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Robi & Nitin's S. Asia Briefing: 2004-06-28

| 9 Comments | 2 TrackBacks

Winds of Change.NET Regional Briefings run on Tuesdays & Wednesdays, and sometimes Fridays too. This Regional Briefing focuses on South Asia, courtesy of Robi Sen and Nitin Pai of The Acorn


  • There was positive movement on the diplomatic level between India and Pakistan. Diplomats formalized nuclear risk reduction measures (NRRMs), agreed to disagree on Indus river water sharing, and began high-level discussions on the Kashmir dispute. The latter included a quiet low-profile meeting between J N Dixit, India's National Security Advisor and Tariq Aziz, General Musharraf's key point-man.
  • Even as there is progress on the diplomatic front, cross-border infiltration and terrorism in Kashmir follow set patterns, with violence picking up come summer, as melting Himalayan snows open infiltration routes that even India's over 700km long fence is unable to completely plug. In the days immediately preceding the talks, jihadi terrorists slit the throats of a railway engineer, and massacred 12 villagers including several young children.

Other Topics Today Include: Double agents and nuclear con-men in India; Palace intrigues and provincial rebellions in Pakistan; Nuclear Proliferation; India and Israel; Much ado about something in Bangladesh; Potential missteps in Afghanistan; Dalai Lama rejects Colonel Saunders in Tibet.


  • The performance of India's ancient MiG-21's against American F-15s during last years joint exercises is being touted as a 'wake-up' call for the US Air Force. While the excessive praise for India's ageing warhorses by US air force officials could have come in a self-serving context, it has been greeted with circumspection by Indian analysts.
  • Ravinder Singh, a senior member of India's intelligence agency, went missing after he was revealed to have been a CIA mole. The incident created further suspicions of America's designs and prompted a review of the working of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India's external intelligence agency. In a promising sign, it had relatively no impact on bilateral relations between India and the United States, suggesting that the new government would continue the strategic tango between the two countries.
  • Dubai police arrested and repatriated an Indian national claiming to possess Indian nuclear secrets which he would make available for a price. Investigations revealed that the enterprising individual was a confidence-trickster trying to make a quick buck in the wake of the infamy of the A. Q. Khan's nuclear sales force.
  • Portugal refused to extradite Abu Salem, a gangster-terrorist implicated in the bomb attacks in Bombay (now Mumbai) in the early 1990s, even after the Indian government guaranteed that it would not seek the death penalty in his case.


  • General Musharraf forced Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali to resign, confirming months of speculation that Jamali had incurred the General's displeasure. Jamali duly nominated ruling party bigwig Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain as interim prime minister. The ultimate successor will be the suave finance minister Shaukat Aziz, who first needs to be elected to the lower house. The South Asia Analysis Group has good overview here.
  • These parliamentary gymnastics came just a few days after US state department official Christina Rocca, in a Congressional testimony, declared that Pakistan's democracy has been strengthened under General Musharraf rule. With the opposition parties of Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto reduced to inconsequence, the strongest criticism of Musharraf's palace intrigues has come from the Islamic religious alliance, the MMA. Restrictions have been placed on the movement of MMA leaders into the troubled Sindh province and its capital, Karachi.
  • Pakistan's Finance Minister, Shaukat Aziz, has set aside one fifth of the government expenditure on direct military spending.
  • The Pakistani army's operations in Waziristan have succeeded in killing Nek Mohammed, one of the tribal militia leaders accused of sheltering al Qaeda terrorists. This brought to an end a brief period of co-habitation following an amnesty granted to the tribesmen. But it is proving to be a pyrrhic victory for the Pakistani army; not only has public opinion in the frontier areas has turned strongly against Islamabad, but the remaining tribesmen have promised to continue jihad against America and its toadies in Pakistan.
  • The Army's crackdown in Waziristan has been blamed for a failed attack on a top general in Karachi. Pakistani authorities quickly established that al Qaeda related terrorists were behind the attack and showed remarkable alacrity in arresting several people, including Masoob Arooshi, a nephew of top al Qaeda operative Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
  • Pakistani jihadi outfits are using the situation in Iraq as a recruitment tool. The Lashkar-e-Toiba is raising a brigade of mujahideen to fight in Iraq.
  • The disaffection in Balochistan province has worsened. Besides the usual rocket attacks on gas pipelines in the Sui region, the tribesmen attacked and destroyed Sui airport.


  • It seems that officials in the Israeli government are concerned about future relations with India’s new government especially India’s Foreign Minister, K. Natwar Singh, comments and actions.
  • India recently slowed down the purchase of new weapons systems, including Israeli UAV's, by delaying 3.5 billion worth of purchases and programs.
  • Israeli firm Elbit recently announced plans to supply a 3.5 million dollar camera to India as part of a joint space research project.


  • Pakistan reacted strongly this month to the numerous allegations of A. Q. Khan with Osama Bin Laden. Pakistan though still has not been able to explain away these reports such as this one, or this one, or this one.
  • The Asia Times Online has a three part article on the Chinese role in nuclear proliferation and its assistance to countries such as Pakistan. You can read the article in parts here Part1, Part2, Part3.
  • The IAEA also recently announced plans to invite India, Pakistan and Israel to be observers of the upcoming NonProliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference with the hopes that these countries will get involved with the NPT.
  • South Korean reports revealed that Pakistani nuclear scientists have been working in North Korea ever since they went missing six years ago. And in Texas, authorities arrested an American national of Pakistani origin for trying to sell F-14 spares to Iran.


  • Bangladesh was caught up in a controversy over the failure of its government to get its candidate elected as the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). The Bangladesh government had invested quite a lot of national pride on the outcome of the election and had projected it as a fait accompli. When the OIC elected a Turkish professor over rival candidates from Malaysia and Bangladesh, a wave of recriminations ensued. The controversial candidate, S Q Chowdhury, added more fuel to the fire when he made bigoted comments about opposition politicians. The Daily Star, a Bangladeshi newspaper, eventually printed the profanities; a move which the Washington Post echoed a few days later. As a consequence, the world's newspapers have become less a little less safe for kids.
  • Rezwan points out that more than 200,000 Pakistani refugees remain in a legal limbo in Bangladesh. The Biharis chose to retain the Pakistani nationality when Bangladesh gained independence from Pakistan in 1971, but successive governments in Pakistan were apathetic to their plight due to worries that their arrival may upset the demographic profile of Pakistan.


  • On behalf of the coalition, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is negotiating with the Taliban using the services of Pakistan's Islamist leader, Maulana Fazlur Rehman as a mediator. A back-channel deal of this nature would be ultimately unworthy of the United States.


  • The Dalai Lama added his voice to protest against plans to introduce KFC, the American fast-food chain in Tibet. KFC did back off from its plans stating a poor business case, leaving the Tibetans with no recourse to the Colonel's famous recipe.

2 TrackBacks

Tracked: June 28, 2004 11:10 AM
Excerpt: Robi Sen and I have put up this month's South Asia Briefing on Winds of Change.NET. Topics include: The Thaw and the Melt; Double agents and nuclear con-men in India; Palace intrigues and provincial rebellions in Pakistan; Nuclear Proliferation; India ...
Tracked: June 29, 2004 7:34 PM
Thaw And Freeze In South Asia from The Cardinal Collective
Excerpt: Since the Pakistan-India border and relationship is one of the crucial flashpoints in the world right now, it's worth paying attention. Courtesy of Winds of Change, we can see that the Pakistan-India relationship is warming (though, as the Himalayan ic...


The air force exercise results should not be surprising - and they should be taken with a grain of salt. Follow the link re: Indian analysts. The MIG-21 kill was apparently a single incident, and many of the SU-30s victories were in "beyond visual range" engagements.

2 things worth noting.

[1] The MIG-21 has a low "profile" in the air, and ACEVAL/TACEVAL exercises in the USA have demonstrated long ago that F-5s (which are often used to simulate MIG-21s) can achieve surprisingly close kill ratios to F-15s if they can either face them at lopsided odds ("quantity has a quality of its own") or get into hairy dogfight situations. It's definitely something that can happen, and one kill in an exercise doesn't prove anything except good on the Indian pilot. But in a prepared battlefield the kill ratio for the F-15 is ridiculous as the Israelis have shown.

[2] BVR ("beyond visual range") engagements are wildly overestimated by the USAF, and have been for a long time. In actual combat over the last 40 years, the ratio of BVR kills vs. close in fights with heat-seekers or cannons is not promising at all. So they're measuring the wrong thing, and probably setting kill odds a bit on the high side to boot.

The SU-30 is a very fine aircraft, and can hold its own against F-15s if the pilots are of equal quality, but this doesn't prove much of anything to me. Certainly not that the F-22 is the most important investment for the USAF.


The India media originally called the MiG-21s 'flying coffins' given their nasty habit of falling off the sky during training missions. So when, there was a teeny bit that suggested the elderly MiG's bested F-15's the media over-reacted in the opposite direction.

The MIG-21s are flying coffins. Their IAF fatality rates are impressive. Your analysis is pretty much on the mark.

The interesting thing is that many nations use them, and the F-5s as well. India knows the problems, but can't give them up because they're still a sizable interceptor fleet. There would appear to be a market niche for an inexpensive fighter with supersonic performance, above the Hawk/ Alpha Jet/ AMX but below the SU-27/ F-16/ Mirage 2000 level.

I wonder who will fill it... perhaps the F-20 was simply ahead of its time.

India's tacit alliance with Israel is probably going to undergo some significant damage. India has been cultivating Iran as an ally against Pakistan. India and Iran both backed forces in Afghanistan opposed to the Taliban/Pakistan, so co-operating against a common foe is hardly new for them.

There has been suggestion that the Turkish government is attempting to move towards Syria and away from Israel (as shown by increased "cultural" and economic co-operation between Syria and Turkey, and serious diplomatic over-reaction to the Rafah operations).


India's tacit alliance will not undergo significant damage...because it is tacit. What may change is that you will find Indian politicians more vocal in their criticism of Sharon's policies.

Even those arms purchases which India has decided to hold back on affect vendors across the board - including Russian, Israeli and India's own domestic suppliers. I do not think these are Israel specific moves.

The major change will be in terms of photo opportunities. You wont be seeing Indian and Israeli PMs hugging or shaking hands for the next few years at least.

I am not sure how deep India's alliance could be with Iran knowing that Iran has helped Al Queda, the Taliban as well as various organizations that have been operating against India.

I did not get a chance to add this from the Strategypage.

Robi sen is doing a good job providing south asians with a useful platform for airing their views. India and pakistan need to come together in a EU style of union- SAARCISTAN? This will help to reduce the chances for a war between them and also help to alleviate the crushing poverty which is the no 1 enemy of this region. The 140 million muslims of india find it hard to imagine that india would have any enmity towards pakistan. The indian muslims are doing pretty well for themselves in india and they long for peace and happiness always. A few gujarat-like cases do mar the atmosphere or kashmir is still a thorn but they also know that if pakistan wishes to have peace all these problems will vanish. Indians are to blame for many things but by and large the country of gandhi and mother teresa is a peace haven. India should be given a seat in the UN security council with veto power and the council should be increased to 4 or 5 more members which will make the security council truly representative of the new powers in the world. our sufi saint jogi sain baba and his master hazrat sainji nasir mohammed saheb fakir sufi al qadiri r.a would bless the unity of indians and pakistanis- - they did so many miracles when they were alive - now their gadhi nashin hazrat oshaq ali would similarly love to see india and pakistan united under a common flag- obviatng the need for visas to travel between the two countries. A saarcistan would usher in an era of peace and prosperity all over the region and in the world- regards- hiro bachani

I am surprised to know that the response to this site is so slow.Why? Are NRIs not interested in doing something for their country. It might interest you to see the tremendous movement on SULEKHA.COM . Anyway india and pakistan are yawning matters in america. Everyone knows that the al qaida people got their first taste of success with the help of the pakistanis. And now the pakistanis are trying to eliminate the monster they had created with american help. In the bargain pakistanis will get billions of dollars in aid. This is indeed a very strange world. But indians have to learn a lot from such exercises of world politics.regards- hiro bachani- OM NAMOH SHIVAI HARE RAMA HARE KRISHNA LORD JESUS CHRIST HOLY MARY MOTHER OF GOD AMEN

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