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Kashmir Nuclear Scare: Myth or Muscle Fatigue

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Tacstrat Analysis

Earlier this week, State Disaster Response Force officials in Indian occupied Kashmir distributed pamphlets warning citizens to make preparations for a possible nuclear attack. People were told to build bomb-proof basements and collect provisions to last them two weeks in confinement. This lengthy warning was published in the Greater Kashmir newspaper and described a possible war scene in detail. People were told to brace themselves for possible shock and to ‘expect initial disorientation as the blast wave may blow down and carry away many prominent and familiar features’. While Indian officials have called this ‘regular year-round civil defence preparedness’, and urged people not to connect it with anything else, one cannot help but speculate about the convenient timing of this ‘annual’ safety drill, which has in fact taken place for the first time.

The cross border skirmish earlier this year, has led to a staggering halt of negotiations and a perfunctory handshake on both sides that have been gritting their teeth since. The 70 year old lady’s flight into Pakistan had alarmed Indian officials who began setting up additional observation posts along the LoC. Pakistan fired across the border, and while cross border skirmishes barely make news any more, an Indian soldier with an ‘aggressive’ track record ordered a cross border attack. While the international media, as always, is wont to take an ‘unbiased’ approach to this series of attacks, several Indian newspapers have discussed the possibility and consequences of this bald provocation that led to the death of a Pakistani soldier. Two Indian soldiers were killed in a retaliatory skirmish that now appears to have escalated, as the streets of Srinagar are abuzz with rumours of a possible nuclear attack.

Indian soldiers, on many online forums, have said that even if their authorities have warned people to prepare themselves for a nuclear attack, this is purely for defensive purposes because of India’s ‘no first use’ nuclear doctrine, and Pakistan’s lack thereof.

This leads us to the question of nuclear doctrines espoused by both countries. Pakistan has stood behind its doctrine of ‘first use but last resort’, and has been severely criticised for it by western scholarship, which conveniently over looks Israel’s ‘Samson Option’. Last year President Zardari announced his inclination to sign a ‘no first use’ policy in line with India’s, while no action towards this end has been taken so far, a brief analysis of the India doctrine, which espouses the very reassuring ‘no first use’ policy, is in order.

The doctrine states that any threat of use of nuclear weapons against India shall invoke measures to counter the threat (clause 2.3a). The repeated assurance of ‘retaliation only’ does not care to expand on what constitutes these measures. Clause 2.5 states that “India will not resort to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against States which do not possess nuclear weapons, or are not aligned with nuclear weapon powers.” This clause further adds to the ambiguity ensconced in the doctrine that shrouds itself behind empty words and unspoken promises. The distinction between non-nuclear states and countries they are aligned with, in effect, places every single country on the Indian hit list. Since Germany and Japan, two non-nuclear states, are aligned with the US on many fronts (the doctrine doesn’t specify the type of alliance either), that makes them possible targets, especially if: “in the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, India will retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons”. Thus, if Indian soldiers (they could be infiltrators or even part of a UN deputation) are attacked with nuclear weapons in any part of the world, the ‘no first use’ policy becomes null and void. Furthermore clause 2.3a, revised in 2003 states that, “however, in the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, India will retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons.” Thus Blanco-ing out the ‘no first use’ for all intents and purposes.

Pakistan has justified its stance of adopting the ‘aggressive’ moral ground, by saying the ‘no first use’ policy on both sides would leave the concept of nuclear deterrence redundant and invite aggression from the Indian side. Pakistan has furthermore explained how the nuclear option will be employed once all others have been exhausted. This effectively places India and Pakistan on a level playing field.

The ‘threat’ of a Pakistani attack on Srinagar is by far the least plausible of all explanations our friends across the border have been proffering. Even less true is the statement that this is a routine safety drill. At best this can be described muscle flexing and a plea for attention in the post UN-observer mission stalemate. In terms of diplomatic progress, this might set the two countries back by two years of consistent peace talks and people-to-people contact. As the initial smokescreen of mistrust rises between the two countries, the audience can not help but wait for what will unfold next.


India’s Occupation of Kashmir to end soon

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By: Rohit Kumar

Despite its insensitivity and total ignorance to facts on the ground, Indian security apparatus is less than three months away from a disgraceful retreat from the occupied valley.

The Union Government of India sent a heavily constituted all-party delegation to Kashmir to assess the on-ground situation, meet with all strands of society in Kashmir, and to devise ways and means to overcome the current crisis faced by the Valley. It failed to do all three.

The delegation failed to assess the situation on the ground as it was heavily protected by military, police and Indian J&K government functionaries. It was totally protected from the rioters, the youth of Kashmir which was out on the streets demanding its rights – respect, autonomy, self-determination and the chance for a peaceful life without indiscriminate violence. The delegation, comprising 39 members and led by Union Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, met with Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a spiritual and political leader of the Valley’s majority Muslim population, while the latter was in forced house arrest. Why? Because the Mirwaiz refused to meet with the delegation. So he was forced to stay inside his home, while the delegation paid him a visit there. And everyone is aware of divisions within this delegation over its meeting with hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani, who proposes the independence of Kashmir. The BJP claimed that it did not want to meet Gilani, while CPI-M’s Sitaram Yechury said that the decision was a delegation-based one and approved by the delegation’s head, Mr. Chidambaram, who himself could not meet Geelani as it would violate procotol. Of course. How could the Union Home Minister acknowledge a separatist as a political leader of Kashmir? Finally, the delegation was unable to devise ways and means to rescue Kashmir from the current chaos, even though Mr. Chidambaram claimed that the future of Kashmir is secure as part of India. What wishful thinking, even as his own delegation crumbled and scrambled for any semblance of a unified position on the Kashmir issue.

The fact remains that Kashmir can never be an integral part of India unless and until atrocities committed by Indian forces (military, paramilitary and civil police) are atoned for and unless and until the murderers in uniform are held accountable. The repeal or withdrawal of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFPSA) has now become a thing of the future, and the past is yet to be reconciled with. The CPI-M’s Gurudas Dasgupta perhaps has the most sound understanding of the Kashmir situation: he stated that the Centre needed to take “calculated risks” to defuse it, and that the anger of the people of the Valley was not “unsubstantiated”. He also held that “the special position of the State has been gradually diluted”, adding that the use of weapons for crowd control was unjustified, whether it was guns, teargas shells, lathis or water cannons. In response to Army Chief Gen. V. K. Singh’s referral of AFSPA as an “enabling provision”, Dasgupta said that “the Army should not be allowed to make political statements. Democracy does not allow it”.

Dasgupta, a leftist MP, in an ominous tone, said “I have no hesitation in saying that the rest of India does not know what is happening in Kashmir and the people of the Valley feel that Indians do not show concern. There is a critical degree of alienation and if we still do not realise that we all need to do something, Kashmir may be lost to India”. An astute observation, but one that will fall on deaf ears.

The Union Government, who was in alliance with leftist parties till its proximity to the US became all too apparent with the nuclear deal, should pay attention to the same leftists who urged Mr. Chidambaram to allow the delegation to meet separatist leaders, including Geelani. While the delegation has fallen woefully short of its expectations, and has left unrequited hope and greater fears in its midst, it has at least interacted with all leaders of the Kashmiri people – including the jailed Shabir Shah of the Democratic Freedom Party. Yet, it remains aloof to the demands of autonomy, of freedom, of ‘azadi’; it has shut its ears to the slogans of ‘Go India, Go back’ and is willing to spill the blood of its own soldiers and troopers as far as the territory of Kashmir remains within the confines of the Indian confederation – whether any Kashmiri is left to claim Kashmir or not is a “non-issue”, and whether Kashmir becomes a ghost state or not is irrelevant.

The Indian Government must cease this blood-letting immediately. However, instead of taking a rational approach, the Indian government is preparing to counter Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the UN General Assembly despite multilateral calls (including by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and the OIC) for concern over the situation in Kashmir, and urges directed towards the Indian establishment to exercise restraint against Kashmiri civilians – which PM Manmohan Singh has called “Indian citizens”. Yet I do not see Indian citizens being shot at anywhere else. I do not see Indian women raped by army officers, soldiers and paramilitary jawans. And I do not see Indian citizens throwing stones at Indian authorities.

Maybe I need new glasses, or maybe the Union Government has actually blinded itself with fake visions of being a superpower that can not and will not “fall prey” to subnationalist motivations.

While more than 400 million Indians suffer in debilitating poverty, a report by the CIA claims that India is (or will be) the third most powerful country in the world. Let me survey a Kashmiri or a Maoist rebel to ask them if they agree with this CIA report. Let me ask a Dalit, or a Muslim in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

India must wake up before it breaks up.

A well-read Indian daily has the most precise, most succinct statement to make regarding the Kashmir situation. It says that Kashmir has become the proverbial hen and egg story: Peace cannot be restored here unless talks are held, and the talks cannot be held unless peace is restored. In this cyclical debate, violence will only beget violence, ignorance will only inflame tempers, and guns can only silence some voices while ten cries are raised for every fallen one.

MQM begins Punjab move

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* Party chief Altaf says those who chanted slogan of roti, kapra aur makan gave nothing to people in past 62 years
* MQM to retire country’s debt by selling feudals’ land

LAHORE: Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain has said that the people of Punjab will see that politics are free of feudalism and brutality with the entry of his party in the province’s mainstream politics.

During a telephonic address from London to the first-ever convention of the MQM that was simultaneously held in Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi, Altaf said the party had entered Punjab’s politics to deal with the feudal lords, adding that all of them would now be held accountable for their cruelty against the deprived masses of the country.

Nothing done: Altaf said those who raised the slogans of ‘roti, kapra aur makan’ had given nothing to the people in the country’s 62-year history.

The MQM chief criticised the ruling party, saying it had not fulfilled its commitment in the past.

Citing verses from the holy Quran, Altaf said the people would have to pledge not to support “thieves” in the future.

He said the MQM had entered the politics of Punjab to apprehend the country’s “thieves and looters” and to make them walk in the streets after painting their faces black. Altaf said the MQM would let free hunting dogs on these people, adding that the convention was meant to save the country from thieves and looters.

Land sales: Altaf promised to the people that the MQM would distribute the lands of the feudal lords among the poor and would also sell these lands to pay off the country’s debt, if the people of the province support the party to come to power.

He said the people faced problems like poverty, unemployment and shortage of potable water, but politicians were only making false promises and avoiding resolving the real issues of the masses.

The MQM chief said hordes of people had turned up for the convention to save the country from a discriminatory system in which the poor and the rich enjoyed different facilities.

He said the children of poor were made to sit on the ground in public schools while those of the ruling two percent enjoyed all the luxuries in the world.

On the issue regarding the creation of new provinces in the country, Altaf said he believed new provinces would strengthen the federation.

“Demanding a separate province is not a crime or mutiny. The country will get stronger by the creation of more provinces .The real successors of the country are the 98 percent poor people and today, the people will have to promise to stand together to expose those rulers who robbed the country’s wealth by getting billion of their loan written off during the last six decades”, the MQM said.

He added that the MQM would continue its struggle for the rights of minorities and would also address the issue of a separate province for the Seraiki people.

Altaf said the Kashmir dispute would be solved once the Kashmiri people are included in the negotiations to carve out a solution in line with their own wishes, adding that the MQM would resolve the Kashmir issue.

India’s unhelpful attitude

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By Tariq Fatemi

India’s long tradition of democracy has given the country an image of a responsible and restrained nation. But this view is not shared by India’s neighbours, especially the smaller ones.

An India’s Border Security Force (BSF) soldier patrols near the fenced border with Pakistan in Suchetgarh, southwest of Jammu, January 12, 2010. An Indian soldier was killed on Monday in cross-border firing in Kashmir, the latest in a spurt of violence in the disputed region that has raised tensions with Pakistan, officials said. – Photo by Reuters.

The past 60 years have shown India’s tendency to throw its weight about and browbeat its neighbours. With those that are bigger and more powerful, India tends to adopt a moralistic and intellectually superior tone, as noted by some American leaders. With its smaller neighbours, it does not hesitate to take off its gloves.

Of course, we are no paragons of virtue either, and in many cases, it has been our own arrogance and folly, more than Indian machinations, that have contributed to our failures and losses, whether in view of the East Pakistan debacle or the Kargil adventure.

It had, however, been expected that with the restoration of a democratic dispensation in Pakistan and with virtually all major political parties committed to establishing a cooperative relationship with India, New Delhi would engage in a comprehensive dialogue aimed at resolving the differences that have plagued ties between the South Asian neighbours.

The Mumbai terror attack in November 2008 angered the Indian government, which thereafter had to cater to massive popular outrage. The consequent decision to suspend the dialogue with Pakistan was understandable.

Since then, the Pakistani leadership has been engaged in a major effort to convince New Delhi that it was sincere in its desire to cooperate with India with the common objective of confronting the extremists. In fact, the most remarkable thing was the near unanimity with which the Pakistanis not only condemned the Mumbai attacks, but also acknowledged that their country needed to take concrete steps to assuage India’s anguish.

None of this, however, appears to have had much impact on the Indian establishment. Even the expectations raised at the Gilani-Singh meeting in Sharm El Sheikh were snuffed out when Manmohan Singh’s colleagues publicly expressed their misgivings.

Then again, while Singh’s statement last October in Srinagar that he was not setting preconditions for the dialogue had raised fresh hopes, it did not indicate anything new, for he placed his readiness for talks in the context of Pakistan being able to create an environment conducive to negotiations. His pronouncement neither accompanied nor followed any move to re-engage Islamabad. Instead, Delhi declined to respond to the road map for resuming talks that Pakistan had conveyed to Indian officials.

This led many to believe that Prime Minister Singh’s remarks in Srinagar were merely meant to coincide with US Secretary Hillary Clinton’s visit to Pakistan, as well as his own visit to Washington a few weeks later.

In the meanwhile, the Pakistanis kept pleading for the resumption of dialogue, while the Indians continued to rebuff these offers. The Indian foreign minister ridiculed even the offer of back-channel exchanges. It was then that realisation dawned on the Pakistani leadership that the country’s repeated requests were becoming demeaning.

In the meanwhile, India appears to have raised the ante, with the Indian army chief Gen Kapoor remarking that “the possibility of a limited war in a nuclear overhang is still a reality, at least in the Indian subcontinent”.

What has been particularly galling is the failure of the Obama administration to act on its seemingly wise policy pronouncements during the election campaign. Instead of encouraging India to reduce its presence in Afghanistan and ceasing to stir up trouble in Balochistan, the US appears to have gone along with Indian allegations, agreeing to inject into the US-India joint statement a provision “to work jointly to deal with terrorism emanating from India’s neighbourhood”.

This was strange, coming from an administration that had publicly expressed a desire to promote Indo-Pakistan normalisation and to work for the resolution of the Kashmir problem.

The Indian army chief’s latest statement in which he spoke of his army’s capacity to fight a two-front war has evoked great surprise and disappointment. But while it conveyed hostility and belligerence, his words are neither realistic nor achievable as India does not have the capability to successfully initiate its much-heralded ‘cold start’ strategy, much less wage two wars against two neighbours simultaneously.

This does not mean, however, that we can dismiss these statements as mere rhetoric. It could be more evidence of the increasing inclination of the Indian forces to have a role in the India-Pakistan equation.

According to some observers, there has been a slow but perceptible change in India where an increasing number are reported to have insisted on being given more than merely a ‘hearing’ on issues relating to Pakistan, especially Siachen and Sir Creek. The Indian armed forces have gradually come to believe that given the growing challenges that India faces both domestically and on its frontiers, a more visible role for it is in order.

Another important factor is the newfound confidence acquired from the special relationship that the US has so eagerly conferred on India, not only as its strategic partner, but also as a potential counterweight to China. No less important could be the growing influence of rightwing parties and religious groups that want India to adopt more nationalist policies vis-à-vis its neighbours.

Whatever the reason, our leaders should not react in haste or with similar belligerence. What must be avoided at all costs are provocative steps, such as refusing to cooperate against the militants or brandishing nuclear assets.

Instead, what is required is a dispassionate analysis of what these signals portend for Pakistan and sensitising our friends to Indian actions. While we must not be distracted from the objective of seeking a peaceful resolution of our differences with India, we must not show undignified haste towards that end.


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by Rohit Kumar

The Maoist insurgency in its North East is a massive problem for India. The Maoists fighting for control and supremacy are dominant in over 223 states and threaten to create a Red Corridor all the way to Nepal. The Maoists (Communist Party of India-Maoist or CPI-M) are targeting the soft vulnerable areas of India’s richest states and this is by no means a coincidence. India’s ‘Shining India’ image is tarnished by this reminder of grievances driven by poverty, discrimination, State oppression and a caste system that makes extremism an attractive option. The trouble in the North East ties in with the freedom struggle in Kashmir that is fuelled by state terrorism against the predominantly Muslim population. This has been the driving force behind the creation of the Students Indian Muslim Movement and other similar movements among India’s large Muslim population. Atrocities like the mass killings of Muslims in Gujerat and the Samjhota Train Massacre—both State sponsored and abetted events—have added to the simmering indigenous cauldron that is bubbling on its own without the external stimulus that India blames it on.

A 50000 kilometer swathe of territory in India’s Chattisgarh State the Bastar region– has emerged as one of the many strongholds of the Maoists in the north east. Many local extremist organizations support the CPI-M— like the Dandakaranaya Adivasi, the Kissan-Mazdoor Sangh, the Kranthiari Adivasi Mahila Sangh and the Kranthiari Adivasi Balak Sangh. Adivasis are the most exploited, ill treated and down trodden lower castes in India. Similar strongholds exist in the entire north eastern region. The population hates the exploitative and corrupt state political, bureaucratic and security establishments and generally supports the Maoist insurgents. Those who collaborate with government agencies are ruthlessly killed to serve as examples to others. Politicians and police officials concerned with their own survival become manipulative and often ignore or underplay Maoist activity.

State capacity is severely limited on many counts. There are desertions and mutinies within the security forces (SF). Policemen refuse specialized training for fear of postings to Maoist dominated areas. Over 29 policemen were killed in a single attack last July sending a stark message to the SF. State strategy vacillates between talks, peace deals, negotiations and the use of force with the result that there has never been an effective strategy despite the billions that have been spent on developing capacity. Maoists have targeted SF personnel and civilians with impunity. Bomb blasts, targeted killings, assassinations, kidnappings and subversion are rampant. There is no doubt that SF have been penetrated by the Maoists and there is evidence of total intelligence failure. As in Kashmir the Indian propensity to use inordinate levels of orce against unarmed civilians is the driver behind the hatred in the population. The Maoists also have access to weapons. Indian political moves to enlist Bangla Desh in the fight against the Maoists are unlikely to help because the root cause of the problem is the grievances against India. It is possible that if Bangla Desh cooperates then the Maoists will extend operations into the vulnerable areas of Bangla Desh too.

The Indian SF ‘Operation Green Hunt” launched with much hype in November 2009 has faltered because of incompetence, lack of capacity and widespread hostility among the people of the area. The Maoists have now threatened to kidnap children, bomb schools and hospitals. There are many Chattisgarhs in the north east and Indian strategy to deal with them is not working. In fact it is creating more hatred and extremism. A more rational approach that stresses harmony in bilateral relations, addresses the concerns and aspirations of the people and restrains the use of force is the answer but such an approach as never found favor in India otherwise the Kashmir issue would have been resolved years ago.