THE THAW AND THE MELT
- 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.
INDIA - NO EASY TANGO
- 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.
PAKISTAN - INTRIGUES, REBELLIONS AND A NEW PRIME MINISTER
- 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.
INDIA AND ISRAEL
- 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.
- While the US State Department continues to give strong support to Pakistan at least US legislators seem deeply skeptical and thoroughly concerned about Pakistan and its role in the A. Q. Khan nuclear ring. Pakistan though continues to plead any culpability.
- 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 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace recently released a report on nuclear weapons proliferation called Universal Compliance: A strategy for Nuclear Security. The report discusses the various players in current events and makes some sobering statements.
- 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 - OH I SEE
- 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.
AFGHANISTAN - DIABOLICAL PACT IN THE OFFING
- 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.
DALAI LAMA REJECTS COLONEL SAUNDERS