South Asia Theater

Kashmir: Indo-Pak proxy politics persist despite disaster

Despite Indian aid to Pakistan-controlled Kashmir in the wake of the devastating earthquake which has claimed some 25,000 lives, news reports indicate concerns persist in New Delhi about how the divided region's militant organizations are exploiting the disaster. An account in The Australian raises fears that such organizations are involved in the relief effort, and that "General Musharraf and his army would be too preoccupied with initially managing the enormity of the tragedy to worry about taking on militants."

Terror in Bangladesh

An Aug. 18 Christian Science Monitor story, online at TruthOut, reports that some 300 small bombs exploded in cities across Bangladesh the previous day, killing one, wounding at least 100, and raising fears of a surge of Islamic militancy. The bombs mainly targeted government offices, bus and train stations, and markets in 63 of the country's 64 districts. No one formally claimed responsibility, but copies of a leaflet found at most of the sites carried a call by the group Jaamat-ul-Mujahideen for Islamic rule in Bangladesh.

Paramilitary terror, ethnic warfare in Nepal

In the last intallment of a series on the looming disaster in Nepal, Newsday's courageous reporter Matthew McAllester Aug. 17 highlights a little-noted ethnic dimesion to the conflict, which is usually portrayed soley in terms of fanatical Maoist guerillas versus an autocratic monarchy. The story, entitled "Local militias add to Nepal's deadly mix," notes the emergence of paramilitary vigilante groups to fight the guerillas, backed by the army and big land-owners. The Royal Nepalese Army has denied creating the "village counterforces," as the militias call themselves. But militia leaders boasted to McAllester of receiving training and official ID badges from the army, prompting Brig. Gen. Dipak Gurung to admit the army's involvement--and the risk it entails. "Once you train them, you have to take responsibility for them... I hope it doesn't come to a situation where we have to disarm them. You never know."

Pakistan test-fires cruise missile; strategic re-alignment on subcontinent?

Recent optimism on reducing tensions between India and Pakistan is tempered by Pakistan's Aug. 10 test-firing of its first ground-launched nuclear-capable Cruise Missile Hatf VII Babur, with a range of 500 kilometers. The military said that with the "successful test, Pakistan has joined a select group of countries which have the capability to design and develop [a] cruise missile."

Sweeps in Pakistan

Arrested for "spreading hatred"? Sounds frighteningly arbitrary and subjective. From UPI, July 20:

Pakistan arrests 200 extremist suspects
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has detained more than 200 suspected Islamic militants in a new security crackdown this week.

India gets US nuclear aid; oil issues in background

Well, the pending US nuclear aid to India is now official, with India hailed as a beacon of "responsible" nuclear development (which we argue is as oxymoronic as "authentic reproduction," "corporate responsibility," "military music," etc.). This despite the fact that India, unlike "irresponsible" Iran, already has nuclear weapons, and so does its arch-rival Pakistan, and the brief 1999 war between the two regional powers almost went nuclear. This report from Bloomberg:

BJP exploits backlash violence in India?

Following the July 5 attack by presumed Islamic militants at the disputed Indian holy site of Ayodhya, protests have broken out throughout India. Over 2,000 were arrested in Delhi, where police used tear gas, and critics charge the protests have been particularly violent in states controlled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Hindu nationalists support Pakistan's Ismaili separatists

India Express reports that authorities on the Indian side of divided Jammu & Kashmir state are on "red alert" as Hindus prepare for protests following yesterday's attack by presumed Islamic militants on Ayodhya, the disputed holy site in Uttar Pradesh. A July 6 report in India Express also notes that Hindus displaced from the Pakistani side of the line, organized in the Panun Kashmir Movement (PKM), are demanding a seat at the dialogue table over the divided region's future. They call themselves the Kashmiri Pandits (pandit literally meaning a scholar of Sanskrit, underscoring their religious identity), and call their homeland (now occupied by Pakistan) Panun Kashmir.

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