10 April 2015


April 9, 2015 

The United States generally, and the U.S. State Department in particular, seem perennially unwilling to grasp the realities of Pakistan. Refusing to recognize that Pakistan pursues ideological goals through the use of terrorism under its ever-expanding nuclear umbrella, the United States persists with the same strategy it has always used to handle the “Pakistan problem” – namely, attempt to induce better Pakistani comportment through handsome allurements. The most Panglossian American policy makers believe that there is some magical combination of rewards and engagement that, over some time horizon, will transform Pakistan from the regional menace it is today, into a state that is at peace with itself and its neighbors. The most pusillanimous of policy-making poltroons fret that should the United States curb its generosity and demand that Pakistan honor its varied commitments like any other responsible state, Pakistan may fail and the Islamist barbarians will knock down the nuclear gates with grisly consequences for humanity.

Once again, the U.S. State Department revealed that it has no intention of taking the Pakistan problem seriously. This week, Foggy Bottom approved Pakistan’s request to purchase some $952 million of American military hardware which includes attack helicopters, missiles, and communications equipment. In an explanatory press release from April 6, the State Department justified this decision by arguing that

This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a country vital to U.S. foreign policy and national security goals in South Asia.

While in some sense such foreign military sales benefit the U.S. defense industry, approval of these sales evidences perduring obfuscation of the root causes of Pakistan’s problems and abjuration of what a better course of action might be. After all, Pakistan’s problem is not a lack of capability to fight the various terrorists ensconced in its territory; rather the will to do so comprehensively. Equally important, Pakistan continues to create new militant proxies while sustaining old ones even while it attempts to fight those who have turned against the state and who cannot be bullied or bribed back into the fold of the deep state.

The time for such folly has long passed. The United States needs a more realistic policy towards Pakistan. In this essay, I argue why these decades-long policies have long failed and I put forward several propositions that should inform a new policy towards a state that is the problem from hell.

A Laundry List of Dirty Deeds

To summarize briefly, since FY 2002, the United States has provided Pakistan $7.6 billion in security-related assistance, $13.0 billion in lucrative reimbursements under the dubiously-named “Coalition Support Fund” program, and another $10.5 billion in economic assistance. This largesse was both to reward Pakistan for its putative support in the war on terrorism while incentivizing future support. Has the United States secured value for this $31 billion? Let’s recount how Pakistan has “contributed” to the war on terrorism.

Pakistan has persistently supported the Afghan Taliban, who are responsible for the deaths of 2,356 U.S. military personnel, another 677coalition military deaths, and the deaths of thousands of civilian contractors, for whom there is no official count under U.S. reporting requirements. This is in addition to the more than 21,000 Afghan civilianswho have died since 2001. The death toll of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) is a tightly guarded secret; however, various sources estimate that more than 20,000 Afghan police and army personnel have been killed since 2003. More than 5,000 ANSF were killed by insurgents in 2014 alone. Without Pakistan’s direct military, diplomatic, political and financial support as well as secure sanctuaries in Pakistani territory, the Taliban would not be as lethal or capable. The Taliban might even not be viable as an insurgent movement without these vast Pakistani amenities. In addition to the Afghan Taliban under Mullah Omar, Pakistan continues to support the Jalaludin Haqqani network, which has conducted sophisticated, deadly suicide operations at U.S., NATO and Indian facilities in Afghanistan.

This sort of behavior has become Pakistan’s standard operating procedure.Since 1947, Pakistan has used Islamist militants in an effort to wrest Kashmir from India. It has used Islamist militants in Afghanistan since 1974, if not earlier. Since 1990, Pakistan has introduced extremely lethal groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT, now operating under the name of its above-ground wing Jamaat-ud-Dawa, JuD) and Jaish-e-Mohammad into the Kashmir theater and elsewhere in India. Since 2002, according to theGlobal Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland, these two groups have killed more than 1,132 persons and injured more than 2,423 in about 162 attacks. Moreover, the Jaish-e-Mohammad attack on India’s parliament in December 2001 and LeT’s May 2002 attack on military families in Kaluchak nearly brought the two countries to the brink of war. LeT, finally concentrated the attention of U.S. policy makers when it conducted a multi-site attack on India’s port city of Mumbai, which culminated in a siege that lasted several days. By the time the carnage ended, ten LeT militants slaughtered 166 people including six Americans.

Of course, as all Americans know, the United States located Osama Bin Laden’s lair a short distance from the Pakistan Military Academy. So far, Pakistan has shown little interest in investigating—much less identifying and prosecuting—those persons who aided and abetted him and his protection racket. Instead, the only person Pakistan has arrested was a physician who contributed to his capture.

Yet despite this never-ending list of outrages from America’s erstwhile “partner,” Washington still finds ways of wasting the hard earned taxpayers’ dollars on this country which works strenuously to undermine U.S. interests in the region and beyond. It seems that the United States is paying Pakistan ostensibly to support the war on terrorism while Pakistan is using terrorism and American generosity to wage its proxy wars, in which many Americans have been the victims.

In Pakistan Whac-a-Mole is an Olympic Sport

In the afore noted press release, the U.S. State Department argued that “This proposed sale of helicopters and weapon systems will provide Pakistan with military capabilities in support of its counterterrorism and counter-insurgency operations in South Asia.” The press release further contended that this sale will enable Pakistan to better conduct operations in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) and elsewhere by providing Pakistan with “a precision strike, enhanced survivability aircraft that it can operate at high-altitudes” and by conferring upon Pakistan the ability to operate in “all-weather, day-and-night environments.”

Such argumentation would make sense if there were any evidence that Pakistan is fighting the same war on terrorism that America is. There is no such evidence. However, what every American must understand is that Pakistan fights a highly selective war on terrorism. It has only taken up arms against those militants who have turned against the state and whom Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies cannot bring back into the fold. These militants, most of them operating under the banner of theTehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan (TTP or “Pakistani Taliban”), have their varied roots in Pakistan’s support for Mullah Omar’s Afghan Taliban; a zoo of Islamist militants such as Jaish-e-Mohammad, which Pakistan raised to fight in India; and sectarian militants such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba-e-Pakistan, which Pakistan’s military and civilian leaders have cultivated at various times for domestic purposes, including the slaughter of Pakistani Shia. These militants share a Deobandi interpretative tradition as well as an archipelago of Deobandi madrassahs and mosques. They also have political support among some factions of the Deobandi Islamist political party the Jamiat-e-Ulema-Islam (JUI).

After 2002, many of the leaders of these Deobandi organizations began to question then General and President Musharraf’s decision to facilitate U.S. military operations in Afghanistan to oust the Afghan Taliban. After all, the Afghan Taliban successfully established an Islamist regime in Afghanistan consistent with their Deobandi interpretation of Islam. President Musharraf was actively conniving with the United States to bring that down. TheseDeobandi groups had also become close with al Qaeda, sometimes training in the same camps. As the Taliban and al Qaeda were rousted from Afghanistan and pushed into Pakistan’s tribal areas, new militant formations began to emerge.

By 2004 if not earlier, Pakistan began to experience the formation of insurgents based in the tribal areas after Pakistan began undertaking military operations there under U.S. pressure. These Deobandi militant groups began to form micro-emirates of sharia first in the tribal areas and then elsewhere in what is now known as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

As this insurgency developed, Pakistan’s military began facing heavy losses. Pakistan uses these losses to argue to the United States that it is just as much a victim of terror as is the United States. It pointed out years ago that its battlefield deaths vastly outnumbered those of Americans in Afghanistan. It uses these fatality figures as counterpoints to those Cassandras, such as this author, who have long decried the double game that Pakistan was and is playing in Afghanistan.

This is not to say that Pakistan is not fighting someone. For several years Pakistan has tried to persuade the Pakistani Taliban to either join the fight in Afghanistan or rejoin groups that operate in India such as the revivified Jaish-e-Mohammad. In fact, the ISI, Pakistan’s premiere intelligence organization, denervated this Deobandi group precisely for this reason. Those who took the offer were re-baptized into the deep state and their murderous sins forgiven. Those who demurred are the targets of these various offensives which have killed far more innocent civilians than the drone program and have displaced millions from their homes.

Grabbing the United States by the GLOCS

In 2009, the Obama administration acquiesced to the demands of his generals in Afghanistan and authorized the “surge.” The surge was never about battlefield effects because the small numbers of the surge could never deliver such effects. After all, if one took Field Manual 3-24 on counterinsurgency seriously (and I did not), you would need about450,000-500,000 troops in Afghanistan. We never had more than 140,000.Moreover, the surge misdiagnosed the problem. We were—and are—losing in Afghanistan in large measure due both to industrial strength corruption and malfeasance in the Afghan government and to the enduring sanctuary and other amenities that Pakistan affords the Taliban. To win in Afghanistan—by any metric of winning—the international community had to foster better business practices amongst themselves and amongst their Afghan partners. And it had to put serious pressure on Pakistan to kick the Taliban habit. It did neither.

Instead, the surge made the United States more dependent upon Pakistan for ground lines of control (GLOCs) than ever before while doing little to develop genuine alternatives. The Northern Distribution Route could never carry more than 20% of the logistical demands and Russia insisted that it not be used for lethal goods. And since this is about supplying a war, that restriction was important. And even though the United States was perfectly capable of working with Pakistan despite a well-known history of horizontal and vertical nuclear proliferation and decades of supporting terrorism, neither the United States nor its NATO partners could find a way of working with Iran’s private sector to resupply the war.

After all Iran, with Indian help, built a deep water port in Chabahar and India and Iran collaborated to connect that port to the Ring Road in Afghanistan. Even though Iran had more in common with the United States when it comes to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the United States overlooked Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation and terrorism penchant while failing to see any virtue in the Iran option. This was unfortunate because in the early months of the war, Iran supported the United States bilaterally and in bilateral fora. Had Washington capitalized upon this Iran opening rather than proclaiming it to be a founding member of the Axis of Evil, it may have had a chance of “winning” in Afghanistan.

In the end, the United States made itself more vulnerable to Pakistani predations at a time when it needed to pressure Pakistan heavily if it wanted to ensure an Afghan future with little likelihood of a non-elected Taliban presence.

A Way Forward

Cynics in South Asia and beyond contend that the U.S. decision to keep arming Pakistan to kill terrorists while it continues to make terrorists is a collusion of convenience. The U.S. arms industry gets a buyer and Pakistan continues to make itself relevant, and thus eligible for continued assistance, in a war on terror of its making. It’s a self-licking ice cream cone. Frondeurs will further gripe that the United States also desires to sell arms to India. This seems to put the United States in the dubious position of benefiting from an arms race that it encourages. Generally, I rubbish these arguments. However, many in Pakistan and in India accept these canards as reality. This perception undermines legitimate American efforts to engage both countries. More importantly when the United States justifies such sales to Pakistan as being inherently in U.S. interests, the United States looks explicitly foolish or complicit in such games.

Washington needs to take advantage of its declining dependence upon Pakistan to support its presence in Afghanistan and forge a very different means of engaging Pakistan. I am not suggesting that the United States cut off ties to Pakistan and stop all programmatic activities. Instead, I am arguing that the United States treat Pakistan like any other state and hold it accountable for its actions. Any “special engagement” with Pakistan must be under very strict guidelines that explicitly and genuinely advance U.S. interests.

At a minimum, U.S. security assistance generally and defense sales of strategic systems and any platforms that materially increase Pakistan’s warfighting capabilities in particular should be predicated on three conditions. First, Pakistan must recognize the line of control in Kashmir as the legitimate border. After all, the zoo of terrorists that Pakistan has assembled to prosecute its proxy war in Kashmir has precisely contributed to the internal security challenges for which Pakistan now wishes to purchase these helicopters and hellfire missiles. Moreover, nothing will stop Pakistan from using these in India or against ethnic insurgents in Balochistan. Arming Pakistan to kill some terrorists while it continues to nurture others makes little strategic sense. The United States should most certainly continue to train Pakistani military personnel in the United States and other forms of engagement and assistance that will help Pakistan buttress its internal security capabilities. But it should demur from materially adding to Pakistan’s military capabilities vis-à-vis India while it remains committed to territorial revisionism through the use of terrorists and nuclear coercion.

It should be noted that Pakistan has no legal claims to the portion of Kashmir under Indian administration. Pakistanis who point to U.N.S.R. 47 of 1948 to argue that it does should read the text of the resolution to disabuse themselves of this fantasy. To this end, the United States should stop recognizing the line of control as a disputed border and use its influence within the United Nations to secure support for this position. Doing so will deprive Pakistan of the political justification for its reliance upon the menagerie of terrorists it has reared to wrest Kashmir from India. By removing Pakistan from the equation, the United States can more usefully engage India quietly to redress the myriad problems it has with its own Kashmiri citizens. Equally important, the United States should encourage Pakistan behind closed doors to integrate those Kashmiris under its own administration.

Second, any such sales of weaponry should be contingent upon Pakistan not only ceasing support for the various terrorists it has nurtured but actively de-mobilizing them. This will be a long process. However it makes no sense for the United States to provide arms to Pakistan to fight terrorists when confederate terrorists undertake operations in India, which is the most likely precipitant of the next war between India and Pakistan.

Third, Pakistan wants to be respected as a legitimate nuclear power. Yet Pakistan has proven itself to be a reckless nuclear power boldly boasting of developing tactical nuclear weapons to contend with Indian doctrinal evolution. The United States should seriously consider curtailing provision of conventional military capabilities as long as Pakistan pursues these nuclear capabilities. After all, the logic of these tactical nuclear weapons is not to defend Pakistan against Indian aggression. Rather, they are meant to deter an Indian military response to a terrorist outrage in India committed by a Pakistani proxy.

In addition, the United States should allow the IMF and other multi-lateral funding agencies to hold Pakistan accountable for its past and deliberate failures to make the economic reforms it promised to make as a condition for the various “bailouts” it has received. Excessive bilateral and multilateral bailouts allow Pakistan to abscond from making the necessary tax reforms which form the ballast of a true democracy. These bailouts also lubricate any friction that arises between those who want a more genuine democracy and those that are satisfied with the current deep state. Tax reform is a necessary but insufficient condition for the development of democracy in Pakistan and a first step towards renormalizing civilian-military relations.

Critics of such a way forward will argue that the United States will “lose influence” in Pakistan. My response to this assertion is that I see little evidence of such “influence.” Since 9/11, Pakistan has expanded its nuclear arsenal and redoubled its commitment to terrorism. If this is influence, I’m happy to forego it.

In the end, such a realistic policy towards Pakistan may not result in a Pakistan that behaves better in the policy-relevant future. However such a policy will at least spare the American public the continued indignity of subsidizing Pakistan’s most dangerous policies, several of which account for thousands of dead Americans and many more injured in the Afghan war.

Christine Fair is an assistant professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. She is the author of Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War and, along with Sarah J. Watson, is the co-editor of Pakistan’s Enduring Challenges.

Pro-ISIS Hackers Knock French TV Network Off the Air With Large-scale Cyber Attack

French Broadcaster TV5 Monde Recovers After Hacking

New York Times, April 9, 2015
PARIS — The French television broadcaster TV5 Monde was back on the air Thursday, a day after hackers claiming to support the Islamic State militant group carried out a wide-ranging cyberattack on the network. The attack prompted strong reactions from the French government, which called on the nation’s media outlets to remain vigilant.The network was able to completely resume normal broadcasting around 6 p.m. Earlier in the day, it regained control of its social media accounts and put itswebsite back online.
In a video published on TV5 Monde’s Facebook page early Thursday, Yves Bigot, the network’s director, said that the “extremely powerful” cyberattack started at 10 p.m. Wednesday.
The French Network and Information Security Agency, which operates under the authority of the prime minister to prevent and defend against cyberattacks, called the breach “serious” and said it had dispatched computer security experts to assist TV5 Monde.
A group calling itself the CyberCaliphate claimed responsibility for the attack, using the same name as hackers who took over the social media accounts of the United States Central Command in January and hacked into Newsweek’s Twitterfeed in February.
The claim of responsibility has not been confirmed, and French journalists who cover technology noted that it was difficult to determine whether the CyberCaliphate had been involved.

10 Killed in Taliban Attack in Formerly Peaceful Afghan City of Mazar-i-Sharif

April 9, 2015

Taliban Attack in Northern Afghanistan Leaves at Least 10 Dead

Mujib Mashal, New York Times

KABUL, Afghanistan — Assailants armed with heavy weapons and suicide vests stormed the provincial prosecutor’s office Thursday in one of the most peaceful cities in northern Afghanistan, battling security forces for more than six hours and leaving at least 10 people dead and dozens wounded.

The attack took place in Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh Province, which has long been seen as a model of economic prosperity and stability. The Taliban claimed responsibility for what was the latest in a string of bloody assaults ahead of what is expected to be an intense fighting season.

The penetration of such a highly secure area raised concerns over what is expected to be the most bloody fighting season in more than a decade of war. The Taliban typically escalate their attacks in the summer.

Mazar-i-Sharif, a bustling city presided over by the provincial governor, Atta Mohammad Noor, has been spared the bloodshed of most large cities across the country. Police officials often bragged not about the number of security forces they commanded, but about how few they needed to secure the city, one of Afghanistan’s largest and most prosperous.

The roughly 13,000 remaining members of the international coalition, down from a peak of nearly 130,000, have been largely reduced to a training and support mission. That has left Afghan forces severely challenged, evidence of which emerged in a steady stream of attacks in the last week.

Saudi Air Campaign in Yemen Not Achieving the Desire Results as Country Continues to Slide Into Chaos

Saudi air war struggles to make gains as Yemen fragments

Hugh Naylor, Washington Post

April 9, 2015

BEIRUT — Two weeks into a Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, the airstrikes appear to have accelerated the country’s fragmentation into warring tribes and militias and done little to accomplish the goal of returning the ousted Yemeni president to power, analysts and residents say.

The Yemeni insurgents, known as Houthis, have pushed ahead with their offensive and seem to have protected many of their weapons stockpiles from the coalition’s bombardments, analysts say. The fighting has killed hundreds of people, forced more than 100,000 people to flee their homes and laid waste to the strategic southern city of Aden.

The battles are increasingly creating problems that go beyond the rebels opposing President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the forces supporting him. The conflict has reduced available water and food supplies in a country alreadysuffering from dangerous levels of malnutrition, and created a security vacuum that has permitted territorial advances by al-Qaeda in the Arabia Peninsula (AQAP).

For the Saudi government and its allies, the military operation in Yemen may be turning into a quagmire, analysts say.

“What’s a potential game-changer in all of this is not just the displacement of millions of people, but it’s this huge spread of disease, starvation and inaccessibility to water, combined with an environment where radical groups are increasingly operating in the open and recruiting,” said Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The Yemen conflict, he added, could become a situation where “nobody can figure out either who started this fight or how to end it.”

Saudi Arabia, a Sunni powerhouse, views Yemen’s Houthi rebels as proxies of Shiite Iran. The air campaign that began March 25 is widely seen in the region as an attempt by the Saudis to push back against the expanding influence of Iran, which has gained significant sway in Arab countries like Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Hadi, the internationally recognized Yemeni president, was pushed out of the capital, Sanaa, in February. He then attempted to establish an authority in Aden before being forced to flee to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, last month.

In a media briefing in Riyadh this week, a Saudi military spokesman painted a positive picture of the offensive in neighboring Yemen, saying that Houthi militias had been isolated in Aden and groups of rebels were abandoning the fight. Saudi officials have argued that a two-week time frame is too short to judge the operation’s outcome and have emphasized that they are moving carefully to avoid civilian casualties.

The Saudi-led coalition, which the U.S. government supports with intelligence and weapons, consists of mostly Arab and Sunni Muslim countries, and the level of coordination among their armed forces has impressed analysts. The United Arab Emirates and Jordan are believed to have joined Saudi Arabia in conducting air raids that have destroyed scores of military bases and arms depots, said Theodore Karasik, a Dubai-based analyst on Middle Eastern military issues. The Saudis also have received support from Egypt’s navy in patrolling the coast of Yemen, he said.

Still, Karasik said, Houthi rebels appear to have successfully hidden from bombardment significant stores of weapons, possibly by moving them to the insurgents’ mountainous northern stronghold of Saada. To destroy those arms and persuade the Houthis to halt their offensive and agree to peace talks, a ground attack would be required, he said.

“This illustrates that air power alone cannot rid enemy ground forces of their weapons and capability,” Karasik said. “It makes them scatter, and it makes them hide their weapons for a later day.”

Difficult choices

Ground troops would certainly face stiff resistance from the Houthi militiamen. Seasoned guerrilla fighters, they seized southern parts of Saudi Arabia during a brief war in 2009, killing over 100 Saudi troops.

Saudi Arabia has not ruled out a ground attack, but its allies appear wary of such a move. The kingdom has asked Pakistan to commit troops to the campaign, but that country is deeply divided over participating in an operation that could anger its own Shiite minority.

Though fraught with risk, continued airstrikes and a possible ground incursion may be the only choices that Saudi Arabia sees itself as having, said Imad Salamey, a Middle East expert at the Lebanese American University. He said that officials in Riyadh probably are concerned that relenting could be perceived as weakness, especially in Iran.

“The stakes are so high for the Saudis right now that it’s hard to imagine any alternative resolutions,” Salamey said. Saudi Arabia considers Yemen to be its back yard, he noted. “As far as the Saudis are concerned, this is a fight for their homeland, the existence of their regime.”

On Thursday, Iranian leaders issued strong condemnations of the Saudi-directed assaults. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called them a “crime and a genocide” in a televised speech. In separate remarks, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the operation a “mistake” and “wrong.”

Crumbling support

The Yemen campaign is part of an increasingly assertive Saudi policy in the region that is driven in part by what analysts say is concern over an emerging agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. The Saudis fear such a deal could amount to U.S. recognition of Iran’s growing influence in the region.

The Saudis have said that they want to restore Hadi and his mostly exiled government. But the president’s support base – both in the splintered military and among the public – appears to be crumbling.

Many residents say they resent how Hadi and fellow exiled leaders cheer on coalition assaults from abroad as Aden residents confront heavily armed Houthi militiamen and their allies.

“He’s only ever let us down,” said Ali Mohammed, 28, an unemployed resident of Aden.

Wadah al-Dubaish, 40, who is leading a militia in Aden fighting the Houthis, said that Hadi is no longer welcome in the city. “We don’t want him here and don’t want to see his face here,” he said.

In other areas where anti-Houthi sentiment runs high, Hadi’s stock also appears to be falling. Ahmed Othman, a politician in the southern city of Taiz who opposes the Houthis, blamed Hadi for not organizing military resistance against the rebels. He also expressed worry about unidentified fighters who are increasingly staging attacks on Houthi positions in the city.

“The biggest concern we have now in Taiz is the absence of security,” he said.

Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni analyst and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center, said that mounting civilian casualties from the air raids have fanned public anger. So, too, have worsening shortages of food and water, he added.

He said the chaos is creating fertile ground for extremist groups like AQAP, which has played an increasing role fighting the Houthis. The al-Qaeda group, which uses Yemen as a base to stage attacks in the West, has seized significant territory during the fighting, including Yemen’s fifth-largest city as well as a military installation on the border with Saudi Arabia.

The collapse of order is so dramatic that it may be impossible to put Yemen back together, Muslimi said.

“The days of a Yemen that could be run by one person who could be dealt with and who could take care of things are gone,” he said.

That leaves the Saudis with no obvious military or diplomatic exit, he added. “This is becoming their Vietnam.”

Pakistani Lawmakers Vote to Keep Pak Army Out of War in Yemen

April 10, 2015

Pakistani lawmakers vote to stay out of Yemen conflict, Associated Press

ISLAMABAD (AP) – Pakistan’s parliament on Friday decided not to join the Saudi-led coalition targeting Shiite rebels in Yemen, with lawmakers adopting a resolution that calls on the warring parties in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country to resolve the conflict through peaceful dialogue.

After days of debating, Pakistani lawmakers unanimously voted in favor of a resolution, which states that “the parliament desires that Pakistan should maintain neutrality in the Yemen conflict so as to be able to play a proactive diplomatic role to end the crisis.”

The predominantly Sunni Pakistan, which has a Shiite minority of its own and shares a long border with Shiite powerhouse Iran, has been concerned about getting involved in Yemen’s increasingly sectarian conflict and a Saudi-Iran proxy war in the region.

The conflict in Yemen pits the Saudi-led Sunni Gulf Arab coalition against Shiite rival Iran, which supports the rebels known as the Houthis and has provided humanitarian aid, though both Iran and the rebels deny it has armed them.

The growing regional involvement risks transforming what until now has been a complex power struggle into a full-blown sectarian conflict like those raging in Syria and Iraq.

Since the Saudi-led coalition launched the aerial campaign more than two weeks ago, pro-Saudi groups have rallied across Pakistan, urging Islamabad to join the coalition. The rallies, organized by a militant-linked Sunni group and Hafiz Saeed, who heads the Jamaat-ud-Dawa religious group, have condemned the Shiite rebels’ advance in Yemen.

Iran has been trying to garner international support to stop the bombing and has stepped up its condemnation of the air campaign, with the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calling it “genocide.”

Pakistan’s resolution came a day after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Islamabad to discuss the conflict in Yemen with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other officials.

Zarif has said that Iran is ready to facilitate peace talks that would lead to a broad-based government in Yemen. He also called for a cease-fire to allow for humanitarian assistance. “We need to work together in order to put an end to the crisis in Yemen,” Zarif said.

Sharif attended the joint session of parliament Friday to indicate his approval.

If the conflict in Yemen becomes an all-out sectarian war, this will “have a critical fallout in the region, including in Pakistan,” the resolution said.

The parliament also urged Muslim countries and the international community to intensify their efforts to promote peace in Yemen. It called on Pakistan’s envoys to “initiate steps” before the U.N. Security Council “to bring about an immediate ceasefire in Yemen.”

Even though the lawmakers opted to stay out of the conflict, the parliament also expressed its “unequivocal support” for Saudi Arabia, vowing that in case of any violation of its territorial integrity or any threat to the Muslim holiest places in the kingdom, Pakistan would “stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Saudi Arabia and its people.”

Despite the airstrikes, the Houthis and their allies, forces loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, have been advancing on the ground. On Thursday, they captured Ataq, the capital of oil-rich Shabwa province, after days of clashes with local Sunni tribes.

The rebel forces have seized 10 of Yemen’s 21 provinces, including the capital, Sanaa, and are advancing on Aden, Yemen’s second largest city, which was declared a temporary capital by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi before he fled to Saudi Arabia in the face of the Houthis’ advance.

In Shabwa, the rebels and their allies could encounter significant resistance from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. The Saudi-led bombing - backed by U.S. arms shipments and intelligence sharing - threatens to weaken the rebels and Saleh’s loyalists, who are al-Qaida’s most powerful opponents on the ground.

The World Health Organization said Wednesday that at least 643 civilians and combatants have been killed since March 19 in Yemen. At least 2,226 have been wounded, and another 100,000 have fled their homes

Good news is no news - The Indian commentariat is clearly overstepping its mark

Swapan Dasgupta 

As a platform, the social media - and particularly Twitter - appears to have been purpose-built for expressions of outrage, both real and fanciful. In India, the past few weeks witnessed an explosion of outrage directed against the media in general and a popular television channel in particular. And both centred on a very emotive issue: national honour. 

A TV channel thought otherwise. Hoping to tap into the vast reservoir of bitterness that invariably accompanies a defeat, it packaged the Melbourne encounter as a case of India losing a match it was destined to win. The defeat was blamed on bad captaincy, bad performances and the non-application of mind. A rigorous post-mortem may have found elements of truth in all these charges and, in any case, armchair experts are always wiser after the event. 

The only occasion the Yemen rescue intruded into the news channel consciousness was in connection with a sarcastic aside by General Singh. This became the talking point of one channel, prompting the General - who has still to acquire the tact of a professional politician - to tweet his exasperation. Arguably, Singh should have found other synonyms for "presstitute" but considering the strains and tensions of the rescue operation, his indiscretion is understandable. The channel didn't think so, but it is reassuring that there was a wave of counter-outrage in the social media questioning the tone and priorities of the sanctimonious media.

Uneasy coalition in the Valley

Source Link

“To govern well, the PDP-BJP government needs to first create a conducive political atmosphere.” 
If the BJP-PDP combine does indeed want to make a difference in Jammu and Kashmir, both sides must ignore the troublemakers and focus on the sound agenda they have signed

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir is past a couple of crucial tests by fire, but it is interesting to look at what its political life will be hereafter. After the controversial release of separatist leader Masrat Alam Bhat and the strident demand for the withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from the State, the coalition government looked on the brink of collapse. The controversies were not only unfortunate, but also indicative of the deep-seated misconceptions that much of the country seems to share about the State — its unique place in India, the separatist tendencies that refuse to die out, the resistance politics that seems to pass on from one generation to the next, and the limits of conflict resolution. Given that much of the recent Kashmir discourse in India has been ill-informed, it is important that the country’s media houses, especially electronic media houses, and the New Delhi-based strategic community give more serious attention to the State’s politics and conflicts. It was irresponsible for the two sections to have called the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed a “pro-Pak Chief Minister” and an “anti-national”, especially when he was operating within the ambit of the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) put together by the BJP and the PDP, and with the long-term interest of building peace in Kashmir.

China's wall of sand- Beijing's mischief transforms reef into island

Source Link

Washington, April 9: The clusters of Chinese vessels busily dredge white sand and pump it onto partly submerged coral, aptly named Mischief Reef, transforming it into an island.

Over a matter of weeks, satellite photographs show the island growing bigger, its few shacks on stilts replaced by buildings. What appears to be an amphibious warship, capable of holding 500 to 800 troops, patrols the reef's southern opening. 

The Chinese have clearly concluded that it is unlikely anyone will challenge them in an area believed rich in oil and gas and, perhaps more important, strategically vital. Last week Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of the US Pacific fleet, accused China of undertaking an enormous and unprecedented artificial land creation operation.

Can India and China Be Friends?

By Mohamed Zeeshan
April 09, 2015

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit China in May in what will be a significant foreign policy event for New Delhi. Modi will be seeking asolution to the nagging boundary dispute between the two countries and geopolitics should dominate the prime minister’s itinerary. Tensions have long clouded relations between the two Asian powerhouses, but they need not dominate Modi’s visit. If India and China want to find a way to collaborate, the answer may well lie in economics.

Over the last few decades, relations between Beijing and New Delhi have run hot and cold. Border disputes have held them back, but the two countries have often managed to find common ground on economic issues. While China’s Maritime Silk Road has made news in India for all the wrong reasons, New Delhi itself has yet to explicitly and officially oppose the concept. In fact, many of China’s grand economic initiatives have come in collaboration with India.

Terror should not be allowed to revisit J&K

09 Apr , 2015
A spurt in terrorist violence in the Kashmir valley over the last few days has reopened the debate on the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

A barbaric terrorist attack in Shopian district of Kashmir on April 6 led to the death of three unarmed policemen. On the same day, two more attacks on policemen in different parts of the valley left at least one police officer, Ghulam Mustafa, critically injured, among others.

On March, 20 and 21, terrorists carried out two attacks in the Jammu region, the first on a police station in Kathua and the second on a military establishment at Samba. Four policemen lost their lives in the first attack.

Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed believes that mollycoddling extremist and separatist forces and Pakistan will open doors for peace in the state. So strong is his belief that his first steps on assuming office were in this direction, regardless of the possibility of upsetting an already fragile coalition of his party with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

How India Is Squandering Its Top Export: The Buddha


India and Nepal gave the world one of its most precious resources -- the Buddha. Yet neither country truly values this extraordinary legacy, let alone takes pride in it. In the Buddha's own birthplace and homeland, his teachings are marginalised, his wisdom is unappreciated, and his legacy is invisible in society.

The pervasive neglect of this treasured inheritance is an inestimable loss. After all, few products from this region have ever been so widely valued and respected, or travelled as far and as successfully, as the teachings of the Buddha.

Making ‘Make-in-India’ Move in Defence Production

April 08, 2015

The ‘Make-in-India’ drive of the government has created a conceptual parallax in so far as the defence manufacturing sector is concerned. Foreign companies, and even governments, seem to view it differently from the way it is being seen by the Indian industry. The lack of clarity about the policy underpinnings of this amphibolous trope lies at the root of this dichotomy.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has had its own make-in-India policy in the form of the ‘Make’ procedure since 2006. Notwithstanding the fact that not a single project has taken off till date under this procedure, its aim is “to ensure Indigenous Research, Design, Development and Production of capabilities sought by the Armed Forces in prescribed timeframe while optimally utilizing the potential of the Indian Industry” as “it would also achieve self reliance in Defence Equipment” (sic).1.

The emphasis of the Defence Production Policy of January 2011 is also on the Indian industry as the primary vehicle for achieving self-reliance in defence production. This is evident from its objectives, which are:


The United States generally, and the U.S. State Department in particular, seem perennially unwilling to grasp the realities of Pakistan. Refusing to recognize that Pakistan pursues ideological goals through the use of terrorism under its ever-expanding nuclear umbrella, the United States persists with the same strategy it has always used to handle the “Pakistan problem” – namely, attempt to induce better Pakistani comportment through handsome allurements. The most Panglossian American policy makers believe that there is some magical combination of rewards and engagement that, over some time horizon, will transform Pakistan from the regional menace it is today, into a state that is at peace with itself and its neighbors. The most pusillanimous of policy-making poltroons fret that should the United States curb its generosity and demand that Pakistan honor its varied commitments like any other responsible state, Pakistan may fail and the Islamist barbarians will knock down the nuclear gates with grisly consequences for humanity.


By Abdul Basit

Saudi Arabia’s demand to Pakistan to join its coalition against the Houthi uprising in Yemen has put Islamabad in a catch-22 situation. Pakistan is caught between joining the Saudi alliance and not antagonising its neighbour Iran. Joining the Saudi coalition will have long-term political, economic and security repercussions for Pakistan.

The Pakistani parliament met on 6 April 2015 to debate the merits of joining the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthi uprising in Yemen. The session was convened after Saudi Arabia requested Pakistan to join the Saudi coalition. Before that a high-level Pakistani delegation also visited Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis have asked Pakistan for aircrafts, naval vessels and ground troops. This has put Pakistan in a catch-22 situation. Pakistan is walking a tightrope balancing its alliance with Saudi Arabia against the possibility of taking part in active combat in Yemen that can antagonise its neighbour Iran.

Why China looks upon Gwadar as its 'biggest harvest'


In the museum at Goa, there is a statue of the ruler of Mekran in Balochistan built by the Portuguese. The 15th century warrior is Mir Hammal Kalmati of the Hoath tribe, who resisted the Portuguese attacks on Gwadar. To this day, more than 25 million Baloch all over Balochistan's divided territory in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan, and the diaspora salute Hammal Kalmati's valour. Not many know the Portuguese arrived in the region soon after the departure of China's Ming Dynasty, and their most famous maritime explorer and castrated Admiral Zheng He, who commandeered his 63 ships and over 28,000 men to Hormuz. "His giant 'treasure ships', packed with the finest goods and most sophisticated weaponry of the time, went to 37 countries over 28 years, exacting tribute for the Dragon Throne and extending China's influence across much of the globe," according to the BBC. After nearly six centuries, China has set its eyes to returning to the region as part of its "string of pearls" of naval bases in the Indian Ocean.

Malaysia Says New Terror Group Trying to Create Islamic State

April 08, 2015

Malaysia said Tuesday that suspected militants it had detained for plotting to carry out terrorist attacks were part of a broader group trying to create an Islamic state there.

On Sunday, Malaysia detained 17 people suspected of planning terrorist attacks in the country’s capital of Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia’s police chief Khalid Abu Bakar later said that two of them had recently returned from Syria.

On Tuesday, Khalid said in a statement that the militants were part of a terror cell inspired by the Islamic State (IS) to create a similar regime in Malaysia. He said that the group had planned to kidnap prominent personalities and rob banks to fund their activities . They also planned to raid several army camps and police stations to boost their arsenal of weapons.

Japan: Seeking Renewal in the Face of Decline

By Andrew Oplas
April 08, 2015

“People of Japan, be confident!” So said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a keynote speech to the Japanese parliament in February, an unusually emotional appeal for support of his bold constitutional revision and economic revitalization agenda.

Postwar Japanese prime ministers have rarely consolidated the political capital needed to engage in serious game-changing policy reform, but Abe’s December election triumph – the so-called victory without a mandate – presents a rare opportunity to cement lasting foreign policy and economic metamorphosis.

Watch Out, China: Japan Readies Test of New Stealth Fighter Jet

April 8, 2015 

Japan is preparing to test its first ever domestically built stealth fighter jet, Chinese and Taiwanese media are reporting.

“The highly anticipated F-3, Japan's first domestically-made stealth jet, is aiming to conduct test flights this summer,” the Taiwan-based Want China Timesreported, citing a story in the PLA Daily, the official publication of the Chinese military.

Japan has been building a prototype stealth fighter as part of its advanced technology demonstrator-experimental (ATD-X) program. Some of the first images of the prototype were first published on the web last year.

How Not to Deal With China

APR 7, 2015

China's creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the bungled U.S. response have given Beijing a nice diplomatic win. Nothugely consequential in itself, the episode is a case study in how not to deal with the world's biggest emerging power. Before it happens again, the U.S. and its friends ought to pause and reflect.

China has two goals in building this new international lender. First, it wants an additional conduit for its surplus of savings -- a way to lend abroad that deflects resistance from borrowers worried about being under China's thumb. (Lately, Chinese-led construction projects have prompted protests from Sri Lanka to Zambia.) Second, China's rulers crave the respect of other nations and seek the global standing they believe should come with their growing economic strength.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that Russian and Chinese leaders reached 107 bilateral agreements in the past two years.


MOSCOW (Sputnik) — China and Russia have reached a very high level of cooperation in the past two years leading to a new stage of strategic partnership between Beijing and Moscow, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Tuesday.

"According to preliminary data, you [Russian and Chinese leaders] have reached 107 bilateral agreements in the past two years. Fifty-five of them have been implemented, 21 are long-term projects, while 31 are being actively implemented," Wang Yi said addressing Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting in the Kremlin.

How China Can Perfect Its 'Silk Road' Strategy

By Xue Li and Xu Yanzhou
April 09, 2015

In 2014, “one belt and one road” (OBOR), a reference to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, were the keywords for Chinese diplomacy. The OBOR strategy has become China’s major foreign policy goal, Beijing will promote this initiative economically, politically, militarily and culturally over the next eight to ten years. In Chinese academia, it’s often said that 2013 marked the conception of the OBOR idea, while 2014 saw its operationalization. In 2015, the main task will be fully implementing OBOR.

In 2014, preparations for the OBOR strategy made remarkable progress. Politically, China made use of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) and a dual-track approach; economically, Beijing advanced several economic corridors and upgraded the China-ASEAN free zone, as well as the Asia-Pacific free trade zone. 

China, Vietnam Pledge to Control Maritime Disputes

April 08, 2015

The general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), Nguyen Phu Trong, is in Beijing this week for meetings with Chinese leaders. Trong’s visit continues the trend of warming China-Vietnam ties through direct party-to-party relations rather than state mechanisms, a point Carl Thayer noted in an earlierpiece for The Diplomat.

Trong is in China at the invitation of his counterpart, Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping (who, of course, is also China’s president). China and Vietnam are celebrating the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties this year and both the VCP and CCP are eager to move past last year’s ugly dispute over a Chinese oil rig operating off the Paracel Islands.