Carnegie Endowment for International Peace | South Asian Perspectives
April 16 , 2009  |    Washington, DC  ·  Moscow  ·  Beijing  ·  Beirut  ·  Brussels

Editor's Note:

In the leadup to India's general elections, both the national parties, Congress and Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), are in trouble. The role of Congress leaders in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots is under scrutiny, the BJP faces questions about its attitudes towards Muslims for defending a party leader caught on tape making anti-Muslim speeches.

Across the border, the Pakistani government has strongly resisted Obama's “Af-Pak” policy, defending its intelligence agency and opposing the potential linkage of U.S. aid to successful counterterrorism operations. Meanwhile, an attack on a Lahore police training academy again drove home the importance of confronting terrorism.

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Reactions to Obama's "Af-Pak" Strategy

On March 27, President Obama announced his strategy for winning the war in Afghanistan. The strategy's highlights are 21,000 additional troops and military trainers for Afghanistan and a $1.5 billion annual assistance package for Pakistan. The Pakistani government has welcomed the aid but opposes linking it to success in its counterterrorism operations. Pakistan's Ambassador to the U.S., Hussain Haqqani said that the Pakistan-U.S. relationship should not be "transactional" and should be based on long term strategic goals.

Foreign Policy Disputes With the U.S. Intensify

Dawn reports that elements of the new U.S. Af-Pak strategy—a bigger role for India, strong criticism of the ISI, tying aid to stringent conditions, and the continued use of drones—has finally convinced the Pakistan government to stand up to the United States.

Editor’s Sidebar: Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S., struck a defiant note when questioned about the conditions attached to U.S. aid at an event in Washington. He said, “There is a difference between accountability and intrusiveness. And that is something that needs to be understood.”

Af-Pak and the Future

There is no moderate Afghan Taliban to reconcile with, Rahimullah Yusufzai argues. American insistence that Pakistan do more stems in part from the United States ' inability to concede failure in defeating a ragtag Taliban.

Dire Straits

Masood Sharif Khan Khattak asks why Pakistan is asking for global financial support to fight terrorism, if the government considers it an internal matter. Pakistan must take responsibility for all of its territory if it values its own existence.

Taliban Attack on Police Academy

On March 30, ten militants attacked a police training academy in Manawan, on the outskirts of Lahore, killing 12 and wounding at least a 100 people. Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for the attack. He also promised two attacks in Pakistan in the next few days and a future attack in the U.S. as revenge for its war in the region.

Show Will to Fight Terrorism

The Manawan attack has convinced PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif that “the West's concerns are genuine.” This marks a departure for his party which used to claim that Pakistan was fighting America 's war. A Daily Times editorial hopes that this change translates into greater political will to fight terrorism.

A State Adrift

Despite Pakistan 's longstanding focus on terrorism, the government knows little about the terrorists who use Pakistan as a safe haven. Obfuscation, ignorance and desultory actions by the government have combined to compound Pakistan 's problems, writes Cyril Almeida.

Flogging in Swat

TV channels in Pakistan broadcast a cell-phone video of the public flogging of a 17-year-old girl in Swat Valley , where the government recently cut a peace-for-Sharia deal. The video provoked intense outrage over the peace deal and debate over the value of universal human rights.

What About Other Extremists?

Afiya Shehrbano challenges the notion that such treatment of women is carried out only by “evil and uneducated” Muslims. She points out that Islamist academics and moderates have been calling for years to replace universal human rights with “culturally relevant” justice.

Denial Creates Space for Taliban

Instead of condemning the flogging, political leaders across the spectrum have explained it variously as a conspiracy by the West, Jews, or India. Zohra Yousuf detects a widespread tendency toward denial and links it to the Urdu-language media, which often present unverified claims and conspiracy theories as truth.

Varun Gandhi's Anti-Muslim Speeches

In late March, Indian news channels broadcast footage of anti-Muslim speeches by Varun Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru’s great-grandson and a young BJP politician. The Election Commission (EC) subsequently asked the BJP not to nominate Gandhi as a candidate, for violating the model code of conduct, which forbids political parties from inciting religious sentiments for electoral gain. Gandhi claims the tapes had been doctored.

A Stench That is All Too Familiar

The idea that Muslims are the enemy is hardwired in the BJP's DNA, Siddharth Vardarajan writes. Varun Gandhi's hate speech was simply a “slipping of the mask.”

Ideal and Real

The Telegraph applauds the EC for upholding secularism—a fundamental principle of Indian democracy. The BJP's refusal to comply with the EC's request is a repudiation of democratic norms.

Another Journalist Throws a Shoe

On April 7, journalist Jarnail Singh hurled a shoe at India's Home Minister for dodging a question on Jagdish Tytler's role in 1984 Delhi riots. Tytler, a prominent Congress leader, is accused of ordering police to fire on Sikhs after the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) recently recommended clearing Tytler, but the shoe-throwing incident reignited public anger about Congress' role in the riots and forced Tytler to withdraw his nomination in the upcoming elections.

Exorcising 1984

The official cover-up has prevented justice for the victims of 1984 and reflects the weaknesses of the Indian criminal justice system, editorializes the Hindu. Further, it shows that the CBI is not independent of the ruling party.

Exploiting Sikh Sentiments

Chander Suta Dogra argues that Sikh votes are no longer swayed by the 1984 incident. In fact, the Congress party is predicted to win in Sikh-majority Punjab after the poor governance of Siromani Akali Dali, the ruling party in the state.

The only remaining witness who identified Tytler as the leader of the riots, Surinder Singh, recounts the political pressure from Tytler's men he has lived with over the last twenty-five years.

Bangladesh's Violent Student Politics

In the first week of April, violent infighting between rival factions of the Bangladesh Chhetra League (BCL), the student wing of the ruling Awami League (AL), left two students dead and more than 1,000 people wounded. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina resigned from the BCL to distance herself from the group.

Abdicating Responsibility Will not Rein in Rowdy BCL Elements

A New Age editorial argues that BCL's factions are fighting for control because it is lucrative; notoriously corrupt student unions extort bribes in exchange for influencing admissions and awarding building contracts. Hasina's resignation will not rectify either problem.

Two-Day Truce in Sri Lanka

On April 13, Sri Lanka declared a two-day pause in military offensives against the LTTE to allow civilians to leave the conflict zone. Sri Lankan authorities face growing international pressure to allow tens of thousands of trapped civilians to leave the war zone safely.

A New Year Truce

The Daily Mirror thinks the LTTE will not allow civilians it used as human shields to leave and the truce will only expose the group's desperation. It will also provide the government with crucial breathing space in the international arena.

War, Peace and the Tamil Diaspora

N. Sathiya Moorthy points out that Tamil diaspora groups protesting in Europe have been quick to demand a ceasefire, but they remain silent on civilian hostages held by the LTTE.

Nepal--Maoists Still Strong

No Surprises

The results from last week's elections were unsurprising, as the results mirrored last year's national polls. People voted on local issues, disappointing those looking for an indication that the Maoists are losing popularity, argues the Kathmandu Post.

Afghanistan's Unlikely Cricket Journey

Fifteen Months Across the World With Afghanistan

In the last two weeks, Afghanistan has been agog at good news from an unexpected quarter: cricket. A team which started playing serious cricket only after the end of the Taliban regime, Afghanistan has risen from obscurity to reach the super-eight stage in the qualifiers for Cricket World Cup 2011. Leslie Knott documents their unlikely journey and a documentary, Out of the Ashes , which has tracked the team's progress around the world.


Report: Reconciling with the Taliban? Towards an Alternative Grand Strategy in Afghanistan, April 2009

Negotiating with the Taliban—who are convinced military victory is within sight—is the worst possible approach to stabilizing Afghanistan, and one that would fail. Ashley J. Tellis warns that U.S. signals of impatience and a desire for an early exit could motivate insurgents to maintain a hard line and outlast the international coalition.

Op-ed: Obama's Afghanistan-Pakistan Quandary, April 13, 2009

President Obama's failure to explicitly mention that the U.S. intends to stay in Afghanistan could could strengthen the Taliban, which seeks to outlast the international coalition, writes Ashley J. Tellis in YaleGlobal .

Op-ed: Obama's Afghanistan Strategy, March 29, 2009

Obama’s Afghanistan strategy makes two welcome changes to existing strategy: It limits U.S. objectives to fighting al-Qaeda stationed in Pakistan, and it focuses on training the Afghan army, who will ultimately lead the war, writes Gilles Dorronsoro in Washington Post.

Event: India's Climate Change Initiatives, March 24, 2009

Shyam Saran, the Prime Minister's Special Envoy for Climate Change, outlined India 's National Action Plan on Climate Change and opportunities for collobaration with the United States at a Carnegie event.

Conference: Nuclear Order: Build or Break? April 6-7, 2009

The 2009 Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference, " The Nuclear Order—Build or Break ," attracted over 840 government officials, policy and technical experts, academics, and journalists from 46 countries. Transcript, video, and audio from the conference is available, including panels on: Nuclear Crisis Points: Iran, Pakistan, Syria and North Korea and After the Khan Network: What Works, What Doesn't and Where Do We Go?


About Us

Produced fortnightly, South Asia Perspectives provides views and opinions from leading South Asian media and policy circles. Visit the Carnegie South Asia website for further information and resources. We welcome comments and suggestions. Please write to the Editor at

Editor: Ashesh Prasann, Junior Fellow, South Asia Program.
Assistant Editor: Mary Kate Aylaward, Communications.

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