Five reasons to pay attention to India and Pakistan
1. The terrorists who are linked to the recent attack on the Indian Army Brigade are of the same ilk as Al Qaeda and ISIS
On Sunday, four heavily armed terrorists launched a pre-dawn grenade attack on Indian Army Brigade headquarters near the Line of Control in the town of Uri. Eighteen soldiers were killed and 30 were injured. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government says they have evidence that Pakistan was working with the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists who were responsible for the attacks. JeM often colludes with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), one of the largest and most active terrorist organizations in South Asia, operating mainly from Pakistan. LeT was founded in Afghanistan with funding from Osama Bin Laden.
2. There’s a lot of talk about war and nukes
NEW DELHI: Even as India considers military options to deal with cross-border terror after Sunday’s Uri attack, a comment from Pakistan today — especially its timing — should give pause to anyone in New Delhi considering ill-thought-out plans of retaliation.
“Pakistan’s nuclear program cannot be restricted,” said Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, today in a New York press conference, Pakistani media reported.
Lodhi said that at a meeting with US secretary of state John Kerry urged Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to limit Pakistan’s atomic program . In response, Sharif told Kerry that what was expected of Pakistan must also be implemented by India, according to Lodhi.
“The world should first put an end to nuclear activities undertaken by India,” Lodhi told reporters, adding that Pakistan’s inclusion in the Nuclear Suppliers Group was also discussed during the meeting with Kerry.
Pakistan’s foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhry, who addressed the press conference with Lodhi, said that “no other state had acted against terrorism as much as Pakistan had.”
The Pakistani defiance came even as the country’s Defense Minister Khawaja and top generals rattled their nuclear weapons in a familiar show of bravado to warn off retaliation from India for the terrorist attacks that New Delhi says are launched from Pakistan. It renewed the long-running debate about Pakistan using its nuclear cover to initiate terror strikes on India, and the pressure on New Delhi to call Pakistan’s bluff.
Separately, Pakistan is also using the threat of an unbridled expansion of its nuclear program to seek a membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, with a section of US domain experts arguing that may be one way to contain a runaway program. Others caution that American permissiveness is precisely what allowed Pakistan to come to this stage.
But recent developments, including North Korea’s ramped up nuclear program and tests, and Pakistan’s own growing reputation as a terrorist hub on top of its proliferation record, is putting a crimp on Islamabad’s effort to seek the kind of legitimacy India’s nuclear program has.
3. According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is a disaster waiting to happen.
Militants have already targeted at least six facilities widely believed to be associated with Pakistan’s nuclear program. To hide weapons from the prying satellite eyes of the United States, Pakistan moves warheads around in unmarked vans with low security profiles down busy roads. In fact, Pakistanis see jihadists as less threatening than Washington, which they believe wants to seize their nuclear weapons. After the Abbottabad mission, Kayani wanted to know what additional steps Kidwai was taking to prevent an American raid on their nuclear arsenal. Kidwai promised to redouble efforts to keep his country’s weapons far from the long arms of the Americans.
What that means, in essence, is this: In a country that is home to Muslim fundamentalist groups — al‑Qaeda, the Haqqani network, and Lashkar-e-Taiba (which conducted the Mumbai raid that killed nearly 200 civilians in 2008) — nuclear bombs capable of destroying entire cities are transported in delivery vans on congested and dangerous roads. And Pakistani and U.S. sources say that since the raid on Abbottabad, the Pakistanis have increased the pace of these movements. In other words, the Pakistani government is willing to make its nuclear weapons more vulnerable to theft by jihadists simply to hide them from the United States, the country that funds much of its military budget. In response, the Pentagon has devised secret plans to secure Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, amplifying Pakistani fears.
4. Jaish-e-Mohammed and the group they often co-ordinate with, Lashkar-e-Tayiba, have been implicated in many attacks against Indians and Americans.
- JeM and LeT were suspected in the murder of Daniel Pearl in Karachi.
- An informant posing as a member of Jaish-e-Mohammed helped police arrest four people allegedly plotting to bomb a New York City synagogue as well as to shoot Stinger missiles at military aircraft in the United States.
- Like the 9/11 hijackers, these groups get a lot of financial support from Saudi Arabia.
5. Both candidates agree — they’re exasperated with Pakistan’s support of terrorism.
In keeping with his persona of acting tougher and making better deals, Donald Trump has frequently suggested that he would be harder on Pakistan. At a town hall last week, Trump indicated that because Pakistan had nuclear weapons and was “semi-unstable,” he might continue giving that country money although that would go “against [his] grain.” However, Trump also implied that such aid would be temporary and that he would try to find a longer-term solution: “We’re going to look into it,” he said.
“If you look at India and some of the others, maybe they’ll be helping us out,” Trump added, without elaboration. Though not explained well, this could fit with Trump’s worldview of allowing regional powers, such as India, to deal with local problems, rather than the United States always taking the lead.
On May 1, Trump upped that ante against Pakistan during an interview with Fox News last Friday, suggesting that he would stay in Afghanistan to keep an eye on Pakistan and by saying that he would use the full weight of the presidency, if elected, to free Shakeel Afridi, a Pakistani doctor under arrest for assisting the CIA in tracking down Osama bin Laden. Afridi is being held under vague charges and there have been many proposals to arrange for his release by U.S. agencies and politicians. Trump boasted: “I think I would get him out in two minutes. I would tell them, ‘let him out,’ and I’m sure they would let him out.”
The Pakistani government quickly hit back. On Monday, Interior Minister Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan calledTrump “ignorant,” argued that only the Pakistani government would decide Afridi’s fate, and declared that “Pakistan is not a colony of the United States of America.”
More, surprising, however, were Hillary Clinton’s recent harsh words directed at Pakistan. Clinton, unlike Trump, favors maintaining and reinforcing existing relationships with U.S. partners and allies. Even when critical, she has seemed less likely to share President Barack Obama’s worries about free-riders or the value of relationships with countries like Saudi Arabia.
Perhaps, however, Clinton was expressing a common bipartisan exasperation with Pakistan when she said that she knew that senior Pakistani leadership knew that Osama bin Laden was hiding in a compound at Abbottabad in 2011, when the United States killed him in a raid there.
In an interview with CNN on Monday, Clinton said that “It was just too much of a coincidence that that house, that unusual-looking house would be built in that community near the military academy, surrounded by retired military professionals, even though, we couldn’t prove [that Pakistani officials knew].”
It’s an area of the world that deserves a lot more attention.
For more info and an insightful take on the issues, follow C. Christine Fair, Former Political Affairs Officer at United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan and Associate professor of stuff and things pertaining to South Asia on Facebook and Twitter.