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Archive for December 2010

Aarushi Talwar murder investigation closed

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The investigation into the 2008 murder of a well-known dentist’s schoolgirl daughter has been closed by authorities in India for lack of evidence.


Schoolgirl Aarushi Talwar was found dead in her bedroom with her throat slit

Aarushi Talwar, 14, was found with her throat slit and a fatal head injury at home in a Delhi suburb. A man servant’s body was found on the roof a day later.

Police briefly detained her father, saying he murdered his daughter because she found out he was having an affair.

Aarushi’s parents told Indian media that they would not give up.

Dr Rajesh Talwar and his wife Nupur, also a dentist, have always maintained they are innocent.

“I’m completely devastated and shocked. I don’t know what to do,” Dr Talwar told Indian media. “I have not got justice for my daughter.”

Aarushi’s mother said: “We are broken parents today.”

Continue reading the main story “Start Quote The agency has filed a final report in the court for closure of the case on grounds of insufficient evidence”

End Quote Central Bureau of Investigation spokesman The gruesome tale of murder in the affluent Delhi suburb of Noida has generated huge interest in India.

Aarushi was murdered in her bedroom in May 2008, while her parents were in the house.

A day later the bludgeoned body of their man servant, Hemraj, was discovered on the roof.

As well as Aarushi’s father, three other men were arrested during the investigation and later freed for lack of evidence.

They were Dr Talwar’s assistant in his dental practice and two servants employed by the Talwar family’s friends and neighbours.

After a 30-month inquiry, India’s federal detective agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), went to a court on Wednesday in Ghaziabad, near Delhi, to close the case.

“The agency has filed a final report in the court for closure of the case on grounds of insufficient evidence,” a CBI spokesperson said.

The murder weapon has never been found, and while Aarushi’s mobile phone was recovered nearly 15 months after her death, its memory had been deleted.

The CBI took over the case from Noida police, who were accused of a botch job.

The police had gathered 26 fingerprints from the crime scene, but 24 of those were reportedly spoiled because of faulty investigative techniques.

They had also been unable to gather any evidence from a bloody hand print, a half-drunk bottle of alcohol and a shoe print found at the murder scene.

Noida police were further criticised for some statements they made during their investigation.

Days after the murder, a senior police officer told media that Aarushi had been killed because she had discovered her father’s alleged extramarital relationship with another dentist.

The same police chief also suggested the teenager could have been killed because Dr Talwar had objected to her close relationship with the murdered servant.

Dr Talwar rejected the allegations. Several women’s and children’s groups described the police claims as in bad taste.

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Indian nuclear posturing

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The Daily Mail

INDIA’S upcoming “indigenous” nuclear powered submarine Arihant, which was launched last July at Visakhapatnam, is likely to become operational by 2012. Indian defence planners are contemplating to use INS Arihant for ‘deterrent patrol’ aimed at providing the ability of a retaliatory ‘second strike’ in wake of a nuclear attack. The submarine, when on patrol, will carry its full load of nuclear-tipped missiles that can be launched from under the sea and hit targets hundreds of miles away. INS Arihant is the first of a series of three ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) that India proposes to build. Two types of N-tipped missiles are being developed for Arihant. One of them would be a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM)-K-15 Sagarika-with a range of 700 km. This has been tested several times using a pressurized canister submerged under water to mimic a submarine-style launch. A longer range 3,500 km missile is under test and one such test has already been conducted. Indian Navy is trying to flex its muscles in the Indian Ocean and is trying to emulate its mentor the US. During the Cold War “deterrent patrol” was a norm adopted by the US and the erstwhile USSR when their submarines trawled under sea for days. The two super-powers are known to have conducted more than 200 such patrols annually. It is meant to ‘deter’ an adversary from launching a first N-strike on the nation as the submarines can then launch the retaliatory strike within minutes. India claims that it is faced with a two front scenario, China and Pakistan and belligerently boasts that it can tackle both simultaneously. Whereas, neither China nor Pakistan have expressed any hostile designs towards India, yet it would like to pose such fabricated threats only to justify its uncalled for arms buildup and nuclear posturing. Recently, China has developed two SSBNs that are termed as ‘Jin-class’ in military circles and these carry 12 N-tipped missiles. The Chinese Navy has been conducting patrols in the last two years. The UK and France are the other countries that have similar capabilities. A nuclear submarine is required for such patrols due to its ability to remain submerged and undetected for longer periods.

Indian nuclear ambitions can be gauged from its Naval Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma, who in rare acknowledgement of the country’s nuclear abilities, declared: “We have a declared policy of no-first-use…But we have Arihant….. When it is commissioned and goes to sea, it will be on deterrent patrol. The triad (nuclear) would be there when Arihant is commissioned.” Referring to the nuclear triad, he stated that it would be complete only when India has strategic nuclear missiles that could be launched from land, air and sea. The N-submarine will form the third leg-often termed as the most reliable and stealthy-of nuclear triads on land, air and sea-based platforms. The Indian nuclear doctrine elucidates that the nation should possess the capability. On land, India possesses or is in the process of possessing a family of nuclear-tipped missiles, including the Agni series and Prithvi variants. In the air, the Sukhoi and the Mirage have the ability to deliver N-tipped munitions.

The fact is that despite its nuclear posturing, India’s “indigenous” projects have been having “hiccups”, The Admiral admitted to glitches in India’s Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) project saying the 40,000-tonne warship could not be launched this year but will be done in the middle of next year. On the Navy’s future acquisition and capability enhancement programs, Verma said there were 36 ships and submarines on order in various Indian shipyards and that these programs were largely on track. Indian indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas is already obsolete, even before its induction. India may be dreaming of becoming a world power and definitely behaving like a bully on the block but it has to traverse a long way before it can become one.

U.S. Approved Business With Blacklisted Nations

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By: JO BECKER

Despite sanctions and trade embargoes, over the past decade the United States government has allowed American companies to do billions of dollars in business with Iran and other countries blacklisted as state sponsors of terrorism, an examination by The New York Times has found.


An Iranian man shopping at a store in Tehran, where products from Dole, which has a sanctions exemptions, are sold.

At the behest of a host of companies – from Kraft Food and Pepsi to some of the nation’s largest banks – a little-known office of the Treasury Department has granted nearly 10,000 licenses for deals involving countries that have been cast into economic purgatory, beyond the reach of American business.

Most of the licenses were approved under a decade-old law mandating that agricultural and medical humanitarian aid be exempted from sanctions. But the law, pushed by the farm lobby and other industry groups, was written so broadly that allowable humanitarian aid has included cigarettes, Wrigley’s gum, Louisiana hot sauce, weight-loss remedies, body-building supplements and sports rehabilitation equipment sold to the institute that trains Iran’s Olympic athletes.

Hundreds of other licenses were approved because they passed a litmus test: They were deemed to serve American foreign policy goals. And many clearly do, among them deals to provide famine relief in North Korea or to improve Internet connections – and nurture democracy – in Iran. But the examination also found cases in which the foreign-policy benefits were considerably less clear.

In one instance, an American company was permitted to bid on a pipeline job that would have helped Iran sell natural gas to Europe, even though the United States opposes such projects. Several other American businesses were permitted to deal with foreign companies believed to be involved in terrorism or weapons proliferation. In one such case, involving equipment bought by a medical waste disposal plant in Hawaii, the government was preparing to deny the license until an influential politician intervened.

In an interview, the Obama administration’s point man on sanctions, Stuart A. Levey, said that focusing on the exceptions “misses the forest for the trees.” Indeed, the exceptions represent only a small counterweight to the overall force of America’s trade sanctions, which are among the toughest in the world. Now they are particularly focused on Iran, where on top of a broad embargo that prohibits most trade, the United States and its allies this year adopted a new round of sanctions that have effectively shut Iran off from much of the international financial system.

“No one can doubt that we are serious about this,” Mr. Levey said.

But as the administration tries to press Iran even harder to abandon its nuclear program – officials this week announced several new sanctions measures – some diplomats and foreign affairs experts worry that by allowing the sale of even small-ticket items with no military application, the United States muddies its moral and diplomatic authority.

“It’s not a bad thing to grant exceptions if it represents a conscious policy decision to give countries an incentive,” said Stuart Eizenstat, who oversaw sanctions policy for the Clinton administration when the humanitarian-aid law was passed. “But when you create loopholes like this that you can drive a Mack truck through, you are giving countries something for nothing, and they just laugh in their teeth. I think there have been abuses.”

What’s more, in countries like Iran where elements of the government have assumed control over large portions of the economy, it is increasingly difficult to separate exceptions that help the people from those that enrich the state. Indeed, records show that the United States has approved the sale of luxury food items to chain stores owned by blacklisted banks, despite requirements that potential purchasers be scrutinized for just such connections.

Enforcement of America’s sanctions rests with Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which can make exceptions with guidance from the State Department. The Treasury office resisted disclosing information about the licenses, but after The Times filed a federal Freedom of Information lawsuit, the government agreed to turn over a list of companies granted exceptions and, in a little more than 100 cases, underlying files explaining the nature and details of the deals. The process took three years, and the government heavily redacted many documents, saying they contained trade secrets and personal information. Still, the files offer a snapshot – albeit a piecemeal one – of a system that at times appears out of sync with its own licensing policies and America’s goals abroad.

In some cases, licensing rules failed to keep pace with changing diplomatic circumstances. For instance, American companies were able to import cheap blouses and raw material for steel from North Korea because restrictions loosened when that government promised to renounce its nuclear weapons program and were not recalibrated after the agreement fell apart.

India’s Mythical Beliefs……

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By Brig Asif Haroon Raja

Indians believe a lot in myth making. They derive pleasure in pretending what they are not. Governed by the yearning desire to be called a big power, they have been making strenuous efforts to fulfill their dream. After achieving a so-called military victory in former East Pakistan in 1971 with the help of former Soviet Union and Mukti Bahini, the Indians started imagining that India had become mini-super power of South Asia. To put a stamp on self-perceived status, it conducted nuclear test in 1974 but got dismayed when it found Pakistan not getting over awed.

While India never reconciled to Pakistan’s existence and vied to re-absorb it within Indian union, Pakistan’s defiance and refusal to accept India as a regional policeman further antagonized Indian leaders. In sheer disgust India judged Pakistan as the main stumbling block in its drive towards attaining its ambitions. Armed freedom struggle by few thousand Kashmiris in occupied Kashmir against 750,000 Indian troops became a cause of degradation and embarrassment for India.

Once India came close to USA after 1990, it kept on playing upon US-western sensitivities concerning Islamic fundamentalism, cross border terrorism and Islamic bomb so as to keep Pakistan in their bad books. Nuclear tests by Pakistan threw cold water on its sinister designs. After suffering humiliation in the battle of Kargil in 1999, Indian leaders burnt with impotent rage and yearned to teach Pakistan a lesson. After 9/11 their joys knew no bounds since the new rules framed by USA to tackle terrorism suited them the most. They found the farce of terrorism a perfect stranglehold to entrap Pakistan and macerate it.

However, its first attempt to browbeat Pakistan into submission through 2002 military standoff backfired. It had cost Indian exchequer over $2 billion and nearly 800 fatalities without any side firing a single shot. Indian military kept posturing belligerently from January till October 2002 but seeing equally aggressive response of the other side, it couldn’t pick up courage to cross the border. The thought of nuclear exchange was too scary despite the fact that it enjoyed 5:1 conventional superiority and also had three times more nukes in stock. Ultimately Indian forces had to sheepishly withdraw thereby giving Pakistan, ten times smaller in size and resources moral and psychological ascendancy over India. It was too frustrating for Indian leaders claiming to be strongest military power of South Asia and an economic power house to have been humbled by a peripheral state.

The fiasco made Indian military realize that given Pakistan’s nuclear capability and will to fight, conventional war was ruled out as a viable option. Earlier on, it could not browbeat Pakistan in 1986-87 through its Exercise Brass-tacks or its 1990 offensive deployment in Kashmir. In all the previous wars and offensive military standoffs, 19-20 days taken to mobilize the combat troops from peacetime stations to forward deployment areas had allowed Pakistan sufficient reaction time to assemble and move forward its troops to meet the challenge. Hence another way out had to be found.

Taking a leaf out of their Guru Kautilya’s book, the Indian planners reread his guidelines which had been successfully employed after the inconclusive 1965 Indo-Pak war to subvert former East Pakistan. Indo-US-Israeli think tank got together in late 2002 and scratched their heads how to ensnare Pakistan. A way had to be found out how to floor Pakistan without letting it brandish its nukes in defence.

It was decided that India will lure Pakistan into a web of friendship, weaken it from within through cultural invasion from the east and covert operations from Afghan soil. Intelligence agencies of USA, Israel, UK, Germany and Afghanistan were to assist RAW. India was to apply the military instrument only after making Pakistan morally, politically, economically and militarily sufficiently weak and extracting its nuclear teeth.

It was in the context of Pakistan’s nuclear capability and Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine envisaging first strike option in any future Indo-Pak war whenever its threshold was threatened which perplexed the planners. All agreed to defame and demonize Pakistan’s nuclear program through an orchestrated propaganda war and to work out number of contingency plans how to disable or steal the nukes.

During the course of heated discussions, some wise guy came up with a bright idea that if Pakistan’s nuclear response rested on the basis of its core areas getting threatened or overrun, why not to tailor the offensive in a manner that invading forces remain well away from the core areas and to confine the war to battle of frontiers thereby giving no justification to Pakistan to exercise its nuclear option.

Scanning the map of Pakistan, it was pointed out by Indian planners that there were several tactical objectives of politico-economic significance strung along the border. In their reckoning there were 8-15 such objectives available. To offset the problem of prolonged mobilization time and to retain vital element of surprise, someone suggested pre-positioning brigade size mechanized battle groups backed by dedicated artillery and air support close to the border. They brainstormed that Pakistan lacking in strategic depth could ill afford to lose any space and as such would respond with full force to retake the lost objectives. It was perceived that tactical and operational reserves of Pak Army in all likelihood would get consumed and its strategic reserves would get poised towards most threatened penetration. With bulk of Pak Army getting embroiled in battle of frontiers and up to three corps stuck up in war on terror, it would allow Indian Army to launch its main maneuver if required towards deeper objectives.

That is how Cold Start doctrine was conceived; work on the new doctrine commenced in real earnest and the first draft was ready in 2004. It envisaged cutting down mobilization period from 19 days to 72 hours by pre-positioning 8-15 self-sufficient battle groups of two armored regiments and one mechanized infantry regiment or vice versa close to the border and each group assigned shallow objectives of tactical importance. By end 2008 it was polished up and was ready for use. Point of nuclear overhang as mentioned by Gen Kapoor figured out since the doctrine envisaged giving control of tactical nuclear weapons to the operational commander in the field so as to be able to clear any opposition putting up stubborn resistance.

With the passage of time as the misfortunes of Pakistan’s multiplied because of covert operations jointly launched by six intelligence agencies from Afghanistan, it pleased India immensely and it animatedly imagined that Pakistan’s fragmentation was round the corner. Indian leaders got so euphoric and megalomaniac that they began imagining India to be next to USA in the world ranking. Already living in the world of fantasy and strongly believing in myths and notions, they started humming tunes of ‘India shining’ and ‘India an economic powerhouse’.

India was well set to put Cold Start doctrine into practice by end 2008/beginning 2009 since in its view the situation had become ripe to strike the internally enfeebled foe militarily. By then, covert war by anti-Pakistan intelligence agencies had done extensive damage. Over 100,000 troops had got irretrievably involved in fighting the militants in the northwest and Pak Army’s image had sunk low. Mumbai attacks were stage-managed to put Pakistan in the dock and to give an excuse to Indian strike formations to move forward. Forceful response by Pak armed forces, speedy pullout of formations from northwest to eastern border to restore defensive balance, enthusiastic support given by the nation to the forces and above all Pakistani Taliban’s announcement that they would fight the aggressors shoulder to shoulder with the Army and that they would send its suicide bombers into India deflated the jingoism of Indian military under Kapoor. Like in 2002, its second standoff also ended in humiliating withdrawal.

The plot makers held an emergent meeting and it was decided to further intensify propaganda war to build up a perception that Pakistan had become the most dangerous place on earth and its nukes were unsafe and posed a threat to world safety. It was also decided to step up acts of terror in all major cities of Pakistan through their agents and paid terrorists, and to force Pakistan to launch military operation against militant’s strongest positions in Bajaur, Swat and in South Waziristan. Pakistan specific Af-Pak policy was framed to convert Pak-Afghan border into a single battleground. While India was to mount relentless pressure on Pakistan by blaming that it was involved in Mumbai attacks, the US-NATO from the other end was to adopt an aggressive posture by insisting that it intended to operate inside FATA. Drone attacks against suspected targets in Waziristan were also to be accelerated. It was hoped that multiple actions would create conducive conditions for Indian military to launch the limited war by close of 2009.

Gen Kapoor living in the world of fantasy kept the temperature high by threatening to launch a limited attack under nuclear overhang. Without being provoked, he got so worked up that he made the whole world giggle when he boasted that his Army could bulldoze its way through the combined armies of China and Pakistan. One wonders, what’s stopping him from bailing out US-NATO in great distress by making minced meat of dreaded Taliban. His battle groups deployed in isolation along the border got tired of idling and started doubting the wisdom of impractical and mythical Cold Start doctrine which didn’t make any sense. They dread the call for a sudden plunge into the mouths of hungry sharks lying in waiting.

Pakistan Army on the other hand took the threat of limited war in a nuclear scenario dispassionately and prepared a wholesome response to nip the evil in the bud whenever it tried to sprout up. Glaring flaws in the new scheme provided grist for humor in uniform. When Indian Army could not deliver, feeling upset the RAW launched series of terrorist group attacks in Lahore and Rawalpindi to give vent to its frustration.

Ominous schemes worked out by Pakistan’s adversaries got a severe blow as a consequence to Pak Army gaining a decisive edge over militants after achieving outstanding successes in Bajaur, Swat and South Waziristan in quick succession. This development coupled with the security situation in Afghanistan getting out of control of occupation forces at the dawn of 2010 changed the whole complexion and put the schemers on the back foot. It compelled the US to start leaning on Pakistan rather than on India.

Pakistan Army instead of getting weakened has become more robust, professional and is well led and has maintained its defensive and offensive balance. Its mettle in war on terror and UN missions has been widely acclaimed by the world. Gen Kayani proved his mental calibre at the largely attended meeting of NATO at Brussels. It was for the first time that a non-NATO officer had this privilege to address the august gathering and he deeply impressed them. For full one year he has been resisting the pressure of USA to mount an operation in North Waziristan which is laudable.

The ISI is looked at with awe and envy. Single-handed it has successfully battled with world’s six most advanced intelligence agencies and has frustrated their designs. In the recently held Cambrian Patrol exercise organized by British Army in Wales in October, which is considered to be the world’s toughest exercise and in which teams from all over the world including India took part, the team of 35 FF in which I had served stood first and won the gold medal. Three cheers to the winners who have made us all proud.

With the induction of AWACs, JF-17 jet fighters, new batch of F-16 CD model jets, the PAF is feeling much more confident. With balanced ratio of hard hitting submarines and surface warships and improved early warning means and naval air arm, the navy too is in high spirits. Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence is intact and its wide arrays of guided missiles including cruise missiles are much superior to Indian missiles. Gen Shamim Wyne is an excellent choice to head Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee who surely will further refurbish inter-services coordination and cooperation as well as the nuclear set up. Pakistan armed forces imbued with high pitched zeal do not believe in myths but have complete faith in Almighty Allah. They are focused on India and are well poised to take on the Indian challenge.

Indian parliament attack – what it achieved for India

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By Momin Iftikhar

It might have been overshadowed by the Mumbai terrorist strike in Nov 2008 but attack on the Indian Parliament on 13 Dec 2001, on all accounts, remains a watershed in the jerky evolution of Indo-Pak relations, particularly in shaping the course of the Kashmir resistance movement. With the only accused awarded death penalty still awaiting the disposal of his mercy petition, the nine year old incident in which five unidentified gunmen attacked the building of the Indian Parliament, remains a happening thing, yet to be finally wrapped up.

All the five attackers were killed during the attack while four persons were arrested on charges of abetting the attackers as facilitators. These included Mohammad Afzal, a former JKLF militant who had surrendered in 1994, his cousin Shaukat Hussain Guru, Shaukat’s wife Afsan Guru and SA R Gilani, a lecturer of Arabic at the Delhi University. After a year of trial a POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) Court found all four guilty; awarding death sentence to men while Afsan was given five years’ rigorous imprisonment. On appeal the Delhi High Court acquitted Professor SA.R. Gilani and Afsan Guru on 29 Oct 2003 due to absence of incriminating evidence while upholding the death sentence for the remaining two. The case was raised to the Supreme Court, which in its verdict on Aug 3, 2005 lifted the death sentence for Shaukat leaving him with an imprisonment of ten years while confirming the death sentence for Afzal Guru. It is Afzal, the ultimate fall guy of the incident, who awaits the hangman’s noose pending the disposal of his mercy petition by the President of India for the sixth year running.

Coming within hundred days of the September 11 strike, the Parliament attack seemed fortuitous from an Indian foreign policy perspective; tightly following a well scripted narrative. Two aspects had made this charade compelling for India. First, the Taliban rout by US had opened new vistas for exploitation for India in its search for a foothold in Afghanistan. A marked Indian advantage was the coming to power of an anti Taliban Government in Kabul, lifted into saddle by authority of UN-sponsored conference in Bonn, Germany. The new leadership comprised primarily of the Northern Alliance elements- a motley assortment of Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazara warlords whose desperate survival in face of the Taliban onslaught had only been made possible by a no-holds-barred Indo-Iranian support. Pakistan’s west flank stood exposed and India was bent upon making most of the unexpected opportunity by exploiting Pakistan’s proximity to the Taliban to project it as sponsor of terrorism.

Second; India wanted to use the windfall opportunity to paint the freedom struggle in Kashmir with the broad red brush of terrorism. Pakistan’s emergence as an indispensable US partner in the war on terror in Afghanistan didn’t augur well for the Indian designs. There was a need to not only shift the international anti terrorist spotlight on Pakistan itself but also on the Kashmir specific militant organizations whose claims to represent the internationally sanctioned cause of self determination bestowed upon them the status of freedom fighters – a mantle which chagrined India much.

Once the parliament attack materialized India developed the scenario with the alacrity of a preplanned war game. Within hours it had accused ISI – and Pakistan Government of complicity without the benefit of any supporting evidence. For the first time in thirty years it recalled its ambassador to Pakistan. It also ended rail and bus service between the two countries and banned Pakistani commercial aircraft use of India air space. In a most alarming gesture it started the mobilization of troops within a week of the incident along the entire 1800 miles border between the two countries, confronting Pakistan with the largest ever hostile concentration of forces.

The ratcheting up of the coercive diplomacy yielded tangible results for India. On 26 December the US responded by the addition of LeT and JeM, both Kashmir centric militant organizations, to a State Department list of “designated terrorist organizations” – a momentous step that Washington had apparently been trying to avoid. This US action reinforced India’s long sought position that supporting the Kashmiri armed struggle was illegitimate. As summarized by the New York Times; “Pakistan after 50 years of battling India over Kashmir, must now abandon the armed struggle there and rely hence forth on political means of confronting India.”

To divest the Kashmiri armed struggle of its indigenous moorings the term “cross border terrorism” began to circulate immediately following the attack and became inseparable component of any Indian diplomatic interaction related to Kashmir Issue. It is worth recalling that till then Indians had not referred to decade long uprising in Kashmir as terrorism. The Lahore Declaration signed by Indian Premier Vajpaee bears ample testimony to this fact. But following 9/11 the world changed and the line separating freedom struggle from terrorism had vanished, providing India with a great opportunity to project itself as a victim of terrorism instead of being an unabashed oppressor of Kashmiri population.

Immediately following the parliament attack India unleashed a reign of terror to break the back of Kashmiri resistance. To drive home the ‘victim of terror syndrome’, it managed to airlift hundreds of Taliban fighters from Afghanistan jails and used them as clay pigeons to conduct fake encounters in IHK; cashing in on India’s long association with Northern Alliance warlords, now in power in Kabul. The trend become deeply embedded in the Indian army culture whereby fake encounters in Kashmir have become the short cut for the up and coming ambitious Indian army officers intent upon securing a promising career.

India accused Pakistan for it and treated the attack on the Indian parliament as a casus belli; taking the subcontinent to the brink of a war. It would be interesting, though, to note as to what the Indian judicial system found out after four years of deliberations. The Indian Supreme Court, in its verdict of Aug 2005 cast aside charges of a ‘Pakistani Connection’; throwing overboard the story of conspiracy linking ISI, Masood Azhar, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Ghazi Baba, Tariq, and the rest. All that the judgment refers to is that five unidentified armed men attacked Indian parliament and died, and that Mohammad Afzal participated in the conspiracy. Sadly, this aspect has gone unnoticed in India by design and the world at large by default.

India and China talk trade deals and friendship, but they are bitter rivals

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Like tectonic plates grinding up against each other in the Himalayas, China and India are locked into a rivalry that is going to set the global agenda for decades.

For three days this week, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited New Delhi, signed trade deals, dined with Indian politicians and spouted the rhetoric of friendship.

“China and India are partners for cooperation, not rivals in competition,” he told an Indian business conference, after a Chinese trade delegation signed 48 deals worth more than US$16-billion.

“There is enough space in the world for the development of China and India,” Mr. Wen insisted.

But beneath the polite diplomacy and mutual compliments, India and China remain wary of each other, locked in a volatile Cold War-style rivalry that is filled with conflict, mutual distrust and resentment.

As their economies grow, the world’s two most populous nations – home to two-fifths of the global population – are competing for energy resources, food and opportunities. They have conflicting global aspirations; a 4,000 kilometre-long disputed border, a history of war and a decades-old struggle for regional influence.

When Mr. Wen arrived in New Delhi on Wednesday, Chinese engineers in Tibet were blasting through the last part of a mountain tunnel to link the last isolated county in China to the mainland’s main highway system.

China celebrated the feat as a nation-building marvel and broadcast the event on national television.

Indian newscasts, however, noted the new tunnel, in a region bordering the disputed northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, will now enable China to rush troops to an area, which Beijing claims is really part of Tibet.

In almost the same breath, Indian experts also note China’s stranglehold on Tibet gives it control of most of the headwaters of India’s main rivers.

New Delhi has long feared China may one day dam and divert those waters to replenish its parched western provinces and China has talked recently of diverting up to 200 billion cubic metres of water annually to the Yellow River from the Brahmaputra River, which enters India at Arunachal Pradesh, before flowing on to Assam and into Bangladesh.

“Simmering tensions over territory, overlapping spheres of influence, resource scarcity and rival alliance relationships ensure that relations between the two rising Asian giants will be characterized more by competition and rivalry than cooperation for a long time to come,” warned Mohan Malik, a professor at the Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies in Honolulu.

“The main objective of China’s Asia policy is to prevent the rise of a peer competitor to challenge its status as the Asia-Pacific’s sole ‘Middle Kingdom’,” he said. “As an old Chinese saying goes, ‘One mountain cannot accommodate two tigers’.”

The stark discrepancies between democratic India and authoritarian China were on display in New Delhi just two days before Mr. Wen arrived. In an effort to warn off Tibetan protesters preparing to demonstrate against Mr. Wen, a nervous Chinese ambassador, Zhang Yan, told reporters bilateral relations with India are “very fragile, very easy to be damaged and very difficult to repair.”

“They need special care in the information age,” he said. “To achieve this, the [Indian] government should provide guidance to the public to avoid a war of words.”

India’s Foreign Minister, Nirupama Rao, responded coolly but politely saying China has nothing to fear from India’s “vibrant and noisy democracy.”

Two events have permanently strained relations between Beijing and New Delhi – China’s 1950 invasion and occupation of Tibet and China’s defeat of India in a brief 1962 border war.

India now plays host to more than 120,000 Tibetan refugees, including the Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 following a failed uprising.

China brands the Dalai Lama a separatist and insists he is using his base in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamsala to fuel rebellion inside Tibet.

After riots broke out in Tibet in March 2009, China’s government-controlled news media were filled with anti-Indian rhetoric calling New Delhi “reckless and arrogant” and warning India not “to misjudge the situation as it did in 1962,” when China successfully staged a month-long war against India all along their Himalayan border.

India still lives in the shadow of that conflict, resenting her defeat and complaining China illegally occupies 26,500 square kilometres of Indian territory.

“The wounds of the 1962 Chinese invasion have been kept open by Beijing’s public and assertive claims to Indian territories,” said Brahma Chellaney of New Delhi’s Center for Policy Research. “China continues to occupy one-fifth of the original state of Jammu and Kashmir. Its recent claim over the entire Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and aggressive patrolling of the border region signify that China is not interested in maintaining the status quo.”

As a result, India has moved two army divisions close to its Himalayan border and built three new airstrips in the foothills.

“The India-China strategic dissonance is rooted not only in their contrasting political ideals and quiet rivalry but also in Beijing’s relentless pursuit of a classical, Sun Tzu-style balance-of-power strategy,” Prof. Chellaney said. “In order to avert the rise of a peer rival in Asia, China has sought to strategically tie down India south of the Himalayas.”

India has long resented China’s close ties to its traditional rival Pakistan, arming Pakistan’s military, helping Islamabad build nuclear weapons and promoting Pakistani claims to Indian territory.

But New Delhi has watched in frustration recently as China also increased its strategic assistance to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Burma [Myanmar] – countries India always regarded as part of its sphere of influence.

Nearly 90% of Chinese arms sales go to countries located in the Indian Ocean region. In addition, Beijing has helped build ports in Gwadar, Pakistan, and Humbantota, Sri Lanka, as well as in Burma and Bangladesh, in what analysts have called a “string of pearls” strategy to build naval bases and military listening posts across the Indian Ocean.

The Chinese-built Gwadar port and naval base, near the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz and close to Pakistan’s border with Iran, is one of the world’s largest deep-water ports and could allow China to park submarines in India’s backyard.

It may also serve as the terminus for an energy pipeline taking oil from the Gulf region, through Pakistan, directly to China.

A similar pipeline is planned from a Chinese-built port on Burma’s Ramree Island to transport oil from Africa and the Middle East to the Chinese province of Yunnan.

“This effort to encircle India by sea with strategically positioned naval stations from Hainan in the east, to Gwadar in the west, and on land by promoting bogus Pakistani claims that undermine India’s territorial integrity, takes the ‘Great Game’ to a new and more dangerous level,” warned Jaswant Singh, India’s former defence and foreign affairs minister.

China’s rising economic and military power is driving formerly non-aligned India into seeking a loose alliance with the United States and its Asian partners (Japan, South Korea, Australia) to counterbalance Beijing.

But New Delhi has also sought to engage China, promoting its white-collar, services-led economic growth as a natural counterpoint to China’s blue-collar, manufacturing-driven economy.

Bilateral trade between the two Asian rivals has surged from a mere US$262-million in 1991 to an expected US$60-billion this year.

During Mr. Wen’s visit, the two countries set a bilateral trade target of US$100-billion-a-year by 2015.

But sharing their new wealth has also produced new tensions. China is India’s biggest trade partner. But that trade is skewed heavily in China’s favour, with China exporting almost twice as much to India as India sells to China.

Nearly 70% of India’s exports are low-cost raw materials compared with China’s more expensive manufactured goods.

It is no coincidence India has initiated more anti-dumping complaints with the World Trade Organization against China than anyone else.

“A Sino-Indian rivalry in southern Asia and the northern Indian Ocean may well be a dominant feature of Asian geopolitics in the 21st century,” Prof. Malik said.

National Post

pgoodspeed@nationalpost.com

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The very future of microcredit in India is in danger, which is a shame for the country’s poor

HER sobbing can be heard throughout her village, Nagaram, in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh (AP). When visitors from Hyderabad, the state capital, some 80km (50 miles) away, cross the threshold of her bare little house, Narsama Anthaiah flings herself prostrate and wailing onto the dirt floor to touch their feet. Her theatrical grief is heartfelt. Two months ago her husband, aged 40, drowned himself. The AP government blames unlikely villains: microfinance institutions (MFIs), which have been expanding fast in the state. Microcredit-small loans to the poor, ideally to start a tiny business-has until recently been seen as one of best hopes for the three-quarters of Indians who still live on less than $2 a day. But the political fallout from such deaths has put paid, at least for now, to the industry’s expansion. It could even destroy it altogether in AP, and conceivably beyond.

The blame the MFIs shoulder is unfair. Farmer suicides are lamentably common in India. Anthaiah took his own life as a payment loomed on a 15,000 rupee ($333) MFI loan. Heavy rain had waterlogged his cotton crop and left the family struggling to pay the interest rate of 36% a year. But the couple, who had borrowed to build this house, also owed 34,000 rupees to a local moneylender, who charged over 50%.

Even so, Anthaiah’s name features on a government list of 85 MFI “victims”, who had taken their own lives by November 16th. The government has reacted by introducing an “ordinance” forcing MFIs to change their practices-cutting interest rates, changing from weekly to monthly repayments, etc. Opposition politicians, scenting votes, have encouraged borrowers to default. Not surprisingly, recovery rates for some lenders have plunged from close to 100% to around 20%.

This is a huge problem for Indian microcredit. AP is not so much the jewel in its crown as the crown itself. The country as a whole has seen a spurt in microcredit, overtaking, in the number of borrowers, Bangladesh, the global movement’s fountainhead. AP accounts for at least half India’s total, with more than 25m borrowers, up from 8m in 2007. Indeed, the MFIs’ very success in AP is the source of their present troubles.

There have been abuses. Chasing growth, MFIs seem to have piled into the same villages, lending to the same people. Some “recovery” methods have involved intimidation. In Godhumagudu, not far from Nagaram, Laxmi Peta is mourning her 16-year-old daughter Lalitha. The family ran up 66,000 rupees in debts from five MFIs to pay for the wedding of their elder daughter. Unable to meet a payment, they went away to seek help from the new in-laws, leaving Lalitha alone. An MFI officer arrived, along with the village head and the four other members of her mother’s “joint liability group”-fellow villagers who had taken collective responsibility for the debt. After their harangues, Lalitha drank pesticide. Her mother treasures a tattered suicide note. It advises her not to take out any more loans, except for her young son’s education.

The MFIs, however, are less abusive, as well as far cheaper, than traditional moneylenders. Their troubles in AP stem from a mixture of institutional rivalry, politics and ideology.

Among the MFIs’ biggest critics is Budithi Rajsekhar, boss of the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty, an arm of the state government formed in 2000 to run its own microcredit programme. Set up with World Bank money, this involves a network of “self-help groups”, each of 10-15 women, who pool savings and then have access to bank finance. According to Mr Rajsekhar, there are now about 1m groups, with 10m members, covering 8m-9m households, or 95% of the state’s rural poor. The MFIs “poach” their clients for their smaller, five-member, borrowing syndicates, and “dump” unneeded loans on them.

The antipathy is mutual. For the MFIs, the government’s groups offer too little credit, too late. The MFIs offer an alternative to the old-fashioned usurer. But their success in AP has made them a political target-large numbers of voters owe them money. The main opposition Telugu Desam Party lost power in 2004 partly because it was seen as in thrall to the IT industry and foreign investors. Championing poor MFI borrowers was a cost-free way of burnishing its credentials with the rural poor.

Ideologically, many in India worry that large MFIs have become for-profit firms. The biggest, SKS, was launched by Vikram Akula as a charity, with (according to his divorced and embittered wife) donations from the guests at their lavish wedding. In July it floated on the stock exchange. The issue was 13 times oversubscribed and valued the company at $1.5 billion. It has a star-studded share register and board of directors, and a great appeal for those who like to think you can do well by doing good.

Saints and sinners

Even charitable microcredit, however, is less fashionable than it was. Other countries’ microlenders, too, have had crises. In Pakistan’s Punjab province, for example, it became fashionable in 2008-09 for politicians to encourage borrowers to default on microloans. And this week the movement’s patron saint, Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist and Nobel laureate, was cleared of allegations of diverting Norwegian aid money from one arm of his Grameen bank to another. The film making the accusations also aired arguments that microcredit may do more harm than good. In fact, research suggests that it does work-for some people some of the time, as you would expect. It is not a magic bullet, but nor is it intrinsically harmful. In Nagaram, where Mrs Anthaiah still has to pay off the moneylender with only her own labour to sell, her self-help group is arranging a loan to tide her over. India’s problem is not too much microcredit, but too little, too narrowly directed.