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Posts Tagged ‘South Asia’

India kneels: Ready to discuss Kashmir

September 25, 2010 Leave a comment

India kneels: Ready to discuss Kashmir

After taking the stand that “Kashmir was in internal matter”, the Bharati Foreign Minister has made about about face. The 180 degree turn in the Bharati position changes its long standing stand that “Kashmir was Bharat’s attot tung” and therefore there was nothing to discuss with Pakistan.

PM Singh used to say “that there can be no change in borders”. However the current statement by Mr. Krishna changes Bharat’s basic condition.

However the current fire in Indian Occupied Kashmir has apparently forced Delhi to begin talking to Pakistan.

Despite increasingly fiery statements from Pakistan on Kashmir, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna has said that he was open to talking about Kashmir. “We are willing to talk on Kashmir also with Pakistan,” he said in an interview to HT.

Asked what the contours of discussions on Kashmir could be, he said, “It’s going to be a free-wheeling discussion. There are not going to be any parameters.”

He said if Pakistan was attempting to impose conditions in advance, it would result in “injecting an element of distrust” within the process of talks.

Pro-Pakistani Kashmiri leader Geelani said in a statement that Krishna’s demand for withdrawal of Pakistani troops from Azad Kashmir reflected the “imperialistic mindset and rigid stand of government of India on Kashmir issue”.

Pakistan confronted with worst ever flood in the history of the world

September 14, 2010 Leave a comment

KPK Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Arshad Abdullah has said that Pakistan confronted with a worst ever flood in the history of the world.

He, however, paid rich tributes to the people for their brave and courageous role and voluntary spirit in taking part in rescue activities side by side with the government. This, he said, while addressing at the inaugural ceremony of the newly constructed building of Jamia Sayyeda Khunsa at Dosehra Charsadda on Sunday. Provincial Minister on this occasion also gave away gifts and prizes to the parents of female students who have completed their courses.

Arshad Abdullah said that government will make all out efforts to help the flood affectees at this critical juncture adding that provincial government have diverted all the funds towards rehabilitation of flood affectees by suspending new ADP. He added that Rs. 20 each would be distributed among flood affectees just after Eid whereas more cash assistance would be given to the affectees for the construction of houses. He further said that 100 houses were being constructed for the affectees in District Charsadda with the assistance of brotherly country Turkey.

In response to a question he said that government through successful operation cleared Swat from the clutches of terrorists. He expressed his apprehension about the re-emergence of terrorists if given free hand which would definitely endanger the future of the country particularly KPK province.

Commenting on the recent visit of PML(N) Chief Mian Nawaz Sharif to district Charsadda he said that instead of scoring political points he should concentrate on helping the flood affectees of Punjab. He said that Charsadda received major chunk of flood assistance due to the efforts of ANP Chief Asfandyar Wali Khan.

India PM warns China wants foothold in South Asia

September 7, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW DELHI: China is seeking to expand its influence in South Asia at India’s expense, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned in rare public criticism of his country’s rival for regional resources and geopolitical clout.

Singh’s comments follow repeated diplomatic sparring between the two Asian powers in the last two years, reflecting growing friction over their disputed borders and roles as emerging global powers despite bilateral trade that has grown 30-fold since 2000.

“China would like to have a foothold in South Asia and we have to reflect on this reality,” Singh was quoted as saying by The Times of India on Tuesday. “We have to be aware of this.”

“There is a new assertiveness among the Chinese. It is difficult to tell which way it will go. So it’s important to be prepared.”

The newspaper also quoted Singh as saying that China could use India’s “soft underbelly” of Kashmir, a region disputed with Pakistan, “to keep India in low level equilibrium.”

But it also quoted Singh as saying he believed the world was large enough for India and China to “cooperate and compete”.

An official at the prime minister’s office, on condition of anonymity, said the newspaper quotes were correct. The Chinese foreign ministry had no immediate comment.

Analysts said that despite decades of mistrust, the current spat is unlikely to snowball if past diplomatic sparring is anything to go by. China is now India’s biggest trade partner.

“The reality is that there are problems between the two countries that have been left over from history, but these shouldn’t be a barrier to developing broader relations,” said Zhao Gancheng, an expert on Sino-Indian relations in Beijing.

“Mutual confidence between the countries is far from sufficient,” he added. “That problem is rising in importance.”

Simmering Tensions

China defeated India in a 1962 war, but they still spar over their disputed 3,500 km border and the presence of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in India.

China’s support for India’s arch-enemy Pakistan, which backs separatists in disputed Kashmir and also claims the region in full, has not helped defuse tensions.

India holds 45 percent of the disputed Himalayan region while Pakistan controls a third. China holds the remainder of Kashmir, an icy desert plateau known as Aksai China. India and Pakistan, have fought two wars over Kashmir.

Singh’s comments may reflect government displeasure at China’s current stance on these issues.

“Singh’s understanding is China has crossed the red lines that affect India’s core sovereignty concerns,” said Srikanth Kondapalli, chairman of the Centre for East Asian Studies at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.”

“There are green lines such as trade but there are concerns there as well such as the (trade) imbalance and anti-dumping concerns. There is also a realisation in India that you have to make your displeasure more explicit to be taken seriously.”

Last month, India criticised China’s denial of a visa to an Indian army general who had operated in Kashmir. New Delhi later said it was worried by China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean region.

China has invested in the ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as well as the mining and energy sectors in Myanmar, irking India as it seeks to protect shipping lanes in a region that feeds 80 percent of China’s and 65 percent of India’s oil needs.

Last year, the Indian media reported on Chinese incursions along the border, incidents the India government shrugged off.

But Indian worries constantly surface, particularly over Chinese development projects in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and near their disputed border.

Politics aside, the value of bilateral deals between China and India was expected to exceed $60 billion this year, a 30-fold increase since 2000, raising the stakes in maintaining peace.

However, India has imposed tougher security measures on some business with China, including telecommunications imports. —Reuters

Poverty in India on the Rise.

September 4, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW DELHI: Despite the country’s robust economic growth, around 93.06 million people will live in slums in cities by next year, an increase of around 23% since 2001 forced by a lack of space and means.

According to an expert committee set up to estimate “reliable” urban slum population, there has been a growth of 17.8 million across the country in the last decade.

Defending the increase in slum population figures, minister for housing and urban poverty alleviation Kumari Selja said this trend is on expected lines due to a spurt in urbanisation. However, she assured that the percentage would come down, with the efforts of UPA-II towards slum development and rehabilitation.

The committee, headed by Pranab Sen, principal adviser to the Planning Commission and former chief statistician, pointed out that the projected slum population in 2011 would be go up to 93.06 million from 75.26 million that was estimated in 2001 as per the new methodology. The 2001 Census figures peg the slum population at 52.4 million.

By next year, 31.63 lakh people will be living in slums in Delhi as compared to 23.18 lakh in 2001, going by the panel’s methodology.

Among the states, Maharastra tops the chart with around 1.815 crore will be living in slums in 2011, followed by Uttar Pradesh (1.087 crore), Tamil Nadu (86.44 lakh), West Bengal (85.46 lakh) and Andhra Pradesh (81.88 lakh).

The ministry appointed the committee to come out with reliable slum data to ensure better implementation of Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) that aims to eradicate slums in India.

Selja said there was “paucity of correct data earlier” as small towns were left out, and the new definition put forth by the committee would serve as a guideline for Slum Census 2011 and state governments.

A major reason for the total slum population being underreported was due to the fact that the Census 2001 took into account only notified slums in 1,764 towns across the country.

Officials attributed the rise in slum figures to wider definition of slum and expanding the coverage as the committee has factored in all 5,161 towns, including 3,799 statutory towns, and has also modified the definition of slum as followed by the Registrar General of India (RGI), which conducts the Census.

Selja said the target of achieving a slum-free India in five years, as outlined by President Pratibha Patil, was not unachievable if states cooperate fully.

Admitting that urban population is growing and there are many challenges to realise the goal, the minister said, “UPA government has committed itself to RAY and money should not be a constraint”.

The committee recommended to adopt a normative definition based on appropriate indicators and checklists for the purpose of identification of slum areas and enumeration of population of area with 20-25 households, having slum-like characteristics in an enumeration block in Census 2011.

All clusters of 20-25 or more households having no roofs or non-concrete roofs, and not having any facility of drinking water, toilets or drainage will be considered as slums. Earlier, the cluster size for identification of slums was 60 households.

The panel has suggested that for the purpose of policy formulation — for Slum Census 2011 — it is absolutely essential to “count the slum population even in cities having less than 20,000 population”.

The committee has recommended that Registrar General of India, which is conducting the 2011 survey, should share layout maps with the ministry as an aid for slum surveys.

TheTimesofIndia

Chinese Dragon squeezes the Indian elephant

September 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Chinese Dragon squeezes the Indian elephant

The highly respected British magazine The Economist featured a front-page article in their 21 August issue about the possibility of a major war between China and India.

I’ve been thinking about this scenario for over a decade, and authored a book, War at the Top of the World, that warned of the dangers of a future Sino-Indian conflict.

Just thinking about this topic staggers the imagination. China and India account for 2.3 billion people, a third of the world’s total population.

My book was directly inspired by meeting the Dalai Lama in the mid-1990’s. I heard him give a long, very interesting speech on the Indian-Chinese border conflict, which I had studied in depth as a result of my deep interest in the Himalayan region.

The audience that came to hear His Holiness expected to hear a warm, fuzzy talk about the meaning of life. Instead, they were totally bemused by the Dalai Lama’s discussion of South Asian grand strategy and the Tibetan-Indian border that had been drawn by Imperial Britain with no regard to China. People often forget the Dalai Lama is the temporal leader of Tibet as well as its spiritual guide.

I was the only person in the audience who understood the subject or who asked questions about the talk. After, His Holiness took me aside and we conversed at length about the contested border, from Ladakh and Kashmir in the West to India’s Assam and Northeast Frontier Agency (today Arunachal Pradesh), and Tibet’s future.

We also talked for a long time about cats, but that’s another story that will be in my next book.

So from my encounter with the Dalai Lama came my first book, War at the Top of the World (now in its fourth, revised edition), which also covered then little-known Afghanistan and the endless conflict over Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

In War, I predicted that the first major crisis of the 21st Century would occur in Afghanistan.

9/11 happened soon after War came out. I was swamped by calls from the media to talk about Afghanistan and a certain Osama bin Laden.

“How did you know?” everyone asked me in amazement.

“Because I was watching that part of the world when few others were doing so,” came my reply.

In 1962, India moved troops into remote valleys high on the eastern Himalayas claimed by China. Beijing proclaimed it would “teach India a lesson.”

It certainly did. Marching over the high mountains, Chinese troops quickly outflanked static Indian forces – as they did with American troops in Korea in 1950. The Indians were routed. The People’s Liberation Army took much of Arunachal Pradesh, and stood before tea-producing Assam, only a relatively short distance to Calcutta.

Satisfied by his “lesson,” Chairman Mao ordered his troops to withdraw.

Proud India was humiliated and deeply shocked. Since then, India has built up its forces in the region to over three army corps of 100,000 mountain troops, backed by high-altitude air bases and a network of new roads and supply depots.

The long, poorly demarcated border has been tense ever since. India claims two large chunks of territory in the west held by China: Aksai Chin and a slice of Kashmir given by Pakistan to China to allow a military road connecting Tibet with Chinese Xinjiang. I have explored both frozen wastelands, both over 15,000 vertiginous feet.

China claims most of Indian-held Arunachal Pradesh on the eastern end of the Himalayan border, known as the McMahon line,

India has only grudgingly accepted China’s 1950 takeover of Tibet and has harbored anti-Chinese groups dedicated to liberating the mountain kingdom. At the same time, India quietly asserted control of two other Himalayan mountain kingdoms, Bhutan and Sikkim.

India sees the growing array of Chinese bases in Tibet as an extreme danger. China’s air, missile and intelligence bases in Tibet look down on the vast plains of India.

India’s leader, Jawaharlal Nehru, once complained of this danger to China’s Premier Chou Enlai. Chou laughed and retorted, “If I wanted to destroy India, I would march 100 million Chinese to the edge of the Tibetan plateau and order them to piss downhill. We would wash you into the Indian Ocean.”

Tibet controls most of the headwaters of India’s great rivers. Delhi has long feared that China may one day dam and divert their waters to China’s dry western provinces.

Other serious potential flashpoints exist. India’s old foe, Pakistan, with whom it has fought four wars, is China’s closet ally. Beijing arms Pakistan and has built up its nuclear arms program. An Indian-Pakistan war over divided Kashmir, or an Indian intervention in a fragmenting Pakistan or Afghanistan, could draw China into the fray. A new port in western Pakistan at Gwadar will give China port rights on the Arabian Sea.

Burma (today Myanmar), on India’s troubled eastern flank, which is rent by tribal uprisings, deeply worries Delhi. Strategic Burma is rapidly becoming an important forward Chinese base. A new road links China with Burma, and provides China’s navy a badly needed port on the Andaman Sea, and thus access to the Indian Ocean.

India believes China is trying to strategically encircle it. To the west, Pakistan; to the north, Tibet; to the east, Burma. To the south, China is busy cultivating Sri Lanka.

In spite of million-man armed forces and nuclear weapons, India feels increasingly threatened by China’s rise. The Indians know full well that China expects obedience from its neighbors. Even a small border clash between these two assertive giants could light the fuse of a broad and very frightening conflict. The scramble for oil and gas offers ample causes of yet more conflict in Central Asia and even the Gulf, where today America rules supreme.
August 31, 2010

Eric Margolis [send him mail] is the author of War at the Top of the World and the new book, American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World. China and India: A War of Giants by Eric Margolis
Recently by Eric Margolis: Drowning Pakistan Worries Washington

Zardari Cameron trade barbs in interviews

August 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Zardari Cameron trade barbs in interviews

Mr. Zardari has antagonized a huge spectrum of the population in Pakistan by visiting England. The media and the politicians have excoriated the “Co-Chairman” of the PPP for no canceling his trip to Britian. Mr. Zardari was adamant on going. He thought that he could present his case in front of the Prime Minister of England and come back smelling of roses. Mr. Cameron had an opportunity to climb down from his high horse, and said that he had misspoken or was misreported or misunderstood–Cameron did not. As a rookie Premier, he does not know “when to hold them and when to fold them”.

Zardari continues to try to talk sense, and Mr. Cameron continue to talk nonsense.  Mr. Zardari is tying to be cool and use logic. Mr. Cameron has an agenda. As a leader of the “the nation of shopkeepers” MR. Cameron was trying to make a sale–and abusing Pakistan pleased his hosts–so he did it.

Mr. Zardari should cancel and his trip and return home immediately. He could use the “floods” in Pakistan as an excuse. This is not an official trip to London. Mr. Zaradari is using it to shore up the career of his son. There can be other occasions and other moments in history to do that. This is not the time.

The Christian Science Monitor, one of the best newspapers in the world has analyzed the back and forth between the two premiers and David Montero has published this report.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari arrived in Britain for meetings with Prime Minister David Cameron amid a spat with the United Kingdom over Pakistan’s commitment to fighting terrorism and growing calls from opposition politicians in Pakistan for the president to return home to handle the aftermath of serious flooding there.

In series of recent interviews, Mr. Cameron and Mr. Zardari have traded barbs, accusing each other of misrepresenting the wars in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Analysts are cautioning calm. Cameron should “carefully consider how best to stem the bitterness in Pakistan that threatens to damage its relations with Britain,” writes Farzana Shaikh, an analyst at Chatham House, a London-based think tank.

Zardari’s London visit is not off to a great start. A crowd of protestors was on hand as he arrived at the Churchill Hotel on Wednesday morning. And at least two high profile Pakistani-born British citizens have canceled meetings with Zardari in a protest of their own, reports Iran’s Press TV. Many are upset that Zardari is making a high profile visit while war, floods, and ethnic violence are raging back home.

And as he arrived, the daughter of a prominent Pakistani artist accused Zardari of helping to steal her mother’s paintings, as The Daily Telegraph reported.

The growing firestorm began last week, when Cameron warned Zardari’s government that it must stop “exporting terrorism abroad” – a reference to allegations that Pakistan’s intelligence establishment either supports or turns a blind eye to militants in its midst, as The Christian Science Monitor reported. Cameron has since softened his stance, but not backed down entirely.

On Tuesday, Zardari, the widower of famed politician Benazir Bhutto, shot back with a bomb of his own: the West is loosing the war against the Taliban, he said during an interview in France.

“The war against terrorism must unite us and not oppose us,” Zardari said in an interview with French newspaper Le Monde. “I will explain face to face that it is my country that is paying the highest price in human life for this war.”

Cameron responded with an interview on BBC WM radio, rejecting the idea that NATO was “losing the battle of hearts and minds.”

“We’re protecting a large percentage of the population [in central Helmand Province], keeping them free from terror and, in the areas that we are in, you now see markets functioning and schools open … and life is actually able to go on,” he said.

Both men have come under recent criticism from their constituents. In an op-ed Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal, a Times (London) editorial writer criticized Cameron’s so-called “plain speaking.”

I am always wary of people who say “I speak my mind,” as though that was a good thing to begin with. It’s a better strategy, surely, to think your mind, pick out some edited highlights, and speak those. Otherwise, what’s the point of having a mind at all? You might as well just have your mouth wired up directly to somewhere else entirely. David Montero, CSM

If Mr. Zardari brings up the Cameron statement, the meeting will be a colossal failure, because Mr. Cameron is temperamental and  doesn’t have a clue about diplomacy. Things could deteriorate dramitcally. If Mr. Zardari does not bring up the issue, Mr. Cameron himself might. In that event, Mr. Zardari will be on the defensive and the meeting would have achieved nothing.

Being one of the most sagacious politicians of South Asia, in spite of the fact that he is pretty much illetert, Mr. Zardari may use the “Cameron Tactic” on Cameron. Mr. Zardari may feel that the pressure on Mr. Cameron is enough that he may try to mollify the Pakistani anger by proffering additional aid to Pakistan. There have been suggestion in the British papers which seem to advise Mr. Cameron to double the aid to Pakistan, and displace Bharat (aka India)–which has historically been the largest recipient of British aid. There ahve also been suggestions that Mr. Cameron may support Pakistan’s case for tarrif free exports to the EU. If Mr. Zardari secures the additional aid, he may be lauging his way to the bank–while Mr. Cameron fumes of having been had!

Amnesty urges India to probe IHK killings

Amnesty International on Saturday urged India to investigate the recent killing of civilians in Kashmir, as thousands of Indian troops enforced a strict curfew in several parts of the revolt-hit state.

The Kashmir valley has been hit by strikes, demonstrations and curfews over the killing of 11 civilians during the last month by the Indian paramilitary forces and the police struggling to control rallies. “India must investigate all killings,” the London-based rights group said in a statement. It added that any security personnel, as well as any protesters involved in wrong-doing should be brought to justice, and urged India to avoid excessive use of force while dealing with demonstrators.