India-Pakistan: March 7, 2002

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The U.S. $5 million reward, for information leading to the group that kidnapped and killed a Wall Street Journal reporter, has not worked so far. 

Indian Hindu militants went on a murderous rampage against Moslems in northern India. In retaliation for 58 Hindu militants dying in a Moslem set train fire on February 28th, over 500 Moslem civilians were killed over several days. Eventually, army troops and more police sent into the region and restored area. Hindu nationalism has become popular with many Hindu politicians over the last decade. But the dark side of this is support for Hindu radicals, and the chief victims of these religious bigots is usually Indian Moslems. These massacres do not do much for India's relations with Pakistan or other Moslem nations.

Pakistan continues to be a low key battleground for the war on the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Pakistan is actually four quite different regions; Punjab, Sind, Baluchistan and the Northwest Tribal Territories (mostly Pushtun tribes.) Baluchistan is also a tribal territory, but not as out of (government) control as the Pushtun areas. There are no national (or local) police in most of the Pushtun areas and the tribes are left to take of their own affairs. In the Pushtun region, these affairs involve a lot of drug business and smuggling of all manner of items. Baluchistan would like to be as independent as the Pushtun areas, and a low level insurgency is always going on between the government and the Baluchi tribes. Baluchistan also has a lot of smuggling and illegal activity. The Taliban still has a lot of support in the Pushtun areas, and the Baluchi tribes can be bribed to allow al Qaeda to operate, or seek refuge. The Pakistani government got permission from the tribes to move troops into the Afghan border area, and there have been some gun battles as armed men (al Qaeda or smugglers) try and cross the border where Pakistani troops are stationed. The border is mountainous and largely roadless and difficult to close completely. Despite the millions of dollars in rewards for senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, the Pushtun tribes will still offer sanctuary. A combination of the Pushtun tradition of offering sanctuary, and large bribes, makes this possible. The Baluchis are a bit more mercenary, so the Taliban and al Qaeda prefer to head for Pushtun tribal lands in Pakistan. Trying to escape through Baluchistan does have it's advantages, as Baluchistan has a long coastline. But a coalition fleet of warships sits off that coast and regularly stops and searches ships and boats operating off that coast. American special forces are operating in Pakistan border areas, trying to establish relationships with the tribes. But this is a tricky business. The fighting near Gardez, along the Pakistani border, increases the chances that al Qaeda and Taliban members will flee to Pakistan, and the chances of them getting away with it are good. 

 

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