Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Reason Why India Agreed To Discuss Baluchistan

Why is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh under fire in India, becoming the first Indian prime minister to be blamed by the Opposition and the media for surrendering to Pakistan in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt , a fortnight ago?

Many Indians are not happy over the reference to Baluchistan in the joint statement released in Sharm El Sheikh after the meeting between the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers. Some Indians think Dr Singh stabbed the nation in the back by accepting India's interference in Baluchistan. There are reports that the Pakistani prime minister pressurised Dr Singh in Sharm El Sheikh by handing over a dossier containing proof of alleged Indian cross-border terrorism in Baluchistan, and that was how the latter was forced to accept the mention of Baluchistan in the joint statement.

I was present in Sharm El Sheikh. I remember that many Indian journalists were shocked after reading the joint statement. They started asking me why Baluchistan was mentioned in the statement at all. In fact, many of them were not aware, like many ordinary Indians, of what is going on in Baluchistan. Within a few hours I started receiving phone calls from many Indian television channels asking me what was the evidence shown by Pakistan to Dr Singh. The fact is, while the Pakistani prime minister did mention Baluchistan to Dr Singh, he never handed over any dossier.

But the situation in Baluchistan came under detailed discussion during the first meeting of the foreign secretaries in the evening of July 14 in Sharm El Sheikh, which took place two days before the meeting between Dr Singh and Yousaf Raza Gilani. Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir told Shiv Shankar Menon that India must delink the talks from terrorism, otherwise Pakistan will be forced to produce at least "three Indian Ajmal Kasabs" before the international media, who were directly or indirectly part of the terrorist activities in Baluchistan, and Pakistan will easily establish that the Indian consulate in the Afghan city of Kandahar was actually a control room for the terrorist activities organised by the separatist Baluchistan Liberation Army.

These three Indian nationals were arrested In Pakistan over the last few weeks and, according to Pakistani officials, they have undeniable evidence of Indians links with Baluch militants.

Bashir told Menon that both Pakistan and India cannot afford a blame game right now. If Pakistan comes out with evidence that Indians are responsible for attacking Chinese engineers in the port city of Gwadar in 2004 it may damage India's credibility, but it will surely fan greater anti-India feelings in Pakistan which will ultimately be to the benefit of extremist forces. This is why Pakistani authorities are very careful in exposing the alleged Indian involvement in Baluchistan.

After all, this sort of blame game will only help those extremist forces who successfully organised attacks in Mumbai on November 26, 2008, just to derail the India-Pakistan peace process.

Secondly, it will also harm relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The United States does not want any tension between Islamabad and Kabul at this stage because NATO forces are trying their best to conduct a presidential election in Afghanistan in the coming weeks.

Thirdly, the Pakistani Peoples Party-led coalition government is aware that Baluchistan is not a serious dispute like Jammu and Kashmir , it's a problem of provincial rights, and instead of internationalising the problem Islamabad should address the problem realistically. Islamabad cannot get away by simply blaming India for the unrest in Baluchistan. Behind the scene talks with many Baluch militants are going on, and some good news may come out soon in this regard.

Pakistan is making noises against the alleged Indian involvement in Baluch insurgency in a very careful, well-calculated and "limited manner". Recently a prominent US magazine, Foreign Affairs, in its March 2009 edition, published the report of a roundtable discussion on the causes of instability in Pakistan. Christine Fair of Rand Corporation is reported to have said in that discussion that 'having visited the Indian mission in Zahedan, Iran, I can assure you they are not issuing visas as the main activity. Indian officials have told me privately that they are pumping money into Baluchistan'.

This allegation came from a very credible American scholar who recently visited the Indian consulate in Zahedan. Now, where is Zahedan? It is the capital of the Irani province of Sistan-o-Baluchistan bordering Pakistan. More than two million Baluchis live on the Iranian side of Baluchistan. Iran is building a big port, Chabahar, in the same area with active help from India. Top Iranian leaders have alleged many times that the Central Intelligence Agency is supporting Iranian Baluchis to destabilise the Islamic Republic. The famous American journalist Seymour Hersh admitted in July 2008 that the George Bush administration gave millions of dollars to a separatist Iranian group, Jandallah, which is responsible for the violence on the Iranian side of Baluchistan.

China's presence in Pakistani Baluchistan is also a problem for the US administration. The Chinese are accused of using Gwadar as a listening post for monitoring US military activities in the Persian Gulf. If Pakistan plays the India card in Baluchistan, many anti-US forces in Pakistan will ask why it is silent over the CIA's role in Baluchistan whereby it is using Jandallah against Iran.

Keeping in view the sensitivity of the problem, it is difficult for India to openly support the Baluch insurgency because it may harm her relations with Iran. If the Indians will come out openly in support of the BLA, anti-Indian elements in Pakistan will quickly bracket New Delhi with the alleged Great Game of the US against Iran.

We must know that Baluchis are Kurds of South Asia. Kurds are divided in Iran, Turkey and Iraq while the Baluchis are divided in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. Separatist groups in Pakistan and Iran want the unification of Baluch areas which is not acceptable to both the countries. Baluchistan has huge quantities of natural gas and unexplored oil reserves. It is the largest province in Pakistan in terms of area, covering almost 48 pc of the country while its population is only 5 pc of Pakistan's. It is a tribal society, and is the most underdeveloped province in Pakistan.

The first military operation in Baluchistan was launched by General Ayub Khan in the late '50s. The second one was launched in 1974 when Iraq tried to destabilise Iranian Baluchistan with the help of pro-Soviet Afghan ruler Sardar Daoud in collaboration with some Pakistani Baluch leaders. Daoud tried to exploit the slogan of Independent Baluchistan on one side and Pashtunistan on the other. Afghanistan's interference in Pakistan forced the then prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to use Ahmad Shah Masood and Gulbadin Hekmatyar against Kabul, and these two Afghan rebels became the guest of Pakistani security forces for the first time in 1975. Later on they were used by General Zia against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

Musharraf gave the Gwadar port city to the Chinese for development in 2003, which was the beginning of a new problem. Three Chinese engineers were killed and nine were injured on May 3, 2004, in a remote-controlled car bomb attack. Two months after that incident, Pakistan claimed on July 2 for the first time that India was involved in the blast. Local Baluchis were not happy over the employment of many non-Baluchis in the main development projects of their province. They also wanted a fairer share of royalties generated by the production of natural gas in their province. Instead of addressing their grievances, the Musharraf regime launched a third military operation against them in 2005, which further aggravated the situation.

Why must Indians discuss Baluchistan with Pakistan? Because Baluchistan will be the route of at least two multinational gas pipeline projects. One will come from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Afghanistan; the other will come from Iran to Pakistan. India could be a beneficiary of both the pipelines. These two pipelines could be extended from Multan to New Delhi. I think there is no harm in India discussing Baluchistan with Pakistan because stability in Baluchistan will ultimately benefit India.

Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, China and India should join hands with each other, stop proxy wars in Kashmir and Baluchistan as soon as possible, and thus they can change the fate of the whole region.

Article Written By: Hamid Mir, Executive Editor of Geo TV in Islamabad
Sources: Rediff.com

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Sikhs, Hindus dread Taliban tax in northwest Pakistan

Sitting on a broken chair outside a Sikh temple in a crowded part of Peshawar, Aman Deep Singh is frantic about his future after losing his business in the tribal district of Khyber.

When the Taliban gave Sikhs and Hindus an ultimatum — leave the land of your forefathers or pay an Islamic tax in protection money — Singh packed up and left his native Tirah valley for Peshawar.

‘We were living under fear. Fear of militants, fear of Lashkar-e-Islam and fear of other armed groups,’ said Singh, his hair swept up in a turban, a long beard touching his abdomen and thick moustache covering his upper lip.

He swapped a general store in the mountains for unemployment in the northwest capital, where he struggles to feed the nine members of his family.

Aman Deep is a fake name. He wants his real name hidden for his security.

As light fades to dusk, Sikhs gather for evening prayers at the Joga Singh gurdwara (temple) in a narrow street of Peshawar’s Dabgari bazaar. Each man removes his shoes, washes his feet in a small pool of water and covers his head.

‘I am not the only one. About 400 Sikh and 57 Hindu families migrated from the town of Bara and Tirah,’ said Singh.

Sikhs and Hindus are tiny communities in Pakistan. In the last year, hundreds have fled their homes after receiving death threats from the Taliban and other militant groups in an increasingly unstable northwest.

After US troops invaded Afghanistan in 2001, Taliban and Al-Qaeda ideologues fled to Pakistan, where they have increasingly focused their campaign and where 2,000 people have perished in bomb attacks over the past two years.

Pakistan launched a major offensive in the northwest this summer, under pressure from the United States, after Taliban fighters made deep territorial inroads.

Militants need an endless supply of funds for their weapons, communications and training.

Kidnapping, drugs and extortion are typical sources of income. Taxation and protection scams are others, and vulnerable non-Muslims are easy prey.

Local Sikhs mostly trade in cloth, and also run grocer, garment and herbal medicine shops. They are people who can afford the 1,000 rupees per man, per year ‘jizya’ tax.

In the region of Orakzai, the Taliban demanded the tax of adult male Sikhs, forcibly occupying Sikh-owned shops and houses. After two months, the tax spread to Khyber, the legendary tribal region on the main supply line to Afghanistan.

It was there that Lashkar-e-Islam, a group headed by Mangal Bagh, announced Sikhs and Hindus would be free to live anywhere — as long as they paid jizya.

But threats made the situation increasing tense. Hundreds of Sikh and Hindu families fled to nearby areas, especially Peshawar.

‘Minorities in Orakzai and Khyber were warned by some militant groups to become Muslims or leave the area. This was a real threat,’ Singh said.

‘They’re running a parallel government. Hindu and Sikh families did not feel safe, in Orakzai, in Bara and in Tirah. We preferred to migrate, at least here we can breathe in peace and feel safe,’ he said.

The same sentiment was echoed by other shopkeepers from Bara.

‘No female Muslim or non-Muslim is allowed out without a male relative. All women, even the elderly, have to wear a burka,’ said Gulab Khan Afridi, a 38-year-old Muslim.

Gulab Khan said growing a beard and wearing a cap had become compulsory, otherwise Lashkar extremists would dole out beatings or a 200 to 500-rupee fine.
‘Can you believe it? A man cannot wear a ring in Bara,’ he added.

Much like the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Islam acts like police, enforces prayers five times a day and punishes people accused of prostitution and other vices.

Sardar Sahib Singh, a Sikh leader in the district assembly in Peshawar, said his community paid 150,000 rupees a year to Lashkar-e-Islam in protection money.

‘Our community is better off. We only pay tax, while Muslims have to work, like being guards in Lashkar trenches,’ he said. But families are dwindling. ‘At first there were 500 Sikh families in Bara, now only 150,’ he said.

Scholars say only a true Islamic government, no one else, can collect jizya and on condition that those who pay feel safe, but Lashkar-e-Islam insisted the tax was proper payment for services rendered.

‘Women, children and the handicapped have been exempted,’ Misri Gul, a spokesman for the group, told AFP.

‘Jizya is according to sharia. We will provide them protection in exchange for this,’ he said.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

What is the End-Use Monitoring Agreement?

The US had been pressing India to sign three agreements related to defense cooperation:

1. End Use Monitoring Agreement (EUMA).

2. Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CIS MoA).

3. Mutual Logistic Support Agreement (MLSA).

All these agreements contain a series of restrictive clauses.

On the eve of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's July 2009 New Delhi visit, the newly appointed US assistant secretary of state for public affairs, Philip J Crowley, had linked EUMA to the nuclear deal. He told the media in Washington on July 17 that EUMA was 'part of the fulfillment of an important initiative that India and the U.S. have signed in the area of nuclear cooperation.'

'We are working with India on an end-use agreement,' said Crowley, the State Department spokesperson. 'But clearly, this is part of the fulfillment of an important initiative that India and the United States have signed in the area of nuclear cooperation.' Crowley went on to say that he was 'sure' there will be 'substantial discussion' during Clinton's visit on 'fulfilling the initiative and its various components.'

Contrast this with what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the Lok Sabha on July 22, 2008: 'Some people are spreading the rumours that there are some secret or hidden agreements over and above the documents made public. I wish to state categorically that there are no secret or hidden documents other than the 123 Agreement, the Separation Plan and the draft of the safeguards agreement with the IAEA.'

Earlier, on August 4, 2005, he told the Rajya Sabha: 'Sir, what are the commitments that I have taken? I am very clear in my mind and I can assure the House that there is no secret appendage or secret agreement. Everything that I discussed with the President (Bush) is faithfully stated. There is nothing more to our agreement than what is stated in this Joint Statement.'


All these three agreements were designed by the US Congress for ensuring American oversight, right-of-access and on-site inspection in client States -- States that are under the US security and nuclear umbrella. For example, there are 32 countries under the US nuclear and security umbrella today.

In addition, there are States like Pakistan that are officially classified by Washington as Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) -- a conferred status that gives the US virtually the same rights over them as it has vis-a-vis States formally under the American military umbrella.

The special rights the US has with client States are understandable because America is responsible for their security and it thus seeks to underpin its own obligations and those of its allies through such agreements.

But India is not a client State, but a strategic partner of the United States. Unlike an ally who has to follow the alliance leader, a strategic partnership is built on the principle of equality. Thus, a strategic partner is an equal, at least in theory.

Yet, the US has succeeded in imposing the End Use Monitoring Agreement (EUMA) on India. The EUMA is highly controversial.

Some of its clauses may not be a subject of concern, such as prohibitions on second-hand sales without approval of the United States. Its contentious clauses impose restrictions on what India may do with the equipment it buys from the USA.

* EUMA will allow the US to periodically carry out an inspection and inventory of all articles transferred to India. In the negotiations, India strenuously objected to physical inspection and instead sought an inspection of the records and other measures in place. In the end, the Americans had their way, but it was agreed that the physical inspection would be done at a time and place granted by India. Supplying-State officials, in any case, would need visas and other assistance from the recipient State, including about the location of the equipment, to carry out an inspection.
* The US will have the right to check that India is using any purchased weapon for the purpose for which it was intended.
* EUMA restricts what the purchasing country, India, can do with the US-origin defense equipment, even within its own borders.
* Under the terms of EUMA, India cannot modify the purchased defence article or system in any form.
* Also, to prevent the buyer country from freeing itself from dependency on the United States for maintenance, EUMA restricts India from getting US-origin defence equipment serviced by any another country without prior American permission. Even spare parts need to be sourced only from the United States.

These 'cradle-to-grave' restrictions arm Washington with continuing leverage over the recipient country. After all, any equipment or system needs maintenance. Such leverage, in turn, can help ensure that the recipient country cooperates with Washington on larger political matters.


A key element of Clinton's India trip was the announcement that the two sides had reached an accord on the EUMA. The Joint Statement issued at the end of her visit recorded: 'External Affairs Minister Krishna announced that both sides had reached agreement on End-Use Monitoring for US defence articles.'

The agreed text of the EUMA was exchanged by External Affairs Minister Krishna and Clinton on July 20, 2009. It, however, was not formally signed because it takes the form of agreed language to be included in contracts for all future US defence sales to India.

Although the agreed language deviates in some aspects from the standard EUMA text applicable to client States, the United States managed to get India to accept the core conditions. The United States already has been including end-use monitoring rights for itself in the sale of all defenve equipment to India. Such end-use monitoring rights have been incorporated in the Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) relating to every defence contract with India in recent years, including the contracts for:

i. The USS Trenton -- a 1971-vintage amphibious transport ship, bought by India in 2007 for $50 million and renamed INS Jalashwa.

ii. The $2.2 billion deal with Boeing for eight P-8I maritime patrol aircraft.

iii. Six C130-J Hercules military transport aircraft worth more than $1 billion.

iv. Three VVIP jets.

The US right to end-use monitoring is also incorporated in the export contracts of US high-term items to India, starting with the Cray X-MP-14 supercomputer in the late 1980s. But EUMA relates to defense-equipment transfers and contains detailed and elaborate restrictions.

Now the EUMA language agreed to between India and the US will become the standard in all future Indo-US defence contracts. 'We have agreed on the end-use monitoring arrangements that will henceforth be referred to in letters of acceptance for Indian procurement of US defence technology and equipment,' External Affairs Minister S M Krishna told Parliament on July 21, 2009. 'This systematises ad hoc arrangements for individual defense procurements from the USA entered into by previous governments.'

EUMA comes as a major boost to American arms companies like Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co and Northrop Grumman Corp eying megadeals in India, one of the world's largest importers of conventional weapons.

Indeed, EUMA opens the path for the US and India to agree to the terms of the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CIS MoA), which is still under negotiation.


The Indian government has embraced EUMA despite concerns expressed within the official establishment over its restrictive and invasive clauses.

For example, Navy chief Admiral Suresh Mehta had publicly described EUMA as 'intrusive.' Speaking at an April 2008 conference organised by the London-based International Strategic Studies Institute in New Delhi, Admiral Mehta said: 'There are certain things we can't agree to. As a sovereign nation, we can't accept intrusiveness into our system, so there is some fundamental difficulty.'

He added: 'The US may have this kind of (end user) agreements with everyone. I don't believe in that. We pay for something and we get some technology. What I do with it, is my thing.'

In fact, India's Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in a March 2008 report criticized the end-use monitoring clauses in the contract for the USS Trenton/INS Jalashwa. (No sooner the US had transferred that transport ship to India than a gas leak killed an Indian officer and five sailors on board.)

The CAG report stated: 'Restrictive clauses raise doubts about the real advantages from this deal... For example, (there are) restrictions on the offensive deployment of the ship and permission to the (US) government to conduct an inspection and inventory of all articles transferred under the end-use monitoring clause of the LOA (Letter of Offer and Acceptance issued by the US government).'

Note that the contract contains even 'restrictions on the offensive deployment of the ship.'

Against this background, the Indian government ought to have taken Parliament into confidence on the EUMA rather than place on record just the two sentences on the agreement found in Krishna's statement on Clinton's visit.

The MLSA envisages exchange of services and logistics. If it gets signed, the Indian and American militaries will provide logistic support, berthing and refueling facilities to each other's warships and aircraft on a barter or equal-value exchange basis. But given that the Indian military, including the navy, has no deployments or operations outside the region, the MSLA, in effect, would be a one-sided arrangement.

The purchase of the USS Trenton was severely criticized by the Comptroller and Auditor General, which in its report raised several questions, including why the ship was bought when the US Navy itself had concluded in 2003 that the ship was not suitable for modernization ought to be decommissioned in 2006. The report pointed out gas leaks on board other Trenton-type ships in which three American sailors lost their lives.

Sources: Rediff.com

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Meeting Shows U.S.-India Split on Emissions

It was supposed to be a showcase for how the United States and India can find common cause in fighting climate change: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton toured an innovative, energy-efficient office building on Sunday in this city on the outskirts of New Delhi.

But simmering grievances about how countries should share the burden of cutting greenhouse gases abruptly changed the mood. No sooner had Mrs. Clinton marveled at the building’s environmentally friendly features — like windows that flood rooms with light but keep out heat — than her hosts vented frustration at American pressure on India to cut its emissions.

In a meeting with Mrs. Clinton, India’s environment and forests minister, Jairam Ramesh, said there was “no case” for the West to push India to reduce carbon dioxide emissions when it already had among the lowest levels of emissions on a per capita basis. “If this pressure is not enough,” he said, “we also face the threat of carbon tariffs on our exports to countries such as yours.”

Rather than projecting solidarity, the visit ended up laying bare the deep divide between developed and developing countries on climate policy — a gulf the Obama administration will have to bridge as it tries to forge a new global agreement on climate change later this year.

Mrs. Clinton, in the first visit to India by a top Obama administration official, offered reassurances that the United States had no intention of forcing India into an economically crippling deal.

“No one wants to, in any way, stall or undermine economic growth that is necessary to lift millions more people out of poverty,” Mrs. Clinton said at a news conference. “The United States does not, and will not, do anything that would limit India’s economic progress.”

American officials said they did not expect these differences to be aired during what was supposed to be an upbeat event, focusing on technology. But they said they did not feel betrayed.

To some extent, India’s tough tone is a negotiating tactic as it and other countries prepare to advance their positions in talks leading up to a critical United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen in December.

“We are simply not in a position to take over legally binding emission reduction targets,” Mr. Ramesh declared at the news conference. “That does not mean that we are oblivious of our responsibilities.”

India’s refusal to accept mandatory national cuts in emissions is neither new nor unique. China also opposes a deal with compulsory targets. Both countries say their economic growth should not be constrained when the West never faced such restrictions during its industrialization.

India’s stance may reflect its pique at a bill passed in Washington by the House of Representatives, which would impose sanctions on countries that did not accept binding emissions cuts.

It may also reflect domestic political pressure because India acceded this month to an “aspirational” goal by the Group of 8 industrialized countries to cap the rise in temperatures because of global warming to two degrees Celsius. The group had sought a pledge of far-reaching reductions in global emissions.

Even the presence here of Todd Stern, Mrs. Clinton’s special envoy for climate change, has raised eyebrows: On Saturday, The Times of India published an article with the headline “Climate man’s visit shocks India.” American officials insist Mrs. Clinton had long planned to bring Mr. Stern, who said climate change presented an opportunity for India to invest in windmills and solar panels. “India, with its knowledge base and entrepreneurial talent and élan, is well positioned to be a winner,” he said.

Mr. Ramesh leavened his tough words with a promise of cooperation in “green technology.” He proposed teaming up with the United States on solar energy and biomass, and setting up Indian-American centers to study the long-term effects of greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite India’s opposition to binding reductions, he said the Indian government was committed to reaching an agreement in Copenhagen. “It is possible for us to narrow our positions,” he said.

Mrs. Clinton also sought to put a good face on the differences. “We have many more areas of agreement than has perhaps been appreciated,” she said, “and what we’re looking for is a way to have a framework that includes everyone and which demands certain steps.”

She still seemed fascinated by her tour of the office building, a squat structure built around a circular atrium and known as the ITC Green Center, which has been certified by an American green building council with its highest classification.

Its owner, ITC Ltd., is a conglomerate that operates hotels and owns India’s second-largest cigarette maker, a line of business that Indian officials say has made it eager to be regarded as a good corporate citizen. Mrs. Clinton compared the building to great Indian monuments like the Taj Mahal, though she conceded, “No one will confuse it with the Taj Mahal.”

Sources: Newyork Times

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Seeking Business Allies, Clinton Connects With India’s Billionaires

India’s booming economy has turned some business executives into rock stars. So it was perhaps not surprising that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — a celebrity in her own right — would stop first in India’s commercial capital for a power breakfast with bankers and billionaires.

Mrs. Clinton was to go to New Delhi on Sunday for meetings and ceremonies the next day with government leaders. But she began her visit to India, the first by a top official from the Obama administration, by discussing climate change, education and health care with private-sector potentates.

Flanked by Mukesh Ambani (estimated net worth: $19.5 billion) and Ratan Tata (estimated net worth: $1 billion), Mrs. Clinton heard ideas from seven other guests about how Indian companies could provide health care, education and banking services to India’s desperately poor.

“You’re so right, Ratan,” Mrs. Clinton said to Mr. Tata when he explained how his Tata Group was delivering nutrients to children and young mothers through daily staples like milk. “If we could get the nutritional status of children to improve, it would solve so many problems.”

The purpose of her visit, Mrs. Clinton said at a news conference on Saturday, was to “broaden and deepen” dialogue between the United States and India. Given the potential for friction in the issues that face the two countries — climate change, trade and the insurgency in Pakistan — Mrs. Clinton’s visit with business leaders was more than a sidelight.

The United States is clearly hoping that Indian business will help bridge potential gaps between the two countries.

Mr. Ambani, for example, proposed that Indians and Americans work together to develop “clean technologies” that would reduce carbon emissions. The Indian government is resisting the Obama administration’s push for a global treaty that would mandate cuts in carbon emissions, arguing that developing economies deserve to grow without compulsory constraints.

“Rather than argue about who has a right to pollute,” Mr. Ambani said, “we will move forward to create institutions.”

As the richest man in India, Mr. Ambani is influential. But he may soon face his own problems with the United States. His conglomerate, Reliance Industries, operates refineries that sell fuel to Iran. That could make him vulnerable to sanctions against Iran being proposed in Congress.

The choice of Mumbai as Mrs. Clinton’s first port of call was steeped in symbolism for another reason: It offered her a platform to speak out against the coordinated terrorist attacks here last November that killed 173 people and wounded more than 300.

Mrs. Clinton told an Indian broadcaster, Times Now, that she stayed at the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, one of two hotels that had been attacked, partly as a “rebuke” of the terrorists.

Last week, she encouraged India to support Pakistan’s effort to stem a radical insurgency in Pakistan, a request that may unsettle some Indians. India and the United States blamed a Pakistan-based militant group for the Mumbai attacks, and India has long complained that Pakistan is not serious enough in cracking down on militants.

Mrs. Clinton met with the hotel’s general manager, who lost his wife and child in the attack, as well as other employees, before signing a condolence book.

“Just as India supported America on 9/11, these events are seared in our memory,” she said at the news conference, adding that terrorism is “global, it is ruthless, it is nihilistic, and it must be stopped.”

Mrs. Clinton delivered her message on an outdoor terrace at the hotel that had been littered with bloodied bodies during the siege. Just before the news conference, the Indian police urged her not to speak there for security reasons, but she resisted.

The rest of her day was devoted to two longtime interests: women’s issues and education.

She visited a shop run by the Self Employed Women’s Association, a cooperative of 1 million women who make and sell embroidery and other products using microfinance methods. In 1995, Mrs. Clinton visited the group as the first lady; she has stayed in touch since then.

Inevitably, some of these encounters are more successful than others. In the category of less successful was a panel discussion on education at a Jesuit college, at which Mrs. Clinton appeared with Aamir Khan, a prominent Indian film star who campaigns for better teaching.

While Mrs. Clinton offered an earnest discussion of teaching standards in Arkansas, Mr. Khan appeared to condone dropping out of school to pursue entertainment careers.

Mrs. Clinton appeared unfazed, closing with a quote from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who, she noted, “of course learned so much from Gandhi.”

Sources: Newyork Times

India Fears Pressure From U.S. to Mend Ties With Pakistan

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived here on Friday, determined to put the United States’ relations with India on a broader footing, even as Indian commentators voiced fears that the Obama administration was preoccupied these days with Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Mrs. Clinton’s three-day visit, the first by a senior American official since President Obama took office, will include meetings with business leaders, educators and prominent women — the kinds of personal encounters that she has made a hallmark of her early days as the nation’s chief diplomat.

With her elbow on the mend from a fracture last month, Mrs. Clinton is hitting the road after a hiatus during which some in Washington remarked on her low profile. She seems eager to step out in India, where her husband, former President Bill Clinton, has long been popular.

But she will also have to answer concerns that Mr.Obama’s intense focus on the insurgency in Pakistan, as well as the war in Afghanistan, will get in the way of the American-Indian relationship. India is sensitive about being put under pressure by the United States to ease tensions with Pakistan.

In a column published Friday in The Times of India, Mrs. Clinton wrote that she looked forward to discussing climate change, economic development and nuclear non-proliferation. And, she added, “We should encourage Pakistan as that nation confronts the challenge of violent extremism.”

Her fleeting reference to Pakistan drew the most attention: the newspaper made it the headline for the column.

Commentators here warned Washington not to try to pressure India into a deal with Pakistan over Kashmir — something the United States favours because it may persuade the Pakistani Army to shift troops from the country’s eastern border with India to the west, where the army could better fight Taliban insurgents.

“India is not in that class of nations, nor is it an age in which Washington can bend nations in that manner,” said an editorial Friday in the financial newspaper Mint. The paper welcomed Mrs. Clinton with a photo and headline, “Cold Wind from Washington.”

India and Pakistan agreed this week to resume negotiations over Kashmir and other issues, though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India insisted afterward that his government still demanded that Pakistan bring to justice those who planned the Mumbai attacks in November. India had halted those talks after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai killed 166 people.

“I really see events trending in a very positive direction between India and Pakistan, in part because of the shared sacrifice, commitment and understanding that now exists about the threat,” Mrs. Clinton said in an interview with an Indian broadcaster, CNN-IBN.

The bloodshed from the attacks in November will loom large in Mrs. Clinton’s visit: she is staying at the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, one of the two hotels that were taken over for nearly three days by terrorists. She will take part in a ceremony commemorating the victims of those attacks.

During Mrs. Clinton’s visit, India is expected to announce two sites for American-supplied nuclear reactors, according to American officials. India pledged to award contracts for the reactors to American companies, in return for a landmark civilian nuclear trade agreement between the countries.

The visit may also produce an agreement that would allow the United States to monitor the “end use” of military equipment sold to India, to ensure that it is not diverted to other purposes or sold to other countries. That could open the door to the sale of 126 fighter jets to India.

With Mr. Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Mrs. Clinton traveling to many countries before India, there has been some talk here about why this visit has taken so long.

“There’s a very simple answer to that,” said Robert O. Blake, the assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs. The United States wanted to wait until India’s elections were completed, in mid-May. The re-election of Mr. Singh’s Congress Party “really opened the way for a new and invigorated partnership,” Mr. Blake said.

Sources: Newyork Times


Akshardham suspect arrested at Hyderabad airport

Shoukatullah Ghouri, a suspect in the seven year old Aksharadham temple attack case, was taken to Gujarat by a police team after he was nabbed at the Hyderabad International Airport in a joint operation by the counter intelligence wing and the Hyderabad police.

Shoukat Ghouri, who alleged provided finance for the attack on Akashardham temple soon after the carnage in Gujarat, had arrived in Hyderabad along with his family from Saudi Arabia on Saturday when he was taken in to custody and shifted to an unknown place.

After officials of Hyderabad police, anti terrorist force OCTOPUS and counter intelligence wing questioned him about his role and whereabouts of his other wanted brother Farhatullah Ghouri, he was handed over to the Gujarat police team.

"He was not wanted in any case in Hyderabad but a warrant issued by a Gandhinagar court under Prevention of Terrorism Act was pending against him," the Hyderabad city police commissioner B Prasad Rao said.

After landing in an Amman Air flight from Saudi Arabia, as soon as he came out of the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport at Shamshabad, police surrounded him and made his sit in a separate vehicle. His wife Musharraf Shaheen and four children were shifted to a nearby farm house in another vehicle for searching her luggage. Shaheen, a resident of Kurmaguda in Hyderabad, said that the police seized a cheque of Rs 1 lakh and her daughter's educational certificate and a few other things from the luggage and allowed her to go home.

Shoukatullah Ghouri, known as Hafiz Sahab, was an Imam in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and had returned home after two and a half years for the treatment of his wife.

It may be recalled here that the attack by two terrorists on Aksharadham temple had left 30 people dead. The National Security Guards commandos had killed both the attackers. In 2006, the POTA Gujrat in Gandhinagar awarded death sentence to three accused and life imprisonment to ten others. The court issued a non bailable warrant against Shoukatullah in 2004 and he, along with two others, were shown as absconders.

Shoukatullah's brother Farhatullah Ghouri alias Abu Sufian is wanted by Hyderabad police in several terror related cases including the suicide attack on Hyderabad police task office in 2005 and earlier bomb blast outside Sai Baba temple in Hyderabad.

The police said that he was not directly involved in these cases, but was a mastermind and financer of such activities.

Sources: Rediff.com

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Sania Mirza Getting Engaged Today

Indian tennis sensation Sania Mirza is all set to get engagement with family friend Sohrab Mirza here today.

Sohrab is the son of Adil Mirza and Noora Begum, who own Universal Bakers chain in Hyderabad. Sania and Sohrab are long time friends.

She might be used to scoring on the tennis court, but India's tennis sensation Sania Mirza is all set to win the match of her life. This one, of course, involves a love different from the points.

The famous Mirza girl from Hyderabad is reportedly all set to become a pretty bride pretty soon. But she will remain a Hyderabadi and a Mirza as well. That's because Sania is reportedly getting engaged today to Muhammad Sohrab Mirza, a 23-year-old B.com graduate from Hyderabad.

Sohrab and Sania have known each other for a few years. Their families have been friends. Sohrab is planning to go to the UK to pursue an MBA degree.

Sania herself is away in Paris playing in the French Open, and it was her father Imran Mirza who confirmed the reports of her engagement.

"This is to confirm that Sania Mirza is engaged to Mr. Muhammad Sohrab Mirza, whose family hails from the city of Hyderabad. Although not related, the two families have had friendly ties for several decades. However, the wedding is not expected to take place for a while," Imran Mirza said.

But will this mean the end of Sania, the Hyderabadi hurricane?

No, says her family, insisting Sania will continue to score 15-love and 30-love on the tennis court for at least some more time.

Security Tightened:

Meanwhile, security has been tightened at Sania Mirza's bungalow in the posh Banjara Hills area of Hyderabad following the arrest of two admirers of Indian tennis beauty.

Ajay Singh Yadav, an admirer of Sania, was detained after professing his love for Indian tennis star Sania Mirza at her Hyderabad home.

Yadav told the police that he had been in love with Mirzafor five years and wanted to marry her.

Earlier, on Wednesday another man, Mohammad Ashraf, was arrested after threatening to kill himself if 85th rank Sania Mirza did not marry him. Meanwhile, both men are in the police custody.

Bachelors: Better to forget her and give her privacy than acting crazy jeopardising your careers.
All the best to the lucky guy, Sohrab Mirza.

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