Saturday, September 18, 2010



A commentary published by the "News" of Pakistan on September 15,2010, says as follows: "The news that Gwadar port is all set to be taken away from the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) and is likely to be given to the Chinese may have repercussions that go much beyond its white sand shores. Official sources confirm that “an understanding to that effect has already developed at the highest levels but it will take a while before the legal and administrative constraints are removed.” The biggest constraint remains the agreement with the PSA, which was given the right to run the port for 40 years. However, official sources are confident that the PSA had given them sufficient grounds to revoke the agreement. Apart from its failure to bring a single commercial ship to the Gwadar docks, the PSA has not invested even a fraction of the $525 million it had committed to spend in five years. .......The move to hand over Gwadar to China, among other things, may just be the first step to replace the erstwhile IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline) into a new reality - Iran-Pakistan-China (IPC). The acronym already stood dissolved after India backed out of the Iran-Pakistan gas deal.....It will mean much more than the transfer of power at the Gwadar port. The Chinese will build Gwadar as tax-free industrial hub which may include oil and gas refineries and a network of roads and railways from Gwadar to China through the ancient silk route. An ambitious deal to build railways along the Khunjrab pass has already been signed between Pakistan and China. The Chinese are more suited to develop the Gwadar port and the network of rail and roads in Balochistan as they have experience and the muscle to work in the troublesome part of Pakistan. ....The Chinese have the capacity to not only make Gwadar port viable but can complete the expansion plan, which includes increasing the existing three berths to 18 by 2014. The volume of the Chinese trade is so much that Gwadar can beat regional giants like Dubai hands down if China could divert only a fraction of its trade to pass to its burgeoning western regions through the mighty Karakorams......The project is bound to arch lots of eyebrows in India on our east and NATO forces, read the US, sitting on our right flank. China has capitalised on India’s loss. Beijing and Islamabad had set up an agreement whereby China would import most of this Iranian gas left by India. Islamabad hopes to make a billion dollar a year just from transit fee. "

2.While there is likely to be some exaggeration in the report, some recent developments tend to lend some credence to it. Among them is the unhappiness of the Pakistani authorities with the way the PSA has managed the port, which has failed to come up to expectations even more than three years after it was commissioned. The port has failed to attract international shipping partly due to the security situation in Balochistan and partly due to the failure of the Pakistani authorities to develop road and rail infrastructure in the area. Instead of admitting their own failures, they have been blaming the PSA for the poor management of the port, which is now being used only to meet part of the requirements of Pakistan's external trade by providing incentives to Pakistani companies which use Gwadar for their exports and imports.

3.A report prepared last year by a Task Force of the Pakistan Government's Planning Commission on the working of the Gwadar port stated inter alia as follows: "Both the Government and the PSA are in default.No commercial vessel has arrived at the Gwadar Port in the last three years and there is no possibility of the arrival of any commercial vessel for many years to come. The Gwadar Port was supposed to be connected by construction of road links. It is also to be connected through the establishment of a rail network with the rest of the country as well as with neighboring countries especially Afghanistan, and through Afghanistan to the Central Asian Republics (CARs) as well as China. The rail connectivity would take some 10-15 years to complete. Till date, some 72 ships brought government cargo via Gwadar Port and the Federal Government had to subsidise such imports by giving subsidy to the tune of Rs 2,000 per tonne. Apart from subsidising cargo imports, the Government has also paid PSA Rs 220 million as subsidy. Under the Gwadar Port operation agreement, the Federal Government is required to purchase 2281 acres of land on water front and transfer this land free of cost to PSA for 40 years. There is no possibility of land purchase in the near future and the cost of land that the Federal Government would be required to pay is estimated at Rs 15 billion. On the other hand, without getting free of cost land the PSA is unwilling to make further investment in Gwadar Port.The PSA had earlier committed to making investment to the tune of $525 million in five years. It has not invested during the first three years, and it is not likely to spend any during the next two years.The Government will have to subsidise the GPA (Gwadar Port Authority) for many years to come. On the political side, the Balochistan Government has strongly opposed the present Gwadar Port Concession Agreement with the PSA as the Baloch people are not gaining anything from it. The Gwadar Port will not be viable for transshipment and transit until the political and law and order situation in Afghanistan stabilises and Western China is connected by road and rail with Gwadar."

4.It has been apparent for over a year now that though the PSA was originally recommended to Gen.Pervez Musharraf by Beijing. the Government of President Asif Ali Zardari has been disenchanted with it and has been considering other options.No company---either in Pakistan or abroad--- is prepared to take over the responsibility for the management of the port. It is in this context that the Pakistani authorities have been pressing the Chinese to take over the responsibility for the management of the port through one of their companies---- private or State-owned. This issue figured in the talks during the visit of Mr.Zardari to China in July last.

5.Mr.Zardari once again took up with the Chinese the pending Pakistani proposals for the upgradation of the Gwadar port, the construction of an oil refinery and an airport in Gwadar and the construction of oil/gas pipelines from Gwadar to Xinjiang. While the Chinese have readily responded in a positive manner to various proposals for projects in the Gilgit-Baltistan area, they are still hesitant regarding new projects in the Balochistan area. While they do not anticipate any security problems in the Gilgit-Baltistan area, they are still worried about the security situation in Balochistan.

6. Mr.Zardari’s disappointment over the Chinese hesitation in the Balochistan area became evident in his reported remarks to Prime Minister Wen Jiabao that Pakistan desired that “China should take maximum benefits from the Gwadar Port.” From this it was evident that while Pakistan is keen for the quick implementation of the Gwadar-related projects, security considerations still inhibited the Chinese response.

7. Pakistan has reached a deal with Iran in respect of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. While Iran will finance and construct the pipeline on its side, Pakistan has agreed to do so on its side, but it does not have the money. Will the Chinese give the money and help in the pipeline construction in return for a supply of part of the gas from Iran? This is a question which Pakistan has repeatedly raised with Beijing. China has been reluctant so far. According to reliable sources, Mr. Zardari raised this issue once again in Beijing, but there was no positive response from the Chinese. ( Please refer to my article of July 11,2010, titled "PAKISTAN AS CHINA’S FORCE-MULTIPLIER AGAINST INDIA" available at ) an interview over the State radio on December 28, 2009,on the need for a naval base in the Indian Ocean region, Rear Admiral Yin Zhou, an expert of the Chinese Navy, said: “I believe that a relatively stable, relatively solid base for resupply and repair would be appropriate. Such a base would provide a steady source of fresh food, along with facilities for communications, ship repair and recreation. Any definite decision to establish such a base would have to be taken by the Communist Party. Supplying and maintaining the ( Chinese) fleet off Somalia was challenging without such a base. Other nations were unlikely to object.”

9.Subsequently, the Chinese authorities denied any interest in acquiring a naval base in the Indian Ocean region. Despite this, the debate continues in academic circles in China about the ultimate need for a base to make the anti-piracy patrols of the Chinese Navy effective. It is in this context that Pakistan has renewed its pressure on China to take more interest in the development of Gwadar as an international commercial port and oil/gas transhipment facility to meet the external trade and energy requirements of Western China and as a major naval base to meet the Indian Ocean anti-piracy patrol requirements of the Chinese Navy.

10. The Chinese, who are already involved in an imbroglio with Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam and the US over their power projection attempts in the East and South China Sea, do not want to get involved in a similar imbroglio by giving evidence of a similar power projection exercise in the Indian Ocean area. They have been trying to project their present interest in the Indian Ocean area as meant to ensure the safety of their external trade and energy supplies and nothing more.

11. At the same time, the temptation for a permanent Naval presence in the Indian Ocean area with a strategic naval base available for use by the Chinese Navy is likely to grow stronger despite their present denials of any such interest or intention. If and when that happens and if they accept the Pakistani offer to take over Gwadar for commercial and naval purposes, Gwadar could emerge as China's Okinawa in the Indian Ocean region. (19-9-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )




According to the Ahlul Bayt News Agency of Iran, 25 Shias have been killed and 80 others injured In the Parachinar area in the Kurram Agency of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan during the last two weeks following attacks by members of the Haqqani network of the Afghan Taliban on the Kheyvas village in the Shaluzan Mountains. It claimed that the Shias put up a fierce resistance to the attack and managed to kill 10 members of the Taliban, including two commanders of the Haqqani network. The news agency has alleged that the Pakistani Army, instead of helping the Shias beat back the Taliban attack, bombed the Shia positions from the air in order to help the Taliban. All shops in the area remained closed on September 18,2010, to protest against the Pakistan Government's failure to protect the Shias of the Kurram Agency from repeated attacks by the Taliban. The news agency said: " The Kurram Agency has been virtually cut off from the rest of Pakistan for the past two years due to intense clashes between Shiite and Talibani rebels."

2. On September 18,the "News" of Pakistan reported as follows: " Clashes triggered by a dispute over the ownership of a water channel between two rival groups a month ago came to an end on Friday ( September 17) after a peace Jirga convened by the political administration succeeded in effecting a ceasefire, official sources said. The sources said the clashes had erupted between the Mangal and Turi Bangash tribes over the ownership of a watercourse in Shalozan and Khewas areas near the Pak-Afghan border. The incessant fighting left 102 people dead and over 150 injured. The fighting took a sectarian colour as the Mangal tribe belongs to the Sunni sect while Turi and Bangash are Shias. Fresh clashes erupted on Thursday (September 16) and continued on Friday (September 17), leaving 48 persons dead and 71 others wounded. Four villages — Aqal Shah Killay, Sarang Killay, Qabli and Khewas Killay — were also torched amid the exchange of heavy fire. The rival groups also took several people hostage. Alarmed by the situation, the political administration of Kurram Agency called a peace Jirga comprising Shia and Sunni elders that brought the hostilities to an end. “The Jirga was called at a checkpost on the boundary of Sadda and Kurram. The members of the peace Jirga and political administration representatives held talks with the members of the Mangal and Turi Bangash tribes. The Jirga persuaded the rival groups to agree to a ceasefire,” said Political Agent Syed Musaddiq Shah while talking to The News by telephone. He said that it was agreed to hold regular sessions of the Jirga to ensure durable peace in the area and forestall such incidents in future."

3.The Iranian news agency and the "News" are apparently referring to the same series of clashes, but the estimate of fatalities given by the "News" is much higher than that given by the Iranian agency. However, the fatalities mentioned by the Iranian agency are only of Shias, whereas those mentioned by "News" seem to include the fatalities incurred by the Shias as well as the Sunnis. If the figures given by the "News" are to be believed, the Shias seemed to have inficted more casualties on the Sunnis than vice versa. It also needs to be noted that while the Iranian news agency talks of the involvement of the Haqqani network in the clashes, with the support of the Pakistan Army, the "News" makes no reference to it.

4.In a report published on September 16, the "Dawn" of Karachi refers to the presence of the Haqqani network in the Kurram Agency, but claims that the network is actually trying to bring about a reconciliation between the Shias and the Sunnis of the area. The "Dawn" reported as follows: “A Taliban faction fighting US forces in Afghanistan is trying to end a tribal dispute which has resulted in severe clashes in Kurram Agency. According to sources, Taliban of the Jalaluddin Haqqani group are in contact with elders of rival tribes and talks between the Haqqani group and elders from Upper and Lower Kurram were held before Eidul Fitr. “Two trustworthy people of Jalaluddin Haqqani took part in the talks,” they said, adding that the next round of talks was expected soon. They said elders of Turi and Bangash tribes had said that they would attend further talks only if nine people kidnapped after an attack on two vehicles in Lower Kurram in July were freed and safety of passengers travelling between Parachinar and Peshawar was guaranteed. “These measures are necessary to build confidence among the tribes and prepare the ground for future talks,” an elder said. He said the Taliban had told them that they wanted reconciliation among the tribes and had approached all groups to start negotiations."

5. The "Dawn" report added: "The sources said the Taliban had been in contact with local tribes for some time but the talks had not produced any result so far. The first round of talks was held in Balishkhel village in March last year and was attended also by Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud. Another team of Taliban visited the area in September last year. According to the sources, a relative of a former governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and his local business partner facilitated the talks which ended without achieving anything. It may be mentioned, Nato officials and the Afghan government made similar efforts and invited elders of various tribes to Paktia province of Afghanistan in May last year to urge them to resolve their disputes. Violent clashes have been taking place in the Kurram valley since November 2007 and thousands of people have been killed or injured and hundreds of families have been displaced. The area is cut off from the rest of the country and local people travel on the Thall-Parachinar road in convoys protected by security personnel. "

6. The "Dawn" further said: "The government brokered a peace deal and an agreement to end violence was signed in Murree in October 2008, but there has been no let-up in violence in the valley. Insiders said the aim behind Taliban’s reconciliation efforts was to secure the strategic region and turn it into a safe route to Afghanistan. Kurram valley borders Afghanistan from three sides, Paktia on its west, Nangarhar on the north and Khost on the south. When militant groups signed peace deals with the government in South and North Waziristan, some armed groups tried to use Kurram for their activities in Afghanistan. Under the agreements, the militant groups operating in Waziristan were required not to infiltrate into Afghanistan. Tension flared in the area when Baitullah Mehsud, the slain chief of the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, deputed Hakimullah as ‘commander’ for Kurram, Khyber and Orakzai agencies in 2008 and tribal people in Kurram opposed TTP’s activities. Local tribes blamed Taliban for violence and insecurity in their area. According to the sources, Taliban have told the elders that tension in Kurram has had an adverse effect on the ‘Jihad’ in Afghanistan and that they are interested in ending disputes among local groups. But several tribes are sceptical about the initiative and suspect that the Taliban are interested only in securing a safe passage for their cross-border movement. “Taliban are yet to show their cards, but we have already conveyed to the negotiators that people in Kurram are against the presence of outsiders in their area,” a source said. “

7. Apparently unconnected with the developments in the Kurram Agency, the "Dawn" also reported on September 16 a steep increase in US Drone (pilotless planes) strikes against the Haqqani network. It said: "“Apparently frustrated over Pakistan military’s inaction against the Haqqani network, the United States has this month unleashed a relentless wave of drone attacks in North Waziristan, hoping to downgrade the operational capabilities of the group it considers to be the most lethal militant outfit in Afghanistan. Since Sept 2, there have been 13 strikes by unmanned Predator drones in North Waziristan — the highest number in a month since the US began using them to hit targets in Pakistan in 2004. The number of drone attacks this year has already crossed 70 — the highest figure for a year. According to military sources, an operation in North Waziristan got delayed because the army was preoccupied with fighting militancy in other tribal areas and flood relief. This window was fully exploited by the group to intensify its activities, defence analysts believe.“The Americans want to check that freedom of space available to the Haqqanis through intensified drone attacks,” a source said.”

8.The “Dawn” added: “There are few takers for the Pakistani explanation in the US and many describe the delay as tactical. Besides, Pakistan had in June initiated efforts to secure a place for the Haqqanis in post-war Afghanistan by working out a rapprochement between the group and the Karzai government. US opposition to the initiative halted it. Sources suggest that Pakistan would make fresh moves to discuss peace with the Haqqanis, in the context of the overall reconciliation plan, during Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s current visit to Pakistan. The pattern of the attacks this month shows that the primary target is the Haqqani network, even though his host Hafiz Gul Bahadar and foreign militants of Al Qaeda have also been targeted.”

9.It further said: “The strikes this month have predominantly been in Miramshah sub-division, where the Haqqani network’s headquarters are based and where the group carries out its financial dealings, acquisition of weapons and strategic planning. Five of the attacks occurred in Datakhel tehsil, which is home to Gul Bahadar’s clan Uthmanzai Wazir. Dandi Derpakhel, the scene of another attack in Miramshah, is where members of Jalaluddin Haqqani’s family live. Gul Bahadar, who leads the other major militant grouping in North Waziristan, is more than a host for the Haqqanis. He not only provides them with the tribal support the Haqqanis lack, but also gives them passage to the border. The only attack this month outside Miramshah was in Shawal, where foreign fighters loyal to Al Qaeda have sanctuaries.”

10.The “Dawn” added: “The US, while targeting the Haqqanis, is pursuing the ‘hammer and anvil approach’. Alongside the spike in the drone attacks, US Special Forces have launched an intense operation against the group in eastern Afghanistan, killing a number of its ‘commanders’. The Haqqani network has been the focus of US action for the past two years. However, after the Dec 2009 suicide attack on the Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, a key facility of the CIA, the network again came under renewed focus. In this unprecedented intense bombardment by drones, military officials see a shift in US policy in Afghanistan from counter-insurgency to counter-terrorism.” (18-9-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )