October 31, 2009

The Future of Pakistan


Recent history in Pakistan seems to bear a similarity to events in Iran during the rule of the Shah. The recent leadership of Pakistan has been similar in several ways to that of the Shah. In both countries the leaders were strongly backed by the United States. Both were involved in repressing or attacking their own people. In Iran, this led the revolution of 1979 which created an Islamic Republic. Could something similar happen in Pakistan?

In 1953, the democratically elected leader of Iran, Mohammed Mosaddeq, was replaced by the Shah in a US and British led coup. The US and their CIA provided funding and support to the Shah during his resign, and helped to establish the dreaded SAVAK secret police force. SAVAK tortured and executed thousands during the Shah's rule, and imprisoned many more.

1n Pakistan, the democratically elected leader, Nawaz Sharif was deposed in a military coup in 1999 by General Musharraf. While the US was not involved in this coup, the Bush administration strongly supported Musharraf after 9/11 and provided him with significant funding. Musharraf was pressured to resign in 2008 and Pakistan did elect a new leader, Asif Ali Zardari, though he has maintained close ties to the US and has continued similar policies. Under the Obama administration, the US has remained a strong backer of Zardari and is continuing to provide aid to his government.

After 9/11 Musharraf was threatened by the US to side with them against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Under pressure from the US, and worried about closer ties between India and the US, Musharraf agreed and provided the US with the use of three airbases, as well as other support. In the following years, the Pakistan army took an active role in the war, with forces operating at the Afghan border and well as pursuing domestic al-qaeda and Taliban militants.

In recent years, Pakistan has supported and permitted (though sometimes reluctantly) the United States use of unmanned drones to bomb suspected militant sites within Pakistani territory. This bombing has escalated considerably in the past couple years. For nationalistic reasons, and concern over civilian casualties, the Pakistani public has been very critical of these attacks and many consider them attacks on Pakistani sovereignty or even acts of terror. In a recent visit to Pakistan, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was sharply questioned over these attacks.

Earlier this year, the Pakistani military began a major escalation in their fight against the Taliban with an assault on the Swat Valley region. This resulted in the displacement of over 2 million people, and many casualties among militants, army and civilians. More recently, there is an offensive underway in South Waziristan, which has triggered large bombings and civilian casualties. All schools across the nation have been closed for an indefinite period of time.

A recent poll by Gallup Pakistan was undertaken to gauge public sentiment. The results should not be too surprising given the above. Only 9 percent of Pakistanis support the drone attacks, while 67 percent oppose. More people support dialogue with the Taliban than military action (43 percent to 41). President Zardari has the support of only 11 percent of the population (with his party having only 20 percent support). Perhaps more telling, only 11 percent consider the Taliban the greatest threat to Pakistan, while 59 percent consider the United States the largest threat. Clearly, the US is deeply unpopular in Pakistan, and the vast majority of people do not support their government's alliance with the US.

Another issue is that of US aid. The US congress has passed an aid package for Pakistan, which imposes several conditions, including one which critics suggest results in US oversight of the Pakistani military. Pakistanis have responded with street protests and claim this is a violation of Pakistani sovereignty. It is possible the US will modify the bill to improve the language, but the damage is already done. Pakistanis are distrustful of any aid from the US. Another large complaint is that US contractors are operating with impunity within Pakistan, and that they are carrying weapons illegally.

There are many differences between Iran and Pakistan, of course, and one situation can never parallel another completely. Also, even when there are similar situations, the outcome can sometimes be different. Still, there are lessons to be learned from history. A government supported by a foreign power most citizens do not like or identify with, that represses and kills its own people, is not in a stable situation. There are many examples in history of such situations others than Iran, and many of them have had similar outcomes.

Pakistan's alignment with the US and US interests appears to be the largest factor causing instability within that country. The majority of Pakistanis do not support this role nor any domestic government that follows it. I will predict that unless there is an election in Pakistan of a government that follows the will of its people more closely, the likelihood of a revolution, coup, or breakup will increase over time. Eventually the situation will become untenable, and one of these outcomes will come to pass.

Mixed Signals as Iran Submits Nuclear Response

Source: IHS Global Insights

30 Oct 09

Iran sent out mixed signals yesterday as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took a relatively soft approach to the country’s co-operation over its nuclear programme; however, the Islamic Republic's response to an earlier negotiated nuclear deal appears to have fallen well below hopes.

IHS Global Insight Perspective

Iran submitted a delayed response to a nuclear deal negotiated with world powers earlier this month, apparently seeking broad changes to the agreement which would allow for the shipment of low-enriched Iranian uranium abroad for further enrichment.

Hours before the response was submitted, President Ahmadinejad sent a conciliatory message stating Iran's readiness for nuclear co-operation and hailing the West's changed approach. His remarks also stressed Iran's own achievements in getting Western powers to come to the negotiating table; these have not eased concerns that the Islamic Republic is merely playing for time by seeking to re-negotiate the nuclear deal.

The deal will likely become subject to further negotiations before it is approved. Meanwhile, the United states is biding its time, holding off heightening pressure on Iran from fear of damaging the progress achieved. However, there is no question of the country's readiness for action as U.S. lawmakers in both of legislative houses approved further economic sanctions against Iran yesterday.

Iran Will ''Co-Operate''

President Ahmadinejad—a hardline conservative—came out yesterday with surprisingly conciliatory remarks, signalling Iran’s willingness to ''co-operate'' with the international community over the country’s controversial nuclear programme. Speaking on state TV in the city of Mashad, his remarks that Iran welcomed fuel exchange and nuclear cooperation and that it would ''accept any hand extended to us in trust and honesty'' came only hours before Iran submitted its delayed reply to a nuclear deal agreed last week with world powers. In light of Iran’s demands for what appears to be significant amendments to the deal, Ahmadinejad’s remarks signal Iran’s determination to ''own'' and remain in the driving seat of nuclear negotiations, although remaining careful not to shut the door on talks. Iran’s almost week-long delay in responding to the nuclear proposal had already raised some concerns that it would attempt to secure greater concessions and take a hawkish, nationalistic stance on the sensitive issue of shipping Iran’s hard-won stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU). Amid Iran’s reported response to the nuclear deal, the reaction from the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been understandably cautious; the United States said yesterday that it was still awaiting a formal response from Iran.

Iranian Manoeuvrings

The nuclear proposal was agreed last week in Vienna, Austria in the second round of talks between Iran and the so-called P5+1 countries—the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany—and the IAEA (see Iran – World: 22 October 2009: Limited Progress Achieved in Iran's Nuclear Talks). Under the proposal, Iran would agree to shipping about 85% of its LEU stockpile to Russia and France—and possibly the United States—in exchange for LEU enriched to higher grades suitable to be fed into a scientific reactor in Tehran for production of medical isotopes used in cancer treatment. Iran is currently enriching uranium to about 3.5% while its Tehran facility—built decades ago—requires an LEU enrichment grade of around 19.75%. The proposal envisions a speedy process whereby the LEU would be exported by the end of this year and it is so designed to ship out Iran’s stockpile of LEU for enough time to ensure that despite ongoing enrichment, Iran does not have enough LEU to produce a nuclear bomb. Effectively, it would secure the international community, with the United States in the lead, enough time to work on a comprehensive agreement with Iran on the nuclear—or in the worst case—signal the administration of President Barack Obama’s determination to exhaust all diplomatic means to resolve the issue. Iran’s trade-off would be an international recognition of the country’s right to enrich uranium—a significant victory indeed.

The Iranian proposal is far from clear at this point as the IAEA has yet to disclose the details of the country’s response. However, reports in the New York Times and in the Financial Times (FT) today cited unnamed Western diplomats briefed on Iran’s response stating that the changes are significant and therefore potentially unacceptable. According to the FT, Iran’s proposes to stall the shipments to only export smaller volumes of LEU at a time. Controversially the amendments also appear to propose a trade-off deal whereby Iran receives higher enriched uranium from Russia and France prior to shipping out each its LEU each time. Clearly, such a deal would make the export deal somewhat redundant, as it would not only allow Tehran to retain the bulk of its LEU stockpile, while continuing domestic uranium enrichment and receiving higher enriched uranium from the parties concerned. Further negotiations over the proposal can thus certainly be expected.

Sanctions Tentatively Tightened

President Obama earlier this week received legislation passed by the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee threatening to bar companies selling and shipping fuel to Iran from selling or shipping fuel to the U.S. government. The law is a crucial step in raising the pressure on Iran and companies supplying it with refined products, although it stops well before proposed harsher measures currently being discussed in the U.S. legislature which could sanction fuel traders just for doing business with Iran and target all their business in the United States. The current measure would target those oil traders doing more then US$20 million of deals with Iran in one year—in line with previous sanctions targeting investments over US$20 million, likely meaning that virtually all oil traders dealing with Iran would be included—and would ban them from crude purchase tenders issued by the U.S. government. The U.S. government, however, is not at this stage a large crude buyer as the strategic oil reserve is almost completely full and was earlier this week reported to require only an additional two million barrels. The bill passed by the House of Representatives was echoed by legislation passed by the Senate Banking Committee yesterday, proposing, in addition to mentioned measures, the targeting of U.S. imports of Iranian products—namely carpets, caviar, and pistachio nuts—which are currently exempt from trade sanctions.

Other proposed legislation prepared by U.S. lawmakers threatens to take away the president’s current prerogative to waive sanctions in specific cases and to—like much of the financial industry sanctions—punish not only investors in Iran but potentially those with dealings with the Islamic Republic. If so, Iran could very quickly start to feel the pinch, as it relies on imports to supply 40% of its fuel consumption—which moreover, it has to slump away on the domestic market due to very hefty subsidies.

Outlook and Implications

The dangers for Iran are clear. Struggling to lift its domestic refining capacity due to the sanctions damaging its ability to import technology plus suffering large funding shortages due to the confluence of expensive imports, relatively low crude prices during much of the past year, and mounting investment need to keep its mature oil industry’s output from sliding, Iran is also bracing itself for gas shortages during the coming peak electricity demand season. The failure to secure sufficient funding for its planned gas developments has left it suffering deeper and deeper shortages every peak demand time, resulting in widespread power blackouts and heating shortages—causing significant political discontent. Having come out of the other end of a major domestic political crisis, Ahmadinejad’s position is by no means safe. Notwithstanding the potential for strict sanctions to result in a sense of nationalist unity and rallying behind the Ahmadinejad government—events could be unpredictable and his already tarnished legitimacy could lead to further discontent over the government’s mismanagement.

In many ways Iran’s manoeuvring comes as no surprise and the country’s potential for unpredictable shifts by Ahmadinejad’s government will no doubt have been factored in by negotiating states. Ahmadinejad is undoubtedly treating the nuclear deal—and the Western world’s willingness to negotiate with Iran over it—as a significant victory. In fact, yesterday Ahmadinejad spent a significant portion (less widely quoted in the international media) of a speech hailing his own government’s achievements in producing the deal. The Ahmadinejad government’s intentions are thus greatly linked to domestic politics and should therefore not be misread.

Meanwhile, unwilling to portray Iran as effectively running the show, it would not be in the interest of the United States, nor indeed any of the other parties involved, to close the door on talks here. The progress achieved so far is limited but it has been hard-won and keeping Iran at the negotiation table is paramount. Meanwhile, the apparent unity of purpose in the two U.S. legislative houses, provides President Obama with both pressures and opportunities; it would also legitimise a tougher U.S. approach should Iran’s manoeuvrings become insufferable.

October 29, 2009

Dirty Diamonds in Panama

Poised to become a hub for the Latin American diamond market, Panama may also become a funnel for smuggling illegal diamonds abroad, writes Samuel Logan for ISN Security Watch.

By Samuel Logan for ISN Security Watch

Leaders from the global diamond trade met in Panama City on 13 October to persuade President Ricardo Martinelli to establish a tax-free zone for Latin America’s first regional diamond exchange. The lobbyists won over Martinelli, who by 19 October had publicly committed to support legislation in the Panamanian National Assembly designed to give free trade zone status to the Panamanian Diamond Exchange (PDE).

Panama will also work to pass the necessary legislation to join an international diamond trading regulatory regime known as the Kimberley Process, Martinelli said.

But observers worry that Panama’s role in laundering illegal diamonds mined in South America might only grow as the Central American country becomes a regional hub of the Latin American diamond trade.

The PDE, established in 2006 and officially accepted into the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB) in 2008, broke ground in mid-2009 on a US$200 million complex that PDE President Erez Akerman hopes will become the offices that oversee a regional diamond market that annually moves millions of dollars in diamonds from Latin America into markets in Hong Kong, New York and Antwerp, Belgium, among other demand centers.

The PDE, however, has at least indirect ties to a somewhat murky past.

Haviv Aviad, executive director of the PDE, was allegedly involved with his brother-in-law, Shimon Yelinek, an Israeli weapons smuggler, in a case investigated by the Organization of American States.

OAS documents show that Aviad and Yelinek traveled to Nicaragua in April 2000 to inspect a load of AK-47 rifles that were part of a shipment of weapons received by then members of Colombia’s notorious AUC paramilitary forces.

In a separate case, Akerman denounced the activity of Venezuelan diamond trader Kobi Kamhaji, who has allegedly smuggled Venezuelan diamonds for over 10 years, according to DIB Online.

Akerman wrote a letter to the WFDB explaining that Kamhaji had moved from Venezuela to Panama in 2007, where he continued to illegally export Venezuelan diamonds into the global market. His main concern was that Kamhaji had falsely acted on behalf of the PDE while laundering illegal Venezuelan diamonds through Panama.

“Given Panama's rich history as a center for both money laundering and smuggling on a very large scale, coupled with Venezuela's demonstrated unwillingness to be transparent in its diamond exports and withdrawal from the Kimberley Process, I am very concerned about the smuggling of diamonds through Panama,” Doug Farah, a senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, told ISN Security Watch,

“Because diamonds are so easy to smuggle, opening a virtually unregulated diamond center in Panama is a recipe for smuggling on a large scale, not just for the relatively small Latin American production, but for other producers as well,” Farah said.

Venezuelan diamonds

Venezuela, a founding member of the Kimberley Process, is today a pariah state in the international diamond trade. Since 2005, the country has not reported diamond exports – estimated at between 150,000 and 300,000 carats earning some US$30 million a year - to the Kimberley Process, raising concern that Venezuela’s rough stones, already on the black market, might be used to fund organized criminal activity such as drugs or gun smuggling or terrorism, or used to launder money earned from illicit sales.

“Venezuela explained [its removal from the Kimberley Process] as a bureaucratic oversight - a glitch from the ministerial shakeup when they separated energy from other mining portfolios,” Shawn Blore, a South American investigator with international diamond market watchdog, Partnership Africa Canada, told ISN Security Watch.

“However, the glitch explanation was soon replaced by a claim that the government wanted to stop issuing [Kimberley Process certifications] as a way of forcing miners to stop working,” Blore said, adding, “that's still the most likely explanation - given that the Venezuelan government has now largely given up efforts to put an end to mining, the whole thing may now be simple inertia - or bloody-minded stubbornness.”

In January 2009, the Venezuelan Minister for Basic Industries and Mining said that the government would open Venezuela’s diamond-rich areas in the Guaniamo region for diamond mining.

The government also announced plans to install a diamond processing plant, likely part of a little known public policy called the “Plan Para la Explotaci√≥n del Distrito Diamant√≠fero de Guaniamo.”

President Hugo Chavez has also expressed interest in creating a 'diamond city' in Guaniamo region, which would imply further government oversight. And in June 2009, Chavez said he was seeking a loan to develop Venezuela’s gold and diamond mining sector.

In April 2009, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Chavez agreed to create a joint venture company designed to recover Venezuelan minerals and gems, including gold, quartz and diamonds. And in July 2009, Chavez signed investment accords with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin which focused on many areas, including nuclear development and diamond mining.

Yet a BBC Mundo reporter, who has recently visited Venezuela’s diamond production centers in Bolivar state and on the Venezuelan-Brazil border, told ISN Security Watch that diamond production in the area is neither regulated nor in any way undermined by government efforts to regulate mining activity.

Diamond mining in the region, the reporter said, remains robust and under the control of a loosely networked layer of individuals who purchase rough stones from artisan miners before selling them into markets abroad, including Panama, Guyana and Brazil.

'Operation Carbon'

Another member of the Kimberley Process, Brazil, removed itself for a brief time from the regime in 2006, promising to return once it was able to establish internal controls to monitor the mining and export of its diamonds.

The Brazilian government’s decision occurred on the heels of Operation Carbon, which by early 2006 had netted one of Brazil’s busiest diamond smugglers, Hassan Ahmad.

Ahmad’s diamond smuggling operation, working under the legal cover of a company known as Primeira Gema, used falsified documents to obtain legitimate Kimberley Certificates to obscure, or launder, the origin of his rough stones.

In 2004, Ahmad’s business exported some 54 percent of all Brazilian diamonds registered that year, according to Brazilian Federal Police documents.

In a report published by PAC, the author noted that two of Ahmad’s sources of rough stones were not even close to the diamond business, nor aware that their identity had been stolen. One man had died two years prior to the conclusion of Operation Carbon, and the other was a homeless man living in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo.

Investigators also discovered that among Ahmad’s regular purchasers of the illegal stones was a diamond dealer in Dubai.

By the conclusion of the investigation, observers noted that almost half of all Kimberley Certificates in Brazil had been obtained using falsified documents, a problem that has also manifested itself in Guyana, currently considered the principle route for illegal Venezuelan diamond exports.

The Guyana connection

“Guyana is particularly vulnerable as a member of the Kimberley Process, as are diamond centers in the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere,” Farah said.

A large of legal diamond traders are listed in Georgetown, Guyana. While most appear to adhere to the legal process of registering and exporting their rough stones, a couple of cases suggest that illegal activity is afoot.

In 2005, the Guyanese government caught Battle Green Mineral & General Trading while attempting to export 8,500 carats of rough stones with allegedly illegal origins. Given the owner’s Venezuelan connections, discovered by investigators, the stones were believed to have originated in Venezuela and laundered through Battle Green for legal export out of Georgetown.

The Guyanese government investigated in 2007 another company, Explorer Trade and Commerce Limited, over a 4,000-carat batch of diamonds with nefarious origins, presumably from Venezuela, Brazil, or even West Africa, according to government documents.

“The bulk of Venezuelan diamonds are channeled through Guyana, and to a lesser extent Panama, that’s pretty clear,” Andy Webb-Vidal, CEO of Latin IQ, told ISN Security Watch.

“Panama would make it easier and less costly,” Farah said.

Webb-Vidal added, “where [Venezuelan diamonds] go from Guyana or Panama is where the trail gets murky.”

Samuel Logan is an investigative journalist and author of This is for the Mara Salvatrucha: Inside the MS-13, America's Most Violent Gang, (relased by Hyperion in summer 2009). He is the founder of Southern Pulse | Networked Intelligence, and has reported on security, energy, politics, economics, organized crime, terrorism and black markets in Latin America since 1999. He is a senior writer for ISN Security Watch.



"While the Pakistan Army has prepared itself well for the counter-insurgency style operations in South Waziristan, its ability to prevent attacks behind its back in the NWFP and Punjab is doubtful. Despite the spurt in suicide and commando-style terrorism in the NWFP and Punjab and even in supposedly well-guarded cantonments since the Lal Masjid raid in July,2007, the Pakistani counter-terrorism machinery has not re-fashioned and re-tooled itself to meet this threat. ....There is a danger of the NWFP and Punjab becoming the failed provinces of Pakistan if the Army's offensive does not succeed." ---- Extract from my article of October 17,2009, titled THE PAK ARMY OFFENSIVE IN SOUTH WAZIRISTAN available at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers35/paper3466.html

Over 90 innocent civilians----many of them women and children---- were killed in a timed or remotely-controlled car bomb explosion in a busy market area of Peshawar, the capital of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan, on October 28,2009. Reports from Peshawar indicate that the car packed with explosives had been left unattended by two men wearing police uniform near a Shia mosque about three hours before the explosion. The unattended car did not attract the suspicion of the policemen on duty in the market area.

2. This has been the second deadliest terrorist strike in Pakistan-----the first being the suicide explosion in Karachi at the time of Benazir Bhutto's return from exile on October 17,2007, in which nearly 180 persons were killed.This has been the deadliest terrorist strike in the history of Peshawar and the third strike this year. The previous two took place on October 9 in which over 50 persons were killed in a suicide explosion in a market place and on October 16 involving 16 fatalities.

3. The local police had claimed to have identified and arrested the ringleaders of the previous incidents. Despite this, the attack of October 28 took place. This calls into question the credibility of the police claim.

4. There has so far been no claim of responsibility for the latest explosion. On the contrary, Pakistani electronic media have quoted alleged sources in Al Qaeda and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as denying responsibility and condemning the explosion as the work of anti-Muslim elements.

5.The denials need not necessarily be true. The public outrage over the wanton killings of women and children would have made it unwise for the perpetrators to admit responsibility.

6. The fact that the explosion coincided with the visit of Mrs.Hilary Clinton, US Secretary of State, to Pakistan, gave the explosion a political colour as meant to express the protest of the perpetrators against the continuing US drone strikes on Al Qaeda and Taliban hide-outs in the tribal belt and against Pakistan's continuing co-operation with the US in counter-terrorism. The current military operations by the Pakistani Army against the Mehsud component of the TTP in South Waziristan is viewed by the Taliban and Al Qaeda elements as undertaken at the behest of the US.

7. The NWFP is the traditional homeland of the Pashtuns and the cradle of the Pashtun culture. Over the years, it has had pockets of secular thinking and traditions nurtured initially by Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, the Frontier Gandhi, and maintained subsequently by his successors in the Awami National Party (ANP), which has been in power in the province as part of a coalition since the elections of last year. It has also been supporting the ruling coalition in Islamabad and has managed to maintain good relations with President Asif Ali Zardari.

8. In recent months,there have been reports that the US, which in the past kept away from the ANP due to a perception that it was a leftist, pro-communist party, has started interacting with its leaders and inviting some of them to visit the US. The fact that the Pashtun followers of the ANP have remained steadfast in their loyalty to the ANP and its secular ideology and have kept away from the Afghan as well as Pakistani Taliban has been a sore point with the TTP leadership.

9. Despite this, will the TTP target the Pashtun followers of the ANP and indulge in an orgy of killings of Pashtun civilians in Peshawar and other places? The TTP attacks in the Malakand Division, including the Swat Valley, largely targeted the security forces, but in Peshawar the perpetrators have been targeting Pashtun civilians as well as the security forces. There is also an anti-Shia angle to these attacks because the Shia Pashtuns support the ANP, which is seen by them as a protector of the Shias.

10. Sources in the ANP seem to believe that the repeated attacks on civilians in Peshawar are being carried out by elements in the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), another Uzbek group, both allied to Al Qaeda. This serves the purpose of discrediting the ANP-led Government in the NWFP and at the same time sparing the TTP of unpopularity for slaughtering innocent Pashtun civilians.

11. What should be of special concern to the US and other members of the international community in the light of the deteriorating situation in the NWFP is the danger of the growing anarchy in the province enabling Al Qaeda to lay hand on Pakistan's nuclear waste stored in the province for being used in a dirty bomb. (29-10-09)

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

Frozen smiles, limp handshakes

Vikram Sood

Oct.28 : It was good to hear the Chinese ambassador in New Delhi speak of an irreversible China-India friendship. There have been manifest signs of improved ties with burgeoning trade, comprising our raw materials for shoddy Chinese manufactured goods, exchange of high-level visits, quadrilaterals in the form of Brazil, Russia, India and China and a trilateral mechanism with Russia and cooperation on climate change policies. The Chinese foreign minister is now in Bengaluru and Zhou Yongkang, standing committee member of the politburo, will visit India in November. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met his Chinese counterpart in Thailand last Saturday. Quite obviously, the smiles were frozen and the handshakes limp as the Chinese spoke of functional cooperation, which is quite different from President Hu Jintao’s formulation of a vision statement. This is one reality of apparent normality.

There is, however, another reality which cannot be ignored. There has been a gradual and a disturbing shift in the Chinese attitude towards India in the past few years and the voices that one has been hearing from Beijing in recent months have been less than comforting.

From an initial pretence of disdain about India’s economic rise, the mood has switched to some irritation with India’s new relationship with the United States, which the Chinese today probably evaluate as being more strategic than just relating to a civil nuclear deal. In recent months since August 2009, there have been increased intrusions into India, accompanied by a marked sharpness in tenor. The decibel of references to Arunachal Pradesh is higher — protests about the Dalai Lama’s planned visit to Tawang and belated protests about our Prime Minister’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh even in the official People’s Daily that reflects the Communist Party of China’s official position accurately. This message was delivered while Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Nepal Communist Party boss Prachanda were in Beijing. There have been other worrying signs, notably the practice of issuing paper visas to residents of Jammu and Kashmir, thereby conveying that the state was disputed territory. All this underscores the reality that improved trade relations between neighbours do not necessarily mean improved political relations as long as there are undemarcated borders. Questions of demarcation have now been converted into territorial disputes, with the Chinese now repeatedly referring to Arunachal as "Southern Tibet".

There are international and domestic issues that may be worrying the Chinese. The Tibet disturbances of March 2008 and those in Xinjiang in July this year alarmed Beijing. The decline of Pakistan and the present situation in Afghanistan are both challenges and opportunities for the Chinese. Pakistan’s instability means that an important plank of Chinese policy in the region, to contain India and secure access to the Arabian Sea, has become unsteady and may have an uncertain future. Apart from that, a weakened but Islamised central authority in Islamabad could have repercussions among the restive Uighurs of Xinjiang. The troubles in Xinjiang were serious enough for President Hu Jintao to leave the Group of Eight summit and head home. It is possible that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is now handling the situation both in Tibet and Xinjiang and the hard line from the Chinese foreign office on Arunachal Pradesh and the Dalai Lama’s visit to Tawang may be a result of this change.

America’s predicament in Afghanistan provides China an opportunity to raise its profile in Afghanistan/Iran and Central Asia. With a $3.5 billion investment in the Anyak copper project in Logar province, one of the world’s largest copper deposits, China is today the largest investor in Afghanistan. China has also offered to build a railway line and a power plant which would treble its investment.

As India and China seek to progress there will be greater competition for resources, markets and influence. Cooperation will remain an ideal and both would want to avoid confrontation, or worse, conflict. In terms of military spending, India does not have the capability or even the intention to match China weapon for weapon, force for force. It is extrapolated that by 2050 China will be spending $775 billion on defence — three times India’s defence budget despite our huge land and sea boundaries. The high drama in the Indian press that the Chinese were anxious about Indian plans to develop Agni 5 is just that. No Chinese general is too bothered about this considering that the PLA has already covered India and most of the world with its missiles. What irks them really are the graphics that accompany such reportage, showing Beijing as having been brought within range of Indian missiles.

Quite often, many ask if India will ever catch up with China. The figures of military spending, the size of the economies, the rate of growth, the amount of money spent by each country on infrastructure, electricity production, agricultural produce, research and development and reserves held, confirm that the gap is enormous. Mohan Guruswamy and Zorawar Daulet Singh in their latest book Chasing the Dragon: Will India Catch Up with China? make this quite clear. Even though Goldman Sachs predicts that China, the US and India will be the three largest global economies by 2050, it would be more realistic for India to aspire to be a global player whose voice will be heard rather than attaining the status of a superpower. The question we need to ask is can China afford to catch up with India’s raucous democracy and still survive?

China has endeavoured to restrict India’s influence to its borders. Only recently, it reminded our neighbours that India had hegemonistic tendencies while extending its "peaceful" relationship with them, while claiming "harmonious rise" in a wary neighbourhood. The prime example of this is the manner in which China has godfathered Pakistan’s India-specific nuclear and missile capabilities.

China is our powerful neighbour and India and China are not in the same league. Pakistan refused to accept this reality in its relations with India and today finds itself adrift despite valiant US efforts to shore up its ally. It is best to accept the India-China reality and fashion our responses accordingly.

There is nothing to be gained either by becoming a hysterical tabloid nation when it comes to a bigger neighbour or a helpless flailing state when we have to deal with a smaller neighbour. We simply have to evolve a method of peaceful cohabitation; there is nothing to be gained by jingoism and everything to be lost by seeming to be weak and succumbing to pressure. It is quite likely that the Chinese leadership will glower at us from across the Himalayas; should that happen we should not blink — and it should not be that His Holiness suddenly develops a diplomatic illness! That would be most unfortunate because that would, in effect, give the Chinese a veto on our relations with His Holiness and decide who visits Tawang.

Thus, we need to be able to protect our interests more effectively, at and inside our borders, in our neighbourhood, the seas that surround us and in Asia. Therefore, massive infrastructure development is required in the Northeast which is people-friendly and not simply meant to cater to our strategic requirements. There has to be two-way socio-cultural assimilation of the region with the rest of India. Instead of buying loss-making companies abroad, we should be adopting regions for development. It is in our interest to develop friendlier relationships with countries on China’s periphery and strengthening relationships with the US and Japan is part of this policy. The armed forces — all three wings — need upgrading, with long-range strike aircrafts as well.

Diplomacy would need to be more nimble-footed and proactive rather than reactive. We have to look at 2050 and work accordingly. Short-term "band aid" solutions will not do. Until then it would be good to follow Sun Tzu’s advice: "The side that knows when to fight and when not will take the victory. There are roadways not to be travelled, walled cities not to be assaulted".

Vikram Sood is a former head of the Research and Analysis Wing, India’s external intelligence agency

A rising China bares its fangs

G Parthasarathy


The mouthpiece of China's Communist Party, People's Daily, claimed on October 14, 2009, that Indians have become "more narrow minded". It accused India of "provocation" on border issues with China and asserted that as "nationalism sentiment" rises, Indians are turning to "hegemony" in relations with neighbours. People's Daily called on India to give a "positive response" to China's efforts to resolve the border issue. Pakistan was referred to as one of the countries suffering from Indian hegemony, as India allegedly sought to "befriend the far (United States and Russia) and attack the near (Pakistan and China)". The Chinese conveniently forget how they colluded against India with the Nixon Administration during the Bangladesh conflict in 1971 and with the Clinton Administration, after India's nuclear tests in 1998.

While China has sought to undermine India's relations with countries in its Indian Ocean neighbourhood, even going to the extent of transferring nuclear weapons designs and knowhow to Pakistan, India has yet to fashion a coherent policy on the fears that China's east and south-east Asian neighbours have of China's efforts to dominate the Asia-Pacific region. Assured by the support it received after a visit by Deng Xiao Ping to Washington, China launched an unprovoked attack on Vietnam in order to teach it a "lesson" in 1979. Deng proclaimed that the "lesson" was meant to be similar to that administered to India in 1962. China again used force against Vietnam when it forcibly occupied the Paracel islands in 1974. There was yet another military engagement between China and Vietnam, when China occupied the Johnson Reef in 1988. In July 1992, China occupied Vietnam's Da Lac Reef, establishing its first military presence there since the 1988 clash.

China claims that its territorial waters engulf three million sq km out of the total area of 3.5 million sq km in the South China Sea. Given these excessive claims, China is today engulfed in maritime disputes with Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Indonesia, Japan and both North and South Korea. Earlier this year, China complained about an official landing by Malaysia in islands it had claimed. In the same week, President of Philippines Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed a decree laying claim to two Islands that China had claimed. In February 1995, China militarily occupied the Mischief Reef in the Spratlys Islands, which was claimed by the Philippines. A month later, Philippine forces seized Chinese fishing boats and destroyed Chinese markers in Mischief Reef. Malaysia and Vietnam have joined hands to counter Chinese expansionism by jointly submitting a proposal to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea questioning China's claims and definition of its continental shelf. Such belligerence prompts China's Asia-Pacific neighbours to seek a US presence in the region. India would be well advised to seek a more wide-ranging strategic engagement with China's Asia-Pacific neighbours like Vietnam and Philippines in response to China's policies of seeking to undermine India's relations with its immediate neighbours.

While intimidating its smaller neighbours on issues of maritime boundaries through its growing military strength, China finds its quest for hegemony hampered by two large Asian neighbours —Japan and India. It seeks to exclude the United States and India from regional fora by calling for the establishment of an East Asian Community. Concerned by such Chinese moves, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong asserted: "I think the US has to be part of the Asia-Pacific and the overall architecture of co-operation within the Asia Pacific". This fear of China is accentuated by the virtual paralysis in Japanese foreign policy. The Chinese have spread fears about a revival of World War II Japanese militarism and put Japan on the defensive by protesting about the visits of Japanese leaders to the Yasukuni shrine, which is dedicated to the memory of soldiers killed in service of the country.

Having emerged as the largest trading partner of Asia's three largest economies — Japan, South Korea and India — and a major trading partner of the ASEAN, China appears determined to combine its economic clout and its military potential to emerge as Asia's dominant power. Apart from using maritime power to enforce its territorial claims in the Asia-Pacific, China seeks to become a dominant player in the sea lanes of the Indian Ocean as well. Hence its proposal to the Commander of the US Pacific Fleet that in return for its recognition of American dominance in the Eastern Pacific, the Americans should acknowledge the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean regions as China's sphere of influence.

China's growing belligerence towards India on the border issue should be seen in this context of its determination to be the dominant power in Asia. Given Japan's readiness to succumb to Chinese pressures, Beijing's rulers see an emerging India, which shows the potential for rapid economic growth and is respected in the comity of nations as a stable democracy, as a challenge to its larger ambitions.

The unresolved border issue serves as a useful tool to keep India on edge and under pressure. China knows that no Government in India can agree to its claims on populated areas like Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. Moreover, even though China acknowledged on November 7, 1955 that the "so-called McMahon Line" was the Line of Control in the eastern sector and reiterated this on November 21, 1962, Chinese forces increasingly violate this boundary.

One of the greatest failures of China's Communist Revolution is that despite Han Chinese constituting 91 per cent of the country's population, the Chinese are paranoiac about their ability to handle the nine per cent of their minority populations in the strategically important, Buddhist-dominated Tibetan Autonomous Region and in the Muslim majority Xinjiang Province. This, in spite bringing in Han settlers to reduce the indigenous populations to a minority.

Tawang is seen as symbolically crucial in Chinese eyes as a centre of Buddhist spiritualism. By laying claim to the whole of Arunachal Pradesh, China has put India on the defensive diplomatically and militarily. The Prime Minister told his Chinese counterpart in Bangkok that India regards the Dalai Lama as an "honoured guest" and a spiritual leader. Even as the dialogue with China continues, to maintain peace and tranquillity along our borders, India should not buckle under Chinese pressure and reverse its decision on the Dalai Lama's visit to Tawang. Firmness, together with restraint in rhetoric, and not appeasement, are required for dealing with a growingly jingoistic China.

Yuan gaining currency beyond China

By Russell Hsiao


Since December 2008, China has signed 650 billion yuan (US$95 billion) in currency-swap agreements with Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Hong Kong, Argentina and Belarus, in order to promote greater circulation and convertibility of the Chinese currency (also referred to as the renminbi).

Thailand is reportedly studying a possible currency swap agreement with China that would make it easier for their exporters to settle trade in the two currencies. According to experts, the increased regional use of the yuan for "invoicing, transaction and settlement purposes" could enhance its use as a "store of value".

The global financial crisis has prompted Beijing to hedge the weakening US dollar by encouraging the regionalization of the
yuan as a settlement currency for trade and other current account transactions in Asia, and bypassing the use of the US dollar.

An article by People's Bank of China (PBoC) governor Zhou Xiaochuan on March 2009, which called for an international reserve currency to take the place of the US dollar, created a whirlwind of debate within China's policy circles, and the international community, about the future role of the yuan. While the regional use of the yuan is spreading, analysts have emphasized that it is "usually at the expense of the US dollar as transaction currency, not as reserve currency".

According to Zhang Yuyan, the head of the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences - one of China's leading government think tanks - "A favorable balance of trade with China is a prerequisite for surrounding nations to use the yuan as a reserve currency". China has replaced the United States as the main export market for Asian countries, and as the current pace of China's investments exceeds the growth in its savings there is a possibility that the current account surplus may become a deficit by 2010.

The use of the yuan in China's neighboring countries for transactions has been growing in recent years (for example in northern Thailand, northern Vietnam, Myanmar and eastern Russia) since it is cheaper and simpler for smaller traders to use than the US dollar. In order to monitor these transactions, the PBoC, Vietnam and Laos recently signed bilateral settlement cooperation agreements, which according to Su Ning, the new vice president of the Bank of China, will enhance the fledgling financial regulatory mechanisms in the sub-region.

Su made this statement on October 20 at the "China-ASEAN Financial Cooperation and Development Leaders Forum," held in conjunction with the Sixth China-ASEAN Expo that took place from October 20 to 24 in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Su pointed out that China-ASEAN financial cooperation has made considerable progress in recent years, and by the end of 2008, China and Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia and other countries had signed currency-swap agreements with a net worth of more than $230 billion. The central banks of every ASEAN country reportedly sent a representative to attend the forum. The 10 ASEAN members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Su stated that the PBoC's next step will be to encourage ASEAN countries' financial institutions to establish branches of operations in China, or invest in Chinese financial institutions, and therefore expand the scale of a fund for greater Asian bonds, and promote the development of an Asian bond market.

Xia Bin, president of the Financial Research Institute of the Development Research Center of the State Council - the Chinese government's executive branch - stated that "China is not pursuing the optimum target of complete internationalization of the yuan, but a suboptimal one: gradual regionalization of the currency". The push for the regionalization of yuan appears to be gathering steam ahead of the scheduled launch of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA) on January 1, 2010.

Under the terms of CAFTA, there will be zero-tariff for 90% of the products traded between China and ASEAN countries and "substantial opening" in the service trade market. According to some estimates, the total trade between China and ASEAN members could reach $4.5 trillion once the FTA is launched. The launch of CAFTA will provide momentum for broader regional growth and may facilitate a decoupling from the West, as the yuan plays a more prominent role in the regional economy.

Prior to the financial crisis, the Chinese government did not appear to have a policy on the convertibility of the yuan. Yet the raft of yuan-denominated lines of credit extended to neighboring countries and bilateral local currency swaps that have been signed in recent months demonstrate a far-sighted Chinese stake in increasing the convertibility of the yuan. Moreover, CAFTA would serve as a platform to accelerate the regionalization of the currency.

Russell Hsiao is the editor of China Brief at The Jamestown Foundation.

India – China Truce at Hua Hin

By Bhaskar Roy


The uncalled for polemics between the Chinese establishment which includes the Chinese official media, and the Indian media which was drawing in the Indian officialdom, was put into cold storage in the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh - Premier Wen Jiabao meeting at Hua Hin, Thailand, on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit, on October 25. It was a welcome closure, at least for now, to a situation which was beginning to turn ugly.

Dr. Manmohan Singh carried his own personality and Indian culture to the meeting. Economics Nobel Laureate Dr. Amartya Sen had commented recently that in the 60 years he has known the Indian Prime Minister he never ever saw him getting angry. But deep inside him Dr. Manmohan Singh has a steely resolve. In a warm statement made across the table he congratulated Premier Wen on the 60th founding anniversary of the People's Republic, and said India shared with China's progress.

China's fourth generation leadership with President, Party General Secretary, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) Hu Jintao as the leader takes most decisions in consensus. Hu is primus inter pares, but as officially declared, he is no longer the core of the Communist Party of China (CCP). The issue with India and the Dalai Lama's planned visit to the Tawang monastery, Arunachal Pradesh in north-east India, and the form it was taking, must have been seen by Beijing leaders as detrimental to China's political profile in Asia. The decision to cool down the situation was surely a consensual decision. Otherwise, Premier Wen Jiabao would not have asked visiting Indian minister Jairam Ramesh for a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Thailand.

According to the briefings to the Indian media delegation accompanying Dr. Manmohan Singh given by the Indian delegation, neither Arunachal Pradesh nor the Dalai Lama figured in the Manmohan Singh – Wen talks. At the end of it, Wen looked forward to healthy development between the two countries, and both sides reiterated their commitment to pursue a strategic relationship.

To state briefly, a serious crisis between India and China was averted, and credit must be shared between the officials of the two countries who worked out the agenda of the meeting between the Prime Ministers.

Premier Wen Jiabao, obviously conveying a message from the Chinese leadership, conceded there was enough space in the world for both China and India to grow. This should be true for the Asian space also. This vision has been the central piece of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's China policy, otherwise it will be a lose-lose gambit.

This short phase of heightened acrimony between the two countries have lessons for both India and China. Both have to make historical reviews of their internal development of bilateral relations and how to manage them in external dimensions to avoid a brink situation.

The Indian government has made it a habit of sweeping negative moves from China under the carpet. They are yet to learn from the blunder made by Prime Minister Nehru when he delayed informing Parliament for three years, about Chinese encroachment and consolidation of position in Aksai Chin. He informed them in 1959 after it had become a fait accompli. Had Parliament and people been informed from the beginning there may have been better preparation to bolster and arm the forces on the border.

This syndrome to hide threats to national security from China, hoping it was a bad dream, is self-defeating. The Indian media, though it is independent and has its own mind, must be kept informed to avoid hysterics. The Indian media is supposed to be a constructive critic of the government and society at large, and informs the people. If not briefed properly, the media would tend to rush to conclusions of their own which could lead to misunderstandings.

The Indian media has far too long been focussed on Pakistan. There has been a lack of interest in China in terms of geopolitics, it appears. Why does every major development in the Indian defence sector have to be depicted as aimed at China? The Agni missile series is discussed in terms of whether it can reach Beijing or the latest controversy over the Pokhran-II thermonuclear test is discussed in the context of China. Development and sophistication in military development have much wider connotations. The key word is "defence", and the object is not necessarily constant for all times. The objective is "deterrence" against anyone who threatens India. Pointed mention of these types only give China the pretext to project the "India threat" theory.

China has a huge responsibility to correct itself. All these years, since 1959 China at both official levels and through media PSY-war has continued to berate and insult India, and increasingly projected India as a threat to its neighbours. It has helped most of India's neighbours militarily, politically, economically and diplomatically to corner India. China's biggest blunder was to arm Pakistan with nuclear weapons, and helping Pakistan through the plutonium route to nuclear weapons continues at Pakistan's Kushab facilities. If things go wrong in Pakistan, China may be the first country to regret it. Pakistan's Islamists along with the Taliban and the Al Qaeda will ask China questions over its treatment of Muslim Uighurs, and these questions may be asked with nuclear backing. Anyway, to cut India, China has vitiated the atmosphere in South Asia, and Beijing cannot remain unaffected by the consequences.

China has been flaunting India's defeat in the 1962 border war, and threatens with a similar "teach a lesson" slap. This kind of message has been noticed in the Chinese official media in the last one month. They believe a lie repeated a hundred times becomes the truth.

They state that the Chinese forces withdrew in the Eastern Sector out of kindness and consideration. Nothing is further from the truth for the following reasons: (i) with heavy winter approaching after November, their troops would be cut off from supply lines and would be easy prey for the Indians, (ii) the Indian troops were well equipped and, in the confusion, the air force which was close at hand was not used, (iii) military supplies from the USA and the UK had started coming to India and (iv) the world opinion was turning against China. The Chinese troops did not have a chance to hold on to the territory they gained. But even in declaring ceasefire, they cheated and held on to extra territory beyond the line of demarcation understood by both sides.

The 21st century is by no means 1962. The entire equation has changed – militarily, regionally and globally. The recent Chinese threats are already beginning to cost them credibility with their South East Asian neighbours, a region very important for their strategic security and economic development. A little noticed fact is that China has recently softened its stand with Vietnam and the Philippines on the Spratly Islands dispute.

Any Chinese misadventure along the borders is unlikely to remain limited to the extent of 1962. Notwithstanding the fact that India is at the disadvantageous end of the terrain in the eastern sector, and that China has built far better infrastructure along Tibet's borders with India, military equations along the borers may not yet be to the advantage of the Chinese. Their air force will still remain ineffective, and the armies matched. They will have to rely on the medium range DF-21 series of missiles. But that is a questionable preposition and will lead to much wider implications regionally and globally. The India-China co-operation on international and global issues like human rights, environment and climate change, South-South Co-operation will all go down the drain.

The Dalai Lama is an issue for China. The CCP mouthpiece, the People's Daily, China's most authoritative media outlet, recently (October 24) alleged that India was colluding with the Dalai Lama to split China. To note, this article came on the eve of the Manmohan Singh – Wen Jiabao meeting in Thailand. This is almost suggestive of a split on the India issue in China.

India has no role in the China-Tibet-Dalai Lama issue. In 2003 Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee signed on the Chinese definition on the status of Tibet. That should have taken care of Chinese suspicion. From India's point of view the issue between the Dalai Lama and China is not India's concern, responsibility or involvement. The Dalai Lama enjoys huge popular adoration as a spiritual leader among the Indian people, but he is not allowed to indulge in politics in India, and he is an honoured guest, free to travel anywhere in India in his personal and religious capacity.

As for Arunachal Pradesh, it is India's sovereign territory and there is no space to debate on it. That includes Tawang.

To promote healthy relations and strategic co-operation, China must not be seen seeking to put impediments in India's strategic developments and bilateral relations, as well as territorial integrity.

China continues to oppose the Indo-US nuclear deal, seeks to force India to sign the CTBT and sign on the NPT, roll back its nuclear programme, suspects and opposes India-US high-technology and military co-operation, and keeps India out of any regional grouping where it has a say, or allows India in only if Pakistan is also given an entry. Recently the People's Daily indicated that India's "expansion" in the North-West was blocked by Pakistan and in the north-east, by China, and India must bow down to both. It was a deliberate revelation that China – Pakistan alliance was determined to coerce India into a corner.

In conjunction, China is reverting to its old policy on Kashmir, promoting the Indian portion of Kashmir, (which swears by the Indian constitution) as an independent state. This is a very serious provocation. India could response with equally damaging policies on China. Some constituents in Beijing are angling for the "rotten fish".

If China really wants to settle the border issue there are ways. India made a mistake by not agreeing to Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai's proposal of 1960, offering China would accept the McMahon Line in the east if India accepted the line of actual control in Ladakh. Both countries can revert this formulation to see if still holds strength in political constituencies on both sides. If proposals come, both sides must be clear to each other. Hedging like the Chinese proposal "if India makes concession in the west, China will consider concessions in the east", will always have grounds for suspicion. Parabolic expositions do not work.

China appears to have more problems with its internal constituencies than India has. When Chinese Vice Premier for South Asia, Hu Zhaoyue told Indian journalists in Beijing on October 21 that the upcoming meeting between the two prime ministers in Thailand was "a very important one" and "there has been good progress in bilateral relations", it found little or no mention in the Chinese media. This is significant.

The Chinese official media has been promoting an anti-India nationalist jingoism. Apart from the People's Daily, its affiliate, the "Global Times", has been in the forefront to promote a hate India campaign. In its October 16 edition, it quoted Chinese internet bloggers to say China should strengthen co-operation with its neighbours because of India's defiant provocative actions, and China and Nepal should devise a political strategy to deal with any Indian opposition to the Lhasa-Kathmandu railway. Since November 2008 China at an official level, has been offering Kathmandu assistance against Indian influence in Nepal.

Given the foregoing, any clear conclusion of Chinese intentions as articulated by Wen Jiabao, becomes difficult. For one, China's top leadership does not want the Party Central Committee, party cadres and the people to know that the top leadership is coming down a notch with India. If the Chinese leaders want to save face for the greater good, the Indians including the Indian media must allow it. Expressions on a television channel that "Indian aggression works" must be avoided. Great sensitivity is involved.

On the other hand, there appears to be differences in important sections in the Chinese system over their India policy. If China's top political leadership wants a co-operative partnership with India, they will have to set their own house in order. This may be a difficult task with factional struggles becoming visible before the 18th Party Congress in 2012, but not impossible if the will is strong enough.

(The author is an eminent China analyst with many years of experience of study on the developments in China. He can be reached at grouchohart@yahoo.com)

Ilyas Kashmiri and Brigade 313: Some Myth Busters

By Divya Kumar Soti

These days terrorist leaders in Pakistan get killed and resurrect more often than in the past. The latest instance is of Ilyas Kashmiri, a veteran militant leader having affinity with various outfits. He was thought to have died in a US drone strike in North Waziristan on Sep 14, 2009 and Pak intelligence officials were ‘dead sure’ of his elimination. But he managed to get entry into a list of terrorist leaders who have died many times. For example, al-Qaeda operative Al-Yajid has been eliminated about three times and there are again reports of his death in a recent drone strike, HUJI Chief Qari Saifullah too was declared dead but a weird Habeas Corpus found him in protective custody in Lahore.

Ilyas Kashmiri surfaced through an interview to Asia Times. This led to lot of media flutter and various legends came into being about him. His relations with Pak military-intelligence establishment, his affinity with various terror outfits and his designation in Al-Qaeda are matters of hot speculation in analyst circles. Here are some reality bites:-

Ilyas Kashmiri still has good relations within Pak intelligence community. That is how he was cleared from charge of assassination attempts on President Musharraf. Brigade 313, the group he heads is a compact unit of experienced fighters. These guys have spent their last 10-15 years in some of the leading terror oufits. However, it is not a merged conglomerate of groups like LeJ, JeM, SeS and LeT as is being propagated. In reality the C&C structure of many of these groups are loose and commanders share resources with other outfits with relative freedom. It is an era of freelancing in terrorism. However, it is very much true that members of Brigade 313 have worked in abovementioned organizations in past.

Whatever his designation may be, Ilyas Kashmiri functions as a military and security adviser to Al-Qaeda and affiliates. Although direct operations of Brigade 313 are few, they are source of inspiration of various audacious attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Brigade 313 is also the key source of tactical know how needed for specially designed strikes like those in buddy pairs and is also instrumental in arranging resources through its contacts with various organizations. Such diversification helps in evading detection by C-T activity.

However, Ilyas Kashmiri is attempting to take credit for past strikes with which he in all probability had nothing to do in an attempt to add weight to his profile. His propaganda about Indian activities in Afghanistan is strikingly similar to official Pakistani line. It is further not known that whether the source of information about his whereabouts and confirmation of his elimination was same. Anyway, building a bubble around a stock and a terrorist in Pakistan is quite a similar thing.

(The author is an intelligence affairs analyst and may be reached at writing2divya@gmail.com)

October 27, 2009

India: Balancing United States and China

by Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle


With the reemergence of Asia as the primary sphere of global engagement in the 21st Century due to power balance of population, production, information and military gradually shifting towards India and China, the West is now looking for an ally to retain its preeminence. China’s one party rule, power centric approach and huge economic and trade surpluses are admired as well as feared. On the other hand India with its democracy, soft diplomacy and a strong military appears to be favorably placed to balance the two poles of the global balance, China and the West.

The United States has a number of policy objectives in engaging India, strategic, economic and socio cultural with a large Indian diaspora in America today. Some Indian analysts feel that one part of the relationship is also to balance a rising China, however there is a majority of Indians who hold the view that finally India and China will cooperate in Asia as well as the globe as was evident in the cordial atmosphere of talks between the Indian and Chinese Prime Ministers in Bangkok on 24 October.

Yet there are many challenges to be overcome before the West is comfortable with India or India with the West and China and India develop a relationship of trust beyond the occasional stand off over the border issue and visits by dignitaries to Arunachal Pradesh including the revered His Holiness Dalai Lama, whom Beijing sadly denigrates as a,“splitist” amongst other unwarranted castigations.
The Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh who many believe is too soft on foreign policy issues thankfully set the record straight when he met Premier Wen Jiabao in Bangkok on the issue of His Holiness to Arunachal Pradesh. India views the Dalai Lama as a guest and a spiritual person exactly opposite of what the Chinese perception. However this is not likely to satisfy the Chinese who will continue to raise the issue from time to time. Hopefully New Delhi will not wilt.

But there are other concerns in the Sino Indian relations which make the Chinese wary of Indian intent. One is the Indo US defence cooperation. The scale of ongoing military exercises between the two countries is worrying Chinese analysts. There is actually no major change in the Indo US joint military exercise, the purpose remains restricted to company level joint training for Ex Yudh Abhyas for the Army and joint airborne training for Cope India for the Air Force. Company level training is not considered large scale. Even the equipment used such as Bradley armored vehicles have been used earlier in similar company level training in Alaska in the US by Indian and US forces.

Increased army sales are another factor that Beijing is worried about. The US arms sales policy denotes that this is another facet of the overall bilateral cooperation as also defence cooperation between the two countries. India is developing a balanced arms purchase policy to technologically upgrade its Armed Forces and therefore US assistance in this sphere would be welcome.

The Chinese need to appreciate that India is wary of President Obama’s policies, despite the 24 November State welcome to the Indian Prime Minister in Washington. There is an Indian view that US foreign policy under President Obama is not as favorable as it was in the time of Mr George W Bush who went out of the way to accommodate India through the special Indo US Nuclear Deal. Indians are skeptical of President Obama’s policies on nuclear non proliferation, CTBT and FMCT. Similarly the emphasis of the US President on preserving domestic jobs is also a concern for countries as India who has a large number of youth working in the United States.

India is no doubt on the cusp of an emerging opportunity to be a major player by balancing between the West and China. However for this it would have to place itself more aggressively on the multilateral fora though it is not a part of the UN P 5. But it can well leverage the link or swing power role that analysts have been talking about to advantage. Are Madam Nirupama Rao and her colleagues in Washington and Beijing looking towards such a role for the country would determine the way ahead? We all hope they are doing so.

October 25, 2009

At old British base, US and India train for new wars

Manu PubbyTags : Indian forces, US forces, joint operationPosted: Tuesday , Oct 27, 2009 at 0442 hrsBABINA (JHANSI):

Indian and American troops at Yudh Abhyas ’09, a joint exercise between forces of the two countries, in Babina on Monday

After a tough fight, Indian forces manage to capture Abu Abida, the dreaded warlord who, with the covert support of a neighbouring state, had been pushing in heavily armed insurgents to subvert the country. As the terrorist is escorted out of the war zone with the help of American forces, the convoy is attacked by militants trying to free him. Within minutes, Indian and US Army soldiers mount a rescue mission, pummelling the enemy village with tank and Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICV) fire. US troops are air-dropped by Indian helicopters to mop up the remains.

The setting might as well be Iraq or Afghanistan, where US troops face such situations on routine basis, but this is in fact a nondescript firing range 400 km south of Delhi where the two countries have just concluded their largest ever army exercise. Incidentally, the Babina range has a past dating back to the British days — its full form is British Army Base in North Asia.

While joint foreign deployments may be some time off, the most complex war game between the two countries has made one thing clear — India and US can now operate together in a hostile environment like Iraq or Afghanistan and deliver the goods.
“I will be comfortable going with the Indian Army anywhere, anytime,” said Lt Gen Benjamin Mixon, Commander, US Army, Pacific at the conclusion of a 15-day exercise that involved over 300 US troops and 17 Stryker ICVs brought in from Hawaii.
And he has reason to be confident. Before capturing Abida, the two armies launched an audacious attack on “an insurgent base”, complete with the destructive firepower of T-90 tanks, Stryker ICVs and bunker-busting capabilities of the US Javelin missile.

If Malabar 2007 was the turning point for Navy-Navy ties between the two countries and Red Flag 2008 redefined the relation between the two air forces, the anti-terror Yudh Abhyas that featured tanks, UAVs, ICVs, anti-tank missiles and heliborne operations has taken Army-Army ties to a new level.

There are a number of firsts in the exercise — the first mechanized infantry exercise, the largest deployment of Stryker ICVs outside Iraq and Afghanistan. But the important thing is that the two armies can now mount a joint armoured strike, take down terror camps and operate jointly in a counter-insurgency environment.
The Indian Army, however, was at pains to clarify that the war game was not directed against anyone. Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Lt Gen A S Sekhon said it was “purely and purely” a training exercise.

While the Indian Army was complimented for its professionalism and interoperability was the buzz word, what made the difference between the two forces was technology. The US Army brought in its latest anti-tank ‘fire and forget’ Javelin missile, a generation ahead of the wire-controlled Milan still used by the Indian Army. The ‘fire and forget’ technology is something that the Army is looking for and the experience with the Javelin will help in making a qualified choice.

Similarly, the Raven mini-UAV used by US forces to get real time pictures of the battlefield is also something new for the Indian Army. Again, India is looking to buy similar infantry UAVs at the earliest and the experience of using them in a war game would give an insight into the product.

Tactics used by US forces in Iraq, where the Stryker unit taking part in the exercise was deployed six months ago,
were a learning experience for Indian soldiers. Expertise in bunker-busting, destroying buildings and taking on enemy camps with armoured vehicles may not be needed within the country but it doesn’t hurt to learn.

“The lessons we learnt are from the American experience in Afghanistan, particularly in terms of technology,” Sekhon said.

For US forces, the learning stemmed from the experience of Indian forces fighting insurgencies in the North-East and Jammu and Kashmir for decades. Some of the exercises carried out were on themes and terms that are very common in the Indian context. The two armies carried out a Road Opening Party (ROP) operation, something that the Army does on a daily basis in Kashmir — clearing mines, IEDs and possible ambushes along a road. Another thing practised was cordon-and-search operations in a hostile village.

“We would be able to work together as militaries. If there was a contingency, we would be better prepared to deal with it,” said Mixon.

India and US have conducted eight exercises under the Yudh Abhyas series that kicked off in 2004. The first Yudh Abhyas commenced at Chaubatiya in the Himalayan foothills, and was followed in 2005 with US Army contingents training with Indian troops at the Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School in Vairangte, Mizoram. In Yudh Abhyas 2006, Indian troops went to Hawaii for training. In 2007, there were two exercises, both at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. In 2008, the exercise shifted back to Hawaii.

India, U.S. to conclude three trade pacts

Special Correspondent


The two countries issued a joint statement at the India-U.S. Trade Policy Forum

ENHANCING TRADE: Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma (left) with the U.S. Trade Representative, Ron Kirk prior to their Ministerial level India-U.S. Trade Policy Forum meeting, in New Delhi on Monday.

NEW DELHI: India and the U.S. on Monday agreed to fast-track and conclude within a given timeframe agreements on enhancing and deepening trade and investment engagement, and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) cooperation agreement and an agreement for putting in place traditional knowledge digital library.

The two countries also issued a joint statement at the end of the Sixth Ministerial Level meeting of the India-U.S. Trade Policy Forum (TPF) with readiness to continue focus on agriculture, innovation and creativity, investment, services and tariff and non-tariff barriers. The Indian team was headed by the Commerce and Industry Minister, Anand Sharma, and the U.S. delegation was headed by the U.S. Trade Representative, Ron Kirk.
Briefing journalists at the end of the meeting, Mr. Sharma said although no firm deadline had been fixed for concluding these agreements they would happen soon. “The U.S. has submitted us a draft on these issues and we will certainly study it. We hope to sign agreement very soon. These are in continuation of the high-level engagement between the two countries and in the run-up to the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh’s, visit to Washington next month,” he added.

Agreement on IPR
Mr. Sharma said the cooperation agreement on IPR was being put in place to reassure and comfort investors from both the countries. Expressing satisfaction with the result of Monday’s meeting, Mr. Sharma said the Indo-U.S. TPF would act as a catalyst for enhancing trade and investment and promoting economic engagement.

The joint statement said the two countries agreed to work together on a framework for promoting real and meaningful cooperation in trade and investment.

They also agreed to work together to support greater involvement of small and medium enterprises in each others’ markets and to pursue initiatives in the further development of India’s infrastructure, collaboration on clean energy and environmental services, information and communications technologies and other key sectors.

H1-B visas
On the issue of H1-B visas for Indian professionals, Mr. Sharma said he had taken up the matter with Mr. Kirk stating that the Indian IT sector and industry in the U.S. had not only made huge investments but also generated thousands of jobs.

They are only one per cent of the total IT professionals working in the U.S. They have made a huge contribution to the U.S. economy and U.S. should take steps to sort out all issues faced by them in this area.



Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, who discussed India-China bilateral issues with Prime Minister Wen Jiabo of China, on two occasions during his visit to Hua Hin in Thailand for the summit with ASEAN leaders, has maintained a studied ambivalence on the question of the reported plans of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to visit Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh next month to declare open a hospital constructed with assistance from the Tibetan exile community in India. China has repeatedly protested against the proposed visit. The latest protest was handed over by the Chinese Ambassador in New Delhi to the Ministry of External Affairs on the eve of the Hua Hin meeting between the two leaders.

2. Bilateral issues figured in the meeting of the two Prime Ministers in the margins of the summit on October 24,2009, as well as during a dinner hosted by the Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva for the participants in the summit. While the subject of the Dalai Lama's proposed visit did not appear to have figured at the bilateral meeting, it did figure during the discussions at the dinner as reportedly stated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself during his interactions with the Indian journalists, who had accompanied him. It is not clear whether the Thai dinner preceded the bilateral meeting or followed it.

3.Dr.Manmohan Singh was careful in the formulation of his remarks on the Dalai Lama visit. He said: "I explained to Premier Wen that Dalai Lama is our honoured guest and he is a religious leader.We do not allow Tibetan refugees to indulge in political activities and proof of that is that we took resolute action against some Tibetans during Olympics (torch relay) last year following reports that some Tibetan refugees might create problems."

4.The most significant part of his formulation came in reply to a question from a journalist on the Dalai Lama's proposed visit to Arunachal Pradesh.Dr. Singh said HE WAS NOT AWARE OF THE DALAI LAMA'S PLANS. (Emphasis mine)

5. The proposed visit of His Holiness to Tawang in response to a local invitation from Arunachal Pradesh had been figuring in media reports for nearly two months now and the Chinese have repeatedly protested against it.India's Minister for External Affairs, Shri S.M.Krishna, had said that His Holiness was free to visit any part of India.

6. Till now, the Prime Minister himself had maintained a total silence on the issue. To have ruled out the visit would have been politically unwise for the Congress (I) in view of the recent elections in Arunachal Pradesh. Now that the elections are over and the Congress (I) has retained power, the Prime Minister no longer seems to feel the need to observe political caution on the subject lest the electoral fortunes of the Congress (I) be affected.

7.Is he preparing the ground for ending the controversy and defusing the tension with Beijing on the subject by quietly persuading His Holiness to postpone the visit for some personal reasons? (26-10-09)

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

Moscow’s new aggressive military doctrine does not rule out bombing neighbours

Meanwhile, the Russian bear snarls...


Moscow’s new aggressive military doctrine does not rule out bombing neighbours, says Ilya Kramnik

Russia’s new military doctrine, which is to come into force in 2010, has provoked a heated debate, first of all because it stipulates preemptive nuclear strikes.

Moreover, it says that nuclear weapons may also be used in local conflicts in case of critical threats to Russia’s national security.

The wording has encouraged some people to say that Russia intends to use nuclear weapons in conflicts with its closest neighbours — former Soviet republics.

A critical threat to Russia’s national security can come from different types of conflicts, including a large-scale war with a block of countries, or a hypothetical territorial conflict with one or several militarily developed countries.

Since the armed forces of the former Soviet republics are not very efficient, it can be assumed that only the Baltic countries, which are Nato members, can pose a critical threat to Russia. Although there is zero probability of a conflict with a Baltic country, if such a war does break out, it will immediately overgrow the scale of a local conflict, and it is not a Baltic territory that will be Russia’s target in this case.

A critical threat can also be created by an attempt by a more developed neighbour who is not a member of a Nato-type military alliance to use military force against Russia to settle a territorial dispute. Theoretically, such a conflict is possible with Japan if Japanese politicians seeking to use military force to solve the Kuril problem come to power there.

However, a critical threat to Russia is more probable in a larger war. Russia started speaking about the possibility of delivering preemptive nuclear strikes long ago, in the late 1990s after Nato bombed Yugoslavia. Russia subsequently held war games post-1999 simulating a military conflict with Nato similar to the one in Yugoslavia.

That war game showed that only nuclear weapons would save Russia in case of a Western aggression. The Russian Government subsequently changed the schemes of using nuclear weapons, especially tactical ones.

The new provision was sealed in two fundamental documents — the military doctrine and the national security concept adopted in 2000. They read that the use of nuclear weapons is justified and necessary “to repel a military aggression when all other methods of settling the crisis have been used and proved ineffective.”

The decision looked logical at the time since Nato’s military power was superior to Russia, and the situation has not changed much since then. On the other hand, the possibility of a dispute — let alone a military conflict — with Nato has decreased because Russia has launched a new round of dialogue with the bloc. But military doctrines stipulate basic provisions that do not take into account the current tactical situation.

It should be said that other countries, including the United States, are also considering preemptive nuclear strikes.

Russia’s new military doctrine also has a clause on the use of military force to protect the lives and interests of Russian citizens abroad. This new addition to the Law On Defence was approved in the summer of 2009, and it will also be sealed in the new military doctrine.

On the whole, the new military doctrine reflects Russia’s gradual movement toward Western standards of the use of military force. The ideological provisions of the Soviet Union’s military doctrine — with the exception of the term “potential enemy” — have long been forgotten. Russia now intends to use its military force when and where necessary, and against any opponent.

The writer is a military affairs columnist based in Moscow

Might of the Red dragon

Abhijit Bhattacharyya


China is in no mood to play second fiddle to anyone any more. In its quest to emerge as a global power, it has sought to step into the vacuum created by the downturn in the US economy. With trillions of dollars as surplus funds, Beijing can afford to flex its muscles

First it was a serving naval chief and then the incumbent air chief telling the media that India lags behind China in terms of military might. Fortunately the statements came from the highest ranking serving soldiers and not from a civilian source, or else it certainly could have posed a problem to the civilian ‘whistle-blower’ for leaking out ‘top secret classified information’, thereby ‘affecting’ the morale of our troops.

It would be worthwhile to make an assessment of the scenario since 1997-1998 to the present day. Even in 1997-1998, as reported by Military Balance, the disparity between India and China was too glaring to go unnoticed. The Middle Kingdom’s 20,90,000-man Army (including 120 infantry divisions); 2,80,000-strong Navy; 4,70,000-strong Air Force; 8,500 main battle tanks; 61 submarines; 54 fighting ships and 3,740 combat aircraft could not be matched by India’s 9,80,000-man Army; 55,000-sailor Navy; 1,10,000-strong air warriors; 3,314 main battle tanks; 17 submarines; 25 principal surface combatants and 777 combat capable aircraft.

Twelve years on China seems to have changed the power game with a substantial quantitative reduction, qualitative up-gradation and novel reorganisation, thereby trimming its Army to 16,00,000 men; Navy to 2,55,000 sailors; Air Force to 3,30,000 personnel; 7,600 tanks and 1,653 combat aircraft. The most spectacular rise of China appears to have taken place in the sea with the induction of three submarines with ballistic missile-launch capability. The number of tactical conventional submarines and ships has also gone up to 62 and 78 respectively.

In comparison, India too has risen to 11,00,000-man Army; 1,20,000-strong Air Force; 4,065 tanks and 47 fighting ships. However, India’s submarine and fighter aircraft capability has been reduced to 16 and 603 respectively. This means less visible air warriors on the Himalayan frontier and a stretching of its water front defence.

All this boils down to the question: How does one cope with a — albeit unlikely — two-front eventuality? For an answer, one needs to understand the Chinese power-play to take corrective measures.

Clearly China is not in a mood to play second fiddle to anyone. Beijing wants to play an important role in the 21st century. It has waited for far too long in the 20th century — first fighting a two-front external war and a civil war, followed by an equally strenuous gestation period —to come out of its shell and shock the world with its prodigious performance in the Olympic Games in the 1980s followed by storming the world market with cheap consumer goods in the 1990s.

When Western capitalism was flourishing and flush with cash, China went slowly but steadily forward, capturing the world market with cheap, mass-produced goods. When the US-led world financial market collapsed, China’s trillions of surplus dollars came handy to bail out faltering economies. The US today stands somewhat forlorn on the war front, wealth creation mart, World Bank management and the UN.

Since it is still too early to predict the future, conventional Chinese wisdom sees the world as “yi chao duo chiang” — one superpower and several great powers. Whether Beijing is obliquely referring to itself as the ‘one superpower’ or not is anybody’s guess. But nobody can doubt that China is one among the ‘several great powers’, if not the first among equal ‘great powers’.

And what does China do to attain further ‘greatness’? By rightly showing its might on October 1, 2009, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, thereby providing enduring images of its growing might. Thus far China has been biding time and developing its economy by following the former leader Deng Xiaoping’s “hide the brightness, nourish obscurity” policy.

China’s mounting confidence in its future is reflected in its ‘concern’ over the US’s plight. In 2006 Wang Yiwei of Fudan University, Shanghai, wrote a provocative essay, “How can we prevent the US from declining too quickly?” The decline came in 2005 with Wall Street’s collapse. China now sees a chance to step into the vacuum created by the downturn in the US economy. Beijing is well aware of its present runners-up position as none of the other powers like Russia, Japan, Germany, the UK, France, India, Brazil, Australia and South Africa come anywhere close to China’s second place.

Hence, Prof Fu Mengzi of a prominent Beijing think-tank can confidently state that “the high point for US power was 2000”. Song Hongbing, in his path-breaking book, Currency Wars 2, predicts that an “obscure international elite bankers and politicians will impose a global currency by 2024 and usher in an era of world government”. According to him, the “US Federal Reserve supports the plan because it recognises that the dollar will be savaged by a bout of hyper inflation”. It is not surprising that China’s federal bank chief Zhou Xiaochuan has called for the eventual replacement of the dollar as the global reserve currency.

In the energy sector, too, China, with its surplus funds, has begun to invest in strategic destinations ranging from Venezuela, Brazil, Iraq, Iran and Sudan to the smaller fields of Africa and the mighty Russian fields. Competing with the US appears foremost priority for China which sees itself as a global power and India as a regional player. A part of China’s strategic calculation certainly emanates from India-US bonhomie.

All said, however, Beijing’s over-sensitivity to Tibet,Taiwan, Xianjian (Uighur) and the irritants in South China Sea, Vietnam, Japan and India, along with excessive dependence on export economics, will continue to be possible areas of concern in the foreseeable future.

The writer is an alumnus of the National Defence College of India and a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, London.

NATO plays a waiting game

By Pavol Stracansky


BRATISLAVA - Corruption, doubts over Afghan leadership and faltering public support have emerged as the main stumbling blocks to a demand for more North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops in Afghanistan.

NATO secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, had wanted NATO defense ministers meeting in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava on Thursday and Friday last week to agree to raise troop numbers in Afghanistan. The United States and NATO troops commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has asked for 40,000 more troops.

Rasmussen made energetic appeals to NATO states to endorse the general's plan, which also calls for a shift in strategy to do more to protect the Afghan population, and to train local forces and police.

At the end of the meeting, Rasmussen said defense ministers had given their broad support for the McChrystal report. But it was clear that there would be no commitment from most European countries to send more troops while doubts remain over Afghan President Hamid Karzai's regime.

"The plan for NATO is to get the central government to take control of the country and get institutions up and functioning and then leave," Tomas Valasek, director of foreign policy and defense at the Center for European Reform in London told Inter Press Service (IPS).

"But the problem is that the government for whom the Western powers are doing all this is increasingly seen by ordinary Afghans as more and more incompetent, and Karzai is bringing in former warlords into his government while people complain of widespread corruption.

"It makes no difference how many troops NATO sends in - it could send in 10 soldiers for every Afghan - if the government does not have the backing of the people. As soon as the troops left it would all fall apart."

There are 65,000 US troops in Afghanistan and a further 39,000 from allied states. More than 1,000 allied troops have been killed in Afghanistan since the start of military operations in 2001.

McChrystal's report calls for priority for protecting Afghan civilians ahead of killing insurgents. The United Nations has reported 1,013 civilian deaths in the first six months of 2009, a rise from 818 over the corresponding period last year. The UN says NATO troops or Afghan forces were responsible for 30.5% of the deaths.

The White House has been mulling McChrystal's request since late August, and experts say the call for more troops at a time of rising allied casualties has exposed divisions among NATO member states.

Public opinion in much of Europe is now against the war. Experts say it is hard for governments to persuade voters to support sending more troops to help a regime in Kabul that is increasingly seen as corrupt. The alleged fraud in recent presidential elections and accusations that Karzai's government has turned a blind eye to drug running will have done little to change that view.

While Britain has pledged more soldiers, France has said it will not send any more troops. Senior figures at the Bratislava conference told IPS that they believe German officials have privately told US leaders they will not send any more soldiers.

Franz Josef Jung, the German defense minister, said at the Bratislava meeting that there would definitely be no increase in German troop levels until after a planned NATO conference on Afghanistan expected early next year.

Officials from the Netherlands and Denmark said they would not send more troops until a legitimate government was formed in Afghanistan after a re-run presidential election next month.

Some analysts say it is uncertain that any agreement from European allies on raising troop commitments will be reached. "It needs a consensus, and that will not happen on this issue with so many members," Ivo Samson, defense analyst with the group Slovak Foreign Policy, told IPS.

Danish Defense Minister Soeren Gade told media at the Bratislava meeting that if and when NATO allies sent more troops, they were likely to make it contingent on the Afghan leadership making clear commitments to dealing with problems in the country.

"We have to make sure the new government in Afghanistan is committed to its job before we send any more troops to Afghanistan," he said.

Analysts say NATO is now facing a crucial decision on Afghanistan after the re-run presidential elections early next month.

Valasek told IPS, "The White House is carrying out a review of its Afghanistan strategy, and other NATO members are waiting to see what the US, the largest troop contributor in Afghanistan, is planning to do. Until then, they cannot really do anything."

India's nuclear drive sparks safety fears

Siddharth Srivastava


NEW DELHI - In hopes that nuclear power will meet its rising energy needs, India has embarked on a spending spree since a civilian nuclear deal with the United States last October removed sanctions that had long denied it access to the international atomic energy market.

India has signed agreements with an array of nations to share and access nuclear fuel and technologies since the deal was completed. The most significant have been with Russia, the US and France.

The government last week allocated sites for Russian, French and American firms to build five new light-water reactors. French firm Areva is earmarked to build a reactor in Jaitapur in Maharashtra state; Russian firms will build two plants, in Kudankulam, Tamil

Nadu, and in Haripur, West Bengal; and US firms are set to build a plant in Kovvada, Andhra Pradesh, and in Chayamithi Virdi, Gujarat.

"This important announcement [of the allocation of sites] comes in welcome recognition of the trust and confidence as well as the growing partnership between our two countries," said United States ambassador to India, Timothy Roemer. He said the power plants would bring greater access to clean and affordable energy and electricity for all Indians as well as create business opportunities for India and the US.

The government has approved a total of 15 new nuclear plants to be built at eight different sites, with firms including GE Hitachi, Toshiba Westinghouse, Areva and Rosatom vying for contracts worth an estimated US$100 billion. India has notified the International Atomic Energy Agency of its plans and 14 of its reactors will come under the nuclear watchdog's ambit by 2014.

India has signed nuclear and technology deals with Namibia, Mongolia, Tajikistan, South Korea and Kazakhstan since October, and is close to signing an agreement with Canada. Argentina this month became the latest nation to sign a civil nuclear agreement after the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers' Group lifted a 34-year-old ban on nuclear commerce with India, in September, 2008.

Australia, however, has refused to supply uranium to India as Delhi remains a non-signatory to non-proliferation treaties such as the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The chairman of the state-controlled Atomic Energy Commission, Anil Kakodkar, has announced plans to construct four 700-megawatt (MW) pressurized heavy water reactors that could run on indigenous natural uranium as well as imported low-enriched uranium. India's present capacity of electricity production from nuclear power plants is 4,120 MW, but it has targeted 20,000 MW by 2020 and nearly 65,000 MW by 2032, according to the Planning Commission's 2006 integrated energy policy report.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently said that India could increase its atomic electricity generation capacity to 470,000 MW by 2050, if new power plants and technologies were in place. This would translate into nuclear power contributing 40% of estimated total power, from 2.7% currently.

"This would not only sharply reduce the country's dependence on fossil fuels but also contribute to global efforts to combat climate change," Manmohan said.

Nuclear safety
As the push for nuclear energy grows, so are the murmurs about India's nuclear safety record. Some analysts say there could be cause for alarm, given the non-transparent nature of India's state-controlled nuclear energy sector - there is no way to estimate whether safety issues will be carefully followed.

Data on the sector are closely guarded by the nuclear establishment, which functions under the purview of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).

The Indian chapter of the International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War, in a 2008 survey, found that "sterility was found to be more common in people residing near uranium mining operations." Birth defects and congenital deformities followed a similar pattern.

In the early 1990s, the Tarapur plant near Mumbai leaked radioactivity from faulty cooling systems. Incidents of genetic disorders have been recorded in populations at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan state and in the sea near Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu, where nuclear power plants are located. In 2004, the Kakrapar-1 reactor in Gujarat was shut down.

In the 1990s, the former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, A Gopalakrishnan, expressed fears about the safety status of some nuclear installations under the DAE.

Siddharth Srivastava is a New Delhi-based journalist. He can be reached at sidsri@yahoo.com