Welcome to my blog. I may write copy here that I would not present elsewhere. This blog allows me to comment while reporting for clients which can include subscription-only platforms. I use it to take a sideways look at running stories, and all views presented here are my own.

Interested parties are invited to comment.

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Wednesday, 30 September 2009

New York Times on Lashkar-E-Toiba

While President Zardari and his cohorts accumulate billions of dollars in international "aid" for Pakistan, it is clear from this lengthy article in the New York Times that the militant group behind the Mumbai attacks ten months ago, the Lashkar - E - Toiba, is flourishing and still poses a tangible threat in the region.

The NYT estimates that the group can muster around 150,000 soldiers, and as has been tragically demonstrated, only a handful are needed for maximum destruction.

The LET claims that it fights on behalf of oppressed Muslims in Indian Kashmir, and the issues over that state are likely to remain on the table for the foreseeable future. Given that the LET recruits mostly in Pakistan, and many Pakistanis feel aggrieved that Kashmir remains unresolved, I feel that the LET will find fertile breeding ground and training officers from different parts of society for some time to come.

Meawhile, Hafiz Saeed, said to be the Mumbai mastermind, remains relatively free, according to his lawyers, to move around in Pakistan.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Statement on Friends of Democratic Pakistan Meeting in USA 24 September

It isn't that the US and GB are wanting to make Pakistan feel as though it belongs in the rich G20 club or anything, or that President Zardari wants to have some limelight, no, of course not, Pakistan is definitely in the playground with the big boys - here is the statement after a joint Brown-Obama-Zardari summit 24th September.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Col Gaddafi urges Independent Kashmir at UN General Assembly

Disrespectfully going way over his allotted fifteen minutes to talk and pontificating for ninety minutes in New York today, causing walkouts by many in the audience, the Libyan leader brought South Asia into his speech and said that Kashmir should be an independent buffer state between India and Pakistan, the Times of India reports.

Somehow I think he'd find that idea a hard one to move in any arena.

British Prime Minister phoned Indian PM ahead of G20 and UN General Assembly

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has a “Busy week” ahead of him, flying to New York from London for the UN General Assembly. In an individual email, the Prime Minister’s spokesman told me that Gordon Brown is expected to remain in New York until Thursday, according to the planning schedule.

Number 10 said that the UK Premier “Is very focused on the Climate at the moment, with less than 77 days to the Copenhagen Summit.”

Not everyone may be aware, for only selected journalists were briefed, that, preparing for the UN General Assembly and the G20 in Pittsburgh, Prime Minister Brown telephoned his Indian counterpart and Prime Minister of the world’s second largest growing economy, Manmohan Singh. The Prime Minister's Spokesman intimated that the call “would cover a range of issues, including climate change and the global economy.”

India, a key player on the world stage and the world’s largest democracy, is being courted by both the UK as well as the US, and the steady, calm, Indian leader Manmohan Singh is held in high esteem by both his British as well as his American counterparts. The Indian Premier, who, as finance minister, was the architect of India’s financial reform, is a quieter public performer than both Brown and Obama, yet his counsel and his words are taken very seriously and he appears to get on well with the two leaders despite being eighteen years older than Brown and twenty-eight years older than Obama. The average Indian politician tends to be in his late seventies.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said that Gordon Brown will be co-chairing an international meeting on climate change with Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General, designed to build consensus ahead of Copenhagen. He also said that Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, will be in New York too for climate change meetings.

On Wednesday the British PM will be at the UN General Assembly and chairing a meeting of leaders on the issue of healthcare provision in poor countries. Thursday the Prime Minister will be at the UN General Assembly, attending meeting of the UN Security Council on nuclear non-proliferation and a meeting of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan, before travelling to Pittsburgh where on Friday he and the Chancellor Alistair Darling will be at the G20 summit. Gordon Brown has been highly active within the G20, and is continuing to hold a leadership role within the arena of the world’s 20 most significant countries.

Monday, 21 September 2009

President Zardari is Going to be Very Busy in the US This Week

President Asif Ali Zardari has back to back meetings lined up for his delegation in the US this week. They include the UN General Assembly and the Clinton Foundation. There is also a three-way summit with Obama and Brown lined up. Geo News has the full, extensive itinery.

The President fitted in official visits in London en route at the back end of last week and met with David Miliband. Two of the Zardari children were in attendance at his meetings.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Analysis on Chinese Incursions into India for Al Jazeera English

There has been some activity, allegedly, around the Ladhakh region along the Sino-Indian border and while in a briefing meeting this morning I got a call from Doha asking for some analysis on the situation. The incursions are being played down in both countries, But Al Jazeera English had some correspondence between Indian military leaders in the border area giving rise to this news item. I told the audience I didn't think war was going to happen any time soon.

Here is Al Jazeera's introductory report and copy on the subject.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Encounter with Secretary Tim Geithner at G20 for Huffington

Here is my account of the G20 summit in London for Huffington, I enjoyed the recent summit and was quite taken with watching Dominque Strauss-Kahn, IMF chief, and Tim Geithner conducting their press conferences.

Strauss-Kahn was positively chatty and seemed very approachable.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Going Inside the G20 Finance Ministers' Summit

Gaining my accreditation for this summit was much shorter and easier than the April G20, but, hey, these are the finance ministers and central bankers, after all. Still, I'm looking forward to it and the various press conferences....as before, we are kept in one building and the men and women handling the economies of the world's richest nations will be brought to us for the press meets this afternoon.

Friday, 4 September 2009

PM Gordon Brown on Afghanistan

Lobby correspondents have been given this information in advance of the PM's speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in about half an hour. This is a big deal, clearly, as we have been given two indications of what will be said, and also Brown will be accompanied by the Defence Secretary and the new Chief of General Staff.

In his speech the Prime Minister will answer directly the critics of the campaign in Afghanistan, he will defend the UK’s involvement in this NATO operation; will reaffirm his personal commitment to the armed forces; and will reiterate the importance of public support for the mission.

He will:
explain once more the core mission: to end the use of the region by terrorists to launch attacks on the international community, including the UK. To do this, we need an Afghan Government with strong security forces and a credible, durable political settlement.
set out what Afghanistan means for the Afghan troops being trained, and for British troop operation.
debunk the myths about under-resourcing on the front line.
update the UK's strategy around Helmand, in line with General McCrystal's thinking.

The PM will say:
On his personal commitment to the mission:
"Each time I ask myself if we are doing the right thing by being in Afghanistan and if we can justify sending our young men and women to fight for this cause, my answer has always been yes. For when the security of our country is at stake we cannot walk away".
"So today I want to take head on the arguments that suggest our strategy in Afghanistan is wrong and to answer those who question whether we should be in Afghanistan at all".
On the purpose of the mission:
"This remains, above all, not just a mission to protect the British people from the threat of terrorism but an international mission involving over 40 countries – with the full support of the UN, the G8, NATO and the EU – because we all face the same threat".
On success, and Afghanisation:
"People ask what success in Afghanistan would look like. The answer is that we will have succeeded when our troops are coming home because the Afghans are doing the job themselves".
On giving our troops what they need to do their jobs:
"Military spending in Afghanistan - the spending that comes from the Treasury reserve over and above the defence budget - is going up far in excess of the increase in troop numbers: it was around £180,000 per year to support each soldier fighting in 2006 but is now over twice that, £390,000 for each soldier".
"So be in no doubt: we are giving our service men and women the additional resources they need to keep themselves safe, to fight and succeed in their operations and to bring security to Afghanistan".
His speech will cover the tough messages the next Afghan Government must take on board: to develop political credibility and stability. It will cover winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan, as well as the importance of support from the public in the UK.

Following his visit at the weekend, he will reiterate that the mission is justified, vital, realistic and achievable.

The British government has been facing criticism of its deployment to Afghanistan in the face of British troop casualties and other outspoken expressions of discontent from within the military establishment, so I see this as an effort to counter those voices.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Pakistan's Minister for Religious Affairs Shot and Injured

Minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi was shot in the leg, his security guard injured and his driver shot dead as he left for work in Islamabad. His attackers, who had been on a motorbike, escaped.

The Minister is an outspoken critic of the Taliban.

Shagufta Jumani, State Minister for Religious Affairs, told Geo News that there was a police station nearby but "the police personnel did not show up" even though the station was well manned.

This raises the thorny issue highlighted in a CSD paper about "preparedness" training, adequate ammunition and what to do in case of such crises. The Lahore attack in March was a dramatic case in point.

It also tells us that Pakistan's drive to push back insurgency is an uphill struggle, when those from the religious arena who condemn suicide bombings and the extremist Taliban are targeted in this way.

It is important for analysts to note that the attack was in the most fortified of Pakistan's three major cities, Islamabad, it was on a minister himself who seemingly was not adequately protected. And the post-attack reaction is something which needs adressing in both India and Pakistan, since the political situation means that more attacks from different quarters are likely.

Business with India for Huffington Post

A story I wrote for Huffington from an interview that the Chief Executive of the UK India Business Council gave me was published last night. Sharon Bamford is attractive, blonde, great on the macro as well as the micro view and gave me her full attention at her office in Millbank overlooking the Thames. What is happening with India often goes under the radar, but it is a growth area for business both ways - in and out. Sharon is at the forefront of that, so is interesting to interview as she is objective.

Towards the end of October, Indian and British CEOs will gather in London for a UKIBC summit and at the same time the President of India Pratibha Patil will make a state visit. The Commonwealth Games will launch from Buckingham Palace, and at a black-tie evening gala Dame Kelly Holmes will be a guest speaker alongside Lalit Modi of the Indian Premier League.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Indian Anti-Pak rhetoric over Nuclear Build-Up

Indian Express.com is outraged that, according to unnamed US reports, it has been

"shockingly revealed... that Pakistan is enhancing its nuclear weapons and production capabilities...Pakistan is readying a new nuclear capable ballistic missile for deployment and two nuclear capable cruise missiles. It also says that Pakistan is building two new plutonium production reactors and a second chemical separation facility at Chasma, Khushab and Dera Ghazi Khan in southern Punjab.
Pakistan is also renewing work on a partially built separation plant at Chasma. It is believed that this secretive and substantial arsenal build-up is targeted at India."

There are vested, backward-looking parties in both India and Pakistan who maintain the rhetoric, when there are much more important issues in both countries to address. Rhetoric plays to a constituency and has some political use, but it is now past its sell-by date.

CNN-IBN gives a fuller explanation and manages to keep calm at the same time.

"An American scientist has claimed that Pakistan has increased the number of its nuclear warheads from 60 to 90 and has kept them ready for use at any time.
Hans M Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists in an article on the federation's website has also put up a picture of possible Pakistani nuclear weapons storage area about 12 km from Karachi.
The scientists say Pakistan is keeping its missiles with nuclear warheads in a completely assembled form and can launch them at a very short notice.
According to them a satellite picture shows that the Masroor Air Base near Karachi is where missiles like the medium range Shaheen maybe stored."