Tag Archives | j&k

Storytelling in New York

Will the real Hamid Mir please stand up?

The great thaw in Indo-Pakistan ties that some hoped for in New York is degenerating rapidly into a farce.  When the new civilian administration came to power in Pakistan, it appeared eager to improve relations with India.  Mian Nawaz Sharif said his agenda for peace with India in his previous tenure was derailed by Gen. Musharraf.

Then in August, five Indian soldiers were killed by Pakistani troops, who ventured across the LoC into J&K  to carry out the attack. Mr. Sharif offered to meet Prime Minister Singh at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Initially cool to the offer given an increasing number of LoC violations, the PM eventually agreed to a meeting.

In his speech at the UNGA, Mr. Sharif said he hoped for a “new beginning” with India.  He then ushered in this new beginning by raking up the Kashmir issue, warning that the “suffering of people cannot be brushed under the carpet, because of power politics.” With the atmosphere vitiated, Dr. Singh responded in his own speech by asserting that Jammu & Kashmir was an integral part of India and that “there can never, ever, be a compromise with the unity and territorial integrity of India.”

While Pakistan and India were busy reverting to predictable and boring positions in the Big Apple, drama was unfolding in Pakistan.  Hamid Mir, journalist and CEO of Geo Television, appeared via phone on a Pakistani show called “Aapas ki Baat” to update viewers on his meeting with Nawaz Sharif this morning.

Mr. Mir put it across that Mr. Sharif was unhappy with the Indian PM’s speech and discussions about Pakistan with U.S. president Barack Obama.  Nawaz Sharif, Mr. Mir said, told NDTV Group Editor Barkha Dutt that Dr. Singh was behaving not like a prime minister but like a “dehati aurat.” On Twitter today, Ms. Dutt refuted and provided context to Mr. Mir’s distorted version of events.

Mr. Mir hosts a show called “Aman ki Asha” on Geo TV, which aims to, among other things, improve relations between India and Pakistan.  But as a columnist in the Pakistani Urdu newspaper, Jang, Mr. Mir is far more open to towing the line of the Pakistani establishment on India, including issues pertaining to Kashmir and popular, but imagined conspiracy theories on India’s involvement in everything that happens in Pakistan.

Just this past week, Mr. Mir authored a piece in the Jang about claims and counterclaims between the UPA and Gen. VK Singh with regard to Pakistan.  The column titled “Yeh koi nayi baat nahi” (This is nothing new) is replete with fantastic conspiracy theories that suggest Indian involvement in the 1996 bombing of Imran Khan’s Shaukat Khanum cancer hospital.  Excerpts follow:

The prime minister (Benazir Bhutto) called for a meeting with the chief minister of Punjab and the IG and directed them to find those responsible for the Shaukat Khanum Hospital blast as quickly as possible.  Within a few days, the police arrested a young man named Ishaq Mirasi from a village along the border.  Ishaq Mirasi was also wanted in connection with the bombing of Lahore Airport’s old terminal.

The arrest notwithstanding, I was skeptical as to the connection between this poor villager and the Shaukat Khanum Hospital….I ended up conducting a detailed interview of Ishaq Mirasi in prison.  Ishaq told me that he was involved in petty smuggling.  On one such occasion while crossing the border into India, he was arrested by Indian army personnel.

An Indian army officer asked him whether he would prefer a long prison sentence in India or was instead willing to work (for the Indian army).  When Ishaq chose the latter, he was given training in bomb making and sent back to Pakistan.  After completing his mission, he would cross the border into India and provide Pakistani English-language newspapers covering the blasts as evidence to receive his payment…

…Interior Minister Nasirullah Babar told me India was trying to recruit the poor and unemployed in Lahore, Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar and was financing sectarian organizations to promote discord between the Sunnis and Shias.

[On Gen VK Singh's comments]… This is nothing new. It is possible that the military intelligence unit targeting Pakistan has been disbanded  But R&AW’s covert intelligence units continue their operations against Pakistan.

Instead of putting on an act of friendship, Nawaz Sharif and Manmohan Singh (if they meet in New York) ought to discuss how India and Pakistan can put an end to conspiring against each other    [روزنامہ جنگ]

Civilian leaders in Pakistan have met Dr. Singh in the past without there being extra-circular activities from the Pakistani military establishment.  Former Pakistan prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, whose Pakistan Peoples Party enjoyed anything but cordial relations with the army, met Dr. Singh in Sharm el-Sheikh and later on in Mohali during the India-Pakistan cricket World Cup semi-final.

But Mr. Sharif’s attempts at outreach seem to coincide with violations along the LoC, an attack this week on a police station and army camp in Jammu & Kashmir, and now apparently targeted information operations with a view to scuttle talks between Dr. Singh and Mr. Sharif in New York.  The question that needs to be asked then is what was Mr. Sharif willing to offer or discuss with the Indian PM that has so ruffled the feathers of the Pakistani military-jihadi complex.

As for Hamid Mir, it would be sadly ironical for the host of a show called “Aman ki Asha” to be responsible for putting paid to Mr. Sharif’s attempts at improving ties with India. It behooves Mr. Mir to respond.

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Course correction needed

Focus on India, please.

In the aftermath of the Lahore talks between S.M. Krishna and S.M. Qureshi, much was written in the press about the reasons why the talks failed and on Mr. Qureshi’s antics during and after the press conference.  The failure of the talks to yield anything substantial should have been a good opportunity for India to reevaluate what it is attempting to achieve vis-a-vis Pakistan and why, and determine whether its current strategy is working.  Sadly, barring a few exceptions, such a dialog does not seem to be occurring; at least, not publicly.

My INI colleague over at Pragmatic Euphony has an excellent blogpost with recommendations on steps India needs to take going forward,  laying out areas where the attention of India’s political leadership should be more focused.  From internal security to the delivery of social services, the blogpost argues that an internally stronger India will be able to negotiate with Pakistan on a better footing.

This argument can be further extended, particularly where internal security is concerned.  That Pakistan has no intention of abjuring terrorism against India is no secret.  In fact, if Mr. Qureshi’s bizarre comments at the presscon, equating statements made by LeT chief Hafiz Saeed to those made by Home Secretary G.K. Pillai are anything to go by, there is no reason not to believe that Pakistan will continue to encourage rhetoric and action against India — talks or no talks.  The aim of India’s internal reforms, then, should be to develop capabilities to deter Pakistan’s adventurism for sub-conventional warfare against India.

This requires refocusing on issues that have been highlighted previously on various platforms.  It means accepting the reality that internal security can no longer be a part-time job for the Home Minister, and moving forward with establishing a Ministry of Internal Security, with adequate funding and staffing.  It means significantly upgrading the capabilities of first responders to terror incidents — something that cannot be meaningfully achieved without police reforms.

It means fundamentally restructuring our intelligence agencies, their reporting structure, staffing, training, funding, information collection — at the local, national and international levels — and inter-agency coordination.  It means revisiting existing anti-terror legislation, to provide law enforcement agencies legal and political backing, and tools necessary to effectively deter or respond to incidents.  Finally, it also means equipping our agencies with the ability to challenge terrorism from whence it emanates.

Now, the argument can be made — and not without justification or precedent — that in a country that puts a premium on symbolism, expecting changes such as those highlighted above — which essentially call for a structural recalibration of the government — is far too radical.  It can be argued that no one in New Delhi will have the stomach for projects whose benefits may only become visible at some distant point in the future.  On the other hand, the exhibitionism we have come to expect from India-Pakistan “events” can be beneficial during election season, even if they did fail as spectacularly as Lahore, because India’s leaders went “out of their way” and “extended a hand of friendship” which was spurned by short-sighted politicians from across the border.  It is just the sort of altruistic, moral pompousness that wins elections.

But Dr. Manmohan Singh, more than anyone, can appreciate what structural reforms can do for this nation.  Indeed, reforms he instituted some twenty years ago have fundamentally transformed India’s economy and society.  With this transformation comes the need for institutions that can effectively govern and keep pace with the India of today.  This has not happened, however, and nowhere is the structural decay more telling than in institutions charged with India’s security.

Structural recalibration of India’s internal security is a long-term project whose benefits may only be realized in the distant future. But unless priority is given now, we will continue to flounder and stumble from one disaster to another while hoping that cosmetic fixes, finger wagging and rhetoric will conceal the structural decay of institutions charged with India’s internal security.  It will not help India either put an end to the insurgencies that plague it nor allow it to deal effectively with the threats that will continue to emanate from Pakistan.  Dr. Singh and his government must get to work: India’s internal security needs a 1991.

Focus on the India, please.

In the aftermath of the Lahore talks between External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and his counterpart, Pakistani Foreign Minister S.M. Qureshi, much has been written about the reasons why the talks failed and about Mr. Qureshi’s antics during and after the press conference.  The failure of the talks to yield anything substantial should have been a good opportunity for India to reevaluate what it is attempting to achieve vis-a-vis Pakistan and why, and determine whether its current strategy is working.  Sadly, barring a few exceptions, such a dialog does not seem to be occurring; at least, not publicly.

My INI colleague over at Pragmatic Euphony has an excellent blogpost with recommendations on steps India needs to take going forward,  laying out areas where the attention of India’s political leadership should be more focused.  From internal security, economic and labor reforms to education, public health and delivery of social services, the blogpost argues that an internally stronger India will be able to negotiate with Pakistan on a better footing.

This argument can be further extended, particularly where internal security is concerned.  That Pakistan has no intentions of abjuring terrorism against India is no secret.  In fact, if Mr. Qureshi’s bazarre comments at the presscon, equating statements made by LeT chief Hafiz Saeed to those made by Home Secretary GK. Pillai are anything to go by, there is no reason not to believe that Pakistan will continue to encourage rhetoric and action against India — talks or no talks.  The aim of India’s internal reforms, then, should be to develop capabilities to deter Pakistan’s adventurism for sub-conventional warfare against India.

This requires refocusing on issues that have highlighted on various platforms.  It means accepting the reality that internal security can no longer be a part-time job for the Home Minister — and moving forward with establishing a Ministry of Internal Security, with adequate funding and staffing.  It means significantly upgrading the capabilities of first responders to terror incidents — something that cannot be meaningfully achieved without police reforms.

It means fundamentally restructuring our intelligence agencies, their reporting structure, staffing, training, funding, how they collect information — at at the local, national and international levels — and how they coordinate with each other.  It means revisiting existing anti-terror legislation, to provide law enforcement agencies legal and political backing, and tools necessary to effectively deter or respond to incidents.  Finally, it also means equipping our agencies with the ability to challenge terror infrastructure from whence the emanate.

Now, the argument can be made, not without justification or precedent, that in a country that puts a premium on symbolism, expecting changes such as those highlighted above — which essentially call for a structural recalibration of the government — is far too radical.  It can be argued that no one in New Delhi will have the stomach for projects whose benefits may only become visible at some distant point in the future.  On the other hand, the exhibitionism we have come to expect from India-Pakistan “events” can be beneficial during election season, even if they did fail as spectacularly as Lahore, because India went “out of its way” and “extended a hand of friendship” which was spurned by short-sighted leaders from across the border.  It is just the sort of altruistic, moral pompousness that wins elections.

But Dr. Manmohan Singh, more than anyone can appreciate what structural reforms can do for this nation.  Indeed, reforms he instituted some twenty years ago have fundamentally transformed India’s economy and society.  With this transformation comes the need for institutions that can effectively govern and keep pace with an India of today.  This has not happened, however, and nowhere is the structural decay more telling than in institutions charged with India’s security.

Structural recalibration of India’s internal security is a long-term project whose benefits may only be realized in the distant future, but unless priority is given now, we will continue to flounder and stumble from one disaster to another while hoping that cosmetic fixes, finger wagging and rhetoric will conceal the structural decay of institutions charged with India’s internal security.  It will not help India either put an end to the insurgencies that plague it or allow it to deal effectively with the threats that will continue to emanate from Pakistan.  Dr. Singh and his government must get to work: India’s internal security needs a 1991.

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Link Digest: July 18, 2010

l’affaire Lahore.

Your weekly news digest:

  • The ISI…controlled and coordinated [26/11] from beginning to end“:  G.K. Pillai’s interview with Indian Express on J&K, Naxalism and 26/11.
  • It was the Pakistanis who deviated from the summit’s agenda: Vir Sanghvi stands up for G.K. Pillai after some journalists pilloried the Home Secretary for his statements on the eve of the S.M. Krishna — S.M. Qureshi talks.
  • Pakistan’s Urdu press reacts.  “No India-Pakistan talks can produce a result without Kashmir being resolved” (Ausaf); “One more India-Pakistan dialog drama — May God  not compell us to use our atomic bomb” (Nawa-i-Waqt); “Sensitivity from the Indian side is the need of the hour” (Jang); “Why did India agree to the agenda and send S.M. Krishna if he had no mandate?” (Express).
  • Ignore. With Contempt: Sound advice from B. Raman on how New Delhi should react to S.M. Qureshi’s jibes.
  • Can we talk?: Thomas Friedman says CNN was wrong to fire Octavia Nasr for condoling the death of Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah (who many consider the spiritual leader of the Hizballah).
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