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Af-Pak: Is Something Big Cooking?

October 17, 2012 4 comments

Will the first fifteen days of October go down in history as that which changed 21st century?

Between policy and propaganda; trying to link reality with 'spin'  |  Cartoon on Oct  15  2012  titled Unraveling  by Bob Gorrell; source & courtesy - cagle.com

Between policy and propaganda; trying to link reality with ‘spin’ | Cartoon on Oct 15 2012 titled Unraveling by Bob Gorrell; source & courtesy – cagle.com

The last 15 days  has seen some curious diplomacy that spilled over into the public domain.

First was China ratcheting up hostility with Japan over some silly islands – which had some value in the past. And supposedly some value in the future. For now, there is a chance of hostilities (not war) between Japan and China.

Question: Why did China decide to take on the Japan – when it could have more easily taken on Vietnam, Philippines? Maybe even India.

What we have finally after 25 years of American intervention in Afghanistan  |  Cartoon on Oct  14  2012  titled Triumph of Taliban  by Marian Kamensky; source & courtesy - cagle.com

What we have finally after 25 years of American intervention in Afghanistan | Cartoon on Oct 14 2012 titled Triumph of Taliban by Marian Kamensky; source & courtesy – cagle.com

Two. There was Putin’s non-visit to Pakistan for a quadrilateral summit (Oct 2-3) between Russia, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. This Pakistan visit was to be followed with an India visit by Anatoly Serdyukov, Russian Defence Minister, on October 4, 2012 – which too was postponed.

In the meantime, Pakistan’s Army Chief, Ashfaq Kayani landed in Moscow. Even as Kayani was in Moscow, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov was in Pakistan.

Three: In the rest of world, momentous things were happening. Venezuela, which today has bigger oil reserves than Saudi Arabia, has re-elected Hugo Chavez as its President. This will possibly deeply affect global oil equations. Meanwhile, the West continued with its Middle East war plans against Syria and Iran.

Could the answer to this puzzle be Afghanistan?

Why is Afghanistan so important? The Soviet Union spent billions on the Afghan invasion – and the US has spent trillions. The Afghan War is already the longest war the US has fought.

Three reasons why Afghanistan is important.

Why have peace, when you can have war?  |  Cartoon by Cameron Cardow  on Oct  11  2012  titled Opportunity; source & courtesy - cagle.com

Why have peace, when you can have war? | Cartoon by Cameron Cardow on Oct 11 2012 titled Opportunity; source & courtesy – cagle.com

Oil. Oil. Oil.

But Afghanistan has no oil.

The oil is in Central Asia and Russia.

While Asian oil consumption is increasing, Western oil consumption is expected to slightly decline. Shale oil in US, North Sea oil in Europe are likely to account for   increasing share of Western production and consumption. Brazil, Canada, Venezuela can’t ship more oil to US and Europe in the next twenty years. China, India, Japan and Korea are dependent on oil imports. Oil consumption in these markets is growing – unlike the West.

In which case, the Central Asian, Latin American and Russian oil exports will move towards Asia.

While Obama promised one thing, he did another. No different from other US President. |  Cartoon titled President Strangelove By RJ Matson, The St. Louis Post Dispatch - on 4/10/2012 12:00:00 AM; source & courtesy - cagle.com

While Obama promised one thing, he did another. No different from other US President. | Cartoon titled President Strangelove By RJ Matson, The St. Louis Post Dispatch – on 4/10/2012 12:00:00 AM; source & courtesy – cagle.com

India’s stakes are really high in Afghanistan, especially once the Western troops leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014. What are the likely scenarios that may develop in Afghanistan once the foreign troops leave that country?

With India getting closer to the US, and building on its historic ties with Russia, there are even more opportunities for India, US and Russia to collaborate in stabilising Afghanistan.

India should help Afghanistan become the gateway between South and Central Asia. India is already building close ties with the Central Asian countries, especially given the rising demand for oil and natural gas in India. The historic TAPI gas pipeline, when completed, will bring natural gas from Turkmenistan to India via Afghanistan and Pakistan, which could be a game-changer for the entire region.

via India’s options in the Afghanistan end-game | Russia & India Report.

From Reagan to Obama, from Iran to Afghanistan, how US interventions have handcrafted the Islamic monster  |  Cartoon on Oct  16  2012  titled Mind Over Monster  by Cal Grondahl; source & courtesy - cagle.com

From Reagan to Obama, from Iran to Afghanistan, how US interventions have handcrafted the Islamic monster | Cartoon on Oct 16 2012 titled Mind Over Monster by Cal Grondahl; source & courtesy – cagle.com

With the Middle East in a state of permanent state of instability, India would like to have greater diversity in supply sources. This where the Russian oil comes in.

India is an energy deficient country and Russia has an energy surplus and therefore, a mutual interest lies in this sector. India’s policy makers are trying to promote energy cooperation based on political understanding. The Indian side feels that there is a clear compatibility between India’s needs and Russia’s resources. The Indian side is adopting a policy to implement the experience of Sakhalin-1 to other oilfields in Russia.

The Indian side feels that though these two countries are not geographically contiguous it is not a hindrance for cooperation since the international oil and gas trade is not based on contiguity. India’s interest in the Russian energy sector has already been proved by the country’s investment in Sakhalin-1. While public sector energy companies from India have already made considerable investments in Russia, now India is also promoting its private sector companies for investments in downstream petroleum units in Russia in return for a stake in petroleum refineries there. India has proposed an exploration venture with Russian gas majors Gazprom and Rosneft and sought a stake in the Sakhalin-III oil and gas project in the Far East. The Indian side has proposed joint venture to work on gas liquefactions projects in Russian offshore fields for Shipment to India. Indian companies are being welcomed due to Indo-Russian strong strategic ties.

India is also looking for options for transporting Russian crude to India through a pipeline link from Xinjiang to India. But this depends on a joint agreement between Russia-Kazakhstan-China-India. The proposal is such, where crude from Russia could be transported via 1,240 kilometre-long pipeline from Atasu in northwest Kazakhstan to China’s Xinjiang province. Depending on the robustness of multilateral initiatives, a pipeline could be constructed to connect China’s Xinjiang province to India. This pipeline could enter the Xinjiang province in China at Altai, climb the Tian Shan Mountains and extend southward to the Kunlun Mountains in India.

India’s ONGC has proposed another energy highway to construct a Russia-China-India (RCI) pipeline. The RCI is supposed to stretch from Russia through Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, to Kashgar in Chinese Xinjiang. It will enter India via Laddakh, crossing the Siachen glaciers and the India-China Line of Control or alternatively through Himachal Pradesh to supply gas to Northern India. According to ONGC (India) officials, the economic and technical aspects of the proposal remain undetermined. The proposed pipeline would extend over an extremely long stretch of varied terrain (construction of the pipeline may cost somewhere up to $15 Billion, or slightly less if connected through already operating pipelines).

The Russia’s energy strategy towards Asia clearly mentions India as one of the important target countries along with Japan, China, and Korea. India is carefully taking note of Russia’s hydrocarbon vision, as now India wants to have a strong presence in Russia’s massive energy sector that can help ensure India’s vital energy security. All these indicate that both the nations can expand the cooperation in the energy sector too as they did in the defence sector. Amidst all these developments there is a hope that India-Russia energy cooperation will scale towards new heights.

via Energy cooperation between India and Russia: Policy and approach | Russia & India Report.

For too long, India has been dependent on a unstable Middle East for oil imports  |  Cartoon dated Sep  19  2012  titled Agitator  by Arend van Dam; source & courtesy - cagle.com

For too long, India has been dependent on a unstable Middle East for oil imports | Cartoon dated Sep 19 2012 titled Agitator by Arend van Dam; source & courtesy – cagle.com

In the meantime, Pakistan is seeing a conflict between US Army and Pakistani Army. Facing an unprecedented barrage of drone attacks from US, a ‘so-called’ ally, Pakistan’s civilian population is paying a heavy price.

Is the United States starting a low-intensity war against Pakistan? The signs look ominous. The relentless drone attacks through the recent months are destabilizing Pakistan’s tribal areas, especially the areas adjacent to the border with Afghanistan. The US’ excuse is that the drones are hunting down the militants belonging to the so-called Haqqani group. But they are causing a lot of civilian casualties so much so that the United Nations officials begin to wonder if these wanton killings would constitute ‘war crimes’.

Pakistan government keeps protesting to the US about the violation of its territorial integrity but the US ignores the demarches and continues with the drone attacks.

The US would know that the drone attacks do not provide the conducive setting for a normalization of the US-Pakistan relationship. Yet, it is not prepared to give up the drone attacks. There seems to a game plan to systematically destabilize the Waziristan area and to provoke the Pakistani military leadership.

Meanwhile, there has been a concerted attack by assorted militants of dubious backgrounds on Pakistani troops from across the border in Afghanistan. Exactly who they are or who are their mentors no one knows. In a cross-border strike on Monday, the militants used extremely brutal method to behead Pakistani soldiers. Evidently, they were making a point – showing their thumbs up at the Pakistani military leadership.

To add to the tensions, for the first time, the militants have publicly admitted that they do enjoy ‘safe haven’ on Afghan soil. This is something Pakistan has hinted at in recent period but it is now coming into the open. Again, they are taunting the Pakistani military leadership. The former US President George W. Bush would say, “Bring ‘em on!”

This is going to be a cat-and-mouse game. Pakistan is hunkering down and the US is losing patience. The decision in Washington seems to be to carry the war into Pakistani territory and incrementally inflict such unbearable losses that Pakistan finds it impossible to defy the US’ regional strategies.

Quite obviously, the US has concluded it has no alternatives but to step up the pressure and escalate tensions in a calibrated way. The US has been taken by surprise at Pakistan’s ‘strategic defiance’. The fact of the matter is that the present directions of Pakistani foreign policy hold the serious threat of undermining the US’ regional strategies with regard to permanent military presence in Central Asia, US’ containment strategy toward China (and Russia), projection of the NATO as a global security organization and of course the so-called New Silk Road Initiative.

The possibility that with Russian and/or Chinese participation, Pakistan might proceed with the Iran gas pipeline project infuriates the US to no end. Pakistan’s manifest enthusiasm for Russia’s participation in the TAPI [Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India] gas pipeline project rubbishes the US’ expectations that American companies could secure lucrative energy contracts via involvement in the project. The US apprehends that during the visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Pakistan in September, the two countries may begin a qualitatively new level of relationship with major projects in the energy sector.

If that happens, the US’ containment strategy toward Iran also begins to unravel.

In sum, the US’ patience is wearing thin. The common wisdom in the international community, historically speaking, has been that the Pakistani elites with their comprador mentality might say a few hot words now and then but would ultimately be loyal foot soldiers of the US agenda. The basis of this supposition is that ultimately the class interests of the Pakistani elites would prevail as the crucial determinant of statecraft. Of course, the US has had to pick up the tab for the services rendered by Pakistan but that was only to be expected.

The US establishment has been attuned to this paradigm characteristic of the cold-war era. That is why the US establishment is shocked to see that the Pakistani elites (military leadership, in particular) are no longer what they were supposed to be – Washington’s hirelings serving the US’ global agenda.

Washington’s wrath will only increase in the coming months. We are witnessing the commencement of a US-inspired low-intensity war against Pakistan being waged by obscure militant groups based in ‘safe havens’ inside Afghanistan. Call it by whatever name one likes, but the project aims at breaking Pakistan’s strategic autonomy.

To be sure, Pakistan comprehends what is going on. But what are its policy options?

via “Bring ’em on!” – US tells Pakistan | Russia & India Report.

And guess what?

Indian paparazzi, chatteratti, twitteratti, bloggeratti, not to forget the literati, glitterati, were busy with ‘corruption-scandals’!


Can Imran Khan Win the Coming Election in Pakistan?

June 19, 2012 1 comment

Four years ago, it may have seemed even silly to talk of Imran Khan as a political force in Pakistan? Any different now?

Between Imran and the Mullah, who will win?|  Cartoon by Zahoor on December 12, 2008; dailytimes.com.pk  |  Click for image.

Between Imran and the Mullah, who will win?| Cartoon by Zahoor on December 12, 2008; dailytimes.com.pk | Click for image.

Silly notions

Four years ago, when Imran Khan was was a non-starter in Pakistani politics, it seemed foolish to talk about him seriously.

Especially when it came to India-Pakistan relations.

Like this small video excerpt (below, with transcript) from Julian Assange-Imran Khan interview shows, Imran is not wet behind his ears.

And Indian Foreign Policy management now has at least one more admirer.

Imran Khan has got me thinking …

But still …

What can a retired cricketer do? What role could he have? Does he have the intellectual depth? Would the five Pakistan’s accept him?

Death threats

Why is it that there no death threats to Imran Khan?A google search revealed none. Though the Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital he established, was blown up.

Is he too small a target? Completely irrelevant, is he? Is it that he is big only outside Pakistan – but is a nothing in Pakistan? Is he a English-language media creation? Maybe the death threats have not trickled down to India? Or google? Was his Karachi rally, which attracted crowds in tens-of-thousands, more of money-and-organization than people power?

But, I am curious … this is nagging me.

Even Jemima Khan, his ex-wife, now in London got threats.

Factions in Pakistan

What do the five Pakistan’s think of him?

Many think that Imran Khan has no ideas. For instance,

his strategy for dealing with the Taliban and other Islamic militants has led to charges that he is soft on extremists. His plan is to order the Army to withdraw from the unruly tribal areas and start a dialogue with the militants. To him the war in Afghanistan and on the Pakistan border conforms to “Einstein’s definition of madness: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result … The Pakistan Army is killing its own people. It’s the most shameful period in our history. We created militants through collateral damage, and we are creating more militants through collateral damage. It’s a ruling elite which sold its soul for dollars.” (via Imran Khan May Become Pakistan’s Next Prime Minister – The Daily Beast).

Among the competing groups in Pakistan are, first the army and the ISI combination. Then there are the popular politicians who participate in elections. Add the third element – mullah-madrasa-mujahhid combine of fundamentalist clergy, various terrorist groups – like JeM, LeT, Al Qaida, various Taliban factions et al.

The economy and wealth is in hands of the fourth element – the 22 families that matter in Pakistan. Mahbub-ul-Haq’s “22 families” speech in Karachi in 1968 highlightedthe power and wealth of a few families in Pakistan.

And bringing up the rear, is the fifth part of Pakistan, who don’t matter.

The Rest of Pakistan.

How do they perceive Imran Khan.

Newsweek’s online edition, The Daily Beast thinks he is going to be the next PM of Pakistan? I have no idea how good the statistical model for opinion polls in Pakistan is? For whatever it is worth, he is sitting on a 68% approval rating. That should make him a shoo-in come March.

Whaddya think?

More importantly, what do Pakistanis think?

Julian Assange: How would you reconfigure the Pakistan relationship with the United States? Would it be a complete severance? What would you do? Permit them (unclear) strikes? What kind of intelligence cooperation? What would you do in practice?

Imran Khan: Eh … Have a relationship based on dignity self respect. So, it should be (thinking) … a relationship like (slight pause) … US has with India. It should not be a relationship about client-master relationship. And even worse here, (pain) Pakistan as a hired gun. Being paid to kill America’s enemies. It’s not … It is a relationship that has failed. It’s niether delivered to the people of Pakistan nor has it delivered to the Americans.


Is India getting encircled?

June 2, 2012 4 comments

Using China-encircles-India theory, the Anglo-Saxon Bloc is actually encircling India. All over again. This time the action is in Bangladesh.

Manipulating media and opinion to create 'frenemies'. - practically at will. Islamic world, China, Russia in that order are bugbears of the West.  But, that can change - and quickly.  |  Cartoon titled Debt To China By Brian Fairrington; Cagle Cartoons - March 26th, 2009; 12:00:00 AM; source & courtesy - politicalcartoons.com  |  Click for image.

Manipulating media and opinion to create ‘frenemies’. – practically at will. Islāmic world, China, Russia in that order are bugbear of the West. But, that can change – and quickly. | Cartoon titled Debt To China By Brian Fairrington; Cagle Cartoons – March 26th, 2009; 12:00:00 AM; source & courtesy – politicalcartoons.com | Click for image.

Frenemies – for now

The Chinese have no tradition of imperialism or a history of conquest.

To believe that China is India’s biggest threat is to believe that the Chinese national and State character is changing.

Where is the evidence of this change? Minor border disputes with neighbours?

China’s expansion of naval power? What could be China’s realistic motivations for seeking more naval bases?

Ships from the Chinese Navy patrolling the seas on anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden area for over a year now could not go to the rescue of De Xin Hai a Chinese bulk carrier with a Chinese crew of 25 members transporting coal which was hijacked by a group of Somali pirates 400 miles North-East of Seychelles and taken to the waters off Somalia in October last.

Their demand for ransom was initially resisted by the Chinese. How can China, which views itself as a power on par with the US, pay ransom? The US Navy’s Sea Air Land Commandoes (SEAL) had rescued the master of the US ship “Maersk Alabama” in an operation on April 4,2009. There were similar instances of intervention by the naval special forces of Holland and France.

Independent experts outside China were not hopeful of the Chinese Navy’s ability to intervene. They were certain that the Chinese Navy would ultimately have to cave in to the demands of the Somali pirates. The Jamestown Foundation, a prestigious American think-tank based in Washington DC, had predicted that China was unlikely to use its special forces in a rescue operation because it had too few ships in the area and its ships had no combat experience, especially in dealing with pirates.

Chinese authorities managed to get back their ship and crew from the pirates on December 28,2009, after air-dropping sacks containing US $ four million on board the ship from a helicopter. The pirates collected the money and left the hijacked ship, which is now reported to be on its way back home.

The Chinese Government has so far not told its people that it paid a ransom in order to get the ship and its crew back. The “China Daily” News merely told its readers that the ship had been “successfully rescued”.

Their embarrassing experience with this incident has brought home to the Chinese the limitations from which their Navy suffers.

One of the lessons mentioned by their experts is that the Chinese Navy could not hope to be the equal of its US counterparts unless it had overseas bases in areas of concern.

China already has two options before it—- Gwadar on the Balochistan coast in Pakistan and Hambantota in Sri Lanka. It has already constructed for Pakistan a commercial port at Gwadar, which is now being managed by a Singapore company.

Pakistan would be only too happy to respond positively to any Chinese request for naval base facilities at Gwadar. The only inhibiting factor for China would be the bad security situation in the area due to the ongoing Baloch freedom struggle. From the point of view of security, Hambantota could be ideal for the Chinese, but would the Sri Lankan Government agree to any such proposal if it comes from Beijing? (via Sri Lanka Guardian: China’s interest in naval base: Gwadar or Hambantota or elsewhere?).

Non aggressive activities like education is also termed in military terms. |  Cartoon By Brian Fairrington, source & courtesy - Cagle Cartoons - 9/24/2009 12:00:00 AM  |  Click for image.

Non aggressive activities like education is also termed in military terms. | Cartoon By Brian Fairrington, source & courtesy – Cagle Cartoons – 9/24/2009 12:00:00 AM | Click for image.

History tells us

Instead, look at Western imperialism.

After 500 years of Western imperialism, entire populations and continents have been wasted. Native Americans, Australian aborigines, Africa. This list is just for starters.

US has a significant presence in Pakistan, Afghanistan – and now wanting it in Bangladesh, too.

America’s threat to send its seventh fleet to stop liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 is a known fact. Now, 41 years later – it is America again – which wants to park its seventh fleet in the country – for its strategic interests. Worried by increasing presence of Chinese naval bases in the South China Sea – America now eyes a counter strategy – as it wants an overall presence in Asia – right from Japan to its Diego Garicia base in the Indian Ocean.

This by parking its seventh fleet in a base in Chittagong giving it both an eye on taking on China and a strategic post in Asia as it pulls out of Afghanisthan. The US State Department denying on the record that Hillary Clinton’s visits had anything to do with military co-operation.

This move by America could put India on the back foot if the American fleet moves to Bangladesh, all of India’s security installations will come under the American scanner. Bangladesh is not willing to comment on record even offering explanation to deny the developments. This Clinton visit a more strategic one than just a friendly one- the Indian establishment caught unawares–as this base could cast a shadow on India’s own strategic interests. (via Excl: America eyes Bangladesh- TIMESNOW.tv – Latest Breaking News, Big News Stories, News Videos).

Fox guarding the chicken-coop

China’s diplomatic activity has been under much scrutiny by the West.

There’s been much talk in the media of an apparent offer by the Seychelles of a base for Chinese ships deployed to the Gulf of Aden and the West Indian Ocean, to help combat piracy. China’s Foreign Ministry was quick to state that Beijing isn’t contemplating a military base in for the Seychelles, adding that it wouldn’t “violate” its traditional policy of “not stationing troops abroad.” China began pursuing its so-called “String of Pearls” strategy in the Indian Ocean in 2001 via the commercial route, constructing the Gwadar port. Subsequently, China won contracts to construct ports at Hambantota on the southern tip of Sri Lanka, Chittagong in Bangladesh and Kyaukpyu on the east coast of Burma in the Arabian Sea.

But what’s China’s interest in establishing a base in the Seychelles?

For a start, it satisfies China’s hunger for a firm foothold in the Indian Ocean. The Seychelles provides the PLA Navy an ideal platform from which to counter any threat to its sea lines of communication from Africa by the U.S. Navy operating out of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean region. In addition, to assist with the resupply, rest and refit of PLAN ships undertaking anti-piracy duties in the region, China requires a large logistics depot, which can be supplied by air and merchant/naval ships.

Perhaps most significantly, the Seychelles is equidistant from sea lines of control carrying oil from the Middle East and Africa to China, enabling the PLAN to effectively support its merchant vessels in times of crisis. (via China Base a Threat to India Navy? | The Diplomat).

Note how China is portrayed - with a devil's tail. While the US has been blaming China for global imbalances; the Euro-zone is quiet. Euro-zone needs China to sustain and stabilize the Euro.  |  Cartoon titled Currency Battles By Pavel Constantin, Romania - 11/19/2010 12:00:00 AM; source & courtesy - politicalcartoons.com  |  Click for image.

Note how China is portrayed – with a devil’s tail. While the US has been blaming China for global imbalances; the Euro-zone is quiet. Euro-zone needs China to sustain and stabilize the Euro. | Cartoon titled Currency Battles By Pavel Constantin, Romania – 11/19/2010 12:00:00 AM; source & courtesy – politicalcartoons.com | Click for image.

Eternal vigilance, they say

After Sri Lanka refused naval base facilities to the US. A human rights violations censure motion was moved by the US.

Globally, military bases are at

the heart of a global American empire that employs some 1,000 bases outside the United States. Their purpose: To ensure that no matter who governs in Asia, Africa or around the world, the US military would be in a position to “run the planet” from its chain of strategic island bases. (via Chagos: The heart of an American empire? – Opinion – Al Jazeera English).

More than two centuries ago, an American politician noted, ‘eternal vigilance is the price of liberty’.

It is time we believed him.

One ‘Birather’ to Another?

June 1, 2012 2 comments

Back in 70s, the new-found power by the Islāmic Middle East made the Indian Muslim proud about his religious identity? What now …

The State of Public Policy  in Pakistan  |  Cartoon by Sabir Nazar; Source & courtesy: Pakistan Today  |  Click for image.

The State of Public Policy in Pakistan | Cartoon by Sabir Nazar; Source & courtesy: Pakistan Today | Click for image.

Oil wealth

The oil riches, glitzy infrastructure boom of the Middle East, after the 1973 Oil Embargo, had a profound effect in Indian Muslims. The new-found power by the Islamic Middle East made the Indian Muslim proud about his religious identity.

For the general Indian, the Middle East was the answer to the slow Indian economy. In an economy of shortages, with an over-valued Indian currency, the Dubai allure was irresistible. It was the passport to wealth and abundance.

Jannat lost?

It took another 10-15 years for Indians to discover the underbelly of Dubai.

To an average Indian, the prospect of slow career growth in Dubai, limited growth opportunities, the discrimination between the Western expatriates and Indians (and others) had a telling – and chilling effect. The Indian-Muslim, expecting a warm welcome in sandy climes, found a sneer instead.

The fig leaf of oil riches covered the intellectual bankruptcy of the Middle East. (Cartoon by Bob Gorrell; 2009; source and courtesy - time.com). Click for larger image.

The fig leaf of oil riches covered the intellectual bankruptcy of the Middle East. (Cartoon by Bob Gorrell; 2009; source and courtesy – time.com). Click for larger image.

Unfortunate victims in this labour-import by the Middle East, many are in the Saudi Arabia. With a rich Welfare State, high disposable incomes

THE presence of a housemaid in a Saudi house has become inevitable. If this inevitability is not because of her services, then it is because of the need to imitate others. This is a fact that everybody knows. The need for housemaids is connected to the ways Saudis live — women go to work, responsibilities for the social and educational welfare of children, men failing to help with house duties, few day-care facilities for children, large and spacious homes, extended families and increasing numbers of children. The net result is that the majority of families need to have housemaids. The truth of the matter is that some of us need more than one housemaid. (via Saudis and domestic help — ‘maid’ for each other).

This above extract on Middle East does not utter the word India even once – or the abuse of these maids – as another story, from the same publication shows.

But now the 40-year-old woman says her sponsor stopped paying her four months ago and then sold her to a labor placement agency in Riyadh for SR13,000 (about $3,460).

After promising to pay her the back salary, the agency sent her to work for another Saudi family without paying her the promised sum. And she claims her new employer, a Saudi woman, is treating her poorly, such as not paying her a salary, keeping her locked up so she won’t flee and denying her medical attention.

“I’m sick and this woman won’t give me even a Panadol, and she has not given me salary,” Beevi told Arab News.

“There are three other maids here, too: an Indonesian, a Sri Lankan, and one from Morocco. They have not been paid their salaries either.”

If the allegations are true then a number of Saudi labor laws have been violated by Beevi’s first sponsor, the labor placement agent and the new employer.

Besides the obvious illegal practice of not paying a salary, a sponsor cannot sell off an employee to a third party agent. That third party agent is likewise prohibited by law from then hiring out a worker under somebody else’s sponsorship.

The new employer has also broken the law by taking in a worker who is not under her sponsorship. Beevi says she is still under the sponsorship of her first sponsor.

Beevi has complained to the Federation of Kerala Associations in Saudi Arabia (FOKASA), which has filed a petition on her behalf to the Indian Embassy in Riyadh. (via Housemaids bought, sold like chattels | ArabNews).

Welcome to the party

But for Pakistanis the story has been different.

Brought up on a history that glorified Mohammed Bin Qasim, Pakistan’s official history hitched itself to Muslim ‘invaders’ and ‘conquerors’ of ‘idol-worshiping’ India. Even invoked on cricket fields, the Mohammed Bin Qasim narrative gained further strength in Pakistan with the Oil Boom in the Middle East.

From 1975-2005, as India slowly and inexorably pulled away and ahead of Pakistan, this narrative started sounding rather tinny. Further, the plateau and decline of the Oil Boom in the Middle East, diluted the power of this narrative.

What of Pakistani perception of treatment of Pakistanis by the Saudis?

Not very complimentary if this report is anything to go by.

RAWALPINDI: Airport Security Force personnel at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport allegedly entered into an altercation with the military attaché of the Saudi embassy on Thursday, after he refused to cooperate during security checks and abused Pakistan and called Pakistani officials his “servants”.

According to officials from the ASF, Colonel Sukhari, who was meant to fly out to Riyadh, refused to get a routine body check and started quarrelling with the security personnel at the airport.

The Saudi embassy official became abusive and attacked the ASF officials, say eye witnesses. He also abused Pakistanis in general and called them “servant class,” said eyewitnesses.

An official from the Airport Police said the Saudi official started the fight by slapping an ASF official, identified as Idrees. (via Refusing to cooperate: ‘ASF men rough up Saudi embassy official’ – The Express Tribune).

Not surprising this ‘official’ history attracts sarcasm and derision in Pakistan.

For instance this tweet.

https://twitter.com/majorlyprofound/status/208440711551524864


Behind Delhi Car Bomb Blast: Iran?

In the last 65 years, only the Soviet Union took payment in rupees for oil. And now Iran. Why would Iran trigger bomb blasts in New Delhi?

Israel will still blame Iran even if it's a CNG blast, Saying the gas is Iranian  |  Cartoon by Ajit Ninan; 15 Feb 2012; source & courtesy-mumbaimirror.com  |  Click for image.

Israel will still blame Iran even if it’s a CNG blast, Saying the gas is Iranian | Cartoon by Ajit Ninan; 15 Feb 2012; source & courtesy-mumbaimirror.com | Click for image.

An explosion on Aurangzeb Road in New Delhi damaged an Israeli embassy car, and injured its occupants.Tal Yehoshua Koren, the wife of the defense attache at the Israeli embassy was seriously wounded. She is in critical care. She was on her way to pick up her children from their school. It is unusual for a diplomatic vehicle to be attacked on the streets of New Delhi. The Delhi police went into action. The international media wanted to know who had done the attack minutes after it was reported.The police was wary. Let us conduct our investigation, they said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went before his parliament and accused Iran of a terrorist act. “The elements behind these attacks were Iran and its protege, Hezbollah.” Iran, he said, is “the largest terror exporter in the world” and Israel “would act with a strong hand.” This was all the confirmation that BBC needed. It began to report the attack as an Iranian act against an Israeli diplomat on Indian soil.

Why would Iran conduct an attack on an Israeli diplomat in India, particularly as India is in the midst of trying to negotiate a delicate arrangement with Tehran to pay for Iranian oil? The question mystifies. (via Asia Times Online :: India’s dilemma: How to pay for Iranian oil).

For more on the Oil-India-Iran-USA matrix, read the first post in the related articles section below – titled Indian diplomacy: Heavy Lifting.


Without Comment: Gaddafi son’s atrocity: Failing to license camels?

The usual story – cure is worse than the disease. Will the NATO-supported regime in Libya be better than Gaddafi’s?

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi | Source: AFP Photo / Mahmud Turkia; Courtesy rt.com  |  Click for image.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi | Source: AFP Photo / Mahmud Turkia; Courtesy rt.com | Click for image.

The most serious charge against Saif al-Islam Gaddafi that Libya managed to back with evidence is over his failure to obtain a license for his camels, the head of Human Rights Watch says.

Kenneth Roth cited on his Twitter account complaints of lawyers of the International Criminal Court, who said the case of Saif is a “legal black hole”.

According to the lawyers, Libya said it would not charge “serious crimes, such as murder & rape, due to lack of evidence” and has only managed to charge him with “the absence of a licence for camels, and irregularities concerning fish farms” so far.

The ICC forcefully demanded that Saif al-Islam were extradited to The Hague earlier on Thursday. But the Libyan government refused to do so, insisting that it will try him on its soil.

via Gaddafi son’s atrocity: Failing to license camels? — RT.


Arab Spring – Is the West After Gold?

December 14, 2011 1 comment

In the last 60 years, the West has lost ‘market share’ in gold from more than 50% to nearly 20% of global gold reserves!

(Cartoon courtesy - cagle.com; Cartoon by John Darkow, The Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri.).

(Cartoon courtesy - cagle.com; Cartoon by John Darkow, The Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri.).

Rivers – shallow and dry

Arab Spring protests have petered out into directionless change – and the outlook seems bleak.

The unspoken element in these regime changes is the ‘personal’ wealth of the Egyptian and Tunisian rulers.

After Ben Ali, the Tunisian leader came to France, fleeing from his own country, the French Government seized a plane reputedly containing 1.5 tons of gold – that ‘belonged’ to the Tunisian ruler.

Gaddafi’s assets have been frozen in UK, USA and Switzerland.

Mubarak’s wealth

Estimates abound.

There is a lower range estimate of US$ 2-3 billion – which most reject as too conservative. CNN’s Tom Foreman puts in an astounding figure of US$40 billion-75 billion. Based on a video transcript, ‘Mubarak is worth somewhere between $40 billion and $75 billion, CNN’s Tom Foreman estimates’. An unsubstantiated report, estimates Mubarak’s gold holdings at US$ 9 billion.

Average prices of gold in February 2011, were in the region of US$45 million per tonne of gold. That would be 2000 tons – one of the largest hoards in the world. More gold than the national reserves of any country – except the Top 5 reserves.

Just carting around 2000 tons of gold – or its cash equivalent would be inviting trouble.

More on Egyptian gold

As the legs on Mubarak’s throne wobbled, gold prices also wobbled downwards – significantly?

Now why would that happen?

Egypt is not a major producer of gold. Production from the Sukari mines (started production in Jun 2009) is now at 1 ton – expected to go up to 14 tons (500,000 oz). Miniscule in comparison to global output at more than 2000 tons.

Alexander Nubia, a Toronto-based mining operator owns gold exploration properties at Abu Marwat that is expected to start production next year – with a potential of 500,000 oz – i.e. another 14 tons.

Total production in Egypt – less than 30 tons.

Egypt is also not a major buyer of gold. Total annual consumption of gold in Egypt is around 50 tons – about 3 weeks of India’s consumption.

Is it that players in the market expected Mubarak’s gold hoard to be dumped into the market?

Libyan Treasures

Libya’s official gold holdings are in the similar range as Egypt’s – some 143 tons. International bodies have estimated Libya’s reserves higher than 143 tonnes.

In March 2011, the IMF estimated Libya’s reserves even higher but the official amount remained 144 tons that were registered by Gaddafi-controlled Libya’s Central Bank.

This apart, Gaddafi surrounded himself with some gold trinkets – pistols, golf clubs, etc. After the capture and killing of Gaddafi, it is unclear the where and what of Libyan gold.

The Fall Of USSR

Western media has been tom-toming how Xerox and fax machines were behind the Soviet collapse.

Not quite. The real story …?

A lot of Nazi and Soviet gold came into the markets, it is surmised, during the 1999-2005 Central Bank Gold Sales agreement – which was put in place to depress gold prices. These depressed gold prices, that coincided with price declines in oil, platinum and other commodities, bankrupted the Soviet economy – and not Xerox and fax machines.

Is Arab gold the reason for this mayhem of regime changes?


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