India Shuffle: Maoist Bandh, Kashmir Violence, Sino-Pak Ties, Punjab Militancy

MAOIST BANDH – The Maoists have started their two-day ‘bandh’ (focused on shutting down rail and bus links, particularly to mining projects) across six states in protest against last week’s killing of senior Maoist leader Azad, followed by five days of protest.

KASHMIR UNREST – The past two weeks have seen 15 people killed by police as protests, strikes and business shut-downs worsen in the valley. Now the army has been called in to Srinigar for the 1st time in 20 years as a “deterrent” with all the ominous implications that involves. Two border officers have also been killed in firing across the Pakistan border. As John Elliott argues, the Indians have failed to realise this is no longer primarily a problem of Pakistan-trained armed militants, but of stone-throwing youths, and yet the official response is still heavy-handed and rifle-first. This IDSA piece tries to argue in favour of keeping the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which has been widely criticised for encouraging human rights violations in Kashmir and elsewhere. There are some interesting details in there, but ultimately the AFSPA is a major contributor to the culture of impunity within the army that fuels all this amateur disaffection.

3.3 MILLION NGOs – That’s right, there is one non-governmental organisation for every 400 Indians, and that’s only the properly registered ones in 2008. In reality, every single person has his own NGO (probably).

PAKISTAN-CHINA TIES – CFR has an excellent overview on China’s interests in Pakistan (Zardari’s currently visiting Beijing), which are based on keeping India on its toes and making sure the Pakistanis help control the Uighur militants. This takes the form of military and financial support, and apparently includes a willingness to strike deals with militants that might threaten Chinese workers and interests (classic Chinese realpolitik). Jane’s is reporting that they’ve formed a Joint Investment Company, formalising their expanding trade links, which include the modernisation of the Karachi Shipyard to help build a Chinese-designed frigate, and the Pakistan Aeronautical Company where the Chinese JF-17 combat aircraft is being built. None of this will make India happy, especially in light of China’s planned sale of nuclear reactors to Pakistan, which it turns out was signed last year, despite the Chinese only informing the Nuclear Suppliers Group a month ago.

MAOIST LEADER TALKS FROM PRISON – Soutik Biswas interviews Venkateswar Reddy, aka Telugu Dipak, a Maoist ideologue believed to be behind some major Maoist operations in West Bengal. He was arrested in March. Doesn’t get a huge amount of information out of him, though interesting to hear him worry at the end that violence is getting out of hand, and that negotiations have to be considered. Is this pressure from police custody? The effect of a rehabilitation programme? Or genuine worry about the spiralling momentum of violence?

PAKISTAN MILITANTS BANNED – Pakistan’s Punjab state government has finally accepted there might be a bit of a problem with militants in its midst and banned 23 different organisations. The state government of Shahbaz Sharif has been accused of courting militants in the past, with law minister Rana Sanaullah campaigning alongside the extremist Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan earlier this year. However, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, widely seen as a front organisation for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) has only had its finances frozen and some restrictions placed on the movements of controversial leader (and suspected mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks) Hafiz Saeed.

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