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Pakistan Focus Analysis

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For the past one-and-a-half years, India had pursued a deliberate policy aimed at sabotaging bilateral dialogue with Pakistan. India has a tendency to treat even cultural and sports exchanges as a concession to Pakistan for which Pakistan must cede some strategic space; the fate of ICCI underwritten cricket series and the way India manoeuvred to scuttle it is reflective of prevailing Indian mind-set.Apparently the scheme of Pakistan-India dialogue has undergone a structural change. National Security Advisers (NSA) shall handle terrorism related matters and erstwhile ‘Composite Dialogue’ under the new brand name of ‘Comprehensive Dialogue’ shall continue to be the responsibility of two foreign offices. Now Pakistan has a fulltime NSA, may be in due course he would have his independent secretariat as well. Earlier, Pakistan had handed over three dossiers to the United Nations Secretary General in October outlining Indian pursuits of financing and facilitating terrorist activities in Pakistan. Hopefully Pakistan’s NSA would make that as a reference document while dealing with his Indian counterpart, both NSA are ex-generals one of army and the other of police. Their background knowledge and expertise pertaining to handling of counter terrorism activities should come handy while tackling the sticky assignment.

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Axis of Fragility!

[Featured Picture: Courtesy Pakistan Today]Pakistan’s troubled neighbourhood—both in the east and west present a treacherous playground in terms of diplomacy and peace process. Fist immediate causality was resignation of pro-India head of Afghanistan’s Directorate of National Security— Rahmatullah Nabi— who does not want his country to engage with Pakistan for joint and cooperative effort for solving the problems these two countries face, despite the fact that none of the countries could resolve these issues without the help of other. Likewise, Modi has a compulsion to please his hardline power base—terrorist outfit Shiv Sena—through Pakistan bashing. His anti-Pakistan rhetoric of electoral campaign has turned out as a bone in the throat which is neither easy to swallow nor viable to vomit. Pakistan is poised to tread a difficult path with both these neighbours. Pakistan and India have agreed to restart the dialogue process, Sushma Swaraj disclosed at a joint press conference with Sartaj Aziz: “Instead of composite dialogues now comprehensive dialogues will be held in which all outstanding issues will be discussed”. All eight sectors of the composite dialogue would be part of the comprehensive bilateral dialogue and more things could be added to it. Comprehensive dialogue will include discussions on peace and security, Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, confidence building measures, the Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project, economic and commercial cooperation, counterterrorism, narcotics control and humanitarian issues. It will also address people to people exchanges and religious tourism. Shushma confirmed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Pakistan next year for the SAARC summit expected to be held in coming September. Shushma set out India’s desire for a new trade corridor to be opened into Central Asia through Afghanistan. Indian agreement of a new dialogue with Pakistan reflected an acceptance that Indian ambition of regional trade will never be realized without its better relationship with Pakistan. The new engagement between the two countries has raised hopes of a broader reconciliation.Though substantial gains were made during the event— both in Pakistan-Afghanistan and Pakistan-India context, track record indicates these are not without the likelihood of their quick meltdown on slightest pretext.

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NSG Membership: Will the nuclear apartheid continue?

Obama-Nawaz summit of October 2015 survived a derailing attempt by America media that aired reports that an1213 agreement was near completion for constraining Pakistan’s “fast growing nuclear programme. And in-return, the US would press the NSG to issue a waiver to Pakistan. While following this approach, America was capitalizing on the desperation of Nawaz government to drastically make a visible cut in loads-shedding before 2018 elections. American gamble failed. Because any Pakistani government would rather reconcile with an electoral setback than to compromise on Pakistan’s nuclear capability. America, known for its cherry pick approach on nuclear affairs, circulated a paper to NSG members in 2012 suggesting that instead of granting membership on the basis of already laid down criteria by the NSG, India’s actual nuclear profile should become the criteria for its membership. This is a clear example of going much beyond proverbial shifting of goalposts; it amounts to altogether dismantling the goal posts.There are striking similarities in the nuclear profile of the two countries; hence if criteria based approach is followed then either both would qualify or none would qualify. The US had a lot of difficulty in getting the waiver for its nuclear protégé. India gave a number of assurances to NSG in an effort to bolster its non-proliferation credentials. These included reference to its “No First Use” doctrine, Indian participation in FMCT negotiations and its unilateral test ban. Continuation of Waiver would be in serious jeopardy if India reneges from any of these commitments. Ever since, Indian strategic community is uneasy with No First Use and scientific community is uncomfortable with a ban on further nuclear tests. Thus India is desperate to get a membership of the NSG, because once a member, it will not be bound by these restrictions; rest is a fiction built around it. Major driver for America to sign Indo-US Agreement 123 was sale of its nuclear power reactors. For India’s part, even at the time of signing Agreement 123, it was quite close to fabricating its own nuclear power plants. However, shortage of Uranium had emerged as centre of gravity for its nuclear programme. Hence, for India major driver for Agreement 123 was to have openings for Uranium supply. So for no American nuclear power plant has been bought by India. And Indian Agreements with Australia, Canada and some other countries focus on purchase of Uranium. These countries have chosen to ignore the fact that projected quantities of Uranium that India wishes to buy is much more that its genuine electricity requirement, and it could be used to develop nuclear weapons. International community is wilfully violating, the little known [Senator] Barak Obama amendment to Indo-US Agreement 123 that stated that nuclear fuel provided to India should be proportionate to its requirement for production of electricity.There is a need for the international community to ponder over the results of the nuclear apartheid; it has certainly not been helpful in achieving the objective of universal non-proliferation. All countries which felt the need to acquire nuclear weapon capability, and had the requisite political will, have been able to acquire nuclear weapons. A reappraisal in this context is long overdue.

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Paradoxes of countering terror!

The evolving impasse on shooting down of a Russian military aircraft by Turkey indicates that international effort to counter terrorism is indeed a fractured. President Barack Obama vowed on November 22 that the United States and its allies would not relent in fight to combat Daesh extremists and would hunt down their leaders and cut off the group’s financing. “Destroying (Daesh) is not only a realistic goal, we are going to get it done…We will destroy them. We will take back land they are currently in, take out their financing, hunt down leadership, dismantle their networks, supply lines and we will destroy them.” he told a news conference in Malaysia. Rhetoric resembles that by George W Bush in the wake of 9/11. There is necessity and urgency for reappraisal of international counter terrorism effort since 9/11. As of now, international effort to overpower terror is showing clear signs of fatigue, whereas terrorism may itself be only at the formative stages. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks, calling it a “blessed foray” in response to France’s involvement in the “Crusade Campaign”. Paris terror attacks on November 13 is one of those exceptional events which are poised to have a deep and lasting impact on international counter terrorism effort—it is necessary to monitor and ensure that such effort is not headed in the wrong direction. Political violence or terrorism has been shifting venues in the face of pressures generated by application of military instrument in countering terrorist entities. Quick ability of these outfits to morph from one politico-military brand to another indicates their better understanding of opponents alongside ability to adapt, improvise and innovate. Apparently little intellectual work has gone into devising the matching ways and means by those responsible to counter extremist violence at international level.

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Saffron arrogance

India’s new found frenzy of extreme right nationalism is radiating signals of intolerance amongst various segments of Indian society as well as erratic behaviour towards neighbours. Past year or so has seen a number of setbacks for India-Pakistan relations. It still remains to be seen whether New Delhi has a clear policy on Pakistan. In contrast, political parties across the political divide in Pakistan are on the same page when it comes to making peace with India. BJP government in India has already wasted too much time, and it should now seriously move forward on all bilateral issues with Pakistan. Modi is still learning to be a statesman; whether Modi shapes India or India shapes Modi is an interesting catch 22 projection! There are as many roads to peace and stability as there are to crisis and conflict in South Asia. Modi‘s government has been anti-Pakistan from day one. It wishes to unilaterally design a bilateral framework, dictating what qualifies for dialogue, and what does not. It wants Pakistan to forget about Kashmir, water, Siachen and other important issues, and only stand accountable to India for terrorism, and that too as interpreted by India. While on the other hand, Pakistan is ready to resume a dialogue process with India simultaneously on all contentious issues. The entire world has endorsed Pakistan’s stance.Strong public consensus in Pakistan for improved relations with India is breaking down due to conditionality and stark messaging by Modi. Trade between the two sides would be favourable for both sides, but it is an unfortunate reality that economic and regional connectivity in South Asia continues to be hostage to political stalemate, largely sustained by Modi’s erratic signalling.

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Afghanistan: a rudderless ship!

China has offered to host a meeting between Afghan government and Taliban, but has declined to mediate. China’s special envoy for Afghanistan Deng Xijun called the Taliban “one of the main forces in Afghanistan’s political arena.” Like Pakistan, China opposes a military solution to the Afghan conflict, and favours intra-Afghan dialogue. “We think dialogue is the only way out for Afghanistan to achieve lasting peace and stability,” Deng said. “We have difficulties and obstacles when we have in such kind of things. We have many problems and challenges ahead but if we sit down, if we talk with each other, then I think the future is bright”, he added. He reassured Pakistan of China’s continued support in addressing common challenges faced by the region. Both Pakistan and China have convergent interests and shared goals with regards to Afghanistan. A report by the ‘US Congressional Research Service’ published in October has revealed that India’s goals in Afghanistan are: to deny Pakistan strategic depth and the ability to block India from trade and other connections to Central Asia and beyond; India also wants to prevent militants in Afghanistan from attacking Indian targets in Afghanistan; it wants to prevent Pakistan from regaining “preponderant” influence in present day Afghanistan. Report added that “it (India) does not want to be saddled with the burden of helping secure Afghanistan” after the US departure. It says that Afghanistan also seeks close ties with India because it wants access to India’s large and rapidly growing economy – “but without alarming Pakistan.” Apparently intra-Afghan battles of turf shall gradually come to an end and the peace process shall resume. Peace in Afghanistan is vital for the stability of the entire region. The underlying factor for resumption of Murree process is how long President Ashraf Ghani takes to calibrate the extent and limits of his political outreach with Taliban. Extension in the tenure of foreign forces limits the chances that during next fighting season the Taliban could over run urban centres one after the other; while at the same time, it also limits the Taliban to not to finalize a political deal before at least end 2016, on the pretext of presence of foreign forces. Until then, pot is poised to keep simmering—patterns would will continue jockeying between fighting and talking seasons.

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Kashmir : The Forgotten Conflict

During his recent address to the UN General Assembly, PM Nawaz Sharif had said: South Asia needs strategic stability and this requires serious dialogue to achieve nuclear restraint, conventional balance and conflict resolution. He proposed a new peace initiative, comprising four specific and feasible steps: 1) Pakistan and India formalise and respect 2003 understanding of a complete ceasefire in Kashmir and LoC; 2). Pakistan and India reaffirm that they will not resort to the threat of force under any circumstances; 3). Steps must be taken to demilitarise Kashmir; 4). Agree to mutually withdraw troops from Siachen. India out rightly rejected the proposals, indicating that it wishes to impose a bilateral regime unilaterally. Core issue of these four steps is the Kashmir dispute with huge humanitarian dimension. The international community is now alert to the need to normalize the situation in South Asia, and this is not possible without ending the massive Indian human rights violations in Kashmir. Kashmiri activists worldwide have intensified their contact campaign with diplomats, politicians and the media everywhere, they feel that this is the best time to convince India to end the military occupation in Kashmir; they are more optimistic today than ever. The Kashmir issue cannot be placed on the back-burner since durable peace in the region can be achieved only by addressing it “upfront”. When it comes to Kashmir, there is no backburner. If history is any guide, the dispute must be addressed upfront for a lasting peace. There are countless opportunities between India and Pakistan and they must move from conflict management to conflict resolution. A beginning could be made by starting the process of demilitarization and revocation of all draconian laws enforced in IHK.

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Promising trajectory in Pakistan-US relations

Nothing dramatic was expected to happen, nor did it happen; yet Pak-US relationship has got a fresh impetus—courtesy Nawaz-Obama summit. It has come out of a vicious cycle of blame game and attendant negativities. The continuing volatility in the security situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s battles with the terrorists, and its relations with India were broadly the three topics that dominated the discussions. Disruptive speculation triggered by American media about a nuclear deal with the US, in exchange for Pakistan limiting its nuclear weapons programme died its own death.During the last 2-3 years, Pakistan has witnessed several positive developments domestically, democracy has strengthened; terrorism is being combated; the economy has stabilized and is poised for rapid growth. Yet, it still faces external challenges: to pacify Afghanistan and normalize relations with India. Pakistan has made a strategic choice to eliminate all terrorist groups through a comprehensive strategy, involving forceful law enforcement actions and targeted military operations. Military operation, Zarb-e-Azb, launched in June 2014, the largest anywhere in the world, has produced remarkable results. The past year has seen the lowest number of terrorist attacks and suicide bombings since 2007. These indicators enabled the PM to play a comparatively firm hand. Pakistan-US Joint Statement is reflective of a higher degree of US sensitivity to Pakistani concerns, setting direction for the coming years. It also indicates a broad continuity in the US policy in South Asia.

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Nawaz-Obama: Shall the twine meet!

Before leaving for the US, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif had said that he would remind US President Barack Obama of former President Bill Clinton’s promise to play an active role for the resolution of Kashmir dispute. Nawaz Sharif also said that he “wants to bring the Taliban back to the negotiation table.” These two issue are likely to top the agenda in Nawaz-Obama summit. Though laundry list could and would include everything under the sun.In a historic judgement, high court of IHK has declared that Jammu and Kashmir continue to retain limited sovereignty and it did not merge with the Dominion of India after partition in 1947. The court has ruled that the Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is “a permanent provision” and “cannot be abrogated, repealed or even amended”. The IHK court’s judgement has shaken the very foundation on which Indians try to justify the forcible occupation of the state.The Taliban insurgents, no longer called as terrorists by Americans, are now spread through more parts of the country than at any point since 2001, according to the recent United Nations estimates. During previous weeks, the Taliban scored their biggest victory of the war, seizing the northern city of Kunduz and holding it for more than two weeks. Incidents of breaking Ghazni Jail, freeing hundreds of militant inmates and later threatening posture toward this urban centre speak for themselves. Earlier unrelenting attacks in and around Kabul had amply demonstrated the expanse of Taliban’s combat activities. And to offset the embarrassment of hitting a hospital in Kunduz, CIA has had an afterthought to implicate their “on call scapegoat”—Pakistan. Associated Press (AP) has carried a story that American special operations analysts believed that the hospital was being used by a Pakistani intelligence operative to coordinate Taliban activity. “Doctors Without Borders” a humanitarian outfit that was running the hospital has denied this. Spokesperson of Pakistan’s foreign office has termed the story by the AP as baseless and unwarranted. Even if the allegations are true, the billion dollars question is: Was bombing the hospital—in a typical cowboy style— the only available option?State Department has issued a fact sheet on its ties with Pakistan, a week before Nawaz-Obama summit, which highlights co-operation between the two countries in various fields. “Pakistan has generally co-operated with the United States in counter-terrorism efforts and since 2001, has captured more than 600 Al Qaeda members and their allies,” says the statement. And that security assistance to Pakistan is focused on “strengthening the counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency capabilities of the Pakistan security forces”. Through perseverance, Pakistan is bravely charting its way forward through vortices thrown up by assortment of fictions and myths. It wishes to continue its contributions for making South Asia a peaceful and stable region, and it certainly needs a break from an unrelenting fiction based bashing spree. While nothing dramatic is expected out of the summit, there may be substantive decisions on some of the issues. Hopefully, Prime Minister would put forward his point of view firmly when he meets Obama, and would shed his typical apologetic approach while discussing issues related to Afghanistan and India, especially border violations by these two countries and the core issue of Kashmir.

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Intolerant India!

Pakistan’s former Foreign Minister Khursheed Mahmud Kasuri’s book launching in Mumbai was a purely literary event but the intolerant attitude of Shiv Sena even to such harmless events has ,yet once again, exposed claims of Indian secularism. Earlier the classical maestro Ustad Ghulam Ali had to call off his tour to India as he was not allowed to perform by Shiv Sena. Freedom and civil liberties are under threat in India. For now, India presents a rather dark image. Article 25 of Indian constitution states that: “Every person has the right to practice their faith as they choose, or no faith at all without fear or discrimination”. However, in practice such rights are flouted quite frequently. The ongoing beef controversy in India has reinforced the conviction behind creation of Pakistan.Vice President Hamid Ansari has publically called upon the BJP government to take “affirmative action” to enforce rights of Indian Muslims as Indian constitution grants special "reservation" (quota) in government jobs, educational institution etc. He said these rights were admissible in Indian state practice but denied to Muslims. He gave example of many reports commissioned by successive governments and added that India's Muslims faced issue such as identity and security, education and empowerment, equitable share in state funds and a fair share in decision making. He made these remarks at the golden jubilee celebrations of a Muslim entity, the All India Majlis-e-Mushawwarat (consultative meeting). Indian paper Business Line reported on September 04 that RSS has publically asserted its ideological supremacy and the right to “guide” the BJP government. This was amply demonstrated during the three-day Samanvay Baithak (coordination meeting) of the RSS and its affiliates. The meeting saw senior ministers making presentations with regard to performance of their respective ministries’ work before the RSS. The CPI (M) and the Congress have rightly termed it as “remote controlling” the government. Such incidents put huge question marks on the security of the minorities living in India; it could lead India towards political polarization on communal lines.

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