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China : Five year space plan

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China has announced an ambitious five-year plan to explore outer space.  The plan includes China's previously-stated goals of putting a man on the moon and building a space station. As per its ambitious plan, China will deploy space laboratories, launch manned spaceships and space freighters, and make technological preparations for the construction of space station by the end of 2016. It should be noted that China has already made sound progress in space exploration and research but it still lags far behind the United States and Russia in space technology and experience. 

Nepal gets a Prime Minister

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Bhattarai face intractable task

The political instability in Nepal seems to be looming large and is definitely getting worse. Nepal has elected its fourth prime minister in four years. Dr Baburam Bhattarai of Unified Communist Party of Nepal- Maoist (UCPN-M) is an alumnus of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) of India, where in 1986 he earned his PhD in underdevelopment and the regional structure of Nepal. Dr Bhattarai had graduated from Punjab University, Chandigarh and studied for a masters in the School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi. He is Nepal’s second Maoist prime minister after Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, whose term lasted nine months in 2008-09. Bhattarai was one of the lead negotiators of the Maoists before and after the people’s movement of 2006 that overthrew the monarchy in Nepal. One can recollect that the rebels, represented by Dr Bhattarai’s Maoist’s party, fought a decade-long guerrilla campaign against the former monarchy until joining the United Nations-supervised peace process in 2006. The monarchy was eventually removed from power in 2008 but more than 16,000 people had died in the civil war.

End of Osama Bin Laden

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September, 11, 2001 was the most significant date of the present century that shaped the global geo-political relations. It was on this date that the world saw with disbelief and shock, the footage of the planes-turned missiles destroying the WTC and damaging the Pentagon. It was the worst terrorist attack the world had witnessed and was totally inexcusable and is condemned till date.

Resulting War on Terror: The terrible events of September 11 saw the considerable quieting of what was until then growing domestic and international criticism of the Bush Administration. The September 11 events resulted in a "war on terror" which saw support for Bush and his popularity soar at the time. The subsequent bombing of Afghanistan to attack Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network and Taliban for harbouring them, had led to a mixture of political, social and economic reaction around the world. The inhumane act performed by the Arab extremists/terrorist on September, 11, 2001 generated a feeling of hatred and anti-Islam, without distinguishing the despotic militants from ordinary Muslims.

Death of Osama Bin Laden- Is This the End of War on Terrorism??? The death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of the U.S. military is not is not going to end the "war on terror"-a phrase that has fallen out of fashion since Barack Obama entered the White House (his administration uses the term "Overseas Contingency Operation"). The victims of the September, 11 attack are viewing his end as a sense of justice and a much needed closure of emotional trauma. But we need to keep in mind that even without bin Laden to lead it, Al Qaeda will continue. This means that the ugly war of terrorism against the humanity is not ended as of now.  This long struggle has not been about one man vs. another; it has been about ideas, about faith, and, most of all, about freedom. Those who have elected to be combatants on the side of the forces of darkness that Al Qaeda represents will likely now seek to avenge the death of their leader rather than go gently into the night. Terror is real and is not the product of the effort of one man alone. The contest between freedom and tyranny is real, and cannot be won because one man passes from the scene. There will always be another tyrant to take his or her place.

Osama's death may lead to a new breed of terrorists: Osama's name had become synonymous to terror and brutal massacre of thousands affecting millions across the world in the pretext of terrorism. But does his death mean the end of such brutality? With the terrorism network spread far and wide, terrorist groups are rampant with cluster units functioning exclusively to broaden Osama's ideology of mass destruction across the world. Osama had converted Al-Qaeda into an organization that undertook terrorist activities to a propaganda hub and that is capable of mobilizing youth into a movement against liberal ideologies. With many members in the Osama core group either captured or killed, there are many other recruits who still have the capacity to take over the reins of terror from Osama. The death of Osama Bin Laden is worth cheering but we need to remember that, his organization al-Qaida is a hydra with many heads and unfortunately there are many other operational and symbolic leaders in al-Qaeda.  In spite of the death of Osama Bin Laden, that is no doubt historic in nature, will mean the end of terrorism remains to be seen and in fact, the world must be ready to face fresh terrorist attacks in retaliation. The arms of terrorism have spread out and have got into the psyche of youth across the world for whom terrorism has been uttered in the same sentence as jihad.

Bin Laden's Death Will Have a Greater Impact on Pakistan: Policy wise there is not going to be a much difference on war in Afghanistan and undeclared war in Pakistan. But Laden's death and that too in Pakistan is definitely going to impact the nation in a big way. Pakistan had consistently maintained that Laden was not sheltering on Pakistani soil and he be searched in Afghanistan. The Pakistani stance was part of a wider policy of denial, dating back to the 9/11 attacks, premised on the argument that Pakistan was not the source and springboard for Islamist-inspired terrorism but rather its principal victim. Pakistan is thus caught in an awkward and highly embarrassing position, as the government has always denied that bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan. The death of Laden also highlights the failure of Pakistan to deal forcefully with its own violent Islamists forces, the so called Pakistani Taliban. Another notable fact is that the US did not tell the Pakistan about the final mission against Laden, fearing that the information would not be secure, clearly indicates the breach of faith in Pakistan of the USA. Pakistan is also in the danger of facing retaliation for the killing of Laden because the extremist in the country are suspicious of involvement of the national government in harbouring Laden's death. Thus, Pakistan naturally faces potential internal national security threat. Another major fear factor for Pakistan now would be to ensure completely safety of its security establishments and the tribal populations, as they might come in line of attack of the next generation of Al-Qaeda fighters.

Balancing the relations with the US would be the top most priority of Pakistan. America's relationship with Pakistan would become central in determining the heightened threat of a terrorist attack following the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Pakistan's role in the killing - either by collaborating with the US or by helping to hide the world's most wanted man - would be heavily scrutinised in the coming days. The fact that Laden was killed in a town where Pakistan gives training to its military cadets clearly highlights that Pakistan commitment on the War on Terror and insurgency was very qualified. The question clearly arises in our mind that can we really trust Pakistan? On the second probability that the Pakistani government was aware of and co-operated with Americans to kill Laden on Pakistani soil, would feed into the anti-Americanism that's been coming up in Pakistan in the last 10 years or even before that. In all probabilities Laden's death will definitely rupture the American-Pakistan relations. Thus it's very important for Americans at the moment to constantly point out that killing Osama doesn't mean Pakistan is losing its significance and doesn't also mean the end of the American and West, including Australian, support of Pakistan."

What can be the repercussions for India: Strategic Implications: - The death of Osama alarms India to tread cautiously because his death would impact the psychology of the terror groups within the country. The suspected terror groups in India like Lashkar-e-Tayiba and others still looked up to Osama as their hero and worshipped him and it was the 9/11 attack which drew them to take up the cause of so called jihad. Osama had a lot of sympathizers within India too. Certain strong pockets in Kerala and Uttar Pradesh saw him as a hero and they termed him as Sheikh Osama. For them Osama was no ordinary man, but he was viewed as the man who took on America single handedly. This kind of bravado is what they looked for in their leader and this prompted them to easily take to terrorism. This death may unleash a new series of revengeful terror attacks globally and India may straight away come in the spotlight of the terror groups.

Internal Security of India Needs to be put on High Alert: In spite of welcoming the news of Bin Laden's death as a "victorious milestone" in the war against terrorism, India cannot afford to show a lax behaviour regarding its internal security scenario. We should not forget that Pakistan still provides safe heavens and sanctuaries to terrorist, which can anytime be used against us for possible reprisal attacks following bin Laden's death.  Our intelligence network and security forces must be kept on high alert to deal with all kinds of unforeseen circumstances. We need to continue our united effort to overcome terrorism and eliminate the safer heavens and sanctuaries that have been provided to terrorist in our neighbourhood. Our struggle against terrorism must continue unabated. Though our distrust for Pakistan continues, we should continue the recent attempts at boosting diplomatic dialogue with our nuclear-armed neighbour.

Uncertainties in Kyrgyzstan

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The history has shown merciless trends of ethnic violence and for the parochial interests humanity has suffered a lot. An ethnic violence has a long-drawn history of mutual grievances. The sudden riots in Osh, an extension of Ferghana Valley, and Jalalabad had a long background mutual discomfort. The Ferghana Valley, where the violence occurred, is a tinderbox of ethnic conflicts. The borders of the three Central Asian states – Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan – that converge in the fertile valley were arbitrarily drawn by Joseph Stalin more than 80 years ago.

Four days of rioting left an estimated 2,000 people dead and some 4,00,000 displaced, of whom about 1,00,000 fled to neighbouring Uzbekistan. Seventy per cent of the buildings in Osh, second largest city of Kyrgyzstan with a population of 2,50,000 people, were torched. The recent genesis of the ethnic violence can be traced back to the second “Tulip Revolution.” President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who came to power as a reformer in the post-Soviet state, was overthrown and took refuge in Belarus under Alexander Lukashenko. Roza Otunbayeva has assumed as the interim leader of Kyrgyzstan. Many expected Moscow to respond with the same resolve to the crisis in Kyrgyzstan, where it has a military base; Kyrgyzstan is also its ally in the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), a defence bloc of seven former Soviet states, which also unites Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The clashes were the worst ethnic violence to hit impoverished Kyrgyzstan since it gained independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union nearly two decades ago.

Background: There are between 700,000 and 1,000,000 Uzbek residents in 5.5-million-strong Kyrgyzstan, but in the Ferghana Valley they form the dominant and fastest growing ethnic group, prompting Kyrgyz fears of a Kosovo-like situation. The growing disparities between the two ethnic groups have created a sense of deprivation. Kyrgyz residents resent the fact that their enterprising Uzbek compatriots dominate the local economy, while the Uzbek community complains of discrimination in official jobs and language rights. There is a deeper distinction that contributes to animosities: the Kyrgyz are traditional nomads, while the Uzbeks are farmers. Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the north mostly supported the interim government, while Kyrgyz in the south largely backed Bakiyev.

The recent causes of violence are not very certain but a number of theories are assumed and they may be enumerated as:

  1. The role of Bakiyev is seen as his political and family base is located in the conflict zone.
  2. During both the 2005 “Tulip Revolution” and the April 2010 events – which culminated in President Kurmanbek Bakiyev being driven out of the country – criminal groups took an active part in the change of government, providing detachments of storm troopers to the politicians.
  3. Russian role has been also seen as it was annoyed of the U.S. base at Manas airport near Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital. It is to note that the US-led coalition in Afghanistan has used the Manas base since US military operations in Uzbekistan ended five years ago.
  4. The nascent stage of state formation, chronic problems of poverty and economic disarray, gross mis-governance, rampant corruption and cronyism, incessant clan struggle, weak regional integration processes, and so on have also contributed a lot to the sense of insecurity of the people.
  5. Both Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan suffer from the absence of any regional security architecture. There has been no regional initiative to address the Kyrgyz crisis. And the role of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is limited and far from effective in resolving the contentious issues.
  6. Besides that neither the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) nor the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) — in sum, neither Russia nor the U.S. — has shown willingness to depute peacekeeping forces to Kyrgyzstan despite the desperate cry from Bishkek for intervention by foreign forces to put down the violence.
  7. It is only through patient economic reconstruction that the roots of instability can be eliminated in Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan. Whereas the Afghan economy was devastated by three decades of modern war, the Kyrgyz economy got derailed with the disintegration of the Soviet material supply system. In both the countries, the viable economic system has not created and as a result of this a lot of speculation and deviant tendencies use to cripple the law and order of the country. Kyrgyzstan’s vote for parliamentary form In order to resolve the on-going crisis the more than 90 per cent of Kyrgyz voters backed radical changes from a presidential to a parliamentary form of government. Basically four issues were involved in the referendum:
  • a new constitution, which would reduce the powers of the President and make Kyrgyzstan Central Asia’s first parliamentary republic;
  • the interim government. If endorsed, Roza Otunbayeva will remain interim President until December 31, 2011;
  • abolition of constitutional court, which the interim government claims was heavily influenced by allies of an ousted President; and
  • the constitutional court’s powers, will now be transferred to the Supreme Court. The Constitution approved would devolve power from the President to Parliament. This will make Kyrgyzstan the first state in Central Asia with a parliamentary form of government. Kyrgyzstan will adopt the new political system this year itself after elections to Parliament are held within the next few months. Roza Otunbayeva, the interim President, called the referendum a success. Otunbayeva has said members of her interim government will continue to pass necessary legislation until October 2010, when voters elect a parliament.


Reactions:
Russia: It has expressed doubts about the viability of the new political system. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has expressed bewilderment at how a country ravaged by bloodletting and instability would transform itself into a democracy. Kyrgyzstan’s neighbours as well as China and the United States are afraid that the parliamentary republic will completely finish off the Kyrgyz state.  China: Chinese trade with Kyrgyzstan has been affected. China’s involvement in the crisis has far been limited to offering 5 million yuan ($732,000) worth of medicine, medical equipment, food, drinking water, blankets, and tents, while flying out almost 1,300 Chinese nationals from the battle-scarred city of Osh.

Impact of the violence: It holds out grave implications for regional security and India cannot  remain impervious to them. Kyrgyzstan too is a land-locked country like Afghanistan that at once becomes highly susceptible to foreign interference. Further, the deepening  crisis in Kyrgyzstan contains a mirror image of almost all the elements associated with the Afghan civil war. The international diplomacy over the issue of ethnic violence will have a direct impact on the politics of Afghanistan. India must be watchful under these circumstances and any major change in the power equation has a direct bearing on the stability of the region.

Yuan As a reserve currency

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Yuan As a reserve currency

The People’s Bank of China has ended a two-year peg to the dollar and manage the yuan or renminbi (RMB) with reference to a basket of currencies. As a result of this the currency closed at its strongest level since 1993. The Yuan is permitted to rise or fall 0.5 per cent from daily reference rate. It has been felt that Yuan has been kept at an artificially low level and has significantly contributed to the global financial crisis.

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