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Iran to step up Afghan presence

March 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Iran to step up Afghan presence

ATUL ANEJA

Within days of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Kabul, Iran has decided to increase its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan’s sensitive border province of Nimroz.

Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency (FNA) is reporting that Tehran is planning to establish its consulate, during the Iranian New Year, starting from March 21.

“According to our country’s Foreign Minister, Iran’s consulate in Afghanistan’s Nimroz province will be opened in the near future,” an Iranian official was quoted as saying.

Iran has a special security interest in Nimroz, which borders the country’s turbulent Sistan-Balochistan province. Analysts say Iran has been badly hit by cross-border movement of drugs and militants into the Sistan-Balochistan province, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan. Zaranj, the capital of Nimroz province, is also important for Iran’s trade with Afghanistan. Goods from the Iranian port of Chabahar, after being ferried through Iranian territory, can be taken inside Afghanistan across a 215 km India-built highway from Zaranj to Delaram, a key junction connected to major Afghan cities.

Last month Iran captured Abdolmalek Rigi, leader of the Jundallah group which has been accused of masterminding several militant attacks including assassination of senior Iranian military commanders in Sistan-Balochistan.

Observers say Iran’s diplomatic assertion in Afghanistan acquired high visibility during the visit on March 10 to Kabul by Mr. Ahmadinejad.

The visit has been followed up by a flurry of diplomatic activity involving Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Iran’s Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar is set to meet his counterparts from Afghanistan and Pakistan in Islamabad this month. Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has said a summit of the leaders from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan is also on the anvil. Iran’s state-run Press TV quoted Mr. Mottaki as saying the idea was discussed during Mr. Ahmadinejad’s visit to Kabul, just before Mr. Karzai left for Islamabad on an official visit.

Crazy Zionists and Their “Temple Mount” Plot

March 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Hamas: ‘Hurva’ Synagogue a Declaration of War; Israel Playing With Fire

Hanan Awarekeh

16/03/2010 Israel has opened the so-called “Hurva” (Ruin) synagogue in occupied Jerusalem (al-Quds) on Monday, in a move backed by the United States and ignited angry protests by Palestinians in the holy city and elsewhere in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Hamas announced Tuesday a “day of rage” a day following the opening of the synagogue a few hundred meters from the al-Aqsa Mosque in.

A joint Palestinian factions’ statement read by Hamas’ Politburo Chief Khaled Meshaal in Damascus on Monday, described the synagogue opening as “a declaration of war” because of its direct threat to the holy site. “It is part of a project to destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque” and replace it with Israel’s so-called “Solomon’s Temple.”

Mashaal slammed Tel Aviv’s “falsification of history and Jerusalem’s religious and historic monuments”. “Israel is playing with fire and touching off the first spark to make the region explode,” he said.

Large Israeli occupation forces continued to deploy throughout the occupied city, with 3,000 policemen and border officers stationed in the area and in neighboring villages, where hundreds of Palestinians clashed with the occupation police early Tuesday.

Israeli police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades at protesters who hurled rocks at occupation security forces in the Shuafat refugee camp.

In a video message to the opening ceremony, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu claimed that the synagogue brought a message of religious coexistence. “We permit believers of other faiths to conserve their places of worship. We proudly protect our heritage, while at the same time allowing others freedom of religion,” he said.

Netanyahu’s speech came while Palestinian men under the age of 50 were barred from entering the al-Aqsa Mosque compound for a fourth day and will continue for the fifth day. Members of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee are set to hold a procession in the east of the city on Wednesday.

Israeli Housing Minister Ariel Atias used the occasion to stress construction in Jerusalem will continue. “We have thousands of housing units in 2010, and no government has allowed a dialogue about the right to build in Jerusalem,” the Israeli minister said.

Palestinians both in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip closed ranks to condemn the Israeli move.

Head of al-Quds international institution, Dr. Ahmed Abu Halabiya, warned the opening of the synagogue in al-Quds was part of an Israeli plan “to build a Jewish temple on al-Aqsa ruins.”

Hamas called on Arab and Islamic governments to shoulder the responsibility of protecting Al-Quds and the Aqsa Mosque. The movement also urged PA chief Mahmoud Abbas and his entourage to end the futile negotiations with the Israeli occupation government and to return to the ranks of the Palestinian resistance to confront the occupation and its schemes.

Senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Zahhar leveled scathing criticism to the occupation government saying: “You who are opening Hurva are heading towards ruin. Wherever you have been you’ve been sent to your destruction. You’ve killed and murdered your prophets and you have always dealt in loan-sharking and destruction,” he said Monday, during a conference of Palestinian groups in Gaza.

“You’re destined to be destroyed. You’ve made a deal with the devil and with destruction itself – just like your synagogue,” al-Zahhar said.

He urged the Arab world to respond to “Israel’s crimes and protect the sites that are holy to Muslims and Christians from the Zionists’ racist onslaught”.

Moreover, Political bureau member of Hamas Ezzet Al-Resheq said the synagogue served as a cornerstone for the Judaization of Jerusalem, warning in a press release on Monday the Israeli occupation authority of the repercussions of the aggressive policy against Al-Quds and the Aqsa Mosque.

Hatem Abdel Qader, the Palestinian Authority’s official in charge of al-Quds affairs, expressed concern over what he described as “not just a synagogue.” “This synagogue will be a prelude to violence, extremism and religious fanaticism, and that will not be limited to extremist Jews but includes members of the Israeli government,” he warned.

The US State Department, however, criticized Palestinian comments for “mischaracterizing the event in question, which can only serve to heighten the tensions we see.”

The US support for the opening of the synagogue raises serious questions over a purported dispute between Tel Aviv and Washington over the continued Israeli settlement construction. Some analysts argue that the ostensible tensions are to provide a cover for Israel’s encroach upon Palestinian and Islamic identity of al-Quds

After massive Foreign Policy failure Delhi needs new strategy

March 18, 2010 1 comment

After massive Foreign Policy failure Delhi needs new strategy

Bharati diplomacy is at a stalemate. It cannot win for losing. It has tried the sabotage Pakistan–trying to force it to cry Uncle strategy. Its support for the TTP, and the BlA has has turned world opinion against Delhi. It tried to muscle in to Tajikistan–and had to face reversals after China and even Russia asked them to leave. Delhi then tried to dump Karzai and support Abdullah Abdullah–something that backfired in a big way. Now Karzai is firmly in the Pakistan camp. Delhi then tried to ego massage the Saudis into getting a role in Afghanistan. They faced a No-bid in Riyadh. Even the Putin card failed when, when an embarrassed host had to hear Putin eulogize Pakistan–in Delhi. It strategy to bifurcate Afghanistan have been exposed. India using ‘aid’ to Kabul- to split Afghanistan

Ashok Mehta in the Daily Pioneer describes the political topography succinctly.

By acknowledging Pakistan’s pivotal role in peace and stability in Afghanistan, and downgrading India’s importance, Mr Karzai has made a dramatic turnaround from the days he refused to shake hands with President Pervez Musharraf. On a visit to Islamabad last week he described India “as a close friend of Afghanistan but Pakistan is a brother of Afghanistan. Pakistan is a twin brother. We are conjoined twins. There is no separation”. He has realised that without the Generals in Pakistan, there can be no reconciliation with the Taliban. Further in Islamabad he emphasised Afghanistan’s neutrality and stressed he did not want proxy wars between India and Pakistan and the US and Iran.

It now obvious that the geo strategic location of Pakistan has made it an important ally for America in Afghanistan. The pugnacious Pakistanis are playing their cards well in the face of horrible odds. The tripartite agreement with Iran and Afghanistan gave them leverage to impact the Regional Conference in Istanbul–which enabled them to get a sane resolution at the London Conference on Afghanistan. Indian presence in Afghanistan is history!

After the London Conference, both the US-led coalition and Afghanistan have put all their eggs in the Pakistani basket. What is not clear is US intention: Cut and run or stay the course beyond 2012. For the present it seems mid-2011 is only the time line for thinning out to commence and not any upstick of forces. A process of handing-taking over will start, based on a flexible transition timetable, commensurate with political and military capacity-building as well as development. In other words, a sequential transfer of authority to the Afghan Government, including ownership of the peace process.

Shaping up are two scenarios: A Karzai-led inclusive Government; a Taliban-led or dominated regime. Pakistan’s flag flies higher than India’s in Afghanistan. India’s stature has diminished due to a number of reasons: Rejection of its passionate advocacy that talking to Taliban is like frying snowflakes; not being consulted on AfPak; not invited to the Istanbul Conference and being sidelined at the London Conference. The final blow was the deadly third targeted attack last month against Indian interests in Kabul in which, among others, three Army Majors teaching English to the Afghan Army were killed. India diminished in Afghanistan, Ashok K Mehta. The Daily Pioneer.

What Fareed Zakaria describes as the success of Obama’s Afghanistan-Pakistan policy is actually the Pakistani policy from the very start. In 2001 the Pakistanis told the Americans not to attack Pakistan and bring about a regime change with the moderate Taliban. That sane advice was ignored. America after banging its head for a decade clearly realizes that victory in Afghanistan is very much dependent on the cooperation of Pakistan. It was hard to get through the American tin ear. It took a decade of body bags going back on C-130s for Washington to see things clearly. The Pakistanis have finally been able to influence American policies  and bring them in line with their strategic interests. Therefore the apparent indifference by the US towards Indian concerns as displayed by the uncharitable remarks of Holbrooke. India is hamstring by these realities, as well as overplaying its cards in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Things are worse for a variety of reasons. Bharat’s  foreign policy mandarins should have carried out a cost-benefit analysis regarding the Afghan mission and adopt a hard headed approach based on withdrawal. However Bharat has been unable to change its course

Chidanand Rjghatta has written an article in Times of India about Bharati (aka Indian) problems with the US. it describes the problems between the US and Bharat. India’s brilliant blunder in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON: The atmospherics are good but the ground realities are unfavourable. India is struggling to stay relevant and advance its geo-political equities with the United States at a time Washington is buffeted by domestic pressures and international crises that are undercutting its resolve to put ties with New Delhi on a higher plane. India out of the loop on Af-Pak,Chidanand Rajghatta, TNN, Mar 18, 2010, 01.13am IST

There is ample evidence, in this Post London Conference that Bharat is having a tough time selling its Anti-Pakistan agenda, which also proposes to bifurcate Afghanistan into Pakhutn and Non-Pakhtun mini-states. Bharat hopes that it will be able to influence the Non-Pakhtun state a bit better. Its entire aid package is built around its own strategic interests which aim to create new roads, and access to Central Asia via the Iranian port of Chahbahar. Bharat cares two hoots about Afghans–all it wants is Bharati goods to reach the markets of Europe and Central Asia. Wall Street’s role in the Indo-U.S. relationship.

Good intentions, broad agenda, and packed schedules notwithstanding, Indian diplomatic foray into Washington this week was notable for gripes and grievances than any significant advancement towards the stated goal of achieving a strategic relationship with the US, foreign secretary Nirupama Rao had a series of meetings on Tuesday, including a drop-in by secretary of state Hillary Clinton at a state department meeting with her counterpart William Burns, but in the end there was no meeting of minds on the most fundamental security issue of the times. India out of the loop on Af-Pak, Chidanand Rajghatta, TNN, Mar 18, 2010, 01.13am IST

The Bharati press is full of gripes about the USA. Fake encounters, and false flags were used to malign Pakistan. Delhi even tried to play the Putin card. Nothing seems to working for the Bharati policy makers.

Rajghatta is behind the times. Using words that have fallen into disrepute shows, that Bharat is still parked in Bushland. Delhi has not realized that Bush is no longer president and the “build India as a counterweight to China” has been sent to the dustbin of history. Rajghatta still wants to use the term Af-Pak, a term hated by both Pakistan and Afghanistan. However Chidanand is right about the fact that the USA and Britain want to get out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible.

India and US disagree on Afghanistan and Pakistan. That much became clear towards the end of the foreign secretary’s visit although elaboration on this issue was foiled by the cancellation of Rao’s wrap-up press meet (Indian Embassy said she was unwell).

At a time when Washington is searching for an exit strategy from the Af-Pak region, a statement released at the end of her visit (in lieu of the cancelled press conference) tersely noted that “she (Rao) reiterated India’s long-held position that it was important for the international community to stay the present course in Afghanistan for as long as it is necessary.” The international community on the other hand wants to get the hell out of Afghanistan — yesterday. Chidanand Rajghatta

One of the biggest hurdles in the US-Bharati relationship is the non-operationalization of the 123-Nuclear deal which languishes on a backburner in Washington.

There were other unresolved issues. Rao’s engagement was also partly torpedoed by the withdrawal by the government of the nuclear liability bill in Parliament hours after her arrival here. As a result, there was little progress on tying up loose ends of the civilian nuclear deal including an agreement on reprocessing although there were brave words about the deal being on track and on schedule. Chidanand Rajghatta

Bharati companies are still on the export control list. Delhi is struggling to get them removed without much luck.

Most notably, on the issue of high-tech cooperation, the Indian side was still pleading for removal of some its organizations from the so-called Entities List, seven years after the establishment of the group. “The Indian side requested the US department of commerce to review US export controls applicable to India and update them to bring them in keeping with the changed political realities that contextualize India-US strategic partnership today,” the concluding statement said…But on the Af-Pak issue, India is clearly out of the loop. Pakistan is again the new game in town. Chidanand Rajghatta

Seema Mustafa has written a prodigiously effulgent article on the malaise of that Bharat (aka India) finds itself in. She writes of Buzz Express–and Indian news outlet. She clearly identifies the reasons for Delhi’s failure and provides a few pointers on new directions in Bharati foreign policy.

Pakistan is America’s strategic ally for Afghanistan to the point where India has been isolated. India, however, continues to strive to hold on to its few assets in Afghanistan in a bid to foil Islamabad’s plans to control Kabul, politically and strategically if and when the Americans manage to execute their exit policy. The attack on the guesthouse in Kabul that is a favourite with visiting Indians was a clear indication that their safety and security is now at high risk. And that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is not just incapable but also unwilling to ensure that all Indians working and living in Kabul are given adequate protection.

Bharat was also unable to make its case on not supplying arms to Islamabad. In fact Washington gifted a squadron of Cobras while Ms. Rao was making the rounds in Washington.

Rao meanwhile was telling think-tankers that Taliban remained untouchables for New Delhi. India’s gripe about US arms to Pakistan also went largely unaddressed. In fact, even as Rao was complaining about the potential use by Pakistan of US-supplied weapons against India, Washington had delivered from its base in Jordan a squadron of 14 AH-1 Cobra advanced helicopter gunships to Pakistan. Chidanand Rajghatta

Seema Mustafa correctly identifies the fact that Kabul, in fact all of Afghanistan is inhospitable for Bharatis.

It is apparent from the few leaked stories that are now appearing in the media that national security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon returned from his visit to Kabul with the distinct impression that Indians there are no longer secure. The government seems to be seriously contemplating reducing the strength of missions in Kabul, and recalling soft targets like doctors and others. It is clear that the decision to send paramilitary forces for the protection of Indians in Afghanistan is not a foolproof arrangement against suicide bombers, and the issue of security will remain wide open.

Like Rajghatta Seema Mustafa laments about Washington, about Mr. Karzai, and about the failure of Bharati policies.

Pakistan has been urging the US to put pressure on India so that it closes its consulates in Afghanistan and curtails its presence in that country. New Delhi refused to succumb to the pressure but clearly now the threat of violence and the lukewarm response of the Karzai government is forcing a decision that does not serve Indian interests in the long run. But the choice is difficult and the government cannot be blamed for whittling down its presence in the violence torn country. Seema Mustafa

Ms. Mustafa complains about Pakistan not wanting to continue talks. The fact remains that it is Delhi that wants talks for the sake of talks–and like a broken record and a bad CD is stuck on the false flag of Mumbai. Bharat has overplayed its hand with the TTP–and now faces world approbation in the form of snubs in London and Washington. Bharati analysts do not realize that they are are barking up the wrong tree. The world is not interested in carping about Mumbai. They see the carnage in Lahore, and suspect Bharat.

The point however, is that Pakistan has decided not to continue talks with India and to keep the hostilities alive so that it does not have to shift the troops from the borders with India into ongoing operations along the Pakistan-Afghan border. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s willingness to talk despite the odds has been interpreted by Islamabad as weakness, and the anti-India cacophony has only intensified as a result.

The hardening of Pakistan policy is evident from this, as well as its decision to parade anti-India jihadi groups on Kashmir Solidarity Day all over that country, and its decision to invite the hardline Kashmiri separatists to visit Pakistan. Islamabad has decided to recognise only the Geelani faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, ignoring the more moderate voice of Mirwaiz Omar Farooq. It has also sought to create a new leadership that can replace the ageing and ailing Geelani, with two new invitees — the rabid Asiya of the Dukhtaran-e-Millat and Adbul Qayum of the Kashmir Bar Council. Seema Mustafa

The malaise in the Bharati foreign policy is evident for all to see. Every analyst worth his or her salt can see the failure. Ms. Mustafa simply consecrates the obvious. Ambassador Bhadrakumar says the same—Delhi lacks the self correcting mechanism to pull itself out of the hole it has dug itself into.

New Delhi seems to be bereft of strategy as the visit of Menon to Kabul suggests. His agenda should have been to get Karzai back on track but clearly he either did not even venture into this territory but this is hard to believe, or he just did not meet with any success. The last seems more likely as Karzai who was always vocal in criticising Pakistan, is now Islamabad’s friend and has moved quite a distance away from India.

The result of what could well be a complete diplomatic misadventure is that India will have a Taliban government sitting in Kabul … The question is not of a good or bad Taliban as everyone knows it is of a pliable and rigid Taliban. And the bad might be present in large numbers in the ‘pliable’ that Pakistan is trying to get to form a government in Kabul. The choices before India are now very few, as the strategists in government should have seen this coming but obviously were too arrogant or blind to sense it. Instead of opening all links with the remnants of the Northern Alliance, the war lords and even sections of the Taliban, Indian foreign policy focused for several years only on the nuclear deal with the US, and the dialogue with Pakistan. Afghanistan was handled in a totally kick jerk fashion and now that New Delhi is waking up to the reality it finds itself pretty much on the periphery with insignificant say in developments in the region. Seema Mustafa

Bharat is packing its bags in Afghanistan. It has had a good run of a decade. Now its time to get the soldiers, and the spies out of Kabul and back to Delhi.

Indian nationals have become the target of the Taliban, which is not fighting the US in the same manner as al-Qaeda. New Delhi does not have the support it needs to protect them, and this has been pretty much made clear to the government here. US envoy Richard Holbrooke’s first comment after the terror attack in Kabul that Indians were not the intended target is a striking example of the US disinterest, and although he retracted later, the message had come through with all its implications. This is adding to muscle-flexing in Islamabad with its foreign minister and prime minister making statements that just do not compliment politicians of their seniority.

This has to stop. And it is time that the PMO, MEA and MHA sat down in strategy sessions, invited strategic experts who necessarily do not see eye to eye with the government, and worked out a strategy for the region that could help India handle Afghanistan and Pakistan from a position of strength and not weakness. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must allow foreign policy and decision making to come back to India from Washington, and evolve a strategy that furthers Indian and not American interests. Seema MustafaFirst Published : 18 Mar 2010 11:42:00 PM IST Seema Mustafa is a commentator on political affairs.

A seminal article that describes the pickle Bharat finds itself in. Here is an excerpt from that article.

If Delhi failed to anticipate this shift in Karzai’s order of priorities, it has only itself to blame. Thus, even in the face of impending realignments in the Afghan political and military situation that were obvious to most perceptive foreign observers, Delhi kept up the presence of a few thousands Indians in Afghanistan whose security becomes now almost entirely its responsibility to shoulder.

The malaise of the Bharati foreign policy in Afghanistan and beyond is defined below.

In retrospect, Delhi’s hare-brained idea of a US-led “quadripartite alliance” against China, the “Tibet card”, the dilution of a 2003 strategic understanding with Iran, neglect of the traditional friendship with Russia, the lukewarm attitude toward the SCO, exaggerated notions within the establishment regarding the US-India strategic partnership as an alternative to an independent foreign policy and diversified external relationships – all these appear now like dreadful pantomimes out of India’s foreign policy chronicle of recent years that Delhi would rather not think about.Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar.

Bharat has consistently aligned itself on the wrong side of history. It opposed SEATO and CENTO. it opposed the US on almost everything, voting against US 95% of the time in the US. It tried to ally itself with one of the most brutal dictators of our time Marshall Tito. It befriended Saddam Husein. It opposed the recognition of China, it opposes the one China policy. It supported the USSR invasion of Afghanistan. FM Jiechi reaffirms China’s support to Pakistan on Kashmir dispute.

Since 2001, instead of playing a positive role in Afghanistan, Delhi used the opportunity to ingratiate itself with the worst druglords on the planet. It opposed the majority of the Pakhtuns and aligned itself with a very small minority of the Afghans. Its biggest blunder was supporting Abdullah Abdullah and opposing Hamid Karzai.Karzai sings a new tune: ‘Pakistan is twin brother’. Mr. Karzai has now totally and unconditionally aligned himself with Pakistan–supported by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, China, the US and the UK. Accepting Pakistan as a Nuclear state?

Why India cannot attack Pakistan. How could Bharat overcome its defeat. Bharat can do something spectacular so that world opinion changes. Perhaps a false flag attack on a Western capital attributable to the Lashkar, or the assassination of Hamid Karzai using RAW–which is very close to the Afghan president and has access to him. Other possibilities for Bharat may include some provocation to start a war with Pakistan. These are some of the possibilities that Delhi Analysts may be toying with. Rebutting Mr. Sameer Lakwani on Afghanistan

Bharat has to settle its border disputes with all its neighbors–possibly with some loss in ego and territory. Bharat has to fix it colossal cavities with the Dalits, Maoists and the Muslims. Delhi has reinvent itself and move away from sabotaging its neighbors–be it Lanka, Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal, China, Bangladesh or Pakistan. Delhi has to form a more perfect union–the current one is not working. Perhaps a looser confederation of fifty states than the current stifling 22 which don’t want to be part of “India”. Bharat has to use its influences in the world in a positive manner–not the detriment of other nations.

Bharat has tremendous potential–but it is a millstone on the neck of Asia–keeping all of South Asia as the only island of penury on the continent. Meagre progress in the last decade has not made it a superpower. Even China shuns that title. It is crazy–and Bharat is incapable of changing. Bharat has to get its citizens to come down to reality and Delhi has to manage expectations. Just because Farid Zakaria calls it great–doesn’t mean that the Gharibabad slums that engulf half of Mumbai have gone away. Bharat is the hungriest nation in South Asia and in the vicinity of Chad on the scale. It however just bought a rust bucket from Russia for more than $2 billion. Is this insanity or what?

Bharat needs a new direction. Is it up to the challenge?

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