On July 21st, the US Defense Secretary James Mattis stated that the Pentagon will not make the remaining military reimbursements to Pakistan for the fiscal year 2016 as he believes that Islamabad had not taken sufficient action against the Haqqani network.
The United States had allotted $900m in military aid to Pakistan under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), a US Defense Department program to reimburse allies that have incurred costs in supporting counter-terrorist and counterinsurgency operations. The country has already received $550 million through this fund; however, after the latest statement from the US defense department, $50 million will be withheld. This is not the first time the Pentagon has decided not to make military reimbursements. Last year, the Pentagon withheld $300 million of funds for Islamabad for not acting against militants fueling violence in Afghanistan.
Relations between the United States and Pakistan have remained low over the past decade, with US officials vexed by what they term as Islamabad’s unwillingness to act against the Haqqani network. The relations reached the nadir point after the newly elected President of the United States declared to harden his approach towards Pakistan to crack down on terrorists launching strikes in neighboring Afghanistan. The possible responses from Trump’s administration in this regard is could include expanding U.S. drone strikes and perhaps eventual downgrading the Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally.
What is Haqqani Network?
The Haqqani Network is an Islamic nationalist insurgent group that emerged in the early 1970s in Afghanistan. Though the group was originally formed to overthrow Mohammad Daud Khan, a former Afghani Prime Minister who seized power in a 1973 coup, after the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1978, the focus of the group has remained to outcast the Soviets from their land. While working with the CIA and ISI during the cold war in the 1980s, the Haqqani network has played a formidable role in combatting USSR. Later in the 1980s, Haqqani Network played an important role in the growth of Al Qaeda and became a component of the Taliban, which emerged in the early 1990s from a network of madrassas in the tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
After the American invasion and the collapse of the Taliban government in 2001, the Haqqani network relocated its headquarters to North Waziristan, Pakistan, where it regrouped with Al-Qaeda and Taliban to fight against the government of Afghanistan and the US-led forces of NATO. Afghan officials and international terrorism authorities consider it the most lethal terrorist group in Afghanistan. It has been declared responsible for some of the deadliest violence in the country, including attacks on embassies in Kabul, the Afghan parliament building, local residents and U.S. military bases.
US and Pakistan’s row over the Haqqani Network:
The United States has repeatedly blamed Pakistan for providing ‘safe heavens’ to the Haqqani network in North Waziristan and has deliberately not done enough to oust then out despite the Operation Zarb-e-Azb and Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, which are meant to disrupt militant sanctuaries from North Waziristan. The US also views Pakistan as the most influential external actor affecting Afghanistan’s stability and the outcome of the missions in this war-torn country. Former US top military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen has also stated in 2012 that the Haqqani network was a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Pakistan has repeatedly rejected the US claims and has emphasized that it has taken indiscriminate and all out action against terrorists. The Foreign Office of Pakistan has contested the US claim, insisting that most of the militants fled to Afghanistan after Pakistan’s successful Operation Zarb-e-Azab and Operation Radd-ul-Fasadd in the tribal areas. Foreign Office has further rebutted the US charges, emphasizing that media reports have confirmed that a considerable number of leaders and senior commanders of the Haqqani network and other terrorists have been killed in Afghanistan. Pakistan has further defended itself by arguing that it has done a great deal to help the United States in tracking down terrorists and has suffered hundreds of deaths in Islamist militant attacks in response to its crackdowns.
Is the current US policy towards Pakistan plausible?
The US current shift in policy towards Pakistan might actually be drastic for the Pakistani military, because it would probably translate into major reductions in military assistance and arms sales. Furthermore, if US decide to downgrade the Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally, it will affect Pakistani establishment relations with the US defense, which might be devastating for the stability of Afghanistan. The US continues to have troops in Afghanistan, and in fact the Trump administration is poised to send more. So long as the US has troops in Afghanistan, it will need to depend on Pakistan to provide supply routes for US troops. Taking a harder line against Pakistan would likely prompt Pakistan to shut down these supply routes, obliging the United States to use more circuitous and expensive routes. This could make the US war effort in Afghanistan even more difficult than it already is.
Is Pakistan tilting more towards China and Russia?
In retrospect to the harder US statement, Pakistan might be impelled to deeply embrace China and Russia. Pakistan is already irked by the Trump’s administration cordial relations with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his vows to strengthen ties, combat terrorism, grow strategic convergence and promote free and fair trade with India. Trump on this occasion also directly addressed Pakistan to ensure the detainment of the terrorist and terrorist organizations from its territory. He further called on Pakistan to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai, Pathankot, and other cross-border terrorist attacks perpetrated by Pakistan-based groups. This has not only ignited new fury in Islamabad, but also has imbued in it the feeling of mistrust for the United States as it is influenced by India. In this endeavor, Pakistan has recently turned its face towards world’s next superpower and discernible enemy of the United States, China, and with the world’s most dangerous revisionist powers Russia.
The US-Pakistan relations have always been termed as a “forced marriage plagued by ever-deepening distrust”. Although they teamed up to fight terrorists after 9/11, their mutual trust has been steadily eroding ever since. Pakistan believes that the US policy towards Pakistan is influenced by India whereas, the US believes that Pakistan has been surreptitiously motivating militants against the United States in Afghanistan.
As for the United States, it has to realize that strategic policy in Afghanistan cannot be dealt with through a merely transactional relationship with Pakistan. There is a need to build a strong strategic relationship between the both countries for which both countries have to take a step forward. The United States needs to understand and acknowledge the security concerns of Pakistan as it has a strategic importance for Washington for stable relations with Afghanistan and India.
Pakistan, for its part, must understand that if it wants a strategic relationship, it will have to earn it. While national interests may diverge in some cases, but where it is possible, Pakistan needs to bring its policies closer to those of Washington, especially when it comes to addressing America’s core security concerns. Jihadists have to be dealt with without distinction not only for America’s sake, but also Pakistan’s as well. It is crucial that Pakistan explains its position and policy responses on this issue unambiguously and effectively from the high echelons of the civil-military leadership.
How the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal affects India
Authors: Tridivesh Singh Maini & Sandeep Sachdeva*
While India was guarded in it’s response to the withdrawal of US from the Iran Nuclear Deal, it surely realizes the implications of the US withdrawal. Iran is India’s third largest source of crude oil (after Iraq and Saudi Arabia) . Between April 2017 and January 2018, New Delhi imported well over 18 million tonnes of crude oil.
New Delhi has also invested in the development of the Chabahar Port Project, which will provide India, access to Afghanistan and Central Asia. This project is extremely important for India, since it will help in bypassing Pakistan, which has continuously kept India out of the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA). During Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s Iran visit in May 2016, India had signed an agreement, committing 500 Million USD for the development of Chabahar. During Modi’s visit, a trilateral transport and transit partnership was also signed between India, Afghanistan and Iran.
In February 2018, during Iranian President Rouhani’s visit to India, a lease agreement was signed between India and Iran. The lease agreement gave operational control of Phase 1 of Chabahar Port (Shahid Beheshti port) to India. The Modi, Hassan Rouhani Joint statement mentioned the need for making Chabahar part of INSTC project and PM Modi further emphasised that “We will support the construction of the Chabahar-Zahedan rail link, so that Chabahar gateway’s potential could be fully utilised.”
Here it would be pertinent to point out, that to enhance connectivity with Afghanistan, India has also set up an India Afghan Air Corridor, two flights are currently operational; one connecting Mumbai with Kabul, and another which connects Delhi with Kabul.
For the time being, New Delhi has rested its hopes on the fact, that European countries are trying to keep the deal intact, and US will also not impose sanctions on allies, including India, for engaging with Iran. Defence Secretary James Mattis in a Congressional hearing held by the Senate Armed Services Committee, had categorically stated, that the US should be careful with regard to imposing sanctions against allies, under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
Mattis said, that allies like India should be provided a national security waiver, against imposition of sanctions for the purchase of S-400 air defence missile system from Russia.
A number of US Congressmen and Senators too have echoed Mattis’ views saying that India is valuable ally and should be exempted from sanctions
What India needs to be cautious about
While India does have time to react to the sanctions re-imposed, and the fact that European countries are keen to keep the deal alive are important. Recent statements by the US National Security Advisor, John Bolton saying that Europe will not be immune from sanctions, and would ultimately fall in line needs to be closely watched.
Said Bolton in an interview with ABC’sThis Week:“Europeans are going to face the effective US sanctions — already are, really — because much of what they would like to sell to Iran involves US technology, for which the licenses will not be available.”
Bolton also stated, that these countries will ultimately realise that it is in their interest to go along with the US.
Earlier US Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell advised Germany to re-consider business ties with Iran:‘German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately”.
New Delhi needs to strike a balancing act between Iran and US, but it also needs to have a clear plan of action to deal with US sanctions against Iran. In the past few years, India has successfully managed to balance relations between Iran and US, and Iran and Israel. Given the recent sanctions and the hawkish approach of the Trump Administration, it may be tough.
In the meanwhile, New Delhi would be well advised to follow closely China’s reaction to the withdrawal of US from JCPOA. Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited three important countries Russia, China and Europe to save the JCPOA. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said “it was hard-earned deal, and China will take an objective, fair and responsible attitude, keep communication and cooperation with all parties concerned, and continue to work to maintain the deal”.
The China factor doesn’t end here for India. Off late, ties between India and China have witnessed an improvement, during PM Modi’s recent China visit, it was decided. that both countries will undertake a joint project in Afghanistan. In recent months, there seem to be some indicators of lowering of tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad as well. Could, Beijing get New Delhi and Islamabad to discuss the issue of transit trade to Afghanistan? An opinion piece, ‘Pakistan’s military reaches out to India’, published in RUSI (Royal United Services Institute) discusses the willingness of Pakistan to discuss this issue, but India had turned down the offer in October 2017. Maybe New Delhi, could explore this option, and Beijing could support such an effort.
In conclusion, New Delhi will need to handle the current situation with great dexterity, while US is an important strategic partner, India has also got an opportunity to send an unequivocal message to Washington, that its own interests are paramount, and it will not blindly follow any one camp. In spite of all the challenges and upheavals likely to result from Trump’s decision, this also provides a golden opportunity for re-shaping the narrative within South Asia.
*Sandeep Sachdeva, Independent Foreign Policy Analyst
Ex-Pakistani Prime Minister puts Pakistani military and China on the spot
Ousted Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif kicked up a storm when he earlier this month seemingly admitted that Pakistan had supported militants who attacked multiple targets in Mumbai in 2008, killing 166 people.
Mr. Sharif’s admission, which he has since tried to walk back, put a finger on Pakistan’s controversial policy of selective support of militant groups at a sensitive time. Pakistan is gearing up for elections that would secure its third consecutive handover of civilian political power.
Mr. Sharif’s remarks, moreover, stirred up a hornet’s nest because Pakistan is likely to next month be put on a watch list by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global financial watchdog that monitors the funding of political violence and money laundering worldwide.
The remarks also put China in a difficult position. China has been pressuring Pakistan to crack down on militants, particularly in the troubled province of Balochistan, the crown jewel in its Belt and Road-related $50 billion plus infrastructure investment in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Yet, at the same time, China has at Pakistan’s behest prevented the United Nations Security Council from declaring Masood Azhar, believed to have been responsible for an attack in 2016 on India’s Pathankot Air Force Station, as a globally designated terrorist.
The militants, dressed in Indian military uniforms fought a 14-hour battle against Indian security forces that only ended when the last attacker was killed. Mr. Azhar was briefly detained after the attack and has since gone underground.
Mr. Sharif’s made his remarks as China was building up its military infrastructure in Pakistan. The build-up is occurring against the backdrop of Pakistan risking being involuntarily sucked into potential attempts to destabilize Iran if Saudi Arabia/and or the United States were to use Balochistan as a staging ground.
In line with a standard practice in Pakistan that has repeatedly seen groups that are outlawed resurrecting themselves under new names, Lashkar-e-Taibe (LeT), the banned group believed to be responsible for the Mumbai attacks, and Jamaat-ud-Dawa, widely believed to be an LeT front, are rebranding under a new name and as a political party, Milli Muslim League, that would compete in the forthcoming election.
The League is headed by Hafez Saaed, a former LeT leader, who was last year released from house arrest despite having been declared a designated global terrorist by the Security Council and the US Treasury, which put a $10 billion bounty on his head. China vetoed Mr. Saeed’s designation by the UN prior to the Mumbai attacks.
Activists, even though the party was last month designated by the US Treasury, are likely to run as independents in the election if the government maintains its rejection of the party’s registration.
So are operatives of Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat, a front for Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, a banned, virulently anti-Shiite group that long enjoyed support from Saudi Arabia and operates multiple militant madrassas or religious seminaries in Balochistan that have witnessed an injection of funds from the kingdom in the last two years.
“Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial? It’s absolutely unacceptable. This is exactly what we are struggling for. President Putin has said it. President Xi has said it. We could have already been at seven per cent growth (in GDP), but we are not,” Mr. Sharif said, referring to stalled Mumbai attacks-related trials in a Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court.
Taking Mr. Sharif’s comments a step further, prominent journalist and author Ahmed Rashid asserted that “the deep state of Pakistan is supporting the banned outfits as it has done in the past. This game should be stopped, and the government should show its commitment and sincerity in disarming these groups and not to allow them to enter into politics.”
Former Pakistani strongman General Pervez Musharraf, in an apparent manifestation of links between the circles close to the military and hardliners, said prior to the designation by the US announced that he was discussing an alliance with Mr. Saeed’s league.
Speaking on Pakistani television, Mr. Musharraf pronounced himself “the greatest supporter of LeT… Because I have always been in favour of action in Kashmir and I have always been in favour of pressuring the Indian army in Kashmir,” Mr. Musharraf said.
Pakistan’s military and intelligence service are believed to favour integration of militants into the political process as a way of reducing violence and militancy in a country in which religious ultra-conservatism and intolerance has been woven into the fabric of branches of the state and significant segments of society.
Critics charge that integration is likely to fail in Pakistan. “Incorporating radical Islamist movements into formal political systems may have some benefits in theory… But the structural limitations in some Muslim countries with prominent radical groups make it unlikely that these groups will adopt such reforms, at least not anytime soon… While Islamabad wants to combat jihadist insurgents in Pakistan, it also wants to maintain influence over groups that are engaged in India and Afghanistan,” said Kamran Bokhari, a well-known scholar of violent extremism.
Citing the example of a militant Egyptian group that formed a political party to participate in elections, Mr. Bokhari argued that “though such groups remain opposed to democracy in theory, they are willing to participate in electoral politics to enhance their influence over the state. Extremist groups thus become incorporated into existing institutions and try to push radical changes from within the system.”
Chinese ambiguity about Pakistani policy goes beyond shielding Mr. Azhar from being designated. A Chinese-Pakistani draft plan last year identified as risks to CPEC “Pakistani politics, such as competing parties, religion, tribes, terrorists, and Western intervention” as well as security. “The security situation is the worst in recent years,” the plan said.
Security has since improved substantially in significant parts of Pakistan. The question, however, is whether integration of militants into the political process would stabilize Pakistani politics in the absence of a concerted effort to counter mounting ultra-conservative religious fervour in the country. It may be too early to judge, but so far the answer has to be no.
Analyzing CPEC Summit 2018
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the flagship project of China’s Belt and Road initiative, prioritized by both the Governments of China and Pakistan to build a China-Pakistan community of shared destinies. The strategic partnership under the CPEC envisages number of projects among which Energy Security, Infrastructural Development , Connectivity, Trade, Industrial Parks, Agricultural Development , Poverty Alleviation and , Tourism are highly prioritized. Recently the CPEC summit 2018 was held in Karachi on April 23, 2018 to discuss the importance of CPEC and to analyze updates about the progress and development of this project. Perhaps this was the first such event of its kind in which representative from all the provinces participated. The summit not only discussed the progress and development of the CPEC but deliberated upon the issue of regional connectivity as the key component of the CPEC. On recalling the last five years’ journey of CPEC up till now, one can infer that indeed CPEC is a chain of connectivity not only within Pakistan but across the region as well. The summit also concluded that Pakistan and China are planning to extend CPEC towards Afghanistan as CPEC is not only about economic growth, but also about community building.
Analyzing the outcome of this summit, one discovers that under CPEC, the country has completed two power projects in Sindh, while another is on its way towards completion. CPEC has resulted in the optimal utilization of two commercial ports and the opening of Keti Bunder. Along with this, the development of commercial ports is also in line with the CPEC plan. The project pledges provincial harmony and timely cooperation and facilitation in this regard. As far as the electric power is concerned currently930 megawatts of wind energy is produced in Sindh alone for the national grid. Moreover a large chunk of electric power comes from those three Projects which are part of early-harvest program. In addition to this some 300MW is generated through wind power projects and would be part of the grid once the projects are completed in October 2018.
Following this progress rate CPEC is economically beneficial for all the provinces of Pakistan. KPK is contributing nearly 15pc of Pakistan’s natural gas output. In hydropower, KP has the potential of producing 30,000MW of energy. The two hydropower projects located at Chitral are also part of the CPEC framework.
Moreover another important aspect which was analyzed in this CPEC Summit 2018 is the idea of a separate ministry for logistic and transport so that this massive demand for the logistic and transport can be well managed. Once this separate ministry is formed, the work will be done in the shortest possible time thus resulting in faster growth. Businessmen, stakeholders and industrialist also showed their interests in promoting business through CPEC. Surely there is a need for joint ventures between local and Chinese companies to enhance Pakistan’s industrial base and productivity.
Eventually once the CPEC project is completed Pakistan will become a hub for transshipment trade. Most of Pakistan’s posts- through which trade is being carried out, are complaint to Transports Internationaux Routiers (TIR) or International Road Transports. Therefore there is no issue of compliance or connectivity under TIR. It will be easier to import goods and products in other countries thus developing more options for Trade and investment through CPEC.
The initial Phase of CPEC projects of the early harvest program are completed. Now the second phase the long term plan of the CPEC has been started that focuses on industrial activity and agriculture which would be completed by 2025. Currently work on the Long term Plan is under way, after that in order to take its final shape in 2030 CPEC would be completed and people to people contact will develop, thus resulting in shared trade communities.
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