Topics of Interest

Islamic State’s Footprints in Bannu

PESHAWAR: Footprints of the militant group known as Islamic State have now also started appearing in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s town of Bannu, days after similar reports of the extremist group’s presence were received from other parts of the country. – Zahir Shah Sherazi in Dawn

Moving beyond the new deal in Afghanistan

“The establishment of a national unity government in Afghanistan last month was a political deal, but was perhaps the only way out of the protracted electoral dispute in which both presidential candidates claimed victory amid allegations of fraud which had the potential of fracturing the country on ethnic lines. – Shanthie Mariet D’Souza, The Hindustan Times

India and Pakistan Head for Nuke War

“A crisis is brewing between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan that could be their most dangerous ever. India and Pakistan have fought four wars since 1947 and had several crises that went to the brink of war. Both tested nuclear weapons in 1998. Now tensions are escalating between the two again. It began in May, when a heavily armed squad of Pakistani terrorists from Lashkar e Tayyiba (Army of the Pure) attacked India’s consulate in Herat, in western Afghanistan. They planned to massacre Indian diplomats on the eve of the inauguration of India’s new Hindu nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi.” – Bruce Riedel, The Daily Beast

Xi Jinping in India: Is a Breakthrough Possible?

“As emergent major powers, China and India are both in quest of more autonomous and diversified political identities. The relationship with one another must be part of a larger strategic conversation. Without much fuller understandings across the full spectrum of bilateral and regional issues, the possibilities for a lasting accommodation between both countries cannot be realized. A much expanded Chinese role in India’s future development endorsed by both leaders is a necessary and appropriate place to begin. But this week’s deliberations will begin to suggest whether Xi and Modi are also prepared to grasp larger possibilities and pursue them in earnest.” – Jonathan Pllack, Brookings Institution

Water Pressures in Central Asia

“Water has long been a major cause of conflict in Central Asia. Two states – Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – have a surplus; the other three say they do not get their share from the region’s great rivers, the Syr Darya and Amu Darya, which slice across it from the Tien Shan, Pamir Mountains, and the Hindu Kush to the Aral Sea’s remains. Pressures are mounting, especially in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The population in Central Asia has increased by almost ten million since 2000, and limited arable land is being depleted by over-use and outdated farming methods. Extensive corruption and failing infrastructure take further toll, while climate change is likely to have long-term negative consequences. As economies become weaker and states more fragile, heightened nationalism, border disputes, and regional tensions complicate the search for a mutually acceptable solution to the region’s water needs. A new approach that addresses water and related issues through an interlocking set of individually more modest bilateral agreements instead of the chimera of a single comprehensive one is urgently needed.” – International Crisis Group

Tariq Ali: What’s Going On in Pakistan? | Counter Punch

“Those (including me) who had thought that Khan’s new movement might create a political space for something better have been proved wrong. He is demanding the Sharif brothers resign with immediate effect and new elections be organised. … [N]o serious observer of Pakistan politics (including severe critics of the existing order) believes that the elections were that heavily rigged. The Sharif brothers (especially Shahbaz, who runs the Punjab) are masters of guile backed up, when necessary, with plump envelopes stuffed with money. But like it or not, they won the elections, which is why the Baluch parties, the PPP and the Jamaat-i-Islami have not joined the campaign to dethrone them.”

Iran and the P5+1: Getting to “Yes”

“That nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the UK, U.S. and Germany) were extended beyond the 20 July 2014 deadline was neither unexpected nor unwelcome. The parties had made enough headway to justify the extension, which was envisioned in the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) that was signed in November 2013 and came into force in January, but given the political and technical complexity, they remain far apart on fundamental issues. Unless they learn the lessons of the last six months and change their approach for the next four, they will lose the opportunity for a resolution not just by the new 24 November deadline but for the foreseeable future. Both sides need to retreat from maximalist positions, particularly on Iran’s enrichment program. Tehran should postpone plans for industrial-scale enrichment and accept greater constraints on the number of its centrifuges in return for P5+1 flexibility on the qualitative growth of its enrichment capacity through research and development.” – International Crisis Group

Conflict Alert: Protecting Pakistan’s Threatened Democracy

“A little over a year ago, Pakistan entered an unprecedented second phase of democratic transition, with one elected government handing power to another by peaceful, constitutional means. This fragile transition will be gravely threatened unless a fast-escalating political crisis is urgently defused. The protests rocking Islamabad threaten to upend the constitutional order, set back rule of law and open the possibility of a soft coup, with the military ruling through the backdoor.” – International Crisis Group

Jihadism in Central Asia: A Credible Threat After the Western Withdrawal From Afghanistan?

“The states of Central Asia — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan — are closely watching the political situation in Afghanistan, a neighbor with whom three of them share a border. This situation concerns them very deeply.” – Bayram Balci and Didier Chaudet, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Hamid Karzai: ‘I Didn’t See a War in Afghanistan—I Saw a Conspiracy’. An exit interview with the Afghan president

“When we began to fight the Soviets, and when we began to receive funds from abroad as mujahideen, we faced a dual calamity. That dual calamity was an effort by the former Soviet Union, through their communist allies in Afghanistan, to superimpose a structure on the Afghan people. The other part of it was in the form of the supporters of the Afghan mujahideen — U.S., some Western countries, Pakistan especially — trying to superimpose another model on the Afghan people, in which both of them tried to undermine the traditional Afghan social structure, which was a great guarantor of stability and security. And the consequence of that for Afghanistan: massive tragedy, one unseen in the 20th and 21st [centuries].” – Hamid Karzai in an interview with Mujib Mashal, Atlantic Monthly