There is no greater sorrow on earth than the loss of one’s native land. -Euripides 431 BCE
The unprecedented internal civil/ethnic conflicts have been causing a gross violation of human rights in terms of internal and external displacement. Consequently, some of the countries of the universe have been entrapped and crippled in refugee’s crisis. Afghanistan has also been facing a refugee crisis for the given of its political instability, underdevelopment, terrorism, fundamentalism, the presence of NATO forces.
Afghanistan has become a full member of SAARC in 2007. The SAARC was established on December 8, 1985, focussing on lofty and idealistic objectives such as the promotion of welfare and quality of life, acceleration of the economic growth, social progress, and cultural development and create mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another’s problems etc. The Afghan refugees have been facing myriads of problems despite such lofty and idealistic objectives of the SAARC. Against this background, the main focus of this article is look for, does SAARC take the notice of the plight of the Afghan Refugees to translate its objectives into reality by policy options? Does it have any refugee policy, if not, could it be made a part of the agenda for the 19th SAARC Summit (Islamabad-Pakistan) taking place in November 2016?
Scholars like Morgenthau (1948) and Malhotra (2009) have argued that the nation states have been fighting with each other to acquire more and more power to make their geopolitical space in the zero sum game. Afghanistan has been entrapped in the geopolitical cobweb. On account of its strategic location and richly endowed minerals attracted the intervention of the external powers like Russia, US, NATO and several other regional actors. The geopolitical and geostrategic interests of these players, made it battle ground till date by creating the dreaded terrorist organizations and Mujahedeen to fight with the Soviets. Later on, these groups became out of control and have expanded in many regions/countries. Responding to 9/11 attack, the Operation Enduring Freedom was launched which further complicated the Afghan refugee crisis. Out of this military solution of the terrorism, the people of Afghanistan had paid the price with internal and external displacements.
Afghanistan Refugees: A Rationale
The scholar like Ruiz and Emery (2001), have argued that the Afghan refugee crisis goes back to more than three decades. Since the Afghan-Soviet conflict, 26 million refugees have been compelled to run away from their homes either temporarily or permanently. The intervention of Soviets started the Afghanistan refugee crisis. Moreover, the violence and atrocities perpetrated by the Mujahideen forced the hundreds of thousands of refugees fled the country. The second critical phase for the afghan refugees during the Taliban control in 1994. The Taliban offensive had compelled about 1,50,000 Afghans to leave Afghanistan. The Afghan refugee crisis has been the product of unrelenting civil/ethnic conflict, unabated human rights violations, underdevelopment, lack of basic necessities of life like education, health, sanitation, unemployment, warring factions, and lastly the Operation Ensuring Freedom. As per the UN Commission on Human Rights special rapporteur on Afghanistan (October 2000), pointed out that the country has been in,
“A state of acute crisis—its resources depleted, its intelligentsia in exile, its people disenfranchised, its traditional political structures shattered and its human development indices among the lowest in the world.”
SAARC sans refugee policy
The SAARC was established in 1985, with prioritized objectives such as the promotion of welfare and quality of life, acceleration of the economic growth, social progress, and cultural development of the South Asian region. The plight and crisis of the refugees have been making fun of these objectives of the SAARC. For the given of critical problems of refugees, yet the SAARC has been failed to put its refugee policy in place till date. See the inflated number of the refugees, Haque (2012) has labelled the South Asian region as a “refugee melting pot”. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has mandated to protect and support the refugees across the world including the South Asia, by UN itself or at the request of refugees generating or hosting country, assisting in their repatriation and resettlement to a third country. The other instrument like the Convention on the Status of Refugees (1951) also governed the refugee crisis of the South Asian region. Though all the SAARC members have adopted generous approach towards the refugees but still they are hesitant to ratify the instruments governing the refugees such as the Refugee Convention (1951) and Protocol (1967), thus, individually and regionally lacking legal instruments to handle the refugee crisis of the region.
Vision for the 19th SAARC Summit
The SAARC countries have been hosting 10 per cent of global refugee population, yet it is lacking refugee regime. SAARC members are still reluctant to ratifying the refugee conventions and protocol. Moreover, no provisions have been made in their respective constitutions. Even it has been argued that the SAARC members also remained passive to make national legal framework to sort out the refugee problem. Notwithstanding of the generous approach in providing shelter, the refugee policies of the each members of the SAARC has been based on adhoc administrative decisions.
Refugee problem in the South Asia is very critical. Since Afghanistan entrapped in the ethnic/civil war during the last three decades, hence it has been facing serious refugees’ crisis. Afghanistan is full member of SAARC since 2008. It has been holding strategic importance as it a bridge link between South, Middle and Central Asia. The Afghan refugee crisis has security implications for not only for the South Asian region rather across the boundaries of other contiguous regions as well. Thus, it becomes important for the SAARC to take some steps for the resolution of this problem.
According to the available statistics of UNHRC, about 2.7 million have been registered as Afghan refugees in Pakistan, are living in 380 camps. Apart from these, many hundred thousand refuges have remained unregistered and live on their own resources in the same country. About 75 percent of Afghan refugees live in Northwest Frontier, 20 percent in Baluchistan and 4 percent in Punjab Province.
The number of Afghan refugees in Iran, is stood between 2 and 2.25 million (Khorasan-700,000; Sistan-Baluchistan-250,000; Kerman-50,000; Tehran- approximately 200,000 to 300,000; Mashbad-250,000 and the rest in nine other provinces. However, it has been argued that Afghan refugees settled in Iran also included about 200,000, who had settled prior to the Soviet invasion and about 400,000 who have been working at that time as seasonal laborers, tradesmen, and nomads in Afghanistan. Afghan refugees have also been lining in India and according to UNHRC, stood at 10,000. However, Putz (2015) has argued that the audit report of the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR), data of refugees living in Pakistan and Iran are difficult to verify independently.
The 19th SAARC Summit (Islamabad) is taking place in November 2016. Till date, SAARC is lacking refugee regime. Even at the individual level, the member countries have been following the adhoc system to deal with the refugee problem. Since the 19th SAARC Summit will held in Pakistan, which is hosting the highest number of the Afghan refugees. Thus, it is highly recommended that refugee crisis of Afghanistan should be taken seriously on board. Since, the countries hosting the highest Afghan refugees, are going to participate in the 19th SAARC Summit, take this case on board seriously, so that the long term resolution of this could be seen.
The “Neo-Cold War” in the Indian Ocean Region
Addressing an event last week at London’s Oxford University, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said some people are seeing “imaginary Chinese Naval bases in Sri Lanka. Whereas the Hambantota Port (in southern Sri Lanka) is a commercial joint venture between our Ports Authority and China Merchants – a company listed in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.”
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has denied US’ claims that China might build a “forward military base” at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port which has been leased out to Beijing by Colombo. Sri Lanka failed to pay a Chinese loan of $1.4 billion and had to lease the China-developed port to Beijing for 99 years. Both New Delhi and Washington had in the past expressed concerns that Beijing could use the harbor for military purposes.
The USA, China, and India are the major powers playing their key role in the “Neo-Cold War” in Central Asian landmass and the strategic sea lanes of the world in the Indian Ocean where 90% of the world trade is being transported everyday including oil. It is this extension of the shadowy Cold War race that can be viewed as the reason for the recent comment made by the US Vice President Mike Pence that China is using “debt diplomacy” to expand its global footprint and Hambantota “may soon become a forward military base for China’s expanding navy”.
According to some analysts, the deep-water port, which is near a main shipping route between Asia and Europe, is likely to play a major role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
In his book “Monsoon” Robert D. Kaplan (2010), a senior fellow at the Centre for a New American Security notes the following:
[…] the Indian Ocean will turn into the heart of a new geopolitical map, shifting from a unilateral world power to multilateral power cooperation. This transition is caused by the changing economic and military conditions of the USA, China and India. The Indian Ocean will play a big role in the 21st century’s confrontation for geopolitical power. The greater Indian Ocean region covers an arc of Islam, from the Sahara Desert to the Indonesian archipelago. Its western reaches include Somalia, Yemen, Iran, and Pakistan — constituting a network of dynamic trade as well as a network of global terrorism, piracy, and drug trafficking […]
Two third of the global maritime trade passes through a handful of relatively narrow shipping lanes, among which five geographic “chokepoints” or narrow channels that are gateway to and from Indian ocean: (1) Strait of Hormuz (2) Bab el-Mandab Passage (3) Palk Strait (4) Malacca and Singapore Straits and (5) Sunda Strait.
While Lutz Kleveman (2003), argues that the Central Asia is increasingly becoming the most important geostrategic region for the future commodities, Michael Richardson (2004) on the other hand explains that the global economy depends on the free flow of shipping through the strategic international straits, waterways, and canals in the Indian Ocean.
According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) report published in 2017, “world chokepoints for maritime transit of oil are a critical part of global energy security. About 63% of the world’s oil production moves on maritime routes. The Strait of Hormuz and the Strait of Malacca are the world’s most important strategic chokepoints by volume of oil transit” (p.1). These channels are critically important to the world trade because so much of it passes through them. For instance, half of the world’s oil production is moved by tankers through these maritime routes. The blockage of a chokepoint, even for a day, can lead to substantial increases in total energy costs and thus these chokepoints are critical part of global energy security. Hence, whoever control these chockpoints, waterways, and sea routes in the Indian Ocean maritime domain will reshape the region as an emerging global power.
In a recent analysis of globalization and its impact on Central Asia and Indian Ocean region, researcher Daniel Alphonsus (2015), notes that the twists and turns of political, economic and military turbulence were significant to all great players’ grand strategies:
(1) the One Belt, One Road (OBOR), China’s anticipated strategy to increase connectivity and trade between Eurasian nations, a part of which is the future Maritime Silk Road (MSR), aimed at furthering collaboration between south east Asia, Oceania and East Africa; (2) Project Mausam, India’s struggle to reconnect with its ancient trading partners along the Indian Ocean, broadly viewed as its answer to the MSR; and (3) the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor, the USA’s effort to better connect south and south east Asian nations. (p.3)
India the superpower of the subcontinent, has long feared China’s role in building outposts around its periphery. In a recent essay, an Indian commentator Brahma Chellaney wrote that the fusion of China’s economic and military interests “risk turning Sri Lanka into India’s Cuba” – a reference to how the Soviet Union courted Fidel Castro’s Cuba right on the United States’ doorstep. Located at the Indian Ocean’s crossroads gives Sri Lanka the strategic and economic weight in both MSR and Project Mausam plans. MSR highlights Sri Lanka’s position on the east-west sea route, while Project Mausam’s aim to create an “Indian Ocean World” places Sri Lanka at the center of the twenty-first century’s defining economic, strategic and institutional frameworks. Furthermore, alongside the MSR, China is building an energy pipeline through Pakistan to secure Arabian petroleum, which is a measure intended to bypass the Indian Ocean and the Strait of Malacca altogether.
A recent study done by a panel of experts and reported by the New York Times reveal that how the power has increasingly shifted towards China from the traditional US led world order in the past five years among small nation states in the region. The critical role played by the strategic sea ports China has been building in the rims of Indian Ocean including Port of Gwadar in Pakistan, Port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Port of Kyaukpyu in Myanmar and Port of Chittagong in Bangladesh clearly validates the argument that how these small states are being used as proxies in this power projection.
This ongoing political, economic and military rivalry between these global powers who are seeking sphere of influence in one of the world’s most important geostrategic regions is the beginning of a “Neo-Cold War” that Joseph Troupe refers as the post-Soviet era geopolitical conflict resulting from the multipolar New world order.
IMF bail-out Package and Pakistan
Pakistan may approach IMF to bail-out the current economic crisis. It is not the first time that Pakistan will knock the doors of IMF. Since 1965, Pakistan has been to IMF 17 times. Almost all of the governments has availed IMF packages. Usually, IMF is a temporary relief and provide oxygen for short time so that the patient may recover and try to be self-sustained. The major role of IMF is to improve the governance or reforms, how the ill-economy of a country may recover quickly and become self-sustained. After having oxygen cylinder for 17 times within 5 decades, Pakistan’s economy could not recover to a stage, where we can be self-sustained and no more looking for IMF again and again. This is a question asked by the common man in Pakistan to their leadership. People are worried that for how long do we have to run after IMF package? The nation has enjoyed 70 decades of independence and expects to be mature enough to survive under all circumstances without depending on a ventilator.
The immediate impact of decision to approach IMF, is the devaluation of Pakistani Rupees. By depreciating only one rupee to US dollar, our foreign debt increases 95 billion rupees. Today we witness a depreciation of rupee by 15 approximately (fluctuating), means the increase in foreign debt by 1425 billion rupees. Yet, we have not negotiated with IMF regarding depreciation of Rupees. Usually IMF demand major depreciation but all government understands the implications of sharp devaluation, always try to bargain with IMF to the best of their capacity. I am sure, Government of Pakistan will also negotiate and get the best bargain.
IMF always imposes conditions to generate more revenue and the easiest way to create more income is imposing tax on major commodities including Gas, Electricity and Fuel. Pakistan has already increased the prices of Gas, Electricity and Fuel. It has had direct impact on basic necessities and commodities of life. We can witness a price hike of basic food, consumer items and so on. Except salaries, everything has gone up. While negotiating with IMF formally, we do not know how much tax will be increased and how much burden will be put on the common man.
We believe, our rulers know our capacity and will keep in mind the life of a common man and may not exceed the limit of burden to common man beyond its capacity. We are optimistic that all decisions will be taken in the best interest of the nation.
It is true, that Pakistan has been to IMF so many times, so this might be a justification for the PTI Government to avail IMF package. But, there are people with different approach. They have voted for change and for “Naya” (new) Pakistan. They do not expect from PTI to behave like previous several governments. If PTI uses the logic of previous governments, may not satisfy many people in Pakistan.
Especially, when Pakistan was in a position to take-off economically, we surrendered half way, may not be accepted by many people in Pakistan.
The government has explained that other options like economic assistance from friendly countries was also very expensive, so that they have preferred IMF as more competitive package. I wish, Government may educate public on the comparison of available options, their terms and conditions, their interest rate, their political conditions, etc. There might be something confidential, Government may avoid or hide, one may not mind and understand the sensitivity of some of the issues. But all permissible information on the terms and conditions of all options in comparison, may be placed on Ministry of Finance’s website or any other mode of dissemination of knowledge to its public.
Against the tradition, people of Pakistan have voted Imran Khan, who so ever was given ticket of PTI, public has voted him or her blindly in trust to Imran Khan. A few of his candidates might not be having very high capabilities or very good reputation, but, public has trusted Imran Khan blindly. Imran Khan is the third most popular leader in Pakistan, after Jinnah the father of nation, and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the Former Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1970s.
People of Pakistan have blindly trusted in Imran Khan and possess very high expectations from him. I know, Imran Khan understands it very well. He is honest, brave and visionary leader and I believe he will not disappoint his voters.
Now India denies a friendly hand: Imran Khan debuts against arrogant neighbors
Imran Khan is facing the brunt for overly appeasing its arch rival-India. On September 22, Khan tweeted that he was disappointed over India’s arrogant reply to resume bilateral talks in the UNGA and that he had encountered many “small men” in big offices unable to perceive the larger picture.I am observing a south Asian order changing with Khan’s rise in Pakistani politics. We in Nepal need to grasp the possible reality before circumstances shall engulf our interests.
Narendra Modi was undoubtedly “The Prince”of South Asia from Niccolo Machiavelli’s 16th century classic political narrative. I sense the old prince acting in distress over the rise of a new one. Imran Khan’s invitation for a ministerial level meeting in New York; amidst the eyes of foreign diplomats could not have been a better approach by Pakistan in a long time. Instead, Indian foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj dismissed the offer, blaming Pakistan’s double standard in killing Indian forces and releasing Burhan Wani’s (India’s terrorist and Pakistan’s martyr) postal stamps. Khan did not sanction the postal release, but as the Prime Minister of Pakistan, he must be held accountable for failing to stop the killings,just when talks were supposed to happen. He should have addressed the highly sensitive Indian government. But, I do empathize with Khan’s statement, “small men in big offices”; as he clearly outlined the exact problem. He directly called upon the Indian government to think bigger and escape circumstances to solve historical problems. Narendra Modi has developed a new rhetoric these days; that India is not going to keep quiet over Pakistan’s actions. It fits the nature of Machiavelli’s Prince as an authority which can maintain national virtue. Unfortunately, I do not buy Modi’s rhetoric. The Prince has come a bit late in his tenure to act for Indian virtues. I am sure many at the UNGA would have noticed India’s apprehension in the same manner. I suspect that the ex-prince is facing insecurities over the fear of losing his charisma. Nepal, in particular was charmed by his personality when he first visited our capital, with promises that flooded our heart. And then, we faced his double standard; right after the massive earthquake in 2015. Nobody in Nepal will sympathize with Swaraj’s justification of cancelling the meeting.
Let me explain the source of insecurity. Modi has thrived by endorsing his personality. A tea man who worked for the railways under great financial hardships, became the poster man of India. He generated hope and trust that his counterparts had lost over the years. His eloquent stage performance can fool the harshest of critics into sympathizing his cause. People have only realized later; many macro economists in India now argue that demonetization was, perhaps, one of the worst decisions for India’s sake. Narendra Modi is India sounds truer than Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister of India.
Imran Khan, a former cricketer does not spring the same impression as Modi. Khan, a world champion in 1992, is known for his vision and leadership in Cricket. Comparatively, Khan does not need to sell his poster in South Asia. He does not cry over his speeches to garner mass euphoria. Ask anybody who’s into the sport and they will explain you the legend behind his name. I suspect that Modi has realized that he is going to lose the stardom in the face of Pakistan’s newly elected democratic leader. After all, the Indian PM cannot match Imran’s many achievements in both politics and cricket. I suspect that Modi has realized the fundamental difference in how his subjects inside India and beyond are going to perceive Imran’s personality. I expect more artificial discourses from India to tarnish Imran’s capabilities.
Nepal & Pakistan
You will not find Pakistan associated with Nepal so often than with India. Frankly, Nepal has never sympathized with Indian cause against Pakistan. We have developed a healthy and constructive foreign relations with the Islamic republic. However, there has always been a problem of one neighbor keeping eyes on our dealings with another. Indian interests have hindered proximity with past governments. Now, Imran Khan has facilitated the platform for deeper relations. He does not carry the baggage of his predecessors. He is a global icon, a cricket legend and a studious politician. He is not the result of mass hysteria. Imran Khan has pledged to improve Pakistan’s economy, reinstate foreign ties and boost regional trade. For me, he is South Asia’s new Machiavellian prince; one that can be at least trusted when he speaks.
Armenia’s Role in South Caucasus Policy of Russia
The Caucasus has long been one of the most important regions in the world. Many states had the desire and...
Turkey plays Khashoggi crisis to its geopolitical advantage
With Turkish investigators asserting that they have found further evidence that Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed when he visited...
The issue of intelligence between the United States and China
The economic and intelligence tension between the United States and China is currently at its peak since the end of...
‘America First’ vs. Global Financial Stability
The recently concluded annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank group, held in Indonesia last weekend, has highlighted a...
Is Jamal Khashoggi real a dissident journalist?
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi allegedly disappeared from Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018. According to the US...
Does the Latest IPCC Report Offer Hope For Earth
Hurricanes and storms on both sides of the Atlantic appeared to encore the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change. It had...
Venezuelan refugee crisis and how it is altering the surrounding regions
Venezuela’s migration crisis has been in the news lately and recent UN polls show that nearly 2.3 million have already...
Intelligence2 days ago
Why China will win the Artificial Intelligence Race
South Asia2 days ago
The “Neo-Cold War” in the Indian Ocean Region
Intelligence3 days ago
Non-State Actors in Today’s Information Wars
Energy2 days ago
Italy’s and EU’s natural gas imports from the United States
Americas2 days ago
Trump: The Symbol of America’s Isolation in the World
Intelligence2 days ago
US Conducting Biological Experiments Near Russia’s Borders
International Law3 days ago
Human Rights Council election: 5 things you need to know about it
Central Asia2 days ago
Kazakh court case tests Chinese power