Tag Archive for 'US'

The hidden history of Bengali Harlem

From MIT News:

While it is commonly known that a wave of well-educated South Asians arrived in the United States after 1965, this earlier saga of immigration and assimilation has largely been overlooked. Until now, that is: A new book, “Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America,” by MIT assistant professor Vivek Bald, illuminates this thread of history in unprecedented detail.

“Without these stories, the history of South Asians in the U.S. is incomplete,” Bald says.

One reason the subject has particular resonance for the present day, Bald believes, is that many of the immigrants in question were Muslim. “I wanted to make clear the depth and the persistence of the South Asian presence in the U.S.,” he says, “and specifically the South Asian Muslim presence in the U.S., at a time when Muslims are being portrayed as newcomers, enemies and outsiders.”

The genesis of “Bengali Harlem,” published this month by Harvard University Press, comes in good measure from conversations Bald had with Alaudin Ullah, a New York-based actor and playwright and the son of Habib Ullah. Hearing about the Ullah family’s odyssey sparked Bald’s curiosity. More:

Sherry makes a comeback

Pakistan has appointed former information minister Sherry Rehman as the country’s new ambassador to the US. Shahrbano Rehman, better known as Sherry Rehman, replaces Husain Haqqani, who was asked to resign over the “Memogate” scandal. In The Express Tribune:

Rehman, who is known for her strong views particularly on the country’s controversial blasphemy laws, will replace Hussain Haqqani who was asked to resign on Tuesday over the Memogate scandal.

The appointment of Rehman has come as a surprise to many as the former information minister was not named among the candidates most likely to be Haqqani’s successor. People like Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and former chairman of joint chiefs of staff general (retd) Ehsanul Haq were considered hot favourites as both are reportedly backed by the security establishment. More:

Her profile in Dawn:

The Taj Mahal of Appalachia

The death of disgraced Hare Krishna leader Swami Bhaktipada dredges up memories for Rahul Mehta in this New York Times piece:

It was the Taj Mahal of Appalachia, “Heaven on Earth” in “Almost Heaven West Virginia,” a sprawling, opulent affair with lush gardens, a beautiful temple, a Palace of Gold, accommodations for hundreds of devotees, statues of Radha and Krishna, and even, at one point, an elephant.

New Vrindaban — named after a holy town in India — was the largest Hare Krishna commune in America, and was opened to the public in 1979. It was led by Swami Bhaktipada, one of the movement’s earliest and most controversial American disciples, who died Monday. And it was less than two hours from the West Virginia town where I grew up.

My family went there often in those first years, ferrying carloads of Indian friends and relatives who came to see us (and the palace) from all around the United States. My parents and their friends were part of the first wave of Indians to arrive in America after the 1965 Immigration Act loosened restrictions on South Asians. This new immigrant community, just putting down roots, had very few places to worship; there were hardly any Hindu temples in America. For them, New Vrindaban provided an opportunity to pray in a proper mandir instead of at a makeshift altar in someone’s basement. More:

Indians may have to wait up to 70 years for green card

From Mint:

Highly skilled Indians applying for permanent residency in the US could have to wait up to 70 years for a green card, two new reports published on Wednesday found.

The studies, published by the Virginia-based immigration think tank National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), were the first of their kind to calculate wait times by country of origin and visa category.

The findings of the studies, first reported by Indo-Asian News Service agency, were heavily referenced by legislators, academics and private sector leaders hoping to influence the immigration debate in a hearing before the US House of Representatives judiciary subcommittee debating how to retain highly skilled foreign nationals on Wednesday.

The reports attribute the long wait times for green cards (up to 70 years for Indians, and two decades for the Chinese under the E-B3 category of green card allotted to foreign professionals who are university graduates) to quotas limiting the number of green cards issued to only 140,000 per year. Also, current immigration laws (dating back to the 1980s) restricted the number of green cards available to applicants from a particular country to only 7% of the total—regardless of the education level, skill quality or volume of the applicant pool. Practically speaking, this means that fewer than 3,000 Indians are granted E-B3 green cards each year, with an estimated backlog of 210,000 for India alone. More:

And in First Post:  US woos Indians with easy-to-get visas

An official from the bureau of consular affairs told Firstpost that travel to the US on a B1/B2 visitor visa would soon become “easy as pie” as steps were being taken to tackle long visa wait times in Brazil, India, and China, in particular, by increasing staff at US consular offices.

Obama, India and China

Thomas L. Friedman in The New York Times:

Don’t believe everything you read in the paper. Take this headline that appeared a couple weeks ago, when I was in New Delhi, in The Hindustan Times: “U.S. Not Seeking to Contain China: Clinton.” It was referring to a statement made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton while on a swing through Asia. No, Washington is not trying to contain China the way we once did the Soviet Union, but President Obama didn’t just spend three days in India to improve his yoga.

His visit was intended to let China know that America knows that India knows that Beijing’s recent “aggressiveness,” as one Indian minister put it to me, has China’s neighbors a bit on edge. None of China’s neighbors dare mention the C-word — containment — in public. Indeed, none of them want to go there at all or intend to promote such a policy. But there’s a new whiff of anxiety in the Asian air.

All of China’s neighbors want China to know, as the sign says: “Don’t even think about parking here.” Don’t even think about using your growing economic and military clout to just impose your claims in border disputes and over oil-rich islands in the South China Sea. Because, if you do, all of China’s neighbors will be doomed to become America’s new best friends — including India.

That’s why each one of China’s neighbors is eager to have a picture of their president standing with Secretary Clinton or President Obama — with the unspoken caption that reads: “Honestly, China, we don’t want to throttle you. We don’t want an Asian cold war. We just want to trade and be on good terms. But, please, stay between the white lines. Don’t even think about parking in my space because, if you do, I have this friend from Washington, and he’s really big. … And he’s got his own tow truck.” More:

Faisal Shahzad: ‘modern boy’ from liberal Pakistani village

From Dawn:

Mohib Banda, Pakistan: In his home village in Pakistan, shocked residents remember Faisal Shahzad as a modern father of two from a good family who showed no hatred of America or sympathy with radical Islam.

The 30-year-old naturalised American spent much of the last decade in the United States, where he has been charged on five counts of terrorism, including attempted use of a “weapon of mass destruction” to kill people in New York.

Villagers say the son of a retired air force officer grew up in a comfortable and respected middle-class family, was privately educated and went to university with other sons of the elite in the Pakistani city of Peshawar.

US media reports say Shahzad had worked as a financial analyst in Connecticut, where he lived before his house was repossessed last year because of debt problems.

In the 1980s, when Shahzad was a child, Peshawar was a staging post for the mujahideen who fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan, a place frequented by Osama bin Laden and swollen by a morass of two million Afghan refugees. More:

In The New York Times: From suburban father to terrorism suspect:

He had obtained citizenship through marriage to a woman who was born in Colorado — the authorities say she and their two young children are still in Pakistan, where they believe he was trained in making bombs last year in Waziristan, a tribal area that is a haven for militants.

On Saturday, the authorities said, Mr. Shahzad drove a Nissan Pathfinder packed with explosives and detonators, leaving it in Times Square. More:

The Case of Faisal Shahzad: Steve Coll in The New Yorker:

Last week, before the Times Square incident, I was talking with a former U.S. intelligence officer who worked extensively on jihadi cases during several overseas tours. He said that when a singleton of Shahzad’s profile—especially a U.S. citizen—turns up in a place like Peshawar, local jihadi groups are much more likely to assess him as a probable U.S. spy than as a genuine volunteer. At best, the jihadi groups might conclude that a particular U.S.-originated individual’s case is uncertain. They might then encourage the person to go home and carry out an attack—without giving him any training or access to higher-up specialists that might compromise their local operations. They would see such a U.S.-based volunteer as a “freebie,” the former officer said—if he returns home to attack, great, but if he merely goes off to report back to his C.I.A. case officer, no harm done. More:

War games

From The Guardian data blog:

See also: http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/

Helpful tips if visiting the U.S.

A sample from eDiplomat:

  • The only proper answers to the greetings “How do you do?” “How are you?” or “How are you doing?” are “Fine,” “Great,” or “Very well, thank you.” This is not a request for information about your well-being; it is simply a pleasantry.
  • Americans are generally uncomfortable with same-sex touching, especially between males.
  • Americans smile a great deal, even at strangers. They like to have their smiles returned.
  • Men and women will sit with legs crossed at the ankles or knees, or one ankle crossed on the knee.
  • Americans are often uncomfortable with silence. Silence is avoided in social or business meetings.
  • Never begin eating until everyone is served and your hosts have begun. Offer food or drink to others before helping yourself. Serve all women at the table first.

Click here to read the full list of cultural etiquette tips.

And here for the list of dos and don’ts when visiting India.

An example, “When an Indian smiles and jerks his/her head backward — a gesture that looks somewhat like a Western “no” — or moves his head in a figure 8, this means “yes.”

David Headley: A terror suspect’s life of contradictions

From the Wall Street Journal:

CHICAGO: Federal authorities allege David Headley is a terrorist. Joy Tomme knew him as a ladies’ man.

“Girls fell on their faces for him,” said Ms. Tomme, who worked the day shift in 1984 at one of two Philadelphia bars owned by Mr. Headley’s mother. Mr. Headley worked nights and still went by his given name, Daood Gilani.

Ms. Tomme, now a 78-year-old writer, said she was surprised during a visit to his apartment. “I thought it was going to be a love-nest,” she said. Instead, she saw posters of anti-capitalistic slogans and Islamic men bearing weapons.

Still tall and fit, the 49-year-old Mr. Headley is in custody, accused of helping coordinate the terrorist assault on Mumbai last year that killed more than 160 people. He is also accused of planning an attack on a Danish newspaper that had published unflattering cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad. More:

Also in the Wall Street Journal:

How Daood Gilani became David Headley

1960: Daood Gilani is born in Washington, to a Pakistani father and an American mother. The family moves to Pakistan while he is an infant.

1970: After divorcing Daood’s father, Serrill Headley returns to U.S. and buys a bar in Philadelphia, which she renames the Khyber Pass.

1977: Serrill Headley brings Daood back from Pakistan, where he attended a military high school. He spends one semester at Valley Forge Military College. Then he lives above his mother’s bar and works there in the 1980s until it is sold. More:

5 US students linked to al Qaeda

One of the men, Ramy Zamzam, seemed just another harried dental student only days ago. The 22-year-old student at Washington’s Howard University was agonizing over big soccer matches in the Middle East.

On Nov. 28, days before landing in Pakistan, a friend posted a note on Mr. Zamzam’s Facebook page, joking about how much they had eaten on Thanksgiving: “I heard your parents had to buy a new scale after you stepped on it??”

“Me or you?” Mr. Zamzam wrote back. “You even packed some to take home!” More in WSJ

Obama’s Afghanistan timeline and India: His Af, our Pak


Shekhar Gupta in the Indian Express:

Our biggest worry will be if he returns a loser, or in haste by claiming a partial success as victory. The situation we would then be left with will be like that of a patient who the surgeon has left unstitched on the operation table. Our policy has to work to ensure that does not happen, and if it does, to build the strength to deal with not one, but two debris states next door. Until then, we also have to accept living in our region with our preeminence deeply curtailed.

If Obama wins, we win. If he loses, we have to be strong enough to look after ourselves — because unlike him, we have no escape. More:

From Pakistan to Philadelphia: A terror suspect’s journey

Joseph Tanfani in Philadelphia Inquirer on Daood Gilani a.k.a. David Coleman Headley:

Headley, born Daood Gilani, is the son of a prominent Pakistani diplomat and the late Serrill Headley, founder and former owner of the Khyber Pass pub/restaurant at 56 S. Second St.

Serrill Headley, who grew up in Bryn Mawr, split with her husband, and lost custody of her children in Pakistani courts. “In Pakistan, men own the children. There are no rights for women,” she said in an interview in 1974.

After 10 years in Pakistan, Serrill Headley moved to Philadelphia, bought a 100-year-old tavern in 1973, and turned it into a bustling nightspot.

After two earlier attempts to get her son out of Pakistan failed, she succeeded in 1977.

In Philadelphia, however, he suffered from culture shock. Raised as a Muslim, he was having trouble adjusting to the idea that his mother ran a bar, an Inquirer column said. More:

Victory (for a crooked, corrupt and discredited government)

Patrick Cockburn in the Independent:

hamid_karzaiThe election in Afghanistan has turned into a disaster for all who promoted it. Hamid Karzai has been declared re-elected as President of the country for the next five years though his allies inside and outside Afghanistan know that he owes his success to open fraud. Instead of increasing his government’s legitimacy, the poll has further de-legitimised it.

From Mr Karzai’s point of view he won through at the end and showed that nobody is strong enough to get rid of him. For the US President, Barack Obama, the election has no silver lining. It has left him poised to send tens of thousands more US troops to fight a war in defence of one of the world’s most crooked, corrupt and discredited governments. “It is not that the Taliban is so strong, but the government is so weak,” was a common saying among Afghans before the election. This will be even truer in future.

The US and its allies may now push for a national unity government between Mr Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, his main rival for the presidency. This might look good on paper, or at least better than the alternative of Mr Karzai ruling alone. But enforced unity between men who detest each other will institutionalise divisions. Its value will largely be in terms of propaganda for external consumption. More:

Beware the reverse brain drain to India And China

Vivek Wadhwa, an entrepreneur turned academic, is a Visiting Scholar at UC-Berkeley, Senior Research Associate at Harvard Law School and Executive in Residence at Duke University. From the Washington Post:

We learned that these workers returned in their prime: the average age of the Indian returnees was 30 and the Chinese was 33. They were really well educated: 51% of the Chinese held masters degrees and 41% had PhDs. Among Indians, 66% held a masters and 12% had PhDs. These degrees were mostly in management, technology, and science. Clearly these returnees are in the U.S. population’s educational top tier?precisely the kind of people who can make the greatest contribution to an economy’s innovation and growth. And it isn’t just new immigrants who are returning home, we learned. Some 27% of the Indians and 34% of the Chinese had permanent resident status or were U.S. citizens. That’s right?it’s not just about green cards.

What propelled them to return home? Some 84% of the Chinese and 69% of the Indians cited professional opportunities. And while they make less money in absolute terms at home, most said their salaries brought a “better quality of life” than what they had in the U.S. (There was also some reverse culture shock?complaints about congestion in India, say, and pollution in China.) When it came to social factors, 67% of the Chinese and 80% of the Indians cited better “family values” at home. Ability to care for aging parents was also cited, and this may be a hidden visa factor: it’s much harder to bring parents and other family members over to the U.S. than in the past. For the vast majority of returnees, a longing for family and friends was also a crucial element. More:

Obama’s Diwali message


America’s high-tech sweatshops

U.S. companies may be contributing unwittingly to the exploitation of workers imported from India and elsewhere by tech-services outfits. From BusinessWeek:

Vimal Patel was studying for a master’s in business administration in London when he saw an advertisement for work in the U.S. The ad offered a job in the tech industry, as well as sponsorship for the kind of work visa that allows foreign nationals to take professional-level jobs in the country. So Patel applied and paid his prospective employer, Cygate Software & Consulting, in Edison, N.J., thousands of dollars in up-front fees. But when Patel arrived, Cygate had no tech job for him. He ended up working at a gas station, and Cygate nevertheless took a chunk of his wages for years, according to documents in a criminal case against Cygate.

After a federal investigation into Cygate, Patel and five other natives of India recruited by the company pled guilty to visa violations in June. They were sentenced to 12 to 18 months of probation, assessed fines of $2,000 each, and now face deportation. But at Patel’s sentencing in the federal courthouse in Newark, N.J., his lawyer said the slim 36-year-old, with a mop of brown hair spilling over his forehead, was more victim than villain. Like many ambitious workers from abroad, he came to the country seeking his fortune, and he suffered for the effort. “It’s a sad day,” said Anthony Thomas, the public defender assigned to represent Patel. “He always dreamed of coming to the U.S.”

Cygate, which changed its name to Sterling System after the lawsuit, is one of thousands of low-profile companies that have come to play a central role in the U.S. tech industry in recent years. These companies, many with just 10 to 50 employees, recruit workers from abroad and, when possible, place them at U.S. corporations to provide tech support, software programming, and other services. While many outfits operate legally and provide high-quality talent, there is growing evidence that others violate U.S. laws and mistreat their recruits. More:

Shoot for the legs

In Guernica, Robert Thurman, the West’s first Tibetan Buddhist monk on his friend the Dalai Lama, the nuance of forceful resistance, and how Hitler could have been defeated without violence:

robert thurmanRobert Thurman’s journey toward his own inner peace-which he admits he hasn’t “fully mastered, of course” -began in 1961 when he lost his left eye in an accident. His becoming one of Time’s Twenty-Five Most Influential Americans also likely followed from this accident-as a result of which, Thurman dropped out of Harvard, divorced his wife-an heiress unsupportive of his new zeal-and wandered, quite literally, through India, Iran, and Turkey. While wandering in 1964, Thurman met the Dalai Lama (a.k.a. His Holiness), and thus began the remarkable friendship that thrives today. The Dalai Lama invited Thurman, who had become fluent in Tibetan in ten weeks, to Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibetan exile community, and arranged for him to study Buddhism with his own senior tutor. The following year, Thurman was ordained by His Holiness himself-taking 252 vows that focused on a philosophy of nonviolence, compassion, and selflessness-making him the first Tibetan Buddhist monk born in the West.

Eventually, Thurman became homesick and returned to the States. An outsider now with his shaved head and maroon robes, his desire to help others was thwarted by his skepticism over “the usefulness in American society of trying to help others as a monk (as opposed to a layperson in a university).”

Convinced he would be of more benefit as a teacher, he resigned his vows, returned to Harvard, earned three degrees, and embarked upon academic life, all without giving up his rigorous daily Buddhist practices. He married Nena von Schlebrugge, a model and Timothy Leary’s former wife; they had four children, one of whom starred in the ultra violent films Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Kill Bill: Vol. 2, Uma. More:

Eight Years After 9/11: Why Osama bin Laden Failed

From TIME:

He may have eluded justice and the long reach of the world’s most powerful military force; his followers may (and probably will) strike again at some point in the future, near or distant; but history’s verdict on Osama bin Laden has been in for some time now: al-Qaeda failed.

The 9/11 attacks on New York City and Washington – like those that preceded them in East Africa in 1998 and those that followed in London, Madrid, Bali and other places – were tactical successes in that they managed to kill hundreds of innocent people, grab the world’s headlines and briefly dominate the nightmares of Western policymakers. But the strategy those attacks were a part of has proved to be fundamentally flawed. Terrorism departs from the rules of war by deliberately targeting the innocent, but it shares the basic motivational force of conventional warfare – “the pursuit of politics by other means,” as Clausewitz wrote. More:

NY police plays cricket to build relationships

From the New York Times:

The Gateway Cricket Ground in Brooklyn is a spartan place – a grass oval tucked in by the Belt Parkway, in the shadows of the towers of Starrett City and beneath the flight path of Kennedy International Airport.

But on Tuesday morning it was crowded with players, some toting paddlelike bats, and filled with the sound of leather balls struck by wood.

The sport they were playing is as ancient as it is baffling to most Americans, yet the New York Police Department has chosen cricket as a way to foster relationships with newer immigrant communities.

The Police Department established a cricket competition for young men in the city last summer; the project was a success, and on Tuesday, play began for another season. Interest has expanded, with 10 teams and 170 players involved this year, compared with 6 teams last year. More:

Click here to watch the NYT video.

An India roadmap for Obama

A new Asia Society task force outlines a bold new strategy for the Obama administration to strengthen relations with India:

coverAs the Obama Administration transitions to power already burdened with global economic crises and two wars, two events underscore India’s importance for US interests: the brutal Mumbai attacks and the financial sector meltdown. The Mumbai attacks reminded Americans of India’s vulnerability to global terrorism, our shared struggle against violent Islamic extremism, and the potential for crisis to rapidly escalate in the region. The financial sector meltdown and the emerging global response showed how India can be a key part of the solution through leadership in global bodies such as the G20.

India matters to virtually every major foreign policy issue that will confront the United States in the years ahead. A broad-based, close relationship with India will thus be necessary to solve complex global challenges, achieve security in the critical South Asian region, reestablish stability in the global economy, and overcome the threat of violent Islamic radicalism which has taken root across the region and in India. The members of this task force believe that the US relationship with India will be among our most important in the future, and will at long last reach its potential for global impact-provided that strong leadership on both sides steers the way.

Click here for a summary and to download the full report:

Should Obama give a speech to the Muslim world?

Heather Hurlburt of the National Security Network and David Frum of NewMajority.com debate whether President Obama should give a speech to the Muslim world. From bloggingheads.tv

The Pakistan test

Nicholas D. Kristof in the New York Times:

Barack Obama’s most difficult international test in the next year will very likely be here in Pakistan. A country with 170 million people and up to 60 nuclear weapons may be collapsing.

Reporting in Pakistan is scarier than it has ever been. The major city of Peshawar is now controlled in part by the Taliban, and this month alone in the area an American aid worker was shot dead, an Iranian diplomat kidnapped, a Japanese journalist shot and American humvees stolen from a NATO convoy to Afghanistan.

I’ve been coming to Pakistan for 26 years, ever since I hid on the tops of buses to sneak into tribal areas as a backpacking university student, and I’ve never found Pakistanis so gloomy. Some worry that militants, nurtured by illiteracy and a failed education system, will overrun the country or that the nation will break apart. I’m not quite that pessimistic, but it’s very likely that the next major terror attack in the West is being planned by extremists here in Pakistan.


Ringed by foes, Pakistanis fear the US, too

There is an increasing belief among some Pakistanis that what the U.S. really wants is the breakup of Pakistan. Jane Perlez from Islamabad in the New York Times:

Above are sections of maps that opriginally accompanied a speculative June 2006 article by Ralph Peters in Armed Forces Journal that has concerned pakistanis.

A controversial imaging of borders: Above are sections of maps that opriginally accompanied a speculative June 2006 article by Ralph Peters in Armed Forces Journal that has concerned pakistanis.

A redrawn map of South Asia has been making the rounds among Pakistani elites. It shows their country truncated, reduced to an elongated sliver of land with the big bulk of India to the east, and an enlarged Afghanistan to the west.

That the map was first circulated as a theoretical exercise in some American neoconservative circles matters little here. It has fueled a belief among Pakistanis, including members of the armed forces, that what the United States really wants is the breakup of Pakistan, the only Muslim country with nuclear arms.

“One of the biggest fears of the Pakistani military planners is the collaboration between India and Afghanistan to destroy Pakistan,” said a senior Pakistani government official involved in strategic planning, who insisted on anonymity as per diplomatic custom. “Some people feel the United States is colluding in this.”


Stephen Cohen on how the US sees India

In Mint, Jyoti Malhotra interviews Brookings Institution senior fellow of foreign policy Stephen P. Cohen:

Q: Seems to some of us here that the gap between the Indian elite and the Democrats is much wider than between the Indian elite and the Republicans…

A: The Democrats were more influenced by non-proliferation considerations, and for a number of years, this steered US policy towards South Asia, especially after the nuclear tests of 1998. But before that the Democrats were very pro-India, it was the Republicans that were hostile to India. The Republicans thought India was a socialist state, they didn’t like Nehru, they didn’t like Krishna Menon. It’s flip now.

Now that the non-proliferation issue is behind us, I would say one remarkable thing about elite public opinion in the US is that everybody likes India. Whether they are for the deal or against the deal, they like India as a state. I think that is a major accomplishment of India and it puts a new spin on our relationship. But here, for example, the Left parties are systemically anti-American, whereas in the US even those who are against the nuclear deal are very pro-India.


Insurgency’s scars line Afghanistan’s main road

A highway that was once the showpiece of the United States reconstruction effort is now a dangerous gantlet of mines and attacks. From The New York Times:

Saydebad, Afghanistan: Not far from here, just off the highway that was once the showpiece of the United States reconstruction effort in Afghanistan, three American soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were ambushed and killed seven weeks ago.

The soldiers – two of them members of the National Guard from New York – died as their vehicles were hit by mines and rocket-propelled grenades. At least one was dragged off and chopped to pieces, according to Afghan and Western officials. The body was so badly mutilated that at first the military announced that it had found the remains of two men, not one, in a nearby field.

The attack, on June 26, was notable not only for its brutality, but also because it came amid a series of spectacular insurgent attacks along the road that have highlighted the precariousness of the international effort to secure Afghanistan six years after the United States intervened to drive off the Taliban government.


Mystery of Siddiqui disappearance

From BBC:

Aafia Siddiqui

Aafia Siddiqui

Aafia Siddiqui, whom the US accuses of al-Qaeda links, vanished in Karachi with her three children on 30 March 2003. The next day it was reported in local newspapers that a woman had been taken into custody on terrorism charges.

Initially, confirmation came from a Pakistan interior ministry spokesman. But a couple of days later, both the Pakistan government and the FBI publicly denied having anything to do with her disappearance.

Two days after Aafia Siddiqui went missing, “a man wearing a motor-bike helmet” arrived at the Siddiqui home in Karachi, her mother told the BBC. “He did not take off the helmet, but told me that if I ever wanted to see my daughter and grandchildren again, I should keep quiet,” Ms Siddiqui’s mother told me over the phone in 2003.


Anger in Pakistan as ‘missing’ scientist resurfaces in US court on terror charges

From The Independent:

Aafia Siddiqui reappeared five years later in US custody in Afghanistan

Aafia Siddiqui reappeared five years later in US custody in Afghanistan

A US-trained neuroscientist’s appearance in a New York court charged with the attempted murder of American soldiers and FBI agents has sparked angry protests in her homeland of Pakistan.

Aafia Siddiqui, 36, is under suspicion of having links to the al-Qa’ida terror network of Osama bin Laden, and is the first woman ever sought by the US in connection with the group, which was behind the September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

According to US officials, Ms Siddiqui, who reportedly studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, was arrested in Afghanistan on 17 July in possession of recipes for explosives and chemical weapons, as well as details of landmarks in the United States, including in New York.


An endgame with no clear winners

Siddharth Varadarajan in The Hindu on the day of the confidence vote in Parliament:

When a patient is staring death in the face, the dividing line between self-preservation and self-destruction can be rather thin. In medieval times, leeches were often attached to a dying patient’s body in the belief that the ‘bad’ blood they drew out would help breathe life into him. But even if this drastic remedy worked, the doctor had to know when it was safe to cast aside the pet parasites. Let them feed too long and the sick man might never recover; remove them too soon and they may not have time to deliver their ‘cure.’

Ever since the Left parties withdrew their support to the United Progressive Alliance, the Congress party has sought to prolong the life of the government it leads by resorting to leech therapy. Beginning with the Samajwadi Party, it has struck deals with a range of parties and individuals to ensure at least 271 votes when the confidence motion is put to test on July 22. Some of these deals involve concessions that are in the public domain – a file speeded up here, a Cabinet berth promised there – but the most critical indulgences sought and granted are the ones not being advertised. Whatever they are, these deals could prove counterproductive for the Congress at four levels. First, the perception has gotten around that the UPA will go to any length to win this vote, even if this means accommodating demands that ought not to be accommodated. The Congress may carry the day but its reputation will have been diminished as a result. Second, creating the impression that the SP’s pet agendas will be pursued with vigour has given Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati a compelling reason to go flat out to unseat the government. Third, the impression that one section of big capital is being pandered to has galvanised another section into action, and it is far from clear what the overall effect of this corporate intervention will be for the Congress. Fourth, the understanding with the SP is clearly not momentary. As it matures into a full-fledged political alliance involving seat-sharing in Uttar Pradesh, the compact will represent the Congress’s formal abandonment of any hope of revival in India’s politically most important state.


Playing the Muslim card on nuclear deal

Also by Siddharth Varadarajan

Going by the statements Indian politicians make, Hindus and Muslims must be the most gullible people on earth. How else can one explain the cynical revival, in the run-up to the next general election, of the Ayodhya temple card by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L K Advani? Or the manipulative assertion by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati that the nuclear deal is anti-Muslim.

Sadly, Mayawati is not the only one to look at one of the most important foreign policy issues confronting India in this manner. On June 23, M K Pandhe, a member of the politburo of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), warned the Samajwadi Party against supporting the UPA govern- ment on the nuclear issue because, he claimed, “a majority of the Muslim masses are against the deal”. The CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat wisely disowned this shocking statement two days later by saying that Pandhe’s remarks “are not the view of the party” but the damage had al- ready been done. Now that it has been let out of its bottle, this dangerous genie will not be exorcised easily. Parties eager to hoodwink Muslims into supporting them feel they now have an issue. And waiting in the wings are the traditional Muslim- baiters in the BJP, who thrive on the communalisation of any issue and will point an accusatory finger at the community when the time is ripe.

Siddharth Varadarajan’s blog Reality, one bite at a time:

Bhutan a big draw in US

The Bhutanese are in Washington, DC for the Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival. Kinley Dorji reports in Kuensel:

As thousands of people crowded the Bhutan exhibition to look at a culture that was difficult for them to fathom, however, the Bhutanese participants were equally fascinated by the American people and their country.

“I can’t imagine, even after seeing them, that there are so many different types of people on this earth,” said a Bhutanese swordmaker, looking at the crowd of people of all shapes, sizes, and colours. And, in the heat of Washington’s notoriously hot and humid summer, the Bhutanese find the clothing and lack of clothing of the Americans equally astonishing.

Meanwhile, a Laya herder is still in a daze after the amazing 17-hour flight from Delhi which he found to be an ethereal experience. “I think this is how the deities live,” he said. “It’s so still up in the sky. And they bring you food and drink, serving it up to your chin. I chanted my prayers because I think they would have more merit up there.” He also watched every movie on the menu without understanding a word.

[Photo: His Royal Highness jamming with blues singer Texas Johnny Brown.]


Why India would like McCain as US President

Indians would prefer Obama or Clinton, but not the Indian government, says Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar in The Times of India:

Which of the three candidates for the US Presidency – Hilary Clinton, Barak Obama, and John McCain – will be best for India? Most Indians would opt for Obama or Clinton. But from a policy viewpoint, McCain would be best for India.

Indians have followed with fascination the Democratic struggle in primaries between Clinton and Obama. Through history, all presidential candidates of the Republican and Democratic parties have been white males. This time, all white males have been eliminated early in the Democratic primaries, and the race is now between a woman and a black.

Indian feminists would love to see Clinton win. The US constitution in 1787 had a noble vision of equality for all humans, yet women did not get the vote till 1920. For a woman to be elected this year would be a US landmark.


Bush aide thinks Nepal and Tibet are the same

From The Huffington Post:

President Bush’s National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley appeared on ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos and repeatedly confused Nepal and Tibet.

Discussing how Bush has “no reason not to go” to this summer’s Olympic games in Beijing and how boycotting them would be wrong, Hadley discussed the outcry over Tibet and the US response, only he kept saying Nepal.

“If countries are really concerned about Nepal, we shouldn’t have this sort of non-issue of opening ceremonies or not. They should do the hard work of quiet diplomacy to urge the Chinese government — in their interest — to take advantage of this opportunity to do something,” Hadley said.

[via sajaforum.org]

More here… and also watch the video of the gaffe:

Call my lawyer … in India

Call-centre jobs were first; now U.S. companies are looking offshore for their legal work too. From TIME:

Mark Alexander, a Dallas attorney, says he’s ethically obligated to do what’s best for his clients, “and that includes saving them money.” So when one of them asks him to research a securities-fraud topic, for example, or breach of contract, he doesn’t even think about applying his $395 hourly rate. Instead, he calls Atlas Legal Research, an outsourcing company based in Irving, Texas, that uses lawyers in India to provide the service for $60 per hr. “When a client pays me a $25,000 retainer and I can save them money, I will do so,” says Alexander. Handing off the work to a $225-per-hr. junior associate is not an option. “They don’t even know where to stand in the courtroom,” he says.