5 December 2012

Eruptions in Goma – Troublesome mandate


December 5, 2012 

Goma, a city situated in the volatile eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo and home to an active volcano, has long been living under the shadow of strife of the ethnic and political kinds. Located close to the Rwandan border, the inhabitants of the city live in perpetual fear borne out of an uneasy peace that has often been driven asunder by ethnic strife and a war over its valuable resources. 

It was only last week that a rebel group calling themselves, M23 or the March 23 Movement (Mouvement du 23 mars), took control of Goma city, brushing aside the token resistance of the Congolese troops defending the city.1 What is difficult to understand is the mute spectatorship of the UN peacekeeping forces comprising the large chunk of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) that were stationed in and around the city. Comprising of over 18000 troops2, equipped with heavy weapons and attack helicopters, this sizeable force (one of the largest UN peacekeeping forces to be assembled) did not offer any resistance to the intruding troops, showing a “lack of ambition” to fulfil its mandate.3 As noted by Henry Okello Oryem, the Ugandan State Minister for Foreign Affairs, “[i]f it [MONUSCO] was doing its job with its large numbers and budget, I don’t think we would still have the crisis in the DRC today”.4

Responding to international criticism, the UN has pointed out that despite the relatively large size of the mission (and sizeable funding5, I might add) it is grossly inadequate considering the fact that DRC is about the size of Western Europe causing the troops to be deployed thinly over a vast terrain. North Kivu province where Goma is located has only 6,700 personnel and 1500 more in the city itself. 

Regional analysts like Jason Stearn emphasize that it was impossible for MONUSCO to defend Goma single-handedly,6 a statement that holds particular significance given the withdrawal of civilian and military Congolese officials who left the city undefended and ungoverned. UN spokesman Eduardo del Buey also made clear that peacekeepers were no substitutes for the national army7, as the mission’s mandate specifies that the former act in support of Congolese government efforts and to engage only when civilians are threatened – the protection of civilians being a core goal of Resolution 2053. 

Lately the mission in Goma has been reinforced and seems determined to carry out its mandate. MONUSCO’s military spokesman, Colonel Felix Basse, has said that “MONUSCO is continuing fulfilling its mandate, which is protecting the civilian population in and around Goma town. We are conducting our patrols. We have deployed 17 quick reaction forces in order to protect the civilian population in Goma.”8

NEPAL: President Yadav Intervenes- Is it wise?

Note No. 668 Dated 4-Dec-2012 
By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan. 

On 22rd November, President Yadav gave an official call to the political parties to form a consensus government within seven days. He did not spell out what he would do otherwise. 

It is not that he had not said this before but this is the first time that he has “formally” asked the parties to come to a consensus. Perhaps he is on the verge of directly intervening which I feel is unwise. 

As expected, the parties failed to reach a consensus and he had to give another extension of the time line to December 6. 

The leaders of the four groups- the UCPN, the Nepali Congress, the UML and the Madhesi Groups have been meeting again and again, only to agree to meet again and no consensus appears to be in the horizon either. 

Thus a crisis situation has been created and no party is willing to move away from the brink. 

One can understand the frustration of President Yadav. He had clearly ruled out a revival of the Constituent Assembly as it would go against the directives of the Supreme Court. Yet the biggest party and the party in power the UCPN (M) continues toying with the idea of revival. The latest proposal of Dahal that they either continue in power and conduct the next elections under their leadership or revive the CA and continue with constitution making with Nepali Congress leading was rejected out of hand by the Nepali Congress leadership. 

Despite initial reluctance to pass the ordinance on the budget hoping that the delay would force the government and the opposition to come together on a consensus, the President was forced to eat his words and pass an ordinance in approving the budget. Soon he will have to take a call on filling the vacancies in the Supreme Court and more importantly in the Election Commission where only two are left out of a five-member Board. Important ambassadors’ posts remain vacant. 

U.S. pushes to restart talks with Taliban

By Jennifer Rowland Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Event Notice: The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al-Qaeda, and America's War in Arabia. TODAY, December 5, 2012, 12:15-1:45 PM (NAF). 

Talks and more talks 

The Obama administration has reportedly begun pushing for a restart of peace negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, despite resistance within the U.S. military to relying on Pakistan to play a pivotal role in such negotiations (Post). Pakistan recently released several Taliban militants from prison in an effort to encourage the Taliban to enter peace talks with the Afghan government, but the militant group has shown no interest in negotiating with the Americans since it cut off talks in March. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. government is also negotiating with the Afghan government over the terms of a bilateral security agreement that would lay out the U.S. role in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of combat forces by the end of 2014 (Post). But while Afghan officials demand the nation's complete sovereignty be respected, U.S. officials worry that fulfilling this demand could leave U.S. troops and trainers vulnerable to abuse by the Afghan court system. 

Terror stats 

At least 375 Shi'a Muslims have died in Pakistan this year in sectarian attacks, and over 100 of those have been members of the Hazara minority that is targeted almost daily and often in broad daylight (NYT). Hazaras say the government does little to protect them, but even the official efforts to prevent attacks on Shi'as during their holy month of Muharram recently failed; 50 Shi'a Muslims were killed earlier this in attacks claimed by the Pakistani Taliban. 

U.S. Commandos’ New Landlord in Afghanistan: Blackwater


A U.S. Special Forces soldier trains on his MK-12 sniper rifle in Iraq, 2007. Photo: U.S. Navy via Wikimedia

Updated 7:50 a.m. 

U.S. Special Operations Forces have a brand new home in Afghanistan. It’s owned and operated by the security company formerly known as Blackwater, thanks to a no-bid deal worth $22 million. 

You might think that Blackwater, now called Academi, was banished into some bureaucratic exile after its operatives in Afghanistan stole guns from U.S. weapons depots and killed Afghan civilians. Wrong. Academi’s private 10-acre compound outside Kabul, called Camp Integrity, is the new headquarters for perhaps the most important special operations unit in Afghanistan. 

That would be the Special Operations Joint Task Force–Afghanistan, created on July 1 to unite and oversee the three major spec-ops “tribes” throughout Afghanistan, which command some 7,000 elite troops in all. It’s run by Army Maj. Gen. Raymond “Tony” Thomas, a former deputy commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, and is already tasked with reforming how those elite forces train Afghan villagers to fight the Taliban. And its role is only going to grow in Afghanistan, as regular U.S. forces withdraw by 2014 and the commandos take over the residual task of fighting al-Qaida and its allies. Perhaps that’s why Academi’s no-bid contract runs through May 2015. 

General: We’re Staying in Afghanistan, No Matter What Obama Said


Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, nominated to be the next commander of the Afghanistan war, speaks in February at Eglin Air Force Base, February 2012. Photo: U.S. Marine Corps

Remember how President Obama said on the campaign trail that he would “responsibly end the war” in Afghanistan in 2014? Or when Vice President Biden said the president’s plan was “to end the war in 2014?” The general they want to lead that war is singing a much different tune. 

During his confirmation hearing to take command in Kabul, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that the U.S. needs to present a “clear and compelling narrative of commitment” to Afghanistan, beyond the 2014 timeframe for turning over security to the Afghans. Step one is to negotiate the contours of a post-2014 U.S. force in Afghanistan, to “create momentum for that narrative that I was alluding to.” 

The discrepancy between Dunford’s narrative of a continuing war and his boss’ narrative of a concluding war is a consequence of the Obama administration saying two things to two different audiences about the same war. To the American public, which Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) described as “war-weary,” the Obama team has sweeping rhetoric about “mov[ing] with confidence beyond this time of war,” as Obama said during his reelection speech last week. Overseas, not so much. 

“It’s a question of confidence in the Afghan people that we will remain, confidence in the Afghanistan national security forces that we will remain,” confidence in the “capitals that we will remain,” and confidence among “regional actors that we will remain,” Dunford said. Constructing that narrative, in his view, is a hedge against the Taliban waiting the U.S. out and U.S. allies and adversaries alike preparing for the fall of the Washington-backed Afghan government. 

Afghans Demand U.S. Hand Over Its Major Battlefield Prison


U.S. military officials tour the Detention Facility at Parwan, the major U.S. battlefield prison in Afghanistan Oct. 30, 2012. Photo: DVIDS.

The U.S. military has promised to hand over control of its largest battlefield jail to the Afghan government — eventually. The Afghan government has decided it’s waited long enough. 

For years, the U.S. has said it plans to give the Afghans control of the mega-jail it constructed on the outskirts of Bagram Air Field to house the suspected insurgents it captures. In March, after numerous delays, the military and the Afghan government inked a deal to relinquish control of the so-called Detention Facility in Parwan within six months. Eight months later, it hasn’t happened, displeasing President Hamid Karzai. 

Karzai has ordered his aides to implement the “full Afghanization” of the detention center, blasting the U.S. for continuing to detain Afghans whom Afghan courts have ordered released. “These acts are completely against the agreement that has been signed between Afghanistan and the U.S. president,” reads a statement from Karzai’s office, which goes on to urge “all required actions for full Afghanization of Bagram prison affairs and its complete transfer of authority to Afghans.” 

The Pentagon says that remains the plan, but the hangup is on the Afghan side. “In late August, after the majority of detainees had been transferred [to Afghan control], we paused transfers while we worked with the Afghans to clarify their plans for how detainees will be held in the future,” says Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a Pentagon spokesman. But it appears that whenever the U.S. will actually finish handing over the prison, “we are restarting the transfer of detainees whom we have mutually assessed should be prosecuted by the Afghans.” A few dozen Afghan detainees remain at Parwan. 

Pentagon Wants to Keep Running Its Afghan Drug War From Blackwater’s HQ


An Afghan soldier in Helmand Province prepares to burn a marijuana field as part of “Operation Crack Back,” 2011. Photo: Flickr/ISAF

The U.S. war in Afghanistan is supposed to be winding down. Its contractor-led drug war? Not so much. 

Inside a compound in Kabul called Camp Integrity, the Pentagon stations a small group of officers to oversee the U.S. military’s various operations to curb the spread of Afghanistan’s cash crops of heroin and marijuana, which help line the Taliban’s pockets. Only Camp Integrity isn’t a U.S. military base at all. It’s the 10-acre Afghanistan headquarters of the private security company formerly known as Blackwater

Those officers work for an obscure Pentagon agency called the Counter Narco-Terrorism Program Office, or CNTPO. Quietly, it’s grown into one of the biggest dispensers of cash for private security contractors in the entire U.S. government: One pile of contracts last year from CNTPO was worth more than $3 billion. And it sees a future for itself in Afghanistan over the long haul. 

Earlier this month, a U.S. government solicitation sought to hire a security firm to help CNTPO “maintain a basic, operational support cell” in Kabul. Army Lt. Col. James Gregory, a Pentagon spokesman, explains that “cell” doesn’t kick in the doors of any Afghan narco-kingpins. It handles the more mundane tasks of overseeing the contracts of the Pentagon’s counter-narcotics programs, from “training and linguists, and [providing] supplies, such as vehicles and equipment.” The solicitation, however, indicates those services aren’t going anywhere: When all the options are exercised, the contract extends through September 29, 2015, over a year past the date when Afghan soldiers and cops are supposed to take over the war. And the “government preferred location” to base CNTPO? Camp Integrity. 

Exclusive: U.S. Sees Syria Prepping Chemical Weapons for Possible Attack


Kansas National Guardsmen practice decontamination techniques in the event of a chemical weapons attack. Photo: National Guard Bureau

Engineers working for the Assad regime in Syria have begun combining the two chemical precursors needed to weaponize sarin gas, an American official with knowledge of the situation tells Danger Room. International observers are now more worried than they’ve even been that the Damascus government could use its nerve agent stockpile to slaughter its own people. 

The U.S. doesn’t know why the Syrian military made the move, which began in the middle of last week and is taking place in central Syria. Nor are they sure why the Assad government is transferring some weapons to different locations within the country, as the New York Times reported on Monday. 

All that’s certain is that the arms have now been prepped to be used, should Assad order it. 

“Physically, they’ve gotten to the point where the can load it up on a plane and drop it,” the official adds. 

Sarin gas has two main chemical components — isopropanol, popularly known as rubbing alcohol, and methylphosphonyl difluoride. The Assad government has more than 500 metric tons of these precursors, which it ordinarily stores separately, in so-called “binary” form, in order to prevent an accidental release of nerve gas. 

The End of the Forty-Year Peace Between Israel and Arab States

Published on The New Republic (http://www.tnr.com

Robert Satloff 
December 4, 2012 | 12:00 am 

Even before Gaza fell silent the other week, the blogosphere was full of lists of “winners and losers” of the mini-war that helpfully came to a halt before ruining Thanksgiving dinner. In one article after another, the big winner was Egypt’s President Muhammad Morsi, followed by the leaders of Hamas, and maybe Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; the big loser was Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, followed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and maybe Netanyahu. 

Titillating though it may be, this focus on personality politics missed the larger significance of the Gaza conflict as the beginning of a new era in the Middle East—one defined by the end of the region’s forty-year peace. 

Don’t blame yourself if you didn’t realize that the Middle East has enjoyed four decades of peace. But that is precisely what has transpired between Israel and Arab states since the Yom Kippur War of 1973. In its first twenty-five years of independence, Israel was characterized by multi-state war with intermittent bouts of unsuccessful diplomacy. Six Arab armies invaded Israel in 1948; Israel fought four Arab armies in June 1967; twelve Arab armies participated in the 1973 war. In the forty years since, Israel has fought no wars against an Arab state, and its history has been characterized by frequently successful diplomacy with intermittent bouts of terrorism and asymmetric war against non-state actors. 

The difference between these two realities may not be great to the grieving mother, the widowed wife, or the orphaned child, but the difference is profound in strategic terms. For the past forty years, Israel knew no active state-to-state attack on any of its borders; its main local threats came from a guerilla organization, Hezbollah, and from the intra-state challenge of rebellion, terrorism and insurrection known as the first and second uprisings (popularly known as “intifadas”). 

Iran: We Captured Another U.S. Drone


Iran has captured another U.S. drone, the country’s state-run Fars news agency reported overnight

Ali Fadavi, commander of the naval branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, told Press TV (another state-run outlet) that the Scan Eagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicle was conducting a reconnaissance flight over the Persian Gulf when it entered Iranian air space and was captured. 

Fadavi’s claim, and the Iranian footage, could be bunk. Even if the captured robot is real, it’s not clear whether it crashed or was somehow forced down. Cmdr. Jason Salata, a Navy spokesman, told the AP that all U.S. drones were “fully accounted for.” However, he did say that some Scan Eagles have been lost at sea in the past. 

The alleged drone capture comes just a month after Iranian jets tried and failed to shoot down an American Predator UAV — and almost exactly a year after getting its hands on a stealthy U.S. Air Force Sentinel drone that crashed, or was hijacked, on the Iran-Afghanistan border. 

As was the case with the admittedly secretive Sentinel, Iran stands to gain little from examining and even disassembling one of the 40-pound, catapult-launched Scan Eagles, fairly basic UAVs built by Boeing and Insitu. Whether real or faked, however, the supposed capture is indicative of the ramp-up in U.S. robotic surveillance tied to increasing concern over Iran’s nuclear program. 

U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal this week that Washington has “significantly stepped up” surveillance of Iran’s coastal Bushehr nuclear power plant beginning in October, when Tehran’s engineers unexpectedly removed two weapons-grade plutonium rods from the brand-new facility. 

Mubarak with a Beard?

The United States needs to tell Egypt's new president that there's no going back to the old, bad ways. 

Reflecting on the lessons of the Arab uprisings in November 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was adamant that traditional U.S. policies in the region were no longer tenable. "[A]s the fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt made clear," she said "the enduring cooperation we seek will be difficult to sustain without democratic legitimacy and public consent." But such revelations necessitate drastic changes, and in the face of unanticipated events and crises, it's all too easy for the familiar policies of the past to re-emerge. As Egypt descends again into turmoil over the country's fraught constitution-writing process, it appears that the United States is once again embracing the past and eschewing the lessons it learned the hard way during the uprising. 

In a move that bears the hallmark of U.S. policy in the Mubarak era, the United States has largely reduced its relationship with Egypt to the maintenance of the peace treaty with Israel and withheld serious judgment of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government, even as it actively undermines the country's already troubled democratic transition. 

The most severe political crisis to strike Egypt since the fall of Mubarak was sparked by President Mohamed Morsy's Nov. 22 constitutional decree, which granted the executive absolute authority and immunized his decisions from judicial review for the remainder of the transitional period. Morsy defended the move as an attempt to protect the constituent assembly -- tasked with drafting Egypt's new constitution -- from potential judicial dissolution, but his unilateral steps provoked outrage among opposition forces who again took to the streets. 

What the Bloody Hell Is Wrong with You Americans?

Why you should be embarrassed by the fascination with Kate Middleton's womb. 

LONDON — "We know no spectacle so ridiculous," opined the great nineteenth-century historian, Thomas Babington Macauley, "as the British public in one of its periodic fits of morality." But for sheer ridiculousness, few spectacles are quite so grimly moronic as the American media plunging overboard in one of its periodic obsessions with the British House of Windsor. The news -- to use the term in its most limited sense -- that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge expect their first child to arrive on this Earth sometime next summer is sending a good part of the American press into a familiar frenzy of twittering, fluttering excitement. 

There will be a baby! Not just any baby -- a royal baby! Could anything be finer or more deserve front-page coverage? Were I an American, I suspect I should find this contemptible; as a Briton, I make do with considering it laughable.

Mark Twain was surely right. "Unquestionably the person that can get lowest down in cringing before royalty and nobility, and can get most satisfaction out of crawling on his belly before them, is an American. Not all Americans, but when an American does it he makes competition impossible." Consider, too, that Twain never had the pleasure of witnessing American morning television and its ridiculous habit of fawning over, successively, Prince William's engagement, his marriage to Kate Middleton and now, the happy news that the next stage of the succession is on the point of being secured.

How to Build an Army in Your Basement

From homemade rockets to car bombs, take a look at the weapons that Syria’s rebels are using to defeat Bashar al-Assad. 

Syrian rebels mill around an open lot under a blue sky; off camera, a group chants "God is great." The spoils of a recent raid are laid out before them -- a collection of T-55 tanks and the BMP series of infantry fighting vehicles. A number of rickety pick-up trucks idle in the background, perhaps the vehicles used in the attack. The rebels have wielded heavy machine guns to the truck beds -- constructing an impromptu mechanized unit with which to wage war against President Bashar al-Assad's army. 

Syria's 21-month uprising has devolved into a no-holds-barred civil war, where each side has reached for any tool that helps it kill its adversaries more efficiently. And they're not just using the standard weapons of war: Both the rebels and Assad's army have adopted a variety of do-it-yourself weapons to continue the fight. Some are the backbone of the Syrian insurgency, while others are as dangerous to the operator as to their target. 

Truck-mounted weapons are one of the mainstays of this conflict, with rebels employing DShK heavy machine guns, KPV heavy machines guns and ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft cannons for this purpose. The DShK and KPV heavy machine guns are usually found mounted on the BMP vehicles and BDRM-2 armored cars, both widely used by the Syrian government forces. In many cases, they have been taken from those vehicles once they've been disabled or destroyed. 

The ZU-23-2 is a more powerful weapon, capable of firing large, 23mm shells over a greater distance. It has proved itself as a deadly anti-air weapon: An October report from the Institute for the Study of War estimated that it has been responsible for 90 percent of the aircraft brought down in Syria. 

The Untold Story: How Kennedy came to India's aid in 1962

Last updated on: December 04, 2012

The story of the 1962 war with China has all the elements of a dramatic historical event.

Nehru's handling of the crisis and panic reactions were in marked contrast to the cool and confident Kennedy. 

The generous and prompt response by JFK made him an icon in India [ Images ]. But the US State Department, under pressure from Pakistan and with British support, scuttled the chances of a more lasting India-US alliance, say Colonel Anil Athale (retd). 

For most Indians, the dominant memory of India-United States relations continues to be the presence of the USS Enterprise in the Bay of Bengal during the 1971 Bangladesh war.

During the 1962 border conflict, it was the US that came to India's rescue and there were plans to send the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier to the Bay of Bengal to support India against a possible Chinese invasion. 

Many of my generation remember vividly how then American President John F Kennedy [ Images ] had become one of the most popular figures in India -- so much so that most paan shops, (the true barometer of public opinion in India) routinely had Kennedy's photograph alongside the familiar one of Jawaharlal Nehru [ Images ] and Mahatma Gandhi [ Images ]. 

The Sino-Indian border conflict coincided with the Cuban Missile Crisis and was largely ignored in the world media. Yet today, in retrospect, this remains a major issue in the politics of Asia while the Cuban Missile Crisis is of academic value after the demise of the Soviet Union. 
The future world will bear a heavy impact of this military clash between the two Asian giants. The Sino-Indian clash sounded a virtual death knell for the Communist movement in India, till then the best organised political party after the Indian National Congress. 

Ethnic Violence in Myanmar: Impact on India

Ethnic violence has once again flared up in Myanmar’s Rakhine state which due to the communal overtones of the conflict could have potential security implications for India. Myanmar has a small Muslim population – about 2 million people comprising 3.8 per cent of the state’s population. A considerable number of Myanmar’s Muslims inhabit Rakhine state (formerly Arakan province) which stretches along most of Myanmar’s coast up to the Bay of Bengal and borders the Chittagong province of Bangladesh. The Rohingya, as the Rakhine Muslims are called number over 75,000 and form a sizeable minority inRakhine’s mainly Buddhist population of 3.83 million people. The Buddhists mainly inhabit the coastal belt and the Rohingya inhabit the area to its North where they are concentrated in theMaungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaungareas where theyconstitute about 91 per cent of the population. The Rohingya speak Bengali and have ethnic and religious similarity to the Bengali of Chittagong Province. This fact lies at the heart of the conflict. 

In Myanmar, there are no questions asked about the citizenship of 135 officially recognised ethnic groups across the state, the majority of which straddle the country's borderlands with India, Bangladesh, China and Thailand. The Rohingya are however viewed by the state as outsiders. A typical post-colonial "indigene-settler" dispute exists in Rakhine state with the Buddhist Rakhine considering themselves as the original inhabitants of the land and perceiving the Muslim Rohingya as "Bengali settlers". The Rohingya make conflicting historical claims to their rights as Myanmar citizens. However, as per Myanmar's 1982 Citizenship Law, the Rohingya, along with some other communities were not among the 135 officially recognised ethnic groups entitled to citizenship. Since Bangladesh also rejects them, the move effectively rendered stateless 800,000 Rohingya living in Myanmar. Even the word "Rohingya" is widely disputed. Buddhists say it was made up to obscure the Muslim population's South Asian heritage. 

As the Rohingya is perceived to be an outsider, government policies for these people have reflected local attitudes, concerns and prejudices. The Rohingya has thus been subjected to systematic state policies of seclusion, restrictions and arbitrary treatment imposed upon them by successive governments. These policies led to violence in 1978 and then again in 1991/92, forcing many Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh. As per a UN report, Bangladesh currently hosts about 200,000 Rohingya. Many have also migrated to Malaysia and the Middle East. 

AFSPA: Who wants the military for internal security?

Issue Net Edition | Date : 04 Dec , 2012 

Parliament and Government 

Government can function in the interest of people only when there is peace and order in society, persons in power use people-oriented politics, and the rule of law is observed by all sections of society. Maintenance of security, public order, and supplies and services essential to the public, usually together termed “law and order”, is the primary task of the civil administration. [“Civil administration” is the combination of the powers, roles and functions of elected politicians, bureaucrats and police officers]. 

When law and order breaks down in spite of the presence of the state and central police (often because of their misuse), it can only be restored by deployment of the military. 

Disturbance of law and order usually happens because of conflict of interests within civil society, caused by inappropriate laws and/or unfair policies and/or poor implementation. In short, mal-administration, though that is not invariably the cause. When law and order and peace in society is disturbed and is beyond political resolution, governance calls for using the force of the state and/or central police. When law and order breaks down in spite of the presence of the state and central police (often because of their misuse), it can only be restored by deployment of the military. There is no other option with government. 

The military on Internal Security (IS) duties is to civil society what an ICU is to a critically ill person. 

Under Article 246 of the constitution, Parliament makes laws concerning the deployment of the Armed Forces “in aid of the civil power”, prescribing the powers, jurisdiction, privileges and liabilities of soldiers during such deployment. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA, hereinafter) is one such law. Other Acts are the Army Act 1950, the Navy Act 1957 and the Air Force Act 1950, and the associated Rules, that administer military law to soldiers (all ranks of the three armed forces). These laws abrogate soldiers’ fundamental rights under Article 19(1)(a), (b) and (c), of freedom of speech and expression to communicate with the media, freedom of assembly, or the right to form or be members of associations or unions for collective bargaining. Citizens including the bureaucracy and the Central and State Police services are not subject to such restrictions. Soldiers are thus, by law, specially disempowered citizens, because of the nature of duties performed by them and for maintenance of discipline among them. 

The US is waiting for India to mess things up with the Maldives

December 04, 2012


- The US is waiting for India to mess things up with the Maldives
Diplomacy: K.P. Nayar

Salman Khurshid has discovered within a month in his new job that some things have not changed in India's external affairs in nearly twenty years. When P.V. Narasimha Rao promoted Khurshid within a few days of the latter's 40th birthday in 1993 from deputy minister for commerce to minister of state for external affairs, one of his first tasks was to read out the Riot Act to the Maldives. Last month, he found himself engaged in the same brief almost two decades after his first such encounter.

Rao's government was tipped off then that the Maldivians were secretly cosying up to Pakistan. India's neighbourhood was already unfriendly: not far from the Maldives, the wily Ranasinghe Premadasa, who ruled Colombo, was deeply distrustful of India so soon after Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, and, to both India's east and west, the demolition of the Babri Masjid a few months earlier had made the environment tense and unpredictable.

The president of the Maldives for three decades, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, had cultivated the reputation that he was a friend of India, but he was steadily allowing an undercurrent of Islamization to take root in his island nation of atolls with money from Arab Gulf states flowing in for building mosques vastly out of proportion with his country's small population and for other religious activities.

India summoned Gayoom's foreign minister, Fathulla Jameel, to New Delhi where he was handed over to Khurshid one evening. Jameel was then Asia's longest serving foreign minister (he stayed in that office eventually for 27 years), and South Block knew he could read the writing on a South Asian wall. Getting India's junior foreign minister to speak to him was itself a message to the Maldives when protocol required Khurshid's boss, Dinesh Singh, the external affairs minister to engage his counterpart from Male.

The entire operation was somewhat cloak and dagger. There was no public announcement of Jameel's arrival and his visit was handled in South Block largely by its Pakistan division and not the one handling the Maldives. The young Khurshid acquitted himself well and Male did not cross the proverbial lakshman rekha with Islamabad as subsequent events testified.

But unlike two decades ago, there is no certainty that India can now force the Maldives to fall in line on the latest irritant in their bilateral relations over the problem of the Male airport contract. No amount of spin can save India's face if that happens and New Delhi loses Male forever because of bad judgement in South Block on the current stand-off.

For one thing, the Rao government's unpublicized, but clinically targeted, confrontation with Male was over an issue of national interest and security. India's latest fight with the Maldives is over a deal with a private contractor, however much New Delhi might whitewash it as a matter of supreme national concern. In fact, the grapevine in New Delhi and Thiruvananthapuram is full of innuendoes that Arvind Kejriwal has enough material on the 'East-India-Company-type approach' by some Indian businesses in the Maldives that will produce another of his bombshells, even if it may occur only closer to the next Lok Sabha elections for maximum effect.

In any case, having sullied its hands in the till on a succession of corruption-tainted corporate deals in recent years, the United Progressive Alliance government has no credibility left when it speaks for Indian businesses abroad. In part, that explains the attitude in Male to New Delhi's demands on behalf of the GMR Group, whose airport contract has been cancelled. But there is also a larger dimension to the episode that points to a colossal foreign policy failure within the UPA government that is largely self- inflicted. It is a drift, which, if unchecked — and it may already be too late — can have ramifications that South Block cannot afford either in the country's neighbourhood or on any larger geographic scale.

In recent times, there has been a steady stream of instances when the ministry of external affairs forgot a golden rule in diplomacy that reaction to any development overseas has to be measured, proportionate and calculated to produce the maximum impact.

Earlier this year, the ministry had egg on its face when it disproportionately became engaged in a Calcutta couple's child custody dispute in Norway that turned out to be a case of marital discord combined with health problems of one of the parents. It is no one's suggestion that such consular issues should be neglected. But, for the minister for external affairs of a country that aspires to be a global power to personally get involved in such matters instead of leaving them to his joint secretary dealing with the country concerned or to the chief passport officer is to waste New Delhi's considerable diplomatic capital abroad.

The worst case of this kind was perhaps in April this year when the United States of America's deputy chief of mission in New Delhi was summoned to South Block over a mere 75-minute delay in clearing the actor, Shah Rukh Khan, at White Plains airport in New York. The summons was preceded by the unedifying spectacle of a procession of members of the UPA's council of ministers going on record protesting against what is a normal delay that millions of Indian citizens like Khan regularly face at airports the world over in the course of their travels.

A plethora of such examples of diplomatic excess pale into insignificance before the bad judgment that South Block is now displaying on the airport row with the Maldives. The defence minister A.K. Antony is a man who does not speak out of turn before TV cameras and, instead, does what he has to do in private. So, it is not yet clear to those outside the government if Antony has brought to the attention of the prime minister and his cabinet colleagues the risks involved in an undesirable government intervention in a private business dispute with Male at this stage, and the stakes in such ill-advised action for India's defence and national security.

Those in New Delhi who are threatening to cut off aid to the Maldives — a pittance of $25 million — could not be unaware that Antony made a highly sensitive visit to the Maldives in August 2009. Typical of the defence minister's style, the visit was low profile, but the composition of his team was a dead giveaway. India's defence minister would not spend as many as three full working days in a tiny country like the Maldives, that too accompanied, among others, by his defence secretary, the director-general of the coast guard, at least one vice admiral and the deputy chief of naval staff unless there is very important business to be transacted with his hosts.

With that visit put together by the ministry of defence, the navy had begun a strategic initiative to establish a bridgehead in the once-critical World War II royal air force base of Gan, which the British vacated and handed over to the Maldives in 1976. In addition to a presence in Gan, Antony and his team unveiled, during that visit, the road-map for an Indian naval and air force presence permanently in Male and in the Maldivian atoll of Haa Dhalu. This has been one of the navy's biggest initiatives since it began a rapid expansion a few years ago.

Those in the UPA government who are demanding punishment of a sovereign state for cancelling an airport contract are ignoring the reality that today the Maldives is being wooed by big powers because of its strategic location. It is a failure of recent Indian diplomacy that the Maldivians are now willing to be wooed. That would have been unthinkable in the years of Indira Gandhi, her son Rajiv or their successor, Rao.

The man of the moment in Male is the US assistant secretary of state for South Asia, Robert Blake, who knows the atolls well from the time he lived in Colombo as the American ambassador. Blake is now waiting for India to mess up its relations with the Maldives and walk away with Gan, giving the Pentagon its biggest gift in the region since Diego Garcia military base in 1971.

Signs of a revival


In the middle of the expanses of Siberia, it is most interesting to come across monks, all of whom speak Hindi as they have received their Buddhist education in India. 

SAMYE MONASTERY, CENTRAL TIBET, 8TH CENTURY C.E. This was the first monastery to be established in Tibet. It was founded by Shantarakshita, who was from Nalanda University in present-day Bihar. The monastery building is designed on the model of the Odantapuri Mahavihara, which was close to Nalanda. This is the only surviving representation of what ancient Indian mahaviharas looked like. 

Traders in caravans of ancient times connected China, Europe and India. On these routes, besides the exchange of goods there was the sharing of ideas about the meaning of life and the eternal truths. The concepts that took the deepest root were those of Buddhism, which Indian traders spoke about. They included the concepts of “samsara” and “maya”, the illusory nature of the material world around us. They spoke about the many temptations of the natural world that always led to dissatisfaction and pain and explained that the way to remove the pain of existence was to do away with the desires that caused it. Indic philosophy did not really speak of gods or external forces, but was a science of life. 

THOLING MONASTERY, ZANDA, NGARI, WESTERN TIBET, 996 C.E. In the 10th century, King Yeshe Od sent Rinchen Zangpo to Kashmir to acquire knowledge of Buddhism and also bring artists to decorate the 108 monasteries that were built in the trans-Himalayas. The earliest two of these monasteries were Tholing in Tibet and Nyarma in Ladakh, India. These 108 monasteries became the backbone of Buddhism in the trans-Himalayas. 

Knowing your onions in New York

P. Sainath 
Photo: P. Sainath COLD STORAGE: Piled up near the fields of Chris Pawelski are rotting onions, the ones that didn’t meet the norms of the chain stores ‘that dictate everything.’ 

The entire U.S. agrarian structure and policy is geared towards serving the corporate sector and against small family farms 

“My onions are big, aren’t they?” Chris Pawelski asked our group of visitors at his farm 60 miles from New York City. “Any idea why?” 

Because of consumer demand, we wondered? Perhaps bigger bulbs caught the customer’s eye better? “Nope,” said Pawelski, a fourth-generation farmer whose family arrived from Poland in 1903 and has worked this land for over a century. “The size is set by the retail chain stores. They dictate almost everything.” 

That “almost everything” includes prices. While the Walmarts, Shop Rites and other chain stores sell his kind of onions for $1.49 to $1.89 a pound, Pawelski himself gets no more than 17 cents. And that’s an improvement. Between 1983 and 2010, the average price he got stayed around 12 cents a pound. 

“All our input costs rose,” he points out. “Fertiliser, pesticide, just about everything went up. Except the price we got.” Which was about $6 a 50-pound bag. Retail prices though, soared in the same period. Distances are not the cause. The same chains sell cheap imports from Peru and China, driving down prices. And have branches not far from this farm in Goshen, Orange County, New York state. 

US agrees to provide defence equipment to Pak

December 04, 2012

The United States on Tuesday agreed to step up efforts to provide defence equipment needed by Pakistan to maintain security along its border with war-torn Afghanistan and to continue discussions on the provision of military aid to Islamabad [ Images ]. 

The decisions were made during the two-day meeting of the US-Pakistan Defence Consultative Group, which concluded in the Defence Ministry in Rawalpindi on Tuesday.

This was the first meeting of the DCG since May 2011, when ties between the two sides were hit by the unilateral American military raid that killed Osama bin Laden [ Images ] in Abbottabad. 

A joint statement issued after the talks said: "Recognising the enduring security requirements on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the two delegations agreed to cooperate on a prioritised set of Pakistan's defence requirements which will inform follow-on consultations on security assistance." 

Pakistan has projected a requirement for military hardware needed for ongoing anti-terrorism operations along the Afghan border.

Another meeting of officials from both sides is expected to be held early next year in the US to discuss the supply of the equipment, official sources told PTI. 

The joint statement further said: "The US and Pakistan also discussed the importance of the Coalition Support Fund and Security Assistance Programs, and agreed to continued consultations on the way forward." 

The US had held up military aid to Pakistan, including payments from the Coalition Support Fund to reimburse Islamabad for its expenses on the war against terror, after bilateral ties plunged to an all-time low last year. 

The Pakistani delegation at the meeting of the DCG was led by Defence Secretary Lt Gen (retired) Asif Yasin Malik while the US side was headed by Under Secretary of Defence for Policy James N Miller.

"Both delegations welcomed the resumption of bilateral security cooperation and agreed that relations between the two countries should be based on the principles of strategic desirability, political sustainability, trust, and mutual respect," the joint statement said. 

The two sides further "acknowledged that bilateral counterterrorism cooperation has been critical to weakening violent extremists and underscores the importance of continuing cooperation to complete the defeat of Al Qaeda [ Images ] and its affiliates in the region". 

They also "affirmed their mutual commitment to a strong defence relationship which they stressed should focus on achieving common objectives".

The DCG is the main forum between Pakistan and the US for coordinating defence policy to strengthening cooperation to support each country's security interests. 

During the plenary session the participants shared their respective assessments of the bilateral relationship, discussed each side's strategic priorities, and agreed on areas for future defence cooperation. 

Report: Iraq and Afghanistan account for 35% of last decade's terrorist attacks

Posted By Joshua Keating
December 4, 2012

The Global Terrorism Index, a report released today by the Sydney-based Institute for Economics and Peace, tracks terrorist attacks in 158 countries between 2002 and 2011 and paints and interesting and at times surprising picture of post-9/11 terrorism. 

For instance, there's the dispiriting fact that the two countries where the United States launched wars in the name of fighting terrorism early in the last decade went on to account for more than one third of terrorist incidents during this period. More than a third of all victims between 2002 and 2011 were Iraqi and the biggest global rise in terrorism occurred between 2005 and 2007, which the authors attribute primarily to events in Iraq. 

While only 31 of the countries surveyed experience no terrorist attacks, violence was highly concentrated with just ten countries accounting for 87 percent of attacks:

North America was the region least likely to experience terrorism during this period -- Western Europe suffered 19 times more deaths -- and with notable exceptions like the 2009 Ft. Hood shooting, most U.S. terrorism is not tied to Islamic extremists or international groups: 

Book Review: The Hunt for KSM: Inside the Pursuit and Takedown of the Real 9/11 Mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Published by Little, Brown & Company (2012) 
Reviewed by Wells Bennett 
Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 10:42 AM 

Though The Hunt for KSM is not written as an epic, it nevertheless begins in medias res, during the 2002 takedown of an Al-Qaeda senior lieutenant in Afghanistan, Abu Zubaydah. Allegedly quite knowledgeable about past terror plots and upcoming ones, Zubaydah – under subsequent questioning by the FBI and still recovering from gunshot wounds – made a startling revelation. He told his questioners that “Mukhtar,” whom bin Laden earlier had praised for planning 9/11, was in fact Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, then the target of a long-running but separate investigation. Thus inquiries into 9/11 and so many other past attacks converged and trained the United States’ sights on “KSM,” as he is almost universally known. 

From the Zubaydah operation, co-authors Terry McDermott and Josh Meyer steer us backwards, first to KSM’s younger years in Kuwait and later at two North Carolina colleges. The pair then embark on compellingly narrated tour through each major phase of the arch-terrorist’s jihadist life: to name a few, the World Trade Center and Bojinka plots, KSM’s evasion of U.S. criminal investigators in Qatar and the Philippines, his devising and supervision of the 9/11 attacks, Zubaydah’s apprehension, and KSM’s betrayal and capture in 2003. After discussing KSM’s interrogation – enhanced and unenhanced – and transfer to Guantanamo (where he remains), the authors choose bin Laden’s 2011 killing as their stopping point. 

The book warrants the same “A-plus” that Ben Wittes gave in these pages to Joby Warrick’s The Triple Agent, and for many of the same reasons. Like The Triple Agent, The Hunt for KSM is a gripping, digestible-on-a-weekend-trip piece of journalism. The narrative’s two hundred and eighty-seven pages would make a compelling detective or spy novel, even if the events it depicted were not true. Once started, I scarcely could put it down. 

And much as Warrick did in The Triple Agent, McDermott and Meyer also have compiled many revealing details about KSM – ones which, I suspect, will be of great interest to readers who generally are familiar with but not experts on the 9/11 attacks. Such details comprise the book’s rich portrait of its subject: KSM maintains ties with his Baluch clan, but also moves among many cultures, being fluent in four languages and having lived in or traveled to places as far-flung as Brazil and the Philippines. He insists on strict security protocols, yet occasionally travels under his own name or wanders into public view, even after the dragnet for him has shifted into its highest gear. He takes special steps to ensure that Daniel Pearl’s killing is as savage as possible, and counsels Jose Padilla on how to maximize casualties during the bombing of buildings – but he also tells jokes, flirts, and writes poems to wife of a U.S. interrogator. He is, in the view of an FBI official, “the kind of guy you could sit down and have a beer with, if he hadn’t been one of the worst mass murderers in American history.” 

Pakistan's Endgame in Afghanistan?

The Huffington Post
By Aparna Pande Research Fellow & Director, Hudson Institute's Initiative on Future of India & South Asia


As preparations for the American draw down from Afghanistan get underway, there appears to be another game in town: played by Pakistan's leaders, strategists and for lack of a better word, sympathizers. The argument put forth is this: all problems would be solved if only India would stop playing a role in Afghanistan and if the world, especially the U.S., understood (read 'supported') Pakistan's interests in Afghanistan. In itself this sounds simple, however, in reality it is not. 

Old South Asia hands will agree this is nothing new. In the 1980s, once the Geneva Accord discussions started, Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff Gen Zia ul Haq insisted that the Americans help install a pro-Pakistan government in Afghanistan before they withdraw from the region. As Zia stated in an interview to an American journalist: "We [Pakistan] have earned the right to have a friendly government in Kabul. We wont permit it to be like it was before, with Indian and Soviet influence there and claims to our territory." Pakistan's leaders and policymakers have always believed what Zia openly stated. 

Right from 1947, Pakistan has feared a strategic encirclement (also referred to as "the pincer movement") by its two neighbors, India and Afghanistan. The nightmare scenario for Pakistan's security establishment has been an attack from both its eastern and western borders. The need for a pro-Pakistan (read "anti- India") Afghan regime was hence deemed crucial to the foreign and security policy of Pakistan. Not only did Pakistan seek a friendly Afghanistan to prevent encirclement but also for decades Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment sought 'strategic depth' in Afghanistan i.e. an allied territory where Pakistan could relocate arms and personnel in the eventuality of an Indian attack.