On June 16, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani president Asif Zardari held their first face-to-face meeting since the Mumbai attacks. While many commentators interpreted the meeting as a thaw in India-Pakistan ties, India said that it will only discuss terrorism until Pakistan cracks down on militant groups targeting India from its territory.
Meanwhile, Pakistan launched a military offensive in Waziristan, the stronghold of Pakistani Taliban leaders Baitullah Mehsud and Maulana Fazlullah. Analysts expect this operation to be longer than the Swat operation because of Waziristan's size and proximity to Afghanistan, and the strength of the Taliban in the area.
BRIC and SCO Summits in Russia
Russia hosted the first Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) summit and the ninth Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit at Yekaterinburg on June 16. Some analysts argued that BRIC could be the most effective forum to push for changes in the global financial system while others questioned the value of another international grouping.
contends that BRIC should limit its focus to global economic issues and stay out of geopolitics.
India should be under no illusion about multilateral solidarity, argues C. Raja Mohan
. Unresolved bilateral issues between India and China —border disputes, mistrust over Tibet and mutual suspicion—will not go away with the institutionalizing of BRIC.
India has been reluctant to participate in SCO's security discussions in the past because of the group's focus on balancing NATO in Central Asia. Russia included Afghanistan's security on the SCO agenda to persuade the Indian prime minister to attend the group's security discussions, writes Vladimir Radyuhin
India Starts Talking With Pakistan
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Asif Zardari held their first face-to-face meeting since the Mumbai attacks on the sidelines of the SCO summit. The meeting followed a visit to India by U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns, during which he pressed India to resume discussions with Pakistan. He also called for a solution to Kashmir that takes Kashmiris' aspirations into account, echoing Pakistan 's stance on the issue.
Some analysts welcomed the meeting, but the Indian government stressed that terrorism will be on the only issue on the agenda until the Pakistani government takes steps to prevent militant groups from launching attacks on India from Pakistan's territory. Meanwhile, in his first interview with a Pakistani newspaper, U.S. President Barack Obama told Dawn that India and Pakistan should open a dialogue on issues other than Kashmir
applauds Singh's decision to meet with Zadari and encourages continued engagement to strengthen those in the Pakistani government who support action against Islamist terrorist groups.
Criticizing the United States for advocating a demilitarized Kashmir, M.J. Akbar
argues that pulling back Indian and Pakistani forces from the Line of Control would weaken India's defenses disproportionately. The infiltration of Kashmir by Pakistani terrorist groups, not Pakistan 's conventional army, led to three previous conflicts between the two countries.
India should ignore U.S. advice to engage Pakistan and resume dialogue only when the Mumbai perpetrators are brought to justice, writes Kanwal Sibal
. Indian and American interests do not always coincide, as seen in current U.S. military aid to Pakistan despite the fact that the Pakistani army has used to buy conventional weapons directed against India in the past.
Kashmir Protests, Security Reforms
Protests are escalating in Jammu and Kashmir following the alleged rape and murder of two Kashmiri women in Shopian by Indian soldiers. The Indian government announced security structure reforms in response to the allegations. State police will now lead counterterrorism operations, removing the Indian army from populated areas.
commends the increasing use of police forces for counterterrorism operations in Kashmir. It also calls for more resources and political will to take on businesses that fund terrorism.
argues that the new security reforms are insufficient. India should abolish the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives its security forces legal immunity when stationed in an area of conflict.
outlines a strategy for victory in Waziristan . Pakistan should exploit divisions in the Taliban and crack down on Punjabi Islamist groups which carry out attacks in cities, he writes.
Commenting on President Zardari's plan to create a new army base in Swat, Ayesha Siddiqui
argues that the police can be a more effective and less politically costly defense against future extremism.
contends that many in Pakistan still support the use of a “good” Taliban—one that does not threaten the Pakistani state— as a strategic asset against India and in Afghanistan to guarantee a pliant regime in the future. India should move its troops from its border with Pakistan to encourage the Pakistani army to take action against all Taliban factions.
The Daily Times
warns that the arrest confirms the danger posed by terrorist groups in South Punjab.
Sri Lankan President to Stay on Without Polls?
The Sri Lankan government launched a nationwide campaign last week to introduce a constitutional amendment extending President Rajapakse's term without holding elections
. The campaign aims to build on the surge in public support for Rajapakse after the LTTE were defeated last month. Opposition parties have criticized the amendment as undemocratic.
The Sunday Leader
notes that every Sri Lankan president who tried to extend the presidency was defeated at the polls.
The Political Future of Tamils
Sri Lanka reopened roads connecting the Tamil-majority North to the South and has allowed fishing to restart in Northern waters in a bid to win seats in the North in the upcoming elections, according to Jehan Perera.
The camps housing internally displaced Tamils are the breeding ground for the next generation of Tamil politicians. Gomin Dayasri
warns that government incompetence in assisting the displaced could produce a new generation of confrontational Tamil political leaders.
Cabinet Formation Weakens Political Parties in Nepal
Government formation has thrown Nepal 's political parties into turmoil. Party leaders for the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF), who represent Madhesis
(Nepalis of Indian origin), are competing with each other for cabinet positions after the party split in two. Internal rifts emerged in the Nepali Congress (NC) after the party president's daughter was named the leader of NC's ministers in government.
predicts that the MJF split will push both factions to more radical platforms, fueling further antagonism between Madhesis and the state of Nepal.
The Rising Nepal
makes the case that creating new cabinet positions to please coalition parties, as the prime minister has done, will create additional bureaucracy, slowing down government.
Khagendra N. Sharma
writes that the Nepali Congress' failure to cultivate new leaders has led to its slow decline.
Protests in Bangladesh Against India's Dam
In Bangladesh, the government faces increasing criticism over its acquiescence to India's plan to build a dam on the Barak river at Tipaimukh, bordering Bangladesh. Many fear that the dam will be an ecological catastrophe, reducing water flow to Bangladesh and destroying agriculture. Opposition leader Khaleda Zia wrote to Prime Minister Singh, urging him to stop work on the dam. The opposition party has also called for a recall of the Indian envoy to Bangladesh
, who earlier characterized criticism of the dam as politically-motivated propaganda.
The New Age
criticizes the Bangladesh government for accepting India 's diplomatic assurance that the dam will not harm Bangladesh, given the history of water disputes between the two countries born out of India's construction of the Farrakha barrage in 1975.
takes on the Indian claim that Bangladesh will not be harmed because of the Tipaimkh dam. He argues that the dam cannot operate without reducing the water flowing into Bangladesh.
The United States should support implementation of the provincial autonomy provisions of the 1973 Constitution to reduce the dangerous growth of ethnic tensions threatening Pakistan's survival. It should also condition future aid on efforts to disarm Lashkar-e-Taiba, recommended Selig Harrison at a Carnegie event launching his new report, Pakistan: State of the Union.
CARNEGIE EVENTS & ANALYSIS
U.S. aid to Pakistan can ensure decisive action against terrorist groups only if it is explicitly conditioned on concrete and verifiable benchmarks, argued Ashesh Prasann