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The threat to national security: Emergency clamped in Maldives

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The president of the Maldives Abdulla Yameen’s has declared a state of emergency, citing a threat to citizens’ safety and national security, following widespread international condemnation and concerns about its impact on the country’s crucial tourism industry, the government said. Maldives has declared State of Emergency for 30 days as per Article 253 of the Constitution citing threat to national security. The government said a curfew would not be imposed.

The state of emergency was limited to 30 days only and Abdulla Yameen’s decree, which came into effect at midday local time (0700 GMT), suspends all basic rights and gives the security forces sweeping powers to arrest suspects before a major anti-government rally planned later this week. Seven articles of the constitution have been suspended, including those guaranteeing citizens of the Indian Ocean island nation the rights of assembly, free expression, freedom from arbitrary detention and freedom of movement.

Under the emergency regulations, police are allowed to enter and search homes without a warrant, and the rights to assemble peacefully and travel between the many islands of the archipelago nation were suspended. Soldiers in riot gear surrounded the parliament building in the capital Male on Sunday soon after the opposition petitioned parliament to remove the South Asian island’s attorney-general and its chief prosecutor.

The Maldives has suffered acute political instability for several years, but a new cycle of chaos and unrest appears to be intensifying.  “President Yameen has declared state of emergency to ensure the safety and security of every citizen,” his spokesman Muaz Ali tweeted. In a statement to the nation, Yameen, who took power in a contested election in 2013, said there were groups planning to use weapons and explosives.  “My beloved citizens, I assure you, that in enforcing this decree, the rights and freedoms stated in the constitution will only be restricted within the limits of … the constitution, and only to the extent strictly required by the situation,” Yameen said.

The move comes at a time of heightened tensions following an explosion on Yameen’s speedboat on 28 September that wounded his wife and two others. Yameen was unharmed in the blast, and the FBI has said there is no evidence it was caused by a bomb. But the authorities say it was an attempt on his life. Yameen arrested the vice-president, Ahmed Adeeb, on 24 October after accusing him of “high treason” and linking him to the boat blast.

Legal Affairs Minister Azima Shakoor made the emergency announcement on Monday on state television, and a statement attributed to President Abdulla Yameen was posted on the ministry of foreign affairs website. “The government of Maldives wishes to also assure all Maldivians and the international community that the safety of all Maldivians and foreigners living in and visiting the Maldives will be ensured,” the statement said.

The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) said it had found a remote-controlled bomb near the president’s official residence and safely defused it. Officials on Wednesday said several discoveries of arms and explosives had been made, though the whereabouts of other weapons and ammunition missing from state armouries remained unknown.

Further searches were under way on Wednesday evening, with local media reporting that at least one suspected explosive device had been found. “The purpose of today’s announcement is to send a clear message. Those who seek to cause harm and unrest through violence – whether their aims are political, religious or otherwise – have no place in our country. We are a young, vibrant democracy and will do all we can to uphold those values,” said Maumoon.

The Maldives plunged into political turmoil last week after the country’s top court threw out a “terrorism” conviction against its former president Mohamed Nasheed, and ordered the release of other jailed opposition politicians. The ruling dealt a blow to Yameen with critics accusing him of corruption, misrule, and rights abuses. He denies the allegations. The government does not believe that the Supreme Court ruling to release the political prisoners can be enforced

The government declared the state emergency after refusing on Monday to implement a ruling that has led to a wave of protests in the capital, Malé, with angry clashes between police and demonstrators. The president, Abdulla Yameen, has responded by dispatching soldiers to surround the parliament building, preventing MPs from meeting. He also called a noisy rally of his supporters.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party said declaring the state of emergency in the first place was political, designed to stop a rally planned for last Friday demanding the release of the party’s leader, former President Mohamed Nasheed. “It appears that Yameen is willing to make up threats about the nation’s security in order to settle political scores,” the party said in a statement, referring to the president. “Yameen’s increasingly erratic, paranoid and dangerous behavior is damaging the country and proves he is unfit to be president. He has failed and should step down.”

The Supreme Court ordered Yameen on Thursday to free nine dissidents, ruling that their trials were politically motivated and flawed. The court also called on the president to reinstate opposition MPs. But the government refused to implement it and declared the emergency.

The Maldives Supreme Court has hit back at President Abdulla Yameen’s refusal to free his jailed opponents amid an escalating crisis that saw security forces seal off the country’s parliament and arrest two opposition lawmakers on Sunday.   Judges of the top court said there should be “no legal barrier” to releasing the nine people, including the island nation’s exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed, whose terrorism and corruption convictions it overturned last week.

Their statement came after Attorney-General Mohamed Anil raised concerns about freeing people convicted of “terrorism, bomb attacks, corruption, embezzlement and fraud”.

The top court’s ruling last week has plunged the Maldives into political turmoil and dealt a major blow to Yameen, who critics accuse of corruption, misrule and rights abuses.

Yameen denies the allegations.

The sudden about face by the Supreme Court, which sided with Yameen in the past, and the widespread international support for its verdict puts unprecedented pressure on the president to free his opponents ahead of a presidential election later this year.

The government accused the Supreme Court of trying to oust the president, a claim judges did not respond to in their statement late on Sunday.

Earlier in the day, the attorney general, in a televised appearance flanked by the chiefs of the army and the police, said the government has received news of an imminent order by the Supreme Court to impeach Yameen. “I have informed all law enforcement agencies they must not obey such an illegal order,” Mohamed Anil said.  Ahmed Shiyam, the army chief, said the security forces would follow the attorney-general’s advice and “will not wait and watch as the Maldives descends into crisis”.

The opposition called Anil’s order to the security forces “unconstitutional, highly illegal, and dangerous” and petitioned parliament to oust Anil, as well as the country’s chief prosecutor. Shortly afterwards, soldiers surrounded the parliament building and sealed it off.

The island nation emerged a decade ago from a long spell of 30 years of authoritarian rule under President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. His successor Mohamed Nasheed, elected in 2008, presided over a brief flourishing of multiparty democracy before being controversially ousted five years later.

Since then Yameen has stifled dissent and imprisoned members of the opposition. Rights groups have accused Yameen of using new laws and criminal cases to silence critics and to neutralise his opponents.  On Monday the government made clear it had no intention of respecting the supreme court’s decision. The legal affairs minister, Azima Shakoor, said the ruling was not enforceable, adding that there were numerous challenges to freeing prisoners.

Yameen’s main rival, Nasheed, described events taking place in the country as “tantamount to a coup”. He tweeted that Yameen should resign and said the security services “must uphold the constitution and serve the Maldivian people”.

Nasheed is in Sri Lanka. He has been living in the UK since 2016 after being given asylum when he travelled there on medical leave from prison.

In addition to ordering the release of the political prisoners, the Supreme Court also reinstated 12 MPs who switched allegiance to the opposition. When they return, Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives will lose its majority in the 85-member parliament, which could result in the legislative body functioning as a rival power to the president. On Friday Nasheed said he would mount a fresh challenge for the presidency this year. Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in prison after he was convicted under Maldives’ anti-terror laws. The trial that was widely condemned by international rights groups

Dunya Maumoon, the foreign minister, described the measures as “precautionary action by the government in light of several security threats that have emerged in the last week”. “As a government we have a responsibility to our citizens to ensure they can go about their daily lives in peace and security. We are determined to root out a small minority who seem intent on causing damage to people and property,” she said. On Wednesday the streets of Malé, the capital, were quiet, but soldiers had cordoned off water and power plants. Residents said raids were continuing.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), whose leader Mohamed Nasheed is in jail following his conviction earlier this year under anti-terror laws, has organised the protest. Nasheed left power in 2012 amid protests, forced out by what his supporters claim was a coup. Nasheed called on the international community to consider introducing sanctions against the current government. He also appealed to tourists travelling to the Maldives to reconsider their views on the popular holiday destination. “It is good and necessary to have a relaxing holiday but important they understand what is happening here too,” he said.

The incarceration of Nasheed, who was convicted on charges of using the military to arrest a senior judge when in office, has been severely criticised by the UN and international rights groups.

The British high commissioner to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, James Dauris, said he was “most concerned by restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms in the Maldives from today”. Thoriq Hamid, from the NGO Transparency Maldives, said his organisation was “extremely … concerned that the situation has escalated to this point”. The Australian government last week told its citizens to exercise a “high degree of caution” while travelling to Malé, “due to the possibility of civil unrest and the threat of terrorist attacks”.

The MDP rally was aimed at pressuring Yameen to release Nasheed, the first democratically elected leader of the country and an internationally recognised climate change campaigner. Eva Abdulla, an MDP member of parliament, said the rally would proceed as planned. “We saw this coming. Everything has been leading up to this. This is the last straw – the only straw – left for Yameen. He has totally lost grip on governance. He doesn’t have the public with him and any control is based on fear and intimidation,” she said.

There are growing fears of Islamic extremism in the Maldives, fuelled in part by the political instability since the departure from power of autocratic ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in 2008.The government has put him under house arrest. The government has warned media outlets their licences will be suspended “if broadcasts threaten national security”.

The justification for the state of emergency on the basis of a security threat could be dangerous, Abdulla, the MDP parliamentarian, said. “My worry is we are a hotbed for jihadi recruitment at the moment so to use this to get at political opponents is irresponsible in the extreme. They could be turning a blind eye to the real problem and endangering us all as a result.”

Junayd Mohamed, a journalist with the Maldives Independent, told Al Jazeera he also heard reports that riot police and military officials were inside the court. He said they set up barricades to block off the area, but protesters were rallying outside.  “Hundreds of people [are] gathered outside who are calling on the security forces to arrest President Yameen and protect the Supreme Court,” Mohamed said.

Opposition members of parliament urged foreign intervention after the government ignored the Supreme Court ruling. The opposition now has a majority in the 85-member house as the court ruling also reinstated 12 members of parliament who were stripped of their seats last year. But two of the 12 were arrested at the airport on Sunday, shortly after they returned to the Maldives after spending months in exile.

In a resolution signed in the capital Male on Sunday, opposition MPs called on the international community “to impress upon the government of Maldives the need to respect the rule of law, and implement last Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling that ordered the release of political leaders and the reinstatement of 12 opposition MPs”.  They also called for “all necessary measures … to hold government officials accountable for violations of national and international law”.  Tensions “could escalate to civil unrest and incite violence across the country”, they warned.

The United Nations, European Union, and several foreign governments – including India, the USA and UK – have urged Yameen to comply with the Supreme Court’s order.   The government has accused the court of trying to oust the president, a claim judges have not responded to. The United States urged government restraint on Monday. “The Maldivian government and military must respect the rule of law, freedom of expression, and democratic institutions. The world is watching,” the White House National Security Council said in a Twitter post.

Rights group Amnesty International denounced the government’s “appalling track-record of suppressing freedom of expression and any form of opposition”. “This emergency cannot become a licence for further repression,” Omar Waraich, the group’s deputy South Asia director, said on Twitter.

The opposition now has a majority in the 85-member house as the Supreme Court ruling also reinstated 12 members of parliament who were stripped of their seats last year. But two of the 12 were arrested at the airport on Sunday, shortly after they returned to the Maldives after spending months in exile. Abdulla Sinan and Ilham Ahmed were detained on charges of bribery, a police spokesman told Al Jazeera.

Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, an opposition parliamentarian, condemned their arrest in a statement.  “We call on the police to release the MPs immediately, and to stop following unlawful orders, to stop obstructing the lawful mandate of parliamentarians,” Solih said.  “In a desperate attempt to cling onto power, President Yameen has illegally overrun the state. His attorney-general has illegally assumed the powers of the apex court, while the military has overrun the legislature,” he added.

On Sunday night, hundreds of flag-waving opposition supporters took to the streets of the capital Male calling on the government to abide by the court ruling.

Meanwhile, the official who heads the parliament’s secretariat resigned after the speaker, a Yameen ally, cancelled the opening of the parliament, scheduled for Tuesday, over unspecified “security concerns”.  “I have stepped down,” Ahmed Mohamed told Al Jazeera on Sunday, without offering further details. The heads of the Maldives’ main high-security prison and the elections commission have also quit in recent days.

Nasheed, speaking to a private television channel from neighbouring Sri Lanka on Sunday, called for protests and urged rank-and-file members of the security forces to arrest the attorney-general as well as the chiefs of the army and police.

Observation

Maldives is a tourist’s paradise. It is not clear how much of an impact the state of emergency has had on the tourism industry in the Maldives, which is best known for its luxury tourist resorts.

The US State Department on Tuesday also welcomed the lifting of the state of emergency. Washington had been critical of its imposition, and has called for an end to politically motivated prosecutions and detentions.

Known for its luxury tourist resorts, Maldives has suffered from weak government institutions and a divided political system dominated. Yameen is the half-brother of Gayoom. The former president is now a vocal critic of Yameen. Over the weekend, Gayoom tweeted: “A band of thugs armed with knives drove by my residence several times after midnight last night shouting abuse at the top of their voice.” He added: “I wonder who would have sent these unruly thugs?”

The Maldives has had a difficult transition to democracy since holding its first multiparty election in 2008. The state of emergency has been declared in Maldives amid a deepening political crisis sparked by a Supreme Court ruling that called for the release of imprisoned opposition politicians.

President Yameen has been in office since 2013. He had been set to run for re-election this year almost unopposed, with all of his opponents either jailed or exiled. Lawmakers voted Vice President Ahmed Adeeb out of office using the regulations. Authorities suspect that Adeeb was behind the alleged attempts on Gayoom’s life, and he has been arrested and detained. Gayoom was not hurt in the September 28 blast aboard his boat, but his wife, an aide and a bodyguard was injured.

The Maldives’ economy has faltered in recent years and the country suffers from overcrowding, high unemployment rates and substance abuse. The declaration of a state of emergency comes amid a bitter power struggle between the president and Adeeb, with factions within the police and army supporting different political players. The dispute has weakened the government at a time of growing popular anger over the continuing detention of Nasheed and economic problems.

Police has started investigations into Supreme Court judges and officials since the ruling, and have said that they now plan to question Gayoom in a separate case. On Monday, the health minister, Hussain Rasheed Ahmed, quit in protest against the government’s attitude towards its highest court.

The continuing political instability in the Maldives is likely to damage its vital tourist trade, a key employer and earner of foreign exchange. Every year more than a million tourists visit the Maldives, an almost exclusively Sunni Muslim nation composed of 1,192 small coral islands, with a population of 340,000.

White sandy beaches, turquoise waters, shallow lagoons and secluded islets draw holidaymakers from all over the developed world as well as celebrities seeking privacy. Officials said there was no threat to resort security and the Maldives remained a safe destination for international visitors.

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The problem of pellet guns in Kashmir

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Jammu and Kashmir is the only northern state of the Indian union dogged with an overridden unhealthy political atmosphere. The valley of Kashmir is beset with a major governance deficit which has given renewed impetus to the dissenting voices of the masses day in and day out. Dissent is the hallmark of a democracy which acts as a medium for the expression of the masses against the system. There are certain rights and duties guaranteed by the Indian constitution for the citizens, including the right to freedom of expression and right to life. Caught in the quagmire of a political crisis that has deeply permeated the society, the people in Kashmir from time to time vent up their dissent. Hartals are the tools for the masses through which they ventilate their pent up emotions. Kashmir is not a different case. It is also amuck with crisis and caught in a looming distress day in and day out. Kashmir is the most sensitive zone of the whole Asian sub-continent, where situations turn awry with the passage of time, like the seasons of the year and is the only state of the Indian Union where there has been a reckless use of the pellet guns without any regard for the precious life of the common man. This is a sort of dichotomy.

The use of pellet guns is a major problem which has not only maimed, blinded and killed the masses, but also shaken the collective conscience of the people, who have fallen prey to a different approach of dichotomy of the government. The killing of militant commander Burhan Wani in 2016 brought about a volcanic eruption in valley which not only deteriorated the situation in Kashmir, but also increased the massive alienation of the masses. The waves of grief and anger against the day-to-day killings and maims that the people felt increased with each passing day. In order to control the crisis, the security agencies used the deadly pellets which caused heavy damage to the sufferers. More than 1200 people lost their vision in 2016. According to a report of State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), more than 75% people suffered injuries due to pellet guns, ranging from minor to major in 2016.There was a heavy loss of life.

Although small in size, these black metallic balls have deteriorated our young generation. The use of pellet guns has wreaked crisis in Kashmir. For the security agencies, it is meant to disperse the crowds, but, for the common masses, it is a problematic affair. Pellet guns are pump-action shotguns which fire a cluster of small, round, metal pellets with high velocity over a broad range.

Recently, after the killing of a militant from Pahalgam area during the anti-establishment protests, a number of people were injured due to pellet A nurse working in the same area personally told me that we healed at least 100 plus pellet injured victims. The bloody Sunday of this year’s April and the subsequent clashes of the protestors with the security agencies left many injured, with multiple cases of pellet injuries to the eyes of the protestors.

Naseer Ahmad Bhat of Seer Hamdan, Anantnag was killed by the security forces during the post-Burhan phase of 2016 protests in Kashmir. He was an able worker and a good cricketer who fell silent to the pellets. Not only the collective conscience of the people was shaken, but also a state of disparity ensued. These deadly pellets have not even spared the school going children and snatched the power of seeing of the victims. Insha, a pellet victim who passed her matriculation examination last year despite odds is an inspiring hope for the likewise victims.

Pellets cause a number of biological ramifications in the victim, like the loss of vision, the state of paralysis, in case, the damage is caused to the spinal cord, defacements, and death in case of damage to the vital organs of the body, like, heart, kidneys, lungs, brain, etc. Moreover, the pangs of guilt that a victim suffers in silence dishearten one and all. The use of pellet guns as a crowd-control method during protests, whether in case of cordon and search operations (CASO) or common protests has added a volley of questions to the psyche of the common man? Being a part of the Indian union, that two acing the crown, Kashmir has been treated otherwise all through the passing times. People have got million queries, but, there are no solid answers to their problems and subsequent tactful solutions.

The substitution of pellet guns with PAVA shells can in no way control the crisis. The way people of other parts of the country are treated should form a close semblance in case of protests in Kashmir. Why the security forces are using pellets and bullets against the people whom the system claims with a sense of belonging. There can be other alternatives, like the use of water cannons without any damage and subsequent ensuing crisis that engulfs the society and creeps the psyche of the common men. If this is the notion of the system to punish dissent, then dissent itself takes a u-turn of additions and alterations with the passage of time. The bleeding valley is giving a close call for one and all to unite and ensue a state of peace and order. There is an urgent requirement of the administrative and political will to stop the use of pellet guns in Kashmir.

Whatever is happening to the people of Kashmir has not been experienced by the other people of the country. After all, it is a question of humanity. People suffer out of the ways as circumstances decide or may be destined otherwise. But to expect a peaceful valley without the intervention of a political will would be an underestimation of statements. There is a dual intolerance in Kashmir, one from the people and next from the system. The systematic targeting of the protestors from a point blank range irrespective of regard for the human life has shattered several families in Kashmir

Kashmir is passing through the phases of testing times with each passing day. The ugly turn of the situations and recurring events and the amateur dealing of the same has created an unhealthy atmosphere everywhere, where people have lost faith in the governance systems. The safety and security of every Tom, Dick and Harry is the looming question of the hour. Exits from dwellings and adieus from home don’t guarantee the safe return of the leavers. The interlocutor of the centre in vale, Mr. Dineshwar Sharma once reiterated that, ‘the priority is to prevent Kashmir turning into Syria’. The imbroglio has crippled the educational scenario, down slowed the economy, increased the unemployment, but, above all, the ultimate question is the redressal of the problem at stake, which for God sake can erupt into a lava-laden volcano one day and engulf the whole peace, stability and order of the South Asia, if not tactfully handled in the current times by the government.

The victory of BJP at the centre with the thumping majority after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections with the slogan of ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ falls short of words and has partially failed in the state of J&K.The killings of the common masses are in no way remedies to the political ailments. There should be the ultimate regard for the human lives. Why has the blood of the people become so cheap .When will peace return to the valley of Kashmir? The government of India had constituted an expert committee in July 2016 to explore other possible alternatives to pellet guns as non-lethal weapons. Although, the committee submitted its report and the recommendations were taken into account by the government for implementation. But, what happened afterwards lies in the public domain for discussion. The use of pellet guns is tantamount to the violation of rights of the people.

In order to direct the valley towards the state of peace and development, the role of multiple players of India, Pakistan and Valley is necessary. This way the government can make a significant contribution in the restoration of normalcy. The need of the hour is the unity of all the stakeholders of the society, like government, non-governmental parties, NGO’s, etc. to help these pellet victims via financial or other means.

Although, there has been a strong criticism of the use of pellet guns not only at the local level ,but also at the international level, but the main part of the problem resolution lies with the government of India and the state. Although, much has been said and written about the people of Kashmir with the flow of waters of the river Jhelum, but the stability of the region is a farfetched dream. Here, comes the role of the government into play. The use of pellet guns against the dissenting masses has wreaked havoc and wounded the collective psyche of the people, particularly those who have lost their near and dear ones due to the deadly metallic balls. Those who have fully or partially lost the vision and are living in dark suffer in silence. The government should review the situation and put a full stop for the future use of pellet guns. Those who have lost their dear ones should be financially compensated or by provision of bread and butter. However, the clarion call of the people is the complete ban and stoppage of these pellet guns in order to prevent the further damage and restore the faith of the people in the system. The government of India should pass a resolution to put a terminal pause to the use of pellet guns in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The vital task for the current times is to build a consensus for the total pellet ban. The use of non-lethal methods by the security agencies like water cannons could be the best alternatives. This will not only restore the faith of the people in governance, but also generate a feeling of belongingness among the masses. The bruised scars of the pellets have defaulted the trust of the people in the political system. Although, the situation is worrisome for one and all, but, in which direction the boat sails lies with the future course of action. After all action speaks louder than the words.

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Pakistan not a Threat for Israel: Clearing Misconceptions

Uzge A. Saleem

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Ever since 1998; the beginning of Pakistan’s nuclear age, the state’s self-defense mechanism has been a source of worry and unrest for India and the US. Both these states never really accepted that a small state like Pakistan could develop the prestigious asset and was now well capable of defending itself against external threats. US opposed the program on the grounds that it had been tested after the signing of NPT and that it is an “illegitimate” program. Their basic concern was Pakistan not being a party to NPT and US non-proliferation efforts failing. India, though very much against the program, could not openly oppose it on the same grounds because its own Nuclear Program had the same issue i.e. it was tested after the signing of NPT and they had also not signed the treaty.

There  are  a  lot  of  ambiguities  surrounding   Pakistan’s  nuclear  program  which  are  there intentionally for the benefit and security of the program and state. However, there is one thing which has been kept very clear since day one and that is the Indo centric nature of Pakistan’s nuclear program. The program was developed because the conventionally strong next door neighbor had developed their program. Pakistan, in an attempt to ensure territorial security, had to develop its own program as well. US, China, Russia, France or the UK were never a threat to Pakistan nor was Pakistan on their attack agenda. India on the other hand was in close territorial proximity, a historic enemy, conventionally stronger and now also a nuclear power. After evaluating all these factors any national strategist would suggest a nuclear program for Pakistan and that is exactly what the state did.

There have been news in an Israeli newspaper,  Haaretz, that Pakistan is more of a threat to Israel than Iran. This was published on 20 May, 2018. The grounds for this allegation have been identified  as  Pakistan’s  growing  arsenal  and  other  similar  reasons  which  have  always  been popular in the western policy circles. Iran, a conventional enemy, one with which there have been numerous conflicts, has been ruled out as a threat to Israel since they do not have a nuclear arsenal.

However, there are many concrete facts that have been ignored in this propagating debate. For instance Pakistan has had no wars with Israel. Both the states have never even been on the verge of an all-out war. The states have never even had a conflict that could’ve led to war. Although Iran does not have  a nuclear arsenal at present but that did not stop the states from indulging into conflicts before and although initiating a nuclear war might not be a possibility for Iran but a conventional war is very much within their skill set.

Pakistan is already indulged in a two front defense strategy on its eastern and western borders. The Taliban threat from the west and the ever present Indian threat from the east, particularly along the  line of control is already consuming most of the state’s energy, attention and resources. Under such circumstances, jumping into any sort of venture as far as Israel without any apparent or direct conflict seems like an amateur move which is not expected from Pakistan whatsoever. If any linkages are being made based on the fact that Iran and Israel have cordial ties then they are weak to begin with. On the other hand India and Iran have more than friendly ties and India’s nuclear arsenal is growing rapidly with the US help. However, this does not mean that just because India is a nuclear state and a friend of Iran, it will be inclined to attack Israel.

Pakistan’s nuclear program is solely for the safety and security of the nation against any external threat.  The program  is not for the state  to pick  and choose  enemies  and start  non-existing conflicts. That is definitely not how Pakistan intends to use its resources and deviate from the real agenda which is to protect the state of Pakistan. The only condition under which Pakistan would use its nuclear weapons against any state would be if they choose to attack the territory of Pakistan in a nuclear or non-nuclear manner. The state has been absolutely clear about this from the very beginning of its  nuclear era.

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Behind Indo-Pacific Vision

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Mike Pompeo’s recent speech titled, ‘America’s Indo-Pacific Economic Vision – at the Indo-Pacific Business Forum’ at the US Chamber of Commerce, Washington DC has been carefully observed across Asia.  Beijing has understandably, paid close special attention to it. Pompeo emphasized on the need for greater connectivity within the Indo-Pacific, while also highlighting the role which the US was likely to play (including financial investments to the tune of 113 Million USD in areas like infrastructure, energy and digital economy). The US Secretary of State while stating that this vision was not targeted at anyone, he did make references to China’s hegemonic tendencies, as well as the lacunae of Chinese connectivity projects (especially the economic dimension).

The Chinese reaction to Pompeo’s speech was interesting. Senior Chinese government officials were initially dismissive of the speech, saying that such ideas have been spoken in the past, but produced no tangible results.

An article in the Global Times ‘Indo-Pacific strategy more a geo-political military alliance’ response is significant. What emerges clearly from this article is that Beijing is not taking the ‘Indo-Pacific vision’ lightly, and neither does it rule out the possibility of collaboration. The article is unequivocal, in expressing its skepticism, with regard to the geo-political vision of the Indo-Pacific vision. Argues the article:

While the geopolitical connotation of the strategy may lead to regional tensions and conflicts and thus put countries in the region on alert

It is optimistic with regard to the geo-economic dimension, saying that this would be beneficial, and would promote economic growth and prosperity. What must be noted is that, while the US vision for ‘Indo-Pacific’ has been put forward as a counter to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the article also spoke about the possible complementarities between the US vision for ‘Indo-Pacific’ and China’s version of BRI. While Mike Pompeo had spoken about a crucial role for US private companies in his speech, the article clearly bats in favor of not just between Indian, Japanese, Chinese, US governments as well as companies. This is interesting, given the fact that China had gone to the extent of dubbing the Indo-Pacific vision as the foam on the sea” “that gets attention but will soon dissipate”

While there is absolutely no doubt, that there is immense scope for synergies between the Indo-Pacific vision, and BRI especially in the economic sphere. China’s recent openness towards the Indo-Pacific vision is welcome, but one of the propelling factors is the growing resentment against the economic implications of some BRI projects. While in South Asia, Sri Lanka is a classical example of China’s debt trap diplomacy, where Beijing provides loans at high interest rates (China has taken over the strategic Hambantota Project, since Sri Lanka has been unable to pay Beijing the whopping 13 Billion USD). Even in ASEAN grouping, countries are beginning to question the feasibility of BRI projects, Malaysia which shares close economic ties with Beijing is reviewing certain Chinese projects (this was one of the first steps undertaken by  Mahathir Mohammad after taking over the reigns as Prime Minister of Malaysia).

Second, that while for long the Indo-Pacific Vision has been dubbed as a mere ‘expression’ and one of the criticisms has been a lack of gravitas in the economic context (and even now 113 Million USD is not sufficient). Developments over recent months, including the recent speech, indicate that The Department of State seems to be keen to dispel this notion that the Indo-Pacific narrative is bereft of substance. Here it would be pertinent to point out, that Pompeo’s speech was followed by an Asia visit (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore).

Countries which are key stakeholders in the Indo-Pacific narrative need to keep in mind the following:

US needs to walk the course and apart from investing, more it needs to think of involving more countries, including Taiwan and more South Asian countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the Indo-Pacific partnership.

Second, the Indo-Pacific speaks in favor of democracy as well as greater integration, but not only are countries becoming more inward looking, even their stand on democracy, and Human Rights is ambiguous.  Japan is trying to change its attitude towards immigration, and is at the forefront of promoting integration and connectivity within the Indo-Pacific. Neither US, nor India, Japan or Australia have criticized China for its excesses against the Uighur minority in Xinjiang province.

Finally, there is scope for China to be part of the Indo-Pacific, but it needs to look at certain projects beyond the rubric of the BRI. A perfect instance is the Bangladesh China, India Myanmar BCIM Corridor which India was willing to join, but China now considers this project as a part of BRI.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Beijing can not be excluded from the ‘Indo-Pacific’ narrative, but it can not expect to be part of the same, on its own terms. It is also important, for countries like US and India to speak up more forcefully on issues (within their domestic contexts, as well as external) pertaining to Freedom of Speech, Human Rights and  immigration issues, given that all these are essential for a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’

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