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Beyond the World news headlines

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Kashmir’s long road ahead

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After India last held state elections in Jammu and Kashmir in 2002, the Kashmir Valley witnessed a period of relative peace only to see it shattered when plans to give land to Hindu pilgrims triggered the biggest protests since the Kashmir separatist revolt erupted in 1989.

The latest elections - which produced a turnout of more than 60 percent despite a boycott call by separatists and ushered in a new state government led by Omar Abdullah - have provided a second chance to change the mood in the volatile Kashmir Valley. But do India and Pakistan, and the Kashmiris themselves, have the ability to turn this second chance into a real opportunity for peace?

Despite the outrage over the Mumbai attacks, blamed by India on Pakistan-based militants, there are some promising signs. The elections were remarkable for the fact that armed separatists based in Pakistani-held Kashmir made no attempt to disrupt the campaign, as they did during the previous polls in 2002. If Indian assertions are correct that the Pakistani security establishment controls the level of armed separatist activity in Kashmir, then the absence of violence would not have been possible without the active cooperation of Pakistan - a factor acknowledged by The Hindu in an editorial

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has spoken repeatedly of the need to make peace with India, including over Kashmir (as discussed here, herehere and here) and despite widespread scepticism in India that his views are shared by the powerful Pakistan Army, Pakistan does seem to have delivered in keeping the militants at bay during the elections.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Do Obama’s Afghan plans still make sense post-Mumbai?

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The United States is aiming to send 20,000 to 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan by the beginning of next summer, according to the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.  The plan is not unexpected, and from a military point of view is meant to allow U.S. and NATO troops not just to clear out Taliban insurgents but also to bring enough stability to allow economic development, as highlighted in this analysis by Reuters Kabul correspondent Jon Hemming.

But does it still make sense after the Mumbai attacks -- intentionally or otherwise -- sabotaged the peace process between India and Pakistan?

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan, India and the United Nations

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India has asked the United Nations Security Council to blacklist the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the Pakistani charity which it says is a front for the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, blamed by New Delhi for the attacks on Mumbai. But how far is India prepared to go in engaging the Security Council, given that it has resisted for decades UN invention over Kashmir?

Indian newspapers have suggested that India invoke UN Security Council Resolution 1373, passed after the 9/11 attacks on the United States, and requiring member countries to take steps to curb terrorism.  The latest of these calls came from N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief of Indian newspaper The Hindu, who said India must respond to the Mumbai attacks "in an intelligent and peaceful way".  

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Curbing militants in Pakistan; a trial of patience?

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U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has urged Pakistan to cooperate "fully and transparently" in investigations into the Mumbai attacks, while U.S. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell has pointed a finger at Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant group.

That's probably the kind of language that would go down well in India, which has been frustrated in the past by what it saw as the United States' failure to acknowledge the threat from Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant groups, instead preferring to rely on Pakistan as a useful ally in the region while focusing its own energies on defeating al Qaeda and the Taliban.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Mumbai attack and Obama’s plans for Afghanistan

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As if the challenge facing President-elect Barack Obama of stabilising Afghanistan was not difficult enough, it may have just got much, much harder after the Mumbai attacks soured relations between India and Pakistan -- undermining hopes of finding a regional solution to the Afghan war.

As discussed in an earlier post, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has blamed a group outside India for the attacks which killed at least 121 people. The coordinated attacks bore the hallmarks of Pakistani-based Kashmiri militant groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which India says was set up by Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Can India-Pakistan ties withstand Mumbai bombings?

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Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has blamed a group with "external linkages" for coordinated attacks which killed more than 100 people in Mumbai. The language was reminiscent of the darker days of India-Pakistan relations when India always saw a Pakistan hand in militant attacks, blaming groups it said were set up by Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, to seek revenge for Pakistan's defeat by India in the 1971 war.

An attack on India's parliament in December 2001 triggered a mass mobilisation along the two countries' borders and brought them close to a fourth war.  That attack was blamed by India on the Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed - hardline Islamist groups with links to al Qaeda.  Both have been associated with the kind of "fedayeen" attacks -- in which the attackers, while not necessarily suicide bombers, are willing to fight to the death -- seen in Mumbai.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Israel and India vs Obama’s regional plans for Afghanistan

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Will Israel and India -- the first the United States' closest ally and the second fast becoming one of the closest -- emerge as the trickiest adversaries in any attempt by the United States to seek a regional solution to Afghanistan?

The Washington Post reported earlier this week that the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama plans to explore a more regional strategy to the war in Afghanistan — including possible talks with Iran.

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