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Xiamen BRICS Summit: Triumph for Indian Diplomacy

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The 9th BRICS summit was concluded on September 4, 2017 in Xiamen, China. The BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) group was formed in 2006 to deepen cooperation in economic sphere and laud efforts to transform international governance system.

In December 2010, China chaired BRIC summit and invited South Africa to join group of emerging economies, which gave birth to BRICS acronym. So far, 9 summits has been concluded and recent was held in Xiamen, China.

Xiamen summit is extremely important for Pakistan and its relations with its all-weather friend China. It is widely acknowledged that two nations have maintained close friendship and cordiality since past six decades, and China always come forward to support Pakistan in crucial times. Collaboration in military-nuclear arenas and concerted efforts to combat terrorism are well documented and recognized. However recent summit declaration caused mutilation to close strategic partnership between two friends. India has won its long awaited war with concerted efforts and energies to include Pakistan based terrorist organizations. 

The BRICS members “expressed concern on the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, ISIL/DAISH, Al-Qaeda and its affiliates including Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP and Hizb ut-Tahrir”. The statement said, we “condemn all forms of terrorism and manifestations wherever committed and by whomsoever and stress that there can be no justification whatsoever for any act of terrorism. We affirm that those responsible for committing, organizing, or supporting terrorist acts must be held accountable”.[1]  Moreover group members reaffirm solidarity and resolve to combat terrorism and call upon all nations to adopt comprehensive approach to fight against terrorism.

The inclusion of Pakistan-based terror groups in summit document indicated a shift in the Chinese view towards terror groups operating out of Pakistan. During the last BRICS summit in Goa, China rebuffed Indian efforts to include Pakistan based terror groups in declaration, despite India provided evidences to China about involvement of Pakistan led terrorist groups in various terrorist attacks ensued in India. [2] Here a thoughtful question has appeared that, Why China agreed to include Pakistan-based terrorist groups in summit declaration?

There are three possible factors influence in China’s shift towards India and Pakistan-based terror outfits.

First, Doklam standoff has played significant role in China’s shift to deal its South Asian competitor. After more than two and half months tense standoff between Indian Army and the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) on Himalayan territory, Doklam standoff has come to an end.  On August 28, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), India and Foreign Ministry of China issued statements that both countries had reached a disengagement agreement.[3] The standoff escalated in June this year, when PLA started to extend road infrastructure in Dolam, which is part of Doklam region, a disputed territory between Bhutan and China. Indian troops interdicted the PLA to extend a road southward towards Jampheri Ridge, which is strategically important for the Indian army. India claimed that Chinese road construction will seriously hamper Indian security settings in the area, and opposed to unilateral changes in the status quo in the region by China. Since then, two armies were standing face to face and threat of war between two nuclear states was looming on surface.

 The Doklam standoff was a test case for both India and China to show off power and resistance, as well as peaceful channels to diffuse tensions. From the very first day, China stressed India to withdraw its troops unilaterally before settling dispute diplomatically, however India displayed no sign to withdraw its forces until successful agreement of disengagement. Even though escalation on border, both countries continued diplomatic channels to resolve the issue and finally reached an agreement to disengage troops. But these two months long standoff provided an opportunity to India to check its resistance power against its large rival in Asia. India successfully tested its military muscle against China and recognized that it has capacity to resist against Chinese aggression. Whereas, China has admitted that right time has not come to involve in conflict with India and 21st century India is not alike 1962 India. Contemporary India is nuclear power with large conventional army and have close strategic partnership with the U.S and Japan which are strategic rivals of China in Asia Pacific. The fear of mutual destruction in case of nuclear war deter China to further escalate the conflict. Thus, China admitted that peaceful relations with its larger and antagonistic neighbor are necessity of time.

Secondly, India has successfully projected its diplomatic power around the world and employed various diplomatic tactics including; aggressive diplomacy towards its weak neighboring countries, and shuttle diplomacy towards other developed countries to garner support for India. It diplomatic crew bridged close working relationship with newly elected President Doland Trump administration in the U.S. Therefore existing close Indo-U.S relationship transformed into new strategic partnership with announcement of President Trump to grant greater role to India in Afghanistan. His speech indicated, that India has invested heavily in the U.S. to gain support for its future endeavors, and its fruits reflected by tougher approach towards Pakistan adopted by the U.S. president. Moreover, since assuming Premiership, Premier Narendra Modi paid several state visits to European countries and concluded billions of dollar agreements in economic and military arenas which amplified profile of the country.

A brighter example of Indian diplomatic triumph can be found in the UNSC by presenting joint resolution by India and the U.S. to designate Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jammad-ud-Dawa as international terrorist outfits. Meanwhile, another joint proposal was put forward by the U.S, UK and France on January 19, 2017 to declare Molana Masood Azhar as terrorist. Previously by using veto power, China blocked all Indian bids and employed a technical hold on UNSC resolutions. However, Xiamen Summit declaration exposed flaws in Chinese diplomacy against Indian systematic and concerted diplomacy. New Delhi successfully converge Beijing to withdraw its support for Pakistan and included names of Pakistan-based terrorist organizations in the summit document. Its partners in the grouping also supported and persuaded China to change its foreign policy towards India for smooth and brighter future of the group.

It can be claimed that 9th BRICS summit paved the way for concerted efforts to combat terrorism in all its forms. Similarly it is an indication that China may not oppose Indian resolutions in the UNSC to label Pakistan based organizations as terrorist outfits. Another scenario is emerging about Beijing’s accession for India’s permanent position in the UNSC and Inclusion into NSG.

Thirdly, insertion of Pakistan-based organizations in terrorist organizations list is another major obstruction to already crumbling foreign policy of the country. Since 2013 elections, newly elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif withhold position of foreign minister, and only appointed advisor on foreign affairs. practically has no say in foreign affairs and all major decisions were taken by the Prime Minister His decision and tenure in the Prime Minister office seriously cause damage to foreign relations of the country and add new challenges in already vacillated foreign policy and diplomacy. Though, Pakistan was aware about BRICS summit and Indian intentions, but Islamabad did not take notice seriously and concentrated its energies on recently announced U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia. It seems that Islamabad overlooked emerging geopolitical situation after Doklam standoff and did not realize to contain Indian efforts against Pakistan. Equally important is that Pakistan failed to converge Beijing for its concerns about Indian intentions in BRICS summit. Contrary, it is a significant achievement by India to persuade Beijing for cross border terrorism. A China-based scholar argued that after Beijing’s backing for Indian concerns about terrorism by Islamabad-based terror outfits, pressure will be augmented on Pakistan. At last, Xiamen summit declaration is total failure of Islamabad’s foreign policy and diplomacy and triumph for Indian foreign policy.

[1] BRICS 9th Summit Document

[2] PTI, BEICS: In a first, China denounces terror groups based in Pakistan, Telangana Today, September 4, 2017, https://telanganatoday.com/china-terror-groups-pakistan

[3] Ankit Panda, Disengagement at Doklam: Why and How Did the India-China standoff End, The Diplomat, August 29,2017

[4] PTI, BRICS Summit 2017: Xiamen Declaration may strain China-Pakistan ties, says Scholar Hu Shisheng, First Post, September 4, 2017, http://www.firstpost.com/world/brics-summit-2017-xiamen-declaration-may-strain-china-pakistan-ties-says-scholar-hu-shisheng-4008337.html 

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South Asia

Is Indian Democracy Dying?

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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The prominent journalist and editor, Shujaat Bukhari was leaving work when he and his two bodyguards were shot and killed.  Suffice to say newspapers are the lifeblood of democracy and Indian administered Kashmir under the decades-long grip of a half-million strong security force has a questionable claim.  Yet brave journalists, unafraid, write and sometimes pay the consequences.

Following Mr. Bukhari’s murder and the thousands attending his funeral, the security services have raided presses shutting down newspapers.  The internet is not quite as easily controlled, so some have been busy updating their sites.

Since Gauari Lankesh was brutally murdered at her doorstep in September 2017, another four journalists have lost their lives.  She, too, espoused views contrary to the ruling party’s current philosophy of an India aligned only with the mores of upper-caste Hindus.

Jawaharlal Nehru and Gandhi, the principal Indian leaders who fought many decades for independence would have been appalled.  Gandhi protected low caste untouchables referring to them as the ‘children of god’; they are now known as Dalits.  Nehru, a Brahmin by birth, was a socialist in belief.  His dream was of a secular, socialist India.  The latter is long over, the former under vicious attack as Muslim and Christian minorities are marginalized.  In addition to journalists, three heavyweight intellectuals have been killed.  All were rationalists, the Indian word for atheists.

Gandhi was assassinated less than six months after independence by a right-wing Hindu nationalist who was angry at Gandhi’s moderate attitude toward Muslims.  The assassin Nathuram Godse was a member of the extreme-right Hindu Mahasabha political party, and had his roots in the paramilitary, Hindutva-promoting Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).  Its militancy has led to its being banned three times:  after the Gandhi assassination, during the Indira Gandhi emergency rule in the mid-1970s, and for its role in the Babri Mosque demolition.  The British also found its beliefs beyond the pale and banned it during their rule.

Not only is the RSS flourishing now but it serves openly as the ideological mentor of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).  Together they continue to push their agenda for a Hindu India tolerating only Hindu culture or beliefs, in other words, Hindutva or Hindu hegemony.

Hindutva scholar Shridhar D. Damle confirms what is quite well known, that the RSS is now exerting its influence in academia, government and cultural organizations.  The laws restricting cow slaughter are not a Narendra Modi whim.  Mr. Modi joined the RSS at the age of eight, was nurtured and nourished by it, the philosophy seeping into his bones like mother’s milk; any moderation necessitated only by political considerations.

The RSS infiltration of academia is pervasive.  Last year, its think tank, Prajnah Pravah, summoned 700 academics including 51 university vice-chancellors (presidents) to Delhi to attend a workshop on the importance of a Hindu narrative in higher education; just one example of influencing what can be taught.  A gradual loss of academic freedom has been the frightening consequence of constant interference backed up by its militancy — frightening because dying with intellectual freedom, journalists, writers and thinkers is also Indian democracy … slowly but surely, unless the voters stand up to the RSS sharkhas (volunteers) at the next election.

Nobody knows who killed Mr. Bukhari.  But when the standards have been set and a certain climate prevails, does it mean much?

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US- North Korea talks: A role model for Pakistan and India?

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Shahbaz Sharif — Former PM Nawaz Sharif’s younger brother, current PML-N President, Former CM of Punjab (Pakistan) and the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate for the general election — while reacting to the meeting between US President, Donald Trump and North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, stated that India and Pakistan should seek to emulate both countries, and explore the possibility of resuming dialogue.

Tweeted Shahbaz Sharif: ‘The US and North Korea talks should be a role model for Pakistan and Indian. If they can return from their previous hostile positions of attacking each other, Pakistan and India can also resume composite dialogue,’

Shahbaz, an astute politician and a capable administrator has generally refrained from commenting on India. More so, after his elder brother, had got into trouble after his remarks on the Mumbai attacks In an interview to Dawn, the former PM had said:

‘Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai”.. Why can’t we complete the trial?’

Nawaz Sharif drew flak not just from the National Security Committee (which includes top civil servants and defense officials). NSC issued a statement, saying:

‘The participants observed that it was very unfortunate that the opinion arising out of either misconceptions or grievances was being presented in disregard of concrete facts and realities. The participants unanimously rejected the allegations and condemned the fallacious assertions.

Some parliamentarians of the PML-N, also said that Sharif’s remarks were ‘inappropriate’. They had to be assuaged by Shahbaz

What are the precise implications of Shahbaz’s statements at this time?

Shahbaz Sharif’s statement is significant because the Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa has sought to extend an olive branch to India via his statements — though the ground situation across the LoC has not witnessed a significant change .

Shahbaz Sharif on his part is seeking to send the signal, that he is all for a better relationship with India, and this will go down well with large sections of the population in Punjab (this includes not just members of Civil Society, but the business community as well). As Chief Minister of Punjab (Pakistan), he had visited India (December 2013), and met with then PM, Dr Manmohan Singh, while also visiting his ancestral village Jatti Umrah in (Punjab, India). Shahbaz had also attended the inauguration of the Integrated Check Post at Attari in April 2012. Shahbaz has sought to strengthen people to people as well as economic ties with Indian Punjab.

In 2017, when both Punjab’s and North India was engulfed in smog, Shahbaz had also written to his counterpart in Indian Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh,  seeking a mechanism to tackle the issue of smog, as well as environmental pollution.  Said Sharif, ‘..Let us join hands for securing a prosperous future for the people of our two provinces,”

At the same time, in his recent tweet, Shahbaz also raised the Kashmir issue, and does not want to appear excessively soft or a ‘sell-out’. Especially, vis-à-vis the hardliners and the military. Shahbaz Sharif had tweeted:

‘If the United States and North Korea can return from the brink of a nuclear flashpoint, there is no reason why Pakistan and India cannot do the same, beginning with a dialogue on Kashmir whose heroic people have resisted and rejected Indian occupation.

In April 2018, at a rally Shahbaz had raised the Kashmir issue, saying ‘..we will make Kashmir part of Pakistan,”

Fourth, Shahbaz wants to ensure, that the PML-N sets the agenda of the election campaign with this statement he has also ensured, that PTI will need to make its stance on ties with India clear

Mixed signals from Imran Khan

Imran Khan has so far given mixed signals, on many issues including ties with India. Khan has attacked Sharif’s for being soft on the Kashmir issue, and stated that he will be far more vocal and raise the issue on International Forums. At a rally in 2016, the  Pakistan-Tehreek-E-Insaaf PTI Chief and former cricketer stated:

“Human rights are being trampled in Kashmir…And no matter what, we will support Kashmiris morally and politically.

Imran Khan also accused Sharif of having a close rapport with Modi and bartering away Pakistan’s interests in the process. The PTI Chief has also sought an enquiry into Nawaz Sharif’s ‘business interests’ in India on more than one occasion.

On the other hand on occasions, Khan has spoken about the need for improving India-Pakistan ties. Interestingly, during a visit to India in December 2015, Imran had called on Modi, and claimed to have had a constructive conversation on bilateral issues.

Conclusion

What is clearly evident is that Shahbaz, a consummate politician, will essentially follow his brother’s approach of wanting to improve ties with India, while not ruffling feathers with the Pakistan army. Shahbaz, also wants to send a message to both the opposition (especially the PTI) and the establishment (Pakistan military and ISI). While the message to the PTI, is that he will not allow it to set the agenda for the election.  To the establishment, Shahbaz Sharif’s message is that he is ready to work with them, but will not play second fiddle.

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South Asia

Pakistan & India’s NSG membership: Challenges and prospects

Uzge A. Saleem

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Both the front runners of South Asia have found a new interest in becoming a part of the international non-proliferation regime. This desire was made public when both the states applied for membership in May 2016. So far both have faced disappointment and as the NSG 28th plenary meeting approaches the debate of whether there will be one winner, two winners or no winner at all, rekindles. The decision is crucial for both because they have their own set of concerns riding on this membership. Indian Prime Minister Modi has made the NSG membership the single most important foreign policy agenda for his regime while Pakistan does not want to be blocked out of the trade group by India if it becomes a member.

With the waiver India gained from NSG somehow got stuck in an illusion that this special treatment will apply to all the aspects of Indo-NSG understanding. The hope was killed when no decision was made in the 2016 plenary meeting. However India being India, did not register this clear signal. Part of its lobbying tactics was to become a part of MTCR. The agenda here was two fold: a)it wanted the support of the 34 MTCR members in NSG and; b). it wanted to help China become a part of MTCR (which it was previously rejected) so that China softens its stance on India’s NSG membership. The latter goal has not been met yet. The real problem is not India’s membership into NSG but its vision of itself as the driving force for the region, and as soon as it is able to get  NSG membership, this agenda will be on top of its ‘to do list’ to block Pakistan out. If India was to play on fair lines it wouldn’t be as much of a problem. Its desire of blocking Pakistan out is clear by its insistence on a merit based approach through which it assumes Pakistan will be left out for not fulfilling the merit. What it doesn’t realize is that even to set a merit there needs to be a certain criteria for that.

Coming towards the second candidate for the membership i.e. Pakistan, it has maintained a principle stance over the membership of the trade group. If Pakistan cannot become a part of the NSG because the state is not party to NPT then the same applies to India as well and any special treatment would be nothing more than discrimination. What the international community needs to be communicated is that they it cannot have a biased approach for the state of Pakistan solely for the US and India’s strategic interests. The membership needs to be granted to both the South Asian states otherwise the asymmetry will further increase which will destabilize the peace and security of the South Asian region. Furthermore it needs to be brought into consideration that by granting membership to Pakistan, its nuclear program can be streamlined along with the rest of the recognized nuclear weapon states which will bring it under the rules and regulations of NSG. This is something the international community would want for Pakistan because apparently it has reservations regarding the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear program so why not bring it at par with the rest of the programs where the skepticism regarding illegal proliferation can be eradicated once and for all?

Considering the case of both the states the only rational solution which China advocates in the NSG openly is that first of all the factor of states being NPT members must not be ignored since it is an important cornerstone for NSG however if it is to be overlooked then it must be overlooked for all aspirants alike and country specific approach should not be an option. Joining NSG can solve many issues for Pakistan including its problem of energy shortage as well as financial backwardness. Such an opportunity can prove to be beneficial for Pakistan as well as to the other states of NSG because the forum can also be used for confidence building and mutual understanding of each other’s circumstances. However India would not like this to happen so easily because that means compromising the leverage it gets by becoming the front runner in South Asian politics.

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