India and Pakistan; the Fog of War

On the 14th of February 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers were killed when a convoy of the Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was attacked in Pulwama (Indian Kashmir) by a vehicle borne suicide bomber. The attack was immediately claimed by a Pakistan-based terrorist organization called the Jaish e Mohammed (JEM, the army of Mohammed), who released a video of the suicide bomber, a local lad from southern Kashmir. JEM is led by a Pakistani cleric named Masood Azhar who had been captured by Indian security forces in the 90s in Indian Kashmir, but was released in exchange for the hostages on board an Indian airlines aircraft in December 1999. After his release he went to Pakistan and set up his Jihadist terrorist organization and has operated openly in the country ever since.

This is, of course, not the first major terrorist attack in India to be claimed by an organization based in Pakistan. JEM has been accused in the past of organizing an attack on the Indian parliament as well as many attacks in Indian Kashmir. And the biggest attack ever launched in India by Pakistani-based terrorists was the attack on Mumbai in November 2008, in the course of which ten terrorists wreaked havoc in the city of Mumbai and killed at least 165 people, including a few Israelis and Americans. Some of the more prominent attacks were followed by Indian threats of military action against Pakistan but in the end the Indian establishment opted on all of those occasions to try and isolate Pakistan diplomatically but stepped back from direct military action. This option was chosen not because of any residual Gandhian hangover in India but because of two interlocking factors: Continue reading “India and Pakistan; the Fog of War”

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Afghan Peace Process

From Dr Hamid Hussain

My two cents of Afghan peace process.  It is based on my own limited perspective informed by regular travels to the region and interaction with many including Pakistanis, Afghans, Americans, Indians etc.  Many have been kind to candidly share their views and not ‘official’ narrative as well as hopes and aspirations of common people in streets and bazaars that they shared with me.

Hamid

Making Peace with Broken Pieces – Afghan Peace Process

Hamid Hussain

 “There is nothing further here for a warrior.  We drive bargains; old men’s work.  Young men make wars and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men; courage and hope for the future.  Then old men make the peace.  The vices of peace are the vices of old men; mistrust and caution.  It must be so”.   Prince Feisal (Sir Alec Guinness) to T. E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) in Lawrence of Arabia.

In the last few months, a new window opened in the seventeen years old war in Afghanistan. There was breakthrough with first serious efforts of direct negotiations between United States (U.S.) and main militant group Taliban.  It was President Donald Trump’s announcement of withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan that got the ball rolling.  He made this decision without consulting any other government agency. Pentagon, intelligence community and State Department view rapid withdrawal as a recipe for disaster.  Trump appointed former U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and an Afghan-American Zalmay Khalilzad nick named Zal to spearhead this effort.  Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar worked as intermediaries and a bridge between Taliban, Pakistan and Americans.

Negotiations between Taliban and Unites States is only one dimension of a complex conflict.  Taliban’s strategy is simple in its execution.  It used its committed cadre of fighters and support structure in Pakistan to escalate violence to a level to achieve two goals.  First to sow enough fear and uncertainty among Afghans that will undermine the efficiency and to some extent legitimacy of the government.  Another objective is to convince fellow Afghans that without giving them a share in power and economic pie, Afghans will never see peace.  Initially, behind the scene, questions were raised by Americans whether Taliban are a unified entity to work with.  Taliban responded by announcing a three days ceasefire during Eid festival.  There were no attacks all over the country proving their point that they have a firm command and control system and all fighters follow the leadership.  When United States announced troop withdrawal plan, Taliban thought that by directly negotiating they will get the credit and fulfill one of their objectives of forcing foreign troop withdrawal.  This will help them to carve out a much larger share in power after American withdrawal. Another factor was intense pressure on Taliban from Pakistan and Arab countries.  Agreeing to direct negotiations with Americans, Taliban placated both parties and if no agreement is reached, they can claim that they entered in negotiations with good faith and put the blame of failure at American doorstep. From U.S. point of view, there is a narrow window of about six months. Domestic troubles of President Trump will take a sharp turn with completion of special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s work.  In addition, presidential campaign will start in the fall of 2019 and these two factors will suck all the oxygen in White House.  Like many other foreign policy issues, Afghanistan will also recede in the background.   Continue reading “Afghan Peace Process”

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Can India and Pakistan Make Peace?

Major Amin sent in an old article of his from 2013 (posted below).
I think Indian and Pakistan CAN make peace, but not yet… Anyway, you can read Major Amin’s more pessimistic take here.. 
Can India and Pakistan make Peace – Agha.H.Amin , Major (r)
(from 2013)
The recent sudden angelic desire on part of the Pakistani establishment to make peace with India has nothing to do with any major shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy written in the Pakistani military headquarters popularly known as the GHQ.
The Pakistani apparent shift is merely a tactical response to extreme confrontation with the US over perceived US view that Pakistan is playing a double game in Afghanistan.
This is similar to Musharrafs flirtation with India from 2000 to 2007 which in reality was a gambit to prevent a two front war with Afghanistan occupied by the USA and a hostile India in the east.
The real picture of true intentions of the Pakistani military will emerge when the US withdraws from Afghanistan.
This will be the time when the Russians ,Iranians and Indians will have no choice but to support the Northern Alliance against Pakistan sponsored Taliban who regard all Shias, Ismailis,Non Pashtuns,moderate Pashtuns as infidels who deserve to be massacred.
The Pakistani politicians are a compromised manipulated lot who are under firm control of the Pakistani military thanks to the politicians own massive financial corruption. They will do what the Pakistani generals tell them whether it is the PPP, PML or any new party like Imran Khans Tehrik i Insaaf.
Pakistan will remain the same state run by an army rather than a state with an army.The Pakistani generals will control Pakistan’s politics and foreign policy and Pakistan India relations will remain a mix of an uneasy and an unpredictable peace.

Continue reading “Can India and Pakistan Make Peace?”

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Operation Grand Slam (1965 War)

The following is a long extract from Major Amin’s book on the India-Pakistan wars. Other extracts will be posted later. Since this is a very long chapter, I have highlighed and italicized certain sections that the reader can jump to and get the basic story, without bothering with the details. Of course, anyone interested in the details can read the whole thing. 

OPERATION GRAND SLAM 

By Major Agha Humayun Amin

Background

1965 was an eventful year in Indo-Pak history. The Pakistani military ruler Ayub emerged victorious in the Presidential elections held in January 1965 amidst allegations of rigging. This factor created a desire in Ayub to improve his political image by a limited gain in the realm of foreign relations. He got an opportunity to do so in April 1965 over a minor border dispute with India in the Rann of Kutch area. The Pakistan Army dominated the skirmishes in the Rann area as a result of which a climate of overconfidence was created in the Pakistani military and political establishment.7

In May 1965 following the jubilation in Pakistan because of the Rann affair Ayub became keen to launch the proposed “Operation Gibraltar”: a proposed plan to launch guerrillas into Indian held Kashmir with the objective of creating a popular uprising, finally forcing India to, abandon Kashmir. Ayub  went to Murree on 13 May 1965 to attend a briefing on the conduct of Operation Gibraltar.8 We will not go into the controversy surrounding this plan, which is basically an exercise in futility, and mud slinging initiated by some self-styled experts, motivated largely by personal rivalry and ulterior biases, since the prime aim of this article is to discuss the military significance of Operation Grand Slam and its connection with “Operation Gibraltar”. In this briefing Ayub “examined”  the “Operation Gibraltar” plan prepared by Major General Akhtar Malik, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 12 Division. The 12 Division was responsible for the defence of the entire border of Pakistan occupied Kashmir from Ladakh in the north till Chamb near the internationally recognised border to the south. It was during this briefing that Ayub suggested that the 12 Division should also capture Akhnur.9 This attack was codenamed “Operation Grand Slam”. General Musa, the then C in C  Army and Altaf Gauhar the then Information Secretary and Ayub’s close confidant, the two principal defenders of Ayub have not given any explanation about what exactly was the strategic rationale of “Grand Slam” and what was its proposed timing in relation to “Operation Gibraltar”. We will discuss this aspect in detail in the last portion of this article. Continue reading “Operation Grand Slam (1965 War)”

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