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Dhaka faces bleak choices as Delhi readies for war

Shahid Islam
 
Living amidst dangerous neighbours is scary, confusing and unpredictable. In South Asia, guns are once again poised and pointed against each other along the so called Line of Control (Loc) in the disputed India-Pakistan borders. If push comes to shove, as it did many times in the past, the consequence for Bangladesh could be as rewarding or devastating as it was in 1971.
Full Story
Shahid Islam
 
Living amidst dangerous neighbours is scary, confusing and unpredictable. In South Asia, guns are once again poised and pointed against each other along the so called Line of Control (Loc) in the disputed India-Pakistan borders. If push comes to shove, as it did many times in the past, the consequence for Bangladesh could be as rewarding or devastating as it was in 1971.
The latest threats of war coming from the mouths of the top military and political leaders of the two nuclear- armed nations follow the militant attack last Sunday inside the Uri military installation within the Indian-controlled Kashmir in which 17 Indian soldiers are reported dead and dozens critically injured.
 
Backlash from repression
Although the attack was triggered by the two months long agitation in the Kashmir Valley in which 88 people were killed and over 800 injured by deadly pellets and live bullets fired by Indian security forces, death of an school boy on Friday stirred hyper emotion among the locals and prompted Sunday’s retaliatory attack on the security forces.
The four gunmen involved in the Uri attack have all been killed by Indian forces and the attackers were identified by India as being from the Joesh-e-Mohammed group which Delhi claims to be a Pakistan-backed militant group operating inside the Indian controlled Kashmir.
The Pakistani military, as well as the country’s foreign ministry, denied its involvement in the attack, but the government and the military leaders of India are threatening to punish Pakistan by attacking it.
While Delhi has reasons to be angry, cross border attack by militant groups must not provoke a nation like India into a military showdown with another sovereign nation whose military forces played no known role in the attack.
Yet, when Delhi talks of any war with Pakistan, it usually translates into a limited conventional offensive dubbed as the ‘cool start’ to take possession of some Pakistani territories for use as the diplomatic bargaining chip before Islamabad decides to move into the nuclear option; which will cause Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) to both the parties armed with over 100 nuclear warheads on each side.  As well, the avoidance of a nuclear showdown is both rational and realistic. Both the countries have in-vulnerable nuclear missiles hidden in submarines and fighter jets that cannot be obliterated by the adversary by attacking the ground-based weapon silos and carriers.  Besides, there are scattered battle field nuclear weapons which both the countries can use for tanks and artillery guns to cause major disaster to visit upon the humanity.
 
Global implications
Even when a future war between India and Pakistan is accidental, temporary and conventional, the regional and global implications can be more profound and equally devastating. Especially the recently concluded US-India defence agreement had heightened the prospect of China and Russia getting sucked into this South Asian fray no sooner the US forces begin to land into Indian naval and air bases in the Andaman and the Nicobar islands of the Indian ocean.  This will happen because, for its part, Beijing is unwilling to compromise its China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) due to the US naval preeminence in the Indian and the Pacific oceans, as well as in the South China Sea where Russia and China are currently conducting joint war games.
The tension also mounts at a time when Russia and Pakistan had struck some strategic understanding in the aftermath of the India-US defence agreement and the forces of the previously estranged Pakistan and Russia are soon to launch joint war gaming in the region, according to news reports.
Bangladesh faces a major dilemma in so far as its bilateral ties with India, USA and China are concerned. In weeks, the Chinese President is due to arrive Dhaka to inaugurate the country’s first under-river tunnel in the Karnophuli river in Chittagong while the construction of the Sonadia deep sea port hangs on a limbo following the Japanese desire to undertake the project, at US prodding to elbow out China. Japan is US’s main strategic partner in the Pacific, hence of India too.
On the other hand, according to many in the US-based think tanks, Washington wants Dhaka to play as an independent actor so that the USA can have two diverse options along the Indian Ocean littoral in case Delhi neglects Washington’s advice on de-escalating the crisis. Washington will also have to change its options if a war breaks out between India and Pakistan and China mobilizes troops against India in the common borders.
 
Delhi should think twice
To the contrary, If Delhi can ensure neutrality of both Beijing and Dhaka, which may spare over half a million Indian troops from the mutual borders with China and Bangladesh, Delhi has the certainty of winning a conventional war with Pakistan with ease and comfort.  Even such an outcome is fraught with too many dangers of painful magnitudes. A major war, let alone a nuclear holocaust, will put Bangladesh into a quandary with respect to which way to go. In case of an India-Pakistan war, governments of all the Muslim predominant countries will be forced by public opinion to render at least vocal support to Pakistan, while the scattered militant groups like the IS and the al-Qaeda will capitalize the war to enhance their pan-Islamic agenda of liberating Kashmir on one hand, and enfeebling India on the other.
Such being the ground realities, Delhi should think twice before firing the first shot. For, any miscalculation can cost Delhi the north eastern India irrespective of whatever is desired by the incumbent Bangladesh government. In the so called Eurasian region, Russia and China have the last words, which they proved in the long staggered Syrian war.

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Nepal enters into new partnership with India

Abdur Rahman Khan
 
Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, on his return from a four-day state visit to India on Sunday, said that bilateral ties with China would not be affected by the agreements he had reached with New Delhi.
“We have maintained balanced relations with both our neighbours,” he told reporters at the Tribhuvan International Airport, claiming that his India visit was “highly successful and fruitful”. He said the visit had taken Nepal’s ties with India to a new height.
Full Story
Abdur Rahman Khan
 
Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, on his return from a four-day state visit to India on Sunday, said that bilateral ties with China would not be affected by the agreements he had reached with New Delhi.
“We have maintained balanced relations with both our neighbours,” he told reporters at the Tribhuvan International Airport, claiming that his India visit was “highly successful and fruitful”. He said the visit had taken Nepal’s ties with India to a new height.
Tight rope walking
He said: “the dynamics of Nepal’s relations with India and China are different and ties with one will not affect the other and the joint communiqué issued in Delhi would not affect relations with Beijing.”
The PM also defended some of the points of the joint communiqué and said: “Nepal and India will have similar positions in international forums on agreed matters. This is not a new thing.” Pointing out that Nepal had been backing India’s bid for a UNSC seat since 2004 and the aim of his visit was to create an environment for sub-regional cooperation.
However, some experts on international relations and political leaders have opposed a clause in the communiqué as they thought it undermined Nepal’s independent handling of its foreign policy. CPN-UML chairman and former prime minister KP Sharma Oil criticizing it said: “The way the joint communiqué was issued and its contents have made us hang our heads in shame.”
During the visit, Nepal and India signed a three-point memorandum of understanding and issued a 25-point joint communiqué. As per the MoU, the Government of India is to provide project management consultancy service for the road upgradation and improvement projects in the Tarai region of Nepal.
India has agreed to provide first a mandatory dollar credit line and a new dollar credit line of $750 million for the post-quake reconstruction in Nepal. Acknowledging the role of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) in the post-reconstruction works, Indian PM Narendra Modi said that his government would be willing to share its experience and manpower with Nepal.
 
Modi to visit Nepal
The two prime ministers also discussed the importance of open border policy in the Nepal-India trade and economic relations, the statement said. They agreed to set up a mechanism to oversee the progress of projects on a regular basis and take necessary steps to expedite their implementation.
Expressing satisfaction on the use of existing lines of credit (Loc), the two PMs also welcomed the establishment of additional Loc. Indian PM also expressed the willingness of additional allocation for infrastructure of road ways along with the integrated check posts (ICPs). Other issues like irrigation, inundation, flood etc. would be discussed in the next meeting of the Joint Committee on Water Resources at the Secretary level. The date would be finalised soon.
Finally, Modi accepted an official invitation made by Nepalese PM for a state visit. The dates would be finalised soon.

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BANGLADESH BANK HEIST
Philippines daily questioned why BB suspended investigation
Faruque Ahmed
 
All attempts to retrieve the stolen Bangladesh Bank money which hackers managed to move out of its New York-based Federal Reserve Bank accounts to the Philippines appears to be facing some impediments.  Interestingly, a Philippine daily newspaper ‘Manila Standard in a lengthy report has alleged that Bangladesh government is hiding those involved in heist within the Bangladesh Bank while pressurising the Philippines to return the stolen fund.
Full Story
Faruque Ahmed
 
All attempts to retrieve the stolen Bangladesh Bank money which hackers managed to move out of its New York-based Federal Reserve Bank accounts to the Philippines appears to be facing some impediments.  Interestingly, a Philippine daily newspaper ‘Manila Standard in a lengthy report has alleged that Bangladesh government is hiding those involved in heist within the Bangladesh Bank while pressurising the Philippines to return the stolen fund.
The daily has blamed Bangladesh for shielding those are responsible and also not showing interest to know the truth. “Why don’t they want to know the truth,” the daily questioned in its story published on September 16.
 
Bangladesh Ambassador criticized
The report said that ever since the heist of $81 million that sent to a Manila based bank, out of $101 million, the Philippines government made serious efforts to recover the fund. But it expressed frustration that the Bangladesh government did not do anything other than asking the Philippines for the return of the money. The Philippines side was seriously pondering why the Bangladesh Bank is not making public its probe report and in fact left it incomplete.
It criticized Bangladesh ambassador Maj. Gen. John Gomes saying he is persistently pestering local authorities over the return of the money but the daily felt neither he nor Bangladesh will be able to recover the money unless Bangladesh completes its investigation into the cyber heist and make public its position on the theft case.  The daily quoting a “very reliable source” in Manila said that a brother of a high central bank official in Dhaka was the custodian of the code of the bank computers when it was hacked in February this year. The revealing information partly led to the resignation of the bank governor and two other deputy governors.  The fact that they did not face questioning by anti-corruption officials suggests that the authorities may be hiding something. The public disclosure of the heist after one month of its occurrence also raised many questions.
“The central bank of Bangladesh, in a way, is the biggest stumbling block to the recovery of the stolen funds. Recent developments suggest an inferior internal system led to the breakdown in the security of the funds held and managed by Bangladesh Bank”, the daily further claimed.
It also wondered: “Why BB aborted its internal investigation. So it has no report to share with the world, its people and to the Philippine government that has been more than generous in helping BB.  The least BB can do is give us a report. We washed our dirty linen in the glare of the global public. They owe us that report,” the daily said quoting a local banker.
 
Faulty security system
The daily also claimed that the theft succeeded clearly because BB was negligent. “Had the bank installed enough firewalls and used quality instead of $5 switches, the heist would not have occurred.  The report said Bangladesh has stopped internal investigation and the Bangladesh ambassador is claiming it is an outsiders’ job.  Philippines must pay. But their (Bangladesh) finance minister said it was an inside job,” the banker was quoted as saying.  The daily quoted Philippines officials as questioning “why Bangladesh doesn’t want to know the truth. Before they ask for help from the Philippine government, it is now incumbent upon them to submit a full report to the Philippine government, detailing what happened in Bangladesh.”
The inside job accusation of Bangladesh’s own finance minister by far is the most credible explanation to the cyber robbery. “How can the theft happen if six different BB officials had to place their palm prints on a plate in proper sequence before any order to move funds could happen,” the daily quoted Philippines banking sources as saying.  It has also raised question if Bangladesh think itself is the victim why it did not sue the New York Federal Reserve where the money was transferred from. “The answer is because they (NY Fed) had nothing do with the theft. In the same way, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. had nothing to do with the theft. It was all BB’s fault and negligence.  Referring to the siphoning off $565 million in assets from the state-owned BASIC Bank between 2009 and 2012, the daily said such theft is part of the country’s banking system and the mastermind was exempted from questioning, because he happens to be powerful person within the ruling establishment. Banking in Bangladesh is open to laundering by politically influential person, it said.
 
Finance Minister’s interview
Question has also been raised why Finance Minister AMA Muhith is not making public the three-member probe committee report on the money heist led by Dr Mohammad Farashuddin. He presented the report in May and since then finance minister at first said he would delay the release of the report and now said he would not release the report because it may not be helpful to retrieve the money.  The CID report is also nowhere after the team visited the Philippines and Sri Lanka and found involvement of 20 foreign nationals. But there is no mention of insiders which Muhith is talking about from the beginning although CID officials said they would make public their report later on.
Earlier reports said Bangladesh finance minister had accused central bank officials for being complicit in the $81 million theft in an interview with a leading Bengali newspaper. In the damning interview, A.M.A Muhith told the Bengali-language daily Prothom Alo that Bangladesh Bank officials were “100 percent” involved in the scandal. This cannot be possible without complicity of the locals,” he asserted.
Muhith said the New York bank requires hand prints and other biometric information from central bank officials to activate transactions, appearing to suggest the hackers could not have carried out the attack without inside help.
“The rule is that the transactions are activated only after the hand prints of the six persons are serially placed on a specified plate”, he said.
Muhith said the official explanation that action against the hackers was delayed because the theft took place on weekend Friday was “totally implausible. Why won’t there be people on a Friday to answer calls and provide information on the holidays,” he said.
 
Top contractual appointments questioned
The minister’s comments came as the family of a Bangladeshi cyber security expert Tanvir Zoha who pointed out the central bank’s flawed security system and went missing apparently after being abducted by plain clothes people.
Zoha, 34, was later freed in deplorable state of mind. He told Ekattor TV station earlier on March 11 that “the database administrator of the (Bangladesh Bank) server cannot avoid responsibility for such hacking”.
Many believe that the abundance of contractual employees in Bangladesh Bank paved the way to cyber thieves in the bank. It includes from top cyber safety personnel to experts at different levels. The role of one Rakesh Asthana working as IT adviser was being discussed for a while.
Finance Minister Muhith later announced that over 200 contractual employees in the Bangladesh Bank who have no allegiance to the central bank were causing problem. He criticized Bangladesh Bank’s regular staff as being almost non-functional while important positions were occupied by outsiders. Informed sources believe that removal of those holding important positions on contractual basis in the BB is important to restore discipline to the bank.

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A COMMENTARY

Kerry’s Dhaka visit: A belated effort of mending fences

Abdul Hannan
 
The recent visit of John Kerry, US secretary of state to Bangladesh at the fag end of current US Administration marked a distinct shift of US policy towards Bangladesh. It was a visit to mend fences and build bridges of friendship with present Bangladesh government. The US overture was a PR exercise to woo, cultivate leverage and win back Bangladesh, considered by US as its traditional ally and sphere of influence, from the threat of expanding fold of Chinese and Russian influence.
Full Story
Abdul Hannan
 
The recent visit of John Kerry, US secretary of state to Bangladesh at the fag end of current US Administration marked a distinct shift of US policy towards Bangladesh. It was a visit to mend fences and build bridges of friendship with present Bangladesh government. The US overture was a PR exercise to woo, cultivate leverage and win back Bangladesh, considered by US as its traditional ally and sphere of influence, from the threat of expanding fold of Chinese and Russian influence.
The visit was essentially to pursue US policy of ‘Asia pivot’ framework which also includes Bangladesh in order to promote American geo-strategic interests to contain Chinese and Russian influence in the region.
 
Dhaka-Washington t ies
There is no doubting that Bangladesh-US relation has remained anything but warm. The bilateral relation between the two countries has been palpably sour and cold ever since 2014 general election which United States and the West considered as flawed and lopsided lacking democratic credentials and representative character. That in effect was questioning the legitimacy of the present Government. The bitterness of the government was exacerbated when a US Senate subcommittee resolution sponsored by the state department stressed the need for holding a fresh inclusive election in Bangladesh. The unfavorable report by the state department about human rights condition in Bangladesh together with suspension of GSP (generalized special preference) of trade facilities offering duty free exports to USA added insult to injury in the relation.
Bangladesh government retorted back with studied indifference and at some point defiance of US authority when a government minister used derogatory personal slurs and epithets about senior US diplomats assigned to Dhaka and South Asian affairs. The relation deteriorated to such a pass that the Finance Minister AMA Muhith described it as “uncomfortable”. Meanwhile, the US Bangladesh strategic partnership agreement and the Trade and Investment Cooperation framework agreement contributed precious little to ease the strained relation. Also, there had been no high level US visit for a long time since Hillary Clinton’s, which could bring about a rapprochement and thaw in the frozen relation. Bangladesh was perceived as increasingly tilting to alternative sources of support from China and Russia by signing military purchase deals and expanding economic ties.
 
Victory of expediency
The terrorist attack in a Gulshan café sent shock waves and alarm bells of security concern to Washington. Bangladesh could no longer be ignored and left to wither in the vines. Kerry rushed to Dhaka to shore up its dwindling influence in Dhaka, control damage to its relationship and make amends of its mistakes.   In a display of stunning positive gesture he visited the Bangabandhu memorial museum in Dhanmondi  and endorsed the government when he wrote in glowing terms about the significant development achievemenents under what he described as ‘strong leadership’ of Bangladesh government.
There was no more lecturing on democracy, human rights, rule of law and freedom of expression, US pep talks to hosts in developing countries, during his meeting with Prime Minister Hasina and official talks with his counterpart and commerce and home ministers. While attributing the cause of terrorism to frustration and despair of youth in course of his meeting with the civil society at the Kennedy centre, he made a passing comment about the need of “inclusiveness’ to combat terrorism. His comment was guarded, unobtrusive and faint hearted.  Kerry assured of careful consideration of pleadings of lifting of GSP ban and request for  extradition from America of a Bangladeshi fugitive convicted to  death sentence for killing Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
John Kerry, the suave and astute top US diplomat acquitted himself of his challenging job remarkably well with aplomb and finesse. The visit, a climb down of US position, is a typical example of victory of expediency, Real Politik and opportunism over principles, ethics and morality in foreign policy of a country.
 
The writer is a former diplomat.

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Muhith’s frustration for lack of Chinese response for project funding

Shakhawat Hossain
 
Finance Minister AMA Muhith seems to have become frustrated for not getting the Chinese funds released for the implementation of several major projects in Bangladesh being financed by China.
In a letter dated August 22 to the Chinese Ambassador in Dhaka Ma Mingqiang, Muhith has formally expressed his disappointment and requested the envoy to give him the final decision on this very important matter, according to a report in a Bangla financial daily Bonik Barta last Monday.
Full Story
Shakhawat Hossain
 
Finance Minister AMA Muhith seems to have become frustrated for not getting the Chinese funds released for the implementation of several major projects in Bangladesh being financed by China.
In a letter dated August 22 to the Chinese Ambassador in Dhaka Ma Mingqiang, Muhith has formally expressed his disappointment and requested the envoy to give him the final decision on this very important matter, according to a report in a Bangla financial daily Bonik Barta last Monday.
No response from China
This official letter was written by Muhith after getting no response from the Chinese side despite sending many reminders about the release of funds from the government side.
Specially referring to Dhaka-Sylhet four lane highway project, Muhith’s letter said: “It is very frustrating that we have sent several letters with a request for financing the proposed Dhaka-Sylhet four lane project. I am requesting once again for financing the project as discussions with several Chinese contractors are still on for long time in this connection.”
“We are seeking your quick decision as we want to implement the agreement at the quickest possible time,” the minister said in his letter to Ma Mingqiang. Explaining the reason behind seeking quick Chinese decision, Finance Minister reminded that the previous experience of China financing projects were not satisfactory.
Besides, Bangladesh government is yet to get any sort of Chinese response on 13 proposed projects even after seeking financial cooperation from China for their implementation. The projects include the construction of Marine drive expressway and coastal protection work from Sitakundu-Chittagong-Coxs Bazar and establishing digital connectivity.
It is noted here that the government has commitment to develop the existing Dhaka-Sylhet highway into four lanes within 2018. Although the Asian Development Bank has shown its interest in this project, it won’t be possible to complete the works before 2019.
Against such a backdrop, the ministry of finance has expressed its willingness to award this project to a Chinese company bypassing the tender system for implementing the project with Chinese financing.
According to the report, Road Transport and Highways Division Secretary M.A.N Siddique said that the system for awarding work without tender exists in the process of the government and all the G2G projects are awarded without tender and everything is mentioned during signing of the deal.
 
Other important projects
The finance minister’s letter also enclosed a list of two dozen of China financing projects as he also wanted to know about their decision in financing these projects. Among the projects, only two commercial deals were signed so far.  The two projects are-development of national ICT intra-network for Bangladesh government phase three (info-sarkar) ($150 million) and the construction of the tunnel under the river Karnaphuli for $702.64 million.
Rest of the projects awaiting agreements are: the  installation of single point mooring involving $334.17 million; surface water treatment plant project under Rajshahi WASA for $500 million; system loss reduction by replacing 5 million electro mechanical energy meter with electronic energy meter at a cost of $165.98 million; replacement of overloaded distribution transformer for providing reliable electricity in rural areas costing $230.59 million; reinforcement rehabilitation and augmentation of 33/11 KV substations under DPDC involving $240 million; Padma Bridge Rail Link Phase1 & 2 and the construction of Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway.
It may also be pointed out that the government has also formally sought concessional loans from China for the Padma Rail Link Project, combining the two phases into a single project. When combined, it will be a bigger project than the Padma Multipurpose Bridge. In a letter to the Chinese Embassy recently, the authorities concerned in Bangladesh suggested that the Padma Rail Link Phase-I and Phase-II projects be made into a single one named the Padma Rail Link Project. On August 8, the China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) signed a Tk. 27,650 crore ($3.5 billion) contract with the Bangladesh government to build a new east-west railway via the 6.2km road-rail Padma Bridge. The go-ahead to start construction of the 215km Padma rail link from Dhaka to Jessore was given last month, and the CRCC was commissioned to lay the tracks. It is due to be completed by June 2022.
 
EXIM Bank delegation
Meanwhile, a Chinese EXIM Bank delegation is due in the capital early in October to negotiate the financing of some important projects, including purchase of six vessels, ahead of President Xi Jinping’s October tour.  Mr Xi Jinping is due in Dhaka before or after the BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) Summit which will be held in India on October 15-16 as the Chinese president is also scheduled to attend the summit.
It was reported earlier that a deal of US$ 6.0 billion is likely to be signed for implementing six mega projects on rail, road, port and power sectors during the upcoming visit of the Chinese head of state.  A source said though the Karnaphuli Tunnel was one of the potential projects for getting Chinese government funds, confirmation in this regard was not yet received.
EXIM Bank delegation would sit with ministries concerned to complete the negotiations as some deals are expected during the presidential tour of Bangladesh. Earlier in April, another delegation of the Chinese government’s loan-providing bank had visited some project sites, including that of Karnaphuli tunnel in Chittagong, to find potential of the projects in funding. They also sat with the officials concerned in doing the spadework.
A letter received by the Economic Relations Division (ERD) indicated negotiations on two projects during the Exim Bank delegation’s visit.  These are six vessel purchases and a water-treatment project. Under the deals to be negotiated in early October, China is to provide $184.50 million in concessional loan to Bangladesh for the procurement of six new vessels for Bangladesh Shipping Corporation (BSC).

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Truce in Syria: UN helpless, genocides may continue

Dr. Abdul Ruff in New Delhi
 
The so-called “Arab Spring” which got entire Mideast (except nuclear Israel) destabilized, while in Syria the incumbent president Assad is still defiant, adamant, and refusing to step down. The USA and Russia back opposing sides in Syria’s five-year civil war, which has left more than 300,000 people dead and displaced more than 11 million others.
USA and the Syrian opposition seek the removal of President Assad from power as their main condition for permanent peace in Syria.  Russia supports Syrian government and, just what USA is doing in Syria on some pretexts, kills Syrians on a special military deal with Assad.
Full Story
Dr. Abdul Ruff in New Delhi
 
The so-called “Arab Spring” which got entire Mideast (except nuclear Israel) destabilized, while in Syria the incumbent president Assad is still defiant, adamant, and refusing to step down. The USA and Russia back opposing sides in Syria’s five-year civil war, which has left more than 300,000 people dead and displaced more than 11 million others.
USA and the Syrian opposition seek the removal of President Assad from power as their main condition for permanent peace in Syria.  Russia supports Syrian government and, just what USA is doing in Syria on some pretexts, kills Syrians on a special military deal with Assad.
Humanitarian aid undelivered
As America was enjoying the horrid scenes of genocides of Muslims in Syria, Russia also has joined the party by targeting mostly the Syrian rebels by high speed war planes. As Russia showed some interest in ending the Syrian war at least temporarily, a partial truce brokered by the USA and Russia in Syria came into effect at sunset on September 12, the beginning of the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha. The Syrian government has given its backing, but a number of rebel groups and the ISIS and al-Qaeda-affiliated group have expressed strong reservations and have yet to say whether they will abide by it. The cessation agreement included deliveries of humanitarian aid for the worst hit areas, but by Monday most shipments had yet to go in. They include a 20-lorry convoy for rebel-held eastern Aleppo where about 275,000 civilians are trapped without access to food or medical supplies. UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien said he was “pained and disappointed” that the convoy had yet to cross into Syria from Turkey. Some aid was delivered to the besieged town of Talbiseh in Homs province on Monday, the Red Cross said.
The deal, which begins with a 48-hour renewable truce, involves three phases: The Syrian government will stop flying combat missions “anywhere where the opposition is present”. Kerry said the government would no longer be able to use the claim that it was bombing Jabhat Fateh al-Sham fighters to mask attacks against “legitimate” rebels operating in the same areas. Both sides will be required to allow unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access to all besieged and hard-to-reach areas. A priority will be the second city of Aleppo and its surroundings, where as many as two million people live. Government and rebel forces will pull back from the Castello Road, a major artery running around the north of the city into the rebel-held east. They will also provide safe access through the south-western Ramouseh Gap area.
 
Truce largely held
Providing there are seven consecutive days of significantly reduced violence and humanitarian access, the US and Russia will work together to “develop military strikes” against Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and IS. A Joint Implementation Centre will be established to share information necessary for the delineation of territories controlled by jihadist and rebel groups in areas of active hostilities.  After 10 months of negotiations that the US said were marred by deep “mistrust”, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that they had reached an agreement on a “sustainable” cessation of hostilities that would facilitate negotiations on a political settlement. If successful, it will see President Bashar al-Assad’s forces ending air strikes on territory controlled by mainstream rebels, and both sides allowing humanitarian access to besieged areas. It will also lead to Coordinated air strikes by the US and Russia against two UN-designated terrorist organisations - so-called Islamic State and the rival jihadist group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, which was known as al-Nusra Front until it broke off formal ties with al-Qaeda in July and changed its name.  The truce has broadly held since taking effect although the Russian-backed Syrian army and rebels have accused each other of many violations. Meanwhile, the UN has warned there is a “problem” with getting aid into Syria. Special envoy Staffan de Mistura placed responsibility on the Syrian government which, he said, had not yet provided the “facilitation letters” that would allow aid convoys to pass through army checkpoints and reach besieged areas.  Earlier, the Syrian military said its seven-day “regime of calm” had expired. Government-backed air strikes were also reported in the city of Homs and in the cities of Hama and Idlib. It said rebel groups, which it referred to as “terrorists”, had failed to commit to any provisions of the truce deal.
 
US using “verbal curtain”
US Secretary of State John Kerry criticised the Syrian declaration, saying: “It would be good if they didn’t talk first to the press but if they talked to the people who are actually negotiating this.” He had earlier described the truce as “holding but fragile”. Russian military spokesman Lt Gen Sergei Rudskoi said in a televised statement: “Considering that the conditions of the ceasefire are not being respected by the rebels, we consider it pointless for the Syrian government forces to respect it unilaterally.” Russia has accused the USA of failing to fulfill its obligations under the truce agreement in Syria. A defence ministry statement said Washington was using a “verbal curtain” to hide its reluctance to rein in the rebel groups it supports. “Only the Syrian army has been observing the ceasefire regime... while the US-led ‘moderate opposition’ has been increasing the number of shelling of residential quarters,” the ministry statement said. “Moreover, it appears that the ‘verbal curtain’ of Washington is aimed at hiding the non-fulfillment of the US obligations.”
Russian defence ministry insisted that, from the very beginning of the truce, Moscow had been fulfilling its obligations, which includes ensuring that the Syrian air force does not bomb areas held by mainstream rebel forces and setting up checkpoints in divided second city of Aleppo. It therefore said it found “confusing” recent comments by US officials that expressed doubts about whether Russia would be able to deliver.
The USA has not reacted to the comments from Moscow, but the state department did acknowledge some incidents “on the part of both the opposition and the Assad regime” were continuing.  Meanwhile, with a cessation of hostilities taking effect across Syria, people across the war-torn country have been sharing photos and videos of themselves enjoying a rare moment of relative calm. Posts from the divided northern city of Aleppo have for months been almost exclusively about bombings, destruction and the suffering of civilians, even before government forces renewed their siege of rebel-held eastern districts where some 250,000 people live. There was a sense of relief and cautious optimism after several very difficult months.
 
US-Russia can stop Syrian war
Less than 24 hours after the truce began, Aleppo residents were suggesting that life was slowly returning to normal - or at least as normal as could be expected under the circumstances. Social media backed up reports that the cessation of hostilities was broadly holding. Many users initially provided frequent updates on whether government and rebel forces were abiding by the agreement announced on Saturday by Russia and US, who back opposing sides.  The USA, which brokered the deal with Russia, said it was working to extend the agreement. But it called on Russia to clarify the Syrian statement. “Our arrangement is with Russia, which is responsible for the Syrian regime’s compliance, so we expect Russia to clarify their position,” state department spokesman John Kirby said.  UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said air strikes had hit rebel-held areas in Aleppo and villages to the west. Artillery shelling and air strikes hit Sukkari and Amiriyah, two eastern districts.
The truce was dealt a blow when warplanes from the US-led coalition against so-called Islamic State (IS) accidentally bombed Syrian troops in the eastern city of Deir al-Zour. Officials said the strikes killed more than 60 soldiers. President Bashar al-Assad called them the “latest example of flagrant American aggression against Syrian army positions in the interests of the terrorist organisation Daesh (ISIS)]”. The UK confirmed that British aircraft - believed to be unmanned, remotely-piloted Reaper drones - had been involved in the strike, along with jets from Australia and Denmark.  It is, however, too early to tell whether the truce will hold and the calm last, but after five years of war Syrians are clinging to this moment of hope. Air strikes have hit rebel-held parts of the Syrian city of Aleppo after the military declared the current cessation of violence was over. The Syrian military and rebels have accused each other of repeatedly violating the truce which began seven days ago.
Meanwhile, the USA and Russia claim to hold further talks on the Syrian situation in New York. If the US and Russia are determined to end war in Syria they will certainly achieve that objective without more bloodbaths.
 
Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal is an educationist, author; investigative journalist, columnist; an expert on Mideast affairs; Chancellor-Founder of Center for International Affairs (CIA); *Editor: International Opinion, Foreign Policy; Palestine Times: website: http://abdulruff.wordpress.com/ email abdulruff_jnu@yahoo.com;Phone*: 91-7293435028*

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Unknown facts behind Gulshan massacre
Yoichi Shimatsu in Hong Kong
 
The nighttime attack that killed 20 foreigners in the Gulshan diplomatic district of Dhaka on July 1, in Bangladesh was not simply a random terror attack since it had all the features of a meticulously prepared military-style operation against a selective target and for specific causes.
Full Story
Yoichi Shimatsu in Hong Kong
 
The nighttime attack that killed 20 foreigners in the Gulshan diplomatic district of Dhaka on July 1, in Bangladesh was not simply a random terror attack since it had all the features of a meticulously prepared military-style operation against a selective target and for specific causes.
The attackers identified themselves as ISIS supporters, but their demands to police negotiators included release of members of the local Jamaat-al-Mujaheedin (JM), a widespread and well-connected militant outfit that advocates an Islamic state to replace Bangladesh’s secular party system introduced after the emergence of the country as an independent following a bloody war of liberation against Pakistan.
 
Alleged linkage
JM is supported by prominent local clans, allegedly including families of military officers and police chiefs, and has access to classified national intelligence files, including reports on Japan’s military-strategic interest in Bangladesh and the Andaman Sea region.  It is claimed that the objective of the attack on the Holey Artisan bakery cafe was to prevent a budding Japanese-Indian-American-Australian alliance called the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD), which is allegedly establishing an allied naval base in Bangladesh to serve as a “Crusader fortress” against Islamic interests in South Asia-Mideast and to counter China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean-Andaman region.  It is also said that the JM counterintelligence operation against the Japanese assets in Bangladesh required months of surveillance and the tracking of movements of Japanese operatives, including visiting delegations, whose elimination was the objective of the military-style strike.
The seven Japanese meeting at the lakeside cafe were not “engineers” with a “construction” project as claimed to the news media by the Shinzo Abe government. Only one man worked for a genuine engineering firm; the other six were with QSD “planning offices” involved in influence-peddling and bribery of Bangladeshi politicians and bureaucrats with the aim of installing a naval base as part of a plan to construct a civilian shipping port.
 
Prospects of QSD
Sources say, Shinzo Abe’s plan to establish a naval base on the northern Andaman Sea is part of a geopolitical strategy called the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) under which the U.S.-Japan (offensive) alliance aims to involve Australia and India in the naval containment of expanding Chinese power. QSD is in essence NATO for the Pacific and Indian Ocean battle theater.
It is also claimed that for the neo-militarist government in Tokyo, QSD is a US-sanctioned revival of the Greater East Co-prosperity Sphere, Japan’s bid to establish a pan-Asian military empire during World War II. Abe’s grandfather, the wartime munitions minister Nobusuke Kishi, was a key architect of the co-prosperity strategy.
Abe, sources say, hailed the legacy of Japan’s “liberation” of South Asia in World War II on his first state visit to India. His revanchist speech was followed up with the sale of Shin Maywa seaplanes to the Indian military to protect its new offshore oil fields in the southern Andaman and to conduct long-distance aerial surveillance on the energy-rich region.
Bangladesh was chosen as the site for a de facto allied naval port for both geographic and political reasons. The economically weak nation provides a third-party platform for military basing and clandestine operations against Chinese influence in the Andaman Sea, without direct and open involvement by regional powers India, Thailand and Myanmar, which are reluctant to get further entangled with US military operations.
After political setbacks in neighboring Myanmar, China has developed closer military ties with Bangladesh, strengthened with the Chinese proposal to build a deep-water port at Sonadia, a construction project estimated at $8 billion.
To counter the Chinese plan, Tokyo actively intervened with a rival bid for another port at nearby Matarbari, with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) offering a soft loan of $3 billion for a $4.6-billion project.
 
Japan’s counter bidding
The Matarbari port project includes four coal-fired power plants with a total 2,400 megawatt electricity-generation capacity along with dredging of shipping channels for LNG tankers – and capable of handling destroyers and submarines. The ostensible civilian port would allegedly be gradually converted to military purposes, initially through “rescue and recovery operations” during Bangladesh’s frequent cyclone catastrophes.
Sumitomo Heavy Industry and the Marubeni Trading Company are involved in the deal, which quickly overshadowed the earlier Chinese project despite being only half the size of Beijing’s package. The difference in scale was allegedly made up in bribery of government officials by the Japanese lobbying network.  Significantly, it is also alleged that under the Japanese aid program of JICA and many of its related contractors in Myanmar and Bangladesh are dominated by two cult-like yakuza-allied groups, the Sasakawa organization (which includes the Nippon Foundation) and Soka Gakkai. The Soka Gakkai (SG) sponsors the Komeito (Clean Government Party), which is a member of the ruling coalition with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
SG is allied with the Yamaguchi-gumi organized crime group, especially in money-laundering allegedly through its overseas religious branches and networks of small businesses (including Japanese-style restaurants). The Sasakawa organization, acting nominally through the Nippon Foundation charity and the Unification Church, is allegedly a crime network that runs gambling operations involving speedboat racing in Japan.
This underworld water-sports enterprise, which is linked with the methamphetamine (shabu) trade, is conducted in cooperation with the Tosei-kai, a Tokyo-based yakuza group run by ethnic Koreans (zai-nichi) mobsters, descendants of soldiers who served the Japanese empire in occupied Korea.
The rightist yakuza boss Yoshio Kodama created Tosei-kai, as paramilitary force hired out to the CIA station in Tokyo to protect US military bases from Japan’s leftist student movement during the Cold War and Vietnam War era. Since then, The Nippon Foundation has sponsored ocean-related projects as a means of promoting Japanese naval expansion overseas, including the Oceans Day holiday, which promotes Japanese naval expansion and the whaling industry.
 
Tokyo-style operation
The Sasakawa organized crime group has a long history of covert cooperation with Italian fascist groups, starting from its late founder’s prewar People’s Party (Kokusai Taishu-to), modeled after Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Party.
The cooperation with Italian fascist black operations continued in the postwar era, with Japan serving as a safe haven for the rightwing terrorists, including a suspect named Zorzi, involved in the 1969 false-flag bombing of the Milan headquarters of Banco Agricola.  The continuing criminal connection between the Japanese neo-militarists and Italian fascists is a thread that connects to the nine Italians killed in the Holey Bakery attack. Some of the Italians are apparently working in the Bangladesh clothing industry, but textiles also provide convenient cover for any NATO operatives assigned to that region.
How did Tokyo overtake the rival Chinese bid so quickly? The seven contractors dining at the Holely Artisan Bakery represent the underhanded methods used by Japanese to gain favors from the political elites in the developing nations. Only one was a real engineer.  Three others, including two women, were visiting employees of Almec, a Shinjuku “design” company with a sketchy role in planning and facilitating projects with typical Japanese practices of wooing clients with junkets, favors and gifts, including briefcases of cash.  The three other Japanese contractors at the dinner were with a recently organized spinoff of Oriental Consultants, another “planning” company with a 57 year history of overseas facilitation for JETRO (Japan External Trade Relations Office) and JICA.  The newly spun-off affiliate Oriental Consultants Global was created in 2014, a timeline coinciding with Shinzo Abe’s formation of a national intelligence agency modeled after the US National Security Agency, CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency.  Oriental Consultants has a satellite mapping division, indicating the Bangladesh team was involved in geospatial surveillance aimed at creating a Japanese defense enclave in the Andaman Sea region to counter Chinese military influence.
 
Offending militant Islam
The parent company also has a satellite communications division providing secure data transmissions. Aspects of their clandestine mission would include anti-terrorism, putting the Japanese consultants on a collision course with Jamaat-al-Mujaheedin/ISIS.  Shinzo Abe’s covert involvement in the Syrian conflict led directly to the ISIS decision to behead Japanese hostages, including the “military otaku (fan)” Haruna Yukawa and journalist Kenji Goto.  The transsexual spy Yukawa was a secret agent of retired Air Force general Toshio Tamogami, the founder of Nippon Kaigi, the powerful conservative parliamentary lobby for constitutional revision and the remilitarization of Japan. Tamogami acts as spokesman for politicized neoconservative officers in the Self-Defense Forces, who support offensive military capability for Japanese forces.  The Japanese intelligence operations in Syria and Abe’s belligerent stances have triggered repeated threats from ISIS. In a vain attempt to absolve Abe’s jingoism of responsibility, Tokyo has denied this factor in the killing of a Japanese aid worker in Bangladesh and the stalking of other Japanese nationals in that country.
With their international network of supporters, the militant groups affiliated with ISIS can strike at Japanese interests anywhere in the world, including inside Japan. Tokyo is now deeply enmeshed in a global war that it cannot survive, much less win.
 
4thmedia.org. The 4th Media, is an independent media organization based in Beijing, China. The company combines a series of communication services to comprehensively build a network of new media platforms with contents that satisfy the needs of a wide and diversified audience.
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President Xi Jinping due Oct 14
Special Correspondent
 
Chinese President Xi Jinping is most likely to make a two-day state visit to Bangladesh from October 14-15 at the invitation of President Abdul Hamid.
President Xi Jinping is scheduled to arrive in the capital from Nepal on October 14 by a special flight, the sources said, adding that the official talks covering the entire gamut of bilateral relations will be held between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the Chinese President on that day. On the following day, Xi Jingping will fly to India to attend the eighth BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) Summit to be held in Goa. PM Sheikh Hasina too is expected to visit Indian state Goa on October 15 and 16.
Full Story
Special Correspondent
 
Chinese President Xi Jinping is most likely to make a two-day state visit to Bangladesh from October 14-15 at the invitation of President Abdul Hamid.
President Xi Jinping is scheduled to arrive in the capital from Nepal on October 14 by a special flight, the sources said, adding that the official talks covering the entire gamut of bilateral relations will be held between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the Chinese President on that day. On the following day, Xi Jingping will fly to India to attend the eighth BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) Summit to be held in Goa. PM Sheikh Hasina too is expected to visit Indian state Goa on October 15 and 16.
Dhaka seeks large investment
For Bangladesh, the visit of the Chinese Head of the State to Dhaka after a very long time is deemed extremely significant as it reflects the importance Beijing attaches to Bangladesh-China ties.
Meanwhile, both Dhaka and Beijing are now working on the details of the visit and as part of the preparations. Chinese Ambassador to Dhaka Ma Mingqiang has held a meeting with acting Foreign Secretary Rear Admiral (retd) Khurshed Alam.
However, officials at the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry were yet to officially confirm the date of the much-hyped visit of the Chinese President.
The two sides are expected to hold discussion on Chinese investment in infrastructure development in Bangladesh including the construction of deep seaport at Payra, construction of power plants, highways, special economic zone meant for Chinese companies, mutual cooperation in the maritime sector and construction of a marine aquarium in the Bay of Bengal, the officials said.
During his visit, the Chinese president might also announce a package for Bangladesh involving several billion dollars in the next couple of years, said the source. Dhaka is expected to seek financial support for over two dozen large projects.
A number of agreements worth several billions of dollars are expected to be signed during this visit. Bangladesh is getting ready to sign agreements on several mega projects during the upcoming visit, informed sources said.
 
Projects on table
The projects include construction of a marine drive expressway and coastal protection from Sitakunda to Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar, conversion of the middle-gauge rail track into a dual-gauge one from Akhaura to Sylhet, pre-payment project for the Bangladesh Power Development Board’s (BPDB) distribution zones, expansion and modernisation of Mongla Port facilities, extension of the existing underground mining operations of Barapukuria coal mine to increase the production capacity, expansion of Dhaka-Sylhet highway to four lanes and establishment of a satellite town on the other side of river Karnaphuli, the sources said.
Some of the projects are likely to be implemented under limited tender or direct procurement method, they added.
Among other issues, matters relating to special economic zones for Chinese investors, China’s participation in the construction of Paira deep seaport as a partner of a consortium and defence issues will be discussed during the visit, the sources said, adding that the Chinese President is likely to inaugurate the construction of a tunnel under the River Karnaphuli in Chittagong.
Meanwhile, Japan, the other prospective partner in the Paira deep sea port has reportedly did not respond to repeated requests from the government on the project since the July JMB-IS attack on Gulshan restaurant in which 18 foreigners including seven Japanese were killed.

 


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