Saturday, March 2, 2019
India's decision to withdraw the MFN status from Pakistan would boost informal trade, that is, smuggling & corruption, UN & World Bank experts said.
Withdrawal of MFN status flagged
Three Indian civilians and one Pakistani were killed in multiple ceasefire violations. Both countries have vowed to step back from the brink of war.At least four civilians were killed and 11 injured on Saturday as Indian and Pakistani soldiers traded fire in the disputed Kashmir frontier region. The resumed fighting violated a temporary ceasefire put in place after a week of escalating unease at the border.
The dead included a 24-year-old woman and her two young children in India-administered Kashmir. Their father was also critically injured.
On the Pakistani side, officials said a boy died after heavy firing from Indian troops late on Friday night. Two Pakistani soldiers also died after an exchange of fire with Indian forces near the Line of Control that separates Indian and Pakistan-administered areas of Kashmir, the military said.
Despite the truce violations, the two neighbors appeared to step back from the brink on Saturday as India handed over the body of a Pakistani citizen killed in an Indian jail.
Indian inmates beat the man to death following the February 14 terrorist attack on Indian forces in Kashmir, according to Pakistan's foreign ministry. "India had failed to protect the Pakistani prisoner," Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qurehsi said.
The February 14 suicide attack killed 40 members of India's security forces. The latest round of tensions erupted after New Delhi accused Islamabad of harboring the Jaish-e-Mohammad terror group that claimed responsibility for the attack.
Return of Indian pilot
The return of the Pakistani prisoner's body came a day after Pakistan returned a captured Indian air force pilot whose plane was shot down and crashed in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir earlier this week.
The Pakistani government called it "a goodwill gesture aimed at de-escalating rising tensions with India."
Pakistan's military nevertheless said its air force and navy "continue to be alert and vigilant," but that it would respect the ceasefire. Kashmir has already been the site of two wars between India and Pakistan.
By Michael Kugelman
With both sides now willing to climb higher up the escalation ladder, a future nuclear exchange could become a far less remote prospect.
The last few days have been downright scary in South Asia.
India and Pakistan, the only two rivals in the world to be both neighbors and nuclear states, have suffered through their most serious crisis in nearly twenty years.
The crisis has featured multiple traumatic events that made escalation inevitable. Take the February 14 attack by Jaish-e-Mohammad, a Pakistan-based terror group, on Indian security personnel in India-administered Kashmir—one of the deadliest attacks on Indian forces in years. Consider India’s retaliatory strikes on Pakistan—launched not in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, but in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, further away from the border. And witness Pakistan’s decision to respond with its own strikes on Indian targets, and its capture of an Indian Air Force pilot.
Recent days, fortunately, suggest that de-escalation is approaching. Pakistan decided relatively quickly to release the captured Indian pilot—a gesture that reduces the likelihood of, but does not rule out, any further Indian uses of force in the immediate term.
Eventually, this crisis will end. However, when it does, both countries will have to acknowledge an inconvenient truth: fundamental realities on the ground—those that most aggrieve each side— will not have changed.First, the India-focused terrorists that New Delhi claims to have targeted in its strikes on Pakistan will continue to enjoy shelter from the Pakistani state. Islamabad will not have changed its policies toward them. On the contrary, in the aftermath of this crisis, an emboldened Islamabad—armed with a heightened awareness of its need to depend on assets that can push back against its Indian foe—may well embrace these actors more tightly.
Second, India’s position on the region of Kashmir it administers, which has long been claimed by Pakistan, will not have changed. New Delhi will still believe that there is nothing in dispute about the region, and that its status is settled and need not be renegotiated. And it will continue to use repressive tactics against local communities who despise the presence of the Indian state there.Indian security forces could well intensify these tactics under the guise of counterterrorism; the militant who staged the attack in Kashmir last month was a local resident. Such measures would undoubtedly galvanize Kashmiris even more. The violent crackdowns that New Delhi may describe as counterterrorism will be—and already are—depicted by many Kashmiris and Pakistanis as Indian state terrorism.
Islamabad is destined to double down on its dependence on terrorist assets. And New Delhi is destined to double down on its repressive ways in Kashmir.
In effect, after the crisis abates, India and Pakistan are likely to step up activities that sharpen each side’s core grievances—thereby paving the way for fresh tensions and a new crisis.
All this said, the crisis has yielded a new normal of sorts.
For the first time, both sides have signaled, as nuclear states, that they are willing and able to rain missiles down on each other’s territory, and in India’s case in areas well beyond the contested border.
There are positive takeaways here for both countries. New Delhi has telegraphed its willingness to act preemptively in areas beyond Pakistan-administered Kashmir when it feels threatened by Pakistan-based terrorism.
True, the details surrounding the Indian operation are murky; on-the-ground media reports (including from Al Jazeera and Reuters) suggest that Indian claims of more than 300 terrorists killed and large-scale destruction of terrorist facilities may be exaggerated.
Still, issues surrounding the targeting of the strike are less important than the geography: New Delhi has signaled it will no longer restrict itself to strikes along the border. And that can’t be a reassuring thought for Pakistan.Meanwhile, Pakistan has demonstrated that while its conventional military power may not be as formidable as that of India’s, it is still perfectly capable of matching India’s own moves. In this regard, Pakistan has defied the naysayers in India and elsewhere who were skeptical that the Pakistanis would mount a military response to India’s operation. Islamabad has proven that it won’t be deterred if India resorts to a type of military action in Pakistan that hadn’t been deployed since the early 1970s, many years before either country went nuclear.For these reasons, both Islamabad and New Delhi can claim victory and conclude the crisis was worth sweating through—even though fundamental realities about terrorism and Kashmir have not changed.Still, at the end of the day, Pakistan and India will have merely given each other bloody noses, and otherwise emerged unscathed. This has some unsettling longer-term implications.
In effect, for India to have a greater chance of achieving the goals that couldn’t be achieved during the current crisis, it will need to escalate its tactics. If New Delhi wants to pressure Pakistan into rethinking its decision to provide support to India-focused terrorists, then it will need to turn to measures more muscular than a few airstrikes. Likewise, if Islamabad wants to pressure India into rethinking its policies in Kashmir, it too will need to turn to something more aggressive than a few airstrikes.
The upshot? With India and Pakistan having demonstrated they are comfortable engaging in increasingly provocative uses of military force under the nuclear umbrella, they will have an incentive in the future to go up a few more rungs on the escalatory ladder to try to achieve goals that couldn’t be achieved further down that ladder.
Regardless of whether they succeed or fail, this much is true: With both sides now willing to climb higher up the escalation ladder, a future nuclear exchange could become a far less remote prospect.
I've been trying to make up my mind about how concerned I should be about events in Kashmir, nothing causes pause for thought like two nuclear powers launching airstrikes against one another.
There's something about the human mind, or at least mine, which causes it to immediately jump to the worst case scenario, especially when it's fuelled by ignorance.
So, this is what my brain does when it hears that India and Pakistan have been firing missiles at each other and shooting each other's planes out of the sky.
First it accesses everything it knows about the situation in Kashmir, which can be summed up as "India and Pakistan don't like each other very much, and they both have nuclear missiles."
My imagination then uses that information to form a conclusion, which in this case is "we'll probably all be vaporised by Monday lunchtime."
Even for me that conclusion seemed a little extreme, so I thought I might dive into the details a little bit more, see if I could work out what was actually going on before cancelling the appointments I had for Tuesday. At the very least I wanted to know who I should be blaming if anyone started pushing me for an opinion. I find acquiring opinions much more convenient than forming them.
However, the general coverage of this possible nuclear confrontation has confused me. Most broadcast outlets and newspapers (newspapers are like paper versions of websites, ask your grandad about them) did cover the story, and most mentioned quite high up in their coverage the potential for nuclear catastrophe, so that was reassuring.
However, hardly anyone in the mainstream media that I could find had it as a lead story until Friday, when Pakistan shot down a couple of Indian fighter jets and it had become hard to ignore.
I took solace in the fact that in the eyes of much of the commentariat, a disastrous nuclear confrontation didn't seem as important as Donald Trump's disgraced former lawyer calling him names, or that Brexit, erm, something about Brexit.
Paradoxically negotiations in Vietnam over North Korea's nuclear programme that probably doesn't threaten much, beyond the underground caves it's tested in, dominated most headlines.
I fully understand that decision though, because even if I saw a mushroom cloud on the horizon, I would probably still be mainly thinking about the weird spectacle of Trump and Kim Jong Un negotiating on behalf of large parts of humanity.
Still, isn't it a little strange that the very real risk of actual nuclear war, possibly by the weekend, isn't the top headline everywhere?
Surely, I thought, there will be some juicy op-eds out there, accusing one side of geopolitical villainy. Again, I was to be disappointed, because when it came to an India-Pakistan confrontation there seemed to be an unlikely outbreak of objectivity.
To name just a few, the Times of London suggested both sides shared the blame, and so did the Telegraph. The New York Times decided to cover the story by decrying people using social media in times of tension. I combed the media (well, not the media in India and Pakistan where it was a different story) and I couldn't find anyone who was blatantly demonising just one side, or telling me who the good guys were and who the bad guys were. What was going on? This isn't the media I rely on!
Even world leaders seemed to have been chatting in their WhatsApp group about what they should say, and agreed they would all call for "restraint." That's it. Everyone, the same word. The US and Iran, China and Britain.
And then I noticed a curious thing among the emerging details. There had been some confusion about what planes each side had been using in the tit-for-tat attacks on each other.
There was speculation over whether India had used the planes it had bought from France or the ones it had bought from Russia. And whether Pakistan had used its US-made F-16s, or its Chinese jets.
And it all became clear! India and Pakistan are key allies of pretty much everyone apart from each other. India has lots of cash, and Pakistan has lots of access to extremely useful spy networks.
In a situation like this, it's really hard for the media to know who they're allowed to blame, governments aren't telling them who to demonize and that makes it hard for the usual invective to spew forth.
You won't struggle to find opinion pieces on who is to blame in Venezuela or Syria for example, but with Kashmir there has been a torrent of balanced factual reporting. Imagine that.
Objective reporting, a joint international call for restraint. This Kashmir crisis may hold important lessons for us all… if we're still here after Monday.
Just a day after an Indian pilot was freed from Pakistani captivity, offering hope for de-escalation, the two countries resumed shelling in Kashmir, killing a number of civilians on both sides, according to local authorities.
A 24-year-old woman and her two siblings were killed on Friday night near the Line of Control, a heavily militarized frontier that divides Pakistani and Indian parts of Kashmir. Another civilian was gravely injured in the shelling, NDTV reported, citing local police.
Meanwhile, on the Pakistani side of the line, Indian artillery fire killed a boy and wounded three people, according to a government official. He told AP that the neighbor’s forces were “indiscriminately targeting border villagers,” and added that Pakistani troops were “befittingly” responding to the Indian artillery barrage.
In total, at least five civilians and 2 soldiers were killed in the attack, Al Jazeera reported.
The deadly shelling came despite some signs of a de-escalation in the latest crisis. On Friday, Pakistan released a captured Indian pilot in what its prime minister called a “peace gesture.”
After a dogfight over Kashmir on Wednesday morning, India initially said that all of its pilots had returned safely, but Pakistan’s Information Ministry then released – and later deleted – footage showing the pilot blindfolded, with blood on his face.
India then confirmed the loss of one of its MiG-21s and the capture of its pilot, but demanded that he be immediately released. It said that it had also foiled an attack by Pakistani warplanes over Kashmir, and shot down one Pakistani plane. Islamabad denies that any of its aircraft were shot down.
Pakistan and India have fought on several occasions over Kashmir since they gained independence from the British Empire in 1947. Each country controls a section of the territory, separated by one of the most militarized borders in the world, known as the Line of Control, which has seen frequent shelling and several short-term conflicts.
Abu Arqam Naqash, Fayaz Bukhari
A flare up between arch-foes India and Pakistan appeared to be easing on Saturday after Islamabad handed back a captured Indian pilot, but tensions continued to simmer amid efforts by global powers to prevent a war between the nuclear-armed neighborsWing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who became the face and symbol of the biggest clash between India and Pakistan in many years, walked across the border just before 9 p.m. (1600 GMT) on Friday in a high-profile handover shown on live television.
Shelling across the Line of Control (LoC) that acts as a de facto border in the disputed Kashmir region, a frequent feature in recent weeks, continued on Saturday.Pakistan’s military said on Saturday its air force and navy “continue to be alert and vigilant”, while two of its soldiers were killed after exchanging fire with Indian troops along the Line of Control. India’s military said on Saturday that Pakistan was firing mortar shells across the LoC.Pakistan touted Abhinandan’s return as “as a goodwill gesture aimed at de-escalating rising tensions with India” after weeks of unease that threatened to spiral into war after both countries used jets for bombing missions this week.
Global powers, including China and the United States, have urged restraint to prevent another conflict between the neighbors who have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947.Tensions escalated rapidly following a suicide car bombing on Feb. 14 that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in Indian-controlled Kashmir.India accused Pakistan of harboring the Jaish-e Mohammad group behind the attack, which Islamabad denied, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised a strong response.
Indian warplanes carried out air strikes on Tuesday inside Pakistan on what New Delhi called militant camps. Islamabad denied any such camps existed, as did local villagers in the area, but Pakistan retaliated on Wednesday with its own aerial mission, that led to both sides claiming to have shot down jets.The stand off came at a critical time for Modi, who faces a general election that must be held by May and who had been expected to benefit from nationalist pride unleashed by the standoff.
Pakistani leaders say the ball is now in India’s court to de-escalate the tensions, though the Pakistani army chief told top military leaders of the United States, Britain and Australia on Friday that his country would “surely respond to any aggression in self-defense”.
The Indian pilot’s ordeal since being shot down on Wednesday had made him the focal point of the crisis and he returned to his homeland to a hero’s welcome, with crowds thronging the Wagah border crossing and waving Indian flags.
Before his release, Pakistani television stations broadcast video of Abhinandan in which he thanked the Pakistani army for saving him from an angry crowd who chased him after seeing him parachute to safety.“The Pakistani army is a very professional service,” he said. “I have spent time with the Pakistan army. I am very impressed.”
On Friday, four Indian troops and one civilian were killed in a clash with militants in the Indian-administered Kashmir, where a further three people were killed and one wounded from Pakistani shelling.
Pakistan’s military said two civilians were killed and two wounded since Friday afternoon on Pakistan’s side of Kashmir from a barrage of Indian shelling.
In a sign of the unease, residents say they are afraid another conflagration is likely.
“The way situation is developing along the LoC makes me feel that both sides may collide head-on anytime now,” said Chaudhry Jahangir , a Pakistani resident of the Samahni sector in Kashmir.
By Liu Zhen
The Chinese defence ministry did not respond on Thursday when asked whether JF-17s were involved in the Pakistan-India clashes.
Instead, ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said: “The most urgent and important thing is both India and Pakistan should keep restraint.” The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had said on Wednesday that it shot down two Indian fighter jets that entered Pakistani airspace near the Kashmir Line of Control, and captured a pilot. India said that its air force lost only one MiG-21 Bison and pilot while shooting down a Pakistani F-16. The Pakistani military denied any involvement of the American-made F-16s in the engagement, making it more likely JF-17 jets were deployed – a theory bolstered by a tweet by a retired PAF officer.
“Proud to announce, I was project director for JF-17 Thunder programme jointly produced by Pakistan and China during the [2001-2008] tenure of general Pervez Musharraf,” retired PAF air marshall Shahid Latif tweeted early Wednesday morning.“Today, same jets targeted and shot down Indian jets which entered Pakistani airspace.”
When trading opened less than two hours later in China, shares in Shenzhen-listed Sichuan Chengfei Integration Technology (CAC-SCIT), a sister company of JF-17 maker Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC), rose 10 per cent in five minutes – hitting the maximum daily rise allowed on the Chinese stock market.
Shares in CAC-SCIT, which makes car parts, rose a further 10 per cent on Thursday. CAC is not publicly listed.CAC-SCIT shares had dropped back 5.57 per cent by midday on Friday.If confirmed, the Pakistani operation would represent the first success by JF-17s in real air combat. The lightweight, single-engine, multi-role combat aircraft JF-17 was developed by CAC and is produced jointly with defence and aviation contractor Pakistan Aeronautical Complex. The PAF has about 110 JF-17s.The Nigerian and Myanmese air forces also use JF-17s, which they bought from Pakistan.China has called on both sides to maintain communication and dialogue, “manage the situation and together safeguard peace and stability in this region”, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Wednesday.