June 14, 2010



Concerned over reports of isolated attacks on the members of the Chinese community in the Osh region of southern Kyrgyzstan, the Chinese Government has started evacuating its citizens frm the area. Two planes were sent by the Chinese Government to Osh on June 14,2010, to airlift about 600 Chinese nationals out of the area which has seen violent attacks on Uzbeks by mobs of Kyrgyz youth, resulting in the death of over 120 persons, the majority of them Uzbeks. Over 40,000 Uzbeks are reported to have fled the area into the bordering Uzbekistan.

2. The Kyrgyz-Uzbek clashes are attributed to the eruption of tensions between Kyrgyz supporters of former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was overthrown in a poular revolt in April and Uzbek supporters of a provisional Government headed by by Roza Otunbayeva. The support of the Uzbeks for the provisional Government and allegations----denied by the provisional Government--- that in return for the support extended by the Uzbeks in the overthrow of Bakiyev, the provisional Government intended permitting the formation of ethnic parties added to tensions between the two communities. Ethnic parties are banned at present and the Uzbeks, who constitute about one million out of the total population of 5.4 million, are not allowed to have their own political party.

3. The tensions initially led to violence in the town of of Jalalabad in southern Kyrgyzstan on May 19 during which two were killed and many injured and subsequently spread to Osh on June 10. An analysis of the May 19 incidents prepared by the London-based Institute For War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) headed by Saule Mukhametrakhimova stated as follows: " Crowds of young Kyrgyz men surged towards a university associated with the Uzbek community on May 19. They got past a police cordon ringing the entrance gates, but were prevented from entering the university building after security guards put up stiff resistance. Shots were fired at this point, although it was unclear whether by one or both sides. An eyewitness on the scene told IWPR that this prompted the crowds to fall back. “When the first casualties happened, the crowd came out of the gate,” he said. Kyrgyzstan’s interim government declared a state of emergency and a night-time curfew in Jalalabad city and the nearby Suzak district, and accused allies of former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, ousted during mass protests last month, of masterminding the disturbances. Bakiyev is in exile in Belarus, but the authorities who replaced him believe his supporters are still trying to stage a coup. They have charged a number of Bakiyev-era officials for disturbances , when protesters briefly seized control of local government buildings in Jalalabad and Osh, the south’s biggest urban centre. “The interim government will not allow civil war,” said government member Temir Sariev, in remarks quoted by the online news agency 24.kg. Referring to Bakiyev supporters, he said, “At first they tried to confront the interim government, but when we resisted them, they began employing inter-ethnic conflict.” Events in Jalalabad represent a dangerous shift towards trouble between ethnic Kyrgyz and the sizeable Uzbek community.There were signs of trouble brewing on the morning of May 19, as thousands of people gathered at a race-track a couple of kilometres from the city. Among the eyewitnesses interviewed by IWPR, a local man said most of the people at the race-track were young, of Kyrgyz ethnicity, and as far as he knew, not local to the area. A correspondent with RFE/RL (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) said protesters were chanting slogans directed against Kadirjan Batirov, a businessman and politician regarded as the Uzbek community’s uncrowned leader, and an ally of the new government."

4. The British Broadcasting Corporation has reported as follows on the violence in the Osh area since June 10: "It is not yet fully clear what triggered the violence, but tensions have been high in the area since the toppling of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. When Mr Bakiyev was ousted in an uprising on 7 April 2010, his stronghold in the south became the centre of instability. Among the Kyrgyz population, pro-Bakiyev elements organised resistance to the interim government by seizing government offices and taking officials hostage. The sizeable Uzbek community displayed sympathy to the new government in Bishkek. As Roza Otunbayeva, the interim president, struggled to control the south, well-established criminal elements and drug dealers exploited the power vacuum. The spark for communal violence was provided by a clash between Kyrgyz and Uzbek gangs. It soon turned into street fighting among the youth in Osh. Fuelled by rumours of atrocities on either side, angry mobs from other towns and villages arrived in Osh, forcing large numbers of ethnic Uzbeks to flee. "

5. The BBC added: "The southern city of Osh is at the centre of a fertile plain known as the Fergana Valley. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the valley was divided between the three independent republics, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. This created minority populations and some enclaves. The uneasy co-existence of settled and relatively prosperous Uzbeks and traditionally nomadic but - since the creation of their state - politically more powerful Kyrgyz population was occasionally interrupted. The last serious outbreak of ethnic disturbance was put down by Soviet troops in 1990. Since then, the Kyrgyz part of the Fergana Valley has become a magnet for increasing trade with neighbouring countries, a thriving market for cheap Chinese goods and the centre of illicit drugs from Afghanistan on their way to the world markets. Successive Kyrgyz governments failed to deal with growing corruption and crime. Collapsing infra-structure and widespread poverty contributed to deep public resentment. The Fergana Valley is an area of largely devout Muslims as well as the recruiting ground for Islamist movements. The minority Uzbek population makes up 15% of Kyrgyzstan's five million people. In southern towns such as Osh, Uzbeks are a minority. In some areas of the Fergana Valley, they outnumber the Kyrgyz population. Among the Kyrgyz people of the area, the fear that the Uzbeks may want to grab Kyrgyz lands and to join Uzbekistan seems to be a significant factor in spiralling violence that we have witnessed in recent days."

6.The "China Daily" has reported as follows: "There have been no reports so far of casualties among Chinese nationals in the ethnic violence.
Some businesses owned by Chinese nationals in Osh have been looted, and the Chinese Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Wang Kaiwen, has urged Chinese nationals to stay at home. Gu Ping, another official at the Embassy, said a Chinese-run glass shop and an oil factory were raided, causing losses worth millions of US dollars. The number of Chinese living in Kyrgyzstan has been growing since the late 1980s. Embassy statistics show about 30,000 Chinese people are living in the country. More than 7,000, mostly businessmen, are in the violence-hit region.
On the outskirts of the capital Bishkek, there is a large Chinese market, described as a "city within a city," which has a hospital, mosques and apartment buildings. Migrants from China also work in the construction sector, especially on housing projects for low-income people."

7. It added: "It is unclear what triggered the clashes. Some officials have pointed to a conflict at a local casino or rumors of a dispute sparked by a taxi passenger who declined to pay his fare. Others have spoken of Kyrgyz girls being raped by Uzbeks. The ethnic violence raises the risk of a civil war or even a full-blown conflict between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. If the interim government loses control, Kyrgyzstan could disintegrate and cease to exist as a single independent country. Moscow sent at least 150 paratroopers to Kyrgyzstan on Sunday ( June 13) to protect its own military facilities in the country and representatives of the Moscow-led security bloc of ex-Soviet republics known as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) gathered on Monday ( June 14) to discuss further steps. "We have gathered here to discuss the situation in Kyrgyzstan and discuss the ways to solve this crisis, to restore order, to stop the interethnic conflict," Russia's national security chief Nikolai Patrushev was quoted by RIA Novosti news agency as telling the meeting. "Today we have to work out a common position and concrete measures to react to the situation in Kyrgyzstan based on a CSTO mandate." The CSTO comprises Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.Kyrgyzstan's interim government, which assumed power after an April revolt that overthrew president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, has been unable to gain full control of the country's south, which is separated from the north by mountains. The renewed turmoil in Kyrgyzstan has fuelled concern in Russia and the United States. Washington uses an air base at Manas in the north of the ex-Soviet state, about 300 km from Osh, to supply forces in Afghanistan. Russia also has a military base in the country. "

8. There have been reports of attacks by Kyrgyz mobs on Pakistani students, many of whom reportedly study in an Uzbek university in Osh. There are so far no reports of attacks on Indian students. There are not many residents of Russian origin in southern Kyrgyzstan. Most of the Russian origin residents are concentrated in the North. There have been no reports of attacks on the Russian-origin residents. The interim Government which has imposed a State of Emergency in the South has sought the intervention of Russian troops to put down the violence, but Moscow seems to be disinclined to intervene on its own. It would prefer that any intervention is by the CSTO. Moscow's immediate concern is the strengthening of the security for the Russian military base and the protection of residents of Russian origin.

9. The Chinese have no military presence in Kyrgyzstan. There is an unestimated number of Uighurs in Kyrgyzstan who support the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan (IMET). The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), whose leaders are based in North Waziristan in Pakistan, draws its recruits from the radicalised Uzbeks in the Fergana Valley.

10. If the ethnic violence is not controlled effectively, there is not only a danger of a civil war in Kyrgyzstan and a conflict between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, but also a surge in the activities of the IMU and the IMET. The Chinese are, therefore, as concerned over the situation as the US and Russia. The Uzbek anger over the atrocities allegedly committed against them could have unpredictable consequences for regional peace and security. ( 15-6-10)

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

Propping Up a Dead Economy

A Faux Recovery Based on Economic Stimulus
The Daily Reckoning U.S. Edition
Joel Bowman
Joel Bowman
Reporting from Taipei, Taiwan...

More money! More stimulus! And more borrowing from the future to combat the errors of the past...

President Obama wants another $50 billion, presumably to keep the economy "stimulated." We "must take these emergency measures..." he wrote in a letter to congressional leaders, or else risk "...massive layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters."

Are you scared yet, fellow reckoner? Well, you should be, but not because of the reasons Mr. Obama cites. The whole "emergency measure" line reminds your editor of a story; something about a boy and a wolf... It ended with a lot of crying, if we remember correctly.

"That ought to hit 'em where it hurts," we can almost here the Feds saying. Go for the "safety net" jobs; the ones a free market society supposedly could not support on it's own.

The government would have us think that if it didn't pay people to keep the streets clean and the buildings up to fire code, then the nation would descend into a murderous rage of crime and scorching flames. We are supposed to believe that the only thing standing between free citizens and Dante's Inferno is the vigilance and service of Inner Beltway busybodies. Don't buy it for a second. If asked whether he would prefer a private contractor coming to his rescue during a bank robbery or a member of Baltimore's finest, your editor would take the "profiteer" every time. Besides, it's the state that's robbing your savings account, not some junkie miscreant down the road.

But back to our topic...

The "recovery," it seems, is waning...just as the effects of the economic stimulus are fading. Consumer spending is falling, according to the most recent figures. Mortgage defaults are creeping steadily higher. Debts - at both the state and federal level - are ballooning. And the overall jobs situation - not including census "workers" - is worsening.

That all sounds about right to us. After all, dead men don't walk. The unemployed don't spend. And even if they did, spending is no way to prosperity anyway. In days or yore, "consumption" was considered a disease. Today, welfare statists consider it to be an unalienable right: "Life, Liberty, The Pursuit of Happiness...and a brand new blender!"

..or something like that.

But even the world's largest economy can't prop up a dead man forever, no matter how many kitchen appliance vouchers it bribes its citizens with. This is a Weekend at Bernie'srecovery, in other words, not a Chariots of Fire one. It is simulated at the public's expense; not stimulated by the private sector's toils. And that trend - from private wealth production to public wealth destruction - is a worrying one indeed.

As Austrian School luminary, F.A. Hayek, astutely observed: "If government relieves us of the responsibility of living by bailing us out, character will atrophy. The welfare state, however good its intentions of creating material equality, can't help but make us dependent. That changes the psychology of society."

If President Obama is not careful, the price of his economic recovery will be enough to send the nation broke(er).

Trouble on the Colombia-Venezuela Border

In addition to floundering trade, deteriorating diplomatic ties between Colombia and Venezuela are exacerbating security risks at a fragile border, Eliot Brockner comments for ISN Security Watch.

By Eliot Brockner for ISN Security Watch


As rumors of an unlikely war between Colombia and Venezuela continue to circulate, the casualties of a smaller war at the border are already mounting up.

During the week of 3-10 June, at least 11 people died in drug-related violence in the Colombian city of Cúcuta and the surrounding area, including the violent deaths of at least six people in Ureña, just over the border in Venezuela.

The bloody week brings the number of violent deaths in Cúcuta in 2010 to 118, according to La Opinion, a Cúcuta-based daily. In 2009, Cúcuta had a homicide rate of 61.9 murders per 100,000 habitants, according to a report published by Medicina Legal, a Bogotá-based forensic science research facility. Although lower than the homicide rate in Cali or Medellin, it is still 36 percent higher than Colombia’s national average of 39.39 per 100,000 inhabitants.

The department of Norte de Santander, of which Cúcuta is the capital, had an average of 49.74 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. Arauca department, east of Norte de Santander along the Colombia-Venezuela border, and a corridor of drug trafficking and other illegal activity, had the highest homicide rate of all of Colombia’s 32 departments at 110.43 murders per 100,000 inhabitants.

Much of the Colombian-Venezuelan border has become a battlefield of rival drug gangs, paramilitary groups and their smaller successors, and members of Colombia’s leftist insurgency, FARC. The lines are constantly blurring, as former rivalsare teaming up to control production and transportation of illicit narcotics. The changing alliances make up-to-date intelligence and information about the groups’ activity crucial in the fight to combat rising levels of insecurity on both sides of the border.

The data point to a shared security threat. And as the week of 3 June demonstrated, the violence is not contained within a singular border. However, given the animosity between Bogotá and Caracas, arriving at such a cooperative agreement poses a number of challenges.

The two nations have been mired in a political dogfight since the Colombian military’s March 2008 raid on Ecuadorian soil. The attack inflamed sensitivities over regional sovereignty and the neighboring nations’ role in harboring terrorist groups. Colombia has accused the Venezuelan government of being sympathetic to FARC, a terrorist group reviled by many in Colombia. In July 2009, Colombia’s secretive handling of adeal with the US to allow the use of up to seven military bases prompted Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to recall his ambassador to Colombia.

The latest diplomatic tiff involves accusations against nearly 20 Colombian nationals accused of spying in Venezuela. The accusations prompted the Colombian government to issue a travel warning in April 2010 to its citizens. Each day, thousands of Colombians cross the border to work in Venezuela.

The sour diplomatic relations have hurt economic ties between the two countries. Bilateral trade has shrunk 37 percent, from a high of US $7.3 billion in 2008 to US $4.6 billion in 2009, according to data from Cavecol, a Caracas-based organization dedicated to promoting binational trade between Colombia and Venezuela. Although the Colombian government insists much of this trade has been made up in other markets, notably China, the hundreds of thousands of people who make their living at the border may still be feeling the impact.

Retribution, not dialogue, has characterized the recent Venezuela-Colombia relationship. Both candidates in Colombia’s 20 June runoff vote have vowed to attempt to change this. Although it is not clear whether Chávez will be receptive to any overtures, battling a cross-border criminal problem may be the common ground the two nations need to negotiate their differences.

Eliot Brockner is a Latin America analyst at iJET Intelligent Risk Systems. Based in Washington, DC, he covers security, politics, and diplomacy in the Americas. He is a regular contributor to the blog Latin American Thought.

BALOCHISTAN: Citizens, not subjects

By Sanaullah Baloch
Monday, 14 Jun, 2010


THE policy maintained by Islamabad vis-à-vis Balochistan can be likened to the Iron Curtain.

There is very little prospect of the centre’s powerful security apparatus permitting international humanitarian organisations such as the UN Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs to conduct a standard survey and assistance exercise to assess the havoc wreaked by Cyclone Phet in the coastal areas of the province.

This is not the first time that the Baloch people have been left to the mercy of a natural disaster. In July 2007, the then prime minister Shaukat Aziz announced that “Pakistan will not take foreign aid from any country to overcome the losses and devastation caused by Cyclone Yemyin in Balochistan”.

The Musharraf regime ignored the situation that year and hampered access to national and foreign donors. Meanwhile, the operation at Lal Masjid distracted the local and foreign media from the appalling humanitarian crisis in Balochistan. Flash floods damaged infrastructure to the tune of Rs1tr, affected more than 6,500 villages and destroyed 80,000 houses.

The recent widespread torrential rains, accompanied by the cyclonic winds of Phet, lashed the Makran coast and parts of central Makran on June 4. Many are dead or injured, and hundreds of fishing boats have been reported missing from the Gwadar, Pasni, Jiwani and Peshkan areas.

The rain submerged all the roads and development projects in Gwadar district. The coastal highway, which was constructed by the Frontier Works Organisation, was badly damaged at several points and a bridge linking Gwadar with Jiwani was washed away. Thousands were rendered homeless as hundreds of mud houses belonging to the impoverished Baloch collapsed due to heavy rains.

According to the initial survey and information collected by the Balochistan Institute for Development, hundreds of villages have been badly affected in Gwadar, Lasbela and Kech districts. Gwadar’s Mullah Band locality, near the deep sea port, has been badly hit and around 5,000 people moved without any governmental support to nearby localities.

More than 4,000 people were affected as a result of flooding from the Aakrra Kaur Dam near Gwadar. In Lasbela district five people died in rain-related incidents in the Damb, Sonmiani and Gaddani areas. According to local experts the situation in certain areas is critical and affected communities are vulnerable to malaria and dengue fever epidemics.

Despite warnings issued by the United Nations and the meteorological office, the government has more or less failed to establish makeshift camps in coastal towns and evacuate people from vulnerable areas. This has resulted in heavy losses of property of communities that were already underprivileged.

An alert issued by UN offices in Pakistan on June 2 said that the flash floods could cause a repeat of the 2007 floods in Sindh and Balochistan following Cyclone Yemyin. Those floods affected 1.5 million people, 250,000 of whom were made homeless and another 300,000 displaced.

Balochistan has not yet recovered from the drought that ravaged the province between 1999 and 2003. It is still reeling from the effects of the ongoing military assault that started in 2005 and that resulted in killings, disappearances and an economic blockade. It still bears the scars of Cyclone Yemyin. This year’s cyclone has only added to existing miseries and will have a continuing and devastating impact on the socio-economic conditions of the province.

In the early phase of the 2007 cyclone, the central government initially dropped a few relief packages. Later, however, it refused all international aid and assistance without providing Balochistan with any reason or justification. The flood-affected people in western Balochistan are still in self-constructed shelters in and around Turbat city, and are exposed to extreme weather conditions.

Prime Minister Gilani recently conceded that mistrust exists between the Baloch people and Islamabad. The former have been disregarded and treated as subjects rather then citizens. The previous government also ignored the resolution passed by the Balochistan Assembly for mobilising resources by organising a large-scale donor conference in Quetta along the pattern of the Earthquake Relief Donors Conference held in Islamabad in 2005.

The province is a high-risk zone for disasters that include drought, earthquakes and tsunamis. The lack of disaster-risk management strategies is causing immense loss in terms of lives, infrastructure and livelihood in the disaster-prone Balochistan region. Suffering as a consequence of floods has been exacerbated by dams and dykes whose designs are flawed. The overflow of water from the Mirani Dam triggered by Cyclone Yemyin caused severe flooding in Turbat in 2007, for example.

No useful information, flood risk mapping or communication tools have been disseminated by any government agency to create awareness among the inhabitants about probable floods and rescue strategies.

Flood-risk mapping is one of the key factors in flood-risk management and should be readily available to the public as well as to emergency response agencies. Mapping defines the areas at risk; maps become the common element in terms of the identification of flood-prone areas, identifying the risk for individuals and lending institutions, the preparation of emergency response plans and designs of flood-protection or flood-proofing measures.

When it comes to stifling dissent, Islamabad uses modern weaponry and technologies; but it does not bother to use supportive technologies to reduce and minimise disaster risks through forecasting droughts and floods in Pakistan’s resource-rich but impoverished province.

Many governments across the world make use of disasters as an opportunity to reach out to marginalised masses and address their grievances. But Islamabad’s confused and biased establishment exploits disaster as an opportunity to further suppress communities under the pretext of national security.

The situation in the western parts of Balochistan is appalling, with hundreds of thousands of people unable to reconstruct their mud houses. They need assistance, attention and opportunities to rebuild their homes and resume their normal economic activities. The central government must take immediate steps to seek UN assistance to plan modern housing and social infrastructure in the region.

The government also needs to expand the House Building Finance Corporation, agriculture and commercial banks’ branches and provide long-term and interest-free loans to communities to rebuild houses and small-scale businesses. All schools, hospitals and healthcare centres must be rebuilt on a priority basis.

The writer is a former senator.


June 13, 2010

Matt Waldman on Taliban-ISI links



What if it’s Al Qaeda? : Bhopal disaster should teach us some lessons

B Raman


A major worry for the international community has been the danger of Al Qaeda using a chemical weapon to indulge in an act of mass casualty terrorism. Studies have been made of the possible scenarios and how to prevent and counter them. Dealing with a chemical disaster — deliberately caused by terrorists or other criminal elements or due to the criminal negligence of those producing and storing them for industrial and other purposes — is now an important component of any national disaster management plan.

In India, too, we have a high-powered national disaster management authority and one understands it has prepared different contingency plans to deal with different types of disasters — a chemical disaster being one of them. One would have thought that a detailed case study of the disaster in Bhopal in 1984 due to the leakage of chemical gases from a plant of the Union Carbide would have been the starting point of any such contingency planning.

What would happen if Al Qaeda manages to get hold of a deadly chemical weapon and uses it to kill people in their hundreds and thousands? People would start dying without knowing what is happening to them. Security and other bureaucrats involved in disaster management would take some time to understand why people are dying and set in motion the drill to deal with situation. Al Qaeda is not going to announce beforehand that it would be using a chemical weapon. It will use it and let the world realise that it has used it from the initially unexplained deaths.

That is what happened in Bhopal in 1984. People in their hundreds working in the factory, moving around in the town and living in their homes started falling dead without anyone understanding why they are dying. It took sometime for the authorities to realise that the deaths were due to the leakage of gas from the factory and its spread across the town. They did not know what kind of a gas it was and how to protect people from its effect.

No proper study had been made beforehand of the dangers of a leak — due to negligence or deliberately caused. There had been no contingency planning to deal with the resulting situation. It goes to the credit of the authorities of Madhya Pradesh and the Governments of India and of Rajiv Gandhi, who had just then taken over as the Prime Minister, that without any previous experience of dealing with that kind of situation, they rose to the occasion and did whatever they could to save lives at tremendous risk to themselves. Despite their praiseworthy efforts, over 3,500 people died — as many as during the September 11 terrorist strikes in the US.

In many seminars that I have attended since September 11 on the dangers of an act of mass casualty terrorism using a chemical weapon, there were references to the Bhopal disaster as a forewarning of what could happen if the terrorists manage to get hold of a deadly chemical weapon and use it. Many of those who made the reference, at the same time, expressed their surprise and disappointment over the fact that the Indian authorities had not documented the details of what happened in Bhopal in 1984, how the situation was dealt with by the authorities, what kind of difficulties they faced and how they got over them.

In fact, according to them, no proper case study of the Bhopal gas disaster has been made to draw lessons for future contingency planning to deal with similar disasters. If this is true, this does not speak well of us and underlines once again our casual attitude in such matters. Before the officials of Bhopal who dealt with the disaster pass away, their account of the disaster should be documented and a thorough case study done.

It goes to the credit of Rajiv Gandhi that he realised the importance of contingency planning to deal with similar disasters in future and set up a special cell in the Ministry of Home Affairs for this purpose. This cell allegedly stopped functioning after he left office as the Prime Minister in 1989. Contingency planning for disaster management started receiving the attention it deserved only after September 11.

The writer is a former senior official of Research & Analysis Wing and a leading security affairs expert.

Let's Talk Some Strategy

Gautam Adhikari, Jun 14, 2010, 12.00am IST

WASHINGTON: Now that the US-India strategic dialogue has had its inaugural meeting, how does the state of the relationship between the world's largest two democracies look? Not different from the uncertain shape it was before the dialogue, say sceptics. Not bad at all; the dialogue yielded results, say optimists.

Given the reality of today's geopolitics, the optimists are probably right. To start with, the atmospherics were great. Secretary of state Hillary Clinton made special efforts to make the Indians feel good. Not only did she and her colleagues make the right noises at the dialogue, she threw a spanking good party at the state department on June 3. When she strode into the hall at 5 o'clock with the president of the United States in tow, the crowd looked impressed. She spoke warmly and wrote an oped the next day in this newspaper. President Barack Obama, looking surprisingly relaxed given the pummelling his administration is receiving on several fronts, spoke glowingly of the relationship and ribbed Clinton on her fondness for Indian food. When he announced he would visit India in November, the Indians present clapped loudly.

Clearly, the Americans had surmised correctly that we Indians like pomp and flattery. But the fact that they went out of their way to make us feel good must mean that they wanted to dispel the disquiet many Indians have been voicing lately about an apparent downgrading of India's status in America's geostrategic eyes. They wanted to tell the Indians, "Don't feel hurt. You are still very important to us."

The next morning many Indians had a cold shower.
Almost nothing about the strategic dialogue or the glittering state department reception appeared in the US media. The Washington Post had a tiny item on an inside page about Obama's planned India visit; TV channels and other major newspapers carried zilch. Now, contrast that with the coverage another strategic dialogue got a couple of weeks ago, the one with China in Beijing: frequent bulletins, TV discussions, news analyses, grave punditry, the works.

One pill we Indians need to swallow about today's world pecking order is this: China is sexy; India is not. It is, well, interesting, shows promise, but isn't quite there yet. China has an economy that is nearly four times ours in size. It has an astounding $2.5 trillion in foreign exchange reserves. It holds nearly a trillion dollars worth of US paper. It makes it a point to punch at its weight in global affairs, both as a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council and as the world's pre-eminent emerging powerhouse.

By force of circumstances, India is still a regional player.
New Delhi does not yet have a long strategic vision, one in which it sees itself exerting serious global influence in, say, 10 or 15 years. Even its Asia policy has to be necessarily Janus-faced, with one eye on China and the other on Pakistan. Perhaps that is how it will stay for the time being, given India's domestic developmental needs, internal and regional security challenges and a consequent unwillingness to stake out positions on global issues.

Therefore, when we pitch ourselves for a permanent, veto-empowered membership of the Security Council, we should be fully conscious of what we are asking for. As it is, a coming rotational membership of the council for two years can place us between a rock and a hard place. For instance, some diplomats are already worrying sotto voce about what position we would take if matters came to a crunch on Iran.
With a permanent membership will come great responsibility, not for just two years but on a permanent basis. We would have to take stands on global affairs, size up our alliance preferences and cut the coat of our tactical positions according to the cloth of our strategic worldview. There can be no harm in putting a few wise heads together to prepare a paper outlining India's view of the world a decade from now.

Meanwhile, to keep the US on our side, we might like to focus on just three areas: Close cooperation on global counterterrorism; staying in the loop on the endgame in Afghanistan; and rapidly intensifying the economic and technological side of the partnership. On all three fronts, the recent dialogue was fruitful.

Counterterrorism is high on the agenda of both sides. It figures prominently in the joint statement after the dialogue. The recent US-India Counterterrorism Initiative to increase collaboration, information-sharing and capacity-building is a step in the right direction. On Afghanistan, the joint statement firmly reiterates India's role in the reconstruction, development and stabilising of that beleaguered nation, apparently brushing aside private Pakistani grumblings over this matter. And on economic and technological issues, they both agreed to resolve the lingering problems over US export controls on high technology "in the spirit of the strategic partnership between the two countries". Let's hope it works.

Given the circumstances, the relationship got a boost through the dialogue. Plus, the US has since made positive statements about India's role in any expansion of the Security Council. And there were those canapes and glasses of champagne offered by Clinton.

The writer is FICCI-EWC fellow at the East West Centre.

Pakistan puppet masters guide the Taliban killers

June 13, 2010

THE Taliban commander waited at the ramshackle border crossing while Pakistani police wielding assault rifles stopped and searched the line of cars and trucks travelling into Afghanistan.

Some of the trucks carried smuggled goods — DVD players, car stereos, television sets, generators, children’s toys. But the load smuggled by Taliban fighter Qari Rasoul, a thickset Pashtun from Afghanistan’s Wardak province, was altogether more sinister.

Rasoul’s boot was full of remote-control triggers used to detonate the home-made bombs responsible for the vast majority of Nato casualties in Afghanistan. The three passengers sitting in his white Toyota estate were suicide bombers.

The policemen flagged down Rasoul’s car and began to search it. They soon found the triggers, hidden beneath a bundle of clothes in the back of the estate. They asked him who he was and who the triggers belonged to. “I’m a Taliban commander. They belong to me,” he told them.

Two policemen took Rasoul into their office in Chaman, a small town that borders Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan, and sat him down on a wooden chair.

Instead of arresting him, the elder policeman rubbed his thumb and index finger together and, smiling, said: “Try to understand.”

Rasoul phoned a Pakistani friend. Two hours later he was released, having paid the policemen 5,000 Pakistani rupees, the equivalent of about £40, each.

“That was the only time I ever faced problems crossing the border with Pakistan,” said Rasoul, who is responsible for delivering suicide bombers trained in Pakistani camps to targets in Afghanistan.

Pakistani support for the Taliban in Afghanistan runs far deeper than a few corrupt police officers, however. The Sunday Times can reveal that it is officially sanctioned at the highest levels of Pakistan’s government.

Pakistan’s own intelligence agency, the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), is said to be represented on the Taliban’s war council — the Quetta shura. Up to seven of the 15-man shura are believed to be ISI agents.

The former head of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, Amrullah Saleh, who resigned last week, said: “The ISI is part of the landscape of destruction in this country, no doubt, so it will be a waste of time to provide evidence of ISI involvement. They are a part of it.”

Testimony by western and Afghan security officials, Taliban commanders, former Taliban ministers and a senior Taliban emissary show the extent to which the ISI manipulates the Taliban’s strategy in Afghanistan.

Pakistani support for the Taliban is prolonging a conflict that has cost the West billions of dollars and hundreds of lives. Last week 32 Nato soldiers were killed.

According to a report published today by the London School of Economics, which backs up months of research by this newspaper, “Pakistan appears to be playing a double game of astonishing magnitude” in Afghanistan.

The report’s author, Matt Waldman, a Harvard analyst, argues that previous studies significantly underestimated the influence that Pakistan’s ISI exerts over the Taliban. Far from being the work of rogue elements, interviews suggest this “support is official ISI policy”, he says.

The LSE report, based on dozens of interviews and corroborated by two senior western security officials, states: “As the provider of sanctuary and substantial financial, military and logistical support to the insurgency, the ISI appears to have strong strategic and operational influence — reinforced by coercion. There is thus a strong case that the ISI orchestrates, sustains and shapes the overall insurgent campaign.”

The report also alleges that Asif Ali Zardari, the president of Pakistan, recently met captured Taliban leaders to assure them that the Taliban had his government’s full support. This was vigorously denied by Zardari’s spokesman. Pakistani troops have launched offensives against militants in North and South Waziristan.

However, a senior Taliban source in regular contact with members of the Quetta shura told The Sunday Times that in early April, Zardari and a senior ISI official met 50 high-ranking Taliban members at a prison in Pakistan.

According to a Taliban leader in the jail at the time, five days before the meeting prison officials were told to prepare for the impending presidential call. Prison guards wearing dark glasses served the Taliban captives traditional Afghan meals three times a day.

“They wanted to make the prisoners feel like they were important and respected,” the source said.

Hours before Zardari’s visit, the head warder told the Taliban inmates to impress upon the president how well they had been looked after during their time in captivity.

Zardari spoke to them for half an hour. He allegedly explained that he had arrested them because his government was under increasing American pressure to end the sanctuary enjoyed by the Taliban in Pakistan and to round up their ringleaders.

“You are our people, we are friends, and after your release we will of course support you to do your operations,” he said, according to the source.

He vowed to release the less well-known commanders in the near future and said that the “famous” Taliban leaders would be freed at a later date.

Five days after Zardari’s visit, a handful of Taliban prisoners, including The Sunday Times’s source, were driven into Quetta and set free, in line with the president’s pledge.

“This report is consistent with Pakistan’s political history in which civilian leaders actively backed jihadi groups that operate in Afghanistan and Kashmir,” Waldman said.

According to the source, during his visit to the prison Zardari also met Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s former second in command, who was arrested by the ISI earlier this year with seven other Taliban leaders.

Baradar, who is from the same tribe as Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, had allegedly approached the Afghan government to discuss the prospect of a peace settlement between the two sides.

Baradar’s arrest is seen in both diplomatic and Taliban circles as an ISI plot to manipulate the Taliban’s political hierarchy and also to block negotiations between the Kabul government and the Taliban leadership.

Shortly after Baradar’s arrest the ISI arrested two other Taliban members — Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir and his close associate and friend Mullah Abdul Rauf. Both men were released after just two nights in custody.

Following his release, Zakir, who spent years in custody in Guantanamo Bay, assumed command of the Taliban’s military wing, replacing Baradar. Rauf, also a former Guantanamo inmate, was immediately appointed chairman of the Quetta shura.

“To say the least, this is compelling evidence of significant ISI influence over the movement and it is highly likely that the release was on ISI terms or at least on the basis of a mutual understanding,” the LSE report states.

The promotions of Zakir and Rauf will give Pakistan greater leverage over future peace talks, Taliban and western officials said.

To ensure that the Pakistani government retains its influence over the Taliban’s leadership, the ISI has placed its own representatives on the Quetta shura, according to these officials.

Up to seven of the Afghan Taliban leaders who sit on the 15-man shura are believed to be ISI agents. However, some sources maintain that every member of the shura has ISI links.

“It is impossible to be a member of the Quetta shura without membership of the ISI,” said a senior Taliban intermediary who liaises with the Afghan government and Taliban leaders.

The LSE report states: “Interviews strongly suggest that the ISI has representatives on the shura, either as participants or observers, and the agency is thus involved at the highest levels of the movement.”

The two shura members who receive the strongest support from the ISI are Taib Agha, former spokesman for Mullah Omar, the Taliban supreme leader, and Mullah Hasan Rahmani, the former Taliban governor of Kandahar, according to the Taliban intermediary and western officials.

Strategies that the ISI encourages, according to Taliban commanders, include: cutting Nato’s supply lines by bombing bridges and roads; attacking key infrastructure projects; assassinating progovernment tribal elders; murdering doctors and teachers; closing schools and attacking schoolgirls.

ISI agents hand chits to Taliban commanders who use them to buy weapons at arms dumps in North Waziristan.

The Taliban’s “plastic bombs” — the low metal content improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that kill the majority of British soldiers who die in Afghanistan — were introduced to the Taliban by Pakistani officials, according to Taliban commanders, the Taliban intermediary and western officials. The materials allow Taliban sappers to plant bombs that can evade Nato mine detectors.

Rasoul, the Taliban commander from Wardak province, also alleged that the ISI pays 200,000 Pakistani rupees (£1,600) in compensation to the families of suicide bombers who launch attacks on targets in Afghanistan.

“They need vehicles, fuel and food. They need ammunition. They need money and guns. They need clinics and medicine. So who is providing these things to the Taliban if it’s not Pakistan?” a former Kabul police chief said.

In the eastern province of Khost, one commander described how Pakistani military trucks picked his men up from training camps in Pakistan and ferried them to the Afghan border at night.

Once at the border, Pakistanis dressed in military uniform gave the commander a list of targets inside Afghanistan. Taliban fighters then ferried the weapons and ammunition into Afghanistan using cars, donkeys, horses and camels.

“We post our men along our supply routes to protect the convoys once they are on Afghan turf,” said the Khost commander. “The [US] drones sometimes bomb our convoys and many times they have bombed our ammo stores.”

Camps within Pakistan train Taliban fighters in three different sets of skills: suicide bombing, bomb-making and infantry tactics. Each camp focuses on a different skill.

Pakistan’s support for the Taliban has sparked friction between the home-grown Taliban groups and those who are bankrolled to a greater extent by the ISI.

Many lower-level commanders in Afghanistan are angered by the degree to which the ISI dictates their operations.

“The ISI-backed Taliban are destroying the country. Their suicide bombings are the ones that kill innocent civilians. They are undoing the infrastructure with their attacks,” said a Taliban commander from Kandahar province.

Most commanders said they resented their comrades who received the largest slice of ISI support. They also said they knew about the ISI’s influence over their senior leadership. “There is already mistrust among the low-level fighters and commanders,” the Taliban intermediary said. “But they don’t really know the extent of it. They don’t believe that our leaders are ISI spies.”

Major-General Athar Abbas, Pakistan’s senior military spokesman, called the claim that the ISI has representatives on the Quetta shura “ridiculous”. He said: “The allegations are absolutely baseless.”

Farhatullah Babar, a spokesman for the Pakistani president, said: “There’s no such thing as President Zardari meeting Taliban leaders. This never happened.”

To see the full London School of Economics report, go to thesundaytimes.co.uk/world

The key player

Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) became enmeshed in Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion in 1979. The CIA used it to channel covert funds and weapons to Afghan mujaheddin groups fighting the Soviet army during the 10-year conflict.

A decisive factor in the Soviet defeat was the CIA’s decision to provide surface- to-air Stinger missiles.

Saudi Arabia, which, from the mid-1980s matched American funding for the insurgency dollar for dollar, also used the ISI to channel funds to the mujaheddin.

The American effort was promoted and supported by the late Texas congressman Charles Wilson, who fought to raise awareness and cash for the Afghan cause in the United States. His role was portrayed by Tom Hanks in the movie Charlie Wilson’s War.

The ISI continued to support groups of Afghan fighters long after the Russian withdrawal in 1989, often providing backing for brutal warlords in an attempt to install a pro-Pakistani government in Kabul.

The ISI backed the Taliban during their rise to power between 1994 and 1996. Pakistan’s prime minister at the time, Benazir Bhutto, believed the Taliban could stabilise Afghanistan.

East African Unity, Take II

The East African Community eyes full economic and political unity by 2015, but success will depend on whether governments take into account the heterogeneity of national political systems and the past regionalization failures, Edoardo Totolo writes for ISN Security Watch.

By Edoardo Totolo for ISN Security Watch


The East African Community (EAC) is about to embark on a three-step integration process that will lead to political and economic unification in 2015. If implemented, the plan would mark the realization of the dream of Mwalimu Nyerere - a father of pan-Africanism from the 1960s - who saw regionalization as the most effective path to African development.

The schedule is very tight. On 1 July, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi will take the first step with the abolishment of regional tariffs and the removal of barriers to the free movement of goods, capital and labor within the region.

This phase began already in 2005 with the creation of a customs union between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, which was joined later by Rwanda and Burundi in July 2009. However, next month the EAC common market will become fully operational.

The second step will be the creation of a monetary union with the adoption of the ‘East African shilling’ as a unique currency in 2012.

Finally, in 2015, the five countries will create a political federation, with the establishment of a single government and common economic institutions for the entire region.

This is the second attempt at integration in East Africa. The first EAC was created in 1917 by Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika (former Tanzania), but it collapsed in 1977 because of rising political and economic tensions between member states.

There are different opinions regarding the chances of success of this second regionalization project and the effects of unity on single national economies. Whereas some analysts point out that there will be winners and losers, others argue that the entire region will be strengthened.

The impression is that today there is the right combination of favorable conditions, including strong political will, sustained economic growth and popular participation. However, whereas economic integration seems reachable in the foreseeable future, rushing for political unity might jeopardize the entire project.

Integration challenges

The first problem is related to Kenya’s dominating role in the region and the ‘victims’ that increasing EAC competition may claim. Because of its stronger market, Kenya is likely to penetrate the neighboring economies and increase its exports at the expense of the other member states, in particular Tanzania.

This situation was a major cause of the previous EAC failure, which provoked a feeling of mistrust and skepticism about regionalization among Tanzanian citizens. That said, the situation seems to have changed in recent years, and the ground is now more fertile for integration.

Khalid Mlanga, project officer at the Tanzanian branch of the East African Community Youth Organization, told ISN Security Watch that “Tanzanians used to be skeptical about regionalization, but now they are aware of the great opportunities of the common market.

“Since the establishment of the customs union, exports from Tanzania to Kenya have increased more than imports. People still fear that the free movement of labor will increase the competition for jobs, but in general the feeling is that the benefits will be higher than the costs,” he said.

Mlanga’s argument is confirmed by a recent Afrobarometer survey which show that 67 percent of Tanzanians are in favor of the free movement of goods and services; 60 percent are in favor of the customs union, and 54 percent are in favor of the monetary union.

The trust in the monetary union is quite surprising, especially because the lack of a sound monetary policy was another major cause of the past EAC failure.

In 1967, in fact, the EAC decided to adopt a fixed-exchange-rate regime among the three currencies. However, since most of the valuable manufacturing goods were coming from Kenya, Tanzanians and Ugandans preferred to keep their savings in Kenyan shillings.

The consequence was that the Kenyan currency became very strong whereas those of Tanzania and Uganda became weaker. In the long run, the fixed exchange rate provoked the creation of a black market and major currency flight among the EAC countries. The situation evolved into a serious economic crisis and led eventually to the failure of the regionalization project.

Another great obstacle to the EAC, which finds no solution even today, is related to the heterogeneous political realities and the instability of some EAC members. Afrobarometer shows that whereas Tanzanian citizens are in favor of economic integration, only 23 percent of them approve of the creation of a single political entity.

According to Mlanga, there is no need to rush for a political federation, because of the little degree of homogeneity in the five countries. “We fear that the political federation is not possible at the present day because the countries are too different in political terms. Uganda, for example, is not even in line with the principles of democracy. Rwanda and Burundi are stabilizing, but they are too different from the Tanzanian and Kenyan political systems.[…] For now, we should focus only on economic integration,” he said.

In fact, in contrast to its neighbors, Tanzania has maintained political stability since independence and all presidents have complied with the constitutional limit of two terms of office. Uganda and Rwanda have been characterized by internal ethnic struggles and conflicts with the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Kenya was recently at the edge of a civil war after a post-election crisis and there are concerns for the next round of elections in 2012.

It seems reasonable that Tanzanians want neighboring countries to solve their own internal problems before creating a single political entity. This will probably be one of the core points of the future negotiations.

‘Conditional’ optimism

Compared to the previous regionalization attempts, today’s has a greater chance of success simply because it is supported by both the governments and the citizens, whereas the first EAC was a purely colonial in nature, conducted under the guidance of the UK and with the aim of strengthening the settlers’ economy.

Moreover, some optimism comes from the fact that even though East Africa remains one of the most impoverished regions in the world ($506 of per capita GDP), it is expected to be the fastest increasing regional economy in Africa for the next two years, with a growth rate of over 6 percent, followed by West Africa at 5 percent, and 4 percent in Southern and Central Africa.

If during this period of sustained growth the EAC will be able to accompany the policies of market integration with investments in infrastructure and against corruption, success will not be so elusive.

It is important to consider that even though regional tariffs have been abolished, a recent survey calculated that at least 21 percent of shipping costs from Rwanda to Kenya is spent in bribes and corruption. Businesses face additional costs thanks to poor infrastructure.

Arguably, improving infrastructure and tackling corruption are two key priorities for this second attempt at regionalization, and they are necessary preconditions for political integration. That said, just like political unification, these objectives could prove extremely difficult to pursue in the short term.

Edoardo Totolo is a PhD candidate at the doctoral school in Local Development and Global Dynamics, University of Trento. His fields of expertise are private sector development and the impact of informal economies on human security in Sub-Saharan Africa.