24 February, 2010

Indo-Pak Skirmishes

The following data would be a good one for Indo-Pak analysts.

1947 - Britain divides its Indian empire into secular but mainly Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan, triggering one of the greatest and bloodiest migrations of modern history.

1947/48 - India and Pakistan go to war over Kashmir. The war ends with a U.N.-ordered ceasefire and resolution seeking a plebiscite for the people of Jammu and Kashmir to decide whether to become part of India or Pakistan.

1965 - India and Pakistan fight their second war over Kashmir. Fighting ends after United Nations calls for ceasefire.

1971 - Pakistan and India go to war a third time, this time over East Pakistan, which becomes independent Bangladesh.

1972 - Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi sign agreement in Indian town of Simla to lay principles meant to govern relations.

1974 - India detonates its first nuclear device.

1989 - Separatist revolt starts in Indian Kashmir. India accuses Pakistan of arming and sending Islamist militants into Indian Kashmir, which Pakistan denies.

1998 - India carries out nuclear tests. Pakistan carries out its own tests in response.

Feb. 1999 - Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee holds summit with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Lahore.

1999 - India and Pakistan fight a brief but intense conflict in the mountains above Kargil on the Line of Control, the ceasefire line dividing the former kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir.

July 2000 - Summit between Pakistani leader General Pervez Musharraf and Vajpayee in Agra in India ends in failure.

Dec. 2001 - Militants attack Indian parliament. India blames Pakistan-based Kashmiri separatist groups Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad. Close to a million men are mobilised on either side of the border; war only averted months later in June 2002.

2003 - Pakistan and India agree a ceasefire on the Line of Control.

2004 - The two countries launch a formal peace process.

July 2008 - India blames Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency for a bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul.

Nov. 2008 - Ten gunmen launch multiple attacks in Mumbai, killing 166 people. India blames Pakistan-based militants and breaks off talks with Pakistan.

Feb. 2009 - India cautiously welcomes Pakistan's investigation into the Mumbai attack. Pakistan admits for the first time, that the attack was launched and partly planned from Pakistan.

March 2009 - India's home minister says Pakistan is threatening to become a failed state and it was not clear who was in control of the country.

May 2009 - India's new coalition government says it is up to Pakistan to take the first step towards better ties by cracking down on militants on its soil.

June 2009 - Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari meet on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Russia. Singh tells Zardari he wants him to ensure militants can not operate from Pakistan.

July 2009 - India and Pakistan agree to work together to fight terrorism and order their top diplomats to meet as often as needed. But Prime Minister Singh, after talks with his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani in Egypt, rules out a resumption of formal peace talks, known as the "composite dialogue", that Islamabad had been seeking.

Aug. 2009 - India gives Pakistan a new dossier of evidence to investigate the Mumbai attacks and prosecute Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the suspected mastermind of the three-day carnage.

Jan. 2010 - Pakistani and Indian forces exchange fire across their border, the latest in a series of incidents raising tension between the two.

Feb. 2010 - India offers new talks with Pakistan. The talks will be held at top diplomatic level of the two countries.

Feb. 13 - A bomb in a bakery in the western Indian city of Pune kills 13 people. An Indian government official later says the foreign secretary talks would go on as scheduled.

(Compiled by Zeeshan Haider; Additional writing and editing by David Cutler; Editing by Michael Roddy, London Editorial Reference Unit)

Indo-Pak Military Might

I came across this news today morning.

REUTERS - The foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan will meet in New Delhi on Thursday, marking the resumption of official contacts which India broke off after militants attacked Mumbai in late 2008.

Following are estimates of the military strength of Pakistan and India, as well as some information about where troops are believed to be deployed:


Defence budget: Pakistan increased defence spending by more than 15 percent in June last year to 343 billion rupees ($4.2 billion) for the 2009-10 fiscal year ending on June 30.

Estimated nuclear warheads: 25 to 50

Troops: about 620,000 active, about 515,000 reserves, about 290,9000 paramilitary.

Equipment: about 2,460 tanks, about 2,000 artillery pieces, about 1,250 armoured personnel carriers. The air force has about 415 combat aircraft while the navy has 8 submarines, 7 surface combatants.

Pakistan's air force this month inducted JF-17 Thunder, medium-technology jets produced with the help of China. The aircraft is equivalent to the Mirage but has better avionics and weapons.

In December, Pakistan acquired the first of four airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft from Sweden.

Missile types and ranges: Shaheen 1 (600 km/375 miles), Shaheen 2 (up to 2,000 km/1,200 miles), Ghauri 1 (1,500/940 miles) Ghauri 2 (2,300 km/1,440 miles), Hatf 1 (100 km/63 miles), Hatf 2 (180 km/110 miles), Hatf 3 (290 km/180 miles), Babur cruise missile (500 km/310 miles).

Deployment: The military does not publish information about the deployment of troops but it has said nearly 150,000 soldiers, from both the army and paramilitary forces, have been deployed in the border regions with Afghanistan fighting al Qaeda and Taliban militants.

The remainder are stationed at bases around the country, many of them near the so-called Line of Control that divides the Kashmir region, and near the international border with India that runs south to the Arabian Sea.


Defence budget: India increased defence spending by nearly a quarter in February last year to $28.9 billion for the 2009-10 fiscal year.

India plans to spend $30 billion to modernise its largely Soviet-era arms over the next four years.

Estimated nuclear warheads: 70-100

Troops: India's military strength stands at 1.3 million, the fourth largest in the world and growing in strength with thousands recruited every year.

Equipment: The army has around 4,000 tanks, 4,500 artillery and 300 armored personnel carriers and a combat aircraft strength of around 700. The Indian Navy has one aircraft carrier, 16 submarines, eight destroyers and 16 frigates.

India plans to buy 126 air and ground attack fighters, which will elevate its air force to super-power status, with deployments planned near the borders with Pakistan and China, officials say. In May last year, India acquired the first of three AWACS from Israel.

Missile types and ranges: Agni 1 (2,500 km/1,560 miles), Agni 2 (3,000 km/1,875 miles; upgraded, up to 3,500 km/2,190 miles), Prithvi SS-150 (150 km/94 miles), Prithvi SS-250 (250 km/156 miles). India said this month it could test a new nuclear-capable missile with a 5,000-km (3,100-mile) range within a year.

Deployment: The Indian military does not give information about deployment of troops but has said its troops are on standby and presently stationed at bases around the country. India also has a huge military presence near the Line of Control.

India says it has made no new deployments since the Mumbai attacks.

(Compiled by Islamabad and New Delhi bureaux; Editing by Jerry Norton)

Indo-Pak Hate Cycle

Published in Newsline on 24 Feb 2010 (http://www.newslinemagazine.com/2010/02/the-indo-pak-hate-cycle/)

When candles were lit in Kolkata for Ankik Dhar and his friends Shilpa and Anindyee, tears flowed; and simultaneously hatred brewed. This has happened whenever explosives detonated either in Mumbai or Delhi or Bangalore or Hyderabad or latest in Pune. Whenever a Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) or a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) mercenary had been discovered to ignite an incendiary, the men on the ‘wrong side’ of the north-western border have been demonised. Even an innoxious Sufi-Dervish strolling along the squalid Indian streets have been looked at with terror and suspicion : is he an ISI agent?

Over years, this animosity was maneuvered with dexterity by the civil-military elite of Pakistan to stoke similar hatred in the Indus plains. The ‘hate cycle’ formed a regenerative feedback loop. Hence a self-sustained model of Indo-Pak rivalry has blossomed to its egregious maturity.

Commencing from the terrorist attack on the precincts of world’s largest democracy in 2001 to the infamous siege of the financial capital Mumbai on 26 November 2008; the bilateral relationship of the two South Asian ‘giants’ has slowly been pushed towards political bankruptcy.

In between, a minor salvage was attempted by creating a Joint Anti-Terror Cell so as to smoothen future scenarios as regard to handling terror. Indubitably, parties with vested interests existed and continue to exist which leave no stone unturned to provide energy to the ‘hate cycle’. And “Lashkar-e-Toiba Al Alami” appears to be the latest induction in the list of such potent candidates.

Interestingly, it claims to be a breakaway faction of the old LeT and the rationale posited by it for breaking away is that LeT was acting as a puppet of the ISI. Well, what does this mean?

It invariably projects a much more deadly and ominous future for South Asia. Are we headed for an uncontrolled chain reaction of terror? Already, mainland Pakistan is reeling under the venomous Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

For India, having a clean terror-free fourteen months since 26/11 may be perceived in either of the following ways. The enhanced efficiency of the Indian security personnel and better security-intelligence co-ordination is the obvious evaluation of the success; while the pre-occupation of the terrorist groups in the Af-Pak region is the cynical evaluation.

Nevertheless, the RDX-Ammonium Nitrate blasts on 13 February near the German Bakery in Maharashtra’s (India’s western province) cultural capital Pune, did come as a shock to the Indian citizens. Moreover, the blasts were probably tailor-made to blast out the talks at the Foreign Secretary level to be held between the two archrivals on 25 February.

After an interregnum, India and Pakistan would again sit across the table. The astute political observer would definitely hint at an American influence behind this as India was reluctant to ‘chalk out the talks’ due to the lethargic movements of the civil bureaucratic machinery of Pakistan in acting against Hafeez Saeed; the Jamat-ud-Dawa generalissimo.

Furthermore, India would cautiously tread in these bilateral forums, more so keeping in mind the Sharm-el-Shaikh diplomatic fiasco at the sidelines of the recent most NAM Summit.

Surely, Foreign Secretary level talks are just the beginning, but at least a beginning. However, the agenda of the talks remain unclear as ever. Is the situation so benign that both the secretaries could just exchange pleasantries and end with Sir Creek, while meandering around the Indus Water Treaty?

Would bouncers be merely ducked? Why a head-on-collision with the obvious be avoided? Why would Islamabad continue to evade India’s concerns regarding cross-border terrorism and why should New Delhi shy away from Kashmir? Both the parties need to appreciate the fact that by just talking these two so-called ‘contentious’ issues, they are not going to loose Karachi or Mumbai.

If few things need to be sorted out, then those things ought to be prioritized.

Decades ago, the Italian fascist Mussolini, amongst his many ‘not to be revered’ acts and policies, uttered : “The Nation is a single fixed point, the rest is obvious”.

Regarding Indo-Pak bilateral ties, an analogue may be generated : “Kashmir is a single-fixed point, the rest is obvious”. In fact, cross-border terrorism too is inextricably intertwined with Kashmir. However, that in any way does not mean that the terms of the negotiation could be dictated by any terrorist outfit or even by obdurate authorities.

Flexibility, adaptability and pragmatism on both sides would enliven matters and lessen tensions. Both Islamabad and New Delhi need to traverse some distance toward each other, without succumbing to past follies.

Islamabad has its own domestic predicaments; be it the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) or the judiciary-executive tussle or the Balochistan tangle or the terror-implosion since the launch of the Swat-South Waziristan offensive. India, too cannot prevaricate regarding its Maoist insurgency or the tumultuous North-East or for that matter the ‘Kashmir burden’.

Nonetheless, the naïve commoner walking along the alleys of Kolkata or through the by-lanes of Rawalpindi may not appreciate the jargons of ‘geopolitics’ or ‘strategic depth’ or ‘composite dialogue’. Rather the simpleton has the inalienable right to ask the respective policy-makers : “When you talk, why don’t you talk seriously? Why do you only posture?”

23 February, 2010

Jundallah Boss under Iranian Claws

TEHRAN: An Iranian lawmaker said on Tuesday that top Sunni militant Abdolmalek Rigi was arrested while travelling on a flight heading to an Arab country via Pakistan.

“Rigi was arrested in Persian Gulf waters while he was travelling on a plane via Pakistan to an Arab country,” Mohammad Dehghan was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

“His plane was ordered to land, and then he was arrested after the plane was searched,” the lawmaker said without elaborating.

Earlier, several Iranian media networks reported the arrest of Rigi, the head of the shadowy Jundallah (Soldiers of God) group who was the country's most wanted fugitive.

State-owned Arabic language Al-Alam television reported that Rigi, the alleged mastermind of several deadly bombings and killings, was arrested “inside Iran” on Tuesday in the eastern part of the country.


19 February, 2010

Prof Ghosh's Comments # 2 and My Reply

I generally agree with the tenor and apprehensions voiced in this article
by Uddipan Mukherjee. I too am worried about a blood bath of impoverished
tribal Indians in Jharkhand, W. Bengal and Orissa. Mukherjee says,

" Thus he (Home minister Chidanbaram) can afford a tussle with the Red
Taliban at this juncture."

since he has withdrawn 30000 troopers from Kashmir. Is it necessary to
coin the phrase "Red Taliban"? Naxals/Maoists are not at all similar to
the Taliban. Taliban is plural of the word Talib which means 'student'.
To be more specific, student of a Madrasah, that is a Muslim religious
school. It is in such schools of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) of
Pakistan the Taliban were motivated with religious fanaticism for Jihad.
These Madrasahs are motivated by Wahhabism, which preaches hatred against
Sufism, Shia Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity. It
preaches that women should be hidden behind the Burqa, not be educated and
have no role in public affairs. It stands for strict implemantation of the
Shariah law which assigns a half-human status to women, one man witness is
equivalent to two women witnesses and so on. I am no aplogist for the
Maoists and condemn their killing spree, but they should not be compared
to the the Taliban, even in jest. They stand for equality between the
sexes and so called 'liberation' of both men and women, They do not want
to turn the clock back and take civilization back to the middle ages in
the way the Taliban want. Mukherjee's use of the term Red Taliban for the
Maoists is unfortunate. It would breed confusion and impart some
respectability to the Taliban.

Mukherjee correctly points out that Nitish Kumar has struck a discordant
note in the last Chief ministers' meeting with Chidambaram by condemning
the heavy handed military approach toward tribal insurgents and Maoists;
Nitish advocates rehabilitation of the surrendered
cadres of the Maoists. Chidambaram is more of a man of the big buisness
and he knows that the tribal areas of Jharkhand, W. Bengal and Orissa are
mineral rich. These areas must be opened up to the mining and metallurgy
industry; that is what the big buisness houses want and is necessary for
the present so-called development model of economy, cherished by
Manmohan-Chidambaram duo. This is opposed by the
tribals who want development in radically different terms. They want
education, healthcare, agriculture and forestry and forest rights. They do
not want the mining and metallurgy industry to disrupt their way of tribal
community life.

Fortunately for Nitish Kumar Bihar's Maoist-dominated areas are not
mineral rich and a compromise is possible. The same compromise is not
possible in W. Bengal, Orissa and Jharkhand. That is the clue to the
differnce between Chidambaram and Nitish.

Kunal Ghosh

Dear Prof Ghosh,

Thanks for the comments.

Actually i never used the term "Red Taliban" in the straightforward manner as one would interpret.

I used it sarcastically. As if the State authorities are terming the Maoists/disgruntled tribals as "Red Talibans'.

Actually the phrase is doing the rounds in the media since the beheading of a police officer by the Maoists last year.


Prof Ghosh's Comments # 1 and My Reply

The article, Comparing Balochistan and Chattisgarh by Uddipan Mukherji,
is brilliant in analysis and drawing similies between the Balochistan
uprising and the Chattisgarh insurgency. Both are fuelled by extreme
poverty and exploitation. Both India and Pakistan are aware and candidly
admit the root cause of the problem. Both the countries
bring in right legislation but unfortunately are incapable of
implementing them at the grass roots level where it matters.

So far so good. Mukherji however proceeds to draw a symmetry between
India and Pakistan and prescribes a corrective policy based on that
symmetry with which I totally disagree. In my opinion there is no
symmetry between these two South Asian neighbours as far as mutual
relationship is concerned. India over last 50 years has been extending the
hand of friendship and Pakistan has been spurning. This becomes clear from
another article contained in the same Digest No. 1573 of SRATEGY_INDIA,
the one written by Michael Williams titled "The Secret War in Pakistan".
William says,

"Islamabad, however, did nothing to root out Islamist radicals near the
border with Afghanistan, nor did it spend the $12bn (given in aid by
the US) on developinggovernance. Instead, the Pakistani government bought
equipment such as F-16s to use in a war against India. Why the Bush
administration allowed this to happen by selling them the equipment is
beyond imagination....

It became pretty apparent a few years ago that it did not matter
what Nato forces did in Afghanistan if the Taliban were allowed to operate
freely in Pakistan. ..... Some segments of the Pakistani military
actually support the Taliban. They see the Taliban as a way to ensure a
friendly government in Kabul, necessary for strategic depth in a war
against India."

The quotation above clearly shows Pakistan's anti-India design. India
harbours no such design toward Pakistan. At the time of Independence and
Partition in 1947 both countries pledged to protect their respective
religious minorities. Pakistan immediately violated the pledge and cleaned
out 99% of the Hindu minority. A tiny Hindu population remains and that
too in the most poverty-stricken areas of western Sindh and all of
Balochistan but their number is dwindling. In the Punjab part of India the
Muslim minority was decimated and in some other sectors there were
anti-Muslim riots but by and large over the vast tracts of India Muslims
were not uprooted or persecuted but continued live a peacefu existence.
Their share of the percentage population is not dwindling but growing.
Where is the symmetry between India and Pakistan? Pakistan's India posture
continues to be defined by Hindu-Muslim rivalry.

It should be noted that Mukherji's article has been published in a
journal called 'Newsline' in Pakistan. Without this contrived symmetry the
article would never be allowed to be published in that country.

Professor Kumal Ghosh, IIT Kanpur

Dear Prof Ghosh,

Thanks for your compliments.

But I guess I would beg to differ with you on the fact that there was a "contrived symmetry" established in the article. It was not an 'artificial construct'. Rather I fully believe what I wrote.

What I wanted to stress was the 'negligence' of both the governments towards their respective citizenry, and that the commonality of that 'negligence' is fostered by the acts of the respective authorities.

I fully agree with you regarding Pakistan's behaviour vis-a-vis India. If you have time, pls go thru this article of mine where I have expressed similar viewpoints (http://www.globalpo litician. com/print. asp?id=6224)

But I guess, that does not exonerate India from its 'domestic malfunctions' .

thanks & looking forward to your erudite comments

15 February, 2010

Will Green Turn Red?

Chidambaram was definitely not lethargic when he proclaimed India’s ‘War on Terror’ sometime late last year. He meant business as only during winter it was feasible to re-locate the paramilitary forces from Kashmir to Dandakaranya and Lalgarh. The cross-border jihadists would have taken some time off while the lowly-paid forces would have continued their Sisyphean job, though elsewhere.

We may castigate our democratic set-up to whatsoever an extent, but still would be forced to acknowledge the role ‘Civil Society’ has come to play in the twenty-first century in our country. By all probability, the Home Ministry’s ‘mellowed down approach’ against the leftist ultras was due to the vehement criticism of the media and academia.

Meanwhile, Chidambaram offered ‘peace talks’ to the rebels as per the ‘old Andhra Model’ and simultaneously continued the ‘combing operations’ against Kishenji et al. Hence his ‘quiet diplomacy’ and ‘gunboat diplomacy’ ran parallel to each other.

Once again, the Home Minister seems ready for a dalliance with the Maoists. On 09 February, in the Chief Ministers’ Meeting of four states having contiguous borders; he sounded very optimistic and unequivocal regarding the so-called ‘Operation Green Hunt’. He has roped in West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand and Bihar; in decreasing order of their enthusiasm.

Undoubtedly, Buddhadeb’s party is at the crossroads, and thus needs to deliver. The deliverance can be either in terms of ‘reservation for the Muslims’ or ‘annihilation of the Red Ultras’. To make matters worse, Assembly elections in the state are nearing.

Naveen Patnaik appears eager to cash in on the opportunity that the Union has promised to provide : forty-two battalions of the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) for curbing the insurgency.

On the other hand, though Soren might have evaded media glare and direct arm twisting with the Naxals by invoking anatomical distractions; Nitish Kumar surely created kerfuffle in the Home Ministerial circuits by denouncing the ‘use of force’ and that too in absentia.

Tactically speaking, ‘Green Hunt’ needs to be expedited as the impending monsoon would be a hurdle in the hilly tracts and forest areas of Jangalmahal. Moreover, Chidambaram may take solace from the fact that about thirty thousand Indian troops have been removed from Kashmir. Thus he can afford a tussle with the Red Talibans at this juncture.

Further, he takes a cue from the Americans in the usage of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Who knows that even drones might be in the offing in Ghatshila and Dalma Hills in the near future if Ganapathy and company do not oblige.

In this political predicament, the pertinent question is whether the Union Home Ministry would really go ahead with its stated objectives? Or whether its operation shall remain a mere rhetoric? Will the authorities be dwarfed because of a vocal ‘civil society’?

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has cited his ‘successful’ policy of ‘surrender and rehabilitation’ of the Naxals. After all, the disgruntled elements are our own citizens!

But Chidambaram has framed his own ‘praxis’ and the coming few months may prove to be periods of commotion in the country. Nevertheless, the climax may be shifted to a later date if the Maoists hibernate in Dandakaranya and Nallamala. As divulged by senior bureaucrats and cops, the acclaimed operation would not be an ‘all-out offensive’. Thus it would be a ‘spread-out’ event, both in terms of space and time.

To what limit the lush green Indian forests have red pigmentation, depends on which part of the strategic spectrum our political masters place their crosshairs.

Nazarbayev Rolls On and On and On

ASTANA -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev gave his traditional annual message to the people of Kazakhstan at a joint session of parliament January 29.

“My main goal is to guarantee the country’s economic growth in the coming decade and to open the road to new opportunities. My message today is devoted to this theme”, he said in delivering the address titled “The New Decade, New Economic Growth – New Opportunities for Kazakhstan”.

Declaring Kazakhstan one of the fastest-developing countries in the world, the president announced that the international holdings and reserves of the country’s national endowment fund now exceed US $50 billion, and have grown more than 25-fold over the past 10 years.

According to Nazarbayev, “Kazakhstan has solved all the social tasks facing it in the first decade of the 21st century. We have begun to live as we planned to and have achieved the goals we set (for ourselves)”.

“The average monthly salary in these years has grown five-fold, the average pension three-fold, the percentage of the population with an income falling below the poverty line has fallen four-fold from 50 to 12 percent, and the population’s basic health indicators have improved”, he said.

Nazarbayev said the UN has recognised Kazakhstan’s achievements, and listed Kazakhstan as one of the countries with a high level of human potential in 2009.

“This is indisputable evidence of our growing well-being”, the president said. “Now, Kazakhstan will move to accomplish ‘Strategy 2020’”.

Nazarbayev said the goals of Strategy 2020 are to realize steady economic growth through accelerated industrialization and infrastructure development.

In the speech, he announced plans to transfer US $8 billion from the national endowment fund to the state budget starting in 2010.

“This transfer payment must be directed, more than anything else, toward industrialisation”, he said. “There won’t be any loans from the National Fund or any other additional transfer payments to the budget”.

“Taking into account these steps, the National Fund’s assets by 2020 should grow to US $90 billion, which is not less than 30 percent of the GDP”, he said.

Turning to social issues, the president proposed a new approach for providing affordable housing. Under the plan, people who open a new home savings account in the Residential Construction Savings Bank (RCSB) will have the chance to receive a low-interest mortgage.

Members of parliament applauded Nazarbayev’s announcement that a 25 percent increase in funding for scholarships and salaries for government workers would take effect April 1, rather than July 1, as initially expected.

The president connected the country’s key foreign policy priorities to its chairmanship of the OSCE during 2010. Nazarbayev said Kazakhstan’s chairmanship of the OSCE will be directed toward developing security and encouraging the development of the entire world’s peoples.

“We’ll do everything so that the OSCE becomes a body recognising the diversity of the world in the 21st century”, he said.

Dosym Satpaev, Kazakh political scientist and director of the Risk Assessment Group, said the content of the president’s message to the people of Kazakhstan didn’t match its title. In his opinion, “This message is useful above all to state structures and to the bureaucrats who essentially prepared it”.

“The people aren’t interested in grandiose words about macroeconomics and so forth”, he said. “They’re interested in appropriate levels for salaries and pensions. Also, the people are interested in low inflation so that prices ‘don’t jump’”.

In his opinion, the “conditions that he (Nazarbayev) set for this year are essentially repetitive and remind one of a stuck phonograph record”.

“He begins by expressing support for small- and medium-sized enterprises and for an increase in pensions and salaries. But he doesn’t take into account that the government’s actions have a different effect. They, to the contrary, inflict serious damage on these or other social obligations take for example last year’s devaluation”, he said.

Amirzhan Kosanov, secretary-general of the Azat National Social-Democratic Party, said that the president’s message contained a great many economic tasks but said nothing concrete about political reforms and democracy.

“So far the domestic political part (of future planning) is something for the long term for the president”, said Kosanov. “In his message he always skates around this sphere, the most important one for Kazakhstan”.

Nazarbayev gave his first such speech in 1997.

Rah-i-Nijat : Jirga bungles

TANK, Pakistan -- A high-level jirga of the Mehsud tribe failed to reach agreement with the government on handing over more than 300 militants before a lasting peace is restored in South Waziristan.

Some 400 leaders of the Mehsud tribe met Political Agent Shahab Ali Shah, the ranking government official of South Waziristan, in Tank, North-West Frontier Province, February 10. The tribal leaders said they would not hand over 378 militants, including Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Hakeemullah Mehsud to the administration until peace is restored. Hakeemullah is reported to be dead.

The tribal elders stressed the government must ensure the return of thousands of displaced Mehsuds before it can expect co-operation from them.

The February 10 jirga was the third on this issue in the past two months.

Government officials in charge of restive South Waziristan wanted the Mehsud tribesmen to abide by the Collective Territorial Responsibility clause of the Frontier Crimes Regulation to protect their territory against Taliban insurgents.

Under the regulation, officially designated tribal elders (Maliks) must help establish peace and take punitive action against miscreants when the government asks. These elders in return receive privileges from the government.

Two earlier meetings also ended inconclusively; officials have set another jirga for February 20.

Sources in Tank told Central Asia Online that Shah made it clear to the Mehsud elders that a military operation against the Taliban and foreign associates was imperative after the collapse of earlier peace deals with militants.

Courtesy : Central Asia Online

China in Kazakhstan

ALMATY – The Kazakh opposition parties All-National Social Democratic Azat Party (ANSDAP) and Alga, along with the Talmas civic movement, protested in Almaty January 30 against any transfer of Kazakh land to foreign investors, especially to China. Some 2,000 demonstrators gathered in the square next to the Sari-Aka theatre for the hour-long rally as police looked on.

In 2009 Kazakhstan received a US$10 billion loan from China. Shortly thereafter, the Chinese National Petroleum Company received a 50 percent stake in Mangistaumunaigas, which controls a third of Kazakhstan’s retail petroleum product market, Kommersant.ru reported.

China’s increasing presence in Kazakhstan, already a matter of public concern, gained more attention last December when Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev stated that Chinese agricultural producers might be able to lease land.

“Good neighbourly relations with China are important to us but not at the expense of our interests”, Kommersant.ru quoted opposition leader Zharmahan Tuyakbai as saying during the protest. “Already almost 40 percent of our oil belongs to them. Now there’s a creeping expansion to occupy the land. With time, this will strongly affect our independence”.

Opposition leaders at the demonstration called for changes to property laws and voiced opposition to privatisation of land. They also demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Karim Masimov’s government.

“Fifteen billion dollars of Chinese credits hangs over Kazakhstan”, proclaimed ANSDAP leader Bulat Abilov. “It’s time to put an end to the career of Masimov”.

Courtesy : Central Asia Online

Taliban Flogging

PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- A new video of Taliban members whipping men and a teenager in a tribal district has rattled Pakistan for the second time in less than a year as the military offensive against militants in South Waziristan grinds on.

A man reportedly shot the video on a mobile phone February 3, and it has since been aired by television stations and appeared on Youtube and other Internet sites.

Tribal sources in the Orakzai tribal district told Central Asia Online that a local commander of Hakeemullah Mehsud’s Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was whipping victims in the Mamozai area. Having gun-wielding militants administer corporal punishment in public is an old Taliban tactic to keep the local population "terrorised" and to portray militants as "saviours".

The video appears as confidence grows that Hakeemullah Mehsud died of wounds suffered during a January 14 missile strike on suspected hideouts of militants in the Shaktoee area of South Waziristan.

"As you know, the Taliban do beat people in areas they control if they suspect anyone of any criminal acts, like spying or violating the militants' stricter version of Islamic law. People accused of serious crimes are often killed," a senior journalist in Hangu, bordering the Orakzai tribal district, told Central Asia Online on condition of anonymity after watching the video.

The video makes clear the grip of the Taliban on that tribal district. The federal government is currently using air power to soften up militant positions before sending ground troops to take hold of the region. It has served as a base from which militants attempt to penetrate into the Khyber tribal district, which borders Peshawar.

On April 4 last year, a similar video shook Pakistani TV viewers. In that video, a Taliban commander flogged a 17-year-old girl being held face down in a public space in Kabal tehsil of the Swat Valley. Government forces later drove the militants out of the valley.

"Leave me for a moment. You can beat me again later", the girl screamed in the video.

In the latest video, Orakzai Taliban punished several men for "speaking out against the militants", according to local residents. The militants also flogged a teenager for not growing a beard and another man for "not praying".

Dr. Said Alam Mehsud, an active member of Amn Tehreek or the "Peace Movement" mobilising public opinion against growing militancy on Pukhtoon lands, said the militants released the video to "terrorise" the local population. Amn Tehreek is a conglomerate of anti-Taliban liberals, civil society members, political party members, lawyers, doctors, journalists and students.

"The Taliban use different methods to keep the local population in a state of terror, and they include killings, beheadings and lashings of opponents in public," the Amn Tehreek member told Central Asia Online.

The militants, conscious of public opinion, are complaining about the broadcast of the video. Militant commander Mullah Said Khan issued a warning to a Pakistani TV channel last week for using the video as "propaganda" against the Taliban.

The News quoted him as acknowledging ownership of the video. However, he called it "an old one". He said such a video "does change public opinion" but "the Taliban are least concerned about this."

The audience, in the video, mostly old men and young boys, watched the beatings in silence.

In the video, somebody offscreen announces before the audience leaves that the militants will detain "an old man with a white beard" for five days in order to observe his "behaviour". The announcement did not explain the old man's offence.

Local residents identified the stocky-looking bearded man whipping the men and the teenager as Mullah Toofan, a local Taliban commander in the Orakzai tribal region.

Taliban Funding

LONDON -- The subject of donations that fund the Taliban and possibly al-Qaeda, particularly from individuals in the Gulf region, is becoming a nightmare for the security agencies responsible for choking off the funding sources of both these groups.

An Arab diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that security agencies in the Gulf have been able to track money transfers whose ultimate destination is believed to be the Taliban Movement. These transfers are estimated at $100 million annually by the US media. The agencies that are tracking the money flow also noted a change in the way these donations are transferred in order to hide the real identity of the donors.

Security agencies leading the fight against Taliban funding are concerned that some donors, whether they are from the Gulf or other countries around the world, might not be aware that the money they give to the Taliban ends up funding bombing operations whose victims are innocent people, even though the Taliban claims to target western forces or soldiers of the Afghan government.

On February 3, the Taliban in Pakistan claimed responsibility for an attack near a girls' school that led to the killing of eight people, including four school girls and three American soldiers who were attending the opening of the school (built with American money). The movement has frequently targeted girls' school in the country, burning many of them to ground, and it is even suspected of being behind many attacks that took place in public places in Pakistan last year.

Pakistan's Taliban also claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed 43 people in the commercial capital Karachi on December 30, 2009. These attacks, which resulted in hundreds of civilian victims, especially one in Peshawar on October 28, 2009, even led al-Qaeda to condemn it as being un-Islamic.

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, the United States and other Western and Arab countries led a massive campaign to shut off the funding sources of al-Qaeda.

These efforts led most world countries to tighten their monitoring procedures on bank transfers - including money transfer operations – in order to close the loopholes that allow money to be transferred to "terrorist organisations", whether it is al-Qaeda or other groups that have ideological ties to it (such as Algeria's "Salafist Group for Call and Combat", before it turned into a branch of al-Qaeda in the Maghreb in 2007).

These steps, taken under the supervision of the UN, included freezing the assets of suspected terrorists and barring them from bank transactions. These actions, accompanied by vast security campaigns in the context of the "War on Terror", dealt serious blows to the financing mechanism of al-Qaeda, particularly out of the Gulf countries.

Although the sanctions were sometimes directed at Gulf donors who filed lawsuits due to their names being included in the list of supporters of terrorism, and who affirmed their opposition to the actions of al-Qaeda, it is nevertheless certain that the sources that fund Osama bin Laden's organisation were severely affected as a result of the measures. This has been confirmed by prominent leaders of al-Qaeda such as Dr. Ayman Al Zawahiri who in his famous letter of 2005 called upon the Emir of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, to send financial support to al-Qaeda in the tribal areas in Pakistan. Al Zawahiri admitted in the letter that many funding sources had been cut off.

Last year, al-Qaeda made several appeals seeking support, which is another indication that it was suffering from a lack of funding. It was also reported that those who wished to receive military training in camps linked with the Taliban in Pakistan were asked to bring money whereas in the past the training was free.

But after years of this partial success of the campaign to dry up al-Qaeda's funding sources, it appears that those willing to send donations to that organisation or to the Taliban in Afghanistan have been able to devise new ways of sending money without having to use financial institutions which might be under security monitoring, or which might reveal the sources of these donations.

A diplomat from one of the Gulf states, who spoke to this writer under condition of anonymity, said that Gulf security agencies have in recent years tracked an increasing amount of donations that were funnelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

He indicated that a high percentage of transfers are carried out by foreigners working in the Gulf and not directly through Gulf nationals. By not getting directly involved in the transfer of funds, the Gulf national is able to avoid being accused of "supporting terrorism". The Gulf diplomat said that the high number of Afghan and Pakistani workers in the Gulf allows for the transfer of large amounts of money from the Gulf countries without any trace of its real origin.

Some of those who make the transfer – when asked about the origin of what they were transferring – say that the money belonged to them and their fellow compatriots, which they earned from work. They claim they would deliver the money to the families of these workers when they get back to their remote villages in their home country, whether it is in Pakistan or Afghanistan.

After the funds leave the Gulf, it is hard to track their final destination, but officials believe part of the money undoubtedly goes to fund the Taliban, the diplomat said.

Although there are no exact statistics on the amount of money that is transferred to this organisation, estimates published last year indicate that the amount of donations received by the rebel movement exceed the amount it receives from taxes levied on drug traffickers in Afghanistan.

In the past, it was believed that most of the Taliban funding came from duties levied on drug trafficking. Some leaders in the movement obtained a specified percentage (sometimes reaching 10%) from the poppy (from which opium is extracted) growers in the regions under Taliban control in the south of Afghanistan, particularly in Helmand Province.

However, a report published in the Washington Post last year, said that Taliban leaders and their associates received $106m in 2008 in foreign donations from the Middle East and the Gulf. Foreign donations surpassed the amount of money gained by the movement from taxes on drug trafficking, estimated at $70m.

A conference held this month in London to support Afghanistan pledged to offer $150m in international funding to the Afghan government in order to carry on with its programme to assimilate Taliban fighters who abandon their violent activities and abide by the Afghan constitution. The Afghan government project seeks to provide financial support to fighters who agree to stop fighting, in consideration of the fact that a large number of the movement's fighters join the rebellion not because of ideological convictions, but because of personal circumstances, notably the lack of employment opportunities in their local areas.

If it turns out that the Afghan government is able to "neutralise" a particular group of rebels and help them assimilate into society, it would constitute a winning point against its enemies such as Taliban leaders under Mulla Mohammad Omar, who vowed to overthrow the government of Hamid Karzai and expel foreign forces.

Courtesy : Central Asia Online

Where is TAPI ?

ASHGABAT – Turkmen president Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov told a government ministers meeting that Turkmenistan is still interested in building a Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline, Trend.az reported February 13 quoting an official source.

According to the president, all participating countries will benefit from the project.

Military operations in Afghanistan remain an obstacle for the project that has been discussed for over 15 years. The UK-based Penspen company did a fesibility study on the project, and the Asian Development Bank supports the project.

Tajik Elections

DUSHANBE – Registration of candidates for the February 28 elections for the lower house of parliament is finished, and 266 candidates, 73 of whom are affiliated with parties, will compete for the 61 seats.

On February 8, the Election Observation Mission from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) issued its first interim report on the elections. In the report, experts and observers express concern that the lack of domestic, non-partisan observation could significantly hinder the transparency of the elections.

“The losing party will always say that the results were rigged. I think only domestic observers acting in the nongovernmental sector could provide an objective evaluation of the elections. After all, the results are not important to us; the process itself is important for us”, said the representative of a Rasht Region nongovernmental organisation who requested anonymity.

“Those most critical of us are the observers from the OSCE/ODIHR. They criticise and really point out the shortcomings of our elections. The rest of the missions’ observers look at the outward aspects – whether it went festively, whether balloons were hung”, said Abdugani Mamadazimov, head of the Association of Political Scientists of Tajikistan.

According to the OSCE’s estimation, 540 international representatives from the OSCE/ODIHR, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, European Parliament, SCO and CIS will be observing the February 28 elections.

Mamadazimov said the presence of national observers is important for electoral transparency as it allows civil society to independently evaluate the electoral process. The Association of Political Scientists of Tajikistan is preparing national observers but by law can train only political parties and media representatives.

“In each constituency, we have trained 20 observers from political parties and the media. We prepared work binders for the observers, where there are ready-made forms that they can fill out in the event they detect violations”, said Mamadazimov.

Farangis Azizova, general manager of the Tajik office of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), told Central Asia Online that an effort was made last year to amend the election law to permit more observers but that parliament did not take up the amendment.

“I think there is a chance that improvement of our electoral legislation will be continued after the election", she said. "Moreover, we plan to help create a unified electoral code”.

Artis Pabriks, head of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission, said other recommendations have gone unfulfilled as well. Among them are recommendations for inclusive and pluralistic training of electoral commissions, clear statutes on voter registration and voting, procedures for ballot counting and procedures for handling complaints about electoral violations.

“Also, from meetings with representatives of political parties we know that the electoral deposit, which is set at 7,000 somoni [US $1,600], is too high", he said. "And it has turned out to be too much for some potential candidates".

Mamadazimov said, thanks to the high deposit, “[T]here was most likely an order from above not to impede the registration of parliamentary candidates from the opposition. If they don't win, the deposit will not be returned and will be transferred to the budget”.

The OSCE/ODIHR also points to the lack of media access in remote areas, a lack of media plurality, and libel and slander laws that might inhibit media from reporting complaints and violations. Some resent the OSCE/ODIHR telling Tajiks what to do.

“The recommendations of the OSCE/ODIHR do not always correspond to the realities of our lives", said Nusratullo Khalimov, an activist in the Tajikistan Youth Union.

"It is necessary to take into account our mentality and our traditions. Why drive everyone under the same standards”? Pabriks said the mission does take into account national peculiarities but that it cannot ignore universal principles.

“If we say that we do not have universal values that are important for every person, then we would revert back to hundreds of years ago, where there would be no respect for people, women", he said. "It would be an egocentric government, an egocentric society where everyone could do what they want”.

International experts and observers have so far refrained from preliminary evaluations based on current observations and forecasts.

However, IFES office head Michael Getto said, “The elections may be held transparently and democratically if the law is enforced at all levels. What is most important is for the law to be followed by local authorities”.

“I am confident that even if the current election will not be 100 percent transparent and honest, it will not be one, but two, steps forward”, said Mamadazimov.

Putin spits on Yushchenko

Outgoing Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko "spit in the face" of his political sponsors when he declared nationalist leader Stepan Bandera a national hero, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Monday.

Yushchenko, known for his promotion of Ukrainian nationalism, often at the expense of relations with Russia, awarded in late January the Hero of Ukraine title to Stepan Bandera, whom many see as a Nazi collaborator during WWII.

"The events of the past months did not surprise me at all, when the 'color movement' leadership spit in the face of its political sponsors issuing a decree to declare Stepan Bandera a Hero of Ukraine, a man who not only collaborated with the Nazis, but was also peculiarly cruel when doing away with Jews and Poles," Putin said at a meeting with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski in February condemned Yushchenko's decree and said it runs contrary to the historical truth.

Yushchenko's move has already fueled fierce debate in Ukraine, where Bandera is a controversial figure, with his mainly West Ukrainian supporters considering him a hero.

Yushchenko was swept to power by the 2004 pro-Western street protests, known as the "orange revolution." He will be succeeded by opposition leader president-elect Viktor Yanukovych.

NOVO-OGARYOVO, February 15 (RIA Novosti)

S-300 to Iran

Russia is resolving the technical problems which have delayed the delivery of advanced S-300 air defense systems to Iran, a Russian defense industry official said on Monday.

"A few technical faults have been detected in the radio-frequency band [command and control system]. We are currently fixing them," first deputy director of the Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation Alexander Fomin said.

Russia signed a contract with Iran on the supply of at least five S-300 air defense systems to Tehran in December 2005. However, Moscow has not so far honored the contract, which many experts say is due to pressure from Washington and Tel Aviv.

Both the United States and Israel have not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program and have expressed concern over S-300 deliveries, which would significantly strengthen Iran's air defenses.

Matters came to a head last week after Iran announced it had developed its own air defense system comparable to and even more sophisticated than the Russian S-300 system.

Iranian Ambassador to Russia Seyyed Mahmoud-Reza Sajjadi earlier said the S-300 contract had been plagued by technical problems.

Russian defense industry officials have repeatedly said that Russia is interested in fulfilling the contract, which is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, but the future of the contract would largely depend on the current situation in international affairs and the Kremlin's position.

The advanced version of the S-300 missile system, called S-300PMU1 (SA-20 Gargoyle), has a range of over 150 kilometers (over 100 miles) and can intercept ballistic missiles and aircraft at low and high altitudes, making the system an effective tool for warding off possible air strikes.

February 15 (RIA Novosti)

Russia-Saudi Arms Deal

Russia and Saudi Arabia are finalizing an array of agreements on the sale of Russian armored vehicles anti-aircraft systems and combat helicopters, a Russian defense industry official said on Monday.

"We are actively working along three lines - helicopters, armor and air-defense systems," said Alexander Fomin, first deputy director of the Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation.

He added that several delegations from various branches of the Russian defense industry were negotiating with their Saudi partners.

"The negotiations are largely centered on prices. A contract has been drawn up. Our proposals are very specific, and our respected partners are considering them," Fomin said.

Russian and foreign media earlier reported that Russia and Saudi Arabia were drafting an arms contract to a tune of $4-6 billion.

February 15 (RIA Novosti)

09 February, 2010

Hakeemllah Dead?

KARACHI: The Taliban based in Orakzai Agency confirmed on Tuesday that Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan chief Hakeemullah Mehsud is dead.

According to a DawnNews report, Mehsud died on Sunday in Multan after succumbing to injuries received in a drone attack in Shaktoi village.

However, Alam Tariq the offiicial Taliban spokesman has not yet made a statement.

Sources said that Maulvi Noor Jamal has been nominated as Mehsud's succesor.

Government officials too have confirmed his death.

American and Pakistani officials had been saying Mehsud was dead since the past few weeks.

Maulvi Noor Jamal is a native of the Orakzai Agency and rose to power as the leader of the Taliban in the Kurram tribal area.

He was also given responsibilities for Orakzai when the military began the Waziristan offensive in October.

Jamal is in his late thirties and was a maulana at a local madrassah before he was made the leader of the Taliban in Kurram.

He had a close relationship with Mehsud and is known for his brutality.

One resident who left Khurram for fear of being wanted by him said Jamal “...kills humans like one will kill chickens.”

Jamal is also the man who is allegedly overseeing the flogging of two men and a teenage boy in a recently broadcast video.

Courtesy: Dawn

It pays to be a Taliban

When the wise heads of the world sat down for a meeting beside the Thames in London on Jan. 28, to decide the future of the war on terror in Afghanistan, most probably U.S. President Barack Obama was more eager to know the outcome than al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden or his cronies, Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil and Mullah Muhammad Omar.

Obama is trapped in a vicious circle. He inherited the tormenting legacy of former President George W. Bush’s war on terror, which he cannot get rid of due to appeals to patriotism. To make things more complicated, he has now to deal with the growing anti-war current that is taking shape in his own country as well as in other parts of the globe.

His NATO allies are still limping along with him, albeit reluctantly, as they are reeling under economic pressures and public opinion. Obama too is feeling the heat of the lack of finances. At the same his not-so-reliable ally, Pakistan, has to be continually fed in the form of dollars, technology and assurances that India’s role in South Asia will be kept under control.

Obama needs a so-called exit strategy, and a robust one that will grant him an untainted image. He needs an exit policy that will neither mar Nobel Obama nor downgrade Patriot Obama. At least the whole burden of failing to capture bin Laden cannot squarely fall on his shoulders.

Obama has only one-and-a-half years more to come up with a magical solution, or at least invent the path to that solution. One reason for this time constraint is that his first year as president was full of rhetoric, big – read empty – promises, learning lessons of the Afghan terrain and surely the Nobel euphoria. Hence, for him time just evaporated.

But by the middle of 2011, the re-election cycle for the next presidency will begin. So he has to show results. If this is not possible in normal mode, he must engineer them.

In this venture, Karzai is the United States’ favorite stooge – externally suave, internally pliable and with a façade of majority public support due to his vote share in the last two presidential elections. In the recently concluded London conference, he came up with the not-so-novel idea of bribing the middle and low-level cadres of the Taliban militia. He also proposed convening a “loya jirga,” or grand council, in order to resolve the eight-year-old war through discussion and persuasion.

On the face of it, the plan appears fine. It has been implemented to a successful degree in Saudi Arabia. Indian policymakers also regularly use it in Kashmir. And where finance is one of the driving forces of the insurgency, using money to wean away the peripheral Taliban cadres is a welcome idea. But even if the program turns out to be a success, one needs to look at the various possibilities of its aftermath.

Can the loyalty of Taliban members really be bought? Would ideology not play a role? Would Karzai’s lack of credibility not stand in the way of wooing the Taliban? How will the Taliban be re-integrated into Afghan society? Many of them might be injected into the Afghan National Army. If that happens, it could prepare the ground for more hardcore Taliban to usurp authority once the U.S.-NATO forces depart.

In these circumstances, Obama is desperately seeking a solution to this Afghan tangle. The United States was in Vietnam for 15 years; its occupation of Afghanistan is just short of a decade, and the country has grown restless. The human casualties and the economic downturn have started to take a heavy toll on the U.S. psyche. Furthermore, the historical follies of the Soviets and the British are repeatedly cautioning them.

On one hand, Washington is not very keen to hold onto the land of poppies, but on the other hand, it feels it would be demeaning to leave. The United States faces a similar problem in Iraq.

Analysts may denounce the proposed “bribe and run” policy, or hate the good Taliban, bad Taliban distinction, but at the end of the day, it is the United States’ war on terror. It was never a proper global war on terror. And the country has to consider its profits and losses.

With or without the United States, Karzai or no Karzai, 2011 or 2016 – it really does not matter because the Taliban exists and will continue to exist in Afghanistan. The members of the Taliban seem to be the actual winners, at least in terms of currency. It really pays to be a Taliban.

07 February, 2010

Caught in the Crossfire


Abstract: Since their inception, India and Pakistan have quarreled, fought in the international arena and waged four major battles in the last six decades. Instead of hurling polemic at each other over the Kashmir chessboard, have the respective governments ever gone for introspection regarding their internal disturbances, whose patterns may not be very dissimilar from each other. This article objectively attempts to correlate the socio-economic similarities and bring out the parallels between the two major internal insurgencies that both India and Pakistan are facing for decades.

The People

Sodi Sambo is a tribal woman from a hamlet named Gompar. The village is located within the confines of Dantewada district in the central Indian province of Chhattisgarh. She is expected to be in her late twenties. Allegedly, she was shot in her leg on 01 October 2009 by members of the Indian police.

From her written complaint as lodged to the Superintendent of Police of Dantewada on 18 October 2009, it can be inferred that the shooting carried out by the security personnel lacked rationale. According to her testimony; on 01 October 2009, several Police officers and other militiamen (in Chhattisgarh, police is aided by local militiamen to curb a non-state actor led insurgency) abducted her along with her two infant daughters. They were then taken to a neighbour’s house. Thereafter, she was shot at the foot.

In the aftermath, she lost some two to three inches of the tibia bone in her leg.

In the process, she remained the prime witness to the homicide of nine other tribals.

On 20 October 2009, Sodi Sambo was admitted in St Stephen's Hospital, Delhi. After undergoing preliminary test, she was operated upon. The doctors instructed her to return at the end of 2009 in order to continue her treatment.

Events that unfolded since then have been quite befuddling.
On the night of 02 January 2010, Sambo was put on a bus to Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh. But police did not allow her to move to the capital. The next morning when Himanshu Kumar, a noted Gandhian from Dantewada escorted Sambo, policemen followed them and took them to custody.

When activists from across the country started making protest calls to the state government, police allowed Himanshu Kumar to leave, but did not free Sambo on the pretext of recording her statement.
On 07 January 2010, the Supreme Court of India directed the Chhattisgarh government not to obstruct Sodi Sambo to visit Delhi for treatment.
At the time of writing the piece, latest reports suggest that she has been admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi to receive medical treatment. But media personnel and human rights activists have been disallowed to meet her in person.

Sodi Sambo is not alone undergoing this tribulation. There have been many tribal men and women who have suffered or are still suffering at the hands of State oppression. They have been easy preys to both the security personnel as well as the leftist-ultras waging war against the Indian state.


Ali Asghar Bungalzai is a thirty eight year-old tailor based in Quetta, the capital of the Balochistan province in Pakistan. In October 2001, he was picked up by the military. The intelligence officials assured his family about his release. But he was not traceable. Between 2006 and 2007, his teenaged children protested outside the press club at Quetta continuously for more than a year. Furthermore, the then Governor had assured action. Still, Asghar remains in oblivion.

Another despondent story is of Zakir Majeed Baloch’s, who went missing on 08 June 2009. He is a leader of the Baloch Students Organisation. Allegedly, he was taken away by the state intelligence agency. Majeed went missing while he was travelling by road between Mastung and Khuzdar. It was not the first time that he had been abducted. He was picked up twice before in 2007 and 2008 respectively. In fact, after his release in 2008, he said that he had been detained and tortured at the Qulli camp, a military detention centre in the Quetta Cantonment.
There are similar tales of disappearance and state arbitrariness in Balochistan.

The History

Be it Chattisgarh or Balochistan, the picture is not very different. Both the provinces are populated by tribal elements who either willfully or inadvertently, have been marginalized in their respective socio-political architectures. Moreover, both the regions are rich in mineral resources which are being extracted to the benefit of externals while the indigenous remain deprived. Furthermore, engulfed in a rugged topography both the provinces lag in economic indicators. And employment remains a difficult proposition.

According to the Social Policy and Development Centre (SPDC) in Karachi, Balochistan has the highest levels of poverty in Pakistan, nearly double that of Punjab. Over half the population resides below the official poverty line and less than fifty per cent have access to potable water. Barely fifty per cent of children of Balochistan attend primary school. And electricity is supplied to a meagre twenty per cent of the citizenry.

In the Indian perspective, Chattisgarh is not the only province which houses such a human clamour accompanied by rebellious subalterns. Factually speaking, twenty-five per cent of the districts of the country are affected by the armed peasant-tribal uprising, famously termed as the “Naxal Uprising”.

Expectedly, Chhattisgarh also takes a cue from Balochistan in appalling socio-economic indicators. Interestingly, there is insufficient data available regarding the construction of the Human Development Index for the province. The districts which are at the rock bottom are the areas in which the insurgents are mostly active.

Similarly, Balochistan is also reeling under tribal dissention for decades. The genesis of the problem may be traced to the 1950s when the said province got divided into two halves, the eastern one passing under Iran and the western one being co-opted by Pakistan. The citizenry has faced iron-willed state apparatus in several phases in the last six decades. The most deadly battle took place during 1973 – 77. The present bellicose phase commenced from 2005 and a lethal combination of the Balochistan National Party and Balochistan Liberation Army is upholding the torch of rebellion.

On the other hand, the armed rebellion that India is witnessing in its forest areas has its roots in 1967 when the ‘Naxal’ uprising took place in the ‘Naxalbari’ district of the eastern province of West Bengal (Eastern Bengal is present Bangladesh). The then ‘Naxals’ are now being termed as ‘Maoists’. Only the nomenclature has changed, but the essence of the problem remains. At that juncture, the movement was temporarily curbed by the ‘state apparatus’. What the Indian authorities and policy-makers failed to address, was not the ‘law and order’ problem but the development and empowerment issues (or the lack of those) at the grass-root level which helped form the backbone of the movement.

In 2004, the erstwhile Peoples War Group (PWG) and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) commingled to form the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Presently, their area of influence basically stretches from the Indo-Nepal border in the north to the southern part of the sub-continent; cutting across several provinces in its trajectory.

The headquarters of the guerrillas is in the dense forests of Central India. Thus the province of Chattisgarh is at the focal point of the movement.

Benevolent State?

Both the nation-states of Pakistan and India have tried to mitigate matters by pumping in legislations. The former brought in the package called Aghaaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan whereas the latter expounded the Tribal Rights Act. In a candid manner, in the Preamble of the package, the Pakistani government has admitted the ‘deprivation’ that the Baloch people have faced. And the policy-makers seem to be ‘determined to correct the wrongs of history’. The present political dispensation has tried to usher in an era of social, economic and political autonomy for the masses in Balochistan.

On a similar note, The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, is a key piece of forest legislation passed in the Indian parliament in December, 2006. It pertains to the rights of forest-dwelling communities over land and other resources, which was denied to them over decades as a result of the continuance of colonial forest laws.
The law seeks to redress the ‘historical injustice’ committed against forest dwellers.The said Act was notified into force on 31 December 2007.

Looking Ahead

Any insurgency is parasitic, as far as the politico-economic vitality of a modern nation-state is concerned. Laws are fine, as far as amelioration of the affected populace is concerned. But the moot point is the ‘political will’ regarding the applicability of such laws. Plethora of legislations notwithstanding, the firmness of the regime in helm of affairs is tested to the hilt in the face of challenges such as these.

Both the governments have followed a ‘dual policy’ of military containment of the rebels, complimenting it with packages embossed with ‘human face’ to woo the subalterns. The modus operandi relies on military action supplemented by propaganda against the ‘terrorists’. But is this the only way out? Should not the ‘wise heads’ search for a modus vivendi? The need to avoid ‘Chhattis-tans’ and ‘Baloch-garhs’ is an imperative.
Transcending borders, the two nation-states of India and Pakistan would not indulge in any scholarly pain whatsoever to discover the bitter enmity gripping their histories. Still, they would be regularly finding the ‘blind spot’ in inventing their lacunae regarding governance and more so to acknowledge the same.

The ‘belief’ and furthermore the ‘acceptance’ of living under the same firmament and facing the same hurdles, at least on the domestic front, can very well assuage the friction between the two countries. And hence, the ‘mutual effrontery’ may be diminished.

Rather than bickering and fueling animosity, achieving a milieu of ‘pluralism’, ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘allowing hundred flowers to bloom’ should be the hymns for the elites of both the nations. One needs to appreciate that cross-border terrorism is not the only form of ‘insurgency’ that South Asia suffers from. The cobweb of bearishness in the respective domestic circuits needs to be torn apart and the prevalent ‘skulduggery’ in the bilateral relation be nobbled. For that, the politicos, activists, media et al. must tie their laces; lest submergence under the deluge of ‘tribal jacqueries’ be an inevitability.