Posts Tagged ‘ Indian Government ’

Aid Flooded Pak by Withdrawing Army

By Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar for The Times of India

Pakistan is suffering its greatest human tragedy since Partition. The floodwaters of the Indus are an incredible 20 miles wide, sweeping away entire towns, villages and farms. Over 20 million people have been displaced, far more than the nine million displaced by Partition in 1947. The immediate death count of 1,500 will soon increase hugely through disease and deprivation. Rehabilitation could cost $100 billion.

Some Indians might be perverse enough to rejoice that an enemy has been hit by a natural disaster — an act of God, as it were — and will be crippled economically for years. But most Indians will surely want to help their neighbours. In these traumatic times, we need to think of Pakistanis as humans in distress, not foes.

Even those who cannot think beyond realpolitik should see that the floods are potentially a strategic disaster for India too. Flood damage will create a fertile breeding ground for Islamist militancy. Islamist NGOs with links to terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed are at the very forefront of flood relief efforts and hence are gaining popularity. Meanwhile, the civil administration is seen as corrupt and ineffective. President Asif Zardari has further ruined his low reputation by going on foreign junkets.

The Pakistani army has in the last year battled some, though by no means all, militant groups in Swat and FATA (federally administered tribal areas). But much of the infrastructure built to reach the remote tribal areas has been destroyed by the floods. Besides, the Pakistani army is redirecting its efforts in the region, from combating militants to combating flood damage. The militants are re-occupying the resultant political vacuum.

The ISI recently came out with a study suggesting that Islamist militants had become a greater threat to the country than India. Flood damage can only deepen that perception. True, the army wants to back the Afghan Taliban even while battling the Pakistani Taliban, and this results in muddled thinking and sabotage of peace initiatives. The resolution of these contradictions is not in sight.

One day, the Pakistani army and the ISI will have no choice but to confront the reality that Islamist militants are Frankensteins that threaten their own creator. The ISI’s assessment should bring that day somewhat closer.
In the light of both human and strategic considerations, how can India help Pakistan? Individual contributions from Indian citizens must be encouraged, and red tape thwarting contributions in cash and kind must be cut. But the Indian government should not offer more than a modest amount of food and financial aid. Pakistan requires billions of dollars for relief and rehabilitation, so anything India offers will be a drop in the ocean.

Besides, recipients are rarely grateful for alms: they resent being supplicants, and suspect the motives of the donors. The US saved India from mass starvation after the twin droughts of 1965 and 1966 by giving record food aid. But this won the US very few friends and stoked resentment from many who felt India’s independence was being compromised. The US will once again be the chief donor to Pakistan, but will gain virtually no popularity or gratitude.

If food and financial aid will not help much, how can India best help Pakistan? The best way will be for the Indian Army to unilaterally withdraw from the border in Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat. This will pose no military risk whatsoever: flood-stricken Pakistan cannot possibly embark on military adventures against India. But the withdrawal of Indian troops will mean that the Pakistan army loses all excuses to avoid diverting manpower and financial resources from the border to flood relief and rehabilitation. This will cost India nothing, yet will release very large resources within Pakistan. Its impact on the Pakistani psyche will be significant. Even analysts who distrust Pakistan agree widely that India has no alternative to diplomatic engagement: cutting off ties will not win any minds and hearts there. Unilateral withdrawal will itself be a form of engagement, and will encourage other forms.

The wrong strategy will be to try to negotiate a mutual withdrawal of troops. Withdrawal must be unilateral and immediate. Defence hawks will express dismay that India is so soft on an enemy that encourages terrorism. But unilateral withdrawal will be a flood relief measure, not a military surrender. In the bargain, it will oblige Pakistan to withdraw its own troops and redeploy them for flood relief: its public opinion will be outraged otherwise.

Dr Manmohan Singh, you say we must be proactive in the peace process with Pakistan. The tragic floods there have given you an opportunity to be proactive in a way that will not come again. Go for it.

India and Pakistan’s Leaders Meet

As reported by BBC.com

Pakistan PM Yousuf Raza Gilani spoke to his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh at a reception hosted by the US President Barack Obama, reports said. The prime ministers of India and Pakistan met briefly during a nuclear summit attended by 47 world leaders in Washington DC.

A Pakistani embassy spokesman said it was “not a formal meeting”. cIt comes a day after Mr Singh told Mr Obama that Pakistan’s government lacked the will to punish those responsible for the Mumbai attacks. The November 2008 attacks left 174 people dead, including nine gunmen, and soured ties between India and Pakistan. Late last year, Pakistan charged seven people in connection with the attacks.

They include the suspected mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who is allegedly the leader of the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. Mr Singh and Mr Gilani spoke to each other at a reception hosted by Mr Obama, Pakistani embassy spokesman Nadeem Kiani said.

“Both leaders were present at the same place and so they shook hands and talked,” he said. A spokesman for India’s foreign ministry, Vishnu Prakash, told The Hindu newspaper that the two leaders “exchanged pleasantries”.
‘State elements’

India put peace talks on hold after the attacks, blaming them on Pakistan-based militants. Pakistan admitted they had been partly planned on its soil. India has also suggested what it calls “state elements” were involved. Both Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Taiba have denied any involvement.

In February, the two sides held their first formal talks since the 2008 attacks and agreed to “remain in touch”. Leaders from 40 states are attending the meeting in Washington which is expected to focus on how to secure nuclear material.

Taliban 201- The Rise of The Pakistani Taliban

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Peshawar, Pakistan- Taliban militants attacked the U.S. consulate in the Pakistani city of Peshawar on Monday, using  powerful bombs and rocket launchers in a sophisticated and daring attack killing 8 people, just hours after a suicide bomber killed 48 people elsewhere in the Swat valley. The attacks came as the United States has increased its airstrikes on targets both inside Afghanistan and Pakistan. The nearly decade long war waged against the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan since 9-11 has created safe areas inside Pakistan for these militants to regroup and band with Pakistani militants sympathetic to their cause. Often, the militants on the Pakistani side and the Afghani Taliban share the Pashtun tribal and ethnic links among the border areas of both countries.

The US bombing of Afghanistan since late 2001 had pushed the Taliban and Al Qaeda militants to the mountains near the border with Pakistan. With help from sympathetic militant tribal warriors from the Pakistani side, the Taliban were able to dig in and have been able to fight the American forces for nearly a decade now. The onslaught by US and NATO forces continues in Afghanistan, but now for most of last year and certainly this year, the war has shifted to the streets and cities of Pakistan.

Now, much like Afghanistan, Pakistan too is a country that finds itself engulfed in the flames of religious extremism at the hands of determined and highly disciplined thugs. It used to be back during the Soviet-Afghan War, the only place perhaps not entirely safe inside Pakistan was Peshawar. Now, not one city or town of Pakistan has been spared from the violence by the Taliban. Back then, Peshawar was a city where attacks would happen frequently and often. During the 1980’s, the city became a haven for both jihadi militants fighting against the godless system of communism, and a base for spies as both the United States and Saudi Arabia funded a mujahedeen guerrilla war to defeat the Soviet troops from Afghanistan. President Reagan and General Zia of Pakistan used the fervor of religion to incite able bodied boys and men of Afghanistan and their distant cousins from the border area in Pakistan, along with thousands of volunteer Muslim fighters from across the Arab and Muslim world, to come and fight the Soviet Red Army. It was seen as a duty to come defend a Muslim land from occupation by a regime that would not allow the worship of Allah as communism discourages religion and encourages a sectarian society.

That strategy by General Zia ul Haq to promote the fight against the Russians as a holy war or jihad was brilliant at first. It mobilized not just every Muslim male in Afghanistan to stand and fight for his faith and their way of life, while also defending the country from invaders, but it also garnered the sympathy and enlistment of thousands upon thousands of Pakistani and Arab Muslim fighters to join the cause of these mujahedeen, as one who engages in jihad is called. The riling up of religious fervor and militant Islam was deemed necessary by both Reagan and Zia at the time as they sought to defeat the communists at all costs from succeeding in Afghanistan. It would not seem likely at the time, that this very same entity would become enemy number one of both the US and Pakistan a decade later.

It was monumental, it was historic,” retired Pakistani general Hamid Gul, who headed the ISI military spy agency from 1987-1989, said of Reagan’s role in defeating the Soviets. “We were receiving arms and logistics from the CIA, we were partners in this struggle,” Gul said, estimating the CIA spent up to $7bn in supplying arms and logistics to Islamic fighters or “jihadis.” “The jihadis he supported. It was their resistance against the forces of occupation and repression – that’s what jihad is – that Reagan identified himself with,” Gul said. “His greatest achievement was that he stood behind the Islamic world when it was arrayed against the Soviet empire.”

Pakistani analyst Hasan Askari Rivzi stated that “Al-Qaeda and the Taliban took shape later on, but they grew from this period of jihadism against the Soviets and with the initial help of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia along with the military and economic assistance from the United States to fight the Soviets during the ‘80’s. Rizvi sees the roots of the militancy that now ravages Pakistan and Afghanistan as having its beginnings from this period of war against the Soviets army.

That war with the Russians lasted almost 10 years. By the time the USSR pulled out all its troops from Afghanistan in 1989, the country had been completely destroyed. What was left of any government or authority of any sort was now held in the hands of a few militias and various warriors who commanded thousands of tribal and other ethnic fighters under them. These militias immediately started warring amongst themselves for more and more control of the country. The already weak, nonexistent central government of Afghanistan, post Soviet pullout was not able to cope and quickly capitulated. During the power vacuum that resulted, Pakistan’s spy agency, the ISI, realized the chance to wield power inside Afghanistan and threw its support behind a religious student movement based out of Kandahar. The ISI had previously assisted the cause to fight the Soviets by helping gather and organize radical Muslims from around the world to come and assist the Afghani mujahedeen in fighting the Soviets and had therefore developed good contacts with various religious groups including the young Taliban students and the fast growing movement.

The Afghani population initially welcomed the Taliban as they represented fairness and a rule of law over the notorious corruption, brutality and constant infighting of the warlord militias. Soon, with popular citizen support, along with Pakistan’s help, the Taliban became the dominant group within the country and soon held the seat of power in Kabul. Its leader Mullah Omar, was a friend of Osama Bin Laden and when the US forces came to Afghanistan in the hunt for Bin Laden, he gave the Al Qaeda leader refuge and in essence, became a fugitive of the US in the process for harboring America’s Most Wanted.

Fast forward to nearly nine years later as the war in Afghanistan continues against the Taliban and remnants of Al Qaeda responsible for the 9-11 attacks. However, the Taliban have grown and laid roots inside Pakistan also now as the nearly decade long war at the border with Afghanistan has ratcheted up sympathy by locals Pakistani Pashtun tribes for their brethren being bombed by both Pakistani and American forces. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan known as the Pakistani Taliban formed soon after the US invasion of Afghanistan and the Pakistani army’s offensive at the tribal areas near the border to combat the militants. The Pakistani Taliban led by the recently killed Baitullah Mehsud, has been largely responsible for hundreds of attacks in all major cities of Pakistan including Monday’s bombing of the American consulate in Peshawar.

The war in Afghanistan by the US against the Taliban that harbored and sheltered Bin Laden and the 9-11 killers of Al Qaeda is much the same as the war between the Pakistani army and the Pakistani Taliban in the Swat valley and the North West Frontier Province as well as in various cities of the country. This war has been brought home to the citizens of Pakistan. Over the last few months, bomb blasts in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and various other cities have now personalized this conflict for the average Pakistani as no longer a battle or skirmish at the border far away in the northwest of Pakistan near its border with Afghanistan.

No, the nearly daily attacks all over the country by the militants on government installations, public institutions like universities, factories and residential areas as well as markets and restaurants has made the country much less safer than at any time in its 63 year history. Many Pakistanis now are beginning to realize that the Taliban, operating with impunity all over Pakistan, pose a much bigger threat to the sovereignty and republic of Pakistan than any threat from anywhere else, including from that eternal archrival to the east, India. It is now well understood by both partners in this fight that only a sustained and vigorous fight taken to the militants inside both countries by the US and Pakistan over a long period of time can hope to defeat this disease known as the Taliban.

For an earlier report titled Taliban 101- Origins and History, Please click on this link:

https://pakistanisforpeace.wordpress.com/2009/05/25/taliban-101-origins-and-history/

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.

Progress, For a Price, in Pakistan

By Doyle McManus for The Los Angeles Times

In 2001, on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, President George W. Bush gave Pakistan’s then-leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a choice: He was either with us or against us. Musharraf chose to become an ally, but the question ever since has been whether that shotgun marriage can mature into a healthy adult relationship. At times, the prospect has seemed far from reach.

The world’s second-most-populous Muslim country is caught in a brutal internal struggle between extremism and moderation. Most of its people tell pollsters they don’t like the United States and wish we’d go away. The tribesmen of its western frontier shelter Osama bin Laden and the leaders of Afghanistan’s Taliban. And the United States can’t forget how, in the 1980s, Pakistan built nuclear weapons — and then later exported nuclear technology to North Korea and Iran.

But in recent months, there has been progress in the relationship. Military and intelligence cooperation between the United States and Pakistan has increased significantly. Pakistan has allowed the CIA to increase its missile strikes against Al Qaeda and Taliban targets in Pakistani territory. Pakistani authorities have arrested several Taliban leaders and allowed U.S. intelligence officers to question them. And now Pakistan is offering to increase its own military operations in North Waziristan, the presumed lair of Bin Laden. All that cooperation came at a price, of course: a flood of U.S. military and economic aid.

And last week, the Pakistanis came to Washington to press for more. The academic criticism of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship is that it is “transactional” — nothing more than a series of bargains between buyers and sellers who don’t trust each other much. That’s still mostly true. Pakistan’s delegation arrived with a 56-page shopping list covering everything from military equipment to education and cultural exchanges. And one Pakistani official, asked during the visit whether his government was truly willing to act against the havens that allow the Taliban to maintain bases in Pakistan, replied frankly: “Yes — but at a price.”

After a series of meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Pakistan’s ebullient foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, declared: “I think we are going to move from a relationship to a partnership.” But he used the future tense. In the meantime, there are things to work out. Pakistan is clearly worried about what happens when the United States begins pulling troops out of Afghanistan in 2011.

Although Obama administration officials have tried to reassure Pakistan that Washington’s commitment to the region is for the long haul, uncertainty remains. “Our fear is . . . that we get into a fight with these guys [the Taliban], and you walk away, and we’re still there,” a Pakistani official said. Pakistan’s powerful army chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, spent part of his time in Washington visiting Congress with PowerPoint slides to show that Pakistan has committed more troops to its fight against insurgents than the United States has on the ground in Afghanistan, and that it has suffered almost 30,000 killed and wounded in the process.

According to U.S. officials, Kayani made a strong case that Pakistan can do more if it gets more modern military equipment from the United States, especially helicopters to ferry troops into the rugged badlands where Al Qaeda and the Taliban hide. The United States has helped Pakistan acquire some helicopters, but not as many and not as quickly as the Pakistanis would like. U.S. officials said they would try to speed the delivery of more. In the past, U.S. officials complained that Pakistan used much of its U.S. military aid to bolster its eastern front with India instead of its fight with internal insurgents; but since Pakistan’s 2009 offensive in the Swat Valley, that criticism has been stilled.

The delegation also added a new item to Islamabad’s wish list: a nuclear agreement under which the United States would help Pakistan develop its civilian nuclear energy industry — to mirror a similar U.S. agreement with India, Pakistan’s longtime enemy. The United States told the Pakistanis that would have to wait. The memory of having to clamp sanctions on Pakistan for its nuclear weapons program is still too fresh. But it was a sign of improving relations that the idea wasn’t rejected completely.

 In 2001, the United States sought a new relationship with Pakistan mostly because it was next to Afghanistan — and thus a country we would need for moving military supplies and basing drones. But that thinking has slowly evolved. In the long run, with its population of 170 million people — not to mention its cache of nuclear weapons — Pakistan is more important than Afghanistan.

“We’re engaging with Pakistan because we’re afraid of it,” says Christine Fair, a Pakistan expert at Georgetown University. “It’s the scariest country in the region. Because of Afghanistan, it’s been treated as if it were a subsidiary issue. But Pakistan should be the primary issue.” The Americans are working hard to convince the Pakistanis that they are interested in Pakistan’s stability for its own sake, not just because it’s next door to Afghanistan. The Pakistanis are working hard to convince the Americans that they are committed to defeating the extremists in their midst. It’s not a strategic relationship yet. If it’s a partnership, it’s still a wary one. But that’s progress.

India Becomes Only Country In the World To Possess Maneuverable Supersonic Missiles

By DEUTSCHE PRESSE-AGENTUR  for ArabNews.com

 

NEW DELHI: India successfully tested Sunday a “maneuverable” version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile which it has jointly developed with Russia, news reports said.

The vertical-launch version of the 290-kilometer range BrahMos was tested from a warship in the Bay of Bengal off India’s eastern coast, the PTI news agency reported. “The vertical-launch version of missile was launched at 11:30 (0600 GMT) hours today from Indian Navy ship INS Ranvir and it manoeuvred successfully hitting the target ship. It was a perfect hit and a perfect mission,” BrahMos aerospace chief A Sivathanu Pillai was quoted as saying. ”

After today’s test, India has become the first and only country in the world to have a maneuverable supersonic cruise missile in its inventory,” Pillai said.

Named after India’s Brahmaputra and Russia’s Moskva rivers, the BrahMos can carry a 200-kilogram conventional warhead. Variants of the missile fitted with inclined launchers are already in service with the Indian Navy, NDTV news channel quoted defense sources as saying. Sunday’s firing was part of pre-induction tests for the vertical launcher variant, the sources said. The BrahMos has also been inducted into the India Army and preparations are on to develop air-launched and the submarine- launched versions, the sources said.

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.

U.S. to Offer Smart-Bomb Kits, Drones to Pakistan

By  Yochi Dewazen The Wall Street Journal

Washington DC—The Pentagon will transfer sophisticated laser-guided-bomb kits to Pakistan, escalating the Obama administration’s recent push to better arm Islamabad for its military campaign against the country’s Islamic militants. U.S. military officials said Pakistan will soon receive equipment capable of converting 1,000 traditional munitions into “smart bombs” that can more precisely strike targets on the ground. American officials hope the reconfigured bombs will help Pakistan minimize civilian casualties as it battles insurgents in the country’s tribal regions.

Pakistan will also soon take possession of a dozen American-made surveillance drones and 18 late-model F-16 fighter jets, sharply expanding the Pakistani military’s ability to track and strike targets in remote, insurgent-controlled parts of the country. The laser-guided-bomb kits could spark some unease in India, where officials have been warily watching the expanded U.S. military aid to Pakistan and wondering if the weapons would one day be turned against them. India lobbied against recent U.S. legislation giving Pakistan billions of dollars in new nonmilitary aid, though the measure passed anyway.

The Indian reaction to the planned American F-16 sale to Islamabad was far more muted, in part because India’s air force is far larger than Pakistan’s and employs more-advanced planes. Providing advanced munitions to Pakistan would once have aroused fierce opposition within the U.S. Congress, where powerful lawmakers from both parties have questioned Islamabad’s willingness to take tough measures against the country’s militants. Washington has also long charged that elements in Pakistan’s intelligence service maintain close ties to the Afghan Taliban, an accusation Islamabad denies. But the new weapons transfers are unlikely to spark much controversy in Washington, a reflection of how much the concern about Pakistan has ebbed in recent months as Islamabad deepens its military and intelligence cooperation with the U.S. In mid-February, Pakistani and American intelligence operatives jointly captured Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the top military commander of the Afghan Taliban. Islamabad has also tacitly allowed the U.S. to sharply expand its campaign of drone missile strikes against insurgent targets inside Pakistani territory.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell last week praised Pakistan for mounting a serious campaign against the militants operating along the porous Afghan-Pakistani border. U.S. officials say they believe the leadership of both al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban are hiding in Pakistan, with several top officials allegedly operating out of the Pakistani city of Quetta. “The commitment that the Pakistani government, the military, its intelligence forces have demonstrated over the past several months to combating this threat within their midst is commendable,” Mr. Morrell said. “We are here to help them in any which way they are comfortable.” The clearest example of that assistance is the stepped-up U.S. military aid to Pakistan. A new American counterinsurgency assistance fund for Pakistan is slated to increase to $1.2 billion in fiscal year 2011 from $700 million in fiscal year 2010, allowing Islamabad to acquire more U.S.-made helicopters, night-vision goggles and other military equipment.

Pakistan, which is smaller and poorer than neighboring India, uses American grants to fund most of its arms purchases. The smart bombs should help Pakistan expand its military offensive in the insurgent stronghold of South Waziristan. The laser-guided munitions can be dropped from Pakistan’s current fleet of U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets, allowing Islamabad to improve the accuracy of its bombing runs while it waits to take possession of new F-16s later this year. “This is sort of a short-term discussion, but it’s one that’s important to them because they’re involved in current operations right now,” Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told reporters Tuesday. “They’ve been trying to improve their capabilities in the short term while they wait for these aircraft.”

Lt. Col. Jeffry Glenn, an Air Force spokesman, said Pakistan will receive 700 kits capable of converting 500-pound traditional bombs into laser-guided munitions, as well as 300 kits that can be used with larger 2,000-pound bombs. The kits, which are made by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co., contain computerized guidance systems for the fronts of the bombs and fins that are designed to be attached to the backs of the munitions for better lift and stability. Once the kits have been properly configured, pilots or ground-based troops can use laser beams to guide the smart bombs to their targets.

Lone Surviving Mumbai Attacker Pleads Guilty

Mumbai, India- The only surviving gunman from last year’s Mumbai attacks in India’s financial and entertainment capital which killed at least 173 people and wounded more than 300, pleaded guilty today in an Indian court. The confession of guilt from Pakistani citizen Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, 21 years of age, took many in the court by surprise including the lead prosecutor, Ujjwal Nikam.

“He pleaded guilty in court today “a senior police officer told the Associated Press reporter. “He has confessed to his role and the fact that he was involved in the attacks that killed so many people during the attacks. He admitted to both being a part of the planning as well as the execution of the attacks”, stated the officer who was present in court.

Kasab, had earlier pleaded not guilty in May prior to the start of the trial, now faces a  possible death sentence as the court can proceed to the sentencing portion rather than continue with the trial in bringing about a guilty verdict.  During a routine interrogation of the witnesses in his trial, Kasab got up and told the court he had something to say and proceeded to confess his involvement in the attacks.  He also admitted that the closed-circuit video was of him, and he narrated the entire of sequence of events in detail to corroborate his involvement in the crime.

Analysts believe the guilty plea will help Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari’s stance that the country must confront the truth about its militant ties and organizations that operate within its borders. Zardari himself is a victim of such terrorist attacks as his wife, the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto too was killed by suspected militants in December of 2007 while campaigning for office and running on a platform of wiping out the militant threat inside Pakistan.

This admission of guilt on the part of Kasab also should allow Pakistan to press the individuals in its custody that are believed to have been a part of Kasab’s network to be brought to justice as well. One hopes that Pakistan is able to secure guilty pleas against the individuals in its custody and brings some justice to the hundreds of families who have lost loved ones or who were seriously injured by the cowardly attackers preying on innocent civilians. A just and fair trial with guilty pleas and full cooperation is needed on the part of the Pakistani government before India would agree to move ahead with the now stalled peace process between the two nuclear armed hostile nations.

 by Manzer Munir for www.PakistanisforPeace.com

India and Pakistan to discuss relations at NAM meeting in Egypt

Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt- The prime ministers of India and Pakistan are scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement Summit (NAM) in Egypt this week inviting hopes of a resumption of peace talks between the two nuclear armed neighbors.

The NAM consists of 118 member countries of developing countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe and make up almost 60% of the world population.  NAM countries consider themselves not formally aligned with or against any major country or power bloc such as NATO.

The importance of this meeting between the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani PM Yousuf Raza Gilani is that this is only the second high level meeting between the Indian and Pakistani leaders since the Mumbai attacks of November 2008.  At least 173 people were killed and more than 300 wounded by terrorist attacks blamed on Pakistan based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Since the attacks, the relations between India and Pakistan worsened dramatically as India demanded Pakistan take action against the responsible parties. This week Pakistan announced that it will “probably” put the five accused attackers in its custody on trial next week. This is welcome news for the Indian government which has predictably  tied any improvement in relations with Pakistan on the prosecution of the accused for the attacks as well as curbing of violence on Indian soil from the Pakistan based militants.

Unfortunately, Pakistan has its hands full on its own soil when it comes to stopping the militants let alone preventing violence from groups inside its terroritory from carrying out attacks in India. But a willingness to fully prosecute any individuals or groups apprehended as well as dismantling the infrastructure of these organizations will go a long way in showing good faith to India in resuming a comprehensive peace agreement with its fellow nuclear armed neighbor.  Similarly India must be willing to consider Pakistan’s disputes with India over Kashmir from all sides and be able to negotiate a lasting and long term peace deal that is so desperately needed in the most dangerous neighborhood of the world and one that has been elusive for over 60 years.

 

Reported by Manzer Munir for http://www.PakistanisforPeace.com

War with Pakistan not an option after Mumbai attacks states India’s Minister

 

New Dehli, India- India’s External Affairs Minister, Pranab Mukherjee told the Indian Parliament on Wednesday that war with Pakistan was not an option following the Mumbai attacks of November 26, 2008. He spoke to members of Parliament and the opposition parties and stated that diplomacy had succeeded and not failed as members of the opposition had claimed as it forced Pakistan to admit that its soil was used for the planning and carrying out of the attacks.

“We did not mobilize a single soldier, we did not press the panic button, we did not lay mines on the border, but we said we expected Pakistan to fulfill its commitments, ” he said. He stated that he believed that war with Pakistan following the Mumbai attacks was not an option as the government of India did not believe that it would solve the problem of terrorism.

Mr Mukherjee accepted that it did take Pakistan a substantial amount of time to admit that its soil was used in the attacks but that the Indian leadership understood the complexities of the situation inside Pakistan. He stated that the Indian government will keep up the pressure on Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the attacks to justice and the terrorist infrastructure inside Pakistan dismantled to prevent any future attacks.

We at Pakistanis for Peace believe that diplomacy between the two nations is the only solution to the tense relations between India and Pakistan and war between the two nuclear armed neighbors will never be a solution that the people of South Asia could accept. It is a welcome sign to see that the Indian government did not consider war with Pakistan as an option. The situation inside Pakistan is very volatile and the weakness of the Pakistani government in fighting various militant groups was further underscored this week by the capitulation of the Pakistan army to agree to allow the Taliban in the Swat Valley in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) to allow Sharia law. Within Pakistan there are not only Taliban militants operating freely in various areas of the country namely in the NWFP province, but also there are insurgent groups in Baluchistan ( Baluchistan Liberation Army in Quetta and surrounding cities), Sindh province (Jaish-e-Mohammad and Harkat-ul- Mujahideen terror groups building bases in Karachi) and the Lahore based Lashkar-e-Taiba group that is blamed for the Mumbai attacks.

With this many various terror groups and militants that the Pakistani army is fighting on several fronts, it is remarkable that there have not been more attacks on the Indian side of the border. We believe that the war in Afghanistan and the presence of American forces in the region has diverted most of these terror groups and militants to the western border to fight their misguided form of jihad. Unfortunately groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen have turned most of their focus to fighting the Indians in Kashmir and driving them out of the troubled area as their primary objective.

Pakistan must ask itself that if there was violence perpetrated by Indian groups like the Mumbai attacks inside Pakistan, how would Pakistan respond to such terror inside its territory by militant Indian groups? It is not unconceivable that not only militant Muslim groups would call for a war with India, but even the common citizen would be up in arms and pressure the government of Pakistan to respond with mobilizing the army. The government of Pakistan must realize that war with India is not imminent, however a worsening of the situation within Pakistan due to the various terror groups operating inside its territory are a much bigger threat to the country’s stability and sovereignty than its hostilities with its neighbor India. Compromising with the terrorists as the government recently did in the Swat valley sends a double signal and gives the other terror groups operating in the country an indication that enough violence and carnage by these groups will allow them to have their way with the Pakistani government. This is a bad situation that is getting worse by the day and we at Pakistanis for Peace hope and pray that the situation turns around before events unfold that will set off a chain reaction that will be impossible to stop. By all accounts, most experts agree that Pakistan is the most dangerous country in the world with its mix of terror groups and nuclear weapons, we must all do what  we can to ensure it does not ignite a regional war with India fueled by militant groups and backed by nuclear weapons that will be a concern for the whole world and not just the long suffering citizens of Pakistan.

 

Manzer Munir reporting from Orlando, FL for www.PakistanisforPeace.com

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