India’s Kashmir valley is once again witnessing the bloody uprising against the state for over fifty seven civilian killings. The number of injured civilian protesters is around four thousand. Crisis mishandling is at its worst as use of pellets and bullets by security forces using lethal weapons against the protesting masses has led to mass anger.
This unrest is believed to be the worst uprising ever since the onset of the armed conflict in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and is said to be of a different pattern than the previous infamous and bloody uprisings of 2008 and 2010. The reason of the current ongoing social unrest is the killing of a militant and Hizbul Mujahidin Commander BurhanWani-a local boy of 22 years age ,who took arms for he was thrashed, abused and insulted by forces when he was a young boy. The militant rebel was killed on July 8 in an encounter and the news spread like wild fire and engulfed the whole valley where people came out in open to shout slogans against the state and demanded Azadi (Freedom) from India. Till date the unrest is not dying down and whole valley is under curfew by the state and bandh (shut down) called by the separatist leaders of the valley whom masses follow religiously.
For the majority of native Kashmiris’ Burhan was an icon of youth demanding justice and adherence to freedom sentiment. Kashmir has been fighting what they call Indian occupation since the Princely state of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India on 27 October 1947.Though the moderate dissent against India continued in the past as well but from 1989 the armed uprising started demanding right to self determination which India believes is Pakistan sponsored and is treated merely as a proxy war. The fallout of such a bloody conflict has been enormous in terms of loss of human lives. About one hundred thousand killings and loss of property worth billions and unaccounted human rights abuse continues. As collateral damage the conflict has left behind helpless widows, poor orphans, army of half widows, fake encounters, torture and sexual and physical abuse besides the continuing draconian law called AFSPA.
The local militancy as dissent against India still continues even after Burhan’s death given the popular support and continuing social unrest, civilian’s killings by forces, atrocities on people and obviously reacting violently to the rebel’s death! So far a month has passed, protests and dissent against the state hardly dies down.
The situation on the ground is mostly described as war like today. The prevailing uncertainty and highest state of mass alienation is alarming for the valley is completely observing shut down since July 9. Routine killings, youth defiance, deep anger and pessimism against the system and hopelessness with the government and political institution have become a reality. People are on the streets in defiance demanding Azadi (freedom) from India which they feel is their basic right. The Indian approach so far has been reactionary and efforts are still on to contain the uprising with the use of force, treating the whole uprising as Pakistan fuelled and a mere law and order issue. The fact remains that Pakistan this time has openly supported the ongoing protests and even PM Nawaz Shrief has been continuously speaking on the issue. At the mass level, the legitimising of the all-pervasive culture of violence is becoming a dangerous trend as people especially the younger generation have lost the fear of death and come out in open against the forces to express their anger and dissent.
Now majority believes that only open defiance against the state can solve their issues especially the political problem of Kashmir that has been lingering since decades despite many UN Resolutions. People perceive so because they have been witnessing only violence since the onset of the armed conflict in 1989 that has really proved costly in every way and alienated a major chunk of the society. A culture of violence has inadvertently shaped up to the core and is being legitimised even by everybody now. There are appeals of calm and peace by authorities today but falling on deaf ears.
Youths’ undying commitment to resist the power and protest the killings is reflected by the total lockdown in the valley since July 9. The rampant killing spree by forces and oft repeated crisis mishandling and failure of crowed control management has added fuel to the fire. The separatist leadership keeps extending the shut down duration and people keep following with all vigour. Militants keep dying and people gather in thousands for their funerals treating them as their heroes. The State keeps reacting but agitations never stop. The situation is totally fragile and uncertainty is the established norm. The valley is back to the situation that prevailed in 1990’s.
People are forced to starve inside their homes due to prolonged curfew, communication blockade continues without any break and pellets and bullets have wreaked havoc everywhere making this 2016 uprising the most brutal so far. New Delhi cannot and should not brush aside every such situation as merely a law and order problem and as a solution announce economic packages or treat unemployment or lack of development responsible for the mess but approach youth with a political discourse. Where will it lead us to and where will it end, nobody knows! The situation that prevails is the writing on the wall and must be taken seriously by the government. The government primarily needs to engage with the agitating people with all empathy in spite of using pellet guns and bullets against its own people every day. It remains a fact that issue of Kashmir can neither be solved by development talk or by military might.
Pakistan not a Threat for Israel: Clearing Misconceptions
Ever since 1998; the beginning of Pakistan’s nuclear age, the state’s self-defense mechanism has been a source of worry and unrest for India and the US. Both these states never really accepted that a small state like Pakistan could develop the prestigious asset and was now well capable of defending itself against external threats. US opposed the program on the grounds that it had been tested after the signing of NPT and that it is an “illegitimate” program. Their basic concern was Pakistan not being a party to NPT and US non-proliferation efforts failing. India, though very much against the program, could not openly oppose it on the same grounds because its own Nuclear Program had the same issue i.e. it was tested after the signing of NPT and they had also not signed the treaty.
There are a lot of ambiguities surrounding Pakistan’s nuclear program which are there intentionally for the benefit and security of the program and state. However, there is one thing which has been kept very clear since day one and that is the Indo centric nature of Pakistan’s nuclear program. The program was developed because the conventionally strong next door neighbor had developed their program. Pakistan, in an attempt to ensure territorial security, had to develop its own program as well. US, China, Russia, France or the UK were never a threat to Pakistan nor was Pakistan on their attack agenda. India on the other hand was in close territorial proximity, a historic enemy, conventionally stronger and now also a nuclear power. After evaluating all these factors any national strategist would suggest a nuclear program for Pakistan and that is exactly what the state did.
There have been news in an Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, that Pakistan is more of a threat to Israel than Iran. This was published on 20 May, 2018. The grounds for this allegation have been identified as Pakistan’s growing arsenal and other similar reasons which have always been popular in the western policy circles. Iran, a conventional enemy, one with which there have been numerous conflicts, has been ruled out as a threat to Israel since they do not have a nuclear arsenal.
However, there are many concrete facts that have been ignored in this propagating debate. For instance Pakistan has had no wars with Israel. Both the states have never even been on the verge of an all-out war. The states have never even had a conflict that could’ve led to war. Although Iran does not have a nuclear arsenal at present but that did not stop the states from indulging into conflicts before and although initiating a nuclear war might not be a possibility for Iran but a conventional war is very much within their skill set.
Pakistan is already indulged in a two front defense strategy on its eastern and western borders. The Taliban threat from the west and the ever present Indian threat from the east, particularly along the line of control is already consuming most of the state’s energy, attention and resources. Under such circumstances, jumping into any sort of venture as far as Israel without any apparent or direct conflict seems like an amateur move which is not expected from Pakistan whatsoever. If any linkages are being made based on the fact that Iran and Israel have cordial ties then they are weak to begin with. On the other hand India and Iran have more than friendly ties and India’s nuclear arsenal is growing rapidly with the US help. However, this does not mean that just because India is a nuclear state and a friend of Iran, it will be inclined to attack Israel.
Pakistan’s nuclear program is solely for the safety and security of the nation against any external threat. The program is not for the state to pick and choose enemies and start non-existing conflicts. That is definitely not how Pakistan intends to use its resources and deviate from the real agenda which is to protect the state of Pakistan. The only condition under which Pakistan would use its nuclear weapons against any state would be if they choose to attack the territory of Pakistan in a nuclear or non-nuclear manner. The state has been absolutely clear about this from the very beginning of its nuclear era.
Behind Indo-Pacific Vision
Mike Pompeo’s recent speech titled, ‘America’s Indo-Pacific Economic Vision – at the Indo-Pacific Business Forum’ at the US Chamber of Commerce, Washington DC has been carefully observed across Asia. Beijing has understandably, paid close special attention to it. Pompeo emphasized on the need for greater connectivity within the Indo-Pacific, while also highlighting the role which the US was likely to play (including financial investments to the tune of 113 Million USD in areas like infrastructure, energy and digital economy). The US Secretary of State while stating that this vision was not targeted at anyone, he did make references to China’s hegemonic tendencies, as well as the lacunae of Chinese connectivity projects (especially the economic dimension).
The Chinese reaction to Pompeo’s speech was interesting. Senior Chinese government officials were initially dismissive of the speech, saying that such ideas have been spoken in the past, but produced no tangible results.
An article in the Global Times ‘Indo-Pacific strategy more a geo-political military alliance’ response is significant. What emerges clearly from this article is that Beijing is not taking the ‘Indo-Pacific vision’ lightly, and neither does it rule out the possibility of collaboration. The article is unequivocal, in expressing its skepticism, with regard to the geo-political vision of the Indo-Pacific vision. Argues the article:
While the geopolitical connotation of the strategy may lead to regional tensions and conflicts and thus put countries in the region on alert
It is optimistic with regard to the geo-economic dimension, saying that this would be beneficial, and would promote economic growth and prosperity. What must be noted is that, while the US vision for ‘Indo-Pacific’ has been put forward as a counter to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the article also spoke about the possible complementarities between the US vision for ‘Indo-Pacific’ and China’s version of BRI. While Mike Pompeo had spoken about a crucial role for US private companies in his speech, the article clearly bats in favor of not just between Indian, Japanese, Chinese, US governments as well as companies. This is interesting, given the fact that China had gone to the extent of dubbing the Indo-Pacific vision as the foam on the sea” “that gets attention but will soon dissipate”
While there is absolutely no doubt, that there is immense scope for synergies between the Indo-Pacific vision, and BRI especially in the economic sphere. China’s recent openness towards the Indo-Pacific vision is welcome, but one of the propelling factors is the growing resentment against the economic implications of some BRI projects. While in South Asia, Sri Lanka is a classical example of China’s debt trap diplomacy, where Beijing provides loans at high interest rates (China has taken over the strategic Hambantota Project, since Sri Lanka has been unable to pay Beijing the whopping 13 Billion USD). Even in ASEAN grouping, countries are beginning to question the feasibility of BRI projects, Malaysia which shares close economic ties with Beijing is reviewing certain Chinese projects (this was one of the first steps undertaken by Mahathir Mohammad after taking over the reigns as Prime Minister of Malaysia).
Second, that while for long the Indo-Pacific Vision has been dubbed as a mere ‘expression’ and one of the criticisms has been a lack of gravitas in the economic context (and even now 113 Million USD is not sufficient). Developments over recent months, including the recent speech, indicate that The Department of State seems to be keen to dispel this notion that the Indo-Pacific narrative is bereft of substance. Here it would be pertinent to point out, that Pompeo’s speech was followed by an Asia visit (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore).
Countries which are key stakeholders in the Indo-Pacific narrative need to keep in mind the following:
US needs to walk the course and apart from investing, more it needs to think of involving more countries, including Taiwan and more South Asian countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the Indo-Pacific partnership.
Second, the Indo-Pacific speaks in favor of democracy as well as greater integration, but not only are countries becoming more inward looking, even their stand on democracy, and Human Rights is ambiguous. Japan is trying to change its attitude towards immigration, and is at the forefront of promoting integration and connectivity within the Indo-Pacific. Neither US, nor India, Japan or Australia have criticized China for its excesses against the Uighur minority in Xinjiang province.
Finally, there is scope for China to be part of the Indo-Pacific, but it needs to look at certain projects beyond the rubric of the BRI. A perfect instance is the Bangladesh China, India Myanmar BCIM Corridor which India was willing to join, but China now considers this project as a part of BRI.
In conclusion, Beijing can not be excluded from the ‘Indo-Pacific’ narrative, but it can not expect to be part of the same, on its own terms. It is also important, for countries like US and India to speak up more forcefully on issues (within their domestic contexts, as well as external) pertaining to Freedom of Speech, Human Rights and immigration issues, given that all these are essential for a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’
Chimeras and Realities of the Indo-Pacific Partnership
The new American initiative for the creation of the Indo-Pacific Partnership (IPP) has grabbed the spotlight in many political discussions of late. Although the idea to set up such a forum was proposed at the end of 2017 and to this day has been no more than a general slogan, now the Trump administration seems set to stake on it. Why?
As a reminder I would like to point out that on May 30 the US Secretary of Defense announced the renaming of the Pacific Command into the Indo-Pacific Command (although the Command’s responsibility zone a priori included the Indian Ocean waters).
A few days later, at the Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) conference in Singapore, the idea of IPP was spelled out by the American side, with an emphasis on the aspects of regional security. When commenting on the change of the name of the American command, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi remarked that for India the unification of the Indian and Pacific oceans into a single geographic array looked “natural”.
The practical implementation of the IPP strategy will most likely be carried out both through the strengthening of US bilateral relations with countries of the region and through the creation of multilateral cooperation formats. The most important of these cooperation initiatives is the so-called. “Quadro”, which is designed to bring together the four “democracies” of the Indo-Pacific region – the United States, Japan, Australia and India.
It is believed that the United States, Australia, Japan and India, united in the Quadro, will consider the two oceans a single strategic space. Since 2016, the United States, India and Japan have been conducting joint naval exercises “Malabar”. Washington is clearly giving New Delhi ever more attention, counting on India as one of the future regional security poles, along with Japan, Australia and its other allies.
The feasibility evaluation of IPP was proposed in the concept of “free and open Indo-Pacific strategy”, FOIP). And the recent report of the US National Security Strategy states that “in the Indo-Pacific region, there is a geopolitical competition between free and repressive visions of the world order.”
Apparently, this is about China. Therefore, the idea of IPP, which is motivated by the value and geostrategic approach, did not cause immediate enthusiasm from the American allies in the region.
Assessing the US initiative to establish IPP, Japanese experts, for example, say that Japan has no objections in principle to such an initiative as long as it is “transparent and inclusive”. To this, they add that this initiative can play a role in the development of interregional relations involving East Asia, South Asia, Africa and Eurasia; the main thing is that it should not be directed against China, since Japan is interested in China’s sustained development and Japan-China relations.
In response, South Korea argues that it is too early to suggest a full approval for the IPP as this initiative has been put forward in the form of a general slogan. Seoul has yet to understand what it is and needs more time to examine it in more detail. If it turns out that the initiative aims to deter China, participation in it of the Republic of Korea will be a “difficult choice” to make.
According to experts of the US Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Indo-Pacific region may account for half of the global economy within decades, but this requires investments of almost $ 26 trillion. Now it is obvious that from the point of view of trade and economic cooperation, the IPP is set to replace the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP), which Donald Trump chose to reject, and offer an alternative. US Secretary of Commerce William Ross explains in this respect that TPP agreements require too much effort to conclude and too complicated: “With such major geopolitical phenomena as the TPP, it is impossible to carry out a controlled experiment.”
Verbally, Washington welcomes China’s contribution to regional development, emphasizing that IPP will not be aimed at containing China or opposing China’s Belt and Road Initiative. At the same time, the emphasis is put on the need to adhere to “international standards of transparency, the rule of law and sustainable financing”.
However, in practice, the main reason underlying IPP is the attempt to conduct a “controlled” geostrategic and geoeconomic experiment, by constructing a partnership framework artificially, in the American interests, without taking into account the interests of potential partners who are not interested in political or economic deterrence of China
Supporters of conventional geopolitical approaches say that the creation of IPP means the advance of the US into Eurasia still further from the east to the west by strengthening ties with predominantly “naval” powers in the eastern and southern peripheries of the Eurasian continent (from South Korea to countries of the Arabian Peninsula) and with island states of the Pacific (from Japan to New Zealand). The main purpose of the IPP is the political and military-strategic deterrence of China, the creation of a rigid “framework” that would prevent Beijing from assuming a dominant position in the region.
Whatever the case, American attempts to artificially “patch together” the IPP “from the material at hand” indicate the need for the Russian diplomacy to boost efforts to cement the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership by developing security mechanisms and fostering cooperation in the land areas of the Eurasian “heartland”.
In the first place, such mechanisms involve the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), measures towards linking the Eurasian integration and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and the consistent implementation of the Russian initiative to establish the Greater Eurasian Partnership (GEP).
India’s participation in these organizations and initiatives is a matter of special concern, while the three-party consultative arrangement Russia-India-China needs further strengthening as well.
First published in our partner International Affairs
Proof of Human Impotence and Agency in Climate Change While Disasters Multiply
To be rational is to know that weather events cannot be causally related to climate change, although exacerbation is another...
Pakistan not a Threat for Israel: Clearing Misconceptions
Ever since 1998; the beginning of Pakistan’s nuclear age, the state’s self-defense mechanism has been a source of worry and...
Swalwell a Major Contender for U.S. Presidency in 2020
One of the most gifted politicians in the Democratic Party — and fastest-rising — is the 37-year-old Eric Swalwell, whose...
Amid ethnic protests, Iran warns of foreign meddling
Iran has raised the spectre of a US-Saudi effort to destabilize the country by exploiting economic grievances against the backdrop...
To beat hunger and combat climate change, world must ‘scale-up’ soil health
Healthy soils are essential to achieve ‘Zero Hunger’ – and other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – peace and prosperity, the...
CPEC: The not so cool COAL corridor
With energy comes wealth and with wealth comes prosperity! No one can doubt the veracity of this conclusion. But most...
Social Mobility and Stronger Private Sector Role are Keys to Growth in the Arab World
In spite of unprecedented improvements in technological readiness, the Arab World continues to struggle to innovate and create broad-based opportunities...
Intelligence2 days ago
After a New Massacre, Charges That ISIS Is Operating With Assad and the Russians
South Asia2 days ago
Behind Indo-Pacific Vision
Newsdesk3 days ago
Are Real Estate CEOs missing out on the technology opportunity?
Energy22 hours ago
CPEC: The not so cool COAL corridor
Urban Development2 days ago
ADB-Funded High-Tech, Low Emission Buses Rolled Out in Kathmandu
East Asia2 days ago
The Uyghur militant threat: China cracks down and mulls policy changes
Religion2 days ago
The House of Mary
Defense1 day ago
Pakistan’s Nuclear Safety and Security