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?:

Assessing U.S. intervention in India-Pakistan: enough for now?

In the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, India's response has been to look to the United States to lean on Pakistan, which it blames for spawning Islamist militancy across the region, rather than launching any military retaliation of its own. So after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's trip to India and Pakistan last week, have the Americans done enough for now?

According to Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, Rice told Pakistan there was "irrefutable evidence" that elements within the country were involved in the Mumbai attacks. And it quotes unnamed sources as saying that behind-the-scenes she “pushed the Pakistani leaders to take care of the perpetrators, otherwise the U.S. will act”.

India's Business Standard said the Indian government was pleased with the U.S. warning. "This is exactly what India wanted," the newspaper said.

Hidden emotions, hidden agendas

Wow, Thomas Friedman writing in the New York Times let fly with a zinger with his opinion piece “Calling all Pakistanis“, presumably aimed at stirring compassion in Pakistani hearts over last week’s horrifying attack in Mumbai.

Pakistanis were Peace protesters in Lahoreready enough to take to the streets to vent their anger and indignation over cartoons in Denmark, why can’t they demonstrate a shared sense of outrage over the cold-blooded killing of 171 people in the country next door, asks Friedman.

Of course, anyone would like to see spontaneous public displays of grief and empathy for the people of Mumbai. Can it happen in Pakistan, a country that has fought three wars against India? The army doesn’t trust India and the people have been fed an anti-India diet by governments and media since 1947.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Battleground India but Delhi clueless?

An attack of the scale and sophistication unleashed on Mumbai would not be possible without months of planning, and yet it completely went below India's intelligence radar.

Indeed, so unaware were the security agencies that even when the attacks began, the first reaction was these were probably gangland shootings that India's financial capital is known for.   So if the agencies have been so clueless about an attack so mammoth in its sweep, the question experts are beginning to ask is how safe are India's vital assets?

The nuclear facilities for instance ? A chilling thought but one that must be answered, says B. Raman, a former top officer at India's Research and Analysis Wing. "I shiver and sweat at the thought of what is waiting to happen tomorrow and where. The mind boggles as one tries to think and figure out how the terrorists could have planned and carried out terrorist strikes of such magnitude, territorial spread and ferocity without our intelligence and police having been able to get scent of it," Raman, one of India's foremost intelligence experts, wrote. "I could not sleep the whole of last night. One question, which kept bothering me again and again was : how safe are our nuclear establishments and material?"

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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