jump to navigation

Defence Minister Johnston and Australia’s role in Pakistan September 27, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

As we wind down in Afghanistan after a twelve-year war, new Defence Minister David Johnston reportedly says we need to keep our counter-insurgency skills honed, including for possible use in Pakistan (SMH, 21 September 2013).

Mr Johnston and his advisers need to think such statements through. Does he mean a limited role in advising Pakistan on counter-insurgency or does he envision a more robust involvement in maintaining stability? Either way, there is no useful role for Australia, either singly or in concert with its friends and allies.

Pakistan is both a supporter of the insurgency in Afghanistan and involved in counter-insurgency against groups like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) within Pakistan.

In the former role, the Pakistani military and its intelligence service, the ISI, support Afghan anti-government groups like the Haqqani network and harbour the Taliban leadership in Quetta. US intelligence believes the Haqqani network, with support from the ISI, was involved in the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul in 2008, in which 58 died. The network also allegedly killed the Karzai government’s chief peace envoy, Burhanuddin Rabbani.

(more…)

Recent developments in the India-Pakistan peace process: glass half full or half empty? November 22, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Rizwan Zeb

In the article India-Pakistan visa deal: a glass half empty? (South Asia Masala, September 14, 2012), Sandy Gordon declared the recent changes in the visa regime between India and Pakistan and Pakistan’s indication that it will grant India the most favourite nation state (FNS) status by December as positive developments.  He stated: “India sees such developments as consistent with what Krishna refers to as its ‘step-by-step approach’ to the relationship. India has for many years held the view that this is the best way forward, rather than pushing for dramatic developments in relations, for instance over Kashmir. New Delhi believes that a Pakistan more solidly stitched into the Indian economy is more likely to abjure the highly disruptive tactics in support of trans-border terrorism that have been witnessed from Pakistan in recent years. India is also keen to support what it sees as the delicate process of civilianising the Pakistani polity, consonant with its belief that it has been the military – and especially the ISI – that has been most heavily engaged in supporting terrorism.” Using Oscar Wilde’s dictum, these are noble sentiments, indeed! But how exactly does New Delhi want to achieve it?

A peace process is a two-way street. If one side tries to dominate it, however noble the intentions might be, the peace process fails. A lot has been already said about what Pakistan has to do to put its house in order and how to make South Asia peaceful as it is considered to be the problem.

(more…)

India-Pakistan visa deal: a glass half empty? September 14, 2012

Posted by aungsi in : Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

On September the 8th, India and Pakistan agreed to liberalise their visa arrangements. The deal came during three day talks between Pakistani foreign minister Khar and Indian counterpart Krishna at Islamabad. Under the deal eight categories of visa will be liberalised, including the provision of visa on entry at the land border for the elderly and young, and most importantly, the provision of multiple entry and multiple city visas for business people with turnovers of over Rs 3 million annually.

The latter is particularly significant in view of recent trade developments. These include Islamabad’s decision to grant most favoured nation (MFN) status to India – which had been granted by India to Pakistan in 1996.  Pakistan has promised by December this year to grant MFN to India by eliminating the system allowing only stipulated items to be traded in favour of a small ‘negative’ list covering defence-related and other sensitive items. India has also liberalised its regime by agreeing to remove yarn and textiles from its ‘sensitive’ list and allowing Pakistani businesses to set up in India.

(more…)

The India–US–China–Pakistan strategic quadrilateral May 14, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Merrington, Louise, Pakistan , comments closed

Louise Merrington, ANU

Although the disputed border between China and India is often highlighted as the major sticking point in Sino–Indian relations, in reality it has remained relatively peaceful since the end of the 1962 war, and the potential for overt military conflict in the region remains minimal.

Of much greater concern is the strategic quadrilateral relationship in South Asia involving China, India, the United States and Pakistan. It has both regional and wider implications. At the heart of this matter is the India–Pakistan conflict over Kashmir, and continuing US involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The relationships between these four actors are extremely complex. China’s support for Pakistan in its conflict with India is a serious and ongoing source of tension in the Sino–Indian relationship, while the US relationship with Pakistan is looking increasingly fraught even as its relationship with India improves in the wake of the 2008 civilian nuclear deal. Growing closeness between India and the US has caused some concern in China about the possibility that the US may be establishing a policy of containment or encirclement, and this concern in turn affects China’s relationship with both the US and India. Understanding this complex web of relationships is key to understanding the issues which are at the heart of China–India relations and which affect markedly how these two countries interact in the region.

(more…)

NATO attack on Pakistani border post: what it means November 28, 2011

Posted by sandygordon in : Afghanistan, Gordon, Sandy, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

The raw facts are known. A long-standing Pakistani military base just within  the northern border of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) was attacked by helicopters and possibly fixed-wing NATO aircraft on 26 November and at least 25 Pakistani officers and men killed. Since then, Pakistan has reacted by “indefinitely” closing border traffic for NATO goods from Pakistan into Afghanistan and giving the US 15 days to vacate its UAV base at Shamsi.

What is less well known is what prompted the NATO night attack. NATO is investigating. But it is possible that firing came from the base in support of a Taliban training facility, which was being concurrently attacked by US special forces. Or it may simply have been the result of a mix-up – all too easy in night fighting in the complex tribal area.

(more…)

India’s internal security conundrum September 15, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Guest author: Ashutosh Misra

Blood has spilled on the streets again, right under the nose of India’s symbols of democracy and power – the Indian parliament, President House and the Supreme Court, all situated within few kilometres of the Delhi High Court where 11 people died and over 45 were injured in a suitcase bomb blast on 7 September. Harkat-ul-Jihadi Islami (HUJI), the Bangladesh-based outfit has taken has the responsibility as a mark of protest against the impending hanging of the 2001 parliament attack accused Afzal Guru. Initial investigations have shown traces of Indian Mujahideen  (IM) involvement as well and several arrests have been made in this connection in the last couple of days. This second major incident since the 13 July serial blasts in Mumbai and 25 May blast at the same spot outside the Delhi High Court has yet again put the spotlight on India’s intelligence agencies and police force, questioning whether India possesses the wherewithal to rein in these unrelenting attacks.

As the government struggles to recover from the battering it received from the Anna Hazare-led nationwide movement against corruption, India’s internal security situation remains delicately poised. City after city continues to be targeted brazenly by terrorist groups indicating that a decade after the watershed September 11 attacks India’s situation has remained unaltered. Ironically, in contrast to India’s global prospects, domestically the situation does not appear too promising. The country’s recent experiences in dealing with domestic challenges demonstrate a stark mismatch between its global potential and internal capabilities. In particular, two key threats deserve attention here which could impede India’s global rise and economic growth: home grown terrorism (HGT) and left-wing extremism (LWE), both described by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the two most serious threats facing the country. (more…)

Whither goest thou, Saleem Shahzad’s Pakistan June 3, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Kumar, Vikas, Pakistan , comments closed

Vikas Kumar

In January, when Ahmed Rashid commented on “Pakistan’s very unhappy new year” little did we know that Osama bin Laden would be found “hiding in plain sight” in a safe house in a garrison town close to Islamabad. Osama’s death, the subsequent “revenge” attacks, and the ongoing trial of Tahawwur Rana in the United States have put Pakistan under the spotlight like never before. But public debate has focussed entirely on the international implications of terrorist camps in Pakistan and what the international community can do to save a failing nuclear power from itself. There is hardly any discussion on whether Pakistan can save itself. And if we ignore apologists for extremists, who believe that the world rather than Pakistan has to change, then even domestic debate within Pakistan has only highlighted the impossibility of change or at least change from within. Honestly speaking, one cannot be blamed for being pessimistic about Pakistan, particularly after the gruesome murder of Syed Saleem Shahzad, an investigative journalist who was probing the relationship between the state and extremists.

The prospect of Deobandi-Wahhabi extremists taking over the Pakistani state is now giving sleepless nights to policy-makers across the world. But is it indeed time to conclude that domestic resistance to international terrorism and Islamic extremism breeding within Pakistan is impossible and the feared takeover is inevitable? Not yet, because the demographic mosaic of Pakistan rules out the possibility of countrywide dominance of extremists. Let us begin with religion. The Shias account for about a fifth of Pakistan’s population and a bewildering variety of small, heterodox Islamic communities dots the south-western, western, and northern borders of Pakistan. But even among Sunnis, the Deobandis and related Wahhabi extremists have a smaller following than their arch rivals, the Barelvis, and other traditionalist Sunni communities that are at home with Sufism.

(more…)

Ten years of the War on Terror: a strategic reassessment May 13, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, Kumar, Vikas, Pakistan , comments closed

Vikas Kumar

The future of international terrorism and the War on Terror is being hotly debated after Osama bin Laden’s death. Osama’s liquidation could increase the risk aversion of Islamic extremists and trigger competition for supremacy among them. But it could as well lead to more attacks from his enraged supporters and nudge the otherwise factious extremists to join hands against the West. Irrespective of which of these two effects dominates we have no reason to celebrate because the decade long War on Terror, by design the third best solution, is a colossal waste of taxpayer’s money. In fact, the wild celebration of one man’s death highlights the pointlessness of the War on Terror waged by the most powerful nation of the world.

Under the first best solution, modernist, democratic forces directly ideologically challenge the religious extremists. But this solution is difficult to implement in AfPak, where any ideological campaign presumably has to first clear the Islam-in-danger hurdle. The second best solution involves supporting moderate, traditionalist religious groups in their ongoing conflicts with the religious extremists. The traditionalists need not clear the Islam-in-danger hurdle because they cannot be portrayed as anti-Islamic. The first and second best solutions include provision of physical security and development funding to non-extremists.

(more…)

Bin Laden: too big to hide under the carpet? May 4, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

The crucial issue is the future of nuclear-armed Pakistan, a country of 160 million, mixing a highly sophisticated – albeit semi-feudal – elite with a poorly educated, poverty ridden peasant and tribal mass base.

The US will be doing its sums, including with the material seized from the Bin Laden compound in Abbottabad.  Should it emerge that any elements in the Pakistani administration knew of his presence, it will be hard for the US to justify the US$3 billion aid package it provides to Pakistan each year, especially when it is bleeding financially itself.

Added to this, the timing of Bin Laden’s killing could give additional credibility to the plan to commence the US drawdown in Afghanistan by this July and complete the process by 2014.  Given its massive financial problems, the US badly needs to refocus away from its wars and on to the economy. Ironically, conservatives, so complicit in starting the costly war in Iraq, now want to see the military budget, which will remain tight, refocused on major weapons systems and away from ‘boots on the ground’.  For them, the new challenge is China, not obscure Islamists in far off places. (more…)

FEATURE ARTICLE: India’s ‘strategy’ as an emerging power September 2, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Features, Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

This paper is a short version of a paper submitted for publication.  It is not to be quoted or cited without the author’s permission.

Introduction

As India rises to power, some critical questions need to be answered both by analysts of that rise and those in the Indian government determining the strategies to be adopted. The most fundamental of these questions relate to the relationship between India as a rising power, its neighbourhood (South Asia), its region (Asia) and the world. How do these different levels of security inter-relate in the context of a rising power? To what extent does a great power aspirant such as India need to ensure competitors cannot garner undue influence in its South Asian neighbourhood? What strategies might India adopt to deal with the enmeshed nature of dissonance between its domestic and neighbourhood arenas?

A measure of power that includes analysis at different levels of the global structure is somewhat different from, but not inimical to, more traditional measures. These tend to assess power in relation to population and economic strength, while often ignoring the geopolitical and regional circumstances within which a rising power is required to operate. For example, power transition theorists, and for that matter their critics, often tend to look at issues in this way. (Gideon Rose, ‘Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy’, World Politics, Vol. 51, No. 1, October 1998, pp. 144-72, p 146).

A number of analysts – especially of South Asia –  have, however, become interested in emerging powers in relation at least to the regional and global levels, if not the domestic, neighbourhood, regional and global levels we canvass here. This view of power acquisition from the point of view of a power’s region or neighbourhood ipso facto brings the domestic perspective on power acquisition into sharper focus, since the domestic-neighbourhood linkages are inevitably close – a phenomenon strongly evident in South Asia. It thus differs from the perspective of ‘offensive realists’, who claim that factors relating to the international order are always dominant.

India falls well short of a power that can function with ease within its South Asian neighbourhood. Indeed, policy makers in New Delhi are caught in a tightly woven, negative inter-relationship between dissonances within India and dissonances in South Asia. And events in South Asia are, in turn, heavily influenced by global developments. India appears powerless to sever these links.

(more…)