Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

Pakistan’s ISI chief attends Indian iftar

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Following the slow-moving peace process between India and Pakistan can be a bit like watching paint dry.  So the decision by the head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency to attend an iftar hosted by the Indian High Commission in Islamabad this week has generated much excitement.

“Lieutenant-General Shuja Pasha was among the earliest guests to arrive at the maximum-security five-star Serena hotel. He stayed nearly 45 minutes, chit-chatting with guests,” wrote Nirupama Subramanian, correspondent for The Hindu in Islamabad. “This was the first time that a serving military official, let alone the head of the country’s most important intelligence agency with a well-known dislike for India, has attended an Indian event here.”

Everyone agreed it was a positive development, she wrote. “It’s a huge gesture by him,” she quoted the former ISI Director-General, Lt.-Gen. (retd.) Asad Durrani as saying. “A very positive development.” Another former soldier, Lt.-Gen. (retd.) Talat Masood, said it was an indication that India-Pakistan relations were not as bad they looked. “It is very symbolic. It means things are improving between the two countries, and there are people who want it to improve in spite of all the tough talk going on.”

“A thaw,” said Pakistan People’s Party politician Aitzaz Ahsan.

Pakistan’s Daily Times called it “a rare gesture of goodwill”. The News described it as “a milestone in India-Pakistan relations”.

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.

Can Pakistan’s ISI sever ties with Taliban?

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The United States has begun demanding rather publicly that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence make a clean break of its ties with the Afghan Taliban to help stabilise the situation in Afghanistan.

But can you force a country to act against its self-interest, despite all all your leverage, asks Robert D. Kaplan  in a piece for the Atlantic. And does it make sense for an intelligence agency to break off all contact with arguably the biggest player in the region?

Reforming Pakistan’s security agencies

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The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has put out a paper on the need to reform Pakistan’s intelligence agencies just as army chief General Ashfaq Kayani is winning much praise for playing what is seen as a decisive role in defusing the country’s latest political crisis and saving democracy.

French scholar Frederic Grare says in the paper the reform and “depoliticisation” of the agencies, in particular the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), is imperative.

U.S. Predator strikes cripple al Qaeda in Pakistan?

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America’s ramped-up Predator drone campaign against al Qaeda in Pakistan’s northwest is starting to pay off, according to U.S. and Pakistani intelligence authorities quoted in a clutch of media reports.

Eleven of the group’s top 20 “high value targets” along the Afghan border have been eliminated in the past six months  Newsweek magazine reports, citing Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Is Indian “patience” paying off over Mumbai?

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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.”

Why India can’t do a Gaza on Pakistan

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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:

Is India playing its hand well over Mumbai?

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?

Some analysts say India overplayed its hand in the initial days after the attack by saying the military option remained open.

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.”

India’s Congress wins more time, space to plan Pakistan response

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India’s governing Congress party’s unexpectedly good showing  in a clutch of state elections should  give Prime Minister Manmohan Singh a little more breathing space as he considers a response to Pakistan for the Mumbai attacks which New Delhi says were orchestrated from there.

Imagine a scenario in which the Congress had lost all five states whose results were announced this week (results from Jammu and Kashmir, the sixth state, will be released later this month). The knives would have been out both within his increasingly restless Congress party and from the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, which has targeted him for being soft on national security, running ads with blood splattered against a black background in the middle of the Mumbai siege.

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