August 08, 2009

Peace with India

By Ayesha Siddiqa
Friday, 07 Aug, 2009 | 01:36 AM PST

Since neighbours can't be wished away, a better future can only be constructed through cooperation and not `mutually assured destruction.' —Photo by Reuters

`But why do we have to talk to India?' was a line echoed by many on television screens in Pakistan with similar sentiments being expressed on the other side. The national security community on both sides suddenly sees no value in building peaceful relations.

Under the circumstances, it is very clear that the romantic notion of peace is now defunct. Ordinary people probably get excited when conservative rightwing leaders come on television and say that talking to the other side is of no use. The sad reality is that the days of desiring a great friendship are over.

Indeed, the post-Egypt meeting days did not bring a lot of joy to the Indian and Pakistani premiers. Both were lambasted for sacrificing vital national interests. While the Indian opposition and rightwing media criticised Dr Manmohan Singh for compromising on key principles, those in Pakistan were angry that Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani appeared to sacrifice Pakistan's key interests in Kashmir. After all, why didn't the joint statement mention the disputed territory? So, right now there is a crowd on both sides that would rather experiment with the missiles.

Historically, the governments in both countries have been belligerent towards one another. But the people wanted peace. Now, the tables have turned and while there are always those that understand the worth of peace in the neighbourhood, the rightwing national security community dominates the present discourse. Since the Kargil crisis in 1999 followed by tensions in 2002, both governments have adopted a reasonable stance in handling tensions.

We are at a stage where talking peace is becoming boring. Indians ask why peace should be discussed when Pakistan keeps shipping terrorists to their country. Why, they ask, should their great country that has prospects of becoming a regional and global power come down to the level of a small neighbour that cannot match India's capacity. Moreover, many in India believe that Pakistan will exhaust itself in this competition. For this category of Indians, Pakistan's collapse would be something to celebrate.

However, they might be disappointed to know that Pakistan is not about to collapse. It may not have the capacity to fight and faces countless challenges but the national security community can think of many ways to stay alive, at least to fight their rival.
What a sordid state of affairs. It is a fact that the days of bonhomie are over. Peace does not seem possible mainly because there are parties on both sides that benefit from conflict. The Indian prime minister was both wise and rational when he explained to his own constituents that they could not wish away Pakistan because it is a neighbour. The problem lies in thinking in terms of a best pal or worst enemy. A friend from South India labels this a Punjabi fixation. I am always tempted to remind her that South Indians too suffer from the syndrome!

Even the most intelligent Indians get angry when confronted with the question of Pakistan saying that the country is inconsequential where India is concerned. Surely, these people would react differently if they were not bothered about Pakistan.

The Pakistani government might have a myriad problems but it is being prudent in desiring good relations with its next-door neighbour and in saying that India is not a primary source of threat to the country. This certainly does not mean that we surrender our key interests. It means that we recognise that military conflict will not bring any solutions. How do we expect our neighbour to talk about concessions when we continue to allow non-state actors to use our territory to launch attacks on it?
It is also a reality that since the end of the 1990s it was twice that we came close to embarking on the path of peace. Had this venture not been upset, we could have moved to a better level of understanding. The beneficiaries of conflict ask why India should be spared when it used similar tactics against us. The defeat of 1971 is still fresh in the minds of many — especially those who derive benefit from conflict.

The much-despised Gen Pervez Musharraf, who still claims that Kargil was a brilliant idea, later understood that the only viable option was to make peace so that Pakistan could be put on the road to harnessing its human resources and concentrating on socio-economic development. This is when he began to think of and suggest `out of the box' solutions. Had it not been for the laziness and lack of imagination of India's strategic community, the problem might have been solved then.

New Delhi can always argue that quick action is not possible in the backdrop of its coalition politics and so it could not move fast on resolving minor issues like Siachen or the more doable Sir Creek border issue. The fact of the matter is that the thinking of its national security and political community is almost as myopic as that next door.

One wonders what it would take for strategists in India to realise that the troubled Pakistan has nine lives and will always be there. In fact, a weaker Pakistan will be detrimental to India's security. So, not talking is not an option that either side has. In fact, not talking is not going to solve any problem at all. It is foolhardy to imagine that there could be a way to block out the bothersome neighbour as the rich do with the poor. Or imagine that the problem will wither away on its own. It would be wise to pray for sanity to return to the strategic community on both sides. Since neighbours can't be wished away, a better future can only be constructed through cooperation and not `mutually assured destruction.'

The writer is an independent strategic and political analyst.

Are There Bright Spots Amid the Global Recession?

Nouriel Roubini, 08.06.09, 12:00 AM EDT
A snapshot of the better economies.

This week, I take a look at which countries have best weathered the global recession and credit crunch. All economies have been affected by the crisis, but a combination of policy responses and strong fundamentals has given some countries, especially some emerging market economies, a relative edge. These same strengths could lead the countries I highlight below to perform better as the global recovery begins, even if their growth rates remain well below 2003-07 trends.

What do these countries have in common? One major theme is that they tended to have lower financial vulnerabilities due to more restrictive regulation and less developed financial markets, as well as larger and stronger domestic markets that sustained domestic demand. Moreover, they had the resources to engage in countercyclical fiscal and monetary policies, actions that were not possible in past crises. In contrast, countries that borrowed heavily to finance domestic consumption in the days of easy money are now facing sharp economic contractions. Despite the relative strength of these countries, however, their ability to return to sustained growth will depend on structural reforms that support consumption.

Latin America

A couple of countries in Latin America have thus far been able to weather this crisis better than their neighbors. Brazil and Peru stand out for their relatively healthy fundamentals and financial systems. Both countries have benefited from being relatively closed economies and from having diversified export markets and products. They also took advantage of the boom years (2003-08), reducing external vulnerabilities and increasing savings (fiscal and international reserves). By the time these the crisis hit, both countries had well regulated financial systems that saved them from being contaminated by toxic assets. The fact that their domestic credit markets are at an early developmental stage, so consumption is not very dependent on credit, helped them shelter internal demand. Finally, these countries enjoyed strong policy credibility.


The Brazilian economy is definitely showing signs of resilience, given the massive adjustments among the developed economies. As early as Q1 of 2009, GDP data showed signs of resilient consumption despite the contraction in investments and the collapse of the industrial sector. Throughout the second quarter, manufacturing continued to show very weak performance vis-à-vis 2008 levels, although the sector has shown some tentative signs of improvement on a monthly basis. In the meantime, the retail sector continues slowly to adjust to a much less favorable environment than in 2008, and sales growth keeps on moderating, due to slower real income growth and a challenging credit atmosphere. Yet consumer confidence, which has now almost returned to precrisis levels, could support consumption, despite the labor market losses to come. The central bank's own assessment of the state of the economy suggests that the monetary and fiscal stimuli will remain in place to help the recovery process. The fiscal packages for infrastructure and the housing sector, as well as the tax breaks to the auto industry and capital goods sales, should in part support the labor markets and the expansion of domestic production.


Peru's economic performance has been relatively strong compared to its global and regional peers despite slowing sharply. In fact, Peru's economy continued to grow in Q1 2009, with domestic confidence holding up and real lending to the private sector keeping growth at high levels. Construction projects continued, and the currency did not experience sharp fluctuations. Although Peru's economy might contract mildly in Q2 and Q3 2009 due to tardy monetary policy actions and slow implementation of fiscal stimulus (an infrastructure development program), these programs are likely to take hold and prompt the economy to bounce back by the end of the year. A high level of international reserves also helped the central bank avoid destabilizing currency movements and properly provide liquidity to the financial system. Moreover, previous liability management operations helped Peru to reduce risks associated with maturity and currency mismatches, and to reduce external debt.

Australia narrowly escaped a technical recession by force of luck and policy. Despite a slowdown in global manufacturing activity, China and other emerging markets continued to tap Australia's abundant natural resources, boosting Australia's net exports in 2009. Meanwhile, a leap in fiscal spending and a reduction in policy interest rates prevented a sharp falloff in consumer spending and housing prices. Thanks to resilience in Australia's twin pillars of growth, exports and domestic demand, expenditure GDP growth turned positive in Q1 2009. Production and income measures of GDP nevertheless indicate Australia is effectively in recession, but the good news is that the bottoming of production around the world suggests Australia will avoid technical recession this year and that its effective recession will be brief.


China's aggressive fiscal and monetary stimulus helped reaccelerate growth in the first half of 2009 from a near stall at the end of 2008. Manufacturing is expanding, new orders are up and the property market correction has been clipped. Yet it remains uncertain whether the government's response merely bought time. China's stimulus adds its own risks, including those of asset bubbles, overcapacity and nonperforming loans. Yet there are some signs that, supported by government incentives, domestic demand has been stronger than anticipated. A sustained increase in consumption, which has lagged overall growth in recent years, would require a reallocation of funds domestically, likely through patching holes in the Chinese social safety net. The Chinese stimulus has been dominated by infrastructure projects, which could boost productive capacity but would do little about structural factors that keep national savings rates high. However, there could be space to implement some such countercyclical policies in H2 2009 and 2010. If so, the Chinese recovery could have greater legs and could provide more support to other countries. If these efforts fail or are delayed, however, Chinese and global growth could be much more sluggish.


Despite slowing from highs of 8% to 9% growth, India's economy will grow close to 6% in 2009. Amid domestic and global liquidity crunch, large domestic savings and corporate retained earnings are financing investment. Sluggish labor market and wealth effects have hit urban consumption. But low export dependence, a large consumption base and the high share of employment (two-thirds) and income (one-half) coming from rural areas has helped sustain consumption. Pre-election spending, especially in rural areas, and high government expenditure, are also pluses. Timely monetary and credit measures have played a key role in improving private demand, liquidity and short-term rates and reducing the risk of loan losses. Credit is largely channeled by domestic banks, especially state-controlled ones, which have low loan-to-deposit ratios and little exposure to toxic assets. IT exports have held up despite repercussions on jobs and consumer spending. The oil price correction cushioned India's trade deficit and large foreign exchange reserves helped the country withstand capital outflows in 2008. High returns in real estate and infrastructure and planned liberalization also helped boost capital inflows and asset markets when global risk appetite revived recently.

The Philippines

The Philippines' stalwart consumers saved the economy from the recessions that plagued its more export-dependent neighbors. Remittances proved surprisingly resilient despite the global economic slowdown as Filipino laborers, especially professional or skilled workers, continued to find strong demand overseas. This was partly due to the government's diligence in forging new hiring agreements with several countries. Unperturbed remittance growth shielded domestic demand from high unemployment rates at home, which is obscured by the country's very loose definition of employment. In the meantime, however, dependence on external demand for Filipino labor denotes a lack of progress in developing the local economy. Apart from land grabs by Persian Gulf countries, the Philippines has attracted little foreign investment of the kind needed to create jobs and lift Filipinos out of the poverty that afflicts a third of the country's 90 million people.


The global downturn and commodity correction have hit Indonesia's exports and government revenues. But a low export-to-GDP ratio and a greater reliance on domestic demand relative to its Asian peers have cushioned growth. The Chinese stimulus is, to a degree, boosting commodity exports. Fiscal stimulus and election spending, along with monetary, credit and foreign exchange measures since late 2008, have sustained private demand and financing needs, despite tight external credit. Corporations' external liabilities and banks' nonperforming loans are significantly lower compared to those of the 1997-98 crisis. External loans and attractive yields, meanwhile, are financing the fiscal deficit. A revival of risk appetite and the carry trade has buoyed capital inflows. Swap agreements with Asian central banks have cushioned exchange-rate pressures and the scarce foreign exchange reserves. Favorable election outcomes and aggressive antiextremist measures have boosted investor confidence despite some recent risks, and investors are bullish about ongoing reforms and unexploited opportunities in the resources sector.



Amid the general Eastern European malaise, Poland's economy has been a bright spot. In the first quarter, the economy posted positive real growth of 0.8% y/y, outperforming all other E.U. economies with the exception of Cyprus.

Why is Poland a standout? For starters, Poland's economy did not boom to the same extent as its regional peers in the Baltics and the Balkans, and therefore did not build up the same level of accompanying external imbalances, which helps explain its milder downturn. Second, as Eastern Europe's biggest economy, Poland has a large domestic market, making it relatively less dependent on exports to ailing Western Europe. Third, the country's flexible exchange rate and record-low interest rate have helped cushion the slowdown. Finally, Poland proactively distinguished itself from others in the region and boosted investor confidence in May by securing a $20.5 billion flexible credit line from the IMF, a special facility reserved for emerging markets with strong fundamentals. While Poland's economy has weathered the global turmoil better than its regional peers, a rapid recovery is unlikely and the outlook is not without risks. In particular, Poland's fiscal situation is deteriorating, which will likely push back the country's planned euro adoption in 2012.


Although Norway's economy slipped into negative growth in the fourth quarter, its downturn will be among the mildest of advanced economies, with analysts expecting a contraction in the range of 1.0 to 2.0% in 2009 and a return to growth in 2010. What set Norway apart are years of current account and budget surpluses (both in the double digits as a percentage of GDP), a sizable public sector and a hefty war chest of oil revenues amassed in the Government Pension Fund. Consequently, Norwegian policymakers have had ample room to use fiscal and monetary policy to soften the downturn.

Statistics Norway estimates the impetus from fiscal policy in 2009 to be 3% of mainland GDP--the strongest stimulus since the 1970s. Meanwhile, the benchmark interest rate is at an all-time low of 1.25%, down from 5.75% in October 2008. Also helping to alleviate the pain of contraction is the fact that Norway's economy is well equipped with automatic stabilizers. Given Norway's comparatively bright outlook, there is talk that the country will be the first among advanced economies to hike rates. The central bank sees the first hike coming in Q2 2010, though some analysts think it may come earlier.


The French economy managed to avoid a recession in 2008 and is expected fare best among the big four euro zone member countries in 2009. France's more balanced domestic demand-led growth model has served it relatively better during a synchronized global downturn. The large social safety net fully served its automatic-stabilizer purpose in a countercyclical manner. Fiscal measures were targeted to the short term and included mostly nonrecurring spending. France's relatively healthy banking sector received targeted support and is in a position to fully sustain the recovery in the euro zone.

North America


Despite relatively sound finances that helped it outperform the rest of the G7 in 2008 and early 2009, Canada's exposure to the U.S. for trade and investment suggests its recovery may lag that of the U.S. (a trend that Q2 2009 data seems to support). However, a more consolidated financial sector with lower leverage, lower default rates and a revival of domestic demand should support recovery in 2010, albeit one characterized by below-potential growth. Canadian households and corporations still have more access to credit than their U.S. counterparts, a factor that helped buffer Canada from a more severe property market correction. Yet the nascent revival in consumption may be weaker than the Bank of Canada expects. The rebound in commodity prices is mixed news. Higher commodity prices and greater demand for metals, if not yet for oil and cheap natural gas, should contribute to an expansion of mining and energy output--but too strong a surge could boost the Canadian dollar, exacerbating Canada's manufacturing weakness as it boosts labor costs.

Middle East and North Africa

Overall, countries in the region were relatively sheltered from the financial spillovers, but suffered from reduced demand. Expansionary fiscal policies throughout the region and effective--if in some cases belated--financial-sector support offset the export and investment weakness. The GCC countries most reliant on foreign financing to fund credit expansion, such as the UAE, are suffering the sharpest effects. However, past savings provide a cushion. In the long-term the region's growth outlook depends on the price and effective deployment of its hydrocarbon endowments.


Despite Egypt's GDP growth slowdown to well below recent trends in 2009 (about 3.8% instead of the 7% in 2007 and 2008), the country has been able to weather the financial crisis better than its peers. The narrow exposure of Egypt's financial sector to foreign structured finance, coupled with a low reliance on foreign bank loans, sheltered the country. Egypt's countercyclical monetary and especially fiscal policies also shielded the economy somewhat, and previous reforms reduced financial vulnerabilities. Doubling the country's stimulus package took the budget deficit to 6.9% of GDP for the last fiscal year (similar to the previous one). Should the FDI slowdown persist, financing this deficit will be more costly, however, and political issues surrounding the succession of Egypt's president could potentially hamper reforms.


Driven by an increase in liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports and government investment, Qatar is expected to be one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, with real GDP growth verging on the double digits in 2009. Government support allowed Qatar's financial sector to more easily weather the turmoil than some of their Emirati or Kuwaiti counterparts. Noticeably slower growth in the economy's nonhydrocarbon sectors, combined with lower loan growth, contributed to lower profitability and the weakening of balance sheets, prompting the government to buy stakes in local banks, as well as property and equity holdings on the balance sheets of local banks. Qatar's relative strength contributes to the fact that Qatar's sovereign wealth fund was among the first to return to significant foreign investment.


Lebanon appears to be withstanding the crisis remarkably well. The Lebanese banking sector was protected by regulations that restricted investment in subprime assets and in general kept Lebanese banks isolated from foreign credit. Domestic political uncertainty also added to the isolation. Unlike most emerging and frontier markets--but like Morocco and Tunisia--Lebanon continued to attract an impressive inflow of funds in 2008, although at a slower pace, meaning its asset markets outperformed. The recent political stability has given a boost to the tourism and real estate sectors. Stronger performance, however, would require Lebanon to more aggressively reduce its extensive debt burden, something which may not happen until 2011.

Nouriel Roubini, a professor at the Stern Business School at New York University and chairman of Roubini Global Economics, is a weekly columnist for Forbes.

(Analysts at RGE Monitor assisted in the research and writing of this piece.)

Commentary : See how far you can go today

Commentary by Tech Sgt. Shontel Moulton
386th Expeditionary Communications Squadron

8/7/2009 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a runner. I've been running for 10 years and have done everything from a 5K to a marathon.

During my thousands of miles, I've had a few epiphanies; moments in time when things seem clear. I've realized that marathon training and a successful Air Force career have a lot in common. They take hard work, dedication and patience.

Here's what running has taught me about life, in and out of the Air Force:

--Achieving goals is hard, and sometimes painful. Runners have horror stories about blisters, ripped off toenails and, although they may not mention it, serious chafing. But when the race is over and the wounds have healed, you're left with a feeling of accomplishment that nothing can match. So whether you're aiming for the finish line or that next promotion, grit through the pain and keep moving.
--Your brain can be your biggest ally or your biggest enemy. You can talk yourself into or out of anything. If you tell yourself you can do it, you've overcome one of the greatest obstacles there is; your own self-doubt. Stretch your comfort zone; you'll amaze yourself.
--You never know how far you can go until you try. When I decided to do a half marathon, I had never run more than five miles at a time, ever. The day I did seven miles, I thought I was the world's greatest athlete, and the day that I did 10; I was invincible. Don't ever settle for far enough or good enough. --There is always someone, somewhere, who will be better than you at something. Make peace with that. Simply strive to do your best. Run as fast as you can, as far as you can. Give all that you have and be the best you can be.
--The unexpected happens, roll with it. Nothing is ever going to go as planned. You can choose to sit on the sidelines and feel sorry for yourself, or get in there and give it all you've got. In the end, what matters is that you tried.
--You are not alone. I didn't make it to the finish line of my marathon all on my own. My husband got up at 4 a.m. on Sundays and rode his bike alongside while I plodded along for 20 miles. None of us is in this alone. We have our friends, our families back home, our chain of command and each other. Don't be afraid to ask when you need a little encouragement, and don't be afraid to give it either.

I think that the most important thing that running has taught me is to wake up every morning and ask myself "How far can I go today?" I hope I never have an answer.

Air Force culture of responsibility

Commentary by Gen. Roger A. Brady
U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander

8/4/2009 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) -- As Airmen, we have taken a solemn vow to serve and protect our nation, and I commend you for your service. With that service; however, comes great responsibility and the necessity to make proper choices.

We are confronted every day with choices, both on and off duty, that can and do impact both the mission and perception by others of our Air Force and Americans in Europe. With that in mind, individuals at every level must relentlessly strive to develop and maintain an environment defined by integrity and accountability, or in other words a "culture of responsibility."

My role as U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander allows me the privilege of witnessing firsthand the amazing accomplishments of our team members throughout our area of responsibility, both military and civilian. I am constantly humbled and inspired by the great things we are accomplishing, including providing forces for global operations, assuring allies and deterring aggression, ensuring strategic access, and building partnerships throughout the region. The recent rescue by USAFE Airmen of a ship crewmember off the Irish coast is a prime example of the fine work we do on a daily basis. This complex operation required three airframes, strict discipline and an amazing level of teamwork. Of course, this is just one example of the countless contributions we make in the support of our nation's defense.

We are performing a serious business in very challenging times. Budget cuts, high ops tempo and deployments all serve to make our task that much more difficult. Clearly, there is little room for error in the performance of our mission. Poor choices in our personal and professional lives negatively impact that mission and divert the precious little resources we do have away from where they are needed most.

The actions of a few can also serve to tarnish the otherwise outstanding record of excellence for which USAFE is known. Without fail, the stories we read about Airmen in trouble are entirely preventable and the direct result of a poor decision. Alcohol abuse and illicit drug use, fitness deficiencies and failure to follow safety and security guidelines are all examples of behavior that serve to take people off the line and out of the fight.

Simple, everyday choices may seem insignificant at the time but often have significant impact to the mission. There have already been 20 mishaps in the command only six weeks into the "Critical Days of Summer." All of these caused lost duty time, directly impacted our ability to accomplish the mission, and three of our Airmen also lost their lives. The impact of these tragic fatalities on families and unit members is enormous. Aside from the harm done by tragic accidents; however, we have also caused ourselves unnecessary burden through isolated incidents where individuals simply fail to do the right thing. As an example, Airmen in USAFE recently used a thumb drive on an Air Force computer -- a deliberate, expedient choice in violation of a strict Department of Defense policy that has been emphasized and in place for months. By disregarding this known directive, the individuals re-infected our computer systems with a previously eliminated threat and wasted valuable time and resources.

I hold your leaders, at every level, accountable for their actions and those of their subordinates. But the real answer is individual responsibility, to the mission, our families and fellow Airmen. I couldn't be prouder of our USAFE Airmen and the fine work we are doing in ensuring freedom's future. However, we need to continually strive to make responsible choices. A philosopher has said, "We are what we habitually do." Let's focus on doing the right things. Whether it is being a good wingman, adhering to standards, or just doing what is appropriate when no one is looking, we must do the right thing. That will ensure a culture of responsibility.

US Air Force Global Strike Command activated

by Tech. Sgt. Amaani Lyle
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

8/7/2009 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Air Force officials stood up a new major command to oversee all of its nuclear forces in an activation ceremony Aug. 7 at Barksdale Air Force Base, La.

Air Force Global Strike Command will provide combat ready forces to conduct strategic nuclear deterrence and global strike operations in support of combatant commanders.

"This week we achieved a major milestone in the activation of Air Force Global Strike Command," said Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley. "The command will bring together our strategic nuclear forces under a single commander, and will provide combatant commanders with the forces to conduct strategic nuclear deterrence and global strike operations through intercontinental ballistic missiles, B-2 (Spirit) and B-52 (Stratofortress) operations."

The creation of Air Force Global Strike Command began last fall with the approval of a nuclear roadmap developed by Secretary Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz. Air Force officials took a critical look at its nuclear mission after discovering shortcomings in its procedures.

"Our expectation for the command is high, as it focuses on precision, reliability, and compliance on all nuclear matters," General Schwartz said. "Lieutenant General Frank (G.) Klotz will lead the new command fulfilling his role as the steward of the Air Force's contribution to America's deterrent posture and, more importantly, lead the Airmen who are the core of the Air Force's nuclear enterprise."

Nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate as the AFGSC commander, General Klotz previously served as assistant vice chief of staff and director of Air Force staff. In those positions he's had a close view of the Air Force efforts to reinvigorate the Air Force's nuclear enterprise.

"The activation of Global Strike Command is part of a broader, comprehensive strategy the Air Force is undertaking to ensure we have the proper focus on our critical missions that provide nuclear deterrence and global strike forces for the combatant commander, the joint team and our allies," General Klotz said.

The new major command is the latest -- and largest -- reorganization in the Air Force's ongoing effort to reinvigorate the Air Force nuclear enterprise. Late last year the Air Force established a directorate at Headquarters Air Staff (A10) focused solely on the nuclear mission. The service also increased the size and scope of operations at the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center to consolidate all nuclear sustainment efforts.

The activation of Air Force Global Strike Command is the "next and very important step," said General Klotz, noting that there are still more milestones ahead.

In December, command officials assume responsibility of 20th Air Force at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., and the ICBM force. In February 2010, the command staff gains 8th Air Force at Barksdale AFB and the nuclear-capable bomber force. The 576th Flight Test Squadron at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., as well as the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron at Offutt AFB, Neb., will also fall under the new command. Like other Air Force major commands, Air Force Global Strike Command will be a total force team with the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units performing critical roles and responsibilities. Ultimately, the command will consist of 23,000 people.

The stand-up of a single command focused on nuclear operations has led many to draw parallels to Strategic Air Command, which led the Air Force's nuclear operations until 1992. When asked about the comparison to SAC, General Klotz said AFGSC represents an important part of the service's evolution from its original nuclear deterrent force.

"Strategic Air Command was a magnificent organization with a legacy of pride, discipline, of attention to detail. It kept the peace. It helped win the Cold War," he said. "But times have changed."

The general asserted that although the Cold War is over, "we continue to need nuclear forces to provide a deterrent to attack against the U.S. as well as to assure our allies of our commitment to their security."

He stressed it will be the people of Air Force Global Strike Command who ultimately maintain the credibility and viability of this important mission.

Putin, Erdogan to decide on project of first Turkish NPP building

06.08.2009, 08.06

MOSCOW, August 6 (Itar-Tass) - The fate of one of the largest joint projects of Russia and Turkey in the energy sphere will be decided on Thursday within the framework of a working visit of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to Turkey. On the results of the intergovernmental talks the sides will sign a protocol on cooperation in the atomic sphere that has direct relation to this project.

Deputy chief of staff of the RF government staff Yuri Ushakov told journalists that “Turkey is ready to provide to Russia a tied easy-term loan under construction of a nuclear power plant in Turkey.” Besides, during the talks the two prime ministers are also expected “to discuss the volume of works for each side and the cost of one kilowatt of power that will be generated at the plant.” Ushakov explained that “Russia has offered Turkey a new, lower compromise price that is currently being considered by our partners.” During the talks the sides are expected to finally make public the Turkish government’s decision on the conclusion of a contract with companies that will take part in the implementation of this project.

This spring, a consortium of the Russian companies Atomstroiexport, Inter RAO UES and Turkish firm Park Technic was the only participant in a tender for the construction of the NPP. It is planned that the plant may be put into operation in 2012. The project envisages the creation of a total of 4 power units in the Mediterranean city of Mersin with the capacity of 1200 megawatts each. According to Rosatom head Sergei Kiriyenko, the NPP project is estimated at some 18 billion US dollars.

The problem of determining the price of one kilowatt of electric power, as sources from both countries said earlier, was the main one during the project’s preparation. According to the Turkish side, the consortium earlier offered 21 US cents per kilowatt, but later this figure was reduced to 15 cents. However, this price also is grossly overestimated

Nord Stream: Not Just a Pipeline

An Analysis of the Political Debates in the Baltic Sea Region Regarding the Planned Gas Pipeline from Russia to Germany

This report is an analysis of the planned gas pipeline from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea known as Nord Stream. The author examines the divergent attitudes and debates that have surged in the region regarding Nord Stream, with the aim to provide plausible explanations as to why the interpretations of the project have been so different in the various states.

2008 Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI)
Download: English (PDF · 89 pages · 3.0 MB)
Author: Bendik Solum Whist
ISBN/EAN: 978-82-7613-547-3
Series: FNI Reports
Publisher: Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI), Lysaker, Norway

F-22: Ruptured Raptor

7 Aug 2009

The US defense secretary’s decision to end F-22 funding signals a shift from a Cold War fighting mentality to one that is tailored to present-day combat and countering asymmetric threats, writes Andrew Rhys Thompson for ISN Security Watch.
By Andrew Rhys Thompson for ISN Security Watch

In early April US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates presented his plans to end funding for the F-22 program and to curtail production of the stealth fighter at 187 units. Gates told the assembled media in a Pentagon briefing of the decision: "For me, it was not a close call. … The military advice that I got was that there is no military requirement for numbers of F-22s beyond the 187." Despite this, the announcement immediately caused an uproar on Capitol Hill as members of Congress whose home states are directly tied into the production of the F-22 predictably scrambled to find ways to ignore the directive and continue funding of the costly jets.

In mid June, the House Armed Services Committee inserted $368.8 million into the fiscal year 2011 defense budget as a down payment for 12 additional F-22s. This was followed by the Senate Armed Services Committee adding $1.75 billion to the fiscal year 2010 defense budget for 7 new F-22s, under the initiative of Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia).

These congressional maneuvers however did not go down well with the current administration, and in July US President Barack Obama reiterated an outright threat to veto any global defense budget that would still include funding for more F-22s. This compelling veto threat by the president as well as intense behind the scenes lobbying by the White House ultimately helped bring most members of Congress back in line. In his efforts to scuttle all F-22 funding beyond 187 units, Obama was closely supported by Carl Levin (D-Michigan), as the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and even by John McCain (R-Arizona), who proved to live up to his maverick reputation. On 21 July the Senate complied with the president’s pressure and voted to strip all F-22 funding from the proposed defense budget. The House of Representatives followed suit a few days later and on 30 July also agreed to abide by the cap of 187 jets.

While the congressional confrontation with the White House over the stealth fighter did constitute a bit more than just a storm in a water bottle, it can be seen entirely within the context of old-school, pork barrel politics. Not so much the unparalleled, 5th generation fighter qualities of the F-22 were on the mind of most senators and representatives, but simply the economic impact and the numerous jobs the program represented to their home state constituencies.

Despite this, Lockheed Martin, the primary contractor for the F-22, refrained from aggressive lobbying to keep the program alive, as the Pentagon had already outlined to the company that the conclusion of the F-22 program would be compensated with a greater emphasis on and additional orders for the more versatile and less expensive F-35. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the home base of Lockheed Martin, Gates was even publicly applauded in newspaper editorials for his fiscal frugality and wise budget management in shifting resources away from the Cold War-inspired F-22.

A paper Raptor

Although the F-22 Raptor is the most advanced aircraft in the arsenal of the United States Air Force (USAF) and a technological marvel that has no equal rival world-wide, it is also built on a 1980s blueprint and as such has little practical value for the post-Cold War conflicts and asymmetric threats that the US has increasingly been confronted with. The first-strike, air superiority and stealth features of the F-22 were designed to achieve a decisive tactical advantage over a sophisticated enemy in a conventional conflict. Yet with no more Soviet MiGs to potentially dogfight, the F-22 has flown zero combat missions since entering service in 2005. The aircraft has not been used in either Iraq or Afghanistan, as it is not designed to fly low and slow for ground attack purposes.

On top of that, the aircraft, and especially its delicate radar absorbing metallic skin have proven to be extraordinarily high-maintenance. Reports have suggested that for every hour of flight, the F-22 requires about 34 hours of ground maintenance. This in turn has lead to the cost of one hour of operation soaring to roughly $44,000. All these aspects have undoubtedly contributed to the F-22 being a powerfully prestigious yet also somewhat futile flagship.

As of May 2009, 141 units have been built and production of the remaining 46 units to reach the final total of 187 will keep the assembly lines running until 2011. In any other country, the sheer quantity of 187 examples of only one aircraft type would be considered an amazingly high number and it is more than many NATO members have outright in their combined inventories of both fixed-wing airplanes and helicopters, yet for many US politicians the final figure of 187 F-22s seems small compared to the 648 jets that were originally envisioned in 1992.

To date the F-22 program has cost the United States about $65 billion, with the research, development and testing component coming in around $28 billion. Correspondingly astronomical has been the Raptor’s unit price tag, at about $351 million per fighter.

Man vs machine

While some members of Congress have suggested that some of these high investments should be buffered by offering scaled-down versions of the F-22 for sale to interested foreign buyers and overseas allies, US federal law prohibits any exports of the Raptor, as too much of the associated technology is still considered classified and simply too sensitive for sharing. Even though Australia, Japan and Israel have all expressed a direct interest in acquiring F-22s, any such process would require Congress to lift the export restrictions, which seems unlikely at this time. Instead, these countries are likely to take delivery of the less expensive and more multi-operational F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The F-22 is likely to serve the US Air Force well into the 2030s and could eventually and potentially be succeeded by a 6th generation air superiority fighter that will already be unmanned. As Travis Sharp, a military policy analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington, DC told ISN Security Watch: “Some people refer to the F-35 as the last manned fighter the United States will ever build.

“The development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has given the Air Force a new range of options, but I wonder about the cultural shift that will be required for the Air Force to transition to an increasingly automated force structure. The white-scarf fighter jock ethos is alive and well within the USAF, and I don’t think it will disappear simply because UAVs are popular at the moment.

Andrew Rhys Thompson is a correspondent for ISN Security Watch.



( To be read in continuation of my article of June 26,2009, titled "Co-Ordinated Hunt For Baitullah Mehsud" at . Article annexed for easy reference)

The co-ordinated hunt for Baitullah Mehsud, the Amir of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), undertaken by the intelligence agencies of Pakistan and the US scored a major success early on the morning of August 5,2009, when an unmanned US aircraft (Drone), acting on intelligence furnished by a source of the Pakistani intelligence from South Waziristan fired two missiles on the house of
the father of the second wife of Baitullah , Malik Ikramuddin, in the Zangarha area, 15km to the north-east of Ladha in South Waziristan. Eight persons were killed. Seven of them have been identified by local sources as the second wife of Baitullah and six of his bodyguards. The identity of the eighth person has not yet been established, but it is widely believed that the eighth person killed was Baitullah whose body was blown to pieces by a missile. The confirmation of his death, if true, will ultimately come from the TTP after it has chosen his successor. The TTP, in keeping with its tradition, will not deny his death, if true.

2. Even before this remarkable human intelligence-driven operation, there were indicators that the TTP was facing difficulty in maintaining its high level of activity. One could see a decline in its spectacular and successful strikes not only in the non-tribal, but also in the tribal areas. The Drone strikes----28 of them already so far this year as against 34 last year --- have made it increasingly difficult for the senior leaders of the TTP to move around and guide their men. The increased number of Drone strikes invariably targeted correctly the hide-outs of the TTP though till August 5 they did not succeed in killing any senior leader of importance.

3. The accurate strikes coming one after the other on the hide-outs of the TTP---even if they did not kill any important leader--- created suspicions among the leaders that their organisation had been penetrated by either the US or the Pakistani intelligence and they started having fears of a mole in their midst. This created a certain demoralisation. Their new focus was more on identifying the mole and saving themselves than on launching new operations.

4. The death of Baitullah is unlikely to lead to a disintegration of the activities of the TTP, but it could change the focus of its attacks. None of those tipped to be in the race to succeed him ---Hakimullah Mehsud, Maulana Azmatullah and Wali-ur-Rehman----nurses such a strong antipathy to the Pakistan Army, its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and its commando force called the Special Services Group (SSG) for their raid into the Lal Masjid of Islamabad in July 2007 as Baitullah did. One may see a decline in the suicide attacks on the Army, the ISI and the SSG, but the TTP will continue to attack logistic supplies to the NATO forces in Afghanistan and help the Afghan Taliban in other ways.

5. Before the attack of August 5, there was speculation that the Pakistan Army was in touch with Baitullah's father-in-law in order to explore the possibility of another cease-fire. It is not clear whether the father-in-law's reported contacts with the Army had played a role in facilitating the attack. (7-8-2009)

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


Co-Ordinated Hunt For Baitullah Mehsud - International Terrorism Monitor--Paper No. 537
by B. Raman

According to well-informed Pakistani police sources,the US and Pakistani Armed Forces, intelligence agencies and special forces have launched a co-ordinated hunt for Baitullah Mehsud, the Amir of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), in South Waziristan in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). It is a co-ordinated and not a joint operation. In a co-ordinated operation the two collaborators operate independently of each other and not jointly together under a common command and control, but keep each other informed in advance of their operational plans to avoid attacking each other by mistake instead of their common target.

2. The operations undertaken by the Pakistan Army in the Swat Valley of the Malakand Division in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) since April have started coming in for some criticism because while the Pakistan Army has claimed to have killed over 1500 foot soldiers of the Pakistani Taliban hardly any important leader has been killed or captured. To avoid such criticism, the focus of the operations in South Waziristan would be on killing Baitullah Mehsud and Qari Hussain Mehsud, one of his lieutenants, who reportedly trains suicide terrorists, and not on re-establishing immediate territorial control over the Mehsud areas of South Waziristan. While re-establishing territorial control will be the ultimate objective, eliminating Baitullah and Hussain would be the immediate objective. The calculation is that if they are eliminated, the TTP could disintegrate.

3. The initial emphasis would be more on the use of air power than ground forces. While the Pakistanis would use their F-16 aircraft and helicopter gunships, the US would continue to use its unmanned Drones with their missiles. The initial emphasis on the use of air power by Pakistan also takes into account the difficulties that it might face in diverting adequate forces to South Waziristan till the operations in the Swat Valley are over. The internally displaced persons from the Swat Valley, who are presently living in camps in the NWFP, are anxious to go back to their villages in Swat. Making arrangements for their return and for maintaining control over the re-captured areas of the Swat would keep a large number of Pakistani troops tied up in the Swat Valley. Thus, the ability of the Pakistani Army to deploy adequate troops for any ground operations in South Waziristan would be limited. Keeping all these factors in view, the initial focus will be on a co-ordinated hunt for Baitullah and Hussain from the air.

4. A well-planned, intelligence-driven and smartly-executed double strike by US Drones in South Waziristan on June 23, 2009, had targeted Baitullah and Hussain, but it failed to achieve its objective for want of luck despite the operations being executed with precision. The double attack was carried out at a village called Lattaka in the Shabikhel area of South Waziristan, where one of the buildings periodically used by Baitullah is reported to be located. In the first strike directed at the building, Khwaz Ali, a close associate of Baitullah, and five other unidentified persons were killed. The second strike was directed some hours later at the village graveyard where about a hundred people had gathered for the burial of Khwaz Ali. About 80 of the mourners, including some children, are believed to have been killed. Initial reports that Qari Hussain Mehsud of the Pakistani Taliban and Maulvi Sangeen Zadran, a close associate of Serjuddin Haqqani of the Afghan Taliban, were among the mourners killed have not been corroborated. There have been conflicting reports about Baitullah. Some reports say he was among the mourners, but had left the graveyard before the Drone attack. Others deny that he was among the mourners. The fact that there has been no public demonstration in the area indicates that the majority of those killed must have been members of the Taliban and not innocent local villagers as subsequently alleged by Taliban elements.

5. The US has carried out 24 Drone strikes in Pakistani territory so far this year as against 36 during the whole of 2008. The Obama Administration is not relenting in its policy of using the Drones whenever warranted by specific intelligence without worrying about proforma protests from the Pakistani authorities and leaders or about warnings by some US analysts that increasing civilian casualties due to the Drone attacks could drive more tribals into the arms of the Taliban. The stepped-up Drone strikes, which were initially justified as necessary to disrupt the presence and activities of Al Qaeda remnants in Pakistani territory, are now sought to be used to indirectly help the Pakistan Army in its operations against the Pakistani Taliban.

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

China's wild west

With July's violence in Urumqi following last year's riots in Tibet, is China under threat in its frontier provinces? Xinjiang's minorities, the Muslim Uyghurs in particular, face discrimination. Though their dislocation is more social and cultural than religious, without real autonomy Islamic fundamentalism is set to grow
by Martine Bulard

My journey to China's westernmost province began this May in the backroom of an ordinary brasserie in one of Paris's eastern suburbs. The Uyghur man I had come to see was accompanied by a plainclothes policeman, but even so, his hands trembled and there was a look of fear in his eyes: had I really come to interview him or was I in the pay of the Chinese political police? He was a member of the dissident World Uyghur Congress (1) and had just been granted political asylum in France. His was a run-of-the-mill story: he had protested about an injustice at his workplace in Xinjiang, which led to him being arrested and imprisoned. After that he had fled. That was all he would say. His fear of being tracked to a Paris suburb may seem excessive but it's indicative of the moral and physical pressure facing the Uyghurs, China's Turkic-speaking Muslims.

A few days later, I arrived in Urumqi, the capital of the vast Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China, which is nearly 4,000km from Beijing. There were no immediate signs of tension, even in the city's Uyghur district. Here, members of the region's Muslim minorities – Uzbeks, Kazakhs and Kirghiz – coexist with Han Chinese, who are the largest group in the city (though not throughout the Xinjiang region) as they are in China as a whole. Some Han families have lived here for several generations.
Hidden differences

The district's small mosque was open to visitors. In noisy, narrow streets lined with stalls near the recently spruced-up bazaar, traders were selling a bizarre mix of goods: combs and hair dyes, herbal remedies, phone cards etc. Skewers of chicken and mutton with noodles were also on offer. Unlike the Han Chinese, the Uyghurs don't eat pork, but that's the least of the differences separating these two peoples.

Between 5 and 8 July, there was an unprecedented outbreak of violence in this and neighbouring districts of Urumqi, in particular outside the University of Xinjiang. For several hours on the 5th, Uyghur demonstrators armed with clubs, knives and other makeshift weapons set fire to buses, taxis and police vehicles. They looted shops and beat and lynched Han Chinese. The next day, the Han hit back, attacking and killing Uyghurs. By the end of July, the official statistics registered 194 dead and 1,684 wounded, but the figures are not broken down by ethnic group.

Even if no one could have predicted interethnic violence on this scale two months earlier, there had already been signs of a build-up of anger in a humiliated and often harassed community. Even making appointments with Uyghurs, whether they were political activists or not, turned out to be far from straightforward. I had to make repeated phone calls, and conversations begun in public places would be concluded in streets where no one was watching. Sometimes I even had to introduce my interviewee to the Han party secretary in order to show that everything was above board. Anyone who receives a foreigner may immediately be suspected of "nationalist activities", an accusation second only to terrorism in its gravity, which can lead to loss of your job, demotion or even arrest and imprisonment.

According to Abderrahman (2), an Uyghur civil engineer, "suspicion and repression are the rule for Uyghurs, but the Han Chinese have also got cause for concern if they're suspected of involvement in politics". I had met him in one of the best Uyghur restaurants in Urumqi, patronised by Han Chinese, Muslim families (that included both veiled women and girls in jeans and make-up) and foreign tourists. Abderrahman runs a small business with five staff from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. He's not naturally fearful but when he discusses the discrimination his community suffers, he lowers his voice. And when we talk about what is taught in schools, he writes on his hand: "It's brain-washing."

Surveillance is widespread, particularly around mosques. In Kashgar (Kashi to give it its official name) in the south of the region, Friday prayers can draw as many as 20,000 people. The whole event takes place under the watchful eye of plainclothes police. Here, the appointing of imams needs official approval from the authorities and their sermons are carefully controlled: the Xinjiang government's official website, which publishes a History of Islam in China, explains that the (carefully chosen) religious authorities and the Communist Party of China (CPC) leadership have produced a four-volume set of sermons, time-limited to 20-30 minutes, from which the busy imam can choose.

It wasn't always like this. Religious freedom was written into the Chinese constitution in 1954. Until the mid-1960s, Muslims could practise their faith with little impediment. Ahmed, who's a guide in Kashgar, remembers women of his grandmother's generation wearing the veil when he was a boy. But during the dark years of the cultural revolution and its aftermath, mosques were shut down or destroyed. Even within the home expressions of religious feeling were out of the question. The repression came to an end with Deng Xiaoping's move towards economic liberalisation in 1978 and the principle of religious freedom was put back into the constitution in 1982.
`What are you waiting for?'

By the end of the cultural revolution, only 392 useable places of worship remained in Kashgar district, one of the region's most important religious centres. By the end of 1981, their number had risen to 4,700, and in 1995 it stood at 9,600. According to Rémi Castets, a French specialist on Uyghur movements, by the turn of the millennium Xinjiang had 24,000 mosques, two-thirds of the total in China. Koranic schools were opened, Muslim scholarly works were being revived and private printing presses set up. Religion was developing in tandem with a revival of Uyghur culture and sense of identity.

But things started to go wrong in the early 1990s. On one hand, Islam became politicised: there was an increase in the number of meshreps (a sort of local religious committee which sometimes engaged in protest) and organisations such as the East Turkestan independence movement, which is suspected of al-Qaida links, were set up. And at the same time, the new-found independence of the former Soviet republics of central Asia just across the border raised hopes of independence for the Uyghurs, which had previously been ignored. There was even talk of "Uyghurstan", uniting the Uyghur communities on both sides of the Chinese border.

Saniya, who teaches ancient literature in Urumqi, still remembers a family reunion in 1992 when her mother's sister, who had fled to Uzbekistan during the cultural revolution, returned home. "Then it was our turn to go to Tashkent. It was a shock. We noticed that the Uzbeks had a better life than us and they'd preserved their traditions better than we had. But at the same time there was no heavy religious element." From that time on, she continued, "the question of independence became very important. There's no cultural, religious or linguistic barrier between Xinjiang and Uzbekistan. People in Tashkent often asked us what we were waiting for. `We did it,' they'd say, `so why don't you?' Uyghur pride was at stake. It was a bit like a challenge."

Such feelings probably contributed to the birth of Uyghur movements with links to Pakistan and Turkey, some of which had separatist ambitions. Even if they didn't have a major impact on the population at large, there were demonstrations and other incidents throughout the 1990s. Beijing reacted in three ways. It used diplomacy to combat the "three forces" (extremism, separatism and terrorism) by cutting all links between the Uyghur activists and their neighbours (the central Asian republics and Pakistan) and, especially through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (see Beijing shanghais the central Asian republics). It also engaged in development and modernisation, using public finances and the military-run Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) – better known as bingtuans or "military brigades" – and by attracting Han Chinese to the region. And finally it resorted to close surveillance and repression.

"Central government's aim is not to attack Islam per se," says Castets. "What it wants to do above all is prevent Islam giving legitimacy to expressions of separatist or anti-government feeling. The CPC has as its model the example of the Hui." China has managed to pacify its relations with the Hui, the country's biggest Muslim community (10 million people) (3). The government is hoping to achieve a similar result with the Uyghurs.

Castets estimates government investment in Xinjiang since 2000 at 870bn yuan ($127bn). Economic dynamism is apparent everywhere: the region's rich reserves of coal, oil and gas are being exploited and new sources of energy developed (on the Urumqi-Turfan motorway there's a special viewing point where you can photograph the wind turbines (4) which disappear into the distance). Giant new towns such as Korla are being built, with its numerous open-air shopping centres and oil company headquarters. Airports and motorways are under construction. Building sites have sprung up everywhere, including in Kashgar's old Uyghur quarter, which is well on the way to being destroyed.
State within a state

Xinjiang's economy is based on raw materials, agriculture and, to a lesser extent, tourism, and a good half of the engines of economic growth are in the hands of the XPCC or bingtuans. Comprehending this state within a state is essential to any understanding of this far-flung province of China.

Bingtuans were created in 1954 to safeguard China's borders and clear land. They recruited soldiers demobbed after the civil war, committed communists ready to take civilisation to the countryside and Han Chinese (whether communists or not) who had been sent into exile or to labour camps for "re-education", such as the famous writer Wang Meng, a communist found guilty of a "drift to the right" (5). Twelve bingtuans were established in places such as Beilongjiang, Tibet and Inner Mongolia. After Mao's death in 1976, all of them were abolished – all except those in Xinjiang, which are more active today than ever.

Shihezi museum traces their history in socialist-realist style: there are dozens of yellowing photographs of poor peasant-soldiers or children in makeshift schools that are redolent of the pioneering spirit of their time. One room is entirely filled with a huge map that shows the power of the bingtuans today, a power that far exceeds that of the region's government.

The bingtuans are still under the control of the People's Liberation Army. The districts they control have a population of 1.9 million. They have powers to levy taxes. They own 1,500 businesses, including construction companies, several of which are quoted on the stock market. They also run two universities and control a third of the agricultural land in Xinjiang, a quarter of its industrial output and between half and two-thirds of its exports. (Bizarrely, the bingtuans are also the biggest producer of ketchup in the world; they even bought up a French company, Conserves de Provence, in 2004 through their subsidiary Xinjiang Chalkis Co.)
The new frontier

At a historic meeting about the stability of Xinjiang province in 1996, the CPC politburo invited communists to "encourage the young people of China to come and settle in areas designated as the XPCC". But this is not the only conduit of immigration that has brought about a pronounced shift in the make-up of the region's population (Han Chinese have gone from just 6% of the population in 1949 to 40.6% in 2006). Since restrictions on internal movement were lifted, Han Chinese have come here hoping to make their fortune in what they see as a new frontier. Poor peasants (mingong) from provinces where income levels are even lower than Xinjiang, such as Sezuan, Shaanxi and Gansu, have followed their lead. These people only just scrape by in low-paid jobs, so to call them "colonisers" as the western media often do, is misleading.

The new arrivals also include professionals who work for public companies and whose salaries are much more comfortable, even if their living conditions aren't. One such is Liu Wang, an engineer who is working on the new railway line between Urumqi and Hotan, the last stretch before the Taklamakan desert. He comes from Shaanxi and only sees his wife and children once a year for Chinese New Year. He doesn't see much difference between the lot of the Han, the Uyghurs and the Kazakhs. In his opinion, the whole Xinjiang region needs a shake-up: "It's still socialism here", he insists, and he doesn't make it sound like a compliment.

Liu Wang regrets how slowly the wheels turn in the region: "Everything always has to be referred higher up. You always have to cover your back." As a result, public money gets wasted. "They build motorways, airports and hotels, but staff training doesn't follow." That's why on his building site the skilled positions go to the Han while Uyghurs are left with the unskilled jobs. It's an argument that's heard repeatedly. As we drove past a building site on the Kashgar-Hotan road, my Uyghur taxi driver said: "Of course there are Uyghur engineers, but they can't go abroad to get trained, and now all the techniques are imported from Germany and Japan. They won't give them passports to travel."

In China there is no automatic right to a passport; it's in the gift of the district leadership. Whether you are an engineer, researcher or just an ordinary citizen, getting approval entails an obstacle course for anyone who belongs to an ethnic minority. If successful, you then have to fly to Beijing to get a visa from the country you want to visit, which puts foreign travel beyond the reach of most Uyghurs.
Language barrier

Language is the other thing that holds Uyghurs back in the job market. Most Uyghurs don't speak Mandarin, or speak it badly, but it's the language used in most Han businesses. Wang Jian-min, an anthropology professor at the Central University for Nationalities in Beijing, says: "There is often confusion between language and ethnicity. You can understand a business requiring that you speak Mandarin properly, but it's not normal that it demands that you are Han." It may not be normal, but it is certainly easier, according to a young businessman based in the suburbs of Shihezi who said: "With minorities you need a halal canteen or special foods, because their dietary habits are different." He felt that in general "when there is a problem, the Uyghurs are less conciliatory" than the mingong, who can be sent back to their home province at the slightest provocation. As a result, even highly qualified Uyghurs find it hard to get a job. That feeds their frustration, even though the situation isn't rosy in the rest of the country, where one graduate in three fails to find employment.

Even so, the language barrier is a real one. Previously, most families sent their children to schools for ethnic minorities where Mandarin was just another subject on offer. And in the countryside it wasn't on offer at all. This created their current disadvantage and made it impossible for young people to leave their province, which is the only place their language is spoken. This problem didn't arise for the Uyghur elite in the cities; there, parents sent their children to Chinese schools (where Uyghur was offered as an option).

Since 2003, however, teaching in Chinese is obligatory throughout the school curriculum, except for the teaching of literature. Uyghur now has the status of a second language. This new rule has become a crucial bone of contention between the Han and the Uyghurs. Many people have compared it to "cultural genocide" or, like Abderrahman, to brainwashing. In the countryside this leads to ridiculous situations, as Nadira, a new teacher, told me; she was trained at the Chinese-language university in Urumqi but I met her in a village far from Kashgar. She is the only Mandarin teacher there, and is unable to greet all her pupils. "The political leaders are the ones who choose who goes to the bilingual schools and who goes to the others." Such arbitrary decision-making increases the anger of families already hostile to compulsory Mandarin.

By contrast Nazim, who runs a department at Urumqi University, sees an opportunity for his community: "It allows you to own your mother tongue – you need to know how to write it to preserve your culture – and to learn Mandarin for knowledge, exchange and work." Like many in the middle classes, Nazim is more afraid of the gradual abandonment of Uyghur learning by the most affluent groups in society, who send their offspring to Chinese schools to give them the best chance in life. Parents are speaking Uyghur less and less and literacy in Uyghur is declining: "that's how languages die".

Young people are much more opinionated. Assiane, who has been taught in Chinese right from the start, waited for her older colleague to leave before expressing her opinion. "They start by limiting the scope of Uyghur teaching and it ends up dying out," she told me. In Yunnan, where she was a student, minority languages are no longer taught. Assiane foresees a long road leading to a loss of identity, especially as "education is reducing our culture to folklore". This is an undeniable reality, though very few Han want to admit it. Some of them, such as Zhang Wi who's a photographer, are tired of hearing Uyghur complaints: "Members of ethnic minorities get preferential treatment in university entrance exams because of a bonus system. They have places reserved for them in the management of public organisations. Their writers get their work published more easily than the Han." He cites an example of talented Han passed over in favour of an incompetent Uyghur.

Since 2003 the law has obliged administrations to have joint leadership, one from the Han community and one from an ethnic minority. But most of the time, the power remains with the Han. That is the case at the top level of the region's government: the president is Nur Bekri, an Uyghur, but it's party secretary Wang Lequan who pulls the strings. Wang Lequan has ruled the province with a rod of iron since 1994. "He's not a man who understands the situation. He doesn't have love in his heart. He doesn't understand people's souls," says Yi Fang, an old Beijing communist who feels that the clashes in July were shameful for China. "Wang combines liberalism and repression without regard for people or their culture," Yi Fang tells me. "His attitude has less to do with colonialism and much more to do with authoritarianism." As he reminds me, Xinjiang is an integral part of China, whose borders are recognised by the UN.
History serving politics

As ever, history becomes politically charged – historical facts are regularly pressed into service and even falsified in current disputes. In Kashgar's dusty, little-visited museum, there's a sign reading: "In 60BC… local government was established under the Han dynasty. Since then Xinjiang has been part of the Chinese state." That version was the official one for a long time but has now been dropped, as has the idea that the Chinese were the first inhabitants of the region. The magnificent Indo-European mummies found in the Taklamakan desert put paid to that claim. Xinjiang was on the Silk Road and has seen a mixture of races, cultures and warlords. It's absurd to try to reduce it to a single influence.

On the other hand, dating the "colonisation of the province" to the arrival of the communists in 1949, as the World Congress of Uyghurs would have it (a view accepted by several French newspapers), doesn't reflect reality either. The first Chinese political presence in Xinjiang dates from the Manchu dynasty in the 1750s. In the wake of rebellions, Daoguang, the eighth emperor, created the first "reconstruction offices" as part of a policy of assimilation in which the powers that be were reluctant to depend on local leaders as they were "corrupt and harmful to the policy of central state". In 1884 the province became part of China. (By way of comparison, New Mexico became part of the US shortly before that (in 1846), as did California (1850).)

It's true that history is not linear and Xinjiang has seen several bids for independence. The emirate of Kashgarie survived from 1864 to 1877 thanks to the recognition of the Ottoman empire, Great Britain and Russia. A short-lived East Turkestan Republic lasted from November 1933 to February 1934. And finally, a Second East Turkestan Republic, a vague satellite of the USSR comprising three northern districts, existed from 1944 to 1949. As Rémi Castets puts it, "the feeling of being heir to a powerful empire or kingdoms which have sometimes rivalled China" has left its mark.

Most Uyghurs are not in fact calling for independence, but greater justice and recognition of their identity. "We may be better off than we were a decade ago," Abderrahman says, "but we're still lagging behind." GDP stands at 15,016 yuan per inhabitant in Shihezi (which is 90% Han), 6,771 in Aksu (30% Han), 3,497 in Kashgar (8.5%) and 2,445 yuan in Hotan (3.2%) (6).

These flagrant, ethnically based inequalities are pushing the Uyghurs towards Islam, the only vehicle for their opposition and means of affirming their identity. Already the sight of women in burqas is no longer a rarity. There is a clear danger that the fundamentalists will be the beneficiaries of this shift. Extremist groups are still marginal, but that could change if Beijing refuses to engage in any sort of dialogue.

Xinjiang's minorities, and the Uyghurs in particular, are trapped between modernisation, which is crushing their culture; discrimination, which excludes them from prosperity; and authoritarianism, which is grinding down their distinctiveness. Their dislocation is more social and cultural than religious. And it's a situation that will go on as long as the autonomy that Beijing grants Xinjiang exists in name alone.


Detained Activist's Kafkaesque Nightmare

By Ullrich Fichtner,1518,640109,00.html

Ji Sizun, a legal activist who represented ordinary people, disappeared into the clutches of Chinese state security a year ago, on the fourth day of the Olympic Games in Beijing. He had wanted to demonstrate in one of the official "protest parks." Instead, he ended up in prison.

When the Beijing attorney Liu receives a telephone call, his answering machine plays a loud electronic version of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." He quickly picks up the phone, shouts into the receiver, laughs loudly and makes the stuttering sound of an engine running. In China, all of this is code for: Okay, I understand, everything is fine. Sometimes Liu gets up while he is talking, stands at a window, his body rocking back and forth, and looks out at the commotion surrounding Beijing's western train station -- a chaotic scene that mirrors his own hectic life. When he travels, which he does frequently, he joins the tens of thousands of travelers milling about the train station. Anyone who, like Liu, grapples with the Chinese legal system spends much of his time taking long, arduous journeys.

China's national flag is raised during the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

China's national flag is raised during the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
It is early July, and Liu is on his way to Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian Province, a coastal city 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) south of Beijing, where four of his clients -- men and women who were arrested without explanation in the middle of the night -- are currently in custody. The trouble probably stems from the fact that three of the four detainees signed Charter 08, an inflammatory appeal for a new constitution, a new political system and a new China.

Liu, 45, a small man, has been a member of the Communist Party for 19 years -- an apparent but not necessarily inevitable contradiction to his commitment to civil rights. He feels a deep bond with people who are treated unjustly, he says, and he advocates on their behalf on the Internet, in police stations and in courtrooms, for which he has earned a reputation with the powers that be. When German broadcaster Deutsche Welle awarded him a prize the government refused to grant him an exit visa, thus preventing him from traveling to Germany to accept it in person. The incident was yet another episode in the cat-and-mouse game with the government that shapes his daily life.

Since February he has been handling a particularly complicated case. It revolves around his fifth, and most prominent, client in Fujian, the man who disappeared during the Olympic Games in Beijing almost a year ago, all because he had applied for a permit to protest in one of the "protest parks" the government had designated for that purpose. It was the man whose case overshadowed the daily press conferences given by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the man whose story was reported by the world news media, partly because he had shattered the IOC's and Chinese government's grand promises when it came to democracy in China.

That man is Ji Sizun, whose disappearance SPIEGEL reported a year ago and whose fate was long unknown. Today, he is still in detention, but at least his whereabouts are known. He is being held at the Wuyishan prison, a seven-hour train journey northwest of Fuzhou, in Section 6, Cell 207. The prison is located in the midst of a wild, magnificent landscape declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but visiting him there is out of the question. "You can try submitting an application," says Liu. He laughs, but his laugh sounds more combative than bitter.

IOC Hoodwinked by Beijing

What has Ji been charged with? For wanting to protest? For being a regime critic? For seeking to harm China's national image at a time -- the Beijing Olympics -- when preserving its image was paramount? In fact, none of these charges was leveled against him. Ji owes his imprisonment to an entirely different and unexpected charge. He has been sentenced to three years in prison for "the intentional forgery of national documents and sovereign seals." That was the charge, and to comprehend it is to gain a deeper understanding of how China's state security apparatus is structured. It also exposes how naïve and deceitful it was for the IOC to have claimed that China would open itself up for the Olympic Games, and that the games would open up China.

In retrospect, it seems almost laughable that the IOC, particularly its president, Jacques Rogge, allowed itself to be hoodwinked by China on the subject of Olympic ideals. In fact, it is so laughable that one could almost presume that the IOC was in league with the government and party leadership in Beijing from the start and consistently kept both eyes tightly shut when Tibetans were persecuted or Uighurs were branded as terrorists.

When confronted with the results of SPIEGEL's research, the IOC countered with a cool, standard response, arguing that it is a sports organization that lacks the means to look into possible human rights violations. There was no mention of the name Ji Sizun in the IOC's letter.

His story begins with a photograph taken by Danish photographer Mads Nissen on Aug. 11, 2008, on the fourth day of the impressive Beijing Games. The photo depicts Ji, who was 58 at the time, still dressed in the white, short-sleeved shirt and worn trousers he had been wearing that morning when he submitted his application. He is accompanied by two men dressed in civilian clothes, who are seen forcing him into a minivan. Shortly afterwards Ji was reached once, briefly, on his mobile phone before his service was disconnected. After Aug. 11, not even his family could reach him. He had simply disappeared without a trace.

In China, the bloggers and citizen reporters, the tough and half-baked democrats alike that now exist throughout the country assumed the worst at the time. They expected that Ji would soon end up in a labor camp and later in a reeducation camp, and they did not rule out the possibility that he would be killed in an alleged accident. But, as it now appears, he was initially taken to the National Petition Office, so that he could present his case once more behind closed doors.

Delegates from his home province, Fujian, were already waiting for him. This is a unique characteristic of Chinese political life. The country's provinces, as well as its major cities, maintain liaison offices and guesthouses in Beijing, and they remain responsible for their own people whenever they happen to be in the capital or elsewhere.

Legal Services for Ordinary Citizens

After presenting his case to the disinterested officials at the petition office, he was taken to the guesthouse of Zhangzhou, a city in Fujian where he had lived for many years. The next day, he was put on a train for the 19-hour journey to Fuzhou, the provincial capital. From there, he was taken by car to Zhangzhou, a 300-kilometer journey, where he was detained at the "Hotel of Agriculture" and kept under house arrest. Searching for him, in China, would have been an impossible undertaking at the time. The Chinese authorities operate in secrecy, politicians have no interest in transparency, the police are world unto themselves, and the judiciary is an anonymous machine in which cases are only heard in public when they are likely to serve the propaganda interests of the party and government. The more sensitive issues, including those with relevance to the system, are handled behind closed doors. At first the authorities faced a hurdle in Ji's case: They had no case. No crime had been committed, not even a minor offence.

In 2002 Ji Sizun, a delicate man, unmarried and living alone, undoubtedly somewhat eccentric, moved from Zhangzhou, where he had grown up and spent much of his life, to Fuzhou, a port city surrounded by rolling mountains with tea plantations on their slopes. Fuzhou is a comfortable city by Chinese standards, with fig, palm and mimosa trees lining its streets and, in its downtown area, a large, snow-white statue of Mao Zedong, which is brightly lit at night. The weather is humid and oppressively hot in the summer. Ji lived in the Taijian district, in a neighborhood called Cangxia, at Zhuangyuan Lane 9.

The entrance to his short, narrow street is flanked by a snack bar that smells of old fish and a colorful general store. A neighbor wearing a ribbed undershirt is standing in front of the door to Ji's former house, which resembles a garage door, and when is he asked about Mr. Ji, he says: "Mr. Ji? But he moved away from here about a year ago."

In the years leading up to his arrest, Ji had provided legal services to ordinary citizens. It was his passion. After the Cultural Revolution, Ji worked in a mine and was later assigned an office job. He read up on the law and became a self-educated, amateur legal expert, representing people who couldn't afford a real lawyer. In some cases, he waived his fee if his clients, who he believed to be in the right, were unable to pay.

Part 2: A Case, an Indictment and a Confession

He helped migrant workers defend themselves against police abuse, and he went to court with elderly women who had been expropriated without compensation in connection with hydroelectric dam projects. He helped teachers secure their pension payments, and he negotiated damage payments for people who had been the victims of work accidents. But in the summer of 2008, he paid dearly for his determination to take action against abuses committed by the police, the party and government officials. The police in Fuzhou, against whom he had successfully prosecuted cases again and again, began to harass him, looking for an opportunity to get rid of this notorious troublemaker, a man who, in 2005, had managed to expose a ring of corrupt local politicians, party members and police officers and take them to court. Seventeen people were indicted in the case and were collectively sentenced to 113 years in prison. If there was anyone who had enemies in Fuzhou, it was Ji Sizun.

While he was being held in the "Hotel of Agriculture," the police uncovered material it believed to be incriminating. In a stack of papers removed from Ji's apartment, they found three nondescript, stamped forms that his clients had to fill out so that he could serve as their legal representative. The forms are harmless, containing standard information such as a client's name, age, address and marital status, and they were all stamped to indicate that they had been received by the judicial authority. The innocuous words on the red, oval stamp read: "Justice Center -- Confirmation of Legal Representation." The police, and later the district attorney, claimed that these forms were forged, and that the forger was Ji Sizun.

They now had a case and an indictment and it was enough to enable them to remove Ji from his house arrest on Sept. 18. He had already been detained for a period that exceeded the legal time limit for house arrest under Chinese law. Ji was taken to the Fuzhou Number 2 detention facility in the southern part of the city, near the main highway to Xiamen, where the city gives way to fields and factories, and where the ditches are filled with rank tropical vegetation. The only external feature identifying the facility as a prison is its tall gate, flanked by stone lions and surveillance cameras in every corner.

Accusing the authorities of torture without hearing their side of the story is a risky proposition. But the police in China have no press office worthy of the name and the Interior Ministry is not receptive to questions of this nature. For this reason, it is only possible to relate the story Ji told his attorneys, which is that the police tortured him with sleep deprivation while he was in pretrial detention. According to his account, he was once interrogated for hours and forced to stay awake for 16 hours. On a separate occasion, he was kept awake for 25 to 30 hours, a practice so abusive that even the prison warden objected.

When Ji still refused to confess to his alleged crimes, they threatened to place him in a cell with the corrupt officials he had helped put behind bars. That was when Ji told them what they wanted to hear: That he copied the forms himself and forged the red, oval stamp.

A Grotesque Photo

The authorities had their confession, and on Jan. 7, 2009, they had a conviction. Even though Ji recanted his confession during a hearing, saying that he had made it under duress, the judge, in a hearing closed to the public, sentenced him to a three-year prison term. Despite the secret proceedings, the news traveled quickly, spread by friends, attorneys, the Internet, text messages and word of mouth. That was why Jan. 7, 2009 represented the first time that there was any word of Ji after he had disappeared without a trace for a full 148 days. At least his supporters now knew that he was alive, and that he would file an appeal.


Photo Gallery: Ji Sizun's Olympic Nightmare
Ethnic Unrest in Xinjiang: Uighurs Lament their Lost Homeland (07/13/2009)
Bao Tong in Beijing: The Quiet Afterlife of a Chinese Dissident (09/03/2008)
Olympics-Sized Delusions: A Look Back at Beijing 2008 (08/26/2008)
Rogge's Silence: The Phantoms of the Beijing Opera (08/19/2008)
Politics and Games: Was Beijing 2008 a Mistake? (08/12/2008)

There is a grotesque photo that speaks volumes about the Chinese culture of formal politeness and saving face. The photo depicts Ji, together with a woman and man, standing behind a large banner. The picture was taken shortly after he had secured the release of 46 migrant workers who were imprisoned after the police refused to recognize their valid and properly stamped work permits. The 2000 case ended in an embarrassment for the security apparatus and the judiciary, and it was reported in the newspapers. The photo shows Ji with two migrant workers and the banner, which the group presented to the court, reads: "In appreciation to the court, for the wisdom of its decisions." The words are not meant to be sarcastic. They are the Chinese way. China is not easy to understand, as Ji's attorney in Fuzhou keeps repeating. His name is Lin Hongnan, and his office is at the end of a dark corridor in a house across the street from the glittering tower of the Shangri La Hotel. Lin is a dark, disheveled-looking man with puffy eyelids that make his eyes seem almost closed. His office is littered with mementoes, pictures and calligraphy scrolls. He has a benevolent face, and when Lin, 70, is asked simple questions about the weaknesses of the Chinese judicial system, he says: "It will probably take some time before we have liberated ourselves from thousands of years of tradition."

The experienced Lin was happy to take on Ji's case, together with Liu, the attorney from Beijing, and the two men devised a strategy for the appeal. Everything about the case, including the evidence and the court's conclusions, seemed odd to them. The judge's verdict was easy to contest, particularly the claim, which served as grounds for the harsh sentence, that Ji had forged "national documents" and "sovereign seals."

China, like any other country, has laws, and there are regulations and ordinances that can be consulted. In Ji's case, it takes little effort to realize that the trivial form in question was clearly not one of the 13 "national documents" defined by law, and it is not even clear if it should have been in circulation under the current administration of justice. And as far as the "sovereign seals" and "national stamps" are concerned, the first sentence of the applicable regulation states unequivocally that they are always round and not, as they were on Ji's documents, oval.

Ji was not even summoned to appear at his appeal hearing. After being sentenced by the trial court, he was imprisoned at the Wuyishan prison, and yet he was optimistic. Liu had found cases that also clearly called the three-year length of the sentence into question. For instance, he had uncovered a case against a fellow attorney in Jiangsu Province. In order to trick a client into believing that his trial had been decided in his favor, the man had forged an entire verdict, including authentically round national stamps. But the crooked attorney was only ordered to serve an 18-month sentence, and he never saw the inside of a prison, because the sentence was suspended.

When Liu describes his method, he says that he is always careful not to insult anyone or make any false accusations, and that he never goes beyond the framework of the law. In the case of Ji, however, the Beijing lawyer is beginning to lose his self-control, and he has even been tempted to rail against his opponents and to leave the framework of the law.

Liu is so disconcerted because, on April 21, the court upheld the trial court's ruling on all counts, seemingly ignoring the facts of the case. It upheld the three-year prison sentence, and it confirmed the charge that Ji committed forgery of "national documents" and "sovereign seals." The situation is straight out of Kafka. The evidence on which court based its decision was in fact evidence of the condemned man's innocence. Any child can see that the stamp on the documents, be it forged or authentic, is oval, not round.

'He Should Not Have Gone to Beijing'

According to the attorneys, the judge presiding over the appeal hearing never asked a single question and was silent throughout the hearing. This could only mean that he knew from the start what his ruling would be. And this is where it becomes apparent that two worlds intersected -- that of international politics in the days of the dazzling Beijing Olympics and that of the provincial corruption in Fuzhou and the surrounding region. "He should not have gone to Beijing," says the elderly attorney Lin, as he sits in front of a calligraphy scroll of a poem by Li Bai about the beauty of the three rivers. "The government was very nervous at the time, and that wasn't good," says Lin.

Ji, a lone champion of the law, committed a decisive error in August 2008. It was as if his enemies, of which there were many, had only been waiting for him to slip up. He had traveled to the capital as the representative of his clients, hoping to argue their cases to the best of his ability, to bring them to the attention of the powers that be. Perhaps he went to Beijing believing in the impossible, believing that a nobody could find his way to the emperor's throne and make himself heard.

Sign up for Spiegel Online's daily newsletter and get the best of Der Spiegel's and Spiegel Online's international coverage in your In- Box everyday.

In the end, on the day of his arrest, Ji was not standing in front of that throne. Instead, he was standing on the street, surrounded by dilapidated modern buildings, tightly holding on to his red notebook that contained all of the documentation on the 11 unresolved cases that had become stuck in the bureaucracy at home in Fujian. One of the cases dealt with a man whose house had been destroyed for no apparent reason, and another was about a man who had died in prison and whose family was never compensated. The documents told the stories of people whose land had been confiscated arbitrarily, of people who had been injured at work and were never compensated, and of those whose cases were never even heard.

Ji was their advocate. And he must have believed the promises of his government and the Olympic family, the promises that the time had finally come when he could speak his mind freely, for all the world to hear, and with no fear of repercussions. On the morning of his arrest, on Aug. 11, 2008, he said: "There are great powers that oppose me. But I am not alone. We are many." He was sweating, even though it was early in the morning and still cool outside, and his thinning hair bristled as if it were electrically charged. An hour later, he was gone.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan



The post-Prabakaran attempts by some never-say-die sections of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora across the world to resurrect the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suffered a blow on August 6,2009, when the Malaysian security agencies handed over to their Sri Lankan counterparts Kumaran Pathmanathan (known as KP), whom they had reportedly picked up from a hotel a few hours earlier.

2. It was suspected by investigation and intelligence agencies for some years that KP was residing in Malaysia and operating clandestinely from there with the help of LTTE sympathisers in the local Tamil community-----of Sri Lankan as well as Indian origin. For nearly 20 years he was a great asset to Prabakaran and the LTTE not because of any special political acumen he had, but because of his ability to work clandestinely without attracting much public attention to himself.

3. He emerged as the alleged main brain behind the LTTE's vast arms procurement, gun running, arms piracy from ships in mid-sea, money-laundering and commercial shipping network. The LTTE would not have been able to develop its capability as a conventional fighting force to the extent it did but for his alleged clandestine work. In connection with this, he travelled frequently and extensively in South-East Asia, East Europe and South Africa. He kept way from West Europe (except Greece and Cyprus) and North America for fear of being caught by the local intelligence agencies, but from his base in Malaysia he allegedly guided the arms procurement and money-laundering networks in those areas too.

4. The fact that Prabakaran gave him a free hand in handling the cash flows from the shiping fleet, alleged narcotics smuggling and alleged extortions from the members of the Tamil diaspora and in negotiating the prices of the arms and in arranging the shipping schedules indicated the confidence he had in KP.

5. It used to be alleged that the Malaysian authorities avoided acting against him because of the support enjoyed by him in sections of the local Tamil community. His low profile and his ability to keep his mouth shut helped him in ensuring that the local security agencies would not act against him.

6. All this changed in January this year when Prabakaran appointed him as the in-charge of the international relations department of the LTTE. One does not know why Prabakaran chose him for this job. Outside Malaysia, KP had no political contact. He was not a well-known and well-respected figure in the international community of human rights organisations. He could not have travelled to the West without fear of being arrested. He was no Anton Balasingham. Nor was he a Thamilselvan. He was allegedly in some aspects a Sri Lankan Tamil version of Dawood Ibrahim. Dawood is a mafia leader. KP is not. But Dawood and KP allegedly had similar capabilities for gun running and money-laundering.

7. After his nomination to this post, the previously discreet and low-profile KP became increasingly high profile. He started interacting with journalists and non-governmental organisations from his safe sanctuary in South-East Asia. After the death of Prabakaran, he became the self-promoted head of a group of Sri Lankan Tamils in the diaspora, who tried to resurrect the LTTE as an organisation wedded to the same objective of an independent Tamil Eelam as was the organisation headed by Prabakaran, but advocating a non-violent movement to achieve this objective.

8. One does not know what real following he commanded in the diaspora and who were the people prepared to support him.However, one knows that there are elements in the diaspora who continue to hope that the LTTE will rise again like Phoenix and resume the march to the goal of an independent Eelam. Probably, some of them rallied round him.

9. The Sri Lankan Government was interested in getting him even before KP started this move for a neo-LTTE. The Sri Lankan agencies' campaign against the LTTE was not over with its defeat and the decimation of most of its leadership.A lot of work still remains to be done like identifying its supporters in the diaspora and its secret bank accounts abroad and getting them frozen, identifying the various arms smuggling channels exploited by it and determining how the LTTE succeeded in smuggling the clandestinely procured weaponry, including the aircraft,into Tamil territory without being detected by the intelligence agencies of different countries, including India and Sri Lanka.

10. There is a need for a total and painstaking reconstruction of how the LTTE operated abroad and how it was able to acquire the position it did. Such a reconstruction would not be possible without a thorough interrogation of KP. The Sri Lankan authorities, therefore, mounted a diplomatic drive for getting hold of KP. This drive was focused on South-East Asia. Their drive ultimately succeeded and the Malaysian authorities reportedly picked him up and handed him over to Sri Lanka.

11. His thorough interrogation would be necessary not only for finding out about the past, but also for finding out about the future plans of the die-hard elements in the diaspora.

12. The Government of India should be interested in interrogating him in connection with the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May,1991, and the attempted gun-running by the LTTE from Pakistan in 1993 in an LTTE ship in which Kittu was travelling. When an Indian Coast Guard ship intercepted it, the crew set fire to the ship,which went down.Kittu and some others chose to go down with the ship. Some others tried to escape and were arrested. The full story of this incident of gun-running by the LTTE from Pakistan is not yet known. KP may also know about any arms procurement cell of the LTTE still present in South India, but dormant. (8-8-09)

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