Friday, July 21, 2006

Lankan envoy rushes to Bodh Gaya

The Sri Lankan High Commissioner in India, Romesh Jayasinghe, rushed to Bodh Gaya on Friday, after it was reported in the media that a branch of the sacred Bodhi tree under which the Buddha secured Enlightenment 2,550 years ago had been chopped off.

"He first went to Patna and has just reached Bodh Gaya," the Sri Lankan High Commission in New Delhi confirmed.
The High Commissioner will be meeting Buddhist monks, the Mahabodhi Temple Management Committee and other officials to take stock of the situation," a top official in the High Commission said.

Chaos marked the Buddhist heritage site after it was alleged some miscreants had cut a branch of the sacred Bodhi Tree, believed to be the sixth generation of the peepul (Ficus religiosa) tree under which Gautam Buddha attained Nirvana.

The matter is of great concern for the Sri Lankans, 70 per cent of whom are followers of Buddhism.

And it was due to the intense efforts of a Sri Lankan monk, Anagarika Dharmapala, that the site of the Maha Bodhi Temple was secured by the Buddhists of the world from a Hindu Mahant. The Mahant had fought tooth and nail to keep it with himself. The site was also very badly maintained, which pained Dharmapala and other Buddhist pilgrims.

The Sri Lankan Buddhist revivalist established the Mahabodhi Society in the latter half of the 19th century to spearhead his campaign. But it was only in 1949, long after Dharmapala's death, that the Buddhists secured the site and the tree.

The Maha Bodhi Temple is a world heritage site and one of the most sacred destinations for Buddhists around the world.

This is the second time in the history of the Bodhi Tree that it has been attacked. Earlier, in the seventh century AD, King Shashank had ordered the tree to be cut down.

The incident is likely to have international repercussions, as Buddhists from all over the world travel to Bodh Gaya to worship this tree.

The tree is considered to be the embodiment of the Buddha, and it is one of the few physical objects worshiped by the Buddhists who otherwise do not believe in idol worship.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has sent his top officials to the spot to investigate given the international importance of the place.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

It's Dhanapala vs Tharoor at UN

With India nominating its candidate, the race for the United Nations Secretary General's post is gaining momentum.
And definitely, Shashi Tharoor's nomination for the top UN job by India should come as a surprise if not disappointment for Sri Lankan candidate Jayantha Dhanapala, who must have been looking forward to his India visit next month to seek support.

During his visit to New Delhi last month, Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera had informed India about Dhanapala's candidature and requested support.

But the Indian foreign office merely said that it had taken note of the matter. What followed was stony silence until Shashi Tharoor's candidature was announced.

India's long silence on this issue had definitely intrigued experts and strategists worldwide.

One reason, which is seen by most of the experts, is that in 1995, Dhanapala had been rather unhelpful to India at the Conference on Disarmament, which he chaired.

The conference had decided to renew the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) indefinitely, and in doing so, enshrined a strong international legal system against nuclear proliferation.

Dhanapala, it is alleged, connived with the US and other big Western powers against India.

India's nominating a candidate, while Dhanapala had thrown his hat in the ring much earlier, may not be taken by Sri Lankans very kindly.

"Certainly, the Sinhalese will think that this is another back stab by India," says Dr S Chandrasekharan, Director of South Asia Analysis Group, a New Delhi-based think tank.

But Tharoor's nomination is in no way going to deter Dhanapala's chances at the world body, according to experts in New Delhi.

"If you see the history of UN Secretaries General, barring a few, most of them had been from smaller countries. So if that is a consideration, Sri Lanka stands a better chance," says Colonel R Hariharan, an intelligence expert based in Chennai.

The present Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, whose term ends on December 31, is from Ghana and his predecessors were from nations like Egypt, Peru and Myanmar.

Also, the New York-based Foreign Policy Journal had tipped Dhanapala as the man most likely to become the UN's next Secretary-General.

"He gets the most favourable odds of 6 to 1 as compared to former US President Bill Clinton, who stands a 1 in 1,000 chance," the journal says.

South Asia watchers believe that Dhanapala might just be the right guy, as he is preferred by the US, the world's only Super Power.

His wide experience, both within and outside the UN system, and his contribution to international affairs in critical areas like disarmament and management of conflict, place him ahead of his rivals.

"Considered by many in the diplomatic community to be the front-runner, the former Under Secretary-General for disarmament knows how to navigate the UN inside out," notes the Foreign Policy Journal.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Days of monarchy numbered in Nepal: Kunda Dixit

With strikes, clashes and curfew being the order of the day in Kathmandu, the common man has lost faith in all the political forces of the kingdom, says editor of a leading weekly in Nepal.

"The common men and women are fed up of the violence, strikes and disruptions. They don't trust any of the political forces, be it King, parties or Maoists," Kunda Dixit, Chief Editor of Nepali Times told Hindustan Times.

Dixit's comments comes a day after 29 journalists were arrested for demanding an end to a crackdown on the media by the government.

More than 100 other journalists have been arrested since the latest wave of protests against King Gyanendra began on April 5. However, all have been released.

"They (the journalists) could be in for a while longer, in the past they have been kept for a month, said Dixit, whose brother Kanak Mani Dixit, editor of Himal South Asia Magazine, is among the 29 detained scribes.

King Gyanendra seized control over the government 14 months ago, saying he needed to root out political corruption and put an end to Maoist mania that has left thousands dead in the past decade.

The royal government has since imposed severe restrictions on journalists and introduced new media laws.
Criticism of the King, the royal government and security forces has since been banned.

"The attempts to gag the press is part of a wider crackdown on democracy since the King took over last February. If he restores democracy, press freedom will be automatically safeguarded," Dixit explains.

The King is all set to announce election dates on April 14 when the kingdom celebrates its New Year. Polls may take place between February and March 2007.

"If he (Gyanendra) cannot get the political parties to join the elections, it will be a sham. The parties won't join unless the King first restores democracy," says Dixit.

Analysts dubbed the last month's municipal polls in Nepal as a "sham" as 95 per cent of the parties did not take part in the exercise.

"For his own sake and the sake of his dynasty, the King should agree to be a Constitutional monarch. If he doesn't, then I think the days of monarchy in Nepal are numbered," says Dixit, who strongly believes that democracy will be restored in Nepal.

Nepal's seven major political parties have carried out daily protests and clashes with the security forces throughout the country to pressurise King to restore democracy.

Dixit, who is a graduate from Columbia University, has worked with BBC at UN headquarters in New York. He was also the Asia-Pacific director of Inter Press Service.


Sunday, April 2, 2006

Why fire Aiyar?

Moments after being given the charge of petroleum ministry, this man stepped on the gas to ensure that energy hungry India's gas needs are met.

And after vigorously pursuing the $7 billion Iran-India-Pakistan gas pipeline project, all that Mani Shankar Aiyar got at the end of the day was a red card from Sonia and clan.

Leading Bangladesh daily New Age said that the "carelessness with which Aiyar has been moved out of the petroleum ministry does not credit to Manmohan Singh's government".

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reshuffled his Cabinet recently to induct 19 more ministers and the biggest loser was Aiyar, who lost his portfolio to Maharashtra industrialist and Congress strongman Murli Deora.

Lauding Aiyar and his efforts, the editorial said, "Aiyar had been doing a good job and all those who have seen him operate…have remarked on the wisdom and foresight he brought to bear on the subject."

Analysts saw the dynamic minister as too anti-American who also had his share of encounters with bureaucrats.
"We must contend the fact that Aiyar has had to go because the Americans might not have been comfortable with him and his attitude to Iran," the paper said.

"Aiyar's removal from the oil ministry is widely seen as a result of intense pressure from domestic private lobbies and the Americans, who were not happy with his left-oriented view of the global economy," Pakistan's Daily Times reported.

"If that is what induced the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi into dumping a competent minister and, indeed, shifting him to a ministry where he will have little or nothing to do, it is a sad commentary on Indian politics," New Age said.
Aiyar's successor Murli Deora is known to be pro-US and often throws parties for visiting US legislators.

The Daily Times further said, "Deora may not be able to pursue the high-pressure oil diplomacy that Aiyar carried out in the past 20 months which lined up over a dozen countries for partnership with India in the energy field".

Reports in India said that Aiyar was shunted out because his views on oil diplomacy were not in conformity with those of the prime ministerial establishment.

What the Pakistan's leading daily found surprising was that Aiyar's "close terms with the Gandhi family since Rajiv Gandhi's days couldn't help him retain the portfolio, leading observers to conclude that there might have been some kind of pressure on the prime minister".

"If performance were the criterion, Aiyar would not have been touched," the paper said.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

MQM seeks a sweet gesture from PM

A political party in Pakistan has urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to help alleviate the sugar crisis in Islamabad.

"Any gesture of generosity from India in alleviating the current sugar crisis in Pakistan would be a very sweet gesture and go a long way in boosting the morale of the people of Pakistan," founder of Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) Altaf Hussain said in a letter to Manmohan on Wednesday.

Pakistan is currently beset with a major crisis on account of an acute shortage of sugar in the country. Climatic conditions have adversely affected the sugarcane crop, resulting in major shortfalls in sugar production.

Sugar, which was earlier being sold for Rs 18 per kg in the wholesale market, is now reportedly selling for Rs 41 per kg in the wholesale market and about Rs 42-44 per kg in the retail market.

The average sugar consumption by 150 million Pakistanis is assessed to be 0.3 million tonnes a month.

"India has been instrumental in alleviating the past sugar crises of Pakistan. India was generous and magnanimous in coming to the aid of citizens of Pakistan hit hard by soaring sugar prices. Such an occasion, unfortunately, is once again with us, to the dismay of poor consumers of Pakistan," the self-exiled leader said.

The Islamabad government, meanwhile, has allowed the import of sugar from India after low production and a subsequent strike by mill owners.

Sugar used to come in through the Wagah border before imports from India were banned in 2001 after complaints that cheap Indian sugar was hurting Pakistani cane growers and processors.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Why the K word?

Looks like any proclamation by President Pervez Musharraf is incomplete without the K-word.

As he very aptly puts it: "Kashmir runs in my blood and I promise you we will make efforts to find a durable solution (to it)".

Even before US President George Bush's visit to the subcontinent next month, Musharraf has already said that the Big Brother should mediate in Indo-Pak talks on Kashmir.

And in a recent meeting with Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, the President amply made it clear that South Asia remains a perilous region due to "the persistence of the Kashmir issue".

In an attempt to find a "durable solution" to the Kashmir issue, the General had asked its nuclear-armed neighbour to pull out troops from three districts of Kashmir and had also suggested self-governance.

The proposals didn't even raise eyebrows in New Delhi.

"If they reject (proposals), they should give new ideas. If they do not give ideas, we will approach the international community," Musharraf remarked on Kashmir Day on Feb 5.

"We are at present going through the bilateral route to resolve Kashmir issue but if it fails we will take the multilateral route," he added.

Musharraf's iron resolve is supported by a section of media in Pakistan, which feels that India is "neither sincere nor serious in peace process in the region".

"Pakistan has scrupulously and perseveringly striven to seek resolution of the issue in keeping with the aspirations of the Kashmiri people, but India has regrettably scuttled all her efforts due to its belligerence and obduracy," says an editorial in Pakistan Observer.

The Manmohan Singh government had recently announced that peace in South Asia is India's top foreign policy priority.

The paper outrightly blames India for depriving the region of its pie in the world economy.

"India is seemingly least interested in resolving this issue because it's neither sincere nor serious in peace process in the region. India is thus squarely responsible for keeping the South Asian region backward and depriving it of its rightful share in world economy."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Indo-US N-dilemma

Even before President George W Bush's visit to India, the agenda for discussion has already been set - the much discussed Indo-US nuclear deal.


While reports here have already said that it may take a while before the deal is sealed, media in Pakistan too feels that the much touted deal is unlikely to be finalised during Bush's visit.


"As things stand, India is at crossroads on the nuclear deal…it is not an easy decision. The deal has already entered choppy waters in the US Congress and it is unlikely to be finalised during Mr Bush's India visit," says a Daily Times editorial.


Among other technicalities, both sides still have to brainstorm over the critical issue of separating civilian and military nuclear facilities.


According to Daily Times, the talks over the issue remain deadlocked, as India has secretly developed a weapons capability.


"The boundary between the civilian and military sides of the Indian nuclear establishment is hazy. This is expected because India has developed a weapons capability clandestinely.


The Indians have been reluctant to clearly demarcate the two sides of the nuclear establishment because they feel that some of the stipulations of an accord (July 18, 2005) could constrain India's development of its nuclear capabilities, particularly its weapon development programme," the paper explains.


India has a total of 15 nuclear reactors that are functioning at present and eight of them are under construction.


Lessons for Pakistan

Pakistan, some time back had asked US for a similar nuclear deal, which the US had declined.


"The lesson for Pakistan, which has been trying to get the US to cut a similar deal with it, is to see how the situation pans out for India and what quid pro quo the US expects to extract from New Delhi," says the Daily Times.


US had told Islamabad that the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal was only India specific and such co-operation with Pakistan was unlikely because of its track record.


"It does not make much sense for us to try to get everything that India wants. As the old cliché goes: All that glitters is not gold," concludes the paper.


(As Published in the Hindustan Times)

Monday, January 30, 2006

India at the OIC

Saudi King Abdullah's recent official visit to India for sure raised eyebrows in Pakistan and the reason is not too far to seek.

Abdullah, who was the chief guest of the Republic Day on January 26, said that he was keen to see India play an active role in the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC).

Despite knowing that Pakistan has always been a strong opponent to India's entry into the OIC, Abdullah didn't mind adding that it will be very beneficial if the application is put forth by a country like Pakistan.

Although Pakistan's Foreign Office has not outrightly rejected an observer status for India at the OIC, a section of media in the country does give that impression.

"We are, however, convinced that India, in no way, is entitled to attain observer status with an organisation that represents the Muslim Ummah (community) and its aspirations.

"We fail to understand on what basis India can stake claim to get this privilege. Does India subscribe to the viewpoint of the Muslim Ummah on various issues?" asks an editorial in Pakistan Observer.

The OIC, established in 1969 is an inter-governmental organisation consisting of 57 member states, with an aim to safeguard the interests of Muslims all over the world.

According to Daily Times, Pakistan has in mind two criteria that could be seen as "reservations".

"…The state should be a Muslim majority, under which India doesn't qualify and never will unless the rules are changed and the Islamic character of members is redefined."

India has always staked claim to be a part of OIC as the Muslim population in India is far more than that in Pakistan.
However, under the charter, the OIC embraces both Muslim and non-Muslim states as observer, though different set of rules apply for granting observer status to Muslim and non-Muslim states.

The review of the rules was initiated following the interest shown by number of non-Muslim countries to secure an observer status at the OIC.

The second reservation is that an observer should not have an active dispute with a Muslim state.

In a very strong-worded edit, the Pakistan Observer further asks: "Can a country that tramples rights of the Muslims in Occupied Kashmir and treat them as second grade citizens be a member of organisation that represents solely Muslims?"

Interestingly, the paper doesn't hesitate to mention that Pakistan too is responsible for creating enabling atmosphere for India to lobby for the membership via the CBMs with India.

"…It might make sense to consider allowing an observer status to India as part of the policy of normalisation that Islamabad is already pursuing at the bilateral level with New Delhi."

OIC consists of oil-rich countries like Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Egypt and others as its members.

The Conference has 11 observers which includes United Nations, European Union, Cyprus, Thailand, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the latest entrant - Russia in 2005.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Indo-Bangla trade barriers

Trade has always been a concern as regards India Bangladesh relations. Huge trade imbalances with India, it is said, assumes both economic and political stings in Bangladesh.


Even though forums like South Asia Enterprise Development Facility remain strongly committed to fostering better cooperation between Bangladesh and India, loopholes stay put.


According to Bangladesh daily Daily Star, "Despite roughly $2 billion exports to Bangladesh every year, India has not made its Petrapole port (India) capable of handling the cargoes. From Kolkata to Petrapole, the road and the bridges are narrow to slow down the movement of vehicles".


India's export to Bangladesh is less than one per cent of its total exports to the world. In 2004, according to available studies, Bangladesh imported $1.7 billion worth of goods from India via official channels.

In the same year, exports from Bangladesh to India amounted to nearly $78 million.

The paper further says that if Bangladesh could raise her exports to India to around $500-600 million per year, it will be in a comfortable situation.


The editorial suggests that to better New Delhi-Dhaka trade relations, land customs need to be upgraded through infrastructural and other facilities, since most of the trade takes place via land routes.


"Three quarters of the total transactions flow through land customs. Therefore, unless land customs are upgraded… the loss of trade might harm Bangladesh more than India."


Mafia and warehouse facilities are among the many issues that Dhaka wants the West Bengal Govt in India to take up.


"On both the sides of the fence, barring Benapole (Dhaka) and Petrapole, the infrastructure is outmoded and under developed. Warehouses and weigh bridges are not available in most of the posts. In fact, out of 40 or so custom posts, 38 are the harbours of smuggling," Daily Times says.


Trade theorists argue that the high tariff levels are the cause of smuggling.


"One fails to grasp as to why illegal outflow from Bangladesh is not taking place on the heels of high tariff barriers in India…Obviously then the question of Bangladesh's capacity to meet demands in the Indian market or the extent of her comparative advantage is a potential concern," the paper says.


Non-tariff barriers are the means of keeping foreign goods out of domestic market, while abiding by the multilateral agreements that the country has signed through the World Trade Organisation.


The paper suggests that from the Indian side, "the non-tariff barriers should be buried to enable Bangladesh to reap home the harvest of open Indian market".


The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry has time and again said that tariff and non-tariff barriers at the Indian border hampers trade between the two nations.


Friday, January 20, 2006

India, Pak and empty talks

Before the just concluded third round of confidence building measures, the media in Pakistan found the talks to be praiseworthy.

Leading daily Dawn, in its editorial, said that "in the last two years, New Delhi and Islamabad have at least stopped brandishing the sword and threatening to wage a war against each other".

Now, after the talks, some have just dismissed the initiative taken by both the nations as a 'damp squib'.

"Only an incorrigible optimist would remain unfazed by the outcome, peace and direction of the composite peace dialogue between India and Pakistan. Otherwise, it has delivered not even a stillborn child so far," the Frontier Post said in its editorial.

Upset with the pace and progress of the talks, the paper said that it will take ages to solve the dispute. "... It's leading to nowhere. Two rounds have passed away, without even taking the scum off any of the issues on the agenda.

In a veiled message to both the nations, the paper said that mere talking won't help and it's no 'big deal' if the nuclear-armed neighbours are talking.

"The usual crowd of cheerleaders will now be out to extol that the peace process remains on track...Despite the recent verbal spat between the two over India's provocative statements about Balochistan, they say, the window has remained open. But they are forgetting the history of the two countries' chequered relationship. Both have kept talking even in the worst of times."

The third round of CBMs, which began on January 17, was significant as it was the first high-level contact (between the two countries) this year and was held immediately after a visit of an All Party Hurriyat Conference team to Pakistan.

India and Pakistan made a fresh commitment to push forward a fragile peace process but reiterated their differences over ways to end years of enmity.

Diplomats from both the countries agreed that two-year-old peace talks had helped boost relations and were optimistic despite fears that the dialogue had reached a stalemate.

However, the stalemate over the main issue — Kashmir — continued.

Blaming the Indian side for the deadlock, Frontline Post further said: "The Indian leadership has very dexterously altered the very connotation of what actually makes up the core issue of their relationship. Pakistan says it is the Kashmir issue, and so do the objective South Asia watchers. But India has given this primacy to its contrivance of cross border terrorism".

Adding further to this, The Nation said, "This (cross border terrorism) is a pet excuse to divert attention from the resolution of the dispute."

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf had recently suggested its neighbour to pull out troops from three districts of Kashmir — Srinagar, Kupwara and Baramulla — in exchange for Pak's help to root out terror. New Delhi had outrightly rejected it.

Reacting on this, Frontier Post said, "Obviously, India doesn't view Kashmir dispute as we see it...the Indians are yet to talk seriously on Kashmir".

Pakistan has clearly and strongly given out the message that the talks need substance too.

"The Foreign Office may well have reasons for the confidence it maintains about India's sincerity to resolve the issue, but little evidence is there to substantiate it," said The Nation daily.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Importance of Indo-Pak CBMs

The cynics are not too pleased with it.

Analysts feel that the crucial India, Pakistan talks that began in 2004, hardly made any headway.

And as regards the Kashmir issue, there are hardly any "tangible achievements" to show.

But at least, as Pakistan leading daily Dawn in its editorial puts it, "…In the last two years, New Delhi and Islamabad have stopped brandishing the sword and threatening to wage a war against each other."

The paper says that the confidence building measures (CBMs) are important not only for India and Pakistan, but also for peace and security in the entire South Asian region.

"The confidence building measures…would preempt a future crisis from erupting. If relations remain at an even keel, it is unlikely that India and Pakistan equations will be thrown out of gear in the near future. This is important for peace and security in South Asia," the Dawn reports.

The ensuing round of talks today hold significance, as it would be the first high-level contact (between the two countries) this year that would be held immediately after a visit of an All Party Hurriyat Conference team to Pakistan.

Vital issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, and other issues related to peace and security between the two countries, would be discussed during the talks with the Indian officials.

Stressing on the need for regular CBMs between the neighbours, Dawn says, "Given the high level of militarisation in the region…it is vital that India and Pakistan should not be locked in confrontation with one another. Tension and polarisation will make the region a tinderbox…"

As regards the issue of Kashmir, the paper further says, "…There might be no tangible achievements to show in respect of the Kashmir issue that is central to the relationship between the two countries, it is a matter of some significance that India and Pakistan are at least now talking about the dispute and exploring various options.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf had recently suggested its neighbour to pull out troops from three districts of Kashmir -- Srinagar, Kupwara and Baramulla - in exchange for Pak's help to root out terror.

An editorial in Kashmir Observer says, "The two countries should deliberate the proposal of demilitarisation and self-rule more earnestly with a view to finding a lasting solution to the issue.

New Delhi, however, rejected the proposal.

The media in Islamabad, however, says that it may take a while to find a lasting solution to the Kashmir issue.
Meanwhile, a section of the Pakistani press also reported that the Balochistan issue would also figure during the talks, with a special focus on the allegations that India had a hand in the recent insurgency activities in the area.


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Brouhaha in Balochistan

Pakistan seems to be having a tough time battling the brouhaha over Balochistan.

As if its neighbour's 'friendly' concern over the restive province was not enough to irk the nuclear nation, the trouble has come knocking from inner circles.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a key party allied to Musharraf, threatened to quit the ruling coalition if a military crackdown in troubled Balochistan province was not halted.

An editorial in Pakistan's Daily Times says, "While an exaggerated sense of external threat will not do Pakistan any good, what is happening internally is quite heart-breaking".

The able General managed to convince MQM's Altaf Hussain that the military action in Balochistan was not an "operation". At the same time almost, it named India as the fomenter of trouble in the restive province.

In an interview to a private channel in India, Musharraf said: "There are a lot of indications, lot of financial support, support in kind being given to those who are anti-government, anti-me..."

Now the catch that the editorial points out is, "Was the Indian interference gambit used to get the MQM to relent?" It says that there seems to be more to the situation than meets the eye.

The MQM's withdrawal may result in the dissolution of the PML-led provincial government in Sindh, where the MQM's 42 legislators form the largest block in the 167-seat local assembly.

As regards the question of Indian interference, as said in reports here earlier, it has been brewing since the installation of the new political order in Afghanistan and the restoration of Indian consulates there.

The Pakistan intelligence is of the opinion that India's RAW is involved in the entire issue.

Clearing the myth, the Daily Times explains, GEO TV's Kamran Khan had announced last November that the Karachi bombing was traced to ...the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), which was connected through the Indian consulates in Afghanistan to RAW. He had called on former Balochistan police IG to confirm this... But the IG did not do that, saying instead that in past the BLA had been funded by Baloch sardars in exile".

Also, Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao insisted that he had no proof of RAW being involved in the bombing in Karachi in 2005, when he was asked by Khan.

The editorial concludes by saying that "no one outside Pakistan is going to believe Islamabad's story" and it is high time that "Islamabad should pause and meditate a bit more on the wisdom of the divisive policies it is pursuing".

Meanwhile, Pakistan's powerful tribal chieftain Nawab Akbar Bugti also denied claims by President Musharraf that his group was being supported by New Delhi.

"President Musharraf is using his favourite weapon - lies," Bugti said in a satellite-phone interview from his headquarters at Dera Bugti town in the volatile province.

Balochistan tribesmen have waged a revolt against the central government in the province during the past year and a half, targeting government installations, railway tracks and gas facilities with bombs and rockets.

They are demanding a bigger share of the region's natural resources and jobs in state projects as well as more political rights, and they also oppose the setting up of military garrisons.


(For the Hindustan Times)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Just what is it that Musharraf wants?

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's disenchantment over the so-called 'lack of progress' in peace process is showing up and this explains the reason for his recent demilitarisation proposal.

Towing in with the General, leading Pakistan daily Dawn says: "The basic reason behind new ideas floated by Islamabad is to show India that Pakistan's approach to Kashmir is not hide-bound, that it is flexible on the issue and that it expects New Delhi to adopt the same approach."

Suggesting a new formula for peace in Kashmir, the General had asked its nuclear-armed neighbour to pull out troops from three districts of Kashmir -- Srinagar, Kupwara and Baramulla - in exchange for Pak's help to root out terror.

And like his previous proposals in past, the recent one too hasn't raised eyebrows in India. The latter outrightly rejected the offer and interestingly, this time, it has got support from the Pak media too.

An editorial in leading Pak daily Daily Times has called Musharraf's three-city formula a 'predictable non-starter'.
"…We can say that General Musharraf has simply used another occasion to chide India. Chiding will not help. If it had helped the peace process the matter of Kashmir would have long been put to rest."

In the past also, India rejected the General's proposals without batting an eyelid.

Musharraf took the whole country by surprise in 2004 when he said that plebiscite was not a solution to the Kashmir problem.

He suggested that India and Pakistan should consider the option of identifying some "regions" of Kashmir on both sides of LoC (Line of Control), demilitarise them and grant them the status of independence or joint control or under UN mandate.

The editorial goes on to say that the suggested idea may be right but the way in which it has been presented could be wrong.

The Indians, as the paper says, have time and again said that bilateral proposals in the interim should be presented officially and an answer should be awaited before going public.

"But, President Musharraf, they say, has made it a habit of treating India to all sorts of new ideas on Kashmir in his public meetings and interviews…

By now one should be quite used to the pantomime: Musharraf presents a new idea, India rejects the new idea the same day using the same channel. Therefore a good idea may be rejected because of the way it has been presented," the Daily Times said.

The editorial also explains why there was an angry edge to India's response to the proposal this time.

"The Indian side has repeatedly complained that President Musharraf shoots off his "important proposals" for the resolution of half-a-century old dispute with India in a most off-the-cuff fashion…"

The External Affairs Ministry spokesman in India, Navtej Sarna had said responding to Musharraf's brainchild, "Any demilitarisation or any redeployment of security forces within the territory of India is a sovereign decision of the Govt of India and cannot be dictated by any foreign Govt."

Stating another reason for India's angry outburst, the daily said it might be due to Pakistan Govt's allegation of Indian involvement in Balochistan insurgency.

Pakistan had said on Monday it has evidence that links its rival India to tribal unrest in Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan province.