Archive for the ‘India-Pakistan’ Category
By Jonathan Power
October 18th 2016.
In the middle of last month Pakistani militants moved across the “line of control” that separates Pakistan-controlled Kashmir from the Indian-controlled part. The two countries have been at loggerheads about the title to this gorgeously beautiful state, now bereft of tourism and much income, since independence.
In recent years guerrilla activity has died away and most observers thought that the Pakistani army was seriously clamping down on its own sponsored guerrillas. The indications were that the government truly wanted rapprochement with India. And India too with Pakistan.
However, not everybody in India thinks so positively. Professor Brahma Chellaney noted in the Japan Times recently, “India’s response to Pakistan’s military strategy to inflict deaths by a thousand cuts through terrorist proxies was survival by a thousand bandages”.
This time Indian did not take it lying down. It said that Indian special forces made multiple strikes on terrorist launch pads. (Pakistan said there had only been cross border firing.)
Surprisingly, India has made no move to designate Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism or to declare bounties on the heads of prominent UN-designated terrorists who still operate openly in Pakistan – not the same one who killed 150 school children last year but other similar movements.
India is conducting, to the ire of Chellaney, only “a silent war”. He goes further and says that “if in a year’s time (when things have hopefully cooled off) India returns to “peace talks” with Pakistan it will be crystal clear that India’s biggest enemy is India”.
Strong words and I profoundly disagree with him.
At last, very belatedly, Read the rest of this entry »
By Gunnar Westberg
The proposition that nuclear weapons can be retained in perpetuity and never used – accidentally or by decision – defies credibility”.
Other serious close calls
In November 1979, a recorded scenario describing a Russian nuclear attack had been entered into the US warning system NORAD. The scenario was perceived as a real full-scale Soviet attack. Nuclear missiles and bombers were readied. After six minutes the mistake became obvious. After this incident new security routines were introduced.
Despite these changed routines, less that one year later the mistake was repeated – this time more persistent and dangerous. Zbigniew Brzezinski, the US national security adviser, was called at three o’clock in the morning by a general on duty. He was informed that 220 Soviet missiles were on their way towards the USA. A moment later a new call came, saying that 2,200 missiles had been launched.
Brzezinski was about to call President Jimmy Carter when the general called for a third time reporting that the alarm had been cancelled.
The mistake was caused by a malfunctioning computer chip. Several similar false alarms have been reported, although they did not reach the national command.
We have no reports from the Soviet Union similar to these computer malfunctions. Maybe the Russians have less trust in their computers, just as Colonel Petrov showed? However, there are many reports on serious accidents in the manufacture and handling of nuclear weapons.
I have received reliable information from senior military officers in the Soviet Union regarding heavy use of alcohol and drugs among the personnel that monitor the warning and control systems, just as in the USA.
The story of the “Norwegian weather rocket” in 1995 is often presented as a particularly dangerous incident. Russians satellites warned of a missile on its way from Norway towards Russia. President Yeltsin was called in the middle of the night; the “nuclear war laptop” was opened; and the president discussed the situation with his staff. The “missile” turned out not to be directed towards Russia.
I see this incident as an indication that when the relations between the nuclear powers are good, then the risk of a misunderstanding is very small. The Russians were not likely to expect an attack at that time.
Indian soldiers fire artillery in northernmost part of Kargil region
Close calls have occurred not only between the two superpowers. India and Pakistan are in a chronic but active conflict regarding Kashmir. At least twice this engagement has threatened to expand into a nuclear war, namely at the Kargil conflict in 1999 and after an attack on the Indian Parliament by Pakistani terrorists in 2001.
Both times, Pakistan readied nuclear weapons for delivery. Pakistan has a doctrine of first use: If Indian military forces transgress over the border to Pakistan, that country intends to use nuclear weapons.
Pakistan does not have a system with a “permissive link”, where a code must be transmitted from the highest authority in order to make a launch of nuclear weapons possible. Military commanders in Pakistan have the technical ability to use nuclear weapons without the approval of the political leaders in the country. India, with much stronger conventional forces, uses the permissive link and has declared a “no first use” principle.
The available extensive reports from both these incidents show that the communication between the political and the military leaders was highly inadequate. Misunderstandings on very important matters occurred to an alarming degree. During both conflicts between India and Pakistan, intervention by US leaders was important in preventing escalation and a nuclear war. Read the rest of this entry »
By Johan Galtung
China is changing world geography, or at least trying to do so.
Not in the sense of land and water like the Netherlands, but in the sense of weaving new infrastructures on land, on water, in the air, and on the web. It is not surprising that a country with some Marxist orientation would focus politics on infrastructure–but as means of transportation-communication, not as means of production.
Nor is it surprising that a country with a Daoist worldview focuses politics on totalities, on holons and dialectics, forces and counter-forces, trying to tilt balances in China’s favor. How this will work depends on the background, and its implications.
Two recent books, Valerie Hansen, Silk Road: A New History (Oxford University Press, 2012) and Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World (Knopf, 2015) see them as arteries connecting the world, globalization, before that term became a la mode. Not that loads of goods moved all the way in both directions, parts of the way, maybe further. Europe had much less to offer in return; however:
“Viking traders from–Norway–coarse, suspicious men, by Arab account–were moving down the great rivers of Russia–trading honey, amber and slaves–as early as the ninth century–returning home to be buried with the silks of Byzantium and China beside them”. (Frankopan)
The Silk Roads – so named by the German geographer von Richthofen in 1877 – connected China and Europe (Istanbul) over land from -1200; more precisely from Xi’an to Samarkand by a northern and southern road (Hansen for maps). And the Silk Lanes connected East China and East Africa (Somalia) from +500 till +1500 when Portuguese-Spanish and English naval expansion started a Western takeover by colonization.
The modern Silk Road East-West, Yiwu/China to Madrid/Spain. Although the transit time for goods or people to transit the route is 21 days, this is 30 days faster than a ship and is 1/10 the cost of shipping freight. See www.bulwarkreview.com
For long periods run by Buddhists in the East and Muslims in the West; Islam using them to expand, from Casablanca to the Philippines. Frankopan sees the high points in the Han dynasty (-207-220, capital Xi’an for West Han), the Tang dynasty (618-902, capital mainly Xi’an) and under Mongolian, Yuan rule–for goods, ideas, faiths, inventions.
Xi’an, 3,000 years old, served as a starting point, both for Silk Roads and for the Silk Lanes, traveling the Yangzi River, or over land, to the East China Sea coast. Till the military uprising against the Tang emperor in 755 (Hansen, Ch. 5, “The Cosmopolitan Terminus on the Silk Road”); but Xi’an is destined always to play major roles.
China is now reviving the past, adding Silk Railroads from East China to Madrid via Kazakhstan-Russia-Belarus-Poland-Germany-France, to Thailand, from East to West Africa–from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic–from North to South Africa. Silk Flights. And Silk Web.
A silky cocoon is being woven, by worms in China. Too much?
Two features stand out in this approach to geopolitics. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jonathan Power
March 3rd, 2015
Is disorder the measure of our times?
Can anyone see an end to the upheavals in The Middle East and what can be done? My answer to the first question is “no” and my second is: “Wind the clock back to the days of the Ottoman Empire when vast stretches of the Middle East lived in relative peace under the benign rule of the sultans”.
The Ottoman Empire disintegrated because of its foolish decision to join the wrong side in World War 1. The French and British then carved up the Middle East to create the present day countries and to serve their interests (later oil).
What could have been done as recently as 12 years ago? Not invade Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and bring the house tumbling down, ruining nearly everyone’s well-being, breeding the conditions under which sectarian war between Sunni Islam and Shiite Islam flourishes and which became fertile ground for Al Qaeda and now their successor, the Islamic State (ISIS).
ISIS covers great swathes of Iraq and Syria and could well undermine the governments of Lebanon, Jordan and even Saudi Arabia. The decision of President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair to act on willfully distorted intelligence on Iraq’s supposed stock of weapons of mass destruction must be regarded as an unforgiveable crime against humanity.
The US and its Arab partners can’t bomb ISIS into submission any more than the US could the Vietcong. All outsiders can do is to sanction it (but avoiding the mistakes of the sanctions on Iraq when 30,000 children died as a result). It may take 10 years or more to win a favourable result.
The periphery of Europe will continue to be unstable until the big Western powers make a loud public promise not to expand NATO and to allow Ukraine to make Read the rest of this entry »
By Jan Oberg
What is terrorism? Why do we talk much more about that than other types of deaths? Why is the word misused? What has nuclear weapons – that politicians and media hardly ever talk about – got to do with terror? Why should we all be careful not to exaggerate the phenomenon of terror?
10 x more terrorism than before 9/11
Tell you what: I’ve been critical of the ”war on terror” since September 12, 2001 and particularly since 10/7 when the war on Afghanistan started. If the War on Terror was the answer to 9/11, the U.S. and its friends asked the wrong questions.
Because, what has been the result?
According to U.S. statistics at the time, in the years up to the horrific crime in New York, about 1,000-1,500 people were hit by terror per year worldwide; 1/3 of whom died, the rest were wounded. Most of it happened in South America, some in Europe; small groups such as Baader-Meinhof.
Almost 3,000 were killed on 9/11, many nationalities, far from only American citizens. (About 30,000 die annually from shooting each other).
Today? About 18,000 were killed in terror in 2013.
Although data may not be directly comparable or definitions be the same, the difference between 1,500 and 18,000 cannot be explained by methodological and other variations. Read the rest of this entry »
By Shastri Ramachandaran
Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have been the toast at the high tables from BRICS and ASEAN to G-20 and the East Asia Summit, but nearer home, in the neighbourhood, few are impressed by his 56-inch chest. The stark truth that India does not draw much water in the region was driven home unmistakably during the 18th SAARC Summit in Kathmandu.
By Jonathan Power
October 21st, 2014
The Soviet Army invaded Afghanistan in December, 1979 and withdrew, exhausted and demoralised, 10 years later. In Moscow a joke had long circulated: “Why are we still in Afghanistan?” Answer: “ We are still looking for the people who invited us.”
The same is true for the Americans and NATO who are now moving through the exit door. They came to obliterate Al Qaeda after 9/11, 2001.
There was certainly no invitation issued by the Afghan government, then controlled by the militant Taliban. The US was angry that Afghanistan sheltered Al Qaeda and didn’t have the time of day to discuss an invitation.
After an air and ground campaign it savaged Al Qaeda. Its rump, including its leader, Osama bin Laden, fled to the barely accessible mountains of Pakistan. Ordinary Afghans had never really liked al-Qaeda and they certainly never equated their home-grown Islamist movement, the Taliban, with the Arab-led extremists.
Yet the US and its allies were not prepared to declare victory and leave. They changed the goalposts Read the rest of this entry »
By Farhang Jahanpour*
Saudi Military exercises
On 30th April 2014, Saudi Arabia staged its largest-ever military exercises codenamed “Abdullah’s Shield” after the kingdom’s 91-year old ruler and coinciding with the ninth anniversary of his ascension to the throne. The exercises involved 130,000 Saudi troops and showcased some of the latest weapons purchased by the kingdom from the United States and China, including the Chinese CSS-2 intermediate-range ballistic missiles with a range of 2,650 kilometers (1,646 miles) which are capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The Chinese version of these missiles is already equipped with nuclear warheads. This was the first time that these missiles had been seen in public in Saudi Arabia.
Crown Prince Salman presided over the exercises, which were also watched by a number of prominent foreign guests, including King Hamad of Bahrain and more pointedly by Gen. Raheel Sharif, the Pakistani chief of the army Staff. There have been persistent rumors over many decades that in return for Saudi funding of the Pakistani nuclear weapons’ program, Pakistan had committed to provide nuclear warheads for CSS-2 missiles, should Saudi Arabia decide to have them. Earlier in the year when Prince Salman visited Pakistan, he personally invited Gen. Sharif to be his guest at the exercises. Pakistani media stressed the point that Gen. Sharif had gone to Jeddah “on the invitation of Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud to witness the military exercise…” (1)
With the exception of Bahrain’s ruler, none of the other GCC rulers watched the exercises. The guests included the crown prince of the UAE, the prime minister of Jordan and military commanders from some GCC states, but Qatar pointedly did not send any representatives. This was yet another sign of a growing rift between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
A unified GCC Command and Monetary Union
At the GCC summit held in Kuwait in December 2013, the Saudis called for a unified GCC military command to have 100,000 forces, half of which would be contributed by the Saudis. (2) However, other GCC members opposed the idea as they saw it as a way of consolidating Saudi domination of other GCC states and affirming Saudi Arabia’s position as the big brother. Many smaller GCC states value their independence, and while they would like to cooperate with other GCC members, they do not wish to be absorbed into a unified military alliance as junior partners. Oman openly expressed its opposition to the proposal and Qatar and Kuwait also followed suit. Read the rest of this entry »
By Johan Galtung
The basic point is that Pakistan will not get that commodity called “peace” in Kashmir, Afghanistan and Central Asia by pursuing the ends and means of Washington and some local elites only. For peace to blossom the goals of other parties also have to be considered; and they are many. The logic of the political games pursued today presupposes some kind of victory or domination of “our side”: neither feasible nor desirable for peace. Hence, the need for some visions for peace politics is Kashmir, Afghanistan and Central Asia for tomorrow or the day after, with the hope that they can be useful when you have come to the end of the road with current policies. Nothing of this is easy; and without visions even impossible.
The fairly detailed, non-dogmatic vision appended (below) was my acceptance speech of the 2011 Abdul Ghaffar Khan International Peace-Builder Award by the Pakistan-American Muslim Association.
However, why do present policies so often seem to be non-starters?
The British empire drew three lines with disastrous effects for Pakistan: the Durand line in 1893, a 1,600-mile wound defining the border with Afghanistan, dividing the Pashtun nation – the biggest nation in the world without a state – into two parts; the McMahon line of 1914 defining the border with China in ways unacceptable to the Chinese; and the Mountbatten line of 1947 leading to the catastrophic violence of the partition. These lines have to be negated, liberating Pakistan from that past. Read the rest of this entry »
By Richard Falk
There are two ways of responding to an invitation from an American president. I recall that when Amory Lovins, the guru of market-oriented environmentalism, was asked about what was his main goal when invited to the White House to meet the president he responded self-assuredly: ‘To be invited back.” That is, be sure to say nothing that might so disturb the high and mighty to an extent that might jeopardize future invitations.
A positive reading of such an approach would point out that Lovins was just being realistic. If he hoped to have any influence at all in the future he needed to confine his present advice to an areas situated well within the president’s comfort zone. A less charitable interpretation would assume that what mattered to Lovins was the thrill of access to such an august portal of power.
Never receiving such an invitation, I had a lesser experience, but experienced similar temptations, being invited by a kind of institutional miscalculation to be the banquet speaker at West Point at the end of an international week at this elite military academy in which the cadets and representatives from a couple of hundred colleges had been fed the government line by top officials at the Pentagon and State Department.
The officer tasked with arranging the program decided that it might be more interesting to have for once a speaker who had a more critical outlook on the U.S. role in the world. I was invited, and accepted with mixed feelings of being both co-opted and challenged. It turns out that the seductive part of the occasion was to find myself housed in a suite normally reserved for the president or Secretary of Defense; it was luxurious and so spacious that it took me some time to locate the bedroom, although I did almost immediately find the fridge stocked with beer and food. First things first. Anyway, Read the rest of this entry »