Posts Tagged ‘ United States ’

India, Pakistan And U.S. Strategic Dialogue

By Apoorva Shah for The American Enterprise Institute

At this week’s first U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue in Washington, D.C., talks between the two countries will cover the spectrum of bilateral and multilateral issues, from trade and economic cooperation to terrorism and regional security. 

American participants may even feel the need to bring up India’s strained relationship with Pakistan. But it would serve them well to first consider a Times of India story from earlier this year, which went almost unreported in the United States.

According to an interview in the Indian newspaper with former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, India and Pakistan in 2007 were days away from reaching a comprehensive accord on their territorial dispute over Kashmir, the axis of the countries’ six-decade-long rivalry and casus belli of three wars between the two nations.

Kasuri, Pakistani leader General Pervez Musharraf’s chief diplomat from 2002 to 2007, said in April that the secret deal had been in progress for more than three years and would have led to a full demilitarization of both Indian- and Pakistani-occupied areas of Kashmir and would have awarded the region a package of loose sovereignty at a point “between complete independence and autonomy.” Not only were Indian and Pakistani leaders on board (including, most importantly, the Pakistani military), so was every Kashmiri leader except for one hard-line separatist, Syed Ali Shah Gilani.

The accord was slated to be signed during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s scheduled visit to Islamabad in February and March of 2007, but before the trip ever occurred, a country-wide lawyers’ protest in Pakistan had turned into a broader opposition campaign against General Musharraf. The rest of the year would be one of the most tumultuous in Pakistan’s history, marked by the siege of the Red Mosque in July, the return of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in October and her subsequent assassination in December, and the return of popular leader Nawaz Sharif from exile in September.

By August of the following year, public opposition had peaked, and Musharraf was forced to resign his post as president, ending his decade-long tenure as leader of Pakistan. After Musharraf’s ouster, it appears that the deal had lost much of its momentum.

Then in November, the accord suffered another setback as ten Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists took India’s largest city, Mumbai, hostage for almost 72 hours, killing more than 160 people and injuring scores more. The attack was quickly coined “India’s 9/11,” and the evidence pointed directly to Pakistan, where the gunmen had been trained and equipped.

In protest, India cut off all diplomatic talks with Pakistan almost immediately; there were even rumors that the country was preparing military action against its northern neighbor. Within a span of less than two years, the India-Pakistan relationship had traveled the spectrum from apparent rapprochement and compromise to mutual suspicion and renewed hostility.

Since then, the signs have only appeared to worsen: for example, in 2009, when Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor publicly introduced revisions to his country’s “cold start” military strategy.

This military modernization and training program, which was developed in response to the army’s sluggish mobilization to the Pakistani border following the December 2001 terrorist attacks on the Indian parliament, remained mostly under the radar for most of the early 2000s, relegated to defense journals and the occasional news article.

It was only following the 2008 attacks that “cold start” began to receive renewed attention from the media on both sides of the border and was more publicly discussed by Indian military officials like General Kapoor. Indeed, it appeared as if the next breakthrough in Indo-Pak relations would occur through hard rather than soft power.

Concomitantly, India and Pakistan’s post-Mumbai attempts to return to diplomatic talks also appeared fraught with danger and seemed to only fuel more discord rather than reconciliation.

In February this year, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir resumed high-level talks for the first time since November 2008, but both sides appeared unprepared (they could not even agree on the specific subject of the talks prior to sitting down) and spent more time bickering through separate press conferences.

For example, while Bashir accused India of covertly supplying weapons to militants in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, Rao complained that Pakistan had “not gone far enough” in the 2008 Mumbai attack investigation. As India presented a dossier of evidence against one of the Mumbai attack perpetrators, Pakistan responded by calling it a “piece of literature not a dossier.”

It’s hard to see how any progress could be made on improving Indo-Pakistani relations in the midst of this hostility. But does Kasuri’s revelation provide hope that a resolution on Kashmir could be revived? First, excepting Musharraf and Kasuri, many of the supporters of the failed 2007 accord—including Pakistani Army Chief of Staff Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan’s current track II special negotiator Riaz Mohammed Khan, and, on the Indian side, Prime Minister Singh—still hold high-level positions in their respective governments.

And second, the secrecy of the original deal shows that outward indifference, or even enmity, between the two countries can belie an internal desire for change. In a relationship where hostility is status quo and where amicable relations seem aberrant if not bizarre, a furtive accord lets ruling elites make slow, institutional changes in the relationship while preserving outward form and precedent. It also allows deal-makers to keep tempestuous domestic politicians and party leaders at arms length while deliberating sensitive issues.

Even India’s traditionally hyperactive media seems to understand: A subsequent editorial in the Times of India noted, “the fact that such a deal exists emphasizes the importance of maintaining contact with Islamabad.”

So what can we expect in the months ahead? Indian officials will undoubtedly continue to pressure Pakistan to confront Lashkar-e-Taiba and other terrorist groups that plan to attack India, and another attack could indeed result in Indian military action. There will also be more bickering between the sides—on water rights, “most-favored-nation” clauses, and even cricket.

Yet the revelation of the secret deal should be both a lesson and a sign of hope. It is a lesson because it proves that progress on an entrenched conflict like Kashmir can occur without the United States’ public mediation.

American officials at the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue this week should keep in mind that the accord was pursued during the final years of the Bush administration, in which the United States made it a point to separate the U.S.-India relationship from the more sensitive Indo-Pak relationship.

It is a sign of hope because, despite the outward appearance of discord between the countries, internally, leaders on both sides have—at least at some point in recent memory—wanted to move forward on a resolution.

As Pakistan continues its domestic offensive against terrorists and India pursues closer economic engagement with its northern neighbor, wanting change may be the best sign that change is on the way.


Iran Presses Ahead with Nuclear Enrichment Despite Warning from the US and Others

By Manzer Munir

Tehran, Iran- France, Russia and the United States on Tuesday voiced their displeasure with Iran’s escalation of its uranium enrichment and saw this as a great a concern for its neighbors and other countries around the globe. The three countries, nuclear club members themselves, sent a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expressing worry about Iran’s actions and demonstrating renewed pressure on the regime of President Ahmadinejad.

This alarm by the US and other countries comes after February 7 when Iran announced it intended to start producing 20 percent enriched uranium for a medical research reactor, defying ultimatums by members of the UN security council that it faces strict UN sanctions unless it halts its nuclear weapons ambitions. The concern is that Iran is enriching uranium not for a medical research reactor but rather for making atomic weapons since enriched uranium in high purity form can be used in the fissile core of a nuclear bomb. “If Iran goes forward with this escalation, it would raise concerns about Iran’s nuclear intentions,” said the joint letter, which was obtained by AFP. “Iran’s enrichment of its LEU (low-enriched uranium) stockpile to higher levels is not only unnecessary, but would serve to further undermine the confidence of the international community in Iran’s actions,” it said.

The US and other powers are trying to convince Iran to accept an IAEA backed deal where Iran is supplied with nuclear fuel for the research reactor in exchange for its low enriched uranium. This is a deal that is not acceptable to the regime in Iran. Iran’s announcement that it would enrich on its own and its “subsequent formal notification to the IAEA are wholly unjustified,” the three countries wrote in the letter to IAEA chief Yukiya Amano. The moves “represent a further step toward a capability to produce highly enriched uranium.” The countries “recognize the need in Iran for medical radioisotopes,” the letter continued. “If Iran does not wish to accept the IAEA offer, we note that these are available on the world market and could be obtained as a responsible, timely and cost effective alternative to the IAEA’s proposal.

The pressure on Iran to not acquire nuclear weapons in the troubled neighborhood of the Middle East is justified. The area has long been very unstable and Iran and Israel have already for several years been fighting a proxy war with each other through Hezbollah in Lebanon and allegedly through arming Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza. But one must also realize that as long as Israel maintains nuclear weapons and there remains no peace in the Middle East, its enemies in the region, namely Syria, Iran, and until recently Iraq would stop at nothing to acquire nuclear weapons technology also. Therefore, the core of this issue as with many other problems involving regional security and even global terrorism have their roots in the situation in the Middle East between Israel, Palestine and its neighbors.

Al-Qaeda itself gives Israel and the United States backing of it as a reason to attack America and its interests. So as long as there is not a resolution to the problem of the Palestinian state, there will be friction and a charged atmosphere in the region. Believe me, it has not calmed down much in the last 62 years. One can continue to expect countries like Iran, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others to continue to desire nuclear weapons in order to feel less threatened by Israel’s arsenal and military supremacy. The real solution to Iran’s nuclear ambitions and other regional security threats to Israel and American interests in the region is the need to get back to the table and return to the difficult task of making peace between the Israelis and its neighbors. Only a lasting and durable peace between the Israelis and the Arabs will encourage nuclear disarmament and make the neighborhood safe from a looming nuclear mushroom cloud.

America, The Land that I Love~

Statue of Liberty with Flag

Orlando, FL- As the founder of the Facebook group by the same name and the website, I know I may come under some inevitable criticism by some conservative Pakistanis, some Pakistani Americans, or even others elsewhere as part of the worldwide diasporas of my community globally, due especially to the title of this article! “America, the land that you love?”, they may ask. 

How could you both call yourself a Pakistani, let alone also be the leader of a group for Pakistanis and at the same time profess your love for another country such as the USA? An imposter, a charlatan, a fake, they would say! He is bought by them, probably on their payroll to have such a pro stance and publish an article professing his love for his adopted country!

They simply would not understand that the freedoms enjoyed in the United States are not enjoyed in any other country in the world. They would not understand that the local police escorts and provides assistance every Friday outside every Muslim place of worship across the USA to help the departing faithful from their mosques an easy passage back on to the main roads and through fares.  Despite eight heart wrenching years after 9-11 and two wars in Muslim countries, Muslim Americans enjoy a higher level of religious and civil freedoms that is unmatched by Muslims in Europe or elsewhere.

They would not understand that across Europe, Muslim girls raised religiously to wear the hijab are banned from attending classes while dressed in the religious garb that covers all their hair for modesty reasons. The fear is rampant of the Arabization or the Islamization of the old continent. In America, the average person is curious and asks “Doesn’t it get hot wearing that all the time?” Shrugs, and then goes about their day. They are more concerned about whether you are sane and not a terrorist here to do us harm again, rather than your attire, no matter how different to them.

Maybe due to simply the size of this country or for the sheer number of differnt groups and ethnicities from around the world, that make America truly a melting pot. Muslims from Morocco and Tunisia don’t dot every square inch of the territory as it appears to many a Frenchman in France. There is not a chicken and curry shop on every corner in the US as you may see in London. You will never see this many Turks in all the US as you will see in just a few cities in Germany. Yet in their small spread out numbers of 4-6 million out of a population of 300 million, the small Muslim minority of the US enjoys much more freedom and protections than others in much larger proportionate numbers in Europe.

They would not understand the background and experiences of a young Pakistani man, boy really, as I was not yet 15 years old when I arrived in the US. They would not realize that within me resides the best of both worlds. The American cultural and social traditions that have become second nature to me, that tend to go hand in hand with my Pakistani Muslim need to worship  as I did this past Ramadan.

As I fasted the entire month of Ramadan, for the nearly the first time in my adult life, I realized the cherished life that I live in this great country we call the United States of America. I truly appreciate an open and accepting country built by generations and waves of immigrants that all contributed and continue to do so to make it the best place in the world!

As a naturalized citizen, I have taken the following oath: (oath of citizenship- Wikipedia)  “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies , foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God. “

Despite my cultural, historical, and familial ties to Pakistan, The United States of America is to whom I have and continue to pledge my allegiance. This is where a boy of 15 years grows up to become his own man and realizes that the constitution Is the greatest living document in history. In fact, after the Torah, Bible, and Koran, it is next in line to sacredness to someone like me.

To pledge allegiance to this document, this system of governance, checks and balances, representation, due process, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the beauty of America and why I am proud to be a Pakistani American.

As I tell people all the time, “ I may not have been born here, but I got here as fast as I could!” 


Manzer Munir for

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