Dear interlocutor

Pakistan’s Jang carried an editorial on Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal’s call for Pakistan’s politicians to unite against terrorism after meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Referring to Saudi Arabia as a “close friend” of Pakistan, it pointed out the military and financial support the Kingdom provided Pakistan during its wars in 1965 and 1971. However, the editorial argues that it is India, not Pakistan, that has impeded progress on bilateral issues. As an example, it points out efforts made under Benazir Bhutto’s leadership to resolve the Kashmir issue, which ended with what the editorial suggests was India’s demand for Pakistan to surrender Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) to India. The editorial draws attention to Shashi Tharoor’s recent statements, and goes on to suggest that Pakistan would be delighted for its close friend, Saudi Arabia, to play a meaningful role in resolving India-Pakistan disputes.

Obama’s pre-occupations come at a cost

Saudi Arabia’s Dar al-Hayat carried an article suggesting that President Obama’s preoccupation with Afghanistan, Pakistan and “Islamic terrorism” has lead to the US losing ground to Russia in India. It said that the strategic importance of India cannot be understated—with its economy, democratic values and large population proficient in English—it would have been an ideal partner for the United States. But the economic crisis has reinforced the importance of China on the global stage and put India-US relations on the back burner.

The article argues that contentious issues such as agreements on reprocessing nuclear fuel and the nuclear liability bill might be further US’s ability to participate in the Indian energy sector, where its competitors—France and Russia, seem to have no issues. The article suggests, other countries, such as Russia, are keen to foster better relations with India.  The article points to the series of defence agreements signed between India and Russia this past week, including the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier deal (worth $2.5 billion), several upgraded MiG-29 combat aircraft and deals on energy trade.

Human development, what’s that?

Addressing the memorial of Hameed Nizami, founder of the Nawa-i-Waqt, Lt Gen (retd) Hamid Gul, argued that only an Islamic revolution could cure the world’s problems. However, he cautioned that this revolution need not be violent. Gen Gul argued that for Pakistan to become a strong state, it required jamhuriyat (democracy), jihad and johiri salahateen (nuclear power). He further suggested that Western influence in Afghanistan was in decline and that India was attempting to establish dialogue with the Taliban through the good offices of Saudi Arabia.

Unsatisfactory state

In Egypt’s as-Shaab, Magdi Ahmed Hussain writes an open letter to President Barack Obama on Iraq and Gaza. The author argues that US’s occupation of Iraq is incompatible with the new political engagement with the Arab world promised by Mr Obama. Mr Hussain highlights critical errors committed by the US president in his engagement with the Islamic world. On Iraq, Mr Hussain argues that Mr Obama’s promise of withdrawing troops within 18 months did not amount to much, given the additional 50,000 troops being retained in Iraq for purposes of training. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the author argues, the US has pressured the Pakistani Army to take action in Swat, but launched a campaign of drone attacks inside Pakistan. In Gaza, he argues that Israel’s siege of half a million civilians cannot be tolerated; the author believes that lifting the siege will be the true test of US intentions in the Arab World.

General change

Writing for the Jang, Nusrat Mirza opines on the recent offer from Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to extend the tenure of Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, which was to expire in November 2010, by a year. Ms Mirza argues that the offer was as a result of the rapport Gen Kayani enjoys with Generals David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal.

She suggests that this offer will put the Gilani faction of the PPP at odds with the Zardari faction, which dislikes Gen Kayani and favours others including Gen Mustafa Khan. The author argues that it is for this reason that Gen Kayani’s extension may not be a done deal. Other candidates for the position of Chief of Army Staff include Lt Gen Khalid Shameem Wyne (XII Corps Quetta), Lt Gen Khalid Zia (AG, GHQ), Lt Gen Shujaat Zameer Dar (Chairman, Pakistan Ordinance Factories) and Lt Gen Nadeem Taj (ex DG-ISI and XXX Corps, Gujranwala)