Thursday, December 11, 2014

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Video Report - China rejects Vietnam’s South China Sea claim

Video - The President and First Lady Help Sort Toys for Tots

Video - President Obama Meets with the Export Council

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Video Report: CIA chief challenges torture report claims, defends Bush-era tactics

U.S. 'troubled' that Crimean leader in India with Putin

By Douglas Busvine

The leader of Crimea, the former Ukrainian territory annexed by Russia, visited India on Thursday as a member of President Vladimir Putin's annual summit delegation, and the United States said it found the reports troubling.
India does not back Western sanctions against Russia, but the unofficial trip by Sergey Aksyonov could spoil the mood before Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosts U.S. President Barack Obama for India's Republic Day festivities in January.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States was "troubled" by reports that Aksyonov may have been part of Putin's delegation and was seeking more information.
"We understand that the Indian Ministry of External Affairs have said they were not officially aware of his visit or his participation in the delegation ... We are seeking further clarification on that."
Psaki also referred to reports of new nuclear and defense deals between India and Russia and reiterated Washington's view that it was "not time for business as usual with Russia".
Aksyonov arrived at the upscale Oberoi hotel in New Delhi accompanied by Russian diplomats to be greeted by Gul Kripalani, a Mumbai-based seafood merchant who wants to boost trade with Russia.
Speaking to reporters after signing a memorandum of understanding to promote business, Aksyonov said his visit had "a private character" and he did not take apart in any official events.
He tweeted separately, however, that he had come to India as "a member of the delegation under the leadership of the president of the Russian federation, Vladimir Putin".
The towering 42-year-old, previously an obscure nationalist politician, was elected in a closed session of the regional parliament after Russian forces in February took control of the Crimean peninsula in a bloodless operation.
He masterminded a quickfire referendum to join Russia that was recognized by Moscow. Kiev and the West say it was rigged.
It was clear that his visit enjoyed Russia's full diplomatic backing, with the consul general to Mumbai and an aide to Ambassador Alexander Kadakin present at the meeting and lunch with businessmen.
No Indian officials were present.
News of the event leaked out on Wednesday when the Russian embassy invited reporters to a signing ceremony only to cancel late in the evening.
A spokesman for India's Ministry of External Affairs said he was not officially aware of the Crimean visit. It is highly unlikely, however, that such an event would have taken place without New Delhi being in the loop.
Modi, addressing a joint news conference after meeting Putin, emphasized India's deep security ties with Russia. Moscow was long India's top arms supplier until the United States, which is keen to forge closer ties with New Delhi, took top spot recently.
"Even if India's options have increased, Russia remains our most important defense partner," Modi told reporters. No potentially awkward questions were allowed at the tightly stage-managed event held at an old princely palace.
India, which observes a policy of non-intervention, has refrained from criticizing Moscow's takeover of Crimea and support for an uprising in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 4,300 people since April.
Kripalani, who said his Pijikay Group has annual turnover of about 150 million euros ($190 million), signed the memorandum on behalf of the India-Crimean Partnership - a previously unknown group that he said represented five businesses.

World in danger of food insecurity: FAO report

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has issued a warning about the worsening food insecurity across the globe.

According to the latest Crop Prospects and Food Situation Report by the FAO released Thursday, food insecurity threatens as many as 38 countries, including 29 in Africa, although an all-time record of more than 2.5 billion tons of cereal have been produced in 2014.

The UN food agency named civil conflicts, adverse weather and the Ebola outbreak as the root causes of the global food insecurity.

The outbreak of Ebola in western Africa reportedly began just as crops were being planted in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, causing a drop in the agricultural harvest in the countries. 

The report also showed that bad weather adversely affected harvests in the Sahel region.
The UN agency also sounded the alarm over the worsening situation in Syria and Iraq. It said that the ongoing conflict coupled with a weak harvest has left almost seven million people facing food insecurity in Syria alone.

It further noted that food insecurity remains acutely serious in Iraq.

One third of the population in the Central African Republic were in dire need of  food assistance due to mounting violence and a 58-percent below average production of crops, the report said.

In excess of 6.5 million people, according to the report, are in need of food and livelihood assistance in Chad, South Sudan, Sudan and Somalia.

Britain in the Middle East - We’re back

A new naval base in Bahrain is an echo of the past

IN 1968 a cash-strapped Labour government, asserting its anti-colonialist credentials, announced Britain’s military withdrawal from all its bases east of Aden (a port—pictured in 1864—in what is now Yemen
, that was a coaling station on the way to India). For many, what became known as the “East of Suez” declaration marked the formal end of the British empire. Now, nearly 50 years later, the Royal Navy is to get a new permanent base at Mina Salman in Bahrain.
In reality, Britain never left the Gulf. It has long-standing security ties with Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (where the Royal Air Force operates a Typhoon fighter-jet squadron from Al-Minhad, a base in Dubai that has also acted as a logistical bridge for operations in Afghanistan). But that is not to deny the significance of the plan to develop part of Mina Salman (which is also home to America’s Fifth Fleet) into a facility able to accommodate the latest Type 45 destroyers and two new aircraft carriers when they enter service towards the end of the decade.
The move is a reflection of the present government’s desire to demonstrate Britain’s revived commitment to the Gulf monarchies, with whom it maintains substantial trading and investment relationships, at a time of increasing turbulence in the region.
Signing the agreement to establish the base on December 5th with his Bahraini counterpart, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, Britain’s foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, declared: “Your security is our security.” Under the terms of the deal, Bahrain will meet most of the £15m price tag for building the facility, while Britain will be responsible for its operating costs. As well as being able to take bigger ships which pack more punch than the four Royal Navy minesweepers that currently sail from Mina Salman, Britain will be able to make its shrinking fleet go further by not having to rotate vessels back and forth to home ports.
Another explicit reason for re-establishing a permanent naval presence in the Gulf is to show the Americans that, in the aftermath of Afghanistan, Britain (with France) remains a useful and reliable ally. Mr Hammond said: “As the United States focuses more of its effort on the Asia-Pacific region, we and our European partners will be expected to take a greater share of the burden in the Gulf, the Near East and North Africa.” British military advisers still see those territories as the ones where the country’s armed forces are most likely to be called upon to fight. Having bases where British forces can train in hot and dry conditions will remain important.
For all that, the timing of the Bahrain agreement strikes some as odd. Human Rights Watch, a lobbying group, criticised Britain for announcing the move only a month after the House of Commons committee on foreign affairs issued a damning verdict on the glacial pace of political reform in Bahrain. Dissidents remain in jail following widespread protests in 2010-11.
Shashank Joshi of RUSI, a think-tank, says that it sends a message suggesting “a narrow and myopic” definition of regional stability. It also appears to pre-empt the 2015 Strategic and Defence and Security Review. In a report for RUSI last year, Gareth Stansfield and Saul Kelly raised the concern that the force Britain could deploy in the Gulf might be “large enough to get us into trouble, but too small to get us out of trouble once it starts”. That is an argument that would have resonated 50 years ago.

China rejects US officials' criticism of China's human rights situation

China on Thursday rejected criticism of its human rights situation from US officials, urging the United States to focus more on its own human rights issues and stop its groundless accusations against China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei made the remarks in response to comments made by US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Ambassador to China Max Baucus on Human Rights Day on Wednesday.

The people are best qualified to speak on the human rights situation of their own country, Hong said, adding that the United States has no right to act as a referee and make irresponsible remarks about other countries.

Hong said the United States is also facing serious problems in racial discrimination and prisoner abuse. "We hope the United States will put more effort into examining and improving its own human rights situation," he said.

China has witnessed continuous improvement of human rights since its reform and opening up, Hong said, adding that if the United States attempts to discredit China, it will expose its hypocrisy and double standards on human rights.

Turkey’s Security Bill Allowing Broader Police Powers Must be Amended: HRW

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has stated that Turkey should amend its new draft security legislation, to protect people from arbitrary state action and public violence.

The Turkish government should amend its new draft security bill, which expands police powers to search, detain and use firearms in a way that lacks sufficient safeguards against arbitrary use of power, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said in a report.
“The government’s legitimate concern about violent protest should not be a blank check for police powers,” senior Turkey researcher at HRW, Sinclair-Webb, was quoted as saying in the report published on the organization's website on Thursday.
“Parliament should amend the bill, so that people are protected from arbitrary state action, as well as public violence,” Sinclair-Webb added.
According to the HRW report, Turkey's current law requires authorization from a prosecutor or judge prior to searching and detaining people. But the new bill, published on November 25, would bypass the authority. Senior police officers will be permitted to authorize searches either in writing or verbally, and submit search warrants to a judge within 24 hours after approval. Police will also be permitted to use firearms to prevent attacks in public places.
The new draft security bill does not require a written document to be issued to the searched person, as stated in the HRW report.
According to the organization, Turkey has a record of abusive policing, including violations of freedom of assembly, unjustified use of lethal force, as well as cases of torture and ill-treatment of detainees. The report expresses concern that broadening police powers would aggravate incidences of abuse of power in Turkey.
“The breadth of this power gives rise to concern that it will increase the use of deadly force in cases in which such force is disproportionate to the threat at hand and not justified under international standards,” the report says.
Turkey's new security bill came after protests by Kurdish activists, held across the country in October, which left some 50 people dead. The protests demanded stronger military action from Turkey in combating Islamic State (IS) militants, trying to capture the Turkish- Syrian border town of Kobani.

Video Report - Russia & India sign deals on nuclear power, energy, defence

Pakistan - Former President Zardari lauds Nobel Peace Prize to Malala

Former President Asif Ali Zardari has felicitated Malala Yousufzai as “the pride of Pakistan” who as the world’s youngest Nobel laureate has sent a powerful political message that Pakistan is much more than what critics call ‘the epicenter of international terrorism’.
“The Noble Peace Prize to Malala is a declaration that if cowardly militants can rear their ugly heads there also are the hands to put those ugly heads down”, said the former President in his message of felicitations.
Malala’s courageous defiance of militants is an extraordinary attempt to change the society from within as against imposing a change from the outside the former President said adding ‘this indeed has been the focus of the Prize when it was first instituted by Alfred Nobel’.
A nation whose children can produce Malalas can never be cowed down by the extremists and their perverted religious ideology, he said.
Malala symbolizes the defiant cry of human spirit against bigotry, fanaticism and religious extremism that will continue to echo unto eternity, Mr. Asif Zardari said.
The former President said that the honor bestowed on Malala by the international community is a declaration that religious bigotry can best be banished through collective action.
The Noble Peace Prize to Malala will spur quest for education particularly women education in the country. And this is what we need more than anything else, he said recalling the words of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, “if women are truly to be defined by their own accomplishments, they need the level of education that empowers them.”
Mr. Asif Ali Zardari also referred to the question asked by Malala in her acceptance speech and called upon the intellectuals and leaders of thought to answer ‘Why is it that giving guns is so easy, but giving books is so hard?’.

A deteriorating Afghanistan needs a revised timetable on U.S. troops

NOT MUCH attention was paid in Washington to the formal end Monday of U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan. The 13-year-old war is something most Americans, led by their president, are eager to put behind them. That’s unfortunate, because far from fading away, the fighting in Afghanistan is intensifying — and so is the threat it poses to everything that the U.S.-led coalition accomplished.
Over several months, attacks by the Taliban have steadily escalated,including in the once-relatively secure capital. International aid groups arepulling their staff out of Kabul after a wave of bombings and assaults on foreigners’ compounds, while many educated and affluent Afghans who returned from exile to invest in the country are leaving again. The new government under President Ashraf Ghani promises an improvement on the corruption-plagued and ineffective administration of Hamid Karzai, but it is struggling to overcome its internal divisions and appoint a cabinet.
The Afghan army built by the United States and its allies at huge expense is under enormous stress. More than 5,000 soldiers and police have been killed this year — more than the total number of U.S. and allied deathssince 2001. Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, who departed the country after overseeing the final year of combat operations, told the New York Timesthat the Afghan casualties, as well as a high desertion rate, are not sustainable. His assessment of the ability of government forces to hold off the Taliban was cautious: “I don’t know if I’m pessimistic or optimistic,” he said.
The deteriorating situation can only be exacerbated by the rigid timetable imposed by President Obama for ending combat missions and withdrawing the remaining U.S. troops. NATO forces have fallen from 130,000 in 2013 to 12,000, including 10,800 Americans. Mr. Obama has ordered that the U.S. force be cut to 5,500 by the end of 2015 and reduced to a few hundredby the time his administration ends a year later. It’s a political timetable that suits the president’s legacy aspirations but bears no relation to the military situation.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Ghani is said to be lobbying senior U.S. officials to slow the further drawdown of forces and retain a larger number of forces in 2016. The Wall Street Journal reported that, while the new president hasn’t made a formal request, he may do so when he visits Washington early next year. Mr. Obama has shown a bit of flexibility. The number of U.S. troops was temporarily increased by 1,000 this month to compensate for the slowness of allies in committing forces, and rules of engagement for 2015 were tailored to allow some combat missions against Taliban or al-Qaeda targets as well as air support for Afghan forces.
Mr. Obama, however, should go further. The instability in Afghanistan, and probably the Taliban’s heightened aggression, is being driven by uncertainty about whether the United States and its allies will continue to stand behind the government and army and prevent their defeat. The president should make clear that he will not allow the state built since 2001 to crumble — even if that means adjusting his timetable.

FBI investigation into ex-US diplomat casts cloud over relations with Pakistan


A high-flying US diplomat betraying her country to spy for Pakistan may sound like an outlandish plotline of the spy drama Homeland, but in recent weeks that real life allegation has added extra intrigue to the volatile relationship between the two supposedly allied countries.
The news that a former US ambassador called Robin Raphel has been the subject of an FBI counter-intelligence investigation shocked the foreign policy establishments of both Washington and Islamabad when it was reported last month.
Officials took the extraordinary step in late October of searching Raphel’s house, finding classified documents that should not have left the State Department. Raphel’s security clearance has been revoked and her job at the office of thespecial representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan effectively terminated.
Few details have been made public about the case but the New York Times reported the investigation was triggered after a Pakistani official was buggedclaiming Islamabad had US secrets from a prominent former State Department official.
Raphel herself has expressed confidence the affair will soon be resolved, in her only public statement on the matter.
The former CIA analyst first travelled to the region in the 1970s but became an expert on Pakistan after working on south Asian affairs during the 1990s. She earned the enduring dislike of some in US intelligence circles for her staunch defence of Pakistan, a country many officials say supports militant groups with American blood on their hands.
After retirement in 2005 she worked as a paid lobbyist for the Pakistani government before going back to work for the State Department in 2009 with a key role in helping to disburse billions of dollars of non-military aid to Pakistan.
Former colleagues have reacted with disbelief to the turn of events. Many assume a career diplomat who served as US ambassador to Tunisia must have fallen foul of what one described as a “normal bureaucratic snafu” that will soon blow over.
“People who know her are mystified, with very few people believing she was actually spying,” said one habitué of the Washington foreign policy circuit. “She hasn’t wanted to talk about it, but she’s still making appearances around town at seminars and social events.”
But few in Pakistan’s community of analysts and foreign policy experts are prepared to believe Raphel has simply fallen foul of an overzealous government machine.
“I think there is an element of a witch hunt,” said Simbal Khan, a foreign policy expert in Islamabad and friend of Raphel. “It just sounds so weird – sharing classified information when she is such a consummate professional.”
In Islamabad it is widely assumed Raphel was targeted for being that rarest of things: a sympathetic American friend of Pakistan.
Her husband, Arnold Raphel, served as US ambassador to the country at the height of joint US-Pakistani effort to end the Soviet Union’s occupation of neighbouring Afghanistan by covertly arming Islamist jihadists.
He died in the same mysterious Pakistani military plane crash that killed General Zia-ul-Haq, the country’s then military dictator in 1988.
It was during her time as assistant secretary of state for south and central Asia in the early 1990s that she delighted many in Pakistan when she was outed as the source of off-record comments that questioned India’s historic claim to all of the disputed Himalayan state of Kashmir.
It elicited a furious response from the Indian establishment and a front-page story in the Hindustan Times that labelled her the “goddess of Indian terrorists, secessionists and other outlaws”.
It was also the period when another bete noire of India, the Taliban, were coming to power in Afghanistan. At the time the US hoped the Pakistan-sponsored movement might bring order to the civil-war-racked country.
Simbal Khan says some of Delhi’s antipathy may have rubbed off on the many US diplomats of Indian ancestry she has encountered in Washington.
“There is a very hardcore anti-Pakistan lobby in the State Department, including many very smart people who are as American as anyone else but they do have these leanings.”
But the Raphel affair has blown up just as Pakistan and the US appear to have moved beyond a particularly fraught period of mutual distrust and recrimination.
Just a year ago US diplomats regularly complained about the immense difficulties of getting visas to come to Pakistan and of being tailed around Islamabad by low-level intelligence officers on motorbikes.
Relations had been driven to an unprecedented low in 2011 by the secret navy Seal raid into Pakistani territory to kill Osama bin Laden and the disastrous killing of 24 Pakistani border troops by US warplanes.
But all of that now appears to be ancient history. Last month Washington gave the full red carpet treatment to General Raheel Sharif, Pakistan’s relatively new army chief who spent nearly two weeks on a US tour.
The US is delighted that under General Sharif Pakistan has finally launched a long-delayed military operation to stamp out the terrorist networks that for years had been embedded in North Waziristan, a semi-autonomous tribal “agency” bordering Afghanistan.
There has been a dramatic upswing in counter-terrorism cooperation between the two countries, with both sides engaged in what appears to be quid pro quo deals to target their respective enemies.
Last week Pakistan said it had killed a senior al-Qaida leader called Adnan el Shukrijumah while US drones have been active in North Waziristan without any of the official acrimony that used to accompany them.
In return, the US returned a top commander of the Pakistani Taliban who was arrested by US troops in Afghanistan last year.
American air strikes have also targeted Pakistani Taliban militants in the eastern Afghan border province of Kunar.
And yet western diplomats are all too aware that previous bouts of hope that Pakistan was on the point of abandoning its “double game” of taking billions of dollars in US aid while secretly supporting America’s enemies came to nothing.
They say they will believe it when they see it – namely clear steps by Pakistan to rein in the Taliban or at least encourage them to start negotiating with the Afghan government.
So far the signs are not promising, with an upsurge of attacks in the Afghan capital that has been dubbed the Taliban’s “winter offensive”.
Against the ups and downs of the US-Pakistan relationship it is likely conspiracy-minded Pakistanis are over-reading the drama surrounding Raphel.
Hussain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador to the US now working as a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, said it was unlikely Raphel had committed anything more than an unfortunate mistake in taking documents home.
But the fact that she is being vigorously investigated is a sign of the level of distrust with which Pakistan is viewed in the US.
“In another era this would not be an issue. But today senior people in the State Department are asking whether instead of thinking of Pakistan an errant ally we should see it as a clever enemy that poses as a friend.”



When Lt-Gen Asad Durrani, a former head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, delivered a speech on Afghanistan in London last month, it was hard to miss the note of triumph. Afghanistan, he said, had already seen off two major world powers – the British Empire in the 19th century and the Soviet Union in the 20th. Now a third, the United States, was heading for the exit. For anyone who believes Pakistan’s aim in Afghanistan all along has been to turn the clock back to Sept 10, 2001 – when it exercised its influence over the country through its Taliban allies – it could almost have been a victory speech.
Durrani, who remains close to the Pakistani security establishment, was quick to blame the United States for the many mistakes it made in Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. He also found a cause in Afghanistan itself by declaring it “the graveyard of empires” – a worn Anglo-centric trope which says far more about politics than history. (The British Empire not only won its Afghan wars after initial setbacks, but it also flourished after its first invasion of Afghanistan in 1839-42; the Soviet Union was rotting economically from within long before it sent troops into Afghanistan in 1979.) There was no mention of Pakistani support for the Afghan Taliban; only of the other side of that coin: that Pakistan alone could help provide peace. It was Pakistan, he said, which had delivered a safe retreat to the Soviet Union by ensuring the mujahideen did not shoot Soviet troops in the back as they left in 1989. By implication, it was Pakistan alone which could help the Americans manage their own retreat.
What was striking was not so much the comments, some of which have been made before by Pakistani officials, but the confidence – all the more so since it came in a speech delivered not to a domestic Pakistani audience in need of reassurance and bluster but in a western capital whose troops had also fought the Afghan war. When Durrani said the Taliban had “weathered the onslaught of the world’s mightiest allies,” was he really talking about the Taliban, or about Pakistan?
Losing Ground to India
Pakistan’s geopolitical successes and failures cannot easily be measured without reference to India, its own Islamist insurgency, and the events of 2001. By most objective measures in that context, Pakistan has fared badly. More than 55,000 Pakistanis have been killed since 2001, including nearly 30,000 alleged militants, nearly 20,000 civilians and 6,000 members of its security forces, according to figures collated by the South Asian Terrorism Portal. Pakistan lost a friendly Taliban regime in Afghanistan to one which was sympathetic to India. Its influence in Kashmir has waned as a separatist revolt against India ebbed and Pakistan’s own problems made it seem far less appealing to Kashmiris. After Pakistan re-established strategic parity and blunted India’s conventional military superiority by testing nuclear weapons in 1998 – in response to Indian tests – Pakistan has steadily lost influence to its much bigger neighbor. Not since 1971, when East Pakistan broke away with Indian help to form Bangladesh, has Pakistan lost so much ground to India. Indeed, the rise of India’s economic and political clout globally probably means its dominant position vis-à-vis Pakistan is irreversible. A nuclear deal agreed with the United States in 2005 effectively recognized India as a nuclear-armed power and firmed up the – albeit bumpy – process of turning India into Washington’s favored strategic partner in the region. This shift will be graphically illustrated whenPresident Barack Obama visits New Delhi as the guest of honor at India’s Republic Day ceremonies on January 26, the first American president to do so.
Under such circumstances you might expect Pakistan’s security establishment to be chastened. Instead, we are seeing evidence of confidence. This was not only reflected in Durrani’s speech. This month, Hafez Saeed, the founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group and one of the more loyal of the Pakistan Army’s proxies, held a public rally in the city of Lahore calling for militants to fight in Kashmir. India, which along with the United States holds the Lashkar-e-Taiba responsible for the 2008 attacks on Mumbai, denounced his rally as the “mainstreaming of terrorism.” That a man with a $10 million U.S. terrorism bounty on his head could hold a huge rally in the center of Lahore is not evidence of a chastened security establishment. It is a sign of one flexing its muscles.
Washington’s Default Position
The question of Pakistan’s attitude to Afghanistan, and indeed to the use of Islamist militant proxies, is one which defines how you assess the likelihood of a peaceful end to the Afghan war. Given the opacity of the Pakistani system, it has been possible over the years since 2001 to assemble any collection of events and read into them reasons for optimism or pessimism. Thus, nowadays, you can support the official Pakistani line that – battered by the blowback from the Afghan war – Pakistan has had a change of heart and is now ready to fight terrorism “in all its forms.” You can even try to argue that Pakistan and Afghanistan are willing to work together, with U.S. help. Or you can assert the opposite view, seeing in the recent string of Taliban attacks in Afghanistan evidence of Pakistan increasing the pressure on new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. (Since violence inside Afghanistan also has domestic causes, it is difficult to tell exactly where Pakistani influence begins and ends.) A third possibility is that Pakistan will work with the United States to bring peace to Afghanistan in order to focus on ramping up the fight against India in Kashmir – the “good Taliban” like Hafez Saeed will remain in play, while the “bad Taliban” are eliminated.

As ever, any assessment will come down to how you frame your questions, and it is here that signs of renewed confidence in the Pakistani security establishment provide important clues. Of course, the Pakistani military is doing well domestically, having seen off any attempt by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to assert civilian influence over foreign and security policy. Pakistan Army chief General Raheel Sharif has also just completed a successful tour of the United States which included a high-profile meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. But that would not alone explain quite so much confidence at a time when India is doing so well.
It is worth considering another possibility. What if the United States is wrong in its assumption that Pakistan’s reliance on Islamist militant proxies is primarily a reflection of its insecurity about India? Since 2001, U.S. policies have been driven by the idea that Pakistan nurtured Islamist militants in response to the insecurity it felt after its defeat by India in the 1971 war, which turned then East Pakistan into Bangladesh. Washington’s objective, therefore, has been to convince Pakistan to turn its back on Islamist militants while fretting about Pakistani domestic stability were it to force Islamabad/Rawalpindi to go after them too abruptly. In other words, it has focused on Pakistan’s insecurity. Thus as early as November 2001, just two months after the September 11 attacks, the United States allowed Pakistan to fly out an unknown number of Taliban fighters, along with Pakistani officers and intelligence operatives, from the northern Afghan city of Kunduz in order to bolster the position of then military ruler Pervez Musharraf. Later, it assumed that Pakistani support for the Afghan Taliban was at least partly in response to rising Indian influence in Afghanistan. Thus in his 2008 election campaign, then candidate Barack Obamasuggested the United States should try to help resolve the Kashmir disputein order to let Pakistan focus on tackling militants; thereby helping to end the Afghan war. Those hopes – which had aggravated India which resents outside interference in Kashmir – disappeared with the attacks on Mumbai in November 2008.
What if it were the other way around – that the Islamist project came first and insecurity about India either provided the excuse and/or was the result? After all, if you are primarily driven by insecurity about a larger neighbor, you don’t send 10 gunmen to attack its financial capital and then allow the presumed mastermind to hold rallies publicly in one of your biggest and most accessible cities.
That would explain the confidence: in spite of the battering Pakistan has taken since 2001, in spite of the decline of its position relative to India, neither of these were quite as important to the Pakistani security establishment than the idea that the Taliban have “weathered the onslaught of the world’s mightiest allies.”
The implications for the region are grave. For a start, it would mean Pakistan would welcome an Afghan Taliban victory after western troops withdraw – albeit with some carefully controlled strings that it might hope to manage rather better than its previous attempts to manage outcomes in Afghanistan. It would also suggest that rather than dealing with normal state-to-state relations – whereby issues like the contested Durand Line border between Afghanistan and Pakistan might be resolved through diplomacy – the Afghan war continues to be driven by two competing ideologies. The ideology which boasts of seeing off three major powers – the British Empire, the Soviet Union and the United States – is one which, given the historical context, is tinged with Islamist militant supremacism. It is not the same one which would have an interest in establishing healthy state-to-state relations and trade with a stable democratic Afghanistan. Worryingly, it would suggest that the Pakistani security establishment is not too worried about the radicalization inside Pakistan of its civil society, where religious militant groups are increasingly used to suppress dissent. Globally, the Islamist militant project is doing well; that in itself would give enough grounds for confidence provided Pakistan still believes it can control militancy inside.
Like other suggestions about Pakistani policy, the idea that the Pakistani security establishment is emerging from the Afghan war more confident than ever is only one possibility. It does however raise a fundamental question about U.S. policy. The default position in Washington has been to see Pakistan as insecure, a notion made all the more convincing by the prickliness of its security and intelligence officials. What if the opposite were true – that a nuclear-armed Pakistan whose Taliban allies survived the war is coming out of the Afghan war feeling very secure?
As Durrani quipped – using a Winston Churchill quote which seems to be rather popular with the ISI – you can count on the Americans to do the right thing after they have tried everything else. But the United States has always seen Pakistan as insecure and open to manipulation; it has never tried to imagine it as secure.

Pakistan - Imran Khan demonstrating protests to become PM

Opposition leader in National Assembly Khurshid Shah on Thursday has said that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan is demonstrating protests to become the Prime Minister (PM) of the country and that Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) and the Sindh government would not become a hurdle in the PTI’s protest in Karachi.
He expressed these views while talking to the media in Islamabad.
Shah said that all the political parties would have to agree with the verdict of the Judicial Commission and anyone not accepting its verdict would be the actual hindrance in the process of justice.
He said that Khan himself urged for negotiations with the government and he now knows that its no easy to maintain an anti-government movement for so long.
Shah also urged both the sides to show seriousness regarding the negotiations.
As soon as the negotiations start, PTI must also announce canceling of its demonstration of protests in the country, he added.
Opposition leader also urged Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) not to hinder the demonstration of protest of PTI in Karachi.

Khurshid Shah further urged that MQM chief Altaf Hussain be made a parliamentarian and that he must come to Pakistan, Allah Almighty would keep him safe.

Pakistan - Asif Ali Zardari meets Ali Akbar Wilayati; bilateral, regional and international issues discussed

Former President Asif Ali Zardari Wednesday evening met Ali Akbar Wilayati Advisor to the Rehbar Ayatullah Ali Khamenei on Foreign Affairs and discussed matters of mutual interest.
Former President Asif Ali Zarari was in Tehran to participate in the two day first international conference on World Against Violence and Extremism (WAVE) organized by the Iranian Institute of Political and International Studies in the Iranian capital.
The meeting was also attended by Pakistan’s Ambassador in Tehran Nur Muhammad Jadmani, Spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar and former Tehran Ambassador in Islamabad MashaAllah Shakiri and other senior officials of the Iranian Foreign Office.
Talking with Ali Akbar Wilayati the former President said that there was great potential to further enhance trade and economic relations and greater cooperation in the energy sector between the two countries. He said that the two countries could mutually benefit from barter trade to ease the pressure on foreign exchange reserves. He said that surplus wheat in Sindh could be exported to Iran under the barter system in return for building by Iran of some infrastructure projects in the province and commodity imports from Iran.
Regional situation and international situation also came under discussion during the meeting. The former President said that the Muslim World was confronted with the great challenge of fighting the militant mindset and said that it could be fought comprehensively with regional cooperation, steadfastness and mounting a vigorous intellectual challenge to the militants’ narrative and interpretation of religion.
The former President said that issues in border security between the two countries needed to be tackled through the multi layered institutional mechanisms available for the purpose.

Ali Akbar Wilayati reciprocated the sentiments about deeper Pak-Iran relations. Later the former President left for Dubai.

Pakistan: Global recognition: Malala makes us proud

The Express Tribune

Malala Yousafzai vowed on Wednesday to struggle for every child’s right to go to school as she became the youngest ever Nobel laureate, sharing the Peace Prize with Indian campaigner Kailash Satyarthi.
“I will continue this fight until I see every child in school,” the 17-year-old schoolgirl told an audience in Oslo City Hall after receiving the award.
Malala became a global icon after she was shot and nearly killed by the Taliban in October 2012 for insisting that girls had a right to an education.
In a speech peppered with self-deprecating humour, she used the award ceremony to call not just for education but also for fairness and peace.
“The so-called world of adults may understand it, but we children don’t. Why is it that countries which we call ‘strong’ are so powerful in creating wars but so weak in bringing peace?
“Why is it that giving guns is so easy but giving books is so hard? Why is it that making tanks is so easy, but building schools is so difficult?”
Malala, who described herself as the “first recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize who still fights with her younger brothers,” triggered applause and also frequent outbursts of laughter during her speech. But the underlying message was that a world that may soon be able to send a person to Mars still allows millions to suffer from “the very old problems of hunger, poverty, injustice and conflicts”.
Moments after Malala received the prize, a man carrying a Mexican flag walked towards her, but was caught by security. The motives of the man, who was later identified as a student and asylum seeker from Mexico, were unknown.
The man was later arrested and the Norwegian police apologised for the ‘security breach’ at the ceremony. “It’s a breach in security for which we apologise,” Oslo police Chief John Fredriksen told reporters. “It shouldn’t have happened.”
The man waved the flag in front of Malala and Satyarthi as the Nobel laureates received their prize to rapturous applause. Members of the Norwegian royal family and several members of the government, including Prime Minister Erna Solberg, were within reach of the flag-carrying man.
Before the ceremony, Malala and Satyarthi met with 7,000 Norwegian children aged between six and 14 in the heart of Oslo.
“You have given me so much energy,” Malala said. “You might not know but there are so many girls who cannot go to school, there are so many boys who cannot go to school,” she said. “They have never dreamed of any iPad, any PlayStation, any Xbox. The only thing that they dream of is a school, is a book and is a pen.”
Satyarthi, 60, was recognised by the Nobel committee for a 35-year battle to free children from virtual slave labour. Satyarthi is credited with saving around 80,000 children from slave labour sometimes in violent confrontations.
“I’ve lost two of my colleagues,” Satyarthi said after receiving the prize. “Carrying the dead body of a colleague who is fighting for the protection of children is something I’ll never forget, even as I sit here to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.”
Satyarthi, who kept a modest profile in Oslo and even conceded to being overshadowed by Malala surrounded by admirers. He called for more resources to be put in for educating children around the world. “I refuse to accept that the world is so poor, when just one week of global military expenditure is enough to bring all of our children into classrooms,” he said. “I refuse to accept that the shackles of slavery can ever be… stronger than the quest for freedom.”
The pairing of Malala and Satyarthi had the extra symbolism of linking neighbouring countries that have been in conflict for decades.
After she was named as the winner, Malala said she wanted both states’ prime ministers to attend the prize-giving ceremony in Oslo. Although the leaders of the two South Asian archenemies were not present in Oslo on Wednesday, Malala expressed optimism for her region.
“I am… glad that we can stand together and show the world that an Indian and a Pakistani can be united in peace and together work for children’s rights,” she said.
Satyarthi’s organisation Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Movement to Save Childhood) prides itself on liberating more than 80,000 children from bonded labour in factories and workshops across India and has networks of activists in more than 100 countries.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) there are about 168 million child labourers around the world.
Arriving in Norway with friends and young activists from Pakistan, Syria and Nigeria, Malala will open an exhibit in Oslo where her blood stained dress, worn when her school bus was attacked, was put on display.
According to analysts, this year’s award could help the Norwegian Nobel Committee repair its reputation, damaged by controversial awards in recent years to the European Union and US President Barack Obama.