November 28, 2008

War on Mumbai spurs Pakistan Apologists

SOURCE: OFFSTUMPED

The operations to flush out the remaining few terrorists holed up in the 3 flashpoints in South Mumbai are yet to be completed.


That however has not restrained two species of public commentators in the Indian and International media from their insta-punditry.


The first species in the Indian media, in its eagerness to ascribe guilt is in no mood to wait for official investigations to be completed before confirming a Pakistan connection. Given the carelessness with which the Pakistan wolf is routinely called, this species is unconcerned with the credibility problem this poses with the puzzle yet to be put together in its entirety. (As this post goes to press Praveen Swami in The Hindu confirms the arrest of Pakistani Citizens including one Ajmal Amir Kamal of Faridkot from one of the hotels)


As if acting on cue from the first species, is this second species in the International Media which has once again begun to demonstrate its obsessive complusive disorder of looking for “root causes”.


In the days following the American Presidential elections this second species picked on President elect Obama’s remarks on the “Kashmir cause” to chant the “resentment over Kashmir fuels Taliban terrorism in Pakistan” formulation. Giving life to this self serving myth were American commentators like NYTimes columnist Nicholas Kristof.


With accusations of a Pakistani connection emerging from the mayhem in Mumbai, this formulation is in the danger of being turned on its head. Hence we see with alacrity a pre-emptive strike by this species to issue apologies on behalf the terrorists in Pakistan with this new formulation of “muslim resentment over economic disparity fuels domestic terrorism”.
First it was Christine Fair in the New York Times with this ridiculous claim


“There are a lot of very, very angry Muslims in India,” she said, “The economic disparities are startling, and India has been very slow to publicly embrace its rising Muslim problem. You cannot put lipstick on this pig. This is a major domestic political challenge for India.”
But what started with an odd analyst or two is now growing into a chorus with media outlets like the Newsweek making this formulation the centerpiece of their insta-punditry.
New Delhi has long accused Lashkar, and by extension Pakistan, of being behind the long-simmering unrest in Indian Kashmir, as well as being instigators of terror attacks inside India. Indian officials, however, conveniently ignore the serious economic, religious, political and social causes of Muslim discontent in Kashmir as well as in much of India, which is home to more than 150 million Muslims, roughly equivalent to the population of Pakistan. There have been five similar attacks, albeit on a smaller scale with fewer casualties, across India in the last eight months. Security agency sources say that the government’s response to the attacks has been routine, if not incompetent, and that inter-agency rivalries and non-coordination often result in terrorists having a free hand. In addition, the police are notorious for using crude methods such as rounding up largely innocent Muslim youth and torturing them to extract information, tactics that alienate even moderate Muslim voices.


As a result, Islamic radicalism now seems to be becoming an increasingly serious threat to India just as it is in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Indeed, there may be enough dissatisfaction among Muslims in India to spawn a cadre of native, would-be jihadists who do not necessarily need external support to carry out terrorist attacks


Offstumped Bottomline:
Before this chorus becomes the default mantra for the International Media, Offstumped has just two words for them - LAY OFF
Domestic politics in India may have spawned a culture of Communal Socialism that has viewed social deprivation through the flawed prism of “Muslim Discrimination”. But this culture of vote bank politics cannot be allowed to be exploited by Pakistan Apologists in the International Media to push their flawed and misconceived agenda of addressing their security concerns through appeasement of the Pakistani establishment.

War on Mumbai - Thinking our response

Source: OFFSTUMPED

The War on Mumbai is a few hours short of touching the 48 hour mark. Operations continue at Taj and Nariman House while Oberoi has been cleared. The casualty rate continues to climb as more bodies are recovered.

Meanwhile it is becoming clear that with some of the Terrorists were of Pakistani origin the Government of India is reacting along predictable lines. While External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee was vague in blaming “some elements” from Pakistan, we are told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked his counterpart in Pakistan to send the ISI Chief to New Delhi.

Unofficial stories are doing the rounds of specific Intelligence having been given to the Congress Government in New Delhi and in Maharashtra of a boat having left Karachi, Intelligence we are told was ignored and not acted upon.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s mini-address of sorts to the nation via the media at Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai and the subsequent lull from the BJP leadership on the above unofficial story is foreboding of a political storm breaking in the days to come.

With this being an election year and the current events breaking in the middle of an election cycle, some politics is inevitable and must be factored as one of many costs accruing from the collateral damage of this terrorist strike.

The larger question however is “What is the right response for the Indian State ?”

Nitin over at The Acorn while cautioning against a knee jerk response, calls for an Indian Strategic response that

“…to focus on Afghanistan, and its border with Pakistan. That theatre is a key front in the global war on terror—and India’s own ”

This idea merits further debate and analysis.

Offstumped believes that it is critical for any strategic response to accurately define the enemy. One cannot overemphasize the significance of defining the enemy for we are challenged with not one but a “Many Pakistans” problem.

It is this “Many Pakistans” problem that makes Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s purported request to talk to the ISI Chief in New Delhi premature and prone to missteps.

Before engaging the political players in the Pakistani establishment, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should have defined for us the people of India and the world community

- the nature of the War that has been thrust on us

- the nature of the enemy that has called this War against the Indian State including the many Pakistans problem

- the strategic options that the Indian State reserves in its response to this War that has been inflicted on it, including the right to act anywhere in the extended neighborhood of the Indian Sub-Continent while being not limited to our frontiers

Having done so the Prime Minister, taking the Opposition into confidence, should have made the political case to the Indian people on the latitude his Government needs to exercise these Strategic Options to demonstrate his Government means business and not mere talk.

Not doing so runs the risk of the Indian State engaging with and providing legitimacy and sanction

- to those who maybe complicit in these Acts of War

or

- with those lacking the mandate, will or the wherewithall to follow through on any guarantees in acting against those responsible for these Acts of War.

Offstumped Bottomline: The proposal to share information with the ISI Chief is reflective of a mindset that views the mayhem in Mumbai as a Law and Order problem that will go away by bringing a few individuals to justice.

It is important to recognize that the attacks on Mumbai were an Act of War. The first response to these acts of war cannot be an information sharing session with the ISI. The Prime Minister must first define a Strategic Framework and Doctrine for how the Indian State will conduct this War on Terror. Until such a time it would be irresponsible of the Government to engage with any external player.

A rare police officer who had a fan following


http://www.indianexpress.com/news/a-rare-police-officer-who-had-a-fan-following/391549/

Mumbai, November 27 : For many police officials and contemporaries of Ashok Kamte, ACP (east region), the death of the upright officer is not just a personal loss, but a devastation to the Mumbai police force itself.

Kamte, who died fighting terrorists on Wednesday night near Cama Hospital, was one of those rare officials who even had a fan following. The AK (Ashok Kamte) Fan Club of Solapur has called a bandh to pay homage to their hero.

A third generation policeman — his great-grandfather was in the police force, his grandfather Ganpatrao Kamte was the first Indian to rise to the rank of the police chief (Inspector General in the Imperial Police of Bombay) and his father was a Colonel in the Army — Kamte was a man of several facets.

“He was not only an efficient and daredevil officer, but a gem of a person. Though he was senior to me, we shared a good rapport,” said Prashant Burde, ACP (Crime), of the Thane city police who had earlier worked With Kamte in Kolhapur range. For his daredevilry, Kamte was even profiled by the Man’s World magazine.


Batchmates also fondly remember him as a fitness freak. It is known that when he packed his belongings to take charge as the ACP (east region) in January 2008, his luggage included loads of gym equipment.
Kamte was a powerlifter and a body-builder. He had broken three national records in powerlifting and won half-a-dozen gold and silver medals. He had also won a bronze medal in the junior world powerlifting championship.

“He was an awe-inspiring person. We envied his penchant to remain fit at any cost. He always excelled in sports, especially in swimming,” says ACP Vivek Phansalkar.

A 1989 batch IPS officer of the Maharashtra cadre, Kamte was first posted as additional superintendent of police (ASP) of the Bhandara district, a Naxal-prone area. He also served as superintendent at Sangli, Satara, Kolhapur and as DCP in Mumbai. He was also the Deputy Inspector General of the state’s ATS training school for a short period. He was part of the UN mission posted in Bosnia.

Kamte graduated from St Stephen’s College in Delhi and held a postgraduate degree in Arts.

Under attack, India reels

Hotel Taj Mahal in Mumbai, scene of terror attack.
As the Indian public panics amid spectacular terror attacks, it is clear that urgent police and security reforms are needed, Ravi Prasad writes for ISN Security Watch.

By Ravi Prasad in New Delhi for ISN Security Watch


Appeals to maintain unity and communal harmony and demands for more concerted action reverberated throughout the country, as India reeled under unprecedented terror attacks at the heart of its commercial capital, Mumbai.

Terrorists chose the most high-profile targets to stage the attacks and drive home the message that India is still ill-prepared and under-equipped to deal with such exigencies.

Nearly two dozen heavily armed men shot their way through crowded railway stations and barged into two-star hotels, taking several foreigners hostage on Wednesday evening. For almost 40 hours, the insurgents carried out a string of attacks at 10 different locations, killing more than 125 people, including nine foreigners, and leaving over 250 injured.

By early on Friday, 28 November, troops continued to battle alleged Islamist insurgents, who used hostages as human shields. Some 14 police officers responsible for dealing with terror outfits, including the chief of the Anti Terror Squad of Mumbai, were killed in fighting.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh categorically said the terrorists were from "outside the country," and that the government would raise the issue with its neighbors about the use of their territory for launching "attacks on us." He was ostensibly pointing fingers at Pakistan.

Singh's contention was based on the arrest of a suspect by National Security Guard commandoes flushing out terrorists from a hotel. The suspect arrested is from Pakistan's Faridkot district, according to reports. Also, a hitherto unknown outfit, Deccan Mujahideen, has sent an email claiming responsibility for the attacks. Investigations have revealed that the email originated from Moscow.

Authorities said other terror suspects arrested by the security forces had revealed that they had come from Pakistan in trawlers and landed on Mumbai's coastline, a few hours away from Pakistan's Karachi coast. The Indian navy and coast guard later intercepted and engaged a suspected trawler in the high seas, believed to be carrying more terrorists and ordnance on board.

The attacks came barely days after the Indian prime minister's announcement that the government would be ready with an action plan to deal with terrorism within 100 days, and ahead of several provincial polls in which increasing terrorism in the country featured as a main issue.

The terror unleashed in Mumbai has rattled the ruling coalition, which faces parliamentary elections in a few months.

Singh announced in his address to the nation that new laws would be drafted to tackle terror and that police reforms would be undertaken soon. He assured the country that the government was taking serious steps to protect its citizens.
But Singh's statement seems to have come too late and demonstrates the lack of political will to deal with terrorism. More than 300 people have been killed in terror attacks across the country since April this year, and hundreds of others have been injured.

In the last major terrorist attack on 30 October in the eastern state of Assam, some 76 people were killed and over 320 wounded.

"There is a lack of crisis infrastructure. If this is the environment we are forced to live with then we should have adequate infrastructure, or else the lives of innocent civilians will be at risk," media quoted Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Sons, one of the biggest industrial conglomerates of the country that also owns the iconic seven-star Taj Mahal Hotel, as saying. Terrorists stormed the hotel Wednesday evening, killing many guests and staff, and taking foreigners hostage.

Indeed, the Indian police and security agencies require desperate reform and modernization. The Mumbai police and security forces were found lacking when the attacks began. Police officers armed with British colonial-era muskets were attempting to fight terrorists carrying automatic AK-47 rifles, rocket propelled grenade launchers and other sophisticated fire arms.

Hours after the terror spilled blood on the streets of the city, with bodies strewn on the road, the government decided to call in the army, National Security Guards and navy commandoes. But it was only in the late hours of Thursday that the police buckled under intense public pressure and handed over the operations to the army and other elite paramilitary commandoes, who had been flown in from the capital, New Delhi.

Live images of the encounters beamed by TV channels into boardrooms and bedrooms sparked off acute panic and condemnation of the political leadership.

"Isn't it shocking that politicians took a long time to call the army? This should have been done at the beginning," Prakash Borvankar, an investment banker in Mumbai, who watched the live telecast as India's biggest stock exchange remained closed for the day, told ISN Security Watch.

Terror attacks are not new to Mumbai, which has been targeted over the past decade.

On 11 July 2006, some 180 people were killed in seven bomb explosions at railway stations in the city. Several other minor attacks have taken place since then, but the latest one is unprecedented. Almost all of these attacks have been blamed on Islamists.

Lashkar-e-taiba, a Pakistan-based jihadi outfit, has denied involvement in the latest attack, but senior intelligence official of the federal agency told ISN Security Watch on condition of anonymity that recent satellite phone conversations intercepted by them had indicated Laskhar's heightened interest in Mumbai.

A dearth of personnel and sophisticated equipment are the two major operational hurdles faced by the intelligence machinery and the security forces. In the absence of the political will to bolster their strength, these agencies are operating with available resources.

"Our request and needs get buried under bureaucratic red tape. Several proposals to augment the intelligence infrastructure are pending with the policymakers for a long time now. We need modernization and strength to deal with the evolving situation," an intelligence official told ISN Security Watch.

Since 2006, the government has been planning to securitize India's extremely porous 7,517-kilometer coastline - the lack of security which helped the militants to reach the coastline of Mumbai right in front of the Taj Mahal hotel. Security forces had tracked and nabbed four Lashkar militants in 2007 who had come through the sea route and moved to the north of the country. Yet no concrete steps have been taken to strengthen the security of the maritime boundary.

Appalled by the extremely coordinated terror attack and the urban warfare that has been ongoing for the past two days, the US government has reportedly dispatched a team of FBI counter insurgency and forensic experts to work with Indian investigators.




Ravi Prasad is a senior correspondent for ISN Security Watch based in Sri Lanka and India.

November 27, 2008

Mumbai Terror Strikes: Some Quick Thoughts

By Divya Kumar Soti

Although, it is still going on and situation is not clear, it is worth reviewing some technical aspects associated with yester night's widespread terror strikes in Mumbai. Main themes and patterns are discussed as under:-

1. Terrorists primarily targeted posh areas, high end cafes and hotels frequented by foreigners. Terrorists are trying to paint India as an unsafe place for tourism and business.

2. It seems that a separate module of terrorists planted IEDs at different places to spread panic, uncertainty and confuse the thrust of retaliatory action of Police.


3. Thus, it may be deduced that terrorists were grouped in different type of sabotage teams; some were involved in opening direct fire and engaging security forces while other teams planted IED's to make it difficult for administration to quantify the scale and gain an early upper hand.

4. Strikes of this kind require lot of logistic support. Most probable source of that is local underworld which was previously involved in 93' bomb blasts. Surprisingly, these strikes highly resemble the follow-up plans of masterminds of 93' blasts. They also planned similar fire related sabotage after blasts but failed to implement their plans due to an accidental catch of an arms cache by Mumbai Police which unveiled the whole conspiracy. However, there were some incidents in 93' in which grenades were hurled at airport and fire was opened over innocent civilians. Some TV channels are reporting that terrorists may have sneaked into Mumbai through sea route which was also used by 93' perpetrators.


5. These strikes have clear imprints of guerilla raids of the kind generally carried out by specialized armed forces. It is not possible for terror groups to organize and co-ordinate such operations on their own without active guidance of some professional FIS. Tactics employed are highly professional and it is not possible for terror groups to train their cadres on their own, in such combat.

6. It is likely that indigenous as well as imported modules are involved. Terror groups active in India have bring together geographically distant modules in many previous strikes.


7. A terrorist claiming to be speaking from inside Oberoi Hotel phoned a TV Channel and issued different types of threats to security forces and demanded release of all terrorist cadres in Indian jails. He claimed to be hailing from Hyderabad, India. However, his Hindi was completely out of frequency from Hyderabadi Hindi, in which sentences generally go in to anomalous passive voice.

November 26, 2008

India: Another lunar advance

India plants its flag on the moon in yet another testament to the remarkable space strides it has made in the last few years, Harsh V Pant writes for ISN Security Watch.

By Harsh V Pant for ISN Security Watch



India has successfully planted its flag on the lunar surface, thus becoming the fourth nation in the world to accomplish this feat. India's two-year lunar mission is a historic milestone for the country's space program and is aimed at laying the groundwork for further space expeditions.

The Indian government has already approved the follow-on Chandrayaan-2 mission, a collaborative venture with Russia. The data relayed by Chandrayaan-1 about its descent to the moon and the nature of its surface will pave the way for the soft landing of the rover that Chandrayaan-2 is scheduled to take to the moon.

For India, the lunar probe is yet another testament to the remarkable strides that it has made in the last few years as an economic and technological power. The mission is a sign of India's growing strategic ambition and an indication of the importance it gives to space exploration for commercial purposes.

The superpowers had dominated space for the last several years and now emerging powers such as China and now India are hoping to join them. Space capability is expected to translate into greater technological standing and strategic clout as well as an index of the high-technology frontier that India has finally conquered. Space is an important element of power projection, and the lunar mission is also part of an effort to assert Indian prowess in space.

The founding father of the Indian space program, Vikram Sarabhai, foresaw enormous practical benefits that could be derived from space, and as a result, Indian space efforts, historically, have tended to focus on applications like communications and remote sensing.

India perceived space as a means to raise the standard of living in a relatively poor nation and its space program was largely geared towards meeting the country's developmental needs. India long resisted the idea of competing with economically advanced nations in the exploration of the moon or the planets of manned spaceflight.

The sanctions regime put in place following India's nuclear tests in 1974 hit ISRO hard as it could not partake of global high technology. This resulted in the indigenization of Indian space policy. India today designs, builds and launches its earth observation, weather and communication satellites. Now, ISRO has set its sights on the challenges of deep space exploration and is examining the possibility of mission to Mars and even one to study the Sun. It even hopes to put an Indian astronaut into space by 2015.

From the early 1990s, one of the top priorities of the ISRO has been the commercialization of its space activities. With this in mind, it created its commercial wing Antrix Corporation Ltd in 1994. The moon mission is also expected to yield commercial benefits for India's space program and will help India cement its position in the commercial satellite launch sector. India has been trying to win a larger share of the global commercial launch industry.

India is one of the six countries in the world with capabilities for geo-stationary launch. The space launch market offers considerable challenge for entry and development due to restrictions placed by major markets like the US on export of their satellites for launch. Several countries are interested in India's ability to send up satellites for a relatively low price. Initial forays were made by Antrix by offering launch services in piggy back mode to Germany, Belgium, Argentina and South Korea. In 2007, a full-fledged commercial launch was performed by PSLV by carrying an Italian astronomical satellite, AGILE. This was followed by the launch of Tec-SAR, an Israeli spy satellite, earlier this year.

Meanwhile, the space race in Asia is in full swing.

China became the third nation after the US and the erstwhile USSR to fly a man into space in 2003, and followed it up last month with its first spacewalk. Chinese and Japanese crafts are already in orbit around the moon and India has now joined the race.

Though the lunar probe is India's first space expedition beyond Earth's orbit, Indian scientists believe they are better off in many areas including communication satellites and launch abilities. China has not succeeded in transforming its accomplishments in its space program into profitable private sector applications.

India, however, continues to lag behind China in the military use of outer space. India's space launch program has been a very important element in its ballistic missile program, providing it with the necessary research and facilities at various times. While the stated objective of India's space program was to achieve a satellite-launch facility for communication and education purposes, it was clear that should the circumstances demand, India would have the capability "to match the weight of nuclear warheads with those of scientific satellites," thereby positioning India for a credible missile capability.

India has only recently started taking the military dimension of its space program seriously, and as the space race among major powers gains momentum, it will become pivotal for Indian military planners.

With China viewing war in space as an integrated part of military operations, India is gradually coming to terms with the creeping weaponization of space. It was the Chinese test of its anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon last year that has forced India towards a reappraisal of its military space program. Most elements of Chinese space operations are under effective control of the People's Liberation Army and remain cloaked in secrecy, generating suspicions in the region and beyond.

The Indian government has long resisted the demand of its military to establish an Aerospace Command by arguing that it does not want to trigger an arms race in outer space. But gradually, India is realizing that whether it likes it or not the arms race in outer space has already started and there is little India can do to stop it.

The Indian Army Chief noted earlier this year that India should "optimize space applications for military purposes," given that "the Chinese space program is expanding at an exponentially rapid pace in both offensive and defensive content." India has now decided to establish an Integrated Space Cell for more effective utilization of the nation's space-based assets for military purposes.

In the coming years, the civilian aspects of the Indian space program can be expected to gather further momentum, whereas the military aspects will continue to lag behind. If, however, the major space faring nations are not able to control the weaponization of space, India will also speed up its military priorities in this domain.



Harsh Pant is a lecturer at King's College London. His research interests include WMD proliferation, US foreign policy and Asia-Pacific security issues.

QUOTE OF THE DAY : Mumbai Attack

"They should have sent the lame duck Home Minister Patil to face the terrorists. How many innocent lives have to be lost due to such inept politicians only interested in their positions. Patil still claims that the Naxalite problem "is blown out of proportions" has ever been to even one site exploration trip on this issue ? Rest assured Congress will pay heavily in the forth coming elections due **** like Patil " ---- A.Singh,Sydney

War on Mumbai exposes India’s Soft Underbelly

Source: OFFSTUMPED

At the time of writing this post 2:30am IST, the War on Mumbai continues unabated.

It is unclear when it will be over and if it will be over anytime soon and at what cost.

More than 80 killed, hundreds injured, ATS Chief Hemant Karkare has fallen but more importantly confidence in the Indian State has been shattered.

For years now laments by this blog and many others have fallen on deaf ears of the Manmohan Singh Sonia Gandhi lead UPA dispensation.

In a brazen act of shamelessness and crass opportunism the Prime Minister had the audacity to put up the pretense of acting against terror and even when he did so he did not “order it” he did not make a decisive announcement of taking executive action.

Instead he reminded us of the spineless wimp that he is with merely making a “suggestion”.

When the post mortem of the War on Mumbai is conducted it will be incomplete if it didnt look into how the Government and the media lost perspective from the unfinished war in their eagerness to draw moral equivalences and political brownie points.
Offstumped has said this before and will reiterate it again.

The War on Mumbai has exposed the soft underbelly of the Indian State and its Subjects.

The time to talk of investigations or convictions is past us.

The situation demands a moral and national response in the form of an unrelenting and uncompromising Satyagraha against Terrorism.

Such a Satyagraha must begin with urgent and immideate pressure on Governments at all levels to treat this as a War and respond in kind.

Such a Satyagraha must not end till the UPA Government being thrown out of New Delhi and charges of Criminal Negligenece brought against Home Minister Shivraj Patil.

A reproduction of Offstumped post on 25th July 2008 in the aftermath of the Bangalore, Ahmedabad blasts.

The cancer it seems is now terminal with no cure in sight. With a Government that wont learn from its mistakes nor see the folly of its ways it is no longer enough to to talk of Anti-Terrorism as a policy of the State but to think of Anti-Terrorism as a sustained people’s movement that will be uncompromising and unrelenting.

If Gandhi’s Satyagraha was to fight Terrorism on the people of this nation by the State, by intent, this 21st century Satyagraha is to fight Terrorism on the people of this nation despite the State, by default.

So How would this Satyagraha be unlike the the previous one form the century gone by ?

Gandhi answers it for us very eloquently. Offstumped had posted this Gandhian Doctrine to guide on responding to Terrorism several times in the past based on a reading of Gandhi and the Gita where he expounds on the principle of “Desireless Action”. If “Ahimsa” was the mantra for the Satyagraha to battle British Terrorism in the 20th century, “Anasakata” and “Karma” should become the twin mantras for the Satyagraha in this century to battle the twin evils of Terrorism and the State’s indifference to Terrorism.

Quoting from this Offstumped post in the aftermath of the 7-11 Mumbai Blasts on the morality of pre-emption and the immorality of inaction

as India debates its response to terror, it must be purely guided by its primary duty to its citizens and not by any other moral considerations. The State must not take recourse to inaction under the cover of the resilience of its people. More specifically the State when in posession of legitimate intelligence on intentions of terrorist to hurt and kill its citizens must act proactively to pre-empt, such pre-emption is morally consciable for the alternative is willing inaction which is immoral. The state must not rule out going to war against terrorism in fulfilling its duty as long as it does so fully mindful of its consequences and has demonstrated the capacity to accept those consequences with equanimity

So how can we take these principles and apply them to a people’s movement ?

The Satyagraha against Terrorism must have the following characteristics.

Characteristic# 1 - It must be unrelenting in the demands it makes of the State to compel it into action on Terrorism pre-emptively or otherwise.

Characteristic# 2 - It must be uncompromising in its intolerance of not just perpetrators of acts of terror but also of those who aid and abet terror by providing sanctuary to those perpetrators.

Characteristic# 3 - It must be self sustaining in its execution through local community action directed at vigilance and audit of local law enforcement

Characteristic #4 - It must be Dharmic at all times by being “desireless” in its actions

A beginning must be made someplace for this Satyagraha against Terrorism to take root. A good starting point could be Bangalore. Of all Indian Cities, Offstumped records the highest traffic from Bangalore. Perhaps Offstumped readers in Bangalore could take the first step.

But to make it national and to have the necessary impact on the State, this Satyagraha requires moral Leadership at the national level. Mr. L.K. Advani has provided that kind of moral leadership in the past in the wake of Jain Hawala scandal by vowing to not seek elected office till he was proven innocent. The situation in the nation demands such a sacrifice once again of Mr. Advani to make this Satyagraha impactful. He must appropriate the moral high ground by vowing to not seek any entitlements from the State including his security cover till this Satyagraha against Terrorism has shamed the Manmohan Singh Government into action.

Offstumped appeals to Mr. Advani to seize the moment and provide that moral leadership to this Satyagraha.

India's Day of Infamy

B.Raman

The war of civilisation between the Muslims and the infidels has begun in Indian territory.

2.So said the first statement issued in the name of the so-called Indian Mujahideen (IM) in November,2007, after the three orchestrated explosions in three towns of Uttar Pradesh outside local courts.

3.We saw the latest round of this war in Mumbai on the night of November 26, 2008, as an unestimated number of terrorists----divided into small groups and wielding hand-held weapons and improvised explosive devices (IEDs)--- literally took control of Mumbai and targeted with frightening precision famous hotels preferred by the rich of the country and foreign tourists, railway stations, a hospital and many other places scattered across this business capital of India.

4. It is not just 9/11. It is not just Madrid,March,2004. It is not just London,2006.

5.It is --- I am using the present tense because the situation is still not under control at 5-30 AM despite the Army's assistance being sought--- an act of terrorism, the like of which the world has not seen before. Mind boggles as one tries to think and figure out how the terrorists could have planned and carried out terrorist strikes of such magnitude, territorial spread and ferocity without our intelligence and police having been able to get scent of it. Like what the Vietcong did during the Tet offensive

6.The iceberg of jihadi terrorism to which I have been drawing attention since November,2007, in article after article, in interview after interview , in discussion after discussion has struck not only Mumbai, but the Indian State.

7. The iceberg moved from UP to Jaipur. From Jaipur to Bangalore. From Bangalore to Ahmedabad and Surat. From there to Delhi. From Delhi to Assam. From Assam to Mumbai now-----despite the claims made by the Mumbai Police some weeks ago of having discovered and crushed a plot of the IM to carry out strikes in Mumbai.


8.The Government of Manmohan Singh reacted to the repeated warning signals of the moving iceberg since November 2007, in the same way as the Bush Administration reacted to reports about the plans of the Al Qaeda for an of aviation terrorism in the US; in the same way Megawati Sukarnoputri reacted to reports of the activities of the Jemmah Islamiyah; and in the same way Khalida Zia reacted to reports of the plans of the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen .

9. Bovine. It just did no react. It was in a total denial mode.I wrote and said again and again ----hand over all the investigation about the IM to a central investigating agency for a co-ordinated investigation instead of their being investigated by the police in a piecemeal manner in different States ruled by different political parties. No reaction.

10.From a localised threat, jihadi terrorism has become a pan-Indian threat with a pan-Islamic ideology. Deal with it with a pan-Indian strategy, I said. No reaction.

11.The terrorists arrested some weeks ago in Mumbai, three of whom were IT experts well-placed in trans-national companies, pose a new dimension of the threat. Seek the help of the US, I said. No reaction.

12.I drew attention to an article of Hamid Mir, a journalist of Pakistan, which spoke of Indian Muslims going to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban against the US and which also said that India is one of the routes being used by foreign jihadis going to Afghanistan.No reaction just as Rajiv Gandhi did not react to repeated wake-up calls from the then Afghan President Najibullah that Muslims from Kashmir were being trained by the Afghan Mujahideen.

13.In October, when I had come to Delhi for a seminar two diplomats from the EU countries sought an appointment with me for a discussion on the IM.They expressed their surprise and concern over the fact that the Indian intelligence and police seemed to know so little about the IM despite their having arrested many perpetrators of the previous blasts and interrogated them.


14.Is the IM the name of an organisation or of a movement? Is it one or many organisations in different States acting, like the International Islamic Front (IIF) of Osama bin Laden, as a united front-----autonomously where they can and unitedly where they should? Who constitute its command and control? Where are they? In India or outside? Nobody knows for certain.

15.I could not sleep the whole of last night. One question, which kept bothering me again and again was: how safe are our nuclear establishments and material?

16. Till now, we were greeting with glee Pakistan's incompetence in dealing with terrorism. We can no longer do so. We have become as clueless as Pakistan.

17. I wanted to write much more, but my mind doesn't work.As I watch on the TV what is happening in Mumbai, I shiver and sweat at the thought of what is waiting to happen tomorrow and where. (27-11-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi,and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2W@gmail.com

November 25, 2008

Trying to learn history's lessons

18:52 | 25/ 11/ 2008



MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik) - The main lesson of history is that nobody learns anything from it. This truth is as ancient as the world, but its age does not make it less relevant. Considering global developments, namely the wars conducted by the United States, one can't help getting the feeling of deja vu. The same events already happened in the past. Only the details were different.

The similarity of wars in Iraq and Vietnam, as well as the resemblance of the Soviet and U.S. campaigns in Afghanistan, is evident to everybody. The development of conflicts, especially the war in Afghanistan, repeats past events with uncanny accuracy, and one can't give up the idea that other people's mistakes do not teach anyone anything. The United States is now repeating one of such errors: it is building up its Afghan contingent aiming to boost it to 52,000. Washington hopes that having a larger contingent, coupled with several its allies' building up their forces, will finally lead to a resounding victory over the Taliban and separate guerrilla groups without common command.

In a similar situation many years ago the Soviet Union preferred to build up its limited Afghan contingent as one of the main strategies of securing a victory: a large contingent was believed to ensure control over vast territories. It also made it possible to guard convoys with cargoes more effectively. That decision was justified to a certain extent; however, soon it became clear that it was pointless to build up a military contingent when there was no opportunity to deliver a blow to the adversary's supply and training bases. The Pakistani Mujahideen who had been killed were replaced by individual fighters, small groups and large gangs armed with American, Chinese, and Soviet weapons (received from some former allies of the Soviet Union), and the process was repeated.

The only way to annihilate Mujahideen was to conduct a military operation against their bases in Pakistan, but such escalation of war was impossible.

What is happening now? We are seeing practically the same picture. The United States fights against guerrilla groups backed by Iran and Pakistan, but it has no opportunity to destroy their bases. War on Pakistani territory, as well as war against Iran, is impossible at present. How can this situation end?

Building up the U.S. contingent in Afghanistan will only result in a higher death toll (it should be noted that the United States is reluctant to report its losses in the conflict zone). As a result, it will face a choice: either to terminate the operation, or to venture on a radical expansion of the contingent. Termination will mean a failure and shameful flight. After the United States pulls out of Afghanistan, the Taliban will quickly restore control over the country. Even according to the most liberal forecasts, Hamid Karzai's government will not exist "independently" for more than a couple of months.

It is even more difficult to predict how this decision may tell on America's domestic problems. Given the aggravating crisis - not only economic, but also psychological - a lost war will only make things worse. But the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, forced by its inability to make groundbreaking changes in the country, is an even worse scenario.

The second option, the conflict's expansion, means using force both when addressing the Iranian problem and attempting to steer the Pakistani ally in the "right" direction.

These steps will cause a full-scale war in the Middle East, from Iraq to India's borders, with dozens of divisions, hundreds of thousands of men on the ground, dozens of battleships, and thousands of planes and helicopters involved. Such a war will be on a larger scale than any conflict of the 20th century, except for the two world wars. It is impossible to imagine the outcome and consequences of such a conflict, where almost all Asian states will participate.

It is hard to believe that the United States will choose this way. However history, whose lessons go unheeded, shows that boosting military production and entering World War II, coupled with active provoking of Japan, became a way to overcome the Great Depression. Today's economic and financial crisis has every chance of surpassing the Great Depression. Who can guarantee that the means of countering it will not be equally impressive?

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

Russia to overhaul its most famous army divisions

13:46 | 24/ 11/ 2008

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik) - The Russian Defense Ministry is moving to disband the Moscow Military District's 2nd Guards Tamanskaya Motorized Rifle Division and 4th Guards Kantemirovskaya Tank Division, and to convert them into four brigades.

Both divisions now have 12,000 to 14,000 officers and men. The four brigades will have 50% more personnel, or between 18,000 and 20,000 officers and men. This makes up for 4,000 to 5,000 soldiers per brigade.

Other army divisions will also be converted into brigades.

Unfortunately, brigade level tables of organization, as well as the organization of their battalions, companies and platoons, are not yet known. Moreover, it is unclear whether the new brigades will have infantry-heavy or tank-heavy battalions with light infantry regiment status, as some analysts predict.

No plans for dividing divisional artillery and air defense units, for subordinating the brigades to tactical commands and for facilitating their cooperation with military district commanders have been published to date.

In this situation, it would be imprudent to make any conjectures. This raises the issue of the military reform's openness. However, minimal publicity is essential.

This is particularly true of plans to overhaul the Tamanskaya and Kantemirovskaya divisions, which have a long and glorious history.

The 2nd Guards Motorized Rifle Tamanskaya Order of the October Revolution, Order of the Red Banner and Order of Suvorov Division named after Kalinin was established in the summer of 1940 as the 127th Rifle Division in Kharkov, Ukraine.

When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the division fought enemy forces in the first few months of the Great Patriotic War, and was renamed as the 2nd Guards Rifle Division in September 1941 together with several other Red Army units.

The division subsequently took part in many large-scale military operations, was renamed as the Tamanskaya Division for its heroic exploits during the Novorossiisk-Taman operation and finished the war on April 17, 1945 on the Samland Peninsula in East Prussia.

After the war, the division was converted into a motorized rifle division and deployed in the Moscow Region's Naro-Fominsk District.

Its elements always took part in military parades on Red Square, helped to overthrow Lavrenty Beria, former chief of the dreaded Soviet secret police, in the summer of 1953 and were also involved in the abortive August 1991 coup against the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and the October 1993 clashes between President Boris Yeltsin's supporters and the Russian parliament.

The 4th Guards Kantemirovskaya Order of Lenin and Order of the Red Banner Tank Division named after Yury Andropov, which is also deployed in the Naro-Fominsk District, has an equally distinguished history.

Formerly called the 17th Tank Corps, it was established in the spring of 1942 and renamed as the 4th Guards Tank Corps in 1943 for its exploits during the battle of the Don River.

The corps fought in many other strategic operations and finished the war on May 9, 1945 on the outskirts of Prague.

The Soviet tank force was overhauled in the fall of 1945; and the corps was renamed as the 4th Guards Tank Division. Just like the Tamanskaya Division, the Kantemirovskaya Division participated in Red Square parades. On September 8, 1946, when the U.S.S.R. celebrated Tanker Day, the entire division marched through Red Square.

In 1991 and 1993, the division's elements were also deployed in Moscow. Its officers and men fought in both Chechen campaigns, and took part in various peacekeeping operations.

The Tamanskaya and Kantemirovskaya divisions have a proud place in the Russian army's history. Their glorious traditions are the pillar of any great nation's army.

The high command of the Russian armed forces has said the newly established brigades would retain their honorary names and banners.

Hopefully, their banners and other regalia will not end up in museum collections.

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

Medvedev: The Name Venezuelans Pronounce Correctly

Nil NIKANDROV

Russian Embassy in Caracas sits in a picturesque little street Las Lomas de las Mercedes, steeply rising uphill. The shining plaque reading “Quinta “Soyuz” on the stone wall has been here since the time of the Soviet Union. Quite often the embassy personnel stay long hours, but at present this is even more noticeable. Russia’s president Dmitry Medvedev will pay an official visit to Venezuela on November 26.

Throughout the history of bilateral diplomatic relations Russian, and before them – Soviet - leaders of the same level never visited the exotic faraway Venezuela, “the land of eternal spring” for geopolitical, pragmatic and ideological reasons. First, they were wary of exasperating the United States by becoming more active right in the underpinning of the distrustful and jealous superpower. Second, it hardly made sense to fly a government liner across the Atlantic for the only reason of demonstrating to Venezuelans the hammer and sickle on the red background of the Soviet flag or the Russian tricolour most recently. Americans had grabbed hold of everything in Venezuela. They never put up with and never allowed competition in trade and in any other fields. Third, president Chavez used to make pompous statements about his goals of building in Venezuela a just Socialist society that were in sharp contrast with the Kremlin’s declared project of reviving Russia along the lines of capitalism.

On top of that Chavez’ efforts to consolidate his hold of the position of the leader went along with serious domestic conflicts, so Moscow was understandably wary of what troubles the ways of this pugnacious and unpredictable “commando Lieutenant Colonel” could spell, thinking that his stint at power could be brief.

Chavez succeeded in making hay of the sombre forecasts of instability of his regime winning the presidential elections in December of 2006 a second time this ensuring himself staying in power till 2013. The president thinks that no one else can successfully see through the programme of reforms in Venezuela scheduled for up to 2020 or 2025. So Chavez intends to fight for the extension of his presidential stint disregarding the setback he suffered at the nation-wide referendum on this proposal in December 2007. He stands a real chance to win getting inspiration from examples of other countries. So he is in Venezuela for long!

Chavez has many times over proved his preparedness to develop all-round cooperation with Russia. At present, Venezuelan Russian political, trade and economy, military and technical and other ties including energy have reached an unprecedented scale. Had someone told me in the 1980s when I worked at the APN (Novosti Press Agency) bureau in Caracas that Russian companies would one day develop natural resources in the “Orinoko belt” fields and extract natural gas in the Amakuro delta, build a aluminium plant, and dig gold in Venezuelan Amazonia, I would have taken such a prophet for a madman. And a forecast that Venezuelan army would be armed with Kalashnikkov-103 assault guns, Dragunov sniper rifles; that the Venezuelan military would master flying different makes of MIL helicopters and formidable Sukhoi-30 fighter aircraft, would have sounded even more unbelievable.

And this is only the beginning and just first examples of advantageous joint work aimed to implementing previously struck contracts and agreements. Presidents Medvedev and Chavez are willing to give a new impetus to the bilateral cooperation. It is hoped that it would inspire other Latin American countries that still keep taking a cautious look at the increasing activities of the Russian business on their continent still retaining the tenacious scary image of “the ruthless Russian mafia” that since the 1990s had been hammered into the collective mind of Latin Americans by Hollywood and professional “cold war” warriors that refused to retire.

For this reason the reinstallation of Russia’s positive image in Latin America is a principal goal in both the short-term and long-term perspectives. Efforts to solve this task should be supported by the extension of Russian information presence on this continent, technical modernisation of news agencies and offices, to say nothing about the level of quality historical and political education of their staff. Previously, correspondents accredited in that country, had to have it for too liberal concoctions of “the journalist entourage” of some of politicians that occasionally dropped in to Caracas. For some time Chavez gave up inviting them to his news conferences. When it comes to discussing Russian capitalism shaken by the permanent crisis, he and his supporters show consideration, so does it make sense ridiculing the not less insignificant troubles of the Bolivarian revolution? Especially given that there are more than enough of those willing to meddle in the Russian-Venezuelan relations.

While president Medvedev is busy doing his job in Moscow, a thoroughly orchestrated campaign of discrediting the goals of the visit has been launched in the Latin American information space. Propaganda attacks on Chavez have become more numerous, manifestly aiming to show Russians that Chavez is not the kind of partner to do business with. Here are two telling examples. Venezuelan Gustavo Coronel’s article “Chavez Has Handed Venezuela to Russians” recently appeared on the portal Petroleum World News. Coronel writes that Russia owes its successes in Venezuela to George W. Bush. It turns out that Chavez cherishes the almost maniacal desire to meet with Bush on an equal footing, president to president, but the US president has adamantly ignored all the attempts of the dangerous Venezuelan to bridge the gap between their countries. So to attract attention Chavez had nothing else to do but make “provocative” steps. By these Coronel understands billion dollars worth purchases of Russian arms; the recognitions of independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia; announcing plans of erecting a nuclear studies centre to make Americans lose their cool and to begin suspect him of intention to make a nuclear bomb. Even the statement by Chavez of his intention to use the Russian rouble for mutual payment settlements is just one of those “provocations.”

According to Coronel, virtually all the agreements between Russia and Venezuela have no future. Company Rusal’s plans to build an aluminuim plant are futile, as there will be not enough electricity to run the smelter. The Russian arms are “unreliable”. The 2 or 3 Varshavianka-class submarines Chavez wants to purchase has proved to be impotent, as 20 seamen died at one of them recently (while in reality this tragedy took place on a nuclear submarine during test floating). And then again Chavez is allegedly facing more frequent problems with financing his large-scale projects. The conclusion is Bush is a man of acumen, so it would do Russia good to turn its back on Chavez, while its leaders make one mistake after another: “Recently 2 heavy Russian bombers demonstratively made a number of challenging flights over Venezuela, and a fleet of Russian navy is expected to arrive to Venezuela in late November, including cruiser “Pyotr Veliki”. The show has been put up by Putin and Chavez to challenge the United States in its own “backyard.” Chavez has turned Venezuela into an obedient pawn to use it in a game similar to the one Cuba was involved during the 1960 missile crisis.”

By turn his theme this way Coronel wonders whether Russians are preparing a new Caribbean crisis?

Coronel has also placed on his portal an account of a series of analytical reports of “Political Security Center” delivered to the members of the US Congress who are in charge of Venezuelan issues. The themes the reports focus on include Chavez connections with Columbian guerrillas (FARC); involvement of Chavez’s supporters in drug trafficking, sales of weapons and money-laundering; Iranian-Venezuelan cooperation, including “the descent” of Iranians to Mexico and the USA; and the establishment of extremist organisations loyal to Venezuela on the continent.

The Center’s analysts had no new information to offer as all of theirs was already used in “active action” of US special services against the Bolivarian government. A mention was again made of the data stored in the note-book that had allegedly been found in a FARC guerrilla camp destroyed by US and Columbian commandoes near the Ecuador border. During WWII dead bodies with “secret maps and plans of attacks” were foisted in battlefields with an eye to cheating the enemy; at present this done with notebooks. Chavez has again been accused of protecting Arab terrorist organisations “acting scot-free” in Isle Margarita. The list of terrorist organisations established with Chavez money even included Argentinean movement “Mothers from May Square.” The primitivism and emptiness of the Center’s accusations is astonishing. It may be because of this that he concluding his account Coronel with an emphatic:” I agree with many statements at the hearings, but not with all of them.”

The final conclusion of the hearings are as follows: “Chavez heads a terrorist regime that connives at the illegal trade in drugs. The regime is dangerous for the US national interests.” As a repression measure the organisers of the hearings suggest ceasing imports of Venezuelan oil, because “at present this step will not push gasoline prices up and US strategic petroleum reserves could be temporarily used in emergencies.”

A brief dossier of Gustavo Coronel: a Venezuelan, a former PDVSA state oil company officer, a member of its Board in 1975 to 1979. He left Venezuela in the wake-up of the aborted coup d’etat in 2002, allegedly motivated by his “discomfort”–provoked fatigue. He is currently based in the United States, authoring a spate of articles aimed at exposing Chavez’s “crimes” and his “undermining interference in internal affairs of Latin American countries.” He makes regular trips to Latin American countries that “cause problems” to the USA, making presentations at symposiums, forums and workshops organised by pro-American NGOs. Coronel has more than once refuted accusations of his being connected to the CIA.

As the time of Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Venezuela is getting closer information attacks aiming to undermine Russian-Venezuelan relations, to smear Hugo Chavez and his Russian partners have become much more intense. “A la “chaude” guerre comme a la guerre”. There are addicts of this in Latin America, where the Anglo-Saxon accent is definitely distinctive. Anyway, the first result of the coming visit is already achieved: Latin America commentators have already mastered correct pronunciation of Russian president’ surname: Medvedev.

Afghanistan abyss awaits Obama

SOURCE: Strategic Culture Foundation
M.K. BHADRAKUMAR (India)

The struggle for influencing Barack Obama's foreign policy agenda has begun in right earnest. The maneuvering by influential establishment figures - including Congressional voices, Obama advisors and even military officials - who are projecting incumbent Robert Gates as secretary of defense in the incoming administration highlights the pressures working on the president-elect.

The focus is on the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in promoting the basic George W Bush policies promoted since the 1990s by nationalist and neo-conservative Republicans. These are policies animated by long-term ambitions for US economic and military hegemony.

A Gates appointment will signal that Obama may turn his back on his campaign pledge to withdraw US troops from Iraq in 16 months. Gates, of course, disfavors any set timeline or timetable for a withdrawal plan. Equally, his accent is on fighting the war in Afghanistan more efficiently while pursuing a containment strategy toward Russia and pressing ahead with the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In his perspective, Central Command chief General David Petraeus' troop "surge" policy in Afghanistan meets the requirements.

Adjusting at the margins
To use the words of investigative historian and journalist Gareth Porter of Inter Press Service, there is a "phalanx of determined military opposition" in the Pentagon to Obama's withdrawal plans in Iraq, which goes all the way up to Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and includes Petraeus and General Ray Odierno, the new commander in Iraq.
The Washington Post newspaper reported that a "smooth and productive" equation between the military brass and the incoming president will be possible only "if Obama takes the pragmatic approach that his advisers are indicating, allowing each side to adjust at the margins". The newspaper quotes Peter D Feaver, a former National Security Council official in the Bush administration who was a strategic planner on the administration’s Iraq "surge" policy, to the effect that if Obama presses ahead with his 16-month withdrawal plan, "a civil-military crisis" might arise in Washington.

According to Porter, Obama had a battle of wits with Petraeus when they met in Baghdad in July and the general argued for a "conditions-based" withdrawal rather than the presidential candidate’s 16-month deadline. Porter says Obama refused to back down and told Petraeus, "Your job is to succeed in Iraq on as favorable terms as we can get. But my job as a potential commander-in-chief is to view your counsel and interests through the prism of our overall national security."

But Gates' appointment could change the equation. The smiling, silver-haired and earnest-looking veteran who has been through it all - the Soviet Union, Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan - proved his awesome capacity to make himself durable in the Byzantine world of Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinzki and William Casey. Gates is the very antithesis of the clean break that Obama promised.

Lame duck planting mines
The Russians justifiably claim Gates may have already forced Obama's hand. They see a distinct pattern. In August, cleverly using the Caucasus crisis and the unfriendly public mood in the West about Russia, Gates pressed ahead with the signing of an agreement on the deployment of elements of an American strategic missile shield - 10 interceptor missiles at Wick Morskie between the towns of Ustka and Darlowo on the Baltic coast in Poland and an X-radar in Brdy near Prague, Czech Republic. Of course, Russia has concluded that the US deployments are intended to blunt the thrust of its strategic forces in the European theater.

Again, out of the blue, Washington imposed sanctions two weeks ago against Rosoboronexport, Russia's only arms exporter, for allegedly violating the Iran Proliferation Act of 2000. The sanctions have no "bite" as Rosoboronexport has no dealings with US companies and the Russian company's functioning is not in jeopardy. What the Bush administration has done is in essence create an irritant in US-Russia relations.

Obama will run into resistance from the US military-industrial complex if he attempts to lift the sanctions, as Rosoboronexport is proving to be a plucky competitor in the world's arms market. According to US Congressional reports, Russia is the world's second-largest arms exporter next to the US, with a turnover of US$10.4 billion in exports in 2007, as against $8.1 billion in the previous year, accounting for 17.4% of all weapons sold in the world market. Russia is entering new markets in North Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Latin America.

The Rosoboronexport irritant can become yet another factor hindering effective, whole-hearted US-Russia cooperation over Iran, which Obama will seek. A Russian commentator wrote, "The main purpose of this demonstrative move [sanctions] ... is not so much to complicate life for Russian exporters as to saddle a new administration with new irritants between the White House and the Kremlin, irritants that will be difficult for Obama to remove. It is like anti-personnel mines planted on the path toward better relations between Moscow and Washington."

Again, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's annual address to the Duma (parliament) on November 5 contained a statement that Russia might be compelled to deploy short-range missiles in Kaliningrad unless a compromise was reached on the US missile defense deployments in Central Europe. There was nothing startlingly new in the statement. The Russians have said this before. Medvedev's speech on the whole also contained positive elements regarding European security and relations with the US […].

To be sure, Obama will find himself under great pressure to follow Russia policies inherited from Bush, even though these are what he was elected to change or terminate. The crunch comes in December when NATO holds a crucial ministerial meeting to take a view on the membership of Ukraine and Georgia. While on a visit to Estonia, Gates found it irresistible to taunt Moscow: "Russia has no need to impede a sovereign country's desire to more fully integrate with the West. Doing so is not a threat to Russia’s integrity." A lame duck could have kept quiet.

Hard choices of peace
Meanwhile, Moscow hopes Obama will be less supportive of spending on missile defense than the Bush administration. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Obama's positions "instill hope that we shall be able to more constructively examine this theme in the upcoming period". A similar restraint is apparent in the Russian statement read out on behalf of the member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) at the UN General Assembly debate on Afghanistan on Monday. It abandoned the recent high pitch of criticism of the US-led war.

Russia seems to weigh that the war in Afghanistan presents a dilemma of a different kind to Obama and Moscow should not make things harder. Indeed, the Afghan war will be the number one foreign policy priority for the Obama administration. Here too, a struggle has commenced for influencing Obama's policy. Two Pentagon consultants - Ahmed Rashid and Barnett Rubin - did some kite-flying recently. In an article in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine titled "From Great Game to Grand Bargain", they argued that the US strategy should be to seek compromise with insurgents while addressing regional rivalries and insecurities.

Their recommendation was to offer "political inclusion" to the insurgents "in return for cooperation against al-Qaeda" and to launch a major diplomatic initiative addressing the "vast array of regional and global issues that have become intertwined with the crisis". Furthermore, they suggested that a "contact group" of select countries mandated by the UN Security Council must work to put an end to the "increasingly destructive dynamics of the great game in the region". They recommended that a "regional diplomatic initiative" ought to replace the international presence under NATO.

Their buzzword is "regional security". Britain has also echoed it by coming up with a parallel idea of regional security, whereby regional players such as Pakistan, Iran, India, China and Russia along with the US and Britain will be brought into a structure, a consultative mechanism, as "stakeholders". The British ambassador in Afghanistan, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, visited Tehran a fortnight ago to sound out the Iranians. He visited Delhi, and told the media, "Our strategy is of a politically-driven, security-led counter-insurgency strategy and more coherent, sustained international support for Afghanistan and its government. What we want to do, for good counter-insurgency reasons, is to get our troops out of direct combat operations. So it is Afghans doing the fighting, not foreign forces."

The Foreign Affairs article charters a breathtaking landscape that all but ensures that Obama will lose his way and will never get anywhere near an Afghan settlement in the four years ahead of his presidency. Britain, while setting the tempo for Obama, focuses on itself as remaining a key player. But Sir Sherard's play of words apart, the ground situation is grim for Obama.

Germany's Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said Berlin would resist any US pressure to send troops to strife-ridden southern Afghanistan. Spain openly called for changes to the Western strategy after the killing of two Spanish soldiers in a suicide attack in the western city of Herat on Sunday. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos has been quoted as saying, "The debate must not be about sending more troops, but about how to carry out a political and military strategy that will put an end to the situation of instability."

Canada has reiterated its decision to pull out its troops by 2011. In Britain, according to an opinion poll released on Wednesday, 68% said British troops should be taken out of Afghanistan by 2010. The head of the British armed forces, Air marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, warned against Obama's idea of sending more troops to Afghanistan, similar to the "surge" in Iraq in 2007. He told the BBC, "Even if the situation demanded it, it cannot be just a one for one transfer from Iraq to Afghanistan, we have to reduce that tempo … I am a little nervous when people use the word 'surge' as if this were some sort of panacea."

Tehran has lost little time to rubbish Sir Sherard's proposal. At an international conference on Afghanistan at Dushanbe on Tuesday, attended by a senior US State Department official, the Iranian delegate ambassador Ali Ashar Sherdoust said Western countries and mediators should leave the issue to the Afghans and let them decide their fate. He stressed that Iran opposed the continued presence of foreign forces and their interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. Sherdoust ridiculed the "countries thousands of kilometers away" from Afghanistan which are insisting on running the country's affairs while "ignoring the interests" of Afghanistan's neighbors.

The British game plan is partly at least to spike the parallel initiative by the SCO to hold a special conference on Afghanistan. The US and Britain have been resisting repeated attempts by the SCO and the Collective Security Organization to play a role in Afghanistan. They have so far ensured that NATO's role has remained exclusive. The ideas floated by the Foreign Affairs article as well as by Sir Sherard will more or less keep the initiative over the Afghan problem in the US-British clasp, which has been the Bush administration's bottom line and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's objective.

The million dollar question is: Will Obama also play the great game in Afghanistan? Or is he capable of showing the compassion to let go that hapless country and allow it to wander towards a rediscovery of its traditional modes of life?

It is obvious he has to walk through a veritable minefield and reconcile various elements. Indeed, an intra-Afghan dialogue is needed and reconciliation with the Taliban becomes a central issue in such a dialogue. For that to happen, a regional climate needs to be prepared, which primarily involves engaging Pakistan, Russia and Iran and also addressing larger concerns in their relations with the US. Fortunately, Obama possesses the immense moral stature needed to convene a regional summit on Afghanistan.

Least of all, it may become necessary at some point to spell out a timeline on the troop withdrawal. Every challenge also offers an opportunity. The upcoming presidential election in Afghanistan offers an opportunity for Obama to resist the temptation to impose another US proxy in Kabul like President Hamid Karzai. Let Afghan people genuinely choose their leader. Let a new president emerge out of the complex deal-making that is part of the Afghan way of life. It is a difficult decision for Obama to take, but it needs to be taken. It will signify the beginning of a US "withdrawal".

As a recent commentary in the Chinese People's Daily noted, "Since it is absolutely not easy to carry on the war, then, the 'peace' solution poses a wise option … War and peace are horns of a dilemma in Afghanistan at present, and this has once again exposed the helplessness of Western nations in a predicament." The recent Chinese commentaries seem to underscore that the Obama administration runs the real risk of a quagmire in Afghanistan unless a political solution is quickly found.

_______________
Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey. Source: Asia Times

November 23, 2008

Global Scenario III: BRICs’ Bust-Up

Excerpts from 2025 Global Trends

In this fictionalized scenario, Chinese fears of disruption of China’s energy supplies spark a
clash with India. With increasing resource constraints likely out to 2025, disputes over
resources appear to us to be a growing potential source of conflict. The sense of vulnerability is heightened by the dwindling number of energy producers and increasing concentration in unstable regions such as the Middle East. A world in which there are more confrontations over other issues—such as new trade barriers—is likely to increase the potential for any dispute to escalate into conflict. As outlined in this scenario, misperceptions—along with miscommunications— could play as important a role as any actual threats. Also illustrated by this scenario is the competition by rising powers for resources. Both China and India—though rich in coal—have limited and dwindling oil and gas reserves and must rely on foreign sources. In thinking about the increased potential for conflict in this multipolar world, we need to keep in mind the scope for the emerging powers to clash with one another.

Preconditions underpinning this scenario include:
􀁸 A steady period of growth has slowed as states struggle to cope with energy and
resource shortages, which are particularly acute in the Asian economies.
􀁸 A rise in nationalist sentiments occurs with the intense energy competition in this
zero-sum world.
􀁸 A balance of power emerges that resembles a 21st century replay of the
years before 1914

The NIC 2025 Report: Right on Nuclear Arms; Wrong on Terrorism

The NIC 2025 Report: Right on Nuclear Arms; Wrong on Terrorism

Source: http://blogs.nyu.edu/blogs/agc282/zia/


The media and blogosphere have been buzzing all day about the National Intelligence Council's latest forward-looking report on what the state of the world will be in twenty years. "Global Trends 2025: A World Transformed" is a far reaching report, hitting on a myriad of topics including diminishing global energy resources, future global financial systems, rising world powers, etc. The council also addressed more salient national security issues, such as the spread of nuclear weapons, and the evolution of terrorism. In the former, the NIC highlights the most serious issue related the proliferation of these weapons, and for that I commend them; however, their assertions on terrorism border on uninformed and present a backward perspective on where terrorist come from.


Making a nuclear weapon is hard. First you need fissile material (arguable the easiest element to acquire), then massive facilities investment, but most importantly, you need people with the expertise to design and build a weapon. That said, it is easy to see that the diffusion of people with this knowledge is what actually drives the threat of nuclear proliferation, and the NIC nails this. On page 67 they state, "The spread of nuclear technologies and expertise is generating concerns about the potential emergence of new nuclear weapon states and the acquisition of nuclear materials by terrorist groups." While seemingly obvious, until now no group had so succinctly articulated this point. Knowing who has this expertise, where they are, and who they interact with will be the critical challenge in containing the spread of these weapons going forward. This achievement by the NIC, unfortunately, is quickly undermined in the following pages.


The report presents what it calls the "Good and Bad News" on terrorism; however, the prerequisites for the scenarios they present have already been dismissed. Specifically, on page 68 the report states, "As long as turmoil and societal disruptions, generated by resource scarcities, poor governance, ethnic rivalries, or environmentaldegradation, increase in the Middle East, conditions will remain conducive to thespread of radicalism and insurgencies. Future radicalism could be fueled by globalcommunications and mass media. Increasing interconnectedness will enable individuals to coalesce around common causes across national boundaries, creating new cohorts of the angry, downtrodden, and disenfranchised."
From my reading, the NIC still believes that terrorist are poor, down and out young men with nothing better to do than join up with the local jihadist group. The work of Marc Sageman (and others) has clearly shown, however, that this view is fundamentally flawed, and that terrorist in fact come from the upper-middle class, are well educated, and have lots of options. In addition, the report sites a study that indicates that there is "very little support for al-Qa'ida" in a host of Middle Eastern nations. Clearly the notable finding would have been if these researchers had found a majority of public opinion in support of al-Qaeda--a fringe extremist group whose interpretation of the Qu'ran sickens most Muslims. My point: this is an irrelevant piece of data that has no bearing on future trends in terrorism. It is unfortunate that the NIC fell so short on terrorism, which is in part the result of their failure to consulting the growing literature on the evolution of terrorists before drawing conclusions.


Despite my disappointment in the NIC's take on terrorism, as a whole the report brings many important issues to light, and in serving as a catalyst for debate the report can certainly be viewed as success.


For more NIC analysis check Jeff at IntelFusion and Nukes and Spooks

Ties between Russia’s Orenburg Region and India



14:46 | 21/ 11/ 2008




Orenburg Governor Alexei Chernyshov gave an interview to RIA Novosti’s New Theme on Russian-Indian Affairs magazine during his visit to New Delhi

Q: Mr Chernyshov, the Orenburg Region has been posting sustainable growth rates in the last few years. How do you manage to ensure such growth?

A: True, the gross regional product (GRP), industrial and agricultural output has swelled by 80%, 100% and 50%, respectively, since 2000. The investment climate has improved considerably. In all, the regional economy has received 270 billion roubles ($10 billion) since 2000.

The Orenburg Region, one of Russia’s donor regions, channels 63% of local proceeds into the federal budget. The 2009 consolidated budget’s projected revenues are estimated at 67 billion roubles ($2.5 billion), a 38% increase on 2007. This allows us to fulfil our growing social commitments, primarily efforts to raise average income.

Positive socio-economic development trends are facilitated by a sustained recovery in all production sectors. The fuel and energy sector, agriculture, the processing and construction industries have been chalking up sustainable growth for many years.

Q: What, in your opinion, are the most ambitious regional investment projects?

A: The Orenburg Region implements several large-scale projects. Merloni Progetti, a world-famous Italian engineering and general contracting company, and Russia’s Vnesheconombank have established a joint venture manufacturing household appliances in Orsk. A plant with an annual capacity of 1.5 million refrigerator compressors will be commissioned soon, helping meet retail demand for these scarce products in the Orenburg Region and beyond.

We are planning a joint Russian-Kazakh venture that will soon start operating at the Orenburg gas refinery capable of processing up to 17 billion cubic metres of natural gas from the Karachaganak deposit in West Kazakhstan.

We consider another major project, namely, construction of the Western Europe – West China transport corridor via St Petersburg, Kazan, Orenburg and Kazakhstan, to be a high-priority issue. The transport corridor will cut delivery costs, will attract sizeable infrastructure investment and will also create new jobs.

In all, the regional government’s investment portfolio is worth over 500 billion roubles ($18.5 billion).

Q: What, in your opinion, makes the Orenburg Region so attractive to foreign investors?

A: Our region abounds in natural resources, has a developed industry and a diverse transport infrastructure. The regional government and legislative assembly are doing everything possible to create a comfortable investment climate. We are passing legislation, including a bill on 4% profit-tax reductions, to encourage investors.

Major transnational companies, including British Petroleum of the United Kingdom, France’s Schneider Electric, Deere & Company (John Deere) of the United States, Italy’s Merloni Progetti, Heineken of the Netherlands and Germany’s Dyckerhoff AG, operate in the Orenburg Region.

In all, 161 companies with foreign investment are registered on the territory of the Orenburg Region. The statutory capital of companies with foreign investment includes contributions from 42 foreign legal entities.

The Orenburg Region ranks 20th among Russian regions in terms of investment risk and 28th in terms of its investment potential.

Q: How much investment will the Orenburg regional economy receive in 2008?

A: In the last six months we have attracted over $250 million worth of investment, and we hope this sum will double by the end of the year. Investment volumes will grow by 28% on 2007. At the same time, we predict a 20-25% foreign investment increment in the next five years.

Q: Orenburg has always been considered the main Russian gateway for trading with the East. Is this name justified today?

A: Commercial routes linking Europe and Asia have always passed through the Orenburg Region. After the break-up of the Soviet Union, the region once again became a border-line Russian territory. This status facilitates the active development of international and foreign economic ties. Foreign trade operations now account for 20% of GRP.

Foreign countries and CIS states account for 61.1% and 38.9% of the Orenburg Region’s foreign trade turnover, respectively. Since 2000, the regional foreign trade turnover has tripled, reaching $5 billion in 2007. The Republic of Kazakhstan accounts for nearly a third of the Orenburg Region’s foreign trade turnover.

Q: How have your relations with India developed?

A: In 2003-2007, the foreign trade turnover between the Orenburg Region and India soared almost 5.4 times to reach $22.4 million.

Foreign trade patterns are dominated by exports. A $21.7 million foreign trade surplus was posted in late 2007.

The Orenburg Region mostly exports metallurgical equipment manufactured by the engineering concern ORMETO-YUMZ, asbestos from Orenburg Minerals company, rolled sheet steel from Urals Steel company, and defence industry products from the Strela Production Association to the Republic of India.

India mostly exports medical preparations, tea, coffee and consumer goods to the Orenburg Region. However, Indian investment in the regional economy still accounts for just 0.35% of the grand total. One wholesale trade company with Indian capital, Pervaya Pomoshch (First Aid) Ltd, is registered in the region.

The Orenburg Region and the Republic of India continue to expand their cultural contacts. In May 2002, the regional government and the Embassy of the Republic of India in the Russian Federation signed a cooperation memorandum during the Days of India in the Orenburg Region. The relevant agreement was also signed between the Orenburg Region’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the India Business Alliance.

We hope that our involvement in the New Delhi exhibition will invigorate our contacts.

Q: Does your involvement in such exhibitions meet expectations?
A: Such forums make it possible to chart high-priority aspects and interests from strategic partnerships, and to assess one’s bearings in the global economy.

The Orenburg Region’s small and large businesses have developed actively in the last few years. The region has created a more attractive investment climate; and we are interested in expanded business contacts.

We are inviting business-community representatives to take part in mutually beneficial partnerships. In the Orenburg Region you will meet with competent people and will gain an insight into its unique resources. I am convinced that you will find many new opportunities here.

Orenburg Region

The Orenburg Region, one of the largest regions in the Russian Federation, is a part of the Volga Federal District. Its area is 124,000 square kilometers, and the population is 2,119,000.

Regional boundaries are within both Europe and Asia. Orenburg is adjacent to the Republic of Tatarstan, the Republic of Bashkortostan and the Chelyabinsk Region in the north, the Republic of Kazakhstan in the south and south-east, and the Samara Region in the west.
The state border with the Republic of Kazakhstan is 1,876 kilometers long.
The Orenburg Region has a diverse transport network which includes highway, rail, air and pipeline transportation. Cargo and passenger traffic pass through the region via two corridors: the Center-Central Asia route and the East-West route.
The Orenburg Region has over 2500 mineral deposits, extracting 75 different minerals. The rich natural resources provide a sound foundation for implementing major investment projects and have a favorable impact on the region’s economic development. Gas, oil, steel, engineering and energy production are the key industries.
Accounting for 5.5% of the country’s farmland, the Orenburg Region is one of Russia’s primary grain sources, with an annual harvest of more than 3 million tons of highest-quality grain crops.
The region’s economy is heavily involved in global trade with over 80 different import-export partners.
Over 100 ethnic groups live in the region. At the initiative of the regional Governor Alexei Chernyshev, a unique cultural, historic and ethnic complex National Village, one of its kind in Russia, was built in the territory of the region. In 2007, it received the Tourist Industry Leaders award.
Leading experts recognize the region’s high reliability, low risk investments and positive development prospects. The Orenburg Region won the Russian National Olympus award in the “Regions of Russia – 2007” category.

How much will it cost to overcome the crisis?

14:59 | 17/ 11/ 2008



MOSCOW. (Tatyana Marchenko and Marina Titova for RIA Novosti) - The methods for combating the financial crisis differ between Russia and most other countries.

Most of the government allocations in other countries are spent on state guarantees for banks, people and companies. The Russian government prefers to inject funds directly into the economy. Why?

As much as $9.4 trillion, or 15% of global GDP, has been allocated in the world to combat the financial crisis, with a spread of between 1% of GDP in Denmark and 225% in Ireland.

In September 2008, Russia launched a large-scale program of financial assistance to companies and banks, estimated at 6 trillion rubles (nearly $217 billion) or 13.9% of GDP. This assessment does not include allocations from regional budgets.

These huge investments in fighting the crisis belie the government's assurances that there is no fundamental crisis in Russia. Like in the rest of the world, the fundamental reason behind the financial crisis in Russia was the overcapitalization (overheating) of the stock market.

The government's financial stabilization program is based on four types of investment. An analysis of investment structures in the 23 richest countries, including Western Europe, shows that 49% of funds are invested in state guarantees for bank debt, 15% in refinancing financial institutions, 10% in the acquisition of ailing assets, and 21% in other measures mostly connected with stimulating economic demand, such as tax cuts, infrastructure development, and enhancement of social programs.

But Russia has invested nothing in state guarantees for bank debt and 84% in capitalization.

Why is Russia's approach different from other countries?

The current financial crisis is called "the liquidity crisis" in Russia, which is a traditional and, in our opinion, a convincing explanation.

However, an analysis of changes in the balance on the lending organizations' correspondent accounts with the Central Bank makes one wonder if there is a liquidity problem.

Until August 2008, the asset balance was growing smoothly, which means that the banking system had adequate liquidity through September when huge sums were injected into it, raising the balance to 732.4 billion rubles ($26.5 billion) due to a reduction in the obligatory reserve norms and some other methods.

In October the balance fell to 580-590 billion rubles, an amount equal to the May 2008 balance.

Doubts regarding the liquidity problem are also raised by an analysis of lending organizations' assets and owner equity. The assets of Russia's largest lending organizations, the 30 largest banks listed by the size of assets, increased by an average of 30%-50% in January-August 2008. Their owner equity grew by 20%-25%.

In other words, there was no liquidity problem in the banking system as a whole, which by itself is not necessarily an indicator of a healthy banking system. However, the Russian government decided that liquidity was the key problem and started injecting huge funds into banks.

Banks willingly accepted the money, which subsequently surfaced on currency exchanges and eventually landed in the foreign banks' accounts. Apparently, this is not what the government had in mind.

Unlike Russia, the international community quickly pinpointed the key reason behind the crisis, describing it as a crisis of confidence. IMF analysts say there is a global lack of confidence between counterparties plus an unrestrained accumulation of cash.

A crisis in confidence should be resolved with such measures as insurance, security and guarantees. Other countries are allocating huge funds to deal with the confidence crisis: $1,739 billion in the United States, $539 billion in Germany, and $393 billion in Britain. Australia, Canada and Italy have pledged to guarantee 100% of bank deposits. The German government said no one would lose a single euro of their savings deposited with the country's banks.

Russia's strategy of fighting the crisis is dramatically different. The Russian government does not guarantee deposits, but injects money into banks.

Foreign anti-crisis programs stipulate a mechanism of responsibility for one's actions. Such programs in the U.S., Australia and Western Europe imply managers' personal responsibility for mistakes. Accordingly, shareholders must not be held responsible for the mistakes of financial corporations, and mechanisms for distributing state assistance must be maximally transparent.

Other countries are setting up special control institutions to monitor the use of anti-crisis funds, while Russia thinks it has enough control mechanisms as it is.

As a result, Russia's confidence problem is being compounded by the government's strategy of combating the crisis. This means that it will take Russia more time and effort to overcome the crisis.

It must draw conclusions from the current crisis in order to avoid old mistakes in the future. It must also create a system to warn authorities about market overheating.

Businesses cannot be expected to see the dangers of such overcapitalization in time to stop the trend. The responsibility must rest with national and global regulators. And lastly, the country needs mechanisms to prevent market overheating.

Tatyana Marchenko and Marina Titova are strategic analysts at FBK, the leading accounting and business advisory services company in Russia.

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

China’s Cyber Advantage and it’s Potential Impact in a U.S. - China Conflict

IntelFusion.net

The U.S. - China Economic and Security Review Commission released its 2008 Annual Report to Congress today.

The Commission cites Chinese cyber attacks, authoritarian rule, and trade violations as impedments to U.S. Economic and national security interests, and offers 45 recommendations to Congress.

Here’s an excerpt from the chapter on China’s Cyber activities:

China’s government is devoting a great deal of attention and resources to developing outer space and cyber space capabilities. China’s military strategists view the U.S.’ dependence on space assets and information technology as its ‘‘soft ribs and strategic weaknesses.’’ These investments by China’s military potentially could provide it with an asymmetric * capability enabling it to prevail in a conflict with U.S. forces.

Recommendations include the following:

The Commission recommends that Congress assess the adequacy of and, if needed, provide additional funding for military, intelligence, and homeland security programs that monitor and protect critical American computer networks and sensitive information, specifically those tasked with protecting networks from damage caused by cyber attacks.

The Commission recommends that Congress urge the administration to engage in consultations with its allies on an alliancebased approach to dealing with cyber attacks originating in China. In order to maintain the security of computer networks used by U.S. government agencies and defense contractors, the Commission recommends that Congress assess the security and integrity of the supply chain for computer equipment employed in those government and contractor networks—particularly those used by the Department of Defense—and, if necessary, provide additional funding to ensure the acquisition of equipment from trustworthy sources.

The Commission recommends that Congress urge the administration to engage China in a military dialogue on its actions and programs in cyber and space warfare, including threat reduction mechanisms, transparency initiatives, and international laws of conflict as they apply to the cyber and space domains.