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Pakistan’s Case of Diplomacy and Glacier Conks

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Roedad Khan, quoting him as a metaphor for any Pakistani, has burnt himself out, at least proverbially. His passion remains stuck with stark disappointments as he yearns to see our ‘Quaid’s’(founding father) dreams as achieved.

Several icons from our civil society including journalists would soon be hunch-backs under the heap of scandals they expose about massive corruption, nepotism and state conspiracies, to the verge of proving the gluttons committing acts of treason. However, our federal top guns remain soaked in their unholy hobbies on the trajectory of their ill founded domains. Instead of fishing for clues for recovery from public opinion through the media, their genius is consumed by the devices to go more lethal and ambitious in wicked pursuits. In the mean time, our judiciary has been inundated with the burden of their responsibility to often act unilaterally but brilliantly when state’s institutions’ functional credibility is not characterized by their service to the people but by self-glorifying their misdeeds. Where such comparison is within the ‘corrupts’ in competition, the magnitude and tainted colossus of these monsters become immeasurable. It would be absolutely fair to exclude Army from this ominous bracket.

Federation functionaries have the tongue in their cheeks to clamor that democracy is threatened in Pakistan. Wikileaks has thoroughly exposed them as if they are hanging by a cliff and seeking rescue from the external collaborators. The dramatic irony in the whole issue is that the ‘cliff’ is their own making to provoke sympathies among our allies of war on terror. Pakistani coalition government, thoroughly vulnerable to blackmail by its own constituent allies, has devised a nefarious strategy to gobble up themselves and extend absolute impunity to their accomplices. They, amidst the volleys of mutual barbs, cling to each other because they are desperately in the need of a continuing empire to mop up their sins.

Once this humbug goes on, our foreign policy brains have been lax wittingly and unobtrusively from the public eyes on several crucial issues of international relations, which crystallize through the conduct of diplomacy, ‘as a policy instrument possibly in association with other instruments such as economic or military force to enable an international actor to achieve its objectives’ (Baylis & Smith). Thanks to globalization, we are not only an international actor but the geo-strategic location endows us with tremendous significance. If the diplomacy wizards do recognize our inherent vitality which is doubtful, one thing is sure that their recognition has not been supplemented with adequate exterior maneuvers. Our stance is mercurial and not commensurate to the challenges. We tend to buckle under the weight of national and international issues to keep ourselves well aligned to the wishes of external factors which push us to the pitfall of erroneous decisions when our indigenous failings are in no dearth.

Our government attempts to project its weight by ridiculing other pillar(s) of state despite knowing that our deeds or misdeeds are picked up by international community faster than we do, being cast in a crystal. When Army asserted that we would defend our borders employing all means available, certainly it was aimed at India with whom there have been three wars since independence in 1947. However it was not meant to negate the spirit of diplomacy and freedom of dialogues option with our eastern rival. Rather it meant reinforcing the dialogue diplomacy with military support in tandem to lend our negotiations a position of advantage. None else than our ruling party spokesperson spew out a firm denial that these were not the government views, at colossal detriment to the conduct of successful diplomacy.

Mr. Asif Ali Zardari calling Kashmiri freedom fighters as terrorists from as responsible a platform as that of ‘President’ and offering withdrawal from Siachin Glacier in 2008 and 2010 respectively, made our adversary’s stance more stubborn. Did he know the extent of damage he inflict to our foreign policy, strategic implications for India and advantages that accrue to Pakistan when we keep the bull locked by the horns in Siachin with perhaps much lesser comparative, though considerable, cost in men and material? His statements were not only antithesis to the basics of the diplomacy dynamics but also of our valiant men’s and officers’ sacrifices, literally crouching like Dr. Iqbal’s (Poet of the East) legendary ‘shaheens’ (eagles), gasping for each breath, yet resolutely  perched on the rocks above 20,000 feet. On the contrary, India has not budged an inch from its reticence beyond fascinating colloquialism occasionally over Kashmir as well as Sir Creek. Instead it has launched a well orchestrated effort to encircle and isolate Pakistan from Afghanistan, the West, Japan, Russia, China, and Middle East. Recognition of India’s role in Afghanistan by U.S., European Union and Russia is a direct set back to the conduct of our foreign policy. Already India is being accused of fomenting instability in Pakistan’s south-western province, Baluchistan and funding a segment of Taliban. Some dissident leaders’ trails by our intelligence agencies are reported to have confirmed this hypothesis. Thus when India claims it stakes for having a role in Afghanistan, it is crystal clear what she exactly means.

India played Mumbai card very shrewdly, depicting Pakistan backing and actively supporting the tragic episode once its voices even feeble, are heard loud and clear for an obvious advantage of  its much trumpeted democratic platform versus Pakistan. Murder of 93000 Kashmiris so far has not been able to move the world conscience that seems to be pushed by commercialism more than philosophy of pursuing peace. For the major powers, India is a prolific trade partner and worth billions dollar arms market as well. On our side is a dark picture. Pakistan run by a dictator for nine long years from 1999-2008 has been ravaged beyond repairs. Wikileaks disclosure about Israeli leadership’s continuing concern for President Musharraf’s safety and well being explains the entire myth of his millions dollar bonanza; he is now reaping under the guise of ‘enlightening’ lectures in the West. During his rule, his meetings with Israeli top functionaries are no secrets. The only country declared off limits by Pakistani passport, unfortunately, is Israel. The printed warning it carries ‘this passport is valid for all the countries of the world except Israel’ had obligated him by implication to  refrain from such honey-mooning but flouting the norms and ethics had been his favorite slushy slippery ground that he has yet to answer when cold hands of justice would reach him. Not only toppling but throwing a democratically elected Prime Minister, Mr. Mian Nawaz Sharif and the bonafide Chief of Army Staff, Gen Khwaja Zia-ud-Din into black dungeon are the major charges against him, among dozens of other allegations of heinous crimes, he is not likely to wade through clean. How one would have expected such a con man to have stood for national interests? Unfortunately the successor government is also incapable and bent upon adding insult to the injury. Amidst lurking disenchantment of the masses, Pakistan failed to cash upon the vital evidence emanating from Indian sources about setting ‘Samjhauta Express’ ablaze in 2007. The complicity of Indian government officials, in firebombing Pakistan bound train near Panipat (India), with the Hindu terrorists is undeniable. Charred bodies of sixty eight Pakistanis were pulled out and fifty two were injured, most of them critically.

Analysts in India also remembered the moments of the tragedy that preceded it by five years in 2002 at Godhra railway station in Gujarat (India). No evidence could prove that fire attack was preplanned by Muslims when fifty Hindus were killed. One thing is sure that the magnitude of revenge which the majority Hindus unleashed over Muslims next morning was unprecedented. They burnt them alive and killed about 2500 of them. The state’s machinery deliberately stood by, watching the human carnage till there were ashes and stench all around. Mysterious then and later also, the candidate of extremist Hindu party, BJP, which thrives politically on the heaps of hatred towards Muslims, had clean sweep in the coming election. Many observers believe that the train massacre was stage-managed to the logical conclusion, which was consummation of BJP victory. In India such treachery, when it comes to Muslims, is never surprising. Recent comments by a senior Indian Congress leader, DigVijay Singh, likening Indian RSS and BJP hatred for Muslims to that of Nazi’s against Jews, is a stark reality and stigma, BJP carries.

Pakistanis could hope with a sense of loss from our policy wizards that these tragic events could be brought up as an effective counter-lever to parry off Mumbai scathing and consequent dent to our image among the comity of nations. While Mumbai massacre rumbles every now and then, our diplomats perhaps are not even mindful of the butchery meted out to Muslims in India, including Kashmir. Such are the short memories on our side. Absence of flurry of publicized diplomacy offensives usually means all quiet on this front to suggest that our policy pundits are gripped by inertia or inert dreams. Compromises are not welcome because we would be led to demolishing our crucial geo-political pivots. On the other hand we are clear about the hypothesis that India needs peace more than us. It does not need a genius to guess but simple arithmetic that Indian stakes in peace are much more monumental than Pakistan. Yet the reality predominates the scene for both the neighbors that peace-making is the only way through. It should be driving both sides crazy that it has remained elusive for sixty three years until now. While talking to an eastern TV channel, Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Manmohan Singh talked of responding and readjusting to global trends towards multi-polarity and managing the regional environments in Asia in a manner which enhances peace, security and overall development of our societies. He asserted that it is incumbent on all countries of the region to build cooperative partnerships. It is a paradox that in real dynamics of international relations, he appears excluding India from ‘incumbent on all countries of the region’ clause about matters relevant to Pakistan.

 

India has persisted in achieving threatening posture. She has secured a base in Tajikistan and is doing thriving business in Kazakhstan in energy sector despite presence of a very tough and competitive rival, China. Ajay Patnaik rightly boasts, “Two landmarks signified India’s changing approach. In November 2003 India agreed to renovate and upgrade the Ayni air base in Tajikistan. In August 2005 Indian state-owned company ONGC combined with Mittal Industrial Group to form ONGC Mittal Energy Limited (OMEL) to acquire energy assets in Kazakhstan”. What laurels have we achieved despite our territorial contiguity with Central Asia? Dr. Azmat Hayat Khan, Vice Chancellor, University of Peshawar, is rightly bewildered to observe that in Central Asia, India is every where. While he does not deny their privilege to be there, he maintains, Pakistan is nowhere.

Potentials of the land mass, Pakistan, as a bridge to satiate Indian energy-thirsty but booming economy remain precious bargaining chips during negotiations with India. Transit trade relaxation from Afghanistan to India and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Gas Pipe Line agreement are some hasty if not ill-thought moves that have left us empty handed when we had an alternative to flaunt Gwadar outlet for the sake of diplomacy. With our hind view about the quality of Indian diplomacy that is consistent and vibrant, at some point in time, we would again be cornered by her as in Afghanistan, and now for Siachin Glacier where India has picked up ‘environments degradation’ card to force our forces pull-out on us. It also shows how India manipulates universal trends to its advantage. Indian burgeoning defense budget and attempts to ditch our economy by choking off rivers inflow prove its relentless pursuits to strike at our survival roots. On the contrary, our foreign office apathy of not launching diplomatic blitz for effective resolution of mother-of-all disputes (Kashmir) is intriguing. Our moral ascendancy has been rendered redundant at international level when poor and reluctant campaigning has resulted in our faltered stance, with emerging impression at times that we are about to ditch Kashmir issue. President Musharraf’s claim to justify Kargil misadventure that it brought Kashmir Issue to the world focus, could not have been more repulsive and loathsome. On the other hand India successfully invaded Junagadh, Goa, Hyderabad, Kashmir and clipped off our wing to the East in 1971 to become Bangla Desh. Through effective diplomacy it has not only managed to wipe off its sins of aggression but has become a standard bearer of the largest democracy in the world. Having licked off its claws after several territorial hunts, it now purrs, a stance more lethal to secure Energy Bridge to link with Central Asia in the absence of which it’s ardently perceived global role would remain a pipe-dream. Playing to Indian tunes, we are eager to oblige without ever exploring the ramifications that would accrue for Pakistan.

 

The bottom line of the debate is not that diplomacy doors be shut off but made more responsive with cutting edge. An edge that is not reactionary but preemptive, far sighted and to engage our adversary on forward foot. Before the two sides line up nuclear armaments for a devastating conflict in the wake of deep rooted mutual frenzy, there is a need to mobilize world opinion to avert another holocaust. UN silence on this issue, despite the existence of plebiscite-supporting resolutions in its archives, is certainly lamentable. It is also reality that diplomacy in 21st Century is far more complicated particularly when convergence of national interests of the major powers is a foregone conclusion in this region. Yet our foreign policy ‘gurus’ are perhaps not putting the diplomats stationed in our embassies abroad to the optimum utilization whose performance had been traditionally dismal, some exceptions notwithstanding. They may have been led to complacency and lavish lethargy by innate greed but the irony is that no specific goals are given to them to shoulder-push our national interests to fruition. At the same time our government has to recognize that diplomacy, though largely concentrates on international issues, draws succor from state’s internal environments. If the state remains laced with corruption, nepotism and horrible governance, diplomacy limps everywhere it tries to project itself being on fragile roots.  Successive failures to plug the yawning gaps would subject us to agonizing arm-twisting by India in sync with other stake holders to squeeze more and yet more from our clattering skeleton As the word ‘Conk’ means a blow to the head, one would implore the rulers to save us from such deadly blows. Conversely ‘conk’ also means fungus growth on decaying wood. One would pray, Pakistan is not destined to such doom.

 

The writer is a defense analyst and member of WSN International Advisory Board with doctorate in International Relations, ( makni49@hotmail.com)

 

(An abridged version, of this opinion article appeared in The News International-Pakistan, 22 December 2010)

Meet Gavern Logo

Dr. Muhammad Aslam Khan is a retired Brig Gen from Pakistan Army, served 32 years. A veteran of ‘1971 Indo-Pak War’ has been instructor in officers’ Pakistan Military Academy, commanded Divisional as well as Corps Artillery. Holds first class Masters degree in International Relations and PhD degree, acquired in 2002-2007 from University of Peshawar, Pakistan. Authored a book, writes frequently in national and international media. Has attended several seminars and conferences within the country and abroad on invitation. Travelled to Switzerland (twice), UK, US, UAE, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Germany (twice). Cambodia and Thailand. Email: dr.makni49@yahoo.com

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South Asia

Afghanistan and the Quest for Democracy Promotion: Symptoms of Post-Cold War Malaise

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The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan should be the first step in a reduced American overseas force posture. Democracy promotion in the form of perpetual force deployment and endless military engagements has resoundingly failed to deliver tangible benefits for the United States. Those who celebrated in the wake of the USSR’s collapse as an unqualified vindication of liberal democracy ignored the role of strategic overextension and deteriorating domestic affairs in the latter. The unipolar U.S. moment was bound to be ephemeral, and should have been used to reevaluate and refocus strategic goals in order to ensure we avoid the same fate of our ideological counterpart.

Instead, the United States dispensed with any notions of humility and allowed democratic peace theory to continue guiding its foreign policy decision-making. Even though it is true that democracies are less likely to engage in military confrontations with one another, only hubris could have led us to believe we could universally create this sufficient condition. Afghanistan is a definitive rebuke to the notion that we can simply will the circumstances for democratic peace—on our own terms and with no compromise—into existence.

Luckily, there is still time to readjust the country’s strategic calculus and begin allocating its limited resources in a less myopic manner. Following through with withdrawal could be a starting point for a new trend of U.S. restraint. The most logical region of the world to address next would be its position in Europe. Relative European weakness at the end of World War 2 threatened the balance of power on the continent as the specter of Soviet Communism crept its way West. With Russia a shell of the Marxist empire, there is no logical reason for the United States to maintain its current outsized military presence in Europe; indeed, the EU collectively holds a GDP 11 times the size of Russia’s, has 3 ½ times the population size, and spends 4 times as much on defense.

The United States should demand that European allies adopt a share of their own defense that is more commensurate with this fact. The decision of the previous U.S. administration to remove 12,000 troops due to Germany’s inability to meet NATO spending targets was a good step. The current administration could continue to capitalize on this trend and set more targets for troop withdrawals. Withdrawal will also signal to countries that use political tension with Moscow to decrease their saber rattling. This includes Eastern European NATO members, as well as countries like Ukraine and Georgia. It must be made explicit to the latter two that they cannot engage in bellicose political brinkmanship, and then hope to simply rely on U.S. led NATO to come to their defense should the situation escalate. It may seem counterintuitive, but this may very well result in a more stable European security environment, at least in regard to its posture towards Russia.

This will also reverberate back into the European political arena, as there will be less incentive for inflating the Russian threat. Moscow acts strategically in accordance with its limited national security interests, anticipating Western responses and reactions. Clear signaling that the United States and NATO do not have the goal of encircling Russia and rendering it strategically inert will only serve to increase U.S.-Russian relations, as well as European-Russian relations. This will free up U.S. resources for more pressing national security interests such as preparing for strategic and economic competition with China. It will also decrease the incentive for closer Russian-Sino cooperation.

Ideally, this would cascade into a reevaluation of U.S. strategic postures in other regions as well, such as Southeastern Asia and the broader Middle East. The former is another area in which the United States could reduce its force presence and incentivize increased defense spending by allies. A decreased U.S. presence would also message to China that the United States does not inherently oppose Beijing as a threat. It should, however, be made explicit that aggression towards a U.S. treaty ally would be met with an asymmetric response, but that does not mean that increased tensions with China need to be the status quo. In the Middle East, large scale U.S. military withdrawal in exchange for a primarily diplomatic mission to the region could also serve to decrease one of the major sources of terrorist recruitment.

An interventionist foreign policy was perpetuated as the product of learning the wrong lessons from U.S. victory in the Cold War. A communist doctrine of proselytizing to the alienated masses with axiomatic dogmas and theological certainties failed not because of the weakness of its scripture (which would require a much different, longer article), but because its millenarian quest for world revolution led the Soviet empire to overextend itself beyond its economic means. Behind the façade of military might, the domestic population grew increasingly disillusioned and dissatisfied. Unfortunately, there are alarming parallels with the current domestic situation in the United States today.

Refusing to remain mired in Afghanistan could be an important catalyst in beginning to reevaluate U.S. foreign policy. If Washington focuses its resources on limited goals that prioritize key national security interests, it can better tend to the state of its own republican government and society. It might not be as romantic as crusading for democracy, but it could be essential in preserving the Union.

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What, in fact, is India’s stand on Kashmir?

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Women walking past Indian security forces in Srinagar, summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Nimisha Jaiswal/IRIN

At the UNGA, India’s first secretary Sneha Dubey said the entire Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh “were, are and will always be an integral and inalienable part of India. She added, “Pakistan’s attempts to internationalise the Kashmir issue have gained no traction from the international community and the Member States, who maintain that Kashmir is a bilateral matter between the two countries (Pakistan is ‘arsonist’ disguising itself as ‘fire-fighter’: India at UNGA, the Hindu September 25, 2021).

It is difficult to make head or tail of India’s stand on Kashmir. India considers the whole of the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir as its integral part. Yet, at the same time, admits it to be a bilateral matter still to be resolved between India and Pakistan.

What bars Pakistan from agitating the Kashmir dispute at international forums?

India presumes that the Simla accord debars Pakistan from “internationalizing” the Kashmir dispute. That’s not so. Avtar Singh Bhasin (India and Pakistan: Neighbours at Odd) is of the view that though Pakistan lost the war in East Pakistan, it won at Simla.

Bhasin says, `At the end, Bhutto the “dramatist” carried the day at Simla. The Agreement signed in Simla did no more than call for `respecting the Line of Control emerging from the ceasefire of 17 December 1971. As the Foreign Secretary TN Kaul [of India] said at briefing of the heads of foreign mission in New Delhi on 4 July 1972, the recognition of the new ceasefire line ended the United Nations’ Military Observers’ Group on India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) role in Kashmir, created specifically  for the supervision of the UN sponsored ceasefire line of 1949, since that line existed no more. Having said that India once again faltered for not asking the UN to withdraw its team from Kashmir, or withdrawing its own recognition to it and its privileges (Document No. 0712 in Bhasin’s India-Pakistan Relations 1947-207).

Following Simla Accord (1972), India, in frustration, stopped reporting ceasefire skirmishes to the UN. But, Pakistan has been consistently reporting all such violations to the UN. India feigns it does not recognise the UNMOGIP. But, then it provides logistic support to the UMOGIP on its side of the LOC.

India keeps harassing the UNMOGIP vehicles occasionally. Not long ago, three members of the UNMOGIP had a close call along the LoC in Azad Jammu and Kashmir after Indian troops shot at and injured two locals who were briefing them on the situation after ceasefire violations.

India even asked UNMOGIP to vacate 1/AB, Purina Lila Road, Connaught Place, from where it has been functioning since 1949.

Bhasin says (p.257-259), `The Pakistan Radio broadcasts and…commentators took special pains to highlight …the fact: (i) That India have accepted Kashmir to be a disputed territory and Pakistan a party to the dispute. (ii) That the UNSC resolutions had not been nullified and contrarily (iii) Kashmir remained the core issue between the two countries and that there could not be permanent peace without a just solution based on the principle of self-determination for the people of Kashmir. And Pakistan was right in its assessment. It lost the war won the peace. At the end India was left askance at its own wisdom’.

Obviously, if the UNSC resolutions are intact, then Pakistan has the right to raise the Kashmir dispute at international forums.

India’s shifting stands on Kashmir

At heart, the wily Jawaharlal Lal Nehru never cared a fig for the disputed state’s constituent assembly, Indian parliament or the UN. This truth is interspersed in Avtar Singh Basin’s 10-volume documentary study (2012) of India-Pakistan Relations 1947-2007.  It contains 3649 official documents, accessed from archives of India’s external-affairs ministry.  These papers gave new perspectives on Nehru’s vacillating state of perfidious mind concerning the Kashmir dispute. In his 2018 book (published after six years of his earlier work), India, Pakistan: Neighbours at Odds (Bloomsbury India, New Delhi, 2018), Bhasin discusses Nehru’s perfidy on Kashmir in Chapter 5 titled Kashmir, India’s Constitution and Nehru’s Vacillation (pages 51-64). The book is based on Selected Works of Jawaharlal (SWJ) Nehru and author’s own compendium of documents on India-Pak relations. Let us lay bare a few of Nehru’s somersaults

Nehru disowns Kashmir assembly’s “accession”, owns Security Council resolutions

Initially, Nehru banked on so-called Instrument of Accession and its authentication by `Constituent Assembly. Yet, in a volte-face he reiterated in New Delhi on November3, 1951 that `we have made it perfectly clear before the Security Council that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly does not [insofar] as we are concerned come in the way of a decision by the Security Council, or the United Nations’(SWJ: Volume 4: page 292, Bhasin p.228). Again, at a press conference on June 11, 1951, he was asked `if the proposed constituent assembly of Kashmir “decides in favour of acceding to Pakistan, what will be the position?”’ he reiterated,  `We have made it perfectly clear that the Constituent Assembly of Kashmir was not meant to decide finally any such question , and it is not in the way of any decision which may ultimate flow from the Security Council proceedings’ (SWJ: Volume 15:, Part II, page 394. Bhasin page 56). He re-emphasised his view once again at a press conference in New Delhi On November 3, 1951.

Nehru does not label Pakistan an aggressor at the UN

And then labels it so in Parliament

He never labeled Pakistan an aggressor at the UN. Yet, he told parliament on March 1, 1954 `that “aggression” took place in Kashmir six and a half years ago with dire consequences. Nevertheless the United States have thus far not condemned it and we are asked not to press this point in the interest of peace (Bhasin pp. 55-56).

Nehru disowns the Security Council as just a non-binding mediator

On July 24 1952, Nehru said, `Unless the Security Council functioned under some other Sections of the Charter, it cannot take a decision which is binding upon us unless we agree to it. They are functioning as mediators and a mediator means getting people to agree (SWJ, Volume 19, page 241. Bhasin page 56).

Security Council re-owned

Bhasin points out (page 57 op. cit.) `At the same press conference on 24 July, 1952 when asked what the necessity of plebiscite was now that he had got the Constituent Assembly [approval], he replied “Maybe theoretically you may be right. But we have given them [UN] an assurance and we stand by it (SWJ: Volume 19, pp. 240-241. Bhasin, p. 57, Bhasin pages 256-257).

Concluding remarks

Pakistan’s recourse to the UN is India’s Achilles Heel. So it is as India’s stand on disputed Kashmir is a rigmarole of inconsistent myths.

To avoid internationalization of the Kashmir issue, India’s own former foreign secretary Jagat Singh Mehta offered proposals (rebranded by Pervez Musharraf’s) to soften the LOC in exchange for non-internationalisation of the Kashmir dispute for 10 years. Mehta presented his ideas in an article, ‘Resolving Kashmir in the International Context of the 1990s’.

India had no consistent stand on Kashmir. There was a time when Sardar Patel presented Kashmir to Pakistan in exchange for Hyderabad and Junagadh. Reportedly, the offer was declined as Pakistan’s prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan thought it could retain not only Kashmir but also Junagadh and Hyderabad. Jawaharlal Nehru approached the United Nations’ for mediation. He kept harping his commitment to the plebiscite.

It is eerie that the whole architecture of India’s stand on Kashmir is erected on the mythical `instrument of accession’ and its endorsement by the disputed state’s assembly, Accession documents are un-registered with the UN. The Simla Accord text makes crystal clear reference to the UN charter.

Let India know that a state that flouts international treaties is a rogue state: pacta sunt servanda, treaties are to be observed and are binding on parties. Self-determination is not only a political but also a legal right in disputed lands. Sans talks with Pakistan, and UN or third-party mediation, what else is India’s recipe for imprisoned Kashmiris? A nuclear Armageddon or divine intervention?

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Afghanistan may face famine because of anti-Taliban sanctions

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Food and blankets are handed out to people in need in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, by © WFP/Arete

Afghanistan may face a food crisis under the Taliban (outlawed in Russia) rule because this movement is under sanctions of both individual states and the United Nations, Andrei Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, told TASS on Monday.

“A food crisis and famine in Afghanistan are not ruled out. Indeed, Afghanistan is now on life support, with assistance mostly coming from international development institutes, as well as from the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States, i.e. from Western sources and institutes close to the West,” he said. “The Taliban is under international sanctions, not only unilateral US and EU sanctions, but also under UN sanctions. That is why, in formal terms, the Taliban coming to power may mean that these sanctions could be expanded to the entire country, and it will entail serious food problems. Food deliveries from the World Food Program and other international organizations may be at risk.”

According to the expert, statistics from recent years show that annual assistance to Afghanistan amounts to about five billion US dollars, but this sum is not enough to satisfy the needs of the country’s population. “It is believed that a minimal sum needed by Afghanistan to maintain basic social institutions to avoid hunger in certain regions stands at one billion US dollars a month, i.e. 12 billion a year,” Kortunov noted. “Some say that twice as much is needed, taking into account that population growth in Afghanistan is among the world’s highest and life expectancy is among the lowest. And around half of Afghan children under five are undernourished.”

He noted that despite the fact that the issue of further food supplies to Afghanistan is not settled, some countries, for instance, China, continue to help Afghanistan but a consolidated position of the international community is needed to prevent a food and humanitarian crisis. “A common position of the international community is needed and it should be committed to paper in corresponding resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, which should provide for reservations concerning food assistance in any case,” he added.

However, in his words, the key question is who will control the distribution of humanitarian and food assistance inside the country. “There were such precedents when countries and regimes under sanctions were granted reservations and received food assistance. But a logical question arises about who will control the distribution of this assistance. This has always been a stumbling block for programs of assistance to Syria, as the West claimed that if everything is left to Damascus’ discretion, assistance will be distributed in the interests of [President Bashar] Assad and his inner circle rather than in the interests of the Syrian people. It is not ruled out that the same position will be taken in respect of the Taliban,” Kortunov went on to say. “It means that the international community will be ready to provide food assistance but on condition that unimpeded access will be granted to the areas in need and everything will not be handed over to the Taliban who will decide about whom to help.”

After the US announced the end of its operation in Afghanistan and the beginning of its troop withdrawal, the Taliban launched an offensive against Afghan government forces. On August 15, Taliban militants swept into Kabul without encountering any resistance, establishing full control over the country’s capital within a few hours. Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani said he had stepped down to prevent any bloodshed and subsequently fled the country. US troops left Afghanistan on August 31.

From our partner RIAC

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