Thursday, March 17, 2011

Desiccated Land, Part 2

In this post, we try to put the Jammu and Kashmir situation into perspective. You may wish to review Part 1.

First, a brief update on some news from the region.

We begin with an initial excerpt from 24 hour gun-battle leaves 2 ultras dead, trooper injured, dated March 14, 2011, which outlines an incident in the town of Sopore, in the district of Baramulla (the English is a little choppy):

SRINAGAR, Mar 13: In a 24 hour long gun battle in Sopore that ended this morning police claimed to have killed two militants, including a top Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) commander while an army trooper was injured. Suspected militants also hurled a grenade in area.

According to police, Wasim Ahmad Ganai a local militant of HuM who was holed up in Kralteng locality of Sopore town was killed in the fresh exchange of fire with a joint team of 22 Rashtriya Rifles and Special Operations Group (SOG) this morning. A trooper identified as Nitender Kumar of 22 Rashtriya Rifles was injured in exchange of heavy fire.

Police said that Wasim gave a stiff resistance to police and army and kept them engaged during last night in gunfight that ended this morning. The encounter started Saturday after troopers of 22 RR, SOG and CRPF cordoned off the private clinic of Dr Sofi Muhammad Ramzan.

As search party entered heavily armed militants opened fire on police and army triggering a fierce encounter. In the initial exchange of fire, police claimed the killing of divisional commander of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) Chhota Kalimullah alias Shamsher alias Talwar Bhai and Wasim managed to take shelter in drain and engaged the forces in 24-hour long gun-battle.

In the aftermath of the fight, security forces seized a "large" cache of weapons and ammunition.

It should be noted that Sopore was the scene of a 1993 event known as the Sopore Massacre, described in an article in Time thusly:

PERHAPS THERE IS A SPECIAL CORNER IN HELL reserved for soldiers who fire their weapons indiscriminately into a crowd of unarmed civilians. That, at least, must have been the hope of every resident who defied an army-enforced curfew in the Kashmiri town of Sopore last Thursday to protest a massacre that left 55 people dead and scores injured. It was India's latest blow in a three-year campaign to crush the predominantly Muslim state's bid for independence. In retaliation for the killing of one soldier, paramilitary forces rampaged through Sopore's market setting buildings ablaze and shooting bystanders. The Indian government pronounced the event "unfortunate" and claimed that an ammunition dump had been hit by gunfire, setting off fires that killed most of the victims.

In that incident, hundreds of buildings were destroyed; how many hundreds, and how they were destroyed, depends on who is asked.

This most recent incident is given some perspective, as we consider the first part of Rise in militancy related incidents, also dated March 14, 2011:

SRINAGAR, Mar 13: With the onset of spring the militant relatives incidents seem to be increasing in valley and in less than a week seven militants were killed in Srinagar, Shopian and Sopore. Police claim that around 100 militants are active in North and Central Kashmir.

The highest number of militants, police claim, are active in the apple rich Sopore town of North Kashmir. "The number of active militants in Sopore and Rafiabad is around 20-25," deputy inspector general of police North Kashmir Muneer Ahmad Khan told Kashmir Times. "We have groups of militants active in Rajwarad, Hafrudda Handwara and Lolab area in Kupwara. There is also a group of militants active in Bandipora district," he added.

The article goes on to explain some controversy over how a militancy-free zone was declared, though the officials in the zone don't know who declared it; but, they point out that in that particular zone, militancy is down. This is temporary, though, as the militants move around from region to region, and many of them infiltrate in from Pakistan. However, we are reassured, alert troops are watching the Pakistan border to minimize this.

A general alarm is sounded in an article entitled Target India: 700 militants waiting at Pak launchpads, dated March 17, 2011:

Pattan (J&K) Noting that turbulence in Afghanistan and Pakistan will have an impact on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, Indian Army on Thursday said 700 militants were waiting at various lauchpads to infiltrate into the state.

"India, Kashmir and Pakistan are all at the peripheries of the problem area of Afghanistan. So if peace does not exist in Afghanistan and there is turbulence in Pakistan, obviously there will be turbulence around us," General Officer Command (GOC) of Srinagar-based 15 Corps Lt General S A Hasnain told reporters here, 30 kms from capital Srinagar.

Lt Gen Hasnain was replying to a question about the impact on Kashmir after the US forces withdraw from Afghanistan.

"The problem is always that of turbulence. An area that is turbulent will always send waves of turbulence into the other areas," he said.

He said the Army has reports that militants across the Line of Control (LoC) will attempt to infiltrate into the state in the next few days.

So, there is immediate concern about further violence in Jammu and Kashmir, but in the long term, there is concern about how that situation could deteriorate if the US withdraws from Afghanistan without adequately stabilizing the situation there.

Of course, it is an oversimplification of the problem to point at Afghanistan. Instability there in the wake of the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 was dealt with by Pakistan via proxy forces from across the Durand Line; we now call these forces the Taliban, but they are the same kinds of militants that infiltrate into Jammu and Kashmir.

But, to blame it all on Pakistan is also an oversimplification; were there not a volatile situation in Afghanistan and J & K, the "stabilizing" influence of Pakistani-supported militants would not be so profound.

For me, it is interesting to view the whole situation in a broader context.

To a recent article entitled China's arms sales to Pakistan unsettling South Asian security, I made the following comment:

China's strategic partnership with Pakistan serves China far more than it serves Pakistan.

If China needed to do so, it could move its powerful ground forces, supported by aircover, overland to defend the port facilities in Gwadar. Such inland lines of communication would be challenging even for the US to interdict. The trick would be getting Chinese naval units all the way around Southeast Asia and India to Gwadar.

Far more likely, though, is that the build-up of Pakistani power is intended to offset US influence in Pakistan, and to keep India otherwise occupied, allowing a freer hand for Beijing throughout the rest of Asia.

Pakistan needs to rethink its adversarial relationship with India. By defining itself as a Muslim country, juxtaposed against India, and by support of Islamic militants as proxies and for strategic depth, Islamabad has painted itself into a corner, where Pakistan's policy can easily be manipulated by Washington (though the US does not have the finesse to do so) and especially by Beijing. If Pakistan could reinvent its relationship with India, Islamabad would have a far freer hand in its foreign affairs, defense and other matters, and Pakistanis would benefit by less blowback from ISI's upport of militants.

For background, I suggest my Tale of a Tiger series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6), which paints a picture of growing Chinese influence in South Asia and the Persian Gulf, a drive towards a capability to challenge US naval power, a growing ability to project naval power into the Indian Ocean, and which addresses Sino-Indian issues. Furthermore, in Part 6, I point out the advantages of a Chinese strategic move into South Asia, which would help stabilize Xinjiang, a region where China is currently dealing with its own Islamic militants.

China's arms sales to Pakistan unsettling South Asian security details how China has benefited from arms sales to Pakistan; one benefit is a big, reliable foreign customer, allowing for development of China's arms industry.

However, China is not the only competitor nation to be building its arms industry.

An article from March 4, 2011, entitled US air power: Made in India? addresses how India's aerospace industry is growing in part due to a policy of "offsets". Basically, India agrees to purchase aircraft from the US, provided the aircraft are built at least partially in India.

The benefit to the US corporations is that manufacturing can be done in India, rather than in the US, where labor costs are higher.

This means Americans lose jobs so Indians can have them.

But, a big benefit to India is that the manufacturing facilities are in India, not the US.

In a hypothetical scenario where relations between the US and India deteriorated to the point of war (obviously, extremely unlikely), India would have the industrial base to support the war; an industrial base that belongs in the US, but which was exported for profit by US corporations.

But wait, there's more!

India hopes to qualitatively improve its aerospace industry through the technology transfer that would naturally accompany coproduction of late-model US combat aircraft.

On the US side, it is assumed that by the time India learns the ins and outs of the aircraft it is coproducing, the US will have fielded a newer generation.

(I'll bet that, when you began reading this article about militants in some Indian town that few Americans have ever heard of, you never suspected this article would turn in the direction it has!)

For India, this is a big plus, because India's aerospace industry is growing quantitatively and qualitatively, placing it well ahead of Pakistan's, and on a par with China's; this, in part, at American expense, just as China's military-industrial complex is developing in part at Pakistani expense.

(Of course, when you consider how much money the US government is giving to Pakistan, I could argue that China's development is also at US expense.)

In the long run, this will leave India in a much better position vis-à-vis both Pakistan and China for a fight with both that could be sparked by an incident in some town like Sopore.

But, my American readers may be asking, where will that leave US?


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