Pakistan’s self denial is the biggest threat to world peace
One of the ironies of being a Pakistani living abroad, especially in the West, is having to pose as Indian. According to Asghar Choudhri, the chairman of Brooklyn’s Pakistani American Merchant Association, a lot of Pakistanis can’t get jobs after 9/11 and after the botched Times Square bombing of 2010, it’s even worse. “They are now pretending they are Indian so they can get a job,” he told a US wire service.
That is because while Indians are highly integrated immigrants – besides being the highest educated and best paid of all ethnic groups in the US – Pakistanis have taken part in terrorist activities in the very lands that gave them shelter.
From Ramzi Yousef, who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993 (8 years before Bin Laden) and is now serving a 240-year prison sentence to Mir Aimal Kansi, who shot dead CIA agents and was later executed by lethal injection, to Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square “Idiot Bomber”, there is a long line of Pakistanis who have left a trail of terror.
The San Bernardino, California, attack of December 2015 by a Pakistani American couple was the most spectacular in recent times. The husband was American-born raised and yet he chose to launch a terror act against the people of the United States.
But while Pakistanis wear an Indian mask for Western consumption, back home it’s business as usual.
Two incidents amply demonstrate that Pakistanis have learnt nothing. One was the widespread outrage across the country over Osama Bin Laden’s killing by American commandos. In response to America’s exposure of Bin Laden’s hiding place, Pakistan moved to shut down the informant network that lead the Americans there.
The other was the unholy fracas over CIA shooter Kansi’s execution. The day after Kansi was sentenced to death by an American court, four Americans were shot dead on the streets of Pakistan. His funeral was attended by the entire civilian administration in his hometown Quetta, the local Pakistani Corps Commander, and the then Pakistani ambassador to the United States.
Thousands of mourners turned out as Quetta city shuttered down. Kansi’s coffin, draped in black cloth with verses from the Koran embroidered on it in gold, was carried on the shoulders of young men some 10 miles from the airport to his family’s home in Quetta. In Islamabad, the capital city, lawyers and university students poured out on the streets.
The irony of outpourings of support for hardened terrorists is that Pakistan is seriously impacted by terrorism. A global study by the London-based Institute for Economics and Peace ranks Pakistan fourth on the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) list, behind Iraq, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
According to the study, “Terrorism remains highly concentrated with most (58 per cent) of the activity occurring in just five countries — Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria.”
It mentions the most fatal terrorist attack in Pakistan, of 2014: “Assailants detonated an explosives-laden vehicle and then stormed the Army Public School in Peshawar city, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan. At least 150 students and staff were killed and 131 were wounded in the attack. All seven assailants were either killed by security forces or detonated their explosives-laden vests.”
The gunmen belonged to the terrorist group Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is also known as the Pakistani Taliban because it is based in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It is an offshoot of the original Taliban which was created by Pakistan as a weapon to be used against Afghanistan and India.
State sponsored terror
That Pakistan is a state sponsor of terror is well known. In Hillary Clinton’s words to Islamabad, if you harbour snakes in your backyard, don’t expect them to only bite your neighbour.
It was Pakistan’s demagogue dictator General Zia-ul-Haq who declared that “we will bleed India with a thousand cuts”. The reckoning was that since Pakistan can never hope to win a war against India, then India must be hit with terrorism. To this effect, Pakistan first supported Kashmiri and Sikh separatists, armed them and provided them safe bases on its territory.
When both these terror campaigns failed, Pakistan created an alphabet soup of home grown terror groups such as the Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami. These two were complemented by the Haqqani network and the original Taliban, which has now split into dozens of splinter groups, some of which are still controlled by the Pakistan military and its chief intelligence agency, the ISI.
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of US, Mike Mullen has described the Haqqani Network as the “veritable arm of Pakistan’s ISI”. Mullen said the ISI was supporting the Haqqani network, which attacked the US embassy in Kabul in September 2011 and also the September 2011 NATO truck bombing which injured 77 coalition soldiers and killed five Afghan civilians.
In a November 2014 interview to the BBC, the adviser to the Pakistani Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz said Pakistan should not target militants like the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network, which do not threaten Pakistan’s security.
Indeed, Pakistan is one of the few countries in the world which believes in good terrorists (who attack the West, India and Israel) and bad terrorists (who target Pakistan). An example of a ‘good’ terrorist group is the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which regularly conducts mass rallies and congregation, advocating jihad in Kashmir. For its December 2014 rally, Pakistan ran two special trains to carry the crowd to Lahore. India’s foreign ministry termed this as “nothing short of mainstreaming of terrorism”. The congregation was held near Pakistan’s national monument, the Minar-e-Pakistan, where 4000 policemen provided security.
Lashkar-e-Taiba is the group responsible for the November 2008 Mumbai terror attack, which led to the deaths of 156 innocent people. On December 3, 2008 Indian officials named Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhavi, a top leader of the Lashkar, as one of four possible major planners behind the attacks. Four days later, Pakistani armed forces arrested Lakhvi in a raid on a training camp near Muzafarabad in Pakistani Kashmir.
Pakistan doesn’t want to bring terrorists like Lakhavi to justice because that would expose its sponsorship of terror groups. After India produced evidence of the Lashkar’s hand in the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan did the predictable. In order to claim that none of these guys were technically within Pakistan, the ISI asked the terrorists involved in the attack to leave the country.
But it turned out to be a big mistake as one of these terrorists was caught in Saudi Arabia, which presented him on a platter to India. During his interrogation by Indian investigators, the terrorist revealed he was one of the key people tasked with training the 10 Mumbai attackers. He said he was in the control room near the international airport in Karachi from where Lakhavi was directing the attackers. He also said that after Lakhvi’s arrest in December 2008, the Pakistanis destroyed the control room in Karachi.
The January 2016 attack on an air force base in Pathankot, India, in which seven Indian security guards and six terrorists were killed, will give you an idea of how Pakistan continues to deny links with terror groups on its own soil.
After the Indians allowed a Pakistani investigation team to visit the air base, the Pakistanis raised the outrageous claim that the attack was carried out by India to defame Islamabad. This has a parallel in 9/11 deniers in Muslim countries where everyone seems to be convinced that Israel and the US were behind the Twin Tower attacks.
According to the Indian Express newspaper, the Pakistani investigators were given a full transcript of the telephonic conversations between the terrorists and their Pakistani handlers along with their identity. The Indian side gave the Pakistanis “the links of Pakistani officials, believed to be ISI personnel, with the handlers of the terrorists”. They were provided with “electronic and forensic evidence regarding the slain terrorists’ Pakistani links, name of the terrorists and several other critical evidence after an exhaustive probe conducted” by India.
The Pakistani team was given concrete proof that a senior terrorist leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed was in constant touch with the terrorists and giving them necessary instructions during the three-day carnage.
And yet Pakistan claims it was a stage managed attack by India.
The stark reality is that Pakistan has now become synonymous with terror. An unfortunate fallout of the country’s long association with terror is that ordinary Pakistanis worldwide appear tainted. A broad survey released on June 27, 2012 by the United States-based Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes says that in a number countries, including China, as well as several Muslim countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and Lebanon, the majority populations negatively view Pakistanis.
Pakistan is not only a universally disliked country but the Pakistanis themselves have learnt nothing from their history, continuing to support the very actors who are responsible for Pakistan’s negative image.
It is a measure of Pakistan’s penchant for exporting terrorists, counterfeit currency and drugs that India has constructed a 1400 km long steel fence across its border with its wayward western neighbour. The floodlit fence, which is patrolled 24/7, can be seen from space as a bright orange line snaking from the coast to Kashmir.
Iran is also building a 700 km steel and concrete security fence along its border with Pakistan “to prevent border crossing by terrorists and drug traffickers”. When complete it will make Pakistan the most fenced-in country in the world.
In four of the five predominantly Muslim nations covered by the survey, over half gave Pakistan negative ratings. Jordan (57 percent), Lebanon (56 percent), Tunisia (54 percent) and Egypt (53 percent) had an unfavourable opinion of Pakistan. The only exception was Turkey, where attitudes were divided (43 percent negative and 37 percent favourable).
In East Asia, 52 percent of Chinese saw Pakistan unfavourably, as did 59 percent in Japan and 59 percent in India. The Chinese statistic is not surprising as Pakistan-trained Chinese Uighur Muslims have launched terror strikes in their remote province in China. Japan deported around 15,000 Pakistanis after 9/11.
Beaten, corrupt military most loved
Every country has an army but the Pakistan Army has a country. The Pakistani military is the most corrupt institution in the land, with a finger in every national pie. Army officers get prime plots of land post-retirement at a third of the market price. It is certainly a case of generals fattening at the expense of an increasingly poor population.
The Pakistani military has lost fours against India. After every war, Pakistan has lost territory, face and the credibility of its fighting forces. And yet Pakistanis rate this military very highly.As many as 77 percent said the military has a good influence on the country.
The media came next with a 68 percent rating, followed by religious leaders at 66 percent.
With religious zealots getting a solid two-thirds rating, is it any surprise that support for using the Pakistani military to fight extremist groups has declined over the last three years? Opposition to using the army to fight extremist organisations is especially high in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (where 54 percent opposed) and Baluchistan (50 percent).
Biting the hand that feeds
India does not get any aid from the United States and yet among all 21 nations Pew surveyed, Indians seemed most favourably disposed towards it. Only 12 percent said they had unfavourable opinion of the United States. On the other hand, 80 percent of Pakistanis had a negative opinion of America, with 74 percent regarding it as an enemy country.
American aid efforts were seen in a negative light by Pakistanis although the country continues to get billions of dollars of US aid. Around four-in-ten (38 percent) said US economic aid was having a mostly negative impact on Pakistan, while just 12 percent believed it was mostly positive. Similarly, 40 percent thought American military aid was having a mostly negative effect, while only 8 percent said it was largely positive.
This is a snapshot of Pakistan, where the arrow of time is travelling backwards, taking them into a cycle of medieval madness. Where the death of a terrorist merely means he will be instantly replaced by a hundred clones.
Whose Human Rights Matter?
Every year, the US State Department publishes a report on the human rights situation in various countries around the world. The report reviews the various aspects of human rights in the countries over the previous year. In line with this, on March 20, 2023, the United States released the ”2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practises” on the global human rights situation and various aspects of human rights across the countries over the previous year. The report highlighted several aspects of the overall human rights situation in Bangladesh.
The report shed light on extrajudicial killings, disappearances, restrictions on freedom of expression, media censorship, and other significant issues in Bangladesh. But what is most surprising is that the report said that the national election held in Bangladesh in 2018 was not free and fair! As Bangladesh stands on the cusp of yet another national election following a five-year span, the sudden inclusion of the 2018 elections in the US report has naturally piqued interest and raised questions.
The historical, cultural, and political contexts of various countries, including Western nations, as well as their foreign policy objectives, have a significant impact on how they approach human rights. However, it is often the case that geopolitical interests and bilateral relations are given the utmost priority. Western countries, especially the US, are lenient on human rights with partners and allies, but tough on countries outside their circle or without political interests.
In recent times, there has been a change in the attitude of the United States towards Bangladesh. When it comes to foreign policy, Washington mainly prioritises national security and national interests. The Biden administration is currently focusing mainly on two issues. One is human rights and democratic values, and the second is consolidating their position in the Indo-Pacific region. And there is no denying that the US wants Bangladesh to be a part of their Indo-Pacific strategy.
The US-led Indo-Pacific strategy aims to counter China’s influence in South and Southeast Asia through partnerships with India, Japan, and Australia. While the US claims the strategy is not aimed at deterring any specific country, analysts believe the recent shift in US attitude towards Bangladesh is primarily driven by a desire to deter China’s influence in the country. It is worth mentioning that China is now Bangladesh’s largest development partner.
Bangladesh has maintained a balanced policy, avoiding alignment with major powers, but the US seems reluctant to agree with this strategy. Washington appears eager to determine Bangladesh’s stance, presenting a clear message: align with us or choose the opposing side. Analysts suggest that pressuring Bangladesh with human rights and democratic concerns may be part of the US strategy to force Bangladesh to curtail its engagement with China.
Perhaps it will be a daunting task to find a single country that has been able to ensure human rights for everyone. The brutal killing of George Floyd or the inhumane treatment of black people is a shining example of how human rights are constantly violated in the United States. According to a recent report from the influential British newspaper The Guardian, US drones and airstrikes have alone killed about 22,000 civilians in the 20 years since 9/11.
The United Nations Human Rights Council reported that over 8,000 civilians have lost their lives due to Russian aggression in Ukraine, leading to Western condemnation of Russia for grave human rights violations. While Russia holds responsibility for these deaths, it is ironic that the United States’ invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, which resulted in civilian casualties, did not receive similar criticism as human rights violations. Likewise, the US rarely speaks out against Israel for violations of Palestinian human rights.
Regrettably, China, a formidable global power that frequently espouses a vision of a new world order centred around its influence, appears to show little interest in human rights. China has long maintained favourable relations with authoritarian countries like Myanmar and North Korea, which are frequently criticised for their human rights records. Despite its massive influence over Myanmar, China has consistently sidestepped the issue of human rights for the Rohingya and provided invisible support to the Myanmar military in this regard.
It is important to acknowledge that China, too, has faced similar allegations of human rights violations against the Uyghur Muslim community and constraints on political rights inside its territory. Ultimately, it has become ironic to anticipate impartial conduct from any nation when it comes to human rights, as the notion of neutrality has lost its essence in this context. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations has never really been universal; rather, the issue of human rights has unfortunately been turned into a political tool for self-interest.
Democracy in Disarray: India’s Uphill Battle against an Escalating Surge of Anti-Democratic Sentiments
India has consistently bragged about being the world’s largest democracy and having an ostensibly ‘secular’ outlook for many decades. The Nehruvian political ideology, which espoused the virtues of secularism as an important pillar of the Indian nation, served as the initial foundation for India’s political landscape after gaining independence. India has significantly departed from its once-celebrated founding principles in modern times, with the RSS BJP dispensation now in power embracing a narrow ideology based on “Hindutva” ideals. Therefore, several well-known Western media outlets have recently expressed their concerns about this apparent change and the implications of India’s ongoing democratic ‘backslide’. Despite India’s rise to one of the world’s most rapidly expanding economies and its crucial role in U.S.-led efforts to balance China, it is difficult to ignore the concurrent rise in repressive measures aimed at stifling dissent within its borders.
Unfortunately, the international community has mostly held back from openly criticizing New Delhi in an effort to preserve a strategic alliance. Most foreign governments, with the exception of Beijing and Islamabad, view India as a crucial trading partner and are therefore reluctant to express their concerns. Even leaders of the Muslim world have kept their opinions on the plight of underprivileged Muslims in India relatively quiet. It is true that self-interest, rather than moral obligations, predominately drives international relations. However, New Delhi’s significance to India’s democratic fabric ensures that the country’s deterioration of democratic standards remains a significant topic of discussion.
India frequently highlights its achievements, from the smooth operation of elections to the unwavering submission to civilian authority, and is proud to wear the title of “world’s largest democracy”. Additionally, programs like the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) and broader international cooperation aimed at confronting China are frequently presented as a joint effort by democratically inclined countries. In response to the stark reality of India’s democratic erosion, many parties have expressed concern, particularly among Western observers. Therefore, economic and strategic concerns are frequently cited as the reason why the international community is reluctant to discuss this issue openly, but India’s importance to its democratic credentials keeps discussions about its democratic trajectory ablaze.
On the other hand, the Indian authorities’ escalating persecution of journalists and online critics due to their criticism of government policies and practices, as exemplified by their use of counterterrorism and sedition laws to prosecute them, represents a flagrant disregard for the basic right to freedom of expression. The Indian authorities must show respect for this fundamental human right, immediately release journalists who have been wrongfully detained on false or politically motivated charges as a result of their critical reporting, and stop systematic persecution of journalists and repression of independent media. India must be prepared for whatever may happen as the world continues to embrace it more and more. It is crucial to understand that New Delhi will feel more empowered to intensify its repressive crackdowns inside its borders the more leniency and immunity it receives.
The fact that the United States and India lack a formal treaty alliance must be acknowledged, although they have developed a comprehensive strategic partnership that spans diplomatic, defense, and developmental interests. However, the alignment of these interests suggests a significant change in their relationship since the Cold War ended. Three main factors are responsible for this transformation. First, after the communist model fell apart in 1991, India shifted its attention to the West by embracing globalization and market economics. Second, despite India’s non-signatory status to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the relations between the two countries have become closer as a result of India’s emergence as a nuclear-armed power and the willingness to accept it into the international civil nuclear regime. Finally, China’s emergence as a regional power with global ambitions forced reluctant leaders in New Delhi and Washington, D.C., to acknowledge the necessity of combining their efforts lest they individually suffer the consequences.
The consolidation of a Hindu-majoritarian political style, the excessive concentration of power within the executive branch and the ensuing erosion of independent institutions, and the repression of political dissent and press freedom are the three main areas of concern when evaluating India’s regression in terms of democracy. While each of these issues is significant in and of itself, the presence of all of them together poses a serious threat to Indian democracy as a whole. The foundations of the U.S.-India strategic partnership, America’s broader interests in the Indo-Pacific region, and international initiatives aimed at promoting democracy will all be jeopardized if India’s democratic decline continues. This includes social stability and prosperity for more than a billion Indians.
Modi’s State Visit to the US: Expansive Engagement
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has travelled to the United States several times since 2014, for bilateral and multilateral visits but from June 21 to 24 he will be on an official state visit to Washington DC. White House press secretary announced that “the President and the First Lady are looking forward to welcoming PM Modi for the official state visit on 22nd June. This will be an opportunity to reaffirm the deep and close partnership between US-India.” Upon his arrival, Modi will receive an official welcome and hold bilateral meetings and delegation level talks. President Joe and First Lady Jill Biden will be hosting a state dinner in his honour. In a singular opportunity granted only to the closest allies of the United States, Modi will be addressing a joint session of the American Congress during his visit to the States.
It is noteworthy that a Democratic President is inviting the Indian Prime Minister for a White House state dinner, while a Republic Speaker has asked him to address the joint session of Congress, indicating bipartisan support for augmenting Indo-US ties.
State visits at the highest level of protocol are rare in the American system, and PM Modi is just the third state visitor during the Biden Presidency. Historically, Modi will be the third Indian leader ever invited for a state visit to the US, since those of President Radha Krishna 1963 and Prime Minister ManMohan Singh in 2009. During the state dinner hosted by President Obama for PM Singh, the two leaders spoke augustly about a “future that beckons all of us.” Modi’s state visit will also be one of the longest of any leader to the US. So in many ways this visit is a significant signalling of the prominence that the US accords to its relations with India. On the agenda are agreements on trade, defence and critical minerals and significant progression of the Indo-US defence partnership, with the signing of a joint production agreement.
Ahead of Modi’s state visit, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin is in India on a two-day visit to explore ways to lay the groundwork for highly anticipated agreements on bilateral defence cooperation, especially in areas of transfer of critical technologies for co-development of military hardware.
With bilateral trade reaching a record-breaking $191 billion last year, U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC) will also be hosting the INDUS-X conference, and scheduled to be held over two days in Washington coinciding with Mr. Modi’s visit.
Building Strategic Linkages over Two Decades:
After decades of intermittently frigid relations, Washington’s ties with New Delhi have grown significantly closer over the past twenty years. trade and investment flows have grown alongside shared geostrategic interests and China’s growing presence and assertiveness in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region is a concern for both. This rapprochement accelerated markedly after the Bush administration lifted the sanctions imposed after India’s nuclear test, and the completion of the Civilian Nuclear Cooperation Initiative. Since Narendra Modi came to power almost a decade ago, security and economic links with the US have enhanced conspicuously, alongside deepening security cooperation like counterterrorism around shared interests limiting China’s influence in the broader Indo-Pacific. President Barack Obama declared India a “major defence partner” and the Trump administration’s growing concerns about China’s regional assertiveness-including along the Sino-Indian border-cemented the U.S.-India security partnership. India was included alongside the United States, Australia, and Japan-as a counterweight to Chinese ambitions in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the ‘Quad.’
New Delhi and Wasington signed COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) in 2018 which provides for interoperability between the two militaries and provides for the sale of high-end technology from the US to India. This was followed by the BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement) agreement for sharing of high-end military technology, logistics and geospatial maps between the two countries. The pact provides Billions of dollars in American arms purchases were finalised by the Modi government though it did not accede to Trump’s demands to stop purchasing the S-400 and other Russian military equipment.
Biden Seeks to Broaden Ties:
Advancing on these two decades of deepening strategic linkages the Biden administration has sought to further broaden the scope of the strategic partnership between the two countries and deepen Indian integration into a shared security architecture. With more robust military cooperation such as acceleration of joint military exercises, there has also been revival of the US-India Homeland Security Dialogue, which seeks to strengthen cooperation on cybersecurity, technology, and countering violent extremism. These security-oriented steps with steps have been complemented with initiatives such as the launching of a Clean Energy 2030 partnership, etc. Both leaders oversaw the launch of the India-US Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (ICET) during the Quad summit in May 2022. One of the most important results of the ICET was the commencement of negotiations on the General Electric (GE) deal to produce GE-F414 jet engines in India, complete with technology transfer. In February this year the historic deal between Boeing and Air India for the latter to buy more than 200 planes from the American plane manufacturer was announced. Air India is ordering 220 Boeing aircraft valued at $34 billion. The orders include 190 737 Max aircraft, 20 of Boeing’s 787s, and 10 of its 777Xs. The purchase also includes customer options for an additional 50 737 MAXs and 20 of its 787s, totaling 290 aeroplanes for a total of $45.9 billion at list price. In a phone call both leaders discussed the importance of the US-India strategic technology partnership and committed to continue working together and in groups like the Quad to advance economic growth and expand cooperation on their shared priorities.
Deliverables of the Upcoming State visit:
The signing of the MoU with General Electric deal will be the biggest deliverable of Prime Minister Modi’s State visit to the US. India’s Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) has selected 99 F414 GE fighter jet engines to power the Mk II version of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) for the Indian Air Force. GE was engaged by the Biden administration, and a proposal with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) officials was arrived at. The agreement is to build GE-F414-INS6 engines that will power Tejas-Mk II Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) being built by HAL. The engine of the Mk II works at super high temperatures, is the maximum thrust model in the F-414 model, and includes state-of-the-art technology to meet India’s demanding Air Force and Naval requirements. Although the final details of the agreement will only be clear once the MoU is signed, it is likely that the transfer of technology (ToT) and the percentage of locally manufactured components will exceed 60%, possibly reaching 75%.
Other deliverables include the go ahead New Delhi’s plan to procure 30 MQ-9B armed drones at a cost of over $3 billion from US defence major General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc.
The US is already India’s largest goods trading partner and the only major country with which India has a goods trade surplus. There is also tremendous excitement in the business community over the launch of the initiative INDUS-X, a platform for start-ups and enterprises from both countries to identify collaborations for high-tech innovations within the ambit of the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET).
Given the kind of aspirations India has in terms of manufacturing, the US is a critical partner. The US has expressed on a number of occasions that it sees the rise of India to be in its interests. Both administrations have shown tremendous excitement for the “defence innovation bridge” of which the GE deal is just one element.
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