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South Asia Security Monitor - No. 305

Saudi Arabia Deepens Cooperation With India;
Mixed Progress in Myanmar;
Fledgling Afghan Force Vulnerable

Edited by Jeff M. Smith and Amanda Sawit
October 29, 2012

Ties between Saudi Arabia and India have grown closer in recent months, a development that has implications for Pakistan. In its latest move to boost relations, Saudi Arabia handed over an alleged member of the militant Indian Mujahideen wanted for attacks in Indian cities. This follows a trend of two other incidents in which Saudi Arabia extradited alleged militants linked to terrorist acts; India and Saudi Arabia signed an extradition treaty in 2010. The most notable turnover involved a member of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based group implicated in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. While Pakistan is Saudi Arabia’s traditional ally, some see the recent drift towards India as a counter to Pakistan’s increasingly visible inability to handle its militant proxies. (The Wall Street Journal, October 23, 2012)

Myanmar will be asked to send observers to a major U.S. and Thai-led military exercise involving thousands of personnel from both nations, as well as other Asian countries. The invitation is viewed as the first step toward U.S.-Myanmar defense relations, and comes after intense lobbying from Thailand. Sources told Reuters that Washington’s rapprochement was “carefully calibrated under the umbrella of humanitarian dialogue”, however the state remains evidently unstable.

Washington has been a strong proponent of Myanmar’s nascent democratization, but human rights violations and sectarian fighting has plagued the country for months, with fresh violence erupting this past week. The Latest reports put the death toll over 50, with about 2,000 homes (primarily belonging to ethnic Muslim Rohingya) destroyed. (The Irrawaddy Magazine, October 26 2012; Reuters, October 19 2012)

The government-run Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF), a recent creation assembled in light of the ban on foreign private security firm operations, is expanding it’s role—protecting supply convoys traveling through the heart of Taliban territory. President Karzai ‘s move to nationalize private security businesses that guard convoys, aid programs and foreign installations has been hastily deployed, and so far falls short of the expectations set forth by their Western clients. The issue of vetting new security personnel—an issue exacerbated by green-on-blue attacks—is among many concerns raised in regard to the adequacy of the training and resources provided for the APPF. But as the U.S. continues to hand over more powers to the Afghans and encourage actions that will help cope with the Taliban after withdrawal, the role of the APPF is a critical one. (The Wall Street Journal, October 22 2012)

Just as India and Saudi Arabia are reaching new levels of engagement after a rocky Cold War history, Russia and Pakistan are busy overcoming decades of frosty ties. The rapprochement is being driven by the budding U.S.-India strategic partnership, and Russian irritation at the loss of arms contracts to the US and other western countries. “Moscow has explained to Delhi, in no uncertain terms, that it can also diversify its military-technical ties by means of a rapprochement with Pakistan,” said Ruslan Pukhov of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies. Moscow is also increasingly worried about stability in Afghanistan following the NATO withdrawal in 2014, says Pukhov. “If Russia continues to snub Pakistan in favor of India, it would ultimately run contrary to the interests of Russia’s security.”

The new relationship is still experiencing hiccups, however. A scheduled trip to Islamabad in early October by President Putin was cancelled in late September, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was sent in place. Pakistan responded by calling off a summit of the Dunshanbe Four (a proposed collaboration between Afghanistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Pakistan) also scheduled for early October. However, a visit to Moscow by Pakistan’s all-powerful Army Chief, General Asfaq Kayani, went ahead as planned October 3. Military analysts speculate that Russia may be willing to sell Pakistan Mi-171 Helicopters, Bumblebee shoulder-launched rockets, and parts for jet aircraft. (Russia Beyond the Headlines October 10, 2012; The ISN Blog October 24, 2012)

Related Categories: Southeast Asia; South Asia Program

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