Friday, January 30, 2009

India’s ‘Slam-Dunk’ Looks More Like Obama’s Zone Defense and Possible Full Court Press

Today, the US State Department revealed that South Asian Envoy Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke’s mandate was pared down by eliminating intervention into the sixty-year-old struggle between India and Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir. This must come as a surprise to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari who recently published an op-ed in Wednesday’s Washington Post expressing his optimism of having Amb. Holbrooke as President Obama’s point man on the Kashmir Issue. This optimism was for the most part due to Amb. Holbrooke’s reputation as a bare knuckles mediator know for strong arming parties into resolving violent disputes, such as the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords in Bosnia. It was reported in today’s Washington Post that the pruning of Kashmir from Amb. Holbrooke’s mandate was a “diplomatic slam-dunk” for India, greater signs of the blossoming relationship between the US and India and ultimately acquiescing to India’s claim that Kashmir must remain an “internal issue.” However, understanding the political jiu-jitsu President Obama routinely displayed on the campaign trail and recently with House and Senate Republicans, this was not a slam-dunk for India, but more like Obama instituting a zone defense, which could lead to a full court press.

There is no doubt that the cunningness Amb. Holbrooke displayed resolving and establishing a lasting, yet fragile peace in Bosnia puts him on the Mt. Rushmore of international mediators. The mandate originally presented to Amb. Holbrooke by President Obama for South Asia was just short of, if not to say down right impossible. Tasking Amb. Holbrooke with handling security issues and creating greater partnership between Afghanistan and Pakistan in their struggle against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda already presented a task far greater than the task in Bosnia. To pile on the issue of Kashmir, with it’s legacy of failed agreements, bitter resentments and involving two other parties rarely mentioned, China and the Kashmiri people themselves, Amb. Holbrooke would have reached miracle worker status deserving of sainthood if he were able to actually achieve an agreement all the while tackling issues regarding Afghanistan and Pakistan. This decision by President Obama speaks more to his ability to learn and take a more practical approach to tough issues rather than any diplomatic achievement by India.

President Obama has made it quite clear that his primary focus rests on dealing with violent extremism in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. You will get little argument from security analysts that if successful extremists groups would be dealt a blow that would make it almost impossible to recover, and sending them back to their caves to hatch small scale plans, if not full on retreat. This approach will take the full might of Amb. Holbrooke to force Pakistan and Afghanistan to work in cooperation with one another for a peaceful and sustainable outcome. However, the question remains why was Kashmir dropped from Amb. Holbrooke’s mandate when Kashmir was such a focus on the campaign trail for President Obama? This is where a zone defense can quickly become a full-court press.

The appointment of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sent a chill down the spines of both India and Pakistan for one single reason: the possible use of former President Bill Clinton as special envoy on the Kashmir Issue. The former President has continued to be extremely active in the region, and knows both parties very well. Moreover, it was mentioned on a few occasions of the possibility of utilizing the former President to directly engage in diplomatic efforts regarding Kashmir. It is true that the Pakistani establishment fears that the former President has somewhat of a bias leaning towards India. However, it was then President Clinton who brokered peace between India and Pakistan in 2001, preventing a possible nuclear holocaust in South Asia. Moreover, the perceived snubbing of Pakistan during the Clinton Administration stemmed from Pakistan being ruled by a President who took power via military coup, President Pervez Musharraf, as well as the discovery of the A.Q. Khan network of disseminating the blue print for nuclear weapons programs leading to the nuclearization of North Korea, the Iranian nuclear program and a hand in the now destroyed Syrian nuclear program. Prior to September 11th, there was good reason for US Government opinion to view Pakistan as a rogue state. That was then, and this is now.

Thanks in large part to the work of the Clinton Global Initiative and Clinton Foundation respectively, the former President has a fundamental understanding of the issues adversely impacting the region. At the heart of the Kashmir Issue from the India, Pakistan and China perspective is the issue of water rights and access found in the Siachen Glacier region in the Ladakh region of Kashmir and the Indus River and two of its tributaries, the Jhelum and Chenab rivers, running through the Valley region of Kashmir. The glacier region involves China, India and Pakistan, all three being nuclear states, due to the necessity of drinking water. The issue regarding the rivers involves only India and Pakistan with the dual usage of irrigation for farmland and hydroelectric power created by recent damming of the Chenab River on the Indian side of the cease-fire line.

Given former President Clintons understanding and expertise of development issues, it would come as no surprise if he were to be tapped to deal with the issue of Kashmir. Moreover, with his wife serving as Secretary of State, it would come as no surprise should the former President be tapped to tackle such an issue. It would eliminate communication issues between an envoy of this magnitude and the State Department. In addition, it would grant the former President an ability to solidify his legacy as one of the great peacemakers in the modern era. He fell short with Israel and Palestine due to incompetence of the two parties lack of political will, not of his own failure to go above and beyond his own abilities to get Israel to agree to concessions once thought of as impossible. It will take someone of this magnitude to get India to soften its stance regarding the disputed territory.

The wildcard in all of this remains the Kashmiri people themselves. Elections were recently held in Kashmir and hailed as a successful example of Indian Democracy by the Government of India. However, the elections were marred by mass strikes against the elections, the jailing of separatist leaders who continue to hold sway with the general public in the Valley region and new allegations of corruption and rigging of the election process as a whole. It must also be noted, that allegations of the rigging of elections in Kashmir is nothing new, and in fact led to the Kashmiri armed uprising in 1989 following the rigging of elections by the Indian Government in 1987; a charge long since confirmed by government officials.

The Government of India’s lack of attention, development and action regarding widespread human rights violations by the more than 500,000 Indian Troops occupying the Valley, the largest occupying force in the world, must be addressed for any resolution to be viable and sustaining. Without a doubt, Pakistan has long been notorious for a disregard of human rights and funding and training extremists to attack Indian Forces in India Administered Jammu-Kashmir, and rightfully so, but the time has come that India also acknowledge its own dysfunctional policies which continue to plague the life of the average Kashmiri. In order to achieve what many would view as an impossible task, it will take the political might and stature of a former President so respected throughout India.

President Obama has made clear his intentions of tackling the Kashmir Issue, and understands the ramifications should the sixty-year-old conflict continue to fester. Only those who didn’t follow closely his way of handling difficult issues during the campaign would consider the idea that he has placated to the Government of India’s recurring statement that Kashmir is an internal issue. By taking Kashmir off the plate of Amb. Holbrooke, he can apply his zone defense of containment and possible victory in Afghanistan and Pakistan. By appointing former President Clinton to tackle Kashmir, as was suggested during the Presidential general election campaign, he would apply a full court press.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Refreshing Realities by Zardari Signals Possible Progress

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari gave a refreshing point of view that Pakistan faces regarding its own security, economic development, struggle against extremism and optimism about US intervention regarding relations with India in todays Washington Post. By facing such realities, President Zardari sends a signal that the Pakistani establishment is prime to turn the page of disorder, mismanagement and widespread corruption, especially regarding the long standing appeasement of extremists.

First of all, President Zardari addressed the reality of Pakistan’s need to implement economic growth, especially regarding US assistance. To date, US assistance has been in the form of military assistance and defense contracting which does not aid the people of Pakistan. By having billions in economic assistance earmarked for military assistance, extremists have used this recruit and gain a political footing with the general public by expressing solidarity with the Pakistani people regarding a lack the lack of financial development by the government, extremist rhetoric has gained a foothold within society without actually having to develop the people themselves. The greatest nightmare any extremist group has comes in the form of actual improving the lives of people without the use of force, intimidation and actual implementation of democratic values. President Zardari clearly understands the only way the US can achieve a positive result in the region is through greater economic growth throughout the region. The President stated, “it(economic assistance) would signal to our region that the United States understands the correlation between a healthy economy, a satisfied people and a stable government.”

In another cunning display of preempting India’s refusal of outside intervention regarding Kashmir, President Zardari welcomed the appointment of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke to the region to try and address all the issues adversely affecting relations between India and Pakistan, especially with regarding to the Kashmir Issue. “We hope that the special envoy will work with India and Pakistan not only to bring a just and reasonable resolution to the issues of Kashmir and Jammu but also to address critical economic and environmental concerns.” By mixing both the economic and political issues surrounding the issue President Zardari’s focus shows an understanding that a prospering South Asia as a whole will not only improve relations between the two nuclear powers, but deal a blow to extremists in both countries whose activities have killed thousands in both India and Pakistan over the past decade.

Prior to this revelation, Pakistan and India have always played power politics, and revisited sixty-year-old arguments that continue to hamper the peace process. It will be impossible for India to reject this overture as empty rhetoric since the Pakistani President actually address’ real issue in this op-ed, most notably the water issue which lies at the heart of the Kashmir Issue. “The water crisis in Pakistan is directly linked to relations with India. Resolution could prevent an environmental catastrophe in South Asia, but failure to do so could fuel the fires of discontent that lead to extremism and terrorism.“ There can be no truer statement than this coming from either an Indian or Pakistani leader.

The issue of water rights between India and Pakistan remains the crux of the Kashmir Issue. To lay blame on terrorist and militant activities, old scores dating back to Nehru and Jinnah and separatist activities in the Kashmir region continues to plague relations between India and Pakistan, and fails to recognize that both share these issues, especially with regards to Kashmiri separatist beliefs regarding both countries. President Zardari has admitted in previous statements his understanding that even in Azad Kashmir, or Pakistani Administered Kashmir, there is a belief that Kashmir is one nation and not the property of either India or Pakistan. However, the water issue makes it impossible for India or Pakistan to show the flexibility to admit this reality due to the need of access to the water flowing through the disputed territory, resulting in the oppression of a people who just want to be left alone.

Make no mistake India could have a legitimate role in Kashmir just by allowing some form of autonomy. The Government of India has long claimed that Kashmir has the greatest autonomy of any state in the Indian Union. Unfortunately, the Kashmiri people wake up every day with 700,000 Indian troops occupying lands brutally and without regard for the people who actually come from the soil.

India, like Pakistan, falls victim to false political claims of leadership without actually having to produce any form of economic development for the people and resulting in possible extremist recruitment. The same can be said for the Karzai Government in Afghanistan as well. The resurgence of the Taliban in all parts of Afghanistan with the exception of Kabul rests solely on the inability of the government to actually implement economic reforms that would in fact improve the daily life of average Afghani citizens. By addressing these concerns directly, President Zardari once and for all asserted much needed leadership that the Pakistani people, and all of South Asia for that matter needs, a clear dose of reality.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Kashmir: Prospects for a Durable Peace

During the confirmation hearings of Dr. Susan Rice as President-elect Barack Obama's nominee for Ambassador to the United Nations, she highlighted many of the issues that the UN must tackle in order to make a safer and more just world. However, she highlighted long lasting disputes that institutions such as the United Nations has allowed to continually fester, without taking the extra step to force nation states to once and for all bring to a conclusion. Just as Barack Obama continually stated during his campaign to the Presidency, one of the the issues Dr. Rice not only mentioned, but highlighted, was the issue of Kashmir. This continued focus of the Kashmir Issue has obviously been felt throughout not only South Asia, where the Indian Government, or at least the hardliners in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), continues to reject outside intervention or mediation on behalf of foreign governments and refer to the Kashmir Issue as an 'internal matter.'

As a matter of fact, Kashmir is not an internal matter that India can claim as its own. There are three nuclear powers in the region, Pakistan, China and of course India, who are vying for a stake in the embattled region. Following the tragedy in Mumbai, it was apparent that this is a fact that the majority of news agencies failed to recognize. Every report consisted of either 'muslim terrorists homegrown in India' or 'Kashmiri terrorists based in Pakistan.' The fact it, it was neither. It was plan hatched together by a group who is Pakistani. They have ties with groups in Afghanistan, as well as the Uighurs in China who are active in Western China and the Siachen region of Kashmir, which also partly lies in Chinese territory. Recognition of this fact by the incoming administration will be necessary if a successful approach to resolving the sixty year old conflict is to be brought to its final conclusion. This will take a fundamental understanding of what and who the players are, and the realities on the ground throughout the region of Kashmir, and South Asia in general in order to succeed.

Kashmir’s status remains a festering sore at the crossroads of two enormous and expanding economies, petrol-rich central Asia, and two countries paramount to a successful conclusion of the war on terror. A lasting resolution remains elusive for three predominant reasons, with a prospect of hope still viable. First, neglect by the international community resulting in declining confidence of civil society in the region. Second, a war of resources between China, India and Pakistan over the issue of water and energy, impacting over 2 billion people in the worlds fastest growing economic sector. Finally, ending once and for all sectarian differences exasperated extremists in both India and Pakistan. Only after addressing these three points, could the United States Government sow a seed of stability in the region.

By engaging stakeholders on all key issues, the opportunities presented throughout the region will be vast. It will undercut Islamic extremists’ ability to frame the United States as a hegemonic power and grant people the ability to decide their future. The United States will redefine itself as a peace broker in a region where public opinion views the United States as a country projecting its power with the intent of enslaving people through its own cultural ideals. The economic outcomes from peaceful settlement in the region will open avenues for greater investment regionally, and expand global trade in textiles, food exports and human exchange.

International Facilitation: Following the Cold War, international leadership failed in taking a direct role in facilitating a solution to the crisis Kashmir Issue. Due in large part to this neglect, a blame game ensued without responsible nations intervening to demand stakeholders to take responsibility for the deteriorating situation. Moreover, the lack of intervention permitted segments of both the Kashmiri, Indian and Pakistani population to become radicalized by outside forces who sought to fill the vacuum of influence of the Kashmiri issue on both Hindu and Muslim sectarian lines. The Hindu-Muslim divide became a scapegoat used by India and Pakistan to create apprehension by nation states from understanding the reality of the situation. In this void, responsible leadership in Kashmir organically developed addressing this issue autonomously.

The rise of India and China as pivotal global economies created a situation where the greatest issues affecting the Kashmir Issue have primarily gone ignored. Should the United States, with responsible partners facilitate or encourage dialogue, preventing the immediate stakeholders from further ignoring these key issues, the benefits will have a direct impact throughout the region, affecting other regional issues of concern, specifically Iran and Afghanistan. There is no doubt that economics is at the heart of the Kashmir Issue. The question remains, will the international community finally close one of the last chapters of colonial legacy?

Resources: Currently, the Kashmir Issue centers on natural resources, specifically water from the Siachen Glacier Region, and hydroelectric power in the Chenab region of Doda in Jammu Kashmir. The Indus Water Treaty (IWT) continues serving as a benchmark of progress in the relations between India and Pakistan. However, the passing of IWT in 1960 does not properly address 21st Century energy and development needs. Moreover, the acquiescing of parts of the Siachen Glacier Region by Pakistan to China fundamentally voided the Treaty based on tenants of international law. By bringing China into the equation, Pakistan also heightened the nuclear question by granting China access to fresh drinking water for the 1.8 billion people in China, now in direct competition for fresh water with the more than 1 billion people living in India. The economic rise of China and India are dependent on resources found in the Kashmir region making it a fundamental reason why this issue must be addressed at an international level. The prospect of possible confrontation between India and China must also be addressed internationally. Annual meetings of ASEAN will provide an ideal venue to mitigate this conflict. These meetings will present greater opportunities of greater cooperation between the two rising powers regarding natural resource allocation, raising the prospects of greater regional integration, which invariably leads to greater economic prosperity and expansion.

Next, due to the growing need of water and energy by India, China and Pakistan, the threat of nuclear proliferation between India, Pakistan and China must be addressed immediately. The recent civilian nuclear agreement between India and the United States raised the possibility of a new arms race between the three nuclear states, undercutting U.S. efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. By addressing the nuclear issue, this will impact nuclear proliferation trouble areas like Iran and North Korea by engaging in greater non-proliferation initiatives. The influence and relations between Iran and North Korea with China, India and Pakistan must be understood and fostered to meet the security needs and desires of the United States. India and Iran currently are working together on an energy oil pipeline. Pakistan and Iran are continuing on the same path regarding energy needs. China continues moderate relations with the Iranian Authority, not forgetting China’s influence over North Korea emanating from the six party talks. Finally, the civilian nuclear agreement between India and the United States will open the possibility of facilitating an agreement between India and Iran in terms of Uranium transfer for Iran’s civilian program, and ultimately eliminating the possibility of Iran engaging in a nuclear weapons program.

Kashmir Leadership: Despite the USG’s claimed acknowledgement of Kashmiri leadership as a legitimate stakeholder in the negotiation process, India and Pakistan have been permitted to ignore this position, leading to the continued social deterioration of civil society. Hindu-Muslim divisions in Kashmir are a scapegoat for India and Pakistan to avoid making the tough decisions concerning the real issues of the dispute. The Kashmiri leadership finally recognized they were played as pawns in this conflict; the strikes of the past six months were a signal to India, Pakistan and the world that the leadership demands resolution to the issue. In contrast, violence during the strikes against the decision to allocate land to the Shrine Board, resulting in the blockade of the Valley was perpetrated by Hindu nationalist groups like the RSS and BJP, and Indian Military and Paramilitary personnel, not Kashmiri Hindu and Muslim populations.

There must acknowledgement of the inability of extremist groups to radicalize the younger Kashmiri population, which makes up 78% of the general population. Unless progress begins to take shape, peace in the region will continue to fail due to the neglect of the international community to recognize the one stakeholder in the group physically and psychologically affected by the ongoing conflict. This will also lead to the radicalization of the Kashmiri youth population who grow tired of continued abuse and lack of opportunity. Kashmir continues to have the highest concentration of military forces than any region in the world. 750,000 military and paramilitary personnel are stationed in the cities Kashmir Valley in the cities and along the Line of Control. Unless India and Pakistan draw down these levels, the confidence of the Kashmiri people will remain to plague the peace process.

Based on these basic issues, solution to the Kashmir dispute will have far reaching affects due to the cultural, regional and historical dimensions already discussed here. However, there must be a new approach when conducting diplomacy with the main stakeholders, one of respect, tolerance and empathy. Without assistance from the international community - specifically the United States - India and Pakistan will allow the situation to continue to fester. The status quo is a viable outcome for India, Pakistan and China. However, should the international community recognize the Kashmiri leadership and assist in fostering a peaceful outcome, the same neglect resulting in the proliferation of nuclear weapons on one front, will continue to expand on multiple fronts, endangering one third of the world’s population.

Finally, one cannot understate the benefit if resolution to the Kashmir Issue will have on the current “War on Terrorism.” The people of Kashmir have never engaged in the use of suicide bombing. Moreover, forces such as Al-Qaeda continues to use the Kashmir Issue as a platform of recruitment for their radical agenda. By facilitating a peaceful resolution, extremist groups will be dealt a severe blow in recruiting possibilities, and foster goodwill in communities around the world not realized since the end of the Cold War.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What VP-elect Hopefully learned in South Asia

The recent trip by Vice President-elect Joseph Biden to Pakistan and Afghanistan gave a glimpse into the type of engagement the incoming Obama Administration may take when dealing with the war fatigued region. It must be noted that this was a trip with fellow Senators on a trip to assess the progress, or lack there of, in the War on Terror. However, the treatment that VP-elect Biden received made certain of the fact that leadership in both Afghanistan and Pakistan understood that the future VP was no ordinary visitor from the US Senate. Moreover, the current situation in South and Southwest Asia presented the future VP with the realities that leadership in both Afghanistan and Pakistan face in the near future. Hopefully, VP-elect Biden was receptive to the concerns expressed by the neighboring states with regards to their internal security, and the challenges that they face with a growing insurgency that threatens their very existence.

There is no doubt that the ‘War on Terror’ must be initiated within the region of South and Southwest Asia. The reality remains that groups whose sole intent is to wage a campaign of international terrorism are found throughout Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. The new administration appears on the surface to be initiating the proper approach in this regard. By discussing with both Prime Minister Gilani and President Zardari of Pakistan, it must have been apparent that the challenges these two leaders face is daunting at best. Moreover, recognition that Pakistan has faced more problems from Islamic terrorist groups within there own territory will show the necessary support that the leadership needs in gaining confidence with the moderate majority population. However, the sacking of National Security Advisor Durrani by Prime Minister Gilani was possibly not the wisest decision, and hopefully the incoming VP expressed this view.

Mr. Durrani was only confirming the identity of one of the Mumbai terrorists as a Pakistani National, and trying to alleviate the strains with India caused by this malicious attack by a terrorist organization, which undisputedly is based in Pakistan. Even more baffling, the Gilani/Zardari Government continues to advocate that they are acting in the interest of all Pakistani’s, despite the appearance of a cover up regarding their own inability to control groups who have been state sponsored for the last twenty years. The realization must be full disclosure by this civilian government, no matter how painful or embarrassing that may be. The only way to aid in fostering greater relations with India and Afghanistan will be to admit to the wrongs of the past and that these elements in Pakistan will be dealt with once and for all. Both Durrani and Zardari have the benefit of placing the blame on the previous regime rather than take full responsibility. However, the sacking of Mr. Durrani hopefully was addressed by the future VP as a disappointment in just one of the many ways Pakistan has mishandled the fallout of the Mumbai tragedy.

Pakistan continues to pay the price of allegiance

The fact remains that Pakistan has paid the greatest price in the ‘War on Terror’ (of course this is excluding Iraq, which from this writers’ opinion was a mistake that took focus away from combating extremist activities in areas of the world that actually fund, aid and support international Islamic extremist activities). Suicide and car bombings are a regular occurrence in Pakistan, and unfortunately, many of these attackers have received state support from the Intelligence Services (ISI) and Pakistani Military who have viewed in the past their support as a way to combat Indian aggression. This support also has allowed rogue elements within the ISI and Pakistani Military to exploit the weaknesses or ‘soft targets’ most fragile inside Pakistan, such as luxury hotels and open markets frequented by moderates who have long benefited from greater access to government and education opportunities. The rogue elements within these two establishments view this as a way to keep a hold on power and instill fear in both the Prime Minister and President, preventing them from taking action against the terror camps, and opting once again for an appeasement strategy. Which raises even more questions as to why the Pakistani leadership does not go after these rogue elements which continue to threaten internal stability, diminishes their own power over the state and how the sacking of officials who are bringing to light individuals, or at least basic knowledge of the structure that remains in place? One would think that the choice of Mr. Durrani to acknowledge these problems would be a step in the right direction.

This type of corruption found within the ISI and military community must be rooted out if Pakistan can fully take its place as a partner in combating terrorism. Appeasement for the sake of historical ties of waging jihad against India, and political dealings within the conservative regions of the country, can only be viewed as backwards as Afghanistan’s denials of government involvement in the narco-terrorist dealings, or even India’s internal issues regarding non-Hindu minorities.

Direct Intervention

The first thing the new Obama Administration must do is stage a direct intervention in conjunction with the Pakistani Government both militarily and through domestic development programs in the areas necessitating the greatest support. Despite the so-called ‘unpopular’ view of the United States in the region, taking the necessary steps to aid Pakistan in combating rogue elements will bring forth a gradual yet significant change in public opinion. The current view of the United States is based on an idea that the US has waged a war on Islam. However, in the one region of Pakistan where the greatest threat remains, Azad Kashmir, the United States does have some support at the local level.

Following the earthquake in October of 2005, the US Military gained a robust amount of credibility on the ground due to the amount of humanitarian aid and support, most notably the use of Chinook helicopters in the higher elevation areas most affected by the devastating earthquake. The reason this fact remains the most significant is due to the proximity of the terrorist camps found in the Azad Kashmir region of Pakistan. Groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizbul Mujahideen, and Jaish-e-Muhammad are based in the region, and function without fear of being shutdown, cutoff or imprisoned by the Pakistani Authority. This reality has kept the so-called autonomous leadership of Azad Kashmir Prime Minister Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan basically held hostage by people such as Hizbul Mujahideen Commander and United Jihad Council Chairman Syed Salahudeen to function and operate with impunity. Moreover, it may or may not come as a surprise that a significant amount of the aid given to Pakistan by the US, mainly as aid packages earmarked for the military and ISI, find there way into the hands of these organizations, to be used in stirring up trouble, or guerilla type attacks both in India, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

If the US wants to assure the general public that it is committed to combating terrorism in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, it will begin joint ventures, or at least logistical and military support in shutting down these camps, and bringing to justice these groups who are committing attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. This would bring a sense of stability to the people in the region, and show that the US supports stability in the region by implementing economic packages that goes directly to areas of development within Pakistan, rather than just the continued robust economic packages earmarked specifically for the military and ISI. When the main three Pakistani based terrorist organizations receive this funding, rest assured that any aid and comfort these groups receive does find its way into the hands of other extremist elements such as the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

The “Clear-Hold-Build” strategy that General David Patreus has implemented in Iraq would work in Azad Kashmir, as well as the Northwest Frontier Province, mainly due to people just wanting an improvement on their daily lives, rather than the current choice of repression by either Islamic elements, or the Pakistani Government. Make no mistake, these groups are very determined in carrying out terrorist attacks within all three nation states in the region, and will continue until the Pakistani leadership decides to once and for all put an end to their campaign of terror.

Only the truth will set them free

It is with great hope that VP-elect Biden did voice his disappointment in the sacking of Mr. Durrani. Having served on panel discussions with Mr. Durrani regarding terrorism and Kashmir, I do know first hand that he is committed to combating terrorist elements within Pakistan, and continuing the alliance between the US and Pakistan in the greater ‘War on Terror.’ By facing up to the hard truths found within the Pakistani establishment, the interim of course may be one of embarrassment, however, the current government may just find that the truth about rogue elements found within the ISI and military hierarchy will ultimately grant the credibility this government so desperately seeks.

Finally, this will also allow the international community to once and for all put pressure on the governments in India and Afghanistan to face up to realities found within their own hierarchical structure. Once again, this will come with some embarrassment and humility; however, it will be the only way in which a lasting peace is achievable in the region. In no way was such an endeavor possible by the current Bush-Cheney Administration, but the support for Mr. Obama in the region must be capitalized upon should the United States actually wish to make progress on all of these issues. Unless a viable alternative to Islamic style fascism can be promoted without the propping up and support of a dictatorial regime, one that recognizes and fits within the cultural fabric of a Muslim society, this battle will continue for as long as the lifetime of religion itself. Hopefully, this is something the future VP learned on his trip and will convey to the new President.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Obama's Hope Felt in South Asia

There is no doubt that President-elect Barack Obama has the expectations and hope of not only a country, but the entire world. However, in the troubled region of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) in the Himalayan region of India can this hope be felt the most. Mr. Obama routinely spoke of the long standing struggle between India and Pakistan which has lasted for longer than sixty years. What Mr. Obama may not have expected was that his speeches would be played over and over again from the summer capital of Srinagar to the mountainous areas of Gujarat and Gumarg.

After sixty years of conflict between the two nuclear armed nation states, and a militant uprising starting in 1989 after the Government of India rigged the elections preventing separatist leaning leadership from taking control and declaring independence, or at least holding the UN Security Council mandated plebiscite, the people of J&K have grown accustomed, yet frustrated by the continued presence of 700,000 military and paramilitary personnel stationed in their cities and committing atrocities without accountability for the duration of the conflict. Despite the widespread battle fatigue of the Indian Kashmiri population, Mr. Obama's election and continued statements of making the Kashmir Issue a priority in his foreign policy agenda, there appears, at least for the time being, a renewed sense of hope in the embattled South Asian crossroad between India and Pakistan.

In a recent discussion with a separatist leader in Srinagar regarding the current rising tensions between India and Pakistan over the Mumbai Tragedy, he stated quite unequivocally, "war between Pakistan and India will never take place, but of course the people of Kashmir keep big hopes on Mr. Obama in connection with the Kashmir Issue as he has promised to us." The importance of this statement rests on the "hope" and "promise" that the people of Kashmir have for Mr. Obama. You see, the people of Kashmir have been "promised" to have the right to decide their own fate, or self-determination, since the partition of the sub-continent from the British Colonial era.   However, this was sabotaged first by the father of Pakistan, Muhammad Jinnah, who responded to the 1948 UN Security Council Resolution to hold a plebiscite allowing the people of J&K to decide their own fate by stating, "to hell with what the people want." On the flip side, the Government of India has rigged many elections to prevent such a referendum from taking place, most notably in 1988 leading to the home grown militant uprising that lasted from 1989-1996. The reality is, neither India nor Pakistan have any interest in allowing the Kashmiri people the right to decide their own fate.

Throughout the region there have been conflicting reports regarding voter turnout. Moreover, that the election results actually dealt a blow to the aspirations of separatist leaders like Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Chairman Yasin Malik, All-Parties Hurryiet Conference (APHC) Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooqhardline APHC Chairman Syed Ali Geelani and Sajjad Gani Lone, Chairman of People's Conference.  There was an obvious class distinction between the various leaders due to all JKLF members being jailed for two months during which Malik almost died due to refusal of medical treatment from a burst appendix, and Farooq, Geelani and Lone just being placed under "house arrest", yet still able to make statements in the media.  This was due to the ability the JKLF had in getting unarmed, non-violent protests out against the elections throughout the Valley.  However, during the house arrest period, the Indian military also prevented Farooq, a religious leader as well, from conducting Friday prayers at his mosque, and Lone and Geelani were prevented from offering Friday prayers as well. It must be clarified that despite the reporting in the press, the protests conducted by all leaders were non-violent, and in fact all casualties and deaths came at the hands of over zealous Indian Military Personnel, most notably Sheik Abdul Aziz who was shot while conducting a non-violent protest on the Line of Control.  However, like all things Kashmir, the reporting has left the international community blind regarding the realities of the results.  Finally, the results beg the questions whether or not the Government of India has the right to declare this a referendum of legitimacy of their rule over the Kashmiri people? 

The answer to the first question regarding the separatist leadership and being dealt a blow to their legitimacy is a resounding no. The reality is, people need basic public services and must decide on the candidates they are to choose from. The fact that Omar Abdullah, a 38 year-old savvy politician from National Conference (NC) will now have the task of fulfilling his promise to the Kashmiri electorate of greater autonomy from the Government of India. In addition, Mr. Abdullah has declared on numerous occasions on the campaign trail that the separatist leaders are in integral part to any discussions and negotiations with both the Government of India and Pakistan, only furthering the recognition of who really holds the trust of the general public.

Of course, such statements were of no surprise to those who follow the affairs inside Kashmir. The statements were made as the various separatist leaders were being rounded up prior to the two month long election process. Omar Abdullah must be commended for recognizing the schizophrenic atmosphere in the valley region. This must be viewed positively as well by the separatist leadership that the newly elected 'formal' leadership of the once despised NC, who took part in the election rigging of 1988, may turn out to have changed course and shed itself of the image as an agent for the Indian Government. Only time will tell whether or not this truth is realized, but make no mistake, Mr. Abdullah knows quite well the consequences if he should change course from his election promises to the people and once again do the bidding of his Indian benefactors.

The answer to the second question of whether or not the latest election in Kashmir serves as a referendum on the legitimacy of Indian rule inside of Kashmir, especially the valley region, is also a resounding no. The fact remains that at the largest of estimates, roughly 50% of people actually turned out to vote. This includes the Hindu majority Jammu, and the Buddhist majority Ladakh region. In the Valley, where Muslims are greater than a 90% majority, the turnout was less than 40%. Furthermore, in the Capitol of Srinagar, turnout was less than 20% on the high side, with some estimates put at around 12%. More importantly, when voters were questioned exiting the polls in all three regions by either the BBC, Asian Times, Greater Kashmir or Kashmir Times, the most common answers on why people had voted stemmed from the belief that this election had nothing to do with a belief that Kashmir was an integral part of India, but a necessity in terms of public works and basic necessities such as roads, water, sewage and education. Based on Mr. Abdullah's remarks following NC's victory, it was obvious that he understood this reality and would work with many of the separatist leaders to ensure public confidence and trust.

This brings us all back to the hope and promise Kashmiri's feel about the incoming US President Obama. By openly discussing Kashmir in interviews on such programs as Meet the Press, FOX Sunday, Hardball, Fareed Zackaria GPS and The Rachel Maddow Show, all programs viewable in the embattled region, the people have a sense that the US will once and for all look for a solution to the Kashmir Issue. It is a fundamental belief of a majority of people within the region that the prospect of war, let alone nuclear war, between India and Pakistan is minimal at best. This is the one area of concern that Kashmiri's have regarding Mr. Obama. A belief that once he realizes that Kashmir has very little to do with the dispute between India and Pakistan other than the rivers that run through it, that the new President will once again look past that Kashmir Issue as a non-dire situation.

I do believe that Mr. Obama already understands this reality, and has been confirmed by the Indian Government stating that the Mumbai Tragedy had nothing to do with Kashmir. It was obvious that once Kashmir became a central topic in the international community, that the truth would come out regarding the almost zero presence of militants in the valley. The last thing the Indian Government and Pakistani Government for that matter wants is for the US to become fully engaged in the negotiation process. This would require both sides to finally admit their differences being more petty than practical and well intentioned for the citizens at large. Unfortunately for both India and Pakistan, this is a realization beginning to take shape within both the US and newly elected Kashmiri leadership. It is because of this realization, that Obama's hope is being felt in South Asia.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

As CIA Chief Panetta Can Restore Intelligence Credibility

The appointment of Leon Panetta as Director of the CIA was for all tense and purposes a cunning move by President-elect Barack Obama. By not directly seeking the approval of Senator Diane Feinstein and Jay Rockefeller, the President-elect further put on display his ability to show leadership by not seeking the approval of the outgoing and incoming Chairs of the Senate Intelligence Committee, let alone high-ranking Senate Members from his own party. The statements released by both the Senators put on display the lack of respect for Barack Obama and seemed more like a babysitter chastising a child for taking a cookie from the jar without permission. Unfortunately for both Senator Feinstein and Senator Rockefeller, questioning the credibility of a former Presidential Chief of Staff and Iraq Study Group Member about his understanding of the ins and outs of the intelligence world put on display the naïveté, gravitas and egocentric ideals both Senators espoused in their short sighted analysis. The same can be said for the pundits on cable news networks as well. What this should signal to the general public is one thing. Change is coming faster than the establishment can handle, but hopefully this is a change that will ultimately bring back the credibility to both our government and intelligence personnel at home and abroad.

Leon Panetta first and foremost was the Chief of Staff for former President Bill Clinton. I find it hard to fathom the idea that Leon Panetta was able to fulfill his duties as what may be the single most important advisor a President can have without a fundamental understanding of the threats facing this country as provided by both the CIA and FBI. Mr. Panetta undoubtedly was routinely present during the Presidential Intelligence Briefings given to him by either the DCI or one of his top Lieutenants. I did hear Pat Buchanan on Hardball with Chris Matthews say “If he (Panetta) didn’t know about Monica Lewinsky then how much could he have really known?” This only highlights the idiocy of pundits and politicians alike who see a changing of the guard and the old boys and girls club of government coming to a crashing halt. I mean it’s as if Pat Buchanan thought Panetta should have been in the room filming the infamous cigar or dress incident to be posted online alongside the latest Paris Hilton video! Maybe Pat Buchanan is upset that it wasn’t? Given the sex scandals by the most conservative of Republicans, it is a possibility is it not?

Leon Panetta is no doubt political, a quality that the DCI must possess contrary to those who think the DCI must be a former spook. More importantly, he is a Public Policy expert, something those in public policy like the two esteemed Democratic Senators fail to understand. The restoration of credibility and sexiness of being an intelligence officer will require a restoration of both clear policy objectives within a framework based on rule of law, rules of engagement and good old fashioned intelligence gathering by operatives freed from the fear of possibly being prosecuted later on in life for some misstep made in the hills of Afghanistan, Somalia or any other potential trouble spot in the world or detention center.

Granted, the post-9/11 world required some changes to the ways of intelligence gathering and the methodology needed to gather credible intelligence. However, I seem to recall in August of 2001, the Bush Administration received a very credible intelligence brief stating exactly what Usama Bin Laden was poised to do: conduct a terror attack by using commercial passenger airliners as a weapon. Since that unfortunate September morning, rather than begin to take the intelligence gathered by capable and competent operatives seriously, Vice President Cheney and his ilk decided that the United States Intelligence Community was flawed by the strains of International and Domestic Rules of Engagement. That torture was in his opinion, a viable interrogation technique that could garner credible intelligence, despite the overwhelming majority of current and former operatives stating otherwise.

Leon Panetta will restore the limits operatives can use in interrogation techniques, but I do believe he will also utilize the greatest attribute American citizens possess. The ability to empathize with the disenfranchised, show compassion for an individuals cause and belief despite disagreement and display the much need charm and grace to allow someone like an operative access to the most closely knit circles. If this was not the case, then how does one explain the ability to know that UBL was determined to attack the US using commercial passenger airliners?

Finally, the politics a DCI must undertake when dealing with the White House, State Department, the House and Senate and other foreign intelligence services will serve the CIA in the most desperate of area, that is credibility. Since 9/11, the ‘go it alone’ mentality that has come to signify the Bush-Cheney rule of engagement, the US on all fronts must begin a rehabilitation of its image in all corners of the world with both friend and foe. This will take an individual who can be diplomatic and restore confidence in the belief that the US is behaving within its own expectations placed on other nation states. There is no doubt that dealing with terrorist groups will not require the diplomatic dancing necessitated by foreign governments. However, this will require that intelligence officer’s conduct this dance with non-state actors in order to stave off future attacks. Fortunately, operatives will be able to follow the lead by the person most needed to serve as an example. Their boss.

South Asia: Micro Solutions to a Macro Problem

The recent events in Mumbai have resulted in speculation regarding the security situation between India and Pakistan. Unfortunately, a majority of the information appears speculative at best by security analysts, who have obviously garnered little intelligence on the ground in both India and Pakistan. There is no doubt that this recent act of barbarism by Islamic fundamentalists, whose only intent was to take innocent life was well orchestrated, planned and funded. However, there is minimal intelligence that suggests the act was committed with the aid and complicity by the Government of Pakistan (GoP). This does not suggest that the GoP does not hold some form of responsibility. However, it would be remiss to overlook the internal policies of the Government of India (GoI), as well as other terrorist activities preceding the events of Mumbai not carried out by Islamic Fundamentalist, but by Hindu Fundamentalists.

The Role of Pakistan

The GoI’s role in the War on Terror continues to be a mixed bag of partnership with both the United States as a useful ally, and a safe haven for terrorist organizations planning, training and recruiting for future attacks. It must be stressed that Pakistan has paid a price for its role in the War on Terror. The suicide bombings in Karachi and Islamabad, as well as the assassination of Benzir Bhutto only serve as highlights of the retribution fundamentalist elements have lain on the doorstep of their hosts. However, the fundamental mistake that continues to be made is the primary focus on groups such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the Northwest Frontier Province. The groups with the greatest ability to train, recruit and fundraise are the groups located within the region of Kashmir on the Pakistani side of the Cease-fire line, or Azad Jammu-Kashmir (AJK).

The GoP’s relationship with groups inside of AJK dates back to the 1980’s, specifically, Lashkar e Taiba (LeT), Jaish e Muhammad (JeM) and the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM). Initially, these groups were funded, trained and recruited by elements within the Pakistani Intelligence Services, the ISI, and the Pakistani Military. However, due to financial, logistical and political strains within the GoP establishment, these ties have for the most part been cut. Unfortunately, just cutting off logistical and financial support for LeT, JeM and HM has not weakened the abilities for these groups to recruit, train and fundraise outside of the region. Moreover, by permitting these groups to function within the border regions, and continue relationships within the ISI, has enhanced their abilities to commit acts of terrorism not only within India, but in Afghanistan as well. Examples are on display in the recent Mumbai attacks, the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Afghanistan and well-orchestrated attacks on US Military Instillations within the border region with Afghanistan. Given the disruption the War on Terror has put on the abilities of the Taliban and Al Qaeda to function across the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the ability of JeT, JeM and HM militants’ unfettered access to cross all borders has become a useful ally to these groups.

Fundraising has also been a robust avenue for international terror outfits that LeT, JeM and HM have aligned themselves with since their announcement of alignment with groups like Al Qaeda this past spring. The main three terrorist outfits based in AJK (auxiliary groups do exist), have always had considerable fundraising efforts throughout the South Asian Diaspora. Main fundraising efforts continue in Europe, specifically London, Brussels, Berlin, Paris and Madrid; in the United States, specifically Brooklyn, Washington DC, Rochester, Chicago, Cleveland and Los Angeles; and in parts of Canada and the Caribbean, specifically Alberta, Montreal, Calgary, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana. This ability to fundraise on a wide scale under the rouse of Muslim Charities, Human Rights Organizations and Development groups, resulted in robust cash flows for not only these once “Kashmiri” based organizations, but for Al Qaeda and other splinter groups as well.

It must become a priority of the USG to pressure Pakistan to shut down these operations and capabilities without prejudice. This will be a bitter pill for Pakistan to swallow, and it will cause internal debates and disagreements within the GoP establishment, however, after the events in Mumbai, this must be done immediately to prevent any one of these groups creating an atmosphere so volatile it leads to war between the two regional nuclear powers.

India and Internal Policies

The tragedy of Mumbai has resulted in the GoI to reexamine its own internal security policies to find the areas that must be strengthened and provide a more robust yet nimble response should an attack of this magnitude ever reoccur. However, the GoI also needs to reexamine its own internal policies with regards to Hindu Nationalist groups, such as the RSS and rogue elements of the BJP, who commit terrorist acts against religious minorities within India without fear of accountability by the state.

In the past, events specifically in Gujarat, Indian Jammu and Kashmir (IJK) and Orissa have created an environment of dysfunction and fear throughout the sub-continent. In Gujarat, thousands of Muslims were slaughtered at the hands of the RSS in 2002. Terrorist bombings at various Buddhist and Muslim religious shrines and mosques and have killed hundreds and injured thousands. The events in IJK this past summer of RSS and BJP members blockading the Valley of Kashmir resulted in the beating, raping and killing of innocent truck drivers carrying food, mail and necessities for the people of the Valley, as well as targeting Muslims for violent action. Finally, in Orissa, the RSS has openly advocated and offered payment for the killing of Christians who live mainly in the region in the press and on RSS affiliated chat rooms and websites. All of these acts of domestic terrorism at the hands Hindu Nationalist groups have gone unfettered and free of prosecution by the GoI. There can be no doubt that the GoI’s inability to hold these groups accountable, despite promises by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has led to greater communal tensions within the State of India.

Should the USG decide to aide India in its counterterrorism efforts, all groups, not just those with Muslim ties, must be addressed and held accountable. Just as the United States has dealt in the past with groups such as the Branch Dividians, the Montana and Michigan Militias, White Supremist organizations and the events of Ruby Ridge, so will India with regards to Hindu Nationalist organizations. Moreover, fundraising efforts for these groups will also need to be dealt with, as they also are widespread, and garnering robust cash flows to operate without concern of prosecution or rebuke by the GoI. The locations of the fundraising capabilities internationally coincidentally almost mirror those of the aforementioned Pakistani based organizations in Europe and the United States. Fundraising efforts specifically are located in London, New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Los Angeles and the Washington DC metro area.

It will take the full diplomatic might of the USG to press upon the GoI the necessity to reel these groups in. Without doing so, any efforts to target Muslim oriented organizations will be futile in any and all attempts. In fact, it will only lead to greater support of radical groups throughout South Asia to attack soft targets throughout India, and lead to widespread attacks on soft targets in both Europe and the United States respectively.

Final Recommendation

The USG finds itself in a unique position to be allied with two nuclear powered states, which are lifelong enemies. However, this will present the USG a unique position to finally bring the long lasting dispute to a conclusion, should the USG play their cards correctly. By compelling both the GoP and GoI to address their own internal complications, it will free both of them from continuing the sixty-year old blame game. Moreover, it will bring a final conclusion to the disputed Kashmir Issue. Communal issues regarding Kashmir have always been overstated. In fact, all communal issues between Hindu’s and Muslims have been the result of foul play by the aforementioned Islamist and Hindu Nationalist groups from outside the region. Kashmiri culture and harmony does exist. There is a common language, history and bond among the people of all faiths throughout the region. By eliminating the ability of non-Kashmiri groups to disrupt the harmony that once existed, stability to the region will once again be restored. If not, all efforts the USG may have in store will result in failure.