February 23, 2013

Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering : 16th APG Annual Meeting will be convened in Shanghai, China during the week of 15 - 19 July 2013


  16th APG Annual Meeting will be convened in Shanghai, China during the week of 15 - 19 July 2013 

See comprehensive fraud warning below in relation to use of the name "APG" and variants.

The Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) is an international organisation (regionally focused) consisting of 41 members and a number of international and regional observers including the United Nations, IMF, FATF, Asian Development Bank, ASEAN Secretariat, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and World Bank (see Members and Observers links for the list).
The APG is closely affiliated with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), whose Secretariat is located in the OECD headquarters in Paris, France.  All APG members commit to effectively implement the FATF's international standards for anti-money laundering, combating the financing of terrorism and the financing of proliferation, referred to as the 40 Recommendations.  The 40 Recommendations were revised and adopted by the FATF membership after world-wide consultation (including the private sector) in February 2012.   Part of this commitment includes implementing targeted financial sanctions against terrorism and the financing of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Targeted financial sanctions under the FATF 40 Recommendations cross reference the United Nations standards and the asset freeze provisions and related lists pursuant to the following UNSCRs: UNSCR 1989 Al Qaida Sanctions List, UNSCR 1988 Sanctions List (the Taliban), UNSCR 1737 (Iran) Financial Sanctions List, UNSCR 1718 (DPRK) Financial Sanctions List.
APG's Functions  

The APG has a number of primary functions as follows:
Assess APG members' compliance with the global AML/CFT standards through mutual evaluations;
Coordinate technical assistance and training with donor agencies and APG members/observers to improve compliance with the AML/CFT standards;
Co-operate with the international AML/CFT network;
Conduct research into money laundering and terrorist financing methods, trends, risks and vulnerabilities;
Contribute to the global AML/CFT policy development by active Associate Membership of FATF.
APG Contacts

Information on the APG, its roles, functions and work plan, is available throughout this web site, or from the APG Secretariat at: 
APG Secretariat
 
Street:
110 Goulburn Street
Sydney, New South Wales 2000
AUSTRALIA
 
Mail:
Locked Bag A3000
Sydney South
New South Wales 1232
AUSTRALIA
 
Telephone: +612 9277 0600  
Fax: +612 9277 0606 
FRAUD WARNING 

Beware of attempted frauds using the APG's name and requesting fees for 'certificates' or other fraudulent services

Various types of scam emails or letters purporting to be from or associated with the APG and, in some cases, the names or titles of APG Secretariat staff, have been circulating requesting fees for the transfer of money. Criminals who fraudulently claim to be from the APG commonly approach victims with tales of  moneys being owed to them by way of a lottery win or an inheritance which will be payable by international transfers of funds. To gain access to these funds, victims are asked by criminals (who fraudulently claim to be from the APG) to pay fees for fictitious services relating to verification of the origin of the funds.  The criminals claim that the funds will be blocked if the customer fails to pay the fees.  The APG (and any other similar international body) does not provide any such services nor does it request fees or have the power to block any account or issue any 'certificates' for anti-money laundering or terrorist financing compliance.  In addition, the APG is not a law enforcement agency and does not maintain any regional office or employees outside its Secretariat in Sydney.
Any approach using the APG's name in relation to payment of fees or release of funds is fraudulent and should be reported to law enforcement authorities in the recipient's home jurisdiction.

Syria’s breakup is a Levantine norm

February 23, 2013 12:37 AM
By Rami G. Khouri
The Daily Star
 
The talk about Syria by knowledgeable friends and colleagues whose views I respect has turned increasingly pessimistic in recent weeks, with expectations ranging across a span of many bad outcomes. These range from Syria becoming a Levantine Somalia, where power is in the hands of hundreds of local warlords and tribal chieftains, to a totally fractured state defined by a combination of raging civil war and sectarianism that pulls in interested neighbors and perhaps ignites new regional wars.
 
Speculation about the future of Syria is a growth industry these days, for good reason: What happens in Syria will have an impact on the region, given its central role in the political geography, ideologies and security of the Levant and areas further afield. The events in recent years in Iraqand Libya remind us that developments in one state in the region can have repercussions in neighboring countries, sometimes immediately and sometimes a few years down the road.
 
The longer Syria's domestic war goes on, the more fragmented the country becomes, alongside three other dangerous trends: Sectarianism increasingly becomes the option of choice for Syrian citizens who seek security but cannot get it from the state; revenge killings will become a more likely occurrence after Bashar Assad's downfall; and militant Salafists may increasingly take root in local communities across the country as they prove to be well organized and funded adversaries of the Assad regime.
 
Next month we will mark two years since the outbreak of protests against the regime, as the domestic battle continues to rage. Syrians have paid a very heavy price for their desire to remove the Assad regime and replace it with a more democratic and accountable system of governance, but there are no signs that either side is tiring of this fight. Despite the destruction of the economy and urban infrastructure, Syrians seem determined to keep fighting until one side defeats the other. The chances of a negotiation or dialogue to end the fighting and usher in a peaceful transition of power seem slim, given the wide gap between Assad and the opposition groups.
 
The trend on the ground seems to favor the slow advances of the opposition groups, whose access to more sophisticated weapons and control of key facilities around the country sees the Assad regime's sovereignty footprint shrinking by the week. The regime has reverted to what has always been its vital core: thousands of armed troops in just a few parts of the country, controlled by officers from, or close to, the extended Assad family, disproportionately anchored in the Alawite minority community. This is a recipe for imminent collapse.
 
Yet the timing and nature of the transition to a new governance system in Syria both remain highly speculative. I personally expected the Assad regime to have fallen long ago, but clearly its staying power is great. The weakness and lack of unity of the opposition forces make it impossible to predict a post-Assad scenario.
 
More and more analysts expect chaos, violence, sectarian revenge killings and deep fragmentation to occur, and these become more likely with every passing month of fighting. Some analysts expect a post-Assad Syria to be dominated by Islamists, whether mainstream Muslim Brotherhood types or more militant Salafists who are now playing a major role in the military resistance against Assad.
Others, including myself, are more sanguine, expecting Syria's 5,000 years of cosmopolitan history and more recent legacy of inter-communal coexistence to shape the new governance system that emerges from the wreckage of the current war.
 
Syria's problem, like Iraq's and Lebanon's, is that the nature of its pluralistic population means that major demographic groups have strong ties with fellow populations in nearby countries, such as Alawites, Kurds, Druze, Sunnis and even Christians. The main lesson of the current situation in Syria strikes me as being the fragility of the modern Arab state in the Levant and beyond, where countries like Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine in the past three generations have alternated between strong or shattered central governments. These have been either fragmented states or centralized police states since the 1940s, with no chance to live as normal states where citizens agree on the rules and values of national governance.
 
We are now passing through a period in which fragmenting states are forcing us to discuss Lebanon, Syria and Iraq in terms of Alawites, Druze, Shiites and Sunnis, rather than in terms of coherent states with satisfied citizenries. The slow-motion destruction of the centralized Syrian state will enhance this trend toward the retribalization of the Arab Levant, until the day comes when the many distinct tribes can sit down and agree on how to reconnect as citizens of single states, governed by the rule of law that they can define themselves in meaningful constitutions.
 
Rami G. Khouri is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR. He can be followed on Twitter @RamiKhouri.
 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 23, 2013, on page 7.

Pakistan behind Hyderabad blasts: Advani

The writer has posted comments on this articlePTI | Feb 23, 2013, 04.10 PM
 
READ MORE L K Advani|Hyderabad blasts|no doubt

Pakistan behind Hyderabad blasts: Advani
 
MUMBAI: BJP leader L K Advani today blamed Pakistan squarely for Thursday's blasts in Hyderabad, saying it is involved in a proxy war against India.
 
"The neighbouring country has not been successful in waging a war against India in the last few decades, so it has resorted to proxy war," Advani told reporters here.
 
"The neighbouring country has taken recourse to terrorism to trouble India," he said, adding, "there is no doubt that there is the hand of the neighbouring country in Hyderabad blasts."
 
Pakistan should abide by the commitment made during the meeting between Vajpayee and Musharraf, whereby Pakistan undertook not to allow its soil to be used for terror acts against India, Advani said.
 
The neighbouring country cannot wash its hands of the Hyderabad blasts, he said.
 
The death toll in the blasts in Hyderabad now stands at 16 with the number of injured being put at 117.
 

Cameron's India quest, an assessment by Bhaskar Menon


Hugely interesting. Don't ask me who or which Bhaskar Menon this is. Still looking for an answer...


By Bhaskar Menon
February 21, 2013

Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain began his three-day visit to India by invoking the "huge ties" between the two countries of "history, language, culture and business."

One wonders which particular aspect of the shared history of the two nations he found supportive of his current quest for broadened economic linkages.

Could it be what the East India Company did  after bribing its way to
control of Bengal, the richest province of Mughal India? Within a decade of the so-called "Battle of Plassey" (Pilashi) in 1757, Bengal lay in ruins. The destruction of its economy was so severe a third of the population, some five million people, died of starvation in the first of the great "man-made famines" British rule spread across India. A conservative estimate of the overall toll of such famines is 100 million.

Or perhaps Mr. Cameron found inspiring the theft of the fabled
Kohinoor diamond after the British defeated the Sikhs almost a century later. Maharaja Ranjit Singh's 11-year old grandson went with the diamond to Britain where it became part of the "Crown Jewels" and he was comprehensively debauched with drugs and sex to disable his potential as a leader.

Or maybe the Prime Minister is enthralled by the post-1857 "pacification" that involved the indiscriminate slaughter of some 10 million civilians, men, women and children.

Mr. Cameron's historic admission that the 1919 Jallianwalla Bagh
massacre was a "deep shame" does not begin to address the long line of British atrocities in India, most of which remain officially unacknowledged. They are systematically ignored or downplayed even in works of history by British scholars supposedly engaged in the pursuit of truth.

That is true not just of the colonial era. There is no honest British account of the cold-blooded manipulation of communal violence that led to Partition, the killing of well over a million people and the biggest migration in history as 14 million people were forced from their ancestral lands.

Nor is there admission that Britain created Pakistan as its proxy in South Asia and that it is the real sponsor of the terrorist "war of a thousand cuts" against India.

Such denial is not to safeguard national pride and honor. It is to hide the fact that Britain has maintained its imperial interests in the region, and indeed, globally, without benefit of the apparatus of colonialism. This has been achieved primarily by keeping control of the illicit trade in drugs, which Britain pioneered in the 18th Century by exporting Indian opium to China. It is now far and away the most lucrative sector of the world economy, with revenues of over $500
billion annually.

In South Asia the control of the drug trade has involved the use of the ISI, Pakistan's notorious spy agency established in 1948 by a serving British Army officer, to godfather Al Qaeda and the Taliban.Together, they have kept Afghanistan as the lawless badlands necessary to produce opium; it now supplies over 90 percent of the world's illicit supply.

Where Britain does not maintain operational control of drug trafficking, as in Latin America, it provides money laundering facilities. Last year American authorities slapped a $1.98 billion fine on HSBC, Britain's largest bank, after investigators discovered that it had been laundering billions of dollars of Mexican drug moneyinto the United States. The fine made not a blip in the stock market value of HSBC shares because investors have known of its primarysource of profit since traffickers established the company during Britain's 19th Century "Opium Wars" to force the drug into China.

An interesting sidelight to the increased American pressure on British money laundering is that the terrorist "Left" insurgency in Colombia that has for decades provided the cover for drug running, has sued for peace and is now engaged in talks with the government.

The global money laundering system Britain put in place as its colonies dwindled is the core element of its new Empire. It consists of a string of tax havens around the world operating with London as a global hub. The system now caters to all sorts of criminals, ranging from super-rich tax evaders and corporate bigwigs hiding the proceedsof mis-pricing of trade to mafiosi engaged in garden variety organized crime.

The tax haven system washes an estimated $2 trillion annually into the "legitimate" world economy. According to a recent report from Washington-based GlobalFinancial Integrity, an NGO headed by a former World Bank economist, it also drained about $6 trillion out of poor countries over the last decade . Adding up the estimates made by a number of experts indicates that the total of illicit assets in tax havens is some $30 trillion, double the GDP of the United States.

That massive pool of money generates the multi-billion dollar "hedge funds" that have made a travesty of free market mechanisms, especially commodity markets. Indians struggling with the ever increasing cost of petrol and diesel can blame it on hedge fund manipulations that have kept oil prices over $100 per barrel amidst the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. They can also blame the system for India's pandemic of mega scams: without a convenient way to stash
black money the corrupt would be far less prone to steal on such a scale.

All this is becoming generally known because Germany and the United States, increasingly irate at the loss of billions of dollars in revenues to tax havens, have begun to push for change. Mr. Cameron's recent threats of a referendum that might take Britain out of the European Union is a response to pressure from Germany for uniform application of EU banking standards on all its members. The announcement last week that the next head of the Bank of England will be a Canadian is probably the result of pressure from the United States to clean up the City (financial center) of London.

Against this background, Mr. Cameron's push for India to open up its financial sector to British investment should be seen as an invitation to national suicide. His vision of a string of "business centres" round the country to facilitate British-Indian trade should be seen in the same light.

So what is the future of the British-Indian "partnership"?

It is difficult to see how we can build one when Britain is using its proxies to subvert and destabilize India. Perhaps the only way to make a new beginning is to be utterly blunt about Indian perceptions of and expectations from Britain.

Britain should stop whitewashing its colonial record and consider the grim reality that its Empire was the bloodiest construct of power the world has ever seen. In Africa, Asia and the Americas no nation has been as oppressive of other races. Britain was by far the leading slave trader out of Africa and transporter of indentured labor out of Asia. It has killed with famine, sword and fire more people than Genghis Khan, Atilla the Hun, Hitler or Stalin. In the defense of its
imperial interests it has precipitated two World Wars and is now presiding over an empire of crime that drains the poorest countries of their hard earned wealth. During the days of Empire and now, treachery has been a staple in Britain's international relations.

How can Britain respond to such criticism?

At the minimum it can review its history books and initiate soul-searching among academic propagandists of the imperial record like Niall Ferguson, touted by The Times of London as the "most brilliant British historian of his generation." A "Truth Commission" such as the one that eased South Africa out of the apartheid era might help. So could a national discourse on the value and meaning of life.In that journey of mind and spirit the British might find useful guides in the Sermon on the Mount, the Eightfold Path and the Bhagavad Gita. In terms of state policy, a renewed British-Indian relationship will require Britain to withdraw support from terrorist groups and insurgencies, wind up its involvement in the drug trade, and stop running the global black market.

If all this seems a very tall order, it indicates how far Mr.Cameron's proposals stand from Indian perceptions of reality.

Iran to build $4 billion refinery in Gwadar

 
 
Sat, 23 Feb, 2013 10:01 AM PST


Iran has agreed to build an oil refinery in Pakistan at an estimated value of 4 billion dollars, a senior Pakistani official says. Asim Hussain, an adviser to the Pakistani prime minister, said that the refinery will be constructed in the port city of Gwadar. The plant will be able to refine 400,000 barrels a day.
 
 
 
  
In a email statement to IntelliBriefs, Dr.Wahid Baloch of Baloch Society of North America said "China and Iran are aggressively working to take over the Gwadar, the Balochistan's strategic port, against the Baloch will and mandate, with the help of President Asif ali Zardari, who is supposed to be a friend of US, but seems like he is more friendly to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and China then the US". Dr.Wahid Baloch who heads BSO-NA is expressed deep concerns about the situation in balochistan and designs of Pakistani extablishment and Millitary with active help of China in the region. 
 
He urged US and international community to take note of these designs and intervene in theregion " It is time for a new US policy in the region and US support for Baloch freedom fighters. A FREE Independent Balochistan not only protect the US interests in the region, but will also help to secure the Strait of Hormuz from Iranian threats, help stabilize Afghanistan by eliminating and eradicating terrorists safe heavens in Balochistan (provided to Taliban and Al-Qaida by the Pakistan's army) and and counter the strategies of China and Iran in the region", said Dr.Wahid BAloch

The collaboration of Pakistan with china for strategic designs at Gawadar has an alarming message for the local and International community.


The collaboration of Pakistan with china for strategic designs at Gawadar has an alarming message for the local and International community.

 Munir Mengal

Geneva, 

The President of Baloch voice Foundation responding to the Pakistan China agreement on China said that China has strategic designs on Balochistan. "The collaboration of Pakistan with china for strategic designs has an alarming message for the International community as well. And the International community must wake up and respond quickly on the vicious plan of handing the Gawadar port to China otherwise tomorrow it will be too late". Munir Mengal urged the international community.

Mr. Mengal said that, "The Baloch sees it as a sinister plot against the Baloch people and to the regional and international community. Mr. Mengal accused that the Chinese and as well as the Fundamental Pakistan, are looking at Gawadar less as a deep sea port, but more as a strategic Naval base. 

He claimed that, "none from Balochistan was consulted on the agreement with China, and which presents a high sign of colonial treatment with the Balochistan. This agreement highly endorses the Baloch claims and opinions. The state itself is so suspicious about the agreement that, had kept all the details secrete and even the federal parliament members and the cabinet officials are unaware about the details".

 Mr. Mengal said that the Baloch were already resisting the forced occupation and facing a state systematic genocide policy since 1948. And the Baloch will keep on resisting the occupying forces, to protect their resources and identity and regain their sovereignty. 

The systematic kill and dump policy of Pakistan was already signaling to the Baloch, that Pakistan has more vicious plans for looting and plundering the Baloch resources and the Baloch lives. He accused China being a party to Pakistan in Balochistan atrocities and said "the Dragon's teeth were earlier visible in looting the Baloch resources in gold and copper mega projects".

He expressed deep concerns on the state intentions; he said that the Pakistani forces had already robbed more than 63,000 acre land at Gawadar and Pasni for its vicious plan of building a high equipped Naval base. And have deployed more than 15,0000 military forces. The ongoing military operations particularly at Mashkay, Makran, and at Mangochar Areas are also designed operations to suppress and kill the voices of Baloch people.
Mr. Mengal regretted that it has been unfortunate that the west has kept a deaf ear on the Baloch atrocities and kept away from any sort of intervention.

Munir Mengal

President Baloch Voice Foundation/Association

France.

Phone : 0033647454774  E-mail: Mengal_11@yahoo.com
Date : 22/02/2013

What Makes You Beautiful

February 22, 2013

China provides Rs 136 billion loan for Pakistan nuclear plants



Islamabad, Feb 22, 2013, PTI

China has provided a loan of Rs 136 billion for two nuclear power plants that Pakistan expects to commission by 2016, the state-run media reported on Friday.

The power plants of 340MW each are being built with Chinese assistance at the Chashma nuclear complex in Punjab province .

The “construction of these power plants became possible after a long-standing agreement”, official sources were quoted as saying by APP news agency.

Partially funded

The total cost of the two plants is Rs 190 billion and they will be partially funded by a Chinese loan of Rs 136 billion, the sources said.

The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission has allocated Rs 34.6 billion – a “major chunk” of its budget – for the C3 and C4 nuclear power plants at Chashma.

Deadline for plant

The government has so far spent Rs 62.4 billion on the Chashma project, and with the additional spending of Rs 34.6 billion, authorities believe almost half of the work on the two new power plants will be completed by June 2013, the sources said.

The two plants are expected to be commissioned by 2016 and three other power plants that have already been commissioned are “performing well”, the sources said.

PAEC has plans to produce 8,800 MW of nuclear power by 2030.

Energy Council

According to an unnamed official in the Ministry of Science and Technology, the government is harmonising efforts in the energy sector by different ministries, departments and research centres by creating an “Energy Council” with heads of relevant organisations. The council will advise authorities on priority areas for research and development and on management of resources.
Technology transfer

“Acquisition of technology for building nuclear power reactors through research and development, as well as transfer of technology agreements, is also in consideration,” the official said.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/314225/china-provides-rs-136-billion.html

Lack of effort leaves big gap in anti-terror architecture




B Raman

Thursday's blasts in Hyderabad cannot be categorised as mass fatality terrorism. The blasts were directed at soft targets in a crowded area. Details available so far do not indicate what could have been the motive or who might have been the perpetrators. The police, as well as the public, should refrain from speculation that could mislead and distort the investigation.

The improvised explosive devices did not have any unique signature. The explosive used does not appear to have been of a sophisticated kind. Fertiliser-based ammonium nitrate, which is easy to procure and which can be lethal when mixed with certain chemicals, is suspected to have been used. For many years now, terrorists in many countries have been using ammonium nitrate-based IEDs for acts of terrorism.

Expertise in fabrication of IEDS using ammonium nitrate as the core material is available in many web sites run by terror organisations. No special training is required in the matter. In western countries, counter-terrorism agencies have been able to reduce the use of ammonium nitrate by terrorists by imposing strict regulations on their storage and sale to persons who are not genuine farmers. We are yet to impose and enforce similar regulations in India. If it turns out that ammonium nitrate has been used once again for an act of terror, priority should be given to steps for imposing such regulations in India.

Our counter-terrorism agencies continue to face the threat of sporadic acts of terrorism carried out by individuals or groups wanting to give vent to their anger against the state or other communities. While our police and intelligence agencies are able to collect intelligence regarding sustained acts of terrorism by groups with known objectives, targets and modus operandi, they face difficulty in monitoring activities of individuals and groups indulging in sporadic acts of terrorism triggered by anger of the moment due to some reason or the other. While sustained domestic terrorism of the kind witnessed before 2008 is under control, sporadic attacks of the kind witnessed in Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad pose a problem for our intelligence and counter-terrorism agencies.

The state police have to play a more active role in preventing sporadic acts of terrorism and they have to be assisted by central agencies. The National Counter Terrorism Centre, which has remained a non-starter due to reservations from some states ruled by non-Congress parties, might have strengthened the joint capability of the Centre and states for preventing sporadic terrorism. The absence of a political consensus on the NCTC leaves a big gap in our counter-terrorism architecture.

We face three kinds of terrorism - state-sponsored terrorism emanating from Pakistan, domestic terrorism of a sustained nature and domestic terrorism of a sporadic kind. While the threat of state-sponsored terrorism from Pakistan continues, it has not repeated itself after the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai. Domestic terrorism of a sustained nature of the kind witnessed in 2007 and 2008, due to the activities of the Indian Mujahideen, has been disrupted by the action taken by our central agencies and the state police to identify and disrupt their sleeper cells. But terrorism of the sporadic kind continues as seen in Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad

P Chidambaram, who took over as home minister after the 26/11 terror strikes, managed to strengthen our capabilities against all three kinds of terrorism. His drive, though sometimes controversial as in case of NCTC, kept our agencies on their toes. The kind of vigorous leadership that he provided to counter-terrorism efforts, has been missing since Sushil Kumar Shinde took over from him last year. Counter-terrorism leadership is again in a state of decline as it was before 26/11.

Terrorists - whether the Pakistan State-sponsored or the domestic kind - are looking for weaknesses in our counter-terrorism architecture which they can exploit to step up their activities. Incidents like those of Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad and our inability to detect them and identify the perpetrators definitively, will enable them as well as Pakistan to take advantage of the weaknesses that seem to be re-emerging in our counter-terrorism capabilities.

Without effective and dynamic leadership, even the best of counter-terrorism machinery will fail to deliver. Such leadership and drive have been missing under Shinde's stewardship of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The Prime Minister, assisted by his National Security Adviser and the National Security Council Secretariat, which is part of the PMO, has to play a more active role for reversing this decline. Otherwise, we may be in for another nasty surprise as we faced on 26/11.

The writer is additional secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India

February 21, 2013

Mobile phone nation

14 February 2013 @ 11:37 am

With subscriber numbers heading for a billion, the disruptive impact of mobile phones in India could be enormous. Robin Jeffrey and Assa Doron look at how the technology is unsettling domesticity, sexuality and morality
 

Mobile Wali, [1] a Bhojpuri-language video about a woman with a mobile phone, sung by Manoj Tiwari, is one of many film clips circulating on mobiles in Banaras.
"IT IS the girls who have gone astray," a village elder told a journalist after the rape of a girl near New Delhi in early 2012. "The girls… are so scantily clad that it's shameful… Mobile phones have given a lot of freedom to these girls and that's why they are behaving in a wild manner." It is a common theme [2]. The autonomy provided by the phone leads young people, especially girls, to elude the authority of those who would have controlled and disciplined them in the past. In this, as in many other ways, the mobile phone symbolises the disruption of Indian life by much wider economic, cultural and technological forces.

Before the mobile phone, landlines existed in India, but they were the preserve of the privileged (and even they had to wait years for a connection). The mobile phone, by contrast, is said to have reached a stunning 900 million subscribers [3] since its full-blooded arrival in India just over a decade ago. Cheap mobile phones mean that Indians of every status are able to speak with each other as never before.

For governments and great corporations, and for entrepreneurs who would like to be great, the mobile phone represented an immense challenge and opportunity. Between 1993, when the technology began to be deployed in India, and 2012 the country had ten communication ministers. One of them was convicted of corruption and sent to prison; a second was also charged with corruption; a third faced probes that would take years to unravel; a fourth was murdered (though in circumstances not directly related to telecommunications); a fifth was undermined, overruled and rancorously removed. For governments, bureaucrats, regulators and politicians, telecommunications offered a bed of thorny roses, and it is these contests over decision-making and power that we try to understand in the first part of our book – the Controllers.

The mobile phone expanded faster than the automobile. It was cheaper, of course, but many more people were involved in the chain that connected manufacturers to customers. There was nothing natural about wanting to have a mobile phone: the technology was alien and calls were expensive. The process to build infrastructure and create demand involved trial, error and millions of dollars invested in what was still an unknown future. As the technology spread in the first decade of the twenty-first century, a vast enterprise bubbled up alongside it, with a cascade of occupations and jobs.

These were the Connectors, people ranging from the fast-living advertising women and men of Mumbai to small shopkeepers persuaded by their suppliers to stock recharge coupons for pre-paid mobile services. In between were the technicians who installed transmission equipment; the office workers who found sites and prepared the contracts to install transmission towers (400,000 in 2010); the construction workers and technicians who built and maintained the towers; and the shop owners, repairers and secondhand dealers whose premises varied from slick shopfronts to roadside stalls only slightly more elaborate than those of the repair-walas who once fixed bicycles on the pavement. The Connectors ensured even those with limited purchasing power were participated in India's booming economy.

Once the mobile phone reached "the masses," the masses became the third group in the chain, the Consumers. Mobile phones were used for business and politics, in households and families and to commit crime and organise terror. But the phone was only a tool. Its effects depended on the knowledge and resources of the people using it, and "middle men" usually started with advantages that "lesser" men and women did not share. In politics, the mobile phone was a device that allowed organisations that were already bound together by convictions to exert influence in a manner that hitherto was impossible. Fancy technologies alone don't win elections, but cheap, easy-to-use technology gives people with common interests a powerful new weapon with the potential to mobilise and disrupt existing political and social structure.

AS THE technology entered people's lives, they had to deal with its varied effects: on household economies, parenting practices, intimate relationships [4], youth culture and much else. Values and meanings – how people regarded "public" and "private," or the proper roles of men and women in controlling technology – were reshaped in the process. In India, the cheap mobile phone enabled young couples to talk to each other unknown to disapproving elders or for daughters-in-law to talk to fathers-in-law as they had been able to do in the past. Transactions like these occurred in tens of millions of families almost daily from the early years of the twenty-first century. As they accumulated, like grains of sand on a windswept beach, the dunes of social practice began to shift.

Beyond India's cities, and among conservative people in the cities themselves, the mobile phone became a metaphor for changing values and practices related to domesticity, sexuality and morality. In a time of rapid change and disarray, certainties were challenged by ballooning consumerism, relentless migration and unprecedented access to information. The mobile phone embodied the ills of an anxious modernity.

In the cities, it became common to see middle-class women, dressed in Western-style business suits or jeans, using their mobile phones wherever they went. Advertising campaigns were quick to tap into these changes, using images of alluring women to promote mobile phones; makers of music videos incorporated the apparent liberation bestowed by the mobile phone into songs and dances.

For new, "liberated" women, the phone was portrayed as a perfect vehicle for gossip (gupshup), romance or the promotion of exciting social relations. Many songs and videos featured women – popularly known as mobile walis [5] – speaking on their mobile phones to their lovers. Though available in CD/VCD shops and later on YouTube, they were most popular on mobile phones.

Music clips featured seductively clad women using mobile phones, dancing in come-hither style and singing lyrics peppered with double meanings. Well before it entered the mainstream music market popular Bhojpuri music had been characterised by "clever phrasing, double entendres, subtle innuendos and suggestive imagery that enabled it to convey taboo sexual acts and desires." For at least one critic, though, the "raunchy flavour" [6] of Bhojpuri music in VCD/DVD formats and on mobile phones was indistinguishable from soft pornography. Yet the music also retained its capacity to satirise the "modern condition" and laugh at the antics of both women and men as they coped with new times and customs.

One video clip begins with Tiwari, well-known the singer, daydreaming of a woman [1] he met in a bar. It cuts to a scene where a glamorous young woman in a halter-neck top, tight jeans and loose hair dances seductively while drinking alcohol and talking on her mobile phone. This mobile wali is depicted as a daring, sexy tease: a woman who defies the norms that usually bind Indian women. She dances, smiles, drinks, smokes and wears skimpy clothes – all with a mobile phone in her hand. This is her style, as the chorus says:

Mobile in [her] hand, she has a smile on her lips.
She radiates style whenever she moves sideways, forwards, up or down.
Everyone, including neighbours are dying [from excitement]
[Because] the babe, having drunk beer… Oh baby, having drunk beer…
The baby (babe) dances chhamak-chhamak-chham.

The following scenes revolve around the woman who makes men drool as she struts around with a mobile glued to her ear. She is both objectified as a femme fatale and empowered as someone who can choose from those around her or from others at the end of her phone. The song continues:

Forever ready to explode with anger [and] swear words on your lips,
You move the way life moves out of one's body [when one dies].
The cap worn back to front, dark sunglasses, the cigarette is Gold Flake [a famous Indian brand],
I'm working at trying [to seduce you], there is still some time to go
before we get married.

The young woman remains remarkably composed, comfortably entering male-only arenas and adopting male-dominated practices, such as drinking alcohol in a bar and smoking in public spaces, all this while talking on her mobile phone. Only among urban sophisticates could such conduct be imagined. The singer and his rustic male companions go to pieces under her spell. The main male character warns his friends: "She shoots Cupid's arrows with her eyes." True to the Bhojpuri genre of satire, the clip ridicules the lewd, drunken men at the same time as it reminds viewers of the challenges that new attitudes and technologies present to old values.

The clip vividly illustrates the confrontations with tradition that cheap mobile phones provoked. The panicking priest reminds viewers of the precariousness of religious structures and the frailty of people in authority. In the final scene, the priest succumbs to temptation and joins the men in a dance around the woman, who still holds her magic wand – her mobile phone. Portrayed as a loose, urban woman, the mobile wali breaks long-established rules of conduct, partly empowered by her mobile phone. It could lead a village elder to apoplexy.

Another video clip, Mobile Wali Dhobinaya, betrays a larger anxiety: that of the "village" divested of its men, who have increasingly moved to the cities in search of work. The sari-clad wife roams alone in the fields, with only a cell phone to communicate with her absent husband. The theme recurs in many video clips where the bemused Bihari migrant labourer arrives in the city. He finds a forbidding place, filled with voluptuous mobile walis, riding on scooters and confidently chatting on their mobile phones in public. This time, however, it is the Bihari bhaiya (village guy), a shadow of his former male self, who is depicted as helpless and confused at the sight of these city women with phones clapped to their ears.

We found more than a dozen popular songs at this time that highlighted how young men and women could connect through the mobile phone. The mobile wali was anything but the demure maiden presented to a select group of future in-laws prior to an arranged marriage. Rather, she was flirtatious, uninhibited and confident, challenging established social conduct and "traditional" values. None of this, of course, was "pornographic" or contrary to the law. Yet for guardians of old values, the unconstrained freedom enjoyed by the mobile wali led morality towards dark, wayward ways.

The mobile wali–style clips are relatively innocent. But some Indian manufacturers of handsets, eager to eat into Nokia's dominance, have used racier material to advertise their phones. The Lava brand marketed its Lava 10 phone in 2010 with a television commercial [7] in which a supermarket cashier gives customers their change in the form of teabags, a common solution to a shortage of small coins. Then a handsome young man, and his even more handsome Lava 10 mobile and its "sharp gun-metal edges," come to the checkout. The winsome cashier abandons teabags as change and gives him a packet of condoms. Lava, the tag-line declared, "separates the men from the boys." In 2012, Chaze Mobile, manufacturers of ultra-cheap cell phones, hired Sunny Leone [8], a Canadian citizen of Indian origin and a leading actor in pornographic videos, as their "brand ambassador" for a new range of multi-featured yet very cheap phones. Gambling on Leone's notoriety, the company aimed "to position its product in an extremely cluttered low-end handsets market."

IN INDIA, the mobile phone was not the old landline that had slipped into daily life in Western countries as unnoticed, in the words of sociologist Claude S. Fischer, as "food canning, refrigeration and sewage treatment" and become "mundane." [9] The mobile phone, as Clay Shirky argues in Here Comes Everybody: How Change Happens when People Come Together, now means that "the old habit of treating communications tools like the phone differently from broadcast tools like television no longer makes sense." The potential to record and to broadcast, at one time limited to those who controlled presses and transmitters, was now available to the majority of people, even the poor.

Alongside music and screen savers featuring gods, WWF wrestlers and Bollywood stars, mobile phones have also brought cheap, full-colour, small-screen pornography to the masses. Pornography could be made available everywhere—from kaccha houses to penthouses. But though police and morality crusaders aimed mostly at the poor, the powerful too were vulnerable to the seductive properties of the cell phone. In an incident in the Karnataka state legislature that came to be dubbed as "Porngate," [10] two MPs were caught viewing what were said to be pornographic clips on a mobile phone while a debate was going on. The legislators belonged to the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, constant advocates of censorship in the name of preserving morality and Hindu values.

Mobile phones also facilitated crime and terrorism. Indeed, they created new crimes – harassment through text-messaging, for instance, and "faceless frauds" in which money disappeared without a victim ever seeing the criminal. And, as the Mumbai attacks in 2008 demonstrated, mobile phones enabled gullible young terrorists to be directed like human drones by remote "controllers."

India experimented with a host of initiatives to establish mobile phone laws and cyber-security frameworks; but provisions were scattered through legislation, guidelines and rules. [11] In 2012, proposals were made to establish a "telecommunications security testing laboratory" to certify that all telecom equipment conformed to government regulations and did not harbour illegal tapping or disruptive devices. Such an organisation, however, was many months or years away from functioning. State police forces established modest mobile cyber-crime labs [12] that attended crime scenes and collected evidence effectively.

Indian governments, however, faced a problem that wealthy states such as those in Japan, western Europe and North America had not solved: how to mitigate the evils that mobile phones could generate while preserving their capacity to improve even a poor citizen's ability to take advantage of the rights of democratic citizenship.

But mobile phones can both empower and disempower, and it can be a distraction to focus on questions of good or bad. The technology exists; immensely powerful economic forces, augmented by widespread social acceptance, have disseminated it widely; and it will only go away if a major cataclysm befalls humanity. We live with mobile telephony, and most of us relish the benefits. India in this sense is no different from other places. But its disabling inequalities and its diversity mean that the disruptive potential of the mobile phone is more profound than elsewhere and the possibilities for change more fundamental. •

This is an edited extract from The Great Indian Phone Book: How Cheap Mobile Phones Change Business, Politics and Everyday Life, by Robin Jeffrey and Assa Doron (Hurst and Company), also published in the United States by Harvard University Press [13] and in India, as Cell Phone Nation, by Hachette.

MY TAKE ON HYDERABAD BLASTS



B.RAMAN


Eleven persons are reported to have been killed and over 20 injured in two well-timed explosions in the Dilsukhnagar area of Hyderabad around 7  PM on February 21,2013.


2. Initial reports indicated that one of the improvised explosive devices had been placed in a cycle or motor-bike and the other inside a tiffin box.These reports are yet to be confirmed. The two blasts appear to have been well-timed and not remote-controlled.


3.I do not so far see any sign of sophistication in the assembly of the IEDs and the synchronization of the blasts. There are no reports of any crater on the ground.Ifa powerful explosive material had been used, there would have been craters at the place where the IEDs had been placed.


4.The deaths and injuries seem to have been caused by the power of the blasts and not by the use of any projectiles such as nails, bicycle ball-bearings etc.When an IED is placed in a cycle or motor-bike, there would naturally be projectiles in the form of the splinters, but no other projectile has been discovered.


5.Reports of damages to nearby buildings also do not indicate the use of any powerful explosive material. The timer might have been of a conventional nature in the form of a mechanical ( with a clock attachment) or chemical device.


6.Two timed IEDs of this nature could have been easily assembled and planted by one or two terrorists. The involvement of a large team is unlikely.


7.The limited geographical area of the blasts also rules out the involvement of a large team of terrorists.The objective of the perpetrators was obviously to cause fatalities as an act of reprisal.


8.The indications till now are that the two blasts are the handiwork of locals who were in a position to assemble the devices quickly and use them.


9.Till more evidence is forthcoming, it would be advisable not to speculate on the motive and the possible identity of the perpetrators. (21-2-13)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi. Twitter @SORBONNE75 )

The Evolving Indo-Myanmar Defence Relationship: an Analytical Perspective

 
Brig (retd) Vinod Anand (Senior Fellow, VIF)

It was only in early 1990's that India realized that it was fast loosing strategic ground to China due to its lack of engagement with Myanmar. Not only security and stability in the border regions was crucial to India from internal security point of view but also constructive engagement with Myanmar and connectivity through it was very important for India to realize its 'Look East Policy' unveiled in early 1990s.

The military to military relations between the India and Myanmar gained traction with the goodwill visit of the then Chief of Army Staff, General B.C.Joshi to Myanmar (May 1994). Supply of some military hardware followed. Momentum to the defence relationship was further imparted when in January 2000 when a military delegation led by the then Indian Army Chief, Gen. VP Malik visited Myanmar and met Myanmar's senior military elite to forge a military to military relationship which over the years has proved very fruitful. Since 2000, after the return visit of Gen. Maung Aye to India, bilateral annual border meetings between the two armies have been taking place regularly. India has also supplied a range of military hardware since then.

The Indian Prime Minster during his visit to Myanmar in April 2012 had also stressed on the need for maritime security cooperation and observed that both India and Myanmar need to "expand our security cooperation that is vital not only to maintain peace along our land borders but also to protect maritime trade which we hope will open up through the sea route between Kolkata and Sittwe." In February, 2012 Myanmar Navy had taken part in joint naval exercises conducted by India with the participation of 14 nations' navies (Milan series of naval exercises).

The recent visit of Mr. Antony to Myanmar (20-21 January, 2013) was a continuation of trend that has marked the growing defence cooperation between the two countries. After a degree of democratic reforms that were ushered in 2010, many military dignitaries from both sides have exchanged visits to enhance military to military cooperation and address mutual border security threats and challenges. In fact, in last two years or so the three Indian services chiefs have visited Myanmar to forge a closer defence relationship with Myanmar. This time the Defence Minster was accompanied by Army Commander of Kolkatta based Eastern Command and Vice Chief of Indian Navy which highlighted the fact that India was keen to further address its concerns regarding land and maritime security concerns in coordination with Myanmar armed forces.
It is important for India to build up capacities of the Myanmar's armed forces especially in relation to developing its prowess in fighting the insurgents. Since the year 2000 there have been off and on coordinated operations along the borders to flush out the insurgents. The insurgents take advantage of the difficult terrain along the borders and lack of adequate controls along the borders to carry out attacks and then cross over to Myanmar.

The Defence Minister's visit last month also came in the background of clashes between the Kachin insurgents and the Myanmar armed forces; Kachins remain the only group with which the Myanmar government has not been able to conclude a lasting ceasefire. Kachin Independent Organisation has been known to have cross-border linkages with Indian insurgents groups like ULFA in the shape of having provided shelter and advance military training to ULFA cadres. It was reported that there was a base of Indian insurgents in Kachin areas across the border. Last November, a high level 12-member team from Myanmar led by their Naga administration zone chairman U R Sanchyu and Pangsau sub-township representative had held a meeting with the Indian delegation at Jairampur in Arunachal Pradesh's Changlang district for discussions on cross-border crime, insurgent activities and other connected issues.

Further, NSCN is another active insurgent group which has trans- border affiliations with Myanmarese Nagas of Sagaing division opposite Indian states of Manipur and Nagaland. There were also reports early last year that a variety of North Eastern insurgents groups have joined together to coordinate their anti-India activities. ULFA, NSCN-K and PLA of Manipur seemed to have played key role in bringing these groups on a common platform. Sharing of information on operations and sources of weapons, facilitating training and providing mutual support and shelter along the Indo-Myanmar borders were some of the other objectives to be achieved by the so called "United Front' composed of 14 anti-India insurgent groups.
In addition, the signing of a ceasefire agreement with Myanmarese Nagas of Sangaing division by the Myanmar government in May 2012 holds the prospects of the Indian Naga insurgent groups and their affiliates finding shelter and succor in their training bases. India was not informed about such an agreement and thus there was a certain degree of disappointment among the Indian security forces. With the Myanmar armed forces engaged in putting down the Kachin insurgency, it is quite possible that they were not willing to open another front that would have compounded their problems.

India has been providing training facilities to Myanmar armed forces in professional and technical courses; the vacancies in such courses for the Myanmar defence forces are being regularly enhanced. Maintenance of some Russian origin equipment is also being provided by the Indian defence forces. Building of defence infrastructure in the border areas has been another proposition which may fructify soon. This would facilitate quick movement and deployment of Myanmar forces to tackle insurgents and maintain law and order in border areas.

Even though the sector commanders on both sides are in touch with each other on a regular basis, India wants to intensify engagement so that insurgent groups are choked of arms supplies and cadre in the north-eastern states.
While for long Myanmar army has been pleading a lack of capacity in tackling the varied insurgent groups along the border, there is a view that Myanmar lacks the political will to act against some of these groups especially the Nagas' insurgent outfits.

During his visit to Myanmar Mr. Antony met both the President of Myanmar and their Defence Minister. He conveyed the importance placed by India on enhancement of bilateral ties in all fields, including defence. He noted that the recent exchanges of visits between both countries at political and other levels had imparted a new momentum to the bilateral relationship.

Both the Defence Ministers deliberated on the following points:-
(a) Improvement of mechanisms for coordinating patrolling by the army along the land borders to prevent infiltration of insurgents
(b) Similar arrangements for patrolling maritime boundaries to curb activities of insurgent groups
(c) Ensuring that neither side allows the insurgents to use their territory for activities detrimental to each others' security.
(d) Additional vacancies for training of Myanmar army personnel in Indian training academies
(e) Repair and training cover for Myanmar defence forces equipment of Russian origin

The visit also came at a time when China has expressed 'grave concerns and dissatisfaction' regarding some of the Myanmar army's shells landing on their side of the border during the ongoing Kachin conflict. At the time of Indian Defence Minister to Naypidaw, a Chinese high level military delegation led by Lt-Gen Qi Jianguo, the deputy chief of general staff in the PLA met with Burma's President Thein Sein in Yangon for strategic security consultations between the armed forces of China and Burma. However, the Indian and Chinese dignitaries' visits seem to be unrelated.

Despite the recent opening up to the U.S. and the West due to its nascent democratic and economic reforms China's strategic influence in Myanmar is considerable. India's engagement with Myanmar and the western interest in Myanmar would contribute to moderating China's influence. However, China due to its proximity and nature of relationship with the dispensation in Myanmar is unlikely to give free run to others. The multimodal linkages from Yunnan to Indian Ocean are critical to its energy security and economic growth.

It is quite evident that Tatmadaw would continue to remain the most important element for quite some time to come due to the nature of power distribution in Myanmar despite the baby steps towards democracy. Strengthening of defence relationship with Myanmar should proceed in congruence with political and economic engagement. Strategic imperatives can be underscored by the fact that India can ill afford to have another Pakistan on our East.

Iran Plans to Build Oil Refinery in Pakistan


TEHRAN, Iran February 21, 2013

An Iranian semi-official news agency says Iran is planning to build an oil refinery in Pakistan.

The plan is part of Iran's effort to decrease international pressure on its oil industry, which has been target of international sanctions over the country's disputed nuclear program.

Thursday's report by Fars quotes Asim Hussain, an adviser to the Pakistani prime minister, as saying that the refinery in the Pakistani port of Gwadar will be able to refine 400,000 barrels a day.

The report says Iran will sell products from the refinery to Pakistan in return of food, especially wheat, meat and rice.

The deal to build the refinery came after a meeting between Iran's oil minister Rostam Ghasemi and the Pakistani adviser



US urges Pakistan not to sign deal with Iran


February 22, 2013 - Updated 020 PKT 
From Web Edition




WASHINGTON: The United States warned Pakistan against entering 'deals with Iran that may be sanctionable, a reference to Pak-Iran gas deal.
 
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said during a media briefing that Pakistan had better not sign agreement with Tehran. However, she said Washington wanted to help Pakistan overcome its energy crisis.
 
The spokeswoman also commented on Quetta's Saturday bombing that led to killing of over 89 people saying innocent people were being killed in bomb blasts in Pakistan.
 
She said that John Kerry had talked to Pakistani leadership over action against terrorists. Nuland said that Washington wanted to expedite campaign against terrorism in collaboration with Islamabad.


Cash-Strapped Army Still Plans on Helping Pakistan Fight Narcotics
BY SPENCER ACKERMAN 02.21.13 11:53 AM
 
U.S. and Pakistani soldiers greet each other on the Afghanistan border, January 2013. Next up: collaborating on stopping Pakistan's flow of drugs. Photo: U.S. Army

The war on terrorism isn't the only endless war the U.S. is waging. The drug war never went away, it just went overseas — and the U.S. military is lending new support to an effort to stem narcotics in Pakistan.

A series of new solicitations by the Army Corps of Engineers show that even in these cash-strapped times, the U.S. is willing to build new structures, including in major airports, for its Pakistani frenemies to sniff out drug smugglers.

At the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, the Army expects to build a 7,000-square-foot command center right inside Jinnah International Airport. Complete with a "cell/interrogation building," the new center will help provide "quick-response to constantly evolving narcotics and contraband smuggling tactics." Among the chief beneficiaries: Pakistan's "Rummaging and Patrolling Section," which apparently exists. Cost: up to $2 million.

Then there's another 28,300-square-foot command center the Army wants to construct in Islamabad. This one will be operated by Pakistan's DEA-mentored "elite, vetted" Anti-Narcotic Force Special Investigative Cell. At the command center, the Cell will "carry out liaison with international counterparts, compile sensitive drug related intelligence, conduct sophisticated investigations, and plan interdiction operations." Cost: up to $5 million.


Pakistan is a hub for drug trafficking — not just the narcotics coming in through the opiate breadbasket next door in Afghanistan, but precursor chemicals like acetic anhydride, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. The U.S. interest in assisting Pakistan hunt narcotics dealers is less clear, particularly as the military lights its hair on fire warning about the disastrous impact of automatic spending cuts looming on March 1. To scare Congress into reversing the cuts, the Army this week released a state-by-state breakdown of what a loss of $18 billion this year from its operations account would look like.

Yet counternarcotics is one of the most lucrative sources of government contracting, and one that ties the war on drugs into the war on terrorism. A Pentagon bureau known as the Counter Narco-Terrorism Program Office is staffing up in Kabul to run Afghanistan's drug war. And in 2011, it disbursed a pot of money worth more than $3 billion for security contractors everywhere from Mexico to Azerbaijan, making it one of the most lucrative security-contracting agencies in the entire U.S. government. It'll be a long time before the U.S. military gets out of the south-Asian anti-drug game, whatever the budget situation might be.


Pakistan State Oil 'on its knees', more blackouts threatened

Pakistan State Oil.—File Photo


ISLAMABAD: Pakistan State Oil may default on payments due this month unless state-run companies at least partially pay for their oil, a spokeswoman said on Thursday, putting energy supply at risk and threatening increased blackouts ahead of key elections.

The country's largest energy company said last week it would be dramatically cutting back on the amount of oil companies can buy on credit, an action that would worsen already daily power cuts.

The power shortages have sparked violent protests and crippled key industries, costing hundreds of thousands of jobs in a country already beset by high unemployment, poverty and a local Taliban insurgency.

Pakistan State Oil is owed $1.5 billion, mostly by the government electricity companies but also by the state airline and railways. It owes suppliers $1.23 billion.

Around two-thirds of Pakistan's energy is generated by oil and gas. There are also widespread gas shortages.

PSO said it had received payments of $200 million this month but needed another $250 million within a week to pay its creditors.

"We have a liquidity crisis and we need funds urgently to keep the wheels going. In case – god forbid – we can't pay the banks or our suppliers, it will be a problem for Pakistan," spokeswoman Mariam Shah told Reuters.

"We supply the airlines, we supply the defence forces, the government. If they start paying us on time, this kind of crisis would never ever emerge."

The power cuts typically become far worse in the sweltering summer months when fans and air conditioners are turned on full.

Elections are expected to be held in late spring and the dismal performance of the state-run power sector has been a repeated complaint from voters.

The cuts are the result of government-imposed rules that mean electricity companies must sell power below the cost it takes to generate it. The cash-strapped government is supposed to compensate the companies for the money they lose but only makes late and partial payments.

The problem is exacerbated by wealthy or influential consumers, including most government agencies, who refuse to pay huge utility bills for their homes and factories.  The power companies then cannot pay suppliers like Pakistan State Oil for the fuel they use.

"This lack of payment has brought the nation's largest and most profitable public company to its knees and may consequently lead to a breakdown in the oil supply chain which will result in increased blackouts and load-shedding across the country," the company said in a statement last week.

The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources had appealed to the government to release extra funds, said spokesman Irfan Qazi.

"We have asked the Finance Ministry to release some of the amount to PSO so they could be saved from default," he said. "The Finance Ministry has been releasing funds piecemeal."


Pakistan forex reserves fall to $13.058 billion

—File Photo

KARACHI: Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves dropped to $13.058 billion in the week ending Feb 15, from $13.395 billion in the previous week, the central bank said on Thursday.

Remittances from Pakistanis abroad rose 10.36 per cent to $8.20 billion in the first seven months, July to January, of the 2012/13 fiscal year, from $7.43 billion in the same period last year.

An amount of $1,089 billion was remitted by overseas Pakistanis in January 2013 as against $ 1,110 billion in the same month of the last fiscal year (January 2012).





Pakistan may become a failed state if current circumstances persist: Shahbaz

DAWN.COM | 18 hours ago

Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif. — Photo by APP/File

LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Thursday said widespread killings of innocent citizens had brought democracy and the existing set-up into question, adding that if the current circumstances persisted, Pakistan may turn into "a failed state", DawnNews reported.

Speaking to media representatives, the chief minister said terrorism was at its peak in the country, adding that if concrete action was not taken against those responsible, the country's foundations may begin to shake.

The chief minister's statement comes days after the bombing in Quetta which claimed the lives of over 87 Shia Hazaras. A large number of women and children were among the dead.

The Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) leader moreover said world powers had used militants in the 1980s to fight their so-called war against Soviet communism and now the same militants were terrorists in the eyes of these powers.

Sharif said it was heartening that the country's media was proactive and critical. He added that the real power of the media and the judiciary would become evident in the upcoming general election.


Pakistan to become a "failed state" if current scenario persists: Shahbaz

LAHORE - Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Thursday said if the current law and order situation persisted, Pakistan may turn into "a failed state".


Talking to media personnel, the CM said widespread killing of innocent citizens had brought democracy and the existing set-up into question.


He said terrorism was at its peak in the country, adding that if concrete action was not taken against those responsible, the country's foundations may begin to shake.


The Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PML-N) leader said world powers had used militants in the 1980s to fight their so-called war against Soviet communism and now the same militants were viewed as terrorists by those powers.


Sharif said it was heartening that the country's media was proactive and critical. He went on to say that the real power of the media and the judiciary would become evident in the upcoming general election.






Pakistan may become failed state: Shahbaz Sharif



Islamabad: Chief Minister of Pakistan's Punjab province, Shahbaz Sharif, has said that the country may turn into "a failed state" if the widespread killings of innocent citizens continues. 

He said that the ongoing killings of innocent citizens had brought democracy and the existing set-up into question.

Sharif said terrorism was at its peak in the country, adding that if concrete action was not taken against those responsible, the country's foundations may begin to shake, the Dawn reports. 

The Chief Minister's statement comes after the bombing in Quetta, which claimed the lives of over 87 Shia Hazaras. 


A large number of women and children were among the dead. 

ANI 

Austrian stupid ambassador in Pakistan converts to Islam, ties knot with PTV anchor Sadia Afzaal


There are reports on social media that Ambassador of Austria to Pakistan and Afghanistan is Mr. Axel Wech Mr. Axel Wech has accepted Islam and he has done Nikkah with Sadia Afzaal. Sadia Afzaal hosts show "News Night" on Pakistan Television Corporation, PTV News.

According to the news which has spread on social media the conversion of Mr. Axel Wech to Islam and his Nikkah is kept in secret and will not be disclosed.
From the last few months many news has been spread through social media in Pakistan which was not aired by main stream media i.e. TV channels. Some of these news were true and some were only rumor. It is not confirmed that whether this news is true or only a rumor. However in the coming days the reality of this news will be known. For more updates please join Facebook Page of AwamiWeb.



Austrian stupid ambassador in Pakistan converts to Islam, ties knot with PTV anchor Sadia Afzaal

February 19, 2013

New Records in 2012 Gold Demand


Posted on February 19, 2013  

Last week, the World Gold Council released its 2012 Gold Demand Trends report. Marcus Grubb, the managing director of investment at WGC, gives an overview of the report's highlights, as well as the 2013 outlook in this special video.

"The outlook for gold demand remains strong in 2013. We expect jewelry demand to remain buoyant, driven largely by wealth creation in India and China, and the resynchronization of economic growth in both countries. Investment demand in 2013 will remain strong with quantitative easing policies being implemented around the world."

China given contract to operate Gwadar port




President Asif Ali Zardari witnessing the agreement signing between Port of Singapore Authority and China Overseas Port Holding Company Limited at Aiwan-e-Sadr. — Online Photo

ISLAMABAD: The government on Monday formally awarded a multi-billion dollars contract for construction and operation of Gwadar Port to China with the hope that the port's development would open up new vistas of progress in Pakistan, particularly Balochistan.

Under the contract, the port which will remain the property of Pakistan will be operated by the state-run Chinese firm — China Overseas Port Holding Company (COPHC). Earlier, the contract was given to the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA).

The contract signing ceremony held in the Presidency was attended by President Asif Ali Zardari, Chinese Ambassador Liu Jian, some federal ministers, members of parliament and senior government officials.

"The ceremony was actually held to mark the transfer of the concession agreement from the PSA (Port of Singapore Authority) to the COPHC," said the president's spokesman Farhatullah Babar.

The PSA is reported to have abandoned the project on the plea that Pakistan failed to meet obligations under the 40-year port-handling agreement signed in Feb 2007.

Media reports allege that the PSA, which was to spend $525 million on the project in five years, made no investment because of non-fulfilment of its demand for allotment of land worth Rs15bn.

Last year, the Supreme Court issued a stay order on the Gwadar Port contract, barring the PSA from transferring immovable property of the Gwadar Port Authority to a private party and allowed the Balochistan government to become a party to the case.

In Dec 2010, China had offered the provincial government to construct 20 more berths and make the port fully operational if the port was handed over to it.

President Zardari praised the award of the contract to China as an auspicious development in Pakistan-China relations and expressed the hope that it would create new economic opportunities for Pakistan and Balochistan.

The spokesman quoted the president as saying 'Gwadar will soon be a hub of trade and commerce in the region as it holds the key to bringing together the countries of Central Asia and lends new impetus to Pakistan-China relations."

He highlighted the strategic importance of the port for China and Central Asian republics and its potential of integrating the economies of the countries in the region.

He said the Chinese provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet were closer to Pakistani ports than to any port in China and development of a trade corridor linking Xinjiang to the Middle East via Gwadar held great prospects.

The president said 60 per cent of Chinese import of crude came from countries in the Gulf and the amount would increase in next decade. "Because of the proximity of the Gulf countries to Gwadar, oil flow from the region to China will be facilitated." The president praised the role played by Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping Babar Khan Ghori, who did not attend the ceremony, in the transfer of port operations to China.

AFP adds: China paid about 75 per cent of the initial $250m used to build the port but in 2007 the PSA won a 40-year operating lease.

Then president Pervez Musharraf was reportedly unwilling to upset Washington by giving control of the port to the Chinese.

On Feb 6 Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony said New Delhi was concerned by Pakistan's decision to transfer management of the deep-sea port to China, which had interests in a string of other ports encircling India.

Foreign ministry spokesman Moazzam Ahmad Khan dismissed those concerns last week, telling reporters: "This is not something that any other country should have any reason to be concerned about."

President Zardari said the building of infrastructure around the port would promote economic activity in Gwadar and Balochistan.

But some analysts warn that it may be some time before Pakistan can benefit from China's takeover of Gwadar, stressing that the connecting roads and an expanded Karakoram Highway still need to be finished.

February 18, 2013

CIA's Historical Review Panel Public Statement




Date: Sun, 17 Feb 2013 11:12:07 -0500
To: intelforum[at]lists101.his.com
From: IntelForum Mailing List
Subject: [Intelforum] CIA's Historical Review Panel Public Statement

From: "Robert Jervis"

CIA¹s Historical Review Panel Public Statement

Professor Robert Jervis (Chair)
Department of Political Science
Columbia University

Professor Melvyn Leffler
Department of History
University of Virginia

Professor Thomas Newcomb
Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice
Heidelberg College

Professor Jeffrey Taliaferro
Department of Political Science
Tufts University

Professor Ruth Wedgwood
Nitze School of Advanced International Studies
Johns Hopkins University

The Director, Central Intelligence Agency's Historical Review Panel (HRP) was formed in 1995, replacing a panel that was less formally organized and that had met only episodically. Since then, the HRP has met twice a year, with the mandate to:

Advise the Central Intelligence Agency on systematic and automatic declassification review under the provisions of Executive Order 12958 as amended.

Assist in developing subjects of historical and scholarly interest for the Intelligence Community declassification review program.

Advise CIA and the Intelligence Community on declassification issues in which the protection of intelligence sources and methods potentially conflicts with mandated declassification priorities.

Provide guidance for the historical research and writing programs of the CIA History Staff, and when appropriate, review draft products.

Advise Information Management Services on its mandatory and voluntary declassification review initiatives and the Center for the Study of Intelligence on its academic outreach programs.

At the request of the Director of Central Intelligence Agency, advise on other matters of relevance to the intelligence and academic communities. Advise Information Management Services on archival and records management issues.

The HRP, like the other DCIA panels, is convened by the Director to provide him with confidential advice and assessments. Because the HRP's advice to the DCIA must be completely frank and candid, we are not reporting Panel recommendations. But because this panel's primary concern is the program of declassification and the release of information to the public, the DCIA and the Panel concluded that it should inform the interested public of the subjects and problems that the Panel is discussing.

The HRP met on December 12-13, 2012, with Robert Jervis, Melvyn Leffler, Thomas Newcomb, Jeffrey Taliaferro, and Ruth Wedgwood in attendance.

We discussed a range of topics, including the looming problem of reviewing the greatly increased volume of electronic records, the FOIA backlog, and the progress in putting material from the CREST system (the CIA Records Search Tool) on the web. We continued our discussion of the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series, including specific volumes at various stages of compiling and declassification and the general processes involved, which have been working more smoothly than was often true in the past. We also discussed the projects of the Historical Collections Division (HCD) and how these can be developed to meet the needs of multiple audiences. We returned to the need to get all agencies to devote attention to material from Presidential libraries. We also discussed options for reviewing Presidential Daily Briefs (PDBs).

We will meet again in June 2013.

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Uncertain World: Georgia as Russia’s Future Asset



23:41 14/02/2013
Weekly column by Fyodor Lukyanov

© RIA Novosti.
Fyodor Lukyanov

The October parliamentary elections resulted in a state with two centers of power. The president still has broad powers, including the right to dismiss the government and call early parliamentary elections. But under the Georgian Constitution, he cannot do so six months before or after elections, which leaves Saakashvili a window of opportunity of just several days in April.

If Saakashvili calls for early elections, conventional wisdom is that his party will lose seats in parliament. Since the president cannot keep the same government during the transition period, like in most countries, but must appoint a new cabinet, he may use this opportunity to try to sway public opinion in his favor.
To prevent this from happening, the prime minister plans to amend the Constitution. This explains the recent escalation in tensions. Opposition protests will be staged, but the target audience will be the West, where Saakashvili has many supporters, not Georgia. Claims that the prime minister and his coalition are abandoning the Euro-Atlantic path in favor of closer relations with Russia may prove a difficult argument to refute.

Still, the optimism inspired by the Georgian Dream party’s victory in the parliamentary elections of October 2012 has not vanished. People are still relieved that Saakashvili’s party was defeated.

The majority of Georgians did not support the bold and rather harsh experiment that Saakashvili and his team of young reformers launched in 2003 to alter the national consciousness. Some see Saakashvili’s attempt to demolish stereotypes as a positive step on the path to modernization. But, as history has shown repeatedly, you can’t make people happy against their will.

One of the reasons behind Saakashvili’s defeat is his team’s inability to build any kind of relationship with Russia. Some people voted for Ivanishvili and his Georgian Dream primarily because he promised to break the deadlock with Moscow.
Bilateral relations have indeed warmed since the prime minister’s election, though, to be fair, relations could not have gotten much worse. The new team’s efforts to strengthen its standing by dismantling the system Saakashvili created are a step toward improving relations with Russia, as the previous model was based on political and ideological opposition to Moscow.

The wait-and-see period has also ended in Moscow. The Kremlin and the Russian Foreign Ministry see that Ivanishvili is not a minion whom Saakashvili will replace when he does his bit.

Russia has made a number of telling gestures, such as a meeting between the Georgian prime minister’s special envoy and a state secretary of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Next the Russian and Georgian prime ministers shook hands in Davos, the Georgian Patriarch met with the Russian president in Moscow, and talks were launched to reopen the Russian market to Georgian wine and mineral water.

These steps have sparked civil and academic initiatives, including meetings between journalists and experts. Last week, experts from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations presented a report on ways out of the political stalemate in Tbilisi to a packed audience hall. Of course, the report was criticized and some Georgians even protested outside. But everyone agreed that it was Moscow’s first attempt to offer a positive agenda in a long time.
Georgia is hungry for friendly gestures from Moscow. The history of bilateral relations since the collapse of the Soviet Union has been an endless chain of conflicts, with both sides’ missteps fuelling tension.
Normalizing relations with Georgia is simple for Russia, which only has to ease entry and import restrictions and to show that it is open to cooperation. But the next stage will be much more difficult. Russia must seize this opportunity, but also show restraint so as not to scare Georgia off.

Russia, the largest and most powerful former Soviet republic, often forgets that a careless word can provoke an outcry lasting for weeks and even months. The possibility of Georgia returning to the CIS, recently broached by Russia, led to public protests and was used as a weapon against the Georgian government. There are red lines in Georgian politics that cannot be crossed, no matter how green the grass on the other side. Recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent nations is one such red line. Another is Georgia’s “European choice.”
No progress can be expected on Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the foreseeable future. Conflicts that involve questions of sovereignty tend to be the most intractable. Russia will not withdraw its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia either, as this would do irreparable harm to Russia’s prestige and disrupt the situation in the North Caucasus.
Georgia’s “European choice,” though mostly symbolic, is very important to the country. Although Georgia identifies itself as a European country, most sensible people in Tbilisi understand that it has no prospect of joining NATO or the EU. But Georgia would be lost without its dream of European integration. It has no trust in Russia or enthusiasm for its ideas. And unfortunately, Russia has nothing comparable to the European idea to offer, at least while it’s busy searching for its own new identity.

Georgia clearly overestimates its importance to Russia. Many politicians and ordinary people in Russia wonder why they should try to restore relations with Georgia at all. NATO is no longer a problem, the new Georgian government is unlikely to continue the hostile North Caucasus policy of its predecessor, and Tbilisi no longer controls its former autonomous regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. For these reasons and more, a close Russian-Georgian alliance is not a possibility. There are no interests important enough to justify the enormous effort it would take to forge such an alliance.
This may be true if we look at the world from a purely mercantile standpoint. But no matter what happens in their relations, Georgia and Russia will always share a common culture and history. Such assets are not to be discarded in this globalized world, where superficial unity masks a deepening abyss of alienation. History does not stop with any leader’s departure, and no one has a clear sense of what the future holds.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
Is Russia unpredictable? Perhaps, but one shouldn’t exaggerate – its randomness often follows a consistent pattern. But is the world at large predictable? The past two decades have seen all forecasts refuted more than once and have taught us only one thing – to be ready for any change. This column is on what the nations and governments are facing in the era of global uncertainty.

*Fyodor Lukyanov is Editor-in-Chief of the Russia in Global Affairs journal – the most authoritative source of expertise on Russian foreign policy and global developments. He is also a frequent commentator on international affairs and contributes to various media in the United States, Europe and China, including academic journals Social Research, Europe-Asia Studies, Columbia Journal of International Affairs. Mr. Lukyanov is a senior member of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy and a member of the Presidential Council on Human Rights and Civic Society Institutions. He holds a degree from Moscow State University.

ANZUS and the Asia Pivot: A Fork in the Road?


America’s pivot to Asia is forcing many states in the region to try and strike a balance between their strategic relationship with Washington and their growing economic ties with China. Today, John Bruni looks at Australia’s and New Zealand’s attempts to reconcile these two imperatives.
By John Bruni for the ISN

Diplomatic Efforts in Latin America Require Fresh Faces


 http://isn.ch/isn/Digital-Library/Articles/Detail/?lng=en&id=159624
 

Now that he is US Secretary of State, will John Kerry nudge Washington to adopt a new diplomatic approach towards Latin America? Robert Valencia explores this question and the current status of the United States' bilateral relations with a region it once dominated.

By Robert Valencia for World Policy Institute

While the global press largely focused on Iran, China, and the Middle East during the lead-up to the appointment of John Kerry as the new secretary of state, Kerry's comments revealed the possibility of a revamped American diplomatic approach to Latin America. With Latin America in a transitional moment, stronger U.S engagement is critical. To reenergize the effort, Kerry will need a new, knowledgeable team in Washington as well as diplomats on the ground. Most importantly, the role of the U.S. assistant secretary must be given enough power that the person can be recognized and respected among Latin America’s diplomatic entourage.

Kerry will embark on, what is sure to be, a rugged road toward re-establishing friendlier relations with Latin America. He has already experienced a bit of an introduction to this struggle in the form of harsh criticism in Caracas after commenting that the situation in Venezuela was uncertain due to Hugo Chavez’s illness. A stated commitment toward Latin America will be refreshing to a waning U.S. presence in the region, but in order to accomplish anything there, Washington needs fresh faces associated with this region.

In the last three decades, many of the ambassadors have been mired in turbulent relationships. One clear example was Myles Frechette, the U.S. ambassador to Colombia in the mid-1990s, who strongly criticized then-Colombian President Ernesto Samper’s connections with the Cali Cartel, which financed his 1994 presidential campaign. Frechette’s position against Samper, as well as his disavowing of Colombia’s fight against narco-trafficking, earned him numerous rebukes from then-Interior Minister Horacio Serpa who called him a “gringo maluco (disagreeable)." WikiLeaks cables, for better or worse, revealed the adversity several U.S. ambassadors have faced in dealing with Latin American affairs. For instance, in 2011 U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Carlos Pascual, questioned the Mexican Army’s effectiveness in tackling drug cartels. Mexican President Felipe Calderon expressed his discomfort regarding these comments, which led to Pascual’s resignation in order to assuage U.S. Mexican relations.

In the last two years, hemispheric affairs have deteriorated because of a lack of an active, knowledgeable diplomatic corps. For example, Arturo Valenzuela, then U.S. assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, who resigned on July 15, 2011, was criticized in several countries—most notably in Argentina when the late Argentinean President Nestor Kirchner rebuked Valenzuela for criticizing Argentina’s judicial powers.
It took several months to fill Valenzuela’s position. The Obama administration appointed Roberta S. Jacobson as the new assistant secretary state for western hemisphere affairs on March 30, 2012 for her expertise in budget matters and her role in laying out the Free Trade Agreements with Mexico and Canada. However, her role in recent developments in the region has been questioned. Several pundits criticized Jacobson’s lack contact with Venezuela’s Vice President Nicolás Maduro during Chávez’s prolonged absence in power.

Another example of the dismissal of key Latin American experts in Washington came in August 2012, when President Barack Obama relieved Dan Restrepo, senior director for the western hemisphere on the National Security Council, after a string of problems during last year’s Summit of Americas, including the Secret Service scandal and the verbal attacks by heads of state against Washington. Ricardo Zúniga, an expert in Cuban affairs, took Restrepo’s place and will have the responsibility of advising the White House on Latin American policy. His expertise on Cuba’s human rights and work with Havana activists may bring further changes to U.S. Cuba affairs. The Obama administration has already lifted restrictions on Cuban-Americans to travel and send money to the island.

The replacement of Restrepo with Zúniga could be helpful in another one of Kerry’s plans. While Kerry is known for supporting the Cuban embargo, his overall position regarding the country is more relaxed. He has criticized U.S. pro-democracy programs like Radio/TV Martí for perpetuating an “anachronistic Cold War standoff” between the U.S. and the island, and supported the 2009 Freedom to Travel Back to Cuba Act, a bill that would have allowed citizens to travel without restrictions. This suggests that Kerry could reverse U.S. attempts to isolate Cuba from the Organization of American States—a goal that may be accomplished now that he has an expert in Cuban affairs as senior director for the western hemisphere. Another U.S.-backed scenario where Cuba has been ostracized was the Free Trade of the Americas (FTAA), a failed initiative that sought to eliminate or reduce trade barriers across all countries in the Americas but Cuba. The U.S. opposition to integrate Cuba into the FTAA led to the creation of the left-leaning Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), led by Venezuela.

Any attempt to reach out to Cuba would likely strengthen U.S. relations with Latin America, as Washington’s unrelenting stance toward Cuba led Latin American countries to refuse to sign a final declaration at Cartagena’s Summit of the Americas. Some experts believe Kerry’s friendlier position over Cuba will also be reinforced by a possible nomination of Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, since he favors lifting the U.S. embargo entirely. However, U.S. nonprofit organizations, such as Human Rights Watch, find Cuba’s regime at odds with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States’ (CELAC, in Spanish) stated aims—the promotion of democracy and freedom of press, just to name a few.
Of course, even with a renewed focus on Latin America, other pressing issues await him as well. The rise of al-Qaida in North Africa, Middle East instability, China’s mounting influence, nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran, and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2014, are all likely to push Latin America to the back seat during Obama’s second term. This makes it even more imperative that Kerry’s approach is accompanied with the White House’s recruiting of a strong team that has in-depth expertise. It cannot be the same old faces or merely wealthy donors to Obama's re-election campaign. A strong, well-liked assistant secretary could effectively address bilateral issues in the region—relations that have been static for much too long.

Robert Valencia is a Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs and is a contributing writer for Global Voices.