9 September 2013

US subcontracting Afghanistan to Pakistan?

Issue | Date : 08 Sep , 2013 

In early 1970s, a Captain from the Afghan Army attending Junior Command Course in MHOW had this to say about Pakistan, “You attack them from the front and we will take her from the rear – that is the only solution.” What changes such sentiment would have undergone over the years with Pakistan intensifying its viper hatcheries through regular overdoses of radicalized Viagra is not difficult to guess. The reality of the situation is apparent through the statement of General Sher Mohammad Karimi, Afghan Army Chief telling BBC Hardtalk that fighting in Afghanistan could be stopped “in weeks” if Pakistan told the Taliban to end the insurgency, and that Pakistan controlled and gave shelter to Taliban leaders, deliberately unleashing fighters on Afghanistan. 

“The Taliban are under [Pakistan's] control – the leadership is in Pakistan.” 

Naturally, as always, Pakistan denies this and the US believes it unbelievingly. If the Obama administration refused to act on US and NATO commanders in Afghanistan stating GWOT was being fought on the wrong side of the Pakistan-Afghan border, then who really is General Karimi though Karimi qualified his statement further by saying, “The Taliban are under [Pakistan's] control – the leadership is in Pakistan.” Little doubts this is the handle Pakistan has over the US that deters the latter to play universal policeman in AfPak region though it has no compunctions in bombing Syria. 

Failing to defeat the Taliban over more than a decade, no guessing why the US is happy with opening of the Taliban office in Doha and more than thrilled with the Pakistani Taliban office in Syria, with Pakistani-Qatari support adding to the mayhem in Syria. Then is the façade of Afghan peace talks when the Taliban refuse to recognize the Afghan Constitution, refuse to shun arms and violence in name of jihad and want an Islamic Caliphate. 

“There is a higher probability of General Kayani converting to Hinduism than there is of the Haqqani Network ever being decoupled from Al Qaeda”. 

Yet, the US is playing ball to Pakistan on the googly bowled by Kayani that even Haqqanis will be willing to split from and denounce Al Qaeda, the probability of which was aptly described by Michael Hughes by saying, “There is a higher probability of General Kayani converting to Hinduism than there is of the Haqqani Network ever being decoupled from Al Qaeda”. Yet, the US is not only prepared to side with Pakistan and illegitimate Pakistani interests in Afghanistan but ready to accept Taliban control in areas of Afghanistan, which would facilitate Pakistan expand her viper hatcheries westwards giving free run to her proxies in newfound AfPak sanctuaries. This is aptly described by Robert Kaplan in his book ‘The Revenge of Geography’ wherein he writes, “This would, in effect, a greater Pakistan, giving Pakistan’s ISI the ability to create a clandestine empire composed of the likes of Jallaluddin Haqqani, Gulbuddin Hekmetyar, and the Lashkar-e-Taiba ….”. 

Post 2014, even if the US continues to operate drones, Special Forces and leaves training personnel behind in Afghanistan (all of which are doubtful), it is very much on the cards that the US will continue to support Pakistani illegitimate interests at the cost of the Afghanistan. It is not without reason that the Afghan’s feel cut up that having lorded over their country for over a decade, the US is now subcontracting Afghanistan to Pakistan despite latter being the bane of all their problems. In such backdrop, what would be the state of mind of President Karzai visiting Pakistan under pressure from the US for so called peace talks, even as some Pakistanis have no hesitation in stating unofficially that Karzai has outlived his utility for the US and Pakistan and may even suffer the same fate as Najibullah post US withdrawal. 

Gifting Away of Indian territory: The Rise of the Bandicoots?

Issue | Date : 06 Sep , 2013 

It was pathetic to see visuals of the longest serving Defence Minister of India on national TV yesterday evening avoiding media persons wanting to question him on the revelations made in the Shyam Saran report about the willing surrender of hundreds of square kms of Indian Territory to China in Ladakh. His sheepish smile, folded hands and sealed lips said it all. Why he has abrogated his responsibility as Defence Minister to defend the territory of this country despite thumping the table in Parliament that J&K is an integral part of India can be conjectured till eternity, but the following facts stare you in the face that during his tenure as the longest serving Defence Minister: 

  • Combat capability gap between PLA and Indian Military has been allowed to widen systematically. 
  • A National Security Strategy has not been defined and National Security Objectives not outlined. 
  • The Higher Defence Organizations have not been streamlined. 
  • No efforts have been made to developing synergy within the Military. 
  • The military-industrial complex is in pathetic state. 
  • Military has deliberately not been integrated with MoD. 
  • Combat capability gap between PLA and Indian Military has been allowed to widen systematically. 
  • No action was taken after discovery of the permanent Chinese intrusion at Sirijap in 2007. 
  • Major intrusion has been permitted in area of Pangong Tso including a 10 kms road of PLA in Indian Territory. 
  • Post the April 2013 PLA intrusion in Depsang, Army was forced to dismantle its surveillance structure at Chumar (400 kms from the Raki Nala intrusion) before the PLA intruders returned. 
  • Army’s limit of patrolling has been restricted by MoD deliberately. 
  • No effort has been made even now to place the ITBP in these sensitive areas under command the Army despite repeated incursions and intrusions by the Chinese. 
  • Army has been gagged to not make any statement on China to the media. 
  • No effort has been made by MoD to develop the border infrastructure in required manner, which is responsibility of MoD with Border Roads Organization directly under command. 
With disclosure of 654 sq kms territory to China, the million dollar question is will the Defence Minister have the shame to resign? A bigger question is whether the Prime Minister will demand his resignation or is he himself party to this national territory fraud? Then is the question whether the Government can at least feel the shame to call off the so called India-China joint exercise in October … 

ISI and other foreign covert agencies are subverting India.

September 07, 2013

Operating locally, the ISI and other foreign covert agencies are subverting India.
By Gautam Sen (2 September 2013)

London: The Indian trait of being easily gratified and eager to please is a fascinating contrast to self-serving Pakistani truculence. Despite being bankrolled and armed by the United States over fifty years, Pakistan not only refused to play ball with US plans for Afghanistan, it used US-supplied weaponry to embark on a murderously effective counteroffensive against Western forces. It also mobilized its citizens against the US by instigating a relentless hate campaign. By comparison, India has lost no opportunity to prostrate itself to the US in apparent infinite gratitude for the Indo-US nuclear accord.

The shameless United Progressive Alliance government now wishes to mortgage India’s energy security for the next generation by purchasing untried US nuclear reactors though superior contenders are available elsewhere. If prominent Indian politicians are not poised to receive consideration for this devastating betrayal, they are bigger fools than hitherto presumed. But pigs will fly first before such an opportunity fails to prompt Pharaonic enrichment of India’s elite. The alternatives to US nuclear reactors include domestic and international thorium ones that might allow India significant energy autonomy, its principal source of external vulnerability.

India earlier also leapt into the Afghan cauldron and spent unconscionable sums for no obvious long-term gain. It was this unthinking and opportunistic policy impulse that prompted Pakistan’s 26/11 terror assault against Mumbai though no commentator was astute enough to recognize it as such. Evidently, India has also suspended belief, in an example of the triumph of hope over experience, by outsourcing Indian policy towards Pakistan to Washington.

In recent months, a schoolboy penchant for short-cuts and an entirely supine mind-set resulted in a sharp border rebuff from China. Indian initiatives along the Ladakh LAC, in response to calculated earlier Chinese belligerence, failed to adequately prepare for likely retaliatory countermeasures. The antecedent status quo would have been preferable to the humiliating political and legal setback for India of conceding to China, as it has evidently done. Further political and military consequences may follow as the Indian government is impaled on fiscal insolvency and its people lose their fighting spirit in despair.

A more immediate political denouement is looming large as US rapprochement with Pakistan unfolds below the radar. No, the US is not about to settle scores with Pakistan for being thwarted by it in Afghanistan and instigate a state of affairs to provide India regional victory on a platter. The ISI, like the Italian secret service, was created by the US in the context of the Cold War, and their relationship runs deep. The Pakistanis have no doubt reminded the US that its historic, global victory in the Cold War, in the aftermath of the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan, was facilitated by unstinting Pakistani support. Quite clearly, the outcome was of unprecedented importance to the US and its Western allies. Besides, only by having Pakistan on board can the US realistically hope to secure its residual interests in Afghanistan, as I have been warning since 2005.

No doubt, the US is also aware that if push comes to shove, Pakistan’s professional and reliable military levies will do its dirty work in the Middle East, as the infamous Zia-ul-Haq did, as a mercenary commander, to crush Jordan’s Palestinian militants in 1970. In addition, the Saudi monarchy will surely have interceded on behalf of their cherished Pakistani co-religionists, who may be called upon to save them from the wrath of its own people. The recent dispatch of Pakistani Taliban military trainers to Syria to help unseat Bashar-al Assad of Syria is a clear reaffirmation that the Anglo-Americans never allowed their intimate historic ties with global Jihadis, as researcher Mark Curtis has affirmed, to deteriorate. Their disagreements over the future of Afghanistan are an isolated local difficulty and the larger usefulness of Islamists to Anglo-US policy remains intact. India counts for nothing by comparison.

An even greater calamity that has now overtaken India is deep penetration of its national institutions and body politic by foreign intelligence agencies. The phenomenon always existed though the extraordinary scale of the Anglo-American infiltration of India has been revealed recently by massive leaks about US intelligence activities. Most frighteningly, ISI penetration of India at the highest levels of government and society is unmistakably perceptible. So successful has Pakistan’s ISI become that it is possible that they surreptitiously promoted the shocking warfare between Indian intelligence and investigative agencies through its Indian proxies.

Revealingly, senior RAW officers are publicly denouncing the fabrication of evidence to distract attention from global terrorism, sponsored by the Pakistani ISI and funded by the Saudis, by blaming alleged Hindu extremists. Some of the falsehoods are brazen and there is not even an attempt by suborned Indian decision-makers to explain why their accusations against alleged majority-community perpetrators of terrorism are flatly contradicted by US agencies and the UN Security Council.

No more unilateralism

G-20 summit gives a clear message 

THE G-20 summit in St Petersburg will long be debated even as the world feels the impact of this polarised gathering of the top industrialised and emerging economies of the world. In spite of some non-diplomatic actions, President Vladimir Putin successfully managed the show, even as President Barack Obama found himself with fewer friends than he would have liked. 

While Syria — Russia's support of the Bashar al-Assad’s regime and America’s opposition to it — became a flashpoint, generally speaking this G-20 summit was one in which the USA found itself in an unenviable position after decades of dominating the group. Syria exposed the divide, but it was there for all to see. 

It is not only in the real world, but in the cyber world too that unilateralism was challenged. The omnipotent electronic surveillance by its National Security Agency (NSA) caused embarrassment to the US as former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s shadow hung over the G20, having chilled US-Russia relations and in the form of the content of the recent leaks that maintain that the NSA spied on the presidents of Brazil and Mexico, among others. President Obama found himself on the back foot as he sought to placate his Latin American neighbours, by telling that the US would “address concerns” over these claims.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will look back at the St Petersburg session with some satisfaction. He articulated India’s position that action on Syria should be taken on the basis of a UN-led consensus even as he condemned the use of chemical weapons, be it in Syria or elsewhere. The US and other Western nations have also taken note of his views and pledged to withdraw their stimulus measures carefully, keeping in mind the substantial effect that the US Federal Reserve Bank’s announcement had on the curriencies of developing nations, including India. He thus got the assurances he needed from the developed nations.

Don't wait for a helping hand

Monday, September 09, 2013 

The world economy almost seemed an afterthought at the latest Group of Twenty summit, so much of the chatter at St Petersburg was focussed on the Syrian civil war. 

But economics dominated the agenda and what the summit showed is that the international consensus on responding to the global financial crisis and its aftermath continues to come apart. 

Reason: the various parts of the world economy are going in different directions. The Western economies are starting to see the green shoots of growth. China's economic engine continues to show resilience. 

Among the sorriest G-20 members is India. India, which survived the 2008-09 financial crisis relatively well, is now on a slippery stagflationary slope. Almost alone among the major economies it has combined high inflation with rapidly falling growth, a high current account deficit with a torrent of government red ink. 

India had gone to the G-20 hoping to inspire international action that could help stem its most pressing short-term problem: the falling value of the rupee. It asked Western governments planning to tighten their monetary policies to coordinate with the emerging markets as the resulting reversal in capital flows was feeding the fall of currencies like the rupee. 

It also sought any other dollar conserving band-aid it could find and received two: a useful increase in its swap arrangement with Japan and a suspect one in the form of a proposed BRICS currency fund. 

On paper, India did well in both areas. However, closer inspection shows how little these matter to the future of the Indian economy. First, the central banks of the US and most developed countries are independent, not mandated to concern themselves about any foreign economy and, thus, will ignore whatever the G-20 joint statement may say about keeping an eye on policy fallout overseas. 

This is clear by the lack of any implementation clauses in the action plan. Second, the details of the BRICS fund remain to be worked out. More importantly, the BRICS country best in a position to help the others is China and the one most in a position of a supplicant is India. 

If New Delhi were to actually turn to this fund it would, in effect, be asking Beijing for help to bailout the Indian economy. The signal to the rest of the world, let alone to China, would be clear. 

A study by the US federal reserve bank researchers in June had looked at whether US monetary policy was roiling the emerging economies. It concluded that there was some impact on the type of capital flow entering the emerging economies but otherwise not much at all. 

The real message Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should have got from St Petersburg is that India should get its own act together first. 

© Copyright © 2013 HT Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.

PANIC IN INDIA - The economic crisis was eminently avoidable

Sunanda Sen 

The panic of an unprecedented order that has struck the crisis-ridden Indian economy brings to the fore a question. What led to this massive downturn, especially when the country was clubbed, not long back, as one of the high-growth emerging economies of Asia? 

A volte face — from scenes of apparent stability, marked by high growth of the gross domestic product and a booming financial sector, to a state of flux in the economy —can completely change the expectations of those who operate in the market, facing situations with an uncertain future. Possible transformations as those mentioned above were identified by Charles P. Kindleberger in 1978 as a passage from manias that generate positive expectations to panic that head to a crisis. While manias help continue a boom in the asset market, it is sustained by using finance to hedge and even speculate in the asset market, as Hyman Minsky pointed out in 1986. However, bubbles generated in the process in asset markets eventually turn out to be unstable, especially when the financial deals rely on short-run speculations rather than on the prospects of long-term investments in real terms. 

With asset price bubbles continuing for some time under the influence of what was described in 2000 as irrational exuberance by Robert Shiller, and also with access to liquidity in liberalized credit markets, unrealistic expectations of the future under uncertainty sow the seeds of an unstable order. This leads to Ponzi deals, as noted by Minsky, with the rising liabilities on outstanding debt no longer met, even with new borrowings since borrowers are nearing insolvency. Situations such as these trigger panic among private agents in the market who fear possible crisis situations. They are led by herd instincts or animal spirits in the market, as noted by John Maynard Keynes in 1936. In absence of actions to counter the market forces, a possible crisis finally pulls down what in hindsight looks like a house of cards. 

Indeed, when markets have the freedom to choose the path of reckless short-run financial investments with high risks and high returns, the individual’s profit calculus eventually proves wrong as a collective. This leads to a path of downturn, not just for the financial market but for the economy as a whole. This is how manias lead to panics and then to a crisis in the economy. 

Such characterizations in the economic discourse help explain the slippages in the Indian economy, which has seen its GDP growth decelerate from the annual average of around 9 per cent during 2005-2006 to 2010-2011 to the currently observed rate of less than 5 per cent . The changing scene has also seen a sharp decline in the index of industrial production to less than 1 per cent in 2012-13. The stock of official exchange reserves, which was above $300 billion till 2010-2011, is today less by $30 billion. There has also been a worsening in both the current account deficit as well as the fiscal deficit as proportions of the GDP. The two are today at the respective levels of 4.8 per cent and 5.1 per cent, considered too large to assure financial stability. 

Gilgit – Baltistan experience: The true face of Pakistan

The resolution passed by the Pakistan’s National Assembly on August 13, 2013 besides other things reiterated that Pakistan "shall continue to extend diplomatic, political and moral support for the just and legitimate struggle of the Kashmiri people for the realization of their right to self-determination, as enshrined in the UN Security Council resolutions"[1] projecting a façade of concern and sympathy for the people of Kashmir. Is Pakistan really concerned about the people of Kashmir? Has it accorded even the basic minimum, ‘the fundamental rights’ to the people of J & K presently under its control leave alone their right to self – determination? It is time Pakistan’s duplicity is exposed and the people of J & K who have been misguided and kept ignorant for much too long made aware of the reality. 

Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) consists of the so called Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit Baltistan (GB)[2], parts of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The Instrument of Accession signed by the Maharaja of Kashmir in favour of India in October 1947 decrees it as a part of India as in the case of the other erstwhile princely states which had ceded to India or Pakistan[3]. These areas have been under Pakistan’s control since 1947[4]

Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) is legally and legitimately an integral part of India. The total area of GB is approximately 72,496 sq km and it constitutes 86 % of the total area of the POK[5]. The population of this region comprises numerous ethnic groups and tribes and is believed to have grown by 63.1 per cent from 883,799 in 1998 to 1,441,523 in 2011 according to the preliminary results of the 2011 Census of Pakistan[6]. This area was referred to as Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA) till 2009[7]

Till 1947, GB was governed by the AJK administration. Fearing that this may come in the way of its plan to grab these territories, Pakistan separated the AJK and GB through the ‘Karachi Agreement’ signed on April 28, 1949. This agreement was signed between the President of AJK, a minister without portfolio from Pakistan and a representative from the Muslim Conference but without any representative from GB[8]. The status of this region was thus decided by Pakistan without even a semblance of the voice of the people of GB being heard. 

Thereafter it was governed under the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) which also applied to tribal areas of Pakistan. Under FCR, people had no right to appeal, to legal representation or to present reasoned evidence[9]

Why the West Should Relax About China

September 06, 2013 
By Robert E. Kelly 

Air-Sea Battle and the pivot seem an overreaction to China’s rise, given the number of challenges Beijing already faces.

Westerners are nothing if not breathless about China. Books describing its rise often have titles like When China Rules the World, Contest for Supremacy, Eclipse(of the U.S. by China), and so on. China is such a preoccupation that the U.S. has now “pivoted” to Asia. And the U.S. Department of Defense, eager to cash-in on the China hype in an era of sequestration and domestic exhaustion with the “Global War on Terror,” tells us now that the U.S. must shift to an Air-Sea Battle concept (ASB). 

In a not-so-amazing coincidence, ASB is chock of full of the sorts of costly, high-profile, air and maritime mega-platforms the military-industrial complex adores. China’s single, barely functional aircraft carrier—the second one is not due for awhile—is a god-send to hawks and neo-cons everywhere. Even as the U.S. scales back in the Middle East, defense can seemingly never be cut. Indeed, the terrible irony of the pivot to Asia from the Middle East is that ASB platforms like satellites, drones, up-armored aircraft carriers, stealth jets and littoral ships will cost so much that staying focused on the Middle East may well be less expensive. (For a running debate on ASB, start here.) 

Before the U.S. goes down this path, with the obvious tit-for-tat arming spiral it may provoke, it is worth noting how many other hurdles China’s rise faces beyond the U.S. military in the western Pacific. Richard Haas recently argued that “foreign policy begins at home.” As the U.S. pivots out of the Middle Eastern quagmire, perhaps America can take some time off to “nation-build at home,” as the president promised, before it rushes headlong into this expensive, provocative ASB posture. The U.S. foreign policy community’s zeal to always find something to do with U.S. power should not blind us to the many local obstacles China faces. The pivot to Asia, like the war in Iraq, is not a necessity; it is a choice. And U.S. voters who would like resources to go to schools, health care, infrastructure, deficit reduction, and so on, should know this: 

1. Japan. This is the most obvious reason China will never become hegemon in Asia, much less genuinely challenge the U.S. at the global level. Westerners tend to downplay Japan, because of its terrible deflationary funk over the last two decades. It is true that Japan has slipped far from its glory days when Paul Kennedy put it on the cover the Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. But Japan is still the world’s third-largest economy. Its military, although numerically smaller than China’s, is far better trained and technologically proficient. And China’s recent replacement of Japan as the world’s second-largest economy seems to have galvanized Japanese voters to a new level of seriousness about getting Japan back on track under Abe. 

Aircraft Carriers or Not? Flattops in the Pacific

September 08, 2013 
By Mike Yeo 

A number of countries are building amphibious ships with the potential to operate fixed-wing aircraft. Could an arms race ensue?

The Pacific region—for this article, the line of nations bordering the Pacific Ocean stretching from Australia to Japan and the Korean Peninsula—has in the past decade or so witnessed a surge in the number of naval ships sporting a “through deck” design to allow flight operations to be conducted from their flight decks. Usually classified as amphibious ships or helicopter destroyers/cruisers, they had mostly escaped serious scrutiny in the mainstream consciousness. Until the past few weeks, that is, when a series of events thrust these vessels into global news headlines. 

Excluding the United States’ two forward-deployed flattops—the USS George Washington and the USS Bonhomme Richard—in Japan, there are now at least eleven such ships planned, being built or in service among the Asia-Pacific’s navies as of today. These ships are officially described as being designed for amphibious operations, while their ability to operate helicopters will also be useful in anti-submarine warfare and to provide aid in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations. Still, most are a refit away from (or in China’s case, already capable of) operating fixed-wing aircraft, sparking fears of an arms race against the backdrop of simmering territorial disputes in the region. 


Australia is currently building two 27,800-ton Canberra-class Landing Helicopter Docks (LHDs) under Joint Project 2048. The ships, HMAS Canberra (LHD-02) and HMAS Adelaide (LHD-01) are based on the Spanish Navy’s Juan Carlos I built by Spain’s Navantia. The design was the winner of a competition with France’s Direction des Constructions Navales (DCN), which offered a larger version of the Mistral class design. 

The HMAS Canberra is currently being completed at BAE Systems – Maritime in Melburne after having been initially laid down in Spain and transported by sea to Australia. She will enter service with the Royal Australian Navy in 2014 while her sister ship will join her two years later. The LHDs will replace the HMAS Tobruk and the Kanimbla-class ships in mainly conducting amphibious operations with a secondary HADR brief. 

The Canberra class vessels boast a length of 230.82 metres (757.3 ft), with a maximum beam of 32 metres (105 ft) and maximum draught of 7.08 metres (23.2 ft). Maximum speed is 20 knots, and the LHDs will sport four Rafael Typhoon 25 mm remote weapons systems, six 12.7 mm machine guns, an AN/SLQ-25 Nixie towed torpedo decoy, and a Nulka missile decoy. 

The LHDs will be able to carry 1,046 soldiers and their equipment. Two vehicle decks (one for light vehicles, the other for heavy vehicles and tanks) can accommodate up to 110 vehicles. Each ship has a well deck for landing craft, while the flight deck has landing spots for six NH90-class helicopters or four CH-47 Chinook-class helicopters to operate simultaneously. The ships are equipped with a 13° ski jump retained from the Juan Carlos I design, although Australia has no plans to operate fixed-wing aircraft from these ships. The standard air group will typically be a mix of MRH-90 transport helicopters and S-70B Seahawk anti-submarine helicopters. The hangar can accommodate up to 18 helicopters, but eight will be the standard complement. 


China is unique in the operators of flight decks in the region in that it is the only regional country to currently operate fixed-wing aircraft from its carriers. The People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLAN) is currently operating the Liaoning, originally destined to be a Admiral Kuznetsov-class multirole aircraft carrier for the Soviet Navy. After an epic history—at one point, it was supposed to become a floating casino—the ship put to sea on August 10, 2011 for the first of several sea trials. The Liaoning is currently based at Qingdao, home of the PLAN’s North Sea fleet, where it operates as a training ship. 

On Syria, US must be restrained

Published on The Asian Age (http://www.asianage.com)
By editor
Created 8 Sep 2013 - 00:00

The US knows its warlike moves will be vetoed in the Security Council. But it cannot tolerate dissent and is determined to have its way in disregard of the rules of inter- national behaviour. 

The US knows its warlike moves will be vetoed in the Security Council. But it cannot tolerate dissent and is determined to have its way in disregard of the rules of inter- national behaviour.

It is a pity that in the face of international opposition US President Barack Obama thinks nothing of publicly reaffirming his belief that a “limited and proportional” strike against Syria must be carried out. He made this amply clear at his press conference at the end of the G-20 Summit in St. Petersburg on Friday. 

Not heeding the appeal of UN Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon and other international leaders gathered in the Russian city, the US leader announced that on Tuesday he would make the case for an attack on Syria in an address to the American people and promised that the US would find allies in this enterprise in spite of the negative outlook of staunch ally Britain, as well as Russia.

In a dinner speech to the leaders of the G-20, the UN Secretary-General noted without ambiguity that international military action against any country would be legal only if sanction for it came through a resolution of the UN Security Council. But the President of the United States made it known that he holds the Security Council in contempt.

He said at his news conference, “If we were not asking for a response (against Syria), this is not what everybody would be asking. There would be some resolution proffered in the United Nations, the usual hocus pocus, but the world and the country (Syria) would have moved on.” This is deploying pretty strong language to show disrespect to the world body created to maintain world peace.

The US is a key member of the international system which is committed to the UN Charter. If its highest functionary can be so dismissive of the UNSC, it would be futile to expect other countries to follow the rules, and a display of hypocrisy on the part of the world to expect terrorists and other non-state actors to heed rules of civilised conduct.

Mr Obama was categorical that the world cannot wait on the United Nations, and that the Security Council was “in a state of paralysis” on the Syrian issue. This is simply not true. What’s true is that members of the UNSC have considered the Syrian crisis and differ with America’s approach. The US knows its warlike moves will be vetoed in the Security Council. But it cannot tolerate dissent and is determined to have its way in disregard of the rules of international behaviour. If any other country had taken the kind of path being advocated by the US President, America would have used its power and influence to have it declared a pariah. The US is making a serious mistake and the world will have to pay for it unless Washington is restrained. 

Copyright © 2011 The Asian Age. All rights reserved.

The Great Gas Game over Syria


September 9, 2013 

Even as much has been written about the regional and global actors pursuing their pitiless agendas in Syria, one sub-plot in the vicious drama has remained relatively unexplored. And that is the gas resource and its routes from production to the market. 

The past five years have seen discoveries of immense energy reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean; both the Levant Basin located along the shores of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Gaza and Cyprus and the Nile Basin north of Egypt. According to preliminary geological surveys, the Levant Basin contains 3.5 trillion cubic meters (tcm) of gas and 1.7 billion barrels (bb) of oil. The Nile Basin contains 6 tcm of gas and 1.8 bb of oil. 

The energy bonanza has predictably led to competitive resource scramble and its transport to the favoured customers. After all, the control of and access to the natural resources have been fundamental drivers of much of geopolitics. The roads, railways, ports, as also the oil and gas pipelines are the coveted objects of the powerful. The oil and gas have a three-fold merit: as the commodity inside, as the containers of that commodity and as the carriers of that commodity. 

Syria alone is estimated to have discovered proven gas reserves of 284 bcm, oil reserves of 2.5 bb and shale reserves of 50 billion tonnes with the possibility of more findings. The production levels are, however, drastically falling. The pre-uprising level of oil was 380,000 barrels a day (bd), which fell to just 20,000 bd, a decline of about 95%. According to some estimates, the natural gas output has halved at 15 million cubic meters (mcm). A lot of gas is used for reinjection into the oil fields to improve the oil recovery. The unrest has not only disrupted the production, but has resulted in the withdrawal of foreign producers and financiers. 

Almost the entire Syrian oil was exported to the European Union (EU). The sales have come to a virtual standstill after the European Union (EU) put an embargo on the Syrian oil in December 2011. In fact, in April this year, the EU has permitted imports from the rebel-held areas so long as the deals are approved by the Syrian National Coalition. 

Within the country, there has been no investment in the refineries, energy pipelines or other infrastructure. Additionally, there is a constant fear of sabotage by the rebels. Since the diesel in the country has been subsidized and priced lower than in the neighbourhood, there has always been a smuggling of the oil, the levels of which are rising alarmingly. 

On June 25, 2011, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed in the Iranian port city of Bushehr to construct a gas pipeline from the Iranian gas field of Assaluyeh through Iraq and Syria. To be built at a cost of $10 billion, its projected capacity of 110 mcm per day was tentatively allocated among Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. It was proposed to extend it to Greece through a submarine line and from there on to the markets in Europe. Named the “Islamic Pipeline”, it was to be supplemented by the export of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from the Syrian ports on the Mediterranean. Latakia and Tartous are two major Syrian ports. Russia has leased Tartous and constructed a naval base there. 

Mahendraparvata: Cambodia’s Archaeological Rebirth

September 09, 2013 

The future of archaeology is high-tech. One of its first laboratories is the jungles of Cambodia.

In the popular imagination, Cambodia calls to mind two polarizing images: Angkor Wat and the nation’s bloody recent history under the iron-fisted rule of dictator Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. As the nation gradually emerges from the trauma that was its 20th century, archaeologists are beginning to venture back into its dense, steamy jungles where significant discoveries await—among them, the ancient Khmer city of Mahendraparvata. 

“Several decades of conflict and civil strife have meant that, until the 1990s, modern archaeology had more or less passed Cambodia by,” Damian Evans, head of the University of Sydney’s archaeology center in Siem Reap, told The Diplomat. “We’ve arrived at a point where Cambodia has one of the world’s richest archaeological landscapes, that also happens to remain one of the least-studied. It has enormous archaeological potential.” 

Mahendraparvata (Mountain of the Great Indra) is located on the plateau known as Phnom Kulen, where in 802 AD King Jayavarman II declared himself the divinely sanctioned ruler of Cambodia, giving rise to the Khmer Empire, which famously built the city of Angkor 40 kilometers to the southwest and came to dominate the region for the next 600 years. The site has long been known about in the West, with French archaeologists hunting for it in the 1880s armed with 10th and 11th century Sanskrit inscriptions. While they found a number of Hindu temples on the site, the bulk of the significant discoveries remained underground. In the late 1960s the search for the buried city came to a standstill when the nation became embroiled in a bloody civil war, followed by the horrors of the Khmer Rouge. 

It was not until another French archaeologist by the name of Jean-Baptiste Chevance launched the Archeology and Development Foundation (ADF) Phnom Kulen Program in 2008 that serious attention was once again focused on the site. Alongside exploring the site, ADF also invests in development on the plateau, which is home to some 4,000 people who survive by “slash-and-burn farming, illegal logging and poaching,” as noted by journalist Daniel Otis, who ventured into the dense jungles of northern Cambodia along with Evans and a team of archaeologists and cartographers. The ADF also introduced the Apsara National Authority on the plateau, which is now run by a team of a few dozen local villagers who guard and maintain these archaeological sites in close collaboration with the archaeologists on site. 

According to Chevance, a number of factors put Angkor in the spotlight while Mahendraparvata waited to be unearthed, among them: the religious significance of Angkor, the difficulties associated with accessing the site on Phnom Kulen, and the fact that it is all but buried in important forest cover. “The Angkor complex is much denser than Mahendraparvata,” Chevance told The Diplomat. “However, the urban organization (of Mahendraparvata) is strictly organized and orientated in a natural environment which is not a flat plain like the site of Angkor, but is rather chaotic (valleys, cliffs, rivers).” 

Maldives: Elections: A Second round becomes necessary

Paper No. 5555 Dated 8-Sep-2013 

Though the results of the Presidential Elections have not been formally announced, it is seen that Nasheed of the MDP obtained 95,224 votes out of 211850 votes polled. This comes to 45.45 percent and thus short of a fifty percent votes to prevent a runoff. 

Nasheed was followed by Abdulla Yameen of the PPM ( Gayoom’s party) with 25.35 percent of votes (53,099) and Gazim Ibrahim of Jumhooree party with 24.07 percent (50,422). Current president Waheed got 5.13 percent of the votes ( 10,750). There were 2395 invalid votes. So what next? 

* Though all the candidates claimed that they would get a full majority, election trends indicated that no one would get a majority on his own. 

* The results were as expected with Nasheed leading all others but yet short of almost 11000 votes to get the magic number. There was no “wave” on behalf of any of the candidates and it was known even to the candidates soon after the elections that no one would get the majority. 

* The surprise was that Yameen edged out Gasim Ibrahim by 2677 votes as the latter was definitely forging ahead with promise of many “freebies” and with all the disgruntled and discarded entities from other groups joining him. This included Umar Nasir, the rabid Adhaalat Islamic group and former President Gayoom’s brother-in-law Ilyas Ibrahim. There is no doubt that in terms of capability and past record, Gasim was definitely far ahead of Yameen. What must have helped Yameen is his relationship with Gayoom ( step brother) and all the old pro Gayoom elements who owe their positions and acquired wealth to Gayoom. 

* The present incumbent president Waheed who contested as an independent candidate could not have got more and even the ten thousand plus figure was due to his running mate Thasmeen Ali of DRP. He did not deserve anything more. 

* Even before the elections results were formally announced, Gayoom had started talks with other groups and he was fairly accurate in his estimates of the percentage of votes that would be garnered by each candidate. The results this time were exactly similar to the 2008 results when Gayoom got over 45 percent of the votes and Nasheed got 25 percent of the votes. But in the run off, all other groups joined hands to defeat Gayoom. 

* Gayoom would perhaps try a similar trick to get all the anti Nasheed votes in favour of Abdulla Yameen. Gayoom’s capacity to manoeuver and manipulate other groups and their votes in favour of Abdulla cannot be under estimated. His statement just prior to the elections and I quote- “PPM will not join those who blaspheme and mock the Messenger and the religion of Islam.” This is directed towards MDP and Nasheed and Gayoom’s tactics will be to tell the voters “vote for safety and security of Islam by voting for Yameen of PPM” and if you do not do so, Islam will be in danger. Nasheed and his MDP will have to find an alternative strategy to prevent Gayoom from using the Islamic card.