21 April 2013

Flawed greatness


Published: April 17, 2013

Two volumes that cover, among other things, a period of tension in India-China relations over the boundary issue and Nehru’s role in it. By A.G. NOORANI 

THESE volumes (Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru: 1 November-31 December 1958 and 1 January-28 February 29 Second Series; Volumes 45 and 46) cover a critical phase in the relations between India and China as they glided from the “bhai-bhai” phase to estrangement. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru does not come out well from the record. The compiler of his works, Madhavan K. Palat, comes out worse and confirms the impression of ineptness commented in an earlier review. 

Nehru’s important letter to Prime Minister Zhou En-lai on December 14, 1958, complaining of Chinese maps, which initiated the correspondence in which the dispute was laid bare, is editorially sourced to “Subimal Dutt Papers, NMML. Also available in JN Collection and PIB [Press Information Bureau].” A competent editor, equipped for the job, would have properly provided the only authoritative source—the first White Paper, published on September 7, 1959. Foreign Secretary Subimal Dutt’s papers are a secondary source. The PIB could not have released it before the White Paper. A footnote on Walter Lippman ends with his books published as far back as in 1913 and 1915, to the neglect of more relevant and copious writings later. 

As far back as on November 20, 1950, Nehru declared in Parliament that “the McMahon Line is our boundary” while “the frontier from Ladakh to Nepal is defined chiefly by long usage and custom”, which is untrue. It was never defined. The McMahon Line was defined by an Indo-Tibetan exchange of very brief notes on March 5, 1914, which confirmed the line drawn on an annexed map. 

This is what Nehru wrote to Subimal Dutt in a note dated November 11, 1958: “In regard to the controversy we are having with the Chinese government about our frontier in Ladakh, there is one point which we should bear in mind. I am told that the frontier as claimed by us is not only marked in our maps but is part of the McMahon Line. If we touch the McMahon Line in one place, then there is no particular reason why it should not be varied elsewhere” (emphasis added, throughout). These words should prod serious reflection. They expose the arrogant unilateralism which marked Nehru’s approach. Forget the contradiction between the 1950 declaration and this 1958 sophistry. But if anyone “told” the Prime Minister of India this utter falsehood, what prevented him from simply sending for the agreed map? What he was “told” was indeed an utter falsehood. The McMahon Line did not extend to Ladakh. It was confined to the north-east. To think that India’s Prime Minister entertained the idea he apparently did is disturbing. 

He made, however, an even more consequential assertion later. On September 12, 1959, well after the boundary dispute erupted in the open, Nehru told the Lok Sabha apropos the McMahon Line, that “in the Subansiri area or somewhere there, it was not considered a good line and it was varied afterwards by us, by the Government of India”. The line was not defined in words but on a map, which was an agreed treaty map. If a party can legally and morally alter a treaty map, so can it the words of a treaty, an unthinkable proposition. But if Nehru could vary the line in the east so could he in Ladakh, he evidently felt. He had done so earlier. 

Failing to deliver


Published: April 17, 2013
Defence 

India’s indigenous defence research and production capabilities have not kept pace with the country’s military requirements. By RAVI SHARMA

DEFENCE Minister A.K. Antony has said on numerous occasions that India still meets around 70 per cent of its military hardware and software requirements through imports. This makes India the world’s largest importer of major conventional weapons, which means it is vulnerable to supply lines being chocked at inappropriate times and arms procurement scandals (Bofors howitzer, Tatra truck, and more recently AugustaWestland VVIP helicopter) erupting occasionally. It also reflects poorly on the country’s capabilities and efforts to indigenise its military requirements. According to data released recently by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, India in 2008-12 accounted for 12 per cent of global arms imports, significantly ahead of second-placed China.

It is also an established fact that neither the indigenous defence research and development efforts nor the defence production capabilities —despite both being around for well over half a century—have kept pace with the armed forces’ requirements, either qualitatively or quantitatively. India, unlike China, is yet to build a robust and responsive defence technology and industrial base. 

In the face of the allegations that Rs.362 crore was paid as kickbacks in the purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters from AugustaWestland, Antony has again asked the armed forces to ensure that military hardware “imports are the last resort and not the easiest resort”. He has also indicated that the government is looking to tweak its defence production and defence procurement policies so that indigenisation of military hardware can be speeded up in “mission mode”.

Antony’s desire for indigenisation has been welcomed by the armed forces. In the Eleventh Plan period, the Indian Air Force (IAF) handed out 325 capital acquisition contracts worth Rs.1,52,000 crore (around $28.5 billion). Of these, 217 contracts totalling Rs.84,000 crore ($15.5 billion), a good 66 per cent, went to Indian companies. 

But delays and quality issues persist. Now, with all the three services buying equipment worth billions as they look to modernise and recast themselves for the 21st century, the task of indigenisation is daunting. 

The armed forces are overwhelmingly equipped with and dependent on platforms and systems acquired from Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and now increasingly Israel and the United States. According to numerous reports to Parliament by the Comptroller and Auditor General, a high proportion of these imported systems are frequently not serviceable, thus affecting the combat readiness of the armed forces. 

Defence experts also highlight the fact that even the so-called indigenously built platforms have an unacceptably high degree of imported content. The indigenously developed light combat aircraft Tejas is a prime example: the engine and the multi-mode radar are imported from the U.S. and Israel respectively. 

The country’s defence research establishment is represented mainly by the 50-odd laboratories and other establishments of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), with a collective budget of over Rs.10,000 crore. These and the defence industry, almost exclusively the preserve of defence public sector units (DPSUs), are strongly convinced that the armed forces will rather “buy from abroad” than allow them to develop, design and produce. The armed forces complain of time and cost overruns and unreal promises. The DRDO and, to a lesser extent, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), a DPSU, complain that the armed forces have unrealistic expectations and constantly change general/air staff qualitative requirements. The armed forces counter this by saying that delayed deliveries force them to change requirements in order to keep pace with newer technologies. 

Illusory rights


Published: April 17, 2013
Policy Issues 

PESA, which is seen as an enabling law for tribal self-governance, is violated brazenly by both the Union government and State governments in the name of development. 

By VENKITESH RAMAKRISHNAN and AJOY ASHIRWAD MAHAPRASHASTA 

SINCE October 2012, the Ministry of Rural Development of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has apparently been engaged in an exercise to evolve a “National Land Reforms Policy”. Over these months, the Ministry wrote to various State governments, highlighting the importance of the initiative. In January, it also constituted a national-level “Task Force on Land Reforms” comprising nine official and eight non-official members. 

These steps were in pursuance of the October 11, 2012, agreement the Ministry had signed in Agra with the Jan Satyagraha, a movement that had launched a padayatra (foot march) demanding a comprehensive National Land Reforms Act and institutions for its effective implementation and monitoring in order to provide landless, homeless and marginalised communities access to land and livelihood resources. Ironically, while the Ministry’s efforts have been continuing apace, other segments of the Union government and some State governments have actuated a number of measures that decisively undermine the initiative. 

These acts of sabotage are essentially related to the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), 1996, which, under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, seeks to enable tribal self-governance. The Agra agreement, which virtually forms the basis of the efforts to formulate a new “National Land Reforms Policy”, also lays emphasis on effective implementation of PESA as a prerequisite for developing a just and balanced land rights system. However, on February 5, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests accorded “a general approval for diversion of forest land for undertaking developmental activities by the State Government Departments for the welfare of the people”, under its guidelines F. No. 11-9/1998-FC (pt). The explanation of “developmental activities” “for the welfare of the people” apparently involves infrastructure projects in different sectors. 

Observers of tribal and environmental issues, such as E.A.S. Sarma, former Secretary to the Government of India, have pointed out that this government guideline is in clear violation of PESA and the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006. The FRA was enacted to recognise and vest forest rights and occupation in forest land in forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who had been residing in such forests for generations but whose rights could not be recorded. 

Burning twigs can’t secure energy needs of 1.2b

If India has to attain a 9 to 10 per cent growth of the economy, the management of the energy sector and its evolution in the coming future would need immediate attention by the country’s leadership.
Dr RK Pachauri

THE Government of India was host to the Clean Energy Ministerial held in New Delhi on April 17 and 18. This global forum focuses on actions by which the entire energy cycle can be made cleaner and with reduced emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in particular. The energy sector requires a major transformation in technology, which would also involve changes in infrastructure as well as the mix of energy supply in the future. It is obvious that if India has to attain a 9 to 10 per cent growth of the economy, the management of the energy sector and its evolution in the coming future would need attention by the country’s leadership and every section of society.

Much attention is being provided by the public and the media to the problem of coal supply for the power sector, and according to recent reports much of the capacity installed for power generation, which in any case is inadequate, would be unable to deliver because of the problems in the supply of coal. At the same time, the streets of several cities and highways connecting them are suffering from growing congestion and traffic delays as the number of private vehicles increases and the share of public transport in the total movement of goods and passengers continues to decline. These are, of course, symptoms of a much larger problem, which is compounded by the fact that almost 400 million people in the country are still without access to electricity, and around twice that number still depends on biomass, often of very poor quality, to meet their cooking needs.

About 800 million Indians depend on biomass for cooking.

Dealing with the twin challenge of ensuring adequate supply of energy to meet the basic needs of the 1.2 billion people of India and to fuel economic growth at a satisfactory level requires a long-term vision and a policy framework that would bring about efficient use of resources. Power plants, for instance, have a long gestation period, and measures for the adequate supply of fuel to produce electricity often longer. At the same time, the growing energy dependence of the transport sector, in particular on petroleum products, is added to by the growth of captive power generation, using diesel oil and other petroleum products. This adds to the challenge of planning effectively for the supply of energy in a growing economy like that of India.

If we look at the future, the problem of energy security acquires growing importance, and raises some alarm. With rigorous modelling carried out by TERI, it has been found that if we continue with business as usual, by 2031 India would need to import about 1,200 million tonnes of oil equivalent of coal. This would be a staggering volume, which would require matching growth of port capacity as well as inland transportation, assuming that India would be able to purchase this quantity in the international market. In the case of oil, the demand in 2031 would be over 750 million tonnes. Hence, based on reasonable projections of indigenous production in 2031, India would be importing 90 per cent of its oil consumption. There is every reason to believe that India’s consumption would influence coal as well as oil prices in the international market appreciably with these quantities of imports. That would make the Indian economy even more vulnerable to global developments, particularly with sudden price increases. There is, of course, the accompanying problem of energy security for the poor, because with a large number of people having no access to modern forms of energy as mentioned above, we would certainly not be creating conditions for secure livelihoods for a large number of our citizens. The country, therefore, needs to address the issue of energy security by exercising a long-term vision, and investing on a timely basis on research and development by which new technology can be developed and disseminated on a large scale.

One segment of the energy sector which acquires high priority is in the field of renewable energy production and supply. India is one of the countries in the world which receives the largest flow of solar energy incident on its land area. We also have substantial wind energy potential. In addition, India produces large quantities of agricultural waste which makes biomass an attractive option for conversion to modern fuels both through gasification on a decentralised basis, and possible conversion to liquid fuels on a diverse scale through technologies that are being worked on across the world, though not adequately in India.

In the case of solar energy, the Jawaharlal Nehru Solar Energy Mission, which is a part of the National Action Plan on Climate Change, has made a good beginning, but needs ambitious translation of plans into practice expeditiously. A policy framework also needs to be developed by which financing, inflow of technology and creation of domestic capacity can help achieve existing targets and preferably even exceed them substantially.

The writer is Director-General, Energy and Resources Institute, and Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The Journey is the Destination

Sharbendu De : New Delhi, Sun Apr 21 2013

 
Memory bytes Liaso Yobin, the 90-year-old gram bura or tribal chief of Nibudi

The sky above us rumbled ominously when we woke up, but the downpour started much later. With its reputation of being one of the rainiest places in the Northeast, we were glad to get out of Namdapha National Park (NNP) and Tiger Reserve in the Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh dry that day. Armed with leech guards, flashlights, food, water purifiers and insect repellants, we were on a week-long trek to Gandhigram and Vijaynagar, Indian settlements on the Indo-Myanmar border. Away from the tourist map, on the eastern fringes of the park, the distance between Miao (the nearest town) and these settlements can be bridged through air sorties from Mohanbari in Dibrugarh (two per month for civilians and a long queue to boot) organised by the Army, or the recently started Pawan Hans weekly helicopter service. But we wanted to test our appetite for adventure with the 157-km trek along the Miao-Vijaynagar Road, that runs past some of the Lisu tribal settlements inside the park.

The NNP and Tiger Reserve is part of a 20,000 square kilometer contiguous forest that stretches from Arunachal into the Hukong Valley forest in north Myanmar. While Arunachal is known to be India's richest biodiversity hotspot, NNP, spread over 1,985 sq km, is considered to be one of India's largest national parks. It shares its boundaries with the Kamlang wildlife sanctuary in the north, the Miao reserve forest, the Nampong reserve forest, and Diyun reserve forest in the west and the Kachin Province in Myanmar to the south. The Lisu tribal settlement in Gandhigram is in the east. Listed among 12 biodiversity mega-spots in the world, NNP is known for its dramatic landscapes and a wide range of flora and fauna. It's also home to four big cats: the tiger, leopard, clouded leopard and snow leopard. NNP's freshwater lakes — Raja Jheel, Moti Jheel, Bulbulia, Manpong, Dipi, Ganja, Katboi — are also perfect spots to watch migratory birds.

Usually, travellers visiting Namdapha do a circuit-trek in the buffer zone of the park, in the hope of sighting the rather elusive tigers of the region, but it's also permissible to trek through the buffer area of the park to reach outlying regions. We travelled to Miao last month from Tinsukia in Upper Assam, following the Stilwell Road, onto Jagun to enter Arunachal, and drove to M'Pen, the entry point to NNP. Our next port of call was the Forest Rest House in Deban, 25 km from Miao inside the buffer area of Namdapha National Park. It was late in the afternoon when we reached and David Yobin, our 49-year-old Lisu porter and guide, suggested we camp there for the night and start early the next morning, since evenings arrive early here.

By the time we set up camp, around 5 pm, darkness had shrouded the mountains. For a city-bred person, it's impossible to imagine how deep and inscrutable darkness can be. And how silent. With our cellphone connectivity long gone, and barring the forest office's wireless set that crackled with uneventful updates every hour, we seemed to have dropped off the world's radar. As the evening progressed, the wind hurled dried leaves and twigs on to our shack, and the gurgling Noa Dihing river nearby lent the quiet night an acoustic theatricality.

In the morning, we awoke to the chirping of birds. After a breakfast of tea and Maggi, our four-member team set off along the MV Road, walking a mile before going downhill to a sandy embankment by the river. David informed us that the road ahead, locally known as the monkey trail, would be arduous. Soon we knew why. Rickety bamboo bridges spanned over the river at several places, our link to an undiscovered world. The bridges were a series of stilts placed vertically at intervals along the width of the river, with two poles thrown on top and tied with forest vines, made and maintained by the Lisus living in the forest. During monsoon, crossing the turbulent river becomes a nightmare, so the Lisus stock up on provisions in winter and early summer, walking for nearly a week to reach Miao.

A nation in transition

NUPUR BASU 

The Hindu An uncertain future: Ahmed and Hillal. 

2014 is an important year for Afghanistan. The NATO troops will make their exit, and elections will take place. Despite signs of progress, people in Kabul are filled with apprehension. 

Eight-year-old Ahmed and Hillal hold a weighing scale and stand in the driveway of the House of Jehad, once the headquarters of the Mujahedeen. Located on a hilltop, in the outskirts of Herat, the third largest city in Afghanistan, the building has now been converted into a hotel for foreigners and is also a popular sightseeing spot for locals. The little Afghan boys have never been to school. They earn around $10 dollars (about 530 Afghani) by persuading visitors to weigh themselves. The future of children like Ahmed and Hillal is presently shrouded in uncertainty in an Afghanistan in transition.

This March, I was in the country to attend the first ever International Film Festival to mark International Women’s Day, held at Herat in Western Afghanistan. News of bombings kept pouring in from Herat, Kabul and Northern Afghanistan. I personally heard of three episodes in just 10 days: an explosion near the Governor’s house in Herat on March 7, a suicide bombing outside the Afghan Defence Ministry in Kabul on March 9 (killing 19 people even as the US Defence Secretary was in Kabul holding a press conference), and a suicide attack reported in another northern province (killing 10) on March 13. Afghan children, I am told, dive under the blankets as ‘breaking news’ of the next bombing is announced on the now prolific media channels.

But bombings and doomsday scenarios apart, there is a perceptible air of restlessness and impatience in cities like Kabul and Herat — a change that even I could see. The Kabul I visited in October 2010, on the tenth anniversary of the NATO troops having landed in Afghanistan, was a very different place from the city in March 2013 .The snow had begun to melt from the mountains after a long and harsh winter. Spring was in the air, and along with it a nervous energy about what lies in store for Afghanistan in the next 12months. 2014 marks a very important calendar year for this war-ravaged country. The NATO troops are to make an exit after 11 years. 2014 is also a crucial election year. 

The taxi service that ferries me around Kabul is titled Safe Taxi and the 20-year-old driver, Aziz, asks me, “Will I get a scholarship to study in India?” He is doing a four-year course in Business Management in the evenings, and is aware of the 650-700 scholarships that India awards Afghan students every year. Aziz reflects the new educated aspirational youth in Afghanistan today. His music system in the car plays the popular Hindi film song ‘Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hain’ (I feel the urge to live again) from Guide — only, it’s an Afghan singer singing in Dari. 

Aziz keeps me educated. “She is Ghazala, a very famous singer from our country. She lives in Canada now.” Like Ghazala, most of Afghanistan’s prominent women singers live in exile from their homeland. Afghans love to listen to 70-year-old Ustad Mahwash, known as Afghanistan’s Lata Mangeshkar, who lives in the U.S. Hangama, Parastoo and Naghma are the other popular women singers in exile. Hindi films and Hindi songs are a lifeline for the Afghan psyche. The famous Cinema Park theatre in Kabul features a poster of the Kareena Kapoor-starrer Fida.

Boston Marathon Bombing- Questions Sans Answers

Paper 5465 Dated 20-April-2013

By B.Raman

1. Two Chechen brothers living in the US since 2002—Dzhokhar ( 19) and Tamerlan Tsarnaev ( 26), are suspected of bombing the Boston Marathon on April 15,2013, in which three persons were killed and over 150 injured.

2.The team led by the FBI, which has been investigating the blast, has been able to identify them reportedly through CCTV images of their placing bags, which probably contained the improvised explosive devices (IED), fabricated with a pressure cooker and a metal container, at two places near the finishing line where the explosions occurred.

3. Even though the FBI-led team haS not said so, tip-off from persons knowing the brothers also possibly contributed to the needle of suspicion pointing at the two brothers.

4.Tamerlan died following a shootout with the police on Thursday ( April 18) night. His younger brother, Dzhokhar, is still on the run in Boston. However, latest reports indicate that the police are “in engagement” with a person suspected to be Dzhokhar in the Watertown area.

5. From the accounts of the police search for him received so far, Dzhokhar has been making frantic efforts to evade capture by the police, who must be anxious to catch him alive to question him on what and who motivated him and Tamerlan to commit the bombing, if it is proved that they did it.

5.According to the profile of the Tsarnaev family carried by the BBC and the CNN, they were Chechens who had migrated to Kyrgyzstan and from there to Dagestan. They migrated to the US from Dagestan with Kyrgyz passports in 2002. The father, Anzor Tsarnaev, is since reported to have gone back to Dagestan.

6. According to the BBC, the brothers lived in the Massachusetts town of Cambridge, home of the prestigious Harvard University. Tamerlan studied engineering at Bunker Hill Community College just outside Boston but had taken the year off to train as a boxer. Dzhokhar is enrolled at the University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth to study medicine.

7. Russian news agency RIA Novosti has reported that "extremist material" was on the YouTube account belonging to Tamerlan. "Several albums were posted, one of them titled 'terrorist'," the agency said. However, the BBC says it has been unable to confirm the presence of extremist material on Tamerlan's YouTube page.

8. Their mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, told Russia's RT television network on April 19: "My youngest was raised from 8 years in America, my oldest he was really properly raised in our house," she said. "Nobody talked about terrorism. Tamerlan got involved in religion five years ago. (He) started following his own religion, never told me he could be on side of jihad."

9. According to some reports, the FBI had interviewed the father sometime ago to enquire why the two sons had started attending a local mosque for prayers. This would show that the two brothers were under watch by the FBI for some time before they carried out the bombing.

The Bengaluru Blast

Paper No. 5464 Dated 19-April-2013

By B.Raman

( Written at the request of “The Times of India”. Carried by it on April 19,2013, at http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/opinion/edit-page/Dont-politicis...)

1.  Sixteen persons, 11 of them policemen posted on pre-election law and order duty near the office of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bengaluru, are reported to have been injured on April 17, when a motor-byke fitted with an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded near the BJP office. Some vehicles parked in the area were also destroyed or damaged. Some damage to window-panes of nearby buildings has also been reported.

2. The blast is in the preliminary stages of investigation by the local police. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) of the Government of India has also joined the investigation. The State and central authorities have categorised the blast as an act of terrorism.

3.No organisation has claimed responsibility for the blast. The motive is still to be established. The only lead the Police have so far is that the motor-byke had a fake number plate of Tamil Nadu and was probably stolen from Hyderabad.

4.From the details available so far it can be tentatively categorised as an act of terror of low lethality carried out with a timed IED mounted on a motor-byke. The use of a motor-byke would indicate that the intention of the perpetrators was not just to create a scare, but to cause casualties.

5.While the BJP was the target of the blast, it is not clear whether it was directed against the BJP as a political party and its ideology or against the BJP-led Government which had been ruling the State and its policies or the local police.

6. It would be premature to say whether the blast was carried out by an angry individual or individuals with grievances against the BJP or by an ideologically motivated organisation such as the Indian Mujahideen (IM), which had operated in Bengaluru in the past.

7. The explosion coincided with the third anniversary of the blast outside the local Chinnaswami Stadium in 2010 in which the IM was suspected. Fasih Mehmood, an engineer from Bihar formerly working in Saudi Arabia and arrested by the Delhi Police in May last year, was to have been interrogated by the Bengaluru Police in connection with his suspected role in the Stadium blast.

8. The blast of April 17 has also come about seven months after the high-profile arrests by the Karnataka Police in September last year of 18 educated Muslim youths in Bengaluru, Hubli, Hyderabad and Maharashtra on charges of conspiring to assassinate a number of Hindu personalities believed sympathetic to the Hindutva movement. According to the Bengaluru Police, who were interrogating them, the Muslim suspects in their custody were self-motivated by visiting the web site of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)in Yemen, also known as the Ansar al-Sharia. The Ansar-al-Sharia was suspected in the assassination of a US diplomat in Benghazi in Libya on September 11, 2012.

Nothing became Musharraf less than his return to inhospitable Pakistan

Saeed Naqvi
20 April 2013

How will the Pervez Musharraf tragi-comedy affect events in Pakistan? To gauge the future, the past should be something of a guide. 

Richard Armitage, US Deputy Secretary of State, flew into Islamabad and left Musharraf with no option after the global War on Terror was launched after 9/11: Pakistan would have to join the war on America's terms. 

This imposed a paradox on Musharraf. He was required to exterminate exactly those Jihadists, who had been armed to the teeth by the US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, since the 1980s, to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. These had been diligently shaped into an Islamist fighting machine. This machine, once a favourite of the Pak army, for a low level conflict in Kashmir for instance, was now required to be destroyed. 

So, Musharraf began to play both sides of the street. Occasionally he was found out and had his ears tweaked by Washington. 

Washington's requirements were two fold which, sometimes, dictated distinct approaches. With egg on its face in Iraq, it was important to muffle, terminate stories of rising militancy in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Musharraf had to be spurred on in this war. 

Washington's other requirement grew out of the Republican desire for a magical outcome: namely - end to militancy plus a democratic Pakistan growing into a full blown oak. This could be advertised as an achievement on the eve of the November 2008 US elections. 

Some sympathetic souls in the US realized Musharraf was taking too much of the blowback from the Afghan war on himself. That is how the idea grew out of a three way power structure - the President, Army and a Prime Minister who, in this case, was to be Benazir Bhutto. 

Just compare the return of Benazir Bhutto with that of Musharraf. Both equally botched up. There is a universal delusion that establishments, whether in Islamabad or in Washington, are absolutely on the ball as far as intelligence is concerned. Of course they are not. Otherwise Bhutto would not have been assassinated nor would Musharraf have landed himself in boiling, witches' cauldron. 

But wait a minute. Bhutto's return was part of a deal between the Army and the US. Which interests had struck the deal with Musharraf? 

Remember, when Bhutto's participation in the February 2008 elections had been cleared, Nawaz Sharif was sent back to Jeddah from the airport. His candidature was initially not kosher. Saudi Arabia pushed for him and thereafter, with his hands tied behind his back, he came up trumps in Punjab and, nationally, second only to the PPP which gained because of sympathy on account of Bhutto's assassination. 

In other words, Sharif won despite the Army and the US being in opposition to him. After all it was Gen. Pervez Musharraf who had ousted him in a coup. 

His proximity to the Saudis had also given him access to elements who had mutated into Al Qaeda and Taleban. Since the US was pushing for an all out war against militant Islam, Sharif's softer tone was not popular with the Americans. 

The situation has changed. The US is preparing to withdraw from Afghanistan after stitching up some kind of an arrangement with the Taleban. This is a pipe dream, but on that later. In these circumstances, is Sharif's chance of remaining a front runner for the May 11 elections a source of comfort to Washington? 

There is, however, an awkward complexity. In an atmosphere of rampaging anti Americanism in Pakistan the only way to advance electorally is to be perceived by the electorate to have steered clear of the US. The paradox involved is exquisite: advance on an anti American platform to be able to help Washington find interlocutors influential with the Taleban. 

Musharraf in the line of fire — as always

It was apparent that Musharraf was not going to ride into the sunset quietly. He waited till he thought he had an opportunity to make a comeback. He threw caution to the wind and did a commando-like return. But it was his turn to be caught by surprise.
RAJ CHENGAPPA

Former Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf never ceases to surprise; the latest being his arrest last week in Islamabad, thereby becoming the first ever Pakistan Army chief to face such ignominy. His recent return to Pakistan to contest the May general elections after being in exile in the UK for the past five years is the latest in the series of miscalculations the former supremo has made in his checkered career.

As a young officer in the Pakistan Army, Pervez Musharraf served in the elite Special Services Group after being put through rigorous commando training. He never forgot the lessons of launching audacious attacks on the enemy and striking hard and fast. Those tactics may have stood him in good stead as he rapidly progressed up the army echelons, but would be his undoing in his later years as a leader.

Musharraf was third in the line of succession when the then Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, chose him to be Army chief in 1998, believing that he would do his bidding. Sharif would soon regret his choice when first Musharraf launched a border war with India across the Kargil heights in 1999 without clearing it with him. Then despite Pakistan taking a beating in the war, Musharraf engineered a coup and sent Sharif packing to Saudi Arabia in exile. He then ruled Pakistan for nine long years, simultaneously holding the offices of President and Chief of Army Staff for most of his tenure.

Pervez Musharraf after the court ordered his arrest in Islamabad. 

I first interviewed Musharraf in July 2001 in Rawalpindi at the sprawling official residence of the army chief, a month before the disastrous Agra talks he had with the then Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee. He spoke with refreshing candour, painting himself as a democrat and stating that his first meeting with Vajpayee would be a “historic moment for real peace”. When I asked him where his super-confidence stemmed from, he replied, “I don't believe in making life, well, a matter of life and death. I believe in calculation and cool analysis.”

Yet, a month later, he would stand exposed when at Agra he tried to ambush and browbeat an experienced and unflappable Vajpayee into a deal over Kashmir, believing his commando tactics would work. It fell flat and Musharraf had to leave empty handed. Soon after that, the 9/11 attacks occurred and Musharraf was forced to do the US bidding in putting down militancy or face the consequences, earning the sobriquet “America's General”.

During his tenure he did try his hand at reforming Pakistan and making peace with India, but he was always tall on talk and short on delivery. Like most commandos, he was known to be good in tactics but rarely in strategy. To his credit, Musharraf was never accused of being personally corrupt when in power, though he is said to have ensured that his former army colleagues were given prime positions and lucrative contracts.

It was when he sought re-election as President and found that he was being thwarted by a recalcitrant higher judiciary that he once again adopted commando tactics of striking hard. He sacked the Supreme Court judges and declared a state of emergency. It was a gross miscalculation as it would trigger a storm of protest that would finally see Musharraf get the boot in 2008. To avoid facing a raft of serious charges, including illegally sacking judges and committing treason while in power, Musharraf went into exile in London, reportedly with the army backing.

Has Pakistan Changed Its Tune Toward Afghanistan?

April 12, 2013

Has Pakistan really shifted its policy towards neighbouring Afghanistan and, if so, what lies behind the change? Reports of a policy reversal in Islamabad surfaced in November 2012, when Pakistan agreed to release around a dozen Afghan Taliban members who, it was hoped, would play a role in a negotiated peace with Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government. A further gesture of goodwill was its January 2013 announcement that it would free all of its Afghan Taliban detainees. Before this, Pakistan had maintained a position of strategic ambiguity regarding the arrangements for Afghanistan's future after the NATO/ISAF withdrawal in 2014. Its lack of enthusiasm for peace talks between the Afghan Taliban and Kabul even extended to jailing Taliban leaders in favour of such initiatives, such as Mullah Ghani Baradar.

But Western diplomats have been pleasantly surprised to be on the receiving end of this Pakistani charm offensive, emphasising the need to cooperate on finding a durable political solution that will outlast the NATO/ISAF drawdown. In addition to releasing Taliban detainees and guaranteeing safe passage for those involved in peace talks, Pakistan has promised to ask for United Nations sanctions on Afghan Taliban leaders to be lifted. In November 2012, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani travelled to Kabul to sign an agreement to improve border security. In December, Kayani and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar flew to Brussels, where Khar met United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss Afghanistan's future and joint counter-terrorism efforts in the region. On 5 February this year, Islamabad and Kabul agreed to a 'structured interaction', establishing a hotline between their respective militaries and intelligence wings. Pakistan also said that it would finally support and facilitate talks with the Taliban via an office in Doha. All of these moves have been seen in the West as positive developments for Afghanistan's post-2014 future.

History of mistrust

Although denied by Pakistan, for decades its military adhered to a singular interpretation of the doctrine of 'strategic depth', in which it saw Afghanistan as a counterweight to ongoing tensions with India and sought leverage over its northwestern neighbour for its own political purposes. One of its greatest fears was being sandwiched between arch-rival India and a strong, possibly hostile Afghanistan. Unlike India, Pakistan recognised and even supported the Taliban regime. Since that regime was ejected from Kabul in 2001, Pakistan has also harboured doubts about the feasibility of Western governments' strategy in Afghanistan and their willingness to see it through. A further complicating factor is Pakistan's long-standing desire to minimise calls for a separate state for the Pashtun population straddling the Durand Line, its contested border with Afghanistan. Pashtun nationalism and separatism are considered by Pakistan to be a threat to its territorial integrity.

It is these anxieties about Afghanistan's future that have contributed to Islamabad's strategic ambiguity towards its neighbour. On the one hand, Pakistan agreed to act as an ally in the US-led campaign against al-Qaeda and to serve as a logistics conduit for NATO/ISAF operations (albeit with periods of interruption). On the other, militants based on its soil acted as spoilers in Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban leadership that fled US operations in Afghanistan in 2001 found sanctuary in Pakistan, and exploited both ethnic Pashtun links and Taliban insurgents as a means of exerting influence in Afghanistan. The Taliban and other Pakistani extremist groups, such as the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Tayiba, have been able to engage in cross-border attacks and terrorist operations in Kabul, including attacks on the Indian embassy and the Serena Hotel. The September 2011 assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, the Afghan government's negotiator with the Taliban, was reported to have been planned in the Pakistani city of Quetta. Accusations that elements of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency have provided funding and training to the Afghan Taliban have been firmly denied.

Washington and other Western capitals came to believe that Pakistan was 'playing a double game', straining relations with the US in particular. These reached a low point in 2011. First, there was a diplomatic row over the January arrest and subsequent release of CIA contractor Raymond Davies for the fatal shooting of two men in Lahore during what he claimed was an attempted robbery. (The US claimed Davies had diplomatic immunity, while local protesters and media called for his conviction.) Islamabad was angered not to have been consulted beforehand on the US special-forces raid on a compound in Abbottabad in May, in which al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed. Meanwhile, the fact that bin Laden had resided for so long in a Pakistani military town apparently without being detected raised Washington's suspicions.

The Stakes for America in the Race to Replace Karzai

Passivity in the run-up to next spring's Afghan presidential election will invite trouble.


Afghanistan has held two presidential elections since 2001. Hamid Karzai won both, but the most recent (in 2009) was marred by irregularities such as stuffed ballot boxes and acrimony between Mr. Karzai and the international community. The Afghan constitution demands that Mr. Karzai step down next year, and by most accounts that is his intention. Who will succeed him? 

On a recent trip to Afghanistan, almost everyone we spoke to highlighted next April's presidential election as a make-or-break event for the country—including its ability to fend off the Taliban and avoid backsliding into civil war. 

What should be the international community's role over the next 12 months? Although the United States and other key outside nations shouldn't and won't try to pick a winner, they should do what they can to ensure that the next elections are freer and fairer than the last. Since the U.S. has promised at least $5 billion a year in future aid (for half a decade or more) and is considering spending $10 billion a year or more on a post-2014 military presence, Americans in particular have a stake in the electoral process and outcome. 

Put more bluntly: If Afghans either hold a fraudulent election or elect a corrupt future leader, the odds of the U.S. Congress providing the expected aid are slim to none. This is also the case for other countries. The U.S. should, therefore, voice its views now rather than simply cut off aid later if the election goes badly. 

As Afghans remember all too well, the Soviet-installed government of Mohammad Najibullah fell not when the Soviet Union left Afghanistan in 1989 but when Moscow cut off the money three years later. When the Taliban overran Kabul in 1996, Najibullah was tortured and murdered. All too aware of this history, Afghan reformers, opposition politicians and members of civil society are asking Americans and others to help them make their election a success. 

No Afghan has yet announced a candidacy for next year's election, but many names are being floated. They include current or former chiefs of staff to the president, Mr. Karzai's brother Qayum, Minister of Education Ghulam Farooq Wardak, Minister of Finance Omar Zakhilwel, Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul, former Foreign Minister and presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah, and former minister Haneef Atmar. 

There is much talk in Kabul these days about the desirability of finding a "consensus" candidate or slate. The idea here is to use Afghanistan's consultative traditions to avoid a divisive election while the country's democracy is so fragile. 

In principle, this is a reasonable and even appealing idea. In practice, it risks having President Karzai play the role of kingmaker, since it is hard to see how a consensus would otherwise develop in a place with such strong political rivalries and with so many people clearly angling to be president. The devil will be in the details of a consensus candidate if one emerges. 

Against this confusing backdrop, the international community can help by focusing on a few goals:

First, remind Afghans that Americans and others will exercise their own sovereign rights to determine future aid levels once Afghanistan exercises its sovereign right to choose a new leader. The quality of the election process and the quality of the new president's leadership will both affect decisions on aid. This is just common sense and should be conveyed as a matter of fact, not a menacing threat. 

U.S. Analysts Dismiss China’s Military Report

By Brendan McGarry Friday, April 19th, 2013 4:58 pm
Posted in International, Policy

China this week revealed new details about the size of its military in a report that U.S.-based analysts largely dismissed for its omissions on defense spending, weapons systems and strategic ambitions.

The document, posted April 16 on People’s Daily Online, the English-version website of the state-run newspaper, for the first time included a headcount of People’s Liberation Army by service. There are 850,000 troops in the army, 235,000 in the navy and 398,000 in the air force, it states, for a total of 1.48 million.

The report, “The Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces,” didn’t include a similar tally for the PLA’s Second Artillery Force, the more secretive unit that oversees nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, or its civilian workforce. China has previously said its military has 2.3 million members.

“These are basically a few meager bones they’re throwing our way,” Patrick Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, said of the manpower numbers. “There’s almost no really serious issue on PLA defense that this paper deals with adequately.”

The report, which is published about every two years, lacks basic information about China’s defense budget, developmental weapons programs such as the J-20 stealth fighter jet and reasoning for maritime expansion, Cronin said. The Defense Department in a 2012 report estimated China’s annual military-related expenditures at $120 billion to $180 billion.

“China prefers to gain leverage and power by ensuring that there is a degree of deception and lack of transparency,” Cronin said. Hopefully, upcoming discussions between Chinese and U.S. military officials will yield deeper insights, he said.

U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on April 19 left for a weeklong trip to Asia. While he plans to visit South Korea and Japan, he will spend most of his time in China, meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Fang Fenghui, and possibly President Xi Jinping.

Topics likely to be discussed include China’s alliance with North Korea, which has recently threatened nuclear attacks against South Korea and its allies, as well as the U.S. strategic shift away from the ground wars of the past decade and toward threats in the Asia-Pacific region.

China’s military report references the changing U.S. posture with concern. “Some country has strengthened its Asia-Pacific military alliances, expanded its military presence in the region, and frequently makes the situation there tenser,” it states, in a not-so-subtle reference to the U.S.

Breaking Down “Hearts and Minds”: The Power of Individual Causal Mechanisms in an Insurgency

Journal Article | April 18, 2013


Editor's Note: Roger D. Petersen is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has taught at MIT since 2001 and was recently named the Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science. Dr. Petersen studies comparative politics with a special focus on conflict and violence, mainly in Eastern Europe, but also in Colombia. He has written three books: Resistance and Rebellion: Lessons from Eastern Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2001); Understanding Ethnic Violence: Fear, Hatred, Resentment in Twentieth Century Eastern Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2002); and Western Intervention in the Balkans: The Strategic Use of Emotion in Conflict (Cambridge University Press, 2011). He is co-author, together with Jon Lindsay ofVarieties of Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in Iraq, 2003-2009, US Naval War College, 2012.

Octavian Manea:Why do you talk about variety of insurgencies? Should we see Baghdad, Anbar, and Basra as different insurgencies?

Roger D. Petersen: Different countries and different regions possess certain qualities that form the potential “building blocks” for sustained insurgency. Whether that potential is realized or not depends upon the resources of government and the counterinsurgent and the way those resources are used. In Iraq, those building blocks included remnants of the former Baathist regime such as its bureaucracy and various security forces, tribal groups, clans, ethnic identities and religious and linguistic cleavages. When the combination of “building blocks,” resources, and strategies differ among regions, then those regions are essentially different types of insurgencies. I think the combination and interaction of these elements were very different in 4 different regions of Iraq: Kurdistan and the north, Basra and the south, Baghdad, and Anbar. 

OM: In your research you pointed out to a spectrum of conceivable individual roles in an insurgency. What is the methodology behind this typology?

RDP: This methodology comes from my 2001 book (Resistance and Rebellion: Lessons from Eastern Europe) which focused on Lithuanian resistance to Soviets in the 1940’s. Insurgency is a complex phenomenon, especially in how violent organization and networks are created and sustained, and the methodology of that book involved breaking down this complexity into component parts and then building back up into a coherent whole. At the base of this process is the way individuals position themselves relative to the dramatic and violent events of insurgency. Most people may wish to remain neutral and just take care of their families but events push significant numbers of individuals into roles of unarmed support of insurgents, or local armed position of a militia, membership in a mobile non-local organization, or equivalent positions in support of the government. Furthermore, individuals may move back and forth along this spectrum of roles. If one is skeptical of broad and vague theories at a high level of aggregation, as I am, then you need to get down and observe dynamics at a basic level. Observing movement along this spectrum of roles is one way to do that. 

OM: What are causal mechanisms? Why are the causal mechanisms important for a social scientist trying to understand an insurgent setting?

RDP: There are different understandings of what defines a causal mechanism among social scientists. My own definition is that a mechanism is a specific causal pattern that explains individual action over a wide range of settings. A mechanism must be specific and causal, on the one hand, but general and able to apply to a wide range of cases. For example, the “tyranny of sunk costs” is a mechanism. There is a specific causal logic—previous heavy investment produces continuation of an action that is no longer optimal. And the mechanism is general in that it can apply over a wide range of settings. Tyranny of sunk costs can apply to car ownership—it might be best to get rid of a problematic car but I may be less likely to do so if I just put some money into fixing the transmission, and also to a bad marriage—maybe my marriage is hopeless but I just paid a lot of money to a marriage counselor so I keep going on. 

Could a nuclear-armed Iran be contained?

By Kingston Reif | 18 April 2013


On September 4, 1962, President John F. Kennedy released a statement in response to intelligence reports of a Soviet arms buildup in Cuba. Kennedy said the United States did not have evidence "of the presence of offensive ground-to-ground missiles; or of other significant offensive capability either in Cuban hands or under Soviet direction and guidance." However, he warned, "Were it to be otherwise, the gravest issues would arise." 

Of course, the next month Kennedy found out that the Soviet Union was in fact deploying offensive missiles and nuclear warheads in Cuba, prompting a deep crisis that brought the planet within a hair's breadth of nuclear catastrophe. Historian Michael Dobbs writes that Kennedy later regretted making his September statement, as "[h]e was compelled to take action, not because Soviet missiles on Cuba appreciably changed the balance of military power, but because he feared looking weak." 

Fast forward 50 years to March 4, 2012. In a high-profile speech to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), President Obama declared: "Iran's leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." Obama reiterated this position last month to Israeli students in Jerusalem: "Iran must not get a nuclear weapon. This is not a danger that can be contained, and as President, I've said all options are on the table for achieving our objectives." 

Might Obama, like Kennedy, later regret issuing such an ultimatum? If the current policy of prevention fails, the president could soon be faced with a hugely consequential decision: attack Iran in an attempt to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons, or recognize that it could do so and embrace deterrence and containment instead. By staking American credibility on a policy of prevention at all costs, Obama may end up believing he has to choose war. But he would be wrong, because deterrence (threatening devastating retaliation) and containment (blunting the spread of Iranian power and influence) may in fact be more prudent than preventive attack. 

During its first term the Obama administration pursued a mix of diplomatic engagement, biting sanctions, and covert action to stem the progress of Iran's nuclear program. To date, these measures have isolated and put unprecedented pressure on the ruling regime but have not prevented Tehran from continuing to produce 20-percent-enriched uranium, which is not suitable for weapons but is more highly enriched than what is needed for nuclear power reactors. Nor has US policy stopped Iran from adding more advanced centrifuges to its underground enrichment facility at Fordow. 

Obama has rightly argued that there is still time for a diplomatic solution; after all, the US intelligence community's assessment is that Iran has not made a political decision to acquire nuclear weapons and is not yet capable of producing an effective arsenal. Diplomatic talks on Iran's nuclear program -- involving Tehran and the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany -- resumed in 2012 after a two-year hiatus, but they have not reached a breakthrough. 

At what point might President Obama consider preventive military action? One obvious impetus would be if Iran were to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, kick inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) out of the country, and begin to enrich its uranium to weapons-grade levels. However, this is the least probable of all the courses Iran might choose, since it carries the greatest risk of a US attack. 

Another possible catalyst would be if Iran were to try to produce weapons-grade uranium at an undeclared facility and secretly restart the dedicated nuclear weapons program it disbanded in 2003. But Iran would likely fear that Western and Israeli intelligence services could detect these efforts, just as they detected its uranium enrichment efforts at both Natanz and Fordow. Moreover, there is no evidence that Iran is yet constructing additional secret facilities, or that its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is seeking a mad dash to the bomb. 

Is the Jordanian Monarchy in Danger?



Asher Susser
Middle East Brief 72, April 2013
Summary
The Jordanian monarchy is going through one of its most difficult periods ever. The Arab Spring has emboldened the opposition by eroding the deterrent effect of the notorious “fear of government” (haybat al-sulta) in the Arab world in general and in Jordan in particular. Additionally, economic stagnation and austerity measures driven by the International Monetary Fund have led to unprecedented discontent among the regime's traditionally loyal East Banker elite and tribal base. In this Brief, Prof. Asher Susser analyzes the various factors that have led to the current crisis engulfing the Jordanian monarchy. However, he concludes by cautioning that the lack of a viable alternative to the Monarchy makes the situation in Jordan, though tenuous, manageable for the time being. 





A battle joined with orthodoxy

15 April 2013

The USA and the West should take a closer look at events in Bangladesh, writes Vinod Saighal 

Recent events in the subcontinent, call them straws in the wind if you will, give an indication that people might finally be rebelling against the harshness, or the harsh edicts of theological orthodoxy that has denied them the freedom and joys that are the natural rights of free people everywhere. The first story comes from Panjwai in Afghanistan. In an article in New York Times, ‘In Taliban heartland, villagers declare enough’ by Carlotta Gall, it appears that the villagers who were fed up with the activities of the Taliban, took courage in their own hands and decided to make these villages and the surrounding areas safe from the Taliban. Since early February, when villagers joined with police forces to begin ousting Taliban fighters from this region of rich vineyards and orchards southwest of Kandahar, hundreds of residents have rallied to support the government. Nearly 100 village elders recently vowed to keep the Taliban out. The revolt in Panjwai district is the first in southern Afghanistan, right in the spiritual heartland of the Taliban movement. Matters came to a head when 300 to 400 civilians had been killed or injured by bombs or ambushes by the Taliban in the past six months in Panjwai, according to the district governor, Haji Fazel Mohammad. He said that the villagers were angry because the Taliban had been laying mines in their orchards and vineyards.

Moving to the other end in the east, the events in Bangladesh are being watched with great interest ~ and anxiousness ~ by the countries in the region and the world. The developments in Bangladesh resulting from the trials being conducted by the (National) International Crimes Tribunal have ramifications that go well beyond the internal stability of Bangladesh. The spontaneous outbursts in Dhaka’s Shahbagh Square of people demanding death penalty for those charged with abetting rape and genocide in 1971 by the Pakistan Army have taken an ominous turn. The occupying army of Pakistan killed three million Bangladeshi fighters, activists, students and academics and raped 200,000 Bengali women as per Bangladeshi figures. Many forget that when these atrocities were committed the country called Bangladesh had not yet been formed; those being brutalised, killed and raped were citizens of East Pakistan. The Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) Razakars of the time supported the Pakistani brutalisers against their own people.

JeI, whose leaders are being charged with the crimes, have been able to mobilise their followers to contest the public spaces occupied by Bangladeshis demanding death penalty for the perpetrators of the 1971 crimes. The counter mobilisation has shaken Bangladesh authorities. Large number of people have been killed and injured due to the violence unleashed by the cadres of JeI and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir (ICS). There does not seem to be any let up in the rioting that has spread across the country. That the JeI was well-organised and had a substantial following was never in doubt. However, the coming overground of the Jihadi elements in total mobilisation of JeI cadres across Bangladesh indicates the enormity of the inroads that the extremist elements had made in the country.

It has turned out to be much larger than people inside or outside Bangladesh had suspected. The outcome of the struggle between the secular and liberal elements on the one hand and the Jihadis on the other is being eagerly watched by all well-wishers of Bangladesh. While countries that back secularism in Bangladesh can only wait and watch, the countries with a negative agenda ~ Pakistan and Saudi Arabia ~ are not likely to remain inactive. Both these countries were responsible for the spread of fundamentalism in Bangladesh. The Pakistan ISI combined with massive outflow of Saudi monies have been responsible for the spread of Islamic orthodoxy in the subcontinent and throughout the world. With the amount of effort that they have put in into Bangladesh over the years they are not likely to let Bangladesh get out of their clutches.

The US and the West seem to be focussed almost exclusively on West Asia. Seeing that Bangladesh could turn out to be the much bigger prize for the Islamists, it might be time for the West to take note of developments in Bangladesh. Should the liberal elements in Bangladesh manage to marginalise the fundamentalists in their country the ripple effect will be felt in Malaysia and Indonesia to the East and India and Pakistan to the West. The stakes all around for a successful outcome of the struggle for freedom from orthodoxy are much too high for Bangladesh and the world.

Except in very few countries where the populations have been totally excluded from modernisation and globalisation there is some awakening; no matter how tentative. For example, in countries like Pakistan where the danger of an extremist takeover cannot be wished away the majority of the people would not be averse to a freer life with more choices for them and their children. Taking other examples from West Asia, in both Egypt where the Brotherhood has taken power and Tunisia, which is under an Islamic dispensation, people are beginning to protest in large numbers. Having suffered the ills of earlier dictatorial regimes people do not want to be put under another type of suppressive regime based on outdated orthodoxy. These stirrings should they be able to ensure more moderate governing dispensations are bound to have a salutary effect in much of West Asia, Iran and Pakistan.