Friday, December 12, 2008

The Need to Know

India, Pakistan need to share intelligence

With the Mumbai attacks clearly dragging India into the War on Terror, cooperation between all of those participating in the war on terror is as important as ever before.

Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay has a special message for India: share your intelligence, particularly as it pertains to the activities of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Eastern Pakistan.

"We'd like to know the extent of their intelligence about Taliban and Al Qaeda activities inside Pakistan," MacKay recently announced, and noted that India now clearly shares this concern. "They [India] are clearly concerned that their own country is vulnerable. We have Canadians on the ground in Afghanistan that have encountered a very determined insurgency."

MacKay noted that India is poised to collect and share such intelligence due to its "proximity to Pakistan, which we know is still very much the home of much of the insurgency inside Afghanistan, and a place where al-Qaeda are making their mark."

This comes as Nalin Surie, India's Secretary of External Affairs, met with MacKay and other Canadian officials to discuss the Mumbai attacks.

India suspects Lashkar-i-Taiba for orchestrating the attacks. Lashikar-i-Taiba is a group that demands the withdrawal of Indian security forces from Kashmir and Jammu. They wish to establish an Islamic caliphate in the two regions.

MacKay noted that India's cultural familiarity with the increasingly tumultuous South Asian region could prove to be incredibly valuable.

"The Indians grasp better than we ever could the tribal nature of Afghanistan, and how that factors into the fighting, some of the allegiances ... in Kandahar, the Pashtun people in particular," he noted.

India would prove to be a pivotal ally in helping secure the region. However, a tripartite security arrangement between Afghanistan, Pakistan and India faces challenges deeper than simply getting all three to the table. The challenges also involve establishing an agreement regarding the policing of the borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan -- one rendered more difficult considering the disputed nature of that border.

"Quite frankly, that's going to be an enormous diplomatic challenge, given the tribal nature of that area and the fact that neither side recognizes the Durand Line as the actual geographic border," MacKay said.

While tremendously challenging, that particular issue is merely another reason why the security situation in Southern Asia offers an opportunity for Canadian-styled mission diplomacy to yield positive results in establishing a workable security arrangement in the region.

Clearly, firmly establishing a formal border and a policing arrangement for that border is one important feature of that agreement. Intelligence sharing, both between the immediate partners of such an agreement and with NATO, is another.

Helping negotiate such an agreement between Afghanistan, Pakistan and India should be considered a top priority of Canada's Defense and Foreign Affairs deparment.

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