Opinion

The Great Debate

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

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

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?

As discussed many times on this blog, most recently here, a crucial element of President-elect Barack Obama's Afghan strategy was to combine sending extra troops with a new diplomatic approach looking at the Afghanistan-Pakistan-India region as a whole. The argument was that Pakistan would never fully turn its back on Islamist militants as long as it felt threatened by India on its eastern border and by growing Indian influence in Afghanistan on its western border.  India and Pakistan, so the argument went, should therefore be encouraged to make peace over Kashmir, to reduce tensions in Afghanistan and pave the way for a successful operation by the extra U.S. troops.

Where does that plan stand now? India-Pakistan relations are extremely strained and vulnerable to any second militant attack on India. It's hard to imagine the two countries sitting down any time soon for serious peace talks, and certainly not at the United States' behest, given that outside interference on Kashmir has always been anathema to India.

Yet as the Soviet Union discovered during its failed occupation of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989, no matter how many troops you send in, you can't win there as long as the Islamist mujahideen have sanctuary in Pakistan.  The United States knows this too having backed the mujahideen against the Soviets (this being a war that America has fought on both sides), which is presumably why it had begun to look at Afghanistan in a broader regional context.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Can India-Pakistan ties withstand Mumbai bombings?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

So does the assault on Mumbai spell the death-knell for what had been gradually warming ties between Pakistan and India?

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Israel and India vs Obama’s regional plans for Afghanistan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

The idea has been fashionable among foreign policy analysts for a while, as I have discussed in previous posts here and here. The aim would be to capitalise on Shi'ite Iran's traditional hostility to the hardline brand of Sunni Islam espoused by the Taliban and al Qaeda to seek its help in neighbouring Afghanistan. At the same time India would be encouraged to make peace with Pakistan over Kashmir to end a cause of tension that has underpinned the rise of Islamist militancy in Pakistan and left both countries vying for influence in Afghanistan.

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