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May 2008, Vol. 3, No. 3

Pipeline Politics

Indian FarmersThe governments of India, Pakistan, and Iran spoke this month about restarting dialogue on the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. Tariq Fatemi sees the renewed interest in the project as a result of the apparent failure of the U.S.-India nuclear deal. Meanwhile, the United States is pushing the Turkmenistan- Afghanistan- Pakistan pipeline as an alternative. Commentators discuss the viability of the two pipeline proposals in this month’s feature.

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In this Issue:

  1. Feature: Pipeline Politics

  2. Carnegie Events and Analysis
    Pakistan's New Tack on Fighting Terror; NATO and Afghanistan; Ten Years After Pokhran II; Carnegie Pakistan Events

  3. Views from South Asia:

    INDIA
    Foreign and Domestic Politics

    The Legacy of Pokhran II; Bombings in Jaipur; Nepal's Maoist Government and India; Parliamentary Politics; Climate Change; Who's Fault is the Food Crisis?

    Economics and Energy
    The Bad News; Defense Investment

    PAKISTAN
    A Messy Divorce; Rural Development; Investigating Benazir Bhutto’s Assassination; Negotiating the Peace; Balochistan

    BANGLADESH
    Toward the Elections; U.S. Interests in Bangladesh; The National Women's Development Plan; Urbanization; A Little Relief from the Food Crisis

    NEPAL
    Forming the Government

    SRI LANKA
    Eastern Council Elections; The War
 

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Editor's Note

This month marks the 10th anniversary of India’s Pokhran II nuclear tests. In the India section, Praful Bidwai and Brahma Chellaney debate the merits of India’s nuclear weapons program, and The Tribune of India reports on the multiple bombings that killed 60 and wounded many more in Jaipur, India on May 13.

Many in the U.S. and Europe have blamed the world food price crisis in part on the changing diets of middle class Indians and Chinese. The Hindustan Times and other publications took issue with that charge, seeing it as condescending. That story is also in the India section.

In Pakistan, the fragile experiment in coalition governance was upset when the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz left the government after the Pakistan People’s Party missed the deadline to reinstate the Supreme Court judges. In the Pakistan section, The Frontier Post, The Daily Star, and The Hindu examine the causes of this dispute and its consequences for the durability of the democratic government.

Sam McCormally
Editor, South Asian Perspectives


Feature

Indian Farmers Pipeline Politics
India sidelined the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline while Washington and New Delhi were furiously working on the nuclear deal. Last month, however, Indian and Pakistani officials met to discuss the pipeline proposal. “India’s decision to resurrect its interest in the IPI is indicative of its realisation that the nuclear deal with Washington is off,” writes Tariq Fatemi. (Dawn, May 8, 2008)

With two pipeline proposals on the table—Iran-Pakistan-India and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI)—India faces a new great game, writes N Chandra Mohan. The United States would prefer that India not deal with Iran and instead sign onto TAPI, but Turkmenistan has also promised the gas to China. (The Hindustan Times, May 4, 2008)

The editorial board of The Economic Times calls the IPI pipeline ‘imperative,’ both in order to indicate India's autonomy from the United States, and because the U.S. backed project, the TAP, is politically and technically implausible. (The Economic Times, April 29, 2008)

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s visit to India may help to restart negotiations on the IPI pipeline, but it also serves a domestic political purpose, writes Amit Baruah. “By receiving Ahmedinejad at this point of time, the UPA government has sent a signal that its foreign policy remains an independent one; and that it is cutting free from the baggage surrounding the nuclear deal.” (The Hindustan Times, May 13, 2008)

Ahmedinejad’s visit also indicates India’s “jettisoning of an unhappy interregnum when we adopted a neoconservative view of Iran through the prism of our perceived ‘alliance of values’ with the United States,” writes M.K. Bhadrakumar, who hopes Iran and India can work together on energy cooperation. (The Hindu, May 10, 2008)

But other Indian commentators urged the government to maintain a balanced relationship with Iran. The two countries need a functional relationship if India is to continue importing Iranian oil, writes The Times of India. But it is not in India’s interest for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, they advise. (The Times of India, May 2, 2008)

The Frontier Post resents that the Bush administration is attempting to dictate Pakistani and Indian energy policy based on its own strategic vision: “If Pakistan, or for that matter India, thinks gas supply by Iran is vital for meeting their energy needs and to stimulate their economic progress, the United States has no business to create any obstructions in its way.” (The Frontier Post, May 10, 2008)

The Hindu encourages the Indian government to keep all of its options open and work towards both the IPI and TAPI pipelines. (The Hindu, April 28, 2008)

Carnegie Events and Analysis

GrarePakistan's New Tack on Fighting Terror
Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani's approach to counterterrorism, which involves sustained dialogue with the militants, has raised concerns in Washington. However, writes Carnegie Senior Associate Ashley J. Tellis in Yale Global, "the Gilani government is quick to point out that the new approach has three important differences from Musharraf’s abortive attempts: To begin, 'no talks will be held with anyone refusing to lay down arms.'" Tellis urges the U.S. to "afford the prime minister the latitude to define his own approach to counterterrorism so that the corrosive canard propagated by the radicals – that the war on terror is nothing other than an imperial, anti-Muslim crusade – can be undermined."

Click here to read the article.

NATO and Afghanistan: Saving the State Building Enterprise
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has failed to make permanent progress outside of Kabul since 2002, said William Maley, professor at the Australian National University, at the Carnegie Endowment on May 12. The stalled security situation is troubling on its own, but is potentially even more damaging because the Afghan people are attuned to this loss of momentum. Maley said that if ISAF were to move strongly against Taliban leadership structures, it would encourage the Afghan population. Click here for a summary of the event.

GrareTen Years After Pokhran II: Nuclear Stability in South Asia
Reflecting on the ten year anniversary of India’s Pokhran II nuclear tests, retired Indian Cmde. Uday Bhaksar said that the tests have been good for security in India and in Asia. Speaking at Carnegie on May 12, Bhaksar noted that India’s tests, which followed Pakistan's, transformed those two nations’ programs from covert to nascent overt capabilities, a situation he said is more stable. Click here for a summary of the event.

China's anti-satellite testCarnegie Pakistan Events
This month, Carnegie hosted Tariq Fatemi, Samina Ahmed, and Mariam Abou Zahab for a series of discussions about Pakistan's political future. On May 6, Tariq Fatemi said Pakistan's civillian government has the credibility to combat terrorism more effectively than President Musharraf and the United States must be patient.

On May 2, Samina Ahmed of the International Crisis Group said that the new Pakistani government must enter into negotiations with militant groups in the troubled regions bordering Afghanistan, but Pakistan must require militants to disarm and disavow the creation of parallel governmental structures before negotiations begin.

And on April 24, Mariam Abou Zahab of Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches Internationales described how Pashtun identity, anti-U.S. sentiment, and dissatisfaction with the religious parties contributed to voters' rejection of Islamist parties.

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Views from South Asia

INDIA - Foreign and Domestic Politics

The Legacy of Pokhran IIAnti-Reservation Protesters
Ten years ago this month, India conducted the Pokhran II nuclear tests. Brahma Chellaney laments that India has failed to build a nuclear capability sufficient to deter China. “The more India got hit with technology controls” by the international community in the wake of the Pokhran II tests, “the more it sank into its proverbial indecision, instead of doggedly pressing ahead.” (The Hindustan Times, May 8, 2008)

Praful Bidwai thinks that the Indian and Pakistani nuclear programs have diminished those nations' reputations and intensified the risk of a potential clash. “The disclosures that Pakistan came close to readying its nuclear missiles in 1999, and that India and Pakistan were twice at the brink of a nuclear confrontation in the 10-month eyeball-to-eyeball stand-off after the December 2001 Parliament attack should warn and worry all sensible citizens not devoted to the bomb. We may not be so lucky the next time around.” (The Times of India, May 14, 2008)

The editorial board of The Hindustan Times notes that preserving the independence of India’s nuclear weapons program has been one of the chief reasons for domestic opposition to the U.S.-India civilian nuclear deal. (The Hindustan Times, May 11, 2008)

PakistanBombings in Jaipur
Eight explosions in twelve minutes rocked Jaipur, India, leaving 60 dead. Indian authorities said they suspected Bangladesh-based Harkut-ul-Jehadi Islami was responsible for the attacks. (The Tribune, May 13, 2008)

Nepal's Maoist Government and India
After losing last month's elections, the Nepali Congress Party is appealing to both the United States and the Nepali Army to help prevent the Maoists from coming to power. The editorial board of The Hindu encourages Indian leadership to support the democratic process in Nepal over any particular party. (The Hindu, May 1, 2008)

If India wants to end its own violent conflict with domestic Maoist groups, it must follow the lead of Nepal, writes Siddharth Varadarajan. The government must work to redress the grievances that push marginalized people into joining and supporting the Naxalites, and must allow Naxalites to begin to enter into the political process, he argues. (The Hindu, April 25, 2008)

Parliamentary Politics
Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee referred 32 members of Parliament to the House privileges committee in an attempt to curb “slogan shouting, walkouts and periodic rushing to the well of the House” that regularly bring business to a halt. The Times of India acknowledges that Chatterjee may have displayed some partisanship in selecting the members for disciplinary action, but thinks the Speaker is on the right track. (The Times of India, May 3, 2008)

Climate Change
Indian policymakers have said they might be willing to take action to reduce India’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in exchange for international support for the U.S.-India nuclear deal. But, writes Praful Bidwai, “nuclear power can at best make only a marginal contribution to reducing GHGs.” (Frontline, May 9, 2008)

Who's Fault is the Food Crisis?
After many U.S. publications (including this one) and President George Bush suggested that the Indian middle class’s changing diet was in part to blame for rising global food prices, Indian politicians and pundits shot back. “As India is only a marginal importer of food, its demand is unlikely to cause global prices to zoom upwards,” writes the editorial board of The Hindustan Times. (The Hindustan Times, May 5, 2008)


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INDIA - Economics and Energy


The Bad News
India’s manufacturing sector grew by its smallest amount in the last six years, caused partly by the Reserve Bank of India’s interest rate hikes, writes the editorial board of The Indian Express. (The Indian Express, May 14, 2008)

U R Bhat sees a silver lining amidst all the bad economic news: despite some rough months, India’s economy seems poised for a respectable seven percent rate of growth. (The Economic Times, May 12, 2008)

Defense Investment
In 2001, the Indian Defense Ministry allowed foreign investment in the development of weapons systems, but capped the level of foreign capital in any venture at 26 percent. “The problem is that no foreign major is comfortable with transferring proprietary technology to a company in which it owns barely a quarter share,” writes the editorial board of The Business Standard. The Indian government must increase the cap or heavily subsidize research and development of domestic companies they argue. (The Business Standard, April 30, 2008)

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PAKISTAN


Pakistan

A Messy Divorce
After Pakistan’s coalition government missed two self-imposed deadlines to reinstate the Supreme Court judges, the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, decided to pull out of the government. The editorial board of The Daily Times sees a strategic element to Sharif’s maneuvers: “By getting out of the coalition government, he is making sure that he is not stigmatised by the lawyers whose movement is the biggest and strongest in Punjab,” they write. (The Daily Times, May 13, 2008)

“The PPP wanted to make the reinstatement a part of a larger constitutional package that would have clipped the wings of the restored judiciary,” writes the editorial board of The Hindu, while “the PML(N) took the position that restoring the judges through constitutional amendments would bestow an unacceptable legality on General Musharraf’s actions during the emergency.” (The Hindu, May 14, 2008)

Rural Development
Pakistan’s major investments in agriculture after independence prevented famine of the type experienced in India in 1918 and 1943. But today Pakistan is amongst the 35 countries at risk of food riots, writes Allah Nawaz Samoo. “We need to transform the poor and vulnerable class into a cadre of small growers each with his own piece of land.” (Dawn, April 26, 2008)

Investigating Benazir Bhutto's Assasination
Aqil Shah
encourages Pakistan’s parliamentary leaders to submit a petition to the UN to investigate the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. In order to restore the credibility of the government, Pakistan needs “let the dirty laundry air out in full domestic and global view so that responsibility can be fixed and accountability served,” he writes. (Dawn, April 22, 2008)

Negotiating the Peace
U.S. officials have expressed concern over the negotiations between the Pakistani government and militants in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Their fears are misplaced, writes Hasan-Askari Rizvi; allowing moderate militant groups back into the fold is the only way to avoid the mistakes of President Musharraf’s deeply unpopular counterterror strategy. (The Daily Times, May 4, 2008)

A recently signed peace treaty between the North-West Frontier Province government and the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) underscores the dangers of negotiating with militant groups in the tribal areas. In the treaty, TNSM leaders signed an agreement renouncing the use of violence in their quest to bring Sharia, but “its fighting rank and file, led by Maulvi Fazlullah, has condemned it,” writes Khalid Aziz. (The News, May 8, 2008)

Baitullah Mehsud, leader of Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan, withdrew from peace talks after the government refused to fulfill his demand and pull troops out of the tribal areas. But an editorial in The Daily Times argues that Mehsud himself has been unreliable. Although Mehsud ordered a cease fire, fighting has never fully stopped, and “everybody knows that if he wants death and destruction stopped he can do it.” (The Daily Times May 5, 2008)

Balochistan
Pakistani President Pervez Musahrraf undertook massive development projects in Balochistan in an effort to win the hearts and minds of the disadvantaged who might align with militant groups. “Where this gigantic effort went wrong, and terribly wrong, was in failing in inculcating a sense of ownership among the people of the province,” writes an editorial in The Frontier Post. (The Frontier Post, May 11, 2008)

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BANGLADESH


Bangladeshi soldiers stand guard

Towards the Elections
Chief Advisor to the military-backed caretaker government Fakhruddin Ahmed gave what was billed as a major speech on May 13.. Ahmed said in his speech that the caretaker government had been upholding the rule of law in the country. An editorial in The New Age calls that claim “outrageous,” and notes that the caretaker government “has left the people with hardly any legal scope to move the court against many an arbitrary action.” (The New Age, May 14, 2008)

The Daily Star’s editorialists are more approving: “The chief adviser has set the date for elections, subject only to finalisation by the EC, he has allowed indoor politics throughout the country, subject to certain preconditions, and in concrete terms, he has set the date for dialogue with the political parties to begin on May 22.” (The Daily Star, May 14, 2008)

The editorial board of Bangladesh Today is skeptical that the Election Commission (EC) is sufficiently prepared to hold meaningful elections by the end of the year. A pitifully small number of voter ID cards have been produced, fewer distributed, and the EC has managed to alienate the country’s two most powerful political parties. (Bangladesh Today, May 4, 2008)

U.S. Interests in Bangladesh
The United States’ push for democracy in Bangladesh is secondary to its counterterrorism interests, writes NM Harun. “It is sad that in the aftermath of elections in Palestine, Iraq, Yemen and Egypt, Washington has become preoccupied with the pragmatic concern of stability and the problem of democratisation has been reduced to an idealistic slogan. Bangladesh does not seem to be an exception to this trend.” (The New Age, May 11, 2008)

The National Women's Development Plan
Bangladeshi Islamist radicals took to the streets over certain provisions of the National Women’s Development Plan (NWDP), which they said violated Sharia and the Qur'an by granting women the same inheritance rights as men. A government committee later ruled that six of the Plan’s provisions came into conflict with Islamic law. But, notes an editorial in The Daily Star, no one could actually point to any specific conflict between the NWDP and Sharia. (The Daily Star, April 29, 2008)

Urbanization
Abdul Bayes
sketches the changes taking place in Bangladesh’s villages: declining fertility, climbing life expectancy, and an increased reliance on remittances from urban workers. (The Daily Star, April 29, 2008)

A Little Relief from the Food Crisis
Bangladesh’s bumper harvest of boro will temporarily provide respite from spiraling food prices, but greater investment in agriculture is needed if the country is to “shield the local market from global food price volatility,” writes A.N.M Narul Haque. (The Daily Star, April 27, 2008)

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NEPAL


Nepal

Forming the Government
Indra Adhikari describes the difficult negotiations that must take place before the first sitting of Nepal’s elected Constituent Assembly, which is charged with abolishing the monarchy and drafting the country’s constitution. “Doubt still persists whether King Gyanendra will readily vacate the Narayanhiti palace,” she writes. (Nepal News, May 13, 2008)

Nepal's Maoists, who emerged victorious in the national elections in April, have demanded that the Maoist party’s armed wing, the People’s Liberation Army, be integrated into the Nepali armed forces. Writes Dhruba Adhikari, “it is simply unimaginable for the army as an institution to agree to be overwhelmed by the same rebel force it defeated in the field.” (Nepal News, May 9, 2008)

In addition, the Maoists and Nepali Congress disagree as to whether the outgoing or incoming governments get to appoint the 26 remaining members of Parliament specified by the interim constitution. (The Himalayan Times, May 9, 2008)

SRI LANKA


NepalEastern Council Elections
Sri Lanka’s ruling coalition won handily in the local elections held in Sri Lanka’s East but problems with the polling were many and varied. Jehan Perera writes that the TamilEela Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) a former Tamil militant separatist group, contested the elections as part of the ruling coalition and used its armed followers to manipulate the polls. (The Daily Mirror, May 13, 2008)

The editorial board of The Sunday Leader notes a variety of unsavory campaign tactics used by the government to ensure victory in the East, including an aggressive use of state-controlled media to discredit the opposition parties. (The Sunday Leader, May 11, 2008)

The War
The Sri Lankan military scored a major victory at Muhamalai, but The Island worries that it may have been a Pyrrhic one; though the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) likely lost more lives than the government, the LTTE can bury its dead in unmarked graves and harp on the government’s losses. These kind of military operations are “the least desirable” way of fighting the rebels, argues an editorial. (The Island, April 26, 2008)

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Editorial Staff

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

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