India Insight

Should forces responsible for over 100 killings be praised for restraint?

India’s Prime Minister praised the work of security forces in disputed Kashmir on Tuesday, in a show of support for troops that killed over 100 separatist protesters last year that risks angering those that resent India’s large military presence in the state.

Indian policemen stand guard during a curfew in Srinagar September 21, 2010. REUTERS/Danish Ismail

The remarks represent a seal of approval for security forces that are cited by many Kashmiris as an element of the violence, rather than the preventers of it, and come as a team of interlocutors enters its fifth month of talks in the troubled region, and almost two months after Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said that a political solution to the troubles was likely to emerge “in the next few months.”

But can Manmohan Singh’s praise for the “tremendous restraint” of Indian forces in Kashmir be applauded considering they have been responsible for the death of over 100 separatist protesters in months of violent clashes since last summer?

“It is really unfortunate and sad that despite tremendous restraint shown by the security forces, many young people died,” Singh told a conference of state chief ministers in New Delhi on Tuesday. “As we meet today, the situation in the valley has improved.”

Such rhetoric — regularly trotted out by New Delhi and military leaders — is reviled by many in Kashmir by those who resent the perceived heavy-handed treatment by India’s security forces.

U.S. questions India’s military response abilities

WikiLeaks’ secret U.S. cable dump exposed the first controversial remarks about India on Wednesday, when a cable published by the Guardian described American belittling of India’s ‘Cold Start’ military retaliation plan against Pakistan.
U.S. ambassador to India Tim Roemer (R) talks with security personnel after his meeting with the Indian foreign ministry officials in New Delhi  REUTERS/Buddhika Weerasinghe
The Cold Start is a much vaunted doctrine to rebuff any Pakistani aggression by a massive military attack across the border within 72 hours of any attack from its neighbour.

After India and the U.S. were spared any serious embarrassment in the first two days of WikiLeak’s staggered release of secret U.S. cables, save an outspoken remark from Hillary Clinton about India’s inflated global ambitions, the secret cable from U.S. Ambassador Tim Roemer states that it is unlikely that India would ever enact the planned retribution strategy, and the chances of success would be questionable if so, in a cutting critique of New Delhi’s military might.

The February 16, 2010 cable from the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, classified by Roemer and released by WikiLeaks, describes India’s ‘Cold Start Doctrine’ as “a mixture of myth and reality.”

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Wikileaks on Pakistan

iran pakistanIn the State Department cables released by Wikileaks and so far reported, the most eye-catching as far as Pakistan is concerned is a row with Washington over nuclear fuel.

According to the New York Times, the cables show:

"A dangerous standoff with Pakistan over nuclear fuel: Since 2007, the United States has mounted a highly secret effort, so far unsuccessful, to remove from a Pakistani research reactor highly enriched uranium that American officials fear could be diverted for use in an illicit nuclear device. In May 2009, Ambassador Anne W. Patterson reported that Pakistan was refusing to schedule a visit by American technical experts because, as a Pakistani official said, “if the local media got word of the fuel removal, ‘they certainly would portray it as the United States taking Pakistan’s nuclear weapons,’ he argued.”

The Pakistan Army is deeply sensitive about any questions on the safety of its nuclear weapons.  The country is also often awash with conspiracy theories accusing the Americans of harbouring secret plans to dismantle the nuclear weapons.

from Afghan Journal:

India, U.S. build ties, with an eye on China

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In the end, Pakistan wasn't the unspoken elephant in the room when U.S. President Barack Obama sat down for talks with Indian leaders. Far from tip-toeing around India's Pakistan problem which complicates America's own troubled war there and in Afghanistan, Obama spoke clearly and squarely.

Safe havens for militants in Pakistan wouldn't be tolerated, he said, in what was music to Indian ears. But he also left nobody in doubt Washington wanted India to improve ties with Pakistan, saying New Delhi had the greatest stake in the troubled neighbour's stability.

But the one elephant that the leaders of India and the United States didn't name but which was written all over the flurry of announcements made during the three-day trip was China. Beginning with the headline-grabbing endorsement of India's bid for a permanent place on the U.N. Security Council to maritime cooperation and a surprise partnership to promote food security in Africa, the United States seems to have gone the extra mile to bolster New Delhi's credentials as a global player.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Between the lines: Obama’s comments on Kashmir

nubra reducedPresident Barack Obama's words on relations with Pakistan were always going to be carefully scripted during his visit to India, where even to say the word "Kashmir"  aloud in public can raise jitters about U.S. interference in what New Delhi sees as a bilateral dispute.

So first up, here's what he had to say during a news conference in New Delhi with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in response to a question about what role the United States could play in resolving the Kashmir dispute (NDTV has the video).

"With respect to Kashmir, obviously this is a long-standing dispute between India and Pakistan; as I said yesterday, I believe that both Pakistan and India have an interest in reducing tensions between the two countries. The United States cannot impose a solution to these problems but I have indicated to Prime Minister Singh that we are happy to play any role that the parties think is appropriate in reducing these tensions. That's in the interests of the region; it is in the interests of the two countries involved and it is in the interests of the United States of America.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Will Obama refer to Kashmir in public in India?

fayazaward2Will President Barack Obama make some public remarks on Kashmir during his trip to India next month?

At a White House press briefing, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes refused to be pinned down on specifics,  beyond saying that the United States would continue to express support for India and Pakistan to pursue talks.

"I wouldn’t -- I don't want to get into prefacing with precision what his comments are, in part because he’ll be answering a lot of questions there in the town hall and press conference and we haven’t -- we’re still working through his remarks on certain things," he said.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures September 12, 2010

As the anniversary of the 9/11 attack coincided with Eid celebrations, Florida based Pastor Terry Jones announced that he would burn the Koran as a protest  to plans to site a Muslim cultural centre near Ground Zero , stoking tensions in Asia.  Add into the mix millions in Pakistan suffering from lack of water, food and shelter after floods, a parliament election in   Afghanistan and a U. S. -led  military campaign against the Taliban around Kandahar -  photographers in the region had lots of raw material to work with.

Raheb's picture of relief and joy caught in the harsh light of a direct flash seems to explode in a release of tension as news spreads that Pastor Jones had cancelled his plans to burn the Koran. It has to be said that ironically earlier in the day in Pakistan US flags were burned in protest against the planned protest.

AFGHANISTAN/

 Afghan protestors shout anti U.S slogans as they celebrate after learning that U.S. pastor Terry Jones dropped his plans to burn copies of the Koran, in Herat, western Afghanistan September 12, 2010. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan, India and the value of democracy

gilani kayaniOf the many comments I heard in Pakistan, one question particularly flummoxed me. Was democracy really the right system for South Asia?  It came, unsurprisingly, from someone sympathetic to the military, and was couched in a comparison between Pakistan and India.

What had India achieved, he asked, with its long years of near-uninterrupted democracy, to reduce the gap between rich and poor?  What of the Maoist rebellion eating away at its heartland? Its desperate poverty? The human rights abuses from Kashmir to Manipur, when Indian forces were called in to quell separatist revolts? Maybe, he said, democracy was just not suited to countries like India and Pakistan.

The question surprised me, in part because I had never really been forced before to defend democracy, possibly because in the West we take it so much for granted that we have forgotten why it matters. It also surprised me for the sheer conviction of the sentiment.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures August 15, 2010

Flooding and mudslides have again dominated the week's coverage in Asia. Reports that one fifth of Pakistan is now under water and over 20 million have been affected by the rising waters. In the northwestern Chinese province of Gansu over a 1000 people lost their lives as a mudslide swept through the town of Zhouqu. It is easy to become visually tired looking at images of people wading waist deep in flood water or seeing another image of a relative weeping for a loved one. In the pictures below even the most jaded eyes and souls must feel the passion of the pictures as photographers tell the story and bring home the desperation of their subject's plight.

Adrees Latif, chief photographer Pakistan, captures a moment that if it wasn't so sad would almost be funny. People, whose lives have been shattered by flooding, loss of their homes, hunger and the risk of disease suffer the final humiliation as a relief truck sweeps by driving water over their heads, the driver oblivious of the scene. In another picture  in a  camp for the displaced  Karachi based photographer Akhtar Soomro photographs a boy sitting in isolation who hurriedly eats, his eyes glaring out of the image as he keeps guard in case someone, imagined or real, tries to steal his food.

PAKISTAN-FLOODS/

Residents being evacuated through flood waters dodge an army truck carrying relief supplies for flood victims in Pakistan's Muzaffargarh district in Punjab province August 11, 2010. The floods have ploughed a swathe of destruction more than 1,000 km (600 miles) long from northern Pakistan to the south, killing more than 1,600 people.   REUTERS/Adrees Latif

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Dreams from my father: South Asia’s political dynasties

bilawal"Whatever the result, this meeting will be a turning point in Pakistan's history," Pakistan President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto told his daughter Benazir as he prepared for a summit meeting with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1972 in the Indian hill resort of Simla after his country's defeat by India in the 1971 war. "I want you to witness it first hand."

If there is a slightly surreal quality to President Asif Ali Zardari's controversial state visit to Britain - where he is expected to launch the political career of Oxford graduate Bilawal Bhutto at a rally for British Pakistanis in Birmingham on Saturday - it is perhaps no more surreal than taking your daughter, herself then a student at Harvard, to witness negotiations with India after a crushing military defeat.

Family dynasties are a tradition in South Asia. Indira Gandhi, the victor of the 1971 war which led to the creation of Bangladesh, then East Pakistan, had learned about international relations from her father, India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Now her grandson, Rahul Gandhi, is being groomed as a future prime minister while his mother Sonia Gandhi keeps a tight grip from behind-the-scenes on the Congress Party government led by her appointed prime minister Manmohan Singh.

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