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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 29th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Op-Ed Contributor of the New York Times

Bhutan Is No Shangri-La
By VIDHYAPATI MISHRA

Published: June 28, 2013

DAMAK, Nepal — BEFORE my family was expelled from Bhutan, in 1992, I lived with my parents and seven siblings in the south of the country. This region is the most fertile part of that tiny kingdom perched between Tibet and India, a tapestry of mountains, plains and alpine meadows. Our house sat in a small village, on terraced land flourishing with maize, millet and buckwheat, a cardamom garden, beehives and enough pasture for cows, oxen, sheep and buffaloes. That was the only home we had known.

After tightening its citizenship laws in the mid-1980s, Bhutan conducted a special census in the south and then proceeded to cast out nearly 100,000 people — about one-sixth of its population, nearly all of them of Nepalese origin, including my family. It declared us illegal immigrants, even though many of us went back several generations in Bhutan. It hasn’t let any of us move back.

The enormity of this exodus, one of the world’s largest by proportion, given the country’s small population, has been overlooked by an international community that is either indifferent or beguiled by the government-sponsored images of Bhutan as a serene Buddhist Shangri-La, an image advanced by the policy of “gross national happiness,” coined by King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in the 1970s.

Bhutan even helped inspire the United Nations last year to declare March 20 the International Day of Happiness — a cruel irony to those of us who were made stateless by the king, who was an absolute monarch when we were expelled.

Many of our ancestors were recruited from Nepal in the mid-19th century to cultivate the arable land of southern Bhutan. We are known as Lhotshampa — literally, people of the south. The Drukpas, the Buddhist elite, and the Hindu Lhotshampa had coexisted, largely in peace, until 1989, when the king introduced a “One Nation, One People” policy imposing Drukpa social norms on everyone. The edict controlled the smallest details of our public lives: how we ate, dressed and talked. The Nepali language was banned in schools, and Hindu pathshalas, or seminaries, which teach the Sanskrit scriptures, were closed.

Protests demanding an end to the absolute monarchy and persecution of the Lhotshampa beginning in summer 1990 were quashed, and repression — including torture, sexual assault, evictions and discriminatory firing — intensified. As part of the government’s campaign of intimidation in the south, my school was suddenly closed. That day, the headmaster summoned us to an assembly, announced that we were to collect our belongings and told us to go home at once. I passed my final months in Bhutan not completing the fourth grade, but helping to rear our animals.

One winter day in 1991, my mother was in the kitchen, my father was shaving and my siblings and I were gathered for snacks. It must have been noon — I remember the buzzing of bees leaving for their routine forage — when uniformed officers burst into the house and seized our citizenship documents, birth certificates and other papers. They accused my father of waging war against the government. They ordered him to put on his bakkhu, the Drukpa national outfit, which was still wet from the wash that morning, and then dragged him out, kicking him and slapping his face. He was taken with dozens of our neighbors to a high school that had been converted to a military camp.

My father was held for 91 days in a small, dank cell. They pressed him down with heavy logs, pierced his fingers with needles, served him urine instead of water, forced him to chop firewood all day with no food. Sometimes, they burned dried chilies in his cell just to make breathing unbearable. He agreed eventually to sign what were called voluntary migration forms and was given a week to leave the country our family had inhabited for four generations.

Not knowing when we’d be back, we set our animals free and left open the doors and windows of the house. We walked in spring showers to the border with India, through forest and valleys. At the border, the Indians, who wanted nothing to do with us, piled us into trucks and dumped us at the doorstep of Nepal.

We were among the 90,000 Bhutanese refugees who flooded shelters in eastern Nepal at that time. The population grew to more than 115,000, as people kept trickling in and children were born. My parents, a brother and I have called these shelters our home for 21 years.

The original seven refugee camps have shrunk to two, but almost 36,000 people continue to live in misery here. More than 80,000 have been resettled in other countries; 68,000, including my wife, most of my siblings and extended family, have moved to the United States. I expect to be able to join them very soon.

Helping us, though, is not the same as helping our cause: every refugee who is resettled eases the pressure on the Bhutanese government to take responsibility for, and eventually welcome back, the population it displaced.

Bhutan became a constitutional monarchy in 2008, two years after King Jigme Singye Wangchuck abdicated the throne to his eldest son. To live up to its promises of democracy and its reputation as a purveyor of happiness, the government must extend full civil rights — including citizenship and the right to vote — to all of the Lhotshampa still in its borders. It also must allow those Lhotshampa it expelled to return.

Instead, Bhutan has steadfastly ignored our demands; multiple rounds of talks between Bhutan and Nepal over the status of the Lhotshampa have yielded little progress.

The international community can no longer turn a blind eye to this calamity. The United Nations must insist that Bhutan, a member state, honor its convention on refugees, including respecting our right to return.

Other countries bear responsibility, too. Nepal, impoverished and internally divided, is already home to large numbers of Tibetan refugees and other stateless peoples, and has not welcomed the Lhotshampa, even though we share an ancestry. Nor has it adequately sought help from other countries to manage its refugee problem. India should use its influence to pressure Bhutan to do the right thing; it should then reopen the roads it created to accommodate the exodus of refugees — but this time to allow our safe return.

But until the world looks behind the veil of the Shangri-La, I have no hope of retracing my path home.

———————

Vidhyapati Mishra is the managing editor of Bhutan News Service, a news service for Bhutanese refugees. He wrote this essay from the Beldangi II refugee camp.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 10th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

See – The Everest peak and the Dead Sea Low – decorated with Nepal and Israeli flags – now that is a good view of planetary reality!

Israelisch-nepalesische Briefmarke vorgestellt
Was haben Israel und Nepal gemeinsam? Sie lieben die Extreme – jedenfalls, was Höhe angeht.

Die beiden Länder haben eine gemeinsame Briefmarke herausgegeben, die den höchsten und den tiefsten Punkt der Erde vorstellt.

Die Briefmarke, die in Israel den Wert von fünf Shekeln (etwa ein Euro) hat, trägt ein Bild des 8.848 Meter hohen Mount Everest und des Toten Meeres, das 422 Meter unter dem Meeresspiegel liegt.

Die Briefmarke wird außerdem von der nepalesischen und der israelischen Flagge geziert und ist auf Hebräisch, Nepalesisch, Arabisch und Englisch beschriftet.

(Haaretz, 06.09.12)

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 10th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

As Jeremic Accused by opponents in Serbia of “Bribes” To Be PGA, Witness Qatar, WEOG, Ban …

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 9, 2012 Presidents of the UN General Assembly usually campaign for and stealthly gain the position with the unequivocal support of their government.

In the case of monarchies – Qatar and Bahrain – this of course was no problem. Nor for Joseph Deiss of Switzerland, or long-time Daniel Ortega ally Padre Miguel d’Escoto of Nicaragua.

But with Vuk Jeremic it is different. His Democratic Party is now out of power in Serbia, and opponents internal and external are leaking information about Jeremic’s campaign and prospective funding of his year atop of the General Assembly. (Click here for Inner City Press’ July 6 story.)


Now in Serbia it is alleged that part of the $2.4 million Sebian first allocation is for “bribery” to help Vuk gain the position. The irony here is that this is how UN elections are contested and won.


Witness the current Western European & Other Group race of Finland, Australia and Luxembourg for two Security Council seats. Finland gave out chocolates (and more, including trips to a mediation conference); Australia through a reception in the “Ambassadors’ River View” tent facing the East River; Luxembourg is working the field.


One might also compare it to what Qatar spent a year ago to beat Nepal for the Asia and Pacific Group nomination, or what Lithuania spent this year in unsuccessful opposition to Jeremic. Or even to what South Korea and Ban Ki-moon spent to win the Secretary General post.

But Vuk’s party is out of power, and the present mayor of Belgrade is gunning for him. How much will be spent on his office this coming year?

As noted, Inner City Press has reported on Switzerland paying for the housing of PGA Joseph Deiss (despite the oath nearly ubiquitous in the Organization to serve the UN and not one’s country), and has inquired into the fundraising of Srgjan Kerim (beyond the $1 million from his government.)

Now incoming PGA Vuk Jeremic of Serbia, whose election Inner City Press predicted with 97 votes (he got 99) is under some fire at home, for a reported $7 million request.

Jeremic’s rival in the Democratic Party (DS), Belgrade Mayor Dragan Dilas, has put the figure at $7.5 million and called it disgraceful. For now, it’s said that only $2.9 million have been approved, prior to the vote for PGA, but running only throw December.

In order to asses Jeremic’s reported estimate, Inner City Press asked the office of the current Qatari PGA:

“This is a press request to know the budget of the current President of the General Assembly for his year in office, both from UN and non-UN sources.

“To explain, there is now a controversy in the press in Serbia about the incoming president’s proposed budget from his country… in this context, and generally for UN transparency, I am asking you for the total PGA budget for his year, broken down as much as are willing to.”

The answer that came back so far did not have the number from Qatar, only from the UN:

“Dear Matthew, The Office of the PGA receives $250,000 for each presidency from the regular UN budget. This amount has been set in 1998 by Member States. The national government of the PGA may contribute to the funding of the operations and activities of the PGA/OPGA.

“There is also the Trust Fund established in support of the Office and used to cover the costs of PGA initiatives such as specific thematic debates. Member States can make voluntary contributions to this Fund – but during this session the Fund received no contributions.”

There is another wrinkle, raised to Inner City Press by another UN source: beyond the now-outdated $250,000, the UN pays for some of the PGA Office’s posts, and others are seconded by other countries. Still, it has become harder and harder for poor countries to be PGA: witness Nepal losing out to Qatar. Now there is Serbia. Inner City Press has reiterated its request for the actual Qatari number. Inner City Press promises to stay on the case.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 28th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Address at Rio Earth Summit of 1992.

I am extremely happy and feel great honor to be with you here. My basic belief is that the purpose of our life is happiness, and happiness depends on its own basis. I believe the basic base, or the cause of happiness and satisfaction, is material and spiritual development.

Then again, human beings irrespective of our ability, knowledge, technology are basically a product of nature. So therefore, ultimately, our fate very much depends on nature.

In ancient times I think, when human ability was limited, we were very aware of the importance of nature; and so we respected nature. Then the time came when we developed through science and technology; and we had more ability. Now sometimes it seems people forget about the importance of nature. Sometimes we get some kind of wrong belief that we human beings can control nature with the help of technology. Of course, in certain limited areas we can to a certain extent. But with the globe as a whole it is impossible. Therefore now the time has come to be aware of the importance of nature, the importance of our globe. You see, one day we might find all living things on this planet- including human beings-are doomed.

I think one danger is that things like nuclear war are an immediate cause of concern so everybody realizes something is horrible. But damage to the environment happens gradually without much awareness. Once we realize something very obvious to everybody it may be too late. So therefore I think we must realize in time our responsibility to take care of our own world.

I often tell people that the moon and stars when remaining high in the sky look very beautiful, like an ornament. But if we really try to go and settle there on the moon, perhaps a few days may be very nice and some new experience may be very nice and some new experience may be very exciting. But, if we really remain there, I think within a few days we would get very homesick for our small planet. So this is our only home. Therefore, I think this kind of gathering concerning our environment and the planet is very useful, very important ‘and timely.

And of course things are not easy, so I don’t think all problems could be solved at once through such meetings. However, this kind of meeting is very helpful to open eyes.

So, once the human mind wakes up humans such intelligence, that we may find certain ways and means to solve problems. But sometimes we just take everything for granted and don’t care, and this kind of negligence is also a danger. So, such meetings on a critical situation, if approached with an open human mind and eyes, are important and useful. These are my feelings.

Thank you!

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 26th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Ditching water-sharing deal, India fumbles historic opportunity to reshape neighborhood.

By HARSH V. PANT
Special to The Japan Times,  Monday, Sep. 26, 2011.

Harsh V. Pant teaches at King’s College, London.

Manmohan Singh was visiting Dhaka to take forward the process of restoring credibility to Delhi-Dhaka ties initiated by his Bangladeshi counterpart during her visit to New Delhi in July 2010.

Singh’s visit came 12 years after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Dhaka in 1999. High-profile visits including those by Sonia Gandhi (all-powerful leader of the ruling Congress Party), the Indian external affairs minister and the Indian home minister had preceded the prime minister’s visit, laying the groundwork for a possible historic shift in Delhi-Dhaka ties.

When Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited New Delhi in 2010, she decided to go for a big gamble by putting all outstanding issues on the table and making it clear that Dhaka was a serious partner of New Delhi in counterterror operations and an economic bridge between India and its northeastern region.

New Delhi tried to seize this opportunity and decided to give Hasina’s offers substantive weight by deciding to open Indian markets for Bangladeshi textiles and offering to resolve the dispute over how to share use of the Teesta and Feni rivers.

Boundary issues have also been moving toward some sort of a resolution as the two sides move ahead in resolving the issues of small enclaves in each other’s territory.

Insurgents operating in Indian’s northeast have tended to find a safe haven in Bangladesh for some decades now, but the Hasina government has taken a hard line against them, satisfying one of India’s major long-standing demands.

India, for its part, has given strong instructions to its Border Security Force against shooting unarmed Bangladeshi civilians along the border areas even if they are found crossing the borders illegally.

By restoring transborder connectivity via the northeast, India and Bangladesh will be laying the groundwork for larger regional economic integration involving Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar.

Even as the Indian prime minister was about to make his maiden voyage to Bangladesh, it was being suggested that India’s eastern neighborhood stood on the threshold of a remarkable transformation.

However, Manmohan Singh’s visit fell much short of expectations. The two states did sign the landmark agreement on the demarcation of land boundaries and the exchange of adversely held enclaves, thereby settling the decades-old vexed border issue. Singh also announced 24-hour access for Bangladeshi nationals through the Tin Bigha corridor in addition to duty-free access for 46 textile items, effective immediately.

India also declared that it help Bangladesh develop its ports and infrastructure as well as customs points and would supply bulk power to Bangladesh by connecting the two national grids.

But Bangladesh was not satisfied, as a last-minute scrapping of the Teesta water-sharing deal — because of objections from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to the draft of the agreement — left a bad taste. If these objections are not resolved soon, they might provide ammunition to anti-India elements in Bangladesh.

Clarification was sought from the Indian envoy by the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry as to why India decided not to sign the treaty at the very last minute. The India-Bangladesh summit meeting came very close to collapsing.

Sheikh Hasina’s visit had imparted a new direction to the course of Delhi-Dhaka ties. And Bangladesh has been rightly upset at the slow pace of implementing deals signed during Hasina’s visit. Hasina has taken great political risk to put momentum back into bilateral ties. But for a long time, there has been no serious attempt on India’s part to settle outstanding issues.

Bureaucratic inertia and lack of political will has prevented many of the deals from following through. As India failed to reciprocate fully to Hasina’s overtures, the main opposition in Dhaka, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), started using India-Bangladesh bonhomie under Hasina to attack the government for toeing India’s line. India-Bangladesh ties reached their lowest ebb during the 2001-2006 tenure of the BNP government.

The BNP and its fundamentalist allies remain opposed to normalization of Delhi-Dhaka ties and have demanded that all bilateral deals be made public first. The country remains deeply divided.

In India, too, various constituencies have stymied Delhi-Dhaka rapprochement. The Indian prime minister was to be accompanied by the chief ministers of five states bordering Bangladesh.

But Mamta Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal, decided not to go at the very last minute, expressing her disapproval of the final draft of the Teesta river water agreement. Moreover, domestic textile producers in India have been lobbying hard to resist opening up of Indian markets more fully to Bangladeshi goods.

There is no doubt that India, as the larger economic power, should be magnanimous toward its neighbors. India remains fixated on its western border, but there is very little that India can do to change the regional dynamic there.

It is India’s eastern neighbor that India should focus on and go the extra mile for.

If India fails to swiftly capitalize on the propitious political circumstances in Bangladesh today, it will be damaging its credibility in the region even further. New Delhi’s window of opportunity with Dhaka will not last forever.

Anti-Indian sentiments can be marginalized if India allows Bangladesh to harness its economic growth and presents it with greater opportunities. Yet, India remains overly obsessed with Afghanistan and Pakistan, and has failed to give due attention to its eastern frontier with Bangladesh.

India is witnessing rising turmoil all around its borders, and therefore a stable, moderate Bangladesh as a partner is in its long-term interest.

Constructive Indo-Bangladesh ties could be a major stabilizing factor for the South Asian region as a whole.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 5th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

This is something we do very seldom – take a comment that was originally intended to be added to a previous article and actually post it as well as an individual posting – this because of its actual informative value.

Comment from Robert del Rosso on June 5, 2011

RE our posting #18081 of August 20, 2010 – on the PAKISTANI FLOODS OF 2008  –

“August 19, 2010, before the UN started its meetings, the Asia Society in New York opened the discussion on the Pakistan Flood response by diving right to the bottom truth – the latest mega-disasters have one common cause – human induced climate change. It was Financier George Soros who injected the topic and the media was allowed by Ambassador Holbrooke to follow up. See what you can do when you go outside the UN!”

that says the tragedy IS THAT THE IPCC WAS RAKED OVER THE COALS FOR SAYING THAT THE HIMALAYA GLACIERS WOULD MELT BY 2030.

THE MISTAKE THE IPCC MADE WAS IN QUOTING AN INDIAN NEWSPAPER, WHEN THEY SHOULD HAVE QUOTED FROM THE WORK OF OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY’S LONNIE THOMPSON (see below) – HIMALAYAS MISSING RADIOACTIVE LAYERS NEW TIBETAN ICE CORES MISSING A-BOMB BLAST MARKERS; SUGGEST HIMALAYAN ICE FIELDS HAVEN’T GROWN IN LAST 50 YEARS.

COLUMBUS , Ohio – Ice cores drilled last year from the summit of a Himalayan ice field lack the distinctive radioactive signals that mark virtually every other ice core retrieved worldwide.

That missing radioactivity, originating as fallout from atmospheric nuclear tests during the 1950s and 1960s, routinely provides researchers with a benchmark against which they can gauge how much new ice has accumulated on a glacier or ice field.

Lonnie Thompson made public that –  a joint U.S.-Chinese team drilled four cores from the summit of Naimona’nyi, a large glacier 6,050 meters (19,849 feet) high on theTibetan Plateau. The researchers routinely analyze ice cores for a host of indicators – particulates, dust, oxygen isotopes, etc. — that can paint a picture of past climate in that region.

Scientists believe that the missing signal means that this Tibetan ice field has been shrinking at least since the A-bomb test half a century ago. If true, this could foreshadow a future when the stockpiles of freshwater will dwindle and vanish, seriously affecting the lives of more than 500 million people on the Indian subcontinent.

“There’s about 12,000 cubic kilometers (2,879 cubic miles) of fresh water stored in the glaciers throughout the Himalayas – more freshwater than in Lake Superior,” explained Lonnie Thompson, distinguished university professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University and a researcher with the Byrd Polar Research Center on campus. “Those glaciers release meltwater each year and feed the rivers that support nearly a half-billion people in that region. The loss of these ice fields might eventually create critical water shortages for people who depend on glacier-fed streams.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 20th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

August 19, 2010, before the UN started its meetings, the Asia Society in New York opened the discussion on the Pakistan Flood response by diving right to the bottom truth – the latest mega-disasters have one common cause – human induced climate change. It was Financier George Soros who injected the topic and the media was allowed by Ambassador Holbrooke to follow up. See what you can do when you go outside the UN!

Ambassador Dr. Richard C. Holbrooke, former Chairman of the Board of the Asia Society, and now US Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan,  chaired the 8:30 am event at his New York home – the Asia Society – on the day when for 3:00 pm the UN General Assembly scheduled a pledging event for funding Pakistan relief. At the UN, for the US, spoke Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton, and I saw on TV  the complete  Asia Society American team sitting in the hall. The team included also Judith A. McHale, US Department of State Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Dr. George Erik Rupp, a theologian, President of the International Rescue Committee and former President of Rice University and Columbia University, and Raymond Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America.

The opening speaker after Ambassador Holbrooke was Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, and the panel included also USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah. Then there was a list of guests that made their comments, followed by questions from the floor and answers from Administrator Dr. Shah and Ambassador Qureshi.

100819_Holbrooke.jpg

enlarge image
L to R: USAID’s Dr. Rajiv Shah, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, and Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke. (Else Ruiz/Asia Society)
Judith A. McHale, a former media head herself ( President and Chief Executive Officer of Discovery Communications – 1987 to 2006), and now with the US Government, said that information is critical. “We work with the government of Pakistan to provide the critical information on the ground. It is posted on www.State.gov

Among the guests were Financier George Soros, whose Open Society Institute and Soros Foundations work on the ground in Pakistan – he announced that he adds another $5 million to the funds that his foundation will work with in helping directly civil society in Pakistan,  Christopher MacCormac of the Asian Development Bank, which is leading the effort to assess the flood damage, said much of the economic infrastructure of the area has been destroyed. 2 million ha. of crops were lost and livestock have been devastated, which has taken a large toll on Pakistan farmers. ADB has said that after the immediate contribution of $3 million from the ASia-Pacific Disaster Fund, it would loan Pakistan $2 billion to help the country rebuild, and Pakistan’s rock star turned political activist Salman Ahmad, known as Pakistan’s Bono, or as Holbrooke pointed out, “Bono is the Irish Salman Ahmad,” pointed out a very important topic:

“This is a defining moment in Pakistan,” Ahmad said. “This flood has set back Pakistan in a huge way. Out of 175 million people, 100 million are under 25. Those young people are skeptical, and they feel abandoned by the world. The international community has to win hearts and minds of those 100 million youth in Pakistan.” “If there is a sluggish response the terrorists/extremists win.” He also said that last year he had a concert at the UN to show to the young people in Pakistan that there was hope – he said that he is sure the international community will react positively.

Ambassador Holbrooke said that in the catastrophe there is also an opportunity, that we should not miss –  the people in Pakistan should see that the world is ready to help. He found that these elements of hope in opportunity were missing in the day’s article in The New York Times.

For the US the strategic implications are clear. The US pulled out helicopters from the military effort in order to help in the rescue effort. Will the Taliban take advantage of this? A US transport ship with materials arrived to Karachi, and Japan will now also send helicopters to help in the rescue effort.

The meeting was summarized by The Asia Society and there is also the full tape at –

 asiasociety.org/policy-politics/e…

Further, Ms. Nafis Sadik from the UN, now a Trustee Emeritus of the Asia Society and Chair of the Pakistan Foundation at the Asia Society called for Ramadan giving to the Foundation. Other Pakistan-Americans spoke and told of their own efforts to raise funds for the Pakistan relief program as the State’s capacity to meet the challenge has been overstretched. Today Pakistan , one fifth of its territory submerged, 68 million of its people affected, and 1,600 people dead, crops, animal stock, and infrastructure devastated – Pakistan is calling – humanity is calling they said. We saw a video proving every point. The Pakistan-American Foundation was inspired by Hilary Clinton’s “Pakistani Peacebuilders.”

Oxfam America was joined by “Save the Chidren” NGO  representative Gorel Bogarde said the obvious – what children most need is food, clean drinking water and shelter. She is most concerned for the moment about the outbreak of water-bourne diseases, such as cholera.

We will not repeat here further figures of loss and the size of the calamity. We assume that these are known by our readers by now – we want rather to point out the blunt comments that resulted from the statement by Mr. Soros who linked what happens to our lack of readiness to do something about the human-made climate change. Pakistan is the biggest of the recent disasters he said and we must deal with the root causes he continued. CLIMATE CHANGE IS THE ROOT CAUSE FOR ALL THESE RECENT DISASTERS. Mr. Soros spoke of the coincidence of the Himalaya glaciers melting and the monsoons getting stronger at the same time.

He also said “there is a certain amount of fatigue in responding to these disasters… [but] we have to come to terms with the fact that they are in fact connected, that there is climate change.”

At the Q & A part of the program, I asked the last question that was intended to bring the attention back to what Mr. Soros said.
My question was something like – I am with Sustainable Development Media and I wonder what Pakistan thinks about Mr. Soros’ statement about climate change – the reason being that the present calamity will repeat itself, so how does one do reconstruction work that makes sense?

Ambassador Holbrooke said Thank You and addressed the question first to Mr. Rajiv Shah.

When asked if there was a connection between the floods and climate change, USAID’s Shah said “while it’s very hard to attribute any single event to what we’re doing to our global environment it is very clear that that trend is leading to a greater number of large hurricanes, a greater number of floods, hotter and dryer conditions in places that are dependent on weather and rainfall for agriculture, and it’s making it very difficult for the least resilient, the most lower income communities of the world to survive.”

We heard from Mr. Christopher MacCormac that after the Earth Quake of 2005 the rebuilding of houses was done according to higher standards – so what we need here in the response to the present calamity is also to build better – but he did not specify, neither did Mr. Holbrooke. This, with the understanding that the increased monsoon floods,  joined with the melting of the Himalaya Glaciers, is indeed not a one time shot – but the beginning of a trend – leaves us with very bad premonitions about the future of Pakistan and other low lying lands of the region. This  has  clearly left me thinking about what means building better? Are we going to take into account these new phenomena resulting from global use of fossil fuels when going from the immediate reaction to the suffering from the floods to the longer range rebuilding stage? This is clearly an area that will be written up much more in the foreseeable future.

Ambassador Qurashi was asked by Mr. Holbrooke to react to the climate change implications. Are there additional run-off from the Himalayas?

The answer included: The Glaciers melt and what we have in Pakistan are Monsoon water plus glacier melts combined. We have above normal moisture.

He also said that “There are local NGOs in Pakistan that help push back the extremists and you have shown the world that you are a helping Nation.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 19th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from: K N Vajpai (Climate Himalaya Initiative) <knvajpai@gmail.com>

August 19, 2010

Climate Change Updates from Himalayan Mountains on Various Climate Change Issues.

For your information, the Climate Himalaya Initiative www.climatehimalaya.net has a dedicated news portal chimalaya.org/ , that updates the Climate Change related news on regular basis from Himalayan Mountains.

Those interested in Climate Change related issues and Mountains, can get regular updates by subscribing or becoming member.

The ongoing issues includes; Pakistan Floods, Leh Cloud Burst, Climate Change Modeling, Domestic Actions by countries, Actions by Asian countries, Cancun Climate Summit, Criticism of IPCC, etc…..!

There are options for subscription, membership, tweeting, facebook, among others….!

You can visit and explore at www.climatehimalaya.net

from – K N Vajpai
Convener and Theme Leader

Climate Himalaya Initiative
www.climatehimalaya.net
chimalaya.org
C/O Prakriti a mountain environment group
P.O. Silli, Agastyamuni, Rudraprayag
Uttarakhand, India PIN 246421
info@climatehimalaya.net
knvajpai@prakriti-india.org

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 19th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The ordeal in Pakistan reminded us of the –

Climate Himalaya Initiative.

An Initiative Towards Sustainable Development in Himalayan Mountains.
{This is linked to the reality of melting glaciers and increased severity of monsoon rains. Understanding the underlying causes of the present calamity is needed in order to go for long term help to the region. Talking of return to previous lives is not realistic.}

June 2, 2010

Himalayan countries must set aside their differences and  collaborate on science in order to avoid a common water crisis, says a report.

Environmental pressures, including those from climate change, could have unprecedented effects on the livelihoods of millions of people in the Hindu-Kush Himalaya region, according to the study, published by the UK-based Humanitarian Futures Programme, the Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre, and China Dialogue. Yet scientific research is either non-existent or, where it exists, is not shared beyond a country’s borders, said the report, ‘The Waters of the Third Pole: Sources of Threat, Sources of Survival’. And scientists are failing to communicate what they do know to the public and policymakers, it added.

The Hindu-Kush Himalaya region provides water for one fifth of the world’s population including countries stretching from Pakistan to Myanmar. “This region is a black hole for data,” said Isabelle Hilton, editor of China Dialogue and a contributor to the report.

“Managing this water requires knowledge and cooperation,” she said at the launch of the report last week (19 May) in the United Kingdom. But the region “lacks the institutions and in some cases the political will to address issues cooperatively”. History, diverse languages and cultures, and military conflicts are behind the lack of a concerted effort to study the waters, she said, and now “a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach is needed” to catch up. But this is not high on the public agenda, she said.

Stephen Edwards, an earth scientist and research manager at the Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre, called for more high-quality, peer-reviewed data. “We need to understand problems before we know how to manage them,” he said. But science itself is not enough, he added, “scientists have to interact with economists and policymakers — we need proper dialogue”.

Andreas Schild, director general of the Nepal-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, agreed with the report’s conclusions.”Water is one of the most important resources,” he said. “Traditionally there has been no free exchange of information on water discharge and this is practically still the case today. “It is not just a concern between countries, but even within countries, as between the individual states of India.

“Researchers in all concerned countries are very interested in having cross-border collaboration and exchange of information,” he told  SciDev.Net. “But when it comes to cooperation on concrete issues at the level of government institutions, we face a completely different situation, where agreements with various other partners in the country are required.”If you want to close the knowledge gap here in the Himalayas then you have to strengthen the institutions [there].”

Otherwise, short-term foreign development funds mean there is no consistent long-term data and continuity in research by the institutions based in the region, said Schild. But he added that European organisations, with “Europe-centric” research methods, must share the blame.

“A lot of research conducted on this region by European universities and other institutions is often not shared. Sometimes we even get the impression that they are only looking for a partner in the South to use as Sherpas.”

Link to full ‘The Waters of the Third Pole: Sources of Threat, Sources of Survival’ report
[2MB]

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 18th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From: Tek Jung Mahat <tmahat@icimod.org> Date: 16 August 2010.

Subject: Youth Forum Empowering Youth with Earth Observation Information for Climate Actions 1-6 October 2010, ICIMOD, Kathmandu.

Dear Colleagues,

Realising the important role of young minds in ensuring sustainability in the region and to promote application of earth observation systems, particularly on climate change adaptation, we are organising a six-days long YOUTH Forum on ‘Benefiting from Earth Observation: Bridging the Data Gap for Adaptation to Climate Change in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan Region’, from 1-6 October 2010 in Kathmandu, Nepal.

The Youth Forum is managed by ICIMOD together with the Asia Pacific Mountain Network (APMN), Nepalese Youth for Climate Action (NYCA), GIS Society of Nepal and other local partners working on youth capacity building. We are expecting to invite some 30 youth professional to attend this programme from ICIMOD Regional Member Countries, which includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. This initiative is being organized in the framework of SERVIR- Himalaya initiative and is supported by USAID and NASA.

We would appreciate your support in sharing this announcement with the suitable candidates and encouraging to join the forum.

Best,

Tek

On behalf of the YOUTH Forum preparation committee

——————————————————————————————————————————-

Background:

The Youth Forum, 1-6 October 2010, is being organized recognising the far reaching consequences of climate change in the Himalaya and to make aware young professionals in the region about how parts of these problems can be addressed though application of modern day technologies, like earth observation (EO).

The Forum will serve as a platform to share and learn experiences regarding climate change issues, for which we will bring about 30 youth climate enthusiasts from the region , who will be familiarised with potential benefits of EO derived information and demonstrated relevant practical actions.

The Youth Forum is one of the key attractions of the International Symposium on ‘Benefiting from Earth Observation: Bridging the Data Gap for Adaptation to Climate Change in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan Region’, 4 – 6 October 2010 being organised by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain development (ICIMOD) together with the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and the GIS Development, India.

The event will provide opportunity among youths to familiarize with basic RS/GIS skills with practical hands-on sessions, demonstrate case studies related to use of EO in climate actions, internet related resources and project work to take local action in community. This initiative is being organized in the framework of SERVIR- Himalaya initiative and is supported by USAID and NASA.

Who should apply?

Young climate change enthusiasts, media persons, youth activists, development professionals etc. However you don’t have to be an expert on earth observation, climate change or mountain development, but you should have familiarity with the environmental issues mountains are facing and a strong commitment to contribute towards problem solving process with the use of modern tools and approaches like EO, particularly in the context of changing climate, which has posed serious threats to mountain ecosystems.

Young professionals of 18 to 29 years of age (by September 1, 2010) and coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan are eligible to apply. Please use this form to apply for the youth forum. All applications will be reviewed by an international review committee. Based on the evaluation of the quality of the application by the review committee and taking into account the need for a balanced group in regard to scientific discipline, geographical background and gender, about 30 applications will be accepted for participation in the Forum. Accepted applicants will be notified by 6 September 2010.

Please note, all the accepted applicants are expected to prepare a poster (hand-made or printed or in any other forms) reflecting their understanding about mountain environment, earth observation and climate change adaptation or any other relevant topics. Further details on this will be communicated later.

In case you have any problems in accessing the application form please write to tmahat@icimod.org.

Financial support:

Participation cost (round-trip airfare, local transport, and food and accommodation in Kathmandu during the Youth Forum will be covered by ICIMOD)

Important dates and links:

Application deadline 1 September

Selection notification 6 September

Youth Forum 1-6 October

Event details: geoportal.icimod.org/Symposium2010/SpecialEvent.aspx

Application form: bit.ly/defa4g OR

spreadsheets2.google.com/viewform?hl=en&formkey=dC13Qjc2Z3FXU3gyel9Gb0lCYUFSNVE6MQ#gid=0

Tek Jung Mahat, Node Manager

Asia Pacific Mountain Network (APMN)

International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development

GPO Box 3226, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Tel +977-1-5003222 Ext 104 Fax +977-1-5003277 Web www.icimod.org AND www.icimod.org/apmn E-mail tmahat@icimod.org

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 30th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

In Australia – A vote for moving forward.A model for the Obama Party.

An op-ed article that appeared last week (July 22) in The Washington Post, written by Post columnist E J Dionne, titled A Democratic Model Down Under, offers comments on the Australian general election scheduled for next month, on Aug 21, 2010.

Dionne suggests that the beleaguered (US) Democratic Party can learn a thing or two from campaign rhetoric of new Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard who took office in June after the fall of her predecessor Kevin Rudd. Dionne quotes Prime Minister Gillard delivering her Labor Party’s message to the public: “This election will revolve around a clear choice: Whether we want Australia to move forward or back.” Dionne adds that in one minute and 41 seconds of her speech, she used a variation of “move forward” six times and “go back” four times.

“Can this forward-or-back theme work for US Democratic Party?” Dionne asks. Apparently, Democratic Party is under attack as the party of more waste, more debt, and more taxes.

Dionne implies that Democratic Party may, nonetheless, prevail in the mid-term elections next November if, indeed, it hones in on the forward-or-back theme, since many believe that Republican Party is conservative and backward-looking, meaning anti-change.

BACKWARD-LOOKING NATION

Ask any ordinary person on the streets of Kathmandu why the country has been in so much mess and, very likely, seven out of 10 will place the blame squarely on our leaders: That they are a corrupt, self-serving, unprincipled, and a power-hungry bunch. Indeed, our politicians rarely have behaved like leaders – leaders who choose to sacrifice their own self-interests for the common good. Most would agree that none among Nepal’s politicians – past or present – qualifies to be a leader, measured by the level of selflessness they have shown, to promote public good. The most recent example of this is late Girija Prasad Koirala (GPK).

Everyone in the country knew about GPK’s repeated failure as prime minister, his reputation for nepotism and corruption, and his intolerance for democratic opposition of any sort. In the judgment of many, GPK, more than anyone else, is responsible for the crisis that we have today.

But, ironically, thousands lined up the Kathmandu streets – many crying openly – to pay their last respects when he died last March, regardless of his political failures. Among the past failed leaders, former prime minister, KP Bhattarai, continues to attract wide appeal and is considered worthy of reverence, despite him making a false start with democracy at a critical juncture in the country’s history in 1990. And, lastly, people have started to amend their feelings toward the former king, Gyanendra, and show up in large numbers at his gatherings, probably to express their guilt for supporting his ouster.

In the midst of all this doom and gloom pervading the nation, there seems to be little risk in trying something new – giving chance to Maoist-Madhesi alliance. The risks associated with this choice appear minimal.

With such level of tolerance, forgiveness, even forgetfulness, there is then no wonder that failed leaders and failed parties have been brought back to power and assigned public responsibilities – not once but many times – in the hope that they have learned something from their past mistakes; that they would use their experience for improved performance; and that they will try harder for redeeming their battered reputation. However, in almost all of the cases, such attempts at redemption and rehabilitation have brought back deeper disappointments.

With this much of background, we can now view more clearly why Madhav Kumar Nepal and his CPN-UML party was able to get the post prime ministership and the reigns of government last year and why Ram Chandra Poudel and his Nepali Congress (NC) have a fair chance at it this year. No one had believed that Madhav Nepal or his party had the mandate for leadership. The same will be repeated if Poudel gets elected prime minister since neither him nor his party is recognized for leadership and, certainly, there is no record of any solid achievements. Indeed, NC’s public image is much more soiled than UML’s, which, at least, has a reputation for running a clean administration during their sort time in office, in 1995, and is much less prone to other public vices, like nepotism and opportunism.

NEED TO LOOK FORWARD

In the midst of all this doom and gloom pervading the nation, there seems to be little risk in trying something new – giving chance to Maoist-Madhesi alliance. There are several reasons for exercising this option and risks associated with this choice appear minimal.

The first obvious reason is that these two groups are new – and hence forward-looking – and so it would be worthwhile giving them a chance to get tested. Of course, the Maoists have had a stint at governing at which they failed. However, this failure does not disqualify them from a second chance if they are allowed back under different circumstances and, we can add, under a different mandate. A Maoist-Madhesi alliance will provide substance to their second-coming.

Second, with Maoists out of favor, the old but losing parties in the election had a chance to regroup and isolate the Maoists to form a shaky coalition to get a majority. However, there was never any hope that this coalition of losers will accomplish anything of significance or will last for a long-term and, certainly, no one believed that it can provide leadership in the drafting of a new constitution. A Maoist-Madhesi alliance will do much better.

Third, a new grouping with different actors – first Jhalanath Khanal and now Poudel – is being tried to form yet another government which, however, is proving more difficult than had been the case last year. However, even if it comes to pass, it is bound to be more shaky and short-lived than its predecessor. This is so because a NC government led by Poudel has got no firm political base, is viewed as lacking democratic convictions, and is seen being less enthusiastic for the drafting of constitution due to the reason that it remains emotionally tied to monarchy.

Fourth, and finally, continued political uncertainty and instability of government may justify seeking extreme solutions, including a presidential rule, army takeover, reinstatement of monarchy, and even inviting foreign forces to help ‘stabilize’ the situation. If that happens, peace and prosperity will be gone forever.

MADHESIS FOR THE RESCUE

In the midst of the emergence of apparently a hopeless situation, there are indications that some miracles might occur which I will not hesitate to call a divine intervention. I would characterize the second miracle to be a Maoist-Madhesi alliance, which provides a new and forward-looking alternative for the nation, similar to the choices presented for Australian and US elections noted in Dionne’s piece above.

Some progress has been made that gives the hope that events may, indeed, be unfolding in this direction, looking at the evidence of a growing sense of unity among Madhesi parties in recent weeks. Admittedly, this unity is still very shaky and can melt away at the first sign of stress. However, for the time being, let us assume that this unity is for real and will prove to be less fragile than it appears now.

The next forward-looking step, then, will be that Madhesi group aligns with Maoists in the background of informal understandings but without pre-conditions. With Maoists holding 237 seats in the Constituent Assembly (CA), and Madhesi parties’ 82 seats, a simple majority in the 601-member CA can clearly be established.

While the point about numerical legitimacy is obvious, moral authority is less so and let me explain this. Nepal has existed, from the time of the Ranas up until the democratic change in 1990, basically as an ethnic enclave of pahades, in which the other half of population, ethnic Madhesis, were excluded from government participation. After the political change in 1990, democratic reforms were made through equal representation of all population but the extent of Madhesi participation in state affairs remained basically the same, reflecting, in part, attempts by the mainstream parties – NC and UML – to safeguard their political base in Madhes and also the inability of Madhesi parties to put up a united front.

We can then say, without much exaggeration, that political disarray and economic decline in the country as we witness today is the direct consequence of a policy of exclusion – not by design but more of it reflecting the tolerance level of people who have been excluded.

A Maoist-led government, backed by unflinching and unconditional support from a united Madhesi front, will basically mean an opportunity to unite a divided nation and a segregated society. In any situation, it would be hard to conceive of political stability and economic progress ushering in a nation so divided as Nepal, for the main reason that exclusionary policies tend to obstruct the full utilization of country’s human and physical resources and it imparts a sense of despondency among the segment of population feeling excluded.

Finally, to the advantage of Maoists, Madhesi support will give credence to their claim that they would follow democratic norms. What this means is that Maoists’ alliance with Madhesi parties will force them to democratize, since Madhesi population, no matter how deprived they may be, cannot vote communists. A durable alliance then will require both sides to make difficult adjustments but in return for huge potential benefits – government stability under the alliance’s rule and an enabling environment that would foster prosperity.

sshah1983@hotmail.com

Published on 2010-07-27

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 22nd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The UN may even do good things once in a while – but then its Department of Public Information hides them from the world at large by not opening its doors to the interested media. Those they invite are  those that are not interested in publicizing suggestions that can work when the world is called to disengage from its addiction to oil.

The following is a positive in the UNDP cap but when we asked to be invited to participate in the following Press Conference we did not even get the honor of a reply. So much about the UN – but we promise nevertheless to honor our readers by covering the issues even if the UN DPI prefers we did not exist. As we are busy today with the New York Forum, we will approach Mr. Olav Kjorven at a later date in order to cover at length the case of Nepal and other work under his leadership.
We told him in the past that his words will not get world distribution if presented only via the UN DPI chanel.

Now we post the information we received so our readers can have the appropriate links right away.

—————————

UNDP SAYS — Clean energy access in Nepal possible model for acceleration of progress towards MDGs:
Early investment in capacity development crucial to success.

As the 2010 MDG Summit approaches, UNDP’s on-the-ground experience in providing access to clean energy indicates a promising way of stepping-up progress towards achieving the MDGs. Currently, almost half of humanity —3 billion people— are energy poor. They live without access to modern energy for lighting, cooking, heating and mechanical power. For 250,000 people in remote rural communities in Nepal, this has changed.

What: Briefing at the UN DPI Briefing Room for which special DPI accreditation is required – on an effective energy programme that can help alleviate poverty and improve lives of poor communities around the world.

Who:               Olav Kjorven, UNDP Director of Policy and UN Assistant Secretary-General

H.E. Mr. Gyan Chandra Acharya, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Nepal Mission to the UN

Kiran Man Singh, Project Manager, Rural Energy Development Programme

When: Tuesday, 22 June, 15.00 – 15.45

Where:            Dag Hammarskjold Library Auditorium

Through a pioneering partnership between UNDP and the Government of Nepal, the installation of micro-hydro plants has given them access to clean energy, creating jobs and incomes, opportunities for women and girls and improved school enrollment, among other benefits. Fundamental to this success has been the early investment in capacity development —in other words, helping people in the national government and in the communities themselves develop the knowledge, skills, institutions and regulatory environment needed for the emergence of both local demand for energy services and a local supply.

Nepal is now expanding the programme to bring energy to tens of millions of people. Kenya and other countries are interested in applying the same strategy. The approach could help accelerate progress towards the MDG’s and achieve the universal access to modern energy services by 2030, as proposed by the Secretary-General’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change.

*** *** ****

Hard copies of the report “Capacity development for scaling up decentralized energy access programmes” will be made available at the briefing, and will also be available later today at www.undp.org/energy.

Media queries: Please contact Charles Dickson of UNDP’s Environment and Energy Group at charles.dickson@undp.org or 212-906-6041.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 10th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

With the EU unraveling by the day and global money having moved elsewhere, it is natural that the US is following a policy of enlarging its circle of friends. From among the newly industrialized economies, China, Brazil, India, South Korea and other larger relative-newcomers including now also Turkey, it seems that the fact India is the largest democracy in the world may give it an advantage in closeness to the US. But this was not always easy, and may not be any easier today – except when compared to the alternatives. And worse, as we heard today from Professor Charles Kupchan, who at UN University told us his findings on “The Sources of Stable Peace” – compatible regimes are not really needed for successful cooperation between States.

President Bush already started driving nearer to India and President Obama took this on from the start of his Administration. it was no coincidence that the first gala evening in the Obama White House was the State Dinner, November 24, 2010, with India (the second such dinner, so far, was with Mexico May 19, 2010).

Since then there was a series of meetings – in the US and in India, and now we just witnessed something that was defined as the Inaugural US-India Strategic Dialogue that involved Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the US Department of State June 1-4, 2010 in Washington DC. A very impressive list of Indian guests participated. It was led by Ms. Clinton’s counterpart – Minister of External Affairs Sri S. M. Krishna.

The obvious topics of discussion revolved around a Strategic future in US-India cooperation in India’s immediate region – that includes Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Iran. We bet that China was also being discussed, but we wondered what about the follow up to Copenhagen – both – in preparation for Cancun but also on the bilateral level.

We had our chance to satisfy partly this curiosity when we had the chance to ask questions from Ambassador Robert Blake Jr. who is at present Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, and coincidentally was prior to his present position – US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. As such, we knew that already January 2007, Mr. Blake Jr., a professional diplomat, son of a professional diplomat, met with then President of The Maldives, Maumon Abdul Gayoom, to discuss renewable energy in the Maldives, and we assume they touched also upon the whole issue of global warming/climate change.  We thought it was fortunate to have him as spokesman for the meeting, as the prominence of the Maldives was clear at the run-up to Copenhagen.

A second topic we wanted to ask about is the issue we already brought up in –
 www.sustainabilitank.info/categor… and this is the potential of a financial US – India – Arab Gulf States triangle with a renewable energy orientation; US and Indian technology and Arab (former oil) money.

We were lucky, and because of the quality of the answers we got – I will copy in the full transcript of our two questions and the answers we got From The Read-out of the  U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue:

FPC (Foreign Press Centers in Washington DC and in New York City) Briefing.

by Ambassador Robert Blake Jr.
Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs

June 7, 2010

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Let’s go to New York so we don’t ignore them.

(A) Sustainable Development Media: I’m Pincas Jawetz from Sustainable Development Media:  I understand that you personally were ambassador to the Maldives before this position, and you had discussions with President Gayoom on renewable energy and our energy global problems.

Now India was part of the group with Brazil and South Africa and China and President Obama that saved somehow the Copenhagen meeting so it was not the disaster of the way how it was described, but actually there was some kind of a road map that came out of there.

But my question is now, thus with the Maldives, that were very prominent in Copenhagen, and India, what has actually happened since Copenhagen? And if this past week you had any discussions with India here in Washington?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Thank you for that question. As you say, I was accredited for the Maldives while I was ambassador in Sri Lanka and we had a number of good areas of cooperation with the Maldives that we started during that time, particularly in the solar and wind area. And we’re going to build on that cooperation with the Maldives going forward because President Nasheed and his team have really made climate change a very high strategic priority for their country because of the threats that they face from climate change if the current trends continue. I think all of us have been very grateful to the leadership that President Nasheed has shown, in addition to the leadership that Prime Minister Singh has shown.

As you correctly noted, the President welcomed the very important role that Prime Minister Singh played in the Copenhagen negotiations, to help bring those to a successful conclusion, and since then our two governments have been working very closely together, and India has formally now associated itself with that accord. India wants to work very closely with the United States and other countries to achieve a successful outcome in Mexico City.

So we had a conversation about this. Our climate change negotiator, Todd Stern, made a presentation during the Strategic Dialogue. Minister Jairam Ramesh was not, unfortunately, here for those talks. But he and Todd Stern remain in very close touch and I’d say that this is one of the many areas in which the United States and India are cooperating productively and closely on global issues.

——————

Moderator: We have time for two more questions. We’ll go to New York and take our last question here in Washington.

Sustainable Development Media: This is a different kind of strategic question. India has strong financial relationships in the Gulf area, especially with Dubai and Abu Dhabi; even in renewable energy. Now is there any chance for a triangular relationship between the United States, Emirates, maybe Qatar and India in these areas? My question is really on energy.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: We haven’t really discussed that yet, but that’s not a bad idea. What we have done, I’d say we have common interests in talking to the countries of the Gulf because many of those countries, not the governments themselves but elements within those countries, are providing support for the Taliban and for LET and for other groups like that. So I think we have a very important common interest in working together to address that financial threat. Again, indeed, that is a great focus in what we’re doing already with respect to the Taliban in Afghanistan. But I think there is scope for greater cooperation in that area.

——————

Looking at the above – the first cringe came when I learned that Indian Minister Jairam Ramesh was not in Washington for these June 2010 meetings.

Jairam Ramesh has been an elected member of the Indian Parliament representing Andhra Pradesh  since June 2004. He is the Indian Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Environment and Forests since May, 2009. He is also a member of the National Advisory Council. From January 2006 to February, 2009, he was the Minister of State for Commerce and Industry and from April 2008 to February, 2009 was also the Minister of State for Power in the Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. He was the most prominent Indian Minister involved in the Copenhagen daily events.

From his biography we learned:

Ramesh bided his time after the Congress Party lost the 1989 elections and resurfaced in 1991 to provide intellectual inputs into Rajiv Gandhi’s election campaign. In recent years he has advised Sonia Gandhi, leader of the Congress party.

Following his 2009 re-election to the Indian Parliament, on May 28, 2009 Ramesh was given independent charge of Environment and Forests as Minister of State in the Congress-led administration. He was chief negotiator for India at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Copenhagen, Denmark, between 7 to 18 December 2009.

Also – regarding the recent Bhopal verdict, a subject that is very much in India’s mind, Jairam Ramesh just said yesterday – June 9th, 2010:” The Verdict is Very Unsatisfactory.” In his 50’s now, Ramesh is a main factor when it comes to the environment.

————
NEW DELHI – by IANS – blog.taragana.com/law/2010/06/08/… – Terming the verdict in the Bhopal gas disaster “very unsatisfactory”, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh Tuesday said his ministry will focus on strictly implementing the environment protection law to ensure such incidents do not occur in future.

“It is a matter of deep anguish for me personally, and it has taken so long, and the verdict clearly is very unsatisfactory from every point of view. It has caused understandable furor, particularly among people affected by the tragedy, and civil society groups,” Ramesh told reporters here.

He said his ministry was concerned with implementing the Environment Protection Act, 1986, brought in by then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in the wake of the 1984 tragedy that killed thousands of people.

“What I can assure people is we will be strict without fear and favour in implementing the act so that future Bhopals don’t occur,” Ramesh said.

————

We bring this up as we thought he should have been in Washington in order to help align a joint US-India approach ahead of Cancun. But then we learned from another Indian source that – “On July 19-20, 2010 US Energy Secretary Chu will host a meeting of 20 of his colleagues (Ministers of Energy),  including India.    At that time he proposes to offer an invitation to join an initiative to promote white roofs to delay climate change, plus their familiar virtues.”   I assume thus that even without Mr. Ramesh, the presence of the Ministers of Energy at the meeting was helpful in coming up with practical ideas on climate issues.

But let us not sound negative. There is going to be on June 22, 2010 a meeting to receive the recommendations of a bilateral revitalized CEO Forum when U.S. and Indian cabinet secretaries gather again to meet with the CEOs and hear their thoughts on how our two governments can further relax restrictions and improve opportunities for trade and investment. It seems that above was said in context of joint developments in the energy sector using private enterprise and innovation – and “the United States plans to send a high level delegation of high tech and other innovation entrepreneurs to Delhi in the fall to develop new partnerships and initiatives in this area in advance of President Obama’s visit in November.”

So, there seems to be activity in those areas of our interest and agreements will be readied for President Obama’s trip to New Delhi in November 2010. This seems an extremely fast schedule when judged against the slow usually behaviour in Washington DC.


———————————-

FURTHER EXCHANGES IN ABOVE PRESS BRIEFING ON THE VARIOUS TOPICS OF INTEREST TO INDIA, US, AND OTHER FOREIGN MEDIA.

BUT FIRST THE INTRODUCTORY REMARKS BY ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE Jr. :

FPC Briefing
Robert Blake Jr.
Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs
Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
June 7, 2010

Over the last ten years we’ve made a systematic, bipartisan effort to improve relations between the United States and India, probably highlighted by the civil nuclear deal in the last administration.

President Obama and Prime Minister Singh decided they would try to elevate our partnership further by establishing this Strategic Dialogue between the United States and India. It was announced last year during Secretary Clinton’s visit to India that you’re familiar with.

Our meetings on June 2nd and June 3rd marked the inauguration of our first Strategic Dialogue. Those meetings featured a wide range of both plenary sessions and bilateral meetings between the U.S. and Indian delegations. Let me just focus on the plenary session.

Secretary Clinton and Minister Krishna led a very wide-ranging two and a half hour discussion that was then followed by a lunch session. I think it was notable because for the first time in our history we had large numbers of cabinet level secretaries on our side and ministers on the Indian side to share ideas and to consider strategic initiatives on a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues.

The Secretary and Minister Krishna asked the delegations to use the opportunity to really conduct a strategic look at how we could focus our future cooperation. Obviously many of the ideas that surfaced will now be worked, but let me just touch briefly on some of the matters that were discussed.

Security and counterterrorism cooperation was a top priority. We discussed collaboration on a Counterterrorism Cooperation Initiative to further improve information sharing and capacity building between our two countries, and we agreed to look at expanding cooperation in cyber security.

Energy cooperation was also a major focus. Charting a clean and lower carbon energy future is obviously very very important both to the United States and to India. The Indian side reaffirmed their commitment to moving forward with putting in place a nuclear liability regime that will open the door for U.S. companies to export civil nuclear technology to India.

We also discussed ways that the United States can help India to ensure that the massive infrastructure investments that will be made over the next two decades in India can benefit from Indo-U.S. cooperation on things like energy efficiency, smart grids, and many, many other new ideas that are being pioneered in both of our countries.

The United States also shared a draft Memorandum of Understanding with India on shale gas cooperation that both sides believe offers great promise in India.

On the economy, we discussed the importance of sustaining momentum in our trade growth which has doubled over the last five years. As you heard the Secretary say in her public remarks, she mentioned the important boost that India could give to trade and investment by raising some of the foreign direct investment caps that exist in areas such as retail, defense and insurance.

Both sides also look forward to receiving the recommendations of our revitalized CEO Forum when U.S. and Indian cabinet secretaries gather again on June 22nd to meet with the CEOs and hear their thoughts on how our two governments can further relax restrictions and improve opportunities for trade and investment.

The delegations also discussed a wide range of steps our two governments can take to ensure that innovation is a source of growth and dynamism for our two knowledge economies.

The United States plans to send a high level delegation of high tech and other innovation entrepreneurs to Delhi in the fall to develop new partnerships and initiatives in this area in advance of President Obama’s visit in November.

Minister Sibal, the Minister of Human Resources Development, also briefed on India’s hope to see passage this year of legislation that would allow foreign universities to establish campuses and offer degrees for the first time in India. We think this would open enormous new opportunities for American institutions of higher learning of all kinds and help drive new science and technology and other kinds of innovation.

One of the areas where we agreed that we will seek closer scientific collaboration is in the area of food security. Both sides agreed to establish working groups to develop concrete proposals for the United States and India to enhance food security in third countries; to strengthen farm to market links and food processing inside India; and also to develop an initiative to expand weather and crop forecasting.

The common theme underlying all of these discussions was what Secretary Clinton said in her remarks at the concluding press conference. How can the U.S. and India intensify our already wide cooperation to focus on how to deliver results that will make a difference in the lives of the people of the United States, of India, and of the wider world?

We capped the visit and the day with a very sparkling visit by our President who came over for a rare visit to the State Department to honor External Affairs Minister Krishna and his delegation. President Obama, as you all know, announced that he will visit India in November. And he emphasized that our partnership with India is one of his highest strategic priorities.

In sum, as the President says, the United States sees India as an indispensable partner as we move forward in the 21st Century. The Strategic Dialogue that we initiated last week took U.S.-India relations to unprecedented new levels of cooperation that will be highlighted during the President’s visit in November.

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THE ISSUES WITH HIGHEST INTEREST TO THE PRESS  IN ABOVE PRESS BRIEFING:

———-

(a) ON INNOVATION:

India Abroad News Service: Aziz Haniffa, India Abroad.

You spoke about a high level innovation delegation preceding
President Obama’s trip to India. Is this going to be sort of a private/public partnership kind of delegation? And Foreign Minister Krishna on his first stop spoke about innovation in terms of his keynote speech at the USIBC.

What exactly are you looking for in terms of the innovation that you are talking about? In terms of this high-level delegation?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Again, I don’t want to get into too much detail because this is really up to them to decide, but the idea is to bring together mostly private sector entrepreneurs and to have them take a fairly wide look at where they see the big opportunities as we’ve done with the CEO Forum and other kinds of groups that we have. And for them to then make recommendations to the two governments, but also to our two private sectors about how we can further develop innovation partnerships between, mostly between our private sectors. But if there are steps that the governments can take to kind of nurture that and help that we certainly welcome those suggestions as well.

(b) WHAT ARE THE EXPECTED RESULTS FROM PRESIDENT OBAMA’S TRIP TO INDIA.

What I am asking, Mr. Ambassador, what is the outcome from this visit? Because President Clinton opened the doors between U.S. and India relations and President Bush widely opened the doors by this signing the civil nuclear agreement with India. What do we expect anything new from President Obama’s visit to India?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, that’s exactly what we’re starting to work on right now is the details of what the President’s visit will entail, what will be the key areas of strategic focus, where will he visit, and all of these many important questions. But I can tell you that the President himself is looking forward to ambitious results, and again, sees our relations with India as one of the most consequential and indispensable of our partnerships in the world of the 21st Century. So we are going to develop a schedule and a series of results to match that.

(c) DO DOUBTS ON BOTH SIDES REMAIN REGARDING THE RELATIONSHIP?

The Hindu: Hi Ambassador, it’s nice to see you here.

My question is on a remark that the Secretary made during the course of the dialogue at one of the briefings, I think, where she said that doubts still remain on both sides regarding some aspects of the relationship. Just looking at the U.S. side of things, she did say that doubts remain on the U.S. side about whether India was ready to take up a certain position in the world and in this relationship, and specifically she mentioned loosening regulations in a wide range of areas. The economy, for example, but I would see that as applying also to the nuclear liability question, possibly the education sector.

So how serious are these doubts which the Secretary very clearly enunciated? And how do you see them being dispelled over the course of the next few months or this year?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I think the Secretary made reference to those doubts because there are doubters within our strategic community about the whole relationship. We’ve heard those doubts before.

I think the dialogue really helped to dispel many of those doubts. As I said earlier, the External Affairs Minister and his delegation reaffirmed their intention to seek passage of the Nuclear Liability Law this year. The same with the education bill that I referred to that would open India up to foreign investment by foreign universities. So I think those were helpful.

But obviously India is a democracy, and often a complicated one, so they’re going to have to wrestle with many of these issues. But from our side I have to say, just speaking as a government representative, a senior government representative, we don’t have any doubts that India’s going to be one of our most important partners in the 21st Century and already there’s been tremendous progress in our relations just in the last ten years. We expect that progress to continue as the Indian economy grows, as more and more Indians come to the United States to study here, as more and more Americans hopefully go to India to study, as the Indian-American community here continues to grow in importance and in size.

So we feel we have these common values and common interests that unlike almost any other country in the world we will really be able to use and benefit to help the peoples of our two countries and also increasingly the peoples of the world. So that’s a quite profound statement that you heard from the Secretary and from the President himself. That’s why I think we have mostly optimism about the future course of our relations. Certainly there are these short term obstacles that we’ve got to overcome, but again, I think there’s great and substantial optimism about the future.

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(d) ON THE BHOPAL DISASTER AND ON THE NEW DAVID HADLEY CASE – IS THERE IMPUNITY FOR US BUSINESS?

CNN IBN: Welcome Secretary Blake. This is Indira Kannan from CNN IBN. I have two questions.

The first one is about David Headley. I want to understand if India and the U.S. have any sort of mechanism to verify any information that is being received from David Headley. Is he required to give this information under oath? If so, who is administering that oath?

As you’re aware, an Indian court has delivered a verdict on the Bhopal gas tragedy, and I understand that an earlier request by the Indian government to extradite Warren Anderson, the former Chairman of Union Carbide, was turned down by the U.S. Would the U.S. now be more receptive to any request for extradition of Warren Anderson or other American officials? And would the U.S. also be willing to exert any pressure on Dow Chemical in terms of compensation in the way that you are intending to do in the case of BP for instance?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: On the matter of Bhopal and the announcement that was made today by the Indian courts, that is an internal matter to India. So if you have any questions about that I’d just refer you to the courts themselves about that decision.  The question of extradition: as a matter of policy we never discuss extradition, so I can’t comment on that.

Times of India: Why is there such lack of clarity and candor? And do you realize that it leads to all kinds of suspicions in India? If you look at the kind of feedback that stories on this get, that the U.S. is protecting him, that you’re shielding him, that he’s a double agent, triple agent, and so on. And in fact since India mentioned Warren Anderson, for those of us who covered Bhopal and its aftermath, it actually reminds us of the kind of cooperation or non-cooperation that the U.S. administration offered when the terms were made to get at Mr. Anderson.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Let me just say that there’s been a great deal of transparency and close cooperation between our two governments. For obvious law enforcement reasons there are many things that we can’t share with the press, but again, I think we’ve had very good and close cooperation on this particular issue, and I think our Indian friends would confirm that.

Times of India: If I can follow-up, Ambassador. There are 172 families who lost members of families here, so I really wonder why is it necessary to hide it from the press or keep this from the press?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well it’s because the case is still going on. It’s much better not to comment on these things while such cases are ongoing. So again, there’s cooperation taking place that’s very constructive between our two governments that we can’t necessarily describe to the press.

News X: Ambassador Blake, Anirudh Bhattacharyya. I represent a couple of Indian news organizations, News X and the Sun Times. I have two questions. Unfortunately, the second one is about Headley, but I’ll come to the first one. It’s about Bhopal.

You know, this is a follow-up to a previous question. You’ve been putting pressure on BP in terms of the Gulf oil spill. Will there be pressure put on Dow in terms of reparations with regard to the Bhopal disaster? Is that going to happen from the U.S. side at this point in time?

The second question about Headley is, there have been a lot of reports in the Indian media about how he may not have been cooperating fully with the Indian investigators. My question is indirect. My question is basically, if he doesn’t cooperate fully, doesn’t that invalidate the terms of the plea bargain agreement itself? That says that he needs to cooperate fully with investigators.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Again, I’m not going to comment on Headley. I’m neither a lawyer nor a Department of Justice expert, so anything I say will probably not be well placed.

With respect to Bhopal, obviously that was one of the greatest industrial tragedies and industrial accidents in human history. Let me just say that we hope this verdict today helps bring some closure to the victims and their families. But I don’t expect this verdict to reopen any new inquiries or anything like that. On the contrary we hope this is going to help bring closure.

—-

(e) ON EXPORT CONTROLS:

Washington Trade Daily: Thank you. Jim Berger from Washington Trade Daily.

One item that was high in the Indian agenda for these talks anyway was easing of U.S. export controls as a follow-on to the nuclear agreement and the calls for high technology and so on. But the U.S., the administration is in the midst of reforming its controls as well as Congress. Were there any discussions of how India might be treated in a new export controls regime? Or is it just too early?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well as you say, there are two separate processes going on here. One is a wider review on the part of the administration of the overall export control regime. I think you’ve heard Secretary Gates and others have made some quite detailed statements about that.

The second is the India-specific review that also is underway and in fact we will probably split off from the wide review. As you all know, we have made a great deal of progress over the last six years or so in reducing the export controls that apply to India. Now less than one-half of one percent of all exports require any sort of a license at all, and most of those are presumed to be approved. So again, there’s been a lot of progress, but there still are some controls and so there’s a reciprocal process underway now to seek the necessary assurances from the Indians about the strengthening of their own export control regime that would enable us to relax our restrictions.

So I anticipate that there is going to be further good progress on this and we had a good exchange during the Strategic Dialogue in which we shared ideas about how we could achieve that good progress. So I expect there will be some positive announcements to be made before the President’s visit, hopefully well before.

.
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(f) ON THE INDIA – PAKISTAN – US TRIANGLE AND THE FIGHT ON TERRORISM – AFGHANISTAN:

India Globe and Asia Today: Thank you, Mr. Blake. Raghubir Goyal, India Globe and Asia Today.

Mr. Ambassador, this was a very high level meet between the two countries, largest and oldest democracies, and many call it a big drama in Washington. But what I’m asking you, my question is that there is a triangle — India, Pakistan and the United States. Many people are concerned in India as there is terrorism across the border into India from Pakistan. What they are saying is that until, unless that is solved, they feel that U.S. may be a little soft as far as dealing with the terrorism against India is concerned. People in India live in fear, and people in the United States live under the fear of terrorism.

Where do we go from here? Because this is the most important issue for both countries. And I think around the globe for everybody.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: First of all let me say that the United States will never be soft on terrorism. This is our highest priority and this is the area that we have probably made the greatest progress in terms of our cooperation with India in terms of not only law enforcement cooperation, but also intelligence cooperation.

We take extremely seriously the threats against both of our countries because we believe that there is increasingly a syndicate that is operating in countries like Pakistan that threatens both of our countries. It also threatens Pakistan itself, and that’s a point that I’ve made frequently not only here but during my recent trip to Pakistan.

So we feel it’s in the interest of all three countries to address this very critical problem, to work together. So we have been in the forefront of countries urging Pakistan to not only continue the progress it has been making in Swat and South Waziristan, but also to address the problem in the Punjab, namely the Punjab based groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba that are operating against India, that have also targeted the United States in the Mumbai bombings and elsewhere.

Again, this will remain a very very high priority for us and you should not doubt the sincerity of that statement.

India Globe and Asia Today: May I have one more, Mr. Ambassador?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Sure.

India Globe and Asia Today: As far as the presidential announcement to India is concerned, this will be President Obama’s first official visit to India and he was looking forward even before he was senator. This announcement was taken very seriously and with joy toward India. They are looking forward to welcome him.

VOA Pashto/Urdu: Thank you very much. Iftikhar Hussain for Voice of America Pakistan, Afghanistan, border region service.

First of all the Strategic Dialogue of the United States with India was in broader terms, but India is indispensable partner. Pakistan is a strategic ally. Was there any concern from India in respect to relations with Pakistan in the current situation? Or in some way it is hindering the U.S. efforts in the region? Did it come up during talks with the United States officials?

And secondly, we have been listing in media reports last week about the Shazad, the New York failed plot accused. Did any take on the U.S. [inaudible] was traced back to Pakistani soil? And there is an option if Pakistan in a sense doesn’t cooperate fully on that. So what we are hearing on that front from Pakistan to cooperate with the United States. And I’m not sure if you can tell us on.

On the third question, the jirga, consultative peace jirga three-day, which is held in Kabul, in Afghanistan, and just ended and issued a statement demanding peace and also talks with the Taliban. So how the United States is looking to the developments in the region?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Let me just stick to the topic at hand which is the Strategic Dialogue. Let me say there was a discussion that was chaired by our Under Secretary Burns and Foreign Secretary Rao in which they touched briefly on Pakistan, but again, this is an area that really, as you know, our longstanding position is that this is something that needs to be resolved by India and Pakistan, and the pace and scope and character of that dialogue between your two countries is really up to your two countries to decide.

I said earlier that we’ve taken a strong position on terrorism that is emanating from Pakistan soil. That remains our very strong conviction, that it’s in Pakistan’s own interest to address that and we’ll continue to encourage our Pakistani friends to do that.

But really in terms of the Strategic Dialogue, there was much more time spent on issues like Afghanistan where, again, I think our two countries are working very productively together not only to help with the civilian reconstruction of Afghanistan and to help build the Afghan economy and provide capacity building, but also to discuss the very important reconciliation process that is now beginning.

I think we had a very good conversation in which the Indian side I think had many of their questions answered. Obviously I’ll let them speak for their own concerns, but again, I think it was a good and productive discussion.
VOA Afghanistan: Thank you. This is Ashiqullah, Voice of American Afghanistan Services. Thank you, sir.

My question is particularly about the proxy war that there have been reports of proxy war going on in Afghanistan, between Pakistan and Afghanistan. A couple of places have been attacked in Afghanistan for which Pakistan was accused, and the same thing happened in Pakistan for which India was accused. And we understand that Afghanistan being on the top priority of foreign policy of the United States and the United States has always asked the support of regional countries, of which India is one, and the neighboring countries, Pakistan is one. And this burden cannot be taken by the U.S. alone. It has to be shared by the regional countries and also the international community.

The proxy war of India and Pakistan is undermining U.S. and international efforts in Afghanistan. Was this issue in any way discussed in the Strategic Dialogue between the U.S. and India, or on the sidelines of the Strategic Dialogue? Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I wouldn’t say it was a major focus of what we talked about. Again, we were much more focused on the future of Afghanistan and how the training effort is going and the reconciliation process and the whole process of rebuilding the economy and so forth. But in the past we have talked about it. The United States has expressed its condolences to India for the losses that it suffered in the attacks on the guest house that you mentioned and also the attacks on its own emabassy that have taken place. But we also have reaffirmed our support for the very important work that India has undertaken there and our determination to see if we can find ways to work together more in Afghanistan. Because we do believe that India is playing a constructive role. So that may be a new area of cooperation for us.
(g ) ABOUT NEPAL:

AFP: Shaun Tanden with AFP.

I know this isn’t the topic at hand, but I was wondering if you had any perspectives on developments in Nepal. There was —

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Let me stick to India, but I’d be happy to talk about Nepal another time, or we can have a separate interview about that if you want to.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Ma’am. And then we’ll go to New York afterwards.

India This Week & Express India: Geeta Goindi with India This Week and Express India.

You just mentioned a lot of reasons, you just praised India a lot. Given its phenomenal progress and it’s the largest democracy with over a billion people. It’s difficult to comprehend why it doesn’t have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. I want to ask you, given that the U.S. is supporting India’s rights and being so vocal about that, shouldn’t it be more vocal about India’s seat on the council?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I think Under Secretary Burns addressed that question in the very important speech that he gave last Monday, a week ago now, at the Council on Foreign Relations in which he said that India’s expanding global influence will naturally make it an important part of any future consideration of UN Security Council reform. And that’s I think the most forward leaning statement we’ve made so far about this. But it does reflect, again, our growing confidence in India’s positive influence in the world.

But we’ve also made clear that there’s an ongoing process within our government about the whole question of UN Security Council reform and how to expand the council while at the same time maintaining the effectiveness of the council. And that’s really where the debate is now focused within our own government.

——————————

Indian-American community here continues to grow in importance and in size.

So we feel we have these common values and common interests that unlike almost any other country in the world we will really be able to use and benefit to help the peoples of our two countries and also increasingly the peoples of the world. So that’s a quite profound statement that you heard from the Secretary and from the President himself. That’s why I think we have mostly optimism about the future course of our relations. Certainly there are these short term obstacles that we’ve got to overcome, but again, I think there’s great and substantial optimism about the future.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 17th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

India-China competition dims hopes for regional cooperation.


By HARSH V. PANT
The Japan Times online, Monday, May 17, 2010.
LONDON — Established in 1985, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) had its 16th summit meeting in Thimpu, Bhutan, late last month. Apart from the fact that Bhutan hosted its first SAARC summit, there was hardly anything that inspired confidence in this largely moribund organization that is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its founding this year.

Covering at least 1.5 billion people across India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives and Afghanistan, SAARC is one of the largest regional organizations in the world. But its achievements so far have been so minimal that even its constituents have become lackadaisical in their attitudes toward it. The state of regional cooperation in South Asia can be gleaned from the fact that Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani went to Bhutan via Nepal, using Chinese territory in Tibet rather than the straightforward route through India.

Bhutan chose climate change as the theme of the summit, and the eight-nation grouping delivered a Silver Jubilee declaration titled “Toward a Green and Happy South Asia.” The focus, however, was the agreement on trade in services signed during the summit. Intraregional trade in South Asia remains far below its potential despite the member states’ signing the South Asian Free Trade Agreement, which went into force in 2006.

For long, the dominant narrative of SAARC has been how the India-Pakistan rivalry hampers the group’s evolution into something significant. That is now losing salience amid China’s growing dominance of the South Asian landscape.

China entered SAARC as an observer in 2005, supported by most member states; India could do little about it and so acquiesced. Now, much to India’s consternation, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal are supporting China’s full membership in SAARC. China’s rising profile in South Asia is not news. What is astonishing is the diminishing role of India and the rapidity with which New Delhi is ceding strategic space to Beijing on the subcontinent.

Even as China becomes the largest trade partner of most states in South Asia, including India, New Delhi is busy repeating the old mantra of South Asia being India’s exclusive sphere of influence.

Of course, no one takes note of that anymore. Pakistan’s all-weather friendship with China is well-known, but the reach of China in other South Asian states has been extraordinary. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka view India as more interested in creating barriers against exports than in spurring regional economic integration. India’s protectionist tendencies have allowed China to don the mantle of regional economic leader. Instead of India emerging as the facilitator of socio-economic development in Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan, it is China’s developmental assistance that has impact.

India’s attempts to keep China out of the subcontinent have clearly not worked, and it’s time to re-evaluate its South Asia policy. China’s strategy toward South Asia is premised on encircling India and confining her within the geographical coordinates of the region. This strategy of using proxies started with Pakistan and has gradually evolved to include other states in the region, including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. China is entering markets in South Asia more aggressively through trade and investment, improving linkages with South Asian states through treaties and bilateral cooperation.

It is following up on this by establishing a ring of road and port connections in India’s neighborhood and deepening military engagements with states on India’s periphery. This quiet assertion of China has prompted various smaller countries in South Asia to play China off against India. Most states in the region now use the China card to try to offset the influence of India. India’s structural dominance in South Asia makes it a natural target of resentment among its smaller neighbors.

Yet, there is no hope for regional economic cooperation in the absence of Indian leadership. The failure of India to counter China’s rise has made it even more unlikely that such cooperation will evolve productively. As the two regional giants compete with each other in the near future, they will be more focused on relative gains vis-a-vis each other than on the absolute gains that regional cooperation can bestow.

Liberals in South Asia have long taken their inspiration from extraordinary developments in the European Union (EU), arguing that South Asia could also go down a similar path of regional economic and political cooperation.

That comparison is fundamentally flawed, however. The states in Western Europe arrived at the EU only after resolving persistent security dilemmas. And the U.S. security umbrella continues to ensure that European political rivalries do not raise their ugly heads again.

In South Asia, the security dynamics between a large India and its smaller neighbors ensures that the road to economic and political cooperation will be a bumpy one. And that road will become even more difficult to traverse with the emergence of China.

Harsh V. Pant teaches at King’s College London.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 15th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Climate change to be burning issue at 16th SAARC summit
Climate change will be the burning issue at the 16th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in two weeks in Thimpu, Bhutan, local media reported on Monday, April 12th 2010.

The summit, which has the theme “Towards a green and happy South Asia,” expects to see a regional mechanism proposed by Nepal to counter the effects of climate change, reported The Kathmandu Post.

According to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official, Nepal will push for an effective regional mechanism to cope with climate change. Also, Bangladesh and Maldives are likely to support Nepal’ s effort to set up a regional body, as both the countries will face the most drastic effects of climate change.

Studies have shown that rising sea levels because of melting polar ice caps mean that Maldives might get submerged, while Bangladesh will lose 20 percent of low-lying areas in the Bay of Bengal resulting in the displacement of 25 million people.

Bhutan has finished all the necessary preparations for hosting the summit, which will mark the 25th year of the establishment of the regional body.

According to the schedule, the summit formally kicks off on April 28 followed by a meeting of 38th session of the Programming Committee on April 29. Bhutan has officially launched a separate website with all the necessary information about the summit.

According to Hari Kumar Shrestha, Joint Secretary at the Foreign Ministry, the summit is expected to sign the SAARC Agreement on Disaster Response Mechanism, the Convention on Cooperation on Environment and Climate Change, and the Agreement on Trade in Services among member states.

The other issues likely to taken up by the summit would be energy and food crisis, and the effective implementation of SAARC Development Fund.

Regional issues like terrorism, extremism, early implementation of South Asian Free Trade Agreement, and expansion of tourism across the region will figure during the meet, according to officials.

The other key agenda would be the appointment of a SAARC Development Fund secretary for the secretariat, which is to be established in Thimpu.

The summit will also be attended by observers from China, Japan, the European Union, Republic of Korea, the United States, Australia, Mauritius, and Iran along with the eight member states.

Founded in 1985, the SAARC groups Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Source: Xinhua
2010-4-13

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 22nd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from:         Nira Gurung <ngurung@icimod.org>
reply-to   WorldEnvironmentalJournalists-owner at y…
to :              WorldEnvironmentalJournalists at yahoogr…
date:          Fri, Jan 22, 2010
subject:     Melting Himalayas – ICIMOD’s comments on a turbulent debate

Dear All,
Pleased to attach for your information and dissemination, ICIMOD’s comments on the ongoing debate on the rate of the melting of the Himalayan glaciers.

It is also shared below and available online at  www.icimod.org/?page=737

=====
Melting Himalayas – ICIMOD’s comments on a turbulent debate
Kathmandu, 21 January 2010
The debate on the rate of melting of the Himalayan glaciers has gained momentum in recent days. The debate has centred on the statement made in the IPCC AR4 Working Group II report that the Himalayan glaciers are retreating faster than in any other part of the world and at the present rate of retreat could disappear by the third decade of this millennium. This has culminated with the statement from the IPCC on 20 January 2010 retracting this one statement in AR4, but reiterating that the broader conclusion of the report is unaffected.

Many of the inferences regarding glacial melting are based on terminus fluctuation or changes in glacial area, neither of which provides precise information on ice mass or volume change. Measurements of glacial mass balance would provide direct and immediate evidence of glacier volume increase or decrease with annual resolution. But there are still no systematic measurements of glacial mass balance in the region although there are promising signs that this is changing. China is the only country in the region which has been conducting long-term mass balance studies of some glaciers and it has expressed the intention of extending these to more Himalayan glaciers in the near future. India has recently started to study several glaciers for regular mass balance measurements. Recognising the importance of mass-balance measurements, ICIMOD has been promoting mass balance measurements of benchmark glaciers in its member countries and has co-organised trainings to build capacity for this in the region.

ICIMOD has been drawing attention to the severe problems resulting from the lack of good scientific data and information for the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region, especially but not only on glaciers. This severely limits the ability to understand present changes or predict future impacts, a prerequisite for good decision-making thus the Centre has been promoting development of baseline information related to environmental processes and their changes. In early 2002, ICIMOD initiated a regional inventory of glaciers and glacial lakes, based on desk research and analysis of maps, aerial photographs, and satellite images. Since then, partner institutions have continued this work and developed inventories at national scales. ICIMOD is now focusing on assimilating existing information and national data and developing a regional database so that a regional monitoring system on the status of cryospheric elements like snow and glaciers can be put in place. Standardisation of methodologies
has been given due emphasis to facilitate integration of the database. At present, ICIMOD is conducting research on critical glacial lakes and is promoting the organisation of mass balance measurements in the region. Based on the analyses we have been doing, we can state that the majority of glaciers in the region are in a general condition of retreat, although with some regional differences; that small glaciers below 5000 m above sea level will probably disappear by the end of the century, whereas larger glaciers well above this level will still exist but be smaller; and that deglaciation could have serious impacts on the hydrological regime of the downstream river basins. Further, it is important to compare and summarise observations from a number of glaciers in different areas, of different size, and at different altitudes to draw clear scientifically justified conclusions about the changes that are occurring.

Although the lack of information and knowledge about the glacier melt processes in the Himalayas has been used to politicise the larger issues, the positive aspect of the debate has been the immense awareness created at various levels including politicians, decision makers, the media, and the public at large, which has led to some positive outcomes in recent months. In this context, the Indian Government has taken a decision to establish a specialised glacier research centre. Similarly, the concept of the Third Pole Environment initiated by the Chinese Academy of Sciences will have a positive impact on minimising the gaps in our basic understanding. ICIMOD is determined to contribute to developing better understanding of basic environmental processes, in particular climate change, glacial melting, and livelihoods impacts downstream, and highly commends these recent efforts made by our member countries.

***
Nira Gurung (Ms), Communications Officer
International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development
GPO Box 3226, Khumaltar, Lalitpur, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Tel +977-1-5003222 Direct Line 5003310 Ext 115 Fax +977-1-5003277  www.icimod.org

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 4th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

GLOBAL WARMING IGNITES BORDERS AS WELL

By Manuel Manonelles, BARCELONA, (IPS) Posted by Other News January 3, 2009.

Little by little, it is being confirmed that the melting of the polar ice caps, whether in Antarctica or the Arctic, is happening significantly faster than initially predicted. The consequences of this for peace, one of the main victims of climate change, are enormous.

Glaciers and areas of high-altitude mountains that were previously considered zones of perpetual snow are now melting. A paradigmatic case is that of the alpine border between Switzerland and Italy where during a recent routine verification, certain sections of ice or perennial snow that had been on the map since 1861 were found to be missing. In this case, the two countries have enjoyed long periods of peaceful coexistence and are approaching the problem in a logical and cordial fashion, forming a commission to find a technical solution.

However, the possible implications of cases like this in other geographical areas are very worrisome. The destabilising potential of a similar development on the India-Pakistan border would be enormous, particularly in the zone of Kashmir or the Siachen glacier, where more than 3000 soldiers of both countries have died since 1984. The same is true of the tense China-India border, or the deeply problematic border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which will grow increasingly porous with melting, contributing to a rise in destabilisation in what are already two of the most unstable countries on the earth.

Another major effect of global warming is the gradual opening of major global shipping lanes in areas that had previously been impassable because of ice. The Northeast Passage along the north of Russia, used recently for the first time in history, shortens travel between the ports of China, Japan, and Korea and Hamburg, Rotterdam, and South Hampton by 4,000 kilometres. With the Northwest Passage along northern Canada, travel between the China and the ports of the eastern United States is similarly shortened.

The opening of these new routes will completely change the dynamics of intercontinental trade and might render irrelevant places that until now were considered geostrategically essential, such as the Panama and the Suez Canal.

Add to this the draw of massive reserves of raw materials expected to be present in the Arctic, ever more accessible as the ice recedes, which is provoking a race for control of the area – including an arms race – and is stoking tensions particularly between Russia, Norway, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. The Russian news agency TASS has calculated oil reserves in the area at over 10 billion tonnes. Last year Canada approved an extraordinary 6.9 billion dollar arms bill to strengthen its military presence in its arctic zone, while Russia has resumed tactical flights of nuclear bombers in its polar region, triggering the protests of numerous countries.

This also explains, in part, the speed with which the European Union is processing the application for EU membership of bankrupt Iceland, which would place the body in the best possible position for future negotiations and territorial claims in the area with regard to future access to the “Arctic banquet”.

The melting of the ice caps is also the major cause of rising sea levels, which have other irreversible territorial, social, and economic consequences, such as the physical disappearance -partial or total- of certain small island states of the Pacific likely to occur within a few years -the Maldives, Samoa, Kiribati, among others. Obviously the implications are vast, including – in addition to the personal, environmental, cultural, and national trauma – the political and legal status of future states that have no territory. The principal components of the global infrastructure, from ports and refineries to airports and nuclear plants, are also seriously at risk, and will find themselves near or at or even below sea level.

It is important to note in this context that the majority of the global population lives in areas close to the sea, starting with megacities like Mumbai, London, New York, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Buenos Aires, and densely-populated areas like the Ganges delta in Bangladesh, where rising sea levels are already wreaking havoc in the form of water pollution and related effects. Recent studies indicate the possibility of some 200 million new environmental refugees in coming years -refugees who would only increase the already considerable humanitarian pressures and tensions in these areas and exacerbate existing or latent conflict.

The Global Humanitarian Fund issued a report this year that shows unequivocally that climate change today is responsible for some 300,000 deaths per year. Numbers for the medium and long-term are even higher. In this context, the urgency of fighting climate is a pre-condition for a peaceful future. Therefore, the international community has no other option, specially after the fiasco in Copenhagen, to spring into action as soon as possible. It is about climate, but also about peace and human lives.

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This and all “other news” issues edited by Roberto Savio can be found at www.other-net.info/index.php

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 10th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The following is just in time – please see what President Obama just said in Oslo after receiving the Nobel Prize:

Speaking as U.N.-sponsored climate talks continued in Copenhagen, Obama linked global warming to international security, telling his audience that “the world must come together to confront climate change.”

He said: “There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, more famine, more mass displacement — all of which will fuel more conflict for decades.”

Now at the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change will be heard something that the leadership of the UN managed to hide for many years – this until the taboo was broken by the UK at the time they chaired the UN Security Council three years ago. They declared, as part of their prerogative for naming a topic of their choosing, with full voice, that climate change is a security issue. We know what we say because our web was a victim of a UN that by policy of some individuals made the clear decision not to allow the UN DPI to see in its rooms the truth come out via the UN accredited press.

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from Jonathan Gaventa

E3G, Institute for Environmental Security, Chatham House and Energy Security Initiative at Brookings COP15 Official Side Event

Delivering Climate Security

What the security community needs from a global climate regime

Thursday 17th December, 2:45pm – 4:15pm*

Liva Weel Room, Bella Center

Join leading climate security experts for a side event exploring climate change impacts on national security and how the global climate regime can address this threat.

Experts:

Brigadier General (ret) Wendell Chris King, Dean of Academics, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College

Nick MabeyCEO and Founding Director, E3G

Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, Climate and Energy Security Envoy, United Kingdom

Major General (ret) Muniruzzaman, President, Bangladesh Institute for Peace and Security Studies

Cleo Paskal, Associate Fellow, Chatham House

*Refreshments will be served at the end of the event.

For more information please contact Meera Shah on +44 207 234 9880.

Related materials are available on E3G’s website: www.e3g.org.

 

   

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 30th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Climate Change Adaptation: It’s about Water! 
— Global Water Partnership’s contribution to the climate change dialogue

Water is central to the world’s development challenges. Whether it is food security, poverty reduction, economic growth, human health—water is the nexus. Climate change is the spoiler. No matter how successful mitigation efforts might be, people will experience the impacts of climate change through water.

The Global Water Partnership is participating in ‘Water Day’ at the climate change negotiations in Barcelona. GWP Executive Secretary Dr Ania Grobicki will be the lead speaker on water and transboundary issues on Tuesday, November 3. The venue is the Fira Congress Hotel, opposite the conference centre. The opening session starts at 9 am and lunch will be provided.

Recently, the GWP’s Technical Committee released its 14th Background Paper: “Water Management, Water Security and Climate Change Adaptation.” It argues that investments in water are investments in adaptation. The paper can be downloaded on www.gwpforum.org or ordered free at gwp@gwpforum.org.

Climate Change: How can we Adapt? – a one-pager about GWP’s key messages on this subject – is available here: www.gwpforum.org/gwp/library/GWP_Briefingnote_climatechange.pdf.

GWP has been accepted as an Inter-Governmental Organisation with Observer Status at  COP 15 in Copenhagen in December and has submitted an article to the delegate publication. But more information on that will follow later. 

More resources about climate change and water and more information on GWP’s involvement in the global dialogue on climate change is available on this page: www.gwpforum.org/servlet/PSP?iNodeID=205&itemId=442.

 

——————————————————–Steven DowneyHead of CommunicationsGlobal Water Partnership (GWP)Drottninggatan 33SE-111 51 Stockholm, SWEDENPhone:   +46 8 522 126 52Fax:      + 46 8 522 126 31E-mail: steven.downey@gwpforum.orgWebsite: www.gwpforum.org
A water secure world  the mission of the Global Water Partnership is to support the sustainable development and management of water resources at all levels.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 24th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Friends,

I can hardly believe my eyes.

16 hours ago, citizens in New Zealand gathered before dawn next to a wind turbine on a mountaintop. As local elders said prayers to bless the global event, banners and signs were held high to to greet the planet’s first rays of sunlight on this most incredible of days. 

As the sun continues across the planet we’ve been receiving photos and video of rallies in Ethiopia, bike rides in Wellington, SCUBA divers in Australia, organizers planting 350 trees in Thailand, hundreds of students marching in India and Nepal and Mongolia. And we’re getting reports from 350.org offices around the world that the phones are ringing off the hook with calls from the media who want to cover the story.

The day is just beginning and already it’s larger, more powerful, and so much more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. I’ve been a writer my entire life and yet words truly cannot describe what you have accomplished already. To truly grasp today, please stay tuned to our website as more and more photos come in from across the planet, and especially our evolving photo slideshow.

And the best news of all? The day has just begun!

Bill

P.S. Have a photo to contribute?  Just send a decent-quality picture to  photos@350.organd make the subject “City, Country” and make sure that the body of the e-mail contains a description of the photo, any necessary photographer credits, and any other information you think we’ll need. So many thanks.

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