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Pakistan Focus Analysis

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

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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

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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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India between denial and despair!

Pakistan has briefed P-5 and EU on the arrest of serving Commander of Indian Navy Kulbashan Yadav employed by India in spy-state terrorist’s role, and his confession of involvement in state-terrorism and subversive activities in Pakistan. The international community is also being briefed through Pakistan’s missions abroad. His confession also confirmed what the then American defence secretary Mr Chuck Hagel had said in 2013 that India finances troubles in Pakistan from Afghanistan! Moreover, while in Bangladesh in 2015, Indian Prime Minister was fool hardy enough or comically arrogant to publicly state Indian government’s role in Pakistan’s breakup in 1971. Pakistan did well by releasing video tape of the RAW Yadav’s confession. This would make those elements in Pakistan rethink their approach of faulting Pakistan for not improving relations with India. Hopefully, the issue would not end at release of the video and Pakistani leadership would continue raising such issues forcefully with India and members of the international community.

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What and how of nuclear security

According to an Indian Express report (March 21), an anonymous tip-off has helped the Indian Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to bust a mineral smuggling racket that involved exports of beryl — an atomic mineral ore of Beryllium. Six persons were arrested in end-January and about 31 tonnes of atomic mineral was recovered; the US, Canada, Russia and Brazil are the recipients. Extracts of beryllium from the mineral ore are used in atomic power plants, space technology and scanning equipment. Beryl is one of the “prescribed substances” notified by the DAE under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962. Prior to the latest operation, a 20-tonne consignment of beryl is learnt to have possibly been smuggled to Hong Kong from Kandla Port in Gujarat in October 2015. The is alarming as India being a party to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its 2005 Amendment, is duty-bound to prevent the smuggling of atomic minerals of all kinds. The emergent global nuclear order is focusing on a greater role for India’s nuclear weapon status, transfer of nuclear technology and materials especially massive import of Uranium. Despite India’s poor track record, the US and its nuclear camp followers are trying to evolve an India specific criteria to upgrade India’s NSG waiver into a full-fledged membership. The DG IAEA has recently expressed his satisfaction over implementation of the agency’s safeguard measures in the country, while appreciating the nuclear safety and security record of Pakistan; even then Pakistan is being subjected to the renewed pressure to freeze its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile capabilities. Pakistan attaches highest significance to its nuclear safety and security and is fully compliant of all international and domestic obligations. With the summit event coming to a close, there is a question about successor organization. The most popular, and likely to be accepted, idea is that of the IAEA taking over the role. In July 2013, the IAEA had organized an international conference on nuclear security that was attended by 125 states and 21 organisations. By comparison, the NSS have been attended by only about 50 odd countries and 4 organisations. Nuclear security is a global concern. Securing nuclear materials is a perpetual journey sans an assured destination. To succeed, international nuclear regimes have to come out of biased attitudes and selective applications.

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Complexities of Afghan conflict

Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Mr Nicholas Haysom, has emphasised that the Afghan Government must manage its difficult transition, as the Security Council extended the UN mission there for another year, on March 18, 2016. He highlighted five major hurdles including a contracting economy, an intensifying insurgency, an increasingly divided political environment, significant medium-term financial demand, and the need to achieve progress towards a sustainable peace. “For 2016, survival will be an achievement” for the Government, he said. “Some may criticize this benchmark as being low, but survival does not mean inaction, or merely ‘treading water,’ but it means active engagement in confronting the five challenges,” he added.Heavy fighting has continued over the winter from Helmand in the south to Jowzjan province in the north, while suicide attacks have been launched in the capital and other urban centres. In a rare exception this time Taliban continued their tactical attacks even during harsh winters; earlier, each year they used to take a break from fighting from November to March. Taliban’s recent success on the battlefield inside Afghanistan has changed the equation. They have little incentive to step off the battlefield now, given recent gains and those likely to come in the next few months.War in Afghanistan was a willful creation, albeit a wrong one. Afghans are urging an end to this needless war. For the well-being of future afghan generations, comity of nations owes to Afghans a responsible end to this war.

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Kashmir conflict: unfinished agenda of partition

All Parties Hurriyet Conference leader Syed Ali Geelani has recently commented from his hospital bed in New Delhi: “British government played a key role in creating Kashmir issue”. Any historic scrutiny into origin of Kashmir conflict leads to culpability of the British Crown representatives in India. Who would know better than Hammond that Kashmir dispute was wilfully engineered through machinations of the last Viceroy Lord Mountbatten, who supervised the “Great Divide”. On pretext of fake and fabricated accession letter from Maharaja of Kashmir, Viceroy authorised air lift of Indian troops to mercilessly supress the popular uprising against the Indian intent to annex Kashmir by arm-twisting the Maharaja.Kashmir shall always be on the agenda of Pakistan-India dialogue, whenever it takes place. It is Kashmir that defines parameters of Pak-India relationship and gives it forward movement. One has to be a Pakistani to read between the lines on India’s Pakistan policy. Pakistan really doesn’t need British foreign secretary telling how to conduct relations with India! Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is keen for normalisation of relations with India on the basis of mutual respect and mutual interest, and is pursuing this policy with seriousness of purpose. Pakistan seeks uninterruptible and uninterrupted dialogue. Neither war nor disengagement is an option. Globalised world calls for active cooperation to address common challenges. Road to peace is always strewn with many impediments and requires courage to take difficult decisions. Peace is in mutual interest of Pakistan and India. However, it takes two to tango; and India cannot be given the right of veto over what should and should not be discussed.

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Afghanistan between mysteries and realities!

Two suicide attacks one each in Kabul and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan and prompt claiming of responsibility by the Taliban could be another conspiracy to derail the upcoming direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. May be someone else is acting as Taliban. Afghan conflict often throws up events that remain shrouded in mystery.This type of environment is quite intriguing. Afghanistan should have been keen for restoration of peace and tranquillity in the country that has suffered so much and for so long because of turbulence and turmoil triggered by a host of factors. Earlier, Afghanistan and some of its friends in the West had been complaining that peace process was not moving ahead because of lack of required support by Pakistan; however, over the last two years, Pakistan has been making hectic endeavours to help forward movement of peace process. Pakistan’s keenness has been widely acknowledged by the international community. Pakistan is deeply interested in speedy resolution of the Afghan crisis as unending conflict has badly damaged it in different ways including missed economic opportunities, deteriorating security situation and continued presence of millions of Afghan refugees that are adding to the socio-economic problems of the country.

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