Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
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.”
The Mint newspaper followed up with a editorial calling China “perhaps the gravest external threat” to India’s security. “That India is in an unstable neighbourhood is clearer than ever this summer,” it said. “But troubles from Pakistan, Sri Lanka or Nepal pale when compared with China.”
The increased anxiety has been driven by the end of the war in Sri Lanka, where the government’s victory was attributed partly to a supply of Chinese weapons, and where China has been building a new port on the island’s southern coast.
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 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 India Insight:
As a growing power which aims to rewrite global economic and geopolitical realities, India's first order of business is to secure its strategic periphery without provoking a backlash from its neighbours.
Iran looks like it will come out swinging at a global conference on the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) opening in New York on Monday, and in the process take a swipe at Israel as well as India.
And that is a bit of a shift, for India and Iran have ties going back into history, but which have in recent years come under pressure and play in the tangled relationship between India and Pakistan.
Is the Pakistan army getting ready to act against the Taliban militants who have made the deepest advance yet into the country, seizing control of Buner district, 100 km (60 miles) from Islamabad, after taking over Swat region?
The militants began withdrawing on Friday just as quietly as they moved into the district, and it wasn’t clear what had led to the sudden withdrawal.
India launched an Israeli-made spy satellite on Monday that will help it keep a close eye on its borders stretching from Pakistan in the west to China in the north and east.
The launch is significant for several reasons. First off, the all-weather advanced satellite that the Israelis themselves use for surveillance on nations such as Iran is an eye in the sky that Indian security planners have been demanding for long. India has its own sophisticated satellite imaging programme that gives pretty high resolution pictures, but, as a defence scientist once told me, they tended to go a bit blind in bad weather, especially during the monsoon.
Colonel Harish Puri says it is incredible that the Pakistan Army allowed something as reprehensible as the public flogging of a teenage girl in the Swat Valley without lifting a finger, even though it coudn’t have happened very far from an army checkpoint.
The world’s largest democracy chooses a new government in an election beginning on Thursday, and given the fires burning next door in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the men and women who will rule New Delhi over the next five years will doubtless exert influence over the course of events.
Indeed, with the pain and anger over the Mumbai attacks of November still raw, the mood could hardly be tougher against Pakistan. Even shorn of the campaign rhetoric, the positions of both the ruling Congress and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party on Pakistan begin from common ground. No dialogue with Islamabad until it “dismantles the infrastructure of terrorism”, both parties say in their manifestos.
from India Insight:
Richard Holbrooke, the special U.S envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, is visiting India for a second time in seven weeks. But what has surprised many is the timing of the trip, coming as it does at a time when India is preparing for a general election and most government business is virtually on hold.Though India is not part of Holbrooke's remit, New Delhi's engagement is imperative for any effort to stabilise the so-called Af-Pak region.But that hardly explains the visit now, considering that he could expect to do little business with a "lame duck government" in New Delhi.So why is he coming now?Many Indian analysts believe that keeping India and Kashmir out of Holbrooke's brief was a way of Washington massaging New Delhi's ego.In reality, though, they say India is very much part of Holbrooke's mandate because Pakistan wants a solution to disputed Kashmir as an element of any regional peace efforts -- a demand Washington can hardly ignore if it expects Pakistan's cooperation.An Indian analyst here says Holbrooke is using the interregnum to show his turf includes India.So if it is impossible to disentangle Kashmir from any effort to win Pakistani cooperation to stabilise Afghanistan, where does that leave India-U.S relations?