Monthly Archives: July 2007

The future US Foreing Policy towards India: candidates opinion

More information about the candidates opinion towards Asian issues. This time, their views on India published by the Council of Foreign Relations.

The Candidates on U.S. Policy toward India
Updated: July 24, 2007

Between its burgeoning economy and major nuclear deal with the United States, India’s international profile has soared in recent years. Outsourcing to India and India’s role combating environmental problems like climate change are among the issues that have figured in U.S. policy discussions. The Indian-American population neared two million as of the last census in 2000, and political lobbies like the U.S. India Political Action Committee (USINPAC) have become increasingly influential. Perhaps more than any past election, presidential candidates are making a concerted effort to appeal to this constituency and its top donors. Indian voters, according to USINPAC, want immigration reform, a strong geostrategic partnership between the United States and India, and a viable plan for combating HIV/AIDS and other public health crises in India.

Nearly all the candidates serving in Congress voted for groundbreaking legislation last year aimed at opening civilian nuclear cooperation between the United States and India as well as a range of other economic deals. That deal awaits final approval by both countries.


Heroes of politicians


It is interesting to consider which historical figures politicians look up to as their idols.

It can say a lot about their personalities and views of life. It is a well-known fact that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reveres his grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi.
For several years before World War II, Kishi served as a top official for the government of Manchukuo, the puppet state in China founded and administered by Imperial Japan.

Kishi was minister of commerce and industry when Japan went to war. After the war, he was arrested and imprisoned as a suspected Class-A war criminal. But as luck would have it, he was not prosecuted and was released in 1948. He eventually vaulted to the nation’s highest political post with the support of the anti-communist movement. In 1960, Kishi, as prime minister, presided over the signing of the revised Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.

While he was in prison, Kishi frequently wrote to his family.

“In order to rebuild Japan in a really beautiful shape, the true meaning of the new Constitution must be properly understood and actualized correctly,” said a letter he wrote soon after the postwar Constitution was put into force in 1947. “It is totally impossible to realize a true Japan only with superficial and shallow armchair theories about rights and obligations that are not backed by noble sentiments.”

His words reflected his ambivalent feelings toward the Constitution, which was formulated and adopted under the control of the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces, and foreshadowed his involvement in the political campaign to revise the Constitution in later years. The origin of Abe’s political agenda to make Japan “a beautiful country” could have a connection with Kishi’s rhetoric.

But what kind of vision does Abe have in mind in pursuing his reform agenda? Kishi’s vision of a “true Japan” seemed to be centered on racial pride. Is Abe drawn to his grandfather because of this vision? Or does Abe identify Kishi’s struggle to achieve revisions to the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty despite a surge of public opposition with his own efforts to push through reforms? Either way, Abe still needs time to understand Kishi’s political craftiness which earned his grandfather the sobriquet of “the hobgoblin of the Showa” Era (1926-1989).

Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the main opposition Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan), looks up to Takashi Hara, a prime minister in the early 20th century and, like Ozawa, a native of Iwate Prefecture. Hara formed Japan’s first party-based Cabinet and battled factions made up of the old guard. He was assassinated at Tokyo Station in 1921.

“If this person had not been assassinated, Taisho Democracy (a movement that sprang up in the Taisho Era, 1912-1926) would not have ended up being a ‘fragile flower,’ and the rise of the military and bureaucracy could have been prevented,” Ozawa writes in one of his books.

Ozawa says he is staking his political life on reforming the political system by ending bureaucratic control on policymaking through a smooth transfer of power. Ozawa probably bases his blueprint for reform on Hara’s political vision.

Hara, however, also engaged in pork-barrel politics. In fact, he is regarded as the founder of this tradition in Japan. It also forms part of the background to his assassination. It is, of course, a coincidence that Ozawa’s political mentor, former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, was known for pork-barrel politics driven by heavy spending on public works projects.

Akihiro Ota, who heads New Komeito, the coalition partner of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, respects Mohandas K. Gandhi, the leader of India’s independence movement, while the political hero of Mizuho Fukushima, head of the Social Democratic Party, is Nelson Mandela, the first democratically elected president of South Africa. Tamisuke Watanuki, who leads Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party), looks up to Yukichi Fukuzawa, the 19th-century educator who founded Keio University, Watanuki’s alma mater.

Interestingly, all these people respected by Japanese political leaders were reformers who had to fight bitterly for their respective causes. But the hero of Kazuo Shii, the leader of the Japanese Communist Party, is his father, who was an elementary school teacher.

You tube on Central Asia (part I)

The best videos about Central Asia found in You Tube.

Ahmadjan Madmarov Uzbekistan – Front Line Award 2006

About Andijan:

Some images of the post-masacre (part one)

the Akiner case… SOAS Academic Shirin Akiner is Uzbekistan Regime Agent

Craig Murray, british embassador to Uzbekistan (1/3)

Soros in Central Asia (1/4)

Turkeminstan best country in the world… for sure…

Niyazov report

Photo tribute to Niyazov

The Aral Sea

White Gold, the True Cost of Cotton (from the written report), Uzbekistan

Civil war in Tajikistan

Tulip revolution

Events in Bishkek april 2007

Gallup World Poll about Kyrgyzstan

An interview of Owen Lattimore, covering much of his work in Inner Asia

And many VOA reports

Uzbek cuisine, delicious

Sevara Nazarkhan, my favourite central asian singer
RSS feeds

India Nuclear Exception and the NPT

We can read in the NYT:

Three years after President Bush urged global rules to stop additional nations from making nuclear fuel, the White House will announce on Friday that it is carving out an exception for India, in a last-ditch effort to seal a civilian nuclear deal between the countries. (…) see Hindustan Times for a review of the negotiations of the 123 agreement (..)

“It creates a double standard,” Mr. Markey said. “One set of rules for countries we like, another for countries we don’t.”

Robert J. Einhorn, a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that in “the first phase of negotiations with India, the administration made concessions that put the country on par with countries that have signed” the Nonproliferation Treaty. (Israel and Pakistan are the only other countries that have refused to sign it, and North Korea quit the treaty four years ago.)

“Now we’ve gone beyond that, and given India something that we don’t give to Russia and China.”

So the article says that India is the exception… to the NPT. The NPT crisis is evident and the US and EU have not been helping to improve it. France (in Moruroa), Pakistan and India development, the Israel program, etc… didn’t get similiar pressures as the North Korea and Iran programs. There was no US threat of bombing Pakistan’s nuclear facilities, nor Indian, French or Israelian, there were just relatively small comercial sanctions, or not even thatt. So one have to ask himself if India is the rule, and maybe the strong pressures over Iran and North Korea (and Lybia) are the real exceptions.

An interesting fact is that the 2004 deal also caused disagreement in India, as we can read in ”The U.S.-India Nuclear Deal: The End Game Begins” by PINR:

India also experienced a range of opinions expressed on the U.S.-India nuclear deal. The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P.) was quick to criticize the pact. Ironically, it was the B.J.P. that laid the foundations of the emerging U.S.-India strategic partnership. The architect of this partnership, Vajpayee, argued that the Indian government had surrendered its right to determine what kind of nuclear deterrent it should have in the future based on its own threat perception. Not only would the new agreement put restrictions on the nuclear research program, Vajpayee argued, but India would also incur huge costs on separating military and civilian nuclear installations.

The Left parties, which are also part of the ruling coalition in India, criticized the government for not taking its allies into confidence before striking the nuclear deal with Washington. They also lambasted the government for giving up on India’s long-held policy of nuclear disarmament.

Other Indian critics of the deal claimed that America’s recognition of India as a “responsible state with advanced nuclear technology” that should “acquire the same benefits as other such states” falls short of admitting it into the nuclear club. It was argued that India obtained too little for the deal while giving up too much.

And the chinese reaction was also clear:

Soon thereafter, it was reported that China decided to sell Pakistan six to eight nuclear reactors at the cost of US$10 billion. It was a not-so-subtle message to the U.S. that if Washington decides to play favorites, China also retains the same right.

The US nuclear deal with India (see terms here) is just the most visible aspect of changing bilateral realtions with great regional geopolitical consequences (by the way, India is supposed to enter APEC too) and the creation of new aliances in Asia.

If you can read this, you are not in Iran…

Iran’s internet ‘filter’
It is a familiar phrase to millions of web surfers in Iran, the second-largest internet user in the Middle East behind Israel: “You Are Not Authorized To View This Page!” From RFE/RL.

The original piece was published by ISN

It is among the most familiar phrases to the roughly 8 million-11 million web surfers in Iran, the second-largest Internet user in the Middle East behind Israel.

“You Are Not Authorized To View This Page!”

More than 10 million websites are currently being “filtered” in Iran, according to the state Information Technology Company.

The range of blocked websites includes a handful of pornographic, political or human rights-related addresses and even some forum websites.

Underground counter effort
At a time when the country suffers from what human rights defenders describe as a severe “information crackdown,” a group of young Iranians inside the country is determined to battle the dominant policy of online censorship imposed by the Iranian leadership.

The group Iran Proxy is formed by some Iranian youngsters who believe that this “new dictatorial barrier” must be fought from inside of the country – and that they must remain underground to be able to do so.

Iran Proxy describes itself as the first anti-filtering group inside Iran. It says it is focused on introducing and promoting simple – and yet technologically advanced – ways of helping Iranian users skirt web filters.

“Iran Proxy tries to teach to the Iranian users the advanced methods of getting around this new dictatorial barrier, which is the result of false policies of governments and religious extremists, in a simplified and understandable way through publication of a series of articles, one of the underground group’s members tells Radio Farda on condition of anonymity. “We also plan to introduce the new anti-filter software and proxies to users.”

Iran Proxy has so far created tens of proxy websites with search ability and also featuring fixed links to news websites that are currently being blocked by the Iranian government. The proxies, which get updated constantly and can be e-mailed to users, help surfers to enter the restricted pages.

International critics
Reporters Without Borders ranks Iran’s press situation as “very serious,” the worst ranking on the nongovernmental group’s five-point scale. Iran’s Internet censorship policy is described as “pervasive” by the OpenNet Initiative’s global Internet-filtering map, the worst ranking it assigns to countries.

“According to the results of the worldwide research carried out between the years 2004 and 2005 by the OpenNet Initiative, Iran was filtering around 30 percent of the target websites,” Iran Proxy tells Radio Farda. “The results revealed that Iran was practicing one of the strictest methods of Internet filtering.”

The filtering in Iran primarily focuses on Persian-language websites, including numerous weblogs. In recent years and under circumstances in which writers, activists, and others complained of the absence of a free speech platform in the country, the phenomenon of blogging quickly found a place among the growing number of Iranian web surfers.

Rising demand meets with official intolerance

Weblogs rapidly earned a reputation as an electronic replacement that featured two basic and necessary characteristics of the desired political and social platforms for Iranians: capability to interact and security. The popularity of the platform reached a point that – with around 700,000 enthusiast writers – Persian language has become the fourth most-blogged language on the Internet.

But tolerance for the new phenomenon did not last long.

Shahram Rafizadeh, Sina Motallebi, Arash Sigarchi, Mojtaba Sami Nejad, Ruzbeh Mir Ebrahimi and Omid Memarian were among the journalists and bloggers who were arrested and prosecuted for their online writings. Along with the suppression, limitations were imposed on accessing websites, most of which included Persian news and analytical websites and weblogs.

“The statistics provided by OpenNet’s research back in 2004 and 2005 showed that around 5 percent of English news websites were blocked at the time,” an Iran Proxy member says. “As for the Persian websites, the blocked-pages figure totals something above 50 percent. Access to 100 percent of the pornographic websites and 95 percent of the proxy websites are restricted, too. This, of course, [was the case] three years ago.”

Two-way superhighway

Many Iranian officials have strongly defended the concept of “having control over the internet” by highlighting what they described as the “necessity of preventing the access to pornographic sources.” That point, which might win the support of concerned parents, later got overshadowed by features of the later versions of the Microsoft Windows operating system that provide its users with a chance to arrange their own restrictions and basically rule out the need for any external monitoring.

However, the new facilities to block pornography do not appear to have had much impact on Tehran’s determination to keep – and even broaden – its surveillance over the use of the World Wide Web.

“In recent months, the Iranian state-run telecommunications center has begun the launch of an entirely new filtering system that includes a software robot able to observe viewed web pages and block them after drawing a comparison with the defined algorithms,” Iran Proxy tells Radio Farda. “The new supervision system has got additional features that add to the country’s filtering ability,” the source adds. “The ability to block pages that link to filtered websites is one of the features of the new method that is currently being applied. Given these facts, if OpenNet repeats the research now, it will encounter blocking results so much higher that they might even be unimaginable.”

In one of its latest unexpected policy actions, Iran’s Internet service providers (ISPs) have been banned since late 2006 from providing Internet connections faster than 128 kilobytes per second (kbps) to homes and cafes. It is a move that critics regard as part of a media clampdown.

Experts believe that the decision is much broader in scope than the previous policy of suppression. It can also be considered among the first times that the Iranian government has openly denied its people access to “technology” in favor of censorship.

Human rights groups accuse Iran of launching an accelerating crackdown on information sources, including the Internet, in an effort to silence critics. They charge that the process has intensified since Mahoud Ahmadinejad became Iran’s president two years ago.

Tehran denies the charges.

Una campaña electoral anticuada

Noticia original en BBC

Japan’s old-fashioned campaigning

By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Tokyo

This Japanese politician’s office in Second Life is closed temporarily

Now the campaign for the upper house election in Japan has started, tough rules on how politicians can canvas for votes have come into force.

Surprisingly, in a country with some of the fastest broadband speeds and a wide internet penetration, it is now illegal for candidates to create new websites or update existing web pages between now and election day, 29 July.

So instead, the loudspeaker vans are out on the streets again. The candidates sit inside, waving regally wearing white gloves, smiling and politely asking for votes.

Prof Phil Deans, who works at Temple University in Tokyo, describes it as “almost a throwback to the 1950s”.

“Cars with speakers on the roof, the use of posters, leafleting, and the almost complete absence of electronic media to communicate political messages, is one of the most startling things about the way elections are conducted here,” he says.

Kan Suzuki wants to change all that. He is a lawmaker who wants to modernise the way elections are fought here.

He has built an office in Second Life, the virtual world where you can work, play and interact with others.

Here, he says, he can get his message out to people who do not normally listen to politicians.

But now that the campaign has started, he has had to close the office temporarily.

“Basically, the election law was drawn up in the 1950s,” he says.

He is also critical of another old-fashioned rule, limiting the number of posters and leaflets that a candidate can give out.

“In my constituency, I can only distribute enough for 3% of voters to get a leaflet from my party. So 97% of voters can’t. How can I reach them?”

Little support

Usually Japan allows its politicians to use the internet to communicate with voters.

But as soon as an election campaign starts – the time when you might well think you would really want to communicate with them – the use of electronic media for campaigning is banned.

Instead it is on the traditional media where politicians hold court – for instance, on ponderous political TV discussion shows that sometimes look like they have not changed in 20 years.

Prof Yasunori Sone, a political analyst from Keio University in Tokyo, says Japanese election law is very strict.

“There are many rules and prohibitions. But many parties want a strict law to contain other parties’ political activities,” he says.

“Some of us are trying to get the law changed. But the number of supporters for a change in the law is very small.”

One group you would think would be keen to see the internet used in campaigning is young voters.

In Japan, 95% of people in their 20s surf the web, but only a third of them bother to vote.
Some, though, do not seem keen on politicians using the web to try to win their support.

“I believe that internet resources are not very official,” says Kentaro Shimano, a student at Temple University in Tokyo.

“YouTube is more casual; you watch music videos or funny videos on it, but if the government or any politicians are on the web it doesn’t feel right.”

Haruka Konishi agrees.

“Japanese politics is something really serious,” she says. “Young people shouldn’t be involved, I guess because they’re not serious enough or they don’t have the education.”

There cannot be many places in the world where students feel their views should not count. Perhaps it is really a reflection of the reality – that they do not.

Here in Japan, it is seen as important to treat politicians with respect.

But such is the deference paid to them, it is hard for anyone to challenge them to try new ways to make the political system better.

Iran: The geo-strategy of oil

Mapa en AsiaTimes
Even with its strength as one of the world’s largest oil producers, Iran is dependent on foreign energy and is taking stiff measures to rectify the situation.

By Kamal Nazer Yasin
Fro Tehran for ISN Security Watch (18/07/07)

To many, Iran is an energy giant. The country possesses over a quarter of the world’s known oil and gas reserves. It is the second largest oil producer among OPEC countries and it has abundant natural resources which make it ideal for producing electricity.

Vast inefficiencies and abnormalities, however, mar this idyllic picture. Iran’s oil production has been declining steadily from its pre-revolution peak of 6 million barrels per day (bpd) to its present 4 million bpd – below its OPEC quota – due to war, sanctions, low investment and depletion. Iran’s consumption of petrol has increased at 11 percent per year. If the present trend continues, by 2015, Iran will have become a net importer of petrol.

The Islamic Republic’s official GDP is approximately US$196 billion. Yet, according to the newspaper Hamshahri, each year, the government spends roughly US$55 billion for the country’s energy needs including US$35 million in direct subsidies. In other words, 28 percent of the economic output is spent on basic energy needs. These huge and cheap energy inputs are needed to run the largely inefficient state-owned enterprises, to placate the public with dirt-cheap utility rates and to help out Iran’s strategic friends around the world.

Without any doubt, petrol wastage occupies the prime place among all of the various economic distortions in Iran. Despite its enormous oil reserves, Iran imports 43 percent of its petrol needs from other countries due primarily to huge domestic demands as well as lack of sufficient refining capacity.

The country’s average daily use is around 70 million liters per day, roughly equal to China’s daily consumption, but the latter’s population is 18 times larger. Economists attribute several factors for this situation. These include gas-inefficient automobiles, high population growth, the voraciousness of consumers and its super cheap petrol prices.

Until 27 June, petrol was 9 cents a liter, making it among the cheapest in the world. It takes no more than US$5 to fill up a car in Iran, compared to US$40 on the average in the US and US$90 in neighboring Turkey.

With Iran’s highly protected automobile industry and cheap financing – spurred on by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s encouragement of car sales – manufacturers have no incentive to produce gas-efficient cars. According to a study by the financial newspaper Donay-e Eghtesad, 30 percent of the cars currently in use, consume 3 times more petrol than the international average.

Smuggler’s paradise
One of the most glaring by-products of the abnormally cheap gasoline prices is crossborder smuggling. According to the newspaper Siasat-e Rooz, smuggled petrol from Iran accounts for 10 to 14 percent of Pakistan’s fuel needs.

Iran shares vast border areas with Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey and other states; too vast for law enforcement forces to fully patrol. Mules, pick-up trucks, and tankers line up at major crossing points each day to carry Iran’s heavily subsidized gasoline to other countries.

The arbitrage could be quite huge. Iran’s anti-traffiking chief has been quoted in reports as saying that petrol smuggling is more profitable – and much less risky – than narcotics trafficking. According to an 8 July report in the newspaper Iran, petrol prices are more than 20 times higher in Turkey, 10 times higher in Pakistan and northern Iraq and 7 times higher in Afghanistan .

Using oil as geo-strategic weapon

“Oil is both Iran’s strategic strong point and its strategic weak point,” an Iranian political scientist told ISN Security Watch on the condition of anonymity. “It has given the state an unrivaled ability for maneuvering in both the domestic and the global spheres.

“But because of the same reasons, if the present structural distortions are not corrected, it can pose major security problems for the government.”

Aside from these factors, the academic pointed to the looming threat of economic sanctions should Iran’s relations with the US and the international community deteriorate further.

US President George W Bush recently renewed a bill imposing sanctions on international companies that invest more than US$20 million in the Iranian energy sector.

More ominously for Iran, in June, the US House of Representatives proposed legislature designed to curtail Iran gasoline imports through punitive measures against financial and business entities that assist Iran. If signed into law, these companies would be denied access to the US market.

According to the academic, Iran’s leadership has belatedly come to take note of these dangers and take action to remedy the situation.

A crash course in rationing

On the night of 27 June, with three hours notice, the Iranian government announced that automobiles would be allowed only 100 liters per month and the price would be raised to 11 cents per liter. The announcement was followed by rioting – complete with angry mobs burning down several gas stations and looting some government-owned stores – and motorists lining up to take advantage of the last few hours of cheap petrol.

Despite these missteps, the measure seems to have worked. In the first week after the new rationing program was introduced, traffic was down by 25 percent and petrol consumption was reduced by 28 percent. For the first time in years, it was possible to drive in Tehran without being affected by its notorious traffic jams and air pollution.

Fatemeh Vaez Jafari, one of Iran’s several vice presidents, said in an interview after the rationing: “Since our enemies have realized they couldn’t stop our nuclear program by force, they have started to focus on targeting us by going after gasoline imports.” She added: “The rationing has dismayed them completely. This was so important we can even call it a real revolution.”

As far as smuggling, the news daily Ressalat reported that in northern Iraq, petrol prices had gone up from 950 dinars (77 cents) per liter to 1,300 dinars.

“The government realizes it is in a race against time,” said the academic. “Other than this [petrol rationing], there are crash programs for increasing refining capacity and for converting cars to natural gas.”

To reduce its dependence on imported fuel, the government is seeking US$14 billion to build new refineries and modernize the existing nine in operation. Although US pressures may make it very difficult to come up with the entire sum, there are a few willing partners that may ignore or side step this.

In addition to these measures, the Iranian Oil Ministry is encouraging the conversion of cars to run on natural gas, which the Islamic Republic possesses in great amounts.

Iran is also using its global relationships with friendly countries like Venezuela and Indonesia to counter the effects of sanctions and ensure that the flow of petrol would not be stopped.

“There is a race for time in Tehran to prepare the country for the sanctions,” said the academic. “Only time will tell if these measures were effective enough or not.”