Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
from Photographers' Blog:
In the history of embeds, this one has been pretty unremarkable so far. I kicked things off in Dubai with an impulse purchase of a Canon 5D Mark II. Stills and video ! ASA 6400 ! 20 MB files ! It seemed like a great idea until I dropped it in the mud on a patrol. So much for the resale value.
After getting to Bagram Air Base, it took a while until I was able to test out the new gear. We had a four-day wait due to rain, which delayed or cancelled flights and gave me plenty of time to indulge in the ice cream bar at the dining hall. On day five I got a late-night flight to Jalalabad, where I received a briefing about my embed area and made plans to get further north. Finally, a week after my embed had officially begun, I took a 20 minute ride on a Chinook helicopter and arrived to Foward Operating Base Bostick, located in Kunar Province about 10 miles from the Pakistan border.
The view from the base is stunning. Snow capped mountains to the east mark the border with Pakistan, the Kunar River runs through the valley, and at night the stars in the Milky Way seem close enough to touch. This being Christmas, there was a candle-lit church service in the chapel on the 24th, followed on Christmas Day by caroling and hot chocolate. The war seemed pretty far away.
Even though the base at Bostick hasn't been attacked recently, the area isn't exactly safe. The only road leading up the Kunar Valley is a dirt track, hardly big enough for a humvee in places, and during my stay two local trucks were stopped and burned, one driver was killed and another kidnapped. Whether this was insurgent related or the work of criminal gangs wasn't immediately known, but it did send a strong message to other drivers who were bringing goods into the valley.
Shortly after the Mumbai attacks, I asked whether India faced a trial of patience in persuading Pakistan — with help from the United States — to take action against the Islamist militants it blamed for the assault on its financial capital. India’s approach of relying on American diplomacy rather than launching military action led to some soul-searching among Indian analysts when it failed to deliver immediate results. But is it finally beginning to bear fruit?
Former Indian diplomat M K Bhadrakumar writes in the Asia Times that diplomatic efforts over the Mumbai attacks are entering a crucial phase. ”After having secured New Delhi’s assurance that India will not resort to a military strike against Pakistan, Washington is perceptibly stepping up pressure on Islamabad to act on the available evidence regarding the Mumbai attacks.”
India continues to turn up the heat on Pakistan for the Mumbai attacks, declaring once again on Wednesday that all options were open to disrupt militant networks operating from there. And this, a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said official agencies must have been involved in an operation of such sophistication, a serious charge by a head of government against another state.
But is India really in a position to make good its threats against Pakistan ? The question has repeatedly come up here on this blog and elsewhere since those attacks on November 26 and now in the light of Israel’s Gaza operation, some people are again asking why New Delhi cannot carry out punitive strikes inside Pakistan.
from India Insight:
It has been a tense game of poker between India and Pakistan since the Mumbai attacks. On the face of it, India had the much stronger hand -- not least because it captured one of the attackers alive and got him to confess to being trained in Pakistan.
But has it played its cards well?
According to the Washington Post, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates sees opportunities for the United States to cooperate with Russia on Afghanistan. The newspaper says Gates, a longtime Russia analyst during his years with the CIA, sees Moscow as less of a threat than do many inside and outside the U.S. military establishment. ”Russia is very worried about the drugs coming out of Afghanistan and has been supportive in terms of providing alternative routes for Europeans in particular to get equipment and supplies into Afghanistan,” it quoted him as saying.
The story is interesting in the context of the United States searching for new supply lines through Central Asia into Afghanistan as an alternative to Pakistan before it sends in thousands more troops. “The plan to open new paths through Central Asia reflects an American-led effort to seek out a more reliable alternative to the route from Pakistan through the strategic Khyber Pass,” the New York Times said.
While the firepower and consequently all the media attention has been focused on Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the North West Frontier Province, violence in Baluchistan province to the south has worsened.
The year gone by was the bloodiest in a decade for Baluchistan, the country’s largest but most impoverished province where a low key insurgency has raged for decades, the Daily Times said. Official data showed a steadily rising level of violence, up from 303 people killed in 2005 to 433 in 2008, the first time killings crossed the 400-mark.
There were 120 bomb blasts, 208 rocket attacks, 141 landmine blasts and 32 hand grenade attacks in the past year, and it could have been worse if the three main Baluch nationalist insurgent groups operating in the area – the BLA, the Baloch Republic Army and Baloch Liberation Front – had not declared ceasefire, the newspaper said. One of them, the BRA, has announced the end of the ceasefire from the New Year accusing the government of of kiling tribesmen.The other two groups may well follow suit, the Daily Times said, warning of a difficult year ahead in the vast sparsely populated desert region that straddles Afghanistan and Iran.
The bodies of nine Islamic militants killed while attacking Mumbai in November still lie in a public morgue there. Indian Islamic leaders have refused to bury them in a local Muslim cemetery, saying terrorists "have no religion" and do not deserve a religious funeral. Although India suspects the militants came from neighbouring Pakistan, Islamabad refuses to take the bodies back as this could presumably undermine its claim to have no link to the gunmen. Indian officials say they still need the bodies for their investigations into the Nov. 26-29 massacre, in which 179 people were killed, but those inquiries will end some day. What should the Indians do with the bodies then?
A U.S. historian has come up with a proposal that would dispose of the bodies without requiring Pakistan to take them. Leor Halevi, a professor of Islamic history at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, wrote in the Washington Postthat India should cremate them and scatter the ashes in international waters, as Israel did after executing the Nazi commander Adolf Eichmann in 1962. He notes this would be an un-Islamic method of burial and would avoid a permanent grave that could become a memorial for other militants. He writes:
Not long ago India was basking in the glow of a new-found strategic partnership with the United States, one that pitched it as a global player. A breakthrough civilian nuclear deal that virtually recognised New Delhi as a nuclear weapon state after decades of isolation was the centrepiece of this new relationship.
But the attacks in Mumbai have tested this partnership and some of the lustre is fading. America has been unequivocally telling the Indians to exercise restraint in responding to the attacks which New Delhi says were orchestrated from Pakistan. (This while U.S. Predator drones
carried out more attacks on the militants in Pakistan’s northwest)
After India last held state elections in Jammu and Kashmir in 2002, the Kashmir Valley witnessed a period of relative peace only to see it shattered when plans to give land to Hindu pilgrims triggered the biggest protests since the Kashmir separatist revolt erupted in 1989.
The latest elections – which produced a turnout of more than 60 percent despite a boycott call by separatists and ushered in a new state government led by Omar Abdullah – have provided a second chance to change the mood in the volatile Kashmir Valley. But do India and Pakistan, and the Kashmiris themselves, have the ability to turn this second chance into a real opportunity for peace?