March 22, 2008

Secular Travesty


Times of India, 21 March 2008


Rabindranath Tagore's poem "Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high... into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake" is taught to schoolchildren all over the country. It's not a prescription, however, that the government intends to live up to. It kept Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen incommunicado for five months, at an 'undisclosed location' in Delhi, in the hope that she would leave the country even though she had a valid visa to stay. It had its way at last, with Taslima packing her bags for Europe.

The circumstances in which that happened don't do the government much credit. Her harassment didn't stop at cutting her off from those she wanted to see, in the name of security. She may have been denied access to proper medical care, going by complaints coming from her and backed by International PEN, the global writers' body.

Information and broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi publicly asked her to "bow down" and apologise to those she had offended. He may have forgotten, for the moment, that India is a secular democracy rather than a theocracy. Concern about her treatment came not just from international human rights groups but also from the National Human Rights Commission, which sent a notice to the home ministry and Delhi Police on her "solitary confinement".

The UPA government and its leftist supporters claim to be champions of secularism. Forcing Taslima out of the country, however, was a sad day for Indian secularism. The tactics used replicated those adopted by West Bengal's Left Front government to get her to leave Kolkata, where she had been staying. Her security, apparently, was uppermost in the minds of both central and state governments. What gives the game away, however, is that there is no official condemnation of those who threatened violence against her, or actually carried it out at a Hyderabad book launch in August last year.

Secularism of this variety amounts to a game of competitive fundamentalism. Someone somewhere claims to be offended on behalf of his community and issues threats. The government, in the name of security, bans the book, the film, or the writer. It's the equivalent of handing fundamentalists a megaphone. Someone else, encouraged by the supineness of the government, threatens or undertakes more violence for the sake of his particular peeve. That not only undermines the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression but creates insecurity all round. Not only would Tagore have been horrified at all this, there's serious doubt about whether it works even in terms of such short-term goals as delivering vote banks.

THE KOSOVO EFFECT:

By R.Swaminathan

The recent Declaration of Independence by the legislature of Kosovo and the prompt “recognition” of the new State by USA and many EU governments have the potential for far-reaching and not-too-desirable effects on many other similar situations and “separatist” movements around the world. Of immediate international consequence would be the effect on Taiwan (which is holding its referendum on 22 March 2008). The effect on LTTE in Sri Lanka would be of great significance to India. This paper will consider only these two issues and not the entire scene that would include the effects on other “separatist” movements.

Kosovo and Taiwan

Historical

2. (a) Kosovo had been the battleground where contesting entities had been fighting (for centuries) for sovereignty over the territory. The fight was between the Turkish Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire at one time, then between the Turks and the Serbs and later between the Albanians and the Serbs. When the victor-imposed Treaty of Versailles (28 June 1919) created the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, Kosovo was made a part of Serbia. The Kingdom was renamed in 1929 as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. During World War II, Kosovo was a strong base for Tito-led AVNO (Anti-Fascism Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia). After the war, when the new state of SFRJ (Socialist Federated Republics of Jugoslavia) was proclaimed, Kosovo (along with Vojvodina) became one of two “autonomous” provinces of the Republic of Serbia. Many places in Kosovo are of religious and cultural significance to the Serbs; and Kosovo has many important landmarks (like Jajce) of the Partisan struggle during World War II.



(b) The first “foreign” or “outside” presence in Taiwan (also known as Formosa, or beautiful island) could be traced to the establishment of a commercial base on the island by the Dutch, in 1624. Troops from southern Fujian defeated the Dutch in 1662 and the Qing dynasty formally annexed the island to the Fujian Province of China, in 1683. In 1887, Taiwan was upgraded into a regular province of China. Imperial Japan, which had been trying to since 1592 to control Taiwan, defeated China in the First Sino-Japanese War in 1894-95; and Taiwan was ceded to Japan “in perpetuity” by the Treaty of Shinonoseki. Around 1935, Japan started the process of assimilation and appointed tens of thousands of Taiwanese in the Japanese Army. During 1942-45, Japan based a massive camp for Allied Prisoners of War in Taiwan; and the Japanese Navy used it as an operational base. The signing of the (victor-imposed) Instrument of Surrender on 15 August 1945 signalled the end of the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. The KMT-ruled Republic of China accepted the surrender of Japanese forces in Taihoku on 25 October 1945. Since that date till now, Taiwan has been in the possession of the “Republic of China”. By the time the Civil War (Maoist Revolution) ended with the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China on 1 October 1949, the KMT had moved the seat of government of the “Republic of China” from Nanjing to Taipei; and about 1.3 million refugees had moved from the mainland to Taiwan.

Changing Status

3. (a) The resentment of the Albanian majority in Kosovo against discrimination caused by Serbian nationalism and chauvinism was held in check during the Tito (who hailed from Croatia) era, mainly because of his iconic status. However, when SFRJ ultimately broke up into its component units, the demand and justification for an independent Kosovo became stronger. The Declaration of Independence by Kosovo could, in effect, be termed as a reversal of the earlier non-consensual and externally-imposed inclusion in Serbia. An independent status for Kosovo had been recommended in 1997 by the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General, but was not accepted by Security Council. The status of Kosovo since 1999 has been of a territory under UN administration and NATO (read EU in recent years) protection. Even now, Kosovo’s Declaration of Independence may not get the approval of UNSC, because of possible veto by Russia and China. The new state, however, has received and would receive recognition from many powerful states. Kosovo is a new addition to the list of religion (Islam) based states; and is the first such one in Europe. It is likely to remain non-viable (politically, economically and militarily) for a long time. A realistic assessment would be that it would effectively be an EU protectorate for the foreseeable future.

(b). Since the establishment of the PRC in 1949, Taiwan has been the only remnant of the erstwhile Republic of China. USA continued to have diplomatic, commercial and military relations with Taiwan for more than two decades – considering it to be the legitimate government of China. Even now, some governments continue with that policy; and many countries have commercial relations with Taiwan, without having diplomatic relations. In effect, the present effort at asserting an identity separate from China (based on a resolution passed by the Democratic Progressive Party on 30 September 2007) is aimed at accepting the reality of the past six decades. The referendum on 22 March 2008 is about seeking admission to the UN as “Taiwan” instead of as “China”. It is about giving up the fantasy of being the “sole” government of China and living with the reality of being a small remnant of old China; and changing the name of the country from “Republic of China” to “Taiwan”.

“Recognition”

4. (a). In a different era, diplomatic recognition of a State was normally based on whether or not that entity had the attributes of a nation-state. However, recognition has increasingly become a political act rather than a legal determination. Governments decide on the recognition of a new state (or of a state which has undergone a systemic change) on the basis of self-interest and not of any prescribed values. This self-interest is considered from two angles, i.e. whether according recognition would further one’s interests with the new entity and whether such act would adversely affect one’s relations with other countries; and a balance is struck between the two considerations. To expect value-based decisions on “recognition” is to ask for a utopian international order.

(b). In the case of Kosovo, USA and some major EU countries seem to have determined that the recognition of Kosovo as an independent (Islamic) state would further their overall interests. The anger aroused in Serbia may be considered inconsequential and the opposition of Russia (and China, because of implications to the Taiwan situation) would not, in their determination, detract from the advantages. That Russia would feel marginalized and that China may feel offended may be considered to be additional bonus. However, in the case of Taiwan, though it would more be a case of the change of name (in accordance with reality) of an independent country than of a declaration of independence, recognition of the changed entity may be more difficult to come by. Recognition of Taiwan would offer very little extra commercial benefits and would lead to direct confrontation with PRC. Very few major countries may want to take that risk. I doubt if the people of Taiwan want this and if the referendum would give a clear mandate in favour of the change in name and status of their country. They may find it difficult to live with being spurned even after such a change.

L T T E

5. The historical facts relating to the claims of Kosovo and Taiwan to be independent states would not apply to many guerrilla movements, including LTTE. It would therefore not be easy for these to become valid precedents for them to follow. The Declaration of Independence by Kosovo and the change of name by Taiwan are very different from the LTTE’s demand for a separate Tamil State.

6. The sovereignty over Tamil majority areas in Sri Lanka has never been contested in history. Tamil and Sinhala peoples had been living in reasonable harmony for centuries, till the post-independence phenomenon of aggressive Sinhala nationalism and chauvinism imposed severe discrimination against the Tamils. Essentially, this may be the only common feature between Kosovo and the Tamils in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. The concept of Tamil “Eelam” is very different from the concept of an independent Kosovo. A Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Pirabhakaran is very unlikely to find any supporters in the international community, as recognition of an independent Tamil Eelam may not pass the dual tests of self-interest. If one looks at the analogies of Kosovo and Taiwan, I doubt if the Tamils in Sri Lanka would appreciate the idea of their homeland becoming a “vassal” or “client” of any external state or group of states.

[This paper was prepared on 20 March 2008 by R.Swaminathan, Vice President of the Chennai Centre for China Studies. He can be contacted at rsnathan@gmail.com]

RADICALISATION OF TIBETAN YOUTH

http://southasiaanalysis.org/papers27/paper2639.html

By B.Raman

1. The world-wide demonstrations of Tibetans of all ages against China and the uprisings in Greater Tibet since March 10,2008. have come as the culmination of a long debate in Dharamsala and among Tibetan refugees all over the world, including India, over the wisdom of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's continued adherence to his Middle Path policy. By Middle Path, he meant autonomy and not independence and a non-violent struggle to achieve that objective. By autonomy, he meant on the Hong Kong model of one country, two systems and not the present Chinese model of total integration and Han colonisation in the name of autonomy. He was seeking a dialogue with the Chinese leadership in the hope of thereby making his Middle Path a reality.

2. Tibetan youth organisations such as the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), formed in 1970 under the blessings of His holiness, and Students For A Free Tibet went along with him till 2003 despite having serious reservations as to whether the policy would work and about the insincerity of the Chinese. The action of Shri A.B.Vajpayee, the then Indian Prime Minister, in agreeing to Tibet being described as a part of China in a statement issued during his visit to China in 2003 set off alarm bells ringing in the Tibetan community abroad as well as in Greater Tibet.

3. Large sections of the Tibetan youth felt that even while pretending to keep the door open for a dialogue with the Dalai Lama, the Chinese were undermining his political and spiritual authority, encouraged by the silence of the Indian authorities. While they continued to respect and venerate the Dalai Lama as their religious and spiritual leader, the Tibetan youth started looking upon him as politically naive. They began stepping up pressure on him for giving up the Middle Path policy.

4. The disenchantment of the Tibetan youth over the policies of His Holiness and their concern over the perceived headway being made by the Chinese in strengthening their occupation of Greater Tibet was reflected in the seventh session of the Tibetan Parliament held at Dharamsala in March, 2004. It adopted a private member's resolution which called for a review of the policy of the 'Middle Path' after a year, if the Chinese failed to start formal negotiations with His Holiness to solve the Tibetan problem. The elder members of the Tibetan community criticised the resolution as disrespectful to the Dalai Lama and as tending to undermine his political authority.

5. An editorial on this subject in the September,2004, issue of the journal of the TYC said: "The on-going Middle Path policy came into being after the then Chinese supreme leader Deng-Xiaoping set the precondition that we should abandon the demand for independence. For the last 24 years, our leadership has been sincerely trying to hammer out a compromise solution but from the Chinese side, there has always been deceit, double-dealing and delaying tactics so that we have not even managed to make the beginning of a meaningful dialogue. Many thinking Tibetans, Tibetan supporters and China-watchers have now come to honestly conclude that the Chinese have no intention to conduct negotiations. They are only biding time for the Dalai Lama to pass away and in the meantime evade international pressure and condemnation by indulging in the periodical delegation diplomacy. It is vitally important that we Tibetans should not fall prey to their devious ploys. Another important matter to be taken into consideration is the so-called Chinese 'White Paper' of May last. With the finality of the tone and tenor of that document, all our hopes for a negotiated settlement on the lines of the One-Nation-Two-Systems theory of Hong Kong and Macao or a genuine autonomy have been dashed irrevocably. The only choice given to the Tibetans is to accept the arrangement under Tibet Autonomous Region as the best one and return. This, surely, is not the answer to the Middle Path! The Chinese 'White Paper', in one go, has fully rejected what the Tibetan government has been trying to achieve during the last nearly 25 years through that policy. Therefore, a rethinking on the part of our leadership is called for whether we like it or not. The present resolution is nothing new or surprising. In fact, the need to review the Middle Path policy has become more urgent and relevant after the issuance of the Chinese 'White Paper'."

6. The trend towards the radicalisation of the Tibetan youth and their disenchantment with theMiddle Path policy became pronounced as the TYC came increasingly under the influence of American citizens of Tibetan origin. Tibetan youth, living in India, paid heed to the words and advice of the Dalai Lama even while criticising his Middle Path policy. They went along with his advice against any attempt to sabotage the Olympics even while taking advantage of the opportunity provided by the Olympics for drawing attention to their cause. They contined to respect the authority of the Dalai Lama as a spiritual and political leader.

7. But, the Americans of Tibetan origin, who had migrated to the US from India and obtained US citizenship under a special dispensation of the US Immigration Department, which granted the US citizenship to 1000 Tibetan refugees, came increasingly under the influence of anti-China groups in the US, which egged them on to sabotage the Olympic Games in order to embarrass China. This group was every vocal in the criticism of the Middle Path policy and started expressing its reservations over the wisdom of the policies of His Holiness on political issues. The Tibetan youth, who continue to be resident in India, shared His Holiness' gratitude to India for giving shelter to the refugees and looking after them, but the youth, who had settled down in the US and obtained US citizenship, did not share this gratitude. Under the advice or instigation of the anti-China groups in the US, it started itching for a confrontation with China even if this caused unhappiness in the Dalai Lama and created difficulties for India.

8. The influence of American citizens of Tibetan origin on the policies and activities of the TYC increased after Mr Tsewang Rinzin, an American citizen, was elected as the President of the Executive Committee of the TYC at its session held at Dharamsala last September, and Mr.Tenzin Yangdon, another US citizen, was elected as a member of the Executive Committee. Many Tibetans in India were surprised as to how Mr.Rinzin was elected as the President and who proposed his name and influenced his election. Some claim that even His Holiness was surprised by his election. Since his election, he has been following the agenda of the anti-Beijing Olympics groups in the US, which want to sabotage the Olympics in contravention of the wishes of His Holiness that nothing should be done to sabotage the Olympics.

9. The Dalai Lama's own views on the Olympics are as follows: "I have, from the very beginning, supported the idea that China should be granted the opportunity to host the Olympic Games. Since such international sporting events, and especially the Olympics, uphold the principles of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, equality and friendship, China should prove herself a good host by providing these freedoms. Therefore, besides sending their athletes, the international community should remind the Chinese government of these issues. I have come to know that many parliaments, individuals and non-governmental organisations around the globe are undertaking a number of activities in view of the opportunity that exists for China to make a positive change. I admire their sincerity. I would like to state emphatically that it will be very important to observe the period following the conclusion of the Games. The Olympic Games no doubt will greatly impact the minds of the Chinese people. The world should, therefore, explore ways of investing their collective energies in producing a continuous positive change inside China even after the Olympics have come to an end."

10. As against this, Mr.Rinzin has warned of attempts to disrupt the passage of the Olympic torch and the Games itself. The "Wall Street Journal" (March 20,2008) has quoted him as saying as follows: "This is a golden opportunity for our struggle." He is the son of a Tibetan driver in South India.He migrated to the US in 1993 and obtained US citizenship. Till his election last September, he was working in a bank in Portland/ Vancouver in northwest United States. He was also the President of the local chapter of TYC. Since his election, he has shifted to Dharamsala, but his wife, also an American citizen of Tibetan origin, and their two children continue to live in the US.

11. In January last,the Tibetan Youth Congress, the Tibetan Women?s Association, Gu-Chu-Sum Movement of Tibet, the National Democratic Party of Tibet, and the Students for a Free Tibet, India, issued a statement announcing the launching of a Tibetan People?s Uprising Movement (TPUM). They described it as " a global movement of Tibetans inside and outside of Tibet taking control of our political destiny by engaging in direct action to end China?s illegal and brutal occupation of our country. Through unified and strategic campaigns we will seize the Olympic spotlight and shine it on China?s shameful repression inside Tibet, thereby denying China the international acceptance and approval it so fervently desires.We call on Tibetans inside Tibet to continue to fight Chinese domination and we pledge our unwavering support for their continued courageous resistance. " It called upon the international community to cancel the Beijing Olympics.

12. In February last, the TPUM is alleged to have held two training camps in Dharamsala for selected Tibetan youth in subjects such as the Importance of a Co-ordinated Movement, Contemporary Chinese Political Scenario, Strategy and Vision, the Situation inside Tibet, Olympic politics, Media and Messaging, Non-Violent Direct Action and Fund-Raising Strategy."

13.On March 10, the TPUM launched synchronised protests and demonstrations all over the world, including in Lhasa, to mark the 49th anniversary of the flight of the Dalai Lama from Tibet. The protests and demonstrations in Lhasa took a violent turn on March 14,2008. On coming to know of this, the Dalai Lama threatened to resign as the political leader of the community if the violence continued and also called the office-bearers of the TYC to express to them his unhappiness over their activities.

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

Tony Blair on Rahul Gandhi - Dhanyavaad CNN-IBN

http://offstumped.nationalinterest.in/2008/03/21/tony-blair-on-rahul-gandhi-dhanyavaad-cnn-ibn/

Sabbatical be damned this one from CNN-IBN plumbs all depths to remind us of the bottomless pit that is co-habited by Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghosh and their surogates on the prop-up Rahul Gandhi payroll.

First the absurdity of the headline, “blair endorses rahul” - unless the not so young anymore gandhi is planning to do a Sonia here and migrate to Britain the Blair non-endorsement is a joke.

Second the sensationalism is naseauting to say the least. We dont know what question Vidya Shankar Aiyar posed to Blair, but the good guest that he was Blair tries to be gracious and charitable to Rahul but that was all CNN-IBN needed to sensationalise this otherwise non-event to shore up sagging TRPs one would guess.

We had called this folks, on 24th Sept 2007 that there is a formidable media spin machine that will work overtime to prop up Rahul Gandhi.

Well here you have it, dhanyavaad Rajdeep Sardesai !

Excerpts from the original post follow, thats it from Offstumped for now……

The Congress did not win the 2004 election but the media has successfuly propogated the myth that Sonia steered the party to victory

Sonia Gandhi pulled a fast one on the country by abdicating responsibility and thrusting Manmohan Singh but the media succesfully propogated the myth of Sacrifice

From the Office of Profit Issue to the Rama Setu the blame was always on the Government with the Congress shying away from taking responsibility. The media successfully propogates the myth that Sonia Gandhi’s intervention saves the day shielding her from any blame.

The Congress has done disastrouly in election after election since 2004 but the media has successfully propogated brand Sonia in opinion poll after opinion poll

It is this formidable media spin machine that the BJP must confront as Rahul Gandhi is elevated. Expect this spin machine to latch on to every word he says and magnify by factor of hundred in the national headlines. The spin will be relentless on how the lotus is wilting, the stem is ageing in sharpt contrast to Rahul Gandhi, his lack of accomplishment and intellect notwithstanding

INDIA : A decade, at the helm

By Sandhya Jain

Rahul Gandhi deliberately gave his security personnel and the Orissa government the slip in order to meet certain Christian NGOs secretly in Orissa. This is an abominable situation and the nation will ignore the religious affiliation of the Gandhi family only at its peril.

In the midst of forced celebrations over Sonia Gandhi’s decade as Congress president and ‘certificates’ that her foreign origins no longer matter, some facts are too stark to be ignored.

The first is that Ms. Gandhi’s foreign origins are more relevant than ever as they are directly influencing the country’s foreign policy. Secondly, given the growing obduracy of missionaries in matters of conversion and the new political drive for SC-ST benefits for Christian converts, the matter of Ms. Gandhi’s religious affiliation acquires a new dimension. This is reinforced by the calculated disappearance of her son, Rahul Gandhi, while on an official tour of Orissa, so as to interact with faith-based NGOs. Finally, Ms. Gandhi has passed her political peak and is leading the Congress to irretrievable decline; the failure of the Amethi MP to make the grade and the determined thrust of BSP leader Ms. Mayawati only underline this trend.

While the domestic impact of Ms. Gandhi’s influence in foreign policy has yet to be assessed, the distortions she has wrought on India’s foreign policy bear documenting. Most shocking is India’s decision to vote against Iran in the International Atomic Energy Agency two years ago. An Indian government run by an Indian would have abstained, rather than annoy a friendly neighbour.

Ms. Gandhi has put her entire weight behind the Indo-US nuclear deal, which all nationalist security experts, scientists and bureaucrats know will be the death-knell of India’s independent nuclear programme. There is no doubt that Washington will force New Delhi to buy most reactors from its obsolete industries in order to revive its dying economy; of course the deal impacted upon our relations with Teheran. Any other regime would have buckled under public pressure; only Ms. Gandhi’s dominance over the UPA and Congress keeps the deal alive.

Even worse is India’s handling of the Nepal crisis, where rent-a-crowd Comrades and foreign-funded NGOs were allowed to run amok, bring the illegitimate Maoists into the interim Parliament and dethrone the king. India abandoned the king because western missionaries have a major evangelical programme in the Himalayan kingdom. In recent times, King Gyanendra has told visiting Indian dignitaries that when the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited Kathmandu with his wife when King Birendra was on the throne, Ms. Sonia Gandhi pounced on him and demanded the release of 90 foreign missionaries who had been arrested for conversion activities in the country.

Ms. Gandhi’s commitment to the evangelical agenda can be seen in the UPA decision to award Ms. Gladys Staines with the Padma Shri last year, when it is well known that her husband and two sons were murdered because of tribal resentment over their conversion activities in Orissa. More pertinently, Mr. Rahul Gandhi deliberately gave his security personnel and the Orissa government the slip in order to meet certain Christian NGOs secretly in Orissa. This is an abominable situation and the nation will ignore the religious affiliation of the Gandhi family only at its peril. Its bears stating that the principal lesson of Indian history is that the people suffer when the religion of the ruler is different from the faith of the populace.

Finally, the rise and decline of Ms. Gandhi deserves critical scrutiny. Contrary to persistent Congress projection, she did not spurn political office by refusing the job of Prime Minister after the death of Mr. Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. The truth is that the Congress was in minority and no political party would have supported her candidature at that time. It was Mr. P.V. Narasimha Rao who had the ability to steer a minority government and Ms. Gandhi and her loyalists only made his life difficult when he tried to act independently. Still Mr. Rao kept up enough pressure on her to force Mr. Quattrochi to flee the country. Ms. Gandhi used the UPA to get her countryman released in Argentina and walk off with the Bofors kickbacks money!

Worse, she disgraced Mr. Narasimha Rao after the Congress defeat in 1996, and physically removed his successor Sitaram Kesri in 1998 in order to assume the party presidentship. Some writers have credited Ms. Gandhi for daring to take the party into a coalition government, but that has more to do with the exigencies of the situation and the fact that BJP had previously headed a coalition with success. Here again, despite her best efforts, Ms. Gandhi could not persuade President Abdul Kalam to swear her in as Prime Minister and had to hand over the job to Dr Manmohan Singh. Her bards can say what they like, everyone knows that the lady was all set to be Prime Minister just one day before meeting the President, and her tune changed only after her fateful encounter with him.

Ms. Gandhi has in recent times led the party to a string of defeats, including the unexpected one in Nagaland. She is now clearly on the backfoot, and even sycophants like HRD Minister Arjun Singh openly assert in party forums that Congress is in a mess in the critical state of Uttar Pradesh, despite the best efforts of Mr. Rahul Gandhi. Those who understand the language of politics know that the old warhorse is saying that the Amethi MP has failed to attract voters wherever he has gone, despite the party machinery putting everything into his road shows.

Meanwhile, India has failed to take a pro-active position on Tibet, no doubt because the American-UN hand is visible in the monk-led revolt, and Ms. Gandhi does not wish to upset the White House. All in all, there can be little doubt that behind the fake smiles and colourful bouquets, Congress realizes the Sonia Gandhi’s ten years as Congress president are a curse in disguise. The party would do well to wind up the self-created dynasty and go back to creating leaders of the stature of Vallabhbhai Patel and Netaji Subhash Bose.

March 19, 2008

FROM THE BOTTOM-UP: INTELLIPEDIA AND THE 21ST CENTURY CIA

http://cci.mit.edu/dennehyburke.html

Sean Dennehy and Don Burke, Central Intelligence Agency
Thursday, April 10, 12:00-1:00 pm
3 Cambridge Center, MIT Building NE20, Room 336 Conference Room

Abstract

The speakers will discuss the technical and cultural changes underway at the CIA involving the adoption of wikis, blogs, and social bookmarking tools. These tools are being used to improve information sharing across the U.S. Intelligence Community by moving information out of traditional channels. Time permitting, the speakers will hold a question and answer session at the end of their talk.

Speaker bios

Sean Dennehy was the pilot customer for Intellipedia, a group of wikis used United States intelligence and national security agencies. He has since become a leading change agent for incorporating Enterprise 2.0 solutions into the intelligence community's practices. Mr. Dennehy has developed an innovative “sabbatical” program that introduces intelligence officers to the numerous web 2.0 applications that are being deployed across the intelligence community. The focus of his efforts is encouraging viral adoption, in which officers replace existing processes to take advantage of network effects encountered when individuals move projects out of “channels” and onto “platforms.”

Don Burke is a leading proponent of the Enterprise 2.0 ethos within the intelligence community and is currently the "Intellipedia Doyen", a role he has held since the spring of 2006. In this position he partners with other early adopters to demonstrate the value of social software tools, educates the Community on how to use these tools, and advocates for improvement in the community's ability to capture its own knowledge and expertise

SIgn up

US Steps up Broadcasts & Telecasts to Tibet

Source: SAAG
by B. Raman

Western Governments have come under contradictory pressures in relation to their response to the uprising of the Tibetans since March 10, 2008. While growing sections of public opinion and human rights activists have been demanding a boycott of the Olympic Games similar to the boycott of Moscow Olympics in 1980, Western business companies, who have heavily invested in China, continue to be strongly opposed to any boycott.

2. The movement for a boycott has received the strongest public support in France. Mr. Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister, has stated that even if the Western Governments are not prepared to call for a boycott of the Games by their national Olympic Committees, their leaders should at least refrain from participating in the opening ceremony. Amongst those who had announced last year their intention to participate is President George Bush of the US. Other Western Governments have not so far supported the suggestion of Mr. Kouchner.

3. Western human rights organisations have demanded that China should allow an international observer team to visit Tibet and Sichuan to enquire into the incidents and that an international team of lawyers should be allowed to defend the Tibetans being rounded up by the Chinese authorities. If the Chinese authorities reject these demands, the demand for a boycott of the opening ceremony may gather momentum.

4. In the meanwhile, the US authorities are reported to have taken action to strengthen the transmitting power of Radio Free Asia (RFA) and the Voice of America (VOA) in order to enable their broadcasts to overcome the jamming by the Chinese authorities. They have also announced an increase in their hours of broadcasts and telecasts to the Tibetan people with effect from March 18, 2008.

5. Mr. James K. Glassman, the Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which is an independent federal agency which supervises all U.S. government-supported, non-military international broadcasting, announced on March 18, 2008, as follows: "The violent crackdown by Chinese authorities in Tibet compels us to increase our broadcasts. Our audience clearly will benefit from these trustworthy sources of news and information, which differ sharply from Chinese government sanctioned broadcasts."

6.At present, RFA broadcasts eight hours daily to Tibet via shortwave radio. The VOA broadcasts four hours daily, also via shortwave. With effect from March 18, each has expanded its respective radio programmes by two additional hours daily. The VOA will also double its weekly Tibetan-language television programming from one to two hours via the AsiaSat 3 satellite.

7. Mr. Libby Liu, President of the RFA, said on March 18, 2008: "RFA's Tibetan service is working round the clock to bring authoritative, breaking news to the Tibetan people. These additional hours will greatly enhance our capacity to deliver this news, including live updates, to people on the ground."

8. Lhasa and other areas of Tibet continue to be tense, but without any violent incidents since March 17, 2008. Chinese troops on foot and in armoured personal carriers continue to patrol the streets and the Chinese authorities have continued to surround all the monasteries, keeping the monks under virtual house arrest and preventing any interactions between them and the general population.

9. Chinese troops and People's Armed Police (PAP) personnel continue to make house-to-house searches for suspected participants in the violent uprising of March 14, 2008. The total number of persons detained for questioning so far has gone up to 300. The Chinese authorities have claimed that 105 self-confessed participants in the uprising have voluntarily surrendered to the authorities.

10. Sporadic incidents of violence continue to be reported from the Tibetan majority areas of the Sichuan province. Many of the Hans, whose shops in Lhasa were attacked by the Tibetan demonstrators on March 14, 2008, were settlers from Sichuan. In retaliation for this, there have reportedly been attacks on Tibetans by Hans in Sichuan. According to Tibetan refugee sources, the Chinese military also opened fire on a large group of Tibetans demonstrating against the Government in the Aba County of the Sichuan province. According to other independent sources, there have also been sporadic incidents of stabbing in the Tibetan areas of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. Tibetan exile groups have managed to obtain photographs of the Tibetans allegedly killed by the Chinese security forces in the Aba county and have been disseminating them through the Internet.

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

Year of Olympics: Year of the Trojan Rats

Source: SAAG

By B. Raman

February 7, 2008, was the beginning of the Chinese New Year. The Chinese call the current year "the Year of the Rat".

2. As I was browsing through various blogs, chat rooms etc, I came across the following write-up: "Today begins the year of the Rat, which not only ushers in the celebrated Chinese New Year, but restarts the entire twelve-year cycle of the Chinese Zodiac. ....Being the animal that kicks off the Zodiac cycle, the rat is associated with leadership and conquerors.....In life, rats are known for their suave personalities and charm. But get them in competition, they become smart, controlling, aggressive and calculative. Get in their face and it's even worse. Rats can get quick-tempered, aggressive and even dangerous to others."

3. There were many references to a new computer virus disseminated by Chinese hackers, which they had named "the Trojan Rat". There were also references to a football team called "the Trojan Rats."

4. There were also ominous (for the Chinese, if they had seen them) references to the Trojan Rats, which would keep the Chinese foxed and busy throughout the year of the Olympics. Many were planning to let loose Trojan Rats all over China as the Beijing Olympics approached and during the Olympics.

5. The highly intelligent, Internet-savvy Tibetan youth, the bin Laden-admiring Uighurs, the Falun Gong, the disgruntled youth of China, the pro-democracy activists of Hong Kong, the many anti-China groups in the US----- they were all planning for their own Year of the Trojan Rat.

6. Each had strong reasons for anger against the Chinese. Each was determined to give vent to his or her anger in this year of the Olympics. Each was determined to make this go down in history as the Year of the Trojan Rats.

7. What the Chinese saw in Tibet and Sichuan was only the beginning. The Mullas and students of the Lal Masjid of Islamabad are planning their next attack on the Chinese when the Olympic flame passes through Islamabad on April 16, followed by an uprising by the Uighur Muslims of Xinjiang.

8. The Falun Gong---inside China and outside--- have their own plans. They know that the business companies of the West would never allow the Games to be boycotted by their countries. They have invested so much not only in the Chinese economy, but also in the Games itself as sponsors. Coca Cola and Pepsi are looking forward to sales of their drinks, which would beat their previous records. They are not going to allow any official boycott of the Games.

9. So, the Falun Gong have been contacting individual athletes---- particularly in the developing countries---- to persuade them to refuse to join their national teams. Their campaign against the Games is already showing some signs of success in Africa.

10. Till now, no Western athlete is prepared to join the boycott. So, they are appealing to them to do other things----such as wearing T-shirts with the pics of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama (the genuine one, not the bogus one created by the Chinese), to shout slogans against the violation of human rights in China during the opening and closing ceremonies, to distribute copies of the Holy Bible to the people, distribute pics of the Dalai and Panchen Lamas etc.

11. The members of the Falun Gong and the Tibetan and Uighur students studying in Beijing are planning their own protest. The Chinese are worried that Osama bin Laden might be having his own plans for Jihadi Trojan Rats, but nobody knows about them.

12. In the Year of the Olympics, the entire world focus is on China. The Chinese cannot adopt the same methods of suppression as they normally do. They have to suppress without seeming to be doing so.

13. The Chinese are worried not only over what could happen before and during the Olympics. They are also worried as to what could happen thereafter. Will the Olympics set in motion the weakening of the control of the Chinese Communist Party over the people?

14. A Chinese friend of mine recently remarked that often he wondered whether it was wise on their part to have bid for the Olympics.

16. They thought the Olympics would bring them glory. They did not realise that it could also bring the Trojan Rats.

(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)

Political Scene in Pakistan

http://www.asiantribune.com/?q=node/10086
Wed, 2008-03-19 03:04
By Dr.Abdul Ruff Colachal,

Amid “terror attacks” killing many in the country, Pakistan's parliament convened on March 17, as promised by President Pervez Musharraf, and within minutes, it was apparent that the session in the coming days will devolve into a showdown between the newly-elected lawmakers and beleaguered President Musharraf. The opposition lawmakers said they would take their oaths under the constitution "as it was on November 2, 2007." Party members slapped their hands on tables in thunderous applause. Neither Sharif nor Zardari has a seat in the assembly, and they watched the opening day ceremonies from the visitors’ gallery. A party member reminded the assembly how Bhutto used to say that "the ultimate revenge is democracy", that is use people and poll to take revenge on your political opponents.

President Musharraf has termed the convening of the new parliament as a historical event and expressed confidence that Pakistan would continue to make progress on the path of democracy and economic growth. The PPP, which emerged as the largest group with 120 seats in the 342-member House, is set to form government with its coalition partners. According to an agreement signed by the PPP and PML-N, the candidates for prime minister, speaker and deputy speaker will be from the PPP.

Opposition Conclave

Murree Declaration signed on March 09 by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif is an important event and its enforcement could change the course of politics. This is the second most important document signed by the two parties. First was the Charter of Democracy (CoD) signed in 2006, which is regarded as the best piece of paper produced in the country after the 1973 Constitution. Both documents show a bipartisan manner in which the two big parties want to pursue the common objective of democratic and constitutional rule.

Under the Murree Declaration, both parties agreed to restore the judges of the supreme judiciary, including deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry, as it existed on November 3, 2007. The PML-N and its leader Nawaz Sharif have been very vocal on this issue, though they are vague over the issue. The media, civil society, lawyers, the All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) and the PML-N are only stressing on the restoration of judges. The issue related to the constitution is only mentioned as a passing remark.

Zardari and Sharif also vowed to uphold the Charter for Democracy, a document that would restore the powers of the prime minister. Many of those powers were stripped away when Musharraf seized power in a 1999 coup, including the power to dissolve parliament and appoint military chiefs. In a recent interview with CNN, Pakistani Attorney General Malik Mohammed Qayyum said that Musharraf is legally protected for deposing the justices and other judges following his emergency order on November 3. Qayyum said all of the president's decisions made during a six-week state of emergency are legally protected and that there is no legal way to restore the deposed judges.

Zardari, meanwhile, has showed statesmanship in his attitude to the present regime and future plans. There has been silence in political circles as Asif Ali Zardari announced his positive approach to Musharraf, his relations with Kashmir and India. Zardari has so far played a pro-active role in softening the opposition anger towards Musharraf’s presidency, on the one hand and balancing with opposition interests, on the other.

Premier, Spraker and Deputy

Although there are any aspirants for the top slop, Zardari is all set to be come the premier in due course. After meeting Zardari late on March 17 night, Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) President Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who has been sidelined now for premiership after grooming him initially, said he too had proposed that PPP co-chairman should become prime minister. There was no word from the party on Zardari's reaction to Fahim's proposal. Senior PPP leader Syed Khurshid Ahmad Shah has said that the nominee for premiership will be announced by March 20.

As it is known, PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari has also expressed his ambition to assume the premiership as soon as he is cleared of his graft charges and he expects it would take about 3 months. Meanwhile, the Accountability Court No 3, Rawalpindi, acquitted on 14 March Asif Ali Zardari in the BMW car reference, the last corruption reference against him, suspending all the previous orders related to the confiscation of his property. The court, in its judgment, observed that the alleged involvement of Zardari in importing a BMW car from England and evading the customs duty could not be proven. In the BMW case, Zardari was accused of impersonating as a student and importing a 1993 model armored luxury vehicle with the intention to evade duties that caused the national exchequer a loss of Rs 10 million. The Sindh High Court (SHC), in its ruling, had recently directed the attorney-general and the NAB authorities to withdraw the corruption cases filed in Switzerland by the Government of Pakistan, and the SHC would take up the case on March 21. Pakistan media report that Zardari would be the premier.

The Pakistan People's Party on 18 March nominated 51-year-old Fahmida Mirza, a medical graduate, and Faisal Karim Kundi as its candidates for the posts of speaker and deputy speaker respectively of the Lower House of Parliament. Given the majority of the PP-PMLN in the Assembly, Mirza is all set to become the first woman speaker of Pakistan's National Assembly. Polling for the posts will be held through secret ballot at 11 am on March 19 and the new speaker will take charge as custodian of the House the same day. The nominations were made by PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari very late on 17 March night following weeks of consultations with the party's MPs and its allies.

Mirza comes from a political family of Sindh province. She is the wife of Zulfiqar Mirza, a member of the Sindh provincial assembly and a close aide of Zardari. She won in the February 18 polls from the coastal district of Badin. Kundi, who was elected to the National Assembly for the first time, is a youngster who was personally groomed by slain PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto He defeated Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal secretary general Maulana Fazlur Rehman in the polls in the latter's traditional stronghold of Dera Ismail Khan.

Looking to Future ?

Hinting at a eventful Parliament ahead, PML (N) Quaid Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif says the parliament and the incoming coalition government will take decisions in national interest without being influenced from abroad. It is unclear if the coalition could actually get its measures through both houses of parliament. Despite opposition gains in parliamentary elections last month, a coalition led by Musharraf's party retains a considerable number of seats in the Senate.

Even as they take on Musharraf, the new coalition will have to tackle the issue of security in the country. A series of deadly attacks since December has killed more than 400 people, and each week has brought chaos and instability to the nuclear-armed nation.

Under Musharraf, Pakistan has been a key U.S. ally in its battle against the so-called “Islamic extremists”. Washington has reportedly sent billions of dollars in aid to Musharraf's government. The Bush administration's priority for Pakistan is to deprive al Qaeda of the sanctuary it has established along the country's rugged border with Afghanistan, and to reverse the momentum the Taliban has achieved in attacks on both sides of the border. Yet given that many Pakistanis disapprove of the way Musharraf has carried out his end of the "war on terror," analysts say it's unlikely that a new government will move as aggressively on counterterrorism issues as the U.S. would like

An Observation:

By all means, the PPP is all set to form government at the centre with the backing of former premier Nawaz Sharif's PML-N and the Awami National Party, which draws its support from the ethnic Pashtun minority. The combined opposition is five seats short of a two-thirds majority in the lower house of parliament, having won a total of 223 seats in the 342-member National Assembly (the PPP has 120 seats, the PML-N 90, and the Awami National Party (ANP) 13 seats). The position of other parties is: Muttahida Qaumi Movement has 25 seats, the Muttahida Majlas-e-Amal six seats, the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional five seats and the Pakistan People's Party-Sherpao, National People's Party and Balochistan National Party-Awami one seat each. The PML-Q, which backs Musharraf, is the third largest group in the National Assembly with 51 seats.

Musharraf imposed a state of emergency and suspended constitutional rule on November 3, 2007. He also amended the constitution soon afterward to provide himself and the military blanket immunity for actions taken during the emergency rule. He shed his uniform heeding to the opinion of the media, international suggestions and assumed the presidency as per the constitution. The conciliatory approach being adopted by PPP toward President Musharraf has undoubtedly has set the stage for a fruitful coordinative administration in Pakistan. This approach, in fact, has helped change the charged political atmosphere in Pakistan. Tension that characterized the political scene of Pakistan until quite recently has calmed down now.

The recent turn of events have reduced the level of tensions in the political field of the contry with the emergence of a new set of issues before the opposition leaders of Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League (PMLN), now busy debating other crucial issues before the parliament. The leaders are coming together to form the central as well as provincial governments by concentrating on removal of the differences that have cropped up in each party as well as in their negotiations for power-share, rather than fighting with Musharraf right now. Regional turmoil should occupy the full attention of the new House, as much as the economic as well as security matters of a weakening Pakistan, ill-focused by a “friendly” India,

Amid the confusion being generated by the post-poll adjustments made for the final selection of premier and speaker, one thing is becoming amply clear: the opposition led by PP leader Zardari has shelved their major goal of removing Musharraf from presidency, at least for the time being. That is indeed a positive signal for Pakistan and its people; both have suffered a great deal. Musharraf, who has declared his support to the new government, was also elected by constitutional means and is not a threat to legitimate interests of either Pakistan or Kashmir. But a unified leadership is in Pakistan's as well as Kashmir's advantage.

In coming weeks, opposition parties plan to tackle the issues of regional development, economy and security. Does that really mean they are going to evolve a cooperative, constructive mechanism to push the nation ahead, in stead of washing dirty linen in international public?

Dr.Abdul Ruff Colachal, Research Scholar, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.

- Asian Tribune -

Kirkuk dispute close to boiling point

Analysts say political agreement must be reached to defuse escalating tensions over contested city’s status, Caroline Tosh and Zaineb Ahmed report for IWPR.


By Caroline Tosh in London and Zaineb Ahmed in Iraq for IWPR (19/03/08)

Last month, a United Nations envoy likened the struggle between Kurds and Arabs for control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq to a "ticking time bomb."

Staffan de Mistura, who is helping broker a settlement between Baghdad and Irbil on future arrangements for Kirkuk, said in an interview for the Bloomberg news agency that he had just a few months left to solve what he termed "the mother of all crises" in Iraq.

"If that takes place, we will have contributed substantially to avoiding a new conflict at the worst possible time," said the Swedish diplomat in the report.

The autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) would like to see the return of Kurds who were expelled from Kirkuk as part of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's "Arabisation" policy, under which the Kurds - whom he viewed as politically suspect - were driven out of oil-rich areas of the north and replaced by a smaller number of Arabs.

The Kurds say they have a historical claim to Kirkuk city, and that they lost a great deal of property and land there under Saddam.

The KRG is calling for a referendum to decide the future of the city and its surrounding oil fields, which lie outside Kurdistan’s three provinces of Erbil, Sulaimaniyah and Dohuk.

Article 140 of the 2005 Iraqi constitution contains a provision for just such a referendum to decide the fate of the city and its environs.

Under this article, the authorities must first achieve "normalization" - taken to mean the reversal or mitigation of "Arabisation" policy - and hold a census in Kirkuk. The government must complete a series of steps set out in the Transitional Administrative Law - an interim constitution dating from 2004. These include restitution for people who were forced out; resettling or otherwise accommodating people who were moved into the area by Saddam; and remedying unjust boundary changes carried out by his regime.

While no up-to-date statistics exist on the ethnic and religious make-up of the province of Kirkuk (also known as Tamim), Kurds are thought to be the largest ethnic group, and they hold the most seats on the provincial council.

But the idea that the city could be incorporated into an expanded Kurdish region is bitterly opposed by Iraqi Arabs, who do not want to cede control of the city and its oil to an autonomous Kurdish entity. The area is thought to hold some 12 percent of Iraq's confirmed oil reserves.

Kirkuk's significant Turkoman population, which has its own historical claims on the city, is also against absorption into the KRG and would rather see the city granted some kind of special status.

A decision was made in December to delay the referendum until June this year, partly because of growing violence in Kirkuk.

As the Kirkuk crisis simmers, relations between the KRG capital Irbil and Baghdad have been further strained by disagreements over the funding of the Peshmerga or Kurdish military, and over oil deals signed by the Kurds without reference to Baghdad. The Iraqi oil ministry claims these arrangements are unconstitutional and is reportedly threatening to blacklist the foreign companies involved, preventing them pursuing oil contracts with Baghdad.

The UN has now been drafted in to help settle disagreements over Kirkuk and other matters ahead of a plebiscite designed to "determine the will of… citizens" with regard to the city and other disputed territories.

Meanwhile, Iraq's neighbors look on with keen interest. If the KRG were to absorb Kirkuk, the consolidation this would mean for the entity could have implications for Kurdish minorities in Turkey, Syria and Iran.

Ankara is fiercely protective of Kirkuk's Turkomans, and also fearful that Kurdistan could use the added oil wealth to make a future bid for independence - something it would oppose given the implications for its home-grown Kurdish separatist movement.

Were there to be an actual conflict over Kirkuk, it now seems less and less certain whether Kurdistan could count on the backing of Washington, formerly a close ally. The United States was notably slow to react when Turkey breached Iraqi sovereignty by launching incursions into the north of the country last month, in pursuit of rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Kurds accused of 'overreaching'
While there is some sympathy for the Kurds' ambition to secure greater control of resources so as to help prevent a repeat of their past suffering, a recent wave of articles abroad has accused Kurdistan of overplaying its hand.

US analyst Michael O'Hanlon suggested in a piece for the Washington Post last month that by laying claim to Kirkuk and independently developing oil fields, Kurds were "making a major mistake."

"They should rethink their approach both out of fairness to the United States, which has given them a chance to help build a post-Hussein Iraq, and in the interests of [both] the Kurds and their neighbors," he said.

Other analysts suggested that US support for Kurdistan has been ebbing in recent months.

"I think there's a feeling that in Washington the Kurds have got a good deal in Iraq and that they need to focus on that and not be reaching for more," observed Daniel Serwer of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP).

Joost Hiltermann of the Brussels-based think tank the International Crisis Group (ICG) thought that while the Kurds had a historic opportunity to press forward, that window was now starting to close as US support waned.

As the US attempts to rebuild Iraq, it needs to persuade the political winners of recent years to cede some of their power so that excluded groups can be drawn in, he said. That suggests that the Kurds as well as the powerful Shia parties would have to give some ground.

But that may be easier said than done. Kurdish politics have their own internal dynamics, and the intense competition between the two big players - the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) - may be spurring them on to make greater demands.

"Kurdish leaders sometimes play to the gallery of their own regional politics," said BBC journalist Quil Lawrence, author of "Invisible Nation: How the Kurds' Quest for Statehood is Shaping Iraq and the Middle East."

"When they go to Baghdad they need to play tough and say, 'Kirkuk is our beating heart,' because the opposing Kurdish party just came to Baghdad and said, 'Kirkuk is our Jerusalem,'" he explained.

Kurdish journalist and Middle East expert Dr Rebwar Fatah doubts the Kurds will give up on their claim to the city, unless Kirkuk's population itself chooses to reject annexation. "It would be very difficult if Kirkuk accepted not being part of the Kurdish region," he admitted.

Fatah dismissed the notion that Kurds are demanding too much, saying they merely wanted security and control over their own resources.

If the city did not become part of the Kurdish region, he said, "Kurds would eventually be pushed out of Kirkuk."

He drew a clear analogy with another mixed-population northern city claimed by the Kurds, noting, "Historically, Mosul was a Kurdish area, but now the east part is Kurdish and the west part Arab."

Some argue that Kurdistan is being unfairly penalized for securing favorable terms when the constitution was being drafted.

"[Some Shia] think Kurdistan did too well in the negotiations over the constitution of 2005 and have been trying to rein them in," said Professor Brendan O'Leary of the University of Pennsylvania, who acted as advisor to the KRG on the constitution.

O'Leary denied that Kurdish aspirations were driven by a desire to get rich from Kirkuk's oil, a view promulgated by certain politicians and media reports.

"It's false to allege that the dispute in Kirkuk is about oil, and it's also equally false to allege that the Kurds are planning to seize the oil fields and then declare independence," he said.

"Irrespective of the outcome of the referendum, there is an agreement that the revenues of Kirkuk will be distributed across Iraq as a whole."

Indeed, Kurds often stress that the Kirkuk question is about people, not oil, pointing out that they currently receive 17 percent of the country's oil revenue and would receive just 12 percent from Kirkuk.

Referendum looks set for further delay
Observers say that the longer the status of Kirkuk hangs in the balance, the more the tensions will grow.

Narmeen Osman, the Iraqi environment minister and a member of the Iraqi Committee for the Implementation of Article 140, said the federal government had been slow to implement the terms of the article "because of political pressures" from inside and outside Iraq.

There are widespread fears that come June, the referendum will be delayed once again. Political elements in government with close ties with Iran are likely to be obstructive, while Kurdistan's fear of alienating Turkey could also cause a delay.

Turkey's importance to Iraq was seen earlier this month when Iraqi President and PUK leader Jalal Talabani led an official delegation on a visit to Ankara.

During the visit, which was held in part to restore normal relations between Ankara and Irbil after the Turkish military incursion to hunt down PKK guerrillas last month, Talabani urged Turkish businesses to invest in the country.

A source who accompanied the Iraqi delegation to Ankara this month told IWPR that Turkish friendship was vital to Iraqi Kurdistan's future.

"Without a relationship with Turkey, Kurdistan can get nowhere," said the source. "Turkey is its gate to Europe and Washington; its only breathing space."

From a practical point of view, it seems very little progress on implementing those elements of Article 140 which should precede a referendum.

"I don't think that there will be any referendum. There has not been much progress on the three stages of normalization. [First] there has to be compensation and moving of people who have been settled for up to 35 years," said Fatah.

He argued that delaying the referendum had created a vacuum in Kirkuk, and had also served to isolate the KRG further from the population, who see it as self-serving and unwilling to tackle the problem head-on.

"[The Kurdish authorities] have tried to manage the problem, not to do anything about it," he said.

Like other observers, Fatah predicts continuing resistance to Article 140 from Arabs both inside Iraq and from other regional states.

Hiltermann thinks obstruction from the Baghdad government could prevent the referendum being held, and agrees that very little progress had been made with the normalization process.

"Most Kurds who were expelled from Kirkuk in the previous era have not returned, mostly because there are no resources there for them… so they haven't come back. Many of the Arabs who were brought there by the previous regimes are also still there and probably will stay there," he said.

Serwer agreed that much still had to be done, saying, "There are a lot of complicated issues - technical issues that need to be resolved if the referendum is to go ahead in June, and I'm not seeing the kind of intensive preparations that would enable them to go ahead in June."

However, O'Leary thought there was still plenty of time to prepare.

"I don't think it's all taken place at full speed, but there are funds available to assist in normalization, and many families have taken advantage of those and some families are waiting," he said.

What should happen next?
As the referendum deadline looms, politicians are divided on how to proceed.

One Iraqi government adviser who did not want to be named said he believed the pressure could be eased by embarking on the normalization process, but putting the plebiscite on hold for the time being.

"Work on the normalization process, and put the issue of the referendum to one side," he said. "Even if five per cent of the process was done, it would serve as a confidence-building measure."

Narmeen Osman, however, worried that a second postponement would merely inflame relations between Irbil and Baghdad.

"The solution for the problem is the implementation of the article - normalize, conduct censuses and then referendum," she said.

O'Leary pointed out that while it would be better to engage all the parties concerned, it would be possible to go ahead without the support of the Baghdad government.

"I think, in principle, there is no reason why the referendum could not be held jointly by the Kirkuk governorate itself - at present the majority of Kurdistan-allied parties are on it - with the Kurdistan Regional Government," he said.

However, there are fears that such a unilateral move could make an already difficult situation worse.

Izzat al-Shahbandar, a member of parliament from the Iraqi National List, believes further negotiations are needed between Kurdistan and the federal government to iron out any disagreements in advance.

"It is not enough to…normalize relations, and conduct a referendum that has supports and opponents. Otherwise, the day of June 6, 2008 is going to be a time bomb."

Need for political consensus
Observers say the reluctance of certain Iraqi political forces to comply with the constitutional requirement to hold a referendum demonstrates a failure to engage all sides in the process from the outset.

Lawrence pointed out that the current obstruction to implementing the constitution was in part because the Sunni Arabs had largely boycotted the drafting process, and therefore consider the end result "null and void."

"The basic problem right now is the constitution, which was written without genuine Sunni input," he said.

"The Sunnis have a legitimate gripe in that they didn't really sign off on the constitution, they were promised that there would be time after the constitution passed to amend it, and correct it from their opinion. But the parts they'd like to scrap are exactly what the Kurds say are 'red-lines' for them [and must] stay in."

Kurdish politician Mahmoud Othman says it is imperative to negotiate broad political backing for any solution in Kirkuk itself, regardless of the outcome of any referendum.

"Even if you get a majority in Kirkuk with the referendum, then clearly you have to make a deal with the Arabs and Turkomans so that they will be not against it, so that you could implement it," he said.

Others continue to argue that territorial disputes should be decided through negotiations and political agreement, rather than by a referendum at this stage.

"It can be that any agreement that results from such negotiations could be ratified in a popular referendum," said Hiltermann.

Establishing a broad consensus between Iraq's main parties could also decrease the likelihood of eternal actors muscling in.

And as a growing engagement with the political process emerges in Iraq, there are signs that an agreement on Kirkuk may be a possibility.

"My sense is that among both Kurds and Arabs in Iraq, you have a much broader acceptance of the constitution than you had a year ago. People are much more willing to take their problems into parliament, into provincial councils, to the press, than they were once upon a time," said Serwer.

Fears of conflict downplayed
Despite the rising trend of violence since 2003, analysts do not believe that Kirkuk is headed for an all-out local civil war.

O'Leary disputed the media's characterization of Kirkuk as "a tinderbox waiting to explode."

"I don't think that the Kurdistan government will provoke violence," he said, adding that the KRG had shown a commitment to negotiating by constitutional and democratic means.

"It's important to note that the Kirkuk governorate is already in effect under the security blanket of the Peshmerga and therefore I wouldn't expect any change on the ground," he said.

According to the analyst, if the dispute over Kirkuk were to intensify, the Baghdad government would be unlikely to deploy troops against the Peshmerga, who are better trained and more cohesive than Arab units of the Iraqi army.

Washington would be "foolish" to permit any Turkish intervention on behalf of the Turkomans of Kirkuk, he added.

The KRG and the government in Baghdad have also shown a commitment to come to an agreement through negotiations, rather than violence.

"There are meetings and negotiations between the central government and the Kurdish leadership and both sides agree that the issues should be solved in peaceful ways," said Osman.

And with the UN-assisted negotiating process just getting under way, it seems far too early to talk of civil war.

"If [the talks] fail, then you will get real trouble in these areas over oil and other issues, resources - oil and gas mostly - population growth, and that could lead to civil war, but we are far from that and we are certainly able to prevent that," said Hiltermann.

While Serwer sees potential for violence over the issue of Kirkuk, he does not expect conflict on a large scale.

"Kirkukis are quite determined not to be the theatre for the broader conflict between Kurds and Arabs in Iraq," he said.






Caroline Tosh is an IWPR editor in London. Zaineb Ahmed is an IWPR-trained journalist in Baghdad.

This article originally appeared in Iraq Reconstruction Report, produced by the Institute for War

The Legacy of Gandhi: A 21st Century Perspective

Author(s): Ishtiaq Ahmed, Rajiv Sikri, D M Nachane, Partha Nath Mukherji
Publisher(s): Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), Singapore
Date of publication: 3 Jan 2008
Issue number: 26
Format: PDF
Pages: 38
URL: www.isas.nus.edu.sg
Series: ISAS Insights

Description: This paper features four chapters whose common focus is the influence of Mahatma Gandhi's thinking on India's policy and development. In particular, the chapters explore Gandhi's views on Hindu-Muslim relations, his influence on India's foreign and economic policy as well as his legacy of democratic decentralization.

General note: © 2008 National University of Singapore

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American oil to flow through Russian pipes

21:18 | 18/ 03/ 2008



MOSCOW. (Oleg Mityayev, RIA Novosti economic analyst) - Russian metallurgists now have a big advantage over their American rivals due to steadily growing raw material prices and relatively low production costs in Russia.

Therefore, Russian producers are buying American companies. Russian steel giant Evraz Group and the Pipe and Metallurgical Company (TMK) announced their acquisition of North American Ipsco for $4 billion on March 14. The Russian companies will use IPSCO's assets to manufacture pipes for global oil giants.


It is Evraz's third acquisition in North America. In late 2006, the company bought the United States' largest rail producer, Oregon Steel, which also makes pipes, for $2.3 billion. Last year, Evraz, Russia's largest steel group in terms of assets (including foreign ones), acquired Claymont Steel in Delaware, a producer of steel sheets for bridges and train cars, for $565 million.

Evraz, partly owned by Chelsea Football Club owner and billionaire Roman Abramovich, has been eyeing IPSCO since last year. But the Russian company was neither satisfied with last year's price nor the structure of assets offered.

The just completed deal is much better for Evraz's interests, since it acquired IPSCO's Canadian plate and pipe business (10 plants) from Swedish SSAB and is planning the sale of IPSCO's U.S. tubular & seamless business to TMK for approximately $1.7 billion. This scheme helped Evraz to get what it wanted and save a lot of money. As for TMK, which had no foreign assets before, the deal allowed it to break into a foreign market thanks to an alliance with a large partner.

Evraz will use the Canadian facilities to produce large-diameter pipes, while TMK will focus on the production of smaller seamless pipes at the newly-acquired U.S. plants. It is worth mentioning that the two Russian companies have bought very worthwhile assets since IPSCO plants make special-alloy pipes classified as deep-conversion (high-added-value) products.

In addition, these are very promising assets. Both large and small diameter pipes are used in oil and gas industries for transportation as well as for prospecting and drilling. Evraz and TMK will now supply such pipes to global oil giants including Exxon Mobile, Royal Dutch Shell and BP.

Evraz and TMK are probably counting on the U.S. infrastructure sector to soon expand rapidly. There was a shortage of investment in that sector in the past decade, but the current record fuel prices, among other things, should certainly spur the process now.

Evraz is one of the three Russian companies which are the most aggressive acquirers of foreign assets, including Russia's largest nickel producer Norilsk Nickel and United Company Russian Aluminium (UC Rusal), a Russian aluminium giant. Evraz has metallurgical assets in the CIS, Africa and the United States. It was the first Russian company to make a foray into the Chinese steel market, almost closed to non-residents, earlier this year. The Russian group then negotiated a takeover of its Chinese rival, Delong Holdings.

Admittedly, Evraz does not have unlimited resources. Independent experts said its debts totalled $6.5 billion. The group will have to finance its latest deal by attracting new loans. The shortage of funds was probably one of the reasons behind Evraz's decision to team up with TMK for acquiring the new North American assets.

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

Buddhism with a clenched fist

15:19 | 18/ 03/ 2008

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Dmitry Kosyrev) - Discussion of the recent unrest in Tibet has for the most part focused on the number of dead and wounded, and on whether the actions of the Chinese security services were right or wrong.

But there are two far more important, if perhaps less evident, truths to emerge from the events in Lhasa. First is the emergence of politicized Buddhism. The second is just how little we know about it.

The debate about the rights and wrongs of the Chinese actions is something of a red-herring. As long as you accept that the Chinese authorities did not stage arson in Lhasa's marketplace, it is unreasonable to criticize the actions of the police.

Law enforcement agencies in any country must act quickly and decisively to remove any threat to life and property. Whether the Chinese should be in Tibet in the first place is another question.

The bigger issue behind the Tibetan drama, though so far overlooked, is the role of politically active - and occasionally aggressive - Buddhism.

The phrase "aggressive Buddhism" initially sounds absurd. Non-violence, after all, is the essence of Buddhism. A Buddhist monk would never till the land lest his spade hurt a worm. For many, Buddhism represents an "ideal" religion, which, unlike Christianity and Islam, has avoided the atrocities of the Inquisition, makes no justification for war and conquest, and has never stooped to terrorism. It is for these reasons that so many seek inspiration in Chinese, Japanese, Thai and other Buddhist cultures.

"Virtue should sometimes clench its fists," went a 1960s slogan of Soviet liberal intellectuals. That would sound preposterous if it referred to Buddhism. Or would it?

Buddhist monks were active in last year's protests in Myanmar, and are now at the centre of the Lhasa drama. Even if Buddhist extremism is a sheer theoretical assumption, its thunderbolt appearance is among the most alarming developments in the world today.

This statement demands clarification. The Lamaism of Tibet is only one branch of Buddhism, and Buddhism does not know a global hierarchy outside Tibet.

Importantly, there is no proof that monks were behind either the Burmese or Tibetan unrest, and there is certainly no evidence of organizational links between them. Really, rioters are people of quite a different sort, while monks and harmless laymen tend to be picked as scapegoats. And this leads us to the second lesson of Lhasa - just how little we know.

The violence leading to deaths and injuries in Lhasa started with arson. The number of casualties on both sides is approximately equal, and the Chinese authorities, we think, have a vague idea of who started what and who is to blame.

That is about all we know - and probably all we will know for the foreseeable future. Yet the events unfolding are dramatic enough to base a thriller on, and it is all tempting - and extremely easy - to impose such a fantastical plot on events.

Setting the stage is China's, and indeed Asia's, breakneck drive for global influence, a trend that many in the world are uncomfortable with. China has two tender points - Muslim-populated Xinjiang and Buddhist-populated Tibet. Xinjiang at one point appeared the best place for subversion, but the NATO operation in nearby Afghanistan has deprived Islamic militants of a bridgehead.

Furthermore, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, with its strong antiterrorist agenda, has brought together countries bordering on Xinjiang to protect this vulnerable and remote part of China.

Hence our anti-Chinese conspirators turn to Tibet as the theater for their dastardly plans. Ample food for the imagination is provided by Tibet's links with Buddhists all over China. Now, add the Dalai Lama, an exile since 1959, Buddhist organizations scattered all about the world - some with an obscure background - and conspiracies against the junta in Myanmar as a way to deter China.

The book might finish with the emergence of a Buddhist version of al-Qaida getting out of its founders' control, just as the real al-Qaida was established and nurtured to fight the Soviet regime, and then went astray. Wouldn't that make a bestseller?

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

March 18, 2008

CHINESE DAMAGE CONTROL EXERCISE

SourcE: SAAG
By B.Raman

While continuing to make arrests of suspected participants in the revolt in Tibet, the Chinese have at the same time mounted a damage control exercise to prevent the developments in Tibet from having an impact on their successful holding of the Beijing Olympics of August,2008.

2. The arrests, which started on March17,2008, have not so far been as massive as originally feared. The total number of Tibetan youth arrested so far has been estimated at about 150. What the Chinese have been doing is to arrest identified past offenders, who had spent time in the jail in the past for undesirable activities and had been released after they had completed their prison terms.In the initial wave of arrests, they have also been looking for persons without valid documents.

3. The Chinese have been trying to prove that those, who attacked the Han and Hui settlers and members of the security forces, were not sons of the soil, who, according to the Chinese, are happy with the Chinese rule and have excellent relations with the Hans, but infiltrators from outside. In the initial phase of enquiries, they are focussing on those Tibetans, who have relatives in India and the West in order to see whether any of them had recently visited their relatives abroad or whether their relatives living abroad had recently visited them.

4. The Chinese are convinced that the disturbances were not spontaneous, but pre-meditated and well organised. In his customary press conference after the conclusion of the session of the National People's Congress (NPC) held at Bejing on March 18,2008, the Prime Minister, Mr.Wen Jiabo, linked the disturbances to the Olympic Games and described them as "organized, premeditated, masterminded and instigated by the Dalai Lama clique".

5. The campaign against the Dalai Lama and his set-up in Dharamsala has been stepped up by the Chinese authorities as well as the government-controlled media in Beijing and Lhasa. He has been accused of telling lies when he talked of a cultural genocide in Tibet in his press conference of March 16. He has been projected as insincere and deceitful.In this connection, reference is being made to his protestations of his belief in non-violent methods and the actual violence in Tibet and Sichuan.

6. Even while condemning the Dalai Lama in strong language, the Chinese have kept open the possibility of a dialogue with him. Mr.Wen said at his press conference: "The door of dialogue is still open to Dalai, so long as he gives up the position for "Tibet Independence", so long as he recognizes Tibet and Taiwan as inalienable parts of the Chinese territory." But he remained silent on the Dalai Lama's assertion that he was advocating genuine autonomy for Tibet and not independence.

7. This is an intriguing part of the entire revolt in Tibet. While the Dalai Lama had been repeatedly saying even the past that his aim is genuine autonomy and not independence, the monks and the youth, who participated in the uprising between March 10 and 14,2008, were calling for independence. The Tibetan Youth Congress elements in India and the West do not seem to agree with the Dalai Lama that the Tibetans would be satisfied with genuine autonomy. It is apparent that the Tibetan Youth Congress played an active role in organising the world-wide demonstrations on March 10,2008, which in Tibet and Sichuan took a violent anti-Han turn.

8. The questions arising from this are: Was the Dalai Lama aware of the plans of the Tibetan Youth Congress? If so, why did he not try to stop them? If not, is he really in effective control of the Youth Congress? Was the violent uprising in Lhasa pre-meditated by the Youth Congress? If not, who was behind it? No convincing answers to these questions are available. The Chinese authorities see the entire thing as deliberately planned and organised by the Youth Congress with the knowledge of the Dalai Lama.

9. In a strongly-worded commentary based on a report from the Lhasa Bureau of the Government-owned Hsinhua news agency published on March 18,2008, the Government-owned "People's Daily" wrote as follows: " Memories of horror were alive again. Rioting that erupted in Lhasa on Friday resembled two previous riots in 1959 and 1989, only in its cruelty and always indisputable links to peace-preaching Dalai Lama.......In the shocking degree of cruelty which local Tibetans said they had not seen in their whole lives, "brutal" was an understatement of the true picture, but the word was only reserved for the mob, and not for the policemen......Such hostility was not "non-violence" as Dalai preached, but what the "revered" monk practiced. Religious leaders, local Tibetans and other residents stood out and condemned the riot. It is obvious that the latest well-planned sabotage in Lhasa was another bloody exercise of Dalai clique's political conspiracy....In recent years, the Dalai clique has been telling the world that they have stopped seeking "Tibetan independence". However, it is just another huge lie. In an effort to fan up the international community to link the "Tibet issue" with the Beijing Olympics, he repeatedly preached during his frequent international trips that the year 2008 is of key importance and the Olympic Games would be the "last chance" for the Tibetans. How can the Dalai clique justify themselves when the Tibetan Youth Congress vowed to pursue "Tibet independence" at the cost of blood and lives in a March 10 statement, which says "they would never give up the fight for Tibet independence"? ....After the riot broke out in Lhasa, the Dalai clique maintained real-time contacts through varied channels with the rioters, and dictated instructions to his hard core devotees and synchronized their moves, police sources say. Evidence again mounted against the Dalai coterie's trumpet for "non-violence", exposing them as a deceitful bunch."

10. The Chinese have been avoiding giving an impression of panic in Beijing over the developments. All the senior officials of the Tibet Administration and party apparatus, who had gone to Beijing to attend the NPC session, continue to be there and are letting their subordinates handle the situation in Tibet and Sichuan.

11. Before starting the arrests in Tibet on March 17,2008, the local authorities ordered all foreign tourists and journalists to leave the region for their own safety. They also stopped issuing permits for foreigners to visit Tibet. Prime Minister Wen has, however, promised that once the situation improved, the Government would take the initiative in taking a team of foreign journalists to Tibet.

(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 )

India’s Internal Security Dimensions

Source: SAAG

Guest Column by R.Swaminathan

In pre-independence India, conventional wisdom had it that external security threats stemmed from hostile countries and internal security threats were all totally indigenous. In the six decades since then, the internal security situation has undergone a sea change. Many internal security threats are externally sponsored or guided or inspired or supported or tolerated. Therefore, as change has been said to be the only constant in the order of things, we have to adapt our attitudes and policies to the new realities. We can no longer merely offer or accept the excuse of the “foreign hand”. The rapidly developing political, economic and military strength of India, if unfortunately accompanied by a fragile internal security scenario, could become a significant factor for instability in the region and in the world.

This paper is a quick walk-through of the various dimensions of India's internal security and will not touch upon military, energy or food security.

External Factors

Pakistan has been using state-sponsored and state-supported cross-border terrorism (primarily in Jammu & Kashmir) as an instrument of its state policy. China had, at one stage, provided shelter and support to ethnic-separatist militancy in the north-east. Various militant groups operating in India’s northeast have often found safe haven and operational bases in Bangladesh. The linkages between the Maoists in Nepal and those in the bordering states in India remain a cause for major concern. One, however, has to recognize, accept and cater for the fact that while external factors could provide seen-or-unseen, real-or-virtual, inspiration and support (like fertilizer and water) to various groups that pose internal security threats, only the pre-existence of the basic grievances and causes (like soil and seeds) could make them functional.

Jihadi terrorism, inspired by externally generated ideas about taking revenge for perceived wrongs committed against Islam over the centuries and the grandiose ambition of establishing an Islamic Caliphate across international borders, is posing a major threat. The increasing numbers of Indian Muslims seen to be involved in such activities calls for special attention. The so-called "global war on terror" is not likely to be of much help to India. It is not as if the jihadi terrorists have a joint “global” or "national” headquarters or if such groups hold any defined territories from which they operate. There may be similarities in methodologies and techniques; but it would be a big mistake to try and evolve a grand plan of macro solutions to this problem. In order to gain local support, every such group would have to focus on specific local-oriented politico-economic-religious issues; and these may have to be tackled through customised approaches that include the addressing of genuine grievances.

Jihadi terrorism, based only on Islamic extremism, is eventually most likely to fail in South Asia, even as Muslims themselves (as well as the Islam-based power structures within the sponsoring/supporting states) increasingly become prime targets. Their support to the ideological and/or religious presuppositions of the Islamic terrorist groups may become inadequate to shield them from harm. When such unavoidable termination would happen would depend largely on the intentions and capabilities of the two primary state sponsors/supporters of terrorist groups in India - Pakistan and Bangladesh - and on the international support and acceptance they would continue to receive.

One of the unfortunate consequences of the raise of Islamic fundamentalism is the mostly indigenous “retaliatory” raise in fundamentalist revivals amongst Hindus and other religionists. Such revivals have the dangerous potential of being accepted by the majority as totally justified.

It is essential to be aware of the potential danger from the spill-over effects of any unstable conditions in India’s neighborhood. The Maoist participation in the government in Nepal, the continuing ethnic problem in Sri Lanka with the increasing menace of smuggling and drug trafficking, events in Pakistan and Bangla Desh etc. would all have their own effect in the adjoining areas in India.

Ethnic Militancy

There has been some success over the years in handling ethno-centric militancy in the northeast. Successive governments in India have been following the dual path of negotiation on grievances and firm handling of violence. The near and long term prospects of this approach would very much depend on the fine tuning of the balance between the two paths and the drying up of external support or safe havens. The future would also depend on the relative strengths (real and perceived) of the government and the militant groups. If the latter are able to consolidate their positions and secure an advantage over the state - as had been happening in Sri Lanka - they may be tempted to escalate their demands to the point of a breakdown and reversion to violence. On the other hand, if the state negotiates from a position of demonstrated strength, these groups could weaken with the passage of time and may be inclined to accept the maximum benefits and honourable solutions offered; and rejoin the mainstream.

A potentially dangerous development is the “opportunistic” and “unprincipled” (but limited) international support to the declaration of independence by Kosovo. Ethnic separatists like ULFA, NSCN and those in Manipur could try speciously to apply the Kosovo precedent to their areas. The Government of India should therefore take note of this potential land-mine and be very careful in framing its reaction and response to the developments in Kosovo.

Maoist Insurgency

Maoist (Naxalite) movements have gripped a significantly large portion of India and presently pose one of the most serious threats to our internal security. Though the “ideology” and the “methodology” may be imported, the basic causes are indigenous. There is a wide-spread perception that “land reforms” and efforts at redressal of genuine grievances have only been superficial and that the “exploiters” continue to “exploit” the poor and the landless agriculturists. It cannot be a coincidence that the Maoists are most effective in areas of past maximum exploitation. If, however, this perception is wrong, it is for the state agencies to inform the public of the correct position. On the other hand, if there is any element of truth in this perception, urgent steps are required to remedy the situation on the ground.

A majority of India’s small farmers have been facing severe economic problems due to various factors, including globalization, credit crunch (compounded by usurious money-lenders), non-inclusive economic progress etc. It would not be difficult for the Maoists to project themselves as the sole protectors of the poor farmer’s interests and the militant way as the only viable redressal procedure available to them. Some recently announced relief measures, including the “revolutionary” farm loan waiver scheme, are very welcome steps, but they should be the beginning and not the end of the many measures necessary to retrieve the poor farmers from the potential embrace of the Maoists. The perception of imbalanced subsidies, which is also a major source of alienation, needs to be overcome by introducing a more rational system.

Maritime & Cargo Security

Apart from the conventional maritime threats to India’s national security, special attention needs to be paid to the protection of Indian interests in the exclusive economic zone, to the protection of the (lives and) interests of Indian fishermen, to threats of sabotage/drug trafficking/smuggling posed by container traffic etc. An example of the kind of threat from un-inspected container traffic was graphically provided a couple of days ago, by the fire that started in the privatized luggage (parcel) enclosure in the Chennai-Madurai Pandian Express.

The potential of the presence of the Sea Tigers in the Palk Strait (and of the clashes between the Sri Lankan Navy and the Sea Tigers in that area) becoming a serious threat to India’s national security cannot be forgotten or ignored.

Cyber Space

India is becoming notorious as a major originator of spam and “phishing” on the internet. Cyber-based economic offences like illegal money transfers to anti-social entities, laundering of black money, share market manipulation, bank frauds etc. are on the increase, though specific and reliable data is not available.

Changes that Need to be Considered

The above listing (albeit incomplete) of the dimensions of the internal security threats faced by India may seem extremely frightening and may lead to theories of “conspiracies” against India’s inevitable march towards becoming a major actor in the international arena. India has the human and material resources for overcoming the problems and for ensuring her internal security; but some significant changes in our mind-set and in our policy-making are necessary. One thing that is certain is that we cannot afford to continue doing business as usual.

First and foremost is the need to recognize that our internal security can be ensured only if there is a consensus on national security policies. Political entities need to agree to eschew the temptation of exploiting (for narrow party interests or for creating/maintaining vote-banks) divisive issues which have the potential of posing threats to national security and cohesion. Such issues should be discussed between all the concerned political entities and the concerned people, so that agreed policy approaches could be worked out. The relatively easy procedure of inciting emotions and passions on potentially divisive issues needs to be given up, though at some cost to the popular “image”.

Similarly, parochialism (whether in Assam or Tamil Nadu or Karnataka or Mumbai or anywhere else) should not be allowed to over-ride overall national interests, particularly relating to national security and national integration. Local and minor issues should not emotionally be blown up to become a major national issue. Local and regional concerns no doubt require attention, but they could be pursued with a proper sense of proportion; and discussion and negotiation should become the first choice – instead of agitation, merely to attract the attention of the media and the public. All sections of the media need to resolve that they would demand and encourage such a change in the priorities for the procedures to be adopted for the resolution of potential (and existing) conflicts of interest.

On the part of the government, it has to recognize the public perception that while considerable progress has been made in the area of collection of intelligence, through technical means, about the activities of terrorist and militant groups, such progress does not seem to have been matched in the areas of penetration of those groups and collection of intelligence through human agents. If this perception is correct, necessary measures to rectify the imbalance need to be initiated urgently.

Further, though the required mechanisms are stated to have been created for effective co-ordination between state and central agencies, as also amongst central agencies themselves, the results do not reflect the effectiveness of these mechanisms. What the public see and hear, soon after any “incident” or “failure of security”, is a prompt litany of complaints from state and central security agencies, , though mostly indigenous against each other. This effort to shift “blame” often takes precedence over speedy investigation and relief measures.

The variety of internal security threats makes it essential that coping with those threats cannot be left to be the sole responsibility of the state security agencies. There is an inescapable need effectively to involve all other state agencies, all political and religious entities, private security agencies, educationists, social workers and the civil society as a whole to protect our nation. Prevention should be the primary objective, with effective detection and deterrent punishment (when prevention fails) as the backup. It is in the area of prevention that the total involvement of the nation could be made most effective.

Conclusion

Security is not a luxury and is not merely a function of the state; it is a way of life. India has to and can overcome the general inability of democracies to put together the political will, the resources and the strategies that are necessary to prevail over all internal security threats. Real reforms that would remove or minimize economic and religion/caste-based inequalities, good and honest governance and effective policing are pre-requisites for the marshalling the total resources of the nation in these efforts. The Govt of India should also be prepared to lower the threshold of tolerance in relation to cross-border terrorism and to serve credible notice that India has the capabilities and the determination to inflict prohibitively high and unacceptable cost on the state sponsors of terrorist acts against Indian interests.

(This presentation was prepared for delivery on 15 March 2008 at the One-Day National Seminar on “Internal Security Dimensions of India”, jointly organized in Chennai by the Dept of Defence & Strategic Studies (University of Madras) and Observer research Foundation (Chennai Chapter). The author can be contacted at rsnathan@gmail.com)