Trash the Nukes in 2010
By Jonathan Power


If in 2010 the big nuclear weapons powers and UN Security Council permanent members- the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France - don’t make significant reductions with their nuclear weapons then an important opportunity will be lost.

Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev appear to be of a mind on this.

One has to go back to the presidencies of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson to get the full picture on the dismal progress on nuclear disarmament. Their Defence Secretary, Robert McNamara, told both presidents nuclear weapons were unusable. Henry Kissinger, when National Security Advisor to President Richard Nixon, publically said the same, chiding the Europeans for thinking that they were under an American umbrella. He told them bluntly that America would never sacrifice its own cities to revenge European ones.

Later President Ronald Reagan was quite clear that he could never push the nuclear button and that all nuclear weapons must be quickly abolished. He came close to striking a deal with the Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, at their summit in Reykjavik when only the intransigence of the Russians in refusing to lift their objection to testing missile defences in the laboratory.

In recent years not only was Robert McNamara on the warpath on behalf of radical disarmament, so have been the former bastion of the nuclear weapons’ establishment, Paul Nitze, who was the chief negotiator on the old Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties (START), General the military chief in charge of nuclear weapons and their launching, Henry Kissinger himself and a long list of ex military commanders and political figures, both left and right.

President Bill Clinton must suffer much of the blame for slowing disarmament talks down to a snail’s pace. It was an unforgivable sin. Here was a president who inherited the peace brought about by presidents George Bush Senior and Boris Yeltsin and yet put it on the shelf for want of drive, even interest. President George W. Bush quickly struck a handsome deal with President Vladimir Putin to shelve over a thousand big rockets and their warheads in storage. It is in fact the template for what should be done now. Once the present negations are wrapped up on renewing and extending quite dramatically cuts under the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty the two leaders should meet and decide to put the rest of their nuclear missiles on the shelf. They should initially keep a hundred or so out of the approximately 6,000 that used to exist  in order to persuade Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea  and Israel to join the bandwagon. All of them would find themselves including North Korea- under irresistible pressure to disarm.

In the “in-club” there is a lot of talk these days of taking a step at a time. For example, to get the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty agreed- a cause that has been on the table since Kennedy embraced it. Under Clinton it did come before Congress for ratification, but Clinton made no big effort to get it through. Another favourite is to work on the reduction of the smaller and simpler to discuss tactical (or battlefield) nuclear weapons, dangerously under the control of field commanders and often improperly stored in Russia. In some cases they have been found protected by a single barbed wire fence.

Then there is the campaign to hold both powers to a “no first use” pledge, a load of codswallop if there was real tension and life or death issues at stake.

Obama is temperamentally tuned to taking big leaps that ignore the conventional wisdom. A reading of his Nobel Prize winning speech with his accent on “love” between nations is path breaking. Medvedev comes across as a principled and idealistic man. His mentor Prime Minister Putin shows no sign he would want to hold him back on this issue. Someone has to start the ball rolling. Best if they hold hands and do it together. 

(Courtesy Khaleej Times)






Biggest Threat to Tehran is Not from Opposition
By Selig S. Harrison


The biggest threat to the ruling ayatollahs and generals in multi-ethnic Iran does not come from the embattled democratic opposition movement struggling to reform the Islamic Republic.

It comes from increasingly aggressive separatist groups in Kurdish, Baloch, Azeri and Arab ethnic minority regions that collectively make up some 44 percent of Persian-dominated Iran’s population. Working together, the democratic reform movement and the ethnic insurgents could seriously undermine the republic. But the reform movement, like most of the clerical, military and business establishment, is dominated by an entrenched Persian elite and has so far refused to support minority demands.

What the minorities want is greatly increased economic development spending in the non-Persian regions, a bigger share of the profits from oil and other natural resources in their areas, the unfettered use of non-Persian languages in education and politics and freedom from religious persecution. Some minority leaders believe these goals can be achieved through regional autonomy under the existing Constitution, but most of them want to reconstitute Iran as a loose confederation or to declare independence. Should the United States give money and weapons aid to the ethnic insurgents?

During the Bush administration, a debate raged between White House advocates of “regime change” in Tehran, who favoured large-scale covert action to break up the country, and State Department moderates who argued that all-out support of the minorities would complicate negotiations on a nuclear deal with the dominant Persians.

The result was a compromise: limited covert action carried out by proxy, in the case of the Baluch, through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate or, ISI, and in the case of the Kurds by the CIA in cooperation with Israel’s Mossad. My knowledge of the ISI’s role is based on first-hand Pakistani sources, including Baloch leaders. Evidence of the CIA role in providing weapons aid and training to Pejak, the principal Kurdish rebel group in Iran, has been spelt out by three US journalists, Jon Lee Anderson and Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker and Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times, who have interviewed a variety of Pejak leaders.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaking in the Kurdish city of Bijar, charged on May 12 that the Obama administration had not reversed the Bush policy. “Unfortunately, money, arms and organisation are being used by the Americans directly across our western borders in order to fight the Islamic Republic’s system,” he declared. “The Americans are busy making a conspiracy.”

Mossad has long-standing contacts with Kurdish groups in Iran and Iraq established when the United States and Israel wanted to destabilise the Kurdish areas of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. But now the United States wants a united Iraq in which Kurds, Shias and Sunnis cooperate. Iran, too, wants a united Iraq because it fears cooperation among its own Kurds and those in Iraq and Turkey to create an independent Kurdistan. So aiding Pejak would hamper future Iran-US cooperation in Baghdad in addition to complicating the nuclear negotiations. Both the Baloch and the Kurds are Sunni Muslims. They are fighting vicious Shia religious repression in addition to cultural and economic discrimination. By contrast, the biggest of the minorities, the Turkic-speaking Azeris, are Shia, and Ayatollah Khamenei himself is an Azeri. His selection as the supreme leader was in part a gesture to the Azeris designed to cement their allegiance to Iran and to blunt a covert campaign by ethnic kinsmen in adjacent Azerbaijan to annex them. The Azeris in Iran are better off economically than the other minorities but feel that the Persians look down on them. Prolonged rioting erupted for days after a Tehran newspaper published a cartoon in May 2006, depicting an Azeri-speaking cockroach.

The Arabs in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, who are also Shia, pose the most dangerous potential separatist threat to Tehran because the province produces 80 percent of Iran’s crude oil revenue. So far the divided Arab separatist factions have not created a militia but they periodically raid government security installations, bomb oil production facilities and broadcast propaganda in Arabic on satellite TV channels from shifting locations outside Iran.

The most serious military clashes between the Revolutionary Guards and separatist groups have come on the Kurdish border, where Iran repeatedly bombarded Pejak hideouts in September 2007, and in Baluchistan, where the Guards frequently suffers heavy casualties in clashes with militias of the Jundullah movement operating out of camps just across the border in the Baluch areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Compared to the massive protests in the streets of Tehran and Qum, the uncoordinated harassment of the regime by ethnic insurgents may seem like a sideshow. But if the ethnic insurgents could unite and if the democratic opposition could forge a united front with the minorities, the prospects for reforming or toppling the Islamic Republic, now dismal, would brighten.

For the present, the Obama administration should tread with the utmost care in dealing with this sensitive issue, guided by a recognition that support for separatism and engagement with the present regime are completely incompatible. 






Gulf’s Narcotic Noose
By Faryal Leghari


The emergence of the Dark Continent on the key intersection of intercontinental drug trafficking has sounded off alarm bells in the power corridors of the world.

It is even more alarming for the neighbouring Gulf States that have, owing to their geostrategic position, long lured organised crime syndicates for use as an ideal trans-shipment zone.  This is despite the deterrent of capital punishment for traffickers, and one that is often implemented in some states.  Besides, the influx of narcotics, even if it is meant for onwards shipment has a definite fallout in terms of drug usage in the region.

Not only are the implications grave in terms of soft security, what is more worrying is the establishment of a nexus between terrorists, organised crime syndicates and drug traffickers.  The head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Antonio Maria Costas in fact urged the Security Council member states to fight this network before it gets out of control. With some West and East African states undergoing political and economic instability, organised crime syndicates have been enjoying a free hand at running a variety of operations.  This includes drugs and human trafficking and illegal weapon trade among others. Besides, terrorist groups are believed to have forged ties with corrupt and criminal elements and are using these channels to fund their activities.

The UN report highlights the Saharan belt network that almost spans the breadth of northern Africa. Coastal states in West Africa provide an ideal zone for South American cocaine shipments that are brought in from Venezuela.  On arrival, the cocaine is transported by networks inside Africa for cross-continental deliveries to the east and the northern ports for Europe. States like Guinea-Bassau in the northwest provide an ideal re-launching hub for these illicit consignments. A lack of state institutions, security apparatus and ineffective governance has led to lawlessness and the establishment of a thriving smuggling zone. The east is no better. With states like Somalia battling an extremist Islamist insurgency, instability is on the rise. On the threshold of becoming a failed state, Somalia faces a bigger problem at sea. Its pirates have gained worldwide notoriety for their aggressive hostage taking of international ships and oil tankers for millions in ransom.  Plus the eastern coast receives a far more lethal narcotic heroin coming from Afghanistan.  Trafficked by sea or air from South West Asia, these shipments often exchange hands with other couriers in the neighbouring Gulf States.  Traffickers, particularly favour Yemen for routing shipments to Africa and Gulf States.  It is largely because of the lack of effective security to control illicit trafficking that is inadvertently aided by the political instability inside the country.

The efforts of trafficking groups to explore the market potential in the Gulf States have posed a serious security challenge for the region. Targeting a largely affluent population base, particularly among the youth, the aim is to establish a thriving consumer base.  Unemployment and ample financial resources are the pulling factors for traffickers.

The transit drug trade, in particular, has hit hard at UAE and Saudi Arabia. The spiraling rise in drug abusers in Iran is testament to the fact that even transit states inevitably see large-scale drug abuse among its population. Iran and Pakistan’s drug abuse population that is n millions is directly attributed to them sharing borders with Afghanistan and bearing the brunt of the transit opiate trade.

Besides heroin, hashish from South West Asia and synthetic drugs including amphetamines from the Far East and Europe are also being trafficked to the region.  Saudi Arabia in particular is battling a widespread addiction of Captagone  a stimulant drug that falls under banned substances whose abuse is rampant among its younger population.  Heroin abuse in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait is also on the rise. While these states have beefed up security at entry points and are committed to intelligence sharing with states that serve as origin points, the situation credits more concerted efforts. The good news is that there is a discernible change in form of public awareness campaigns warning of dangers of drug abuse and provision of health services for the cure and rehabilitation of addicts.  Once a taboo subject, drug addiction is now deserving due attention. It is heartening to note that the Gulf States with help of international organisations have taken the anti-drug drive to the public sector.  Not only is drug abuse a major socio-economic liability it directly impacts law and order, thus meriting additional efforts at fighting the malaise.

The use of the narcotics for funding terrorism and anti-state insurgencies is no secret.  It is now an established fact that the Taleban-Al Qaeda alliance has been effectively using the prolific opium income to fund their fight against the coalition forces. While Africa ticks away as a potential time bomb in terms of instability it serves an ideal recruiting ground for terrorists. Intelligence reports of the growing influence of Al Qaeda and affiliated groups in Yemen and Somalia have already upset the regional equilibrium.

There is apprehension about increased narcotics trafficking in the region, given the intelligence coming in of terrorist groups collaboration with drug traffickers. Afghanistan and Africa might not be sharing borders with the Gulf, but they are geographically proximate to bear directly on the security front.  This calls for additional resourcing to counter the challenge. Any effective counter narcotics and counterterrorism strategy owes its success to intelligence and stringent security measures. While the situation in the Gulf is still under control, it does require a more integrated regional strategy, one that will be the most effective countermeasure. 






An Indo-China Equation
By Sadanand Dhume


While the Western media speculate about so-called ’Chindia’s challenge to developed nations,’ the two Asian giants are increasingly bickering in public.

Both their media have taken their gloves off and there is tension along their frozen borders. A spat between the two leading countries that have pushed globalisation forward could have a serious impact on a rapidly integrating world. But against this backdrop of heightened rhetoric and tit-for-tat exchanges, the odds of calm heads prevailing in both Beijing and New Delhi appear high.

For the first time in more than a decade since India used a perceived threat from China to justify its 1998 nuclear tests the world’s two most populous nations find themselves bickering in public. In recent months, China turned up the heat on a long-standing border disagreement over the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh; subtly challenged India’s claim over the disputed territory of Kashmir; and stepped up criticism of India in its official media. For its part, India has beefed up its defenses on the border with China; pointedly underlined its own territorial claims, reiterated its support for the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader; the Dalai Lama; and expelled thousands of unskilled Chinese workers. The message: India will be not be pushed around by its larger neighbour.

The two countries which between them account for about a third of the world’s population have not fought a war since the Chinese briefly marched into eastern India in 1962.

At the same time, the public sparring is evidence of a heightened, and innately volatile, competition between nuclear-armed countries that see themselves as ancient civilisations marching toward a renewed global pre-eminence. How the two nations manage their relations has vast implications for the region and the world. Until now, no country has had to choose between an already imposing China and a fast-rising India. Indeed many, especially in Southeast Asia, welcome India’s role as a natural counterweight to Chinese hegemony. An escalating conflict, however, could force countries to step off the fence, and either acquiesce to or openly oppose China’s ambition to be Asia’s unquestioned heavyweight.

The room for miscalculation appears greater on Beijing’s side than New Delhi’s. Still basking in the afterglow of the successful 2008 Olympics, with a rapidly modernising military and an economy three times the size of India’s and growing faster the Chinese may be tempted to settle talk of parity between the two nations once and for all. As in 1962, a decisive Chinese victory in a short war would severely dent India’s ambition to be seen as a peer. It would also cap the long-standing Chinese strategy of penning India in a regional box by cultivating strong ties with nations on its border Myanmar, Bangladesh and, especially, Pakistan. Domestic compulsions may also explain Chinese behavior. Uneven development and a paucity of human rights have stoked ethnic tensions among Buddhists in Tibet and Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. Indeed, China’s vocal disputation of India’s claim to Arunachal Pradesh referred to as southern Tibet by Beijingis motivated, at least in part, by worries that Tibetans will nominate a successor to the current Dalai Lama from an area outside Chinese control.

The border dispute dates back to 1914, when the British drew the so-called McMahon line between the two countries.  Over the past six years, 13 rounds of talks have failed to produce an agreement. In June, China upped the ante by voting against a $2.9 billion Asian Development Bank loan to India, a small portion of which was to be used for irrigation projects in Arunachal Pradesh, on India’s side of the McMahon line. At first New Delhi mustered enough support within the ADB to override Chinese objections, but in subsequent negotiations China with support from Japan, Korea and Australia effectively blocked the portion of the loan meant for the disputed province.

In November, Beijing objected publicly to a visit to Tawang home to a historic Buddhist monastery and the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama (1683-1706)by the Dalai Lama. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman attacked the exiled leader, who has lived in India since fleeing Tibet in 1959, for his “separatist” activities, and accused him of “acts to sabotage China’s relations with other countries.” Nonetheless, out of deference to Chinese sensitivities, India characterised the visit as purely religious and forbade the international media from reporting on the visit from Tawang.

Despite the effort by New Delhi to downplay the extent of its deteriorating ties with Beijing, a host of smaller incidents also underscore India’s concerns about its giant neighbour. India has filed more anti-dumping cases against China in the World Trade Organisation than any other nation and has banned the import of Chinese toys, milk and chocolate, ostensibly for safety reasons. This summer India changed its visa regulations in a way that will effectively force several thousand unskilled Chinese workers many of them employed in infrastructure projects to leave the country. India has also objected strongly to the Chinese embassy in New Delhi issuing visas to Indian nationals from the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir on a separate slip of paper, a sign that China does not recognise India’s claim to the territory.

Nevertheless, in the short and medium term, neither China nor India both focused primarily on economic development have any interest in allowing their disagreements to spin out of control. In the longer term, however, for Beijing to manage successfully its relationship with New Delhi, it must learn to see India as Indians see it. Despite poor infrastructure, greater poverty and a smaller economy, Indians broadly view their country as China’s peer. India’s foreign policy establishment and strategic elite are more than willing to respect core Chinese concerns on sensitive issues such as Tibet, Taiwan and Xinjiang. They also see a natural confluence of interests in bilateral trade despite concerns about dumping, China is India’s top trading partner and in a unified approach to climate change. Both countries resist binding caps on, and international scrutiny of, their carbon emissions.

At the same time, India’s raucous democracy, vibrant free press and sense of impending arrival on the world stage make it nearly impossible for New Delhi to make concessions to Beijing that signal a loss of face. A belligerent China only fans Indian fears and pushes it toward deeper strategic co-operation with the United States. It also destabilises the region by raising the stakes for Southeast Asian nations that would like to see both nations prosper rather than be forced to take sides. How Beijing manages its fraught relationship with New Delhi will go a long way toward reassuring Asia’s smaller nations of the credibility behind China’s often stated “peaceful rise” theory. 







India withdraws 30,000 troops from held Kashmir
By Iftikhar Gilani


India on Friday claimed to have withdrawn nearly 30,000 troops from Indian-held Kashmir (IHK) to facilitate peace.

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of a seminar on human rights, Defence Minister AK Antony said, “Two army divisions, consisting of around 30,000 troops, have been moved out of IHK due to improvement in the situation there,” adding that more troops could be withdrawn if the state government demanded.

Antony’s announcement comes days after Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram informed parliament that troop reduction in IHK was on the cards after an improvement in the overall security situation in the region.

Chidambaram had said that Delhi would withdraw a significant number of troops from IHK due to a sharp fall in unrest. He said the government was planning to increase the role of the state police to maintain security.

Army sources said the 39th Mountain Division based in Rajouri and Poonch had been withdrawn and moved to their original base in Palampur in nearby Himachal Pradesh.

“These divisions have been withdrawn and have reached their base,” army spokesman Colonel Om Singh said.

Not reduced: Singh said the number of soldiers deployed along the Line of Control (LoC) the de facto border that divides the territory between Pakistan and India have not been reduced, AFP reported.

He said the shifting process was started in August and completed in November. The 39th Mountain Division had been shifted to the Rajouri and Poonch border districts to assist the joint security grid in conducting counter-insurgency operations and undertake counter-infiltration measures in 1994.

The division was not only involved in counter-insurgency in collaboration with police and paramilitary forces, but also had the responsibility of preventing infiltration along the LoC in Rajouri and Poonch sectors.

Also, 10 more battalions have been withdrawn under slow troop thinning exercise in the past four months from IHK. Police sources said as many as seven battalions of the Central Reserve Police force (CRPF) and three battalions of the Border Security Force (BSF) had so far been withdrawn from the region.

Sources said the CRPF had mostly been withdrawn from IHK and parts of Doda belt, while the BSF had been withdrawn from Ramban and Rajouri areas. “Adequate security measures have been put in place. There is no need to worry. More India Reserve Police Battalions are being raised to strengthen the police force in the state,” a Home Ministry source said.