Carnegie Endowment for International Peace | South Asian Perspectives
June 05 , 2009  |    Washington, DC  ·  Moscow  ·  Beijing  ·  Beirut  ·  Brussels

Editor's Note:

Pakistan’s battle against terror groups had mixed results over the last fortnight. While the Pakistani army regained control of large parts of Swat, the Lahore High Court released Hafiz Saeed, chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an Islamic charity banned by the UN and believed to be a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, the terror group behind the Mumbai attacks in November 2008.

Sri Lanka claimed a major diplomatic victory during a UN Human Rights Council special session, when 29 of 47 countries opposed a call by Western Europe to investigate alleged human rights abuses during the Lankan army operations against Tamil Tigers.

After two years of detention, the Indian Supreme Court released Binayak Sen, a human rights activist who crticized Chhattisgarh’s use of an armed militia to fight Maoists. The release raised questions about the Chhattisgarh government’s anti-insurgency policies and its efforts to silence dissidents.

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Pakistan's Military Success in Swat

On May 29, the Pakistan Army announced that it regained control of Mingora , the Taliban's main stronghold in Swat and claimed that over 1200 militants had been killed. Commentators lauded the army's success, but many expressed concern about the government's slow response to the growing refugee crisis, with more than 2.5 million people displaced by the military operation.

Swat Operation

Zafar Hilaly applauds the Pakistani army's initial success in Swat and writes that the United States can better fight the insurgency in Afghanistan by adopting Pakistan 's strategy of using overwhelming force.

The Myth of a Political Solution

Shahed Sadullah criticizes the media for giving airtime to experts who advocated negotiating with the Taliban. No political solution is possible because Pakistan and the Taliban have no common interests.

Containing the Taliban: Three Factors

Conservative Islam, Pashtun tribalism, and geography inhospitable to the Pakistani army explain the Taliban's growth in North West Frontier Province. The absence of these three factors in other parts of Pakistan will limit the Taliban's appeal, predicts Javed Jabbar.

Hafiz Saeed Released

The Lahore High Court ordered the release of Hafiz Saeed, chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), an Islamic charity the UN named a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Responding to international pressure to crack down on JuD, Pakistan arrested Saeed in January 2009. India expressed its unhappiness over the court's decision. Richard Holbrooke, U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, initially called the release disturbing, before declaring it an internal matter for Pakistan the following day.

The Flaw That Let Saeed Off the Hook

Nirupama Subramanian explains that Pakistan had to let Saeed go because the UN resolution banning JuD, which Pakistan used to justify Saeed's detention, did not call for the arrest of particular individuals. Without further grounds for detention, the case against Saeed was weak.

Pakistan Still Insincere in Fighting Terrorism

Pakistan was able to release Saeed because its offensive against the Taliban has led to reduced international criticism of its inaction against terrorism, writes B. Raman.

Binayak Sen Freed

On May 25, Indian human rights activist Binayak Sen, was released on bail by the Supreme Court after two years of controversial imprisonment. Sen, a pediatrician who worked with tribes in Chhattisgarh, a state battling a Maoist insurgency, was arrested for having connections with Maoists. A strident critic of the Chhattisgarh government's decision to arm the Salwa Judum against the Maoists, Sen's case gained international attention when twenty-two Nobel Laureates signed a letter demanding his release in May 2008.

State-sponsored Vigilantism

The Hindu appeals for attention to remain focused on the Chhattisgarh government, which targets activists and NGOs that assist those displaced by Salwa Judum's violence.

A Check on States' Laws

A Chhattisgarh law made it difficult for Binayak Sen to be released on bail before the Supreme Court decision overruled it. Business Standard calls for a stricter review of state laws when they are presented for presidential approval.
In an interview with Sreelatha Menon, Binayak Sen said that a military solution to the Maoist insurgency is neither possible nor desirable. Dialogue, even if not led by the government, is the way forward.

Attacks on Indians in Australia

Eight separate incidents of violence against Indian students in the last three weeks have created diplomatic tension between India and Australia. Speaking in Parliament, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd condemned the attacks after 3000 Indian students rallied in Melbourne on May 31 against what they perceive as racism. Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan turned down an honorary degree from an Australian university in protest over the attacks.

Check it, Mate

The Times of India warns that Australia could lose many of the 95,000 Indian students, who contribute $1.6 billion to the Australian economy, if it does not swiftly counter the perception that they are the target of racist attacks.

Fear and Loathing in Melbourne

The attacks on Indian students are rooted in fear among Australian youth that Indians are taking away jobs, already scarce in a faltering economy, writes Sanjay Srivastava.

Trends from Indian Elections

The Truth About Muslim Vote

Zoya Hasan debunks the idea that Indian Muslims give highest priority to their religious identity when they vote. Muslims voted for parties likely to provide security and jobs rather than candidates endorsed by clerics in the recent Indian elections, she writes.

Politics of Inheritance

Political dynasties have become further entrenched in India after the recent elections. Vir Sanghvi bemoans the trend and hopes that Rahul Gandhi's attempt to increase intra-party democracy in the Congress inspires other political parties to do the same.
A new Association for Democratic Reforms report confirms the widespread belief that criminals are pushing out those with clean records in Indian politics. 150 of the 545 new members of parliament face multiple criminal charges ranging from murder to kidnapping, an increase of 35 percent since the last election.

Sri Lanka at UN Human Rights Council

On May 26, Switzerland submitted a resolution supported by Western European countries at the UN Human Rights Council, to investigate allegations of war crimes by the Sri Lankan army during the military offensive against LTTE and grant international aid agencies direct access to more than 300,000 people displaced by the war. China, Russia, India and Pakistan opposed the resolution and presented an alternate resolution calling for the UN to cooperate with the Sri Lankan government in providing humanitarian assistance.

India Continues to Stand Firmly as Sri Lanka's Friend

Upul Joseph Fernando writes that India 's stance is a continuation of its long standing policy of supporting Sri Lanka at the UN.

India's Role in Sri Lanka

Challenging the idea that India has supported Sri Lanka unfailingly, B. Raman points out that India filed a motion against Sri Lanka at the UN in 1983, when Indian Tamil families learned of its attempt to conceal the deaths of many Tamils in the Colombo riots. India supported Sri Lanka this time partly because it did not receive similar information.

Geopolitics Drowns Sri Lanka's Tamils

M. V. Bhadrakumar explains that China 's interest in using the Sri Lankan port of Hambantota and India 's fear of losing influence in Sri Lanka to China led the two to oppose Switzerland 's resolution.

Cyclone Aila Hits Bangladesh, West Bengal

On May 25, Cyclone Aila ripped through Bangladesh and the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, killing more than 200 people and displacing nearly 500,000. The cyclone, which broke through many embankments and raised fears of a cholera outbreak because of the scarcity of potable water. Sunderbans, home to the endangered Royal Bengal tiger, was the worst hit area. Environmentalists fear that many tigers were washed away.

Chief Lesson From Cyclone Aila

Building strong embankments after the Sidr cyclone in 2007 could have saved many from disease and death after Aila, writes the Daily Star. The government must organize a task force to oversee the building of embankments.

Government Needs to Shore Up Post-Aila Relief Efforts

Criticizing the ruling Awami League's attempt to prevent a Bangladesh Nationalist Party lawmaker from conducting relief operations in his district, the New Age writes that an apolitical, coordinated relief effort is necessary to minimize post-cyclone deaths.

The Path Ahead for Nepal

Nepal celebrated the first anniversary of the abolition of the monarchy on May 29. Commentators speculated about the future of Maoists in Nepal given their contentious relationship with the army, and the long term economic development of the country.

In a Violent State

Urban elites who supported the erstwhile monarchy kept soldiers from rural areas, the Maoists' main support base, out of the army's top positions. Abhijit Bhattacharya asserts that the Maoists, who led the movement which ended monarchy, distrust the army because they are unsure of the loyalty of its commanders.

The Opportunity of the Yam

Nepal 's new government should exploit its strategic location by allowing transit links between China and India and attracting tourists from both countries, writes Sujeev Shakya.


Event: The Dangers in Pakistan: Can They Be Overcome?, May 26, 2009

A national consensus on fighting militants, stable relations with India , and a trust-based relationship with the United States are necessary for Pakistan to successfully confront extremism, said Ambassador Tariq Fatemi, senior foreign policy advisor to Nawaz Sharif, chairman of the Pakistan Muslim League. Fatemi discussed the domestic, regional, and international challenges Pakistan is facing, and its prospects for success at a recent Carnegie event.

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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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