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India's border regions facing tough times
by Staff Writers
New Delhi (UPI) Apr 30, 2012

Wagah, a small town, remains split after the British drew the border between India and Pakistan just before withdrawing from the subcontinent in 1947.

One of India's top military officials warned that the Wagah border region could become unstable when U.S. and international forces start leaving Afghanistan.

Without international military forces in Afghanistan, the Taliban would shift their focus to having more influence in Pakistan, especially in the Punjab region that straddles the frontier, Indian Air Chief Marshal N. A. K. Browne said.

"If the American troops and the International Security Assistance Force withdraw from Afghanistan as planned, 2013 and 2014 are going to be crucial watershed years for India as far as the security of our western border is concerned," Browne said.

Wagah, a small town, remains split after the British drew the border between India and Pakistan just before withdrawing from the subcontinent in 1947.

Punjab, on both sides of the border, continues to be a politically sensitive area, partly because it has the only road border crossing between Pakistan and India -- between the cities of Amritsar in India and Lahore in Pakistan.

Browne was giving a presentation for the annual Lakshman Madhav Katre Memorial Lecture at Hindustan Aeronautics in Bangalore, the Times of India said. Katre was a former air chief and in the mid 1980s he was chairman of HAL, a major Indian arms producer.

"Our fear is that we may have these (Taliban) forces very close to the Wagah border because the focal point of al-Qaida and Taliban has dramatically shifted very fast from Afghanistan to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and North West Frontier Province to the heart of Pakistan," Browne said.

He also warned that the Taliban threat could destabilize the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir state north of the Punjab region.

The Times of Indian report noted that Browne made reference to comments by terrorist group Jamaat-ud-Dawah founder Hafiz Muhammad Saeed earlier this month. Saeed had said his attention currently was on Kabul but quickly would shift to liberating Kashmir from Jammu and Kashmir.

"I can't think of any other model in the world where you are dealing with this kind of situation with two nuclear-powered neighboring countries having border issues with us as a common cause for point of friction," Browne said.

The northwestern state of Jammu and Kashmir remains a flash point between New Delhi and Lahore, with Pakistan claiming all of the mostly Muslim region.

Military conflicts were fought briefly in 1965 and 1971, as well as a limited confrontation in 1999. The Kashmir status quo remains but Indian military and security forces continue to battle an independence movement that sometimes erupts into street fighting.

China and India have many disputed areas along their 2,000-mile border, including along the Indian Jammu and Kashmir state but more importantly along the northeastern frontier where China claims most of Indian-controlled Arunachal Pradesh state.

In November, New Delhi lodged a diplomatic protest with Beijing after a map used during a commercial presentation in India by a Chinese company showed sections of northern India as part of China.

The map was in a brochure produced by the China's Tebian Electric Apparatus and was noticed by journalists at a media presentation for the company's investments in China.

TBEA, a power transformer maker, was announcing a $400 million investment in the western Indian state of Gujarat, a report by the Economic Times of India said at the time.

The Chinese ambassador said it was "a technical" error and that it would be corrected.

In effort to keep the issue below the level of an open military confrontation, in January China and India signed an agreement in New Delhi to establish a committee to investigate border issues.

Earlier this month, the governor of Arunachal Pradesh, former Gen. J.J. Singh, said India could be considering a territory swap to settle the more contentious border disputes.

"It is important to solve the India-China border dispute and for that some give and take is necessary," he said in an Economic Times report.

"India will have to move away from its position that our territory is non-negotiable," Singh said during in a seminar on Indo-China relations organized by the Indian Council of Social Science Research and Rajiv Gandhi University in Itanagar, the capital of Arunachal Pradesh.

"The world has changed and we are a much more confident nation now," he said.

"It is important to realize that we need a speedy resolution to the Indo-China boundary dispute and for that some give-and-take may be necessary."


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