jump to navigation

A LOC-al affair – and India lacks a covert capability for use against Pakistan January 25, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Pakistan, Snedden, Christopher , comments closed

Christopher Snedden

The recent India-Pakistan aggression and hostilities over the Line of Control (LOC) that divides the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) appear to have come out of nowhere. Or have they? What is essentially a local incident – of which, if history tells us anything, there indubitably will be more in future – may have serious ramifications for India, if one Indian analyst is to be believed (see below).

According to a well-informed Indian journalist, the recent India-Pakistan incidents on the LOC were instigated last September when a Kashmiri grandmother managed to cross the heavily fortified LOC from Indian J&K to Pakistan-Administered Azad Kashmir. (See Praveen Swami, ‘Runaway grandmother sparked savage skirmish on LoC’, The Hindu, 10 January 2013. Importantly, Indian troops failed to detect her crossing. Thereafter, the Indians built observation bunkers ‘to monitor the movement of [nearby] villagers’. Pakistani forces disliked these bunkers and started to fire at both them and their inhabitants, i.e. Indian soldiers.

(more…)

The unresolved Kashmir dispute: Let the people decide October 25, 2012

Posted by nishankmotwani in : By contributor, India, Pakistan, Snedden, Christopher , comments closed

Christopher Snedden

The Kashmir dispute is alive and (un)well, as statements made in September at the United Nations General Assembly by Pakistan’s President Zardari and India’s Foreign Minister Krishna show.  These came almost 65 years after the accession to India by Maharaja Sir Hari Singh, the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).  Singh’s accession on 26 October 1947 was contentious.  He was reluctant to join India or Pakistan as he favoured independence for ‘his’ princely state.  Singh primarily acceded to India in order to obtain military help to defend J&K from Pukhtoon tribesmen from Pakistan who invaded Kashmir Province on 22 October 1947.  Their plan was to capture J&K for Pakistan.  India accepted the accession, promised a plebiscite so the people of J&K could decide their future, then sent its military to J&K.  It secured Jammu, the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh for India.

(more…)

Afghanistan: conundrum central February 8, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, Snedden, Christopher , comments closed

Christopher Snedden

Afghanistan provokes many conundrums, but few answers. The most important current question is whether external forces can defeat the Islamically-motivated Afghan Taliban trying to regain control of their fragmented, underdeveloped and war-weary country? Policy makers and military strategists from 48 foreign nations believe so. Accordingly, they have ‘surged’ their International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan to 132,000 personnel. And, since President Obama came to power, ISAF—particularly its United States’ component of 90,000 personnel—has been better focused and may be gaining ground.

However, a significant conundrum is to determine the actual ‘state of play’ in Afghanistan. The Taliban, about which we know little, almost certainly overstates its strength and position. Equally, official Western sources may paint a picture rosier than reality. On 3 December, at Bagram Air Base, President Obama stated that ‘Because of the progress we’re making, we look forward to a new phase next year [2011], the beginning of the transition to Afghan responsibility’. This suggested that operations were going well. By contrast, on 26 December, the Wall Street Journal reported that United Nations’ maps showed ‘a marked deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan’ during 2010. Much of southern Afghanistan was still at ‘very high risk’, while the risk in previously ‘low risk’ areas in northern, central and western Afghanistan had increased ‘considerably’. Similarly, in January, a ‘NATO official’ estimated there were ‘up to 25,000’ insurgent fighters, ‘the same as a year ago, before the arrival of an additional 40,000 US and allied troops’. ISAF may not be doing as well as we are led to believe.

President Obama’s remark above about ‘the transition to Afghan responsibility’ also confirmed that ISAF is keen to extract itself from Afghanistan. Accordingly, ISAF is trying to develop the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police so they can take responsibility for Afghanistan’s security. This task is difficult. Low education levels, high attrition rates and Taliban intimidation make these forces’ capabilities questionable. Equally, ISAF needs to succeed in other nation-building activities—which, in a dilemma, it cannot do until it has secured and stabilised the country. These activities include: developing Afghanistan’s economy; enhancing its political and governmental structures; overcoming people’s deep fear of a Taliban takeover after ISAF’s inevitable withdrawal; reducing corruption; and, delivering meaningful aid and infrastructure throughout the country.

(more…)

Pakistan: he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword January 11, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Pakistan, Snedden, Christopher , comments closed

Christopher Snedden

Recent Facebook postings showed that many Pakistanis applauded Malik Mumtaz Qadri’s brutal assassination of the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer.  So also did statements such as by Maulana Shah Turabul Haq Qadri, a scholar of the less hardline Barelvi inclination.  For either Qadri—the malik or the maulana—Taseer was engaging in blasphemy against the Prophet, Muhammad.  His death was necessary, even laudable.

Hardline Pakistanis advocating or employing violence against other Pakistanis should stop and think.  Such brutality has a nasty habit of getting out of control, with violence able to be used against anyone not considered politically or religiously ‘correct’.  And those delivering the violence invariably determine correctness.  Equally, someone ‘correct’ today could become incorrect—and therefore disposable—tomorrow.

History shows that illegal and arbitrary violence is a fickle master.  Two example of its capriciousness come to mind: the revolutionaries executed by ‘Madame Guillotine’ as the French Revolution ‘ate its own’; the millions of deaths of innocent, patriotic Soviet citizens that Stalin’s merciless KGB and gulag killed.

Closer to home, vicious Sunni-Shia violence in Pakistan claims an increasing number of victims each year—which, in turn, inspires further inter-sect hatred and violence.  Equally, the Pakistan Army’s forceful and bloody removal from Islamabad’s Red Mosque in 2007 of Muslims who had ‘strayed from the correct path’ helped to inspire the current crop of Islamic fundamentalists now rampant throughout Pakistan. (more…)

Does the Kashmir insurgency offer ISAF any tips? July 30, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Pakistan, Snedden, Christopher , comments closed

Christopher Snedden

Indian paramilitary forces have been trying to end the anti-Indian insurgency in the Kashmir Valley since it began in 1988. Nevertheless, this insurgency continues, with ethnic Kashmiris currently agitated again. Overall, however, casualties are down, tourists have returned in large numbers to the valley, and many Kashmiris are less inclined to support the militancy. This is partly due to war weariness. It also is partly because the alternative of joining Pakistan is relatively unattractive, while independence is totally unattainable. The Kashmir insurgency is very different from what the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confronts in Afghanistan.  Yet there are some similarities from which ISAF could learn some lessons.

First, from the outset of its troubles in the Kashmir Valley, the Indian government’s commitment in Jammu and Kahsmir (J&K) has been open ended. India has never set a date for the departure of its security forces. Repeatedly, it has made it clear that these forces will stay in the valley for ‘as long as it takes’. Conversely, governments reluctantly associated with ISAF want to withdraw their forces from Afghanistan as soon as possible or have suggested dates when exit strategies might commence. This has given the Taliban a powerful reason to conserve their resources and await their enemies’ invariable departure from Afghanistan after which, presumably, they will really assert themselves. (more…)

Some thoughts about the South Asian ‘region’ May 27, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Snedden, Christopher, South Asia - General , comments closed

Christopher Snedden

In April 2010, the body attempting to create a South Asian region—the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)—celebrated 25 years of existence. The fact that SAARC has existed since 1985 is an achievement in itself. SAARC members have few connections with each other apart from SAARC itself, some historical links with British imperialism, and geography.  South Asia is a long way from becoming a unified and coherent region.

SAARC’s most recent ‘Meeting of the Heads of State or Government’ was held in Bhutan from 28-29 April.[1] The summit’s (largely aspirational) ‘Thimphu Silver Jubilee Declaration’ was positively titled ‘Towards a Green and Happy South Asia’. Somewhat surprisingly, however, its third point ‘emphasized the need to develop a “Vision Statement” ’, something that should have been done a long time ago.  Furthermore, SAARC has held only sixteen summits in 25 years, despite its Charter stating that ‘The Heads of State or Government shall meet once a year’.  ‘Annual’ summits were not held in 1989, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2006 and 2009. More than one of these meetings was abandoned due to the parlous-to-poor state of India-Pakistan relations. (more…)

Afghanistan: will ISAF just walk away one day? September 24, 2009

Posted by barbaranelson in : Afghanistan, Snedden, Christopher , comments closed

Christopher Snedden

Recently, while re-watching Richard Attenborough’s film about Mahatma Gandhi, I was struck by the scene in which Gandhi presciently told the bewildered British that, in the finish, they would simply walk away from India. I immediately thought of Afghanistan. Unless things change dramatically there for the better – and soon, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) may also ‘walk away’. Unlike the British in 1947, however, ISAF’s departure will be couched in justificatory terms to suggest a victory, not a defeat.

As things currently stand, it appears that ISAF will fail in Afghanistan. There are (at least) five reasons for this. First (and not in any order), ISAF’s overall military resolve to engage and defeat the Taliban is weak. United States’ forces appear to be fully committed to, and engaged in, Afghanistan. Other nations (including Australia), to varying degrees, appear primarily to have military forces in ISAF to ‘pay their dues’ to the US. ISAF may have the overall military capability to win in Afghanistan, but it is hampered by the weak and/or wavering intent of its various component militaries. This is a poor basis on which to fight a resurgent Taliban. With forces such as the Dutch and Canadians keen to withdraw from Afghanistan, ISAF’s military resolve is unlikely to improve in the short term.

(more…)

Is a secular Pakistan the answer? July 19, 2009

Posted by sandygordon in : Pakistan, Snedden, Christopher , comments closed

Christopher Snedden

Islamic ‘fundamentalist’ groups in Pakistan are currently posing major problems to the Pakistan state.  Most obviously, the religiously-inspired and rampant organisation of Taliban (‘students’) is violently agitating in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).  The Pakistan armed forces are trying to suppress a very difficult opponent.

A further, but less obvious, issue is religiously-inspired groups in Punjab, particularly in southern Punjab, some of whom may be supported by elements within the Pakistan state (e.g. the Pakistan Army’s Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI)).  Some of these groups may be responsible for the recent major terrorist attacks in places such as Lahore and Mumbai.

One side effect of Pakistan’s religious problems is ongoing, and sometimes brutal, sectarian violence between intolerant Sunni and Shia elements, although these actually pre-date the Taliban’s rise.  Another is the large financial cost of mounting counter insurgency (COIN) operations to suppress the Taliban.  Furthermore, the Pakistan Army’s primary focus is to fight a conventional war against India.  It, therefore, is often honing its COIN capabilities ‘on the run’.  There also is the huge financial burden of re-settling internally displaced people from FATA and Swat in an economy stressed by the global financial crisis, sluggish growth and high inflation.

It seems somewhat ironic that the ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan’ should be having a problem with Muslim citizens trying violently to change this society—or to harm one another.  However, the issue of Islam has been an ongoing problem for Pakistanis since 1947.  In earlier days, the debate was whether Pakistan should be a state for Muslims or an Islamic state.  Over time, the issue has morphed into being about how much Islam, particularly its Sharia Law aspects, should be imposed on Pakistanis. (more…)