Turkey has stepped up to ease tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan, whose tempers steamed after former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani was assassinated six weeks ago. Hosting the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan yesterday for a trilateral summit to resume dialogue between the two states, the parties decided to designate a trilateral mechanism for the investigation of the Rabbani assassination.
“We have decided to establish a cooperation mechanism to clarify the Rabbani assassination,” Turkish President Abdullah Gül said yesterday at a joint press conference with his Pakistani and Afghan counterparts.
The mechanism, which will work in parallel with domestic investigators in Pakistan and Afghanistan, will include officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkey, a high-level Turkish Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News. The mechanism will enable Pakistan and Afghanistan to carry out dialogue through the process and present their claims with evidence. The first meeting of the mechanism had yet to be scheduled, the official said. Turkish diplomatic source said intelligence, military and police bodies will participate in the mechanism.
“The cooperation mechanism will begin work at the scene of the attack” where Rabbani was killed, according to a joint declaration released after the meetings.
Burhanuddin Rabbani’s son Selahaddin Rabbani, who is also Afghanistan Ambassador to Ankara, also participated the summit. The decision to set up a trilateral mechanism was decided during Gül’s talks with his counterparts Aghanistan’s Hamid Karzai and Pakistan’s Asif Zardari at an Ottoman palace overlooking the Bosphorus yesterday.
The meeting ahead of an international conference on Afghanistan today in Turkey was the first between the two neighbors since the assassination of Rabbani, a former Afghan leader and peace negotiator, on Sept. 20.
Afghanistan accused Pakistan of refusing to cooperate in the murder investigation, which according to Afghan authorities was planned in Pakistan and committed by a Pakistani suicide bomber. The meeting arose after 17 people died in the deadliest attack yet against the U.S.-led NATO mission in Kabul.
“I thank both presidents because of their confidence in Turkey,” Gül said, stressing the importance of the gathering after the tension flared due to recent killings.
Setting up a cooperation mechanism for investigating Rabbani’s assassination was “extremely critical for the peace process, as it has proven terrorism is affecting two countries in a negative way,” Karzai said. “We were talking to the Taliban about peace until the assassination of Rabbani.”
“Our desire for peace is misunderstood or misused. We cannot keep talking to suicide bombers,” he added, referring to Taliban forces who allegedly killed Rabbani. “Maybe this assassination was done to block the peace process in Afghanistan,” said Gül at the press conference.
The three presidents signed agreements enshrining their commitment to cooperate in the fields of education, banking system and joint military exercises. The trilateral meeting is the sixth in Turkey, resulting from a regular consultation mechanism established in 2007 to encourage the two countries to cooperate.
A committee of foreign ministers is also expected to be set up and meet more often than the trilateral summits occur, a Foreign Ministry official told the Daily News.
The trilateral summit will be followed by an international conference today in Istanbul on the theme of “Security and cooperation in the heart of Asia.” Nearly 20 countries and international organizations are expected to attend.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton changed her plans and canceled her visit to Istanbul at the last minute to stay with her ailing mother. U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman is expected to replace her.
For tomorrow’s meeting the participants have a plan to shape a mechanism for regional security cooperation. A Turkish diplomat said the negotiations were ongoing to reconcile reservations of some regional countries with a set of confidence-building measures as part of this mechanism.
[At least it doesn’t rotate anymore, at least, not until Dec. 12.]
EMBASSY OF THE REPUBLIC OF UZBEKISTAN
IN THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION
The agency “Khovar” October 26, 2011 issued a formal statement of the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan on the progress of the construction of Rogun.
The main content of the statement reduces to the fact that the Tajik side continues to adhere to the agreements concluded with the World Bank for an international project expertise Rogun, and is not going to start the initial phase of works to block the channel of the Vakhsh River – a tributary of the Amu-Darya, without waiting for final results international examination of the project.
There are no obstacles work of international experts is not, and all work performed on the object Rogun are only repair and restorative in nature.
And now let us turn to the specific facts. In the above statement, the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan stated that “the technical feasibility, economic profitability, environmental safety Rogun tested many times and not once this project has not received a negative assessment.” However, this statement is absolutely untrue.
Project Rogun, as we know, was prepared in the 70s of last century, that is, during the Soviet period and has not been any peer review, especially since the objective of international expertise. The object was started construction in 1976 in accordance with the directives of the XXIV Congress of the CPSU have not had any discussions or revisions, and with the collapse of the USSR, work at this facility were terminated. That is why the Tajik side can still submit any material on the examination of the object.
For anybody who is familiar with the project Rogun is no secret that on-site at the base of the future grand dam height of 335 m was observed with the seismotectonic fault displacements on it and placed it in a strong salt layer thickness up to 100 meters, which is prone to erosion .
Naturally, an international consortium of experts, the examiner could not, among others, not to cause serious doubts about the decisions taken in the draft. In particular, given the presence of a seismotectonic basis of the dam breaking and the salt layer, without checking the stability and reliability that can not even think about the construction of dams, especially when you consider that the area where going to build Rogun, located in an area with seismic 8 – 10 points on the Richter scale. Reasonable and a legitimate claim of experts met with the Tajik side, striving to make every effort to exclude these exploratory drilling and, in turn, this could not cause a serious disagreement between the experts of the international consortium and the Tajik authorities.
Thus, the approval of the Tajik authorities about full compliance with the international consortium are not true. The media repeatedly printed statement by the Minister of Industry and Energy of Tajikistan S. Gul that the Tajik side is not going to change its decision on the continuation of the Rogun regardless of the outcome of environmental and social assessment of the project.
The fact that the Tajik plans by the end of this year to begin work on blocking the Vakhsh River to the dam, well known to experts of the World Bank. This refers to the build, not waiting for the international examination, an intermediate dam height of 120 feet and put the international community with a fait accompli.
Not correspond to reality and approval of the Government of Tajikistan, which is currently conducted only repair work in the Rogun.
Than in this case to explain that in the past 2010 so-called “damage control” only cost to the state budget of almost $ 150 million. This year the budget for this work has laid 191 million. Finally, the draft budget for 2012 for the purpose laid down 223 million dollars more.
We also know that the site Rogun work up to five thousand people, and everyone understands that the repair work is the number of workers required.
All of these facts, which is trying to silence the Tajik government in a statement, show yet another unseemly attempt to hide from the international community the true situation and, without stopping before any potentially disastrous technological, environmental and social impacts, to implement the project Rogun.
Thus it is impossible not to draw attention to the fact that all statements and appeals addressed to the leadership of Tajikistan to heed the opinion of independent international experts and to abandon the construction of a grand, the world’s highest dam, whose construction in the world had long been under way, and find alternative sources of electricity production, in particular the construction of small hydropower stations, unfortunately, is not properly understood.
Most analysts seem to agree that the antiquity-era trade route is never coming back, so why is it America’s new favorite idea for Central Asia?
Afghan President Karzai and U.S. Secretary of State Clinton meet in Washington / Reuters
When foreign ministers from Afghanistan, its neighbors, and several European countries meet today in Istanbul, U.S. diplomats will be pushing them to sign on to an ambitious plan for the future of Central Asia. The “New Silk Road,” as the State Department is calling their strategy, would link the infrastructure — roads, railways, power lines — of the ‘Stans of post-Soviet Central Asia southward through Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. At the same time, they would work with the governments to reduce legal and bureaucratic impediments to trade, like corrupt border crossings.
The hope is that this would produce a flowering of East-West overland trade akin to the original Silk Road, by which China traded with the Middle East via Central Asian trade centers like Kashgar, Bukhara, and Samarkand. “Turkmen gas fields could help meet both Pakistan’s and India’s growing energy needs and provide significant transit revenues for both Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a speech outlining the vision. “Tajik cotton could be turned into Indian linens. Furniture and fruit from Afghanistan could find its way to the markets of Astana or Mumbai and beyond.” (Clinton was originally scheduled to pitch her counterparts in Istanbul, but the death of her mother forced her to cancel the trip.)
But hope may be the only thing driving on the New Silk Road. The State Department has few good options in Afghanistan, and the U.S. doesn’t want to leave (or at least wants to seem like they won’t leave) a disaster behind once it starts pulling troops out in 2014. So it cast about for ideas and found the New Silk Road proposal, which had been bouncing around the post-Soviet think tank circuit in Washington since the mid-oughts.
The plan’s architect is Fred Starr, the chair of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, a small Washington, D.C. think tank, with the backing of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. State Department officials have long been wary of the plan, initially dismissing it as unworkable. But it began to gain favor last year at U.S. Central Command, and with its commander at the time, General David Petraeus. Since Marc Grossman became President Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan earlier this year, replacing the late Richard Holbrooke, the State Department has come around to support the strategy. And Clinton has appeared to embrace it as the economic foundation of the U.S.’s post-2014 strategy for Afghanistan, promoting it in her meetings last month with the presidents of three of Afghanistan’s neighbors: Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
The origins of the plan, however, lie in geopolitics rather than economics. In the mid-oughts, there were a variety of programs by which the U.S. tried to unite South and Central Asia, including an effort to tie together the electrical grids of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan with those of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Authority for the Central Asian countries were also moved under a new State Department bureau, taking them out of the Europen bureau with the rest of the post-Soviet republics and connecting them with South Asia. What these schemes all have in common is that they attempt to weaken the economic (and as a result, political) monopoly that Russia, by dint of the centralized Soviet infrastructure, has on these countries.
As Marlene Laruelle writes in a new book, Mapping Central Asia, which includes a great chapter on the revived metaphor of the New Silk Road: “The underlying geo-economic rationales of these Roads is to exclude Moscow from new geopolitical configurations.”
The State Department doesn’t say this, of course, and it’s possible (even likely) that the people now implementing the strategy don’t think of it as such. Clinton even implied that there could be some sort of connection with the Russia-led Customs Union with Kazakhstan and Belarus, which is the basis for Vladimir Putin’s notorious Eurasian Union.
But this geopolitical vestige lives on in the current iteration of the New Silk Road. Look at a map of South and Central Asia — ideally, one where you can see topography and the quality of roads — and it’s apparent that the most sensible way to ship goods from India west is not the northern route over the massive mountain passes and crumbling roads of Central Asia. It’s the southern route, through Iran and Turkey. But, obviously, a U.S.-backed plan can’t include Iran.
There are also political barriers to inter-Central Asian trade. George Gavrilis, an expert on Central Asia and borders, described them in a recent piece in Foreign Affairs. Many of the countries in the region, he notes, have persistent problems with their neighbors: Pakistan with Afghanistan and India, Uzbekistan with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Trade agreements are fragile and susceptible to political difficulties; the border between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan was closed for 18 months following last summer’s violence in southern Kyrgyzstan. More fundamentally, a region-wide strategy would be unlikely to work because the countries that surround Afghanistan — China, Pakistan, Iran and the ‘stans — all have very different interests and little desire to cooperate with one another. “I love the idea,” Gavrilis told me when I asked about the New Silk Road. “But I just don’t see how it can be implemented,”
Notwithstanding the romance of the original Silk Road, Laruelle notes in her book, the geopolitical situation has changed quite a bit in the centuries since. “The border divisions of the 20th century have transformed these ancient trans-continental routes into cul-de-sacs of nation-states and no simple political will to declare a zone a ‘crossroads’ can suffice to influence the reality of being in the margins,” she writes.
And the reason the first Silk Road died out? Sea transport became much cheaper, which is still true today. So plans, she continues, “to modify in depth the status quo of global trade, three-quarters of which is carried out by sea, by replacing it with continental trade on the pretext that, once upon a time, caravans used to travel along these routes, can not be taken seriously.”
The State Department, in its public statements on the plan, highlights a handful of existing or proposed projects on which the New Silk Road could be modeled, including a free-trade agreement signed last year between Pakistan and Afghanistan and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline. But they give little reason for optimism. The Pakistan-Afghanistan agreement was laboriously, personally brokered by Holbrooke but has yet to be implemented, and with relations between the two countries suffering, may never actually happen.
The TAPI pipeline has been discussed since the 1990s, but as with similar schemes, insecurity in Afghanistan has scared away companies that might have the capital to build such a pipeline. With U.S. and NATO troops departing, the security situation is likely to decline even further, a problem that the plan’s boosters acknowledge. “We have continued insecurity and instability in Afghanistan,” Sham Bathija, senior economic adviser to President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, said at a recent conference in Washington on the strategy. “Yet we have no choice but to forge ahead.”
It’s not clear what eventually convinced the State Department to embrace the New Silk Road. Starr is an eloquent proponent, and his enthusiasm can be infectious. But more than anything, the adoption of the plan speaks, as Bathija suggests, to the lack of good options for post-2014 Afghanistan. If this is the best Washington can come up with, the future for Afghanistan looks bleak.
But that’s not to say that there are no other choices. Instead of pushing an ambitious multilateral plan for Afghanistan, Gavrilis’ article suggests the U.S. should work with the countries it can actually do something with, tailoring individual strategies to each particular country’s interest: “Resuscitating region-wide approaches is a fool’s errand that will not save Afghanistan. It is time for the international community to dump diplomatic niceties and work with those neighbors whose policies could be molded to Afghanistan’s benefit.”
This lacks the romance of the Silk Road and the ambitious vision of a thriving Europe-Asia trade corridor. But it has a lot better chance of succeeding.
As could be easily predicted, the NATO-led overthrow of the Libyan government risks to push the country into the depths of bloody chaos. While prominent human rights groups keep reporting severe violations by the rebel forces, it has turned out that many of the local militia leaders are abandoning the promise to give up their weapons even after the death of Col. Gaddafi. According to their claims, militia commanders are intending to preserve their autonomy as “guardians of the revolution”. Without any doubt the presence of such “guardians” will hardly help to bring peace and stability to the troubled region. Once again an attempt of the so-called “democratization” violently conducted by the US and its NATO allies has led to some extremely bitter results.
The questionable activities of the Libyan rebels have become a subject of concern of Human Rights groups a long time ago. While the Gaddafi army was the one to blame for severe violations of human rights, the reports of such organizations as Amnesty International managed to break this stereotype. The leaders of Libya’s new government – National Transitional Council are describing their goals as an intention to build a modern democratic state, based on the values of “moderate” Islam. However the documented involvement of the Libyan militia in killings, abductions and torture hardly meets the standards of a democratic state.
Now the issue of the militias has become one of the most serious challenges that Libya’s new provisional government is facing. Lots of independent brigades have spread around the country, creating an escalating threat of the internecine confrontations.
While the NTC leader Mohammed al-Alagi is promising that his government will never tolerate any extremist ideology, the actions of the militia brigades question this statement.
“We are a Muslim nation, with a moderate Islam, and we will maintain that. You are with us and support us – you are our weapon against whoever tries to hijack the revolution,” says al-Alagi. However the self-proclaimed “guardians of the revolution” may have their own ideas about who would be the next to blame for “hijacking the revolution”.
This idea is fully backed by the Amnesty International report, entitled “The Battle for Libya – Killings, Disappearances and Torture”.
“Opposition fighters and supporters have abducted, arbitrarily detained, tortured and killed former members of the security forces, suspected Gaddafi loyalists, captured soldiers and foreign nationals wrongly suspected of being mercenaries fighting on behalf of Gaddafi forces,” says the report.
The rebel authorities seemed to find a loophole to avoid the accusations of war crimes. “They are not the military, they are only ordinary people,” said al-Alagi about the militia brigades. Now even the new government has to admit it has a problem with the uncontrollable militia units.
“Nobody wants to give up arms now, and many tribes and cities are accumulating arms ‘just in case,’ ” said Mahmoud Shammam, a spokesman for the council’s executive board.
“This could lead to a mess, to conflict between the councils,” says Ramadan Zarmoh, a leader of the Misurata military council, claiming that the city’s militia should disband itself almost immediately after a new defense ministry is formed. “If we want to have democracy, we can’t have this.”
However, militia leaders have clearly demonstrated not only their unwillingness to give up arms but also a strong intention to take part in the political process. Local leaders in Misurata have already threatened to intervene in the appointment of a new prime minister. If the situation continues to develop at this rate, Libya risks being dragged down to the brink of another civil war – even more chaotic and bloody than the previous one.
MOSCOW, November 2 (RIA Novosti) – Tehran will release 100 documents showing Washington’s role in sponsoring terrorist activities in Iran and the entire Middle East region, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday, according to the Fars news agency.
“We have a hundred irrefutable documents on the U.S. role in directing terror and terrorists in Iran and the region,” Ayatollah Khamenei said ahead of November 4 marking the anniversary of the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979.
“By releasing these documents, we will dishonor the U.S. and those who claim to be the advocates of human rights and the campaign against terrorism,” he said.
His remarks follow the U.S. allegations that Tehran plotted to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington, hiring assassins from a Mexican drug cartel for $1.5 million.
Iran has denied any involvement.
[Maybe there is hope for Pakistan and India after all. SEE: Gilani wants India to light-up Pakistan]
(Reuters) – Pakistan’s cabinet unanimously decided Wednesday to grant India Most Favoured Nation (MFN) trade status, a major breakthrough that could bolster efforts to improve relations between the nuclear-armed rivals.
Trade has long been tied to political issues between the hostile neighbors, who have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947.
There are hopes that progress in trade ties will help bolster a fragile peace process, which the two resumed in February, with political implications likely to outweigh any practical benefits.
“This was a decision taken in the national interest and all stakeholders, including our military and defense institutions, were on board,” Information Minister Firdos Ashiq Awan told reporters.
Pakistan’s military, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its history, sets security and foreign policy.
Critics say Pakistan’s generals have been so obsessed with a perceived security threat from India for decades that their judgment on vital issues such as the economy has become clouded.
“It’s a very powerful step, and a welcome step in the right direction,” Indian Trade Secretary Rahul Khullar told Reuters in New Delhi.
“It’s good for business. It’s good for commerce, and most importantly it increases confidence on the economic front that both Pakistan and India are committed to moving the social and trade agenda forward.”
But underscoring the sensitivities, an angry Pakistani journalist covering Awan’s press conference described the decision as a “crime.”
Islamabad has been looking increasingly isolated after India signed a wide-ranging agreement with Afghanistan last month, and the unilateral U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May which heavily strained ties with ally Washington.
“It’s (MFN status) a very major milestone in terms of change in the mindset of Pakistan,” said retired Pakistani general and prominent commentator Talat Masood.
“I think they have realized they can’t have bad relations with the United States and at the same time continue to have very poor relations with India because this synergy will be very dangerous for Pakistan.”
Islamabad wants a major say in shaping any peace settlement in Afghanistan, where India is taking an active but low-profile approach to building influence through aid and investment.
But Islamabad has alienated both the Washington and Kabul governments — who will play a central role in any reconciliation — because of its suspected links with militant groups fighting Western and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.
The United States is likely to applaud Pakistan’s decision to give India MFN status.
Peace across the heavily militarized frontier between India and Pakistan is crucial for the United States to draw down troops and stabilize Afghanistan without sparking off a proxy war between New Delhi and Islamabad in that country.
Awan said commerce officials from the two countries would meet in India in mid-November to discuss ways to boost trade.
India broke off talks after the November 2008 attack on Mumbai by Pakistan-based militants that killed 166 people.
While India granted Pakistan MFN status in 1996, Pakistan hesitated.
Pakistani officials want New Delhi to remove non-trade barriers against Pakistan goods. Pakistan has long complained that Indian quality standards and customs procedures have hindered the flow of Pakistani goods into India.
Of the $1.4 billion in trade recorded in 2009/10, Indian exports to Pakistan stood at $1.2 billion while Pakistan exports to India totaled $268 million, according to official data.
The wider economic disparity is just as stark. Pakistan reported 2.4 percent growth in gross domestic product in the 20100-11 fiscal year while India reported 8.5 percent growth.
Since the 1960s, when Pakistan was an Asian tiger economy and India a basket case, India’s economy has swelled to $1.06 trillion, more than eight times the size of Pakistan’s $207 billion.
Trade ties were severed after the second war between the two countries in 1965 and have yet to recover fully.
But despite the challenges, the two now appear more keen to remove barriers to trade and the two countries’ commerce ministries say trade could easily triple in three years.
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