15 May 2013

Bowing down to the dragon

Issue Courtesy: Mail Today| Date : 14 May , 2013

Our statements on the recent India-China face-off in Ladakh continue to confound. One would have thought that we would have analysed the incident in depth, tried to figure out China’s motivations in staging it just before External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid’s visit to China and that of Chinese Premier Le Keqiang’s to India and examined if it was another instance of Beijing’s increased assertiveness on territorial issues rather than a reaction to any specific activity by India.
For the government, the Chinese action in Ladakh seems to be of secondary importance…

The several flag meetings with the Chinese military, the diplomatic demarches made at foreign secretary/ambassadorial level and the close consultations between diplomats in charge of the newly set up joint border management mechanism would have normally given us some clues. The preparatory work for our Minister’s Beijing visit should have involved a comprehensive internal analysis of why the Ladakh face-off occurred and produced a brief for frank discussions with the Chinese leadership on the subject.


But the government’s handling of the issue has been curiously different. On arrival at Beijing Shri Khurshid, astonishingly, told the Indian journalists that it was not clear why the incident happened and that the Chinese “were not offering us that background and we were not looking for (it)”, adding gratuitously that “actually, we are not even ready with our own analysis”, suggesting he came unprepared on this vital agenda point.

In talking to Chinese journalists he implied that the need was not to end such incidents altogether but resolve them “much quicker”. Oddly, he thought it was “not very helpful at this stage to apportion blame between them and us (as) it will only take away from the sense of relief and satisfaction that it was resolved in time”. According to him, the apple cart of what is going on with China is far more important and should not be upset, which suggests China had not done any upsetting with the Ladakh incident.

On return, Shri Khurshid has reaffirmed that “we did not do any post-mortem or apportion blame” on the Chinese intrusion and that he was satisfied that the mechanisms worked well to resolve the stand-off. This timidity towards China, to the point of fearing to raise a contentious issue and implicitly accepting part of the blame for the incident, seems more a pathology than an execise in diplomacy.

China prefers agreements to maintain peace and tranquility on the border without formally settling it…

For the government, the Chinese action in Ladakh seems to be of secondary importance; what is “more important is that the issue got resolved in a timely manner and within the laid down mechanism”. Why this reluctance to address the root of the problem and easy satisfaction that the immediate problem has gone away? In the context of premier Le Keqiang’s visit the Minister has added that “ there are no prickly issues, issues of major differences which can be seen as obstacles”. Is the border issue no longer a “prickly issue” or a “major difference” between the two countries?

All these statements imply that India can live with Chinese border intrusions, that they convey no political message to India, that the public anguish at home can be disregarded as exaggerated, and that such incursions will not be allowed to disrupt the growing relationship with China so long as they get resolved through established mechanisms in time for high level visits. Why we must bend so much before China is quite incomprehensible.

Aggressive Chinese designs and India's utter timidity...

IssueNet Edition| Date : 14 May , 2013

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, after holding talks with his counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing on 09 May 2013, told reporters that there was still no clarity on the reasons behind the Chinese incursion of April 15 in the Daulat Beg Oldie sector. He was hiding the truth.

They resented India’s construction of bunkers and semi-permanent structures at Chumar and other places.

The fact is that the Indian government is fully aware of the Chinese motives. By pretending ignorance, the government is deceiving itself and the countrymen. It knows that the incursion was not a one-off transgression by an over-enthusiastic local commander but was a very well planned and perfectly timed foray.

In fact, India should have anticipated such an adventure by the Chinese and taken pre-emptive steps to foil it. Of late, India has been improving its ground deployment and long-neglected infrastructure, much to the annoyance of the Chinese. They resented India’s construction of bunkers and semi-permanent structures at Chumar and other places. In addition, they feared that India’s was resorting to aggressive patrolling to strengthen its claim in the disputed areas.

Having failed to deter India through protests, China decided to resort to muscle-flexing, intruded 19 miles deep inside the Indian territory and established a tented camp as a bargaining leverage. The Chinese knew that the timid Indian leadership would be hard-pressed to seek Chinese withdrawal through negotiations. It was a brilliant masterstroke by the Chinese. The subsequent events got played out exactly as expected by them.

To pressurise India further, the Chinese pitched an additional tent, erected fence around the camp and started displaying banners claiming the area to be the Chinese territory.

To start with, the local mechanism was activated and flag meetings held between the local military commanders. The meetings were doomed to fail as the Indian army rejected the Chinese demand of demolition of Chumar and other posts as a pre-condition for their withdrawal. The stalemate continued. To pressurise India further, the Chinese pitched an additional tent, erected fence around the camp and started displaying banners claiming the area to be the Chinese territory. The ploy worked. While a prominent political leader termed Indian response as cowardly, media faulted the government for adopting a timid stance.

The Indian leadership got unnerved. It wanted speedy resolution of the matter at every cost. It overruled army’s objections and ordered it to accept the Chinese terms. Having achieved their aim, the Chinese withdrew. A spineless India capitulated like a vassal and agreed to back-off.

On his return to India on 11 May, Salman Khurshid confessed that China did not express regret for the incursion. Did India really expect China to be sorry for having achieved operational ascendency through a brilliant stratagem? How naïve can India get!

The Urgent Need

Norman Cousins considers history to be a vast early warning system. Unfortunately, the Indian bureaucracy displays a distinct disdain for history. Most bureaucrats suffer from megalomania – a serious psychopathological disorder characterised by delusions of own intelligence, an inflated sense of self-esteem and overestimation of competence. They consider themselves to be the repository of all the intellect and wisdom in the world. Resultantly, India fails to learn lessons from history and be forewarned.

China has never lived in peace with its neighbours. Hostility and disdain towards weaker opponents is in the Chinese DNA.

Every student of the Chinese history knows that a strong China has always been an expansionist China. China has never lived in peace with its neighbours. Hostility and disdain towards weaker opponents is in the Chinese DNA. It respects strength. Diplomatic niceties and good neighbourly relations mean little to it. Coercion and intimidation are well-tried instruments of China’s state policy.

China evolves long-term strategic plans and every single step is well thought through towards the achievement of the final objective. Ad-hocism has no place in the Chinese scheme of things. All wings of the Chinese government work in tandem and in complete harmony. There are no localised or isolated initiatives.

Easterly winds

Published on The Asian Age (http://www.asianage.com)

Easterly winds
By editor
Created 14 May 2013
The Kolkata rally of March 31 should transmit disturbing warnings to the authorities of a possible fundamentalist renaissance brewing in West Bengal

Monsoon clouds had not yet gathered over Kolka-ta, but political outriders had already manifested themselves in the city as early as March 31 in the form of a large, well organised “gathering of minorities” at the Shaheed Minar in Kolkata Maidan to voice resentment against Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, for instituting war crimes trials in Dhaka against Razakars who collaborated with the Pakistan Army in committing horrific atrocities on the local population during the War of Liberation in 1971.

Members of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) faced trial courts and their leaders like Abdul Qader Mollah and Delawar Hossain Sayeedi were sentenced to life imprisonment and death respectively. During the proceedings, street battles erupted between the police and supporters of the Hefazat-e-Islam, a hitherto unknown fundamentalist organisation which has suddenly assumed a major presence in that country. The Hefazat seems to be closely associated with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), and succeeded in paralysing life in Dhaka, Chittagong and other important towns in Bangladesh through general strikes, street battles and incidents of arson.

Events in Bangladesh are an internal concern of that country, but a matter of extreme concern for India as well, because they were re-enacted in Kolkata on March 31 where speakers vociferously attacked Ms Hasina for her “un-Islamic” action of instituting war crimes trials against members of the Jamaat-e-Islami and other fundamentalist organisations.

These reports are not good news for West Bengal or India and should transmit disturbing warnings to the authorities of a possible fundamentalist renaissance brewing in West Bengal.

The organisation behind the Kolkata rally was reportedly the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, a fundamentalist organisation with strong roots in West Bengal, as well as transborder links with the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and the BNP led by Begum Zia. The BNP has been the principal sponsor of the fundamentalist revival in Bangladesh, which specially targets whatever religious minorities still remain in that country and their alleged loyalties to “Hindu” India.

Ms Hasina is a staunch secularist, known to be a friend of India, as she demonstrated recently by a series of official programmes organised in Dhaka in remembrance of the War of Liberation of 1971 and to honour the many “Friends of Bangladesh” from abroad who had protested the genocide in that country by the Pakistani military. It was a gracious and public acknowledgement of India’s role in the liberation of Bangladesh as well as an act of considerable personal courage, considering the virulent hatred towards Ms Hasina displayed by fanatical Bangladeshi fundamentalists and the many personal threats made against her. A large number of personalities from India had been invited to those gatherings where the goodwill for this country was evident.

A secular and friendly Bangladesh on India’s eastern border is absolutely vital for India’s own security, something which has been conspicuously absent under other regimes in that country. That is the reason the Indian leadership must appreciate the secular leadership of Ms Hasina and demonstrate strong and visible support for her efforts to maintain a non-communal regime in her country, now under attack by communal organisations like the Hefazat.

At the March 31 Kolkata rally organised by the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, ostensibly a social and charitable organisation working for the welfare of Muslim minorities, speakers referred to Ms Hasina’s trials of Razakars as “un-Islamic”. These are disturbing statements to be publicly articulated on Indian soil, and raise justifiable concerns about the antecedents and linkages of the organisers. They indicate a requirement for the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind to be kept under watch, because it would not be at all surprising if the organisation has been targeted for infiltration by virulent extremists from the Indian Mujahideen or the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). SIMI is known to be home-based in peninsular India, but nothing prevents them from extending to additional areas elsewhere as well, including West Bengal. In fact, such a process could already be under way, because under normal circumstances, the framework of democracy inhibits the capability of the state for strong and rapid remedial actions unless emergency conditions are declared.

Address concerns on nuke plant

By A Gopalakrishnan
15th May 2013

The plant should not be made operational unless AERB, NPCIL and DAE accord final clearance for its commissioning. (File pic/PTI)

Through an article titled “Resolve Koodankulam Issues” in TNIE (April 19, 2013), I had brought out certain serious safety issues emanating from the supply of substandard components and equipment imported and installed in the Russian VVER 1000 MWe Units 1 and 2 at the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNP) under construction in Tamil Nadu, India. I had also pointed out that a major Russian government company, ZiO-Podolsk, might have supplied components and equipment of poor quality to KKNP, possibly impacting the reliability and safety of the two nuclear reactors there.

My article brought forth clarifications on this matter from the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), a public sector undertaking of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) which is the captive nuclear safety regulator reporting to the secretary, DAE, and Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). All of them and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) knew of these serious shortcomings, but kept quiet until I spoke out.

The AERB statement was merely a rehash of their quality control procedures, while NPCIL’s April 19th press release said, “Contrary to press reports, the passive heat removal system (PHRS) has worked during the integral testing as designed.” This is false, because the actual full performance of the PHRS cannot be tested in situ until after a few months of reactor operation at full power. No simulated testing of the PHRS was done at the manufacturer’s works, and at the KKNP site NPCIL found out that the damper-air vane-heat exchanger combination was not working as required. Therefore, for the first year of operation at full power, we have no assurance that the heat exchange processes in the PHRS will work as per design intent.

NPCIL, in an additional clarification released on April 20, admitted that “four valves in the passive core-flooding system, though initially tested in factory premises under simulated conditions, showed variations from expected performance during integrated testing at the KKNP site.” This underplays the gravity of the entire situation. These four are “special check valves”, and they are crucial to the long-term core-cooling under severe accident conditions, including a total loss of electric power. It is a fact that no adequate testing of these valves was done in Russia. How could this happen in spite of the highly-lauded, multi-tier quality control programme under which NPCIL claims that an inspection team of theirs, stationed in the Russian factory, has witnessed and signed off on this testing?

On April 29 and May 6, 2013, V Narayanaswamy, minister of state in the PMO, appeared on the NDTV debate and answered few questions regarding the KKNP problems. In response to specific points I had raised in my TNIE article, the minister said, “The four valves which were found faulty did not come from ZiO-Podolsk. These are four small components and they have now been replaced. The replacements did not come from the same (Russian) supplier. If some company official of theirs has erred, the Russians will act on this. We have nothing to do with it.” The minister’s shallow appreciation of the seriousness of the matter is evident from his reply.

On August 31, 2012, the Madras High Court had delivered its judgment on a set of writ petitions filed against commissioning of the KKNP-Units 1 & 2, until a thorough review of several outstanding safety issues are settled first. Its 281-page judgment gave some important directives, which NPCIL, AERB and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) were to fulfill before commissioning the reactors. Unsatisfied with this judgment, the petitioners filed a special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court of India (SC) on September 11, 2012, seeking an injunction on NPCIL from initiating further pre-commissioning activities. The SC sought several clarifications and affidavits from the petitioners and respondents, and held several hearings on this SLP till December 2012. The judgment was reserved, to be delivered after the court’s vacation recess.

While diplomacy is important it is vital that India does not bow to the dragon

13 May 2013

Our statements on the recent India-China face-off in Ladakh continue to confound. 

One would have thought that we would have analysed the incident in depth, tried to figure out China's motivations in staging it just before external affairs minister Salman Khurshid's visit to China and that of Chinese Premier Le Keqiang's to India, and examined if it was another instance of Beijing's increased assertiveness on territorial issues rather than a reaction to any specific activity by India. 

The several flag meetings with the Chinese military, the diplomatic demarches made at the foreign secretary/ambassadorial level, and the close consultations between diplomats in charge of the new joint border management mechanism would normally have given us some clues. 

On his recent visit to China external affairs minister Salman Khurshid (left) met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (right) in Beijing and insisted he was not looking to 'apportion blame' over the Ladakh border dispute

The preparatory work for our minister's Beijing visit should have involved a comprehensive internal analysis of why the Ladakh face-off occurred and produced a brief for frank discussions with the Chinese leadership on the subject. 


But the government's handling of the issue has been curiously different. On arrival at Beijing Khurshid, astonishingly, told the Indian journalists that it was not clear why the incident happened and that the Chinese "were not offering us that background and we were not looking for (it)", adding gratuitously that "actually, we are not even ready with our own analysis", suggesting he came unprepared on this vital agenda point. 

In talking to Chinese journalists he implied that the need was not to end such incidents altogether but resolve them "much quicker".

Oddly, he thought it was "not very helpful at this stage to apportion blame between them and us (as) it will only take away from the sense of relief and satisfaction that it was resolved in time". 

According to him, the apple cart of what is going on with China is far more important and should not be upset, which suggests China had not done any upsetting with the Ladakh incident. 

Nawaz III: The chances are...

Published on The Asian Age (http://www.asianage.com)
By editor
Created 15 May 2013

The Pakistan elections have resulted in the launch of Nawaz Sharif III who, much like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky III, is older but expected to box the same way — sprayed blood and grunts.

Mr Sharif went to election promising to end the terror-induced insecurity, attributed by both him and Imran Khan to Pakistan’s war on terror under America’s urging, and a better economic future for the common man. The last was a war cry of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), coined by its founder Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, perhaps on loan from Indira Gandhi’s “garibi hatao”, which the PPP could hardly employ without the charismatic Benazir, only having a dithering Bilawal and a cornered Zardari.

The general assessment is that the Taliban, which for Pakistanis is the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and not the Afghan Taliban, tilted the field against the secular parties by targeting only them and not the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) or Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The latter’s message of change and a “naya Pakistan”, though resonating with urban youth and women, was overpowered by the emotional tug of Mr Sharif’s story of exile and deliberate exclusion from elections in 2008. Moreover, the Sharif brothers cut deals with right-wing groups in Punjab, including those targeting Shias and minorities, for the votes of the poor and the pious.

Mr Sharif’s effusive words of friendship towards India must be read in this context. First, because it was his India policy that led to his differences with the Pakistan Army and then his ouster, he feels some compulsion to revert to the Lahore bus period of India-Pakistan relations. Second, how he deals with the TTP, US drone attacks and the counter-terror policy of the Pakistani Army would determine how he deals with the terror from Pakistani soil aimed at India, which has invariably derailed the dialogue with this country.

His interviews to Indian television channels make it appear that friendship with India is his primary goal. But he has bigger issues, like rebalancing his relations with the US, which traditionally distrusts him due to his cosiness with the Pakistani radicals, or regaining the Army’s trust. His initial remarks about the Army needing to respect the Constitution and on transparent selection of Army Chiefs would be making the brass in Rawalpindi think. They would remember that his two-thirds majority in 1998 had emboldened him to first sack the then Army Chief, J. Karamat, and then tangle disastrously with another, Pervez Musharraf, who, with tables turned, is now his captive. Whether the Army treats his Kargil enquiry proposal benignly or as an affront remains to be seen.

Traditionally, it is said that “three As” — Allah, Army and America — determine Pakistan’s fate. In fact, the triangle consists of the Army, Islamists of different shades and democratic forces. Beginning with Ayub Khan, the Army wooed the right wing to marginalise political parties and maintain military rule. President Zia-ul Haq, an Islamist, internally reshaped existing parties and encouraged leaders comfortable with a Sharia-compliant Pakistan and externally created conditions for the rise of the Taliban, whose offshoots today threaten Pakistan. The Bhuttos, too, used Islam to burnish their popularity. In 1987, during Zia-ul Haq’s call on Indian President Zail Singh, the latter after bantering with Zia about peace, said to Mr Sharif, then chief minister of Punjab, “If general sahib is not interested in peace, why don’t we talk to you, as you control half of Pakistan?” Mr Sharif’s growth was in that Zia-envisioned Pakistan.

He now needs to resolve some contradictions that he could delve in during electioneering. The US is Pakistan’s biggest benefactor. The Pakistani economy is near collapse and urgently needs the $9 billion that the International Monetary Fund is dangling. Mr Sharif told an Indian channel that he would try to manage by cutting government expenditure by 30 per cent. More than a third of the budget goes to the Army. Can he touch it? If he starts curtailing spending on the already scanty social schemes then his popularity would plummet in months. He needs structural reform, including a widened tax base, which will impact his feudal friends. The disinvestment that he plans can be the beginning of more scandals.

To campaign on banishing US drones and peace with the TTP was easy. Imran Khan simplistically argued, reminding one of Salman Rushdie dubbing him “Im the Dim”, that the minute the US departs harmony will return to the entire AfPak region.

How Mr Sharif adjusts to the reality that past deals with the TTP or their clones only emboldened them, i.e. the Swat valley deal, will indicate whether he is serious about not allowing Pakistani soil to be used for terror against India. He encounters two external realities: the desire to resume normalisation of relations with India and the need to find a middle ground between his poll rhetoric and the US’ imperatives in its Afghan endgame. In the case of India he has to rebalance his relations with his Army and wean them away from their favourite jihadis. In case of the US, he has to align the interests of his Army, the Afghan Taliban and the US while negotiating a ceasefire with the TTP.

Considering the impossibility of these readjustments in the short run, India could reciprocate the warmth, keep doors open but not yet break into a bhangra. Await the compromises the Sharifs negotiate within and without and, perhaps, let the next government in India do serious engagement. Unlike Rocky III, Nawaz III may end as a farce or a tragedy.

The writer is a former secretary in the external affairs ministry.

Can 1996 Repeat itself in Afghanistan?

Paper No. 5459 Dated 13-Apr-2013

By B.Raman

1. As the US troops prepare to thin themselves out of Afghanistan starting from next year, India has to worry whether 1996 can repeat itself in Afghanistan, when the Taliban, with the help of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), captured power from the Afghan Mujahideen in Kabul and enforced its rule.

2. In searching for an answer to this question, one has to remember what happened after the Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 1988:

1989:The Afghan Mujahideen, with ISI’s help, tried to have Najibullah’s army defeated at Jalalabad, so that they could set up a base there. They were defeated by Najibullah, who demonstrated the strength of his army.

1992:The Afghan Mujahideen succeeded in overthrowing Najib by taking advantage of a US-encouraged split between Najibullah and Rashid Dostum and setting up their Govt in Kabul.

1994: Naseerullah Babar, Benazir Bhutto’s Interior Minister, promoted the formation of the Taliban in Kandahar to escort Asif Ali Zardari’s cotton convoys from Turkmenistan. The US established secret contacts with the Taliban to secure its support for a gas-oil pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Afghanistan being planned by UNOCAL.

1996: The Taliban, with the ISI’s support, overthrew the Mujahideen Government in Kabul and set up its Government.

1996: Ahmed Shah Masood set up his Northern Alliance to counter the Taliban.

1996: Osama bin Laden shifted from Khartoum to Jalalabad and from there to Kandahar where Mulla Omar, the Amir of the Taliban, was based.

1998: bin Laden formed the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People for fighting against the US and Israel.

1998:Al Qaeda carried out explosions outside the US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam.US carried out reprisal Cruise missile attacks on Al Qaeda camps in Jalalabad. Not successful.

1999:The US demanded that the Taliban should hand over bin Laden to it. It also demanded that Pakistan should force the Taliban to hand over bin Laden to it. Both the Taliban and Pakistan evaded the US demand

11/9/2001:Al Qaeda carried out its terror strikes in the US homeland.

October,2001:The US declared its war on the Taliban and Al Qaeda and ordered military action in Afghanistan. The Taliban was overthrown, but Omar and bin Laden crossed over to Pakistan, where they were given shelter by the ISI. The Northern Alliance collaborated with the US in its operations.

3.The sequence of events mentioned above was due to the following reasons:
  • The sudden and abrupt withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan.
  • The differences between the Pashtoons and the Uzbeks and the consequent lack of unity in the Najibullah Government.
  • The ambivalent US policy towards the Taliban. It hobnobbed with it initially in the hope of getting its support for the projected UNOCAL pipeline project and realised too late the pernicious nature of the Taliban.
  • The USA’s misplaced faith in Pakistani co-operation against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

4. What is the position now as the US prepares to thin itself out?
  • Just as the Soviet troops withdrew in 1988 before effectively defeating the Mujahideen, the US is going to thin itself out before effectively defeating the Neo Taliban and the Haqqani Network, both of which continue to operate from Pakistan.
  • The command and control of Al Qaeda based in Pakistan has been badly disrupted, but not eliminated.
  • There could be political instability in Afghanistan after President Hamid Karzai completes his term next year leading once again to ethnic differences between the Pashtoons and non-Pashtoons.
  • The ambivalent US policy towards a possible political role for the so-called good Taliban post-2014 could add to uncertainties and instability.
  • In 1988, to facilitate the Soviet withdrawal, Pakistan ensured that there were no attacks on the withdrawing Soviet troops by the Mujahideen. Pakistan had better control over the tribal areas on the Afghan border. Today. Pakistan has little control over the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and will have little ability to facilitate the withdrawal of US troops and equipment.

Elections: Pakistan 2013 to India 2014

Paper No. 5482 Dated 14-May-2013
Guest Column by Dr. Rajesh Tembarai Krishnamachari

In this essay, we analyze the results of the recently concluded elections in Pakistan through the prism of voting patterns of four non-overlapping social categories. Positing that these categories extend to contemporary India, offers us an insight into their likely voting behavior in the Indian elections scheduled for 2014.

For the psephological analysis below, we divide the voting population in Pakistan and India into four mutually exclusive groups denoted by L1, L2, L3 and L4, respectively. L1 represents the traditionally rich elite, whose prior economic standing and social connections enabled them to gain enormously from the economic boom of the post-90s period. Unlike in other democracies, this is the only group that can stand for public office in the Indian subcontinent. The educational background of members of this group is almost never from engineering; they draw upon the liberal arts and humanities. Socially liberal in their private lives, they span politically both the liberal and conservative ends of the spectrum. A preponderant majority of English-language newspaper columnists tend to be drawn from the liberal L1 category. Western perception of Pakistan and India, it follows, is influenced considerably by direct or indirect interaction of western analysts with L1 members. L1 members are caricatured by middle classes as being 'immoral'. In popular middle class imagination, a female L1 member brings upon - incorrectly, one may add - an image of a Page-three socialite involved in the fashion industry. While being numerically insignificant, their influence on politics stems from their exclusive hold over participating in elections, as well as their control over mass media communications. 

L2 represents a new professional class that has risen through the cracks of poverty by taking advantages of opportunities afforded over the 1990-2005 period. These are often highly educated with backgrounds in engineering, medicine, and the pure sciences. Their prosperity - of recent origin - has not yet blinded them to the realities of classes underneath them. Their economic standing does not allow money to work by itself for them, but still avails them enough time and opportunity to ponder about questions of broader national/societal concern. Their self-perception of themselves as custodians of national interest and patriotism tends to make them lean towards right-conservative causes. While not being amoral, they show much less concern than the liberal L1-elite about abstract notions like democracy, minority concerns and human rights. Typically bi-lingual in English and their native tongues, they get vociferous support from non-resident communities outside the subcontinent. 

L3 are the putative socially-conservative middle classes. Some members are part of the petit bourgeoisie and earn more than professional workers in L2; but for the most part, L3 members are involved in blue-collar or entry-level white-collar jobs earning considerably less than L2 workers. They, as of now, have limited or no internet access and tend to be more accepting of their inferior place in society. While not being unaware of the chicanery of the ruling elite, their minds are still heavily influenced by official propaganda. Unlike L2, who have been exposed to other societies through either their personal investigation of history or travel in foreign lands, L3 members have never seen an alternative to the status quo in their nations. In the morass of the past few years, the economic position of L3 members has been rendered highly unstable. A single catastrophic incident typically can push them towards poverty. This risk factor prevents this group from taking an active interest in politics or geopolitical concerns.

L4 are the sod of the earth. Illiterate or barely literate, they do not exist in the consciousness of the other groups by virtue of their complete absence from subcontinental mass media. For a western analyst, their presence is discerned only from statistics on per capita income in these countries besides their impact on elections. L4 tend to be religious, but pressing economic concerns have forced a mutation of traditional religion to suit practical concerns. For example, women involved in agriculture attire themselves in a manner that the better-off L3 would deem scandalous. With little exposure to modernist thought, this class 'votes its caste, instead of casting its vote'. Basal concerns of religion, language, and caste have a high appeal. This group is targeted by politicians by naming schemes after leaders in their respective parties - the best example of which is provided by the multitude of Nehru-Gandhi schemes in India. 

Having delineated the four categories, we can analyze their voting proclivities below. The liberal L1-elite in Pakistan and India tends to support Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and Indian National Congress (Congress), respectively. A charitable explanation for this support would quote an old connection to leftist politics practiced by these parties in the 70s. (The more radical alternative of voting for the communist parties is unavailable in Pakistan and meaningful only in some regions within India.) A less favorable view would accuse the liberal L1-elite of confusing the patronage politics played by these populist parties with genuine reform aimed at helping the poor. The liberal L1-elite – in contrast with L2 members – tends to worry disproportionately more about religious fundamentalism in society than about corruption in public life.

Expectations from Sharif

Real challenge lies in handling the Taliban
by S. Nihal Singh

TWO aspects of the Pakistan election results are worthy of note. One is, of course, the return to power after 14 years of Mr Nawaz Sharif of the Muslim League (PML-N). The other is the hunger of the average Pakistani voter to have his say, despite threats and mayhem promised and often acted upon by the extremists.

No one can describe the elections as entirely free and fair because of a terror campaign aimed at the more liberal and secular parties such as the People’s Party of Pakistan, the National Awami Party and the MQM. They could campaign only furtively, if at all. On the other hand, the PML (N) and the newcomer PTI of the cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan had a free run.

Indeed, Mr Imran Khan’s electoral debut in national elections has been more than a footnote. He is nudging the PPP for second place and his call for “a new Pakistan” enthused many new young voters and considerable sections of women. His call for a “new Pakistan” was heard. He also did well in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. Indeed, a regional split between the most populous Punjab province and the other provinces has been accentuated.

For Mr Sharif, his third stint as Prime Minister is a personal triumph because a man who was displaced in an Army coup, first imprisoned and then exiled for years in Saudi Arabia, is back in power. His nemesis, General Pervez Musharraf, was barred from contesting the election and is facing a string of serious charges in courts after his homecoming from self-exile. By the same token, Mr Sharif faces a mountain of challenges.

These challenges are primarily domestic, both in the economic field and in initiating a new policy towards the Taliban and in managing his relationship with the Army establishment. But the looming American withdrawal from Afghanistan next year imposes immediate priorities and he must balance the widespread anti-American sentiment in his country, particularly on the use of drones, with the obvious need for US money and support for receiving international financial help. If he makes the right moves towards India, it might help alleviate the acute power crisis crippling his country. In other words, Mr Sharif must hit the ground running.

The world will judge Mr Sharif’s opening gambit by how he approaches the Pakistani Taliban. It is all very well to pronounce, as he has, that the answer lies in talking to, not fighting, the extremists. There are several shades of the Taliban, a section rejecting the very concept of democracy Pakistani voters have chosen to endorse. While the Afghan Taliban have publicly refused to talk to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, dismissing him as a US puppet, how is the Pakistan variant to be induced to sit down to talk turkey?

Above all, Mr Sharif’s primary task is to build on the enthusiasm shown by voters in the democratic process, despite all the warts, to strengthen institutions. In a sense, the judiciary has been hyper-active, but other institutions a democratic state must rely on need to be strengthened. The civilian leadership’s equation with the Army establishment is still very much a work in progress and Mr Sharif’s own experience of the Kargil misadventure must serve as a warning. While the Army and its present chief, Gen Ashfaque Pervez Kayani, has allowed a change of leadership from one civilian dispensation to the other to happen for the first time, they are keen on guarding their dominant voice in relation to nuclear policy and in dealings with Afghanistan and India.

Mr Sharif has been making the right noises after proclaiming victory, promising to look ahead, rather than back, but his real test will come in being credible on the Pakistani Taliban and signalling a new beginning in putting his economic house in order. His strong suit is his reputation for getting things done, as a business magnate, and his centre-right leanings seem to chime with the mood of his people. He has sought to reach out to his political opponents, but Mr Imran Khan is less than satisfied with the conduct of the election.

Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s Comeback Kid

by Bruce Riedel May 14, 2013

Sharif, Pakistan’s former prime minister, once faced possible execution. Now he will return to the nation’s highest office. Bruce Riedel on the inside story of Sharif’s odyssey.

Nawaz Sharif is the comeback kid of Pakistani politics. With his party’s electoralvictory, he is poised to become prime minister for an unprecedented third time. The Sharif odyssey has been remarkable—but now we will see if he can convert his victory into a new beginning for his deeply troubled country and our own tortured relations with it.

Pakistan’s former prime minister Nawaz Sharif waves to his supporters during an election rally in Jhagra on May 7. (Mohammad Sajjad/AP)

Sharif, 63, was born into money as the scion of a very wealthy family in Lahore. He entered politics to protect the family’s industry from nationalization. In the 1980s he became a protégé of Pakistan’s third military dictator, Zia ul-Haq, and became the dominant politician in the country’s richest and most populous province, the Punjab. In 1990 Sharif was elected prime minister after his great rival, Benazir Bhutto, was booted out by the military.

I first got to know Sharif when I was President George Bush’s director for South Asia and Persian Gulf affairs in the White House in the early 1990s. Sharif was America’s partner in trying to wind down the decade-old war in Afghanistan against the Soviet-backed communist government that had outlived the defeat of the Soviet 40th Red Army in 1988 and was still clinging to power in Kabul. Unfortunately, when the communist government finally did collapse in 1992, it only ushered in a vicious civil war among the victorious mujahedin. Pakistan was left to deal with the consequences on its own as America abandoned Afghanistan to its fate. And Sharif lost power in 1993 to Bhutto.

He was elected back to a second term as prime minister in 1997. A year later he tested Pakistan’s nuclear weapons after India tested its first. As President Clinton’s special assistant for Near East and South Asia affairs, I tried to persuade Sharif not to follow India’s path, but to no avail. In 1999 Sharif’s handpicked chief of Army staff, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, exploded a détente Sharif had arranged with India by starting a war in Kashmir. Normally very shy, Sharif invited himself to the White House on July 4, 1999, to find a way out and wisely agreed to Clinton’s demand that Pakistan unilaterally abandon the war Musharraf had orchestrated. Sharif’s decision averted a wider—and very possibly nuclear—war.

Sharif fired Musharraf on October 12, 1999, while the general was visiting Sri Lanka. The general refused to step down and instead orchestrated a coup and arrested Sharif. A military court was summoned to try Sharif for treason. Only in Pakistan could a legitimately elected prime minister be labeled a traitor for firing the country’s top general—a general whom Sharif had selected for the job in the first place. Many expected Musharraf to have Sharif executed, just as Zia ul-Haq had executed Benazir Bhutto’s father, Zulfikar Bhutto.

Clinton tasked me with saving Sharif’s life. The president believed Sharif did not deserve death, and that it would be a disaster for Pakistan to execute another elected leader after a military coup. I spent a great deal of time arguing for clemency with the Pakistani ambassador in Washington. The ambassador was sympathetic to the argument—but I needed more help. The Saudi ambassador to Washington at the time, Prince Bandar, provided the heavy lifting.

This Alliance Is Brought to You by the Letter 'M'


Introducing the world's most unlikely political grouping. 

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia — As a basis for an international alliance, a common first letter might not seem as natural as a common language, religion, or geography. But Mongolia needs all the friends it can get.

After all, it's not easy being a landlocked country with global ambitions. This land of a -- widely spaced -- 2.8 million people is undergoing one of the world's great economic booms, recording annual double-digit growth rates over the last two years, thanks largely to a mining windfall.

As fine a circumstance as that may be, it crystallizes the fact that a single economic partner wields tremendous influence over domestic affairs. The Chinese dragon has coiled its tail around Mongolia, accounting for more than 80 percent of Mongolia's exports. Additionally, to the north is Russia, an old but complicated friend with motives of its own. Mongolia imports near all its oil and petroleum from Russia over a domestic railway network still controlled by the Federal Agency for Railway Transport in Moscow -- more than 3,000 miles away.

You can't blame Mongolia for looking farther afield. As the country begins to monetize the trillions of dollars in mineral wealth beneath its soil, the stakes have risen. How can Mongolia leverage the mineral boom while safeguarding against the undue influence of its hungry superpower neighbors? Mongolian leaders are fixated on the limits of their geographical position, China and Russia's stranglehold on trade, and a desire to make lasting economic strides.

Purevsuren Lundeg, the foreign-policy advisor to Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, was brooding over this displeasure one day last August when across his desk came a news releaseissued by Silk Road Management, an Ulan Bator-based investment company specializing in public equities, money markets, and bonds in out-of-the-way markets. The notice announced the creation of something called the M3 Fund, "the first ever investment fund to be focused on Myanmar, Mongolia and Mozambique, three resource-rich countries which we term as M3." The news release noted that the countries have more in common than the letter M. All three are undergoing post-socialist democratic reforms. Each is experiencing a natural resources boom that will extend for decades. And most importantly, each borders at least one of the BRICS countries (in the cases of Mongolia and Myanmar, two), which are hungry for control of these natural resources. Alisher Ali, Silk Road's managing partner, told me that he thinks, "All three nations will be among the top five fastest-growing economies in the next decade." Mongolia's superheated economy already ranks No. 4.

Purevsuren's interest was piqued. It was the first time he had thought of these three countries in a single grouping, and Mongolia is eager to form new political and economic alliances. "We want to have less dependence on our two neighbors," Purevsuren told me. Could Mongolia, Mozambique, and Myanmar cooperate to the benefit of each individual country, massaging diplomatic, social, and economic growing pains?

This was the beginning of Ulan Bator's attempts to form the M3 cluster, a fledgling political alliance. The goal, vaguely sketched, is to join these three countries in a loose confederation of information, exchange, and advice, with groupings such as the G-20 and the Arab League serving as models. Mongolia is attempting to construct a union of allies that can protect it against the ravenous economies of its BRICS neighbors. "We're looking at the similarities, to bring to the forefront what we have in common and coordinate common goals and interests," Purevsuren says. "This idea is brand-new. Mongolia is going to show leadership on this."

Purevsuren drew up a proposal on President Elbegdorj's stationery. He sent one copy to colleagues in Naypyidaw, Myanmar's capital, which he had recently visited for bilateral talks on democracy. He dispatched another copy to the belly of the beast itself, Beijing, where the Mongolian ambassador to China handed the note to his Mozambican counterpart.

Mongolia is now initiating trilateral talks to be held this June at the World Economic Forum's East Asia summit in Naypyidaw. There are also preliminary plans for the presidents of the three countries to convene for talks in Ulan Bator. "We have a number of issues in common," says Victorino Xavier, the national director of economics at Mozambique's Ministry of Industry and Trade. "That process is welcome in Mozambique. For us, that would be a good initiative. We have a lot to gain from each other."

China’s Urban Dream Denied

May 14, 2013
By Youqin Huang

More than half of China’s massive population live in cities. With hundreds of millions more coming in the next 15-20 years, will they have a place to live?

China is in the midst of an urban revolution, with hundreds of millions of migrants moving into cities every year. Since 2011, for the first time in history, more than half of China’s 1.3 billion citizens (690 million people) are living in cities. Another 300-400 million are expected to be added to China's cities in the next 15-20 years. New Premier Li Keqiang recently proposed accelerating urbanization in China, and said urbanization is a “huge engine” of China’s future economic growth.With its unprecedented speed and scale, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz has called urbanization in China one of the two main forces (the other being technological development in the U.S.) shaping the world in the 21st century.

Yet, China’s urban dream may be derailed by the lack of affordable housing in cities for the massive influx of urban residents. 

For almost five decades, Chinese cities were dominated by welfare-oriented public rental housing provided by either the government or public employers. Severe housing shortages, residential crowding, and poor housing conditions were common problems in cities. Over the last two decades, Chinese cities have experienced an unprecedented housing privatization, as the Chinese government has sold public rental housing at subsidized prices, encouraged developers to provide new private housing, and ended public housing provisions. 

With the influx of both domestic and international investment, there has been an unprecedented housing boom in Chinese cities. In the decade leading up to 2010, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit,China constructed roughly twice the total number of houses currently in the UK, or about the same amount of houses in Japan.

These new houses were also much larger and of a higher quality than the ones they replaced; residential floor space per capita in cities increased from 43 in 1980 to 340 square foot in 2010, although this is still much smaller than in the United States (700 square foot per person). 75% of households in cities/towns(85% of all households nationwide) were homeowners in 2010, compared to 20% in the 1980s. This rate of homeownership is higher than in many developed countries.

Meanwhile, housing prices have skyrocketed in cities, with the national average housing price increasing by 250% in the decade between 2000 and 2010. The housing price-income ratio classifies much of China as“severely unaffordable” in terms of housing. In big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, a modest apartment can cost multiple millions of yuan to purchase, and thousands of yuan to rent, making housing affordability the top concern of most low- and middle- income households. 

As a result, millions of migrants have been completely left out of the “Chinese dream,” with few owning homes in cities and most living in extremely crowded, poor quality dwellings. Migrants are generally more vulnerable in the housing market due to their lower incomes and the discriminatory Household Registration System, or hukou system (often called an internal passport system), under which migrants are not considered “legal” residents in cities despite living and working in there over the long-term. Without local urban hukou, migrants are not entitled to welfare benefits such as subsidized housing. Even in Shenzhen, the city of migrants, local hukou is required to access low-income housing. In others cities like Beijing, several years of local hukou is required before applying for low-income housing. 

Without government subsidies, even just renting a decent apartment in the formal market is beyond most migrants’ means. As a result, most migrants are forced to find temporary housing such as factory dorms and basements, and illegal housing built by suburban villagers, forming so-called “migrant enclaves.” With collectively owned land, suburban villagers are entitled to build housing for self-occupation; yet they often build extra housing illegally and rent these out as an extra source of income.


MAY 13, 2013

“Those who control the present control the past”*

In 1969 when I was posted to Ankara , the word Kurd was almost a taboo in Turkey .Kurds were called mountain Turks .But the truth was brought home to me very vividly a few months after my arrival when after a long tour of the Black Sea coast including Samsun , Trabzon and cutting via Erzurum ( cold and gloomy) and Bingol ,I and family drove into Diyarbakir, with its black rock walls , the largest Kurdish city ( although some people claim that Istanbul, a mega polis of 12 million ,might have surpassed it in the number of Kurds) . After installing my family in the hotel I came out to look for a restaurant .Lo! I was surrounded by five six young boys singing Kurdish songs and repeating ‘Kurdum, Kurdum ‘ ( I am a Kurd ,in Turkish)

I visited Diyarbakir a few times more, the last time in 1997.

Turkey’s Kurdish problem is as old as the establishment of the secular Republic by Kemal Ataturk .The Kurds have been inhabiting the east and south east of Turkey much before the Turkish tribes started arriving in from central Asia in 11th century. Even now the percentage of Turkish citizens who came from Turkistan in central Asia would be less than 15%.

As late as around 1980 a Turkish minister was charged when he said that there were Kurds in Turkey and he was a Kurd .It was in end 1980s that president Turgut Ozal publicly proclaimed the presence of Kurds in Turkey and admitted to his own part Kurdish blood. It is suspected that he was poisoned by those who believe in the unitary state since he was trying to find a solution to the vexing problem which had enflamed a few years earlier.

The current Islamist AKP has instituted an enquiry into Ozal’s death .Hopefully it will not be to further humiliate the proud Turkish armed forces, which along with Republican Peoples Party established by Kemal Ataturk and virulently pan Turanian party, the MHP (National Action party) oppose concessions to Kurds on even matters of culture and language .The continuing AKP tirade and actions against the military could one day lead to a blowback. In Sunni Muslim states, the struggle between the ruler and cleric continues (Prophet Mohammad was both the religious leader and the military commander) at the moment the military is on the back foot in Turkey as well as in Pakistan and Egypt.

The Kurdish rebellion against the state was led by Abdullah Ocalan (Ojalan) and began in early 1980s with the Marxist Kurdish Labour party (PKK) as the vehicle.

Part I , below covers the period from the beginning of the insurgency and the capture , sentencing and imprisonment of Ocalan in 1999.

*During the rule of the secular parties in Turkey until 2002, history of Turkey during its Anatolian past was not highlighted and of the Byzantine/ Roman etc era glossed over .As if the history began with arrival of the Turkish tribes into Anatolia in 11 century .Since the arrival of Justice and Development party (AKP) in end 2002 and Islamisation the republican era is being glossed over.


Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocala (c=j), sentenced to death for treason on 29th June 1999 after a trial by a Turkish Tribunal at the Imrali island (where coincidentally Prime Minister Adnan Menderes and his two colleagues were hanged after the 1960 military takeover), represents the violent face of resistance since millennia by a minority tribe, community or a nation against forced assimilation by majority ethnic, linguistic or religious groups. In view of Turkey’s laws, its judicial system and the fever pitch passions aroused against its enemy number one, with masses baying for Ocalan’s blood, the death sentence was not surprising. Since 1984, Ocalan led PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) rebellion for a Kurdish state in South and East of Turkey has already cost over 45,000 lives, mostly Kurds including 12000 female cadres and also includes over five thousand soldiers. Thousands of Kurdish villages have been bombed, destroyed, abandoned or relocated and millions of Kurds have been moved or migrated to shanty towns in South, East and West wards .Added to the migration for economic reasons, half the Kurdish population now lives in Western Turkey, making disentangling of the two communities extremely difficult. With 1/3rd of Turkish army tied up in South East, the cost of countering the insurgency has mounted to $6 to $8 billion per year , shattered the economy of the region and brought charges of police and military brutality and human rights violations in the West to which Turkey is linked through NATO and OECD. It has also harmed its chances of joining EU, with which it has a Customs Union. The consequences of Ocala’s sentence carried out or not will be a major defining moment in the history of the Republic. Already April 1999 Elections have highlighted an upsurge of nationalism and a swing for ultra-nationalist National Action party (MHP), giving it second slot from nowhere and the top slot to Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit’s Democrat Left Party (DSP) for his Govt’s successful hounding and capture of Ocalan ,further polarising Turkey’s already fractured polity.

The problem was brought to a head when late last year Turkey, hoping to give a hammer blow to the Kurdish rebellion, threatened war on Syria to force out Ocalan and PKK, sheltered in Syria as a lever against Turkey for denial of its fair share of Euphrates waters and irredentist claims over Hatay province annexed to Turkey in 1939 (but still shown within Syrian maps). Egypt and others including Iran helped defuse the situation but a somewhat isolated Syria had to expel Ocalan, who first went to the Russian Federation and then to Rome looking for asylum .The Italians instead arrested him on a German warrant .But sensing further mayhem and the strife it would create among its Kurdish and Turkish populations, FRG got cold feet and did not extradite him .Nor was he extradited to Turkey causing bad blood between Turkey and EU. In mysterious circumstances with some Greek assistance Ocalan then disappeared looking for a safe haven but found none. He was eventually apprehended in Nairobi on 16 Feb,1999 by Turkish agents assisted by other countries and brought handcuffed to a rapturous Turkey .His capture was followed by violence and demonstrations in Turkey and Europe ,where Kurds number 850,000 among 4 million Turkish immigrants ( 3 millions in FRG alone of which nearly half a million are Kurds) .

Majority of Kurds in Turkey would be satisfied with cultural autonomy but the hounding of Ocalan, touched an emotional chord uniting Kurds all over the world against their persecution over millennia and suppression of their aspirations for autonomy and freedom, dashed time and again. The Kurdish nation totaling over 25 million straddles mostly the mountainous regions of Turkey (14 in 70 million), Iran (8 out of 70 million), Iraq (4 out of 20 million) and with more than half million in Syria and another half million in Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Kurds are an Aryan Iranian people caught up in ethnic upheavals and intermingling of Aryan, Turkic and Semitic races going on since two millennia from the Eurasian steppes to the Mediterranean , the Gulf and the Arabian Sea .But Kurds have lived in the region since they shifted from the steppes in 2nd millennium and some can perhaps claim Kassites and Mitannis as their forefathers .Most descend from the Iranian Medes .They were mentioned as the Kurduchoi who had harassed Xenophon and his Ten Thousand retreating towards the Black Sea from Babylon in 401 BC .

A close reading of the recruitment letter Russia allegedly captured from a CIA agent

Posted By Elias Groll 
May 14, 2013

On Tuesday, Russia's FSB -- the successor organization to the KGB -- announced that it had captured a U.S. spy who was trying to recruit a Russian official. The American, who was later asked to leave the country, has been identified as Ryan Fogle, a third secretary in the political section of the U.S. embassy in Moscow. Russian authorities allegedly nabbed him while he was wearing a blond wig and carrying two knives, lots of euros, multiple pairs of dark sunglasses, and a Russian-language recruitment letter.

Even if Fogle is an American spy -- the CIA is declining to comment on the allegations -- the reports from Moscow should make us suspicious of the Russian narrative, as Max Fisher explains in greater detail over at the Washington Post. A close read of the recruitment letter in particular suggests that either CIA tradecraft has taken a serious turn for the worse, or the FSB is having some fun at the expense of the U.S. intelligence agency.

Dear friend,

This is a down-payment from someone who is very impressed with your professionalism and who would greatly appreciate your cooperation in the future.

First off, the letter begins like your run-of-the-mill Internet scam, and the idea that the CIA would contact a Russian official on the pretense of being impressed with their professionalism is difficult to believe. It's also hard to fathom that a U.S. spy would correspond with an asset in form-letter format.

Your security means a lot to us. This is why we chose this way of contacting you. We will continue to make sure our correspondence remains safe and secret.

If the letter is authentic, the irony of reading the CIA's "safe and secret" correspondence on the Internet won't inspire much confidence in the agency (of course, one could also argue that the Russian are interested in making the CIA look foolish and impeding its operations in the country).

We are ready to offer you $100,000 to discuss your experience, expertise and cooperation.

Is the CIA really willing to drop $100,000 merely "to discuss" a prospective asset's cooperation? A reader might reasonably stop reading at this sentence and conclude that the entire letter is too good to be true (see any email from a Nigerian prince ever). Later on in the letter, the alleged CIA agent offers "up to $1 million a year for long-term cooperation," without going into detail about what that might entail.

To get back with us, please go to an internet café, or a coffee shop that has Wi-Fi, and open a new Gmail account which you will use exclusively to contact us. As you register, do not provide any personal info that can help identify you or your new account. Don't provide any real contacts, e.g., your phone number or other email addresses.

If Gmail asks for personal info, start the registration process again and avoid providing such data. Once you register this new account, use it to send a message tounbacggdA@gmail.com. In exactly one week, check this mailbox for a response from us.

Let's pause to admire the sterling tradecraft at play here. First, the CIA officer reminds his asset that if he goes to a coffee shop to set up his clandestine email, he should use one that has Wi-Fi -- since few things in this world have the ability to torpedo a promising CIA operation like a coffee shop without Wi-Fi. And remember, prospective CIA asset, to not use personal information when setting up that account. Two-step verification for security purposes? A definite no-no. You are, after all, working for the U.S. government now.

Say you are a prospective agent reading this letter: How would you react to the use of the pronoun "us" here? Presumably, you'd want knowledge of your existence to be as tightly held as possible. The use of a word that implies some unknown number of CIA officers corresponding with you might not make you feel very confident in the agency's operational security.

(If you use a netbook or any other device (e.g., a tablet) to open the account at a coffee shop, please don't use a personal device with personal data on it. If possible, buy a new device (paying in cash) which you will use to contact us. We will reimburse you for this purchase.)

Hey, Russian official, if that promise of $1 million a year wasn't enough, Uncle Sam may be willing to hook you up with an iPad. How could you possibly say no to this offer?

Thank you for reading this letter. We look forward to working with you in the nearest future.

Your friends

Hats off to the CIA/FSB here -- at least they had the good sense to end the bizarre pitch with the perfect nefarious salutation.