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Current Affairs ( 3 Nov 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Pakistan’s Nuclear Program Threatens the World, Not Just India: What It Means In The West Asian Roulette: New Age Islam’s Selection From Indian Press, 4 November 2015

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

4 November 2015

Pakistan’s nuclear program threatens the world, not just India

By Shyam Saran

Towards an honourable exit for all

By Vijay Prashad

A tale of two biryanis

By Serish Nanisetti


Pakistan’s nuclear program threatens the world, not just India

Shyam Saran

Nov 04, 2015

President Obama must consider Pakistan’s sponsoring terrorist groups before he makes any move to offer the country a nuclear agreement. (REUTERS?Photo)

On the eve of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington and his summit meeting with United States President Barack Obama on October 23, there were two noteworthy developments: One, senior US journalist David Ignatius, who often reflects thinking within the US administration, reported that Washington was contemplating an offer of a civil nuclear deal to Islamabad, similar to the India-US nuclear deal. The US, he said, may also sponsor Pakistan’s membership of the Nuclear Supplies’ Group. Pakistan, in return, would have to accept unspecified restraints on its rapidly expanding nuclear weapons programme.

Two, Pakistan’s foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhary confirmed on October 22 that Pakistan has developed tactical nuclear weapons of low yield as a deterrent against an invasion by the Indian Army. He spoke of Pakistan’s acquisition of “full spectrum deterrence” capability to deter threats at every conceivable level. He claimed that this posture was consistent with credible minimum deterrence. Finally, he described Pakistan’s nuclear programme as “one-dimensional”: To stop Indian aggression before it happens.

Though both Pakistan and US official sources denied that a US-Pakistan nuclear deal was in the offing, the two developments are related. Pakistan pronouncements were aimed at the US and sought to convey that it would not accept a nuclear deal which did not have the exact same template as the India-US nuclear deal. Pakistan would insist on parity with India and reject conditions that had not been imposed on India.

Let’s consider the terms on which the US may have offered a nuclear deal to Pakistan, including NSG membership. In a study released by the Stimson Center earlier this year entitled ‘A Normal Nuclear Pakistan’, US nuclear experts Michael Krepon and Toby Dalton enumerated the following possible conditions: One, shift declaratory policy from ‘full spectrum’ to strategic deterrence; two, commit to recessed deterrence posture and limit the production of short-range delivery vehicles and tactical nuclear weapons; three, lift Pakistan’s veto on Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty negotiations and reduce or stop fissile material production; four, separate civilian and military facilities, and; five, sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty without waiting for India.

If the study reflects thinking within the US administration, then as an opening gambit in negotiations, these conditions are exceptionally mild and accommodating, given Pakistan’s record on proliferation and its pursuit of a substantial and diversified nuclear arsenal and delivery capability. For example, there is no expectation that Pakistan, like India, should commit itself to a no-first use pledge, nor limit its production and deployment of nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles outside the category of TNWs. It may, on the basis of parity with India, accept the fourth and the third conditions partially (since it is unlikely to reduce or stop fissile material production).

Would the US acquiesce to Pakistan demands? The danger is that the US may treat this issue in transactional terms. It may believe that a nuclear deal may be a tempting enough prize to extract Pakistani support on an Afghan government-Taliban peace deal, which could enable the US to exit with some positive outcome, even if that proves temporary. The sop to India would be that Chinese opposition to India’s entry into the NSG would be overcome, if Pakistan too could gain membership. But this would also legitimise the substantial Chinese assistance to Pakistan’s nuclear programme, which is currently in violation of the NSG guidelines.

The US would be making a serious error with significant and adverse long-term consequences if it continues to pursue this initiative. While Chaudhary claims that the country’s nuclear programme is unidimensional, directed only against India, the reality is different. Pakistan has long harboured fears that the US may in a future crisis seek to take out and disable Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

These fears have been exacerbated by the 2011 Abbottabad operation, which eliminated Osama bin Laden. Pakistan has sought to increase the number of its weapons, the varieties of its delivery vehicles and produce more miniaturised weapons to enable a wide dispersal and better camouflage. One should also not lose sight of Pakistan’s history of nuclear proliferation support to other Islamic states. There have been credible reports of a secret Saudi-Pakistan agreement, enabling the kingdom’s access to Pakistani nuclear weapons if faced with a grave security threat. To argue that Pakistan’s nuclear programme is unidimensionally targeted towards India is nothing more than rhetorical deflection.

The US may find it convenient to buy into this rhetoric because accepting the reality would require revising its approach to Pakistan’s nuclear programme from benign tolerance to robust constraint. We may end up with a nuclear equivalent of what has been witnessed in Afghanistan — the US supplying funds and weapons to Pakistan that have been used to kill American soldiers in that country.

Should India revise its nuclear doctrine in the light of Pakistan’s deployment of tactical nuclear weapons? Unlike Pakistan, India considers its nuclear weapons as a deterrent against nuclear attacks and they are not Pakistan-specific. The label on a nuclear weapon, tactical or strategic, fired against India or Indian forces makes no difference to its consequences. A nuclear exchange, at whatever level it is initiated, will inevitably result in an all-out strategic exchange. To believe that either side would, in the fog of war, be able to limit the exchange only to a theatre level is a dangerous illusion.

It would, however, be reckless for Pakistan to believe that having a nuclear deterrent, even a full spectrum one, gives it the licence to use cross-border terrorism against India, without fear of retaliation.

The US and its allies should carefully reflect whether they should encourage Pakistan in pursuing such a policy by rewarding rather than condemning its nuclear intransigence. Terrorism under a nuclear overhang is not just India’s problem. It may come to haunt the international community, including the US in the future.

(Shyam Saran, a former Foreign Secretary, is currently chairman, RIS, and senior fellow, CPR. The views expressed are personal)


Towards an honourable exit for all

Vijay Prashad

The recent Vienna meetings of regional powers with the U.S. and Russia have opened up a new diplomatic initiative in the Syrian conflict that has left the country broken.

Everyone agrees that a ceasefire and a political settlement are necessary for Syria. Too many people have been displaced; too much destruction has been wrought on this country. Syria is, in many ways, broken. War has led nowhere and none of the actors can credibly claim victory now, or hope for a final victory later. Everyone has been defeated in Syria.

Vijay Prashad

In 1965, Patrick Seale, an Irish journalist, wrote in his The Struggle for Syria, that the country had become “a mirror of rival interests on an international scale.” Regional powers have vied for this great prize. The 2011 uprising easily morphed, therefore, into a battleground for regional interests — with Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. rushing in to form their own proxies, as Iran and Russia joined in to help the government. Russia’s military intervention a few weeks ago was designed less to hit Islamic State targets and more to pressure Qatari, Turkish, Saudi and al-Qaeda proxies along the western axis of Syria. Cooperation with the U.S. to prevent any mid-air accidents and coordination with Iraq and Jordan over air strikes suggest acquiescence with the Russian project. Russian aircraft and ground forces closed off the possibility of Western-backed regime change in Syria. It, therefore, forced the regional powers to reconsider their commitment to regime change. Bashar al-Assad’s journey to Moscow in late October indicated that the Syrian government no longer fears a precipitous removal. The state institutions and the coalition that runs them are confident that they will remain intact.

The Vienna meetings of the regional powers with the U.S. and Russia on October 23 and October 30 opened up a new diplomatic page. In 2012, these regional powers had created a Syria Contact Group, which met in Cairo. That Group was not permitted to make an impact because of the West’s insistence on regime change. Now — with regime change off the table — diplomacy has been allowed to proceed. Though the communiqué from the Vienna meeting was anodyne, far more was established. Saudi Arabia was the least invested in any dialogue but did not leave the table. The Saudis are already overstretched in Yemen and unable to move a more robust agenda for their proxies in Syria. They require a way to walk away from this war. Turkey too is not capable of honouring its pledge to remove Mr. Assad. Ten days ago, a Turkish diplomat told me that his government was now willing to consider a political process because the Russians have guaranteed Mr. Assad’s departure after six months. This guarantee is the basis for the political process. The re-election of the AKP or the Justice and Development Party in Turkey does not suggest that it would snub the Russian offer. Too much is at stake for the Turks to remain outside this process.

Assad’s role

Mr. Assad is no longer the issue. Western capitals now acknowledge he is personally weak. What they fear is the collapse of Syrian state institutions. To push harder against Mr. Assad might risk the destruction of these institutions. The process of a political settlement will have to come with him because insistence on his departure has lengthened the process and threatened the state institutions. The political transition will have to come with Mr. Assad in place, but with guarantees of his departure within a specified — but secret — timeframe. This is the view of the Russians and the Iranians.

Reuters quoted Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Amir Abollahian as saying, “Iran does not insist on keeping Mr. Assad in power forever.” Tehran hastily denied this statement. But privately Iranian diplomats agree that they are less interested in Mr. Assad himself than in the maintenance of Iranian influence in the region. The 2003 U.S. removal of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Iran’s adversary, allowed Iran to build links to West Asia. The West tried to push Iran back to its borders through the U.S. 2005 Syria Accountability Act, the 2006 Israeli bombing of Lebanon (to strike at Hezbollah) and the sanctions regime against Iran’s nuclear programme. None of this has succeeded. The West had to surrender the sanctions and agree that Iran can have a role in the region. That is what the Iranians see as their victory. In six months, they say, there will be some kind of political readjustment in Syria. No one — least of all the Russians and the Iranians — want to define the terms of the transition. They continue to say that this is a task for the Syrian people.

Elections amid chaos

When Mr. Assad returned from Moscow, he announced early elections as a way to signal this six-month timetable. The second Vienna meeting echoed this statement. The idea of “elections” is, of course, merely symbolic. Half of Syria’s population is displaced, a major population center (Aleppo) is a battlefield and IS holds another city (Raqqa). The last election in 2014 was held in areas controlled by Damascus and amongst refugees who were willing to vote in Syrian embassies abroad. United Nations General-Secretary Ban ki-Moon warned that the election of 2014 would “damage the political process.” At the time, the political process was already in abeyance. People whom I met on the streets who had voted in the election said that they voted not for Mr. Assad but for stability. They wanted the war to end then. It did not. It would be difficult to see the current call for elections as anything other than an indication of the new balance of forces, with the President gesturing for an opening to the opposition.

But what is left of the stalwart opposition? This April one of the oppositional figures — Louay Hussein, who heads Building the Syrian State — fled to Spain. In al-Hayat, Mr. Hussein had argued that vast areas of the country and many communities “would probably find it hard to rejoin a central state, even with al-Assad absent.” This is a prescient assessment. The opposition is as fragmented as the country. Deep divides prevent the “Damascus Opposition” (those who remained in the capital) from building unity with the external opposition, notably the Syrian National Council, which has lost its following inside Syria.

In January, the new leader of the external opposition, Khaled Khoja, told the Lebanese newspaper an-Nahar that his coalition had become “marginal.” At that time, Mr. Khoja said that he would not join a Moscow-backed dialogue. The Assad government, he said, would be alone at the table. But Mr. Khoja has neither been able to unite the opposition nor make close links with militants on the ground. He had pinned his hopes on breaking the alliance between Jabhat al-Nusra and al-Qaeda. Since this has not worked out, he has little to show for his efforts. Other developments have left Mr. Khoja — and his Turkish and Gulf Arab backers — on the sidelines.

The Council’s previous head, Mu’az al-Khatib (former Imam of Damascus’ Umayyad mosque), although bitter at Damascus, is most likely to lead some kind of opposition platform toward a dialogue. By al-Khatib’s side would possibly be the left-leaning National Coordination Body for Democratic Change, led by Hassan Abdul Azim. This January, five secular fronts, including the National Coordination Body, met in Cairo to pledge themselves towards a political solution “reached through negotiations” and towards a platform to “awaken and mobilise Syrians in the fight against terrorist organisations inside Syria.”

The gap between what this meeting called for and what Mr. Assad believes is now very narrow. Among this team would be the well-regarded academic Haytham Manna, who was once deputy to Hassan Abdul Azim. Over this summer, Mr. Manna said, “For four years we have assassinated every political initiative in Syria. We need to go back to a normal political life. We need to stop this dirty war.” It is likely that these figures — and some who have been keeping a low profile over this past year (such as the aristocratic defector, Manaf Tlass) — will take advantage of this new opportunity.

Between the Vienna meetings, Oman’s Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi visited Damascus. Oman was the secret post-office for the U.S.-Iran backchannel negotiations. In August, Syria’s Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem, visited Muscat. This is the return trip. Oman’s diplomats are likely carrying messages to Damascus from the U.S.and, perhaps, Saudi Arabia. Often, in these matters, the real work gets done with a wink and a nod. For Syria’s sake, with IS at the doorstep of Homs, one hopes that these are not empty gestures.

(Vijay Prashad teaches at Trinity College and is the Chief Editor at LeftWord Books.)


A tale of two biryanis

Serish Nanisetti

Rickshaw pullers, newspaper wallahs, job aspirants, and struggling artists dig into the famous Kalyani, or beef, biryani in Hyderabad, which is not meat but food, a cheap source of protein.

‘Bade ka’, ‘broad guage’, ‘buff’ and ‘kalyani’ are some of the euphemisms for dishes crafted out of beef. In Hyderabad, you can walk into many small wayside restaurants where the name Kalyani Biryani dominates over the name of the restaurant. Sometimes, the signboard is just Kalyani Biryani. It is a sign for many people to step in and have a bellyful of grub for one-third the price. And to say it’s delicious would be an understatement. In other cities where I have travelled and lived, the euphemism is muttered but never uttered. Only in Kerala, the beef fry is beef fry.

Serish Nanisetti

Can the word beef be used for buffalo meat? Nah! Beef, the dictionary tells us, is the French-loaned word of ‘boeuf’. That too was an accident, as the nobility in England who could afford to eat meat were Norman-French while the farmers who raised the animals were Anglo-Saxons. Mutton, which we use as a label for most meats, is drawn from ‘mouton’ in French — meaning sheep.

Between these two loanwords hangs a tale.

On the sea spray-swept walkway to Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai or the cacophonous crowded lanes near Jama Masjid in Delhi, the roasting kebabs are so easy on the pocket that nobody asks for the origin of the meat. It is all too obvious at a time when lamb or goat meat costs Rs. 500 for a kilogramme.

It is only in Hyderabad that the name Kalyani Biryani has become a byword for beef biryani. Years ago, I discovered the name by accident while driving on the broad road near Charminar. In an inner lane, there was an open graveyard with elaborate tile work on the walls with goats grazing on the side. I was told this is the maqbara (grave) of Kalyani Nawab and the area was called Kalyani Nawab ki Deori.

Was there a link between the name and biryani? A little genealogical digging led to a tale that was gut-wrenching and at the same time heart-warming.

An old retainer told me about how Kalyani Nawabs, who were the fort keepers of Basavakalyan (now in Karnataka but was part of Nizam’s territory), maintained their sprawling deori (mansion) in Hyderabad. “This was home for anyone who had a petition in the Nizam’s court and had to make a trip to the city. Everyone was served sumptuous food in the evening,” he told me. But things changed dramatically in the 1940s when the Independence movement and then Operation Polo unravelled the fortune of the Nawabs. The visitor flow was constant but the flow of money wasn’t, as the lands were usurped and taken away by the government. Then someone in the kitchen tweaked the main dish. Instead of the regular meat for the biryani, they added the much cheaper beef.

“Sometime in the late 1940s, when the fortunes of the Kalyani Nawabs dwindled further, one of the chefs named Dawood moved out and started selling the cheaper biryani from behind the Murgi Chowk Masjid just beyond the Charminar. While there were other biryani sellers, true to his salt, Dawood named his outlet Kalyani Biryani. And a legend was born,” says Mohit Balachandran, a food blogger.

Today, Hyderabad has countless Kalyani Biryani outlets. Some of them don’t close for the night. Bonhomie and camraderie echo inside the closed doors as rickshaw pullers, autorickshaw drivers, newspaper wallahs, job aspirants, and struggling artists step in for a tuck in.

As the diners walk out of Prince Hotel in Mehdipatnam in darkness searching for their vehicles at 3 a.m. or near Rumaan Hotel in Tolichowki at 1 a.m., I realise the truth about beef. Beef is not meat, it is food. A cheap source of protein in these days of soaring prices, which helps people keep their body and soul together.

To think anyone can have animosity towards this item of food for whatever reason is beyond belief and humanity.


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