Pankaj Mishra writes: China is shakily authoritarian while India is a stable democracy—indeed, the world’s largest. So goes the cliché, and it is true, up to a point. But there is a growing resemblance between the two countries. A decade after we were told that China and India were “flattening” the world, expediting a historically inevitable shift of power from West to East, their political institutions and original nation-building ideologies face a profound crisis of legitimacy. Both countries, encumbered with dynastic elites and crony capitalists, are struggling to persuasively reaffirm their founding commitments to mass welfare. Protests against corruption and widening inequality rage across their vast territories, while their economies slow dramatically.
If anything, public anger against India’s political class appears more intense, and disaffection there assumes more militant forms, as in the civil war in the center of the country, where indigenous, Maoist militants in commodities-rich forests are battling security forces. India, where political dynasties have been the rule for decades, also has many more “princelings” than China—nearly 30 percent of the members of parliament come from political families. As the country intensifies its crackdown on intellectual dissent and falls behind on global health goals, it is mimicking China’s authoritarian tendencies and corruption without making comparable strides in relieving the hardships faced by its citizens. The “New India” risks becoming an ersatz China.
To those in the West who reflexively counterpose India to China, or yoke them together, equally tritely, as “rising” powers, the solutions to their internal crises seem very clear: Democratic India needs more economic reforms—in other words, greater openness to foreign capital. Meanwhile, authoritarian China, now endowed with a cyber-empowered and increasingly assertive middle class, must expose its anachronistic political system to the fresh air of democracy. [Continue reading...]
Pankaj Mishra writes: In July 1995, an Islamic fundamentalist group called Al Faran kidnapped six foreign tourists, including two Americans, in Kashmir. For a few weeks, the world’s attention was fixed on the Himalayan valley as the allegedly Pakistan-backed militants negotiated with Indian security officials and foreign diplomats.
Eventually, one of the Americans escaped. Another hostage, a Norwegian, was beheaded. The other four were never found.
The Meadow: Kashmir 1995 — Where the Terror Began, a staggeringly well-researched new book by two respected journalists, Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark, concludes that the hostages were killed by local mercenaries funded and controlled by Indian army and intelligence.
The authors argue that the drawn-out negotiation, during which Indian intelligence allegedly knew the hostages’ whereabouts, was a charade, part of India’s larger effort to portray Pakistan as a sponsor of Islamist terror, thereby delegitimizing the Kashmiri struggle for freedom.
Certainly, India today no longer needs to highlight the role of the Pakistani army and intelligence in sponsoring extremist groups. It has also succeeded in shifting international attention away from the appalling facts of its counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir — tens of thousands killed, and innumerable many tortured, mutilated and orphaned. The tallying in 2009 of 2,700 unmarked graves containing the remains of people (often buried in groups) killed by security forces barely provoked any comment in the international media, let alone expressions of concern by Western leaders. [Continue reading...]
See also Sebastian Rotella’s companion article in ProPublica, The American behind India’s 9/11—and how U.S. botched chances to stop him.
The Guardian reports: The world’s nuclear powers are planning to spend hundreds of billions of pounds modernising and upgrading weapons warheads and delivery systems over the next decade, according to an authoritative report [PDF] published on Monday.
Despite government budget pressures and international rhetoric about disarmament, evidence points to a new and dangerous “era of nuclear weapons”, the report for the British American Security Information Council (Basic) warns. It says the US will spend $700bn (£434bn) on the nuclear weapons industry over the next decade, while Russia will spend at least $70bn on delivery systems alone. Other countries including China, India, Israel, France and Pakistan are expected to devote formidable sums on tactical and strategic missile systems.
For several countries, including Russia, Pakistan, Israel and France, nuclear weapons are being assigned roles that go well beyond deterrence, says the report. In Russia and Pakistan, it warns, nuclear weapons are assigned “war-fighting roles in military planning”.
Max Fisher writes: After 10 years of close but unproductive talks, the U.S. and China still fail to understand one another’s nuclear weapons policies, according to a disturbing report by Global Security Newswire and the Nuclear Threat Initiative. In other words, neither the U.S. nor China knows when the other will or will not use a nuclear weapon against the other. That’s not due to hostility, secrecy, or deliberate foreign policy — it’s a combination of mistrust between individual negotiators and poor communication; at times, something as simple as a shoddy translation has prevented the two major powers from coming together. Though nuclear war between the U.S. and China is still extremely unlikely, because the two countries do not fully understand when the other will and will not deploy nuclear weapons, the odds of starting an accidental nuclear conflict are much higher.
Neither the U.S. nor China has any interest in any kind of war with one other, nuclear or non-nuclear. The greater risk is an accident. Here’s how it would happen. First, an unforeseen event that sparks a small conflict or threat of conflict. Second, a rapid escalation that moves too fast for either side to defuse. And, third, a mutual misunderstanding of one another’s intentions.
Sebastian Rotella reports:
A confessed Pakistani American terrorist took the stand in a Chicago courtroom Monday and described a close alliance between Pakistan’s intelligence service and the Lashkar-i-Taiba terrorist group, alleging that Pakistani officers recruited him and played a central role in planning the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
David Coleman Headley’s long-awaited testimony at the start of a trial with international repercussions resolved one question at the outset: Federal prosecutors did not hesitate to connect Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) to the attacks that killed 166 people, including six Americans.
Headley has pleaded guilty to doing reconnaissance in Mumbai and is the star government witness against his alleged accomplice, Tahawwur Rana. Headley testified that Lashkar “operated under the umbrella of the ISI” even after the group was banned in Pakistan in 2001.
The ISI and Lashkar “coordinated with each other,” Headley testified. “And ISI provided assistance to Lashkar: financial, military and moral support.”
After he trained three years with Lashkar, Headley said, a “Major Ali” of the ISI recruited him when he was briefly detained near the Afghanistan border in 2006. Ali referred him to an officer known as Major Iqbal, who became Headley’s handler and worked separately but in coordination with Lashkar chiefs, directing Headley’s reconnaissance in India and providing $25,000 to fund his mission.
The adult sons of Osama bin Laden have lashed out at President Obama over their father’s death, accusing the United States of violating its basic legal principles by killing an unarmed man, shooting his family members and disposing of his body in the sea.
The statement said the family was asking why the leader of Al Qaeda “was not arrested and tried in a court of law so that truth is revealed to the people of the world.” Citing the trials of Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic, the statement questioned “the propriety of such assassination where not only international law has been blatantly violated,” but the principles of presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial were ignored.
“We maintain that arbitrary killing is not a solution to political problems,” the statement said, adding that “justice must be seen to be done.”
The statement, prepared at the direction of Omar bin Laden, a son who had publicly denounced his father’s terrorism, was provided to The New York Times by Jean Sasson, an American author who helped the younger Bin Laden write a 2009 memoir, “Growing Up bin Laden.” A shorter, slightly different statement was posted on a jihadist Web site Tuesday. (New York Times)
India is ratcheting up pressure on Pakistan ahead of next week’s terrorism trial in the U.S., releasing a document that alleges the Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency was directly involved in the attacks on Mumbai in 2008.
The move comes as Pakistan is facing accusations from the U.S. and India that some element of the military must have helped hide al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, who was killed last week in a secret raid by U.S. Navy SEALs on a house only four kilometers from the elite Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottabad.
A court in Chicago will begin hearings this month in the trial of seven men alleged to have aided David Coleman Headley, the Pakistani-American who has pleaded guilty of scouting sites for the Mumbai attacks, which led to the deaths of more than 160 people, including six Americans. (Wall Street Journal)
India kicked off war games involving thousands of troops on Monday along its border with arch-rival Pakistan, which is still smarting from the US operation that killed Osama bin Laden.
A military spokesperson told reporters the six-day exercise, codenamed Vijayee Bhava (Be Victorious) was being held in the Thar desert region in the Indian state of Rajasthan.
“This exercise envisages sustained massed mechanised manoeuvres,” S D Goswami said, adding the drill involved an array of weaponry that India has acquired as part of its ongoing military modernisation programme.
More than 20 000 combat troops were taking part. (AFP)
In revelations that could further embarrass Pakistan, WikiLeaks has released a fresh set of US diplomatic cables that show how the country’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), allowed militants to go to India to carry out strikes on targets chosen by the Pakistan army.
The revelations are part of nearly 800 interrogation reports of suspects held in Guantanamo Bay prison.
WikiLeaks, in one of the several cables that exposes ISI’s links to terror groups, quotes a US cable as saying that an Algerian Al Qaeda militant arrested in 2002 said that his mission was to “kill Indians in India”. (NDTV)
The US and Pakistan struck a secret deal almost a decade ago permitting a US operation against Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil similar to last week’s raid that killed the al-Qaida leader, the Guardian has learned.
The deal was struck between the military leader General Pervez Musharraf and President George Bush after Bin Laden escaped US forces in the mountains of Tora Bora in late 2001, according to serving and retired Pakistani and US officials.
Under its terms, Pakistan would allow US forces to conduct a unilateral raid inside Pakistan in search of Bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the al-Qaida No3. Afterwards, both sides agreed, Pakistan would vociferously protest the incursion.
“There was an agreement between Bush and Musharraf that if we knew where Osama was, we were going to come and get him,” said a former senior US official with knowledge of counterterrorism operations. “The Pakistanis would put up a hue and cry, but they wouldn’t stop us.” (The Observer)
* * *
Dozens of African migrants were left to die in the Mediterranean after a number of European military units apparently ignored their cries for help, the Guardian has learned. Two of the nine survivors claim this included a Nato ship.
A boat carrying 72 passengers, including several women, young children and political refugees, ran into trouble in late March after leaving Tripoli for the Italian island of Lampedusa. Despite alarms being raised with the Italian coastguard and the boat making contact with a military helicopter and a warship, no rescue effort was attempted.
All but 11 of those on board died from thirst and hunger after their vessel was left to drift in open waters for 16 days. “Every morning we would wake up and find more bodies, which we would leave for 24 hours and then throw overboard,” said Abu Kurke, one of only nine survivors. “By the final days, we didn’t know ourselves … everyone was either praying, or dying.”
International maritime law compels all vessels, including military units, to answer distress calls from nearby boats and to offer help where possible. Refugee rights campaigners have demanded an investigation into the deaths, while the UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, has called for stricter co-operation among commercial and military vessels in the Mediterranean in an effort to save human lives. (The Guardian)
The United Nations refugee agency has urged the crews of ships in the Mediterranean to keep watch for unseaworthy vessels carrying migrants from war-torn Libya after a report that a ship with 600 people on board broke up just off the port of Tripoli on Friday.
Witnesses in Tripoli said the ship was only 100 yards from shore when it broke up, Sybella Wilkes, a spokeswoman for the Geneva-based organization, said Monday. “It’s not clear how many people died or drowned,” she said, but 16 bodies — including those of two babies — had been recovered.
Refugees who left on another vessel later on Friday said they saw bodies and pieces of a ship in the water, said Laura Boldrini, a spokeswoman in Italy for the agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Ms. Wilkes said there had been a “dramatic increase in the number of boats making this terrible journey,” as migrants, many of them from sub-Saharan Africa, tried to flee Libya’s turmoil, heading for sanctuary on the Italian island of Lampedusa. (New York Times)
The family photo albums, abandoned on the sand, lay open and fluttering in the desert wind. Around them were the personal items with which they had been packed: heaps of clothing, sandals, DVDs, combs, bottles of perfume, cooking utensils, razors, toothbrushes, several teapots, bundled blankets and a few biscuits, broken and dry. Every several yards a dropped suitcase rested on the dirt, looted bare.
War can strip those caught in its path to almost nothing, which is what happened to the people who had gathered here last Wednesday. They were African migrants caught in the conflict in Libya. They had long ago winnowed their meager possessions down, first to leave their small flats to move into tents, then to leave the tents to stand in line with a suitcase or two at this plot of bare desert, where they were told to wait for a ride to a ship. Here they stood until they ran. They dashed away so quickly and with such panic that they left behind the last things to which they had clung.
Like more than 10,000 other migrant workers in Misurata, they had been idled from work by the outbreak of war, and then cut off from routes overland toward home when the military of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi put this city under siege. They had waited two months for an evacuation vessel to arrive in the city’s harbor and carry them out. (New York Times)
Rebel fighters made significant gains Monday against forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in both the western and eastern areas of the country, in the first faint signs that NATO airstrikes may be starting to strain the government forces.
In the besieged western city of Misurata hundreds of rebels broke through one of the front lines late on Sunday, and by Monday afternoon were consolidating their position on the ground a few miles to the city’s west.
The breakout of what had been nearly static lines came after NATO aircraft spent days striking positions and military equipment held by the Qaddafi forces, weakening them to the point that a ground attack was possible, the rebels said.
While not in itself a decisive shift for a city that remained besieged, the swift advance, made with few rebel casualties, carried both signs of rebel optimism and hints of the weakness of at least one frontline loyalist unit. (New York Times)
* * *
The Syrian government has gained the upper hand over a seven-week uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, a senior official declared Monday, in the clearest sign yet that the leadership believes its crackdown will crush protests that have begun to falter in the face of hundreds of deaths and mass arrests.
The remarks by Bouthaina Shaaban, an adviser to Mr. Assad who often serves as an official spokeswoman, suggested that a government accustomed to adapting in the face of crises was prepared to weather international condemnation and sanctions. Her confidence came in stark contrast to appearances just two weeks ago, when the government seemed to stagger before the breadth and resilience of protests in dozens of towns and cities.
“I hope we are witnessing the end of the story,” she said in an hourlong interview, for which a reporter was allowed in Syria for only a few hours. “I think now we’ve passed the most dangerous moment. I hope so, I think so.” (New York Times)
The wife of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad may have fled to London with the couple’s three young children, it has been claimed.
Asma Assad, 35, was said to be living in a safe house in or near the capital.
British-born Mrs Assad, who is considered to be one of the most glamorous first ladies in the world, has not been seen in public since the start of the Arab Spring. (Daily Telegraph)
The European Union has listed 13 Syrian officials on the bloc’s sanctions list, including a brother and a wealthy and influential cousin of Bashar al-Assad, the president, and intelligence chiefs.
Maher al-Assad commands Syria’s Republican Guard and is considered the second most powerful man in the country.
The EU’s official journal, in which the full list was published on Tuesday, described Maher al-Assad as the “principal overseer of violence against demonstrators”.
The measures, asset freezes and travel bans, are part of a package of sanctions, including an arms embargo which went into effect on Tuesday, as part of EU efforts to try to force Syria to end violence against anti-government protesters. (Al Jazeera)
* * *
Harrowing testimony of torture, intimidation and humiliation from a doctor arrested in the crackdown on medical staff in Bahrain has revealed the lengths to which the regime’s security forces are prepared to go to quash pro-democracy protests.
Interviews obtained by The Independent from inside Bahrain tell of ransacked hospitals and of terrified medical staff beaten, interrogated and forced into signing false confessions. Many have been detained, their fate unknown.
Inspired by the pro-democracy protests which swept Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year, Bahrainis took to the streets in their thousands in February, demanding greater political rights and more equality for the Shia Muslim majority, ruled over for decades by a Sunni monarchy. (The Independent)
At least 30 people have died in Bahrain, protesters and medical workers are being put on trial, and prominent opposition politicians are being arrested—but the United States has yet to toughen its talk or impose sanctions on its Gulf ally.
Bahrain, a predominantly Shiite country ruled by a Sunni monarchy, plays host to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. McClatchy reports today that the government has bulldozed dozens of Shiite mosques. Shiite women and girls have also been detained and abused, according to McClatchy. The State Department has said little about these matters publicly, except to tell McClatchy it’s “concerned by the destruction of religious sites” and is “extremely troubled by reports of ongoing human rights abuses” in Bahrain.
The Bahraini government announced last week it would charge nearly 50 doctors and nurses for treating injured pro-democracy protesters. We’d previously noted the government’s detention of medical workers along with protesters, activists and journalists. (ProPublica)
Wendell Steavenson writes: Last week an activist I know came to see me and showed me a series of pictures on his mobile phone: men throwing Molotov cocktails, blurred fireballs, and debris-strewn streets.
“Where was this?” I asked him, thinking they were pictures taken during the revolution. “Moski,” he said, naming a downtown area of Cairo known for its street traders, “a half an hour ago.” “I was nearly stabbed,” he added. Apparently two rival streets had gone to battle over some kind of shop-to-shop dispute, using rocks, bricks, and shotguns. Sixty people were injured. It happened the same day as a smallish crowd of pro-Mubarak supporters tried to celebrate his birthday outside of the state TV building (a favorite spot for demonstrations; soldiers use the first-floor balconies as watchtowers in case of serious trouble) and clashed with a rival crowd.
Yesterday, I went to a conference for parties and people hoping to form a broad umbrella committee to begin to address issues like the economy and the constitutional process during this interim period. I met Dr. Mohamed Ghonim, a wise, tortoise-looking man who is a famous kidney specialist and elder statesman of sorts for the liberal front of the revolution. He ruminated on the role of the Army, currently the de facto ruling authority. “As you know, security in general is bad. Every day there are two or three major things happening and nothing serious is done to contain these incidents. The economy is going in a negative way, downhill…”
I asked him if he thought that these incidents were being deliberately allowed to erupt.
“Of course. How can people stop the railway?” he asked, referring to the disruption in the upper Egyptian town of Qena at the end of April, when local people cut rail lines that link the north and south of the country, to protest the imposition of an unpopular governor. Ghonim said that law and order, in the hands of the military since the police are still not deployed in anything like their pre-revolutionary numbers, was being allowed to disintegrate, “Until you get to a critical point and then people say ‘oh please step in politically!’” (The New Yorker)
Hassan Nafaa writes: The tragedy at St. Marmina church in Imbaba on Saturday is not a new story. A young Muslim man from Asyut claims he married a Christian woman who converted to Islam five years ago, and that his wife’s brothers kidnapped her in recent months. The young man then claims he received a phone call that his wife is detained at an Imbaba church. The young man then goes to Imbaba and gathers a group of Muslims, most of them Salafis, from nearby mosques. Together they head to the church and instigated yet another incident of sectarian strife.
When the police learned of the gathering in front of St. Marmina church, they sought the assistance of Sheikh Mohammad Ali, a prominent local Salafi leader and a preacher at the nearby Toba mosque. Along with other religious leaders, Sheikh Ali went to the gathering outside the church and listened to the young man recount his story in the presence of some police officers. The sheikh did not buy the story and was especially skeptical about the fact that the young man did not file a police report immediately after the kidnapping. To Sheikh Ali, it appeared that someone was trying to incite sectarian tensions.
Sheikh Ali immediately told the protesters that the young Muslim man was lying. “Because they trust me, they believed me and began to chant: ‘Muslims and Christians are one,’” he said. Ali added that he accompanied an interior ministry official to the church to inform church leaders that the conflict was over.
“But Copts residing in nearby apartment buildings thought we were entering the church to search it, so they started to throw bottles at us. Then I heard gun fire and things escalated from there.”
Rumors quickly spread through the media and a group of young men in the area headed to an adjacent church and set it ablaze. Clashes broke out and by the end of the evening 12 people were dead and over 100 were injured.
There will be more rumors tomorrow about imaginary incidents of rape, theft, marriage, and divorce that will provoke both sides to engage in more violence to avenge the dignity of their religious group. Many will fail to see that their anger is unwarranted.
In all these cases, the solution is that suspected criminal – regardless political, sectarian or class affiliation – be subjected to a fair trial. Taking the law into our own hands to avenge crimes committed against our family, or sect deals a serious blow to the idea of a civilized society. (Al-Masry Al-Youm)
The US government has frozen the bank accounts belonging to Hatem Abudayyeh, a Palestinian community organizer and director of a social service organization serving the Arab community in Chicago, and his wife, Naima.
Meanwhile, several members of Congress have written to the Obama administration to express their concerns about violations in civil liberties as a result of earlier government actions toward Abudayyeh and other activists.
The freezing of the Abudayyeh family’s bank accounts on Friday, 6 May is the latest development in a secret grand jury investigation that has been launched by US District Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s office in Chicago. The freezing of the accounts has raised concerns that criminal indictments in the case may be imminent. (Electronic Intifada)
The Guardian reports:
US officials had evidence of widespread torture by Indian police and security forces and were secretly briefed by Red Cross staff about the systematic abuse of detainees in Kashmir, according to leaked diplomatic cables released tonight.
The dispatches, obtained by website WikiLeaks, reveal that US diplomats in Delhi were briefed in 2005 by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) about the use of electrocution, beatings and sexual humiliation against hundreds of detainees.
Other cables show that as recently as 2007 American diplomats were concerned about widespread human rights abuses by Indian security forces, who they said relied on torture for confessions.
The revelations will be intensely embarrassing for Delhi, which takes pride in its status as the world’s biggest democracy, and come at a time of heightened sensitivity in Kashmir after renewed protests and violence this year.
Arundhati Roy writes:
On the 64th anniversary of India’s Independence, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh climbed into his bullet-proof soapbox in the Red Fort to deliver a passionless, bone-chillingly banal speech to the nation. Listening to him, who would have guessed that he was addressing a country that, despite having the second-highest economic growth rate in the world, has more poor people than 26 of Africa’s poorest countries put together? “All of you have contributed to India’s success,” he said, “the hard work of our workers, our artisans, our farmers has brought our country to where it stands today…. We are building a new India in which every citizen would have a stake, an India which would be prosperous and in which all citizens would be able to live a life of honour and dignity in an environment of peace and goodwill. An India in which all problems could be solved through democratic means. An India in which the basic rights of every citizen would be protected.” Some would call this graveyard humour. He might as well have been speaking to people in Finland, or Sweden.
If our prime minister’s reputation for “personal integrity” extended to the text of his speeches, this is what he should have said:
“Brothers and sisters, greetings to you on this day on which we remember our glorious past. Things are getting a little expensive I know, and you keep moaning about food prices, but look at it this way—more than six hundred and fifty million of you are engaged in and are living off agriculture as farmers and farm labour. But your combined efforts contribute less than 18 per cent of our GDP. So what’s the use of you? Look at our IT sector. It employs 0.2 per cent of the population and accounts for 5 per cent of our GDP. Can you match that? It is true that in our country employment hasn’t kept pace with growth, but fortunately 60 per cent of our workforce is self-employed. Ninety per cent of our labour force is employed by the unorganised sector. True, they manage to get work only for a few months in the year, but since we don’t have a category called “underemployed”, we just keep that part a little vague. It would not be right to enter them in our books as unemployed. Coming to the statistics that say we have the highest infant and maternal mortality in the world—we should unite as a nation and ignore bad news for the time being. We can address these problems later, after our Trickle-Down Revolution, when the health sector has been completely privatised. Meanwhile, I hope you are all buying medical insurance. As for the fact that the per capita foodgrain availability has actually decreased over the last 20 years—which happens to be the period of our most rapid economic growth—believe me, that’s just a coincidence.
“My fellow citizens, we are building a new India in which our 100 richest people, millionaires and billionaires, hold assets worth a full 25 per cent of our GDP. Wealth concentrated in fewer and fewer hands is always more efficient. You have all heard the saying that too many cooks spoil the broth. We want our beloved billionaires, our few hundred millionaires, their near and dear ones and their political and business associates, to be prosperous and to live a life of honour and dignity in an environment of peace and goodwill in which their basic rights are protected.
“I am aware that my dreams cannot come true by solely using democratic means. In fact, I have come to believe that real democracy flows through the barrel of a gun. This is why we have deployed the Army, the Police, the Central Reserve Police Force, the Border Security Force, the Central Industrial Security Force, the Pradeshik Armed Constabulary, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the Eastern Frontier Rifles—as well as the Scorpions, Greyhounds and Cobras—to crush the misguided insurrections that are erupting in our mineral-rich areas.
“Our experiments with democracy began in Nagaland, Manipur and Kashmir. Kashmir, I need not reiterate, is an integral part of India. We have deployed more than half-a-million soldiers to bring democracy to the people there. The Kashmiri youth who have been risking their lives by defying curfew and throwing stones at the police for the last two months are Lashkar-e-Toiba militants who actually want employment, not azadi. Tragically, 60 of them have lost their lives before we could study their job applications. I have instructed the police from now on to shoot to maim rather than kill these misguided youths.”
In his seven years in office, Manmohan Singh has allowed himself to be cast as Sonia Gandhi’s tentative, mild-mannered underling. It’s an excellent disguise for a man who, for the last 20 years, first as finance minister and then as prime minister, has powered through a regime of new economic policies that has brought India into the situation in which it finds itself now. This is not to suggest that Manmohan Singh is not an underling. Only that all his orders don’t come from Sonia Gandhi. In his autobiography (A Prattler’s Tale), Ashok Mitra, former finance minister of West Bengal, tells his story of how Manmohan Singh rose to power. In 1991, when India’s foreign exchange reserves were dangerously low, the Narasimha Rao government approached the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for an emergency loan. The IMF agreed on two conditions. The first was Structural Adjustment and Economic Reform. The second was the appointment of a finance minister of its choice. That man, says Mitra, was Manmohan Singh.
Over the years, he has stacked his cabinet and the bureaucracy with people who are evangelically committed to the corporate takeover of everything—water, electricity, minerals, agriculture, land, telecommunications, education, health—no matter what the consequences.
(Thanks to reader Aaron Aarons for drawing my attention to this article.)
Stephen Kinzer writes:
This week in New Delhi, President Obama went further than any of his predecessors toward embracing India as an ally, and most Indians are thrilled by this warm treatment. This does not mean, however, that the two countries will align all of their foreign policies. In some areas, India would like the United States to change its approach.
One key difference is over Iran. India has the wiser policy, and Obama should consider emulating it.
Despite some changes in atmospherics, Obama’s approach to Iran has been remarkably similar to the one President George W. Bush took in his second term: don’t bomb Iran, but continue to threaten that “all options are on the table’’; steadily intensify economic sanctions, despite ample evidence that they weaken civil society and lavishly enrich the repressive Revolutionary Guard; insist on negotiations on the nuclear issue, but refuse to broaden the agenda to include issues that concern Iran.
India, like many other regional powers, takes the Iranian threat far less seriously than the United States does. It does not see Iran as an existential threat to anyone, but rather as just another thuggish country with resources, and wants to see it enticed back into the world’s mainstream. India would like the United States to adopt a more accommodating policy toward Iran — and could even serve as the bridge that makes it possible.
As many a conservative American commentator remains obsessed with the question as to how the United States can retain its position as the world’s preeminent power, Pankaj Mishra indicates why that question is already moot: it is a position America has already lost.
He points out:
India has many more likely and rewarding partners in booming Asia than in the recession-hit west. Politically damaged Thailand as well as Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan have recovered from the downturn. Last year India signed a major free-trade deal with Asean. Not surprisingly a columnist in the Star, Malaysia’s leading newspaper in English, deemed the Indian prime minister’s visit to Kuala Lumpur last week more important than the jaunt of Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, to the region at the same time.
A tangle of bilateral trade agreements underpins Asia’s new economic unity. China and Asean countries already constitute the biggest free-trade zone in the world. Asian fears of China’s rise, which the United States keenly monitors, look minor beside the fact that China is now the largest export market for Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, in addition to being India’s biggest trading partner.
All this sounds a planet away from those Tea-Partying Americans who think that the US can bomb its way out of any political and economic difficulties abroad. It now falls to Obama to advance their education; and he’ll most likely fail in this thankless task.
Once known for its extraordinary beauty, the valley of Kashmir now hosts the biggest, bloodiest and also the most obscure military occupation in the world. With more than 80,000 people dead in an anti-India insurgency backed by Pakistan, the killings fields of Kashmir dwarf those of Palestine and Tibet. In addition to the everyday regime of arbitrary arrests, curfews, raids, and checkpoints enforced by nearly 700,000 Indian soldiers, the valley’s 4 million Muslims are exposed to extra-judicial execution, rape and torture, with such barbaric variations as live electric wires inserted into penises.
Why then does the immense human suffering of Kashmir occupy such an imperceptible place in our moral imagination? After all, the Kashmiris demanding release from the degradations of military rule couldn’t be louder and clearer. India has contained the insurgency provoked in 1989 by its rigged elections and massacres of protestors. The hundreds of thousands of demonstrators that fill the streets of Kashmir’s cities today are overwhelmingly young, many in their teens, and armed with nothing more lethal than stones. Yet the Indian state seems determined to strangle their voices as it did of the old one. Already this summer, soldiers have shot dead more than 50 protestors, most of them teenagers.
The New York Times this week described the protests as a comprehensive “intifada-like popular revolt“. They indeed have a broader mass base than the Green Movement does in Iran. But no colour-coded revolution is heralded in Kashmir by western commentators. The BBC and CNN don’t endlessly loop clips of little children being shot in the head by Indian soldiers. Bloggers and tweeters in the west fail to keep a virtual vigil by the side of the dead and the wounded. No sooner than his office issued it last week, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, hastened to retract a feeble statement expressing concern over the situation in Kashmir.
New York Times: Phone cameras fuel Kashmir’s ‘intifada.’
Security forces brought a three-day assault on India’s financial and cultural capital to an end Saturday morning, killing the last remaining gunmen holed up in one of the city’s luxury hotels after freeing hostages and recovering bodies from two hotels and a Jewish center Friday.
Pakistani officials, responding to charges by Indian leaders that the attack was carried out by an organization with ties to Pakistan, said a senior intelligence officer would travel to India, in an apparent attempt to ease tensions between the two nuclear-armed states.
Indian officials said they now believe that at least 15 gunmen carried out the operation after reaching Mumbai by sea. After an interrogation of one of the attackers, Indian intelligence officials said they suspected that a Pakistani Islamist group, Lashkar-i-Taiba, was responsible. An Indian intelligence document from 2006 obtained by The Washington Post said members of the group had been trained in maritime assault. [continued...]
“In the darkness, I saw eight young men stepping out of the raft, two at a time. They jumped into the waters, and picked up a haversack. They bent down again, and came up carrying two more haversacks, one in each hand,” said Tamore. The bags, he thought, looked very heavy.
They were in their 20s, fair-skinned and tall, clad in jeans and jackets. “The man who was lying down shouted at them, asking what they were doing there. So one of them shouted back ‘Tussle mut le ‘. When they approached me, I also asked them who they were, and what were they doing there. One of them said ‘student hai’.”
Tamore said he found their presence unusual, but as they said they were students, and were carrying haversacks, he didn’t think much about it. He thought they were youngsters returning from a picnic. [continued...]
The militants may have reconnoitred the hotels by checking in as guests, Indian newspaper reports said today. They appeared to be well trained and “very, very familiar” with the layout of the hotel, an army general said.
“At times we found them matching us in combat and movement. They were either army regulars or have done a long stint of commando training,” a commando told the Hindustan Times.
A bag found in the Taj Mahal hotel contained 400 rounds of ammunition, grenades, identity cards, rations, $1,000 (£650) in cash and international credit cards, indicating a meticulously planned operation. [continued...]
American intelligence and counterterrorism officials said Friday that there was mounting evidence that a Pakistani militant group based in Kashmir, most likely Lashkar-e-Taiba, was responsible for this week’s deadly attacks in Mumbai.
The officials cautioned that they had reached no firm conclusions about who was responsible for the attacks, or how they were planned and carried out. Nevertheless, they said that evidence gathered in the past two days pointed to a role for Lashkar-e-Taiba or possibly another group based in Kashmir, Jaish-e-Muhammad, which also has a track record of attacks against India.
The officials requested anonymity in describing their current thinking and declined to discuss specifics of the intelligence that they said pointed to Kashmiri militants. In the past, the American and Indian intelligence services have used communications intercepts to tie Kashmiri militants to terrorist strikes. Indian officials may also be gleaning information from at least one captured gunman who participated in the Mumbai attacks.
According to one Indian intelligence official, during the siege the militants have been using non-Indian cellphones and receiving calls from outside the country, evidence that in part led Indian officials to speak publicly about the militants’ external ties. [continued...]
Evidence collected by police in Mumbai, along with intelligence gathered by U.S. and British officials, has led investigators to concentrate their focus on Islamist militants in Pakistan who have long sought to spark a war over the disputed province of Kashmir. India and Pakistan have already fought two wars over Kashmir, the battleground between Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan that each country claimed soon after India’s partition in 1947.
A U.S. counterterrorism official said additional evidence has emerged in the past 24 hours that points toward a Kashmiri connection. “Some of what has been learned so far does fall in that direction,” the official said, declining to offer specifics.
“We have to be careful here,” said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “When you posit a Kashmiri connection, that puts Pakistan on the table. That is huge, enormous, but what does it mean? It can be anything from people who were [initially] in Pakistan, to maybe people who used to be associated with someone in the Pakistani government, to any gradation you could find.” [continued...]
Britons were among the militants arrested for the Bombay attacks, a senior Indian official said yesterday.
Vilasrao Deshmukh, the chief minister of Maharashtra state, in which Bombay lies, made the claim on an Indian television station.
Patrick Mercer, MP, a former Conservative security spokesman, told The Times that he had been given information that at least two of the terrorists had credit cards and other identifying documents that linked them to Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. Other reports last night claimed that men from Leeds and Bradford were among the terrorists. [continued...]
A year from now, the Bush Administration will be emptying its desks into cardboard boxes and preparing to hand over to its successor. And, it’s a relatively safe bet that the menu of foreign policy crises and challenges it will leave in the in-trays of its successors will be largely unchanged from that facing the Bush Administration today. A combination of the traditional lame-duck effect of the final year of a presidency, and the decline in relative U.S. influence on the global stage — a product both of the calamitous strategic and tactical mistakes by the Bush Administration and of structural shifts in the global political economy that will limit the options available to his successor — suggest that even as he goes scurrying about the Middle East in search of a “legacy,” very little is going to change in the coming year. Indeed, the recurring theme in many of the crises Washington professes to be managing is the extent to which it is being ignored by both friend and foe. [complete article]
For Americans, 2008 is an important election year. But for much of the world, it is likely to be seen as the year that China moved to center stage, with the Olympics serving as the country’s long-awaited coming-out party. The much-heralded advent of China as a global power is no longer a forecast but a reality. On issue after issue, China has become the second most important country on the planet. Consider what’s happened already this past year. In 2007 China contributed more to global growth than the United States, the first time another country had done so since at least the 1930s. It also became the world’s largest consumer, eclipsing the United States in four of the five basic food, energy and industrial commodities. And a few months ago China surpassed the United States to become the world’s leading emitter of CO2. Whether it’s trade, global warming, Darfur or North Korea, China has become the new x factor, without which no durable solution is possible.
And yet the Chinese do not quite see themselves this way. Susan Shirk, the author of a recent book about the country, “The Fragile Superpower,” tells a revealing tale. Whenever she mentions her title in America, people say to her, “Fragile? China doesn’t seem fragile.” But in China people say, “Superpower? China isn’t a superpower.”
In fact it’s both, and China’s fragility is directly related to its extraordinary rise. Lawrence Summers has recently pointed out that during the Industrial Revolution the average European’s living standards rose about 50 percent over the course of his lifetime (then about 40 years). In Asia, principally China, he calculates, the average person’s living standards are set to rise by 10,000 percent in one lifetime! The scale and pace of growth in China has been staggering, utterly unprecedented in history—and it has produced equally staggering change. In two decades China has experienced the same degree of industrialization, urbanization and social transformation as Europe did in two centuries. [complete article]
To fans he is the “Lion of Gujarat”, saviour of Hindus and the brains behind one of India’s richest states. To critics he is a “merchant of death” with the blood of thousands of Muslims on his hands.
But love or hate Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist and Chief Minister of the western state of Gujarat has now staked his claim to leadership of his party – and perhaps his country.
His Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 117 out of 182 seats in a local assembly election yesterday that became a barometer for the looming national elections. Congress won just 59 seats in the state poll that was spread over two weeks and which revived claims that Mr Modi had encouraged the slaughter of at least 2,000 Muslims in rioting in Gujarat in 2002. [complete article]
The chief justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, and his family have been detained in their house, barricaded in with barbed wire and surrounded by police officers in riot gear since Nov. 3. Phone lines have been cut and jammers have been installed all around the house to disable cellphones. And the United States doesn’t seem to care about any of that.
The chief justice is not the only person who has been detained. All of his colleagues who, having sworn to protect, uphold and defend the Constitution, refused to take a new oath prescribed by President Pervez Musharraf as chief of the army remain confined to their homes with their family members. The chief justice’s lawyers are also in detention, initially in such medieval conditions that two of them were hospitalized, one with renal failure.
As the chief justice’s lead counsel, I, too, was held without charge — first in solitary confinement for three weeks and subsequently under house arrest. Last Thursday morning, I was released to celebrate the Id holidays. But that evening, driving to Islamabad to say prayers at Faisal Mosque, my family and I were surrounded at a rest stop by policemen with guns cocked and I was dragged off and thrown into the back of a police van. After a long and harrowing drive along back roads, I was returned home and to house arrest. [complete article]
U.S. scientists have discovered traces of enriched uranium on smelted aluminum tubing provided by North Korea, apparently contradicting Pyongyang’s denial that it had a clandestine nuclear program, according to U.S. and diplomatic sources.
The United States has long pointed to North Korea’s acquisition of thousands of aluminum tubes as evidence of such a program, saying the tubes could be used as the outer casing for centrifuges needed to spin hot uranium gas into the fuel for nuclear weapons. North Korea has denied that contention and, as part of a declaration on its nuclear programs due by the end of the year, recently provided the United States with a small sample to demonstrate that the tubes were used for conventional purposes.
The discovery of the uranium traces has been closely held by senior U.S. officials concerned that disclosure would expose intelligence methods and complicate the diplomatic process. North Korea has steadfastly refused to open up about its past practices, simply asserting that it is not engaged in inappropriate activities. However, the uranium finding will force U.S. negotiators to demand a detailed explanation from Pyongyang. [complete article]
The CIA chief who ordered the destruction of secret videotapes recording the harsh interrogation of two top Al-Qaeda suspects has indicated he may seek immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying before the House intelligence committee.
Jose Rodriguez, former head of the CIA’s clandestine service, is determined not to become the fall guy in the controversy over the CIA’s use of torture, according to intelligence sources.
It has emerged that at least four White House staff were approached for advice about the tapes, including David Addington, a senior aide to Dick Cheney, the vice-president, but none has admitted to recommending their destruction.
Vincent Cannistraro, former head of counterterrorism at the CIA, said it was impossible for Rodriguez to have acted on his own: “If everybody was against the decision, why in the world would Jose Rodriguez – one of the most cautious men I have ever met – have gone ahead and destroyed them?” [complete article]
Shortly after he arrived as CIA director in 2004, Porter J. Goss met with the agency’s top spies and general counsel to discuss a range of issues, including what to do with videotapes showing harsh interrogations of Al Qaeda detainees, according to current and former officials familiar with the matter.
“Getting rid of tapes in Washington,” Goss said, according to an official involved in the discussions, “is an extremely bad idea.”
But at the agency’s operational levels — especially within the branch that ran the network of secret prisons — the idea of holding on to the tapes and hoping their existence would never be leaked to the public seemed even worse.
Citing what CIA veterans regard as a long record of being stranded by politicians in times of scandal, current and former U.S. intelligence officials said the decision to destroy the tapes was driven by a determination among senior spies to guard against a repeat of that outcome. [complete article]
The controversy over destroyed CIA videotapes has highlighted weaknesses in American intelligence agencies’ methods of interrogation of Al Qaeda suspects, according to current and former officials and experts, who say those methods are compromising the ability to extract critically important information about the threat from Islamic extremism.
Congress, the Justice Department and the CIA inspector general are investigating why the CIA destroyed tapes of its 2002 interrogations of two alleged senior Al Qaeda leaders, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al Rahim al Nashiri. Investigators think Zubaydah was recorded being waterboarded — a controversial tactic that mimics the experience of drowning. The tapes were destroyed in 2005.
By their own accounting, the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies have not videotaped the interrogations of potentially hundreds of other terrorism suspects. That indicates an outmoded level of secrecy and unprofessionalism, the interrogation experts contend.
They say that the U.S. is behind the curve of current best practices, and that videotaping is an essential tool in improving the methods — and results — of terrorism interrogations. And the accountability provided by recording is needed to address international concerns about the United States’ use of harsh, potentially illegal techniques, these experts add. [complete article]
So the CIA did indeed torture Abu Zubaida, the first al-Qaeda terrorist suspect to have been waterboarded. So says John Kiriakou, the first former CIA employee directly involved in the questioning of “high-value” al-Qaeda detainees to speak out publicly. He minced no words last week in calling the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” what they are.
But did they work? Torture’s defenders, including the wannabe tough guys who write Fox’s “24,” insist that the rough stuff gets results. “It was like flipping a switch,” said Kiriakou about Abu Zubaida’s response to being waterboarded. But the al-Qaeda operative’s confessions — descriptions of fantastic plots from a man who intelligence analysts were convinced was mentally ill — probably didn’t give the CIA any actionable intelligence. Of course, we may never know the whole truth, since the CIA destroyed the videotapes of Abu Zubaida’s interrogation. But here are some other myths that are bound to come up as the debate over torture rages on. [complete article]
The Iranian government has decided “at the most senior levels” to rein in the violent Shiite militias it supports in Iraq, a move reflected in a sharp decrease in sophisticated roadside bomb attacks over the past several months, according to the State Department’s top official on Iraq.
Tehran’s decision does not necessarily mean the flow of those weapons from Iran has stopped, but the decline in their use and in overall attacks “has to be attributed to an Iranian policy decision,” David M. Satterfield, Iraq coordinator and senior adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said in an interview.
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker said that the decision, “should [Tehran] choose to corroborate it in a direct fashion,” would be “a good beginning” for a fourth round of talks between Crocker and his Iranian counterpart in Baghdad. Although the mid-December date scheduled for the talks was postponed, Crocker said he expects that the parties will convene “in the next couple of weeks.” [complete article]
The thin teenage boy rushed up to the patrol of American soldiers walking through Dora, a shrapnel-scarred neighborhood of the capital, and lifted his shirt to show them a mass of red welts across his back.
He said he was a member of a local Sunni “Awakening” group, paid by the American military to patrol the district, but he said it was another Awakening group that beat him. “They took me while I was working,” he said, “and broke my badge and said, ‘You are from Al Qaeda.’”
The soldiers were unsure of what to do. The Awakening groups in just their area of southern Baghdad could not seem to get along: they fought over turf and, it turned out in this case, one group had warned the other that its members should not pay rent to Shiite “dogs.”
The Awakening movement, a predominantly Sunni Arab force recruited to fight Sunni Islamic extremists like Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, has become a great success story after its spread from Sunni tribes in Anbar Province to become an ad-hoc armed force of 65,000 to 80,000 across the country in less than a year. A linchpin of the American strategy to pacify Iraq, the movement has been widely credited with turning around the violence-scarred areas where the Sunni insurgency has been based.
But the beating that day was a stark example of how rivalries and sectarianism are still undermining the Americans’ plans. And in particular, the Awakening’s rapid expansion — the Americans say the force could reach 100,000 — is creating new concerns. [complete article]
After the United States has spent more than $5 billion in a largely failed effort to bolster the Pakistani military effort against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, some American officials now acknowledge that there were too few controls over the money. The strategy to improve the Pakistani military, they said, needs to be completely revamped.
In interviews in Islamabad and Washington, Bush administration and military officials said they believed that much of the American money was not making its way to frontline Pakistani units. Money has been diverted to help finance weapons systems designed to counter India, not Al Qaeda or the Taliban, the officials said, adding that the United States has paid tens of millions of dollars in inflated Pakistani reimbursement claims for fuel, ammunition and other costs.
“I personally believe there is exaggeration and inflation,” said a senior American military official who has reviewed the program, referring to Pakistani requests for reimbursement. “Then, I point back to the United States and say we didn’t have to give them money this way.”
Pakistani officials say they are incensed at what they see as American ingratitude for Pakistani counterterrorism efforts that have left about 1,000 Pakistani soldiers and police officers dead. They deny that any overcharging has occurred. [complete article]
Israel’s prime minister pledged Sunday to continue attacking Gaza militants, ruling out truce negotiations with Hamas amid widespread skepticism about the Islamic group’s ability to halt rocket attacks.
An Israeli cabinet minister, meanwhile, angered moderate Palestinians with another plan for new Jewish housing in a disputed part of Jerusalem, complicating renewed peace talks.
There have been almost daily reports of truce feelers from the embattled Islamic Hamas regime in Gaza, and Israeli defense officials have said they are examining the proposals.
But at the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected negotiations with Hamas because it has rebuffed international demands that it recognize Israel, renounce violence and endorse past peace accords. [complete article]
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday held out the prospect of improved relations with the remaining two members of President Bush’s “axis of evil,” Iran and North Korea, as long as they meet international demands over their nuclear programs.
Rice said the Bush administration in its remaining year would welcome fundamental changes in its dealings with the two countries, as well as with Syria, and as an example pointed to warming ties with Libya, which renounced weapons of mass destruction in 2003. [complete article]