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Heart of Asia 2016- An Opportunity: What India Should Make Out of It?

Dr. Bawa Singh

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] F [/yt_dropcap] or the given of many foreign invasions throughout the recorded history, Afghanistan has been known as the ‘Graveyards of the Empires. The external attacks started from the Alexander the Great (336–323 BC) to NATO under the US/UN stewardship (2001-14). However, indomitable Afghanistan had been able to maintain its independent identity despite these horrendous invasions.

Sometimes, it is argued that the current crisis of Afghanistan has been due to its ethnic composition and partly geopolitical interests of the external powers. For the given of geostrategic, geopolitical dynamics, geographical contiguity, viable option for connectivity, historical and geo-cultural ties, have made Afghanistan as a lynchpin for the Indian foreign policy

Afghanistan’s Ailment

Afghanistan is a country of multi-culture and nationalities. Out of these ethnic groups, the Pashtun has remained one of the most dominant ones. Most of the rulers, bureaucrats, various officials have been coming from the Pashtun ethnic group. The second place goes to the Tajik (25%), and the rest of the communities such as Hindu, Sikh, and Jewish communities are considerably in very smaller percentages. Geopolitics has become the curse for Afghanistan, and the old Great Game was once again was revived when Soviet intervened and established a pro-communist government (1979) in Afghanistan. Due to the Cold War geopolitics, Afghanistan had become a battlefield between Russia and the US. To extricate the Russians from Afghanistan, many countries such as the US, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan had supported the Afghan Mujahidin. In the post 9/11, Afghanistan had been put under the control of the NATO forces (2001-2014) under the stewardship of the US, which further worsened the Afghan crisis.

Terrorism in Afghanistan: Curse of Geopolitics

Afghanistan has been highly infested with terrorism. The trace of Taliban could be traced to the Cold War geopolitics in general and Soviet–Afghan War (1979-89) in particular. For Afghanistan terrorism, Singh (2016), has argued that, in addition to geopolitics, the others like religious fanaticism, internal fighting, poverty, inequality, and underdevelopment factors have been responsible for terrorism in Afghanistan. Apart from Taliban, the Hezb-e-Islami was another group, founded and led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (1977), in Afghanistan. Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), has been a small Pakistani group, based in Afghanistan, used to oppose the Indian control of Kashmir. Lashkar-i-Janghvi, a small terrorist group, is oftenly been accused of conducting attacks on Afghanistan’s Hazara community (Katzman 2013). The Haqqani Network, led by Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin Haqqani, is one more terror group operating in Afghanistan.

Peacemaking Efforts: A Distant Dream

Since the Civil War in Afghanistan in 1979, the several efforts have been made for achieving peace and stability. The Geneva Accords (1988), was the first step in this direction which made a substantial contribution in the peace-making in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai held a National Consultative Peace Jirga (NCPJ) for the ending the ongoing Taliban insurgency to promote peace and stability. However, Taliban had been called it as a phony reconciliation process, only meeting the interests of external powers. In the post-2014, the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), comprised of four countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US have been consistently holding a talk to find the solution to the Afghanistan crisis.

The first HoA was launched in November 2011 with the Istanbul Declaration focusing on Regional Security and Cooperation for a Secure and Stable Afghanistan among the member countries. The second HoA’s ministerial conference was called on June 14, 2012, in Kabul. The participating countries had reiterated and reaffirmed with Afghanistan to curb terrorism, production, trade and trafficking of the drug to establish peace. The third HoA has been taken place on April 26, 2013, in Almaty (Republic of Kazakhstan), mainly focusing on terrorism, separatism, and fundamentalism as significant challenges for Afghanistan. The promotion of peace and cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours was the primary focus of the 4th Beijing Conference (October 2014). The 5th meeting took place in Islamabad (Pakistan), jointly hosted by Pakistan and Afghanistan, in December 2015 and adopted a forward-looking Islamabad Declaration to promote peace, security, economic development and connectivity in the region. The latest 6th meeting took place in New Delhi (April 2016), began with the objective of bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.

India’s Interests in Afghanistan

Afghanistan has been called as the ‘Heart of Asia.’ Despite not sharing a direct border with India, but for the given geostrategic and geopolitical environment, Afghanistan’s political stability and security, directly and indirectly, affect the former’s myriad interests. It is a bridge link between India and energy-rich Central Asia and Eurasia. It shares long borders with Iran small border with China across the narrow Wakhan corridor. It is a permanent member of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), observer of the SCO and the member of Asian Development Bank‘s CAREC (Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation) programme. India could get connectivity to energy-rich Central Asia through the Afghanistan. For the development of Afghanistan, India has not been only the largest fifth donor to Afghanistan; rather it has invested about US$ 2 billion in various sectors. India has been helping in the development of infrastructure such as parliament building, roads, power grids, schools, hospitals, etc. Moreover, Afghanistan is very rich in mineral. India and Afghan interests are converging on many fronts and thus, keeping the Taliban at bay in Afghanistan is paramount for India.

The 7th HoA Conference Amritsar: What India Should Do?

For the given of geopolitical, geostrategic and geo-economic interests in Afghanistan, persisting terrorism, peace, stability, and security of Afghanistan have been the major challenges for Indian foreign policy. The 7th HoA is going to be held in Amritsar (India) on 3-4 December 2016. Thus, it is major opportunity for India. Highly terrorism infested, volatile, turbulent, poor, and plagued by stability and security Afghanistan has not been in the interests of India. The 7th HoA conference has been going to take place in Amritsar (India). It will be a good opportunity for India to use this platform to discuss the major being faced by Afghanistan as well as their viable solutions. The roadmap should be conceived here to make stable and peaceful Afghanistan. Many civilians and soldiers on both sides have been dying. First of all, using this forum, the issue of the ceasefire, shelling on the border, infiltration, aiding and abetting terrorism should be discussed with Pakistan to instill the sense of security not only among the border people rather the neighboring countries as well. At last, the platform of the 7th HoA should be used in such a way, so that solution of regional peace, pacification of Indo-Pak LoC, stability and security of Afghanistan should come out.    

Dr. Bawa Singh is teaching in the Centre for South and Central Asian Studies, School of Global Relations, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda, India-151001. bawasingh73[at]gmail.com

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South Asia

Popularity-Graph of PM Imran Khan has not dropped down

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Although the economy of Pakistan has deteriorated, price hike, increase in utility bills, food prices and consumer prices of daily used items has grown up, the job market has deteriorated. According to a survey, mostly people are complaining about price-hike and the unavailability of jobs. Some people are complaining about the bad practice of nepotism and especially targeting “hired electable and technocrats”. It is a fact that the PTI government has failed to meet the expectations of its voters. PTI workers and supporters have been cornered and ignored.

What so ever the government is presenting economic parameters, to defend themselves. What so ever reasons or logic and explanation are provided by the Government to defend themselves? How much blame is put on previous governments, but the failure of the PTI government cannot be justified. The common man in Pakistan is a victim and suffering.

Yet, the popularity of Prime Minister Imran Khan has not deteriorated. According to a small scale survey, the public will vote for Imran Khan in the next general election. As per Survey, no one was willing to accept Maulana Fazl-u-Rehman, leader of JUI-F, as prime Minister of Pakistan. The popularity of PPP and PML-N has also deteriorated sharply.

Strange! It is really very strange, while people are complaining about the performance of PTI Government, but still, praise PM Imran Khan. Some people blame his team, while other analyses as the nature of issues inherited by the previous government are so complex that no one can manage quickly. It might take more time to reach any conclusion and favors that the PTI government should complete its term of 5 years and wait till 2023, for the general election.

Pakistan is a democratic country and the constitution of Pakistan protects the right of every citizen to protest, express his/her opinion, criticize the government and its policies, can organize any procession, demonstration or Dahrna – sit-in.  “Azadi March” is permissible in our system and legal, and the government has not offered any resistance in it. The government will not disturb them as long as they stay within the law and peaceful.

Such agitations are part of the Pakistani political system and has a long history. Whenever some of the political parties lose in the election, they blame the winner party or ruling party for rigging and asks them to resign and dissolve assemblies. Even the currently ruling party PTI has been protesting the Government in 2014 and so on. But history has witnessed, no Prime Minister one prime Minister resigned or assemblies dissolved in past as a result of opposition pressure. It is expected, that this time also the PM will not resign, and not dissolve the assemblies.

However, the opposition always gains millage and concessions through negotiations and deals. This time is also no exception and it is guessed that some way out will be explored soon.

But there is a lesson for PM, to pay more attention to the issues of the common man in Pakistan. He has to give due importance to PTI workers and supporters. He must respect the merit and create opportunities for qualified people.

There are 1.5 million fresh graduates every year entering the job market, but the creation of jobs is not in accordance with it. As a result, youth are desperate and unfortunately may involve in negative activities. It is worth mentioning that the biggest vote bank and political force for PM Imran Khan were “Youth”. Pakistan’s demography consists of 70% of youth under the age of 40.

It is suggested that PM may take serious notice of the ground situation. Realize the problems of the common man in Pakistan. May initiate major structural changes and deep reforms in all dimensions.

Pakistan possesses huge potential for growth if enabling environments are provided and right policies are implemented, there is no reason that Pakistan’s economy take-off rapidly.

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Pakistan,a Victim of Vicious Circle: The Container Politics

Asad Ullah

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It’s pretty tough to comprehend Pakistan’s politics or the behavior of Pakistan’s political leaders. The example of Pakistan’s political system and politicians can be tacit with Robert Jervis’s astounding words. “When you pick up one piece of this planet, you find that one way or another, it’s attached to everything else-if you jiggle over here, something is going to wiggle over there… We need this sense of the continuing interconnectedness of the system as part of the common knowledge so that politicians feel it and believe it, and so that voters feel it and believe it, and so that kids feel it and believe it so that they’ll grow up with an ethic.”

Since 1947 Pakistan is trapped in a vicious circle, and it’s hard to get rid of this wicked circle with the current political system. Immense tension with neighbor countries, internal political instability, high inflation rate, massive unemployment, poverty, discrimination, corruption, human rights violation, economic problem, low level of domestic and foreign direct investment, energy shortage, wrecked infrastructure, weak and self-centered political leader ruined the country. Now we are witnessing a massive number of lessening faiths on the institutions of almost all kinds. People don’t trust the government; they don’t believe any corporation and virtually no political leader — the reasons why people’s trust is declining in government. The govern leaders do not fulfill their promises, they always raise different slogans spreading fake news to convince the voters for votes, but things are not still the same after elections; all the obligations remain broken. Thus, people certainly don’t believe politicians.

After 71 years of a bumpy hard and tough journey, the people of Pakistan in 2018 elected a new prime minister with much new hope, to fight against corruption and other serious challenges. This hope was up to the greatest extent achieved when the supreme court of Pakistan took action against the corrupt leaders and imprisoned them. With such enormous weight, the oppositions are now vindicating a mean to get rid of the present administration; the adversaries have started a long march called Azadi-March, with the aim to takeover Khan’s (Imran Khan Niazi current Prime minister of Pakistan) government. The majority of the people are against the so-called Azadi-March, as they are aware of situations. To sidetrack Imran Khan’s consideration, these opposition leaders have started Azadi-March, where thousands of protestors are marching to the capital city Islamabad, calling on prime minister Khan over the weak and fragile economy and corruption.

Some religious groups organized the Azadi-March and political rivals, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) party prearranged the protests, almost all parties have used the march to show their complaints throughout what they call the Azadi March (or Freedom March).The main aim of the Azadi-March, calling Imran Khan to resign, they believe that the current government ruined to satisfy their promises, and the administration is amateurish, inexpert, and doesn’t distinguish how the state-run. While addressing the people, Fazal said all Pakistani, from Karachi to Islamabad, want that prime minister Imran Khan should resign, further stated that prime minister still has time to deferentially submit his resignation because the Pakistani will not give him also time to do so.

The purpose behind such Azadi-March isn’t only that they want to overthrow the prime minister, but they want him to stop disparaging the adversaries. The opponents, according to most of the local people, are corrupt and crooked, and they are responsible for the country’s weak institution and corruption. Since now, Khan is taking legal actions against the oppositions with the support of millions of Pakistani people, thus permit the opponents formed a coalition to stand against Khan. With the help of millions of people Khan isn’t against their Azadi-March, but it’s something everyone knows, the country is going through tough time, skirmishes with India and recently with Afghanistan, ongoing economic reforms, working to encourage tourists and foreign direct investment, and many other developmental projects, such actions or the so-called Azadi-March will ruin the hope of the current administration and people. The immediate adverse consequence of the Azadi-March is also on the recent Kashmir issue. Currently, the prime minister and his administration are working to find a solution for IOK,by voicing on a different medium, such domestic scuffle will not only hamper the objective but will instead encourage the neighbor states to take advantage of domestic unrest.

The time being Khan is dealing with massive problems, the oppositions should stand with Khan, instead of creating other domestic violence and discontent. The continues Azadi-March will do nothing more than internal turbulence and other dangerous predicaments that will hit the country with more severe difficulties. Democracy means the government of the people, by the people, for the people, which specify that the people of Pakistan elect the current government. Pakistan is a democratic country where people can choose any leader they trust. To make it more vibrant, Pakistan is not the legacy of some elites to govern all the time.

A country with more than 200 million people ought to decide their future; they should stand with Khan and support his campaign of fighting against corruption and corrupt people to bring peace, political stability, economic development, and employment opportunities. Fora very long time, we have experienced different government and their fake promises; they have tumble-down the state’s institutions, nepotism, favoritism, and cronyism, all were the hidden agendas of the previous government. Thus, it is clear that the present government is fighting against all the above problems.

Finally, let us begin anew — recalling the current Azadi-March, which is not a sign of being active or reliable, but rather a sign of weakness. Sincerity is always subject to proof, and when you don’t have a single proof, you are lucky enough to have needles in your chopsticks. Let us never negotiate with these political leaders who are involved in the march out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

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8 Million People under siege for almost 3 months in Kashmir

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Kashmir, the most beautiful part of world, heaven on the earth, roof of the world, land of natural beauty, lush green, full of mountains, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, rich in culture, traditions, unique in hospitality, beautiful people, special food, fruits, and paradise for tourists, is at your mercy for their lives.

Around one million Indian Army has sieged 8 million unarmed civilians for almost 3 months. India imposed curfew in Indian Occupied Kashmir since the 5th of August 2019. People are facing a severe shortage of food, fuel, and medicines. Mobile phone service, Internet Service and all types of communications have been cut-off. Before imposing Curfew, India has evacuated all tourists and visitors from Kashmir. Kashmir is completely cut-off from the rest of the world. Media persons are not allowed, UN officials, foreign diplomats, and observers are not allowed to visit Kashmir. American Congressmen were denied access to Kashmir. Human Rights Organizations were denied to visit Kashmir. Kashmir is kept in isolation with evil motives.

Hundreds of thousands were killed, arrests of important figures and personalities are in thousands, and disappearances are outnumbered, fake counters and .killings increased numerously, number of massacres grown in double digits, extrajudicial killings by security forces has become a routine matter, torture is practice in daily routine, children and infants are also victims in the presence of parents, rape is being used to humiliate and as used as a weapon of hate and revenge. Indian atrocities and brutalities have crossed all records of human rights violations in the known-history of human beings.

Kashmir is a Muslim majority area with 87% of its population being Muslims. At the time of partition, the British agreed to divide the subcontinent into India and Pakistan after World War II. The Muslim majority area will be part of Pakistan and Hindu majority areas will be part of India. According to the principle set, Kashmir being Muslim Majority Area should be part of Pakistan. But Indian forces entered into Kashmir and occupied part if it by force. When the Indian army could not face resistance from the local people, the Indian Prime Minister of the time Jawhar Lal Nehru, approached the UN seeking their help. UN Security Council implemented the ceasefire immediately and passed a resolution for plebiscite to ask the will of Kashmiri people. UNSC gave the right of self-determination to people of Kashmir to decide by free will, either to join Pakistan or India.

Being a Muslim Majority area, India was afraid of the loss in the plebiscite, kept on delaying to hold plebiscite since 1948. Meanwhile, India was trying to change the demography of the Kashmir and tried to shift Hindus from other parts of India to settle down in Kashmir, to bring Muslim Majority to a minority. For this goal, India used excessive force and all sorts of atrocities to suppress the Kashmiris. Introduction of draconian laws, black laws, extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, detention, massacre, etc., all brutal actions, etc., but could not succeed to overcome the spirit of Kashmiri people’s struggle for self-determination.

Instead of learning from experience that Indian after using all dirty tricks and excessive use of force, could not win the hearts and minds of Kashmiri people. And the struggle for self-determination, even got more active. Finally, India deployed fresh troops and reached to almost one million troops to impose curfew in Kashmir on 5th of August 2019. Almost 3 months passed, people are under siege, no food, no fuel, and no medicines. People are starving. India is committing genocide in Kashmir. There is sufficient evidence of ethnic cleansing. India must understand that, if could not win against the will of Kashmiri people for the last 7 decades, will not succeed in the near future or far future. India, must leave Kashmir, the sooner the better.

International community has taken serious notice of Indian atrocities and there are widespread protests around the world. The International media is also covering Indian brutalities. There are clear signs of the holocaust. Like what happened in Germany with Jews, in Rwanda, and other part of the world. India has established detention camps in Kashmir on the same line of Hitler. In fact the ideology of Modi is exactly the same as Hitler and he is following almost the same actions.

The international community must act, must act proactively, must act immediately, to avoid the Holocaust. Are they waiting for, let the holocaust happened and then they may reach for Photo Sessions, making Documentaries, and Writing reports to tell the next generations the history of Kashmir Holocaust????

UN must send its peace-troops to protect human lives in Kashmir. It is the mandate of the UN and it is appealed to whole international community, to the nations who have conscious and value human lives, to all individuals who believe in humanity and possesses conscious to stand-up and save humanity in Kashmir.

India is involved in war crimes, must be executed according to the Geneva Convention, and Rome Convention, for their alleged role of war crimes. All individuals, either at the policy level, or implementation level, irrespective of their status or rank, involved in the war crimes in Kashmir, must be trialed in the International Court of Justice and punished accordingly for their involvement in war crimes.

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