Category Archives: South Asia

The Advance of Personal Liberty?

Two thoughts from Amsterdam: On legalising prostitution and drugs,” The Acorn,, 2 March 2005.

Acorn combines India, Europe, personal liberty, technocratic governance, and federalism in the best post, ever

While social acceptance of prostitution may not be the government’s business, the government does have an interest in tackling the social problems the ensue from prostitution. Countries like the Netherlands have legalised prostitution; both to avoid the social costs of an industry driven underground, and also to achieve the economic benefits of a formal, organised industry. Can this happen in India?

Not if the central government in New Delhi is expected to make a moral, economic, political and social decision that really is a matter for individual communities to make and live with. Prostitution is really a local business. A brothel in a small, closely knit village of 20 families is quite a different matter from a brothel in a city of 10 million people. For that reason, the decision to legalise or not must be left to the lowest level of government. In India’s context, this means that it may be a matter for the panchayati raj system. States already have the ability to impose prohibition, that another impractical measure. Empowering communities to make their own decisions on matters affecting them most may be a good way to go.

Drugs are quite another story. Amsterdam’s coffeeshops sell soft-drugs to anyone who is above the legal age. Hard drugs remain illegal. The need to make this distinction shows that the question of legalising drugs is tricky. While it can be argued that while consenting adults engage in prostitution on their own free will, this becomes harder to justify in the case of drugs. While prostitution is local, the drug industry is not. China, for example, is only too aware of how opium played a major role in undermining its society and weakening its power. This genie is best kept in the bottle for now.

Pakistan’s Wrong Kind of Connectivity

Iran Was Offered Nuclear Parts,” by Dafna Linzer, Washington Post,, 27 February 2005 (from Roth Report).

International investigators have uncovered evidence of a secret meeting 18 years ago between Iranian officials and associates of Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan that resulted in a written offer to supply Tehran with the makings of a nuclear weapons program, foreign diplomats and U.S. officials familiar with the new findings said.

The meeting, believed to have taken place in a dusty Dubai office in 1987, kick-started Tehran’s nuclear efforts and Khan’s black market. Iran, which was at war with Iraq then, bought centrifuge designs and a starter kit for uranium enrichment. But Tehran recently told the International Atomic Energy Agency that it turned down the chance to buy the more sensitive equipment required for building the core of a bomb.

There is evidence, however, that Iran used the offer as a buyer’s guide, acquiring some of the pricier items elsewhere, officials said.

Pakistani “hero” AQ Khan remains protected by the Pakistani government. Because we are not allowed to talk to him, we don’t know who else he helped spread WMD tech too besides Tehran, Tripoli, and Pyongyang. Or if he even “acting alone.”

The irony, of course, is that we have much more to fear from “friend” Pakistan than our “enemy” Iran.

India’s Sphere of Connectivity

Three day tour: Karzai visits India, NDTV,, 23 February 2005 (from Free Republic).

More on India’s bridge building

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai arrived in New Delhi today on a three-day ‘working’ visit for talks with Indian leaders.

The visit is also expected to explore the possibility of a $3.3 billion gas pipeline project from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan Pakistan and then India.

Karzai is leading a high-level delegation including eight Cabinet ministers.

The visit comes just a week after External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh pledged continuing assistance to the war torn country.

India has already pledged aid to the tune of $400 million to rebuild the country.

New Delhi is expected to sign a series of agreements in the areas of high tech, medical assistance and aid.

India has become a pillar in the globalization system. It is also a good neighbor, always encouraging its neighbors to accept more connectivity. I doubt any of these deals will change life much for the average Afghani, but it shows that India is propelling South Central Asia in the right direction.

Update: Brian sees this as tying India to Turkmenistan.

Prospering Democracy

India’s population ‘to outstrip China by 2030’,” by Mark Turner, Financial Times,, 24 February 2005 (from Roth Report).

China may be peacefully rising, but its population lead will soon be overtaken by our friend Hindoostan

According to the UN’s latest World Population Prospects, released on Thursday in New York, there will be 1,395m people in India in 2025 and 1,593m in 2050. In China the population will grow to 1,441m by 2025, before dropping to 1,392m in 2050. Cheryl Sawyer, a UN demographer, said: “We’ve been saying for a while that India would cross over China before 2050. But the crossover has been getting earlier and earlier and we now say it will happen before 2030 (not including Hong Kong). This is five years earlier than we said two years ago.

“Based on analysis of the newest censuses, we’re estimating lower fertility for China, while India’s is slightly higher than we estimated in the past.”

There is real danger of China sharing Japan’s depopulating sadness soon

The UN’s population division said it did not doubt that India and China would exchange places, mainly because of differences in fertility. The only question was exactly when. China now has a fertility rate of 1.7 children per woman (though rising to 1.85), while India’s is just above three.

The useful if evil United Nations has a neat euphemism for the one child policy

Thomas Buettner, the chief of the UN division’s estimates and projection section, said China’s changing population was due to “modernisation and uprooting people from traditional lifestyles into the modern economy”, where “people have other opportunities that compete with having large families, like consumerism, travel and education”.

He said it was also due to a rigid population policy, although Chinese officials had started thinking about relaxing that policy because of concern about rapid ageing of the population. Europe’s population, which recently underwent a reversal in growth, is also on a downward trend. According to a medium variant, it will drop from 728m now to 653m in 2050. That figure (which incorporates Russia but not Turkey) includes falls in Italy and Germany, although France and the UK will grow.


Lastly, while I mostly agree with Tom Barnett, India’s connectivity machine is and will be a more important ally than China — or even Europe or Japan.

Japan’s population declines from 128m to 112m, according to the same variant. “The population of developed countries as a whole is expected to remain virtually unchanged between 2005 and 2050, at about 1.2bn,” the report says. “In contrast, the population of the 50 least-developed countries is projected to more than double.”
The population of India will overtake that of China before 2030, five years earlier than expected, a United Nations population report predicts.

The Hard Road and the Easy Road

China cautions India, US over Patriot missile dea,” India Times,, 24 February 2005 (from Democratic Underground).

Taiwan Won’t Rule Out China Unification,” by Stephen Grauwels, Associated Press,,0,3316376.story?coll=sns-ap-nationworld-headlines, 24 February 2005 (from Democratic Underground).

Clinton to meet Taiwan’s Chen during visit,” Reuters,, 24 February 2005 (from Democratic Underground)

Given what no security guarantee means, Barnett’s suggestion of revoking our promises to Taipei would be a disaster. Yet everyone wants a more connected China and a more peaceful Greater East Asia. How do we build it?

Washington is laying out two paths to Beijing: the hard road and the easy road.

The Middle Kingdom can chose the path of harsh rocks and stones and slings and arrows

In an indirect reference to the possible sale of Patriot Missile defence systems to India by the US, China today hoped that the activities of “relevant countries” will be conducive for the maintenance of peace and stability in South Asia.

“We have taken note of reports that a certain country plans to sell anti-missile weapon systems to India,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan said, without naming the United States.

“We hope that the activities of relevant countries will be conducive for the maintenance of peace and stability in south Asia,” he told reporters.

Asked whether the sale of patriot anti-missiles to India would result in a new arms race in south Asia, the spokesman said that a nuclear arms race in the region is not conducive to any party.

Chinese media reports have noted that the US shares the patriot missile technology with Israel, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan.

Or of peace and happiness

Taiwan’s president pledged Thursday he would not shut the door on eventual unification with rival China if Beijing expressed goodwill _one of his most specific pronouncements on the issue.

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian, long viewed as rejecting the possibility of unification, clarified his position at a meeting with James Soong, leader of the opposition People First Party. They signed a joint declaration afterward.

The two have held widely diverging views on handling communist China, which claims this self-ruled, democratic island is part of its territory and threatens war if Taipei declares formal independence. China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949.

Unification is a passionate top priority for China’s leaders, who have routinely berated Chen as a traitor to Beijing.

These stories aren’t coincidence. Former President, and husband of a hawkish Senator, Bill Clinton will be visited the island-bound Republic of China

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton will meet Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian during a whirlwind visit to the island on Sunday that could annoy China, Taiwan’s arch rival.

China views Taiwan as a renegade province to be reunited by force if necessary and objects to any participation by the island in international affairs, including visits by senior government officials from most countries.

Clinton will arrive in Taipei on Sunday at the invitation of the Taiwan government and deliver a speech on democracy and security, said Michel Lu, foreign ministry spokesman.

A quarter century ago, the world offered the same choice to Argentina. You can make the Falkanders want to join you, and you will be a functioning part of the international system. Or you can be a threat to others and be treated as such.

We will not abandon Taiwan. It is a violation of both the Bush Doctrine and long-standing U.S. policy to abandon Taiwan. Instead, we are encouraging Beijing to become attractive to the Taiwanese.

Let’s hope Beijing choses the easy road.

Pakistan Authorizes Killing of American Soldiers

Pakistani soldiers can shoot US troops now: Orders from the top,” The Acorn,, 23 February 2005.

Any doubt that Pakistan is a Gap enemy is rapidly evaporating

Philip Giraldi, publisher of ‘Intelligence Brief’ and a former CIA officer has revealed that stung by repeated intrusions by American troops across the border from Afghanistan (in hot pursuit of Taliban and al-Qaeda militants), General Musharraf has authorised Pakistani troops to fire back. (linkthanks Vijay Dandapani)

While shooting incidents across the border are not new, what is significant is that while past skirmishes were attributed to low-level troops and their field commanders, this time it is General Musharraf himself who has approved the orders.

Giraldi’s contention is that Musharraf was forced to this because the United States failed to bolster his position. That is conventional wisdom. But while he has supported the United States in capturing Arab and other non-local al-Qaeda operatives, Musharraf has always been reluctant to apprehend ethnic-Pashtun Taliban. Disappointment with the United States is a convenient pretext, he issued those orders because he could.

Pakistan’s Nuclear Secrets

No foreigners to question disgraced scientist Khan: Pak FM,” AFP,, 23 February 2005 (from Roth Report).

More from our ally Pakistan

Pakistan will not let any foreigners question Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of the country’s nuclear bomb who has admitted leaking secrets to states including North Korea, Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri said on Wednesday. “We have refused direct interrogations by anyone. The reason is national sensitivity,” Kasuri told a press conference at the end of a three-day visit to Tokyo.

Kasuri said Pakistan had acted against Khan even though the Pakistani opposition had accused the government of “succumbing to international pressure” against the local hero.

Hopefully, this is worthless isolationist BS, and we are secretly questioning him.

More likely, they’re serious.

On Connecting Pakistan

The Kashmir problem is not a problem: The Real Problem is Pakistan,” by Arvind Dayal, The Acorn,, 19 February 2005.

The Acorn has an editorial against Pakistan. Not again Pakistani actions, or deeds, or interests — attacking the concept of the subcontinental Islamic Republic itself

“The fault lies in ourselves, dear Brutus, not in our stars”….By now it should have been clear to us in India and especially to those who rule this country that there is only one solution to the Kashmir ‘problem’. But before that we need to understand that there is no Kashmir problem. If at all there are problems they are akin to perhaps, the Telengana ‘problem’, the Bihar ‘problem’ the Nagaland ‘problem’, no more and may be less. The real problem simply is Pakistan.

Peaceniks on both sides of the border cite the wonderful closeness of the peoples of India and Pakistan. Culturally, religion-wise, culinary habits, ties of blood, even the potatoes in the mandis. What, then, could be better than to cement these ties permanently? Ergo, the only solution of the Pakistan problem is the dismantling of the State of Pakistan, that is, the reunification with India of the provinces of Sindh, Baluchistan, Punjab, NWFP and the ‘tribal’ areas. The end to a blighted, bloody and irresponsible experiment foisted upon us by the hurriedly exiting British. No doubt aided and abetted by our early leaders, naïve and unlettered as they were in statecraft, and the urgent agenda of a dying Mohammed Ali Jinnah seeking political immortality.

With the above as a backdrop India must not be misguided into entering into any more fruitless dialogue with Pakistan. Shimla, Lahore, Agra, and back to Shimla, and then perhaps Islamabad? These dialogues are used by the Pakistani leadership merely to buy time and to squeeze more dollars out of the Americans. If the Americans are content to be conned it’s their business, but for us in India, time means the further loss of lives. More Indians dead every week, every month, and every year. And money. Billions spent on arms and weaponry. Time and money, which could be used to improve the economic conditions of the people not only of Kashmir, but of the entire nation.

Pakistan has been less helpful than Iran in the GWOT twice over. First, the ISI must be considered a dysfunctional part of al Qaeda. Second, Pakistan fails a still more fundemental test: fraying rule sets. Pakistan falls steadily behind her sister India in globalization, and the corrupt education policies of Islamabad promise that this will continue for at least a generation.

The best way forward for east German was a united German. The best way forward with North Korea is a united Korea. The best way forward for Pakistan is a united India.

Core India and Gap Pakistan

India’s role in rebuilding Afghanistan: In spite of hurdles imposed by Pakistan, India has played a meaningful role in Afghanistan,” The Acorn,, 14 February 2005.

Regarding the CIA’s soothsayers: The CIA’s predictions for India and Pakistan cannot simultaneously come true,” The Acorn,, 15 February 2005.

In spite of hurdles imposed by Pakistan, India has played a meaningful role in Afghanistan

The Acorn has two posts contrasting India and Pakistan. India is a responsible player spreading connectedness, despite Pakistan’s efforts

New Delhi currently spends around $100 million on various projects and $70 million on the reconstruction of a 213-kilometer road from Zaranj to Delaram in Afghanistan. This ‘new silk route’ road is the result of a project between India, Iran and Afghanistan to develop trade with Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. The route will utilise the Chabahar port in Iran to send goods to Afghanistan and to Central Asian countries. New Delhi has gifted three Airbus aircraft along with crew to support Arian Afghan Airlines, and more than 270 Indian buses currently ply in Kabul, Kandahar and Herat. In 2002, 18 Afghan judges and lawyers were trained at the Indian Law Institute in New Delhi. An IT specialist has been deputed to the Afghan government. In the foreign minister’s office in Kabul, a local area network with Internet access via an Indian company has been set up while Afghan bureaucrats are being trained in the use of computers.

Three Reserve Bank of India officials were deputed to the Central Bank of Afghanistan in July 2002. A team of 30 Indian doctors treats thousands of patients every week while $4 million has been allotted for the rehabilitation of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health. New Delhi will gift 300 vehicles to the Afghan National Army once Pakistan allows their transit. Pakistan allows Afghan exports to India via Wahga, but not vice versa. Thus, every day, a large numbers of trucks cross Wahga carrying dry fruit and carpets but return empty. No country is spending in Afghanistan as much as India, except for the United States, which spends $900 million annually. So far, India’s efforts in Afghanistan have the backing of the United States and Russia. Indian analysts say India’s interests are two-fold: it does not want the Taliban to resurface; and it wants the new Afghan security structure to be free of anti-India elements

Pakistan, meanwhile…

But, contrary to the Bush administration’s belief, the possibility of an implosion in Pakistan is very much real as long as its army retains control. There any so many rifts and divides in Pakistan that a fundamentally hamfisted dictatorship cannot heal or reconcile. Pakistan needs national reconciliation and the steady, irreversible return of the army to its barracks.

Until that happens, Pakistan will remain the borderline about-to-fail state that we have become used to. Unfortunately, foreign policy in America and New Delhi is doing nothing to veer away from this unhappy path. If the current equations continue, India can, without doubt, continue to register healthy economic growth, but Pakistan will remain a Damocles’ sword hanging over its head.

Consider that the Army is the only respected and stable institution in Pakistan, this is not good news.


Pakistan is an imaginary state. It’s east is an extension of India while the west is made out of pieces of Balucistan and Pashtunistan. Pakistan is a nuclear state with a rogue intelligence service. Dealing with Islamabad’s failures is a great problem of our times.

Our Enemy Pakistan?

Tora Bora and Nuclear Nightmares,” by George Friedman, America’s Secret War, pg 223, 2004.

Pakistan pays tribe al-Qaeda debt,” BBC News,, 9 February 2005.

Is Pakistan an enemy of the United States in the Global War on Terrorism? George Friedman seems to think so

Most countries of concern to the Untied States granted access to U.S. agents and troops to search for and secure nuclear facilities. Some did not, and the United States began to think of ways to destroy facilities in these countries — Iraq, Iran, LIbya, and, above all, Pakistan . Pakistan was the key, because it had the closest connections to Al Qaeda and the least cooperative intelligence service, in spite of the apparent cooperation of Pakistan’s President Musharraf. The United States didn’t really think that the Iranians would provide Al Qaeda with nuclear weapons. The Iranians were too cautious, and their own program was too undeveloped. The Iraqis were a greater threat, but they seemed not to have extensive contact wiht Al Qaeda. The North Koreans were much too concerned with regime survival to risk it — and they were being watched too carefully. Pakistan was seen, of all these ountries, as the most unstable, most pro-Al Qaeda, with the greatest threat of nuclear proliferation, making it the biggest problem. It was not the only one, just the most immediate.

More dangerous than Iran or Iraq and less rational than North Korea. That’s saying something!

Why, with that description, we could expect Pakistan to be making cash payments to al Qaeda

Pakistan says it has paid 32m rupees ($540,000) to help four former wanted tribal militants in South Waziristan settle debts with al-Qaeda.