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India-Pakistan tensions escalate over Kashmir

Tensions between India and Pakistan are escalating as troops from each country have again clashed across the Kashmir Line of Control, with two Indian soldiers being killed. India claims Pakistani soldiers took advantage of misty conditions yesterday to cross the 1949 Line of Control dividing Kashmir into Indian and Pakistan controlled areas about 220 kilometres north of the city of Jammu.

The clash was the sixth in the past week and followed 75 incidents along the Line of Control in 2012. Pakistan lodged a protest against India just days ago, after one of its own soldiers was killed in what it claimed was an Indian incursion across the Line of Control.

Relations between India and Pakistan had been slowly improving following attacks by Pakistani militants against the Indian parliament in 2001 and in Mumbai in 2008. The Pakistani cricket team is currently touring in India, indicating a degree of bilateral normalisation.

A Pakistan-US deal but for how long?

Last week's deal between Pakistan and the US to reopen NATO's supply routes into neighbouring Afghanistan ends seven months of deep freeze in the bilateral relationship. But the deal will be very fragile.
 
The circuit breaker to this outcome was US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's very carefully crafted apology for the deaths of 24 Pakistani troops killed in a NATO air strike in November last year.  Clinton expressed "deepest regrets" for the November incident and offered "sincere condolences" for the loss of lives.
 
This apology, which appears genuine, was a big win for Pakistan given that US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta had recently stated that there would be none.
 
This was the best Pakistan could hope for.

Pakistan blockade: US convoys are not going anywhere soon

For the past six weeks a high-level US team has been in Pakistan trying to negotiate a resumption of the convoys which travel through the country and provide Coalition forces in Afghanistan with about 30% of their non-lethal supplies.

Pakistan decided unilaterally to stop the convoys following the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers at a border post by Coalition fighter planes in November last year.

One of the major sticking points in the negotiations is the fee Pakistan wants to impose on each container truck travelling through the country. Prior to the halt, Islamabad used to charge US$250 per truck; they are now asking for $3000.

The deep freeze

Pakistan will want its share of (yellow) cake too

 (A version of this blog was first published in Dawn.com on 6 December 2011)
THE Labor Party at its biannual national conference which was held in Sydney 2-4 December decided by a thin majority to support the Australian prime minister’s motion to scrap the party’s nonsensical and contradictory uranium export policy banning the sale of uranium to India.
This is a welcome development.  It would appear, listening to the prime minister’s and her ministers’ comments on this issue, that the reasoning behind the change of policy was to maximise the prosperity and the strength of Australia’s relationships in the Indian Ocean region.

Pakistan’s experience amidst debt crisis has lessons for other nations

Debt crisis is indeed a burning current issue in the whole world.   A true glimpse of this reality is provided by the ongoing violent protests against a series of fiscal austerity reforms in Greece.  The worsening debt crisis of Greece is expected to trigger a contagion of sovereign debt crises in several other European countries.
 
It is interesting to note that the nature and the economic  aftermath of the current debt crisis of Greece and 1998 debt crisis of Pakistan have remarkable similarities ─ For example, the debt-gross domestic product ratio of Pakistan as well as Greece exceeded 100% during their respective debt crises,  national external debt has been acting as a drag on the national economies of Pakistan, and Greece, and now both Greece and Pakistan desperately need fiscal consolidation as well as economic growth for resolving their respective external debt crisis.

My enemy's enemy is my friend: US-Pakistani relations looking fragile

It is reasonably widely accepted that Osama bin Laden was able to stay in the Pakistan town of Abbottabad because he had the protection of Pakistan’s military, in particular its powerful Inter Services Intelligence organisation. It would have been all but impossible for bin Laden to have stayed in one place in Pakistan without the ISI knowing, implying it at least tolerated his presence. More likely, the ISI’s involvement was more active than mere tolerance.

The question is, then, no longer whether bin Laden had the active support of the ISI but why Pakistan’s premier intelligence organisation – from a country which is long-time ally of the United States – would host the US’s number one enemy on its soil. At risk is not just the defence relationship with the US but, more importantly, the major strategic deterrent to Pakistan’s principle enemy, India. It also risks the important, $7.5 billion, US aid budget to Pakistan.

Jailed US ‘diplomat’ in Pakistan – symptomatic of a difficult bilateral relationship

 
The Lahore High Court’s decision on 11 February not to release from custody the American official involved in the fatal shooting on 27 January of two Pakistanis in Lahore - despite very heavy US pressure to release him because it claims he has diplomatic immunity - demonstrates once again how limited is Washington’s leverage over Pakistan. His next court date is scheduled for 28 February.
 
Reportedly, the ‘diplomat’ was assaulted in a robbery attempt by two individuals and he responded in self-defence. A third Pakistani was killed by a consulate vehicle that had rushed to the scene of the shooting. 
 
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