Carnegie Endowment for International Peace | South Asian Perspectives
February 24, 2009  |    Washington, DC  ·  Moscow  ·  Beijing  ·  Beirut  ·  Brussels

Dear Reader,

This issue of South Asian Perspectives looks and feels different. In this season of change, we at Carnegie felt that the newsletter should evolve to reflect South Asia’s growing importance in matters of global security and economic growth. The newsletter will now be published every fortnight, keeping you better updated on the region’s top stories. We hope you enjoy the fitter and timelier newsletter as much as the previous one, and we look forward to your feedback.

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Sri Lanka’s war against LTTE

January was a turning point in one of South Asia’s oldest conflicts. Sri Lanka’s military captured Kilinochhi, the “capital” of the region controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Fighting now centers on Mullaithivu, LTTE’s last stronghold, but more than 350,000 civilians are trapped in the crossfire. While the government has created civilian safe zones, the LTTE is using citizens as a human shields, preventing them from leaving the region.

Need a Doosra

Sri Lankan President Rajapakse asked Indian politicians from Tamil Nadu (TN) to appeal to LTTE to release civilians. The Times of India urges TN politicians to recognize that grievances of Sri Lanka’s Tamils are best achieved through non-violent political means.

Looks like Prabhakaran’s Last Battle

The Hindu warns that this may be LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s last conventional battle—but the group may choose to wage a guerilla war or resort to urban terrorism.

Fears of Human Shields in the Wanni

Amantha Perera reports that the army is controlling all airstrips and roads to block LTTE from flying in supplies. This will also prevent Prabhakaran from escaping from the island.

Violence Will Get Them Nowhere

Kuldip Nayar reflects on the failure of LTTE and Kashmir’s Hurriyat to achieve their political goals through violence. Both movements would have achieved more if they sought autonomy within the existing states.

Journalism under Siege in Sri Lanka

Lasantha Wickramatunga, editor of the Sunday Leader and staunch critic of Sri Lanka’s war against LTTE, was murdered in Colombo on January 11. Wickramatunga had written wrote his own obituary because of the many death threats he received.

And Then They Came For Me

Wickramatunga describes his political views and his friendship with President Rajapakse. He also makes the chilling claim that both he and the President Rajapakse would know who was responsible for his murder.

Attacks On the Media Will Continue

Thirty journalists have been killed or abducted in Sri Lanka since 2006, reports IPS International. Second only to Iraq in its danger for journalists, Sri Lanka’s press is being systematically purged of those who do not toe the government line.

Mumbai Attacks: Pakistan's Admissions

In Pakistan 's much-awaited release of its probe in the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan concluded that the attacks were launched from and partially planned in Pakistan —a suprising about-face. The government began criminal proceedings against 10 individuals, including Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman captured from the attacks who is currently in Indian custody.

A Welcome Admission

The Hindu comments on how Pakistan 's admissions took New Delhi by surprise. Now India must respond by recalibrating the diplomatic relationship which was put “on pause” after the Mumbai attacks.

India Needs Whole Truth From Pak

An Asian Age editorial argues that by claiming that “non-state actors” partially planned the attack in Pakistan, the government avoided taking full responsibility.

If Nothing Else Works, India Must Learn to Retaliate

Chandrashekhar Dasgupta urges India to ramp up its covert operation capabilities to retaliate against terrorist groups operating out of Pakistan.

Miliband's Kashmir Comments

David Miliband, UK 's foreign minister, caused a controversy, when said that “ India should solve Kashmir to give one less cause to extremists”. Pakistan welcomed the comment while Indian foreign ministry said that it “did not need unsolicited advice on its internal matters”.

Obama's Double Hyphenation

Ejaz Haider writes that given Britain 's closeness to Washington 's policies, David Miliband's comments are an indicator of Obama's future approach to South Asia. Haider argues that even though Richard Holbrooke's mandate does not contain Kashmir, the India-Pakistan hyphenation is implicit in it.

Editor’s sidebar: Washington’s policy circles have been abuzz with speculation about possible preemptive lobbying by India which may have excluded Kashmir from Holbrooke’s portfolio.

Kashmir Issue and the Labour Party

Hasan Suroor thinks India should expect more comments on Kashmir like Miliband's. The Pakistani community in Britain is a significant constituency for the British Labour Party and exerts strong pressure on the British government to do more on Kashmir.

Kashmir Elections: Victory for Indian Democracy?

The record turnout of voters, especially in the Kashmir valley, surprised the most astute political observers. Low turnout was expected after a government decision to allocate land for Hindu pilgrims sparked widespread civil unrest last August. While some commentators have interpreted the record turnout as a victory for Indian democracy, others caution against such sweeping conclusions.

Faith In Polls

The Telegraph concludes that Kashmir voters made the distinction between day-to-day governance and a long-term resolution of the Kashmir issue. The separatists were so confident that people would voluntarily boycott the elections that they did not use violence to prevent voting.

For Secessionists, Humiliation Follows Hubris

A 55 percent turnout in the troubled Kashmir valley is a humiliating setback for the secessionists, argues Praveen Swami. It also proves that last summer's Amarnath land protests were born out of communal anxieties and were not a general uprising against Indian rule.

The Jammu & Kashmir Elections and After

New Delhi must not be carried away in believing that the Kashmir elections eliminated its citizens' grievances. The youth in Kashmir, easy prey to radical teachings, should be trained in the IT sector to create a “knowledge city,” writes Amitabh Mattoo.

India, Pakistan and Highway in Afghanistan

The Indian-built Delaram-Zaranj highway built opened January 22, connecting Afghanistan 's traders to the Iranian port of Chabahar.

Iran Gets Afghan Transit Trade

A Daily Times editorial advises Pakistan 's leadership not to interpret the highway as India trying to bypass Pakistan 's port at Karachi. It also urges Pakistan to revisit its traditional policy of maintaining “strategic depth” through pliant regimes in Afghanistan.

Dirge in Pashto?

The Hindu comments on how Pakistan 's admissions took New Delhi by surprise. Now India must respond by recalibrating the diplomatic relationship which was put “on pause” after the Mumbai attacks.

Pakistan's Swat Peace Deal

On February 16, Pakistan agreed to impose Sharia law in Swat, a Northwest Frontier Province district where it had been fighting a pitched battle against Taliban associates led by Maulana Fazlullah. Pakistan has brought on board Sufi Mohammad, Fazlullah's father-in-law and more “moderate” leader of Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat Mohammadi(TNSM), to persuade the militant groups to disarm. The Pakistan government claims that the people of Swat want swifter justice than the state judicial system can deliver.

From Son to Father-in-law

Ismail Khan opines that by promising to impose Sharia law, the government has removed Fazlullah's call to arms. And in reality, it will make no significant changes to the prevailing legal system.

Swat: The Other View

Syed Irfan Ashraf profiles Maulana Fazlullah, who controls Swat and has kept Pakistani forces at bay until now. Fazlullah, also known as “Radio Mullah”, used an illegal FM radio channel to garner popular support, preaching “stone-age values” cloaked in anti-state rhetoric.

The Advancing Enemy

The Taliban has the numbers, network, and arms to take control of Punjab and then all of Pakistan, writes Manzur Ejaz.

Bangladesh - U.S. Trade Talks

Let There Be Debate on Talks With Washington

A New Age editorial welcomes Dhaka's decision to enter into bilateral trade talks with Washington but cautions against accepting measures which could exclude it from the benefits of the ongoing Doha Round.

Nepal Tames the Kosi

Kosi Back to Original Course

Shankar Kharel reports that engineers have brought Kosi back to its original course. The river's flooding killed and displaced more than one million people in Nepal and India last year. There is still room for caution, though – the embankment has not been permanently repaired.

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 Aylward, Communications.

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