Wednesday, September 6, 2017

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India, Pakistan nearly agreed on Siachen three times: Shyam Saran

By Suhasini Haidar
His book details ‘missed opportunity’ to solve Sir Creek dispute.
India and Pakistan nearly came to an agreement on demilitarising the Siachen Glacier at least three times: in 1989, 1992 and 2006, says former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran in a book that was launched here on Wednesday by former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and discussed by former National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon. In a lively discussion on the reasons for the failure of the two sides to come to an agreement in the most recent attempt in 2006, between the Manmohan Singh UPA government and the Musharraf regime in Pakistan, Mr. Saran said the two sides had even agreed on authenticating ground positions of the troops before the deal fell through.
In the book, “How India Sees the World: Kautilya to the 21st Century”, Mr. Saran records the crucial meeting of the CCS (Cabinet Committee on Security) on the eve of India-Pakistan Defence Secretary-level talks in May 2006, where the draft agreement, that had been approved by the Army and other stakeholders, was to be discussed. However, he said two crucial players, the-then NSA MK Narayanan and then Army Chief General J.J. Singh made last minute interventions to cancel the proposal. “When the CCS meeting was held on the eve of the defence secretary–level talks, [Mr.] Narayanan launched into a bitter offensive against the proposal, saying that Pakistan could not be trusted, that there would be political and public opposition to any such initiative and that India’s military position in the northern sector vis- à-vis both Pakistan and China would be compromised. [Gen] J.J. Singh, who had happily gone along with the proposal in its earlier iterations, now decided to join Narayanan in rubbishing it,” Mr. Saran writes.
According to Mr. Saran both Indian and Pakistani armies had agreed to authenticate the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL), and sign an annexure with maps marking exactly where Indian and Pakistani troops held positions. As a result, Mr. Saran says, Indian troops, who occupy the heights of Siachen would be able to mutually withdraw and be spared “extreme cold and unpredictable weather in inhospitable areas, [where] their psychological isolation was just as bad as their physical hardship.” Mr. Saran’s revelations are significant as it is the first time that an Indian official of the time has accepted that agreements on Siachen and Sir Creek, often called the “low-hanging fruit” of the Comprehensive bilateral dialogue between both countries, was a reality. In 2015, former Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri has written about the agreements in his memoirs “Neither a Hawk nor a Dove”, with an account of the Pakistani side of those negotiations.
During the book launch on Wednesday, General (Retd) J.J.Singh, who was also in the audience, asked Mr. Saran whether it would have been possible, in fact, to “trust Pakistan”, and ensure Pakistani troops wouldn’t return to occupy positions in Siachen. “In matters of international diplomacy, it is a convergence of interests rather than trust that counts,” Mr. Saran replied. The book also records what Mr. Saran calls a “missed opportunity” to solve the Sir Creek dispute in Kutch, with the solution crafted by the Navy to divide the creek between India and Pakistan according to the “equidistance” principle. When asked by Mr. Menon whether the opportunities to resolve the long-standing issues with Pakistan still existed, Mr. Saran said, “Opportunities are perishable. When they aren’t seized, they don’t return.”
The book launch was attended by a number of diplomats and politicians including Minister of Law and Justice, and Information Technology Ravishankar Prasad and former Vice-President Hamid Ansari.

BRICS Potentially Strengthens Trumps Hand In Tackling Pakistani Support Of Militants – Analysis

Pakistan, already furious and reeling from US President Donald J. Trump’s threat to sanction it for supporting militants, has been dealt a potential body blow out of left field. Five major emerging powers, including China and Russia, have for the first time identified Pakistan-backed militant groups as a regional security threat in a statement at the end of a summit in Xiamen.
The statement by the BRICS countries, which also include India, Brazil and South Africa, called into question the degree to which Pakistan will be able to resist US pressure by aligning itself closer with China and Russia. It also strengthened India’s position that had already been boosted by Mr. Trump urging Delhi to step up its engagement in Afghanistan.
The statement could trap Pakistan in a pincer movement in which the very fundament of its national security policy would be challenged. Pakistan has long seen various militant groups, many of which have been designated as terrorists by the United Nations and/or the United States, as useful proxies in its zero-sum-game-approach towards India.
Pakistan has also supported the Taliban in part to counter India, which it says uses Afghanistan as a launching pad for covert operations inside Pakistan. A former senior Indian military commander recently acknowledged that Afghanistan was important to India because its security services had over the years moved away from gathering human intelligence in Pakistan.
Defense Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan rejected the statement within hours of its publication. “We reject this thing categorically, no terrorist organization has any complete safe havens,” Mr. Khan told a Pakistani tv station.
In an Afghanistan-focused speech on US policy in South Asia, Mr. Trump last month insisted that Pakistan’s partnership with the United States would not survive if it continued to harbour and support groups that target the United States.
In response, Pakistan asked US Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells to indefinitely postpone a planned visit to Pakistan. Similarly, Pakistani foreign minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif cancelled a visit to Washington and said he would be visiting China, Russia and Turkey instead.
The BRICS statement threatens however to pull the rug from under what Mr. Asif hoped to achieve on his travels. The statement was in stark contrast to China and Russia’s response to Mr. Trump’s threat. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at the time insisted that Pakistan was on the front line in the struggle against terrorism and had made “great sacrifices” and “important contributions” in the fight. Russia responded similarly to Mr. Trump.
The BRICS statement, however, sang a very different tone even if it did not identify Pakistan by name. It noted that Chinese President Xi Jingping, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Brazilian President Michel Temer and South African President Jacob Zuma “express concern on the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, ISIL/DAISH, Al-Qaida and its affiliates including Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP and Hizb ut-Tahrir.”
Pakistan stands accused of supporting several of these groups, including the Taliban, the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Pakistan put Muhammed Hafez Saeed, one of the world’s most wanted men and the UN and US-designated leader of Jama’at-ud-Dawa (JuD), widely viewed as a LeT front, under house arrest earlier this year. LeT itself has been designated by both the UN and Pakistan. JuD recently announced that it was forming a political party that would compete in elections.
Mr. Saeed is believed to be among others responsible for the 2008 attacks on 12 targets in Mumbai, including the Taj Mahal Hotel, a train station, a café and a Jewish centre. Some 164 people were killed and more than 300 wounded. The US government has a bounty of $10 million on Mr. Saeed who was once a LeT leader. He has since disassociated himself from the group and denied any link between JuD and LeT.
Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), a group proscribed by both the UN and Pakistan, poses a more difficult challenge and its naming in the BRICS statement puts not only Pakistan but also China on the spot. China, at the behest of Pakistan, twice this year prevented the United Nations from listing the group’s leader, Masood Azhar, as a globally designated terrorist.
Mr. Azhar, a fighter in the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan and an Islamic scholar who graduated from a Deobandi madrassah, Darul Uloom Islamia Binori Town in Karachi, the alma mater of numerous Pakistani militants, is believed to have been responsible for an attack last year on India’s Pathankot Air Force Station. The militants, dressed in Indian military uniforms fought a 14-hour battle against Indian security forces that only ended when the last attacker was killed.
Mr. Azhar, a portly bespectacled son of a Bahawalpur religious studies teacher and author of a four-volume treatise on jihad as well as books with titles like Forty Diseases of the Jews, was briefly detained after the attack and has since gone underground.
Freed from Indian prison in 1999 in exchange for the release of passengers of a hijacked Indian Airlines flight, Mr. Azhar is also believed to be responsible for an attack in 2001 on the Indian parliament in New Delhi that brought Pakistan and India to the brink of war. JeM despite being banned continues to publicly raise funds and recruit fighters in Pakistani mosques.
“You cannot have good and bad terrorists, and it is a collective action. Members of the BRICS countries have themselves been victims of terrorism, and I would say that what has come of today acknowledges the fact that we must work collectively in handling this,” Indian foreign ministry spokeswoman Preeti Saran told reporters immediately after BRICS issued its statement.
The Xiamen statement is certain to have caught Pakistan off balance. Mr. Asif is likely to find out what the statement means when he visits Beijing and Moscow. Ultimately, the proof will be in the pudding when the UN Security Council in early 2018 again looks at designating Mr. Azhar and China will have to take a stand.
Already, China’s more than $50 billion investment in Pakistani infrastructure and energy has been threatened by attacks by militant groups that are the target of Pakistani crackdowns. The BRICS statement suggests that Chinese patience with Pakistan’s selective support of militancy may be wearing thin.
That could be good news for Mr. Trump. To turn it to his advantage, Mr. Trump would have to find common ground with China and Russia in forging a negotiated exit from America’s Afghan quagmire. Sixteen years into the war, Mr. Trump is increasing the US military presence in Afghanistan. The silver lining is that he hopes that will force the Taliban to come to the negotiating table.

China's 'betrayal' - BRICS leaders slam Pakistan-based jihadi groups

The BRICS nations have expressed concern about Pakistan-based militant groups like LeT and the Haqqani Network. It is a diplomatic defeat for Islamabad, which heavily depends on Beijing's support amid a global isolation.
Pakistan's foreign policy in a nutshell: As long as China is backing us, we don't have to worry about the United States or the rest of the world. And that was exactly the official reaction after US President Donald Trump announced his Afghanistan policy last month, criticizing safe havens for Islamist terrorists on Pakistani soil.
While the Islamic country's politicians and government officials refuted Trump's claims that Pakistan was supporting militant groups near its border with Afghanistan, they heaved a sigh of relief when Chinese officials came to their support against Trump.
Therefore, it was quite natural for Islamabad to expect that the BRICS nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – would not criticize Pakistan-based militant groups during their recently held summit in the Chinese city of Xiamen.
But after Trump's censure, Xi Jinping's China, too, expressed its worry about the jihadi groups that many experts say are Pakistan's proxies in the region.
"We, in this regard, express concern about the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, 'Islamic State'(IS)..., al Qaeda and its affiliates, including the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP and Hizb ut-Tahrir," the BRICS leaders said in a joint declaration.
A 'message to Pakistan'
Islamabad thus faces a diplomatic dilemma. The BRICS declaration is a victory for the  Indian and Afghan stance that Pakistan-based terror outfits pose a serious threat to regional security.
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif is planning to visit China and Russia in the coming days to garner support for his country in the wake of Trump's criticism. The BRICS statement makes his task more difficult.
"The declaration is a clear message to Pakistan that the international community, including China and Russia, are not ready to tolerate Pakistan's jihadi proxies. We must not forget that Islamist groups also pose a threat to China, which is battling a religiously motivated insurgency in its western Xinjiang province," Dr. Aman Memon, an international relations expert at the Islamabad-based Preston University, told DW.
"The situation is equally alarming for Russia, which is wary of Islamists in Central Asian states," Memon said, adding that it was high time that Pakistan reviewed its policies regarding jihadi groups.
Close allies
New Delhi accuses Pakistan of using jihadi proxies to mount attacks inside India, including India-administered Kashmir. Islamabad denies these allegations.
In February, China blocked a proposal by the US to designate Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist. New Delhi accuses JeM and Azhar of masterminding several terrorist attacks on Indian soil, including a deadly assault on an Indian airbase in Pathankot in January 2016. Pakistani investigators say Azhar and his associates had no links to the attack.
Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is another militant group based in Pakistan which New Delhi blames for cross-border attacks including the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks that killed 166 people.
Washington has long been demanding that Islamabad relinquishes support for the Haqqani Network, a Taliban ally based in Pakistan's northwestern Waziristan region near Afghanistan.
Now that China has officially expressed its concern about JeM and LeT, the pressure on Pakistan to act against these groups is likely to build.
"The influence of India in Afghanistan is a reason behind Islamabad's support for these militant groups, but after the BRICS declaration Pakistan will come under tremendous pressure to review its policy," Memon said.
BRICS statement not detrimental
Experts, however, say that China will keep its leverage over Pakistan, and that it won't isolate Islamabad completely.
Ye Hailin, an expert at the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believes hostility between the regional powers could be counterproductive in defeating terrorists.
"As a mediator between Pakistan and Afghanistan, China has always tried to do its best. China's strategic interest in the region is to defeat terrorism," Ye told DW.
China is already part of a Quadrilateral Coordination Group - comprising Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States - that was established to end the protracted Afghan crisis. The grouping has not achieved a significant breakthrough so far, with Islamabad and Kabul at loggerheads over the militancy issue, and the Beijing and Washington relationship lacking in trust.
Experts say that China has invested heavily in Pakistan, and that is why it wants peace in at least those areas where its "Belt and Road Initiative" project is being implemented. China has built a port in the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan as part of its nearly $60-billion CPEC project to establish overland and sea trade routes to reach Middle Eastern, European and African markets.
China also wants to minimize India's influence in the region by supporting Pakistan, a policy that experts don't think will drastically change in the near future.
"I think China took Pakistan into confidence over the BRICS declaration. The LeT and JeM have been banned by Pakistan. The Haqqani Network no longer has any presence in Pakistan. We have been cooperating with the US over the Haqqani threat," Amjad Shoaib, a retired army general and defense analyst, told DW.
"People should not read too much into the BRICS declaration and Sino-Pakistani ties," Shoaib added.
Engagement with international community
Nonetheless, the BRICS declaration could force Pakistan not to take a collision course with the US.
Pakistanis are confident the international community will continue to rely on its "assistance" in the war in Afghanistan. Washington has so far cooperated with Pakistan, knowing the sanctions or unilateral aerial attacks on the militants' hideouts in the country could further destabilize the nuclear-armed nation with strong anti-West sentiments.
During his tenure, former US President Barack Obama increased drone attacks in Pakistan's northwestern tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, but he continued to engage with Pakistani authorities in order to retain leverage within the country. The flipside to it, analysts say, is that Islamabad has continued with its own strategy for Afghanistan: minimizing New Delhi's influence in Kabul and waiting for complete US withdrawal from the country.
At the same time, some Pakistani analysts say it is in the interest of Islamabad to also keep the Trump administration on its side.
"I think there is no point in getting excited over Trump's Afghanistan policy speech. Pakistan should engage with him [Trump]. He is sending more soldiers to Afghanistan and for that America will need Islamabad's help," Pakistani researcher and defense analyst Aisha Siddiqa, told DW.
At the same time, Indian and Pakistani peace activists urge their countries to tread cautiously and not become party to either the US-Chinese rivalry or the global powers' strategic interests  in Afghanistan and Central Asia.

She’s a Nobel winner heading to Oxford. But ‘Malala hate’ is still real in Pakistan.

By Pamela Constable
It’s safe to say that most people in Pakistan were glad that Malala Yousafzai, then a 15-year-old student, did not die from the bullet wounds a squad of Taliban militants left in her face and neck when they ambushed her school bus in Pakistan’s scenic Swat Valley in 2012.
It’s probably also safe to say that two years later, most Pakistanis were proud — even if that pride was mingled with other, more complicated emotions — when Yousafzai, an activist for girls’ education, became at 17 the youngest person ever to win a Nobel Prize and her country’s second Nobelist since the Muslim-majority country was founded in 1947.
Beyond that, the young woman’s story has become so distorted by a bewildering list of honors and accomplishments, and a parallel litany of accusations and suspicions, that it is almost impossible to generalize about how she is viewed by her fellow citizens — except that they seem exhausted of hearing about her.
Two weeks ago, Yousafzai, who now lives in England, announced that she had been accepted to study at Oxford University (her tweet was politely couched in praise for her fellow winning candidates). The British press loved the story, but there were few mentions in Pakistan’s media. Reaction from Pakistanis on social media ranged from sincere and congratulatory to snide and envious.

So excited to go to Oxford!! Well done to all A-level students - the hardest year. Best wishes for life ahead!
“Well done, Malala,” one man posted on Facebook, praising her humanitarian efforts and success abroad but noting wistfully that many Pakistanis are unable to get ahead except by bribery and connections. “Time to shoot myself in the head for my next degree,” sneered another on Twitter, using an expletive to suggest she had done little to deserve it. Some called her a hypocrite and a fake. Some said her father, a rural school principal, was an agent for Israel and the CIA.
On Tuesday, police officials in Karachi reported that they had killed several suspected Taliban and Islamic State militants in a raid and shootout, including one who they said had been involved in the attack on Yousafzai. The news made headlines but drew little public interest. News reports seemed skeptical of the police claims. They included scant detail of the long-ago incident and no photos of Yousafzai. The coverage had a perfunctory, “old news” tone.
In a way, it is understandable that this young woman — who appears to have remained a gracious and modest individual despite her global celebrity — has nevertheless become a permanent lightning rod for the muddled grievances, conspiracy theories and thwarted ambitions of a struggling society where many people look to “foreign hands” to blame for their problems and may resent the limelight that comes to some, but only a few, of those who have suffered.
By some estimates, more than 30,000 Pakistanis have been killed in a decade of terrorism and conflict. Yousafzai survived and then went on to become a best-selling author, a winner of numerous international prizes and a U.N. Messenger of Peace. Time magazine named her three years running as one of the most influential people in the world, and in July she was listed as one of its most “influential teens” alongside Kylie and Kendall Jenner. She even had an asteroid named after her. Now she is going to Oxford to study philosophy and politics.
In an Aug. 18 essay in Pakistan Today, titled, “Why are Pakistanis upset at Malala getting into Oxford?” Syed M. Murtaza described an “umbrella” of “Malala hate,” an emotional phenomenon in which the outspoken young crusader has become a stand-in for everything many Pakistanis fear and resent — from drone strikes to Western freedoms. “It is commonplace in Pakistan to attribute everything Malala has accomplished … to a grand scheme by international powers that only seek to defame the country,” he wrote.
Actually, public opinion polls have shown that many Pakistanis admire and respect her, according to a 2014 report by Maham Javaid, a Pakistani-American journalist, published by Al Jazeera America. When Yousafzai was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, one poll showed 44 percent of people were pleased, 44 percent ambivalent, and 11 percent unhappy. But later, when her autobiography was published in 2013, some Pakistanis, especially religious clerics and conservative TV anchors, charged that she had defamed Pakistan and Islam. The book was banned in thousands of private schools.
The main problem, Javaid wrote, is that while many Pakistanis “stand behind her” and cheer her crusade, others “appear unable to distinguish between Malala’s brave resolve to fight for what she believes in and the Western accolades she has received for displaying this courage.” If Pakistan shuns Yousafzai, she added, “we Pakistanis will be the ones who lose yet another hero … Malala is a true champion, and Pakistan should hold on to her.”

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for 1965-spirit, unity to defeat terrorism

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that the nation needs the same spirit and unity we displayed in 1965 war to defeat the current threats to the country in the form of extremism and terrorism.
In his message on the eve of Defence Day, the PPP Chairman said that a strong and invincible defence can only be ensured through national unity and cohesion.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that Prime Minister Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto gifted the nuclear programme and his daughter Prime Minister Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto gave missile technology programme.
PPP Chairman said that all those soldiers who laid down their lives for the defence of Pakistan would remain unforgettable heroes in the history.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari pledged to follow the ideology of the country in the light of philosophy of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah with an impregnable defence.
“On our Defence Day, we offer homage to our martyrs and assure their families our sincere support and sympathies,” he added.