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Nothing new in Trump’s South Asia policy, it’s Obama redux

Bahauddin Foizee

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While the US President Donald Trump’s much awaited televised speech on the 21st of August was supposed to lay down his administration’s Afghanistan policy, what really transpired eventually from his speech was his administration’s South Asia policy, largely denouncing Pakistan for harboring militants and calling on India to step up its efforts in the region, including Afghanistan.

Trump’s policy ruled out any scope for the US troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan. It seems Trump administration does not want to alter anything that its predecessor Obama administration took on with regard to South Asia; rather it seems Trump administration is willing to intensify them.

Both Obama & Trump for no withdrawal in Afghanistan

Both Trump and Obama decided to stay in Afghanistan, though both talked about withdrawal in their past.

Trump, prior to his bid for the US Presidency, claimed that the US involvement in Afghanistan was a waste and the US troops must be pulled out of the country, though it is the same Trump who, in his recent speech, mentioned about stepping up efforts to win the long drawn war in Afghanistan, opening the door for deploying more US troops. Trump seems to be no different in this regard from Barack Obama, who too pledged in 2013 to end the war in Afghanistan, but eventually could not order a total withdrawal of the US troops from the country.

Furthermore, while Obama sought more troops in Afghanistan from NATO allies during his tenure, Trump too has called for deploying more troops in Afghanistan from the US’s NATO allies, saying “We will ask our NATO allies and global partners to support our new strategy, with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own. We are confident they will.”

Both embrace India, denigrate Pakistan

Obama’s embrace of India and dissatisfaction over Pakistan only got an advanced outlook under Trump; that’s that, nothing new.

In his speech, Trump referred India as a key security and economic partner of the US, and urged for a bigger Indian role in South Asia, particularly centering Afghanistan in the area of economic assistance and development. It is under the Obama administration when the US had walked towards a strategic partnership with Narenda Modi’s India in an effort to counter the rising Chinese influence in the greater Asia Pacific and the Indian Oceanic region. It is now the Trump administration that has decided to continue in the same direction.

Trump’s speech further reflected his administration’s intention to take a more hard-line approach towards Afghanistan’s neighbor Pakistan, which Trump said provides safe havens for terrorists. “No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target US service members and officials,” said Trump as a blunt message to Pakistan.

From Obama’s time in the White House, Pakistan has been facing criticisms from different influential corners in the US on various grounds, including its inability to combat militancy in the region. Although the previous US administration, under Obama, used less cold words against Pakistan, the administration was slowly moving towards creating a stage for its successors to gradually cast off Pakistan in the US’s attempt of embracing Pakistan’s arch rival India and putting indirect pressure on China, which is Pakistan’s strategic partner against India.

Although Pakistan had been an ally in the US’s war on terror since the 9/11 attacks on the US soil, Trump has – and Obama had – a negative outlook towards Pakistan due to two factors. One factor is that these two successive administrations have translated the discovery of Osama bin Laden in a hideout in Pakistan (where he was killed in 2011) as Pakistan’s indirect shelter for someone who was waging a war against the US. The other factor is Pakistan’s ever growing intimacy with China, a country which the US perceives as the major threat to its interest in the greater Asia Pacific and the Indian Oceanic region.

Pakistan’s growing love affair with China had been earning Pakistan a bad name in the US policy making structure during Obama’s tenure in White House and the US’s displeasure towards this relationship is now clearly reflected in Trump’s policy.

All in all, it seems the overtures Obama was making towards India and the silent retreat his administration was making from supporting its old ally Pakistan have only got an advanced outlook through Trump administration’s South Asia policy.

Bahauddin Foizee is an international affairs analyst and columnist, and regularly writes on greater Asia-Pacific, Indian Oceanic region and greater Middle East geopolitics. He also - infrequently - writes on environment & climate change and the global refugee crisis. Besides Modern Diplomacy, his articles have appeared at The Diplomat, Global New Light of Myanmar, Asia Times, Eurasia Review, Middle East Monitor, International Policy Digest and a number of other international publications. His columns also appear in the Dhaka-based national newspapers, including Daily Observer, Daily Sun, Daily Star, The Independent, The New Nation, Financial Express, New age and bdnews24com. He previously taught law at Dhaka Centre for Law & Economics and worked at Bangladesh Institute of Legal Development.

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South Asia

Youm-e-Takbeer: History and Significance

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28th May this year marks the 20th anniversary of historical moment when Pakistan successfully detonated nuclear devices in the Chagai district, Balochistan; and joined the prestigious club of nuclear weapon states.  Pakistan was compelled to test the nuclear weapon in response to a series of nuclear tests by India on 11th and 13th May of same year, 1998. It is important to note that it was the second series of nuclear tests by India in 1998, first being the so-called Smiling Buddha in May 1974.

After conducting a series of five nuclear tests in May 1998, the Indian politicians and public were of the view that now they had a monopoly over the nuclear technology and capability in the region, however test of six nuclear explosions by Pakistan was a befitting response to India’s sheer misperception.

India’s nuclear tests of 1974 and 1998 left Pakistan with no option to ensure its defence but to restore to the balance of power in the region by maintaining deterrence equilibrium. It is the fact that development of Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities is the expression of its security concerns to counter India’s conventional superiority over Pakistan. Due to various security challenges, security dilemma is operational between both states.  India’s nuclear test in 1974 was significant factors due to which Pakistan felt threatened and believed that it was only with the help of developing the nuclear capability can it ensure its security and survival. Subsequently, Pakistan followed the policy of nuclear ambiguity which is widely considered justified by security analysts on the grounds of an Indian threat. Same applies to the Pakistan’s retaliatory response of conducting nuclear tests in May 1998. After India’s nuclear test, Pakistan’s government emphasized that “Pakistan’s failure to respond in kind would have made it vulnerable to its aggressive neighbor”.  Speech of President Nawaz sharifin May 1998 has proven that acquisition of nuclear capability was inevitable for the security and survival of Pakistan.

As a result of successful nuclear tests, Pakistan appeared as 7th nuclear weapon state of the world and 1st country of the Muslim world having the nuclear weapon capability. Since then Pakistan remembers this day as Youm-e-Takbeer; ‘The day of Greatness” as a reminder of the tough choice Pakistan made to ensure its defence despite the immense international pressure from the US and other Western countries. Soon after nuclear tests, sanctions were imposed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on both India and Pakistan. However, the explosion of nuclear weapons marks the “Overt Nuclearization” of South Asia and both countries were acknowledged as de facto nuclear weapon states.

Though the roots of nuclear deterrence and strategic stability can be traced back to the pre-nuclearization period when the debates erupted regarding ambiguous nuclear capabilities of India and Pakistan. Now due to the existence of deterrence equilibrium and strategic stability, no matter how fragile, both Pakistan and India have been able to maintain crisis stability over the past 20 years: wherein no conflict has actually escalated into a full blown war.

According to SIPRI 2018 report, India is the largest arms importer of the world. It is developing a sophisticated inventory of nuclear arms comprised of tactical weapons, inter-continental ballistic missiles, and anti-ballistic missile system to fulfill its aspirations of acquiring the status of “regional power”. On the other hand, Pakistan’s leadership, both political and military, understand the possibility to promote security and peace in region through arms control rather than arms race. Therefore to prevent South Asia from a nuclear arm race, Pakistan put forward various proposals: First, in 1974 to declare South Asia as “nuclear weapon-free zone”; Second, the post-1998 proposal to establish “Pakistan-India strategic restraint regime”. Unfortunately, India has consistently rejected all these proposals. India’s unwelcoming attitude has left Pakistan with no option but to restore to the balance of power in the region by developing sophisticated nuclear capabilities.

Moreover, nuclear weapon and nuclear related technology is seen as contributing to Pakistan’s economic and defense base that could ultimately ensure national security objectives of the country.  First, talking about economy or energy security: Pakistan has a modest nuclear power programme.It is using peaceful nuclear power and technology to ensure long-term energy security .Pakistan is also one of the ‘energy deficient’ states that focuses on energy security to fulfill its socio-economic demands. Second, due to nuclear weapon capability Pakistan’s defense has become impregnable. On the other hand, when it comes to the significance of nuclear weapon capability in political arena to fulfill foreign policy objectives, it is unfortunate that even after acquiring the nuclear weapon capability, the overall political standing of Pakistan in global arena has not favorably changed.  Though Pakistan has the option to use nuclear weapon as negotiating tool to fulfill its political objectives but nuclear weapon capability is considered as a tool to ensure state’s defence against aggression, be it conventional or nuclear.  Therefore, the rationale behind Pakistan’s military nuclear programme remains the same over the years i.e.  to counter the conventional military superiority of India.

To conclude, after 20 years of nuclearization, 28th May marks the “historic milestone” of Pakistan’s successful and calculated response to counter India’s aggression through operational preparedness of the Strategic Forces to maintain peace and stability. Every year, Youm-e-Takbeer is observed across the country in commemoration of Pakistan’s decision to ensure it security, to maintain strategic stability and to deter external aggression despite the immense international pressure and threat of crippling sanctions. Consequently, the utility of nuclear weapons can be checked from the fact that despite multiple escalations after overt nuclearization of South Asia, India has not dared to attack Pakistan thus nuclear weapon capability of Pakistan has ensured safety, security and durable peace and protection from any external aggression.

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“The Emperor’s Order”

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The unfortunate and disdainful assumptions about GB’s youth in social media may belie a lesser known fact about the unyielding patriotism and unwavering loyalty they have always had and continue to have for Pakistan for the last seven decades despite state’s persistent denial of fundamental and constitutional rights at par with other provinces of Pakistan. Their loyalties, sense of patriotism and aspirations towards ‘Federation’ are unparalleled, for they had fought the Dogras and gained independence only to join Pakistan.

With the most astounding proportion of literacy for both males and females in Gilgit-Baltistan, the denial of fundamental and constitutional rights has fostered the internal ashes of explosion that continues to burn underneath the conscious awareness of the youth and eventually might compel them to pen down their abjuration.

The sequential governments in Pakistan have intentionally managed to cap them (people of GB) through restraint which has kept the social wrath alive. Federal authorities of Pakistan have now proposed an executive order with the title “Government of Gilgit-Baltistan Order” which is to be tabled before the Prime Minister of Pakistan in next cabinet meeting for its approval.

On the off chance, if the proposed order is enforced and approved as such in GB, it will help the Prime Minister in securing ‘Ultra-Constitutional’ powers with regards to GB and will rule over without any powers conferred on him by the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The PM will thus be a Monarch.

Dubbed as ‘GB Emperor Order’ on social media, the proposed order suggests that: ‘The Prime Minister shall have the powers to adopt an amendment in the existing laws or any new law in force subject to the legislative competence under sub-section 2 of the proposed order. As many as 50 subjects of legislation have been conferred to the Prime Minister. As per Article 41 of the proposed order, the legislative authority of Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly in its own subjects is subservient to the Prime Minister.

Correspondingly, the articles, 60 (4), 60(6), (d) and 99 (2) additionally propose that the Law passed by Prime Minister will prevail the law(s) on the similar subject that is passed by GB Assembly. The proposed order additionally gives the privilege to the prime Minister to charge and collect taxes from the general population of Gilgit Baltistan. Moreover, the judicial powers have also been vested in PM. Likewise, the privilege to designate judges to the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit-Baltistan and other sub-courts has been allowed to the Prime Minister while the purview of GB courts is zilch in the mainland Pakistan. This would make the Prime Minister invulnerable to any choice of GB courts as no ruling can be passed against him.

If passed and implemented, the proposed GB order of 2018 will only amplify the grievances of people in GB, thus pushing them further to the margins. The political ‘establishment’ in this regard ought to be pragmatic; for, if GB can be taxed equally, they can join the defence forces of the country, citizens are provided with the national identity cards and the passports stamped by the government of Pakistan then why can’t they be treated equally and given equal rights?

The present government needs to be vigilant in this regard, for it is already fighting a ‘political crusade’ to offer ‘respect to vote’, the proposed GB arrangement, if passed, will no less at that point be a mockery of this slogan.

To conclude, in milieu of the current scenario, there is a single voice of superior patriotism and integration with federation distinguishably intoned among others. The voice of integration being chanted from the mountains downwards to the seashores by the residents of Gilgit-Baltistan must be heard properly as an oracle.

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Excellency Narendra Modi when will you become Affectionate Neighbour?

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Slavery was abolished in Islam 1500 years ago. Against this backdrop the Muslims of Indo-Pak subcontinent revolted against the “British Rule” to get rid of their clutches / slavery. The Muslim political thinkers and Ulemas reached to the conclusion that Muslims cannot live with Britishers and Hindus on the basis of “Two Nation Theory” in line with Allama Muhammad Iqbal (late) and Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (late) political wisdom. The revolt against British was culminated into “War of Independence” in 1857. This laid stone and paved the way for an Islamic state now known as “Pakistan”. The Hindus were also benefited with the creation of Pakistan and thereafter a Hindu sate “India” also came on the world globe. After the independence in 1947 Pakistan is maintaining cordial relations with neighbouring and other countries of the world. Unfortunately the Hindu psyche and their Slave Mentality could not be changed even after 70 years and the Indians still owe allegiance from core of their heart to her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain (UK). Even today the Indian Prime Minister HE Narendra Modi pay homage to British Government and submit reports on  daily basis. The classic example is the recent visit of Narendra Modi to London (April 2018) in which he in a question and answers session at Central Hall Westminster (London) revealed before the audience regarding surgical strikes carried out by Indian Army against Pakistani troops deployed along LoC.

Indian PM in a bid to muster support and financial assistance from British Government for his forth coming election’s 2019 propagated and boosted his concocted version that Indian authorities kept on calling Pakistani counterparts in Islamabad to collect dead bodies of Pakistani soldiers from LoC. The information disseminated to the Britishers against Pakistan was false and far from truth.

Unfortunately, the Indian Intelligence Agencies, its Army and Foreign office have made it a routine to interfere in the internal matters of the peripheral countries in a bid to accomplish  their hegemonic designs which the Indian leadership has been claiming  from time to time including Narendra Modi false / tall claim of creation of Bangladesh in 1971. The Indian Army is also following the foot prints / aggressive policies of Indian political leadership. General Bipon Rawat (Indian Army Chief) and Lt Gen AK Bhaat, Corps Commander Srinagar in their media briefings have been threatening Pakistan Armed Forces and Kashmiri Muslim freedom fighters / organizations of dire consequences, they committed atrocities / brutalities on the innocent Muslims / minorities by using lethal weapons including Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, Mortar guns and chemical agents.

India to fulfill its hegemonic designs in South Asia and enhance its influence, the Indian Defence Minister Mst Nirmala Subramanian visited various foreign countries to purchase military equipment worth US 5.6 billion including SA-400 missile system F-35 fighter aircraft from Israel and 80 MI-70 helicopter to augment mobilization of Indian troops and LEA’s to crush innocent Muslims of IHK and Sikhs of Khalistan movement. Indian government in addition to further enhance the barbaric activities of its  intelligence / security agencies, RAW, Intelligence Bureau, Bureau of Investigation, Special protection group and National Security Guards are allowed to import i arms, / ammunition, telescopic silencer short guns, with night vision capabilities and hand grenades from US / Israel without the scrutiny and permission of Indian parliament and Indian Defence Ministry. These sophisticated arms / ammunition will be smuggled and supplied to various terrorist groups in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal by RAW / MOSAAD / CIA. In Nepal RAW has established a front organization by the name of Islami Sangh Nepal and in Bangladesh Faleh-e-Insaniyat Foundation to impart training to terrorists in fabricating improvised explosive devices. The arms / ammunition are also supplied from RAW establishments to dissident / terrorist groups to carry out violence and instability in the peripheral countries.

Excellency Modi we have tried to highlight the chronological   sequence of events  and nefarious activities being carried out by your Government, Senior Army officers, RAW / Intelligence Bureau and Law Enforcing Agencies. The scrutiny / analysis for the reasons behind aggressive behavior pattern / attitude are the outcome of Hindu mechanism of hereditary, aggression, frustration and anxiety in Indian society. They have fallen prey to psychotic disorder and negative Edipis Complex. To live in the “Global Village” of civilized nations it is high time on the part of Indian Government to change its policies and attitude in order to prove themselves as a civilized mature and affectionate nation towards its neighboring countries.

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