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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Not Our War...Not Quite Official

Another Durrani - Mahmud Ali, LoP's Ambassador to US, speaks of milking the Americans, who apparently are frustrated that they aren't seeing much return, in terms of terror fighting, for their $11 billion post-September 11 investment.

"It says, 'We don't trust you,' " said Durrani, the Pakistani ambassador. "We need more night-vision equipment, but every three months you withdraw what we have. This is what happens when bureaucrats dictate policy."

These expensive $6000 night-vision goggles are part aid to LoP army to fight the nonexisting terrorists in NWFP.

Advanced night-vision equipment of the type provided to Pakistan -- which amplifies tiny amounts of infrared light to spot people, equipment and other heat sources -- has been used by American GIs for more than a decade. But when President Pervez Musharraf's government requested them in 2002 and 2003 for use against insurgents fleeing across the border from Afghanistan, U.S. officials initially voiced serious reservations.

Eventually, after the accounting procedures were put in place, Washington provided more than 1,600 to Pakistani forces, according to figures compiled by Alan Kronstadt, a South Asia specialist with the Congressional Research Service. Pakistan was allowed to purchase about 300 from a U.S. contractor, and the rest -- about 1,300 pairs of goggles valued at $6.4 million -- were provided without charge by the Defense and State departments, Kronstadt said. A small number were also provided to Pakistan by U.S. intelligence agencies, said U.S. officials and independent experts.

The Pentagon's monitoring is conducted under a special program -- EUM, or Enhanced End-Use Monitoring -- that allows U.S. officials in Pakistan to check all the serial numbers every three months.[U.S. and Pakistan: A Frayed Alliance - WaPo]

I guess soon we should expect these goggles and other equipment to vanish from the western front and land on the eastern front - where the real enemy lays. Putting one and one together, it's may be only a matter of time before the golden goose is slain.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Not Our War, Time for Deal Making

Former chief of Pak's military intelligence and ISI, Lt. Gen (retd.) Asad Durrani, says why are we dying for the Americans - fighting tribals in NWFP is not our war and it's time to make a deal.

My own assessment is that anyone we do not like in our tribal areas, we call them Taliban. Those opposed to negotiations would come up with [reasons] like Al-Qaeda being present. This is the old habit of refusing to do certain things and the pretext is anything you can find — in this case it is Al-Qaeda. The old English saying, give the dog a bad name before you kill it, that fits in so very well here.

But let me assume there are Al Qaeda elements and we don’t want them. We again will have to come to an arrangement with the locals who may be providing them sanctuary.[...war being fought in the frontiers is not our war - The Hindu]

If there is any way ISI and LoP's army can get al-Qaeda away from NWFP, they'll go back to their old ways of the good old '90s - send back Taliban to take back Afghan for the still needed strategic space and continue with J&K terror (and the thousand cut policy). al-Qaeda spoiled all that with its terror in the west and all the unwanted western attention to LoP. Ultimately, for LoP's elite, that's the only solution - as soon as the American and NATO forces leave Afghanistan. And it's not about cleansing the terror forces from amongst them and creating a democracy. The losers will be Afghan on the west and Bharat on the east.

Now When is He Going to Give It All Away

With the booming stock market, chief of Reliance India Ltd, Mukesh Ambani is the latest richest man on the planet.

New Delhi: Billionaire Mukesh Ambani today became the richest person in the world, surpassing American software czar Bill Gates, Mexican business tycoon Carlos Slim Helu and famous investment guru Warren Buffett, courtesy the bull run in the stock market.
Following a strong share price rally today in his three group companies -- India’s most valued firm Reliance Industries, Reliance Petroleum and Reliance Industrial Infrastructure Ltd -- the net worth of Mukesh Ambani rose to $63.2 billion (Rs 2,49,108 crore).
In comparison, the net worth of both Gates and Slim is estimated to be slightly lower at around $62.29 billion each, with Slim leading among the two by a narrow margin.
Warren Buffett, earlier the third richest in the world, also dropped one position with a net worth of about 56 billion dollars. [PTI - Livemint]

So when will Mukesh give it all away just like Gates and Buffet are?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Defending the Defensible

Christopher Hitchens defends the term Islamofacisim - the term PC world of media does not want use and the self-appointed liberals jump up and down to label the term racist.

...so the question remains: Does Bin Ladenism or Salafism or whatever we agree to call it have anything in common with fascism? I think yes. The most obvious points of comparison would be these: Both movements are based on a cult of murderous violence that exalts death and destruction and despises the life of the mind. ("Death to the intellect! Long live death!" as Gen. Francisco Franco's sidekick Gonzalo Queipo de Llano so pithily phrased it.) Both are hostile to modernity (except when it comes to the pursuit of weapons), and both are bitterly nostalgic for past empires and lost glories. Both are obsessed with real and imagined "humiliations" and thirsty for revenge. Both are chronically infected with the toxin of anti-Jewish paranoia (interestingly, also, with its milder cousin, anti-Freemason paranoia). Both are inclined to leader worship and to the exclusive stress on the power of one great book. Both have a strong commitment to sexual repression—especially to the repression of any sexual "deviance"—and to its counterparts the subordination of the female and contempt for the feminine. Both despise art and literature as symptoms of degeneracy and decadence; both burn books and destroy museums and treasures. [Defending Islamofascism - Slate]

Mishra Expands on His Opposition

It was hard to see why BJP was objecting to 123 Nuclear Agreement with US beyound the slicing and dicing of legal verbiage by Arun Shourie and the notion that it will not get the credit for completing the deal. Brajesh Mishra, NSA during Vajpayee years expands on why he opposes the current deal - but then there is a contradiction.

However, he underlined that his “impression” was that the Government is “less than enthusiastic” about the nuclear weapons programme. He cited the separation plan that puts 14 reactors under safeguards as a step that would limit the supply of fissile material claiming that in 2003, when he was in Washington, “we said that we in India would put a couple of our reactors under safeguards and all those to be built under international surveillance.” [Convince me n-weapons plan safe... - IE]

And he goes on to say, Manmohan's team kept in the loop, or at least consulted him, during negotiations.

If Manmohan's team indeed doesn't care about strategic program, the agreement is a no-go. But Anil Kakodkar, in charge of strategic program as chair of AEC, the original decenter, is on board. And there is every indication that the Americans have left the strategic program alone - i.e. no curtails on future strategic programs such as building additional military reactors or number of bombs, or amount of fissile material generated, at least until FMCT comes in play.

So the question seems to be, is putting 14 reactors under IAEA safeguard too high a price to pay for the agreement that legitimizes India strategic program while freeing up civil nuclear industry to interact with global nuclear industry?

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Decent Interview with a General

Most of Shekhar Gupta's 24x7 interviews are mediocre. Most questions are like he's making unserious bata-kani with his guests over chai. The latest chat with Gen. J.J. Singh, recently Retd. Chief of Army Staff, is a little better although he could have probably gotten more out of the general.

The General is surely a serious man and I am glad he's on our side.

When you write this history, how will you describe yourself? As the first Sikh chief of army staff? Or the chief of the Maratha regiment?

I am an Indian first and an Indian last. After that I'm a Maratha, because I spent 43 years of my life with Maratha troops. And then I'm a Sikh. [It's possible for us to have military history... - IE]

None of that Amartya Sen's muddled multiple identify nonsense.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Another Deal - But This Time Probably Costly and Troublesome

Russia-India cooperation was probably at it's peak when a join team worked on Brahmos supersonic cruise missile. This was just a few years ago. India provided much of the money for R&D, which the crumbing Russian defence contractors couldn't afford, and learned a lot from Russians about designing and manufacturing advanced cruise missiles. The project may even be a money maker with a projected interest for 1000 missiles over the next decade by various countries. And India had spin off benefits with the newly developed air-launched supersonic cruise missile and, probably, Sagarika - potential submarine launched cruise missile, part of the triad.

But now India is going to sign another deal with Russia after vacillating for years with Congress I rejecting or disowning pretty much every defence proposal that BJP started but hadn't paid for before leaving office. This time to develop and manufacture the 5th generation fighter plane PAK-FA that apparently is on par with F 22A Raptor, the most advanced American fighter plane, and JSF 35, a US-British joint plane. India still expects to pay a lot of money for R&D and learn a lot about advance fighter plane design and manufacturing (and unlearn LCA development mistakes). But the Russians are playing another game. They want the money but want to use the existing advanced fighter jet design and get to work making it. I can just see trouble ahead with this whole project.

Here is how both sides are talking past each other:

In January, Russia promised that a prototype of the PAK-FA would take its first flight in early 2009. However, the IAF believes it will take close to a decade before the first fighter would be ready for induction.

Air Chief F H Major confirmed that the IAF has finalised the technical requirements of the desired fifth generation aircraft. “The air staff requirements for the fifth generation fighters have been made. It will take five years for development and it will be 8-10 years before the first fighter takes to the skies,” he said.

While the Sukhoi Design Bureau has already finalised the basic design and features of the aircraft, India is hoping to contribute to the programme and gain some valuable expertise for its DRDO scientists. [India, Russia to ink pact for developing fighters - IE]

In Yelstin's Russia, may be our guys could've pull it off, but in Putin's Russia, I doubt Indian engineers will learn much from this co-development venture. It's highly unlikely we'll get our money's worth from this project.

Another Bombing And Evolution of Thought

The most recent bomb attack was a masjid, this time a sufi mystic resting place. Two killed and 17 injured. The pattern becomes obvious - a small bomb in small Muslim town, Malegaon, in Maharashtra followed by Mumbai train bomb that killed about 200; a small bomb at Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad followed by series of deadly bombs at market places that killed about 40 people. Now it's probably the turn of a market place full of people in Jaipur. Still no communal clashes. But the Islamic terrorits are like virus. They only need to succeed once to make one sick and perhaps destroy the body.

The Hindu's Praveen Swami puts these small followed by large bombings into an anti-tolerant, mainly Sunni, Islamic terror perspective. This probably explains why the impending religious clashes, the terror sponsors hope for, may never come.

Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti is, almost without dispute, the most venerated Sufi saint of South Asia. Born in 1141 C.E., Chishti is believed to have studied at the great seminaries of Samarkand and Bukhara before travelling to India. Ajmer emerged as an important centre of pilgrimage during the sixteenth century, after Emperor Akbar undertook a pilgrimage on foot to the saint’s grave.

Chishti’s order laid stress on seven principles, notably the renunciation of material goods, financial reliance on farming or alms, independence from economic patronage from the established political order, the sharing of wealth, and respect for religious differences.

Chishti’s doctrine on the “highest form of worship” led to the saint often being described as the Garib Nawaz, or emperor of the poor. Several of the most famous Sufi shrines in South Asia – notably that of Fariduddin Ganj-i Shakar at Pakpattan in Pakistan, and that of Nizamuddin Awliya in New Delhi – were born of Chisti’s teachings.

Over the centuries, they have come to command a massive multi-faith following, attracting Muslims, Hindus and Christians alike. For that precise reason, they have long been under attack from religious neoconservatives.

Islamist critics of Sufism have made no secret of their loathing for shrines like that at Ajmer, which they claim propagate the heresy of ‘shirk’ – an Arabic term commonly translated to mean polytheism, but which is also used to refer to the veneration of saints and even atheism.

South Asian terror groups associated with recent attacks on Muslim shrines — notably the Lashkar-e-Taiba — draw theological inspiration from the Salafi sect, a neoconservative tradition also sometimes referred to as Wahabbism. Salafi theologians are intensely hostile to Sufi orders like that founded by Chishti, characterising them as apostasy. [The war against popular Islam - The Hindu]

Friday, October 12, 2007

Gore's Nobel "Peace" Prize With a Twist

As widely expected and predicted, with resignation, Al Gore got the Nobel Peace prize. But the Noble committee, the political animal it is, added a twist. It including U.N. Climate Panel as the recipient also. This is UN's second prize in six years? Apparently UN has become a very effective organization. Granted most of the panel members were climate scientists and policy wonks. It should have been just these guys who got the "peace" prize. But they are just to cover the committee's behind when it made the decision to give the prize to Al Gore.

A British judge seems to agree that Gore's movie was made up and that it can be shown to British children only with a caveat that it's a one-sided view. Gore answer apparently was, "I made up 1000s of issues in the movie but the judge thought only nine issues were conflicting," so the movie is game. I'm kidding about the 1000 issues, of course. Washingtonpost.com's Fact Checker has related post on this issue - the nine serious errors in Gore's movie, and has other links on the post.

May be Al Gore will jump into US presidential race and take the hard left-wingers with him spliting the Democratic party, although Gore himself is not an extreme left-winger, except when it comes to environmental issues. At the moment Hillary Clinton is leading Democratic nomination by a wide margin. With potential split, may be Republicans will retain the presidency despite the Iraqi quagmire.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bjorn Lomborg For Nobel Peace Prize

It's hard for any thinking person to make the connection - how is a Nobel Peace Prize connected to current local or global environmental issues. Yes, I read some of those reports on water wars and apparent other conflicts due to environmental causes. But they are all theoretical. As far as I know, all wars are fought over boundaries and economic loss, i.e. for big business (like, say, East India Company) - not for water or wetlands or dead fish. For argument sake, let's say there is a connection between peace and environment.

The front-running candidate for this year's prize is fairly well know. One reads news reports that Al Gore, former US vice-president, is lobbying hard using his Hollywood, Euro-politicians, and of course, various, so called environmental, NGOs connections to make it happen. He'll probably get it - at least for creating a fake movie and using his bully pulpit to make up stories about the impending gloom and doom due to global warming. After all, the Nobel committee gave Jimmy Carter the prize, in 2002, just to slap Bush around, who was building up to Iraq invasion. Jimmy Carter has been building houses for the poor Christians around the world for over a decade - not much peace making there. The committee is as much a political animal as it can get.

But the man who truly deserves the Nobel Peace Prize (if the connection between peace and environment still stands) is Bjorn Lomborg.

In his new book, Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming, Bjorn, after taking into consideration various, so called, catastrophic scenarios by 2100 due to global warming proposes sane solutions to deal with manageable problems caused by global warming in much more cost effective way.

Environmental groups say that the only way to deal with the effects of global warming is to make drastic cuts in carbon emissions -- a project that will cost the world trillions (the Kyoto Protocol alone would cost $180 billion annually). The research I've done over the last decade, beginning with my first book, "The Skeptical Environmentalist," has convinced me that this approach is unsound; it means spending an awful lot to achieve very little. Instead, we should be thinking creatively and pragmatically about how we could combat the much larger challenges facing our planet...

A one-foot rise in sea level isn't a catastrophe, though it will pose a problem, particularly for small island nations. But let's remember that very little land was lost when sea levels rose last century. It costs relatively little to protect the land from rising tides: We can drain wetlands, build levees and divert waterways. As nations become richer and land becomes a scarcer commodity, this process makes ever more sense: Like our parents and grandparents, our generation will ensure that the water doesn't claim valuable land...

The IPCC tells us two things: If we focus on economic development and ignore global warming, we're likely to see a 13-inch rise in sea levels by 2100. If we focus instead on environmental concerns and, for instance, adopt the hefty cuts in carbon emissions many environmental groups promote, this could reduce the rise by about five inches. But cutting emissions comes at a cost: Everybody would be poorer in 2100. With less money around to protect land from the sea, cutting carbon emissions would mean that more dry land would be lost, especially in vulnerable regions such as Micronesia, Tuvalu, Vietnam, Bangladesh and the Maldives...

As sea levels rise, so will temperatures. It seems logical to expect more heat waves and therefore more deaths. But though this fact gets much less billing, rising temperatures will also reduce the number of cold spells. This is important because research shows that the cold is a much bigger killer than the heat. According to the first complete peer-reviewed survey of climate change's health effects, global warming will actually save lives. It's estimated that by 2050, global warming will cause almost 400,000 more heat-related deaths each year. But at the same time, 1.8 million fewer people will die from cold...

Of course, it's not just humans we care about. Environmentalists point out that magnificent creatures such as polar bears will be decimated by global warming as their icy habitat melts. Kyoto would save just one bear a year. Yet every year, hunters kill 300 to 500 polar bears, according to the World Conservation Union. Outlawing this slaughter would be cheap and easy -- and much more effective than a worldwide pact on carbon emissions...

The typical cost of cutting a ton of CO2is currently about $20. Yet, according to a wealth of scientific literature, the damage from a ton of carbon in the atmosphere is about $2. Spending $20 to do $2 worth of good is not smart policy. It may make you feel good, but it's not going to stop global warming. We need to reduce the cost of cutting emissions from $20 a ton to, say, $2. That would mean that really helping the environment wouldn't just be the preserve of the rich but could be opened up to everyone else -- including China and India, which are expected to be the main emitters of the 21st century but have many more pressing issues to deal with first. [Chill Out - WaPo]

Here is an excellent presentation of his ideas in the book. (It's about an hour.)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Space Race

One of the dramatic moments of early space race and Americans sending men to the moon, to mainly beat the Soviets and to claim superiority over space, was Earthrise on the moon.

Earthrise - from Apollo 8 December 24, 1968

Never in the history of mankind did we realize how precious Earth is. While these pictures started the whole environmental movement of preserving earth for our future it also showed the stupidity of nuclear weapons being piled up by the then cold war adversaries.

In some ways seeing Earthrise may have turned into a longing for Earth rather than venture further into space, until now of course.

Writes Charles Krauthammer, a columnist with WaPo:

With surpassing irony, it created at the very dawn of the space age a longing not for space but for home. [WP]

Friday, October 05, 2007

Urban Capitalists Are Here

Summarizing Pew's 2007 survey on openness of people, mostly urban, to free markets, foreign companies, and free trade, Ajay Shah points out that the urban Bharatiya are becoming more capitalists and are more open to free markets rather than to government intervention in dealing with economic issues.

The report also shows sharp changes over the last five years. On page 16, they show support for foreign companies in India went up from 61% in 2002 to 73% in 2007, a gain of 12 percentage points. On the question People are better off in free markets, support went up from 62% in 2002 to 76% in 2007, a gain of 14 percentage points. Most interesting is page 20, where the fraction that believes that government has too much control has risen from 52% in 2002 to 71% in 2007 - a rise of 19%.

If you looked at the rhetoric of political parties in India, you wouldn't think that this was the way the people think. Of course, this is not quite how voters think. The Pew Institute's sampling in India has a 79% urban weightage. [Ajay Shah's blog]

Also, his analysis on how liberal, in terms of economic policies, each country surveyed is shows that the so-called self-anointed open free market economies, mainly the west, are nothing but and most of the so-called closed third world countries are lot more capitalistic and market oriented. At least that's what the people say. But the politicians and economic policies followed by their elites in each country may be quite different as India's economic policies of the last three years show abundantly.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Space Was Cracked Because of Competition

Fifty year's ago, on this day, space was cracked. The Soviets launched a man-made object, about 58.5 cm in diameter and weighing about 84 kg with battery powered transmitters, into space using their ICBM as the launch vehicle. The Americans were trying to develop a purely science-based launcher without depending on their own ICBM technology. The Soviets beat them at the space game, at least initially.

Sputnik 1 - Traveling Companion

Within a few days, on November 3rd, the Soviets launched Laika, a part-Samoyed mongrel, into space, on Sputnik 2, and was supposed to be in space for 10 days but died in 9 hours because of faulty climate controls.

Utterly beautiful Laika

On December 6th, the Americans tried to launch their science based launcher, Vanguard rocket, with a 6-in 2 kg satellite, but it didn't quite get off the ground. They then sobered up, put a Jupiter C missile together as a launcher to put their first satellite in space, on Januray 31, 1958. Eventually they launched a second satellite, using Vangaurd rocket, that apparently is still in space and is the oldest satellite in space. US hadn't created NASA yet.

Of course, the Americans changed the game completely when JFK announced, early in the 60s, that they will land a man on the moon and get him back safely by the end of the decade.

Most early satellites were for military use to spy on the other cold war adversary. Peter Zimmerman proposes since the Soviets launched the first satellite and the because the American didn't protest the presence of Sputnik over it's space, the military satellites and spying was possible. Had it been the other way round, and the Soviets claimed space over Soviet Union all the way to the stars (what ever that means) off limits to others, space would not be free-for-all as it is today.

Cold war competition between the American and the Soviets brought immense technological capabilities to humankind, just like World War II did - some of it bad but most of it good (at least in a post-Cold war era). Rockets, satellites, and space travel have to be in the top 10 of these technological leaps. Competition, even the Cold War kind, was a good thing. And this competition seems to be revving up again with the Chinese, the Americans, and us wanting to send humans to the moon and beyond.