India Insight

from Afghan Journal:

The view from Pakistan: India is a bigger threat than the Taliban, al Qaeda

A man unloads clay tiles, used for flooring and roofs, from a donkey inside a compound at a makeshift factory in Karachi July 25, 2010. A man unloads clay tiles, used for flooring and roofs, at a makeshift factory in Karachi.

India may have  a bigger problem in Pakistan than previously thought. More than half of Pakistanis surveyed in a Pew poll say India is a bigger threat than al Qaeda or the Taliban.

It's not just the Pakistani military that believes a bigger, richer India is an existential threat. A majority of ordinary people share that perception as well. That ought to worry Indian policy planners. Of the Pakistanis polled, 23 percent think the Taliban is the greatest threat to their country, and 3 percent think al Qaeda is, despite the rising tide of militant violence in Pakistan's turbulent northwest region on the Afghan border, and also in the heartland cities.

One must approach all surveys with caution, especially so in countries such as India and Pakistan with very large populations.  Pew conducted face-to-face interviews with 2,000 adults in Pakistan between April 13 and 28 of 2010. It says the sample was disproportionately urban, and parts of the troubled areas of the northwest and Baluchistan were not covered. For a country with a population of over 170 million, drawing hard conclusions based on a sample size that small  must come with a mandatory health warning.

Still, there were some positive take-aways.  Despite the deep-seated tensions between these two countries, most Pakistanis want better relations with India. Roughly 72% say it is important for relations with India to improve and about three-quarters support increased trade with India and further talks between the two rivals.

But India won't talk unless Pakistan acts against the militant groups and their patrons. For a large number of Indians, memories of the 11/26 attacks in Mumbai are still too fresh. India has made almost all dialogue with Pakistan conditional, based on the steps it takes to roll up groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based organization that New Delhi has blamed for a series of attacks in India including the Mumbai assault of 2008. But Pakistan won't act because it doesn't consider them to be a threat.  So how do you square such a circle?

from Afghan Journal:

WikiLeaks: shaking the foundations of U.S. policy toward Pakistan

A Pakistani security official stands near a burning vehicle after it was attacked in Chaman in Pakistan's Balochistan province, along the Afghan border on May 19, 2010.

A Pakistani security official stands near a burning vehicle after it was attacked in Chaman in Pakistan's Balochistan province, along the Afghan border on May 19, 2010.

On the face of it, you could ask what's new about the latest disclosures of Pakistani involvement in the Taliban insurgency while accepting massive U.S. aid to fight Islamic militancy of all hues. Hasn't this been known all along -- something that a succession of top U.S. officials and military leaders have often said, sometimes  couched in diplomatic speech and sometimes rather clearly?

It was only last week that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said there must be somebody in the Pakistani government who knew Osama bin Laden's whereabouts. Coming from America's top diplomat, it couldn't be more blunt.

from Afghan Journal:

Burying the India-Pakistan dialogue for now

PAKISTAN-INDIA/

The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan have returned home, licking their wounds from their latest failed engagement.  Both sides are blaming each other for not only failing to make any progress, but also souring ties further, with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his Indian counterpart S.M.Krishna openly sparring at a news conference following the talks in Islamabad.  Qureshi suggested Krishna did not seem to have the full mandate to conduct negotiations because directions were being given from New Delhi throughout the day-long talks, drawing rebuke from India which said the foreign minister had been insulted on Pakistani soil.

Some people are asking why bother  going through this painful exercise  at this time  when the chances of  of the two sides making even the slightest concession are next to zero?  India and Pakistan may actually be doing each other more damage by holding these high-profile, high-pressure meetings where the domestic media and the  opposition  in both the countries  is watching for the slightest sign of capitulation by either government.

It's the world's longest running soap opera, made for great television viewing, says a blog on the Indian National Interest. "These events have become the drivers of the process each such opportunity attracting saturated media coverage and intense public scrutiny in both countries."

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."

In Kashmir, India now struggles with “children of conflict”

Kashmir has been seething since early June. Life across the Muslim-majority valley has been completely disrupted by curfews and protest strikes since some of the biggest anti-India demonstrations in two years erupted a month ago.

A Kashmiri Muslim man crosses a deserted road marked with graffiti during a curfew in Srinagar July 16, 2010. REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli/FilesSeventeen people, mostly teenage protesters, have been killed by security forces in near daily pro-freedom demonstrations fuelling anger across the disputed Himalayan region.

India blames Pakistan-based militants for the ongoing Kashmir protests but Kashmiris say the protests are spontaneous.

from Afghan Journal:

Pakistan’s Zardari in China; nuclear deal in grasp

(File picture of President Zardari in China)

(File picture of President Zardari in China)

Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari is in China this week, making good his promise to visit the "all weather ally" every three months. During his previous trips, his hosts have sent him off to the provinces to see for himself the booming growth there, but this trip may turn out be a lot more productive.

Zardari  may well return with a firm plan by China to build two reactors at Pakistan's Chashma nuclear plant, as my colleague in Beijing  reports in this article, overriding concern in Washington, New Delhi and other capitals that this undermined global non-proliferation objectives.

It's a bit of a nuclear poker going on in the region and Afghanistan as the new battleground between the regional players cannot remain untouched.

Killing of civilians fuels Kashmir anger

Supporters of separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq shout slogans while being detained by police during a protest in Srinagar June 17, 2010. REUTERS/Fayaz KabliJust days ago, scenic Kashmir, torn by two decades of war, was near normal.

Thousands of tourists were flocking to the region and honeymooners were once again gliding in shikaras, small Kashmiri boats, across the mirror-calm Dal Lake.

The disputed Himalayan region has seen a significant drop in violence between Muslim rebels and security forces.

But now the Valley is again under siege in the backdrop of rising public anger.

from Afghan Journal:

Potential allies: Karzai, Pakistan and the Taliban?

(Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Razai Gilani)

(Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani)

If you still thought things hadn't dramatically changed on the Afghan chessboard ever since U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans to begin pulling out from mid-2011, you only need to look at President Hamid Karzai's recent utterances, or more accurately the lack of it, on the Taliban and Pakistan, the other heavyweights on the stage.

For months Karzai has gone noticeably quiet on Pakistan, refusing to excoriate the neighbour for aiding the Taliban as he routinely did in the past, The Guardian quoted  a source close to the country's former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh as saying.

Karzai, in fact, has lost faith in the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and is increasingly turning to long-time Taliban supporter, Pakistan, to end the deadly insurgency, it said. Saleh and interior minister Hanif Atmar resigned this week, which Karzai's office said was because of lapses that led to a Taliban attack on a peace jirga last week in Kabul.

India and the U.S. – strategic or symbolic partners?

With initial euphoria over last week’s U.S.-India talks on the wane, it may be time to take a long, hard look at what New  Delhi actually gained from the first official “strategic dialogue” between the two sides.

The flags of India and the United States are seen before a bilateral meeting between U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Indian National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon during the Shangri-La Dialogue Asia Security Summit in Singapore June 4, 2010. REUTERS/Carolyn Kaster/PoolThe timing was just right as Washington implements its AfPak plan, the correct gestures were made and U.S. officials went out of their way to convince the Indian media all was fine between the world’s two biggest democracies.

And while it is true that India-U.S. relations are now at their best, the June 2 talks between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and India’s Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna showed that though the two may have made progress on important but second-tier issues such as trade, agriculture and technology, there remains a disconnect on a strategic level.

from Afghan Journal:

An Indian in Kabul

(Outside the Indian embassy in Kabul after a blast in October 2009.REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

(Outside the Indian embassy in Kabul after a blast in October 2009. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood)

India and Pakistan are both competing for influence in Afghanistan in a modern-day version of the Great Game that has complicated the search for a settlement, but on the streets of Kabul the Indians still seem to evoke greater goodwill.

Three times I have been asked at police checkpoints at darkened intersections and in offices, whether I was a Pakistani and when I said I was an Indian, they would respond : "everyone here says that, show me your passport."

  •