since spending two years teaching as members of Teach for America. Heeter was a high school science teacher in Georgia, and Raney taught junior high science, English and social studies in New York City. Heeter also went on to teach in Japan.

Rahul Gandhi wants to “Discover” India !

Source: Offstumped

Media reports:

In a virtual launch of the campaign for Lok Sabha poll, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday embarked on his ‘Discover India’ journey from Orissa’s poverty-stricken Kalahandi area attacking the BJD-BJP government for its alleged poor implementation of the Centre’s flagship National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Rahul, who is on a four-day tour of Orissa, went deep inside Niyamigiri Hills and met members of the Dongria Khand tribe in the Ejrupa village of the district

The “neither here nor very apparent” heir apparent has decided to do his version of Bharat ek Khoj in the run up to the next general elections. The populist scoialist rhetoric that has been the hallmark of Congress politics since Independence is back.

This time however Rahul Gandhi is neither showing imagination nor conviction with these remarks that are a direct lift from the election rhetoric of John Edwards (the democratic also ran for President in the United states).

there still exist two Indias - one growing rapidly while the other backward as ever

Shame on you Rahul, We always knew you wanted talking points, your mother has not been very good at coming with some lines of her own either so isnt it high time you got some of your own ?

So what else did Rahul Gandhi “discover” on day one ?

Some new found love for tribals.

Projecting himself as a protector of tribal rights, Rahul said: “Your fight is mine too. I am a soldier for adivasis (tribals). I have heard your voices (of concern).”

Well let us see how much of a Soldier for Adivasis Rahul has been to date since his debut into Congress politics.

Offstumped did quick scan of news archives to find only 67 news stories with references to both Rahul Gandhi and Tribals to find some real gems on “how good a soldier” Rahul Gandhi has been for Tribals.

First this open letter to Sonia Gandhi from a freedom fighter complaining that Rahul Gandhi does not understand Tribal Sensitivities.

This lack of understanding about delicate sensibilities of people is often reflected in utterances and actions of present congress leadership. It is because of this factor that Sri Rahul Gandhi was not able to establish a rapport with the people in his tour of Uttar Pradesh.

Then this tug of war on the Tribal Rights Bill that saw Rahul Gandhi working behind the scenes dilute the provisions of the Bill.

That was pretty much it in terms of any significant reference to Rahul Gandhi and Tribal Affairs apart from of course dancing with Tribals in Arunachal and taking a crash course on Tribal Affairs.

So on the basis of what is Rahul Gandhi claiming to be a “soldier for adivasis” when there is nothing in his public record to suggest the same ?

Offstumped has also reviewed his Parliamentary record to find about 295 references to Rahul Gandhi across Government of India websites, only 3 with any reference to adivasis and none of them carry any references to any direct contribution from Rahul Gandhi on Tribal issues. About 23 references to Rahul Gandhi and Tribals and none of them again carry any references to any direct contribution from Rahul Gandhi on Tribal issues.

Offstumped Bottomline: As Rahul Gandhi attempts his version of Bharat Ek Khoj 4 years after his Parliamentary debut it is clear that his record of the last 4 years has little to show by way of imagination, conviction or real accomplishment. As the poor Adivasis of Orissa dance to his tunes, they may as well realise that this Bharat ek Khoj could end up just being a case of “dhoondte rahe jaooge”.

March 07, 2008

QUOTE OF THE DAY : Kiren Rijiju


"The problem is that India is obsessed with America. All the brains of the ministry of external affairs and the think-thanks in India are obsessed with two countries only: The US and Pakistan. How many people know about China, whether it is in the defence or intelligence fields? India does not understand what China is. " Member of Parliament Kiren Rijiju

'It is time to wake up to Chinese incursions'


Source: REDIFF
The Rediff Interview/Arunachal MP Kiren Rijiju


March 04, 2008

Kiren Rijiju, the 36-year-old firebrand Member of Parliament representing Arunachal Pradesh (West), does not share the government's and Indian Army's perceptions about Chinese incursions in his border state.

While Defence Minister A K Antony and army chief General Deepak Kapoor have underplayed the intrusions on several occasions, Rijiju has tried to convey in Parliament the seriousness of the situation in the strategic state. Unfortunately till now his voice has been lost in the corridors of power.

Rijiju has pointed out for long that the Indian Army is not prepared for a conflict with China and today this is an accepted fact. The young MP still regrets that only cosmetic actions are being taken to correct this imbalance.

In this wide-ranging interview with Claude Arpi, the MP highlights not only the patriotism of the people of Arunachal, but also conveys in the strongest terms that it is time for India to wake up, to be self-confident and to stand by her interests and her borders.

Chinese intrusions have been denied by the army and the government, but you have repeatedly brought the matter to public notice. Could you tell us what is really happening?

In my constituency in Arunachal (West), there are many points where Chinese intrusions are happening. And it happens throughout the year. Since the 1962 war, the Government of India has not developed adequate infrastructure on the border. This has made access to the border very difficult from our side; while on the Chinese side, they have built infrastructure to facilitate movement of their army and people. Their side is far more accessible.

The Chinese (intrusions) are happening in a slow, creeping manner. Inch by inch, the Chinese station their army personnel and bring equipment.

Is it the army or grazers?

Grazers are basically a camouflage because the terrain is very difficult. I am speaking of areas from eastern Arunachal (Walong) to the western part (Tawang). The public (and the government) only know of Chinese incursions if it happens in known places like Tawang. When incidents happen in more remote places, it does not come to the notice of the general public. The army keeps it secret. They won't let the people know what actually happened.

In one place in Tawang district, some villagers were in possession of rice and grain supplied by the Chinese authorities. When these Monpa tribals were asked they took Chinese help, they answered: "Well, we have not been supplied with essential commodities from the Indian side. To survive we had no other choice but to accept what the Chinese offered." This shows that the government is not doing enough for the development of the border areas.

But the real issue is that India after 1962 adopted a secret policy not to develop the border areas. The idea behind it is that if we develop the border areas, the Chinese can easily use these facilities in the event of a war. It is a wrong policy. It means that we are in a defensive mode, we have no confidence in our army. This encourages the Chinese. We have to be confident in our own policies. Our demand has been that we should connect all the border areas right to the McMahon Line by a road network.

Do you think that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's [Images] visit to Arunachal, though he did not visit Tawang, opened the eyes of the government?

The government is now realising the hard realities, but it is still committing the same mistake. Why did the PM avoid Tawang? By not going, he has given some leverage to the Chinese who can say 'he has not gone to Tawang, because it is a disputed territory'. It is an acknowledgement that it is disputed, while in fact it is not. The PM's decision gives justification to Chinese claims and encourages them.

When they found out that the PM was going to Itanagar only, the Chinese knew that their pressure tactics had worked. Arunachal is the only issue which has a potential for conflict between India and China. If ever, India and China go to war one day, it will be on this issue.

Do not forget that Arunachal is (potentially) the richest state in India. About 30 percent of the power will come from Arunachal alone. Arunachal has petroleum; gas, minerals, and the largest forested area in India. Arunachal has great water resources. India is going to face a water shortage. Our state has a great potential, it is going to be the richest state in India in 15 years. The Chinese know this.

What if the Chinese divert the Brahmaputra river?

It will be only on the Siang (Brahmaputra) which represents only 25 percent of the waters of the state. Most of rivers flow from the Arunachal side of the McMahon Line which is the dividing line on the top of the ridge. All the rivers which originate from the Indian side flow towards India and cannot be diverted. Their flow increases in Arunachal.

The Chinese have built a new airport in Nyintri district in Tibet, just north of the McMahon line.

This airport is very close to Arunachal. On the belt along the Brahmaputra (Tsangpo) river, towards Arunachal, particularly from Tsona (north of Tawang) to the Yunnan province (of China), the Chinese have built adequate infrastructure with many airports. Further, the Golmund-Lhasa railway line will be soon extended till Shigatse (Southern Tibet), it should be completed next year.

They announced it for 2010?

But Chinese are always able to complete their projects before schedule. They will reach Shigatse in 2009 and then, turn eastwards following the Tsangpo basin towards Tsona. Once it reaches Tsona, we will have a massive deployment of military hardware, right on the Arunachal border.

There is already a full deployment in Tibet, including nuclear weapons. In fact till 2005, they could not move heavy military equipment due to bad roads. The railway connectivity has dramatically changed the geopolitics of Tibet.

India's plan to counter this move is not enough. The recent package for a trans-Arunachal road which will cost Rs 6,000 crore or Rs 7,000 crore only connects the lower districts of Arunachal. Nowhere will this touch the McMahon Line.

I have written to the prime minister asking him to make sure that the road connectivity touches all the border areas. Otherwise, it will not serve the (defence) purpose. From the package announced by the prime minister, all border points will be five or six days by foot.

How can military personnel take care of our borders when they have to walk five or six days with arms and ammunition? I am honestly admitting that we are not prepared.

It was also admitted by A K Antony during a recent visit to Sikkim.

Yes, he admitted it and I have said it in Parliament for so many years. For years, the government denied it. Now they have accepted my point. The question remains 'What have you done so far (to solve it)?' I would like also to mention that the people of Arunachal are very patriotic; it is a positive point. It is the same thing in Ladakh and other hilly areas. We are honest, patriotic and nationalist people.

The Centre today undermines the peaceful nature of these people. It may be very explosive and costly for the country if this situation goes on and if the people of the Himalayas who act as sentries for the nation, are ignored.

The negative policy of the Centre should be reversed; the passive attitude should become active.

Is there some understanding in the government?

I am telling them: "Don't fear China, just do your job. Help the people of border areas with roads, schools, hospitals, telecom facilities." This is the solution. We do not want a war with China.

Arunachal should not be the bone of contention between India and China, it should be the bridge. We have five traditional border posts with China (Tibet), it should be reopened. There should be more people to people contact.

Some ten years back I visited Arunachal. At that time, there was talk of opening the Bumla Pass for trade. What is the position today?

Today there is a fear psychosis vis-a-vis China. India wants only sea trade with China. India thinks that if we have a land trade relations, Chinese goods will flood the Indian market. Look at Nathu-la (in Sikkim), it was opened two years back, nothing happened. We have to increase the volume of trade. Even in the case of Nathu-la, India curtailed the process by not putting in place adequate infrastructure.

On the Chinese side, there is good infrastructure, on our side, there is very little. It means that India is not interested in border trade. These are negative policies which have to be reversed.

The problem is that India is obsessed with America. All the brains of the ministry of external affairs and the think-thanks in India are obsessed with two countries only: The US and Pakistan. How many people know about China, whether it is in the defence or intelligence fields? India does not understand what China is.

Is this changing?

It is changing in rhetoric only, not substantially. I was accused of being obsessed with two countries only. Why should we pay so much attention to Pakistan, a small neighbour? Just forget it! We can just have normal relations with them. What is the point of spending so much time, energy and brains on (this country).

In India, all parties except the Communists are in favour of a strategic partnership with the US to contain China. It is fine, but on the other hand, we are not brave enough to tell China what are our sovereign rights. On one side we are appeasing China, on the other side we want to contain them. Our policy is without any clear direction.

Now, India speaks about 'looking east', for closer relations with other Asian countries, but we remain obsessed with the US. Our ties with the US should not hamper our relations with China.

If we don't know about our adversary, we can't face it. You have to know their strength, their weakness, their plans, if we don't know this, how can we deal with them?

Let us continue to have good relations with the US. But why be obsessed with them? While news in Washington or Lahore [Images] make headlines here, nobody knows about the border areas. Ask any Union minister or Member of Parliament, where is Tsona (the Chinese town/district headquarters north of Tawang), nobody knows.

We should realise that if we lose Arunachal, we can forget about Kashmir. Look at the map of Jammu and Kashmir [Images]. Half is not in our possession (Aksai Chin, Azad Kashmir, etc). Within the other half, half is Ladakh and one third Jammu. What is left is an 80 km valley between Anantnag and Baramulla. But this small territory (12 percent of the state), but it takes all the energies of the politicians and our resources. For, 60 years our minds have been devoted to this small area.

At the same time, it is very unfortunate that a state of 84,000 sq km with the potential to provide 30 percent of the nation's energy is today ignored. It is unfortunate and it frustrates our youth. Don't forget that Kashmir is claimed by a small country which does not economically or militarily match India, while Arunachal is claimed by a nation far superior to India.

It is time to wake up. Once you lose Arunachal, you can forget Kashmir. If Arunachal goes, the damage will be irreparable.

The people of India need to know the reality on the ground, they need to know China, the Himalayan region, the northeast and Arunachal. The rest of India does not pose any challenge for the nation. Unless we know what China is, India is not safe.

In India today, politicians and journalists seem confused. They don't understand the background of the border issue.

India says it has a problem constructing roads to the border, but in 1962, the Chinese manually built roads (in Arunachal). In three weeks, they built 30 km of roads south of the McMahon Line. The British left us with some roads and a railway network. We have not able to expand it after Independence. Take the railway line in Assam, it was there in the British times, nothing new has been built for 60 years. Same thing in Darjeeling, Simla or Ooty!

Today, we are not asking India to built railway lines at altitude of 15,000 feet like the Chinese have done (in Tibet), but at least they should do it to the altitude of 4,000 or 5,000 feet.

I am very disappointed with our successive Union governments. Any party that comes to power is a complete disaster for the Himalayan belt, especially for Arunachal.

I was told that if you make an ISD call from Tawang, the person who receives the call abroad sees the code of China on his phone. Can you confirm this?

It happens not only in Tawang, but also on the Bangladesh border, in Meghalaya. There you use the Bangladesh network, since BSNL is not there. The problem is that there are too many restrictions in India. It is what I call negative policies not to develop border areas. So there are no roads, no mobile phones, no televisions, no infrastructure. This is the mindset of our country.

On the Chinese side of the border you have this airport which will receive 5,000 tourists a day to visit the gorges of the Brahmaputra and on the Indian side you have a drastic 'Inner Line Permit system'. What are your comments?

We have too many restrictions, it is unnecessary. We should open up. It shows a lack of confidence.

Do you think that the young generation of parliamentarians or bureaucrats can change this mindset?

As a Member of Parliament, I have done enough, I have tried everything, but the response is not enough. Before I came to Parliament, my predecessors were silent. As you know Parliament is a very noisy place.

Usually people from the northeast are calm, gentle, but I am of a different breed. I speak, shout, come down to the well (of the House), I make my point. Now people know about Arunachal, but what the government does is another thing. They are too busy with political problems, which are not national problems. It is eating the mind of the leaders and the real issues remain unsolved, unattended.

Chad: the country's state emergency and the role of France

Last February 27th, Nicolas Sarkozy went to Chad in order to obtain from his peer Idriss Deby Itno the constitution of an international board of enquiry which would carry out the investigations on the missing political opponents, of which there has been no news since the beginning of February, when Chad's capital city N'Djamena was under the rebel's siege. The Chadian leader accepted the French ally's proposal, in exchange for an unconditioned support of France in his internal policy's decisions. Once more, the Elysée came to Idriss Deby's assistance, playing a key role in the serious political and military crisis which is affecting the country.

Sergio Porcu

Equilibri.net (07 March 2008)


Sarkozy and his diplomatic pragmatism: a quick visit to N'Djamena prior to landing in South Africa

Consistently with the decisionism which is typical of the French President, to which the International community is gradually getting used, Sarkozy (who days ago declared his willingness to go in person to the borderline between Venezuela and Colombia in order to free the Colombian Senator Ingrid Betancourt, who has been detained for more than six years by the FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) made a quick stop in Chad while flying towards South Africa, just to meet Idriss Deby. This was the first visit after the different groups of rebels beset the capital city N'Djamena on the 2nd and 3rd of February. In those days, Deby's leadership seemed to be seriously compromised, but thanks to the French military support, the rebels were chased away and the Army could regain control over the city.

France is a really precious ally for Chad, as well as for its leader's fate; during the days which followed the siege, the Elysée announced that it would no longer tolerate any other attack, lining up with the country's “democratic government”. But once the President restored the power, there was a clamp down over the political dissidents, which were largely imprisoned: among them, Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh and Ngarlejy Yorongar, important figures of the non-armed opposition. At that stage, both Paris and Brusselsclaimed their release. And just after this stand at a distance, Sarkozy accepted to go to Chad - although for a short time,and the European Commissioner for the Development Louis Michel came along too – provided that N'Djamena would have shed light on the two opponents' fate. According to sources, the two dissidents would have been taken by the Chadian Secret Services and hidden in a secret place. Obviously, the Government denied any involvement, declaring that Ngarely Yorongar is believed to be hidden in N'Djamena, whereas they have no idea about Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh's destiny.Diplomatical sources connected with the Elysée referred that Sarkozy took quite a long time to figure out how useful his mission to Chad would be, and finally he opted for a quick visit, which is perfectly consistent to his new pragmatic diplomacy's strategy.By accepting Paris' request about the creation of an international board of enquiry, Idriss Deby has completely restored the relationship with Sarkozy which, just before going to Chad, welcomed in Paris a delegation of representatives of non governmental organizations for the human rights' defence who have criticised his help to the “dictator” Deby.The French president asked the African colleague to create an international board of enquiry on the two missing political dissidents, and also to resume the political talks in view of the forthcoming democratical elections. One of the main topics that has been dicussed in the meeting was also the forgiveness of the six Frenchmen involved in the Zoe's Ark case (see also: Weekly Analyses – 42/2007 - Chad: tension with France over the “Zoe's Ark” case and Sarkozy's decisions). Idriss Deby agreed with the creation of the commission on the two missings, led by the President of the National Assembly Nassour Ouaïdou.
“It doesn't mean that just because of its lawfulness the Chad government can do whatever it wants”, said Nicolas Sarkozy, unwaveringly, at the end of the meeting. More than advice to Idriss Deby, the statement of the French President sounds like a message to the international community, saying that the French support of Chad's government is due to a concern about democracy and the willingness to favour the political dialogue. Chad continues to be the main interlocutor for what concerns the resolution of the Darfur's conflict, despite the strong tensions between the two bordering countries. Moreover, Sarkozy confirmed its availability in re-negotiating all the cooperation and defence agreements made with South African countries; in fact, the main intention of the French president seems to be to revise the military support's agreements made with some historical allies, which doesn't mean the commitment in those countries will be crossed out, but simply revised in the light of the actual Africa.

The state of emergency

The situation in Chad grows more and more complicated. After the advance followed by a retreat of the rebels from the capital N'Djamena, the government ordered the excavation of a ditch, which would prevent the city from putting up with unpredicted attacks, or at least it would slacken the rioters' assault. The realisation of the ditch, which is currently being developed and will be 3 metres in depth and 2 metres wide, has been ordered to a company even though the maximum discretion is being kept both from the contractor and the government itself. An actual defensive ploy which, according to the experts, gives the idea of how serious the situation is and how likely is the risk of new attacks. The cease-fire is actually based on a sort of silent agreement between Chad's President, Idriss Deby Itno and the main groups of rebels. Some kind of negotiation is being carried out among them, but actually the analysts affirm that the war break is probably due to a momentary rebels' lack of military and logistical means. Therefore, they are setting the launch of the final attack which would take the power away from Deby.

The apparent calm which reigns in these days in the country could be the prelude to a new advance of the rioters. In fact, the National Assembly authorised Deby to prolong the state of emergency decreed after the rebels' advance, of 15 more days. Special powers have been given to the Head of State, who could use them in order to guarantee the security of the country. But according to the experts, Deby is using those powers in order to prevent the proceeds of the oil extraction to be checked by the World Bank's experts. “70% of the proceeds deriving from the oil should be reinvested in priority sectors, such as health and education, but at the moment all this money is going straight to President Deby” an independent analyst, who requested to remin anonymous, said to Reuters. Deby replied that “ the emergency powers related to the financial field are necessary in order to preserve the order and guarantee the stability”; a rather explicit way to admit that the money is employed in the purchase of new wartime, as it is rumoured within the diplomatical departments in N'Djamena. The weapons are necessary in order to face and repulse new rebels' blitzes in the city. The main risk is actually that the different faction could manage to get coordinated below a single military command, thus becoming a real menace to the power-keeping of the Chief of N'Djamena.

The Eufor Mission and the peace at risk

In the meantime, the operations of deployment of the Eufor peace force led by the French General Jean Philippe Ganascia, are continuing in Chad. 22 European countries are joining the mission, of which 12 have sent or are about to send their troops to Chad. The soldiers stationed in eastern Chad and in the Central African Republic will be around 3,700, of which more than half are French, and their objective will be to guarantee the security of the refugees of Darfur.

Brussels set the beginning of the military operation provided that a cease fire among the various fighting factions and Deby's government would have been reached (see also: Weekly Analyses – 8/2007 Chad: does the government negotiate with the rebels?). In order to permit the troop's settlement in Chad, Deby has negotiated with the rebels. For the moment, it is just a cease fire guaranteed by the state of emergency, on which the same President is looking out. But actually, the analysts are doubtful of the possibility that the “state of apparent calm” will last. The rebels seem to have opted for a mild activity, characterised by slight attacks, aimed at the elaboration of a well-defined strategy which could lead to the certain defeat of Deby. But the French troops stationed in territory would guarantee once more the defence to the Cgadian Chief of State, even in the context of the Eufor mission.

Conclusions

The quick visit of the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, which last February 27th has stopped in N'Djamena during his flight to South Africa in order to meet his peer Idriss Deby, makes understood how complicated the the situation is in the African country. The French President requested and obtained the creation of an international board of enquiry which would possibly shed light on the destiny of two missing political opponents, whose last news dates back to the beginning of February. It is suspected that they've been imprisoned by the Chadian secret services, in order to weaken the attemts of destitution of President Deby. According to the experts, Sarkozy's visit was aimed to show to his ally that France is committing completely to his defence, and also to advise the international community that it's not the right moment yet to think about Deby's succession, as the destitution of the Chadian President would result in a definitive crisis of the country. Therefore, Deby will still benefit from the French support, at least as long as the Darfur's issue won't be resolved. This is not the right moment for a lack of power in Chad: according to this statement, the entire international community is ready to support President Deby's government. So the resuming of the Mission Eufor in the Chadian territory is a consequence of this decision.


Translation by Elisa Frasca

India, Africa draw hydrocarbon road map

Published: March 6, 2008 at 4:50 PM

Print story Email to a friend Font size:NEW DELHI, March 6 (UPI) -- India said it has drawn up a road map to intensify cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector with African countries.

"A road map was drawn up, the contours of which envisage hydrocarbon cooperation agreements at the macro level to identify the broad areas of cooperation in the field of exploration and production and refining, stepping up crude oil imports, and exports of petro-products by India, retail marketing of fuels and lubricants by Indian companies in Africa and training of technical and managerial personnel of African nations in hydrocarbon industry management," said Murli Deora, the minister for petroleum and natural gas.

Cooperation between the two sides was agreed upon at the first India-Africa Hydrocarbon Cooperation Conference and Exhibition last November in New Delhi.

India has been striving to acquire oil and gas blocks in various hydrocarbon-rich African countries. ONGC Videsh Ltd., the overseas arm of state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp., has along with other national oil companies been bidding to buy oil and gas assets in Nigeria and other African countries, the minister said.


India presses for quicker business visas to African countries
6 Mar, 2008, 2131 hrs IST, IANS

NEW DELHI: Ahead of the India-Africa partnership forum summit in April, Indian businesspersons have pressed for quicker business visas from African countries.

The Indian side will take up the issue of visas with ministers accompanying leaders of 14 countries who will be coming here to participate in the first-ever India-Africa summit, official sources said here on Thursday.

The move can go a long way in enhancing trade and investment between the two sides.

"We want multi-entry business visas of longer duration, from one to five years for business travellers," Arun Aggarwal, industrialist and chairperson of the Assocham's committee on international affairs, said at a meeting of the India-Africa Economic Forum here Wednesday evening.


Agarwal, who also heads the Africa division in the Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Assocham), said that Indian businessmen have often complained about difficulties in getting business visas from some African countries. This discourages Indian businessmen from investing in Africa, he added.

He, however, made a strong pitch for Indian private enterprises to invest in the vibrant economies of Africa and sought to ally anxieties about security concerns some businessmen may have about doing business in the African continent. "Some parts of Africa are more secure than anywhere in the world," he said.

Uganda's High Commissioner to India Nimisha Madhvani, an Indian-origin Ugandan, agreed with the need for more business travel but added that visa was not an issue with her country. "We give visa on arrival. So get ready to invest in Uganda."

Uganda is looking for investment in agro-processing and infrastructure development, she said.

Former foreign secretary Shashank underlined the close historical and cultural ties between India and Africa and said it was time to accelerate economic engagement between India and Africa.

Zimbabwe's Ambassador to India Jonathan Wutawunashe urged both sides to leverage their strengths for a mutually profitable engagement. "India has got things Africa needs. Africa has got things India needs. We need more constructive energy to energise us," he said.

India's economic ties with Africa are set to get a boost at a three-day conclave starting March 19 in which ministers and business people from over 20 African countries will participate.

India's bilateral trade with Africa is steadily growing and is estimated to be over $20 billion.

Kurdistan deepens ties with British business at launch of KRG publication


Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman with Michael Thomas, Director General of the MEA, and Lord Tim Clement-Jones

London , UK (KRG.org) – The Kurdistan Region took a further step forward with British companies today at the announcement of a business forum and the London launch of 'The Kurdistan Region: Invest in the Future' (Download)

The Middle East Association (MEA), a leading British trade organisation, today hosted a meeting to announce the UK Kurdistan Region Business Forum to promote trade and investment. Lord Tim Clement Jones, who will chair the forum, announced the new organisation at a meeting of British business representatives and journalists.

At the same occasion, Ms Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) High Representative to the UK, introduced the audience to 'The Kurdistan Region: Invest in the Future'. The new KRG publication, which had its US launch last month, describes in detail the Region's improving economic, political and cultural environment.

Ms Abdul Rahman said the publication was "an authoritative and compelling guide to the region as it is today and its plans and aspirations for the future". She said, "While Kurdistan Region is rich in oil, we do not want to become purely a 'petrostate'-equivalent. We are also working to strengthen other sectors such as agriculture, tourism and construction. The region is rich in minerals and water. All of these provide opportunities for British companies to work in Kurdistan."

Mr Michael Thomas, Director-General of the MEA, said, "I have visited the Kurdistan Region twice with British delegations. We saw considerable goodwill towards the UK , and the Kurdish business community showed that they are very keen to trade or partner with British companies."

He added, "The new Business Forum will meet twice a year, once in Kurdistan and once in the UK . Our aim is to work together to remove obstacles to economic cooperation."

Lord Tim Clement-Jones, a Liberal-Democrat Peer, also spoke at the meeting. He said, "When I visited the Kurdistan Region in 2006 already we could see a great deal of new construction and its openness to working with the West. The new Business Forum will bring Kurdish and British business communities closer to each other and help both fulfil their ambitions."

The MEA has previously organised two British trade and political delegations to the Kurdistan Region, and plans to visit again this year. Mr Thomas of the MEA and Mr Dara Jalil Al-Khayat, President of the Kurdistan Federation of Chambers of Commerce, in late February signed the agreement establishing the UK Kurdistan Region business forum. The forum will be made up of a small committee of British and Kurdish business and other representatives.

Pakistan VS Balochistan: Conflicting Ethnicities

(This write up originally appeared in the first issue of "India and Global Affairs")

By Malik Siraj Akbar

Blog: www.gmcmissing.wordpress.com

When Pakistan was celebrating its 60 th Independence Day on August 14, 2007 , hundreds of women observed a 'black day' in Quetta , the capital of Balochistan province. Ironically, the protestors were chanting anti-Pakistan slogans and demanding 'independence' for Balochistan, the country's largest and most backward province.

To most Pakistan-watchers, the demand for 'independence' was hardly surprising, given Balochistan's six-decade old grouse of maltreatment by successive governments. However, the million dollar question the women's protest posed was: Why have the Baloch not been integrated with the state of Pakistan even six decades after its independence?

History says the Baloch did not willingly join the fledgling State of Pakistan , which was created on the basis of a communal slogan of Islam. In fact, unlike the other ethnic communities of Pakistan , the Baloch were never quite influenced or attracted by Islam. As Janmahmad writes in The Baloch Cultural Heritage: "The majority of Baloch were converted to Islam during the time of Caliph Omar; but they were slow in observing the tenets of the new faith… The Baloch of that period were Muslim only by name and were less observant in their religious duties."

So, in order to amalgamate the Baloch into Pakistan , the state staunchly used the Islamic card under the shadow of the so-called 'two-nation theory' – which in fact clashed with the socio-cultural and regional aspirations of the people o the new state. In fact, in a speech to the Assembly on August 14, 1947 , Baloch nationalist leader Ghose Baksh Bizenjo, even contended, with a bit of exaggeration, though, that they have as distinct a civilization as that of Iran or Afghanistan .

During the past 60 years, there have been at least five occasions when the Baloch have clashed with the state on ethnic identity issue. A leading Baloch leader has even quoted the Quran , to claim that 'there is no such thing as a Muslim nation on the face of the globe,' adding that ' if the mere fact that we are Muslims requires us to join Pakistan , then Afghanistan an Ian, both Islamic countries , should also amalgamate with Pakistan .'

Over the years, the harder the state tried to suppress ethnic nationalism, the more cautious these communities became about the preservation of their identity. But in the strictly centralized state of Pakistan , Islamic nationalism takes precedence over everything else. In keeping with credo, the establishment has not only crushed the individual identities of ethnic groups, it has also blatantly suppressed vernacular languages. For instance, Urdu, which is spoken by only 7.57 per cent of the total population, has been imposed on the rest of the ethnic groups at the cost of their indigenous languages.

Similarly, the state has patronized the right-wing elements to counter the nationalist movement in Balochistan, where it exists in a visibly democratic-cum-militant form. Prior to the deadly conflict in the 1970s, during which the Pakistan army killed around 6,000 Baloch, the Baloch society was largely secular. However, soon after the 1973 insurgency, the state intelligence agencies pumped in hug funds to radicalize the Baloch nationalist mindset with an Islamic version. This was achieved through the right-wing political parties and by financing religious schools that propagated militancy and armed training.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 came as a blessing in disguise for the obscurantist Pakistani dictator General Zia-ul-Haq. The General exploited the opportunity to bankroll numerous religious schools in Balochistan and finance its religious parties in order to preserve Islam from the 'infidel Soviet'.

Even today, in Balochistan the budge to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which directly finances these religious schools, is roughly $200 million; in comparison, just over $3 million is allocated o the Ministry of Education.

According to Ahmed Rashid , the author of Taliban : The Story of Afghan Warlords, there were only 900 madrassas in Pakistan in 1971, but by the end of the Zia era in 1988 there were 8000 madrassas and 25,000 unregistered religious schools, with half a million students. These schools were even shut down for months to allow students to participate in the 'holy war'

Subsequently, Pakistan went overboard in its support for the Taliban regime in Kabul by setting up a telephone network, which, according to Ahmed Rashid , 'became a part of the Pakistan telephone grid Kandahar could be dialed from anywhere in Pakistan as a domestic call using the pre-fix 081 – the same as Quetta's prefix.'

Further, during the general elections of 2002, the Pakistani intelligence agencies heavily funded the newly-formed politico-religious alliance, the Muthida Majlis-e-Amal. The MMA emerged victorious with 16 seats in the Balochistan Assembly, enabling it to form a coalition government along with the Pakistan Muslim League (Qaid-e-Azam). The MMA went on to support the PML-Q's recommendations to the federal government to launch a military operation against the Baloch people who were demanding maximum provincial autonomy and a greater share in national resources.

However, despite all these efforts, Pakistani intelligence agencies have not been able to completely weed out the Baloch nationalist movement. The government has repeatedly tried to discredit the Baloch leadership by alleging that they are getting external assistance. But in reality, the nationalist movement has always been led by democratic leaders – like the late Nawab Akbar Bugti, Sardar Attaullah Mengal and Khair Baksh Marri. General Pervez Musharraf may have viewed them as aggressive tribal chiefs and labeled them the 'Axis of Evil', but these leaders have been waging a democratic struggle through their political outfits.

In the midst of this tug-of-war between the Baloch nationalists and radical Islamists overtly backed by the state the question whether the Baloch democratic movement can stand up to radical Islam needs attention. Relentless efforts by the state machinery for the past 30 years have not succeeded in radicalizing Baloch society. For example, when US forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the Baloch populated areas hardly witnessed any protest rally in support of the Taliban regime. On the other hand, massive demonstrations took place in the Pashtun-dominated districts of Balochistan.

The Baloch struggle today, unlike in the past, is largely led by middle-class, educated Baloch who do not come from feudal households. No wonder, even moderate Baloch forces subscribe to the idea that armed resistance is the only solution to the problem of Balochistan.

So what do the Baloch want? In the words of Sardar Attaullah Mengal, the veteran nationalist leader who also served as the first chief minister of Balochistan: "We want the federal government to deal with only three subjects: Foreign affairs, defense and currency. All other matters must be in the hands of the provinces."

The demand for provincial autonomy is as old as Pakistan 's birth. But the Pakistani ruling class fears that it will lose control over the provinces if it grants absolute autonomy to its federal units, especially Balochistan which shares its borders with Iran and Afghanistan .

When the conflict in Balochistan intensified, the government formed two parliamentary committees on September 23, 2004 , 'to examine the current situation in Balochistan and … to make recommendations to promote inter-provincial harmony and protect the rights of provinces with a view to strengthen the federation.'

Sadly, the second committee, headed by Senator Wasim Sajjad , which was supposed to address the issue of provincial autonomy within 90 days, failed to come up with any proposals even three years after its formation.

While provincial autonomy is a major issue, it is not the only sore point for the Baloch. And even if the government were to accede to their demand, it would still be a limited, or rater token, autonomy for the provinces. Besides, there is no guarantee that it will address the major complaints of under representation of the Baloch in the Pakistani federation. For instance, the Baloch have a mere one per cent representation in the armed forces, similarly, only two Baloch enjoy ambassadorial postings aboard; not a single Baloch has made it as the judge of Pakistan Supreme Court' and there is no Baloch among the 40 serving federal secretaries.

Of course, some sections of public opinion expect a change in the status quo in the backdrop of the government's bid to smother Baloch nationalism with the help of Islamists. They view the ongoing conflict between the Pakistan army and the religious forces across the county as a symptom of change. They also predict a change in the military's bedfellows and the emergence of a nexus between the army and the Baloch.

However, Siddiq Baluch, editor of the English language newspaper, Balochistan Express, does not see this happening in the foreseeable future. "There is a single-point deadlock between the military and the religious forces and that, too, is on the external front: The pro-US policy of the present regime," he says. According to him, the conflict between the military and the Right is short-term, while the army and the Right are long-term partners in pulverizing the Baloch.

Unless the state recognizes the Baloch as an older entity than Islam and Pakistan , a peaceful solution to the ongoing vendetta is unlikely in the foreseeable future.

(MALIK SIRAJ AKBAR, 24, is the Balochistan Bureau Chief of the Daily Times. This write up originally appeared in the first issue of "India and Global Affairs")

Iraq End Game with Ivan Eland and David Henderson



Feb 5th, 2008

World Affairs Council of Northern California - San Francisco, CA

Iraq End Game with Ivan Eland and David Henderson.

A recurring question found in most public opinion polls and on the 2008 presidential campaign trail: What will be the end-game for the U.S. in Iraq? How will U.S. decisions about continued engagement affect Iraq itself, and the Middle East? - World Affairs Council of Northern California

David R. Henderson is a research fellow with the Hoover Institution. He is also an associate professor of economics at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

Henderson's writing focuses on public policy. His specialty is in making economic issues and analyses clear and interesting to general audiences. Two themes emerge from his writing: (1) that the unintended consequences of government regulation and spending are usually worse than the problems they are supposed to solve and (2) that freedom and free markets work to solve people's problems.

Henderson has been on the faculty of the Naval Postgraduate School since 1984 and a research fellow with Hoover since 1990. He was the John M. Olin Visiting Professor with the Center for the Study of American Business at Washington University in St. Louis in 1994; a senior economist for energy and health policy with the President's Council of Economic Advisers from 1982 to 1984; a visiting professor at the University of Santa Clara from 1980 to 1981; a senior policy analyst with the Cato Institute from 1979 to 1980; and an assistant professor at the University of Rochester's Graduate School of Management from 1975 to 1979.

In 1997, he received the Rear Admiral John Jay Schieffelin Award for excellence in teaching from the Naval Postgraduate School. In 1984, he won the Mencken Award for best investigative journalism article for his Fortune article "The Myth of MITI."

Henderson has written for the New York Times, Barron's, Fortune, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Public Interest, the Christian Science Monitor, National Review, the New York Daily News, the Dallas Morning News, and Reason. He has also written scholarly articles for the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, the Journal of Monetary Economics, Cato Journal, Regulation, Contemporary Policy Issues, and Energy Journal

Born and raised in Canada, Henderson earned his bachelor of science degree in mathematics from the University of Winnipeg in 1970 and his Ph.D. in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1976.


Peace, and Northwestern Journal of International Affairs.

Dr. Eland's popular writings have appeared in such publications as the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today, Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, New York Times, Chicago Sun-Times, San Diego Union-Tribune, Miami Herald, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Newsday, Sacramento Bee, Orange County Register, Washington Times, Providence Journal, The Hill, and Defense News.

He has appeared on ABC's "World News Tonight," NPR's "Talk of the Nation," PBS, Fox News Channel, CNBC, Bloomberg TV, CNN, CNN "Crossfire," CNN-fn, C-SPAN, MSNBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC), Canadian TV (CTV), Radio Free Europe, Voice of America, BBC, and other local, national, and international TV and radio programs.

Venezuelan tanks on the border with Colombia

18:13 | 06/ 03/ 2008

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Romanov) - Despite sharp words and saber rattling, neither Venezuela nor Columbia has anything to gain from a war. Hopefully, their leaders know that.

Relations between Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela have plunged to new lows after Colombian troops attacked a camp of the left-wing extremist organization, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), in Ecuador on March 1. As many as 24 guerrillas, including a senior commander of the FARC, were killed in the raid.

The confrontation is not unexpected. Colombia is the hottest spot in Latin America, where many countries have lately elected left wing governments.

Colombia is the only country on the continent where a powerful guerilla group - the FARC - controls a large portion of territory. In the past, it controlled nearly two-thirds of Colombia, but its zone of influence has dwindled to one-third. Despite its rhetoric, the organization has nothing in common with Che Guevara or Marxism, and is mainly involved in drug trafficking and kidnappings.

I have been to Colombia and can tell you that politicians, servicemen, businessmen and common people there try to avoid the risk zone, which begins only nine miles from the capital. It is no wonder that the United States and the European Union have put the FARC on their terrorist lists.

The group is holding many Colombian politicians hostage, including Ingrid Betancourt, a former presidential candidate. Like many FARC hostages, she is reported to be suffering from ill health.

An undeclared war has been raging in the region for decades, and the March 1 raid would not have produced any repercussions if the Colombian troops had not entered Ecuador.

Other countries have been known to do the same with impunity. The United States routinely conducts antiterrorist operations in foreign territories. Russia has announced its readiness to deliver preemptive strikes against terrorists wherever they may be, and Turkey fights Kurds in Iraq.

But Colombia's raid was different. It not only killed FARC's second-in-command, Raul Reyes, but also captured documents proving that the Colombian guerilla group maintains ties with the authorities in Venezuela and Ecuador - not that it was much of a secret, anyway.

While the Colombian authorities rely on American assistance in their struggle against FARC, Ecuador and Venezuela in recent years have taken a more leftwing, and increasingly anti-American, path.

Hugo Chavez, who claims to be a disciple of veteran revolutionary Fidel Castro, has promised to use petrodollars to build socialism in Venezuela. He loves to free hostages under the kind eye of TV cameras, and at the same time helps the drug guerillas whenever possible.

It is unclear whether the conflict will escalate into a war. Evidently this is the last thing Colombia wants, with its hands full of domestic problems. So it offered its apologies to Ecuador.

Although Ecuador has expelled Colombian diplomats in response to the raid, it hastened to add that this should not affect bilateral economic relations. Besides, it has sent only 3,200 troops to the Colombian border - enough to make headlines, but not to start a war.

Venezuela, on the other hand, which was not affected by the raid, has not only expelled Colombian diplomats but also ordered masses of troops and 10 tank battalions to its border with Colombia. President Hugo Chavez pledged war if Colombia tried a similar foray into Venezuelan territory.

By the way, the Venezuelans are well armed, including with Russian weapons.

Chavez is unlikely to start a war, but if he does, Colombia will find allies against him. Washington has long been watching Chavez, also waiting for a chance to deliver a strike at the drug guerillas.

Latin Americans have fire in their veins, and Chavez is an extravagant man. But he is not a fool. He hopes that a demonstration of force will win him kudos with left-wing forces, without the inherent risks of actually fighting a war - especially if the U.S. were to join in. Besides, public opinion in Venezuela is not as monolithic as it may seem, as shown by the referendum on controversial constitutional reforms in December 2007, which Chavez lost.

If Venezuela goes to war, Russia will not hesitate to freeze its arms supplies - the Kremlin does not need more problems with the West. Fidel is on his deathbed, and can only offer Chavez words of support. The situation in Cuba is too unstable to send troops to a foreign war. The most it could do is send a hundred military advisers.

Ecuador, where the situation is never stable and whose presidents seldom, if ever, complete their terms, does not need a war either. The current Ecuadoran president has too many enemies to start such a war.

So Ecuador and Colombia will most probably kiss and make up, and Venezuela will eventually calm down.

Besides, jungle fighting is exhausting. Tanks sink into bogs, aircraft disappear without a trace, and troops end up where they never intended when taking to the road two weeks before. Neither side has a chance of quick victory, but all of them will face political disaster, if they unleash a war.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.