South Asia descends into terror's vortex: Two Perspectives from Asia Times

South Asia descends into terror's vortex
By M K Bhadrakumar, Asia Times, December 25, 2008

South Asians will watch the year end in a pall of gloom. The region is fast getting sucked into the vortex of terrorism. The Afghan war has crossed the Khyber and is stealthily advancing towards the fertile Indo-Gangetic plains.

Whatever hopes might have lingered that Barack Obama would be a harbinger of "change", have also been dashed by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The Financial Times of London reported on Monday that in an exclusive interview Rice prophesied that the incoming Obama administration might have little option but to follow the current US approach on a range of foreign policy issues. Significantly, her prognosis figured in the course of a foreign policy review that primarily focused on Russia, Iran and Afghanistan.

South Asian security is at a crossroads. On the one hand, the United States made great strides in getting embedded in the region on a long-term footing. South Asia must figure as a rare exception in the George W Bush era's dismal foreign policy legacy. On other hand, the big pawn on the South Asian chessboard, India, is heading for parliamentary elections. Almost certainly, a new government with new thinking will assume office in Delhi by May. US-India ties will also come under scrutiny.

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Pakistan's spies reined in
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia times, December 24, 2008

KARACHI - Two major events are likely to mark the beginning of 2009 and decide the new rules of war and peace in the region. In Pakistan, the foremost is curtailing the powerful military dominated intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and the second is the unveiling of a new strategy in Afghanistan.

These two steps have emerged after months of high-level consultations between all the regional players, including the Afghan, Pakistani and Indian political leadership and the Western military establishment. American military officials have gone the extra mile to set up an incentive package to make these plans successful.

The process of clipping the wings of the ISI, elements of which have sympathies with the Taliban in Afghanistan and militants, could not take place during the rule of former president General Pervez Musharraf, who was succeeded by a civilian government early in the year after nine years of rule.

Moves were made to place the ISI under the civilian authority of the Ministry of Interior, but these were blocked by the military. Still, a few weeks ago the ISI's political cell was shut down, a development announced by Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani.

The next move is to appoint a civilian as director general of the ISI with the aim of eventually reducing the agency to an intelligence wing of the Ministry of Interior, from the grand secret service it was that earned international fame during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s in support of the mujahideen resistance.

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Pakistan MPs condemn 'unsubstantiated' Indian claims on Mumbai - AFP
UK joins US pressure chorus - Dawn
Trappend in Hysteria - By I A Rahman, Dawn


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