May 22, 2010

Legendary Telugu film lyricist Veturi Sundararama Murthy dead


PTI
Hyderabad, May 22, 2010




FROM film : Godavari




Legendary Telugu film lyricist and national award winner Veturi Sundararama Murthy died of cardiac arrest here late tonight.

He was 74.

He was ailing for sometime now and was rushed to a corporate hospital in the night after he complained of chest pain.

He died of cardiac arrest in the hospital, sources close to his family said.

Born at Peda Kallepalli village in Krishna district on January 29, 1936, Veturi began his career as a journalist in Andhra Prabha and Andhra Patrika Telugu dailies.

He was a disciple of famous Telugu writer Viswanadha Satyanarayana.

Legendary Telugu actor N T Rama Rao was the first to recognise Veturi's writing talent and introduced him to the film industry.

He penned the songs for NTR's blockbuster movie 'Adavi Ramudu' and shot into fame instantly. Prior to joining the film industry, Veturi penned many short stories, ballets and poems for All India Radio.

Veturi's songs in films like 'Sankarabharanam' and 'Sagara Sangamam' by ace director K Viswanadh won him national acclaim.

He won the National award for best song for 'Raalipoyye Puvva Neeku Raagalenduke' from 'Matrudevobhava'. He won eight Nandi awards, instituted by the state government, as best lyricist.

Veturi also essayed brief roles in a few films. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K Rosaiah, Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu and Praja Rajyam Party and actor K Chiranjeevi were among those who condoled his death.


HYDERABAD: Noted Telugu film lyricist Veturi Sundararama Murthy (74) died of cardiac arrest in a corporate hospital at Banjara Hills on Saturday night.

His family members admitted him to the hospital two days ago after he complained of chest pain. His condition got deteriorated on Saturday night and he died while undergoing treatment.

With his death, Telugu film industry lost a great personality who was known for his dexterity in using nuances of Telugu language in penning the songs.

Veturi ruled the Telugu filmdom and earned the distinction of being a writer who could write a song within 15 minutes, once the sequence was explained to him.

Music director M.M. Keeravani, dialogue writer Paruchuri Venkateswara Rao, director S.S. Rajamouli and others from Telugu film industry came to the hospital and paid tributes to the famous lyricist.

Hailing from Peda Kallepally in Krishna district, Veturi started writing lyrics with the film ‘Oh Sita Katha'. He penned lyrics for the recently released movie -- ‘Varudu'. He penned a variety of songs ranging from classic poetry to the folk and mass ones. He worked as journalist for Andhra Prabha and Andhra Patrika, before taking up the avocation of being a lyricist.

Amazing capabilities

Veturi, with his inimitable style of writing songs, left an indelible impression on the film industry with his amazing capabilities. Known for his abilities to turn meaningless words into most meaningful ones, Veturi got acclaims from the masses as well as literary persons.

He was considered as the best poet in the film industry by his competitors too. He got “National Film Award” for the song ‘Raalipoye puvva neeku raagalenduke' in ‘Matrudevobhava' film. He got Nandi award for best lyricist from the State government a number of times. He received Nandi awards for some songs “Shankara….” (Sankarabharanam), “Ee duryodhana dussaasana durvineeta lokamlo…” (Prathighatana) and “Uppongele Godavari…” (Godavari).

“We worked with Veturi from 1983, while shooting Abilasha. He is a yogi,” said popular novelist Yandamoori Veerendranth.

Bleeding-heart cynics

K. Subrahmanyam Posted online: Wed May 19 2010, 04:13 hrs

Once again the Maoists have struck, blowing up a commercial passenger bus, causing 35 fatalities including civilians. As is to be expected there are demands for the use of the army, employment of air support, the enhancement of the mandate of the home ministry, more vigorous pursuit of development programmes in the affected areas and other perspectives with alternative priorities. A large section of the political class, including those holding responsible positions in the ruling party, are of the view that Maoism is a reaction to lack of developmental benefits reaching the people of the areas affected and the multinational mining companies and to forest contractors depriving the people of the areas of their livelihood and subsistence rights, and therefore development should have priority over anti-Maoist counter-insurgency operations. But they do not explain how development activity can be pursued in an area where school buildings are blown up, roads are mined and doctors are killed.

This debate is likely to go on endlessly. Former chief ministers, present and former MPs and MLAs, do not care to explain why development did not reach these areas and what they did on their watch. They boast about their democratic accountability. If that was real, we should have a compilation of introspective accounts of what went wrong and therefore how to set it right. The horrible reality is both Maoists and some politicians across political parties have a common vested interest in keeping people poor and areas undeveloped so that they serve as their constituencies.

There are studies on business in conflict zones. In spite of conflicts in many countries of Africa, multinational companies manage to buy off authoritarian governments and insurgents opposed to them, and carry on business, making handsome profits. Similarly, it would appear that in the flawed Indian democratic system, sections of our political class have found ways and means of conducting politics in Maoist conflict zones. A certain level of conflict in their constituencies will perpetuate the poverty and backwardness, render votebanks purchasable at a lower cost, and more manipulable through caste and muscle politics. They would prefer development funds flowing into a somewhat disturbed area, from which siphoning off is easier, than have law and order well-established there, which would make it somewhat more difficult. It is said in one disturbed area school buildings were repeatedly constructed, blown up again and again, and the contractor and his political patron made a tidy packet.

Those politicians who shed tears for the tribals should be asked to explain what they did to alleviate the plight of the tribals through all these years. If the areas are backward it is because in the BIMARU states the money released for primary education since the beginning of the first five-year plan was siphoned off, while the other states performed better. It is not a coincidence that Maoism flourishes in states which have a poorer record in governance, in literacy and have a more intensive practice of casteism. These states have also come out with reservations on the Right to Education Act.

Just as in conflict-ridden nations of Africa both authoritarian governments and insurgents benefit out of manipulation by the multinationals, seeing them as mutual benefactors, in our case both Maoists and crypto-Maoist politicians see mutual benefits in the present system of misgovernance and corruption. Politicians misuse the police; then shed tears for the victims of police brutality; and will not agree to make the

police autonomous and accountable to the rule of law. Through the misuse of the police the Maoists are given a justification for their atrocities. It is argued that atrocities should not be put down, but more money should go to the disturbed areas to be siphoned off. There is thereby a symbiotic relationship between the Maoists and the crypto-Maoists functioning within the parliamentary system. That may explain why the Maoists do not disturb the elections and are even prepared to enter into tacit alliances with some political parties.

It is today conventional wisdom that the anti-Maoist strategy should be a two-pronged operation consisting of counterinsurgency operations and development. But the most important third prong is not mentioned, namely good and effective governance and corruption-free politics. In states which are growing fast the corrupt sections of the political class, inclined to make money fast, does so by tapping new industrialisation. In states where the sections of the political class feel that in order to sustain their votebanks and siphon off development funds disturbed conditions are to their advantage, it will be difficult to eliminate Maoism without addressing misgovernance and its offshoot, bureaucratic corruption. So long this reality is not faced, no “augmentation of the mandate” of the home ministry will help.

An anecdotal story has it that as soon as the Constituent Assembly passed the resolution on universal adult franchise, a wise senior statesman said since they had made the masses their masters they should start educating them. But one section of our politicians felt and continue to feel that they will be in more effective control if the masses are kept poor and uneducated. Maoism is an offshoot of this politics. You find this politics in the opposition to the Right to Education, land acquisition for highways and industrialisation, women’s empowerment, globalisation, and every progressive measure to uplift the population — as they shed crocodile tears for the common man.

Maoism is a political creed meant to subordinate the masses to an authoritarian and tyrannical regime by a self-nominated coterie, as also happens in some religious extremist dispensations. It has to be fought politically. But one finds the political parties — except one or two, targeted by Maoists — are themselves passive about taking the Maoists on ideologically. In fact what is happening is an ideological struggle between those who want to see India as a 21st century knowledge pool in the world, and others who will sacrifice national interests at the altar of their parochial and partisan politics and personal gain.

The writer is a senior defence analyst

express@expressindia.com

LET EXPLOITS ANGER AGAINST FACEBOOK: NEED FOR CAUTION IN INDIA

The Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the front organization of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), and other Pakistani jihadi organizations associated with Al Qaeda and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have been organizing protest demonstrations in different cities of Pakistan to condemn an attempt by an user of “Facebook” to organise an "Everyone Draw Mohammed Day" competition to promote "freedom of expression". His attempt was allegedly inspired by an American woman cartoonist.



2. According to the Agence France Presse (AFP),Molly Norris, the American cartoonist whose work inspired the controversial page, condemned the Facebook spin-off and apologised to Muslims. She allegedly drew a cartoon in April to protest against the cancellation of an episode of popular show "South Park". Norris satirically proposed May 20 as an "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day." An "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" page quickly turned up on Facebook, but Norris, writing on her website, said she had nothing to do with it. "The vitriol this 'day' has brought out of people who only want to draw obscene images, is offensive to Muslims who did nothing to endanger our right to expression in the first place," she said. "I apologise to people of Muslim faith and ask that this 'day' be called off," she said

3.The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) has banned access to Facebook, YouTube and more than 450 links to "derogatory" Internet material in view of what it called "growing sacrilegious content". Sweden said it has closed its embassy in Islamabad for more than two weeks due to the security situation. An Al Qaeda front organisation has reportedly offered US $ 100,000 to anyone who kills Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has angered many Muslims by drawing what they regard a highly blasphemous caricature of the Prophet.



4.In view of the interest taken by the LET and other Al Qaeda associates to exploit this issue to whip up anger in Pakistan, one has to be watchful to the possibility of LET elements in India including members of the Indian Mujahideen (IM) and the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) indulging in similar provocative acts in India. It is an emotional issue which can be easily exploited to create similar anger in sections of the Indian Muislim community.



5. In this connection, reference is invited to my earlier article of April 3,2010, titled “Was Jihad Jane A Recruit of LET?” annexed below for easy reference. (22-5-10)



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




ANNEXURE


WAS JIHAD JANE A RECRUIT OF LASHKAR-E-TOIBA? International Terrorism Monitor- Paper N0. 638 http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers38/paper3745.html


By B.Raman

The case of Colleen La Rose also known as Jihad Jane and Fatima La Rose, who was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) a fortnight after the arrest of David Coleman Headley of the Chicago cell of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) in October,2009, and indicted on March 4,2010, on a charge of involvement in a conspiracy to kill a Swedish cartoonist who had drawn a cartoon of Prophet Mohammad in his paper, has not received in India the attention it deserves.

2. Colleen La Rose, a 46-year-old blonde from the Philadelphia area, where Headley used to live for some years before shifting to Chicago, had a troubled personal life. She was a volunteer for jihad who was recruited by an unidentified person in South Asia through the Internet and given the task of killing the Swedish cartoonist, just as Ilyas Kashmiri initially tasked Headley through the Internet to kill the Danish cartoonist, who had published cartoons of the Prophet in a Danish paper in 2005. Headley subsequently met Ilyas in North Waziristan. There is so far no indication that Jihad Jane had met her South Asian recruit to whom she got engaged without ever having met him.

3. Whoever initially recruited Headley and Jihad Jane seems to have done so for two reasons. Firstly, both of them had typical physical features of a White American. They did not look like Muslims and could , therefore, easily evade profiling. Headley looked a typical White despite his Pakistani origin. Jihad Jane is a typical White with no mixed blood. Secondly, both of them are US nationals with valid US passports with which they could travel easily without facing difficulties in obtaining visas and in going through immigration controls.

4. Both of them had been given double tasks. Headley was given the tasks of facilitating the operations of the LET in India and attacking the office of the Danish paper in Copenhagen with the help of sleeper cells in Europe to which Ilyas had given introduction. Headley had played an active role in helping the LET in carrying out the terrorist strikes in Mumbai between November 26 and 29,2008.Jihad Jane had the dual task of killing the Swedish cartoonist with the help of Ireland-based contacts in Europe and organising acts of terrorism in South Asia. In the evidence against her, the reference is to South Asia and not specifically to India.

5. The FBI has revealed the nationalities of her seven accomplices who were picked up in Ireland, but not their identifying particulars.Of the seven arrested in Ireland two are Algerians, two Libyans, a Palestinian, a Croatian, and an American woman married to one of the two arrested Algerians. The FBI documents available so far do not say anything about her South Asian fiancee. They are silent even about his nationality. He has been described as a man who claimed that he knew how to work with bombs and explosives.

6.In June 2008, Jihad Jane had posted a comment on YouTube saying she was “desperate to do something somehow to help” suffering Muslims. According to the FBI indictment, she appears to have been contacted by the jihadis thereafter. The indictment charges that she received a direct order to kill a Swedish resident. She traveled to Sweden and tracked the target with the intent of carrying out the murder. The FBI identified the target as cartoonist Lars Vilks.In an e-mail message to a co-conspirator, she wrote that she would pursue her mission “till I achieve it or die trying,” according to the indictment.The indictment accuses her of agreeing, in March 2009, to marry a co-conspirator from a South Asian country who was trying to obtain residency in Europe.He allegedly urged her to go to Sweden, find the Swedish man "and kill him". The indictment claims she tried to raise money over the internet, lure others to her cause, and lied to FBI investigators.

7. According to US media reports, she is also linked to an online organization Revolutionmuslim.com -- where she was a subscriber, again using the name Jihad Jane. The site is run by an American Muslim, who had made the following posting after she was indicted: "Sisters -- please consider sending her [LaRose] a message of support and hope and let's remind her she isn't alone. It's likely she's the only Muslimah there. As always, use discretion when writing, don't ask pointed questions, and of course don't say anything that could create problems for her or yourselves."

8.She has been accused not only of conspiring to murder the cartoonist, but also of allegedly trying to recruit women with Western passports to marry fellow violent jihadists and of raising money for terrorist causes.

9.The US Department of Justice has issued the following statement regarding her indictment:

"The indictment charges that LaRose (an American citizen born in 1963 who resides in Montgomery County, Pa.) and five unindicted co-conspirators (located in South Asia, Eastern Europe, Western Europe and the United States) recruited men on the Internet to wage violent jihad in South Asia and Europe, and recruited women on the Internet who had passports and the ability to travel to and around Europe in support of violent jihad.

"The indictment further charges that LaRose and her unindicted co-conspirators used the Internet to establish relationships with one another and to communicate regarding their plans, which included martyring themselves, soliciting funds for terrorists, soliciting passports and avoiding travel restrictions (through the collection of passports and through marriage) in order to wage violent jihad. The indictment further charges that LaRose stole another individual’s U.S. passport and transferred or attempted to transfer it in an effort to facilitate an act of international terrorism.

"In addition, according to the indictment, LaRose received a direct order to kill a citizen and resident of Sweden, and to do so in a way that would frighten "the whole Kufar [non-believer] world." The indictment further charges that LaRose agreed to carry out her murder assignment, and that she and her co-conspirators discussed that her appearance and American citizenship would help her blend in while carrying out her plans. According to the indictment, LaRose traveled to Europe and tracked the intended target online in an effort to complete her task."

10.Available details regading the indictment do not identify the South Asian "with knowledge of bombs and explosives" with whom she fell in love through the Internet and who recruited her for acts of terrorism in Sweden and South Asia, but the available particulars of the modus operandi of recruiting and using non-Muslim looking Whites for terrorist strikes point the needle of suspicion at the LET.

11.This may please be read in continuation of my earlier article of January 28,2010, titled "Female Headleys in Al Qaeda?" at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers37/paper3631.html

OBAMA DROPS INTELLIGENCE CZAR

B.RAMAN

The decision of President Barack Obama to drop retired Admiral Dennis Blair, his Director of National Intelligence (DNI), has led to his resignation from the post with effect from May 28,2010. He has chosen to resign instead of waiting for the President to name his successor after being informed by Mr.Obama of his decision to replace him. His announcement that he was quitting came on May 21,2010, three days after the Senate Intelligence Committee had come out with a report specifying 14 intelligence failures relating to the unsuccessful attempt by a Nigerian student trained by Al Qaeda in Yemen to blow up a US flight from Amsterdam as it was about to land in Detroit on December 25,2009. The list of 14 failures named by the Committee is annexed.



2. Ever since the Christmas Day incident, there were indications that Admiral Blair had lost the confidence of Mr.Obama. His role as the co-ordinator of the intelligence community of 16 agencies, as the supervisor of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) and as the driving force behind efforts to improve the collection of human and technical intelligence relating to terrorism came under a cloud. There were reports that Mr.Obama had started dealing directly with other officials like the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Mr.Leon Panetta, and the President’s Counter-Terrorism Adviser Mr.John Brennan. Media reports had alleged that Mr.Obama had sidelined Admiral Blair without removing him from his post.



3. The exit of Admiral Blair was, therefore, not a surprise, but it was interesting that Mr.Obama took five months to decide to replace him even though it became evident after the Christmas Day incident that the DNI had not been able to perform effectively the tasks of co-ordination and joint action for which he was handpicked by Mr.Obama in January 2009.



4. Mr.Obama’s decision to replace Admiral Blair has come at a time when Mr.Obama has failed to make headway with his policies in Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea and has been unable to make Pakistan act vigorously against Al Qaeda and the Talibans, which continue to target the US homeland. While the ground situation in Afghanistan continues to be bad, that in Iraq has started deteriorating with renewed Al Qaeda-inspired terrorism. He has been unable to make Iran and North Korea reverse their nuclear policy. North Korea’s action in sinking a South Korean naval ship killing many South Korean naval personnel is a challenge not only to South Korea, but also to the US presence and leadership in the Pacific area. There has been an erosion of US leadership in the East as well as the West Asian regions and the problem states of the world such as Iran, North Korea, Syria and Pakistan no longer have a fear of the US.



5. The replacement of Admiral Blair in the wake of the nervousness caused in the US by the failed attempt of Faisal Shahzad, the US citizen of Pakistani origin, to cause an incendiary explosion in the Times Square, New York, on May 1 would help in diverting public attention away from the gaps in Mr.Obama’s own leadership by focusing on the gaps in the leadership qualities of Admiral Blair, which have enabled foreign-based terrorists----whether Al Qaeda or the Tehrik-a-Taliban Pakistan--- to revive their attacks against the US, whether in the Khost area of Afghanistan where they killed seven CIA officers in the last week of December last or in the US homeland where two surprise attacks planned in stealth failed not because of the capabilities of the US intelligence, but thanks to the alertness of the public.



6. The post of DNI was created in 2004 to coordinate the work of the US intelligence community and to supervise that of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC). This was one of the recommendations of the National Commission, which had enquired into the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US homeland. Admiral Blair was the third incumbent of the post. The previous two under Mr.George Bush were Mr. John Negroponte and Mr. John McConell. One had expected that the fact that the DNI works directly under the President and draws his status and authority from him would enable him to perform the role of intelligence co-ordinator effectively. But the expectations were belied.



7. Admiral Blair, like his two predecessors, was able to co-ordinate effectively only the budgetary part of the work----that is, having the total intelligence budget approved by the Congress and deciding on the allocations of individual agencies. He was unable to co-ordinate effectively the operational part of his work---- that is, setting the intelligence collection tasks for different agencies and getting the intelligence collected by different agencies integrated in a single stream, analysed, assessed and followed up. A DNI can perform the operational co-ordination effectively only if the heads of the agencies keep him in the picture regarding their important operations and share with him all important intelligence at every stage of their processing.



8. None of the three DNIs since the post was created in 2004 was able to make the chiefs of individual agencies share with him all that needed to be shared. There was no common understanding of what needed to be shared. The chief of every agency decided this according to his own whims and fancies. Neither Mr.Bush nor Mr.Obama was able to call the heads of individual agencies to order. The US intelligence community lacked the culture of joint action similar to what one finds in the Joint Chiefs of Staff mechanism in the Armed Forces. Instead of creating and heading an integrated intelligence staff, the DNIs were functioning in an ad hoc non-integrated manner.



9. The National Commission wanted the creation of the NCTC under the leadership of the DNI to ensure the integration of the entire intelligence process relating to terrorism-----collection, collation, analysis, assessment and follow-up action. The terrorist attempts on Christmas Day and on May 1 showed weaknesses in the integration process six years after the post of DNI and the NCTC were created.



10.The exit of Admiral Blair will not remove the deficiencies unless and until the entire counter-terrorism mechanism is overhauled and made to function in an integrated manner. There are lessons for India too because one has the impression that after his visit to the US earlier this year, Shri P.Chidambaram, our Home Minister, seems to have come back with some admiration for the NCTC and has been trying to create a similar set-up in India. It is necessary to study what went wrong with it in the US so that we can ensure that similar weaknesses do not creep into our system.



11. What makes the difference between a good intelligence community and a bad one is not the number of its staff, its gadgetry and budgets alone, but its culture of joint action. If this culture is missing, thousands of intelligence personnel and billions of dollars alone will not win the fight against terrorism. None of the three DNIs who have held office since 2004 has succeeded in creating this culture. (22-5-10)



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



ANNEXURE



LIST OF 14 INTELLIGENCE FAILURES CITED BY THE SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE




FAILURE TO CONNECT THE DOTS

The Senate Intelligence Committee found 14 intelligence failures that allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to travel to Detroit on Christmas Day :

— The State Department should have revoked Abdulmutallab's U.S. visa based on information available to the department.

— Abdulmutallab wasn't placed on any of the terrorist watchlists because the standards were interpreted too rigidly and may be too complicated to address terrorist threats.

— Key intelligence reports weren't reported to all appropriate CIA individuals and offices.

— A CIA division at the agency's headquarters in Langley, Va., didn't search databases that contained reports related to Abdulmutallab.

— The CIA didn't disseminate key reports until after the attempted attack.

— A name search by the CIA Counterterrorism Center was too limited and failed to uncover key reports about Abdulmutallab.

— Analysts at the CIA Counterterrorism Center didn't connect the reporting on Abdulmutallab, focusing instead on Yemen -based threats from al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula .

— Because her computer was wrongly configured, an FBI counterterrorism analyst couldn't access all the relevant reports even though they were in the FBI's system.

— The National Counterterrorism Center's directorate of intelligence wasn't properly organized to connect the reporting on Abdulmutallab.

— The National Counterterrorism Center's Watchlisting Office didn't conduct additional research to find more derogatory information to put Abdulmutallab on a watchlist.

— The National Security Agency didn't take all available actions that could have provided information on Abdulmutallab.

— Analysts didn't connect key reports partly identifying Abdulmutallab and didn't disseminate all relevant reporting.

— The NSA didn't select Abdulmutallab for watchlists based on information that only partly identified him.

— Intelligence analysts were focused primarily on threats to U.S. interests in Yemen from al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula rather than on potential threats to the U.S.

May 21, 2010

India's course correction on Iran

By M K Bhadrakumar

http://atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/LE22Df02.html

The agreement between Iran, Turkey and Brazil for a swap deal on the stockpile of Tehran's nuclear fuel sets the stage for a diplomatic pirouette of high significance for regional security. The paradigm shift affects Indian interests.

The Barack Obama administration has hastily debunked the Iran-Turkey-Brazil deal, which was announced in Tehran on Monday, and announced its intention to press ahead with a United Nations Security Council sanctions resolution, claiming that a "strong draft" has been reached by the so-called "Iran Six" (the five permanent council members plus Germany). The grandstanding highlights that Washington's policy is at a crossroads as the cohesiveness of the "Iran Six" comes under renewed stress.

The statements and innuendos - and, more importantly, the unspoken words - from Moscow and Beijing suggest the two capitals are quietly chuckling with pleasure over America's discomfort over Iran outsmarting the Obama administration's own best instrument of diplomacy in present-day world politics - "smart power".

Russian commentators even portray that Moscow had a hand in bringing Iran, Turkey and Brazil together in an act of strategic defiance to the United States - which is a considerable exaggeration of the emerging templates of the Iran nuclear issue. China, on the other hand, has coyly welcomed the announcement in Tehran without rubbing salt into America's injured pride.

Evidently Russia and China, both members of the "Iran Six", have left the door ajar for much horse-trading with the Obama administration that is sure to follow in the coming weeks.

For India all this becomes a morality play of big-power politics. And it offers salutary lessons as to where things went horribly wrong in India's Iran policy in the past three to four years and how the recent course corrections now need to go further.

Plainly put, the "Iran Six" is preaching from the high table and arrogating the business of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Yet, Russia and China claim they are votaries of a democratic world order that respects international law and the equality of all states, big and small.

The realpolitik for Indian interests
Clearly, relations with the US are of the highest priority for India, as they are for Russia or China. But the similarity ends there. For the foreseeable future, despite the heart-warming prognosis by the world community hailing India as a potentially emerging global player, the hard reality is that such a prospect remains distant in the scheme of things. When it comes to issues such as the situation around Iran, India lacks the wherewithal of Russia or China.

While Russia and China give lip-service to their shared interests with developing countries and they profess ardor for a polycentric world order, ultimately they remain self-centered, comfortable in the knowledge of their assured veto power in the UN and their sequestered place within the discriminatory nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime. Unsurprisingly, they are paramountly focused on perpetuating their privileged position as arbiters of regional problems.

Russia and China are crafting an opportunistic tradeoff in the subsoil of their relationship with the US - but without forgoing the luscious Persian fruit either. They keep the reserve option to laterally get into the matrix of the Iran-Brazil-Turkey swap deal if it gains traction by virtue of their key role within the "Iran Six", while at the same time they are constantly factoring in a probable US-Iran rapprochement.

On the other hand, India is almost similarly placed vis-a-vis the US as Brazil or Turkey are. The fact that these two countries, which are close partners of the US, have not drawn Washington's ire shouldn't go unnoticed. New Delhi's apprehensions that any independent line on the Iran nuclear issue might upset the rhythm of US-India relations seems, in introspect, to have been entirely unwarranted. Countries that have taken an independent line on the Iran nuclear issue during crucial IAEA votes - Pakistan, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Egypt - have not exactly come to grief. On the contrary, India's traditional ties with Iran grievously suffered when it began blindly toeing the American line.

Worse still, Tehran harbors a suspicion that New Delhi might have used its ''Iran card'' to ingratiate itself with the George W Bush administration. The signs are that Tehran has made a cool analysis about damage control and has decided to more or less relegate its ties with New Delhi to a place on the backburner, even while going through the occasional motions of friendship and exchange of views that the two neighbors cannot do without.

New Delhi needs to take stock that Obama is an extraordinarily gifted politician endowed with intellectuality and it is conceivable he may come up with new thinking and a new approach to the problem. Monday's swap deal underscored indisputably that US policy on Iran is in a cul-de-sac. A reversal becomes inevitable. To be sure, Obama has taken note that Turkey and Brazil highlighted the existence of a whole world beyond the secretive, cloistered framework of the "Iran Six".

New Delhi has of late been attempting to follow in the footsteps of Russian and Chinese policies. Here too, a rethink is in order. India needs to factor in gains accruing to Russia and China from a continuing US-Iran standoff. The Western embargo against Tehran is keeping Iranian energy exports out of the European energy market that might otherwise have competed with Russian supplies. Energy exports constitute the single-biggest trump card of Russian foreign policy to modulate Western policies toward Moscow.

As for China, it is indeed having quite a field day as an exporter of goods and services to Iran as well as for advancing plans to evacuate Iranian gas and oil through pipelines across Central Asia that are nearing completion. In sum, Beijing has done splendidly well.

Russia and China, therefore, have complementary interests in shepherding Iranian energy exports to the Asian market. How is India placed in the energy equations? On balance, India in no way benefits out of the US-Iran standoff and, in fact, has a great deal to lose as regional tensions prevail in a region which forms its extended neighborhood. The Iran nuclear issue potentially can complicate the US-India strategic partnership as New Delhi will be firmly opposed to any use of force in the resolution of the problem.
Equally, the bottom line is that Iran is a major source of energy supplies for the expanding Indian economy. In geopolitical terms, a leap of faith uncluttered by the debris in the India-Pakistan relationship will dictate that the Iran gas pipeline project offers a rare opportunity for New Delhi to make its western neighbor a stakeholder in regional cooperation. Even at the height of the Cold War with nuclear armies preparing for Armageddon, pipelines criss-crossed the Iron Curtain. Alas, the Indian strategic community has a closed mind, as things stand, when it comes to developing a matrix of regional cooperation that even remotely includes Pakistan.

India's diplomatic ingenuity lies in working on the US thinking to persuade it to become a partner in the Iran pipeline project. The prospect offers a "win-win" situation. Iran doesn't hide its panache for Big Oil. The US has stakes in India-Pakistan normalization. India and Pakistan's energy markets offer massive business for American oil companies. The US involvement acts as a guarantee for the pipeline. Least of all, Washington too wishes to make Tehran a stakeholder in regional stability.

New Delhi should closely study Turkey's motivations on the Iran nuclear issue. Turkey has interests almost similar to India's and its supple diplomacy enables it to astutely position itself for the day when the US-Iran standoff dissipates. Turkey estimates that Iran is a neighbor (although they have had a troubled relationship) while the US is a key North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally and any midwifery in the inevitable US-Iran rapprochement becomes a strategic asset for Ankara's growing stature as a regional power.

Indian diplomacy has lately made some interesting moves toward Iran, beginning with Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao's visit to Tehran in February. The desire to craft a fresh approach is also evident in External Affairs Minister S M Krishna's consultations this week in Tehran. The path is strewn with thorns, as the Iranians harbor a deep sense of hurt about India's stance at the IAEA votes. Therefore, as the US's tug-of-war with Iran intensifies, New Delhi faces the challenge of not treading on Tehran's sensitivities all over again.

On the whole, Indian policy is principled, especially its line that the IAEA ought to be in the driving seat rather than a cabal of states with dubious intentions. But New Delhi is lurking in the shadows in a blissful state of masterly inactivity.

India should openly join hands with Turkey and Brazil in opposing the need for a continued push for UN sanctions against Iran. No doubt, the diplomatic initiative by Turkey and Brazil creates an altogether new situation and Indian diplomacy should grasp its importance and seize its potentials.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.

How Pakistani Taliban Is Like Facebook

By MAX FISHER on May 19, 2010 11:59am

The Pakistani government's relationship with the country's various insurgent groups, sometimes described generally under the broad term "Taliban," is complicated. Pakistan actively fights some, turns a blind eye to others, and is often accused of secretly backing some groups. What's less complicated is the Pakistani government's relationship with Facebook: The social networking site was blocked nationwide on Wednesday because of a single Facebook group that invites users to submit humorous drawing of the prophet Mohammad, a violation of Islamic law. Nitin Pai, a prominent Indian journalist and blogger, takes the opportunity to compare and contrast.
  • What Facebook Can Learn From Name-Changing Insurgent Groups "Dear Facebook: if the Pakistani govt bans you, you only have to resurface under a new name."
  • Pakistan Tougher on Facebook Than Terrorist Associates "What's the difference between Facebook and [terrorist-associated group] Jamaat-ud-Dawa? Ans: Facebook is banned in Pakistan."
  • How Facebook Is Like Pakistani Terror Groups "What's common to Facebook and Lashkar-e-Taiba? Ans: They are both banned in Pakistan, but Pakistanis can still find them if they want to."
  • 'Good Facebook and Bad Facebook' Indian journalist Sidin Vadukut riffs off the oft-repeated claim that Pakistan can support certain insurgents because there is a "good" Taliban and a "bad" Taliban. He tweets, "Yes but why don't Pakistanis get that there is good Facebook and bad Facebook?"

The Middle East Opens its Gates For Russia

Author : Sadegh Maleki
Iranian Diplomacy,

http://www.irdiplomacy.ir/index.php?Lang=en&Page=21&TypeId=12&ArticleId=7609&BranchId=28&Action=ArticleBodyView


Moscow the balancing factor for regional states. By Sadegh Maleki.


Years ago, when the world was celebrating over the corpse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe and fall of the Berlin Wall, I was probably one of the few anti-communists who shed tears. I have never been a champion of the proletariat cause or a classless society, or a lover of the totalitarian communist regimes, but I knew that as the nemesis of imperialism, communism was the only power that could balance global power relations.

In the post-Soviet era, the United States could roam across the world freely. Occupying Iraq to relieve the world from the threat of Saddam Hussein’s never-proven WMDs, and invading Afghanistan to topple the Taliban –itself the brainchild of the United States and Pakistan’s intelligence service- were also pretexts for a U.S. hunger to extend its hegemony across the globe.

Russia has now risen from the ashes –mostly thanks to Vladimir Putin- and its new approach toward Latin America and the Middle East has revived hopes that once again, the conflict of interests between Russia and the United States might give breathing room to those countries that refuse to fall under U.S. domination.

World powers of course never sacrifice their interests –or even their rival’s interests- for the sake of smaller and less-powerful countries. Nevertheless, it is the battle of interests in many strategic regions that forces them to compromise, and gives those smaller countries further maneuverability.

During the Cold War, the zero-sum game and popularity of the ideology of the left in the Middle East paved the way for Moscow’s high-profile presence. The dissolution of the Soviet Union, however, landed a heavy blow on the left’s ideology and power relations in the Middle East. Realignment and redefinition of these relations—apart from the (low-key) presence of elements of the left who look to Russia as an ally in their fight against U.S. influence—has paved the way for Moscow’s return to the region.

Moreover, in the post-Cold War era, Russia’s traditional opponents in the region -Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Jordan- have aimed for expansion of bilateral ties to meet mutual needs and to balance their relations vis-à-vis the West –particularly the United States. An influential state like Iran, although aware that the Russians are not necessarily reliable friends, has also let Russia in on Middle East power relations in order to defuse U.S. pressure on itself (and on the Middle East in general).

In the early post-breakdown years, Russian leaders concentrated their political efforts mainly on domestic reconstruction. Then, after relative relief from the critical internal situation, Moscow first started reconstructing its relations with its periphery. Within ten years, Russia redefined its interests in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Ukraine to revive and reinforce their regional influence.

On its return to the international stage, however, Moscow could not overlook the glow of the Middle East on the world map. As the most strategic geopolitical and geo-economic region in the world, the Middle East has long had Russia and all other global actors drooling.

Medvedev’s recent visits to Turkey and Syria now take on deeper significance as Moscow’s most serious steps in a return to this region. In Damascus, Medvedev warned of deteriorating conditions in the Middle East and called for Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan Heights.

In Turkey, Moscow and Ankara agreed to boost trade volume up to 100 billion dollars in five years, construct nuclear power plants, reinforce energy cooperation and annul the visa regime. Even now, trade exchange volume between Russia and Turkey has exceeded thirty-five billion dollars and Russia is Turkey’s –a NATO member no less- true trade partner.

Moscow’s military, energy, and nuclear technology have attracted the attention of Middle East states the most, paving the way for Russia’s engagement with Middle Eastern political affairs. Aware of this fact, Russia wields its capabilities efficiently and expeditiously to regulate relations with Middle Eastern countries. The construction of nuclear power plants in Turkey, Egypt, and Jordan will be just the initial steps in cementing those relations.

The Middle East has opened its gates to Russia, primarily to balance relations with the United States, and future trends will reveal to what extent regional states can count on Russia’s partnership. In the early years of the third millennium, Moscow is facing a golden opportunity (or is it a tough challenge?) whose outcome will permanently affect its diplomacy.

May 20, 2010

Deconstructing Swiss Identity

http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Current-Affairs/Special-Reports/Deconstructing-Swiss-Identity/Analysis

Swiss political identity has demonstrated a long history of self-restraint, with citizens often deferring to political elites and the needs of the state above their own individual self-interest at the voting booth. But recent ballot outcomes seem to illustrate an emerging independent streak among Swiss voters.

By Irène Herrmann


On 29 November 2009, the Swiss people clearly accepted the ban on the construction of minarets. The result surprised even the Swiss themselves in part because it ran counter to the longstanding pattern of Swiss voter restraint. Historically, Swiss citizens have shown an unusual tendency to vote against their most immediate interests. Just after World War I, for instance, they overwhelmingly refused the introduction of a special tax on personal fortunes although the Swiss population suffered from an intense post-war economic crisis, and the tax would have affected less than two percent of the population. This example, though rather extreme, is by no means unique. On the contrary, Swiss citizens' willingness to vote against initiatives that would be in their self-interest has been one of the main features of the country's political culture.

Unsurprisingly, this observation is not novel and has been mentioned by most Swiss political scientists interested in the functioning of Swiss democracy. Most of them, however, do not try to explain this feature but simply present it as a sign of, and precondition for, a proper functioning democracy. In other words, their approach is mainly descriptive and ontological: Swiss political restraint is stated as a fact and is considered the outcome of history and nation building, if not as a 'natural' feature of the state.

While this scientific trend is still alive and well, several political scientists, especially 1970s left-wing scholars, have adopted a more constructivist approach to the topic. They too noticed their fellow citizens’ rather strange political attitude. However, they did not understand it as a natural manifestation of 'Swissness.' Rather, they saw it as the result of deliberate techniques created by the political elite, consciously aimed at driving people to make decisions that might not be in their direct interest. François Masnata, for instance, goes so far as to say that Swiss political masochism is the ultimate result of elite manipulation, which is so insidiously powerful that it makes its 'victims' act against their own interests, while simultaneously persuading them that they are acting on their own initiative.

Theoretical limitations

Actually, both these approaches seem dissatisfying. Stating the existence of this exceptional self-restraint and simply claiming it as the outcome of history or even nature, does little in the way of providing a satisfactory explanation of the phenomenon. Conversely, by considering it the result of some obscure, top-down manipulation, the second approach falls into the trap of conspiracy theories, depriving social actors of free will and hence constituting an inappropriate heuristic tool in order to analyze the functioning of democracy.
However, by examining these approaches and exploring both the history of Swiss restraint and the way it was achieved, a more precise picture of this intriguing political feature – and its recent seeming dissipation – begins to appear.
In fact, the current waning of political restraint already suggests that the 'naturalistic' argument, if not totally absurd, is at least constructed. When looking at official documents starting from 1848 (when all Swiss male citizens were given the right to elect and revise their national constitution), this supposition proves to be true. Along with the development of democratic structures and tools, Swiss authorities elaborated a discourse that aimed to moderate their fellow citizens’ political culture and attitude.

This discourse contained one main message: It is in the citizen’s own best interest not to do what on the face of it would be assumed as their interest. The shift from one kind of interest to another could be temporal or spatial. Sometimes, people were asked to act against their immediate interest for the sake of their future interest. Most frequently, voters were requested to consider the interest of the state above their own, given that the state would be able to care for their individual (future) interests.

This discourse distinguished 'wrong' from convenient political posturing, and consequently 'bad' from 'good' Swiss citizens. Since it was first formulated, this message has undergone at least two main changes. On the one hand, its general formulation has progressed from request to statement, where citizens were no longer asked to behave reasonably but rather were loudly praised for doing so. On the other hand, the values underlying 'good' and 'evil' citizenship have significantly evolved. During the 19th century, the qualities required of citizens were closely related to the notion of rationality: intelligence, perspicacity and education. Unsurprisingly, any feature that contradicted these qualities had to be rejected. During the first half of the century, when voting techniques were still rather archaic, the official discourse especially castigated the lack of individual independence that allowed electoral corruption to take place. During the second half of the century, the government’s message mostly characterized bad citizens as ignorant and inexperienced.
Swiss exceptionalism

Just before World War I, this rhetoric imperceptibly altered and was coupled with – if not replaced by – another more naturalistic one. Ever since, the qualities that have distinguished good citizens have been related to their 'Swissness,' be it their origin, their individual history or their habits. These notions, in turn, were more and more associated with robustness, vividness and, last but not least, masculinity. Therefore, all characteristics attributed to bad citizens could be summed up in the word 'stranger,' be it a foreigner or one who fundamentally differs from the speaker.
Swiss citizens praised this discourse, and their acceptance had at least two apparently contradictory consequences, setting the stage for a growing disconnect between self-restraint and increasingly sectarian voting patterns

According to the discourse, being Swiss was a necessary and sufficient condition to possess these exceptional qualities. However, it must be said that the affirmative tone of the message has long had the predicted effect on those to whom it was addressed: Not only did they believe that they were genuinely good and wise citizens, they also adopted the (moderate) political behavior advocated by the government in order to be considered so.

During the 20th century, however, the internalization of this flattering message led to sectarian attitudes. It is as if, once Swiss citizens had been granted exceptional rights by virtue of exceptional qualities, they considered that they were the only ones equipped to enjoy them and did not want to share them with 'strangers.' This became obvious in 1959, when Swiss male citizens denied Swiss women the right to vote. Moreover, in 1970, an initiative proposing the expulsion of foreign workers was refused by only 54 percent of the voters, although the government, all major political parties and the country’s economic leaders fiercely opposed it.
This outcome not only shows the limits of 'natural' Swiss self-restraint, but it also challenges the hypothesis of a manipulation by powerful elite. This does not mean that the Swiss elite did not intend to influence their fellow citizens’ political behavior, but they did it in a way that was not always successful and was usually rather obvious.

Role of the Swiss elite

The Swiss elite played on several kinds of rhetorical registers in order to persuade their fellow citizens to behave as they wanted. Some of these rhetorical tools openly revealed the reasons that lay behind the authorities’ request. Thus, especially in cases of European war, they frequently used threats, explaining the terrible evils the whole society would suffer if the citizens did not behave 'correctly.' Most of the time, however, their modus operandi did not clearly state the elite's reasons for wanting people to act according to their suggestions. This is, for instance, the case with emotional manipulation on nationalistic grounds: If you do not behave as we wish, your Swiss worthiness is questioned. This rhetoric was used above all during the 19th century. Later, with the development of the ‘naturalistic paradigm,’ the official discourse exploited flattery and affirmation, stating that Swiss citizens were both genuinely intelligent and moderate.

In order to increase the persuasive effect of such messages, various logic was applied to increase credibility. Depending on the situation, the logic could be scientific, moral, historical, emotional or even pragmatic (i.e. a factual logic according to which only one resolution exists for a problem). The choice of logic also depended on the locus where it was presented. There were actually rather few symbolic or effective spaces where the general public and the elite could meet. Of course, they met on political occasions such as elections, campaigns or meetings. Most of the festive life of the country was especially organized in order to further such encounters. And last but not least, all educational institutions, be it church or school, also acted as resonance chambers and disseminators of the elite’s message.
But more than its alleged rationality, this message more often than not addressed people’s emotions, playing on two profound human wishes: the desire for dignity or, to put it differently, reaction to frustration, and the desire for security in reaction to fears. Utilizing emotions was one of the main requirements to ensure that the elite’s message would be obeyed. This statement implies that these emotions were crucial to forging citizens' political behavior, which means that citizen loyalty was at stake during struggles among different political elites. The need to emotionally manipulate the population also implies that Swiss citizens did not always follow the recommendations made by their authorities.

Both latter configurations regularly occurred, especially when internal struggles among elites led to conflicting uses of people’s emotions, prompting citizens to choose the option that was supported by the most appropriate uses of emotions. Sometimes this option was not that of the majority government but that of their opponents.

Toward Swiss self-interest

As a result, Swiss citizens currently seem to show a receding willingness to act against their own immediate interests. Among the numerous reasons, three ought to be stressed. First, the Swiss government sometimes instrumentalized the people's refusal in order to reject measures it secretly did not want to apply, leading to a distrust of official voting recommendations. Second, this major shift in Swiss citizens’ political attitude seems closely related to the changes that have affected the whole (at least western) world since the late 1980s. Since then, most western societies entered a period of what the French historian François Hartog calls “presentism” that prevents one from perceiving the future. In these conditions, it is not really tempting to act in the interest of a future that seems unimaginable. Third, it is difficult to act in the interest of the government because of both external and internal reasons. On the one hand, less political engagement is/would be at odds with the current tendency of (over-)democratization, which illusively claims that the opinion of each citizen is valuable, however inconsistent his knowledge may be. This global phenomenon prompts Swiss citizens to challenge the previous dynamic of responsibility and to think that by acting in their own interests they also act in those of the state.

Finally, Switzerland's recent prestige deficit has prompted citizens to no longer blindly trust their authorities. This shrinking confidence is borne of Swiss history and identity or, more precisely, what Swiss citizens were told was their history and true identity. The current lack of political 'reasonableness,' or self-restraint, is the result of the methods previously used to forge it. In order to make Swiss citizens become 'responsible,' they were told time and again that they were the best in the world. Today, because they are absolutely convinced of their responsibility, they feel free to act without restraint.


Dr Irène Herrmann is associate professor of modern history at the University of Fribourg. This paper presents the main results of a Swiss National Foundation project entitled: "From Historical Science to Democratic Conscience. Uses, Perceptions and Political Repercussions of the Past in Switzerland (1798-1998)".

A billion hopes and 11 men

May 21st, 2010
By Shiv Visvanathan

Source: Deccan Chronicle
Weblink: http://www.deccanchronicle.com/op-ed/billion-hopes-and-11-men-454


Inversions are strange things. They playfully remind you of the actual logic of events, teach you what happens when you cross boundaries and transform expectations. Take sport.

Here I confess I might be a 60-year-old dinosaur. I belong to an era when one eagerly waited for a pristine copy of Sport and Pastime. It was a wonderfully innocent magazine where cricket as a normative domain was constructed by writers like S.K. Gurunathan, Norman Yardley and Jack Fingleton. It was an era where sport evoked the likes of the legendary Emil Zatopek. He raced against trains and eventually he raced against himself, challenging the tyranny of the Communist regime. Every sport was a fable and your cricket, your English and your table manners had to be equally immaculate. Call it the Ranjitsinghji Syndrome. Even if the politics was tacit, it was there and strictly normative. Duleepsinhji could object to body line and quietly leave the team.

Today’s world seems different. I often get a feeling that I read the sports page for politics and read the political page to get a sense of democracy as sport. Sometimes I am confused about the nature of sports politicians play. For a Lalu or a Mulayam, sports or politics are based on the metaphor of the akhada, kabaddi or tug-of-war. But this much I know, sports has changed and destroyed a sense of sportsmanship.
I am not bothered about the vagaries of Indian Premier League. There are moments of beauty and hope to it and Nita Ambani captured it in a beautiful interview when she talked about the hope it offered to the fisherman’s son who wished to play cricket. It is not commercialisation but the idiot politicisation of sport that bothers me.
Just think of what it does. It turns spectatorship from a fine art, or even a version of catharsis, into a cannibalistic sport. True, our sportsmen often become gladiators in combat, but why do we have to put our thumbs down and demand their blood. They are young men, discovering not just a world of sport but other worlds, learning to cope with it. Yet one false stroke and every commentator, spectator and politician blends into a ruthless witch hunt which sees every defeat as scandal. We are a society that loves sport but refuses to be sporting.

Maybe we are entering a new era. Mine was a childhood where Indians thought the killer instinct was a missing gene. But we were not bothered about it. We thought there was more to life. It was an era of Wilson Jones, Ramanathan Krishnan and Leslie Claudius. They were great players and wonderful people.

I still remember the controversy around Vijay Amritraj. He was part of the ABC of tennis, along with Borg and Connors. The latter two won the Wimbledon and journalists asked why Amritraj was only an “also ran”. Vijay had the answer when he said that he could not pay the price of victory. He could not be like them. He saw in sport, a life beyond sport. Today one still sees an Amritraj in operation but the ice-cold Borg lost his cool after his tennis career. We enjoyed our sport, quite content with a P.T. Usha and a Milkha Singh who came fourth in the Olympics. Even Vijay settled for a quarter-final berth at the Wimbledon. Yet we celebrated their presence.
Today, we lose in Twenty20 (T20) in cricket, and a nation goes into catatonic or hysterical mourning. Fat ratios are dished out and life after five is scrutinised for a speck of scandal. A group of players enjoying a drink brings out the Savarnarola in us, each conversation becoming an inquisition. A whole nation projects its hope on 11 people. For a moment, they become us, incarnate of everything Indian. Such expectations create a loss of perspective. It has become an epidemic phenomenon.
An Indian wins a Spelling-Bee competition and we immediately see a Salman Rushdie sprouting. A bronze in a Maths Olympiad and there are Einsteins in every nursery. It degenerates to a point of ridiculousness where parents eventually destroy their children, encouraging them to pursue a career in tennis or cricket to the extent of destroying their childhood.

So what if we lost? Why is defeat such a problem? There is no need for sport to be super-patriotic. Sport does not legitimate us. The ultimate tragedy of Communist sports is what it did to its sportsmen. They became ideological gladiators with hormonal problems, monstrosities in an everyday world. Why not be happily human? The hunger for victory as a nation is turning us into a ridiculous nation, condemning us to the futile athleticism of superpowers, forcing us to compete with China when we should playfully live our own lives without the pathology of an Indian century or an Indian millennium.

This does not mean we accept defeat. It does not demand we destroy our players. Let us create a maturity, a generosity around them, a sense of quiet joy one sees in a Kumble, a Dravid or a Viswanathan Anand. To me they represent a vision of sport. They are gentlemen but not genteel. Anand can win all four formats of chess, Dravid can be called “The Wall” but each is a person not a project. For each, sport adds to life and does not desiccate it.

I think that it is wonderful that Dhoni lost in the West Indies. We should realise the real potential and limits of the team. A few idiot victories only create idiots as legends. The vintage sportsman is one who races against himself and survives beyond sport and beyond the blood thirstiness of the spectator. An Anand working at his game, rethinking game plan, a Tendulkar reworking himself at 37 and still enjoying and playing the game, tells me more about sports than a Dhoni or a Yuvaraj. Just think of Prakash Padukone or a Pullela Gopichand. They are true citizens of sport. They deserve Padma Bhushans because they have a normative understanding of sports, a sense of competition, a gift of reciprocity, without a sense of tantrums, autonomous in victory and self contained in defeat. That’s sport.
Let the T20 world recognise its stupid provinciality and recover its sense of play and playfulness. A sport which is playful can help create a patriotism which is both playful and sporting. Patriotism itself should be a kind of sportsmanship. That would be the eventual victory but you cannot read that through scores.
n Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist

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Elites are under siege in every corner of the world.

(Op-ed) Ian Buruma - The National
Thursday 20th May, 2010

Elites are under siege in every corner of the world.

“Tea Party” activists in suburban America rant and rage against the so-called liberal elites of New York, Washington and Hollywood. In Europe, populist demagogues, such as Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, rant and rage against the elitist “appeasers” of Islam. In Thailand, red-shirted demonstrators from the country’s rural north-east rant and rage against the military, social and political elites of Bangkok.

The first principle of democracy is that government must be based on popular consent, even if the government is made up of parties for which many people did not vote. It is clear from the worldwide rage against elected governments that this consent is becoming dangerously threadbare. More and more people in democratic countries feel unrepresented, anxious, and angry. And they blame the elites.

The phenomenon is worldwide, but its causes differ from country to country. American populism is not the same as Thai populism. Culture and race play important roles in the United States – the culture of carrying guns, for example, and the discomfort at having a black, Harvard-educated president who talks like a law professor.

In Thailand, the rage stems from the perceived neglect of the rural poor by the ruling class, backed by big business, the army and the king. The populist billionaire and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra appeared to be different. He used some of his vast wealth to shower money on rural areas. Rural people, grateful for his largesse, voted for him in record numbers.

Authoritarian, crude and somewhat megalomaniacal (almost as though he were a king himself), Mr Thaksin was a Thai version of Silvio Berlusconi. He was removed from office in 2006, after a bloodless military coup that was supported by the Bangkok middle class, whose members took to the streets in yellow T-shirts (a colour that represents the Thai monarchy). Today’s ongoing pro-Thaksin Red-Shirt rebellion is a form of revenge.

In Europe, the power of the European Union, often-uncontrolled immigration and economic globalisation are challenging feelings of national belonging, of being represented by national governments, or of sharing national cultures. Demagogues who denounce multiculturalism and warn of the “Islamisation” of the West are exploiting the resultant fears about the loss of national identity.

The sense that globalisation is creating new classes of haves and have-nots is a factor that inflames most current forms of populism, regardless of national differences. At the same time, new technology, without which globalisation would not be possible, is being used to mobilise people for populist causes, too.

The heroine of the US Tea Party movement, Sarah Palin, is as much a creature of twittering and the vast new blogosphere as she is of television and radio – perhaps more so. Indeed, the shift of public debate from the mainstream press to the internet has helped to break down the authority of traditional elites: newspaper editors, political columnists, academics and politicians. In cyberspace, anyone can have his or her say. This is more democratic, no doubt, but it has made it harder for people to sift nonsense from truth, or demagoguery from rational political debate.

The tone of populist movements, whether in Europe, Asia or the US, would suggest that the elites are too powerful, that they dominate the little people, whose voices are drowned out by the liberals, the multiculturalists and the city slickers. This is a common form of populist paranoia, promoted in the US by radio talk-show hosts and Fox television, and in Europe by men like Mr Wilders.

To some extent, the elites have themselves to blame. Immigration in Europe has been messy, and those who complained were too quickly dismissed as racists. After endorsing a military coup to get rid of Thaksin, the Yellow Shirts of Bangkok can hardly blame the Red Shirts for trying to use undemocratic tactics to force the current government to step down.

There is, however, another way to look at the worldwide surge of populism. The real problem of traditional elites may not be too much power, but too little. The lack of trust in political elites is linked to a suspicion, which is not entirely irrational, that elected governments have little authority. The real power, people suspect, is lodged elsewhere – on Wall Street, in the unelected EU bureaucracy, in the royal Thai army and the royal palace.

What people crave in uncertain times is strong leadership from charismatic figures who promise to sweep the stables, get rid of corruption, and stand up for the little man against selfish politicians and against foreigners who threaten them with strange habits and religions. Such times are dangerous for democracy, because they endanger popular consent to democratic governments.

To regain respect, our elected politicians will have to show more authority, not less. The US president, Barack Obama, is right to call for more regulation of financial markets. In Europe, either the EU must become more democratic, which will take a long time, or national governments must delegate less to the bureaucrats in Brussels.

Thailand might face the hardest problems. Reliance on a self-promoting tycoon like Mr Thaksin is not the best way to boost democracy, but nor is reliance on military coups and kingly intervention. Most Thais would agree about the military. And it is illegal to even begin to discuss the role of the king. But without discussion, democracy is surely doomed.

Ian Buruma is professor of democracy and human rights at Bard College in New York.

UAVs Becoming Big Business in Defence Industry

Author: Defence IQ
Posted: 05/18/2010 9:37:42 AM ED

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have become big business recently and the UK is fast becoming a leader in the field.

Britain is the top-ranked country in the European unmanned aerial systems market and is second only to the United States globally.

Lord Paul Drayson, minister of state for strategic defence acquisition reform, spoke recently at the Military Air Solutions site of BAE Systems in Warton, where he highlighted the importance of UAV technology in Afghan operations.
Not only is it a major element of military efforts, it also has the potential to create many new jobs in UK aerospace, he said. Currently, the industry employs over 300,000 people across all regions of the UK, injecting over £35 billion into the economy every year, plus a further £5 billion in exports.

"This is powerful technology. UAVs can serve as the eyes and ears of a commander in theatre," Drayson stated.

"Easy to use, and getting easier, they're suited to monotonous and repetitive tasks–where a pilot could become tired or lose concentration," he added.

Opportunities

Commenting on Drayson's speech, Rees Ward, chief executive of A|D|S, Britain's AeroSpace, Defence and Security trade organisation, said: "A key part of the future for defence and the UK industry in particular will be unmanned aerial systems or UAS.

"Many British-based companies are well-positioned to seize the opportunities offered by this newly emerging market that is estimated to be worth £20 billion between now and 2020," he added.

Not only are UAVs being deployed in military operations, they also have applications in the civil sector, from disaster relief and climate monitoring, to security and border control.

"As Europe's number one defence industry, second only to the US globally, it is vital that we play a full role in these new markets for emerging technologies and to do so we must work in partnership with government," Ward commented.

The United States is also aiming to make the most of UAV technology. The Pentagon is looking at several different versions of unmanned helicopters to supply troops in Afghanistan, Department of Defense (DoD) acquisition chief Aston Carter revealed recently.

He told a conference hosted by Washington think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies that these UAVs are a great way of getting supplies to troops without risk to convoys on the road.

The technology can be used to reduce the threat of improvised explosive devices.

Not only is the United States investigating the use of UAV technology for its own troops, it is also looking at assisting NATO allies.

Enemy UAV Acquisition

In remarks before the senate appropriations subcommittee on state, foreign operations and related programs, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that two Nato countries, the UK and Italy, had been sold UAVs by the United States.

"There are other countries that are very interested in this capability, and frankly, it is, in my view, in our interest to see what we can do to accommodate them," Gates said.

The policy in selling UAVs is guided by the Missile Technology Control Regime, he said, in response to concerns raised by Senator Dianne Feinstein. She questioned him on what the DoD is doing to ensure UAVs are not being used against American troops.

"I share your concern about the possibility of the transfer of technology or about these capabilities getting into the hands of those who are our adversaries," Gates said.

He added that Iran was developing unmanned systems but these had not created any problems for troops in Afghanistan.

"The reality is so far, we have been in situations where UAV technology cannot be used or has not been used against our troops anywhere," Gates stressed.

"I actually think that our ability to protect our troops from these things, particularly in a theatre of combat like this, is quite good. My worry would be capabilities like this getting into the hands of non-state actors who could use them for terrorist purposes," he continued.

Iran Establishes Its First Soft War Camp with 100 million budget

A “soft war” can be defined as a set of deliberately hostile acts aimed at transforming the fundamental cultural values and identities of a society. This type of war can influence all social aspects of a political system, and can include such phenomena as “cultural invasions” and “psychological operations.” In other words, a soft war includes the following:

  • It is an intentional and planned activity
  • Its most important domains are cultural, political, and social
______________( Persia House)

Iranian Government Expands Efforts to Protect Citizens from Alleged Western Cultural Assault

Alef - Summary translation by Persia House

May 5, 2010

Mehdi Esmaili, the Governor of Isfahan’s Political-Security Deputy said today, “Considering the [Ahmadinejad] administration’s approach to cultural issues, and [with the aim of making] optimum use of the allocated budget, a joint secretariat has been created, so that the efforts of provincial cultural councils are not duplicated.” According to a Majlis-ratified article, 100 billion tomans [~ $100 million] of the cultural budget has been allocated to Isfahan, where, Esmaili reported, the first soft war camp in Iran began operation yesterday, May 4.

Source Information:

Alef is a pragmatic conservative news site, which is at times critical of President Ahmadinejad.

A Look at Kidnapping through the Lens of Protective Intelligence

May 20, 2010 | 0855 GMT

"This report is republished with permission of STRATFOR"

By Scott Stewart

A Look at Kidnapping through the Lens of Protective Intelligence

Looking at the world from a protective-intelligence perspective, the theme for the past week has not been improvised explosive devices or potential mass-casualty attacks. While there have been suicide bombings in Afghanistan, alleged threats to the World Cup and seemingly endless post-mortem discussions of the failed May 1 Times Square attack, one recurring and under-reported theme in a number of regions around the world has been kidnapping.

For example, in Heidenheim, Germany, Maria Boegerl, the wife of German banker Thomas Boegerl, was reportedly kidnapped from her home May 12. The kidnappers issued a ransom demand to the family and an amount was agreed upon. Mr. Boegerl placed the ransom payment at the arranged location, but the kidnappers never picked up the money (perhaps suspecting or detecting police involvement). The family has lost contact with the kidnappers, and fear for Mrs. Boegerl’s fate has caused German authorities to launch a massive search operation, which has included hundreds of searchers along with dogs, helicopters and divers.

Two days after the Boegerl kidnapping, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) posted a message on the Internet claiming to have custody of French citizen Michel Germaneau, a retired engineer who had previously worked in Algeria’s petroleum sector. Germaneau was reportedly kidnapped April 22, in northern Niger, close to the border with Mali and Algeria. The AQIM video contained a photo of Germaneau and of his identification card. The group demanded a prisoner exchange and said that French President Nicolas Sarkozy would be responsible for the captive’s well-being.

Also on May 14, Diego Fernandez de Cevallos, a high-profile attorney and former presidential candidate, was kidnapped near his ranch in the Mexican state of Queretaro. Fernandez had left his home in Mexico City to drive to his ranch but never arrived. His vehicle was found abandoned near the ranch on Saturday morning and the vehicle reportedly showed signs of a struggle. It is not known who kidnapped Fernandez or what the motivation for the kidnapping was.

At the moment a kidnapping occurs, the abduction team usually has achieved tactical surprise and usually employs overwhelming force. To the previously unsuspecting victim, the abductors seemingly appear out of nowhere. But when examined carefully, kidnappings are, for the most part, the result of a long and carefully orchestrated process. They do not arise from a vacuum. There are almost always some indications or warnings that the process is in motion prior to the actual abduction, meaning that many kidnappings are avoidable. In light of this reality, let’s take a more detailed look at the phenomenon of kidnappings.

Types of Kidnappings

There are many different types of kidnappings. Although kidnappings for ransom and political kidnappings generate considerable news interest, most kidnappings have nothing to do with money or political statements. They are typically kidnappings conducted by family members in custody disputes, emotionally disturbed strangers wanting to take a child to raise or strangers who abduct a victim for sexual exploitation.

Even in financially motivated kidnappings, there are a number of different types. The stereotypicalkidnapping of a high-value target comes most readily to mind, but there are also more spur-of-the-moment express kidnappings, where a person is held until his bank account can be drained using an ATM card, and even virtual kidnappings, where no kidnapping occurs at all but the victim is frightened by a claim that a loved one has been kidnapped and pays a ransom to the alleged abductors. Some of the piracy incidents in Somalia also move into the economic kidnapping realm, especially in cases where the crew or passengers are seen as being more valuable than the boat or its cargo.

Since kidnapping is such a broad topic, for the sake of this discussion, we will focus primarily on kidnappings that are financially motivated and those that are politically motivated. Financially motivated kidnappings can be conducted by a variety of criminal elements. At the highest level are highly trained professional kidnapping gangs that specialize in abducting high-net-worth individuals and who will frequently demand ransoms in the millions of dollars. Such groups often employ teams of specialists who carry out a variety of specific tasks such as collecting intelligence, conducting surveillance, snatching the target, negotiating with the victim’s family and establishing and guarding the safe-houses.

At the other end of the spectrum are gangs that randomly kidnap targets of opportunity. These gangs are generally far less skilled than the professional gangs and often will hold a victim for only a short time, as in an express kidnapping. Sometimes express kidnapping victims are held in the trunk of a car for the duration of their ordeal, which can sometimes last for days if the victim has a large amount in a checking account and a small daily ATM withdrawal limit. Other times, if an express kidnapping gang discovers it has grabbed a high-value target by accident, the gang will hold the victim longer and demand a much higher ransom. Occasionally, these express kidnapping groups will even “sell” a high-value victim to a more professional kidnapping gang. (On a side note, most express kidnapping victims tend to be male and are most frequently abducted while walking on the street after dark, and many have impaired their senses by consuming alcohol.)

In the United States, it is far more common for a relatively poor person to be kidnapped for financial motives than it is for a high-net-worth individual. This is because kidnapping groups frequentlytarget groups of illegal immigrants, who they believe are far less likely to seek help from the authorities. In some cases, the police have found dozens of immigrant hostages being held in safe-houses.

Between the two extremes of kidnapping groups — those targeting the rich and those targeting the poor — there is a wide range of kidnapping gangs that might target a bank vice president or branch manager rather than the bank’s CEO, or that might kidnap the owner of a restaurant or other small business rather than an industrialist.

In the realm of political kidnappings, there are abductions that are very well-planned, such as the December 1981 kidnapping of Gen. James Dozier by the Italian Red Brigades, or Hezbollah’s March 1985 kidnapping of journalist Terry Anderson. However, there are also opportunistic cases of politically motivated kidnappings, such as when foreigners are abducted at a Taliban checkpointin Afghanistan or AQIM militants grab a European tourist in the Sahel area of Africa. Of course, in the case of both the Taliban and AQIM, the groups see kidnapping as an important source of funding as well as a politically useful tool.

Understanding the Process

In deliberate (as opposed to opportunistic) kidnappings based on financial or political motives, the kidnappers generally follow a process that is very similar to what we call the terrorist attack cycle: target selection, planning, deployment, attack, escape and exploitation. In a kidnapping, this means the group must identify a victim; plan for the abduction, captivity and negotiation; conduct the abduction and secure the hostage; successfully leverage the life of the victim for financial or political gain; and then escape.

During some phases of this process, the kidnappers may not be visible to the target, but there are several points during the process when the kidnappers are forced to expose themselves to detection in order to accomplish their mission. Like the perpetrators of a terrorist attack, those planning a kidnapping are most vulnerable to detection while they are conducting surveillance — before they are ready to deploy and conduct their attack. As we have noted several times in past analyses, one of the secrets of countersurveillance is that most criminals are not very good at conducting surveillance. The primary reason they succeed is that no one is looking for them.

Of course, kidnappers are also very easy to spot once they launch their attack, pull their weapons and perhaps even begin to shoot. By this time, however, it might very well be too late to escape their attack. They will have selected their attack site and employed the forces they believe they need to overpower their victim and complete the operation. While the kidnappers could botch their operation and the target could escape unscathed, it is simply not practical to pin one’s hopes on that possibility. It is clearly better to spot the kidnappers early and avoid their trap before it is sprung and the guns come out.

Kidnappers, like other criminals, look for patterns and vulnerabilities that they can exploit. Their chances for success increase greatly if they are allowed to conduct surveillance at will and are given the opportunity to thoroughly assess the security measures (if any) employed by the target. We have seen several cases in Mexico in which the criminals even chose to attack despite security measures such as armored cars and armed security guards. In such cases, criminals attack with adequate resources to overcome existing security. For example, if there are protective agents, the attackers will plan to neutralize them first. If there is an armored vehicle, they will find ways to defeat the armor or grab the target when he or she is outside the vehicle. Because of this, criminals must not be allowed to conduct surveillance at will. Potential targets should practice a heightened but relaxed state of situational awareness that will help them spot hostile surveillance.

Potential targets should also conduct simple pattern and route analyses to determine where they are most predictable and vulnerable. Taking an objective look at your schedule and routes is really not as complicated as it may seem. While the ideal is to vary routes and times to avoid predictable locations, this is also difficult and disruptive and warranted only when the threat is extremely high. A more practical alternative is for potential targets to raise their situational awareness a notch as they travel through such areas at predictable times.

Of course, using the term “potential targets” points to another problem. Many kidnapping victims simply don’t believe they are potential targets until after they have been kidnapped, and therefore do not take commonsense security measures. Frequently, when such people are debriefed after their release from captivity, they are able to recall suspicious activity before their abduction that they did not take seriously because they did not consider themselves targets. One American businessman who was kidnapped in Central America said upon his release that he knew there was something odd about the behavior of a particular couple he saw frequently sitting on a park bench near his home prior to his kidnapping, but he didn’t think he was rich enough to be targeted for kidnapping. As soon as he was abducted, he said that he immediately knew that the awkward couple had been observing him to determine his pattern. He said that he often thought about that couple during his two months in captivity, and how a little bit of curiosity could have saved him from a terrifying ordeal and his family a substantial sum of money.

The same steps involved in a deliberate kidnapping are also followed in ad hoc, opportunistic kidnappings — though the steps may be condensed and accomplished in seconds or minutes rather than the weeks or months normally associated with a well-planned kidnapping operation. And the same problems with lack of awareness often apply. It is not uncommon to talk to someone who was involved in an express kidnapping and hear the person say, “I got a bad feeling about those three guys standing near that car when I started walking down that block, but I kept walking anyway.” This frequent occurrence highlights the importance of situational awareness, attack recognition and proper mindset maintenance.

Potential targets do not have to institute security measures that will make them invulnerable to such crimes — something that is very difficult and that can be very expensive. Rather, the objective is to take measures that make them a harder target than other members of the specific class of individuals to which they belong. Groups conducting pre-operational surveillance, whether for an intentional kidnapping or an opportunistic kidnapping, prefer a target that is unaware and easy prey. Taking some basic security measures such as maintaining a healthy state of situational awareness will, in many cases, cause the criminals to choose another target who is less aware and therefore more vulnerable.

Also, most people who are kidnapped in places like Afghanistan or the Sahel know they are going into dangerous places and disregard the warnings not to go to those places. Many of these people, like journalists and aid workers, take the risk as part of their jobs. Others, like the European tourists abducted in the Sahel (and some of the pleasure boaters kidnapped by Somali pirates), appear to naively disregard the risk or to be thrill-seekers. In the recent Germaneau case in Niger, due to the number of highly publicized kidnappings in the Sahel region over the past eight years, and Germaneau’s personal history of working in Algeria, it would be hard to argue that he did not know what he could be getting himself into (though we are unsure at this point what motivated him to run that risk). After Germaneau’s kidnapping, his driver was subsequently arrested, raising the possibility that he was somehow complicit in the abduction. This is a reminder that it is not at all unusual for kidnapping gangs to have inside help, whether a maid, bodyguard, interpreter or taxi driver.

In retrospect, almost every person who is kidnapped either missed or ignored some indication or warning of danger. These warnings can range from observable criminal behavior to a consular information bulletin specifically warning people not to drive outside of cities in Guatemala after dark, for example. This means that, while kidnapping can be a devastating crime, it can also be an avoidable one.