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Pakistan and India revive peace process after meeting of foreign ministers

Pakistan and India have revived the peace process after the foreign ministers of the two countries met in New Delhi. North Korean envoy is in New York to hold nuclear talks. Russian navy to commission eight Graney class nuclear submarines by 2020. Powerful bomb blast rocks Cotabato City, Southern Philippines. All this in today's security briefing...
Humayun Saleem
3 August 2011

About a week ago, the Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar arrived in New Delhi for talks with her Indian counterpart, SM Krishna. Sceptics argue that the talks did not produce any significant movement towards peace. However, given the stalemate of the last months and years, little but crucial steps towards further dialogue were made. The talks between the South Asian neighbours led to a 21 point statement noting the importance of the peace dialogue and proposing confidence building measures (CBMs) related to increasing trading points, trading days, and establishing new bus services. The initiation of this process has been strongly supported by leaders on both sides with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani ‘hailing the positive outcome’ of the talks and pledging to continue the dialogue.

The talks are particularly significant given that they are the first major development to take place in bilateral relations between the two countries since the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, which nearly pushed the neighbours to war. India has long argued that Pakistan based militants, with the support of the ISI had carried out the Mumbai attacks. Pakistan on the other hand claims that it cannot be held responsible for strikes within Indian territory by non-state actors.

The openSecurity verdict: Now that both sides have decided to engage in dialogue it is highly likely that this will lead to future talks on several points of contention. Not only were the talks positive and constructive, Khar’s recent trip has also brought about renewed hope that clearly extends to numerous dimensions of pressing regional issues, such as that of security. Although renewed hope by no means suggests that a major breakthrough was made with regards to Kashmir and terrorism, it is to say that the resumption of dialogue aimed at narrowing the differences will lead to the growth of peace constituencies. This in itself is an achievement for the two nations. Through peace constituencies and fewer restrictions on trade and travel a learning process within and between the two nations can take place. This should contribute to  a reduction of the prevailing trust deficit.

From a strategic perspective, both countries, especially India, realise that further regional involvement in South Asia is required given China’s regional and global dominance. China has long engaged in smile diplomacy whereby its (largely) positive relations with its neighbours have allowed the country to reach high levels of economic growth and prosperity. India aspires to climb up the global ladder following China's steps, but this ambition is and will remain a distant prospect until and unless the South Asian region is stable. Pakistan too realises the opportunities it is missing out on, thanks largely to the contentions persistent in the region. Domestically, the government is failing to deliver basic services to its people due to issues such as power cuts, a deteriorating security situation and soaring food prices. An insurgency in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and a nationalist movement in Baluchistan do not help the cause, neither does the politically unstable neighbor Afghanistan with its porous borders. These problems can be overcome if India and Pakistan develop a vision that can foster regional prosperity and help end the security dilemmas that exist.

It is clear that the overall security situation in the region, especially with regards to challenges that terrorism poses can be dealt with if Pakistan and India were to constructively engage. The United States recognize this as evidenced by a statement issued by the State Department after the talks. It is also clear that China stands to gain from a more prosperous South Asia, particularly given the allegations that those who carried out the recent attacks in Xinjiang had been trained in Pakistan. For now it seems that talks between Pakistan and India are beneficial for local and regional development – offering the possibility of adressing larger security issues step by step.

The United States and North Korea hold two days of talks in New York

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan and US Special Representative for North Korea Policy, Stephen Bosworth, held talks in New York in order to attempt to restart the six party talks that have been interrupted since 2009, when Pyongyang decided not to attend in protest over UN sanctions following nuclear tests. The outcome of the talks has been labelled by Bosworth as ‘constructive’ and ‘business like’ and both sides decided that ‘there is value in continued dialogue, and in continued contact’. However, a South Korean diplomat at the United Nations showed less optimism about the talks and suggested that it was an attempt by the North to gain nuclear power status, obtain international aid and assistance and gain acceptance of its ongoing power transition. However, now that Washington is actively pushing for six party talks - a move welcomed by China - it is likely that they will be resumed in the near future.

The Russian navy plans to introduce eight Graney class submarines by 2020

Russian navy chief, Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky has said that the navy will incorporate around eight Graney class submarines over the next ten years. The first of the submarines, called Severdvinsk is set to start its trial runs in the White Sea in August and will enter service by the end of this year. Graney class submarines are capable of launching long-range cruise missiles with a range of 5000 km, with both conventional and nuclear war heads. They also have the ability to engage submarines, warships and land based targets. Such moves by the Russian navy can be seen as a response to the growing need to protect natural resource supplies and key assets in the Caspian Sea.

Additionally, Tehran also announced that it plans to add 75 missile ships to its fleet in order to safeguard its assets in the Caspian Sea. Kazakhstan meanwhile has constructed an airbase in the port city of Aqtau, which also houses the headquarters of its maritime fleet. The country plans to upgrade its naval defence forces as well.

Bomb blast on Mindanao Island, rogue faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) suspected

A powerful motorcycle bomb blast in Cotabato left 2 people dead and 8 wounded. It is suspected that the bomb was homemade, produced from four 81 millimetre mortar shells and set of by a mobile phone trigger device in front of a gun shop along Quezon Avenue. The type of construction of the explosive device is a typical trademark of the MILF rebel group, which is also currently negotiating a peace accord with the Philippine government. MILF has a decentralized structure of operations, which makes it likely that a rogue faction may have carried out the attack. The Philippine military on the other hand blamed the al-Qaeda linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) for the blast. Regional military spokesman, Lt Col. Prudencio Asto, suggested that the attack was done by followers of slain militant Basit Usman.

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