Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari is in China this week, making good his promise to visit the “all weather ally” every three months. During his previous trips, his hosts have sent him off to the provinces to see for himself the booming growth there, but this trip may turn out be a lot more productive.
Zardari may well return with a firm plan by China to build two reactors at Pakistan’s Chashma nuclear plant, as my colleague in Beijing reports in this article, overriding concern in Washington, New Delhi and other capitals that this undermined global non-proliferation objectives.
It’s a bit of a nuclear poker going on in the region and Afghanistan as the new battleground between the regional players cannot remain untouched.
The proposed Chinese nuclear transfer to Pakistan follows a groundbreaking deal that the United States and India sealed two years ago which allows New Delhi to access U.S. nuclear technology and fuel while retaining the right to pursue a military programme. It was a deal that raised eyebrows all around, overturning decades of U.S-led efforts to wear down India’s resistance to nuclear disarmament pacts through a combination of tough technology sanctions and offers of a a strategic relationship designed to appeal to New Delhi’s global aspirations.
Afghan authorities have organised a roadshow in London that opens on Friday aimed at drumming up interest in the country’s mineral wealth variously estimated at anything from $1 trillion to $3 trillion.
India and China, the regional heavyweights, are the top candidates to fight for a piece of the action in their immediate neighbourhood. If there are such large reserves of copper, iron ore and key industrial metals such as lithium lying untapped in their neighbourhood you would expect them to invest heavily in Afghanistan to feed their supercharged economies.
from India Insight:
With initial euphoria over last week's U.S.-India talks on the wane, it may be time to take a long, hard look at what New Delhi actually gained from the first official "strategic dialogue" between the two sides.
The timing was just right as Washington implements its AfPak plan, the correct gestures were made and U.S. officials went out of their way to convince the Indian media all was fine between the world's two biggest democracies.
Walking into a giant tent at the foothills of Kabul, you are conscious of the importance of jirgas throughout Afghanistan’s troubled history. These assemblies of tribal elders have been called at key moments in the country’s history from whether it should participate in the two World Wars to a call for a national uprising against an Iranian invasion in the 18th century.
Next week’s jirga is aimed at building a national consensus behind Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s effort to seek a negotiated settlement of the nine year conflict now that the Taliban have fought U.S. and NATO forces to a virtual stalemate and the clock on a U.S. military withdrawal has begun.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
After the media frenzy following last weekend's failed car bomb attack on Times Square, you would be forgiven for thinking that something dramatic is about to change in Pakistan. The reality, however, is probably going to be much greyer.
Much attention has naturally focused on North Waziristan, a bastion for al Qaeda, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Afghan fighters including those in the Haqqani network, and the so-called "Punjabi Taliban" - militants from Punjab-based groups who have joined the battle either in Afghanistan or against the Pakistani state. The Pakistan Army is expected to come under fresh pressure to launch an offensive in North Waziristan after Faisal Shahzad, who according to U.S. authorities admitted to the failed car-bombing in Times Square, said he had received training in Waziristan. Unlike other parts of the tribal areas on the Pakistan-Afghan border, North Waziristan has so far been left largely alone.
Now that India and Pakistan have agreed to hold further talks following a meeting between the prime ministers of the two countries, are they going to step back from a bruising confrontation in Afghanistan?
It’s a war fought in the shadows with spies and proxies, and lots of money. Once in a while it gets really nasty as in deadly attacks on Indian interests for which New Delhi has pointed the finger at Pakistan.
Pakistan is conducting its biggest military exercises in 21 years and at the weekend thousands of troops backed by fighter jets took part in a mock battle to repel a simulated Indian military advance and inflict heavy casualties. The manoeuvres were designed to test a riposte to India’s Cold Start doctrine of a rapid and deep thrust into Pakistan in a simulated environment, but you are never far from real action on the heavily militarised border between the two countries.
Leaders of more than 40 countries are gathering in Washington for a summit beginning on Monday to control the spread of nuclear weapons. Iran for obvious reasons is not invited, but it has announced a conference of its own soon after the Washington meeting. It’s called ‘Nuclear Energy for All, Nuclear Weapons for None, and among those who have agreed to attend are India, Pakistan and China.
While the level of representation to the Teheran meeting is not at the same level as Washington for all three countries, the fact that they have chosen to attend seems to be a signal to the Obama administration just as it is trying to isolate Iran for its suspected nuclear weapons programme. India’s presence in particular has raised the question if it is starting to re-assess ties with Tehran that have in recent years been allowed to slip in the pursuit of a strategic relationship with America.