India Insight

Did pro-India militias kill Western tourists in Kashmir?

A government human rights commission in Kashmir on Tuesday evening said it will review records from the 1995 abduction of Western tourists after a new book claimed that four of six foreign tourists were murdered by a pro-India militia to discredit India’s arch-rival Pakistan.

On July 4, 1995, Americans Donald Hutchings and John Childs, as well as Britons Paul Wells and Keith Mangan were kidnapped by the little known Al-Faran militant group while trekking in the Himalayas near Pahalgam, 97 km (60 miles) southeast of Srinagar.

Four days later, Childs escaped. On the same day, the captors abducted German Dirk Hasert and Norwegian Hans Christian Ostroe. Ostroe was found beheaded in August 1995. The others were never found.

Journalists Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, whose book “The Meadow: Kashmir 1995 – Where the Terror Began” is about the abduction, claim that the four Westerners were murdered by a pro-government militia group who worked for Indian security forces.

After Ostroe was beheaded, Al-Faran was ready to strike a monetary deal to free the hostages and might have released them for £250,000, the authors claim. They say the deal was deliberately sabotaged.

India, Pakistan find common cause in shoddy national carriers

The two are nuclear-armed, arch rivals often threatening the stability of South Asia and with little common ground, but the sorry state of their national carriers puts India and Pakistan on the same pedestal.

India may be an emerging superpower and Pakistan seemingly always on the brink of a disaster, but the national carriers of the arch-rivals face similar woes.

Both carriers — Air India (AI) and Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) –- are struggling to stay afloat, battered by financial woes and mismanagement.

from Afghan Journal:

India-Afghan strategic pact:the beginnings of regional integration

A strategic partnership agreement between India and Afghanistan would ordinarily have evoked howls of protest from Pakistan which has long regarded its western neighbour as part of its sphere of influence.  Islamabad has, in the past, made no secret of its displeasure at India's role in Afghanistan including  a$2 billion aid effort that has won it goodwill among the Afghan  people, but which Pakistan sees as New Delhi's way to expand influence. 

Instead the reaction to the pact signed last month during President Hamid Karzai's visit to New Delhi, the first Kabul had done with any country, was decidedly muted. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani  said India and Afghanistan were "both sovereign countries and they have the right to do whatever they want to."  The Pakistani foreign office echoed Gilani's comments, adding only that regional stability should be preserved. It cried off further comment, saying it was studying the pact.

It continued to hold discussions, meanwhile, on the grant of the Most Favoured Nation to India as part of moves to normalise ties. Late last month the cabinet cleared the MFN, 15 years after New Delhi accorded Pakistan the same status so that the two could conduct trade like nations do around the world, even those with differences.

Can commerce be ultimate CBM for India and Pakistan?

The running theme of the 21st century is that of economic partnerships, from the European Union to ASEAN, with the aim of fostering and maintaining economic prosperity and social progress.

And arch rivals India and Pakistan might also discover the economic and political dividend of cooperation if they are sincere in liberalising bilateral trade.

As a Pakistani commerce minister visited India for the first time in 35 years, big words are flowing from both sides about agreements reached in easing trade restrictions and their sincerity in pushing up by several notches a fragile peace process that was shattered following the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Mistrust, Afghan insecurity loom over Indo-Pak talks

By Annie Banerji

As India and Pakistan begin diplomatic talks between the two countries’ foreign secretaries, Pew Research Centre published a survey this week that shows Pakistanis are strongly critical of India and the United States as well.

Even though there has been a slew of attacks by the Taliban on Pakistani targets since Osama bin Laden’s killing in May, the Pew Research publication illustrates that three in four Pakistanis find India a greater threat than extremist groups.

In similar fashion, 65 percent of Indians expressed an unfavourable view of Pakistan, seeing it as a bigger threat than the LeT, an active militant Islamic organisation operating mainly from Pakistan and Maoist militants operating in India.

India no angel in dangerous neighbourhood

By Annie Banerji

Perhaps the finger-pointing at neighbouring Pakistan and the talk of Afghan militancy destabilising the region that New Delhi so often rolls out should be reconsidered. The neighbourhood may well be dangerous, but India is no model pupil.

According to the 2011 Global Peace Index, an initiative of the Institute of Economics and Peace, which evaluates 153 countries based on the level of ongoing conflict, safety and security and militarisation, India is the world’s 135th most peaceful country, falling seven positions from last year.

This year’s rankings, which indicated a decline in the levels of peace for the third consecutive year overall, placed Iceland in the top spot as the most peaceful country and Somalia as the world’s least.

from Afghan Journal:

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, a deterrent against India, but also United States ?

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Pakistan's nuclear weapons have been conceived and developed as a deterrent against mighty neighbour India, more so now when its traditional rival has added economic heft to its military muscle. But Islamabad may also be holding onto its nuclear arsenal  to deter an even more powerful challenge, which to its mind, comes  from the United States, according to Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer who led President Barack Obama's 2009 policy review on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Pakistan and the United States are allies in the war against militancy, but ties have been so troubled in recent years that  some in Pakistan believe that the risk of a conflict cannot be dismissed altogether and that the bomb may well be the country's  only hedge against an America that looks less a friend and more a hostile power.

Last year  the Obama administration said there could be consequences if the next attack in the West were to be traced backed to Pakistan, probably the North Waziristan hub of al Qaeda, the Taliban and other militant groups.No nation can ignore a warning as chilling as that, and it is reasonable to expect the Pakistan military to do what it can to defend itself.

Will Singh add Pakistan to his list of triumphs?

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has long wanted to secure what his dozen predecessors have failed to achieve: lasting peace with arch rival Pakistan. But, if the WikiLeaks cables are to be believed, Singh probably remains isolated in pursuing his dream.

In a week when officials from both countries meet to resume talks broken off after the 2008 Mumbai attacks and when the two prime ministers play “cricket diplomacy“, have the chances for peace improved?

There seems to be too much loaded against the initiative. The enmity between the two nations is rooted in their very existence and peaceniks are a handful. There is little political gain and much risk to be had from pursuing peace.

from Afghan Journal:

Standing on the warfront: when sport divides India and Pakistan

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In the run-up to Wednesday's cricket match between India and Pakistan, passions are running high on both sides of the border and in the diaspora which is following their teams' progress in the game's biggest tournament.

How to demolish Pakistan was the title of a programme aired by an Indian television network  where former players and experts discussed ways to win the high-voltage game that will be played in the northern Indian town of Mohali, within, in a manner of speaking, of earshot distance of the heavily militarised  border with Pakistan. 
  
Pakistan television in similarly wall-to-wall coverage ran a programme where one of the guests advised the team to recite a particular passage from the Koran before stepping out to play that day. There is even a story doing the rounds in Pakistan that an enraged Indian crowd put a parrot fortune teller to death for predicting a Pakistani victory, according to this report.

All fair in sport, you would argue, and especially for two countries that take their cricket very seriously. But this contest has an edgy undertone of antagonism that flows from the tension in ties since the Mumbai attacks of 2008 carried out by Pakistan based militants and for which New Delhi seeks greater redress from Pakistani authorities.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India-Pakistan – cricket, spooks and peace

cricket  refugee"Cricket diplomacy" has always been one of the great staples of the relationship between India and Pakistan. The two countries have tried and failed before to use their shared enthusiasm for cricket to build bridges, right back to the days of Pakistan President Zia ul-Haq, if not earlier.

So when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced last week that he was inviting Prime Minister Yusuf  Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari to watch the semi-finals of the Cricket World Cup in Mohali, India, the temptation was to dismiss it as an old idea.

Yes, it would be the first visit by a leader of either country to the other since the November 2008 attack on Mumbai.  Yes, the invitation came at a time when relations between the two countries were already thawing. And yes, the Middle East is changing so fast that you would expect --  in the way that warring siblings do -- that India and Pakistan would bury their differences at a time when the outside world has become so unpredictable.

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