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May 2008 Country Archive


Syria & North Korea 
It was all quite obvious to Fox and to Sky News – they had the pix – what more do you want, but we think our readers, like us, do need something more about an affair that is either a crude frame-up, or some extraordinarily bad tradecraft by the Syrians and North Koreans. (Syria’s Asad in a vehement denial, rhetorically asked: “would it be at all logical to leave a nuclear site without anti-aircraft artillery protection, under the eye of the satellites in the desert, and in full view?”) Indeed, we know this to be an extremely characterless desert area, which has little human activity going on, except oil exploration and where a building – any building is rare. 

We recommend both of our relevant country reports, SYRIA and NORTH KOREA where the allegations of collaboration of these countries are rather more soberly considered, than by the more excitable media. Whichever way one looks at it, one cannot help but see here the heavily be-whiskered face of John Bolton, leg-biter in chief for V-President Cheney. This extraordinary ‘stretched’ saga of events: a mysterious bombing of apparently an empty building in the desert, lack of comment by anybody - Israeli, Syrian, or American; denials, followed so much later by allegations, some of which already look less than convincing (was the North Korean man talking to the Syrian man an un-named nuclear scientist - one version, or a named diplomat- a different version; and anyway, where and when was that pic taken)? 

We were impressed with the fury expressed by Mohammed ElBaradei, the UN’s chief nuclear inspector, at not being notified of the US / Israeli ‘knowledge’ of these events. He is, after all, the UN’s chief nuclear inspector, whose job it is on behalf of the international community, to investigate such matters. Now it has been destroyed, he hasn’t got a lot to investigate. 

After the Iraq invasion, ElBaradei is widely trusted (he was right), rather than the office and person of V-President Cheney who are not trusted at all (they were wrong), in the same series of events. Our reports represent our separate country analysts’ individual takes on this, on NORTH KOREA and SYRIA. In the latter report we pass on an alternative and plausible explanation, as an alternative to that of the mass- media. Undoubtedly there will be more to follow on this story. 

Tibet, the grand illusion
It would be useful if commentators got their facts right – and indeed if demonstrators in the street had slogans that reflected what the Tibetans are actually asking for. 
“Free Tibet” is a nice but unrealistic idea, and it is not what the Tibetans are asking for! Thus it is counter- productive, serving only the interests of the Chinese. 
Western commentators, news-readers etc; constantly repeat the Chinese propaganda phrase, “Tibetan separatists,” or that hoary old communist term, “splitists,” which they are not, but with constant repetition that concept enters the public imagination. Even people of goodwill, but little understanding of the situation, are calling the wrong slogans. 

The reality is accepted by the Tibetans in exile, that when China invaded in 1949, it was as much as anything to pre-empt any other great powers. The USSR and India with many others, also shared frontiers with this vast backward country (2.5 million sq kms in area), under-populated (6 million Tibetans). Given the ‘stuck in a 16th century time-warp’ status of the country and its location, it was obvious that it would not be left alone. In a word, it was geopolitics that determined that outcome. 

Independence is not on the Tibetan’s negotiating list, because they well understand that it just isn’t going to happen. Since then geopolitics have taken second place to economic exploitation, with the rush to riches in China. For example up to 80 % of Tibet’s vast and ancient hardwood forests with some $54 billion of value, have now completely gone to the economic altar. 

Tibet is described within China since the 1950 invasion, as the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR). The Tibetan cause does not include changing that, (except the TAR at 1.2 million sq kms is only half of traditional Tibet)! 

So what does this campaign seek? That the autonomy should be real, not the existing façade with a CCP placeman in charge, and all important decisions being taken in Beijing. 

They ask for elections within Tibet, for the top appointments of the autonomous provincial government, describing the existing precedent within China of a Hong Kong, or Macao - ‘one country - two systems,’ as the very model that they seek. 

They maintain that a genuine autonomous region would safeguard their religion and unique culture - the two are virtually inseparable - which are being eroded as a matter of policy, with a massive influx of Han Chinese as new residents in the cities, where they are now a majority (already up to 70% in Lhasa). They fully understand that as with Hong Kong, the only troops would be Chinese troops and that their borders would be controlled by China. They know that foreign affairs and other matters would remain with Beijing. 

They have another objective. Simply Tibet, which for centuries consisted of three large provinces, after the 1950 invasion had one of them, Amdo province, carved off by China, and with other parts of eastern Tibet, attached to existing Chinese provinces that are neighbours to the country. The remainder, once known as ‘Outer Tibet’ is what is described now as the TAR, the autonomous region within China. The exiles ask that China should rejoin administratively, the severed parts of their province of Amdo and other amputees, to the TAR, thus putting all Tibetans under one administration- and that the autonomy should thereafter be real. 

There is another thing – political prisoners. Of course there are many of these in China but the government-in-exile claims there are 116 known Tibetan political prisoners. This has been one of the main issues in street protests, particularly the fate of the most prominent, the 11th Panchen Lama, who together with his parents was ‘disappeared’ from Tibet as a small child. After some years and enquiries at diplomatic levels from other governments, the Chinese authorities said he was safe in Beijing, but since they ‘appointed’ another Panchen Lama, unrecognised by Tibetans, there are fears as to his safety and welfare. If alive, he is now nineteen. 

Meanwhile, “talks not violence” as a theme by well-wishers, doesn’t take account of the fact that there have been regular although inconclusive talks, the last in June /July of 2007, between the Dalai Lama’s high powered representatives, and senior officials in the Chinese government. New talks have just been offered and the Dalai Lama has welcomed them, IF they are to be genuine objective discussions aiming to achieve agreement, rather than as he seems to suspect, a PR exercise, to take the pressure off the host nation, just before the Olympic games.

The problem essentially is that the Chinese have not been disposed to meet the reasonable requests of the Tibetans. As to violence, it cannot be denied that the Chinese police have been harsh and have overreacted, using unnecessarily cruel methods of repression in response to peaceful demonstrations. But dissent is a fundamental human right. Peaceful protest – and it doesn’t get more peaceful than from Buddhist monks, is a matter of course in so many parts of the world. In Paris where this right is most frequently exercised, every year there are ‘manifestations,’ where tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators promenade, some carrying the Red flag, hammer, sickle and all, floating in the wind. As in Britain, Germany etc, there the Police PROTECT the marchers. 

The violence by Tibetans claimed by the Chinese, is almost certainly that of provocateurs, particularly when it purports to be from monks. There is eyewitness evidence of policemen changing out of monk’s robes. The Dalai Lama has said forcefully that he will resign from leading the Government in exile, and revert purely to his spiritual role, if the campaign becomes other than non-violent. 

Tibetans fully understand that (like Hong Kong), they would not be a nation, but a region of China with no say in military or foreign affairs, that being the business of central government. Their frontiers would, as now, continue to be controlled by the Chinese military. What they dearly wish for is the possibility to safeguard the living history incorporated in their unique culture and their religion, which daily is being eroded. The Dalai Lama does not seek a government post in a genuinely autonomous Tibet, but now 72, he wishes for himself to revert to the spiritual life. 

Also the Tibetan government in exile see themselves as limited to managing the affairs of the one hundred and forty thousand Tibetans in exile – They do not seek to replace the present administrators, only ask that the individual that runs this autonomous province should be a Tibetan, who is concerned with Tibetan values on internal matters.

Russia & The Oil Curse
With a new president taking office on May 7th, this month’s review of RUSSIA 
looks at their economy, as distinct from the oil and gas phenomenon. Medvedev is an economist and his advent to power might indicate that Putin, in picking his successor, was mindful of the serious backwardness of the non-oil economy, and so plumped for Medvedev over other loyal lieutenants. In looking at RUSSIA we take a quick glance at Norway, whose example Russia’s top technocrats have in some measure set out to emulate. No easy task. Norway in terms of per-capita wealth is the richest on the planet (and Russians should note), as our World Audit data demonstrates, it is also a contender for the world’s most democratic nation 

OGEC looking more real
Our reports on SAUDI ARABIA and LIBYA tell more about our long predicted international gas supplier’s cartel, on the lines of OPEC. It is RUSSIA, with the world’s largest gas reserves, that is the prime mover in this. The Gas Exporting Countries Forum, the precursor of any eventual cartel has just met in Tehran. (IRAN has the world’s second largest reserves, substantially at this point under-exploited). We have also predicted that if it did come to pass, it could rank as Putin’s greatest achievement in terms of advancing the world economic clout of RUSSIA

Ukraine and a mystery solved
Back in 2000 there was under the regime of the cold warrior and second president of Ukraine, Kuchma, a particularly gruesome murder of a courageous investigative political journalist by name Georgei Gonggadze, whose headless body was discovered in a wood outside Kiev.
What made it especially poignant was a tape recording of Kuchma made by a senior security man in his entourage, who defected soon afterwards, where the president cold-bloodedly discussed the murder, much like a mafia chieftain asking about what had been done to remove this ‘stone in his shoe.’ Of course as president, Kuchma was not going to be brought to book – but then nobody else was either. The news is, eight years later, that certain ‘security police’ have now been charged with murder, so justice still may be done. Whether that will ever reach the billionaire retired president remains to be seen. 

UKRAINE is a different place now, far from perfect, but compared with RUSSIA’s tame and totally managed elections, it is a very hotbed of democracy. As could be seen – and compared, both countries having had major elections recently, in UKRAINE the elections are fiercely fought and as last time, the results can hang on a knife’s edge. The country is about evenly split between those who are pro-Russia or pro-Europe/ the west. In the west of the country where they border four former communist, all now EU countries: Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania, citizens can see how much better off these nations now are, and naturally want a piece of it. In the east where Russian is often spoken, the ties to Moscow are stronger and suspicions of the west greater. 

IRAQ Oil law : some progress 
At last some positive news on the stalled progress of the oil law - the key to IRAQ’s economic future. Not yet anything like a breakthrough, but our report evaluates the current situation and since for so long it has been universally bad news, any light on the horizon must be worth passing on. We also report on the continuing struggle for power between the leading Shi-ites, with PM. Al-Maliki using the national army and police against his perceived enemy, the Sadrists, and with what results.

Georgia paying the price for Kosovo 
Tough on GEORGIA, but Putin signalled loud and clear that the outcome of a sponsored UDI in Kosovo would be Russia’s parallel support for Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the breakaway unrecognised (until now) provinces of Georgia. In another sense, it is the outfall of early Soviet planning that redrew frontiers between the All Union Republics for their administrative convenience, the price being paid now, not only here, but in other parts of the FSU. Georgia has every right to feel outraged, but after Kosovo, it would be sheer hypocrisy for the west (that may not stop them), to denounce the move to legitimise relations between RUSSIA and what have anyway been de facto Russian Federation provinces. The citizens have long held Russian passports, whose consular officials look out for their overseas interests. There will be no overt changes, except that tensions have been excited on both sides of the borders with GEORGIA, and Georgians are known to be of a volatile temperament. Understandable that NATO took no decision about admitting GEORGIA to its ranks at this time.

So is war-war better than jaw-jaw? 
US foreign policy turns on its head the Churchillian maxim: 
1) Jimmy Carter, the ageing crusader was excoriated by a defined section of the US media for talking with the Hamas leader who lives in Syria. He announced that the product of that discussion was that Hamas had said that if a peace was negotiated and agreed in a referendum of all Palestine, that they would drop their root and branch objection to the state of Israel. Now if that outcome stood the test of the negotiating and referendum process, wouldn’t that be in accord with US and Israeli policy? Seemingly not, so who is speaking with forked-tongue on this issue? 

2) Refusal by this administration to talk with the Ayatollahs may be regarded as a marvellously inspired policy amongst the hawks, who seem to want an outcome dictated by them as ‘the winners,‘ based on the aftermath of a military strike. It betrays little understanding of the Iranian revolution, whose capacity to resist invasion and rally their people was unquestionably impressive in the response to their invasion by Iraq.

3) It is widely agreed that there can be no peace settlement in Palestine without the Syrians, given their sense of loss over the Golan heights. Similarly there is unlikely to be a settlement in Lebanon that will work unless the Syrians are on board – they are as much a legitimate party to this as are the US and other out-of-region powers. But whatever might be happening along the back channels, there are to be no open US discussions with Damascus, because of the sins of Hizbollah and Hamas, the very point one might have thought, of having negotiations. 

The Agonies of the British Left
Not so many years ago, the British Labour Party was primarily class based – as the champions of the working class, and heavily influenced by the Trades Unions. This was in contrast with the Conservative party, equally class-based, dedicated to protect privilege and supported by business and industry, effectively to hold back the levelling tide of history. In the centre was the Liberal Party, very middle class and primarily concerned not with self- interest, but with principle – thus a small party. But the Labour party had shown that, unlike the Liberals of that time, Labour was a party of power, potentially of government. It attracted many from the middle-class who were not prepared to play the old class game, yet insisted on a more fair society. Class politics happily more or less disappeared in the later part of the last century – a great achievement by a more mature electorate. Labour became made-over as ‘New Labour’ as though to escape the earlier cloth cap image. Liberals had earlier been strengthened by an infusion of former social-democratic Labour supporters, unprepared to go along with a swing in the Labour party towards socialism, and so morphed into the more numerous and significant Liberal Democrats. But many highly motivated and principled people remained in ‘New Labour,’ under its new and charismatic leader, Tony Blair. 

The shock to ‘the principled’, came with the unprovoked British invasion of Iraq without any UN sanction and despite the opposition to this of our major European partners, and much of the world. (Of course the UK was coat-tailing the US, but that doesn’t change the gravity of the action from the British public’s point of view). Britain’s European allies, Germany and France, said that they too would join the expeditionary force and invade Iraq, IF the UN specialists currently running down all known leads inside Iraq, discovered WMDs, but that the UN had first to be allowed the time to complete their investigations. The US, whose forces were already in place in nearby Kuwait and the Gulf point-blank refused, insisted that the UN teams be withdrawn, and so the invasion took place without the UN sanction that would have legitimised it. 

Prime Minister Blair was in the forefront of justification and warnings of the horrors of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. He threw all his considerable political credit into the struggle to convince his cabinet colleagues and legislators to back his decision to invade. Only one senior politician, the then Foreign Secretary Robin Cook to his eternal credit, refused and left office. The present PM Gordon Brown was in favour. Even the main opposition party, the Conservatives backed the invasion. The Liberal Democrats vigorously opposed, but to no avail. Of course in the actual invasion, this wretched third-world Iraqi army with no airforce, and few modern weapons, was quickly brushed aside by the state-of-the-art British and US forces. 

The next shock came when it was clear that the Cabinet, the legislators, and the general public had been ‘sold a bill of goods’ and despite exhaustive, ever more desperate searches, the occupying armies established that there were no WMDs. To their credit, sections of the British media had never been like that of the US, solidly and uncritically supportive of their government’s invasion. Some had opposed the action from the first. Moreover media and parliamentary investigations of the process, by which the British intelligence services concluded that Iraq presented this WMD danger to the world, showed that it looked very much influenced by the politicians, in preparing a false prospectus for war. 

There was something else, an uncomfortable fact which applies equally to the British leaders Blair and Brown, just as it does to Bush and Cheney, the president and vice-president of the USA. These were all career civilian leaders who never saw war with all its horrors as the final ultimate option, when all else had failed, but merely as an instrument of policy, available to rulers like themselves. 

This 2006 quote is from US Marine Lt. General Greg Newbold (ret’d), and says it all: “….the decision to invade Iraq was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions – or bury the results … a fundamentally flawed plan was executed for an invented war…whilst pursuing the real enemy, al-Qaeda, became a secondary effort.” 

More Disgrace……….
The government that took the UK to war on a false prospectus, with the cover of a tissue of lies and half-truths, are once more leading the nation into disgrace. Once again the Conservative opposition is supporting them. 

In a heartening decision for democracy in April, the British High Court declared that the recent Labour government decision to intervene in the judicial process, halting the investigation into the enormous bribery scandal involving the largest British arms manufacturer BAe and the Saudi Arabian government, had been an illegal act. 

PM Brown’s government responded defiantly that they would not in any case, reopen the investigation. The British Conservative Opposition again supported this decision. The Liberal Democrats once more found themselves effectively alone, although again elements of the media are with them in being outraged. The High Court decision endorsed the independence of the courts and restored the ‘Separation of Powers’, a fundamental element of democracy. 

Tony Blair’s almost last action in office, was to claim that Saudi Arabia had threatened to withdraw security cooperation with the British if they pursued this corruption case. The former PM of course no longer has credibility and it didn’t help his case that the Saudi Prince in question had explained in a widely reported TV interview that of course he had received the monies, and that his government was and had always been fully aware and unfazed about it. Also, when the Saudi King shortly thereafter visited Britain, he complained to the media on TV that he couldn’t understand why the British didn’t act on the stream of intelligence re terrorists, that his security agencies were sending – all of which did not sound as though that intelligence relationship is under threat, for what self-evidently is not regarded as any crime, in Saudi itself. 

The threat by the UK, that Saudi Arabia (of all countries, seventeen of the 9/11 bombers were Saudi nationals), would no longer co-operate on the terrorist front- on the grounds that one of their many princes who cheerfully admits to, and has justified taking the money, might then be embarrassed by renewed press interest - clearly lacks plausibility. 

Of course, we understand that the UK government wants to preserve UK jobs. They must also look beyond this Saudi case to the reaction in the US, where BAe are already a big contractor to the enormous US armed services arms market, although that might not do much for jobs in Britain. When, to the dismay of many in the UK, BAe sold their large holding in Europe’s Airbus Industries taking the British presence out of the consortium, they said it was to invest more in this US arms market, where clearly they perceive their future. 

The US government has said that it too, under federal law, is obliged to investigate the allegations, so the matter will not conveniently now disappear. To what extent that BAe goal of acquiring many new US government contracts might be prejudiced under US federal law, by any conviction for bribery in the competitive market of Saudi Arabia we cannot say, but suspect that it is a big factor in the UK government’s deplorable position. 

OSCE of which the UK are a signatory and a member, are conducting their own investigation, as their charter requires them to do. The UK cannot any longer maintain one disapproving position on corruption for emerging nations in the rest of the world, and at the same time behave like this. The only honourable solution, if the British government will not allow the law in Britain to take its course, is for the UK to resign from OSCE as being unable to meet their standards of probity. Those Labour supporters who are motivated by principle, might then at least be able to accept that pragmatic outcome - shaming to an old democracy though it might be, rather than the ‘stinking fish’ hypocrisy of the current situation. 

Western Asia 
PAKISTAN, AFGHANISTAN and IRAQ are uniformly depressing for an ordered world. IRAN only marginally less so, but there we are witnessing China taking over as Iran’s essential client, trading partner and investor, since US, British and EU policy excludes under pain of dire penalties, all the Western oil companies and banks, as our May IRAN report explains. It is ironic that when the Iranian problem is, as it will one day be behind us, the big winner will be seen to be China, who will effortlessly have become the big international player in terms of oil and gas-rich Iran’s future development. Only RUSSIA can give them competition in such areas that interest them, such as civil nuclear power, and we see little evidence of conflict there.

Pakistan : Judges, PM’s and Presidents 
Of course, as we have often pointed out, Nawaz Sharif’s obsession with the destruction of President Musharraf has been his lode-star since he was brought down from being PM, imprisoned for attempted murder, and finally banished by the president / general. We are now witnessing, with some trepidation, the Pakistani party politicians back in harness, getting up to their old tricks. To make spaces for their loyal supporters in the higher-paid reaches of the civil administration, they are demanding that those, who for these intervening years have served the State in such high positions, be fired on such spurious grounds as being overpaid and under-competent. Meanwhile the process of unseating Musharraf is not making much progress. We speculate on whether the judges he sacked will be reinstated, but that means sacking the replacement bench of judges, which is loaded with traps and obstacles. It is doubtful to us whether Nawaz Sharif can muster a parliamentary vote large enough to bring about such change in the constitution as to force Musharraf out, nor yet to successfully impeach him. 

The PPP of Zadari is by no means as rabid on this issue as Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N. Re-instating the bench of judges replaced by Musharraf is a matter of grave concern to Zadari, for personal reasons. Those judges at the time they were removed were considering not only whether Musharraf had constitutionally been entitled to stand for the presidential election (he had just won), but also whether the amnesty that Musharaf had arranged for Benazir Bhutto and husband Zadari, to return to Pakistan and re-enter politics, was itself legal. If reinstated, the judges are yet to pronounce on that, but these are not issues before the existing bench of judges, so “sleeping dogs may be allowed to lie.” When (if) push comes to shove, the PPP may decide they are better off with him, than without him. 

Afghanistan : Presidential hat in the ring
President Karzai survived what was believed to be an attempt on his life, yet seen by others as mainly a suicidal demonstration that the Taleban were still in business. Whatever, he has announced that he will stand for re-election in 2009 and we describe how he has in reality been campaigning for some months past, and tailoring government actions to his perceived constituency. Rumours abound that Karzai has secured the endorsement of the Afghan-American Khalilzad, US ambassador formerly to Afghanistan and then to Iraq, currently to the UN. If true, this scotches the rumour that Khalilzad himself was contemplating a run. We update on events in Afghanistan. 

There is some considerable concern in the west as well as in Kabul, that the new Pakistani civilian government which is intent on reversing the military confrontation between the Pakistan army, and the pro-Taleban / pro-al Qaeda mountain men in the lawless frontier regions facing AFGHANISTAN, may in fact succeed in achieving peace (and they hope in Islamabad end suicide bombings). A laudable objective perhaps, except that a component of any such deal would certainly include withdrawing Pakistan’s troops from those frontier regions. That is seen by Kabul and no doubt Washington, as an open invitation to the Islamic tribal warriors to surge into AFGHANISTAN, since they anyway regard the frontier as merely an unreal line on the map across their tribal territories, a western historical imposition. 

Debasing the Coinage?
An indication of the US military overstretch due to the Iraq and Afghanistan commitments comes with the news that last year the army and the marines recruited 861 convicted felons into their ranks – 88% up on the previous year. As if to reassure, the data released tells us that waivers were granted, otherwise precluded by recruitment standards, for all manner of crimes including violence - up to manslaughter and all forms of larceny. But as if to suggest manslaughter is less serious, they will not grant waivers for drug related convictions. Unrelated to that but our IRAQ report this month is important because so much news coming out of the country is weighted and we claim to tell it how it is! 

Iran, India & the US
The Indian government reacted promptly and forcefully to rather brash US “advice” (relating to the end of April visit there of Iranian president Ahmadinejad), saying that it does not need any ‘guidance’ on it’s conduct of bilateral relations with Iran. In a put-down that will probably roll like water off a ducks back, the Indian external affairs ministry said, that “India and Iran are ancient civilisations whose relations spanned centuries, both Teheran and New Delhi being perfectly capable of managing all aspects of their relationship. Neither country needs any guidance on bi-lateral relations as both believe that engagement and dialogue alone lead to peace.”

Apart from the butt-out aspect of this rather impertinent intervention by US State, there is a more fundamental division of views. India just disagrees with the Bush administration’s policy of seeking to isolate Iran internationally. Instead they say Iran is quite within its rights to pursue civil nuclear energy and should be engaged constructively through diplomatic dialogue. 
But India is not soft on Iran’s potential for military use of nuclear power. The Indian Customs in a recent coup intercepted an air-cargo consignment of nuclear capable graphite, intended for IRAN, and an Indian businessman is in court as a result. 

Delhi is at an advanced stage of negotiations with Pakistan and Iran in the IPI gas pipeline project. The US is opposed to this of course, because it is another outlet for Iranian product. Instead they are pushing India to sign up for another route, the TAP project, taking Turkmenistan’s gas with the pipeline crossing Afghanistan and Pakistan’s mountainous and troubled province of Baluchistan. Promoted by the Asian Development Bank, India is involved in that as well and probably would welcome both sources of supply. It should not be overlooked that India’s economy is growing fast - more than 8% per annum, and has not yet secured, as China is busily doing, it’s energy sources for the 21st century. [They regard the US position as being quite hypocritical, because of the parallel that the US makes no attempt to disguise its hostility to Chavez’ Venezuela, but no way would they stop importing its oil - a significant proportion of US energy imports]. 

The TAP project, which we have reported previously in our reports on India, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, has as a concept, been around for twenty years or more. It has failed to make progress for the most obvious reasons. Leaving aside whether Turkmenistan actually has the surplus gas, given its existing supply contracts (see TURKMENISTAN), and its flaky record as a business partner, the problem logically is one of security.

Creating a pipeline crossing Afghanistan, where there is usually a war going on, and then through the lawless highland sections of Pakistan, recalls the Russian experience in Chechnya where the local population on the pipeline route, tapped into it not just for their own village’s use, which was ‘winked at,’ but then progressed to bringing up road tankers to sell it on the market. When prevented from doing that, they employed the pipeline for target practice, until it became unusable. It can be assumed that every local warlord along the route in Afghanistan and tribal Pakistan, would require paying-off. It would be a prime target for the Taleban, just as the pipeline through Northern Iraq has been out of use more than otherwise, due to sabotage. How to square that circle has been unanswered and is the reason for the lack of progress, for otherwise it would be a great boon for all the countries involved. But although the Asian Development Bank is taking a lead position in the project, unless they are going to meet the whole investment, it will be hard to convince private capital to sink those kind of funds into such a project. In these circumstances INDIA can be forgiven for not bending to US pressure to drop the IPI deal to import gas from IRAN now close to completion, instead to put all their bets on the TAP scheme that might well never happen. Its called realpolitik and all countries play at it! 

Central Asian struggle for supremacy
Our reports this month on UZBEKISTAN and KAZAKSTAN describes the fascinating progress that Central Asia is making and the not so subdued struggle for supremacy, for the leadership of the post-Soviet sector of this vast area. The two contenders, the presidents of these neighbouring countries, actually met in April when Kazimov of the Uzbeks paid an official visit to his neighbour in Kazakstan. But President Nazarbayev of that nation, had an even more significant meeting earlier with his opposite number of Kyrgystan, to jointly address the union between their two countries. That proposal definitely has legs at this time as we report, although as we saw years ago unions of sovereign states readily come unstuck (think Egypt- Syria, Egypt-Libya). This review of current events in Central Asia is about a vast region that should not be overlooked, and which is changing beyond recognition and in international significance, from when it was a ramshackle, backward Soviet colony.

Clive Lindley


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