07
November

The Road to War is Wide and Open

Written By: Brian Cloughley

There are few areas of our globe that are not in a state of tension, and almost daily there is more erosion of what tranquillity continues to survive. The relentless military confrontation of Russia and China by the United States is the largest scale threat to world peace, but other discord, contrived or inadvertent, contributes to instability and increases the likelihood of wider wars than those being waged in a depressing number of countries.


The U.S.-declared global “war on terror” begun in 2001 has mutated into conflict throughout the world, and, according to The Costs of War Project has not only resulted in the deaths of over 6,800 members of the U.S. military but also “cost the lives of over 210,000 civilians.” It notes in October 2016 that “Americans continue to serve in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the U.S. has been regularly bombing targets in six Muslim-majority countries — Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.” In its analyses the Project does not include the US-NATO war in Muslim Libya, reduced to a catastrophic shambles in which fanatics of the Islamic State terrorist organisation are now based, as they are in every other country that has been subjected to U.S. military action.

 

theroadtowar.jpg

Media cover in India was united in unqualified acceptance and approval of the “surgical strikes” story, and much reporting could be fairly described as overexcited to the point of being emotionally incontinent. This could be expected on some of the less responsible of the TV channels, and sections of the press, but extended to newspapers usually regarded as being objective.

The blow-back effects of such interference have included incalculable but obviously significant growth in anti-U.S. sentiment in the Muslim world and, of even more concern, a decrease in regional stability combined with a massive refugee problem which affects Europe but not the United States.


So far in this century the consequences of wars have been entirely negative. They have caused the deaths of countless innocent, destroyed national infrastructure to the extent that it may never be possible to restore it, and been disastrous in disruption to the lives of millions of ordinary people. It would therefore be most unwise of any country, with such examples in mind, to take any action that might lead to a conflict that could increase in intensity to the point of disaster.


Yet after the 18th September terrorist raid on an army camp at Uri in Indian-administered Kashmir, India appears to have taken a policy decision to confront Pakistan relentlessly and uncompromisingly, to the point of threatening major military action. The overwhelming national feeling in India is massively against Pakistan, and the government in Delhi has been under enormous pressure to actually go to war.

 

And one should therefore reflect on the findings of researchers from Rutgers University, the University of Colorado-Boulder and the University of California, Los Angeles, that after a nuclear exchange about 21 million people in the sub-continent would die within the first week from blast effects, burns and acute radiation. The final consequences are incalculable.

There have been many such instances in the past that have involved accusations by India that Pakistan has been actively involved in terrorist attacks in India, but although it is undoubtedly a fact that perpetrators of some of these had indeed been based in Pakistan, there is yet to be evidence produced that they had been sent to commit their outrages by anyone in authority in Pakistan.


Certainly the Indian media, fed by the usual “well-placed sources” which may or may not have had official blessing, convinced the country’s entire population that Pakistan as a nation is without doubt to blame for the atrocities. Following the Uri incident the media swung into top gear to highlight Prime Minister Modi’s comment that “I assure the nation that those behind this despicable attack will not go unpunished,” and make it clear that “those” referred solely to Pakistan.


It has all happened before, but what is illuminating and more disturbing about the current drumbeat of war is that Indian social media is playing a major part in the Delhi government’s boosting of support for movement down the road to war, which gathered impetus after reportage of what were claimed to be “surgical strikes” on the Pakistan side of the Line of Control.


It should be borne in mind that India’s contention is that the four Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists (and there is no doubt that the word “terrorist” is apposite) who carried out the Uri attacks must have had their movement across the Line of Control officially facilitated by the Pakistan Army; but the notion that transit is impossible without sanction or assistance was made doubtful by Delhi’s official statement a few days later that “a soldier from 37 Rashtriya Rifles with weapons has inadvertently crossed over to the Pakistan side of the Line of Control.


In any event, India claims there are bases on the Pakistan side in which hundreds of terrorists are poised to attack from “launch pads,” and that after the Uri assault “the Indian army conducted surgical strikes at several of these launch pads to pre-empt infiltration by terrorists.”

 

Given the tactics likely to be employed by India, there would almost inevitably be rapid escalation to release of nuclear weapons, and there is no possibility whatever that subsequent exchanges could in any way be restricted. Once begun, they would only intensify.

This assertion of military action was, to be kind, a trifle exaggerated. There were, indeed, intensive and prolonged artillery bombardments and small arms’ fire attacks by the Indian army, and even a couple of mild forays towards the Line in a remote area in which there is no physical barrier. But the claim that there were “surgical strikes” involving airborne troops and helicopters and bags of Bollywood Braveheart boldness is a little over the top. These didn’t happen, and there is no evidence whatever to support claims that these did.


But social media doesn’t need evidence to support any statements that appear in, on, by or through it, and it is a troubling thought that an entire country can be moved towards supporting war by frenzied denizens of the Twittersphere.


The level of what can only be called hysteria was disquieting, and the BBC reported that “#ModiPunishesPak was trending top of Twitter in India, hours after the media first reported ‘the strikes.’ The other top trending hashtags included #SurgicalStrike and #IndianArmy. A Narendra Modi fan club account tweeted a clip from a Tom and Jerry cartoon film to show India spanking Pakistan. Government supporters gushed that this was a ‘proud moment for India,’ with one Bollywood actor thanking the army for doing what India ‘should have done 30 years ago.’ A clutch of news channels were waxing delirious on how India had taught Pakistan a lesson and speculated endlessly about the details of the operation. Things were much more serious between the two nuclear-armed rivals, they say, after the 2001 attack by Pakistan-based militants (as claimed) on the Indian parliament but there was no social media then, and the calls to escalate the conflict were more muted.”


Media cover in India was united in unqualified acceptance and approval of the “surgical strikes” story, and much reporting could be fairly described as overexcited to the point of being emotionally incontinent. This could be expected from some of the less responsible of the TV channels, and sections of the press, but extended to newspapers usually regarded as being objective.


It is enlightening but most disquieting to read the tweets and public online comments in Indian newspapers advocating war on Pakistan. Those who write such frenzied exhortations in the “#PunishPak” style have no concept — not the most basic notion — of what could result from war between the two countries.


Given the tactics likely to be employed by India, there would almost inevitably be rapid escalation to release of nuclear weapons, and there is no possibility whatever that subsequent exchanges could in any way be restricted. Once begun, they would only intensify.


And one should therefore reflect on the findings of researchers from Rutgers University, the University of Colorado-Boulder and the University of California, Los Angeles, that after a nuclear exchange about 21 million people in the sub-continent would die within the first week from blast effects, burns and acute radiation. The final consequences are incalculable.


The road to war between India and Pakistan is wide and open. And it is terrifying to realise that it has been made more likely by the hysterical Twittersphere. Surely sanity must prevail?

 

The writer is a France based retired officer of Australian Army and is an expert on South Asian affairs. He is also author of different books, and contributes extensively in international media.

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07
November

The Myth of Indian Exceptionalism and the Concept of Strategic Autonomy: Attempts to Isolate Pakistan

Written By: Dr. Minhas Majeed Khan

The former Indian Ambassador to the U.S., Arun K. Singh remarked in 2015 to a gathering in the U.S.:


“America has its idea of Exceptionalism. We also have a notion of Indian Exceptionalism.” He further said, “India has realised that its partnership with the U.S. is the most important. India’s strategic policy is driven by its development needs and no, India has not abandoned the concept of strategic autonomy.”1


In the above statement, two significant terms – ‘Indian Exceptionalism’ and ‘Strategic Autonomy’ are the focus of this article. The current aggression of India against Pakistan and these remarks demand an analysis of India’s hegemonic designs and its aspirations to dictate regional and global policies. While India has yet to achieve its dream to become a ‘global hegemon’, it is striving hard to manipulate regional affairs in its favour and hence influence regional politics. Of the regional countries, Pakistan is one that India has always seen as a threat despite Pakistan’s multiple attempts to bring India to table to resolve bilateral issues for the peace and prosperity of not only the region but the world at large, keeping in view that both are nuclear states. India on the other hand is “obsessively campaigning across the globe to have Pakistan recognised as a ‘rogue terrorist state’ and subsequently isolated” whereas, portraying itself as a thriving democracy with Modi’s slogans, such as equality for all. His statement during the election campaign to adopt a muscular policy towards Pakistan reflects this mindset. Modi and RSS with a history of Hindutva never accepted the very existence of Pakistan. These are dangerous developments, however, within India Modi’s opponents see him as a ‘demagogue’ and ‘hatemonger’ for his discriminatory domestic and foreign policy.

 

It is a fact that India has always ignored the concept of neighbourhood, taking into account, its relations with most of its neighbours. At the same time it wants to dominate the policies of major powers that want an enhanced level of interaction with Pakistan. India’s opposition to CPEC is an attempt to hamper economic development of the region, which is in sharp contrast to regionalism. Modi and RSS ideology is not only intensifying communal violence and anti-Muslim activities within India which is gross violation of human rights but his aggressive foreign policy will also destabilise the fragile deterrence stability in the region.

To begin with, the idea of American Exceptionalism, has ‘gone viral as it serves for the most part as a term of polarisation that divides liberals from conservatives’. American Exceptionalism refers to the theory that the U.S. is qualitatively different from other nations with a special role based on liberty, egalitarianism, populism and laissez faire, to lead the world. Walt described this as: “over the last two centuries, prominent Americans have described the U.S. as an ‘empire of liberty’, a ‘shining city on a hill’, the ‘last best hope of earth’, the ‘leader of the free world’ and the ‘indispensible nation’. Adherents of this ideology hold an ingrained belief that “the country’s unique geography and place on historical timeline endows its leadership with the right to proselytise (even militarily, if needed) its governing, economic and social models all across the globe.”


Taking a note of the above quote of the Indian diplomat, it is important to understand how Indian Exceptionalism is defined. Mahajan explains Indian Exceptionalism or Indian model of Exceptionalism as one that accommodates and respects cultural, religious and language diversities and ensuring that minorities have freedom to live in accordance with their cultural and religious practices.

 

It is high time that the international community intervene and send a strong message to India to abandon its irresponsible behaviour, which has put regional peace and security at risk. More importantly, the international community should take the hyperbolic statements of Modi and his hawkish officials, like Dovel, seriously. It is very unfortunate that Modi who was once not authorised to enter the U.S. because of his brutalities in Gujarat, is now acceptable to the U.S. The U.S. should assert itself and pressurise India being a strategic partner to resolve not only Kashmir issue amicably but also take notice of the human rights violations in India under the International Religious Freedom Act (1998) and put India on the list of Country of Particular Concern (CPC).

The debate is not whether Exceptionalism may fit in well with the U.S. or not, but to examine whether India under Narendera Modi truly upholds this idea and will act as a responsible ‘international stakeholder’ according to the U.S. definition of ‘international stakeholder’. Particularly so when none other than the U.S. itself has commended Indian Exceptionalism. Modi’s poll slogan “sabka saath, sabka vikas” (harmony for all, development for all) was endorsed by Secretary of State John Kerry when he visited India in July 2014. However, Gujarat under his Chief Ministership and Indian Occupied Kashmir under his Premiership present a different picture about the secular credentials of India.


Interestingly, Amartya Sen views Modi’s understanding and pledges of economic development as wrong, because for him, development is a process in which human beings are at the centre. Sen opposed his election as the Prime Minister for the persistent Hindutva element in his agenda. It can be argued that Hindutva in terms of religious dominance over political decision is a reality in India under Modi despite the fact that India claims to be a secular state.


According to Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2016, even when the Prime Minister was celebrating democracy abroad, back home civil society groups and government critics faced harassment, intimidation and lawsuits. Modi’s government, despite its pledges, failed to improve respect for religious freedom, protect the rights of women and children and end abuses against marginalised communities. Particularly Muslims and Christians were harassed, threatened and in some cases attacked by right-wing Hindu fringe groups.

 

themystindia.jpgIt is also important to mention here that Modi and RSS ideology has not only alienated Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Dalits but is also one of the reasons of the growing Nexalite insurgency in India. It is also denying the right of self-determination to Kashmiri people by abrogating Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which would merge Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) into the Indian Union. Having said that, one cannot forget the recent atrocities in IOK where since July hundreds of Kashmiris have been martyred, hundreds of others injured and young girls and women were raped.


The general perception in India about Modi is that he would divide and damage India because of pursuing RSS agenda. It was also acknowledged by Christophe Jaffrelot, who is an expert in extremism in South Asia, that even though Modi may have emancipated himself from RSS high command, yet “Modi may well do anyway what the RSS has wanted to do for decades because he is perfectly in tune with their ideology”.


The person behind India’s aggressive policies based on RSS ideology is Ajit Doval, the most powerful National Security Advisor who pushed for India’s abandonment of ‘non-alignment’ policy in favour of ‘multi alignment’. Having abandoned its geopolitical tradition with a change in India’s strategic calculations, Modi is all set to partner with the U.S. keeping in view that the common factor behind this alliance is China. The bilateral relations between Russia and India are closer, “yet disturbingly, so too are India’s ties with the U.S., which have been advanced at the obvious expense of China’s security.” It is the palpable Sinophobia that is pushing India to interfere in the internal affairs of China. It is accused of extending visas to some political figures that are supporting Uighur terrorist movement and other anti-Chinese groups from Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and some pro-democracy groups to attend gathering of anti-Chinese separatist and regime change groups.


Various scholarly writings point out the innate double standards of India, justifying its ‘multi-alignment’ for its closer relations with the U.S. but at the same time it warns its multipolar partners in BRICS from adopting a ‘multi-alignment’ approach towards Pakistan. It is easy to understand that India’s harsh language is not just reactionary rhetoric towards Pakistan, but has broader significance for major powers and in present scenario – Russia and China. India is indicating that its bilateral relationship with each of the two will be irrevocably marred if they continue their strategic relations with Pakistan. This is where India is flaunting its Exceptionalism and Strategic Autonomy.


Korybko presents Indian Exceptionalism and Strategic Autonomy case by arguing that for diplomatic reasons and to save its international image India will ‘plausibly deny’ but it is leading the hybrid war on CPEC, the $46 billion Chinese-led investment corridor through Pakistan and Beijing’s only reliable non-Malacca route to the Indian Ocean, in such an obsessive and aggressive manner that it has come to fully dominate the country’s regional policy. International observers were also stunned by the reports of prominent Indian news channel CNN-News 18 that claimed that Russia had decided to snub Pakistan due to the Uri attack and had cancelled the joint military exercise “Druzhba-2016," with Pakistan, as a sign of solidarity with India. It was a major international embarrassment for India because the news proved baseless and its strategy to diplomatically isolate Pakistan fell flat. Despite Indian Ministry of External Affairs suggestion to cancel it, Moscow went ahead with the planned joint military exercise. It did not stop there; India has once again conveyed its opposition to Russia over its joint exercise with Pakistan.


It is important to mention India’s joint military exercise with the U.S. in the Himalayas within close proximity to the Chinese border, which is not seen as a problem by its leadership. Surprisingly, India applies ‘Strategic Autonomy’ to itself only but opposes when Moscow practices it as part of its military diplomacy and wider balancing act in Asia which, therefore, makes this double standard the defining characteristic of ‘Indian Exceptionalism’.


Taking an account of the Uri Attack, which occurred before the 71st opening of the UN General Assembly, India crossed the limits of international norms. To counter Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir, India raised the issue of Balochistan at the UN to harm Pakistan’s image globally posing its geopolitical stratagem under the cover of ‘democratic-humanitarian concern’. The naivety exhibited here is that Balochistan is entirely a domestic issue for Pakistan, but Kashmir is an agenda of the UN with various resolutions behind it to which India has blatantly refused to act upon. India also decided to pull out of the SAARC Summit in Islamabad. Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Bhutan joined India by announcing not to attend the summit. It is not only a blow to the concept of regional integration but also hampers cooperation among regional states – all because of Indian aggressive designs.


It is an open secret that India is sponsoring Baloch separatism in Pakistan. The arrest of RAW chief operative Kulbushan Yadav in Quetta and his confession is but one instance of Indian involvement in the unrest in Balochistan. Pakistan had shared three dossiers containing evidences of Indian role in fuelling terrorism in Balochistan, Karachi and Tribal Areas of Pakistan to the U.S. and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. India was hoping that its strategy of diatribes and fierce information warfare at the UN will isolate Pakistan but it abysmally failed. Pakistan’s position on Kashmir was supported by OIC, Iranian President Rouhani who also agree to work together with China and Pakistan on CPEC and recently by Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in Baku – a humiliating blow for India.


Another major embarrassment was India’s misleading claim to have conducted surgical strikes. Infact India committed a ceasefire violation by resorting to unprovoked firing at some border point, which was responded effectively but two soldiers were martyred in Indian mortar shelling. However, the lies were exposed before the world as the United Nations told that its mission tasked with monitoring the LOC “has not directly observed” any firing along the LOC. While much has been said and written about the Indian lie, mentioning a report published in a Japanese magazine, ‘The Diplomat’ is very important that reported that the Indian Army does not possess the capability of surgical strikes inside Pakistan.


To conclude, India without any doubt is pursuing a policy of Exceptionalism and Strategic Autonomy. It is a fact that India has always ignored the concept of neighbourhood, taking into account, its relations with most of its neighbours. At the same time it wants to dominate the policies of major powers that want an enhanced level of interaction with Pakistan. India’s opposition to CPEC is an attempt to hamper economic development of the region, which is in sharp contrast to regionalism. Modi and RSS ideology is not only intensifying communal violence and anti-Muslim activities within India which is gross violation of human rights but his aggressive foreign policy will also destabilise the fragile deterrence stability in the region.


It is high time that the international community intervenes and sends a strong message to India to abandon its irresponsible behaviour, which has put regional peace and security at risk. More importantly, the international community should take the hyperbolic statements of Modi and his hawkish officials like Doval seriously. It is very unfortunate that Modi who was once not authorised to enter the U.S. because of his brutalities in Gujarat, is now acceptable to the U.S. The U.S. should assert itself and pressurise India being a strategic partner to resolve not only Kashmir issue amicably but also take notice of the human rights violations in India under the International Religious Freedom Act (1998) and put India on the list of Country of Particular Concern (CPC).


For Pakistan, it is important to invest in lobbying abroad to counter India’s venomous anti-Pakistan rhetoric. It is now more important that Pakistan should strengthen its economic and strategic relations not only with China, Russia and other neighbouring countries but also with Central Asian states, European Union, African states, Latin and Central America. Finally, not to let India exploit Pakistan’s internal vulnerabilities, it is important that state institutions are explicit in their claims that they are on one page and we as a nation stand united.

 

The writer is an Assistant Professor at the Department of International Relations at University of Peshawar, Pakistan.

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

1 http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp- national/india-us- manage-differences- better-now- says-retired-envoy/article9142944.ece

2 http://katehon.com/article/heres-what- uri-attack- kashmir-has- do-russia- and-china

 
07
November

The Sum of All Things

Written By: Zarrar Khuhro

“The old is dead, and the new cannot yet be born.”
(Antonio Gramsci)

Say what you want about the Cold War, it was at least a time of relatively certainty. Lines were clearly drawn, alliances were well-defined and the world was divided neatly into first, second and third categories.


And while there were wars, coups and massacres, the world remained frozen in place for the most part with superpower rivalry being the main geopolitical driver.


But all things must come to an end and so did the Cold War, with the following thaw ushering an era of relative flux where the triumphant U.S. sought to enjoy the spoils of war while other nations sought to adjust themselves to the New World Order – some with more success than others.

 

thesumonal.jpgWhile the United States looked around for the next great rival to define itself against, no real contenders showed up until the geopolitical earthquake of 9/11. The events of that fateful day plunged the world into the so-called War on Terror, embroiling the U.S. into a conflict in Afghanistan and then into the disastrous neocon adventure that was the occupation of Iraq. While these wars did indeed shatter what remained of regional order, especially in the Middle East, they also distracted the U.S. from completing what would later be called the ‘Asian Pivot’, a realignment of forces towards the Pacific in an attempt to contain and curb an increasingly prosperous and assertive China. Now, with the U.S. virtually divorced from Middle Eastern affairs (after having effectively plunged the region into a mini world war), it is free to focus on China and the East – though China has indeed taken advantage of the breathing space the War on Terror afforded it. So with what seems like a new system of alliances emerging, what is Pakistan’s place in the world? Admittedly this is a vast topic and one better suited for a book, but one shall attempt to cover as many bases as possible in this piece.


The Way of the Dragon
Before we examine what CPEC means for Pakistan-China relations, we have to understand what this project, and the larger One Belt, One Road (OBOR) project that it is a part of, means for China.


Let’s start with what then-president Hu Jintao called the ‘Malacca Dilemma’ back in 2003. He referred to the Malacca straits, a narrow 850km stretch of water between the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra – a crucial maritime thoroughfare through which about 80% of China’s oil imports have to pass. In the event of a blockade in these straits, China would face a crisis of great proportions given the lack of a viable alternate sea route to provide the massive amount of energy that China needs.


Then we must turn to the increasingly contentious South China Sea, where an arbitration council recently gave a ruling against China’s claims on this body of water. Here we see Japan, South Korea and other littoral nations, backed by the U.S. both diplomatically and militarily, opposing China’s claims. Undeterred, China is going ahead with a variety of measures such as the deployment of naval assets and the construction of artificial islands that could potentially serve as naval staging posts. However, in the unlikely event of a military confrontation, China will certainly find herself outgunned just as it finds itself relatively cornered diplomatically. Granted the Phillippines president Duterte seems to have flipped to China, but whether that results in an actual realignment remains to be seen.


All this points to the need for an alternative trade route or series of routes, and that’s where OBOR comes in. Here we have two major components: the Silk Road Economic Belt, roughly analogous to the ancient Silk Road, and the Maritime Silk Road – anchored by naval bases in friendly countries, stretching from China’s coast all the way to Africa. Where CPEC comes in as a 3,000 kilometer long corridor linking the Belt and Road.


But that’s just one part of the picture. OBOR also aims at creating a network of regional economies that will be, to one extent or another, dependent on the Chinese economy and thus politically tied to Beijing. Once complete, this network will also provide immense diplomatic dividends to China, as nations whose economic well-being depends on China will be inclined to lend it support in diplomatic forums.


Yet another reason for OBOR’s importance to China is purely domestic. China pulled off one economic miracle in the recent past, lifting some 800 million people out of poverty, but maintaining that prosperity entails finding work for Chinese industries which are increasingly operating below capacity. Moreover, China faces the issue of increasing domestic economic inequality and must now transfer resources from its prosperous coastal areas to the relatively underdeveloped hinterland in order to stave off discontent that could potentially destabilize Beijing. CPEC in particular aims to do just that, by turning the remote area of Kashgar into a trade hub.


Thus, we see that OBOR represents for China the solution to various strategic, diplomatic and economic issues and that its importance is nothing short of paramount. It does not then take a great deal of imagination to recognize that Pakistan’s importance to China has also increased manifold – something that is reflected by increasingly close ties and coordinated diplomatic support. The Chinese have also become uncharacteristically active in their outreach of late, with the Chinese embassy issuing statements and data on CPEC in an apparent attempt to address domestic Pakistani concerns and the Chinese ambassador to Pakistan Sun Weidong also recently met PTI Chairman Imran Khan where CPEC was the main topic of discussion.


At the same time, we see increased jockeying for influence between China and India when it comes to the Maritime Silk Road, with both countries actively courting littoral states to try and draw them into their respective orbits.


Early last year Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed several deals with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena in what was billed as Modi’s first ‘big ticket achievement’ in the diplomatic field. For China this was something of a reversal of fortune, as the previous Sri Lankan president, Rajapakse, had pointedly increased defence cooperation with China, which funded the construction of a port in Colombo and also provided soft loans for a variety of infrastructural projects.


The tiny island nation of the Maldives is also being similarly wooed, with China said to be interested in building a port in the Southern part of the country – the Laamu Atoll – which India fears could be used to host troops and naval assets. China is already providing funding for the expansion of Maldives’ international airport, all of which is happening despite Maldives’ stated ‘India-first’ policy, and there are concerns in New Delhi that Maldives may be slipping into the Chinese orbit. One should of course note that the Indian Navy has maintained a presence in Maldives since 2009, and that the country’s former president, Mohamed Nasheed has been outspoken about his country’s increasing closeness to Beijing, in an attempt to curry Indian favour.


Armed with these examples, we now have a suitable context to examine Xi Jinping’s recent visit to Bangladesh, the first by a Chinese head of state in 30 years. During this ‘milestone’ visit deals worth over $21 billion were signed, which was in addition to previous multi-billion dollar investments made by Chinese companies in Bangladesh. China is Bangladesh’s biggest trading partner with trade crossing $10 billion and Bangladesh is already a major buyer of Chinese weapons, second only to Pakistan according to a study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

 

Another misstep by India that has yet to be sufficiently exploited is its open endorsement of Baloch insurgent groups which have declared CPEC as a prime target. That’s a move sure to invite Chinese chagrin, especially if Chinese nationals are targeted in Pakistan and is certainly a point Pakistan can use diplomatically. Moreover, a somewhat less explored area is how Iran, which is concerned with possible separatist feelings amongst its Baloch population, is viewing this Indian declaration. Certainly there too is a possible schism in Tehran’s relations with New Delhi that can be exploited.

Naturally, this is ringing some alarm bells in India which fears that China may thus gain access to the Bay of Bengal. However, geography dictates that Dhaka will remain closer to New Delhi while also taking advantage of Chinese largesse.


While Bangladesh will not be spinning out of the Indian orbit anytime soon, it does give an indication of the shape of Beijing’s OBOR-linked diplomacy and its attempts to curtail Indian influence.


The importance of this outreach is magnified when we consider that India is also attempting to make similar inroads in China’s sphere of influence, as evidenced by the Malabar naval exercises held with the U.S. and Japan in the Philippines Sea this year and India’s stance on the South China Sea arbitration council ruling.


As New Delhi moves more firmly into its strategic alliance with the United States, one can expect more countermoves from Beijing, but given the massive trade volume between India and China one should not expect push to come to shove anytime soon and nor should Pakistan take Chinese support for granted. After all, the business of China is business and the stated Chinese policy is to emphasise economic development over military confrontation – something we could stand to learn from. As a case in point, take the Bangladesh example; China did not recognize that country in 1971 and opposed its entry to the United Nations but now, spurred by its own interests, is no longer looking at Dhaka through a Pakistani prism.


The Russian Enigma
Beaten and bruised though it may have been, the Bear is back – sort of. For decades, a supine Russia shorn of its Soviet Empire watched haplessly as NATO expanded ever closer to Russia’s borders and former client states and allies defected to the West.


A pushback was inevitable, as even a casual reading of Russian history would tell us and a pushback – from Ukraine to the Crimea and all the way to Georgia – is what we are seeing.


Taking advantage of the United States’ relative disengagement from the Middle East, Putin has recently sent what is Russia’s largest naval deployment since the Cold War to aid its ruthless campaign in Syria – which has already effectively become a proving ground for Russian arms technology and tactics.


Engaged in an alliance with Bashar-al Assad and Iran, Russia has now become one of the main power brokers in the Middle East – a considerable irony given the new era of U.S.-Iran cooperation that the Iran nuclear deal was supposed to usher in.


Another component of Russian strategy is to stymie the U.S.’ ‘Asian Pivot’ by forging closer ties with China, something that became rather evident when Russia and China staged joint naval exercises in the South China Sea in September this year.


But at the same time, the U.S. is becoming closer to countries that were previously considered close Russian allies, such as India – which has also prompted a pushback from Moscow.


It is in these contexts that the recent improvements in Pakistan-Russia ties should be viewed. Make no mistake, Moscow and Islamabad moving closer in recent years is a break from their historic Cold War hostility. This is evident by a number of factors above and beyond the recent Druzhba-2016 military exercises held between Russia and Pakistan. While these have been billed as the ‘first-ever’ such exercises, one should bear in mind that Russia has held two previous naval exercises – Arabian Monsoon 2014 and Arabian Monsoon 2015 – with Pakistan, though the Druzhba exercises are more significant in that they are ‘real’ military exercises involving combat troops.


Nor is this exercise the only example of growing Russo-Pakistani ties; in 2014 an agreement on military technical cooperation was signed and the Russian-Pakistani Consultative Group on Strategic Stability is very much functional. Also, when Russia was imposed an embargo on food supplies from the West in 2014 in retaliation for sanctions imposed over Ukraine, Pakistan stepped in to take advantage of the vacuum by enhancing food exports to Russia. Another move that has slipped under the radar is the construction of a North-South gas pipeline between Russia and Pakistan with an estimated cost of $2 billion and an expected annual capacity of up to 12.4 billion cubic meters of gas. Work on this project, a partnership between RT Global Resources, a subsidiary of Russia's state technologies corporation Rostec, and Pakistani Inter State Gas System, has already begun. And then there is of course Russia’s support for Pakistan’s membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.


In and of themselves these projects and liaisons are not earth-shattering, but viewed in the backdrop of the previously contentious relations between Pakistan and Russia these are indeed significant.


Here one must also bear in mind that for Russia, Indo-Pak relations are not a zero-sum game. Russia’s historic ties with India will certainly be maintained and Moscow – which essentially has only weapons and energy to offer – will not miss out on the chance to get a slice of the lucrative Indian defense market for Pakistan’s sake. Take for example, the multi-billion dollar defense and energy deals recently signed by Indian PM Modi and Russian President Putin.


Viewed on a larger canvas, Russia’s burgeoning ties with China – and by extension, Pakistan – are also diplomatic bargaining tools in its relations with the U.S. and India. Nevertheless, the openings that have been made in relations with Moscow are positive and should be further developed without regard to Russia’s relations with India. Indeed, we should take pains to not emulate the increasingly shrill and unrealistic tone adopted by Indian diplomats in their rather unsuccessful attempts to ‘isolate’ Pakistan.


A Game of Chess
While a chessboard is black and white, we must bear in mind that the world we live in is defined by shades of grey. A world in flux is one in which adaptability is a key survival trait for any nation, and especially for one positioned as complex as Pakistan.


Given that our strategic outlook is largely determined by a seemingly unending confrontation with a much larger neighbour, we need to avoid the trap of engaging in an ultimately self-defeating arms race. Indeed, to hearken back to the Cold War, it is this very race that eventually doomed the USSR. While it is tempting to view the world primarily through a security lens, one cannot escape the corollary that a strong defence is impossible without a strong economy, and that in turn is impossible without a strong educational and social base.


When it comes to the field of diplomacy, the temptation to view relations with other countries, whether neighboring or otherwise, purely through an Indian lens (a local variant of ‘you are with us or against us’) must be avoided at all costs. Indeed, we need to take advantage of miscalculations made by India and in fact exploit those miscalculations. Take for example India’s comically failed attempt to use BRICS as a platform for Pakistan-bashing, something that even sections of the usually shrill and jingoistic Indian media reluctantly admitted. While India overplays its hand by raising the issue of terrorism and Pakistan at fora where such talk is politely ignored, Pakistan can and should present itself as a state keen to do business with others and act in a responsible manner.


Another misstep by India that has yet to be sufficiently exploited is its open endorsement of Baloch insurgent groups which have declared CPEC as a prime target. That’s a move sure to invite Chinese chagrin, especially if Chinese nationals are targeted in Pakistan and is certainly a point Pakistan can use diplomatically. Moreover a somewhat less explored area is how Iran, which is concerned with possible separatist feelings amongst its Baloch population, is viewing this Indian declaration. Certainly there too is a possible schism in Tehran’s relations with New Delhi that can be exploited. Of course, this is not enough in and of itself and must be matched with developing closer economic ties with Iran as well, and CPEC gives us the opportunity to do just that. Iran has already expressed its desire to participate in CPEC, something that has been welcomed by China, and has taken pains to stress that the Chabahar project is not meant as a rival to Gwadar. Whether or not that is true, Iranian frustration with what they see as the slow pace of the Chabahar project is increasingly evident. Here, one advantage we can leverage is Pakistan’s rather deft avoidance of getting entangled in the Saudi-Iran proxy conflict that is raging across the Middle East.


For the purposes of brevity, a detailed analysis of Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan and the U.S. has been omitted, but suffice it to say that the same pragmatic approach that we need to adopt in our relations with other countries applies here as well. In the emerging multipolar world, the old dictum that states have no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests, holds truer than ever.

 

The writer has worked extensively in Pakistan's print and electronic media and is currently hosting a talk show on a private TV Channel.

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07
November

Rolling Wheels on CPEC

Written By: Brigadier (R) Syed Wajid Raza

Pakistan and China’s proverbial friendship crosses another monumental landmark. The people of both the nations jubilantly recieved the news that the first ever CPEC-specific Chinese convoy has completed its journey from Xinjiang to Gwadar. This is the first drop of heavenly blissful rain of hope and prosperity. The CPEC is a shining glitter that will cover the skies of regions across Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond. Pakistan sees CPEC as corridor of peace and prosperity by binding regional countries together to bring about an economic transformation through enhanced connectivity and become a major arbiter to placate the superpower rivalries and promote trade cooperation among the regions. This is a daunting task that demands a matching sagacity, commitment and national resolve.


Recent years have seen a profusion of domestic discussion on economic road map connected to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Pakistan’s geographical advantage has been a source of Beijing's commitment to connect China by land with Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Chinese premier Li Keqiang proposed conversion of former Silk Route into Maritime Silk Road in May 2013 during his visit to Pakistan.

 

rolloingwhell.jpgBeijing’s transnational economic narrative rests on its policy of connectivity “One Belt, One Road (OBOR)”, envisioning three corridors passing through northern China linking Europe through Moscow, Helsinki, Rotterdam and Berlin. Central corridor is to connect China with Central Asia and eventually with Europe. The southern corridor passes through Chinese Xinjiang autonomous territory in northwest of China and passes through Pakistan till Gwadar and that connects it with sea routes in all directions. (Map 1).


The estimated cost of CPEC is approximately U.S. $75 billion, out of which U.S. $46 billion would be spent on Pakistan. In bilateral terms, the investment portfolio is more than four times compared to total U.S. economic aid to Pakistan in the post 9/11 years.


Geo-strategic importance of Pakistan impacts upon its geo-political significance due to influence on geographic factors of the state power, international conduct and advantages it derives from its position; making it junction of great powers of South Asia, West Asia and Central Asia and a way from resource efficient countries to resource deficient countries of the region. According to Stephen Cohn “While history has been unkind to Pakistan, its geography has been its greatest benefit. It has resource rich area in the north-west, people rich in the north-east.”


China needs energy resources, food and minerals; particularly for its land-locked Western China, which is not possible without altering geographical barriers necessary to connect China physically with giant markets of Asia, Europe and Africa. China in its own part is 4500 km away from Xinjiang compared to the distance of 2500 km from deep waters of Gwadar Port.


The CPEC shall have three corridors (eastern, central and western alignment) within the territories of Pakistan. The eastern alignment for example would pass through remote region of Gwadar, travel Makran Coastal Highway (eastwards towards Karachi), interior Sindh and connect southern, central and northern regions of Punjab before reaching Islamabad. Regional connectivity with India would be possible (if it happens) through the Hyderabad-Mirpur Khas-Khokhrapar-Zero Point link and the Wagah border in Lahore.

 

rolloingwhell1.jpgThe corridors from Islamabad onward extend to Haripur, Abbottabad and Mansehra, a portion would run through Muzaffarabad, however main alignment connects Khunjerab through Diamer and Gilgit areas in northern Pakistan. The corridor runs through the Pamir Plateau and Karakoram Range after connecting especially constructed nodes to link all provincial capitals.


The western alignment would be running through Khuzdar and Dera Bugti in Balochistan, districts of Southern Punjab and D.I. Khan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. A link from Taxila through Peshawar to Torkham would connect Jalalabad in Afghanistan with additional regional connectivity links through Chaman to Afghanistan and Iran through Quetta Koh-e-Taftan.


The CPEC would offer Central Asian regions the shortest route of 2600 km as compared to Iran’s 4500 km or Turkey’s 5000 km. In geo-economic terms CPEC would facilitate China with crucial links for transporting oil and gas from the Persian Gulf and minerals and food from Africa, besides opening opportunities for Gulf States and Africa to lift trade and business.


The connectivity is critical phase of the project; implying infrastructure development of 3000 kms road and 1800 kms of rail linking Kashgar in China’s western Xinjiang region with the port of Gwadar in Balochistan, with a network of oil pipelines, an airport and railway station in Gwadar, a string of energy projects, special economic zones, dry ports and other setups capable of creating more than two million jobs and reduce demand-supply gap in energy-starved Pakistan.


The South Asia is one of the world’s least economically integrated regions; plagued by conflicts to have kept its focus on “zero-sum geo-strategic posturing” rather than recognizing the benefits of integration. The southern corridor can bring greater cohesion in South Asia to serve as a driver of connectivity between South Asia and East Asia to benefit China, Iran, Afghanistan, and stretching all the way to Myanmar.


China faced with strategic issues in South China Sea and eastern seaboard needs alternative trade routes for the Middle East, Africa and Europe. CPEC affords China an alternative trade route, cutting distance and time from the present long and slow 10,000 km by ship from the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Malacca in the eastern seaboard of China taking approximately 10 days for Chinese shipments to reach the waters of Gwadar and few more days to various destinations along the Indian Ocean.


Through Malacca Strait, China imports 80% of oil and desperately needs a safe passage in the Indian Ocean to avoid its vulnerabilities in the Strait of Malacca controlled by India. Reduction of the Chinese reliance on the Malacca route is important being a potential flashpoint of blockade by the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) in periods of major hostility.


The geographical disadvantage of landlocked West China region being home to Chinese Uyghurs and hotbed of East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is becoming an instrument of instability for Chinese integrity. CPEC is therefore seen as addressing intricate issues of Chinese internal stability through much needed economic revival.


The strategic initiatives however are fraught with challenges in the rebalancing Asia. In the rebalancing environment of Asia, the position and postures of most southern countries would be determined by the growing threats of terrorism, regional conflicts and Indo-U.S. venture of containing China. Therefore, the challenges of rebalancing would confuse most key players to respond on factors of diplomacy, politics, security and economy.


CPEC would be facing political and geopolitical challenges (especially due to foreign powers), for example: unrest in most districts of Balochistan, and, Indian concerns on the alignment of routes in Azad Kashmir etc. Russia is under sanctions over its disputes with Ukraine. There are civil wars in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Other countries that the OBOR initiative is supposed to connect have been subjected to political instability, international sanctions, or both. CPEC would be faced with exploitable domestic, regional and international interests and therefore, Pakistan needs defining in narrow terms scenarios to be envisioned more broadly that could impact the project.


The domestic consensus building is important during every phase of project development as simmering domestic political disagreements can be a factor shaping position and postures on this initiative. There is also a need to address growing skepticism amongst the international strategic community as many mega projects in the region have been mired in security problems and political disagreements.


Pakistan has a history, where numerous opportunities of "turning points" in the past were missed. In the early 1960s Pakistan was doing so well that economists predicted the country to be one of the future leading economic powers of Asia. The gains were reversed after two wars and after the abandonment of free market policies that were replaced with inefficient, corrupt and badly managed socialist model in 70s.


The Pak-Iran pipeline is on hold, the World Bank-backed Central Asia to South Asian electricity transmission and trade project has to contend withpassage and security issues in Afghanistan and Pakistan. There are serious regional and international interests attached to these projects.


India apprehends presence of Chinese at Gwadar to checkmate their economic aspirations and maritime expansion. India contemplates that corridor would strengthen Pakistan and increase China's geopolitical and economic influence in the region. India has expressed its frustration frequently and therefore danger remains if India could succeed in creating a security situation for Pakistan through its agents. The capture of Indian officer serving for RAW speaks volumes of Indian negative intentions.


Western and regional countries may not be comfortable with the prospects of the corridor with Chinese presence at Gwadar Port for two reasons: one; they may not have interest in fostering greater Chinese independence of energy supply, and, fear of hampering smooth supply of oil to West through Gulf in case of crisis. Pakistan needs to secure its own national interests by becoming a diplomatic balancer, ensuring that its own economy doesn’t get trampled beneath.


The biggest challenge to the corridor can be foreign incited and funded threats of extremism, separatism and terrorism. Ostensibly, the deployment of terror network all along the corridor from the Chinese Xinjiang into Pakistani territory upto Gwadar cannot be a coincidence. There is growing evidence of foreign sponsorship and presence of hostile intelligence agencies in making it “terror ground” to disrupt the projects in the corridor.


The security of project is a critical issue, to be guarded from the spillover effects right from the outset. Pakistan Army has raised two Special Security Divisions (SSD) for the security of corridor: A sum of USD 250 million is kept for security needs of the project. SSD would be in addition to 8,000 security personnel already deployed by Pakistan’s security forces to protect 8,100 Chinese working on about 210 projects across Pakistan.


Pakistan’s capacity to handle such a mega project would confront another challenge. In the absence of experts, the project can confront governance issues, being complex in our case due to corruption, dysfunction and incompetence of Pakistan's governing structures and rampant culture of patronage. These problems for instance are reflected in the domain of transportation system in terms of trucking, rail services, port activities, pipelines, and related operations requiring trucks (especially long-haul trucks), railway stock, ships, airplanes, and all of the parts, maintenance, fuel, and servicing needed to keep them all operating.


It requires high level of skill, extensive international networks, and a huge amount of experience to tackle the challenges of operating and managing transport and logistics across the CPEC region. This is to be viewed in the context of Pakistan International Airlines, which has exaggerated grotesque figure of employees per aircraft; one of the highest rates in the world and railways is in shambles.


According to Anatol Lieven, professor at Georgetown University in Qatar and a visiting professor at King's College London, "Pakistan needs a huge outside investment in infrastructure to complement Chinese investment in order to boost outside confidence, raise indigenous tax-collection to a respectable level and technical base in order to benefit from the project."


All governments of Pakistan have suffered from chronic failure to raise taxes, currently there is barely 10 percent of GDP and lowest tax-collection ratio in Asia. Pakistan’s state-owned banks and industries are under influence and often used as a source of political patronage. Pakistan’s financial institutions are constrained to deal with highest profile institutions related to OBOR, most notably the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the New Development Bank (formerly “BRICS” Development Bank), and the Silk Road Fund, seen otherwise to fill a gap of multilateral agencies and compensate China’s lack of voice in existing multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, IMF, and Asian Development Bank.


The CPEC initiative will undoubtedly bring various parts of Pakistan closer together through physical, psychological, economic, cultural, and political linkages. It will improve infrastructure in places that need it and promote economic development along the way. However, the success of CPEC is connected with the government’s and institutional capacity and overall governance of project, implying dealing with intricate national security issues, forging domestic political consensus, safeguarding Pakistan’s industrial sector and above all preventing negative geopolitical influences in the region. The question however remains: is governance by chance or by choice? In presence of such challenges national unity and consensus is of vital importance.


We have a ‘Game Changer’ at hand and we must change the Game!

 

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1The concept of connectivity under OBOR: Southeast Asia: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Vietnam South Asia: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka. Central and Western Asia: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Middle East and Africa: Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Yemen. Central and Eastern Europe: Albania, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia. Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine.

 

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