India Insight

LoC killings: Is a third-party probe the way ahead?

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

The death toll on the Line of Control in Kashmir is four since Jan. 6: two from India’s military, two from Pakistan’s. One thing is sure: neither side started it, judging by what you hear from both countries’ armed forces and from media reports.

The killings threaten to muffle talk of a thaw in relations, something that would have been welcome after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and years of fighting and death in Kashmir before a 2003 ceasefire.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement that it was prepared for an investigation by a U.N. military observer group. India’s foreign minister Salman Khurshid suggested that the situation could be contained. So why not submit to an independent probe?

The peace process has been steady lately; incidents like these — especially when only one party could be right, yet both insist the other is wrong, should be avoided. It would be a shame of the most ironic proportions to start a war over a runaway granny.

from Afghan Journal:

Obama in India next month; ripples in the region

U.S. President Barack Obama takes part in a town hall meeting at Concord Community High School in Elkhart, Indiana, February 9, 2009. REUTERS/Jim YoungU.S. President Barack Obama's visit to India is still a couple of weeks away and there is the huge U.S. election before then, but it has already set off ripples in the region. The Chinese have especially cottoned onto Obama's Indian journey, fretting over what they see as a U.S. attempt to ring fence China by deepening ties with countries around it. And continent-size India with a population of over a billion and an economy growing at a clip just behind China's is seen as a key element of that strategy of containment.

Qui Hao of the National Defense University, writes in the Global Times that while U.S. military alliances with Japan and South Korea form the backbone of the "strategic fence" around China, the "shell" is the partnership that Washington is building with India, Vietnam and other nations that have territorial disputes with China.

India, Qui cautions, would do well not to blindly follow America's policies in the region, especially if it really wanted to be a global player. India, China and the United States were bound up in a triangular relationship, and as the two weaker parts of that relationship, it was important that they maintained stable ties so that Washington didn't exploit their differences, Qui wrote.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan’s General Kayani given three-year extension

kayani profilePakistan army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez  Kayani, is to be given a a three-year extension to his term of office to maintain continuity in the country's battle against Islamist militants. 

Kayani, arguably Pakistan's most powerful man, had been due to retire in November. His future had been the subject of intense speculation for months, with opinion divided between the those who argued he should be given an extension for the sake of continuity, and those who said that Pakistan needed to build its institutions rather than rely on individuals - as it had done with powerful army rulers in the past.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, who announced the extension, said the decision to extend Kayani's term reflected "his effective role in the war against terrorism and in the enforcement of rule of law in the country."

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.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India and Pakistan on the U.S. see-saw

wagah2Few who follow South Asia could miss the symbolism of two separate developments in the past week -  in one Pakistan was cosying up to the United States in a new "strategic dialogue"; in the other India was complaining to Washington about its failure to provide access to David Headley, the Chicago man accused of helping to plan the 2008 attack on Mumbai.

Ever since the London conference on Afghanistan in January signalled an exit strategy which could include reconciliation with the Taliban, it has been clear that Pakistan's star has been rising in Washington while India's has been falling. 

If the United States wants to force the Taliban to the negotiating table, it needs Pakistan's help. And Pakistan has shown by arresting Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar amongst others that it intends to keep control of any negotiations. In return for its cooperation, it expects Washington's help in securing Pakistan's own interests, including through a scaling back of India's involvement in Afghanistan.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India: should it take a gamble on Pakistan?

Some people in India are calling upon the new coalition government to make a series of bold moves towards Pakistan that will compel the neighbour to put its money where  the mouth is.

If Pakistan keeps saying that it cannot fully and single-mindedly go after militants on its northwest frontier and indeed increasingly within the heartland because of the threat it faces from India, then New Delhi must call its bluff, argued authors Nitin Pai and Sushant K. Singh in a recent piece for India's Mint newspaper.

How about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, back for a second term, giving a categorical public declaration that Pakistan need not fear an Indian military attack so long as the Pakistan army is engaged in fighting with Taliban militants?  While a verbal commitment may not convince the military brass in Rawalpindi, it will likely play well in Washington as it rathchets up pressure on the Pakistan army to take the battle to the militants.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

A letter for Pakistan’s Kayani from an Indian officer

A retired Indian Army officer has written an open letter to Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani that Pakistan's The News carried this week and which is now popping up on blogs.

Colonel Harish Puri says it is incredible that the Pakistan Army allowed something as reprehensible as the public flogging of a teenage girl in the Swat  Valley without lifting a finger, even though it coudn't have happened very far from an army checkpoint.

For a force that is as professional as the Pakistan Army and which has fought valiantly in all three wars with India,  and acquitted itself well in  U.N. peacekeeping missions worldwide, such an "abject surrender is unthinkable," he writes.

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