India to gift e-network to Central Asia

India to gift e-network to Central Asia

IANS

New Delhi, June 10 — Stepping up its diplomatic footprints in energy-rich Central Asia, India is set to replicate the success of the Pan Africa e-network by creating a similar project of tele-education and tele-medicine that will span all the states of the strategically important region.

The e-network project will be unveiled during Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed’s visit to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, June 12-13, a senior official familiar with the region, told IANS. Ahamed will be accompanied by senior officials of the external affairs ministry, including Ajay Bisaria, joint secretary in charge of the Eurasia division.

In Africa, the e-network has been a success with 47 African countries signing onto it.

The Central Asian e-network will be a pioneering attempt by India to leverage its prowess in the IT to bridge the digital divide in developing countries and to bolster their capacity in critical areas of health and education by linking India’s top hospitals and educational institutions with hubs in the region.

The Krygyz capital will also see India unfurling its Central Asia policy, the first such attempt to articulate New Delhi’s vision for the region where China has made deep inroads.

Bishkek will host a Track 1.5 dialogue that will bring experts and academics along with officials from India and Central Asian countries to map out a coherent and effective India-Central Asia partnership. The dialogue has been organized by the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA).

Given the critical importance of the resource-rich Central Asian nations, India has been raising its profile by proactive initiatives on multiple fronts in the region which is already sold on the charms of Bollywood cinema. Culturally, India is strongly placed with its soft power attractions – many Tajiks and Uzbeks who trained in India speak fluent Hindi and love humming Hindi songs.

With its core strengths in capacity building, IT and human resource development, India is uniquely poised to transform the resource-rich strategically located region that suffers from a massive infrastructure deficit. During his visit, Ahamed will also inaugurate a potato processing plant, part of a slew of small development projects shepherded and assisted by India in the region.

The presence of Islamist militant networks and the geographical contiguity of Afghanistan with Central Asian nations have added to the region’s strategic significance for India. Defence cooperation with the region is also growing. India has the only overseas military base in Tajikistan, which is operated by the Indian Air Force in collaboration with the Tajikistan Air Force.

India’s proactive diplomacy in the region will also complement its efforts to join the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which brings together Russia and China along with Central Asian states, including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

India made a strong pitch for joining the SCO at the June 6-7 summit in Beijing by outlining its strong multi-faceted relations with the region and myriad strengths it could bring to bear on the development of Central Asia.

(Manish Chand can be contacted at manish.c@ians.in)

Moscow Seeks International Syrian Peace Conference

Moscow seeks Syria conference

Henry Meyer

Speaking in Moscow, Mr Lavrov also indicated that Russia will no longer stand in the way of the departure of President Bashar al-Assad if that is what Syrians want.

However, the Russians still insist there should be no external intervention in the conflict.

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”If the Syrians agree [on Assad’s departure] between each other, we will only be happy to support such a solution,” Mr Lavrov said.

”But … it is unacceptable to impose the conditions for such a dialogue from outside. You have to force them to sit down at the negotiating table after first halting the violence. That’s the point of this conference.”

Last Wednesday Russia and China proposed a meeting to back efforts by Kofi Annan, the United Nations-Arab League special envoy, to broker a peaceful settlement.

Iran should be invited to attend the conference, alongside the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the European Union and Arab League states including Syria’s neighbours, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, Mr Lavrov said.

International efforts are failing to halt intensifying violence as the 15-month uprising against Mr Assad’s government deteriorates into sectarian fighting.

At least 83 people were killed across Syria on Saturday, including women and children among 20 dead in the flashpoint town of Daraa, according to the Local Co-ordination Committees, an activist group.

The US has not signalled its opposition to the proposed conference. However, it has criticised the inclusion of Iran, Mr Lavrov said, and he urged the US to show ”pragmatism” by allowing Iran to take part.

Iran can exert influence over Mr Assad’s government as a regional ally, Mr Lavrov said. The initiative has previously been rejected by the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who expressed doubts that Iran would play a constructive role.

Iran, whose Shiite rulers have close ties to Mr Assad’s minority Alawite regime, is the Syrian government’s strongest backer along with Russia and China.

The US State Department’s special envoy to the Syrian opposition, Fred Hof, and the US ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, with two Russian deputy foreign ministers, Mikhail Bogdanov and Gennady Gatilov, on Saturday night.

Russia had not been supplying small arms or any weapons to Mr Assad that could be used against Syria’s civilian population since the conflict started, and would halt all weapons shipments after completing previously signed contracts to deliver air-defence systems, Mr Lavrov said.

At the United Nations on Thursday, Mr Annan warned that Syria was headed towards a future of ”brutal repression, massacres, sectarian violence and even all-out civil war”.

Privately, he told the Security Council that his efforts to bring about peace could not be open-ended, and international consultations must yield results, according to diplomats who were present and described the remarks on condition of anonymity.

UN observers have found evidence of atrocities in the village of Mazraat al-Qubair, where as many as 78 people were killed, according to opposition activists. More than half of those killed in the village in Hama province were women and children, with some dying during army shelling and others burnt or stabbed by pro-government shabiha militiamen who arrived an hour later, the opposition Syrian National Council said on June 7 in a statement on Facebook.

Syrian state television denied the claim, and blamed ”terrorists” for any atrocities.

The Qubair attack follows the massacre of 108 people in Houla on May 25.

The Syrian National Council, an opposition umbrella group, has elected Abdel Basit Seida as its leader after Burhan Ghalioun’s resignation last month.

Bloomberg

U.S., Pakistan On A Countdown To Conflict

[As I have been saying repeatedly over the past several years, the former allies are headed for a major confrontation.  That confrontation will take the form of an intensive air campaign, in support of the world’s first Special Forces War.  The infiltration of the Pak military is by now,  nearly complete, providing Washington  an intimate, insider’s knowledge of all the ins and outs, as well as institutional weaknesses, of those forces.  When the time comes, a rapid succession of selective airstrikes will effectively create blindness and chaos, even at the upper echelons of power, before the generals can even know whether they are being hit by Indian forces or American.  

This is the plan, at least.  Plans like this don’t normally work-out the way they were hatched.  

If relations between the US and Pakistan continue on their downward spiral, then this is where it will all lead, because the Empire’s plans require the acquiescence of Pakistan’s government and the use of Pakistani territory.  Pakistan must produce real leaders who can lead the country away from this storm in a careful, measured manner.  Pakistan must disengage from America in an amicable way, while it still can.]

U.S., Pakistan looking more like enemies

By SEBASTIAN ABBOT and REBECCA SANTANA ~ The Associated Press

(Photo)

Supporters of Pakistan Defense Council, a coalition of Islamic parties, burn a representation of a U.S. flag June 1 at rally to condemn the reopening of the NATO supply line to neighboring Afghanistan, in Quetta, Pakistan.
(Arshad Butt ~ Associated Press)

ISLAMABAD — You know a friendship has gone sour when you start making mean jokes about your friend in front of his most bitter nemesis.So it was a bad sign last week when the U.S. defense secretary joshed in front of an audience of Indians about how Washington kept Pakistan in the dark about the raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden a year ago.

“They didn’t know about our operation. That was the whole idea,” Leon Panetta said with a chuckle at a Q&A session after a speech in New Delhi, raising laughs from the audience. The bin Laden raid by U.S. commandos in a Pakistani town infuriated Islamabad because it had no advance notice, and it was seen by Pakistan’s powerful military as a humiliation.

The U.S. and Pakistan are starting to look more like enemies than allies, threatening the U.S. fight against Taliban and al-Qaida militants based in the country and efforts to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan before American troops withdraw.

Long plagued by frustration and mistrust, the relationship has plunged to its lowest level since the 9/11 attacks forced the countries into a tight but awkward embrace over a decade ago. The U.S. has lost its patience with Pakistan and taken the gloves off to make its anger clear.

“It has taken on attributes and characteristics now of a near adversarial relationship, even though neither side wants it to be that way,” said Maleeha Lodhi, who was serving as Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and was key in hurriedly putting together the two countries’ alliance.

The latest irritant is Pakistan’s refusal to end its six-month blockade of NATO troop supplies meant for Afghanistan. Even if that issue is resolved, however, the relationship may be on an irreversible downward slide. The main source of U.S. anger is Pakistan’s unwillingness to go after militants using its territory to launch attacks against American troops in Afghanistan.

On the Pakistani side, officials are fed up with Washington’s constant demands for more without addressing Islamabad’s concerns or sufficiently appreciating the country’s sacrifice. Pakistan has lost thousands of troops fighting a domestic Taliban insurgency fueled partly by resentment of the alliance with the U.S.

Panetta’s comments about the bin Laden raid may have been unscripted, but others he made while in India and Afghanistan seemed calculated to step up pressure on Pakistan. He stressed Washington’s strong relationship with India — which Islamabad considers its main, historic enemy — and defended unpopular American drone attacks in Pakistan.

He also said in unusually sharp terms that the U.S. was running out of patience with Islamabad’s failure to go after the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, considered the most dangerous militant group fighting in Afghanistan.

Many analysts believe Pakistan is reluctant to target the Haqqanis and other Afghan militants based on its soil because they could be useful allies in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw, especially in countering the influence of India.

Pakistan lashed out at Panetta on Saturday and denied the country was providing safe havens for militants.

Panetta “is oversimplifying some of the very complex issues we are dealing with in our efforts against extremism and terrorism,” the Foreign Ministry said. “We strongly believe that such statements are misplaced and unhelpful in bringing about peace and stability in the region.”

A senior U.S. official described the relationship as “the worst it has ever been.”

“This is from Washington’s point of view and from Pakistan’s point of view, and even among the real well-wishers on both sides who are appalled and befuddled that we can’t get past all of this and move beyond,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

After years of frosty relations caused by Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, Washington and Islamabad were thrust together on Sept. 11, 2001, when al-Qaida attacked New York and Washington. The U.S. demanded Pakistan support the war against bin Laden and his Taliban hosts in Afghanistan. The U.S. directed billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan and sought to convince Islamabad it was not simply interested in a “transactional” relationship based on counterterrorism cooperation, but wanted a long-term strategic partnership.

U.S. officials have largely abandoned that argument over the past 18 months as the relationship has suffered repeated crises.

“Because of the toxic atmosphere on both sides, the two countries cannot even work in a transactional way,” said Lodhi, the former Pakistani ambassador.

In January 2011, a CIA contractor sparked outrage when he shot to death two Pakistanis in the city of Lahore who he claimed were trying to rob him. Anger over the incident was still simmering when the U.S. killed bin Laden in May.

In November, American airstrikes killed 24 Pakistani troops at two Afghan border posts. The U.S. has said it was an accident, but the Pakistani army claims it was deliberate.

Pakistan retaliated by kicking the U.S. out of a base used by American drones and closing its border to NATO supplies meant for troops in Afghanistan. Negotiations to reopen the route have been hampered by Islamabad’s demand for much higher transit fees and Washington’s refusal to apologize for the deaths of the Pakistani troops.

The U.S. has attempted to bridge the difference over money by offering to repave highways used by the supply trucks, said a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

But Pakistani officials have made clear the route will not reopen without some kind of apology. The U.S. has expressed its regret over the incident but has refused to apologize for fear it could open the Obama administration up to criticism by Republicans upset with Pakistan.

A senior U.S. defense official, Peter Lavoy, arrived in Pakistan on Friday to participate in the negotiations. But Panetta’s comments could complicate matters.

Such statements do “water down the willingness to cooperate with the United States,” said Imtiaz Gul, director of the Islamabad-based Center for Research and Security Studies.

President Barack Obama showed U.S. anger over the supply issue at a NATO summit last month in Chicago by refusing a one-on-one meeting with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

However, the U.S. and Pakistan both have reasons to walk the relationship back from the brink.

The U.S. continues to receive some intelligence cooperation from Pakistan on militants and has been able to continue drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal region despite public protests, likely because of tacit agreement by Pakistani military leaders. Both could be threatened if the relationship heads farther south.

Just as important is Pakistan’s support on the Afghan war. Pakistan is seen as key to striking a peace deal with the Taliban and their allies in Afghanistan that will allow the U.S. to withdraw most of its combat forces by the end of 2014 without the country descending into further chaos.

Pakistan is keen on freeing up over a billion dollars in frozen U.S. aid, which will only be released if it reopens the supply line. Also, Pakistan can ill afford to become a true enemy of the U.S. at a time when it is struggling to contain its own Taliban insurgency and right its stuttering economy.

But politics on both sides make breaking the impasse difficult, particularly with U.S. elections this fall and Pakistani elections due early next year — possibly even sooner.

Historically, Pakistan’s army has steered the relationship with the U.S. But fearing public backlash in a country where anti-American sentiment is rampant, the generals have tossed the NATO supply line issue to Pakistan’s weak and unpopular civilian government. The politicians are reluctant to do anything that could hurt their election prospects.

“The longer Islamabad delays and dithers, the opinion in Washington is hardening,” said Lodhi. “Time is the enemy of a reset in relations.”


AP Special Regional Correspondent for Afghanistan and Pakistan Kathy Gannon contributed to this report.

Gulf Cooperation Council Loses Unanimity Over Saudi Efforts To Dominate

[The crazy Gulf sheikhs are slowly realizing their fate if they continue on the road that has been laid-out before them–absorption into a Saudi superstate.  This has been the devious Wahabbi plan all along, but it has not been the American plan.  Now that the Saudis have flexed their military muscles, they will be forced into standing alone.  Whenever their number comes up, the USA will determine their final fate.  The royal schemers were very foolish to believe that the United States and Israel would allow them to become the next superpower in the region.  If you think about it, you realize just how stupid the Saudi ambitions really have been; the Zionists powers have played the big game too carefully, for far too long, risking so much along the way, to allow a handful of  Muslim tribals to become their equals.  The Saudis were simply pawns, sitting on top of a black gold mine, who have proven themselves to be useful to the Masters of the world, time after time.  By allowing themselves to acquire an inflated sense of purpose from all of this common history with the world Empire builders, the Saudis have fallen in the same trap as everybody else.  All groups and nationalities have proven themselves to be useful pawns at some point in time, some would call it achieving “their fifteen minutes of fame” with the producers of the great global game.

The object of the game is the same as it has always been–achieving world domination for one nation.  That one nation which will sit atop the world Empire will NOT be an Arabian one, or one derived from any Muslim nation.  American allies like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have a limited usefulness to the world Empire…period.]  

Saudi arabia gcc gulf

Gulf Cooperation Council officials arrive at the conference hall where a ministerial meeting was held on June 5, 2012 in the Saudi Red Sea port city of Jeddah. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal urged Gulf states to mobilize their resources in response to uprising around the region. (AFP/Getty Images)

DOHA, Qatar — With much of the Arab world in a do-or-die stampede toward greater democracy, Saudi Arabia is looking to consolidate the old way of doing things.

Riyadh is pushing a bold agenda to strengthen the long-standing union between its fellow Gulf monarchies, apparently to prevent the Arab world’s revolutionary fervor from spreading.

The move was met with skepticism and outright hostility from neighboring states, which are reluctant to cede their growing autonomy.

“Since last year, Saudi Arabia has presented itself as the leader of the counter-revolution in the region,” said Marc Valeri of the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter. “The Saudis were not happy with what happened in Egypt, in Libya, in Tunisia, and in Bahrain, obviously. This push for integration was clearly linked to what happened during the Arab Spring.”

More from GlobalPost: Arab regimes embrace Facebook and Twitter, for their own ends

At a May summit, Saudi’s King Abdullah proposed creating a closer political, economic and military union with the five other Arab monarchies that comprise the Gulf Cooperation Council. The details of the failed agreement were never made public. Instead, the states proposed to meet again in December.

Like six siblings with different personalities and interests, the GCC countries — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates — are prone to infighting and power struggles. But the Saudis are banking on a shared mistrust of countries outside the Gulf — in this case, changing countries like Egypt and Tunisia — to bring the family closer together.

“The call for unification within GCC countries signals a resumption of a bipolar region, featuring the rise of post-authoritarian states on the one hand, and the solidification of conservative regimes on the other,” said Abdullah Al-Arian, an assistant professor at Wayne State University.

There has been a misperception that the move toward a closer union was intended primarily as a warning from the Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia to the Shiite-majority Iran.

“There is an element of Iran taking advantage of a deteriorating situation in Bahrain to expand its influence and create even greater headaches for the Gulf rulers. But as the Bahrain Commission report clearly stated, there is no evidence so far of direct and clear Iranian interference. So the fact that the Bahrain uprisings have continued points toward internal dynamics about which the Gulf rulers have to also worry about,” said Christian Koch, director of the Gulf Research Center Foundation.

More from GlobalPost: The Gulf is raising a bigger army. But for what?

Koch doesn’t know whether a closer union would actually overcome those hurdles.

“I believe the GCC states are evaluating the domestic political situation differently, and given those different perspectives, they are not all on the same page as far as further unity is concerned,” he said.

In March 2011, Saudi Arabia deployed more than 1,000 troops to Bahrain to quell the increasingly violent protests from the island nation’s majority Shiite population. Riyadh also compelled other GCC nations to send military forces to demonstrate a unified front against pro-democracy activists.

“Kuwait was bullied into sending Peninsula Shield forces to Bahrain and their entire government fell because of divisions within parliament that were instigated by the disagreement,” said Justin Gengler of Qatar University.

Recognizing that a broader partnership with Saudi Arabia would lead to more of this kind of interference, Kuwait, Oman, the UAE and Qatar have no interest in ceding regional and international influence to the kingdom.

GCC powerhouse Qatar is particularly is wary of any broader cooperation.

More from GlobalPost: Qatar, by promoting female athletes, pressures conservative Saudi Arabia

“The Qatari reaction and the entire GCC reaction would be one of fear that you’re next,” Gengler said. “Maybe not in the immediate sense but the precedent of a Saudi takeover of Bahrain means once you sort of run out of economic sources to defend yourself like Bahrain has, you’re fair game for the regional power to eat away at your political independence.”

Qatar, in particular, is wary of outsized Saudi influence on its affairs.

“Qatar has an independent foreign policy and an independent economic influence all over the world, particularly in Europe and Asia. They don’t want Saudi Arabia to interfere,” Valeri said.

The United Arab Emirates has similarly clashed with Riyadh over past efforts to mold the GCC in the image of international bodies like the European Union.

“The UAE withdrew from the discussions about common currency two years ago and that’s why,” he said. “They wanted the central bank to be based in the UAE and Saudi Arabia didn’t. There’s an economic competition and a competition for influence.”

The individual countries also have long-held geopolitical relationships with the United States, which diverged sharply from Saudi Arabia in response to the Arab Spring uprisings. Qatar, in particular, might find it more advantageous to rely on the West than its powerful next-door neighbor.

“Qatar may become less assertive and more willing to be dependent on the US following a Saudi-Bahraini union,” said Mark Katz of George Mason University. “Being wealthy but weak is not a long-term recipe for being influential internationally.”

The larger issue is whether these increasingly independent countries will become even less reliant on one unified body going forward.

“The Saudis certainly hoped to at least establish a degree of consensus that the GCC states should work together on common goals,” Koch said. “It is just that the concept of union is more complex than was initially thought and as the committee took up its work of examining the issues, more fundamental questions came to the forefront about exactly what the concrete idea behind the proposal was.”

Koch concluded that the GCC members realized that greater unity meant either domination by Saudi Arabia or surrendering considerable sovereignty to the GCC, which the states weren’t willing to accept.

“There was no other way but to postpone the issue,” he said. “As a result, I have doubts that the concept will gain more traction by the end of the year summit meeting.”

Islam Karimov Wants the Security That SCO Offers, but Without Russia

[Karimov wants to have his cake and to eat it too, but he would rather shove the cake in someone’s face.  His big problem is that he can’t decide whose face he would rather shove his cake into, Vladimir Putin or Emomali Rahmon.  Uzbekistan refused to enter Tajikistan to take part in SCO’s ongoing “Peace Mission 2012” war games in Tajikistan, this is the reason that it is now hosting substitute war games with Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.  It is time for the old goat to make-up his mind whether he is part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, or just another poodle for the West to jerk around.]

Uzbekistan has passed anti-terrorism exercises with the participation of special services of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan (photo)

Ferghana

In Jizzakh region of Uzbekistan , from 4 to June 6 were joint anti-terrorism exercises “Vostok-Antiterror-2012” with the special services of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan , according to KirTAG citing the press service of the State Committee for National Security (SCNS) in Kyrgyzstan.


Anti-terrorism exercises “Vostok-Antiterror-2012”. Photo Akipress

Exercises were held in the framework of the cooperation program of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in the fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism for 2010-2012.

“The main objective of the exercise was to practice working out joint anti-terror actions of the subjects of SCO member states in combating terrorist threats posed by international terrorism, separatism and extremism in order to improve the system of antiterrorist security of our countries”, – said the National Security Committee.


Anti-terrorism exercises “Vostok-Antiterror-2012”. Photo Akipress

Special forces were working to identify and further episodes of destruction of militants forced their way from neighboring countries, the elimination of militant training base, the release of hostages in transport, administration building of the local authority. It also worked out of the conventional operational headquarters established in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, the complex search operations with appropriate capabilities.


Anti-terrorism exercises “Vostok-Antiterror-2012”. Photo Akipress

Reported that the Farish range Jizzakh region of Uzbekistan held any doctrine, came to the editor “Fergana” in the evening on June 7. According to our sources, the last three days the city was virtually closed Jizzakh for entry and exit.

Note that in the official media of Uzbekistan held no exercise.

The international news agency “Fergana”