A comment made by David Miliband on Kashmir caused outrage in India after he inadvertently breached the fiercely defended separation between the Kashmir question and the problem of terrorism in Pakistan. Indian sensitivities over Kashmir could well cause problems for the Obama Administration’s much-touted regional strategy in South Asia.
Many commentators, eager to see the back of Bush and tempted by Obama’s promise of change, have anticipated radical shifts for US policy in Afghanistan. However, in the short term at least, differences from the Bush administration’s approach look disappointingly minor.
The Indian government has defied its own hawks by seeking to work with the Pakistanis and pursue the attackers of Mumbai. Pakistan must now respond in kind and join the Indian government in resisting belligerent voices in favour of those calling for peace. The status quo requires immediate and bold action from both sides, with international patronage, before it is too late.
The UK needs more troops on the ground to relieve pressure in Helmand, but unless an increase is accompanied by significant victories elsewhere, the Coalition’s long-term prospects are not good. A new approach to strategic thinking in Afghanistan and the means to give some effect to it are sorely needed in the new year.
India’s internal security reforms have not matched the pace of the liberalisation of its economy. Counter-terrorism forces lack a unified command, adequate training or resources to meet domestic and cross-border threats. In order to develop a coherent counter-terror doctrine, security reforms must enhance co-ordination between security agencies and government whilst transcending party politics.
The attack marks beyond any doubt seepage between Pakistan’s political and security woes. Serious doubts must now shroud the practical feasibility of Pakistan holding its parliamentary elections in three months time.