March 02, 2013

No solace in this quantum of accountability

Opinion » Op-Ed

Published: February 26, 2013 02:14 IST | Updated: February 26, 2013 04:04 IST 

Samir Saran
Abhijit Iyer-Mitra
 
The Hindu GROPING IN THE DARK: The taxpayer needs to know from a competent authority that the money spent on intelligence gathering is being used well to protect him. A scene from the February 21 Hyderabad bomb blasts. Photo: Mohammed Yousuf

On February 11, the Supreme Court issued notice to the government, seeking its response on making intelligence agencies accountable to Parliament. This question is pertinent and in some ways captures the sentiments expressed by many and best vocalised by two leaders in recent times. Vice-President Hamid Ansari had said in his 2010 speech on this subject "....responsibility to the legislature, and eventually to the electorate, is an essential element of democratic governance to which we are committed by the Constitution." Thereafter, the Private Members Bill introduced by Manish Tiwari (now Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting), The Intelligence Services (Powers & Regulation) Bill 2011, sought to empower intelligence agencies through a legally mandated charter that included well-thought-out elements of supervision and oversight.

Mr. Tiwari's effort was supported by a research initiative at the Observer Research Foundation over a period of about two years. Views of and feedback from over 150 experts, politicians, social scientists, mediapersons and security professionals were solicited. The resulting analysis questioned obsolete notions of national security liberally deployed by the security community to protect turfs, prevent change and indeed to defend the indefensible. In this context, four core issues stood out and need early resolution even as the court is appraised of this matter.

Regulatory framework

In modern democracies, intelligence agencies are legally created by and operate under a charter drawn up by the legislature. India's agencies however bear a chilling resemblance to Haiti's Tonton Macoute, a voodoo police named after a phantom bogeyman having no charter, rules or limits. In effect it is an extra-constitutional body, prey to individuals and politics and, like such institutions, is totally unaccountable. Setting a charter improves efficiency, focussing resources and minds on what needs to be done. It directs operations on the basis of policy, not individual whim. For example if folklore has it right, if RAW had a charter, it would have legally pre-empted a former Prime Minister's order to abandon operations in Pakistan. It cost India 30 years worth of accumulated ground assets and priceless reach.

Intelligence ombudsman

Intelligence agencies such as Mossad, CIA and MI6 have reformed their structures to include operation and financial audits which have improved their efficiency. These agencies, prior to reforms, had a history of personal and political abuse. Institutions are based on trust, but there is no incompatibility between trust and verification. The taxpayer needs to know from a competent authority that his rupee is not being misused on ballerinas, champagne and settling personal scores. The state has a responsibility to verify and audit. The reports that these agencies are used to spy on political opponents, blackmail them and purchase parliamentary votes are too regular and too consistent to be ignored. "Watergate" was the most visible example of such abuse. Closer home, leaked telephone conversations (recorded dubiously) and allegations of keeping a tab on political opponents tell us that "Trust me" is simply not an argument — unless the government can prove that these agencies are staffed by people with a special mitochondrial DNA that makes them free of incompetence, inefficiency and corruption. As all details obviously cannot be divulged, an independent intelligence ombudsman with the highest level of security clearance is the optimal answer.

Collective responsibility

A National Intelligence and Security Oversight Committee will address the issue of control. Democracy is about deferring to the wisdom of the many. In our system, the Prime Minister is primus inter pares; all governmental decisions are passed by cabinet committees. The Prime Minister therefore, must not have permanent and exclusive control over such agencies. Far from making the process of intelligence collection tedious, collective control leads to better absorption of intelligence and enables the system to efficiently analyse the same. Interdisciplinary inputs would allow holistic analysis insulating the Prime Minister from tainted or bad intelligence. Inconsistencies may be better detected resulting in moderation and course-correction. Optimally, such a collective must include parliamentary opposition to ensure national consensus and continuity. A recent example of abuse is the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It was because powerful individuals hijacked the intelligence apparatuses of the United States and the United Kingdom that intelligence was allowed to be concocted to build a bogus case for war.

Protecting the protectors

There is a case for a National Intelligence Tribunal that protects the public at large but also those serving within such institutions. Extra-constitutional institutions are usually rife with turf wars: a person trapped within such a phantom has no way to protect himself against individual caprices with no system of grievance redressal. Becoming a breeding ground for cronyism and negating merit has an enormous negative impact on professionalism and morale. After all in such a dangerous line of work, personal enmity can translate into a death sentence. A special tribunal will protect both the interests of intelligence employees as well as shield the general public from their excesses.

Deploying the "National security" argument against reform is a fig leaf for defending cronyism, incompetence, inefficiency, and corruption. A proper regulatory mechanism can only strengthen national security, not weaken it. It is time to bring in facts and lessons from global best practices to this debate as it unfolds in the highest court of the land.

(Samir Saran is vice-president and Abhijit Iyer-Mitra is programme coordinator at the Observer Research Foundation.)

India headed for economic doom, prominent US thinktank says

 

Derek Scissors of The Heritage Foundation says that the Indian economy is in dire health because manufacturing that should lead the Indian economy that would create jobs for the swelling ranks of young Indians is refusing to take off.

TNN | Mar 3, 2013, 05.34AM IST
 

NEW DELHI: India is heading straight for economic failure post-Chidambaram's budget as a direct result of the lack of meaningful economic reform, says Heritage Foundation, an important conservative thinktank in the US. Assessing finance minister, P Chidambaram's budget, Derek Scissors of the Washington-based organization said that it "leaves India on the same, failing course it's been on of undisciplined spending and unrealistic expectations".

The Indian economy is in dire health, he said, not only because Indians' incomes have stagnated, income growth slowed and consumer inflation is high, but because manufacturing that should lead the Indian economy that would create jobs for the swelling ranks of young Indians is refusing to take off.

"Services lead in large part because the labour market is more flexible in services industries than in manufacturing. Rather than labour market reform, the Indian government offers a state-led infrastructure program. But the infrastructure program has no chance to succeed while property rights to land remain so ill-defined," he explained.

According to him, India is making the same mistake as the US like substituting spending since reform is politically difficult. "The proposal for this year is a triumph of hope over courage: Spending is to increase by 17%, yet the deficit is to fall to 4.8% of GDP. This won't happen. Spending will have to be curbed or the deficit will balloon again," he said.

The high growth between 2004 and 2007 was largely due to the reforms of the years before. "Without a sustained reform process, which will take considerable time, India will not return to the days of fast growth. Government revenue and GDP will continue to disappoint, deficits will continue to be high, and consumers will continue to suffer. This is the path India remains on," he added.

Hagel must set the record straight on India soonest

Raj Chengappa


 The bombing of Kabul had just begun when I undertook the arduous but exciting journey in October 2001 to cover the Afghan war that would result in the Taliban regime being overthrown by a combination of decisive air strikes by the US-led coalition forces and a ground attack by an array of rebel Afghan forces.

With great difficulty we were able to enter Afghanistan by driving from Dushanbe in Tajikistan to the Afghan border town Khwaja Bahawudin. We had to cross the Amu Darya by boat at night to avoid sniper fire from the Taliban stationed in the surrounding hills.

Among the many memorable meetings I had there was a meal with Attiqullah Baryalai, then a top military commander of the Northern Alliance forces, at his makeshift HQ overlooking the Amu Darya. Over a sumptuous meal that included dal imported from India, Baryalai told us presciently, "The US, like all other invading armies of the past, should remember that it is easy to get into Afghanistan but very difficult to get out. Every army that comes here gets sucked into the vortex."

New US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel.
I remembered Baryalai's words when last week there was a controversy over the remarks made by Chuck Hagel, the new US Defence Secretary, about India's role in Afghanistan when he was a professor in a university in 2011. Hagel had then told an innocuous gathering at Oklahoma University, "India has over the years financed problems for Pakistan in Afghanistan." Concerned that Hagel may still subscribe to such a jaundiced view of India's activities in Afghanistan, the Ministry of External Affairs registered a strong protest.

The US Defence Department did make the right noises and the matter seems to have been sorted out. But doubts linger about a possible US tilt towards Pakistan as Hagel gets down to fulfilling President Barack Obama's promise to his nation to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan in 2014.

The situation in Afghanistan is far from stable and the stakes for India remain high. The last thing India would want is that after the exit of US forces, Pakistan uses Afghanistan as its strategic backyard and ensures that the obscurantist Taliban that had the backing of Islamabad prior to the 2001 Afghan war returns to power again.

Post the 2001 overthrow of the Taliban and the installation of a democratic Afghan government led by Hamid Karzai, India has played its diplomatic cards brilliantly. While the US forces got embroiled in Afghan's internal affairs, as Baryalai had predicted they would, India focused on providing aid to rebuild Afghanistan. It included building critical road links, assisting power generation and setting up health and educational institutions.

Much to Pakistan's chagrin, Afghanistan chose India as the first country to sign an Agreement on Strategic Partnership in October 2011 that ensured cooperation in a range of fields, including political, economic, security and social. By then India had pledged US $ 2 billion in aid, making it the fifth largest bilateral donor to Afghanistan.

India has started training the Afghan National Security Forces, particularly the Afghan National Police. India has also signed memoranda of understanding for the development of minerals and natural gas in Afghanistan. The public sector Steel Authority of India has formed a consortium to invest in mining in the Bamiyan province.

The goodwill that India has generated in Afghanistan is palpable. A worried Islamabad has frequently accused Delhi of using Afghanistan as a base to fund and create internal disturbances in Pakistan. Though there is little substance in Pakistan's charges, Hagel appears to have reflected Islamabad's concerns when he made those unfortunate observations. It is important that Hagel sets the record straight at the earliest if he has to win India's confidence.

The major concern for India now is that the High Peace Council formed by the Afghanistan government to work out a "Peace Process Roadmap to 2015" had in November 2012 come out with a five-step process involving negotiations to make the Taliban and other armed opposition groups part of the government. The US is relying on Pakistan to facilitate the process.
Both Pakistan and the rebel Taliban forces appear to be playing a waiting game so that they could call the shots after the US and international armed forces have withdrawn. India has warned the US that any patchwork political process would jeopardise all gains the international community has achieved during the past decade and plunge Afghanistan into chaos again. History may then repeat itself.

On a visit to Delhi in 2004, Mohammad Zahir Shah, the last king of Afghanistan, told me, "Afghanistan's geographical position has a lot to do with the tumultuous events that have taken place in the past 100 years. It lies in the heart of Asia and at the crossroads of many countries. All I can say is that taking Afghanistan is very easy, controlling Afghanistan is very hard." Zahir Shah died in 2007 but it is good to remember his sombre advice as Afghanistan finds itself once again at the crossroads of history.
 

SITE appreciates Pakistan, Iran gas pipeline project


By: NNI | March 03, 2013 .
 

KARACHI  - Naseem Anwar, Senior Vice Chairman, SITE Association of Industry highly appreciated the courageous steps taken by Asif Ali Zardari to enter into an agreement with Islamic Republic of Iran regarding $7.5 billion gas pipeline project.

He said that the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project despite hostilities towards the expansion of ties between two neighboring countries will be a strong approach in accessing safe energy source being the first priority for Pakistan to avail from Islamic Republic of Iran the brotherly country in the region.

"The pipeline project has run into repeated problems, in finding funds and opposition to the project from USA but the democratic government under the dynamic leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari visited Iran and signed a final agreement with Iran wherein Iran and Pakistan agreed that Iran would supply between 750 million cubic feet (21 million cubic meters) and one billion cubic feet per day of natural gas by mid-2015 to Pakistan."

He further said that building the gas pipeline between Iran and Pakistan is a great and important event, it serves the two nations' interests and strengthen the bilateral relations.

"No doubt this project is very beneficial for both sides and we support all the progress made so far. The daring steps to pursue the project regardless of US pressure, would help Pakistan to overcome its energy crisis that has led to debilitating blackouts and Closure of our valuable industry creating unemployment at large", he said.

He said that it is more encouraging that Iran has also promised a $500 million loan to Pakistan to complete the pipeline project.

"It would be reckoned as most remarkable achievement of the democratic government which, in the prevailing situation has been successful to proceed with this vital project since it was pending for a long period of almost two decades, the groundbreaking of $7.5 billion Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline will be performed during the current month on the Pak-Iran border by the Presidents of both the countries", he said.
 

The Prime Minister's Men

PINION
Inder Gujral only ordered the R&AW operations for covert action in Pakistan to be abandoned, not for intelligence collection. And Vajpayee continued with the same policy.

The Hindu of February 26,2013, has carried an article titled No Solace In This Quantum of Accountability written by Samir Saran, Vice-President, and Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, Programme Co-Ordinstor of the Observer Research Foundation (ORF). It is about the accountability of the intelligence agencies.

My views on accountability are well known and I do not feel the need to repeat them. I wanted to comment on the following observation by the two writers:  " If folklore has it right, if R&AW had a charter, it would have legally pre-empted a former Prime Minister's order to abandon operations in Pakistan. It cost India 30 years worth of accumulated ground assets and priceless reach."

The reference is apparently to former Prime Minister Inder Gujral. It is not correct that Gujral ordered the R&AW operations in Pakistan to be abandoned. The R&AW had two kinds of operations in Pakistan— for intelligence collection and covert action.

He ordered only the operations for covert action to be closed since he felt that such a gesture might facilitate his efforts to improve relations with Pakistan under the so-called Gujral Doctrine. He did not order the intelligence collection operations to be discontinued. It would have been stupid on his part to have done so. He, like all our Prime Ministers before and after him, understood the importance of a good intelligence collection capability in Pakistan. What he ordered to be closed accounted for only about 15 per cent of the R&AW's operations in Pakistan. He encouraged the remaining 85 per cent to continue.

There was a debate in the intelligence community over the wisdom of his order to wind up the covert action operations. Many senior officers met him and explained to him that building a covert action capability took a long time. If one day the government felt the need for resuming covert actions, there would be no trained and experienced assets on the ground. It was suggested to him that if he felt strongly on the subject, the covert action operations should be suspended, but not discontinued. He could not be convinced.

When the NDA government under Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee came to office, the intelligence community was hoping that he would cancel Gujral's decision and order the resumption of covert action operations in Pakistan. To their surprise, they found that Vajpayee too, like Gujral, wanted the R&AW to focus on intelligence collection in Pakistan and avoid operations for covert action.

Some serving officers, who felt disappointed by the reluctance of Vajpayee to resume covert actions, arranged a meeting for me with Brajesh Mishra, the then National Security Adviser. I met him in his office in New Delhi, and explained to him the importance of resuming our covert action operations in Pakistan.

He gave me a patient hearing and said: " I am already convinced. You don't have to convince me. But the Prime Minister (Vajpayee) thinks otherwise. We have to carry out his wishes."

There the matter ended. Even if the R&AW had a charter, there was no question of its being able to pre-empt Gujral's orders. As R.N.Kao used to say, the R&AW and the IB are the two clandestine swords of the Prime Minister. It is up to him to decide how they will be used. His desires and orders have to be observed. No intelligence chief can overlook them—charter or no charter. 

PAKISTAN, AN EVOLVING STATE

B.RAMAN


In our preoccupation with the anti-India activities of the Pakistani jihadi organisations,  we should not overlook the positive factors that have brought a ray of hope not only to Pakistan, but to the region as a whole.


2. The most positive factor is the fact that the mainstream political class in Pakistan---with the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) of Mr.Nawaz Sharif in the forefront--- have been showing for the last five years since the last elections were held a greater sense of political balance and maturity than ever before in the history of Pakistan.


3. The past habit of political leaders of running to the Army as an institution or to individual Army officers for help in countering the activities of their political opponents is slowly fading away. There is a welcome realization in the mainstream political class that it cannot escape its share of responsibility for the Army acquiring the role of an arbiter in political matters.


4.All mainstream political parties now realize that to curb the political role of the Army and to promote genuine democracy,  it is important that the political parties fight out their differences in the legislatures and town halls and should not take them to the army for arbitration.


5. It is this balance, maturity and self-restraint that contributed to the present PPP-led coalition being able to complete its normal tenure of five years. The credit for the remarkable fact that the elected National Assembly and the civilian Government have been able to complete their tenure of five years should go not only to the mainstream political parties but also to the senior Army leadership headed by Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the Chief of the Army Staff, who resisted the temptation to intervene on occasions when they could have done so without creating a public outcry.


6. The controversy over the role of Mr.Hussain Haqqani as the Pakistani Ambassador to the US was one such occasion when the Army leadership was under considerable provocation to act to express its indignation over the back-channel assurances allegedly conveyed to the US by Haqqani regarding the steps which the Asif Zardari Government would be prepared to take in return for the US support to the civilian leadership.


7. The fact that Kayani resisted the temptation and urge to intervene reflected well on him and the senior officers under him. By exercising self-restraint, the Army under Kayani contributed to the continuance of the elected civilian leadership for its normal term of five years.


8. The Army still claims for itself the primacy of decision-making in matters concerning national security in general and relations with India in particular. It is still not prepared to allow the civilian leadership a role in monitoring and supervising the functioning of the Armed Forces. But, it is now prepared to keep away from politics if its primacy in decision-making in these matters is respected by the elected leadership.


9.This unwritten code of compromise between the political and military leadership can be an important first step towards the evolution of Pakistan as a genuine democracy.


10. Despite sectarian and jihadi violence, Pakistan is not a failed State. Despite its economic difficulties, Pakistan is not a failing State. The last five years have shown that Pakistan is an evolving State. It is still an ideological State. It is still attached to the ideology of its founding fathers. But it is an ideology tempered by political maturity, balance and pragmatism. It is in the interest of all of us to encourage this evolution. ( 3-3-13)


( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director. Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. Twitter @SORBONNE75 )

 

March 01, 2013

U.S.: What the Sequester Will Do to the Military

STRATFOR

March 1, 2013 | 1116 GMT

 Summary

Sequestration, the automatic spending reductions scheduled to take effect March 1, will affect the U.S. military's ability to project force around the world. The current continuing resolution that Congress is using to fund the entire government until March 27 has already affected U.S. forces. The longer these funding cuts continue, the more degradation the U.S. military will incur, with longer-lasting effects. 

Analysis

Although Stratfor typically does not examine domestic U.S. issues, this one is geopolitically significant. The U.S. military, and particularly the Navy, is the most powerful force projection instrument in the world. When the sequester takes effect, it will immediately reduce military spending by 8 percent, with more than $500 billion in cuts to defense spending over 10 years divided equally among the military branches. The continuing resolution is already affecting the military since it has locked the military budget into 2011 spending levels and prevented spending increases or reallocations among various budgets. On March 27, Congress will have to have a new budget in place, extend the continuing resolution or force a government shutdown; the most likely decision will be to maintain the continuing resolution. 

It is not the overall amount of the reductions that is damaging, necessarily; it is the way in which the cuts will be implemented. The across-the-board cuts required by the sequestration coupled with the limits set by the continuing resolution are constraining budget planners' options in how to absorb the spending reductions and thus are damaging all the military branches, programs, training, deployments and procurement. 

Funding Cuts and Force Readiness 

Just the threat of continued budget reductions has had an immediate effect on the military's readiness. The Navy decided not to deploy a second carrier to the Persian Gulf, backing down from its standard of two carriers in the region. Instead, the second carrier will serve in a surge capacity for the immediate future. The other branches have extended the deployments of units already in theaters and delayed others from rotating in as replacements since it is relatively less expensive to have units stay in place than move them and their equipment intercontinentally. 

Maintenance budgets across the forces have been reduced or suspended in anticipation of cuts. Training of all non-deploying forces who are not critical to the national strategic forces is also being heavily curtailed. These options were chosen because they are immediate cost-saving measures that can be reversed quickly as opposed to the big-budget procurement programs, in which changes can cause delays for years. In many cases, the Department of Defense would have to pay massive fines for withdrawing from binding contracts, and renegotiations are often very costly. The Defense Department hopes that the cuts will be short-lived, but the longer the spending constraints continue, the more the military's platforms and personnel units degrade in readiness. 

The medium- to long-term effects can be even more serious. Any given military platform, from a Stryker armored vehicle to an aircraft carrier, requires a lot of money in order to be ready for use at any time at its intended level of performance. These platforms require consistent use to maintain a certain readiness level because machines cannot sit idle for months to years and then operate effectively, if at all, especially if called on for immediate action. Moreover, the people that operate this equipment need to maintain their working knowledge and operational skill through continued use. This use causes wear and tear on the platform and requires consistent maintenance. All of this is necessary just to maintain the status quo. In the end, there must be a balance between a platform's readiness level and the amount of funding required for operations and maintenance, but if the money is no longer available there is no choice but to reduce readiness. 

Also, upgrades are needed so platforms can stay up to date and useable within the system the military is using to move, shoot and communicate. This is a constant cycle that, when interrupted, has very long-lasting consequences. For example, the Navy has said it is considering suspending operations of four of its nine carrier air wings while shutting down four of its carriers in various stages of the operations and maintenance process. This would essentially give the United States one carrier deployed with one on call for years. This will be sufficient if the world remains relatively quiet, but one large emergency or multiple small ones would leave the United States able to project limited force compared to previous levels. 

In the longer term, procurement programs for new equipment will either be delayed or cut altogether. This will put more pressure on existing platforms, requiring them to operate past their intended life spans, and will preclude or delay the introduction of better abilities into the military. Procurement cycles are very slow and take decades to implement; for instance, the Navy that the United States wants to have in 20 years is being planned now. An extreme example of the damage that a military force can incur because of a lack of procurement, operations, maintenance and upgrades is the current state of the Russian military. Russian forces still feel the effects of the Soviet Union's collapse and the subsequent decade of neglect. 

A Smaller Presence Around the World 

The U.S. military has a global presence, and sequestration would have appreciable effects on this in certain areas. Potentially, the hardest hit region will be the Pacific, which has been the focus of the United States' new strategy. If the United States wants to continue pivoting its focus toward the Pacific, the military would have to draw more resources than originally planned. No specific mention has been made of changing the U.S. military footprint in Japan, other than possibly curtailing combat air patrols, and U.S. forces are already consolidating their presence in South Korea to fewer bases south of Seoul and diminishing their role in relation to the South Korean military. The Navy's reduction in ship deployments to the region will just reinforce the current trend. 

The U.S. military's footprint is being reduced in a few other areas. The combat zone in Afghanistan has 66,000 troops, with 34,000 scheduled to come home by the end of the year. All but around 8,000 will return home by the end of 2014. The 5th Fleet headquartered in Bahrain is being affected by the Navy's decision to have only one carrier in the Persian Gulf. Europe is seeing a reduction from four brigade combat teams to two, which was already planned and is another reinforced trend. The U.S. ground presence in Africa and South America should be relatively unchanged, since these predominantly involve special operations forces -- the kind of deployment that is already being emphasized over larger conventional forces. 
 
The single biggest capability gap that will develop will be the U.S. military's surge capacity. If the Syria-Iraq-Lebanon corridor were to become more unstable, the United States will not be able to respond with the same force structure it had in the past. The U.S. military can still shift its assets to different regions to attain its strategic goals, but those assets will come from a smaller resource pool, and shifting them will lessen the presence in some other region. The military's ability to use one of its softer political tools -- joint military exercises -- will also be at risk. 

Reduced Relative Dominance 

This is not to say that the U.S. military will be wrecked immediately or that its condition is anywhere near that of the Russian military in the 1990s. A military's effectiveness is measured against its potential opponents, and the United States has enjoyed a large gap for decades. However, if a military is not growing in capabilities and other militaries or groups are, then its relative power is decreasing. This means that after sequestration is implemented or the continuing resolution is maintained, the U.S. military will remain dominant for years to come, but not as dominant as it has been relative to other forces. 

There are many ways the effects of funding cuts can be mitigated. Congress can continue to delay addressing budget issues and the military's concerns indefinitely, or it can make some changes, such as allowing the Department of Defense more discretion in how it implements these cuts. However, the budget cuts are already having preliminary effects, and the longer the cuts continue, the greater the potential for degradation of the U.S. military's force projection capabilities. Funding cuts are not necessarily abnormal for the United States while winding down into a postwar stance. Historically, the pattern has been a reduction in spending and retrenchment of a large volume of forces from abroad. However, Pentagon planners typically go into a postwar period with the stated goal of not damaging the force through these cuts and reductions. 

Turkey’s Fear of Syrian Kurds


An interview with Dr. Bahram Amirahmadian, university professor and expert on Turkish affairs

 

Mr. Erdogan has stated that Turkey will not allow an independent Kurdish region to be created in northern Syria. This is while Turkey has very good relations with Iraq's Kurdistan province. What is the reason behind Turkey's opposition to the establishment of a Kurdish region in Syria?

I think that Mr. Erdogan has considered the national interests of his country. The conditions of Iraq's Kurdistan province are different from those of Syria's Kurdistan. Iraq's Kurdistan province has economic power. It has a proper consumer market and it is powerful in the energy sector, whereas Syria's Kurdistan is a very weak and undeveloped region which basically has no experience in government. Therefore, if a self-governing Kurdistan region is established in northern Syria, it will not have the homogeneity of Iraq's Kurdistan and will create more problems for Turkey, for it seems that there will be threats against Turkey from this region. From this aspect, Mr. Davutoglu's view in this regard can be studied.

The other point is that possibly the condition for Turkey to join the European Union, as Ms. Merkel has proposed during the past few days, is that Turkey accept the establishment of a Kurdish self-governing state. Considering negotiations with Mr. Ocalan and the ceasefire during the New Year, this issue seems more probable.

The government of Turkey had recently stated that it is ready to pay all the expenses to solve the issue of the Kurds inside Turkey. Has the issue of the Kurds, in your opinion, become a national security challenge for Turkey during the recent developments?

The assumption is that if the central government of Syria is overthrown and another government comes to power, it will be a government which will be forced to give autonomy to some regions including Syria's Kurdistan or become a federal government. Nevertheless, the government which would come to power after Assad will certainly not have Assad's authority and the regions will be less obedient to the government. Therefore, in order to prevent the impact of these movements inside the country, the government of Turkey intends to warm up to the Kurds and gain their satisfaction by giving certain cultural and political concessions. These concessions are given so that the developments in Syria and previously in Iraq do not affect the Kurdish region of Turkey and the Turkish Kurds will maintain their loyalty to the central government of Turkey.

On the verge of John Kerry's visit to Turkey, Davutoglu, Turkey's Foreign Minister, has criticized the US and stated that the US is not serious with regard to the issue of Syria. What are Turkey's expectations of the US regarding Syria?

The process of developments in Syria has been led towards the direction where most of the Salafi movements are armed by receiving arms from certain regions. If these movements succeed in overthrowing Bashar Assad's government, a government will then come to power which will create more insecurity for the region. This issue has reduced the seriousness of US participation with regard to the issue of Syria. The Americans have waited to see the direction of the developments. US ignorance regarding the domestic developments of Syria is not to Turkey's benefit, because Turkey will, more than any other country, be damaged by Syria's domestic developments and this crisis will impact the economy and security of Turkey.

Turkish criticism of the Americans is in this regard. They criticized the US, asking why basic measures were not taken when it was necessary, for example regarding the fact that strategic arms or financial aids were not given to Assad's opposition, even though the government of Mr. Assad has recently stated that it is ready to negotiate with the opposition residing outside of the country. This issue could not be predicted. Perhaps the presence of Mr. Kerry in Turkey will, to some extent, help the issue of Syria. But what is clear is that any development inside Syria will not be to the benefit of the ruling government and party.

Mr. Davutoglu has said that the opposition has not accepted the government's negotiation offer. Can't Turkey use its influence over the opposition and bring them to the negotiation table?

Turkey does not want the present government of Syria to stay, for in that case it will not have any standing among Assad's opposition. The expenses which Turkey has paid for a change of government in Syria has only been aimed at overthrowing Assad's government and will not be satisfied with anything else. Despite the fact that Walid al-Muallem has stated that the government of Syria is ready to negotiate with the opposition outside the country, Turkey does not agree with such an idea. Of course it was predicted that the Syrian government would become so weak that it would enter negotiations with those whom it calls terrorists. In my opinion, from the Turks' perspective, this issue is the beginning of new developments in Syria. Turkey will not be content with anything else but Assad's resignation.

India’s pro-Obama government may be on its last legs

by Ramtanu Maitra on 01 Mar 2013
 


A series of money scams, high inflation, a significant slowdown of India's much-touted economic growth, and currying favor with the globalization crowd at the expense of India's vast majority of poor, have brought the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to its knees. With a year to go before the next general elections, the government has very few straws to grasp at right now. The Alliance, if it can hold itself together until the death knell tolls, has really no possibility of getting back into power.
 
It should be noted that during the last general election in 2009, people did not give a mandate to any party, but the Alliance somehow managed to survive because the opposition to it was unimaginative and equally incompetent, if not reeking with corruption.
 
An Alternative?
 
This time around, some people in India have begun to assert that indeed an alternative does exist, in the person of a state leader, Narendra Modi, who is also a leader of the only other national party of note in India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Modi, who was elected for the third time in the state of Gujarat, is not a household name across the country, although many have heard of his successes as chief minister in Gujarat. Modi's efforts for development and his ability to keep his stable clean have drawn attention and pose a challenge to the inept and increasingly dysfunctional UPA.
 
Gujarat today is considered a good example of what can be achieved under solid leadership that is not in power simply to facilitate favors to one coterie or another. Gujarat is surely the most desired target in India for investors - manufacturers in particular.
 
A senior Indian commentator in a recent website posting pointed out that Modi has strong support from the young. "He is not a complainer. He does things exactly as the young do. Modi is like an entrepreneur who knows how to squeeze the best out of the system. Modi is a wealth-creator, precisely what the young seek, and the Gujarat chief minister, unlike Manmohan Singh and other World Bank/IMF economists" who are in power in Delhi "is at home with the Indian model." He comes across as an outsider to New Delhi politics and India is tired of insiders who have come to be represented by the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty in the main, the commentator added.
 
If Modi is indeed as good as some say, it is important that he emerge as the prime minister-in-waiting. Apart from the fact that it is not evident how many Indians have a clear image of who he is or what he could deliver, his biggest obstacle could be his own party leaders who have enmeshed themselves with the corruption that has become the hallmark of the Manmohan Singh-led government. A quartet consisting of LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, and Nitin Gadkari of the RSS has not only played along with the corrupt UPA administration, but is believed by some to have enriched themselves financially from the scams perpetrated by those whom they purport to oppose. The quartet, unwilling to address India's real problems, has never shaped a political agenda that would address reality and build popular support.
 
That reality is that 400-500 million people live without electricity and many more millions lack safe drinking water; that millions of children do not have any opportunity for a fair lot in life; that millions of poor who live from hand to mouth cannot survive with year after year of 10% or higher inflation; that this nation of 1.2 billion people will not be able to assume its rightful place in the world unless these 400-500 million are provided with education, skill, and a life that offers them hope.
 
In all likelihood, this quartet will do its very best to quietly soil Modi's positive image and in the process help the failed UPA to secure yet another term of five years in office.
 
Obama's Guru: Manmohan Singh
 
President Obama calls Prime Minister Manmohan Singh his economic "guru." The "success" of Singh's chela (disciple) in pushing the United States to a path of unmitigated disaster on every front should not come as a surprise. While Obama is a handmaiden of the Wall Street-City of London financial mafia, Singh comes virtually from the same stable. His education at Oxford and his years with the World Bank imbued him with the absurd notion that money is the economy, and his ten-year tenure as Prime Minister in India shows that he never grasped, nor even tried to grasp, what a national economy is, or what creates national wealth.
 
Neither Singh's Congress Party, the single largest party in the 2009 general elections, nor Manmohan Singh himself, were the people's choice. The Congress Party bagged less than 25% of the parliamentary seats. The UPA cobbled together state parties lured by Cabinet positions (if not by money outright), to gain a majority. Singh never even ran in the election.
 
Manmohan Singh is a packaged product delivered from outside by the international financial and corporate power-brokers who saw him as the pawn that he is. He was foisted upon the Indian people by Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born widow of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (d. 1989). Singh was sold to the electorate as an economist, an honest and apolitical technocrat. All those qualities have now pretty much vanished.
 
Bowing to the Financial Mafia
 
This is why - Singh is considered by many in India as the most pro-US Indian politician ever to sit in the prime minister's chair. The problem is that the United States that Manmohan Singh kowtows to so slavishly is currently led by a financial-corporate mafia whose principal objective is to use the military to indiscriminately kill people anywhere in the world and to create toxic financial instruments to suck out the real wealth of other nations. They have their collaborators within India's corporations, many of which have become global. This mafia "likes" Manmohan Singh because he believes in "reform" - by which he and they mean unshackling the Indian economy from its legacy of state-controlled "bondage," and paving the way for the global corporations to grab up large chunks of India's economy.
 
Last November, millions in India took to the streets to vent their anger over a move which could see international bulk retailers like Tesco, Carrefour, and Wal-Mart, entering the $500 billion Indian consumer retail market. Last week, millions participated in a general strike protesting two recent decisions of the UPA government: preparing the ground for Tesco, Wal-Mart, et al to enter India's retail sector, and allowing corporations to open up private banks. Earlier, protesting against Singh's Foreign Direct Investment (FDI - some in India call it the "Foreign Destruction of India") reform policy, which helped foreign companies like Wal-Mart to enter the lucrative Indian retail market, a key ally, Trinamool Congress, the ruling party in the state of West Bengal, left the UPA, making it a minority alliance in the Indian Parliament.
 
Why Singh and his two major props, the finance minister and the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, took such extreme risks to satisfy Wal-Mart while facing such strong public opposition and political danger is not hard to explain. Wal-Mart prepared its entry into India in 2010 with a $100 million investment into a consultancy that had no employees, no profits, and a scant $14,000 in revenue. The company, called Cedar Support Services, is now the focus of an investigation by India's financial crimes watchdog, to find out whether the company broke the FDI rules by putting money into a retailer before the government had thrown open the sector to other global players.
 
The pressure on Singh to push the FDI reform bill surely came from higher-ups who are not Indian, but global. The US wish list vis-à-vis India - from nuclear commerce to Wal-Mart's entry into the Indian market - as former Indian Ambassador M.K. Bhadrakumar pointed out in an article, is lying on Obama's desk. Obama would have known that changes were likely in the stewardship of India's finance ministry. The Western media had been criticizing then-Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as the main hurdle in the way of "reform"; he was shoved out in July 2012 and made the President of India - a position of great honor, but almost zero political power.
 
The Obama Administration has acknowledged Singh's delivery to the financial mafia of at least one item from the White House's wish list. On Feb. 12, US Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs Lael Brainard told reporters ahead of the G-20 Meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors in Moscow: "I have been very favorably impressed by some of the recent reform efforts undertaken by the Indian government. We have seen some important reform commitments subsequent to that, which I think bode well. Of course he is going to continue to want to improve its investment in areas such as infrastructure and in financial markets to enable more vibrant investment response. We support those efforts, and we're going to continue to engage India through our bilateral dialogue and also in the G-20."
 
In addition to this endorsement of Singh's penchant for "reform," last December, Goldman Sachs issued a statement expressing its continuing faith in Manmohan Singh, while asking for yet another pound of flesh. "India in many ways remains the most complex of the four [BRIC nations, Brazil, Russia, India, China], with its demographics giving it the best potential GDP growth rate, but its inability to introduce effective policy change is a persistent source of disappointment," said Goldman Sachs Asset Management Chairman Jim O'Neill.
 
"This being said, there are lots of policy changes being discussed and the Indian stock market seems to be quite excited about something. We think 2013 Indian GDP will probably exceed expectations, as there are indeed signs that policymakers might also positively surprise," O'Neill added. He did not put any figures to his estimates.
 
The Headley Fiasco
 
Besides the UPA's slavish approach, led by Obama's guru, there is yet another giveaway that Manmohan Singh turns almost into an invertebrate when it comes to standing up to irrational and dangerous diktats of the Obama Administration. For instance, consider the case of David Headley, a terrorist.
 
The Mumbai attack in November 2008 is considered by Indians as similar to the US 9/11 in all its dimensions. There was never a question that the people in India wanted to punish all those who were involved in committing that crime. David Headley, an American, who was an FBI agent-cum Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist-cum drug runner, made public under a plea bargain that he was in Mumbai doing reconnaissance work for the attackers. Headley was tried in the US courts and given a 35-year sentence. Why did the Singh government authorize the United States to enter into a plea bargain with a terrorist wanted in India? Or, why did the prime minister not stand up against it?
 
Headley was deeply implicated in a massive terrorist operation within India. Prior to his sentencing, the Singh government declared that India wanted him to receive the death penalty. However, the Obama Administration's Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the United States would not extradite him to India unless he was to violate the terms of his plea bargain. As one senior Indian commentator pointed out, this was an "unreachable lollipop for Manmohan Singh and his pro-American cabinet."
 
The author is South Asian Analyst at Executive Intelligence Review

Qatar Using Iran’s Initiative to Its Advantage


Excerpts of an interview with Dr. Masood Assadollahi, an expert on Middle Eastern affairs
 

What is your assessment of the recent position taken by Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister with regard to the establishment of an organization composed of member countries of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council and Iran to provide the security of the Persian Gulf?

With regard to the sudden and unexpected position taken by Qatar's Prime Minister in the Conference of Arab-International relations in Kuwait based on which he has asked for the adoption of a new security agreement between Persian Gulf countries, which Iran would be a member of, to create new security arrangements in the region, it should be said that this issue is completely new. Traditionally, we have seen that although the Islamic Republic of Iran has always, during the past few decades, proposed this idea and opposed the presence of extra-regional forces in the Persian Gulf and emphasized the point that the security of the region should be locally provided by the existing forces in the Persian Gulf, this proposal has always been rejected by the Arab governments of the Persian Gulf. 

This sudden position raises many questions regarding what has happened which has caused the Prime Minister of Qatar to propose this request of the Islamic Republic of Iran as a new proposal. 

What was the reaction of the Arab countries with regard to this proposal?

The attitude of the Arab world and its media show that they are not at all content with this proposal. The political officials of the Arab world and the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf have not taken any position in this regard and have practically ignored it. 

What is the Qatar's goal in proposing this idea?

My assessment of this proposal is that considering the defeat of Qatar's policies in Syria and Libya and overall on the issue of Qatar's support of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab world, it seems that the Qataris are faced with problems in their foreign relations. The reason is that although the positions of Saudi Arabia and Qatar are almost similar on Syria and both countries seek the downfall of the government in Syria, there are, in fact, differences in their positions, the most important of which is that the Qataris support the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria and demand that the Muslim Brotherhood come to power following the downfall of the government in Syria. But due to its old enmity with the Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi Arabia does not pursue such a development. This is an important difference between the positions of Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

There are similar differences with regard to Egypt. The Qataris strongly support the government of Mr. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, while Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates strongly oppose it. There are even numerous reports in Egyptian media claiming that Saudi Arabia and the UAE spend huge amounts of money to topple the government of Mr. Morsi. These two countries support the opponents of Mr. Morsi in Egypt. The same situation exists in Tunisia. In Tunisia, the al-Nahda Party and Mr. Rachid al-Ghannouchi have very close relations with Qatar, and Saudi Arabia is not content with this relation. In Libya, where the Qataris both financially and militarily helped to overthrow the government of Qaddafi, we see that the situation is completely out of control and the central government does not have much power and the Salafi groups have gained power. It was revealed in the developments in Mali that numerous financial and economic aids were given to the Salafi militia and the existing groups in that country. This issue has caused the French officials to voice their protest. France's intelligence agency has informed the French government that the Qataris play an important role in supporting the armed groups. The same situation exists in Algeria and the Qataris support the government's opposition. 

Therefore, we see that the Qataris have played a provocative role in regional developments and they are now experiencing its negative consequences.

It is possible that the Qataris feel that they are isolated in the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council and are under pressure by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, thus, they have proposed this idea to create a balance. 

Considering the fact that relations between Iran and Qatar have been damaged due to the issue of Syria, what should Iran's proper reaction, in your opinion, be? Can it use this proposal as an opportunity to improve bilateral relations and is such a measure basically needed?

There are still numerous differences between Iran and Qatar with regard to the issue of Syria and other issues of the region. It means that the policies of the Qataris have not yet been fundamentally changed. Although the role played by Qatar in the Syrian crisis has been weakened, but it still gives huge financial and military aids to the Syrian opposition. If the Qataris are serious in their proposal, they will certainly pursue it. If they take another step, it can be viewed that the Qataris intend to review their policies. In that case, dialogue is a good step, provided that it would cause Qatar's policies with regard to Syria to be changed. But if the Qataris only intend to perform a political maneuver against Saudi Arabia and reduce the pressures of this country on the Muslim Brotherhood, it does not seem that it would be in the interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran to get involved in this competition between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

What is the US after in Eurasia?


Excerpts of a speech made by Dr. Seyyed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour in the Conference on Iran and Regional Cooperation in Eurasia

 

As a concept, a region, and a geopolitical and strategic structure, Eurasia has been the venue for numerous talks and discussions and has vague boundaries which are not clearly defined. It is interesting to note that although the Eurasian reality is very old and ancient, the term Eurasia has been proposed during the past twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. If we look at the categorization of regional deputies at the US State Department, we see that there is a deputy in charge of Eurasian affairs. Therefore, domination over this region is a necessity for US foreign policy. That is why there is a new outlook on China. The Russians have a different look at this phenomenon. The Eurasian way of thinking and the point that Russia is a Eurasian power and not an exclusively western power, has transformed the differences between the West-oriented and Eurasia-oriented individuals in Russia into a classic dialogues and there has been a new look towards the concept of Eurasia and its culture during these past twenty years.

But what should be paid attention to is that this concept is very open and vast and there are different interpretations of it. In Eurasia itself, there are also different regions. This concept, despite all its interpretations and uncertainties, is, and will undoubtedly be, one of the fundamental elements of the international system. There is a mutual relationship between the international system and the interactions that take place in this vast region. With this introduction, in this speech, I will try to look at this region from the viewpoint of the international system; a region whose name contains both Europe and Asia. This speech will attempt to answer questions such as the following: How is it possible to analyze and evaluate relations between Eurasia and the international system after the end of the Cold War? What is the US view, as one of the influential powers of the world, of Eurasia and what role does it play in the transitional phases of the international system? In response to these questions, three concepts will be stressed upon: 1. Eurasia, as a vast geopolitical concept, has always been a forming point of the international system during the past few centuries. 2. Inside Eurasia, after the Cold War, developments are taking place which form the contemporary international system. 3. There are different strategic interpretations for the formation of Eurasia.

Eurasia has had stability in the international system. In the 18th and 19th centuries, a big game was being played between the big powers in a region called Eurasia. In World Wars I and II, the principal scene of disputes was a region named Eurasia. Following World War II and during the Cold War, what was considered as competition between the West and the East was basically competition in this region. Containment of the Soviet Union by the military chain formed by NATO, CENTO, and SEATO, along with tens of other strategic partnerships, demonstrated itself in this region. In fact, it is in this region that the international system has been formed. It can be comprehended from this short review that firstly, the nature of the international system has been related to the state of domination over this vast region. Second, there has been bloody competition for domination over this region which has led to significant world wars, regional wars, and other interventions. The third point is that while this strategic rivalry has been constant and permanent, its forms and manifestations also changed considering the component of changes in power and the big powers in Eurasia.

In the post-Cold War era, the world of international relations has also changed. The changes that are taking place in the international system have elements of the previous system. For example, the US and Europe are still the important western powers, but at the same time, they are faced with changes in the emergence of new players, changes in interactions, the increasing importance of many concepts which were of no importance before, and a variety of different actions. But the important point is that if we accept this analysis, we see that great changes have occurred inside Eurasia which have led to changes in the international system. But what are these changes? The major players here, meaning Russia, India, and regional players like Iran and Turkey, have had different interactions during the past twenty years and have given a new shape to this region.

The other point is that power developments in this region, meaning the emergence of a new China, deep transformation in Russia, and developments related to India and other regional powers, have, hitherto, been formed with no apparent military tension between the forming powers. Right now, the national security strategies of all the big powers have one common concept and that is that the possibility of military tension between the big powers which had formed the previous systems has been reduced.

During the past twenty years, The US has attempted to maintain its power superiority in the world. But how to operationalize this situation has always been an issue of dispute. During the past twenty years, this dispute has led to military conflict, not between the big powers, but through US intervention in this region, such as in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has led to consensus in US strategic circles. In this regard, what is important is to find a Eurasia which not only determines the international situation but also the status of US leadership. Can the US maintain its superiority in this region with friendship and competition, without being engaged in big wars? This is not a simple question. The US has conceptualized in this region. In Obama's conceptualization, he has proposed the transfer of the focal point from western Eurasia to eastern Asia. But the goal behind this conceptualization is domination over the world, because the world is changed from this region.  

US stimulus hasn’t been so stimulating

Four years of zero interest and a $2.1 trillion increase in the Fed's balance sheet hasn't provided much bang for the buck. That $2.1 trillion divided by 6 million jobs is $350,000 per job. The federal government has run deficits of $1.4 trillion, $1.3 trillion, $1.3 trillion, and $1.1 trillion the last four years. The total of the deficits — $5.1 trillion — divided by the 6 million jobs is $850,000 per job. All this stimulus hasn't been so stimulating.
 
 

Brics Bank; First Nail in US Dollar Coffin!



 
According to Global Times of 26 Feb 2013, the establishment of a BRICS development bank has been a major subject of discussions in the build-up for the 5th BRICS Summit to be held in Durban on 26-27 March. It is widely expected that the summit would provide a long-awaited institutional underpinning to the grouping (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

South African Standard Bank's Simon Freemantle, Senior Analyst in the African Political Economy Unit, and Jeremy Stevens, an international economist based in Beijing, said in their latest report in Africa Macro that the BRICS development bank is an agenda item which is sure to feature strongly at the Durban summit, guided by the theme "BRICS and Africa -- partnerships for integration and industrialization".
 
According to Xinhua, the details around the BRICS bank are expected to emerge clearly. The main objective of the bank will be to direct development in a manner that reflects the BRICS priorities and competencies. Such as, infrastructure development, project preparation and feasibility studies. Later, a working group will be asked to get the necessary technical commitments and governance structures.
 
China has become the top trading nation in Africa as well .Seen against the background of flourishing BRICS trade with Africa as the pivot, there is diplomatic and commercial momentum to which the bank can add an institutional foundation. "The proposed bank contributes constructively to the development of more robust and inter-dependent ties between the BRICS members," the report states. The member states are expected to dig deep into their pockets to make the bank work. 

According to Financial times blog , even though key decisions have yet to be made – such as where it would be based and what exactly it would do – some elements are emerging from the discussions, notably the bank's possible capital – $50bn. 

The bank is not a counterweight to multilateral development banks—notably the World Bank. Yes, the dominance of the US and Europe in Bretton Woods Institutions is a source of contention for BRICS. However, on this specific score, the envisioned BRICS bank is an auxiliary funding institution—albeit more aligned to BRICS' development agenda. Nor will the new bank try to compete with the domestic development banks in the Brics. 

The BRICS bank's relevance will depend on its effectiveness and specialisation. Rather than posture as a common denominator or create overlapping agendas with other development finance institutions and BRICS state policy banks, including Brazil Development Bank (BNDES), China Development Bank (CDB), and Export-Import Bank of India, the Bank will need flesh on its bones before we shift from cautious optimism.
 
As made evident in India's 2013-14 budget, Delhi needs massive investments in infrastructure .The Brics bank with China's surplus funds, expertise and experience in enlarging its infrastructure specially railways, can provide a multilateral platform to iron out doubts and suspicions in this sorely needed sector, only if US proxies and pimps will stop creating differences between the two Asian giants .Look how China and Russia are cooperating in energy and other sectors for mutual benefit. Asia needs peace for development and to rise up its masses from poverty and misery.


The Standard Bank quarried, "a host of pragmatic issues require resolution." These include funding sources (very important for bank, you might think), types of project for financing, and bank headquarters – always contentious as the founders of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development discovered 20 years ago before they settled on London.
 
Standard expects each of the five member states to initially contribute $10bn in seed capital to the bank, with further funds raised from the markets as necessary. That sounds very egalitarian. But it will clearly put a greater financial strain on the modest South African economy and public purse than on China's. Inevitably, Beijing, with a bigger GDP than all the other Brics put together, will be in a position to make its voice heard, whatever the rules and regulations of the planned institution.
Or as the Standard Bank said that skewed economic might may lead to skewed problems.

While China, India, Russia etc are trading and investing in Africa , old colonial powers like now socialist France, UK and the big daddy of all , USA are destroying states and want to loot their gold and natural resources as in 19 and 20 century. I had circulated a week ago a note on
 
Manipulations and Mystery about Gold Reserves
An ounce in hand is better than two with US Federal Reserve
 
The article below makes almost a surrealistic reading about gold reserves and its manipulations by the usual suspects i.e. The Wall Street and the City, London Bankers and financiers. What info is available makes for a scary reading and how the so called international Financial System is nothing but a house of cards aka perhaps open chicanery, roguery and worse .After all US went on its word of giving an ounce of gold for US$ 35 in 1971, as agreed to at Bretton Woods which accorded Dollar the status of reserve currency
 
IMF Information Leaks: Central Banks Gold Manipulations
Valentin KATASONOV | 07.02.2013 |
 
Below is an article on the Brics Bank by John Fraser from Asia Times .
 
K. Gajendra Singh  28 March , 2013.
 
China key to BRICS bank
By John Fraser   Asia Times ;28 Feb2013

MR Fraser writes that the emerging market leaders want their Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa club to be taken seriously, and in March they are expected to make a decisive move towards setting up a development bank to give it real substance and credibility. 


"There is no doubt that the BRICS Development Bank will be a welcome development," Sandile Zungu, the Secretary of South Africa's Black Business Council, told IPS. 

"The need for the bank is fairly obvious if you look at the growing trade among the BRICS countries and the frustrations these countries have had with existing development financing institutions like the World Bank and the IMF," he said. 

Zungu particularly pointed to existing bureaucracy, the criteria for lending, the conditions attached to loans and the slow pace in processing applications. 

"Then there's the fact these countries have such massive infrastructure roll-out programmes, which gives all the more reason to create this bank - the need is there." 

Infrastructure financing within BRICS will indeed be a key focus of the bank, along with alternative models of cooperation to finance such projects, according to Hannah Edinger, head of Research and Strategy at emerging-markets consultancy group Frontier Advisory. 

South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan earlier this week told parliament that the the bank's establishment is "intended to mobilize domestic savings" to co-fund these infrastructure projects in developing regions. 

For full article 

Shale gas key to US Asia pivot

By Elliot Brennan 


Energy has long been both the bane and the favored instrument in the foreign policy of governments. Yet, for the US, fortunes are changing and the goal of former president Nixon's Project Independence looks soon to be realized. On the back of the shale gas boom and technological improvements in energy production, the US is predicted to take a giant leap toward this independence as it becomes the world's biggest gas producer by 2015. 

Naturally, countries like China, which is estimated to hold more shale gas than the US and Canada combined, are hungry to learn the secret to their success. This may be just the carrot of diplomacy the US seeks to hold greater interaction with Beijing. Indeed, the juggernaut in Washington's "pivot" to Asia may not be the US Navy, but instead Chevron, Halliburton and ExxonMobil. 


the US Navy, but instead Chevron, Halliburton and ExxonMobil. 

In a US Secretary of State memo in 2009, released by Wikileaks, embassies in Beijing, New Delhi, and Canberra, among others, were asked, "that posts assess the state of shale gas development and/or potential for development in their host country and report their findings to Washington". The stage was set for shale gas to take pride and place in US foreign policy. 

In the US, improvements in extraction techniques of shale gas and other "unconventional" resources have allowed the new energies over the past 10 years to become a credible and profitable source of energy. Unlike China, the US has the know-how to negotiate the difficulties of shale gas extraction. In fact, it was US companies Mitchell Energy and Devon Energy that began the practice of hydraulic fracking for shale gas. After Devon Energy witnessed the pioneering success of Mitchell Energy in shale gas, it acquired the company in 2002. Last year, after more than a decade of progress, China's Sinopec bought into Devon Energy too with a joint venture in a shale gas play in Mississippi. 

Such a move helps speed up China's acquisition of expertise. Devon Energy hasn't been the only company China has picked up a stake in. Chinese National Oil Companies (NOCs) have invested in foreign companies and their knowledge, particularly in the US and Canada. A 2011 IAE report highlights partnerships that took place in 2010 between Chinese NOCs and Canadian companies with specific shale gas expertise. 

China National Petroleum Company/PetroChina purchased a 60% stake of an oil sand project in Alberta, and also formed a joint venture with Canadian Encana to develop shale gas plays in British Columbia. Meanwhile, more recent buy-ins by China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) have included a Chesapeake subsidiary and the takeover of Canadian firm Nexen, which is currently exploiting shale gas in British Columbia and expanding operations to Poland. 

The hunt for such expertise through joint ventures and partnerships is on the rise across Asia. According to an Ernst and Young report, "Asian NOCs spent $37 billion acquiring assets outside their home markets" in the first nine months of 2012. And the game isn't over yet. NOCs continue to explore further partnerships in North America and anywhere they can glean the expertise they need. In the brave new world of unconventional energy extraction, knowledge is power - the US has it and China wants it. 

As well as this foreign absorption of expertise, Beijing is also pouring money into domestic research and development under the "National Key Technologies Research and Development Program" (1983) and other recent initiatives. But it can't move quickly enough. R&D, just like technological know-how, takes time. 

The geopolitical changes such a shale revolution could bring may also shift the epicenter of global manufacturing. The US shale boom is seeing plans drafted for new chemical production plants that will use ethane to make ethylene, which can then be converted into a host of products including plastics, detergents and clothing. Current prices of ethane in the US make it cheaper to produce there than in Asia where production depends primarily on more expensive, often imported, oil. 

According to a Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) report, shale gas could lead to a manufacturing boom as raw material and energy prices drop. This coupled with technological revolutions that decrease labor costs, could see a dramatic shift of some manufacturing away from Asia, and China, and back to the US. 

Foreign company expertise, particularly that of US companies, may provide significant improvements to the security, and environmental safety, of the growing Chinese economy - a good thing for the world economy and the US. It could more importantly, slow the pace, and need, for potentially devastating energy from hydro-dams along key watercourses in Southeast and South Asia that originate in southern China, such as the Brahmaputra, Salween and Mekong river systems. In turn it may also, in the short-term, decrease regional resource conflicts, acting, in effect, as a conflict prevention mechanism. The shale gas revolution could provide the energy that China's growing middle class is so hungry for. 

But this is a two way street. For the US the shale gas boom provides jobs and lower energy prices. According to an IHS study, lower gas prices could mean more disposable income, on annual average US$926 per household between 2013 - 2015, which could stimulate growth in the US. The US is also using the shale boom as leverage for greater Sino-American interaction. It has opened dialogues on frameworks in the sector, during the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in May 2012. Other initiatives and workshops have also been organized by the US Department of Energy and the US Department of State, such as the US-China Shale Gas Resource Initiative, 2010. 

"Chimerica," as Niall Ferguson termed the growing interdependency of the US-China relationship, could still be the answer to greater stability and growth. As unpalatable as it will be to both populations on paper, it is, regardless of public opinion, likely to be propelled by multinational companies and business on both sides of the Pacific. Indeed, for the US government, this may be a far cheaper alternative than the expensive naval pivot to Asia. Shale gas could be the ace-up-the-sleeve in the US pivot to Asia. 

Elliot Brennan is Editor and Project Coordinator of research in resource security at the Institute for Security and Development Policy (ISDP), Stockholm, Sweden. This piece is a revised version of a Policy Brief for ISDP. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ISDP or its sponsors. 

Gratitude = Service: 10 Fond Memories from My 10 Years with Aurora WDC


March 01, 2013 by Derek Johnson 

Aurora WDC celebrated 18 years in business in February and, while we don't make quite as big a deal out of it as we probably should, it's been a true honor to serve Aurora's clients, partners, people and friends for the past 10 of those years. In some ways, it feels like eons ago… at the same time, like it has all happened in the blink of an eye.

On the first day of March back in 2003, I joined the Aurora family as Director of Research, although I had literally been part of the family since my brother – Arik – started the firm on his 25th birthday in 1995. (Arik always says it was easier to remember the anniversary that way – just subtract 25). Since then, Arik gave me the opportunity take over operational oversight of the rest of Aurora's businesses in 2007 as COO and eventually leadership of the firm at large in 2010 as Chief Executive Officer, while Arik focused on launching Aurora's R&D lab and moved into the new office of Chairman.

But I think Arik was also giving himself a gift the day he started Aurora… a gift that has gone on to be a gift to so many others, including me. And for that opportunity to serve, I am truly grateful.

So, I thought it would be fun to share 10 of my fondest memories from the past 10 years to celebrate.

Losing my luggage on my very first business trip: I joined the company a few weeks before the SCIP 2003 annual conference in Anaheim and I remember arriving from Madison only to learn my luggage was nowhere to be found as I prepared to spend the better part of a week of meetings with all of Aurora's most important customers. Nonetheless, that week was one of the most important of my life in preparing for what would become my career in the strategic market and competitive intelligence world.

Chairing the SCIP 2009 Chicago Program Committee: fast forward six years and you would find me having dried myself off behind the ears and serving the intelligence community as chairman of the 2009 SCIP annual conference committee, proving there's hope for anybody. I remember recruiting Michael Treacy as the last real rockstar keynote I can recall a SCIP conference featuring and the difference it made in my own career to have a chance to hobnob with such a towering intellect and entrepreneur who was also so genuinely humble and grateful for the opportunity to bring his message to the SCIP community.

Recruiting Greg Ervin as Chief Technology Officer: back in 2005, as Aurora was considering entering the intelligence systems, software and technology market, we were unsure how to do so with such a crowded field of competitors already clamoring for clients' attention. While the strategy we decided on at the time was serendipitous, the person we brought aboard to oversee it was very, very deliberate. As with most of our strategic hires, recruiting one of my best friends from college to launch our systems business meant that if Greg hadn't been available to join us, we probably wouldn't have done it. Fast forward nearly eight years later and Aurora's strategy of building custom software systems for the most sophisticated intelligence technology challenges while relying on best-of-breed third-party software partners for more straightforward applications has proven prescient in helping us to become a go-to resource for clients.
Recruiting Craig Fleisher as Chief Learning Officer: Dr. Fleisher was already an icon of our field when we opened up discussions of his joining Aurora back in 2010 and remains the most cited scholar of intelligence analysis alive today. But Craig's academic credentials (after a career as a college professor, Craig was serving as Dean of a business school before joining Aurora) underlie his deep pragmatism about how intelligence in general and analytics in particular can make a difference in business performance. As CLO, I've had the pleasure of working with many clients to put in place customized training and professional development programs for their intelligence staff and workforce alike, putting intelligence to work more effectively and efficiently in solving their business problems and seizing fleetingly short-lived new market opportunities. Craig is a mentor and guide to me, too, as I consider which tools to put to work in improving Aurora's own performance and elevate the game of our people every day as well.

Recruiting Michel Bernaiche to lead Program Development: it might surprise some to know that, back in 1995, Arik actually launched Aurora into the intelligence world advising business leaders on how to scale their intelligence operations and grow their influence with decision-makers. By helping determine which people, systems, products and processes would govern the intelligence function today and into the future as responsibilities grew in a predictable way, this early advisory service helped Aurora to build its flagship research business by helping clients fulfill their mission when their own research capabilities were overwhelmed. Aurora's hire of my close friend Michel Bernaiche away from his role running intelligence at Dunkin' Brands has only meant Michel's expertise and passion in program design and delivery allows all of our clients to benefit.

Honoring Jim Mathews: last year Aurora had the opportunity to honor a real mentor of ours with an award for young people to attend the SCIP conference. Jim was a career intelligence professional and expert practitioner of Price-to-Win (PTW) methodology in the Aerospace and Defense sector. He was also a true mentor to Arik and me as we launched Aurora's A&D practice, which had its own unique intelligence dynamics to consider. We're all excited to honor Jim's contributions to the field again this year with the second annual Jim Mathews Award for Intelligence Excellence, which will award medals of honor to two college students competing to attend the SCIP 2013 conference in Orlando in May.

Being named CEO in 2010: coincidentally also on March 1st, 15 years after he started the firm, Arik had decided it was time to course correct his role in the company by starting the Center for Organizational Reconnaissance a couple of months prior. Arik said at the time that it had always been his hope that someday I might lead the company as he had… and after seven years in the trenches, I was finally ready to take the helm. I appreciate this opportunity every single day.
Recruiting Heather Bjella: my wife's best friend and maid of honor in our wedding, Heather Bjella was already a fearsome courtroom litigator specializing in intellectual property in Chicago when I recruited her the first time to help me propose to my beloved bride, Allie. But Heather might not have been prepared when I recruited her as Aurora's Director of Analytics and Insights to support Aurora's Global Research and Analysis leadership team. Aurora has benefited not only from her unparalleled standards of excellence in delivering insights that influence the direction of our clients' companies, but also from her sharp legal skills, particularly as we have developed IP-based products and assets to add value to the services we're already known for.

Hiring my own replacement to take charge of research: one of my first and best decisions as COO when Arik promoted me from Director of Research in 2007 was to put John Thomson in the driver's seat of our flagship business, Global Research and Analysis. And today, I consider that to have been one of the best decisions I could ever have made. Today John heads the research leadership team including Heather Bjella (see above) and Richard Loomis, Aurora's Director of Research Solutions, in what is still our most important contribution to clients' success – answering their most critical questions about the state and future of their markets and industry (and striving to help them ask newer, better questions going forward).
Working alongside my big brother: Arik would say we're true business partners in the sense that his focus is on transforming new mysteries about how intelligence can make a difference in business into heuristics for real change, while my concentration is in perfecting those heuristics into reliable, repeatable and exploitable algorithms. We have learned, however, that to be successful in this "ambidexterity" strategy, we have also had to work on becoming more like the other guy… growing personally in those areas where we are weak, in order to understand the value of complementary strengths.
 
It has been a thrill and a privilege to work in and on the business (and each other) side-by-side with my brother Arik the past 10 years. As you might have noticed from my list above, the fondest memories I have about my time with Aurora have always been about the people involved that have made me who I am today.

In that respect, it has never been Aurora's goal to be the biggest firm in the intelligence market, but our relentless pursuit of both breakthrough innovation AND operational perfection. All of this is empowered and brought to life by Aurora's people, clients, partners and other friends, and our belief that we've built the best team in the business.

And for all these things I am genuinely grateful. We look forward to you joining us in whatever capacity we can partner together to continue making a difference in the world as we are privileged to do some of the most interesting (and often hardest) work imaginable.

Thank you

February 28, 2013

Emerging US policies

Emerging US policies
The expectations from India
by G. Parthasarathy


ONE of the key policy initiatives during President Obama's first term was what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described in her article published in October 2011, titled "America's Pacific Century", as a "pivot" the "Indo-Pacific"" region, straddling the Asia-Pacific and the shores of the western Indian Ocean.

This meant that the primary focus of American policies, diplomatically and militarily, would shift to the Pacific Ocean from its Atlantic shores. It was manifested by American participation in the East Asia Summit and a determination not to be excluded from the emerging economic, diplomatic and security architecture in the "Indo-Pacific" area. But the American confusion and uncertainty remain on how to deal with an "assertive" and growingly powerful China, which is not averse to using force to enforcing territorial claims on neighbours ranging from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan to Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia.

Within days of the commencement of the Obama Administration's second term, an ebullient Vice-President Joe Biden returned from the Munich security conference. He turned the entire Asia-Pacific "pivot" on its head by proclaiming: "President Obama and I continue to believe that Europe is the cornerstone of our engagement with the rest of the world. It's that basic. Nothing has changed. Europe remains America's indispensable partner of first resort." This was an astonishing U-turn from the earlier emphasis on the 21st century being America's "Pacific Century" and its assertion that the global balance of power was shifting to Asia from Europe. President Obama confirmed the US intention to launch talks for a "comprehensive trade and investment partnership" with the European Union in his State of the Union Address.

This comes at a time when the US is confident that it will not only be a net exporter of gas but also the largest producer of oil in the world before the end of this decade. It has also led to the confidence of re-emergence of the US as a growing industrial power, readying to market its gas surpluses across the Atlantic.

Given these developments, it cannot be a mere coincidence that both Senators Kerry and Chuck Hagel, who will steward the State and Defence Departments, favour the establishment of a trans-Atlantic trade and economic zone as the cornerstone of the 2013 agenda. Both are veterans of the Vietnam War and share President Obama's aversion to military involvements abroad. This is evident from Obama's decision on avoiding direct military involvement in the Anglo-French intervention in Libya and his caution in not getting excessively drawn into events in Syria, or the French military intervention in Mali. This same approach will guide the American approach to its "end game" in Afghanistan. The doubt that remains is whether the US will leave adequate forces behind in Afghanistan and how their role will be fashioned. The policy of using drones in a counter-terrorism role against Pakistan-based terrorists operating in Afghanistan is also under review.

Senator Chuck Hagel, labelled as "peacenik" by Republican Party colleagues, has been a critic of the American military policies in Afghanistan. He remarked: "One of the reasons why we're in trouble in Afghanistan is because we went well beyond our mission. Is our mission to eliminate the Taliban? That never was our mission"? Hagel conveniently forgets that even before military operations commenced after 9/11, both the Saudis and the Americans tried to persuade Mullah Omar to hand over Osama bin Laden. The then ISI chief encouraged Mullah Omar to reject the American proposal. Mullah Omar flatly refused to yield. With the help of the Taliban and the ISI, Osama bin Laden was shifted to live comfortably with his many wives and children in the Abbotabad cantonment. Senator Kerry, who agreed in 2011 to a proposal involving the payment of "blood money" to secure the release of CIA operative Raymond Davis from Pakistani custody and was the co-author of the Kerry-Lugar Bill tripling economic assistance to Pakistan, has unique views on Pakistan's support for terrorism. He lauded Pakistan for its "logistical" support, which he claimed led to the American forces getting Osama bin Laden. "Our folks were able to cooperate on the ground with Pakistan. That's one of the reasons we were able to get Osama bin Laden. I don't think the Pakistanis have gotten enough credit for the fact that they were helpful".

Kerry also observed that the Pakistanis "have lost some 6000 people just last year in their efforts to go after terrorists". He pointedly failed to mention that while the Pakistan army targeted its citizens, whom it labelled as terrorists, it was not merely permissive, but colluding with outfits like the Mullah Omar-led Quetta Shura and the Haqqani Network in Afghanistan and their affiliates like the Lashkar-e-Toiba, which is now operating on Pakistan's borders with both Afghanistan and India. Moreover, what Kerry has been saying contradicts everything said earlier on Pakistani support for terrorist outfits by President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Leon Panetta and General David Petraeus. It is doubtful if Obama shares the optimism of John Kerry on Pakistan's support for terrorism. The American end-game in Afghanistan under the new dispensation is set to pose formidable challenges to Indian diplomacy in its Af-Pak neighbourhood.

Changes in the American policy vis-a-vis the Asia-Pacific in the coming years also appear to be underway. Senator Hagel has noted: "China is going to emerge and grow. We should welcome that. There are going to be competitors like India, Brazil and other nations. They (the Chinese) are a great power today and are going to remain a great power. But we should not cower in the wake of that." There are indications that the new Obama team is going to ask its allies like Japan to avoid actions which displease or provoke China on disputed maritime frontiers. Priority is reportedly being given to "modifying the harder edges of the (Asia-Pacific) pivot and quietly reassuring China".

The outgoing Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs, Kurt Campbell, recently observed: "China is predominant in every aspect of political, financial, economic and security relations in Asia. India is still a nascent player in Asia. I think everyone has high hopes for the role India will play moving forward".

The message is that not much can be expected from a "nascent" India unless it sets its house in order, accelerates economic growth and enhances its defence potential. India's relationship with the US will remain cordial and correct, but largely transactional. We will have to refashion our Af-Pak and Look East policies accordingly.