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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Better Nuclear Deal Then Expected?

India got it's way on all issues, it seems, at least based on first report.

Not just on the three outstanding issues in 1-2-3 US-India nuclear deal, but on all minor issues, India got it's way, at least with the Bush's executive branch. Now the US Congress has to vote on it. That may be a tough sell with the democratic Congress in charge, and with the US senate foreign affairs chairman, Joe Biden, running for president.

In any case, as the deal stands right now, Indian Express reports our negotiators got what we were asking for:

  • We can reprocess up to 20% purity of spend nuclear fuel, apparently to be used in fast breeder reactors (nuclear weapons need close to 95% or more purity);
  • If and when we do test, instead of immediately taking all the material back, there will be consultative mechanism to understand why India performed the test and, I'd presume, if the reasons are not satisfactory to US, then US will be allowed to take back nuclear material that it supplied;
  • And best of all, US will, explicitly, not curtail our strategic nuclear program as some language in Hyde Act tried to imply.
Beyound that, we also got agreement on lesser, but none-the-less significant, issues:
  • IAEA inspections will be based on separate India-specific negotiations. Recent legislation passed in US Congress tried to muddle the inspection issue;
  • India will get paid if US takes back the material, after the consultative process, if we conduct a nuclear test. So in theory we can acquire the material elsewhere. Sure there will be disruptions, but when national security is at stake (apparent reason for nuclear test), a bit of disruption, especially if its paid for, is worth it.
After reading the fine print, the deal opponents may have consternation on other issues that were agreed upon. But based on first reports, the deal is surely a good one for us.

Now we'll see what hurdles US Congress will impose on this deal. I don't see too many issues with this deal on India's side. If this deal, as agreed, does come to fruition, it's a foreign policy triumph for Manmohan and M. K. Narayanan and his team.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Westerners Africa Story

I recently wrote about the usually underplayed India's Africa Story. Here is a westerners Africa Story, that usually gets overplayed in all the headlines in the west and facilitated in the east, as told by a concerned African, Uzodinma Iweala, watching the westerners, usually white, yearly tamasha (distinguishing from official Western governments support to African governments).

It seems that these days, wracked by guilt at the humanitarian crisis it has created in the Middle East, the West has turned to Africa for redemption. Idealistic college students, celebrities such as Bob Geldof and politicians such as Tony Blair have all made bringing light to the dark continent their mission. They fly in for internships and fact-finding missions or to pick out children to adopt in much the same way my friends and I in New York take the subway to the pound to adopt stray dogs.

This is the West's new image of itself: a sexy, politically active generation whose preferred means of spreading the word are magazine spreads with celebrities pictured in the foreground, forlorn Africans in the back. Never mind that the stars sent to bring succor to the natives often are, willingly, as emaciated as those they want to help.

Perhaps most interesting is the language used to describe the Africa being saved. For example, the Keep a Child Alive/" I am African" ad campaign features portraits of primarily white, Western celebrities with painted "tribal markings" on their faces above "I AM AFRICAN" in bold letters. Below, smaller print says, "help us stop the dying."

Such campaigns, however well intentioned, promote the stereotype of Africa as a black hole of disease and death. News reports constantly focus on the continent's corrupt leaders, warlords, "tribal" conflicts, child laborers, and women disfigured by abuse and genital mutilation. These descriptions run under headlines like "Can Bono Save Africa?" or "Will Brangelina Save Africa?" The relationship between the West and Africa is no longer based on openly racist beliefs, but such articles are reminiscent of reports from the heyday of European colonialism, when missionaries were sent to Africa to introduce us to education, Jesus Christ and "civilization."...

My mood is dampened every time I attend a benefit whose host runs through a litany of African disasters before presenting a (usually) wealthy, white person, who often proceeds to list the things he or she has done for the poor, starving Africans. Every time a well-meaning college student speaks of villagers dancing because they were so grateful for her help, I cringe. Every time a Hollywood director shoots a film about Africa that features a Western protagonist, I shake my head -- because Africans, real people though we may be, are used as props in the West's fantasy of itself. And not only do such depictions tend to ignore the West's prominent role in creating many of the unfortunate situations on the continent, they also ignore the incredible work Africans have done and continue to do to fix those problems.

Why do the media frequently refer to African countries as having been "granted independence from their colonial masters," as opposed to having fought and shed blood for their freedom? Why do Angelina Jolie and Bono receive overwhelming attention for their work in Africa while Nwankwo Kanu or Dikembe Mutombo, Africans both, are hardly ever mentioned? How is it that a former mid-level U.S. diplomat receives more attention for his cowboy antics in Sudan than do the numerous African Union countries that have sent food and troops and spent countless hours trying to negotiate a settlement among all parties in that crisis? [Stop Trying To 'Save' Africa - WP; emphasis mine]

Talking of not recognizing African activists working to help other Africans, it's not just Africa - it's the treatment mended out to all non-western activists by western media which is in turn perpetuated by eastern media.

Terrorits Know Their Targets

Usually one gets the "misguided people" argument in debates about who the terrorists are and what they really want. The terrorists intelligence along with their targets and tactics are down played by their apologists. But the terrorists know exactly what they are doing and how they're doing it.

I wrote about the Gen. Musharraf's real ally based on events leading up to attack on Lal Masjid and Howard French's article. Writing about his friend Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the slain terror leader in the apparent basement of Lal Masjid, Nicholas Schmidle also time-lines the non-responses and final response of the general and Pakistan establishment to the increasing extremists activities in their own backyard.

Soon after that, Ghazi and his brother, Maulana Abdul Aziz, began an anti-vice campaign in Islamabad. They started by kidnapping a brothel owner, dressing her in a black burqa and forcing her to repent at a news conference. When a Western reporter asked Ghazi whether his anti-vice activities signaled the "Talibanization" of Pakistan, he replied, "Rudy Giuliani, when he became mayor of New York, closed the brothels. Was that also Talibanization?" Meanwhile, President Pervez Musharraf's government stood by and did nothing. A few weeks later, plainclothes police officers drifted too close to the mosque, and the local Taliban kidnapped them as well. On April 6, after Friday prayers, worshipers from Lal Masjid blocked a road and lit a bonfire using a pile of un-Islamic CDs and DVDs as kindling. Musharraf's response? Still nothing.

But in late May, Ghazi's vigilantes pushed their luck when they snatched six Chinese women from a massage parlor in Islamabad and held them hostage for a day. Beijing pressured Musharraf to protect Chinese citizens, and finally the noose tightened. [My Buddy, The Jihadi - WP]

After the bloody Lal Masjid blow, the terrorists are striking back at the general and his establishment with targets in terror safe haven in NWFP and against the real ally in Islamabad.

ISLAMABAD: Two suicide bombers killed more than 33 people in Pakistan on Thursday, as attacks on government forces continued in the aftermath of a bloody eight-day siege at the Red Mosque complex.

At least 26 people were killed when a car bomber, apparently aiming at a convoy of Chinese mining technicians and engineers, rammed into a police van that was escorting them in the southern town of Hub, news services reported. About 30 more people were wounded.

The Chinese workers were unhurt, but all seven police officers in the van were killed, Reuters reported. Hub is a town in Baluchistan province near the port city of Karachi.

Another seven people, including some police officers, were killed in a car bomb attack at a police academy in the northwestern city of Hangu, in the region near the Afghan border where support for Al Qaeda and Taliban militants is widespread. [Violence intensifies in Pakistan... - IHT]
The question now would be how will the apparent next super power respond?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Malabar 07 - Quad Alliance Exercise

Three aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines participation makes it one of the largest

Keeping the Quad Alliance, an apparent talkshop, going, India will host Malabar 07 in Bay of Bengal with Singapore joining in. It's interesting Singapore is taking part in these exercises. At the moment, Singapore is maintaining equi-distance from China and India, with a slight tilt towards China, while occasionally lecturing US about making peace with Chinese rise.

The combined units will include three aircraft carriers as well as nuclear submarines and a contingent of the Indian Air Force's Jaguar maritime strike fighter aircraft.

The aircraft carriers will include the nuclear powered, USS Nimitz, that recently dropped anchor at Chennai, along with the US Navy's last conventionally fuelled carrier, the USS Kitty Hawk and the Indian Navy's own INS Viraat, which flies the Harrier VTOL aircraft.

The countries taking part in the naval war game are the US, Japan, Australia and Singapore, according to defence ministry officials. The exercise, codenamed Malabar-07, will feature missile destroyers, stealth frigates, nuclear and conventional submarines and tankers besides the carriers. The five-day manoeuvres will also see the Indian Air Force shore-based Jaguar deep penetration strike aircraft, configured for a maritime role, in action along side the Indian Navy's Sea Harrier jets operating from the INS Viraat. [India to host massive naval exercise with US, Japan and Australian naval units - domain-B]

Fighting terrorists and pirates indeed.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Japanese Are Standing Up, Finally!

Maybe they're just taking a leaf from the Chinese

Here is what the Japanese Ambassador has to say about the US Congress trying to pass a resolution on apparent Japanese atrocities during their occupation of Korea and China prior to WWII.

In an unusually blunt letter sent to five House leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Japanese Ambassador Ryozo Kato said passage of the resolution "will almost certainly have lasting and harmful effects on the deep friendship, close trust and wide-ranging cooperation our two nations now enjoy."

The Japanese people and leaders have apologized many times for their atrocities - real and imagined. However, the Koreans and Chinese use the past Japanese actions to keep them on a wrong footing internationally. After the book The Rape of Nanking, which details Japanese war time brutality at Nanking, an American director/producer made a movie and showed it to the Chinese communists leaders - I am sure without any thought regarding it's ironic implication.

Former Japanese PM, Junichiro Koizumi, stood up to the constant harping of Chinese, Korean, and self-serving human rights groups, by continuing to pay his respects at Japanese WWII war memorial - which also has a samadhi for Subash Chandra Bose. The current PM, Shinzo Abe, while having trouble with his ministers, seems to be doing the same. In fact, based on the ambassador's statement, he seems to be raising the stakes a bit higher.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Aussie Defence Pact

With the Americans, Indian establishment would probably not call it a defence pact in order not to offend the socialists gatekeepers of the media and intellectuals. But cooperation between Pentagon and Indian military is robust - much more than with any country on the planet and surely much more than former ally Russian. And it goes beyound buying planes and gift of an old vintage troop mover. There are join exercises, training, and increasing interoperability of air and navy systems.

Of the Quad-quasi-alliance, following American foot steps, Australia now signed a defence pact.

New Delhi, July 11: In a sign of growing strategic relations between the two countries, India and Australia today signed a pact to increase military exchanges and share key intelligence data on terrorism and maritime security. Australian Defence Minister Brendan Nelson, who is on a two-day India visit to give an impetus to security ties between the countries, said that a legal framework has been worked out for cooperation on a range of issues, including counter-terrorism, during his talks with Indian Defence Minister A K Antony. [India, Australia sign defence pact - IE]

The Japanese are still finding their footing on their defence matters move from a defence agency to a defence ministry. A defence pact with them is unlikely until the Japanese sort out their internal issues. But we still have joint exercises and talk shops.

Although the Chinese have expressed their dismay, in their own Chinese diplomatic style, each country in the Quad have been bending over backwards to say that the Quad is not against the Chinese - it's just an alliance of liberal democracies. An alliance against an emerging authoritative capitalistic superpower, perhaps?

The Quad-quasi-alliance talk shop is looking more and more like an Quad-alliance.

Gen Musharraf's Real Ally

While most people speculate why the general did it - to postpone elections, to show Bush results, or to show the former allied-turned-foe terrorists their place in Pakistan, Howard French writes about Chinese official, and the much better informed Chinese people, opinion on the fight in Lal Masjid (IHT has nice aerial picture of Lal Masjid - Lal is really Hara).

Within Pakistan, and indeed much more widely among people who have followed these events closely, this incident, along with the killing two weeks later of three Chinese people in the western Pakistani city of Peshawar, is believed by many South Asian diplomats to have precipitated the decision by President Pervez Musharraf to lay siege to the mosque, mounting a rare, direct confrontation with the forces of radical Islam in his country.

Alarmed by the attacks on their citizens, and on the sensitive question of public perception of these events, Chinese leaders are widely reported by these diplomats to have put strong pressure on Musharraf to take action. And China being an increasingly important ally, militarily and economically, for Pakistan, that is exactly what Musharraf did.

This understanding of events may be common elsewhere, but it has gone all but unheard of here in China. There has been scarcely any mention of a possible role of the anti-Chinese attacks in the Pakistani government's decision to take on the radicals at the Red Mosque, and none at all in the Chinese media.

Moreover, almost no one in the press has printed, even speculatively, what many Chinese themselves presume to be the truth of this matter, that the women kidnapped and later released in Islamabad were sex workers.

After all, there are important myths to protect: One of them is the essential goodness of the Chinese people, and the other, that China does not interfere in other countries' internal affairs.

Chinese citizens and Chinese interests are fanning out around the globe at a rate that is unequaled in this country's long history. Wherever they land the Chinese are very often reproducing a Chinese way of life, as Americans did in the postwar era over half a century ago.

As with overseas Americans - the "Ugly American" became a cliché in Asia - among the Chinese, naturally enough, there is good and bad. Along with fresh injections of capital and ingenuity and China's famous entrepreneurial bustle, the Chinese also often bring an insular clannishness, a driven style of management, an unblushing attitude toward corruption, and as the case in Pakistan suggests, an acceptance of things like brothels, which are common in China but in many other societies are seen as undesirable or are illegal. [IHT]

By doing Chinese bidding, without the usual internal affairs excuses offered to the Americans, it's clear who the real ally of the Pak establishment is.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

India's Africa Story

At least once every few weeks, everyone from C. Rajamohan to various blogs tell us that we don't have an Africa strategy on par with the Chinese.

Aside: As most things about India's policy, things happen in dribs and bits and one has follow the short news reports from PTI and other news stories to know the full story. One usually doesn't see a well written 5000 word newspaper article or unclassified report that summarizes all activities relating to a story - whether it relates to development of nuclear weapons over decades or Kargil war. Occasionally one can find a good book. But most of the articles that report the entire sequence of events are written by non-Indian institutions. US Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) has prepared just such a short note, using Indian news articles, on India's involvement in Africa.

While the scale and extent of India's involvement of Africa is not the same as Chinese - with it's much hyped Africa Summit spending billions in aid and government directed investments in African countries, via mostly Chinese PSUs, India is none-the-less investing and providing aid to large and small African nations. The type and mode of investment is vastly different from the Chinese. Contrary to the Chinese communist government, Indian State has stopped creating more PSUs and is scaling back, very modestly under Manmohan, in existing PSUs. So the private sector, Indian companies still, has taken the lead. And there many advantages with this approach. The knowledge transfer happen over business deals, not through the hyped ceremonial, and usually useless, Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) signed by ministers and babus. Because entrepreneurs are involved on both sides, the deal will probably be most cost efficient, producing maximum returns, to both parties with little corruption and skimming of precious tax payers money by either parties.

India’s private sector now wields significant clout in Africa, as Karen Monaghan, CFR’s national intelligence fellow and an Africa expert, discusses in this new podcast. Monaghan notes that India’s model of private investment differs strikingly from China’s model of state-managed investments. India’s government has been a “reluctant suitor,” Monaghan says. But Indian companies, whether conglomerates like Tata, pharmaceutical firms like Cipla, or automobile companies like Mahindra, have all undertaken profitable projects in Africa. Monaghan notes that Africa gives these companies access to the continent’s emerging markets as well as the chance to set up relatively inexpensive factories.

India’s private-sector investments in Africa traditionally focused in areas where the Indian population was already active on the continent, particularly in countries sharing history as British colonies. Nigeria, for instance, is India’s second-largest trading partner and a significant source for oil imports, according to data from an April 2007 report from the British think tank Chatham House. The report notes, however, that this dynamic is rapidly shifting as Indian companies increasingly seek investments in non-Anglo western African countries. Trade deals with Francophone Cote d’Ivoire, for instance, are forecasted to grow to $1 billion between 2006 and 2011.

Of course, Indian state is not completely absent in Africa because Indian state is still active within India itself. Most of these are restricted to oil/gas deals.

Indian businesses also invest in some more controversial African operations, similar to those investments that have drawn criticism to China. India’s state-owned oil company, for instance, holds a 25 percent stake in a major Sudanese oil-field (Times of India).

Before throwing the high-respected President A P J Kalam out of office, dis-allowing him to continue his second term as president, Sonia/Manmohan coterie gave a parting gift by consenting to an ambitious $100 million public project, pan-African E-Network Project, that Sri Kalam outlined many years ago - connecting universities throughout Africa using satellite, cable, and other technologies, linking them to some Indian universities, enabling them to be more collaborative and productive. Then again, with Sri Kalam not there to shepard the project, it could just turn out to be another grand project announced by UPA that usually goes nowhere.

Finally, the India-Africa story is more than making profits for India companies and government aid:

Emerging trade relationships present intriguing options (Sapa-AP) for African nations, which are increasingly turning to New Delhi for help with their own internal development goals—Ethiopia for highway project funding, South Africa for hotel investments in the run-up to the 2010 World Cup, and Niger for cheap imports of Indian rice-milling machinery. Monaghan says that invaluable lessons from India’s own path to development get passed along during the course of trade transactions. She notes the active role Indian companies have taken training and educating African workers and the implicit lessons of the importance of entrepreneurship for “driving and generating jobs, generating income, and generating growth.”[India Eyes African Investments - CFR]

This, in the long term, is better for African people and its countries, the world at large, and for India's soft power, than all the billions that the Chinese can throw at the continent.

al-Qaida Back to Full Strength

It's time for US to attack Iran?

It proves, once again, that one has to follow events in the news, and ignore the spin, to know what's in the classified documents of most intelligence agencies around the world. AP reports that al-Qaida is back to pre-September 11 strength training, recruiting, mostly European-based young Muslims from Middle East and, now, India, and monetizing it's activities, with increasing donations and businesses, within a safe haven in western Pakistan.

The threat assessment says that al-Qaida stepped up efforts to "improve its core operational capability" in late 2004 but did not succeed until December of 2006 after the Pakistani government signed a peace agreement with tribal leaders that effectively removed government military presence from the northwest frontier with Afghanistan.

The agreement allows Taliban and al-Qaida operatives to move across the border with impunity and establish and run training centers, the report says, according to the official.

It also says that al-Qaida is particularly interested in building up the numbers in its middle ranks, or operational positions, so there is not as great a lag in attacks when such people are killed. [AP via Yahoo]

So much for the classified report. Now that al-Qaida officially declared jihad against Pakistan, after the Lal Masjid raid, may be Gen. Musharraf will do something about getting his country under control. I doubt it, because no one can control the Pathans of NWFP. Knowing where the terrorists are, may be it's time for the Americans to attack Iran - that other apparent frontier in the WoT.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Self, Media, Inflicted British Bombing

Most of the doctors suspected in the latest British bombing cases - the unexploded Mercedes Benzs in London and the suicide Jeep bomb in Glasgow - seem young. Of those arrested, one was from Jordon, one was from Bangalore (although Australians think they may not have a case on him because he may have been just a roommate of other doctors suspected of masterminding the bombings), and the rest were Iraqis.

Ignoring the classic, but flawed, pet theory the the left-wingers, mainly the media, puts out that most terrorists are young people in poor Muslim countries that don't have a future and that development and democracy will turn these people around, what about these doctors? Surely they are well off than the July 7 2005 or other suicide bombers? Why are these doctors, apparently unconnected to al-Qaeda, planning and executing to blow up innocent people partying at night or traveling for vacation?

I think it has to do with Iraq war - not so much the US and UK attack on Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein to impose democracy by force but the coverage of the war in west, especially by the British press. Since before 2003, the media in Britain (and in Europe) was relentless in not just opposing the war but portraying the war as war against Islam and against Muslims. No credit is given to the removal of a tyrant who was in power for more than two decades, brutalizing his people, killing Kurds, gassing Shiites, and destroying the lives of river people. There is no balance in their coverage of Americans trying to hold the line against al-Qaeda under Abu Musab al-zarqawi, against relentless killing of Iraqis using suicide bombs, and against Iranian supported to Sunni milita killing Shiites and blowing up Shiite holy places.

True, it all began with the knaving war by the US and UK to get rid of Saddam Hussein under the deception of WMDs. And the American civilians leadership under Don Rumsfeld were utterly incompetent. But what about the liberated Iraqis free from Saddam's tyranny? Aren't they free people? Should the media, especially BBC and print, be worried about the their future also while going after the Americans and Tony Blair?

The relentless news and op-ed coverage with gory TV impacts anyone. It is especially powerful because it was played up as being an attack on Islamic nation - Saddam Hussien's Iraq was hardly an religious country, it surely was no Saudi Arabia - and as an attack on Muslims, although Muslims were being oppressed by Saddam for decades. Western media generally has two sets of rules - one set for the west and another set for everyone else. The others oppressed by tyrant are happy people, while any some curbs on western people freedoms is tyrannical.

In any case, while the media will hardly look at itself in the mirror - not the BBC, not the Guardian, or the Independent, they are the ones who arouse passion among Muslims living in Britain. It was teenagers on July 7th 2005 who blow up trains and buses after training in Pakistan's al-Qaeda outpost. Now it's young Iraqi doctors who have, it seems, came to think that Iraqis were better off under Saddam's and his brutal sons, Uday and Qusay, tyranny. The contrast between Iraqis living in US, who, at least, until recently were ardent supporters of Iraq invasion and removal of Saddam's dictatorship couldn't be starker.