October 26, 2012

Realty comes back to bite the Pawar family


 

Intriguing tale of corruption if not tragic for the country...only if similar energy had been used for nation building


Lavasa has put the spotlight back on Sharad Pawar and his daughter Supriya Sule. But there are three other equally scandalous realty projects involving the Sules where the family used its influence to illegally grab government land
 
By Ashish Khetan
 
 
 
 
IN A recent interview to a television news channel, Congress General Secretary Digvijaya Singh spelt out what was until now an unwritten code in Indian politics. In a moment of candour, Singh said that the Congress never questioned the business dealings of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's foster-son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya, though it had enough reasons to do so. The personal fortunes of Bhattacharya, who had started his career as a management trainee with Oberoi Hotels, rose exponentially during the sixyear- long rule of the BJP-led NDA. Today, Bhattacharya owns a chain of ultra-luxury hotels, besides prime properties in several metros. It is an astonishing rags-to-riches story, but one that has largely been confined to drawing room conversations.

 

Former cop-turned-lawyer alleges quid pro quo between Sharad Pawar and Lavasa construction company

What Singh implied was that Bhattacharya's extraordinary riches also warranted a similar public scrutiny and brouhaha as the one we are now seeing over Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra's dubious real estate deals. But the Congress chose to remain silent. This long-observed code of silence among top politicians as per which they almost never darted arrows at each other's families or questioned their business interests seems to have finally been breached.

When India Against Corruption (IAC) members Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan started reeling off the staggering list of prime real estate amassed by Vadra in a short span of time, they were giving voice to what almost everybody in Delhi's power circles knew of but never chose to raise in public. Until now, the unwritten rule was that close relatives of top political dynasties were free to build their business empires on the strength of shady deals and out-of-turn favours from the government and private firms without having to answer to either any law enforcement agency or tax authorities.

By and large, the media too observed this code. So when TEHELKA's Operation West End tapes spoke of Bhattacharya's alleged undue influence in defence deals, or later when evidence surfaced of his involvement in the UTI scam, the stories created a temporary flutter but were not followed up with the rigour and perseverance they deserved.
Similarly, two years ago, when some RTI activists dug up documents which revealed that Maratha strongman and NCP President Sharad Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule and son-inlaw Sadanand Sule held more than 20 percent stake in the scandalous Lavasa project, questions of propriety were raised. Lavasa is a massive township being built over 19,000 acres situated 65 km from Pune. From the very beginning, Pawar had actively lobbied for the private hill city without ever disclosing that his family was a major beneficiary in the project.
But soon the questions of probity and conflict of interest slipped through the cracks. Pawar was successful in giving it the colour of a political witch-hunt. When the then Minister of Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, highlighted the gross violations of green laws, Pawar accused him of being unreasonable. Crucial questions involving Pawar's role in the alleged irregularities, the source of funds with which the Sules bought the stake, the amount for which the stake was bought and later sold were never probed or reached any court of law.
Besides the media's reluctance to doggedly pursue the story to some logical end, one of the other main reasons why the story died a quiet death was the silence observed by the Opposition. The Congress' silence could be explained by the fact that Pawar was and is their important ally, both at the Centre and in the state, but the inertness of the Shiv Sena and the BJP was scandalous to say the least.

Last year, TEHELKA did a cover story (Maharashtra on Sale by Ashish Khetan, 28 May 2011) exposing in detail how the politician-builder nexus in the state had plundered prime land. TEHELKA exposed several scandalous land deals in which the leading politicians from the Congress and NCP had a role to play. The story produced prima facie evidence of corruption against former CM Ashok Chavan, the then rural development minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sharad Pawar, Supriya Sule and former irrigation minister Ajit Pawar. The story laid out in great detail over a dozen land scams, each running in several hundred crores of rupees. But the story found no takers in the Opposition parties.
But it now seems that the era where a few select public figures were seen as being beyond scrutiny and reproach is coming to an end. In the past 10 days, we have seen an unprecedented public spotlight on the excesses of money and power. First Vadra, then Salman Khurshid, and finally BJP President Nitin Gadkari were hauled over the coals for what many see as flagrant misuse of power.

On 18 October, lawyer and former cop YP Singh exposed the quid pro quo between the Pawar family and Ajit Gulabchand, the chairman of Hindustan Construction Company, who is the brain behind Lavasa. Singh produced documents showing that Pawar's nephew Ajit Pawar, who was the Maharashtra irrigation minister between 1999 and 2010, gave away 341 acres of irrigation land — which was acquired from the farmers for constructing dams and canals — to a holding company of the Lavasa project at the rate of Rs 23,000 per acre per year for a period of 30 years.

According to a Supreme Court judgment, the government should have auctioned this land. The Sules held 20.81 percent shares in this holding company. Later, the couple sold their stake for an undisclosed amount. Singh suggested that the Sules must have made Rs 1,000-Rs 2,000 crore from the sale. But in 2009, in an affidavit filed before the Election Commission, Supriya declared her total assets to be just Rs 15 crore. Singh asked where has the money gone?

In this story, TEHELKA is piecing together the details of three other equally scandalous real estate projects in which the Sules hold substantial stakes. The couple have stakes in as many as three IT parks — one completed and the other two under construction — which have allegedly been constructed on vast stretches of public land in the heart of Pune. Land meant for a mental hospital, affordable housing for the poor, a residential colony for the widows of jawans and a district jail has been allegedly usurped by the companies associated with the Sules.
It is alleged that these lands have been illegally grabbed by using the alleged influence of political power that the Pawars wield in Maharashtra. The charges against these companies range from fudging of revenue records and fraudulent documentation to manipulation of executive orders. The Sules have gained or stand to gain thousands of crores of rupees from these real estate projects.

The prima facie evidence available against the Sules seems extremely credible and warrants an urgent intervention either by the higher courts or by a high-powered investigation team that is free from political meddling. Evidence shows that the entire government machinery — from district collector to chief secretary — was complicit in these alleged land scams.
For the past two years, Pune-based RTI activist Ravindra Barhate has accumulated a mountain of documents that reveal the questionable ways in which the Sules and their business partners have acquired astonishing gains from alleged land scams. On a couple of occasions, Barhate has been successful in prodding the Opposition to raise the issue in the Maharashtra Assembly. But overall, his revelations have been met with a deafening silence. Save a few exceptions, the Marathi media too has chosen to downplay the revelations.
The details of the alleged scams narrated below would show that the accusations against the Pawar family are far more substantive and incriminating than those levelled against Gadkari. It's a pity though that the IAC failed to highlight the undue gains running into thousands of crores of rupees given to Gadkari's crony and BJP MP Ajay Sancheti by Ajit Pawar in Maharashtra and Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh.

What lies at the centre of this TEHELKA story is the loss of hundreds of crores of rupees to the public exchequer and the massive undue gain to the Pawar family.
How a company in which the Sules have a stake allegedly grabbed government land worth Rs 2,000 crore
• Government land measuring more than 8.79 lakh sq ft in the heart of Pune has been allegedly grabbed by a company in which Sadanand Sule has a substantial stake

Prime property The IT park under construction on the Airport Road in Yervada, Pune. The project is owned by Prem Sagar Hotels, in which Sadanand Sule has 10 percent stake
• The Sules are constructing an IT park on the said land
• 17.5 lakh sq ft of developed commercial area would be on sale once construction is completed
• Rs 2,000 crore is what the company would make from the sale of the property once it is developed. The Sules would get a substantial portion of the expected revenue
• It is alleged that if the law had been followed, the said land should have been used for constructing affordable housing for the poor. Records show that the scam started with builder Purshottam Patil. He allegedly manipulated revenue records and fudged the Urban Land Ceiling (ULC) orders
• Patil originally bought this land from a member of a Scheduled Tribe called Ramoshi in 1985. It was government land that was originally alienated in the name of the Ramoshi tribe for their sustenance
• As per law, the builder could not have bought this land without the district collector's permission. But he fudged the records and took over the land after paying a paltry Rs 9 lakh
• Balewadi Properties, the company in which the Sules own substantial stake, bought this land from Patil for Rs 48 crore on 24 October 2007. Now, the market rate of the land is more than Rs 500 crore. The throwaway price at which the deal was struck raises suspicion that the Sules were aware that it was fraudulently-acquired public land
• A cursory due diligence would have shown that the land should go to the government as surplus land under the ULC Act
• But the company not only failed to do any due diligence, it further perpetuated the scam by forging more documents. It furnished a fake ULC order number in the sale deed to bypass the law. Shockingly, the government authorities turned a blind eye to the alleged scam all along
Land meant for a mental hospital and a residential colony for the widows of jawans has been allegedly usurped by companies associated with the Sules
• In July 2012, RTI activist Barhate procured the documents related to the land under RTI and exposed the scam. He also registered a complaint with the authorities concerned. He showed that the ULC order number mentioned in the sale deed actually belonged to the private bungalow of another Pune-based builder. Barhate demanded a criminal probe besides the deal's cancellation
• The Pawar family didn't respond to the allegations. By and large, the media in Maharashtra also ignored the story. The national media didn't cover the story at all
• The revenue authorities have not responded to the allegations despite several representations made by Barhate. But the Pune Police Commissionerate has ordered an inquiry into the alleged fraud by the Sules' companies
• When TEHELKA contacted Supriya for her reaction, we were told to contact Atul Chordia, her Pune-based business associate. Initially, Chordia denied that the Sules own a stake in Balewadi Properties. But when TEHELKA emailed him the structure of different holding companies behind Balewadi Properties and the fact that Sules have stakes in these holding companies, Chordia failed to respond. On the other allegations, he refused to go into the specifics and merely responded by saying: "We have all the required permissions from the collector and the municipal corporation and a proper due diligence has been done before buying the land. We see no issue with the title."
Sules' company Prem Sagar Hotels illegaly occupied prime land worth Rs 600 crore in Pune
• In September 2004, Prem Sagar Hotels bought 5.3 lakh sq ft from Sir Kikabhai Premchand Trust. The land is located at Airport Road, Yervada, which is one of the most expensive localities in Pune
• As per law, trusts are not permitted to sell the land allocated to them by the government for charity purposes. The trust in question was given the land in 1939 on an occupancy price of a mere Rs 7,815 for the purpose of running a sanatorium. The title of the said land was never transferred to the trust. In revenue records, the Pune Collector continued to be the owner of the said land
• Prem Sagar Hotels paid just Rs 35.7 crore for the said land. If the company had bought a similar land in the open market, it would have cost them around Rs 600 crore. Neither was the trust authorised to sell the land that rightfully belonged to the government, nor could any private company or individual have bought the land from an entity that didn't have a clear title


Raising a storm Manohar Gajarmal (left) filed a land-grab complaint against Ajit Pawar's cousin Srinivas; RTI activist Ravindra Barhate blew the whistle on the Sules

• Under law, if someone wants to buy government land that is in the possession of a trust as an occupant, the buyer should first approach the collector and seek his/her permission. The buyer needs to pay 50 percent of the market value to the state treasury, after which the collector can pass an order permitting the sale
• But Prem Sagar Hotels bypassed the law by directly approaching the Charity Commissioner and sought his no-objection certificate. He had no authority to grant the permission for a property that is not owned by the trust
• Still, the commissioner issued the order dated 31 May 2005 and granted the patently illegal permission. The Congress- NCP combine is in power in Maharashtra since 1999. The commissioner works under the state government
• Shockingly, the Revenue Department also turned a blind eye to the alleged illegality and passed the mutation order dated 2 August 2005, transferring the title to Prem Sagar Hotels
• In 2011, Barhate exposed the scam by procuring the documents under the RTI Act
• In April 2011, Eknath Khadse, the Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly, raised the issue on the floor of the House. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan ordered an inquiry to be conducted by the divisional commissioner
• In March 2012, the divisional commissioner submitted the report confirming that the said land belonged to the government and the deal struck between the trust and Prem Sagar Hotels was in violation of the law
• Till date, there has been no concrete action taken against either the trust or Prem Sagar Hotels. Currently, the construction of an IT park is in full swing at the said land
• After the completion of construction, a 10.7 lakh sq ft of developed land would be put on sale. The current market rate in the area is Rs 20,000 per sq ft. The company is slated to raise a revenue of Rs 2,146 crore
• When contacted on email, Chordia said that Supriya never held shares in Prem Sagar Hotels. Upon this, TEHELKA emailed him back saying, "As per the ROC records available with TEHELKA, Sadanand Sule has 2.5 lakh shares of Rs 10 each in Prem Sagar Hotels, which amounts to 10 percent equity. The Articles of Association of Panchsheel Techpark Pvt Ltd says that Prem Sagar Group means Sadanand Sule, Supriya Sule, Atul Chordia, Sagar Chordia, Varsha Chordia, Anne Fernandes and Prem Sagar Hotels. Do you confirm or deny this?" Chordia didn't respond
The Sharad Pawar government gave away land to a trust run by a builder on which the Sules later set up a massive IT park
• In 1989, when Sharad Pawar was CM, the then Pune Collector Srinivas Patil passed an 'illegal' order and gifted away 326 acres to a trust named Mukund Bhawan Trust controlled by Niranjan Hiranandani. The trust got the land absolutely free. Even before the transfer order was passed, the trust signed an MoU with Vinod Goenka, who, along with his partner Shahid Balwa, is one of the prime accused in the 2G scam case. Later, the same Pune Collector took voluntary retirement and joined Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party. He won two successive Lok Sabha elections in 1999 and 2004
• In 1992, the Revenue Department (Pawar was called to the Centre to head the defence ministry in Narasimha Rao's government and Sudhakarrao Naik became CM) challenged the Pune Collector's order and the consent decree signed as a result of this order in a court of law. The department called the earlier order passed by the previous collector a colossal mistake and pleaded with the court to revoke the land transfer as it was illegal and against public interest
• On 10 March 2003, the Sushilkumar Shinde government did an out-of-court compromise with Goenka's trust and gave away around 79 acres in the heart of Pune for free. Shinde had become CM in January 2003 by replacing Vilasrao Deshmukh, who had been heading the government since 1999. In 2004, the Congress high command brought Deshmukh back. Shinde was seen as being too soft on Pawar, making the Congress lose ground to the NCP in the 2004 Assembly election
• On 25 November 2003, Pawar's family and a few close friends incorporated a company named Tech Park One. The Sules own large shareholdings in the company
• On 1 October 2004, Tech Park One bought 26,000 sq m from Mukund Bhavan Trust. Property records showed that the land actually belonged to the army since 1930
• The company constructed the Panchsheel Tech Park that currently, according to industry estimates, earns an annual rent of 27 crore. Interestingly, it was Balwa's DB Realty that did all the correspondence with the Union environment ministry, which was under A Raja at the time, for green clearance for this project
• On the remaining 68 acres, Goenka and his partner Balwa are constructing three massive commercial projects
Pawar's family built a house on the Irrigation Department's land at Rihe village in Pune district
• On 18 October, YP Singh highlighted how Ajit Pawar gave away hundreds of acres for a pittance to a company controlled by the Sules when he was the irrigation minister
• Two weeks ago, TEHELKA did a cover story exposing the Rs 70,000 crore irrigation that happened under his watch. We now bring out another instance of his abuse of power in which he manipulated land records to facilitate the grabbing of 31,000 sq ft of irrigation land by his cousin Srinivas Pawar and his wife Sharmila. Records with TEHELKA show that the land title was in the name of the Irrigation Department since 1983. But in 2004, the Pawars constructed a sprawling bungalow that they use as a weekend retreat
• In July 2012, Barhate exposed the land grab and lodged a complaint. The Irrigation Department wrote back saying that the said land was recorded as revenue land by mistake and now they were transferring it back to the farmer
• If this was not enough, Srinivas and Sharmila Pawar allegedly transferred more than 1 lakh sq ft of agricultural land belonging to a Dalit in their names. The illegal land transfer occurred in 2011
• In July 2012, the victim, Manohar Gajarmal, filed a FIR with the Paud Police Station against the Pawars. The police officer who showed the temerity of registering the FIR was transferred within a week
• Gajarmal showed TEHELKA the old revenue records which apparently show that he is the actual owner of the land, but alleged that the Pawars, in league with revenue officers, fudged the records and transferred the land in their names
• He says the Pawars own several other tracts of land in the same village and they wanted him to sell them his land so that they could have a contiguous stretch of land. But when Gajarmal refused, the Pawars allegedly manipulated the land records in their favour.
Ashish Khetan is Editor, Investigations with Tehelka.
 

India gears up for trilateral with U.S., Japan



Sandeep Dikshit  

TOPICS

diplomacy international relations 
The third India-U.S.-Japan trilateral discussions will be held here on Monday, just over a fortnight before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh leaves for Tokyo, followed by a visit to Phnom Penh, Cambodia for the India-Asean summit.The trilateral meet will see the U.S. explaining its Asia pivot, while maritime security will be a major topic of discussion. In addition, officials from the three countries will touch on Afghanistan and Central Asia, efforts to embed India in the regional diplomatic architecture of the East Asia Summit, Asean Regional Forum and APEC.
As the U.S. trilateral team chief Robert Blake's boss William Burns put it on Friday in a different context, the engagements would help "keep a very careful eye on less promising trends across the region, and the revival of old animosities that can quickly undermine the promise of economic interdependence and easy assumptions about shared prosperity. Recent frictions in both the East China Sea and the South China Sea are a sobering reminder of how fast nationalism and maximalism can rear their heads.''

The trilaterals are a tool deployed by the U.S. to obtain a consensus in small groups of friendly countries. The U.S.-Japan-Australia trilateral has been in existence for five years, while the ones on Afghanistan are beginning to proliferate as the 2014 deadline for the drawdown of western troops from the country draws closer. In fact, South Block is amenable to a U.S.-China-India dialogue in which trade and investment related issues could be primarily discussed.

India recently hosted the Mekong-Ganga ministerial meeting and held the 2+2 consultations with Japan, which involved its Foreign and Defence Secretaries. The Asean-India summit will come to New Delhi this winter.
In addition to acquainting the U.S about their 2 +2 meeting in Tokyo earlier this week, the two sides will also be discussing the maritime security initiatives they have firmed up and which could be announced during Dr. Singh's visit.

The nuclear and disarmament issue will also come up for discussion against the backdrop of the U.S.' suggestion to Australia, Japan and Canada to arrive at a civil nuclear agreement with India. While Australia has already agreed to open talks on a civil nuclear agreement, officials here admit India is "badly stuck on a couple of issues'' in its discussions on a similar pact with Japan. 

Interestingly, both Japanese and Indian officials feel the other government is too weak to carry through a satisfactory civil nuclear agreement. 

The three countries began trilateral talks with a four-hour meeting in Washington in December 2011 and followed it up with another one earlier this year in Tokyo. 

The Indian team will be led by Ministry of External Affairs Joint Secretary Gautam Bambawale, but will have Vikram Doraiswami as JS Americas instead of Jawed Ashraf, who has moved over to the Prime Minister's Office. The third Indian diplomat will be D. Bala Venkatesh Verma, the head of the Disarmament Division

LULL IN COMMUNAL RIOTING IN RAKHINE STATE OF MYANMAR

 

 



B.RAMAN

 

Since the afternoon of October 26,2012, there has been a lull in communal rioting between the Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine State (Arakan ) of Myanmar.


2. The rioting broke out on October 21,2012, reportedly following demonstrations  by some Buddhists against allowing the OIC to open a humanitarian relief office in Yangon. The Rohingya Muslims wanted the office to be opened.


3. Despite opposition from some Buddhists, the Government of President TheinSein has continued to accept humanitarian relief from the OIC countries for distribution to both the communities.It has been reported that two planeloads of humanitarian relief material arrived at Yangon from Turkey on October 25.


4. According to Government sources, when the rioting broke out on October 21, the security forces found themselves to be inadequately numbered and had difficulty in controlling the situation.Reinforcements have since reached the State and the security forces are now in a better position to deal with the situation.


5. While official statements continue to estimate the total number of fatalities as about 60, the local "Irrawaddy Journal" and the Xinhua news agency of China have estimated the total number of fatalities till the evening of October 26 as 112.


6. According to local sources, the steep increase in fatalities is partly due to the security forces repeatedly opening fire on the rioting mobs from both the communities.It  has been reported that nearly about 2600 houses have been burnt down.


7. Following expressions of concern by Western and UN sources that if the riots continued it could threaten the process of reforms initiated by President TheinSein and weaken his position, the National League of Democracy (NLD) of Aung SanSuuKyi, which was maintaining a discreet silence till now on the situation, has bestirred itself and urged the  Government to send more reinforcements to the affected areas ofMrauk U, Minbya, Rathedaung, and Kyauktaw townships, north of the state capital of Sittwe, and southern Rakhine'sKyaukPhyu city and Mebyon.


8.A member of the "Committee of the Rule of Law and Tranquility," which is chaired by  SuuKyi, proposed at the Lower House in Naypyidaw on October 26 that the situation  be discussed in Parliament. Following a debate, Parliament approved a proposal to deploy more security forces to the region.


9. The Chinese have been concerned over the spread of the violence to KyaukPhyu, where a Chinese company has been constructing a port and a gas/oil pipeline to Yunnan to reduce China's dependence on the Malacca Straits for energy supplies to China. Chinese officials have expressed the hope that the TheinSein Government will be able to maintain stability in the area.So far, there are no reports of any threats to the Chinese working in the Rakhine State for oil and gas exploration, port and pipeline construction and the construction of a railway line to Yunnan. (27-10-12)


(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  Twitter @SORBONNE75)

Q&A: ‘Baloch Groups to Unite Against Pakistan’


By Karlos Zurutuza
Karlos Zurutuza interviews ALLAH NAZAR, Balochistan Liberation Front commander.


Baloch fighters at a location in Pakistan. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS.

SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain, Oct 26 2012 (IPS) - Fighters in the Balochistan province of Pakistan will soon set up a common front to take on the Pakistani military in their fight for Baloch independence, a senior commander of the Balochistan Liberation Front tells IPS in an interview.



"We are in full coordination with all Baloch resistance movements and we are soon to form a united command," Dr. Allah Nazar, a doctor turned guerrilla fighter tells IPS in the interview on the phone earlier this month.



Divided by the borders of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Baloch have their own language, and live across a land the size of France they call "Balochistan." The rugged terrain under their feet boasts enormous reserves of gas, gold and copper, and untapped oil and uranium. But this is also the most underdeveloped region across these countries.



Related IPS Articles

PAKISTAN: 'Ethnic Cleansing' Feared in Balochistan
Baloch insurgents in Pakistan are fragmented into several groups, mainly the Baloch Liberation Army, the Baloch Republican Army, the Baloch Liberation Front and the Lashkar-e-Balochistan (Balochistan's army). Several analysts say this fragmentation reflects the tribal element among the Baloch. But the groups are all secular, and share a common agenda in seeking independence for Balochistan.



This IPS reporter interviewed Dr Nazar on the phone after extended visits earlier to the three parts of the region (Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan) in 2009 and 2010. Excerpts from the interview:



How would you describe the group you lead?

In the Baloch Liberation Front there are people from all walks of life, from peasants to doctors. There are more than 6,000 fighters in our ranks and the number is growing by the day. The BLF is waging a guerrilla war inside East Balochistan which is under Pakistani control.



Do you coordinate with Jundullah ("Army of God") – the Baloch insurgent movement in neighbouring Iran?

We know the people fighting in Jundullah are also Baloch but we have no relation with them. Ours is a pure nationalist war, miles away from Jundullah´s religious extremism.
Islamabad has always claimed that the Baloch resistance is been backed by India.That´s just fake propaganda from Pakistani state media in order to show the world that the Baloch are proxies. India is not supporting us.

Pakistan controlled Balochistan has a provincial government. Why have you taken up an armed struggle and not parliamentary politics?

We had been declared an independent state from Pakistan in August 1947, even before Pakistan came into existence. Seven months later, Pakistan occupied our land by force. From the first day the Baloch have not accepted the occupation of Pakistan, so our struggle is a continuation of the struggle of our forefathers. Parliament makes laws brutally against Baloch national identity, our culture and language. And the Supreme Court is legitimising the brutality of the State.

Some Baloch leaders speak of self-determination and not independence.

Leaders such as Akhtar Mengal – former chief minister of the province and leader of the Mengal clan and head of the Balochistan National Party are calling for "national self-determination", but that's still a vague term. Self-determination has a broad meaning and it can imply that we remain inside the state. But we have our own history, our own language, our own national identity and so we want our freedom.

What do you think of the Freedom Charter, a road map for Balochistan independence supported by leaders like Hyrbyair Marri, the London-based tribal and political leader?

The Freedom Charter is a very good step as taken by Hyrbyair Marri. All Baloch fighting for freedom should suport the Freedom Charter.Islamabad claims that projects such as Gwadar's deep water harbour would boost the economy of Balochistan.

The Gwadar project has been planned in the interest of Punjabi and colonial powers and not for the welfare of Baloch people. It´s meant to bring demographic change in Balochistan; they want to bring in the Muhajirs –immigrants – and other people into Balochistan in order to unbalance demography. Gwadar is a death warrant for Baloch people.

The Baloch say the government in Islamabad is trying to Talibanise Balochistan in order to quell the Baloch nationalist movement.

That's true. Balochs are basically secular, by their culture, by their tradition, by their historical background, so the Pakistani regime is trying to Talibanise the Baloch society. Just where I am right now, the ISI – the Pakistani secret service – has set up two religious militant groups against the Baloch national struggle: one is Ansar-al-Islam and the other is Tahafuz-e-Hadoodullah (Protectors of God's Rule).

They have formed these groups in the name of Islam but their real aim is to crush the Baloch freedom movement. Pakistan is the cradle of the Taliban and the breeding ground of the Taliban. Pakistan is nourishing and funneling the Taliban and Al-Qaeda terrorists into Afghanistan, India, Saudi Arabia, Yemen… Pakistan is an irresponsible state that is putting the civilised world in danger. A free Baloch state would therefore be in the interest of the whole civilised world.



Washington is reconsidering a pullout from Afghanistan due for 2014. How will this affect the Af-Pak region?

If America and NATO pull out from Afghanistan, that will lead to turbulence and destabilisation. A weak Afghanistan will not only destabilise the region but it will be harmful for the whole civilised world.



COMMUNAL CLASHES WORSEN IN RAKHINE STATE OF MYANMAR

B.RAMAN

 

The fresh communal clashes  between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine State of Myanmar, which broke out on October 21,2012, have worsened despite the induction of security forces reinforcements by the Government.


2. While local Government sources have put the total number of fatalities so far at 20, a despatch of the Associated Press of the US has put it at 56. Local sources say that many of the latest fatalities seem to have occurred due to the security forces opening fire to bring rioters from both the communities under control.Arson attacks at nights have reportedly led to the destruction of nearly 2000 houses so far.


3. The areas worst affected by the violence and arson attacks areMinbyar,Mrauk-U,Kyaukpyu and Kyauktaw. Reports from the affected areas indicate that the security  forces, though inadequately numbered, have been trying to protect the Muslims by opening fire on rioting Buddhist mobs seeking to attack the Muslims. This should account for the sudden increase in the number of fatalities.


4. The National League for Democracy (NLD) of Aung San SuuKyi  issued a statement on October 25,2012, urging the Government to take further security measures to stop the ongoing violence  and re-establish peace and security in townships such as Kyaukpyu, Minbyar, Mrauk-U and Ann.


5.The 88 Generation Students group also released a statement calling on all people  to work together to resolve this conflict, stressing that a solution must be based on democracy and human rights.( 26-10-2012)


(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  Twitter @SORBONNE75)

October 25, 2012

Gadkari and the business of politics



SREENIVASAN JAIN Hindu Oped 26X12
 
 
The BJP president's financial dealings reek of cronyism and conflict of interest, and could jeopardise his political career
 
The current shadow of controversy that hangs over Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari has its roots in the distinctive nature of Maharashtra politics, dominated by owners of sugar mills, cooperative banks, dairies, and educational institutions, sometimes by all four at once. It's a trend which might cause alarm elsewhere but which Maharashtra's politicians like to present with a benign spin, that there is nothing wrong with padding your political base and bank balances as long as it is also in the public good. Who knows, perhaps in its early years this formula might have made for a certain kind of progressive politics, absent in the cow-belt States. But 50 years down the line, those same cooperative banks and sugar mills have been milked dry and run to the ground. The State's businessmen-politicians have expanded into areas of hard commerce like hotels, malls, and luxury apartments. As a natural corollary, builders and contractors have been made MLAs, MLCs and MPs. Today, Maharashtra regularly makes headlines as the perfect Petri dish for everything that ails contemporary Indian politics: cronyism, conflict of interest and sometimes, outright corruption.
Mr. Gadkari's own business career reflects the perils of that model.

As a late entrant to Maharashtra's politician-businessman club, Mr. Gadkari began with a sugar mill in Vidarbha in 2001, ostensibly to encourage the region's distress-hit cotton farmers to turn to a less risky crop. Except he chose to locate his plant on the outskirts of Nagpur, somewhat removed from the cotton-growing, suicide-prone districts of Vidarbha. At any rate, his description of himself as politician-cum-social entrepreneur would apply, if at all, to Purti's early days. Very swiftly, Purti expanded into areas that made it hard to justify outright social benefit, like ethanol and alcohol, which it supplies, among others, to Vijay Mallya's UB Group. When Purti decided to expand into power, Vidarbha's sunrise sector, it brought Mr. Gadkari in conflict with his own party, which opposed the diversion of water from Vidarbha's irrigation dams to a rash of new power projects. On Purti Group's website, one of his group companies, Avinash Fuels, says it has applied for coal mining in Maharashtra, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. (The website has since disabled all such pages). But it retains Purti's basic description as 'Vidarbha's leading business group', 'a Rs. 3000 million company' — which only shows how far Mr. Gadkari has come from his self-description as a patron of Vidarbha's poor.
While all of this may have opened up Mr. Gadkari to questions of conflict of interest, our investigation has raised more serious questions about the source of the capital that financed Purti's rapid growth.

In its regulatory filings, Purti Sugar and Power Pvt Ltd.'s start-up finance came from a paid-up capital of Rs. 68 crore, raised through the sales of six crore shares. About 70 per cent of these shares are owned by 18 companies. Their identity is impossible to ascertain since, as NDTV reporters discovered, none of them have given accurate addresses. For example, Earnwell Traders and Swiftsol India, which own shares for about Rs. 5 crore in Purti, gave their address as Govind Karman Chawl in Malad East. The residents of the chawl had never heard of these companies. Similarly, another set of investors in Purti, Chariot Investrade, Regency Equifin and Leverage Fintrade, also gave a false address in Malad East. One company, Sterlight Fincom, has changed its address three times in five years. And so on.

EVASIVE

When we asked Mr. Gadkari in studio last week about the identity of his mystery investors, he was evasive. He first said Purti was owned by 10,000 farmers, and he cannot remember each of their names or addresses. We pointed out that these so-called farmers own only 10 per cent of Purti, and that the rest are owned by 18 companies. He then said he "approached many people from the society: industrialists, traders, businessmen and investors ... and also NRI people".
But several of these companies have Mr. Gadkari's personal staff as their directors. Ashwami Sales and Marketing, which invested Rs. 3.2 crore in Purti, has as its director Manohar Panse, Mr. Gadkari's driver. Sterlight Fincom, which invested about Rs. 4 crore in Purti, has as its director Vishnu Sharma, Mr. Gadkari's astrologer. Why would the cash-strapped president of a political party borrow money from his own (presumably even more cash-strapped) employees?
Moreover, Mr. Gadkari has advanced loans to at least one of these companies that he is borrowing from. The balance sheet of Regency Equifin, which bought about 40 lakh shares in Purti, shows an unsecured loan from Nitin Gadkari of Rs. 26 lakh in 2009, which is reduced to Rs. 16 lakh in 2010. So not only is Mr. Gadkari borrowing from companies run by his personal staff, he is also lending money to those companies.

In his defence of the BJP president, senior party leader Lal Krishna Advani has said the "allegations [against Gadkari] are about standards of business and not about misuse of power or corruption". But in the words of a chartered accountant, companies that exhibit such features — ghost directors and addresses, cross-holdings, cronies as directors — fit the pattern of shell companies used to convert black money into white. According to this CA, somewhere, six layers back, these companies would be making cash deposits into a bank account, most likely in a bank with weak regulatory framework. And while these market practices, however dubious, are not unusual for businessmen looking for quick cash-to-cheque conversions, Mr. Gadkari is no ordinary businessman. Congress leader Digvijay Singh was quick to allege that Mr. Gadkari is routing kickbacks via these shell companies.

Mr. Gadkari has vehemently denied this. But one of the early investors in Purti (and the only one whose identity is known) is Ideal Road Builders, a subsidiary of Maharashtra's biggest toll road company, IRB Infra Developers Ltd. During Mr. Gadkari's stint as PWD Minister between 1995 and 1999, Ideal Road Builders received six contracts worth Rs. 63 crore. Just a year after Mr. Gadkari demitted office and started his sugar factory, Ideal picked up shares worth Rs. 1.85 crore in Purti, later increasing their shareholding value to Rs. 2.8 crore. D.P. Mhaiskar, a director in IRB, also picked up Purti shares worth Rs. 4 crore on an undisclosed date. In 2010, Global Safety Vision, a company with Mr. Mhaiskar as director, loaned Purti Rs. 164 crore, which Purti used to wipe out its entire debt. Global's balance sheet shows a paid-up capital of only Rs. 1 lakh. Mr. Mhaiskar told The Times of India this week that he had raised the money by selling a chunk of his personal stake in IRB.

QUESTION OF EQUITY

Mr. Gadkari seemed aghast at the suggestion that ex-PWD Minsters should not accept investments or loans from road contractors. He said the tendering process to Ideal Road Builders was above board, a claim contested by the NCP. Mr. Gadkari also said "taking equity is not a fraud. Equity is not a corruption, equity is a shareholding." True. But for a politician and an ex-Minister, it is important to explain the source of equity. Equity from a road contractor to whom he has awarded tenders carries a strong whiff of conflict of interest. Equity from sources whose identity he has not been able to explain carries more serious implications. Mr. Gadkari has offered himself and his companies up for an enquiry. The government has responded with far greater alacrity than it demonstrated in the case of Robert Vadra, ordering enquiries by tax authorities and the Registrar of Companies into Purti and its investors.
Regardless of the UPA's blatant double standards, the very fact that he is being probed will do no good to Mr. Gadkari's political career, poised as it is at a critical juncture. This is quite apart from the damage any potentially damaging findings would cause. Would he in hindsight agree, as some in his own party do, that business and politics do not make for a healthy mix?

(Sreenivasan Jain is Managing Editor, NDTV. He anchors the ground reportage show, Truth vs Hype on NDTV 24x7. E-mail: vasu@ndtv.com)

NITIN GADKARI,SONIA GANDHI, NAVEEN JINDAL & MITT ROMNEY


B.RAMAN


ShriNitinGadkari, President of the BJP, and Shri Naveen Jindal, Member of the LokSabha belonging to the Congress, are businessmen who have entered politics and have continued to be associated with decision-making relating to their business companies even while playing their political role.


2. Mrs.Sonia Gandhi, President of the Congress, which is in power in the Government of India, is the mother-in-law of Shri Robert Vadra, who has prospered in business after  marryingMs.Priyanka Gandhi, daughter of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi.


3.Mr. Mitt Romney is a member of the US Republican Party belonging to a well-known business family of Massachusetts.He entered politics to become the Governor of his State.He is now contesting the US Presidential elections against President Barack Obama.


4. ShriGadkari has got involved in a huge controversy because of his continued association with his business companies when he was the PWD Minister in the Maharashtra Cabinet in the 1990s and now as the President of the BJP.


5. Shri Jindal has got involved in an embarrassing controversy because of his continued association with his steel business even while serving as a Member of the Parliament belonging to the Congress.He has allegedly benefitted from a coal mining block allotted to him by the Government of India.


6. There is nothing wrong in businessmen entering politics provided they do not profit in their businesses as a result of their political position and they do not allow their political role to influence their business decision-making. How to enforce political and business rectitude when businessmen take to politics?


7.It would be useful to make a case study of Mr.Romney in the US.He was associated with some business companies of his State investing in and trading with China. One of the companies was allegedly even dealing with telecommunications which is a sensitive area from the national security point of view.


8.Before Mr.Romney decided to enter politics and contest as Governor of his State, he made a public statement of all his business interests and holdings, formed a public trust in respect of each of his companies and dissociated himself from all decision-making in respect of these companies.


9. Those who had watched the second Presidential debate between Mr.Romney and Mr.Obama, would have noticed that Mr.Obama questioned Mr.Romney's association with business companies investing in and trading with China.Mr.Romney replied that the  affairs of these companies are managed by a public trust and that he is not associated with their decision-making. Mr.Obama was satisfied with his reply and did not pursue the matter.


10.In India, huge controversies have arisen relating to the business background of Sri Gadkari and Shri Jindal because they did not dissociate themselves from decision-making relating to their business companies while functioning as political leaders holding key positions. The public perception is and will be that they have benefitted in their businesses as a result of their political role and influence.


11.ShriGadkari was a public servant when he was the PWD Minister. He is not a public servant now as the President of the BJP.Shri Jindal is a public servant as a member of the Parliament and is subject to the jurisdiction of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Had he been a member of the US Congress and had he been allotted a coal mining block, the legal and public assumption in the US would have been that he did not get the block on merits, but by virtue of his being in the Congress.To avoid such perceptions, all public servants in the US form public trusts of their businesses and dissociate themselves from decision-making.


12. In the case of Mrs.Sonia Gandhi, the wrong-doing was of a different kind. When the Congress was elected to power in 2004, political rectitude demanded that she should inform all Government departments of the Government of India and all State Governments where the Congress is in power, that her son-in-law is a real estate businessman and he should not be shown any favours because of his being her son-in-law. She did not do so.


13. When the controversy regarding the real estate wheeling and dealing of ShriVadra recently broke out, she should have immediately written to the Prime Minister to look into all his real estate dealings in which departments of the Government of India and State Governments were involved and satisfy himself that there was no wrong-doing.


14. She did not do that either.Instead, allegedly at her prodding, a number of senior Ministers of the Cabinet of Dr.Manmohan Singh holding sensitive portfolios embarked on a cover-up and damage control exercise to prevent any political embarrassment to her and to deny any criminal liability of ShriVadra.


15. The controversies relating to ShriGadkari, Shri Jindal and Mrs.Sonia Gandhi call for follow-up action at two levels.An enquiry into all allegations made to rule out civil or criminal wrong-doing and introduction of conflict of interest provisions in our laws to enforce rectitude when businessmen want to enter public life. ( 26-10-12)

(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  Twitter @SORBONNE75)

India's World - Literature, Culture, and Media | The New School

India Strategy Forum 2012

3rd Annual India Strategy Forum

India Strategy Forum 2012

October 30-31, 2012, Hotel The Grand, New Delhi.

www.asiastrategy.org

Organised by Institute for Strategy - A Global Think Tank of Strategy Experts from Top Global Business Schools / Universities and CEOs focused on Asia.

MEMBERSHIP

We are inviting membership, both Corporate and Individual, for the Think Tank.

Highlights

v  Comprehensive Agenda Developed by Top Global Experts.

v  Targeted at Leaders and CXOs in India or those interested in India.

v  Focus on Practice of Corporate, Business and Functional Strategy in India.

v  60 High Profile Speakers consisting of Chairmen, CEOs, Managing Directors.

v  Already Confirmed Participation by Senior Management from 300  Companies.

October 24, 2012

Why the U.S. Debate’s Silence on India?



By Margherita Stancati


Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
President Barack Obama greets Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at the third and final presidential debate in Florida, October 22.
In the third and final debate between U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, India wasn't mentioned, not even once.

By comparison, this is how often the following countries were mentioned:
Iran: 47 times
Israel: 34 times
China: 32 times
Syria: 28 times
Pakistan: 25 times
Afghanistan: 21 times

Why was India left out?

The bottom line, says Sadanand Dhume, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based think tank, is that "India is much less central to U.S. foreign policy than many pundits in New Delhi would like to believe."
Ouch.

"India is a large and inward-looking country and in many ways it sees itself as the centre of Asia whereas in reality as this debate shows it is not quite the case," explains Mr. Dhume, who also contributes opinion pieces to The Wall Street Journal.

There are several reasons why India –  for all the talk of its "strategic partnership" with the U.S. –  is not a major foreign policy concern for the two candidates. And the reasons are not necessarily bad.

Relations between the two countries are good and stable and there is a bipartisan consensus that they should stay that way. So there is no real sense of urgency to address the U.S.-India relationship and, as a result, less of a reason to bring it up in  a debate.

After all, most of Washington's closest allies – like the whole of Europe – were either not mentioned or mentioned in passing.

The countries that topped the mentions list "are overwhelmingly trouble spots," says Mr. Dhume, "In some ways India should be happy not to be on that list."

The focus areas of the debate were: how to handle the ongoing crisis in Syria; how tough the U.S. should be on Iran as it pursues nuclear ambitions; and how to address the relationship with China and its trade policy.

There are some areas of discord in U.S.-India ties – including tensions over U.S. visa rules,  and over India's nuclear liability laws – but relations are overall warm and these issues are less pressing than the foreign policy concerns mentioned above. So it's understandable that they would get more airtime.

Still, it's somewhat surprising that India was left out entirely of the 90-minute discussion. There were a few debate topics under which India could've come up but didn't: the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan; and the rise of China and tomorrow's world.

The U.S. has been encouraging India to take a bigger role in Afghanistan, including by training local security forces, as the U.S. prepares to withdraw most of its troops by the end of 2014. The U.S.'s encouragement of India to take a more active role comes as U.S. ties with Pakistan – India's neighbor and historical rival – are at a low point. Pakistan, which sees Afghanistan as falling under its sphere of influence, has resisted attempts by New Delhi to set closer ties with Kabul.

Despite lengthy discussions on the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan's role in this, neither Mr. Obama nor Mr. Romney mentioned India – perhaps an indication that New Delhi's influence in Kabul remains limited.
Surprisingly, India wasn't even mentioned when Mr. Obama addressed the issue of jobs being shipped abroad. While outsourcing jobs to India has come up earlier in the campaign, in this debate it was only addressed with reference to China, which both candidates claimed didn't play by trade rules.

"China is much more economically significant and many more jobs have been lost to China than to India," says Mr. Dhume.
There is also little evidence to suggest that there will be major changes in India-U.S. relations after the upcoming presidential elections.

After all, India wasn't mentioned once in debates between Mr. Obama and then Republican candidate John McCain four years ago. And since then, the U.S. and India have made efforts to forge deeper ties. Just look at the string of official trips, including of Mr. Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Readers, what do you think of the current state of U.S.-India ties?
Follow India Real Time and Margherita on  Twitter @indiarealtime and @margheritamvs.

BUDDHIST-MUSLIM TENSIONS AGGRAVATE IN RAKHINE STATE OF MYANMAR


B.RAMAN


The Myanmar Government headed by President TheinSein is rushing Army reinforcements to the Rakhine State following  a fresh outbreak of clashes between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in different townships of the Rakhine State since October 21,2012.


2.So far, two Rohingya Muslims and one Buddhist have been killed in the clashes and about 1000 houses, mostly belonging to Rohingya Muslims, have allegedly been burnt down, thereby forcing the Muslim residents of these houses to shift to boats.


3. The fresh anti-Muslim campaign has assumed new disturbing features. Buddhist monks have revived their opposition to the Government accepting humanitarian assistance for the Rohingya Muslim displaced persons from the OIC member-countries. Following bitter opposition from the monks, the Government of TheinSein has reversed its decision to allow the OIC to set up a branch in Yangon. It has now stated that it will allow the OIC to have only a temporary set-up in Yangon to supervise the distribution of humanitarian relief to the internally displaced Muslims and Buddhists in the Rakhine State. The monks are opposing even this and have been insisting there is no need for any humanitarian assistance from the OIC countries.


4.Buddhist students, who took out a procession ( 800) in Sittwe, the capital of the Rakhine State, on October 24,2012, have demanded the introduction  of an anti-Muslim apartheid policy in the local educational institutions. They have been saying that they will not sit in the same classes and stay in the same hostels as Rohingya Muslim students and have been demanding separate classes and separate hostels for the Rohingya Muslims. The Buddhist students, who participated in the procession, denounced the Rohingya Muslims as Bengali terrorists.


5. The Commission set up by the Government to enquire into the causes for the violence since May has not made much headway in its enquiries due to non-cooperation from both the communities.


6. The anti-Government anger of the Muslims of the Rakhine State has started affecting Muslims of sub-continental origin living in Yangon and other cities of Myanmar outside the Rakhine State. Apart from expressing solidarity with the Rohingya Muslims of the Rakhine State, they have been accusing the Government of TheinSein of failing to give assurances regarding the security of the Muslims living in other parts of Myanmar during the Eid festival on October 26,2012.Muslim groups in Yangon have called for the non-observance of Eid on the ground that the Government has failed to give satisfactory guarantees for their security during the festival.


7. The Government of President TheinSein is finding itself in a dilemma. It is under growing pressure from the OIC as well as the Western countries to pay attention to the human rights and security of the RohingyaMuslims. At the same time, the anti-Rohingya  demands of the monks and the Buddhist students have public support, even among Buddhist soldiers of the Army.


8. Till now, the Buddhist soldiers of the security forces have remained disciplined and have been complying with the orders of the Government to enforce law and order and to protect the Rohingya Muslims. But will they continue to do so? That is a question that has been troubling the Government.


9. Unfortunately, there is no political leader ---not even Aung San SuuKyi---- with any influence over the Buddhist monks and students of the Rakhine State who can persuade them to tone down their anti-Rohingya rhetoric and refrain from acts that could further exacerbate the situation. Aung San SuuKyi continues to maintain a discreet silence on the plight of the RohingyaMuslims lest she lose the support of the Buddhists.


10. The unabated anti-Buddhist anger among the Rohingya Muslims could add to the radicalisation of the Muslim community in the affected region with unpredictable fall-out on theregional  law and order situation. ( 25-10-12)

(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  Twitter @SORBONNE75)

 

October 22, 2012

OBAMA-ROMNEY: WHO CAN BETTER MANAGE THE SAME OLD WORLD?


B.RAMAN


 The third andthe  last US Presidential debate, a fortnight before the polling day, was held on the morning of October 23,2012 (Indian Standard Time).


2. It was supposed to have been devoted almost exclusively to foreign policy, but economic issues kept intruding into the debate quite often and sometimes in a substantive manner.


3.Even before the debate, it was known that Mr.Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger, is weak on foreign policy issues. He did remarkably well in the first debate which was totally devoted to economic and social issues.He, therefore, kept bringing in economic issues in context and out of context and President Barack Obama found himself forced to react to him in kind.


4. On purely foreign policy issues, Mr.Obama did much better than Mr.Romney, but even then he could not cross the 50 per cent mark in terms of support from the sample voters ( 48 per cent) polled by the CNN after the debate.


5. After the conclusion of all the three debates, it is evident that while Mr.Romney did overwhelmingly better than Mr.Obama in the first debate on the economic issues, Mr.Obama did better thanMr.Romney in the second  and third debates devoted to a mix of the economic and foreign policy issues----but not overwhelmingly so. The election campaign seems to be moving slowly in favour of Mr.Obama but not yet in a decisive manner.


6. The Republican camp has reasons to be disappointed by the performance of  Mr.Romney in the second and third debates. Mr.Romney is bruised, but not yet beaten beyond recovery.


7.It was evident that both the candidates came to the debate with the belief that foreign policy issues may not be crucial in influencing the as yet undecided voters on the polling day. In their calculation, it is economic issues that will influence their preferences. Both the candidates were, therefore, looking for an opportunity to bring in the state of the US economy even while debating the state of the world. As a result, the debate became a bit repetitive and stale.


8. While discussing China, one would have expected them to dwell on questions such as the rapid modernisation of the Chinese Armed Forces, the possible threats to freedom of navigation from the Chinese Navy, China's cyber and space warfare capabilities etc.


9. Surprisingly, none of these questions were raised in a substantive manner. Instead, they focussed on China's perceived currency manipulation, its continued violation of intellectual property rights and the threat posed to the US industries from their Chinese counterparts. This showed that while purely foreign policy issues like West Asia, Iran, and the Af-Pak  decisions preoccupy their minds, the impact of foreign policy on the state of the economy was an equally worrisome issue. The spectre of a worsening economy came in the way of the formulation of a clear vision---whether in respect of economic or foreign policies.


10. When the three debates are taken as whole, it is clear that a fortnight before the polling day, the campaign is shaping up to be a contest between the lack-lustre record of an incumbent President and the lack-lustre policy vision of his challenger.


11.This has been a lack-lustre election campaign---with no exciting vision for the future articulated by either Mr.Obama or Mr.Romney.What they were debating was not how they would usher in a brave new world, but how they would better manage the same old world that they have inherited. In the absence of exciting new ideas and new visions for the future, an incumbent even with a lack- lustre record may do better than a lack-lustre challenger, who tries to play it safe and is not a risk-taker.


12. There is no reason for us to feel disappointed that India did not figure in the debate even once. Even the European Union, Japan, South Korea, the ASEAN and Australia did not figure even in passing. This is because these are areas of future opportunities for US policy-making. Today's debate was mostly about areas of present concern to the US.


13. This may please be read in continuation of my article of October 7,2012, titled "Romney's Ambivalence on India" at http://ramanstrategicanalysis.blogspot.in/2012/10/romneys-ambivalence-on-india.html ( 23-10-12)


(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  Twitter @SORBONNE75)

 

US seal on India’s key role in rebuilding Afghanistan


The 218 km road connecting Zaranj on the Afghan-Iran border to Delaram on the main Herat-Kandahar Highway at an estimated cost of $150 million and 130 lives was clearly meant to be one of most expensive and visible symbols of India’s commitment to Afghanistan’s reconstruction. The road was completed in 2009. Within two years, Maulavi Abdul Rasheed, the provincial head Taliban effectively took control of this road link, which in turn allowed him to dominate the entire Nimroz province. With negligible NATO/ISAF relationship with Iran, the highway was of  little use to the US and its allies. Their personnel, concentrated in the two towns, Zaranj and Delaram, are largely serviced by the airfields in both cities.

The Zaranaj-Delaram misadventure should be instructive to those who seek India’s “return to the center stage in Afghanistan after being relegated to the sidelines for two years.”  
Rajesh Kadian




US seal on India’s key role in rebuilding Afghanistan

TNN | Oct 20, 2012, 08.40PM IST



NEW DELHI: India built the Zaranj-Delaram road connecting Afghanistan to Iran in 2008. Four years later, India is being courted to replicate the successful project to connect Afghanistan to its other Central Asian neighbours like Turkmenistan, Tajikistan etc.

India is returning to centerstage in Afghanistan. Two years after being relegated to the sidelines, India is clawing her way back to relevance.

As the US prepares to draw down in Afghanistan, India is emerging as Afghanistan's key ally. The tide turned decisively with the first trilateral meeting between Afghanistan, India and US in New York last week. Jawed Ludin, Afghanistan's deputy foreign minister, led the proceedings. For the first time, Indian, US and Afghan officials sat together to discuss Afghanistan's future. The meetings, held at the Afghan mission in New York, were under the radar and didn't attract the attention of Pakistan, which is wary of the trilateral arrangement.

In an unpublicized statement that laid out the contours of the cooperation, Ludin said the trilateral "marks the beginning of a series of consultations among our three governments... who have pledged to work together on common challenges and opportunities including combating terrorism and violent extremism... increasing regional trade, investment and integration."

Indian and US officials agree that continuing to help Afghanistan's economic development is a top priority. The first area, where all three would be working together, would be in mineral resources — an Indian consortium secured the Hajigak mines' exploration, and Indian firms are looking at getting more mineral rights. Equally, India would be looking for US' technical help in these ventures. The second sector will be in connectivity — all three nations are investing in creating roads and rail networks to embed Afghanistan in the regional trade and transit networks. India and the US believe this is the way to save Afghanistan from becoming a haven for extremism.

The trilateral, say sources, is a testimony to the roots that India has struck in Afghanistan over the past decade. Significantly, it shows the distance the US has traveled on the Af-Pak front. Not so long ago, US officials preferred to ignore India's work in Afghanistan as they talked up Pakistan's importance. Pakistan's rants about Indian consulates prompted much US questioning of New Delhi's intentions there, and there was general rejection of any suggestion to have an Indian presence in the security sector.

India laboured on solitarily, because in the policy establishment in New Delhi, there was a conviction that Afghanistan's stability is crucial to national security. India's economic and development programmes have yielded rich dividends. Hamid Karzai, regularly vilified by the West for being corrupt and venal, has received unqualified support from India. It wasn't a coincidence that the first strategic partnership agreement was signed with India, with others following afterwards. But as Pakistan's relations with the US have dived, and its connections with the Haqqani Network are there for all to see, the US heeded Afghan insistence and turned to India. After getting the contract to develop the Hajigak iron ore mines, a consortium of Indian companies is hoping to win a bid to mine copper and gold in the country.

The trilateral plans also point to something else — the US is not going to uproot its presence from Afghanistan any time soon. They will dominate the security sector, not merely to degrade Talibanbut to try to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven of terrorists again. William Burns, US Deputy Secretary of State, told TOI, "The US commitment to stability in Afghanistan doesn't end in 2014. We all learned from the mistakes that followed the Soviet exit from Afghanistan. That's exactly why the US entered into a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghanistan similar to the Strategic Partnership Agreement which India has entered into with Afghanistan." 
 

Baloch people being treated like slaves: Akhtar Mengal


Watch Video : http://youtu.be/xSyh7NOn8bA

Pakistan has not just neglected Balochistan but has also discriminated against it ever since its army forcefully occupied the region in March 1948.

The exploitation of the region’s natural wealth continues at the cost of lives of hundreds of Baloch political activists and nationalist leaders.

There is no rule of law in Balochistan, which is facing the worst kind of human rights violations.

" We have been occupied against our will. Balochistan was forcefully occupied by Pakistan and till now we have not been treated as equals. We are being treated like slaves." said baloch leader Sardar Mengal


Sardar Akhtar Mengal of Balochistan National Party (BNP) is among many Baloch leaders who have been forced to live in self-imposed exile. He has been living in London for the last three years.

He recently visited Islamabad to depose on the state of Balochistan before the Supreme Court and submitted a six-point plan that asked for an end to military operations against the Baloch and the release of thousands of missing persons.

Sardar Mengal, who headed Balochistan for 18 months in 1998 before his government was dismissed by Pakistan, is seeking an intervention by the United Nations.

"If you look back in the past, we have tried all methods. We have participated in elections. We have tried the democratic way to make them understand the genuine problems of Balochistan. The Pakistani establishment just doesn’t want to understand. The six-point plan that I have submitted to the Supreme Court is not a solution to Balochistan's problems. These are confidence building measures. Once these measures have been taken, then we can sit with Pakistani authorities, whoever they are – be it the establishment, the Parliament or the government. Whoever they are, but with a guarantor! The guarantor can only be the United Nations."  said baloch leader Sardar Mengal

Mengal’s 6-point plan is similar to the six-points presented in 1966 by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the leader of the Bengali nationalist movement who later become the founder of Bangladesh state.

The Pakistan government and the army has rejected the assertions of the Baloch leader saying the armed forced are neither conducting any military operation nor are there any death squads of the intelligence agencies operating in Balochistan.

Sardar Mengal says it is `outrageous’.

" I am not surprised by their (Pakistan government) attitude. Till now they haven’t accepted what they have done in East Pakistan – which is now Bangladesh. They killed thousands of civilians. Their army raped innocent Bengali women. Even the Hamoodur Rahman Commission report is against the Pakistan army. They are not ready to accept it, then how can they accept the genocide in Balochistan." said baloch leader Sardar Mengal

The situation in Balochistan is fast moving towards a point of no return.

Baloch people are continuously raising their voice against Pakistan’s atrocities, especially the “Pick, Kill and Dump” tactics adopted by Pakistani intelligence agencies.

An urgent political solution with international intervention is required to save millions of lives in Balochistan.

Understanding China’s world view



Shyam Saran
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2012/20121022/edit.htm#6


Delegates at the annual Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

THE Chinese will insistently demand and sometimes obtain explicit formulations from a friend and an adversary alike on issues of importance to their interests, but will rarely concede clarity and finality in formulations reflecting the other side’s interests. Thus, there is the recurring demand that India reaffirm, time and again, its recognition of Chinese sovereignty over Tibet. In 2003, during Prime Minister Vajpayee’s visit, China conceded Sikkim as a part of India but this was not explicitly recorded in a written formulation. In 2005, during Wen Jiabao’s visit to India, China went a step further and handed over maps of China, showing Sikkim as part of India. Recently, some Chinese scholars have pointed out that the absence of an official statement recognising Indian sovereignty leaves the door open to subsequent shifts if necessary.

China is the one power which impinges most directly on India’s geopolitical space. As the two countries expand their respective economic and military capabilities and their power radiates outwards from their frontiers, they will inevitably intrude into each other’s zone of interest, what has been called “over-lapping peripheries”
I recall seeing the record of conversation between R.K. Nehru and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in 1962, some months before the border war erupted in October that year. R.K. Nehru drew attention to reports that China was leaning towards the Pakistani position that Jammu and Kashmir was a disputed territory. He recalled to Zhou an earlier conversation, where when asked whether China accepted Indian sovereignty over J&K, he had said, rhetorically: "Has China ever said that it does not accept Indian sovereignty over J&K?" or words to that effect. At this latest encounter, Zhou turned the same formulation on its head, to ask, "Has China ever said that India has sovereignty over J&K?"

Much of the misunderstanding and lack of communication that has characterised India-China relations may be sourced to the failure on India’s part to be conversant with Chinese thought processes. It is easy to accuse the Chinese of betrayal, as Nehru did after the 1962 war, but a clear awareness that deception is, after all, an integral element of Chinese strategic culture, may have spared us much angst in the past. Such awareness should certainly be part of our confronting the China challenge in the future.


Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao with Dr Manmohan Singh: China is respectful of India’s role in multilateral fora, where on several global issues Indian interests converge with China.

Chinese ‘contextualise’

Another important feature of Chinese thinking is what I would call, "Contextualising". Significant decisions and actions must always be located in a broad assessment of political, economic, social and even psychological factors that constitute the stage setting for the proposed activity. This lends an inherent prudence to Chinese strategic thinking, but once events have brewed to the right mix and the timing is right, action must be swift and decisive. The Chinese strategist may wish to avoid war, if such a war carries inordinate risk. However, the use of force is an essential and accepted part of pursuing national interests and war is not necessarily an unmitigated evil. The Indian attitude towards the use of force and the dangers of war is more ambiguous. The use of force is often seen as a failure of diplomacy, not an extension of it. And this is an important difference between the two countries. The conversations between Nehru and Mao in 1956 on the nature of war reflect this clearly.

Let me try and illustrate this by examining some of the events leading up to the 1962 border war. In January 2005, Chinese TV broadcast a documentary entitled "The Secret History of the China-India War". This documentary is important for two reasons. It painstakingly spells out the domestic, regional and international context within which the decision to launch the attack against Indian border forces was taken. It refers to the hesitation within certain sections of the party leadership to "make an enemy out of India", at a time when China was still recovering from the ravages of famine and the disastrous consequences of the 1958-61 Great Leap Forward. The international situation was also not judged to be favourable. The ideological conflict with the Soviet Union, the commentary says, had now become a state-to-state conflict as well. The United States continued with its hostile policies towards China and the Chiang regime in Taiwan was becoming more aggressive. This is an example of the "contextualizing" approach. This probably corresponded to the assessment of Chinese posture on the Indian side; briefly, that while border skirmishes would continue, China was unlikely to engage in a full-scale war.

However, from the summer of 1962, the "context" had begun to change and the clues to this change were missed by the Indian side. After having retreated to the "second line of leadership" in the wake of the failure of the Great Leap Forward, Mao plotted his return to absolute leadership, using the PLA with the new Defence Minister Lin Piao, who had replaced Marshal Peng Tehuai, as an ally. The TV documentary points to differences of opinion within the Party leadership on the border issue. This, it said, was settled by the denunciation of those who counselled restraint, as "right opportunists". While having temporarily ceded the administration of the Party and the Government to other veteran leaders like Liu Shaoqi and Peng Zhen, Mao appears to have taken charge of issuing directives to the PLA personally, on handling border tensions with India. It was he who decided in August, 1962, to engage in a full-scale military assault on Indian forces, and to "liquidate the invading Indian army". But this was done only after his commanders had reported that the Indian side simply had neither the numbers nor the equipment to withstand a Chinese attack, particularly if the attack was of an unexpected scale.

On the international front, too, there was a window of opportunity, mitigating some of the constraints. In June, 1962, Chinese Ambassador Wang Bingnan had enquired from his U.S. counterpart in Warsaw whether the U.S. would take advantage of India-China border tensions, to encourage a Taiwanese attack on the mainland. He obtained a categorical assurance, which he claims in his memoirs, played a big role in the decision to go to war with India. Thanks to the impending Cuban missile crisis, the then Soviet Union sought Chinese support by conveying its intention to side with China in the border conflict with India. China may not have known about the looming US-Soviet crisis, but it certainly profited from the Soviet change of heart, temporary though this proved to be. Perhaps it is too much to expect that Indian decision-makers would have connected these dots together, but that is precisely what is necessary in dealing with China.

The other example of the importance of contextualising may be seen through a contrary example. In 1971, during the Bangladesh war, the US and China were allies supporting Pakistan. Kissinger tried to persuade the Chinese to attack India along the Sino-Indian border as a means of relieving pressure on their common ally, Pakistan. In the papers of Alexander Haig, who was the White House Chief of Staff at the time, it is reported that he did receive a formal reply from the Chinese side, conveying that China had decided not to move troops to the Sino-Indian border. One can confidently surmise that the constraining ‘context’ in this regard was the Indo-Soviet treaty of 1971.

The Wangdung incident

Lest any one believes that Chinese strategists always get things right, I would like to recall what happened in 1986 during the Wangdung Incident in the Eastern sector. In 1985, China began to signal that the so-called "package proposal" for resolving the border issue, essentially legitimising the post-1962 status quo, was no longer on offer. In official talks, Chinese officials stated explicitly for the first time that since the disputed area in the Eastern sector was much larger than in the Western sector, India would have to make significant concessions in that sector and China would reciprocate with appropriate concessions (unspecified) in the West. It was also conveyed to us that at a minimum, Tawang would have to be transferred to the Chinese side. When we pointed out that just three years back in 1982 Deng Xiaoping had himself spelt out the package proposal as we had hitherto understood it, the response was that we may have read too much into his words.
The shift could have been related to a greater level of confidence following China’s rapid growth and the fact that a young and as yet untested Prime Minister had taken office in Delhi. This was followed by the discovery in the summer of 1986 that the Chinese had crossed the Thagla Ridge and occupied a feature called Le, built permanent barracks as well as a helipad. This was in some way linked to the hardening of the Chinese position on the border and the new insistence on India making concessions in the Eastern sector.

An undiplomatic offensive

I recall accompanying Ambassador K.P.S. Menon to lodge a protest with the then Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister and being witness to a most undiplomatic offensive and vituperative harangue by the latter. He claimed that China was, of course, on its own territory, that it was only "strengthening border management" after the neglect of recent years and that India would be prudent not to over-react. Soon thereafter I was transferred from Beijing to Tokyo, but en route in Delhi I attended a strategy session called to discuss our counter moves. There was, I admit, a reluctance to take any military counter measures. However a couple of weeks later I learnt that the then Army Chief, Sundarji, had airlifted troops and occupied the parallel ridge, known by the peaks Lurongla, Hathungla and Sulunga , overlooking the Sumdorung river. Two forward posts, Jaya and Negi, were set up across the river just below the ridge and only 10 metres from a Chinese forward post. The Chinese were taken completely by surprise as perhaps were our own political leaders. The then External Affairs Minister, N.D. Tiwari, was transiting Beijing on his way back from Pyong Yang after attending the Non-Aligned Coordination Bureau meeting that September, to try and assuage Chinese anger. I was accompanying him en route to Tokyo having been deputed to Pyong Yang to assist our delegation. Senior Chinese Foreign Ministry officials were at hand at the airport to receive our delegation. In the brief exchange that took place at the airport, our Minister’s protestations of peace and goodwill were met with the not unreasonable comment that while our leaders were talking peace they were making aggressive military moves on the ground at the same time. China would only be satisfied if Indian troops vacated the ridge they had occupied. China would not be fooled; it would "listen to what is said, but see what action is taken."In later talks we agreed to vacate the heights on our side if the Chinese retreated behind the Thagla ridge, but since they were not ready to do so, we stayed put as well.

While we may not have planned it this way, the Chinese judged our actions through their own prism: that we had countered their unexpected move by a well orchestrated counter move of our own. Subsequently, I am told, that the offensive and overbearing tone adopted by Chinese Foreign Ministry officials also changed to being more polite and civilized The next several years were spent in the two sides discussing disengagement in this sector and finally in 1992, the eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation was ended and a number of confidence-building measures adopted. The lesson to be drawn is not that we should be militarily provocative but that we should have enough capabilities deployed to convince the other side that aggressive moves would invite counter moves. This is the reason why it is so important for us to speed up the upgradation of our border infrastructure and communication links along all our borders, not just with China.
Chinese perceptions

Currently, there are two strands in Chinese perceptions about India. There are strong, lingering attitudes that dismiss India’s claim as a credible power and regard its great power aspirations as "arrogance" and as being an unrealistic pretension. The other strand, also visible in scholarly writings and in the series of leadership summits that have taken place at regular intervals, is recognition that India’s economic, military and scientific and technological capabilities are on the rise, even if they do not match China. India is valued as an attractive market for Chinese products at a time when traditional markets in the West are flat. China is also respectful of India’s role in multilateral fora, where on several global issues Indian interests converge with China.

I have personal experience of working closely and most productively with Chinese colleagues in the UN Climate Change negotiations and our trade negotiators have found the Chinese valuable allies in WTO negotiations. In such settings the Chinese comfortably defer to the Indian leadership. I have also found that on issues of contention, there is reluctance to confront India directly, the effort usually being to encourage other countries to play a proxy role in frustrating Indian diplomacy. This was clearly visible during the Nuclear Suppliers Group meeting in Vienna in 2008, when China did not wish to be the only country to oppose the waiver for India in nuclear trade, as it could have since the Group functions by consensus.

China may have refused to engage India in any dialogue on nuclear or missile issues, but that does not mean that Indian capabilities in this regard go unnoticed or their implications for Chinese security are ignored. It is in the maritime sphere that China considers Indian capabilities to possess the most credibility and as affecting Chinese security interests. These two strands reflect an ambivalence about India’s emergence — dismissive on the one hand, and a wary, watchful and occasionally respectful posture on the other. Needless to say, it is what trajectory India itself traverses in its economic and social development that will mostly influence Chinese perception about the country.
Impact of Indo-US ties

Additionally, how India manages its relations with other major powers, in particular, the United States, would also be a factor. My own experience has been that the closer India-US relations are seen to be, the more amenable China has proved to be. I do not accept the argument that a closer India-US relationship leads China to adopt a more negative and aggressive posture towards India. The same is true of India’s relations with countries like Japan, Indonesia and Australia, who have convergent concerns about Chinese dominance of the East Asian theatre. I also believe that it is a question of time before similar concerns surface in Russia as well. India should be mindful of this in maintaining and consolidating its already friendly, but sometimes, sketchy relations with Russia. The stronger India’s links are with these major powers, the more room India would have in its relations with China.

It would be apparent from my presentation that India and China harbour essentially adversarial perceptions of each other. This is determined by geography as well as by the growth trajectories of the two countries. China is the one power which impinges most directly on India’s geopolitical space. As the two countries expand their respective economic and military capabilities and their power radiates outwards from their frontiers, they will inevitably intrude into each other’s zone of interest, what has been called "over-lapping peripheries". It is not necessary that this adversarial relationship will inevitably generate tensions or, worse, another military conflict, but in order to avoid that India needs to fashion a strategy which is based on a constant familiarity with Chinese strategic calculus , the changes in this calculus as the regional and global landscape changes and which is, above all, informed by a deep understanding of Chinese culture, the psyche of its people and how these, too, are undergoing change in the process of modernisation. Equally we should endeavour to shape Chinese perceptions through building on the positives and strengthening collaboration on convergent interests, which are not insignificant. One must always be mindful of the prism through which China interprets the world around it and India’s place in that world. It is only through such a complex and continuing exercise that China’s India challenge can be dealt with.

The writer is a former Foreign
Secretary. The article has been
excerpted from the second annual
"K. Subrahmanyam Memorial
Lecture" he delivered in Delhi
on August 29, 2012.