Massive air defense drills from October in Central Asia

Massive air defense drills from October in Central Asia

Massive air defense drills from October in Central Asia

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BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – It looks like Uzbekistan has gone far away from Russia as it is not attending joint exercises with the Collective Rapid Response Forces CSTO “Interaction-2012 on September 15-19 in the Republic of Armenia, nor is it attending joint command-and-staff air defense drills on October 5-16.

CSTO Collective Rapid Response Forces are being attended by special forces and task forces of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan and joint command-and-staff air defense drills starting from October 5 are attending by Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan. The Chistoye Nebo (Clear Sky) 2012 exercise will be held in Kyrgyz, Tajik, and Kazakh airspace and involve the interception of cruise missiles.

Russia will be represented by a group of experts from Air Force staff and MiG-31 Foxhound interceptors and an A-50 Mainstay AWACS plane deployed at the Kant airbase in Kyrgyzstan. Kazakhstan’s three airbases will host the active phase of the drills. The former Soviet republic will also deploy five air defense brigades and command staff.

In line with the concept of the exercises, Kyrgyzstan will play the role of a “designated adversary” with its L-39 Albatros combat trainers and Su-25 Frogfoot ground attack aircraft.

Tajikistan will be represented by Air Force command staff. The exercises will be held as part of military cooperation among countries-members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and emphasize the air defense of the bloc from the southern direction.


Colombia’s Recovery from American-Inspired Death Squads

[The man in charge of Colombia’s National Police Force during that “Democratic Security” policy, Oscar Naranjo, is now chief national security adviser for Mexico’s attempt to recreate the Colombian Cartel Wars.  Both Colombian and Mexican drug-control operations were the US-administered implementation of American counter-insurgency methods acquired in the Afghanistan and the Middle East, introduced into civilian areas here in the West, which were not previously involved in war.  The American program here, just as in Kabul and Baghdad is to send-out death squads in the middle of the night to kidnap and murder whomever they will, while agitating gang wars between the cartels or the warlords, through a series of “false flag” murders and terrorist attacks.  A few strategically located car bombs also have a way of pumping-up the action.  The American idea, in all things, is to attack the problem by resorting to war, whether it is the “drug wars,” wars on poverty, or other social action “wars,” American capitalist solutions NEVER suggest correcting the conditions which breed the problems to begin with.  Every problem is seen as an opportunity to resort to war, the thing we do best.  Criminal networks and the black markets which spawn them have less chance of taking hold in economically healthy societies, ones which have plenty of legitimate opportunities available to the young and old who need them.  If clean jobs are available, how many would compound their lives by pursuing the dirty work of the drug cartels?] 

Santos announces ‘relaunch’ of ‘Democratic Security’

Colombia news - Santos in San Vicente de Caguan

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Saturday announced a “relaunch” of the “Democratic Security” policy to counter a wave of guerrilla attacks against the security forces in the south and east of the country and violence committed by neo-paramilitary groups and drug gangs in the north.

The Democratic Security policy was created by Santos predecessor Alvaro Uribe and designed to push leftist guerrilla groups away from the cities and economically important areas, create investor confidence and improve the economy.

Santos’ “relaunch” of this policy includes a focus on the violence caused by drug gangs, local gangs and paramilitary groups that emerged from the remnants of the AUC, the national paramilitary organization that officially demobilized under Uribe.

“The Minister of Defense Rodrigo Rivera, the military and police top and the (presidential development) office of Accion Social are preparing a document to relaunch, as a priority policy of the government and plans to consolidate democratic security,” Santos said.

Earlier, Santos appointed former deputy Defense Minister Sergio Jaramillo as High Security Adviser to assist the Defense, Foreign Affairs and Interior and Justice Ministries in fighting the leftist insurgency.

Since Santos’ inauguration, attacks by guerrilla groups FARC and ELN left dozens of soldiers and policemen dead, while violence committed by neo-paramilitary gangs, urban militias and drug gangs left thousands dead since the official demobilization of the AUC.

Mexico Bleeding from US-Trained Death Squads Along with DEA’s Cartel War

[SEE:Fighting “Simulated Wars” Nearly Always Leads To Real Wars ;Mexicans raise questions over CIA role in drug war ]

Mexican Special Forces Employed as Death Squads in Drug War, Email Records Released by WikiLeaks Reveal

by Bill Conroy

Specially Trained Troops Conducted “Surgical” Strikes on Narco-Trafficking Cells, Gangs and Addicts

Ciudad Juarez earned the reputation as the most dangerous city in the world as its murder rate ramped up exponentially between 2008 and 2011, with some 10,000 murders attributed to a “cartel” turf war being waged in the Mexican border community of some 1.2 million just south of El Paso, Texas.

However, a trail of email correspondence involving a Mexican diplomat obtained by the secret-spilling organization WikiLeaks seems to show that not all of the bloodshed in Juarez is attributable solely to sparring drug organizations — the narrative pushed by the US mainstream media.

In fact, the emails, which involve communications between a Mexican consulate officer stationed in the US and a Texas-based  private intelligence firm calledStratfor, seem to support a theory advanced in a Narco News story published back in December 2008, just as the violence in Juarez was beginning to heat up in the wake of a surge of Mexican troops into the city.

The initial surge of Mexican troops into Juarez took place in the spring of 2008 and it was followed by another surge of some 5,000 troops the next year.

The 2008 Narco News story was based on an analysis of murder cases in Juarez between January and mid-July of that year.

From the story:

The one clear pattern that emerges from the data is that the murders in Juarez are, in almost all cases, not the result of random violence or shootouts between rival drug gangs. In most cases, they are cold-blooded assassinations, often involving coordinated teams of armed, sometimes masked, men who are making use of intelligence, surveillance and paramilitary-like tactics to take out their victims.

… Is Juarez a city in the grips of a death-squad campaign being carried out by paramilitary operatives of a corrupt Mexican military seeking to corner the narco-trafficking business, with the acquiescence, maybe even complicity, of the Mexican government — and with our own government now set to support this bloodshed through its funding of Plan Mexico [the Merida Initiative]?

 “Surgical” Death

The description in the emails obtained by WikiLeaks of the Mexican diplomat, who doubled as a confidential source for Stratfor and is codenamed MX1, matches the publicly available information on Fernando de la Mora Salcedo — a Mexican foreign service officer who studied law at the University of New Mexico, served in theMexican Consulate in El Paso, Texas, and was more recently stationed in theMexican Consulate in Phoenix (though, sources indicate, he appears to have recently been recalled to Mexico).

MX1, in one of the emails released by WikiLeaks, describes the Mexican military’s mission in Juarez as involving a special-operations and intelligence-unit component that was embedded within the larger Mexican military force. These special units were charged with carrying out “surgical strikes” against narco-trafficking “cells” and “third war” criminals.

Stripped of the military jargon, these special strike forces sound very much like death squads.

From MX1’s email correspondence with Stratfor:

So, as you have no doubt gathered by now, the National Security Council decided to really up the ante in Juarez. We expect 5,000 additional troops and up to 1,000 additional federal police. Among the new elements, there will be at least 10 specialized intelligence units, as well as special forces units from both the Army and the Air Force. One of the intelligence units will be from the Navy (not for publication).

… The military will surgically remove cells that had been previously identified, but for whatever reason were not taken down yet. Periods of adjustment will ensue, but the military will fill any void left in terms of territorial control, ultimately causing the competing DTOs [drug trafficking organizations] to wait/give up. [Emphasis added.]

… The first to fall will be those waging the “third war”, as they are a bunch of retarded morons that have no chance against a force deployment of this size, and thrive only because of impunity.

The “third war” MX1 referred to in the email correspondence is described as follows in a 2009 article penned by Stratfor analysts Fred Burton and Scott Stewart:

This third war is the war being waged on the Mexican population by criminals who may or may not be involved with the cartels. Unlike the other battles, where cartel members or government forces are the primary targets and civilians are only killed as collateral damage, on this battlefront, civilians are squarely in the crosshairs.

In another Stratfor email, titled “Answers from MX1” and dated March 16, 2009, the Mexican diplomat goes into further detail about the Mexican military mission in Juarez.

Some have suggested that CDJ [Juarez] will be a laboratory of sorts for this massive strategy. If you look beneath the surface, you are likely to see some parallels between the tactics employed under

Democratic Security v2.0″ in Colombia. We will see if this works or not, but my impression is that it WILL WORK, precisely because so many powerful people have vested so much political capital in making it so.

So, now, the interesting stuff:

• All of the Special Forces that arrived in [Juarez in] the last 32 hours come from Mexico City. They are the “paracaidistas” [paratroopers]. They were present in Juarez before, but never in these numbers. Some were previously deployed in Guerrero.

• Some of the Special Forces that have arrived have experience in fighting the Gulf Cartel throughout its traditional areas of operation. Others have also been active in Sonora and Sinaloa.

The bulk, however, was immediately prior in Mexico City, where some finished specialized training as recently as two months ago. This would be the first time that they have the opportunity to put that training to the test.

… • The Mexican Air Force Special Forces are well trained to be extremely discrete and precise in their operations. They will be used for very targeted operations down the line, but it is expected that they will be out on patrol for the first few weeks of the operation, unless we get enough actionable intelligence really soon to mount operations in the coming days.

Narco News published a story in April 2011, which would have been some two years after the second military troop surge in Juarez, but while the Mexican militarywas still very active in Juarez, that revealed a US company, L3-MPRI, a division of a major US contractor, was involved in providing training to Mexican troops.

The training, according to an Internet job posting published by the company, was part of an effort called “Project Sparta,” which is designed “to train Mexican Army soldiers in basic and advanced urban warfare operations” with the ultimate goal of creating an “Urban Warfare Elite Force.”

The “new specialized reaction force” will support “federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in the war against organized crime and the drug cartels,” the L-3 MPRI help-wanted ad states.

At the time the Narco News article was published in 2011, a spokesman for L3-MPRI denied that the company had an active contract in Mexico and its job postings for Project Sparta were subsequently pulled from the Internet — though Narco News had already made screen shots of the postings, which can be found at this link.

A Modest Proposal

An even more troubling revelation in the MX1 email trail is what the Mexican diplomat describes in a July 13, 2009, email as a “change in strategy” in the Mexican troop deployment in Juarez — a change that refocused the mission on a more “modest goal.” This new strategy is troubling in light of the wave of attacks in 2009 on drug rehab clinics in Juarez in which dozens of people, mostly recovering drug addicts, were slaughtered in commando style assaults. To this day, no one has really provided a definitive explanation for these senseless attacks — though some have suggested the “cartels” were seeking to kill potential informants at these clinics.

However, MX1’s description in the Stratfor email correspondence of the “modest goal” [eerily like that of Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal”) seems to raise the quite troubling possibility that some of these assaults on the Juarez drug-rehab clinics may have been orchestrated by elements of the Mexican military.

From the July 13, 2009, MX1 email correspondence:

The larger picture of the change in strategy has to do with a more modest goal. As the major cartels have all guaranteed routes into the US, the addiction problem [in] Juarez is causing most of the violence. About 80% of kidnapping victims that survived that you talk to mention that their captors seemed to be high on something.

Therefore, a major component of the [Mexican military] strategy will be to prevent kidnappings and the like by directing efforts against drug addicts and gangs. Gangs are presenting major problems because they are pissed off at each other and their cartel bosses because they are not getting what they were promised. The more modest goal of combating the social violence is supposed to give some breathing room to the [cartel] bosses so that they can issue orders to calm things down. [Emphasis added.]

Gustavo De La Rosa, a well-known human-rights worker who was forced to flee Juarez after his life was threatened, raised similar concerns about the Mexican military’s apparent involvement in death-squad activity in an Oct. 3, 2009, article published by London’s Guardian newspaper.

De La Rosa, as quoted in the Guardian story:

There are execution squads [in Juarez], another breed forensically killing malandros [“down-and-outs, urchins, petty criminals and addicts”], planned assassinations of the unwanted. And if we look at exactly how they are done, they are experts in killing characteristic of training by the army or police.

I do not think these killings are the work of sicarios [cartel assassins], because I don’t think that anyone would want to pay the money the cartel sicarios charge to kill malandros. Sicarios kill members of the rival cartel; you wouldn’t need a sicario to kill malandros in a rehabilitation centre or abandoned house taking drugs.

I’m not saying … that the [Mexican] army is directly killing these people. But, in a city living in a culture of delinquency, soldiers become part of that culture. I kept a map and watched how these [death] squads move across the army checkpoints without hindrance. Until I was told to stop.”

Narco News attempted to contact De La Rosa by email, but he did not reply prior to publication. Mexican diplomat de la Mora Salcedo and Stratfor also were contacted previously by Narco News for comment but have not responded.

One US drug-war agent who reviewed the 2008 data on murder cases in Juarez for Narco News had this to say back then about his take on the Juarez bloodshed:

They’re anything but random acts. Some of these murders are likely the result of cartel turf battles, but the numbers seem too high for the cartels alone. I don’t think they would be killing each other at that rate.

With the murder tally in Mexico now exceeding 100,000 since President Felipe Calderon launched his war on the cartels in 2007 — and is now well beyond 10,000in Juarez alone — it seems the tired US mainstream media meme of attributing the carnage to “cartel” turf wars alone simply does not hold water, particularly in light of the revelations by MX1.

But such a dark truth will be hard to swallow for many, given it’s easier to believe, to accept, that only criminals are capable of murder. But in war, the rule of law breaks down, and the definition of who is or is not criminal is usually defined, in the end, by those with the most bullets.

That is the nature of the drug war.

But there is a bright side for those who are looking to profit from the horror, according to MX1, who shared the following aside in one of the Stratfor emailsdetailing the Mexican troop build-up and “surgical” attack plans in Juarez:

No doubt, interesting times ahead. Also, a pretty good time to invest in Juarez. Buy property, it is dirt cheap right now, but will be worth exponentially more as soon as things calm down. They will calm down.


Prior Stories in This Series:

• Mexican Diplomat Traded Secrets with Private Intel Firm Stratfor, WikiLeaks Documents Reveal

• US, Mexican Officials Brokering Deals with Drug “Cartels,” WikiLeaks Documents Show

Narco News was provided access to the Stratfor emails through an investigative partnership organized by WikiLeaks that includes journalists, academics and human rights organizations.

Russia’s ‘big bang’ in Central Asia

Russia’s ‘big bang’ in Central Asia

By M K Bhadrakumar

A period of intense high-level exchange is commencing this week between Russia and its Central Asian allies – and Pakistan. What characterizes the Russian strategy is a robust attempt to develop comprehensive partnerships with these countries in preparation of the post-2014 scenario in Afghanistan with the expected withdrawal of the troops of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The Russian focus is, not surprisingly, on the three countries to the north and south of Afghanistan – Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Pakistan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forthcoming visit to Bishkek on Thursday promises to be a turning point in Moscow’s strategy. He is following it up in early October with visits to Islamabad and Dushanbe.

A raft of Russian-Kyrgyz agreements has been negotiated, to be signed during Putin’s visit to Bishkek. The indications are that Russia may write off two-fifths of the debt owed it by Kyrgyzstan (converting some of it for acquiring assets in Kyrgyzstan) and is committing itself to deeper involvement in the Kyrgyz economy, including renewed assistance in the construction of the Kamarata-1 hydroelectric dam project (despite objections by Uzbekistan).

The agreements include a strategic accord on the extension of the lease for Russia’s military facilities in the Central Asian country reportedly for a further 15-year period from 2017. These agreements taken together are expected to restore the mutual trust in the Russian-Kyrgyz relations, which had eroded in recent years leading to the ouster of Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev in a violent popular upsurge in April last year.

Bakiyev had reneged on his earlier plan to evict US forces from Manas Air Base, and Russian-Kyrgyz ties suffered a serious jolt.

The current leadership of Kyrgyzstan has also expressed its intention to join the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus – although attaining full membership is going to be a long haul, given the weakness of the Kyrgyz economy in relation to the other three prospective partner countries.

The recent change of the Kyrgyz government led by Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov has not affected the momentum in the recent strengthening of Russian-Kyrgyz ties. The political changes in Bishkek may even work to Moscow’s advantage insofar as the presidency gains the upper hand and Moscow enjoys warm equations with President Almazbek Atambayev (although Russian influence with Kyrgyz politicians is fairly widespread).

Atambayev has openly called for the termination of the US base in Manas when the lease expires in 2014. He has spoken about converting the military base into a civilian facility (which the US can also make use of). But Washington has not accepted that this could be Atambayev’s final word on the subject.

Therefore, Putin’s visit to Bishkek this week will be keenly watched in Washington, especially whether Moscow proposes to strengthen its military presence in the volatile southern region bordering Fergana Valley. Manas is vital for the US as a transit hub for supplying the troops in Afghanistan, especially for their rotation. The hectic US efforts in recent months to tie up alternative basing facilities in Central Asia (in the event of eviction from Manas) have not borne fruit so far.

If anything, these efforts suffered a setback recently with Uzbekistan passing legislation banning foreign military bases on its soil. Moscow is carefully calibrating its relations with Kyrgyzstan with a view to influencing Uzbek policies vis-a-vis the US.

Engine of integration
Both Moscow and Tashkent are adept at fine-tuning this sort of delicate diplomatic waltz in their “time-tested” relationship. Arguably, there are signs of new thinking in the Uzbek policies in the most recent weeks in deference to the Russian interests. On the whole, September has turned out to be a good month for the Moscow-led integration processes in the Central Asian region. Uzbekistan has once again stated its intention to join the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) Free Trade Zone Treaty before the end of this year.

Uzbekistan and Russia had signed a memorandum of understanding on the FTZ issue during Putin’s stopover in Tashkent in June, but since then, Uzbek policies have become increasingly unpredictable. Thus President Islam Karimov’s affirmation of the Uzbek decision in a joint statement with Kazakh President Nurusultan Nazarbayev after their talks in Astana last week will be duly noted in Moscow.

At present, Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Belarus, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are signatories of the FTZ Treaty. Uzbekistan’s accession will provide a shot in the arm for the CIS integration process, given the size of its market and its diverse economy.

Equally, last week, the three countries belonging to the Customs Union (which is slated to evolve in due course into the Eurasian Economic Community) have taken a significant step toward forming a Eurasian Parliament. A working group to study the modalities of setting up the parliament met in Moscow last Thursday.

Evidently, the expectation is to create a broad-based political platform that brings together the political elites on a regular basis on the pattern of the European Parliament for harmonizing various national interests and formulating common positions and policies. Russia has thoughtfully mooted Astana as the seat of the proposed Eurasian Parliament.

The Speaker of Russia’s Federation Council of the Federal Assembly, Valentina Matviyenko, described Kazakhstan in this context as the “engine of Eurasian integration”. It is a revealing statement pointing toward the key role as “facilitator” that is increasingly played by Astana by helping out with the removal of wrinkles that appear from time to time on the Moscow-led integration processes.

However, what is of tangible significance to regional security in the near term is the report that appeared last week to the effect that Russia and Tajikistan have agreed on the terms of the continued presence of Russia’s 201 Motorized Division for another 30-year period. This issue has been hanging fire for some time, and there have been protracted negotiations, which often erupted into public statements by both sides.

Tajikistan has been the focus of intense great-power rivalries lately. The US was hoping to secure basing facilities in Tajikistan. As per earlier indications, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is due to visit Dushanbe in the third week of October. A visit by Putin to Dushanbe in October also seems to be in the cards. At the eleventh hour, Moscow seems to have ensured that it will not be squeezed out by the Pentagon in Tajikistan.

Thus, all things taken into account, we are witnessing a “big bang” in Moscow’s Central Asia policy. Most certainly, it needs to seen against the backdrop of the sustained efforts by the United States in the recent months to create “lily pads” in Central Asia and the lengthening shadows of Chinese presence in the region. From the Russian viewpoint, NATO’s drawdown in Afghanistan and the uncertainties of the post-2014 regional security scenario demand proactivism in its regional policies.

Again, there is also the big picture – Putin’s Eurasia Union project. Another round of summits of the Eurasian bodies, including the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), is being scheduled for the third week of December in Moscow, which will be the second such enterprise after Putin’s return to the Kremlin in May.

How Moscow and Tashkent propose to follow up on the latter’s recent decision to “suspend” its CSTO membership will be a key salient of the Moscow conclave. Moscow’s reaction so far has been one of reticence, which would suggest that it expected some sort of rethink on the part of Tashkent.

The heart of the matter is that the CSTO, without Uzbekistan in it, cannot hope to gain traction as a vehicle of collective security in Central Asia. In a manner of speaking, therefore, the Russian moves in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have a much broader regional reach than their bilateral content would suggest.

The sort of role that Moscow chooses to play in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan would have great bearing on Tashkent’s policies. Having said that, the alchemy of Russian-Uzbek relations is a critical vector of Moscow’s Central Asia strategy; this was so even during the Soviet era.

Congruence of interests
Clearly, Putin’s visit to Pakistan, which is now expected to take place in October, has been scheduled at a most critical juncture in Russia’s Central Asia strategy. The visit was slated originally for August but Moscow evidently sought first to consolidate its strategic understanding with its Central Asian allies (especially Tajikistan) before hopping over to the south of the Pamirs and the Hindu Kush.

Most certainly, Russia’s acute concerns over the stabilization of Afghanistan provide the raison d’etre of the steady normalization of ties with Pakistan, but the geopolitical situation in the Central Asian region and the overall impasse in the US-Russia reset also need to be factored in. To be sure, Russia and Pakistan are eager to put behind them their past indifference toward each other and are showing interest in approaching the issues of regional security and stability as stakeholders.

The announcement in Islamabad that the Pakistani army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani, will visit Russia this month at the invitation of the chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, General Nikolai Makarov, is a dramatic indicator of the stirrings in the air.

That the visit by Kiani to Russia is being scheduled just ahead of Putin’s arrival in Islamabad on October 2 on a two-day visit merits attention. Moscow would take a good look at Kiani’s reputation as a staunch exponent of Pakistan’s strategic autonomy. His visit underscores that Russia is open to military-to-military cooperation with Pakistan.

On October 3, Pakistan will host a session of its quadrilateral summit of the heads of state from Russia, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The key agenda item for the summit will be the struggle against terrorism in the Central Asian region.

The emergent geopolitical reality is that Russia and Pakistan have realized that they have a congruence of interests in the post-2014 scenario of regional security and they simply cannot afford to remain indifferent toward each other anymore.

The tensions and the fracture in the US-Pakistan relationship have compelled Islamabad to seek out Russia and mend bridges with it, while Moscow is gearing up for an expansion of its strategic profile not only in Central Asia and South Asia but in the Greater Middle East as a whole, where Pakistan has a looming presence by virtue of being a nuclear power and a major Sunni Muslim country.

The ground reality is that while the US might keep the Soviet-era military bases in Afghanistan, the transit routes that ferry supplies for those bases happen to be under the control of Russia or Pakistan. And if Russia and Pakistan coordinate their approach, it will be to mutual advantage.

The administration of US President Barack Obama is maintaining an air of strategic ambiguity in its regional policies in Pakistan and Central Asia. A clearer picture of the US intentions may be available only after the November election. But Moscow has begun posing taunting questions.

Addressing a regional audience last week in Astana, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov termed NATO’s plans to keep permanent military bases in Afghanistan as “controversial”. He demanded, “We need clarity here: If the anti-terrorist mission is complete (and this is still in doubt), then are the bases being kept for some other purpose?”

The Russian angst will find resonance in Islamabad. There is no sign of any let-up in the US pressure on Pakistan. Islamabad counted on the Taliban as its “strategic asset” in the Afghan end-game, but there is no visible urgency on Washington’s part to engage the Taliban in substantive talks.

The latest decision by Washington to brand the Haqqani Network a terrorist group grates on Pakistani policy and puts added pressure on the Pakistani military to commence operations against the group’s sanctuaries in North Waziristan. Meanwhile, the United States’ drone attacks continue relentlessly despite Pakistani protests.

Through the Russian connection, Pakistan hopes to create more negotiating space vis-a-vis the US by the time Obama revisits the Afghan problem after the November election is out of the way.

However, Moscow cannot but be mindful of the imperatives of its “special and privileged strategic partnership” with India. Equally, the Pakistani elites cannot easily jettison their choice of the United States as the preferred partner. Which would probably make the Russian-Pakistani waltz appear in US and Indian eyes as a mere spectacle while the music lasts.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.

Pakistan Desperately Needs Help But Leaders Remain Terrified To Take Moscow’s Hand

Dilly-dallying: IP pipeline – no concrete offer to Russia yet

Pakistan is desperately seeking funds for the pipeline and is in a critical situation since China has also backed out due to the US opposition. DESIGN: ESSA MALIK

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Russia are unlikely to seal a deal on the construction of Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Islamabad next month as the former is shy of making a ‘concrete offer’ of cooperation because of intense pressure from the United States.

Sources in the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources told The Express Tribune Russian authorities were expecting some concrete offer from Pakistan for financing the construction of the pipeline during a meeting of the Inter-governmental Commission (IGC) held recently in Islamabad.

“During the dialogue, Russia wanted to know its position in the IP project with some clear offer from Pakistan – whether it will only finance the project or also construct the pipeline and provide machinery,” an official said, adding Pakistan did not give a clear response to these questions.

Now Russian authorities were perplexed and wondered how the two sides could make a breakthrough in such a confusing situation, he said.

The IGC meeting was a preparatory exercise prior to the visit of the Russian president in October to prepare the ground for striking deals on different projects like IP gas pipeline, Diamer Bhasha Dam and 1,000-megawatt CASA power import project. Russia has placed the IP pipeline on top of its priorities despite US pressure, which fiercely opposes trade and economic ties with Tehran over its alleged nuclear programme.

Under the IP project, costing a total of $1.5 billion, Pakistan will import 750 million cubic feet of gas per day (mmcfd) from Iran, which could be increased to one billion cubic feet per day (bcfd).

“We see Putin’s visit as a goodwill gesture only to bolster relations and no milestone will be reached due to the US pressure,” a petroleum ministry official remarked.

He said Moscow had expressed its desire to become a partner of Pakistan in overcoming the energy crisis and its energy giant Gazprom was ready to take part in the IP pipeline project.

Pakistan is desperately seeking funds for the pipeline and is in a critical situation since its long-trusted friend China has also backed out due to the US opposition.

“The Pakistan government should make a concrete offer and welcome the Russians at a time when no other country is coming forward to finance the project,” the official suggested.

Russia has also expressed interest in building another pipeline, which will run from Turkmenistan, pass through Afghanistan and Pakistan and end in India, which is referred to as the TAPI project. For this project, Pakistan and India have signed a gas purchase agreement with Turkmenistan.

This pipeline enjoys the backing of the US and Asian Development Bank (ADB), which is acting as transaction adviser to generate funds for the $7.5 billion project.

Recently, Pakistan organised a road show in Singapore to woo investors, and according to an official of the petroleum ministry, around six renowned companies have expressed interest in participating in the TAPI project.

Published in The Express Tribune