Pakistanis and Indians Dance to America’s Tune

[The following article is not only a good example of what is wrong with both the Pakistani and the Indian media, it is also an excellent example of how American influence distorts what and how is reported in those media.  Notice that in this report, the Indian writer cited, tip-toes around the malevolent American intrusion into India’s state affairs, and the Pakistani writer ignores the Indian’s lack of candor and proceeds to join him in the tip-toeing around any examples that reveal the worst American intrusion into Pakistan’s affairs.  This is the essence of the CIA formula for subverting any nation, first make a nation’s leaders complicit in criminal actions, then undertake new criminal actions which they dare not report to anyone else.  The CIA helped both India and Pakistan in their attacks upon the other, now neither side dares to expose American subversion in the region, for fear of exposing their own country’s complicity in those crimes.]

India, Pakistan urged to join hands against US influence in region

By Moayyed Jafri

LAHORE: India and Pakistan must work together in order to keep the American influence out of South Asia, said Prem Shankar Jha, former editor of the Economic Times, Financial Express and Hindustan Times.

Citing an example of the American influence in the region, the renowned Indian journalist said, “India has nothing to do with Afghanistan, which does not share any borders with India, but the Indians were allowed to establish their machinery by the Americans there, which implies that America would be at one hand with Pakistan and at the other with India, turning our two countries against each other”.

He said the US, intentionally or unintentionally, treats India and Pakistan differently on issues so as to develop dissent between the two countries. Thus, he said, the Afghanistan issue has particularly served as a wake-up call for both India and Pakistan, demanding that they need to develop a mutually agreed common strategy for Afghanistan, besides all other such issues where American policy line divides the neighboring nations.

Prem Shankar Jha praised former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri, saying that Kasuri proved himself a brave man enough to openly dismiss the much-touted allegation that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had backed out of the Kashmir resolution framework which had been agreed by both the countries.

He said Pakistan’s then president Pervez Musharraf had categorically said that he could not sell the mutually agreed framework to his nation because of the chief justice’s movement, which had made him unpopular, and thus he requested that he needed time for it all to settle.

Expressing his reservations over the recently-hyped issue of water between the two countries, he said the Aman Ki Asha dialogue has revealed that this issue has been misreported, exaggerated and intentionally whipped up by some agencies in Pakistan in order to alienate the two countries from each other, because the Kashmir issue is no longer spurring anti-India jingoistic sentiments in Pakistanis.

Stressing the importance of Aman Ki Asha project, he said, “It is so important, as it corrects opinion of the peoples through truthful information-sharing which nullifies the propaganda of certain elements who try to arouse offensive sentiments between the two nations”.

Expressing his perspective on the issue of American Influence, former Indian foreign secretary and ambassador Salman Haider said although Indians and Pakistanis perceive America differently, this does not deny importance of the fact that the two countries need to work against the American influence which has the tendency to disturb Indo-Pak relations.

He said the intent of America cannot be doubted totally, because India is among the top growing economic powers in the world and the US wants to tap into this huge market.

Talking about the dissent and a level of anger that exists in the Pakistanis towards India, he said he is not offended by the sentiments of Pakistanis, as it will take some time for building neutral opinion of the masses through untainted information-sharing, for which Aman ki Asha provides a perfect platform. However, he maintained, all this necessitates time and persistent efforts as there has been a lot of negativity in the past.

Commenting on India’s reaction in the event of a civil nuclear pact with America, he said although it is dealing strictly between Pakistan and the US, there is a distinct possibility that India will have concerned issues with it, just like Pakistan had when the civil nuclear pact between America and India came about.

Much of this has to do with the fact that both the countries do not know what the level of cooperation is extended by the US to either of them which raises concern over perceived threat from each other.

Admiral (Retd) K. Nayyar said a young girl approached him after the dialogue and questioned why India is bent upon killing Pakistani agriculture and people by inflicting a drought through violation of the Indus water treaty.

He said, “This is what misinformation has brought about, and that is why the perspective of the people of both the countries hosts grievances, anger and even aggression”. He said if such propaganda is not checked, the pursuance of peace will meet failure.

He said if the misconceptions harbored by the people of both the nations over the water issue are not removed immediately by the governments, it may develop into the most destructive contention. All the three intellectuals, despite their diverse fields, agreed that there is a need to acknowledge each other’s issues, even if they have serious differences.

Shale Gas Boom Deflating the Nabucco Delusion

An unconventional dilemma

Carola Hoyos and Ed Crooks, Financial Times

Andrew Austin is bringing an American revolution to Britain. On a patch of farmland east of Liverpool, his company Igas has drilled one of Europe’s first wells for “unconventional” gas, extracted from source rocks traditionally rejected by the industry as uneconomic.

The former investment banker hopes in the next couple of years to exploit the source that has transformed the outlook for energy in the US: shale rocks.

Igas has taken leases on 300,000 acres of shale, a sedimentary rock, across north Wales and north-west England, joining the rush of companies large and small in countries such as Poland and Germany seeking to replicate a boom in the US that has captured the industry’s imagination.

“Even a year ago, if I had said I was taking licences in big slabs of shale rock, everybody would have thought I was barking mad,” Austin says. “Now I get invited to five conferences a week.”

The rush of European interest in shale underscores wider awareness of a change in the outlook for gas supplies. A surge in US production has meant that within three years the world has gone from running out of natural gas to being drowned in it.

The implications are profound. Policymakers have faced a trilemma: how to make energy supplies secure, affordable and clean. Now an abundance of gas appears to provide the answer to all three problems at once. In the words of Tony Hayward, chief executive of BP, it is a “game changer” – certainly for America, and quite possibly for the world.

If western politicians get it right, they could transform their uneasy relationships with suppliers in potentially troubling countries such as Russia and Nigeria, while meeting carbon reduction targets without relying on nuclear and wind power, which can deliver electricity only at vastly inflated expense. The consequences will be greatest if Europe can emulate the upsurge in US production. If it does not, the effects will still be profound.

However, there are two problems that could prevent gas from being the “long-term energy solution” proclaimed this week by Jim Mulva, chief executive of ConocoPhillips, a US oil and gas group.

One is political resistance; the other is the danger of pollution that one analyst warns could pose a “Toyota-sized” reputational risk.

Scepticism about the gas revolution is understandable because change has come so fast. Until five years ago, US policymakers and energy executives were fretting about securing enough gas to make up for the decline in the country’s own, sizable production. This year, the US has overtaken Russia to become the world’s biggest gas producer for the first time in nearly a decade. Technical breakthroughs that allow companies to tap gas trapped in its vast shale reserves, until recently considered impervious, have allowed it to shut its doors to imports from distant countries. The industry now thinks it can produce from those reserves for 100 years.

Furthermore, with technical developments that make it easier to export liquefied natural gas, changes in the US market can have effects thousands of miles away. As America loses its appetite for imports, LNG tankers from countries such as Qatar are re-routed to Asia and Europe.

For the latter, the prospect of increased imports of LNG and the potential for its own unconventional gas production offer reprieve from dependence on Gazprom, the Russian gas export monopoly. A recent report by the Wood Mackenzie consultancy concluded that Russia’s share of the European gas market was likely to fall from 29 per cent to 24 per cent this decade because of the competition from gas originating in countries such as Qatar, Nigeria and Algeria.

The increased supply of gas, and the more cautious views of the outlook for demand growth after the recession, have also taken the urgency out of projects such as the Nabucco pipeline, the European Union-backed project to bring up to 31bn cubic metres of gas a year from the Caspian region to central Europe. Because Russia has the world’s largest reserves of gas, Europe will still find it difficult to extricate itself from the relationship with its biggest supplier. But exploiting its own unconventional gas reserves could make a big difference to the EU, its eastern members in particular.

The especially appealing feature of the new supplies of gas is that they could reinforce energy security at a much lower cost than other home-grown energy sources such as nuclear power or offshore wind.

In America, the benchmark price of gas is below $US5 per million British thermal units; in Britain, it is about 30p per therm. Those prices are equivalent to about $30 per barrel of oil: less than half today’s crude price of about $US80. Prices are so low that it is cheaper to use gas to generate electricity than coal. As the world economy recovers, prices are expected to pick up again. But rising US production is likely to put a ceiling on how far they can rise.

Gas is also the preferred fuel for power companies planning to build plants, because gas-fired designs are cheapest and quickest to construct. Combined cycle gas turbines, the most modern and efficient plants, are a proved technology that can be built for less than $US1 million per megawatt of capacity, compared to perhaps $US4 million per megawatt for a new nuclear plant and $US5 million per megawatt for a wind turbine located out at sea. “Gas is a very competitive option,” says Fabien Roques of the IHS CERA consultancy. “Gas-fired plants are very flexible; they can back up renewables; they are very straightforward, and they are very low risk for investors.”

When the political commitment to curb greenhouse gas emissions is taken into account, the appeal of gas is even stronger.

Gas creates about half the carbon dioxide of coal when burned to generate electricity. Indeed, one of the cheapest ways to cut emissions is to shut coal plants and replace them with gas.

Lambert Energy, the advisory firm, estimates that shutting down the EU’s coal-fired power stations and replacing them with CCGT plants would cut emissions by about 20 per cent of 1990 levels, meeting the target set by European governments for 2020.

In the US, the same shift would cut emissions by 22 per cent from 2005 levels, exceeding the 17 per cent reduction proposed by President Barack Obama at the Copenhagen climate summit last December.

If it switched entirely out of coal-fired power and into gas, the EU would need about 40 per cent more gas, but higher LNG imports and some domestic shale gas production could make it possible to meet that increased demand.

The vision of a gas-based energy system, cheap, clean and secure, is a seductive one. It will not be easy, however, to turn it into reality.

The primary problem is politics, according to Philip Lambert of Lambert Energy. “There is only one thing that can stand between natural gas being the affordable, quick and material answer to the environmental challenge posed by the globalisation of energy use – and that is political unwillingness to accept gas as the fuel of choice.”

In part because of concerns about excessive reliance on Russia, EU governments have committed themselves to renewables such as wind power, promising to derive 20 per cent of Europe’s energy from those sources by 2020. As a result, the industry is being pushed away from the lowest-cost options for emissions reduction to higher-cost technologies such as offshore wind.

In the US, opposition to an increased use of natural gas comes not only from the politically powerful coal lobby resisting any erosion of its position but also from policymakers and Congress, largely focused on supporting renewables and nuclear power.

Policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic have been slow to accept that the outlook for gas supplies has been transformed.

At the CERA Week industry conference in Houston on Tuesday, Steven Chu, the US energy secretary, spoke positively about shale deposits but highlighted the role of gas as merely “a key enabler of renewable energy”.

Günther Oettinger, the new European commissioner for energy, also stresses the value of renewable energy. Welcoming forecasts yesterday that the EU was on course to meet its renewable goal for 2020, he said: “Our task will be to help all member states not only to reach the 20 per cent target but to go beyond.”

That political pressure damages confidence in future demand for gas and risks choking off the investment needed to guarantee supplies. It may also weigh against the construction of new gas-fired power stations because investors will worry about whether the plants will run only when other forms of power, such as wind, are unavailable. “Investors need to work out how gas plants will remain profitable post-2020,” says Mr Roques.

The other problem is the potential environmental impact of shale gas production. Water, sand and chemicals are pumped into the ground under pressure, to crack the shale and create gaps so the gas can flow out.

In the US, this process of fracturing, or “fracking”, has already caused concern among environmental campaigners and some politicians worried about possible contamination of ground water.

Michael Zenker of Barclays Capital, warns: “If fracturing was halted, there would be a serious dent in the supply outlook for North America.”

He does not expect environmental concerns to slow the growth of the US industry, although he acknowledges they could be a “reputational” risk.

In more densely populated and often environmentally sensitive European countries, however, those worries could be much more of a problem.

Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer, chief executive of Austria’s OMV, one of the companies exploring the potential of shale gas in Europe, says: “I don’t want to create these kind of hopes and fantasies that lack final results, so I’m extremely cautious whether [shale gas] will be an option at all.”

Alexander Medvedev – the head of Gazprom’s international business, who is watching the effect of shale gas nervously – is counting on environmental concerns to derail ambitions to bring shale gas technology to Europe. If things go his way, then there is a risk that Russia’s grip on European energy could tighten, not ease.

While shale gas may fail to take off in Europe, however, the most important revolution could come in China, which relies on coal for 81 per cent of its rapidly growing electricity needs and on gas for only 1 per cent.

Beijing is keen to change that balance to reduce carbon and sulphur emissions, which are suffocating its big cities, and also wants to secure more of its fuel supplies at home. Last year the government signed an agreement under which the US government will help China assess its shale gas potential.

In the long run, China and the US agreeing that natural gas is the fuel of the future may well prove to be more important than their failure to come up with binding emissions targets at Copenhagen last year.

Russian Seals Crimean Deal, Extends Sevastapol Lease Until 2042

Russian envoy to Ukraine hails naval base deal

The deal extending Russia’s use of a naval base in Ukraine’s Crimea is economically beneficial for both Moscow and Kiev, the Russian ambassador to Ukraine said on Friday.

The agreement, signed on Wednesday by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, extends the lease on the Russian base in the port of Sevastopol for 25 years after the current lease expires in 2017, and may be further extended by another five years.

“As far as Russia is concerned, it is not only a question of the redeployment of the Black Sea Fleet or the construction of new coastal infrastructure, but also a broad array of issues related to understanding how friendly our neighbor is,” Mikhail Zurabov said.

He said the new deal was important for eliminating the remaining “uncertainty” in relations between the two countries.

“We do not want to find ourselves in a situation of such high uncertainty and I don’t think our Ukrainian colleagues want that either,” he said, adding that uncertainty was bad for the economy.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev submitted the agreement to the Russian lower house of parliament, the State Duma on Friday. The Duma has scheduled a plenary session on the ratification of the agreement for April 27 and Ukraine’s parliament is due to hold a session on the same day.

There has, however, been strong opposition to the deal in Ukraine and it is not clear that it will in fact be ratified on Tuesday.

The Ukrainian opposition said any prolongation of Russia’s military presence would require amendments to the Constitution as well as a national referendum.

Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said on Thursday the deal amounts to “military occupation” and urged all opposition and patriotic forces to unite in the face of the threat to Ukraine’s sovereignty.

Mykola Tomenko, deputy speaker of parliament and a leader of the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc opposition party said on April 14 that Article 17 of the Constitution forbids foreign military bases on Ukrainian soil.

However, on Thursday Ukraine’s Constitutional Court ruled the extension of the base lease did not violate the country’s Constitution.

Yanukovych, who became president two months ago, has pledged to steer Ukraine away from the pro-Western stance of Yushchenko, who vowed that Russia would have to look for a new base for its Black Sea Fleet after 2017.

KIEV, April 23 (RIA Novosti)

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine