Pakistan: Now or Never?

Cocking a snook : South Asia hosts Ahmadinejad

April 29, 2008

India, Pakistan and even tiny Sri Lanka have all ignored U.S. concerns, and have hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over the past two days. It is a fleeting visit with less than five hours scheduled in Delhi, but it seems like a carefully calibrated piece of diplomacy tiptoeing around the elephant in the room.
 
For, as relations go, India and Pakistan have become bound up with the United States in ways that would have been unthinkable not very long ago. Islamabad is a frontline ally in Washington’s war on al Qaeda and the Taliban, India a growing strategic partner with whom it is pushing a far-reaching civilian nuclear deal that gives it de facto recognition as a nuclear state.

Update on Pakistan’s peace deal : will it work?

April 27, 2008

Update – Since filing this blog,  Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud has said he is pulling out of the peace deal with the government after it refused to withdraw the army from tribal lands on the Afghan border. So were the sceptics right all along? And what does this mean for the government’s new strategy?

Should the media be more positive about Pakistan?

April 26, 2008

File photo of Nanga ParbatIn the comments on our blog earlier this month Pakistan: Breaking Down the Stereotypes one thing stands out – that people in Pakistan are tired of it being portrayed as a failed state and blame the western media for focusing too narrowly on suicide bombings rather than the achievements and attractions of the country.

Afghan opium farmers follow the money

April 24, 2008

The rising cost of food that is stirring unrest in the developing world may have one positive spin-off: Afghanistan’s opium farmers, attracted by high wheat prices, may be turning to legal crops.

How Islamicised is the Pakistan army?

April 23, 2008

File photo of Indian parliamentWhile living in Delhi after 9/11, and in particular after India and Pakistan nearly went to war over an attack on the Indian parliament on December 13, 2001, one of the questions that cropped up frequently was about how much the Pakistan army had been permeated by hardline Islamists. In other words, how much sympathy did the army feel for al Qaeda and Taliban militants that then General Pervez Musharraf had pledged to fight?

from UK News:

Should Pakistan return to the Commonwealth?

April 21, 2008

musharraf.jpgForeign Secretary David Miliband says Pakistan has made democratic progress and should be re-admitted to the Commonwealth.

Pakistan more dangerous than Iraq ?

April 18, 2008

A Pakistani soldier guards a military post at a mountain peak in Swat districtThe United States, beginning with President George W. Bush himself, has this past two weeks trained its crosshairs on Pakistan, warning that another Sept. 11,  if it were to happen, would most likely not be plotted out of Iraq, Afghanistan or even Iran,  but Pakistan.

Madrasas catch the cricket bug

April 13, 2008

Pakistani students recite the Koran in an Islamic school in PeshawarA crack has opened in the cast-iron rules surrounding Pakistan’s madrasas, and cricket, South Asia’s favourite sport, has rushed in.

Pakistan’s China connection strong as ever

April 9, 2008

Notwithstanding his weakened position at home, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf this week flies to China , the “all weather friend” that has stood by the country through all its troubles.
Chinese President Hu Jintao with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf during a trip to Islamabad in 2006 
Unlike its American friends, the Chinese have not blown hot and cold, although there have been challenges such as attacks on Chinese nationals in Pakistan, including the execution of three workers near Peshawar last year and concern that the Islamist fervour sweeping the northwest parts of Pakistan was spilling over to neighbouring Xinjiang, China’s troubled, predominantly Muslim region.
 
But the Chinese do not give Pakistan lectures on democracy, the dangers of nuclear proliferation – which arguably isn’t surprising since some of it is traced back to the Chinese, according to non-proliferation experts- or threaten to bomb them into the Stone Age , which is what Islamabad says the Bush administration did to enlist its support in its war on terrorism days after Sept 11.
 
China, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told parliament in his opening address last week, was a time-tested ally and the friendship “was deeper than the Indian Ocean and higher than the Himalayas”. On Monday, a Shanghai shipyard launched the first of four frigates to be delivered to the Pakistan navy, while the Pakistani air force has already inducted a fighter aircraft co-produced with China. Beijing has also helped Pakistan build civil nuclear plants.
 
Pakistan’s alliance with China is far more enduring that the one with the United States, a scholar writing for the YaleGlobal Online argued last month, characterising the relationship with Washington dating back to 1954 as an intermittent, Cold War marriage of convenience. The current U.S.-Pakistan relationship has been built on security interests and is already looking fragile following the outcome of the February elections when the party supported by ally Musharraf was routed.
 
Pakistan’s alliance with China, in contrast, is based on permanent strategic interests and immutable issues of geography, including China’s desire for access to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, scholar  Willem van Kemenade says in the article. And unlike the sometimes public polemics with Washington over the war on militancy, Pakistan and China are quietly cooperating to ensure things don’t go out of hand in China’s far west.  
                                                                                                  Traders in China’s Xinjiang region
Indeed, Musharraf will be winding up his visit in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, where he is expected to appeal to local Muslims to cooperate with the authorities and not to be misled by followers of Tibet’s spiritual leader Dala Lama trying to stoke fires there,  as B.Raman, a former additional secretary at India’s Research and Analysis Wing, the external intelligence arm, says in a paper for the India-based South Asia Analysis Group.

Pakistan: Breaking down the stereotypes

April 6, 2008

An economy growing at an average of 7 percent for six years now with a construction  and consumer boom, a rising middle-class that has just voted out a government, a free  press, a thriving fashion scene. Another emerging market star?