There is a history of war in South Asia. India and Pakistan fought in 1948, 1965, 1971, and 1999. There is good evidence that in no case was there the expectation of a war on the scale and of the kind that ensued. Rather, war followed misadventure, driven by profound errors of policy, political and military judgement, and public sentiment. Nuclear weapons do nothing to lessen such possibilities. There is even reason to believe they may make them worse in South Asia. One lesson of the 1999 Kargil war is that Pakistan saw its newly acquired nuclear weapons as a shield from behind which it could fuel and stoke the conflict in Kashmir, safe from any possible Indian retaliation. During this war, nuclear threats were made publicly by leaders on both sides. It took international intervention to stop the slide to a larger, more destructive war.
Emergency Loya Jirga: Strength In Numbers?
As the largest grand assembly ever held in Afghanistan, the Loya Jirga will gather 1,501 Afghan delegates from inside and outside the country. The Special Independent Commission for Convening Loya Jirga has been planning the logistics and management of this event since January, but officials remain worried. “For a long time the Afghan people did not have a say in their government. And for the first time in Afghanistan’s history we wanted the people to feel that they were being represented in the government,” said Ahmed Nadery, a spokesperson for the 21-member Loya Jirga Commission. This pronouncement may mark a step in Afghanistan’s evolution, but acting on it will put a strain on Afghanistan’s scant security. Planners also have to consider how to make the Loya Jirga fair and accessible to the country’s largely illiterate population, and keep it from becoming a platform for tribal, political, and ethnic violence.
India Flirting With Disaster: Washington has a Moral Responsibility to Prevent War in South Asia
India is playing a highly risky game of brinkmanship in Kashmir. Its recent deployment of forces along the line of control (LoC), the de facto border between India and Pakistan in Kashmir, and the extremely provocative rhetoric from Delhi have brought the region closer to a nuclear war than ever before.
Nuke Truths — U.S. Helped Create South Asian Standoff
Almost 40 years ago, the late Pakistani leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was then serving as Pakistan’s foreign minister, famously declared “even if Pakistanis have to eat grass we will make the bomb.” India and Pakistan have since fought two conventional wars and now have nuclear weapons poised to complete the short five-minute arc to the other’s national capital.
Central Asian Elites, Suddenly, Shift Into Revolt, Part I
For much of the 1990s Boris Shikhmuradov was the most acceptable public face of Turkmenistan’s dictatorial regime, traveling the world as Foreign Minister. An Armenian by birth and a former journalist, the suave and jovial Shikhmuradov spoke English fluently. He made a sharp contrast to his dour boss, President Saparmyrat Niyazov, who goes by Turkmenbashi the Great (Father of all Turkmen) and presides over an extreme Soveit-style personality cult. Shikhmuradov countered this bizarre image of Central Asian governance. Now–like other former elites–he is opposing it.
Russia, China Warily Watch for American Intrusions in Central Asia, Part II
As small Central Asian countries have struck military alliances with the United States, their leaders have asserted their own power more aggressively. At the same time, the presence of American soldiers threatens to dilute Russia’s and China’s power to influence the region’s politics and economics. Since September 2001, Russia and China have cooperated with Washington’s moves and generally affirmed its aims. But as the fighting in Afghanistan winds down, hard-liners in both countries are expressing resentment and apprehension about a prolonged American presence in a region they consider their backyard.
Afghan Women Emerge As Elections Take Place
In a reversal of the oppressive Taliban era, educated Afghan women are using the elections to the upcoming Loya Jirga, or grand tribal council, to press for their civil rights. Many are now seeking a greater political and social role in Afghanistan, whereas until a few months ago women were virtual non-people.
The Price of Failure in Kashmir
Following Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf’s speech on May 27th and the Indian government’s official response the following day, it is clear that while war clouds have temporarily receded they have most certainly not been lifted. India will wait to see “results,” i.e. what steps the Pakistan government will take to end the ability of terrorists to strike from across the border into Indian territory, including Jammu and Kashmir. One must distinguish here between two claims. Any attribution that the Musharraf government is directly behind the December 13 attack on Parliament and now the May 14 attack in Kaluchak, Jammu, is not substantiated by evidence and is, politically speaking, utterly implausible. The Musharraf government is not so foolish or naïve as to impose even further pressure on itself in circumstances when his own regime is fighting for internal survival, or to want to shift attention away from the state-sponsored anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat and the world’s criticism of the Indian government on that score.
Defense Establishment’s Control of U.S. Policy Poses Threat to Afghan Reconstruction
Some officials within the Bush administration and the interim government in Kabul complain that the CIA’s and the U.S. military’s continuing control of U.S. policy is hampering Afghanistan’s reconstruction. The continuing military emphasis on policy is thwarting the development of political and economic tactics that strengthen the interim government and promote reconciliation.
U.S. Eyes Caspian Oil in “War On Terror”
The arrival of U.S. troops in Georgia on April 29 raised as many glasses in Ankara and Baku as it did jitters in Moscow. Touted as a new front in the “war on terror,” the Bush administration is in reality scrambling for Caspian oil in a bid to oust Russia from its traditional backyard. Washington insists its “train and equip force'” of 10 combat helicopters and 150 military instructors is solely intended to help Georgia combat Islamic radicals in the lawless Pankisi Gorge, allegedly a safe haven for al Qaeda militants and their Chechen allies. But other motives became apparent, although largely unnoticed by the Western press when Georgian Defense Ministry official Mirian Kiknadze told Radio Free Europe on February 27: “The U.S. military will train our rapid reaction force, which is guarding strategic sites in Georgia–particularly oil pipelines.” He was referring to the embryonic Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) project, set to reduce Georgia’s and Azerbaijan’s energy reliance on Russia and bring the southern Caucasus into the U.S. fold.