India Insight

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Kashmir’s long road ahead

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.

Meanwhile trade between the Indian and Pakistan-held parts of the divided former kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir has continued even through the heights of the post-Mumbai tensions

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Indian, Pakistani op-eds show signs of softening

After a month of hurling insults across the border over the Mumbai attacks, newspaper editorials in both India and Pakistan are softening their rhetoric and asking -- still quietly and tentatively for now -- whether the two countries might perhaps be able to sort it out.

Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, in an editorial headlined "War hysteria abating on both sides" welcomes a report that India is not setting a timeframe for Pakistan to act against the groups it blamed for the Mumbai attacks. "There is always a risk of exaggerating the prospects of peace breaking out between India and Pakistan, just as there is that irrepressible tendency to overplay the fear of war lurking round the corner," it says.  But it adds: "At the moment all the pointers from New Delhi raise hope. Or, shall we say, they don’t look bleak?"

The Daily Times goes further, arguing that with the threat of war receding, Pakistan must act against anyone launching militant attacks outside its borders and collaborate actively with India to pursue anyone found to be involved in Mumbai.

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.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India, Pakistan and covert operations. All in the family?

Do read this piece by Gurmeet Kanwal, the head of the Indian Army's Centre for Land Warfare Studies, about how India should respond to the Mumbai attacks with covert operations against Pakistan.

He says that "hard military options will have only a transitory impact unless sustained over a long period. These will also cause inevitable collateral damage, run the risk of escalating into a larger war with attendant nuclear dangers and have adverse international ramifications. To achieve a lasting impact and ensure that the actual perpetrators of terrorism are targeted, it is necessary to employ covert capabilities to neutralise the leadership of terrorist organisations."

But he also argues that India's covert capabilities in Pakistan were wound down on the orders of the Prime Minister in 1997 so as to promote reconciliation. "If that is true, a great deal of effort will be necessary to establish these capabilities from scratch. It will take at least three to five years to put in place basic capabilities for covert operations in Pakistan as both the terrorist organisations and their handlers like the ISI will have to be penetrated. The R&AW must be suitably restructured immediately to undertake sustained covert operations in Pakistan. The time to debate this issue on moral and legal grounds has long passed."

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India and Pakistan: remember Kaluchak?

History never repeats itself exactly, but it does leave signposts. So with India and Pakistan settling into a familiar pattern of accusation and counter-claim following the Mumbai attacks, it's worth remembering what happened after the December 2001 assault on India's parliament brought the two countries to the brink of war. Or more to the point -- thinking about the less remembered follow-up attack on an Indian army camp in Kaluchak in Jammu and Kashmir in May 2002 that nearly propelled India over the edge.

Following the attack on parliament that India blamed on the Laskhar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, both Pakistan-based militant groups, India mobilised its troops all along the border, prompting a similar mobilisation on the Pakistani side. Then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf went on national television in January to promise to crack down on Islamist groups; the activities of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed were curbed, and tensions abated somewhat.

These tensions exploded again in May when gunmen launched a "fedayeen" attack on a camp for army families in Kaluchak, killing 34 people.  (For an Indian version of the Kaluchak attack written at the time, this piece by B. Raman is worth reading.) The Kaluchak attack so outraged India, and particularly the Indian Army, that it came perilously close to war with Pakistan.  The crisis was averted after intensive American diplomacy. 

Timing of Jaipur blasts will raise suspicion of Pakistani hand

Are militants, or even hawks within the Pakistani establishment, trying to undermine the peace process with India, now that President Pervez Musharraf has removed his uniform and civilians are squabbling for power?

A injured man receives treatment after a series of bomb blasts in Jaipur May 13, 2008. REUTERS/Vinay Joashi via You Witness NewsThe dust has scarcely settled on another horrific bomb attack in India, and the investigation has only just begun into the synchronised blasts in Jaipur that killed around 60 people .

It is still far too early to be drawing any firm conclusions, but the timing of the blasts is already making some people wonder whether Pakistan was involved.

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