Category: World Politics

US, India Expand Counterterrorism Cooperation

WSJ Online | NOVEMBER 25, 2009


U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh arrive for a welcoming ceremony at the White House.

President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged during the first state visit hosted by the Obama administration to expand their countries’ strategic partnership on issues ranging from counterterrorism to global warming. At the same time, Mr. Singh’s visit to the White House on Tuesday underscored some of the contentious issues that still exist between the world’s two largest democracies. Indian diplomats and pundits have bristled during the past week over what they fear has been the administration’s tilt toward China, New Delhi’s historic rival, on key Asian security and economic issues. Mr. Singh and other Indian officials also pressed Washington this week to push Pakistan to crack down more aggressively on militant Islamic groups that operate from within its borders.


Mr. Singh is visiting Washington a year after Pakistan-based militants launched a wide-scale attack on the city of Mumbai in which at least 170 were killed. Pakistan “should be pressurized by the world community to do much more to bring to book all those people who are responsible     Continue reading

UK role in torture of British citizens in Pakistan condemned by Human Rights Watch | Tuesday 24 November 2009 | 11.02 GMT

A photograph of Rangzieb Ahmed's hands taken in September 2007, one year after he said his fingernails were removed.

Britain’s role in the torture of its own citizens in Pakistan is condemned today by one of the world’s leading human rights organisations as being cruel, counter-productive and in clear breach of international law. In a damning report, published after an investigation spanning more than a year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the UK government today finds itself in a “legally, morally and politically invidious position” because of its complicity in torture, and warns that its moral legitimacy could be undermined. The report by the New York-based NGO – entitled Cruel Britannia: British Complicity in the Torture and Ill-treatment of Terror Suspects in Pakistan – corroborates many of the findings of the Guardian’s own investigation into the mistreatment of people held during British-led counter-terrorism operations.

Furthermore, researchers from HRW have spoken to Pakistani intelligence agents involved in the torture who say their British counterparts knew how they were mistreating young British terrorism suspects. These agents said British officials were “breathing down their necks for information” while they were torturing one young medical student from London; and that British intelligence officers were “grateful” they were “using all means possible” to extract information from a man from Luton who was being beaten, whipped, deprived of sleep and threatened with an electric drill.         Continue reading

Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war incapable of deciding on legality – judges

Guardian | Monday 23 November 2009 | 22.25 GMT

Panel members criticised for lacking legal expertise to tackle key issue

Sir John Chilcot

The Chilcot inquiry is incapable of addressing the key issue of whether the invasion of Iraq was legal, senior judicial figures have said, adding to the controversy surrounding the inquiry’s legitimacy. The inquiry into one of the most contentious political decisions of modern times begins hearing evidence tomorrow, and its chairman, Sir John Chilcot, has insisted that the legality of the invasion in 2003 will be one of the key issues it addresses. But one senior judge told the Guardian that analysing the war’s legality was beyond the panel’s competence. It does not include a single judge or lawyer. “The truth of the matter is, if the inquiry was going to express a view with any kind of authority on the question of legality, it would need a legal member and quite a senior one,” the judge said. “Looking at the membership … it seems to me that legality just wasn’t going to be a question they would be asked to review.” Another senior legal figure said: “The panel clearly lacks the expertise to address the question of legality. The members are not experienced at cross-examination – it is simply not their skill set.”

The criticisms come after the chairman of the inquiry has been repeatedly forced to defend its approach amid claims that the process is a “whitewash.” There have been repeated calls from influential legal and judicial figures for an investigation into whether the invasion of Iraq was illegal, including the former senior law lord Lord Bingham, who last year reiterated that it was “a serious violation of international law.”         Continue reading

ANALYSIS – Israel rethinks anti-Iran warnings

Reuters | Wed Sep 30, 2009 | 9:09pm IST

Suddenly, the Iranian “existential threat” seems to have receded from Israel’s horizon. It began with a bombshell Sept 18 newspaper interview in which Defence Minister Ehud Barak asserted that a nuclear-armed Iran could not destroy the Jewish state. Similar public remarks followed from the general in charge of all military operations. Even hawkish Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman now sounds skittish about his government’s long hinted-at willingness to go to war rather than see an enemy get the means to make a bomb. “God forbid — there’s no need to attack anything,” he told Israel’s Channel Two television on Monday. While Israeli officials insist that “all” options remain available for tackling their arch-foe, few dispute that Barak — the top strategist, alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — has taken a new rhetorical tack as major world powers prepare to revive negotiations with Tehran on Thursday.

Short on the forces necessary to deliver permanent damage to Iranian nuclear sites, the Israelis hope the new talks will work, one official said — or, failing that, eventually trigger U.S.-led military intervention. “The last thing we need to do right now is to distract from the diplomacy with the kind of threats that Iran can point to as ‘proof’ that they, not us, are the endangered party,” the Israeli official said. Iran denies seeking       Continue reading

PM’s visit to U.S. comes with rapid trade growth

Reuters | Fri Nov 20, 2009 | 6:41pm IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives in Washington on Monday for a state visit set to boost the burgeoning economic relationship between two countries, which had relatively marginal commercial dealings a decade ago. Following are key aspects of economic ties that took off with the end of the Cold War and the embrace of economic reforms by India — an adoption of market-friendly policies in which Singh played a prominent role earlier in his career.

BILATERAL TRADE – Two-way trade, just $5 billion in 1990, reached $14 billion in 2000 and rose to nearly $50 billion last year, according to U.S. figures, making the United States India’s largest trading partner. The United States sells India aircraft and parts, advanced machinery, cotton, fertilizers, and computer hardware. It imports Indian textiles and leather goods, Internet services, agricultural products, gems, leather products, and chemicals. India reckons trade has at least doubled in the past five years, while U.S. exports to India have tripled in that period.

INVESTMENT – U.S. cumulative direct investments through mid-2008 of nearly $16 billion in power and oil refineries, telecommunications, electronics, food processing and services make the United States one of India’s largest investors, according to U.S. statistics. The Indian embassy lists the United States as the largest portfolio investor in India. U.S.-bound investment from India has grown about 75 percent annually since 2002, the embassy says.           Continue reading

A Senior Civilian Official in Afghanistan, Resigns Over U.S. Strategy

Former Marine says It will take decades and billions of dollars to achieve success in Afghanistan.

A key U.S. official in Afghanistan has resigned in protest over U.S. policy in the war-torn region, as the Obama administration deliberates its future strategy there. Matthew Hoh, a political officer in the foreign service and a senior civilian officer in Zabul, Afghanistan, wrote a four-page letter to Ambassador Nancy Powell, director general of the foreign service at the State Department, to express his “doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy,” as first reported by the Washington Post today. Today, Hoh told reporters he submitted his letter of resignation on Sept. 10 because he doesn’t agree with the U.S. mission in the country. Afghanistan, Hoh said, is in stark contrast to Iraq, especially when it comes to security. “I feel that our strategies in Afghanistan are not pursing goals that are worthy of sacrificing our young men and women or spending the billions we’re doing there,” Hoh said. “I believe that the people we are fighting there are fighting us because we are occupying them — not for any ideological reasons, not because of any links to al Qaeda, not because of any fundamental hatred toward the West. The only reason they’re fighting us is because we are occupying them.” Hoh spent six years in Iraq, where he served as a Marine Corps captain and then worked as a civilian for the Department of Defense.

The 36-year-old told reporters he wants people to know that stabilizing the Afghan government doesn’t equate to defeating al Qaeda. “If that’s our goal, to defeat al Qaeda, we need to change our strategy because, you know it’s the proverbial swatting of the fly with a sledgehammer, all you do is basically exhaust yourself and you put holes in your walls and your floors and you don’t do anything to the fly,” he said. “We are still       Continue reading

Panel Sees No Need for A-Bomb Upgrade

NYT | WILLIAM J. BROAD | November 20, 2009

In a new report, a secretive federal panel has concluded that programs to extend the life of the nation’s aging nuclear arms are sufficient to guarantee their destructiveness for decades to come, obviating a need for a costly new generation of more reliable warheads. The finding, by the Jason panel, an independent group of scientists that advises the federal government on issues of science and technology, bears on the growing debate over whether the United States should ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty or, instead, prepare for the design of new nuclear arms. Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona and other Republicans have argued that concerns are growing over the reliability of the United States’ aging nuclear stockpile and that the possible need for new designs means that the nation should retain the right to conduct underground tests of new nuclear weapons. The testing issue is expected to flare in the months ahead when the Obama administration submits the test ban treaty for ratification by the Senate, where it faces a tough fight. The White House is building a case that advanced technologies make any additions to the nuclear arsenal unnecessary and would also allow the United States to verify that other countries are refraining from underground testing.          Continue reading

Karzai to take oath, future of Afghan war at stake

Reuters | Thu, Nov 19 | 05:27 AM

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is to be sworn into office for a second full term on Thursday as he struggles to rebuild a tarnished reputation and convince the West he is still a credible partner after eight years of war. His inauguration comes against the backdrop of a rising Taliban insurgency, doubts over Karzai’s legitimacy after an election tainted by fraud and complaints his government is riddled with corruption. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in her first visit to Afghanistan as the top U.S. diplomat, and her British, French and Turkish counterparts are among 300 foreign dignitaries to attend the ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul. “There is now a clear window of opportunity for President Karzai and his government to make a new compact with the people of Afghanistan, to demonstrate clearly that you’re going to have accountability and tangible results that will improve the lives of the people,” Clinton said in the Afghan capital on Wednesday.

U.S. President Barack Obama will announce soon whether he will send up to 40,000 more troops to fight an increasingly unpopular war. He said on Wednesday he aims to bring the conflict to an end before he leaves office. “My preference would be not to hand off anything to the next president. One of the things I’d like is the next president to be able to come in and say ‘I’ve got a clean slate’,” he told CNN. General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, wants tens of thousands of additional troops, warning that without them, the war will probably be lost.     Continue reading

Obama warns Iran of consequences over nuclear standoff

Reuters | Yahoo | Thu, Nov 19 | 03:18 PM

U.S. President Barack Obama issued a strong warning to Iran on Thursday of consequences of its failure to respond to the offer of a nuclear deal and could have a package of steps to take “within weeks.” But Iran’s foreign minister rejected talk of further sanctions, saying the West had learnt from “failed experiences” of the past. Iran on Wednesday rejected a deal to send enriched uranium abroad for further processing, defying Washington and its allies which had called on Tehran to accept a deal which aimed to delay Iran’s potential ability to make bombs by at least a year by divesting the country of most of its enriched uranium. The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), had said Iran should send some 75 percent of its low-enriched uranium to Russia and France, where it would be turned into fuel for a Tehran medical research reactor.

“Iran has taken weeks now and has not shown its willingness to say yes to this proposal … and so as a consequence we have begun discussions with our international partners about the importance of having consequences,” Obama said at a joint news conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak during a visit to Seoul. He said Iran would not be given an unlimited amount of time, likening the Iranian nuclear issue to the years of stop-and-start negotiations with North Korea about its nuclear ambitions. “We weren’t going to duplicate what has happened with North Korea, in which talks just continue forever without any actual resolution to the issue,” said Obama, who has advocated a policy of increased engagement, rather than confrontation, on thorny international issues.     Continue reading

Highlights of Obama-Hu joint news conference in Beijing

Reuters | Tue Nov 17, 2009 | 1:01pm IST

Following are key quotes by U.S. President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart, President Hu Jintao, from their joint statement to the media in Beijing on Tuesday.


HU JINTAO: “We reiterated that we will continue to increase dialogue and cooperation on macroeconomic and financial policies and continue to consult, on an equal footing, to properly resolve and address economic and trade frictions, in a joint effort to uphold the sound and steady growth of our business ties and trade. I stressed to President Obama that under the current circumstances our two countries need to oppose all kinds of trade protectionism even more strongly.”

BARACK OBAMA: “Going forward we agreed to advance the pledge made at the G20 summit in Pittsburg and pursue a strategy of more balanced economic growth. A strategy where America saves more spends less, reduces our long-term debt and where China makes adjustments across a broad range of policies to rebalance its economy and spur domestic demand. “I was pleased to note the Chinese commitment made in past statements to move toward a more market-oriented exchange rate over time.”


OBAMA: “We’ve agreed to a series of important new initiatives in this area. As President Hu indicated, we are creating a joint clean energy research centre and have achieved agreements on energy efficiency, renewable energy and cleaner uses of coal, electric vehicles and shale     Continue reading

Earth ‘heading for 6C’ of warming

Richard Black, Environment correspondent, BBC News | 2009/11/17 | 20:20:06 GMT

Fossil fuel emissions are rising with GDP, particularly in developing countries

Average temperatures across the world are on course to rise by up to 6C without urgent action to curb CO2 emissions, according a new analysis. Emissions rose by 29% between 2000 and 2008, says the Global Carbon Project. All of that growth came in developing countries; but a quarter of it came through production of goods for consumption in industrialised nations. The study comes against a backdrop of mixed messages on the chances of a new deal at next month’s UN climate summit. According to lead scientist Corinne Le Quere, the new findings should add urgency to the political discussions. “Based on our knowledge of recent trends and the time it takes to change energy infrastructure, I think that the Copenhagen conference next month is our last chance to stabilise at 2C in a smooth and organised way,” she told BBC News “If the agreement is too weak or if the commitments are not respected, it’s not two and a half or three degrees that we will get, it’s five or six – that’s the path that we are on right now.” Professor Le Quere, who holds posts at the UK’s University of East Anglia and the British Antarctic Survey, is lead author on the study that is published in the journal Nature Geoscience.        Continue reading

U.S., China 40 pct of global carbon emissions

Reuters | Tue Nov 17, 2009 | 9:12pm IST

U.N. talks on a new climate deal are struggling to overcome differences on how to share the cost of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and of preparing for global warming, which is now considered inevitable. U.S. President Barack Obama met Chinese President Hu Jintao this week to discuss a climate deal. Their countries account for 40 percent of all carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels. Following is a breakdown of the top 15 emitters of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels up to end-2008.

The International Energy Agency estimates that global carbon emissions will fall by as much as 3 percent in 2009 as a result of the financial crisis. Estimates of carbon emissions that include deforestation can be far higher, notably for Indonesia.

Top 15 Carbon Emitting Countries

China and US ‘to work together’

BBC NEWS | 2009/11/17 | 08:42:04 GMT

US Trade Deficit with China for Sep '09

The presidents of China and the US have agreed to work together to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems. On climate change, Barack Obama said both sides agreed on the need for a comprehensive global deal in Copenhagen next month, not a political statement. Mr. Obama and Hu Jintao also agreed to push for North Korea to re-enter stalled talks on its nuclear programme. But underlying tensions were referred to, with Hu Jintao calling for joint opposition to trade protectionism. The two leaders held two hours of talks in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, on the edge of Tiananmen Square. Both leaders then held a joint media event at which they read out statements, but took no questions from listening journalists.

Mr. Obama came to China for his first visit as president emphasising that China was now a major player on the world stage – and he turned to that point again in Beijing. “The major challenges of the 21st Century from climate change to nuclear proliferation to economic recovery are challenges that touch both our nations, and challenges that neither of our nations can solve by acting alone,” he said. With world leaders, meeting in Copenhagen next month to discuss how to tackle global warming, climate change is perhaps the most pressing issue to resolve. Mr. Obama appeared to raise hopes that a deal could be struck in Copenhagen. “Our aim there is not a partial accord or a political declaration, but   Continue reading

In signal to West, Iran boosts fuel output

Reuters | Tue Nov 17, 2009 | 6:38pm IST

Iran said it temporarily boosted gasoline production by about 30 percent on Tuesday to show the West it can cope with any sanctions targeting its fuel imports. Oil Minister Massoud Mirkazemi said the move to raise output by 14 million litres per day increased total output to 58.5 million litres. Domestic consumption stands at about 66.5 million litres per day. The higher production level, carried out at three southern plants, would only last for a few days, he said, making clear it was not economical in the long run. “With this move we would like to show that the West cannot use any limitations on selling gasoline to Iran as a tool against the Islamic Republic,” Mirkazemi told a news conference. He also said Iran faced no problems in importing gasoline as it had a “good list” of suppliers. It also had at least 1.5 billion litres in storage at all times. “Today, no new limitations, either from America or any other country, can be imposed against the Iranian nation,” he said. Iran is the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter but lacks sufficient refining capacity to meet domestic gasoline needs, forcing it to import up to 40 percent of requirements. This makes Iran vulnerable to any Western decision to target the gasoline trade as a way to put pressure on Tehran over its disputed nuclear programme. Iran says it is aimed at generating electricity but the United States and other Western governments say they believe it is seeking to build an atomic bomb. Iranian officials have repeatedly shrugged off the impact of sanctions, including three rounds imposed by the U.N. “Despite all restrictions in the past 30 years, Iran has become stronger day by day,” Mirkazemi said. A U.S. Senate panel last month cleared a bill to impose sanctions on companies providing gasoline to Iran and to limit other dealings if talks fail to resolve the standoff.          Continue reading

In the shadow of an Israeli settlement

BBC NEWS | 2009/09/25 | 08:37:12 GMT

Givat Ze'ev settlement

Givat Ze'ev settlement is separated from local Palestinians by Israel's West Bank barrier

Extensive diplomatic efforts towards reviving Mid-East peace talks have yielded little. The US has continued to demand Israel freeze settlement activity in the West Bank, while Palestinians refuse to negotiate without a freeze. In the second of a two-part investigation, the BBC’s Martin Asser sees the effect of settlements on the lives of Palestinians. They are called the Seven Villages, situated north-west of Jerusalem where the West Bank hills fall away towards the Mediterranean. Though their inhabitants live within the Palestinian Authority’s Jerusalem governorate, few get to visit Jerusalem – though the city was “like a mother to us” one man said. While Israelis in nearby Givat Ze’ev settlement bloc zip to Jerusalem by car in minutes, the Palestinian villagers need permission from Israel’s military authorities. If they don’t get permission, apparently the norm, there are roundabout ways past Israel’s defences and into the city, but this risks jail and a stiff fine. Israel says all restrictions are imposed to prevent Palestinian militants wreaking havoc with suicide bombings. But, the Seven Villages is known as a quiet area. Israeli soldiers I spoke to said there was very little militant activity. Palestinian residents insist they are peaceable folk – famers, labourers, some professionals – who just want to live normal, decent lives.       Continue reading