Editor's Notes: Possibilities and Pitfalls


Possibilities and Pitfalls

The old wooden Kaman Bridge , the last Indian outpost on the Line of Control (LOC), was replaced by the Border Roads Organization with an iron-and-concrete structure in a record time of two months.  The bridge was renamed Aman Setu (bridge of peace).  The Srinagar – Muzzarfarbad bus began operating on April 7 across the LOC and was hailed by the Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Shri. Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, as the “mother of all confidence building measures.”  The bus service is dubbed as the karavan-e-aman (peace bus). Extremist voices had always opposed the bus service and on April 6 two militants attacked the Tourist Reception Centre at Srinagar with automatic weapons and grenades.  They set fire to the building and injured six people before being killed by the security forces.  The attack did not deter the passengers or the governments of India and Pakistan . Instead the bus was flagged of by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh amid much fanfare and the State Chief Minister and other officials welcomed the passengers coming from Muzzafrabad in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir at the Aman Setu. These people were given a grand cultural reception at Salamabad before traveling on to meet their relatives in different parts of Jammu & Kashmir. Since the maiden bus, the second bus departed as scheduled on April 21st carrying mostly the visitors back to their homes across the LOC. The announcement by the Indian and Pakistani leadership that other routes between the two countries would also be opened and that trucks would also ply across divided J&K has come as a boost to the economic aspirations of the people.  In this spirit of development, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other dignitaries flagged off the inaugural train service between Jammu and Udhampur on April 13th, providing new economic opportunities and easier communications for the people living in the mountainous parts of Jammu . Meanwhile terrorists continued to attempt infiltration across the fence on the LOC and make attacks within the state, but improved defenses and diligent operations by the security forces have frustrated their designs. The true test for the Pakistani leadership will come when the snows melt and more infiltration routes open up in the difficult upper reaches of J&K.   On April 17th General Musharraf invited himself to watch the cricket match between India and Pakistan .  During the visit he met the Prime Minister and other political leaders.  The current visit was markedly different from his last visit to India in 2001.  At that time, General Musharraf’s aggressive and undiplomatic posture led to the collapse of the Agra summit.  The absence of acrimony in this informal summit resulted in a joint declaration stating that the peace process was now ‘irreversible’.  While supporting the government in an effort to build peace, many analysts have pointed out that peace can be very easily disrupted as long as Pakistan retains the infrastructure of terrorism.  In the future phases of dialogue with Pakistan , the Indian government needs to focus on a complete removal of the entire infrastructure of terrorism, so that the peace process will truly become irreversible.

In Pakistan , Balochistan continues to boil.  While the Pakistani army seems to have secured the natural gas installations at Sui, the major pipelines and the power plants that were attacked by the Baloch nationalists early this year, there has been no significant movement forward on the political front.  The protagonists remain unconvinced about the sincerity of the Pakistan administration and retain their ability to cause significant security-related worries to the Pakistan army.  Another interesting set of developments in the country have been recent efforts by General Musharraf to secure his political future beyond 2007, by splitting the Pakistan Muslim League and possibly cutting deals with other political parties.  However, the fact remains that the only source of power is his position as the commander of the army and it seems unlikely that General Musharraf would give up this position and risk removal, exile or possibly even death. The last few weeks have witnessed interesting developments on the nuclear front.  Pakistan has agreed to send samples of centrifuges to the IAEA for tests to determine whether the Iranian centrifuges originated from Pakistan .  Additionally, the Pakistani government was under tremendous pressure from the United States to hand over Abdul Qadeer Khan and possibly even the former Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg for questioning. Pakistan seems to be hedged its risk by signing a deal with the Chinese Government to build the Chashma-2 nuclear reactor.  This reactor would produce plutonium that could potentially be diverted to the nuclear weapons program.

Europe and the US are trying their best to put the scarred trans-Atlantic relationship back on track. The visit of the US President to Europe in February was a major step in this direction. He showed an understanding of European concerns and was received with warmth not previously visible towards the U.S in recent years.  Interestingly, behind the trans-Atlantic rapprochement are widely differing perceptions about the direction of this relationship. Bush administration views Europe ’s new-found warmth as a consequence of the tectonic changes taking place in the Middle East after the removal of Saddam Hussein. Meanwhile, Europe views the Bush administration’s recent moves towards multilateralism as a vindication of their stand on Iraq and a failure of the “go-it-alone” neo-conservative agenda. It would be simplistic to state that recent US-European rapprochement is simply a result of the changing political landscape in the Middle East . The West is facing a host of diplomatic challenges and the Bush Administration is making a concerted effort to present a united front with the Europeans in tackling these challenges.

On Iran , the US seems to have decided to back European-led negotiations with Tehran . According to some reports, the US is now ready to consider providing inducements to Iran such as World Trade Organization membership and badly needed airplane parts, with possibly the sale of new civilian airlines from Boeing or Airbus. The European trio – the French, the Germans, and the British – presented a united front on this issue. The US clearly stated its opposition to Europe ’s attempts to lift arms embargo against China .  However, notwithstanding this recent cozying up between the US and Europe , significant differences remain between the two on a range of issues. Even on Iran , the US concessions are dependent on permanent dismantlement of Iran ’s nuclear program while the Europeans are willing to negotiate for a temporary freeze. In regards to North Korea , the Europeans would like the US to initiate one-on-one talks with Pyongyang while the US is only willing to talk to North Korea within the framework on the six-party negotiations involving China , South Korea , Russia , and Japan . Lastly, the Europeans are still reluctant in aiding US in Iraq .

US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice’s high profile whirlwind tour of Asia in March has once again focused attention on the continent’s crucial place in global security and stability. Secretary Rice outlined a new strategic vision for the Asian security architecture with emerging powers like Japan and India at its center. She welcomed Japan ’s increasingly assertive role on the global stage even as she asked China to match its growing capabilities to its international responsibilities. The importance which the US attaches to its ties with India was reflected in Rice’s choice of India as her first stop in her tour.  As an indication of burgeoning Indo – US ties, the US is ready to offer civilian nuclear technology to India and completely lift all nuclear sanctions imposed after the peaceful nuclear explosion of 1974. During her visit, Rice explicitly acknowledged India ’s rising global profile and sought India ’s partnership in maintaining regional and global stability.  Despite some glitches such as the US opposition to the Indo-Iran gas pipeline project and Indian opposition to the sale of F-16 fighters to Pakistan , the visit reflected the changing framework for Indo-US ties.  Secretary Rice reiterated that the US has no intention of attacking North Korea .  However, she plainly stated that the US has run out of patience with North Korea ’s continued refusal to rejoin nuclear disarmament talks. There is a growing perception in the US that China is not doing enough to effectively pressure North Korea on its nuclear program. She challenged China to address the North Korean issue more effectively, stated US displeasure over heightened tensions with Taiwan and made a personal statement about limitations on religious freedom in China . Overall, the Asia visit was a step towards regaining lost diplomatic space by the US in the last few years.

Braving bombs and bullets the people of have voted. Candidates, voters and countless Iraqi security officers have risked life and limb to ensure the success of the elections. The editorial team congratulates the people of Iraq for this great achievement and offers condolences to the kin of those who gave their lives to make this happen. Though other external observers may take a less charitable view, the elections in Iraq have given the US led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) much needed political space. The attention is now focused on the new Iraqi government under President Jalal Talabani and the process of negotiation between the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish factions in Iraq takes the spotlight off the CPA itself. The CPA however could not rest easily on its laurels, for barely had the elections ended, trouble was just literally around the corner. In a tragic case of friendly fire, a highly respected Italian intelligence officer, Nicolo Calipari was killed by US troops in Baghdad . Calipari had just successfully negotiated the release of the Italian hostage, Giuliana Sgrena, a reporter for the leftist newspaper Il Manifesto. The news of Calipari's murder by US troops served to focus anti-war sentiment in Italy and considerable anger was also directed at President Silvio Berlusconi. In a bid to keep political pressure to manageable levels, Prime Minister Berlusconi had to announce the withdrawal of Italian troops from Iraq . Though Italy still remains a part of the war on terror, the loss of Italy in Iraq will be felt. At the very least, the inability to safely engage in independent hostage negotiations will give other nations pause when contemplating joining a multinational effort in Iraq . It must be borne in mind that the minority Sunnis constituted a disproportionately large portion of Saddam Hussein's regime and they opposed the elections. It should come as no surprise then that the majority Shia population were keen to see the CPA's electoral process succeed. The intensity of the relentless suicide bombings on Shia places of worship speak to the sectarian strife that simmers below the surface. This is going to make the process of negotiation alluded to earlier extremely difficult and the price of delay will be measured in blood. The US probably shares some fraction of the Sunni concern over a possible Shia dominance over Iraq , however an over enthusiastic approach seems fraught with the possibility of blowback. On a related note, the revolution in Lebanon has effectively contested Syria 's influence over the financially powerful Maronite community. This could in theory open several political questions in Syria itself. Though neo- conservative thinkers see this as a cautious spread of democratic values from Iraq , one wonders if there is a real understanding of what shape a "Post-Assad" Syria may take. Indeed one could not but agree that "Post-Saddam" Iraq proved quite a handful.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and an entourage of a hundred delegates visited India in April, highlighting his four-nation tour of the Subcontinent. Premier Wen Jiabao first visited India in 1994 as head of an international liaison department of the Communist Party of China.  The current visit was not only intended to greet India’s political leaders but survey its economic landscape.  It seemed clear that the Premier was intent to focus on potential Sino – India economic cooperation. In this vein, he visited the city of Bangalore, India’s corporate giant Tata Consultancy Services, telecom giant Huawei Technology's R&D centre, the Indian Institute of Sciences, and the Indian Space Research Organization.  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Premier Jiabao exchanged views on the border and emphasized a willingness to agree on an acceptable and fair solution by the Joint Working Group. Furthermore, India reiterated that Tibet Autonomous Region was an integral part of China while China reciprocated by declaring Sikkim as clearly demarcated within Indian territory.  However, questions linger about the Aksai Chin are and Arunachal Pradesh and the resolution of these boundaries will mark beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship with China. Prior to departing for Beijing, the premier addressed hundreds of students at Dogra Hall at India Institute of Technology in Delhi and stated that, "India and China are not competitors but can complement each other and work toward an Asian century."

The editorial team extends it heartfelt condolences at the passing of Pope John Paul II on April 2, 2005.  The passing drew to a close 28 years of papacy, one of the longest in this century.  His reign witnessed significant events in human history from the end of communism and the Cold War to the uncertainty of the post-Cold War era. On April 19, 2005, wisps of white smoke and bells announced an end to the deliberation of the College of Cardinals.  Cardinal John Ratzinger a confidant of the Pope John Paul II and in charge of Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith was elected Pope Benedict XVI.  We congratulate Pope Benedict XVI and wish him every success in spiritually leading the worldwide congregation of a billion Catholics through the challenges of faith.

Cover Image: Reuters / Amiruddin Mughal