Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

Questions #Snowden Has Not Asked More Important Than The Answers That He Has Given

June 30, 2013 3 comments

The close co-operation of the Anglo-Saxon Bloc to keep the world under their electronic surveillance is war by ‘other’ means.

Little Difference Between One-Party Systems and 2-Party Democracies  |  Cartoon BY SCOTT STANTIS on June 25, 2013 in

Little Difference Between One-Party Systems and 2-Party Democracies | Cartoon BY SCOTT STANTIS on June 25, 2013 in


f it has not shocked, the scale of electronic surveillance of India by the US certainly has surprised Indians – except 2ndlook readers.

For the last 4 years, before Bradley Manning, Wikileaks and before Edward Snowden, 2ndlook has been raising the danger-flag of the Big Brother State.

PRISM & The Boundless Informant: Why Was India Such An Important Target For America’s NSA?

To many Indians who have considered US to be a friendly country, it may still not be enough that India has been under greater surveillance by the US than proclaimed US-rivals like China and Russia.

Clues to a changing world

In March 2013 the NSA picked up 9.6 billion pieces of information from India’s computer networks, making it the fifth tracked country in the world after Iran, Pakistan, Jordan and Egypt. The top four are all Muslim countries, with Jordan also a close ally, so it’s a no-brainer why the NSA is targeting them. But has the world shifted so much on its geopolitical axis that India is now a bigger target than Russia and China?

There are two possibilities. One, the Americans are making sure India remains on its side of the fence. Secondly, if the NSA has been able to steal more data from India than from Russia and China, it only shows how powerless developing countries are against well-equipped spy agencies.

via Why there are no friends in the spy game | Russia & India Report.

In Europe, Germany occupies the dubious position of being under greater surveillance than other European countries.

The fact that US is mounting this surveillance operations in partnership with Britain has only added to the disquiet.

An Uncanny Alliance

We have Edward Snowden to thank for this insight into the interaction of an uncanny club, the Alliance of Five Eyes. Since World War II, the five Anglo-Saxon countries of Great Britain, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada have maintained close intelligence cooperation, which apparently has gotten completely out of control.

It may be up to the Americans and the British to decide how they handle questions of freedom and the protection of their citizens from government intrusion. But they have no right to subject the citizens of other countries to their control. The shoulder-shrugging explanation by Washington and London that they have operated within the law is absurd. They are not our laws. We didn’t make them. We shouldn’t be subject to them.

The totalitarianism of the security mindset protects itself with a sentence: If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. But firstly, that contains a presumption: We have not asked the NSA and GCHQ to “protect” us. And secondly, the sentence is a stupid one: Because we all have something to hide, whether it pertains to our private lives or to our business secrets.

No Agency Should Collect So Much Data

Thus the data scandal doesn’t pertain just to our legal principles, but to our security as well. We were lucky that Edward Snowden, who revealed the spying to the entire world, is not a criminal, but an idealist. He wanted to warn the world, not blackmail it. But he could have used his information for criminal purposes, as well. His case proves that no agency in the world can guarantee the security of the data it collects — which is why no agency should collect data in such abundance in the first place.

That is the well-known paradox of totalitarian security policy. Our security is jeopardized by the very actions that are supposed to protect it.

So what should happen now? European institutions must take control of the data infrastructure and ensure its protection. The freedom of data traffic is just as important as the European freedom of exchange in goods, services and money. But above all, the practices of the Americans and British must come to an end. Immediately.

via Jakob Augstein: Data Spying Programs Threaten German Security – SPIEGEL ONLINE.

Safety First, Privacy Essential

Apart the selection of targets (India, Germany, etc.), the joint activities of the Anglo-Saxon Bloc, the question is that of solutions. How can users be safeguarded?

  • Is some kind of browser-based, sender-receiver encryption the answer?
  • Do we need a greater variety of desktop-OS that will stop data-snooping?
  • Should we have a global protocol where routers and internet switches use open-source chips, where the encryption key is variable and user-based?
  • Do we need a combination of all the above ideas, which will secure the system, at multiple levels?

Maybe an alliance of India, Taiwan, Korea, Germany, China and Russia can define this architecture?

Terrorism? What About It!

In any one year, mosquitoes kill more Indians (malaria, dengue, chikungunya, etc.) than terrorists.

Is it time that we stopped Governments from terrorizing us with these false alarms? The answer to terrorism may also lie in checking the Anglo-Saxon Bloc.

Why is it that allies, past and present, of the Anglo-Saxon Bloc, are the source and generators of terror-factories!

Limit the Anglo-Saxon Bloc – and you anyway limit terrorism?

Less outrage and more actions will probably do the trick of making NSA into a toothless ogre.

Faster, Smaller, Lighter Missiles: How Brahmos Leads The Way?

June 22, 2013 2 comments

Indo-Russian supersonic missile, Brahmos may see a new competitor – the French missile, ASMPA.

The past and future of Brahmos | Image source:

The past and future of Brahmos | Image source:

Exactly one year ago, on June 20th, 2012, the French Government reported the successful test for their new upgraded missile – the ASMPA (Air Sol Moyenne Porte Ameliore).

Competition For Brahmos

Except for the weight, the new ASMPA is a Yakhont-Brahmos missile clone – like Brahmos, the French missile is also ramjet powered, kerosene-fuelled; 200-500 kg payload; 250-500 km range .

After a decade of ignoring the existence of a Mach-3 missile with Russia and India, the successful test of the new French missile should have been announced with much fanfare. Varying reports confuse ASMPA, deceptively named after its predecessor, the ASMP, which too was not widely inducted or utilized. Curiously, even one year later, very little has come out in the open. After more than a decade of silence, such a giant leap should have made the French Defense industry shout from rooftops.

With the end of Cold War, France probably does not need the ASMPA missile right now? France may decide to produce the ASMPA if the threat profile to France changes? Due to MTCR, anyway France cannot sell many of these missiles?

Why produce a missile that France does not need and cannot sell?

Maybe, India with Pakistan and China as rivals, needs to keep a high profile on new developments!

ASMPA Firsts

The ASMPA is expected to be integrated with the Rafale – something that was not done till September 2012.

Considering that this is less than 1.0 ton in weight, ( gives weight specs. as 860 kg), compared to the nearly 3.0 tons that the Brahmos weighs, the ASMPA is major leg up.

For India, the ASMPSA missile means it can be something that can be fitted on all the Su-30MKIs, the MiG-29s, maybe even the ancient MiG-21s. At one ton, the Su-30MKIs will not need the major modifications, which is under discussion with the Russian vendors for the last 18 months.

Logic and The Rationale

Therefore, the ASMPA is probably the one reason why India opted for the Rafale. Possibly, that is also the reason why the signing of the Rafale contract is being delayed. Do the French have a missile that they can sell? Is it vaporware? Announced, tested, prototyped – but not in production and yet to be inducted.

MTCR regulations create artificial limits – probably the range of Brahmos is more than 300-km and the ASMPA range is less than 300-km. By declaring the range of the ASMPA missile to 500-km, France can claim that MTCR regulations stop it from sale or transfer of missiles and missile technology.

India’s indigenous interceptor missiles already attain speeds of Mach3-Mach-4. So, Indian requirements is probably limited to weight-reduction – which France seems to have achieved.

The Global Matrix

It is also a matter of much curiosity, that the Americans and the British or the Germans could not crack this technology – but the French did? After all, the test-integration of ASMPA with Rafale took two years after its test firing from a Mirage-2000N.

While the French do have a long history of experimental ramjets and hypersonic engines, integration into production, induction of these technologies has been lagging. It is in the stabilization, production and induction of supersonic ramjets that Indo-Russian partnership has excelled.

Not surprisingly, after the ASMPA announcement, India and Russia promptly announced that the Brahmos will be upgraded from supersonic speeds (Mach2.5-Mach3) to hypersonic speeds (Mach5-Mach6).

Laser guided missiles are one of Russia’s weaknesses. To overcome this technology shortcoming, Russia has signed a deal with France for integrating a system using French components.

France and Russia have also been co-operating on ramjet and scram jet technologies. Was there technology or a component barter between the French and the Russians?

ON AUGUST 20th 1998 Bill Clinton ordered American warships in the Arabian Sea to fire a volley of more than 60 Tomahawk cruise missiles at suspected terrorist training camps near the town of Khost in eastern Afghanistan. The missiles, flying north at about 880kph (550mph), took two hours to reach their target. Several people were killed, but the main target of the attack, Osama bin Laden, left the area shortly before the missiles struck. American spies located the al-Qaeda leader on two other occasions as he moved around Afghanistan in September 2000. But the United States had no weapons able to reach him fast enough.

They have now pinned their hopes on an alternative approach: superfast or “hypersonic” unmanned vehicles that can strike quickly by flying through the atmosphere, and cannot be mistaken for a nuclear missile.

These hypersonic vehicles are not rockets, as ICBMs are, but work in a fundamentally different way. Rockets carry their own fuel, which includes the oxygen needed for combustion in airless space. This fuel is heavy, making rockets practical only for short, vertical flights into space. So engineers are trying to develop lightweight, “air breathing” hypersonic vehicles that can travel at rocket-like speeds while taking oxygen from the atmosphere, as a jet engine does, rather than having to carry it in the form of fuel oxidants.

The term hypersonic technically refers to speeds faster than five times the speed of sound, or Mach 5, equivalent to around 6,200kph at sea level and 5,300kph at high altitudes (where the colder, thinner air means the speed of sound is lower). Being able to sustain flight in the atmosphere at such speeds would have many benefits. Hypersonic vehicles would not be subject to existing treaties on ballistic-missile arsenals, for one thing. It is easier to manoeuvre in air than it is in space, making it more feasible to dodge interceptors or change trajectory if a target moves. And by cutting the cost of flying into the upper reaches of the atmosphere, the technology could also help reduce the expense of military and civilian access to space.

All this, however, requires a totally different design from the turbofan and turbojet engines that power airliners and fighter jets, few of which can operate beyond speeds of about Mach 2. At higher speeds the jet engines’ assemblies of spinning blades can no longer slow incoming air to the subsonic velocities needed for combustion. Faster propulsion relies instead on engines without moving parts. One type, called a ramjet, slows incoming air to subsonic speeds using a carefully shaped inlet to compress and thereby slow the airstream. Ramjets power France’s new, nuclear-tipped ASMPA missiles. Carried by Rafale and Mirage fighter jets, they are thought to be able to fly for about 500km at Mach 3, or around 3,700kph.

It’s not rocket science

But reaching hypersonic speeds of Mach 5 and above with an air-breathing engine means getting combustion to happen in a stream of supersonic air. Engines that do this are called supersonic-combustion ramjets, or scramjets. They also use a specially shaped inlet to slow the flow of incoming air, but it does not slow down enough to become subsonic. This leaves engineers with a big problem: injecting and igniting fuel in a supersonic airstream is like “lighting a match in a hurricane and keeping it lit,” says Russell Cummings, a hypersonic-propulsion expert at California Polytechnic State University.

One way to do it is to use fuel injectors that protrude, at an angle, into the supersonic airstream. They generate small shock waves that mix oxygen with fuel as soon as it is injected. This mixture can be ignited using the energy of bigger shock waves entering the combustion chamber. Another approach is being developed at the Australian Defence Force Academy. In a process known as “cascade ionisation”, laser blasts lasting just a few nanoseconds rip electrons off passing molecules, creating pockets of hot plasma in the combustion chamber that serve as sparks.

Scramjet fuel must also be kept away from the wall of the combustion chamber. Otherwise, it might “pre-ignite” before mixing properly, blowing up the vehicle, says Clinton Groth, an engineer at the University of Toronto who is currently doing research at Cambridge University in England (and who has consulted for Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce, two engine-makers). To complicate matters further, scramjets move too fast for their internal temperature and air pressure to be controlled mechanically by adjusting the air intake. Instead, as scramjets accelerate, they must ascend into thinner air at a precise rate to prevent rising heat and pressure from quickening the fuel burn and blowing up the combustion chamber.

In other words, igniting a scramjet is difficult, and keeping it going without exploding is harder still. Moreover scramjets, like ramjets, cannot begin flight on their own power. Because they need to be moving quickly to compress air for combustion, scramjets must first be accelerated by piggybacking on a jet plane or rocket. There are, in short, formidable obstacles to the construction of a scramjet vehicle.

A Chinese programme to convert a nuclear ballistic missile into an aircraft-carrier killer, by packing it with conventional explosives, had reached “initial operational capability”. The DF-21D, as it is called, is designed to descend from space at hypersonic speed and strike ships in the Western Pacific. Even though the accuracy of the DF-21D’s guidance system is unknown, the missile is already altering the balance of power within its range.

DARPA suggested, America will need “the new stealth” of hypersonic vehicles. Similarly, Russia’s deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, remarked last year that the design of hypersonic missiles had become a priority for the country.

via Hypersonic missiles: Speed is the new stealth | The Economist.

South Korea Space Program: Latest Launch Cancelled Minutes Before Schedule

November 30, 2012 3 comments

Industrial development as much about technology denial and politics as business considerations. Take S Korea’s space program. for instance.

Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 at the Naro Space Center launch pad in Goheung, South Korea,Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. South Korea on Thursday cancelled the launch of its first satellite into orbit from its own soil. | Image by Yonhap, Shin Jun-hee/ Associated Press -

Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 at the Naro Space Center launch pad in Goheung, South Korea,Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. South Korea on Thursday cancelled the launch of its first satellite into orbit from its own soil. | Image by Yonhap, Shin Jun-hee/ Associated Press –

South Korea on Thursday scrapped an attempt to fire its first satellite into orbit from its own soil amid speculation that North Korea was preparing to fire its own long-range rocket.

Scientists in South Korea cited technical problems with the rocket’s flight control system. It’s the second time in a month that Seoul has been forced to cancel a launch at the last minute as it attempts to join an elite group of nations that have launched satellites from their own land.

But it is North Korea’s rocket program that has raised worry in recent days. Two South Korean officials said Thursday that there are signs of preparations at a North Korean rocket site on the northwest coast.

A North Korean long-range rocket broke apart shortly after liftoff in April, but the attempt drew United Nations condemnation and worsened already tense relations between the Koreas.

Washington and Seoul say Pyongyang uses such rocket launches to develop missiles that could target the United States. Technology employed in scientific rocket launches can be easily converted into use for missiles.

North Korea says its launch attempts are part of a peaceful space program and are meant to put satellites into orbit.

South Korea has launched domestically-made satellites aboard foreign-made rockets from other countries since 1992.

South Korea’s 142-ton Naro’s first stage is built by Russia. Its South Korean-made second stage is meant to release a scientific satellite once it reaches orbit.

via North Korea rocket launch speculation overshadows cancelled South Korean satellite launch – The Washington Post.

I am a little curious.

Why is South Korea, a country in the US sphere of influence, chasing Russia for this technology? Could this technology not be developed in collaboration with the West. There are no sanctions by the West on South Korea.

S Korea’s space program also proves that probably alliances and diplomacy count for as much as industrial depth and capacity. Korea’s industry depth is definitely greater than India’s – yet it is struggling in its space program. Also makes one understand what Indian scientists and diplomats have managed with years of sanctions by the US.

Seoul wants to make another attempt to send the satellite into space between November 9 and 24 after last month’s rocket launch was cancelled because of a defective part.

“We’ve been asking Russia to give a green light at the earliest possible date, but we don’t know when we will have the parts,” Kim Yeon-Hak, a deputy director at the science ministry, told AFP.

The October 26 launch was cancelled after engineers detected a broken rubber seal in the connector between the launch pad and the rocket’s first stage.

Kim Seung-Jo, president of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, said the parts must arrive no later than Wednesday if the rocket is to be launched on or before November 24.

After two failures in 2009 and 2010, the upcoming exercise is considered crucial for South Korea’s efforts to join an elite space club that includes China, Japan and India.

It will take at least 10 days after the parts arrive to refit the rocket and put it back on the launch pad on the south coast, Kim Seung-Jo said Monday.

Should the launch be put off again, South Korea would reset the period through consultations with international space agencies, he said. Dates for the launch period are conveyed to international agencies to minimise risks to ships and aircraft that could pass near the flight path.

The 140-tonne Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) has a first stage manufactured by Russia and a solid-fuel second stage built by South Korea. The technical problem that aborted last month’s launch was not described as serious but the damaged rubber seal was sent back to its Russian manufacturer for inspections.

After two failures in 2009 and 2010, the upcoming exercise is considered crucial for South Korea’s efforts to join an elite space club that includes Asian powers China, Japan and India.

In 2009 the rocket achieved orbit but faulty release mechanisms on the second stage prevented proper deployment of the satellite. The 2010 effort saw the rocket explode two minutes into its flight, with both Russia and South Korea blaming each other.

South Korea is a late entrant into the world of space technology and is eager to get its commercial launch programme up and running.

via S.Korea urges Russia to send rocket parts swiftly.

Pakistan: Realism Sets in? Adjusting to Existential Challenge?

November 25, 2012 2 comments

Pakistan is all gung-ho about cancellation of visits by top Russian leaders to India. India lost. Pakistan won is their perception. Reality is no one won or lost – as yet.

The Russian bear's expression says it all  |  Illustration: Liu Rui   |  Global Times | 2012-11-15 19:35:04

The Russian bear’s expression says it all | Illustration: Liu Rui | Global Times | 2012-11-15 19:35:04

Check: 1,2,3

Pakistani elites have fooled themselves and Pakistanis. For 65 years now.

First, they lost Bangladesh.

Next, China has not backed Pakistan in any of the three wars with India.

Last. Their biggest ally and aid-donor, Yumm-Rika is waging an undeclared war for the last few years, using drones in border areas.

Are drone-strikes any less an act-of-war than fighter-aircraft bombings?

Look at this story on Russia-Pak relations. It is true Russians would love to be friendly with Pakistan – but Russians also know which side of their bread is buttered.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was set to visit Pakistan on October 2, but at the eleventh hour he postponed his visit to an as yet unannounced date. This was followed by cancellation of his visits to India and Turkey.There are some significant geo-strategic developments taking place in Russia’s neighborhood. The US is increasing its influence in the Asia-Pacific, in cooperation with India, to dominate the sea lanes of the region. Pakistan provides an alternative route which is closer to Africa, Europe and the Middle East, and is accessible to Russia through Central Asia.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, during his visit to Moscow in May, offered Russia the use of Pakistani territory to gain access to the southern seas. Pakistan is diversifying its foreign policy. Recently it has improved its relations with China, Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia and Turkey, and is working on its ties with Russia, India, Germany and France, attempting to reduce its dependency on the US. The emphasis is on trade instead of aid.

Russia is also looking for new partners in the South Asian region. Russia’s relations with India are not as good as they used to be. India, which was a significant buyer of Russian weapons and defense system, is now a major US partner. Putin has signaled his willingness to adapt Russia’s foreign policy to the new geopolitical changes.

India is apprehensive about Pakistani-Russian rapprochement. In past two months, a number of events have taken place, which indicates that Russia is giving preferences to Pakistan over India.

Former Russian defense minister Anatoly Serdyukov postponed his visit to India, where he was to participate in the Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation.

The meeting was scheduled for October 4, but instead Sardyukov preferred to meet with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Pervaiz Ashraf Kayani, who had on the very same day arrived in Russia on an official visit.

Before that Pakistan’s Chief of Air Staff Tahir Rafique Butt also visited Moscow, where he visited air force related defense installations and had meetings with military high-ups. Pakistan and Russia have also agreed to boost their defense ties.

Later on, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov cancelled his visit to India and landed in Pakistan, where he tried to clarify the misperceptions that had arisen due to the postponement of Putin’s visit to Pakistan.

He also expressed Russia’s support for Pakistan’s stance on drone attacks and Afghanistan. Contrary to the US perceptions, Russia realizes that Pakistan is an important actor and must be included in any peaceful settlement of conflict in Afghanistan. After the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, the roles and concerns of regional countries will be further enhanced.

Pakistan-Russia relations should not be seen as a substitute for Pakistan-US relations. No country can replace the other. Global affairs call for cooperation between regional countries.

via Russia backs Pakistan in geopolitical shift –

Public Opinion Being Fed On Trash

The story above is so silly.

Putin has a big back-problem. He cancelled his trips to India – and Turkey. He cannot travel – and he depends on his judo-wrestling, hunting-and shooting, deep-sea diving image to boost his presidency. He cannot admit to his back-problem. Anatoliy Eduardovich Serdyukov cancelled his India visit because he was on the verge of being sacked. Lavrov skipped a UN meeting on Iran – and landed in Pakistan. Pakistan is Iran’s immediate neighbour.

All this known – and in public domain. So, this ‘analysis’ by Aftab Hussian is probably for public consumption.

In which case, why is Pakistan feeding its public-opinion with trash like this.

Answer To Pakistan’s Problems

The solution to Pakistan’s problem is simple and staring in the face.

It is India.

Pakistan must become indifferent to India. Forget peace with India. Don’t think of war with India.

Just stop thinking about India.

Development of Mach 7 Missiles: Russia & India Announce Progress

November 5, 2012 1 comment

The fact that US or NATO have no counter or no competition to Brahmos, is rarely admitted or accepted.

Free Media of the Free World

Will ‘Free Media’ of the West tells its readers, low-and-dirty facts? Not if it matters.

Sometime back, we had the case where even the venerable, took pre-clearance from CIA before publishing a critique on POTUS.

Or take another instance.

No Counter or Competition

The respected magazine spins a long story, without ever the reader being told that US or NATO do not have missile that can compete or counter the Brahmos missile.

Though it must be said, that the short-range Brahmos is a purely defensive weapon – invaluable to India and poses no threat to the US or NATO.

The Brahmos missile was half-developed by Russia (as Onyx) – and Indian defence technologists have made it further into a air-sea-land missile, with superior guidance and firing systems.

And now

Russia and India are already testing a new supersonic cruise missile, which is pretty cool, we guess. But going Mach 2 or thereabouts isn’t all that fast these days. Everything has to go faster. That’s why the two countries are also developing a hypersonic missile capable of traveling more than five times the speed of sound. Problem is even building the engines, let alone missiles, is extremely hard to do.

If it works, the missile — called the BrahMos 2 — is expected to travel up to Mach 7 from sea-, land- and air-launched platforms. And it’s supposed to be ready for flight tests in 2017

Sivathanu Pillai, CEO of India-based BraHmos Aerospace said in Moscow on Wednesday. Pillai also suggested the missile already exists, and that BrahMos has conducted ”lab tests [of the missile] at the speed of 6.5 Mach.”

It will be interesting to see the extent to which Brahmos 2 might draw on previous Russian hypersonic research and development.”

There’s the sheer heat generated by traveling at such speeds. And getting a scramjet into missile-form is even harder. You’d need sophisticated guidance tools, sensors and navigation equipment to keep it in the air and to its target, while also making it small enough to launch from a conventional aircraft. And you still have to solve the propulsion problems.

Just ask the Pentagon. Its experimental pizza-shaped hypersonic weapon capsule, Falcon, failed its test in August before plunging into the Pacific Ocean. The Air Force’s scramjet — the X-51 WaveRider – has a better record, but was bruised by a test last summer when its engine failed. The Air Force is pressing on, however, with a new hypersonic missile for its stealth fighters. The Army’s Advanced Hypersonic Weapon has also been successfully tested, but it’s nowhere close to a deployable weapon.

Hypersonic and scramjet research in the United States also goes back to the early days of the Cold War. But it wasn’t until 1991 when Russia became the first country to successfully test a scramjet. More tests followed, and with the help of NASA, Russia successfully flew a hydrogen-fueled scramjet at up to Mach 6.4 over Kazakhstan in 1998. In 2001, U.S. defense analysts took notice of a mysterious ultra-high-speed Russian missile test suspected of being powered by a scramjet. The first successful solo American scramjet tests didn’t occur until the 2000s, though they were some of the first tests to use engines that operated entirely as scramjets. The earlier Russian tests were hybrid ramjets — slightly different, with oxygen only moving at subsonic speeds inside the engine.

Also, don’t think it’s a coincidence that Russia now wants a hypersonic missile of its own. Nor are cruise missiles the only area where Russia is afraid of falling behind even more than they already are.

via Russia Preps Mach 7 Missiles — With India’s Help | Danger Room |

Now the supersonic missile will be upgraded to a hypersonic bolt.

Categories: Europe, India, Politics, USA Tags: , ,

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 -

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

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 -

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 –

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 -

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

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 -

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 –

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 -

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 –

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 -

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 –

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’!

The Scientist Who Wasn’t A Spy

October 4, 2012 4 comments

Similar to the deaths of Iranian nuclear scientists, were the deaths of Indian nuclear scientists – Homi Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai.

For long

It has been whispered for more than four decades now, that the deaths of Vikram Sarabhai and Homi Bhabha were not accidents or medical incidents.

These were assassinations.

More recently, in the 90’s as India was struggling with a rampant West and a Soviet Union on the verge of collapse, a ‘scandal’ hit the ISRO. To an India struggling to develop cryogenic technologies for advanced rocketeering, this was a big set back.

More than 15 years later, these ‘spy’ scientists have been exonerated – but India’s space program was slowed down.

They began their scientific careers as the two bright stars of India’s space research programme . Later, of course, APJ Abdul Kalam‘s and S Nambi Narayanan‘s lives would go on separate trajectories and their stories would read very differently.

Kalam, who was working on the solid propulsion system in the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), went on to become a much-loved President of India. S Nambi Narayanan, who was working on the liquid propulsion system — the technology was successfully used in many satellite missions — during the same period, was branded a spy and traitor, his brilliant scientific career dented forever even as he fought against an unjust system to prove his innocence.

Narayanan, along with six others, including his Isro colleague D Sasikumar, was arrested on November 30, 1994 on charges of espionage and for selling defence secrets to two Maldivian women, Mariam Rasheeda and Fauzia Hassan.

He spent 50 days in jail after that and lived in anxiety and ignominy until the Supreme Court cleared him of the charges in 1998. But even after that he never got to work in the prestigious cryogenics field at ISRO.

“They framed me in a false case, perhaps to destroy India’s space research program which was moving at a fast pace,” he says in a soft voice, caressing his long, grey beard that shines in the morning sun.  “The state police pressured me to say that even the Isro top brass was involved,” says Narayanan.

The case was later taken over by the CBI which found no evidence, and said it was fabricated. This was later upheld by the Supreme Court. But it may not be closure yet for Narayanan as the identity of key players who fuelled the case still remains in the dark. Also, the question remains unanswered whether it was merely an unfortunate chain of events or if there was a larger game plan.

Narayanan, personally, believes in the role of some external agencies which wanted to halt India’s cryogenic space research programme. “We can now put the jigsaw puzzle together if we can look at what was happening internationally at that time as India was cutting into a billion dollar space industry poised to take off with its cryogenic engine research,” he says.

Police inspector Vijayan, who registered the first case against the two Maldivian women for overstaying, and the vernacular media which printed verbatim what the state police said, were perhaps minor characters in a larger international conspiracy.

India, by the early 1990s, had developed its own solid and liquid fuel and was able to put its satellites in orbits up to 800km. But the ultimate challenge was to develop a cryogenic engine that would propel heavy rockets with payloads of more than three tonnes to the geo-synchronous orbit, 36,000 km away from earth. These satellites would then provide accurate geo-spatial images of earth and would usher in a path-breaking revolution in telecommunication and media.

Cryogenics, the science of extreme low temperatures, has been a tricky one for rocket scientists across the world. “At stake was a 300 billon dollar space research and applications industry which was in the hands of five nations — the US, France, China, Russia, and Japan. Almost every major country wanted to put its own satellites in the orbit and they could do it only with the help of these five nations,” says J Rajashekaran Nair, who authored Spies from Space: The ISRO Frame-up .

In 1992, India signed an agreement with Russia for transfer of technology to develop cryogenic-based fuels. The agreement was signed for Rs 235 crore, when the US and France were offering the same technology for Rs 950 crore and Rs 650 crore respectively. “Documents show that US president George Bush (Sr) wrote to Russia, raising objections against this agreement and even threatening to blacklist the country from the select-five club,” Rajashekaran says. Russia, under Boris Yelstin, succumbed to the pressure and denied cryogenic technology to India.

To bypass this monopoly, India signed a new agreement with Russia to fabricate four cryogenic engines after floating a global tender without a formal transfer of technology.’ Isro had already reached a consensus with Kerala High Tech Industries Limited (Keltch) which would have provided the cheapest tender for fabricating engines . But this did not happen as the spy scandal surfaced in late 1994.

“If you look at the people who were arrested in the case, they were all connected in some way in developing or procuring the technology . We cannot rule out foul play by an external agency,” says Rajashekaran. The plot, says Narayanan, was to tarnish the image of a premier research institution.

“How could we have leaked out cryogenic missile technology when we did not even possess one? But what we lost in the process was years of hard work to revolutionise our space research, and the credibility and morale of our scientific community. And on a personal level, it ruined the lives of six families who were dragged into the case for no fault of theirs.”

via The scientist who wasn’t a spy – Times Of India.

Death of Bhabha

For decades now, there has been a speculation about the death of Homi Bhabha. To my mind, till today, these were ‘conspiracy’ theories – of a weak and poor nation, which probably saw ghosts under their beds.

Bhabha died in mysterious air crash near Mont Blanc in Swiss Alps, when Air India Flight 101, a scheduled Boeing 707 flight from Mumbai to New York, crashed on January 24th, 1966.

Officials investigated bombing that killed an Iranian scientist in January, 2010  |  Source:

Officials investigated bombing that killed an Iranian scientist in January, 2010 | Source:

The pilot did not report any problem with the aircraft, and was preparing to land at Geneva, when without any forewarning the plane crashed. All 106 passengers and 11 crew were killed.

A subsequent enquiry concluded that it was pilot error, who had miscalculated his position – and started descent for Geneva, while still in the mountains, only to crash in to the Swiss Alps.

Some other individuals concluded otherwise.

Two deaths in two weeks

Bhabha’s death was 15 days after Shastri died at Tashkent – again by mysterious heart attack.  Before that in 1955, in another Air-India crash, it was suspected that Chou En Lai was the intended victim.

Strangely, Vikram Sarabhai, also died in his sleep at Kovalam, even though he suffered from no signs of any heart disease. Before Pokhran in 1974, Nehru claimed from 1958 onwards, that India could produce a nuclear weapon in a few years time.

Game of Death – In Persia

In an attempt to delay the alleged Iranian development of nuclear weapons, top nuclear scientists from Iran have been assassinated.

In total, 5 Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed since 2007. Another has been wounded and one more has disappeared. In addition, the head of Iran’s ballistic missile programme has been killed and a deputy defence minister disappeared.

via Iran nuclear scientist dead: mysterious recent deaths and disappearances – Telegraph.

Iran claims that this is the handiwork of Israel and USA.

Iran says the attacks are part of a covert campaign by Israel and the West to sabotage its nuclear program, which the U.S. and its allies suspect is aimed at producing nuclear weapons.

Iran has blamed Israel’s Mossad as well as the CIA and Britain’s MI6 for the assassinations, with support from some of Iran’s neighbors. The U.S. and Britain and denied involvement in the slayings. Israel has not commented.

The TV said closed circuit cameras in a Tehran street recorded one of the operations, providing clues for Iran’s intelligence agencies to identify and arrest the suspects.

One of the suspects, Behzad Abdoli, claimed that he received training in Israel, along with several others.

via Iran Scientist Assasinations: Confessions In Murder Of Nuclear Scientists Aired On State TV.

Not surprisingly, USA denies and Israel does not reject any involvement in these killings.

Like three previous Iranian scientists ambushed on their morning commute, the latest nuclear expert to die on his way to work was a victim of Israel’s Mossad, Western intelligence sources tell TIME. “Yeah, one more,” a senior Israeli official said with a smile. “I don’t feel sad for him.”

Wednesday’s attack followed the pattern of previous operations planned by Mossad and carried out over the past two years by Iranians trained and paid by Israel’s spy agency, according to intelligence sources. The targets were chosen from the ranks of scientists seen as crucial to Iran’s nuclear effort — the country’s top physicist, Majid Shahriari, was killed by a magnetized bomb in October 2010.

The similarities among the attacks were not lost on Iranian authorities, who immediately blamed both Israel and the U.S. for Wednesday’s attack. “The bomb was a magnetic one and the same as the ones previously used for the assassination of the scientists and is the work of the Zionists,” Tehran’s Deputy Governor Safar Ali Baratlou was quoted as saying by the Fars News Agency.

Israel is officially silent on the incident. However, its top spokesman for the country’s military posted this on Facebook: “Don’t know who settled the score with the Iranian scientist, but for sure I am not shedding a tear.” The Obama Administration insisted it had nothing to do with the attack. “The United States had absolutely nothing to do with this,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor declared. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made her denial of U.S. involvement “categorical.”

The contrast in responses reflects the good-cop, bad-cop roles the allies have assumed in the international effort to dissuade Iran from pushing ahead with its nuclear program. While Washington leads the global effort to press economic sanctions on Tehran, Israeli leaders frequently make thinly veiled suggestions that it may not be able to restrain itself from launching military action on Iran; they also never bother to deny a leading role in covert efforts to slow the nuclear program. In addition to the assassination campaign, Western intelligence sources say Israel was responsible for the massive explosion at a missile base outside Tehran in November.

via Who Killed an Iranian Nuclear Expert? Israel Isn’t Telling – TIME.

Most analysts believe as do

A lot of western security experts will say that the Iranians have some justification in their suspicions, at least as far as Israel is concerned. Mossad is expert at carrying out assassinations abroad and Israel has most to lose from Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon.

How effective the assassinations have been remains unclear. Experts generally agree that the most effective covert strike was the deployment of the Stuxnet computer virus, which caused the uranium-enriching centrifuges at Natanz to spin out of control and then blow up. Stuxnet, probably developed in a joint mission by Israel, the United States and Britain, allegedly set back the Iranian nuclear programme by more than 12 months.

via Assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist is a familiar story – Telegraph.


Viktor Bout, Arms Dealer:: His Rise and Fall

September 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Probably the most, well-known arms traders. After Adnan Khashoggi.

Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, right, escorted by Thai police commandos, arrives at Bangkok's Don muang airport on Tuesday Nov. 16, 2010. Thailand extradited Bout to the U.S. to face terrorism charges, |  Source-AP Photo; courtesy - THAILAND OUT.

Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, right, escorted by Thai police commandos, arrives at Bangkok’s Don muang airport on Tuesday Nov. 16, 2010. Thailand extradited Bout to the U.S. to face terrorism charges, | Source-AP Photo; courtesy – THAILAND OUT.

Viktor Bout, an arms dealer of Ukrainian origins, a Russian citizen, was arrested during a US DEA sting operation, in Thailand in 2008, before being extradited in 2010 – and finally convicted and sentenced by US Courts in 2012.

Subject of a 2005 Hollywood film, ‘Lord of War’ based on his life, running foul of US authorities, he was set up for an arrest in Thailand.

Two things.

One – During the time that Viktor Bout was active, the US President was also suspected to be involved in the Iran-Contra scandal – as an arms dealer and in money laundering.

Two– As the Soviet Union collapsed, citizens of their country could no longer get adequate State protection – which would have been unthinkable till the 1980s.

Nobody, but nobody, messed with Soviets – or Soviet citizens.

A small part of the Viktor Bout story below.

Viktor Bout (C),  Russian arms dealer, in U.S. custody after being flown from Bangkok to New York Photo: AP

Viktor Bout (C), Russian arms dealer, in U.S. custody after being flown from Bangkok to New York Photo: AP

One morning in late December, I went to the prison to meet Bout. In a conference area, a few prisoners, wearing brown jumpsuits without handcuffs, sat in plastic chairs, holding legal documents. When word reached the guards that Bout was headed downstairs, they cleared out the other prisoners and covered the room’s sole window.

The sound of chains and jangling keys heralded his arrival. Surrounded by two guards, Bout inched forward, shackled at his ankles, wrists, and waist. The guards unfastened his cuffs, then left Bout and me alone. He wore an orange jumpsuit, navy slippers, and orange socks. Gesturing toward the guards, he said that watching over him had “become almost a religion for them.” We sat at a circular table. His voice was soft, his sentences punctuated by wan smiles. “The special-housing unit?” he said. “Solitary confinement? Even the U.N. says that solitary confinement is torture.” (He was referring to a recent report by the U.N. special rapporteur on torture, which had called for a ban on solitary confinement.) “I am being tortured twenty-four hours a day.”

Gerald Posner, a journalist and a lawyer who had advised Bout for a time, pro bono, recalls that when they first met Bout hadn’t wanted to discuss his case; rather, he wanted to “talk about black holes and how Stephen Hawking was overrated.” I have a faltering grip on two of the languages Bout speaks—Persian and Urdu—and, after exchanging pleasantries in them, Bout dilated on the legacy of Persian poetry, which he called “the language of love,” and the importance of reading Ferdowsi’s epic poem “Shahnameh” for understanding the Iranian, Afghan, and Tajik psyche. Recently, he said, he had read several books about harsh detention and survival. He praised Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken” and encouraged me to read Henri Charrière’s “Papillon.”

We met four times, between late December and mid-February. Two weeks after my first visit, having started “Papillon,” I pointed out that toward the beginning of the book Charrière lays out his plan to seek revenge on the people responsible for his incarceration. I asked Bout if he felt similar rage. “Why should I feel aggressive toward these people?” he said. “They are sleepwalking men.” He went on, “The D.E.A. has become worse than drug dealers. At least drug dealers have ethics.”

The longer we sat in the small, musty room, the more the tempered side of Bout’s personality receded. I asked whether he felt any remorse. “I did nothing in my mind that qualifies as a crime,” he replied. “Sure, I was doing transportation of arms,” he said. “But it was occasionally. Three hundred and sixty days were normal shipments. For five days, I shipped arms and made a couple of hundred thousand dollars.” (Mirchev, by contrast, recalls a period of “almost daily flights” for UNITA.)

As for his fateful lapse of caution, he said, “If it was a trap and I fell into it, O.K. But what did I do? Did I declare myself to go to fucking Colombia? Did I grab a gun and go to kill an American? I just want a big country like China or Russia to do this to an American. Will you also call it justice?” He was practically spitting out the words. “This is not justice. It’s a minefield. What you people don’t understand is that it’s coming for you next. You’re living in a police state. Everything your Founding Fathers got, you’re giving back. It’s like Stalin’s time. You can be arrested for just saying—no, thinking—something. ‘Oh, he’s an arms dealer,’ they say. Why do they say this? Because I’m Russian!”

Bout had stood up and was leaning across the table, his face inches from mine. “Do you people have the moral standing to ask this question? Who are you to judge me? You have authority over me, but you don’t have power over me!”

On February 3rd, Dayan requested that Bout be moved out of solitary confinement. In a hearing five days later, Judge Scheindlin agreed, saying that Bout’s prison conditions seemed “brutal” and “unnecessary.” On the tenth, Suzanne Hastings, the warden at the prison, appeared in court to tell Scheindlin that she thought Bout’s status was “appropriate,” as he posed a threat to the guards, other prisoners, and himself.

“I don’t know what to say,” Scheindlin replied, adding that Bout struck her as “a businessman.” She went on, “You may not like the business he is in—but he is a businessman. I never heard any evidence that he personally had been involved in violence or terrorist acts. . . . He is an arms dealer. We have lots of arms dealers here, too. Sometimes they cross the lines as criminals, sometimes not. This is a business.”

On February 24th, Judge Scheindlin ordered that Bout be transferred to the general prison population. “Although I recognize that courts are loathe to interfere with questions of prison administration,” she said, “I cannot shirk my duty under the Constitution.” This ruling not only improved Bout’s immediate circumstances; it also seemed like a signal that Scheindlin would not recommend that Bout be assigned to the kind of “super-max” facility that keeps all inmates in solitary confinement—a prospect that Dayan recently compared to being “buried alive.”

A long prison term still awaits, however. On March 12th, Bout, who turned forty-five not long ago, will receive a sentence of between twenty-five years and life. “They will try to lock me up for life,” Bout told me. “But I’ll get back to Russia. I don’t know when. But I’m still young. Your empire will collapse and I’ll get out of here.”

via Viktor Bout, Arms Dealer, and His Rise and Fall : The New Yorker.

I am glad that that no Indians figured as a significant player in this tale across the world.

Did America really win the Cold War?

July 13, 2012 3 comments

Boer War, WWI, WWII. After each victory, the British Empire became weaker. Is that what is happening to Pax Americana.

With the collapse of Soviet Union, the US became the single global power. With that position came adulation from client states.  |  A 1992 cartoon By David Horsey  |  Published December 27, 2011  |  Click for image.

With the collapse of Soviet Union, the US became the single global power. With that position came adulation from client states. | A 1992 cartoon By David Horsey | Published December 27, 2011 | Click for image.

The presidents of Russia and Cuba signed a strategic partnership and several other documents on Friday aimed at rekindling an alliance that collapsed after the cold war. They pledged to expand cooperation in agriculture, manufacturing, science and tourism, but studiously avoided a public discussion of military ties.

It had been nearly a quarter century since a Cuban leader had set foot on Russian soil. President Raúl Castro’s visit to Moscow this week had little of the pomp and propaganda of the cold war days, when he and his brother Fidel were greeted with parades in Red Square and Soviet leaders affectionately referred to Cuba as the “island of freedom.”

But almost two decades after a crumbling Soviet Union hastily withdrew financial and ideological backing from Cuba, Russia is seeking to expand economic ties with the island and possibly forge stronger military relations in an echo, as yet still faint, of an alliance that lasted some 30 years.

It is part of a larger Russian push into Latin America to secure new markets, and also to swipe at the United States for what Moscow considers Washington’s meddling in Russia’s historic sphere of influence, particularly in Ukraine and Georgia, former Soviet republics.

via Russia and Cuba Sign Agreements During Raúl Castro’s Visit –

Tired Battles

As WWII ended, the Anglo-French alliance tried re-imposing their hold on their colonies – using Israel for local support. (In relation, Read on Indian Foreign Policy here).

But were soundly bested in each confrontation.

Across The World

In February 1946, Indian Naval Ratings raised the flag of independence. And lowered the Union Jack. Within a week, Clement Attlee announced a time-table for withdrawal from India – and this time there was no going back.

In the Middle East, Anglo-French forces in tandem with Israel tried to reinforce their writ in Egypt in the Suez War (1956). Roundly and soundly beaten, these forces had to retreat. Since the British were defeated, in English media and books, it was not a war but the Suez Crisis.

In Kenya, the Mau Mau War finally forced the British to vacate Kenya – after unprecedented brutality was used against Kenyan freedom fighters. Same story in Malaya – now Malaysia.

The French against the Vietnamese lost at Dien Bien Phu.

Birth of Pax Americana

But while the old powers were retreating – the US was rapidly building its own imperial system.

Using Communism as an excuse, nearly 1 million American soldiers between 1950-1975, killed 5 million Asians (Vietnam, Cambodia, Korea, Thailand) and imposed Pax Americana in Asia.

Unlike the British or French colonies, the American Empire Pax Americana does not appoint Viceroys or Governors. Primarily covert, Pax Americana has subverted sovereign governments with war (Iraq, Libya in recent memory), regime changes (Kwame Nkrumah in Africa, Haiti) assassinations (Mossadegh in Iran, Allende in Chile, Lumumba in Congo), financial allurements (development aid).

Since the inner workings of the American Empire is hidden behind steel doors, for ordinary people, there is doubt if Pax Americana even exists.

20 years of celebrations

America has now been celebrating the fall of Soviet Union for nearly twenty years.

In the meantime, the successor State to Soviet Russia, freed of imperial obligations, is running with State debt at less than 5% of GDP – the only G-20 economy with such low debt levels. In contrast, the US government owes more than 100% of its GDP as debt.

Russia in the meanwhile, is gradually winning back old allies. Soviet allies, ignored by the US after the fall of USSR. With many allies and without an Empire, Russia may still be the last man standing.

The US did nothing for nearly twenty years to wean away Cuba from the Russians.


Was it hubris? Arrogance … Pride … Maybe, it makes the Inner Circle makes feel ‘more special’ if some countries, like Cuba are excluded. In some cases, more than their own inclusion in Pax Americana’s Imperial Court, the exclusion of the poor or the unconnected, is a source of satisfaction.

Russia enacts law to regulate NGOs; terms NGOs with foreign funding as ‘foreign agents’

July 6, 2012 6 comments

Africa gets less than US2 billion in development assistance. Russian NGOs got US$7 billion last year. Indian NGOs – a whopping US$2 billion.

Most of multinational aid goes back to the parent country to prepare reports, pay consultants; travel, hospitality, offices, staff, and the rest. |  Cartoonist Harn Lay in  |  Click for image.

Most of multinational aid goes back to the parent country to prepare reports, pay consultants; travel, hospitality, offices, staff, and the rest. | Cartoonist Harn Lay in | Click for image.

Something ain’t right in here

In Egypt, US NGOs were implicated in funding and triggering anti-Mubarak protests that finally led to his ouster, deaths of hundreds of people and
uncertainty to a fragile Egyptian economy.

India is showered with US$2 billion as ‘donations’ to Indian NGOs – which is more than what Africa gets as development aid. If that was shocking, look at Russia. The Russian Govt. estimates that NGOs in Russia got US$7 billion ‘donation’ from the West.

More than what Africa received as development aid in the last three years.

Not surprisingly, Russia’s

The Think Tank Initiative will formally spend money on influencing receipient nation policy making system.  |  Image source & courtesy -; creative credits embedded in artwork  |  Click for image.

The Think Tank Initiative will formally spend money on influencing receipient nation policy making system. | Image source & courtesy –; creative credits embedded in artwork | Click for image.

State Duma has given ‘foreign agent’ status to NGOs that receive foreign funding.

The initiators of the move, a group of MPs wanted the NGOs to fully inform Russian citizens about their foreign supporters and thus, about their real motivation. Besides, the MPs claimed the very term ‘foreign agent’ was copied from US legislation.

All Russian NGOs that receive monetary or other aid from a foreign source to submit a request in the Justice Ministry to be registered in a special register of foreign agent organizations. Those who fail to do so will be punished by fines of up to 3,300,000 roubles (over $100,000) and repeated violators can spend up to 2 years in prison. The Justice Ministry is charged with the task of conducting annual inspections to check if the NGOs are correctly reporting.

The author of the bill, MP Aleksander Sidyakin, dismissed all criticism as “hysteria and delirium” and stressed that the bill used similar US legislation as a “blueprint”. The parliamentarian also said that foreign nations allocate up to $7 billion for Russian NGO activities and this sum was even bigger in 2011 when Russia was holding its latest State Duma elections. “Our nation had a poll that was smeared with dirt by such organizations. Let the citizens know from whose loudspeaker this dirt is pouring out and let them make their own conclusions,” Sidyakin noted.

Another MP who backed the bill, Vyacheslav Nikonov, called the bill “a soft form of self-defense of Russian statehood” and that the amendments only (affected) about 1000 NGOs of a total 220,000 registered in the Russian Federation which makes only 0.4 percent.

The head of the Institute of Foreign Politics Research, Veronika Krasheninnikova, told that foreign funding was distorting competition within the civil society as significant support for a small number of NGOs leads to the disproportional rise in their importance. At the same time, people and organizations who get no funding from the West “lose their weight and lose their say”. “This is not fair, it makes unequal conditions for political competition and thus we need to impose fair conditions so that all people have an opportunity to speak in equal conditions and in equal proportion,” the expert said. (via Lower House approves foreign agent status for NGOs — RT).

For some curious reason the avuncular tone of the West, is seen in China and India as benign and maybe even genuine. After 200 years of Western imperialism, we should know better.

We don’t.

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