Monday, February 28, 2011



In assessing Col.Muammar Gadaffi’s continuIng defiance of the international pressure to force him to quit, the following facts have to be kept in mind:

• Firstly, what one is facing in Libya is not a revolutionary situation as one had seen in Egypt with mass participation by the youth and other sections of the population, but a civil war like situation with members of rival tribes taking a leading part in the fighting on both sides.
• Secondly, despite reports to the contrary, the involvement of youth in the fight against Gadaffi is not as widespread as it was in Egypt against Hosni Mubarak. The fight against Mubarak was led by innovative and enterprising youth who had nothing to do with his regime in the past, but the fight against Gadaffi is being led by a small group of ex-politicians, ex-bureaucrats, tribal leaders, lawyers and others, who had collaborated with Gaddafi’s oppressive regime, but had fallen out with him only recently. They do not command the same respect with the general population as the young leaders of Egypt did.
• Thirdly, Mubarak had only two forces at his command for dealing with the protest--- the riot police which comes under the Ministry of the Interior and the Army. The riot police got discredited in the initial days of the protest and the Army was not willing to use force against the protestors. Gadaffi has built up a multiplicity of forces to maintain his rule. If one force is unwilling to carry out his orders, there are others who are willing to.
• Fourthly, ever since he succeeded Anwar Sadat in 1981, Mubarak had enjoyed a cosy relationship with the West in general and the US in particular. He also enjoyed good relations with Israel. The intelligence agencies of the US and other Western countries had considerably penetrated and softened the Egyptian Armed Forces and intelligence agencies. This enabled the US to play successfully an activist role in bringing about a peaceful change in Egypt once it realized that Mubarak had to go. Ever since he came to power in 1969, Gaddafi and his forces had looked upon the US and Israel as Libya’s principal enemies. They had prepared themselves for over 40 years to confront the US and Israel. The US had not been able to penetrate the Libyan security forces and intelligence agencies in the same way as it had done in Egypt. It still does not know through whom it should and it can operate in Libya. The recent defectors such as the Libyan diplomats posted abroad and some of the Ministers are unknown quantities in Libya. They will have only limited value as assets for the US.
• Fifthly, there are many strands involved in the protest movement in Libya----anti-Gadaffi elements, rival tribes and anti-foreigner elements such as those who attacked Chinese and South Korean workers and construction sites. Resentment over the better quality of life enjoyed by foreign workers has been an important factor in complicating the situation in Libya. One has not so far seen attacks on foreign workers in Tunisia or Egypt or other countries affected by the current unrest.
• Sixthly, there are only two ways of bringing about the end of the Gaddafi regime---- by inciting a revolt against him by the multiple forces raised by him. The West has not so far been able to do this. The other way is by training and arming the protesters who have liberated large pockets of Eastern Libya, with Benghazi as the epicenter, and helping them to march on to Tripoli to get rid of Gaddafi. Distances involved are large and even if the West provides them with an air cover by enforcing a no-fly zone, the marchers have to cross areas inhabited by tribals who have till now been loyal to Gadaffi. If the fighting is fierce and continues for a long time, there could be a danger of a balkanization of Libya.

2. Gaddafi may not be another Mubarak, who left with his tail tucked between his legs. He may turn out to be another Saddam Hussein----defiant till he dies. ( 1-3-11)

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



Repeated calls for “Jasmine Strolls” in Chinese cities, including Beijing, emanating from overseas Chinese web sites have added to the nervousness of the Chinese authorities.

2.A Jasmine Stroll is a stroll undertaken by those responding to the calls at pre-indicated places at pre-indicated timings to quietly demonstrate, without shouting slogans, their demand for the end of the rule of the Chinese Communist Party and for democracy and human rights. The purpose of the Strolls is not to indulge in any noticeable protest activity, but just to get out into the streets in large numbers and take a Stroll as a silent mark of their demands.

3. Two such calls have so far been issued---the second one being for Jasmine Strolls on February 27. Nervous Chinese authorities deployed the police and officials of the Ministry of Public Security in large numbers in different cities. While there were no unusual crowds in the streets in addition to the usual Sunday strollers, the authorities have been rounding up suspicious persons for interrogation.

4. It has been reported that among those who took a stroll at the pre-indicated time in a pre-indicated street in Beijing was the outgoing US Ambassador Mr.Jon Huntsman. Following this, the Chinese authorities have blocked his name from all search engines. A call has now been disseminated for another Jasmine Stroll on March 6.

5. The Chinese authorities have stepped up security precautions in the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region and in Chinese-Controlled Xinjiang. It has been reported that all mobile phones of Tibetans and Uighurs are being checked for any prohibited anti-Government songs. Mobile phones containing anti-Government tunes are being seized and the users detained for interrogation.

6. In Tibet and Xinjiang, shops selling books, newspapers and music CDs are being checked for any prohibited material or for cuttings or Xerox copies of reports regarding the unrest in Tunisia and Egypt.

7. The authorities’ security concerns have increased since many of the Chinese being evacuated from Libya in special air lifts following attacks on Chinese workers in Libya are Uighurs. They are apparently worried that these Uighurs, on their return to Xinjiang, might spread stories of the unrest in Egypt, Tunisia and other places and this could encourage the inhabitants of Xinjiang to come out in the streets.

8. The Chinese authorities have not yet informed their population of the details of the attacks on the Chinese workers in Libya. So far, there have been no attacks on Chinese workers in other countries affected by the present unrest. If there are similar incidents in other countries, the Government’s embarrassment could increase.

9. Radio Free Asia, funded by the US State Department, continues to disseminate guidance to the people of China as to how to circumvent Internet controls. ( 28-2-11)

( 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: )