March 12, 2011

LIBYA: The pen versus the sword

The Gaddafi's enjoyed a political facelift from the West whilst carefully avoiding blowback - until now.
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2011 15:32 GMT

The quill may be mightier than the sword. But this is a story of how some Western academics have succumbed to the power of the cheque book.

Which leads me to ask the question: is it money that makes the world go round? Whatever happened to the strength of liberal ideals, humanism, democracy and all that spiel?

There is a Libyan connection, which is the context of this story. Maybe Gaddafi, sons and henchmen have survived till now and may kill more Libyans due to the fact that many experts and academics, some brilliant voices of the global democratic agenda, have chosen to accept the Libyan regime's illicit funding over the ethics they preach to their own students.

Knowledge is power

It may be so that knowledge is power, but surely not when knowledge serves dictatorships.

I first wrote this story for Al Jazeera more than two weeks ago. A few months ago Libyan friends (who have lost loved ones in the fight for Zawiya and before for Benghazi) shared with me and others documents coming from Monitor Group, the Harvard-based global consulting group.

This is the firm which was hired by the Gaddafis to revamp their image. That was before the eruption of the current anti-Gaddafi uprising in Libya.

A few observations are noteworthy here.

The Gaddafis have missed the traffic of information circulated by Libyans within Libya recording the visits, payments, lectures, and visits to either the Gaddafis or the colonel's so-called 'Green Book Centre'. Libyans have been for some time questioning Western complicity in extending the life of one of the worst regimes in the region.

Colonel Gaddafi, more than anything else, has struggled and failed all of his political life to emerge on the world stage as a thinker. He failed dismally and no serious scholar has taken his 'Green Book' seriously.

I had occasion to read it when writing The Search for Arab Democracy, suffice to say that those hours have been lost forever.

However, Gaddafi and his sons fully appreciate the value of ideas for the Libyan state after the lifting of international sanctions. They, especially Saif al-Islam, realised that in politics, ideas are instrumental to the reproduction of power.

Saif, groomed by his father as political heir, was being educated by the best - the London School of Economics.

Saif has been on a long quasi-presidential campaign for years. He has been recruiting and cultivating loyal followers by funding their higher education in Western universities.

One of these is a former undergraduate student of mine who graduated several years ago from the University of Exeter. His name is Musa Ibrahim, a member of the Qadhadhifa, who now serves as a spokesperson for the regime while it wages an illegal war for survival against its own citizens.

Where did the West go wrong?

Let's reverse this standard question Orientalists have traditionally asked in reference to Arabs and Muslims. Arabs are today knocking on the doors of tyrants to seek their own answers locally.

The collaboration of those Western global actors driven by self-interest or self-importance with authoritarianism warrants this question. Regimes like those ousted in Tunisia and Egypt survived because they were brutal - and the technology of violence at their disposal was Western.

Many Western governments may have practised democracy for longer, but they also did so via support of autocracy.

The killings going on right now in Libya display the extent to which the Libyan regime has been misjudged.

Under Bush, the neo-cons sought to re-order the region, including by force (e.g Iraq). Maybe Libya was intended to be remodelled by approving and grooming acceptable dynastic heirs (plausibly the same for Egypt).

Libya's vast riches (40 billion barrels of oil reserves, potential business deals, well-stashed sovereign wealth fund), might have been what saved Gaddafi.

But the Gaddafi regime should have fallen at the turn of the new millennium, around the same time when Baghdad was sacked by the US-led 'coalition of the willing'.

However, Western political establishments chose to subdue Gaddafi's Libya and conquer it economically, thus giving Gaddafi's failed state a longer lease on life. There is no surprise here: economic gain often prevails over moral principles in the international relations of the Middle East.

Western academics were complicit in all of this, giving the 'butcher of Tripoli' an undeserved respite.

Yet months after they prevailed over Saddam, the neocons' message reached Gaddafi: he was ready to play ball with the West. In August of 2003, Libya agreed a $2.7 billion compensation package for the families of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing victims.

In December 2003, Gaddafi gave Bush an unusual Christmas present by renouncing terrorism and giving up his WMDs programme.

In early 2004 Tony Blair's visit to the Gaddafis signalled the rehabilitation of the Libyan dictatorship. Whether Blair was or was not making business for BP or acting in an advisory or consultancy capacity to the Gaddafis and their Libyan Investment Authority is incidental.

What was particularly interesting is that the Gaddafis worked with the very man whose power play in Iraq led to the ousting of Saddam.

Enter 'Monitor Group': Reinventing Gaddafi!

Souffl├ęs, it is said, do not rise twice.

Monitor Group (MG) is in the business of a different type of cooking: consulting governments and business.

In undertaking in 2006 to help Libya shed its pariah status and ease it into a zone of "enhanced economic development", MG defined two goals for its Herculean task:

1. "enhance international understanding and appreciation of Libya and the contribution it has made and may continue to make to its region and to the world"

2. "to introduce Muammar Gaddafi as a thinker and intellectual, independent of his more widely-known and very public persona as the Leader of the Revolution in Libya."

Harvard Business Professor Michael Porter's expertise was sought to revamp the economy of a police state in which the likes of Gaddafi, his brother-in-law Abdullah Sanoussi - who dealt with MG - had their hands tainted with the blood of Libyans and foreigners.

Sanoussi is the man who had a part in the killing of 1,200 political detainees in the Bou Slim prison in 1996. The cabal advising Gaddafi on security included Musa Kusa, Touhami Khalid, and Abdullah Mansour. Two other associates, Matug Al-Warfalli and Abd Al-Qadir Al-Baghdadi, may be linked with the slaying of policewoman Yvonne Fletcher in April 1984.

This is hardly the kind of stuff that would be unknown to men and women of high learning.

The MG strategy aimed to "introduce to Libya important international figures".

Once having been to Libya or met with Gaddafi and Saif, these high profile academics, journalists, politicians and businessmen are multi-tasked with "influencing other nations policies towards" Libya; "making a contribution to economic development"; gaining "a more sensitive understanding" of the country; and becoming "part of a network building bridges between Libya and the rest of the world."

The idea is that these international personalities share through major media outlets their knowledge about the 'new Libya' to combat stereotypes.

Is it Libya that these actors, and MG's work, were packaging to the world? Saif did not consult with the Libyan people about his national economic strategy, which Porter was recruited to develop.

Note the similarity between Gamal Mubarak and Saif al-Islam Gaddafi in their preference of privatisation.

Anyone who reads MG's 'Executive Summary of Phase 1' entitled "Project to Enhance the Profile of Libya Muammar Gaddafi" is left with no doubt that Saif was being groomed for taking over Libya's leadership.

Note also that MG was helping Mu'tassim, Saif's younger brother, in setting up a National Security Council.

Literati or spin doctors?

Richard Perle going to Libya is something. But why did Francis Fukuyama, Anthony Giddens, Bernard Lewis, Nicholas Negroponte, Benjamin Barber, Joseph Nye, and Robert Putnam meet Gaddafi?

Some of these names were guest speakers at the Green Book Centre. Libyans who criticise the Green Book end up losing their employment, freedom or both.

Lewis wanted to learn specifically about Gaddafi's idea of 'Isratin' (a joint Israeli-Palestinian state). Lewis according to the 'Executive Summary' shared his findings with Israel and the US.

Barber was deluding only himself when his 2007 Washington Post article seemed to do exactly GM's PR work, crediting Gaddafi with "an extraordinary capacity to rethink his country's role in a changed and changing world."

The several meetings with the Gaddafis, father and son, earned him a seat in the board of Saif's Foundation for International Development, the very foundation that turned human rights the exclusive bastion of Saif - excluding, for instance, human rights activist Fathi al-Jahmi, amongst others.

Like Barber, writing in 2006 in the New Statesman, Giddens brags about Gaddafi, granting him audience for more than three hours, not the standard half-hour political leaders (supposedly like Blair) give their visitors.

Giddens makes it clear in his article that Gaddafi and he did not agree on the meaning of democracy. Nonetheless, and for some reason, Giddens left the Colonel, convinced of Gaddafi's "conversion" away from terrorism and pursuit of disarmament.

His article observes GM's packaging instructions. He talks about Gaddafi's "global prominence", "egalitarianism", intelligence, and, of course, the Green Book.

Gaddafi younger - Saif - is today renamed by Libyan dissidents 'Zaif', meaning fraudulence. There are many names of Libyan professors linked with the writing of his academic work.

However, in many Western political and intellectual establishments he was treated as 'the chosen one'.

Elisabeth Rosenthal's piece in the New York Times in September 2007 heaps even more praise on Saif than Giddens, highlighting the rise of his political stardom, describing him as "un-Gaddafi".

MG amassed so much brain power for its Libya campaign. Yet how could so much misreading of the Gaddafis come from leading scholars?

Saif's February speech showed him to be a monster in the closet, not the democratic subjectivity the LSE reconstituted.

Dr Larbi Sadiki is a Senior Lecturer in Middle East Politics at the University of Exeter, and author of Arab Democratisation: Elections without Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2009) and The Search for Arab Democracy: Discourses and Counter-Discourses (Columbia University Press, 2004), forthcoming Hamas and the Political Process (2011).

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.



While wishing and hoping for a long life for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, one has to mentally prepare onself to the eventuality of his being no more with us one day and think of how to keep the Tibetan cause alive after him. To talk of likely scenarios after he leaves this world should not be misinterpreted as disrespect to him.

2. One thing is certain. After the death of His Holiness, he legitimacy of his spiritual successor is going to be questioned----whether who is his re-incarnation is decided by Tibetan elders respected by their community or by surrogates of the Communist Party of China (CPC). As has happened in the case of the institution of the Panchen Lama---one has to expect a long period of contention between two Dalai Lamas, one chosen by Tibetan elders in accordance with Tibetan traditions and the selection of the other manipulated by the CPC.

3. There is bound to be a long period of vacuum in the exercise of the spiritual authority of His Holiness till the question of the legitimacy of the succession is decided and the person chosen by the Tibetan elders has completed his spiritual education and is in a position to exercise his spiritual authority.

4. During this period, the wise men of the Tibetan-Government-in Exile will have to carefully guide the Tibetan people, maintain and strengthen traditions and ensure that the Tibetan cause is not suffocated to death by the CPC by taking advantage of any confusion caused in the Tibetan community inside China as well as abroad by the death of His Holiness and the subsequent controversy that might be engineered by the CPC on the question of his succession.

5. To be able to guide the Tibetan people on the right lines and to defeat the machinations of the CPC, it is important that a political leader enjoying the confidence of His Holiness when he is still alive and commanding the respect of the people is already in position when His Holiness quits this world. It will be unwise to postpone the selection of such person till after the death of His Holiness.

6. His Holiness wears two hats----as the political and administrative head of the Tibetan people and as their spiritual head. The spiritual authority has to be exercised by His Holiness so long as he is alive. It cannot be delegated by him to anybody else.

7. But, his political and administrative authority can be delegated to someone enjoying the confidence of His Holiness and the Tibetan people even when His Holiness is alive. His Holiness will be in a position to ensure that the selection of his political and administrative successor is done in a smooth manner without causing any differences among his followers in Tibet as well as abroad.

8. This process of selecting a separate political and administrative authority by the appropriate institutions of the Tibetan community has to start now without further delay. In this context, the suggestion made by His Holiness on the 52nd anniversary of the “Tibetan Uprising Day”, which was observed by the Tibetan people all over the world on March 10,2011, that the time has come for him to hand over political authority to a freely elected leader is very wise and needs to be seriously considered by his followers. They should avoid reacting to it emotionally and rejecting it when the suggestion comes up for approval before the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile.

9. They should give it serious consideration and approve it and facilitate the election of a suitable political leader enjoying the blessings of His Holiness. ( 12-3-11)

( 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: )

March 11, 2011

Major Tsunami Strikes Japan After 8.9-Magnitude Earthquake

11 Mar 11

A major earthquake struck Japan today, triggering a ten-metre tsunami that has caused extensive damage across north-eastern Japan, and setting off tsunami alerts across the Pacific region

A major earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale struck Japan today, triggering a tsunami. Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures in Japan's north-east have been worst affected, with Tokyo also reporting some earthquake-related damage.
Coastal regions across Asia are now braced for possible tsunamis caused by the tremors over the coming hours.
It is too early to assess the extent of the damage caused by the powerful earthquake and tsunami as aftershocks and possible tsunamis remain ongoing risks.
Risk Ratings
Owing to the extensive damage caused to infrastructural networks in Japan, particularly in the north-west, IHS Global Insight has downgraded the Operational Risk Rating by 0.5, from 1.75 to 2.25.

Earthquake Triggers Tsunami

A major earthquake struck the north-east of Japan, triggering a tsunami that has caused extensive damage. The tremor occurred at 2:46 PM local time, approximately 400 km from Tokyo, off the coast of the main island of Honshu near the city of Sendai. The Japanese Meteorological Agency said that the quake had a magnitude of 8.4, while the US Geological Survey recorded 8.9 on the Richter scale. Television images showed waves of roughly 10 metres roaring inland. The waves hit Japan's Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, and the initial impact and damage appears extensive. Japan's Kyodo News agency reported 32 deaths about five hours after the quake, with the death toll set to increase substantially over the coming days. Helicopter footage has showed severe flooding in northern coastal towns, where the waves tipped massive cargo vessels on their sides and sent fishing trawlers crashing inland. Vehicles and houses have been swept away and Sendai airport has been completely inundated. Outside the city, aerial footage has captured a moving blanket of water. Japan remains braced for further aftershocks and tsunamis to hit over the coming hours.

Thirty minutes after the earthquake, buildings began to sway in Tokyo and mobile phone networks across central and northern Japan were not working. In central Tokyo, thousands of people rushed out of skyscrapers into the streets, parks, and squares. Plumes of smoke have been reported in a number of locations across the city. Transport networks have been brought to a standstill. Narita airport has been closed, flights suspended, and all passengers evacuated. At the same time, the Tokyo underground and bullet trains to the north of the country have been halted. Tokyo Electric Power reported that 4.05 million buildings have no electricity. Japanese utility company Hokuriku Electric Company said that all three of its nuclear reactors at its Onagawa plant in northern Japan have shut down automatically. The earthquake has resulted in 11 nuclear generation units being shutdown altogether, which has contributed to the power shortages, although it appears that nuclear radiation leaks have been avoided. A major fire has been confirmed by local fire services at Cosmo Oil's 220,000 b/d oil refinery in Chiba prefecture, which is reportedly in the oil storage tank area. The fire was reportedly spreading, suggesting that damage to the refinery could be significant.

Prime Minister Despatches Military

Prime Minister Naoto Kan called an emergency cabinet meeting shortly after the earthquake struck. He has said that the natural disaster has caused serious damage across large areas of the country, emphasising that the Tokyo government was making "every effort possible" to minimise damage. Although there have been no reports of leakage of radioactive materials to the environment, Tokyo has declared a "nuclear emergency" after attempts to cool down a nuclear reactor in a power plant in Fukushima failed to achieve the desired result. Prime Minister Kan has despatched military planes and naval vessels from near Tokyo to the worst-affected regions in Miyagi in order to assess the need for rescue efforts. A senior Japanese official said that the government has received international offers of assistance and that they would be inclined to accept them. The United Nations said 30 international search and rescue teams are on standby to provide assistance.

Quake Sparks Slew of Regional Alerts

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii has extended a tsunami warning across most of the Pacific Ocean, cautioning that the wave would hit the Pacific coastal areas of Russia, Guam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Hawaii, Taiwan, Papua New Guinea, and Australia. It added that the wave could reach as far as Central and South American countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru. Authorities in Indonesia have warned people living in eastern areas, such as Maluku, Papua, and North Sulawesi to stay out of the water and to seek higher ground as they expect waves up to two metres high. In the Philippines, the government has issued a warning for 19 provinces along the coast, asking people to move inland in anticipation of waves as high as one metre. In Taiwan, the weather bureau has warned that the waves will arrive on the eastern coast of the island at Taitung, Hualien, and Keelung, warning citizens to take the necessary precautions.

The Russian authorities have evacuated 11,000 people from the Kurils, a chain of islands disputed with Japan. Russia's Sakhalin Tsunami Centre located in the country's far east, has reported that the first waves of tsunami have already reached the islands, the biggest one being one-metre high at Shikotan, one of the Kuril Islands. The centre has warned that the second and third waves may be bigger. The Russian natural resources ministry has also reported that all economic activities have been suspended on all four Kuril Islands. Following the news of the deadly earthquake, Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev offered his country's assistance to Japan to overcome the consequences of the disaster.

The US territories of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, which are the closest US soil to Japan, have cleared their shores, as has the state of Hawaii, on the other side of the Pacific. The low-lying islands of Tuvalu, Tokelau, and Kiribati are regularly flooded by higher than usual tides, so are at particular risk. Nevertheless, there have been indications that the impact may not be as devastating as was initially feared. The Republic of the Marshall Islands, which lies to the south and east of Guam, has downgraded its alert status to "tsunami watch". New Zealand has issued a marine warning, indicating that there is no danger to land but that people should stay out of the sea. New Zealand Civil Defence is predicting waves of less than one metre hitting North Island. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has said there is no tsunami threat to Australia. China's National Marine Environmental Forecasting Centre said it was not at risk of a tsunami striking its coast, while both India's National Tsunami Early Warning Centre and Sri Lanka's Meteorology Department reported no threats.

Outlook and Implications

Earthquakes are common in Japan, which is located on a seismically active area known as the "Ring of Fire"—an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones that stretches around the Pacific Rim. Tokyo sits on the intersection of three continental plates, which results in serious seismic pressure. The 1923 Great Kanto earthquake took more than 140,000 lives. In general, the country is well-equipped to deal with tremors, and buildings are systematically constructed to take into account such risks, using expensive materials such as steel and ferro-concrete. Coastal cities have long had tsunami-protection measures in place. In this instance, Japan has been on high alert since an earthquake occurred on 9 March 2011, with a magnitude of 7.2. Nuclear power plants and bullet trains are designed to automatically shut down during tremors. However, the latest earthquake and subsequent tsunami are extremely unusual owing to their sheer size and intensity. Indeed, the quake is the largest in magnitude since the 9.1 tremor that caused the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. Although the main concentration of industrial Japan appears unaffected, the extent of the infrastructural damage will be severe. The earthquake and tsunami could also negatively impact on the country's economy while exacerbating the country's ballooning public debt issues, as spending by the Tokyo government will spike to carry out emergency response measures. The regional economy is heavily dependent on growing rice and there will be repercussions for industries operating close to the coast, particularly the fishing and shrimp industry. Meanwhile, the impact of the natural disaster is already being felt across Asia's financial markets, intensifying the uncertainty amid political turmoil in the Middle East and concerns over European debt. Owing to the extensive damage caused to infrastructural networks in Japan, particularly in the north-west, IHS Global Insight has downgraded the Operational Risk Rating by 0.5, from 1.75 to 2.25.

Massive Quake, Tsunami Hit Japan

The fifth-largest earthquake on record struck near Japan, doing direct damage to homes and businesses, and generating a tsunami that devastated at least a few coastal communities.

IHS Global Insight Perspective


Early reports are sketchy, but it appears Japan has suffered significant damage from the quake and tsunami.


As the world's third-largest economy, any negative impact on Japan could have repercussions for the rest of the world.


Damage done by the disaster will hurt consumption and output in the near term, but should be offset by reconstruction spending later this year.

A large earthquake, 8.9 on the Richter scale, occurred just offshore of northern Japan, causing both quake damage and sending a tsunami into low-lying, unprotected areas. The extent of damage is unclear at this point. Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the quake caused serious damage, and striking video footage has shown the tsunami sweeping through agricultural fields in Miyagi prefecture, while fishing boats in Aomori were pushed inland into buildings and bridges. In Iwate prefecture, coastal homes were destroyed by the tidal wave, while other homes caught fire, likely due to broken gas lines.

Extent of Damage

At this early stage, damage to manufacturing facilities and office buildings appears moderate. There has been considerable light damage—ceiling tiles and store facades falling, food products knocked off shelves—throughout much of Japan. More seriously, at a brewery, 10-meter tall storage tanks were knocked over, and a refinery caught fire. So far, major collapses, such as those seen in the Hanshin earthquake in Kobe in 1995, have not yet been reported.

Although much of northern Japan is sparsely populated, the city of Sendai is home to roughly one million people. This accounts for nearly half of the population of Miyagi prefecture; the prefecture in turn makes up nearly 2% of Japan's GDP thanks to its well-developed manufacturing base. It is still not clear whether many of these facilities shut down because of earthquake damage or a lack of electricity. In parts of Japan further from the epicentre, the earthquake immediately led to shutdowns of electricity generation plants, trains, and the Narita airport. Most of these closures appear to be precautionary; inspection over the weekend will reveal the extent of any damage. In fact, the Narita airport was later reopened.

Comparison to Kobe

The Kobe earthquake resulted in USD100 billion of damage, and required years of rebuilding. It also led to a tightening of building regulations, which may now be limiting damage in northern Japan. In addition, many densely populated areas of coastal Japan have extensive seawalls to block tsunamis (one of the few benefits of the government's surge in public works spending in the 1990s). Thus, optimistically, northern Japan may avoid the massive destruction one would normally expect from such a large earthquake and tsunami. Nevertheless, if even a small fraction of homes and structures are destroyed—or become structurally unsound and need to be rebuilt—then the damages would be in the tens of billions of dollars.


The economic effects of the disaster are already felt. The yen strengthened several percentage points, as overseas funds were repatriated into Japan. This actually led to a rise in the price of Japanese bonds, although this situation is likely to reverse as the government ramps up spending—and deficit financing—to repair the damage. Also, note that any significant appreciation of the yen, e.g., past 80/USD1.0, would cause the Bank of Japan to intervene to limit the yen's strength.

In the near term, there will be a negative influence on household spending in the northern areas, although it is possible that consumption spending for Japan overall will still manage to show an increase in the first quarter. Exactly what happens to the eaproduction side of the economy in the near term will depend on the extent of damage in the northern facilities. In any event, it should be noted that, the grter the damage to residential or business capital, the greater will be the subsequent construction effort. So the Japanese economy will see a short-term loss, followed by an offsetting rise as reconstruction gets under way. This will not be a problem for the private sector, which has considerable savings and high cash holdings. It does worsen the government's fiscal situation, requiring even more borrowing in the near term. In theory, additional spending for quake/tsunami damage would only add a few percentage points to the 200% debt/GDP ratio. Considering that Japan's sovereign debt was recently downgraded, financial markets may become more wary of even an incremental increase in government borrowing and bond issuance

Arab world witnesses more protests

Several countries across the Arab world have witnessed fresh anti-government protests, although "Day of Rage" demonstrations planned in Saudi Arabia failed to materialise in the wake of a security clampdown.

Demonstrations in Saudi Arabia were supposed to start in after Friday prayers at noon but as the mosques emptied there were no signs of rallies, with security forces manning checkpoints in key locations across several cities.

Online activists using Facebook and Twitter had called for the "Day of Rage" and a "Saudi March 11 revolution" demanding a fully elected parliament and ruler.

In the strategic Olaya commercial centre of the capital Riyadh, where protesters were urged to congregate, hundreds of security personnel surrounded the mosque and inspected motorists' identification documents.

Clerics sermonised against demonstrations, saying public agitation was unjustified under Islamic teachings and would only spread chaos.

The Red Sea port city of Jeddah, the second biggest Saudi city, was also calm with a significant numbers of police on the streets.

Tensions were high in the eastern province city of Qatif, where three Shia protesters were shot and wounded by police dispersing a demonstration late on Thursday.

The shooting happened when several hundred protesters, all Shia and including women, took to the streets of the city to demand the release of nine Shia prisoners, said a witness, requesting anonymity.

A small demonstration calling for reforms and the release of Shia prisoners also took place Friday, a witness told the AFP news agency, but there were no reports of unrest.

Two activists said more than 200 protesters had rallied in the city of Hofuf, which is close to the eastern Ghawar oil field and major refinery installations.

The city has seen scattered protests in the last two weeks by minority Shias, who complain of discrimination in the face of the country's dominant Sunni majority.

Kuwait demonstration

In Kuwait, elite anti-riot police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of stateless Arab protesters who were
demanding citizenship and other rights.

About 500 demonstrators took to the streets in Jahra, west of Kuwait City, the capital, following Friday prayers, despite a stern warning against protests from the new interior minister.

"Stateless since 50 years, we demand citizenship," read a huge banner in English as protesters chanted "we will not leave without a solution".

There were other protests in Sulaibiya, southwest of Kuwait City, and in the oil-rich city of Al-Ahmadi, south of the capital.

Stateless Arabs, known locally as bidoons and estimated at more than 100,000, protested last month for three consecutive days until officials gave them assurances that their grievances would be addressed.

But parliament on Tuesday refused to debate a draft bill that would give them civil rights.

Bahrain march

Thousands of opposition activists heading towards Bahrain's royal court have been prevented from marching on the king's palace.

Carrying Bahraini flags and flowers, the mainly Shia protesters began walking from the Aly area to Riffa, a district of Manama, the capital, where Sunnis and members of the royal family live.

Near a clocktower in Riffa, about 1,000 residents armed with clubs gathered to block the protesters' advance.

More than 200 riot police armed with batons blocked off the road with barbed wire, persuading most protesters to go home.

Police pushed back a group of rock-throwing Sunnis who approached police lines and fired tear gas to disperse Shias
trying to get around the roadblock.

Medical sources said one person was seriously injured.

"The royal family has lots of palaces and houses here. We're peaceful. We want to go to their house and ask for our rights," said Ahmed Jaafar, as he set off from Aly. "Power should not be with one family, it should be with the people."

Bahrain, home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, has been gripped by the worst unrest since the 1990s when protesters took to the streets last month, inspired by uprisings that unseated entrenched autocratic rulers in Egypt and Tunisia.

Seven people have been killed in clashes with security forces and thousands of the February 14 youth movement still occupy Pearl roundabout, a busy intersection in the capital.

Sectarian violence has begun to increase in the Gulf island where the majority of people are Shia Muslim but the ruling family is Sunni.

Yemen deaths

Tens of thousands of protesters marched in Yemen on Friday, drawing record crowds in Sanaa, the capital, to show Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president, his reform offers would not soften their demand for his immediate departure.

Yemenis flooded streets and alleys around Sanaa University in the biggest protest to hit the capital since demonstrations began in January.

Thousands of Saleh loyalists also crammed the capital's Tahrir Square, carrying pictures of the veteran leader.

Hashem Ahelbarra, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Sanaa, said there were reports that at least four people had been injured in clashes between the protesters and government loyalists.

Protests turned violent in the southern port city of Aden, where three people were wounded by gunfire and six overcome by tear gas as police tried to disperse thousands of marchers.

Unidentified armed men killed four soldiers on patrol east of Mukalla city in Hadhramaut province, in southeast Yemen.

Security source accused al-Qaeda operatives of being behind the attack.

A wave of unrest has weakened Saleh's 32-year grip on his impoverished nation, with about 30 people killed since January.

Iraq protests

In Iraq, hundreds of protesters are demanding jobs and better basic services, in the latest challenge to the government.

About 500 protesters turned up in Baghdad's Tahrir Square on Friday, with a similar amount in the city of Fallujah west of the capital.

Deomonstrations were also reported in several other cities, including Sulaymaniyah in the north and Basra in the south.

Iraq's government has been shaken by a string of rallies across the country since the beginning of February

Unstringing China's strategic pearls

By Billy Tea

Ever since the term "String of Pearls" was coined by a team of experts at United States-based consultancy Booz Allen in 2004, journalists and academics have overplayed China's supposedly malevolent involvement with countries along its Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC), which stretch from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean.

For them it was easy to believe that China, a country once known more for its bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989 and one-child population control policy than its strategic might, had a hidden strategy to build military bases along its SLOC. Now, with the recent announcement that China plans to increase its military budget by 12.7% year-on-year, the "String of Pearls" strategy is expected to receive new critical attention and commentary.

There is still scant concrete evidence that China is currently or in the near

future planning to build and maintain military bases along its SLOC. Indeed, to date the controversial theory is based more on speculation than fact. According to the 2005 Washington Post article that galvanized the debate, the "String of Pearls" refers to China's supposed aim to leverage diplomatic and commercial ties to build strategic bases stretching from the Middle East to southern China in order to protect its energy interests as well as "broader security objectives".

A map taken from the original Booz Allen report shows that China is intimately involved with countries along its SLOC in the Indian Ocean, including Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. In the Washington Post article, China was said to be building a container port facility at Chittagong, Bangladesh but at the same time was "seeking much more extensive naval and commercial access".

In Myanmar, China was supposedly building naval bases and had established electronic intelligence gathering facilities on the nearby Coco islands in the Bay of Bengal [1]. At Hainan Island, the supposed first in the chain of strategic pearls off the coast of China, the article said China was being allowed to "project air and sea power". Moreover, based on the Booz Allen map, China was said to be establishing a naval base and surveillance facilities in Pakistan.

Viewing a map of China's SLOC, there is certainly a correlation between China's relations with these countries and its energy security policy. Nearly 80% of China's fuel is imported, mostly from the Middle East and North Africa, and those shipments must travel through several strategic "choke points" along the way, including through the particularly narrow Strait of Malacca. But correlation does not always signify a causal effect.

The "String of Pearls" theory is based partially on the fact that China possesses one of the world's largest commercial shipping fleets and relies heavily on international maritime commerce. Energy imports carried on tankers from the Persian Gulf and Africa traverse often treacherous regions, including the threat of long-range pirates operating from Somalia. In accordance with those threats, China has developed diplomatic, economic and military relations with respective Indian Ocean countries. However, it is a large hypothetical leap to assert these relations are driven by a longer-term desire to construct actual military bases along its SLOC.

Ever since the publication of the Washington Post's alarmist article, journalists and researchers have hyped China's intentions in the Indian Ocean. For example, Commander Kamlesh Kumar Agnihotri, a research fellow at New Delhi's National Maritime Foundation, penned a paper in February 2010 entitled: "Chinese Quest for a Naval Base in the Indian Ocean - Possible Options for China" that weighs and outlines China's supposed "global power projection thinking". Retired Indian army Brigadier S K Chatterji painted a more threatening portrait of China's involvement with South Asian countries in his September 2010 article "Chinese String of Pearls could Choke India".

Strategic commerce
In analyzing China's supposed strategic "pearls", three key characteristics stand out. First and foremost, China does have some involvement in the identified ports. But with the exception of Sri Lanka's Hambantota and perhaps Myanmar's Sittwe, they are used not only by China and there are currently no signs whatsoever of any developments for future military purposes.

Second, while there is no denying that China has an interest in building relations with strategically located countries, it is important to understand the great power context these countries face. To openly side with China over other regional powers, including India and the United States, would be extremely risky diplomacy for these smaller countries.

Indeed, in today's globalized world, choosing one great power's side over another's unnecessarily limits countries' economic and political options. That's especially true for less-developed countries like Myanmar, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka - all of which are reliant on foreign trade, aid and investment and for development purposes need all they can get. In the current geopolitical context, countries stand to gain the most by subtly playing great power off one another, rather than committing to one in particular.

Third, government officials in the respective "pearl" countries have openly repudiated reports they have given China any preferential treatment and that Beijing is quietly building and/or planning to build military bases in their sovereign territories.

Hainan Island, located off China's coast in the South China Sea and often referred to as the first pearl in the chain, has often been at the center of this debate. In 2008, the United Kingdom-based Daily Telegraph newspaper claimed that China had built a secret underground nuclear submarine base at Yulin Naval Base on the southern tip of Hainan.

The report followed on US estimates that China would have five operational nuclear submarines, each capable of carrying 12 JL-2 nuclear missiles, by 2010. [2] Because Hainan island is China's sovereign territory, there has been no denial that Beijing maintains a military base there. Whether or not the base is dedicated more to securing China's SLOC or asserting its territorial claims in the South China Sea is less clear.

Bangladesh's Chittagong port is the country's principal seaport, currently handling around 92% of its import-export trade. The cash-strapped government in Dhaka does not have the finances needed to modernize the port and China, a long standing ally, recently agreed to help fund upgrades. [3] Bangladeshi authorities along with their Chinese counterparts set out an $8.7 billion development plan to raise bulk cargo handling capacity to 100 million tons and containers handling of three million 20 feet equivalent unit containers annually by 2055. [4] The ambitious plan also involves the development of a deep sea port and a road connecting Bangladesh to China via Myanmar. [5]

Because Chittagong port handles the majority of the country's trade, the scheme would appear to make rational business sense from China's perspective and the planned new connecting roadway. In 2010, India, Nepal and Bhutan also received Bangladesh's approval to use the port for trade. Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Mani said in March last year he had tried to woo China into a similar agreement, but as of 2011 there has not been any development suggesting China will use the port for its trade. [6] The strengthening of Sino-Bangladeshi relations is a matter of strategic concern for both India and the US. Mani has stated publicly that China's involvement in building a deep sea port was only for economic purposes. He said that Bangladesh was acting as a "bridge" between China and India and would never let its territory be used for military attacks. [7] Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that the plans were part of her government's strategy to connect Bangladesh to the greater Asian region in order to develop its markets and promote economic growth "in the interest of the people of this country." [8]

Myanmar's Sittwe port, a small facility considered another of China's "pearl", is situated approximately 265 kilometers south of Chittagong. However, it was India - not China - that agreed to a contract with Myanmar in April 2009 for the development of the so-called Kaladan Transport Project, which includes plans for the development of the Sittwe port. The Indian company Essar Projects is currently building a coastal port at Sittwe and a river jetty at Paletwa.

As part of the same project, an additional 120 kilometers of road will be built in Myanmar from the river terminal in Paletwa to the India-Myanmar border in the northeast. The project is scheduled for completion in three years at a cost of between $75-$120 million, which will be financed entirely by New Delhi.

Both countries hope that the project will boost trade links between ports on India's eastern seaboard and Myanmar's western Arakan (Rakhine) State. From there, goods will be shipped along the Kaladan River from its confluence near Sittwe to Paletwa in Myanmar's Chin State and by road to India's Mizoram State, which will provide an alternative route for the transport of goods to India's landlocked northeast.

China is using the current port at Sittwe but its main interest is in the Kyaukphyu port in Rakine state and its access to the Bay of Bengal in order to pipe oil and gas from the Middle East and Africa to its land-locked southern and western hinterlands. Beijing is currently building two parallel oil and gas pipelines that will connect Kyaukphyu port to the Chinese city of Kunming in southern Yunnan province.

The oil pipeline will terminate in the city of Kunming, while the 2,806-kilometer natural gas pipeline will extend to China's Guizhou and Guangxi provinces. [9] It will allow Chinese oil tankers from Africa and the Middle East to pipe their fuel loads directly to China, therefore avoiding the potential strategic choke point of the Malacca Strait. The estimated construction cost of both pipelines is $3.5 billion, in addition to the development of an offshore gas field worth $3 billion, both of which will be financed largely by China. [10]

Rudimentary radar
Myanmar's Coco Islands, another supposed "pearl", have been allegedly used by China to gather signal Intelligence (SIGINT) and electronic Intelligence (ELINT) in the east Indian Ocean. News reports have claimed China intends to build naval bases on the islands in order to observe Indian naval and missile launch facilities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to

the south and movements of the Indian navy and other navies throughout the eastern Indian Ocean. [11]

Because of the controversy, China and Myanmar invited Indian officers to visit the contentious premises. In 2006, Indian naval delegations were unable to find any evidence to confirm these intelligence-gathering suspicions. The radars they inspected on the islands were characterized as "rudimentary". In September 2009, Vice Admiral Anup Singh, flag officer commanding-in-chief of India's Eastern Naval Command, stated that up until then there had been no signs of Chinese naval movements in the region. [12]

A 2008 report entitled "Burma's Coco Islands: Rumours and Realities in the Indian Ocean" written by Myanmar security expert Andrew Selth argued that the lack of verifiable data regarding China's involvement in the Coco Islands had complicated the issue. He wrote that "credulous" media reporting, often pushed by individuals with their own agendas, led to the "myth" of a Chinese military base on the Coco Islands. [13] As of late 2009, there was no tangible evidence of China's military presence in the region and its supposed use of the Sittwe port for present or future military activities.

Sri Lanka's Hambantota port, yet another alleged "pearl", was previously a small fishing harbor on the country's southern coast and is located on the primary sea route connecting Europe to Asia. Sri Lanka has proposed to build a modern port facility near the existing harbor and first pitched the idea in 2005 to India, which had already refurbished the World War II-vintage oil-tank farm at Trincomalee. New Delhi was not interested in the project and China later agreed to fill the financing gap. In February 2007, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa signed eight agreements, including the Hambantota project, during an official visit to Beijing.

By 2023, Hambantota is projected to have a liquefied natural gas refinery, aviation fuel storage facilities, three separate docks to give the port a transshipment capacity and dry docks for ship repairs and construction. The project also envisages that the port will serve as a base for bunkering and refueling. [14] The Hambantota project is part of a larger $6 billion post-war infrastructure revitalization drive and China is among many countries now actively investing in the country. [15]

Priyath Wickrama of Sri Lanka's Ports
Authority had been contacted by India, Singapore, Russia, Australia, Middle Eastern countries and major shipping lines to express their interest in the project, according to a Reuters report. [16] In dire need of reconstruction after years of civil war, the Rajapakasa government played its card to the highest bidder, which happened to be China. Rajapakasa has strongly repudiated any hints that China was given preferential treatment over other bidders. [17]

Empty docks
Pakistan's Gwadar port, on the Mekan Coast in Balochistan province, is considered the last on the chain of "pearls". According to the Pakistani government, Chinese companies have poured at least $15 billion into Baloch projects, including investments in oil refinery, copper and zinc mines, and a deepwater port at Gwadar in the Gulf of Oman. [18] The port is envisioned as a new gateway for trade between the Central Asian Republics (CARs), the Persian Gulf region, Afghanistan, Iran, and China's Xinjiang and Sichuan provinces and its Tibetan region.

Although China contributed an estimated 80% of Gwadar's construction costs, the port has actually been run by the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) since 2007 and contractually will be for the next 40 years. Business in Gwadar has been slow, partly due to the proximity of the competing Chabahar port in Iran that India helped construct. The conditions and environment in the surrounding area of Chabahar has made it easier for business to flow to Afghanistan and the CARs.

A budding strategic partnership between Iran, India and Russia will help to establish a multi-model transport link connecting Mumbai in India with Russia's Saint Petersburg and thus provide Europe and the CARs access to Asia and vice versa. Iran and Afghanistan have signed an agreement to give Indian goods destined for Central Asia and Afghanistan preferential treatment and tariff reductions at Chabahar Port. [19]

So far, China has preferred to use the port facilities at Karachi rather than Gwadar for maintaining vessels used in its anti-piracy patrols. In August 2009, in transit to and from the Gulf of Aden for anti-piracy operations, China's Huangshan and Weishanhu vessels used Karachi's port for rest and replenishment. [20] China's preference for Karachi's ports to manage its anti-piracy operations would thus seem to undermine the hypothesis that it plans to eventually use Gwadar as a military facility.

Yet "String of Pearls" speculation still swirls around the under-utilized facility. Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani, head of Pakistan's Balochistan province, has pledged to challenge in court what he has characterized as a "one-sided" deal with Singapore's PSA to run Gwadar. [21]

In 2009, Gwadar port handled about $700 million in cargo, less than half of its capacity, and PSA has apparently not invested any of the agreed $525 million it pledged in its agreement with the government. [22] The dispute has sparked rumors about a possible Chinese "takeover" of the port, though both Pakistan and China have denied the speculation. Raisani has reportedly said "Why can we not operate it ourselves? We have trained people." [23]

Stringing together the current status of China's involvement at each of the Indian Ocean port facilities in question, the "String of Pearls" theory quickly comes undone. With the exception of Hainan Island, where China has built a military base on its own territory, there is no clear sign that China has military base ambitions in Chittagong, Gwadar, Hambantota, or Sittwe.

It is significant that government officials in all the concerned countries have strongly refuted speculation that China would be allowed to use their sovereign ports as clandestine military bases, present or future. It is in each of the Indian Ocean countries' interest to balance Chinese, Indian, and US influence in the region. And all the evidence available so far indicates that's precisely what they are doing.

1., Christopher J. Pehrson, July 2006.
2., Daily Telegraph, May 1, 2008.
4., Reuters, Mar 14, 2010.
6., Reuters, Mar 14, 2010.
7., BBC, May 17, 2010.
8., Economic Times, Jun 17, 2010.
9., China Daily, Jun 4, 2010.
10,, Reuters, Feb 3, 2010.
11. 12. , Press Trust Of India, Sept 10, 2009.
13., Andrew Selth, November 2008.
, Outlook India, Apr 12, 2010.
15., Reuters, Aug 1, 2010.
16. Ibid.
17., New York Times, Feb 15, 2010.
18., Forbes Asia Magazine, dated May 10, 2010.
19., YaleGlobal , Jan 7, 2011.
20. , Daniel J. Kostecka, Naval War College Review, Winter 2010, Vol. 64, No. 1.
21., Reuters, Nov 9, 2010.
22. Ibid.
23. Ibid.

Billy Tea is a strategic analyst. He may be reached

(Copyright 2011 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

US talks put off for poll


New Delhi, March 11: India and the US have postponed a second round of their strategic dialogue that was scheduled to be held in early April during a visit by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

An official statement from the government said the dialogue was being re-scheduled because of Assembly elections in India and the upheavals in West Asia and North Africa. The dialogue will be held “at the earliest available opportunity…through mutual consultation”.

The announcement of the postponement of the dialogue comes even as the members of the UN Security Council debate options for intervention in Libya, especially after the UK and France have said that they will move a resolution seeking the enforcement of a no-fly zone on the North African country. India is still debating what stand it should take.

Earlier this week, US ambassador to India, Timothy Roemer, also made a strong push to sell one of the two types of US aircraft that are in competition for an Indian Air Force contract for an estimated $12 billion, describing such a choice as “the very logical next step” in the bilateral relationship.

“Hopefully when India evaluates the six competitors for MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft), it decides (in favour of) one of the two American platforms...F-16 Super Viper (Lockheed Martin) and F/A-18 (Boeing) Super Hornet.

“This becomes the very logical next step in the relationship. This will be a very important indicator of where this relationship goes in the 21st century,” Roemer said in a conference on America and Asia in Jawaharlal Nehru University on Wednesday.

Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik said yesterday that he expected the choice for the aircraft to be completed this month and a contract by July, when he is due to retire. Six aircraft are in the competition: the French Rafale, the Russian MiG-35, a four-country European consortium’s Eurofighter Typhoon and Sweden’s Gripen — and each of the governments is lobbying hard for the contract.

The ministry of external affairs does not link the postponement of the strategic dialogue to military and economic ties. But the US’s hard bargaining — ambassador Roemer even said that President Obama has promised a reformed UN Security Council with India as a permanent member — the expectation of an Indian position on Libya in the security council and the announcement of the postponement of a relatively new but important instrument of bilateral ties coincide.

India has sought to emphasise, however, that the postponement of the strategic dialogue is because of the compulsion of events, both at home and abroad. Despite its postponement, India and the US have lined up a series of high-level meetings over the next few weeks, the foreign ministry statement said.

Among these is a visit of the commerce secretary to Washington later this month, a meeting of the India-US Joint Working Group in Counter Terrorism on March 25 in New Delhi, a meeting of the High Technology Cooperation Group in India in May and the India-US Higher Education Summit in June in Washington.

US, India draw closer as defense planners, army chiefs meet

Chidanand Rajghatta, TNN | Mar 11, 2011, 07.20pm IST

WASHINGTON: Top men leading India's fighting arm and its defense policy engaged with their American counterparts here this week asNew Delhi and Washington drew closer in a strategic clinch while trying not to alarm China and Pakistan, which are seen by the democratic duo as posing complex challenges in the neighborhood and beyond.

U.S and Indian officials were circumspect in describing low-key Defense Policy Group (DPG) meetings early in the week, an engagement that was closely followed by talks between the Indian Army Chief V K Singh and his U.S counterpart Gen. George Casey.

In a statement that was largely anodyne but contained much between the lines, they spoke of an "extensive discussion on further strengthening bilateral defense ties, under the auspices of the Defence Framework Agreement of 2005," an informal but controversial Bush-era pact that promised unprecedented strategic partnership between Washington and New Delhi but had been sidelines in recent times.

The DPG meeting, the statement said, included "a policy-level dialogue on the global strategic and security situation," which also discussed the "multilateral security architecture in Asia and looked forward to continued cooperation in these organizations," – diplomatese for common U.S and Indian concerns about the fluid situation in the Gulf and Arab world, the Af-Pak imbroglio, Pakistan's slide into anarchy, and China's muscle-flexing.

The DPG meeting, the eleventh since U.S and India entered into an informal alliance -- more generally described as a partnership -- at the turn of the century, was co-chaired by India's Defense Secretary Pradeep Kumar and the U.S Under Secretary of Defence for Policy Michelle Flournoy. Kumar, accompanied by Ambassador Meera Shankar, also met Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns and Deputy Secretary of Defence William Lynn, as the two sides grappled with reaching common ground on a range of concerns in Asia and beyond.

The policy meetings were followed up by day-long talks between Army Chiefs Singh and Casey over lunch and dinner between ceremonial events, deliberations which a Pentagon spokesman described as "thoughtful and productive." Both sides have noted repeatedly they hold more joint military exercises with each other than with any other country, a practice that is becoming even more frequent with the increasing acquisition of American military hardware by India.

India to make determined bid for NSG membership

Sandeep Dikshit

India's association with non-proliferation treaty may hamper membership bid

India, not being a member, does not have a say in deciding changes in norms

NEW DELHI: Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao will lead India's bid for full membership in the four international export control regimes — the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Group.

The Foreign Secretary was to address representatives of the 45-member NSG on March 28 in Vienna, but the interaction was pushed back to a date mismatch.

“The fact that the Foreign Secretary will be leading India's bid is indicative of the importance that India attaches to the process of gaining full membership of the NSG,” said government sources. Observers, however, felt that obtaining NSG membership may be the most difficult for India given its close association with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

However, with every NSG plenary revising the export control list in consistency with the assessment of proliferation trends, officials said it was important for India, as a major player, to be in the organisation.

Besides engaging with the NSG, senior Indian officials would continue to be engaged with other governments through various outbreak meetings. India would also have bilateral engagement with individual members.

India is already an adherent to the NSG and MTCR guidelines but does not, as it is not a full member, have a direct say in deciding on changes in norms.

India intended to take this process forward along the lines which ensured progress towards getting the memberships of all the four organisations while simultaneously taking into account the possibility of region-specific sensitivities. This issue was discussed in detail during Ms. Rao's visit to Washington last month.

Summit-level support

India had already secured summit-level support — from the United States, Russia and France — which is expected to impart the initial momentum, for this endeavour. Several member countries in the four international export control regimes had been positive to India's bid.

“This acknowledgement is based on India's impeccable non-proliferation record and the benefits that the non-proliferation regime will get [through] India's full membership [in] the four regimes,” the sources said.

Asked to comment on the approval granted by the International Atomic Energy Agency's Board of Directors to the safeguard agreement for Chashma III & IV, sources said this was not unexpected. India had raised the issue with a number of countries, including China. Although a number of countries had expressed concerns regarding China's supply of two additional reactors to Pakistan, it appeared that China has had its way.

Do you know who first used the word Rashtram?

Vaak Devi in Rigveda in Vaagambhrini sukta called also rashtra suktam. She says in a monologue> aham rashtrii samgamanii. I am the rashtram. I am the supreme to whom rudra, agni and everyone else is subordinate.

Indian Ocean Community: a socio-economic powerhouse

Celebrate the largest vishnu mandiram of the world which is NOT in India. It is in cambodia. The concept paper is on page 1 of IOC website.

Indian ocean rim countries will become a powerful 6 trillion dollar gdp nation.




March 11,2011

8-45 AM: Leave for Tanjore (53 KM) from Trichy in a taxi driven by a young commerce graduate from Mailaduthurai. He has not been able to get a job since graduating some years ago. Earning his livelihood as a taxi driver.

Drive uninteresting despite excellent four-lane road. Hardly any greenery on both sides.

9-45 AM: Arrive in Brahadeeswarar temple in Tanjore built 1000 years ago. Unimpressive from outside, but fabulous once inside. Overwhelmed by the sheer brilliance of its conception and execution. Just as I was overwhelmed when I first visited the Angkor Vat temple in Cambodia in November 2001. Unless you stand before it and see it for yourself, you can't imagine how huge it is ---its central gopuram over the sanctum sanctorum and the court-yard where 1000 Bharata Natyam dancers of India danced last year in celebration of its 1000th anniversary.

10 AM: As I stood before it and admiring it, a friendly looking man, who appeared to be in his 40s, approached me and asked:

"Want a guide, Sir?"

"Yes, why not ?"

" But I charge Rs.250, Sir. I don't want any misunderstanding over payment later."

" That is OK with me."

" You want me to explain in English, Tamil, French, German or Spanish, Sir"

" I would prefer English or Tamil.You know other languages too?"

"Yes, Sir"

An attractive-looking woman crossed us.


"Bonjour, Monsieur."

"You speak good French."

"Yes, sir, I do"

"Guten Tag". This was to another attractive-looking woman.

"Guten Tag," she replied.

"You speak good German too."

" Yes, Sir. I do."

Then he said something incomprehensible to me to another attractive-looking woman.

"What was that?"

"She is Spanish. I was greeting her in Spanish."

"What is your name? Where are you from?"

"Raman. From Chennai."

" My name is K.T.Raja. From Tanjore. Have a look at this."

He showed me four or five torn and crumpled pieces of paper.

"What is that?"

" A Xerox copy of an article published by "The Indian Express" last year describing me as the best guide in the Tanjore temple."

"But you must keep it properly. It is already totally torn."

" I know, Sir. The original is in the house. This is for showing to the visitors"

" But you can at least keep a good copy for showing to the visitors. This one is so torn, crumpled and brown that one can't read anything except the title and your name."

Then he started flooding me with statistics.

1008 nandis.
252 feet high
216 feet wide
801 feet long
405 nandis around the perimeter

"Do you notice anything interesting about the numbers?"


" You total each of them. It comes to 9."


" How many holes you have in your body, Sir?"

" I don't know. I have never counted."

" Nine, Sir."

" How did you come to that figure?"

"Two ears, two eyes, two in the nose, one in the mouth, one in the penis and one in the arse."

'Oh, I never thought of that."

" Sir, you know why 9 all the time?"


" Because 9 is a lucky number for the Hindus. It is also a holy number. When a Hindu offers coconuts or bananas to the God, it is always either 9 or in multiples of 9."

"That must have been before the inflation. Now, nobody can afford it. God has to be content with only one coconut or one banana," I whispered to him making sure God won't be able to overhear me.

He took me to the sanctum sanctorum of the sacred lingum. He asked me whether I wanted to do an archana.

"Yes." I gave Rs.100 to the pujari.

"What is your name?" the pujari asked.


"What is your star?"


" Do you want me to do the archana in somebody else's name also?"

" No. My name will do. I don't want to confuse God with too many names. "

The archana started. I hope it was the archana. It didn't appear to be either in Sanskrit or in Tamil.

As the archana was going on, I closed my eyes and prayed: " Oh God, cure me of this cancer. Give me back my energy."

As I opened my eyes, my guide asked: " What did you pray for?".

" I am a cancer patient. I was praying to God to cure me of it."

" He will. Brahadeeswara is known for His cosmic power. It will cure you of your cancer."

"How soon"

" It depends on your luck and God's grace. If you are lucky, you may be cured even before you return to the hotel."

" If not?"

" Come back and pray again."

As the pujari was doing archana for me, a big group of Western tourists entered the sanctum sanctorum and watched the archana. The group included three Spanish nuns.

I asked the guide: " Are non-Hindus allowed into the sanctum sanctorum?"

"Of course. This is the only Hindu temple in India where any human being can enter the sanctum sanctorum---whether a man or a woman, whether a Hindu or a non-Hindu."

" Can Muslims also enter?"

"Of course. Many Muslims come here and pray. I know a Muslim shop-keeper, who comes here in the mornings and prays to the lingam before going to his mosque to do the namaz."

" Do you think, it is right for non-Hindus to be allowed?"

" Why not? Only animals should not be allowed. Otherwise, every human being should be allowed to enter this temple and pray. That has been the tradition of this temple for 1000 years. It should continue."

He asked me where I was going next.

Kumbakonam, I said.

" Do you know why it is called Kumbakonam?"

" No."

" Do you know what is Kumba?"


"Kumba is a huge pot. Once pralayam ( a deluge) swept across the world killing all living beings. God Brahma took out their genes, put them into a huge pot, closed it tightly and let it float on the water. As the pot reached Kumbakonam, the floods subsided. The pot came to rest on the ground. Lord Siva broke open the pot with an arrow. All the preserved genes came out and living beings came into existence once again."

"Fantastic. I didn't know that."

We came to the end of the visit. I took out a 500-rupee note and gave it to him.

"But, Sir, I don't have change."

" Doesn't matter. You keep the change."

" Were you happy with me, Sir?"

" Of course, I was."

" Your happiness is more important to me, Sir, than this money." (11-3-11)

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

Tsunami in Japan and India's Response

By Dr. Adityanjee


Japan has faced the worst earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale. Even the after-shocks are of very high magnitude in the range of 5 to 6 on the Richter scale. This massive earthquake has brought a massive Tsunami in northeast Japan with more than one thousand people already dead. Five of Japan's nuclear reactors have been affected and two of them are already on fire. The final death toll is likely to run into thousands. The people of Japan need immediate help from the international community.

India has had friendly relations with Japan. Japan has been one of the investors in India's infrastructure growth and development. India and Japan are coordinating their efforts as part of the G4 nations to reform the UN Security Council. Both nations share historical, cultural and civlizational links. True, that Japan has been dragging its feet in signing a civil nuclear energy agreement with India on ideological grounds.

It is time that India rises to the occasion and helps the people of Japan in the time of their need. India has solid expereince carrying out an international relief mission during the Tsunami of 2006 in South East Asia. India's private sector needs to raise capital for the disaster struck people of Japan. Indian NGOs have a role to play. Indian citizens need to show solidarity with our Japanese brothers and sisters in the time of their need. Government of India needs to announce the governmental relief measures immediately. Perhaps, a fiscal package for relief efforts in the range of one billion dollars should be immediately announced by the Prime Minister. India's armed forces have always proved their nettle in carrying out releif work. If Indian armed forces need to be despatched to Japan to carry out disaster relief, so be it. Surely, the Japanese government will welcome all the help including military from a friendly Asian nation with a track record in promoting international peace and amity. If Indian nucelar scientists and technicians from the BARC need to be sent to Japan urgently to assess, assist and rectify the situation on the nuclear reactors currently on fire, a wider nuclear calamity can be averted in Japan.

It will enhance India's internaitonal stature if we announce a multi-pronged relief package now and lead the rest of the world. It will extend our soft power in the international arena as well as in the Asian theatre. Japanese people will remember our immediate help in the future years to come.

Libya's Great Man-Made River Projec

virtually unknown in the West: Libya's water resources

We still wonder how on earth did Gaddafi manage to stay in power for forty years? Did no one notice his madness until now?

Did no one notice that he built a HUGE FRESH WATER PIPELINE to the Benghazi region, that lunatic?

Were they waiting for him to finish?

Libya - click to enlarge

Libya's Great Man-Made River Project, September 1, 2010


The 1st of September marks the anniversary of the opening of the major stage of Libya's Great Man-Made River Project. This incredibly huge and successful water scheme is virtually unknown in the West, yet it rivals and even surpasses all our greatest development projects. The leader of the so-called advanced countries, the United States of America cannot bring itself to acknowledge Libya's Great Man-Made River. The West refuses to recognize that a small country, with a population no more than four million, can construct anything so large without borrowing a single cent from the international banks.

...In the 1960s during oil exploration deep in the southern Libyan desert, vast reservoirs of high quality water were discovered in the form of aquifers. ...

...In Libya there are four major underground basins, these being the Kufra basin, the Sirt basin, the Morzuk basin and the Hamada basin, the first three of which contain combined reserves of 35,000 cubic kilometres of water. These vast reserves offer almost unlimited amounts of water for the Libyan people.

The people of Libya under the guidance of their leader, Colonel Muammar Al Qadhafi, initiated a series of scientific studies on the possibility of accessing this vast ocean of fresh water. Early consideration was given to developing new agricultural projects close to the sources of the water, in the desert. However, it was realized that on the scale required to provide products for self sufficiency, a very large infrastructure organization would be required. In addition to this, a major redistribution of the population from the coastal belt would be necessary. The alternative was to 'bring the water to the people'.

In October 1983, the Great Man-made River Authority was created and invested with the responsibility of taking water from the aquifers in the south, and conveying it by the most economical and practical means for use, predominantly for irrigation, in the Libyan coastal belt.

By 1996 the Great Man-Made River Project had reached one of its final stages, the gushing forth of sweet unpolluted water to the homes and gardens of the citizens of Libya's capital Tripoli. Louis Farrakhan, who took part in the opening ceremony of this important stage of the project, described the Great Man-Made River as "another miracle in the desert." Speaking at the inauguration ceremony to an audience that included Libyans and many foreign guests, Col. Qadhafi said the project "was the biggest answer to America... who accuse us of being concerned with terrorism."

The Great Man-Made River, as the largest water transport project ever undertaken, has been described as the "eighth wonder of the world". It carries more than five million cubic metres of water per day across the desert to coastal areas, vastly increasing the amount of arable land. The total cost of the huge project is expected to exceed $25 billion (US).

Consisting of a network of pipes buried underground to eliminate evaporation, four meters in diameter, the project extends for four thousand kilometres far deep into the desert. All material is locally engineered and manufactured. Underground water is pumped from 270 wells hundreds of meters deep into reservoirs that feed the network. The cost of one cubic meter of water equals 35 cents. The cubic meter of desalinized water is $3.75. Scientists estimate the amount of water to be equivalent to the flow of 200 years of water in the Nile River.

The goal of the Libyan Arab people, embodied in the Great Man-Made River project, is to make Libya a source of agricultural abundance, capable of producing adequate food and water to supply its own needs and to share with neighboring countries. In short, the River is literallyLibya's 'meal ticket' to self-sufficiency.

Self-sufficiency?!? Absolutely Not Allowed. Banksters don't like that sort of thing one bit.

This project has been in the works for many years. Have you ever heard of it? We had not until today.

Underground "Fossil Water" Running Out, National Geographic, May 2010


Libya turns on the Great Man-Made River, by Marcia Merry, Printed in the Executive Intelligence Review, September 1991

A gala ceremony was held in Libya at the end of August, at which Libyan leaders ``turned on the tap'' of the Great Man-Made River, the water pipeline/viaduct project designed to bring millions of liters of water from beneath the Sahara Desert, northward to the Benghazi region on the Mediterranean coast. The inauguration marked the end of Phase I of the project, which is slated for completion in 1996.
Under the giant scheme, water is pumped from aquifers under the Sahara in the southern part of the country, where underground water resources extend into Egypt and Sudan. Then the water is transported by reinforced concrete pipeline to northern destinations. Construction on the first phase started in 1984, and cost about $5 billion. The completed project may total $25 billion. South Korean construction experts built the huge pipes in Libya by some of the most modern techniques. The engineering feat involves collecting water from 270 wells in east central Libya, and transporting it through about 2,000 kilometers of pipeline to Benghazi and Sirte. The new ``river'' brings 2 million cubic meters of water a day. At completion, the system will involve 4,000 kilometers of pipepines, and two aqueducts of some 1,000 kilometers. Joining in celebrating the inauguration of the artificial river were dozens of Arab and African heads of state and hundreds of other foreign diplomats and delegations. Among them wereEgyptian President Hosni Mubarak, King Hassan of Morocco, the head of Sudan, Gen. Omar El Beshir, and Djibouti's President Hassan Julied.

Col. Muammar Qaddafi told the celebrants: ``After this achievement, American threats against Libya will double.... The United States will make excuses, [but] the real reason is to stop this achievement, to keep the people of Libya oppressed.'' Qaddafi presented the project to the cheering crowd as a gift to the Third World.

Mubarak spoke at the ceremony and stressed the regional importance of the project. Qaddafi has called on Egyptian farmers to come and work in Libya, where there are only 4 million inhabitants. Egypt's population of 55 million is crowded in narrow bands along the Nile River and delta region. Over the last 20 years, the water improvement projects envisioned for Egypt, which could provide more water and more hectares of agricultural and residential land, have been repeatedly sabotaged by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and the Anglo-American financial interests behind them.
In the 1970s, Qaddafi expelled many Egyptian families from Libya, but over the recent months the two countries have become close once again. There are plans to build a railway line to facilitate travel back and forth. There is also a standing commission between Sudan and Libya for integrating economic activity.

Over 95% of Libya is desert, and the new water sources can open up thousands of hectares of irrigated farmland. At present over 80% of the country's agriculture production comes from the coastal regions, where local aquifers have been overpumped, and salt water intrusion is taking place. The Great Man-Made River will relieve this. The water now flowing will immediately supplement supplies for domestic and industrial needs in Benghazi and Sirte. But Libyan officials plan for 80% of the overall project's flow to eventually be used for irrigating old farms, and reclaiming some desert lands. Since 20% of Libya's imports are foodstuffs, expanded water supplies are a means to greater self-sufficiency. The Great Man-Made River project and its objectives fly in the face of the water-control schemes sanctioned by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. These institutions have blocked work on other ``great projects'' such as the Jonglei Canal--the huge ditch that was designed as a straight channel on the upper White Nile in southern Sudan. The Jonglei Canal, which stands half-finished and abandoned at present, would have drained swamplands, aided agriculture, transportation, power resources, and health, and provided expanded flow to the Nile River all the way down to Egypt. The World Bank and the U.S. State Department are backing a ``Middle East Water Summit'' in Turkey this November, which is intended to promote only politically favored projects such as desalination plants in Saudi Arabia, and water shortages elsewhere.

London and Washington circles were apoplectic about the opening of the new Libyan water project. The London Financial Times ran criticisms of the project from Angus Henley of the London-basedMiddle East Economic Digest. The pipeline, he said, was ``Qaddafi's pet project. He wants to be seen as something other than the scourge of the West.'' The Financial Times called the project Qaddafi's ``pipedream,'' stating that critics may be awed by the engineering involved, ``But they regard the dream as a monument to vanity that makes little economic sense in a country where the U.N. Development Program says 94.6% of territory is desert wasteland.''

If it is vanity that motivated the project, at least the vanity of Libya's head of state is being channeled in a productive direction in this case--which is more than can be said of the leaders of Britain and the United States.

Libya ethnic map from Arthur Zbygniew

Click through for many other maps.