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China, others oppose India’s bid for Nuclear Suppliers Group

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The 48-nation the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) aims to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons by restricting the sale of items that can be used to make those arms.

India aims at membership into 48-nation NSG. This membership will make path for India to achieve high-end technology and also shape its engagement with nuclear proliferation group, which can positively impact India’s bid to join elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) club. The other foreign policy objective of getting entry into the UN veto powers’ club, also called P5 plus one, has not made any progress as there is no support from the present UNSC-5 plus Germany,, notwithstanding applying all sorts of pressures directly and through other leaders who visited India on official tours. .

A membership into the important nuclear group NSG will open wide-array of nuclear possibilities for India. India can get help from global markets to set up nuclear power plants. Apart from giving India the knowledge of state-of-art technology, it can also solve the problem of nation’s energy crisis. Under this membership, India can also commercialize the production of nuclear power equipment. This in turn will boost innovation and high tech manufacturing and can bring India into level-playing field with its dragon neighbour. Most importantly India’s access to advanced nuclear technologies will help it export power generators to other emerging economies.

China’s military modernization, capacity-building, infrastructure development in Tibet, and moves into the Indian Ocean pose serious challenges to India’s security. The alleged ‘String of Pearls’, an attempt to bring peripheral states into its circle of influence, only adds to India’s geopolitical concerns. According to Pentagon’s 2016 China military report, China is aggressively pursuing military modernisation. China increased its defence budget by 7.6 per cent to $146 billion for FY17, citing militarization of the Asia-Pacific, especially the disputed South China Sea, and deepening tensions with the US. This is almost four times that of India’s outlay.

India on the other hand, seeking to be a super power, is grappling to make available to its armed forces cutting-edge mobility, weapons and equipment. In order to overtake China and USA and Russia, military specialists argue that making India self-reliant in production of its military requirements is the need of the hour and the Modi government should give more funds for upgrading military equipment.

As India is eager to be seen as a big power and an ally of super power and to join the main club of countries controlling access to sensitive nuclear technology, China is leading opposition to a push by the United States (US) and other major powers for pushing Indian case without substance.

Backed by USA, India says it already enjoys most of the benefits of membership under a 2008 exemption to NSG rules granted to support its nuclear cooperation deal with Washington, even though India has developed atomic weapons and never signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the main global arms control pact.

China is leading opposition to a push by the United States and other major powers for India to join the main club of countries controlling access to sensitive nuclear technology, diplomats said as the group discussed India’s membership bid. Other countries opposing Indian membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) include New Zealand, Ireland, Turkey, South Africa and Austria, they said. They argue that granting it membership would further undermine efforts to prevent proliferation. It would also infuriate India’s rival Pakistan, which responded to India’s membership bid with one of its own and has the backing of its close ally China. By bringing India on board, it’s a slap in the face of the entire non-proliferation regime,” a diplomatic source from one of a handful of countries resisting India’s push said on condition of anonymity.

A decision on Indian membership is not expected before an NSG plenary meeting in Seoul on June 20, but diplomats said Washington, delicately pushed by New Delhi by buying huge terror equipment from Washington, had been pressuring hold-outs, and the closed-door meeting was a chance to see how strong opposition is. In order to show how much USA cares for Indian money bags and ‘regional stability’, US Secretary John Kerry wrote to members asking them “not to block consensus on Indian admission to the NSG”.

A UN veto member China, however, showed no sign of backing down from its opposition to India joining unless Pakistan becomes a member. “China, if anything, is hardening its position,” another diplomat said.

Indian Modi has been touring many countries to shore p support for its entry into NSG. Most of the hold-outs oppose the idea of admitting a non-NPT state such as India and argue that if it is to be admitted, it should be under criteria that apply equally to all states rather than under a “tailor-made” solution for a new US ally.

In a move aimed at garnering Beijing’s support for entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), India has ‘smartly’ removed conference visas for Chinese participants from the prior referral category. China has, on several occasions, pressed India for lifting restrictions on conference and research visas.

In line with the decision taken last year during Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s visit to China, India has further liberalised the visa regime for Chinese citizens. India has already rolled out electronic tourist visa-on-arrival facility for Chinese and more recently, removed the need for prior approval for conference visas.

The timing of the move is being seen as an attempt to soften the atmosphere in the run-up to the meetings of the NSG in Vienna. “Not all categories of visas for Chinese have been removed from the restricted category. The relaxation is only for conference visas as it was a major hindrance for the Chinese to come here and share technological advancements and strategies, but India had to do that to appease China. Conference visas are issued for seminars, workshops and conferences organised by government departments, Union ministries, public sector undertakings, central educational institutions or public funded universities.

Earlier, China was bracketed with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, foreigners of Pakistani origin and stateless persons under the restricted category, requiring prior security clearance from the Indian intelligence agencies for obtaining a visa. However, Beijing is yet to reciprocate to New Delhi demand for a similar arrangement for its citizens.

China, however, has made it clear there is not chance for India to be in the NSG. China knows well that USA is playing the usual tricks on the Indian case for NSG. Interestinlgy, India also is well aware of the emerging situation which is not in its favor but all that it wants is an open declaration of support of USA on India cases. India’s major concern in fact is not UN veto or NSG but keeping neighboring Jammu Kashmir under its brutal control and it seeks US support to deny Pakistan any chance to take over India occupied Jammu Kashmir.

USA, China and Russia also know that. Even Pakistan, which also occupies a part of Jammu Kashmir, too is well versed with the topic.

All the money that travels regularly from New Delhi to Washington is essentially meant to appease the Uncle Sam to support Indian case for Kashmir.

Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have assumed the duty of spokesperson for Obama and USA as he declared that USA has decided to isolate those who support terrorism. Modi added that India and the United States should work together more closely to defeat terrorism and head off regional instability.

BJP led by PM Modi thrives in India on the themes like Pakistan and Muslims that got the Hindu vote banks to their services to make it the ruling party of India. As routine rhetoric, Modi while in USA called Pakistan a terror state, though indirectly. While the Indian leader did not mention Pakistan by name, he urged US lawmakers to help isolate those who support terrorism that is ‘incubated in India’s neighborhood’. And, while he did not address China’s maritime territorial ambitions, Modi said a US-India partnership would ‘help ensure security of the sea lanes of commerce and freedom of navigation’. Modi made the remarks in an address to a joint session of the US Congress during a visit to Washington designed to build on improved ties between the world’s two largest democracies.

Once effectively banned from the United States because of his alleged role in anti-Muslim riots before coming to national office, Modi has built a rapport with US President Barack Obama. Now, with Obama’s final term coming to an end in seven months, the two partners are keen to secure support for India’s civil nuclear program and build an enduring great power partnership.

Modi was keen to play up for his Washington audience the more than $10 billion India has spent on US weaponry in the past five years. However, China is a major stumbling block to country’s NSG dreams. Backing Pakistan’s membership bid, China asserts that India is not qualified to join the nuclear group, as the latter has not signed NPT.

Pakistan has also expressed concern over growing strategic ties between India and the US, a day after the two countries signed a number of agreements for security cooperation during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s regular visit to the USA. Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said the US approaches Pakistan whenever it needs it and abandons when it does not need the country. “We firmly conveyed it to the US that maintaining effective nuclear deterrence is critical for Pakistan’s security and only Pakistan itself can determine how it should respond to growing strategic imbalance in South Asia,” he said. “Pakistan will convey its concerns to the US over the latest issues in the bilateral ties,” Aziz. A high-level meeting is scheduled to take place between Pakistan and the US officials on Friday in Islamabad.

Aziz also said Pakistan has decided to take up the issue of Kulbhushan Jadhav, alleged Indian spy arrested in Balochistan, with the UN and other international forums. He said the statement made by Director General of National Investigation Agency (NIA) that no evidence linked Pakistan to the January 2 Pathankot attack in Punjab has vindicated Pakistan’s position in attack probe.

The developing Indo-US military relationship is seen as the only a foreign policy ‘success’ for the Obama government. The two countries have finalized various agreements that would make it possible for their militaries to cooperate more closely in the future. Under one such agreement, an American company will build six nuclear reactors in India.

Washington also says it views India as an important part of it’s re-balance to Asia and as a counterweight to China and Russian influence in Mideast.

The destabilization of Pakistan as an Islamic state due to NATO war in and around and the consequent fall of US-Pakistan relations make India happy. The perpetually oscillating Pakistan-US relationship is once again at low as reflected by the congressional restriction on financing of F-16 fighters’ sale from Foreign Military Financing programme, because of which Pakistan lost the opportunity to buy the jets. Washington, however, gets things ‘done’ in Islamabad as it seeks very easily as there is only a puppet regime there. The relationship was further strained when the US carried out a drone strike in Balochistan, killing Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour. Pakistan termed it as a violation of the country’s sovereignty.

After causing instability in South Asia by invading an Islamizing Afghanistan on the pretext of Sept-11 hoax, US rulers are talking about stability in the region. Funny guys!

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South Asia

As Sri Lanka struggles with Chinese debt-trap, Maldives moves closer to the Quad

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The Indian Ocean’s geopolitical currents have witnessed drastic transformation this year, particularly in the past three months, with India shedding the exclusive right of its sphere of influence over the Indian Ocean, by allowing the United States in its own backyard. Washington and New Delhi seems to have entered into what few analysts call a ‘soft alliance’.

Sri Lanka and Maldives are strategically located in the northern section of the Indian Ocean, and have long been historically, culturally, and geopolitically under India’s sphere of influence. But, things are beginning to change as Chinese debt-trap looms over these islands.

The Quad grouping, consisting of India, Japan, the United States and Australia, has demonstrated its collective military might in the maritime sphere of India with the recently concluded annual Malabar naval exercise. It also led to the emergence of new dynamics of cooperation in previously reticent areas, built upon confidence in each other’s abilities and consciousness of where it stands in the newly unravelling geopolitical equation.

India’s new strategic comfort with bringing in partners from the Quad partners lying external to the Indian Ocean Region, namely the US and Japan into its long-held exclusive sphere of influence signals a tilt in strategic imperatives for New Delhi in favour of the US that too in an evolving cold war-like situation involving Washington and Beijing with different set of countries rallying behind each side.

India has recently welcomed the US-Maldives Defense Cooperation Agreement signed in September, this year. The following month saw US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Male where he announced Washington’s intent to open an embassy soon.

Less than three months after the defence pact with Washington, Male signed a new agreement with Tokyo this month, for availing a Japanese grant of $7.6 million to strengthen the archipelago’s Coast Guard capacities, in a second major pact with a Quad member.

New Delhi’s newfound willingness to work with external actors in the Indian Ocean is a sign of strategic comfort stemming out from realist foreign policy considerations to expand its circle of friends and coalition partners in its own backyard against a common and more powerful adversary, Beijing, with which it also have decades-long tensions in the Himalayan frontiers.

Even though both these two countries succumbed to disproportionately superior Chinese economic might since the past one decade, it seems Maldives has somehow managed to come out of its dangerous level of dependency on China since Ibrahim Mohammed Solih of the Maldivian Democratic Party assumed presidency of the island nation two years back in November 2018.

The Sri Lankan economy went into a tailspin since the civil war ended in 2009. The country’s exchequer was badly in need of financial support to sustain itself. It was also the time when Beijing just began to project its military and economic power in its neighbourhood and beyond as the flamboyant 2008 Beijing Olympics concluded.

The island of Sri Lanka soon acquired new geoeconomic significance when President Xi Jinping launched the most ambitious infrastructure project of this century in 2013, the Belt and Road Infrastructure, connecting three continents with the Indian Ocean as its epicenter of vitality.

With BRI, a tangled web of debt-trap rapidly began to loom over Sri Lanka as Beijing pumped-in investments into the war-battered island with malicious intentions.

The story of handover of Hambantota port, strategically located in the southern tip of Sri Lankan coast, to China for a 99-year lease in 2017, and the Colombo Port City project being built with Chinese assistance are just examples of how economic leverage gained geopolitically advantageous positions for Beijing overlooking the Indian Ocean. These assets are going to play a significant role in the connectivity of BRI’s ‘Maritime Silk Road’ aspect.

Chinese-led projects are built and managed by Chinese workers themselves as they do in any other part of the world, naturally bringing presence of Chinese personnel to the areas where it operates.

The BRI, however, enhances Sri Lanka’s significance in what theorists call the String of Pearls, wherein Beijing attempts to encircle India by a series of ports and maritime installations under its control in the Indian Ocean such as the overseas military base in Djibouti, Gwadar in Pakistan, and the ports in Bay of Bengal under Chinese influence hosted by either Bangladesh or Myanmar. Chinese submarine presence is also a new reality, particularly in areas surrounding the Malacca Straits.

All these factors naturally brought New Delhi closer to Washington to formulate a ‘collective strategy’ against the expansionist tendencies manifested by Chinese behaviour. At the same time, India has been taking proactive steps in its individual capacity to boost ties with other island and littoral states in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), like Mauritius and Seychelles where India’s listening posts to monitor sea-lanes also operate.

The Indian Navy has always been the first responder to any HADR (Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief) situations in the IOR which earned significant soft power and respect for India in the countries of the region. This vision has been immortalized in India’s maritime doctrine for regional cooperation in the Indian Ocean, SAGAR (Security and Growth for all in the Region), that was unveiled in 2015.

With the entry of the US, which already has its presence in the British Indian Ocean Territory of Diego Garcia lying mid-way of the ocean, that too with India’s approval, and France in Reunion in the western Indian Ocean, the geostrategic picture of IOR is beginning to change.

Maldives stands as a good example of how to overcome Chinese dominating agenda by boosting cooperation among democracies. But, the Abdullah Yameen-era nightmare of Chinese debt burden is still far from over. In fact, Sri Lanka too is well aware of the Chinese trap from which it yearns to decouple itself. But, Colombo is left with limited options or alternatives to do so.

The renewed Indo-US strategic cooperation, if not translated into offering a viable solution to the debt-trap conundrum, Sri Lanka might irreversibly evolve into another extension of Beijing’s legs in the Indian Ocean threatening the sovereignty of democracies in the region.

Recent steps in the strategic realm are welcome, but the Indo-Pacific democracies, particularly India and the US, should cooperate with these two key island states more in the economic realm as well, if possible near to the extent of Beijing as a collective move.

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South Asia

The Dysfunctional Pakistan’s Legislature

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The legislature of Pakistan has several problems and because of this very reason governments are unable to make any landmark laws for the state that can prove to be effective in resulting some socio-political or economic changes in the society. The noncooperation among the parties in the house is the major problem that leads no healthy debate. People have never seen the political parties having a healthy debate among the political parties on some key matters that need to address. Political parties prefer crosstalk on each other that mostly ends up on the dismal of legislature. Mostly in the house the opposition and the party in power never each on consensus on anything that shows their no seriousness towards the legislation.

 In my opinion the opposition of Pakistan perceives its role to be negative always. The opposition perceives as their duty to walk out from the house, make fun of their fellow colleagues, bringing our historical facts to propagate negativity about the agenda. This attitude results in no fruitful law-making.

The scenario of national assembly of Pakistan is that if the ruling party does not has two-third majority in the house they will be paralyzed as the opposition has imagines role of not supporting the government to pass laws and bills that can benefit their reputation among the public. In this game of interest the parties forget the importance of legislation and national interest rather they are more focused on protecting their own interests and interests of their political parties.

The tussle between the government and the opposition is endless that is negatively impacting the legislative system of Pakistan.

Another factor that weakens the legislative process of Pakistan is the issues within the upper house. This plays a vital role in enacting the laws without senate’s cooperation legislation cannot improve and strength.

 The sustained bitterness and confrontation with the government and opposition leads to no progress in the making of legislation and strengthening the rule of law. For example the PTI coalition passed the bills and introduced 8 ordinances in its first year of government.

The ten bills passed by national assembly faced a new challenge which was the Senate of Pakistan where PTI also does not hold the majority. Ten out of 4 bills sailed through Senate whereas 3 remained pending in Senate. Only 7 bills turned into acts in the first year of PTI government.

The lack of coordination and seriousness in the parliament is affecting the progress of Pakistan. Without rules and making of new legislation how can the country progress? In a democratic system the rule of law is one of the pillars for true democratic practices but unfortunately in Pakistan we only see leg-pulling and blame game between the institutions.  The lack of political consensus among the parties is another problem. On the other hand the formation of Standing Committees of national assembly is important for the functioning of the system. According to the Rules of Procedure of national assembly the members of Standing Committees has to be elected within 30 days after the elections of the leader of house but according to the data of PILDAT previous assembly managed to form these in 3 months instead of 30 days. This indicated lack of seriousness of the members.

The current government has only got the executive authority and not the legislative competence that makes them dysfunctional as they are dependent on the opposition and then Senate for passing of the legislation and making it a law.

Another factor that weakens the legislative system of Pakistan is the overactive judiciary and the intervention of the military in law making. Through this intervention the legacy of the military rule is still being kept alive. Most of the time the Supreme Court and the judiciary intervene in the legislation to serve their interest and weaken their opponents sitting in the government. The overactive judiciary encroaches the governance agenda, legislative advice etc. the legislative procedure in Pakistan is still developing its institutional identity.

The duty of the legislature is to respond to its public needs and also exercise oversight of the executive, but there is not engagement in the civil society and no research is being conducted on the public policy for better and effective policy making.

In the end it can be concluded that the system is also faulty but the attitude of the parliamentarians is more disappointing and discouraging. The whole system is unsuitable for a less educated population of Pakistan as most of the parliamentarians are unaware of policy-making and its importance for the state. The process is also complex and complicated as it has to go through several steps for making a bill a law.

Through this process, law-making on controversial issues is nearly impossible because in Pakistan people protect their interest instead of their state. Even if the government is serious for law-making the judiciary, military and bureaucracy will not allow the government to do its job. This is high time to adopt a new system in this country and draw lines for every institutions particularly judiciary that is the most rigid institutions and creates hurdles for every government by interrupting them.

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Reinforcing the Role of the International Community in Resolving the Rohingya Crisis

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A young Rohingya girl holds her brother outside a youth club in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. © UNHCR/Vincent Tremeau

Bangladesh is hosting more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees since August 2017. The United Nations defined Myanmar’s August 2017 atrocities to the Rohingyas as “Textbook case of ethnic cleansing”. On July 02, 2018, during his visit to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General noted that “I have no doubt that the Rohingya people have always been one of, if not the, most discriminated people in the world, without any recognition of the most basic rights starting by the recognition of the right of citizenship by their own country – Myanmar”. Thus, the severity of the Rohingya crisis is well-recognized by the international community. This article focuses on the necessity of the international community’s role in facilitating a safe and sustainable Rohingya crisis solution.

The ironic story is that though it is already three years passed, no concrete action is manifested to facilitate the Rohingya refugee repatriation. In the United Nations Security Council, Russia and China applied veto power in the case of Rohingya refugee resolution, which made strong impediments to the repatriation process. Russia and China did this calculating their narrowly defined interest rather than humanity which is in fact, ironic for the world. Thus, the United Nations could not play a crucial role in facilitating the Rohingya refugee repatriation.

Bangladesh is one of the densely populated countries in the world. Though Bangladesh is a rising economic power, feeding more than 170 million people is not an easy task. Also, more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees have added extra socio-economic pressures in the country. For Bangladesh’s continued growth, prosperity, and stability, there is no alternative to repatriate the Rohingya refugees in Myanmar as early as possible. Since Myanmar committed ethnic cleansing to the Rohingyas, and the country is not interested in taking back the Rohingyas, only the international community including the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) can pressurize Myanmar to ensure a safe and sustainable repatriation.

Bangladesh strongly believes that the international community can play an essential role in resolving the Rohingya refugee crisis permanently. For instance, at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly, Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, offered five points proposal including the full implementation of recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission, and the establishment of civilian monitored safe zone in the Rakhine State to the international community to resolve the issue. Similarly, at the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sheikh Hasina offered a four points-proposal to resolve the Rohingya crisis highlighting the role of the international community. Sheikh Hasina emphasized that the international community must ensure that the root causes of the Rohingya problem area addressed and the violation of human rights and other atrocity crimes committed against the Rohingyas are accounted for.

The good news is that the on November 19, 2020, the United Nations has adopted a resolution on “The Situation of Human Rights of the Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar” while Bangladesh seeks a peaceful solution to the Rohingya crisis. The Resolution called for taking concrete actions by Myanmar to address the root causes of the Rohingya crisis, i.e. granting them citizenship, ensuring the safe and sustainable return of the Rohingyas to their homes by creating a conducive environment. Bangladesh Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Rabab Fatima notes that “As a country that hosts over 1.1 million forcibly displaced Rohingyas, Bangladesh continues to seek a peaceful solution to this crisis, which lies in their safe and dignified return to Myanmar”.

Notably, Germany on behalf of the European Union and Saudi Arabia on behalf of the OIC co-tabled the Resolution which was sponsored by the 104 member states including the USA, Canada, and Australia. It is also a positive development that a total of 132 countries voted in favour of the Resolution while nine countries voted against and 31 countries abstained. It demonstrates that most of the countries in the world want a permanent, sustainable and peaceful solution to the Rohingya crisis. It also signifies that these countries care for the humanity while the nine countries who voted against the Resolution only care for their narrowly defined interest. The future generations will undoubtedly read and know the actions of those nine countries who do not care for humanity. Those nine countries need to know that despite several domestic challenges, Sheikh Hasina has shown kindness, humanitarian gesture and thus protected and sheltered those Rohingyas from killing by the Myanmar armies.

Notably, Bangladesh is one of the top ten countries in the world in terms of hosting refugees. This will remain as a humanitarian example in the world. One also needs to keep in mind that the socio-economic realities of Turkey (who is the top in hosting refugees), and Bangladesh is not the same. While the GDP (per capita) of Turkey is US$ 9043, Bangladesh’s GDP (per capita) is US$ 1856, the population density of Turkey is 108 per square kilometres, and Bangladesh’s population density is 1116 per square kilometres. Thus, considering the contexts, and socio-economic realities of Bangladesh, the international community needs to reinforce the Rohingya refugee repatriation process. Most importantly, the international community needs to execute the adopted Resolution as early as possible for the sake of humanity, for the sake of a just cause. The future world will certainly note the noble actions taken by the international community for such a just, and reasonable cause.

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