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Pakistan's Other Border

Author: Jayshree Bajoria
May 23, 2008

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South Asia's nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan resumed peace talks May 20 amid reminders of how vulnerable the two nations are to terrorism. Bombings in Jaipur (IANS) allegedly by Bangladeshi extremists and heightened tension (CSM) with Pakistan across the long-disputed border in Kashmir has New Delhi on edge. The U.S. State Department's 2007 report on terrorism ranked India among the world’s most terror-afflicted countries. Since peace talks began in 2004, India acknowledges that the level of infiltration by Islamist militants from Pakistan into India's part of Kashmir across the Line of Control (LOC) has decreased. Still, the question of Kashmir, a Muslim-majority territory which both India and Pakistan claim, remains devilishly difficult to resolve.

The May 20 talks produced only limited results. While India and Pakistan did not make much progress on Kashmir, they made efforts toward increasing cross-LOC movement of people and granting greater access to prisoners (BBC) in each other's jails. Pakistan also promised to work with India to combat terrorism (NDTV). In an interview to the Hindustan Times, however, Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is now a partner in the ruling parliamentary coalition, dismissed India's concerns regarding militant operations in Pakistan. Pakistan, meanwhile, accuses India of fueling insurgency in its Balochistan province and is wary of India's increasing influence in Afghanistan. But experts say instability in Pakistan's government has narrowed the prospects (Bloomberg) for reaching any major agreements on Kashmir. The stability of the newly formed coalition in Islamabad is already threatened by disputes over the reinstatement of the judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf in November 2007.

The United States would like to see a resolution to the Kashmir problem, given Pakistan's status as a crucible for militant extremism in the region. Foiled terrorist plots in Europe and ongoing attacks in neighboring Afghanistan have been linked back to militants holed up in Pakistan's tribal areas. As this Backgrounder points out, Pakistan has increasingly emerged as a safe haven for terrorists from all over the world. The United States has encouraged dialogue between India and Pakistan, maintaining the position that the countries should resolve the issue of Kashmir bilaterally, taking the wishes of the Kashmiri people into account. Meeting with the Pakistani Prime Minister at the World Economic Forum in Egypt, President Bush called the dispute "ripe for solution" (Dawn).

Yet experts warn there may still be elements within Pakistan's army and intelligence services that provide support to Taliban and Kashmir-focused militant groups. The Rand Corporation's Seth G. Jones made just this case  testifying (PDF) before the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee in April. A new peace deal with militants (BBC) and ongoing talks for more such agreements have also added to the concern in the United States. In a new interview, CFR's Daniel Markey says the deals in themselves are not a problem, but adds that they should be made more enforceable. Indiana University's Sumit Ganguly writes in Newsweek that the United States "should recognize that the jihadi threat emanating from within Pakistan's borders is seamless: the Islamist groups attacking American forces along the Afghan border have organic links with the jihadis seeking to provoke yet another Indo-Pakistani conflict with potentially catastrophic consequences."

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