Oceans which constitute the most distinctive geographic feature of planet earth have always been a major focus of mankind. The attraction for sea is founded in its riches as a repository of unending resource, a means of transportation, a dominion of power and an arena for diplomacy and influence. It is often propounded and not without reason that the economic well being and prosperity of the entire world is inherently linked to sea which explains its significance and relevance. A renowned American strategist of contemporary times, Robert Kaplan argues that the most contested area of the globe in the last century lay on dry land in Europe. However, starting in the last phase of the cold war, the demographic, economic, and military axis of the earth has measurably shifted to the opposite end of Eurasia where the space is, overwhelmingly maritime. The oceans are likely to be contesting grounds for global power centres as evinced from US Asia-Pacific pivot and polar routes.
Over the course of history no ocean has elicited greater interest worldwide than the Indian Ocean, may it be Chinese Admiral Zheng, his infamous voyage to Africa in early 15th century, colonial expansions of 19th century, or super powers rivalry during the Cold War or the ongoing operations in this region. The key enabler in all these forays has been the maritime power or more precisely the naval capability at the disposal of the victors. This trend continues unabated, albeit in different forms and manifestations primarily due to radical transformation in nature of maritime warfare and changing roles of Navies in 21st century.
Pakistan, being a bonafide maritime nation and one of the most important littorals, is directly impacted by events in Indian Ocean and what lies in store for future, shapes our maritime policy. Needless to mention here that transportation of over 95% of national trade including critical POL (Petoleum, Oil and Lubricants) supplies and industrial goods is reason enough for sea to assume even greater importance for Pakistan. A strategic appraisal to identify potential sources of instability in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) presents serious challenges in terms of its sheer scope and facets. Let us though view the region from the prism of four principal areas. Firstly, from geographic standpoint, it covers nearly 20% of earth’s water expanse and borders three continents. It is the smallest but the most strategic waterway encompassing 30 littorals and 11 land-locked states with 1,284 islands. A key characteristic of Indian Ocean is that contrary to the Atlantic and the Pacific as "Open Oceans”, the ocean can primarily be accessed through several choke points. Therefore, the security of these choke points or lack of it could have global ramifications.
It is evident from political map of the Indian Ocean Region that there are five distinct regions rolled into one with each generating its own peculiar dynamics:-
• Middle East and Gulf
• Red Sea and Horn
• East Africa
• South Asia
• Southeast Asia/Oceania
The littoral countries are widely dissimilar in size, population, per capita incomes and alarmingly include half the number of states that fall into first global quartile of the failed state index. According to Heidelberg Institute of International Conflict Research, nearly 42% of world’s conflicts are associated with Indian Ocean countries. Turbulence and uncertainty that exists on land permeates to sea as well.
From the economic aspect, Indian Ocean is one of the world’s key lines of communication. It accounts for one half of all the world’s container traffic, the Indian Ocean rim land from the Middle East to the Pacific accounts for 70% of the traffic of petroleum products and 35% of bulk cargo of the entire world. The combined appetites of China, Japan, Korea and India for oil from the Gulf will be key factor in Indian Ocean’s economic significance. What is also unique about Indian Ocean is that only one-fifth of the total trade is conducted among the littorals of the Indian Ocean themselves as 80% of the trade is extra-regional that explains the global interest in this part of the world.
Most countries of Indian Ocean are heavily armed as half of them have forces in excess of 100,000 and military spending of at least 3% of GDP. India, with over $40 billion defence spending per year, is a major source of imbalance in our immediate neighbourhood. Of the three temperate oceans of the world, the Indian Ocean presents the most awkward problems for security management. “No ocean is in need of strategic stability more than the Indian Ocean, which is arguably the most nuclearized of the seven seas,” says Thomas Barnett.
Strategic Impact of the IOR
Indian Ocean has come back to the central strategic role it used to play in international politics. The rise in its significance is due to emergence on the world stage of countries like China and India coupled with the rise of regional players like Pakistan, Indonesia and a more outward looking Australia. In my view, key strategic conclusions and causes of instability in Indian Ocean are:-
• Geostrategic Rivalries: Indian Ocean is an arena for geostrategic rivalry amongst the great powers. It is in the Indian Ocean where US-China rivalry inter-locks with Indo-China competition for influence. Extra Regional Forces (ERF) have been in a fixture in IOR for a very long time; even as of today there are 74 ERF units at sea while in addition to their basing facilities as duly exemplified by the 12 US diamonds and 5 Indian nuggets. Perceptions vary as to whether presence of ERF promotes their own as well as regional security or impinges upon national security interests of littorals.
• Possibility of Inter State Conflicts: Indian Ocean is one area where there is a spectre of inter-state conflict as there exist boundary, territorial, political disputes which can lead to armed altercations. There is no doubt though that resort to use of force is far more likely to produce regional disorder than resolve simmering disputes.
• Security of Sea Lanes: The security of sea lanes carrying oil, raw materials and other cargo which cross the Indian Ocean and the Straits of Malacca and Aden is a vital strategic interest for economic security of the world.
• Impact of Globalization: Globalization of world economies resulting in interdependence of nation states has greatly impacted the new security agenda. In particular, globalised networks are vulnerable to non state actors and transnational threats.
• Non Traditional Threats: Another dimension which impinges upon the stability of the IOR is the menace of non-traditional threats including terrorism and piracy. Risk of terrorism is an unfortunate reality of our times and sea provides a conducive medium for the same. Piracy off the coast of Somalia had been bane of seafarers for the last few years. However, of late the level of piracy has been cut sharply owing to concerted international efforts. The other associated challenges include drugs, arms and human trafficking which many view as an adjunct to terrorism, and maritime pollution and environmental disasters such as oil spills or wrecks of oil tankers at choke points which can seriously affect the flow of merchant shipping traffic.
Characteristics of Indian Ocean Security Environment
The current security environment in IOR is characterized by some unique features. First, there is no region-wide security regime for the Indian Ocean. Second, sub-regional security regimes are relatively weak. Third, security arrangements are essentially Western-oriented and are principally orchestrated by the United States. Fourth, there is an emphasis on stronger bilateral, rather than multilateral, security relationships in the IOR. So while there are huge compulsions to address the security in a holistic manner but none is forthcoming in near future at least. It is against this volatile geostrategic backdrop juxtaposed with challenging internal security and economic situation that the Navy has to formulate its strategy.
Pakistan Navy is a potent multidimensional force, vastly experienced in undertaking whole range of combat, constabulary and benign operations. The force structure makes it a reckonable power in overall security calculus and military assessments of the area. Pakistan occupies a vital strategic location which abets our rightful role as an active player in the maritime arena of the Indian Ocean. We have legitimate strategic interest in a stable and good order at sea, not limited to Indian Ocean but extending to Western Pacific and indeed global maritime commons. The maritime security strategy framework of Pakistan Navy in addition to the usual defence component includes wide ranging diplomatic, economic, environmental and socio-political considerations. Therefore, our quest for security and stability in Indian Ocean should be viewed in a broader concept of comprehensive security and Geoffrey Till’s idea of Home and Away dimensions of security. A distinct feature of our strategy in the recent past has been the renewed emphasis on greater inter organizational collaboration within country and cooperation with other states on bilateral and multilateral bases. It duly recognizes the opportunities oceans afford to maximize application of soft power, imaginative diplomacy and national economic development. To maintain stability and balance of power in our region, full spectrum deterrence remains the scarlet thread of Pakistan’s national security strategy of which Navy is an essential component. The thrust of PN’s development has been to have well rounded capabilities by a balanced force mix that can effectively deal with external and internal challenges.
Cooperative Maritime Strategy
The challenges faced by the world, especially from the non state actors of transnational type, necessitate cooperation amongst the nation states. No nation alone has the capacity to deal with modern threats, therefore, as a deliberate strategy Pakistan Navy has been keen to contribute towards our international obligations. PN was the first Navy of the region to join Task Force 150 under Coalition Maritime Campaign Plan in 2004 to deter and prevent the use of seas as medium for terrorism and other illegal activities. Later, PN also joined Task Force 151 in 2009 to play its part in the global battle against the menace of piracy. We have so far contributed warships with embarked helicopters, 72 times to the ongoing Maritime Security Operations off Horn of Africa (HOA) and Gulf of Aden (GOA). PN officers have been entrusted with the Command of Task Forces 150 and 151 many times in the past. A Pakistan Navy Commander is nearing completion of Command of Task Force 150. In addition, PN conducts counter piracy sweeps on its own. As a result there has been no incident of piracy within our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Interestingly the international shipping has readjusted their pattern so as to ply within the safe area close to our coast. PN’s efforts in consort with the international efforts have been successful in preventing any act of terror at sea in our region. Realizing the need to enhance multilateral cooperation, Pakistan Navy pioneered AMAN series of multinational exercises 2007. The exercise aims to promote regional cooperation and stability, greater inter-operability and to display a unified resolve against terrorism and crimes in maritime domain including piracy. The next AMAN exercise will be held in February 2015. Each time the scope and objectives of this exercise are expanding and thus it seeks to fill part of the vacuum of a reliable multinational security forum in the IOR.
PN Participation in Regional Forums
Pakistan Navy believes a cooperative regional approach can be gainful that promotes consultation not confrontation, prevention not correction and inter dependence not unilateralism. PN has, therefore, joined Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) as a full member and also attained observer status in WPNS (West Pacific Naval Symposium).
Defence Diplomacy and Cooperation
Navies are an essential appendage of any nation’s foreign policy with their unique ability to connect worldwide. Pakistan Navy is indeed the flag bearer of defence diplomacy with multi pronged approaches which have accrued political, diplomatic, economic, and security benefits for the nation. The leverage PN enjoys with the regional countries promotes understanding and helps maintain tranquil environment in the region. Prime initiative in this regard is institutionalization of regular bilateral exercises as a regular feature of operational calendar. Some of the bilateral partners are Royal Saudi Naval Forces, PLA (N), Royal Navy of Oman, UAE Navy, US Navy, Turkish Navy etc. Furthermore, overseas deployments are being undertaken to extend influence on one hand and constructive engagement on the other. Pakistan Navy ships regularly call on most of the ports in the Indian Ocean and extending beyond in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, Far East and even Australia. The diversity of these deployments is a true reflection of Pakistan’s multi faceted foreign policy.
Pakistan Navy continues to engage partners for wide ranging collaborative activities other than naval exercises and visits as well. The manifestation of our international cooperation is in the host of MOUs which provide an instrument for collaboration. Some of the facets include exchange of personnel, provision of trained manpower on deputation, use of logistics facilities, etc. Our notable partners in this respect are China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Oman, Iran etc.
Development of Maritime Sector and Pakistan Navy
The corner stone of Pakistan Navy’s development strategy is to achieve self reliance through indigenization. Today we can proudly showcase missile craft, frigates, fleet tanker and even submarines constructed in Pakistan with collaboration of our friends. It is an avowed priority of the incumbent CNS to promote local maritime industry and spearhead campaign to seek an all round development of maritime sector. In this regard, promotion of marine related education and research, formulation of national maritime policy framework, seeking early operationalization of Gwadar Port, coastal development, etc. are but some of the initiatives Pakistan Navy is pursuing actively. We have no doubt that economic security is predicated on a vibrant maritime sector prospering under the umbrella of a secure maritime environment. The sea blindness that afflicts nations with continental mindsets is the leading impediment in reaping the boon that the seas offer to the mankind.
Pakistan as a state should exude confidence. This is a prerequisite for a successful foreign policy. But what does that mean, precisely? Confidence means a state would be self-assured and would have strong belief in its abilities and potential. Its leadership and people will be imbued with the spirit to craft the destiny of the nation against all odds. They will have strong faith in their future. Confidence is never a bluster or delusion; it is based on reality. At the same time, Pakistan should spruce up its self-image and cleanse it of self-inhibiting skepticism. If we do not believe in ourselves, no one else would.
Foreign policy must be viewed and pursued in its entirety. It should never be compartmentalized. An effective foreign policy consolidates the successes a country has had; creates and taps into new opportunities; and aggressively redresses deficits and weaknesses. To take right decisions at the right time, it is important that we fully understand the global and regional strategic environment and its future trends. This is one part; the other and more important part is to influence the environment for peace, stability and development. The global politico-economic landscape is not static, but constantly evolving; nor can be our foreign policy. Therefore, within the framework of its fundamentals and principles, our foreign policy needs to be responsive to new trend lines. The megatrends in future, for instance, will be rise of many developing countries, poverty alleviation, increase in the middle class, more reliance on asymmetric warfare and diffusion in global power-sharing.
Foreign policy draws its strength from internal stability and progress. It cannot operate in a vacuum. Therefore, all state institutions have to contribute more actively to the formulation and implementation of foreign policy.
The minimalist, but most crucial objectives of our foreign policy are peace, national security and economic development. But this is not enough. We should constantly strive to enhance our influence in the region and broader international community. Without this kind of orientation, a country would have difficulty in achieving even its minimum goals.
Within this framework, our most pressing priorities are economic development and strengthening of our defence capability. If we are weak in any of these two areas, we would remain vulnerable.
A conducive regional environment is necessary for achieving these objectives. But even if, despite our best efforts, we do not succeed in creating peaceful conditions we should learn to stay focused on our two core objectives – security and development. This makes our task even more difficult, but not impossible. Many states have flourished in warlike conditions. Economies of China, Turkey and Colombia, for instance, are doing well economically despite security challenges and volatility in their neighbourhoods. Peaceful conditions, of course, would be ideal.
Within this overall context, our foreign policy should focus on the following objectives: 1. Make Pakistan a Hard State: Pakistan's western border is porous and its eastern border is heavily fortified. Internally, Pakistan has been penetrated through the so-called fourth generation warfare. In addition to terrorism, political, ethnic and sectarian violence has mushroomed. We need to secure our western borders and root out all forms of violence. The writ of the state has to be re-established. There should be no ungoverned spaces in Pakistan's territory. The most frequent and horrendous terrorist attacks in the world target Pakistan and Afghanistan. If we are unable to fully eliminate terrorism and violence, we would be perceived as a volatile country in an unstable region. These perceptions have a direct impact on pursuit of our foreign policy and deny us the opportunities for investment and development.
2. Enhance Pakistan's Prestige: Despite all the challenges, Pakistan has done well as a state. We have survived serious and multiple crises. No other nation has shown the kind of resilience Pakistan has. But many analysts abroad choose to characterize Pakistan as a "dystopia". Obviously there is a disconnect with the ground realities in these analyses and we need to correct such distortions. We regained prestige in the international community last year because of the successes of Operation Zarb-e-Azb and growing positive trends in our economy. We need to build on this positive surge. This should not be merely a feel-good or aspirational effort. We do have to develop intellectual and communication competencies to project Pakistan with all its strengths. The development of such skills should not be ensconced only in government departments. Other outlets should be enabled to collaborate with the government to project Pakistan in true light and promote confidence in Pakistan as a viable state. We should not argue that they would present Pakistan in a better light when all the problems have been resolved. We need Pakistan's projection now when the world is looking at it through the thick layers of misperceptions and prejudice. Promotion and propagation of Pakistan's soft power is one tool in this endeavour, but I believe that enhancing Pakistan's prestige should run as a golden thread through all our policy initiatives.
3. Enable Pakistan's Economy to Grow: The past year was relatively good for Pakistan's economy. The key factor in the positive assessments of Pakistan's economic outlook was a higher GDP growth rate and the launch of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said that Pakistan's economy has reached a "pivotal moment". For the past several decades, Pakistan has been on the verge of an economic take off, but never really took off. Today conditions are ripe for Pakistan's take-off and this opportunity should not be squandered. This year, Pakistan should be re-categorized from a "frontier economy" to an "emerging market" because our macroeconomic indicators are becoming stable and the interest of global investors in Pakistan's economy is becoming deeper. Pakistani diplomats, including economic and commercial counsellors, should be given intensive orientation to see Pakistan's ties with other countries through the prism of economics. The mindset has to change from one of expecting to be sought after to the one of seeking and creating opportunities. Economic diplomacy should be undertaken more assertively, vigorously and skilfully.
4. Maintain and Refine Pakistan's Defence Capability: No matter what the pressures are, we should mobilize resources and find ways to modernize our defence capability both in the strategic and conventional realms. In addition to maintaining full spectrum deterrence and improving conventional symmetry vis-à-vis India, the entire state should gain more traction and credibility in the global informational and communications’ sphere to create better understanding of our defence doctrines. Pakistan is a victim of fourth generation warfare but it mostly relies on conventional instruments to combat that threat. For a long time to come, we may have to deal with this and other evolving threats and therefore our capabilities should be tailored to opposing them in an adequate manner.
5. Invest in Regional Cooperation: There is no paucity of regional forums – some are functional, others dysfunctional. Pakistan should devote its maximum energies to these forums as that will be most productive. Closer association with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will have direct benefits for Pakistan, including its support to the CPEC. Pakistan, as host later this year, should use the platform of the SAARC Summit to showcase Pakistani society's inherent strengths and its quest for regional consensus-building. Pakistan has a special position in D-8 and Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO). These two organizations need to be revitalized. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) must be buttressed but the key to OIC's activation would be an entente between Saudi Arabia and Iran. ASEAN is yet another forum, with which we should have closer ties.
6. Continue to Engage India: Engagement with India is not going to be easy, despite a new beginning that has been made. Terrorist attacks like the ones in Charsadda and Pathankot would continue to cast a shadow over the talks. One cannot rule out another incident. Unless some major revision of their positions is done by both sides, a breakthrough on Jammu and Kashmir is not likely. The agenda on terrorism is two-sided. India has complaints about the involvement of Pakistani non-state actors in the Mumbai terrorist attack and now in Pathankot; and Pakistan has openly accused India's intelligence agency of fomenting subversion and abetting terrorism in FATA, Balochistan and Karachi. During the talks, it would be difficult to sweep these highly divisive issues under the carpet. One should not expect instant solutions from the India-Pakistan dialogue process, even then it is imperative to have an engagement between the two nuclear-armed states for upholding a ceasefire along the Line of Control and Working Boundary and to avert a major conflagration. From that point of view, an anemic engagement is better than no engagement at all, but this should not be at the expense of national dignity.
7. Support to Afghan Dialogue: Our efforts to revive the peace and reconciliation process have succeeded, but the key actor – Afghan Taliban – is still not fully there at the negotiating table. Afghanistan and the US expect Pakistan to put pressure on Afghan Taliban to cease violence and come to the negotiating table. Pakistan has some clout with them but it is evident that they accept nobody's 'diktat'. Therefore, all would have to find some ways to induce and incentivize Taliban's participation in the dialogue. The use of force on either side would hamper talks. Pakistan, along with other members of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), should continue to emphasize the need for pragmatic and flexible approaches. The parties should not try to outsmart each other but explore win-win solutions. Genuine peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan would be a test not just for Pakistan, but also for Afghan and American diplomacy. The US should especially appreciate that the diplomatic challenge in Afghanistan is no less daunting than in Vietnam, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. One needs all the ingenuity to find a solution acceptable to all sides. Under no circumstances should Pakistan allow itself to be painted in a corner for not delivering on peace. Primarily, peacemaking should be perceived as the responsibility of the Afghan Government, the Afghan Taliban, and other political forces and factions in Afghanistan. But 2016 should be the year for Pakistan and Afghanistan to prove naysayers and saboteurs wrong who contend that the two countries will remain pitted against each other. Pakistan should continue to deepen its bilateral institutional, economic and cultural linkages with Afghanistan to develop mutual stakes and to offset differences in other areas. More diplomats, army officers, parliamentarians, scholars, students, media-persons, and professionals should be given placements in training institutions in Pakistan.
8. Take Relations with China to New Heights: This – Pakistan-China relations – is one track that has worked most productively in the past several decades and holds huge promise in future for both countries. While dealing with the difficult bilateral relationships, Pakistan may feel at times that it is dissipating its energies, although peacemaking is a goal worth pursuing in its own right, strengthening ties with China has proved to be most rewarding. The decisions taken during the visit to Pakistan of President Xi Jinping last year have forecast our practical cooperation in the energy, industry, infrastructure and telecommunication sectors for the next fifteen years. The CPEC has bound us inexorably for years to come; and together our two countries would become an economic axis for the multiple regions joined by Pakistan. So it would be our continuous responsibility to reassure China that despite some dissension on CPEC, national consensus would back this mega-project. New heights in the relationship would mean expansion in our strategic and defence ties, energy partnerships, and people-to-people contact. China and Pakistan will have to devise a strategy to counter and expose malicious propaganda against the two countries meant to impair their relations and undermine the CPEC. More networking between media houses of the two countries can help address this issue.
9. Reinforce Ties With the US and Europe: The past year was a good year for Pakistan-US relations. In the Joint Statement issued on October 23, 2016, the two countries resolved to "expand the bilateral relationship in areas outside the traditional security realm", including trade and investment; education, science and technology; energy; and climate change. We need to create or reinforce an interface for fulfilling these commitments. Priority should be attached to getting greater number of students into American universities especially in the fields of science and technology. Of course, we should continue to have dialogue with the US on nuclear issues, with a clear understanding that Pakistan would not accept any limitations on its nuclear programme. The focus should be on nuclear security and Pakistan's entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, without any discrimination.
10. Maintain Balanced Approach Towards the Middle East: The Middle East needs diplomacy as never before; and Pakistan's role has been very constructive in this regard. It is not clear where the Middle East would go in 2016 and beyond. All indications are ominous. One positive development has been a rapprochement between Iran and the Western powers but that too has made the region more febrile. The Gulf countries fear that Iran would try to use its additional resources and income to flex its strategic muscles and destabilize states in the region. Iran is buoyant after its new-found freedom from sanctions and this too is galling for the Arab countries whose oil revenues are dwindling fast. In the Middle East, the situation is fluid. Pakistan has to maintain its traditional solidarity with Saudi Arabia; and work on the new avenues that are opening up for our energy, trade and industrial ties with Iran. It is like walking on eggshells but this delicate balancing has to be done. To best way to walk this thin line is to continue to make mediatory efforts with our two friendly countries, even if they do not succeed instantly. This is necessary to prevent a major war in our neighourhood, to protect our interests, and to save our land from strategic competition along sectarian lines.
11. Pursue Vision East Asia: It is not a well known fact that East Asia generally is quite hospitable to Pakistan and we have a basic architecture in place with ASEAN, as well as Japan and the Republic of Korea, but we have not taken our relationship with this region to its optimal level. Potential exists for building or expanding partnerships in trade, agro-based industry, sea food industry, petrochemicals, electronics, value added textiles, leather products, infrastructure development, construction and tourism. Our Vision East Asia needs rejuvenation and more drive to upgrade this effort.
12. Explore Africa: Africa is coming up fast economically. Major emerging nations – China, India and Turkey, for instance – have established their presence in that continent. Pakistan too needs to partner with African countries in extractive industries, construction, civil aviation, banking, exchange of professionals and students, and diplomacy. Pakistan frequently needs support of Africa in the United Nations, where it has the largest voting bloc. Africa and Pakistan both need their markets for trade in commodities and services. And in the new future, East African countries would be readily connected to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
13. Increase Presence in the Multilateral Fora: In Pakistan, a general perception is that multilateral diplomacy is only about peace and security – Jammu and Kashmir, nuclear issues, peacekeeping, and Afghanistan. Well it is important for Pakistan in these areas; but it is much more than that. Currently, the UN Security Council remains immobilized on crucial issues because of the competing interests of major powers. On the contrary, important decisions are being made in the realms of sustainable development, energy, climate change and disaster risk reduction which have a direct bearing on Pakistan. This kind of decision-making is not limited to the United Nations; international financial institutions, regional forums and international conferences are re-shaping the global landscape. But my own experience of woking with multilateral forums is that Pakistan is a reluctant multilateralist. The general perception is that participation in multilateral forums is 'globe trotting' or 'junkets'. Because of this bias, Pakistan is absent from many international and regional decision-making tables or is inadequately represented. This needs to be changed. While we should continue to capitalize on our strengths in such areas as peacekeeping, where Pakistan enjoys prestige, it should gain space in global economic decision-making
14. Synergize: The current inter-ministerial communication needs to be taken to a higher level so that concerned departments do not operate in silos.
15. Update Your Briefs: Talking to the people in the street and even in government departments one gets the impression that we are still living in the Cold War era. Well, the fact is that we are not. The world has been transformed because of several powerful, sweeping waves of globalization, information revolution and new technologies. This trend would strongly continue into the future. We need to liberate ourselves from the Cold War fault lines and become part of the globalizing world through adopting hardheaded, practical and pragmatic approaches to integrate into the world value chains.
Our foreign and security policies should be multilinear rather than unilinear. Although there has been a media explosion in Pakistan in the past decade, we still lag behind in leveraging our national and international media in putting across our point of view. Similarly, our think tanks need to create an appropriate environment for formation of correct perceptions about Pakistan.
Overall, our performance in the past year in foreign policy has been very good. We are moving in the right direction. What we need is more speed, better precision, and improved synchronization. In the coming year, we can make all these alignments, while keeping in view our long-term goals.
The writer is Director General, Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad and a former Ambassador to the United Nations (in both New York and Geneva) and China.
Talking to the people in the street and even in government departments one gets the impression that we are still living in the Cold War era. Well, the fact is that we are not. The world has been transformed because of several powerful, sweeping waves of globalization, information revolution and new technologies. This trend would strongly continue into the future. We need to liberate ourselves from the Cold War fault lines and become part of the globalizing world through adopting hardheaded, practical and pragmatic approaches to integrate into the world value chains.
Despite all the challenges, Pakistan has done well as a state. We have survived serious and multiple crises. No other nation has shown the kind of resilience Pakistan has. But many analysts abroad choose to characterize Pakistan as a "dystopia". Obviously there is a disconnect with the ground realities in these analyses and we need to correct such distortions. We regained prestige in the international community last year because of the successes of Operation Zarb-e-Azb and growing positive trends in our economy. We need to build on this positive surge. This should not be merely a feel-good or aspirational effort. We do have to develop intellectual and communication competencies to project Pakistan with all its strengths.
Within this framework, our most pressing priorities are economic development and strengthening of our defence capability. If we are weak in any of these two areas, we would remain vulnerable. A conducive regional environment is necessary for achieving these objectives. But even if, despite our best efforts, we do not succeed in creating peaceful conditions we should learn to stay focused on our two core objectives – security and development. This makes our task even more difficult, but not impossible. Many states have flourished in warlike conditions.
No matter what the pressures are, we should mobilize resources and find ways to modernize our defence capablity both in the strategic and conventional realms. In addition to maintaining full spectrum deterrence and improving conventional symmetry vis-à-vis India, the entire state should gain more traction and credibility in the global informational and communications’ sphere to create better understanding of our defence doctrines.
Our foreign and security policies should be multilinear rather than unilinear.
This year, Pakistan should be re-categorized from a "frontier economy" to an "emerging market" because our macroeconomic indicators are becoming stable and the interest of global investors in Pakistan's economy is becoming keener.
One should not expect instant solutions from the India-Pakistan dialogue process, even then it is imperative to have an engagement between the two nuclear-armed states for upholding a ceasefire along the Line of Control and Working Boundary and to avert a major conflagration. From that point of view, an anemic engagement is better than no engagement at all, but this should not be at the expense of national dignity.
Afghanistan and the US expect Pakistan to put pressure on Afghan Taliban to cease violence and come to the negotiating table. Pakistan has some clout with them but it is evident that they accept nobody's 'diktat'. Therefore, all would have to find some ways to induce and incentivize Taliban's participation in the dialogue.
Africa and Pakistan both need their markets for trade in commodities and services. And in the new future, East African countries would be readily connected to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
While we should continue to capitalize on our strengths in such areas as peacekeeping, where Pakistan enjoys prestige, it should gain space in global economic decision-making
In the Middle East, the situation is fluid. Pakistan has to maintain its traditional solidarity with Saudi Arabia; and work on the new avenues that are opening up for our energy, trade and industrial ties with Iran. It is like walking on eggshells but this delicate balancing has to be done. To best way to walk this thin line is to continue to make mediatory efforts with our two friendly countries, even if they do not succeed instantly. This is necessary to prevent a major war in our neighourhood, to protect our interests, and to save our land from strategic competition along sectarian lines.
Our Vision East Asia needs rejuvenation and more drive to upgrade this effort.
مشرقِ وسطیٰ اور خلیج فارس کا خطہ اپنے مخصوص جغرافیائی محلِ وقوع کی وجہ سے اگرچہ صدیوں سے قوموں اور سلطنتوں کے درمیان محاذ آرائی اور جنگ و جدل کا میدان رہا ہے لیکن یورپی نو آبادیاتی نظام کے ظہور کے بعد اس خطے کی اہمیت میں متعدد نئی جہتیں شامل ہوچکی ہیں۔ انیسویں صدی کے اختتام پر جب ایشیا اور افریقہ کے بیشتر حصوں کو یورپ کے سات بڑے ممالک نے اپنی نو آبادیوں میں تبدیل کرلیاتھا توعراق سے لے کر مصر تک مشرقِ وسطیٰ کے علاقے سلطنت عثمانیہ کا حصہ تھے۔لیکن اس کے اردگرد واقع نو آبادیات کے دفاع کے لئے اس کی اہمیت بہت بڑھ چکی تھی۔بیسویں صدی کے شروع ہونے کے ساتھ ہی جب ایران سے تیل کی تجارتی بنیادوں پر پیداوار شروع ہوئی اور اس کے بعد جزیرہ نما عرب کے دیگر حصوں میں بھی تیل دریافت ہونے لگاتو مشرقِ وسطیٰ صرف یورپی طاقتوں کے لئے ہی نہیں بلکہ امریکہ کے لئے بھی ایک انتہائی اہم خطے کی حیثیت اختیار کر گیا۔ اس پر کنڑول حاصل کرنے کے لئے وہ موقع کی تلاش میں تھے۔بالآخر پہلی جنگ عظیم کی صورت میں وہ موقع ان کے ہاتھ آیا چونکہ ترکی نے اس جنگ میں جرمنی کا ساتھ دیا تھا اس لئے برطانیہ نے عربوں کو ترکوں کے خلاف بغاوت پر اُکساکر فلسطین اور عراق پر بالواسطہ قبضہ کر لیا۔ لیگ آف نیشنز کے مینڈیٹ سسٹم کے ذریعے شام اور لبنان فرانس کے کنڑول میں چلے گئے اور اریٹیریا پر اٹلی نے اپنا قبضہ جمالیا۔مشرقِ وسطیٰ کا موجودہ سیاسی نقشہ یورپی طاقتوں کی اسی بندربانٹ کا نتیجہ ہے اور آج مشرقِ وسطیٰ جن مسائل سے دوچار ہے اْن سب کے تانے بانے یورپی طاقتوں کی ان ہی ریشہ دوانیوں اور چالوں سے ملتے ہیں۔ان میں مسئلہ فلسطین بھی شامل ہے جس کی وجہ سے 1948 سے لے کر اب تک عربوں اور اسرائیل کے درمیان چاربڑی جنگیں ہوچکی ہیں اور چھوٹے بڑے تصادم اور جھڑپیں اب بھی جاری ہیں جن میں اب تک ہزاروں فلسطینی شہری جن میں عورتیں اور بچے بھی شامل ہیں، اسرائیل کے ہوائی اور زمینی حملوں میں شہید ہوچکے ہیں۔ ابھی عرب،اسرائیل تنازعہ سے مشرقِ وسطیٰ باہر نہیں نکلا تھا کہ خطے کو مزید غیرمستحکم کرنے کے لئے ’’داعش‘‘ یا
Islamic State in Iraq and Syria
آئی ایس ائی ایس نے سراُٹھا لیا۔روسی ذرائع کے مطابق عراق کے وسیع علاقوں سمیت جن میں تیل پیدا کرنے والے علاقے بھی شامل ہیں کے علاوہ ’’داعش‘‘نے شام کے بھی وسیع علاقوں پر قبضہ کر رکھا ہے اور اس کے پاس70ہزار مسلح اور تربیت یافتہ جنگجو ہیں۔ ’’داعش‘‘مشرقِ وسطیٰ کے لئے ہی نہیں بلکہ پوری دنیا کے امن کے لئے خطرے کی علامت بن چکی ہے کیونکہ اس کے ایجنڈے میں مشرقِ وسطیٰ سے باہر بھی کئی علاقوں میں اپنی ’’خلافت‘‘قائم کرنے کے منصوبے شامل ہیں۔ اپنے اس ایجنڈے پر عمل درآمد کے لئے’’داعش‘‘نے دہشت گردی کا راستہ اپنایا ہے جس کی مثال پیرس،امریکہ اور دیگر کئی علاقوں میں دہشت گردی کے ایسے واقعات کی صورت میں موجود ہے جن کی داعش نے خود ذمہ داری قبول کی ہے۔
مسئلہ فلسطین سے شام کی خانہ جنگی اور ’’داعش‘‘کے ظہور تک مشرقِ وسطیٰ کے امن اور استحکام کے لئے خطرہ بننے والے تمام مسائل پر پاکستان کو برابر کی تشویش لاحق رہی ہے۔کیونکہ پاکستان مشرقِ وسطیٰ سے جغرافیائی لحاظ سے متصل خطے یعنی جنوبی ایشیا میں واقع ہے ۔ازمنہ قدیم سے لے کر اب تک مشرقِ وسطیٰ میں واقع ہونے والی تبدیلی اور تحریک نے خواہ وہ سماجی ہو،مذہبی ہو یا سیاسی، جنوبی ایشیا ئی خطے کو ہمیشہ متاثر کیا ہے۔ اس کی سب سے بڑی وجہ جغرافیہ ہے جس کی بنیاد پر دونوں خطوں کے درمیان نہ صرف تجارتی اشیا بلکہ خیالات اور ثقافت کی بھی آمدورفت جاری رہی ہے۔جدید تحقیق سے پتا چلتا ہے کہ وادی سندھ کی قدیم تہذیب ہڑپہ اور موہنجوداڑو اور مصر اور میسو پوٹیمیا کی تہذیبوں کے درمیان آج سے پانچ ہزار سال پہلے تعلقات قائم تھے۔قدیم شاہراہِ ریشم کے ذریعے جنوبی ایشیا نہ صرف وسطی ایشیا اور چین بلکہ مشرقِ وسطیٰ کے ساتھ بھی تجارتی رشتوں میں منسلک تھا۔ یورپی نو آبادیاتی تسلط نے ان رشتوں کو منقطع کر دیا۔ایشیا اور یورپ کے درمیان تجارت اب بری کی بجائے بحری راستوں کے ذریعے ہونے لگی لیکن اس کے باوجود تہذیبی،ثقافتی اور مذہبی رشتے قائم رہے اور ان رشتوں کی بنیاد پر ہی آزمائش کی ہر گھڑی میں خواہ ترکی کیخلاف یورپی اقوام کی جارحیت ہویا مسئلہ فلسطین،برصغیر کے مسلمانوں نے مشرقِ وسطیٰ میں اپنے ہم مذہب لوگوں کا ساتھ دیا۔ اس وقت بھی مشرقِ وسطیٰ ایک دورِ ابتلاء سے گزر رہا ہے۔شام جو کسی زمانے میں عرب قوم پرستی او رعرب سوشلزم جیسی تحریکوں کا مرکز تھا،گزشتہ پانچ برس سے خانہ جنگی کا شکار ہے۔صدر بشارالاسد کی حکومت اور باغیوں کے درمیان خون ریز جھڑپوں کے نتیجے میں ایک اندازے کے مطابق ڈھائی لاکھ افراد ہلاک ہوچکے ہیں اور ملک چھوڑ کر جو مقامی باشندے ہمسایہ ممالک یا اُن سے آگے دیگر ممالک میں پناہ لینے پر مجبور ہوئے اُن کی تعداد 90 لاکھ کے قریب ہے۔
امریکہ، روس، فرانس اور برطانیہ کی طرف سے شام میں ’’داعش‘‘کے ٹھکانوں اور فوجی قافلوں کو ہوائی حملوں کا نشانہ بنانے کے بعد شام کے بحران میں نہ صرف تیزی آچکی ہے بلکہ اب یہ لڑائی محض شام کا مسئلہ نہیں رہا بلکہ ایک بین الاقومی تصادم کی شکل اختیار کر چکی ہے۔شام کے ہمسایہ ممالک جن میں ترکی،لبنان،اُردن اور عراق شامل ہیں،اس لڑائی سے براہ راست متاثر ہورہے ہیں۔ لیکن سب سے زیادہ تشویش ناک بات یہ ہے کہ شام کے بحران نے مشرقِ وسطیٰ کے مسلم ممالک کو تقریباًدودھڑوں میں تقسیم کر دیاہے۔ایک دھڑا جس کی قیادت ایران کررہا ہے، صدر بشار الاسد کا حامی ہے جبکہ سعودی عرب ترکی اور مغربی طاقتوں سے مل کر صدر بشارالاسد کے خلاف برسرِپیکار باغیوں کی حمایت کررہا ہے۔ شام کے بحران کو مزید پیچیدہ کرنے میں روس کی طرف سے صدر بشارالاسد کی حمایت اور باغیوں کے ٹھکانوں پر بمباری کو بڑادخل ہے۔جب سعودی عرب اور مغربی ملکوں کی طرف سے مالی اور عسکری امداد کے باوجود اپوزیشن صدر بشارالاسد کے خلاف غیر مؤثر ثابت ہوئی تو رپورٹس کے مطابق القائدہ سے منسلک انتہا پسندسُنی عقیدے کے مالک ایک گروپ’’النصریٰ‘‘کی حمایت شروع کر دی گئی۔ داعش نے عراق اور شام میں جو کامیابیاں حاصل کی ہیں اُن کے پیچھے بھی یہی محرک نظرآتا ہے۔
’’عرب سپرنگ‘‘کے نام سے سیاسی تبدیلی کی جو لہر آج سے پانچ سال قبل تیونس،لیبیا اور مصر میں شروع ہوئی تھی،اُس نے شام کے بعد خلیج فارس تک پورے جزیرہ نما عرب کو اپنی لپیٹ میں لے لیا ہے۔جس کی گھن گرج دور سے سُنائی دے رہی تھی۔اب وہ طوفان ہماری سرحدوں پر دستک دے رہا ہے۔ پاکستان کی حکومت اور عوام کے سامنے اس وقت سب سے بڑا چیلنج یہ ہے کہ شام اور عراق میں غلبہ حاصل کرنے والی انتہا پسند تنظیم’’داعش‘‘اور ایران اور سعودی عرب کے درمیان بڑھتے ہوئے تنازعہ کے اثرات سے ملک کو کیسے محفوظ رکھا جاسکے۔ جیسا کہ پہلے بیان کیا جاچکا ہے جغرافیائی قربت اور تاریخی روابط کی وجہ سے مشرقِ وسطیٰ میں پیدا ہونے والی کسی بھی فکری اور سیاسی تحریک سے جنوبی ایشیا کا متاثر ہونا ناگزیر ہے۔ پاکستان پر داعش کے جو مضر اثرات مرتب ہورہے ہیں، اُن کا پس منظربھی یہی ہے۔پاکستان کے انتہا پسند عناصر اور دہشت گرد تنظیموں کے ’’داعش‘‘کے ساتھ بڑھتے ہوئے رابطوں کی جو اطلاعات سامنے آئی ہیں،اُن سے ثابت ہوتا ہے کہ ملک میں ’’داعش‘‘کے اثرورسوخ اور اُس کے وجود کو قائم کرنے کی کوششیں کی جارہی ہیں۔لیکن یہ امر باعث اطمینان ہے کہ پاکستان کی قومی، سیاسی اور عسکری قیادت اور قانون نافذ کرنے والے ادارے ملک میں دہشت گردی کو جڑ سے اُکھاڑ پھینکنے کا مصمم ارادہ رکھتے ہیں اور اس سلسلے میں وہ کسی سمجھوتے یا مصلحت پر تیار نہیں۔پوری قوم کی بھی یہی سوچ ہے اور وہ اپنی حکومت اور قانون نافذکرنے والے اداروں کی مکمل حمایت پر آمادہ ہیں۔ تاہم سعودی عرب اور ایران کے درمیان بڑھتی ہوئی کشیدگی کی شکل میں پاکستان کو ایک نئے اور مشکل چیلنج کا سامنا کرنا پڑ رہا ہے۔اس کی وجہ یہ ہے کہ ان دونوں کا پاکستان کے قریبی دوست ممالک میں شمار ہوتا ہے۔ ایران پاکستان کا برادر اسلامی ہمسایہ ملک ہے جبکہ سعودی عرب کے ساتھ نہایت اہم مذہبی و معاشی تعلقات ہیں۔بیرونی ممالک میں کام کرنے والے پاکستانیوں کی بھیجی ہوئی رقوم فارن ری میٹینسز پاکستانی زرِمبادلہ کا سب سے بڑا ذریعہ ہیں اور اس لحاظ سے انہیں پاکستانی معیشت کی ریڑھ کی ہڈی کی حیثیت حاصل ہے۔اس کے علاوہ سعودی عرب نے ہمیشہ آڑے وقتوں میں پاکستان کا ساتھ دیا ہے۔ خصوصاً 1998 کے ایٹمی دھماکوں کے بعد جب پاکستان کو امریکہ اور دیگر مغربی ممالک کی طرف سے اقتصادی پابندیوں کا سامنا کرنا پڑا تو یہ سعودی عرب ہی تھا جس نے بعد میں ادائیگی کی بنیاد پر پاکستان کو تیل سپلائی کیا تھا۔ سعودی عرب نے برادار ملک پاکستان کی فلاح اور ترقی میں ہمیشہ گہری دلچسپی کا مظاہرہ کیا ہے اور جب بھی پاکستان کو اندرونی یا بیرونی مشکلات کا سامنا کرنا پڑا ہے سعودی فرمانرواؤں نے پاکستان کی امداد میں کبھی بُخل سے کام نہیں لیا۔
دوسری طرف ایران کے ساتھ ہماری نہ صرف مشترکہ جغرافیائی سرحد ہے بلکہ پاکستان اور ایران ہزاروں برس قدیم تہذیبی،ثقافتی،لسانی اور فکری رشتوں میں جُڑے ہوئے ہیں۔گزشتہ 68 برسوں میں پاکستان اور ایران متعدد اندرونی سیاسی تبدیلیوں کے عمل سے گزرے اور خطے میں بہت سے جیو سٹریٹجک اتار چڑھاؤ دیکھنے میں آئے لیکن ایران اور پاکستان کے تعلقات ان سے متاثر نہ ہوئے۔ 1965 کی جنگ میں ایران نے پاکستان کو جو لاجسٹک امدادفراہم کی، اُسے بھلایا نہیں جاسکتا۔1960 کی دہائی کے آخر میں اور خاص طور پر 1971 کی جنگ کے بعد جب پاکستان کو امریکی امداد تقریباً بند ہوگئی تھی تو اُس وقت یہ ایران ہی تھا جس نے پاکستان کو اشد ضروری مالی امداد فراہم کی۔مشرقی پاکستان کی علیحدگی سے پاکستانی معیشت کو جو شدید جھٹکا لگا تھا،اُس کی تلافی کے لئے ایران نے پاکستانی مصنوعات کے لئے اپنی منڈیاں کھول دیں تھیں۔ اس لئے پاکستان کے لئے یہ فیصلہ کرنا بہت مشکل ہے کہ ان دونوں میں سے کس کا ساتھ دے۔ دوسری طرف ایران اور سعودی عرب کے درمیان علاقائی بالادستی کے لئے مسابقت پورے خطے، جس میں پاکستان بھی شامل ہے،کے استحکام کے لئے شدید خطرہ ہے۔جیسا کہ امریکی صدر بارک اوبامہ نے اپنے سٹیٹ آف دی یونین خطاب میں کہا ہے کہ مشرقِ وسطیٰ،افغانستان اور پاک بھارت خطوں کے علاقائی استحکام کو صرف دہشت گردی سے ہی خطرہ نہیں بلکہ مقامی ملکوں کے درمیان محاذ آرائی یا تنازعات بھی ان علاقوں کے امن کو خاکستر کر سکتے ہیں۔
ایران اور سعودی عرب کے درمیان مسابقت اور اس کے نتیجے میں پیدا ہونے والی کشیدگی سے بھی علاقائی امن اور استحکام کو ایک بڑاخطرہ لاحق ہوسکتا ہے۔ اس خطے کا ایک اہم ذمہ دار ملک ہونے کی حیثیت سے پاکستان کی اولین ترجیح ان دونوں ملکوں کے درمیان کشیدگی کو کم کروانا ہونی چاہئے اور خوشی کی بات ہے کہ پاکستان نے یہ اعلان کرکے کہ اُس کی فوجوں کو کسی دوسرے ملک کی سرزمین پر تعینات نہیں کیا جائے گا،ایک درست راستہ اختیار کیا ہے۔اس کے ساتھ ہی پاکستان نے سعودی عرب کی قیادت میں قائم ہونے والے34ملکوں کے اتحاد میں شمولیت کرکے سعودی عرب کو مطمئن کرنے کی کوشش کی ہے۔34 ملکوں کا یہ اتحاد ایک ڈھیلا ڈھالا اتحاد ہے اور اس کے پلیٹ فارم سے کسی جارحانہ فوجی اقدام کا کوئی امکان نہیں اس لئے پاکستان کے اس فیصلے کو ایران کے خلاف اقدام سے تعبیر نہیں کیاجاسکتا ۔ لیکن جیسا کہ مشیر برائے خارجہ امور سرتاج عزیز کے قومی اسمبلی میں دئیے گئے بیانات سے ظاہر ہوتا ہے پاکستانی ڈپلومیسی کا سارازور ایران۔سعودی کشیدگی میں کمی لانا ہے اور اس کے لئے پاکستان نے نہ صرف اپنی خدمات پیش کی ہیں بلکہ او آئی سی وزرائے خارجہ کے ایک سپیشل اجلاس میں بھی پاکستان نے اس مقصد کے لئے بھر پور کردار اداکرنے کا فیصلہ کیا ہے۔ پاکستان کی موجودہ سیاسی و عسکری قیادت کا ایک ساتھ سعودی عرب اور ایران کا حالیہ دورہ اسی کشمکش کو کم کرنے کے لئے ایک قابل تحسین کاوش ہے۔ امید ہے کہ اس عمل سے دور رَس مثبت نتائج حاصل ہوں گے۔34 ملکوں کے اتحاد کے فریم ورک میں اگر پاکستان اور سعودی عرب کے درمیان دہشت گردی کا مقابلہ کرنے کے لئے خفیہ معلومات کا تبادلہ ہوتا ہے یا دونوں ملکوں کی افواج کے درمیان تعاون میں اضافہ ہوتا ہے،تو اس میں کوئی حرج نہیں کیونکہ پاکستان نے سعودی عر ب کی علاقائی سالمیت کے تحفظ کے لئے اپنے پورے عزم کا اعلان کیا ہے تاہم یہ تعاون سختی سے دوطرفہ بنیادوں پر ہو گا اور کسی تیسرے ملک کے خلاف اسے استعمال نہیں کیا جائے گا۔کیونکہ ایسا کرنا پاکستان کی دیرینہ پالیسی کی نفی ہے اور اس سے بڑھ کر یہ کہ پاکستانی عوام اس کی کبھی اجازت نہیں دیں گے۔
پروفیسر ڈاکٹر رشید احمد خان یونیورسٹی آف سرگودھا میں شعبہ بین الاقوامی تعلقات و سیاسیات کے چیئرمین ہیں۔
پاکستانی ڈپلومیسی کا سارا زور ایران۔ سعودی کشیدگی میں کمی لانا ہے اور اس کے لئے پاکستان نے نہ صرف اپنی خدمات پیش کی ہیں بلکہ او آئی سی وزرائے خارجہ کے ایک سپیشل اجلاس میں بھی پاکستان نے اس مقصد کے لئے بھر پور کردار ادا کرنے کا فیصلہ کیا ہے۔ پاکستان کی موجودہ سیاسی و عسکری قیادت کا ایک ساتھ سعودی عرب اور ایران کا حالیہ دورہ اسی کشمکش کو کم کرنے کے لئے ایک قابل تحسین کاوش ہے۔ اُمید ہے کہ اس عمل سے دُور رَس مُثبت نتائج حاصل ہوں گے۔
The landmark meeting between the Director Generals Military Operations of Pakistan and India on 24 December 2013 to strengthen mechanisms to ensure the sanctity of the ceasefire on the Line of Control (LOC), signalled a new turn in the Pakistan-India relationship. The meeting, hosted by Pakistan, was the first in the 14 years since the Kargil War. A joint statement issued following the meeting said, “Both DGMOs showed their commitment to maintain the sanctity and ceasefire on the Line of Control.” It went on to say, “Both sides reiterated resolve and commitment to continue efforts for ensuring ceasefire, peace and tranquility on the Line of Control”.
Talks were also held in late December between the DG Rangers and his counterpart from the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) – the two forces that patrol the Working Boundary between Pakistan and Indian-occupied Jammu & Kashmir – to resolve ceasefire violation issues in that region. Sources say that during the meeting, the BSF alleged that firing by Pakistan Rangers resulted in deaths of their troops. The Rangers made it clear that Pakistani troops fire only in response to BSF fire. A climate of positivity emerged from these both sets of talks, which is hoped, will lead not only to ensure peace along the LOC and Working Boundary, but also a more positive bilateral engagement at other levels. Since the election of the PML-N Government in Pakistan in 2013, Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif has made fresh overtures to India for peace talks and has committed the government of Pakistan to resolving the Kashmir situation. In this, he has had the support of the Pakistan Military. The PM has also advocated for stronger trade ties. At a meeting of the trade ministers of the two countries in New Delhi on 18 January 2014, Pakistan and India agreed to allow daily round-the-clock movement of trucks and containers through the main Wagah-Attari border crossing. They also approved a liberalized visa policy for businessmen to help expand two-way trade, and Pakistan also agreed to provide non-discriminatory market access to Indian companies. It is hoped that closer integration on an economic level will contribute to lowering of political tensions between the two countries. Trade between Pakistan and India slowed almost to a halt over the past year due to a series of ceasefire violations on the Line of Control and Working Boundary. The meeting between two DGMOs was a step forward that eased the situation and cleared the way for these new bilateral trade initiatives to progress. However, many consider that the border issues are likely to remain fragile in the foreseeable future, calling for a clear-headed approach from both sides.
The history of conflict along the LOC dates back to when it first came into being in 1949 as the Ceasefire Line (CFL). It became known as the Line of Control on 3 July 1972 with the signing of the Simla Agreement. Wars have been fought and although it has been more peaceful since the end of the Kargil war, many smaller skirmishes have occurred along the CFL. Incidents escalated significantly in 2013, with both sides accusing the other of responsibility. A series of ceasefire violations targeting villages along the Working Boundary near Sialkot, shifted the focus from the northern areas to the south. During the 2012/2013 period, of the numerous ceasefire violations, 56 occurred in which civilians were directly targeted along the LOC and Working Boundary, resulting in the deaths of 11 civilians with 92 injured, leaving behind widows and children who, with the main earner in the family gone, then struggle would surely to survive. Many Pakistani troops were also martyred and injured during this period. It is hoped that the DGMOs' meeting will result in a reduction of such incidents. However, the positive climate did not take long to be shattered. In early January, a new ceasefire violation in the Tatapani Sector was reported in which a Pakistani civilian was killed by firing from Indian troops. Pakistan held India responsible. However, aggressive comments by the Indian Chief of Army Staff, General Bikram Singh, at a pre-Army Day press conference on 13 January 2014, took Pakistan by surprise. Although General Singh noted that “the frequency of ceasefire violations have come down remarkably ever since the meeting of the DGMOs (Director Generals Military Operations) of the two countries last December 2013”, he launched an astonishing tirade against Pakistan saying that “India was not bound to follow the rules if Pakistan was up to breaking them.” He boasted of the killing of Pakistani soldiers to avenge Pakistani violations on the LOC. General Singh also said it is virtually a “mini war at the local level” whenever ceasefire violations take place on the LOC.
Responding to the Indian Army Chief's statement, Pakistan Military's spokesman Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa, DG ISPR, said, “It is contrary to the facts on ground. Pakistan Army respects the ceasefire agreement in letter and spirit.” The DG's statement added, “After the meeting between the Director Generals Military Operations (DGMOs) on December 24, 2013, the situation along the LOC has improved considerably. Such accusation and provocative statements are regrettable and counterproductive.” General Singh's comments also led the Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson, Tasneem Aslam, to respond when questioned on these comments, “We believe that it is a regrettable statement. It is provocative and unfortunate and as the DG ISPR has already pointed out, statements like these and claims of this sort tend to deteriorate the situation. We have always tried to maintain tranquility on the Line of Control. It was with this in view that our DG Military Operations had invited his Indian counterpart for talks. They had a constructive meeting and they agreed on a number of measures. We expect India to abide by the agreement.” Ms Aslam also commented, “There have been incessant violations of the Line of control (LOC) from the Indian side since January last year. In these firing incidents, some soldiers and some civilians were martyred.” A Brigadier-level flag meeting at the Chakkan-Da-Bagh crossing in the Poonch area on 17 January 2014 was held to defuse the most recent situation, with both sides raising their protests. It is worth looking back at events over the past year to comprehend why all this matters and how the violations of the ceasefire, and outcome of these meetings, affects the lives of the thousands of ordinary Pakistani civilians, who are living along the LOC and Working Boundary. Villages that have been targeted in recent times include Chakhoti, Batal, Cherrikot, Satwal and others on the LOC, and Phuklian, Chaprar, Patwal, Khokar, Jhang, Janglora, Dhamala, Shakargargh, Charwa and Harpal along the Working Boundary. Many of these villages have a population of as many as 5,000 – 10,000 so, combined, it is a significant number.
My primary concern is always to learn more about the humanitarian impact of disasters and conflict on local populations and how their situation can be improved. So, to better understand what life is for civilians who live along the disputed territory border – the people whose lives are most affected when the ceasefire doesn't hold – late last year I visited some of the villages along the Working Boundary. These villages, located near Sialkot, look like any other peaceful rural area of Punjab. But their location in a precarious position right alongside the Working Boundary brings dangers for the local people. Unlike the villages in Jammu & Kashmir, which are mostly 1-5 kilometres from the LOC, the villages towards Pakistan side fall in settled areas and located in very close proximity to the border. Unfortunately, these villages are often in the line of fire and for years the locals have lived in fear of attacks from across the border.
Their fears were again realized in October when the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) launched a series of unprovoked firing attacks on them. In just one eight-day period in October, the BSF fired thousands of rounds of ammunition into these Pakistani villages killing a civilian and injuring twelve. An Individual from Chenab Rangers was also killed when he was struck by sniper fire, and two others injured. To escape the firing, the locals mostly fled to safety in other villages beyond the range of the Indian weapons, and to Sialkot. They returned to find houses, infrastructure and mosques had sustained damage, crops had been destroyed and animals killed.
When I visited the area with Pakistan Rangers, the villagers had repaired much of the damage to their homes but the signs of shelling were still apparent. I had free access to visit any of the villages, stop wherever I wanted, talk to anyone I wished, and also, to go to the Boundary itself, though not for long – snipers sit in the Indian watchtowers and, given their very close proximity, it was not a comfortable place to be. The villagers are hardworking, decent people, struggling to make a living. I found a rural community still in shock and fearful of further attacks. My first call was on a family in Charwa. On 21 October, an Indian shell struck Abida's house in the night. She showed me where it came through the roof and the make shift repairs they had made.
When the shelling started, Abida gathered her family, and after initially taking refuge in a nearby village, moved to Sialkot for a while. The schools closed for 12 days as most of the children had fled with their families and those who stayed were too frightened to go to attend. When Abida returned, she discovered damage to crops and the loss of one of her cows. The loss of one cow may not seem much to a city dweller. But one cow not only provides milk and nutrition for her family, it also contributes to the family's meagre income. Initially she was very afraid when she returned, and she still is! The fields are totally exposed to the watchful eyes of the BSF and villagers out in the open make easy targets for snipers. Abida is a resilient and articulate woman and was determined not to let these events defeat her. She and her husband have worked hard to give their children the best education possible and good opportunities in life. Abida's husband suffers a heart condition and was staying with relatives elsewhere until the family felt confident it would be peaceful enough for him to come home, leaving her to take care of the family and their crops in the meantime.
I asked Abida what could be done to help the villages deal with their situation. She said, “The Rangers are already protecting us and helping us a lot with all our problems. What more can they do? We always pray for their safety and that they are safely reunited with their families.” Other villagers echoed her sentiments, too. She shared details of their losses and worries about the drain on the family finances saying, “The people need compensation from the government for our losses. We need help.” The local MNA, Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Zahid Hamid, had visited a couple of weeks previously with a large group of local journalists to meet the villagers, and inspect the damage. While speaking with the communities and the journalists, he strongly condemned the attacks on the civilians by the BSF and their violation of international laws. He also promised compensation for the villagers' losses and directed the local administration to initiate the process. Abida, and the other villagers, I spoke with, were hopeful that this would soon eventuate. The view across the fields from the roof of her house seemed so peaceful and rather idyllic. It was hard to imagine that so close by, on the other side of these fields, lay the source of their terror. Abida's house is only a few hundred metres from the boundary and the land, on which she and the other villagers grow their crops, runs right to the line. I spotted another family repairing the roof of their house so I headed off to visit them, stopping along the way to talk to a group of young boys.
One of the pleasures of visiting villages in Pakistan is the interaction with local children. The boys were eager to find out what the strange foreigner was doing wandering around their village since it is generally off-limits to foreigners due to safety and security concerns. After their questions about where I came from and the usual Pakistan/Australia cricket ones, I asked what life was like for them when the shelling started. My all too obvious question “Were you scared?” seemed a little silly given the circumstances, but their reaction was not the boyish bravado I expected from this lively group. They freely admitted it was terrifying and that they were still afraid. Most had fled the area with their parents after the shelling started and missed a few weeks of school. They were now happy to be back in class and amongst their friends but were scared the shelling would start again.
I left them and found my way to the house I had seen from Abida's roof. I walked into a small courtyard of the house to find the owner, Asghar, and his family hard at work trying to fix a gaping hole in the roof and structural damage left by a mortar shell. On the day of the attack, Asghar had risen from his bed in the front room of his house and was walking to the mosque to attend Fajr prayers when he heard the explosion. He rushed back, to find his home had been hit by an Indian mortar shell. Six family members, including Asghar's two disabled children had been sleeping in the house but, although terrified, were unharmed. Had he not been a man of Faith, he would not have been around for me to interview – the shell had struck the exact spot where he had been sleeping. Still distressed by the experience, he told me, “Indians just kept firing. Why would they do this to us? I am a poor man and I have done nothing to hurt anyone.”
Asghar is a subsistence farmer with few resources who works hard to provide for his family. His only son is severely disabled and he relies on the help of his daughters and other family members to repair the house and work in the fields. The damage to his house and crops totalled almost PKR 90,000. This is a lot of money to Asghar and put pressure on his resources to support his family for the year ahead. He was extremely worried and was hoping that the government would provide some compensation soon to help ease the burden of his losses. I had hoped to call on the grieving family of the civilian killed in the firing but they were away in Sialkot when I reached at their house. So I went in search of others who wanted to share their stories. In Dhamala, I walked through slightly eerie, deserted laneways to meet another family, and Rukhsana, a local teacher who runs a small school for 47 children at her house. The family's house had been hit by shelling, there was still a gaping hole in the roof left by a mortar and the walls were peppered with shrapnel damage from the strike. Rukhsana talked of the trauma created by these events. She told me, “We all have nightmares as the shelling is mostly at night. The children have stopped eating because they are so distressed and scared.” She said, “Many of the children are not coming to school because they're too frightened and have missed their exams and some of the families have moved away and have not yet returned.” I asked Rukhsana if she would leave the village to live in a safer area and she replied, “This is my home, my parents are here and I will stay. This attack on us was not a surprise. It has been happening for many years and the BSF have killed our people in the fields before”.
She also told me that many people in these sectors were often still too afraid to go to their fields, leaving crops to rotten and vulnerable to damage by the wild boar that roam in this area. This has resulted in a drop in yield, and food prices in the local markets have risen as a result of the shortages this incident has created. The villagers can ill-afford these additional increases and their health suffers as a result. I felt saddened at their obvious distress. Understandably, they were afraid of further attacks from across the border and although resilient, were concerned for their future. The question all those I interviewed raised over and over again was, “Why are the BSF targeting us?” It's a question that deserves an answer. These were not the first instances on the Working Boundary or the LOC where the BSF or Indian Army has targeted civilians. It has happened many times over the years but this appeared to be a more prolonged and aggressive attack. Let me be clear here. There are no military checkposts in these villages. Yes, there are posts in areas outside of the villages but the BSF knows exactly where these are and they too were fired upon in yet another violation of the ceasefire. But deliberately firing on civilians is something else entirely. Any claim by the BSF that they were not aiming at the villages would seem rather laughable. It defies belief that there could possibly be such bad shots that they could 'accidentally' keep hitting civilian targets in so many villages, so often, and over so many days. Clearly, the civilians were the actual target. That not only breaches the ceasefire, it also breaches international humanitarian laws. This, then, seems to contradict General Bikram Singh's comment at his January 13 press conference where he stated, “Our forces respect the laws of Geneva Convention. We do act. Our forces retaliate in a professional way.” He also said that there was “zero tolerance towards human rights’ violations.” International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is a set of rules which seek, for humanitarian reasons, to limit the effects of armed conflict. It protects persons who are not, or are no longer, participating in the hostilities and restricts the means and methods of warfare. The following paragraphs are taken from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) study on Customary International Humanitarian Law. The full text can be read along with the various laws, treaties, protocols and rules on the ICRC website.
The general principles of IHL are enshrined in the Hague Convention of 1907 and the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols of 1977. But there are a series of other treaties covering specific issues, particularly in the field of weapons. In 2005 the ICRC published a major study on the extensive body of customary international humanitarian law, which is binding on all States. The central principle of distinction runs through all the law relating to the conduct of hostilities. Indiscriminate military action is prohibited. All sides in a conflict must distinguish between legitimate military targets on the one hand and civilians and civilian objects on the other. Customary International Humanitarian Law is made up of rules that come from “a general accepted practice of law” and that exist independent of treaty law. Customary International Humanitarian Law is of crucial importance in today's armed conflicts because it fills gaps left by treaty law in both international and non-international conflicts and so strengthens the protection offered to victims. While some States have not ratified important treaty law, they remain nonetheless bound by rules of customary law. There are three rules in Customary International Humanitarian Law that are relevant to the attacks on these villages. Rule 1. The Principle of Distinction between Civilians and Combatants The parties to the conflict must at all times distinguish between civilians and combatants. Attacks may only be directed against combatants. Attacks must not be directed against civilians. Rule 14. Proportionality in Attack
Launching an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated, is prohibited. Rule 15. Precautions in Attack In the conduct of military operations, constant care must be taken to spare the civilian population, civilians and civilian objects. All feasible precautions must be taken to avoid, and in any event to minimize, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects. In other words, targeting the civilians of these villages, their property, crops and animals appears to be a breach of these rules of Customary International Law. I approached the United Nations Military Observer Group in Indian and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to seek an impartial view on these incidents but they were unavailable for comment.
UNMOGIP has seven field stations on the Pakistan side of the LOC and Working Boundary, and four along the Indian side. Under UN Security Council Resolution 307 (1971), UNMOGIP's role is to monitor any development in connection with the military situation and, in particular, to investigate alleged ceasefire violations. While Pakistan always provides free access to the UNMOGIP teams to visit all forward locations on the LOC and Working Boundary to conduct investigations, progress is inhibited by India's reluctance to allow any access to UNMOGIP. Without access on the Indian side, the critical impartial incident reports, a key part of UNMOGIP's role, are not possible. So why did this happen? I was unable to interview either the Pakistani or Indian military leadership on this so to seek answers I looked to other sources including the opinions of analysts who follow the Pakistan-India relationship closely, newspaper articles on both sides, and the many opinion pieces by South Asia experts published in international and regional publications. As some sources I spoke to suggested, the villagers make a soft target when firing exchanges take place that don't go well for the BSF. It is easier to target civilians and cause more damage and harassment. Others suggested that the firing on villagers was conducted to provoke the Pakistan military into retaliation, but that did not happen. According to various reliable sources, there are strict orders on the Pakistan side not to escalate a situation. Many opinion pieces point to the elections in India for the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Indian Parliament) due in 2014, as a reason for the increased tensions and ramping up of the political rhetoric against Pakistan. It certainly appears that no opportunity is lost to denigrate and demonize Pakistan in the run-up to the election. Both the major political parties in India use Pakistan and the spectre of terrorism as an election ploy to show they will take the toughest stance. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hopes to regain power in the elections and has frequently accused the ruling Congress Party of being too soft on Pakistan. The former Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, a hardline Hindu nationalist, is the Prime Ministerial candidate for the BJP. International geo-political observers have pointed to the possibility of a BJP Government under Modi as having the potential to increase tensions with Pakistan, as he appears to have lost no opportunity to promote anti-Pakistan sentiment. The current government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, under considerable pressure in this election, has also generally taken a tough stance. However, PM Singh's willingness to proceed with the recent meetings between India and Pakistan at both government and military level seems to indicate some thaw in this approach.
But there will be many challenges and there are many who it appears do not want peaceful outcomes. A meeting between the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 2013, was almost derailed by a curious incident on 26 September 2013 at Hira Nagar and Samba in a Hindu dominated area of Jammu & Kashmir, which was blamed on militants infiltrating from Pakistan but had all the hallmarks of being staged to frame Pakistan just prior to the speeches of both Prime Ministers to the General Assembly. While the Prime Minister of Pakistan was conciliatory, speaking of the need for resolution of issues and peace and prosperity with India, and calling “for the UN to continue to remain attentive to the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and the full realization of the right to self-determination of its people,” the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, took a harsh tone towards Pakistan referring indirectly to recent events and naming Pakistan as the 'epicentre of terrorism'. He also said, “there must be a clear understanding of the fact Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and that there can never, ever, be a compromise with the unity and territorial integrity of India.” These harsh words played well politically at home in India but were met with dismay in Pakistan. It is, however, to the credit of both Prime Ministers that, following their speeches they proceeded with the meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly to discuss the issues and the resolving of political tensions including the border issues.
When researching the claims of infiltration by Pakistani militants, the apparent trigger for some cross-border firing from India, the expression 'framing' came up a number of times. Several well-informed sources pointed to various unsubstantiated infiltration incidents, including the Hira Nagar/Samba incident and the Keran 'operation' which did not stand up to investigation. Following this lead I researched reports of a number of incidents which appeared to substantiate this view. On occasions, even the Indian media has questioned their Army on the veracity of some incident reports. It appears that some incidents in Jammu & Kashmir are easier to blame on Pakistan to avoid pressure on internal dissention. Verification that framing does happen came to light in December with reports that the Indian Army had initiated court martial proceedings against a group of Indian Army personnel including two officers, for a fake encounter in Kashmir's Kupwara district with alleged 'Pakistani militants' who had supposedly infiltrated the area. The men they killed were, in fact, local villagers. The fake incident resulted in rioting which killed 135 people and left hundreds injuried. However, hopes that this prosecution was a positive sign for the future have crumbled. The Times of India has reported on 27 January 2014 that another fake encounter case at Pathribal in March 2000, has been closed and any goodwill the Indian Army had earned in Jammu & Kashmir by launching the prosecution in the Kupwara case, destroyed. The Times report states: “closure of the Pathribal case has dashed these hopes, if only because the army has been inexplicably coy about the reasons that led it to conclude that the evidence it had gathered wasn't robust enough to charge the accused. The conclusion flies in the face of the Central Bureau of Investigation's findings that the Rashtriya Rifles men had engaged in 'cold-blooded murder' of local residents, who they had described as foreign militants responsible for the killing of 35 Sikhs in Chattisingpora just hours before US President Bill Clinton began his visit to India.” The Times piece also indicated that in the past the newspaper had urged the Indian Army to take similar steps regarding prosecution of other cases of fake encounters to win hearts and minds.
Sources also pointed out that not only is the border patrolled by many thousands of Indian troops and the BSF, there is another barrier which makes the claims of infiltration often quite spurious. There is now a heavily patrolled fence just inside the Indian side of the border stretching many hundred kilometres. It consists of a double-row of concertina wire eight to twelve feet in height, concrete walls in places, and watchtowers. The fence is electrified, connected to a network of motion sensors, thermal imaging devices, lighting systems and alarms. It is such a scar across the environment that it can be seen from space. In stunning photographs taken by the NASA International Space Station Expedition-28 crew on 21 August 2011 as it tracked over India and Pakistan at night, the fence can be clearly seen, glowing like a bright orange snake weaving its way between the two countries into the Himalayas. Slipping unnoticed across this formidable barrier would be extremely challenging. However, the unsubstantiated infiltration claims persist and are frequently used as an excuse to launch attacks on Pakistani villages.
There are no easy solutions for either side to these long-running and complex issues and even after the Indian election, these incidents are likely to continue regardless of who is in power. So, for now, the people on the LOC and Working Boundary live in a state of both hope and uncertainty. Nobody should make the mistake of thinking that because the civilian casualties in these cross-border incidents have been small in a country that has suffered so much tragedy and terrible loss through terrorism and conflict, it doesn't matter. It does. But little is known about their situation and few other than the military, who themselves are all too familiar with loss, seem to have taken note of their plight, so their voices are rarely heard. We must not forget that these villagers too are on the frontline and are among the most affected by what happens. There recent increased and positive level of engagement between the two governments and militaries has promised much towards a more stable, prosperous and peaceful future for both countries. Continuing the dialogue and the flag meetings regularly, and with a calm approach particularly when infractions have occurred, will be important to the peace process. For millions of people in both countries, and particularly the thousands of civilians living along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary, like Abida, Asghar and Rukhsana and their families, peace is an imperative.