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Pakistan Focus Analysis

American troops back to combat in Afghanistan

American troops back to combat in Afghanistan

Efforts to engage the Afghan Taliban for negotiations are in disorder since the United States last month killed their leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansour. Another development has taken place, the US military has begun air attacks against Taliban targets in Afghanistan under new rules, allowing greater powers for US forces to go after the Taliban, making it easier for Afghan security forces to strike the insurgents. “There have been operations carried out with these new authorities,” Pentagon press Secretary Peter Cook said. “It’s fair to say that these strikes did target Taliban positions.” Initial strikes occurred in southern Afghanistan; and that American troops are back to combat in Afghanistan. Operation Zarb-e-Azb is the largest and most effective anti-terrorism campaign anywhere in the world through which Pakistan has achieved substantial gains and is determined to eliminate all terrorist threats within the country. Afghan government and the international coalition need to take supplementary and complementary actions to consolidate the gains of this operation. And the Afghan government should launch similar effort against TTP in its territory; elimination of TTP sanctuaries is essential to peace and security in both countries. And finally, America should make up its mind regarding leaving or staying, because peace effort would take different trajectories for handling either of the options.

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Rewriting Afghan conflict!

In yet another rebuke to Pakistan, America has repeated the beaten line: “The US continues to be clear with Pakistan about steps it should take to improve the security environment and deny safe havens to terrorist and extremist groups,” the Pentagon said in its six-monthly report on Afghanistan sent to the Congress on June 17. The US defence secretary Ashton …

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Fallout of containment strategies in Asia

Most of terror actions in Pakistan originate from Afghanistan. Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies are working conjointly to sustain such activities. TTP runaways in Afghanistan often attack this side of international border with impunity; they enter under the garb of Afghan refugees. Pakistan has long been raising these issues with Afghan, Indian and the US governments. Pakistan has also handed …

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Complexities of Afghan chaos

American intent in Afghanistan

At this point and time killing of Mansour raises a pointed questions about on which side of peace process various actors are? Does America want peace in Afghanistan or wants to keep the pot boiling to add back more troops to Afghan theatre? Was the option of killing Mansour discussed in the QCG meeting held immediately before the drone attack? Or, Is the QCG a dummy body to gain time and America is working on bilateral channel with Afghan government to impose its own version of peace settlement by co-opting dormant militant Afghan entities? Is India instrumental in derailing the Afghan peace process? Will the Afghan Sikh community begin asserting its minority rights in Afghanistan? As of now one could have only partial answers to these tricky questions; and the content could vary hugely from respondent to respondent. One thing appears certain about Afghanistan: pro-turmoil lobby is quite strong, and peace in Afghanistan is a far cry!

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America and Pakistan’s nuclear programme

Nawaz Obama Summit

Father of Pakistan's nuclear programme Abdul Qadeer Khan said while addressing a gathering in Islamabad on the 18th anniversary of Pakistan's first nuclear tests, that: “We were able and we had a plan to launch nuclear test in 1984. But President General Zia-ul-Haq had opposed the move”. Presidents Zia-ul- Haq and CarterHe thought it could invoke international military intervention and curtailment of aid flow. Notwithstanding, his commitment to Pakistan's nuclear weapon programme was unwavering: as firm as iron. Progress towards comprehensive nuclear disarmament is being delayed by some countries who advocate abstinence for others but are unwilling to give up their large inventories of nuclear weapons or their modernisation ambitions. Instead of fulfilling their legal disarmament obligations, these States have exclusively pursued non-proliferation with messianic zeal. The largest event of the century in the context of horizontal nuclear non-proliferation is Indo-US Agreement 123, which has set the precedent of keeping nuclear power reactors outside IAEA safeguards. The Indo-US nuclear deal provides India with fissile material for at least 50 additional warheads every year sans all other resources. Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz informed Senate on May 19 that Pakistan is considering to move a resolution in United Nations General Assembly in the next session, urging it to declare the Indian Ocean a “nuclear free zone”. Pakistan is planning to highlight the dangerous implications of India’s plans to nuclearize the Indian Ocean at all relevant international forums. Issue of recent test of India’s advanced air defence missile Ashwin would also be raised with all major powers ‘bilaterally and multilaterally’. Here, one could recall the fate of similar efforts by Pakistan during 1980s to declare South Asia a nuclear weapon free zone. Pakistan’s new effort of having Indian Ocean declared as nuclear free zone shall also meet similar end. Since the inception of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, America is orchestrating a smear campaign against it. Fast forward: On May 27, 2016 deputy spokesperson of US State Department Mark Toner made this tilt more clear and visible when he blatantly declared that India is entitled to and qualifies for the membership of the NSG. While trying to prove Indian credentials for the NSG membership, the deputy spokesperson totally ignored the legitimate right of Pakistan in this regard. The US is likely to continue its discriminatory policy and go an extra mile to help New Delhi become member of the NSG. This coupled with nuclearization of Indian Ocean could dangerous repercussions and is bound to trigger a nuclear arms race in the region. Pakistan’s policy makers must revisit and review their approach in dealing with the United States, without straining our ties with Washington. There is need to strengthen our lobbying in the United States to present our point of view more effectively.

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The F-16 and Afghan wars

F-16 was Pakistan’s weapon of first choice when Soviets walked into Afghanistan in 1979. First tranche of 40 aeroplanes was promptly delivered. Deadly combination of F-16 and Stinger, surface to air, air defence missile broke the will of Soviet-Afghan Air Forces to carry out hot pursuit operations inside Pakistan. Now again F-16 is the best suited aircraft to hit otherwise …

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Shifting sands of Afghan conflict

Under the dry circumstances a big supportive push for Afghan peace process came from the Chinese President Beijing—President Xi Jinping. While addressing the opening ceremony of fifth foreign ministers’ meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) on April 28, he assured that his country will play pro-active role for the success of peace process in Afghanistan and to seek more international support for the country’s reconstruction. President Xi further said, China supports an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned” inclusive political reconciliation process, hopes the country can realize peace, stability and development at an early date.There is need for paradigm shift if the Afghan peace process is to take a sustainable trajectory, the QCG should convince itself that the Afghan Taliban are no more an affiliate of the al Qaeda, but represent a home grown Afghan nationalist movement. Blaming Pakistan for the Afghan rulers' failure to either defeat the Taliban in the battlefield or to coax them to come over to their side is not likely to help anyone. Pakistan is in no position to unilaterally engage Haqqanis militarily and succeed. It cannot afford to open a new front with the entity that so far poses no threat to it militarily. As Haqqanis are an integral part of the Taliban under Mullah Akhtar Mansur, any attempt to engage them by the QCG either militarily or for negotiation would be a non-starter. Likewise, attempt to isolate Pakistan diplomatically is going to take nobody anywhere. For Afghanistan and the US piling public pressure on Pakistan at the moment appears to be the preferred tactic — far removed from the broader strategic needs of the region.

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Pakistan India peace process at its lowest ebb

india-pak-fs

Though the Foreign Secretaries of Pakistan and India met for more than an hour on sidelines of Heart of Asia conference, in New Delhi on April 26 , there is no visible forward movement. Earlier this month, Ambassador Gopalapuram Parthasarthy, a former Indian high commissioner to Pakistan (1998-2000) and a former spokesperson of Prime Minister’s office had written a belittling article about Pakistan-India relations: “The general, the 'spy' and no talks with India”. Interestingly trash has come from a person who once had the responsibility to ensure that this bilateral relationship does not go astray. Pakistan India peace process are at its lowest ebb, poor Pakistan-India bilateral relationship owes a lot to Parthasarathy syndrome. Any independent analyst worth his salt will be quite sceptical on G Parthasarathy’s narrative. Likelihood of attack on Indian Air Force Station Pathankot turning out as a false flag operation orchestrated by Indian intelligence agencies under the able tutelage of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and the Kulbhushan Jadhav saga will continue to haunt the Indian intelligence establishment for a long time. The world is now better aware about employment of terrorism as state policy by India, especially when it comes to its relationship with Pakistan. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has already over expended political capital in attempting to improve Pakistan-India relations, all his initiatives have been scuttled by Narendra Modi, who wears the mask of a charming guy while effectively ensuring that dialogue does not even begin. Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India has rightly commented that as India is not yet ready the peace process stands “suspended”. Workable option for Pakistan is to wait for the time when people of India throw up a sensible Prime Minister.

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Afghanistan between war and peace making

During a meeting between President Mamnoon Hussain and Chief Executive of Afghanistan Dr Abdullah Abdullah, on the side-lines of the OIC summit, mutual commitment to work together to address common challenges was reaffirmed. The President underlined the importance Pakistan attached to a peaceful and stable Afghanistan and highlighted the efforts being made for the promotion of the Afghan reconciliation process, including through the Quadrilateral mechanism. Back in Afghanistan fierce offensive around Kunduz began only days after the Taliban group announced its annual spring offensive, vowing to launch large-scale attacks to drive the Western-backed government from power. Imamuddin Qureshi, chief of Kunduz's Imam Saheb district, said several security outposts had already fallen to the Taliban, and he called on the government in Kabul to send reinforcements and air support immediately. Outposts were also overrun in other districts and security forces fled to Kunduz city to regroup, Khanabad district Chief Ayatullah Amiri said. The highway between Kunduz and neighbouring Takhar province also stands blocked. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said fighters had captured outposts in six districts and three bomb blasts had killed seven members of the Afghan security forces just outside Kunduz.Onus to secure any reduction in violence through cease fire(s) rests with the Afghan government through a package of political concessions that could, step by step, induct the Taliban into Afghanistan’s mainstream political structures. Earlier the Afghan government comes out with such a package, better it would be for the peace process. Afghan government is poised to be loser in the battlefield and each combat victory would result in further entrenching by the Taliban. Pakistan has denounced the launch of spring offensive and has announced that it would continue to play a positive role for peace in Afghanistan. But Pakistan is in no position to dictate to Taliban. Thus one has to be cautious while attaching timelines and deadlines or preconditions to the process. Rather, it is more important to keep the process on track and foil the attempts to derail it.

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Intricacies of spying via third country

iran's president and coas

Use of neighbouring soils as launching pad for hostile intelligence agencies for disruptive and subversive purposes is not uncommon. The cardinal question is whether it is in the know of the government of the neighbouring country. In Pakistan’s setting India has been using Iranian and Afghan territories for such purposes. Successive Afghan governments have been in the know of this activity, and at times, active partner in some activities of Indian intelligence outfits. While in case of Iran, in all probability, Indian intelligence agencies have been operating without the knowledge of Iranian government. In this context the message by Pakistan’s Army Chief to visiting Iranian President: “Sometimes [RAW] also uses the soil of our brother country, Iran. I request they should be told to stop these activities and allow Pakistan to achieve stability,” was appropriate. However, this message should have originated from the foreign office in the form of an ambassador level Demarche. It could have either been made public or handled discreetly. In case it was necessary to originate such signalling from Army Chief’s office, then confidentiality should have been discreetly guarded. A step back was in order after denial of discussion on this point by Iranian President. Judging by diplomatic norms, the message was strongly worded. And the standard diplomatic practice is that the text of any press statement meant to be released after such meetings is usually agreed to by both sides and then made public. Sometimes, the issues discussed are not made public due to the sensitivities involved. It was quite embarrassing for the government of Pakistan, it further strengthened the notion of much talked about parallel centre of power in Pakistan. The militarised version of diplomacy was indeed a faux pas, giving God sent opportunity to vested interests to unleash a spree of comments maligning Iran and its leadership. The issue of detained Indian spy-cum-terrorist operative Commander Kulbhushan Yadav is not linked with Iran. It has to do with India. It however does not mean that Pakistan-Iran relations are free of fault lines—mainly ethno-sectarian— that provoke violence at societal level. However, both countries have a history of prudently managing the trouble spots. Since the Islamic revolution in Iran, Pakistan is in the cross fire of sectarian based global cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. In the backdrop of lifting of sanctions against Iran, the visit of the Iranian president provided a unique opportunity to transform relations between the two countries into a partnership of business and trade. The two countries signed six MoUs, which would boost their bilateral trade to $5billion within the next five years, from the current $1 billion mark. Iran must look forward to the removal of non-tariff barriers and Pakistan must set mechanism to purchase oil from Iran as well. Both countries must understand each other’s importance. Pakistan and Iran are both intertwined and interdependent, sharing common grounds with similar strategic prospects and challenges. There are amazing opportunities existing between Pakistan and Iran, need is to exploit them for common good. Pakistan Iran relations are certainly not hinged on Yadav issue. As investigations by Pakistan and Iran conclude, both countries would soon come to a close on this matter. They would obviously put this behind and move forward on a path of enduring partnership.

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