April 17, 2010

China pours its wealth into Latin America

The Asian superpower is becoming a major economic player in the USA's backyard
Rory Carroll in Caracas
The Observer, Sunday 18 April 2010

Travel through pretty much any country in Latin America and you see the influence: a football stadium for Costa Rica, scholarships for Venezuela, a car factory for Uruguay, billion-dollar loans for Brazil. All from China.

The Asian superpower has moved into a region the US once considered its backyard and discreetly established itself as a major economic player.

There are new and expanded embassies in Caracas and Brasilia, Mandarin language classes in La Paz and Buenos Aires, Chinese tourists in Machu Picchu, red flags with five gold stars fluttering from tankers steaming through the Panama canal. Last week President Hu Jintao travelled to Brazil to sign, among other things, a five-year strategic plan between China and South America's biggest economy.

China has supplanted the US as Brazil's biggest trading partner, a boom repeated across the region. Once almost invisible in Latin America, China has seen its trade here rise from $10bn a year in 2000 to well over $100bn today. Latin officials are rolling out the red carpet to Chinese delegations and hopping on planes not only to Beijing but also Guangzhou, Nanking and Shanghai.

Unlike the Russians, who grab attention by sending warships to visit anti-US leaders, such as Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, but struggle to deliver economic deals, the Chinese are all business. They are importing soy from Argentina, copper from Chile, iron ore from Brazil and zinc from Peru, and export clothes, cars and electronic equipment across the region.

The trade helped Latin America to weather the global economic crisis, but there is concern about a "neo-colonial" pattern in which the region's commodities are sucked abroad while industry loses out to cheap imports aided by China's undervalued currency. When Argentina accused China of dumping goods, Beijing bared its teeth and banned Argentine soya oil, citing safety concerns.

After China's earthquake, Hu cut short his trip to Brazil and cancelled visits to Chile and Venezuela, where he was due to sign an oil deal. The premier would come another time, said Chávez. Venezuela's leader has declared himself a Maoist, but that scarcely matters to the Chinese. They just want the oil.

Venezuela and Nicaragua Progress on Food Security, Refinery, and Public Health

Daniel Ortega, left, and Hugo Chavez (Zurimar Campos, ABN)

Mérida, April 15th 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan and Nicaraguan officials met in Managua on Wednesday to deepen bilateral economic ties with the goal of fostering import substitution, promoting Latin American integration, and creating an economic alternative to U.S.-dominated free trade agreements.

"We must raise production in our countries and lower the amount of imports of goods and services, and transform the import-oriented economic model of our economies," said Venezuelan President Chavez in a press conference with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.

The two countries plan to double bilateral trade by the end of this year, according to both the Nicaraguan Agriculture ministry and the Venezuelan Embassy in Managua.

A major agenda item was the progress of an oil refinery that is to be built in western Nicaragua with a joint investment of $2.5 billion. The refinery is projected to produce 100,000 barrels per day by 2015, and to be expanded to produce 150,000 barrels per day by 2019.

"Thanks to this refinery, in 2019, Nicaragua will be able to export the petroleum derivatives that it has to import today," said President Chavez on Wednesday. "For Venezuela, it is very important because it will allow us to enter the Central American market."

Ortega and Chavez, both of whom advocate socialism and oppose U.S. imperialism, also agreed to explore the possibility of constructing a gas liquefying plant in Nicaragua to process the natural gas from Venezuela’s coastline, where reserves are projected to be the fourth largest in the world.

In addition, the Nicaraguan Company for Basic Foods and Venezuela’s Ministry for Food signed an accord to cooperate to assure the food security of their countries’ citizens, which will include the purchase of a barge to transport more than 20,000 heads of cattle to Venezuela.

As is customary between Venezuela and many of its economic partners, the two countries also discussed how to further cooperate to improve public health and access to medical care, and agreed to continue providing grants for university student exchanges.

Relations between Nicaragua and Venezuela increased dramatically in 2007, when Ortega, a former guerrilla leader who fought to overthrow the U.S.-backed Somoza dictatorship in 1979, took office as president.

In that year, Nicaragua joined the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), an anti-imperialist, pro-Latin American integration economic bloc whose members are now Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Venezuela immediately forgave Nicaragua’s debt of $31.3 million "without conditions" and donated $10 million for social programs in Nicaragua.

On Wednesday, both Ortega and Chavez spoke of the importance of ALBA and of Latin American integration. "We cannot advance alone. We must be united and, despite resistance from imperialism, in Latin America we have advanced considerably in the integration of our nations," said Ortega.

Chavez commented, "This is about uniting our peoples, social unity, political unity, full unity. Only this will allow us to free ourselves once and for all... Only united will we be free, on the path of socialism."

The ALBA model of economic cooperation so far has centered on the exchange of discounted Venezuelan oil for agricultural, industrial, and other goods and services.

Bilateral trade between Nicaragua and Venezuela reached US$115 million in 2009. That year, Nicaragua exported 6,000 metric tons of milk, 11,000 heads of cattle, 3,000 metric tons of black beans, and 100,000 metric quintals of coffee to Venezuela. In return, Venezuela provided Nicaragua with electricity generators to produce nearly 300,000 megawatts of electricity.

Chavez has visited Nicaragua six times over the past three years. Chavez and Ortega’s next quarterly meeting on bilateral economic accords is scheduled for July in Venezuela. The two presidents will also meeting on June 16th in Nicaragua at the summit of PETROCARIBE, another regional economic development bloc powered by subsidized Venezuelan oil.



Unidentified elements had planted three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) of low sophistication outside a stadium in Bangalore where an IPL cricket match between Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers, Bangalore, was played on the afternoon of April 17,2010 All the three IEDs would appear to have been planted in the open space outside the stadium after the anti-explosive sanitisation of the inside of the stadium as well as outside had been done thrice by the police.

2. Two of the IEDs exploded before the match was to start. According to some reports, they had been timed to explode after the start of the match, but both exploded prematurely. These reports do not carry adequate conviction because when an IED is planted outside a stadium it is timed to explode as the people are entering the stadium before the start of the match in order to cause casualties and panic. The fact that all the IEDs were planted outside the stadium would indicate that the perpetrators had timed them to explode as the spectators were entering the stadium and not after they had entered. While two of the IEDs exploded near two of the entrances, the the third failed to explode and was detected and defused.

3. It is likely that the IEDs were planted after the third anti-exoposive sanitisation of the day had been completed. This would indicate the possibility that the perpetrators had mingled with the spectators gathering outside before entering the stadium and evaded being noticed by the police as they planted the IEDs. The police would appear to have been confident of the effectiveness of the sanitisation inside the stadium. Moreover, all the spectators and others entering the stadium had to pass through IED detectors at the gates in order to prevent IEDs being smuggled in. The police were so confident that nobody would be able to smuggle in an IED inside the sanitised stadium that they allowed the match to go ahead as scheduled after a delay of one hour during which they did another sanitisation.

4. Sanitisation inside an enclosed space like a hall or a room or even a stadium can be effective, but there are problems in maintaining the effective state of sanitisation in an open space outside a hall or a room or a stadium. The terrorists had taken advantage of this to plant the IEDs unnoticed after the third sanitisation had been completed. The need for a tighter watch on people gathering outside the stadium after the final sanitisation has been done has to be kept in view during the remaining IPL matches. This would require much larger manpower. The Government should make this available to the police.

5. The two explosions injured 17 persons--- nine of them policemen. It would be unwise to presume that the perpetrators did not want to cause fatalities and that they wanted to cause only nervousness and panic among the foreign players and officials participating in the IPL tournament. The low casualties could be attributed to the lack of powerful explosive material with the terrorists and their inadequate expertise in assembling the devices.

6. Local Muslims belonging to the Indian Mujahideen ought to be the primary suspects. The IM had carried out serial explosions in Uttar Pradesh, Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Delhi in 2007-08 and tried unsuccessfully to carry out explosions in Surat. While the explosions were quite lethal in UP, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Delhi, they were not that lethal in Bangalore and Surat due to the inadequate assembling expertise of the perpetrators at these two places. This would indicate that the IM has well-trained experts in IEDs as well as untrained or inadequately trained perpetrators. Like the Bangalore blasts of July,2008, those of April 17,2010, would appear to have been carried out by inadequately trained perpetrators----most probably locals. ( 18-4-2010)

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

Is Red brigade a reality in vibrant Gujarat?‎

Jumana Shah / DNASunday, April 18, 2010 8:32 IST

Ahmedabad: If the Naxal attack killing 75 CRPF personnel in the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh makes your heart bleed, the news closer home may bring some more worry. For, in the first three months of this year, at least nine suspected Naxals have been arrested by police from the tribal districts of Dangs and Tapi.

At the outset, the reason for this is believed to be the Forest Rights Act (FRA), which gives the tribals the right to tribal land for cultivation. To cut a very long story short, in essence, this Act takes away the ownership of the land from forest department and gives it to people - the tribals. This is believed to be at the core of the sudden spurt in friction between the tribals and officials.

The nine arrests have created a sense of fear amongst the populace in the tribal belt. What actually raised many eyebrows is the arrest of suave tribal activist, Avinash Kulkarni, in the third week of March. Two days after he was picked up by the cops, his 'arrest' was announced.

The next day, the opposition Congress walked out of the Assembly blaming the BJP of incorrectly arresting activists "who are aiding tribals in the implementation of the FRA".

The Adivasi Mahasabha cried injustice, but Kulkarni was remanded in police custody. He continues to be custody. Since then the Congress has been rather silent. Others arrested include Bharat Powar. Powar had contested elections on a JD (U) banner.

On the Congress stand on the issue, party MP from Bardoli and Union minister of state for tribal affairs, Tushar Chaudhary, reluctantly says: "No local tribal leaders have been named. All those arrested are from out of the state. We know of their work here, but not of their links outside of the state."

A senior activist working in the area says people are now scared of gathering in groups and making demonstrations against the forest or police department for their issues, be it the land or any other amenities. "Moreover, the buzz is that those arrested have identified a few others and at least 21 other arrests are expected soon. Activists are mainly being targeted," he said, citing the 'fear' factor.

In fact, he adds that the past week has been eventful in the jungles. Forest, police and local intelligence personnel have been holding extensive meetings with the tribals in wake of the Dantewada blast. In some places, they are grilling people to learn whether similar blasts are being planned here, and in other meetings covert warnings are let out. Yet others claim that these arrests have, in fact, averted any major strike.

Land: The ultimate premium
Move to 2006. Parliament cleared the Forest Rights Act, which enables a tribal to reclaim his land (if it was incorrectly acquired by the government), provided he can prove it. The process is long and winding, but this is ostensibly the reason behind the simmering discontent.

One of the reasons cited by activists, decrying the arrests as stifling of democracy, is the unwillingness of the forest department (read state government) to give the land to the tribals under the FRA. Former Congress MP and tribal leader from Sabarkantha, Madhusudan Mistry, categorically states that to retain the control of land, the government wants to declare as 'sanctuary' or 'protected area' of as much forest land as they can. "So that later it can be diverted or denotified," he says.

Activists inform the tribals that they will now finally get their land if they can prove through village elders that their ancestors cultivated it. The point of friction here is that the forest department does not take the elders' word as final and uses the satellite data as proof of their claims. The illiterate Adivasis do not understand this, leading to anxiety and distrust among them.

"When tribals produce the proof, forest officials refute it. This infuriates them, leaving them extremely vulnerable," says an observer who does not wish to be identified.

Mistry agrees that this is a standard modus operandi, which he witnessed in Antarsuba, Sabarkantha, in 2008 where a tribal was killed in police encounter. "When anxious, tribals will be ready to do anything at the slightest instigation. Though they care for the forest and trees immensely, in a fit of rage they may chop a few. This gives the forest and police the perfect excuse to book them with criminal charges, which sometimes result in inhuman excesses and fake encounters. In fact, I am scared that Kulkarni will be eliminated," the former parliamentarian voices his concern.

The turnout in a recent rally organised by Mistry demanding action by the government under FRA in Ahmedabad was phenomenal. About 800 people turned up from various villages. Union minister Chaudhary said, "I am shocked the Gujarat government has released only 7% of the total land entitled to the tribals."

Since its inception half a century ago, Gujarat is being touted as a peaceful state of entrepreneurs. Therefore, the emergence of a violent rebellion could be a shocker. The initial question being thrown up is: Are those arrested really propagating a rebellion through violence, thereby qualifying them to be labeled as Naxals?

Or are they tribal activists, instigating the tribals to demand their land rights from the establishment? More importantly, why now?

A hard look at the events preceding the arrests, and police interrogation since then, give an impression that some 'Naxal' activity might indeed have been going on in the deep forests of central and south Gujarat.Then the logical question would be: Why? What is the discontent in a prosperous state like Gujarat? With a government aggressively talking and acting for inclusive development by implementing welfare schemes like Garib Kalyan Mela, why is there a rebellion against the establishment?

"At the outset, it is important to point out that there is deep discontent and disconnect amongst the tribals here, not roaring antagonism. Basic amenities like roads, electricity, water, health and education available here are relatively better than that in other 'Naxal affected areas', but certainly far poorer than what is projected for 'Vibrant Gujarat'. It will be ten years before real development is felt here. Because of this, there is some restlessness, which makes these communities vulnerable," says Amrit Patel, director, legal aid and human rights of Songadh-based NGO, Shakti.

A Koli Patel, the activist claims he was in touch with Kulkarni and Powar, but was totally shocked when their 'network' links were revealed. "Police say they went to Kerala and Ghadchiroli for arms training. We were aghast. But even if they were trying to influence people here, their success will be limited. The discontent is not so high for the people to turn self-destructive," he asserts.

The proximity of the areas to Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra and presence of migrant labour from Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh in the areas add to the conundrum. Some ad hoc Naxal movements have been felt in Hazira and Jamnagar.

Bhilistan: The demand continues

An understated current that is found in case of almost all tribal unrest is the demand of Bhilistan - an independent state for the tribals of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Though sporadic since the Independence, this movement continues to romanticise tribal leaders, who resist the establishment's initiatives to reach out to them.

The Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad that keeps the movement on is led by former Dahod MP Somji Damor. He lost the 2009 Lok Sabha elections as BJP candidate to Dr Prabha Taviyad of the Congress. Politicians have made a career out of this agenda, but the issue continues to burn. This seven-time MP in 1984 had carved out a detailed blueprint for Bhilistan, including a map of the new state.

Though the movement is mostly flaccid, residents of Dangs confide some 'calendars' and pamphlets were distributed earlier this year calling for reviving the 'Bhilistan' movement. "They don't know if anything came out of it. Perhaps pamphlets were amongst the triggers for the spate of arrests," a source said.

One of the several reasons cited for the wave of arrests, being attributed to Naxal activity, is perhaps the politics of converting the tribal votebank towards the BJP.

Currently, the area is a definitive Congress electorate. In 2002, post the Hindutva wave, the tribals turned against the Congress, but in 2007 assembly elections and 2009 general elections, the Congress retained its dominance in the tribal belt, except for some specific seats,. Three of the four reserved Lok Sabha seats for Schedule Tribes (ST) - Dahod, Bardoli and Valsad are represented by Congress MPs.

One tribal researcher with an Ahmedabad-based institution points out that Modi wants to come out as a hero in the tribal populace ahead of the panchayat elections. "Instilling a fear factor, he wants to show that he is in charge there," the source says.Politically, the Congress is passive in these areas. Though their cadres exist, the attention given by the state leadership is far from enough. When asked if the arrests are politically motivated, Chaudhary hesitantly conceded, but refused to comment further.

Avinash Kulkarni: The suave activist

The suave activist was a popular face in the south Gujarat forests. He came to Dangs two years after the Irfan Engineer episode. Kulkarni comes from a very well-educated family, with an MPhil up his sleeve. He speaks chaste English and his presence was a sore thumb for authorities there. Kulkarni, who is in his early 50s, is rather frail and suffers from several chronic ailments.

Intelligence sleuths tracking these movements claim he was on their radar for 15 years, but they were waiting for concrete evidence to pin him. Refusing to specify, a source indicated that another Naxal arrest somewhere in the country led to Kulkarni and Powar's arrests. "We are hoping to arrest many people, we do not even know from which part of the country, through his confessions," the source said.



(Text of an E-mail interview given by me to a journalist writing for " Avvenire" , a Catholic journal of Italy )

Question:Since the end of the Olympic Games silence has fallen about the situation in Tibet. What is really happening today?

Answer:The violation of the human rights of the Tibetans continues.There is a systematic attempt to suppress their devotion to and reverence for His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. It is a crime even to have in one's possession a picture of His Holiness. To intimidate the population and to prevent any new uprisings against Beijing, arrests of Tibetans suspected of sympathy for His Holiness and being critical of the policies of Beijing are made periodically under the pretext of a campaign against splittism.Despite this, Tibetan defiance continues.

Question:How China is “colonizing” Tibet?

Answer: The policy of settling a large number of Han Chinese in Tibet and other Tibetan-inhabited areas and exercising economic pressure on the Tibetans to seek their livelihood in other parts of China in order to reduce the proportion of ethnic Tibetans in the Tibetan homeland continues. The People's Liberation Army (PLA) continues to have a strong presence in Tibet and its requirements for the defence of Tibet are given priority over the requirements of the Tibetans for their livelihood. A conference on Tibet called the Tibet Work Forum held in Beijing in January,2010, under the auspices of the Chinese Government and the Chinese Communist Party recognised for the first time that most of the development in Tibet till now has been infrastructure related and that, as a result, while the urban areas have developed, there has not been adequate development in the rural areas. Since most of the Han settlers live in the urban areas, it will not be incorrect to say that they have been the main beneficiaries of whatever development has taken place in Tibet. Visitors to Tibet, who praise the development in Tibet under Chinese rule, do not study and analyse which sections of the population have been the beneficiaries of the development that has taken place.Separate Data relating to the development of the Han and Tibetan sections of the population are not available for an objective statistical study. The Tibetans allege that it is the Han settlers, who have been the major beneficiaries of the development and not the native Tibetans.While the world has recognised Tibet as an integral part of China, it has not been insisting that China should follow a policy of Tibet for the Tibetans giving priority to the economic, social and spiritual needs of the Tibetans first.

Question:Is the Chinese regime controlling the monasteries?

Answer:Yes it is.The Ministry of Public Security, which is the internal security agency, keeps a tight control over the functioning of the monasteries and other places of worship. Periodically, when the PLA apprehends unrest on important anniversaries such as the anniversary of the Chinese occupation of Tibet, the anniversary of the flight of His Holiness to India, the anniversary of the 2008 uprising etc preventive arrests of Buddhist monks are made.There are severe restrictions on the Buddhist monks taking out religious processions and on monks of different monasteries meeting each other.

Question:Are the monks free, right now, or not? And, if yes, what “kind” of freedom are they allowed? Is this freedom increasing or decreasing compared to the past or not?

Answer:The monasteries are allowed to hold their regular prayers and the people are allowed to visit the monasteries for prayers and for seeking the spiritual guidance of the monks, but any reference to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and to his teachings on such occasions is a crime punishable with imprisonment. One can officiate as a monk only with the prior persomission of the Ministry of Public Security. The monks have the "freedom" to perform their spiritual tasks in accordance with their religion provided such performance does not violate the directives of the Ministry and disturb law and order. Tibetan Buddhism in Chinese Colours and prayers to Buddha in accordance with the requirements of the Chinese Communist Party and the directives of the Ministry of Public Security are the norms.The "freedom" allowed to the monks continues to be subject to severe restrictions.

Question:Is Tibetan Buddhism under some threat in these days or not?

Answer:It is. Apart from imposing and enforcing severe restrictions on the monasteries and monks, the Chinese have sought to undermine the influence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama over the Tibetan people and increase the influence of the Panchen Lama appointed by the Communist Party.The Chinese are determined to ensure that the reincarnation of His Holiness, when he dies, will take place as laid down by the party and the Government and that God and the people will have no say in determining who is the reincarnation of His Holiness and hence should succeed His Holiness. After having imposed Tibetan Buddhism in Chinese colours on the Tibetan people, the Chinese are getting ready to impose a Dalai Lama in Chinese colours on the Tibetan people.The Chinese are seeking to create a new Buddhism in Tibet, which would totally break with the beliefs and traditions of the Tibetan Buddhism. Buddhism yes, Tibetan Buddhism No----that is the Chinese objective.

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

Into EurAsia – Monitoring the EU’s Central Asia Strategy


Oman: Tehran Confab Vindicates Peaceful Nature of Iran's N. Program


TEHRAN (FNA)- Omani Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdallah on Saturday said that the ongoing international conference on nuclear disarmament in Tehran substantiates the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program and activities.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran emphasizes that it is pursuing a peaceful, and not - as certain states claim - a military (nuclear) goal," Yusuf bin Alawi said, addressing Tehran's international conference today.

He stressed that Oman participated in the event as a show of Muscat's insistence on the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activities.

"We have taken part in the Tehran conference in a bid to reemphasize that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful," bin Alawi said.

The International Conference on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation dubbed as 'Nuclear Energy for All, Nuclear Weapon for No One' kicked off in Tehran on Saturday with officials from different countries of the world in attendance.

During the two-day conference, world officials and politicians will put their heads together to address issues and concerns in connection with nuclear disarmament.

As regards international disarmament and non-proliferation, the Omani minister said that confronting proliferation of the weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) is a common task to be fulfilled by all the members of the international community.

"Lack of consensus about a single view on disarmament is a major concern which endangers global peace and security," Alawi said.

Emerging Powers Cooking Up New International Order

Analysis by Beatriz Bissio *

RIO DE JANEIRO, Apr 16, 2010 (IPS) - Since the emergence of the Non-Aligned Movement, there has been no louder and more compelling call for a rethinking of the international economic system as the one issued this week in Brazil by the leaders of the main emerging powers.

In the space of one day, Thursday Apr. 15, two meetings destined to have broad repercussions were held in Brasilia: the summits of the leaders of the IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) and BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) groups.

The futuristic design of the Brazilian capital, which just turned 50, was the symbolic setting for the two conferences aimed at modeling a different future, with an emphasis on the defence of multilateralism and the need for reforms in the United Nations, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.

The fact that Brazil hosted the BRIC and IBSA gatherings confirms the influence of Brazil's foreign policy and diplomacy and this country's vocation to push debates on issues that were wiped off the international agenda by the neoliberal storm.

Some questions that have reemerged on the agenda are development with social justice, South-South cooperation, and the steady weakening of the dollar as a reference currency in trade transactions among emerging powers.

The coordination effort can also be interpreted as a determination to safeguard national interests and seek a new role in the formulation of proposals for overcoming the global financial and economic crisis that broke out in 2008.

IBSA and BRIC "are two important manifestations of a new order that is taking shape," said Williams Gonçalves, a professor of international relations at the Rio de Janeiro State University and author of several books on the question.

"In the immediate post-Cold War period, the international system of power became unipolar," and the United States "had the chance to command on its own," he told IPS.

But "whether due to the nature of the process or to mistaken choices by its leaders, the United States did not manage to maintain that privileged position," Gonçalves said.

In his view, "today no stable international order is possible unless the powers represented in IBSA and BRIC are strongly committed to sustaining it.

"Even though many of them are developing countries with serious economic and social problems," the positions they take "are extremely important to the consolidation of that order," he argued.

The IBSA Dialogue Forum was created in 2003 as a coordinating mechanism on issues of mutual concern and to boost South-South cooperation on economic and other questions of international importance.

Since then, trade among its members has significantly increased, and the Forum now has more than 15 trilateral working groups, covering areas like economic, scientific and technological cooperation, transport, energy and tourism.

This week's summit was IBSA's fourth, and in the view of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, it showed that the grouping "has entered a phase of consolidation."

One of the agreements signed in Brazil is for the joint production of two satellites, one for earth observation and the other for weather and climate studies. "This project is a symbol of the new phase we are entering," Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said.

The initiative will benefit sectors like agriculture and transportation, while expanding the three countries' knowledge about space.

"South Africa is especially excited with the IBSA satellite proposal. We see this initiative as an opportunity to reinforce our shared development objectives," said President Jacob Zuma.

The leaders of the three IBSA countries also stressed the need for reforms of the international financial system and the United Nations.

Singh said "There is an urgent need for reform of the United Nations, including the Security Council, by making it more democratic and representative," while Zuma stressed that multilateral institutions must provide a better response to the needs of the poor.

Lula expressed support for South Africa and India as candidates for new seats on the Security Council, which all three IBSA members may form part of in the next few years, since Brazil was elected as a non-permanent member for the 2010-2011 period.

The leaders also called for a conclusion to the World Trade Organisation's Doha Round of multilateral talks on trade liberalisation, which Lula described as "an urgent task, because it will help correct the anomalies" of the system.

Singh emphasised the high priority that IBSA places on civil society participation. "We have made a conscious effort to ensure that our interaction goes beyond just the government level…Strengthening of dialogue among civil society…is an important dimension of IBSA activities."

He said that six forums that met in Brasilia this week - bringing together parliamentarians, women, journalists, small business, local government and academics - were "a clear testimony of our commitment to building bonds of friendship and understanding among our people."

Lula underscored the role of the IBSA Fund, to which each member state contributes one million dollars a year, in supporting "the reconstruction of Haiti" in the wake of the devastating Jan. 12 quake and in financing social projects in Guinea-Bissau, Palestine, Cambodia and other vulnerable areas.

"You don't have to be rich to show solidarity," he said.

The IBSA foreign ministers met with their Palestinian National Authority counterpart Riad Al-Malki and declared their support for the creation of a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders, talks with broad international participation, and a halt to Jewish settlement activity.


The first BRIC summit was held in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg in 2009. The four countries account for 40 percent of the world population, 14.6 percent of GDP and 12.8 percent of international trade.

Unlike IBSA, the grouping puts a priority on economic questions and is aimed at strengthening the four member states' influence on trade - for instance, in pushing for the elimination of developed countries' farm subsidies - based on their growing economic clout.

According to the IMF, by 2014, BRIC will be responsible for 61 percent of global economic growth, which will help offset the U.S. slowdown.

BRIC is also calling for more democratic and transparent multilateral financial institutions, and the countries are quietly discussing the possibility of using their own currencies in mutual transactions and gradually abandoning the dollar.

But China holds some 750 billion dollars in U.S. treasury bonds and does not want to aggravate the huge U.S. deficit, which could pose a security threat to China itself.

In bilateral meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Singh, Lula addressed the question of Iran's nuclear programme and "defended the idea that it is still possible to negotiate an agreement" without imposing new sanctions, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said.

Professor Antonio Carlos Peixoto, a former secretary of international relations in the Rio de Janeiro state government, said he was skeptical about the capacity of these groups, especially a coalition like BRIC, to achieve real unity.

"There is some room for circumstantial agreements, but how can anyone be sure that these alliances have a future?" he remarked.

China is no longer at the same level as the rest of the BRIC members because within just a few years it will be competing for top economic power status with the U.S. And the fact that Brazil is the group's only non-nuclear country gives rise to a contradiction that could become more complicated in the future, the analyst said.

"And this without mentioning that India and Brazil aspire to seats on the U.N. Security Council as permanent members, which is, at least for now, impossible," Peixoto said.

In his view, China has no interest in seeing India sit on the Council, due to rivalries between the two countries, but also because it does not want to give Japan any chance of pushing for membership itself. The same goes for Russia. "And Russia and China have veto power" on the Council, he said.

Another question still up in the air, Peixoto said, is what Brazil's foreign policy will look like after the October general elections.

"We'll have to see what results come out of the polls to evaluate whether Lula's foreign policy focus will remain in place," he said.

* With additional reporting by Mario Osava (Brasilia) (END)

Coming In From The Cold: An Update on North Korea's External Economic Relations

Françoise NICOLAS
Coming In From The Cold: An Update on North Korea's External Economic Relations
Asie.Visions 26, avril 2010


This brief analysis of the current external economic relations of the DPRK leads to a number of conclusions. First, the North Korean economy maintains very limited exposure to the outside world and, as a result, to external influence. In terms of volume North Korea's trade is minuscule, even in relation with the size of its economy. This is also the case for foreign direct investment inflows.

Secondly, although North Korea is less isolated than often thought, its trade and investment flows are very heavily polarized both geographically and sectorally, limiting de facto their potential impact. In contrast to what was the case during the Soviet era, North Korea's main economic partners are not ideological partners but neighboring economies, namely China and South Korea. They are major partners in trade as well as in FDI. Russia still plays a non negligible role but is in no way comparable to what was the case before the demise of the Soviet bloc.

Thirdly, North Korea's external economic relations are very much dictated by political considerations. Politics accounts both for the choice of partners and for the nature of the economic relations.

Fourthly, and more importantly, the very distinct nature of the DPRK's connection with the rest of the world, and primarily with its two major economic partners, sets it apart from other transition economies and in particular from China, but also from Vietnam. In the case of North Korea, economic openness, although announced time and again as an official objective, cannot be seen as an instrument for enhancing competitiveness or as part of a development strategy. The recent, renewed signs of reform in the direction of increased openness should thus be interpreted with utmost caution.

Fifthly, the structure of the country's external trade is indicative of an economy in survival mode. The substantial aid component in the inter-Korean trade and FDI relationship undoubtedly further substantiates such a claim. Surprisingly, relations between North Korea and China are more often based on a market-economy logic, although this only holds true for trade flows and not FDI flows. The probability of change through trade appears still very limited.

Lastly, the role the European Union may play in the region remains very much an open question but the margin of maneuver is limited. Given the state of play described earlier, it would be extremely naïve to believe that a European engagement strategy vis-à-vis the DPRK could contribute to economic change. In addition the country's lack of attractiveness for potential investors is a further obstacle. However, the persistent uncertainty and the lack of visibility over the political and economic evolution of the DPRK should not deter European interest in the region and, far to the contrary, should provide a strong incentive to closely monitor the economic moves made in Pyongyang.

Who Needs OPEC - Russia steps up to the Plate ?


William C. RAMSAY
Edito Energie, mars 2010

News that Conoco will sell off a significant portion of its Russian holdings is couched in terms of various corporate strategies that make all this perfectly normal. Conoco is said to need cash and will anyway have a 10% share remaining in Lukoil that will provide them some degree of influence in corporate decisions.

So we reach the end of the first phase of Western company ventures into Russia’s oil and gas upstream. Looking back over the years from the heady days when you could meet your oil-patch friends in passing at Shermetevo airport. A lot has changed since. Hopes of liberalizing markets have faded as President Putin replaced a failing Boris Yeltsin at the helm and has wrested control of Russia’s oil and gas sector back from the oligarchs – gradually turning control over to a different set of “oligarchs” in the Kremlin.

All the early pioneers have been touched. The PSAs – found offensive by Russian authorities - have all been clawed back or restored to Russian state control. Gazprom and Transneft have been fortified in their monopoly position in law and in practice. Rosneft, has risen from the ashes under the leadership of Bogdanchikov at its helm and Sechin in the Kremlin and is now a major player in oil and gas, even becoming a strategic counterbalance to Gazprom.

No one can dispute that the privatization of Russia’s oil sector was a disaster. Backroom deals saw a huge Russian national asset sold off in shady deals to people in the right places – making overnight billionaires of obscure individuals. The Russian people had been robbed.

President Putin set out to ensure that this did not happen in gas and to restore a bit of order in the oil patch. Obviously Yukos was the necessary example for other oligarchs who might still aspire to political agendas – and the message lingers.

So all is well and good with the reassertion of the State over the national oil and gas patrimony and more tax revenues from oil and gas are flowing into the national budget. But how far does this all have to go? How much control is enough control? And how effective really is this new State control over oil and gas monopolies when it is used as a tool in managing Russia’s various foreign policy priorities - in the near abroad, in the Baltic states, Caucasus and even in Europe?

The Russian people run again the risk that their national patrimony is not being well managed or is being used for other purposes. Who but the Chinese are prepared to run the risk of investing in Russia’s upstream oil or gas? Not even Russians. Oil production from brown-fields is necessarily in decline. Green-fields are harsh and need special conditions to be profitable. Only Sechin’s direct interventions led to last year’s better results from Rosneft’s Vankor fields and some ephemeral relief from taxation in East Siberia. Putin’s recent charm offensive to attract foreign investors rings hollow.

Russia’s next gas green-fields are serious challenges - expensive, risky and remote. Investment conditions are not right for private capital. Russia will not be able to meet growing European gas demand unless it mines overlooked gas availabilities in flaring, efficiency, independent producers, etc. But it has been unwilling to do this.

So while OPEC producers recently contemplated whether to adjust their quotas to safeguard the current “wonderful consensus price”, they can rest assured that Russia will contribute to lower supplies of both oil and natural gas liquids as decline continues in both. Just like Venezuela, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, etc. have over the last decade contributed to lower oil and gas availability through an environment hostile to investment, Russia is stepping up to the plate to do its part.

International Consensus the Key U.S. Objective

Author : Dr.Ali Bigdeli

A nuclear Iran is now officially a serious concern for the Americans

For the first time, a key U.S. document, the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) directly refers to Iran. A nuclear Iran is now officially a serious concern for the Americans.

Question: What is behind the timing of the release of the new U.S. document, the Nuclear Posture Review? Answer: Pressuring Iran to the extreme. By announcing its new nuclear strategy, the United States is trying to arrive at an international consensus on nuclear debates—to corner Iran and persuade, if not force, this country into modifying its allegedly non-peaceful nuclear program.

But there is more to the document: it can disarm Chinese and Russian excuses to not whole-heartedly join the anti-Iran alliance. While President Hu Jintao of China accepted the U.S. invitation to the recent Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, Tehran is not even sure that the Chinese Foreign Minister will attend its competing summit, the Nuclear Disarmament Conference in Tehran on April 17th. Clear signs are that the United States’ new nuclear strategy has been effective, paving the way for an international consensus against Iran

. It was always apparent that sooner or later the UN Security Council would pass another resolution against Iran, but the struggle with Iran’s nuclear issue needed a warm-up. To set the stage for another U.N. sanction resolution against Iran, the best move Washington could make was exactly the nuclear guarantee it promised to rivals China and Russia via the Nuclear Posture Review. America’s new nuclear strategy patently underlines the reduction of its nuclear warheads and the non-use of nuclear weapons against their friends.

However, the document reserves the right of the U.S. to deploy those weapons against North Korea or Iran—“outlier” states as President Obama called them, or states that are in non-compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) according to the U.S., but not necessarily the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—should circumstances demand it. The nuclear document, despite discomfort with an American first-use option against two nations, is acceptable as a security guarantee for Beijing and Moscow, and ultimately facilitates their disengagement from Tehran.

Some observers may believe U.S. efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program have failed, but the salient point is that for the United States, the most important issue at this time may not necessarily be the imposition of new sanctions, rather, it is succeeding in creating an international consensus against Iran. Years have now passed since America turned Iran’s nuclear program into a global concern, but they have not yet managed to achieve the unanimous global voice required to put Iran under intense pressure.

International consensus, and not just consensus in the West, has been Obama’s key objective in confronting Iran. The Chinese president’s visit to Washington, and his highly choreographed one-on-one with President Obama at the White House, takes the United States yet another step closer toward this goal—just as Obama’s high-profile visit to Moscow did last year.

Ali Bigdeli is Tehran University professor and international affairs analyst.

Israel’s Absence, Turkey’s Presence: Iran’s Opportunity


Turkey’s presence at the Nuclear Security Summit is a boon for Iran. Asadollah At-hari, Turkey affairs analyst

Unexpected news? Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has decided to not attend the Nuclear Safety Summit held in Washington this week, and instead send a lower-level delegation. What is behind Netanyahu’s decision? One probable reason for his absence is the presence of regional rivals Egypt and Turkey. As Israel might speculate, the two may grasp the opportunity to create an anti-Israel atmosphere at the conference by diverting the focus towards Israel’s nuclear arsenal and its policy of nuclear ambiguity.

The rift between Israel and the United States has also discouraged the sexagenarian from traveling to Washington. Unlike most past American presidents, Obama doesn’t seem to see Israel’s appeasement as his most favorable foreign policy option. Many observers believe we are now witnessing a real low point in Tel Aviv-Washington ties. The problem seems to be rooted in priorities of each country. While Israel is worried about Iran’s nuclear technology, for the White House resident reaching a solution on the issue of Palestine and advancing the Middle East peace process is perhaps more important. Absence may also be Netanyahu’s way to pressure the Americans and to expose the problems between them.

The differences shouldn’t be taken seriously, though, despite stormy days in U.S.-Israel relations and Netanyahu’s cranky manner. The United States is Israel’s strategic ally after all, and will always be committed to Israel’s security, as both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have repeatedly said.

Turkey, on the other hand, will attend the conference with a high-ranking delegation headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and including Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. For two reasons Turkey’s presence could actually turn into an opportunity for Iran. Firstly, Erdogan may repeat his recent years’ typically tough remarks against Israel in the conference, thus diverting attention from Iran’s nuclear program. Moreover, Ankara supports Iran’s nuclear program, and the Turks could conceivably convince their American hosts to allow them to broker talks between Tehran and Washington.

Turkey is now a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and this has made reinforcement of relations with Ankara—a key regional state, NATO member, EU membership candidate, member of the Non-Aligned Movement and Iran’s Muslim neighbor—a priority for Iran

Under the current circumstances, Iran may find the Turks much more reliable allies as compared to the Arabs. Ankara’s support for Iran’s nuclear program has been significant and effective. Its regional and international status will help set the balance between Iran and West, and it can also moderate the U.N. Security Council position towards Iran.

The BRICs: Plotting a New World Order?

Whenever the BRICs have a powwow, as they did during their second summit this week in Brasilia, I can't help thinking about the future of the global economy. After all, the BRICs – that's Goldman Sachs-speak for the four great emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China – in many ways represent that future. There's something that smells inherently revolutionary, or at least counter-culture, about these summits. Rather than meeting in a global forum such as the G20, with the developed world included, the fact that these four up-and-comers go out of their way to huddle on their own leaves the impression that they're plotting what the world will look like when they're in charge.

Yet in the end, nothing so radical appeared to be taking place. What made this latest BRIC summit interesting was how little they had to say about what they want the new world order to be. Instead, they just want a bigger piece of the existing world order.

In the summit communiqué, which you can read here, you'll have to get through all the usual diplomatic niceties about forging better relations and a more peaceful world (blah, blah, blah), before finding any real meat. The strongest point concerns the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Here's a bit of the statement:

We will strive to achieve an ambitious conclusion to the ongoing and long overdue reforms of the Bretton Woods institutions. The IMF and the World Bank urgently need to address their legitimacy deficits. Reforming these institutions' governance structures requires first and foremost a substantial shift in voting power in favor of emerging market economies and developing countries to bring their participation in decision making in line with their relative weight in the world economy…We do also agree on the need for an open and merit based selection method, irrespective of nationality, for the heading positions of the IMF and the World Bank…The international community must deliver a result worthy of the expectations we all share for these institutions within the agreed timeframe or run the risk of seeing them fade into obsolescence.

They avoided the sticky issue of the future of the dollar as a reserve currency, but they did say they'd try to do more transactions in their own currencies:

We have asked our Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors to look into regional monetary arrangements and discuss modalities of cooperation between our countries in this area. In order to facilitate trade and investment, we will study feasibilities of monetary cooperation, including local currency trade settlement arrangement between our countries.

And they only produced generalities on global financial reform:

We believe that the world needs today a reformed and more stable financial architecture that will make the global economy less prone and more resilient to future crises, and that there is a greater need for a more stable, predictable and diversified international monetary system.

What makes all this especially bland is that it's all either already in motion – such as the restructuring of the IMF and World Bank -- or too vague to give us any real idea of what the BRICs envision for the world economy.

But that's not a surprise. These burgeoning powers rightfully want (and rightfully deserve) the influence over the world economic system to match their growing economic might. Yet at the same time, they're not really ready to take on that much responsibility in the world economy, either. All are still poor and wrapped up in the problems of their own development. Maybe one day they'll want their own currencies to rival the U.S. dollar – China almost certainty envisions just that – but they are also aware that they don't possess the economic clout to make that happen at this point. So even though they'll demand their seats at the table of power, they're not about to start changing the plates and cutlery.

Beyond the fact that they all want to flex their global muscles, it's hard to imagine the BRICs agreeing on much of anything. The G7 always had trouble getting much done, and they have a lot more in common than these four countries. You've got the world's largest democracy (India) sitting down with the world's largest authoritarian regime (China). China and India are also clearly economic competitors (and they've got a border dispute brewing between them as well). Nor are they all on the same page in regard to economic policy. Brazilian officials, just like politicians in Washington, have recently been critical of China's controversial currency regime. Nor is this a meeting of equals. China is easily the dominant force in the group, both economically and politically, and the BRICs can't do much without Beijing on board. Perhaps international affairs expert David Rothkopf put it best:

Without China, the BRICs are just the BRI, a bland, soft cheese that is primarily known for the whine that goes with it. China is the muscle of the group and the Chinese know it. They have effective veto power over any BRIC initiatives because without them, who cares really?

Until the BRICs start taking the bold positions on world affairs to match their economic power, no one will care.

Read more: http://curiouscapitalist.blogs.time.com/2010/04/16/the-brics-plotting-a-new-world-order/#ixzz0lMlkt0yH

We want India, Brazil in UN security council: BRIC nations

2010-04-16 14:20:00

Challenging the existing global power structure, BRIC nations called for urgent reforms of the UN, wanted international financial institutions to accommodate aspirations of rising powers and pitched for including India and Brazil in an expanded UN Security Council.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Brazilian President Lula da Silva, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev held wide-ranging talks at Itamaraty Palace in the Brazilian capital soon after the IBSA summit of India, Brazil and South Africa.

The BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) summit, scheduled to be held Friday, was advanced by a day as Hu had to cut short his trip due a massive earthquake in China.

A joint statement at the end of the day-long summit stressed the group's intent to see a 'multipolar, equitable and democratic world order', a formulation that is set to worry the US as it views groupings like BRIC with suspicion.

Putting their collective economic weight behind the BRIC initiative, the four leaders made a vigorous pitch for the long-overdue reform of the UN and backed a greater role for India and Brazil in having a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

China and Russia are already permanent members of the Security Council along with the United State, France and Britain.

'In this respect, we reaffirm the need for a comprehensive reform of the UN, with a view to making it more effective, efficient and representative, so that it can deal with today's global challenges more effectively,' said the joint declaration at the end of the summit Thursday night.

'We reiterate the importance we attach to the status of India and Brazil in international affairs, and understand and support their aspirations to play a greater role in the United Nations.'

Russia hosted the first BRIC summit in Yekaterinburg in June last year.

The leaders of BRIC countries, which account for 20 percent of global GDP, focused a large part of their discussions on setting the pace and direction of global economic recovery.

Manmohan Singh, on his part, cautioned the world against complacency and pitched for closer collaboration in interests of long-term recovery. India's position was reflected in the joint declaration.

'We welcome the fact that the G-20 was confirmed as the premier forum for international economic coordination and cooperation of all its member states,' said the joint declaration.

'Compared to previous arrangements, the G-20 is broader, more inclusive, diverse, representative and effective,' they said.

'We advocate the need for the G-20 to be proactive and formulate a coherent strategy for the post-crisis period,' the BRIC leaders said, while underlining the need for reform of the Bretton Woods institutions, the IMF and the World Bank.

Referring to the recent resumption of economic growth in emerging markets, the four leaders said that 'the foundation of world economic recovery is not yet solid, with uncertainties remaining'.

'We call upon all states to strengthen macroeconomic cooperation, jointly secure world economic recovery and achieve a strong, sustainable and balanced growth,' said the joint BRIC declaration.

The focus of the summit was on recasting the international political and economic order by the four countries whose economies are going to be the world's biggest by 2050.

'BRIC countries have a fundamental role in the construction of a fairer international order,' the summit's host, Lula da Silva, said at a press conference.

Manmohan Singh called the summit 'very successful' and stressed that the BRIC grouping was uniquely placed to recast global order and to contribute to world economic growth and prosperity.

Medvedev added that the meeting showed 'the BRIC format is becoming full-fledged and allows us to not only coordinate our efforts but to also make concrete decisions'.

They also decided to scale up economic cooperation and underlined the importance of maintaining relative stability of major reserve currencies and sustainability of fiscal policies in order to achieve a strong, long-term balanced economic growth.

The four leaders of top emerging economies also pushed hard for an early conclusion for an international convention to combat terrorism and wrapping up of the Doha round of international trade negotiations.

The BRIC countries include two of the largest energy producers and two of the largest consumers in the world.

'BRIC countries have an important role to play in the shaping the pace, direction and sustainability of global economic growth,' said the four leaders at the end of the day-long summit.

China will host the next edition of the BRIC summit.

Putting developmental aspirations of common people at the heart of the BRIC engagement, the four leaders of world's top performing democracies also decided to scale up cooperation in areas ranging from science and technology, trade and investment, pharmaceuticals and infrastructure.

From IBSA to CHIBSA? BRIC to BRICS? Not yet

Siddharth Varadarajan

Some in Brazil have quietly been suggesting China's inclusion in IBSA

Like IBSA, the expansion of BRIC

is problematic

Brasilia: In international politics, there is no room for the Groucho Marx theory of association — ‘I won't join a club that will admit me as a member.' Instead, show a large or even mid-sized nation a grouping, no matter how irrelevant or relevant, and the chances are that it will want to sign up.

At this week's summits of IBSA and BRIC nations, India and Brazil were the lucky two who had overlapping membership in both forums. But South Africa, which is only part of the former, would very much like BRIC to become BRICS, while China, which is part of the latter — as well as of the climate change ginger group of BASIC with India, Brazil and South Africa — would not be averse to IBSA becoming CHIBSA.

Equation reversed

Last year, when the Russian hosts at Ekaterinburg held back-to-back summits of BRIC and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the equation was reversed. Russia and China belong to both groupings, while India, which has mere observer status in the SCO, agreed to have Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attend that summit only after receiving assurances that he would have full speaking rights and would not have to leave the room when the real members met.

On the sidelines of the April 15 IBSA and BRIC meets in Brasilia, Chinese President Hu Jintao held a bilateral meeting with his Brazilian counterpart, Lula da Silva, and the two countries signed a large number of agreements. One of these was an ‘action plan,' and buried deep within it was this proposal: “The two sides will discuss conducting long-term research on the potential for furthering the development of trade relations between IBSA and China.”

Not enthusiastic

Some in Brazil have quietly been suggesting Beijing's inclusion in IBSA — China is, after all, its largest trading partner — but India and, to a lesser extent, South Africa, which sees IBSA as a great vehicle for itself on the world stage — are not enthusiastic. “Well, IBSA has a character of its own — three large democracies coming together,” Dr. Singh told reporters who managed to throw a question to him on China joining the trilateral forum. He was standing with his delegation in the lobby of Itamaraty Palace, home to the Brazilian foreign ministry, on Thursday evening, waiting for his motorcade in between the IBSA and BRIC summits. “I think IBSA has now come into its own.”

The reference to democracies was not accidental. It was there in Dr. Singh's speech to the IBSA plenary and the final summit communiqué spoke of shared democratic traditions. For Indian officials, this is what provides additional glue to a grouping that joins India with the most important powers of Africa and South America. It helps, of course, that as a criterion for club membership, China would not qualify.


Asked about the expansion of BRIC, the Prime Minister said this was an idea of Goldman Sachs. “We are now trying to give it some shape, flesh it out. Let us see.” Like IBSA, the expansion of BRIC is problematic because the majority of its members fear the dilution of the forum's core competence: fast rising economies with a growing footprint in the global economy and system. BRIC today accounts for a little under a quarter of world output. The South African economy is not yet in that league.

Other countries that have expressed an interest in joining BRIC are Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey. The Turks are also apparently interested in IBSA.

“What makes BRIC a good fit today is that the four countries have complementary factor endowments and national skills,” a senior Indian official told The Hindu. If China has solid manufacturing and huge financial clout, Russia has energy and advanced technology in certain fields. Brazil is an agricultural superpower with strong manufacturing and India has a comparative advantage in IT, pharmaceuticals as well as agriculture.

In an article written on the eve of the BRIC summit, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev spoke of the four countries collaborating with each other in nuclear and space technologies, aircraft manufacturing, nanotechnology and other fields. But some in the Indian establishment remain sceptical of doing too much with BRIC, fearing a backlash from the U.S.

Although friendly towards India, Obama’s priorities lie elsewhere

- Although friendly towards India, Obama’s priorities lie elsewhere

Sunanda K. Datta-Ray

It makes me cringe to see televised images of American presidents patronizingly patting visiting dignitaries double their age on the upper arm or back after shaking hands. It’s just as nauseating when Indian officials boast breathlessly that the prime minister was granted a longer audience, with a few extra minutes’ bonus thrown in, and a warmer handshake (also a more resounding pat?) than any other leader in the whole wide world.

There was plenty of occasion for cringing and nausea all through a week that suggested that India might have to reconsider Afghanistan’s relevance to its security and choose the most fruitful theatre of partnership with the United States of America. That was the particular message for us from the biggest diplomatic gathering since the San Francisco conference that gave birth to the United Nations. Barack Obama’s triumph was a foregone conclusion because no president or prime minister could stand up and say he or she opposed stopping terrorists from getting hold of nuclear material for a dirty bomb.

But the razzle-dazzle of invitation-only summitry was necessary for Obama’s real purpose. He sought to isolate Iran and North Korea, deny them a voice and mobilize global support to force them to give up perceived nuclear ambitions. The backing of the three nuclear weapons countries that refuse to join the nuclear non-proliferation treaty — India, Pakistan and Israel (though Benjamin Netanyahu sulked off-stage) — mattered in this context. The conference jubilantly pre-empted next month’s NPT meeting under UN auspices where Iran is bound to explode verbal bombs. It also gave Obama an asset that will stand him and his party in good stead in the November congressional elections and in his re-election campaign for 2012.

Obama’s Afghan policy concerns India more. The media gloated, presumably on the basis of confidential briefings, that he “scolded” Yousaf Raza Gilani after listening to Manmohan Singh. But a lingering doubt remains that whether to attain his objectives he did not lead India up the garden path in respect of its expectations of an active civilian role in Afghanistan. That country may already have been franchised to a Pakistan that Hamid Karzai, with a weather-eye always open for how the wind blows, now calls his “conjoined twin”.

If Iran was America’s unwritten priority item on the agenda, Pakistan was India’s. By that token, India must have been Pakistan’s. To that extent the conference was a replay of all those Baghdad Pact and Southeast Asia Treaty Organization meetings where Asian members swore fervent loyalty not because they had the slightest intention of tilting at international communism but because they wanted American arms to further their own regional ambitions. International terrorism has replaced international communism as the unifying bogey.

Echoes of even more dusty history rumbled along the sidelines as India and Pakistan, squabbling claimants to the mantle of the winning side in the Great Game, continued to enact that drama all over again. But the moves this time round were under the watchful eye of the lone superpower whose own interest in Afghanistan will largely determine the interaction between the two subcontinental neighbours. American and Pakistani stakes in Afghanistan are easily explicable; but it is for India to decide whether that distant landlocked country is so crucial to the national interest as to make itself hostage to US-Pakistani diplomacy for it.

It has become a mantra for benign American officials to insist that US subcontinental policy is no longer hyphenated. It may not be in Washington’s thinking but it is never anything else in the minds of those at the receiving end. Continued F-16 sales to Pakistan, the billions of dollars allocated to secure nuclear arms and materials, and the presence of Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates (defence secretary) and the national security adviser, General James Jones (Shiv Shankar Menon’s strategic dialogue partner) at the dinner Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of joint chiefs of staff, hosted for Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, are resented here. Obama’s announcement to West Point cadets that the US would start to evacuate Afghanistan in July 2011 was also seen as a betrayal of the assurance earlier that day that India’s concerns would be borne in mind. There is nothing, but nothing, that the US can do in, with or for Pakistan that will not be judged in terms of the impact on India and faulted. Pakistan is no better but has less cause for complaint.

This is more than the “petty obsession” that vitiates media coverage to which K.P. Nayar drew attention in these columns on Wednesday. Obsession it certainly is and can descend to pettiness such as grumbling about the compliments lavished on Kayani or Obama telling Gilani that he was “very fond of Pakistan, having visited the country during college”. The underlying truth is we have always known that despite public outbursts of anti-Americanism, militaristic Pakistan makes itself useful to the US in ways that pluralistic democratic India can never bring itself to do.

A State department memorandum acknowledged in the Forties that “from the military point of view, the countries of South Asia excepting Pakistan have, under present and prospective conditions, little value” to the US. While India was of “negligible positive strategic importance”, Pakistan occupied “one of the most strategic areas in the world” for securing West Asia’s oil and allowing “ideological and intelligence penetration” of, as well as air operations against, the Soviet Union. Olaf Caroe also stressed these advantages to justify the Baghdad Pact; US diplomats reiterated them at another conference in 1951. The target has changed, not the concept or method.

Meanwhile, Rising India has other claims to attention which the US has acknowledged handsomely. George W. Bush admitted with a pragmatic candour that old-fashioned South Block mandarins apparently find embarrassing that India’s expanding market for every import from pizzas to nuclear reactors is an irresistible attraction. So is India’s strategic potential in the Indian and Pacific oceans where Americans remain wary of China’s ambitions. The India-US reprocessing arrangement, albeit belated, confirms that Obama has not abandoned his predecessor’s friendliness even if his immediate priorities are elsewhere and he has a different vision of the partnership with India.

If official Indian claims are to be believed, the US has so far condoned (or even welcomed) India’s civilian presence, fortified by a $1.3 billion budget, in Afghanistan. Obama probably believes he can persuade Pakistan to share the franchise and cooperate with India. That is where American optimism falls short of Asian reality. When it comes to the crunch, the president will have no option but to back Pakistan and its perhaps by then reconstructed Taliban allies. An India that does not agree to resume the dialogue with Pakistan can have no role in that reconstituted Afghanistan.

The general belief here that Afghanistan enables Pakistan to send jihadis into Jammu and Kashmir and otherwise harass India recalls a conversation with Lee Kuan Yew when he vigorously denied China’s responsibility for hostile Pakistani actions. Pakistanis didn’t need China for that, he argued. Enmity was “inherent in their Muslim fundamentalism”; it was “something visceral in them”. Similarly, Pakistan’s conduct in Jammu and Kashmir was much the same even before US policy allowed it to become entrenched in Afghanistan.

At a recent meeting in London’s Chatham House, a senior British diplomatist wondered why India needed 26 — his figure — consulates in Afghanistan. It was not for me to suggest that whatever the number, their raison d’être probably lies at least partly in the successor State’s historic memory of a time when India controlled the Durand Line and seated and unseated Afghan amirs.The time may have come to forget the past and take a hard look at contemporary geopolitical reality. India might conclude then that it stands to gain more by cutting its losses in Afghanistan and consolidating the economic and strategic relationship with the US.