Indo-Russian relations are deep rooted with huge transfer of Russian technology for its economic development in earlier stages of development, leading strong economic and diplomatic relations since the onset of Cold War and after that. The economic growth and financial clout India has achieved owes much to Soviet assistance in state sector. Now Indian search for western nations for the purchase of technology and terror equipments has upset Moscow which has long stopped free support and arms to third world of which India benefited the most.
Currently, Russian sells costly Nuclear plants and military equipments including nuclear submarines and more orders have been placed by New Delhi for further purchases.
An unprecedented scandal broke out between Russia and India with Moscow suspecting that New Delhi granted US Navy representatives access to the Russian nuclear submarine of Project 971i, operated by the Indian Navy since 2011. According to reports, the incident threatens to seriously complicate negotiations both on the lease of the second nuclear submarine, and on other projects in the field of military-technical cooperation between the two countries.
In pursuing its own national interest and being under the severe economic sanctions by the Western powers for its retaking of Crimea form Ukriane, Russia does not take a stand on Indo-China tensions. After the military standoff between Chinese and Indian troops began near the Doklam plateau in June, Russia had been silent on the matter. Granted, Moscow had made few public comments about the border tensions. But so, too, had America and the EU, both of which knew that siding with one party would anger the other. However, Moscow felt that the dispute is rather balanced between China and India’s interests. The standoff eventually dissipated in August when the two nations agreed to withdraw their troops.
The Russian government, under tremendous pressure from New Delhi had tried to bring together the Indian and Chinese defense ministers for a meeting in Moscow. Beijing, however, reportedly did not show any interest in the matter. This was because India had angered China by hosting the Dalai Lama in Arunachal Pradesh, an Indian state that borders China’s “autonomous” region of Tibet. Maybe, it was an indication of Beijing’s distrust of Moscow’s real motives.
Like USA with its Asia pivot, Moscow also wants a more assertive India to counterbalance China’s growing hegemony in Asia.
India is keen to enlist the support of both USA and Russia for its efforts for ascension to having a permanent seat in a “reformed” UN Security Council, but India could not succeed as China officially opposed it. Similarly, India’s bid to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a coalition of 48 nuclear supplier countries that control the export of nuclear equipment and technology, also failed as China raised serious objections as India refuses to sign the relevant treaty in force, not yet a signatory to the Non-Nuclear-Proliferation Treaty.
Russia sponsored India “mainly to constrain China’s growing influence in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a Eurasian security and economic bloc. Russia is concerned the post-Soviet SCO members like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan “are drifting too far into China’s geostrategic orbit.
There have been serious concerns within Moscow and New Delhi that the other party is gravitating towards their adversaries. Russia knows India wants to form closer ties to the USA and European nations. India took part in talks with Japan, America and Australia over reforming the disbanded Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, an ostensible counter-China pact that seeks to curb Beijing’s expansionism in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean.
In June, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Moscow where Putin decorated him with the Order of St Andrew, Russia’s highest state award. Xi has visited Moscow more often than any other capital since coming to power in 2012, China’s warships engaged in the first-ever joint war games with the Russian fleet in the Baltic Sea. Russia and China “wanted to send a message to America and to audiences at home: we are united in opposing the West’s domination, and we are not afraid to show off our muscle in NATO’s backyard.”
Though it made some success in coercing USA to criticize Islamabad as the key sponsor of terrorism, New Delhi is indeed concerned about Russia’s relations with Pakistan, India’s long-time foe, which have been improving since the early 2000s. India is keen on strengthening the trilateral annual Russia-India-China (RIC) meetings to influence both the economic and technological powers but others are not much interested.
Russia, under Putin, has tried to defy a supposed unipolar global order led by America and, today, a united Europe overseen by the EU. Now, it appears, Russia is balking against a possible uni-polar Asia and Eurasia dominated by China. Supporting India, then, becomes a way for Russia to achieve this. But Western sanctions on Russia have meant it has had to move closer to China, further complicating its role as an intermediary between India and China.
Several sources in Russian state structures have confirmed that with the newspaper saying that the Indian partners have recently committed several “unfriendly acts towards Russia.” First, according to them, the US Navy delegation visited the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya (property of the Indian Navy) and Russian officials were forced to issue a note of protest. After some time, according to a high-ranking military source, the American delegation was already on board the Chakra.
The Kommersant’s source working in the military technical cooperation system, called the fact that the US Navy appeared on a Russian submarine (located on the base near Vishakhapatnam, pending repairs) outrageous. “There were well-trained technical specialists, though unlikely to get any real information,” the source said.
According to the newspaper, this whole string of incidents can have a very adverse impact on defense cooperation between the two countries, which has been successfully developing over the past five years. According to several sources, specialized Russian structures are preparing retaliatory measures against their Indian partners. “Very difficult conversations are on the horizon, we have a lot of questions,” a source said. Some who spoke to Kommersant believe that, in particular, the negotiations on leasing the second nuclear submarine, which the Indian Navy planned to obtain from Russia, will be seriously complicated.
According to Kommersant, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who intends to come to India in December with one of the largest deals on Russian arms, will have to iron out the problems that have accumulated. In addition to the Chakra issue, he must negotiate the creation of a fifth-generation fighter under an agreement which was signed back in 2007, but neither the airplane’s conception nor its financial parameters have been determined yet.
Perspectives of Indo-Russian relations
During the Cold War, India and the Soviet Union (USSR) enjoyed a strong strategic, military, economic and diplomatic relationship. After the collapse of the USSR, Russia inherited the close relationship with India, even as India improved its relations with the West after the end of the Cold War.
Traditionally, the Indo-Russian strategic partnership has been built on five major components: politics, defence, civil nuclear energy, anti-terrorism co-operation and space. These five major components were highlighted in a speech given by former Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai in Russia. However, in recent years a sixth component, economic, has grown in importance with both countries setting a target for US$30 billion in bilateral trade by 2025. In order to facilitate this target both countries are looking to develop a free trade agreement. Bilateral trade between both countries in 2012 grew by over 24%.
The powerful IRIGC is the main body that conducts affairs at the governmental level between both countries. Both countries are members of many international bodies where they jointly collaborate closely on matters of shared national interest. Important examples include the UN, BRICS, G20 and SCO Russia has stated publicly that it supports India receiving a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. In addition, Russia has expressed interest in joining SAARC with observer status in which India is a founding member.
India is the second largest market for the Russian defence industry. In 2004, more than 70% of the Indian Military’s hardware came from Russia, making Russia the chief supplier of defence equipment. India has an embassy in Moscow and two consulates-general (in Saint Petersburg and Vladivostok). Russia has an embassy in New Delhi and four consulates-general (in Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai).
According to a 2014 BBC World Service Poll, 45% of Russians view India positively, with only 9% expressing a negative view
A cordial relationship with India that began in the 1950s represented the most successful of the Soviet attempts to foster closer relations with Third World countries. The relationship began with a visit by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to the Soviet Union in June 1955 and Khrushchev’s return trip to India in the fall of 1955. While in India, Khrushchev announced that the Soviet Union supported Indian sovereignty over the disputed territory of the Kashmir region and over Portuguese coastal enclaves such as Goa
The Soviet Union gave India substantial economic and military assistance during the Khrushchev period, and by 1960 India had received more Soviet assistance than China had. This disparity became another point of contention in Sino-Soviet relations. In 1962 the Soviet Union agreed to transfer technology to co-produce the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 jet fighter in India, which the Soviet Union had earlier denied to China
In 1965 the Soviet Union served successfully as peace broker between India and Pakistan after an Indian-Pakistani border war. In 1971 the former East Pakistan region initiated an effort to secede from its political union with West Pakistan. India supported the secession and, as a guarantee against possible Chinese entrance into the conflict on the side of West Pakistan, it signed with the Soviet Union the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in August 1971. In December, India entered the conflict and ensured the victory of the secessionists and the establishment of the new state of Bangladesh.
Relations between the Soviet Union and India did not suffer much during the rightist Janata Party’s coalition government in the late 1970s, although India did move to establish better economic and military relations with Western countries. To counter these efforts by India to diversify its relations, the Soviet Union proffered additional weaponry and economic assistance.
The first major political initiative, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, between India and Russia began with the Strategic Partnership signed between the two countries in 2000.
Both countries closely collaborate on matters of shared national interest these include at the UN, BRICS, G20 and SCO where India has observer status and has been asked by Russia to become a full member. Russia also strongly supports India receiving a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. In addition, Russia has vocally backed India joining the NSG and APEC. Moreover, it has also expressed interest in joining SAARC with observer status in which India is a founding member.
Russia currently is one of only two countries in the world (the other being Japan) that has a mechanism for annual ministerial-level defence reviews with India.
The Soviet Union has been an important supplier of defence equipment for several decades. Russia 68%, USA 14% and Israel 7.2% are the major arms suppliers to India (2012-2016), and India and Russia have deepened their Make in India defence manufacturing cooperation by signing agreements for the construction of naval frigates, KA-226T twin-engine utility helicopters (joint venture (JV) to make 60 in Russia and 140 in India), Brahmos cruise missile (JV with 50.5% India and 49.5% Russia) (Dec 2017 update). In December 1988, an India–Russia co-operation agreement was signed, which resulted in the sale of a multitude of defence equipment to India Now,
The co-operation is not limited to a buyer-seller relationship but includes joint research and development, training, service to service contacts, including joint exercises. In 2012, both countries signed a defence deal worth $2.9 billion during President Putin’s visit to India for the 42 new Sukhois to be produced under licence by defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics, which will add to the 230 Sukhois earlier contracted from Russia. Overall, the price tag for the 272 Sukhois – three of the over 170 inducted till now have crashed – stands at over $12 billion.
Bilateral trade between both countries is concentrated in key value chain sectors. These sectors include highly diversified segments such as machinery, electronics, aerospace, automobile, commercial shipping, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, fertilisers, apparels, precious stones, industrial metals, petroleum products, coal, high-end tea and coffee products. Bilateral trade in 2002 stood at $1.5 billion and increased by over 7 times to $11 billion in 2012 and with both governments setting a bilateral trade target of $30 billion by 2025.
Russia has stated it will co-operate with India on its “Make in India” initiative by engagement in the development of “Smart Cites”, the DMIC, the aerospace sector, the commercial nuclear sector and enhancement in manufacturing of Russian military products through co-development and co-production over $100 billion
On 7 November 2009, India signed a new nuclear deal with Russia apart from the deals that were agreed upon by the two countries earlier.India and Russia are in discussion for construction of two more nuclear power units at Kudankulam. Russia has agreed to build more than 20 nuclear reactors over the next 20 years. Running until 2030, sixteen to eighteen new reactors will be constructed, with installed capacity of 1,000 MWeach. A 1,000 MW reactor costs around $2.5 billion so the deal may touch $45 billion in worth
India is currently the world’s largest cutting & polishing centre for diamonds. Both countries have agreed to streamline their bilateral trade in diamonds through reductions in regulations and tariffs. Indian oil companies have invested in the Russia’s oil sector a notable example is ONGC-Videsh which has invested over $8 billion with major stakes in oil fields such Sakhalin-1.. Both countries have discussed how to increase co-operation between their countries respective IT industries. Historically, there has been a long history of cooperation between the Soviet Union and India in space. Examples include Aryabhata it was India’s first satellite, named after an Indian astronomer of the same name. It was launched by the Soviet Union on 19 April 1975.
The ongoing collaboration in the field of science & technology, under the Integrated Long-Term Programme of Co-operation (ILTP) is the largest co-operation programme in this sphere for both India and Russia.. The North–South Transport Corridor is the ship, rail, and road route for moving freight between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia. The route primarily involves moving freight from India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia via ship, rail and road. The objective of the corridor is to increase trade connectivity between major cities such as Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku, Bandar Abbas, Astrakhan, Bandar Anzali etc.
On international terrorism, India and Russia agree that there is no justification for terrorism- both state and non-state ones. Russia and India are going to hold a joint war game in October in Russia’s far east, close to China. Russia and India have held annual Indra exercises since 2003, but what is different this time is that it’s the first ever combined force drill. As the standoff between China and India goes on in the Doklam area and neither country shows intention to back down, Russia seems to not only hedge its bets on both sides, but also benefit from the tensions. Russia has been constantly enhancing diplomatic relations and military cooperation with China recently. In early May, during the Belt and Road Forum held in Beijing, China and Russia agreed to maintain a high level comprehensive strategic partnership and to reinforce all-round cooperation.
Other than the mega military exercises, India is going to purchase Russian weapons worth $10 billion and the negotiation has come to the final stage after the meeting mentioned above. The weapons projects include the purchase of S-400 air defense systems, the acquisition of four Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates and the acquisition of 200 Kamov 226T light utility helicopters, or LUH
Officials from both countries have discussed how to increase co-operation between their countries respective IT industries with possible joint projects in the field and closer contacts between Russian and Indian companies. The development of IT products and software has traditionally been a strong point of India. We welcome
Due to India simplifying recent visa rule changes for Russians travelling to India, the number of tourists increased by over 22%.In 2011 the Indian consulates in Moscow, Vladivostok and St. Petersburg issued 160,000 visas, an increase of over 50% compared to 2010.
Russian imports from India amounted to $3.1 billion or 1% of its overall imports, and 0.7% of India’s overall exports in 2014. The 10 major commodities exported from India to Russia were:
Due to India simplifying recent visa rule changes for Russians travelling to India, the number of tourists increased by over 22%.In 2011 the Indian consulates in Moscow, Vladivostok and St. Petersburg issued 160,000 visas, an increase of over 50% compared to 2010.
Russian imports from India amounted to $3.1 billion or 1% of its overall imports, and 0.7% of India’s overall exports in 2014. The 10 major commodities exported from India to Russia were
Both governments have long viewed their bilateral trade well below its optimal potential, with the only long term way of rectifying this through having a Free trade agreement (FTA). It is predicted once an FTA is in place bilateral trade will increase manifold, thereby significantly increasing the importance of economics in bilateral ties.
“…India-Russia relationship is one of deep friendship and mutual confidence that would not be affected by transient political trends. Russia has been a pillar of strength at difficult moments in India’s history. India will always reciprocate this support. Russia is and will remain our most important defense partner and a key partner for our energy security, both on nuclear energy and hydrocarbons.” -— Former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, about relations with Russia.
Chinese engineer’s disappearance takes on geopolitical significance
Thirty-six-year-old Chinese engineer Pingzhi Liu went missing almost a month ago. It took Pakistani authorities three weeks to classify Mr. Liu’s disappearance as a likely kidnapping that could have significant political and economic consequences.
Identifying the mysterious disappearance as a kidnapping is not only embarrassing because Mr. Liu was one of thousands of Chinese nationals working in Pakistan that are guarded by a specially created 15,000-man Pakistani military unit.
It is also awkward because it coincides with apparent Chinese questioning of aspects of the $56-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a crown jewel of China’s Belt and Road initiative, and increasingly strained relations between Pakistan and the United States.
Mr. Liu was accorded military protection even though his project, the Karot Hydropower Plant, located near the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, is not part of CPEC. Karot was the first project financed by China’s state-owned $40 billion Silk Road Fund, established in 2014 by President Xi Jinping to foster increased investment in Eurasia.
Mr. Liu went missing on December 20 while on night duty. He was last seen walking out of a tunnel at around 3.30am while talking on his phone. No claim for his potential kidnapping or ransom has been made.
The fact that Mr. Liu was working on a project in Punjab rather than Balochistan, a troubled region with a history of attacks on Chinese personnel, has set alarm bells off.
China last month warned its nationals in Pakistan, a country plagued by religious and ethnic militancy, of plans for a series of imminent terrorist attacks on Chinese targets
“It is understood that terrorists plan in the near term to launch a series of attacks against Chinese organisations and personnel in Pakistan,” the Chinese embassy in Pakistan said in a statement on its website.
The embassy warned all “Chinese-invested organisations and Chinese citizens to increase security awareness, strengthen internal precautions, reduce trips outside as much as possible, and avoid crowded public spaces”.
Police have twice detained for interrogation Chinese and Pakistani workers associated with the Karot project. They are also introducing security and vetting measures for Pakistani nationals working with Chinese personnel.
If proven to be a kidnapping, Mr. Liu’s disappearance could not have come at a more awkward moment. China has signalled that it is considering freezing further CPEC-related investment until the country’s domestic situation stabilizes. China is believed to have so far invested $29 billion of the $56 billion committed.
“Political events in Pakistan have sent China in a watchful mood… I am concerned if we continue to throw surprises to the outside world, then anyone can be forced to rethink their economic investments,” Pakistan’s chief CPEC negotiator, Ahsan Iqbal, told Pakistani daily The News.
China had earlier decided to redevelop criteria for the funding of CPEC-related infrastructure projects in an apparent effort to enhance the Pakistani military’s stake in the country’s economy at a time that the armed forces are flexing their political muscle.
The Chinese decision that reportedly led to the suspension of funding for three major road projects valued at a total of $850 million – the upgrading of the Dera Ismail Khan-Zhob motorway and the Karakorum highway as well as construction of a 110-kilometre road linking Khuzdar and Basima – suggested that Beijing was not averse to exploiting its massive investment in the Belt and Road to shape the political environment in key countries in its authoritarian mould.
The possible investment freeze threw into doubt China’s reliability as Pakistan’s all-weather friend at the very moment that the Trump administration announced that it was cutting almost all security aid to Pakistan, believed to total more than $1 billion, until it deals with militant networks operating on its soil.
Pakistan, in response and in advance of a visit by a United Nations Security Council team to evaluate Pakistani compliance with its resolutions, has sought to crack down on the fundraising and political activities of Muhammad Hafez Saeed, an internationally designated terrorist accused of having masterminded the 2008 attacks in Mumbai.
Pakistan’s predicament could worsen if Mr. Trump, who has targeted Pakistan in blunt tweets in the past month, decides to tighten the screws beyond cutting aid by taking further punitive action such as sanctioning Pakistani military officials, revoking Pakistan’s non-NATO ally status; increasing drone strikes beyond Pakistan’s tribal areas; designating Pakistan as a state sponsor of terror, and/or pressuring international financial institutions to blacklist Pakistan.
The sensitivity of the timing of Mr. Liu’s disappearance was heightened by the fact that some in Pakistan appear to doubt whether CPEC will be the magic wand for Pakistan’s economy and regional geopolitical position that Pakistani and Chinese leaders make it out to be.
Criticism of CPEC has focused on doubts about the financial viability of various projects, Pakistan’s ability to repay related debts, a lack of transparency, and assertions that Chinese nationals were usurping Pakistani jobs.
In a rare challenging of Chinese commercial terms Pakistan recently withdrew from a Chinese-funded dam-building project.
Pakistani Water and Power Development Authority chairman Muzammil Hussain charged that “Chinese conditions for financing the Diamer-Bhasha Dam were not doable and against our interests.” China and Pakistan were also at odds over ownership of the $14 billion, 4,500 megawatts (MW)-hydropower project on the Indus River in the country’s problematic region of Gilgit-Baltistan near disputed Kashmir.
Earlier, a State Bank of Pakistan study concluded that exports of marble to China, Pakistan’s foremost rough-hewn, freshly-excavated marble export market, and the re-export to Pakistan of Pakistani semi-processed marble was “hurting Pakistan’s marble industry to a significant extent.”
A report by the Pakistani Senate, that has repeatedly criticized CPEC’s lack of transparency and Chinese commercial policies, concluded that China would for the next four decades get 91 percent of the revenues generated by the port of Gwadar.
The vanishing of Mr. Liu, if proven to be a criminally or politically motivated kidnapping, threatens in the current environment to put Pakistan between a rock and a hard place. Its relationship with its traditional ally, the United States, is on the rocks while its ties to China are proving to be more complex than Pakistani leaders had envisioned.
Amid domestic political instability, anti-government protests, and pressure to come clean in its getting a grip on militancy, Pakistani democracy may be saddled with the bill.
While neither the United States nor China can afford a complete rupture, neither has a clear strategy to help Pakistan stabilize. China’s solution appears to be tacitly supporting a greater role of the military in Pakistani politics – a formula that has in the past failed to produce results and is more part of the problem than part of the solution.
India-Pakistan ties: Are there any realistic possibilities of reviving engagement?
Two interesting developments have taken place in recent weeks. Firstly, a report submitted by standing committee on External Affairs recommended the resumption of engagement between both countries, without allowing spoilers to dictate the bilateral relationship between both countries. While unequivocally stating that engagement between two neighbors can not be suspended indefinitely, the report also advocated an incremental approach towards the resumption of engagement.
Said the report:
‘The committee would recommend an incremental approach to such a resumption of the dialogue process by starting with less contentious issues.’
While broadly concurring with the recommendations of the Standing Committee, the Indian government stated that the quest for peace and resolution of outstanding issues was only possible in an ‘environment free from terror, hostility and violence”
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti whosePeople’s Democratic Party PDP, which currently is in power in Kashmir, is part of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata party) led NDA (National Democratic Alliance) also spoke in favour of resuming dialogue with Pakistan. While addressing a gathering at the mausoleum of her father,and former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, the Jammu and Kashmir CM stated:
“Resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan is the only way forward to end the bloodshed in Kashmir.”
While addressing the State Assembly on January 10, 2018 Mufti again batted in favour of dialogue between both countries:
“Resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan is the only way forward to end the bloodshed in Kashmir,” she said.
It is highly unlikely, that any significant moves are likely to be made towards resuming engagement between both countries. Pakistan will go into election mode very soon, and even otherwise the current civilian government led by ShahidKhaqanAbbasi is not really in control. Post the elections of 2018, a PML-N Government led by Shahbaz Sharif, may be in a better position to reach out to India.
On the Indian side, PM Modi has numerous domestic challenges, and given the current narrative and atmosphere, it is highly unlikely that he will resume engagement with Pakistan. Before the Parliamentary elections of May 2019, there are a number of state elections, where national security issues may not be the decisive factor but they do matter. One of the states which goes to elections in December 2018 interestingly is Rajasthan — a state which shares borders with Pakistan.
Both sides, India and Pakistan, would do well to pay heed to the recommendation of the Standing Committee about adopting an incremental approach towards engagement. Former PM, Dr. Manmohan Singh who has been criticized on more than one occasion for being weak and soft on Pakistan, may not have been great at symbolism, like his successor, yet he never completely shut the doors of engagement, and adopted an incremental approach. While a lot has been written and said about how Dr. Singh and Musharraf were close to reaching a settlement on contentious issues including Kashmir. It would be pertinent to point out, that the period between 2011-2014 was successful in terms of economic engagement. This period witnessed a number of interactions between high level officials from both sides, upgradation of the border infrastructure at Attari (an Integrated Check Post was set up with an eye on giving a fillip to bilateral trade between both countries) and a rise in bilateral trade.
Then President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, during his meeting with former Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh in New Delhi in April 2012, spoke about the dire need for both countries to de-hyphenate economics from politics, and follow an approach similar to that of India and China. Zardari reiterated the point, that while New Delhi and Beijing, have numerous political differences, these differences have not come in the way of economic linkages between both countries. Here it would be important to point out, that post the Doklamstand off in 2017, there were signals of economic relations between both countries suffering with India imposing restrictions on the important of Chinese goods such as tyres, tempered glass and toys.
If both countries are to revive engagement, and ensure that it is successful. It is important, to focus less on personal chemistry, and more on concrete issues ,and identify specific areas of economic cooperation as well as people to people linkages, which are doable.
Second, there can not be a blow hot, blow cold approach. Personal visits by leaders, and meetings between senior government officials should be avoided. Excessive media attention and hype ensure that such efforts fail. Instead, it is better that engagement between junior officials is encouraged.
Third, engagement at the sub-national level is important. In the past, the two Punjabs have played a positive role in improving ties between both countries. Efforts should be made to rekindle economic and cultural linkages between both provinces. While currently, the situation may not be conducive, post the elections of 2018 it may not be a bad idea for the Chief Ministers of both the Punjab’s to explore possible linkages. The Chief Minister of Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh (India) had also mooted the idea of selling surplus power to Pakistan. While the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi did give approval to this idea, it could not go ahead because of tensions between both countries. Interestingly in November 2017, Shahbaz Sharif, CM of Punjab (Pakistan) in a letter to Captain Amarinder Singh had also proposed that both sides jointly combat the issue of smog and pollution. In the letter Sharif wrote:
‘I would like to invite you for entering into a regional cooperation arrangement to tackle the issue of smog as well as environmental pollution. Let us join hands for securing a prosperous future for the people of our two provinces’.
It is thus important for the Central government to seek inputs from Chief Ministers of all border-states (Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Rajasthan) and accordingly explore possibilities of common ground.
In conclusion, it is important that engagement between both countries is not held hostage to the desires of certain hostile elements, though off course it is equally important that Pakistan genuinely reigns in on terror groups targeting India. On the Indian side, the government needs to strike a balance between ground realities, while not being bogged down excessively by the shrill ultra nationalist propaganda of the electronic media. It is also important, to continuously think outside the box and keep all important stakeholders on board, for ensuring that all doors of engagement are not shut.
Trump’s Dilemma: Pakistan’s Improved Narrative is Imperative
The uneasy Pak-US ties since Donald Trump’s new Afghan Policy (21st August, 2017) suffered a new year set back when on Monday Trump accused Islamabad as a ‘Liar’. This is really not the first time Pakistan has been accused or blamed; subsequently 9/11 all we got as a nation to our unyielding efforts against terrorism were the exhortations to ‘do more’.In his first tweet of the year on Monday 3rd January, Trump bullied to cut aid to Pakistan for purportedly deceiving the US and offering “little help” in its chase for ‘terrorists’ in Afghanistan. He also stated thatthe US has ‘foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over last 15 years’.
Notwithstanding, Islamabad and Washington walked a diplomatic tight rope for a couple of months which might put the relationship to a collision course but misconceptions merit clarifications.There is an ineluctable need for the twitter obsessed US president to recall that the US funds allocated to Pakistan, an impressive bit goes to the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), which is the reimbursement for costs incurred by Pakistan for participating in the US-led ‘Global War on Terror’ and supporting US operations in Afghanistan. Likewise, Pakistan also has sustained unbearable human and financial losses in the said war and has always desired sustainable peace and peace talks in Afghanistan for an avowed ‘Enduring Freedom’ of the people of Afghanistan.
The escalated war of words followed by the latest stresses in the bilateral relationship between the two countries has not come as a surprise. Since August the US has been trying to put Islamabad undersqueeze on the ‘Haqqanis’ and the ‘safe havens’ for the ‘agents of chaos’.
Now the very question that arises here is that as Trump pledged to change the nature of relationship between the US and Pakistan, what would be that probable course of change?
One hardly requires a crystal ball to extrapolate it, for Islamabad would be pressed harder with cuts in the financial aids leading to sanctions or embargoes. This is the height of incongruity on the part of the US,where once there were initiatives such as the Kerry-Lugar civilian-focused aid and endeavors to spur regional trade and productivity primarily because of Pakistan’s durable role in the US led ‘War on Terror’,now there is slight more than wrangling over bills and military equipment.
Moreover, Trump administration this time wants India to perform major duties on its behalf. For instance the ‘greater’ Indian role defined in Trump’s Afghan policy has been translated into a ‘leading global power and stronger strategic and defense partner’ to the US in the National Security Strategy Trump administration avowed last month. This could encourage India to boast its military might because of the acknowledgment incentive from a super power. Again this is no less than an irony that the US demands a more robust defense and strategic partnership from a nation notorious for its atrocities and abuse of human rights chiefly in Kashmir valley. Likewise, the US is also aware of the fact that welcoming India as a ‘leading Global power’ is an assured recipe for Pakistan-India proxy wars in region in general and on Afghan soil in particular.
Nevertheless there is also no denying of the fact that amidst Pakistan, the civil-military dynamics has largely and clearly affected the trajectory of Pak-US relations and steered it in the direction of being wholly security based. A part of blame must surely lie with the civilians and the present PML-N in particular.
Trump and his administration must acknowledge the sacrifices Pakistan has made so far and should also stop bullying like a head master disciplining his students, for this is certainly not the diplomatic way to deal with the allies. US needs to admit the fact that without Pakistan’s support peace could never be achieved in the region. And this time to earn Pakistan’s support the US ought to put a halt on the dual standards it is pursuing in the region. Thus seeking greater Indian role by keeping a blind eye on the decades long Kashmir issue, cross border and the state sponsored terrorism by India will certainly not fetch regional security that US often harps on about.
To conclude it is only Pakistan-US cooperation in fighting terrorism that served the US national security interests as well as the larger interests of the international community.
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