June 23, 2017

The Biggest Obstacles For China’s $900 Billion Silk Road

http://oilprice.com/Geopolitics/International/The-Biggest-Obstacles-For-Chinas-900-Billion-Silk-Road.html

The Biggest Obstacles For China’s $900 Billion Silk Road

By Global Risk Insights - Jun 22, 2017, 2:00 PM CDT

China’s grand vision of One Belt, One Road aims to facilitate connections between countries and peoples across Eurasia and boost investments and trade. The Chinese government must not neglect domestic challenges that could undermine its efforts.

The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century New Maritime Silk Road, known as One Belt, One Road, is a foreign policy proposed by the Chinese President Xi Jinping to build roads, ports, and railways to connect Eurasia. The initiative spans overland and across the oceans, involving 60 countries along the two routes, covering 4.4 billion people and accounts for over 40 percent of the world’s GDP. The initiative is the most ambitious foreign policy that any contemporary Chinese leader has ever introduced, framed on the basis of mutual benefits and facilitates connectivity of policy, trade, financial, infrastructure, and people-to-people between the countries involved.

Both domestic and foreign Chinese observers have devoted a lot of efforts to figure out what this one belt, one road means and what it does. Many have outlined the external political risks that affect the implementation of the one belt, one road. But domestic risks and challenges that could undermine the one belt, one road also deserve equal examination.

Sustain support of one belt, one road from basing on national pride to basing on material gain

Naturally, the one belt, one road has enjoyed a huge popular support from the Chinese population. This is not only owing to the fact that President Xi himself enjoys a significantly high level of popular support, but also because the one belt, one road links to the historical trade route, Silk Road, which represented the golden period of China’s Tang dynasty and was responsible for over 50 percent of the world’s output then. It also links to China’s rejuvenation and the Chinese dream that Xi has been saying about.

However, this policy is more than just a strategy for China to leverage its economic might to increase its influence beyond Asia, this initiative is also part of China’s domestic reforms and economic growth. China will need to turn the popular support of the one belt, one road that based on national pride to the one that its citizens can see the material benefits of supporting the initiative in order to sustain the level of enthusiasm.

Last year, the state lender China Development Bank granted loans totaled to $160 billion to countries involved in the one belt, one road. Xi has also announced China’s commitment to spend $900bn to fund the initiative that involves building ports and railways in Africa and Asia. However, most of these countries are low-income economies and thus making a profit return is a slow process. Chinese people will question and in fact, are asking who is paying for the bill and if China is subsidizing development projects in those countries, why isn’t the government doing so in China. The high economic boom of China in the late 80s to early 2000s has created a huge inequality, and many provinces are still living below the poverty line. Social unrest and protests of the inner China have become more frequent and their dissatisfaction will be exacerbated if Chinese people do not see themselves benefiting or even losing out on these foreign projects.

Policy incoherence, internal resource struggle, and ethnic tensions marred implementation of the one belt, one road

Given the size of the Chinese territories, the country borders with a majority of the countries along the one belt, one road. The proximity with other countries give some Chinese provinces the ethnic ties, culture advantages, which mean they could serve an important role in the grand initiative.Related: Can Canadian Crude Compete In Asia?

Xinjiang, for example, is the core area of the Silk Road Economic Belt, which shares a border with eight countries including Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. It is the window to west and deepens cooperation with Central, South and West Asian countries. Yunnan borders with Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar, serves the gateway to Southeast Asia. Fujian province, where many of the overseas Chinese in South-east Asian are originated from, is a core area of the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, which goes through several Southeast Asian countries through waters.

While the Chinese central government is expecting its different regions to use its comparative advantages to support the one belt, one road, this strategic deployment is constrained by the capacity of local governments.

Local governments lack sufficient understanding of the one belt, one road, especially those countries along the one belt, one road. The one belt, one road is a top-down policy, and local governments are often mobilizing their efforts to understand the central government’s intention, not the essence of a policy.

Another constraint is internal resources struggle among different regions. The concern of missing out has led to competition for resource between different provinces. Regions are often not aware of the events and discussions happening in their neighboring regions, and when they do, they often think this has nothing to do with them. Gansu, Qinghai, and Xinjiang, for example, share the border and with their geographic and cultural advantages are tasked to focus on cooperation with Central Asia and Western Asia, but there has been little synergy between these provincial governments. Xenophobic and conservative is very severe in many parts of China and the central government needs to push for better regional integration and coordination mechanisms for the grand strategy to bear fruits.

Final constraint is the ethnic tensions within China, such as Xinjiang and Tibet. Both regions have demanded more autonomy and tensions with the central government have led to violent outbreaks against civilians and properties. Separatist movements driven by ethnic conflicts fuse terrorist activities within China as well as in nearby countries along the routes of the one belt, one road.

Related: Aramco Aims To Take Over The Offshore Rig Market

Not all go-global companies are made equal

Many of the Chinese companies that are taking their business abroad branded themselves as part of the one belt, one road, in order to receive support and preferential access from the Chinese government, but whether they are actually contributing to the one belt, one road initiative is questionable. With increasing number of Chinese enterprises expanding their activities in countries along the trade routes, some they are doing more harm to China’s image than promoting the one belt, one road. While it is encouraging to see the high level of support from Chinese companies, for whatever reason, the unfortunate truth is that not all leading domestic Chinese companies are able to serve the one belt, one road as they are constrained by traditions, culture, and language barriers. Corruption, damage to the local environment, and cultural and political insensitiveness are all the potential risks that would undermine China’s efforts to push out the grand vision that pledges to be implemented based on mutual respects and mutual cooperation.

Final thoughts

Last week 29 head of states, along with other 1500 delegates from over 130 countries gathered in Beijing for a two-day conference, “The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation”, to discuss the one belt, one road initiative. The global event ended with 270 signed deliverables for policy coordination, infrastructure, trade, investment, and people to people exchanges. China’s grand vision to deepen connectivity and expand trades continues to receive a mixture of response. However, one thing for sure is that many countries and companies want to be part of the conversation, whether they support, suspect or have unanswered questions. China will not only need to be sensitive to how the international community react, but also how its domestic factors influence the implementation and the success of this grand initiative.

By Global Risk Insights

Why ‘Gorkhaland’ Will Be Economically Viable


Swarajyamag

Jaideep Mazumdar

- Jun 23, 2017, 4:29 pm

 

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In contrast to the narrative of ‘Gorkhaland’ being a burden on the union government, separating the hills may actually not just boost the economy of the region but also India’s security by becoming a front-line state against Chinese aggression in the region.

One of the arguments against the formation of Gorkhaland—a separate state comprising the Darjeeling hills and the Dooars area of North Bengal—as is being demanded by the Gorkhas (Nepali-speaking citizens of India), is that the proposed state would be wholly dependent on the union government for all its needs. But this narrative, being espoused by Bengalis who want Bengal to retain its tenuous and unethical hold over the Darjeeling Hills and Dooars (D and D), is totally false.

Fact is, the proposed Gorkhaland state comprising the Darjeeling hills and large parts of the Dooars (which was part of the Kamata kingdom under the Koch dynasty before being captured by Bhutan and then by the British through the Treaty of Sinchula in 1865 after the Anglo-Bhutan War) can be a revenue-surplus state unlike the debt-laden West Bengal. The proposed state has tremendous potential in emerging as a high earner among all the states of the country.

Darjeeling and Dooars are richly endowed by nature. And the three ‘Ts’—tea, tourism and timber—are the money-spinners of this region. The region also has a lot of untapped potential to generate hydel power. Since the proposed Gorkhaland state will have borders with China (through Sikkim), Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, cross-border trade will also bring in a lot of revenue. The region, being one of the prime 25 biodiversity hotspots in the world and with its wealth of flora and fauna, will also be able to earn a lot from eco-tourism.

Apart from the issues of a separate identity for the Gorkhas (Nepali-speaking citizens of India) and that the region and its people have nothing in common (linguistically, culturally and emotionally) with the rest of Bengal, the criminal neglect of D and D by successive governments in Bengal over the past 70 years has fuelled the demand for Gorkhaland. Not only is physical infrastructure in a mess in the region, little has been invested in healthcare, education, sanitation, livelihood projects, developing tourism, agriculture, floriculture and horticulture and even the showpiece toy train—the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) that was accorded UNESCO World Heritage tag in 1999—that is the pride of the hills wallows in utter neglect.

Tourism

The D and D region gets around 5 lakh domestic tourists and around 50,000 foreign tourists every year. Unfortunately, due to poor infrastructure, most of these are low-budget tourists who do not contribute much to the local economy. Almost all the budget hotels in the region are operated on lease by Bengalis from the rest of the state and the locals are only employed as lowly-paid waiters and cooks. “So the locals are only marginal stakeholders in the multi-crore tourism sector,” said Sunil Pradhan, a tour operator.

D and D was once a high-end tourist destination that would attract high-spending international and domestic tourists. “The high-spending tourist stays in expensive hotels either run by locals or those who employ locals in management positions, hires local vehicles, spends a lot of meals, buys many mementoes and thus contributes a lot to the local economy,” Pradhan explained.

In stark contrast, the budget tourists who flock to D and D from the rest of Bengal and other parts of the country, as well as the backpackers from abroad, stay in budget hotels run by Bengalis, spend little on food and sight-seeing and nothing much on shopping. So the locals don’t benefit from the budget tourists.

Locals believe it was a sinister ploy to convert D and D, especially Darjeeling (Dooars became a tourist destination only recently), into a destination for the budget traveller. “It was done to satisfy the travel urges of the lower middle class and middle class Bengalis who were the supporters of the Left (which ruled the state for 34 years) and now the Trinamool. Making Darjeeling a low-end travel destination was a deliberate ploy to appease the overwhelming majority of Bengalis of Bengal who are low-budget tourists,” said Binita Rai, a senior executive with a star-category heritage hotel in Darjeeling.

Successive Bengal governments did not invest in tourism infrastructure or develop new tourist spots in the hills. “Many amenities aimed at the high-end tourists could have been developed, like golf courses, adventure sports and tea tourism. But while Darjeeling’s infrastructure was allowed to rot away, hotels catering to the backpackers and low-end tourists were encouraged to come up,”said Rai.

Under the proposed Gorkhaland state, says Sikkim Central University’s founding vice-chancellor Mahendra P Lama, Darjeeling can once again be transformed into a high-end tourist destination. “A lot of things can be done to attract the high-end tourists,” he said. A seminal study carried out by Lama says that the proposed Gorkhaland state can generate at least Rs 500 crore a year from tourism. “D and D region generates about Rs 40 crore as revenue from tourism every year for Bengal, but little of that money goes to the local people. With Gorkhaland, the earnings from this sector will not only increase, it is the people of the hills and the Dooars who will benefit,” said Lama, who used to teach at Jawaharlal Nehru Univeristy’s school of international studies and specialises in development economics.

Tea

Darjeeling contributes only 0.9 per cent to India’s total annual tea production of 1200 million kilos. But the 11 million kilos of Darjeeling tea is premium quality and is globally acknowledged as the ‘champagne of tea’. The average price of Darjeeling tea is Rs 500 a kilo, but the better quality Darjeeling tea commands astronomical prices through private sales, touching even Rs 2 lakh a kilo. Though the Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA) does not release any figures officially about the total sales proceeds from Darjeeling tea, industry insiders estimate that Darjeeling tea fetches about Rs 1500 crores annually.

Since all the tea gardens in the hills are owned by companies with their headquarters in Kolkata, all the revenue from this tea goes to the coffers of the Bengal government. The local people of the hills are employed only as poorly-paid labourers and supervisors in the tea gardens and thus have only marginal stakes in the trade. Not a single garden is owned by a Gorkha, and just a handful of them are in managerial ranks in the gardens.

“All the profits from Darjeeling tea are taken away to Kolkata. So of what benefit has been Darjeeling tea to the people of Darjeeling? In a Gorkhaland state, the revenue from the tea will accrue to the hills and the hills will prosper.

One of the primary reasons for Bengal’s opposition to Gorkhaland is that it will lose out on this revenue and will slide further into poverty. But Bengal has never looked on the people of the hills and the Dooars as equals and Bengal has never spent even a fraction of what it earns from Darjeeling tea on the hills,” said Professor Lama.

A Gorkhaland state, he adds, will pay special attention to rejuvenating the tea estates and improving the marketing of Darjeeling tea in international markets so as to improve its quality and the price it fetches. Darjeeling tea, estimates Lama, can easily earn Rs 1800 crore a year and with the revenues going to Gorkhaland, the state can easily become a financially self-sufficient one.

Timber & forest produce

Though timber trade is now restricted, the Bengal government’s forest department earns an estimated Rs 100 crore a year from sale of timber from its teak and sal plantations in the D and D region. “With proper marketing and streamlining the auction process to plug existing leakages, the earnings from timber can go up to Rs 200 crore a year,” said Lama.

The region is also home to a wide variety of medicinal plants, but no effort has been made to conduct even a semblance of research on this. “If research and development facilities are set up and medicinal plants are harvested properly, the D and D region can earn a lot through patents and manufacture of medicines. The pristine air and water quality of this region makes it eminently suitable for setting up of non-polluting pharmaceutical industries (as in Sikkim),” said Professor Lama.

Another area that has been neglected all these decades is the traditional medicinal and knowledge systems. The traditional folk medicines and knowledge systems of the Jhankris, the PhedangmasDhamisBonbosPowsNejums and Bumthings (all sub-tribes of folk doctors belonging to the Gorkhas, Bhutias, Lepchas and other communities of the region) have never been documented and promoted. “This is also an area that can generate a lot of revenue and can become a USP of the Gorkhaland state,”said Lama.

Hydel power

Asia’s first hydro-power plant came up at Sidrapong near Darjeeling town in 1897. Though the region has tremendous potential to generate hydel power through small dams, no effort has ever been made by the Bengal governments to harness this potential. It is a cruel irony that despite having such potential, the Darjeeling Hills and Dooars suffer from debilitating power cuts all year round.

According to studies by experts, mini and micro hydel plants that do not disturb the ecology of the region can generate thousands of megawatts of power. If properly harnessed, the Teesta, Mechi, Rangeet, Balasun, Relli and Sankosh rivers that flow through the region can generate up to 7500 MW of power. That can not only fully meet the needs of the needs of the region, the surplus can also be fed to the national grid to earn an estimated Rs 100 crore a month for Gorkhaland.

Flora and fauna

The D and D region is blessed with a fascinating variety of flora and fauna, starting right from the Himalayan herbs and shrubs in the upper reaches to the sub-tropical variety in the foothills. It has the Singalila, Mahananda, Jaldapara, Gorumara and Neora Valley national parks, the region also has the Buxa Tiger Reserve, the Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary and many other reserve forests. “Unfortunately, the flora and fauna of this region has never been promoted properly. With good promotion and development of proper infrastructure under a Gorkhaland state, all these national parks and wildlife reserves can attract thousands of wildlife lovers and researchers from across the globe. And a lot of revenue can be generated from this,” said Professor Lama.

Though it is difficult to put a figure to it, conservative estimates say that of these wildlife sanctuaries and forests are promoted properly after putting in place non-invasive and eco-friendly infrastructure, about Rs 400 crore can be generated every year from tourists and researchers. That would be a substantial revenue earning for a small state like Gorkhaland.

Border trade and other activities

The D and D region that would make up the Gorkhaland state will have borders with Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet (through Sikkim). International trade can then generate a lot of revenue. “All these decades, the Bengal government has shown no interest in developing border trade. It’s focus has always been south Bengal. This will not change and no matter what the rulers of Bengal proclaim, they will never pay attention to the D and D region. So trade through the international borders can develop only under a Gorkhaland state,” said Daniel Lepcha, a Mumbai-based economist who hails from the region. Lepcha quotes a study by a local trade body to contend that border trade can go up to the volume of Rs 1000 crore a year. At present, the volumes are negligible.

Gorkhaland will also benefit by being a gateway to North East India and to Southeast and East Asia. Professor Lama says it would be included in the North Eastern Council (NEC) and, apart from getting more attention and funds for development, Gorkhaland would also emerge as a prime investment destination since it would be a tax-free state like Sikkim. Gorkhaland will, as Lama says, complete the definition of North East India.

The Darjeeling hills also have a number of premier educational institutions like the 194-year-old St Paul's School, the 129-year-old St Joseph's School (North Point) and the 110-year-old Goethals Memorial School, apart from many others. These schools used to attract students from United Kingdom, Europe and Singapore till not very long ago. “Their standards have been allowed to decline by apathetic Bengal governments and periodic unrest in the hills. Under Gorkhaland, these schools can be revived once again and new-age schools, colleges, management and higher technical institutes can be set up to turn this region into the education hub it once was. The climate of the hills, the positive and cheerful disposition of the local people, and the rich biodiversity of this region can make it a prime research hub as well,” said prominent educationist S K Rai.

Moreover, a Gorkhaland state boosts India’s security by becoming a front-line state against Chinese aggression in the region. “Gorkhaland can emerge as a front-ranking state of India and will, right from the very start, be an economically self-sustaining state unlike West Bengal. There is little prospect for West Bengal to improve its finances and become self-reliant in terms of revenue. Bengal is keeping the D and D region backward and dragging it from realising its true potential. Successive rulers of Bengal have perfected the art of internally colonising the D and D region and the present ruler, Mamata Banerjee, has gone a few steps forward by implementing a divide-and-rule policy. The alienation of the D and D region from the rest of Bengal is complete and the divide is complete and irreparable. Gorkhaland is a must now,” said Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Roshan Giri. The Morcha has been spearheading the Gorkhaland movement

Bill tabled in US House to revoke Pakistan's ally status


By PTI | Updated: Jun 23, 2017, 02.03 PM IST

Last August, the then Secretary of Defence, Ash Carter, withheld USD 300 million in military reimbursements because he could not certify that Pakistan was taking adequate action against the Haqqani network.

WASHINGTON: A bipartisan bill seeking to revoke Pakistan's status as major non-NATO ally (MNNA) to the US has been introduced in the House of Representatives by two top lawmakers, saying the country failed to effectively fight terrorism

Introduced by Republican Congressman Ted Poe and Democratic lawmaker Rick Nolan, the legislation calls for revoking MNNA status of Pakistan, which was granted to it in 2004 by the then president, George Bush, in an effort to get the country to help the US fight al-Qaeda and the Taliban

"Pakistan must be held accountable for the American blood on its hands," said Poe, who is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Non-proliferation and Trade. 

"For years, Pakistan has acted as a Benedict Arnold ally of the United States. From harbouring Osama bin laden to backing the Taliban, Pakistan has stubbornly refused to go after, in any meaningful way, terrorists that actively seek to harm opposing ideologies," he said. 

'Benedict Arnold' is a byword in the US for treason or betrayal. Benedict Arnold was a general during the American Revolutionary War who originally fought for the American Continental Army but defected to the British Army. 

"We must make a clean break with Pakistan, but at the very least, we should stop providing them the eligibility to obtain our own sophisticated weaponry in an expedited process granting them a privileged status reserved for our closest allies," Poe said. 

Under MNNA, a country is eligible for priority delivery of defence materials, an expedited arms sale process and a US loan guarantee programme, which backs up loans issued by private banks to finance arms exports. 

It can also stockpile US military hardware, participate in defence research and development programmes and be sold more sophisticated weaponry. 

Last August, the then Secretary of Defence,Ash Carter, withheld USD 300 million in military reimbursements because he could not certify that Pakistan was taking adequate action against the Haqqani network, as required by the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA). 

"Time and time again, Pakistan has taken advantage of America's goodwill and demonstrated that they are no friend and ally of the United States," Nolan said. 

"The fact is, the billions of dollars we have sent to Pakistan over the last 15 years has done nothing to effectively fight terrorism and make us safer. It is time to wake up to the fact that Pakistan has ties to the same terrorist organisations which they claim to be fighting," he said. 

The legislation will protect American taxpayer dollars and make the US and the world safer, Nolan said.

Samjhauta blast: UPA government let off prime accused Pakistani national despite evidence to float ‘Hindu Terror’ myth

By

 June 22, 2017 

Samjhauta Express blast: How officials connived to ensure prime accused Pakistani national was let off despite evidence to nail him

The 2007 Samjhauta Express bombing was a terrorist attack that struck around midnight on February 18, 2007. Bombs were set off in two carriages, both filled with passengers, just after the train passed Diwana station near Panipat in Haryana.

Over a decade after the 2007 Samjhauta Express blast that claimed the lives of 68 passengers, mostly Pakistanis, comes a shocking revelation that once again puts the spotlight on the sinister ploy of the then political establishment to paint a religious cover over the entire incident.

Armed with power and intent on using the ghastly incident to push a political agenda, top officials gave an ugly twist to the incident just because the government of the day was bent on proving that the incident was a conspiracy of the so-called ‘Hindu militants’.

A retired officer involved in the investigating into the case has now laid bare how officials at that time not only twisted the entire case to give it a saffron touch but also let the main accused, arrested soon after the incident, go scot-free to just fulfill their agenda.

The whistleblower here is Gurdeep (now retired), who served as the Investigating Officer in the case. Gurdeep revealed before a court that a Pakistani national was arrested within a fortnight of the incident but was allowed to return to his country. This, despite the fact that he was the prime accused in the case.

The revelation by Gurdeep was made 12 days ago in a court. According to him, the arrested person, identified as Azmat Ali, was discharged in the case by top officials who were part of the probe team.

“I was summoned for cross examining on June 9. He (Ali) was discharged by the officials. The court had granted 14-day custody to police… police had visited all cities and places where he (Ali) had stayed. We had verified … the team which interrogated him comprised DIG RC Mishra, Additional DGP Haryana, SP Crime…. and others,” he said.

As per the documents submitted in the court by police, Ali was a Pakistani national. He was arrested near Attari border by Government Railway Police (GRP) on March 1, 2007 while he was exploring ways to return to Pakistan. During investigation, it was found that Ali was not carrying a passport, visa or any legal paper. He was later sent to the Amritsar Central Jail. During interrogation, Ali informed that he had arrived here on November 3, 2006 and that he was a Pakistani national. According to him, he was born to Mohammad Sharif and was a resident of Lahore. His residential address was: House no. 24, Gali no. 51, Hamam Street, Dist. Lahore (Pakistan).

After the blast, the description of the man who was believed to have planted the bomb in the ill-fated train was described by two eyewitnesses (Shaukat Ali and Rukhsana). Ali matched the description was and this was conveyed to the team which was probing the blast. Later, Ali was handed over to the team of police probing the incident. The probe team had on March 6, 2007, sought 14-day custody of Ali. In its affidavit, the police had clearly told the court that Ali was arrested by the GRP on the basis of a sketch developed by security forces following inputs provided by the eyewitnesses. Besides, Ali’s sketch was also extensively circulated in media. The court had at that time sent Ali to 14-day police custody.

During the investigation, Ali also revealed that after landing here, he undertook a recce of Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Kanpur, Allahabad, Shikohabad, Surat, Ajmer Sharif and other prominent cities. Each time, he produced fake identity cards to book hotels. Gurdeep claimed that police visited each of the hotels where Ali had stayed and spoke to people with whom he had met.

Shockingly though, on March 20, when Ali’s 14-day police custody ended, the court granted him bail because police told the court that investigation was over and no concrete evidence of Ali’s involvement was found in the blast.

In its bail order, the court noted the police’s version that ‘since the investigation was over and no proofs have been found against him (Ali), he should be discharged from the case’.

As per the documents available with India TV, the then UPA government had said that LeT was involved in the blast. But on July 21, 2010, top police officials had held a closed-door meeting. The noting of the meeting, accessed by India TV, says that the Haryana Police had failed to take the probe to a logical conclusion and thus the case should be handed over to the NIA. It was only during this meeting, when the officials decided to probe the role of Hindu groups in the blast.

This is a very serious issue. Arrested Pakistani  man was allowed to return to his country and people of our country were wrongly framed. This was done at the behest of then government. The government wanted to give the entire incident a political touch,” Haryana Minister Anil Vij said.

“…the Haryana Police wanted to grill the arrested man but he was allowed to return to Pakistan despite the fact the he was not carrying passport, documents… This is a clear betrayal… this can’t be possible without Sonia Gandhi’s intervention. This must be probed thoroughly,” BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said.

The 2007 Samjhauta Express bombing was a terrorist attack that struck around midnight on February 18, 2007. Bombs were set off in two carriages, both filled with passengers, just after the train passed Diwana station near Panipat in Haryana. 68 people were killed in the incident. Of the 68 fatalities, most were Pakistani civilians.

Courtesy: India TV

Church backed activism fueled the Kudankulam protest: Republic TV report


 June 22, 2017 

Church backed activism fueled the Kudankulam protest: Republic TV report

The Kudankulam Nuclear Power situated in the state of Tamil Nadu was conceptualized as the largest Nuclear Power plant in India with a total capacity of 6000 MW. The construction of the plant began way back in 2002 but it was marred by constant protests.

This protest reached a boiling point in 2011 when the villagers reportedly feared that a Fukushima type disaster might befall the Nuclear plant. One of the prominent leaders of the anti-Kudankulam movement was SP Udayakumar, who led the People’s movement against Nuclear Energy.

Incidentally this whole protest had come under suspicion way back in 2012 when there were reports about the protest being allegedly backed by the Church and varies foreign parties. In 2014 there were further allegations after an alleged IB report had claimed that Udayakumar had been working on the behest of various American and German entities in order to subvert the development of India.

Now earlier today, this whole issue was again raked up, when Repubic TV came up with a sting operation on Udyakumar and various members of the Tamil Nadu Church, which seemed to further corraborate the ”foreign funded protest theory”.

The Republic TV reporters approached Udayakumar as foreign university students whose professor wished to make a donation to Udayakumar in order to aid him in his anti-nuclear protests. In the video, he was seen suggesting various indirect ways by which foreign funds could be routed to him without him coming under scrutiny from security agencies.

He suggested how the amount could be donated to his political party through their family or friends who are living in India or they simply send cash. Incidentally this donation was meant for another round of protests which he seems to starting in the future. This suggested that Udayakumar was very much willing to accept foreign funds for fueling his protests. Interestingly he later tried to take a u-turn on his willingness to accept money as according to the reporter he was warned by some of his associates not to deal with them.

The reporters then followed the Church backed protest angle and zeroed in on a Church in Idinthakarai which according to them was a hub of anti-nuclear protests. They reportedly stung a Parish priest named Jayakumar who managed the money used in the protest. He had apparently selected 70 people who were set up as a front while he and the Diocese controlled things from behind the curtains. Apparently he took care of all the protests in Idinthakarai and there were 13 other Fathers who similarly managed 13 other villages.

The report also claimed that this whole church involvement was orchestrated by a Bishop who had suggested that Jayakumar operate from the background. The Bishop was incidentally the person who was withstanding all the external ‘pressure’ like the cancellation of their FCRA license.

He also claimed that their Diocese which constitutes of 115 parishes, churches and more than 400 convents, sub stations used to receive support from people in Italy, France.

The reporters followed it up by stinging another priest named Jesuraj who claimed that the student movement named All India Catholic University Federation was heavily involved in the protest and used to spread ‘awareness’ against the whole nuclear project.

The reporters also interviewed a villager who claimed that all the NGOs were actually run by Bishops who paid money to Christian people if they took part in the protests.

Through these sting operations, it appeared that the main motivation for the whole protest was not an aversion to Nuclear Power but a desire to earn money. It remains to be seen if Indian security agencies now take a renewed interest in this matter in wake of these new findings by Republic TV.

Courtesy: OPINDIA.com

CPEC and the environment: good, bad or ugly?

https://www.thethirdpole.net/2017/06/23/cpec-and-the-environment-good-bad-or-ugly/



A lack of transparency about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor raises economic and environmental questions in Pakistan, with sharply divided opinion on its possible impact

Graffiti celebrates CPEC on the walls of Pakistan [image by: Zofeen T Ebrahim]

Zofeen T. Ebrahim, June 23, 2017

Mohammad Saleem and Badar Din have never heard of CPEC but they see plenty of Chinese people around. Their boss is Chinese and they communicate with him through signing as they do not speak the same language. Both men, in their twenties, have travelled from a village in Sehwan in Sindh, to Gwadar to work as labourers at the port site under construction. Even after paying rent for accommodation, meals and transport, they save more than they ever earned in their own village. “There is work for everyone,” says Saleem, who has been able to buy a solar light and a fan for his family.

This is what Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said all along, that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a vital part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, will open up vast employment opportunities for Pakistanis.

Slicing through the Himalayas, the 3,000 kilometre, USD 62 billion corridor from Kashgar in western China traverses disputed territories, plains and deserts to reach Gwadar in Pakistan on the shores of the Arabian sea.

On the way, China will fund and build a myriad infrastructure projects, including road and railway networks, and power plants. More than 30,000 Pakistanis are working on various corridor projects and the Planning Commission predicts that 700,000 to 800,000 jobs will be created between now and 2030.

The promise of jobs is being touted as a key benefit of CPEC to Pakistanis [image by: Zofeen T. Ebrahim]

Despite assurances by Pakistani and Chinese officials about the mega project’s powers to bring about an economic revolution, doubts continue to be raised.

“I have my concerns because of a complete lack of transparency,” Akbar Zaidi, one of Pakistan’s political economists, told thethirdpole.net. “If it’s so fabulous, tell us the terms of investments. Why not be upfront about it? I cannot definitively say whether CPEC is good, bad or a disaster for Pakistan.”

In a lecture Zaidi delivered in Kolkata earlier this month, he said that CPEC seemed more like a Chinese project; the benefits are heavily loaded towards China, with Pakistan benefiting because it happens to be “part of the geographical terrain”.

He also raised concerns over the massive loans involved, citing Sri Lanka and Tajikistan’s heavy borrowing from China. In 2011, Tajikistan had to cede 1% of its territory to China in exchange for unpaid loans. Sri Lanka will give away 80% of its share of the Hambantota deep sea port to China for the next 99 years, in exchange for USD 1.1 billion in debt relief.

Disrupting the flow

There are even sharper concerns about the environmental impact. Michael Kugelman, deputy director and senior associate for south Asia with the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Asia Program, foresees a “wide variety of factors ranging from the use of emissions-belching technologies to the clearing or even destruction of agricultural farmland”. He is particularly concerned about the use of coal, environmentally-damaging technologies and the heavy consumption of water – a prerequisite for such intensive development and construction.

Along with the use of dirty fuel, Vaqar Zakaria, managing director of environmental consultancy firm Hagler Bailly Pakistan, is concerned about the lack of conversation around the impacts of hydropower projects on river ecosystems.

China has promised to finance and build the USD 50 billion five-dam Indus Cascade to generate more than 22,000 MW. The cascade could stop the flow of silt – the lifeline of agriculture downstream – as well as drastically reduce the flow of water in the Indus, especially affecting downstream areas like Pakistan’s Sindh province. Thousands of people will be displaced.

See: Indus Cascade: a Himalayan blunder

“It is possible that the flow of silt may be significantly affected, but what the actual impacts will be for agriculture are unknown,” says Hassaan F. Khan, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts studying the impacts of climate change on water resources in South Asia.

The original Tarbela dam, completed in 1977, submerged 120 villages, the Indus Cascade would expand on it massively [image: courtesy the Water and Power Development Authority, Pakistan]

Instead, Khan is certain that increased storage upstream on the Indus could have a “potentially huge benefit” for the water sector in Pakistan – “if built and operated properly”.

“Future changes in climate are expected to increase the variability of flow on the Indus and change the timing of the peak flow,” says Khan, adding that almost 80% of the flow in the Indus occurs between June and August, but is expected to shift to April and May. That could have a very disruptive impact on water use downstream, especially for farmers.

“The most effective way to limit the economic impacts of this increased variability and uncertainty in flow is to manage the river,” said Khan. “That means storing some of the water when it is available and releasing it later when farmers need it.”

Pakistan has relatively little ability to manage the flow. “More upstream storage can provide the ability to adapt to changes in the flow on the Indus, both now and in the future,” says Khan.

Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, country representative of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is worried that some CPEC projects passing through the mountainous terrain will disturb the fragile ecosystem.

“The need for wildlife corridors must be underscored [and attention must be paid to] the gradient when roads are being carved to minimize landslides.” Giving the example of the once-endangered Markhor and Ibex populations, Cheema says that a little foresight now will save the country from huge environmental losses later.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the provincial government has started an afforestation campaign, more than 54,000 trees have already been chopped down to make way for the CPEC road network.

Unsustainable development?

So far, the government has not revealed whether any measures have been taken to ensure sustainable development, or if there is an enhanced environmental monitoring and reporting plan.

“Since the environment became a provincial matter, I have doubts about the technical capacity of environmental protection agencies to carry out sound EIAs,” says Cheema, adding that the ecological footprint of this project is unclear from the various reports he has seen.

IUCN has just started a dialogue with various stakeholders, including the government, on the environmental impact of CPEC. It is important that the government engages with organisations like IUCN to provide technical oversight on a continuous basis, he says. “While all EIAs should have been done before a project begins, it’s not too late.”

Academia and think tanks needed to come up with “robust environmental impact analyses on a project-by-project basis”, says Adil Najam, dean of the Fredrick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University.

Najam emphasises the need for the key regulators – including federal and provincial environmental protection agencies, and the climate ministry – to carry out independent EIAs, and for the government to then act on them at the design phase so that the best possible technology and standards are used for each project.

“If we do that, I think the overall impact can be economically and environmentally beneficial,” says Najam. If not “we will lament the mistakes of omission in ten and twenty years.”

While investment in infrastructure is not only important but necessary, Najam emphasised that it must be “sustainable” and helps the country “leapfrog to a higher standard”.

“Mass transport is a very important – so is rail and highway connectivity – but the question is ‘how is it done’,” says Najam. “If sustainability – economic as well as environmental – is a key element of the design then these can be excellent investments. If ignored, then it can be catastrophic.”

Cloak of opacity

Because everything linked to CPEC is shrouded under a cloak of opacity, both Cheema and Kugelman said it is difficult to know if there are sufficient environmental protective measures in place.

In addition, Zakaria is not sure whether the government has thought of the secondary impacts of development-related projects, which can be significant.

“The social and cultural impacts are likely to be of much higher significance, such as non-inclusive development in Gwadar and Thar, building the Karakoram Highway, and loss of environmental values in Gilgit-Baltistan region. Changes in access change the physical and social landscape,” he says.

CPEC should be thought of as a design exercise,” says Najam. “A series of decisions to be made, and each of these decisions needs to be evaluated – and then regulated – on the principles of environmental sustainability

Hind Baloch Forum : A New ray of hope for Baloch Movement- Baloch Diaspora France

Dr.Ali Akbar Mengal President Baloch Diaspora France ,France June 23m 2017.

Balochistan is facing worst kind of human rights violations by Pakistani and Chinese Government.

Local and international media is completely banned from reporting of human rights violations in Balochistan specially the areas where China Pakistan economic corridor CPEC  is under construction .According to reports by human rights organizations currently more then 25000 baloch people are missing. Pakistani forces are doing slow and systematic genocide of Baloch people to clear way for sustainability of Chinese Economic and naval bases in Gawader Balochistan.

China Silk route which encircles whole Europe and African states connected to china and central Asian states get connected through gawader to china. Pakistani and Chinese governments joined hands together to design extermination and elimination policy for native Baloch People who are resisting this Chinese economic imperialism designs. All sources of livelihood are destroyed by Pakistani military as policy to compel Baloch native to migrate from their land and these lands are given to Chinese government for establishment of naval bases at strategic areas of gawader District of Balochistan.

At this critical moment where Balochistan and Baloch people are bleeding through barbaric policies of Pakistani military force every day Baloch people are receiving 7 to 8 tortured dead bodies of their loved ones who were kidnaped in day light by Pakistani forces. The establishment of Hind Baloch Forum is considered as a ray of hope for Baloch movement where people of India are standing to fulfill their moral obligation as regional power and also secular, civilized and responsible nation. Baloch Diaspora France will coordinate with Hind Baloch Forum for collective cause to raise voice for Baloch people against human rights violations in Balochistan at all International forums.

Contact.
Dr Ali Akbar mengal 
President
Baloch Diaspora france
dralimengal@gmail.com
Tel:   0033753507747

June 22, 2017

V0ICE 0F BAL0CH BATTLEFIELD UPDATE

["V0ICE 0F BAL0CH UPDATE"]
---
MASHKEY:~
1'Mahiney Pehley Meshkey Ke Mukhtlif Elaqon Se Qabiz Army Ke Hathon Aghwa Hone Wale 4'Baloch Farzind,
{Dad Rahim S/o Ghulam Mohmad, Samad S/o Ibrahim, Mohmad Bux S/o Ibrahim & Asif S/o Jangi Khan} Aaj Baziyab Hokar Apne Ghar Pounch Gahe.!
::
["MASHKEY/REP"]

["V0ICE 0F BAL0CH LATEST"]
@HOSHIYAR@
---
MASHKEY:~
Kandadi Ke Main Road Se Qabiz Army Ki 6'Gaadian Nokjo Ki Janib Rawana, Sangat Hoshiyar Rahen.!
::
["MASHKEY/REP"]

["V0ICE 0F BAL0CH UPDATE"]
---
KECH:~
Hoshab Damb Men Guzishta Roz Qabiz Army Ke Hathon Agwah Hone Wale {Shoqath S/o Ali Bux, Qadir Bux S/o Khudadad & Anwar S/o Khuda Bux} Aaj Hoshab Camp Se Baziyab Hokar Ghar Pouch Gahe.!
::
["KECH/REP"]

["V0ICE 0F BAL0CH LATEST"]
---
KECH~
Balgatar Sari'Metag Men Aaj Sham 7'Baje Ke Waqt Qabiz Pakistani Army Ki Qahim Water Supply Check Post Par Baloch Sarmacharon Ka Rocketon & Khudkar Hatiyaron Se Hamla, Halakaton Ki Itlaath.!
::
["KECH/REP"]

Hind-Baloch Forum seminar: Local press coverage

How to stop China Maritime assertion

How to stop China

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Knowledge is power: Humboldt's educational vision resonates on 250th birthday


http://m.dw.com/en/knowledge-is-power-humboldts-educational-vision-resonates-on-250th-birthday/a-39363583


Considered the father of the modern university, Wilhelm von Humboldt revolutionized public education in Germany. But on his 250th birthday, how does Humboldt's legacy live on?

A cosmopolitan linguist, philosopher, statesman and writer in one, Wilhelm von Humboldt would today make a good German education minister.

He was fluent in the principal languages ​​of the old and new world, and lived through long periods of his busy life in the most important European cultural centers such as Paris, Rome, London, Vienna and Berlin. Even though he was sometimes in the shadow of his well-traveled brother Alexander, he was equally significant, especially for his pioneering work as an education reformer.

The road to enlightenment

Wilhelm von Humboldt's whole life was essentially an educational journey. After the early death of his father - who served as chamberlain to Frederick the Great - Humboldt had already received excellent education from private tutors that continued into his youth. His mother, born to prosperous Huguenot merchants, sought the best philosophers, reformist educators and polymaths to not only teach her sons the basics, but explain the world to them.

The young Wilhelm von Humboldt

The boys were quickly instilled with a fascination with research, intellectual curiosity and Prussian discipline - and would go on to achieve excellence in their professions.

Like his brother, Wilhelm had intensive contact with the great minds of his time, among them Schiller, Goethe, Fichte and Schleiermacher. They also closely studied the modern philosophy of Kant. Thanks to his family's wealth, the Humboldt brothers werefinancially independent and could freely pursue their personal interests.

Read: Berlin's Humboldt University plans to open Islamic theology institute

Wilhelm von Humboldt entered the Prussian state service in 1790 at the age of 23, but was bored and quickly resigned. He then married Karoline von Dacheröden, who regularly ran salons for poets, philosophers and politicians in the family home as they traveled Europe when Wilhelm later worked as a diplomat.

A highly educated art historian, Karoline was also an emancipated young woman who dared to to wear men's dress when horse riding because it was more practical. Wilhelm, on the other hand, spent time looking after his children at home, which went against the Prussian military ideal of masculinity at the time.

In Weimar in 1803, Wilhem von Humboldt and brother Alexander listen as Goethe (center) holds court

Early in the marriage, the couple undertook extensive journeys through France and Spain, some of them into inaccessible areas high in the Pyrenees where travelers at the time rarely strayed. They also journeyed with three children - together with their tutors, of course.

From diplomat to education reformer

In 1802, Wilhelm von Humboldt entered the Prussian civil service for the second time. On this occasion he was lucky enough to be sent to Rome as a diplomat. Together with Karoline, then a close friend of Schiller's wife Charlotte von Lengsfeld, he led a lavish social life in Rome among the liberal intelligentsia. Writers, scholars and famous artists such as the painter Angelika Kauffmann visited the Humboldt home, as did Wilhelm's brother Alexander.

But after Prussia was invaded by France in 1806, and the country was left bankrupt and its people starving, Wilhelm was summoned to Berlin in 1808 and appointed to the post of director of education.

School education in Prussia was rigid and anachronistic, with no separation between church and state. Curriculum was strict and women were denied access to education. But Humboldt soon ushered in a new age of education. Born of his humanistic educational ideals, in 1810 Humboldt  introduced a uniform three-level school system in Prussia from elementary through to high school. He abolished the "disastrous training pedagogy," as he called it.

Humboldt also invented the modern research university when, in 1811, he founded Berlin University (now Humboldt University). Promoting the latest teaching methodology, the university sees Prussia develop the most advanced educational system in Europe. 

Wilhelm von Humboldt's memorial in Berlin at the Humboldt University, which he founded in 1811 and where Einstein once studied

Utopian ideals

As he reformed an antiquated curriculum, Humboldt insisted that teachers and university professors should be an "advocate for the education of young people." Systematic learning and holistic education through art and music were just as important as mathematics to the training of the mind, according to Humboldt.

The ability to think critically would be more important than strict vocational training. "Knowledge is power and education is liberty," was Humboldt's credo.

When Wilhelm von Humboldt died in Berlin-Tegel on April 8, 1835, he left behind a powerful new school of thought. His ideal was to nurture educated, confident citizens, independent of their class or family background.

These educational ideals could serve as a model for present-day school and education policy in Germany. But regional political interests and packed curricula - which still have their origin in the strict Prussian administration - stand in the way. Humboldt's cosmopolitan, liberal-minded educational philosophy remains a utopian ideal in Germany

Indian response to Kulbhushan Jadhav confessional video

Response to a Query Regarding Pakistan’s releases pertaining to Mr. Kulbhushan Jadhav

In response to a query regarding the so-called confessional video of Mr. Kulbhushan Jadhav and a  press release by Pakistan in the matter today, the Official Spokesperson said:

The developments bring out once again the lack of transparency and farcical nature of proceedings against Mr. Jadhav on concocted charges, continued violation of his legal and consular rights and an attempt to introduce prejudice in the proceedings in the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Pakistan has never disclosed even to the ICJ Mr. Jadhav's purported appeal to a military tribunal in Pakistan and has effectively prevented his parents from pursuing the appeal  and the petition filed by Mr Jadhav's mother. The details and circumstances of the alleged mercy petition by Mr Jadhav are not clear and even the fact of its existence is doubtful, shrouded as the proceedings against Mr Jadhav have been in opacity.

The Government has once again demanded earlier this week Consular Access to Mr. Jadhav and reiterated his family’s request for visas.

Manufactured facts cannot alter the reality,  and do not detract from the fact that Pakistan is in violation of its international obligation to India and Mr. Jadhav.  We expect Pakistan to abide by the order of ICJ staying Mr. Jadhav’s execution and desist from attempting to influence the ICJ proceedings through false propaganda.

India is determined to pursue the matter in ICJ and is confident that justice will be done without being affected in any manner by these unwarranted and misleading steps taken by Pakistan."

New Delhi
22 June 2017

June 21, 2017

Countering China’s high-altitude land grab

https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/countering-chinas-high-altitude-land-grab/


22 Jun 2017|Brahma Chellaney

Bite by kilometer-size bite, China is eating away at India’s Himalayan borderlands. For decades, Asia’s two giants have fought a bulletless war for territory along their high-altitude border. Recently, though, China has become more assertive, underscoring the need for a new Indian containment strategy.

On average, China launches one stealth incursion into India every 24 hours. Kiren Rijiju, India’s Minister of State for Home Affairs, says the People’s Liberation Army is actively intruding into vacantborder space with the objective of occupying it. And according to a former top official with India’s Intelligence Bureau, India has lost nearly 2,000 square kilometers to PLA encroachments over the last decade.

The strategy underlying China’s actions is more remarkable than their scope. On land, like at sea, China uses civilian resources—herders, farmers, and grazers—as the tip of the spear. Once civilians settle on contested land, army troops gain control of the disputed area, paving the way for the establishment of more permanent encampments or observation posts. Similarly, in the South China Sea, China’s naval forces follow fishermen to carve out space for the reclamation of rocks or reefs. In both theaters, China has deployed no missiles, drones, or bullets to advance its objectives.

China’s non-violent terrestrial aggression has garnered less opposition than its blue-water ambition, which has been challenged by the United States and under international law (albeit with little effect). Indian leaders have at times even seemed to condone China’s actions. During a recent panel discussion in Russia, for example, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that although China and India are at odds over borders, it was remarkable that ‘in the last 40 years, not a single bullet has been fired because of [it].’ The Chinese foreign ministryCountering China’s high-altitude land grab responded by praising Modi’s ‘positive remarks.’

Moreover, Modi’s predecessor, Manmohan Singh, used to claim that, in their 5,000-year history, India and China fought only one war, in 1962. What this rose-tinted history failed to acknowledge was that China and India became neighbors only after China annexed the buffer Tibet in 1951.

Given India’s accommodating rhetoric, it is easy to view the country as a paper tiger. While Modi has used the phrase ‘inch toward miles‘ as the motto of India-China cooperation, the PLA has continued its cynical territorial aggrandizement by translating that slogan into incremental advance. After spending so many years on the defensive, India must retake the narrative.

The first order of business is to abandon the platitudes. Modi’s calls for border peace and tranquility might be sincere, but his tone has made India look like a meek enabler.

China’s fast-growing trade surplus with India, which has doubled to almost $60 billion on Modi’s watch, has increased Chinese President Xi Jinping’s territorial assertiveness. The absence of clarity about the frontier—China reneged on a 2001 promise to exchange maps with India—serves as cover for the PLA’s aggression, with China denying all incursions and claiming that its troops are operating on ‘Chinese land.’ But, by acquiescing on bilateral trade—the dumping of Chinese-made steel on the Indian market is just one of many examples—India has inadvertently helped foot the bill for the PLA’s encirclement strategy.

China’s financial regional leverage has grown dramatically in the past decade, as it has become almost all Asian economies’ largest trade and investment partner. In turn, many of the region’s developing countries have moved toward China on matters of regional security and transport connectivity. But, as Modi himself has stressed, there remains plenty of room for India to engage in Asia’s economic development. A more regionally integrated Indian economy would, by default, serve as a counterweight to China’s territorial expansion.

India should also beef up its border security forces to become a more formidable barrier to the PLA. India’s under-resourced Indo-Tibetan Border Police, under the command of the home ministry, is little more than a doorman. Training and equipping these units properly, and placing them under the command of the army, would signal to China that the days of an open door are over.

If the tables were turned, and Indian forces were attempting to chip away at Chinese territory, the PLA would surely respond with more than words. But in many cases, Indian border police patrolling the area don’t even carry weapons. With such a docile response, China has been able to do as it pleases along India’s northern frontier. China’s support of the Pakistani military, whose forces often fire at Indian troops along the disputed Kashmir frontier, should be viewed in this light.

The PLA began honing its ‘salami tactics’ in the Himalayas in the 1950s, when it sliced off the Switzerland-size Aksai Chin plateau. Later, China inflicted a humiliating defeat on India in the 1962 border war, securing peace, as a state mouthpiece crowed in 2012, on its own terms. Today, China pursues a ‘cabbage’ approach to borders, cutting off access to an adversary’s previously controlled territory and gradually surrounding it with multiple civilian and security layers.

Against this backdrop, the true sign of Himalayan peace will not be the holstering of guns, but rather the end of border incursions. India’s accommodating approach has failed to deter China. To halt further encroachments, India will need to bare its own teeth.

AUTHOR

Brahma Chellaney, Professor of Strategic Studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research and Fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin, is the author of nine books, including Asian Juggernaut, Water: Asia’s New Battleground, and Water, Peace, and War: Confronting the Global Water Crisis. This article is presented in partnership with Project Syndicate © 2017. Image courtesy of Flickr

India's 'secret machinery' to push its NSG bid


Centre's 'secret machinery' to push its NSG bid

By Indrani Bagchi, TNN | Updated: Jun 20, 2017, 08.25 PM IST

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NEW DELHI: With the NSG plenary approaching this week, India is much more circumspect about its lobbying efforts after last year's high decibel disaster. 

But behind the scenes, quiet efforts are on to keep the Indian interest alive with other members of the NSG. MEA secretaries have been engaging with ambassadors of key countries like Brazil to push the Indian case. 

Last week, new Korean President Moon Jae-in sent his special envoy Dongchea Chung to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Korea is the outgoing chair of NSG, and the issue featured in the conversation, though both sides are tight-lipped about it. 

Meanwhile, the incoming chair, Switzerland, has said it continues to support India's candidature. Pierre-Alain Eltschinger, spokesperson of the Swiss foreign ministry told TOI, "We support India's application for participation in the NSG and acknowledge India's support to global non-proliferation efforts. We are of the view that it would contribute to strengthening global non-proliferation efforts if all countries having relevant nuclear technology and being suppliers of such technology were to become NSG members." 

However, a sign that there will be little movement this week came from Beijing, where the foreign ministry spokesperson said there was "no change" in China's position on non-NPT members in the NSG. "On the issue of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), I can tell you China's stance on the accession of new members into NSG has not changed," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said. 

In previous years, China was reluctant to be left isolated in multilateral settings. Now with greater power, China cares less for such niceties, if they go against China's national position. 

India has asked Russia to intercede with China on India's behalf, but so far there are no indications that this has borne fruit. Until last year, India depended on the US to do the heavy lifting on its behalf. 

The Trump administration has not articulated any position on this, but Richard Stratford, an old hand with nuclear matters vis-a-vis India, is currently the acting assistant secretary of state in charge. In 2011, Stratford first broached the subject of India's entry into NSG by circulating a "non-paper" for members to chew on, where he tried to work around the NPT criteria demand. But it's not clear he has any clear political direction this time and no one is burning up phone lines in Washington as in 2008. 

After the last NSG plenary, the South Korean chair Song Young-wan appointed former Argentinian diplomat Rafael Mariano Grossi to work out a template for inducting non-NPT members after consultation with the various members, particularly the ones who had had issues with the procedure. 

In December, this process came to a close, with a Grossi draft that contained a checklist of criteria including on separation of civil and military facilities, IAEA safeguards, commitment not use transfers for military purposes, commitment on no nuclear test, support CTBT, and that India would not stop other non-NPT members like Pakistan if they fulfilled the conditions. 

India would have little trouble with these criteria, but would not go beyond the commitment made by former foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee in 2008. On CTBT, India maintains its position that it is "committed to a voluntary, unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing" as was articulated after the 1998 tests and affirmed by Mukherjee in 2008. 

India has recently quibbled with the word "criteria", with foreign minister Sushma Swaraj saying, "we prefer that we are judged not on criteria but on our credentials." The difference is minuscule. India is seeking to burnish those credentials by ramping up its civilian nuclear capacity, adding 10 new 700 MW reactors with domestic industry playing a big role. 

In his answers to TOI, Eltschinger emphasised the "non-discriminatory" nature of the exercise, a nod to the Chinese official position, promising to play a "neutral, transparent and inclusive" role. "Such a membership should be based on common, objective and non-discriminatory commitments with respect to nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament and peaceful use of nuclear energy." 

Meanwhile, PM Modi worked on Germany and Spain during his recent European tour and even dropped a quiet word in Xi Jinping's ear in Astana. In 2016, the Chinese had objected to the energetic lobbying at the top level, saying that wasn't "their way". Countries like the Netherlands, also on India's side, have been working on holdouts like Ireland and Austria. 

Last year, India managed to get into MTCR by stealth diplomacy. This year, it appears to be trying it out for the NSG, though with little chances of success this time around. It was to dampen expectations that Swaraj said: "sometime, somewhere, we will overcome." 

(This article was originally published in The Times of India

Admission to Data Incubator

This is just a gentle reminder to everyone that the deadline for applications is approaching. We are growing rapidly and admitting more fellows than ever. A few notes:

Interested in applying? Please apply before the deadline.We are assessing and interviewing candidates who apply for the Early Deadline first and then based on remaining availability, will take candidates who applied for the Regular Deadline on a first-come first-serve basis.There is a common application for all our locations and online sessions.Already submitted an application for this session? We encourage you to double check your application status on the status page which has the latest information to confirm that you have completed everything you need.Wondering if you qualify? Check out our FAQ.Don't yet qualify to apply? Want to apply for a later session? Sit tight: we will send update emails about future sessions to this email address. If you would prefer to get these updates at another email address, simply submit your new email here.Know someone else who would make a great fellow? Encourage them to apply at https://www.thedataincubator.com/fellowship.html.

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Iran, Russia, and the Taliban: Reassessing the Future of the Afghan State

21 Jun 2017

By Amin Tarzi for Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI)

What impact is the Islamic State–Khorasan Province (ISKP) having on the internationalization of the conflict in Afghanistan? Second, how is it impacting the calculations of Iran and Russia vis-à-vis the Taliban? And finally, will it trigger a proxy war much like the bad old days of the mid-1990s? In this article, Amin Tarzi grapples with these questions and more.

This article was originally published by the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) on 14 June 2017.

The first combat zone utilization of the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) device by the U.S. forces in Afghanistan (USFOR-A) on 13 April 2017 brought the Islamic State–Khorasan Province (ISKP) to the headlines. ISKP emerged in Afghanistan and Pakistan in early 2015 after individuals and groups of militants pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. This ISIS affiliate became operational after only a few months. While the ISKP represents a danger to the stability of Afghanistan and Pakistan and to the wider region including India and Central Asia, the outfit has become a vehicle to legitimization of the growing internationalization of the wider Afghan conflict, particularly in changing the calculus of Iran and Russia vis-à-vis the Taliban, and it has the potential of becoming a tool for proxy warfare in Afghanistan evocative of the mid-1990s.

ISKP and the Taliban: Taking Different Paths

Since its emergence in the mid-1990s, the Taliban sought international legitimacy, unlike the self-identified Islamic State. The initial proclamations of the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate were mostly Afghan-centric. However, with the cementing of their ties with al-Qaeda after capturing Kabul in 1996, their views took on a more pan-Islamist outlook.1 Retrospectively, the strategies of the Taliban and those of al-Qaeda differed fundamentally, as the former wanted to become a national movement and be recognized by the international community as such, while the latter wanted to keep Afghanistan in a perpetual state of anarchy, utilizing it as a base for waging global jihad. In a 2012 study on Taliban’s attitudes towards reconciliation, most respondents agreed that al-Qaeda was responsible for derailing the Taliban’s initial aim of establishing an Islamic state in Afghanistan.2 Currently, the majority of the Taliban has returned to the founding Afghanistan-centric principles of the movement with an arguably less religiously zealous message, calling on Muslims to avoid extremism in religion with the goal of becoming a legitimate force in the political arena of the country as well as in the international calculations on Afghanistan. Perhaps learning from their initial mistakes, the reemerging Taliban has tried to speak for the totality of Afghanistan, including providing assurances that they will respect the rights of the Shi‘a and other minorities within the country. Nevertheless, the Taliban remains a violent insurgency and is very keen not only on retaining its monopoly over this violence, but also on controlling and managing it to help calibrate the reactions of both domestic and foreign actors.3

The emergence of ISKP occurred during a sensitive time for the Taliban, which had lost its elusive, but unifying founding leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, sometime in spring 2013. While the movement managed to keep a lid on Mullah Omar’s demise until it was officially revealed two years later by the Afghan government, the Taliban had to deal with internal fractures due to the absence of their undisputed leader in a time when major decisions needed to be made on whether and how to make peace with the Afghan government; to open dialogue with foreign countries; and to shape relations with their host Pakistan in addition to decisions on military matters and expanding their areas of operation. Following the confirmation of Mullah Omar’s passing, Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansur, became the new amir al-muminin (commander of the faithful), but disagreements remained among top members of the movement over leadership positions. The leadership experienced another setback in May 2016 when the United States conducted an airstrike, which killed Mansur, who subsequently was replaced by his deputy, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, a senior cleric and former senior member of Supreme Court under Taliban rule.

Taking advantage of the discontent over internal leadership struggles and rifts with their erstwhile allies, the Pakistani Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), ISKP began recruiting among the Taliban members. ISKP used the absence of and later the confirmation of the demise of Mullah Omar in its propaganda aimed at courting disgruntled members of the Taliban. In these efforts, ISKP argued that Mullah Omar no longer was the legitimate leader of the Islamic community or emirate. The Pakistani Taliban and IMU were increasingly at odds with the Taliban due to the latter’s refusal to conduct and support operations inside Pakistan. Due to the unreliability of the date of Mullah Omar’s death and the fluid nature of Taliban membership, it is difficult to provide reliable statistics on the number of hardcore Taliban members who turned to ISKP. The most significant switching of sides occurred around January 2015 in the heartland of the Taliban when Abd al-Rauf Khadim setup a cell with a several hundred former Taliban fighters in Kajaki district of Helmand province. Khadim was a former commander of the Taliban. According to Afghan analyst Borhan Osman, after being released from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2007, he rose to prominence, becoming the second in command within the Taliban’s military establishment. He later fell from grace partly because of his pan-Islamist views. Khadim’s reach also extended beyond his native Kajaki to neighboring districts of Musa Qala, Nawzad, and Baghran, threatening key Taliban strongholds. Within weeks of Khadim’s appointment as the deputy governor of ISKP, he was killed in an airstrike attributed to the United States, much to the Taliban’s relief.4 Since Khadim’s demise, no one of his stature has switched sides from the Taliban to ISKP.

The main arena of Taliban-ISKP military confrontations began in the southeastern districts of Nangarhar Province in 2015 where ISKP began and continues to have a presence. Beyond the confrontations in Nangarhar, the Taliban also started campaigns against ISKP affiliates and supporters elsewhere in Afghanistan with notable success. In November 2015, the Taliban gained a decisive victory in the southern Afghan province of Zabul against IMU, ISKP’s main Uzbek affiliate. The Taliban also began opposing the mainly Uzbek Jundallah, an IMU splinter group operating in northeastern Afghanistan in proximity to Tajikistan.5 These victories were a two-pronged blessing for the Taliban. First, the Taliban stopped a major local rival from gaining a foothold in the country and reversed the brief territorial gains made by Jundallah in northeastern Afghanistan. Second, they were propaganda boons for the Taliban in Central Asian, Chinese, and Russian circles where the Uzbek groups are regarded as a serious threat to the security and stability of Central Asian states, and by extension, Russia as well as China’s Xinjiang Province. For the key regional players (Iran, Russia, and China), the Taliban’s victories against ISKP were proving useful to their strategic designs on the region.

Iran’s Jekyll and Hyde Relationship with the Taliban

Iran’s longstanding policy for Afghanistan has been to prevent the full stabilization of a unitary Afghanistan as long as the United States supports Kabul. At the same time, Iran simultaneously has sought to prevent a total collapse of order in its eastern neighbor. In Tehran’s Jekyll-and-Hyde gameplay in Afghanistan, the Taliban has been regarded as Iran’s staunch enemies, yet as useful allies to oppose USFOR-A (and prior to that, some members of the broader NATO-led coalition). With the advent of ISKP, the stakes for Tehran are higher and so is the utility of the Taliban as useful tools to counter the radical Sunni movement bringing Iran closer in partnership with Russia. Concurrently, Tehran will continue its steadfast policy of denying a victory to the Western plans for the rehabilitation of the Afghan state.

In its initial campaign to gain control of Afghanistan in the 1990s, the Taliban, at times, targeted Shi‘a due to their religious affiliation and not just because of their refusal to submit to Taliban rule. As the movement gained more authority, its anti-sectarian tendencies diminished, but never ceased. Currently, the Taliban, in spite of its alliances with militant jihadist outfits with anti-sectarian doctrines, has by-and-large stayed away from sectarianism and has called on the Shi‘a to join the Taliban movement as an Islamic—rather than just Sunni—national liberation front. There are no credible statistics on the number of Shi‘a among the Taliban ranks, and these numbers ought to be small given the low level of support for the Taliban in the predominantly Shi‘i regions of Afghanistan. The overarching policy of the movement has been to remain aloof on sectarian issues. While the Taliban’s change of policy on sectarianism is undertaken primarily for domestic reasons, the inclusiveness of the movement’s message has made the Taliban more publically palatable in Iran, as the comments of Iran’s ambassador to Kabul, Muhammad Reza Bahrami, in December 2016 reveal. Bahrami confirmed that Iran has “communication with Taliban but not ties” and that the purpose of that communication is to gain “intelligence information.”6 Eighteen months prior, he is on record denying any contacts between his country and the Taliban while adding that in “Iran’s security strategy, there is no interpretation in connection with terrorist groups and any connection with these groups are [sic] against” his country.7

The strengthening bonds with Shi‘i Iran and the Taliban challenges ISKP and the broader Sunni Arab-dominated IS community. With the potential growth of discontent by non-Afghans and Afghan Salafists within ISKP’s ranks for the current Taliban leadership’s Shi‘i -tolerant or Shi‘i -friendly policies, there are dangers that the hallmark anti-sectarianism of IS could be mobilized to further push Afghanistan’s war towards a more sectarian conflict. Such a move could potentially reignite the regional proxy war in Afghanistan with realigned alliances and newcomers as well as increase the threat emanating from the ungoverned regions of Afghanistan to global security. Moreover, if the Afghan government’s control over its territory deteriorates further, Iran could come to see the Taliban as their least threatening option, which would bring the complicating Iranian voice—regardless of Tehran’s direct participation—into the on-again, off-again peace negotiations with the Taliban. The United States has publically acknowledged Tehran’s backing of the Taliban as well as Iran’s multidimensional relationship with the Afghan government.

The first manifestation of the Taliban’s strategy of inclusivity occurred in July 2016. ISKP claimed responsibility for an attack on a predominately Shi‘i demonstration, resulting in the death of 80 individuals demonstrating their reach into Kabul. In response to Taliban condemnation, ISKP issued a fatwa claiming that the Shi‘a were undisputedly infidels, adding that any Sunni religious scholar who rejects this understanding and the permissibility of their killing is himself an apostate. In October 2016, two attackers targeted a popular shrine during Ashura—the commemoration of death of Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed who is considered by the Shi‘a as their third imam, killing 19 people.8 The Taliban condemned ISKP’s attacks, referring to the Shi‘a as their “brothers.”9 The Taliban’s response shows how the group has evolved since its emergence in the 1990s.

This tension between the two groups could be exploited. The majority of Afghans, including the Taliban, thus far have tried to show a unified front against ISKP attacks specifically targeting the Shi‘a. Additionally, part of the Taliban’s current sectarian policies can be traced to their warming relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Russia: An Unlikely Partner

Another player in this complex security environment not to be ignored is Russia. In their operations against IMU and their overall opposition to IS-inspired or -backed groups, the Taliban has found a sympathetic ear in Moscow, potentially inducing the re-internationalization of the Afghan conflict. Taliban successes against ISKP and IMU prompted Zamir Kabulov, Russia’s special envoy to Afghanistan, to state that “Taliban interests objectively coincide with ours.”10The internationalization of the Afghan conflict is reminiscent of the 1990s proxy wars supported by India, Iran, and Russia on one side and Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and, to certain point, the United States on the other—albeit two decades ago, the Taliban was the main challenge for India, Iran, and Russia triangle. To the discomfort of Kabul and New Delhi, the Russians, with Iranian and Chinese support, have opened a dialogue with the Taliban. Russia, along with Iran, China, and Pakistan (without the participation of Afghanistan and India), held a meeting in Moscow in November 2016 to discuss countermeasures to the threats posed by the ISKP. After complaints by Afghanistan and India, another meeting in Moscow was organized two months later that included representatives from Afghanistan and India. While specific information of what the Moscow talks entailed is not available, the maneuverings are reminiscent of the support provided to various Afghan factions in the aftermath of the collapse of the communist government in Kabul in 1992.11 The latest of the Russia-led talks on Afghanistan were held on the same day the United States dropped the MOAB on the ISKP target in Achin District of Nangarhar. The U.S. reportedly refused a Russian invitation to participate in the talks. According to General John W. Nicholson, “Russia has overtly lent legitimacy to the Taliban,” and he added that Moscow, basing their position “not on facts,” believes the Taliban is only engaged against ISKP and not the Afghan government.12

An Afghan National Army Mi-17 helicopter flies over the Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif

More recently, after the Taliban attacked the headquarters of the Afghan National Army’s (ANA) 209th Corps based in Mazar-e-Sharif on 22 April killing more than 140 ANA soldiers, the United States increased it criticism of Russia’s support of the Taliban, including hints that Moscow was supplying small arms to the Taliban, which Secretary of Defense James Mattis said was “violation of international law” and something that the U.S. would “have to confront.”13

Russia’s involvement in Afghanistan as a political supporter of dialogue between Kabul and the Taliban, if coordinated with other stakeholders, including the United States, would add to the legitimacy and chances of a successful political outcome to the insurgency in Afghanistan. But Moscow’s military support of the Taliban and promotion of parallel political processes would only complicate the already fragile state of affairs inside Afghanistan and has the great potential of opening greater opportunities for groups such as ISKP or other terrorist or insurgent outfits to grow in strength at the expense of the Afghan government. While Russia has genuine concerns with the growth of pan-Islamist jihadist organizations such as ISKP, its romancing of the Taliban may seem to be part of the ongoing and expanding competition with the United States. The withdrawal or removal of foreign forces from Afghanistan is the Taliban’s paramount demand for accepting a peaceful resolution to their insurgency. As in the case in Syria, the Kremlin’s long-term goal is to push the United States out of Afghanistan, while in the short term, Russia hopes to make U.S. deployment and stabilization policies in the country more difficult.

New Alliances and Configurations Create a Cloudy Future

The variety of groups and policies engaged in Afghanistan once again potentially serves to undermine peace and stability in Afghanistan. There is a risk to the continued legitimacy of the Afghan government and an incentive for the Taliban ranks to split in order to accommodate or to take advantage of these groups of potential supporters. Such a scenario would also open more opportunities for ISKP or a future rendition, not only inside Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also across Central Asia and in India—particularly in Kashmir.

Iran has been a constant player in Afghanistan since the 1978 Soviet-backed communist coup d’état, and for the most part, Tehran’s policies and actions have been unilateral and uncoordinated with regional actors since the demise of the Taliban in 2001. The current support provided to the Taliban is, as in the case in Syria, coordinated with Russia despite overall strategic differences between the two countries’ long-term priorities. These new alignments in Afghanistan have Russia and Iran at the lead with China and Pakistan less vocally involved in pushing for a reconciliation process between the Afghan government and the Taliban. With the exception of China, the other three are lending support to the Taliban, including military support. The wildcard in this pursuit is Pakistan, the longtime backer and host of the Taliban. As echoed in early 2017 by the new commander of USFOR-A, General Nicholson, “the insurgents cannot be defeated while they enjoy external sanctuary and support . . . in Pakistan.”14 As the Taliban fosters closer ties with Russia and Iran, ostensibly due to their opposition to ISKP, its submissiveness to Islamabad’s directives should be expected to decrease. The question to consider is whether a united Taliban with more freedom to make political decisions will emerge to engage seriously in peace negotiations with the Afghan government or whether ISKP will morph into a savvier spoiler role and create new alternatives to the Taliban, prolonging the instability in Afghanistan and the region.

In 2008, while serving as Russia’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov reportedly said that the U.S. and its allies have repeated all of the Soviet mistakes there, adding, “Now they are making mistakes of their own, ones for which we do not own the copyright.”15 It would be interesting to ask Ambassador Kabulov whether Russia would own the copyright to its reemergence into the Afghan scene.

Notes

1 For example see, Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, 2nd ed., (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 133-140.

2 Michael Semple et al., “Taliban Perspectives on Reconciliation” Briefing Paper, Royal United Services Institute, September 2012, 5-7.

3 Vanda Felbab-Brown, “Blood and Faith in Afghanistan: A June 2016 Update,” Brookings Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, 17.

4 Borhan Osman, “The Shadows of ‘Islamic State’ in Afghanistan: What threat does it hold?” Afghanistan Analysts Network, 12 February 2015.

5 Obaid Ali, “The 2016 Insurgency in the North: Raising the Daesh flag (although not for long),” Afghanistan Analysts Network, 15 July 2016.

6 “Iran Officially Confirms Having Communication with Taliban in Afghanistan,” Ariana News, 9 December 2016.

7 “Iranian Ambassador Disputes Claims of Tehran Supporting Taliban,” Tolo News, 17 June 2015.

8 Casey Garret Johnson, “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan,” United States Institute of Peace, Special Report,” 13; Borhan Osman, “With an Active Cell in Kabul, ISKP Tries to Bring Sectarianism to the Afghan War,” Afghanistan Analysts Network, 19 October 2016.

9 Osman, “Active Cell.”

10 Javid Ahmad, “Russia and the Taliban Make Amends,” Foreign Affairs, 31 January 2016.

11 Suhasini Haidar, “India to join Moscow meet on Afghanistan,” The Hindu, 15 February 2017.

12 “DoD press briefing by Gen. Nicholson in the Pentagon Briefing Room,” 2 December 2016.

13 Gordon Lubold and Habib Khan Totakhil, “U.S. Says Russia Arming Taliban,” Wall Street Journal, 25 April 2017.

14 Statement for the Record by General John W. Nicholson, Commander, U.S. Forces—Afghanistan before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Situation in Afghanistan, Washington, 9 February 2017, 11.

15 Peter Tomsen, The Wars of Afghanistan: Messianic Terrorism, Tribal Conflicts, and the Failures of Great Powers (New York: Public Affairs, 2011), 201.

About the Author

Amin Tarzi is a Senior Fellow with the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Program on the Middle East, and the Director of Middle East Studies at the Marine Corps University (MCU) in Quantico, Virginia.