Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

The riddle of India, China military exercises

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India and China are holding joint troop exercises this weekend in southern India.  As exercises between nations go nowadays these games named “Hand-in Hand 2008″ are fairly low level and limited in scope. Certainly not on the scale of the naval, air and ground exercises that India and the United States have embarked upon in recent years.

But this is a difficult time in South Asia following the attacks in Mumbai which New Delhi says were orchestrated from Pakistan and for which it is seeking decisive action. So, for China, – Pakistan’s all weather ally -  to be sending a bunch of  troops to India at this fraught moment is certainly worthy of note, if nothing else.

Obviously the exercises were long-planned and perhaps both sides didn’t want to send a negative signal by calling them off at this stage. Relations between India and China are themselves dogged by deep distrust long after they went to war in 1962 and every move forward or lack of it is closely watched by Indo-Sino watchers.

 

[Chinese and Indian soldiers at an exercise in 2007. Pic by Reuters/China Daily]

Zardari says ready to commit to no first use of nuclear weapons

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Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari says he would be ready to commit to a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons, in what would be a dramatic overturning of Pakistan’s nuclear policy. Pakistan has traditionally seen its nuclear weapons as neutralising Indian superiority in conventional warfare, and refused to follow India’s example of declaring a no first use policy after both countries conducted nuclear tests in 1998.

Zardari was speaking via satellite from Islamabad to a conference organised by the Hindustan Times when he was asked whether he was willing to make an assurance that Pakistan would not be the first to use nuclear weapons.

Pakistan, piracy and Indian naval power

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In what is being seen as one of the biggest projections of Indian naval power since India defeated Pakistan in the 1971 war, an Indian warship has sunk a pirate ship in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian navy is now looking at deploying more warships off Somalia.

In the Asia Times, former Indian diplomat M K Bhadrakumar writes of the possibility of a new Great Game unfolding for control of the sea route in the Indian Ocean.

CAP report revives focus on India-Pakistan relationship

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Of all the reports I have read recently about what the United States should do about Pakistan, none so forcefully puts it in the context of its relationship with India as this latest study by the Center for American Progress (see the full pdf document here).

It’s worth reading not least because the think tank is expected to play an influential role in shaping the policies of President-elect Barack Obama. “Come January, perhaps none will be more piped into the executive branch than the 5-year-old Center for American Progress,” according to politico.com.

“Plan C” – Pakistan turns to the IMF.

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Pakistan has agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a $7.6 billion emergency loan to stave off a balance of payments crisis. 

Shaukat Tarin, economic adviser to the prime minister, said the IMF had endorsed Pakistan’s own strategy to bring about structural adjustments. The agreement is expected to encourage other potential donors, who are gathering in Abu Dhabi on Monday for a “Friends of Pakistan” conference.

Pakistan, India and the rise and/or fall of the nation state

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When the British left India in 1947, they bequeathed what was arguably a European notion of the nation state on a region for which the very concept was alien. I say ”arguably” because anything one writes about Partition or the nation state is open to dispute. And until the financial crisis, I relegated this argument to the realm of historians – a subject that interested me personally, but did not seem relevant today.

That was until I noticed a new debate bubbling up on the internet about the future of the nation state. Will it become more powerful as countries scramble to protect themselves from the financial crisis as George Friedman at Stratfor argues in this article?  Or does the need for global solutions to the crisis sound a death knell for the nation state, as John Robb suggests here?

IMF bailout: the coming medicine for Pakistan?

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Is the International Monetary Fund going to force Pakistan to swallow its classic bitter pill – which to some is worse than the disease – as a price of rescuing it from economic meltdown?

IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn has said loans to countries hit by the global financial turmoil would be faster, and with fewer conditions, than in the past. Conditions for lending should be defined by what is needed for the programme and should not be an “attempt to fix the world”, the IMF Survey magazine quotes him as telling staff.

India, Japan in security pact; a new architecture for Asia?

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While much of the media attention during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Japan this week was focused on a free trade deal the two sides failed to agree on, another pact that could have even greater consequences for the region was quietly pushed through.

This was a security cooperation agreement under which India and  Japan, once on opposite sides of the Cold War, will hold military exercises, police the Indian Ocean and conduct military-to-military exchanges on fighting terrorism.

Seeking regional peace for Afghanistan

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Given the focus on U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan since 9/11, it’s easy to forget the regional context. In an article in Foreign Affairs, Barnett Rubin and Ahmed Rashid try to set that right, calling for a regional approach that would take account of the interests not just of Afghanistan, but also of Pakistan, Russia, Iran, India and China.

“Both U.S. presidential candidates are committed to sending more troops to Afghanistan, but this would be insufficient to reverse the collapse of security there. A major diplomatic initiative involving all the regional stakeholders … is more important,” it says.

Pakistan, Afghanistan and the decline of American power

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On the floor of the New York Stock Exchange/Brendan McDermidDoes the financial crisis mark the beginning of the end of American global dominance? And if so, what would the decline of American power mean for Afghanistan and Pakistan? It’s early days yet, but here are a few themes that are emerging from the maelstrom.

If you put aside the many arguments over whether the Americans were, or were not, guilty of latter-day imperialism, you can find consensus on two main points: that the U.S. model of free-market capitalism has been sorely challenged by the financial crisis; and that America’s reputation as a military superpower has been tarnished by its less-than-successful campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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