Jun 30, 2007

Reality Hits MSM

Has the MSM realised that their exclusive dominance of the news dissemination field is over?

When senior ministers of the government said that the “President is not elected through SMS campaign, “ they were dismissing SMS and blogs as tools of a participatory democracy...

Mr Dasmunsi’s comments were made in the light of the campaign carried in the electronic media about the desirability of a second term for President Kalam. And while he was technically correct in dismissing the role that people and hence their SMS and blogs had to play in electing the President, the fact is that in being dismissive the ministers revealed a certain lack of understanding of the power of this new medium.

It could be argued that internet penetration in India is low, at the end of May, there were 2.46 million broadband connections in the country. Even if all landline connections — at the end of May there were 40.26 million connections — were to be treated as potential dial up internet connections, penetration of the internet is rather low. When it comes to wireless phones, to determine the catchment area for SMS campaigns, there are 177.79 million subscribers. At the end of May, India had a teledensity of 19.26, that is for every hundred persons only 19.26 had a physical phone, which could be a cellular or a landline phone.

It could be this low penetration of telephones as well as a negative growth pattern for broadband subscribers that could have made the ministers dismiss the importance of the SMS and blog campaign for President Kalam. But the power of this medium lies not in its numerical strength but in the momentum it creates.


.....the SMS campaign for Kalam, or the blogs on Pratibha Patil’s suitability as president help form a certain kind of opinion. The SMS campaign for President Kalam showed overwhelming support for the idea of a second term for him. The message that seemed to go out was that the government was willing to turn a deaf ear to the voice of the people. It didn’t matter that the voice of the people represented through the SMS campaign was not representative of the electorate. So when ministers dismiss the SMS polls, they reinforces the feeling of a lack of understanding of the power shift to the new media.

Blogs and SMS, limited as they may be in there spread, seem to have democratised opinion making. Blogs about Pratibha Patil’s credentials or alleged lack thereof, gives rise to discussions all of which centre on the credentials of those who supported her candidature. [ET]

So, the Main Stream Media (MSM) have at last realised the power of Web 2.0 and that the days of its domination is over or soon to be over. Now we hope confrontational articles deriding Bloggers from MSM journalists will wane and a new beginning of cooperation between the MSM and Web 2.0 will start.

If the MSM and Web 2.0 can join hands, then the power of the new and old mediums can be put to better use of making our country a better place for all of us.

Jun 29, 2007

The Paradise Called "Azad Kashmir"

There are many in Jammu Kashmir who still today believe the other side of the LoC i.e. in “Azad Kashmir” controlled by an Islamic Pakistan offers Muslims better life than J&K “controlled” by an ‘Infidel’ India. However, after the establishment of bus links between the two parts of J&K, this notion is fast falling apart.

In J&K, Gurjjars make up the third-largest ethnic group — after Kashmiri-speaking Muslims and Dogra Hindus. Over the years, they have emerged as a significant political entity in J&K, wielding considerable electoral influence in a quarter of the constituencies. Since the early 1990s, the group’s inclusion in the list of Scheduled Tribes has led to a significant improvement in its socio-economic profile, and now it is demanding political reservations as well.

The Partition of 1947 saw the division of the Pir Panchal region — the traditional Gurjjar heartland. This led, in turn, to the separation of lakhs of [Muslim] Gurjjar families...

Given the close ties that exist between the Gurjjars on both sides of the border, the troubles and fortunes of families and friends across the border have long been a subject of keen interest to the community. With the re-establishment of contact between J&K and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) by way of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot bus links, there was suddenly an opportunity to find out about how relatives across the border were faring.

As it turned out, many Gurjjar families in POK were found to be living in difficult conditions, and the community itself was on the verge of losing its identity. As those who came across to J&K from POK put it, the symbols of Gurjjar culture — its folk songs and music, traditions and age-old rituals — which are still visible in J&K, are missing on the other side. The majority of Gurjjars in POK seem to have forgotten the life of dhoks and mergs — the high-alpine meadows to which Gurjjar communities traditionally moved during the summer, and which are such an essential part of the Gurjjar heritage.

One of the reasons why Gurjjar traditions were better preserved in J&K was the fact that the community enjoyed special privileges guaranteed under the tribal quota. No such legislation exists in Pakistan. In POK, it is said, nobody dares to speak Gojri in the bazaars and at public functions. In contrast, the J&K Cultural Academy regularly publishes books in Gojri, while NGOs such as Gurjjar Desh Charitable Trust and Gojri Anjumans are also working to preserve the language. There are even local radio programmes in Gojri. In fact, those who do write in Gojri in POK — like Rana Fazal Rajourivi — have to get their books published through the J&K Cultural Academy.

... Abdul Latief, an elderly Gurjjar from Bandi Abasspur in POK, who had come to visit his relatives in the village of Kalai in Poonch, attributed the dilution of his community’s ethnic, cultural and linguistic identity in Pakistan to state-sponsored marginalisation. “Our economic condition is vulnerable,” Latief says. “We are mostly illiterate and work as land-tillers on other people’s farms, or as shepherds.”...

If this does not happen, the Gurjjars of POK may soon face extinction in a region that was part of their traditional homeland.[IE]

Jun 27, 2007

India’s Next President: Mrs. Pratibha “Notorious” Patil?

It was an idea whose time should have been much earlier in a Parliamentary Democracy’s life. Albeit late in the day, that someone thought of nominating a woman for the largely ceremonial post of India’s President only in the sixtieth year of Independence would nevertheless have been a welcome decision.

But the muck that is being thrown on the UPA presidential candidate on a daily basis and the amount of that sticking to her has definitely crossed the threshold limit. So much so that Mrs. Pratibha Patil has gone from “Mrs. Who” to “Mrs. Notorious” in a matter of days.

Sonia may have silenced the Left with her ‘masterstroke’ of nominating Mrs. Pratibha Patil, a virtual unknown, out of the blue as its nominee for the President’s post but can she silence the public who now demand answers from UPA on the credibility of their Presidential candidate?

In the sixtieth year of Independence, India surely doesn’t need a scam-tainted notorious lady as President. Such a woman can never be a role model to Indian women and definitely hasn't anything to do with women’s empowerment. Out with her!

Jun 25, 2007

India's Own String of Pearls Around China

China’s official statements on Arunachal Pradesh and the larger border dispute since late last year clearly indicate a conscious change in China’s policy towards India. China, which used to have border disputes with almost all its neighbours, has settled it amicably with the sole exception of India.

China’s strategy towards India on the border and territorial dispute was clear for some time now – delay the settlement till China can negotiate it from a position of considerable military and economic strength. China pinned its hopes on the economic reforms, which it started in the 1970s to make it economically, militarily and politically strong vis-à-vis India. All of a sudden in the early 1990s circumstances forced India too to embark on the economic reforms route. This, China was never able to foresee and today an India growing at 9% has upset China’s calculations.

China, realising what economic reforms can do to a nation, embarked on its contain India strategy. China got down to its business of encircling India with its strategic
string of pearls, which are pressure points to make India uneasy and vulnerable. The results have been fantastic as far as China is concerned; what with India’s supposed allies like Maldives, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, etc joining the party.

As India found herself at the world’s high table as a consequence of her unprecedented economic growth and post cold war geopolitical realties, China’s strategy of playing for time failed miserably. Today India is an Asian ally of USA and rapidly getting economically and militarily closer to it. This has clearly rattled the Chinese and IMHO exactly because of this we are hearing those noises from China on the border and territorial dispute.

B. Raman, however,
is of the view that China wants to settle the Tibet issue after the death of the present Dalai Lama by incorporating Tawang or possibly the whole of Arunachal Pradesh in to China Occupied Tibet by any means including another war if necessary.

Now the question is what should be India’s response to an increasingly belligerent China?

On the one hand China wants the trade relation, because it is heavily tilted in its favour to continue and grow further but also wants to have a multi-faceted relation covering all spheres with India. And on the other hand it wants to settle the border and territorial dispute in its favour, on its terms and at a time of it’s choosing. By its string of pearls strategy China wants to confine India to the subcontinent by making it feel strangled and thus vulnerable.

India too has an interest in continuing and boosting the trade relation with China particularly if India’s export share of value added products increases. But that definitely shouldn’t undermine India’s interests or its territorial integrity. If anything that is clear from China’s policies or official statements is that it doesn’t want to do anything that will disrupt its “peaceful” growth. This means China surely can get belligerent but will not be stupid enough to get into a full-scale war to settle the border dispute when it knows unlike in 1962, today, India can hit back hard.

If one studies the geopolitical situation in the subcontinent and the belligerent noises emanating from China, then it is time for India to stop being pusillanimous in its relation with China. In other words, it is time to reciprocate China’s policy of encirclement. Some joint Naval exercises and some security meetings between India, USA and allies have rattled the Chinese like anything. So how much more will China be rattled if India replicates its version of string of pearls around China?

China’s Achilles Heels

To fuel it’s voracious growth, China is signing up oil, gas, and minerals deals of all kinds around the world. From South America to Australia, from Central Asia to Africa, the Chinese are rummaging for stuff to keep their country running. Signing up deals is the easy part but getting it to their country is the difficult part.

China and Pakistan have lined up
ambitious plans for their growth. Pakistan hopes to benefit financially and economically from being a trade and energy corridor to the Central Asian Republics and China. China, which is building the Gwadar port in Pakistan, hopes to lay oil and gas pipelines to route crude and gas from the Persian Gulf and Africa to China through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). Not only this, for China the shortest route to transport raw materials it plunders from the African continent to the mainland will be via the soon to be laid all-weather Karakoram Highway. A rail link is also planned.

The Karakoram Highway that connects Pakistan with China passes through the Khunjerab Pass in POK. If what Pakistan and China have planned for themselves - by exploiting India’s legitimate territory - comes to fruition, then the Karakoram Highway, the pipelines, the rail link all well could become China’s Achilles heel. In other words, destruction of these economic links will make China highly vulnerable. This is an important pressure point India can exploit to make China feel the pressure. The strategy of targeting this vital economic corridor of China should be on two fronts. One, from Jammu and Kashmir and the other from the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan, which is nearer to the Karakoram Highway. To get access to Wakhan Corridor and establish a military outpost there, it would take India’s best diplomatic efforts in cajoling Afghanistan to grant it. One way of getting access is on the pretext of building roads that benefit Afghanistan in the Wakhan Corridor.

One of the reasons China is keen on routing oil and gas from Gulf and Africa through PoK is to avoid the shipping lanes of Malacca Strait, which are patrolled by USA and allies. As India increasingly engages with USA and allies on security matters, sooner or later if India can play its cards shrewdly, it can hope to be given the exclusive or major responsibility of safeguarding the shipping lanes of SE Asia and the Malacca Strait. Once this fructifies China will surely know the pressure.

China’s economically important areas are in Eastern China – the coastal areas to be precise. That is were China’s SEZs are. India’s IRBM Agni III, which is still in the developmental stage, can very well target these areas. But the distance just will not make China feel the pressure because China’s BMD system will have ample time to knock them out.

India’s relation with Vietnam has been strong from the Cold War days. Apart from political and economic relations, India also has military relations with Vietnam. Vietnam’s northern borders are very close to China’s economically important coastal regions. India needs to have a full-fledged military base in this area with a battery of appropriate missile targeting China’s SEZs. Once again it would take India’s best diplomatic efforts in cajoling Vietnam to grant it. USA is also increasing its political and economic relation with Vietnam in order to pressure China on trade issues such as intellectual property rights and currency reform.

Another country with which India’s relation has been strong from the cold war days is Mongolia. An Indian military base here would be a good bet to put additional pressure on China.

Finally there is the Taiwan card. Nothing rattles China more than Taiwan getting any type of political importance particularly from countries that matter. India suffering from Sino-phobia after the 1962 war refused to have anything to do with Taiwan lest it annoyed China some more and China rubbed its nose in the mud again. Today, India has at last allowed a harmless (for China) Taiwanese politician to set foot in India only after taking due permission from Communist China. India needs to change its policy on Taiwan This card is to be kept aside till the appropriate time and let China know it.

What I wrote on the strategy to contain China is no fairytale but something that is achievable. To achieve this, as I mentioned earlier, it would take strong political resolve and India’s best diplomatic efforts. A military base each in Northern Vietnam immediately and the Wakhan Corridor later is of paramount importance if India wants to keep the boisterous and belligerent dragon away from mischief directed at it. Once China realizes that India can take out its vital economic assets and it can’t respond before it is too late, it will have no option but to behave.

At the end of the day India also wants the border and territorial dispute with China settled amicably. This cannot be achieved as long as India decides not to confront the dragon with the ground realties.

If India remains complacent it will surely pay the price in not too distant future. If it is too incompetent to come up with a “contain China” strategy of its own, then the next best way to keep the dragon away and secure its borders is to
get into full military alliance with the United States of America.

Jun 22, 2007

The Quiet Campaign against Al Qaeda's Local Nodes

Here is Stratfor's article on the quiet campaign against Al Qaeda's local nodes.

Indonesian authorities announced June 15 they had arrested Zarkasih, the acting head of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), an al Qaeda-linked militant group that has conducted several major attacks in Indonesia. Zarkasih, who succeeded Abu Bakar Bashir and Abu Rusdan as JI leader, was captured June 9 in the same operation that netted another top JI leader, Abu Dujana, an operative trained by al Qaeda in Afghanistan who headed the group's military wing.

The capture of these two major figures alone would be a significant blow to JI. However, when they are combined with the steady stream of other JI leaders who have been killed or captured since JI carried out its most devastating attack -- the October 2002 bombings in Bali that killed more than 200 people -- the impact becomes even more significant. In other words, few of the leaders remain who directed JI up to and including the 2002 attacks.

The Indonesian government's campaign against JI, part of the global "war on terrorism," has been bolstered by assistance from the United States, Australia and other Western nations. Moreover, the fight against JI is not confined to Indonesia itself, but is a regional effort involving other governments in Southeast Asia. These efforts have kept JI off balance and unable to launch a major attack since the October 2005 suicide bombings in Bali. The Indonesian government also has been able to seize large quantities of weapons and explosives -- ordnance that no longer can be used in terrorist attacks.

The success against JI underscores one important fact: Although much of the world's attention regarding the war on terrorism -- which really is a war against jihadists -- has been focused on Iraq and to a lesser extent Afghanistan, a quiet and quite successful campaign is being waged against the local nodes, those regional or national militant groups supporting al Qaeda in places like Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and North Africa. The war on jihadism, however, is at its heart an ideological war; and as long as the ideology of jihadism survives, these regional nodes -- and al Qaeda itself -- cannot be eradicated.

The Local Nodes
Al Qaeda's leaders have always known that al Qaeda, as an organization, lacks the strength to achieve its goals of ending infidel influence in Muslim lands and overthrowing the "corrupt" regimes ruling them. Because of this, al Qaeda has viewed itself as a "vanguard organization" and, as such, aims to serve as an example for the larger Muslim community (or ummah) to follow and to convince the ummah to join the jihad (or rather, its definition of it). Al Qaeda's hope is that its example will lead to a global uprising among the ummah and that this "awakened" community will wield the force necessary to achieve jihadist objectives.

This context helps to explain the relationships al Qaeda's leaders have fostered with local groups in such places as Indonesia, Afghanistan, Algeria and Iraq. They believe these local or regional organizations are important partners that provide a bridge for the transfer of their ideology to the ummah in the various regions where they operate. Many, indeed most, of the thousands of fighters al Qaeda has trained over the years in camps in Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere were not al Qaeda members per se, but rather men like Dujana who would return home and join regional groups like JI, or others who would go back and form grassroots cells, like Mohammed Siddique Khan, who established the cell that conducted the July 7, 2005, London bombings.

Al Qaeda's attention to local jihadist groups, therefore, clearly is not the result of the group's difficulties following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. In fact, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has always placed emphasis on working with these groups. For example, in February 1998, when bin Laden announced the formation of what he called the "World Islamic Front," the organization's fatwa calling for "jihad against Jews and crusaders" was also signed by Ayman al-Zawahiri, who at the time led a faction of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) group; Rifai Ahmad Taha, leader of his faction of the Egyptian Gamaah al-Islamiyah (GAI); Shaykh Mir Hamzah, secretary of his faction of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Pakistan; and Fazlul Rahman, leader of the Jihad Movement in Bangladesh.

Al-Zawahiri's EIJ was one of the first of these regional or local groups to officially join forces with bin Laden and al Qaeda, though when that union took place, EIJ had splintered and its new militant wing had suffered major setbacks. The militant faction under al-Zawahiri not only had been largely decimated inside Egypt, but U.S.-led operations also had resulted in the capture or death of many of its senior operatives outside of Egypt in locations such as Albania and Kuwait.

Although many of these local groups received training from al Qaeda and worked closely with it, for the most part they maintained their independence. During the 1990s, for example, GAI members were trained at al Qaeda facilities in Sudan and Afghanistan, and some, including GAI leader Mustafa Hamza, even worked for businesses bin Laden owned in Sudan. Furthermore, bin Laden and al Qaeda helped organize and fund GAI and EIJ's cooperative attempt to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa in 1995.

When GAI fractured in the late 1990s and the bulk of the group denounced violence and jihadism, Taha, the militant faction's leader, maintained close relations with al Qaeda. He even appeared alongside bin Laden and al-Zawahiri in a September 2000 video calling for the release of GAI spiritual leader Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, who was (and is) in a U.S. prison. Abdel-Rahman was convicted in October 1995 on charges of seditious conspiracy for, among other things, issuing a verbal fatwa that condoned a plan to attack several targets in New York, saying the plan was permissible under Islam. However, in spite of the close relationship, GAI's militant faction did not announce its merger with al Qaeda until August 2006.

The Rush to Join the Caravan
Though the 9/11 attacks did not spark the widespread uprising of the ummah al Qaeda was hoping for, the spectacular success of the attacks made bin Laden a household name and vaulted al Qaeda into the media spotlight. Despite the Taliban's quick defeat in Afghanistan, which resulted in the scattering of al Qaeda and the relocation of its leadership to Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province, al Qaeda continued to be perceived as the apex of the jihadist movement in the Western media and, perhaps more important, on the streets of the Muslim world.

Following the aggressive action of the U.S. government and its allies against jihadist groups in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, many people who previously praised bin Laden and al Qaeda renounced the group's tactics, including GAI leader Hamza. However, in October 2004, the leader of a little-known jihadist group in Iraq, Jamaat al-Tawhid and Jihad (Monotheism and Jihad), changed the name of his group to Tandheem al Qaeda fi Bilad al-Rafidain (al Qaeda Organization in the Land of the Two Rivers) and swore allegiance to bin Laden. In a December 2004 statement, bin Laden confirmed this alliance, referring to the leader of that group, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as the "leader of al Qaeda in Iraq."

This move by al-Zarqawi was hugely successful. By associating his network with al Qaeda, al-Zarqawi made it prominent among the many jihadist and nationalist insurgent groups operating in Iraq -- and quickly achieved name-brand recognition. This recognition rapidly translated into an influx of fighters, both foreign and Iraqi, for the group and a much-needed infusion of capital. In fact, al-Zarqawi's organization was so flush with cash that in a July 2005 letter, al-Zawahiri asks al-Zarqawi to send financial assistance.

Within a short period of time, al-Zarqawi's group became one of the pre-eminent militant groups in Iraq. Al-Zarqawi himself became a household name since his group posted frequent statements and videos of its operations against coalition and Iraqi forces on the Internet. In some ways, al-Zarqawi had even surpassed bin Laden in terms of media coverage and notoriety.

Though al-Zarqawi's meteoric rise was cut short by his death in a June 2006 airstrike, the success he enjoyed by adopting the al Qaeda brand was not missed by other interested observers. In August 2006, the militant wing of the Egyptian GAI released a video announcing it had formally joined al Qaeda. Three months later, Algeria's Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) announced that it was forming a unified command with Morocco's Islamic Combatant Group, Libya's Islamic Fighting Group and several Tunisian groups. The new group was to be called the al Qaeda Organization for the Countries of the Arab Maghreb.

Kashmiri Islamist militant groups also are now attempting to jump on this bandwagon, as demonstrated by the "Declaration of War against India" they issued in the name of al Qaeda earlier in June.

Status of the Nodes
To date, none of these newer local nodes has realized the same level of success that al-Zarqawi's group did. The Egyptian node has carried out no successful attacks since its highly publicized announcement. The Moroccan element of the new Maghreb al Qaeda node apparently attempted to go operational in March and April but its poor tactics and inadequate planning resulted in the death of more suicide bombers than targets.

Perhaps the most successful of these new groups is the Algerian element of the Maghreb al Qaeda node, the former GSPC. The Algerian group has conducted several attacks, including an April 11 double suicide attack involving vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. Those bombs struck the prime minister's office and a police station in Algiers. The Algerian government, however, has cracked down on the group and its supporters since those attacks.

In many ways, the Algerian group seems to be following a trajectory previously seen elsewhere, in which a local node emerges, conducts some successful attacks and then is hit hard by local authorities (often with assistance from U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies.) This is essentially what has happened to some of the older nodes, such as JI in Indonesia, Egypt's Tawhid wa al-Jihad in Sinai, and the Saudi al Qaeda node. There were signs in January of a possible revival of the Saudi node, but other than a simple shooting attack in late February -- followed by a major hit against the group by Saudi authorities -- the node has been quiet.

Even al-Zarqawi's node, which undertook several operations in Jordan before his death, including the November 2005 Amman hotel bombings, has been unable to project its power outside of Iraq as of late. This node also has been receiving pressure from elements in Iraq and has started to fight Iraqi nationalists. If a political settlement is reached between the United States and Iran regarding Iraq, this node could quickly find itself unwelcome in Iraq -- and even more embattled.

The Future
Given that most of the al Qaeda local nodes currently are doing poorly, and those that are doing fairly well now are looking at possible bleak futures, does that mean they pose no threat? Absolutely not.

Though the campaign to disrupt the local nodes -- the war against jihadism -- has been very successful, it is important to remember that this is not so much a war against a group of individuals as it is a war against an ideology. The problem is, ideologies are harder to kill than people. Consider, for example, how the revolutionary ideas of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Che Guevara have outlived the men themselves.

In the same way, the al Qaeda ideology will outlast bin Laden, as the call to jihad outlasted bin Laden's friend and mentor, Abdullah Azzam. So even if bin Laden were to be eliminated next week, the struggle would continue. The nodes may be disorganized and their operations disrupted, but as long as they can recruit new fighters and raise money, they will retain the ability to reorganize and carry out attacks. The key therefore will be in undermining the ideology of jihadism and thereby cutting into the jihadist recruiting pool and drying up its fundraising operations.

The problem for the United States is that it cannot fight this ideological war, and any efforts it openly supports -- including the Arabic television station Al Hurra -- are quickly tainted and discredited. The U.S. government, therefore, must sit on the sidelines while moderate Muslim scholars refute the theology of jihadism. Meanwhile, Washington can only hope the message gets through.[Stratfor]

China's Plan to Quash Rural Instability

Stratfor on China's new economic development zones blueprint using which China hopes to quell a key cause of rising rural instability.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China's top economic planner, on June 9 added Chongqing and Chengdu -- two cities in China's western province of Sichuan -- to its portfolio of pilot reform cities (PRC). The PRC blueprint is essentially a reincarnation of the "special economic zones" and "economic development zones" (EDZ) zoning approach. This time, it is being applied to separate clusters of cities, with each cluster testing a mixture of policy experiments dedicated to one central government objective. These clusters are strategically located to push manual labor-intensive industries inland and to cultivate new financial industries in China's more prosperous coastal cities that are ready to move away from manufacturing-intensive industries and toward more service-intensive development.

The Zoning Approach
China first used a "zoning approach" in the 1980s to cordon off specific cities for piloting new export-promoting policies along its coast. These cities were selected for a number of reasons, the most obvious being their proximity to exporting ports. This EDZ blueprint was so wildly successful that two decades later, the stark difference in living standards between EDZ cities and non-EDZ rural areas -- the urban-rural wealth gap -- has become one of the greatest threats to Chinese single-party rule.

As a result, the State Council started merging EDZs in 2003, leaving only one in each county or city suburb, before finally terminating all expansion plans in April 2007. The PRC concept was not introduced until 2006, when Tianjin's Binhai New Area was named as the first "zone for comprehensive policy experimentation" and used to pilot foreign exchange reform.

Pilot Reform Cities
Since then the Shanghai Pudong area and Shenzhen special economic zone have been added to the first PRC cluster dedicated to financial innovation reforms. Chongqing and Chengdu make up a separate second cluster dedicated to minimizing the urban-rural wealth gap. Though both clusters' overall experimental objectives might seem distinct, they are both pieces of a wider plan by Beijing to direct intra-regional migrant labor flows back inland in order to balance China's currently imbalanced regional development.

The three cities selected for financial innovation reform are in the more economically advanced coastal region -- Tianjin Binhai in the north, Shanghai Pudong in the east and Shenzhen in the south. For several years, Beijing has been trying to disperse the foreign direct investment (FDI) concentrated along this coastline into the lesser-developed central and western regions, but with little success. This is unsurprising, given that the majority of FDI in China is in manufactured exports; moving inland would simply increase the costs and logistical difficulties of transporting finished goods for foreign-owned operations.

The two cities selected for wealth-gap reform lie at the frontier edge of the relatively poorer and backward western regions, where 50 percent to 80 percent of the population live in rural areas. Chongqing and Chengdu's positions -- straddling the line between regions of excess manual labor supply and manual labor shortage -- are significant. In the last two years, manual labor wages have been rising in coastal cities because of region-specific shortages of manual labor. Meanwhile, manual laborers are abundant in the central and western regions, where jobs are in short supply for lack of foreign investors.

This regional imbalance can be resolved in two ways: move the jobs inland, or move the workers outward. Beijing has tried the former and does not desire the latter. China already has more than 150 million floating migrant workers it is struggling to pin down and does not want the west-to-east outflows to increase. To stem the outflow, Beijing is creating an intermediate pit stop on the western-eastern borderland to absorb the rural migrant workers before they flood into eastern coastal cities. Chongqing and Chengdu might also attract foreign investors one day, when it becomes apparent that manual labor shortages on the coast are not about to be alleviated with migrant workers fresh off the bus from the west.

Although the theory sounds good, there are many primary complications. Like all local government officials across China, those in the two wealth-gap reform PRCs will likely already have significant stakes in urban development projects and be loath to divert state resources away from these to more needy rural areas. Economic concessions also will be needed if foreign investors are to be attracted inland (with or without rising wages along the coast), but China is obliged under its World Trade Organization membership conditions to maintain a level regulatory/taxation playing field for all domestic and foreign investors. If coastal labor wages stop rising, or if financial reforms fail in the cluster of PRCs along the coast, then the cost pressures forcing foreign investors to look inland could disappear. The cost of moving Chinese coastal operations inland for foreign investors might be even higher than that of relocating to neighboring Asian countries such as Vietnam; this would cause an emigration, as opposed to internal relocation, of foreign investment-generated jobs. And finally, the crux of any successful government policy lies in its implementation, especially in the hierarchical maze of Chinese politics, so uniform central government direction across PRC clusters will be difficult. For example, Beijing does not hold the same degree of control or influence over Shenzhen as it does over Shanghai following the September 2006 crackdown.

Difficulties aside, being a PRC includes a certain domestic political elevation. Local governments gain prestige from having a direct channel of influence from Beijing over their regional rivals. Should Chongqing and Chengdu improve the lot of their rural populations, more and more western frontier cities will want to join in the PRC program to draw idle manual workers eastward from the rural areas and draw foreign investment-generated jobs westward from the coastal cities.

Should Beijing succeed at using this zoning approach to balance regional economic growth and close the urban-rural wealth gap, it will relieve one key source of unrest among China's 800-900 million rural or migrant workers. At the pilot level, results could well be attained in a matter of years, but it will take decades before any results are achieved at the national level. Nevertheless, for now, the domestic propaganda the PRC program generates could be enough to keep rural discontent under control, as Chinese President Hu Jintao consolidates internal party control ahead of the autumn Communist Party Congress.[Stratfor]

The U.S. Nuclear Deal and Indian ICBMs

CNN-IBN reported on June 18 that India had halted the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles as a good-faith gesture aimed at facilitating the troubled civilian nuclear deal with the United States. According to Stratfor, though the gesture may have appeared magnanimous, intercontinental reach is far down New Delhi's list of priorities.

New Delhi appears to have halted -- at least temporarily -- development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), CNN-IBN reported June 18. The halt appears to be an effort to address Washington's discomfort with the proposed U.S.-Indian bilateral civilian nuclear deal. Though the report has not been confirmed, it also has not been denied.

U.S. concerns, however, have nothing at all to do with Indian ICBMs. India has only moderate interest in such a capability, since its most pressing international concerns are hardly at intercontinental distances. As such, India's need for ICBMs -- especially in the near term -- is quite limited.

Ultimately, India is fairly geographically secure. Oceans and mountains constitute the bulk of New Delhi's border. The Himalayas provide a nearly impenetrable barrier to meaningful military confrontation with China. Pakistan, which along with Afghanistan occupies the Hindu Kush to the northwest, is the only real power within India's immediate geographic zone.

The Indo-Pakistani rivalry has been well entrenched since 1948 -- but Indian strategic missiles are well-suited to deal with that threat. Moreover, the nuclear balance between the two has matured to the point that it now injects an element of stability and restraint into the rivalry. An ICBM has almost no relevance to a direct confrontation with Pakistan. The 3,000-kilometer (about 1,800 miles) distance from Bangalore in southern India to the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, in northern Pakistan is probably approaching the minimum range of a true ICBM.

Thus, unlike the intercontinental ranges of the U.S.-Russian Cold War rivalry, the Indo-Pakistani rivalry is not a long-distance rivalry. The medium-range Agni II, the longest-range ballistic missile yet deployed by the Indian military, already allows India to cover the entirety of Pakistan from nearly anywhere in India.

In terms of this particular rivalry, the Agni II will suffice for New Delhi's ballistic missile needs. Other avenues, like the BrahMos cruise missile and the Prithvi-derived Dhanush ship-launched ballistic missile now under development, can be pursued to complement this ability. Any additional range actually would be counterproductive.

The Sino-Indian balance, however, is another story. With the Himalayas as a geographic buffer, neither country represents an imminent strategic threat to the other. And neither has much interest in any sort of arms race, since both have far better things to worry about.

This is where the Agni III intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) comes in. A successful test in April followed a serious stumble in 2006, when a failure with the first-stage exhaust nozzle destroyed the test mission in the first minute of flight. It took nearly a year to retool and test a second missile. The Agni III gives New Delhi the ability to target Beijing, though this is not something New Delhi is in any particular hurry to do given the two countries' distracted bilateral relationship.

Beijing, by contrast, already can target all of India with most of its strategic arsenal. With another major power so close by, New Delhi could only consider it prudent to establish a basic counterbalance. Given the state of the two countries' current relations, such a counterbalance could be more than sufficiently accomplished with a small force of Agni III missiles.

Other Motivators for India
This is not to say India does not want an ICBM capability; who would not? But just like anyone else, India has priorities -- with establishing the military capability to obliterate Pakistan ranking near the top. Achieving a basic parity with China also is important. But for the immediate future, the importance of the nuclear deal with Washington ranks far above its desire for intercontinental reach.

While an ICBM is indeed within India's grasp, the nation's missile programs reflect that this is not a top priority. Development of the Surya ICBM has been rumored for more than a decade without tangible results. This is despite continued progress with the indigenous geostationary and polar orbit satellite launch vehicles on which the Surya theoretically is based. (Ultimately, the distinction between a satellite launch vehicle and an ICBM comes down to payload.) What is more, India is poised to become only the sixth country in the world to field a cryogenic upper stage, a particularly complex technology. So if it were a real priority, the Surya would surely be further along.

On the other hand, few things are more important to India right now than maintaining control over its own nuclear fuel cycle (and thus retaining the ability to extract its own weapons-grade plutonium for military purposes). This has been a contentious issue in the nuclear negotiations with the United States. India's defense establishment is extremely wary of the conditions the United States wants to place on India before the civilian nuclear deal can pass, and New Delhi is offering very little leeway on any concessions that would set India back militarily. Before the announcement of the Indian ICBM halt, the Indian Cabinet ratified an amendment June 15 to the International Atomic Energy Agency convention providing for protection of nuclear material from acts of terror and sabotage. This was another key U.S. demand for India (a nonsignatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty) to facilitate the ongoing negotiations.

In essence, the apparent sacrifice of the ICBM program is nothing more than a low-cost way for India to promote itself as a responsible nuclear player deserving of the civilian nuclear agreement with the United States. India can certainly stand to take a missile program essentially already on the back burner off the stove for a little while. But with the continued development of the Agni III IRBM and launches of its geostationary and polar satellite launch vehicles, India will continue to progress in this direction regardless.[Stratfor]

Stratfor is right on the importance and priority of ICBMs for India at this moment. Recent Chinese statements on Arunanchal Pradesh and the larger border dispute are of any indication, then development and deployment of Agni III IRBM should now be the main priority of the Indian government.

Jun 15, 2007

Surveillance in the Internet Age

Here is Stratfor's article on the importance of the Internet in Surveillance.

Those who conduct surveillance -- either for nefarious or protective security reasons -- frequently have used available technology to aid them in their efforts. In earlier times, employing such technology might have meant simply using a telescope, but in more recent years, surveillants have used photographic and video gear, night vision aids and electronic equipment such as covert listening devices, beacons and programmable scanners. These efforts have been greatly enhanced by the advent of personal computers, which can be used to database and analyze information, and the Internet, which has revolutionized information gathering.

Doubtlessly, modern technology has radically altered the surveillance process. What it has not done, however, is render physical pre-operational surveillance obsolete. Despite innovative Internet tools, a person sitting in an Internet café in Quetta, Pakistan, cannot get everything he or she needs to plan and execute a terrorist attack in New York. There are still many things that can only be seen in person, making eyes-on surveillance vital to pre-operational planning. And, as long as actual physical surveillance is required, countersurveillance will remain a key tool for proactively preventing terrorist attacks.

The Internet as a Tool

The Internet has proven to be an important asset for those preparing a surveillance operation. If the target is a person, open-source Internet searches can provide vital biographical information, such as the target's full name, address, occupation, hobbies, membership in organizations, upcoming speaking engagements and participation in charity events. It also can provide the same information on the target's spouse and children, while image searches can be used to find photos of the target and related people.

In most instances, public records checks performed on the Internet also can provide a vast amount of personal information about a potential target, including property, vehicle and watercraft ownership, voter registration data, driver's license information, criminal history, professional license information and property tax data. The property tax data can be especially revealing because it not only tells the surveillant which property the target owns, but in some jurisdictions can even include photographs of the front of the home and even copies of the floor plan. In addition, many commercial services will, for a fee, provide an extremely detailed public records dossier on a desired subject -- often with little regard for how the information will be used.

There also are a number of Internet sites that offer maps and aerial photographs of specific locations. In videos released by the al Qaeda Organization for the Countries of the Arab Maghreb, the group has shown how it has used Google Earth to obtain aerial photographs to help it plan its attacks in Algeria.

An additional aspect of the Internet is that posters -- wittingly or unwittingly -- often meet hostile surveillants halfway, so to speak. For example, several environmental, animal rights, anti-globalization and anti-abortion groups have even gone so far as to publish lists of potential targets on their Web sites, frequently including personal data and sometimes also photographs. Real estate agencies also use the Internet to post detailed photographs, and even video tours, of homes on the market, which can provide additional information to surveillants. Buildings that lease office space also frequently post a great deal of online information. And, of course, many people are quite obliging to would-be surveillants and post a great deal of information about themselves -- including numerous photographs -- on blogs, personal home pages or networking Web sites like MySpace and Facebook.

Importantly, not only can surveillants use the Internet to collect an abundance of information on a person or location, they can do so quickly -- and anonymously. Before the Internet era, hostile surveillants were forced to expose themselves at a far earlier stage in the attack cycle, if only to request information from a public agency or collect photographs to initially identify a person or location. Now, much of this information can be obtained without the need for surreptitious behavior or for providing false information -- and from the comfort and safety of one's own home.

Of course, the Internet also can be used for protective reasons. Security managers, for instance, can conduct "cyberstalker" operations to determine how much information is available on the Internet regarding a person or building they are responsible for protecting. Though it is hard to get some information removed from the Internet once it is out there, it is important to realize that such information is available, and to identify where information vulnerabilities exist.

The Limits of Technology

One of the major problems associated with relying solely on information found on the Internet is the possibility of error. Because there is a great deal of erroneous information on the Internet, one cannot take every post at face value. Additionally, public data sources tend to have a considerable lag time (sometimes of several months) between an event and its posting on the Internet. For example, it is possible to pay a company to run a detailed public records profile on someone and then find that the person actually sold the property listed as the "confirmed" address on that profile two months earlier.

When information gathered from a source such as the Internet is not confirmed, it can lead to the failure of an entire operation. A militant group is unlikely to win much sympathy among its intended audience if it shoots the wrong person or leaves a timed incendiary device at the wrong residence (as the Animal Liberation Front did in June 2006.) Furthermore, terrorist attacks require a large amount of time and effort, and in some cases utilize a large proportion of the resources available to a militant group. Such attacks also carry with them the possibility of death or long imprisonment for the person conducting them. They are, therefore, too costly to be conducted without adequate planning -- and sophisticated planning requires information that can only be collected by conducting physical surveillance.

Biography data and photos, maps to help find the target's house, aerial photos of the target's property and even street-level views of a target's apartment building or home are very useful to operational planners. In fact, an operational commander can use these tools to help plan the surveillance and to quickly orient the surveillance and attack teams to the target and the area around it. However, even at their best, these sources of information provide a potential attacker with a static (and usually quite limited) view of a person or building. It simply cannot provide the richness of perception that comes from actually watching the building or person over time.

Additionally, the targeted person or building does not exist in a vacuum, and potential attackers must also have an understanding of the environment around the target if they are going to determine the best time, location and method for the attack, how best to take advantage of the element of surprise and how to escape afterward, if escape is called for in the plan. It is hard to place a target into context based solely on the information available on the Internet.

Internet information also cannot provide what is perhaps the most important element of operational planning: an understanding of human behavior. If the target is a person, the surveillance team is looking not just for static facts, but for patterns of behavior that will predictably place the target in an ideal attack site at a specific time. Internet research can reveal that the target owns two cars and works for a particular company, but it will not reveal which vehicle he drives to work or whether he has a driver, the time he leaves the house, the Starbucks he visits every morning on his way to work, or the odd little shortcut he takes every morning to avoid traffic.

If the target is a building, the surveillance team will be looking to define the security in place at the site and for gaps in the security both in terms of physical security equipment and in guard coverage that can be exploited. They will make diagrams of the building, including any bollards, cameras and access control measures. They also will monitor the guards to see how they operate, and note their level of training and alertness. Militant groups have been known to test the adequacy and response time of building security by attempting to park a vehicle illegally in front of a building or by entering the building without the proper identification. In the past, al Qaeda has even entered potential target buildings and collected detailed engineering data such as the measurements and locations of building support pillars, elevator equipment and air handling systems. This is simply not the type of information that can be obtained by looking at overhead photos or even at 3D street-level views of the targeted building on the Internet.

Though the Internet can provide surveillance teams with information that allows them to become quickly oriented to their target, and to condense some of the initial surveillance they would otherwise need to conduct, it has not been able to replace physical surveillance altogether. In fact, the same video in which al Qaeda's Maghreb node uses Google Earth to demonstrate how to plan attacks also shows operatives conducting physical surveillance of the attack sites. It also shows videos of attacks, meaning a surveillance team was on hand to record the event.

Although the Internet has become a valuable tool in the surveillance process, it has not come close to eliminating the need for eyes-on monitoring of a target. As such, countersurveillance remains a powerful and proactive tool in the counterterrorism toolbox.[Stratfor]

Jun 13, 2007

Musharraf to Eat Crow?

According to Stratfor Musharraf in order to dissolve the growing political storm in Pakistan and secure his own re-election, has decided to eat crow and for a begining reinstate the suspended Pakistani Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. Even then Musharraf at best could only hold on to power as a president sharing power with a prime minister at the head of a coalition government.

Richard Boucher, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, arrived June 12 in Islamabad on a two-day official visit. Topping the agenda of discussion between Boucher and Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf is Pakistan's increasing crisis of governance. Boucher will relay Washington's interest in having Musharraf remain at the helm, but also will communicate that Musharraf needs to reach an accommodation with his opponents.

The two main reasons informing Musharraf's decision to tough it out in the face of the South Asian nation's rapidly expanding crisis are U.S. backing and the support of the senior generals within Pakistan's military hierarchy. Musharraf also knows that he must demonstrate to both Washington and his own generals that he very much controls the situation to ensure their continued support. To do so he has devised a plan to defuse the political crisis involving reinstating suspended Pakistani Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, something that also will help create conditions conducive for his own re-election.

Though Chaudhry's reinstatement might provide the embattled general with a brief respite, his bid for re-election is going to be extremely hard to pull off in part due to the increasingly assertive nature of Pakistan's judiciary and the media. Ultimately, there is just too much that can go wrong in the process of securing a second term.

The first step in defusing tensions was the government's June 9 move to withdraw restrictions on the media; this had two effects. First, it satisfied concerns within the Bush administration, which was finding it difficult to support Musharraf while his government was openly limiting free speech. Second, it prevented the anti-Musharraf movement from receiving a sudden and major boost.

In the meantime, the government produced a budget significantly increasing government employee salaries and announced that an election schedule would be released soon after parliament approved the budget. Musharraf himself said June 8 that the nation would hear the good news about the end of the ongoing political crisis. "The ongoing drama will end itself very soon and there is nothing to worry about it," he told members of parliament from the ruling coalition and Cabinet members.

The next step will be allowing Pakistan's Supreme Court to reinstate the chief justice, which will be Musharraf's way of neutralizing the legal community's protests. Once back on the job, Chaudhry will not be able to participate in rallies given his position as a nonpartisan national figure -- thus taking the chief justice and his supporters out of the limelight. The government also will try to block Chaudhry from presiding over cases involving the president on grounds that as a party to a dispute with the president, the top jurist cannot appear unbiased against Musharraf. The chief justice and his allies indeed would like to see Chaudhry's restoration and Musharraf's ouster. The government, however, hopes the restoration will forestall the latter.

The chief justice's reinstatement could provide some brief respite to Musharraf. But the president general must go through the process of re-election, which according to the government must take place between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15. The presidential election is highly controversial because Musharraf is seeking re-election from the same electoral college, composed of the current national and provincial legislatures, that elected him in the first place. His opponents have demanded fresh parliamentary elections before the presidential vote. But the main opposition group, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto might be willing to negotiate a deal whereby Musharraf can be re-elected on the condition he steps down as military chief.

Accepting a president in uniform is a redline the PPP cannot cross and sustain its position as the country's largest political party and its reputation of being anti-establishment. Musharraf's uniform constitutes the basis of his power, and assuming the role of a civilian president is a prospect fraught with perils. Even so, mounting pressure to defuse the crisis could force his hand and make him decide to retire from the military, though that would entail another set of complexities.

Ideally, Musharraf wants to remain army chief of staff until after the parliamentary elections to be held sometime in November, though even he knows that under the present conditions that is asking too much. At a bare minimum, however, he wants to remain military chief until the first week of October so he can oversee the next round of routine promotions and retirements of senior generals. That would allow him to stack the military deck with people he can theoretically work with even after becoming a civilian president.

Another hurdle to his re-election is that even if he were to have a deal with the PPP, members of parliament from the Islamist coalition, the Mutahiddah Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) -- which controls one and a half provinces and is one of the largest opposition blocs in parliament -- could see its members tender their resignations, thereby rendering the electoral college dysfunctional. And street protests would come back with a bang should Musharraf try to force his way to re-election. So any deal would have to include not just the PPP, but the MMA and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whom Musharraf ousted from power in 1999.

Balancing the civilian side of his government with the military side is rapidly becoming untenable for Musharraf. As a result, the resolution to the current crisis requires a very complex arrangement that under the present conditions is unlikely to hold. Thus Musharraf at best can hope to share power as a civilian with a much broader array of far more assertive civilians.[Stratfor]

In another report Stratfor dispels the notion that anyone needing to topple the present regime in Pakistan should first get the green signal from Uncle Sam. In other words, America is ready to do business with anyone at the helm in Pakistan and that US-Pakistan relation is strictly a business relationship.

Great expectations have been attached to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher's visit to Islamabad, which began on Tuesday. Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf is hoping the visit will help him sustain his faltering hold on power. Musharraf's opponents hope the Bush administration will help them eventually force Musharraf from office. The day of Musharraf's departure is imminent; he has simply made too many mistakes and burned too many bridges.

Yet, despite all of his eminent and obvious weaknesses, Musharaff's (many) opponents have not been able to eject him from the scene. This is in part because of an odd belief within Pakistani structures.

Many within the Pakistani political world believe that the player with the most irons in the Pakistani fire is the United States. Understanding that mindset is not particularly difficult. One of the commonalities in Pakistani governments going back to nearly the country's creation is that the United States has ultimately played the role of security supporter, if not outright guarantor. Regardless of whether the opponent was Soviet or Indian, the United States has played a critical role in Pakistani security, leading to the cynical view among many Pakistanis that their governments have been supported by three As: Allah, the army and America. And with the war in Afghanistan almost exclusively supplied via Pakistani supply routes, that does not appear about to change.

Therefore many Pakistani political players -- particularly within the military -- are unwilling to move against Musharraf, no matter how bad things get, without a green light from Washington, for fear they could get burned.

Ultimately, however, such thinking not only misses the point, it is simply wrong. It is Pakistan that holds the balance of power in this relationship, not the United States. And though Islamabad depends on financial and military assistance from Washington, it is Washington that cannot fight the war in Afghanistan without Pakistan, not the other way around. It is the United States that is bogged down in Iraq, not Pakistan.

Strategically, Washington would much rather count India as an ally. It is bigger, richer and the political culture is more similar. Yet the United States is fighting a war that requires troops and materiel to be moved through Pakistan. That means the United States will work with whoever happens to be in Pakistan's big chair, not because Washington wants to, but because it must.

The United States, then, is not allied with Musharraf the person, or the Musharraf government, but with the state of Pakistan -- read: its military. This means should Musharraf suddenly be out of the picture, the United States, after few heartburn-filled meetings, will simply hammer out a new deal with his replacement.

Put another way, the United States does not much care who runs Pakistan as long as there is stability in Islamabad; after all, it currently is supposedly enamored with a man who rose to power via a coup in 1999. And as soon as the various power players in Pakistan recognize that little fact, Musharraf's days truly will be numbered.[Stratfor]

Jun 11, 2007

2007 is not 1989

Last week was the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre where in 1989 an uprising of Chinese University students for multiparty democracy was brutally put down by PLA using battle tanks. A number of ordinary Beijing residents too were killed by the PLA then.

The exact number of people who were killed in that uprising is still not known. UK Telegraph’s Beijing correspondent Richard Spencer published a list of the people still imprisoned for the uprising in his blog.

In 1989 there was not much for the Chinese University students to look forward to. So in the campus they had ample time to dream about democracy, free speech, individual liberties, etc. All these thoughts almost culminated in that uprising of 1989.

As years passed the Chinese economy gathered pace and the University graduates never had it so good when it came to job opportunities. All that dream of life in a real free world took a back seat and gradually faded away so much so that today the Chinese have made it a taboo even to mention about the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Some Chinese today even feel that in 1989 Mainland China was not ready for Democracy!

In the comments section of that blog entry, a very interesting and eye-opening debate took place illuminating vividly this very point. Remember, these are just the views of the educated, economically well off, Internet using, white-collar urban Chinese.

Some of them have become so drunk on state propaganda unleashed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that they believe the Chinese themselves are responsible in making their country a manufacturing hub of the world. They just don’t believe that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from Japan, Europe, US, etc played the most important part in the economic development of China and making China a manufacturing hub.

They have no idea how much China depends on FDI to keep its economy going and that how desperate the CCP is to create an economy that depends on internal consumption.

They sincerely believe that it is by the ‘heroic’ efforts of the CCP sans foreign financial help that pulled millions of Chinese out of utter poverty.

Today’s Internet using, educated, well of Chinese who have benefited from the Chinese economy just wont take any criticism of the CCP and are very uncomfortable discussing the past and present sins of the CCP. In fact some are ready even to condone the unforgivable sins committed by the CCP against its own people when the govt. suppresses frequent peasant uprising in the interiors with barbaric brutality.

The China baiters are promptly countered by bringing up the ‘misadventures’ of George Bush and Tony Blair.

The CCP, along with liberalising the Chinese economy, also gave limited freedom to the Chinese, which was not there in 1989. So today as a booming economy is giving the educated Chinese their dream jobs and making them unbelievably rich, they just don’t want to do anything silly that can upset the status quo. In other words, talk of democracy, free press, liberty, etc are passé and the continuation of CCP rule and the free market economy with ‘Chinese characteristics’ is all that matters for them.

Certainly 2007 is not 1989.

Jun 9, 2007

What if Nehru Never Took the Kashmir Issue to the UN?

Vikram Sood, former head of RAW in an article writes on the major implications of Nehru's first blunder.

From the 1970s, Pakistan began trying to detach Gilgit and Baltistan from the rest of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK). By 1982, General Zia was suggesting that while the question of Kashmir could be examined afresh, Gilgit, Hunza and Skardu were an integral part of Pakistan and were separate from POK. Pakistan gradually tightened its hold on the region. Dissent and nationalism have been suppressed with singleminded ruthlessness. There has been systematic discrimination against the locals and Sunni Pathans imported to offset the Shias of Gilgit and Baltistan to change demographic patterns.

In the early 1980s, Pakistan made serious attempts to move from Skardu towards the Karakoram Pass near Aksai Chin. This intended linking with Shahidullah on the Kashgar-Shigatse road that goes through Aksai Chin and runs parallel to the Tibet-India border would have enabled an outflanking of India in Ladakh. Alarmed at this, India asserted that the Karachi Agreement of 1949, which stipulated that the Line of Control (LoC) would run north towards the glaciers from Pt NJ 9842, be fully implemented. North meant the true north and also meant the Siachen Glacier, not the Karakoram Pass, which is north-east from NJ 9842. Troops had to be sent to the Saltoro Ridge to ensure this. Later, in 1994, the Lahore High Court ruled that administrative separation of these areas from the rest of POK was illegal; the Pakistani authorities had the Supreme Court overturn this in 1996.

There are good strategic reasons why Pakistan has followed this policy. The mighty Indus that irrigates Pakistani Punjab passes much of its distance in India through Ladakh and then Baltistan and Gilgit. Imagine for a moment if today the entire J&K were with India. We would have a border with Afghanistan and the Wakhan Corridor would have provided access to Central Asia. India would have had a border with Chitral, Swat and Hazara districts of the NWFP. The Karakoram Highway, which enters China at the Khunjerab Pass and through which Pakistan has acquired strategic material, would not have been built. Pakistan would not have had direct access to China. Pakistan may have its own reasons to keep the Kashmir issue alive. But it wants the world to assume that Gilgit and Baltistan is a settled issue - settled in favour of Pakistan.

China, too, would be interested that Pakistan has total control over Gilgit and Baltistan. Otherwise the $ 298 million investment in the development of Gwadar is a financial or strategic waste. Xinjiang is only 2,500 km away from the Arabian seaport of Gwadar. On the other hand, it is 4,500 km away from the Chinese east coast. A fully developed port at Gwadar would help in the economic development of Xinjiang. Gas and oil pipelines from Gwadar to Xinjiang and Tibet would enable China to overcome the uncertainty of sealanes from the Persian Gulf through the Malacca Straits patrolled by the US. Therewill be a special SEZ for China in Gwadar.

China has set aside $ 150 million to upgrade the Karakoram Highway and widen it from 10 metres to 30 metres for heavy vehicles in all-weather conditions. A rail link is also planned in the region with technical advice from an Austrian firm to connect Pakistan and China. This link will be connected further south into the main Pakistani rail grid. Fibre optic cables are being laid. An Islamabad Kashgar bus service will start from August 1.

Both China and Pakistan are getting ready for an economic boom that will include transit trade to Central Asia. The Pakistani Army's National Logistics Cell, which has a near monopoly, will handle this freight traffic all the way up to Kazakhstan and Xinjiang. There is money to be made. Thus development of both Gwadar and control of Gilgit and Baltistan are interlinked and the Pakistani Army will gain financially from both. In fact, it is going to be a financial bonanza for the already huge corporate interests of the Pakistani Army. All this is being done by using territory that we say is an inalienable part of India.

In retrospect, it can be said that it was a mistake to have halted our troops at Uri and Gurez in 1948. It was a blunder to have then gone to the UN for succour. But it would be a strategic catastrophe to withdraw from Siachen without the entire issue of J&K satisfactorily and unequivocally resolved. Since distortion of facts is possible, a mere signing of documents about the Agreed Ground Position Lines would not be an adequate guarantee enabling troop withdrawals.[Vikram Sood]

With China's strategy of encircling India with its strategic string of pearls, India too should have some strategic pressure points that can make China vulnerable. India should not waste anytime in making the Karakoram Highway this very pressure point. And RAW should be very active in the Northern Areas.