Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

from Expert Zone:

India-Pakistan border flare-up a zero-sum game

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

At places along the Line of Control (LoC), barely a wire separates the Indian soldier and his Pakistani counterpart. The genesis of the recent flare-up was the killing of five Indian soldiers on the Indian side of the LoC. The media blitz in Delhi found more fodder with a spike in infiltration attempts and exchange of fire beyond the LoC at posts across the international border.

Hostilities reached their peak with the detection and elimination of a rather large group of infiltrators in the Keran sector north of Srinagar. In between, the militant groups in Kashmir valley seemed to have drawn inspiration and staged a well-executed attack on a police post and an army unit in Jammu and Kashmir, deep inside Indian territory.

What are the possible reasons for this spurt? Are these tactical with local commanders acting in isolation, or do they reflect a strategic design?

Drones over FATA – next year may be the last they are legal

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Selective tweeting, selective outrage and selective media reporting – everyone has a view on drones. On one hand, the United States is accused of lying about civilian deaths in its drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas, of human rights abuses, and of operating outside a transparent legal framework. On the other, many of those opposed to drones brook no nuance, reserve their outrage only for people killed by Americans  rather than by the Pakistan Army or the Taliban, and promote a dangerous ahistorical narrative that militants are the result rather than the cause of drone strikes.

The people who live in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) don’t get much of a say at all. Used by Pakistan for decades as a deniable base for jihad, FATA has been deprived of full political and economic rights by the same country that protests loudly that drone strikes violate its sovereignty. The United States in turn has been able to exploit the ambiguous status of FATA to run a secret campaign whose precedent in international law is likely to haunt it as more and more countries acquire their own armed drones.

From Mogadishu to Mumbai, managing urban conflict

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At first glance it is an unlikely comparison – the 2008 attack on Mumbai by Pakistan-based gunmen and the disastrous 1993 operation by U.S. troops against a Somali warlord in Mogadishu.

But David Kilcullen, a former adviser on counterinsurgency in the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, compares the fighting in the two cities in often unexpected ways in his new book “Out of the Mountains” to convince people to think more about urban conflict.

China re-wires its West

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By Raffaello Pantucci

(Raffaello Pantucci is a Senior Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, London)

In his seminal article from October 2012 advocating for China’s ‘March Westwards’ Beijing University Dean of International Relations Wang Jisi spoke of a ‘new silk road [that] would extend from China’s eastern ports, through the center of Asia and Europe, to the eastern banks of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean coastal countries in the west.’ In addition to this route to Europe, ‘A major route from China’s western regions through the Indian Ocean should also be constructed as quickly as possible.’ An ambitious geopolitical sketch of the world seen from Beijing, but one that is being brought to life under President Xi Jinping, whose recent tour of Central Asia provided some definition of what exactly China is aiming for in its western relationships.

Despite rising India-Pakistan tensions, little planning for the next big crisis

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In the very early days after the Sept 11 attacks on the United States, some in India, for the briefest of moments, believed Washington might be coming around to its point of view: that the problem and source of “cross-border terrorism” lay in Pakistan. Instead, an aggrieved India was forced to look on as Washington turned to its old ally Pakistan to help it fight the war in Afghanistan.

It was in that sour mood that New Delhi reacted with increasing anger to Pakistan’s support for Islamist militants targeting India in Kashmir and beyond. In October 2001, nearly 40 people were killed in a suicide attack on the legislative assembly of Jammu and Kashmir state in its summer capital Srinagar. When militants attacked the Indian parliament in Delhi on December 13, 2001 – an attack blamed on the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed – India mobilised for war.  Soon close to a million men were deployed on either side of the border in a tense standoff that was not resolved until the following summer, and only then after intense U.S.-led international diplomacy.

In Pakistan, Kashmir becomes a new rallying cry

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To understand the second-order effects in Pakistan of violence in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, look no further than the Twitter feed of Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafez Saeed.

After last week’s killing of four protesters by Indian security forces in the Jammu-region town of Gool, he tweeted that “there can be no friendship, trade whatsoever” with India until the Kashmir issue is resolved. Addressing Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif – who says he wants better relations with India – he demanded that his PML-N government take a clear stance, and insisted that “strong decisions on Kashmir will strengthen and unify Pakistan”.

In Pakistan, Egypt can find some pointers on democracy

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In all the casting-about for comparisons to the confusing events in Egypt, three come easily: Pakistan, where coups were celebrated and later regretted; Algeria,    where a cancelled election led to a vicious civil war; and Turkey, where the army repeatedly intervened to nudge along multi-party democracy while retaining power behind the scenes.

None are particularly apt, not just because of national differences but also because of changes across time – Egypt’s was the world’s first coup to unfold live on Twitter, connecting people in ways that would have been unthinkable in the days when army interventions were imposed on bewildered populations.

from Expert Zone:

The uncertainty principle and the India-Pakistan relationship

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters, the IDSA or the Indian government)

"The more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known in this instant, and vice versa," said Werner Heisenberg in his 1927 paper on subatomic particle behaviour in quantum physics. While the context could be continents apart, this uncertainty principle perhaps best describes the trajectory of India-Pakistan ties.

Pakistan’s brutal elections

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One day, a 10-year-old girl died. The next, a seven-year-old boy. The victims of the   relentless attacks on election meetings in Pakistan are so very rarely named that you have to start counting the ages of the children to give some kind of human meaning to the deaths.

More than 50 people have been killed ahead of elections on May 11 that should have been a milestone in the country’s history, the first time a democratically elected government completed its term and handed power to another through the polls. Instead it has turned into a bewildering bloodbath where a mother or father taking their child out to watch history being made cannot be sure of bringing them home alive.

From the ground in Afghanistan, an uncertain future

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Arriving into Kabul you are struck by two contrasting images. Streets jammed with noisy traffic, pavements spilling with hawkers and women in sky-blue burqas wending their way through the crush of people. And then just a few metres from this bustle of everyday life are whole streets walled off, defended by layer upon layer of guards with machine guns behind sandbags and blast barriers set up in a zigzag manner to stop or at least slow down the suicide bomber.

These are the green zones of the Afghan capital where the top international military brass, diplomats, officials, and staff of the dozens of non-government organisations work and live and party, cut off from the turbulent nation outside, like virtual prisoners.

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