November 14, 2013

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Balochistan: The New Regional Tinderbox? – Analysis

By Monish Gulati


November 13, 2013

On 25 October 2013, the Iranian State News Agency reported that fourteen Iranian border guards were killed and five wounded in clashes with “armed bandits” near Saravan on Iran’s southeastern border with Pakistan. There were also reports of three (to six) soldiers of having been taken hostage and moved across the border into Pakistan. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has since called for an investigation into the incident.1

The Balochistan region (with areas falling in Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan) has for long been associated with instability and armed conflict. On the other hand, events of regional and global significance involving Iran have been unfolding in the Middle East and on the global stage. It is argued that disturbances in Balochistan which are being influenced by events outside Iran can have a significant impact on the strategic environment in South Asia.

Balochistan strategically straddles the borders of three volatile countries. In Pakistan, Balochistan is its largest province (43 percent of the country’s land mass) and home to at least five million Pakistani Baloch. While the Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchestan, comprises of 11.5 percent of Iranian land mass and has around 2.5 million inhabitants. In Iran, the Baloch are mainly Sunni Muslims, who share the province of Sistan-Baluchestan with Persians and Sistanis, who are mainly Shia.

Sistan-Baluchestan’s proximity to Pakistan and Afghanistan makes it one of the world’s most dangerous narcotics, arms, and human trafficking conduits. The involvement of Baloch operated smuggling networks in regional trafficking activity and their extension into Pakistan and Afghanistan, has influenced Iran’s perspective of the Baloch. Iran is also worried about the threat Baloch nationalism poses to its territorial integrity and regional stability. This has resulted in a rather severe Iranian approach to governance, development and security in Sistan-Baluchestan. The Iranian attitude in turn has only served to distance the Baloch and accentuate the sectarian divide.

Saravan Attack

Iranian Deputy Interior Minister Ali Abdollahi said that the Saravan attack had been carried out by Iranians who were “members of hostile groups”. The Iranian Sunni insurgent group Jaish ul-Adl (“Army of Justice”), formed last year, has claimed responsibility for the hour long encounter.2 Some analysts believe Jaish ul-Adl to be an offshoot of another Sunni terrorist group, but presently passive; the Jundallah, which has been responsible for terrorist attacks on civilians, assassinations and kidnappings in Iran. In retaliation for the Saravan attack, the Iranian authorities on 26 October executed 16 “rebels” held at a prison in Zahedan .3 According to available information, eight of these rebels belonged to Jundallah, while the remaining were hanged on drug offences.

After the attack, Iran lodged a protest with the Pakistani government over the apparent lack of control on illegal movements along the common border.4 Pakistan government has been requested to abide by the mutual security cooperation pact and the accord on extradition of criminals in force between the two countries since 18 February this year.
Over the past year, Iran has seen an upsurge in Sunni separatism in Sistan-Baluchestan, including from another Sunni terrorist group, Harakat Ansar Iran. 5 Recently, Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said that the IRGC have successfully foiled 11 terrorist attacks in south-eastern Iran in the first half of the Iranian calendar year (March 21-September 22, 2013)6. Jafari blamed “agents of Iran’s enemies and counter-revolutionary groups”. Although the grievances of these groups are local, they are however increasingly linked via media networks to a conceptual framework of “global jihad” and a wider sectarian fight of Sunni versus Shia Islam. Jaish ul-Adl makes extensive use of the social media to network and propagate its cause including posting videos of its actions on its Facebook account.

Jaish ul-Adl

Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice), which describes itself as a “political-military” movement, is motivated by Baloch nationalism and what they claim, Iran’s oppression of the Sunni Baloch people.7 The group operates primarily in the Sistan-Baluchestan province and according to a statement on the group’s website, is “composed of young Iranian Sunnis who have come together to defend the oppressed to the divine command”. Jaish al-Adl describes Iranian crimes against the Sunni minority in Iran as destruction of mosques, murder and arrest of clergymen.

The external causes driving the group has been the Iranian involvement in Arab countries, primarily Syria, and its attempt to impose the Twelver Shiism (Ithna Ashariya) in Arab states through the “Hezbollah” branches in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. 8 The group recently called on all Sunnis to provide financial assistance. In addition to the better known Jundallah, the other Sunni Baloch terrorist group in operating in the region is the Harakat Ansar Iran (HAI).

Harakat Ansar Iran (HAI)

Harakat Ansar Iran (HAI) differs from its predecessor, Jundullah, in being more than regional in its perspective and joining their cause with wider Sunni issues. 9 Recently HAI made an appeal, on a Saudi-based pan-Arab satellite channel (Wesal TV), calling on Sunnis to support the group by sending arms. HAI is cooperating with Sepah-e Sahaba Iran (SSI), another Sunni extremist group with ties to Pakistani terror group Sipah-e-Sahaba10 Pakistan.11 Operationally HAI also employs suicide bombing and has claimed to have targeted IRGC including members of its elite Qods Force, in Chabahar.12

The Islamic Republic of Iran has been the target of the US, Israel, and the Gulf Arab monarchies led by Saudi Arabia. In addition to the crippling effect of the economic sanctions due to its nuclear programme, the prospect of the revival of a nationalist Baloch insurgency can severely impact stability in Iran and subsequently the entire region.

Further even though, the grievances of the Baloch Sunni extremist groups in Iran are local, they are getting increasingly linked by ideology and via media networks to a conceptual framework of “global jihad” and the larger sectarian strife between the Sunni versus Shia Islam; or in way a proxy Iran versus Saudi Arabia tussle in the region. Iran recently blamed explicitly its Sunni rivals Qatar and Saudi Arabia for funding and inciting Sunni separatist movements in the country.13

The finger pointing on Sistan-Baluchestan has led Iran to foment trouble in the Saudi backyard- Yemen. Iran has been lending support to the Houthis, a Zaidi Shia insurgent group operating in Yemen. The Houthi insurgency besides destabilizing parts of North Yemen has managed to bring trouble to the Saudi province of Jizan

Iran is a key stakeholder in the ongoing discussion over peace talks on Syria and has covertly been influencing ground action in the country. A statement published in Persian on the website of Jaish al-Adl, after the Saravan attack, read as: “This successful operation is an answer to the violent crimes of Sepah (IRGC) in the Islamic land of Syria and is also an answer for oppression and crimes the regime has committed against the oppressed Sunnis of Iran.”14 On the other hand, Basij, Iran’s volunteer paramilitary organization operating under the IRGC15 has blamed the US and Israel for the attack.

The border incident at Saravan assumes significance not only by virtue of its geopolitical location or the sectarian tensions being fanned allegedly by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but also due to the critical nature of developments concerning Iran on the global stage. Negotiations between Iran and the P-5+1 on the Iran’s nuclear programme have picked up pace after the election of Rouhani as Iran’s president, his recent address to the UN General Assembly and his telephonic discussions with the US President. The subsequent fallout of these events and the US position on Syria has adversely impacted the US-Saudi-Israeli equilibrium in the Middle East, which makes a case for creating ‘distractions’ on Iran’s eastern borders. Israeli Mossad agents have in the past posed as US spies to recruit members of Jundallah to fight their covert war against Iran.16

Given the swift Iranian reaction to the Saravan attack, further disturbances in the area have the potential to raise Sunni-Shia tensions in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well. As Afghanistan prepares for its crucial presidential and provincial elections early next year, sectarian tensions will be an added source of instability.
Besides the spilling over of the Syrian conflict to the region and rise of sectarian tensions, India’s concerns would include the Chabahar port, its planned sea-link to Afghanistan and Central Asia, which is located in Sistan-Baluchestan province. In October 2012, a suicide bomber killed two guards at a mosque in Chabahar. Earlier in 2010, an attack by two suicide bombers at the same mosque had killed 39 people.

India would be alert to the fact that as the Syrian conflict drags on and the US stand on Iran and its nuclear programme softens, the frequency and intensity of insurgent and proxy activity in Balochistan is likely to increase to the detriment of peace and stability in the region.

Monish Gulati is an independent analyst based in New Delhi.. He can be reached
(The author is a Defence Analyst based in Delhi)

Iran president calls for probe into border shooting, The Iran Project, October 26, 2013.…
Joanna Paraszczuk. Iran Spotlight: Sunni Insurgent Group Jaish ul-Adl Claims Responsibility For Attack On Border Guards, EAWorldView, October 26, 2013.…
Iran ‘hangs 16 rebels’ in reprisal for Pakistan border killings, Yahoo news, October 26, 2013.…
Iran protests to Pakistan over negligence of terrorist movements on border area, The Iran Project, October 26, 2013.…
Iran protests to Pakistan over negligence of terrorist movements on border area, The Iran Project, October 26, 2013.…
Eleven terrorist attacks foiled in SE Iran in 6 months: IRGC commander, The Iran Project, October 20, 2013.…
New Iranian Sunni jihadi group claims car bombing, calls for recruits, Iran Military News, December 28, 2012.…
Sunni opposition warns of increased Iranian subversive activity designed to disseminate Shiite doctrine, Iran Daily Brief, June 07, 2013.…
Joanna Paraszczuk. Iran Analysis: Sunni Separatists Harakat Ansar Iran Call For Arms on Saudi TV, July 22nd, 2013.…
The Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) (‘Soldiers of the Companions of the Prophet’) is a pro Al-Qaeda Sunni sectarian group and the largest Islamic extremist group in Pakistan. It’s current name is Alhe Sunnat Wal Jamaat but is still referred to as the SSP. SSP was formed in the early 1980s in Jhang in reaction to the Iranian revolution of 1979, and aims to fight Shia influence in Pakistan in the wake of the creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Its ultimate goal is to create a Sunni state in Pakistan.SSP accuse Iran of sponsoring extremist Shia groups in Pakistan and have targeted Iranian interests in retaliation for killings of Sunni leaders.
Sistan and Balochistan Sunni terror group Harakat Ansar Iran announce cooperation with Sepah-e Sahaba, Iran Military News, December 07, 2012.…
Iran’s Sunni Jihad groups — Thinking Globally but Acting Locally, Iran Military News, March 11, 2013.
Arash Karami. Sunni Group Takes Credit for Attack That Killed 14 Iranians, Iran Pulse, October 27, 2013.…
Ali Alfoneh. The Basij Resistance Force, USIP.
Mark Perry. False Flag, Foreign Policy, January 13, 2012…
This article appeared at and is reprinted with permission.

Arming the Elephant

Posted on November 11, 2013

A column internationally syndicated by Project Syndicate

The rise in US arms sales to India is being widely cited as evidence of the two countries’ deepening defense relationship. But the long-term sustainability of the relationship, in which India is more a client than a partner, remains a deep concern for Indians. Does the recently issued Joint Declaration on Defense Cooperation, which establishes intent to move beyond weapons sales to the co-production of military hardware,mark a turning point, or is it merely a contrivance to placate India?

The factors driving the strategic relationship’s development are obvious. Since 2006, bilateral trade has quadrupled, reaching roughly $100 billion this year. And, over the last decade, US defense exports to India have skyrocketed from just $100 million to billions of dollars annually.

With US military spending slowing and other export markets remaining tight, American defense firms are eager to expand sales to India, which is now the world’s largest arms importer. And the political environment is amenable to their plans: India now conducts more joint military exercises with the US than with any other country.

For the US, displacing Russia as India’s leading arms supplier was a major diplomatic triumph, akin to Egypt’s decision during the Cold War to shift its allegiance – and its arms supplier – from the Soviet Union to America. The difference is that India can actually pay for the weapons that it acquires.

And the bills are substantial. In recent years, India has ordered American arms worth roughly $9 billion. It is now purchasing additional US weapons systems – 22 Apache attack helicopters, six C-130J turbo military transport aircraft, 15 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, and 145 M-777 ultra-light howitzers – worth $5 billion. The value of India’s arms contracts with US firms exceeds that of American military aid to any country except Israel.

Nirupama Rao, India’s ambassador to the US, has called such defense transactions “the new frontier” in US-India relations and “a very promising one at that.” But, while it is certainly a positive development for the US, for India, it represents a new frontier of dependency.

The problem is that India’s defense sector has virtually nothing that it can sell to the US. The country has yet to develop a credible armament-production base like that of, say, Japan, which is co-developing advanced weapons systems with the US. In fact, India depends on imports – not only from major suppliers like the US and Russia, but also from Israel, the world’s sixth-largest arms exporter – to meet even basic defense needs.

Moreover, India’s leaders have not leveraged the bargaining power afforded by its massive arms purchases to advance national interests. They could, for example, try to persuade the US to stop selling arms to Pakistan, or secure better access to the American market for India’s highly competitive IT and pharmaceutical sectors, which are facing new US non-tariff barriers.

Applying the recent declaration on defense cooperation will not be easy. For example, efforts to identify specific opportunities for collaborative weapons-related projects are to be pursued in accordance with “national policies and procedures.” But the two sides cannot truly “place each other at the same level as their closest partners” unless national policies and procedures – especially in the US – evolve sufficiently.

Similarly, the declaration merely reiterates America’s position that it supports India’s “full membership” in the four US-led technology-control regimes: the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime, and the Australia Group. Given that US policy is to deny sensitive technologies to those outside these regimes, India’s admission would make all the difference in facilitating technology sharing. But the declaration does not include any commitment from the US to expedite India’s admission.

All of this suggests that the US is pandering to India’s desire for a more equal defense relationship. It is willing to co-produce with India some smaller defensive systems, such as Javelin anti-tank missiles, in order to pave the way for more multi-billion-dollar deals for US-made systems. The Indian media are doing their part to strengthen the illusion of progress, latching onto the phrase “closest partners” in their acclaim for the agreement.

The irony is that, while America’s pursuit of a stronger defense relationship with India is aimed largely at offsetting an increasingly assertive China, US President Barack Obama has charted a neutral course in Sino-Indian disputes. For example, the US has declined to hold joint military exercises in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China has claimed as “South Tibet” since 2006.

As it stands, the US sells mainly defensive weapons systems to India, while Russia, for example, offers India offensive weapons, including strategic bombers, an aircraft carrier, and a lease on a nuclear submarine. Would the US be willing to sell India offensive weapons – including high-precision conventional arms, anti-submarine systems, and long-range air- and sea-launched cruise missiles – that could help to deter Chinese military preemption?

As US-India defense cooperation broadens, this question will loom ever larger

China: The Next Phase of Reform

China: The Next Phase of Reform

The commitment and ability of China's leaders to follow through on new policies and to meet rising expectations will be tested as they strive to balance competing social, economic, political and security challenges. Three decades ago, China embarked on a new path, creating a framework that encouraged the country's rapid economic rise. The successes of those policies have transformed China, and the country's leadership now faces another set of strategic choices to address China's new economic and international position.

The much-anticipated Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee concluded Nov. 12 after four days of closed-door deliberations among top political elites. The full document containing the policy proposals will not be released for days or even a week, but the initial information suggests China's leaders are seeking more significant changes in their policies to try to stay ahead of the challenges the country faces.

According to the communique broadcast by state mouthpiece China Central Television, important policy changes include the establishment of a committee to guide the country’s comprehensive reform agenda, the establishment of an integrated National Security Committee responsible for coordinating public safety and national strategy, and the easing of the country's 33-year-old family planning policy to allow more couples to have a second child. The communique also stressed that Beijing is committed to carrying out comprehensive economic reform over the next decade in accordance with China's economic, social and political transformation.

In light of China's imminent demographic imbalance, the changes to family planning were expected. The country's massive pool of cheap labor previously underpinned its economic and social transformation, but as China prepares to transition toward a consumer-based economy, its aging population is a problem.

No details have been given on the structure of the National Security Committee. The goal was to merge different institutions in charge of diplomacy, security, military and intelligence into a coordinated agency under the authority of the president. However, the decision -- which is far more than an institutional change -- came after a re-evaluation of China's internal and external security environment and of the country's emerging role in the international community. Beijing recognizes the need for a more delicate and coherent team to handle the country's strategic issues and pursue its national interests.

China is now at a turning point. The country's economic growth has firmly cemented Chinese businesses and national interests around the globe. It has raised the living standards, but also the expectations, of China's citizens. There is a growing sense of Chinese patriotism that exists beyond the confines of the Communist Party. The emerging educated middle class has traveled the world, has seen multiple systems in action and is taking a greater interest in local and national political decisions. Modern forms of communication such as social media give Chinese citizens the ability to rapidly share successes and grievances across the country, to identify and single out cases of political corruption and to more actively keep the Party and leadership under scrutiny. At the same time, the expanded Chinese imports of raw materials and exports of commodities have substantially expanded China's active foreign interests, requiring a more nuanced and potentially a more activist foreign policy.

Beijing wasted no time ratcheting up public expectations over its reform agenda prior to the meeting. Proposals included financial liberalization, the restructuring of state-owned enterprises, the readjustment of fiscal structures between central and local government, steps to counter official corruption, the expansion of property taxes and pricing reform. At the same time, top leaders were busy setting expectations for a new economic transformation. This led many to believe that the meeting would bring the country to the next stage of economic prosperity and social development, like Deng Xiaoping did in the post-Cultural Revolution meeting in 1978.

Admittedly, China has moved well beyond the massive economic mismanagement and social disorder of the post-Cultural Revolution period. However, the inevitable loss of the demographic advantages that sustained the country's economic miracle, combined with the prevailing social inequality and regional disparities as well as the rising political awareness of the middle class, mean the new leadership is facing even greater challenges to preserve its legitimacy. Doing so requires a constant commitment by political leaders to respond to China's changing internal and external environments. It also requires a path toward reform that meets public expectations while overcoming anti-reform elements.

Read more: China: The Next Phase of Reform | Stratfor
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November 13, 2013

AAP’s hoardings being damaged across Delhi

Support Aam Aadmi Party
Auto-rickshaw drivers supporting AAP are being harassed

New Delhi: Unable to find place in hearts of citizen of Delhi, who are looking at Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as their hope for cleansing of politics, political rivals are resorting to cheaper tactics as they are damaging AAP’s hoardings and posters across the city.

There also seems to be a campaign against auto-rickshaws, which have AAP’s posters, as they are being harassed regularly by authorities – mainly Delhi Police.

For Delhi Assembly elections, AAP got hoardings at over 200 public utilities across Delhi. All this has been done legally after securing all permissions. However, we have found that at more than 50% of those sites, the hoardings have been either torn off or are damaged.

Similar hoardings, posters or publicity materials at many such places of other political parties at many similar locations are, however, intact.

Similarly, we have all legal permissions for AAP’s poster to be pasted behind auto-rickshaws. But all those auto-rickshaw drivers, who have AAP’s posters on their vehicle, are being harassed by authorities especially Delhi Police. In many cases, these drivers are being fined, even when they have all papers to run autos.

In couple of cases that came to us, auto-rickshaw drivers were challaned for having AAP posters on their vehicle. This is a clear violation of directions of election commission which has clarified that auto-rickshaws can have AAP’s posters. We have also complained to EC about these cases.

From some places, we have also got complaints of auto drivers being harassed by volunteers of other political parties in the city for putting AAP’s posters.  Not just that, we have had cases wherein stickers of AAP pasted by people on their private vehicles have been removed by police.

In all, we have over 3,000 complaints from auto-rickshaw drivers who narrated their ordeal either in person or on our helpline. AAP is in constant touch with these auto-rickshaw drivers and would do everything to solve their problems.

But AAP asks whether Delhi police is working under directions of the Election Commissions or someone else. Is it not supposed to follow EC guidelines?

We condemn all these cheap tactics of the other political parties. They are resorting to such methods because they have nothing to present to people of Delhi.

People have shown a tremendous faith in AAP as they want a clean, effective and honest political alternative. AAP will not be deterred by such tactics and will continue its efforts of reaching all people in Delhi.

November 11, 2013

AAP ready for any probe into its funds but are Congress and other political parties ready for same?


New Delhi: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) stands for honesty and clean politics and thus we are ready for any kind of probe into our funds. We instead welcome any kind of impartial inquiry. But the question that AAP asks is that whether any other political party can claim similar transparency?

When AAP was formed, we announced it clearly that we are coming not to do politics but to change the dirty politics. We feel there cannot be anything better for political system in India than investigation into sources of political funding.

Because of this, AAP welcomes union home minister’s statement regarding prove into AAP funds. We feel that alongwith AAP, there should be a probe into funds of all political parties of the country and if corruption is found in any of them than their leaders should be sent to jail.

Inquiry into funding of political parties should start from AAP and we have no problem with it.

However, if the union home minister doesn’t order inquiry into funding of all political parties than it would be clear that BJP, Congress and all other political parties are securing funds for themselves through corruption.

AAP is proud of the public support and contributions it has received since its formation. We have record of every rupee we have got and we are confident that we have not broken any law anywhere.

As far as the question of foreign funding is concerned, all the funds that AAP has got from foreign are from people who hold Indian passport. By receiving funds from Indians, who are holding Indian passports, even if they are abroad, is not illegal under any law of the country.

AAP is unlike those political parties and has name of all donors unlike those political parties who don’t reveal sources of donations which are of less than Rs 20,000 – because at present they are not required to reveal the name of the individuals or organisations who contribute less than Rs 20,000.

A recent study by the Association for Democratic Reforms showed that 2/3rd (75 %) of the funding of our political parties like BJP, Congress, BSP comes from unknown sources.

As per ADRs analysis, the total income of the six national political parties – Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Communist Party of India (CPI) and Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) –between 2004-05 and 2011-12 - was Rs 4,895.96 crores. 

Of the total of Rs 4895.96 crores, 2/3rd (around 75 %) of their income (Rs 3,674.50 crores) came from unknown sources. These figures were based on analyses of income tax returns and statements filed with the Election Commission by the political parties during 2004-05 to 2011-12.

ADR’s analysis had also revealed that Congress and BJP had got funding from a foreign company - Vedanta - something which is not allowed under the Sections 3 and 4 of the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act 1976.

Thus the question is whether the other political parties follow what they preach about transparency? Are they ready to share the source of their funding?

But AAP is ready. We welcome any authority to come and check our accounts because this is the new, transparent and honest politics that AAP is preaching and practising.

We are determined in our campaign and such kind of attacks cannot deter us from our path. Political parties are indulging in such kind of attacks because they are scared of awakening of the common man – which AAP is doing.