June 13, 2008
By Tyler Brule
Published: June 13 2008 21:40 | Last updated: June 13 2008 21:40
This might look like a rather straightforward column published by a powerful global media group, but it’s far more than that. Behind this matte salmon paper and the e-mail address below there’s an elaborate research-cum-call centre that dispenses all kinds of advice on issues ranging from travel itineraries to tailoring services in Tokyo to café tips in emerging neighbourhoods around the world.
While I’m not party to how much revenue is generated on this page by Mr Eyres and me, I’m convinced there’s room to at least double the takings by setting up a concierge service. Given the volume of requests landing in my inbox from late Friday night UK time (when Asia wakes up) through till Monday morning, I reckon that a flat £5 fee for my services could boost the fortunes of the owners of this paper. Of all the requests to hit my screen over the years, relocation advice is the topic that most frequently pops up and was one of the reasons I devoted an entire issue of Monocle to the subject of urban liveability last summer.
The Monocle Quality of Life Index:
1. Copenhagen: out in front by virtue of its scale, a good airport, all those bike paths and handsome locals.
2. Munich: almost a winner, but it should have committed to building the Transrapid airport rail link.
3. Tokyo: the world’s best big city by far. Unfortunately, last week’s stabbing spree hasn’t done much for its public safety record.
4. Zurich: more relaxed neighbours would put it in first place.
5. Helsinki: a European capital with a foot firmly in Asia.
6. Vienna: one of Europe’s greenest cities.
7. Stockholm: the city wants to go vertical – a tricky mission.
8. Vancouver: the best of North America in a beautiful frame.
9. Melbourne: the best neighbourhoods in the southern hemisphere.
10. Paris: its visionary mayor has made the old dame internationally relevant again.
+ 21. Hamburg, 22. Singapore, 23. Geneva, 24. Lisbon, 25. Portland.
Finally, these may not tick all the normal boxes but there’s something truly refreshing and more than a little fun about urban living in:
1. Genoa – the next Barcelona?
2. Buenos Aires – it’s all there and then it’s not.
3. Istanbul – all of the ingredients to move into the top 25 next year.
4. Beirut – if chequebook diplomacy Qatar-style put a temporary lid on things, then Beirut deserves more of it for a proper bounce-back.
5. Phnom Penh – regime issues aside, love moves at a perfect pace.
There’s nothing quite like a global city ranking that mixes the scientific (hard data on crime, education and healthcare) with the more subjective (quality of housing, urban scale and the availability of a good cocktail in the wee hours) to make people consider uprooting. In Monocle’s 2007 top 20 cities survey, a healthy combination of an exceptional airport, good urban transport links, low crime, inviting neighbourhoods and a heart of Europe location made Munich number one city.
For 2008, the addition of a new set of metrics, including the ease of opening a small business and the number of cultural venues, went some distance towards reshuffling the deck.
It may not come as any surprise that no African or Latin American cities made this year’s top 20 – though a few did qualify for a special urban handicap, a category created for cities that don’t have all the traditional assets that make for better living (honest policemen, efficient hospitals, functioning schools) but are still rather fetching places to have a sprawling apartment.
What is still something of a shock is how many cities still get it so very, very wrong. London doesn’t make the grade for the simple reason that it has somehow managed to grant planning permission to a most uninspired shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush, an area that is rapidly becoming a part of central London.
Toronto doesn’t qualify because it has allowed its suburbs to become unconnected, ugly sprawls of hideous houses (garages bolted on to the front of houses are far better suited to southern California than to southern Ontario) and has done little of merit to deal with its derelict railway lands. New York continues to grind to a halt under the weight of automobile traffic, has no coherent scheme to get more people on to bicycles and still no sign of a high-speed, non-stop rail link to any of its airports.
What urban dwellers tell me they want is pretty standard: a mix of shops and services within walking distance, a good transport interchange within close proximity, green space as part of their residence, a good park with a body of water for a refreshing plunge nearby, independent businesses as a key feature of the community, a sense of security (police on the beat or a Japanese-style police box in their neighbourhood), excellent coffee (Melbourne’s Fitzroy and St Kilda and Sydney’s Potts Point frequently came up as neighbourhoods that had the ideal mix of restaurants, cafés and street life) and finally a little bit of grit and surprise.
Which brings us to Monocle’s list and its top 20 ranking. This year there are an another five in the mix because there was a constantly nagging question of who almost made the grade. To make the runners-up work that much harder, they’ve been given a place at the lower end of the podium. As a point of diplomacy, it must be noted that everyone who made the ranking is also a winner: there are hundreds of other cities that have zero concept of how to make their citizens happier or even show much interest in trying to learn how.
Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle firstname.lastname@example.org
By Paul Rogers for openDemocracy (13/06/08)
The United States is facing key military and political decisions over a bitter current adversary, Iran, and an adversary-turned-ally, Iraq. Their outcome will have major consequences for the short- and medium-term future both of the Middle East and the US homeland.
The decision over Iran, put crudely, is whether and when to go to war in the attempt to counter and/or disable Iran's nuclear-power developments.
The signs that this prospect is returning to active consideration in the White House have been accumulating for weeks. The fact that the discussions between George W Bush and the beleaguered Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert on 4 June are reported to have focused more on Iran than on Gaza and the Palestinians is only one; Olmert expressed satisfaction that the US administration's firmness towards Tehran, fuelling speculation that plans for a military strike may have been on the table. The hints that Israel itself may be involved in any attack on Iran are spreading (see Dion Nissenbaum, Strikes on Iran's Nuclear Sites Under Discussion Again, McClatchy Newspapers, 11 June 2008).
The momentum is reinforced by President Bush's insistence during his "farewell tour" of Europe from 9-16 June that Iran's uranium-enrichment program (cited as evidence of its intent to acquire nuclear weapons) poses a continued threat that must be addressed. The soon-to-depart president reaffirmed at a press conference in Germany on 11 June that "all options" for dealing with Iran remain on the table.
Alongside this putative military track is a diplomatic one. The return of Iran's nuclear project to the top of the international agenda is reflected in a number of events: criticism of Iran in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA's) board report of 26 May, proposals of a further tranche of financial sanctions from the EU and US, and the imminent visit to Tehran by the EU's foreign-policy chief Javier Solana. So far, diplomatic pressure of this kind has not had a perceptible impact on Iran's policy or rhetoric (whatever the exact nature of its nuclear-energy intentions); and this is itself useful ammunition for those elements in the American administration most determined that the "unfinished business" with Tehran should indeed be wrapped up before the presidential and congressional elections of 4 November 2008.
The strongest supporters of military action against Iran are on the neo-conservative right, both within the administration (principally vice-president Dick Cheney) and in the media (notably the Weekly Standard). They are dismayed at evidence of Iran's increasing influence in the region, and at its extension of diplomatic and trade links to a range of countries; Iran, for example, has applied for membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which includes China and Russia (see Anna Fifield, For oil-rich Iran, friends are not proving hard to find, Financial Times, 27 May 2008).
The prospect of a grinning Mahmoud Ahmadinejad outlasting the administration that for so long excoriated him would be a form of humiliation as well as confirmation of deep policy failure. What makes it even more exasperating is the ever-stronger view that the Iraq war is winnable. The neocons, and more generally hardliners inside and outside the administration (such as former United Nations ambassador John Bolton), would regard victory in Iraq as hollow if the regime in Iran - which they have always seen as the real threat to the US' regional interests - survives and thrives.
The head of the Inter-Press Service's Washington bureau, Jim Lobe - one of the more astute White House-watchers - focuses especially on Dick Cheney's obsessive desire to avoid leaving a pivot of the "axis of evil" unscathed and defiant as the Bush administration's eight years in office near their end. Lobe has over the past two years expressed skepticism when talk of a war with Iran has arisen, but this time confesses to genuine concern (see Jim Lobe, Hawks still circling on Iran, Asia Times, 9 June 2008).
The reasons for taking seriously the indications that armed confrontation with Iran is an active possibility include the continuing power and influence of Cheney himself within the White House.
A further factor is the retirement of the commander of the US' Central Command (Centcom), Admiral William Fallon, who left his post on after his clear reservations over the war option were aired in a magazine profile (see The Man Between War and Peace, Esquire, 11 March 2008). Fallon's replacement, General David H Petraeus - who wins this promotion after overseeing the "surge" strategy in Iraq - has closer ties with, and is regarded as a more dependable figure by, the current administration.
The choice of a strike against Iran in the last months of George W Bush's period in office would be momentous from a military point of view, but it would also have wider and longer-lasting political implications in the region and in the US itself.
The neocon calculation is that America's overwhelming air-power superiority would at least inflict serious damage on Iran's economy; in addition it would bind its successor administration - whether led by John McCain or Barack Obama - into a conflict whose agenda and dynamics the architects of the "long war" would continue to shape.
A crucial and as yet unknown aspect of a decision to attack Iran would be its effect on the US' position within Iraq. Washington is seeking, amid Iraq's still very uncertain security environment, to establish a long-term military and political presence in the country; to that end it opened negotiations with Nouri al-Maliki's government in Baghdad on 8 March over a long-term security agreement that will both extend and legitimize its control.
The agreement is required because the United Nations-mandated operation which provides the legal foundation for US forces to operate in Iraq ends in December 2008. It would be possible in principle for Washington to seek a one-year extension through the UN Security Council, which would allow the negotiations to be undertaken by the next administration; but the dominant view inside the White House is that the political timetable makes an early decision essential (see Kyle Crichton, Iraq Closeup: Who Decides When U.S. Troops Leave?, New York Times, 11 June 2008).
What is being demanded is a relationship that would allow US military forces quite remarkable freedom of action, possibly for as long as ninety-nine years (see Patrick Cockburn, Revealed: Secret plan to keep Iraq under US control, Independent, 5 June 2008). They would maintain a major contingent at sites such as the massive Balad air-base north of Baghdad, and fifty-eight other sites would be earmarked for US use.
Thus, a very long-term and substantial presence is being envisaged. Since the original occupation began in March 2003, the Bush administration has consistently claimed that there were no plans for permanent bases (notwithstanding a notable leak to this effect in the New York Times within three weeks of the termination of the Saddam Hussein regime). That reported a plan for four major military bases: two of them close to the northern and southern oilfields, one near Baghdad and another towards the Syrian border, in the potentially oil-rich region of the western desert. Even now, the Bush administration may eschew the term "permanent," but with a decades-long occupation in prospect that is a matter of semantics.
The American personnel operating under the planned agreement would have the right to carry out military operations without Iraqi government approval (including the arrest of Iraqis), yet they would be immune from prosecution by the Iraqi authorities. This is particularly controversial within Iraq because those covered by the agreement would include some tens of thousands of private-security contractors - including staff of the Blackwater company, employees of which were involved in the killing of seventeen Iraqis in 2007, an incident that has not prevented Blackwater from having its contract with the Pentagon renewed (Benjamin Morgan, Immunity for private guards in Iraq a sticking point: US, AFP, 10 June 2008).
The US would also maintain control of Iraqi airspace, including air-to-air refueling rights. This means that the US air force might even be able to undertake military attacks outside Iraq - such as action against Iran.
Washington maintains "status-of-forces" agreements with more than 80 countries around the world (its close ally Britain among them); but, just as the US embassy in Baghdad is the biggest such building in the world, so the agreement planned with Iraq is the most comprehensive of its kind.
The reaction within Iraq is variable, though anger at perceived American "colonialism" has been growing as news of the ingredients of the deal has spread, forcing a more emollient tone from Washington (see Leonard Doyle, Bush forced to rethink plan to keep Iraqi bases, Independent, 12 June 2008).
Kurdish politicians have been reasonably supportive; some significant figures among the minority Sunni community are willing to accept aspects of the plan because of their fear of the Shi'a majority; among the Shi'a themselves there is widespread opposition. Meanwhile, the Iranian government sees a permanent US presence in its neighbor (and historical rival) unacceptable.
The George W Bush administration views Iranian hostility as proof of the value of the agreement, but the considerable domestic Iraqi criticism presents it with a major problem (Amit R Paley & Karen De Young, Iraqis Condemn American Demands, Washington Post, 11 June 2008).
There are indications that as Iraqi opposition to the agreement grows, it may precipitate a political crisis in Baghdad. But in face of this, the US retains two major advantages. The first is that the current Iraqi government is heavily dependent on the security provided by the US forces. The Iraq police and military forces may slowly be increasing their capabilities, but they are far from being able to protect the government; Nouri al-Maliki's administration knows this only too well, whatever the political bluster now coming out of Baghdad.
The second US advantage is more subtle. It draws on the rigorous sanctions imposed in the 1990s on the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, and associated policy arrangements. At that time, Iraq was designated a threat to international order under Chapter 7 of the UN charter - a technicality which has not been revoked.
One result is that around US$50 billion of Iraqi money is held (under the terms of the UN mandate) by the Federal Reserve bank in New York, pending multiple legal cases against Iraq in US courts (see Patrick Cockburn, US issues threat to Iraq's $50 billion foreign reserves in military deal, Independent, 6 June 2008).
These reserves - increasing markedly in value in line with the steep rise in world oil prices - are not directly available for court settlements, but neither are they under the control of or useable by the Iraqis themselves. The funds may be technically independent of the US treasury, but in fact the US has the power to prevent any initiative to restore them to effective Iraqi ownership.
This became clear in 2007 when (according to Iraqi sources) the Iraqi authorities made an attempt to diversify some of the holdings in the reserve out of dollars because of the depreciation of that currency; this was blocked by the US treasurer as it would damage international confidence in the dollar.
The US' military, political and financial influence over Iraq is thus already very great; the George W Bush administration believes that it would expand even further if the UN mandate comes to an end. It is using this financial dimension - essentially of "possession being nine-tenths of the law" - to pressure the Iraqis into acceptance of the agreement now under negotiation.
The intention is to conclude the status-of-forces deal by the end of July 2008. This is a tight schedule for the US, and there are serious obstacles to be overcome; but Washington is determined - even at the cost of some compromise - to secure a comprehensive agreement. Much will be made of any concessions to the Iraqis, but this will not change the reality that the Bush administration seeks to ensure a large, all-embracing and long-term dominance of the Iraqi security environment.
The calculation is plain: with all that oil in Iraq and its immediate vicinity, it would be nonsense - whatever the Democratic contender, Barack Obama, might promise - to walk away. A number of columns in this series have argued that that was never the intention of those who scripted the Iraq war. Nothing has changed there. But an attack on Iran would write a perilous new chapter.
Paul Rogers is professor of peace studies at Bradford University, northern England.
This article originally appeared on openDemocracy.net under a Creative Commons licence. To view the original article, please click here.
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti economic commentator) - In 2001, the world's airlines sustained a record aggregate loss of $13 billion as a result of a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. After such a shock, many people sharply cut down on their air travel.
But this year, the record may be beaten for a strictly economic reason. Prices on jet fuel are skyrocketing as fast as oil. Austrian Airlines, the Austrian national carrier, was the last to report problems on June 10. It expects to lose up to 90 million Euros by the end of this year, although in the past year it made a profit of 3.3 million Euros.
Something is definitely wrong with oil prices. At the end of the first week of June, they jumped by $16 to reach $139 per barrel in less than 36 hours. The balance of supply and demand has vanished altogether. Although now the price has stabilized at $135 per barrel, many experts predict that it will rise to $150 per barrel in the near future. The International Energy Agency (IEA) bluntly admitted that it is registering more and more signs of falling consumer demand, especially in the aviation industry.
Airlines all over the world have become the last victims of soaring oil prices because of the permanently growing demand for oil of industrial consumers in China and India. At its annual conference in early June, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimated a potential aggregate loss of airlines by the end of this year at $6.1 billion, which is the biggest one since 2003. But this estimate is based on the price of $135 for a barrel of oil. Every increase in the price by one dollar is raising the aggregate loss by $1.6 billion. Eventually the record loss of 2001 may be beaten by the end of this year.
In the IATA's estimate, since the start of this year, higher aviation fuel prices have forced 24 airlines to discontinue flights or file for bankruptcy to protect themselves against creditors. Ironically, in the last year, the world's airlines started overcoming the crisis into which they were plunged by 9/11. For the first time in eight years, they received an aggregate profit of $5.6 billion. They worked very hard to achieve this. In the last six years, they improved the energy effectiveness of flights by 19%, and reduced non-fuel costs by 18%. But these achievements were reduced to naught by the accelerating growth of oil prices. Since 2006, they went up three-fold, and doubled again in the last 12 months.
Most airlines do not have any additional resources to deal with the financial crisis. They can only react by increasing ticket prices. Fewer people can afford to buy expensive tickets; airlines have to reduce the number of flights, which further aggravates their financial status.
Airlines in Europe, America, Asia and the Pacific are sounding alarm. The world's biggest airline in the passenger traffic, the French-Dutch Air France-KLM warned in late May that its profit from its profile operation may decrease by one third because of soaring oil prices. One of the leading American companies, American Airlines, announced practically at the same time, that in order to cope with growing fuel costs, it will stop using old aircraft, cut thousands of jobs, and reduce the number of flights, which will lower its passenger traffic.
British Airways, which received a record profit last year, is also going to put part of its aircraft fleet out of operation. It warned that current oil prices would reduce to zero its profits from flights. The South Korean Korea Air and the Australian Qantas have also cancelled a number of flights. Free services are being gradually cut down by all airlines.
But it is clear that these measures will not be enough to redress the situation. IATA calls the current crisis extraordinary, and predicts that it can entirely change the configuration in the world market of air transportation. IATA implies by that further global consolidation, to achieve which airlines should largely give up obsolete national regulation.
Russian airlines have also been affected by global trends. Oil prices in Russia are much lower than global ones, and last year jet fuel cost much less here than in the rest of the world. But the oil processing market in Russia is highly monopolized, and having sensed mega profits, Russian oil companies sharply raised prices on jet fuel. Since the start of this year, prices have gone up by 70%, and doubled since last September, having matched the global ones.
Russian oil companies prefer to play themselves on such a tempting market. Most Russian airports are served by one monopoly fuel supplier. It belongs either to a vertically integrated oil company or the airport itself. Since the end of the last year, fuel suppliers have been raising fuel prices for airlines almost every month, saying that they have to pay more to oil refineries. After the last increase in early June (by 10%-13%), the price of jet fuel in Russian airports reached 36,000- 37,000 rubles (about 1,000 Euros) per ton. This should increase the price of tickets for domestic flights by an average of 10%. But even now more than 90% of the population cannot afford to fly. Permanently growing ticket prices will make flights even less accessible to the public.
In early spring, analysts were quite optimistic about the prospects of domestic airlines. They were hoping that continued growth of population incomes would raise the scale of passenger traffic. But they proceeded from the last year's figures, when the increment in passenger traffic registered a record (since 1991) 18%. But last year, prices on jet fuel were half as low.
A scenario took a negative turn. Like in the rest of the world, skyrocketing prices on jet fuel and tickets are bound to lower the demand for passenger flights in Russia.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
June 12, 2008
China has more hydroelectric dams than any other nation, and the presence of so many near the epicenter in Sichuan province could prove a huge risk in the aftermath of last month's earthquake.
Sichuan's position in the most easterly mountainous part of China, where the rivers cascade from high elevations, is understandably a tempting location for genrating hydropower. Yet nowhere on Earth has more dams in an area of such high seismic risk, and it will make the government decidedly more cautious when selecting sites for further hydroelectric projects -- and nuclear power stations.
The earthquake triggered extensive landslides that blocked river valleys; monsoon rains are also swelling river flow in the region, putting unprecedented pressure on the dams. Failure of one dam increases the probability of failure for the others. In 1975, a dam burst during a monsoon in Henan province, causing a tidal wave that destroyed a larger dam downstream. The floods killed between 80,000 and 200,000 people. The hazard is somewhat lessened for the cities on the Chengdu Plain to the south-east, because the water can spread laterally across the flat plain, but flood peaks of over ten metres are still possible in the event of a rapid and catastrophic dam failure.
Efforts by the authorities to dig diversion channels to avert catastrophic failure have been impressive, and represent the best possible strategy to deal with this hazard. The dams survived this time, but the country's extensive network of dams may be vulnerable in future. The New Scientist writes that Beijing has plans to quadruple Sichuan's hydroelectric power exports to the rest of China by 2020.
Yet it points out that if major structural damage is discovered at any of the existing dams, the quake could put those plans in jeopardy. The quake will also raise questions about the wisdom of plans announced this year to build nuclear power stations in Sichuan, already home to secret labs at Mianyang, dubbed China's Los Alamos
Air Strike in Pakistan ‘Legitimate, Self-Defense,’ Pentagon Official Says
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 11, 2008 – Defense Department officials called a U.S. air strike yesterday in Pakistan near the Afghanistan border “legitimate” and “self-defense,” and said they are investigating the attack with Pakistani officials.
“Every indication we have at this point is that the actions that were taken by U.S. forces were legitimate, in that they were in self-defense after U.S. forces operating on the border of Pakistan in Afghanistan territory came under attack from hostile forces,” Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said in a news conference today.
“In self-defense, they called in an air strike, which took out those forces that were attacking them,” he added.
News articles today quoted Pakistani officials as saying the U.S. air strike killed 11 members of Pakistan’s military. However, Morrell did not confirm that members of Pakistan’s military died in the air strike.
“This is a complex attack involving an air strike and artillery and a number of forces in an area of the world and along a border that has traditionally been a problem and is often the cause of some confusion as to who the forces are that are involved,” he said.
Based upon initial reports of the attack, the State Department expressed regret over any Pakistani military killed in the attack.
“This is a regrettable incident. We're sad to see the loss of life among the Pakistani military, who are partners in fighting terror,” Gonzalo Gallegos, deputy State Department spokesman, said in a news conference today. “This is a reminder that better cross-border communications between forces is vital.”
Morrell said U.S. and Pakistani officials are investigating the incident. “We are aware of some of the concerns that have been expressed by the Pakistani army and other elements of the Pakistan government,” he said. “And I can tell you that we are working with the Pakistani government to try to get to the bottom of this incident so that they have a better understanding of it, [and] so that we have a better understanding of it.”
U.S. military officials said three coalition aircraft launched the counter strike into Pakistan, where enemy fighters fled after attacking coalition ground forces in Afghanistan’s Konar province.
“We were running company- and battalion-sized operations in that general area when our guys came under contact from enemy forces on the Afghan side of the border, and in self-defense, we responded,” a senior military official in Afghanistan, speaking on background, said today.
“There’s a lot of infiltration that goes across the border either side,” the senior official added. “So we run operations on our side of the border in combination with the Pakistanis on the other side.”
MOSCOW, June 10 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Defense Ministry is planning to expand the presence of the Russian Navy in the world's oceans and extend the operational radius of submarines deployed with the Northern Fleet, a high-ranking military official said on Tuesday.
"The summer training program [running from June 1 to December 1] envisions the increased presence of the Russian Navy, not only in the Atlantic, but also in the Arctic and the Pacific," said Lt. Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, who heads the Defense Ministry's combat training directorate.
"We are also planning to increase the operational radius of the Northern Fleet's submarines," he said, adding that the General Staff would determine the new composition and size of the Armed Forces by the beginning of July.
The general said that Russia may shift the focus of its military strategy toward the northern latitudes in order to protect its national interests in the Arctic, especially on its continental shelf, which may contain large deposits of oil and natural gas.
"We have a number of highly-professional military units in the Leningrad, Siberian and Far Eastern military districts, which are specifically trained for combat in Arctic regions," Shamanov said.
Under the Law of the Sea, coastal states hold sovereignty over a zone of 200 nautical mile (370 km) limit, but this area can be extended if it is a part of the country's continental shelf or shallower waters. Some Arctic shelves extend for hundreds of miles, creating a possibility of overlapping territorial claims.
Last August, as part of a scientific expedition, two Russian mini-subs made a symbolic eight-hour dive beneath the North Pole to bolster the country's claim that the Arctic's Lomonosov Ridge lies in the country's economic zone. A titanium Russian flag was also planted on the seabed. Russia first claimed the territory in 2001, but the UN demanded more evidence.
The expedition irritated a number of Western countries, particularly Canada.
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik) - The ongoing hijacking of ships off the Somalia coast long ago became a routine part of maritime life in the Arabian Sea. One of the most recent incidents was the seizure of the tanker Amiya Scan, which is owned by Dutch company Reider Shipping.
Pirates are still holding the crew consisting of four Russian officers (including the captain) and five Filipino sailors hostage. But the Amiya Scan incident could also prove to be a turning point. One of the major consequences of the hijacking incident was a UN Security Council resolution urging countries to pool their efforts in the struggle against piracy, and allowing foreign warships to enter Somalia's territorial waters in order to combat piracy.
Piracy is as old as seafaring and even ancient states suffered from this evil. Julius Caesar was probably one its most famous victims. Captured in the Aegean Sea in 75 BC, he was released for the princely ransom of 50 talents (the pirates had only asked for twenty, but Caesar insisted he was worth more), and promised his captors to come back and execute them, which he promptly did.
Piracy has accompanied the human race through its entire history. Its intensity has differed at different times, but it has never disappeared completely. Probably the most has been written about piracy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but we are interested in today's situation - in the causes of piracy, and ways of combating it.
It is important to establish the causes of piracy if we are to eliminate it. The number one reason is poverty. Many residents of coastal countries do not have a legal income. The main pirate-ridden regions - West Africa, Somalia, and South-East Asia - do not have high living standards, and in Somalia poverty is aggravated by a seemingly endless civil war and economic collapse. This is why residents of these areas become pirates.
But the different conditions in these regions affect the kind of piracy pursued there. In South-East Asia, for instance, pirates are usually after a precious cargo that they can sell at a profit. In war-torn Somalia, selling anything is too risky, and pirates prefer to take hostages and receive cash for their release there and then.
This second, hostage-taking form of piracy is also fuelled by an accepted ideology of non-resistance amongst the victims. This ideology considers human life an absolute value, and makes friends and relatives of hostages more willing to pay a ransom than risk their lives in a rescue operation.
A third reason is that the world's leading nations do not have a common strategy and tactics to deal with the scourge, which would prevent piracy in key regions. As a result, the pirates almost always go unpunished.
To lift Somalia out of its war and consequent poverty would take many years of work, enormous spending and almost definite loss of life in the peacemaking. Even then there would be no guarantee of success.
The second reason can be eliminated if negotiations with the pirates (who should be equated with terrorists) are held only to gain time and prepare a rescue operation. Deterrent measures deserve special mention. The prospect of landing in a European prison and an opportunity to ask for an asylum upon release is not likely to scare any pirate. Compared to this punishment, hanging from the yardarm or walking the plank, which were once wide spread in European navies, seem much more effective. But, once again, we should not forget that tougher punishment of pirates is not an option because it contradicts the principles of humanism preached by the leading Western countries.
The most realistic way of combating piracy is cooperation between militarily strong countries in protecting navigation in problem areas. A united squadron of ships set up on the basis of a broad coalition (NATO countries, Russia, and the Gulf states) could effectively counter piracy off Somalia, or in any other trouble spot.
Legal measures are also important. The UN Security Council's mandate for the invasion of Somalia's territorial waters, use of arms against the pirates, and allocation of the required forces and equipment (reconnaissance aviation, deck helicopters, radars, and Marines and Special Forces trained in boarding and releasing hostages) will eventually make piracy too dangerous an occupation.
It would be enough to set up a squadron of five to six warships and one light helicopter carrier as a flagship. Warships from different navies could rotate patrol duty with shifts lasting for several months. In the most dangerous areas, merchant vessels could be escorted by ships, helicopters, or armed motor-boats.
Importantly, patrols will be effective only if struggle against piracy overrides the inviolability of territorial waters. Otherwise, the pirates will always be able to escape punishment.
It goes without saying that piracy will not be eliminated even if an operation off Somalia's coast is successful. The oceans are huge and "gentlemen of fortune" will always find a place for their activities.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
Special to Russia Profile
A Rags-to-Riches Surprise for Russia’s Power Engineering Industry
The flood of investment in expanding Russia’s power generation capacity has taken most people by surprise – including the power engineering companies who will be involved in achieving it.
"No one anticipated the success of the UES spin offs in raising investment funds," said Alfa Bank’s Alexander Kornilov, "and so the power generation machinery sector was caught unprepared for the huge surge in demand."
St. Petersburg-based Power Machines, a conglomerate of several large power engineering plants which took shape in 2004, possesses 60 percent of the Russian market, so it is taking a lion's share of the capex. But according to Kornilov, Power Machines is facing a "severe shortage of qualified personnel and manpower."
It was only in 2007, as the sell-off of the state’s stakes in power generation companies begun, that the scale of the forthcoming investment boom became clear. In February of 2007, Power Machines announced that its sales revenue could jump to $1.5 billion in 2010 from $680 million in 2006, as the result of a one billion-dollar investment in 2010.
This abrupt change in fortune turned the loss-making Power Machines into a hot property with strategic importance. Both electricity utility RAO UES and financial-industrial group Interros announced that they would sell their stakes to a strategic investor, promptly unleashing a bidding war between metal oligarchs Oleg Deripaska and Alexei Mordashov, which resulted in the latter consolidating a 55 percent stake in the company for close to one billion dollars.
With a strategic investor in the driver’s seat, new management, and an additional share issue having raised $275 million, Power Machines’ plans to more than double the generation capacity of the machinery produced looked more realistic.
But it was still striving to catch up, with new demand exceeding current output fivefold. Moreover, construction of new generation capacity is on an extremely tight schedule: mandatory investment programs stipulate 280 turbines to be built by 2011.
This bottleneck does not just relate to turbine producers. A whole range of further engineering services, construction materials, and construction work industries are coming up short and it’s not just due to a lack of capacity. Russian produced-technology still lags far behind its Western counterparts.
Luckily for Power Machines, but unfortunately for Russia’s electricity generators, foreign giants such as Siemens and Alstom are also operating at full capacity. "The world's largest producers of generating equipment, such as General Electric, Alstom, Siemens and Mitsubishi, are just as overloaded as Russian Power Machines, leaving no room for an increase in their production," said Kornilov.
The Freedonia market report predicts global electric transmission and distribution equipment demand to rise by 4.4 percent annually through 2011, and the International Energy Agency forecasts at least around 140 billion euro per year to be invested in power generation until 2030.
As a result, Russian power generators have to line up to place orders. Mosenergo reportedly paid a $54 million booking fee for a $500 million equipment order from a foreign producer, according to the Russia Today television channel.
The surprise guests at the feast have thus been no-name Chinese producers. OGK-2 invited Harbin Power Equipment to be an equipment supplier for the Troitsk HPP, and at the end of April, it announced that it was inviting a project developer from China to take part in the construction of new generating units at the plant.
These steps awakened alarmist fears of a myriad of cheap Chinese power station components and companies flooding the market. However, according to Alfa's Kornilov, Chinese manufacturers still lack the quality to make real inroads.
How to kick-start engineering
The upshot is that Anatoly Chubais, the godfather of the 1990’s economic reform, the scourge of industrialists and the idol of free-marketeers, has succeeded where the government’s interventionist silovik faction has little to show: by kick-starting a revival of the ailing machine-building sector. Much of the Kremlin’s economic policy during Putin’s second term was focused on reorganizing the machine-building sector – including “deprivatizing” where necessary.
The culmination of this policy was the establishment of the Russian Technologies state corporation in December of 2007, dedicated to supporting and developing machine-building, and exercising direct control over more than 300 companies, headed by Putin’s old friend Sergei Chemezov.
Chemezov argues – with some justification - that turning the sprawling machine--building sector around is the key to achieving economic diversification. “In any country, and especially in ours, machine-building is the key sector of industry," Chemezov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta in an interview on May 28th.
And this is what Chubais has achieved with the rags-to-riches tale of power equipment producers – without a ruble of state support and without infringing on property rights or creating opaque structures as the siloviki are prone to do.
On the same day that headlines boasted the maiden flight of Russia's new regional jet, the Sukhoi Superjet 110, a product of the state-owned holding United Aircraft-building Corporation, Chubais opened the first Russian-produced, combined-cycle power unit in Komsomolsk, the work of private companies and private investment, claiming “a breakthrough for the country's heavy-machinery sector.”
One company had dual cause to celebrate: Yaroslav-based turbine producer NPO Saturn built the engines for the Superjet, and also the turbines for the Komsomolsk power plant. The case of NPO Saturn also illustrates the very different approaches between the “industrialists” Chubais and Chemezov.
In his speech opening the power plant, Chubais congratulated Russia's power engineering managers, but warned them that they had to stay internationally competitive to keep winning tenders. “I'm for Siemens as well, and I'm for General Electric. If you fail to produce the ten new units, I'll strangle you with my own hands," he warned them playfully, as quoted by the Interfax news agency.
On the other hand, Chemezov’s threats toward NPO Saturn are far less playful: Russian Technologies holds a 37 percent stake in the company, and is pushing for the company to be merged into a state-controlled conglomerate, effectively renationalizing it. The company’s director, Yury Lastochkin, bitterly resists it.
Deputy Industry Minister Denis Manturov, a Chemezov ally, has publicly called Lastochkin’s position “destructive,” adding in a Kommersant interview: “I advise Lastochkin to read what is set down black on white in the presidential decree about who is to do what and when,” and stating that Russian Technologies would ultimately require full control over Saturn.
Lastochkin responded in the Vedomosti daily that “to hand over the assets that we have been developing and structuring for over ten years to complete nobodies would be beyond a laughing matter.” Asked if he feared pressure from the law-enforcement agencies forcing a management sell-out, he said he hoped the state was clever enough to realize that any such “games and experiments” would have a disastrous effect on such a finely-tuned, technological enterprise.
Which of these two battling paradigms--Chubais versus Chemezov, the unbundling of RAO UES versus the snowballing of Russian Technologies, competition and private investment versus state control--wins over, is one of the first things that the new President Dmitry Medvedev will have to decide.
Source: OXFORD ANALYTICA
After a relatively successful experience with congestion charging in London, the UK government has announced funding for a scheme in Manchester.
The city's congestion charge will differ from London's model:
Two rings will be created around the city, one at the outer motorway ring road, and one at the inner ring road. Vehicles will have tags attached to their windscreens, which will be scanned electronically as they cross each ring. In contrast, London has a single central congestion charge area.
Drivers in Manchester will pay to enter each ring only at peak traffic times; in London, vehicles pay to enter the congestion charging area between 7am and 6pm on weekdays.
Pros and cons
Manchester's prospective congestion charge, along with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's abortive attempt to pass a similar scheme though the New York State Assembly, highlight some of the benefits and pitfalls of congestion charging:
Reduced traffic flows: There is evidence that congestion charging reduces traffic flows in congested city centres. In London, Transport for London data suggests that car journeys in the congestion-charging zone have fallen by one-quarter. This has meant that, particularly in the aftermath of the introduction, the city's residents widely approved of the measure despite costs to motorists.
Health benefits? Reduced traffic congestion in city centres improves citizens' quality of life, and has health benefits. Studies on London suggest that nearly 2,000 years of life have been saved since the congestion charge was introduced, with residents suffering from existing heart or lung problems particularly benefiting.
Increased revenue: Congestion charging can generate revenue for investment in public transport. For example, announcement of Manchester's scheme comes with £3 billion ($5.9 billion) of investment in public transport, including new tram and urban rail lines and more buses. Some £1.8 billion of this total will come from funds the city will borrow, which will be repaid from congestion charge profits over 30 years.
On the other hand, moves to introduce congestion charges face a number of difficulties:
Cost of living increase? Residents of cities are unlikely to support moves that will increase their costs of living. While the London scheme initially received broad support because it was seen to work, moves to extend the congestion charge zone and charge high polluting vehicles more have been extremely unpopular. Promises to roll back some of these initiatives were a major factor in Conservative party candidate Boris Johnson's recent election as the city's mayor.
No public support? In Manchester, a recent opinion poll showed that 64% of the city's inhabitants opposed a congestion charge. Lack of public support acts as a significant disincentive to local politicians, as Bloomberg discovered to his cost in New York. Moves to introduce schemes in the UK's Midlands region were abandoned at early stages because of lack of public and political support.
Worth the wait? Congestion charging schemes are expensive to set up, which means that their benefits in terms of revenue generation, and thus investment in public transport, can take a long time to percolate. Critics of Manchester's initiative argue that substantial revenues will have to be paid to private companies operating the scheme.
Increasing need, and political pressure, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in major cities means that congestion charging is likely to become increasingly widespread globally. This means that while ambitious international targets -– be they at EU, UN or other levels -– will remain controversial, initiatives to reduce emissions at the local level may end up having a similar net effect.
However, moves to increase taxes will always be controversial. This means that initiatives to reduce pollution in city centres, which do not involve higher taxes, may well also become increasingly common. Some German cities already have banned high polluting vehicles from entering city centres at certain times. Projects in cities in large developing countries, such as Mexico City, to restrict car use on given days according to number plate, will also enjoy some success.
This week's third place goes to new Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who is imposing his vision of a Russia governed by the 'rule of law'. This week, the Interior Ministry announced that it would drop all charges against Manana Aslamazyan, the head of a prominent US-funded non-governmental organisation. The development is the latest in a series of moves that indicate Medvedev's intention to follow through on his election pledge to liberalise somewhat restrictions on media and civil society in Russia.
Second place goes to former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, who has used continuing discontent in the agriculture sector to return to the forefront of Argentine politics. Kirchner has been rallying the Peronist ranks in opposition to the protest leaders. Yet as he returns to the limelight, his wife Christina finds it increasingly difficult to exert her authority. The tarnishing of the Kirchner brand makes Nestor's ultimate goal -- a return to office in 2011 -- increasingly unlikely.
Despite performing two major policy U-turns in the space of just seven days, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez wins this week's Masterstroke Award. Seen in Washington as a high-profile supporter of Colombia's FARC rebels, Chavez's call for a cessation of hostilities surprised the White House. This was followed by a volte-face over his government's proposals for a shake-up of the national intelligence services. While the climb-downs show that Chavez lacks conviction, the Venezuelan president has kept his finger on his country's political pulse.
International Terrorism Monitor--Paper No. 400
By B. Raman
Twenty-seven persons----13 of them members of Pakistan's Frontier Corps, including a Major--- are reported to have been killed in an air strike by US Air Force planes on a check post of the FC located near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in the Gora Parao area in the Mohmand agency of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan on the night of June 10, 2008.
2. While a Pakistani army spokesman has condemned the US attack as cowardly and unprovoked, Pentagon spokesmen in Washington DC, while not denying the attack, have justified it as a legitimate act of self-defence.
3. The check post attacked by US planes was manned by the Mohmand Rifles, a unit of the FC, which consists mainly of local recruits. The Mohmand Agency is one of the preferred infiltration routes of the Neo Taliban of Afghanistan headed by Mulla Mohammad Omar and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) headed by Baitullah Mehsud of South Waziristan. In recent months, tribesmen from Mohmand Agency had also repeatedly attacked trucks transporting logistic supplies for the NATO forces in Afghanistan from the Karachi port.
4. Pakistani media accounts as well as reports from independent police sources indicate that the incident was provoked by a joint attack launched by the Neo Taliban and the TTP on a recently-opened post of the Afghan National Army (ANA) in Afghan territory just across the Gora Parao check post of the FC. When the ANA soldiers were outnumbered and outmanoeuvred by the Taliban attacks from the Pakistani territory, they sought the assistance of US troops. When the ANA and the US troops faced difficulty in countering the Taliban forces, who were supported by cover fire from Pakistani territory, they asked for air support. US planes then bombed the area in the vicinity of the FC check post. The air attack killed a number of Taliban cadres, but at the same time, it also destroyed the FC check post.
5. The incident once again underlined the difficulty faced by the ANA and the US troops in countering Taliban intrusions from Pakistani territory. These intrusions often take place through areas manned by the FC. The FC consists almost completely of tribals recruited locally, though some officers do come on deputation from non-tribal areas too.
6. While senior officers of the Pentagon and the State Department refrain from criticising the FC of complicity with the Neo Taliban and the TTP, US and Afghan soldiers in Afghanistan do not make any secret of their conviction that there is considerable sympathy for the Taliban among the tribal members of the FC and that they often facilitate infiltrations by the Taliban into Afghan territory. A recent report of the Rand Corporation of the US, which highlights the collusion of many serving and retired Pakistani personnel---from the Army as well as the FC--- with the Taliban largely reflects this conviction of the Afghanistan-based US troops. The US soldiers and their officers in Afghanistan consider retaliatory attacks on FC personnel and check posts aiding the Taliban as a legitimate exercise of their right of self-defence for which they require no clearance from Washington DC.
7. The fact that the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) of the Swat Valley of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the TTP have been demanding that any peace agreement with the Government should provide for the withdrawal of the Pakistani Army troops from the tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan and their replacement by FC personnel reflects their confidence that the FC personnel will be more friendly to the Taliban.
8. The US faces a dilemma in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region. The FC's tribal recruits, with their considerable local knowledge, can be an asset in the operatins against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, provided they co-operate sincerely. At the same time, their sympathy for fellow-tribals serving in the Taliban comes in the way of such sincere co-operation and reduces their reliability. It has not so far found a way out of this dilemma. Its plans for a modernisation of the FC are unlikely to produce results so long as this sympathy for the Taliban among the recruits to the FC persists.
9. One way out of this dilemma could be by using the FC units for internal security duties in other parts of Pakistan and using regular Pakistan army units consisting of non-tribal soldiers for counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency duties in the FATA. This is already being attempted for sometime now, but the regular army units, who were raised and trained essentially for duties on the Indian border, find themselves ill-adapted for duties in the tribal belt near the Afghan border.
10. Though Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan's Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), has reportedly been talking of the need to retrain the Pakistani army troops for counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency duties in the tribal belt, he has not taken any action to implement his idea because the Pakistan Army gives more importance to its role against India than to its role against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com)
June 11, 2008
Dr Anil A Athale
June 11, 2008
After the Jaipur terror attacks on May 13, we saw the routine that happens after every attack. There were VIP visits, compensation announced to the victims, politicians spoke of 'zero tolerance', television channels held the usual debates, the police announced imminent breakthroughs. Soon everything is forgotten, till the next terror attack. At which time, I am sure the same sequence will be repeated.
I have been a student of insurgency and terrorism for 24 years. At social gatherings when asked what I do for a living, my answer invariably provokes a flurry of questions, much to the annoyance of my better half (who glares and hints that I should stop holding forth on my pet topic and not 'spoil' the party). Here is my attempt to answer some of those frequently asked questions.
Why are attacks by Islamic groups called Islamist terrorism? Other terror groups like the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) or the IRA (Irish Republican Army) have Hindus or Christians but are not called Hindu or Christian terrorists?
It is undoubtedly true that there are other terrorists as well, for instance the Naxalites or Maoists. The reason why the adjective 'Islamists' is used is that no other terror group invokes religious sanction or quotes religious texts to justify their acts. In fact, the Tamil Tigers has Hindus as well as Christians (their spokesperson for many years was Anton Balasingham, a Christian). Neither has the IRA nor Tamil Tigers ever quoted any religious scriptures to justify their actions, the Islamists have and continue to do so. The link between religious places and schools to these acts, is also well established.
Finally, the Islamist terrorists themselves have time and again openly admitted the religious nature of their ultimate goal -- Islamisation. It would be dishonest if this reality is ignored.
What about State terrorism?
It is true that the State also uses force to deal with revolts and violence and against criminals. But in a democracy with a judiciary and rule of law, the use of force by the State is accountable and has to be within the bounds of law. At times individuals do transgress those limits, but those are aberrations. Use of force by a State to enforce law cannot be equated with State terrorism, unless that State has a policy of genocide or is dictatorial like Hitler's [Images] Germany [Images] or Stalin's Soviet Union.
Unfortunately social activists and champions of human rights forget that it is the legitimate function of the State to use force. If the State abdicates this responsibility then we are inviting anarchy and in words of Hobbes, a 16th century English philosopher, a situation of war of every one against every one and human life 'nasty, brutish and short.'
You are biased, what about the terrorism of the Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal etc?
These are indeed organisations that believe in violent means and must be dealt under the law. But at worst, these are extremists and militants, like militant trade unions for example. The shallow coverage by the media has created the confusion about definition of terrorism and who is a terrorist. There is tendency to lump together terms like militants, insurgents, extremists, fundamentalists and terrorists.
While all the variety of people fighting for some cause or other may at times indulge in terrorism, a terrorist is one whose primary aim is to cause maximum destruction. In that sense strictly speaking, when a Kashmiri extremist attacks a soldier, it is wrong to call it a terrorist attack, it is part of an insurgency. We must be clear about this difference.
A terrorist is an individual who carries out a terrorist act. A terrorist act is one in which totally unconnected persons are targeted and killed. Terrorism is random violence that makes no distinction between people and promotes fear. It is no accident that in the Jaipur attack as well as elsewhere, many Muslims lost their lives.
It is a fallacy to claim that everything is fair in love and war. Even in war there are written and unwritten rules. The terrorists do not follow them. For instance in war, civilians are not deliberately targeted (they still die as collateral damage) while terrorists, for instance in Beslan in Russia [Images] chose a school or local trains in Mumbai.
While there are groups and organisations that are militant, fundamentalist and violence prone, they have not yet graduated to earn the 'terrorist' tag. If the State fails to curb minority terrorism then the majority may well begin to have its own terrorist organisations.
If we use violence against terrorists then are we not betraying our Gandhian legacy?
Gandhian methods of non-violent struggle were successful against the British colonialists. But the British were a civilised people. British liberals like Edmund Burke were in favour of Indian independence as early as in 1773 (Burke's speeches in the British parliament on the Regulating Act). To assume universality of success of these methods for all times to come is false.
Did the non-violent Jews survive Hitler? Closer home, in Gandhi's lifetime itself, in October 1947, it was force that saved the Kashmir valley from Pakistani-backed raiders. Even more telling, the same non-violent movement in the Portuguese colony of Goa [Images], failed in 1956-1957. Goa was liberated by force in 1961.
An oft quoted Gandhian phrase is that if all were to follow an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth, then the world would go blind. The counter to that is that if only some follow this and others don't then it is the non-violent who would go blind while the rogues will rule the world.
Colonel Dr Anil Athale (retd) is former joint director, war studies, ministry of defence, and co-ordinator of the Pune-based Initiative for Peace and Disarmament
A handful of companies are fighting over the new market for the interception of Internet communications. And that technology is of particular interest to intelligence and security agencies.
Among the young companies active on the market for intercepting data on the Internet (see graph below), France’s Qosmos stands out for the intricate analysis solutions it offers. Based in Paris, the group has developed a new generation of Deep Packet Inspection software (which filters and analyzes packets of data) that can recognize over 300 communications protocols (Webmail, Voice over IP, Instant Messaging, etc) and process 1.6 million packets of data per second. Once the protocol is identified, Qosmos can get down to in-depth work on the data and recover information about the user (login, password, IP address) and the contents of the messages that are sent.
The outlets for such technology are of two types: legal interceptions (the French justice ministry is about to issue a call for bids to equip the work stations of the criminal police with this type of solution) and security interceptions by intelligence agencies. In the latter sphere, Qosmos operates through specialized integrators that deal with intelligence agencies in North America, the Middle East and Asia. One of them, France’s Ercom, cooperates regularly with DGSE’s technical directorate (IOL 565).
Founded by two former researchers from the computer laboratory of University of Paris 6, the firm employs 30 people and plans to open affiliates early next year in the U.S., Singapore and China. Last month it received EUR 7 million in funding from the leading research firm on the German market, GfK and equity funds Sofinnova Partners and Alven Capital. Elsewhere, Qosmos has just joined a trade association for players in the sector, dPacket.org.
June 10, 2008
English translation of Chairman Balawaristan National Front (BNF) Abdul Hamid Khan's telephonic address to a public gathering at Gahkuch dated June 8, 2008
My dear brothers, sisters of Gilgit-Baltistan, Ladakh, Chitral and Kohistan; youth of BNSO, GBDA Leaders and distinguished guests,
I am proud of the fact that after ten years' separation, I have the opportunity to address a public gathering at Gahkuch today. My brothers, sisters and respected elders, I am not a leader nor a Quaid but a servant of my people. The word leader or Quaid is not a self-proclaimed title but a trust of a nation. Whoever a nation likes bestows the honor on him. This can only be possible when a person remains steadfast in his struggle for a national cause and stand by his nation, not the one who takes side with the usurpers. If anyone of you comes forward and dedicates himself to the struggle for taking the nation out of the whirpool and lead the people, the nation will choose him/her as their leader.
I want to let you know, I never keep my nation in dark by make cheap and emotional statements. I try to clear my stand according to the international laws and principles. Our stand does not only fulfil UNO but also matches with the legal stand of Pakistan. But this an ironic that Pakistan has always been discouraged our peaceful and democratic struggle, whether it's so-called democratic government of Military dictatorship. This was not because our illegal stand, but because of the double standard of government of Pakistan itself. The stand of Pakistan to its public and national media was different than its international and legal stand, this was the reason the treatment of every consecutive governments of Pakistan either Military of civilian were pro-people. Sometimes Pakistani regimes were being avoiding to give our deserved rights by the pretext of sensitivity of our country (Balawaristan) and sometimes by the pretext of Kashmir dispute and its own constitution. In spite of all that if any one dared to raise any question or challenge their occupation, Pakistan has been trying to eliminate such people from its way. This was the reason, my life was under threat when I brought its inhuman treatment and illegal occupation to the UN and other member countries of the democratic world. Our bosses (not our rulers, because we never caste any vote to them) do not like bitter truth and whoever speaks truth they use bullet to silence his/her voice, like what they did with 80 years old Balochi leader Nawab Akbar Bugti. Government of Pakistan also wants to eliminate me forever, because I am alone ,who presents the true face of Pakistani occupation forces in Balawaristan (Occupied Gilgit Baltistan) to the international community.
As you know that I did not leave my country because of livelihood of me or my children, but because to save my life as well as the life of 2 million enslave people of this region. I have to inform the international community about the misery caused due to the illegal occupation of Pakistan since 16th Nov. 1947. This will be your assessment and you are the judge, whether I have been able to put your case in good direction or not.
I would like to tell something about religious or sectarian violence. This is a kind of diseases, which has been injected in to the bodies of our nation, when our people stood united against the occupation of Pakistan and it's ill-treatment and un-democratic behaviour since 1971. The deceased national leader of Punyal Fazlur Rahamn Alamgir and Adv. Sher Wali who is luckily present among you, were released from Jail by breaking it by the public when we were united without religious and sectarian differences. Since then Pakistani occupying regime and its intelligence agencies are creating sectarian tension among us. As a result hundreds and hundreds innocent people lost their lives, but no one has been given punishment even for a single day so far. The reason of giving free hand to the murderers and conspirators, because the murderer, conspirator and judge were the same occupation regime. How a killer and conspirator can diliver judgement against himself? This was the reason behind our 60 years long slavery. Our motherland has become the last colony of 21st Century. We don't have any share and any right to say anything in our house (motherland). We were innocent and simpleton, that why we querrled each other on sectarian basis and the enemies (Pakistan Pathans and Punjabis) ruled us without hindrance because of our disunity. Today we have no control over our water resources, we don't have control over our mountains and plains. All kind of our resources are plundered by Pakistani occupying regime, who do not face any challenge from us, because we don't fight them and we don't have any institutional or representative body to challenge their authority. I appeal to the sisters, brothers, don't involve in to any kind of crime like killing a religious or sectarian culprit, if we need our properties and motherland is under our control. You should not kill anyone on the basis of religious differences even if anyone provokes you. If you kill anyone it means you are fulfilling the evil design of our enemy, whose design is to divide us by sectarian clashes and then rule on us without any hindrance. I hope that you all will promise to be united and don't involved yourself in to sectarianism. Revive your historical blood relation without any discrimination and get your rights guaranteed.
Some people blame us that we are anti-Pakistan and want to break Pakistan. This is wrong and misinterpretation of intelligence agencies and their puppets.
As a country we are not against Pakistan. But we are against the illegal occupation of Pakistan and it's wrong policies since 16 Nov. 1947.
I sent congratulation to the Pakistan Muslim League N and Pakistan People's Party, when they got success in recent elections against the Military dictator. This is because we support democracy and do not support dictatorship and monarch and kingdom throughout the world. This congratulation to Pakistani Political parties does not mean that we have changed our stand and accepted the illegal occupation and atrocities of Pakistan NO NEVER.
We don't take any plea for making dispute our motherland with the J&K. This was Pakistan which has made this area as disputed part of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) for its own interest not for us. This was Pakistan long stand in UN and other international fora that Balawaristan (Gilgit Baltistan) is not part of Pakistan because it's a disputed part of J&K. If we quote the same thing, that Gilgit Baltistan is not part of Pakistan then why government of Pakistan and it's agencies become ferocious and try to eliminate such people who speak the truth.
You are the witness in the past that we did not take part in the elections of Pakistan and you observed recently, that the 2 million people of Balawaristan have no right in the elections of Pakistan. What does it mean, because we are not Pakistani citizens. We don't have any involvement in the elections of Pakistani President, Prime Minister and Ministers and even members of Pakistani Assemblies. There is no single word in the constitution of Pakistan about our area. If we are not a part of Pakistan , then how the question of breaking it arises and how we can break it. There is no logic behind this blame, that we the nationalists of Balawaristan are trying to break and disintegrate of Pakistan.
We don't have any evil intention against Pakistan. We don't want to disintegrate Pakistan. Pakistanis themselves are involved in the disintegration of Pakistan, because of its long Military rule. Pakistanis themselves broken Pakistan in 1971 by killing and raping Bengalis. Now Pakistani are trying to break Baluchistan and Sindh provinces by killing them and creating terror. Pakistan have 4 provinces and 8 tribal regions. Pakistan compromises on these 4 Provinces and 8 Tribal agencies. Pakistan can be divided in to pieces or can be disintegrated, if and when any of its province or Tribal agency is separated. Pakistan does not break or disintegrate if and when Balawaristan gets FREEDOM, because its not part of Pakistan. Its the obligation of Pakistan to end its occupation over Balawaristan and its occupied J&K according to UNCIP resolutions.
According to UNCIP resolutions, the stage of Balawaristan and J&K to annex or merge in to Pakistan OR India is still awaited.
But Pakistan could have given Special Provincial powers OR it occupied J&K like setup till the decision of the whole J&K issue. But Pakistan cannot make this part as its own territory or province in the presence of UN resolutions. The people who demand for province of Pakistan or Pakistani constitutional rights are either sycophants and want to get personal benefits and do not bother about the interest of the people and don't bother about the International laws. Due to such people the hatred and opposition among the people of Balawaristan against Pakistan is on the high ever today.
The audience, instead of rulers, when I say Boss or masters, some people may raise objection. Objection and different opinion is the soul of the democracy and we accept it. But we don't consider those as our rulers, who we did not elect by our votes. Those can be termed as rulers and are respected as rulers, who have become elected by our votes. Pakistanis do impose themselves on us without any legal agreement or any justification, because we did not vote them and we did not endorse them. Pakistani do impose them by the force. Some time they choose the designation of Minister of Kashmir and Northern Areas Affairs (KANA) with full powers like an ancient king and sometimes they use the designation as Chief Executive and no Chairman, whatever the designation the same Pakistani imposed Minister is acting as king with impunity and above the law.
My dear brothers and sisters, I am very happy that the youth of our nation has gained political wisdom and our nation is awakening today. This is a result of the struggle of all of you. The main proof of this national awakening is that the nation and especially our colleagues in GBDA did not waste even a second and informed the nation about the hollowness of the so-called package announced by Pervez Musharraf. This was a sign of unity of the nation too.
You know that what are the obstacles and hindrances in the path of freedom. A propaganda has been launched against me in connivance with the occupiers since 1999 in which some of our constrained brothers in the media are also involved. It has been made a crime even to take my name. Last year when I stepped into a free world from the life of solitude and started to represent you in the European Parliament and other international forums, the intensity of the smear campaign against me intensified at the national and international levels. I am happy to say that our people through their wisdom and sagacity have foiled the conspiracies of the usurpers and their agents. It shows that our destiny is not far away, because the nation is not in slumber and illusion like in the past. The nation now understands that sectarianism and lack of political awareness are the main causes of slavery.
My brothers and respected colleagues, you tell me is there any nation in the world who accepts slavery of others in the name of religion. Don't you deserve freedom? Will you not remain Muslim if you got independence? Were we not Muslims before Pakistan occupied us? In fact, before 1947, we were good Muslims and good human being but as soon as our interaction with the Pakistanis increased our standard of character started to degrade. To be a good Muslim, a person should possess a good moral character and should not fall prey to the shenanigans of occupiers and their agents. These people exploit your resources by enslaving you and push you to the abysmal depth of immorality by eliminating your culture, history and identity.
Pakistan very cleverly made us its slave in 1947 due to our innocence and political immaturity. It also made the area liberated by our forefathers disputed without even their information. On April 28, 1949, the United Nations through a resolution asked Pakistan to withdraw its troops from Gilgit-Baltistan within seven weeks. Pakistan sought twelve weeks to implement the UN resolution which was acceded to by the world body. Besides, Pakistan was also asked to ensure self-rule in Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. Did the Pakistani troops went back or self-rule was ensured in the area? No, instead of implanting the UN resolution Pakistan kept on consolidating its occupation. Look at Pakistan's sincerity: the day when the UN asked it to withdraw its troops from the region on April 28, 1949, Pakistan entered into a bogus agreement with Chaudhry Ghulam Abbas and Sardar Ibrahim of Kashmir to perpetuate its rule on you. Later, Sardar Ibrahim himself declared the so-called pact fake. Even our revolutionary troops and the so-called Mirs were kept out of the bogus agreement.
Pakistan has also looted our land and resources like war booty. The construction of Basha Dam is also a part of the conspiracy to drown our land and destroy our culture and history.
Dear friends, under the divide and rule policy, Pakistan has succeeded to divide the people of Gilgit-Baltistan on sectarian lines and deprive them of their rights. Pakistan's so-called leaders sent thousands of NLI personnel to Kargil like mercenaries and when they sacrificed their lives the credit was given to the so-called mujahideen. In this war, our 3,000 brothers were killed and hundreds others made paralyzed. Ironically, Pakistan accepted the dead bodies of its citizens but refused that of our brothers terming them mujahideen. As a result, scores of bodies of our brothers were buried in the mountain of Kargil. Through human rights organizations we appeal to the elected government of Pakistan to arrange the return of the NLI personnel's bodies to bury them in their hometowns. We also demand that Musharraf should stand trial for killing 3,000 NLI personnel in the Kargil misadventure.
My brothers and sisters, our elders were sent to jail when they demanded a separate province; when they talked of constitutional rights they were put behind bars and when they sought right to vote they were also imprisoned. When emergency was declared in Pakistan, the whole Pakistanis rose in revolt, but no one cares about Gilgit-Baltistan where two million people have been rotting under a perpetual martial law –like rule for the last over 60 years. Did our elders liberate Gilgit-Baltistan only to live a life of slavery in the 21st century.
Our brothers are not trusted for the posts of a DCO or an SSP. Government officials from Gilgit-Baltistan are looked down upon. Have we no right to become the prime minister, president, chief justice of the Supreme Court or the army chief? But if you join Pakistan your destiny would be to become voters of Pakistani leaders only. We have not one but hundreds of able personnel in the NLI and outside in the presence of whom people like Ziaul Haq and Musharraf have no quality even to become a Havaldar. But as long as we remain under the control of Pakistan our destiny would remain the same.
Ladies and gentlemen, Pakistan always refers to the UN resolutions due to which it cannot amalgamate Gilgit-Baltistan in its constitution nor can make it its province. In the constitution, there is no mention of Gilgit-Baltistan, because the international community does not recognize Gilgit-Baltistan as part of Pakistan, but a disputed part of Kashmir. As a result, the demand by some of our friends for the constitutional rights or a separate province is not given much importance, because Pakistan cannot include Gilgit-Baltistan in its constitution by separating it from the Kashmir dispute. By making it a province or allocating a few seats in parliament, Pakistan cannot take the risk of violating its own stance or that of the UN. However, the region can be given a special provincial status without bringing it under the constitution of Pakistan.
But Pakistan has treated us as its slave for the last over 60 years, not due to constitutional constraints but because of the ill intentions of its rulers. Pakistan has maintained its control on Gilgit-Baltistan not through any law or principle but under the fake law of April 28, 1949. Now the time has come we exposed the fakeness of the document and take action against those behind the bogus document. Now our nation should expedite efforts to become a respectable nation of the world instead of remaining slaves of others by dividing itself on sectarian lines.
Dear friends, you should never pin any hope on these occupiers of our land who divided you on sectarian basis and destroyed your unity besides looting your natural resources. In the presence of the usurpers, our rights and honor can never remain safe. To expect anything good from those who have kept us in slavery for the last over 60 years would be equal to deceive your future generation.
My dear brothers and sisters, today we have to ask ourselves whether we have to further waste our time in struggling to become voters of Pakistani leaders or have to think of attaining our own rights and live as an independent nation in the civilized world. This is a decision which you have to take. As far as BNF is concerned, we have long ago decided not to live a slave's life, not to remain Pakistan's voters, we do not need the continuation of judicial commissioner but need our own high court and supreme court which would not be under the control of Pakistan. We do not need NALA but want an independent legislative assembly. The NA council has been renamed as NALA as it deserved. This is not a legislative assembly but is in a true term has become a Nallah of Pakistani cities. The Nallah is not of the pure water flowing down from our land but a congestion of gutter and sewage which has become stinking like Nallah Lai of the 1970s. The members of NALA cheat not only themselves but the whole nation by considering themselves as equal to MNAs. Since 1970s, these councillors have always preferred their own interests on the interests of the people. Today a responsible citizen of Pakistan understands the injustices done with the people of the region but for these councillors even the interest of a PWD engineer has more value than that of the nation and the region. These councillors have always felt proud of meeting an SP or a DC and have betrayed the people and supported the usurpers. They have never raised a voice for the rights of the masses and always preferred their own vested interests. This does not mean that I have personal grudge with a few councillors but I am referring to all the members of the council as a whole who have kept our people in the dark. These opportunist members of NALA are equally responsible, along with the Pakistani rulers, for keeping our people deprived of their basic human and constitutional rights. I know that from today these NALA members will go two steps forward than the security agencies and their cohorts in spreading propaganda against me. But I do not care and would continue to inform my people about the actual situation and hope that the people would never be carried away by deception of the rulers like introduction of a package etc.
We appeal government of China to handover back our lands the part of Hunza, which had been given to it during British Empire before 1947 and the portion of Shimshal Hunza given by Pakistan in 1963. China is urged not to help Pakistan's illegal and immoral occupation by constructing Railway track throughout Balawaristan and not to construct the disputed Diamar Dam. We also appeal government of China for not occupy our land and mountains by the pretext of mines lease of Yasen area and other places. It should be noted, that Pakistan has no legal authority to give any lease or to make any agreement on behalf of the people of Balawaristan, because it's a disputed land and Pakistan has no legal authority. China is a super power of Asia and it should not involve itself in the occupation process of Pakistan.
We demand that the government of Pakistan withdraw its troops and civilian officials from Gilgit-Baltistan in accordance with its promise, Retrieve the land given to outsiders and allot it to the local owners. Our people do not need any NALA but an independent legislative assembly, we do not want the continuation of chief commissioner in the name of chief and appellate courts, we need an independent supreme court. We do not want a Balochistan type of identity but want an independent Balawaristan.
Long live GBDA
Abdul Hamid Khan
Balawaristan National Front (BNF)
Head Office: Majini Mahla, Gilgit, Balawaristan (Pakistan Occupied Gilgit Baltistan)
Ph: 0032 22311750
Deoband’s 31 May 2008 fatwa against terrorism marks official Islam’s most significant departure from the phase of unproductive violence adopted by this beleaguered faith since the advent of western colonialism, particularly in the last two centuries. Though slow in coming, the decision by Indian Islam’s leading seminary to repudiate terrorism as a “most inhuman crime” was not unexpected; it may mark modern Islam’s first decisive move towards demarcating the religious sphere from the polity, thereby facilitating believers to live without mental discomfort in non-Muslim societies.
Regular readers may recall that I have been expecting a dilution of Islamic fervour since Saudi Arabia itself experienced jihadi violence, viz., the 12 May 2003 car-bomb attacks and the 9 November 2003 suicide attack on Muhaya compound, both in Riyadh . The then US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage rightly concluded that the real target of the attacks was the Saudi monarchy, sponsor of the puritanical Wahabi Islam that is wrecking havoc in Muslim countries and the world. As radical Islam began creating a crisis of political legitimacy for Muslim regimes, they were forced to seek a religio-political response to counter the corrosive appeal of Osama bin Laden and his ilk.
The first hint that King Abdullah, keeper of Islam’s two holiest shrines, intended to steer the faith away from extreme violence came during his 2006 Republic Day visit to New Delhi : he ignored the Hurriyat. I wrote then that the King would work to protect Islam’s flanks in the emerging third crusade with political Christianity by giving predominantly Hindu India relief from the jihad sponsored by Pakistan and ISI-controlled Bangladesh . Such a wise strategy would inhibit India from joining the so-called clash of civilizations against Islam, as the conflict is essentially an intra-Abrahamic affair.
The evidence was Indian Muslims refraining from violence when Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten published cartoons insulting the Prophet in September 2005 and thereafter; some European journals re-published these in March 2008 as a deliberate provocation. Realizing they could not stage a terrorist strike in Europe, angry jihadis attacked the Danish Embassy in Islamabad on 2 June 2008, unaware that Denmark had withdrawn its citizens from the mission.
Deoband’s fatwa is certainly part of the Islamic world’s plan to move cautiously away from Western, especially American, dominance. This distancing is being calibrated with the emerging multi-polar economic order led by Russia, China, Central Asia and Latin America, which validates the concept of sovereign wealth (state control over natural resources), as opposed to private corporate monopolies. The Islamic world is wary because Iranian Prime Minister Mossadeq was assassinated for nationalizing oil; Saddam Hussein paid the price of attempting a non-dollar oil bourse; and Iran is demonized for opening a Euro-based oil bourse.
The decision that Deoband would host an Anti-Terrorism Conference in New Delhi is a tacit admission by the ummah that India alone has been victim of sustained jihad for over a century, not for sins of Hindus, but to serve a colonial agenda. Though India was not complicit in the humiliation of Islam in Palestine or other places, Hindus alone suffered the brunt of blind Muslim rage which did not cease even with Partition in 1947.
India was chosen for jihadi terror because it was, and remains, the key politico-geographic al territory that needs to be controlled in order to dominate the world. Viceroy Curzon said as much in his October 1908 speech to the Philosophical Institute of Edinburgh: “It was the remark of De Tocqueville that the conquest and Government of India were really the achievements that had given Britain her place in the world... Consider what would happen were we to lose India …for it is inconceivable that India could stand or be left alone. We would lose its unfailing markets... almost the only formidable element in our fighting strength; our influence in Asia would quickly disappear... Remember, too, that India is no longer a piece, even a king or queen on the Asiatic chessboard. It is a royal piece on the chessboard of international politics."
To an India bleeding from the war of a thousand cuts, sponsored by America ’s Pakistani protectorate, the fatwa that “Islam rejects all kinds of unjust violence... and does not allow it in any form…. The religion of Islam has come to wipe out all kinds of terrorism and to spread the message of global peace” synchronizes too closely with the bomb blasts that just took 60 lives in Jaipur. Though BJP president Rajnath Singh rightly appreciated Darul Uloom’s “seeking to dissociate Muslims from terrorism,” he must also insist that Indian Islam de-link itself from the ummah in the matter of Muslim grievances which do not originate on this soil, and to put its best foot forward on the issue of combating terrorism in this country.
Instead of nitpicking with the lame duck UPA government over an anti-terrorism law and the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, Mr. Rajnath Singh should call upon Muslim leaders and citizens to actively dissociate with Pakistani and Bangladeshi terrorists by denying them refuge or recruits, and help the security agencies to identify and arrest them. Those with knowledge about the laundering of funds for terrorist purposes, especially the use of the stock market for pumping funds into the economy, should assist enforcement agencies in exposing these frauds.
On the menace of illegal Bangladeshi immigration, the BJP should ask the Muslim community to help identify and deport the unwanted aliens. Whatever the economic compulsions, Bangladeshis entering India illegally are mostly Muslims practicing hijrat (flight) from a Muslim-majority country into a predominantly Hindu country! Unlike their persecuted Hindu and Buddhist brethren, Muslim Bangladeshis are indulging in an un-Islamic activity by quitting Dar-ul Islam (land of the pure). If they do not view India as Dar-ul Harb (land of war), they should return to Sanatana Dharma when they enter the original motherland. Dhaka must admit the failure of the logic of Partition and contemplate its own return.
For the present, however, the BJP should cooperate with the Prime Minister in setting up a federal investigating agency to deal with terrorism; the federal law will inevitably follow. However, the party is right to insist that Congress-appointed Governors immediately assent to Acts against organized crime passed by its governments in Gujarat , Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
Last week while penning down the Tale of Two Tortoises, Offstumped had another epiphany. This time on the oxymoron called “Progress Liberalism”. Multiple stories in the Mainstream Media over the past few days have only further validated it.
Here is a sampling.
CNN-IBN asking this question - Will America elect a Black President ?
The Telegraph asking this question - Tears for film and verse, not a drop for riots ?
So what do these questions tell us about Progressive Liberalism ?
To better appreciate this let us pose these questions in a different way.
Can America elect a President being blind to his skin color ?
Was Mr. Advani guilty of not discharging his constitutional duty in response to riots ?
The difference between the above questions and the previous set, posed by the mainstream media that professes by “progressive liberalism”, lies in the premise. Where the above questions were mainly concerned with righteous conduct, the previous set of questions were mainly concerned with the outcome and more specifically a certain kind of outcome while being unmindful of how exactly that outcome was arrived at.
That friends is the fundamental nature of “Progressive Liberalism”. It does not ask you if your conduct was righteous but instead asks you if a certain goal was achieved.
So what are these goals ?
These goals are mainly of two varieties and both of them are rooted in emotions and not in fundamental truths.
The first variety is commonly found in the psuedo-intellectual few and stems from a deep sense of guilt. This sense of guilt arises largely because of an inability to reconcile hard and bitter truths. So you have this pursuit of moral equivalences to dither on capital punishment, or this talk of root causes to rationalize and apologize for terrorism and of course the ultimate guilt trip - political correctness.
The second variety found in the ignorant many ususally follows the first and is a result of the psuedo-intellectual’s need to assuage his or her sense of guilt by instilling outrage and indignation in the masses by painting them the victim. It is this victimhood that has spawned the culture of entitlement and a false sense of justice called Social Justice. The results range from Communal Socialism, Minority appeasement, Vote bank politics and the incendiary politics of affirmative entitlement.
It is on these twin emotional pillars of “guilt” and “victimhood” that Progressive Liberalism rests causing it to care more about outcomes and goals thus failing the “desireless action” test of Dharma.
This has to be the defining distinction between the Left and the Right.
Often many to the Right, especially those who primarily care about economic issues, argue that Freedom is the defining principle governing the Right. In this moment of epiphany it must be said that in the natural order of things, it is Dharma or that ultimate sense of Justice which ought to be the defining principle governing the Right. For there can be no Freedom without that ultimate sense of Justice or Dharma.
Still others to the Right often fall to the trap of confusing Dharma with what they call “moral obligations”. A recent speech by BJP Leader and the NDA’s Prime Minister-in-waiting L.K. Advani at the ASSOCHAM is a case in point. The moral obligations Mr. Advani alludes are but progressive liberalism by another name, for they care about outcomes and goals and arise from a sense of guilt which becomes apparent when Mr. Advani quotes this statistic
the earnings of 20 richest Indians is more than that of 30 crore poorest Indians
Mr. Advani calls for Indian model of economic development. Offstumped couldnt agree more. However such an Indian model ought to be premised and derived from Dharma while not falling into the “moral obligations” trap of Progressive Liberalism.
More on the subject of Dharma and an Indian model of economic development in subsequent posts.