Daily BRIEFING #4505 – INDIA AND PAKISTAN: RIVAL NUCLEAR POWERS CAUGHT IN GEOPOLITICAL CROSSFIRES

INDIA AND PAKISTAN: RIVAL NUCLEAR POWERS CAUGHT IN GEOPOLITICAL CROSSFIRES

Hold My Chai: Escalation and De-Escalation Scenarios in South Asia: Hijab Shah, Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 1, 2019 — In a tense, highly fluid interaction between India and Pakistan, there is a great deal of uncertainty.
India and Pakistan on the Brink: Sudha Ramachandran, The Diplomat, February 28, 2019 — On February 26, the Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out an aerial strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terror training camp in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
Pakistan and India Visits by Saudi Arabia Crown Prince- Analysed: Dr. Subhash Kapila, Indian Defense Review, Feb. 26, 2019 — Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia visited Pakistan and India – February 2019 with a further follow-up visit to China.
Indian Muslims: A Valuable Prize for Regional Rivals: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, January 21, 2019 — When President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently declared that Turkey was “the only country that can lead the Muslim world,” he probably wasn’t only thinking of Middle Eastern and other Islamic states such as Pakistan and Bangladesh.

On Topic Links

Pakistan in the Indo-Pacific: Caught in The Geopolitical Crossfire: Syed Ali Zia Jaffery, South Asian Voices, Feb. 14, 2019
Why China Doesn’t Want to Get Caught in The Middle of an India-Pakistan Conflict: Ben Westcott and Steven Jiang, CNN Digital Expansion, Feb. 28, 2019
If India And Pakistan Go to War, Israeli Weapons Could Be Decisive: Seth J. Frantzman and Anna Ahronheim, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 1, 2019
India Wants Israel’s Help Blacklisting Pakistan-Based Terror Groups: Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 22, 2019

HOLD MY CHAI: ESCALATION AND DE-ESCALATION
SCENARIOS IN SOUTH ASIA
Hijab Shah
Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mar. 1, 2019

In a tense, highly fluid interaction between India and Pakistan, there is a great deal of uncertainty. As of this writing, however, we do have some facts: we know that India blames Pakistan for harboring—if not outright abetting—the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists that attacked an Indian military convoy and killed 40 soldiers in Pulwama, Indian Kashmir, on February 14. We know that Indian aircraft entered Pakistan’s airspace to target an alleged JeM training site, striking an alpine mountainside instead—prompting charges of “eco-terrorism”—in the Pakistani town of Jabba. We know that Pakistan responded by firing weapons from aircraft within Pakistani airspace, striking an uninhabited area within India. We know that in a follow-on engagement between Indian and Pakistani air forces, an Indian MiG-20 was downed and its pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured and held prisoner, until being unconditionally released as a “peace gesture” by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday. And we know that India will hold closely contested elections in May 2019, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made the Pulwama attack a large part of his closing campaign message.

The exact details around most of these incidents remain murky. What JeM training facility was India seeking to target? What happened to the Pakistani plane that Indian pilots allegedly shot down? What happened to the second Indian plane and pilot that Pakistani pilots allegedly shot down and detained? What is Prime Minister Khan’s plan to tackle JeM leader Masood Azhar and the rest of the militant outfit? How will Prime Minister Modi respond to the return of Wing Commander Abhinandan?

Although Pakistan’s release of Wing Commander Abhinandan has allowed for a cooling of hostilities and a potential opening for the resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan, tensions are far from being diffused. In the past, U.S. leadership played a significant role in backchannel mediating between India and Pakistan, counseling strategic patience and brokering diplomatic talks even at the height of Indo-Pak tensions. With the United States currently showing little leadership in South Asia, what scenarios could play out and what might their implication be for the United States and other interests? Below we offer three potential scenarios that could play out over the coming days and weeks.

Scenario 1: Militants Strike Again in India

The first hypothetical scenario: Just as the conflict between India and Pakistan seemed to de-escalate, members of JeM pre-positioned on the Indian side of the Line of Control carry out another attack against the forward-deployed Indian Armed Forces. There are significant civilian and military casualties as a result. JeM claims the attack as a retaliation for Indian military abuses against the Kashmiri people in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack.

Indian Armed Forces increase their presence around the Line of Control and potentially lash out against suspected militant supporters within Indian-occupied Kashmir. Prime Minister Modi’s cabinet lays the blame on Pakistan for the attack, promising further retaliation. In Pakistan, Prime Minister Khan condemns the attack and tries to distance the Pakistani state from JeM and the unfolding events. Pakistan’s military is again put on high alert for Indian retaliation, particularly from airborne or missile attack.

With the militaries in both India and Pakistan already on edge because of the attacks and subsequent exchange of fire over the previous two weeks, a second terrorist attack would pose a very high risk of escalating quickly… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

 

INDIA AND PAKISTAN ON THE BRINK
Sudha Ramachandran
The Diplomat, Feb. 28, 2019

On February 26, the Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out an aerial strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terror training camp in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Unlike in September 2016, when Special Forces of the Indian Army carried out so-called surgical strikes on terrorist launch-pads near the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) — the LoC is the de-facto line that divides the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) into POK and the Indian state of J&K — this time IAF jets went far into Pakistani airspace to destroy one of JeM’s main training camps.

Tuesday’s strikes are the first to be launched deep into Pakistan territory since the 1971 India-Pakistan War. Even during the 1999 confrontation at Kargil, Indian fighter jets did not cross the LoC. The IAF’s assault on the Balakot camp is therefore significant.

An assault on JeM training camps was expected. Less than two weeks ago, a suicide bombing by JeM in Pulwama in J&K claimed the lives of more than 40 paramilitary personnel. The attack triggered a wave of anger and outrage across India, with many calling on India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government to give Pakistan a “befitting response.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also been promising to avenge the death of the security forces at Pulwama.

With Indians scheduled to vote in general elections in April and May, the BJP, a right-wing party which espouses a muscular nationalism, was under pressure to respond militarily. The IAF strikes on the JeM training camp was the result. Pakistan-based JeM is labeled a terrorist group in India and India has been trying to get the United Nations Security Council to blacklist JeM’s founder-leader, Masood Azhar. However, it hasn’t succeeded in this endeavor, with China blocking its efforts.

Between 1994 and 1999, Azhar was jailed in India for his terrorist activities in the Kashmir Valley. Then in December 1999, India freed him in exchange for the safe return of passengers on board a hijacked Indian Airlines aircraft.

In Pakistan, Azhar founded JeM with generous support from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and since then the group has moved from strength to strength and carried out several attacks in India, including an attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001 — an incident that brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war in 2002 — and on an IAF base at Pathankot in January 2016.

Tuesday’s IAF airstrike is reported to have destroyed a JeM training camp where hundreds of terrorists were staying. Among those reportedly killed in the strike was Azhar’s brother-in-law, Yousuf Azhar, who masterminded the 1999 airplane hijacking. India claims that the air strikes eliminated a significant number of JeM fighters. But what has it achieved beyond that?

The strikes delivered a “robust” message, an editorial in The Hindu, an influential English daily said. Certainly, the strike signaled to Pakistan that India will not hesitate to use force if it continues to support terrorist attacks targeting India. By targeting a terrorist camp, India has indicated also that it “doesn’t want to go beyond [destroying Pakistan’s] terror infrastructure,” security analyst Uday Bhaskar has observed…. [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

PAKISTAN AND INDIA VISITS BY
SAUDI ARABIA CROWN PRINCE- ANALYSED
Dr. Subhash Kapila
Indian Defense Review, Feb. 26, 2019

Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia visited Pakistan and India – February 2019 with a further follow-up visit to China. Saudi Arabia’s underlying strategic objectives in clubbing these visits make an interesting analysis as the India visit stands out apart strategically in relation to Pakistan and China.

Pakistan has had historically a vassal-state relationship with Saudi Arabia in that Saudi Arabia for reasons more than one has repeatedly bailed out Pakistan from its ‘state-failure propensities’. The predominating impulse of Saudi Arabia in doing so is not that Pakistan as a large theocratic Islamic Republic enjoys commonality of Islam as the State-religion with Saudi Arabia. It has a lot to do with the fact that Saudi Arabia has a call on Pakistan’s military machine and its nuclear weapons arsenal for its security requirements as a quid pro quo for Pakistan’s dependence on Saudi munificence in terms of financial doles and free oil to sustain Pakistan.

Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Salman during his recent visit to Pakistan expanded Pakistan’s role in the Saudi Strategic Vision’ as that of being what can be analytically called as the ‘Eastern Sentinel’ of the envisioned Greater Saudi Arabia configuration. This has strategic implications for India.

Over and above the above strategic aims the more pressing need for Saudi Arabia is to so position Pakistan firmly on its side in the ongoing Saudi Arabia regional power tussle with Iran, which besides also carries strains of the Sunni-Shia divide rivalries in the Islamic world. Pakistan with geographical contiguity on Iran’s Eastern Flank emerges as a valuable cog in Saudi strategy.

While Pakistan PM Imran Khan went out of more than protocol way to extend ceremonial honours to underline the importance that Pakistan accords to Saudi Arabia and bailing out Pak PM from seeking an IMF loan, there are differing voices within Pakistan on the significance of the Saudi Crown Prince visit to Pakistan.

Within Pakistan, there were different voices commenting on the Saudi Crown Prince’s visit to Pakistan. In a column in the English Daily DAWN on February 21, a columnist commented on the visit under the heading “$20 Billion Glass Slipper” asserting that MOUs signed were essentially diplomatic holograms; “it is not a binding offer of marriage.” And that coming to Gwadar any Saudi projected investments may take 7 – 10 years to actualise. Further, a lot depends on China’s willingness, as they have a lease on the port till 2059… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

INDIAN MUSLIMS: A VALUABLE PRIZE FOR REGIONAL RIVALS
Dr. James M. Dorsey
BESA, Jan. 21, 2019

When President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently declared that Turkey was “the only country that can lead the Muslim world,” he probably wasn’t only thinking of Middle Eastern and other Islamic states such as Pakistan and Bangladesh. There is growing evidence that Indian Muslims, the Islamic world’s fourth-largest community after Indonesia and the South Asian states, is on Erdoğan’s radar.

Erdoğan’s interest in Indian Muslims highlights the flip side of a shared Turkish and Indian experience: the rise of religious parties and leaders with a tendency towards authoritarianism in non-Western democracies that, according to Turkey and India scholar Sumantra Bose, calls into question their commitment to secularism.

Erdoğan’s interest in Indian Muslims goes beyond his hitherto unsuccessful attempts to persuade Indian authorities to shutter some nine schools and colleges associated with exiled Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen. Accusing Gülen of responsibility for a failed 2015 military coup, Erdoğan’s government is seeking the preacher’s extradition to Turkey from his refuge in the mountains of Pennsylvania.

While Gülen remains an obsession for Erdoğan, his interest in Indian Muslims shows he has bigger fish to fry. Indian Muslims are too big a community to ignore in Erdoğan’s rivalry with Saudi Arabia for leadership of the Muslim world. This is particularly true in the wake of the October 2 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, which catapulted the rivalry to center stage.

Erdoğan’s efforts to create inroads into the Indian Muslim community is facilitated by the Hindu nationalism of the country’s PM, Narendra Modi, which prompted The Washington Post to headline a recent article by Indian journalist Rana Ayyub describing mounting anti-Muslim sentiment and Islamophobia “Modi’s India is a living nightmare for Muslims.”

Erdoğan is competing for Indian Muslim hearts and minds with a continued flow of Saudi funds to multiple Salafi organizations, including charities, educational institutions, and political organizations, as well as reporting by Turkish journalists associated with the Gülen movement who point to Turkish links with militant clerics. They include controversial televangelist Zakir Naik, whose Peace TV reaches 200 million viewers despite being banned in India.

Problematically for Erdoğan, some of his interlocutors, including Naik, seemingly prefer to straddle the fence between Turkey and Saudi Arabia and play both sides against the middle.
“One among the few Muslim leaders who appreciate, have the guts to support Islam openly, is the president of this country, that is President Erdoğan…. You are lucky to have a president like president Erdoğan,” Naik told a crowd in Istanbul shortly before Turkey declared its support for Qatar at the outset of the 18-month-old Saudi-United Arab Emirates-led economic and diplomatic boycott of the Gulf state… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

On Topic Links

Pakistan in the Indo-Pacific: Caught in The Geopolitical Crossfire: Syed Ali Zia Jaffery, South Asian Voices, Feb. 14, 2019 – The naval commanders’ panel at the recently-held Raisina Dialogue hosted by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi reflected the current strategic reality of a mounting anti-China coalition in the Indo-Pacific.
Why China Doesn’t Want to Get Caught in The Middle of an India-Pakistan Conflict: Ben Westcott and Steven Jiang, CNN Digital Expansion, Feb. 28, 2019 — Beijing is on the verge of being sucked into an India-Pakistan crisis, amid rising tensions in the Kashmir region that borders China.
If India And Pakistan Go to War, Israeli Weapons Could Be Decisive: Seth J. Frantzman and Anna Ahronheim, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 1, 2019 — As India and Pakistan contemplate their next moves amid rising tensions, airstrikes and the downing of an Indian warplane, Israeli weapons could play a decisive role in a future war. India has become a key defense partner for Israel in recent years with Israeli technology playing a major role in India’s modernization programs for its large armed forces.
India Wants Israel’s Help Blacklisting Pakistan-Based Terror Groups: Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 22, 2019 – India, warily watching baby steps Pakistan and Israel are making toward one another, would like to see Jerusalem take a proactive role in helping New Delhi sanction Pakistan-based terror organizations, diplomatic officials told The Jerusalem Post.