Pakistan Moves 20,000 Troops to Indian Border; Gilani Pledges no First Strike

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani pledged no first strike against India on Friday, but said his country was ready to defend itself.

Gilani’s statement came after Pakistan was reported to be moving 20,000 troops from the frozen north to Kasur and Sialkot nearer to India. This troop movement appears to be preventative, and to have been made possible by the advent of cold weather in the north, which would have made it impossible for that division to operate in any case.

It may also be that the troop movement is an attempt by Pakistan to put pressure on the US to pressure India to back off. The US wants the Pakistani army fighting the Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, which abut Afghanistan and serve as bases from the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan could be signalling that if it has to worry about a military challenge from India, it can hardly pursue campaigns like the recent one at Bajaur, a far north tribal agency.

The urgency of the latter was underscored Friday when the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan, led by Maulvi Omar, wounded security personnel and killed a child with a rocket attack.

And, in fact, the US called on Pakistan and India to reduce tensions.

Tensions were provoked deliberately by the terrorist group Lashkar-e Tayiba and its ex-military (and possibly still-military) patrons who oppose better relations between Pakistan and India because they fear a rapprochement would allow Hindu-majority India to retain control of Muslim-majority Kashmir. Violence in Kashmir in 2008 was at a 20-year low. The insurgency in Kashmir, which seeks independence–in polling, Kashmiris say they want independence but few seek to join Pakistan–is widely misunderstood in India to be merely a case of Pakistan making mischief.

If you missed Arundhati Roy’s analysis of the terrorist attacks on Mumbai, which kicked off the current crisis, do give it a read.

Pakistan is also facing a severe financial crisis, with dozens of brokers on the Pakistani stock market may be forced out (20 have already been delisted). The Pakistani securities exchange had been suspended, and even when it was open no one was buying. Yesterday there were at least some trades.