Archive for January, 2010

Shah Rukh Khan on Shiv Sena *hit list*

January 31, 2010 1 comment

LAHORE: Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray said on Saturday Indian superstar Shah Rukh Khan deserved to be awarded Pakistan’s highest civilian honour, Nishaan-e-Pakistan, for supporting the inclusion of Pakistani cricketers in the Indian Premier League (IPL), Hindustan Times reported.

The Bollywood superstar, also the Kolkata Knight Riders co-owner, had said that he would have picked a Pakistani player for his IPL team if his team had a slot. In an editorial in Saturday’s party mouthpiece Saamna, Thackeray said the “Khan” inside Shah Rukh Khan must be crushed by the “Har Har Mahadev” war cry of the “Shivaji” inside the Hindus. The remark was reference to Chhatrapati Shivaji’s killing of Bijapur general Afzal Khan, sent by Sultan Adil Shah II of Bijapur in 1659, at Pratapgad in Satara district of western Maharashtra.

IPL franchise owners did not bid for Pakistani players during the auction for the IPL III, which has snowballed into a major spat between the two countries.

Thackeray said if “Shah Rukh wants to give a red carpet treatment to Pakistani cricketers on the blood of innocent Indians slain by Pakistani terrorists from Kashmir to Mumbai”, then, Thackeray warned, the Shiv Sena will never permit it.

He said by supporting the cause of Pakistani players, Shah Rukh had insulted the victims of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Thackeray said, “Since SRK has so much love for the Pakistanis, he could appoint 26/11 terror accused Ajmal Kasab as the captain of his Kolkata Knight Riders team and Mohammed Afzal Guru (facing death penalty for the 2001 attack on parliament) as the vice captain in the forthcoming IPL matches”. In a related development, Congress state spokesman Hussain Dalwai wrote to state Home Minister RR Patil demanding security for Shah Rukh’s forthcoming release “My Name Is Khan”. daily times monitor. Sunday, January 31, 2010,
Shah Rukh Khan deserves Nishaan-e-Pakistan, says Bal Thackeray

Facing isolation, Delhi back peddles on Taliban

January 31, 2010 Leave a comment


This months saw a lot of reversals for Delhi’s foreign policy. Still reeling from its eviction from Tajikistan, Delhi once again faces an about face and U turn on the Taliban. For a decade Bharat (aka India) has been espousing a hardline stance on Afghanistan–no negotiation, continued, war, perpetual occupation, and rejection of the anti-occupation forces.

Turkey did not even bother to invite Bharat to the regional conference on Afghanistan–all the immediate neighbors put up a joint front which essentially established a negotiating framework between the current government and the Taliban.

In London, Delhi again started with its old rhetoric of not negotiating with the Taliban. Its advice and stance fell on deaf ears. Neither the US, nor the UK–nor even China or Russia had any appetite for Delhi’s conspiracy theories about Pakistan and the Taliban.

“We are willing to give it a try,” Krishna told the Times of India in an interview published on Saturday.

“If the Taliban meets the three conditions put forward – acceptance of the Afghan constitution, severing connections with al Qaeda and other terrorist groups and renunciation of violence, and are accepted in the mainstream of Afghan politics and society, we could do business.”

Krishna’s comments come after ministers from 60 countries met in London on Thursday to endorse a plan to win over Taliban foot soldiers with cash and jobs in a renewed effort to turn the tide in the eight-year-old war..

While accepting the reality of the new plan on the Taliban, Krishna made clear the Indian discomfort with the group, saying its fundamental assessment of the Taliban remained unchanged.

“We consider them to be terrorists who have close links with the al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups,” he told the daily.

“We are next door and our experiences make it difficult for us to differentiate between good or bad Taliban,” he said, adding the West saw the group “from far away”.

Besides trying to lure away Taliban fighters from the insurgency, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has also offered to hold talks with the top leaders of the Taliban. The Taliban have not yet responded to his latest appeal.: India is willing to back efforts to seek peace with Taliban to stabilise Afghanistan, foreign minister S.M. Krishna said, indicating a softening of stand towards the group.DELHINEW

The Times of India in fact admitted the total failure of the Bharati foreign policy viz a viz West Asia. Nor only has Bharat failed to isolate Pakistan–Delhi’s big drama on Mumbai has isolated the country from Russia, China, America, Afghanistan, West Asia and Pakistan.

Delhi’s inane stance on non-negotiation with Pakistan has no seekers. Neither Pakistan, nor the world is bothered if Bharat wants to perpetuate its illogical belligerence towards one of the most important countries of West and South Asia. By continueing its animosity towards Pakistan on all forums Bharat has been ignored.

Obviously Bharat will now go to the drawing board, figuring out best case and worst case scenarios on the Hindu Kush. Once it has been determined that Bharat has to vacate its dozen or so Consulates, she will try to bifurcate Afghanistan into spheres of influence. Failing which it will continue to sponsor terror into Pakistan through mercenaries.

‘It seems that the Indian polity is divided, India is confused’: Shah Mahmood Qureshi

January 31, 2010 Leave a comment


LONDON: Referring to the meeting between the two ministers in New York September last, Shah Mahmood Qureshi clarified: “I gave him (S M Krishna) a very crisp proposal, a roadmap for the future. He said he would get back to me, but he has not got back to me. That means he has nothing to offer.” He persisted: “It seems that the Indian polity is divided, India is confused.”

The war of words between India and Pakistan has escalated with external affairs minister S M Krishna on Friday attempting damage control after his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s accusations against India a day earlier. Both ministers were in London to attend the Afghanistan Conference.

Qureshi had also stated that the MEA was divided on Pakistan. Krishna retorted: “I don’t know what makes him say that the MEA speaks in two voices. I think there is total unity of thinking in the ministry and unity of approach.”

LONDON: A one-day international conference on Afghanistan on Thursday rejected India’s argument that there were no degrees of Talibanism. British

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, hosting the conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, announced in his opening address the establishment of a $500 million ‘trust fund’ to buy “peace and integration” with warriors who are engaged in violence for economic rather than ideological reasons. A whopping $140 million has been pledged already for this year.

During his pre-conference discussion with the British foreign secretary David Miliband, external affairs minister S M Krishna had specifically said, “There should be no distinction between a good Taliban and a bad Taliban.” But this clearly fell on deaf ears. It was also unclear whether remnants of Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, once cultivated by India, would be accommodated in any way. There was also no reference to the erstwhile foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, who put up a spirited fight in the first round of the recent controversial presidential election and exposed fraud before withdrawing from the contest.

Krishna was allocated a seat in the second of three rows of attendees at the conference which in itself reflected India’s peripheral role in Afghan affairs in the eyes of the international community. This, despite India being the biggest regional aid-giver to Afghanistan, with a commitment of $1.3 million. Earlier in the week, Turkey, an ally of Pakistan, did not even bother to invite India to a confabulation on Afghanistan.

Krishna was among more than 70 foreign ministers and officials of international organisations who attended the convention at the 185-year-old Lancaster House, a coveted venue for summits and high level interactions.

Pakistan supports a differentiation between Taliban segments, including being generally soft towards the Afghan Taliban, which was sponsored by the Pakistani Army’s Inter-Services Intelligence. In an interview to a British daily on Thursday, foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi claimed: “Pakistan is perhaps better placed than any other country in the world to support Afghan reintegration and reconciliation.”

As a goodwill gesture, the conference was preceded by a lifting of United Nations sanctions on five leaders of the obscurantist Taliban regime, which was ousted by armed forces led by the United States after the 9/11 attack on New York by the Afghanistan-based Al Qaida. Among the beneficiaries is a former foreign minister Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil.

However, Brown warned, “But those insurgents who refuse to accept the conditions for reintegration, we have no choice but to pursue them militarily.” It is widely believed that hardcore elements among the extremists will not accept the amnesty.

In keeping with United States President Barack Obama’s plan to start withdrawing American troops in a little over 18 months, Brown also declared that to fill the breach the strength of the Afghan army would be increased to 134,000 by October of this year and to 171,600 by October 2011. Corresponding enlargements would also occur in respect of the Afghan police. The template for Afghanistan is similar to the one utilised in Iraq, that of handover of responsibilities province by province to national security forces. Times of India. World rejects India’s Taliban stand

Pakistan offers to train Afghan army

January 31, 2010 2 comments


Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Pakistan has offered training to Afghanistan army and police and also offered to increase cooperation in various fields with Afghanistan.

Talking to a private TV channel said that in the conference the importance of Pakistan was admitted and besides military options, other options for the solution of Afghanistan issue were also discussed.” We would have to move forward by keeping the ground realities in mind, “ adding, “ the Afghanistan government has sought help from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in talks with Taliban”.

Qureshi said that Afghanistan has to prepare 0.3 million army and police officials by 2011.

“According to Pakistan point of view, the conference was very successful and addressing our reservations is our great success”, he added. He said that Hamid Karzai has sought five years time for normalizing the situation in his country.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the international conference in London on Afghanistan’s future, marked a “decisive” moment in Afghanistan’s history.

While he warned that British and international troops fighting the Taliban would face more “tough times” ahead, he said a process was being put in place that would enable them to return home.

“It will take time but I believe that the conditions set out in the plan that we will sign up today can be met sooner than many expect and, as a result, the process of handover district-by-district will begin later this year,” he said speaking to a 60-nation conference in London. “It will mark the beginning of a new phase and a decisive step towards Afghans taking responsibility for their own security.”

Pakistan willing to help Taliban reintegration process

January 29, 2010 Leave a comment


Pakistan’s foreign minister says his country welcomes Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s request for help on reconciling with the Taliban.

Talking to reporters after the Afghanistan Conference in London, Shah Mahmoud Qureshi said, Pakistan wants the reconciliation progress “to be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, and if the Afghan government so desires, we are willing to facilitate.”

At the London conference on Thursday, the Afghan government invited Taliban militants to a peace council of elders as part of efforts to find a way out of the conflict.

As leaders and ministers from around 70 nations convened in London to discuss Afghanistan, United Nations officials said members of the Taliban’s leadership council had secretly met UN Special Representative Kai Eide in Dubai on January 8, to discuss the prospects of laying down their arms, Reuters reported.

Despite intense speculation over whether senior members of the Taliban might join a future Afghan government, Qureshi said that inevitably there would be some hardline members of the Taliban that will not want to be brought back into the fold.

“You will only be engaged with those who are willing to talk and are willing to accept, for example, the Afghan constitution, those who do not want to come to the mainstream line, you can’t force them in,” Qureshi said.

Indian role in Afghanistan needs to be spelt out: US

January 28, 2010 Leave a comment


In a report sent to the White House in September, Gen Stanley McChrystal, who commands US and Nato force in Afghanistan, warned that “increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani counter measures.”

At a briefing at the Pentagon, spokesman Geoff Morrell also discounted Indian role in training Afghan security forces.

The Pentagon press secretary said that US Defence Secretary Robert Gates had discussed the Afghan situation with Indian leaders, including the issues that concerned Pakistan, when he visited New Delhi last week.

“We did discuss Afghanistan with the government in Delhi and discussed the need for the Indian government to be as transparent as they can be with the Pakistani government about their activities in Afghanistan,” he said.

Asked if the United States would like India to train Afghan security forces, Mr Morrell said that the international community was not contemplating any such role for India.

“They clearly have contributed much in the monetary sense, financial support to the government in Afghanistan and that is greatly appreciated by us, by the Afghans and, I think, by the international community,” said the Pentagon spokesman.

“But beyond that, I think, you saw him (Secretary Gates) speak to this talk of perhaps the Indians providing training to Afghan forces. And that is not something that we, that I think, anybody is pursuing at this point.”

Secretary Gates told reporters in New Delhi last week that India and Pakistan had deep suspicious about each other’s activities in Afghanistan and stressed the need for “full transparency”.

Pakistan complains that India is using its influence in Afghanistan to stir trouble in Balochistan and had also provided weapons and financial assistance to the militants in Fata.

Islamabad also sees India’s strong presence in Afghanistan as a threat to its own security, fearing that New Delhi is trying to bring pressure on Pakistan from both its eastern and western borders.

Initially, US policy-makers ignored Islamabad’s complaints. Instead, they continued to remind Pakistani officials that the militants, and not India, were their main enemy and they should focus on fighting the militants.

But attitudes in Washington began to change after a realisation that US efforts to persuade Pakistan to stop fearing India had not worked. In recent congressional hearings such senior US military officials as Admiral Mike Mullen and Gen David Petraeus admitted that Washington needed to be receptive to Islamabad’s concerns.

In a report sent to the White House in September, Gen Stanley McChrystal, who commands US and Nato force in Afghanistan, warned that “Indian political and economic influence is increasing in Afghanistan” and “the current Afghan government is perceived by Islamabad to be pro-Indian”.

The general also warned that “increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani counter measures”.

The McChrystal report also noted: “Stability in Pakistan is essential, not only in its own right, but also to enable progress in Afghanistan. While the existence of safe havens in Pakistan doesn’t guarantee ISAF failure, Afghanistan does require Pakistani cooperation and action against violent militancy, particularly against those groups active in Afghanistan.”

Meeting India’s military challenge

January 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Thursday, January 28, 2010
Muneer Akram

During US Defence Secretary Gates’ recent visit, we have again heard the refrain of our Western friends that terrorism and the Taliban, not India, pose an ‘existential’ threat to Pakistan.

But India’s own actions and pronouncements belie these Western assertions. For the past year, India has refused to resume “composite dialogue” and has regularly threatened military action against Pakistan in the event of another Mumbai-like incident. And, while protesting loudly about pro-Kashmiri militant groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, India has been busy fomenting dissension and insurgency in Balochistan, FATA and other parts of Pakistan.

It was hardly helpful that Secretary Gates virtually endorsed India’s belligerence when he told reporters in New Delhi that “it’s not unreasonable to assume India’s patience would be limited were there to be further (Mumbai-type) attacks.” It would have been better if India was told that it is its posture which risks an Indo-Pakistan conflict and that anti-Indian violence will end once New Delhi halts its suppression of the Kashmiri people.

Any lingering doubt about India’s hostile intentions and policies towards Pakistan should have been set to rest by the new military doctrine outlined recently by the Indian army chief. General Kapoor identified five thrust areas for the Indian military build-up: the ability to fight a two-front war against Pakistan and China; optimise capacity to counter asymmetric and sub-conventional threats; enhance capabilities for strategic reach and “out-of-area operations from the Persian Gulf to the Malacca Straits; acquire strategic (intercontinental) and space-based capabilities and ballistic missile defenses, and ensure a technical edge over adversaries (that is, Pakistan and China).

The new doctrine reflects India’s great power aspirations. But, the greatest danger for Pakistan emanates from the concept of the so-called ‘Cold Start’ strategy, propounded by General Kapoor, to mobilise and strike fast (within 96 hours) at Pakistan “under a WMD overhang”. At its meeting on January 13, 2010, Pakistan’s National Command Authority “took serious note of recent Indian statements about its capability to conduct conventional military strikes under a nuclear umbrella” describing this as “oblivious to the dangerous implications of adventurism in a nuclearised context.”This is, of course, not the first time India has contemplated a limited war or a conventional attack against Pakistan after South Asia was nuclearised. Indian leaders and military officers have often threatened ‘hot pursuit’ and ‘lightning strikes’ against training camps across the LoC in Kashmir. But they could not ignore Pakistan’s stance that no war between India and Pakistan could be conceived as a limited war. In 1987, and again in 2002, India contemplated a full-scale attack against Pakistan. On both occasions, India discovered that it did not have the capacity to overcome Pakistan’s conventional defences.

India no doubt hopes that with the western weapons faucets now open to it, it can, in the near future, acquire the capability to defeat Pakistan in a conventional conflict. All the new capabilities and weapons systems acquired by India, whatever the proffered rationale, can and will be deployed and used against Pakistan in the event of a future confrontation or conflict. Today, over 70 per cent of India’s military capabilities – land, air and naval – are deployed against Pakistan. There is no reason to believe that this proportion will change in the foreseeable future.

Pakistan cannot, of course, afford to match India’s military build up. Its response will have to be defensive, asymmetrical, innovative, and achieved at much lower cost. Pakistan’s forces may need to do some tactical rethinking. For example, an Indian tank force can be more effectively destroyed by drones and missiles rather than a matching tank force. A large surface navy can be seriously damaged by submarines and mobile missile-boats. The eight Indian “battle groups” may be more mobile; but they would also be vulnerable to encirclement and destruction. Rather than spread themselves thin to defend the entire Eastern border, Pakistani forces could adopt an offensive-defensive strategy, focusing a thrust into Kashmir to bottle up half a million Indian troops there.

Following the post-Mumbai situation and the emergence of India’s Cold Start strategy, Pakistan’s armed forces have undertaken extensive war games to counter this threat. If the Indians have watched these closely, they should be clear in their minds that the danger of conventional adventurism escalating to the nuclear level cannot be ruled out. This was the general conclusion in 2002 — confirmed among others by Pentagon war games. The Indo-Pakistan “composite dialogue” was restarted in 2003 on the basis of the mutual recognition that a military conflict between the two nuclear-armed countries was too dangerous to contemplate.

The critical question which arises, therefore, is what has given Indian military planners the confidence now that a conventional attack will not escalate to the mutually disastrous nuclear level? There could be three possible reasons for India’s “new” confidence:

First, India may believe that the new capabilities it is acquiring – Israeli AWACs, US-Israeli-Russian ballistic missile defence systems, advanced strike aircraft – can effectively neutralise Pakistan’s nuclear strike force of missiles and aircraft. This would be shallow strategic thinking since Pakistan could ensure penetration of Indian defences through multiplication of its missiles and warheads.

Second, Indian plans may envisage, together with a Cold Start conventional attack, a pre-emptive strike against Pakistan’s strategic delivery systems. This is likely to push Pakistan to maintain at least a part of its strategic capabilities in a state of readiness to respond to a pre-emptive counter-force strike.

The third, and most ominous, possibility is that India has come to believe that foreign powers will prevent Pakistan, by threats or military means, from escalating a conventional conflict to the nuclear level.

If India launches a Cold Start strike, the world community would first try to halt the conflict. India may count on making quick military gains and then accepting a ceasefire. But, the priority western goal would be to prevent Pakistan from resorting to its nuclear deterrent. If diplomatic demarches and threats do not work, even more drastic measures could be contemplated.

Numerous media stories have mentioned the existence of US plans to seize or neutralise Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in the event of their threatened take over by Islamic radicals. These plans, if they exist, could be executed also in the context of an Indo-Pakistan conflict.

An article which appeared in the Foreign Affairs Quarterly (November-December 2009), “The Nukes We Need”, is also worth noting. The two writers argue that “The United States will sooner or later find itself embroiled in conventional wars with nuclear-armed adversaries” and should have the “ability to launch precise, very low-casualty nuclear counter-force strikes.” This would enable the US “to deter nuclear attacks” as well as have “retaliatory options.” The writers point out that the US already has such low-yield nuclear weapons in its arsenal.

Despite the present counter-terrorism alliance with the US, Pakistan needs to factor in these scenarios into its deterrence posture and doctrine. As the Foreign Affairs article, cited above, asserts: “If not backed by the capability and credibility to execute threats, deterrence is merely a dangerous bluff.”

To preserve the credibility of their nuclear deterrent capabilities, the major nuclear powers adopt some or all of three options: first, keep at least part of their nuclear-strategic weapons systems in a state of “high alert”; second, deploy a sufficient number of nuclear-armed missiles in hardened silos, deep underground, at secret and dispersed locations; and third, possess nuclear powered submarines as a credible second-strike nuclear force.

These objectives deserve the highest priority in Pakistan’s response to India’s new military doctrine. Pakistan’s response should also be accompanied by robust diplomatic action. This should include:

* A dialogue with China to coordinate an effective response to India’s new doctrine and capabilities at the diplomatic, strategic and tactical level.

* Press India’s weapons’ suppliers to refrain from providing it with the capabilities to execute its “adventurist” strategy; and

* Activating efforts to promote a South Asia restraint regime that provides for nuclear restraint, conventional balance and resolution of conflicts, especially Kashmir.

A clear and visible response by Pakistan is essential to convince India, and the international community, that Pakistan is determined to defend its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and that “cold start” could end in a hot finish.

The writer is a former Pakistani ambassador to the United Nations.