December 04, 2009



Al Qaeda looks upon its continuing jihad against the so-called Crusaders --- thereby meaning essentially the US, Israel and their supporters--- as a global intifada waged on many fronts and through many means. In this global jihad, Afghanistan, Somalia and Algeria are seen as battle fronts, which will determine the ultimate outcome. Afghanistan is seen as the core of the battle, Somalia as its southern front and Algeria as the Western front.

2. In a message disseminated on December 20,2006, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No.2 to Osama bin Laden in Al Qaeda, said: “Brothers in Islam and Jihad in Somalia: know that you are on the southern garrison of Islam, so don’t allow Islam to be attacked from your flank, and know that we are with you, and that the entire Muslim Ummah is with you. So don’t lose heart, or fall into despair, for you must dominate if you are true in faith. And know that you are fending off the same Crusade which is fighting your brothers in Islam in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon. So be resolute, be patient and be optimistic, for by Allah beside whom there is no other God, even if your enemies possess thousands of tons of iron and explosives, in their chests lie the hearts of mice. So be severe against them like Muhammad was. "

3. To keep the jihad going in Somalia is one of its important objectives. For this purpose, it uses not only recruits from the impoverished local population, but also from the Somali diaspora in the West----including the US--- as well as jihad-hardened cadres sent from the battle fronts in the Af-Pak region. The Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) of Pakistan has had a long history of contacts with the Muslim population in Somalia and East African countries just as it has with the Muslim population of Chechnya and Dagestan. Though the TJ itself does not indulge in acts of terrorism, it plays an important role in facilitating the ideological motivation of the population on behalf of Al Qaeda.

4. In September 2009, Al Shabaab, meaning “The Lads”, an organization of Somali youths, was reported to have disseminated through Islamic web sites usually identified with Al Qaeda a 48-minute video documentary in which it proclaimed its allegiance to Osama bin Laden. It derives its name “The Lads” from the fact that it used to be the youth wing of a fundamentalist organization called the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which had established control over some parts of Somalia and was ultimately crushed by invading Ethiopian troops in 2006. While the elders of the UIC disappeared after being defeated by the better trained and better armed Ethiopian troops allegedly inspired and aided by the US, the Al Shabaab replaced the UIC as a born-again jihadi organization, which was determined to continue the jihad against the troops of the African Union, which had replaced the Ethiopian troops, and of the UN-backed local Government, which it viewed as apostate.

5. Though Somalis had participated in acts of suicide terrorism on behalf of Al Qaeda in other countries, suicide terrorism was unknown in Somalia itself till Al Shabaab made its appearance in 2006. Even though it proclaimed its loyalty to bin Laden only in September,2009, it had carried out a number of acts of suicide terrorism against local Government targets as well as the peace-keeping troops of the African Union ever since the AU troops took over their peace-keeping responsibility in Somalia. Al Shabaab has been waging a two-front jihad---- against the AU troops and the local Government being protected by the AU troops. The first act of suicide terrorism took place on September 18,2006. Since then, there have been 13 suicide attacks--- two in 2006, four in 2007, two in 2008 and five this year.

6. The Al Shabaab cadres, many of whom had allegedly served with the Afghan Mujahideen, the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the Af-Pak region, look upon their jihad as similar to the jihad waged by the Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviet troops and those of the Government of the then President Najibullah in the 1980s and the early 1990s.

7. In a serious attack of suicide terrorism, a male suicide bomber dressed as a woman managed to find his way into a graduation ceremony of medical students in a Mogadishu hotel on December 3,2009, and blew himself up killing 19 persons, including three Ministers of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Omar Sharmarke of the UN-backed Government. Even though no organization has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, Al Shabaab is strongly suspected by the local authorities.

8. Though there is so far no evidence of any nexus between Al Shabaab and the Somali pirates, the dangers of money earned from piracy going to the coffers of Al Qaeda and the availability in Somalia of sea-faring people who could be used by Al Qaeda for future acts of maritime terrorism cannot be ignored.

9. A Reuters report carried on December 4,2009, by the “Daily Times” of Lahore has quoted Bethuel Kiplagat, who used to be Kenya’s special envoy to the Somalia peace process from 2003 to 2005, as saying as follows: “Suicide bombings are a worrying trend not only for Somalia but also the region. There has been a rise in fundamentalism in Somalia coming from the Middle East and Pakistan. There’s a worry Al Qaeda may be looking at Somalia as a new sanctuary.”

10. On March 16,2009, Mohamed Mohamed of the BBC’s Somali section, reported as follows: “As well as alleged links to al-Qaeda it is said to have Arabs, Asians, other Africans and - America's FBI believes - Westerners among its ranks. These foreigners are said to be involved in training Al Sabaab recruits in various aspects of guerrilla warfare, including suicide bombings and booby traps.”

11. On February 29, 2008, the then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice designated Al Shabaab as a Foreign Terrorist Organization under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act . (4-12-09)

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

December 03, 2009

A Wish List for Santa Putin

By Tom Balmforth
Russia Profile

Vladimir Putin’s Longest-Ever Question-and-Answer Session Was the Usual Combination of Politics and Conspicuous Munificence

According to one analyst, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was like “Father Christmas dishing out presents” during his question-and-answer session on December 3, making a raft of promises and pledges to anxious callers. Reviving Russia’s single-industry cities and combating terrorism were the main topics at the four-hour phone-in session, as Putin tried to calm a nation shaken by the economic crisis and the Nevsky Express bombing last week. Several recent polls suggest the prime minister’s popularity has taken a tumble. So what did Putin set out to achieve in the call-in? And was it anything more than a long-winded exercise in self-promotion?

“The peak of the crisis has been overcome ... But the exit from the crisis takes time, strength and no small amount of funds,” Putin said today at his second call-in session as prime minister. Putin was optimistic about Russia’s economic recovery, pointing to the economy’s average monthly growth of 0.5 percent in the last five months. Unlike the last financial crisis in 1998, Russia now has a much better demographic situation, which is good news for the country’s economic recovery, Putin said. Whereas in 1998, the birth rate was falling and the death rate rising, exactly the opposite is the case today. “Birth rates are growing at a record pace, soon to exceed three percent, and death rates are also falling ... This has an economic impact too, because it supports demand,” he said. “My main impression today is that Putin is eager to keep citizens thinking that the crisis is almost over,” said Nikolai Petrov, an expert on domestic politics at the Carnegie Moscow Center.

During the nationally televised phone-in session Putin was connected to live video feeds from various single-industry towns, or “monogorods,” and took questions from congregations of immaculately turned-out factory workers, lined up in neat rows and wearing hard hats. The first city to be video-streamed was Pikalyovo, a cement-producing monogorod in the Leningrad region where Putin is lauded as a savior for his role in settling a managerial squabble that had brought all three of the town’s factories – and its power station -- to a halt, depriving the residents of both jobs and hot water. The first Pikalyovo factory-worker to speak began by thanking his great benefactor profusely for having come to the rescue of the monogorod half a year ago, but requested that Putin come again because a similar row is developing. Putin replied firmly and unequivocally. "If the situation demands, I will come to you and to any other place in the country. It is my duty."

The prime minister restated his commitment to fighting for the Russian industry. Steel producers will be propped up through continued government support for Russia’s steel-consuming industries, including its ailing car sector. When the video feed was streamed from Togliatti, home of AvtoVaz, Putin stressed his support for the Lada-making brand and suggested that it might soon attract further foreign investment from Renault.

Out of the 1.5 million questions received three hours before the session began, queries about the terrorist attack on the Neva Express were the most numerous, Dmitry Peskov, the prime minister’s spokesman, told RIA Novosti in the run-up to the phone-in. The day before the broadcast a group calling itself the Caucasian Mujahedin, led by Doku Umarov, Russia’s most wanted terrorist, claimed responsibility for the bomb attack, which killed 26 people on Friday evening. The authenticity of the claim was impossible to verify, but for Russians it has brought back memories of the appalling terrorist acts of the first half of the decade. Since Putin largely built his reputation on putting an end to these horrors, it was apt that he first answered a question about terrorism.

"We have done a lot to break the back of terrorism, but the threat has not been fully liquidated ... The threat of terrorism remains very high," he said. Nonetheless, the prime minister was quick to rule out the possibility of a war in the North Caucasus, a region where assassinations and terrorism have now become routine. "Do events in Ingushetia, Dagestan and other regions signal the start of a new war in the Caucasus? No. I don't sense any sort of war in the Caucasus. The situation is difficult ... There are still extremist groups. That's a fact, and we will continue to fight them until they are completely extinguished."

Putin also reaffirmed his close working relationship with Medvedev, but again suggested he could run for president in 2012. “I will think about it. There is plenty of time,” he said.

Apart from this, much of the four-hour marathon was devoted to specific complaints from Russians. Putin invariably vowed to resolve these quibbles, usually with the promise of money. At one point he reassured a man who complained that his war veteran aunt had been denied the free accommodation Putin had publicly promised. Not to worry, said the prime minister – it is on its way. “The decision has been taken and it is final. We are allocating the funds for this in 2010,” Putin said.

“In general, Putin looked good today. He likes this format and he looks professional. Every time around he is eager to increase the length of the annual session and the number of questions answered,” said Petrov. Still, this image-boosting dimension to Putin’s phone-ins is nothing new. As Aleksei Mukhin, head of the Center for Political Information, put it, “by now people have realized that with the help of Putin they can resolve any of their little but real problems: problems they’ve encountered with the state system, problems getting registered for treatment in hospitals, or getting their pensions increased. People in Russia are now beginning to think of Vladimir Putin as Father Christmas,” said Mukhin.

So, was the real purpose of Putin’s record length phone-in today just to hone his image? “I believe that boosting his own popularity ratings was definitely not at the bottom of Putin’s list of priorities today,” said Mukhin. A poll by the Public Opinion Foundation released on November 3 suggested that Putin’s popularity was declining, with 66 percent of respondents saying they trusted their prime minister, down from 72 percent the previous month. Petrov agreed, seeing a clear populist pattern in Putin’s promises. “All of those decisions which were reported in detail by Putin today, such as increasing people’s pensions, these decisions are all populist,” said Petrov. Of course, this is nothing new, he added. “I would say that the whole activism of the government is oriented toward keeping Putin’s ratings pretty high; in fact, it’s very important for this political system in general,” said Petrov.

British School Makes Sanskrit Compulsory

"This is the most perfect and logical language in the world, the only one that is not named after the people who speak it. Indeed the word itself means 'perfected language." --Warwick Jessup, Head, Head, Sanskrit department

"The Devnagri script and spoken Sanskrit are two of the best ways for a child to overcome stiffness of fingers and the tongue," says Moss. "Today's European languages do not use many parts of the tongue and mouth while speaking or many finger movements while writing, whereas Sanskrit helps immensely to develop cerebral dexterity through its phonetics." /A-British- School-Makes- Sanskrit- Compulsory


- India must abide by the US’s conditions to get its support
Cutting Corners - Ashok Mitra

Politicians over here — and, along with them, the media — are miffed no end. Why, oh why, is the United States of America so deferential towards China, while India is treated as a kid who is not yet fit to watch adult movies? During his recent visit to China, Barack Obama, for instance, went out of his way to reconfirm the American position that Tibet was an integral part of China. He carefully kept away from the entire range of sensitive issues relating to human rights, and only made a polite suggestion about the desirability of allowing the internet to roam free. The Chinese authorities could even persuade the US president to include in their joint statement a reference to the delicate state of Indo-Pakistan relations and how it impinges on Asian stability: the sly allusion to Kashmir was much too obvious. The US, it seemed, was determined to see no evil in China.

When it is India, it is, New Delhi laments, a different story. Obama may compliment India on being an emerging world power and an indispensable ally of the US. He may throw a glitzy State dinner for the Indian prime minister. For the present, that, though, is about all. The nuclear deal signed with such fanfare by the previous American administration is yet to be “operationalized”, New Delhi continues to be denied certain categories of extremely sensitive “high” technology. India may vote with the nuclear Big Five against Iran; it cannot still gain entry into their exclusive club, it is not yet recognized as a “responsible” nuclear power.
The Americans have their reasons for this differential approach. China’s massive holdings of dollars — close to 2300 billion — are almost ten times what India possesses. The Chinese, if they so choose, can unload the whole of this stock in the world financial market and ruin the American economy. True, that is a most remote possibility, since, for its own sake, China would not like to see an economically devastated US, the country where it sends by far the biggest chunk of its exports. At the same time, a crucial segment of US imports are from China; American citizens have fallen in love with low-cost Chinese consumer goods. With no signs of a dip in unemployment, the American nation has to be kept happy with at least a stable cost of living; imports from China are most helpful in that direction. Of about equal — perhaps even greater — significance is the magnitude of US investments in China, currently ranging at around 80 billion dollars each year (the total flow of foreign direct investment into India is yet to reach the annual rate of even eight billion dollars). Given the wobbly state of the domestic economy, the US administration dearly wishes investments in China to grow further and further. If the American president has to lobby hard on that account with China’s leaders and humour them an extra bit, he will do so. China is already a superpower on the basis of its own capabilities and is duly accorded the appropriate consideration.

In about 20 years’ time, when the size of the Chinese economy might be as large as that of the US’s and its military prowess too expanded equally enormously, India could indeed be greatly needed by the Americans as an indispensable strategic ally to combat Beijing’s overbearingness.

That kind of futurology does not constitute a part of the current American agenda. As of now, India can fulfil only a limited purpose. It has impressive manpower and a standing army of more than a million. This manpower would be handy to tackle the Taliban menace in West and South Asia. American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan has made the electorate increasingly uneasy. The Asian war has to be wound down; the troops have to be brought back home. Washington is keen to see India join a grand concordat with the US and Pakistan against the global terror unleashed by the Taliban. American diplomacy is proceeding on the assumption that vis-à-vis India, it is in an advantageous position at the bargaining counter. If India wants to have American endorsement for entry into the charmed circle of “responsible” nuclear powers and free access to reprocessing facilities for spent fuel, it has to pay a price. The price is general support to American foreign policy, followed up by readiness to send battalions of the Indian army to Afghanistan.

New Delhi is in a bit of a jam. The prime minister has gone on record; in this region, the Taliban do represent global terror as much as the Laskar-e-Toiba does. Going a step further, he has implored the US and its allies not to withdraw their forces from Afghanistan at this juncture. The American riposte can well be — and presumably has been — to ask India to take the logical next step and send its own troops to Afghanistan. The US is in a position to use even another ploy. The Americans have been wanting India and Pakistan to come to a deal on the Kashmir issue. The problem here, in the American view, is more at the Indian end: New Delhi’s concern about possible domestic reactions to a settlement over Kashmir which rendered the valley into something less than an “inalienable” part of India. The hint may already have been dropped: bury the hatchet with Pakistan and come to an arrangement over Kashmir, the nuclear deal will be through.

The nuclear deal, Kashmir and Afghanistan thus have turned into interconnected issues. India is dying to be recognized in the comity of nations as a big and as “responsible” a power as China. It can reach that status only if the US acts as its sponsor. The Americans have set a price tag for that sponsorship: India should agree to despatch troops to Afghanistan and, at the same time, reach an accord with Pakistan on Kashmir. A Pakistan-India entente which places Kashmir on the back-burner is of crucial importance to the US on two counts: it permits Pakistan’s rulers to concentrate on the Taliban, it also lessens Pakistan’s sensitivity towards deployment of an Indian army contingent in Afghanistan.

Since the two conditions the US has apparently set are difficult to swallow, India is likely to continue to hem and haw. The prospects, the realization is dawning, are not very hopeful. Played into an awkward corner, our prime minister turned into a pityingly self-righteous mood before an American audience: his country may not have as huge an economy as China’s, India’s gross domestic product growth may not be as remarkable as China’s, but it is a free multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic democracy, it respects all human rights. Thank heaven for little mercies, the prime minister’s speech writer did not drag in five thousand years of civilization, Gautam Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi.

A superpower does not whine, nor is it in need of beating its own drum. Anyway, contrary to what is said for form’s sake, the Americans are not very particular about human rights where practical issues are involved. They have not bothered about human rights in Latin America in the past, they are not bothering about them in Iraq or Afghanistan either. They are much more interested in what China can do for the American economy at this moment, never mind the human rights business.
Not that New Delhi does not comprehend the nitty-gritty of realpolitik. In their feeble way, Indian authorities have been transmitting messages to the Americans. The directive to profit-making public undertakings to shed 10 per cent of their equity and the compulsory registration of all public sector corporate units in the stock exchanges constitute an open invitation to international — and especially American — finance capital to come and partake of the grand Indian spread. The banking and insurance sectors too have been offered on a platter to external — meaning American — parties. India might even toe, unabashedly, the American line at Copenhagen.
But to qualify as a suitable boy in American eyes, India perhaps has to do much more, and not just in the economic arena. For one, troops must be sent from India to Afghanistan so that American boys could go home.

BALOCHISTAN: Pakistani promises/packages are show-business

Balochistan for Balochs...... Pakistani promises/packages are show-business

If Pakistani establishment places moon on their one hand & sun on their other hand, Balochs shall never beleive their promises due to their past bitter experiences since 1948.

The recent so-called package, it`s speculated, resembles the two committees formed by ex-dictator Parvez Musharaf. These false promises remind us the false deals, behind the locked-doors, between Pakistan & Khane Qalat which ended at the occupation of Balochistan in 1948. These false promises chained Prince Abdul Karim Agha Khan.This package, again, reminds us the false promises made to the Chief of Balochistan Lashker, Nawab Nouroz Khan.

In short, the Pakistani promises/packages have brought catastrophic results to Balochs, who were compelled to walk through fire & blood, afterwards.

This package is nothing but to place the guns on the shoulders of civilian Government, to bleed Balochs, like the bloody experience during 1971-74. The recent naked lies in the form of a mega- package, is the shameful tactic of ISI to prolong the war of Balochistan on one side and on other side help Talibans. In the last, to proclaim the Fundamentalist Talibani Government in Pakistan. This is a way to turn the tables of the present puppet civilian Government of Pakistan by Pakistani Military, and hang some prominent leaders of the present civilian Government to satisfy Baloch community.

The recent so-called package is to take "time-out" by ISI with their intention to bleed NATO forces in Afghanistan and forcibly expell them from Afghanistan and then open get free hands to oppress the different small nationalities of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

It needs a third party to mediate between Balochs and Pakistani establishment. For example a representative of United Nations, as in the case of amicable settlement between two warning groups in Indonesia, Ire-land Darfur, Palestine and Mayanmar (Burma) etc.

The solid, permanent and the right solution of Balochistan is....Balochistan for Balochs."An Independent Balochistan shall result to discourage Pakistani Military to carry-out their adventurous expansionist expeditions in South Asia, Central Asia and middle-east." This is the only way to solve the problems in South Asia, created by Pakistani Army.

The terrorist activities of Pakistani Military in India, Afghanistan, United Kingdom/United States and potentially in Middle-east and Central Asia in future.... depends upon the evil intention of Pakistani Army to "hold golden bird in the cage" i.e. to enslave Balochistan which was occupied by Pakistani Military in March, 1948. If the bird flys out from the cage, the policies of Pakistani Military shall abruptly be changed. Pakistani Military shall be tamed for ever. After the freedom of Balochistan, the muslim "Punjabi Regiment" shall be be broken and shall refrain from killing his own people and shall stop their expansionist dreams for ever.

An Independent Balochistan shall serve not only the defeat of Pakistani Army (Talibans/al-quida) but also shall be proved to be an excellent way to transport the logistic supplies for Nato Forces in Afghanistan.

An independet Balochistan is the only guarantee to the safety of pipe-lines laid for the transport of hydro carbonate to India and to the western countries via Gwader Port and Chahabar Port.

An Independent Balochistan shall serve to defeat the Islamo-fascists in Middle-east, Iran, Central Asian Countries and above of all safeguard the interests of the big democracies of the globe.

An Independent Balochistan is not only the "doctrine of necessity" but also is the necessity to respect the Charter of United Nations Organistaion, with regard to safeguard the human rights of Balochs, which are being voilated by the retarded minded Islamo-fascists of both Iran and Pakistan.

"A free Balochistan shall help to solve the problems in both Afghanistan and India, problems which are created by Pakistani Army." so simple is it to mention !!!

( Afghan Baloch Think-tank )

A Gamble With High Stakes

Until Tuesday evening the Afghan war was a Bush legacy. It is now President Barack Obama’s war and history will judge him on the success or otherwise of his strategy in Afghanistan

Bruce Riedel

Until Tuesday evening the Afghan war was a Bush legacy. It is now President Barack Obama’s war and history will judge him on the success of his bold gamble to send more troops to Afghanistan.

The situation there is dire and deteriorating. There is no guarantee more troops and a smart strategy will work to stabilize the country and defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban. But the alternatives – drawing down or standing pat – are certain to fail. The President’s approach is the best of the bad options Americans have. The stakes are enormous – preventing another 9/11, war in South Asia, the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, the fate of NATO and future of the global Islamic jihad. To succeed, the President will have to invest not just more American and NATO troops, but also his political capital to convince a war weary country to persevere. Obama’s war may come to consume his Presidency.

To succeed, the President will have to invest not just more American and NATO troops, but also his political capital to convince a war weary country to persevere.

President Obama inherited a disaster in Afghanistan from a predecessor who neglected the war for seven years and failed to resource it properly. A brilliant victory in 2001 achieved at little cost was lost by the Bush-Cheney team which dithered in Afghanistan as it obsessed with Iraq. The Taliban, with Al Qaeda’s help, made a spectacular comeback. Mullah Omar, the self-styled commander of the faithful, has to be given his due – crushed in 2001, today he stands on the cusp of defeating the NATO army. The surge in Iraq in 2007 was a further setback for Afghanistan: the distracted Americans lost focus, allowing the Taliban to drive into the south and east.

The situation has gotten worse in the last year but it is not yet hopeless. The Afghan presidential election was a disaster for the war effort. President Karzai cheated (with over a million fraudulent ballots), got caught and got away with it. The international community failed Afghanistan. The result is an Afghan partner that lacks legitimacy, perhaps a fatal blow to the war effort. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will have her hands full trying to get the best out of Karzai. Fortunately, some of his war cabinet members are first rate.

The United States and its partners in Afghanistan confront a syndicate of terrorist groups in the badlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan. They are not a monolith, nor do they have a single agenda. They have no single leader, although most groups (including Al Qaeda) swear allegiance to Mullah Omar. But they work together, they inspire each other and often they protect each other. A victory for the syndicate in Afghanistan would have enormous implications throughout the Islamic world. It would symbolize dramatically that the global Islamic jihad movement was on the march.
Omar is a remarkably secretive man who has met with less than a handful of non-Muslims in his life and prides himself on his piety and simple life.

Last week Omar sent an internet message to Americans. He rejected any negotiations with the US or the Karzai government. He promised “bitterness and pain” for the NATO army in Afghanistan and the reinforcements Obama is sending. Omar is a remarkably secretive man who has met with less than a handful of non-Muslims in his life and prides himself on his piety and simple life. His location is a closely guarded secret. Normally taciturn, this message is his longest ever, a reflection of the importance of the moment.

At the end of the message he appeals to the entire Islamic community to join in the jihad against America. He lauds the mujahedeen fighters in Iraq, Palestine and other countries fighting America, thus associating himself with the global Islamic jihad movement. He has done this in previous messages but more forcefully than ever this year. This message is designed to portray the Taliban as both an anti-colonial nationalist movement and part of the larger jihad against the Crusader Americans. This may be a response to criticisms of an earlier message this fall that seemed more nationalist than jihadist. Omar is saying he is both. He is appealing to the broadest base he can. But, in fact, the Taliban is seen by Afghans as a Pashtun movement, which is a critical weakness since a majority of Afghans are not Pashtuns. The Taliban can win only by intimidating the non-Pashtun majority as it did in the 1990s when the US abandoned Afghanistan.

The impact of a Taliban victory now would be felt most immediately in Pakistan where a weak civilian government is already tottering. The Pakistani army, which has long had close ties to parts of the syndicate (especially Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Afghan Taliban), would have to make adjustments to live with a victorious Taliban next door. The Pakistani Taliban would be emboldened to push for a jihadist state in Islamabad. India’s own enormous Muslim minority would face the danger of radicalization. Central Asia would be infested with Taliban inspired violence. Moderate Muslim voices throughout the Islamic world would be on the defensive.
The impact of a Taliban victory now would be felt most immediately in Pakistan where a weak civilian government is already tottering.

Last week Indian Prime Minister Singh delivered a strong message to the US – don’t go wobbly on Afghanistan. The soft-spoken Singh was very direct and candid in describing the stakes in an interview with the Washington Post on the eve of his meetings with Obama. Singh said “a victory for the Taliban in Afghanistan would have catastrophic consequences for the world, particularly for South Asia, for Central Asia and for the Middle East. Religious fundamentalism in the 1980s was used to defeat the Soviet Union. If this same group of people that defeated the Soviet Union now defeats the other major power, this would embolden them in a manner which could have catastrophic consequences for the world.”

The Prime Minister’s assessment comes after the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack since September 11, 2001, the assault on Mumbai a year ago by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba terror group. That assault had all the hallmarks of the global Islamic jihad in its tactics and targets. The attack on Mumbai, which was the first crisis in the world after Obama’s election last November, had an important impact on Obama’s thinking and is undoubtedly part of the reason why he made dealing with the jihadist threat in Pakistan and Afghanistan his highest foreign policy priority.

The United States has strong partners in the effort to stabilize Afghanistan. The NATO alliance has made Afghanistan its first ever ground war and the alliance’s future will now be decided in the Hindu Kush, the mountain range between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Over forty countries have troops on the ground in Afghanistan. India has already provided $1.2 billion in economic aid to the effort of building a new Afghan parliament and a critical road project linking Afghanistan to the Arabian Sea via Iran. Japan has provided key aid to the police. Australia, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates all have sent troops.
The nations of the international community trying to help Kabul can still succeed in Afghanistan if they explain to their domestic audiences why it is so important to succeed.

The nations of the international community trying to help Kabul can still succeed in Afghanistan if they explain to their domestic audiences why it is so important to succeed. This must mean more than a single eloquent speech. It means a sustained campaign by the President and his cabinet to explain why we must stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan in the face of mounting casualties and expense. It means executing a hard strategy with resolve and tenacity. It’s a gamble with high stakes for America and Obama.

Bruce Riedel is a Senior Fellow in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. He chaired President Obama’s strategic review of policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan last winter and is author of The Search for al Qaeda.

Rights: Copyright © 2009 Yale Center for the Study of Globalization. YaleGlobal Online

The speech within the speech

K. Subrahmanyam

Posted: Thursday , Dec 03, 2009 at 0401 hrs

It will not be surprising if the initial reaction to Obama's Af-Pak strategy announced in his West Point speech on December 1 is one general lacking in enthusiasm, both in the US and abroad. He has agreed to the surge of 30,000 troops asked for by the commander of the US forces in Afghanistan, General McChrystal. He has defended himself against the charge of dithering by pointing out that the General's proposal itself envisaged induction of troops only next year. The new points in his strategy over and above his March one are the following:

1. There will be a rapid surge of 30,000 US troops in 2010, to be followed by the beginning of withdrawal eighteen months later.

2. During this period, additional Afghan troops will be raised and trained to take over the responsibility from the US forces.

3. There will be improvements in civil administration in Afghanistan and stepping up of the infrastructure development with involvement of UN and other countries.

4. There is a promise of a longer term partnership with Pakistan going well beyond the period of operations against the extremists in the region. US will commit itself to the stability and prosperity of Pakistan. Islamabad is required to put in all-out efforts in eliminating all extremists.

All these may sound more of the same of what Obama spelt out in March. But if read with his other pronouncements, his letter to President Zardari and the Indo-US joint statement, it is clear that there are crucial elements in this strategy that hint at a new turn. He has spelt out very clearly as never before, the threat to the US from extremists in the Af-Pak area. He said, "This is no idle danger... no hypothetical threat... In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror. The danger will only grow if the region slides backwards and al Qaeda can operate with impunity... And the stakes are even higher within a nuclear armed Pakistan because we know that al Qaeda and other extremists seek nuclear weapons and we have every reason to believe that they would use them". By spelling out this danger he has sought to differentiate the Af-Pak case from Vietnam which never posed to US such threats.

The crux of the strategy is: during the surge of US troops in 2010-11, to build the Afghan capacity "that can allow a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan". There are speculations that India may be asked to shoulder this responsibility and Obama's telephone conversation with the Indian prime minister just before his speech might be related to this. It may be recalled that Pakistanis have expressed concern about an expanding Indian presence in Afghanistan and General McChrystal in his report had expressed his understanding of Pakistani concerns. However in the Indo-US joint statement, Obama appreciated India's role in reconstruction and rebuilding efforts and the two leaders agreed to enhance their respective efforts in this direction in Afghanistan. It is obvious that Obama has rejected Pakistan's concerns on the Indian presence in Afghanistan. Whether he will now go further and request Indian help to train Afghan troops, overriding Pakistani objections, remains to be seen. If he were to do so and if India were to respond positively, that will constitute a material change in the situation and a radical change in US strategy. At the same time, it is difficult to envisage alternative options for Obama to train such a large Afghan force in such a short period.

In the joint press conference with Prime Minister Singh, in reply to a question on his Af-Pak strategy Obama said: "..after eight years... it is my intention to finish the job". In his present speech he says: "we will act with the full recognition that our success in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan. We are in Afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country. But the same cancer has also taken root in the border region of Pakistan .That is why we need a strategy that works on both sides of the border." It has been reported that Obama had written to Zardari a letter delivered by US National Security Adviser General Jones in the second half of November. In that letter, he had proposed a long term partnership with Pakistan and at the same time warned that ambiguity in Pakistan's relationship with any of the five extremist groups — al Qaeda, Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Pakistani Taliban — could no longer be ignored.

Obama strategy appears to be to promise Pakistan long term partnership, at the same time compel it to act against all terrorist groups and build an Afghan army which will be able to defend Afghanistan against the Taliban. He is indicating that the US will not disengage, leaving a vacuum in Afghanistan. Pakistan is assured of long term help, provided it gives up its use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy. He is aware that Pakistan is using terrorism as state policy not only against India and Afghanistan but against the US, UK and other countries as well. Hence the warning that the ambiguity of Pakistan's relationship with terrorist organisations could no longer be ignored. Though the speech at West Point appears soft on Pakistan, it is clear that the focus of the strategy is raising the Afghan force to enable responsible transition of US forces out of Afghanistan, warning on Pakistan's ambiguous relationship with terrorist organisations, and outlining the continuing threat to the US homeland.

Will the Pakistani Army respond constructively and cooperate, taking action against all terrorist organisations? Or will they defy the US? Economically, Pakistan is in no position to reject the US partnership offer, as was evident from their acceptance of the Kerry-Lugar Act despite all the fuss the army, among various others, made. The US has been successful in thwarting the numerous attempts at terroristic acts in the US homeland. The US has also stepped up its surveillance and monitoring of communications and moves of various terrorist organisations in the Af-Pak region. Some of the terrorist organisations like the Pakistani Taliban have already turned on the Pakistani state. Others, if they are thwarted in their activities against outsiders, may also turn on their erstwhile patrons. The Obama strategy is a challenge to the Pakistani Army and its Inter-Services Intelligence.

The writer is a senior defence analyst

Special areas scientific research: advancing the cause in India

Jayant Narlikar

With fresh wind blowing in bringing global competitiveness and collaboration, attitudes to scientific research will change from that of a routine job to an adventure in creativity.

On April 20, 2005, a 26.7-million cubic foot balloon carrying a 459-kg scientific payload with 38 kg of liquid neon was flown from the National Balloon Facility in Hyderabad operated by the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). The payload collected air samples from different heights ranging from 20 to 41 km and it was parachuted down safely. The samples were independently analysed at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, and the Natio nal Centre for Cell Science (NCCS), Pune, and live micro-organisms were found. Such findings have enormous implications for astrobiology, besides providing important inputs to go into the question of how life started on our planet.

Astrobiology deals with life outside the Earth, a question that is increasingly gaining scientists' attention. For India, it was part of a pioneering series of experiments. Being interdisciplinary in character, astrobiology t had the participation of scientists from institutions specialising in different fields. As the subject grows in scope and interest, more scientists will come forward to participate with a distinct need for an Indian institution devoted to astrobiology.

While challenges to research progress in India abound, there are also several instances of world-class work being done. The upper atmosphere experiment carried out by biologists and space scientists from Indian research institutions clearly demonstrates the capabilities of Indian researchers. The idea was for an objective study of whether the Earth's atmosphere harbours living systems, especially extra-terrestrial micro-organisms like bacteria and viruses. This was the first time a serious attempt was made to analyse the microbial contents of the atmosphere under strict biological controls. The expertise developed by ISRO in recent years justified an attempt at sampling air from different heights using the balloon technology.

In this pioneering effort, the payload consisted of a cryosampler containing 16 evacuated and sterilised stainless steel probes. Thus, the valves attached to the cylindrical probes could be opened by a remote command from the ground headquarters and the ambient air pumped in. The expertise developed by the ISRO technical team was responsible for preparing such a complex payload.

The first flight in 2001 was successful in collecting air samples from various heights. After the payload was parachuted down and analysed by CCMB and also in Cardiff, U.K., several new bacterial species were identified. Encouraged by the findings, a second experiment with several improvements over the first balloon flight was planned and executed in 2005. The biologists at CCMB and at the NCCS reported finding 12 bacterial and six fungal colonies, with three strains identified as potential new species.

The question that came up then was: how did such life forms get to the upper atmosphere? If no workable method can be found to lift the bacteria from the Earth's surface to a height of 41 km, then based on the empirical evidence there is strong reason to consider them as being of extra-terrestrial origin.

The impact of this work can be profound if it is conclusively established that the microorganisms detected in these experiments are indeed extragalactic. The work has, therefore, generated interest amongst the international community of exobiologists. For example, if the species found at the height of 41 km is proved to be extraterrestrial in origin, it will open up possibilities of a broad vista of life existing all over this vast universe. It will also strengthen the hypothesis that life on the Earth itself may have been seeded by such microbial showers, making all of us extraterrestrial in origin. Needless to add that the realisation that we are not alone in the universe would be of profound significance in the study of the origin and status, and possibly the future of life, on this planet.

Preferential funding of research programmes is a huge challenge in India, especially for such interdisciplinary niche areas like astrobiology. While large initiatives such as satellite and space launch programmes are well-funded and they enjoy the public spotlight, we must find ways to encourage and support research in new and emerging areas as well. For greater impact in niche area research, the Indian science establishment needs to be endowed with the requisite infrastructural and funding commitment to conduct end-to-end research. Many of these niche research areas offer great opportunity for the Indian science establishment to negate legacy issues and be on an equal footing with the best research output in the world.

Perhaps the greatest hindrance to planning exciting experiments and achieving important results is the bureaucratic framework of our research institutes. The hierarchical structure, especially pay scales of our research institutes mimic the government's administrative structure. However, the creativity and efficiency of a scientist vis-À-vis the administrator evolve differently, with the scientist bringing differential skill and qualification requirements to the table. Besides, a young scientist is in the prime of his creative life and an administrator, on the other hand, gains maturity with age. To base the promotion criteria of a scientist on the same pattern as for an administrator is to ignore this fundamental difference. This more often than not leads to frustration among the younger generation of scientists as they see their bright new ideas getting ignored or going unappreciated.

While dwelling on the lacuna on one side, it is heartening to see how the balloon experiment breaks new ground.

This inter-institutional accomplishment illustrates the indigenous capability in successfully fabricating experimental set-ups of entirely new types. This trend for originality and creativity augurs well for Indian science. With fresh wind blowing in bringing global competitiveness and collaboration, attitudes to scientific research will change from that of a routine job to an adventure in creativity. It is important for creative young scientists to feel appreciated for the work done and the credit for such cooperative efforts, as seen in the recent Nobel Prizes, would justifiably be apportioned in proportion to the research contributions.

(Jayant Narlikar is Founder Director & Emeritus Professor, Inter-University Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics. Prof. Narlikar is a theoretical physicist widely known for fundamental contributions to astrophysics and cosmology. Along with Sir Fred Hoyle, Prof. Narlikar proposed an alternative to the Big Bang theory. He headed an international team which undertook and found evidence for micro-organisms in the stratosphere. An intriguing possibility is that the organisms could have arrived from space. Prof. Narlikar has authored or co-authored a hundred books (professional, science popularization, fiction). Prof. Narlikar is a member of three Indian academies of sciences and Fellow of the Third World Academy of Sciences.)

1947: Partition in the Indian Army

S.K. Sinha

Dec.02 : The fact that the Indian Army also influenced the decision on Partition needs to be taken into account. After their experience with Cromwell’s military dictatorship, the British ardently nurtured the concept of an apolitical army. It suited them to transplant that concept in the Indian Army that they raised. While this concept continues to hold good in India, it was thrown overboard in Pakistan. After 1857, the British decided not to have one-class regiments except for Gorkhas and Garhwalis. All other combat units were composed of 50 per cent Muslims and 50 per cent non-Muslims. Different communities living together in war and peace and encouraged to remain apolitical developed a regimental ethos that held them together.

I was commissioned in the Jat Regiment, which had two companies of Jat Hindus and two of Muslims. I served with a Punjabi Muslim company. I found the regimental spirit among the men strong. There was no communal divide. This continued in the Army till the end of 1946 but started cracking in 1947, reaching breaking point by August 1947. Yet I saw that when the Muslim companies of the Jat Regiment were going to Pakistan, tears were shed on both sides. This happened in other regiments as well.

Indian officers during British rule hardly ever discussed political matters among themselves. I recall that in Rangoon, soon after the end of World War II, one junior British officer referred to the INA as traitors and used vulgar epithets. There was no senior officer present in the Mess. This led to a heated discussion between the British and Indian officers, both Hindus and Muslims.

The Indian Army then got involved in a strange war in Indonesia. It had been sent there primarily to take the surrender of the Japanese. The Dutch had been driven out and accompanied the Indian Army to re-establish colonial rule. But the Indonesians had declared independence and had their own army. The Indian Army got involved in fighting the Indonesians. The Indonesians would tell us that we were ourselves not free and yet we were fighting against their becoming independent. This was embarrassing to hear. When the Indonesians raised the banner of Islam in their appeal to Indian soldiers, I was told that about a thousand or more of our Muslim soldiers deserted and joined them. They were left behind when we came out from Indonesia. I mention this because this was the first time that I saw the virus of communalism affecting the Army.

Notwithstanding the early signs in Indonesia, it is remarkable that during the outbreak of communal violence in August 1946 and till well after 1947 had set in, the Indian soldier, Hindu and Muslim, showed remarkable impartiality when dealing with communal violence. This was so in Kolkata in August 1946, in Bihar in October 1946 and in Garhmukteshwar (Uttar Pradesh) in November 1946. Two or three battalions of the Bihar Regiment, which had Hindus and Muslims in equal number, had operated in Bihar during the communal riots with complete impartiality. At the time of those riots, Col. Naser Ali Khan, who later went to the Pakistan Army, and I were serving at General Headquarters in Delhi. He was many years senior and always very kind. One morning at breakfast, after having read a newspaper report about the Bihar riots, he told me excitedly that his blood boiled when he remembered that I was Bihari. I told him I condemned what was happening in Bihar more than him. He was not the only Muslim officer I interacted with in Delhi who was so worked up over the terrible rioting in Bihar. I mention these incidents to show how circumstances were forcing the communal virus to spread in the Army. Till March 1947, things appeared under control. Localised communal riots took place in different places and the Army, deployed to maintain order, remained disciplined and impartial. Wavell, in his farewell address on March 21, 1947, said, "I believe that the stability of the Indian Army may perhaps be the deciding factor in the future of India".

With Muslim League ministries coming to power both in Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province, communal passions were sought to be aroused in a planned manner. Widespread communal riots erupted in Peshawar and Rawalpindi. Soon entire North India was on fire. The strain on the soldiers started showing. Most of the soldiers, both Muslim and non-Muslim, were from the north. Their homeland was being ravaged and, in several cases, their families had become victims. It was becoming increasingly difficult for them to remain impartial. The downslide became more perceptible after Partition was announced. The day after that announcement I met two officers in Delhi with strange shoulder titles — RPE and RPASC. In those days officers from Engineers and Army Service Corps wore the shoulder titles RIE (Royal Indian Engineers) and RIASC (Royal Indian Army Service Corps). Some officers had begun to wear Pakistan shoulder titles within hours of the Partition announcement and much before Pakistan was born. There were reports of senior Muslim officers going to meet Jinnah, who then lived at 10, Aurangzeb Road in Delhi.

On the morrow of Independence in August 1947 the Gilgit Scouts staged a coup, arresting Brigadier Ghansara Singh of the Kashmir Army who had been sent there as governor by the Maharaja. This was the first military coup in the Pakistan Army. More would follow.

The Punjab Boundary Force, comprising in equal measure units earmarked for the Indian and Pakistan Armies, was set up under a British commander in late July 1947. It was hoped that it would help maintain order on both sides of the border at a time when communal violence and migration were peaking. The experiment failed because the impartiality of the soldier had been eroded and there were several instances of soldiers taking sides. Large-scale violence again erupted in Kolkata, prompting Mahatma Gandhi to fast with dramatic effect. It was then that Mountbatten remarked that a one-man boundary force had succeeded in Kolkata while the 50,000-strong Punjab Boundary Force had failed in the north. The Punjab Boundary Force was disbanded and the two Dominions assumed responsibility for maintaining order on their side of the border.

In mid-1947, Sardar Patel, based on his experience in the Interim Government when the Muslim League had brought government functioning to a halt, the peaking of communal violence and the Army getting contaminated combating communal violence for nearly a year, realised there was now no alternative to Partition. His decision to salvage the wreck in 1947 was an act of statesmanship. Otherwise, things would have become much worse. We could have had a civil war with the Army broken up and participating from both sides. India may have broken up into several independent states, like the erstwhile Yugoslavia, or could have become a much larger version of today’s Lebanon.

The author, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir

Down by the sea

Sushil Kumar
December 02, 2009
First Published: 20:48 IST(2/12/2009)
Last Updated: 20:49 IST(2/12/2009)

Tomorrow is Navy Day. Proudly proclaiming its role and justifying the need for a strong navy has always been the standard Navy Week format. Yet, year in and year out it almost sounds like a lament. I went through this drill a decade ago and wonder if anything has changed.

The Indian Navy knows deep within that it has to reckon with a nation besieged by a `continental' outlook. For the sailors, it predicates the ground reality where the navy remains the `Cinderella' among the armed services. Even the most profound advice that India is actually a maritime country with a maritime destiny is overshadowed by problems that plague our land frontiers. With a security paradigm conditioned by a Line of Control-(LOC) orientation, it's not without reason that our strategic focus remains riveted to the north. Perhaps this is because the seas around the subcontinent seem peaceful while the disturbed neighbourhood to the north compellingly draws our attention.

Hopefully, 26/11 has jolted us out of our nautical slumber and the purpose of a navy will soon be realised. Apart from the continental obsession it faces, there is a new issue that could derail the navy from its path of development. It's the nuclear deterrent that is taking shape with the launching of our first Indian-built Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) firing nuclear submarine, INS Arihant.

The strategic importance of the seaward leg of the nuclear triad can't be questioned. And as long as the ocean remains impervious to the electro-magnetic spectrum, the ICBM-firing N-submarine will remain the ultimate deterrent in the nuclear equation. Arihant has placed the Indian Navy in an exclusive league, yet it also poses a predicament for the navy.

We need to guard against the misconception that a nuclear deterrent reduces the need for conventional forces. INS Arihant and others that follow would be vital strategic assets, but they can't be considered as part of the navy's war-fighting capability. Unless this proposition is understood, it will be worrisome for the navy if it had to divert resources from a dwindling defence budget that is already skewed by a land-locked perception.

I recall the time when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee spent a couple of days with our Western Fleet. The navy's combat-readiness was on display and the PM seemed pleased to see the business end of the navy. But even as he seemed to give me a profound nod, I noticed a glazed look in Vajpayee's eye. His mind was far away, well beyond the sea horizon. It was April 1999. A month later the LoC erupted and Kargil happened.

Several months later, I was at the University of Pune to deliver a talk on `national security in the wake of Kargil'. I highlighted the vulnerability of our seaward flanks. It must have sounded like a philosophical refrain, for the media responded tongue-in-cheek: `Next Kargil from seaward, warns navy chief'. It made me feel I'd got it all wrong.

Then out of the blue, 26/11 happened. It may have been a flash in the pan but it certainly awoke the nation from its nautical slumber. Now at least, we have the benefit of hindsight.

Sushil Kumar was Chief of the Indian Navy, 1998–2001

The views expressed by the author are personal

Karzai's Loya Jirga and Obama's Afghan Job

Uddipan Mukherjee

There are speculations that Afghanistan’s embattled President Hamid Karzai may convene a Loya Jirga before parliamentary elections in June. He had announced plans for such a Grand Council in his inauguration speech, delineating it as a measure to promote peace.

If one goes by juridical sense, then the “Loya Jirga”, as described in Article 110 (Chapter six) of the Afghan Constitution; “is the highest manifestation of the people of Afghanistan.” It comprises the members of the National Assembly and Chairpersons of the provincial and district councils. The ministers, Chief Justice and members of the Supreme Court may also participate in the sessions, but without the right to vote.

Interestingly, in accordance with Article 111 of the Afghan Constitution, the Loya Jirga is called upon to take decision on the issues related to independence, national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and supreme interests of the country. It can also be convened in order to amend the Constitution or to prosecute the President as per the provisions of Article 69.

On an expected note of anticlimax though, Hamid Elmi, a spokesman for Karzai, said: “the assembly envisioned by the president would not be the ‘Constitutional Loya Jirga’ described formally under Afghan law but a ‘Traditional Loya Jirga,’ which could have a different make-up of notables.”

According to him, “The notables are not coming to talk about the cabinet and the administration. They are coming to bring security and peace.”
On Saturday (November 21), he said that “a decision on the participants would be in abeyance until a date is determined. The onset of winter makes it difficult to hold the Jirga soon, but the President would like to hold it before parliamentary elections in June.”

The spokesman further added that the government was considering the option of even calling the militants to participate.

In fact, just after being declared the President of Afghanistan for the second consecutive period, Karzai had rather amusingly offered a peace deal to his ‘Taliban brothers’. Was he acting on America’s behest?

It is an open secret that USA, as per the recommendations of General Stanley McChrystal (Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan); is trying to usher in an atmosphere of ‘assurance’ for the ordinary Afghan populace. Whether talking to the Taliban is a part of that agenda or not is still shrouded in mystery.

However, the legit question in this scenario is whether the Taliban would accede to the call of Karzai, whose government is encumbered with umpteen charges of corruption? An ablution of the present political dispensation is first necessary before Karzai could seek the assistance of all disparate forces in the country.

Furthermore, shall the core Taliban and Al Qaeda ever mellow down to the level of ‘talks’ with a government which is viewed as a handiwork of the Western powers?
Now on November 24, ending his ambivalence, President Obama has hinted at an escalation of American troops in Afghanistan, finally agreeing to the request of McChrystal.

So, will the milieu in the immediate future be conducive enough for talks? And if a ‘Jirga’ indeed takes place, then will the militants ever be a party to it?

To make the political atmosphere rancorous; in a stern message on November 24, the one-eyed Taliban cleric Mullah Muhammad Omar ruled out any sort of negotiations with the ‘puppet administration’ of Hamid Karzai.

Hence skepticism prevails in the political circles of Afghanistan regarding the feasibility and consequent efficacy of the so-called “Loya Jirga”. This can also be deciphered from the language of Dr Abdullah, the closest competitor of Karzai, when he says: “formal Loya Jirga described in the constitution could not yet be held because the district officials who would attend it have not yet been elected. Karzai would have to spell out the aims if he wants support.”

Abdullah utters, “what’s the purpose of that Loya Jirga? What will be achieved in that Loya Jirga? These are big questions.”

Thus, it is crystal clear that if Karzai wants to muster support from all quarters so as to survive his entire term, then he first needs to behave as a martinet himself. Only
thereafter, he can suggest behavioral lessons to others. Obama and the US administration would surely keep a strict vigil on him.

And with the American President’s recent proclamation to ‘finish the Afghan job’, Karzai would have to answer probing questions of his countrymen: civilians and militants alike; regarding the future American role in their homeland.

Karzai’s call for the Loya Jirga can be interpreted as not only a mere rhetoric but also a step to hold onto the straw provided by the election victory. Well, it may also have an ethereal connection with Obama’s ‘Afghan job’.

US policy will distract India

Shobori Ganguli

US President Barack Obama has finally declared that American troops will be on their way home from Afghanistan in July 2011, a decade after the world’s sole superpower declared war on terror, a war yet unsuccessful. Inexplicably, Mr Obama ordered a simultaneous escalation of the ongoing war with 30,000 more troops to be expressly despatched to Afghanistan who will “help create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans”. Republican rival Senator John McCain predictably pointed out, “The way that you win wars is to break the enemy’s will, not to announce dates that you are leaving.” However, truth is between two of America’s Republican and Democrat Presidents in the past decade, if one went blundering in Asia, the other seems to be floundering.

That Mr Obama was charting an exit route from Afghanistan when he was in Beijing a fortnight ago was apparent in the joint statement he issued with his Chinese counterpart, Mr Hu Jintao. Embracing China as America’s most credible global partner, economic and political, Mr Obama stressed on “our mutual interest in security and stability of Afghanistan and Pakistan”, adding that the two must work together to bring about “more stable, peaceful relations in all of South Asia”. In essence, pushed against the wall in Afghanistan, and in Pakistan as well, and aware that the Americans are running out of ideas and influence, Mr Obama appointed China as the new custodian of peace and stability in Asia, including monitoring India and Pakistan.

In itself, Mr Obama’s decision to exit Afghanistan is not altogether misplaced. After all, the US is suffering from intense war fatigue. With 100,000 troops in Iraq and 68,000 in Afghanistan, the US war on terror has been both a financial and emotional drain on the American people for far too long. With the additional despatch announced this week, emotions are bound to run high. A Gallup survey poll released on Tuesday says only 35 per cent Americans are with Mr Obama on this war, 55 per cent clearly disapproving. From a domestic point of view, therefore, it makes ample sense for Mr Obama to exit the Asian theatre of war, a conflict that has at least ensured that American soil has not been a terror target after September 11, 2001.

While Mr Obama may well wish to hand over the baton to China, he must know that, unlike Pakistan, China will be no political or strategic myrmidon. All along the US war on terror Pakistan served as the ideal client state whose soil was liberally used by American troops to launch offensives in Afghanistan and Taliban-controlled Pakistan. As Pakistan got increasingly Talibanised, Washington started calling the shots directly from Islamabad. However, once the most trusted ally, Pakistan today has outlived its utility for the US in this war on terror. Indeed, after limitless casualties and millions of dollars gone, the Obama Administration has come to the conclusion that America’s war on terror has been counter-productive. War has actually led to an unprecedented regrouping of terror groups in a region the US troops have so far presided over. Time therefore, it feels, to seek assistance from an Asian giant like China which wields the necessary influence on Pakistan to handle Afghanistan.

However, Mr Obama’s freshly unveiled AfPak policy is of grave import for a country like India that continues to be a victim of terror and sits in a tense neighbourhood. While the US President may feel China has the required credentials to look after peace and stability in all of South Asia, China’s aggressive posturing against India in recent months cannot be overlooked. It is another matter that the Indian leadership has been unable to convey this clear and present threat to the Americans in so many words. In what would easily go down as one of the most tepid US-India summits in recent years, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Washington failed to register a strong protest with Mr Obama for hyphenating India and Pakistan in his joint statement with China. “We did not, as such, seek any help,” Mr Singh merely said, admitting, “It came up as we reviewed the world situation.”

If indeed China is anointed Asia’s guardian of peace and stability it spells trouble for India. As the most trusted ally of the US, Pakistan’s status never really impacted India. The years of US military engagement in the region has only seen India grow from strength to strength — economic, political and strategic. Since 2001, even as India has sought its rightful place on the global stage, Pakistan has hurtled downhill, turning into a failed state, a rogue state, and a mock democracy where jihadis run amok. In a sense, therefore, despite being America’s popular choice in the war on terror, Pakistan never really challenged India’s position, regional or global. Also, American presence and interests in the region have prevented Pakistan from a military engagement with India.

However, Washington will not be able to remote control Beijing as it did Islamabad. China has regional and global aspirations, is a rapidly expanding economic power, hopes to be a superpower by 2020, and is intensely conscious of India as a credible rival in that race to the top. Already, recent months have witnessed renewed aggression from China, both verbal and physical, along its border with India. That it is seeking to prevent India from emerging as a strong Asian power centre has been apparent for some time now. If China now gets global — read American — legitimacy to monitor India’s relations with Pakistan, the scenario is not too difficult to envision.

Hitherto, China has been overtly twisting India’s arm along the disputed border with routine troop deployment and massive infrastructure build-up. Covertly, it has helped Pakistan against India, even clandestinely sponsoring its nuclear programme. In short, China has had a traditional contain-India policy that actively employs Pakistan. After the Americans exit the region and if China emerges as the Asian moderator, it will use every trick in the trade to needle India, all in the name of ‘encouraging’ peace and stability in Asia. While the Chinese posturing may not necessarily bring war clouds over the region, the pressure would be enough for India to get distracted from its rightful aspirations. Time New Delhi woke up to this possibility.



On February 2, 2000, Pakistan's National Security Council (NSC), chaired by Gen.Pervez Musharraf, set up a National Command Authority (NCA) to co-ordinate and control policy-making relating to nuclear weapons. It consisted of an Employment Control Committee, a Development Control Committee and a Strategic Plans Division to act as the Secretariat of the NCA.

2.The Employment Control Committee was chaired by the head of the Government and included the Ministers of Foreign Affairs (Deputy Chairman), Defence and the Interior, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), the three Service Chiefs and the Director-General of the Strategic Plans Division, who acted as its Secretary. The Chairman was empowered to co-opt technical and other advisers.

3.The Development Control Committee was also chaired by the head of the Government and included the CJCSC (Deputy Chairman), the three Service Chiefs, the Director-General of the Strategic Plans Division and representatives of strategic organizations and the scientific community. This Committee controlled the development of strategic assets. Political personalities holding important Cabinet posts were excluded from it.

4.The Strategic Plans Division, headed by a senior army officer, was established in the Joint Services Headquarters under the CJCSC to act as the Secretariat for the NCA and perform functions relating to planning, coordination, and establishment of a reliable command, control, communication, computers and intelligence network.

5. The security division of the NCA was made responsible not only for the physical security of the assets and installations, but also for personnel security. It now reportedly has more than 10,000 personnel and is headed by a 3-star General. It has a personnel reliability programme (PRP) directorate.

6.The NCA thus constituted functioned for over seven years without any legislative authority. Just before the elections to the National Assembly held in the beginning of 2008, Musharraf promulgated an ordinance called the NCA Ordinance 2007 on December 13, 2007, which sought to give it the required legislative authority. This was one of the many ordinances issued by Musharraf, which remained unapproved by the two Houses of the Parliament when he left office and was succeeded by Asif Ali Zardari as the President last year.

7. Earlier this year, this ordinance came up for consideration by a 17-member committee of the newly-elected National Assembly headed by the Chairperson of the NA Standing Committee on Defence Azra Fazal Pechuho, who incidentally is the sister of President Asif Ali Zardari.

8.Contrary to the widespread public speculation on the subject, neither the charter of the NCA as laid down when Musharraf was in power nor the subsequent proceedings in the Committee of the NA and then in the NA itself dealt with the question of who will have the ultimate power to press the nuclear button in case of a war with an adversary. From the beginning in the days of Zia ul-Haq, the Army had made it clear that the nuclear button would be under its control and was not prepared to share this control with any elected political leader----whether he or she be the head of State or Govt.

9.When Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party won the elections of 1988 after the death of Zia ul-Haq, the Army and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agreed to let her become the Prime Minister only after she agreed to let herself be excluded from all decision-making in nuclear-related matters. The Army insisted that it would report directly to the then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in nuclear matters and not to her and she had to agree to it.

10.During her two terms as the Prime Minister (1988-90 and 1993-96) and during his first term as the Prime Minister (1990-93), neither Benazir nor Nawaz was in a position to over-rule the Army in nuclear matters because the then Presidents had the power to dismiss the Prime Minister and they were afraid that if they decided to be assertive in nuclear matters, the Army might pressure the President to dismiss them. This fear disappeared in 1996 when Nawaz won a two-thirds majority in the elections to the National Assembly. He used this majority to abolish the powers of the President to dismiss the Prime Minister. Thereafter, he tried to be more assertive in nuclear matters. His desire that the elected Prime Minister should co-ordinate the decision-making process in nuclear matters became one of the bones of contention between him and Musharraf, who was the Chief of the Army Staff. He was reportedly taken by surprise when the Americans allegedly informed him that at the height of the Kargil conflict, Musharraf had alerted the nuclear forces on his own without keeping Nawaz in the picture.

11.After seizing power in October 1999, Musharraf ensured that whatever be the set-up of the NCA and whoever chaired it, the final decision in all nucear-related matters would be taken by him and not by his Prime Minister-----initially Zulfiquar Ali Magsi and then Shaukat Aziz, who succeeded Magsi. Musharraf also re-introduced the 17th Amendment of the Constitution of 1973 under which the President has the power to dismiss the elected Prime Minister and dissolve the National Assembly. Zardari inherited from Musharraf the powers assumed by him in respect of the dismissal of the Prime Minister and the dissolution of the National Assembly. He also inherited Musharraf’s powers relating to the NCA. Nawaz Sharif and other leading political leaders belonging to parties other than the PPP have been demanding that the 17th Amendment should again be abolished. While accepting this ostensibly in principle, Zardari has been avoiding it by taking advantage of the fact that no party has a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly to be able to implement this.

12.After Zardari took over as the President last year, the powers and methods of functioning of the NCA became a subject of international concern because of growing fears over the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. What concerned the US was not so much as to who will have control over the nuclear button in case of a war, but as to who will be responsible for the security of the nuclear arsenal. This concern over the security of the arsenal had become magnified after the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the various other Punjabi jihadi organisations commonly referred to as the Punjabi Taliban stepped up their activities after the Lal Masjid raid of July,2007 and after the TTP started attacking the security forces.

13.The emergence of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) as a terrorist organisation with capabilities on par with Al Qaeda---- as demonstrated by the Mumbai 26/11 terrorist strike--- increased these concerns even more. In the past, the US concerns regarding the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal mainly related to the reported attempts of Al Qaeda to acquire weapons of mass destruction material. After Mumbai 26/11, the US is increasingly concerned over likely threats to Pakistan's nuclear arsenal from organisations such as the TTP and the LET and others of Pakistani origin.

14.Reports of the infiltration of the Pakistani armed forces by these organisations---- as demonstrated by the alleged involvement of junior and middle level Air Force and Army personnel in the two attempts to kill Musharraf in Rawalpindi in December, 2003 --- created fears of such infiltration into Pakistan's nuclear set-up and into the Division under the NCA responsible for the physical security of the nuclear arsenal.

15.The post-2003 discussions between the US and Pakistani officials on the security of the nuclear arsenal focussed attention not only on the physical security of the arsenal in order to prevent it from falling into the hands of terrorists, but also on preventing the infiltration of the nuclear set-up by the terrorist organisations in order to obtain nuclear and other technologies.

16.As a result of these concerns, the major part of the discussions in the 17-member committee came to be devoted not to the question of the control over the nuclear button, but to the question of how to meet the US concerns over the physical security of the nuclear arsenal and over the dangers of the infiltration of the nuclear set-up by jihadi elements.

17.Reflecting this change of focus, the "Daily Times" of Lahore wrote in an editorial as follows: " A report of the standing committee on defence regarding the National Command Authority (NCA) bill 2007 has been laid before the National Assembly. The timing of the report’s presentation suggests to some observers the urgency of allaying the fears expressed by the Western media, veteran journalist Seymour Hersh’s piece in the New Yorker being only the latest significant case in point, regarding the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. The greater concern is not about any external force gaining access to the arsenal. The apprehension being expressed concerns internal leakage of technology and/or the weapons themselves. The beneficiaries of such a hypothetical leakage, according to Western media reports, could be the terrorists operating within and around Pakistan. The concerns of the Western media and even some governments have to be seen in the context of the track record of the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. The least likely scenario would be that a weapon/s could actually be spirited away by some inimical personnel. A nuclear weapon is not a piece of candy or a lollipop that can be secreted away in a pocket to be calmly taken away under the nose of tight security. Our weapons have been dispersed and rendered impossible to use without proper authorisation precisely to pre-empt any such possibility and even prevent the accidental use of these deadly weapons. The real apprehension in the minds of those fundamentally hostile to the existence of this capability is that the very personnel charged with the responsibility to ensure their security may be infected sufficiently by jihadi ideology to consider leaking vital information and/or equipment to the terrorists currently battling against the Pakistani state. From Musharraf onwards and downwards, officials in positions of high authority have been emphasising consistently that no such threat exists or will be allowed to rear its head. While knowledgeable US officials have been saying much the same thing, the Western media seems not to be inclined to let the facts stand in the way of a good story. The proposed bill to give legal cover to the NCA would have the President as the ex-officio chairman of the Authority, with the Prime Minister as the ex-officio deputy chairman. The bill proposes to give retrospective cover to all acts by officials of the NCA committed before the bill becomes law. It seeks to institute vigilance not only against external threats but also to keep an eye on the officials and employees of the NCA to prevent any breach of security, which has been held punishable with a jail term extending up to 25 years."

18.When everybody was expecting that as recommended by the 17-member committee, Zardari would take over as the Chairman of the NCA after the approval of the committee's report by the National Assembly, he sprang a surprise on November 27,2009, by issuing an ordinance which designated the Prime Minister as the Chairman. "Transferring the chairmanship of the National Command Authority to the Prime Minister is a giant leap forward to empowering the elected parliament and the Prime Minister," presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said in a statement.

19.Why did Zardari do so? There is no satisfactory answer to this question. According to some, it reflects the weakening position of Zardari, who is increasingly distrusted not only by the Army, but also by important sections of political and public opinion because of the perception that he is amenable to American pressure. According to others, who are in the PPP, Zardari took this decision not due to political or military pressure but due to a desire to avoid getting involved in a sensitive controversy over the security of the nuclear arsenal in the light of the growing US pressure on the subject.

20.As is evident from the “New Yorker” article of Hersh, the secret US talks on the security of the nuclear arsenal are being held with the military leadership and not with the elected political leadership. Whether the NCA is chaired by the President or the Prime Minister, it is apparent that the US would like to deal directly with the Army on this subject instead of through the President or the Prime Minister. Zardari has chosen to come to terms with this harsh reality as Benazir did in 1988 instead of making an issue of it which he is bound to lose if he did. ( 3-12-09)

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

RUSSIA: An Old Grudge Revived

By Roland Oliphant
Russia Profile

The Russian Government Has Much More to Fear from Strasbourg than from the Hague

The ruling by an ad-hoc arbitration tribunal in the Hague on Monday, stating that Russia is bound by the European Energy Charter Treaty, opened the way for Yukos shareholders to sue the Russian government over the state’s takeover of the once-powerful oil company. Group MENATEP Ltd. (GML), the holding company that owned Yukos, called it victory and plans to sue the Russian government for $100 billion. Most commentators are skeptical that the court would award that much or that Moscow would pay up if it did. But the ruling also has implications for other foreign investors in Russia.

The decision turned on whether or not Russia, which signed but never ratified the treaty, is bound by the terms of the European Energy Charter, a multilateral investment protection treaty drawn up in the early 1990s to offer protection to European investors interested in financing the energy sector in former communist countries.

Russia signed the treaty in 1994, but refused to ratify it until issues related to certain areas of the wide-ranging treaty - the trade in nuclear materials, which was excluded from the scope of the Energy Charter Treaty, an additional investment protocol and the transit protocol – were settled.

Speaking to the Financial Times on Tuesday, an unnamed Russian government spokesman questioned whether the charter could be applied to Russia when “it is not legally in force.” But according to the tribunal’s finding, the treaty had provisional force – that is, it came into effect “provisionally” from the moment the document was signed, a device not uncommon in multilateral treaties where the ratification process is likely to be lengthy.

Even more importantly, the tribunal found that even though Russia had left the treaty completely in October, any investments made during the provisional period (between 2004 and 2009) are protected by the treaty for 20 years.

But Monday’s decision only says that the former Yukos shareholders can sue – not that they will win. To do that, GML must convince the court that the tax claims that bankrupted Yukos, which was once Russia’s largest oil company, were in fact an act of appropriation on the part of the Russian state. Or, as GML director Tim Osborne told the Kommersant daily, that Yukos was destroyed by “a coordinated attack by the Russian state using fabricated giant tax claims, asset freezes, the forced sale of the underlying asset (a 76.79 percent stake in Yganskneftegaz sold in December of 2004) at a very low price, and an artificial bankruptcy with the auction of assets at low prices.”

The investors contend that not only was the attack “coordinated” by the state, but that it directly benefitted – most of the assets Yukos lost at the end of this process ended up in the state-owned oil company Rosneft.

GML reportedly wants some $100 billion from the Russian government, but it is unlikely that the court would award such a huge sum. “The compensation would have to be based on a fair price for the shares they lost. But what’s a fair share price?” asked one lawyer who asked not to be named. “It would be discounted by the tax claims, anyway, so it’s definitely going to be less than they’re talking about.”

Seeing as Russia walked out of the European Energy Treaty earlier this year, and considering its previous behavior with regard to all things connected with Yukos, it is extremely unlikely that the government would pay up even if the tribunal ruled in GML’s favor. The ad-hoc tribunals established to hear cases brought under the Energy Treaty have few coercive means of enforcing their verdicts. There is a possibility that the plaintiffs could have the ruling enforced abroad by seizing Russian assets of equivalent value in other countries. “But that’s very difficult. Diplomatic assets – embassies and so on – are untouchable. So maybe you could find shares a Russian state-owned company holds abroad. But then you’ve got to prove that the shares belong to the Russian government, or that the company that does own them is de facto identical with the government. It would be a very arduous process,” said the lawyer.

Meanwhile, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is to begin hearing a case brought by Yukos itself. The hearing, set to open on January 14, will consider the claims that the Russian authorities violated several rights and freedoms enshrined in the European Charter on Human rights, including the right to a fair trial, protection of property, and freedom from discrimination. The bankrupt company is seeking $32 billion – less than the investors at the Hague, but still a record sum for the Strasbourg court.

This has implications for the Hague hearing because questions of jurisdiction will arise if both courts try to award damages on the same issue. But more importantly, the Strasbourg court has powerful coercive means at its disposal. Refusal of a state to pay entails eviction from the Council of Europe. In the past, this threat has always been enough to make the Russian state pay compensation when the court has ruled against it. “But then, the amounts concerned were relatively small,” noted the lawyer. Thirty-two billion dollars is another matter. At that point, the question will leave the courtroom and become a diplomatic one.

Somalia’s Kool-Aid Syndrome

3 Dec 2009

'Naari meel qabow ma leh' is a Somali adage that says there are no cool corners in hell, and indeed, Somalia’s hopes seem to be fading, Sadia Ali Aden comments for ISN Security Watch.

By Sadia Ali Aden for ISN Security Watch

Approximately nine months ago, the UN-sponsored peace conference in Djibouti produced the current president of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. His internationally supported unity government continues to be mired down in internal conflict; a conflict rooted in the 4.5 clan system formula.

It is a system that remains the most persistent impediment to peace, justice and equality, because it promotes, legitimizes and generously rewards the warlords (and their militias) who for nearly two decades perpetuated violence and chaos, and tarnished the credibility of the Somali people and the state.

Within this volatile mix are the president's former colleagues who feel profound contempt and a sense of betrayal towards him and his current allies; allies accused of running with the glory of having defeated Ethiopia's brutal forces, which occupied Somalia from December 2006 to January 2009 and humiliated the Somali public.

They accuse the president's camp of signing agreements without consultation and the consent of all of the Alliance for Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) stakeholders.

The Asmara-based alliance - composed of exiled parliamentarians, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) and members of the diaspora – which, while it lasted, was a beacon of hope.

The agreement, while applauded by the international community, has left other groups within the Alliance feeling alienated - especially the ICU's military wing (al-Shabaab), which played a crucial role in liberating Somalia.-and through its resilience afforded the ARS the credibility to negotiate with the world.

Sadly, the ARS has now broken up into multiple groups - Hisbul Islam, al-Shabaab and a third group led by Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, president of the current ‘unity government.’ The breakup has dashed hopes for a peaceful and truly stable Somalia, for it has multiplied the chaos.

Compounding the alienation was the Bush administration's hasty verdict that dismissed al-Shabaab -embraced by Somalis as home grown fighters resisting a brutal occupation - as a ‘terrorist’ entity; a verdict that proved to be both deadly and counterproductive for all involved.

Angry and defiant, al-Shabaab, has opted to impose a more violent, rigid rule over the devastated areas it now controls. Reportedly it has instituted the practice of cutting off the hands and the legs of starving civilians accused of thievery; a punishment which (under the circumstances) defies Islamic law.

In addition to the Koran, Muslims are taught to follow the Prophet's Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly guided Rashidite Caliphs (the first four caliphs to succeed Prophet Mohammed after his passing), one of whom was Umar ibn Al-Khattab. During his caliphate, Caliph Umar visited a province within the rapidly growing Muslim society wherein he found a number of individuals scheduled to have their hands cut off for stealing. Upon inquiry, he discovered their theft resulted from a prolonged famine in the land, and he ordered a commutation of their sentences. He concluded that the failure was not on their part; but rather their society and leadership had failed them.

Disillusioned also are the diaspora advocacy organizations, which launched a peaceful alliance with their brethren in Somalia during one of the most difficult periods in the country’s history. They are now caught in a dilemma, victims of the same pitfalls that faltered many before them. It is what some might call ‘the Kool-Aid syndrome’; intoxicated with the leader instead of being committed to the cause.

Meanwhile, both the number of the internally displaced persons and civilian starvation levels continue to rise, reminiscent of 1992. Violence has again increased in Mogadishu, as merciless insurgents take shelter in the epicenter of the civilian population.

The African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), with the singular mandate of protecting the government, returns fire with more sophisticated weaponry and far greater devastation - all for the sake of protecting a government that is unable to contain violence beyond a few blocks of Mogadishu; and whose leadership has failed to learn from the mistakes of its predecessor.

Adding to the complexity of the conflict are the latest reports linking the TFG to the recruitment of young boys, mostly from refugee camps surrounding Dadaab, to fight for the government against the insurgents.

Such recruitment will produce an atmosphere that will ultimately result in new groups that can be branded as ‘terrorists’ by the powers that be - just like those before them.

To keep the fading hope from dying, President Ahmed and his government must find a lasting solution to the persistent violence, never ending insurgency and imbalanced mandate of AMISOM.

After all, good leadership is not measured by empty words, endless travel and taking shelter behind heavily guarded buildings, but by the positive and sustainable initiatives implemented in the interest of a leader's nation and people.

Sadia Ali Aden is a freelance writer and an activist whose work has appeared in various publications.

December 02, 2009

World's 5 fastest computers

Tue, Dec 1 06:10 PM
London, December 1 (ANI): The latest ranking of the Top500 project has made a list of the world's fastest computers.

According to a report in New Scientist, the chart is based on the maximum rate at which a computer can crunch numbers using what are called floating point operations.

November's list features the five fastest computers on the planet.

On number 5 in the Top500 list is the Tianhe-1, which is China's fastest computer. At 563 teraflops, it proved capable of more than 500 trillion operations per second.

Tianhe is housed at the National Super Computer Center, Tianjin, and is more than four times faster than the previous top computer in the country.

The computer combines 6144 Intel processors with 5120 graphics processing units made by AMD, normally found in computer graphics cards.

At number 4 is the Jugene at Julich Supercomputing Centre in Germany, which has a computing power of 825 teraflops.

It is based on IBM's Blue Gene/P design, which uses many small, low-power chips.

Individual processors in this design have a maximum speed of 850 megahertz, slower than the average home computer. But, 292,000 chips working together make it the fastest machine in Europe.

At number three is the Kraken, which is based at the National Institute for Computational Sciences.

At 831 teraflops, it has 100,000 dual-core Opteron processors made by AMD, typically used in servers and high-end workstations.

Kraken is the fastest computer in the world owned and operated by an academic institution - the University of Tennessee.

At number two is the Roadrunner that resides at Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico.

At 1042 teraflops, Roadrunner was the first computer to ever break the 1 petaflop barrier - 1,000,000,000,000,000 calculations per second.

The computer has an unusual design that combines dual-core processors made by AMD, of a type found in many consumer machines, with the nine-core Cell processor at the heart of Sony's PlayStation 3 games console.

The world's fastest computer is the US Department of Energy's Jaguar, which is housed with Kraken at Oak Ridge National Lab.

At 1.8 petaflops, nearly 70 per cent faster than Roadrunner, Jaguar is the newly crowned fastest machine in the world.

Unveiled last year, Jaguar's 181,000 cores only started work this year.

Much of Jaguar's work is focused on modelling climate change and energy generation, with other basic science such as studies of the structure of water also getting a look-in. (ANI)


Contours of emerging US strategy in Af-Pak

December 02, 2009 15:48 IST

In the first part of his two-part series, Making sense of the Af-Pak cauldron, Colonel Anil Athale outlined why the developments in the region can be called the second jihad. In this concluding part he says a long-lasting solution to the Af-Pak situation is balkanisation of the region.

It appears that the two-three month-long intensive brainstorming in the US over its future course in Af-Pak seems to have ended and a new strategy put in place. The salient points of that seem to be:

The US has apparently settled for a much more modest aim in Afghanistan -- to 'contain' the Taliban [ Images ] and eliminate the Al Qaeda [ Images ]. All pretence of nation-building and 'modernising' Afghanistan has been given up. General James Jones, President Barack Obama's [ Images ] national security advisor, at a press briefing on March 27, outlined it as an 'attainable goal which is to disrupt, dismantle, and prevent Al Qaeda from being able to operate in its safe havens -- not only the Al Qaeda, but all forms of terrorism that would seek to destabilise our countries.' The American acquiescence in Hamid Karzai's [ Images ] flawed electoral victory points in that direction.

There is finally acknowledgement that the source of Islamist terror is no longer in Afghanistan but in Pakistan -- in the tribal areas as well as southern Punjab [ Images ] and urban pockets. The recent spate of bomb attacks in Pakistan show that the Pakistani Taliban intend to capture power in that country as a first step to their dream of a world caliphate. This poses a threat to the ruling elite of Pakistan (the army, landed gentry and industrialist lobby; primarily Punjabi dominated) and thus encourages the Pakistan army [ Images ] to act. In addition to mollifying civil society, a $1.5 billion annual economic aid is promised (the Kerry-Lugar bill) while the Pakistan army is kept happy with the latest weapons to assuage its fear of India [ Images ].

In return for the Pakistan army's role in defeating the Al Qaeda and the Taliban, India is being pressured, albeit behind the scenes, to make concessions on Kashmir [ Images ].

To further ramp up pressure on India, the job of stabilising South Asia is sought to be outsourced to China. This is a direct throwback to Bill Clinton's [ Images ] first term (his Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had made this explicit in 1997-98). Appointing a rabid India-baiter like Robin Raphel as aid co-ordinator in Pakistan shows the return of Clinton era policies. Raphel is often called the 'Krishna Menon of the US', referring to the destructive role that he played, single-handed, in destroying Indo-US relations in the late 1950s.

Militarily, as suggested by Vice President Joe Biden, instead of more troops, the US will rely on air power and drones to check the Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Having accepted the Karzai line that there are indeed 'good Taliban' (pro-Pakistan), the US may well have decided to let Pakistan have its 'strategic depth' in Afghanistan. In short a return to pre-9/11 situation minus the Al Qaeda.

Americans are basically waiting for Osama bin Laden's [ Images ] scalp. To get him they are trying the old British trick of bribing the tribes to buy their loyalty. Pakistan is raising various pro-government 'Lashkars' (armies) of friendly tribes. Once the Americans are successful in getting to Osama, they would declare victory and leave. But this time round, rather than leaving a power vacuum they would ensure that a Pakistan-sponsored government takes over in Afghanistan.
All military strategies are based on some assumptions -- stated or unstated. At the risk of oversimplification, these are as given below:
It is possible to buy tribal loyalties and information on Osama.
The Pakistan army will be able to deal with the tribals militarily and neutralise the Pakistani Taliban.

India will accept making concessions on Kashmir.

Iran and Russia [ Images ] will accept return of a Taliban-like regime in Afghanistan.

The Uzbeks and Tajiks of the erstwhile Northern Alliance will co-operate in this venture.

Extremism in Pakistan can be controlled with economic aid and concession to the Pakistan army.

It is true that the above analysis is sketchy but intends to highlight the bare essentials. Else, for a complicated problem like Af-Pak, a whole book has to be written. Readers would be mindful of this before jumping to criticism.

A fly in the ointment

At the risk of sounding flippant, one could say that there is a swarm of flies in the ointment. The various assumptions on which this American strategy is based are flawed to say the least.

The Faqir of Ipi revolted against the British on November 25, 1936, called it jihad and for the next 12 years Waziri and Mehsud tribesmen, less than 1,000 in numbers, kept a well equipped British Army of 40,000 engaged. At the time of independence in 1947, the Faqir of Ipi still remained free and finally died of old age in 1960. The British did manage to control the situation in two years time mainly with Indian troops, the Gorkhas and Sikhs. The tribals were armed with primitive guns and were perpetually short of ammunition. The Pathan tribesmen have a healthy contempt for the Punjabis, whom they have ruled over since middle ages. Once war was declared it became impossible to 'buy' tribes as loyalty to faith was above all.

Cut to the 21st century. Thanks to jihad I, the frontier area is flush with arms and ammunition. The tribal is as well equipped as the soldier. Add to this, his native skill in the use of terrain and local knowledge and you have a formidable foe. Mountainous terrain neutralises technology. Given the relative hardiness of the tribesman, it is doubtful if the Punjabi dominated Pakistan army will be able to deal with the tribesmen. Large casualties are likely and the brutal Pakistan army is prone to reprisals against civilians. (Has the world forgotten the massacre of Palestinians in Jordan in 1970, the genocide in Bangladesh in 1971 and murderous campaigns in Baluchistan in 1975?). This has the classic makings of 'blood feuds' so common in the frontier area of Pakistan.

The Pakistan army has a fairly large proportion of Pathan soldiers; their loyalties in a prolonged war of this kind would be suspect. A terrible spate of bombings in Pakistani cities is a foretaste of things to come.

The Inter Services Intelligence has failed spectacularly to prevent or nab the terrorists. It needs to be understood that the 'super-efficient' image of the ISI is a creation of the gullible Indian media.

The Pakistan army has been using tanks, fighter aircraft and all the conventional war machinery in its so-called 'counter-insurgency' operations. It is hilarious to see Pakistani politicians or media-persons pointing finges at India's restrained use of force in Kashmir. We have never used heavy weapons or air power in Kashmir!

It is unlikely that the Northern Alliance of Uzbeks and Tajiks will accept the return of the Taliban. The Iranians would be worried over the fate of Shia Hazaras in the western part of Afghanistan. Finally, India, that did not succumb to the US pressures even in 1962 (when it was much weaker), is unlikely to compromise on Kashmir.

Russia under Vladimir Putin [ Images ] in his second term may see an opportunity of pay-back for the American actions in jihad I, though covertly. All in all the most likely scenario in Af-Pak seems to be a continuing civil war-like situation in Afghanistan and a real possibility that the present counter-insurgency in Pakistan also degenerating into internal revolt in south Punjab and the North West Frontier Province. A bruised Pakistan army may well think of taking over the reins again but this time at the behest of the Taliban and not Americans. A Taliban-like regime in Pakistan/Afghanistan seems the most likely outcome.

What this means to the world at large and India in particular is worth pondering. It appears to me, as some American military analysts have been thinking for a while, that the long-lasting solution to the Af-Pak situation is balkanisation of the region -- a Bangladesh-type solution.

Colonel (retired) Anil Athale is Chhatrapati Shivaji Fellow of the United Services Institution and coordinator of Pune based Inpad.
Colonel Anil Athale (retd)