Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

Kashmir’s long road ahead

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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?

Despite the outrage over the Mumbai attacks, blamed by India on Pakistan-based militants, there are some promising signs. The elections were remarkable for the fact that armed separatists based in Pakistani-held Kashmir made no attempt to disrupt the campaign, as they did during the previous polls in 2002. If Indian assertions are correct that the Pakistani security establishment controls the level of armed separatist activity in Kashmir, then the absence of violence would not have been possible without the active cooperation of Pakistan – a factor acknowledged by The Hindu in an editorial

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has spoken repeatedly of the need to make peace with India, including over Kashmir (as discussed here, herehere and here) and despite widespread scepticism in India that his views are shared by the powerful Pakistan Army, Pakistan does seem to have delivered in keeping the militants at bay during the elections.

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.

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?”

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

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.”

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?

Russia points to Dawood Ibrahim in Mumbai attacks

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Indian newspapers are reporting that Russian intelligence says underworld don Dawood Ibrahim – an Indian national who India believes is living in Karachi in Pakistan — was involved in the Mumbai attacks.

The Indian Express quotes Russia’s federal anti-narcotics service director Viktor Ivanov as saying that Moscow believes that Dawood’s drug network, which runs through Afghanistan, was used to finance the attacks. Ivanov said these were a “burning example” of how the illegal drug trafficking network was used for carrying out militant attacks, the paper said, citing an interview in the official daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

India, Pakistan and covert operations. All in the family?

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Do read this piece by Gurmeet Kanwal, the head of the Indian Army’s Centre for Land Warfare Studies, about how India should respond to the Mumbai attacks with covert operations against Pakistan.

He says that ”hard military options will have only a transitory impact unless sustained over a long period. These will also cause inevitable collateral damage, run the risk of escalating into a larger war with attendant nuclear dangers and have adverse international ramifications. To achieve a lasting impact and ensure that the actual perpetrators of terrorism are targeted, it is necessary to employ covert capabilities to neutralise the leadership of terrorist organisations.”

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