Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
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?
As discussed many times on this blog, most recently here, a crucial element of President-elect Barack Obama’s Afghan strategy was to combine sending extra troops with a new diplomatic approach looking at the Afghanistan-Pakistan-India region as a whole. The argument was that Pakistan would never fully turn its back on Islamist militants as long as it felt threatened by India on its eastern border and by growing Indian influence in Afghanistan on its western border. India and Pakistan, so the argument went, should therefore be encouraged to make peace over Kashmir, to reduce tensions in Afghanistan and pave the way for a successful operation by the extra U.S. troops.
Where does that plan stand now? India-Pakistan relations are extremely strained and vulnerable to any second militant attack on India. It’s hard to imagine the two countries sitting down any time soon for serious peace talks, and certainly not at the United States’ behest, given that outside interference on Kashmir has always been anathema to India.
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.
History never repeats itself exactly, but it does leave signposts. So with India and Pakistan settling into a familiar pattern of accusation and counter-claim following the Mumbai attacks, it’s worth remembering what happened after the December 2001 assault on India’s parliament brought the two countries to the brink of war. Or more to the point — thinking about the less remembered follow-up attack on an Indian army camp in Kaluchak in Jammu and Kashmir in May 2002 that nearly propelled India over the edge.
Following the attack on parliament that India blamed on the Laskhar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, both Pakistan-based militant groups, India mobilised its troops all along the border, prompting a similar mobilisation on the Pakistani side. Then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf went on national television in January to promise to crack down on Islamist groups; the activities of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed were curbed, and tensions abated somewhat.
Pakistan said two Indian Air Force planes violated Pakistani airspace on Saturday, one along the Line of Control in Kashmir and the other near Lahore in Pakistan proper. Pakistani officials said Pakistani jets on patrol chased the Indians away and that the Indian Air Force, upon being contacted later, told them it had happened accidentally.
The Indian Air Force, though, has told the media that none of its planes had violated Pakistani airspace. There has been no official response from the Indian government.
Should India ease up on its tight gun control laws to arm citizens so that they can put up a fight next time they are attacked in their hotels, train stations and even a hospital as it happened in Mumbai last month?
Some people are arguing that if the people, or at least some of them such as hotel security staff and police at a railway terminal, had been properly armed there would have been some form of resistance to the Mumbai attackers instead of the spectacle of them moving around a city of 18 million as if they owned it.
India has asked the United Nations Security Council to blacklist the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the Pakistani charity which it says is a front for the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, blamed by New Delhi for the attacks on Mumbai. But how far is India prepared to go in engaging the Security Council, given that it has resisted for decades UN invention over Kashmir?
Indian newspapers have suggested that India invoke UN Security Council Resolution 1373, passed after the 9/11 attacks on the United States, and requiring member countries to take steps to curb terrorism. The latest of these calls came from N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief of Indian newspaper The Hindu, who said India must respond to the Mumbai attacks “in an intelligent and peaceful way”.
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.
In the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, India’s response has been to look to the United States to lean on Pakistan, which it blames for spawning Islamist militancy across the region, rather than launching any military retaliation of its own. So after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s trip to India and Pakistan last week, have the Americans done enough for now?
According to Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, Rice told Pakistan there was “irrefutable evidence” that elements within the country were involved in the Mumbai attacks. And it quotes unnamed sources as saying that behind-the-scenes she “pushed the Pakistani leaders to take care of the perpetrators, otherwise the U.S. will act”.
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.
from Global News Journal:
The concept of a televised war was born in January 1991, when news networks reported live on the missiles slamming into Baghdad and millions watched from the comfort of their living rooms as tracer fire lit the sky above Iraq's capital. A decade later, the world watched in minute-by-minute horror as the twin towers came crashing down in New York.
Now, with the ferocious militant attacks in Mumbai, we have arrived in "the age of celebrity terrorism". Paul Cornish of Chatham House argues that apart from killing scores of people, what the Mumbai gunmen wanted was "an exaggerated and preferably extreme reaction on the part of governments, the media and public opinion".