Monthly Archives: April 2010

China documents HR disaster in Obama’s America

Responding to the US State Department’s Country Report on HR Practices for 2009, China has come up with its own ‘Country Reports’. It has gone unnoticed in the American mass media.

Published by Information Office of the State Council, the 14-page Chinese Report delivered the US government a well-deserved dose of its own medicine.  And fully exposes its double standards on the human rights issue…”

Chinese report is factual, sober, even understated, drawn entirely from public government and media sources in the United States, with each item carefully documented.

It is divided into six major sections: Life, Property and Personal Security; Civil and Political Rights; Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Racial Discrimination; Rights of Women and Children; US Violations of Human Rights Against Other Nations. The cumulative picture is one of a society in deep and worsening social crisis.

Some facts from the report.

• Each year, 30,000 people die in gun-related incidents.
• There were 14,180 murders last year.
• In the first ten months of 2009, 45 people were killed by police use of tasers, bringing the total for the decade to 389.
• Last year, 315 police officers in New York City were subject to internal supervision due to “unrestrained use of violence.”
• 7.3 million Americans were under the authority of the correctional system, more than in any other country.
• An estimated 60,000 prisoners were raped while in custody last year.

On democratic rights, the China report notes the pervasive government spying on citizens, authorized under the 2001 Patriot Act, extensive surveillance of the Internet by the National Security Agency, and police harassment of anti-globalization demonstrators in Pittsburgh during last year’s G-20 summit.

Pointing to the hypocrisy of US government “human rights” rhetoric, the authors observe, “the same conduct in other countries would be called human rights violations, whereas in the United States it was called necessary crime control.”

The report only skims the surface on the socio- economic crisis in the United States, noting record levels of unemployment, poverty, hunger and homelessness, as well as 46.3 million people without health insurance. It does offer a few facts rarely discussed in the US media:

• 712 bodies were cremated at public expense in the city of Los Angeles last year, because the families were too poor to pay for a burial.
• There were 5,657 workplace deaths recorded in 2007, the last year for which a tally is available, a rate of 17 deaths per day (not a single employer was criminally charged for any of these deaths).
• Some 2,266 veterans died as a consequence of lack of health insurance in 2008, 14 times the military death toll in Afghanistan that year.

The report presents evidence of pervasive racial discrimination against blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans, the most oppressed sections of the US working class, including a record number of racial discrimination claims over hiring practices, more than 32,000. It also notes the rising number of incidents of discrimination or violence against Muslims, and the detention of 300,000 “illegal” immigrants each year, with more than 30,000 immigrants in US detention facilities every day of the year.

It notes that the state of California imposed life sentences on 18 times more black defendants than white, and that in 2008, when New York City police fired their weapons, 75 percent of the targets were black, 22 percent Hispanic and only 3 percent white.

The report refers to the well-known reality of unequal pay for women, with median female income only 77 percent that of male income in 2008, down from 78 percent in 2007. According to the report, 70 percent of working-age women have no health insurance, or inadequate coverage, high medical bills or high health-related debt.

Children bear a disproportionate burden of economic hardship, with 16.7 million children not having enough food at some time during 2008, and 3.5 million children under five facing hunger or malnutrition, 17 percent of the total. Child hunger is combined with the malignant phenomenon of rampant child labor in agriculture: some 400,000 child farm workers pick America’s crops. The US also leads the world in imprisoning children and juveniles, and is the only country that does not offer parole to juvenile offenders.

US foreign policy comes in for justifiable criticism as well. A country with so many poor and hungry people accounts for 42 percent of the world’s total military spending, a colossal $607 billion, as well as the world’s largest foreign arms sales, $37.8 billion in 2008, up nearly 50 percent from the previous year.

The Chinese report notes the documented torture of prisoners in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, the worldwide US network of military bases, the US blockade of Cuba (opposed by the UN General Assembly by a vote of 187 to 3), and the systematic US spying around the world, utilizing the NSA’s “ECHELON” interception system, as well as the US monopoly control over Internet route servers.

The report also points out the deliberate US flouting of international human rights covenants. Washington has either signed but not ratified or refused to sign four major UN covenants: on economic, social and cultural rights; on the rights of women; on the rights of people with disabilities; and on the rights of indigenous peoples.

The report does not discuss the source of the malignant social conditions in the United States—nor should that be expected, since that would require an explanation of the causal connection between poverty, repression and discrimination and the operations of the capitalist profit system, something that Beijing is hardly likely to undertake.

Godless Religions : Soulless Secularism

Prof Surinder  Bhatnagar

All ills, social or individual, stem from our ignorance of the purpose of our own existence. They stem also from our insistence that every body should think as I think- feel as I feel and act as I act. In short we all wish to create the world of our own making, in our own image. There is also not much wrong in it. Because it is the way the nature works and also the way the God created man. He too, created man in His own image.

The wrong enters, when as individuals or as a social or religious group we force our ideas and opinions upon others. The greatest religious movements of the world degenerated into dogmatic faiths, simply because their followers instead of practicing the teachings of their masters, took upon them the role of  teachers themselves and entered the game of hunting the sheep. What they collected in the end were the corpses and hides and  not the live sheep. All religions who practiced proselytization have done that. To implement their belief, they went to wars, which some named as Jihads and others as holy Crusades. It was not God but their own Individual ego and the social insecurity which prompted them to commit such heinous crimes against civilizations and the cultures of mankind. To read the history of crimes committed in the name of religion, one may read the book Clash of fundamentalisms: crusades, Jihads and modernity, by Tariq Ali.  The book may be read so that humanity is saved from the similar conduct in future.

What is the way out? The way out, is a truly spiritual humanity. Meherbaba writes in Discourses (1976) that the ego is the center of conflict. He writes further, that ego is the Affirmation of separateness. A truly spiritual life is to discover ones own source of existence and be one with it.  He writes again, that more one carries on this intelligent and purposive experimentation with his own life, the deeper becomes his comprehension of the true meaning of life. Meherbaba has not given us a Godless secularism. He gives us a secularism where individuals are united in oneness of spirit and not fragmented by soulless and ritualistic forms of  religions. To explain the meaning of a truly faithful, Jesus made use of the symbol of sheep, those who hear the call of master and gather around him. In Hindu temples there is always an animal figure, whose face is towards the Lord and resigned to his will, he is always ready to do the biddings of his master.  Just opposite, to our behaviour, who always expect the lord to do our biddings and subject him to fulfill our whims. Only thing which a servant of God can do is pray and not teach others by force least by teeth or by temptation. Lord Krishna also said to Arjuna, in the midst of war, to think of his own duty (Swadharma) and not be bothered about others. So a truly spiritual person thinks about his own conduct.

India-U.S. Financial and Economic Partnership Launched

India and the United States launched the “India-U.S. Financial and Economic Partnership,” in New Delhi on Tuesday to help ease the entry of foreign capital into both countries.

The initiative is aimed at encouraging more trade, investment and job creation by improving macroeconomic policy, financial sector reforms and infrastructure financing. Specific details of the deal are slated to be discussed during the partnership’s next cabinet-level meeting in Washington.

Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said that immediate-term changes could open up the possibility of attracting more funds for the Indian infrastructure sector which requires over US$600 billion in the next five years. “Details will be discussed at the official level. We also emphasized on the public-private partnership,” he said.

Explaining America’s stance on the matter, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said the Obama administration wanted other countries to step up their internal consumption and increase opportunities for the U.S. corporate sector.

“The critical challenge as the United States moves away from consumption financed by borrowing is that we want to see broader reforms and changes outside…this requires changes in rest of the world,” Geithner added.

India’s Public Private Partnerships
The Indian government has announced a series of measures aimed at attracting foreign investment into the Indian economy and assisting with the restructuring of the nation’s somewhat decrepit infrastructure architecture.

To this end, the government has provided mechanisms that allow for private investment in public schemes, and has advised that the government will participate in the financing of these, typically to the tune of about 30 percent of the required investment, with the balance expected to be generated by the private sector. For the first time, the government has included private investment as a key source of infrastructure financing, as described in India’s 11th Five Year Plan.

The Indian government invested US$218 billion in infrastructure during the five year period of 2002 to 2007. This represented a spending equivalent of about 3 percent of India’s GDP. From 2009 to 2012, the government intends to spend about US$514 billion on infrastructure, and assuming a GDP growth rate of around 9 percent during this period, the government will invest 9 percent of its GDP in its infrastructure. This will effectively triple its fiscal spending. That amount, even if spent well, is not enough to satisfy the nation’s needs. To combat this problem, the government has identified the private sector as the majority participant in India’s redevelopment.

This is a quite different model from China, which ensured in most cases that infrastructure projects were state financed, retaining control of infrastructure ownership, thus limiting the opportunities for foreign investors. This forced many of them into long-term joint ventures with unwanted or unnecessary state-owned partners, while the state later added additional tax and employment burdens to foreign investors. In China, investors got into infrastructure development projects because of government.

In India, investors should be getting into infrastructure projects because of the government involvement is being decreased. It is not necessary to partner with an Indian state-owned enterprise.

In this way, the Indian government has finally made the problem of its infrastructure an opportunity for foreign investors. The scale of the projects is massive.

FDI POLICY SIMPLIFIED

Indian government has simplified some foreign direct investment policies that affect investment coming into the country. These are largely to be welcomed.
Here we highlight the items that are likely to affect the majority of foreign investors into India.

The general sectors now included in the 100 percent FDI automatic route are:

  • •    Advertising
  • •    Film industry (financing, production, distribution, exhibition, marketing, allied activities)
  • •    Health and medical services
  • •    Data processing, including software development, computer consultancy, software supply, business and management consultancy, market research, technical testing and analysis
  • •    Research and development services (excluding awarding of certificates)
  • •    The infrastructure sector will permit 100 percent FDI automatic route in the following areas:
  • •    Construction and maintenance of roads, rail-beds, bridges, tunnels, pipelines, rope ways, runways, waterways and reservoirs, hydroelectric plants, power plants, industrial plants
  • •    Roads and highways on BOT and toll collection models; rural drinking water supply projects, package water treatment plants, rain and rain water harvesting, waste water recycling and re-use facilities
  • •    Ports and harbor construction and maintenance of container terminals, bulk-break and specialized cargo berths, warehousing, container freight stations, storage facilities and tanks, captive power plants, dry docking and ship repair, and captive facilities for port-based facilities

Power sector is also permitting 100 percent FDI automatic route in the following:

  1. Generation and transmission of electrical energy produced via hydroelectric, coal-ignition, thermal, oil based and gas based power plants
  2. Non-conventional energy generation and distribution
  3. Distribution of electricity to households and industrial and commercial users and power trading

For professional advice and assistance with foreign direct investment matters, incorporation, tax accounting, due diligence, payroll or audit services in India is available from Dezan Shira & Associates at india@dezshira.com or visit www.dezshira.com

TTP may turn to ‘soft’ targets after the ‘successful’ Peshawar strike

The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which has claimed responsibility for the April 5 attack on Peshawar’s American Consulate used two vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) according to Stratfor. The militants targeted the main vehicle checkpoint leading into the consular compound.

A total of nine people, including the attackers, died in the attack. No Americans were killed, but three local security personnel protecting the consulate perished. It is not clear how many militants were involved. Some reports quoting the local police put their number at four and said all of them died. Stratfor has however said eight to ten persons were involved and six of them had perished. So a safe surmise could be that the remaining had escaped after three blasts and gun fire that lasted 20 minutes.

Obviously the militants wanted to breach the security ring through their three blasts – first IED to break the check point, second blast to drive up to the front of the consulate and push gunmen inside and third blast to storm the building. Taking the US diplomats hostage was the main goal to teach Yankees a lesson for their drone strikes. The goal remained elusive.

Stratfor reports that the first VBIED failed to breach the front vehicle entry, as did the second, although it did damage the perimeter walls and military barracks located along the edge of the compound. The main diplomatic building remained untouched.
The low death toll is attributed to the fact that only the last blast was able to penetrate the outer perimeter, and it occurred approximately 10 minutes after the attack began. Ten minutes is a long time to scramble security response teams and move employees to safety, and such a time lapse eliminated the element of surprise. In fact, the attack took so long to develop that local media were able to arrive on the scene and capture the second explosion on video.

Given the frequency of Taliban attacks on Peshawar and Lahore in particular, the American Consulate in Peshawar has a multi-tier security. Multiple check posts dot the street that leads the Consulate building, which is behind a  wall and a series of less-strategic buildings positioned in a way that would limit the damage inflicted upon the mission in attacks such as the one on April 5.

The militants struck with a surprising amount of firepower. Two VBIEDs and — judging by how close the militants got to the consulate — eight to 10 well-armed, well-trained and disciplined operatives are a lot of resources for the TTP to devote to a single mission.

Despite the complexity of the attack, the militants were unable to inflict much damage. By comparison, a lone suicide bomber — using far fewer resources — attacked a political gathering in Lower Dir district in the North-West Frontier Province a few hours before the attack on the consulate and killed 40. Neither the VBIED nor the attackers were able to break through the delta barriers protecting the entrance to the consulate.

However, due to its size, the second BIRDIED did damage buildings inside the compound — a feat not achieved in a handful of other recent attacks against U.S. diplomatic missions in Sanaa, Yemen; Istanbul; and Karachi.

Stratfor experts opine that the TTP could see the attack as a success since it forced the U.S. presence out of the city as the staff has been temporarily relocated to Islamabad.

Stratfor experts aver that the TTP can follow up on Peshawar ‘success’ with a campaign that focuses on targets like the ISI, the police or the military, or very soft targets such as hotels, markets or transportation, all of which have been frequent targets in the past.

For the Taliban, April 5 blasts were a success as they forced the Americans to shift their consulate staff to Islamabad temporarily though.

Pak allows forign missions to have own security

Responding to concerns expressed by Western diplomats about their security, the Pakistan government has quietly allowed them to employ their own nationals for their security, the Dawn reported April 6. A number of foreign missions have also been permitted to bring in advanced security gadgets.

Hitherto diplomats protection was undertaken by Police who have a separate wing for the purpose, besides intelligence agencies, and Frontier Constabulary.Foreign missions have been employing a number of Pakistani private security firms and retired army personnel.

The decision to let diplomats to bring their own security has created a piquant situation. Some  of the ‘new’ security personnel arrived with diplomatic passports while others came on  official passports.  Islamabad has realised that it has no ground rules to deal with these foreign security personnel.

The US is raising a special security squad to protect its missions in Karachi, Islamabad and Peshawar. It has set apart $23 million.

The recent disclosure of a plot involving Frontier Constabulary deserters to target diplomats in Islamabad highlights the threat to foreign missions which have been on the list of extremist and terrorist groups.

“There is an understanding among foreign missions that Pakistan has inadequate capacity and resources to protect them and, therefore, they need to develop their own resources,” a foreign diplomat was quoted as saying.

Pakistan Army plans largest exercise since ’98

Islamabad:  The Pakistan Army will conduct a major field exercise from Saturday. Code-named Azm-i-Nau 3, it will be the largest since the Zarb-i-Momin war-games conducted in 1989. The ongoing PAF’s exercise High Mark 2010 will be fully integrated with the army field exercise which will continue till May 13.

Director General of Military Training Maj-Gen Muzammil Hussain said that the exercise was not against India. ‘India has been informed about the plan’.  All arms and services would be involved in the exercise, which, according to him, is ‘a culmination of a long and deliberate process of war-games, discussions and logistic evolution of the Concept of Warfare fully responsive to a wide menu of emerging threats’.

Gen Muzammil added the war game was a concept validation stage of the operational thought process manifested in the form of tactical, operational and organisational aspects which would be validated and refined through the lessons learnt. The process commenced with the army war-games named Exercise Azm-i-Nau-2, conducted in February this year.

“In the light of vision of Chief of Army Staff a comprehensive training package in the form of “Year of Training” in 2009-2010 was planned and now Pakistan Army is all set to go in the field to validate those concepts which were formulated during the “Year of Training”.

US, EU differ over Pak role in Afghanistan but agree on LeT threat

The United States and its European allies have developed differences over Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan particularly in the wake of arrest of Mullah Baradar and some other Taliban leaders in Karachi but there is agreement that the Lashkar-e-Taiba is emerging as the terror outfit No. 1.

US coordinator for counter terrorism Daniel Benjamin has welcomed the Baradar’s arrests as ‘ a very important bit of counter- terrorism action. In fact, he said the US was actually grateful to Pakistan for arresting Mullah Baradar, the Taliban leader next only to Mullah Omar.

But German special envoy for Afghanistan, Bernd Mutzelburg, has termed the arrest of the Taliban leader with whom Kabul has opened a dialogue of sorts, as a manifestation of Pakistan’s resolve on not allowing any negotiations with the Taliban in which Islamabad doesn’t have a role.

The US official has rejected the German contention as just conspiracy theorizing.  Both were speaking at a seminar, `International Symposium on India’s Role in a Multi-Polar World’, but Benjamin rubbished this theory and went on to compliment Pakistan for its actions.

Significantly, Kai Eide, who was UN’s special representative in Afghanistan till early March, shares Mutzelburg’s concern. So does the Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who had held a long meeting with Pakistan Army chief General Kayani at GHQ in Rawalpindi, during his latest visit to Islamabad.

THREAT FROM LET

There is agreement however that LeT has come to fill the ‘terror gap’ left by a diminished al Qaeda.

‘As was evident in 26/11, LeT has filled the gap left by a diminished Al Qaeda’, said Daniel Benjamin. ‘Mumbai attacks were straight out of the Al Qaeda policy plan book. We will not achieve our security aims if this group, with thousands of men under arms, remains active’.

According to Benjamin, it is wrong to think that groups like LeT are Kashmiri or wedded totally to the Kashmir cause.

‘We are less and less able to distinguish precisely because many of the Kashmiri groups. First of all, some groups have been called Kashmiri, like LeT, but are in fact Punjabi, and are very much active in different parts of India as well as in Afghanistan’.

He went on to say: ‘Very few things worry me as much as the strength and the ambition of LeT, which is a truly maligned presence in South Asia’. Recalling that the LeT had tried to attack the American embassy in Dhaka, the US counter-terrorism official remarked this is reason enough for deep concern.

LeT is blamed for the Feb 26 attack on Indian doctors in Kabul as a part of its plan to ‘drive Indians out of Afghanistan’.

LeT –ISI LINKS

Afghan intelligence officials said the perpetrators were from LeT because they were heard talking in Urdu by those present at the spot.

Several satellite phone conversations intercepted by Indian agencies also suggest the involvement of LeT in the attack.  In one of these conversations, the terrorists were heard talking about the need to hurt India in Kabul.

The location of the satellite phone in most of these conversations that took place in Urdu was established in areas adjoining the Kunar province along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Kunar gave birth to the LeT in early 90s.

These intercepts show that notwithstanding their denials, Pakistan’s ISI officials are in constant touch with LeT and Afghan based terrorist groups like Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), which is headed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, to engineer attacks against Indians and Indian establishments in Afghanistan.

INDONESIAN LINKS

A Jakarta report says al- Qaida and LeT have Indonesian links and these came upfront from the transcripts of Internet chat sessions recovered from the computer of Muhammad Jibriel (26), who is presently standing trail. He is accused of helping fund the 2009 suicide bombings at a Jakarta luxury hotel.

In the transcript Jibriel is identified as the man suspected of using the screen name “the killer”. Son of an Afghan- trained cleric, he went to a boarding school linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba. He attended a LeT training camp as he himself mentions in the transcript.
Reminiscing fondly about time spent in ‘Kash’ (Kashmir), he says he was taught to fire sniper rifles and shoulder-held rockets. He mentions a trip he made in late 2007 to Waziristan where he met with al-Qaida and Taliban leaders, including someone called Abu Bilal al Turki.

Another transcript speaks about sending recruits to Waziristan. ‘I have still got my pass to Pakistan, his name is Muhammad Yunus’, Jibriel writes using a different alias and notes that the big AQ (al-Qaida) guys here do not agree that everyone should leave. ‘We have to look at our guys and choose, based on their abilities because people there don’t want any hassle. At the very least they have to be prepared to stay a long time, 2 or 3 years’. (www.poreg.org)

India is counting heads

New Delhi, April 5: Though it was kick-started on the April Fools Day just under week, there is no fooling around the head count that is underway across India’s   630,000 plus villages and 5,000 towns and cities from tin shanties to skyscrapers.

Nearly 25 lakh enumerators, mostly drawn from local government agencies and school teachers are making census of even the homeless and are taking the fingerprints and photographs of each person. They are also collecting information on Internet, mobile phone and bank account usage in the exercise seen as a prelude to creation of National Population Register and introduction of national identity cards.

When completed in a year from now, the census data will also offer the first ever comprehensive picture of housing in India as instructions have gone to enumerators to note the availability of toilets, drinking water and electricity, and the type of building materials used.

Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram puts the cost of the latest census  – the fifteenth since India started counting heads every decade since 18782, at around $1.2 billion but he believes it is worth every penny. ‘”It is for the first time in human history that an attempt is being made to identify, count, enumerate and record and eventually issue an identity card to 1.2 billion people’.

He has a point. Unlike India’s largest neighbour and world’s most populous country, China, where multiple agencies including Communist party cadres do the census work, in India, the work is undertaken by single official agency – the Registrar General and Census Commissioner.