January 24, 2009

Rioting Eastern Europe

23 Jan 2009



Major riots in Latvia, Lithuania and Bulgaria are spurred by the global financial crisis and declining standards of living, Jeremy Druker writes for ISN Security Watch.


By Jeremy Druker in Prague for ISN Security Watch



Not one, but three anti-government riots took place in Eastern Europe last week. But with all eyes fixated on the conflict in Gaza and the inauguration of the new US president, the world’s attention was elsewhere - even though these violent demonstrations could very well be a worrying harbinger of things to come later this year.

Most media typically interpreted the events in Bulgaria, Latvia and Lithuania as simply responses to the global financial crisis and the unpopular policies that governments have been forced to adopt to escape economic meltdown. Case closed.

Yet, contrary to what editorial writers in the US and Western Europe might believe, large-scale demonstrations do not take place in the “wild” East very often, and certainly not those that degenerate into violence, attacks on government buildings and looting. This is a big deal, but how big? And if these are really economically motivated disturbances, why exactly now?

First in Latvia, then in Bulgaria and finally in Lithuania, riots began as peaceful demonstrations before getting out of hand. In Riga on 13 January, an estimated 10,000 people gathered in the country’s largest demonstration since independence in 1991 to demand that the government, blamed for being corrupt and incompetent, step down. As the protest began to peter out, around 100 demonstrators tried to storm the parliament, leading to clashes with riot police who fought back with tear gas and truncheons. Rioters smashed the windows of some local businesses, as well as the Finance Ministry, and looted a liquor store.

In Sofia, on 14 January, around 2,000 demonstrators, including university students, ecological activists and farmers, called on the government to resign over its failure to implement economic reforms and rid the country of endemic corruption. A group of young men started throwing snowballs, bottles and stones at police, and then vandalized cars and shops: the worst riot since 1997, when mass demonstrations finished off a notoriously incompetent socialist government.

Two days later, on 16 January, in copycat style, very similar events took place in Lithuania. Up to 7,000 protested against tax hikes and cuts in spending, with a violent subgroup attacking the parliament building, causing an estimated half million euros in damage.

Latvia is perhaps the most disturbing example of the three, because, until recently, the country was the fastest-growing in the EU, a place where the average wage doubled over the past three years. Governments did rise and fall rather often, but economic stability in this small Baltic nation seemed virtually guaranteed and the country well on its way to prosperous times and the living standards of nearby Scandinavia.

Now the economy is expected to contract 5 percent this year, and unemployment rose a full percentage point in December, to 7 percent. The government was forced to seek a €7.5 billion (US$ 9.7 billion) bailout from the International Monetary Fund and the EU.

“There was a sense of elation about the rapid GDP growth that was not just a number but real money in people's pockets. People got used to that,” said Iveta Kazoka, a policy analyst at the Centre for Public Policy Providus in Riga. “Then the future seemed even brighter. People were taking mortgages with very clear expectations that their wages would continue to increase just as fast.”

Kazoka told ISN Security Watch that Latvians were still willing to tolerate the foibles of the political elite - the arrogance of their leaders and clear cases of corruption - as long as most people continued to prosper. The approval ratings of politicians remained relatively high and, if there were demonstrations, it was more the intellectual elite taking part than ordinary Latvians.

The warning signs started to appear in the winter of 2007-2008, as inflation soared to 20 percent. Yet wage increases still compensated for rising prices.

The situation shifted last fall, as the economic situation spiraled downward. “From then on one could sense lots of people getting really angry - due to wage cuts, unemployment and so on,” said Kazoka, explaining the reasons so many people turned out for the 13 January demonstration.

“Where it not for these hardships, I'm quite sure that the majority of those people would still be willing to tolerate the government - even being very aware of its corruption or arrogance. Now, when the money is not as easy, more people are bothered about the fairness of its distribution and political patronage.”

While economic hardship may have been the determining factor for many of the demonstrators in Latvia and Lithuania (in Bulgaria less so, as students, a main protest group, were disgruntled over safety issues in the student quarter), the protests have provided a window of opportunity for troublemakers.

“Most of the people arrested n Latvia for throwing stones and fighting with the police are young toughs with previous citations for disorderly conduct,” says Pauls Raudseps, editorial page editor of the Latvian daily newspaper Diena. “It's doubtful that they got involved for any other reasons than a generalized sense of anomie and a concrete opportunity to have fun by causing some havoc.

“Right now in Eastern Europe popular dissatisfaction with government policies seems to have emboldened them, loosening the unspoken restrictions on attacks on authority,” added Raudseps.

In other words, the economic situation in itself might be unlikely to lead to the overthrow of governments in Central and Eastern Europe, but declining standards of living will tend to refocus attention on the deficiencies of the region’s political leadership. And, in the majority of countries now facing financial distress, deficiencies are not hard to come by.




Jeremy Druker is executive director, editor-in-chief and one of the founders of Transitions Online.




The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not the International Relations and Security Network (ISN).

Expensive friends in Central Asia

18:44 | 23/ 01/ 2009



MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Dmitry Kosyrev) - The relatively few agreements signed by President Dmitry Medvedev during his visit to Uzbekistan in no way reflect the breathtaking complexity of the forthcoming changes in global Central Asian policy.

It is with good reason that Uzbek President Islam Karimov tried to tone down the signing of agreements by drawing his guest's attention to the fact that "the world is changing very fast, the alignment of forces is changing, and the reference points are changing." He added that "as a country that has always been present in the region and determined the alignment of forces here, Russia should not only track these changes but also direct them."

Importantly, new U.S. President Barack Obama plans to wind down operations in Iraq and concentrate on Afghanistan that borders on Uzbekistan.

It is clear that Afghanistan poses a global problem, and Russia is closer to it geographically than the United States. It is also obvious that Russia and other regional countries stand to gain from the invigoration of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. This may drastically change Russian policy in the region, albeit only in theory for the time being.

Moscow should not reduce its policy to dissuade the United States from the region if only because it may have to pay too high a price for its presence. Some of Russia's partners may use the traditional Russian-U.S. rivalry to their advantage by using both sides for their own purposes. They would not push either of them out of the region completely in the hope of keeping this game of using one against the other.

Russia's Central Asian policy, started at the beginning of this century, has never been aimed at ousting the United States from the region but has been based on partnership with it. One reason is that Uzbekistan, Tajikistan Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan will never tolerate any single country, be it Russia, America, or China to dominate the region. There are advantages in having everyone there. In particular, this strategy underlies the philosophy of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

The United States weakened itself by trying to do in Central Asia what it did in Georgia and Ukraine, that is, overthrow existing regimes and replace them with weak and incompetent pro-American surrogates. After these failures, Washington might have said good-bye to its influence in the region. However, it has a chance to return to Central Asia if it conducts a smart Afghan policy, and it will be welcomed there.

Following the results of Medvedev's visit to Uzbekistan, the Uzbek and Russian presidents proposed convening an international conference under the SCO aegis. U.S. participation will be welcomed.

Needless to say, Russia and the Central Asian countries will remember the deeds of the old U.S. administration rather than believe the words of the new one. The Obama team should not forget this.

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

RUSSIA: The fifth-generation fighter

16:31 | 23/ 01/ 2009



MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik) - Russian designers are currently developing a fifth-generation fighter plane, also known as the Advanced Front-Line Aviation Complex (PAK FA) for Russia's Air Force.

The new warplane is to replace fourth-generation fighters, namely, the Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker and the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 Fulcrum.

The program caught the public's eye after Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov recently said it must be expedited.

The decision to develop the fifth-generation T-50 fighter was made in the early 2000s. The Sukhoi, Mikoyan-Gurevich and Yakovlev design bureaus, who primarily develop new fighters, offered their concepts. The Sukhoi Design Bureau was eventually awarded the program.

Various maiden flight and delivery deadlines have been mentioned. The fighter is expected to make its appearance sometime between 2008 and 2010. In late 2008, Colonel General Alexandr Zelin, commander of the Air Force, said the warplane would perform its initial flight in August 2009.

Last summer, the fighter's design was approved, and the prototype blueprints were delivered to the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aviation Production Association (KNAAPO), where production will reportedly be sited. Currently, the company is building three experimental fighters for testing. These prototypes are due to last for five or six years. However, a production run will not be launched before 2015.

Although T-50 specifications remain classified, fragmentary data on its engines imply that this heavy-duty fighter will have a take-off weight of more than 30 metric tons and will be close in dimension to the Su-27.

The Tikhomirov Instrument Engineering Research Institute, which designed the Irbis radar system for the Su-35BM Flanker generation four-plus fighter, is now developing the T-50 warplane's radar. It appears that its radar and fire control system will be based on the Su-35BM system.

Although nobody knows what the new fighter will look like, most analysts believe it will closely resemble the Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptor. However, this cannot be verified at this point.

Under declassified request for proposal (RFP) provisions, the new highly maneuverable fighter will have a supersonic cruise speed, and its weapons will be stored inside the fuselage. Compared with fourth-generation planes, the T-50 will be much less visible in the radio and infrared bands.

The Air Force will be enhanced by these fifth-generation fighters, their weapons and radio-electronic equipment, as well as by ground and airborne combat-support and combat-control systems.

Although the various systems are being developed at different paces and to a varying degree of success, they are vitally important to the T-50 program's success. Without them, the fifth-generation fighter would remain an expensive toy and would fail to expand the combat potential of Air Force units.

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

Obama's Counter-Terrorism Strategy

By B. Raman

The counter-terrorism strategy of President Barack Obama will be different from that followed by his predecessor George Bush. The initial emphasis will be on removing the distortions which had crept into the strategy under Bush in the hope that this would create some goodwill for the US in the Islamic world and using the goodwill thus hopefully generated for enlisting the support of the Muslims in the campaign against Al Qaeda.

2. These distortions were in the form of ethically questionable deviations from the traditional US counter-terrorism practices. Examples of such deviations: Treating the terrorist suspects as prisoners of war and keeping them in an army-controlled detention centre in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and subjecting them to trial by a military tribunal instead of by normal courts; renditions, which are nothing but avoiding the due process of the law by taking the suspects for interrogation to co-operating third countries over which the US judiciary will not have any jurisdiction; and tolerance of practices bordering on torture during the interrogation.

3. By issuing an order on the very first day in office suspending the trial before the military tribunal for 120 days, Obama has made clear his determination to do away with these deviations and make US counter-terrorism practices once again acceptable to the civil society as a whole---- in the US itself as well as in the rest of the world.

4. Dick Cheney, Bush's Vice-President, and some professionals of the US intelligence community had convinced Bush that without such deviations it would be difficult to prevail over a dreaded terrorist organisation such as Al Qaeda. Obama, who does not buy such arguments, expects that there would be opposition from these professionals to his attempts to do away with these deviations. That is why he has chosen for the post of the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Leon Panetta, who is not an intelligence professional, but who is believed to agree with Obama that such deviations have done more harm than good to the fight against Al Qaeda and hence need to be abolished. A professional as the head of the CIA might have dragged his feet in implementing the ideas of Obama. In some instances in the past too, when there were allegations of unethical practices by the CIA, US Presidents had brought outsiders to head it to put an end to such practices.

5. Implementing Obama’s ideas with regard to the Guantanamo Bay detention centre is not going to be easy. Only a small number of the nearly 300 detenus there have specific cases going against them. There should be no problem in transferring their cases to normal courts and shifting them to jails in the US. But, the majority of the inmates of the detention centre are preventive detenus, who are suspected to be associated with Al Qaeda, but against whom there is not sufficient evidence for prosecution. What to do with them since it may not be possible to transfer them to jails in the US? If they are handed over to the countries to which they belong and if those countries release them, they might once again join Al Qaeda with renewed anger against the US for keeping them in the detention centre. Some of the detenus----such as the around 15 Uighurs---- are from countries such as China, which might execute them. Winding up the detention centre without adding to the strength of Al Qaeda and without creating new groups of anger against the US is going to be a tricky task.

6. Will the abolition of such practices help Obama in winning the support of the Muslims for the campaign against Al Qaeda? Doubtful. The anger of the Muslims against the US is not only due to such practices, but also due to the indiscriminate use of air strikes in counter-terrorism operations in Iraq as well as in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region. These air strikes have allegedly been causing a large number of civilian casualties. In the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, the Bush Administration was constrained to increase the number of air strikes by unmanned Predator aircraft of the CIA on suspected Al Qaeda hide-outs because of the unwillingness or inability or both of the Pakistan Army to act on the ground against these hide-outs.

7. Under the Bush Administration, the number of such air strikes increased dramatically from 10 in 2006 and 2007 combined to over 30 in 2008. Only eight of these strikes were successful in killing Al Qaeda and Taliban operatives. Over 22 strikes proved to have been based on incorrect intelligence and resulted in many civilian casualties. The accuracy rate of the US intelligence is not more than one-third of the reports disseminated.

8. Obama, who was critical of the deviations in the treatment of detained terrorist suspects, was not critical of the use of air strikes. In fact, he has promised a more robust and proactive campaign against Al Qaeda than was, according to him, followed under Bush in order to wipe out the surviving leaders of Al Qaeda operating from sanctuaries in the Pakistani territory. Rules of engagement authorizing air and ground strikes against Al Qada hide-outs in the Pakistani territory are favoured not only by the CIA, but also by the US Armed Forces. Thus, Obama cannot but continue the policy of stepped-up air strikes followed by Bush. His ability to do so without adding to the civilian casualties will depend on an improvement in the quality of the intelligence flow. Will the posting of an outsider and a non-professional as the chief of the CIA help in improving the quality of intelligence? If it does not, the goodwill which Obama might earn by abolishing the deviations might be wiped out by the anger over continuing civilian casualties due to inaccurate intelligence.

9. Obama’s objective is to delink Iraq from the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, divert more forces to Afghanistan and concentrate on the fight against them. His ability to divert forces from Iraq to Afghanistan would depend on the present low level of activity by Al Qaeda in Iraq continuing, thereby enabling the US to thin out its presence in Iraq. The low level of activity of Al Qaeda in Iraq is partly due to the parting of the ways between it and the secular Iraqi resistance fighters and the crushing of Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia by the Saudi authorities. Wahabised Saudis constituted a large component of Al Qaeda in Iraq. A decrease in the flow of Saudis has contributed to the weakening of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

10. Will Al Qaeda consider it to be in the interest of the global jihad being waged by it to let the US shift many of its troops to Afghanistan for crushing the Taliban or will it try to step up its activities in the Sunni areas of Iraq in order to frustrate the plans of Obama to shift troops to Afghanistan? To be able to do so, it will need a fresh flow of Arab volunteers. The widespread anger in the Arab world over the Israeli military strikes in Gaza, the perceived US support for Israel in the UN Security Council and the alleged silence of Obama on the issue could help Al Qaeda in its recruitment of new volunteers for keeping the fighting going in Iraq. If it happens, Obama may not be able to delink Iraq from the ongoing war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

11. Al Qaeda and its Arab supporters do not view Obama as a man of change. They see him as no different from Bush and other American leaders so far as support for Israel is concerned. They do not expect any dramatic change in the US attitude towards Israel under him. If they have to hurt Israel, they have to hurt the US. So they think and so they will try to do.

12. How successful will Obama’s counter-terrorism strategy will be will depend not only on how Obama views the war against Al Qaeda. It will also depend on how Al Qaeda views its jihad against the US. Despite the weakening of its position in Iraq and despite its inability to organize any major terrorist strike outside Pakistan and Algeria since the London and Bali blasts of 2005, Al Qaeda does not think it is losing its global jihad against the US and Israel.

13. It may not have had any spectacular gain on the ground since 2005, but it has convinced itself that the economic difficulties faced by the US are only partly due to the mismanagement of the economy by the Bush Administration. In its view----as seen from its recent messages---- the global jihad as waged under its leadership has also contributed to the economic difficulties of the US by forcing it to spend more and more on the war against it. It thinks it is in the interest of the global jihad to force the US to spend more and more thereby aggravating its economic difficulties. For that, the US will have to be kept preoccupied in Afghanistan as well as Iraq. It has been trying to take advantage of the Arab anger over the Israeli military strikes in Gaza to step up its recruitment and increase its activities in Iraq.

14. The weakest point of the still-evolving counter-terrorism strategy of Obama---- as it was with the strategy of Bush---- is its inability to think of a coherent and compelling response to Pakistan’s complicity, if not collusion, with Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the various other pro-Al Qaeda jihadi terrorist groups operating from Pakistani territory. The present Government of President Asif Ali Zirdari---like its predecessor Government of Pervez Musharraf--- is skillfully exploiting the US fears of a jihadi deluge without Pakistan’s co-operation for following a policy of seeming co-operation with the US and covert complicity with the terrorists. Like Bush, Obama too seems reluctant to confront Pakistan with punitive action if it fails to co-operate. Unless and until Pakistan knows that it will suffer if it does not change its present devious policy, things are not going to change.

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

January 22, 2009

INDIA : CRPF killed 218 terrorists, lost 67 men in 2008

CRPF killed 218 terrorists, lost 67 men in 2008
23 Jan 2009, 0252 hrs IST, TNN


NEW DELHI: The CRPF, the lone counter-insurgency central force, killed as many as 218 terrorists, including 103 in Jammu and Kashmir, apprehended
over 2,200 suspected terrorists and recovered 8,744 kilograms of explosives during joint operations with state police forces across the country in 2008.

During the operations, CRPF lost 67 of its personnel.

Though ammonium nitrate and gelatin sticks constitute the maximum of the explosives recovered by the force, the deadly RDX -- which is mainly brought by terrorists from across the border -- accounted for over 800 kg of the seizures.

During the year, over 66,300 rounds of ammunition and 1,723 arms, including AK series rifles and Chinese pistols, were also seized by the force from J&K, the north-east and naxal-affected states.

Besides in J&K and the north-eastern states, CRPF -- the biggest paramilitary force in the country -- is currently deployed in a number of naxal-affected states, including Chhattisgarh, Jhrakhand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar.

"A maximum of 105 out of 270 encounters took place in Chhattisgarh where 26 naxalites were killed, 303 apprehended and two surrendered, followed by Jharkhand where 56 encounters took place, 33 naxalites were killed and 116 apprehended and 16 surrendered," said CRPF spokesperson Ajay Chaturvedi.

OBAMA'S COUNTER-TERRORISM STRATEGY

B.RAMAN


The counter-terrorism strategy of President Barack Obama will be different from that followed by his predecessor George Bush. The initial emphasis will be on removing the distortions which had crept into the strategy under Bush in the hope that this would create some goodwill for the US in the Islamic world and using the goodwill thus hopefully generated for enlisting the support of the Muslims in the campaign against Al Qaeda.


2. These distortions were in the form of ethically questionable deviations from the traditional US counter-terrorism practices. Examples of such deviations: Treating the terrorist suspects as prisoners of war and keeping them in an army-controlled detention centre in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and subjecting them to trial by a military tribunal instead of by normal courts; renditions, which are nothing but avoiding the due process of the law by taking the suspects for interrogation to co-operating third countries over which the US judiciary will not have any jurisdiction; and tolerance of practices bordering on torture during the interrogation.


3. By issuing an order on the very first day in office suspending the trial before the military tribunal for 120 days, Obama has made clear his determination to do away with these deviations and make US counter-terrorism practices once again acceptable to the civil society as a whole---- in the US itself as well as in the rest of the world.


4. Dick Cheney, Bush's Vice-President, and some professionals of the US intelligence community had convinced Bush that without such deviations it would be difficult to prevail over a dreaded terrorist organisation such as Al Qaeda. Obama, who does not buy such arguments, expects that there would be opposition from these professionals to his attempts to do away with these deviations. That is why he has chosen for the post of the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Leon Panetta , who is not an intelligence professional, but who is believed to

agree with Obama that such deviations have done more harm than good to the fight against Al Qaeda and hence need to be abolished. A professional as the head of the CIA might have dragged his feet in implementing the ideas of Obama. In some instances in the past too, when there were allegations of unethical practices by the CIA, US Presidents had brought outsiders to head it to put an end to such practices.


5. Implementing Obama’s ideas with regard to the Guantanamo Bay detention centre is not going to be easy. Only a small number of the nearly 300 detenus there have specific cases going against them. There should be no problem in transferring their cases to normal courts and shifting them to jails in the US. But, the majority of the inmates of the detention centre are preventive detenus, who are suspected to be associated with Al Qaeda, but against whom there is not sufficient evidence for prosecution. What to do with them since it may not be possible to transfer them to jails in the US? If they are handed over to the countries to which they belong and if those countries release them, they might once again join Al Qaeda with renewed anger against the US for keeping them in the detention centre. Some of the detenus----such as the around 15 Uighurs---- are from countries such as China, which might execute them. Winding up the detention centre without adding to the strength of Al Qaeda and without creating new groups of anger against the US is going to be a tricky task.


6. Will the abolition of such practices help Obama in winning the support of the Muslims for the campaign against Al Qaeda? Doubtful. The anger of the Muslims against the US is not only due to such practices, but also due to the indiscriminate use of air strikes in counter-terrorism operations in Iraq as well as in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region. These air strikes have allegedly been causing a large number of civilian casualties. In the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, the Bush Administration was constrained to increase the number of air strikes by unmanned Predator aircraft of the CIA on suspected Al Qaeda hide-outs because of the unwillingness or inability or both of the Pakistan Army to act on the ground against these hide-outs.


7. Under the Bush Administration, the number of such air strikes increased dramatically from 10 in 2006 and 2007 combined to over 30 in 2008. Only eight of these strikes were successful in killing Al Qaeda and Taliban operatives. Over 22 strikes proved to have been based on incorrect intelligence and resulted in many civilian casualties. The accuracy rate of the US intelligence is not more than one-third of the reports disseminated.


8. Obama, who was critical of the deviations in the treatment of detained terrorist suspects, was not critical of the use of air strikes. In fact, he has promised a more robust and proactive campaign against Al Qaeda than was, according to him, followed under Bush in order to wipe out the surviving leaders of Al Qaeda operating from sanctuaries in the Pakistani territory. Rules of engagement authorizing air and ground strikes against Al Qada hide-outs in the Pakistani territory are favoured not only by the CIA, but also by the US Armed Forces. Thus, Obama cannot but continue the policy of stepped-up air strikes followed by Bush. His ability to do so without adding to the civilian casualties will depend on an improvement in the quality of the intelligence flow. Will the posting of an outsider and a non-professional as the chief of the CIA help in improving the quality of intelligence? If it does not, the goodwill which Obama might earn by abolishing the deviations might be wiped out by the anger over continuing civilian casualties due to inaccurate intelligence.


9. Obama’s objective is to delink Iraq from the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, divert more forces to Afghanistan and concentrate on the fight against them. His ability to divert forces from Iraq to Afghanistan would depend on the present low level of activity by Al Qaeda in Iraq continuing, thereby enabling the US to thin out its presence in Iraq. The low level of activity of Al Qaeda in Iraq is partly due to the parting of the ways between it and the secular Iraqi resistance fighters and the crushing of Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia by the Saudi authorities. Wahabised Saudis constituted a large component of Al Qaeda in Iraq. A decrease in the flow of Saudis has contributed to the weakening of Al Qaeda in Iraq.


10. Will Al Qaeda consider it to be in the interest of the global jihad being waged by it to let the US shift many of its troops to Afghanistan for crushing the Taliban or will it try to step up its activities in the Sunni areas of Iraq in order to frustrate the plans of Obama to shift troops to Afghanistan? To be able to do so, it will need a fresh flow of Arab volunteers. The widespread anger in the Arab world over the Israeli military strikes in Gaza, the perceived US support for Israel in the UN Security Council and the alleged silence of Obama on the issue could help Al Qaeda in its recruitment of new volunteers for keeping the fighting going in Iraq. If it happens, Obama may not be able to delink Iraq from the ongoing war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.


11. Al Qaeda and its Arab supporters do not view Obama as a man of change. They see him as no different from Bush and other American leaders so far as support for Israel is concerned. They do not expect any dramatic change in the US attitude towards Israel under him. If they have to hurt Israel, they have to hurt the US. So they think and so they will try to do.


12. How successful will Obama’s counter-terrorism strategy will be will depend not only on how Obama views the war against Al Qaeda. It will also depend on how Al Qaeda views its jihad against the US. Despite the weakening of its position in Iraq and despite its inability to organize any major terrorist strike outside Pakistan and Algeria since the London and Bali blasts of 2005, Al Qaeda does not think it is losing its global jihad against the US and Israel.


13. It may not have had any spectacular gain on the ground since 2005, but it has convinced itself that the economic difficulties faced by the US are only partly due to the mismanagement of the economy by the Bush Administration. In its view----as seen from its recent messages---- the global jihad as waged under its leadership has also contributed to the economic difficulties of the US by forcing it to spend more and more on the war against it. It thinks it is in the interest of the global jihad to force the US to spend more and more thereby aggravating its economic difficulties. For that, the US will have to be kept preoccupied in Afghanistan as well as Iraq. It has been trying to take advantage of the Arab anger over the Israeli military strikes in Gaza to step up its recruitment and increase its activities in Iraq.


14. The weakest point of the still-evolving counter-terrorism strategy of Obama---- as it was with the strategy of Bush---- is its inability to think of a coherent and compelling response to Pakistan’s complicity, if not collusion, with Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the various other pro-Al Qaeda jihadi terrorist groups operating from Pakistani territory. The present Government of President Asif Ali Zirdari---like its predecessor Government of Pervez Musharraf--- is skillfully exploiting the US fears of a jihadi deluge without Pakistan’s co-operation for following a policy of seeming co-operation with the US and covert complicity with the terrorists. Like Bush, Obama too seems reluctant to confront Pakistan with punitive action if it fails to co-operate. Unless and until Pakistan knows that it will suffer if it does not change its present devious policy, things are not going to change. (22-1-09)


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

London Robert Amsterdam, a Lawyer with a Long Reach

IntelligenceOnline.com

22/01/2009

The high profile lawyer of former Yukos boss Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Robert Amsterdam doesn’t appear often in court but deploys his influence through well-placed contacts.
Acting in numerous emerging countries where jurisdictions are often unclear or non-existent, the 52-year-old Canadian lawyer Robert Amsterdam, who lives in London, is less known for his eloquence in court than for his capacity to act through the media or place a discreet word in the ear of political luminaries. In cases widely covered by the media, he uses opinion-makers to help defend his customers, among them Mikhail Khodorkovsky who has been behind bars in Siberia since 2005, and the opponent of the Singapore government, Chee Soon Juan, who has been engaged in legal warfare with the city-state since 1992. In such cases, Amsterdam uses every press contact within reach, conducts PR campaigns on the Internet, writes op-eds in newspapers, and speaks at seminars, think-tanks and universities. When it comes to negotiating directly with a government on behalf of a private group, he can activate powerful support among consultants and jurists in his book of contacts, whether he is operating in Africa, central Europe, South America or Asia.




January 20, 2009

Emerging Trends in Chinese Economy - Implications for India

By D. S. Rajan

The December 18, 2008 grand celebration at Beijing of the 30th anniversary of introduction of China’s Reforms and Opening up policy in 1978, in a top national level meeting with a well-publicised keynote address by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) supreme Hu Jintao, has been an event of high significance for the regime. It reflected the recognition of the leadership in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), rightly so, that without that initiative three decades ago, the country could not have risen as a global economic and political power. It is another point that the occasion was politically used by the CCP to prove its legitimacy before the public as a ruling party. This being so, it cannot be denied that achieving an average annual growth of 9.6% in thirty years since 1978, has been a feat unprecedented among the developing nations. With 13% growth in 2007, as revised very recently by China, the country has overtaken Germany as the world’s third largest economy. Two factors, widely being perceived as contributory to China’s economic miracle, are the emergence of an export-led economy based on the global need for cheap Chinese goods and the rise of a new middle class in the society capable of contributing to GDP growth through consumption.

There are now strong indications that the Chinese economy is slowing down, mainly on impact from the global melt down. The Chinese add two more contributory factors – tightening measures through out the world and the impact from natural disasters within the country. The PRC Premier Wen Jiabao himself frankly admitted the ‘risk’ of a decline, acknowledging the fall in the country’s external demand and assessing that the required boost in domestic demand as a balance may not be ‘significant’ in a short period (Interview to CNN, 29 September 2008).

The following are being seen as key indicators of a slow down:

China’s exports, a crucial factor for its economy, fell for a second consecutive month in December 2008 (by 2.8% from the corresponding figure for 2007 to US$ 111.16 billion). The fall is as a result of the recession in US, Japan and Europe leading to deceleration of demand abroad for Chinese manufactured goods. It is considered as deepest in the PRC since 1999.
Imports into China also fell in December 2008 (by 21.3 % from the corresponding figure for 2007, to US$ 72.18 billion). When exports fall, imports also automatically decline, for the reason that China uses raw material imports for exports.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into China dropped by 36.52% in November 2008, to US$ 5.3.billion, when compared to the corresponding figure for 2007.
China’s fiscal revenue fell by 3.1% in November 2008, in comparison to the corresponding figure for 2007.
Construction of homes, offices and factories in China fell by at least 16.6 % in October 2008 as compared to 32.5% increase in the corresponding period in 2007.
Car sales in China fell by 10.3% in November 2008, when compared the corresponding figure for 2007.
How is the slowdown going to impact on the Chinese economic growth in the coming years? Authoritative analysts in China and abroad, agree that the growth rate may come down at least for the next couple of years. For 2009, while Chinese official and non-official estimates indicate a rate around 9%, the World Bank puts the same as 7.5%, the lowest in 19 years and against the figure of 9.4% for 2008. The UNDP predicts China’s growth around 8.4% for 2009. Some other forecasts (like that of Royal Bank of Scotland) have been pessimistic, lowering the growth for 2009 to 5%.

China has already started reeling under the negative impact of the economic slow down. Industrial employment situation is worsening. Export-oriented factories are being closed down leading to loss of jobs on the part of rural migrant workers. From Guangdong alone, 600,000 jobless migrant workers have reportedly returned to their rural bases in 2008 (China Daily, 9 January 2009). Facing the crisis in particular, are the steel and construction segments. Chinese officials and State-controlled media are becoming bold enough to express their concerns on the likely social unrest due to rising unemployment fuelled by massive bankruptcies and production cuts (Zhang Ping, Chief of the National Development and Reforms commission, 27 November 2008 and Liao Wang journal, first week of January 2009). According to reports from China, the slow down is also affecting the job aspirations of a growing number of young university graduates.

Cracks are appearing in China’s post-1978 middle class, which has so far been nurturing China’s economic progress. The slowdown could not have come to China at a more inopportune time. The PRC remains already grappled with a host of other serious issues like the rural-urban gap, regional disparity, inflation, falling rural incomes, corruption and land seizures. Moreover, the authorities are coming under compulsions to deal with increasing demands for political liberalisation (e.g Charter 2008) as well as ethnic issues relating to minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet. There is a thaw now in relations between the mainland and Ma Yingjoiu’s Taiwan, but China faces a long road to fully address the reunification question.

Under the circumstances, how the PRC is planning to address the economic slow down is a key question. Theoretically, the solution being offered by Chinese leaders sounds good - carrying out a ‘flexible and prudent macro- economic policy, an active fiscal policy and a moderately easy monetary policy’. Certain practical steps are being taken. Adjustments in trade policy have been made to help exporters (Cai Jing journal, 8 January 2009). The PRC has also announced a stimulus package to the tune of 4 trillion Yuan (US$ 586 billion) and interest rates have been cut. More may be in the pipeline. But economists in general know that such incentives can only temporarily mitigate the problem and in the long term, there is no other way except to wait for a better global climate for exports. Premier Wen indirectly showed his assessment of this situation when he ruled out a ‘short period’ for boosting the domestic demand.

Sino-Indian economic and trade relations have gathered momentum in recent years. China has become India’s largest trading partner, whereas India occupies 10th position in the list of China’s trade partners. In 2007-08, their bilateral trade went up by 47% than in the previous year (reaching US$ 37.88 billion as compared to US$ 25.73 billion in 2006-07). This level is slated to grow to US$ 60 billion by 2010. India’s exports to China also went up by 30% in 2007-08 (reaching the figure of US$ 10.78 billion as against US$ 8.28 billion in 2006-07). China’s primary exports to India are coking coal and electronic goods, while iron ore remains the main Indian export to China. Sino-Indian discussions on concluding a mutually beneficial Regional Trading Arrangement (RTA) are in progress. The trade balance however is in favour of China, as PRC exports more than it imports from India. In 2007, the Chinese trade surplus against India was to the tune of about US$ 4 billion. Efforts therefore are in progress to diversify the bilateral trade basket. MoUs have recently been signed between the two nations identifying more Indian exports to China like polyethylene, marine products, manganese, cotton etc.

The implications of the decline in China’s foreign trade are not difficult to visualize. For 2009, only 5% growth in the total value of exports and imports is being projected officially; this would be the first single digit increase in China. Many factories in the country are closing down, as their exports to recession-hit developed countries have come to a naught due to lack of demand for Chinese products. In turn, the manufacturing units in the PRC may like to reduce the quantity of imports from abroad of raw material mostly used for making goods exported. It is estimated that raw material import into China from abroad may thus register a fall in the immediate term; In particular, Taiwan (36% of exports to China), South Korea (25% of exports to China) and Japan (19% of exports to China), all in China’s neighbourhood, might suffer on this account.

In the case of India, iron ore remains the main commodity export to China. In November 2008, the quantity of this export reached a record figure of 8.7 million tonne. However, China’s demand for Indian iron ore may have a significant fall in the near future, as China’s steel and construction sectors, greatly affected by the decline, reduce their demand for this raw material. (Other iron ore exporting countries to China may also suffer similarly). On 16 January 2009, the PRC State Council has passed orders to curb steel production capacity and announced fresh regulations to regulate iron ore imports.

From the point of view of India, there could be a positive side to China’s decline. Chinese reports say (Cai Jing, 8 January 2009) that to assist the suffering exporters, the PRC has now allowed shifting of their factories from the country to ‘nearby’ locations; the justification being given is that labour costs would be cheap, to be precise, only to the extent of 38% of costs in China. Among the locations listed by China are India, Pakistan, Vietnam and Cambodia. It has further been revealed that 400 textile companies have shifted their manufacturing bases to Cambodia so far and 100 to Bangladesh. If New Delhi agrees, there are chances of relocation of cost-hit Chinese plants to India.

(The writer, D. S. Rajan, is Director, Chennai Centre for China Studies, Chennai, and India. Email: dsrajan@gmail.com)

Creed of an American Grand Strategist


I am a great power. And so can you!
by Thomas P M Barnett

America today must dramatically realign its own post-9/11 trajectory with that of the world at large - a world undergoing deep transformation amidst great structural uncertainty. This realignment will require a new understanding of the world and America’s role in its evolution. Such an understanding is found in the realm of strategic thinking known as grand strategy.

Every functioning state pursues some form of grand strategy, either purposeful or accidental. Sometimes leaders will seek to sell a national strategy to the public, hoping to garner popular support. Other times they will keep it secret, because they can or because they must. In ages past, one leader might encompass this whole process. In today’s modern government, the norm is for hundreds and even thousands of key people to be involved, for change to be incremental and spread over years, and for significant disjuncture to occur only with shifts in top political leadership.

So when I speak of affecting significant and lasting change in America’s grand strategy, or its systematic approach to shaping this age of globalization, understand that I target not merely one administration or one party or one generation of leaders, but my nation’s sense of historical purpose - its political soul. America’s grand strategy must reflect its complex internal make-up as a people, but likewise its magnificent impact upon the world as its most successful multinational political and economic union. It must at once incorporate America’s imagined identity (we are the most synthetic of the world’s political creatures) and the world’s emerging ambitions, which we have enabled through our stewardship of global affairs. This challenge properly met, we bequeath unto our children a most wonderful world. Abandoned, we condemn them to a fate of dead-ended dreams and open-ended conflicts.

The modern grand strategist therefore aims to forge a lasting chain from analysis synthesized to vision spread to values embedded to leadership executed. A grand strategy is not an “elevator speech.” It cannot be slipped in like a password. Its why must be inculcated in younger minds so that, when they become older hands, these leaders know which levers of power to pull - and when.

Grand strategy is like imagining the chess game from start to finish, except that, in today’s world of rapidly spreading globalization, it’s never quite clear how many players are involved at any one moment or which pieces they actually control. That may make it seem like there are no rules, but that means it’s important to make explicit our definition of the rules and realize that playing consists largely of making our rule set seem attractive to others, regardless of how the game unfolds. This game-within-the-game resembles the highly iterative process of generating our own grand strategy. As Parag Khanna argues in his book, The Second World, the line distinguishing geopolitics (the relationship between power and space) and globalization (the global economy’s expanding connectivity) has been effectively erased. Therefore, my grand strategy—regardless of content—is mostly about trying to shape every other state’s grand strategy more than they shape mine. What was once highly hierarchical is now far more peer-to-peer in dynamics, thanks to globalization’s stunning advance. Still, while all great powers have grand strategies, some matter more than others.

After two decades of engaging the US national security establishment as a grand strategist, these are my articles of faith:

To be plausible, grand strategic vision must combine a clear-eyed view of today’s reality with a broad capture of the dominant trends shaping the near-term environment. It cannot posit sharp detours, much less U-turns, in history’s advance. This river’s course is set even as our journey upon it remains fraught with both promise and peril. Thus the vision does not seek to change human nature, which got us to this point quite nicely, but to placate it, thereby ensuring the portability of its strategic concepts (the dos and don’ts) among minds from different backgrounds, cultures and ages. No new human is required, just a solid fit between today’s inexhaustible ingenuity and tomorrow’s finite possibilities. So check your social Darwinism at the door, for all must gain admittance to this kingdom.

Grand strategic analysis starts with security, which is always 100 percent of your problem until it’s reasonably achieved. Then it’s at most about 10 percent of your ultimate solution. Scaling Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” involves far more than reaching that first rung. In any given conflict, if job creation is your only realistic exit strategy, then winning hearts and minds is an ephemeral victory at best. The grand strategist prefers stomachs and wallets any day. Humans are social creatures. They seek connectivity with one another across every possible avenue, leveraging each new technology to ends always self-fulfilling and sometimes self-destructive. This eternal search for new forms of connectivity defines globalization’s ceaseless advance throughout human history.

To remain realistic in this age of emerging hyper-connectivity, grand strategy must begin with the premise that security challenges will grow exponentially as a result of technology’s advance - the more connections, the more potential failure points. But to admit that challenge is not to surrender to its implied “chaos,” a judgment frequently employed by security experts to curtail serious exploration of grand strategy. All too often, they prefer to focus on contingency planning in a complex, “uncontrollable” world. Grand strategy purposefully aspires to be proactive, not merely protecting itself from failure, but exploiting avenues of success as they reveal themselves. Grand strategy is not a hypothesis but diagnosis combined with prescription.

Grand strategy is not clairvoyance; it does not seek to predict future events, but rather to contextualize them in a confident worldview. The goal is an opportunistic outlook that welcomes the churn of global events for the new, alternative pathways presented (“I hadn’t considered going that way up to now!”), eschewing the fatalism encouraged by mass media commentary (“These events have - yet again - cast grave doubts upon the possibility of achieving ...”). The unforeseen need not be the unexploited. In times of crisis, people naturally hesitate in choosing between what is right and what is easy, hence grand strategy must inculcate among its decision-makers a sense of confidence toward bargain-seeking behavior, both in terms of buying low (every crisis generates bargains in some form) and settling fast (i.e., cutting losses quickly). To employ a poker analogy, the grand strategist favors no chip - save his last. While the ultimate goal is always to increase his pot of earnings, the proximate goal in any hand is to gain admittance to the next round of play.

Grand strategy encourages realistic thinking about risk by comprehensively cataloguing the nation’s full complement of resources. The government may present both face and fist to the world outside, but it hardly reflects the country’s full instrumentality. This vast reservoir lies with the people and their collective ingenuity, which may or may not find adequate expression in the national economy, depending on the amount of economic freedom allowed therein. Americans tend to be overly impressed by authoritarian regimes, believing they represent the most formidable packaging of national will and skill. Of course, the opposite is true, especially in this age of expansive globalization; the many and the unleashed will always trump the few and the constrained. When we forget that, we find ourselves battling stubborn insurgencies of all sorts: among youth, across cyberspace, in postwar contingencies. Life finds a way of connecting ambition to resources within even the most controlled populations.

Grand strategic thinking always keeps the government’s role in proper perspective. Because of our Cold War experience, during which the fantastic dangers of global nuclear war shaped our popular sense of the US government’s global responsibilities, Americans invest far too much emotion in our government’s diplomatic interactions with the world and ascribe far too much power to our military’s ability to shape events. We are too proud of our victories and too stunned by our defeats, making us a sort of manic-depressive superpower that alternates between overestimating its strengths and exaggerating its weaknesses. By taking a long view of history, grand strategy encourages some much-needed humility regarding America’s place and power in the world. By understanding that hard power merely enables soft power by removing what the global community may judge - from time to time - to be intolerable barriers (e.g., extreme disconnectedness forced upon populations by dictators, dislocating disasters, continuing civil strife, or the general absence of political stability), we begin to understand the US military’s subordinate role: globalization’s bodyguard, but hardly its keeper. Globalization comes with rules but not a ruler.

The emerging global rule set is always under adjustment - more so during crisis. The only constant rule is that rules are constantly changing. The grand strategist tracks these evolutions across various sectors primarily for the purpose of gap analysis. These gaps are only incrementally revealed under normal circumstances, and conflicts can exacerbate them to the point of severe system crisis, which globalization - in its sum expression of connectivity, rules, alliances and mutual understanding - is getting better at processing. The grand strategist is therefore interested more in direction than degree of change, and he recognizes that politics lags dramatically behind economics and that security lags dramatically behind connectivity. His work is primarily concerned with keeping those gaps from growing too large by filling them in with new rule sets distinctly favorable to his vision, defined across the levels of system, state and individual (from Kenneth Waltz).

The grand strategist resists the demands of narrow thinkers to declare some collection of states or developmental model or industry paradigm as currently transcendent. Such choices are required only among the narrowest of minds (or the most savvy editors) out of fear that their arguments (or publications) won't find purchase unless some clear niche can be canonically fenced off. To wit, a joke: What do you call a grand strategist who promotes a new grand strategy every few weeks? A newspaper columnist. When pundits drown out strategists, the end of reason is truly near. So grand strategists do not entertain, much less succumb to, single-point-failure doomsaying, because system-wide thinking adheres to the horizontal view, not the vertical drill-down of experts who say, "I don't know anything about the rest of all that, I just know that my [insert favorite apocalyptic scenario here] makes your entire vision impossible!" Systematic thinking about the future means you're not "for" or "against" issues like peak oil or global warming or water scarcity, you just accept the dynamics implied and rank them accordingly. A holistic approach must be the grand strategist's calling card, leaving fear-mongers to the corners into which their need for binary, zero-sum outcomes ("A is up, so B must be down") paints them. The grand strategist welcomes such analysis as he welcomes all such data points. He simply refuses the accompanying Kool-Aid.

And so, the grand strategist is neither surprised nor dismayed when the awesome force of globalization’s tectonic shifts elicits vociferous or even violent friction from locals, for these are the essential drivers of conflict in our age. Success is not about avoiding any violence, but effectively processing the anger behind all violence. We live in a time of pervasive and persistent revolutions. Hardly able to prevent all eggs from cracking, the grand strategist wants only to make sure that the resulting omelets are not thoroughly wasted. In today’s super-empowered environment, anybody can play cook. Fight that inevitability and you’ll be taking on all-comers in never-ending conflict.

America’s grand strategists should calculate applications of hard power with the emotional detachment that comes with knowing that history is on our side. More than two centuries ago, the original anti-imperialist league of 13 colonies birthed the American System (Henry Clay’s term) of states uniting and economies integrating in collective security. Once the European version of “glo-colonialization” self-destructed in a massive civil war (1914-1945), our American system was successfully projected onto the global landscape, yielding an international liberal trade order first known as the West and now known simply as globalization. It is the first global “empire” in human history that both enriches and empowers its alleged “subjects,” and Dr Frankenstein’s monster, a truly world-spanning middle class, will inevitably emerge as the 21st century’s most awesome social force. Capturing that majority’s ideological “flag” constitutes the primary task of all grand strategy in the years and decades ahead.

Today’s grand strategist is “present at the creation” of some new world, the anticipation of which gets him out of bed each morning, ready to do battle yet again - room by room. His victories are not measured in battles won nor crises averted, but in minds shaped and leadership revealed.




Dr Thomas P M Barnett is a strategic planner who has worked in national security affairs since the end of the Cold War. He is a prolific author, whose latest book, Great Powers: America and the World After Bush, will be published next month. His blog can be accessed at http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/

Gas game: Losers all around

20 Jan 2009


With the latest gas dispute over, at least temporarily, there were losers all around, including Russia, Ukraine, the EU and those parts of Europe left out in the cold, Sergei Blagov writes for ISN Security Watch.

By Sergei Blagov in Moscow for ISN Security Watch



Officially, the Russia-Ukraine gas feud that left much of Europe in the cold has reached its temporary conclusion with a new deal agreed in Moscow. However, unanswered questions cloud the resolution and it remains unclear who paid and who profited from the crisis and subsequent agreements on a new gas relationship between the two countries.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Timoshenko hailed a deal between Russian gas giant Gazprom and Ukraine's Naftogaz, signed on 19 January. The 10-year gas transit and gas supply agreements allowed for the resumption of the transit of Russian gas to European consumers via Ukraine.

Russia and Ukraine agreed to switch gas trade to the European price formula from 1 January, Putin announced on 19 January. This year, Russia gave Ukraine a 20 percent discount, while Ukraine was prepared to maintain discounted transit tariffs for Russia, according to a statement by the Russian prime minister.

The escalation of the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute into European crisis has been a long-time coming.

On 1 January, Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukrainian customers, as Gazprom insisted Ukraine owed it some US$600 million in late payment fines. Ukraine refused to pay the fines and declined to sign a new contract to accept higher gas prices in 2009.

Russian Gazprom also repeatedly accused Ukraine's state-owned Naftogaz of siphoning and cutting off gas transiting to Europe. Naftogaz dismissed the Russian theft accusations and claimed that Gazprom itself cut off supplies.

Although about 80 percent of Russian gas exports to the EU pass through Ukraine, the relatively insignificant price dispute was followed by a total suspension of Russian gas transit through Ukraine to Europe from 7 January.

Gazprom has increased its gas supplies to Europe through gas pipelines that transit Belarus and the Blue-Stream pipeline under the Black Sea, but the suspension of the gas transit via Ukraine made life harder for millions of people in Central and Eastern Europe.

Domestic critics of the Russian government, including former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov, argued that Ukraine's alleged stealing of gas, even if true, were not that significant to justify the supply cut, a move entailing long-term damage to Russia's interests.

Subsequently, European consumers, Russia, Ukraine and the EU all appeared to emerge as losers in the gas game. Few EU countries remained immune from gas shortages caused by the row.

Russian officials conceded that the dispute cost Gazprom more than US$1 billion in direct losses. Moscow's credibility was also seriously undermined. On 15 January, the International Energy Agency (IEA) pronounced Russia an unreliable gas supplier for Europe.

Ukraine was also seen as playing a high-risk waiting game, trying to force Moscow to offer better gas supply terms. But the gas dispute only highlighted Ukraine's own economic failures, notably its inability to adapt to international energy prices. The gas row also left observers wondering why getting a 20 percent discount for Ukraine required halting gas transit and freezing large parts of Europe for two weeks.

The EU was dragged unwillingly into the gas war, putting its own credibility on the line by intervening in the dispute. The EU agreed to send observers to both Russia and Ukraine, but the move failed to defuse the gas row, and the dispute served to expose the EU's limited ability to tackle energy issues near its frontiers.

Moscow was apparently hoping to see the European Commission side with Russia and lash out at Ukraine for blocking gas intended for European markets. The Kremlin repeatedly urged the EU to put pressure on Ukraine, but Brussels made it clear that both sides were to blame for the "unacceptable" impasse.

In the meantime, the US repeatedly urged Russia and Ukraine to end their dispute and "immediately" re-start natural gas supplies to Europe. Washington warned Russia against manipulating its energy exports to pressure and threaten its neighbors.

In an apparent response, Russian officials, including Gazprom deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev, alleged that the Ukrainian leadership blocked gas transit to Europe following US advice. On 15 January, EU envoy in Moscow Marco Franco was even forced to dismiss Russian media allegations that Washington used Ukraine's leaders as pawns to provoke a conflict between Europe and Russia.

Echoing US statements, Ukrainian officials complained that Russia’s energy empire plotted to remove President Victor Yushchenko from office. Ukrainian experts claimed that Moscow's latest gas maneuver aimed to push up global energy prices in order to pressure the EU in favor of the North Stream and South Stream gas pipelines, and punish Ukraine for its westward leanings.

The gas crisis is expected to accelerate efforts to build alternative energy supply routes to Europe.

The Kremlin may well come to realize that the dispute could speed up not only Russian-backed sub-sea pipeline projects, but other links too, including the Nabucco pipeline, to funnel Central Asian gas to Europe via Turkey.

In a yet another unintended consequence of the gas dispute, suppliers of liquefied natural gas (LNG) could become more competitive in Europe.

Many losers emerged from the gas dispute, while clear winners have been slow to manifest themselves.




Sergei Blagov is a Moscow-based correspondent for ISN Security Watch.



The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not the International Relations and Security Network (ISN).

Military bases abroad: ambitions and opportunities

19:50 | 19/ 01/ 2009



MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military correspondent Ilya Kramnik) - The Russian Navy is going to return to its bases abroad. A statement to this effect was made by the spokesman for the Navy's headquarters last week. What will the Russian Navy's return be like after 20 years' absence? What goals can it pursue?

During the Cold War, the Soviet Navy was stationed in the Mediterranean to prevent an attack by Western aircraft carriers and submarines. At present, the tensions in the region have subsided because of severe cuts in the American naval forces. Yet, the region retains its importance as a key crossroads between Europe, Asia and Africa.

Russian ships started to make frequent appearances in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean after the opening of the Suez Canal. The new route was actively used for travelling to the Far East. Before the opening of the Trans-Siberian Railway and the North Sea Route, this was the only way of establishing a fast and regular connection with the remotest Russian regions. However, even after these alternatives appeared, the Russian Navy strategists continued to be interested in the Red Sea route, as it is one of the busiest sea routes accounting for almost 10% of the world's cargo turnover.

The Socotra Archipelago is located off the Horn of Africa, 350 km to the south of the Arabian Peninsula. Its location makes it possible to control the navigation in the Gulf of Aden, towards the west, along the African coast to the south and along the Arabian Peninsular to the north-east. The Soviet Union established a base on Socotra in 1971, and actively used it for a variety of purposes, including fighting piracy, until the break-up of the U.S.S.R in 1991.

This base is expected to play a special role in fighting piracy, because Russia will be able to use small vessels, trawlers and other boats of minor rank, without resorting to big ships that are not designed for this purpose.

Major ships will have a reliable logistics system, which will allow them to perform operations in the Indian Ocean. It will be possible to change crews, make minor repairs, and replenish reserves without using auxiliary ships or returning home, sometimes, a thousand miles away.

At the same time, such prospects require an adequate mechanism. Any base is worth something when it can be defended, and for the time being the Russian Navy does not have enough ships to protect a regular sizeable presence in the remote seas.

Should the Navy's ambitious plans be perceived as evidence that it is going to get new combat ships, as well as carrier-planes and helicopters, armament and coastal guard equipment in sufficient quantities? If this is true, the implementation of the plans to revive foreign military bases will be one of the most successful projects of Russian foreign policy this century.

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

Ukraine to pay European prices for Russian gas

20:21 | 20/ 01/ 2009



MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti economic commentator Oleg Mityayev) - The Russian-Ukrainian gas conflict has been settled.

During the talks between Prime Ministers Vladimir Putin and Yulia Tymoshenko, the sides agreed to resume the transit of Russian natural gas to Europe via Ukraine, approved the European pricing formula for gas deliveries to Ukraine, and decided to abandon gas trade intermediaries.

As a result, the Gazprom and Naftogaz CEOs signed supply and transit contracts for 2009-2019 on January 19.

In 1990-2007, Ukraine received Russian natural gas at the so-called Ashgabat formula based on the price of the cheap gas Gazprom bought in Central Asia, because Ukraine transited up to 80% of Russian gas exports to Europe.

Last year, Ukraine bought Russian natural gas at $179.5 per 1,000 cubic meters, although the price for Europe exceeded $400 by the end of 2008.

However, in the summer of 2008, when oil prices reached their peak and the demand for hydrocarbons soared, it became clear that Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan would adjust their gas prices to European market prices. Putin recently said that the Russian gas monopoly would pay $340 per 1,000 cubic meters of Central Asian gas on average in the first quarter of 2009.
Initially, Russia and Ukraine considered Ukraine's gradual transition to the European gas pricing formula by 2011, but the gas crisis has sped up the transition. As of now, Ukraine has agreed to buy Russian gas at the European price with a 20% discount in 2009.

The gas price for Ukraine will be $360 in the first quarter of 2009, or 80% of the earlier claimed European price for Ukraine of $450. Later the price for Ukraine will change every three months depending on the average European price, which is likely to fall because it depends on oil prices six months previous.
Some analysts say the average European gas price will fall to $250 in the second quarter and to $175-$180 in July-December 2009.

Gazprom's budget is based on an average annual European price of $280 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas, which puts the price for Ukraine at $224. This is probably why Tymoshenko said after the Monday talks that Ukraine would pay less than $250 for Russian gas in 2009, adding that this would save her country $5 billion.

Russia and Ukraine also decided to make mutual gas trade more transparent and to stop using the services of gas trader RosUkrEnergo, a parity venture between Gazprom and two Ukrainian businessmen.

Russia will also save on gas transit to Europe via Ukraine in 2009. The new 10- year transit contract stipulates a preference tariff of $1.70 per 1,000 cubic meters per 100 kilometers for 2009. This will save the Russian gas monopoly up to $2 billion this year because the average European tariff is approximately $3.

But from January 2010 Ukraine will pay European prices for Russian natural gas, and Russia will pay a European tariff for gas transit via Ukraine.

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

January 19, 2009

WHY MILIBAND TRIES TO RATIONALISE LET'S TERRORIST ATTACK IN MUMBAI?

B.RAMAN

There has been considerable anger and indignation in India over the attempt of David Miliband, the British Foreign Secretary, who visited India last week, to rationalise the terrorist attack in Mumbai from November 26 to 29,2008, by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LEt) of Pakistan by linking the attack to the Kashmir issue. None of the indigenous Kashmiri organisations has linked the Mumbai attack to Kashmir.Yet Miliband sought to provide a legitimacy to the LET's terrorist attack by linking it to Kashmir, disregarding the fact that the attack, as seen from the brutal murder of nine Jewish persons and 12 nationals of Western countries, which have contributed forces to the NATO contingent in Afghanistan, was part of the global jihadi agenda unrelated to either Kashmir or the grievances of the Indian Muslims.

2. The shocking attempt by Miliband to play down the murders of 138 Indians and 25 foreign nationals committed by the Pakistani terrorists of the LET should not have come as a surprise to those aware of the historic links of the British intelligence with the Mirpuri migrants from Pakistani-Occupied Kashmir (POK) in the UK and their important role during elections in certain constituencies which traditionally return Labour candidates to the House of Commons with the support of the Mirpuri vote bank.

3. In this connection, I am reproducing below extracts from my article of 6-5-07 titled HOME-GROWN JIHADIS (JUNDULLAH) IN UK & US available at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/%5Cpapers23%5Cpaper2236.html

THE EXTRACTS

"After Pakistan and Afghanistan, the UK has been traditionally for many years the largest sanctuary to foreign terrorists and extremists. Everybody, who is somebody in the world of terrorism, has found a rear base in the UK--- the Khalistanis in the past, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Mirpuris from Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), the Chechens, the Al Muhajiroun, the Hizbut Tehrir etc. Having allowed such a medley of terrorists and extremists to operate unchecked from their territory for so long, the British intelligence just does not have a correct estimate of how many sleeper cells are operating from their country and of which organisations.

"Since persons of Pakistani origin have been playing an increasingly active role in promoting the activities of Al Qaeda, it is necessary to analyse the nature of migration from Pakistan to the UK and the US. Muslims from Pakistan constitute the single largest Muslim migrant group from the sub-continent in both the UK and the US---followed by Indian and Bangladeshi Muslims. There are estimated to be about 700,000 Muslims of Pakistani origin in the UK. No estimate is available in respect of the US.

"The largest migrant group from Pakistan in the UK are Punjabi-speaking Muslims----from Pakistani Punjab as well as Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK). The migrants from the POK are called Mirpuris. They are not ethnic Kashmiris, but Punjabi-speaking migrants from the Pakistani Punjab, whose families had settled down in the Mirpur area of the POK for generations. They were essentially small farmers and landless labourers, who lost their livelihood as a result of the construction of the Mangla dam. They, therefore, migrated to West Europe---the largest number to the UK and a smaller number to France, Germany and the Scandinavian countries. Many of them preferred to go to the UK because it already had a large Punjabi-speaking community from Pakistani Punjab. The initial Mirpuri migrants, who hardly spoke English, felt themselves comfortable in a Punjabi-speaking environment.

" As the number of Muslims of Pakistani origin in the UK increased, mosques came up to cater to their religious needs. Till 1977, these mosques were headed by clerics from the more tolerant Barelvi Sunni sect. When Gen.Zia-ul-Haq, a devout Deobandi, captured power in Pakistan in 1977, he embarked on a policy of marginalising the influence of Barelvi clerics not only in Pakistan, but also in Europe and increasing the influence of the rabid Deobandis. He inducted Deobandis into the Education Department as Arab teachers and into the Armed Forces to cater to the religious needs of the military personnel. He encouraged and helped the Deobandis to take over the mosques in Pakistan and in the UK by replacing the Barelvis. With the induction of an increasing number of Deobandis started the process of the Arabisation/Wahabisation of the Muslims in Pakistan and of the Pakistani diaspora in the UK.

"The intelligence agencies of the US and the UK went along with Zia's policy of Arabising/Wahabising the Muslims of Pakistan because this contributed to an increase in the flow of jihadi terrorists to fight against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Till 1983, the members of the Pakistani diaspora in the UK were considered a largely law-abiding people. The first signs of the radicalisation of the diaspora appeared in 1983 when a group of jihadi terrorists kidnapped Ravi Mhatre, an Indian diplomat posted in the Indian Assistant High Commission in Birmingham, and demanded the release of Maqbool Butt, the leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), who was then awaiting execution in the Tihar jail in Delhi following his conviction on charges of murder. When the Government of India rejected their demand, the terrorists killed Mhatre and threw his dead body into one of the streets. This kidnapping and murder was allegedly orchestrated by Amanullah Khan, a Gilgiti from Pakistan. He was assisted by some Mirpuris of the Pakistani diaspora. The British were unco-operative with India in the investigation of this case and declined to hand over those involved in the kidnapping and murder to India for investigation and prosecution. By closing their eyes to the terrorist activities of the Mirpuris from their territory, they encouraged the further radicalisation of the diaspora.

" Just as the radicalisation of the Muslims of Pakistan suited the US-UK agenda in Afghanistan, the radicalisation of the diaspora in the UK, particularly the Mirpuris, suited their agenda for balkanising Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Many Pakistanis from the UK went to the training camps of the Harkat-ul-Ansar (HUA---now called the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen) and the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) in Pakistan and got themselves trained with the knowledge and complicity of the British. They then went to Bosnia and Kosovo to wage a jihad against the Serbs with arms and ammunition and explosives allegedly supplied by the Iranian intelligence with the tacit consent of the Clinton Administration and paid for by the Saudi intelligence. As the Pakistani Prime Minister between 1993 and 1996, Mrs. Benazir Bhutto had visited these jihadis from the Pakistani diaspora in the UK who were waging a jihad against the Serbs in Bosnia. After waging their jihad against the Serbs, these jihadis from the UK moved to Pakistan to join the HUA and the LET and participate in the jihad against India.

"The most notable example of the home-grown jihadis of the diaspora in the UK, who waged a jihad in Bosnia at the instance of the British and American intelligence and then turned against them, is Omar Sheikh. From Bosnia, he came to India to wage a jihad and was arrested by the Indian security forces. He was released by the then Indian Government headed by Mr. A.B.Vajpayee, in December,1999, following the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar by a group of HUM terrorists from Pakistan. After his release, he went to Pakistan and orchestrated the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl. The second notable example is Rashid Rauf, a Mirpuri, who went to Pakistan from the UK to join the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) after marrying a relative of Maulana Masood Azhar, the Amir of the JEM. He was allegedly involved in the plot detected by the London Police in August last year (2006) to blow up a number of US-bound planes. This plot was hatched by some members of the Pakistani diaspora in the UK. ( My comment: Rashid Rauf was recently killed in a US Predator (unmanned plane) strike on an Al Qaeda hide-out in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas )

"The Mirpuris in the Pakistani diaspora in the UK were in the forefront of those supporting jihadi terrorism against India in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India since 1993, when the Pakistani jihadi organisations of Afghan vintage were infiltrated into India by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). They collected and sent funds to the jihadi terrorists in India. Many of them underwent training in the camps of the LET, the HUM, the JEM and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) in Pakistan and assisted them in their jihadi operations. The British intelligence was aware of members of the Pakistani diaspora going to Pakistan for training, but closed its eyes to it since it thought that they were going to wage a jihad against the Indians in J&K.

"A careful examination of the details relating to the various jihadi terrorism-related cases in the UK would reveal that the MI 5 was intercepting the telephone conversations of these Mirpuris and other Punjabi Muslims with their friends and relatives in which they spoke of their going to Pakistan for jihadi training. It did not take any action against them because it thought that they were going to wage a jihad only against the Indians and hence did not pose a threat to the British. The MI 5 intercepted the telephone conversation of even one of the perpetrators of the London blasts of July 2005, about his going to Pakistan for jihadi training. It did not act on it thinking he intended to wage a jihad against the Indians. Only after the London blasts of July, 2005, did the MI 5 realise with a rude shock that this Mirpuri was talking not of going to India to wage a jihad against the Indians, but to London to wage a jihad against the British.

"There is a sheepish, but indirect admission of this in the statement issued by the MI 5 rebutting criticism of its perceived failure to prevent the London blasts. It says: "RUMOUR: In February 2004, the Security Service recorded Khan's (Mohammed Siddique Khan) wish to fight and him saying goodbye to his family - a clear indication that he intended a suicide mission. REALITY: The Security Service did record conversations involving an individual identified after 7 July as Khan. From the context of the recorded conversation it is probable that Khan was talking about going to fight with militia groups in the Pakistan border areas. He was not talking about acts of terrorism in the UK."

" Today, innocent British civilians are paying for the sins of commission and omission of their authorities since jihadi terrorism broke out in Indian territory in 1989. It would be very difficult for the MI 5 to have an accurate idea of the number of trained Pakistani jihadis already in their midst. Reliable Police sources in Pakistan say that there are at least about 200 trained, potential suicide bombers in the Pakistani diaspora in the UK waiting for an opportunity to strike. These trained potential suicide bombers also provide a recruitment reservoir for future operations of Al Qaeda in the US homeland.

"The position in the Pakistani diaspora in the US is somewhat different. The initial wave of migrants to the US from Pakistan consisted largely of Urdu-speaking Mohajirs from Sindh, who originally went to Pakistan from India. The influence of the more tolerant Barelvi sect on them is still very strong. The extremist Deobandi/Wahabi ideology has not yet made the same impact on them as it has on the Punjabi-speaking Pakistani diaspora in the UK. Moreover, there has hardly been any migration of the Mirpuris from the POK into the US. Most of the Kashmiri migration into the US has been of ethnic Kashmiris----either the Hindu Pandits, who were driven out of the Valley by the jihadi terrorists after 1989, or sufi Muslims from the Valley. The Muslims from the valley, who had migrated to the US from J&K, are politically active against India, but they have so far kept away from the Deobandis and Wahabis.

"Since the 1980s, there has been an increase in the migration of Punjabi-speaking Muslims from Pakistan into the US. There has been growing Deobandi/Wahabi influence on them. It is these elements that Al Qaeda has been targeting for recruitment. A saving grace is that the US intelligence has a better awareness than the British of the dangers that could arise from its population of Pakistani origin and has been keeping a tight watch on them. The British are paying a heavy price for their negligence till now."

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

January 18, 2009

AN OPEN LETTER REGARDING THE ZARINA MARRI CASE

On Sun, Jan 18, 2009 at 12:20 PM, Alia Amirali .... amiralienator @ gmail.com wrote:



AN OPEN LETTER REGARDING THE ZARINA MARRI CASE


After the horrifying story of the forced sex slavery of Zarina Marri, a young Baloch schoolteacher, at the hands of Pakistani military agencies was brought to light, many people – including members of 'civil society' and otherwise vocal defenders of human rights – have requested 'verification' of the story, which they assert needs to come from 'multiple sources' since it is a 'very serious charge' that is being leveled. (As a side, I wonder if they deem this charge 'very serious' because of the identity of the accused or because of the heinousness of the crime?) For anyone who does not know Zarina Marri's story, take a look at the documents attached to this message.

The charges being leveled in this case are indeed serious, as were the charges in the Naseerabad 'burying alive' incident, the Mukhataran Mai case, the Shazia Marri case, and scores of others. Like the other cases, in the Zarina Marri case too, the story has been broken by a witness (who is also a victim) of the crime (Mr. Munir Mengal) - which is usually the way such incidents come to light in the first place. In politically sensitive cases, especially those which involve state-perpetrated atrocities, verification is a particularly thorny matter and anyone with the slightest experience in trying to investigate such cases would know that access to information is enormously difficult. Thus, one can hardly expect the accused in this case to tolerate - let alone co-operate- with the investigations in this regard. Regarding the need for 'multiple sources' then, I certainly hope nobody is expecting the military to 'verify' this story, or expecting that the victim herself (whose whereabouts are unknown) will magically appear before them to 'verify' that she has indeed been abused. Zarina's family has apparently fled their hometown (understandably perhaps) so local human rights agencies have not been able to confirm details about the woman.

However, in this (not unusual) situation of scarce sources and incomplete information, it becomes significant that the Zarina Marri case is based not on informal 'rumour' , but rather on a report released by the AHRC (Asian Human Rights Commission) which is considered both nationally and internationally to be a credible organization. (Human Rights Commission of Pakistan is a member of AHRC as well.) Additionally, the story was reported by Reporters Sans Frontiers, and there is an ICRC (International Committee for the Red Cross) report verifying sections of Munir Mengal's testimony, which he has also given before a court in London. Anyone who wants further information about the source of these organizations' information, their verification mechanisms etc. may contact them directly.

However, what struck me upon reading various people's messages regarding the issue was not any inherent 'unreasonable-ness' in their demand for further verification. Rather, what struck me was the realization that we are partial in our choice of questioning the authenticity of certain charges. Take the 'burying alive' case, for example. Was our first response to request 'further verification' of the incident? If the story was in fact 'verified', by whose seal was it deemed authentic/true, were those sources considered trustworthy, and if so on what basis did we trust them? (To prevent my words from being misconstrued, let me make it clear that by raising these questions I am not trying to justify the act of burying women alive). A question thus arises: are we questioning the authenticity of the Zarina story because we are not convinced of the witness's or RSF's/ICRC's/AHRC's intentions? Did we wait until charges against Afia Siddiqui were proven/disproven before protesting for her rights? Examples abound. The fact is, there is no such thing as 'perfect information'. It's just about what we choose to accept, and what we choose to question.

Furthermore, it appears that we accept those charges (without asking for 'further verification') which fit with our mental image of the supposed perpetrator; we accept that which appears 'believable', and suspect that which does not corroborate with our world-view. For example, (in accordance with a certain world-view) those who are 'backward' are likely to bury their women alive or abuse them, sell them, etc. America "hates Muslims" hence Afia Siddiqui must be an innocent woman whose release we must fight for. (I am quoting examples from common perception, i'm sure some of you must hold contrary views but it is a general Pakistani middle-class mind-set I am talking about). Thus, because certain charges appears 'probable' to us, we generally don't make the same request for 'verification' in those cases, and certainly 'verification' is not our first response upon hearing of such incidents. And that's okay I suppose. We all do it, we're human, we make assumptions, we believe what we want to believe, we see what we want to see...

As far as people's image of the Pakistan military goes, I'm not sure what you all have in mind, but I've witnessed this Army shooting a man on sight for putting up a flag they don't like, I've met scores of people have been picked up and tortured by them and their intelligence agencies for no fault of theirs... Just read for yourself about what they did in Bangladesh during the 1971 war, about the 1973-77 operation in Balochistan, about Zia-ul-Haq's era ... and then perhaps the fact that they have picked up a young baloch woman and are using her as a sex-slave wont appear to you as extraordinary and your first reaction upon hearing about this case wont be one of disbelief nor will your first demand be that of 'verification'.

I firmly believe that this case needs to be highlighted, not only because it is a humanitarian issue regarding the unspeakable abuse of an individual, but because it is a case of systematic state oppression. She is not the only woman whose whereabouts are unknown and is reportedly being abused by military agencies in Balochistan. Its not ten or twenty, or even fifty or hundred we're talking about, thousands are missing in Balochistan. Its not just me saying this. Read HRCP's, HRW's, ICG's, AHRC's reports, and you'll get a sense.

In conclusion, I'd like to assure you that I am strongly in favour of 'verification' of the facts in Zarina's case – but not so that a rubber-stamp of 'authenticity' can be placed on it but so that the perpetrators of this savagery can be brought to justice. To refrain from protests on this issue- which is essentially a means of highlighting it- until 'further verification' amounts to invisibilizing it and appears to me to be an excuse for inaction. On the contrary, we should certainly organize protests on this issue and launch a sustained campaign to bring this matter into the public eye, pressure the government to take action, and demand justice for this young woman and the thousands like her.


regards,
Alia Amirali.




Dr. Alia,
Greetings,

Thank you very much for your kind mail. I deeply admire your courage to raise the voice of Zarina Marri in the federal capital. What has stunned me to the most is the double standards of the Pakistani media, civil society and the political parties demonstrated in the wake of startling disclosure by the the Asian Human Rights Commission about Ms. Zarina Marri being kept as a 'sex-slave' by the Pakistani army and subjected to rape repeatedly along with several other Baloch women in the torture cells administered by the Pakistan army.


There is no gainsaying the fact that the president of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) is the brother of the official spokesman of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). Therefore, one does not have to be a rocket scientist to understand the conspiracy being hatched by the big wigs of the Pakistani media and the army to give a cover-up to the whole matter. I tired my level best to speak to the DG ISPR and seek his version of the whole matter. He didn't pick up the phone. But I am sure he received my SMS that informed him what "allegations" had been leveled by the AHRC and Munir Mengal.
Therefore, he should have confirmed or refuted the statements. The Army has not spoken up yet. The sheep inside Pakistani media are leaving no stone unturned to avoid causing embarrassment to the army by giving a cover-up to Zarina Marri story. I am sure keeping women as sex-slaves at the military detention centers is not the sanctioned policy of the Pakistani army. This disgraceful chapter, however, needs to be exposed and the responsible military officers must be brought to justice. I recommend the impartial international human rights organizations, such as the Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Asian Human Rights Watch and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan should be mandated to independently investigate the state of affairs inside the Pakistani military torture cells.


We the people of Balochistan feel extremely betrayed today. When a journalist living several hundred kilometers away from Balochistan 'broke' a story in the media that five women had been buried alive in Balohistan, an allegation which could never be proved due to the fact that the reporter had not spent a single day in Balochistan, the private news channels in Pakistan sent their DSNGs and media teams from Islamabad to Balochistan to cover the episode live. Why are we seeing a black-out of this disgraceful episode in the media today? Why is the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) no longer interested in constituting a fact-finding team in this regard. Why are the Bolatha Pakistans utterly muzzled today? Where are the editorial writers who keep claiming that they possess the ability to shake the foundations of Pakistani society with their thoughts?


When Dr. Shazia Khalid was raped by a military officer, Captain Hamad, in Sui in December 2005, the then chief of the army and the illegal president General Pervez Musharraf publicly blocked the way of an investigation and defended the rapists by saying that the army officer was completely innocent. Does it not indicate that all the Pakistani soldiers have been recently encouraged to learn is to rape the Baloch women?


I agree with you that the disclosures of Munir Mengal could not be immune to exaggerations or personal biases due to his painful experience of being tortured for more than one long year in the custody of the Pakistani intelligence agencies. Yet, all that needs to be done is to ensure an immediate inquiry into the matter. Why is the country not coming for the rescue of a Baloch school teacher with the same enthusiasm that was seen and widely reported in the media with regards to the gang rape of Mukhtarian Mai or the handover of Dr. Afia Siddiqui. Isn't the State discriminating the Baloch?


If the Baloch do not have ample representation in the national media, human rights organizations and the top official circles, it does not mean that the right-minded people of Pakistan should also keep quite. Friends like you working in Islamabad are our hope. We need your support at this critical juncture to raise this issue until truth comes forward. Balochistan has already experienced the worst and the most unimaginable violation of human rights in the past few years. An army whose personnel shamelessly rape Baloch women in their cells can surely not be the army that you or me could be proud of.


Regards
Malik Siraj Akbar
Quetta



-----------------------------
Malik Siraj Akbar
Balochistan Bureau Chief
Daily Times/ Daily Aaj Kal
Jazz No: +92-300-9384751 Ufone:+92-334-2451985
Web: www.dailytimes.com.pk www.aajkal.com.pk
Blog: www.gmcmissing.wordpress.com

A great Sanskrit polymath

News Today , Chennai

Wednesday, 07 January, 2009 , 02:31 PM

The Birth Centenary of the most versatile, encyclopaedic Vedic and Sanskrit Scholar, Mayuram Vidya Vachaspati Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar (1903-1988) is being celebrated today (7 January 2009) at 5 pm at Kumararaja Muthiah Hall, Chettinad Vidyashram. Sri N Gopalaswami, Chief Election Commissioner will be presiding over the Centenary function. Pujyasri Dayananda Saraswathi will be delivering the ANUGRAHA BASHANAM. Hon’ble Justice Sri V Ramasubramanian will be releasing the English translation of Sri Appayya Dikshithar’s ‘ATMARPANA STUTI’ (work of English translation by Dr R Thiagarajan, Professor of Sanskrit, Presidency College, Chennai), published by Appayya Dikshitha Foundation, Chennai and Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar Trust, Chennai. The Centenary Lecture on ‘AYUR AROGYA: Wellness from Vedas’ is going to be delivered by Dr L Mahadevan. T S Raghavan, former Chairman and Managing Director of Indian Bank and S Gurumurthy, Chartered Accountant will be offering their felicitations.

Annie Besant (1847-1933) and Bhagavan Das (1869-1958) in the introduction to their famous advanced text book of Hindu Religion and Ethics titled ‘SANATANA DHARMA’ published in 1905 wrote as follows: ‘The religion based on the Vedas, the Sanatana Dharma or Vaidika Dharma, is the oldest of living religions, and stands unrivalled in the depth and splendour of its philosophy, while it yields to none in the purity of its ethical teachings and in the flexibility and varied adaptation of its rites and ceremonies. It is like a river, which has shallows that a child may play in, and depths, which the strongest diver cannot fathom. It is thus adapted to every human need, and there is nothing, which any religion can add to its rounded perfection. The more it is studied, the more does it illuminate the intellect and satisfy the heart’.




Mayuram Dharmagna Vidya Vachaspati Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar (1903-1988)
with his wife
Smt Sarasvathi Ammal




Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar belonged to that glorious tradition of Sanatana Dharma rooted in our ancient Vedic heritage. Apart from being a leading authority on Sama Veda, he was well grounded in Advaita and an exponent of the Puranas, especially of Devi Bhagavata. He belonged to the family lineage of the great Sanskrit Polymath Appayya Dikshithar (1520-1593) who is also considered as an incarnation of Bhagwan Shiva. Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar was born on 7-5-1908 in Swetharanyam, Tiruvengadu, in Tanjore District of British India. He belonged to a renowned family of Vedic Scholars. His father Sri Mahalinga Dikshithar was a great Sanskrit and Vedic Scholar. He was a Sama Vedi. Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar did his Niyama Adyayana under Sri Mahalinga Dikshithar. Later he studied upto Lakshna level and obtained proficiency in the Smartha and Srowtha prayogas of Sama Veda under Sri Ramaswamy Sastrigal of Chidambaram.



Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar was married to Smt Sarasvathi Ammal (aged nine) daughter of Sri Kunju Sastrigal of Melacauvery at the age of 17 in 1925. When his Holiness Kanchi Paramacharyal was informed about this happy marriage, his Holiness is reported to have blessed Sri Kunju Sastrigal in these words: ‘You have secured a good reward on account of Divine Grace and Benediction descending on you and your daughter’. Does it not indicate that Kanchi Paramacharyal as a Maharishi was supremely aware of the future glory and greatness of Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar, which at that time lay hidden in the womb of time?


Later Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar studied Kavvya, Nataka and Alankara Sastras under Brahmasri Mayuram Sivaramakrishna Sastrigal and Thiruvezhundur Krishna Sastrigal. He underwent intensive training in Nyaya (logic) under two of the foremost Nyaya Pandits of his time—Sri Krishnachariar and Prantiankari Subramania Sastri.


Vedanta is supposed to be the culmination of Indian thought. Vedanta is a spiritual tradition explained in the Upanishads that is concerned with the self-realisation by which one understands the ultimate nature of reality (Brahman) and teaches the believer’s goal is to transcend the limitations of self-identity and realise one’s unity with Brahman.



Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) paid this tribute to Vedanta: ‘In the whole world, there is no study so beneficial and so elevating as that of the Upanishads (Vedanta). It has been the solace of my life, it will be the solace of my death’.


Deep, earnest and intensive study of VEDANTA rooted in his own SAMA VEDA became the sole life’s mission of Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar. It is not therefore surprising that he took Vedanta as his main subject and went through a programme of rigorous training under Sastra Ratnakaram Sri Polagam Rama Sastrigal at Tiruvanaikaval. He made an in-depth study of an ancient work on Advaita philosophy called Vivarana by Prakasathman. He also mastered the two great works of Sri Appayya Dikshithar—Nyayarakshamani and Parimala.



Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar took his ‘SIROMANI’ from the University of Madras in 1941. Simultaneously he passed with great distinction several examinations of the Advaita Sabha, one of the many institutions nurtured by Sri Kanchi Paramacharyal to promote and propagate the cause of Advaita Philosophy. Taking due note of his deep and vast knowledge in the field of Dharma Sastras, Sri Kanchi Paramacharyal conferred on Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar the title of DHARMAGNA in 1944. One year later the Mysore Samasthanam honoured him with the Royal title of ‘SAMA VEDA SMARTHA SROWTHA VIDWAN’. In 1980, the government of India decorated him with CERTIFICATE OF HONOUR in Sanskrit. He was closely associated with several Universities as a Visiting Professor of Sanskrit and as a Member of the Selection Committee for the appointment of Lecturers, Readers and Professors of Sanskrit in the concerned Universities.



Like his great forebear Sri APPAYYA DIKSHITHAR, Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar was also a great polymath. Tradition has it that Sri Appayya Dikshithar authored more than 104 books. That is why he is hailed as APARA SHANKARACHRAYA. Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar authored more than 34 books. I am giving below a list of some of his most important publications:



1. Sama Veda Sarwaswam (in Tamil) Kaathiragruhya Sutram
2. Devadhadyaya Samhidopanishad Brahmana Bashyam
3. Durga Chandrakalastuthi
4. Aditya Sthothra Ratnam
5. Sama Upakarma
6. Bharatha Sthalayatra
7. Sama Sara Sarwaswam (Sanskrit)
8. Achara Murai
9. Devi Sthothra Ratna Mala
10. Sarva Prayachitta Prayogam
11. Sama Veda Purvarchika and Patha padam with Prathisakya Sangraha
12. Sama Suktha Manjari
13. Sama Veda Uttararchika and Padha Padam Rikthantra Vivaranam
14. Sama Veda Purvapara Prayogam
15. Sama Prathisakhya Sangraha
16. Ooha Rahasya Ganam





Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar’s great work in Tamil titled ‘THE SAMA VEDA SARWASWAM’ along with the Kadiragruhya Sutram was published in 1960 with the benedictions and under the sponsorship of Sri Kanchi Paramacharyal. In my view this is a great and classic work. Dr Sir C P Ramaswami Iyer wrote a brilliant foreword to this Book and paid tribute to Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar in these words: ‘All students of Vedas must be deeply indebted to Sri Dikshithar for his diligent research and erudite compilation of ‘SAMA VEDA SARWASWAM’ which is a substance of 70 great and ancient works’. The public must be indebted to Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar for a complete description of the Grahya Sutras. There is also an exposition of the Gayathri Chandas.


Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar rightly pointed out that Sama Veda has a special significance on account of the special and conspicuous mention made by Bhagwan Krishna about Sama Veda in the Bhagawat Gita wherein Bhagwan Krishna has affirmed thus: ‘AMONG THE VEDAS I AM THE EMBODIMENT OF SAMA VEDA’. According to Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar, the sole of Sama Veda is song and all other musical developments stem from Sama Veda. The fountainhead of Seven Swaras is Sama Veda and the constant preoccupation of Sage Narada was to propagate the Divine Melody of seven swaras in all his tireless travels throughout the Universe. Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar has covered himself with everlasting glory by abbreviating and compressing the substance of more than 70 ancient, rare, unobtainable and some of them being in a highly mutilated state and incorporating it in ‘THE SAMA VEDA SARWASWAM’.



Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar wrote a number of beautiful commentaries on many of the landmark books of Sri Appayya Dikshithar. I have been greatly elevated by his Tamil commentaries on Sri Appayya Dikshithar’s Adithya Sthothra Ratnam and Durga Chandra Kala Stuthi.


His book on ACHARYA MUNI published in different languages is a simple version of the rites and rituals which one has to perform in his daily life. Another great work of Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar is BHARATA STALA YATRA which gives an interesting account of the spiritual importance of various sacred places and the rites to be performed in each place, giving details of the procedure to be followed in this regard. Proficiency with Achara will not be beneficial either to oneself or to the Society. Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar was a strict follower of KARMANUSHTANA besides, himself being an authority of that vast field. Like Appayya Dikshithar, he was also a great devotee of Lord Shiva.





In order to produce an objective, balanced, and critical essay on a great Sanskrit Polymath like Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar, one must have sufficient mastery and professional knowledge of the academic field or the area of specialisation in which he distinguished himself with such unsurpassed brilliance for a life time. I am fully aware of my inadequacies, imperfections, and limitations to do even marginal justice to the everlasting glory and grandeur of Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar as a Sanskrit Scholar. My public duty as a journalist is only to make the reading public (more particularly Sama Vedis and those interested in our Vedic Heritage) aware of the authentic greatness of Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar so that they can endeavor to understand and enjoy all his great writings.



I have attempted to present my humble tribute to such a great Scholar with such sensitivity, sensibility and sincerity as I can command as a simple devotee of Sanatana Dharma. In my view, it is impossible for any biographer as a narrator to have an Olympian detachment. In human life, the objective fact is that there is no such thing as objective vision. All that I can do is to suitably re-adapt the beautiful words of the great German Poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) and to say that the whole work and life of Sri Ramanatha Dikshithar have the wholesome character of lawfulness, the lofty perfection of harmonious proportion, the great summit of Himalayan beauty, the dignity and the height of passion.


(The writer is a retired IAS officer

e-mail the writer at

vsundaram@newstodaynet.com)