Friday, November 20, 2009

China's Growing Role in Afghanistan, Kashmir

China is beginning to act more like a global superpower by playing an increasingly important role in its South Asian neighborhood, with growing interest in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

The United States, as the reigning superpower deeply involved in South Asia, essentially acknowledged China's stature in the region when the following paragraph found its way into the joint communique issued by President Barak Obama and President Hu Jintao at the end their recent summit in Beijing:

"The two sides welcomed all efforts conducive to peace, stability and development in South Asia. They support the efforts of Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight terrorism, maintain domestic stability and achieve sustainable economic and social development, and support the improvement and growth of relations between India and Pakistan. The two sides are ready to strengthen communication, dialogue and cooperation on issues related to South Asia and work together to promote peace, stability and development in that region."

Coming a week before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Washinton, these developments have already caused consternation in New Delhi, prompting Times of India to complain in the following words:

"China , Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Pakistan... US president Barack Obama ran through the gamut of nations as he articulated another elegant Asia policy speech in Tokyo this week. Conspicuous by its absence was India. Was India not on his radar? Or was it such a close ally that he skipped naming it at a public function? It left New Delhi wondering. Just two days later, bam! He did something even more astonishing by acquiescing in a Chinese demand to let Beijing assume the role of a monitor in South Asia, an area where China is seen by India as part of the problem, not the solution."

China's rapidly growing gigantic economy is hungry for natural resources from around the world, and the neighboring Afghanistan's potential for mining such resources is not lost on China. In addition to helping bail out the ailing US economy, China is using some of its vast cash reserves of $2 trillion to offer supplier financing as well as insurance for the non-Chinese partners to cover political and credit risk in the emerging markets. With bilateral trade volume of about $7 billion, Pakistan is only one example of Chinese interest. Others include politically-risky Afghanistan, and many nations of Sub-Saharan Africa where the Chinese are financing and building major infrastructure projects. In Afghanistan, China has committed nearly $2.9 billion to develop the Aynak copper field, including the infrastructure that must be built with it such as a power station to run the operation and a railroad to haul the tons of copper it hopes to extract. The Aynak project is the biggest foreign investment in Afghanistan to date, according to Reuters. The trade between Africa and China has grown an average of 30% in the past decade, topping $106 billion last year. China has already become Latin America's second largest trading partner after the United States.

Clearly, Afghanistan is very important to China as well as Pakistan. And it is in the interest of both nations to try and counter the rising Indian influence in Afghanistan, facilitated by the regional US presence, that poses political and economic risks to both China and Pakistan. The following excerpt from US General Stanley McChrystal’s recent assessment of the war in Afghanistan has got the attention of Pakistan and China:

“Indian political and economic influence is increasing in Afghanistan, including significant development efforts and financial investment. In addition, the current Afghan government is perceived by Islamabad to be pro-Indian. While Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people, increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani counter-measures in Afghanistan or India.”

It will be interesting to watch how the competing interests and alliances play out in Afghanistan, especially after the eventual American exit from the region.

China's growing role in Kashmir can be gauged from the fact that the top Kashmiri separatist leader in the Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the Chairman of Hurriyat Conference in Indian-occupied Kashmir, has been invited to visit Beijing. He said he accepted the invitation and hoped to give Chinese diplomats and other officials a "perspective" on the situation in Kashmir. This is the first time ever that Beijing has invited any Kashmiri separatist leader to visit China.

Media reports indicate that India and Pakistan have had two rounds of meetings in Bangkok in the past three weeks as part of the back-channel diplomacy on Kashmir. The dialogue was held between former Pakistan High Commissioner Aziz Ahmed Khan and former RAW chief A S Dullat.

Mirwaiz confirmed to the Indian Express in a recent interview that the four-point formula proposed by former Pakistani President Musharraf is being revived to try and settle the Kashmir issues. The Musharraf formula envisions soft or porous borders in Kashmir with freedom of movement for the Kashmiris; exceptional autonomy or "self-governance" within each region of Kashmir; phased demilitarization of all regions; and finally, a "joint supervisory mechanism," with representatives from India, Pakistan and all parts of Kashmir, to oversee the plan’s implementation.

“India is not ready for the joint-management part of the proposals which talk about joint control of foreign affairs, currency and communications in Kashmir,” Mirwaiz told the Indian Express. “There’s a broader agreement on the other aspects of this settlement model”.

The Hurriyat chairman said the new momentum in back-channel engagements among India, Pakistan and Hurriyat is because the US is pushing for movement in Kashmir to address Pakistani concerns. “There are several geo-political factors that are in play and persuading New Delhi to act,” Mirwaiz said. Apparently, the engagement has the blessing of China as well.

On contacts with New Delhi, Mirwaiz said that he would wait for back channels to produce something tangible before entering into a public dialogue with the India government. Mirwaiz met with Pakistani High Commissioner Shahid Malik last week. Meanwhile, former Hurriyat chairman Abdul Gani Bhat has been in Delhi for the past 10 days. He, Mirwaiz said, has maintained “communication” with “people from the government.” Bhat has also met twice with the Pakistani High Commissioner.

If the ongoing efforts on Kashmir make significant progress, the results of improved India-Pakistan ties will have a salutary effect on the entire region, raising the US hopes to see light at the end of the tunnel in Afghanistan.

Related Links:

Obama's Afghan Exit Strategy

Kashmir Erupts Again

Chinese Do Good and Do Well

China's Checkbook Diplomacy

US Dalliance With Beijing

Obama's Retreat on Mid East and South Asia

Kashmir Holds Key to Peace in South Asia

President Musharraf's Legacy


Riaz Haq said...

From The Daily Times today....

Why not have a joint Kashmir?’

* PDP president calls for having ‘dual currency’ to encourage trade
* Says LoC should be made ‘irrelevant’

NEW DELHI: The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Indian-held Kashmir has called for unifying both Kashmirs and having a “dual currency” to encourage trade.

Speaking at an Indo-Pak conference on Sunday, PDP President Mehbooba Mufti said, “Can’t there be any joint mechanism between the two Kashmirs? Why can’t we have a joint council consisting of representatives from both sides?”

LoC: She said the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Kashmir should be made “irrelevant”. She said the recent militancy-related incidents in IHK should not influence New Delhi’s decision to withdraw troops from the disputed territory. “We know that the aim of any terror attack is to sabotage the dialogue process. The Lal Chowk attack should not influence the intention of the Indian government to withdraw forces [from IHK],” she said. The PDP leader said wars between India and Pakistan had only resulted in accumulation of security forces in IHK. Mehbooba said the peace process should be de-linked from terror incidents, adding that resumption of composite dialogue between India and Pakistan was the need of the hour.

The situation in IHK “has improved over the period of time and the people are turning to peaceful means to raise their grievances”, she said. Mehbooba said India and Pakistan should engage themselves in a result-oriented dialogue, adding that Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone was killed because “he wanted dialogue”. The PDP president urged the two countries to make a policy shift on Kashmir by reaching out to the people and practicing peaceful and democratic ways to build a new South Asia.

Mufti said that Kashmir would be the “first and the worst victim” if something happens to Pakistan. iftikhar gilani

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a BBC story about India's worries over "string of pearls" which describes ports China is building in Bangladesh and the Indian Ocean:

The various forms of Chinese assistance to Bangladesh have caused jitters in India - the huge country next door which some Bangladeshis still call "Big Brother."

India is concerned because a similar story is unfolding in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and in Burma - where China is also building roads and deep sea ports.

Indian defence experts fear that China is surrounding India with ports. They call it China's "string of pearls".

"This is not a fear, this is a fact," says Professor Shrikant Kondapalli of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

He believes China is "setting up shop" in smaller countries around the Indian Ocean because of oil. An estimated 80% of oil for China's resource-hungry economy comes from the Middle East and Africa, via the Indian Ocean.

Rapidly-growing India also needs oil, and it stands directly in the middle of China's supply route.

The Indians fear that although these deep sea ports will be for trade, China could call them in for military or strategic purposes if oil becomes scarce.

"When you put together all these jigsaw puzzles it becomes clear that Chinese focus in Indian Ocean is not just for trade," says Professor Kondapalli. "It is a grand design for the 21st Century."

'Indian paranoia'

In Beijing, India's fears are given short shrift. "During peace time, these kinds of facilities are only for commercial purposes," says Hu Sisheng, head of South Asia policy at the China Institute for Contemporary International Relations.

“ About 20 years ago, China was also a very poor country - but now it is developing ”
Chinese engineer Shar Wei

It's a tightly guarded government-run facility in Beijing which analyses foreign affairs and directly advises China's leaders.

China is keen to reassure the world that it has no hostile intent. Mr Hu says the Indians are being paranoid when they talk of a "string of pearls".

"It was minted by a young Pentagon guy," he points out.

The phrase "string of pearls" to describe China's strategy for building ports was originally used by analysts working for the US Department of Defense.

Mr Hu believes Washington is playing games and trying to cosy up to India, as it becomes increasingly concerned about China's rise.

Bangladesh is also adamant that there is nothing in its plans to concern India. "I don't believe if China helps us build this sea port, that China will be able to use it for other purposes," I'm told by Dr Dipu Moni, Bangladesh's foreign minister.

Bangladesh wants to be seen as a "bridge" from China to India, and is careful not to offend either of its giant neighbours.

"Bangladesh will never let any part of its territory be used for any kind of attacks or anything like that," she says.

Impoverished Bangladesh is hoping to capitalise on its location between China and India to develop its economy. I see the remarkable impact for myself on the outskirts of Chittagong.

I am stunned when a single track road surrounded by slums suddenly turns into a four-lane motorway. It then crosses a suspension bridge built of gleaming white concrete.

The funds for this bridge came from a Gulf country, and a Chinese firm has done the work.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting survey of Kashmiris reported by the BBC:

A survey which a British academic says is the first systematic attempt to establish the opinions of Kashmiris has produced "striking results".

Robert Bradnock interviewed more than 3,700 people in Indian- and Pakistani-administered Kashmir to assess their views on various issues.

One of the key questions put to respondents was how they saw the future of the territory.

Nearly half of those interviewed said they wanted independence.

Another question asked for their views over the continuing insurgency.

Dr Bradnock - an associate fellow at the Chatham House think-tank in London - says that the survey has produced startling conclusions, especially in relation to the future of the territory.
No 'simple fixes'

It revealed that on average 44% of people in Pakistani-administered Kashmir favoured independence, compared with 43% in Indian-administered Kashmir.

"However while this is the most popular option overall, it fails to carry an overall majority on either side.

"In fact on the Indian side of the Line of Control [LoC] - which separates the two regions - opinions are heavily polarised," Dr Bradnock told the BBC.

The survey found that the "overwhelming majority" of people want a solution to the dispute, even though there are no "simple fixes".

Dr Bradnock said that in the Kashmir valley - the mainly Muslim area at the centre of the insurgency - support for independence is between 74% and 95%.

But in the predominantly Hindu Jammu division to the south, support is under 1%.

Other findings include:

* 80% of Kashmiris on both sides of the LoC say that the dispute is important to them personally
* Concern over human rights abuses stands at 43% on the Indian side and 19% on the Pakistani side
* Concern over unemployment is strong across the territory - 66% on the Pakistani side and 87% on the Indian side
* Few are optimistic over peace talks - only 27% on the Pakistani side and 57% on the Indian side thought they would succeed.

Dr Bradnock said that it was "clear" that a plebiscite on the future of Kashmir - along the lines envisaged in UN resolutions of 1948-49 - is "extremely unlikely to offer a solution today".

"The results of the polls show that that there is no single proposition for the future of Kashmir which could be put to the population... and get majority support," he said.

"The poll offers no simple fixes but offers signposts - through which the political process, engaging India, Pakistan and wider Kashmiri representation - could move it towards resolution."

Riaz Haq said...

New York Times is reporting a trillion dollar mineral deposits find in Afghanistan.

WASHINGTON — The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.

While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war.

“There is stunning potential here,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, said in an interview on Saturday. “There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant.”

The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan’s existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as well as aid from the United States and other industrialized countries. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12 billion.

“This will become the backbone of the Afghan economy,” said Jalil Jumriany, an adviser to the Afghan minister of mines.

American and Afghan officials agreed to discuss the mineral discoveries at a difficult moment in the war in Afghanistan. The American-led offensive in Marja in southern Afghanistan has achieved only limited gains. Meanwhile, charges of corruption and favoritism continue to plague the Karzai government, and Mr. Karzai seems increasingly embittered toward the White House.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from a recent post by Soutik Biswas of on his Kashmir visit:

"The interminable day and night curfews have drained all life out of Srinagar. People have retreated into their homes leaving back graffiti on the walls screaming Go Back India! In the restive old city, surly young men sit outside shuttered homes and shops and glare at the troops peering out of sandbagged bunkers and manning the razor wire checkpoints. People wake up at the crack of dawn to store up on supplies when the grocers open for a few minutes. At night, an eerie silence descends over the city as the moon plays hide and seek with the clouds.

It is another summer of unrest in what is possibly the most scenic valley in the world. Two months of cyclical violence between stone pelting protesters and heavily armed security forces have left more than 50 dead - mostly teenagers. Things are looking grimmer than ever before. It's a summer that could turn out to be another defining point in the valley's tortured history. A whole generation of children of the conflict - Kashmiri writer Basharat Peer evocatively calls it their "war of adolescence" - who grew up in the days of militancy and violence in the early 1990s are driving the protests today. (Seven out of 10 Kashmiris are below 25.)

Growing up in the shadow of the gun and what they say is "perpetual humiliation" by the security forces, they are angry, alienated and distrustful of the state. As prominent opposition leader Mehbooba Mufti tells me when I visit her at her heavily secured home overlooking the stunning Dal lake: "If these young men are not given something to look forward to, God help Kashmir." The valley, most residents say, is in the early stages of an intifada."

"One mother emptied a cupboard and a suitcase full of of her 14 yr-old boy's belongings for me. Wamiq Farooq had gone to play in the neighbourhood when a tear gas shell fired by the troops exploded on his head. Doctors tried to revive him for an hour at the hospital before declaring him dead.

Now, sitting on a brown rug in a modest family home, his mother brings out Wamiq's red tie, red belt, white cap, fraying blue uniform, half a dozen school trophies, report cards, school certificates and then his pithy death certificate. "He is sure to be a face in the crowd," writes his school principal on one certificate praising Wamiq, the Tom and Jerry cartoons and science-loving teenaged son of a street vendor father. Then she slowly puts back Wamiq - his life and death - back into the suitcase and the cupboard and tells me, her eyes welling up: "I never understood why Kashmiri people demand freedom. After Wamiq's death, I do. I want freedom too. So that my children can return home unharmed and in peace.""

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a post by Soutik Biswas of BBC on rising Kashmir protests against Indian rule:

This is clearly beginning to look like the biggest challenge to Indian rule in Kashmir in more than a decade. The protests have also begun to spread outside the valley - some recent ones have taken place in Muslim-dominated pockets of Jammu, the bit of Kashmir where Hindus are in the majority and which has been peaceful so far.

Most believe that the government has itself to blame for the current mess in Kashmir. The common perception is that it didn't fix the leaking roofs when the sun was shining in the valley - the months of relative peace, booming tourist traffic. Now the authorities are groping around for administrative solutions to fix the festering wounds - they are under pressure to water down or even scrap the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act or to move security forces out of the bigger towns.

But most believe that this kind of tinkering, however important, would not be enough. The time has come for the government to think big - and be imaginative - and launch the beginnings of a political solution to bring peace to the valley. Bringing the hardline separatists on board will be key to any solution - the octogenarian separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, by default, is the only leader with credibility among people in the valley because of his consistently obdurate pro-Pakistan, pro-secessionist stand. Some believe that India's cussedness in refusing to talk to Mr Geelani is costing Kashmir dear - the leader appeared to have mellowed, leaving Pakistan out of the equation in his recent roadmap to restore peace in the valley. Pakistan could perhaps be worked into the matrix of a political solution at some later stage. But for the moment, India needs to show initiative and come up with some guarantees and time-bound plans to foster political reconciliation and sow the seeds of a political solution. Without this, the stone-throwing protesters may give way to Kalashnikov-wielding rebels from within the valley and across the border, in a return to full-blown bloody militancy.

Riaz Haq said...

To get a peek into the Indian psyche, read the following advice offered by Financial Times to David Cameron prior to his recent India trip:

The first is 'Kashmir', he says. Recalling controversial utterances by previous British foreign secretaries like Robin Cook and David Miliband, Barker tells Cameron: "The quickest way to turn a charm offensive into a diplomatic fiasco. The basic rule: British ministers should say nothing. Don't dare criticise, offer to help, or link bringing peace to tackling terrorism. Stray words have consequences."

The second is 'Poverty'. "More poor people than anywhere on earth. But not worth mentioning too loudly. Talk about the New India instead. Mention the aid review. A patronising tone is fatal."

The third, 'Coming over too fresh'. Barker says: "The young, dynamic, no-nonsense version of Cameron should probably be left behind. It's time to learn some manners. Indian politicians are, as a rule, double his age and four times as grand. If the meetings are stuffy, formal, overbearingly polite, that's a good thing."

The fourth is the 'Immigration cap'. The columnist writes: "A big issue for the Indian elite. Anand Sharma, the commerce minister, raised his 'concerns' earlier this month with Cameron himself. A heavily bureaucratic and stingy visa regime will not encourage Indians to work or study in Britain."

Read more: Don't mention Kashmir, poverty in India, UK PM advised - The Times of India

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Guardian report indicating Indian govt's intent to arrest and prosecute Arundhati Roy for sedition for her remarks on Kashmir:

India's home ministry is reported to have told police in Delhi that a case of sedition may be registered against Roy and the Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani for remarks they made at the weekend.

Under section 124A of the Indian penal code, those convicted of sedition face punishment ranging from a fine to life imprisonment.

Roy, who won the Booker in 1997 for The God of Small Things, is a controversial figure in India for her championing of politically sensitive causes. She has divided opinion by speaking out in support of the Naxalite insurgency and for casting doubt on Pakistan's involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

The 48-year-old author refused to backtrack. In an email interview with the Guardian, she said: "That the government is considering charging me with sedition me has to do with its panic about many voices, even in India, being raised against what is happening in Kashmir. This is a new development, and one that must be worrisome for the government."

"Threatening me with legal action is meant to frighten the civil rights groups and young journalists into keeping quiet. But I think it will have the opposite effect. I think the government is mature enough to understand that it's too late to put the lid on now," Roy said.

Earlier the author, who is currently in Srinagar, Kashmir, said in a statement: "I said what millions of people here say every day. I said what I, as well as other commentators, have written and said for years. Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice.

"I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland; for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villages in Cuddalore; for the Indian poor who pay the price of this occupation in material ways and who are now learning to live in the terror of what is becoming a police state."

After describing her meetings with people caught up in the Kashmir violence, she said: "Some have accused me of giving 'hate speeches', of wanting India to break up. On the contrary, what I say comes from love and pride. It comes from not wanting people to be killed, raped, imprisoned or have their fingernails pulled out in order to force them to say they are Indians. It comes from wanting to live in a society that is striving to be a just one.

"Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds. Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice, while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor roam free."

India's justice minister, Moodbidri Veerappa Moily, described Roy's remarks as "most unfortunate". He said: "Yes, there is freedom of speech … it can't violate the patriotic sentiments of the people."

Others were less restrained. One person posted a comment on the Indian Express newspaper website calling for the novelist to be charged with treason and executed.

Roy said she was not aware of the calls for her death, but said the comments were part of a "reasonably healthy debate in the Indian press".

"The rightwing Hindu stormtroopers are furious and say some pretty extreme things," she told the Guardian.

Roy made her original remarks on Sunday in a seminar – entitled Whither Kashmir? Freedom or Enslavement, during which she accused India of becoming a colonial power. Geelani also spoke at the seminar.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece by Eric Margolis on US-India ties titled "Welcome to India, Obama Sahib":

While the western media fulminates against Taliban’s or Iran’s treatment of women, a leading British medical journal reports an estimated 40,000 Indian women are burned alive each year by their in-laws to grab their dowries. Infanticide of female children is endemic. But few in the west seem to care.
India is a giant with feet of clay. A senior western diplomat in unhealthy Delhi told me that at any given time, half his staff is ill with serious maladies. India is plagued by grave health and environmental problems.
India is really two nations: modern, dynamic, high-tech urban India of about 100 million, and antique, timeless rural Mother India of 1.1 billion souls.
To China’s annoyance, President Obama proclaimed in Delhi that India should have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. India is becoming a great power and deserves a seat among the world’s big boys. But so do Germany, Japan, Turkey and Brazil.

India and its people, long disparaged by British racist jokes, are delighted to be called equals by the great powers. In fact, nuclear-armed India sees itself very much as regional hegemon of the entire Indian Ocean extending from East Africa to Australia.

The Bush administration’s deal with Delhi to sanctify and facilitate India’s nuclear weapons programs was thought at the time a clever move. But it dismayed the rest of the world, made a mockery of non-proliferation, and outraged the entire Muslim world, which has been blasting the US for hypocrisy by threatening war against Iran, which is under UN nuclear inspection, while playing nuclear footsie with India, which rejected all UN inspection.

India’s leaders are no fools and will not be easily pushed or bribed into a stronger anti-China and anti-Iran stance by Washington – Delhi maintains cool but correct relations with Beijing, but behind the wintry, trans-Himalayan smiles lies growing rivalry over Chinese-occupied Tibet, Indian-ruled Ladakh and Kashmir, their long, poorly demarcated Himalayan border (another gift of the British Empire), strategic Burma, and their intensifying nuclear and naval rivalry.

India claims China is trying to surround it, using Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Burma. The two Asian superpowers have been locked in a strategic and conventional arms race for a decade. In 1999, this writer postulated that the two giants would one day clash over their contested borders.

India will follow its own strategic and diplomatic interests – which are not synonymous with those of the United States.

Delhi has a long record of clever diplomacy that has isolated Pakistan and kept the world and UN out of the burning Kashmir problem, where 40,000–80,000 Kashmiris have died in a long independence struggle against Indian rule.

But the United States is now slowly being drawn into the dangerous Kashmir dispute – which triggered the 2008 terror bombing in Mumbai. Just look for example at the embarrassing revelations that one of the men involved in the 2008 Mumbai massacre was working for the US Drug Enforcement Agency.

The more Washington backs and arms India, the more its relations with China will deteriorate. Japan is also quietly building up India against China, to Beijing’s mounting anger.

The US could even be drawn into an India-China regional conflict. So caution is advised to US diplomats as they charge into the murky, tangled, poorly understood geopolitics of South and East Asia.

We also wonder if President Obama was briefed on India’s growing strategic arsenal.Delhi already has enough medium-ranged Agni-series missiles to cover potential foe China. Why then is Delhi spending billions to develop a reported 12,000 km ICBM whose only targets could be North America, Europe or Australia? ..

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting Op Ed warning Obama about possible loss of Pakistan to Chinese influence:

The United States and Pakistan are becoming increasingly divided over the fight against the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan. There are strong elements in Pakistani intelligence (ISI) who openly back the Taliban. And there is deep resentment against the United States for drone strikes and attacks against Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan. Now the Pakistani government is warming up further to China in the hopes of counterbalancing US strength in the region. Pakistan has already invited China to deploy 11,000 troops in their country. A high-ranking Chinese PLA delegation visited the Pakistan-Afghan border last year. At the same time, Pakistan is pushing for the Chinese to become more heavily involved in Afghanistan and they are actively buying Chinese weapons, aircraft and ships.

The fate of Pakistan matters not just because of how it will affect the fight against radical Islam. It also matters because Pakistan has nuclear weapons. And China is the source of nuclear reactors for Pakistan. Were Pakistan to move into firmly China’s orbit, it would be a big geopolitical win for Beijing. It would give the Chinese a foothold in the Middle East. It would give Pakistan a protector, with China providing cover much as it already does for North Korea. And we all know how loose the leash is for Kim Jung Il. Hello, but do we really want a nuclear-armed Pakistan where we have little or no influence?

The Obama Administration needs to stand tough and firm before we lose Pakistan to China.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Wall Street Journal report saying Pakistan wants Karzai to dump US:

Pakistan is lobbying Afghanistan's president against building a long-term strategic partnership with the U.S., urging him instead to look to Pakistan—and its Chinese ally—for help in striking a peace deal with the Taliban and rebuilding the economy, Afghan officials say.
Pakistan enjoys particular leverage in Afghanistan because of its historic role in fostering the Taliban movement and its continuing support for the Afghan Taliban insurgency. Washington's relations with Pakistan, ostensibly an ally, have reached their lowest point in years following a series of missteps on both sides.

Pakistani officials say they no longer have an incentive to follow the American lead in their own backyard. "Pakistan is sole guarantor of its own interest," said a senior Pakistani official. "We're not looking for anyone else to protect us, especially the U.S. If they're leaving, they're leaving and they should go."
The leaks about what went on at the April 16 meeting officials appear to be part of that effort. Afghans in the pro-U.S. camp who shared details of the meeting with The Wall Street Journal said they did so to prompt the U.S. to move faster toward securing the strategic partnership agreement, which is intended to spell out the relationship between the two countries after 2014. "The longer they wait…the more time Pakistan has to secure its interests," said one of the pro-U.S. Afghan officials.

Yet in a reflection of U.S. concerns about Pakistan's overtures, the commander of the U.S.-led coalition, Gen. David Petraeus, has met Mr. Karzai three times since April 16, in part to reassure the Afghan leader that he has America's support, and to nudge forward progress on the partnership deal, said Afghan and U.S. officials.
Formal negotiations on the so-called Strategic Partnership Declaration began in March. Details of talks between U.S. and Afghan negotiators so far remain sketchy. The most hotly contested issue is the possibility of long-term U.S. military bases remaining in Afghanistan beyond 2014 to buttress and continue training Afghan forces and carry on the fight against al Qaeda.
The opening of talks in March was enough to raise alarms among Afghanistan's neighbors. Senior Iranian and Russian officials quickly made treks to Kabul to express their displeasure at the possibility of a U.S. military presence after 2014, Afghan officials said. The Taliban have always said they wouldn't sign on to any peace process as long as foreign forces remain.
Mr. Gilani repeatedly referred to America's "imperial designs," playing to a theme that Mr. Karzai has himself often embraced in speeches. He also said that, to end the war, Afghanistan and Pakistan needed to take "ownership" of the peace process, according to Afghans familiar with what was said at the meeting. Mr. Gilani added that America's economic problems meant it couldn't be expected to support long-term regional development. A better partner would be China, which Pakistanis call their "all-weather" friend, he said, according to participants in the meeting. He said the strategic partnership deal was ultimately an Afghan decision. But, he added, neither Pakistan nor other neighbors were likely to accept such a pact.
Although a U.S. ally, Pakistan has its own interests in Afghanistan, believing it needs a pliant government in Kabul to protect its rear flank from India. Pakistani officials regularly complain of how India's influence over Afghanistan has grown in the past decade. Some Pakistani officials say the presence of U.S. and allied forces is the true problem in the region, not the Taliban.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from "Playing the China Card: Has the Obama Administration Miscalculated in Pakistan?" by Dilip Hiro, as published in The Huffingon Post:

Washington often acts as if Pakistan were its client state, with no other possible patron but the United States. It assumes that Pakistani leaders, having made all the usual declarations about upholding the “sacred sovereignty” of their country, will end up yielding to periodic American demands, including those for a free hand in staging drone attacks in its tribal lands bordering Afghanistan. This is a flawed assessment of Washington’s long, tortuous relationship with Islamabad.

A recurring feature of the Obama administration’s foreign policy has been its failure to properly measure the strengths (as well as weaknesses) of its challengers, major or minor, as well as its friends, steadfast or fickle. To earlier examples of this phenomenon, one may now add Pakistan.

That country has an active partnership with another major power, potentially a viable substitute for the U.S. should relations with the Obama administration continue to deteriorate. The Islamabad-Washington relationship has swung from close alliance in the Afghan anti-Soviet jihad years of the 1980s to unmistaken alienation in the early 1990s, when Pakistan was on the U.S. watch list as a state supporting international terrorism. Relations between Islamabad and Beijing, on the other hand, have been consistently cordial for almost three decades. Pakistan’s Chinese alliance, noted fitfully by the U.S., is one of its most potent weapons in any future showdown with the Obama administration.

Another factor, also poorly assessed, affects an ongoing war. While, in the 1980s, Pakistan acted as the crucial conduit for U.S. aid and weapons to jihadists in Afghanistan, today it could be an obstacle to the delivery of supplies to America’s military in Afghanistan. It potentially wields a powerful instrument when it comes to the efficiency with which the U.S. and its NATO allies fight the Taliban. It controls the supply lines to the combat forces in that landlocked country.

Taken together, these two factors make Pakistan a far more formidable and independent force than U.S. policymakers concede publicly or even privately.

The Supply Line as Jugular

Angered at the potential duplicity of Pakistan in having provided a haven to Osama bin Laden for years, the Obama administration seems to be losing sight of the strength of the cards Islamabad holds in its hand.

To supply the 100,000 American troops now in Afghanistan, as well as 50,000 troops from other NATO nations and more than 100,000 employees of private contractors, the Pentagon must have unfettered access to that country through its neighbors. Among the six countries adjoining Afghanistan, only three have seaports, with those of China far too distant to be of practical use. Of the remaining two, Iran -- Washington’s number one enemy in the region -- is out. That places Pakistan in a unique position.

Currently about three-quarters of the supplies for the 400-plus U.S. and coalition bases in Afghanistan -- from gigantic Bagram Air Base to tiny patrol outposts -- go overland via Pakistan or through its air space. These shipments include almost all the lethal cargo and most of the fuel needed by U.S.-led NATO forces. On their arrival at Karachi, the only major Pakistani seaport, these supplies are transferred to trucks, which travel a long route to crossing points on the Afghan border. Of these, two are key: Torkham and Chaman.


Operated by some 4,000 Pakistani drivers and their helpers, nearly 300 trucks and oil tankers pass through Torkham and another 200 through Chaman daily. Increasing attacks on these convoys by Taliban-allied militants in Pakistan starting in 2007 led the Pentagon into a desperate search for alternative supply routes.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's India's Economic Times fretting about China-Pakistan growing collaboration in Gilgit Baltistan:

At a time when the distance between American and Pakistani priorities in the post-Osama period continues to grow, China is passionately vouching for Pakistan's entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which is seen as the upcoming Asian NATO . For some time now, China and Pakistan have aspired to create a regional alliance comprising the Arab countries, Central Asian Republics, Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey, and SCO could most likely help that dream come true.

But there is more to it than meets the eye. The lynchpin connecting these countries will be Gilgit Baltistan, a disputed region rivaling Serbia in area. Although constitutionally a part of India and bordering China's Xinjiang province, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Gilgit Baltistan remains in Pakistani control since 1947.

The political uncertainty owing to India's claim to the region is especially worrisome for China, which currently depends on her southern neighbour for two reasons. Firstly, China uses transit routes of Gilgit Baltistan to reach Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and the ports along the coastline of Arabian Sea; and secondly, Chinese mining companies control the region's much valued mineral deposits of uranium, gold, copper, marble and precious stones.
But the person, making the headlines in local newspapers for criticizing foreign miners, is Advocate Shahbaz Khan, the chairperson of Metals, Minerals and Gems Association of Gilgit Baltistan , who has recently accused some individuals of acquiring 35 tonnes of certain mineral deposits from uranium-rich Karkalti village of Ghizer district, and smuggling to China.

Shahbaz is also critical of a uranium exploration company called Mohsin Industries, which has sought partnership with the locals as well as Chinese and Korean miners. Last year, Mohsin Industries was banned for attempting to smuggle uranium outside Pakistan. However, the company has recently been awarded exploration licenses in the uranium-rich areas of Sakwar, Minawar, Pari Bangla and Bonji, as well as parts of Shigar district and Skardo.

Locals accuse Mohsin Industries of bypassing standard procedures to obtain licenses. Mirza Hussain, a member of the Gilgit Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) from Nagar, believes that the owner of the Mohsin Industries receives special treatment due to his close links with the director general of the Federal Mineral Development Agency and Syed Mehdi Shah, who is currently the chief minister of Gilgit Baltistan. Hussain also suspects that its owner has established links with members of pro-Taliban groups such as Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam of Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

Today, Chinese miners and their affiliates are everywhere in Gilgit Baltistan especially in the Hunza-Nagar district, which is rich in uranium and certain minerals used in space technology. Some areas in upper Hunza, for instance, like the Chapursan valley have become no-go areas, where the Chinese continue their work on tunnel building and mineral exploration.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Economist magazine story about Indian interference in Bangladeshi politics on the side of the Awami League:

NOT much noticed by outsiders, long-troubled ties between two neighbours sharing a long border have taken a substantial lurch for the better. Ever since 2008, when the Awami League, helped by bags of Indian cash and advice, triumphed in general elections in Bangladesh, relations with India have blossomed. To Indian delight, Bangladesh has cracked down on extremists with ties to Pakistan or India’s home-grown terrorist group, the Indian Mujahideen, as well as on vociferous Islamist (and anti-Indian) politicians in the country. India feels that bit safer.

Now the dynasts who rule each country are cementing political ties. On July 25th Sonia Gandhi (pictured, above) swept into Dhaka, the capital, for the first time. Sharing a sofa with Sheikh Hasina (left), the prime minister (and old family friend), the head of India’s ruling Congress Party heaped praise on her host, notably for helping the poor. A beaming Sheikh Hasina reciprocated with a golden gong, a post humous award for Mrs Gandhi’s mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi. In 1971 she sent India’s army to help Bangladeshis, led by Sheikh Hasina’s father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, throw off brutal Pakistani rule.

As a result, officials this week chirped that relations are now “very excellent”. They should get better yet. India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, will visit early in September to sign deals on sensitive matters like sharing rivers, sending electricity over the border, settling disputed patches of territory on the 4,095km (2,500-mile) frontier and stopping India’s trigger-happy border guards from murdering migrants and cow-smugglers. Mr Singh may also deal with the topic of trade which, smuggling aside, heavily favours India, to Bangladeshi ire.

Most important, however, is a deal on setting up a handful of transit routes across Bangladesh, to reach India’s remote, isolated north-eastern states. These are the “seven sisters” wedged up against the border with China.

On the face of it, the $10 billion project will develop poor areas cut off from India’s booming economy. The Asian Development Bank and others see Bangladeshi gains too, from better roads, ports, railways and much-needed trade. In Dhaka, the capital, the central-bank governor says broader integration with India could lift economic growth by a couple of percentage points, from nearly 7% already.

India has handed over half of a $1 billion soft loan for the project, and the money is being spent on new river-dredgers and rolling stock. Bangladesh’s rulers are mustard-keen. The country missed out on an earlier infrastructure bonanza involving a plan to pipe gas from Myanmar to India. China got the pipeline instead.

Yet the new transit project may be about more than just development. Some in Dhaka, including military types, suspect it is intended to create an Indian security corridor. It could open a way for army supplies to cross low-lying Bangladesh rather than going via dreadful mountain roads vulnerable to guerrilla attack. As a result, India could more easily put down insurgents in Nagaland and Manipur. The military types fear it might provoke reprisals by such groups in Bangladesh.

More striking, India’s army might try supplying its expanding divisions parked high on the border with China, in Arunachal Pradesh. China disputes India’s right to Arunachal territory, calling it South Tibet. Some Bangladeshis fret that if India tries to overcome its own logistical problems by, in effect, using Bangladesh as a huge military marshalling yard, reprisals from China would follow.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Washington Post report on India's heavy troop presence in Kashmir in spite of peace:

SRINAGAR, India – For more than a decade it was seen as one of the world’s most dangerous nuclear flashpoints, its Himalayan valleys flooded with hundreds of thousands of Indian troops battling a separatist, Islamist insurgency backed by neighboring Pakistan.

But with relations slowly improving between South Asia’s nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan, the insurgency is slowly fading away. That has left many Kashmiris wondering why quite so many Indian troops are still here — under laws that grant them vast powers.

With violence on the wane, Kashmir’s Chief Minister Omar Abdullah says the mainly Muslim people of his state deserve to see a “peace dividend,” in the form of a partial, limited withdrawal of the rules that allow soldiers the right to shoot to kill, with virtual immunity from prosecution.

The request would cover only two districts where the Indian army does not even conduct operations. Casualty rates due to the militancy are half of what they were last year, and under 5 percent of what they were a decade ago, officials say.

But India’s leaders have rebuffed the Kashmiri minister’s request, with the army and defense ministry insisting on maintaining broad powers.

It has left the 41-year-old Abdullah wondering whether the Indian government has the political will to achieve a lasting peace in Kashmir, where tens of thousands of people have died since 1989, and ultimately with Pakistan. The dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir lies at the heart of their long enmity and has fueled two of their three wars.

“At some point in time we have to have the courage to take what appear to be risky decisions, with the belief that this is an important component of a peace process,” Abdullah said.

If New Delhi cannot even agree to this, “how are you going to resolve the overall Kashmir issue, that is going to require much tougher decisions?” he asked.
In Srinagar, 23-year-old Bilkees Mansoor knows only too well how difficult it is to find justice when the army is effectively above the law. When she was just a 13-year-old girl, she saw her father, a chemist and businessman, dragged out of their home just after midnight by dozens of soldiers, never to be seen or heard of again.

Clutching his photograph, she recounted her family’s decade-long search for her missing father and how her mother and her siblings all have stress-related health problems, and told of their desperate efforts to have the arresting officer questioned or appear in court.

The case even went to the country’s Supreme Court, she says, where the army major’s appeal to avoid questioning was rejected in July 2007. Still, he has failed to appear in court.

“Because of this law, the army is doing very evil things,” she said. “I still believe my father is alive. We have to keep positive thoughts in our minds. But if he is buried somewhere, this is my right to know.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a CFR piece by Daniel Markey on US to mediate India-Pakistan disputes:

The Afghan civil war of the 1990s was partly fueled by longstanding Indo-Pakistani rivalry, with different Afghan factions receiving support from different regional neighbors. The United States has a clear interest in avoiding a similar outcome as it disengages from the current war in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, promoting Indo-Pakistani dialogue on Afghanistan will not be easy. The conventional wisdom holds that heavy-handed U.S. diplomacy—exerting pressure or attempting direct mediation—will hit a wall in Islamabad and irritate New Delhi. The new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry could reject that argument, but he should first study the discouraging history of U.S. diplomatic efforts in Kashmir. U.S. mediators have repeatedly found that American intervention encourages both sides to play Washington against one another rather than to tackle their disputes head on.

Instead, Kerry could take another run at talks with a wider circle of Afghanistan's neighbors—from Central Asia and the Persian Gulf to China, India, and Russia—as Ambassador Richard Holbrooke attempted early in President Obama's first term. That agenda foundered in part because of Washington's dilemma on how to deal with Afghanistan's western neighbor, Iran. Or, Kerry could shift diplomatic action to a multilateral setting like the United Nations. But the UN has not been a favorite venue for Islamabad or Washington and might also be resisted by New Delhi, for fear of a setting a diplomatic precedent that could be applied to the Kashmir region.

A more promising alternative might be for the United States to invite India, Pakistan, and China into quiet four-way talks. Beijing could be convinced to participate given its increasing concerns about stability in Afghanistan after the United States' anticipated withdrawal in 2014. To succeed, Beijing would then need to allay Islamabad's concerns about talking about Afghanistan with India and Washington would have to counter New Delhi's reluctance to acknowledge China's enhanced role in South Asian affairs.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an FP Mag Op Ed on Pakistan serving as a bridge for US-China ties after military withdrawal from Afghanistan:

---Sino-Pakistan relations have consisted of four phases. After diplomatic ties were established in 1951, relations cooled as Pakistan sided with the United States against seating China in the United Nations. The 1962 Sino-Indian war and 1963 Sino-Pak boundary agreement cemented ties against a common adversary; China became and remains a vital source of military and nuclear technology for Pakistan. In the late eighties, a thaw in Sino-Indian ties - trade between the two rising economic giants is now six times that between China and Pakistan - and the spread of militancy into China's restive Xinjiang region from Pakistan diluted the relationship. Since 9/11, Chinese concerns about Pakistan's stability have only deepened with attacks on some of the 13,000 Chinese workers living in Pakistan.

Three lessons for the United States emerge from this narrative.

First, while China remains committed to Pakistan, especially to balance India, its position on Indo-Pak relations has shifted. From threatening intervention in the 1965 Indo-Pak war to former President Jiang Zemin urging the Pakistani Parliament to put Kashmir on the back burner and focus on development in the nineties, to the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister engaging in unprecedented shuttle diplomacy following the 2008 Mumbai attacks that nearly brought both sides to war, China is emerging as a key crisis-manager in South Asia - in large part to maintain regional stability for its own economic growth.

Second, despite these shifts, China retains a high favorability rating in Pakistan at 90%. Underpinning this credibility is China's perceived unstinting support vis a vis India and economic assistance, generally in the form of soft loans with no grating conditionalities, that have resulted in a range of prominent infrastructure and defense-related projects in Pakistan.

Third, China is increasingly focused westward. Since 2000, China's "Go West" policy has sought to tackle underdevelopment in its vast western regions, including Xinjiang. Pakistan can potentially provide an outbound route for goods from Xinjiang and an inbound maritime route through its struggling Gwadar port for an increasingly Persian Gulf-oil dependent China. Similarly, an influential essay titled "Marching West" making the rounds in China's policy circles argues for expanding ties with China's western neighbors. In contrast to a tense Pacific, China's west, the essay contends, is also fertile ground for Sino-U.S. cooperation, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

A final lesson from history: citing Pakistan's pivotal backchannel role in the normalization of Sino-US relations, Premier Zhou En Lai subsequently remarked to Henry Kissinger that "the bridge that helped them cross (the divide)" must not be forgotten. As the Obama administration scales back in South Asia and rebalances to the Asia-Pacific, navigating new chasms with a rising China, Pakistan might yet again serve as a bridge.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece by Ananya Vajpeyi on exceptions to Indian "constitutional democracy":

By enforcing extraordinary laws, by sending in armed forces, by granting impunity to soldiers and paramilitaries for their actions against armed or unarmed civilians, by denying citizens redress, justice or compensation, by creating a war-like situation for a population that has political, social, cultural and economic grievances possible to address without force, it is the state that sets aside the Constitution. The Indian state has done this too many times, in too many places, and for too long.

It is time for citizens in the so-called ‘normal’ parts of the country to consider how they want to defend their Constitution against such misuse and ill-treatment by the state, a procedure that leaves millions of people exposed to both everyday as well as excessive violence, and ultimately turns them against India. If the Indian Union sees any attrition to its territory in the coming years on account of separatism and civil strife (not such an unlikely scenario as hawkish policy-makers like to believe), this will have come to pass at least partly because the state allowed the cancer of exception to eat away at the body politic, and did not administer the medicine of constitutional reinstatement and restitution in time. It bears repeating that periodic exercises in the electoral process do not always prove to be a sufficient counterweight to the toxic effects of the AFSPA, even if elections are relatively free and fair (a tough challenge), and even if significant percentages of the relevant populations do turn out to vote.

The state’s reasoning for why military, paramilitary and police must replace civil agencies in the work of everyday governance, a step which can and does go horribly wrong, is that disruptive violence (from secessionist and insurgent groups) has to be met with restorative counter-violence (from the state) in order to ensure overall security for the population, and preserve the integrity of the Union of India. Defenders of the AFSPA insist that this is a sound rationale. But inevitably, questions arise: What are the limits of the immunity that such an extraordinary law grants to the armed forces, when does the justifiable control of terror become overkill, and when should a quantitative assessment about the necessary degree of force give way to a qualitative judgment about whether force is necessary at all, over and above alternative – peaceful – means of addressing the situation?

There appears to be a dire need for a system of checks-and-balances, perhaps also originating from the Constitution, to be instituted, so that the explicitly democratic mandate of the Indian republic may be strengthened against an always lurking authoritarian tendency (a legacy of the post-colonial state’s colonialist and imperialist predecessor).

Riaz Haq said...

The Taliban confirmed on Tuesday that a Taliban delegation had attended renewed peace negotiations in China but rejected reports that China was acting as a mediator (Pajhwok). The confirmation follows reports last month that a two-man delegation had visited China for negotiations. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid stated: “We are in contacts with the global community, specifically neighbouring countries. We are in touch with other states as well” continuing, “We are in favour of peace talks and our delegations have travelled to other countries also to ensure peace in the country. However, reports that we have asked China to play a mediator’s role are baseless and concocted.”

Rizwan said...

Do you know what happened after the 2009 meeting in Beijing that's mentioned in the linked article? Thanks

Riaz Haq said...

Rizwan: "Do you know what happened after the 2009 meeting in Beijing that's mentioned in the linked article? Thanks"

Karazi thwarted the effort to have China and Pakistan stabilize Afghanistan. Since Karazi's exit, the new president Ashraf Ghani chose Beijing as his first destination for a foreign tour followed by his Islamabad India visit yet.