Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

India: should it take a gamble on Pakistan?

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Some people in India are calling upon the new coalition government to make a series of bold moves towards Pakistan that will compel the neighbour to put its money where  the mouth is.

If Pakistan keeps saying that it cannot fully and single-mindedly go after militants on its northwest frontier and indeed increasingly within the heartland because of the threat it faces from India, then New Delhi must call its bluff, argued authors Nitin Pai and Sushant K. Singh in a recent piece for India’s Mint newspaper.

How about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, back for a second term, giving a categorical public declaration that Pakistan need not fear an Indian military attack so long as the Pakistan army is engaged in fighting with Taliban militants?  While a verbal commitment may not convince the military brass in Rawalpindi, it will likely play well in Washington as it rathchets up pressure on the Pakistan army to take the battle to the militants.

Second and to back up its assurance, India could move some of the army strike formations from the international border with Pakistan in Punjab and Rajasthan. “Such a bold, strategic move will not only make India’s verbal assurances credible, but it will also immediately result in irresistible pressure on the Pakistani army to commit more of its troops to the western border,” the authors wrote in the Mint piece.

from Photographers' Blog:

The most difficult thing to shoot in Kashmir…

During nearly two decades of violent Kashmir conflict, I have covered fierce gun battles, between Indian soldiers and Muslim militants, suicide bombings, rebel attacks, massacres, protests, mayhem, violent elections and disasters.

But the question that always comes to mind is "what is the hardest to shoot?'

I always remember protests or riots, clashes between stone throwing protesters and gun-toting Indian troops. Stress levels quickly rise as me and my text colleague, Sheikh Mushtaq, realize that our assignment will not be easy whenever we go out, mostly on Fridays, the day when Muslims offer congregational weekly prayers, which turn into weekly protests against Indian rule in Kashmir.

India, Pakistan and the rise of China

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India has been fretting for months that it could be pushed into the background by the United States’ economic dependence on China and by the renewed focus on Pakistan by President Barack Obama’s administration.  That anxiety appears to have increased lately – perhaps because the end of the country’s lengthy election campaign has opened up space to think more about the external environment — and is focusing on China.

In an interview with the Hindustan Times, Indian Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major said China posed a greater threat than Pakistan.  “China is a totally different ballgame compared to Pakistan,” he was quoted as saying. “We know very little about the actual capabilities of China, their combat edge or how professional their military is … they are certainly a greater threat.”

Pakistan, from Swat to Baluchistan via Waziristan

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The Pakistan Army is engaged in what appears to be a very nasty little war in the Swat valley against heavily armed Taliban militants.  With journalists having left Swat, there have been no independent reports of what is going on there, though the scale of the operation can be partly measured by the huge numbers of refugees – nearly 1.7 million – who fled to escape the military offensive.

Dawn newspaper carried an interview with a wounded soldier saying the Taliban had buried mines and planted IEDs every 50 metres.  ‘They positioned snipers in holes made out of the walls of houses. They used civilians as human shields. They used to attack from houses and roofs,” it quoted him as saying. ‘They are well equipped, they have mortars. They have rockets, sniper rifles and every type of sophisticated weapons.”

How much time does Pakistan have?

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Ahmed Rashid’s article on Pakistan in the New York Review of Books makes for an alarming read.  Excerpts do not do justice to it,  as you have to read the whole thing to understand why he thinks Pakistan really is on the brink, but here are a few:

“American officials are in a concealed state of panic, as I observed during a recent visit to Washington at the time when 17,000 additional troops were being dispatched to Afghanistan. The Obama administration unveiled its new Afghan strategy on March 27, only to discover that Pakistan is the much larger security challenge, while US options there are far more limited.”

After Indian election, relationship with Pakistan back in focus

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After a diplomatic pause enforced by India’s lengthy election campaign, the country will soon have a new government after the ruling Congress party won an unexpectedly decisive victory.  But analysts doubt the change of government will bring a significant change of heart in India towards Pakistan.

Despite Pakistan’s offensive against the Taliban in the Swat valley, they say India has yet to be convinced the Pakistan Army is ready to crack down more widely on Islamist militants, fearing instead that it will selectively go after some groups, while leaving others like the Afghan Taliban and Kashmir-oriented groups alone.  While Pakistan wants to resume talks broken off by New Delhi after last November’s attack on Mumbai, India has said it wants Islamabad to take more action first against those behind the assault, which it blamed on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba.

from Global News Journal:

When is a coalition not a coalition?

How can you tell when U.S. forces in Afghanistan are operating alone?

When they call it "the coalition".

That’s not a joke. It's just how things work in Afghanistan, where two separate forces with two separate command structures -- one completely American, the other about half American -- operate side by side under the command of the same U.S. general.

 "When we say 'coalition', basically that means it's just us," a helpful U.S. military spokeswoman explained last month to a reporter who had just arrived in country after being away for a couple of  years. "Otherwise, it's the 'alliance'."

Making decisions in Pakistan

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With Pakistan facing a refugee crisis, and its army engaged in intense fighting in the Swat valley, the question of who makes decisions in the country and how these are taken may not seem like the top priority.

But Shuja Nawaz at the Atlantic Council makes a strong argument in favour of deepening institutional mechanisms for decision-making. While President Asif Ali Zardari, who has retained the sweeping presidential powers of his predecessor Pervez Musharraf, made many decisions himself and also personally represented Pakistan diplomatically on trips overseas, the institutional process of decision-making that would allow coordination between the different branches of the country’s government is lacking, he writes. As a result the government seemed unprepared to deal with the million refugees created by Pakistan’s military offensive against the Taliban. 

Too much fighting, not enough talking?

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David Kilcullen knows a thing or two about counter-insurgency.

A former lieutenant-colonel in the Australian army and a senior adviser to U.S. General David Petraeus, he helped shape the “surge” policy that is widely credited with pulling Iraq back from the brink of chaos. He has just written a book entitled “The Accidental Guerrilla: fighting small wars in the midst of a big one” which closely examines insurgencies from Thailand and Indonesia to Afghanistan and Iraq, including what it takes to contain and quell them.

Far from being gung-ho or militaristic, Kilcullen takes an analytical approach, putting a heavy emphasis on the need for cultural and linguistic understanding. Without a deep appreciation of history, politics and anthropology, defeat is all but guaranteed  in complex foreign lands even for the world’s mightiest of armies, he argues.

Guest contribution: War on the Taliban

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. The writer is the High Commissioner of Pakistan to Britain.

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan 

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had a vision of a modern, progressive and secular Pakistan. Yet some are trying to replace it with a Talibanised state in which schools are closed, heads chopped off, women flogged in public and a pagan religion takes over in the name of Islam that Allah the Most Merciful bequeathed to humankind through the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) to enlighten the darkened world.

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