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Pakistan_Ties_India's_Hands_in_Assam



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http://www.stratfor.com/asia/commentary/m9912222320.htm

Guerrilla separatists in India recently announced intentions to step up
their fight for an independent Assam, a northeastern Indian state. Their
efforts may force the Indian army to redirect attention away from its
disputed border with Pakistan. Islamabad benefits from this, raising the
possibility that Pakistan may even have been involved in the guerrillas'
waxing enthusiasm.
The United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), a separatist guerrilla group in
India's northeastern state of Assam, announced Dec. 22 that it would enhance
its "striking power" through a campaign to unite the region's rebel groups.
ULFA intends to intensify the violent independence struggle, which has
claimed more than 10,000 lives since the late 1970s.
In the past, Pakistan has worked to galvanize India's separatists, creating
a diversionary ploy
<http://www.stratfor.com/asia/specialreports/special45.htm> to preoccupy
India's army in a region far from Pakistan. Now, Islamabad may be employing
the same tactic so that it can focus efforts on problems at home.
In recent weeks, Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf and his government have
made moves suggesting that the government is weakening traditional support
for Afghanistan's ruling Taliban. These moves include overtures toward Iran
<http://www.stratfor.com/MEAF/specialreports/special21.htm>, which supports
the Taliban's warring opposition, as well as a ban on wheat exports
<http://www.stratfor.com/asia/commentary/m9911172253.htm> that shot food
prices in Afghanistan to dangerously high levels. Most recently, Interior
Minister Moinuddin Haider announced Dec. 21 that his government is ready to
help resolve conflict between the Taliban and United States over the return
of alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden.
Pakistan's shifting allegiance will likely disrupt internal stability. By
moving away from the Taliban, the government is likely to anger religious
extremists within the country, who helped found and support the Taliban.
That anger could lead to violence and generate trouble for Pakistani
leadership.
As well, weakening support to the Taliban could affect Pakistan's ability to
maintain its position in Kashmir, where India and Pakistan have been
battling over a territory dispute for decades. The Taliban has traditionally
fought alongside Pakistani rebels for control of the area. If the Taliban
loses the government's support, its forces may be less willing to join the
fight.
Both results  backlash within Pakistan and a loss of Taliban support in
Kashmir  give Pakistan reason to ensure that neighboring India, too, is
distracted from the contested territory. Riling up Assam's separatist
guerrillas could easily accomplish that goal, as it has in the past.


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