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NATO Wraps Up its Flag from Afghanistan

Dr. Muhammad Aslam Khan

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History is a fine mirror, particularly among the war opponents where ‘cognitive dissonance’ plagued them deep all along. Thirteen years ago, US pre-attack psy-warfare effort depicted a shirtless herculean-looking American GI, kneeling and wielding his knife as if US was about to mow down their opponents in a blow. Taliban along with Al-Qaida were dancing to celebrate, on seeing another prey rushing for the trap called Afghanistan on the heels of the Soviets. No one in US DoD bothered to take cue from history that remains kind to Afghans when they are ready to spill their own as well as others blood. Time scale means nothing to them.

About 150 years ago, British Army supported by native forces in the Indian sub-continent invaded Afghanistan. Several battles during First and Second Afghan War, won and lost by both sides, made it absolutely clear that Afghans, fanatically loyal to their soil, could not be ruled by the alien forces. At one point of time, General Robert, recommending swift withdrawal, wrote to the Viceroy of India, less they (Afghans) see of us, the better, even though he had won the battle near Kabul. That was an era of extensive colonization when European major powers were competing to secure maximum territories in Asia, Africa and South America. It inspired Lenin to compile a table, proving that the European powers’ wealth was directly proportionate to the volume of territorial expansion overseas. He even proved that their number of banks could be accommodated in the same thumb rule. Britain was certainly a Super Power, embroiled in a conflict on the western borders of its Indian Empire. The people who stuck out to challenge its might were again Afghans.

The British Empire finally chose to stay put at the line which later became known as Durand Line (named after Sir Mortimer Durand), now separating Pakistan and Afghanistan. In the Great Game of 19th and 20th Century, Czarist Russia was rushing south through Central Asia but opted to halt at present Afghan northern borders by 1885. Some critics resented royal reluctance of Great Britain to advance West and North West to face Russia along River Oxus and termed it as its ‘masterly inactivity.’ Why US war wizard could not see the futility of their Afghan war? They did inflict heavy losses on Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and sweeping victory over conventional Taliban forces structure during Phase-1, the opening assault on Kandahar but for the remaining period, Taliban insurgency could not be flushed out even by employing massive technologically superior forces, touching a peak of 140,000 troops (International Security Assistance Force: ISAF) of which US had the major share. Some see even Al-Qaeda’s thinning out from Afghanistan as their superior strategic orientation to reappear in Middle East (Iraq in particular), where US reversals were obvious, to banish its forces from Iraq. Discovering that attack on Iraq could not achieve its objective of reconstructing Iraq, US had second thought and announced ‘mission accomplished’.

While the US public remained highly skeptic of US claims, the media did give it a breather by portraying a very lucrative forces’ diversionary destination to be pivoted in Asia-Pacific. Encapsulated within the same design, a charming slogan branded as ‘Afghan Surge’ emerged which in fact amounted to reinforcing a failure that the strategists always warn against to be lured in to this option ever on the battlefield. The entire maneuver was aimed at quelling the domestic criticism about failure in Iraq and managing damage control of the myth of US military might invincibility. Close to withdrawal from Iraq, some labeled it retreat, even George W. Bush acknowledged Iraq mistake, not mentioning some loud and similar comments made by US military commanders.

When US winds up its mission from Afghanistan along with NATO allies, there are rival claims to victory from each side. If one grants victory to US/ISAF, one needs to focus at the flag lowering ceremony when the onus of responsibility to defend Afghanistan has been  shifted to Afghan Army with US residual force of around 10,000 staying in Southern Afghanistan for ‘Resolute Support’. For any power of significance, it is natural to defend retreat that Taliban have claimed to force on ISAF. The impact of left-behind ISAF force in Afghanistan is destined to dilution when simple arithmetic is made the basis of vetting its efficacy. Note that if 140,000 troops could not flush Taliban, how a fourteen times smaller force would keep Afghan Army energized to restore peace in Afghanistan. As expected, Taliban attacks when ISAF forces were thinning out, in the final phase within last three months have become more frequent and deadlier. Ben Tufft of ‘The Independent’ reported, “The ceremony held to mark the end of the Nato mission in Afghanistan was held in secret due to bomb threats, prompting critics to question whether the allies’ objectives in the country have been met.” One sees another small dance party among Taliban who would swoop on the left-behind garrison, making their logistics a critical issue. The force is likely to remain virtually bound to the heavily defended parameters of the garrison and yet face causalities.

The kind of odds that John Kerry negotiated to let a system of governance emerge in Afghanistan in the wake of questionable general elections was remarkable but the sooner he left, Afghanistan remained vulnerable to two leaders’, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, wrangling for greater influence. As the Afghan society is fiercely divided on the ethnic basis, it is likely that the power brokering intensifies when both would muster their ethnic supporters in the field as show of muscles. In other words, ‘Pukhtoons’ and ‘Tajiks’ standoff would be imminent while Taliban would hammer both. There is a bleak but possible scenario that President Ashraf Ghani, because of his ‘Pukhtoon’ antecedent manages to bring Taliban to the dialogue table and interestingly that hypothesis is the only hope for any recovery in Afghanistan.

US, Allies and their public would sound far removed from the reality if they stick to their state of denial by refusing to accept that victory has remained elusive, costing them trillions of dollar and thousands of young soldiers. Similarly Taliban claim to victory would also sound absurd even though they sacrificed seven times more of their militants.  Had the terrain advantage and civil population shield not been available to them, they would have been massacred by the superior ISAF forces. If on Taliban side, achieving victory over NATO forces was beyond their prowess because of incompatible military potentials; their opponents were bound by their own publics’ opinion and war ethics to fight Taliban with surgical precision, once in a while violation notwithstanding. Therefore such conflicts, like the conventional wars, cannot be measured with ultimate clear yardstick called ‘victory.’ At best, NATO can boast to have introduced reforms in a manner that have diluted wide spread Taliban’s war making appeal to Afghan masses to some extent. Hubertus Hoffmann sounds over-optimistic, maintaining, “For me the glass is about three quarters full. The Taliban lack the support of the people; have no viable vision for the future of the country. More bombs drive just the people away from them. The Afghan Army and police are fighting considerably well.”

On the other hand, Taliban can claim to have proved hard nuts for ISAF forces by resisting superior forces and surviving through conduct of shrewd guerilla warfare. When ‘victory’ slogan appears as misnomer, one hopes that the two sides would pay heed to what Benjamin Franklin had said long ago, “The things that hurt, instruct.” World now expects the native parties in Afghanistan also to have mercy and cobble up effective governance for the emancipation of their future generations.

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

How the reservation system of India is defining a new era of human rights violation

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India at the time of its independence made a provision to reserve around 22 per cent of the seats in education and government jobs. The lawmakers did this with an intention to uplift the socially marginalised class of the society (which includes Dalits and the tribals) but with the time this system raised some serious concerns. These concerns did not come until the application of another 27 per cent of reservation provided for the other backward class (OBCs) of the society. The move was completely motivated by political earnings and raised the total reservation from 22 per cent to around 50 per cent.
 
Here, one of the problems with this system is that anyone who comes from the reserved section can take admissions and jobs with very fewer marks as compared to the unreserved class of the society which somehow jeopardizes the quality of education and industry. Moreover, a very low cutoff mark for the reserved candidates is victimising with those who fight in unreserved class. Now many of you are wondering how it can be decided that someone would fight in the reserved category or not. The answer is simple and straight if someone takes birth in Dalits, OBCs and tribal’s family then he can enjoy the facility of reservation. It totally depends on your birth. Also, this system claims around 60 per cent of the Indian population. Alas, the low cutoff for these reserved category people is sinking the talent of the country in sadness. Now, Imagine a system which produces a pool of teachers who scored in negatives in their exams. This is exactly what’s happening in India. In one of its largest states Rajasthan, many candidates got selected by just scoring in negatives. These teachers who were not able to score even zero marks are teaching maths and science in the government schools and colleges. Even for the top engineering colleges students with an unreserved class have to score four times as compare to the reserved class students. This disparity and segregation is killing the young gifted brains and prefers the worst.  In IITs, which produces top engineers of the world, the last year cutoff for the unreserved category is twice to the reserved category students. This means if perversely, you took birth in any of the unreserved class then you are supposed to score as twice or sometimes thrice the students of the unreserved class. Ominously, this highly convoluted system dooms the talent of the country.  

This is why many of the meritorious and highly compatible students are not able to take admissions in the top science and technology colleges. This trend recapitulates in Jobs and also in some contractual services. The bureaucracy of India is not working fine. Everything is in chaos, thanks to the reservation system. The major dent which this system has done on India is the destruction of science and technology. The reserved seats in space agency like ISRO and defence sectors are pushing India backward. In a result of this, still, India has to depend heavily on the foreign powers in an order to satisfy its technological needs. Whereas, its bystander China is leading a way forward in terms of science and technology even though both countries have nearly the same proportion of the men power.

Due to heavy reservation and the worst application of this system, many of the bright students move to Europe or in the United States. Adding to this, one of the states Tamil Nadu has a reservation ceiling of 69% in Jobs and education. This is pushing students of the unreserved class to move out of the state or even from the country. Sundar Pichai, Ceo of google’s parent company Alphabet is the best in explaining what I am trying to say. Sundar Pichai is an IIT graduate and has its roots from the Tamil Nadu but heavy reservation and fewer opportunities drove him to the United States.

Apart from the issue of talent flushing, it is also under-representing the unreserved section of the society. In Tamil Nadu, one of the unreserved class is Brahmanical society who lost their representation due to disturbing reservation policies. Jotting down that this society is one of the leading educated society but reservation brings down their talent as well as their representation. Not only reservation, but this unreserved class is also suffering from the suffocating caste-based policies of the government. Due to their social structure, they are obliged to pay more for the government services as compared to the reserved section.
 This unreserved class is like the slaves of the colonial era who have to pay more for the services and in return received humiliation. The amount of humiliation can be calculated by this that a poor student from an unreserved category has supposed to pay thrice to the rich student of a reserved class. Moreover, the voice of these unreserved class people in India has no social status as many of the Dalit writers and activists who come from the reserved category is disseminating false and irrelevant information about the Brahmins, Rajputs and Baniyas who belong to the unreserved section of the society. The bombardment of these scripted articles comes from the mainstream media outlets where these Dalit writers accentuated more on propagating false writeups.

However, a small section of reserved society also wants some changes in the existing structure of the reservation. In spite of all these things, some leaders from the Dalit society has made their caste-based political organizations who engage in abusing Brahmins and the people from the unreserved section. The amount of hate and violent thoughts they are carrying can be anticipated by a report prepared by a Delhi based news portal, Falana Dikhana. This portal exposed their one of the highly recognised leader Chandrashekhar Azaad who used to write sexual, offensive and hateful words for the female tweeter users who belongs to the unreserved class. The comments were made by the official verified account of the Dalit leader. In its series of reports, Falana Dikhana tells the truth of these Dalit leaders and how their nexus is working in abusing the Brahmins and the unreserved class of the society.

The condition of unreserved class in India is just like a slave. Whether its to take admissions, paying fees or to take jobs they are compelled to suffer. They die daily, not once but at every moment. 

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South Asia

India’s Stance on the USA-China Cold War

Sirat Bhalla

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Amidst the USA and China’s tussle encompassing trade war and COVID-19 blame game, India and the other Asian countries consequently have to sustain the damage. It is manifest by India’s current strategies that it is all set to establish alliances with the West which is contrasting to its past reaction of staying neutral.

The country took the neutral path in 1961 when the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru signed the Non-Alignment Movement. It continued to foster its cordial ties with both the power blocks – USA and Soviet Union, presently Russia. For many decades it has managed to balance its relations with major powers of the world. India had conceived the notion that it wasn’t the right time to crush between other’s agendas and it found the conflict-ridden situation lucrative for itself which was discernible from the support gained from the USA and allies as well as China and Russia. However today’s world scenario demands for the nation to take a stand. China, India’s neighbour, is exhibiting fast and aggressive growth. It is hostile in doing so and is manoeuvring to change the world order while expanding its territories and its imperialism. India and other countries are at threat and thus must act together to curb its rigorous policies. 

China’s Escalating Pressure on the Asian Countries 

China has been persistently exerting military pressure on many Asian countries including India. The Galwan Valley standoff which emerged on May 5 managed to take a violent turn on June 15 when 20 Indian soldiers died in the scuffle. Since then there have been several diplomatic talks between the two opponents but all in vain so far because the troops disengaged marginally. China’s hostility nevertheless is not only restrained to India, it extends to other Asian nations – Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Japan. 

Foreign Ministry of Vietnam claimed one of their fishing boats was ambushed on April 2 by two Chinese ships close to the Paracel Islands which China claims of its own. On April 14, Haiyang Dizhi ship was spotted in Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone according to Marine Traffic’s report. Haiyang is the same ship that was recruited to explore Vietnam’s oil-laden parts of the sea. The tension between Beijing and Hanoi are on rise ever since in the South China Sea. 

Malaysia faced China’s wrath on April 16 when Haiyang Dizhi 8 survey ship, flanked by more than 10 armed China Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels, commenced shadowing a drillship, West Capella, contracted by Malaysian oil firm Petronas to comb for oil off the coast. This Chinese action engendered reaction from the USA as it sent its warships to the area.

The Philippine Foreign  Secretary Locsin informed that a “radar gun” was pointed at a Philippine navy ship off Commodore Reef in the Spratlys in the month of February. This radar aims weapons on a target prior to an actual attack. He added these actions were both violations of international law and the country’s sovereignty.

A worrisome event that jolted Taiwan was intrusion of Chinese bomber and fighter planes in its air defence identification zone, not once but eight times in the past two weeks. The country became wary immediately and has deployed its patrolling jets to chase away Chinese’s. Taiwan and China’s clash dates long back when Taiwan acquired its de facto independence from China but with the current inclement international relations climate China bas been subjugating the neighouring country evermore. 

Ishigaki in Okinawa, Japan has passed the bill to rename Senkakus island chain which is a disputed area between Japan and China. In April, Japan kept silent but worriedly watched Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning along with its strike group making the first trip through Miyako Strait.

Above listed incidents are some of the very recent ones. China has bolstered and showcased its military, air force and navy prowess in the Asian region to allegedly divert world’s attention from the pressing demand of pandemic’s investigation. The USA and China have meshed their horns in this indefinite brawl but the countries in Asia have to pay its price. India has leaped towards the West in its reaction to the Chinese blitzes. 

India’s Alliance-Build Up with the West 

USA and allies have yearned for India’s partnership in their collaborative efforts to mitigate China’s expansionist conducts. For many years India had played neutral in their conflicts but only recently it has started taking side. The Western powers want India’s involvement because it is the world’s largest democracy countering the largest autocracy and because of its proximity to the Dragon. 

With China encountering allegations over the pandemic, India has taken steps that have filled West with the confidence that their goal is near to completion. The  friction between India and China has swayed the Elephant into discreetly shaking hands with the Western allies. This push has led to various deals and alliance-build up between the two. 

India-Australia defence deal signed on June 4 allowed them to nurture a comprehensive strategic partnership. This deal meant access to each other’s military bases that will bolster their military exercises and exchanges in the Indo-Pacific region. This will also pave way for Australia’s comeback to the Malabar series of naval war-game and thus succour its involvement in the Quad. 

India-USA too have deepened their defence cooperation. On November 26, India and the USA carried their first sea, land and air exercises, Tiger Triumph, which was inline with the 2018 pact between the two that bestowed them to share sensitive information and strengthen their military partnership to counter China’s growing maritime influence in Asia. In February this year, Donald Trump announced they would ink a $3 billion arms deal in the near future. Both the nation’s commitment is conspicuous from their cooperative military exercises and deals to deter the Chinese malign activities. Siemon T. Wezemen, Senior Researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute stated, “India is now at that level where it’s basically like a NATO partner even if there’s no alliance.” 

India-France too enjoy collaborative defence undertakings. In February, India-France joint patrol was conducted from the Reunion Island. For this venture P-81 was deployed with a French Navy personnel on board. Furthermore 36 Rafael fighter jets will be delivered to India soon. It is obvious that India-France’s military-to-military engagement and defence deals have shown an upsurge. 

India has recently secured the chance to play a central role during the pandemic as Dr. Harsh Vardhan took the seat of WHO’s Executive Board Chairman in May. In addition, India has bagged the support of 184 nations for United Nations Security Council’s non-permanent chair. 

From May 3-9, India joined the USA, Japan and the Philippines in the South China Sea which trumpeted its warning to China. Donald Trump has proposed to expand G-7 by giving membership to India, Russia, Australia and South Korea. It is an attempt to unite allies against China. The Dragon is not the member of this alliance even though it has the world’s largest population and is the second largest economy. Russia being an ally of China has shown interest in membership but also called it biased. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, “I believe that the G7 as presented by the American side reflects a somewhat one-sided view of problems, if only because China is not among those invited to that group.” It is gauged that the West is trying to manufacture new alliances to sideline China. 

With a similar motive, D-10 got proposed by Boris Johnson, he conveyed his wish for India’s membership to discourage 5G Huwawei Company’s expansion. This alliance would be exclusively of 10 democratic member countries to engineer an alternative source of 5G technology as they suspect China’s 5G dubious and involved in cyber-espionage. Additionally, there is prospective revival of the Quad which is generally compared as the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) of Asia that will counteract China in the South China Sea. 

From the above discussion the deduction is that India is sailing with the West. The Elephant is eager to build stronger relations with them to get assistance to deal with China. However, China has been sensitive about India’s growing ties with the West, particularly with the USA.

Conclusion

India’s stride towards tying friendship knot with the West has become a reality. Its aim of securing larger profile in the international organisations has moved a step forward. India’s stand on the Cold War between the USA and China is noticed and realised by the world. More multilateral ties await India, but India must stay wary of others agendas and safeguard its own interests in signing off various deals and accepting membership of alliances. 

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Pakistan’s endorsement of Osama Bin Laden may harm relations with Beijing

M. Abdul Basit

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A cricket star turned politician, Imran Khan, called Taliban a terrorist group in UpFront on Al Jazeera in 2016. Answering Mehdi Hassan’s quick question “Do you consider Taliban to be a terrorist group”, he answered in an assuring manner that “Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, they are. Anyone who kills innocent people is a terrorist.” In an interview to Fox News, he said “And yet it was ISI that gave the information which led to the location of Osama bin Laden. If you ask CIA it was ISI which gave the initial location through the phone connection.” Imran Khan changed his stance now and considers Osama Bin Laden to have died for a noble cause – a cause that is considered terrorism in the civilized world.

Recently, in the National Assembly session, he made a controversial speech in which he explicitly called Osama Bin Laden a martyr who was killed by the Americans. While the extremist segments in Pakistan may welcome the gesture of Imran Khan, Beijing will certainly see it as a potential threat even if the Prime Minister takes his words back for it was not a slip of tongue but the gesture showcases an ideology. A confused response to the most important issue pertaining to stability in Pakistan by the national leadership sends signals of mistrust to Beijing. To Beijing, stability matters the most.

China is a prisoner of its geography. The China-Afghanistan border was enacted as a result of the 1895 agreement between Russia and England – a deal involving neither the Afghans nor the Chinese. The thin strip that separates Pakistan from Tajikistan meets with Xinjiang. The western region of China lacks development and Beijing views the activities in Xinjiang autonomous province with keen eyes. China is blamed to disrespect human rights there in re-education camps. The separatist group East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is frowned upon by the Han Chinese. Andrew Small writes in his book “The China Pakistan Axis” that a leaked Chinese government document in 1998 listed Uighur independence movements as the main threat to the stability of the Chinese state.” With Xinjiang having border with eight countries including Afghanistan and Pakistan, any religious instability that can destabilize China enrages Beijing.

The extremist segments in Pakistan are accused of having links with Xinjiang’s internal instability, though at a limited scale. During the Operation Silence at the Red Mosque of Pakistan in 2007, twelve Uighars were killed. This operation was launched because the Red Mosque students, considering themselves as the ultimate custodians of Islam, took the responsibility to impose a self-hypothesized version of sharia in Islamabad and abducted Chinese women accusing them to spread vulgarity. As a consequence of that operation in which the Jihadi proponent Abdul Rashid Ghazi was killed, Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was formed. Pakistan had to bear a huge cost protecting the lives of Chinese from religious extremists. The damages done by TTP are hitherto unseen in Pakistan’s history.

Pakistan has always enjoyed the support of China with the only exception of the former’s sympathy toward the religious militancy. The abduction of Chinese workers and engineers from Pakistan over the course of time had given sleepless nights to many in Beijing. When the ideology of sympathizing with terrorists revive, it gives setbacks to peace efforts by the civilian and military leadership to curtail terrorism in the war against terrorism in which seventy thousand lives have been lost in Pakistan. The opposition lambastes PM Imran Khan for his callous statement of applauding Bin Laden. Trivializing a highly sensitive issue puts question mark on the role of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies in countering terrorism. China looks forward to a perpetual peace that Pakistan officially claims to achieve by combatting terrorism.

For China, “it’s the economy stupid”. To drive the economy, China looks forward to stability. Zhu Rongji, the then premier of China, advised Pakistan’s president General Musharaf in 2001, “Investors are like pigeons, when a government frightens them with poor decisions, they all fly off together”. China needs a stable Pakistan and a stable Afghanistan to rise peacefully. It aims to complete the Belt and Road project by 2049 – celebrating 100 years of creation of the People’s Republic of China. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is its flagship project. Pakistan relies heavily on CPEC for economic growth. It is equally important for both the states. With the revival of fresh air of militant ideology, a single spark can start a prairie fire in Sino-Pak relations. Pakistan needs to think twice before appeasing extremists for it can lose the only friend in the region.

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