March 06, 2010

Pakistan Army: the struggle within

Praveen Swami

Later this year, President Asif Ali Zardari will appoint a new army chief. Faultlines within the state could be forced open.

“India,” Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari famously said in an October 2008 interview, “has never been a threat to Pakistan.” In his first major interview, given just a month after taking office, he described jihadists in Jammu and Kashmir as “terrorists.” He imagined “Pakistani cement factories being constructed to provide for India's huge infrastructure needs, Pakistani textile mills meeting Indian demand for blue jeans, Pakistani ports being used to relieve the congestion at Indian ones.”

Early last month, Pakistan's army chief, General Pervez Ashfaq Kayani, outlined a rather different vision. In a presentation to the media, he asserted that the Pakistan army was an “India-centric institution,” adding this “reality will not change in any significant way until the Kashmir issue and water disputes are resolved.” His words were not dissimilar in substance from the language used by jihadists such as Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed in recent speeches.

Later this year, President Zardari will make a decision that could force open the faultlines between the military-led establishment and the Pakistan People's Party. Gen. Kayani is scheduled to retire in November 2010. Mr. Zardari, as the commander-in-chief, holds the power to appoint his successor.

Ever since Gen. Kayani — a former Inter-Services Intelligence chief — took office, the Pakistani state has set out on escalating tensions along its eastern frontier. Fighting along the Line of Control has increased, and jihadist infiltration escalated reversing an eight-year trend. Last week, Jammu and Kashmir secessionists were told by Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir that his country had reverted to its traditional policies on the state — policies that included unconcealed support for jihadists. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's secret envoy Satinder Lambah, who has been holding secret meetings with his Pakistani counterpart Riaz Mohammad Khan, has discovered that Islamabad no longer appears interested in pursuing a five-principles path to peace advocated by the former President, Pervez Musharraf.

The army, it has long been evident, loathes its commander-in-chief: Mr. Zardari, for example, is never invited to address the staff at military installations.

Last year, Mr. Zardari was forced to hand over control of the National Command Authority, which controls Pakistan's nuclear assets, to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani. The military also appears to have been working hard to strip Mr. Zardari of his sole source of authority over the army. In January, Parliament's constitutions reforms committee unanimously agreed that Article 243 be amended to give the Prime Minister—rather than the President — effective power to appoint the services chiefs. Even as things stand, Mr. Zardari could face resistance if he picks a chief of his choice. Defence Secretary Syed Athar Ali is a former Lieutenant-General; his predecessor in office, retired Lieutenant-General Iftikhar Ali Khan, refused to sign on the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's orders sacking the then army chief, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

But come November, Mr. Zardari will likely hold the ace in his hand — and a bitter struggle could break out if he chooses to play it.

Gen. Kayani's three years in office have enabled him to build a substantial constituency within the army. For a variety of reasons, the army chief was able to promote a record number of top officers, and give others coveted positions. In 2008, Gen. Kayani promoted six officers to the rank of Lieutenant-General, and assigned several other Lieutenants-General and Major-Generals to prestigious offices. Last year, four more officers were promoted Lieutenants-General. From March onwards, eight Lieutenants-General will retire — including ISI Director-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, Chief of General Staff Muhammad Mustafa Khan, Quartermaster General Zahid Hussain, and commander of the Karachi-based V Corps Shahid Iqbal. New opportunities will thus arise for Gen. Kayani to dispense patronage.

Islamabad military gossip has it that Gen. Kayani may use his goodwill within the army to lobby for a further year in office, as part of a deal which would also secure Mr. Zardari's position. Gen. Kayani may also attempt to have himself selected chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. General Tariq Majeed, head of the JCSC, is due to retire just days before Gen. Kayani — a coincidence that could ease the move. If that indeed is Gen. Kayani's intention, though, he will unlikely be satisfied with the largely ceremonial position of JCSC chief. He could lobby for supervisory powers over top appointments — a move that would likely have President Zardari's support, since it would create tensions between the JCSC and the new army chief.

Gen. Kayani's own favoured choice for his successor, should he not secure an extension for himself, is the current ISI chief, Gen. Pasha, who is due to retire on March 18, 2010. However, Gen. Pasha has had a relatively brief tenure as Pakistan's spymaster — a fact which, read along with the critical state of affairs in the country, could justify an extension. Lieutenant-General Masood Alam, who heads the critical Peshawar-based XI Corps, was recently given an extension on just these grounds. However, Gen. Pasha has never commanded a Corps — normally a prerequisite for the top job.

Lieutenant-General Nadeem Taj will likely be the second in line for the army's top job, if Gen. Pasha's extension does not come through early in March. Now serving as commander of the Gujranwala-based XXX Corps, Gen. Taj is scheduled to retire only in April 2011 — and thus has time on his side. Long a key Musharraf aide, Gen. Taj was appointed Director-General of Military Intelligence, a position he held until February 2005. Later, he commanded the Lahore-based 11 Infantry Division, and served as commandant of the Pakistan Military Academy.

But any move to appoint Gen. Taj is likely to encounter intense resistance from the United States — and with some reason. Gen. Taj was made ISI Director-General in September 2007, just before Gen. Kayani replaced Gen. Musharraf as army chief. By late that year — as Gen. Kayani brought about changes in policy that the army saw as more consonant with its interests than the pro-western position of President Musharraf — Gen. Taj found himself in trouble with the U.S. In August 2008, President George W. Bush was reported to have complained that it had become “impossible to share intelligence on the al-Qaeda and the Taliban with Pakistan because it goes straight back to the militants.” Eventually, in October 2008, Gen. Taj was moved out of the ISI — but rewarded with charge of a prestigious Corps.

Khalid Shameem Wynne, Lieutenant-General who leads the Quetta-based XII corps and the army's southern command, appears the third in line for the top job — and least contentious among those in the race. From a family with a long military tradition — his father, Colonel Arshad Wynne, served during the India-Pakistan war of 1971— Gen. Wynne started his career in the 20 Punjab Regiment. He held several important posts, notably serving as Deputy Chief of General Staff, and commanding the prestigious Siachen-focussed 323 Infantry Brigade. Little is known about Gen. Wynne's political affiliations, perhaps because he has none. Notably, Gen. Wynne has had no tenure at the ISI, unlike both his rivals for the top job — and, of course, Gen. Kayani himself.

Wars of succession in the Pakistan army have often had significant political outcomes. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's October 1999 appointment of Lieutenant-General Ziauddin Butt — an engineering officer — precipitated the coup which led to Gen. Musharraf taking charge as President. President and Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto picked the junior-most — and supposedly most subservient — candidate for the army chief's job. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who Bhutto described as “my monkey,” returned the compliment first by naming the Prime Minister Colonel-in-Chief of the Armoured Corps — and then sending him to the gallows. General Abdul Waheed Kakkar, appointed army chief by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in the course of a bitter power struggle with Mr. Sharif, forced both politicians to resign.

Popular consensus has it that the Pakistan army is a battleground between Islamists and pro-western professionals. In fact, as scholars like Ayesha Siddiqa have shown us, the military is an independent political actor, representing a set of concrete interests: the military is, after all, Pakistan's largest owner of land and custodian of an industrial empire that runs everything from breakfast-cereal plants to banks. The army, thus, is not just the custodian of the ideological and territorial boundaries of the state; it is, in key senses, the state itself.

Gen. Musharraf was reviled by the army for having allowed Pakistan to be drawn into a war that threatens its primacy. Gen. Kayani has responded by seeking to repair the army's relationship with its long-standing Islamist allies —and by seeking to find a way out of the war in Pakistan's northwest by escalating tensions along its eastern border. It is no coincidence that jihadist operations like the November 2008 attack on Mumbai took place soon after Gen. Kayani took office. His successor will have to decide if the army's interests lie in this direction, or in charting a new course.

India has enormous equities in the looming struggle for control of the Pakistan army — and must watch its course with great care.

BALOCHISTAN: PML-N leader shot dead in Khuzdar

QUETTA - PML-N leader Sardar Aziz Umrani was among the three persons killed in two different incidents of target-killing in Khuzdar and Mastung towns on Saturday.According to reports, unidentified men, riding a motorcycle, opened indiscriminate firing on Umrani at Karkh Road in Khuzdar town. He died on the spot after receiving multiple wounds while three of his personal bodyguards were also injured. They were rushed to a local hospital where one of them succumbed to his injuries. Police say an inquiry has been ordered to unearth the motive behind the killing of the PML-N leader. According to some independent sources, Sardar Umrani was paralysed in a previous armed attack.

The incidents of target-killings are continuing abated in Balochistan, as another person lost his live and his colleague was injured when unidentified attackers targeted them in Mastung town.

According to reports pouring into the provincial metropolis, armed persons opened fire on Ghulam Nabi Barakzai who died on the spot while the other one was shifted to the hospital in a serious condition.

Defunct Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) has claimed the responsibility for the Killing, saying the victim was spying for the government.On the other hand, a hand grenade was lobbed at a vehicle of FC in Sariab Road area of Quetta, which damaged the vehicle partially but FC personnel remained unhurt.The attackers managed to escape from the site under the cover of darkness.

PML-N leader shot dead in Khuzdar

QUETTA: Unidentified motorcyclists gunned down Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Sardar Aziz Umrani and one of his guards in Khuzdar on Saturday.

Senior police official Rehmatullah told AFP that Umrani and his guards were going in a car on Karkh Road two men riding a motorcycle opened fire on them.

“Umrani died on the spot and three of his four guards were injured. One of the injured guards later died at hospital,” Rehmatullah said, adding that a tribal feud could be behind the killing.

Another police official confirmed the incident and said Umrani had survived an assassination attempt three years ago in Balochistan, where hundreds of people have died since late 2004, when rebels rose up demanding political autonomy and a greater share of the province’s natural resources. afp

Published: March 07, 2010

QUETTA-The Balochistan government has imposed Section 144 in the province on Saturday with immediate effect in order to maintain law and order situation in the province. According to the notification issued by Home and Tribal Affairs Department, following imposition of Section 144 gathering of four or more people at public places, pillion-riding and display of weapons have been banned across the province

Foreign Influence and India-Pak Talks

South Asia Analysis Group

By Bhaskar Roy

No one expected the February 25, 2010 Foreign Secretary level talks between India and Pakistan to yield any result. And it did not. Both sides held on to their scripted stands except that the Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir liberally used sarcasm in his post meeting press conference. India’s Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, on the other hand, held her position with dignity in her press conference.

Salman Bashir’s press conference, pre-scripted and well rehearsed, was marked by his reference to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh twice. Bashir conveyed Pakistan’s message that Foreign Secretary and Foreign Minister level talks were cosmetic steps to go upto Prime Ministerial level talks. To push the point, he saw to it that the Foreign Secretary level talks were made irrelevant. With both Foreign Secretaries agreeing to remain in touch, it was made clear they will be preparing the agenda for a Prime Ministerial level meeting most likely at Thimpu on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit to be held in end April.

A sharp debate erupted in India over the Foreign Secretary’s talks among political parties and foreign policy experts. The overwhelming opinion was against the talks, suspended after 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack originating from Pakistan, since Islamabad had done very little to bring the main culprits to justice. Pakistan had filibustered through, and arrested seven Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) senior leaders following intense pressure from India and the US. Finally, LET Commander Lakhvi and six others have been put on trial, but such trials can be open-ended. Pakistan refuses to move against - the mastermind of the 26/11 attacks - Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD) Chief, Hafeez Saeed also founder of the LET, as the mastermind of the attacks. Salman Bashir dismissed the latest evidence given to him by India as “literature” rather than evidence.

Apparently, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took a long term view of the Indo-Pak relations. It is alleged that during Gen. Musharraf’s Presidency the two countries came very close to resolving the Kashmir issue. With his fall the entire project fell apart. Former Pakistani Foreign Minister, Khurshid Kasuri, who worked with Musharraf, vouches for near closure of the deal around 2006.

Unfortunately in Pakistan, as in many political and ideology infested developing countries, foreign policies which require critical decisions do not go forward from one government to the next. Pak President Zardari, a victim of Musharraf's persecution, would like to do things a new. More than him, Pak army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani has other ideas about India.

Prime Minister Singh has perhaps done the right thing by going for the talks. India made its point to Pakistan and the international community by freezing the composite dialogue with Pakistan for 15 months. Just holding back talks does not achieve anything tangible especially when Pakistan’s main interlocutor now, the US, plays its own games for its Af-Pak policy. India cannot fully rely on US help to compel Pakistan to act on terrorism against India. Hence, India has to talk to Pakistan keeping the international community informed, and not involved.

There is, however, the question of the timing of the talks. Should India have waited for some more time to see how Pakistan goes forward with the trial of the LET cadres? Many in the government endorse this view. We are past this stage now.

The political parameters of the talks are the main issue. Pakistan wants resumption of the composite dialogue package. But there are mechanisms already in place to work separately on the water sharing issue, the Siachen glacier demarcation, and the Sir Creek demarcations. India must emphatically stick to the demand that “terrorism” is the main issue and without addressing it first there can be no serious dialogue on the Kashmir issue.

Pakistan’s argument that terrorism is the child of the Kashmir issue entails no longer. Both Musharraf and Gen. Kayani have been on record that leaving aside Kashmir, there is no meeting ground between Pakistan and India. Both gentlemen made their respective statements while in uniform. This is the Pakistan army’s doctrine, and it is for the Pakistani political parties and the people to address this doctrine.

The case of JUD Chief Hafeez Sayeed must be seen from the angle of the Pakistani army doctrine. Here is one man whose ideological influence runs deep among the various Pakistani jehadi organizations including some like the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which is fighting the state only because it is collaborating with the USA. Otherwise, it is willing to fight India along with the Pak army.

The JUD is listed as a terrorist organization with the United Nations. Yet the organization flourishes in Pakistan under the garb of a social organization. The JUD, LET, HUJI, and the Afghan Taliban of Mullah Omar and the Haqqani network in Afghanistan are almost declared assets of the Pak army against India and Afghanistan. Hafeez Sayeed networks most of them and others. Therefore, even if the civilian government in Pakistan wants to take serious action against Hafeez, they cannot. The army calls the shots. Where matters relating to India, Afghanistan and the USA are concerned the army has the last word.

A critical element in the India-Pak talks is that of foreign influence. In this, the role of the US has become overriding. Immediately following the February 25 talks, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement that they had encouraged India-Pak direct talks at the highest level, and were even gratified with the initial break through. A US White House spokesman said he looked forward to a prime minister level meeting in the near future.

It is no secret that the US has been pushing India for sometime now to reopen talks with Pakistan, and ease Indian troop deployment along Pakistan’s border to encourage the Pak army to safely deploy more troops to its north-east frontier.

It can be well understood that USA’s overriding concern is the Al Qaeda, Taliban and other terrorist forces aligned against the US who enjoy the largest swath of territory along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. After much denial, Pakistan accepted that Mullah Omar’s Quetta Shura really exists in Quetta. These elements cross over to Afghanistan, attack US and coalition forces and melt into Pakistan including in North Waziristan. The US is very much aware that the Pak army is reluctant to launch operations in these areas where their assets are ensconced. The Pak army uses the India bogey as an excuse not to redeploy their forces from the eastern frontier to their northern areas.

The US has also been easing pressure on the James Headley case to appease Pakistan. Headley a.k.a. Abdul Ghani, a Pakistani origin US national was closely involved in “26/11” Mumbai attacks, surveying Mumbai and other parts of India including Jewish Synagogues, and briefing the LET with photographs, videos and verbal descriptions. He was arrested by the US. The Headley interrogation by the FBI has thrown up a mine of information of terrorist involvement from Pakistan’s soil, with circumstantial evidence that elements of Pak army was involved in the Mumbai attack.

The Headley case is particularly important for the US as the LET network was planning attacks in India on foreigners especially American and Jewish targets. Headley, along with a Canadian citizen of Pakistani origin based in Chicago, Tahawwur Rana, and the LET were planning an attack on the Danish newspaper office in Denmark which had published cartoon of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The LET has emerged as an international terrorist organization, with links to the Al Qaeda and the Taliban. In the face of evidence the Pak army can hardly deny any relationship with the LET as it was fathered by the ISI.

Although the Americans have shared some information on the Headley-Rana case with India, Indian agencies have not been given access to Headley, and not much more information will be forthcoming by invoking US law.

The US may be making a major error here by trying to influence India to be soft on Pakistan. This will not work, and the Americans are woefully uneducated about the history and the psyche of the subcontinent and the strategy of the Pak army. What it is doing, especially to dissuade India’s developmental engagement in Afghanistan, is unwise to say the least.

Reducing India’s space in Afghanistan and allowing the Pak army a predominant role in Afghanistan is a misreading of history and the current situation. The majority of Afghanistan has a much closer relationship with India and the emotional bond exists even today. This should be obvious to the American strategists many of whom still view from the Cold War prism. One can say that even if the Taliban come to rule Afghanistan again, Pakistan will not have a free run there.

The other great influence on the India-Pak relations is China. Beijing cannot influence India, but it can influence Pakistan. Leaving aside Sino-Pak strategic co-operation to counter political and law and order situation, the Pakistan army’s blind pursuit of gaining strategic depth in Afghanistan, with mounting terrorist strikes in India is a huge challenge to China’s security, territorial integrity and influence in the Gulf and Central Asia. China cannot afford to lose Pakistan, its platform and gateway to these regions. Yet, if Pakistan does not pull itself together and continues to thwart positive relations in its neighbourhood, the developments can have serious adverse effects on China.

A little noticed despatch by a special correspondent of Chinese official news agency Xinhua, datelined Islamabad (Dec. 27, 2009) painted a rather bleak and worrying picture of Pakistan. The despatches said that in the 8th year following the “9/11” terrorist attacks in the US, all television channels daily telecast pictures of flesh and blood strewn around, people carrying the dead bodies of their loved ones, and endless terrorist attacks. Criticising the incidents, it said that no place, no institutional building and assets were safe. The lives of the people were engulfed in terrorism, and rising public opinion blamed the US for the situation.

Although the US repeatedly assures the world that Pakistan’s nuclear assets are safe, the Chinese are not so sure. Last year an official report in the Chinese media alerted local governments to be prepared for a nuclear fall out, saying many nuclear installations coming up near China’s borders were unsafe. The circular did not have to say more.

Therefore, the official Chinese media blocked out parts of an address by visiting Pak Foreign Minister Shah Mohammed Qureshi to a think tank (CIS, Beijing Feb. 23, 2010) which said China had a “blank cheque” from Pakistan to mediate between Pakistan and India. This was just two days before the Indo-Pak talks in New Delhi, and Qureshi hoped a positive response from China would buttress Pakistan’s position.

China is not inclined to promote these blundering politicians of Pakistan who have little sense behind their rhetoric. Surrounded by many more challenges including the latest spat with the US over arming Taiwan and President Barack Obama meeting with the Dalai Lama, China wants to maintain stable relations with India.

The US involvement with India and Pakistan is welcome to China. From their point of view the US can restrain Pakistan. US anti-terror engagement in Af-Pak is also welcomed by Beijing to an extent as it may reduce the support China Uighur Muslim separatists get from Pakistan and Afghanistan based Islamic terrorists. But it would not like (a) these terrorists seeking refuge in China’s remote western region of Xinjiang (b) a future US domination over Pakistan and Afghanistan which could spread to Central Asia compelling Chinese interests there, and (c) India gaining influence in Afghanistan which will deter China-Pak influence in Afghanistan.

Notwithstanding its long held position of no third party mediation between India and Pakistan, it would be extremely unwise for India to invite Saudi Arabia to be interlocutor between India and Pakistan even on terrorism. The fundamentals of Saudi Arabia are rather unique. It affords refuge to different Muslim leaders as a pious duty. Idi Amin lives in Saudi Arabia!

Saudi Arabia, a strong influence in Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) supports Pakistan’s position on Kashmir as does the OIC. It supports a strong, stable, Islamic Pakistan. On terrorism, it has problems only with Osama-bin Laden and his Al Qaeda, but has close relationship with the Taliban. A number of Saudi NGOs fund and support Wahabi Islam abroad including certain organizations which resort to extremism. There is hardly any common interest between India and Saudi Arabia to counter Pakistan’s India Centric terrorism. It is always better not to pursue an agenda which is a sure failure. Hence, it is back to the bilateral table, but with the firm position that terrorism must end. When Pakistan renounces using terrorism as weapons to back diplomacy, everything else including Kashmir can be resolved. But to achieve this, ask the Pakistani army.

(The author is an experienced analyst of South Asian region. He can be contacted at

Pragmatic Asia can bolster global stability


DAVOS, Switzerland — Is there an "Asian way" for resolving global challenges? The conventional answer is no. But elements of an Asian way are gradually emerging. Given Asia's growing influence, the world should pay attention — and may have much to gain.

The key to understanding Asian approaches is their pragmatism. Asians constantly adapt and change.

In the past, Asians put a premium on protecting their sovereignty and were wary of any multilateral approaches that could dilute it. Now, in response to global challenges — for example, pandemics, financial crises and climate change — the vast majority of Asian countries understand that collective action does not erode but instead protects sovereignty. For example, despite losing faith in the International Monetary Fund after the region's financial crisis in 1997, they agreed to contribute billions to the IMF after the recent global financial meltdown.

There has also been another significant shift in Asian attitudes. Instead of legitimacy, or simply getting more seats at the table to provide input, the discussion in Asia is increasingly about outputs: how to create institutions that are more effective. At the same time, reflecting their pragmatism, the Asians remain ready to accept continuing American leadership and domination of global institutions. Nor do they challenge the United States-led security umbrella for the Asia-Pacific region.

At a recent workshop that we cochaired in Singapore, the inevitable question was raised: Can Asians lead in meeting global challenges? The responses from the Chinese and Indian participants were striking. They argued that by taking care of more than 2 billion people — and taking care of them well — both China and India were already making a major contribution to global stability and order.

That is a reasonable response. Indeed, if the vast majority of the 4 billion Asians continue to improve their livelihoods, the world would become a better place.

Still, there are both positive and negative aspects of the Asian approach to the challenges of global governance. The positive aspects include respect for diversity and an emphasis on consensus-building over conflict, practical solutions over lofty principles and gradualism over abrupt change. On the other hand, the desire to avoid confrontation can prevent meaningful agreements from being reached in a reasonable time frame, and the appearance of consensus may merely mask the true politics at work.

Drawing on the positive aspects of the Asian way suggests the possibility of more inclusive decision-making in the institutions of global governance. The danger in such an approach is that decisions may not be taken, or that those that are put rhetoric ahead of substance, thereby failing to resolve fundamental political challenges.

So what might this mean in practice? Here are a few areas in which Asia — or, more properly, Asians — can contribute to solving some key global challenges:

• Peace and Security: Asia includes many new naval powers, such as China and India, which could help bolster the security of sea lanes by creating partnerships with traditional naval powers such as the U.S. Various Asian countries joined efforts to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia. China is developing a deployable police capacity that may provide an important new tool in peace operations in fragile states.

• Climate Change: Asia needs to build up innovative markets that enable technology transfer. China, Japan and Korea have become leading producers of green technology. Asian governments are in a position to take the lead in developing alternative energy sources.

• Financial Regulation: Asian countries need to take more leadership in regulating financial markets. China, questioning the wisdom of putting the fate of the world economy in the U.S. dollar, has proposed the creation of a global currency. Progress has been made on the Chiang Mai Initiative — a multilateral currency swap arrangement among the 10 ASEAN members, China, Japan and South Korea — and the possibility of an Asian Monetary Fund remains on (or at least not far off) the table.

• Health: Asia's experience in dealing with SARS, bird flu, H1N1 and other diseases should be studied carefully — for both positive and negative lessons — with a view to developing a new global consensus on handling pandemics.

• Social Enterprises: Asia has emerged as a leader in social entrepreneurship. The successes of social businesses such as Grameen Bank and BRAC in Bangladesh have contributed to renewed thinking about how social objectives can be fused with revenue-generating practices.

In short, there is no coherent or systematic Asian approach for meeting global challenges. In response to each challenge, Asians respond pragmatically. But, given that some of the biggest challenges are the result of failed policies, pragmatism may offer a constructive way forward.

Kishore Mahbubani is dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. Simon Chesterman is a professor of law and director of the NYU School of Law Singapore Program at the National University of Singapore. They co-chaired the Singapore Hearing Working Group for the World Economic Forum's Global Redesign Initiative. © 2010 Project Syndicate



The Government-controlled Xinhua news agency of China has disseminated the following report on March 6,2010:

"China UnionPay (CUP) began cash withdrawal services for card holders in 95 percent of automatic teller machines in the Maldives, after launching a partnership with the island nation's biggest bank Friday (March 5).Following cooperation between the CUP and the Bank of Maldives, CUP card payment services will expand to 90 percent of point-of-sale (POS) terminals in Maldives. The move aims to better serve card users as China has become the Maldives' fastest growing tourist source country since 2008, with visitors hitting 40,000 a year, said Cai Jianbo, CUP first executive Vice-President. The international network of the CUP reaches 84 countries and regions. CUP launched a card payment service in Brunei on Tuesday." ((7-3-2010)

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


A note on Sino-Maldives Relations disseminated by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on August 19,2009 )

Sino-Maldives relations

Political Relations

Maldivesis called "Liushan Guo" or "Liuyang Guo" in Chinese history. In Yongle 10th year (1412) and Xuande 5th year (1430) of the Ming Dynasty, leading a fleet of merchant ships, Zheng He reached Maldives twice. Since Yongle 14th year, King of Maldives Yusof sent his envoys three times to China. In Foreign Splendors written by Zheng He and his entourage Ma Huan and Maritime Marvels by Fei Xin were true and detailed records of Maldives' geographical position, climate, products and customs. In Male Museum are China's porcelain and coins unearthed there on display, a witness to China's friendly contacts and trade relations with Maldives in history. Due to the imperialist invasion afterward, Sino-Maldives relations were suspended for several centuries.

In the early 1960s, Chinese and Maldives ambassadors to Sri Lanka started visiting each other. China supported Maldives in its struggle for national independence by ridding itself of the British colonial rule. On October 14, 1972, China and Maldives established diplomatic relations, and Chinese ambassador to Sri Lanka was concurrently accredited to Maldives. In 1980, Maldives Foreign Minister Jamil officially paid a friendly visit to China. In 1984, Maldives President Gayoom paid a state visit to China. In 1993, Foreign Minister Jameel visited China again. In 2000, Maldives State Minister of Defence and National Security Sattar visited China and in 2001, Foreign Minister Jameel, Speaker Hameed and Brigadier Zahir, General Chief of Staff for National Security Force visited China one after another.

On the other hand, Chinese Vice-Premier cum Foreign Minister Huang Hua, Vice-Premier cum Foreign Minister Qian Qichen, Vice-Chairperson of the Standing Committee of the NPC Chen Muhua, and Chairman of the CCPCC Li Ruihuan, General Chief of Staff of the PLA Fu Quanyou and Premier Zhu Rongji visited Maldives respectively in 1981, 1994, 1997, 1999 and 2001. On the occasion of 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Sino-Maldives diplomatic relations in 2002, President Jiang Zemin and Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan exchanged congratulatory messages respectively with President Gayoom and Foreign Minister Jameel. On May 26, 2009, Maldives opens its Chinese embassy in Beijing. Mr. Ahmed Latheef becomes Maldives' first Ambassador to China.

Economic and Trade Relations and Economic-Technological Cooperation

In 1981,China and Maldives started their economic and technological cooperation. In 1982, they restored direct trade. In 2002, Sino-Maldives trade volume totaled US$2.977 million, of which China's exports accounted for US$2.975 million and its imports US$2,000.

Since 1972, China has provided Maldives with aid totaling RMB74.7875 million. Starting form 1985, Chinese companies began entering project-contracting market in Maldives. By the end of 2001, the accumulated volume for their contracted projects in Maldives had reached US$46.37 million, with their turnover reaching US$40 million.

Sino-Maldives economic cooperation and trade volume are very insignificant. Hong Kong and Singapore serve as transit ports fro most of China's exports to Maldives. China's major products to Maldives are rice and consumer goods.

China and Maldives have seen infrequent contacts and cooperation in other fields. Between 20 and 30 September 2002, at the invitation of the Central Military Commission, Maldives State Minister of Defence and National Security paid a friendly visit to China, which was the first official contact between the Chinese and Maldives armies.

On May 18, 1998, the governments of Maldivesand SAR Hong Kong of China signed the transit agreement for civil flights.

Menon meets Karzai, discusses security of Indians

Kabul/New Delhi/Washington, March 5 (IANS) India Friday said that the Feb 26 terror attack in Kabul will not deter it from helping rebuild Afghanistan as National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon met Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul to review the security of around 4,000 Indians working in that country.

Menon, who arrived here Friday morning on a two-day visit, discussed with Karzai some proposals to bolster security of Indians engaged in a wide array of reconstruction activities, ranging from building roads, bridges and power stations to social sector projects.

The Indian government is contemplating a slew of steps to secure Indians in Afghanistan, including setting up protected venues where the Indians working on various reconstruction projects will be based. Deploying dedicated security personnel at places where Indians work is also being considered.

Menon also met his Afghan counterpart Rangin Dadfar Spanta and enquired about the progress in the probe into the Kabul attack in which seven Indians, including three major-rank officers of the Army, were killed.

Karzai had telephoned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week and assured him that all steps would be taken to ensure the security of Indians there.

Menon also met Indian Ambassador Jayant Prasad and discussed expanded security cover for Indians in that country.

Menon is the first top Indian official to visit Kabul since the Feb 26 attack, an important trip that underlines India’s unwavering resolve to continue reconstruction work in the violence-ravaged country for which it has already pledged $1.3 billion.

Menon’s visit comes amid findings of the Afghan intelligence that Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba, also suspected to be the prime mover behind the 26/11 Mumbai carnage, masterminded the Kabul attack.

In New Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh underlined that the Kabul attack will not bend the will of Indian people to help Afghanistan and vowed to assist that country in shaping its destiny without “outside interference.”

“We condemn this cowardly act,” Manmohan Singh told parliament, adding that “the entire nation was outraged by the most recent brutal attack in Kabul”.

“I wish to assure this house that such attacks will not bend the will of the people of India,” the prime minister said, adding that Indian assistance in the reconstruction has received widespread support among the people of Afghanistan.

“We are closely monitoring the developments with regard to Afghanistan and we will assist the people of Afghanistan in securing their legitimate right to determine their destiny in the manner they chose without outside interference,” he said.

Suicide bombers struck at a hotel and a guest house Feb 26 in central Kabul, killing seven Indians in a “26/11-like operation”.

Afghan investigators have concluded that the Lashkar-e-Taiba was involved in the attack based on evidence that the strike was carried out by a team of suicide bombers who spoke Urdu and who were searching for Indian targets, the Washington Post said in a report from Kabul, citing Afghan intelligence spokesman Sayed Ansari.

In the face of such media reports and an upset New Delhi protesting, US Special Envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke Friday regretted his initial comment that the Indians were not the target of terrorists during the strike in Kabul. Holbrooke lauded India’s humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan.

“I did not say Indians were not targeted, but that initially it looked like the target was not an official Indian facility,” Holbrooke said in Washington. “Early reports on events like this are often unreliable, and I try not to jump to conclusions,” he explained.

“We all know that Indian citizens have and continue to be targeted by terrorists, including inside Afghanistan,” Holbrooke said. “My heart goes out to the families of all of the victims,” he added.

Them and US

Shekhar Gupta

Posted: Saturday , Mar 06, 2010 at 0242 hrs

There was nothing un-Holbrooke-like about his utterly insensitive statement that the Kabul attack had not particularly targeted Indians. The use of really awful language, “I do not accept [that this was like the attack on the Indian embassy]” and “let’s not jump to conclusions”, was also true to form. In fact, coarse directness of this kind is so much his hallmark that, talking about him when his appointment was announced, a former American envoy — who himself was not exactly some Mr Congeniality — told me, “You guys will learn to deal with Holbrooke... he will make me look so diplomatic to you.” It follows, therefore, that there was also nothing so unusual about what should normally have been shocking insensitivity. What kind of a guy — other than Holbrooke, of course — speaks like this when four Indian victims of that terror attack are still battling for life in the hospital? His tone was dismissive, almost an admonition of those (read the Indian government) who “jumped to the conclusion” that this was an attack specifically on Indian interests.

More significant, however, is his double-quick retraction. Within a day of making that silly statement he had “clarified” it in a manner that almost sounded like an apology — and this, indeed, was so un-Holbrooke-like. The Richard Holbrookes of the world will not usually be heard saying, “Oops, I screwed up on this one.”

So what conclusions do we draw from this sudden turnaround? Do we go home feeling vindicated, and happy that he has seen reason so quickly? Or was it just a hasty remark which, thank God, has been withdrawn? Or do we start to worry, lose sleep, and weigh our options?

Facts would point to the latter option. We would be erring gravely if we see in Holbrooke’s uncharacteristic near-apology a vindication of India’s rising power and stature. It is, on the other hand, indicative of the rise of a new, weak and further weakening America. This weakening is underlined by both his initial statement, and his quick retreat. Here is how.

The note of irritation in his initial statement was caused not so much by any arrogant claim of better information from the ground as by irritation with India on the part of somebody representing a power that is increasingly short of ideas and options — and losing both influence and the will to exercise it. Obama’s “I will send more troops but will withdraw by a deadline” approach has weakened the American position in the region gravely and not just the Taliban but even the Pakistanis are smelling victory. Pakistan now rightly believes — though these things can change quickly — that the only game left for America (and its envoys like Holbrooke) is to work towards some kind of an arrangement where a withdrawal could be arranged by declaring some kind of a quick “victory”. That can only be through a deal with a faction of the Taliban, chosen and controlled by Pakistan. Of course, the Pakistanis will then promise to ensure that these new rulers of Kabul will be no nuisance to America and its allies. Smelling success, the Pakistanis have become so bold as to again openly talk of their need for Afghanistan, for the strategic depth they always dream of vis-à-vis India. Their protestations over the “activities” of Indian missions in Afghanistan have increased and the Americans are now showing less and less conviction in countering that charge. In Holbrooke’s kind of worldview, it would do nobody any harm if the Indians agreed to be “a little more reasonable” keeping in mind the “big picture”. He is now speaking for a declining superpower that is no longer determined to go fight for its interests far from its shores, and is keen to buy peace, bury the hatchet. The problem is that the Pakistanis, who are central to the success of this defeatist strategy, would prefer the hatchet to be buried in India’s back. Holbrooke’s quick retraction in the face of Indian disgust and revulsion further underlines the lack of conviction that has seized Obama’s waffling America.

Signs of this have been visible for some time. This columnist has also pointed to the perils of continuing with the strategy of “outsourcing” the countering of our terror threat to the US, particularly in view of the new evolving Af-Pak approach in Washington (‘Our faff-Pak policy’, IE, November 14, 2009, This week’s developments, seen together with the increasing Pakistani confidence that they have the Americans (and maybe even the Indians) exactly where they want them, shows that Obama’s America no longer has either the confidence, or the spine, of a superpower. Further, this declining America needs help from both our immediate adversaries, China and Pakistan, in different ways, but equally desperately. One must continue to fund its deficit, and the other must bail it out of the Afghan quicksand.

Both China and Pakistan have already responded to this remarkable turnaround by hardening their respective postures towards India in their own different ways. The Chinese shifted the goalposts on border negotiations earlier, and now the Pakistanis are resiling even from the vague ideas discussed in the Musharraf era to settle Kashmir. We need to acknowledge and understand this new reality, in which we are much more on our own, and where the power we treated as our own “stalwart ally” (to turn a metaphor on its head) may be taking a very different view of life. I have talked in the recent past of the Pakistanis playing a game of triple-nuancing with terrorists, treating Pakistani, Afghan Taliban and then the India-specific Lashkars differently in pursuit of a larger objective vis-à-vis Afghanistan and India. Could it now be that the impatient Americans may also be indulging in a nuancing of their own, telling us that we face a “common” threat because “Al Qaeda and Lashkar are the same thing” while at the same time setting minimalistic targets for themselves to neutralise Al Qaeda so they could leave us to deal with threats specific to us, and with a revitalised Pakistani military intelligence complex?

The time has therefore come for us to shift gears, to readjust the viewfinder and re-set the strategic GPS. We will find ourselves on our own in the roughest of neighbourhoods eventually. But with American will weakening so much that even Holbrooke is losing his style, this could come to pass sooner than we imagined.

Being Holbrooke

Tags : ie, editorial

Posted: Saturday , Mar 06, 2010 at 0233 hrs
Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, has always been a difficult person to second-guess. As the formidable architect of the Bosnia peace accords in the ’90s, he has a long history of diplomatic induction in the United States’ arena of overseas intervention — notably Vietnam and Bosnia. The latter has been his calling card for more than a decade now. But it was the former that was to have determined America’s choices in a region remapped as Af-Pak precisely on the remit of his new assignment. He would be, it was held, mindful of the differences between Vietnam and Af-Pak, but would also be careful to heed the lessons of Vietnam. However, just over a year into his assignment, it is becoming clear that Holbrooke in Af-Pak is becoming an object lesson for future diplomats on what they should not do. Indeed, envoys of other countries in the region often joke that their challenge is not just to manage Af-Pak, but also to contain Holbrooke.

In an astonishing intervention this week, Holbrooke chose to weigh in on the February 26 terrorist attack in Kabul, in which the dead included six Indian citizens. “I don’t accept the fact that this was an attack on an Indian facility like the (Indian) embassy. They were foreigners, non-Indian foreigners hurt. It was a soft target. Let’s not jump to conclusions.” The remarks not just contradicted the assessment of Afghan officials that a Pakistan-based group, specifically the Lashkar-e-Toiba, had targeted Indians. They elicited suspicion about the chessboard on which Holbrooke was crafting his current moves. It is no secret that while Holbrooke makes dry jokes about avoiding the K-word, India has often discouraged him from visiting New Delhi. On Friday, he regretted his recent outburst — which, given the Holbrooke legend of territorially holding the centrestage, is worth a reread in its entirety.

This is not about point-scoring. The Holbrooke controversy is a reminder of the appalling failures of Obama’s special representative — and also of the mis-steps of his policy-making on Afghanistan and Pakistan. The calendar imposed by the US president’s commitment to start withdrawing American forces from Afghanistan in 2011 has led diverse elements to play for the post-exit stakes. Holbrooke’s gaffe is a disturbing indication that America’s top officials in the region are yet to gain a clear understanding of the forces that are invested in the long-term stabilisation of Afghanistan — and those that are not.

Air India’s all women pilots to fly Mumbai-JFK non-stop on Women’s Day

To celebrate Women’s Day on 8 March 2010, Air India will make history by using only women pilots to fly Ultra Longhaul flight AI-141 from Mumbai to JFK non-stop on, using a B777-200 Long Range aircraft. The flight is approximately of 14 hours duration and will be operated with a double set of all women crew and supported by women of the National Aviation Company India Limited (NACIL).

Capt. Rashmi Miranda(LEFT) and Capt. Sunita Narula will be the Commanders alongwith Capt. Swati Rawal and Capt. Neha Kulkarni as First Officers. Mrs. Harpreet A De Singh, Head-QMS will carry out a Line Observation Safety Audit, the flight will be despatched by Ms. Nandita Deshpande and the Load and Trim Sheet will be prepared by Ms. Ferzin Kuruvilla. Various additional flights will also be operated by All Women Crew on that day. On the Airbus A310, Capt. Trisha Mohan will operate as the Commander of AI 815/816 from Hyderabad-Damam-Chennai along with First Officer Capt. Thanmai Papagari. Other flights from Mumbai to be operated with All Women Crew will be IC-686, IC-105 and IC-129. Capt. S. Deshmukh, Capt. Sangita Bangar and Capt. L. Nagrath will be the Commanders and Capt. Rikita Singh, Capt. Deepali Pratape and Capt. Aprajita Lal the First Officers. The flights will be despatched by Ms. Anjali Dhiman and the Load and Trim Sheet will be prepared by Ms. Archana Patki. In the Southern Region, Capt. Deepa will operate IC 573/574 accompanied by First Officer, Capt. Sonia Jain on Chennai-Colombo-Chennai sector. The Northern and Eastern Regions also operated with All Women crew on various sectors.

Ms. Neetu Sharma who is an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) on the B737-800, in Air India Express, will certify the aircraft from Sharjah. Lady Doctors Dr Varsha Sawant and Dr Alka Mathur will carry out the breathalyzer tests at Mumbai.

NACIL has more than 136 women pilots flying various international and domestic sectors. Women Pilots, Flight Despatchers, Aircraft Maintenance Engineers, Safety and Quality Auditors, Cabin Crew, Doctors, Technical Officers, Simulator Maintenance Engineers, Ground Instructors for training pilots etc. all form part of a highly skilled, technically proficient team of women in Air India.

Inauguration of ICG Complex at Vizhinjam by Hon’ble Raksha Mantri

06 Mar 2010
17:24 IST

At an impressive ceremony on 06 Mar 2010, the new Coast Guard Administrative Complex at Vizhinjam, was inaugurated by Shri AK Antony, Hon’ble Raksha Mantri, in the presence of Shri M Vijayakumar, Hon’ble Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs, Govt. of Kerala, Shri George Mercier, MLA Kovalam, and Vice Admiral Anil Chopra, AVSM, Director General Indian Coast Guard. Apart from the officers and men of the Indian Coast Guard, the ceremony was also attended by representatives of various Central and State Govt. bodies, and the media.

While lauding the efforts of the Coast Guard, the Hon’ble Raksha Mantri stated that ‘Coastal Security’ requires sustained and dedicated effort from all the stake holders. He stated that all acquisition projects in respect of the Indian Coast Guard were being processed on fast track basis by the Government, leaving no stone unturned in protecting our maritime interests, and the threat emanating from the seas. He indicated that all necessary funds have been sanctioned to the Coast Guard for new acquisitions.

In his welcome address, the Director General Indian Coast Guard, highlighted the strategic importance of the state of Kerala and stated that the Coast Guard had achieved considerable progress in acquisition of assets and infrastructure development, for addressing the security gaps along the coastline. He further stated that a Coast Guard Air Enclave at Kochi is planned to be set-up in near future, for augmenting the aerial surveillance capabilities of the Coast Guard in the state.

The new office complex inaugurated by Shri AK Antony, comprises of four buildings constructed by the Military Engineering Service, and accommodates both the Administrative Complex, as well as living accommodation for men. The state-of-the-art Administrative complex encompasses an Operations Centre, Communication Station, Conference Hall, Parade Ground and outdoor sports facilities.

Ethiopia expands oil exploration

Ethiopia has seen an increasing number of oil exploration companies over the past ten years. Oil exploration in that country started in 2000 by the Hunt Oil, an American company. The country can now boast of about eleven companies all exploring oil.
The eleven companies are working in petroleum exploration and prospecting with the 19 agreements in Ogaden, Mekele, Abay basin, Afar, Metama, Humera, Southern Rift valley and Gambela area, according to

Exploration in Ethiopia now covers more than 75 percent of the country. Even though these oil exploration companies including the Malaysian giant Petronas, continue the search moving from one part of the country to another, Ethiopia still belongs to the non-oil producing country category.

Following the global oil price decline at the time, Hunt Oil was forced to disrupt the contract, according to latest data obtained from the Ethiopian Ministry of Mines and Energy (EMME).

Including petroleum exploration, currently 123 exploration licenses and 51 mining licenses have been issued by EMME to investors. Out of the total 174 licenses, 90 are given to foreign companies while the rest belong to joint venture companies formed by local and foreign investors.

The information obtained from the Ministry indicates that energy resource potential of the country includes 113 billion tons of natural gas and 253 million tons of oil shale.

It has also a total hydropower potential of 45,000 megawatt, 5,000 megawatt geothermal, 300 million tons of coal, 15-20 million tons of agricultural waste, 1,120 million tons of wood and 100 GW of wind power potential. According to the EMME, the country’s climate is also suitable climate for generating solar energy.

From the 1960’s to the early 1980’s large companies explored in East Africa but without the benefit of today's technology or the more recent knowledge gained in West Africa.

Shell, Amoco, AGIP and BP were all active in East Africa during that period. Between them they made reasonably large discoveries of gas, but no oil.

Given that there was no real market for gas at that time in East Africa and that there was a plentiful supply of, often flared, gas in other parts of the world, the search for oil continued elsewhere and the gas discoveries on the East African margin became stranded and were passed by. The whole region was written off as "gas-prone".

East Africa has, until recently, been largely ignored, just as Northwest Africa was in the mid 1990’s, even though the East African coastal margin bears striking similarities to the prolific geology of the western side of the continent.

Many parallels can be drawn between the beginning of renaissance in Mauritania, Morocco, Senegal, Gambia and Guinea in the late 1990’s and the recent upswing in interest in East Africa today.

Exit from Afghanistan: Playing the Game and not learning the lessons

IDSA , New Delhi

D. Padma Kumar Pillay

March 3, 2010

....a strong and stable Afghanistan will raise the issue of the Durand Line, which successive governments including even the Taliban have refused to recognise. Pakistan desires a weak and dependent Afghanistan. It is highly imprudent to hand over Afghanistan to the Taliban/Pakistan.

With the launch of Operation Moshdarak, the US has clearly started the race to beat a retreat from Afghanistan, like all "Firangees" before them. However, the timing, the confusion and the events following launch of Op Moshdarak conjures up the image of a race-start gone wrong. The official starter has fired the gun, as per his countdown, but unfortunately the race officials are still standing in front of the starting line holding thPublish Poste runners behind the restraining rope. Not that bad, but adding to the chaos is the fact that the potential winners and dark horses have all been tripped, tumbled and crushed to allow the starter’s favourite to emerge the winner. That just seems to be how races are often run in these parts.

Under the terms and conditions of the race for withdrawal, Pakistan has clearly told the United States that it wants a central role in Afghanistan. Acceding to this demand is the tall price the Americans will pay for having “cohabited” with Pakistan for so long. For, it seems that Pakistan like the mythological creature "Succubus" has drawn out all the life-force from America and its coalition partners in order to sustain itself. One might ask just how or why the US has allowed itself to become such a willing victim of guile and seduction. But perhaps they should be answering these questions. Pakistan army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, has however projected a rather benevolent approach towards Afghanistan: “our objective is to have peaceful, stable and friendly Afghanistan. We cannot wish for Afghanistan anything that we don’t wish for Pakistan [read: Talibanisation]. We do not want to control Afghanistan.” Why would anyone accept this statement is unclear. What is clear, however, is that there is utter confusion and exhaustion amongst the partners of the international coalition; even leading to collapse of a government in distant parts of the world, taking us right back to 2001, turning a full circle to reconcile with the Taliban. One supposes that for the Americans, Operation Moshdarak, meaning "together" (as it is being co-executed by its architects), offers an opportunity to gain a tactical victory and “peace” with the potential winners and rulers of Afghanistan – before throwing in the towel.

As a precursor to the events that were to unfold in this new version of the Great Game, the announcements – particularly at the NATO conference in Brussels, as well as at the London and Istanbul meetings – Pakistan blatantly and loudly proclaimed that it wants Indians out of Afghanistan. Before the dust from the bombs dropped in Op Moshdarak settled, the clear target was India. In a cowardly attack against the norms of Geneva conventions, facilities that housed Indian Aid workers and medics was attacked last Thursday leaving 6 Indians, including a popular Doctor, English teacher, and a musician dead. The shock waves of this attack against these non-combatants who are not in any way involved in the ongoing operations against the Taliban leads one to believe that it is part of the grand strategy for withdrawal negotiated and enacted by ISI-funded organisations in connivance with the “Good Taliban” to purchase a “safe” exit for US forces.

India in no way seeks to undermine international efforts in building a safe and stable Afghanistan. India has demonstrated capabilities that have made a great contribution to the rebuilding and reconstruction of Afghanistan. With its historic, civilisational ties and cultural affinity to the country, India has already invested heavily in rebuilding Afghanistan through its civilian assistance programmes. It is the fifth-largest bilateral donor and the biggest regional donor to Afghanistan. And unlike much of the “funds” coming from other “donors”, India’s spending goes entirely into genuine civilian projects: its $1.2 billion contribution has supported projects in power, medicine, agriculture, transport, food reserves, infrastructure development, and education. India has also trained Afghan civil servants, demonstrating an Indian comparative advantage on the ground in terms of genuine “peace building”. Indian engineers managed to build an alternate port-access 218 km long road in violent southern Afghanistan. By comparison, unfamiliarity with the culture and the prohibitive costs of development work (and workers) in harsh conditions have constrained delivery of similar Western contributions on the ground. American and western NGOs have been unable to function outside major population centers in Afghanistan. Neither Pakistan nor NATO have been willing or able to help fill the gap and provide security to the aid workers – something India has achieved with no or minimal security forces on the ground. This points to a clear difference in the “hearts and minds” of Afghans between how they perceive India and how they perceive the Taliban-Pakistan-America nexus. India’s exit from the region will not likely see other payers fill in the vacuum. All too quickly, with the so-called “Good Taliban” back in business, Afghanistan is bound to slip rapidly back into its feudal, medieval ways.

Unfortunately, a stable Afghanistan appears to clash with Pakistani interests (which see this as India threatening Pakistan's security by "encirclement"). Further a strong and stable Afghanistan will raise the issue of the Durand Line, which successive governments including even the Taliban have refused to recognise. Pakistan desires a weak and dependent Afghanistan. It is highly imprudent to hand over Afghanistan to the Taliban/Pakistan. What the West is failing to realise is that while allowing Pakistan to treat Afghanistan as its vassal state post-withdrawal may help American interests at home in the short term, it will prove disastrous for Islamabad as well as for Washington in the not too distant future. While growing instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan is a front-line concern for India, it is no guarantor of peace for the West. New Delhi and Washington should view the challenge of stabilizing Afghanistan in concert: they must agree on a common approach to the most pressing security challenges which they both face – fallout from the insurgency and the spread of terrorism. It is not certain if the US wants to see a Taliban-led government, assisted by Pakistan, returning to power in Kabul. Perhaps it has no better alternative than to have a so-called ally in control. US calculation in backing Pakistani designs for controlling Afghanistan will bring even greater dangers to its own doorsteps. It is just a matter of reading a few chapters of Afghan history to understand that no primarily foreign-aided government has ever succeeded in this region (not at least in the last few hundred years or so). One can only hope the United States comes to realise this in time.

Shut 42 terror camps, India tells Pakistan

IANS, Mar 6, 2010, 05.49pm IST

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Defence minister A K Antony on Saturday asked Pakistan to shut down 42 terrorist camps he said were functioning in its territory if India-Pakistan talks were to succeed.

"Pakistan has not made any serious attempt to disband the camps that are functioning close to Jammu and Kashmir. The decision for bilateral talks has been made consciously and it was not an ad hoc one," Antony told reporters after inaugurating the new office complex of the Coast Guard station at Vizhinjam near here.

"Though there was no breakthrough (in the foreign secretary talks), being a conscious decision the process (of talks) will continue," he added.

The minister said the central home ministry and the Jammu and Kashmir government had evolved a formula to check infiltration and help terrorists to return to normal life.

"Many have surrendered too. With the conditions becoming normal, there is an increase in tourist arrivals in Kashmir. Attempts for terrorist infiltration are there and the armed forces are maintaining vigil on the border," he said.

On the US supply of arms to Pakistan, he said Washington should make sure that the weapons were used against Islamist militants on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and not targeted at India.

He denied that the government had any information that the Chinese were covertly helping Indian Maoists.

"The army will give logistic support to the state police (of Maoist-affected states). Paramilitary forces will be used for training the state police," said Antony.

He said the acquisition of defence equipments and aircraft had increased considerably in the past five years.

"The process for acquiring the Kiev-class aircraft, Admiral Gorshkov, from Russia is in the final stage," added Antony.

He said that after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, the threat through sea had increased. The armed forces were engaged in coordinated efforts to prevent similar attacks.

"One of the positive aspects is that even fishermen have become alert and are giving valuable tip-offs to the (security) forces," said Antony.

Ten Pakistani terrorists sneaked into Mumbai in November 2008 by the sea and went on a killing spree over three days. They slaughtered 166 Indians and foreigners.

Excerpts from the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s reply to the Lok Sabha

Following are the excerpts from the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s reply to the Lok Sabha today:

“I rise to thank all Members of the House in conveying my sincere thanks to the Hon’ble President of India for her enlightening address. Over the past few days, we have had a very constructive debate over the issues covered in Rashtrapati ji’s address. While several Members have expressed satisfaction at the working of the Government, some others have criticized it. This is as it should be.

Before I come to the main subject, a tragedy occurred yesterday in the temple in district Pratapgarh. The issue, I believe, has been raised by a concerned Member in the Rajya Sabha yesterday. I join all Hon’ble Members in conveying our heartfelt condolences to the families of deceased and wish speedy recovery to all those who have suffered injuries. We have decided to make from the Prime Minister’s National Relief fund an ex-gratia payment of Rs.2 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased and Rs.50,000 to those seriously injured.

The essence of the Hon’ble President’s address is contained in paragraph 3 and I seek your indulgence to read the paragraph once again. ‘My Government was voted to Office with a clear-cut mandate to protect the people, the values of pluralism and secularism and ensure rapid growth with justice and fairness for all. Since assuming office from May 2009, my Government has worked single mindedly to build on the achievements of its earlier term to deliver the promises of faster and more inclusive growth. The aam aadmi was amidst the core of the promise. The aam admi had to be protected against the ravages of the worst ever global economic crisis since the great depression and against failure of monsoon in a large part of the country in mid 2009.

Our economic performance has to be judged against the twin impact of the international financial crisis which suddenly erupted in December 2008 and subsequently the failure of South West monsoon in the year 2009. And I sincerely believe that the way our Government has dealt with the impact on our economy of these two adverse turn is beyond our control is praiseworthy. And indeed the whole world is praising India for the success it has achieved in this situation. Under the impact of the global economic crisis, the mighty countries of America and Europe have experienced negative growth rates. In 2008-09, India’s growth rate also declined but we still maintained the growth rates of 6.7 per cent. In the current year, we will have a growth rate of minimum of 7.2 per cent but possibly at 7.5 per cent. In the fiscal year 2009-10, the growth rate of the economy will be probably close to what I had mentioned 7.5 but most conservative estimate is 7.2. In the next fiscal year, I am confident of achieving a growth rate of 8 per cent or more and the year there after, we will be able to return the economy over 9 per cent growth. Why do I emphasize growth rate? Growth is not an end in itself. The end is the well being of our people. Growth rate is only a means to provide relief to those who are suffering. Growth is a means to find resources to spend on education, on health, on rural development, on social security. And if we do not grow fast enough, we may talk about removal of poverty, we may talk about expanding irrigation and other facilities in rural areas, it will all remain pipedreams. The fact that the first three years of our Government saw a sharp increase in the growth rate enabled our Government to devote a lot of resources in rural development, in agricultural development, for education. And therefore it is very important that the economy should get back to the growth rate of 9 per cent or more. I am confident that the macro economic fundamentals of our economy are very sound. Why do I say this? Ten years ago, nobody would have imagined that India’s savings and investment rates will be as high as 35 or 36 per cent. In the last 4-5 years, we have managed the economy that savings and investments in our country are now equal to the savings and investment rate which prevailed until 10 years ago only in the countries of South East Asia or East Asia.

Moreover, I think in the years to come, in fact two decades the dividend arising from the sharp rise in working age population to total population of our country will provide another positive factor to push the savings rate of the country close to 40 per cent of our national income. If we manage our economy well, if we manage the creation of social and physical infrastructure well, if the processes of governance are improved to reduce the scope for corruption, there is no I think barriers to India entering on a long-term basis, the age of double digit growth. This is the vision that our Government is working to realize.

I recognize that there are certain problems which cannot be wished away. The Hon’ble Members on both sides of the House have referred to the price situation. I will be the last one to deny that the behaviour of food prices in the last one year is something which does not worry us. We have been worried about it a great deal, to the extent that we could adopt measures, we have adopted and the House has my assurance that if any practical methods can further bring relief to our people, our Government will always be sensitive to the concerns of the Members.

The pricing situation that emerged was a bye-product of events which were not in our control. There is first the effect of international commodity prices which have gone up and since India is no longer a closed economy, despite what Dr. Joshi may say, we are dependent on imports of essential commodities of vegetable oils, which are in shortage, we depend upon import of sugar, we are depending to a substantial extent on import of pulses and when international prices of these commodities rise, I think inevitably there is an impact in our country. And when international prices of rice and wheat soar, if we do not take remunerative prices to our farmers our ability to procure for the public distribution system will be seriously in danger and therefore we have to take remunerative prices to our farmers but despite the effect of that it raises the floor price on market determined prices and I invite this House to reflect on a situation that we were facing. There was global recession simultaneously because of the draught, because of the commodity prices worldwide, there was pressure on the prices. We could have dealt with the price effect, by a very tough monetary and fiscal policy which could have depressed the demand would that have been the course the House would recommend to me? If we had gone that route there would have been large scale unemployment and steep fall in industrial production in our country. At a time, when the world is faced with global economic crisis, we have so managed our economy then the price that we had to pay was in the form of higher prices. We have not allowed large scale unemployment to emerge as a problem in our country despite the worldwide recession that we had. It is at the same time we were able to introduce a large number of stimulus which ensured that interests of the weaker sections of this country were protected. Take for example, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme. 4.5 crore households have benefited. 50% of them are Scheduled castes and Scheduled Tribes. I am not saying that in one go or in one short period of five years we can relieve poverty but if we are sincere, if we use all the resources of the economy to step up our growth rate , if we manage our fiscal situation well then we can certainly soften the harsh edges of extreme poverty in a period of about five more years. We need to invest more in education, we need to invest more in health, we all know that we need to invest more in rural infrastructure and urban infrastructure we are doing that but more needs to be done. Please help us to strengthen the growth impulses in our economy so that we can accelerate the tempo of social and economic change. I had said growth is important not in itself but because it provides us the resources to tackle the problem of poverty ignorance and disease about which Jawaharlal Nehru spoke from this Central Hall of Parliament on the midnight of 1947.

Madam, many Members have in the discussions have expressed their anxiety about rising prices. No doubt we had a separate discussion on this issue. But I would again like to inform this house that the Government has been alive to the problem and has taken all possible measures to address the issue.

To put matters in perspective, it is important to recognize that in 2009 we had one of the most severe droughts in recent history, the worst since 1972. As a result, the production of food-grains, pulses and oilseeds has been adversely affected. Production of sugarcane has also gone down. This was preceded by the economic slow down, to respond to which the Government had to stimulate demand and increase the availability of bank credit.

We have taken decisive action on several fronts. We acted early to limit the fall in the Kharif production. As a result we could contain the reduction in foodgrain production to a large extent. We have been able to procure around 23 million tonnes of rice this year, which is not very different from what we had procured last year during the same time. There should be no panic on the food situation front considering the comfortable level of food stocks that are available with the Central Government. Rabi prospects are also very encouraging. Post-monsoon rains have been good. All this augurs well for our ability to stabilize food prices at a reasonable level. We have permitted import of raw and white sugar at zero duty and imports are taking place.

Enforcement in terms of imposing stock and time limits is in the hands of the State governments. We have empowered the State Governments to do so through the Essential Commodities Act and I have requested the Chief Ministers to take stern action against hoarders.

Madam Speaker, many Honorable Members have spoken about the export of sugar. Very often we have to honour prior international commitments. The amount of sugar that India has exported relative to imports, is so small that it is surprising that so much is being made out of this. In November 2009 India exported sugar worth Rs 7.94 crore whereas it imported sugar worth Rs 611.40 crore.

In December 2009 the exports of sugar were worth Rs 12.34 crore whereas the imports were worth Rs 216.90 crore.

Madam, On this it will be obvious that the such a breaking part in sharp increase in sugar prices are to be found in the cyclical nature of the production of sugar cane. There is a cycle which has been noticed for almost 50 years in the behaviour of sugarcane production. 2 or 3 years this is one cycle, with upward pressure on prices followed by a steep fall in prices. We have to find ways and means to stabilise the sugar economy despite this behaviour and we will explore ways and means for the future to see that in future a crisis of sugar can be stabilised at reasonable level unmindful of the cyclical nature of the production of sugar.

Madam, I now come to internal security issues. The overall security situation in the country has remained satisfactory in the last year. This is not to ignore the horrible terrorist act in Pune but taking an overall view of the internal security situation I am stating that. A number of concrete steps have been taken to strengthen and reorient our security architecture in order to meet the growing threats of terrorism, insurgency and communalism. We have remained in close touch with State governments to evolve a common and practical approach.

We are taking firm action to curb naxalite violence. It is unfortunate that they are targeting innocent people and destroying roads, power lines and other essential infrastructure. In some places, we have received reports of the use of children. We have drawn up an integrated plan to tackle the problem in consultation with the States. A high-level meeting was recently held with all the Chief Ministers, where we reviewed the situation. The security forces have achieved several notable successes of late. While we are determined to take firm action, we are ready to talk to any group that abjures violence unconditionally and agrees to abide by the due constitutional process.

Madam, the National Investigation Agency has commenced its work. Four regional hubs of National Security Guard have been set up. We are in the process of setting up a National Counter-terrorism Centre. A National Committee on Coastal Security has been set up which has adopted an integrated approach to coastal security and has taken major initiatives and decisions for registration of vessels, issue of identity cards to fishermen, installation of transponders on boats and setting up of four Joint Operation Centres. Coastal police stations and interceptor boats have become operational under the Coastal Security Scheme.

To supplement the efforts of state governments in modernizing their police forces, we have provided Rs. 1,250 crore during the current year, of which Rs. 955.53 crore have been released to states up to 28th January this year. This has helped States in augmenting the resources available to police forces in terms of vehicles, weaponry, communications, training, forensic facilities, intelligence capabilities, security equipment and buildings. The Bureau of Police Research & Development is engaged in impact assessment study of the scheme so that the scheme could be improved.

Some Honourable Members have said that agriculture has been growing at negative rates. This is indeed surprising. A drought is beyond anybody’s control. A severe drought does result in negative growth in agriculture and it is no surprise that agriculture is expected to grow at – 0.2% in 2009-10. We should not, however, forget that in 2002-03, following the drought of 2002, agriculture growth went down by a good 7%. Food production went down from 202 million tones in 1998-99 to 174 million tones in 2002-03. I would also like to remind the Members that the agricultural sector has been growing at an average rate of 4% during the period 2005-2008, compared to the growth rate of around 2 percent from 1997-2002. Our pro-farmer policies have borne fruit. For the first time in the recent past we have reversed the trend of declining investment in agriculture and stepped up investment in agriculture through the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme, the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, the National Food Security Mission, the National Horticulture Mission, and other such schemes. We should also not forget the investment in water conservation structures that is being made through millions of works under the Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Scheme. Food production has increased from 174 million tonnes in 2002-03 to 233 million tonnes in 2008-09, which represents a growth rate of around 6 % per year. We are, however, conscious that a lot more needs to be done to improve agricultural productivity and we are committed to continuing our efforts to increase both public and private investment in agriculture and diversifying our agriculture so that higher farm incomes provide stability to the lives of our farmers. Dr. Joshi referred to our going to America to seek solutions to agricultural problems of our country. I wish to assure him that there is no scope for this sort of galat fahmi. Our government recognises the imperatives of food security that self sufficiency in basic food grains has to be a part of the national policy for development. This is a policy which we have pursued under successive Congress governments way back from the 50s. This is the policy we recognise and plan to pursue.

Madam, The decision to pay remunerative prices by way of minimum support prices is a part of our efforts to incentivize growth of agricultural production and productivity.

I think, Advaniji raised the issue of farmers’ suicide.

Our Government has been very sensitive to the issue of farmers’ suicide and everything possible, in terms of Government action, is being done to ameliorate agrarian distress. The loans of small and marginal farmers have been waived. For other farmers a one time settlement has been made. These measures have benefitted 3.68 crore farmers to the extent of Rupees 70,000 crore. A special package for suicide prone districts of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala has been implemented. The minimum support prices of most agricultural commodities have been enhanced substantially over the last six years. It was ensured that fertilizer prices did not increase during the same period. We have in fact reduced the prices of complex fertilizers in 2008 in order to rationalize nutrient use. The increase in MSP of cotton has come as a great boon for cotton production in Vidharba and other cotton growing regions of the country.

It has been said that the loan waiver scheme has not helped farmers and it has only helped banks. Nothing can be farther from the truth. It is surprising that we forget that nearly Rupees 70,000 crore, that was recoverable from farmers, has not been recovered. It should also be borne in mind that owing to defaults in repayment farmers would not be eligible for fresh credit. We have ensured the flow of fresh credit to the farm sector. During 2008-09 against a target of Rupees 2,80,000 crores the total credit flow to agriculture was Rs 3,01,582 crore. During this year we have a target of disbursing Rupees 3,25,000 crores and so far Rupees 2,18,202 crore have already gone to the agricultural sector.

We have accorded very high priority to the welfare of minorities. We have accepted most of the recommendations of the Sachar Committee and this House has been informed of the action taken on them. We have launched special programmes aimed at social, economic and educational development of minorities. Three new scholarships schemes have been started and are under implementation. We expect more than 40 lakh students to benefit from these schemes in the 11th Plan. At least 30 % of these students would be girls. The new 15 point programme aims to ensure that at least 15% of benefits in certain schemes flow to minorities, and the schemes for minority welfare are being closely monitored. Under this programme additional school rooms, drinking water supply schemes, anganwadi centres and houses are being constructed for the minorities.

To improve the access of minorities to bank credit, we have set the target that at least 15% of the priority sector lending will flow to them. During 2008-09 more than Rs 82,000 crore of bank credit, under priority sector lending, went to the minorities. This represents nearly 12% of the total priority sector lending. We hope to improve on this in years to come.

Minorities have not been represented adequately in the Government services. We have taken steps to correct this situation and as a result the share of minorities in Government jobs has increased over the past three years.

Madam, some Members have raised the issue of rights of tribals over forests. We are making genuine efforts together with the State Governments to ensure early disposal of claims and distribution of titles under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forests Rights) Act. I have also requested the Chief Ministers of concerned States on three occasions to take all measures necessary to accelerate the process of implementation of the Act and to ensure expeditious distribution of title deeds to all eligible claimants. This was reiterated during the Conference of Chief Ministers and State Ministers held in November 2009 to review the implementation of the Act. The Ministry of Tribal Affairs is closely monitoring the progress in this regard.

Madam, some Members have expressed concern over the implementation of the National Rural Employment Scheme. Let me say that this is a scheme which has the potential to change the face of rural India. To improve its impact we have initiated measures to bring in greater transparency and accountability. An ombudsman scheme for setting up an independent grievance redressal mechanism at the district level has been formulated and States are in the process of setting district ombudsmen. Social Audits by gram sabhas have also been taken up. Details of job cards, muster rolls and works undertaken have also been placed in the public domain. A scheme for independent monitoring by eminent citizens has been formulated. Efforts will to be made to continue to improve the implementation of this revolutionary scheme.

Advaniji had raised the issue of black money deposited in foreign countries. The Finance Minister had written to Shri Advani in May 2009 providing information about the action taken. Subsequently, we have moved further in the matter. Twenty countries and jurisdictions have been prioritized for entering into agreements regarding exchange of information and assistance in the collection of taxes. Negotiations have been completed with the Bahamas and Bermuda, and steps are being taken for signing of agreements.

We have also approached Switzerland for renegotiation of our tax treaty, so that we can have access to bank information. Negotiations were held in November 2009, and the matter is being pursued for finalizing a new protocol, through which we will be able to obtain information in specific cases. India is an active participant in global fora for improving transparency and exchange of information on tax matters.

Advaniji had also raised the issue of One Rank One Pension to ex-servicemen. He has stated that the commitment I made in my last year's Independence Day speech and Finance Minister’s promise in his budget speech of July 6, 2009 have not been honoured. This is not correct. The factual position is that we had constituted a Committee under the Cabinet Secretary to look into the issue of One Rank One Pension and other related matters. The Committee did not recommend One Rank One Pension. But whatever recommendations the Committee made to substantially enhance the pensionary benefits of persons below officer rank and commissioned officers were accepted by the Government and this is what I had stated in my Independence Day speech. The recommendations which have been accepted cover what the Finance Minister had promised in his budget speech of 2009. Of the seven recommendations that the Committee made, five have been implemented. The two recommendations which have not been implemented will be implemented very soon.

Madam, I share the concern of Hon’ble Members about the need for electoral reforms. I do not think there is any dispute regarding the need for electoral reforms. Unfortunately, we do not have the same degree of unanimity on the manner in which to go about it. It has been our accepted position, and also the accepted position of previous governments, that electoral reforms should be brought about only by broad-based political consensus. The recommendations of the Election Commission regarding electoral reforms and other proposals received by us are presently under consideration of the Standing Committee of Parliament. We hope that the Committee would be able to recommend measures which should find support in this House across the political spectrum.

We introduced the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha in May, 2008. We have already considered the Report of the Standing Committee of Parliament on this bill. It will be our endeavour to bring the Bill before Parliament in this very session. I sincerely hope that Hon’ble Members would support the Bill, as it would be the strongest affirmation of our commitment to the empowerment of our women.

Madam, I should say a few words about foreign policy. The Government’s foreign policy has been based on national consensus and full adherence to the principles and objectives laid down by the founding fathers of our Constitution. The foreign policy that we pursued in the first term of our Government, and on which we have built upon in the second term, has yielded solid dividends. India’s standing in the comity of nations has never been higher. In the troubled world that we live in, there is respect for India’s role as a force of moderation, reason and stability. The resilience of our democracy, our commitment to pluralism and secularism and the strength of our economy have enhanced our standing in the world.

The situation in our neighbourhood is a matter of high priority for us. We have had very intense and substantive interactions with our neighbours in the last nine months.

Several Members have voiced their concerns over the situation in Pakistan and the terrorism that is emanating from there against India. The government fully shares these concerns. We are taking all necessary steps to strengthen our internal security and defence capabilities.

Government has kept Parliament fully informed at every stage of our policy towards Pakistan. I had made a detailed statement on our approach towards Pakistan in this august House on 29 July, 2009. The External Affairs Minister briefed the House on the last round of Foreign Secretary level talks in February. Our policy towards Pakistan is consistent, cautious and realistic.

I have never believed that the channels of communication with Pakistan should break down. Even at the height of the Cold War, the Americans and the Soviets used to speak to each other. The chances of miscalculation can only increase in an environment of no contact. I therefore personally conveyed our concerns to President Zardari when I met him in Russia and later to Prime Minister Gilani at the NAM Summit last year.

I had made an offer of talks on humanitarian and other issues in October last year during my visit to Anantnag. The decision to resume talks at the Foreign Secretary level is not a sudden decision but a calculated one based on weighing all the costs and benefits.

The fact of the matter is that the rest of the international community is talking to Pakistan. So, our not talking to them is not going to isolate them. We have made our point strongly but we cannot wish away the problem by not talking to them.

Dialogue is the only way forward for civilized countries to resolve their problems. But it is equally true that for any meaningful dialogue to proceed, the terror machine has to be controlled by Pakistan even if non-state actors are at work. I have said so in Parliament a number of times and that remains our consistent position.

We have left Pakistan in no doubt about our concerns and our expectations with regard to the actions Pakistan must take against the terrorist groups operating on Pakistani soil and targeting India. Pakistan must fulfill its assurances that it will not permit any territory under its control to be used to support terrorism in any manner.

Madam, some Hon’ble Members have referred to my discussions in Saudi Arabia on Pakistan. Saudi Arabia is also affected by terrorism and this was one of the subjects that came up in our discussions. I discussed India-Pakistan ties in this context. I mentioned to the Saudi leadership, as I have to other world leaders as well, that all problems between India and Pakistan can be resolved through meaningful bilateral dialogue, if only Pakistan could be urged to take a reasonable attitude in dealing with those terrorist elements who target our country. I wish to reaffirm to this House that no offer was made seeking mediation. We do not need any mediation. We are talking directly to Pakistan.

Advaniji said that I acted under US pressure. I think we do a disservice to any Government and Prime Minister of this proud country if we say that such fundamental matters of national security and foreign policy were based on anything but our supreme national interest. I have had many discussions with President Obama since he took office. I categorically state that not once has he sought to pressurize India into taking one position or the other. On the contrary, he has always expressed understanding of the positions we have taken from time to time. I would urge the Opposition not to spread disinformation on sensitive aspects of our foreign policy.

Let me say that we do not wish to see the involvement of foreign powers in South Asia. Whatever our problems, we must learn to talk to each other and to solve our problems in a peaceful manner using our own creative genius.

In Afghanistan, our assistance has received widespread support among the people of Afghanistan. The entire nation was outraged by the most recent brutal attack in Kabul on February 26th which has led to the loss of 7 innocent Indian lives. These Indian nationals were in Afghanistan on a mission of goodwill and friendship helping to construct the peaceful and democratic Afghanistan that our Afghan friends desire. We condemn this cowardly act. I wish to assure this House that such acts will not bend the will of the people of India. President Karzai had telephoned me and I have requested him to ensure the safety of all Indians. I assured him of any support and assistance that may be required. We are closely monitoring the developments with regard to Afghanistan and we will assist the people of Afghanistan in securing their legitimate right to determine their destiny in the manner they chose without outside interference.

Madam, Joshiji made some comments about India-China relations. Let me say China is our important neighbour, with whom we have a comprehensive and multi-sectoral relationship. We wish to build upon the achievements so far so as to create a partnership that is mutually beneficial. We are convinced that good relations with China are in the interests of both countries and will contribute to the peace, security and stability not only of the Asia-Pacific region but also of the world. We are both committed at the highest level to maintain peace and tranquility on the border pending the resolution of the border question. This is a complex matter which will take time to resolve. I had an excellent interaction with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in Copenhagen and our cooperation in the area of climate change is a shining example how our two countries can work together on issues of global importance and those which impinge on the future of our two peoples.

In Sri Lanka, the conclusion of military operations against the LTTE has opened opportunities for finding such a lasting political settlement, acceptable to all communities, including Tamils, within a united Sri Lanka. We have and we will continue to contribute to the humanitarian and rehabilitation efforts of the Sri Lankan Government and to the long- term reconstruction of areas that have been affected by the military conflict. Our assistance package of Rs.500 crore for immediate relief, resettlement and reconstruction is under implementation.

We have taken several steps to diversify and broad-base our relations with Bangladesh. A major milestone in this respect was the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India in January 2010. During that visit we put in place a comprehensive framework of cooperation for development of our ties, which includes a renewed commitment by both sides to actively cooperate on security issues. We have provided a line of credit of 1 billion US dollars for a range of projects in Bangladesh which we intend to follow up vigorously. The Government of Bangladesh has reassured us that they will not allow their territory to be used for activities inimical to India. We have welcomed some of the steps they have recently taken in this direction.

Our country is passing through a difficult phase. Security and stability are the need of the hour. Political parties can differ on various issues but I do believe it is important for us to face challenges in a united manner. I seek the cooperation and support of all sections of this House. Let us not allow narrow partisan considerations to come in the way of effective governance. The people of India expect the Treasury and Opposition benches to engage constructively and ensure safety, security and prosperity for our citizens.

Thank You.”