June 2008, Vol. 3, No. 6

Pakistan's New Counterterror Strategy

Indian FarmersThe government of Pakistan has begun a series of negotiations with terrorist groups, offering militant leaders a stake in the political process if they renounce terrorist attacks inside Pakistan. This strategy has attracted considerable criticism. Ahmed Rashid, echoing U.S. officials, worries that the agreements leave militants in Pakistan free to plan and carry out attacks in Afghanistan. Zeena Satti argues that allowing militants to enforce Sharia and use jirgas will further alienate the tribal areas from the rest of the country. But Khalid Aziz insists that continuing the strategy of military attacks on militants would be destabilizing for Pakistan and its neighbors. In this month's feature, commentators debate the merits of Pakistan's new counterterror strategy

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In this Issue:

  1. Feature: Pakistan's New Counterterror Strategy

  2. Carnegie Events and Analysis
    China's Space Capabilities; Confronting Pakistan's Political and Social Challenges; Tibet in Sino-Indian Relations

  3. Views from South Asia:

    Foreign and Domestic Politics

    The BJP's Big Win in Karnataka; Downgrading the Gujjars; Prospects for Indo-Pak Peace; Rural Debt; The Indian Institutes of Technology--Bigger, yes. But Better?; Civilian Militias and India's Domestic Militants

    Economics and Energy
    Giving in to Climbing Oil Prices

    The Lawyers' March; Understanding Pakistan's Madrassas; The Constitutional Amendments; Pakistani Think Tanks; U.S.-Pakistan Relations; Reading the Gubernatorial Tea Leaves; Pakistan's Economy

    Mass Arrests; The Election Dialogue

    A Kingdom No More; Picking the President; The Record of Liberalization in Nepal; Attacks on Diplomats

    Popular Dissent; Provincial Elections, Round Two; Collateral Damage; Civilian Defense

Editor's Note

The Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) upset victory in the South Indian state of Karnataka raised the possibility that the BJP might be a potent force in the Indian national elections next year. In the India section, Sugata Srinivasaraju notes that the BJP largely toned down the right-wing Hindutva rhetoric that characterized previous campaigns and thinks that is the party's best strategy on the national stage. Praful Bidwai blames the Congress Party for failing to run a grassroots campaign.

Nepal's democratic movement continues to gain momentum. This month, the interim Constituent Assembly voted to abolish the monarchy, and King Gyanendra complied. In addition, a roadblock in the process of drafting Nepal's new constitution was removed when the Maoists renounced their claim to the presidency. Both of those issues are discussed in the Nepal section.

This issue marks the end of my term as editor of South Asian Perspectives. It's been a pleasure sharing what I've come across as I've combed the papers from South Asia every month. Many thanks to the supportive and professional people who've helped this publication out the door and to you, our ever-growing readership. SAP will return in the fall under its new editor, Ashesh Prasann.

Sam McCormally
Editor, South Asian Perspectives


Indian Farmers Pakistan's New Counterterror Strategy

After years of unsuccessful military campaigns, Pakistan’s leaders have realized that unrestrained attacks on militants are counterproductive, and are relying more on negotiations and reconciliation. However, this tactic runs the risk of upsetting the international community, which expects Pakistan to root out militants attempting to launch attacks in Afghanistan from Pakistani soil. Khalid Aziz urges the government to continue with negotiations, arguing that a stable and safe Pakistan is more beneficial to Afghanistan than one that is aggressive and weak. (The News, June 7, 2008)

But with Pakistani Tailban leader Baitullah Mehsud vowing to continue attacks in Afghanistan, Ahmed Rashid worries that the Pakistani government’s strategy has severe consequences across the border: “The stepped-up Taliban insurgency in southern and eastern Afghanistan… makes it difficult to provide the security needed for improved governance and faster reconstruction.” (The Washington Post, June 8, 2008)

In negotiations with Swat militants, the government of the North-West Frontier Province agreed to enforce Islamic law, or Sharia, and allow Tehrik-e Taliban to broadcast on a state sanctioned radio frequency, writes Rafia Zakaria. “The aim, quite simply, seems to be to give the Tehrik-e Taliban a stake in local governance and justice provision so that they desist from its violent campaign of suicide bombings, store raids, hostage taking and other anti-state activities,” she writes. (The Daily Times, May 24, 2008)

The editorial board of The Tribune of India is skeptical about the Pakistani government’s strategy. Under the new strategy, “the militant leaders can be allowed to control the areas where they have been active provided they stop attacking Pakistani troops and government installations,” they write. These tactics will “boost the morale of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the terrorists elsewhere in the region. (The Tribune of India, June 2, 2008)

“The Islamabad establishment needs to grasp well that the Kabul regime does harbour strong fear of the Taliban insurgency gaining a fillip and an increased stridency from any peace accords that the Pakistani administration strikes up with the radicals, directly or indirectly, in the FATA and the NWFP,” writes the editorial board of The Frontier Post. But, they add, the “military option will lead the Kabul regime nowhere.” (The Frontier Post, June 8, 2008)

U.S. dissatisfaction with Pakistani counterterrorism cooperation is growing, leading some U.S. officials to consider directing military aid to specific operations rather than general military expenditure, notes Syed Mohammad Ali. “Instead of waiting for a U.S. decision, our government should try for once to be more proactive in demonstrating the utilisation of incoming funds,” he argues. (The Daily Times, June 3, 2008)  

Zeenia Satti proposes a counterterrorism strategy that involves integrating the people of the North-West Frontier Province into the mainstream of Pakistan rather than giving in to all the demands of radical conservative religious groups. “The self-fulfilling myth of the dogged Pashtun culture frozen in time and space has been cultivated by the imperial powers. In modern times, it is maintained as much by Islamabad’s neglect, which has caused the isolation of the Pashtuns, as it is by a lifestyle born of such isolation,” she writes. (Dawn, June 11, 2008)

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Carnegie Events and Analysis

China's Space Capabilities
China’s space program represents a major investment aimed at enabling Beijing to utilize space in expanding its national power, said Carnegie's Ashley J. Tellis in testimony to the  U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. China’s current military space program is oriented towards exploiting space to advantage its conventional military operations, denying space to superior adversaries, and preparing for struggles over space control by integrating space into its own military operations and, as required, developing its own space-related deterrent and warfighting capabilities. Read the testimony.

Confronting Pakistan's Social and Economic Challenges
On June 5, 2008, the Carnegie Endowment hosted a discussion of the economic and social challenges facing Pakistan and its prospects for dealing with them. Jan Vandemoortele, former UN Resident Representative in Pakistan for humanitarian issues, presented an array of measures of the challenges and his views on how to address them. Discussants Frederic Grare and Teresita Schaffer commented on Pakistan’s uneven performance in achieving human development goals and suggested what the country – and the international community – could do to improve this record given the current political economic context. Listen to the recording of the event, or read the summary.

Tibet in Sino-Indian Relations
The Indian stance on Tibet has been too accommodating to China, and such a misguided policy will have serious implications, said Arun Shourie at Carnegie on May 21, 2008. Shourie said that Indian cravenness towards China allows incidents like the Chinese attack on the Buddhist temple inside India on October 3, 2007. Shourie categorized that attack as part of a pattern of China’s strategy to gradually gain more breathing room in its interactions with India. Read a summary of the event.

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Views from South Asia

INDIA - Foreign and Domestic Politics

The BJP's Big Win in Karnataka
In the wake of a series of electoral defeats to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress Party resorted to populist promises in an attempt to stem its losses in Karnataka, but to no avail. “In the Karnataka elections, the Congress raised the benchmark for rank opportunism by promising colour TVs to below-the-poverty line families, free power to farmers with 10 horse power pump sets, among others. Yet, it lost heavily,” writes N. Chandra Mohan. The election left the BJP in charge of its first southern state. (The Hindustan Times, June 1, 2008)

During the campaign in Karnataka, the BJP relied little on the Hindutva rhetoric of previous elections. “The conquest, though, came not on the back of a purely ideological drive, but almost its opposite: the "mainstreaming" of the party’s social base and agenda,” writes Sugata Srinivasaraju. With this strategy, the BJP will be a more competitive force on the national stage, he writes. (Outlook India, June 9, 2008)

But since the polls, BJP party leaders have been reviving old issues like the uniform civil code. The BJP can win in the national polls only if it sticks to its agenda of economic liberalism, writes the editorial board of The Indian Express. (The Indian Express, June 3, 2008)

The dynastic and detached structure of the Congress party helps to account for its loss in Karnataka, writes Praful Bidwai: “The Congress no longer works at the grassroots. It doesn't quite know what its social constituencies are, and what message it should give them.” (The Daily Star, June 3, 2008)

Downgrading the Gujjars
India’s Gujjars took to the streets demanding that their official status be “downgraded” from Other Backward Class to status. That change would grant Gujjars access to greater affirmative action benefits, including quotas in Indian universities. The protests turned violent, and 35 people were killed in confrontations with the police.

The editorial board of The Hindustan Times blames politicians who use caste to pander for votes for the caste-based conflicts that have occurred regularly in India. “To a large extent, such problems arise out of populist poll promises in return for votes,” they argue. “But once in power, the politicians who make these grandiose promises find that they come up against other vested interests and are unable to deliver the goods.” (The Hindustan Times, May 25, 2008)

The editorial board of The Times of India notes that the Gujjar’s campaign began after another group, the Jats, was named a Scheduled Caste. “It is time that the Indian state takes a more nuanced approach to affirmative action. A points-based system — which has been proposed by some sociologists — where factors like income and gender are considered, in addition to caste, might deliver social justice better,” they write. (The Times of India, May 27, 2008)

Prospects for Indo-Pak Peace
When the Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers met last month, Aparna Pande wondered how much could be achieved. “What has changed is that Pakistan has a democratic government in power which has reiterated its desire to hold talks with India on all issues, including Kashmir,” writes she. “What has remained the same is the military-intelligence establishment in Pakistan which still holds the final authority over foreign and defense policies, and especially over the Kashmir policy.” (Chowk, May 20, 2008)

After the visit, Dawn confirmed Pande’s skepticism. “What was found missing at the end of the first-ever meeting between Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Pranab Mukherjee was progress on any of the substantive issues such as Siachen and Sir Creek, much less on Jammu and Kashmir. Even a date for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Pakistan could not be announced,” writes their editorial board. (Dawn, May 23, 2008)

Rural Debt
The Supreme Court of India ruled that banks may not use coercive tactics to pressure borrowers into repaying their loans. In some instances, borrowers have been driven to suicide by the humiliation and harassment meted out by banks’ musclemen. The editorial board of The Hindu lauds the court's decision. (The Hindu, June 6, 2008)

The Indian Institutes of Technology--Bigger, yes. But Better?
The Indian government’s decision to force the prestigious Indian Institutes for Technology (IIT) to accept 28% of seats from Other Backward Classes has infuriated Indians who value the IITs’ meritocratic ancestry. The expansion of the institutions is rushed and haphazard, warns Swagato Ganguly. (The Times of India, June 11, 2008)

Civilian Militias and India's Domestic Militants

In Chhattisgarh, the local government armed citizen militias to confront Naxal militants. In India’s Northeast, the government looked the other way as an official cease-fire has given way to violence between rival groups. In both regions, local leadership and mining companies are benefiting from the lack of law and order but security for locals remains elusive, write Namrata Goswami and Jason Miklian. (The Economic and Political Weekly, May 24, 2008)

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INDIA - Economics and Energy

Giving in to Climbing Oil Prices
As the world price of oil soared ever higher, the Indian government was forced to raise the price ceiling for oil. The artificially low price was inflicting huge losses on Indian oil companies, writesthe editorial board of The Business Standard. Increasing the retail price of gas was the only way to avoid a larger economic downturn, they argue. (The Business Standard, June 2, 2008)

The ruling United Progressive Alliance faced fierce opposition to the price hike, writes Bhaskar Dutta. “The BJP has called it an act of "economic terrorism", while the Left parties have gone one step further and taken their agitation to the streets with bandhs and agitations,” he writes. (The Times of India, June 6, 2008)

Addressing the nation on the rise in oil prices, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that the government could not completely cut taxes on oil since that tax revenue is vital for development expenditure. A partial reduction in the subsidy was necessary. (Outlook India, June 4, 2008)

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The Lawyers' March
Lawyers from across Pakistan joined in a massive march, stretching from Multan to Lahore and ending in Islamabad, to demand the resignation of President Pervez Musharraf.

An editorial in The Daily Times argues that the PPP’s reluctance to adopt the confrontational tactics of the lawyers’ movement is wise. Faced with an economic crisis and continuing terrorist attacks, the PPP “has chosen the path of offending no one and making concessions to moderate the intensity of the extremists.” (The Daily Times, May 27, 2008)

But Nasim Zehra defends the lawyers’ march as a justified and inspiring expression of widespread public dissatisfaction with the government’s inability to provide security and the repeated trashing of the constitution. Critics “argue it will create unrest,” she writes, but “the march in fact seeks to address the causes of the widespread simmering unrest in the country.” (The News, June 11, 2008)

Understanding Pakistan's Madrassas

American concerns about Pakistani madrassahs are legitimate, writes Moeed Yusuf, but they are overblown. “A number of recent independent studies, some of which have been conducted by US experts, clearly suggest that no more than 10-15 percent [of] madaris may be imparting radical education,” he notes. (The Daily Times, June 4, 2008)

The Constitutional Amendments
The package of proposed constitutional amendments circulated by the leaders of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) makes no mention of the reinstatement of the judges and offers legal cover to the Supreme Court Musharraf appointed to legitimize the emergency. The editorial board of The Daily Times worries that the conflict over the judges will heighten political polarization. (The Daily Times, June 3, 2008)

Pakistani Think Tanks
The dismissal of the head of Pakistan’s premier foreign policy think tank, the Institute for Strategic Studies, Islamabad (ISSI) is just another example of political interference in research institutions, writes Ayesha Siddiqa. Pakistan badly needs good research institutes that are not simply used as government mouthpieces,” she argues. (Dawn, May 30, 2008)

U.S.-Pakistan Relations
The Bush administration’s loyalty to President Pervez Musharraf and American grumblings about Pakistani performance in the war on terror give Tariq Fatemi pause. The U.S. “embrace of the democratic government in Pakistan is at best a tactical retreat, while its preferred option remains an authoritarian dispensation that does its bidding,” he writes. (Dawn, June 5, 2008)

Reading the Gubernatorial Tea Leaves
Though Pakistan’s president has the power to appoint governors, the prime minister composes the list from which the president can choose. The editorial board of The News worries about the significance of the nomination of Salmaan Taseer, who has a close relationship with President Musharraf and an adversarial one with the Pakistani Muslim League-Nawaz. “By appointing someone close to General (r) Musharraf as governor, the party seems to be forming an alliance with the establishment itself,” they write. (The News, May 23, 2008)

Pakistan’s Economy
The editorial board of The News is gloomy about Pakistan’s economy; the savings rate has dropped, GDP growth was lower than expected, and inflation reached 10.3 percent from July 2007 to April 2008. Coupled with a growing national debt, “for 2008-09 some austerity measures will have to be adopted and the government's ability to finance its annual expenditures will be severely compromised,” they write. (The News, June 11, 2008)

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Bangladeshi soldiers stand guard

Mass Arrests
The government of Bangladesh arrested over 14,000 people in efforts to reduce crime and instability. The editorial board of The New Age suspects the caretaker government has less noble intentions: “Such mass arrests have been routinely abused by successive governments of the past, to serve their own crude political ends.” (The New Age, June 5, 2008, second editorial)

The Election Dialogue
After Bangladesh’s two largest political parties decided not to participate in the official pre-election dialogue, the caretaker government claimed that the parties’ involvement was not necessary. “It is true that neither the BNP nor the Awami League is truly democratic in their attitude and conduct,” acknowledges the editorial board of The New Age. “However, it is equally true that, in a modern political system, any initiative to further democratise governance and polity must involve parties that politically represent the majority of the populace.” (The New Age, May 31, 2008)

Chief Advisor to Bangladesh’s military-backed caretaker government Fakhruddin Ahmed’s announcement that elections will be held in the third week of December was met with ambivalence. Heavy restrictions on political activity remain, writes Farid Bakht. Political gatherings must be approved 48 hours in advance, and are limited to 200 people. (The Economic and Political Weekly, May 31, 2008)

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A Kingdom No More
Supporters of democracy in Nepal heaved a sigh of relief as King Gyanendra bowed to the orders of the Constituent Assembly and relinquished the crown. The decision to vacate the royal palace carries tremendous symbolic importance that will help strengthen the young Nepalese republic, writes Ritu Raj Subedi . (The Rising Nepal, June 10, 2008)

Ganga Thapa calls the successful abolition of the monarchy a “magnificent achievement,” but worries that the current government may not have the requisite spirit of cooperation to build a stable democracy. “A smooth transition toward proper democracy requires that political space is not dominated by expressions of antagonism,” he writes. (The Himalayan Times, June 9, 2008)

Picking the President
For a time, the Maoist party, which holds the most seats in the Constituent Assembly, was insisting that it be allowed to appoint one of its members to the Presidency, a claim that the Nepali Congress and others strongly resisted. But the Maoists, in a gesture of compromise, have backed down, writes the editorial board of The Rising Nepal, (The Rising Nepal, June 10, 2008)

The Record of Liberalization in Nepal
Since the early 1990’s, Nepal has pursued a policy of aggressive economic liberalization, writes Dilli Raj Khanal, but Nepal had neither the governmental nor economic institutions to guide and disperse the gains unleashed by market forces. “The reality is that in the course of intensive liberalisation, many small industries and businesses have closed down,” and the poor’s access to financial institutions has further diminished, he writes. (The Himalayan Times,  June 11, 2008)

Attacks on Diplomats
A group of foreign diplomats in Nepal issued a joint statement condemning the intimidation of and attacks against foreign officials, referring to an incident where stones were thrown at a vehicle carrying U.S. ambassador James Moriarty. But the editorial board of the Himalayan Times thinks the diplomatic corps doth protest too much. The “claim that there has been an upsurge, in recent weeks, of incidents that have threatened foreign diplomats or impeded their work in the country was a shade too exaggerated.” (The Himalayan Times, June 5, 2008)

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NepalPopular Dissent
Amidst a storm of rising fuel and food prices and frequent terrorist attacks, many Sri Lankans have taken to the street to express their dissatisfaction. The government’s response has been brutal. The editorial board of The Morning Leader describes the scene at a recent protest:

“On Sunday the JVP staged a demonstration in Chilaw against the increasing cost of living, high prices of fuel and corruption within the government. A pro government group led by leading pradeshiya sabha politicians attacked the demonstration. Eleven persons including a JVP provincial councilor were injured and were treated at the Chilaw Hospital.” (The Morning Leader, June 11, 2008)

Provincial Elections, Round Two
The ruling party’s victory in the provincial elections in the war-torn Eastern Province gave the government the confidence to hold elections in the North-Central province. But the government’s decision to cut subsidies on agricultural fertilizer has provided ammunition to opposition parties, writes Ranjith Jayasundera. (The Morning Leader, June 11, 2008)

Collateral Damage
In recent weeks, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have killed scores of commuters on crowded buses during rush hour. The Sri Lankan government’s campaign against the LTTE has been indiscriminate as well, writes Sudha Ramachandran. “The government's "war on the LTTE" has always hit Tamil civilians harder than it has the LTTE itself,” he writes. Support for the war is predicated on the government’s ability to quickly defeat the LTTE. (Asia Times, June 10, 2008)

Civilian Defense
A group of Sri Lanka’s parties, working together in a rare moment of pragmatism, created civilian defense units to defend the South against terrorist attacks without having to bring troops from the front in the North. “But now, this new civilian defense drive has given birth to a new set of vigilantes; paranoid, overenthusiastic laymen with the mandate to inspect cars and demand identification of passerby and motorist in the cities,” writes the editorial board of the Bottom Line. (The Bottom Line, June 11, 2008)

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Editorial Staff

Sam McCormally, junior fellow, South Asia Program, Carnegie Endowment

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
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