The World Today for September 30, 2016


India’s Forever War

Since the bloody Partition of India in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought four full-fledged wars – including three centered on Kashmir. And the intervening periods might better be described as lulls in the fighting, rather than peace.

To be sure, many Indian Kashmiris wish for independence. Many have taken up arms – or stones and signboards – in search of it. And the Indian response has too often been as brutal as it’s been ineffective, as the dozens of people blinded by pellet guns used to suppress ongoing protests in Srinagar could testify to. But that’s a separate struggle Pakistan has leveraged for its own purposes.

Over the past 30-odd years, hundreds of so-called infiltrators from Pakistan have been killed in Indian-administered Kashmir, where they were found to be carrying supplies or equipment originating from across the border. During the infamous November 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai, US intelligence agencies traced phone calls from the attackers to handlers in Pakistan. But even though that resulted in US indictments against a Lashkar-e-Taiba chief and a member of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency, Washington has since sent billions of dollars in aid to Islamabad – rather than an arms embargo or economic sanctions.

Meanwhile, India’s Forever War rages on – despite the election of a seemingly more muscular Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 and his surprising efforts to push for peace.

In January, four terrorists that US intercepts reportedly also show were in touch with a Jaish-e-Muhammed handlers in Pakistan attacked an Indian air force base in Punjab, just a week after Modi made an unscheduled stopover in Pakistan to pitch for peace. Then on Sept. 20, terrorists that an arrested Indian accomplice had reportedly told authorities came from across the border killed 18 Indian soldiers in the worst such attack in more than a decade.

Modi’s overtures of peace are finished. After excoriating but little-heeded speeches at the UN, he announced this week he would skip the upcoming meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Islamabad. Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan have also pulled out. Modi is likely set to revoke Pakistan’s “most favored nation” status as well – which to a degree facilitates bilateral trade. And late Wednesday, India conducted a US-style “surgical strike” on alleged terrorists it says had “positioned themselves” for a strike across the border in Indian-administered Kashmir – using helicopters and commandos to hit eight sites as far as 2 kilometers deep into Pakistan’s territory, reported India’s NDTV.

For its part, Pakistan said two of its soldiers were killed and nine wounded in the kind of small arms fire that is routine along the border. But in a seeming contradiction, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said, “If India tries to do this again, we will respond forcefully,” according to the New York Times.

Further escalation is by no means certain. Yet more vigorous – and potentially dangerous – maneuvers could also be on the horizon.

If the only countries backing Pakistan’s isolation remain those bit players in India’s backyard, there’s a narrow possibility Modi could make good on threats to build dams on the rivers that irrigate Pakistan’s breadbasket – a suggestion that apparently prompted Pakistan’s defense minister to tell a local television channel that its nuclear weapons are not just “showpieces.” A more likely possibility is that India might take it upon itself to declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terror – as Georgetown University’s Christine Fair appears to advocate.

Either way, the Forever War will not move any closer toward peace anytime soon.


Deadlocked Diplomacy

Another ceasefire in Syria – much less an end to the hostilities – now seems to be disappearing over the horizon.

On Thursday, Russia responded to a US threat to suspend talks on brokering a new agreement to cooperate in the fight against the Islamic State by redoubling its anti-American invective, the New York Times reports.

Responding to US Secretary of State John Kerry’s demand that Russia stop the ongoing bombardment of rebel-held areas of Aleppo or else Washington will abandon plans to cooperate with Moscow against jihadists fighters, a spokesman for the Kremlin on Thursday accused the US of “de facto support for terrorism.”

Meanwhile, at a meeting of the UN Security Council, the US ambassador to the UN called the Russian and Syrian government’s shelling of Aleppo “soul-shattering.” Some 300 children have been killed in the fighting over the past five days, according to Save the Children.

So Sue Me

Many is the ne’er do well who told those he’d harmed, “So sue me.” But sovereign nations aren’t so keen to risk the courts.

US President Barack Obama is apparently concerned enough that America might face such lawsuits over drone strikes and similar activities that he vetoed a bill allowing victims of 9/11 to file for damages against the government of Saudi Arabia.

And now that Congress has overridden that veto to push the law through, Saudi Arabia itself may well break off official diplomatic contacts, pull billions of dollars out of the US economy, or persuade other Arab states to scale back their cooperation in US-led counterterrorism operations, NBC News reports.

Though 15 out of the 19 perpetrators were Saudi nationals, Riyadh has always dismissed claims that it had any role in the 9/11 attacks, and experts reckon an adverse court judgment is unlikely. But Saudi Arabia and others may interpret the overriding of the veto as more proof Washington is drifting away from its longtime ally toward Iran, says Reuters.

The legal battle is now set to reopen in a courtroom not far from where the Twin Towers once stood.

Collateral Damage

US President Barack Obama may be right when he says Washington, too, could face lawsuits for its actions overseas.

Take Somalia, the latest example.

A regional government official demanded an explanation Thursday after a US airstrike reportedly killed 22 civilians and Somali soldiers, rather than fighters from the al Shabab terror group – the intended target.

Washington insists that nine al Shabab militants were killed in the strike, Time reports.

“We have seen reports alleging non-combatant casualties as a result of this defensive strike. We have assessed all credible evidence and determined those reports are incorrect,” the US Africa Command said in a statement.

Meanwhile, in a rare instance of agreement, both al Shabab and a Somali military general said there were no militants in the area on Tuesday night, when the strike took place, the BBC reported.


Bust a Move

Video footage of a South African traffic cop who really, really enjoys his job has gone viral, and you don’t want to be left out.

Rather than the usual white-gloved Marcel Marceau imitation, the enthusiastic officer in Pretoria busts moves like Mick Jagger-channeling Michael Jackson – striding around the intersection as if he’s on stage in a packed stadium.

In a way, now he is.

Since local resident Solante Hough uploaded footage she shot of the dancing cop to the internet earlier this month, dozens of news outlets have reposted the video. But a quick scan of YouTube shows he’s not the only dancing traffic cop out there.

There’s a breakdancer in Rhode Island, a Bollywood cop in India, and this crotch-grabbing pelvic thruster in the Philippines.

Threats to Press Freedom around the World.

Were pleased to introduce a new feature appearing every alternate week on the fight for press freedoms around the world, brought to you in conjunction with the Committee to Protect Journalists. We hope you enjoy this new addition to DailyChatter. Feedback welcome.

Hyperlinks in Havana

Against all odds, the people of Cuba seem to stay connected.

This week the Committee to Protect Journalists released a report highlighting how new online journalism initiatives in Cuba are changing the game for reporters, filmmakers, and bloggers.

Censorship is still pervasive, and internet access is expensive and hard to come by. Outdated press laws remain on the books. But Cuban journalists have devised innovative ways to skirt the restrictions and provide Cubans with welcome alternatives to state-run media.

While Cuba progresses, Turkey regresses.

In less than two months, authorities have detained more than 100 journalists, and shut down more than 100 media outlets. Journalists have been interrogated, banned from traveling, and forced into exile.

And last week we learned that Turkey is also the world’s leading Twitter censor. Turkey reported nearly 15,000 accounts to Twitter requesting action, a number that translates to 73 percent of the total accounts reported. By all governments. In the world.

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