Indian Leadership Is Opening Path To Prosperity In South and Central Asia, Beginning With Afghanistan

India eyes Pakistani route for Afghan mine access

Reuters

The Hajigak deposit contains an estimated 1.8 billion tons of iron ore, the ministry said in a statement.—File photo

NEW DELHI/KABUL: India will explore a route through Pakistan to transport iron ore from Afghanistan, the head of a consortium involved in the $11 billion project said, hoping that economic benefits will outweigh political hostility.

Despite a spike in tension in Afghanistan and uncertainty over the future once foreign combat forces leave in 2014, India was committed to developing the Hajigak mines and a 6 million tonne steel plant alongside, CS Verma, chairman of Steel Authority of India, told Reuters in an interview.

A contract is to be signed in two months in what will be the biggest foreign investment in Afghanistan’s resources sector, larger than the $4.4 billion the Chinese are investing in the Aynak copper mine.

Mining work is expected to begin in late 2014 just when Afghan security forces take over security responsibilities and it remains a big concern whether they will be able to tackle a Taliban insurgency at its worst.

For the Indians, the challenge of transporting the ore out of the landlocked country is an additional issue given they have no direct access.

Pakistan is the obvious route and the alternative is a longer way westwards to Iran and then shipping it through the port of Chabahar that India has promoted to reduce Afghanistan’s dependence on Pakistan.

But Verma told Reuters that the consortium made up of seven state and private firms was looking to move the ore along Pakistani roads crossing over to India, believing the benefits far outweighed political hostility between the two countries.

“What we have here is a gold mine, more than just an iron mine. I believe this is what everyone else will eventually realise. Ultimately the economic interests of everyone in the region including Pakistan will take precedence”.

The Hajigak deposit contains an estimated 1.8 billion tonnes of ore, with an iron concentration of anything between 61 per cent to 64 per cent. “Where will you find such high grade ore? People have invested in mines elsewhere in the world with much less ferrous content,” Verma said.

India, he said, would pursue the Pakistani option both as a way to truck the ore out and a route to build a slurry pipeline.

“We are very bullish and believe that over the longer term this will be a productive investment. Not just for us, but others in the region including Pakistan. There are license fees, logistics, etc.”

Loggerheads

Pakistan and India have been at loggerheads over Afghanistan for years with Pakistan suspicious of India’s extensive aid and reconstruction efforts there, and fearing a loss of influence.

But as India has powered its way into one of the world’s fastest growing economies and added political heft, Pakistan’s economy has slipped further back and is unable to match the scale of its investment in Afghanistan.

Pakistani businessmen have urged the country’s military and political leaders to open up trade with India, arguing that they only way the economy can climb out of a low growth path is to do business with its giant neighbour to the east.

Pakistan has agreed to grant India Most Favoured Nation to promote trade and the two sides while still poles apart on political issues, are taking steps to expand the trade basket.

Later this week, officials will hold talks on trade in petroleum products.

More crucially for Afghanistan, Pakistan has begun implementing a trade and transit treaty that allows Afghan exporters to send goods to the giant markets of India.

“Pakistan has been very clear that its red lines are security issues, things like training of forces etc,” an Indian diplomat said in New Delhi.

“On other fronts, there is less of resistance. They are allowing goods from Afghanistan to go through, its a start.”

He recalled how apples from Afghanistan’s Wardak province were flown in the hold of state-carrier Air India in 2009 because Pakistan wouldn’t allow the farmers to truck them to the Indian market.

Verma said seven of India’s biggest companies in the steel sector were involved in the Afghan venture. “We know its difficult terrain, we have never done anything like this before, but we are bringing all our resources.”

The other members of the consortium are: state-run miner NMDC Ltd and steelmaker Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd (RINL), and private sector steelmakers JSW Steel Ltd, JSW Ispat Steel Ltd, Jindal Steel & Power Ltd and Monnet Ispat & Energy Ltd.

Iran Stands At the Crossroads of the World—the Real Silk Road

Official: China aims to trade with Central Asia via Iranian ports

lexisnexis

Azerbaijan, Baku

Trend F.Milad/

 

The Chinese commercial attaché to Tehran has said that his country plans to do trade with Central Asia via Iranian northern ports.

In a meeting with Iran’s Gilan Province’s ports and maritime director general, the Chinese official stated that his country aims to expand trade ties with Central Asian states via Iran’s northern ports, especially Anzali, the IRNA news agency reported on Monday.

Through connecting Bandar Abbas port in south of Iran to Anzali port in the north a new trade route will be created which will be economically more justified than other routes, the official said.

"China aims to export electronic and consumer goods via this route and import agricultural and mineral goods, instead," the commercial attaché said.

Annual trade between Iran and China was estimated to be worth $45 billion in the current Iranian calendar year which ended on March 19, Press TV reported, citing Iran’s ambassador to China, Mehdi Safari. The Iran-China trade was worth $30 billion in the last Iranian year, Safari added.

Trading between the two countries rose 52 per cent, despite the U.S. and UN imposing additional sanctions on June 2010 with a goal to pressurise Iran to end its nuclear programme.

UN Security Council poised to threaten Syria’s Assad – with Russia’s blessing

UN Security Council poised to threaten Syria’s Assad – with Russia’s blessing

Christian Science Monitor

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/terrorism-security/2012/0321/UN-Security-Council-poised-to-threaten-Syria-s-Assad-with-Russia-s-blessing

The United Nations Security Council secured Russia’s critical backing yesterday for a statement backing envoy Kofi Annan’s peacemaking plan. The step marks a distinct shift in Russia’s stance.

By , Staff writer

Joint special envoy on Syria for the United Nations and the Arab League Kofi Annan, gives a statement after his address to the Security Council in New York by videolink at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Friday.

Denis Balibouse/Reuters

After months of inaction on Syria because of the opposition of veto-wielding members Russia and China, the United Nations Security Council is poised to approve a draft statement backing a new peacemaking effort to end the violence.

The draft expresses “full support” for special envoy Kofi Annan’s peacemaking efforts and warns Damascus of “further steps” by the UN if it doesn’t meet UN demands “in a timely manner,” Reuters reports. Mr. Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations, is acting as envoy for both the UN and the Arab League.

The Security Council members spent Tuesday negotiating the text of the draft, easing the demands on the Syrian government to secure Russia’s approval. A previous version that threatened further UN action if Damascus did not comply within seven days was rejected by Russia as an ultimatum, according to Reuters.

If no one on the council raises further objections before 9 a.m. EST today, the draft will be automatically adoptedVoice of America reports. China has indicated its support, reports Xinhua. The draft includes a call for a cease-fire, dialogue between the government and opposition, and total access for humanitarian work.

Russia has steadfastly stood between the UN andSyrian President Bashar al-Assad‘s regime since the uprising began a year ago, vetoing along with China two previous resolutions. If Moscow goes along with this draft statement, it will be a “diplomatic blow” to Russia’s ally Assad, according to Reuters.

Yesterday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a pre-recorded interview for Russian radio stationKommersant FM that the Assad regime has made many mistakes. “We believe that the Syrian leadership responded incorrectly to the very first manifestations of the peaceful protests. The Syrian leadership – despite the numerous promises it has made in response to our calls – is making a lot of mistakes. Unfortunately this is why the conflict is so acute,” Mr. Lavrov said, according to RTT, which characterized his remarks as representing a “distinct shift” in Russia’s position.

Meanwhile, the Syrian opposition has faced several setbacks in the last month, with government troops wresting control of the cities of Homs and Idlib, two rebel strongholds. Yesterday, the Free Syrian Army, an armed wing of the opposition, had to flee the city of Deir al-Zour amid a government assault, Bloomberg reports.

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Is France Shooter Fake “Al-Qaeda” or Neo-Nazi?

[As the story unfolds, the "link to al-Qaeda" is added, as usual.  This is how whispered rumors turn into legends.  France needs its own "al-Qaeda" legends to pump-up the anti-Muslim spirit in France.  That is the purpose of the recent spate of terrorist incidents in Europe, to point the wagging fingers and flapping tongues at the Muslim population (SEE: Camp_of_the_Saints ).]

Mourners follow the hearse carrying the coffins of the victims, following a ceremony at the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school where a gunman opened fire killing four people in Toulouse, southwestern France, Tuesday, March 20, 2012. A father and his two sons were among four people who died Monday when a gunman opened fire in front of a Jewish school in a city in southwest France, the Toulouse prosecutor said Monday. Photo: Remy De La Mauvinere / AP

Mourners follow the hearse carrying the coffins of the victims, following a ceremony at the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school where a gunman opened fire killing four people in Toulouse, southwestern France, Tuesday, March 20, 2012. A father and his two sons were among four people who died Monday when a gunman opened fire in front of a Jewish school in a city in southwest France, the Toulouse prosecutor said Monday. Photo: Remy De La Mauvinere / AP

French hunt school killer, suspect neo-Nazi ties

 

TOULOUSE, France (AP) — French police surrounded an apartment building where a gunman claiming al-Qaida links and suspected in the killings of three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers barricaded himself Wednesday and stopped talking to negotiators.

An early morning raid by hundreds of police to arrest the 24-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent erupted into a firefight. Three police officers were wounded, Interior Minister Claude Gueant said.

The suspect told police he belonged to al-Qaida and wanted to take revenge for Palestinian children killed in the Middle East, Gueant said. The suspect also said he was angry about French military intervention abroad, and had spent time in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Gueant said.

The suspect threw a handgun out a window in exchange for a communications device, but he has more weapons, authorities said. An Interior Ministry official identified the suspect asMohammad Merah, who has been under surveillance for having “fundamentalist” views. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Police swept in soon after 3 a.m. (0200 GMT; 10 p.m. EDT Tuesday) on the residential neighborhood in northern Toulouse where the suspect was holed up. At one point, volleys of gunfire heard around the neighborhood were exchanged. An elite squad was handling the negotiations.

It was part of a manhunt for the shooter who has killed seven people, including French soldiers and Jewish school children, in three attacks in the Toulouse area. In Monday’s attack, the three young children and a rabbi were killed.

“Terrorism will not be able to fracture our national community,” President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a declaration on national television before heading to the funeral services for two paratroopers killed and another injured in nearby Montauban.

The series of attacks — every four days since March 11 — began with the killing of another paratrooper in Toulouse.

The interior minister, who was at the scene of the standoff, said the suspect tossed from his window a Colt 45 used in each of the three attacks. He has other weapons, like an AK-47 machine gun, but is talking with police and said he would surrender in the afternoon, Gueant said.

“The main concern is to arrest him, and to arrest him in conditions by which we can present him to judicial officials,” Gueant said, explaining authorities want to “take him alive … It is imperative for us.”

A judicial official said the suspect’s mother, his brother and a companion of the brother were detained for questioning. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.

The interior minister had said the suspect’s brother “is also engaged in the Salafi ideology,” a reference to a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam.

___

Elaine Ganley, Thomas AdamsonJamey Keaten, Ingrid Rousseau, Cecile Brisson and Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to this report.

Russia against U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan

Russia against U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan

VLADIMIR RADYUHIN

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has come out against the withdrawal of the international military forces from Afghanistan in 2014.

In an interview to the Afghan TV channel TOLO, Mr. Lavrov said the NATO-led forces should not pull out until they fulfil a U.N. mandate to establish a stable government and credible defence forces in Afghanistan.

“I don’t think the goal has been achieved,” said Mr. Lavrov when asked whether the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) should leave Afghanistan in 2014 as proposed.

“It is clear that problems remain in Afghanistan. We are especially concerned about terrorist activity in the north of Afghanistan. Terrorists are effectively being pushed towards the north, from where they infiltrate to the territory of Central Asian states adjacent to Russia,” he said according to a transcript of the interview posted on the Foreign Ministry’s website on Monday.

The ISAF “must implement their mandate before they leave, and before they leave, they must report to the U.N. Security Council that the mandate has been fulfilled.”

The Security Council is due to review the ISAF mandate later this week.

MILITARY BASES

Mr. Lavrov also criticised the U.S. plan to maintain military bases in Afghanistan after 2014, calling the move “illogical”.

“If you need the military presence, then continue implementing the mandate of the Security Council. If you don’t want to implement the mandate or if you believe that you have implemented it, but still want to establish and keep the military bases, that’s not logical,” Mr. Lavrov said. “I also believe that Afghan territory should not be used to create military facilities that would cause concern of third parties.”

“We don’t understand the purpose of the military bases, and, besides, the United States is talking to Central Asian countries about long-term military presence. We want to understand the reason and purpose of these plans. We don’t think it would be helpful for the stability of the region.”