India Insight

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Lashkar-e-Taiba threatens more violence in Kashmir

The Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based militant group blamed by India for last November's assault on Mumbai, has threatened more violence in Kashmir after a five-day gunbattle that killed 25 people, including eight Indian troops.

A spokesman for the group, speaking from an undisclosed location, said: "India should understand the freedom struggle in Kashmir was not over, it is active with full force."

The threat by the Lashkar-e-Taiba, if followed through, would be a new headache for the United States, which would like to see an improvement in relations between India and Pakistan as it overhauls its approach to both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Washington has been careful to avoid any suggestion that it would intervene overtly in the Kashmir dispute, in what has been seen as an acknowledgement of Indian sensitivities about outside interference.  But Indian newspapers have reported that the United States has nonetheless been quietly leaning on India to reduce tensions on Pakistan's eastern border so that its army can concentrate on fighting militants on its western border with Afghanistan.

And former CIA officer Bruce Riedel, leading a review of strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan expected to be released this week, has suggested in the past that a resolution of the Kashmir dispute would help ease tensions across the region.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India and Pakistan’s missed opportunities on Kashmir

India and Pakistan aren't always bickering, including over Kashmir, the dispute that has defined their relationship over more than six decades. Away from the public eye, top and trusted envoys from the two countries have at various times sat down and wrestled with the problem, going beyond stated positions in the public and even teasing out the contours of a deal. In the end of course, someone's nerve failed, or something else happened and the deal was off.

Beginning 2004  and up until November 2007 India and Pakistan were embarked on a similar course and very nearly came to an agreement on Kashmir, says investigative journalist Steve Coll in an article for the New Yorker. Special envoys from the two countries met in secret in hotels in London, Bangkok and London to lay out a solution and after three years they were ready with the broad outline of a settlement that would have de-militarised Kashmir.

An abstract of the article  is here and the Washington Post  has a story on it.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Kashmir violence drops further, but where’s the peace?

Violence in Kashmir is down to its lowest level since the separatist revolt began in 1989, but peace remains a distant prospect in one of the world's most beautiful regions.

The Delhi-based Institute of Conflict Studies which tracks militant violence across South Asia says 541 people were killed in militant-linked violence in 2008, continuing the declining trend from the previous year when fatalities had fallen to 777. That was well below the 1,000 mark  used to define a high-intensity conflict and way lower than the 2001 peak of 4,507 deaths in a single year.

Just for purposes of comparison on a broad level, a separate analysis by the Institute shows that the number of people killed in militant-related violence in Pakistan hit 6,715 in 2008 from a 2003 figure of 189, reflecting a dramatic deterioration in the security situation.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Britain and the Kashmir banana skin

Memories seem to be short in the British government when it comes to Kashmir. Foreign Secretary David Miliband stirred up a diplomatic row over the region during his visit to India earlier this month. As this piece in The Times says, Miliband angered Indian officials by giving what they described as "unsolicited advice" on Kashmir, over which India has three times gone to war with Pakistan since independence from Britain in 1947 and over which it is in no mood to be lectured by outsiders, let alone the former colonial power.
It was on a visit to Pakistan and India in 1997 to mark the 50th anniversary of those two countries' independence that the then British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, also got into trouble over Kashmir. Cook, who also served the Labour government, was forced to row back from suggestions that Britain might help resolve the long-running dispute. His intervention cast a serious shadow over the visit by Queen Elizabeth, who was at one point forced to cancel a long-planned speech.
The visit, during which the queen was accompanied by Cook, went downhill after that, and at one point a senior British diplomat was seen sitting, head in hands in despair, on the pavement outside Chennai airport. There were even suggestions, denied of course, that the British High Commissioner might be recalled. Tony Blair, then prime minister, had to patch up ties by assuring his Indian counterpart, Inder Kumar Gujral, that London would not meddle in Delhi's dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir.
One wonders whether Miliband was reminded of all this before he went to India, and if he was, why did he walk into the Kashmir minefield once again. Or maybe he wasn't, which poses a different set of questions about competence and institutional memory at the Foreign Office.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Miliband’s gift: stiffening Indian resolve over Pakistan

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband may yet end up achieving the opposite of what he intended in India when he called for a resolution of the Kashmir dispute in the interests of regional security.

To some Indians, linking the attacks in Mumbai - which New Delhi says originated from Pakistan - to the issue of Kashmir is not just insensitive, it is also a wake-up call. The lesson they have drawn is this: for all the world's sense of outrage over Mumbai, India will have to deal with Pakistan on its own, and not expect foreign powers to lean on its neighbour in the manner it wants.


Miliband's visit was a "jarring reminder to India to stop off-shoring its Pakistan policy," writes Indian security affairs analyst Brahma Chellaney in the Asian Age. He then goes on to call for a set of measures including a military option short of war to weaken Pakistan.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Obama’s South Asian envoy and the Kashmir conundrum

Earlier this month, I wrote that the brief given to a South Asian envoy by President Barack Obama could prove to be the first test of the success of Indian diplomacy after the Mumbai attacks. At issue was whether the envoy would be asked to focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan or whether the brief would be extended to India, reflecting comments made by Obama during his election campaign that a resolution of the Kashmir dispute would ease tensions across the region.

That question has been resolved - publicly at least -- with the appointment of Richard Holbrooke as Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. No mention of India or Kashmir.

India has long resisted overt outside interference in Kashmir and argued - with great vehemence since the Mumbai attacks - that tensions in South Asia were caused by Pakistan's support for, or tolerance of, Islamist militants rather than the Kashmir dispute.  For India, a public reference to Kashmir following Mumbai would amount to endorsing what it calls cross-border terrorism.

Obama in the White House – will he deliver?

Barack Obama takes over as the 44th U.S. President riding the optimism of millions of people and inheriting a recession and two wars that will test his skills.

Hopes are high the 47-year-old can conjure up a rescue that will jolt the world’s biggest economy back to life and contain the financial crisis ravaging global markets.

As far as India is concerned, there are apprehensions the Obama administration may place curbs on its outsourcing industry, ban any future nuclear tests and resurrect the Kashmir question.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India-U.S: advancing a transformed relationship

In the space of a decade, the United States and India have travelled far in a relationship clouded by the  Cold War when they were on opposite sides.

From U.S sanctions on India for its nuclear tests in 1998 to a civilian nuclear energy deal that opens access to international nuclear technology and finance, while allowing New Delhi to retain its nuclear weapons programme is a stunning reversal of policy and one that decisively transforms ties.

America has also 'soberly' after decades of differing over counter-terrorism priorities become a vocal 
supporter of India's concerns over the use of Pakistani territory for Islamist militant groups, says the Asia 
Society in a report laying out a blueprint for an expanded India-U.S. relationship
ahead of 
President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration on Tuesday.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Obama and his South Asian envoy

There's much talk about President-elect Barack Obama possibly appointing Richard Holbrooke as a special envoy to South Asia. The New York Times says it's likely; while the Washington Independent says it may be a bit premature to expect final decisions, even before Obama takes office on Jan. 20.

But more interesting perhaps than the name itself will be the brief given to any special envoy for South Asia. Would the focus be on Afghanistan and Pakistan? Or on Pakistan and India? Or all three? The Times of India said India might be removed from the envoy's beat to assuage Indian sensitivities about Kashmir, which it sees as a bilateral issue to be resolved with Pakistan, and which has long resisted any outside mediation. This, the paper said, was an evolution in thinking compared to statements made by Obama during his election campaign about Kashmir.

Before last year's Mumbai attacks, Obama had suggested that the United States should help India and Pakistan to make peace over Kashmir as part of a regional strategy to stabilise Afghanistan. In this he was supported by a raft of U.S. analysts who argued that Pakistan would never fully turn against Islamist militants threatening the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan as long as it felt it might need them to counter burgeoning Indian influence in the region. Obama's suggestion raised hackles in India, and broke with a tradition established by the Bush administration which had tended to be -- publicly at least -- hands-off about the Kashmir dispute. 

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Mumbai, a reality check for India’s American Dream ?

Not long ago India was basking in the glow of a new-found strategic partnership with the United States, one that pitched it as a global player. A breakthrough civilian nuclear deal that virtually  recognised New Delhi as a nuclear weapon state after decades of isolation was the centrepiece of this new relationship.

But the attacks in Mumbai have tested this partnership and some of the lustre is fading. America has been unequivocally telling the Indians to exercise restraint   in responding to the attacks which New Delhi says were orchestrated from Pakistan. (This while U.S. Predator drones
carried out more attacks on the militants in Pakistan's northwest)

In recent weeks, much to the Indians' dismay, the mantra of  restraint has now moved to the suggestion from some U.S. analysts that both India and  Pakistan must resolve their dispute over Kashmir to help bring stability to the region. One U.S. editorial suggested India must let go of Kashmir,  thus freeing up Pakistan's military resources so that it can focus on the war on its western front. And although other analysts are saying the idea - floated long before the Mumbai attacks - is misguided, the American response to the assault on India's financial capital has left many disappointed.

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