Rohit Kumar's Views

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America-Pakistan-India Triangle

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Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, who ironically enjoys the reputation of being American ambassador to Pakistan, based in Washington, has recently quipped, “The most hated country in Pakistan is our top trading partner, top aid donor, top weapon supplier and top remittance source”.

Significant reason behind this anomaly is the snowballing India-US nexus at the cost of Pakistan. De-hyphenating of India-Pakistan in American strategic calculus has indeed created more problems for America and this region than it intended to resolve. Obsession to sponsor the rise of India as a major player on Asian geopolitical canvas has severely curtailed American leverage over India; Obama dare not pronounce ‘K’ for Kashmir once again!

Barrack Obama’s visit to India had left a negative impact on the whole region which has been reinforced by Hillary’s recent rhetoric. By prompting India to bite more than it could chew, America is well on its way to sow the seeds of perpetual destabilization of this region at the expense of China as well as India itself.

While in the past America played effective role to diffuse Pak-India tensions and did not allow the matters to degenerate into tactical showdown, it also winked its eye to allow India maintain strategic pressures through military deployments, diplomatic manoeuvres and resource squeezing.

Pakistan and America differ considerably on issues of vital interest to Pakistan; nuclear policy, energy acquisition from Iran and China, end game in Afghanistan, Kashmir conflict etc are some major areas of divergence. Most of these issues are intricately liked to India. Hence a Pakistan-India-America triangle has emerged; a sort of re-hyphenation in a crude form.

America retains a cunning balancing leverage between India and Pakistan; and uses the pressure points aptly to make Pakistan and India do American bidding.

Recently the US lawmakers have rejected the bill regarding stoppage of aid to Pakistan but have agreed to attach strings. Public opinion is gaining strength that stringed aid may be refused and to make up for the loss, Pakistan should proportionately enhance the transit fee on American supply containers and also impose transit fee on aircraft destined for Afghan war zone through Pakistan.

America frequently partners Indian effort in maintaining a high pitched tirade against Pakistan’s armed force and the ISI; this has scaled new heights since the cowardly Abbottabad attack. All guns are being directed against Pakistan. Political leadership is being spared of any wrong doing with a clear objective of creating a wedge between the political and military echelons of national leadership.

Timed with Hillary’s recent visit, Americans took a well calculated step to appease India by arresting Kashmiri American Council President, Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai. Indian reaction was of joy. Arrest is a setback to the legitimate rights of the people of Kashmir, specially their struggle for self-determination. Pakistani government showed an angry response. Foreign office announced that “A demarche was made to the US embassy in Islamabad to register the concerns, in particular the slander campaign against Pakistan.”

To mitigate the defeat in Afghanistan, the US is working overtime to shift the blame for every wrong to Pakistan. To consolidate towards this end, America is all set to involve India in Afghanistan, militarily. While in India, Hillary Clinton sought to reassure India that the United States has no plan to cut and run when it comes to Afghanistan. Indeed Hillary was bluffing,

those familiar with Obama administration’s thinking are of the view that White House wants to be able to point to concrete achievements in the country in the run-up to 2012 elections, while wrapping things up in Afghanistan “at any cost”.

In the context of terrorism, India needs to understand that militants are well-organised from Somalia to Afghanistan and from Central Asian Republics to the Occupied Kashmir.

International security analysts are already predicting that India is on the brink of becoming a battle ground of these trans-national groups. Outreach of these elements is much broader than Pakistan’s logical capacity to handle them; even America is unable to contain them. Pakistan has already proposed setting up of SAARC police for pooling up regional resources for this purpose.

Hillary Clinton played another pressure card by projecting India as the leading power in Asia. This effort was launched to coax India into a proxy role to counterbalance China. Hillary called upon India to become a more assertive leader in Asia, in South-East Asia, the Pacific Rim, in Central Asia and Pacific Ocean.

The fact is that India is having a hard time holding its own in its immediate neighbourhood, as China is expanding its links with Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Nepal. Hence, to expect India to match China in South-East Asia and the Pacific Rim, where China has built-in advantages, is a pipe dream. India will remain cautious while siding with Americans against the Chinese. It needs China’s nod to realise its aspiration for a permanent UNSC berth.

Under these settings, the fate of Pak-India foreign minister level talks was correctly pre-judged by the analysts of India and Pakistan. There was unanimity of opinion that parleys would remain at the cosmetic level, routines would be discussed and core issues would be sidestepped. Travel, trade, terrorism etc would be in forefront; water and Kashmir in the background.

Mumbai would be highlighted and ‘Samjhota Express’ would get a passing mention. Matters have moved the same way. Nevertheless, some functional dialogue process is always better than none.

In an upbeat assessment after their meeting, Indian Foreign Minister said ties were back “on the right track,” while Pakistani Foreign Minister spoke of a “new era” of cooperation. Nevertheless, there was little in the way of substantive agreements to back up the general mood of optimism. Joint statement was monotonous, envisaging a general bilateral effort to combat terrorism, increase trade and keep the peace dialogue going.

One must understand that now America is in the driving seat of Pak-India interactions; talks are likely to follow the pattern of ‘sound good solve nothing’. After all America has a long experience of sponsoring futile dialogue like process between Palestine and Israel. It remains for India and Pakistan not to get locked into a zero sum game. Both countries need to strengthen their bilateral institutions to absorb the sporadic crises and move on.

Life between the curfews in Indian Kashmir

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By Ben Sheppard

SRINAGAR, India – For much of the summer, Srinagar in Indian Kashmir has been a ghost town: all shops shut, streets deserted, and eerily silent. Until the curfew is lifted for just a few hours.

Stalls selling fruit spring up on every corner, noisy traffic jams fill the lanes, and residents rush out to buy fresh food, medicines and toys for their children.

Srinagar is the summer capital of Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region that has endured more than three months of deadly clashes between security forces and protesters who want Kashmir to be independent from India.

To thwart public unrest authorities impose curfews that can last for several days at a time. Anyone caught outside risks being beaten or shot by paramilitary troops and police.

Srinagar’s one million residents can still be found down back alleys, where men lean in doorways arguing about politics, while their families watch endless television or play cards inside.

“It’s miserable because we are living under military occupation,” said Arif Jan, 40, a shopkeeper in Nowhatta district near the town’s biggest mosque.

“My family stocks up on rice and lentils when we can. That is how we live.”

For Showkat Ahmed, the curfew meant he could only get to his wedding with a special permit and a police escort.

Sitting nervously in the back of a red Maruti hatchback decked out in plastic flowers, Ahmed was driven at high speed through the empty town in the middle of the afternoon to meet his bride.

“The curfew means my sisters can’t even make it to my wedding,” Ahmed, a 28-year-old shawlmaker, said. “I am worried about my relatives at home and want to get the marriage ceremony over so I can return to them.”

Normally Kashmiri weddings are night-long affairs with hundreds of guests. But no celebrations had been organised for Ahmed and his new wife. “In the future, I just want a normal life,” he said.

Shops selling wedding decorations are among the first to open their doors when curfew restrictions are briefly lifted, but business is grim.

“I have waited 10 days for this place to open so I can buy pieces for my brother’s costume,” said Ali Wangnoo, 23. “But I don’t actually know whether his wedding is going to happen. Kashmir is a mess.”

Mohammed Yunus, the shop owner, said he had been closed for three weeks until Tuesday when the curfew was relaxed for just four hours.

Such conditions for ordinary people mean the tourism industry has also been decimated.

Srinagar boasts Mughal gardens, a mild summer climate and elegant houseboats sitting on Lake Dal in front of mist-wreathed mountains.

Before the rebellion against Indian rule erupted in 1989, travellers from around the world were drawn to Kashmir’s culture and scenery.

Many returned after India and Pakistan, who have fought two wars over control of the region, began peace talks in 2003 and as militant attacks dropped dramatically.

But any optimism has disappeared with more than 100 civilians killed since June 11 across Kashmir as security forces fire live rounds at stone-throwing anti-India protesters.

“On the 600-700 houseboats there is hardly one tourist. I haven’t had a single guest since the violence broke out in June,” said Rashid Dongola, 55, owner of the Hilton Kashmir houseboat.

As soon as the curfew is lifted, a few hand-paddled boats cross the serene lake carrying vegetables to market. Scores of boats laden with shawls and colourful papier-mache boxes used to vie for tourists’ attention.

Now there are none.

“This should be high season for us,” said Dongola, sitting in his houseboat’s grand wood-panelled interior. “My boat is rotting here and I can’t afford repairs.”

With schools shut for months and hospitals running short of supplies, the price of living under the curfew is high. But few Kashmiris doubt their cause.

“We know what we want,” said Sajjad, who runs a convenience store in the old town. “In the cause of Azadi (freedom) we choose to face the bullets, and we give up the chance of living an easy life.”

Indian forces kill 10 Kashmiris

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SRINAGAR, India – Indian troops killed nine suspected militants as they tried to cross the de facto border with Pakistan that divides the volatile region of Kashmir, the army said Monday.

An Indian policeman fires a teargas shell towards Kashmiri protestors in Srinigar

Elsewhere in Indian-controlled Kashmir fresh violence left a boy dead and 12 injured when police opened fire on anti-India protesters in separate clashes.

“The army has foiled a major infiltration attempt by killing nine militants who were trying to infiltrate into (Indian) Kashmir from across the Line of Control (LoC),” army spokesman J.S. Brar told AFP.

He said a gun battle erupted late Sunday in western Uri sector and continued throughout the night after troops noticed a group of militants trying to sneak in under the cover of darkness.

“The operation is still continuing in the dense forests,” Brar said, adding army reinforcements had been sent to the scene of the fighting.

India has in the past accused the Pakistani army of providing covering fire for infiltrating militants. Islamabad denies the charge.

India and Pakistan agreed to a ceasefire along the LoC in 2003 and began a peace process in 2004. Since then there have been sporadic clashes with both sides accusing each other of violating the truce.

A young Muslim boy was killed and four others injured when police opened fire to disperse stone-throwing protesters during an anti-India demonstration in southern Anantnag town Monday evening, police said.

The death brought more people out on the streets chanting slogans such as “Blood for blood!”

In Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir, six people were injured when police opened fire.

Police said the incident occurred when a group of protesters hurled stones at police and shouted slogans. Residents said there were no protests when the shots were fired.

Doctors said one of the injured was in serious condition. Two of the wounded were relatives of senior separatist Yasin Malik.

The policeman who opened fire has been suspended, pending an inquiry, a police statement said.

Two more stone-hurling protesters were injured in southern Pulwama district when police opened fire at violent demonstrators, police said.

Tensions have been threatening to boil over during 11 weeks of demonstrations with 65 protesters and bystanders killed in the Muslim-majority region, where anti-India feelings run deep.

Indian govt evidence not legally tenable: FM Qureshi

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Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has contradicted India’s claim that there was enough evidence to convict Hafiz Saeed.

‘The Pakistani judiciary is independent, their judgement must be respected’.

“The Pakistan Supreme Court had little choice in the matter as the Indian government had failed to produce evidence that was legally tenable,” he said in an interview with Indian news channel Times Now. “To pin someone down not only do you require evidence, you require legally tenable evidence,” he said.

Qureshi said that like the judiciary of India, the Pakistani judiciary is independent and their judgement must be respected.

“The Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram is expected on June 26 for the SAARC Home Ministers’ conference. I intend to meet with him and discuss this issue with him,” Qureshi said.

“I am expecting a meeting with the Minister of External Affairs SM Krishna on July 15 when we resume our dialogue. They are welcome to raise their concerns and we will sit and discuss them on the negotiating table.”

Qureshi added that the two prime ministers have given the responsibility of bridging the trust deficit to the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan.

“Yes, there is a trust deficit, we have to bridge it. We have to find a way of bridging this trust deficit. We also have to find a way of building confidence and that is exactly what I intend to do in the days to come.”

Qureshi stressed that the policy of the Government of Pakistan is very clear. “We condemn terrorism and will do our utmost to dismantle terrorist networks and not allow our soil to be used against anyone,” he said. “We are victims like anybody else. What you saw in Lahore was a very tragic incident. We are facing terrorists and fighting them. This fight will reach its logical conclusion and we will defeat them.”

‘Trust deficit’ holding back Pak ties: Singh

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Pakistan calls for talks to build trust

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Monday that a cross-border “trust deficit” was the main obstacle holding back any improvement in relations between India and Pakistan.

“Prime Minister (Yousuf Raza) Gilani and I agreed that trust deficit was the problem blocking progress,” Singh told reporters, referring to recent discussions between the two men in the Bhutanese capital Thimphu.

“Pakistan is our neighbour. It is my firm belief that India cannot realise its full development potential till we have best relations with our neighbours,” he said, as he reviewed his year in power since re-election.

Pakistan calls for talks with India to build trust

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan called on Monday for “sustained and meaningful” dialogue with India after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said a trust deficit was the main obstacle in ties between the nuclear-armed rivals.

Speaking at a news conference in New Delhi, Singh said India was willing to discuss all outstanding issues with Pakistan but “the trust gap is (the) biggest problem”.
Pakistan said it agreed that mistrust should be dispelled.

“Obviously, there is a mutual trust deficit and we need to build trust between our two countries on solid foundations so that our two countries and our people can live in peace and prosperity,” said Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit.

“To this end, Pakistan looks forward to a sustained and meaningful engagement with India with a view to free our relations from all disputes and conflicts.”

Relations between the neighbours, who have fought three wars since 1947, went into a freeze after Pakistan-based militants attacked the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008, killing 166 people.

But Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani met on the sidelines of a regional conference last month and agreed to get talks going again to tackle their disputes.
For India, the main issue in its relations with Pakistan is security, with Islamist militants, who India says are backed by Pakistan, attacking Indian security forces in the disputed Kashmir region and launching attacks in Indian cities.

Pakistan says the core dispute is over Muslim-majority Kashmir, which both countries claim in full but rule in part.
Talking to leaders of Pakistan-ruled Kashmir, Gilani said his government remained committed to a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the Kashmir dispute.

“There is an imperative need to end the long legacy of hostility and distrust and to work towards a peaceful solution of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the wishes of the people of Kashmir,” from prime minister’s office quoted him as saying in a statment.

Pakistan would continue to support the “just cause” of Kashmiri people, he said.
India accuses Pakistan of training and sending Muslim guerrillas across their de facto border in Kashmir to fight Indian rule.

Pakistan denies the charge and says it supports what it calls a freedom struggle by the people of Kashmir against what it sees as the brutal and illegitimate Indian occupation of the region.
In an illustration of the underlying mistrust between them, Pakistani and Indian forces traded fire across their de facto border in Kashmir on Saturday, and then swapped accusations over who started it.

One Pakistani soldier was killed in the clash, the Pakistani army said.
“We are going to make a beginning. The composite dialogue was suspended soon after attack on Mumbai,” Singh told reporters in New Delhi. “This is the first major effort to deal with underlying cause which is lack of adequate amount of trust,” he said, adding “I am hopeful that this process can move forward.”

He said a major diplomatic effort was under way to improve ties between India and Pakistan, and he was hopeful the talks would succeed. “A major effort is being made to bridge the trust deficit with Pakistan,” Singh told reporters at a rare news conference. “I’m hopeful this process can move forward,” he said. But he later tempered his optimism, saying, “Whether we succeed or not that, only future events can tell.”

He also reiterated India’s willingness to discuss “all outstanding issues” – a phrase seen as diplomatic code for the bitter dispute over the Himalayan region of Kashmir – as long as Pakistani territory is not used for attacks against India.

Singh also reached out to Kashmiri militant groups. “Our government is ready for a dialogue provided all these groups outside the political mainstream shed the path of violence,” he said.Meanwhile, Pakistan called on Monday for “sustained and meaningful” dialogue with India after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said a trust deficit was the main obstacle in ties between the nuclear-armed rivals.

Pakistan said it agreed that mistrust should be dispelled. “Obviously, there is a mutual trust deficit and we need to build trust between our two countries on solid foundations so that our two countries and our people can live in peace and prosperity,” said Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit. “To this end, Pakistan looks forward to a sustained and meaningful engagement with India with a view to free our relations from all disputes and conflicts.”