MonitorsPublished on Sep 16, 2011
A decade after the 'Twin Towers' came crashing down in New York, the US has given its blessings for the Taliban to open its political office in the distant West Asian State of Qatar.
Afghanistan: ISI crony on attack-mode as Taliban readies for political role
< class="heading1">Analysis

A decade after the ’Twin Towers’ came crashing down in New York, the US has given its blessings for the Taliban to open its political office in the distant West Asian State of Qatar. But then, both the Taliban and the US were taken aback by the developments that have taken place in the past week. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that they were not aware of the US initiative and that they got to know of this development only through the media. It is, however, believed that Mullah Omar, the supremo of the Taliban, has appointed Tayyab Agha as the man in charge of the Qatar political office as and when it materialised.

On the other hand, the US as well as the ISAF was at the receiving end of a rude shock. The first one was a truck bomb that left 77 American soldiers wounded on 10 September. The second incident came in the form of a commando-style attack in Kabul, killing seven dead and injuring 19. The second attack took place in the high security zone of Kabul which among other things houses the US Embassy and the NATO Headquarters. The militants did not succeed in causing greater damage to both men and material, which was the obvious target. The resulting fire-fight saw the use of helicopter gunships. It can be said that the Afghan forces along with the ISAF were in a position to neutralise the militants despite the fact that the gun battle was a lengthy affair.

It is rather difficult to ascertain the identity of the group that had masterminded the two attacks. The local media reported that the Taliban being responsible for the Kabul commando attack, but US Defence Secretary Leon E Panetta suspects the role of the Haqqani network in both the incidents. If the role of the Haqqani network is confirmed, then the situation in Afghanistan has changed. This is so because till date it was believed that the Taliban was the key obstacle in restoring peace in the war-torn nation, with smaller groups including the Haqqani network playing second fiddle. But if the involvement of the Haqqani network is beyond suspicion, then Afghanistan is slated for another period of difficulties as was the case in the post-Soviet withdrawal in the pre-Taliban era. At the time, the Taliban was only yet another group operating the turbulent nation.

The choice of Qatar as a location for the Taliban to open a political office is crucial. The choice of country in this case is just not confined to Qatar providing space or acting as a go-between the belligerents to the Afghan conflict. Unlike Saudi Arabia or the UAE, Qatar did not have any diplomatic relationship with the Taliban when the latter was administering Afghanistan. This has provided an ideal platform for the US to engage the Taliban in a manner in which Washington retains the upper hand. In addition, the Taliban’s political office is a result of the ISAF’s desire work out the feasibility for the terminating their military presence in Afghanistan and handing over the affairs of Afghanistan to Afghans.

This is so as US President Barack Obama has set 2014 as the deadline for the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan, thereby limiting the capabilities of the ISAF. This apart, the decade-long war has headed nowhere with the Taliban having an advantage by its sheer capacity to withstand and survive the western military assault for such a long time.

At the same time talks with the Taliban through channels that are far from formal have been working overtime for quite a while. Establishing a political office by the Taliban outside the region will only go to formalise the structures for negotiations, which is aimed at working out an exit strategy for the US and also to bring the Taliban aboard. All these will rest upon the peace deal that has to be worked out between Kabul (the Government) and Kandahar (the stronghold of the Taliban). It will also include the neutralisation or marginalisation of other militias in the region that are at best seen as agents of the neighbouring countries and not as key domestic players in the future of Afghanistan.

Qatar will by all means be a bid to limit the like of the Haqqani network, which is acting as a crony of Pakistan’s ISI. At the same time, the recent attacks can be described the last bang before the guns fall silent.

(The writer is a Research Intern at Observer Research Foundation)

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rare earth elements found

The US Geological Survey (USGS) has found approximately one million tonnes of earth elements in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. According to a study conducted by the USGS, funded by the US Department of Defense Task Force for Business and Stability Operations, the area contains a major potential source of light rare earth elements such as lanthanum, cerium and neodymium. Currently, about 95 percent of the demand for rare earth materials is met by China.

Rare elements are used in a range of products such as high-strength magnets, alloys for batteries, etc. Officials have estimated almost $ 1-trillion worth of iron, gold, lithium in Afghanistan. They feel this would have a significant impact on improving the living conditions of the Afghan people.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, 15 September, 2011;, 15 September, 2011.


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Army to be made modern force: PM

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said her Government will implement the ’Forces Goal 2030’ to turn the army into an effective and modern force alongside implementing its ’Vision 2021’.

The Prime Minister called upon the members of the Bangladesh Army to build their force as a disciplined, efficient, and modern one -- ready round the clock for protecting the country’s independence and sovereignty. Hasina said her Government is trying its level best for modernisation of the armed forces with limited resources.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, September 12, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Manmohan visit couldn’t fulfil expectations, says AI ally

Indian Prime minister Manmohan Sigh’s recent visit to Dhaka could not fulfil the expectations it had created in adding a new dimension to Bangladesh-India relations, the Workers Party, a partner of the Awami League-led ruling coalition, has claimed.

A Press statement by the party politburo said that though ’important progress’ was achieved during the visit in resolving outstanding issues, the last-minute failure to conclude the Teestawater-sharing deal created a new crisis of trust between the two countries.

The party’s highest policy-making body said that the Government of Sheikha Hasina must share the responsibility of the failure of the two countries to conclude the Teesta deal, which Manmohan Singh, termed as ’unfortunate.’
< class="text11verdana">Source: New Age, September 12, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Money-laundering trial begins

The trial in the money-laundering case against Opposition BNP senior vice-chairman TariqueRahman and his business associate Giasuddin Al Mamun began this week. Out of the 15 cases against TariqueRahman, this is the first to go on trial in his absence.

Earlier on August 8, the court framed charges against Tarique and Mamun. The court also issued an arrest warrant for Tarique, who is at present in London.

The Anti-Corruption Commission filed a case in October 2009 against Tarqiue and Mamun for laundering Tk 20.41 crores to Singapore between 2003 and 2007. The charges were pressed against the duo on July 6 last year. Tarique was arrested on March 7 of 2007, and later allowed to travel abroad for medical treatment.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, September 12, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Border-management talks with India

On 15 September 2011, the Seventh India-Bhutan Border Management and Security dialogue was held in New Delhi. The two sides discussed issues relating to threats, security and issues regarding border management.

The meeting also touched upon the misuse of SIM cards, opening of a seasonal Land Customs Station at Jiti and training of security personnel. The next round of these talks is expected to be held in Bhutan in 2012.
< class="text11verdana">Source: ibnlive, September 15, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Kurichchu dam not cause for floods in India’

Following reports in Indian media that claimed Kurichhu dam was causing floods downstream in India, the managing director of Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC) said Kurichu Hydro Power Corporation (KHPC) was not responsible for the floods in the Indian state of West Bengal and Assam.

On August 7, Indian media reports quoted the main Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party saying that the issue of Kurichhu dam should be discussed with Bhutanese authorities, solutions found and the affected people treated well.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, September 11, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US bans Indian Mujahideen

Indian Mujahideen is the first India-based terrorist group to be designated as foreign terrorist group by the U.S. and is a lethal terrorist outfit, U.S. officials said.

"They are a very lethal terrorist group in their own right in India. They have carried out a number of attacks within India’s borders on innocent civilians, and although not confirmed, there’s a suspicion that they were responsible for the recent bombings in Mumbai on July 13," Mark Toner, State Department spokesman, said
< class="text11verdana">Source:, September 16, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Objection to Commons’ debate on J&K

India has objected to the debate in British House of Commons on alleged human rights violations in J&K, describing it as an initiative of "back-bencher MPs". Sources said the Government also handed over a demarche to the British authorities, stating that the debate had the potential to adversely impact bilateral ties.

"We take due note of the proposed debate in the UK House of Commons later today, which we believe is an initiative of back-bencher MPs and does not reflect the position of the UK government," said foreign ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, September 16, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Keep off PoK, China told

India has upped the ante against Chinese activities in Pakistan occupied Kashmir.

A few months ago, when China sent a diplomatic protest (demarche) to New Delhi regarding proposed oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea, off Vietnam, India had refused to entertain it.

Instead, in its reply, India told China that it should stop its activities in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK).
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, September 16, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Talks tough on climate issues

After showing flexibility for over two years, India has toughened its stand on climate issues, refusing any verification regime for voluntary climate actions and seeking a re-look at Cancun agreements to include equity as an "essential" parameter for further talks and extension of Kyoto protocol.

Former Environment MinisterJairam Ramesh had shown flexibility but the new minister JayanthiNatarajan abandoned the soft approach after her first meeting on climate change issues with 150 Environmental Ministers in South Africa.

"Talks are a continuous process," Natarajan said, when asked whether there would be an agreement at the next conference of 195 countries in Durban, South Africa later this year. "Our position is clear that we want second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol," she said.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, September 16, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BRICS to decide on Euro support

Finance ministers of the BRICS countries will take a call on supporting the euro zone at a meeting in Washington later this month, a senior official in India’s finance ministry said on Wednesday.

The BRICS’ major emerging economies are in preliminary talks on increasing their holdings of euro-denominated bonds to help ease Europe’s debt crisis, a senior Brazilian government official told Reuters on Tuesday.

"The idea has been thrown open by the Brazilian finance minister. The BRICS finance ministers will take a call when they meet on 22nd September in Washington," R. Gopalan, India’s economic affairs secretary, told reporters on Wednesday.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, September14. 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Companies can raise yuan-debt

The Government has eased overseas borrowing rules and allowed companies to raise as much as $1 billion in yuan debt as higher local funding costs threaten to choke growth in Asia’s third-biggest economy.

The Government has decided to raise the cap on foreign borrowings without approvals by 50 per cent to $750 million, and said it may permit the overall limit to exceed $30 billion "on a case-by-case" basis, R. Gopalan, Secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs in the Finance Ministry, told reporters in New Delhi. Companies building airports, roads, ports and power plants will benefit from the new rules, he said.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, September 15, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Four-lakh millionaires by 2012

The millionaire club is set to witness a major boom as their numbers are expected to more than double to 4.03 lakh by 2015 on the back of a robust economic growth and impressive returns from stock and property markets. The total wealth of these millionaires, having minimum invisible assets of $ 1 million, is also estimated to more than double to about $ 2.5 trillion by 2015, a report of Asian wealth market has said.

Investment banking major CLSA said in its report, titled ’Wealthy Asia’ that there were a total of 1,73,000 millionaires in India at the end of 2010, with total wealth of $949 billion (over Rs 42,00,000 crore).

For 2015, the report forecasted the country to have as many as 4,03,000 HNWIs (High Net Worth Individuals), who have been classified as those having minimum investible assets of $one million, with a combined wealth of $2,465 billion (more than Rs 1,00,00,000 crore).

CLSA said that wealth growth in India was expected to be "extremely strong" on the back of strong economic growth and robust returns from key asset classes.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, September 11, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Arab Spring’ a fitting reply: President Nasheed

"As soon as any Government chooses to rule by the gun rather than by consent, it loses its legitimacy and its right to govern," Maldivian President Mohammed Nasheed has said. Addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, he referred the ’Arab Spring’ and said, "This year’s protests show, that the power of the government to control information has been broken forever?It is a time of awakening, a moment when Muslims across the world are standing up as one to demand equality, human rights, democracy and the rule of law. These developments provide a fitting rebuttal to those, inside and outside of Islam, who claim that our religion is not compatible with democracy.

President Nasheed said that governments everywhere must see peaceful protests not as a threat, but as an opportunity, to start a dialogue with the people and to begin the process of reform.Stressing the importance of establishing individual liberties and a sustainable rule with the consent of the governed, the President said that following globalisation and the democratizstion of information, "governments simply have no option" but to listen to the demands of pro-democracy protestors. "In a time of awakening, Muslims across the world are standing up, governments must see peaceful protests not as a threat but as an opportunity," said the President.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Miadhu, September 15, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">E-voting for presidential polls

In an effort to ensure more trans¬par¬ent vot¬ing, the Elec¬tion Com¬mis¬sion has unanimously decided to intro¬duce electronic voting for the 2013 Presidential Elections. The President of the Elections Commission, Fuad Thaufeeg said that the current elections laws stand in the way of implementing such a system because they refer to paper voter lists and ballot boxes. He said that the commission is working with the necessary authorities to amend the elections laws to introduce electronic voting system.

Fuad Thaufeeq said that the electronic voting will present numerous advantages over traditional paper ballot voting.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Miadhu, September 13, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Maldives needs an Anna Hazare’

Thimarafushi MP, Mohamed Mustafa has said that Maldives needed an Anna Hazare to fight the malady of corruption so prevalent in the society. "There are many rats drenched in corruption in this country. We will start a campaign within the Peoples’ Majlis and other that to catch these rats," he told a television channel.

Mustafa said that he will never support any Minister who does not follow the laws passed in the Majlis. He said that he will support to take a no-confidence vote against such a minister. "Especially if this law is very related to the pulse of the people," he said.

In view of the issue of the Committee allowance of the MPs, Mustafa said that if even 10 percent of the members from his constituency requests him not to take the allowance he would opt to not to take it. "However the public have shown no concern over this matter. Only a select few who want to achieve a political motive are only showing concern," he said.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Miadhu, September 13, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Next two months crucial: PM

Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai has urged the political parties to cooperate in concluding the pending works of the peace and constitution drafting tasks in the next two months. Addressing the nation from Parliament, he also reiterated on the completion of the remaining tasks of the peace process and preparing the first draft of the constitution as per its earlier commitments.

Urging the parties not to obstruct his efforts to move the peace process forward, he, however warned of dreadful consequences if parties failed to complete the tasks of peace and constitutional drafting. In his speech, he also urged the parties not to doubt the Government’s activities including the recently unveiled relief package. Claiming that the government’s recent initiatives were just a trailer, he said that scores of tasks are yet to be carried out.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, September 16, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Political delegation from India

A top Indian political delegation comprising leaders from four major parties is set to meet the newly-elected Government in Nepal later this week. Nepal is now run by Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai. This will be the first interaction between politicians of the two neighbouring countries after the Bhattarai government was sworn in last month.

Congress General SecretaryDigvijaya Singh, JD(U) president SharadYadav, CPM politburo member SitaramYechury and former BJP chief Rajnath Singh have been invited to visit Nepal.

All these leaders maintain close ties with Nepal’s political parties. Yechury, particularly, had been a key interlocutor for the Indian government with Nepal. He also played a major role in bringing the outlawed Maoists led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda) in the political mainstream.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, September 12, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian court re-issues warrants

A court in Bihar has re-issued non-bailable warrants against 11 UCPN (Maoist) leaders, who were arrested in Patna in 2004 for their alleged involvement in anti-Indian activities. A Patna Sessions Court had first issued the non-bailable warrants against the Maoist leaders in December 2006. The hearing, however, did not progress as the Maoists joined the peace process and some of the defendants went on to become ministers and parliamentarians.

The court’s decision to renew the warrants after a long hiatus has elicited many doubts and suspicions. A source at the court said the move was possibly prompted by the controversy drawn by the case in recent times. A Government lawyer said that as long as the case remains unsettled, the court could take such decisions any time.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, September 14, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Illegal weapons on the rise

There has been an increase in the flow of illegal weapons into Nepal from India since the past few months. The Banke police have launched a major crackdown on smuggling of such weapons into the country. As Dashain festival approaches, criminals are smuggling small arms from India to extort businessmen.

According to the police, a home-made pistol costs only NRs 10,000. Small-time Indian weapon agents easily supply small arms to Nepal. The easy availability of arms has given rise to criminal activities. Police say that weapons smuggled from India are circulated across the country. They also say several armed groups that are active in Tarai also use small-arms smuggled from India.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, September 12, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Friendly gestures on India front

India and Pakistan have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on drug control and preventing the trafficking in narcotics. The MoU has outlined that the two countries will cooperate with each other in preventing, suppressing and investigating drug traffickers and exchange literature on law, rules and best practices with respect to curbing the trade on narcotics. The two countries will also provide legal assistance to the other as and the need arises and also exchange information and intelligence with the other.

On the other hand Pakistan is hopeful the India will allow Islamabad to increase its textile exports to Europe under a post-flood trade assistance scheme. It is expected that the meeting between the Trade Ministers of the two countries later in September will result in India not veto the trade concession that Pakistan is expected to get from the European Union.

A formal approval by India could follow at the World Trade Organisation in early November 2011 and subsequently by the European Parliament, opening the way for European duties to be lifted on a list of Pakistani textiles and other products including ethanol as early as January 2012.

In other developments Pakistan has formally sought India’s assistance in procuring dengue medication from India so as to arrest the epidemic that has broken in Punjab Province of Pakistan. A formal request was made by the government to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad on 13 September.

At present 4000 cases have been reported in Punjab.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, September 12-14 2011;, September 15, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Wheat, vegetables for Iran oil

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Iran’s President Mehmoud Ahmadinejad have agreed upon a gas pipeline project between the two countries as well as exporting 1000MW of electricity from Iran to Pakistan to meet with its power shortage.

The two leaders also agreed to increase bilateral trade from the current $1.2 billion to $10 billion. To this end Pakistan will be exporting wheat, fruits and vegetables to Iran. At the same time the two countries have agreed to setting up a joint airline to facilitate connectivity between the two countries which in future can be expanded to intercontinental transit.

All these were achieved in the backdrop of the 18th meeting of the Iran-Pakistan Joint Economic Cooperation Commission.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, September 13, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">External aid for flood victims

Unprecedented levels of torrential rains have resulted in floods in 16 districts of Sindh. The rains and the subsequent floods have resulted in 64,000 livestock and 90 percent of crops being lost in the Province. The army was called upon for search and rescue operations and also to assist the State in relief measures that have been initiated.

China and Iran have announced aid to Pakistan to meet the present challenge. China will be supplying $4.6 million worth of relief and Iran has promised $100 million for rehabilitation. The US has also announced relief measure which would be immediate food assistance for approximately 346500 persons and rations for 5500 families. Apart from this other assistance includes tents, medical support. All aid will be through the USAID agency.

Despite the fact that Prime Minister Syed Raza Gilani has said that there is no need for external assistance, the United Nations is concerned about the situation and will also provide assistance.
< class="text11verdana">Source:;; 11, 12, 13, 14 September 2011.

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt, TNA resume talks

The Government and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) which resumed talks after a lapse of more than a month, agreed to continue their talks in future on the basis of various statements and proposals made public in the past for the evolution of a political solution.

These proposals made public earlier involves the report published by the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) and the political package ut forward by the government of former President Chandrika Kumaratunga too.

However, the joint statement issued after the meeting did not give specific details about any such statement. The communiqué worded vaguely said, "It was agreed at this meeting that the talks could continue on the basis of the Discussion Paper submitted by the TNA on 18 March 2011 along with earlier proposals, statements and reports for Constitutional Reforms made public so as to agree on the principles that should form the basis of a political settlement to arrive at acceptable Constitutional arrangements soon."
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, Colombo, September 16, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US wants para-militaries stopped in North

The US has urged the Sri Lankan Government to control para-military activity in the North and for Tamil police personnel to be deployed to the North with visiting US Assistant Secretary of State Robert O Blake also telling newsmen that he was concerned about Human Rights in Sri Lanka. He specifically named the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) of Minister Douglas Devananda in this regard.

Blake said the decision for resumption of talks between the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the government was encouraging and that he felt both sides were taking these discussions very seriously. "I think there is a far more optimistic picture with both sides taking the talks very seriously," he said and added that the 13th Amendment was being expanded by both sides and was not a redundant mechanism.

Speaking on the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) he explained that it was premature to make any judgments on the commission before its report was released. "We have to wait and see what’s in the report and the issues raised and thereafter make a judgment," he said. However, Blake did not dispel the possibility of international pressure if the report by the commission was found to be inadequate.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, Colombo, September 15, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Darusman report’ sent to UNHRC

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had sent the ’Darusman report’ on Sri Lanka to the UN Human Rights Council, bringing a potential international inquiry one step closer, the AFP news agency reported. "The Sri Lankan Government has been informed of the Secretary-General’s decision to share the report with the council and the high commissioner," a UN spokesman said in a statement.

Ban had not made a recommendation calling for an international inquiry. "The Secretary- General is simply sending the report. It’s for members to decide how to respond to it," the statement said, adding that Sri Lanka was given an opportunity to respond, but it called the report biased.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, Colombo, September 13, 2011.

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Afghanistan: Aarya Venugopal;
Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharje;
Bhutan and Pakistan: Sripathi Narayanan;
India: Satish Misra;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N SathiyaMoorthy;

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.