The latest assault in Mumbai has brought fresh tensions to fragile India-Pakistan relations at a time when the Pakistani government had made unprecedented friendly overtures toward its traditional rival. The attacks — which at latest count claimed more than 170 lives, while injuring over three hundred — took place just three days after Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari proposed a “no first nuclear strike” policy with India. According to early news reports, one of the captured attackers revealed under questioning that he was from Pakistan’s Punjab province, belonged to the banned extremist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and had been trained in […]

The terrorist carnage in Mumbai resulting in more than 170 deaths draws attention to the role of Pakistan, which India instinctively accuses of responsibility. The fedayeen-type attack singled out Americans and Jews as targets, which smacks of an al-Qaida game plan. Delhi initially distinguished between terrorist groups in Pakistan and the Pakistani authorities as such, but that distinction is getting blurred. Islamabad stubbornly rejects imputations of involvement. Reflexes are hardening on both sides. In the competitive environment of domestic politics as India heads for general elections in the next six months, it will be suicidal for the ruling party to […]

Sino-Indian relations have registered significant progress in the past five years. Beijing and New Delhi have engaged in a series of summit meetings, frequent high-level visits, joint antiterrorism training exercises between the two militaries, and fast-growing bilateral trade. During Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to China in January 2008, the two countries issued a joint document on a Shared Vision for the 21st Century, pledging to promote a harmonious world of peace and stability and further strengthen the Sino-Indian Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity. These developments have encouraged analysts across the Himalaya to talk about the return […]

To say that the geopolitics of South Asia is in a state of flux might sound like a cliché for a region that is nowadays commonly described as the most dangerous place on the planet. The horrific terrorist attacks on the western Indian city of Mumbai in November underscore the grim reality. The region indeed finds itself at a crossroads. There are huge uncertainties about regional security. The pall of gloom is deepening. The war in Afghanistan inevitably becomes the focal point. But that isn’t everything. Not a day passes without one form or other of violence gripping South Asia. […]

Pakistani Military’s Change of Heart in FATA?

Must read from Arif Rafiq at the Pakistan Policy Blog on the recent developments in the Pakistani FATA: The reality is that none of the latest U.S. drone attacks could haveoccurred without the provision of intelligence by Pakistan’s military. This is why the targeting seems to be more precise — in clear contrastto the Angor Ada raid that yielded no high value targets and killedmainly innocent Pakistani civilians. In fact, most of the good U.S.intelligence on the tribal areas and al-Qaeda comes from the ISI. Rafiq goes on to speculate as to what caused the Pakistani military’s change of heart, […]

Putting Piracy in Perspective

Intriguing observation from Josh Marshall: I don’t want to draw over-broad interpretations. But historically, therising incidence of piracy has frequently, if not always, been a signof the receding reach of whatever great power has taken onresponsibility for policing the sea lanes. I’m admittedly a sucker for this kind of over-broad interpretation. But to put things in perspective, a) piracy has become this month’s media cycle, which means that to the same extent that the problem was being ignored last year, it’s being exagerrated now; b) I wonder how the historical comparisons would stack up if you compared the incidence of […]

BURMA CONVICTIONS RAISE CONCERNS — Burma’s ruling military junta has come in for another round of criticism and condemnation over the recent convictions of participants in 2007’s pro-democracy demonstrations. On Tuesday and Friday of last week, authorities convicted a total of 60 activists on various charges, including forming illegal organizations and illegal use of electronic media, sentencing some to as many as 65 years in prison. Human rights advocates and world leaders have expressed concern about the trials, which represent a spike in the Burmese regime’s ongoing crackdown on dissent. U.S State Department officials openly challenged Burmese authorities in public […]

The Special Ops Option

The NY Times reports that since 2004, the U.S. military in conjunction with the CIA has been authorized by presidential directive to conduct targeted counterterrorism strikes and ground raids within 15 to 20 countries, including Syria and Pakistan, but also Saudi Arabia. I suppose there’s some news value in confirming this sort of thing, but I’m hard-pressed to feel surprised by it. On the other hand, a good part of the story here seems to be why this was leaked now, at such a sensitive moment of transition, and by whom. It seems like it ties the Obama adminstration’s hands […]

Obama and Petraeus

Rob at Arabic Media Shack makes a good point: If we made a list of the top 10 American global securitychallenges, probably 9 would be directly or indirectly related to theMiddle East. Therefore, wouldn’t it be logical to pick someone who isa specialist on the region? Someone who could go to a conference ofMiddle Eastern scholars and hold their own discussing regional,history, politics, and culture and not purely strategy from a narrowperspective of American interests? None of the last four NSA’s(Rice,Hadley, Berger, orLake) were experts on the Middle East. Has policy been especially stellar during this period (1993-2008)? I’d argue […]

NEW DELHI — The Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline — a proposed $7.5 billion, 2,700-kilometer pipeline linking Iran’s abundant natural gas reserves to energy-hungry Pakistan and India — has been under consideration for years. But despite both India’s and Pakistan’s desperate need for energy sources, progress on the project has been hampered so far by strategic calculations, mutual suspicions and disagreements on pricing and tariffs. Indications, however, are that the Iran-Pakistan stretch of the pipeline may take off soon. And with the U.S.-India nuclear agreement now concluded, India might be giving it more serious consideration, too. Officials in India’s foreign ministry […]

Russia Dives into the Indian Ocean

The most interesting aspect to the Russian navy’s latest announced exercises isn’t so much that they’re taking place, but where they’re taking place: the Indian Ocean. The strategic sea lanes that link Asia to Africa are already the object of an Indian and Chinese naval buildup, and the region was identified last summer by France’s defense white paper as a principal strategic concern. As in other aspects of its conventional military capacity, Russia has a lot of ground to make up before it represents a credible naval power. But the fact that in reestablishing its global naval presence, they’ve chosen […]

BURMA LEADER MARKS 13 YEARS OF IMPRISONMENT — The first lady of Burmese politics, pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, marked 13 years under house arrest on Oct. 25, as supporters around the world continued their calls for her release. Australia’s The Age called the date a prominent illustration of the “bitter tyranny” existing in Burma, noting that “the Lady’s unjust imprisonment is a powerful reminder of a brief moment of freedom realized by Burma’s people and the dream that remains unfulfilled.” The anniversary happened to coincide this year with the seventh Asia-Europe summit meeting, a major gathering of government […]