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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!

Iran and Pakistan sign gas export agreement

Iran and Pakistan formally signed yesterday an export deal which commits the Islamic republic to supplying its eastern neighbour with natural gas from 2014.

The contract is the latest step in completing a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline between Iran and Pakistan within the next four years.

“This is a happy day,” Iran’s Deputy Oil Minister Javad Ouji told reporters at the contract signing ceremony in Tehran. “After decades of negotiations, we are witnessing today the execution of the agreement… to export more than 21 million cubic metres of natural gas daily from 2014 to Pakistan,” he added.

He said that from today, Iran will start building the next 300-kilometre leg of the pipeline from the southeastern city of Iranshahr to the Pakistani border, through the Iranian port of Chabahar.

Iran has already constructed 907km of the pipeline between Asalooyeh, in southern Iran, and Iranshahr, which will carry natural gas from Iran’s giant South Pars field. Pakistan’s Deputy Energy Minister Kamran Lashari, who was present at the signing ceremony, said Islamabad will conduct a one-year feasibility study for building its section of the pipeline.

It will then “take three years for constructing the 700km pipeline” from the Iranian border to the Pakistani city of Nawabshah, he added. The pipeline was originally planned between Iran, Pakistan and India, but the latter pulled out of the project last year. Pakistan plans to use the gas for its power sector.

Maoists winning the battle to control India

Friday’s train crash in India has been blamed on “sabotage” by Maoist rebels. It was the latest in a series of rebel attacks after the government launched an offensive against them. The BBC’s Soutik Biswas asks whether the rebels are gaining the upper hand.

It is not surprising that Maoist rebels are being blamed for the derailment of an express train in India’s West Bengal state, in which 71 passengers were killed.

The police claim they have found posters signed by a local Maoist militia claiming responsibility for removing part of the track, which led to the train skidding off and colliding with a freight train coming in the opposite direction.

West Midnapore district, where the incident happened, is the hotbed of Maoist rebellion in West Bengal, one of the states where the rebels have a presence.

Tribespeople dominate the district, especially the forested Junglemahal region bordering Jharkhand state.

They feel ignored and deprived by the Communist government which has been ruling the state since 1977. Most live in abject poverty. The only visible signs of “development” I spotted during a trip to the area some years ago were cheap liquor shops.

Strong support

Fed up with the state of affairs, Junglemahal’s tribespeople even agitated for a separate state.

When neighbouring Jharkhand was carved out as a separate state, their alienation grew and they were quick to welcome the Maoists, who wield most influence in areas which are poor and dominated by tribespeople.

The security forces are on the backfoot after a spree of rebel attacks
The Lalgarh area in Junglemahal is the rebels’ most formidable stronghold.
In February, they stormed a police camp in Lalgarh, killing 24 policemen.
Rebels love to describe Lalgarh as a “liberated zone” where the state has withered away – schools and medical centres have closed down because teachers and doctors are afraid to attend, and policemen are confined to the police stations fearing reprisals.

Friday’s incident in West Midnapore demonstrates how the rebels are taking the battle to their enemies ever since the federal government launched an offensive in what is known as India’s “red corridor” earlier this year.

This comprises 223 of India’s 636 districts in 20 states which the government says are “Maoist affected”, up from 55 districts in nine states six years ago.
Ninety of these affected districts, the government says, are experiencing “consistent violence.”

The rebels have been carrying out attacks with impunity in recent months – two major attacks Dantewada in Chhattisgarh state left more than 100 people dead, including 75 paramilitary troops.
But there are also theories that in this case the Maoist script went slightly awry.

Maoists frequently tamper with railway lines and often these lead to minor derailments; a number of such attempts have been caught well in time. There have been hijackings but no major attacks on civilian transport with such a death toll.

In the past year, Maoists have carried out 32 attacks on railways, mainly in Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa, Chhattisgarh – but no major casualties have been reported.

Support for the Maoist cause across India generally will be dented by such an attack, just as it was after the assault on troops in Dantewada.

Following the twin Dantewada attacks, the government said it was reviewing its strategy for fighting the rebels, who have refused to respond to repeated government offers for talks.

Analysts say that the strategy of “clearing, holding and developing” rebel-affected areas evidently inspired by the US strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan is not working.

‘Visible retreat’

One reason, they say, is that the surge of security forces and resources on the ground are not sufficient enough to take on the rebels who are spread over a vast swathe of remote mineral-rich forest lands.

Maoists call Lalgarh a “liberated zone”

The government is now in a “visible retreat” after a spree of rebel attacks, says security analyst Ajai Sahni.
He believes that a lack of adequate forces, training and intelligence is leading to these “disasters”.

“Unless local capacities for intelligence and operations are enormously augmented, this [offensive] can go nowhere, and lot of lives are going to be lost for no useful purpose,” Mr Sahni says.

But the under-equipped local police and intelligence-gathering networks remain Indian security’ s weakest link, and there no visible efforts to bolster them.

The government appears to be confused over how the rebels should be tackled – there are differences in the ruling Congress party itself on whether the state should strike hard against it’s own people.

Recently federal home minister P Chidambaram requested wider powers to deal with the rebels, saying that he had been given a “limited mandate.”
He said the chief ministers of some of the worst affected states have asked for air power to be used against the rebels – a measure that the government has refused to sanction.

Analysts believe that many states are not doing enough to take on the rebels, leading to a “centralisation” of the problem.

The train ‘”sabotage” was one of the biggest attacks launched by the rebels
“The principal responsibility for dealing with the Maoists remain that of the states; the first responders, the local police stations, have to be strengthened and equipped to deal with the task on their own.”

Till that happens, the rebels will be seen to have an upper hand in what promises to be long drawn out and bloody conflict, the like of which India has never seen.

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