Connect with us

South Asia

Pakistan’s Case of Diplomacy and Glacier Conks

Published

on

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

Continue Reading
Comments

South Asia

India’s open invitation to a nuclear Armageddon

Published

on

Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said that “India was not averse to the possible demilitarisation of the Siachen glacier ,  the world’s highest battleground and an old sore in India-Pakistan ties , provided the neighbour accepted the 110-km Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) that separates Indian and Pakistani positions. Acceptance of AGPL is the first step towards demilitarisation but the Pakistan side loathes doing that”. He said, ‘The Siachen situation occurred because of unilateral attempts by Pakistan to change status quo and countermeasures taken by the Indian Army’ (Not averse to demilitarisation of Siachen if Pak meets pre-condition: Army chief, Hindustan Times January 13, 2022).

Reacting to the Indian army chief’s statement, Pakistan’s former foreign secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan reminisced that the Siachen could not fructify into a written agreement because India wanted Siachen and Kashmir to be settled together. India’s approach ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’ scuttled the agreement. As for Kashmir, “a simultaneous effort was made through the backchannel …in what is commonly known as the Four-Point Formula” (Siachen recollections, Dawn January 16, 2022). Riaz laments Indi’s distrust that hindered a solution.

Shyam Saran, a voice in the wilderness

Shyam Saran, in his book How India Sees the World (pp. 88-93) makes startling revelations about how this issue eluded solution at last minute. India itself created the Siachen problem.  Saran reminisces, in the 1970s, US maps began to show 23000 kilometers of Siachen area under Pakistan’s control. Thereupon, Indian forces were sent to occupy the glacier in a pre-emptive strike, named Operation Meghdoot. Pakistani attempts to dislodge them did not succeed. But they did manage to occupy and fortify the lower reaches’.

He recalls how Siachen Glacier and Sir Creek agreements could not fructify for lack of political will or foot dragging. He says ‘NN Vohra, who was the defence secretary at the time, confirmed in a newspaper interview that an agreement on Siachen had been reached. At the last moment, however, a political decision was taken by the Narasimha Rao government to defer its signing to the next round of talks scheduled for January the following year. But, this did not happen…My defence of the deal became a voice in the wilderness’.

Saran says, `Kautliyan template would say the options for India are sandhi, conciliation; asana, neutrality; and yana, victory through war. One could add dana, buying allegiance through gifts; and bheda, sowing discord. The option of yana, of course would be the last in today’s world’ (p. 64, ibid.).

India’s current first option

It appears that Kautliya’s last-advised option,yana, as visualised by Shyam Saran, is India’s first option nowadays. Kautlya also talks about koota yuddha (no holds barred warfare), and maya yuddha (war by tricks) that India is engaged in.

Cartographic annexation

By unilaterally declaring the disputed Jammu and Kashmir its territory does not solve the Kashmir problem. This step reflects that India has embarked upon the policy “might is right”. In Kotliyan parlance it would be “matsy nyaya, or mach nyaya”, that is big fish eats the small one. What if China also annexes disputed borders with India?  India annexed Kashmir presuming that Pakistan is not currently in a position to respond militarily, nor could it agitate the matter at international forums for fear of US ennui.  

India’s annexation smacks of acceptance of quasi-Dixon Plan, barring mention of plebiscite and division of Jammu. . Dixon proposed: Ladakh should be awarded to India. Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (including Gilgit and Baltistan) should remain with Pakistan. Whole Kashmir valley should have a plebiscite with no option to independence. Jammu should be divided on religious basis. The river Chmab should be the dividing line. Northern Jammu (Muslims dominated) should go to Pakistan and Hindu majority parts of Jammu to remain with India.

In short Muslim areas should have gone with Pakistan and Hindu-Buddhist majority areas should have remained with India.

India’s annexation has no legal sanctity. But, it could have bbeen sanctified in a mutually agreed Kashmir solution.

India’s propaganda

India portrays the freedom movement in Kashmir as `terrorism’. What about India’s terrorism in neighbouring countries?

The world is listless to accounts of former diplomats and RAW officers about executing insurgencies in neighbouring countries. B. Raman, in his book The Kaoboys of R&AW: Down Memory Lane makes no bones about India’s involvement up to the level of prime minister in Bangladesh’s insurgency.

 Will the world take notice of confessions by Indi’s former intelligence officers and diplomats?B. Raman reminds `Indian parliament passed resolution on March 31, 1971 to support insurgency. Indira Gandhi had then confided with Kao that in case Mujib was prevented from ruling Pakistan, she would liberate East Pakistan from the clutches of the military junta. Kao, through one RAW agent, hijacked a Fokker Friendship, the Ganga, of Indian Airlines hijacked from Srinagar to Lahore.

India’s ambassador Bharath Raj Muthu Kumar, with the consent of then foreign minister Jaswant Singh, `coordinated military and medical assistance that India was secretly giving to Massoud and his forces’… `helicopters, uniforms, ordnance, mortars, small armaments, refurbished Kalashnikovs seized in Kashmir, combat and winter clothes, packaged food, medicines, and funds through his brother in London, Wali Massoud’, delivered circuitously with the help of other countries who helped this outreach’. When New Delhi queried about the benefit of costly support to Northern Alliance chief Massoud, Kumar explained, “He is battling someone we should be battling. When Massoud fights the Taliban, he fights Pakistan.”

Death of back-channel

In his memoirs In the line of fire (pp.302-303), president Musharraf had proposed a personal solution of the Kashmir issue.  This solution, in essence, envisioned self-rule in demilitarised regions of Kashmir under a joint-management mechanism.   The solution pre-supposed* reciprocal flexibility.

Death of dialogue and diplomacy

Riaz warns of “incalculable” risks as the result of abrogation of Kashmir statehood (Aug 5, 2019). Both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers. In the absence of a dialogue on outstanding issues, war, perhaps a nuclear one,  comes up as the only option.

Concluding remark

Sans sincerity, the only Kashmir solution is a nuclear Armageddon. Or, perhaps divine intervention.

Continue Reading

South Asia

Major Challenges for Pakistan in 2022

Published

on

Pakistan has been facing sever challenges since 1980s, after the former USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan. The history is full of challenges, but, being a most resilient nation, Pakistan has faced some of them bravely and overcome successfully. Yet, few are rather too big for Pakistan and still struggling to overcome in the near future.

Some of the challenges are domestic or internal, which can be addressed conveniently. But, some of them are part of geopolitics and rather beyond control of Pakistan itself. Such challenges need to pay more attention and need to be smarter and address them wisely.

Few key areas will be the main focus of Pakistan in the year ahead. Relations with China and the US while navigating the Sino-US confrontation, dealing with Afghanistan’s uncertainties, managing the adversarial relationship with India and balancing ties between strategic ally Saudi Arabia and neighbor Iran.

Pakistan has to pursue its diplomatic goals in an unsettled global and regional environment marked by several key features. They include rising East-West tensions, increasing preoccupation of big powers with domestic challenges, ongoing trade and technology wars overlying the strategic competition between China and the US, a fraying rules-based international order and attempts by regional and other powers to reshape the rules of the game in their neighborhood.

Understanding the dynamics of an unpredictable world is important especially as unilateral actions by big powers and populist leaders, which mark their foreign policy, have implications for Pakistan’s diplomacy. In evolving its foreign policy strategy Pakistan has to match its goals to its diplomatic resources and capital. No strategy is effective unless ends and means are aligned.

Pakistan’s relations with China will remain its overriding priority. While a solid economic dimension has been added to long-standing strategic ties, it needs sustained high-level engagement and consultation to keep relations on a positive trajectory. CPEC is on track, timely and smoothly progress is crucial to reinforce Beijing’s interest in strengthening Pakistan, economically and strategically. Close coordination with Beijing on key issues remains important.

Pakistan wants to improve ties with the US. But relations will inevitably be affected by Washington’s ongoing confrontation with Beijing, which American officials declare has an adversarial dimension while China attributes a cold war mindset to the US. Islamabad seeks to avoid being sucked into this big power rivalry. But this is easier said than done. So long as US-China relations remain unsteady it will have a direct bearing on Pakistan’s effort to reset ties with the US especially as containing China is a top American priority. Pakistan desires to keep good relations with the US, but, not at the cost of China. In past, Pakistan was keeping excellent relations with US, while simultaneously very close with China. When the US imposed economic blockade against China and launched anti-communism drive during the cold war, Pakistan was close ally with the US and yet, keeping excellent relations with China. Pakistan played vital role in bring China and the US to establish diplomatic relations in 1970s. Yet, Pakistan possesses the capability to narrow down the hostility between China and the US.

Pakistan was close ally with the US during cold war, anti-communism threat, war against USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1980s, and war on terror, etc. Pakistan might be a small country, but, possesses strategic importance. As long as, the US was cooperating with Pakistan, Pakistan looked after the US interest in the whole region. In fact, Pakistan ensured that the US has achieved its all strategic goals in the region. Since, the US kept distance from Pakistan, is facing failure after another failure consecutively. The importance of Pakistan is well recognized by the deep state in the US.

US thinks that withdrawal from Afghanistan has diminished Pakistan’s importance for now. For almost two decades Afghanistan was the principal basis for engagement in their frequently turbulent ties, marked by both cooperation and mistrust. As Pakistan tries to turn a new page with the US the challenge is to find a new basis for a relationship largely shorn of substantive bilateral content. Islamabad’s desire to expand trade ties is in any case contingent on building a stronger export base.

Complicating this is Washington’s growing strategic and economic relations with India, its partner of choice in the region in its strategy to project India as a counterweight to China. The implications for Pakistan of US-India entente are more than evident from Washington turning a blind eye to the grim situation in occupied Kashmir and its strengthening of India’s military and strategic capabilities. Closer US-India ties will intensify the strategic imbalance in the region magnifying Pakistan’s security challenge.

Multiple dimensions of Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan will preoccupy Islamabad, which spent much of 2021 engaged with tumultuous developments there. While Pakistan will continue to help Afghanistan avert a humanitarian and economic collapse it should not underestimate the problems that may arise with an erstwhile ally. For one, the TTP continues to be based in Afghanistan and conduct attacks from there. The border fencing issue is another source of unsettled discord. Careful calibration of ties will be needed — assisting Afghanistan but avoiding overstretch, and acknowledging that the interests of the Taliban and Pakistan are far from identical. Moreover, in efforts to mobilize international help for Afghanistan, Islamabad must not exhaust its diplomatic capital, which is finite and Pakistan has other foreign policy goals to pursue.

Managing relations with India will be a difficult challenge especially as the Modi government is continuing its repressive policy in occupied Kashmir and pressing ahead with demographic changes there, rejecting Pakistan’s protests. The hope in establishment circles that last year’s backchannel between the two countries would yield a thaw or even rapprochement, turned to disappointment when no headway was made on any front beyond the re-commitment by both neighbors to observe a ceasefire on the Line of Control.

Working level diplomatic engagement will continue on practical issues such as release of civilian prisoners. But prospects of formal dialogue resuming are slim in view of Delhi’s refusal to discuss Kashmir. This is unlikely to change unless Islamabad raises the diplomatic costs for Delhi of its intransigent policy. Islamabad’s focus on Afghanistan last year meant its diplomatic campaign on Kashmir sagged and was limited to issuing tough statements. Unless Islamabad renews and sustains its international efforts with commitment and imagination, India will feel no pressure on an issue that remains among Pakistan’s core foreign policy goals.

With normalization of ties a remote possibility, quiet diplomacy by the two countries is expected to focus on managing tensions to prevent them from spinning out of control. Given the impasse on Kashmir, an uneasy state of no war, no peace is likely to continue warranting Pakistan’s sustained attention.

In balancing ties with Saudi Arabia and Iran, Pakistan should consider how to leverage possible easing of tensions between the long-standing rivals — of which there are some tentative signs. With Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman keen to use economic power to expand his country’s diplomatic clout by making strategic overseas investments, Pakistan should use its political ties with Riyadh to attract Saudi investment through a coherent strategy. Relations with Iran too should be strengthened with close consultation on regional issues especially Afghanistan. The recent barter agreement is a step in the right direction.

In an increasingly multipolar world, Pakistan also needs to raise its diplomatic efforts by vigorous outreach to other key countries and actors beyond governments to secure its national interests and goals.

Continue Reading

South Asia

Afghanistan: UN launches largest single country aid appeal ever

Published

on

Displaced families collect water during a harsh winter in Kabul, Afghanistan. © UNHCR/Andrew McConnell

The UN and partners launched a more than $5 billion funding appeal for Afghanistan on Tuesday, in the hope of shoring up collapsing basic services there, which have left 22 million in need of assistance inside the country, and 5.7 million people requiring help beyond its borders.

Speaking in Geneva, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said that $4.4 billion was needed for the Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan alone, “to pay direct” to health workers and others, not the de facto authorities.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi called for $623 million, to support refugees and host communities in five neighbouring countries, for the Afghanistan Situation Regional Refugee Response Plan.

“Today we are launching an appeal for $4.4 billion for Afghanistan itself for 2022,” said Mr. Griffiths. “This is the largest ever appeal for a single country for humanitarian assistance and it is three times the amount needed, and actually fundraised in 2021.”

Needs could double

The scale of need is already enormous, both UN officials stressed, warning that if insufficient action is taken now to support the Afghanistan and regional response plans, “next year we’ll be asking for $10 billion”.

Mr. Griffiths added: “This is a stop-gap, an absolutely essential stop-gap measure that we are putting in front of the international community today. Without this being funded, there won’t be a future, we need this to be done, otherwise there will be outflow, there will be suffering.”

Rejecting questions that the funding would be used to support the Taliban’s grip on de facto government, Mr. Griffiths insisted that it would go directly into the pockets of “nurses and health officials in the field” so that these services can continue, not as support for State structures.

UN aid agencies describe Afghanistan’s plight as one of the world’s most rapidly growing humanitarian crises.

According to UN humanitarian coordination office OCHA, half the population now faces acute hunger, over nine million people have been displaced and millions of children are out of school.

Youngsters’ plight

Asked to describe what might happen if sufficient support was not forthcoming, the UN emergency relief chief replied that he was particularly concerned for one million children now facing severe acute malnutrition. “A million children – figures are so hard so grasp when they’re this kind of size – but a million children at risk of that kind of malnutrition if these things don’t happen, is a shocking one.”

But humanitarian agencies and their partners who will receive the requested funding directly can only do so much, Mr. Griffiths explained, before reiterating his support for the 22 December UN Security Council resolution that cleared the way for aid to reach Afghans, while preventing funds from falling into the hands of the Taliban.

“Humanitarian agencies inside Afghanistan can only operate if there’s cash in the economy which can be used to pay officials, salaries, costs, fuel and so-forth,” he said. “So, liquidity in its first phase is a humanitarian issue, it’s not just a bigger economic issue.”

Stave off disease, hunger

He added: “My message is urgent: don’t shut the door on the people of Afghanistan. Humanitarian partners are on the ground, and they are delivering, despite the challenges. Help us scale up and stave off wide-spread hunger, disease, malnutrition and ultimately death by supporting the humanitarian plans we are launching today.”

Highlighting the need to avoid a wider regional crisis emanating from Afghanistan, UNHCR chief Grandi, insisted that what was needed most, was “to stabilize the situation inside Afghanistan, including that of displaced people who are displaced inside their country. Also, to prevent a larger refugee crisis, a larger crisis of external displacement.”

Nonetheless, Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours had sheltered vulnerable Afghans for decades, Mr. Grandi explained, as he appealed for $623 million in funding for 40 organizations working in protection, health and nutrition, food security, shelter and non-food items, water and sanitation, livelihoods and resilience, education, and logistics and telecoms.

Decades of shelter

No-one should forget “that there is a regional dimension to this crisis, represented by the Afghan refugees but also Afghans with many other ‘stay’ arrangements in neighbouring countries in particular,” Mr. Grandi said, “especially in Pakistan and Iran that have hosted Afghans for more than 40 years, but also Central Asian States.”

Since the Taliban takeover last August, women’s and girls’ rights have continued to come under attack, OCHA noted in a statement, “while farmers and herders are struggling amid the worst drought in decades and the economy is in freefall”.

Rights reminder

On the issue of protecting fundamental rights, Mr. Griffiths underlined the fact that UN humanitarians were continuing to hold “conversations” with Afghanistan’s de facto authorities at a national and sub-national level, on issues such as aid and education access for all.

Echoing that message, UN refugee chief Mr. Grandi noted that humanitarians on the ground were well aware of the importance of stressing the need to protect the rights of minorities and other vulnerable Afghans.

“Our colleagues are there every day, and that’s what they talk about every day; they certainly talk about access, and delivery and needs, but they also talk about women at work, women in school – girls in school – rights of minorities, but it’s that space that we need to preserve.”

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Environment1 hour ago

In Jamaica, farmers struggle to contend with a changing climate

It’s 9 am and the rural district of Mount Airy in central Jamaica is already sweltering. As cars trundle along...

Science & Technology3 hours ago

Closing the Cyber Gap: Business and Security Leaders at Crossroads as Cybercrime Spikes

The global digital economy has surged off the back of the COVID-19 pandemic, but so has cybercrime – ransomware attacks...

New Social Compact5 hours ago

The Social Innovators of the Year 2022

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship announced today 15 awardees for social innovation in 2022. From a Brazilian entrepreneur using...

Africa Today7 hours ago

FAO launches $138 million plan to avert hunger crisis in Horn of Africa

More than $138 million is needed to assist rural communities affected by extended drought in the Horn of Africa, the...

East Asia9 hours ago

The Spirit of the Olympic Games and the Rise of China

It is fair to say that no country like China has so seriously connected its national rejuvenation to the Olympic...

Crypto Insights11 hours ago

Metaverse Leading the Gaming Revolution: Are NFTs Truly the Future of the Industry?

Some call it the new tech boom, while others are wary of long-term implications. Regardless, the metaverse is quickly shaping...

Development17 hours ago

Naftali Bennett Highlights Tech and Trade, Bridge-Building and Climate Change

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of Israel used his address to the Davos Agenda 2022 to highlight the role of digital...

Trending