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Sunday, April 20, 2008


Toufiq Siddiqi is an environmentalist and energy expert based in Hawaii. Shirin Tahir-Kheli is a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University, currently Senior Advisor to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on United Nations Reform, who served on the US National Security Council from 2003-2005. Born in Hyderabad (Deccan) before Partition, the siblings spent part of their childhood in Pakistan, after which they became Southasian émigrés in the US. In the early 1990s, Siddiqi became interested in the energy requirements of the Subcontinent, while sister Tahir-Kheli maintained her interest in the region even as she rose up the career ladder in Washington DC

The Balusa siblings

With support from the United Nations Development Programme and the Rockefeller Foundation, the brother-sister duo brought together a group of Indian and Pakistani generals, politicians, bureaucrats and others to discuss ways to bring sense and direction to the India-Pakistan relationship. It was this loose gathering that came to be known as the Balusa Group, named after two adjacent villages in Pakistani Punjab. (The group, labelled “a five star track two effort” by one critic for the high profile of its members, includes a few irreverent individuals who enjoy such mischief as making the claim that “Balusa evidently means peace in an ancient Indian language”.)

The group brought together by Tahir-Kheli and Siddiqi first met in Singapore, which was followed by gatherings in Bellagio (Italy), Muscat (Oman), Udaipur, Rawalpindi and elsewhere. The latest was a discussion on Kashmir held in Chandigarh in February 2005. A leading figure in the Balusa Group is Mahmud Durrani. While a serving general, he had announced to Tahir-Kheli in 1994 his intention to devote his imminent retirement to helping achieve an India-Pakistan rapprochement. With the support of some progressive-minded top brass in the Pakistani military, Gen Durrani became active in the Balusa conclaves. A firm advocate of economic linkages to concretise peace initiatives, he believes the group has been “way ahead of the curve” on the gasline proposal. (see interview).

Recalling the beginnings of the Balusa initiative, Siddiqi says, “Shirin and I have had a continuous interest in promoting sustainable development in the Subcontinent, and here was a concept that would represent a win-win economic situation for the key adversaries, while also serving as a CBM. I knew many of the energy and environment experts in both countries, whereas Shirin knew many of the policymakers. We understood that given the magnitude of energy requirements, the natural gas pipeline offered the greatest potential.”



It's great that people are commenting on Balusa and its importance.


January 08, 2009 9:40 PM  

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