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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pandora's Box Provokes Impassioned Polemic

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In response to "Asia's Nuclear Pandora's Box," a column by Pavel Felgenhauer on Jan. 17.

Editor,


I was disappointed to read this comment on the South Asian crisis. Not only does the author have a limited understanding of the topic, but his facts are misstated.

First of all, the author does not consider who is the aggressor in this conflict and who is the aggrieved party. The occupation of Kashmir by India is illegal by any standard.

Despite Kashmir being given to Pakistan in the 1947 British bifurcation, to which Gandhi and Nehru had agreed, and several UN resolutions asking for a plebiscite in Kashmir -- which India is hesitant to hold as it knows what the results will be-- India continues to occupy this land.

Further, what the author does not consider in his limited understanding of the situation is that both of these countries have been nuclear powers for quite some time. The United States recognized Pakistan's and India's nuclear programs in the early 1990s and imposed sanctions. In 1998, India came out in the open with nuclear testing and Pakistan followed suit. Many experts believe that one of the predominant reasons that Pakistan and India have not had a full scale war yet (the last one was in 1971) is that their nuclear programs have proved to be a deterrent.

Next, the author insinuates that Pakistan is afraid of war and India is not. Pray, what in the world is Mr. Felgenhauer thinking? Thank God both the leaders of these magnificent countries have more sense than the author. While it is true that India's army and navy outsize those of Pakistan, the leaders and statesmen in both countries are well aware that if there is any conflict that threatens the sovereignty of the countries, there will be no hesitation to use nuclear weapons. At the culmination of such a nuclear conflict, even if one country is left standing, there will be no winners.

I hope to read more insightful articles on this region in your paper in the future.

Hussain Mooraj
Boston



Editor,


The comment carries a biased analysis of nuclear conflict in South Asia. While comparing the military strength of India and Pakistan, the writer has tried to paint a dismal picture of Pakistan's armed forces' strength that does not conform to reality.

Pakistan has a strong and highly professional army that is fully prepared to meet any aggression and defend the territorial integrity of the country. It is therefore wrong to say that Pakistan is afraid of war. Pakistan stands for peaceful means to resolve the outstanding issues with India including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

The writer has also failed to appreciate the necessity of the resolution of the Kashmir dispute, the oldest dispute on the United Nations Security Council's agenda. Pakistan has been demanding the implementation of UN resolutions on Kashmir. To say that Pakistan is united because of struggle in Kashmir is only designed to deflect from the gravity of the problem and undermine the indigenous struggle by the people of Kashmir against foreign rule.

The establishment of Pakistan in 1947 followed a long and persistent struggle by the Muslims of the subcontinent. The Muslim-majority provinces of British India comprise Pakistan including Kashmir, whose major part was denied accession to Pakistan by use of sinister tactics. Moreover, Pakistan has nothing to do with separatist struggles in various parts of India but extends political and moral support to the independence struggle in Kashmir.

The writer has exposed his leanings by playing up the so-called Indian superiority in conventional and nuclear weapons in relation to Pakistan. The fact of the matter is that Pakistan has sufficient means and force to defend itself against Indian aggression. The president of Pakistan has taken a courageous decision by banning the extremist organizations. Pakistan will continue to play a positive role in the war against terrorism and for peace in the region.

G.H. Bajwa
Press Counselor
Embassy of Pakistan
Moscow



Underground Man



Editor,


One hundred and fifty years after Dostoevsky wrote "Notes from the Underground," has anything really changed in Russia? Ten years after the break up of the Soviet Union, six years after Western investors first arrived in numbers, three years after a mini-boomlet sparked by the ruble devaluation and high oil prices, Sheremetyevo Airport remains strangely similar. Maybe the Duty Free shopping is vastly improved, but there is still the inefficient passport control section, baggage turnstiles that remind me of those in Caribbean island airports, sullen clerks giving incorrect information, banks that don't work, taxi drivers sulking and cajoling and, let's face it a dearth of smiling, English-speaking staff that one would expect to find in a country desperate somehow to join the European Union.

And customs remains the special preserve of the venal, unpleasant "Underground Man."

Moreover, Russian customs officials now seem to delight in enforcing a new regulation as a means of supplementing their apparently meager wages and augmenting their power and authority. As of October, Americans and other foreigners can no longer carry out any U.S. dollars or other hard currencies if this sum is not declared (and stamped) when entering the country. Apparently, foreigners can take in up to $1,500 when entering, but not take out any money when leaving. Prekrasno.

Instead, foreigners are given a number of tantalizing options, such as handing over all their cash to a Russian customs official, who will "safeguard" the money until the foreigner returns to Moscow (if ever). Yet Russian citizens are allowed to carry out up to $10,000 by passing through the green corridor at customs. So it is clear that the real reason for enforcing the regulation is not to stop capital flight. Instead, the point appears to be to annoy, harry and intimidate Westerners as they exit the country.

On Jan. 17, I was told to open my wallet, empty my pockets, open my suitcases and deposit all hard currency on a table to the full amusement of several Russian customs officials. This was despite the sum of money being less than $1,500.

I was made to feel like a third-rate currency speculator from some struggling republic of the former Soviet Union. Or perhaps Russia is now afraid of the American shuttle traders, eager to make a quick buck by selling Levi's jeans, Coca Cola bottles and McDonald's burgers? My guess is that Russia is making one more pathetic attempt to reassert its superpower status and engage in a cat-and-mouse game with U.S. customs and immigration officials, who are even now ratcheting up the stakes for Russian visitors to the United States.

Dominic Basulto
New York and Moscow



No Credit Deserved



In response to a letter from Kirill Pankratov on Jan. 18.

Editor,


I certainly did not expect Russians to congratulate Americans on our devastating victory in Afghanistan. Many more Russian soldiers were killed on any given day of their campaign against relatively tiny, contiguous Chechnya than the United States has lost in the entire effort against larger, remote Afghanistan, and the Soviet Union went down to inglorious defeat in Afghanistan a decade and a half ago.

U.S. victory is, understandably, a bitter pill for Russians to swallow.

But I was utterly shocked to see Pankratov's attempt to assert that Russia deserves some of the credit for the United States' success because it supplied weapons to the Northern Alliance. I am slack-jawed. I was embarrassed to read this comment, a woefully predictable neo-Soviet response to U.S. success.

In fact, Russia has been providing weaponry to the Afghan rebels for years and has often threatened invasion, but the rebels never made any progress at all with Russian support. Indeed, even when the massive U.S. bombing campaign began, the Northern Alliance clung to its crevices in the northern mountains, marching out only when total devastation already lay in its path and U.S. special forces were active on the ground.

Furthermore, it is sheer nonsense to suggest that the goal of the Kremlin's campaign in Chechnya was merely to stop terrorism in Russia, and/or that the campaign has succeeded in doing so.

Many thoughtful commentators have suggested that the Kremlin itself may have bombed the apartments in Moscow in order to stir up hysteria against Chechnya. The Kremlin quickly razed the bombing sites and is conducting the investigation and prosecution of the matter under a shameful cloak of secrecy. Even if Chechens did bomb Moscow, Russia has lost many times more citizens attempting to quell Chechnya than Chechens could possibly have killed via terror, and there is absolutely no reason to think that when Russia relaxes its grip, having totally failed to win an outright victory much less consolidate a new government, such a terror campaign will not be renewed.

Finally, not one neutral international human rights group has condemned any U.S. military action in Afghanistan, while such condemnations of Russian activity in Chechnya are legion, and Russia has thumbed its nose at them.

To accuse the United States of the same sort of barbaric assault on civilians in Afghanistan as Russia has engaged in in Chechnya is ignorant, to say the least.

Michael Linton
Chicago



Chirac Not So Brave?



In response to "3 Cheers For Jacques Chirac," an editorial on Jan. 17.

Editor,


The main reason behind Chirac's "brave" words against the war in Chechnya was the fact that 2002 is in an election year in France, and he was playing to the French people.

One man's terrorist (as most Russian media describe the Chechen fighters) is another man's freedom fighter (or rebel, as The Moscow Times describes them).

Your newspaper is as hackneyed as other publications throughout the world in applying labels to everything, and your choice of words betrays the thinking of the editorial staff at the paper despite your supposed journalists' impartiality. (This painfully reminds me of your insistence on describing convicted spy Edmund Pope as "American businessman" and convicted drug-user John Tobin as "American Fulbright scholar." I suspect Americans dominate at your office.)

Putin's comments suggesting that mercenaries landing in southern France would be tackled in the same way deserves more attention and thought than you give.

There is a separatist movement on Corsica, and in the past few years there have been several murders of known separatist leaders, which the police have blamed on in-fighting. How can the police be trusted? The French government's prefect on the island was jailed not too long ago for ordering undercover police arson attacks on illegally built beach cafes .

Not something, you may agree, that would make Chirac proud to be French.

Similarly, Putin should not be proud of the war in Chechnya. But it's easy to be ideological when you hold no power. Politics is a dirty game, and it calls at times for compromise and at others for unfulfilled promises. Putin does not govern over a homogenous people with identical interests.

While I agree that there should be a swift end to this terrible conflict, I don't feel that editorials should be written so hastily and with such naive ideals.

Andrew Gardener
Moscow



Serendipity



Editor,


I stumbled over www.themoscowtimes.com by accident.

Now I read it every day. I am slowly beginning to get some understanding of Russian society. Some of the stories you have are outstanding, sometimes baffling beyond belief.

Could you compliment your journalists on their writing style (they do not pretend that the reader is a near imbecile) and for their courage and honesty.

In my opinion, The Moscow Times sets a very high standard in journalism that I admire very much. It should studied and copied and set the standard also for our Western writers. The Moscow Times appears to be written the way a newspaper ought to be.

Erik Petersen
Tjele, Denmark



Putin Work Ethic



In response to "Putin's Friends," a letter published on Jan. 18.

Editor,


In the letter it is written that "Recent changes make one wonder just what exactly Putin means by reform. More often, reform appears to be about the 'who' rather than the 'what.'"

It's human nature to resist changes and it is a major obstacle for those who want or have to reform. It is for this reason that not only in the United States with every new president the complete administration changes, but also in the international company where I work the local and international managers are relocated every five or six years.

Things have to change in Russia. A couple of months ago, it was mentioned on the BBC that if no immediate action is taken, within 10 to 15 years the whole of the Russian railway will collapse because of lack of maintenance. So the recent replacement that took place at the Railways Ministry has not been an act of wanting to replace the "who" but is the first essential stage of reforming the "what." The same thing can be said of Gazprom.

At the moment, Russia is at a stage of development most Western countries dealt with some time ago. For this reason the blueprints for how to become a "successful" country are known.

In short, the head of state has to pave the way for the well-off and the intelligentsia to boost the economy of the country. I do not think there is any doubt that Vladimir Putin is working his butt off to pave the way.

However, from an insider I learned that well-off Russians have no idea what to do with their money (other than putting it in foreign bank accounts).

And from time to time, I read something about the intelligentsia that is very boring because it repeats the same thing over and over again.

It seems that the well-off and the intelligentsia -- both vital for the development of a country -- do not know any better than to sit back and watch while the president paves the way (at a speed that deserves to be noted down in the Guinness Book of World Records) and only know one way to react: by telling the press they do not agree with the way things are being done.

If they do not start to understand soon that if they don't take responsibility and act accordingly, there is not only absolutely no hope for the Russian Federation, but they can also forget about having any chance of ever becoming one of "Putin's Friends." The only way that might be achieved is by working their butts off for the sake of Russia.

Anneke van Ingen Schenau
Netherlands