Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
Kashmiris in the part controlled by India have, by all accounts, turned out in far higher numbers than expected to vote in elections to the state assembly this week.
While New Delhi sees each such vote as an implicit recognition of the legitimacy of its rule there, the Kashmiris themselves are trying to make a distinction between voting for representatives to help improve their lives and the larger, long-running goal of freedom.
Independence is a separate issue and there isn’t a contradiction in lining up to vote for a state assembly that is under the Indian constitution an integral part of the country, a 70-year voter told our reporter.
He said he would be back on the streets shouting slogans for “azadi” (freedom) if there are more demonstrations of the kind that shook the Valley just a few months back, sparked by a government decision to hand over land near a shrine in the troubled region to a Hindu trust for the benefit of pilgrims.
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.
Pakistan cropped up with uncomfortable regularity during the U.S. presidential campaign, but listening to Barack Obama and John McCain it was difficult to discern how different their approach would be in dealing with one of America’s most complicated and conflicted allies.
Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari met leaders of both the Democrat and Republican camps just weeks after his own election in September, but unfortunately the controversy stirred by his unguarded compliment for Sarah Palin earned more comment than the substance of those meetings.
A group of Pakistani kids have voted with their wallets (including Eid savings) for U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama, hoping he would resolve the conflict raging in their troubled northwest corner of the country through peaceful means.
The children in Peshawar, capital of the North-West Frontier Province which along with the Federally Administered Tribal Areas has become the central front in the battle against al Qaeda and the Taliban, had collected $261 for “Uncle Obama’s election campaign,” The News reports.
In the dying days of the Bush administration, the United States military has stepped up missile strikes by remotely piloted Predator aircraft against militants in the mountains of Pakistan.
The raids have become deeper – as much as 25 miles into Pakistani territory – and more targeted like the latest one in a compound in South Waziristan where militants had gathered to mourn the victims of a previous strike two days before.
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.
India and Pakistan will open a trade link across divided Kashmir for the first time in six decades on Tuesday, aiming to ease tensions by creating soft borders in the disputed region. The move looks to be fairly tentative; lorries will be allowed across the military ceasefire line only once a week, carrying a limited list of goods, and will be expected to unload some 10 km to 15 km beyond the Line of Control which separates the Indian and Pakistani-held parts of the region. But it has potentially more than symbolic significance, particularly if it helps to open up the isolated Kashmir Valley — at the heart of the separatist revolt – to the outside world.
The step, which would have been unthinkable before a ceasefire on the Line of Control in late 2003, is also meant to build trust between India and Pakistan. The region’s governor, N.N. Vohra, described it as an important milestone in India-Pakistan relations. But as is so often the case in India-Pakistan relations, there have been some unexpected counter-currents recently, acting as a powerful undertow against attempts to improve the two countries’ approach to Kashmir.
America is in Afghanistan for the long haul and the sooner it tells its people the better it would be for its own sake, says top U.S. military scholar Anthony Cordesman in a study published by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Warning that the United States faced a crisis in the field, Cordesman says Washington has no choice but to commit more troops, more resources and time to stop the haemorrhaging. And even if the Taliban/al Qaeda momentum is decisively reversed in 2009/2010, this is a war that will last into the next presidency.
Reading the latest spate of news reports about U.S. policies in Afghanistan, one thing strikes me as troubling — the failure to distinguish between tactics and strategy. Military boffins argue about the exact meaning of those two words, but for the purposes of argument, let’s say that tactics are a means to an end, while strategy contains within it an understanding of the end to be attained.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates gave us an idea of the end earlier this week when he talked of reconciliation with the Taliban, while excluding anyone belonging to al Qaeda. ”There has to be ultimately, and I’ll underscore ultimately, reconciliation as part of a political outcome to this,” Gates said. ”That’s ultimately the exit strategy for all of us.”
The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. Joshua Foust is a defence analyst who also writes an Afghanistan blog for Global Voices and is a contributing editor to Registan.net, a blog devoted to Central Asia and the Caucasus.
The view from the heartland