Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

Change of guard in Bangladesh, hope for the region?

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Sheikh Hasina, the leader of an avowedly secular party, is set to return to power in Bangladesh, the 
other end of South Asia’s arc of instability stretching from Afghanistan through Pakistan to India.

And because the teeming region, home to a fifth of the world’s population, is so closely intertwined 
Hasina’s election and the change that she has promised to bring to her country will almost certainly have a bearing across South Asia, but especially for India and Pakistan.

Bangladesh, as far as New Delhi is concerned, is the eastern launching pad for Islamist militants hostile  to it, complementing Pakistan on the west. So even if the heat is turned on the militants in Pakistan as India is  demanding following the attacks in Mumbai, they or their controllers can unleash groups such as  Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami  (HuJI) based in Bangladesh.

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Indian, Pakistani op-eds show signs of softening

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After a month of hurling insults across the border over the Mumbai attacks, newspaper editorials in both India and Pakistan are softening their rhetoric and asking — still quietly and tentatively for now — whether the two countries might perhaps be able to sort it out.

Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, in an editorial headlined “War hysteria abating on both sides” welcomes a report that India is not setting a timeframe for Pakistan to act against the groups it blamed for the Mumbai attacks. “There is always a risk of exaggerating the prospects of peace breaking out between India and Pakistan, just as there is that irrepressible tendency to overplay the fear of war lurking round the corner,” it says.  But it adds: “At the moment all the pointers from New Delhi raise hope. Or, shall we say, they don’t look bleak?”

from FaithWorld:

‘Clash of Civilizations’ author dies, thesis lives on

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Political scientist Samuel Huntington, whose controversial book "The Clash of Civilizations" predicted conflict between the West and the Islamic world, has died at age 81, Harvard University said on Saturday. You can see our story here.

In his 1996 "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order," which expanded on his 1993 article in Foreign Affairs magazine, Huntington divided the world into rival civilizations based mainly on religious traditions such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Confucianism and said competition and conflict among them was inevitable.

One year on, same questions swirl around Bhutto’s murder

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The anniversary of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination has reminded everyone just how much we still don’t know about her killing in a suicide gun and bomb attack in Rawalpindi on Dec. 27, 2007.
 
The same questions that transfixed the shocked country in the days after her death, such as why was the crime scene hosed down so quickly, was she killed when the blast smashed her head into the lever on her vehicle’s escape hatch or by a bullet, why was no autopsy performed, are again being raised.
 
Investigations by the previous government and the U.S. CIA accused an al Qaeda-linked militant, Baitullah Mehsud, of killing Bhutto, a staunch supporter of the U.S.-led campaign against Islamist militancy.
 
That would seem logical enough but, as we’ve seen with the Mumbai attacks, any militant attack on or linked to Pakistan seems to raise questions about possible links to old allies in the powerful intelligence services.
 
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India – aiming for diplomatic encirclement of Pakistan?

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India is piling on the diplomatic pressure to convince the international community to lean on Pakistan to crack down on Islamist militants blamed by New Delhi for the Mumbai attacks.

According to the Times of India, “India has made it clear to the U.S. and Iran as well as Pakistan’s key allies, China and Saudi Arabia, that they need to do more to use their clout to pressure Pakistan into acting…” The Press Trust of India (PTI), quoted by The Hindu, said India had used a visit by Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal to Delhi to drive home the same message.

from India Insight:

India in 2008: The year that was

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Yet another year is coming to an end and independent India's idea of being a republic is a year older. But is it any wiser?

On many counts, 2008 was both tumultuous and memorable for India, testing its men and the manner in which they confronted the challenges.

War clouds over South Asia

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There is a strange dichotomy in Delhi at the moment. If you read the headlines or watch the news on television, India and Pakistan appear headed for confrontation – what form, what shape is obviously hard to tell but the rhetoric is getting more and more menacing each day.

Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Kayani promised a matching response ‘within minutes” were the Indians to carry out precision strikes against camps of militants inside Pakistan, whom it blames for the Mumbai attacks.

Pakistan: Rethinking its relationship with China?

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For Pakistan-watchers, I recommend reading this op-ed in the Daily Times calling on Pakistan to rethink its relationship with China, traditionally revered as an all-weather friend which will remain reliable even as other allies — like the United States — come and go.

“China has positioned itself for a leading role in global affairs, and will not sacrifice this advantage for the sake of any emotional connection with another state,” writes Shahzad Chaudhry. “As a mature society, the Chinese are realistic enough to realise the advantages and disadvantages of their linkages. Like the Chinese, Pakistanis need to discard their emotions and objectively review and redefine their linkages in view of their own national interests and the new global realities.”

from FaithWorld:

Lots of advice for Obama on dealing with Muslims and Islam

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President-elect Barack Obama has been getting a lot of advice these days on how to deal with Muslims and Islam. He invited it by saying during his campaign that he either wanted to convene a conference with leaders of Muslim countries or deliver a major speech in a Muslim country "to reboot America’s image around the world and also in the Muslim world in particular”. But where? when? why? how? Early this month, I chimed in with a pitch for a speech in Turkey or Indonesia.  Some quite interesting comments have come in since then. (Photo: Obama image in Jakarta, 25 Oct 2008/Dadang Tri)

Two French academics, Islam expert Olivier Roy and political scientist Justin Vaisse argued in a New York Times op-ed piece on Sunday that Obama's premise of trying to reconcile the West and Islam is flawed:

Do Obama’s Afghan plans still make sense post-Mumbai?

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The United States is aiming to send 20,000 to 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan by the beginning of next summer, according to the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.  The plan is not unexpected, and from a military point of view is meant to allow U.S. and NATO troops not just to clear out Taliban insurgents but also to bring enough stability to allow economic development, as highlighted in this analysis by Reuters Kabul correspondent Jon Hemming.

But does it still make sense after the Mumbai attacks — intentionally or otherwise – sabotaged the peace process between India and Pakistan?

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