27 January 2013

No mujahideen, only soldiers in Kargil: Pak General

Jan 27 2013

In a candid admission that only regular troops of the Pakistan Army took part in the Kargil conflict with India in 1999 and not mujahideen fighters as claimed by Islamabad, a retired Pakistani Lieutenant General, who was then heading the analysis wing of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), has written that the intrusion was an "unsound military plan based on invalid assumptions" and there was a "cover-up" later by his then chief, General Pervez Musharraf. 

In an article published in Pakistan's The Nation newspaper on January 6, Lt Gen Shahid Aziz, who retired in 2005 as commander of the IV Corps in Lahore, presents an account of the Kargil war that rejects many Pakistani claims about the conflict. 

"There were no mujahideen, only taped wireless messages, which fooled no one. Our soldiers were made to occupy barren ridges, with hand held weapons and ammunition," Aziz said. 

Criticising Musharraf in the article, Aziz makes the point that the entire battle was ill-planned and young soldiers were used as "war fodder" for the "misadventure". 

"An unsound military plan based on invalid assumptions, launched with little preparations and in total disregard to the regional and international environment, was bound to fail. That may well have been the reason for its secrecy. It was a total disaster." 

"Whatever little I know, took a while to emerge, since General Musharraf had put a tight lid on Kargil. Three years later, a study commenced by GHQ to identify issues of concern at the lowest levels of command, was forcefully stopped by him. 'What is your intent?' he asked." 

The intrusion was clearly intended to dominate the supply line to Siachen and cut off the glacier for an invasion by Pakistani troops. 

"It certainly wasn't a defensive manoeuvre. There were no indications of an Indian attack. We didn't pre-empt anything; nothing was on the cards. I was then heading the Analysis Wing of Inter Services Intelligence and it was my job to know," he wrote. 

"To say that occupying empty spaces along the Line of Control was not a violation of any agreement and came under the purview of the local commander is astounding. This area was with the Indians as a result of Shimla Agreement, and there had been no major violation of the Line of Control since 1971." 

Describing how Pakistan army soldiers died after they were isolated and came under the Indian counter attack, Aziz said assumptions were made by the military leadership that the Indian Army would not be able to dislodge the fighters from the heights. 

Cases of Headley & Rana: What Next?

26 Jan , 2013 

The Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India has been less than honest with the public by trying to convey an impression that it will continue to try for the extradition of David Coieman Headley of the Chicago cell of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), who has been sentenced to 35 years in prison by a Chicago court for his co-operation with the LET of Pakistan and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the planning and execution of the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai and his role in the abandoned plans of the LET to blow up the office of a Danish paper which had published caricatures of the Holy Prophet. 

The Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India has been less than honest with the public by trying to convey an impression that it will continue to try for the extradition of David Coieman Headley of the Chicago cell of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) 

His extradition is legally out of question since as part of the plea bargain entered into with him, the USA’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has made a commitment to him that he will not be extradited to India. Moreover, since he has been convicted by the US court for his role in the 26/11 strikes, the bar of double jeopardy will come in the way of his being tried in India. This prohibits the conviction of a person twice for the same offence. 

When the FBI originally informed the court of the plea bargain, I had written that before the plea bargain is accepted by the court, the Government of India and the relatives of the victims of the 26/11 strikes should oppose its acceptance since its acceptance would preclude the death sentence and extradition. No action was taken by the Government of India and the relatives. His plea bargain was accepted by the court and he has now been convicted under it. 

The MHA must have the honesty to admit that as a result of its bad handling of the case, the extradition door has been closed for ever. But an option of limited utility still remains open. As part of the plea bargain, Headley has made a commitment to the FBI to continue to co-operate with it and with the agencies of other countries having liaison with the FBI in any future investigation. Under this, a team of our National Investigation Agency (NIA) can still visit the US and question Headley in judicial custody in the presence of the FBI. However, it is doubtful whether anything useful would come out of this exercise, but we may still try it to find out about his network in India. 

Time to bridge Sino-Indian border differences

By Namrata Goswami and Jenee Sharon 

26 Jan 2013

The Sino-Indian border dispute in India’s eastern sector is one of the most intractable land conflicts. The quarrel has entangled China and India since 1949, and resulted in the 1962 border war which saw India defeated at the hands of China. Both countries have entered negotiations, but "incompatibilities" are constantly stalling the process. 

There are three major obstacles. Firstly, India wants to recognize the McMahon line, a line agreed to by Britain and Tibet as part of the Simla Accord signed in 1914, as the permanent border between China and India. However, China views the McMahon line as a legacy of British imperialism, and hence unacceptable to China. 

The underlying assumption behind China’s reluctance to accept the McMahon line is that if China recognizes that line, that would automatically signify that China recognizes the 1914 accord signed by Tibet as an independent country. This is a no-go area for China. 

Secondly, China has made aggressive territorial claims to over 90, 000 square kms of territory in India's eastern sector resulting in overt military postures by both sides. 

Finally, there is the presence of the Tibetan government-in-exile and the Dalai Lama in India, which adds fuel to Chinese suspicions that India must be harboring some future designs for an independent Tibet. 

China and India set up a "Special Representatives" mechanism in 2003 to carry forward the border talks, resulting in a framework agreement in 2005 on the guiding principles for negotiations. However, the "incompatibilities" have created obstacles and the Special Representative talks have been characterized as an impasse in recent years. Despite 50 rounds of such negotiations and three major bilateral agreements following their 1962 clash, China and India's border dispute seems no nearer resolution. 

Assessments of the formal talks suggest both parties lack the incentive to arrive at a negotiated solution. While there is limited progress, both parties seem interested in maintaining the status quo. This does not augur well for future Sino-Indian relations as the border dispute has the potential to thwart greater broader bilateral cooperation 

Pakistan’s Sinister Use of Prisoners

By Ron Moreau 
Jan 26, 2013

By releasing two dozen top Taliban fighters in the last two months, Islamabad is playing a dangerous game. 

The Taliban have always had a one point agenda in their peace strategy: to get the maximum number of prisoners released as quickly as possible from Pakistani jails and US lockups at Guantanamo and inside Afghanistan. To their mind, only after a steady stream of important, battlefield-hardened prisoners is being freed, thus strengthening the insurgency in the field, can a serious discussion of ceasefires and other confidence building measure be held. 

Released Taliban prisoners sit on chairs and pray during a ceremony in Pul-e-Charkhi jail while Afghanistan National Army soldiers look on on January 4, 2013. About 80 men, all wearing white skull caps, were released from jail in Afghanistan's largest prison located on dusty flatlands east of the capital Kabul. (Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty ) 

And no one knows that better than Pakistan, which is beginning to exert its considerable influence over any Afghanistan endgame as the US and other coalition forces prepare to withdraw from the combat zone in 2014. Pakistan is determined to play a major, if not the prime, role in any peace settlement in order to protect its many national security interests in Afghanistan, including what it sees as its sacrosanct western border. 

To do so Pakistan has released more than two dozen top Taliban prisoners over the past two months ostensibly as a goodwill gesture to put some momentum back in the moribund peace process. Pakistan’s motives are largely selfish. Islamabad felt ignored by, and was skeptical of, American peace feelers to the Taliban, knowing that it is holding most of the cards in any eventual settlement. Now it wants to get back in the driver’s seat. 

Towards a global network of liberal Muslims

By Abdelwahab Meddeb
26 Jan 13 

In Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, as in Chittagong, the country's second largest city, following meetings with writers, poets and academics I understand that it is necessary to create a network of liberal Muslim artists and intellectuals to protect our countries against the tidal wave of Wahhabism and Salafism. The latter is transforming Islam and leading its people toward close-mindedness and fanaticism. 

It is amazing to discover how similar the problems are from Morocco to South Asia. The whole horizontal stretch of civilisation running above the Tropics to which we belong is being contaminated. It teeters under the onslaught of a devastating standardisation. 

This situation has nothing to do with chance; it is the outcome of a carefully articulated policy that has shown its consistency, its rigour, its impetus. It has produced effects that transform reality, ever since the first oil crisis in 1974, which flooded Saudi Arabia with petro-dollars, a part of which has been used methodically to the propagation of Wahhabi doctrine across the world. 

From that moment, Islam started changing from Indonesia to the Maghreb. In terms of cult practices, it is currently undergoing standardisation and universalisation that bears the hallmark of the simplified Wahhabi doctrine, rejecting theological complexity to favour the constancy of religious practices. 

To counter these perils, if it is not already too late, one must focus on the four points that have been the favourite targets of Wahhabism: 

1. Vernacular Islam revolves around the institution of saints, a mode of religious practices which activates the mechanism of what the ancient Greeks called tragedy, involving a process of catharsis (the purgation of passions) that enables the individual or the community to release the excess of tensions they are submitted to. 

2. This brand of Islam integrates pre-Islamic features that go far back in time; with vim and vigour, it recycles ancient and antique elements that in Bangladesh, where I am writing from, are Indian. It is connected to the Hindu and Buddhist heritages, and proclaims solidarity between the alim and the pundit, the Sufi and the yogi. In the same way, in Tunisia, this substratum is of Mediterranean essence, fusing and interlocking ancestral elements of Berber, Jewish, Latin and sub-Saharan African heritages that are framed by Islamic belief. 

3. The second point has to do with the doctrinal and juridical approaches that set the norm in the way it should be adapted and articulated to positive law, to common law. The Wahhabi tidal wave intends to suppress the Hanafi memory in Bangladesh and the Maliki memory in Maghreb. Despite their operational shortcomings, these memories are the repositories of complexities, of exchanges of ideas that Wahhabi simplification cannot bear because it focuses all its energies on orthopraxy to the detriment of questioning. 

Work With China, Don’t Contain It

CITING an escalating dispute over islands in the East China Sea, The Economist warned last week that “China and Japan are sliding toward war.” That assessment may be too alarmist, but the tensions have bolstered the efforts of some American analysts who have urged a policy to “contain” China. 

During a recent visit to China, I was struck by how many Chinese officials believe such a policy is already in place and is the central purpose of President Obama’s “pivot” toward Asia. “The pivot is a very stupid choice,” Jin Canrong, a professor of international relations, declared publicly. “The United States has achieved nothing and only annoyed China. China can’t be contained,” he added. 

Containment was designed for a different era, and it is not what the United States is, or should be, attempting now. At the start of the cold war, containment meant economic isolation of the Soviets and regional alliances like NATO to deter Moscow’s military expansion. Later, to the chagrin of George F. Kennan, the father of containment, the doctrine led to the “domino effect” theory behind the escalation of the Vietnam War. 

Cold war containment involved virtually no trade and little social contact. But China now is not what the Soviet Union was then. It is not seeking global hegemony, and the United States not only has an immense trade with China but also huge exchanges of students and tourists. 

When I worked on the Pentagon’s East Asia strategy in 1994, during the Clinton administration, we rejected the idea of containment for two reasons. If we treated China as an enemy, we were guaranteeing a future enemy. If we treated China as a friend, we kept open the possibility of a more peaceful future. 

We devised a strategy of “integrate but hedge” — something like Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify.” America supported China’s membership in the World Trade Organization and accepted Chinese goods and visitors. But a 1996 declaration reaffirmed that the postwar United States-Japan security treaty was the basis for a stable and prosperous East Asia. President Clinton also began to improve relations with India to counterbalance China’s rise. 

Burma learns how to protest - against Chinese investors

By Lucy Ash BBC News, Monywa
25 Jan 2013

Burma's steps towards democracy have made it possible for people to protest publicly, for the first time in decades, against things they don't like - and Chinese businesses have turned out to be top of their list
Standing at the bottom of the vast open mine, I am a tiny matchstick figure. 
My colleagues are standing hundreds of feet above but they can't hear my shouts or even see my face. 

From their perspective, the giant dumper trucks snaking their way to the bottom of the pit look like children's toys. 

This is one of the world's top 10 copper deposits, expected to generate tens of billions of dollars over the next 30 years. 

According to its Chinese co-owners, the metal extracted here, in the north-west Sagaing Region, is of the purest quality and much sought-after globally. 

Most is destined for Japan, Malaysia and the Middle East, but Geng Yi, the young managing director from Beijing, believes Burma itself will soon be an important customer. 

Mine Director, Geng Yi is frustrated by delays to theexpansion of the mine 

Although five decades of military rule have turned Burma - or Myanmar as the generals named it - into the poorest nation in the region, it has ambitions to become a "golden bridge" between the mega-economies of India and China. 

To achieve this goal, cash from abroad is urgently needed. 

Japan pivots south, with eye on China

By Richard Javad Heydarian 
26 Jan 2013

MANILA - After decades of self-imposed pacifism, Japan is beginning to carve out a new role in regional maritime affairs. Newly elected Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has launched a charm offensive across the Pacific, with Australia, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam among the countries Tokyo is bidding to align against China's rising assertiveness. 

Abe has vowed to revisit Japan's pacifist constitution, re-calibrate its security alliance with the United States, and steer the establishment of a so-called "democratic security diamond", a proposed strategic alliance of like-minded Indo-Pacific countries that share similar anxieties about China's growing naval might. 

If implemented, Abe's policies will inject Japan into the heart of the intensifying Pacific struggle between Beijing and Washington for maritime regional maritime dominance and stir new concerns, especially in China, over a possible reemergence of Japan's militaristic past. 

Japan has already broken with tradition by increasing its defense budget for the first time in 11 years, [1] providing military aid to Cambodia and East Timor, and considering the sale of military equipment such as seaplanes and advanced Soryu submarines to strategic partners such as Vietnam and Australia. 

New geopolitics

While Washington is traditionally the first foreign destination for newly elected Japanese leaders, the new Abe administration chose to prioritize southern partners in the Pacific on their international itineraries. 

In January, Abe visited Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, while dispatching Deputy Minister Taro Aso to Myanmar and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida to Australia, Brunei, the Philippines, and Singapore. 

While Japan-China trade has fallen from 18.4% of Tokyo's total exports in 2000 to 11.2% in 2011, exports to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' (ASEAN) Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam has risen from 9.7% to 10.9% over the same period, according to a report from the Japan Research Institute. [2] 

"Currently, the strategic environment in the Asia-Pacific region is going through a dynamic change," Abe said in explaining his reasons for choosing Southeast Asia as his first foreign destination. "During this change, having closer relations with ASEAN countries contributes to the region's peace and stability and is in Japan's national interest." 

Why Egypt's 'Twitter revolution' was a western myth

Social media narratives are appealing because they allow us to create our own feel-good stories about revolution 

Charles Trew
25 Jan 2013 

What exactly was the 'Twitter’ or ‘Facebook’ Revolution? In the west, a whole theory of revolution emerged as protests erupted in Egypt. 

Journalists and commentators alike claimed that the inherently democratic tools of social media exposed people to new values and ideas. How fitting, they argued, that these new media tools should provide the catalyst for the revolution, the tools which launched it and the method for reporting it. The tidy narrative of the 'Facebook Revolution' was born, to be repeated and celebrated everywhere in the media. 

In reality, the so-called ‘Twitter Revolution’ had very little to do with the activists on the ground who were protesting or how they used these tools during the 18 days. This social media ‘revolution’ was really about how the west experienced events in Egypt. 

Of course, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube did have a role to play: activists used them to highlight the initial round of protests, to distribute information, to facilitate organisation on the ground such as medical help or blood donations and to communicate across the square to warn of charges and attacks. 

But, without meaning it, this information took on a life of its own and started to play a role that was never intended or expected. When an online onlooker re-tweeted the status of an Egyptian activist, they ‘reproduced’ it: by copying, sharing and redistributing it they removed it from its original context and placed it into the context of their own projected self, their online avatar. 

What role is it that this information shared on social media started to play? It is difficult to explain to an activist who demonstrated in Tahrir the sensation of experiencing those events over Twitter. It was intoxicating, tense, confusing and, in its own small way, scary. Without any independent way of verifying what you were reading, you had to build an image of what was happening. Tweets would appear on the screen with a million different narratives from which you knitted one, super-narrative of horror. As new tweets appeared and the old ones scrolled down the screen, time was simulated and when watching videos posted by activists in Tahrir, it was like having a virtual avatar through whose blurry eyes you could look. The noise was the most haunting- without being able to see what was going on, to judge the distance of shots or shouts, the imagination ran wild. 

The Ghosts of Barbary

January 24, 2013 

When the United States was born, Algiers was a greater military power. Its Ottoman-aligned sultans kept European slaves and deployed nine battleships and fifty gunboats to prey on merchant shipping in the Mediterranean. America had no international Navy, and isolationists among the Founding Fathers weren’t sure they ever wanted one. Yet North Africa was a place where Americans could make a fortune if they were willing to bear risks. 

In October, 1784, Algerian pirates attacked the American ship Betsy; the assailants had “sabers grasped between their teeth and their loaded pistols in their belts,” according to an eyewitness description that the historian Michael B. Oren cites in his book “Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present.” (Oren is currently Israel’s Ambassador to the United States. He also wrote “Six Days of War,” a terrific account of the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict.) The American sailors who surrendered were sent on to Morocco’s slave markets. Algerian brigands seized two other American ships a few months later and sent their crews into slavery, too. Even before it had ratified its Constitution, the United States was flummoxed by what it would later refer to as Middle Eastern terrorism. 

Before 1776, American capitalists in the Mediterranean had relied on the British Navy for protection; the Revolution left these entrepreneurs exposed, and they grumbled about the loss of the perks of King George’s patronage. Oren quotes Benjamin Franklin: “If there were no Algiers, it would be worth England’s while to build one.” America’s new leaders asked France for help on the Barbary seas, but the French declined; they said they had their own interests in the region to look after. Oren’s implication is that it was Barbary terrorism that first awakened America’s leaders to their dependence on international commerce and their need to project national power overseas. 

Russia, China grapple with Mali's future

By M K Bhadrakumar 
25 Jan 2013

There is a saying, "Once bitten, twice shy". Russia and China claim to have been bitten once: when the West turned the United Nation's Security Council resolution 1973 on its head and proceeded to invade Libya. Moscow and Beijing became shy when the West tried to do another Libya, over Syria. When the West mooted successive draft resolutions on Syria, they fought shy. 

Therefore, it comes as surprise that the two countries lost their shyness and allowed themselves to be hoodwinked again on Mali.
Curiously, Moscow and Beijing haven't yet commented on the French intervention in Mali, which came to light ipso facto and has rapidly morphed through the past week into a concerted Western enterprise in Africa. The mother of all ironies is that the

Mali enterprise is in many ways the direct outcome of the West's intervention in Libya, which Moscow and Beijing condemned as unlawful. 

These are early days, and the thinking in Moscow and Beijing could well be to wait and watch the tidings. The Russian and Chinese experts estimate that the French mission is going to be protracted and unproductive. 

Meanwhile, Paris made an astounding claim that Moscow "proposed to provide means of transport" for the French troops to be deployed in Mali. Russia has neither confirmed nor denied the French claim, which followed a telephone conversation between the two foreign ministers on Saturday. 

To be sure, the Western intervention in Mali has implications for big-power politics and for Russia's coordination with China on regional issues. To be sure, there are implications for the "Arab Spring" - and in a near term for Syria as well. 

France claims it responded to a distress call from the established government in Mali. But then, in March last year Mali had a military coup, which was staged by a US-trained military officer Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo. 

Although a lowly captain, Sanogo was a frequent visitor to the US - no fewer than seven times in the past eight years. Sanogo most certainly had powerful foreign backers. Since March, Mali has had so many coups and counter coups that one lost count and all of them by a military that has been armed and trained by the US. 

So, France is making a hollow claim regarding a formal invite from a legitimate government. France hasn't even bothered to seek a UN mandate. The Security Council resolution in last December was specific in mandating an African force led by Africans and expected an expedition circa September 2013 once such a force was trained and equipped by the UN. 

Anonymous Threatens Exposure of Government Secrets To Avenge Swartz's Death

Jan. 26, 2013

An Egyptian protester wears a mask of the Anonymous movement during a protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square 

Photo by MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images 

Hackers claiming to be part of the hacktivist group Anonymous took over the website of the U.S. Sentencing Commission early Saturday morning and threatened to release sensitive information about the Department of Justice to avenge the death of Aaron Swartz, the Internet activist who committed suicide on Jan. 11. The hackers took over the website for the agency responsible for setting sentencing guidelines with a message and a video demanding a reform of the U.S. justice system, reports CNN. They said they have infiltrated several government computer systems and threatened to make secret information public but don't ever reveal what that information might be. 

“With Aaron's death we can wait no longer,” said the message. “The time has come to show the United States Department of Justice and its affiliates the true meaning of infiltration.” When Swartz committed suicide, “a line was crossed,” said the message. Many, including his family, have said overzealous prosecution by the Justice Department was in part to blame for Swartz’s suicide. The Reddit and RSS pioneer faced as many as 35 years in prison as well as $4 million in fines for distributing academic articles. Anonymous wants legislation passed so that this type of prosecution can’t happen again, points out TechCrunch, adding that it may be the hacktivist group’s “biggest play ever.” 

The hackers said the website of the Sentencing Commission was chosen for symbolic reasons. “This website was chosen due to the symbolic nature of its purpose—the federal sentencing guidelines which enable prosecutors to cheat citizens of their constitutionally-guaranteed right to a fair trial, by a jury of their peers—the federal sentencing guidelines which are in clear violation of the 8th amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishments.” 

Citizens of the world, 

Britain Enters a Dangerous Period of Uncertainty

25 Jan 2013
It was a lengthy and complete speech when it came. David Cameron sought to encapsulate for continental Europeans Britain's psychology (or neurosis) about Europe as well as his principles for a reformed EU which, if met, would serve British interests and be deserving of continued UK membership. But he has also opened a period of unprecedented uncertainty about Britain's future relationship with the European Union. The negative impacts to UK national interests may outweigh the putative domestic political gains that his approach is meant to deliver. 

Cameron's reform agenda 

Cameron made a strong case for a Europe that would focus on some of the real obstacles to future European competitiveness, such as further opening the Single Market in services, energy and technology. Efforts to overcome these obstacles have often been blocked by many of the countries that would have benefited the most. 

He was right to warn about the loss of popular legitimacy that has accompanied the ever deepening process of European integration and to point to the need to engage national parliaments more actively in the EU process.

And he was correct to note that the response by eurozone members to the continuing crisis that has been exacerbated by an incomplete single currency will require new forms of integration that could spill over into the Single Market and affect the interests of the UK and other countries that intend to remain outside. The UK will need some safeguards about the sanctity of the Single Market. 

Cameron also made a strong case at the end of his speech for the benefits that accompany UK membership of the EU and the risks to the UK's economic prosperity and international influence that it would face should it choose to leave. 

There are many on the European continent who would share his analysis, especially on the first two items and the last. The problems for David Cameron and the UK do not lie in his analysis, but in three dimensions.