India Insight

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.

NightWatch intelligence, which closely tracks developments across South Asia, says the Shakargarh sector carries  the weight of history and perhaps there is  a message behind the shooting. This is the site of a decisive battle during the 1971 India-Pakistan War in which Indian rocket launcher units destroyed Pakistani army armoured brigades ending hostilities in that sector. Firing in the location is always a reminder of December 1971. So the question is were the Indians trying to remind the Pakistanis about that battle nearly four decades ago even as Pakistan carried out the wargames named Azm-e-Nau 3 or New Resolve 3?

India, Pakistan wargames have in the past caused jitters especially when thousands of troops are massed near the border along with heavy armour and you are not sure whether they are only meant for exercises or is it a preparation for a real war. Back in 1987, India conducted Brass Tacks, the largest military exercise of its kind across South Asia in the deserts of Rajasthan a few hundred miles from the Pakistan border.

from Afghan Journal:

The other nuclear summit and the role of Asian regional players

AFGHANISTAN-IRAN/

Leaders of more than 40 countries are gathering in Washington for a summit beginning on Monday to control the spread of nuclear weapons. Iran for obvious reasons is not invited, but it has announced a conference of its own soon after the Washington meeting. It's called ‘Nuclear Energy for All, Nuclear Weapons for None, and among those who have agreed to attend  are India, Pakistan and China.  

While the level of representation to the Teheran meeting is not at the same level as Washington for all three countries, the fact that they have chosen to attend seems to be a signal to the Obama administration just as it is trying to isolate Iran for its suspected nuclear weapons programme. India's presence in particular has raised the question if it is starting to re-assess ties with Tehran that have in recent years been allowed to slip in the pursuit of a strategic relationship with America. 

 As The Hindu newspaper noted the Tehran conference is a "red rag" to Washington and it has been  quietly discouraging countries to attend.  For New Delhi to agree to send its ambassador to the meeting can only be a signal that it is looking to expand its diplomatic space in the region as differences emerge with Washington over its Afghan strategy weighted towards Pakistan, Indian experts say.New Delhi really should be re-energising links with Tehran  if it wants to maintain its reach in Afghanistan, they say. Without a geographically contiguous border and a hostile Pakistan in the middle, Iran remains the only corridor to Afghanistan.

From across the border, books and bats

This week, while one Pakistani was being questioned by the Indian police and hysterical reporters on an alleged marriage to an Indian, another Pakistani, composed and smiling, fielded questions from an admiring audience on dynasty and politics in the country that every Indian has an opinion on.

Pakistan cricket player Shoaib Malik (R) speaks to the media as tennis player Sania Mirza looks on, in Hyderabad April 5, 2010. REUTERS/Krishnendu HalderThe contrast between Shoaib Malik, who is all set to marry Indian tennis star Sania Mirza, and Fatima Bhutto, writer and niece of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, could not be more glaring. And that is reason to celebrate.

Because for a few days, we could forget all the usual tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals and simply revel in a public spectacle that had equal measures of romance, melodrama and suspense.

from FaithWorld:

Mumbai gunmen denied Muslim burial secretly interred in January

Remember the issue of what to do with the corpses of the nine attackers killed during the November 2008 siege of the Taj Mahal Hotel and other targets in Mumbai that killed 166 people? The dead attackers were all presumed to be Pakistani Muslims, like the sole survivor, but local Indian Muslim leaders refused to let them be buried in their cemeteries. Islamabad ignored calls to take the bodies back. So they were left in morgue refrigerators in Mumbai, presumably until the issue was finally settled.

kasab

Sole surviving attacker, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, in police custody in this undated video grab shown by CNN IBN Television channel on February 3, 2009/CNN IBN

FaithWorld was deluged with comments after we asked if the bodies should be cremated and the ashes spread at sea. A surprising number of them suggested the bodies should be desecrated, thrown to the dogs or dumped at the Pakistani-Indian border. The discussion tapered off and the issue seemed to have been forgotten.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

On U.S., India and Pakistan: maybe some transparency would help

biden karzaiAccording to the Wall Street Journal, "President Barack Obama issued a secret directive in December to intensify American diplomacy aimed at easing tensions between India and Pakistan, asserting that without détente between the two rivals, the administration's efforts to win Pakistani cooperation in Afghanistan would suffer. "

"The directive concluded that India must make resolving its tensions with Pakistan a priority for progress to be made on U.S. goals in the region, according to people familiar with its contents," it says.

It also says there is a debate within the U.S. administration over how far to push India to improve relations with Pakistan, with the Pentagon lobbying for more pressure on New Delhi and the State Department resisting, arguing this could backfire.

from Afghan Journal:

Standing by your friends:India, U.S. push ahead with nuclear deal

OBAMA-INDIA

For all the hand-wringing in India over getting sidelined by the United States in its regional strategy,  the two countries have gone ahead and just completed an important deal on the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel from reactors to be built in India.

The agreement is a key step in the implementation of the India-U.S.  civil nuclear pact which grants India access to nuclear fuel and technology, even though it has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Under the agreement India can reprocess U.S.-originated nuclear material under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards which in itself is a symbolic concession, according to the Washington Post. It said that the Indians were a bit concerned about the idea of American officials running around their  nuclear reactors , a sort of  "a symbolic, sovereignty issue" as  a source in the U.S. nuclear industry said. They would rather submit to oversight by the IAEA, which thus far is a model the United States has only followed for nuclear collaboration with  Europe and Japan.

Considering that America has gone to war in Iraq on the grounds that it was building weapons of mass destruction and is at this time pushing for tougher sanctions against Iran for its nuclear programme, it is indeed a big deal. It can  also potentially reshape the strategic landscape in South Asia with the world virtually granting legitimacy to India as a nuclear weapons state while denying that to Pakistan.

Separatists make contact with China to ‘discuss’ Kashmir

The chief of Kashmir’s moderate separatist alliance recently met a Chinese delegation in Geneva, the first such contact by Kashmiri separatists with Chinese officials since a simmering discontent against Indian rule broke out in 1989.

Mirwaiz Umar FarooqMirwaiz Umar Farooq, Chairman of All Parties Hurriyat Conference, met the Chinese Director Foreign Affairs, Ying Gang, in Geneva on the sidelines of the 13th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council and discussed Beijing’s possible role in the resolution of the dispute.

“It was a good gesture as the government of China had earlier avoided meeting us,” Farooq said.

from Afghan Journal:

India talking to Taliban?

Taliban militants pose for a picture after joining the Afghan government's reconciliation and reintegration program, in Herat March 14, 2010. REUTERS/Mohammad ShioabIf the news reports are true, India's willingness to talk to the Taliban would represent a seismic shift in strategy for New Delhi and underlines the concern that the Congress-led government has over Pakistan's influence in any Afghan end game.

India has always publicly opposed any attempts at talks by the Western powers with the Taliban to bring them into any stability plan for Afghanistan -- chiding the idea there was such a thing as a "soft side" to the insurgents.

But an Indian Express report said New Delhi was now seeking out a "second generation" of Pashtun leaders like Nangarhar Governor Gul Agha Sherzai.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India and Pakistan: a personal view of the water wars

 It was so long in the making,  so utterly predictable, that the news that Pakistan and India are now arguing over water carries with it the dull ache of inevitability.

When I was living in Delhi, which I left in 2004, a few analysts were already warning that the next war between Pakistan and India would be over water, rather than over Kashmir.  The mountain glaciers which fed the rivers which are the lifeline of both countries were melting, they said, and sooner or later India and Pakistan would blame each other for climate change. I did not take it that seriously at the time. Not even after seeing first hand how far the Siachen glacier - the world's longest glacier - had receded.  

Nor indeed did it properly register after talking to an Indian sherpa who had led the first Indian military expedition to Siachen in 1978 in what India considers part of its own Ladakh region  At the time, Ladakh was much colder, he said, and the snow on the glacier came right down into the valley. It had receded in recent years because of global warming, exposing the black tracts of scree I had scrambled up during my trip there. “It was like a beautiful road coming right down from K2,”he said, , “black moraine on either side.” There was nothing, and nobody there.

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.

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