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Indo-Pak Relations

If India and Pakistan have a ‘limited’ nuclear war, scientists say it could wreck Earth’s climate and trigger global famine

Deadly tensions between India and Pakistan are boiling over in Kashmir, a disputed territory at the northern border of each country.

A regional conflict is worrisome enough, but climate scientists warn that if either country launches just a portion of its nuclear weapons, the situation might escalate into a global environmental and humanitarian catastrophe.

On February 14, a suicide bomber killed at least 40 Indian troops in a convoy traveling through Kashmir. A militant group based in Pakistan called Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the attack. India responded by launching airstrikes against its neighbor — the first in roughly 50 years — and Pakistan has said it shot down two Indian fighter jets and captured one of the pilots.

Both countries possess about 140 to 150 nuclear weapons. Though nuclear conflict is unlikely, Pakistani leaders have said their military is preparing for “all eventualities.” The country has also assembled its group responsible for making decisions on nuclear strikes.

“This is the premier nuclear flashpoint in the world,” Ben Rhodes, a political commentator, said on Wednesday’s episode of the “Pod Save the World” podcast.

For that reason, climate scientists have modeled how an exchange of nuclear weapons between the two countries — what is technically called a limited regional nuclear war — might affect the world.

Though the explosions would be local, the ramifications would be global, that research concluded. The ozone layer could be crippled and Earth’s climate may cool for years, triggering crop and fishery losses that would result in what the researchers called a “global nuclear famine.”

“The danger of nuclear winter has been under-understood — poorly understood — by both policymakers and the public,” Michael Mills, a researcher at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, told Business Insider. “It has reached a point where we found that nuclear weapons are largely unusable because of the global impacts.”

When a nuclear weapon explodes, its effects extend beyond the structure-toppling blast wave, blinding fireball, and mushroom cloud. Nuclear detonations close to the ground, for example, can spread radioactive debris called fallout for hundreds of miles.

But the most frightening effect is intense heat that can ignite structures for miles around. Those fires, if they occur in industrial areas or densely populated cities, can lead to a frightening phenomenon called a firestorm.
“These firestorms release many times the energy stored in nuclear weapons themselves,” Mills said. “They basically create their own weather and pull things into them, burning all of it.”

Mills helped model the outcome of an India-Pakistan nuclear war in a 2014 study. In that scenario, each country exchanges 50 weapons, less than half of its arsenal. Each of those weapons is capable of triggering a Hiroshima-size explosion, or about 15 kilotons’ worth of TNT.

The model suggested those explosions would release about 5 million tons of smoke into the air, triggering a decades-long nuclear winter.

The effects of this nuclear conflict would eliminate 20% to 50% of the ozone layer over populated areas. Surface temperatures would become colder than they’ve been for at least 1,000 years.

The bombs in the researchers’ scenario are about as powerful as the Little Boy nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, enough to devastate a city. But that’s far weaker than many weapons that exist today. The latest device North Korea tested was estimated to be about 10 times as powerful as Little Boy. The US and Russia each possess weapons 1,000 times as powerful.

Still, the number of weapons used is more important than strength, according to the calculations in this study.

Most of the smoke in the scenario the researchers considered would come from firestorms that would tear through buildings, vehicles, fuel depots, vegetation, and more. This smoke would rise through the troposphere (the atmospheric zone closest to the ground), and particles would then be deposited in a higher layer called the stratosphere. From there, tiny black-carbon aerosols could spread around the globe.

“The lifetime of a smoke particle in the stratosphere is about five years. In the troposphere, the lifetime is one week,” Alan Robock, a climate scientist at Rutgers University who worked on the study, told Business Insider.

“So in the stratosphere, the lifetime of smoke particles is much longer, which gives it 50 times the impact.”

The fine soot would cause the stratosphere, normally below freezing, to be dozens of degrees warmer than usual for five years. It would take two decades for conditions to return to normal.

This would cause ozone loss “on a scale never observed,” the study said. That ozone damage would consequently allow harmful amounts of ultraviolet radiation from the sun to reach the ground, hurting crops and humans, harming ocean plankton, and affecting vulnerable species all over the planet.

But it gets worse: Earth’s ecosystems would also be threatened by suddenly colder temperatures.

Change in surface temperature (K) for (a) June to August and (b) December to February. Values are five- year seasonal averages.Earth’s Future/Michael J. Mills et al.

The fine black soot in the stratosphere would prevent some sun from reaching the ground. The researchers calculated that average temperatures around the world would drop by about 1.5 degrees Celsius over the five years following the nuclear blasts.

In populated areas of North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, changes could be more extreme (as illustrated in the graphic above). Winters there would be about 2.5 degrees colder and summers between 1 and 4 degrees colder, reducing critical growing seasons by 10 to 40 days. Expanded sea ice would also prolong the cooling process, since ice reflects sunlight away.

“It’d be cold and dark and dry on the ground, and that’d affect plants,” Robock said. “This is something everybody should be concerned about because of the potential global effects.”

The change in ocean temperatures could devastate sea life and fisheries that much of the world relies on for food. Such sudden blows to the food supply and the “ensuing panic” could cause “a global nuclear famine,” according to the study’s authors.

Temperatures wouldn’t return to normal for more than 25 years.

Robock is working on new models of nuclear-winter scenarios; his team was awarded a nearly $3 million grant from the Open Philanthropy Project to do so.

“You’d think the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies would fund this research, but they didn’t and had no interest,” he said.

Since his earlier modeling work, Robock said, the potential effects of a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan have gotten worse. That’s because India and Pakistan now have more nuclear weapons, and their cities have grown.

“It’s about five times worse than what we’ve previously calculated,” he said.

Because of his intimate knowledge of the potential consequences, Robock advocates the reduction of nuclear arsenals around the world. He said he thinks Russia and the US — which has nearly 7,000 nuclear weapons — are in a unique position to lead the way.

“Why don’t the US and Russia each get down to 200? That’s a first step,” Robock said.

“If President Trump wants the Nobel Peace Prize, he should get rid of land-based missiles, which are on hair-trigger alert, because we don’t need them,” he added. “That’s how he’ll get a peace prize — not by saying we have more than anyone else.”

Kevin Loria contributed reporting to a previous version of this article. Alex Lockie also contributed to this post.

Categories
Indo-Pak Relations

India bombs targets inside Pakistan. India foreign secretary says jets hit Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Pakistan, but Islamabad denies casualties in air raids.

Islamabad, Pakistan – Indian fighter jets on Tuesday crossed into Pakistani territory, conducting what the foreign ministry in New Delhi termed a “non-military pre-emptive action” against armed group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), dramatically escalating tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours weeks after a suicide attack in the disputed Kashmir region.

Pakistan reported the Indian airspace incursion, with military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor saying its air force jets were scrambling to respond, forcing the Indian aircraft to “release [their] payload in haste while escaping”.

Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, however, asserted that the jets had hit their target, and that “a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated”.

“The government of India is firmly and resolutely committed to taking all necessary measures to fight the menace of terrorism,” he told reporters in New Delhi. “Hence this non-military pre-emptive action was specifically targeted at the Jaish-e-Mohammed camp.”

C Uday Bhaskar, the director of the Society for Policy Studies based in New Delhi, said: “India has sent a very firm signal.”

“The fact that air power has been used for the first time against a terrorist target to my mind signalled to Pakistan that India is demonstrating resolve in terms of using military power, particularly air power,” he said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting with his top government officials in New Delhi where he was briefed about the predawn air attack.

Hours later, speaking at an election rally in the western state of Rajasthan, Modi said “the country is in safe hands”, avoiding direct reference to the air raids.

“I pledge on this soil … I will not let the country bend.”

Al Jazeera’s Faiz Jamil, reporting from New Delhi, said that the Indian government has been under a lot of pressure to act in the wake of the Kashmir attack.

“This attack was expected and one of the reasons it was delayed was the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the region,” Jamil said.

“But everyone did expect that this would somehow happen sometime soon, especially with [general] elections coming up in April.”

‘Uncalled-for aggression’

A special meeting of the National Security Committee chaired by the Prime Minister Imran Khan was held at his office on Tuesday.

The meeting was attended by the ministers of foreign affairs, defence and finance, the chairman joint chiefs of staff committee and other civil and military officials.

“Forum strongly rejected Indian claim of targeting an alleged terrorist camp near Balakot and the claim of heavy casualties. Once again, Indian government has resorted to a self-serving, reckless and fictitious claim,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

“Forum concluded that India has committed uncalled for aggression to which Pakistan shall respond at the time and place of its choosing.”

Hassan Akbar, director at the Islamabad-based Jinnah Institute think-tank, termed the attacks “a very provocative and aggressive action by India”.

“They did drop payload in various sectors including in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and this constitutes a serious violation of Pakistan’s airspace and sovereignty.”

Akbar said Pakistan’s response could range from hitting Indian artillery positions along the Line of Control to taking “a more escalatory position” and launching similar airstrikes on Indian military targets.

Sounds of aircraft
Local residents and journalists in Pakistan told Al Jazeera that the sounds of aircraft and an explosion were heard in the Jaba area of Mansehra district, located about 60km from the LoC – the de facto border that divides Indian- and Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

India and Pakistan have fought three of their four wars over Kashmir, which both claim in full but administer separate portions of.

The air attacks on Tuesday appear to have taken place outside of Kashmir, at least 10km inside the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Pakistan’s military did not confirm the location of the incident, offering conflicting reports that at first placed it near the town of Balakot, about 12km from Jaba, and later claimed it occurred within the confines of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Tensions between the South Asian neighbours have been high since February 14, when a suicide attacker killed at least 42 Indian security personnel in the Indian-administered Kashmir town of Pulwama.

Raids in Kashmir
Meanwhile, Indian security forces have conducted raids on the houses of four senior Kashmiri separatist leaders, including chief of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front Yasin Malik.

Kashmiri civilians say they have been seeing heavy troop deployment, fuel shortages and frequent Indian security forces raids since the Pulwama attack.

“The cost of war might not be known in the TV studios, but we have already borne the brunt of the long conflict. Now, it seems the only option left for us is quick devastation or slow devastation,” said 65-year-old Bashir Ahmad Pal, a resident of Baramulla, a frontier town in northern Indian-administered Kashmir.

The joint group of separatist leaders have called for a two-day shutdown in Kashmir from February 27 to protest against the raids and “spree of arrests”.

India has threatened Pakistan with military action repeatedly since the February 14 blast, blaming it for “controlling” the attack. Pakistan-based armed group JeM had claimed the attack.

Pakistan denies any role in the attack, and last week Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan asked India for “actionable intelligence” in order to take action against any JeM operatives in Pakistan.

Pakistan has dubbed it an act of aggression.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, speaking after the National Security Committee meeting, told reporters that the Indian incursion into Pakistani airspace lasted three minutes, beginning at 2.55am local time. He said that the aircraft remained near the LoC, and did not enter airspace outside of Kashmir.

“They left from near the LoC, because of our alertness and the alertness of the Pakistan Air force,” he said.
“Escalation is not our aim, nor will it be. We have always spoken of de-esclation and defusion. And repulsing aggression is our right,” he said.

Earlier Qureshi said Pakistan reserved “the right to a reasonable response and the right to self-defence”.
Additional reporting by Rifat Fareed from Srinagar in Indian-administered Kashmir

Four people, including two children, have been killed and seven others wounded in an exchange of fire between Indian and Pakistani troops in Pakistan-administered Kashmir’s district of Kotli, officials said.

“So far, four people have been killed in the shelling,” Nasrullah Khan, a senior hospital official told Al Jazeera by telephone on Tuesday night.

Khan said the dead included a woman and her two children in Nakyal along the Line of Control (LoC), the heavily-militarised de facto border between India and Pakistan.

“An Indian mortar shell hit a house in Nakyal sector along the Line of Control that killed a mother, daughter and son,” local disaster management authority official Shariq Tariq told AFP news agency.

Another death was reported from Koiratta town in the semi-autonomous region, Khan said.

Pakistan says ‘will respond’ to Indian air raids on its territory

Meanwhile, Indian media reports said at least five of India’s soldiers were also wounded in cross-border firing along the LoC.

The civilian deaths in Pakistan-administered Kashmir came as India earlier on Tuesday said it had launched air raids near Balakot, a town 50km from the LoC inside Pakistan’s territory.

The raids followed a suicide attack earlier this month in India-administered Kashmir, which killed 42 Indian troops when a rebel rammed his explosives-laden car into a paramilitary convoy.

It was the deepest cross-border attack launched by India since the last of its three wars with Pakistan in 1971, when the two nations fought over Bangladesh’s independence.

But there were competing claims about the damage the air strikes caused.

The Indian government, facing a general election in April and May, said the strikes hit a training camp belonging to the armed group, Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), which claimed the February 14 suicide attack.

India bombs targets inside Pakistan
Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said “a very large number” of JeM rebels were killed, without specifying any number.

“The existence of such training facilities, capable of training hundreds of jihadis, could not have functioned without the knowledge of the Pakistani authorities,” Gokhale said.

Pakistan, which denies harbouring the JeM, also dismissed India’s claim, saying the Indian aircraft had dropped their bombs in a wooded area, causing no damage or casualties.

Islamabad called India’s air raids as “reckless and fictitious” and said it would respond in due course “at a time and place of its choosing”.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Imran Khan both summoned emergency meetings of top ministers after the attack.

Khan also convened a meeting for Wednesday of the National Command Authority, which oversees command and control of the country’s nuclear arsenal, the military said.

Modi had threatened a “jaw-breaking” response to the February 14 attack.

India vs Pakistan: Military strength and arsenal

But at an election rally on Tuesday, the Hindu nationalist leader did not directly mention the air raids. He paid tribute to the military and said: “I assure the nation that the country is in safe hands.”

The escalation between India and Pakistan has triggered international alarm, with China and the European Union calling for both sides to show restraint.

Kashmir has been divided between Pakistan and India since the end of British colonial rule over the subcontinent in 1947. Both sides claim the territory in full.

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Indo-Pak Relations

Sikhs provide sanctuary to Kashmiris caught in ‘revenge’ attacks. Kashmiris targeted by right-wing mobs in India following the Pulwama attack say the Sikh community came to their rescue.

Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – When 18-year-old Kashmiri student Shadab Ahmad and his friends were attacked by a mob in the north Indian state of Haryana last week, they prepared for the worst.

The group of four – all Kashmiris – were set upon by a gang and only survived after reaching their flat and barricading themselves inside.

The mob outside moved on, but the group in the apartment decided it was wiser for them to leave for a safer place once the opportunity arose.

Shadab and his friends were among dozens of Kashmiris targeted by mobs across India in the aftermath of the February 14 suicide bombing that killed 42 paramilitary troopers in India-administered Kashmir.

It was the deadliest attack on Indian security forces in the disputed region and immediately triggered revenge attacks against Kashmiris in mainland India.

“There were around seven of us Kashmiris. Another Kashmiri friend called us and asked us to come to Mohali in Punjab. He said it was relatively safe there. We boarded a cab and got there,” Shadab, a second-year engineering student, told Al Jazeera, using an alias because of concerns he may be identified.

At Mohali, Shadab and his friends were greeted with a pleasant surprise.

They were welcomed by volunteers from the Sikh community, who fed them, gave them shelter in a Sikh temple (called “gurudwara”) and arranged transport for them to go back to their homes.

“The Sikh volunteers gave us food and accommodation and arranged 13 vehicles for more than 100 of us to go home together,” Shadab said.

‘Our religion teaches humanity’
Thousands of Kashmiris, many of them students studying in universities and colleges across India, have found themselves the the target of hateful rhetoric.

Like Shadab, hundreds of students fled their colleges in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and other Indian states and have returned to their homes in Kashmir.

Videos of mob attacks were shared widely on social media, prompting condemnation by the Indian National Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International, who asked India to ensure the safety of common Kashmiris.

The Indian government said it was putting into place safeguards to ensure the safety of Kashmiris living outside of their home state.

But alongside accounts of mob violence, which are often associated with Hindu right-wing groups, are stories of ordinary Indians coming to the aid of Kashmiris caught up in the violence.

At the forefront were Sikh groups, such as the UK-based non-profit organisation, Khalsa Aid, which helped fleeing Kashmiri students by putting them up in temples and providing them food and accommodation.

“Our religion teaches us humanity,” Manpreet Singh, the director of Khalsa Aid in India, told Al Jazeera.

“Due to some bad elements who harassed these students, they should not feel alienated and they should believe that humanity is still alive. These young people are our future,” he added.

Khalsa Aid says its volunteers ensured the safe return of at least 300 Kashmiri Muslim students to their homes after the mob attacks.

“We continue to get distressed calls from the students and after verifying we try to help them,” Singh said.

As a token of gratitude for their help, many Kashmiri Muslims in India-administered Kashmir have offered discounts, free medical and legal consultations, and other freebies to the local Sikh community, who are a minority in the region.

In our religion, there is a strong message of humanity irrespective of religion. We promote humanity
Jagmohan Singh Raina, Kashmiri Sikh leader

Kamran Nisar, a Kashmiri in his early 20s who runs the Winterfell cafe at a tourist spot in the main city of Srinagar, has announced free meals for the Sikh community for a week.

“This is not providing meals for free but instead a small token of love, and a gesture of gratitude to the community that came to help us,” Kamran told Al Jazeera.

Jagmohan Singh Raina, a Sikh leader in Kashmir, told Al Jazeera that his community had a long history of helping those in need, no matter their background.

“In our religion, there is a strong message of humanity irrespective of religion. We promote humanity,” he said, adding: “It’s not for the first time, Sikh volunteers have also helped in Syria, Bangladesh, in Nepal.”

Concerns for safety
At his home in south Kashmir, Shadab now debates whether he should go back to his college, and many like him are asking the same question.

They say they left the Kashmir valley to escape violence but no do not feel safe being Kashmiri in Indian cities.

Salman Shaida who worked at a university in northern India said he was forced to resign after a student screenshotted a WhatsApp conversation with him about the situation in Kashmir.

“There was nothing anti-national in it,” he told Al Jazeera. “But I was attacked by a mob and I hid until the police arrived outside my apartment.

“I approached the head of the institution but instead of providing me protection, he forced me to sign my resignation.

“This happened because I am a Kashmiri. I do not know why I was punished when I could have been lynched.”
The pressures come not only from incidences of prejudice against Kashmiris.

One Kashmiri, named Numan, told Al Jazeera his family were pressuring him to quit his job in the city of Bangalore over fears of violence.

“My family does not want me to work there any more. The situation has horrified everyone,” he said.

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Indo-Pak Relations

Kashmir Militants Kill Again as Trouble Grows Between India and Pakistan

NEW DELHI — Militants in Kashmir struck again on Monday, killing an Indian Army major and at least three other soldiers just days after orchestrating a devastating bombing that left dozens of Indian security forces dead.
Fears are now rising that Kashmir, a disputed region that lies between India and its regional rival, Pakistan, could be sliding into an especially deadly phase again.
Diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan are breaking down; Kashmiri students are being rounded up and attacked; other young people have been charged with sedition for criticizing the Indian Army; and Indians are lashing out at Pakistani civilians, including Bollywood actors.
The recent violence in Kashmir — a majority Muslim region that is mostly controlled by India, a predominantly Hindu nation — has uncapped a wave of jingoism that is sweeping across India. The orange, white and green national flag is going up everywhere, and many people say they want revenge.
Pakistan has a long history of supporting militant groups in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir. India has accused Pakistan of orchestrating the recent violence and vowed to retaliate. But India has few good military options, analysts say — and the public seems to sense this.
“There is a real sense of frustration and anger because Pakistan is in the picture,’’ said Gurcharan Das, an Indian writer. “A lot of Indians feel that India has failed with regard to Pakistan and that it has not been tough enough and has appeased Pakistan.’’
“But,’’ he added, “I don’t think anybody really wants a war.’’
The trouble on Monday started around 2 a.m. Under the cover of darkness, Indian soldiers in the Pulwama District of the Kashmir Valley surrounded a house that was thought to be a militant hide-out.
The militants opened fire on the approaching contingent, killing a major and three soldiers and critically wounding at least one other soldier. At least one civilian was killed in the crossfire.
Indian officials said the militants inside the house were members of Jaish-e-Muhammad, or the Army of Muhammad, the separatist group that claimed responsibility for the bombing last week that killed at least 40 Indian soldiers — one of the deadliest attacks in the region in decades.
By midafternoon, Indian officials said two militants had been killed. But security forces were struggling to get closer to the house because hundreds of Kashmiri civilians were hurling rocks in an effort to shield the militants, who are widely seen in Kashmir as legitimate freedom fighters.
Pakistan has denied involvement in the recent bombing in Kashmir, for which Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India has promised “a befitting reply.”
Retaliation would carry huge risks, however. Both nations field nuclear arsenals, and regional dynamics are especially sensitive right now. United States officials have been calling on regional powers to support a peace plan for an American withdrawal from Afghanistan, where Pakistan has long been a powerful influence.
But India is headed into major elections in the next few months, and Mr. Modi hardly wants to look weak.
Pakistan’s security services have a long history of supporting Kashmiri separatists and other militant groups, often using them as a proxy force against India. The United States considers the Army of Muhammad a terrorist organization; the group is officially banned in Pakistan, but Indian and American officials say it still operates there under different names.
The status of Kashmir has been disputed for decades, with India and Pakistan claiming large chunks of the mountainous region. Many of the militants in Kashmir are young men who have spent their entire lives in the Indian-controlled areas and have been shaped by years of heavy occupation by Indian troops. Security analysts say many militants still receive money and weapons from Pakistan.
On Thursday, a Kashmiri militant slammed a truck containing an unusually powerful bomb into a convoy of Indian troops moving across the Kashmir Valley. More than 40 paramilitary officers were killed, and Indian officials say they believe the bomb maker slipped in from Pakistan.
Since then, Indian security forces have been searching for accomplices, often going house to house.
Kashmiri civilians are also being targeted. At a university in Dehradun, someone used WhatsApp to threaten Kashmiri students, saying: “We will not leave you alive.’’
A board outside a mobile phone shop read: “Dogs are allowed, but Kashmiris are not allowed.”
Witnesses said that mobs swept through Dehradun, beating up Kashmiri students and forcing scores to flee.
“I am very scared,’’ said Junaid Ayub Rather, an engineering student who managed to hire a car to leave Dehradun.
He cited years of conflict and misery in Kashmir, where tens of thousands of civilians have been killed over the decades as India, Pakistan and various militant groups have fought for control.
“Tell me,’’ Mr. Rather said, “have you ever heard of Kashmiris attacking or threatening civilians from other parts of the country who reside in Kashmir to avenge that?”
Diplomatically, the two countries are pulling apart. On Friday, India recalled its ambassador to Pakistan. On Monday, Pakistan did the same.
Across India, more than a dozen people have been arrested, lost their jobs or were expelled from school for writing social media posts that were seen as critical of the Indian military or interpreted by the authorities as siding with the attackers.
Surabhi Singh, a senior coordinator for the Center for Advocacy and Research, a nonprofit that works with marginalized communities, wrote a post on Facebook shortly after the bombing, criticizing the Indian Army’s record.
She wrote: “If Attack on Armed Soldiers is Cowardly … Attacking Unarmed Civilians including Hapless Children must be an Act of Bravery.’’
Over the weekend, she was fired.
“I was targeted,” said Ms. Singh, who has also worked as a translator for international news organizations, including The New York Times. “You’re not allowed to think freely anymore. You have to toe the line of the majority. It is jingoistic.”
Even actors are being punished. A number of Indian film organizations announced a boycott of Pakistani actors working in India’s film industry, by far the biggest in South Asia.
Suresh Shyamlal Gupta, the president of the All Indian Cine Workers Association, said India needed to attack Pakistan “from all sides.”
Jeffrey Gettleman reported from New Delhi, and Sameer Yasir from Srinagar, Kashmir. Suhasini Raj, Hari Kumar and Kai Schultz contributed reporting from New Delhi.

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Indo-Pak Relations

Kashmir attack: is terror group JeM pushing India and Pakistan to the brink of war?

The Trump administration has been bent on a military withdrawal from Afghanistan and leaning on Pakistan to pressure the Taliban in peace talks. Pakistan is hosting a meeting next week in Islamabad between the Taliban and the United States before the next round of negotiations in Qatar at the end of the month.

It is likely Pakistan may use this opportunity to convey a subtle message, as it has done in the past, that it can get away with periodic attacks in Kashmir.

JeM has for years sought to end India’s sovereign hold on Jammu and Kashmir.

Just two months after the September 11 attacks in the United States, the JeM attacked India’s parliament in New Delhi. Experts suggest the US asked India not to retaliate militarily as it would have affected its deployment across several bases in Pakistan for operations in Afghanistan and lead to Islamabad mobilising the army for its own mission instead of helping the US seal the Afghan border.

Now, Pakistan is also likely to reiterate to the US the pet narrative that militancy in Jammu and Kashmir is a “home-grown disaffection” and cite reports that the car packed with bombs that killed Indian troops was driven by a local youth, Adil Ahmad Dar.

Overall, the situation highlights the strategic limitations of the US and other nations in forcing Pakistan to abandon militant groups. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has condemned the attack and strongly rejected insinuations it is linked to the incident.

China’s stance on Kashmir attack will test ties with India
It is also possible that with India-Pakistan relations in deep freeze, and the US in talks with the Taliban for a withdrawal from Afghanistan, the JeM wants to push India and Pakistan to the brink of war. It needs to be noted that the JeM, which has close links with the Taliban, carried out attacks inside Pakistan after former President Pervez Musharraf agreed to help the US military in the aftermath of September 11. Its attacks included two failed assassination bids on Musharaf in 2003. It was only later that the JeM was rehabilitated by Pakistan’s Army so it could be used against India.
The car bombing on February 14 was quite similar to those carried out by the Irish Republican Army or militants in Afghanistan or Iraq and is possibly a hint of things to come. While car bombs have been rare in Kashmir, it is not the first time the JeM has used them. It deployed them twice in 2000 in Srinagar, albeit with limited success.
In October 2001, JeM militants rammed the main gate of the Legislative Assembly building, killing 23.

Thwarting such attacks would not only require excellent intelligence on men and materials, but also mean restricting traffic movement and exhaustive checks of vehicles – disrupting everyday life in Jammu and Kashmir during a crucial election period.

India has already indicated it would stop all civilian traffic during the movement of troop convoys. The ruling BJP, claiming to be more nationalistic and “muscular” than other political parties, is facing tremendous pressure to take a tough line on Pakistan. It could again launch “surgical strikes” across the Line of Control but Pakistan is likely to be prepared.

The other option is an attack using combat aircraft or armed drones on militant training camps. However, the problem is that Masood Azhar is based around Bahawalpur – and any aerial attack across the international border could lead to escalation. An attack across the de facto border known as The Line of Control may abate public sentiment – but will not punish the actual culprits.

India warns of ‘befitting reply’ to Pakistan over Kashmir attack
There are many hawks in India who are recommending full-scale military action against Pakistan. But there are a few things to consider when contemplating full-scale war with Pakistan.

First, India lacks the conventional forces overmatch over Pakistan that would allow it full control over the escalation ladder. If the element of surprise fails, Indian troops could get bogged down and there is the potential for escalation.

Secondly, Pakistan’s fear of being quickly overwhelmed may encourage it to rapidly raise the stakes with nuclear threats.

Thirdly, keeping an Indian attack limited may also not be a priority of Pakistan. It would, on the contrary, be keen to escalate the conflict to a level where the threat of nuclear war becomes imminent and the international community is forced to intervene. This could allow Pakistan to “internationalise” the Kashmir conflict – it administers part of Jammu & Kashmir (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) but insists most residents want either independence or to be under Islamabad and not New Delhi’s control.

Lastly, the Pakistani army does retain the potential to wreak some limited amount of damage on the Indian side of the border and the economic and stability cost to the border states would be debilitating.

If the ruling BJP limits itself to economic and diplomatic measures only, it may suffer in elections. With opposition parties piling on pressure to act, the government may have to undertake some kind of punitive action – the outcome and benefits of which cannot be predicted. Right now, by indicating “the armed forces have been given full liberty to decide the time, place and mode of retribution”, the government seems to have outsourced the problem of a credible response to the armed forces.

Kuldip Singh is a retired Brigadier from the Indian Army. He was formerly head of the defence wing in the National Security Council Secretariat of India.

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Environment Indo-Pak Relations

A Family Ski Adventure in the Himalayas

Last winter, as I was riding in a car with my family through the Kashmir Valley, the driver’s phone rang. He listened carefully before frowning.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Man killed in avalanche.”

“Who?”

“A Russian, skier, went by helicopter.”

“Where?” I asked
.
“Where else?’’ The driver shrugged. “Gulmarg.”

Gulmarg. That’s exactly where I was taking my family for a ski trip. Gulmarg is Kashmir’s underdog ski resort, tucked in the snowy Himalayas, a place of magnificent skiing and no frills. Few foreigners visit, for reasons I will get into, and as we drew closer, I began to wonder if this was such a great idea. I looked out the window. It was now dark and snowing, and we were winding our way up a narrow road into the mountains. After we passed another military checkpoint, the driver nodded to me.

“You see that spot?’’ he said, pointing into the woods. “We saw a bear there last week.’’
My wife, Courtenay, who was sitting in the back, tapped me on the shoulder.

“Why can’t we go skiing in Austria like everybody else?”

I laughed.

“No,” she said. “I’m serious.”

I had always dreamed of skiing in Kashmir. That name alone conjures up adventure: white-toothed mountains and deep green valleys, wide open slopes and tough highland people. Draped in a mysterious beauty, Kashmir is one of those places most of us have heard of, but know little about. And I had a personal agenda. My children are among that strange breed of Americans who have never lived in the United States. They were born in Kenya, raised (so far) in Africa and India, products of the tropics who go to school all year round in shorts, and I wanted them to experience snow.

So one weekend about a year ago, while we were sitting around our apartment in New Delhi, I suggested a trip to Kashmir’s winter wonderland.

“Are you kidding?” Courtenay said. “Isn’t there an active conflict up there?”

“I wouldn’t necessarily call it a conflict,” I said.

“What would you call it then?”

“A dispute, maybe?

I’m an average skier, trained on the snowy pimples of the Midwest, with a few lucky trips to Vail and the Alps. But I love skiing, and the thought of plunging down the Himalayas, the world’s tallest mountains, fired me up. I soon learned that Kashmir’s ski spot, Gulmarg, is huge (about seven times the size of Jackson Hole), with some runs so long they take all day to ski. I also learned that Gulmarg is cheap, never crowded and blessed with perfect high-altitude, inland snow. One experienced skier described it as being so soft and feathery that skiing through it was like floating through a forest. I wanted to float through that forest.

But before getting more excited, I needed to check out the safety of the area. This was a family trip, after all, and my wife was right: Kashmir is contested territory, torn between India and Pakistan. It’s a long story, flaring up in the 1940s, when the British divided the subcontinent into Hindu-dominated India and Muslim-dominated Pakistan. The people of Kashmir fell in between, religiously and geographically. They were ruled by a Hindu maharajah, though the population was mostly Muslim. And their area, with its fertile orchards, deliciously cool climate and legendary scenery, lies right between what is now India and Pakistan.

After the British left, India and Pakistan fought three wars over Kashmir, and today the conflict has settled into a thorny standoff, with India controlling most of Kashmir and Pakistan a smaller slice.

Many Kashmiris don’t want either country controlling them: They want independence, and a small, dogged separatist movement operates in Kashmir, attacking police posts and civilians believed to be collaborators. Gulmarg, however, is rarely affected; it lies in a nook of the Kashmir valley tightly controlled by the Indian military.

I was obsessed with getting us there, but had no idea how to pull this off. As luck would have it, right when Courtenay and I were haggling over the trip, we were invited to a dinner party in New Delhi where I was seated near a charming, fit-looking Indian with a bald head and handlebar mustache. His name was Akshay Kumar and he was a former champion skier. He had skied Gulmarg countless times, ever since he was a child, and he and his wife, Dilshad Master, run an adventure tour company,

When I asked him if Gulmarg was safe, he said: “Very. I’m taking some families up there in a couple of weekends. Want to come?”

I now had the necessary cover.

Akshay offered to do all the hard work: organizing ski rentals, lift passes, hotel bookings and, most important, the seamless string of large bearded men who would schlep us around. He made what could have been a complicated trip simple and safe. He also made it inexpensive. The kids’ lift tickets were less than $3 (that’s not a typo). A gondola day pass was $25. Equipment rental was about the same and the gear was solid: parabolic Atomic skis and Salomon boots. A ski trip to Austria, for example, would have cost us thousands of dollars.

I cover South Asia for The New York Times, and I was working on a story in Kashmir that same week on the life and times of a young militant named Sameer Tiger. Like many others, Sameer Tiger had been pulled into the insurgency by a mix of anger, naïveté and lack of economic opportunity. And, like many others, he went down in a hail of bullets, cornered by security forces. I had spent weeks researching him and was familiar with flying in and out of Srinagar, Kashmir’s biggest city. I also knew that the hot spots where the militants conducted their attacks tended to be in southern Kashmir, miles away from Gulmarg.

“Like ice, Daddy, like ice”

As I waited at the Srinagar airport for my family, I was giddy with excitement. It had just snowed and the trees were delicately coated, the roads wet and shiny. When I picked everyone up, Asa, our 7-year-old, pointed to a lumpy bag tied to the taxi’s roof and asked, just as I knew he would, “What’s that?”

I untied the bag and told him to put his hands in. “Ooh, that’s cold,” he said, turning over his first clump of snow. “Like ice, Daddy, like ice.”

I would have loved to linger in Srinagar, an old town built on a lotus-covered lake, where you can stay in a gorgeous houseboat, wake up with kingfishers plunging into the lake next to you, and then stroll through rose-filled gardens sculpted by Moghul emperors hundreds of years ago. But we only had the weekend to work with, so we had to skip all of this.

It’s about an hour-and-a-half drive from Srinagar to Gulmarg, and Courtenay was quiet the entire way. I did not blame her. Kashmir isn’t a war zone, but everywhere you look, you see Indian soldiers running checkpoints, patrolling the markets and peeking their helmeted heads out from the turrets of scarred-up gun trucks. The American government warns citizens to stay away, though I feel that’s overblown. I’ve been to Kashmir now more than half a dozen times and I’ve never heard a single gunshot. The Indian troops exert control in just about all parts of the valley, especially in Srinagar, and I know several other expat families who have visited, and all said they felt safe.

With evening approaching, we left the city on a smooth highway running west. The long shadows of minarets fell across the road. The men in the villages we passed were bundled up in heavy woolen cloaks called pherans. When we stopped to buy water, I noticed one man with a large round bulge under his pheran. When I asked him what it was, he lifted up his cloak to reveal a small pot of burning coal he was cradling to keep himself warm.
This is what I love about Kashmir. While India is such a feast of the senses — the food, the fashion, the colors, the deities, the clanging of brass bells and the constant whiffs of incense and fragrant oils — Kashmir radiates its own distinctive charm.

We crossed a river. This is when the driver’s phone rang, and after we heard about the deadly avalanche and then the bear in these same woods, the car fell silent.

The mood brightened when we pulled into the Khyber hotel, Gulmarg’s fanciest. It was a supersize ski chalet, and its green pointed roofs were dusted with snow. The kids’ eyes were peeled for bears. But as soon as we stepped into the lobby, with its dark, gleaming wood and fine carpets, I spotted what I really wanted to see: children. Packs of them.

Clearly this was a family destination, and in the Khyber’s downstairs rec room, Asa and our other son, Apollo, 9, instantly bonded with their Indian comrades over foosball and air hockey. I had to pry them out of there. There aren’t any bars in Kashmir (it’s dry) or anything resembling an après-ski scene, so we went to sleep early.

The next morning we mustered outside in the hotel’s portico, waiting for our skis to be delivered. I thought we’d just slap them on and slide the couple of hundred yards to the base of the slopes, but no, a Jeep dispatched as part of Akshay’s operation zoomed up with three men inside. Kashmiris are some of the warmest, most hospitable people, and before we climbed into the Jeep, the men greeted us with big hugs. When we climbed out, they insisted on putting on our skis. I had one guy on my left, another on my right and a third young man kneeling in the snow at my feet.

“Guys, guys, guys,” I said, trying to wiggle free. “I can put on my own skis.”

But the young man at my feet either didn’t understand or didn’t care. And for the first time since I was about 5, I watched someone untie my shoes and carefully pull them off.
The sky was a flawless blue, the air peppermint fresh. It wasn’t even that cold — maybe 30 degrees. Kashmir rarely gets bitterly cold; Gulmarg lies at the same latitude as Atlanta. All around us, the white teeth of the Himalayas gleamed, and from nearby chimneys I smelled wood smoke. It was the most romantic alpine scene I had ever entered, and part of it was the scale. Behind the mountains that stood in front of me were even higher mountains, and behind them, the real titans. On a clear day, from the top of Gulmarg, you can see into Pakistan and glimpse K2, the second tallest mountain in the world after Everest.
Gulmarg doesn’t feel like a ski resort; it feels like a village. At the base of the gondola, men with wooden boxes strapped to their shoulders sold chocolate bars, selfie sticks and cigarettes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pack of cigarettes on a ski slope.

Others wielded silver samovars and poured steaming cups of kahwah, a light Kashmiri tea, made from saffron and other spices, that carries a delightful aroma. Of the several hundred people on the mountain that day, most were not skiers but Indian families content to pay a few rupees for a ride on a sled. I watched the sled wallahs — a string of young Kashmiri men with battered toboggans — begin their long trudge uphill. They were working for the equivalent of a few dollars a day and didn’t have the money to take the lift. They slowly made their way up the mountain, heads down, bodies leaning forward, the wind tugging at their pherans.

Akshay arranged for my sons to take lessons with a Kashmiri skier named Ishfaq. He told them to call him Eeesh. We waved to Eeesh and the two roly-poly shadows beneath him as they tramped off to the bunny hill.

Courtenay and I hired our own guide, Wali. Wali was in his late 40s with curly gray hair and orange mirrored shades. He wore no hat. He had been working on these slopes since he was 8, beginning as a sled wallah. He had never been to school. When I asked Wali what he loved about skiing, he looked off into the hills and smiled.

“I love it for the money,” he said.

It wasn’t exactly the poetic answer I was looking for, but fair enough. In strife-torn Kashmir, where there aren’t many jobs for an athletic, adventurous man, this was a good one.

Gulmarg’s slopes cover everything from green to double black diamond, but few are marked. Part of the mountain is groomed, but advanced skiers love the ungroomed, backcountry skiing. The gondola reaches around 13,000 feet, one of the highest in the world. Some skiers hike up even higher or take helicopters to virgin spots. Gulmarg’s vertical drop, a measure of the altitude from where you start to where you finish, can be as much as 6,000 feet. With good snow, some runs stretch more than four miles. They can take the better part of a day and end in the woods, near some old temples.

We started with a medium-difficult run, taking the gondola to the middle of the mountain (Gulmarg has one gondola, one chair lift and several tow ropes). We stepped off into thick snowpack. This was mid-February, the best time for snow; sometimes the area gets eight feet of powder.

Wali led the way, dropping into a wide track that ran through Himalayan cedar trees. He stopped intermittently to look back at Courtenay and me.

“Up and down, up and down,” he shouted as we made our turns, trying to keep our skis together. “Yass, yass, that’s it. Good, good!”
As my skis cut through the snow, I felt the air against my cheeks and that addictive sense of speed. My thighs burned and occasionally I heard the sssh, sssh of a better skier descending past me, though there were only a handful of us on the slopes. It had been nearly 10 years since I had last skied, and bombing down the mountain felt as pure and intoxicating as galloping on a horse.

Courtenay agreed it was thrilling. But she was more distracted than I was by Kashmir’s misfortune of lying between two rival nations. Her take on Gulmarg was that it was “a stunning ski resort in the middle of a zone of sadness.”

We skied around some low-slung houses made of wooden planks. “What are those?” I shouted to Wali.

“Gujjar houses!” Wali shouted back.

Hmm, I thought. This place doesn’t just feel like a village — it is a village. Seminomadic Gujjar herders live here in the summer, when the slopes are carpeted with grass and wildflowers; the name Gulmarg means meadow of flowers. Just as I was thinking “How sweet is this?” — observing some culture while working on my parallel — I dug in too deep on a turn and face-planted. Courtenay and Wali didn’t hear me wipe out and kept going, leaving me in the snowbound Gujjar village by myself.

A bear of a man appeared out of nowhere. He ripped me up from the ground. After I got my hands through straps in my poles and could stand up without falling on my face again, I said, “Shukria” — thank you.

“Where from?” he asked.

“U.S.”

“America?”

“Yes.”

His bristly face broke into a huge smile.

“Welcome, brother, welcome.”

Paradise on Earth

For lunch, we met up with our children at Hotel Highlands Park on the slopes. Again, this was not a Western imitation. We didn’t thump along in our ski boots in a packed cafeteria, pushing a tray along a track for a $10 cup of cocoa and a $25 hamburger. We sat down at a proper table in a proper restaurant and polished off a feast: naan bread, curried vegetables, fresh yogurt and an exquisite lamb dish of tender meat hammered flat and rolled into a baseball-size meatball. The hotel felt like a hunting lodge; deer heads and bearskin rugs hung on the walls.

I hadn’t seen any other foreigners, so when I heard an American accent down the hallway, I was curious. I wandered through the lodge, pushed open a door and found three rugged, sun-tanned guys sitting on cushions in a cozy, wood-paneled room heated by wood-burning stoves.

“What do you guys do here?”

“We’re the ski patrol,” said one.

His name was Luke. He was 39 years old. He grew up in Alaska, became an avalanche forecaster and a paramedic and came to Gulmarg seven years ago to run the ski patrol.
“It’s the warmth of the people,” he said. “That’s what drew me here.”

He explained that Gulmarg has 17 ski patrollers with snowmobiles to rescue injured skiers. Avalanches were always a risk but only in the off-piste areas, he said, like where the Russian tourist was skiing on the day we arrived.

After lunch, I watched my sons ski. Eeesh had taught them well. Asa turned back and forth, carving large S’s and ending with a confident snowplow. Apollo was less orthodox. He shot down the bunny hill like a bullet.

“Stop! Stop!” Courtenay yelled as he approached the bottom.

I doubt he heard but somehow, right before he was about to crash into us, he stopped.
The next morning was sadly our last. I persuaded Wali to take me higher on the mountain. When we got off the chair lift, we were by ourselves. The views were breathtaking. It was so bright, so clear, so crisp, so still. I just wanted to stay up there and stare at the jagged white mountains and etch those images into my brain.

I was reminded of a Persian couplet inscribed long ago on a pavilion in one of Srinagar’s majestic gardens: “If there is a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.”
I gazed across the valley.

“You go first,” Wali hollered. “I want to watch your form.”

I didn’t know where to start. We were poised on the lip of an enormous bowl. In front of me, for as long as I could see, the snow was untrammeled. There wasn’t a single track.

Categories
Indo-Pak Relations

The ascent of Sindhis in Chattisgarh

“No, no I’m told not to discuss any money issues here. Central offices will directly deal with it,” with these words, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) candidate in Raipur North nearly whisked himself away to give an interview to a television channel. It took a while to explain it to Shrichand Sundrani, the candidate, that it was not money but a news story on Sindhis in the election that had brought this correspondent to his office.

In Chhattisgarh, politicians have stopped believing that news can be produced without cash transfers to journalists or media managers, especially during election. But once Mr. Sundrani was convinced that he did not have to pay for the story featuring him, he looked relaxed and even offered to be photographed with a picture of his personal saint, Gulab Baba of north Maharashtra.

Influence increasing
Mr. Sundrani did not deny that the political influence of Sindhis in Chhahttisgarh, “is increasing alongside Marwaris or Jains,” as other parties are also putting up Sindhi candidates. Members of the Sindhi community said that they did not mind who won in Raipur North as long as only Sindhi candidates are nominated by all parties. “We wanted to ensure that Raipur North turns into a dedicated Sindhi seat. It nearly happened this time but the Congress withdrew its Sindhi candidate,” said a community member close to the BJP.

The Congress had dominated the central Indian province through Brahmins and 36 royal families for half a century. With the rise of the Jana Sangh, the Marwaris and Jains of Raipur, who were less organised in politics, gathered under the saffron flag. The BJP and the Vaishya community’s rise in Chattisgarh was thus almost synchronised to the formation of Chattisgarh in 2000.

Late entrants
Sindhis are late entrants. “There was no way we could be early entrants in Chattisgarh’s politics,” said Kanhaiya Lal Chuggani, Chattisgarh chapter president of the Bhartiya Sindhu Sabha (BSS), a wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the patriarch of the Sindhi community in Chattisgarh.

“We came as paupers and thus, it was a question of survival for a Sindhi. How can he give time to politics?” asks Mr. Chuggani.

“But Sindhis made money mainly through trading and their political aspirations increased. So, a few years ago, the Chattisgarh Chamber of Commerce had its first Sindhi president. Now, the Sindhis, who are 1% of the population, are joining politics,” said Mr. Chuggani.

The community was largely aligned with the BJP. “In 1940, RSS men, like the all-India president of BSS, Lakhsman Chandiramani (93), used to visit Sindh to campaign. The association [with RSS] continued and grew when L.K. Advani became the Deputy Prime Minister, and we naturally gravitated towards the BJP,” said Mr. Chuggani.
Sindhis now control many trades in Chattisgarh — from mobile phones, automobiles and clothes to kirana (grocery) stores, which were with other communities earlier. “We always work on a lower margin of profit compared with Agarwals or Jains. It is often said that wherever we go, we destroy the market,” laughed Mr. Chuggani, who feels that Sindhis can now financially influence both political parties and the public.

From within
Competition came from within the community in the 2018 election. There were nearly half a dozen contenders for the Raipur North constituency and Mr. Sundrani’s name was declared at the very end. Amar Parwani, a dynamic Sindhi businessman, and former head of Chattisgarh Chamber of Commerce, nearly bagged the BJP ticket.
“But Mr. Sundrani got it. The head of the Shadani Darbar, the most influential Sindhi pilgrimage, recommended Sundrani to the Chief Minister,” said a senior community member.

Moreover, “Parwani is a very new entrant in the BJP,” said a BJP official. But many in the Sindhi Samaj consider Mr. Sundrani, who won with a margin of a little over 3,000 votes in 2013, a weak candidate.

There are about 1 lakh Sindhis with 10%-15% votes in each of the four Raipur seats. But will they finally vote for a Sindhi? Mr. Sundrani thinks that “they definitely will.” But many Sindhis are in two minds. Whoever loses, Hindu Sindhis have won in Chattisgarh, 70 years after losing their homeland in southern Pakistan.

Categories
Indo-Pak Relations

Pakistan won’t abandon peace efforts despite India’s reluctance: Shah Mehmood Qureshi

WASHINGTON: India’s reluctance to hold talks with Pakistan will not stop Islamabad from closing doors on its efforts to promote peace in the region, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said, days after New Delhi cancelled the foreign minister-level meeting in New York.

Addressing a news conference at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington on Sunday, Qureshi said India used incidents that happened in July to cancel peace talks that it agreed to in September.

India on Friday cited the “brutal” killing of three policemen in Jammu and Kashmir as well as the release of the postal stamps “glorifying” Kashmiri terrorist Burhan Wani for calling off the meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Qureshi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York this month.

“India is reluctant, we will not close our doors,” Qureshi said.

“Hiding away from issues will not make them disappear. It will not improve the situation in Kashmir,” he was quoted as saying by the ‘Dawn’ newspaper.

The foreign minister said he was unable to understand India’s refusal to participate in peace talks with Pakistan.

“Engagement, no-engagement. Coming, not coming. We desired talks as we believe the sensible way is to meet and talk. They agreed, and then disagreed,” he said.

Qureshi said India’s response to Pakistan’s peace offer was harsh and non-diplomatic.

“We did not use a non-diplomatic language in our rejoinder. Our response was matured and measured. They adopted a new approach, and moved back,” he said.

The foreign minister also alleged that Swaraj’s “language and tone was unbecoming of a foreign minister”, the report said.

Asked if tensions between India and Pakistan could lead to a war between the two countries, Qureshi said “Who is talking of war? Not us. We want peace, stability, employment and improving lives. You identify where is the reluctance”.

Qureshi said Pakistan’s desire for peace should not be mistaken for a sign of weakness.

“We want peace. It does not mean, we cannot defend ourselves against aggression. We can, but we do not have an aggressive mindset,” he said.

Qureshi also rejected India’s concerns over the release of a postal stamps “glorifying” slain Kashmiri terrorist, saying “hundreds of thousands of people are fighting in Kashmir, not all of them are terrorists”.

The foreign minister also reiterated Pakistan’s offer to open the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara corridor for allowing Sikh pilgrims from India to visit the historic gurdwara on the 550th birth anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev.

India initially agreed to a meeting between Swaraj and Qureshi, but later said it would would be “meaningless” to hold talks after the “two deeply disturbing” developments.

Ties between India and Pakistan nosedived following a spate of terror attacks on Indian military bases by Pakistan-based terror groups since January 2016.

Following the strikes, India announced it will not engage in talks with Pakistan, saying terror and talks cannot go hand-in-hand.

Categories
Indo-Pak Relations

SECURITY INTELLIGENCE BOOK REVIEW The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace

The book The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace, co-authored by the former chief of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), General Asad Durrani, and A S Dulat, the former chief of India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), has created a buzz around South Asia.

Former counterparts from the rival countries’ intelligence services coming together to produce a book on sensitive issues related to back-door diplomacy and the events related to security and foreign-policy matters is a unique venture. The book is narrated in a conversational style, with journalist Aditya Sinha initiating the dialogue between Durrani and Dulat.

Quite interestingly, Durrani is the one who occupies most of the pages of the book, while Dulat remains a bit conservative in his approach and only repeats the same mantra of India being a target of ISI and Pakistani non-state actors.

The first chapter is all about setting the stage for the beginning of the conservation between Durrani and Dulat, and it gives readers a chance to become familiar with the backgrounds of the spymasters penning their experiences.

After engaging the reader, the book opens with Pakistan’s ISI-vs-RAW war. It is the third chapter that actually looks behind the channels of diplomacy and the activities of both spy agencies in Kashmir.

While Durrani states that India has a status-quo power edge over Kashmir and that the only solution to the problem is a composite dialogue, Dulat is of the view that there is no benefit for India in burning resources in Kashmir.

Durrani’s admission about Pakistan not understanding Amanullah Khan, the president of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, is interesting. JKLK wanted a free Kashmir independent of any influence from either Pakistan or India. Durrani is of the view that Pakistan should have backed Amanullah Khan instead of backing Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Having had the chance to meet Amanullah Khan personally on few occasions, I in my early youth was convinced that his formula was the only way forward for both India and Pakistan, so one wonders why it took three decades for Durrani and his colleagues to understand this very simple point.

The book gives a detailed Indo-Pakistani perspective on Afghanistan and the proxy wars between the two countries, but the controversial point that generated the backlash is about Osama bin Laden. Durrani maintains in the book that Pakistan came to be aware of bin Laden’s presence at some stage and used him as a bargaining chip.

His revelations about the Abbottabad operation are nothing new, as every knowledgeable person in Pakistan is aware that the operation was conducted mutually and that Pakistan agreed to show ignorance about it to avoid the wrath of hyper-nationalist organizations. Durrani also states that hyper-nationalism is the obstacle in the way of Pakistan’s peace and progress.

Dulat and Durrani both also agreed to pay money to separatists and non-state actors in Kashmir and Baluchistan, which are proxy battlefields for Pakistan and India.

There are different aspects and interesting points in the book for intellectual consumption, but at the same time, it focuses more on Pakistan than India. That raises the question of whether it is a deliberate effort by a third party to exploit the weak links in Pakistan’s narrative and get them endorsed by an ex-ISI chief. For example, the statement from Durrani that both India and Pakistan should reunite again seems like an endorsement of the Akhand Bharat ideology. Durrani is of the view that Pakistan and India should one day be reunited, and likely will be. For this to happen he proposes different steps to be taken, and a detailed outline of how this can be achieved can be found in the book.

While for the establishment it is high time to think about their narrative as the Bin Laden operation details given by Durrani raise some serious questions. If the Abbottabad operation was mutually agreed, then why was the nation’s money and time wasted by the Pakistani establishment by forming a commision on the Abbottabad incident, the report on which has still not been made public.

Durrani’s statement regarding the Kargil War is a confession that Nawaz Sharif saved the day for the establishment in that conflict. Durrani’s statement is highly disliked by the establishment in Pakistan as he states in the book that the prime minister was not briefed properly and that this misadventure was initiated by then army chief Pervez Musharraf.

Durrani’s revelations are not appreciated by the establishment in Pakistan; he is already the focus of a military inquiry into the leaking of national secrets and his name is on the exit control list so he cannot flee the country.

Durrani’s point in the book regarding the establishment disliking Sharif because of his soft stance regarding India and his participation in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s oath-taking ceremony also reflects the fact that there are double standards as far as foreign policy is concerned. If a dictator in uniform such as Musharraf pleads to Atal Bihari Vajpayee to make a deal on Kashmir and shows a soft approach towards India, it is considered patriotism and a good diplomatic approach, while the same stance from an elected prime minister is termed as a security risk influenced by the Indian lobby.

Durrani’s statement regarding the military establishment camp disapproving of Sharif also validated the former prime minister’s point that he was ousted by the invisible forces for asserting his authority on foreign policies.

For policymakers, it seems like the right time to step back from the hegemonistic foreign-policy narratives, and they should leave some space for elected representatives to work as well.

The propaganda drive against Durrani concerning leaked national secrets is baseless, as he did not disclose any secrets; in fact, he has pointed out the Pakistan’s Army’s vulnerabilities, and he identified senior officers involved in corruption.

Durrani’s revelations are not appreciated by the establishment in Pakistan; he is already the focus of a military inquiry into the leaking of national secrets and his name is on the exit control list so he cannot flee the country.

One wonders why instead of suppressing facts, the Pakistani military establishment has started an inquiry into the questionable policies and narratives of the last 70 years. Instead of dragging Durrani into an inquiry, a commission should be formed to investigate who hijacked Muhammad Ali Jinnah‘s vision of a welfare state and turned it into a security state. Who was responsible for foreign-policy failures, the Kargil blunder, the fall of Dhaka, the incidents at Ojhri camp in Rawalpindi, Who created non-state actors, and who pushed the country first into a dollar-sponsored Afghan war and then into to the great game of occupying Afghan territory in the early 2000s?

Who controls the policies and narratives of the state, and why should they not be brought to justice?

The only way forward for Pakistan is to establish a truth and reconciliation commission and to accept the mistakes and blunders of the past 70 years. Probably Durrani has provided the military establishment in Pakistan with an opportunity to come forward and accept their failures in shaping rotten and unsuccessful narratives.
It is high time for the establishment step back and let state affairs and narratives be controlled and shaped by elected governments.

Categories
Indo-Pak Relations

India, Pakistan Set for Counterterror Drills — Together, in Russia

Washington, May 3: In an unprecedented move, nuclear-capable South Asian rivals India and Pakistan are gearing up to take part in joint military drills.

Last week, Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman confirmed that India would participate in anti-terrorism military drills alongside Pakistan.

The two nations, partitioned in 1947, agreed to train under the auspices of the eight-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in the Ural Mountains of Russia in August.

The SCO is an economic, security and political organization founded in Shanghai in 2001. China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are the member countries.

The founder of India’s Defense Intelligence Agency, Kamal Dawar, said that Pakistan’s participation in the drills should not be “merely symbolic.” He said that India and Pakistan had worked together as peacekeepers at the United Nations and that it would be a good thing to re-establish communications.

Pak Rangers

FILE – Pakistan Rangers stand before taking their positions during a counterterrorism training demonstration on the outskirts of Karachi, Feb. 24, 2015.

​Sincerity questioned
However, Dawar, author of Tryst with Perfidy: The Deep State of Pakistan, is skeptical about whether Pakistan’s army, intelligence agencies and “multiple terror organizations” would be sincere in working with India to defeat terrorism.

Retired Colonel Farooq Ahmed, former deputy director of the Pakistan military’s media wing, the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), told VOA that Pakistan was “very excited” to participate in the drills, but that “India needs to stop pointing fingers at Pakistan and resist interfering in its internal affairs.”

India and Pakistan, which have been feuding over Kashmir since the two nations were partitioned, will most likely keep fighting over the disputed territory, even if they line up on the same platform. The Kashmir region has been a flashpoint between the two countries and they have fought two wars over it.

Dawar had a visceral response at the bare mention of Kashmir. “Pakistan should forget about Kashmir. Kashmir is an integral part of India,” he said.

He said Pakistan’s “interference” in Kashmir was unwarranted and the reason why its “deep state” would never allow it to work with India.

But Brussels-based security analyst Khalid Farooqi said Pakistan’s “moral position” on Kashmir was recognized by the United Nations. In his words, the Kashmiris’ struggle for self-determination had resulted in 100,000 killed, 10,000 disappeared and thousands widowed.

Indian soldiers

FILE – Indian army soldiers pay tribute to a colleague killed in cross-border firing with Pakistan, during his cremation at Nachlah village in Samba District of Jammu and Kashmir, India, Feb.5, 2018.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also recently met China’s President Xi Jinping and agreed to defer the Indo-China territorial dispute by joining China’s anti-terrorism drills in Russia

Pakistan acknowledges that it agreed to conduct military patrols alongside India after the Pakistan chief of army staff, General Qamar Bajwa, recently visited Russia.

Korean model
Mushtaq Mehar, Pakistan’s former ambassador to Turkey, said recent signs of a detente between North and South Korea could serve as a model for India and Pakistan and pave the way for a softening of tensions between the two countries.

Pak commandos

FILE – Pakistani commandos from the Special Services Group march during a military parade in Islamabad, March 23, 2016.

According to him, America’s status as a superpower allows it to intervene in a “complicated matter” like the Korean Peninsula situation.

Mehar said the United States and Europe were also keen to see the militaries of India and Pakistan fight on the same side, not only to reduce tensions between the two nuclear-armed nations but also to curb the potential for terrorism exploding beyond the region.

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Indo-Pak Relations

COMMENT: Trump’s India connect

There are few countries where the U.S. President’s business interests are so strong, and relations with the U.S. so robust.

Donald Trump Jr. is in India for an extraordinary visit, to play the role of both businessman and diplomat. While mainly helping sell properties tied to the Trump Organization, where he serves as executive vice president, Mr. Trump Jr. is also delivering a policy address on “Reshaping Indo-Pacific ties”.

It’s hard to imagine this type of trip taking place in other countries. U.S. President Donald Trump and some of his progeny are personae non grata in many nations, including top allies such as the U.K. Aside from the issue of unpopularity is one of ethics. Many countries would be reluctant to host the U.S. President’s son for a visit that includes the opportunity for buyers of Trump-branded apartments to pay to meet with Mr. Trump Jr. The fact that India rolled out the red carpet for Mr. Trump Jr. amplifies the uniqueness of U.S.-India relations at this moment in time: There are few, if any, countries in the world where President Trump’s business interests are so strong, and relations with the U.S. so robust.

Business opportunities
Take the commercial side first. The Trump Organization features business dealings in more than two dozen countries, from Trump-branded condos in Seoul to a golf course in Ireland. And yet a Washington Post investigation has concluded that “the Trump Organization has more business entities in India than in any other foreign country.” The study, released in November 2016, contended that Mr. Trump is “involved in at least 16 partnerships or corporations” in India. Mr. Trump Jr. has himself said that India constitutes the largest market outside the U.S. for the type of real estate deals pursued by the Trump Organization.

It’s not just Mr. Trump and his family who value business opportunities in India; members of his cabinet do too. In 2006, Wilbur Ross, who is now Commerce Secretary, established a $300 million fund focussed on India and bought the textile company OMC India Ltd. In 2008, he bought $80 million in convertible bonds issued by the airline SpiceJet. (He subsequently sold it.) Goldman Sachs, the previous employer of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, boasts a significant presence in India and has provided support to the Indian renewable energy firm ReNew.

Now consider the diplomatic side. Since Mr. Trump took office, Washington’s relationships with traditional foes such as North Korea have worsened, while those that had enjoyed recent periods of relative détente (Pakistan, Iran) have regressed. Most strikingly, relations with some top allies (the U.K., Germany, and Australia) have taken tumbles.

Strengthening ties
By contrast, the U.S.-India relationship has continued to flourish under Mr. Trump. It’s easy to understand why. The two core strategic concerns that have long brought the two together — China’s growing influence and international terrorism — resonate strongly with the Trump administration. Also, arms sales and technology transfers — two main engines of the defence partnership that powers U.S.-India relations — are welcomed by a Trump administration that is unabashedly transactional in its foreign relations. Furthermore, President Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi share much in common, from their conservative politics to their fractious relationships with the mass media and strong embraces of social media.

To be sure, there are bones of contention, from the Trump administration’s immigration policies that could deleteriously affect Indian workers in America to Washington’s refusal to pull the plug on its problematic partnership with Pakistan. The two sides also fail to agree on what should constitute their strategic partnership. Washington wants New Delhi to participate in joint operations and other types of alliance behaviour to which India remains allergic. Yet, deep repositories of goodwill and sharp convergences of interests enable the U.S.-India relationship to weather these policy disconnects.

Essentially, Mr. Trump’s expansive business interests in India coupled with rock-solid bilateral relations help explain why New Delhi has pulled out all the stops for Mr. Trump Jr.’s tendentious trip. Could the First Son take his salesman-in-chief/senior diplomat double act elsewhere overseas? Only two possible destinations come to mind: Israel and Saudi Arabia. If he does venture to those locales, however, his achievements this week would be a hard act to follow. Mr. Trump Jr.’s visit to India coincided with that of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The son of the most controversial U.S. President in modern history has not only stolen the spotlight from one of the world’s most beloved and photogenic leaders, he has also enjoyed much warmer treatment.
Michael Kugelman is the deputy director of the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars in Washington, DC

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/trumps-india-connect/article22818013.ece

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Indo-Pak Relations

`India is Mother of Terrorism in South Asia’: Pakistan Responds to Swaraj’s UN Speech

India is the mother of terrorism in South Asia and “a racist and fascist ideology is firmly embedded” in the Modi government, Pakistan has said in response to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s speech at UN.

India sponsored and aided terrorism against all its neighbours, reports in the Pakistani media quoted its permanent representative to UN, Maleeha Lodhi, as saying.
Addressing the UN general assembly on Saturday, Swaraj tore into the neighbouring country, calling Pakistan a “pre-eminent exporter of terror”.

Earlier this week, Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in his address had accused India of supporting terrorism and human rights violations in Kashmir.
Swaraj had hit back, saying while India was giving the world top-notch doctors and engineers Pakistan was producing terrorists.

Lodhi attacked the BJP and raked up Kashmir once again.

New Delhi’s “current political luminaries belong to a political organisation that has the blood of thousands of Muslims of Gujarat on their hands”, Lodhi said, referring to the 2002 Gujarat riots.

India was ruled by a fascist ideology and it should stop supporting across-the-border terrorism, she said exercising Pakistan’s right to reply at the UN.

The Pakistani envoy also criticised Yogi Adityanath’s election in Uttar Pradesh, saying “the government has appointed a fanatic as the chief minister of India’s largest state”.
“It is a government, which has allowed the lynching of Muslims.”

Lodhi also invoked Arundhati Roy to attack Swaraj’s speech and quoted the acclaimed Indian novelist’s 2015 statement: “These horrific murders are only a symptom. Life is hell for the living too. Whole populations of Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, and Christians are being forced to live in terror, unsure of when and from where the assault would come.”

Pakistan was open to resuming a comprehensive dialogue with India but it should include Kashmir, Lodhi said as she waved a picture of a woman whose face was scarred, with what looked like pellet-gun wounds.

Use of pellet guns that has left several young Kashmiris completely or partially blinded is an emotive issue, with security forces under pressure to look for alternative ways to control crowds.

The UN general assembly for years has been a battlefield for India and Pakistan, where Kashmir has figured prominently.

This year’s speeches have been more strident as relations between the two sides continue to deteriorate over some high-profile terror attacks in India, Pakistan’s sentencing to death an Indian sailor on charges of spying and internal turmoil in the neighbouring country that is due for elections.

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Foreign Affairs Indo-Pak Relations

Pakistan finds itself on the defensive in Trump’s Afghan war strategy

It feels like a lifetime ago, but it was just in November, weeks after his election, that then-President-elect Trump was lavishing praise on Pakistan, calling it a “fantastic place … doing amazing work.”

But as Trump said in outlining his new strategy in South Asia, things look different from behind a desk in the Oval Office, and his views toward Pakistan seem to have changed since that strange phone call with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Sharif is gone, having resigned last month in the wake of a corruption scandal, leaving Pakistan’s military as unquestionably the most powerful force in the country. But that military — one of the United States’ most troublesome allies and the recipient of billions of dollars in U.S. aid — now finds itself on the defensive as Trump demands it “change immediately” its policy of harboring the Taliban and other militant groups carrying out attacks in Afghanistan.

Trump’s tough talk signaled a possible shift as the U.S. tries to restart its failing 16-year war in Afghanistan. Many Afghans on Tuesday praised Trump’s blunt assessment of Pakistan and expressed hope that more American troops could reverse Taliban insurgents’ momentum and stem the mounting casualties suffered by Afghan security forces and civilians.

With the Taliban holding more territory than at any point since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, Trump’s announcement of a “fight to win” strategy — though lacking in specifics — soothed Afghans who worried the United States was abandoning its longest war as it had settled into a bloody stalemate.

“I am grateful to President Trump and the American people for this affirmation of support for our efforts to achieve self-reliance and for our joint struggle to rid the region from the threat of terrorism,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a statement.
“The Afghan government welcomes renewed U.S. emphasis on seeing security in Afghanistan as part of a wider regional package.”

Pakistan scrambled to respond to the criticism. Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif met with the U.S. ambassador in Islamabad and “underlined Pakistan’s continued desire to work with the international community to eliminate the menace of terrorism.”

Late Tuesday, following a two-hour Cabinet meeting, Pakistan’s government issued a statement saying it had “taken note” of Trump’s Monday night address and rejected his “false narrative” that it provided safe havens to militant groups.

“No country in the world has done more than Pakistan to counter the menace of terrorism. No country in the world has suffered more than Pakistan from the scourge of terrorism, often perpetrated from outside our borders,” the statement said.

“It is therefore disappointing that the U.S. policy statement ignores the enormous sacrifices rendered by the Pakistani nation in this effort.”

Pakistani officials were particularly stung by Trump’s embrace of its rival India, which the U.S. has not often included in its Afghan strategy despite its being the largest country in the region.

Trump “has given a negative message to Pakistan,” said Sherry Rehman, a Pakistani lawmaker and former ambassador to Washington. “The best possible way forward is to promote peace and harmony in the region instead of dividing Pakistan and India.”

Opposition leader Imran Khan lashed out on Twitter, saying Pakistan had lost tens of thousands of lives to terrorism and was “being made scapegoats for the policy failures of the U.S. and India.”

Pakistan’s military — which denies allegations that it nurtures terror groups who attack India and Afghanistan — appeared to anticipate Trump’s criticism, holding a news conference on Monday to trumpet the success of Zarb-e-Azb, a years-long operation involving around 200,000 troops to eliminate militant havens in the northern tribal areas.

In between slides showing statistics — officials say around 3,500 militants have been killed and thousands arrested — the military played short films set to dramatic music showing Pakistani troops in the remote region.
Pakistan has carried out dozens of such offensives and been accused of picking and choosing which militant groups it confronts. The Haqqani network, which U.S. officials blame for some of the deadliest attacks against its forces in Afghanistan, has largely escaped the effect of more than a decade of Pakistani military operations.

But Pakistani officials insist this time is different. They argue that terrorism-related deaths in Pakistan have fallen by about half since 2014. They blame several high-profile terror attacks on militants who, they say, enjoy safe havens in Afghanistan and the backing of Indian intelligence agencies.

“A militant resurgence is now out of the question,” Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor told reporters Tuesday. “They want to regain lost influence, but it won’t happen. It’s too late for that.”
Congress already has reduced funding for the Pakistani army and denied it the chance to purchase U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets at subsidized prices. But because U.S. strategic planners fear that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of militants, Washington has been reluctant to exert too much pressure on the Pakistani security establishment.

“Anyone who thinks this shift in Pakistan strategy will be easy to implement, remember: Pakistan negotiates with a gun to its own head,” tweeted Vipin Narang, an MIT political science professor who studies South Asia.
Many Afghans said they hoped U.S. pressure would force Pakistan to bring Taliban leaders to the negotiating table and curtail their ability to direct attacks from across the border.

“I believe the U.S. has seen Pakistan in a better light than Afghanistan, so I would be optimistic and support the new strategy of the United States if it implements it honestly,” said Nasir Karimi, a 22-year-old psychology student at Kabul University.

“Still,” Karimi added, “I can’t trust that the U.S. will be honest.”

Afghans’ wariness is rooted in a history of U.S. inconsistency in the country. U.S. forces quickly ousted the Taliban government from power in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks but then diverted troops and focus to the Iraq war, allowing Taliban fighters to stream back into the country.

President Obama announced a troop increase in 2009 but, in the view of many Afghans, undermined the strategy by setting a withdrawal deadline that reassured the Taliban that it could simply lie in wait. Trump, too, once advocated for bringing all U.S. troops home before saying in his Monday night address that he had changed his mind after months of consultations with Cabinet and military officials.

As the U.S. troop presence dwindled from more than 100,000 to 8,400 today, the Taliban has regained control of large chunks of northern and southern Afghanistan while the government holds just 60% of the country’s 407 districts, according to the most recent assessment by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

Trump did not specify how many additional U.S. troops would be deployed, but Pentagon officials have said the number is expected to be about 4,000. They will be focused on “killing terrorists,” Trump said, including the Taliban, Islamic State loyalists and remnants of Al Qaeda.

“President Trump has embraced a strategy that gives Afghanistan what it needs,” said the Afghan ambassador to Washington, Hamdullah Mohib, including “a shift away from talking about timetables and numbers to letting conditions on the ground determine military strategy.”

United States as terrorist groups are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, “the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world.” Some observers noted that neither country is subject to Trump’s travel ban on citizens from countries deemed prone to terrorism.

Trump’s speech provoked mixed reactions in India, where officials welcomed the promise to be tougher on Pakistan but questioned his call for New Delhi to play a greater role in building Afghanistan’s economy.

The Indian foreign ministry issued a statement saying India “has been steadfast in extending reconstruction and development assistance to Afghanistan,” which has included hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and constructing a new parliament building.

And Indian analysts chafed at Trump’s reference to the U.S. trade deficit with India when he said that because “India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States,” it should “help us more with Afghanistan.” Indian investment in Afghanistan is based on its own regional security and should not be tied to demands from Washington, said Kabir Taneja, associate fellow at Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.

“I think President Trump needs to understand, or someone needs to explain to him, that everything cannot be equated to trade data,” Taneja said.

“New Delhi does not act at America’s behest on its Afghanistan policy. It knows better,” he added. “Attaching possibilities of better joint cooperation over security in Afghanistan to some sort of trade [spreadsheet] is a self-defeating act for Washington.”

Categories
Indo-Pak Relations

‘At the Stroke of Midnight My Entire Family Was Displaced’

August marks the 70th anniversary of the end of British colonial rule in India and the creation of the two independent countries of India and Pakistan, carved along religious and political lines. More than 10 million people were uprooted. We asked readers how they or their families were affected. These are some of their stories.

‘Was he calling out for me?’

In 1947 I was 10. We lived in comfort in Jammu and Kashmir state.

We lost everything at the time of the creation of Pakistan. Things can be replaced, not lives.

My father, an intellectual and educationalist, was murdered. Eight of us crossed into Pakistan dressed in summer clothes and nothing else. Winter came and we had nothing to wear and no roof over our heads. By the following summer my feet had outgrown my shoes and I had to walk barefoot on scorching earth. My feet sometimes still feel that hot surface.

Even today I get nightmares about my father’s murder. As a physician I wonder how the end came. Was he in pain, was he cold, was he thirsty, was he calling out for me?

‘My father recalled hiding in a Muslim family’s house’
My father, Anand B. Khorana, was about 10 years old at the time of partition. His father was a civil engineer and the whole family (my grandparents, father and his five siblings) had recently moved into a new home they built as a mark of their “middle-class” status. The oldest child, a daughter, had recently become engaged. The family had lived for generations in the state of Punjab and could not conceive of living any place else. As my late father told it, everyone had heard rumblings about the state being divided into a Pakistani half and an Indian half, but few thought it would happen imminently.

At the stroke of midnight my entire family was displaced. Their land and home were deemed to be on the Pakistani side and in a few days it was pretty clear that a Hindu family, regardless of their prior status, was in danger. I don’t know all the details but, unlike most families who decided to emigrate immediately (many losing their lives on the trains in the process), my father’s family went into hiding for a few months. My father recalled hiding in a Muslim family’s house (a former employee of my grandfather’s).

Eventually, things calmed down and the family made the trek to India and resettled, initially in Delhi in refugee quarters. My grandfather was able to find a job similar to his prior one. All of their property, including the house they had recently built, was lost but the family was grateful to have made it out alive — unlike so many others. The only person believed lost was the eldest daughter’s fiancé but, a year later, she spotted him at a train station in Delhi. They married and had several children.

‘We carried the heavy utensils, because we thought copper was more valuable than silver’

My parents were young when they walked from what’s now Bangladesh to India. Baba called East Pakistan “home” until he died in 2004. His family, landowners in Dhaka, fled with their belongings; copper utensils, large bowls, plates. He used to say, “We never needed anything, so we didn’t know the value of money. We carried the heavy utensils, because we thought copper was more valuable than silver. We were children, what were we to do?”

When Baba’s bank job moved him to New Delhi, he spent days recreating his childhood vegetable garden. Cabbage, cauliflower, peas, spinach, okra, we had it all. He used to say, “Our pumpkins were bigger than the sun!” and I would believe him. Everything in Bangladesh, the place he left, was better. The roses were more fragrant, the eggplants more purple, the fish were fresher — Delhi could never compete.

Ma was 12 when her family fled Barisal for Kolkata. They sold everything, including Ma’s favorite school books. She mourned those books until she died, in 2008. But she was proud that she hadn’t marked any of them with a pen or pencil. “They were pristine,” she would say, “so Thakur da could sell them at a premium. That money helped us escape.”

My father’s family was part of the British colonial administration. During partition my father was in Pakistan attending school while the rest of his family was in Pune, India. As hostilities erupted between Hindus and Muslims, my father was cut off from his family. He couldn’t get British citizenship because most of his papers were lost during the upheaval. So, in the ’50s, he made his way to the United Arab Emirates by ship and started a family there.

My siblings and I have been effectively stateless. Although we are familiar with Indian and Pakistani culture, we belonged to neither culture. We grew up in the Middle East, in Dubai, among other Asians but could not identify with them.

‘He would never forgive himself if anything happened to her’

When partition was announced, my father, who worked for the British Indian Government, was posted in Bombay. He was advised that as a Muslim he would have better career opportunities in Pakistan. He was asked to report to offices in Rawalpindi as soon as possible. He left and my mother, Rosy, who was 20, and their six-month-old daughter stayed behind until he could arrange for their accommodation. Because of the chaos he could not come back to get them, so he asked my mother to take a train to Lahore. On the train a Sikh gentleman noticed my mother alone with an infant and asked her where she was going. When she told him Lahore, he was shocked and told her about the massacres that were taking place on trains going to Pakistan — my mother and father hadn’t known.
He said he was traveling to Amritsar (30 miles from Lahore) but would accompany her to Wagah, a border town between India and Pakistan, because he would never forgive himself if anything happened to her. He told my mother that if anyone asked, she was his daughter. He thought her name, Rosy, was fine since it was secular. But my sister’s name, Shahina, was distinctly Muslim, so if anyone asked her name was Nina.

He stayed with them until Wagah and walked with them to the Pakistani border, kissed them both on their foreheads and told them he wished he could take them all the way to Lahore, but he would not make it back alive.
My sister, who lives in Karachi, is still called Nina by everyone in the family. My mother insisted on that.

‘We prayed as we imagined the worst. Almighty God had other plans.’

On Sept. 7, a bespectacled Sikh man, much like my father, was killed in town and a rumor spread that he had come to set fire to the local mosque.

The next day dislocated families from surrounding villages who had taken shelter in schoolyards, grain markets and other vulnerable locations were attacked. I can still hear the cries of people shot or stabbed outside the Gurdwara and the gunfire that began around 4 p.m., as the last train left the Jaranwala Railway Station, in Pakistan, and continued into the evening.

That night women and children were sheltering in a room on the second floor of the Gurdwara with instructions on what to do if the militia broke through the doors and entered the temple. The thought still gives me chills. The temperature outside was in the 90s Fahrenheit, but inside the heat was oppressive. Some men stayed on the main floor or on the rooftop lookout, armed with sticks, swords, a pistol and one double-barreled gun. We were certain our end was imminent. We prayed as we imagined the worst.

Almighty God had other plans. For the next three days we holed-up in the Gurdwara. Our ranks swelled with the addition of the injured who were able to escape. We heard rumors that we would be attacked on Sept. 12, after Friday prayers. But there was a knock at the giant door of the temple around 10 a.m. and four Sikh military officers ordered us to leave in ten minutes and said they would escort us to the caravan of refugees that was passing. Everyone scrambled and ran with the clothes on their backs, relieved and hopeful to live another day or die with others traveling toward the new border and sanctuary of India.

‘I was probably the first member of my family to visit the home since 1947’

My father was a refugee and a migrant. As his child I have lived a peripatetic life, but have always been able to maintain connections with my family in Pakistan. I lived in Aligarh while I was researching my dissertation and visited the home where my father and my grandmother were born. I met the son of the family who had migrated from Lahore and received the home as refugee property (though he had been born later, in independent India). I was probably the first member of my family to visit the home since 1947 and met people who remembered my family, who were known for their love of rooftop kite flying. The family who lives there now sent homemade sweets for me to take to my Pakistani family.

‘He spent days carrying two Muslims from the East to the West’
My mother’s younger brother lived in Jammu and must have been a lad of 15 at the time of the partition. He was aware of the mass violence around him, but he did not take up arms and perpetuate the violence. He was a strong swimmer, and he spent days carrying two Muslims from the East to the West and then two Hindus from the West to the East on his shoulders — back and forth. My uncle’s story reminds me that people can stop the cycle of violence.

‘It was not a national tragedy for him, but a very personal one’
My paternal grandfather and grandmother moved to Bombay during partition with their two little sons. I shared a room with my grandfather growing up and heard stories of how things were before and silences about what happened during. In his last year my grandfather would often weep about partition. It was not a national tragedy for him, but a very personal one.

My maternal grandfather moved to Lucknow in India at the height of the violence. They lost many cousins and relations, but the immediate family made it safely. He restarted an optical shop called Lahore Opticals, named after the city of his birth, and became successful. When Hindu-Muslim strife breaks out in India, the shop is invariably targeted. But my grandfather never changed the name. His shop is now run by my uncle and is still named after the city they fled, now in Pakistan.

Categories
Indo-Pak Relations

Washington’s stance on Kashmir unchanged, assures McCain

ISLAMABAD, July 3: Former presidential candidate and veteran congressman Senator John McCain on Sunday made it clear that there was no change in the United States policy on the longstanding Kashmir dispute, stressing the need for an end to the current unrest in disputed Himalayan region.

McCain, the Chairman Senate Armed Services Committee, is leading a delegation of US senators including Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator David Perdue and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse to Pakistan for talks with civil and military authorities on a host of issues covering bilateral ties, current regional and international situation.

The US delegation is visiting Islamabad against the backdrop of recent visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Washington.

During Modi’s visit, the US and India signed new defence deals as well as urged Pakistan not to allow its soil to be used against other countries.

In order to appease New Delhi, the Trump administration also declared prominent Kashmir leader Syed Salahuddin a global terrorist. Pakistan reacted sharply to the development and termed the decision of equating Kashmir freedom struggle with terrorism as unfair.

The joint statement issued after the Trump-Modi visit gave the impression as if the US has decided to depart from its traditional position on Kashmir.

Washington has long considered Kashmir as a dispute between Pakistan and India and in the past avoided taking sides while urging the two nuclear-armed neighbours to resolve the issue bilaterally.

After holding talks with Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz here at the foreign office, Senator McCain told the state-run PTV that there was no change in the US policy on Kashmir dispute.
He said the United States wanted to see an end to the violence in the disputed region and also believed that resolution to the longstanding problem could only be found through dialogue.

After Modi’s visit, there have been concerns that Pakistan might lose its strategic importance in the eyes of the United States.

However, during the meeting between Sartaj Aziz and US delegation, it was evident that Pakistan still remains relevant for Washington for the regional peace and stability.

A statement issued by the Foreign Office said Senator McCain, thanking the adviser on behalf of the delegation, appreciated the contributions and sacrifices made by Pakistan in the fight against terrorism.

He said that continued engagement with Pakistan, a close friend and ally of the US, was important.

The Senators also praised the economic turnaround, as manifested by investors’ interest and confidence in Pakistan.

The two sides agreed with the need for the US and Pakistan to forge closer cooperation in confronting the peace and security challenges in the region and beyond.

Senator McCain, who frequently visits this part of the region, has always advocated strong and deep cooperation with Pakistan. Last year after visiting Islamabad, he wrote an article in The Financial Times warned that ignoring Pakistan would be dangerous.

McCain argued that without Pakistan’s cooperation, the US mission in Afghanistan would become “immeasurably more difficult”.

According to the Foreign Office, the adviser underscored the significance of the longstanding cooperation between the two countries and the need to make this partnership diverse and multidimensional.

Pakistan and US strategic partnership, he said, was critical to achieve peace and stability in the region and beyond.

Sartaj also apprised the US Senate delegation, comprising of very prominent Senators from both Democratic and Republican parties, about Pakistan’s success in combating terrorism through Operation Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fassad and informed that the terrorist networks have been dismantled, their sanctuaries eliminated under the overarching National Action Plan.

The dividend of these policies, he stressed was empirically verifiable.

The adviser said that Pakistan remained committed to support efforts for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan. Adviser noted that QCG process remains a credible and effective vehicle to facilitate reconciliation and restore peace, stability and economic prosperity in Afghanistan.

Pakistan looked forward to constructive engagement with the United States on all efforts and initiatives that would lead to a stable and prosperous Afghanistan.

He said that Pakistan was also ready to strengthen and deepen its partnership with the US to counter the new and emerging terrorism threats including the expanding footprint of Da’ish in the region.

The adviser also raised concern over the gross human rights violations by the Indian security forces in Kashmir and international community’s silence over the reign of terror unleashed by India on innocent and unarmed Kashmiris.

He stressed that Pakistan firmly believed in the legitimacy of the Kashmir cause and the peaceful struggle of the Kashmiri people to claim the right to self-determination promised to them by the international community through the UN Security Council resolutions.

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Indo-Pak Relations

Modi’s enthusiastic bear hug beats Trump’s handshake

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has responded to the infamous “Trump handshake” with his own diplomatic tool of choice – the bear hug.

A series of awkward greetings and handshakes between Mr Trump and other world leaders has left many wondering who could “beat” his approach.

French President Emmanuel Macron was deemed a winner when he gripped and refused to let go of Mr Trump’s hand.
But for many observers, Mr Modi – an experienced hugger – has outdone that.

The Indian prime minister’s propensity to hug global leaders goes back a long way – this BBC blog called him “the most physically demonstrative Indian leader in years”.

It is also a true diplomatic masterstroke – Mr Macron may have “beaten” the Trump handshake last month, but it was a tense encounter with both men’s knuckles turning white.

But who could possibly object to a hug?

The choreography of the bear hug

The success of the Modi bear hug is in no small part down to its athletic choreography – that disarmed Mr Trump before he could respond.

The initial approach was slow with arms outstretched and there was no hint of the embrace to come, though if Mr Trump’s advisers had done their homework they would have seen how Mr Modi has clung to other world leaders.

He slowly reels President Trump in with first one hand then the other and there is little of the trademark Trump awkwardness in his slow but sure progress towards the Indian leader.

He finally barrels at the US president, avoiding all eye contact and presses his head on his chest in a gesture at once disarming and confident.

Mr Trump draws away slightly but not without looking down at Mr Modi with what could even be affection, although their eyes do not meet.

And as they draw away Mr Modi keeps hold of the US president’s hand and lingers in a firm double hand-lock.
They retreat to their podiums and carry on as if nothing has happened.

For many observers the hug was both natural and commanding and left neither of the leaders at a loss – in stark contrast to numerous other Trump greetings with world leaders.

And many on social media marvelled at what they called Mr Modi’s “craftsmanship”.

Of course both sides are likely to have prepared for the meeting. Like football coaches before international matches, their political aides and advisers may well have studied the techniques of either leader and there could well have been briefings on how to handle that first contact.

How likely is that really to have happened?
KC Singh, a former secretary in India’s external affairs ministry, told the BBC that “given Mr Modi’s hugging record, it would have been a very ill-informed US team that would not have known Mr Modi was going to go for Donald Trump”.

Mr Singh added that the gesture seemed to be done more for viral value than anything else, noting that even in India “no one hugs each other randomly”.

Going by social media, Mr Modi’s mastery was largely expected in India. There was quite a lot of humour about it, as well as some pride. But quite a few found this effusive display a bit embarrassing as well. Others had seen it coming.

It looks as though world leaders have become more tactical about responding to the Trump handshake after both Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and British Prime Minister Theresa May were seen as faring poorly against it.
South Korean president Moon Jae-in is due to meet Mr Trump next.

It remains to be seen if he can best the hug.

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Indo-Pak Relations

Indian spy Jadhav appeals to COAS to ‘spare his life’; army releases new video confession

Convicted Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, who is currently on death row, has appealed to Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Bajwa for mercy.

“Commander Kulbushan Sudhir Jadhav, the serving Indian Naval Officer who has been sentenced to death on charges of espionage, sabotage and terrorism, has made a mercy petition to the Chief of Army Staff,” the army’s media wing said in a press release issued Thursday.

“In his plea, Commander Jadhav has admitted his involvement in espionage, terrorist and subversive activities in Pakistan and expressed remorse at the resultant loss of many precious innocent lives and extensive damage to property due to his actions.

“Seeking forgiveness for his actions, he has requested the Chief of Army Staff to spare his life on compassionate grounds,” the Army said.

Commander Jadhav has reportedly exhausted an appeal to the Military Appellate Court, it emerged from the press release. If his appeal for clemency is rejected by Gen Bajwa, he will have recourse to appeal to President Mamnoon Hussain.

A new confessional video, released by Inter-Services Public Relations along with the news of Jadhav’s petition, purports to detail the crimes Jadhav has sought absolution from.

In the video, Jadhav can be heard saying that Indian spy agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) sponsored various terrorist activities in Pakistan in order to disrupt economic activities linked to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and foment socio-political disturbance and strife in Balochistan and Karachi.

‘RAW-sponsored terrorism’
Jadhav, in his “confession”, has said that one Anil Kumar “on behalf of RAW” sponsored terrorist activities in Pakistan. These included encouraging sectarian violence targeting Hazara and Shia citizens, particularly those travelling between Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan on pilgrimage.

The purpose of sponsoring various attacks in the region was so that “instability or some kind of fear is set into the mindsets of the people of Pakistan”, Jadhav said, saying that the high-profile assassination of Superintendent Police Chaudhry Aslam was an example of the kind of disturbance India wanted to create.

According to Jadhav, RAW also ‘directly sponsored’ the targeting of Frontier Works Organisation workers in Balochistan and sponsored Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks carried out by “Baloch sub-nationals” within Quetta, Turbat and various other cities of Balochistan.

The spy said that “various financing which subsequently happened for the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and various other Afghan anti-Pakistani terrorist groups led to the attack by TTP on one of the Mehran Naval Bases in which a lot of damage was cost to the Pakistani Navy.”

Other attacks that Jadhav said were “funded and directly supported by Anil Kumar” included a “sort of radar installation attack, the Sui pipeline gas attack, then attacks on civilian bus stations where some, I suppose, Pakistani nationals were being targeted by sub-nationals and murdered and massacred” in order to cause disruptions in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

“He wanted it [the attacks] to be raised to the next level so that complete disruption and complete stoppage of the CPEC between Gwadar and China is achieved,” Jadhav added.

A ‘military-style’ attack on the Pakistani consulate in Zahidan was also planned by RAW officials along with Baloch insurgents, Jadhav confessed.

“The aim was to either attack it with a grenade or some kind of Rocket-Propelled Grenade or IED attack or then try to harm the consul-general or some kind of vicious attack on the Pakistani consulate in Zahidan,” he said.

Additionally, he said, RAW had sponsored the creation of a new website for the Baloch movement in addition to handling an existing website “which was luring people from within Pakistan for various activities to be carried out in the future.”

Funding for these activities took place through hawala and hundi operations, Jadhav said, with finances moved from Delhi and Mumbai via Dubai into Pakistan.

Jadhav’s trial
Jadhav had previously been tried by a Field General Court Martial under Section 59 of the PAA and Section 3 of the official Secret Act of 1923 and sentenced to death.

Jadhav had confessed before a magistrate and court that he was tasked by RAW to plan, coordinate and organise espionage and sabotage activities seeking to destabilise and wage war against Pakistan through impeding the efforts of law enforcement agencies for the restoration of peace in Balochistan and Karachi, the ISPR had said earlier.

Jadhav’s first confession
Jadhav’s first confessional statement was aired by former ISPR head Lt Gen Asim Bajwa, in which the spy admitted to involvement in terror activities in Balochistan and Karachi.

Terming the Indian spy’s arrest a ‘big achievement’, Bajwa said at the time that Jadhav was directly handled by the RAW chief, the Indian National Security Adviser and the RAW joint secretary.

“His goal was to disrupt development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), with Gwadar port as a special target,” Bajwa had said, adding, “This is nothing short of state-sponsored terrorism… There can be no clearer evidence of Indian interference in Pakistan.”

“If an intelligence or an armed forces officer of this rank is arrested in another country, it is a big achievement,” Bajwa had said, before going on to play a video of Jadhav confessing to Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) involvement in Balochistan separatist activities in Pakistan.

Case goes to ICJ
A 10-member bench of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the United Nations’ top court, is hearing an urgent bid by India to stop Pakistan from executing Jadhav.

The ICJ in a hearing of the case on May 18 restrained Pakistan from executing Jadhav and rejected India’s request to delay proceedings in Jadhav’s case until December.

India was also ordered to submit a response by September 13 regarding the case.

Rejecting Pakistan’s argument that the court did not have jurisdiction in the matter, the court reasoned it could hear the case because it involved, on the face of it, an alleged violation of one of the clauses of the Vienna Convention, which both Pakistan and India ascribe to and whose interpretation falls under its purview.

“[Meanwhile] Pakistan should take all measures to ensure that Mr Jadhav is not executed till the final decision of this court,” the court said at the time.

The court also said Pakistan should inform it of all measures taken in implementation of the order.

Categories
Indo-Pak Relations

India’s Call-Center Talents Put to a Criminal Use: Swindling Americans

THANE, India — Betsy Broder, who tracks international fraud at the Federal Trade Commission, was in her office in Washington last summer when she got a call from two Indian teenagers.

Calling from a high-rise building in a suburb of Mumbai, they told her, in tones that were alternately earnest and melodramatic, that they wanted to share the details of a sprawling criminal operation targeting Americans. Ms. Broder, who was no stranger to whistle-blowers, pressed the young men for details.

“He said his name was Adam,” she said, referring to one of the pair. “I said: ‘Your name is not Adam. What does your grandmother call you?’ He said, ‘Babu.’”

Babu was Jayesh Dubey, a skinny 19-year-old with hair gelled into vertical bristles, a little like a chimney brush. He told her that he was working in a seven-story building and that everyone there was engaged in the same activity: impersonating Internal Revenue Service officials and threatening Americans, demanding immediate payment
If they reached a person who was sufficiently terrified or gullible — this was known in the business as a “sale” — they would instruct that person to buy thousands of dollars’ worth of iTunes cards to avoid prosecution, they said; the most rattled among them complied. The victim would then send the codes from the iTunes cards to the swindlers, giving them access to the money on the card.

As it happened, the United States government had been tracking this India-based scheme since 2013, a period to cover back taxes during which Americans, many of them recent immigrants, have lost $100 million to it.

Though India had no reputation as a large-scale exporter of fraud in the past, it is now seen as a major center for fraud, said Suhel Daud, an F.B.I. agent who serves as assistant legal attaché at the embassy in New Delhi. Several trends have converged to make this happen, he said: a demographic bulge of computer-savvy, young, English-speaking job seekers; a vast call-center culture; super-efficient technology; and what can only be described as ingenuity.

“They have figured all of this out,” Mr. Daud said. “Put all of these together, with the Indian demographics in the U.S., and it’s a natural segue. Whatever money you’re making, you can easily make 10 times as much.”
‘I Want Money. That’s Why.’

Pawan Poojary and Jayesh Dubey, best friends and college dropouts, were impressed with the Phoenix 007 call center in Thane, a suburb northeast of Mumbai. The interviewer carried an iPhone; there were racing sport bikes parked outside, and, as Mr. Poojary put it, “girls roaming here and there.” The monthly salary was average for call centers, 16,000 rupees (about $230), they said, but the bonuses were double or triple that, based on sales.
The two friends had been playing a video game for up to eight hours a day, pausing occasionally to eat. They wanted in.

“At that time, in my mind is that I want money,” Mr. Poojary, 18, said. “That’s it. I want money. That’s why.”
They said they showed up for training in a room of young Indians like themselves, the first in their family to be educated in English. They were a slice of aspirational India: Mr. Poojary’s father, who owned two welding shops, was adamant that his son would rise to a higher place in society, an office job. Mr. Poojary was afraid to tell him he had dropped out of college.

The trainer assigned them names, Paul Edward and Adam Williams, and handed out a six-page script that started out, “My name is Shawn Anderson, with the department of legal affairs with the United States Treasury Department,” the teenagers said.

“We read the script, and I asked, ‘Is this a scam?’” Mr. Poojary said. “He said, ‘Yes.’”

“At that time I am money-minded. I thought, ‘O.K., I can do this,’” he said.

Mr. Poojary was excited and nervous about speaking to an American for the first time, and he was alarmed by the resulting bursts of profanity. Mr. Dubey said he tried to commit the entire experience to memory, in case he and Mr. Poojary someday decided to start a business of their own.

“I just wanted to become a great scammer,” Mr. Dubey said. “Everyone was scamming around me. I thought, ‘I will also become a great scammer.’”

The key to the whole thing, Mr. Dubey decided, was a psychological fact: Americans fear their state.

“I think they actually are really afraid of their government,” he said. “In India, people are not afraid of police. If anyone wants to come and arrest, they say, ‘Come and arrest.’ It is easy to get out of anything. But in America they are afraid. We just need to tell them, ‘You are messing with the federal government,’ and that is all.”

Preying on Fear

Inaben Desai, of Sugar Land, Tex., came home from grocery shopping, and her mother handed her the phone, eyes wide with alarm. Someone was on the line from the government, her mother said. They had called three or four times while she was out.

Ms. Desai, 56, worked as a cashier at Walmart. When she picked up the phone, a gruff-voiced man told her that she had failed to pay fees when she got her United States citizenship, in 1995, and that unless she did so she would be deported back to India, she said. When Ms. Desai said she needed to call her husband, a woman got on the phone, speaking sympathetically, in her native Gujarati.

“She said, ‘If you involve your husband, there’s going to be more problems,’” Ms. Desai said. “‘Your husband is going to get in trouble, too. Don’t involve your husband.’”

Ms. Desai had begun to cry. Still on the line with the woman, she took all the cash she had on hand and drove to a nearby grocery store, where she bought $1,386 in prepaid debit cards. Then the woman instructed her to go to her bank, transfer close to $9,000 to the account of someone named Jennifer, in California, and then fax confirmation and confidential details about her account.

“The bank lady tried to stop me, and she said, ‘This is your personal information,’” Ms. Desai said. “But I’m scared, and I faxed it to them because I’m scared of what would happen to my family.” The swindlers, who now had access to her bank balance, called back to demand another sum close to $9,000. Ms. Desai had to drive to another bank branch to make the transaction. The total amount she transferred, $17,786, was nearly all her savings.

Mr. Poojary was not the person who called Ms. Desai, whose case dates to 2014. But a similar conversation prompted him to contact the United States government. He recalled the woman’s name as Regella, and said that when she begged him to give her a little time, Mr. Poojary felt so sorry for her that he went to his supervisor, who told him to push harder.

“I just feel guilty at that time,” he said. “We are also Indians. We also don’t have money. They also don’t have money.”

A few days later, he called the main switchboard at the I.R.S. and said he wanted to pass on information about a crime. “They are not listening, they are just laughing at me,” he said.

Finally, he was transferred to Ms. Broder, the Federal Trade Commission’s counsel for international consumer protection.

“He was fairly insistent,” she recalled. “He was determined. The number of times he called me was overwhelming. I would guess that is why he was reaching out to me, because he wanted some form of law enforcement to take it down.”

The Raid

The risk of expanding a fraud aggressively is that the range of potential informants also expands. Supervisors may humiliate employees in front of their peers; paychecks may arrive late or not at all; ringleaders may spend so freely that they attract tax officials’ gaze.

The so-called Mira Road scam, named for the building’s neighborhood, had moved into a single floor of the seven-story high-rise in early 2016. By summer it filled the whole building.

“It got big,” said Mr. Daud, the F.B.I. agent. “And when it gets big, you leave bread crumbs.”

Nitin Thakare, a senior police inspector at the crime branch in Thane, will not say much about the person who contacted him in September with a tip.

But he will describe the raid, in loving, cinematic detail: How at 10 p.m., after the last of the call center staff had arrived for the night shift, 200 police officers streamed up the main staircase, blocking every exit and detaining all 700 people who worked inside.

As morning approached, the street outside filled with the workers’ parents, wives and girlfriends, said Amar Verma, who sells tea on the corner. “There was lots of sobbing,” he said. “There was one mother who came with her car. She was crying alone, the poor thing. She was sitting on the pavement in front of me, crying. Her child had not come home.”

Inside, the police cut the phone lines. Under interrogation, the suspects, one after another, insisted that they had been planning to quit just as soon as they collected their next paycheck, Mr. Thakare said. But the money made it hard to walk away, and after a few pay cycles, their qualms had faded. He felt for them.

“These are the youth of our nation,” he said. “They were misguided. For the first few days it seems glamorous. Someone is teaching them an accent, people are smoking, there are women. There’s freedom and night life. The youth love that.”

The police said that others, like the landlord who had rented the building to the swindlers, wondered why the authorities cared in the first place. “He said, ‘What happened?’” said Parag Manere, a deputy commissioner of police. “‘We are not cheating people in India! We are cheating people in the U.S.! And the U.S. cheats the whole world!’”

What they had stumbled on, it became clear, was a branch of a much larger network, the police said. Five days later, the police organized a second raid, of facilities in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, which they believed to be a nerve center. The Justice Department had come to the same conclusion: It has since released an indictment tracing 1.8 million calls targeting American residents to five call centers in Ahmedabad that used various schemes to defraud more than 15,000 people out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

By the time the police arrived at the Ahmedabad location, though, the syndicate was gone. “The place where we raided, it was a thousand-seat call center,” Mr. Manere said. “When we got there it was empty. Empty. Nothing. Not a piece of paper. Empty halls.”

‘It Will Not Stop’

Mr. Poojary said he happened to be at a job interview when he learned that the call center in Mira Road had been raided.

It was an honest, mundane customer service job, advising the customers of Delta Air Lines on such matters as lost baggage and frequent-flier miles, for a mediocre monthly salary of $150. He was sitting on a waiting room sofa when he picked up The Times of India and read that 700 of his co-workers had been detained the night before.
The first person he contacted was Ms. Broder, to tell her that the raid had hit the same operation he had described to her. That night, he and Mr. Dubey, who had left the Mira Road center after contacting Ms. Broder, celebrated over drinks.

“We brought it down,” Mr. Dubey said. “It started out as fun, then it got boring, then we truly understood the good and dirty parts of the job. Then we decided to bring it down.”

Whistle-blowers’ motives are often murky, and in their early conversations, Ms. Broder wondered fleetingly whether the two friends were calling on behalf of the scheme’s organizers to determine what American investigators knew. In an interview with The New York Times, the two men acknowledged being fired from the call center after getting into an altercation with co-workers.

Their claim to have brought down the center is unfounded, according to Indian and American investigators, who said that the raid in Thane was carried out entirely by the local police, without assistance from American officials. The Thane police said their informant was not employed by the swindlers. The raid was international news, and in the weeks that followed, the number of fraudulent I.R.S. calls to Americans dropped 95 percent, according to the Better Business Bureau.

But those who believe that the drop is permanent should consider this: In the weeks after Mr. Poojary and Mr. Dubey left the center, several lucrative job opportunities were presented to them. Each involved a phone scheme targeting Americans, they said. There was the Viagra scam, in which callers offered to sell cut-rate Viagra; there was a low-interest loan scam, in which people were asked to deposit $1,000 as proof of income. There was a tech scam, which warned Americans that their computer had been infected by a virus, and an American Express scam, which involved gathering personal information to break through security barriers on online accounts.

“Even if you shut down 400 buildings in India, it will not stop,” said Mr. Dubey, now known by his Delta clients as Jacob Davis. The two friends say they have given up on the notion of getting rich quickly, or of being paid by the United States government for the information they provided.

It has been replaced by a new hope — that, perhaps as a result of the public service they have provided, they will be granted visas to the United States, the home of so many of their favorite things: “The Fast and the Furious,” Vin Diesel and Robert Downey Jr. “I’ve spent so much time getting to know it, familiarizing myself with its states, talking to its people,” Mr. Dubey said. “I feel a bond.”

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Indo-Pak Relations

Ghani, Modi lash out at Pakistan on terrorism at Heart of Asia moot in Amritsar

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined hands to lash out at Pakistan on terrorism as the subject took centre stage at the inauguration of the sixth Heart of Asia ministerial conference on Sunday in Amritsar.

The theme of the conference is ‘enhanced cooperation for countering security threats and promoting connectivity in the Heart of Asia region’, and speculation was rife that India and Afghanistan would seek to pin Pakistan on terrorism.

Ashraf Ghani opened the conference by snubbing a $500 million pledge from Pakistan for development projects in Afghanistan, saying Afghanistan ‘needs aid to fight terrorism’, Times of India reported.

“We need to identify cross-border terrorism and a fund to combat terrorism. Pakistan has pledged $500m for Afghanistan’s development. This amount can be spent to contain extremism,” Ghani said, directly addressing Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz who was in attendance at the two-day moot.

“Afghanistan suffered the highest number of casualties last year. This is unacceptable… Some still provide sanctuary for terrorists. As a Taliban figure said recently, if they had no sanctuary in Pakistan, they wouldn’t last a month,” the Afghan president thundered.

“I don’t want a blame game, I want clarifications on what is being done to prevent the export of terror,” Ghani said.

He emphasised the need to “confront the fifth spectrum in the room, which is terrorism” and called on Pakistan to “verify cross-border activities”.

The Afghan president appreciated India’s support to Afghanistan, which he said comes “with no strings attached”.

“The relationship is based on shared values and beliefs,” Ghani said.

Must counter terrorists: Modi
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his opening remarks termed terrorism “the biggest threat to Afghanistan’s peace and the region,” Indian media reported.

Although the Indian premier did not refer explicitly to Pakistan in his speech at the Heart of Asia conference, Modi has vowed to step up a drive to isolate Pakistan diplomatically following the Uri army base attack in September, which it blames on Pakistan ─ an allegation Islamabad denies.

Hours after the Uri attack occurred, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh termed Pakistan a ‘terrorist state’ and accused Pakistan of involvement.
Addressing the moot, Modi said, “We must counter terrorists and their masters. We must demonstrate strong collective will to defeat terror network that cause bloodshed and spread fear.”

“Silence and inaction on terror in Afghanistan and the region will only embolden terrorists and masters and those fund them,” he said.

Modi said India is committed to ‘durable peace’ in Afghanistan, and announced plans to connect India and Afghanistan via an air link, as well as discussed the possibility of trilateral cooperation over Iran’s Chahbahar port.

“India-Afghanistan-Iran cooperation on the Chahbahar port will help Afghanistan to connect its economy to the rest of the world,” Modi said.

Aziz slams Ghani’s ‘baseless accusations’, says Pakistan wants peace with India
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz slammed Ghani’s ‘baseless accusations’ on Pakistan and called for evolving a joint and purposeful strategy for lasting peace in Afghanistan, Radio Pakistan reported.

“It is simplistic to blame only one country for the recent upsurge in violence. We need to have an objective and holistic view,” he said.

“Peaceful resolution to all the longstanding issues is the only way forward for regional cooperation and connectivity,”

“Pakistan is ready to extend every kind of cooperation for lasting peace in Afghanistan,” he said, adding that Afghanistan should avoid levelling false and baseless accusations at Pakistan.

He underlined the need to address through effective and collective efforts the continuing wave of terrorism and violence in Afghanistan which had claimed scores of human lives and observed that the signing of a peace agreement between the Afghan government and Hizb-i-Islami may serve as a model for talks with other groups in the future.

The adviser said that peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban had not produced positive results, adding that Pakistan was making a serious effort to facilitate peace talks through the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG).
He urged all QCG members to continue their efforts for talks between the Afghan government and Taliban. “In our view, there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict and all our efforts should be to achieve a politically negotiated settlement through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process,” he said.
Aziz also regretted the postponement of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) summit scheduled in Islamabad, by saying that it was a setback to efforts for promoting regional cooperation and undermined its spirit.

Speaking to journalists in Amritsar earlier, Aziz said Pakistan prioritises peace and is ready for talks with India if New Delhi desires the same, the Press Information Department said in a statement.

“Terrorism is one of the issues to be discussed under the composite dialogue with India,” Aziz said, adding that both countries should sit together and discuss issues instead of engaging in heated debate in the media.

“If we do not have structured dialogue, then the dialogue through media increases hostility and negative perceptions,” he said.

“Pakistan is committed to peace and security of the region and to promote multilateral peace for this purpose,” he said, adding that this was one of the reasons he attended the conference in India.

Aziz arrives in Amritsar
The two-day moot kicked off amidst a media frenzy as a handshake between Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sparked speculation regarding the possibility of a Pak-India meeting on the sidelines of the event.

Reports speculated whether Sartaj Aziz’s early arrival in India on Saturday presaged a ‘chance’ bilateral meeting with Indian PM Modi, who is hosting the multilateral conference on Afghanistan.

Indian Ministry of External Affairs Spokesman Vikas Swarup has, however, rubbished the rumours citing “a climate of continued terrorism” as the reason bilateral talks may not take place. “India will never accept continued terrorism as the new normal of the bilateral relationship,”

Prior to the meet, Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani held bilateral talks focusing on a range of issues, including trade, investment, infrastructural development and increasing defence and security ties.

Sartaj Aziz also met Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Ashraf Ghani separately on the sidelines of the ministerial conference.

Heart of Asia process
The initiative was launched in 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey for encouraging economic and security cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours for dealing with the common problems of terrorism, extremism and poverty

A senior officials’ meeting of the Heart of Asia process, themed ‘Addressing Challenges, Achieving Prosperity’, was held on Saturday and their deliberations were to feed into the ministerial session today.
Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates are part of the Heart of Asia initiative.

Six key areas in which the 14 countries have been pursuing confidence-building measures since the 2013 Almaty meeting are disaster management, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, trade and investment, regional infrastructure, and education.

The process is supported by 17 other, predominantly Western, countries, and 12 international organisations which are also sending senior representatives.

Categories
Indo-Pak Relations

21m deaths, ozone layer to vanish if Indo-Pak nuclear war erupts

Nuclear cloud over Indo Pak (Credit: en yibada.com)
Nuclear cloud over Indo Pak
(Credit: en yibada.com)

If India and Pakistan fought a war detonating 100 nuclear warheads (around half of their combined arsenal), each equivalent to a 15-kiloton Hiroshima bomb, more than 21 million people will be directly killed, about half the world’s protective ozone layer would be destroyed, and a “nuclear winter” would cripple the monsoons and agriculture worldwide.

According to the 2007 study by researchers from Rutgers University, University of Colorado-Boulder and University of California, Los Angeles, all in the USA, the real costs would be higher and not just in India and Pakistan, where the first 21 million people – half the death toll of World War II – would perish within the first week from blast effects, burns and acute radiation.

Another two billion people worldwide would face risks of severe starvation due to the climatic effects of the nuclear-weapon use in the subcontinent, according to a 2013 assessment by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, a global federation of physicians.

Pakistan has an estimated 110 to 130 nuclear warheads as of 2015 – an increase from an estimated 90 to 110 warheads in 2011 – according to a report from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a global disarmament advocacy. India is estimated to have 110 to 120 nuclear warheads.

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons capability has previously deterred India from responding to previous attacks.

“At the end of the day, India has to ensure that the options it exercises–particularly the military ones – do not leave it worse off than before in terms of casualties and costs,” wrote analyst Manoj Joshi in The Wire.

It does not really matter if India has fewer nuclear weapons than Pakistan, IndiaSpend reported in April 2015, primarily because of the doctrine of “mutually assured destruction”, or MAD, as it is commonly known.

According to a report from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, as many as 66 per cent of Pakistan’s nuclear warheads are mounted on 86 land-based ballistic missiles.

A major attack by Pakistan’s nuclear-tipped medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) would likely target India’s four major metropolitan cities – New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengalore and Chennai (depending on where the missile is fired from), according to Sameer Patil, fellow, national security, ethnic conflict and terrorism at Gateway House, a think-tank in Mumbai.

The MRBMs would also target “the major commands of the Indian Army”, Patil told IndiaSpend.

Nearly half (40) of Pakistan’s ballistic missile warheads could be mated to Ghauri (named after 12th-century Afghan king Shahbuddin Ghauri, also known as Muhammad of Ghauri) MRBMs.

The missile has a claimed range of 1,300km and can target Delhi, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Bhopal and Lucknow, according to a 2006 report on Pakistan’s ballistic missile programme by the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengalore.

Pakistan has an estimated eight warheads which could be mated to the Shaheen (Falcon) II. This MRBM has a range of 2,500 km and can target most major Indian cities, including Kolkata on the east coast.

An estimated 16 warheads could be fired atop the short-range Ghaznavi (named after the 11th-century Afghan invader Mahmud Ghazni) ballistic missile. With a range of 270km to 350km, it can target Ludhiana, Ahmedabad and the outer perimeter of Delhi.

Pakistan has an estimated 16 nuclear-tipped Shaheen1 (falcon), short-range ballistic missiles (IRBM), having a 750km range which can reach Ludhiana, Delhi, Jaipur and Ahmedabad.

Pakistan has an estimated six 60-km range Nasr missiles, which could be mated to nuclear weapons. These tactical nuclear missiles could target “advancing battle formations of the Indian Army”, according to Patil.

Pakistan also has eight nuclear-tipped 350-km Babur cruise missiles with nuclear warheads.

An estimated 36 nuclear warheads, accounting for 28 per cent of Pakistan’s total, can be delivered using aircraft. US-made F-16 A/B aircraft can deliver 24 nuclear bombs while the French-made Mirage III/V can deliver 12.

India has deployed 56 Prithvi (earth) and Agni (fire) series of surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, which carry 53 per cent of India’s 106 estimated warheads, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

This doesn’t take into account the estimated 12 warheads for the K-15 Sagarika submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), which India has possibly produced for the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine INS Arihant.

Once commissioned, Arihant would give India a strategic nuclear triad and second strike capability, as this July 2015 IndiaSpend report notes.

“Given the smaller geographical size of Pakistan,” said Patil, India would likely target “Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi and the Pakistani Army Armed Corps headquarters at Nowshera”.

However, he cautioned: “The fallout of the nuclear attacks on Lahore and Karachi, for instance, would not just be restricted to the Pakistani territory, and depending on the wind directions, can affect both Indian and Afghan border territories.”

The 250 km-range Prithvi SRBM acts as a delivery system for 24 of India’s warheads. These are capable of hitting major Pakistani cities, such as Lahore, Sialkot, the capital Islamabad, and Rawalpindi, according to this May 2015 IndiaSpend analysis.

India has 20 nuclear-tipped Agni I SRBM and eight Agni II intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), with ranges of 700km and 2,000km, respectively. These are capable of covering almost all Pakistani cities, including Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Multan, Peshawar, Karachi, Quetta and Gwadar.

Agni III, IV and V, with their longer ranges, might be able to reach all of Pakistan, but it can be safely said that they are directed more towards China.

India also possesses an estimated two ship-launched 350-km range Dhanush SRBM, which could be fitted with nuclear warheads.

India’s aircraft can deliver an estimated 45 per cent of 106 warheads. The Indian Air Force’s Jaguar fighter bombers can deliver about 16 nuclear warheads, while the French-built Mirage-2000 fleet can deliver 32.

Fears of a war between the two South Asian rivals erupted after a suspected militant attack on an army garrison in Uri Sector of Indian-held Kashmir claimed the lives of 18 Indian soldiers.

Tension between Pakistan and India has been high since an Indian crackdown on dissent in Kashmir following the killing by security forces of Burhan Wani, a young separatist leader, in July.

Both the South Asian rivals claim Kashmir in full, but govern separate parts, and have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over Kashmir.

Courtesy: Hindustan Times