Indo-Pak tensions rise amidst global concerns | Daily News

Indo-Pak tensions rise amidst global concerns

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran khan during his visits to India and Pakistan earlier this week.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran khan during his visits to India and Pakistan earlier this week.

Tensions between India and Pakistan keep escalating after the February 14 terrorist attack on Indian Security Forces killing 37 members of the Central Reserve Police – a paramilitary force - in Kashmir. The attack was near the Kashmir state capital of Srinagar, claimed by Jaish-e-Mohammed, a Pakistani based terror group.

This is regarded as the worst incidence of violence since Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) was elected with a huge parliamentary majority in 2014. The situation is of concern as the two nations are nuclear armed, and the pressure for action against Pakistan by India is increasing among the Indian media and large sections of the Hindu population of India.

Pakistan has denied responsibility for the attack, Prime Minister Imran Khan has warned that his country will retaliate against any related Indian attack, and has called for dialogue to contain the growing crisis. Indian Prime Minister Modi, under considerable pressure in the election year, has pledged a befitting reply and given his military “full freedom” to respond. India says it has incontrovertible evidence that Pakistan's spy agency was behind the blast as part of its long history of supporting militant groups in the region. The last time an incident on this scale occurred was in 2016, when an Indian military camp near the Kashmiri town of Uri was ambushed, and India responded with attacks on what it said were terrorist staging grounds in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir across its border.

The tension between the two South Asian neighbours is of growing concern both in South Asia and internationally. It moves away from the regional peace moves initiated by Narendra Modi who invited leaders of all South Asian countries to attend his swearing-in ceremony as Prime Minister in 2014, and his later surprise visit to Pakistan, with birthday greetings to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in December 2015.

The situation has caused outrage in India, just weeks before the next general election campaign is launched, with polls due to be held in April-May this year. While there is rising public and media calls for a military response to Pakistan, and the terrorist groups in the Pakistan controlled section of Kashmir, the pre-election situation in India does not make things easy for Narendra Modi and the BJP. The party has lost considerable support in many Indian states and the support for the rival Congress-led alliances is on the rise. In this situation strong military moves against Pakistan could bring new strength to the largely pro-Hindu BJP and Modi, and also cause problems for the Congress Party, which is regarded as supportive of the Muslim minority population.

Although India has overall been constrained in clashes with Pakistan, in view of the nuclear power of both countries, and has moved to limited strikes on Pakistan-based terrorist groups earlier, this attack by a Pakistani terrorist group when the Modi leadership is under threat and with national polls ahead, brings much more pressure on Modi and the BJP, backed by Hindu forces, for stronger retaliation.

Meanwhile Pakistan is under increased international pressure to be restrained in the current situation. The US has called Pakistan to “end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil.” Pakistan is also facing the reality of the role of terrorist forces located there being involved in other attacks and political moves in other countries and situations, such as Afghanistan, Iran, and the country’s broader political alliance with China. The US is certainly concerned about Pakistani moves with terror groups located there, in view of the current ‘peace talks’ with the Taliban on the Afghanistan situation, and a possible withdrawal of US troops from there.

The recent visit of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to Pakistan and India, to build ties with Asia, in the context of weakening ties with the West, has also pushed Pakistan to move into a confrontation with neighbour Iran, with the new oil refinery to be built at a Pakistani location, very close to Iranian interests. The US 20 billion aid given by the Saudis to Pakistan, could also bring pressure on the country’s dealings with China, although Pakistan is more likely to retain its strong links to China, in view of wider political interests, especially to do with India.

As India moves to the next polls and Pakistan faces growing international concerns about the presence of Islamist terrorist groups in its territory, the situation in South Asia becomes one of the increased interest in world politics.

Brexit affects UK Politics

The prolonged negotiations over the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, and Prime Minister Theresa May’s failure to arrive at agreements acceptable to the House of Commons, has brought a new push into UK politics, with major threats to the leadership of both Prime Minister May of the Conservatives, and the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The troubles within British politics came to the fore last week with seven MPs of the Labour Party leaving to form an Independent Group in the Commons. Their criticism was mainly about party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to give good leadership on the Brexit issue, his lack of support for a second referendum on Brexit due to the problems now being seen, but largely unknown in the initial moves to leave the EU, two years ago. The criticism of Jeremy Corbyn is also on his inaction against alleged anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, and his hard line policies within the Party.

While one more Labour member later joined the dissidents, the situation crossed party lines with three very prominent Conservative or Tory MPs, also leaving their party to join the Independents, with strong criticism of Prime Minister and Party leader Theresa May in her continuing delayed tactics on Brexit and her support for the right wing party groups who were wholly opposed to being with the EU.

Theresa May has already lost two votes in the Commons on her Brexit policies, and has been compelled to go back to discussions with the EU leaders, in what many consider to be further delaying tactics, to bring her own policies on Brexit to play by end March this year, when the exit from the EU is due. Many fear that May’s present moves could lead to a "No Deal” exit from the EU, which will cause crisis situations in the UK, or force a "deal" that is not widely supportive of UK’s needs.

The new situation puts both the ruling Conservatives and the Opposition Labour into major crises in the coming months, with the likelihood of a General Election. More MPs from both the Labour and Tories are expected to join the Independents, raising big issues to the leadership of both May and Corbyn. This is worse for Corbyn and Labour who were leading the opinion polls in recent months, and even brought Theresa May to form a minority government, at the last general election. The Independent Group now has more MPs than the Northern Ireland parliamentary group on whom Theresa May depends for a Commons majority.

The Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn is facing a major crisis, especially with the allegations of anti-Semitism within the party, and the charges of Corbyn not taking action against such anti-Semitic moves. With Corbyn known to be a strong leftist in thinking, his support for the Palestinian cause, against the official policies of Israel on the Palestinian question, could also have led to charges of anti-Semitism, but the Labour Party certainly needs to carry out major rethinking within it, to meet the new challenges to possible return to power in a coming election.

Political analysts see the possibility of both Labour and Conservatives facing more resignations, with strengthening of the Independent Group, leading to a major shift in UK politics and a crisis to both the Conservatives and Labour. There are also signs that politics in the UK is moving closer to that in Europe, with the traditional two-party system coming under threat – as in both France and Italy, and to some extent in Germany.

Venezuela crisis grows

Today, February 23, is the day when the crisis in Venezuela could well lead to violent confrontation, or a most unlikely peaceful settlement. The country’s power struggle between President Nicolas Maduro, and his rival and contender for power Juan Guaido, certainly shows a lead to violence.

The self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido, with support from the US, most EU countries and many South American countries and Canada, has vowed to enable the aid that has been piling up on the Venezuelan border, especially with Columbia, to be taken into Venezuela. His strategy is to use many thousand volunteers who have aligned with him to take this aid – caravans of US aid – across the border into the country, in defiance of President Maduro’s use of troops to prevent it.

While Maduro depends on the military to maintain his control over the country, Juan Guaido has vowed to use volunteers supportive of him and that the army will eventually abandon Maduro as the foreign humanitarian aid moves into the country.

Venezuela's power struggle is heading towards a potentially violent showdown on Saturday, when self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido has vowed to allow caravans of US aid to cross the Venezuelan border in defiance of President Nicolas Maduro and the military. In an interview with FRANCE 24, Guaido's appointed representative to the US, Carlos Vecchio, expressed confidence that the army will eventually abandon Maduro.

For now, the army remains loyal to Nicolas Maduro, as the defence minister reiterated on Tuesday. But Carlos Vecchio is confident. “The military forces need to be on the side of the people”, he told FRANCE 24's Marc Perelman.

“In my view, at the end of the day, they will support what we are doing because this is the change, this is the future, Maduro doesn't represent anything now ... And they know that the food and medicine that we're putting on the border with Venezuela are needed for the people of Venezuela,” Vecchio said.


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