Pakistan’s new government: a harbinger of hope? May 15, 2013Posted by southasiamasala in : Gordon, Sandy, Pakistan , 2comments
Pakistan has just experienced the first democratic change of government in its history. It did so despite a violent campaign by religious extremists to derail the election. This violence targeted secular-oriented parties such as the ousted Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). However, the victory by Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Party (PML-N) is still a genuine one. The 60% voter turnout is excellent for Pakistan and indicates that Pakistanis defied the religious extremists.
Voters were clearly fed up with the PPP’s corruption and poor economic management. The country has suffered from serious electricity cuts and an anaemic economy. It is burdened by a rapid population growth rate, fuelled by poor levels of general and especially female literacy. Environmental problems in the heavily irrigation-dependent economy are growing.
Pakistan: fallout over NATO supply route escalates May 29, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, Pakistan , Comment
Although there has been recent progress in cross-border cooperation, the modalities of a revised agreement between Pakistan and the US to re-establish a NATO supply route, have escalated domestic and regional tensions.
On Friday last week, after six months of stand-off, Pakistan for the first time authorised a US supply convoy to pass into Afghanistan, with office supplies destined for Kabul. The symbolic cross-over, however, after months of ongoing tension, has not resulted in the recommencement of the NATO supply route, a goal much desired by the US.
Since the imposition of the blockade, US and NATO forces in Afghanistan have been compelled to use the Northern Distribution Network. This is a series of alternative, and more costly, supply routes that transit through the Caucasus, Central Asia and Russia. The US is also eager to resume the NATO supply route through Pakistan to facilitate the withdrawal of its forces and military equipment from Afghanistan by 2014.
The India–US–China–Pakistan strategic quadrilateral May 14, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Merrington, Louise, Pakistan , Comment
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.
Pakistan’s clash of institutional authority January 25, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , Comment
Guest author: Moeen Cheema, Teaching Fellow, ANU College of Law
This article was first posted in East Asia Forum on 22 January 2012.
Pakistan experienced dramatic political crises in 2011, including the covert raid carried out by the US on 2 May, which killed Osama bin Laden, and the killing of two civilians by CIA contractor Raymond Davis.
It was in these circumstances that an American businessman of Pakistani origin, Mansoor Ijaz, wrote a ‘memorandum’ to the US military commander urging an intervention on behalf of Pakistan’s elected government, which seemed on the verge of being toppled by the country’s historically powerful military establishment. Mr Ijaz, for reasons that are not yet clear, later alleged that this memorandum was written on behalf of Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, Hassain Haqqani, a close aide of President Asif Ali Zardari.
The scandal threatens to sink the fragile government, with the courts — as well as the military — now bearing down on Pakistan’s embattled politicians. The Supreme Court has created a high-powered judicial commission to investigate the origins and veracity of the memo. But the government seems set to fight what it sees as the military establishment, the court and the opposition’s common designs to oust an elected president. There is some basis for such paranoia. Every elected leader in Pakistan’s history has been proclaimed a threat to national security at some stage by the military establishment in an effort to justify greater say in the country’s affairs. Pakistan has undergone three major coups, and the military has ruled the country for nearly half of its post-colonial existence. Even during this latest period of elected rule the military has remained powerful, as the government ceded to it ultimate responsibility for territorial defence, national security and foreign policy.
Politics grips Pakistan January 20, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , Comment
Alicia Mollaun, Crawford School, ANU
Back in Islamabad after spending Christ mas and New Year in Australia, I find that the “Memogate” scandal is on everyone’s lips and relations between the military and the ruling Pakistan People’s Party have continued to deteriorate. The controversial memo, leaked to Pakistan’s media late last year and allegedly authosed by President Asif Ali Zardari, sought the assistance of the Obama administration in pressuring senior military and intelligence figures to “end their brinkmanship aimed at bringing down the civilian apparatus.”
With US–Pakistan relations already fraught, the release of the memo whipped the media into a frenzy, fuelling speculation that the prime minister would sack the chief of the army and that the military, in response, would unseat the government. For the embattled civilian government, the scandal opened up a new and destabilising front.
Civil–military relations have always been uneasy in Pakistan, a nation that has been ruled for over half of its existence by the military. No democratically elected government has ever been replaced with another democratically elected government, and governments rarely serve a full term before being ousted. All of which can make living in Pakistan depressing and at the same time fascinating.
US drawdown plans seek Af-Pak co-operation November 3, 2011Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, Pakistan , Comment
This article was first posted in Future Directions International on 26 October 2011
US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, during a visit to Pakistan and Afghanistan last week, accompanied by a high-level delegation, met with Pakistani Prime Minister, Syed Gilani, and then Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, to strengthen Pakistan’s resolve to cooperate more emphatically in the lead up to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014.
The visit to Pakistan did achieve some of its outwardly stated aims; namely, enhanced Afghan-Pakistan co-operation and greater Pakistani co-operation with the US, in tackling the threat posed by the Taliban. The specific concern is the powerful 10,000-strong Haqqani network, which operates from within Pakistani territory. “We believe that Pakistan has…the ability to encourage, push, squeeze…the Haqqanis and the Afghan Taliban…to participate in the peace process,” said Clinton.
Yet, there was a divergence of opinion on how the US strategy should be prosecuted. For example, while the US intends to fight the Taliban and simultaneously seek to negotiate, Pakistan insisted that a ceasefire in Afghanistan is a necessary confidence-building measure to set the stage for negotiations. Similarly, Pakistan also cited the lack of military resources at its disposal for major offensive operations in North Waziristan.
India and Asia’s ‘concert of powers’ October 6, 2011Posted by sandygordon in : Gordon, Sandy, India , 2comments
The CIA has assessed that India is a ‘swing state’ in Asia. By that it means that how India, as a rising power, chooses to lock into existing security structures will have important implications for the Asian security order.
India’s emergence is especially important in the context of the rise of China and apparent relative decline of the US. This confronts Australia with stark choices between its economic imperative not to alienate China and its long-standing strategic reliance on the United States.
Leading Australian analysts such as Hugh White (Power Shift) and Coral Bell (Living with Giants) have advocated that China and India be inducted into a ‘concert of powers’ consisting of those two plus the other big powers – the US, Japan and Russia. They thus hope to mitigate the perturbations that might otherwise be associated with China’s rise.
Half of the ‘quadrilateral’ – Bush meets Abe, Camp David, 2007.Kumar, Vikas, Pakistan , Comment
The web security company McAfee’s recently concluded investigations seem to confirm the widely held belief that China is engaged in extensive cyber intelligence operations targeting other countries, particularly, the United States. And yet remarkably, China refuses to learn from common knowledge about the United States’ experience as the reigning global power.
It is well-known that the United States’ foreign policy of using extremist Islamic regimes as proxies against the Soviet Union has boomeranged and has also caused extensive damage to the political economies of a number of countries in the Middle East and South Asia. Unfortunately, China refuses to learn from the United States’ experience in this regard. In its quest for greater power in the global arena, China is supporting regimes it would love to disappear when it reaches the summit. For instance, China is using Pakistan as a force multiplier in South Asia and in the process it is supporting a regime that will not turn law-abiding after China achieves its strategic goals.
The South Asia Cold War ‘quadrilateral’ redux? August 15, 2011Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , Comment
This post first appeared here on the Future Directions International site.
For significant periods during the Cold War, South Asia and the Indian Ocean region were locked in the embrace of a four-power, ‘quadrilateral’ structure. On one side were India and the former Soviet Union – New Delhi then had a ‘tilt’ towards Moscow. For much of the period Pakistan stood beside the US against Soviet and ‘leftist’ influence in the region, being at one point even a member of the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO).
After the Sino-US rapprochement in 1972, China, Pakistan and the US found themselves ranged in broad terms against India and the former Soviet Union: the ‘quadrilateral’ in effect re-emerged as an ‘pentagon’. All of that, of course, changed with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, which opened out the long process of rapprochement between India and the US.
A happy ISI chief Lt General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, who reportedly recently ‘secretely’ visited China.DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, India , Comment
This article first appeared in Future Directions International on Wednesday, 20 July 2011.
In another example of increasing co-operation between Washington and New Delhi, the US Defence Security Co-operation Agency recently announced India’s intention to purchase 32 US-manufactured MK-54 lightweight torpedoes, in a deal worth US$86 million. The agreement is indicative of the growing confluence of strategic interests between the two countries, which in recent years has seen relations flourish.
A Boeing C-17 comes in to land