Archive for the ‘ Kashmir ’ Category

Official Admits Militancy’s Deep Roots in Pakistan

By Jane Perlez and Waqar Gillani for The New York Times

LAHORE, Pakistan — Days after one of the worst terrorist attacks in Pakistan, a senior Pakistani official declared in a surprising public admission that extremist groups were entrenched in the southern portion of the nation’s most populous province, underscoring the growing threats to the state.

 The statements by the interior minister, Rehman Malik, after the killing of more than 80 people at two mosques last week here in Lahore, were exceptional because few Pakistani politicians have acknowledged so explicitly the deep roots of militancy in Pakistan. They also highlighted the seeming impotence of the civilian government to root out the militant groups, even in Punjab Province, providing a troubling recognition that decades of state policy to nurture extremism had come home to roost in the very heart of the country.

 The extent of the problem has become an increasing concern for the United States, which has pressed the government to deal with the issue with renewed urgency since the failed attempt by a Pakistani-American to explode a car bomb in Times Square.

 “We’re dealing with a problem that is so deeply burrowed into the bosom of the society,” said a senior Western official about the difficulty of loosening the grip of the militant groups. “And we’re dealing with a government that is unhappy within itself.”

The problem for Pakistan, Western officials and some Pakistani politicians said, is not only the specific acts of terrorism by these groups, but the far more pervasive jihadi mentality that has been nurtured in the society by an extensive network of extremist madrasas and mosques.

Mr. Malik’s remarks — in which he rattled off a host of extremist groups once supported by the state — were a nod to these larger problems. In contrast to the tribal areas at the nation’s periphery, where the military is battling the Pakistani Taliban on several fronts, militants were “now active” in the southern part of Punjab and were trying to “destabilize the country,” he said.

Though Mr. Malik seemed to hint at possible military action in Punjab, the civilian government, led by the Pakistan Peoples Party, the more secular of the political parties in Pakistan, has little leverage to make it happen.

The Pakistani military, which still holds most power, has shown little interest in taking on extremist groups in Punjab. The province is a major recruiting area for the army, and many of the militant groups there were created by the state decades ago and have been fostered since as arms of Pakistan’s enduring anti-India strategy.

To a large degree, they have slipped from the control of their handlers in the military and intelligence services, according to Western diplomats and Pakistani security experts, and have linked up with Taliban fighters and other militant groups that are now striking deeper into Pakistan in an effort to overthrow the state.

Today these militants move back and forth easily between the tribal areas for training and Punjab, where they carry out a rising number of spectacular attacks.

“They — Lashkar-e-Janghvi, the Sipah-e-Sohaba Pakistan and Jaish-e-Mohammad — are allies of the Taliban and Al Qaeda,” Mr. Malik told reporters in Lahore after the mosque attacks. 

The loose conglomerate of militants that Mr. Malik listed is now being grouped by officials and others under the name of the Punjabi Taliban, a designation that itself highlights the expanding nature of the threat in Pakistan’s most important province and the militants’ shifting ambitions. Under that rubric also falls Lashkar-e-Taiba, an anti-India militant group. Like the others listed by Mr. Malik, Lashkar-e-Taiba has been banned by the state, but continues to operate under a different name and apparently with the blessing of the military.

The Punjabi Taliban took credit for the assaults on the two Ahmadi mosques last Friday. At least one of the men arrested by the Pakistani authorities in connection with the Times Square bombing case is connected to Jaish-e-Mohammed, according to law enforcement officials in Karachi.  Adding to the difficulty of clamping down on the groups, the Punjabi government, led by Shahbaz Sharif, a leader of the more conservative Pakistan Muslim League-N and a chief political rival of President Asif Ali Zardari, has stopped short of condemning the militants. In some respects, he has treated them as allies.

Two months ago, Mr. Sharif asked the Taliban to stay away from Punjab, arguing that his party and the Taliban had a common enemy in the United States. The Punjab government is “in a state of denial,” said Arif Nizami, a columnist with the newspaper The News. Mr. Sharif played down the attack on the two mosques in Lahore, Punjab’s capital. Instead, he visited the wounded survivors in a hospital quietly at night without the usual television coverage.

The groups hold such sway that Pakistani politicians frequently pander to some, like the pro-Taliban Sipah-e-Sohaba Pakistan, during elections.  In a bold illustration of the power of one of the militant groups in southern Punjab, the provincial law minister, Rana Sanaullah, campaigned alongside the leader of Sipah-e-Sohaba, Maulana Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, during a March by-election for the provincial assembly in the city of Jhang.

In an interview, Mr. Sanaullah, said he saw nothing wrong with campaigning with Mr. Ludhianvi. It was a good thing, he said, because it helped bring groups that he described as no longer militant into the democratic mainstream. “If they want to be law-abiding citizens, we should allow them to be,” Mr. Sanaullah said.  Mr. Sanaullah was not alone in seeking votes from Sipah-e-Sohaba. A candidate for the National Assembly running for the Pakistan Peoples Party also won with its support earlier this year. Though security is a paramount concern, government officials and others acknowledge that the problem of militancy will not be solved by military force alone. Having been nurtured through generations, it will also not be undone quickly.

A program announced by Mr. Zardari two years ago to rein in the madrasas has yet to get off the ground, blocked by bureaucratic inertia and fears of a backlash from powerful conservative religious groups, Pakistani officials say. As state-sponsored education becomes too expensive for poor parents, the number of madrasas has actually increased in the past three years, to more than 17,000 in 2010 from 13,000 in 2007. At least several thousand of the madrasas churn out militant students, experts say.

Outrage in India As Mumbai Attacks Terrorist Leader Set to Be Freed By Pakistani Courts

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a lower court’s decision to free the leader of Lashkar e Taiba (LeT), a militant group that is blamed by India for masterminding  and orchestrating the November 2008 Mumbai attacks in India that killed 166 people.

Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the leader of the terrorist group had been placed under house arrest. However, he was released a year ago by the provincial Lahore High Court due to the fact that there was insufficient evidence against Hafiz and other members of the group. The only evidence against him and the group was the confession of Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kassab, the lone person charged with attacks in India, who was given a death sentence earlier this month. Pakistan’s government appealed the decision of the Lahore High cCourt to the Supreme Court which upheld the lower court’s decision.

Lawyers for the government of Pakistan had requested that India extradite Kassab so that he could give testimony in Pakistani courts against Saeed and the militant group. However, India understandably did not hand over Kassab for fear that the sole surviving perpetrator of the Mumbai attacks could end up in a Pakistani court that sets him free. Sadly, this now happens to be the case as the masterminds of the attacks and leader of an already banned terrorist group, Hafiz Saeed, is set to be freed soon.

This obviously is very disappointing news to India to say the least. It would be the equivalent of letting the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, have a long and high profile trial in New York, only to be set free for lack of evidence and or a weak case by the prosecution. The families of the victims would not stomach such a travesty and neither would the American people. In this same manner, the families of the Mumbai attacks are very upset by this decision by Pakistan the Supreme Court to release Saeed will now surelyonly serve to stall peace talks between India and Pakistan that were slowly progressing at the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meeting in Bhutan in April of this year.

At a time when the world’s attention is on Pakistan and Pakistanis for being associated with terrorism due to the attempt to bomb Times Square by Faisal Shahzad, the country and its courts have shot themselves in the foot by allowing to set free a known terrorist leader of a group that is not only attacking India and trying to provoke a war between the two countries, but is believed to be behind many attacks inside Pakistan also killing many innocent people.

If the shoe was on the other foot and the attackers came from India and killed 166 Pakistanis in a busy shopping area, while simultaneously attacking a major hotel, railway station and other locations throughout any of Pakistan’s major cities, then trust me, there would be demand for blood by Pakistani citizens and militias would have formed with or without the government’s blessings, and theywould have retaliated against the Indians. The Indian government and the Indian people are showing great resolve and patience with Pakistan and all along hoping that it truly becomes 100 percent committed to fighting and rooting out terrorism and terrorist groups within its borders as it is touted to be.

But as Tuesday’s decision by the Supreme Court illustrates, Pakistan’s government has a mixed record when fighting extremist groups within the country. As mentioned in previous articles on this site, the government of Pakistan and the army have supported and helped organize some of these militant groups like Lashkar e Taiba in order for the Pakistan army to have a guerrilla outfit as an ally in the event of a war with India. That is why there is reluctance by some inside the military and ISI to fully disband Saeed’s group, believed to be one of the largest and well funded militant groups in Pakistan. The government of Pakistan needs to realize that it cannot talk out of both sides of its mouth. It cannot present itself as one of the biggest allies of the US in the War on Terror, while at the same time not deal effectively with militant groups that are hostile to India.

We at Pakistanis for Peace are outraged that Hafiz Saeed, a known terrorist leader is set to be free from Pakistani courts. Our group and website Pakistanis for Peace was founded immediately after the Mumbai attacks in 2008 by concerned Pakistani Americans in response to the cowardly terrorist attacks by individuals who snuck in from Pakistan to cause one of the biggest terrorist incidents to ever hit India. These attacks certainly became their 9-11. 

To now have the leader of this terrorist group be set free by Pakistani courts only serves to strengthen the claims of opponents of Pakistan that it is not doing enough in the fight against terrorism. Certainly the families of the 166 dead Indian nationals deserve justice and better outcome than what transpired in Pakistan’s Supreme Court this week. One should make no mistake, only a just and lasting peace with India will ever lead to a prosperous Pakistan and the sooner there is an earnest effort to stop ALL militant and terrorist groups operating within inside the country by Pakistan, the sooner the two sides can sit across from each other at the peace table.

Pakistan Seeks Resolution of India Water Dispute

By Tom Wright for The Wall Street Journal

Pakistan told India it wants to begin formal arbitration proceedings over an Indian dam project in Kashmir, threatening to heighten tensions ahead of high-level bilateral talks. Pakistan says India’s planned hydropower dam on the Kishanganga River would violate a 50-year-old water-sharing treaty between the two neighbors by diverting water Pakistan needs for agriculture and power generation.

India denies its project would violate the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty. It has received Pakistan’s request for arbitration and is examining it, an Indian official said. Water disputes have become a growing point of controversy between the rivals in recent months, and could become an impediment as they seek to re-establish diplomatic ties. India cut off dialogue with Pakistan after the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, but has shown an interest in restarting talks if Pakistan cracks down on terrorists on its soil.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met last month at a regional summit and agreed to move forward with dialogue. The countries’ chief foreign-policy bureaucrats will meet in late June to prepare an agenda for mid-July, when their external affairs ministers are expected to meet in Islamabad. In previous rounds of diplomacy, India and Pakistan have discussed issues ranging from trade to the fate of Kashmir, the disputed territory that is two-thirds controlled by India and over which the countries have fought two of their three wars. India has said it is open to discussing all issues in the current talks, though shutting down terrorist groups and getting Pakistan to more aggressively prosecute Mumbai suspects are its core objectives.

 India has said river-sharing disputes should be settled through the 1960 treaty, rather than in the bilateral talks. The accord split six Himalayan rivers between the countries, with the three Western ones going to Pakistan, the three Eastern ones to India, and each side retaining the right to the other side’s resources for uses such as run-of-river hydropower and irrigation. Under the treaty, the countries nominate commissioners who share data and try to resolve problems as they arise. If the commissioners can’t agree, they can seek a World Bank-appointed expert to intervene, which happened in 2005 when Pakistan objected to another big dam.

India was told to make minor changes to its design. Jamaat Ali Shah, Pakistan’s Indus waters commissioner, said the country is now seeking formal arbitration proceedings—a treaty mechanism that neither side has used before—because it feels India is stalling on the Kishanganga dispute. Pakistan on Wednesday named two members that would sit on a seven-person arbitration panel. Under the treaty, India has 30 days to name its own two members, and the countries are supposed to jointly name the three other participants. If they can’t agree, the World Bank would step in to name them.

Pakistani farmers and Islamist groups have staged protests against India’s 330-megawatt hydroelectric project on the Kishanganga, which is a tributary to one of the rivers Pakistan was allotted under the treaty. Water availability in Pakistan has fallen 70% since the early 1950s to 1,500 cubic meters per capita, according to a report last year by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. India says Pakistan’s poor water management is responsible for the water shortages it is experiencing in some regions.

Pakistani Muslim Rocks Against Extremism

By Richard Allen Greene for CNN

Salman Ahmad is a devout Pakistani Muslim on jihad — but his holy war is a rock ‘n’ roll battle against intolerance, he says. He’s the frontman of the band Junoon. He’s sold 30 million albums. And he says music is a powerful weapon against extremism. “My own personal narrative tells me that arts and culture is mightier than the sword,” he told CNN during a tour of the United Kingdom Thursday.

Ahmad, who was born in Pakistan and grew up in New York, has set himself an ambitious goal — not only fighting Muslims’ own misconceptions about their religion, but reclaiming the very word “jihad” from extremists.

It’s come to mean violent holy war of the kind waged by al Qaeda and the Taliban. But Ahmad says that’s not its true meaning”There has been a sinister case of identity theft where the extremists have hijacked not only language but culture,” he said. “Jihad means to strive, to overcome your ego, to work for social justice and peace.” That may be why his new book and album are called “Rock & Roll Jihad.”

He insists his long-haired, guitar-driven rock music is entirely compatible with Islam.

“Anybody who says that music is un-Islamic is a poser,” he said. “Muslims have expressed their faith, their lives, their hopes, through music, through poetry, for 1,400 years.”

His own music is a fusion of the wildly disparate influences he grew up with, he said. “I was a 13-year-old from Pakistan (when I) arrived in a suburban cocoon like New York,” he recalled. “My exposure to rock-and-roll was watching Led Zeppelin in Madison Square Garden.” Frontman Jimmy Page “had a two-headed guitar and dragons painted on his pants, and I said: ‘That’s what I want to do with the rest of my life.'”

“My music takes equal inspiration from classic rock like Led Zeppelin and the Beatles and also Sufi poetry,” he said, citing a mystical Muslim tradition. “We are in the same tradition of musicians who are sending out a message of love, a message of joy. “And while he may seem like a trailblazer — and be one — he said he is not alone. South Indian Muslim composer A.R. Rahman won an Academy Award for best song for “Slumdog Millionaire’s” anthemic “Jai Ho,” Ahmad observed. And Ahmad’s mentor, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, performed with Peter Gabriel and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. “He said to me, “The Quran promotes cultural diversity, so why not play with rockers?'”

Ahmad’s done some high-profile collaborations of his own, including recording a song with American rocker Melissa Etheridge. “I saw him perform at the concert and was amazed by his vocal and guitar abilities. Here was this traditional Eastern sound that was rocking hard at the same time,” Etheridge writes in the introduction to Ahmad’s new book. They traded ideas, resulting in the song “Ring The Bells.”

She remembers listening to some tunes he recorded to kick off their collaboration: “I found in one track a haunting guitar part that I kept playing over and over until finally the words started to come. ‘Whose God is God? Whose light is light? Whose law is wrong? Whose might is right?'” The message is resonating, Ahmad said.

He has played rock concerts in the disputed territory of Kashmir, with “thousands of kids braving death threats going to hear concerts,” he said.

“It’s a way for people to vent their emotions. Junoon’s sold over 30 million albums,” he said. “That music wasn’t bought by a fringe. That’s a mainstream majority.”

Pakistani-Americans and Police Sharing, and Trying to Spread, Trust

By Anne Barnhard for The New York Times

STRATFORD, Conn. — Last month, a resident of Avon, Conn., received a threatening letter full of religious references. The police chief there, Mark Rinaldo, wondered whether the letter implied a broader threat from a Muslim militant.

He called Dr. Atique A. Mirza, a Pakistani-born Muslim cardiologist, who studied the letter for cultural, religious and political clues. They concluded that the threat probably involved a narrow dispute between neighbors.

Now that a Pakistani-American man from Connecticut, Faisal Shahzad, stands accused of trying to detonate a car bomb in Times Square, setting off soul-searching and unease among the state’s thousands of residents of Pakistani descent, Mr. Rinaldo and Dr. Mirza are holding up their relationship — built over three years of meetings and cooperation between Pakistani-Americans and law enforcement — as a model for communities across the state and the nation.

The comfort level is such, said Mr. Rinaldo, that Dr. Mirza “wouldn’t be insulted and say, ‘Why are you calling me,’ “ nor would the chief doubt Dr. Mirza’s analysis. “That’s the trusting relationship we are looking for,” said Dr. Mirza, who has formally assumed the role of Avon’s police-community liaison for the Pakistani American Association of Connecticut (Paact), which has similar representatives in 13 towns and hopes to increase the number to 70.

Paact’s work makes Mr. Shahzad’s case all the more upsetting to Dr. M. Saud Anwar, a pulmonologist who founded the group. He has played a role in the investigation, acting as liaison between the authorities and a Pakistani friend of Mr. Shahzad’s who feared talking to them. The friend provided e-mail messages that may shed light on Mr. Shahzad’s views on violence.

But Dr. Anwar wishes the attempt could have been stopped before it began, something he calls possible in future cases if cooperation between his community and the authorities increases by another “order of magnitude.”

“This is not, God forbid, to spy on people, but just to live your life the way it is and if you notice something that concerns you, speak up,” he said, speaking to about 100 Connecticut residents of Pakistani descent and representatives of the F.B.I., the State Police and a dozen police departments who gathered Saturday at the Ramada Inn in Stratford. “This is someone who lived among us and under the radar without anybody in the community knowing he was radicalized.”

Paact moves beyond reminding law enforcement not to unfairly paint all Muslims as terrorists — though it still strongly takes that position. It also calls on Pakistani-Americans to acknowledge that people of Pakistani descent have been implicated in high-profile terrorist attacks, to probe the causes and in the process to remind the public that they want security as much as other Americans do.

Dr. Mirza’s wife, Faryal, an endocrinologist, took a similar approach when her son was called “terrorist” in school several years ago. She began giving annual diversity classes, in which she offered Pakistani food and talked about her culture and religion. She also goes out of her way to let patients know she is Pakistani, so they associate the country with something other than terrorism.

Although she could have argued that the burden of explaining culture should not fall on her, she said, “We have to be proactive.”

Now Paact hopes to franchise its approach to other states. On June 19, the group is holding a national conference in Hartford on radicalization and prevention, featuring the Pakistani ambassador, representatives of the National Counterterrorism Center, theologians and others.

Saturday’s meeting focused on the narrower question of how it could have been that people did not seem to remember Mr. Shahzad from a mosque or a dinner party, let alone alert the authorities about him.

Dr. Mirza said it pointed to a need to rethink the atomization of suburban culture: “Know your neighbors; say hi; help them when they need you; be attentive.”

Mr. Shahzad may have isolated himself from mosques and Pakistani organizations, but he must have had some connections; he was married to a Pakistani-American and lived in Bridgeport, where there is a relatively large Pakistani-American population, said Jaleel Rahman, a retired real estate agent.

“We have to be more vigilant,” Mr. Rahman said.

Zaheer Sharaf, Paact’s president, said that many Pakistanis were afraid of the police, because they believe that police officers in their original country are corrupt.

Add to that the post-9/11 fear that reporting a suspicion about a Muslim might lead to an overreaction by the authorities, and it made for a wide gulf between Pakistani-Americans and the police forces that Mr. Rinaldo, the police chief of Avon, said he was unaware of until he began meeting with Dr. Mirza and others.

His reaction: “Wait a minute. We’re the good guys. We have to open up to this community.”

This month, he said, he was upset to see negative reactions to Pakistani-Americans after Mr. Shahzad’s arrest.

“It seems to be one individual, yet a whole community is suffering for the crime,” Mr. Rinaldo said. “It’s not fair.”

Mateen Haider, 56, an engineer from South Windsor, said that Pakistanis, like all immigrants, simply want to fit in, so they are loath to do anything that could draw attention, including call the police.

“That is no longer enough,” he said, telling the meeting: “Today is a great day. We have spoken out. We are all united together as citizens, and we will fight this to the end.”

Time to end the impasse with Pakistan

By Siggharth Varadarajan for The Hindu.com

Forget Kashmir and terrorism or even Afghanistan and water, the current stalemate between India and Pakistan is all down to one word. Both countries publicly say that Dialogue is the only way forward. Yet each is paralysed by the name Composite’. New Delhi is so allergic to it that it will not accept its use, while Islamabad has become so attached to the C word that it insists there can be nothing else.

This Indian allergy and Pakistani attachment is paradoxical, since the composite dialogue approach has suited India more than it has Pakistan. Under the guise of moving ahead simultaneously on all issues, the framework has allowed progress on trade and other subjects considered important by New Delhi, even as the status quo on major disputes like Kashmir and Siachen key concerns for Islamabad has held. Of course, the dialogue did not end cross-border terrorism or extinguish the links between the Pakistani security agencies and violent extremism as some on the Indian side might have hoped. But that was always an improbable shot given the DNA of the Pakistani establishment. Over time, India has realised the best way to deal with the threat of terror is by strengthening its internal capabilities while utilising engagement as a lever for influencing Pakistan’s behaviour over the long run.

The two most important issues for the Pakistani side today going by its public statements are Kashmir and water. But here’s the paradox: the composite dialogue, from its point of view, has produced no forward movement whatsoever on these two fronts. In four and a half rounds of talks within that framework, the total amount of time spent by the two foreign secretaries in discussing the Kashmir dispute has perhaps been 10 hours. During which neither side did anything beyond restating its national positions. As for water, it does not even figure as a separate head under this format. The only water-related dispute covered by the composite dialogue is the Tulbul navigation project, also known as the Wullar barrage. There, too, progress has been insignificant.

In contrast to the composite dialogue framework, the back channel between Satinder Lambah and Tariq Aziz was far more effective and productive. Between 2004 and 2007, the two special envoys, who reported directly to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and General Pervez Musharraf respectively, discussed Kashmir for hundreds of hours. More significantly, their exertions produced a framework solution that was cleared on the Indian side by the Cabinet Committee on Security and on the Pakistani side by the Corps Commanders conference, before domestic political difficulties triggered by his dismissal of the chief justice forced Musharraf to back off. As for water, the Indus Water Commissioners have been meeting continuously for more than 40 years and their forum represents the best platform for Pakistan because all the Indian projects it opposes on the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum rivers can be referred to an outside arbitrator whose decisions are final and binding. Compared to such a powerful dispute resolution mechanism, the existing dialogue framework is surely inferior. And yet, even though Islamabad’s best shot at making progress on water and Kashmir lies outside the composite dialogue, it has got locked into a situation where it is refusing any form of engagement or talks other than that.

Now let’s consider India. The Indian position has been in a state of flux since it suspended the composite dialogue following the terrorist attacks on Mumbai in November 2008. Broadly speaking, however, India has maintained that there can be no resumption of the composite dialogue till Pakistan moves to punish the Mumbai conspirators and dismantles the infrastructure of terror on its soil. In September last year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a distinction between meaningful dialogue on disputes, which would have to await Pakistani action on terrorism, and talks on humanitarian and other issues. Since then, the Indian position has evolved further. When Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Salman Bashir, was invited to Delhi in February 2010, India clarified that while its own priority was terrorism, it was ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan. That is still the official Indian position. At a press conference on April 22, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said dialogue represents a concrete method to move forward in our relationship It is always useful. It helps clear the atmosphere and especially between neighbors, such as India and Pakistan. Dialogue is really the only way forward.

But if India believes dialogue is really the way forward, why is it unable to accept Pakistan’s call for the composite dialogue to be resumed? The paradox here is that from the traditional Indian perspective, the composite dialogue has worked pretty well. Discussions on Kashmir have not led to any change in the territorial status quo but have provided a cover for India to move ahead with other parts of the bilateral agenda that suit it more, like trade and cross-border confidence-building measures. And if the Indian side is opposed to talks on the water issue’, the composite framework of dialogue is ideal because water does not figure as a standalone topic under any of the subject heads. Despite this, India is the one saying no to composite’ dialogue.

India suspended the composite dialogue in order to get Pakistan to take action against terrorism. Some action has been taken but the Manmohan Singh government rightly believes that Pakistan can and must do more. It also knows the continued absence of dialogue is unlikely to produce greater action on the terrorism front and might even be counter-productive. Yet it fears the resumption of the suspended dialogue will be seen as a sign of weakness by the Opposition.

India’s options have been further complicated by the hardening of the Pakistani position on cooperation and dialogue since November 2009, when Barack Obama’s new AfPak policy dealt the military establishment in Rawalpindi a stronger hand in the Afghan endgame. Even as the Pakistan army has stepped up its offensive against the Tehreek-e-Taliban and, to a lesser extent, anti-American extremists on its border with Afghanistan, it has played up the India threat’ card to balance the perception that it is too subservient to the U.S. The rhetoric on water, the Azm-e-Nau III exercises, the loosening of the leash on Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed and the increase in infiltration across the Line of Control are all evidence of the hardening of the Pakistani military’s attitude. At the same time, the domestic political situation in Pakistan is fluid. The 18th amendment to the constitution has opened up the possibility of the civilian government and the provinces strengthening themselves vis-a-vis the military. The revival of the Benazir Bhutto assassination case in the wake of the recent U.N. report could also provide political ammunition against the establishment.

In the run up to this week’s Saarc summit in Bhutan, where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will meet Yusuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines, Indian officials are resigned to keeping the bilateral relationship in a holding pattern.’ Their logic is that if relations cannot improve, then they should not be allowed to deteriorate either. As a short-term strategy, the holding pattern strategy works fine. There are always small things that can be done at that level too. But an aeroplane cannot circle the runway endlessly. The longer it is up in the air, the greater is the likelihood of a disastrous descent. That is why planning for an orderly landing is a much better strategy.

In Thimphu, Dr. Singh must try and find a way of doing that. One possibility is for the two prime ministers to task their foreign secretaries with reviewing what has been accomplished on the terrorism front as well as in the last few rounds of the composite dialogue, with a view to expediting the resolution of existing problems and disputes. Such a mandate would foreground the necessity of a dialogue addressing all outstanding issues while sidestepping, for the moment, any nomenclatural disagreement. It would accomplish the stated Indian objective while allowing Mr. Gilani to return without having surrendered Islamabad’s stand on the resumption of the composite dialogue.

Parallel to this process, the Prime Minister should meet with the leaders of all major political parties in order to explain the reasons why India and Pakistan need to end the current stalemate. Finally, a strict moratorium on grandstanding and posturing, finger-pointing and name-calling is necessary. When the Prime Minister is directly crafting India’s approach to Pakistan, ministers, officials and anonymous sources’ must not confuse the public with contradictory messages and statements.

U.S. Aims to Ease India-Pakistan Tension

By Peter Spiegel and Matthew Rosenberg for The Wall Street Journal

President Barack Obama issued a secret directive in December to intensify American diplomacy aimed at easing tensions between India and Pakistan, asserting that without détente between the two rivals, the administration’s efforts to win Pakistani cooperation in Afghanistan would suffer.

Pakistani Rangers (L) and Indian Border Security Force (BSF) personnel perform the daily retreat ceremony at the India-Pakistan Border at Wagah on December 26, 2009. The directive concluded that India must make resolving its tensions with Pakistan a priority for progress to be made on U.S. goals in the region, according to people familiar with its contents.

The U.S. has invested heavily in its own relations with Pakistan in recent months, agreeing to a $7.5 billion aid package and sending top military and diplomatic officials to Islamabad on repeated visits. The public embrace, which reached a high point last month in high-profile talks in Washington, reflects the Obama administration’s belief that Pakistan must be convinced to change its strategic calculus and take a more assertive stance against militants based in its western tribal regions over the course of the next year in order to turn the tide in Afghanistan.

A debate continues within the administration over how hard to push India, which has long resisted outside intervention in the conflict with its neighbor. The Pentagon, in particular, has sought more pressure on New Delhi, according to U.S. and Indian officials. Current and former U.S. officials said the discussion in Washington over how to approach India has intensified as Pakistan ratchets up requests that the U.S. intercede in a series of continuing disputes.

Pakistan has long regarded Afghanistan as providing “strategic depth”—essentially, a buffer zone—in a potential conflict with India. Some U.S. officials believe Islamabad will remain reluctant to wholeheartedly fight the Islamic militants based on its Afghan border unless the sense of threat from India is reduced.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already taken the political risk of pursuing peace talks with Pakistan, but faces significant domestic opposition to any additional outreach without Pakistani moves to further clamp down on Islamic militants who have targeted India.

U.S. and Indian officials say the Obama administration has so far made few concrete demands of New Delhi. According to U.S. officials, the only specific request has been to discourage India from getting more involved in training the Afghan military, to ease Pakistani concerns about getting squeezed by India on two borders.

“This is an administration that’s deeply divided about the wisdom of leaning on India to solve U.S. problems with Pakistan,” said Ashley Tellis, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who has discussed the issue with senior officials in the U.S. and India. “There are still important constituencies within the administration that have not given up hope that India represents the answer.”

India has long resisted outside involvement in its differences with Pakistan, particularly over the disputed region of Kashmir. But, according to a U.S. government official, a 56-page dossier presented by the Pakistani government to the Obama administration ahead of high-level talks in Washington last month contained a litany of accusations against the Indian government, and suggestions the U.S. intercede on Pakistan’s behalf.

The official said the document alleges that India has never accepted Pakistan’s sovereignty as an independent state, and accuses India of diverting water from the Indus River and fomenting separatism in the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has signaled that Washington isn’t interested in mediating on water issues, which are covered by a bilateral treaty.

The White House declined to comment on Mr. Obama’s directive or on the debate within the administration over India policy. The directive to top foreign-policy and national-security officials was summarized in a memo written by National Security Adviser James Jones at the end of the White House’s three-month review of Afghan war policy in December.

An Indian government official said the U.S.’s increasing attention to Pakistani concerns hasn’t hurt bilateral relations overall. “Our relationship is mature—of course we have disagreements, but we’re trying not to have knee-jerk reactions,” the Indian official said.

According to U.S. and Indian officials, the Pentagon has emerged in internal Obama administration debates as an active lobbyist for more pressure on India, with some officials already informally pressing Indian officials to take Pakistan’s concerns more seriously. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the U.S. government’s prime interlocutor with the powerful head of the Pakistani army, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, has been among the more vocal advocates of a greater Indian role, according to a U.S. military official, encouraging New Delhi to be more “transparent” about its activities along the countries’ shared border and to cooperate more with Pakistan.

In interviews, U.S. military officials were circumspect about what specific moves they would like to see from New Delhi. But according to people who have discussed India policy with Pentagon officials, the ideas discussed in internal debates include reducing the number of Indian troops in Kashmir or pulling back forces along the border.

“They say, ‘The Pakistanis have this perception and you have to deal with the perception’,” said one foreign diplomat who has discussed India’s role with Pentagon officials. An Indian defense ministry spokesman said his country’s army has already moved about 30,000 troops out of Kashmir in recent years.

The State Department has resisted such moves to pressure India, according to current and former U.S. officials, insisting they could backfire. These officials have argued that the most recent promising peace effort—secret reconciliation talks several years ago between Indian Prime Minster Singh and then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf—occurred without U.S. involvement.

US-Pakistan Talks Mark ‘Intensification’ of Partnership

By Suzanne Presto for Voice of America News

The United States and Pakistan will hold their first strategic dialogue at the ministerial level in Washington next Wednesday (March 24). U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke told reporters at the State Department Friday that these talks mark a “major intensification” of the U.S.-Pakistan partnership. Wednesday’s talks will be co-chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Holbrooke says delegations from both sides will include senior officials of their nation’s defense, diplomacy, finance and agriculture departments. The U.S. delegation will also include aid and trade officials, and Pakistan’s will include officials who handle water, power and social issues.
“This is a partnership that goes far beyond security, but security is an important part of it,” he said. Holbrooke told reporters Friday that U.S. officials want to see aid money for Pakistan distributed more quickly.

“We are doing more. We will announce more. We want to do as much as the Congress will support,” Holbrooke said. The Obama administration has made improving and broadening relations with Pakistan a top priority, but U.S. policies and drone strikes targeting militants in the region remain unpopular. Holbrooke said the U.S. supports Pakistan as it seeks to strengthen democratic institutions and economic development, handle energy and water problems, as well as defeat extremists. “Everyone is aware of the popular public-opinion polls, and we think that our support for Pakistan deserves more recognition among the people,” he added.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad Thursday, Foreign Minister Qureshi said Pakistani and U.S. officials have been talking a lot, and in his words, “the time has come to walk the talk.” Holbrooke responded to Qureshi’s statement that next week’s talks would be a good opportunity to rebuild confidence and trust on both sides. “The first time I went to Pakistan, Foreign Minister Qureshi introduced me to the phrase “trust deficit,” and so I have heard it many times,” he said. “The last time I was there, we both said in a press conference that we thought we had made huge advances in that,” Holbrooke added. Secretary of State Clinton last visited Pakistan in October, where she spoke with officials and students alike.

Holbrooke said there are plans to hold the next set of strategic talks in Pakistan, likely within the next six months. He underscored that these bilateral talks do not replace the trilateral talks among the U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan which he said are expected to resume later this year.

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