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Pakistan, Afghanistan and China Trilateral Dialogue and implications for Pakistan’s Foreign Policy

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The very first tweet of 2018 by the USA’s President Donald Trump was related to Pakistan in which he said that ‘The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!’ This tweet is definitely an alarming signal towards Pakistan that the New Year will bring so many challenges to Pakistan especially in terms of its foreign policy. This tweet can be analyzed on levels which are manifold such as some analyst consider it just a publicity stunt by Trump because his presidency is becoming weaker day by day and its policies are either rejected or amended and he is just trying to win support by these kinds of statements. As interestingly the very next day, he warned Palestinians as well in the same way by saying that, ‘ It’s not only Pakistan that we pay billions of dollars to for nothing but also many other countries, and others As an example, we pay the Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel, We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, of the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more. But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them’. These threatening tweets show Mr. President’s wish to get global attraction and frustration over his declining popularity domestically as well as globally.

On the other hand, Trump’s tweet regarding Pakistan can be considered as a clear threat to Pakistan about the consequences it can have due to its growing cooperation with China especially in terms of Afghan Peace process as now it has become very obvious that USA has lost the war in Afghanistan. Whatever the conclusion one takes from this statement of Trump, one thing for sure is apparent that it is a tough time for Pakistan and 2018 is going to be a challenging year for Pakistan. Now Pakistan has to take many critical decisions regarding its foreign policy. Pakistan’s foreign policy has seen many visible changes in 2017 as in the case of Qatar issue and the paradigm shift towards Russia and Iran. This time Pakistan has to adopt some comprehensive policy towards Afghanistan. Afghanistan and Pakistan besides having common religion, ideology and culture are involved in the continuous blame game from many years.

Recently, China being a broker of peace dialogue between Afghanistan and Pakistan played very efficient role. The latest trilateral dialogue which held on December 26, 2017 in Beijing is a milestone in this regard. Stable Afghanistan is in the interest of both the states and is inevitable for the $47billion CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) project. Without stable Afghanistan, this project will remain just a dream. Moreover, in order to counter USA as well as India in Afghanistan, China and Pakistan have to cooperate as USA and India both are unhappy with this project and trying their best to create obstacles in the fulfillment of this project.

Unstable Afghanistan is becoming a source of growing tensions in the vulnerable south western province of Pakistan that is Balochistan. Pakistan is continuously condemning India internationally for its involvement in Balochistan and it has even given dossiers in United Nations in 2015 as well. The very famous KAO plan of India and the recent episode of the arrest of Indian Spy Kulbushan Jadhav in Balochistan who has accepted his involvement in Balochistan separatist activities in front of media are the arguments made by Pakistan in this regard. Without any doubt, whatever involvement India has in Balochistan, certainly, it is via Afghanistan firstly because of the porous borders Pak-Afghan borders and secondly, Indian strong footing in Afghan soil. Peace and stability in Balochistan is inevitable not only for Pakistan but for China as well due to CPEC because the central venture of CPEC is the development and working of Gwader port which is situated in Balochistan. In order to address the issue of Balochistan, Pakistan has to adopt a comprehensive policy to address the grievances of Baloch and try to fulfill their demand. Furthermore, Pakistan should avail this golden opportunity provided by China and use soft power to address the grievances of Afghans in order to achieve stability in Balochistan. The trust deficit and bitter relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan has provided India an opportunity to gain strong hold in Afghanistan and especially gained sympathies from Afghani people. Afghani people are more inclined towards India now which is not at all in favour of Pakistan. Due to geopolitical location as well as security situation, Pakistan cannot afford to have any serious contentions at its western borders.

It’s not difficult for Pakistan to regain the sympathies and the prior status in Afghanistan due to common culture, religion and the brotherly relations Afghans and the people of Khyber Pakhtoon Khua (bordering province of Pakistan) shares. On the other hand, China also needs to have some strong footing in Afghanistan in order to create balance of power in the region. It’s been observed through the analysis of  the history of Afghanistan that hard power never works in Afghanistan and no one have ever been able to defeat vigorous Afghans. Hence, China has to utilise its soft power and maintain friendly relations with Afghanistan and for this purpose, it has to take help from Pakistan. Pakistan and China can collectively make an effort in this regard to establish good image of China and Pakistan in Afghanistan through various means such as introduction of Chinese radio or TV channels, scholarships for Afghan students and cultural exchange programs for Afghan students in China as well as in Pakistan in order to rebuild friendly and brotherly relations. Pakistan unlike India cannot invest in Afghanistan due to its poor economic conditions but still it can regain its status of a brother with the help and assistance of China.

As it’s said that be discreet with your kindness, it is not a good time to waste all the sacrifices which Pakistan has made since Afghan war of 1979. Pakistan hosted millions of Afghan refugees in Afghan war of 1979 as well as after the outbreak of War against Terrorism in 2001. But from last few years some of the harsh statements and policies of Pakistan has played significant role in generating grievances among Afghan refugees which in turn has proved beneficial for India. Now India has replaced Pakistan and Afghans are more inclined towards India. Moreover India is investing in Afghanistan and playing a significant role in its development. To deal with this, Pakistan needs to evaluate its policy regarding Afghan refugees issue and should formulate a friendly policy. Similarly, Afghanistan also needs to show some flexibility in its policy towards Pakistan and understand that Pakistan just like Afghanistan is also a poor victim of terrorism and is suffering in every aspect. This is a time for both the states to work together to defeat the menace of terrorism which is devastating the peace of both the states and is the biggest obstacle in development and prosperity. With the assistance from China, Pakistan and Afghanistan can work together to minimize the trust deficit and get desired outcomes. It will be a win-win situation not just for the three partners but also for the whole region.

Aamna Khan is currently a final year PhD student majoring in International Relations at SIPA, Jilin University, China. She is an independent researcher and writer for various national and international media outlets. Her research interests include Counter terrorism, Peace and Conflict Studies.

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Towards Dual-Tripolarity: An Indian Grand Strategy for the Age of Complexity

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International Relations are in an unprecedented flux as the world enters a period of full-spectrum paradigm changes involving everything from science and technology, health, geo-economics, geopolitics, and the socio-cultural sphere. Never before has everything unfolded in such an accelerated and compressed way, which has understandably become overwhelming for many people. Few can foresee what the future will hold—other than the broad forecast that its geo-economic structure will be influenced by the Fourth Industrial Revolution while that of geopolitics will disproportionately be shaped by the global competition between the superpowers of the U.S. and China.

The unprecedented U.S.-led Western sanctions against Russia in response to Moscow’s ongoing special military operation in Ukraine proved that economic interests are subservient to political ones since there’s no economic logic behind the EU dutifully complying with Washington’s demands to decouple from Russia other than the fact the bloc lacks the political independence to say no to America. This observation confirms that identifying the key geopolitical trends of the emerging world order is crucial to predicting its most likely geo-economic contours. To this end, acknowledging the worldwide competition between the American and Chinese superpowers is the first step towards that goal.

The second entails becoming aware of Indian thinker Sanjaya Baru’s bi-multipolarity concept that the author of the present piece elaborated more about in his RIAC column from last December titled “The Neo-NAM: From Vision To Reality”. To summarize, Mr. Baru posited that this superpower competition will disproportionately shape the emerging world order but that the growing number of great powers below them in the international hierarchy will balance between themselves, the American and Chinese superpowers, and the comparatively medium- and smaller-sized countries at the bottom of this hierarchy in pursuit of maximizing their strategic autonomy.

Russia and India can play a unique role in this respect because their time-tested special and privileged comprehensive partnership coupled with their shared goal of complementarily maximizing their strategic autonomy in the present bi-multipolar intermediary phase of the global systemic transition to multipolarity enables them to jointly pursue the creation of a new Non-Aligned Movement (“Neo-NAM”). This proposed structure would serve the purpose of pioneering a third pole of influence and thus transitioning International Relations away from bi-multipolarity and towards tripolarity ahead of its final outcome of complex multipolarity.

The same author’s latest column in early June about how “India Is Irreplaceable Balancing Force In Global Systemic Transition” explained how Delhi decisively intervened after Moscow’s special operation to avert its partner’s potentially disproportionate dependence on Beijing by becoming its valve from Western and Eastern pressure, which in turn preserved Russia’s strategic autonomy under these new international conditions. While the global polarization over this conflict reduces the chances of the jointly led Russian-Indian Neo-NAM becoming a force to be reckoned with anytime soon, the trappings of a third pole of influence are already apparent between them and Iran.

Even so, this emerging triple pole of influence between Russia, India, and Iran is still a far way’s off from what the Neo-NAM entails though it could still provide proof of Mr. Baru’s prediction that Great Powers will multi-align between themselves to maximize their strategic autonomy vis-a-vis the American and Chinese superpowers. It is with this incipient trend in mind what is now unfolding in Eurasia as India would do well to attempt its replication in the Indo-Pacific region with respect to ASEAN. To explain the reason behind this policy proposal, it’s enough to cite the opening remarks of the Singaporean Foreign Minister during mid-June’s special ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting with India.

Mr. Vivian Balakrishnan declared that “The sharpening superpower rivalry between the US and China has direct implications for all of us in Asia. These developments, if left unchecked, can threaten the old system of peace and stability, which we have been dependent on for the basis of our growth, development, and prosperity over many decades.” Although he didn’t employ Mr. Baru’s bi-multipolarity terminology, his acknowledgment of America and China as superpowers very closely aligns with that Indian thinker’s worldview and thus provides the geostrategic basis upon which ASEAN and that South Asian civilization-state can build their future relations.

Just like India decisively intervened to avert its Russian Eurasian partner’s potentially disproportionate dependence on either the U.S. or Chinese superpowers in the newfound Age of Complexity that characterizes the present phase of the global systemic transition to multipolarity since COVID-19 and the onset of Moscow’s special operation, so too can it do the same with its ASEAN Indo-Pacific partner as well. After all, ASEAN just like Russia doesn’t want to be coerced into becoming either superpower’s junior partner even if some of its members independently decided that choosing one or the other is in their objective national interests. As a whole, the bloc’s interests are best served by remaining neutral.

Nevertheless, it’s being increasingly forced to choose between the U.S. and China, which is in turn reducing its strategic autonomy and risks fracturing this fulcrum of the Indo-Pacific region within which the full-spectrum paradigm changes associated with the Age of Complexity are rapidly converging. That outcome would destabilize this pivotal geo-economic space and lead to even more unpredictable consequences for the global systemic transition, perhaps even ultimately giving an edge to one of the superpowers and in turn endangering the grand strategic interests of Great Powers like Russia, India, and ASEAN (if one conceptualizes the bloc as whole as one like some do the EU).

For this reason, it is incumbent on India to do its utmost to avert that scenario by replicating its policy towards Russia in ASEAN in order to jointly create a third of pole influence in the Indo-Pacific exactly as it’s actively attempting to do in Eurasia. The simultaneous attempt to facilitate tripolarity in the two most dynamic regions of the Eastern Hemisphere can be described as dual-tripolarity and should become the guiding principle upon which India’s grand strategy be formulated throughout the Age of Complexity. Its success would revolutionize the global systemic transition by resulting in complex multipolarity after India midwifes the transition to dual-tripolarity from bi-multipolarity.

To explain it more simply, India is the only great power with a dual geostrategic identity in the sense that it sits within both Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific, meaning that nobody else other than this fiercely independent state has the capability to simultaneously lead tripolarity processes in its respective regions. Moreover, India enjoys excellent relations with Russia and ASEAN, sharing the desire to complementarily maximize their strategic autonomy in the present bi-multipolar intermediary phase of the global systemic transition to complex multipolarity that’s unfolding within the newfound Age of Complexity that emerged as a result of COVID-19 and Russia’s special operation.

Wrapping up this piece, all responsible stakeholders aspire to build a Multipolar World Order since the former system of unipolarity was unfair for the vast majority of humanity while the present bi-multipolar intermediary phase still doesn’t sufficiently meet the interests of most players. What’s needed is for International Relations to transition to tripolarity as soon as possible so that complex multipolarity can follow, after which the largest number of countries can have the greatest opportunities for safeguarding their strategic autonomy. India is uniquely positioned to bring this about and should thus prioritize it by considering the author’s grand strategic proposal of dual-tripolarity.

From our partner RIAC

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Regime Change Operation Theory: Another Crack in Narratives

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“Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth”, is a cardinal of propaganda or a propaganda technique often attributed to the Nazi Joseph Goebbels. Psychologists somehow call it as the “illusion of truth” effect. This actually sums up what is happening today in Pakistan. From foreign conspiracy to the cracked narrative of now Regime Change Operation, all has been illusion or delusional. Historically, Regime change is an ancient and special kind of intervention, the kind of intervention President Bush had in mind for Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Since World War II, regime change is exclusively quoted as toppling an existing regime that displeases the Superpower. The regime change phenomenon has been brought in the public domain repeatedly in the world and maybe that is the inspiration for PTI as well. In 2016, when ICIJ leaked 11.5 million files of Panama paper, Russians called it as “CIA Operation against Vladimir Putin”, in Pakistan it was called as a “Foreign conspiracy against Nawaz Sharif with an involvement of Establishment” and today, Imran Khan and his team continue to peddle this flawed narrative of a Regime Change Operation in the public domain without giving an iotia of evidence. Hence, it has become equally important today to dissect the difference of regime change in Pakistan and a constitutional No confidence motion. 

To begin this dissection, let us first analyze the capacity of CIA. Does CIA really have the capacity to contact, persuade and in other terms recruit 172 constitutionally elected MNAs along with 22 angry MNAs of the ruling party for a “Regime Change Operation”. You will be surprised to know this absurd logic by PTI that CIA has today recruited Jahangir Khan Tareen, Abdul Aleem Khan, Nadeem Afzal Chan and Yar Muhammad Rind?

Consider the amount of stakes United States has in the World Bank. It has a total of 2,925,790 votes. But if the US was planning a regime change operation in March 2022, why would the World bank disburse an amount of $529 million in February 2022. At the IMF, US has 831,401 votes. If the CIA was planning a ‘regime change’ in March 2022 why would the IMF which has so much of the US influence, distribute $1.053 billion in February 2022? On February 4, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) received $1.053 tranche of its three-year, $6 billion IMF loans. At the Asian Development Bank, the United States has subscribed 15.5% of the total capital and controls 12.75% of the votes. If again CIA was planning a ‘regime change operation’ in March 2022 why would the ADB disburse $461 million in February 2022? If United States was conspiring a regime change operation inside Pakistan, why was a US official invited to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation conference in Islamabad on March 21?

Imran Khan’s regime change theory has a huge evidence gap. Since he claims that there is a proof of contacts between Pakistani members of Parliaments and Americans, why has no evidence been revealed? Can he give some other evidence to prove his regime change operation mantra? Only one more evidence, which he claims to be a threatening letter but that too was busted by the National Security Committee, highest forum of the country. Khan claims that the no-confidence vote was a plot by the United States to avenge his defiant trip to Moscow. But the Joint opposition has been thinking about and preparing for the no-confidence move for months. Even towards the end of last year, it was widely known that the opposition intended to make such a move. The no confidence vote had been anticipated for a long time before it was moved, so the fact that it happened only after the trip to Moscow does not imply that it was triggered by it.

Whatever happened in Pakistan is not a CIA driven regime change operation but in fact it is a constitutionally driven legal process of Vote of No Confidence. All relevant stakeholders of the country are on the same page that there was no Regime Change Operation. No such evidence has been found by Intelligence agencies of the country. However, Khan still believes on it. Is it an illusion or a reality? 

But remember the propaganda technique “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth” and may be PTI believes the same while it continues to mislead the public to mint its political dividend.

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Bulldozing Dissent in India

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State brutality and hostility have emerged as the defining factors in BJP’s (Bharatiya Janata Party)  policy toward Indian Muslims. From mob lynching and punishment on beef consumption to imposing a ban on the ‘hijab’ in universities, BJP continues to find novel ways and means to target Muslim society and enforce the concept of Hindu supremacy in India. While deliberate marginalisation of Indian Muslims is not new and remains an important part of India’s policy towards its minorities, the intensity of this campaign is soaring with every passing day. 

Recently, two senior BJP members made disparaging remarks against the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), brushing aside the sentiments of the state’s largest minority. The comments drew criticism from around the world, creating a diplomatic row for India.While PM Modi decided to remain silent on the issue, the concerned BJP members had to be suspended from the party given the intense backlash from several countries, especially the Gulf states.

On the other hand, the remarks also sparked a wave of anger in the Indian Muslim communities, who registered their grievances by holding protests on the streets in various parts of the state.  However, to deal with its own citizens, India resorted to using force and refused to let the Muslims protest peacefully, depriving them of their fundamental democratic rights. Amidst the demonstrations after Friday prayers, clashes between protesters and police broke out in several parts, the most notable one occurred in Uttar Pradesh (UP). Two teenagers lost their lives, and several were injured. The Indian police also arrested approximately 300 individuals taking part in the protests.  

The most concerning event that followed afterwards was bulldozing the houses of Muslim activists who were either present at the demonstrations or were apparently the organisers. The demolitions were justified on the pretext that they were illegal establishments. In reality, these criminal activities were done on the behest of the Chief Minister of UP, Yogi Adityanath, who is an ardent RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) follower – the most projected political figure in BJP (after Narendra Modi) and a torchbearer of Hindutva politics.  

It has been observed that the frequency of the use of bulldozers to demolish personal property is increasing in Muslim-majority areas in India. CM Adityanath himself is considered the pioneer and advocate of this ‘bulldozer strategy’, which is now frequently being executed throughout India by other BJP leaders. His ardency with the idea of demolishing Muslim houses can be sensed from the fact that bulldozers are displayed at BJP rallies to demonstrate them as a symbol of state power. Mrityunjay Kumar,  Adityanath’s media advisor later tweeted a photo of a bulldozer with the caption, ‘Remember, every Friday is followed by a Saturday,’ which conveys the government’s unapologetic stance on its actions and the intent to use such equipment without hesitation. 

Whats worse, the state machinery deliberately orchestrates the scenes of Muslim houses being turned to rubble to instil a fearful impact. Its purpose is to deter the Muslim communities from protesting against the ‘saffronized’ state. Such images are meant to signal that the state will not tolerate such kind of opposition in the BJP-led India and will not hesitate to exercise the use of force against such segments. The prime objective is to bulldoze their courage to stand against oppression in the future. 

Another way to look at this violence is the long-term dynamics of Indian politics. While it is apparent that Narendra Modi will contest the next Indian elections for BJP, it is fairly evident that an alternative leadership is preparing to succeed him in the future. The potential candidates are replicating his past machinations to strengthen their personal and political statures. Akin to Modi’s Gujarat massacre, his party members are recreating events that can bear similar impacts in order to emerge as radical leaders in accordance with BJP’s vision.  This includes intense and targeted verbal and physical attacks on Muslims. Hence, the use of force against Muslims will likely be a prominent factor for capitalising on the majoritarian Hindu vote bank.  

Lack of accountability, persistent silence of key leadership and the embedded political objectives are fanning dangerous flames in an already fraught environment for Muslims in India. The repressive attitude toward Indian Muslims has now been institutionalised at the state level and suggests that life will only worsen for them. India’s belligerent policy and confrontational actions will fuel further divisions in a society that has become extremely polarised along religious lines. Political interests are overshadowing national interests and the trend is likely to continue.

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