India Insight

from Afghan Journal:

When India-Pakistan wargames become real

(Pakistani army tanks in exercises in Bhawalpur sector. Pic by Christopher Allbritton)

(Pakistani army tanks in exercises in Bhawalpur sector. Pic by Christopher Allbritton)

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.

On Sunday, as the mock battle unfolded in the deserts of eastern Pakistan, the two armies were engaged in a real exchange of fire a few hundred miles away, along the border in Punjab. Both sides reported the firing in the Shakargarh sector and as is the norm blamed the other for starting it. It didn't last long and by the standards of Indo-Pak artillery duels it was a blip. But what is interesting is it took place along a settled section of the border as distinct from cross-border firing along the Line of Control separating the two armies in disputed Kashmir.  Shooting across the international border has been rare, although there have been incidents in January this year and in July and September in 2009.

NightWatch intelligence, which closely tracks developments across South Asia, says the Shakargarh sector carries  the weight of history and perhaps there is  a message behind the shooting. This is the site of a decisive battle during the 1971 India-Pakistan War in which Indian rocket launcher units destroyed Pakistani army armoured brigades ending hostilities in that sector. Firing in the location is always a reminder of December 1971. So the question is were the Indians trying to remind the Pakistanis about that battle nearly four decades ago even as Pakistan carried out the wargames named Azm-e-Nau 3 or New Resolve 3?

India, Pakistan wargames have in the past caused jitters especially when thousands of troops are massed near the border along with heavy armour and you are not sure whether they are only meant for exercises or is it a preparation for a real war. Back in 1987, India conducted Brass Tacks, the largest military exercise of its kind across South Asia in the deserts of Rajasthan a few hundred miles from the Pakistan border.

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Just days after 76 security personnel were killed by Maoist rebels in Chhattisgarh, a long-pending bill to prevent torture has been cleared by the cabinet for introduction in parliament, which aims to align Indian law with the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

Activists have for years demanded ratification of the 1984 U.N. convention, which India signed 13 years ago, to curb alleged brutalities by state agencies especially in disturbed areas like Jammu and Kashmir, the North East and the “red corridor” where Maoists operate.

But some cabinet members reportedly felt the bill was ill-timed in the wake of the Dantewada killings, arguing it could be demoralising for security forces who are trying to maintain security in hostile environments.

Afghan endgame and fears of rise in Kashmir violence

The Indian army says rebel violence will escalate in Kashmir in summer as hundreds of militants are waiting in the Pakistani part of Kashmir to infiltrate into the Indian side and step up attacks.

Seized bullets are displayed by the Indian army during a news conference after a gun battle with militants, in Srinagar March 28, 2010. REUTERS/Fayaz KabliEven an internal assessment of the Home Ministry says the summer of 2010 will be as bloodier as or even worse than the mid-nineties.

In Kashmir, violence involving Muslim rebels and Indian troops was on the decline since India and Pakistan, who dispute the region, began a peace process in 2004.

Separatists make contact with China to ‘discuss’ Kashmir

The chief of Kashmir’s moderate separatist alliance recently met a Chinese delegation in Geneva, the first such contact by Kashmiri separatists with Chinese officials since a simmering discontent against Indian rule broke out in 1989.

Mirwaiz Umar FarooqMirwaiz Umar Farooq, Chairman of All Parties Hurriyat Conference, met the Chinese Director Foreign Affairs, Ying Gang, in Geneva on the sidelines of the 13th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council and discussed Beijing’s possible role in the resolution of the dispute.

“It was a good gesture as the government of China had earlier avoided meeting us,” Farooq said.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India and Pakistan: a personal view of the water wars

 It was so long in the making,  so utterly predictable, that the news that Pakistan and India are now arguing over water carries with it the dull ache of inevitability.

When I was living in Delhi, which I left in 2004, a few analysts were already warning that the next war between Pakistan and India would be over water, rather than over Kashmir.  The mountain glaciers which fed the rivers which are the lifeline of both countries were melting, they said, and sooner or later India and Pakistan would blame each other for climate change. I did not take it that seriously at the time. Not even after seeing first hand how far the Siachen glacier - the world's longest glacier - had receded.  

Nor indeed did it properly register after talking to an Indian sherpa who had led the first Indian military expedition to Siachen in 1978 in what India considers part of its own Ladakh region  At the time, Ladakh was much colder, he said, and the snow on the glacier came right down into the valley. It had receded in recent years because of global warming, exposing the black tracts of scree I had scrambled up during my trip there. “It was like a beautiful road coming right down from K2,”he said, , “black moraine on either side.” There was nothing, and nobody there.

Kashmiri separatists seek Saudi mediation to end dispute

Mirwaiz Umar FarooqMirwaiz Umar Farooq, a senior Kashmiri separatist leader, has urged Saudi Arabia to use its influence and bring India and Pakistan closer to solve the decades-long conflict over the disputed Himalayan region.

Farooq arrived in the Kingdom last Thursday to perform the Umrah pilgrimage and his visit, two weeks after the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is being considered significant.

Farooq is chairman of Kashmir’s moderate separatist alliance — the All Parties Hurriyat Conference.

Pune blast: What next for India-Pakistan dialogue?

INDIA-BLAST/Less then two weeks before India and Pakistan are to restart a semblance of dialogue suspended in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, comes another blast in neighbouring Pune.

It is being called a terror attack but no group has so far claimed responsibility or been identified.

It could be a homegrown group or one supported from outside.

Either way it turns out, it is going to affect the talks.

Pakistan wants the Kashmir issue to be on the dialogue agenda while India wants to focus on “terrorism“.

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Thousands of Kashmiris have slipped into Pakistan-administered Kashmir for arms training since an anti-India insurgency broke out twenty years ago.

A Kashmiri man rides a bicycle past a closed shop during a strike in Srinagar June 1, 2009. REUTERS/Fayaz KabliHundreds have returned and joined Muslim rebel groups, many died on a rugged military control line while sneaking into the Indian side and many more are still living in different parts of Pakistan or Pakistani Kashmir.

Will Kashmir tensions hurt fresh India-Pakistan peace efforts?

Killing of civilians, six in the past month blamed on government forces, has triggered massive protest demonstrations since last week in Kashmir, the region at the heart of enmity between India and Pakistan.

Police stand guard at a barricade set up to stop a protest march in Srinagar February 8, 2010. REUTERS/Fayaz KabliAnd the anger has evolved into wider anti-India protests, nearly similar to huge street protests seen in 2008 that embarrassed New Delhi. After a period of relative calm, rebel violence has increased.

The fresh trouble in the Himalayan region comes at a time when India and Pakistan, who claim the region in full but rule in parts and have fought wars over it,  have decided to improve strained relations.

Much ado in Kashmir over Padma Shri for Mir

It has come as a surprise to many that Ghulam Mohammad Mir, often described as Kashmir’s first counter-insurgent, has been honoured with the Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian awards.

Mir alias Momma Kana, 60, who was awarded for public service, has been accused of involvement in cases of extortion and attempted murder.

A man walks past closed shops during a strike in Srinagar June 11, 2008. REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli/FilesA police official told ‘The Telegraph’ that Mir’s name sent shivers down the spine of people across Kashmir — he is said to have run a private militia and helped Indian troops combat insurgency.

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