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Over NSG, India is its own rival

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Despite support from the US, India could not get Nuclear Suppliers Group membership during the two-day plenary at Seoul in June. New Delhi’s eagerness to gain a seat at the table that controls the global nuclear commerce fizzled and it has tried to place onus of sour grapes on Beijing’s so-called procedural hurdles. This is an untruth.

As the CPI (M) Polit Bureau member Prakash Karat recently said, “The government is trying to say it was only China which opposed India’s entry into NSG. That is not correct. Out of 48 countries, 10 countries, including China, and our own partners in BRICS like Brazil and South Africa, did not favour India getting into the NSG.” This has happened because India is its own rival and its increasing hubris even at Rio Olympics has blindsided it from making rational choices.

India has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is the keystone of the nonproliferation regime and sine qua non for membership of the NSG. New Delhi has two stark choices to overcome this dilemma: 1) it should either sign NPT as a non-nuclear weapons State or 2) it should swallow its pride and seek simultaneous entry of all non-NPT States in the NSG. It is crystal clear that India shall never be able to enter into NSG alone. The non-proliferation purist countries – not China only – will never like to repeat their mistake of 2008 and allow India permanently enter in to their fold. Despite its poor proliferation record and besides keeping its eight so-called civilian nuclear reactors outside IAEA safeguards, India managed to secure a trade waiver from the NSG. Some participating governments have learnt their lessons and won’t repeat the error in judgment.

Realizing the sensitivity of the issue, a number of American experts and lawmakers have voiced serious reservations on Obama administration’s persistent push on Indian bid. Democratic Senator from Massachusetts Edward Markey in a recent statement said, “Today, the NSG reaffirmed its strong support for the NPT by refraining from admitting India.” Earlier at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on US-India Relations, he had warned that India’s admission into the NSG without signing the NPT would trigger a “never-ending” nuclear race in South Asia. It clearly shows that Obama administration is deeply divided in its desperate quest   for India’s hasty inclusion in NSG. This push is more about Obama’s efforts to leave a legacy rather than genuinely promoting non-proliferation. If it were so, his administration should have no qualms roping in all non-NPT states into NSG simultaneously because their participation would strengthen the regime.

Earlier, Pakistan warned international community by saying that admitting only India into the club would threaten strategic stability in South Asia and permanently damage the non-proliferation regime. Since the 2005 nuclear deal with the U.S. and the 2008 trade waiver, India has vertically proliferated and built huge stockpile of fissile materials for its burgeoning nuclear weapons program. Every gram of nuclear fuel India imports from these states has unencumbered its indigenous resources for weapons development.

This vertical proliferation and utter disregard of norms will only shrink global support for India in its quest for NSG membership and irreversible destabilize strategic and deterrence stability of the Pak-India subcontinent. If NSG membership is so important for New Delhi, it should be subjected severe oversight, asked to take additional commitments and forced to constrain its nuclear and conventional force posture developments.

I propose that NSG participating governments should condition Indian entry into Group to the following four conditions.

One – New Delhi should be asked to bring all its current and upcoming reactors under safeguards. Recent Belfer Centre study reveals that Indian nuclear program has three streams, civilian safeguarded, civilian unsafeguarded and military facilities in its surreptitious fuel cycle. Report further clearly explains that the ‘three streams’ are not transparent in their overlapping and some civilian facilities operating under International Atomic Energy Agency, also contribute to India’s stockpile of unsafeguarded weapons-usable nuclear.

In this regard, India should certify that once admitted simultaneously with other non-NPT States like Pakistan, it would never seek enrichment and reprocessing technology from the NSG. There is substantial evidence that New Delhi’s enrichment program benefitted from the international black market and that it was the Fourth Customer of the non-state network. Likewise, it is worth recalling that NSG was created after India proliferated from Atoms for Peace Program and reprocessed the safeguarded fuel to make its first weapon. A moth eaten safeguards arrangement and a shallow Additional Program would not ensure tracking the imported fuel and ensure that it is not diverted to weapons.

Two – India should be asked to reverse seven developments in its force posture and doctrine: a) Development of intercontinental ballistic missiles; b) Verifiably stop pursuit of MIRV technology; c) It should be forced to return the leased nuclear submarines to Russia and verifiably close submarine-launched ballistic missiles development program; d) India should halt the ballistic missiles defense shield program because it would enhance its pre-emptive tendencies; e) It should reverse development of Prahaar and Pragati tactical nuclear weapons systems and f) Rollback doctrines and related developments on ground that seek fighting limited wars under nuclear overhang and g) lastly give up its doctrine of massive retaliation.

If India does not take these steps in the interest of global and regional stability, its DRDO should be placed under UNSC sanctions in order to regulate its irresponsible behaviour. Some apologists in the West would consider these emplacing these conditions not workable because India is a big market that they cannot afford to ignore and that the country has successfully used China as a bogey to play on Western security sensibilities.

Three – It is well known that India has only provided lip service to eschew further nuclear weapons testing. New Delhi should follow Pakistan’s lead in at least declaring a bilateral moratorium on nuclear weapons testing. In a statement on August 12, 2016, Sartaj Aziz reiterated the country’s offer saying, “Pakistan has consistently supported the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). We voted for the Treaty when it was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1996. We have declared a unilateral moratorium on further testing. Pakistan is prepared to consider translating its unilateral moratorium into a bilateral arrangement on non-testing with India.”

Four – Irresolution of Jammu and Kashmir and water disputes are the roots of instability between India and Pakistan. Islamabad’s repeated efforts to use the negotiating table rather than arms racing has fallen of deaf New Delhi ears. The silence of the civilized world for the sake of economic and political imperatives has emboldened India to grossly suppress the freedom struggle with an iron hand. Thousands have been killed, maimed and raped over the years in Indian occupied Kashmir. If the free world and true democracies use their leverage on India, resolution of disputes between Pakistan and India can bring lasting peace to the region and complement global efforts for general and complete disarmament and non-proliferation’s half-measure to attain this ideal.

It is time that NSG’s participating governments take the unruly bull by its horns and likewise UNSC should exercise its usually selective authority to constrain India behavior and condition its quest for mainstreaming into the non-proliferation regime to its behavior as a responsible player in the world. Till such time this does not happen, India will be its own rival and will stand on the wrong side of history. The civilized world shall remain understandably polite in pointing out Indian follies for political and economic imperatives. Although Confucian wisdom holds that one should never stop an adversary once he is committing a mistake, in this I thought that an advice would serve a global good.

South Asia

Accusations to Acknowledgement: The Battle of Article 63 A

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The weather is heating up. As the May is ending, Political temperatures are soaring. The fate regarding the country’s political and economic stability will be measured in the upcoming days. Earlier, PDM built momentum by taking on institutions. Maryam Nawaz raised the temperature by targeting key personalities and institutions. Allegations were bursting against the institutions in all dimensions. Today, we witness reversal of roles. Accusations have been outflowing in every Jalsa by PTI. But now suddenly, the “accusations” turned into “acknowledgment”. “Complaints” started transforming into “Compliments”. Is it the change of narrative? Is it another U-turn? Or is it the restoration of confidence in the institutions? Where will this chaos end?

The Supreme Court’s “decision” or as they say “opinion” or “binding” on Article 63 A has raised some pertinent questions on the status of CM Punjab election? In the interpretation of Article 63 A of the constitution, the Supreme court categorically condemns the practice of horse trading by calling it “a cancer afflicting the body politic”. Supreme Court in its decision of 3-2 rejected the vote count of these dissident members against the party directives. So the future of the Chief Executive of Punjab is now under threat because it is contrary to what happened in National Assembly. The political instability continues and the situation is messy.

In light of this verdict, Hamza has a support of 172 MPAs in Punjab assembly but at the same time, he also has 4 dissenting members which draws the figure to 168. Now further moving ahead, PTI and alliance also has a collective figure of 168 votes minus 21 dissenting members. The situation here in Punjab is way too complex now. A support of 186 members is required for a clear majority in Punjab assembly to formulate a government. This current Punjab government can either fall through a governor led vote of no confidence or a Supreme court order. The governor even has a right to dissolve the assembly with his discretionary powers according to Article 112 (2) of the constitution. Supreme Court has already made its decision on cross voting against Party fiat.  Now legal experts are interpreting the decision in their own dictionaries. What will happen in Punjab? What will happen on the federal level? Will there be an election call? If so, what will be the care taker setup? Will there be a fresh mandate? Who will make the hard economic decisions?  Lot needs to be answered in these crucial times.

From “My judges disappointed me” to “Thankyou Supreme Court”, a lot has happened and a lot is ready to take place. Islamabad is full of gossips, interpretations, whispers and predictions these days. There is something seething under this political turmoil. The Red zone is under a lot of pressure whether politically or economically. Pre – Elections, Elections and then Post elections, we have a lot of consequences of a lot of hard decisions. But hard decisions need to be taken. Question is who is ready to make the hard choices? Be Afraid!!

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South Asia

The sizzling “Political Matrix”; What will happen now?

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Politics in Pakistan is unfortunately leaving scars that will fade away not that easily. Islamabad today is wrapped in thick political clouds since past few weeks. These last few weeks have altered all assumptions and calculations in the national political matrix.  While the political landscape today is sizzling with intensity, aggression and strain the economy is shattering every day.  Who is to blame for? What will happen now? And will sanity prevail?

The entire edifice of the “conspiracy mantra” which even made PTI commit violation of the constitution stands demolished today. It was one of the worst advices Imran khan could ever get from his party among the list of many others. Sadly he made his entire politics captive to this conspiracy myth.  But today no one questions them on the impact it had on our foreign policy. US today feels betrayed, Saudis not ready to give aid, Chinese worried about their stakes and it continues.  So diplomatically this conspiracy mantra has damaged Pakistan like anything.

Imran Khan’s followers see nothing wrong in what he says and what he does. They absolutely reject all the facts, all the logics and embrace the rhetoric which is fuelling more today with a greater intensity. Imran khan is leading this campaign more aggressively. Khan very well knows that bringing large crowds to Islamabad will have an impact only if there is some kind of aggression.  The leaders on different occasions already hinted towards an aggressive March. He very well realizes that the figure of 2.5 Million is unrealistic but keeping in view the size of Islamabad, 0.1 Million crowd will even be perceived as a bigger crowd. So can he force the early elections at this stage? How will the government react to it? For instance let’s accept this narrative that the pressure of crowd aids PTI in getting an early election call and PTI wins it. So now what next? How will you deal with the mighty US? The economy is already sinking. You need aid to feed it but no one is providing you that. Then how will you stop dollar from going above 200? How will you provide relief from the soaring fuel prices when you won’t have money for a subsidy even? Forget about one lakh jobs and 50 lakh houses.

From the past few weeks we haven’t heard any PTI leader telling any economic plan or any diplomatic plan to revive relations. How will you deal with the IFI’s, World Bank & IMF when they’re all US controlled and as per your narrative you won’t accept “Amreeka ki Ghulami” or USA’s dictatorship.

So now what options the present regime has? The government would of course like to stop this building dangerous momentum of “Azadi March”. They would not like any big clash in Islamabad which results in bigger mess and chaos. The PDM government also has a much bigger fish to deal with, the same sinking economy. They came into power with this narrative to fix economy as former Premiere was unable to do it.  The key cabinet members made more than two different official visits.  The instructions are coming from London today as a decisive power so who will run the government? Who will run the system? Will the IMF aid? What will be the upcoming budget about? This upcoming budget is a bigger risk for this government along with an already announced to Long march call. Khan has already played a dangerous narrative especially with the blame of another conspiracy being made about his Life.   

The stakes, the narrative and the politics of every party is at risk today.  But above that, Pakistan is at risk. The dread is in the air. The end of May will be heated ferociously in Islamabad, whether politically or meteorologically.

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South Asia

Sri Lankan economic crisis and the China factor

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After the resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksa, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is the sole member of the United National Party (UNP), was sworn in as Sri Lankan Prime Minister on Thursday, May 12, 2022. Wickremesinghe will be holding the position of Sri Lankan PM for the sixth time. While the new Sri Lankan PM is a seasoned administrator, the task of restoring even a modicum of normalcy to the island nation’s economy, which is currently facing its worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948 seems to be a Herculean task (Wickremesinghe has clearly indicated, that his first task will be ensuring the supply of electricity, diesel and petrol to the people).

 The grave economic crisis, which has resulted in acute shortage of food and essential commodities have brought ordinary people on the roads and demonstrations have resulted in violence and loss of lives (the Sri Lankan President had to declare a state of emergency twice first last month and then earlier this month). There had been a growing clamor for the resignation by President Gottabaya Rajapaksa but Wickremesinghe was sworn in after the exit of Mahinda Rajapaksa (protests have been carrying on even after the swearing in of Wickremesinghe)

During his previous tenure, Wickremesinghe had tried to reduce Sri Lanka’s dependence upon China, and in his current tenure he will be compelled to do the same. He had also been critical of the previous government for not approaching the IMF for assistance (Wickremesinghe has been repeatedly accused of being pro-west and having neoliberal leanings by many of his political opponents).

It would be pertinent to point out, that the PM had also batted for a coordinated regional response, by SAARC vis-à-vis the covid19 pandemic. The new Sri Lankan PM has also been an ardent advocate of improving ties with India.

While it is true, that Sri Lanka finds itself in the current situation due to economic mismanagement and excessive dependence upon the tourism sector (which faced a severe setback as a result of covid 19), it is tough to overlook the level of debts piled vis-à-vis China, and the fact that the Island nation was following China’s model of economic growth with a focus on big ticket infrastructure projects.

Another South Asian nation — Pakistan which witnessed a change last month where Shehbaz Sharif took over as Prime Minister, replacing Imran Khan, also faces daunting economic challenges.  Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves were estimated to be a little over $ 10 billion on May 6, 2022 and the Pakistani Rupee fell to its all time low versus the US Dollar on Thursday, May 12, 2022. Shehbaz Sharif ever since taking over as PM has repeatedly reiterated the importance of Pakistan’s ties with China and the Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto in a conversation with his Chinese counterpart alluded to the same, with Pakistan’s Foreign office in a statement released after the conversation between Bhutto and Wang Yi said:

 “underscored his determination to inject fresh momentum in the bilateral strategic cooperative partnership and add new avenues to practical cooperation”.

 Yet, China has categorically said that it will not provide any financial assistance until Pakistan resumes the IMF aid program. Pakistan has been compelled to look at other alternatives such as Saudi Arabia and UAE, which have also said that without the revival of the IMF program aid will not be possible. Only recently, Chinese power companies functioning under the umbrella of the China Pakistan Economic corridor (CPEC) have threatened to shut down their operations if their dues (to the tune of 1.59 billion USD) are not cleared. China had also reacted very strongly to the terror attack on Karachi University in which three Chinese teachers lost their lives, this is the second such attack after 2021. China in recent years had also indicated to Pakistan, that it was not happy with the progress of the China Pakistan Economic (CPEC) project. The current government in Pakistan has repeatedly pointed to this fact.

One point which is abundantly clear from the economic crisis in Sri Lanka as well as the challenges which Pakistan is facing is that excessive dependence upon China has disastrous consequences in the long run. If one were to look at the case of South Asia, Bangladesh has been astute by not being excessively dependent upon China – it has maintained robust economic relations with India and Japan. Given the changing economic situation it is becoming increasingly important for developing countries, especially in South Asia, to join hands to confront the mounting challenges posed by excessive dependency upon China. US, Japan and western multilateral bodies and financial institutions need to find common ground and provide developing countries with an alternative economic narrative. It is also time for India along with other countries in the South Asian region to find common ground and focus on robust economic cooperation.

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