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Bringing environmental sustainability to the fore-front of the CPEC agenda

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For all the hope and excitement being generated by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), it is easy to lose sight of why and what exactly CPEC means for the country in its present socioeconomic context. For years, Pakistan’s economic stagnation has been directly linked to its inability to surmount key developmental challenges. Its decades old infrastructure, under increasing stress from a fast rising population, has given way to a vicious cycle of underdevelopment, severely limiting its ability to progress in the 21st century. China’s $62 billion injection of developing key infrastructure under CPEC is poised to directly address this gap, offering nothing short of an economic life-line to Pakistan.

Especially considering the long continuing financial and energy crises, CPEC’s targeted focus on boosting Pakistan’s transport and energy infrastructure is being touted as a much needed panacea to the myriad socioeconomic developmental challenges limiting the country’s progress. The purported benefits to the country’s exports, with stronger foundations for its agricultural and manufacturing sectors come out as the most obvious benefits.

However, while these long-standing infrastructural gaps in the country’s development agenda have been repeatedly highlighted, little to any attention has been given to the glaring threat of climate change and its increasingly adverse impacts on the country’s development potential. The fast worsening water crisis, diminishing air quality, erratic crop yields and rampant deforestation are all just a few of the grave threats being posed for which there seems to be little to any impetus  at the policy level. Similarly, the effects of extreme weather events such as prolonged droughts, flash floods, heat waves and erratic monsoon patterns continue to threaten the country’s water, food and energy security, greatly limiting the impact of ongoing developmental efforts.

In his keynote speech at the Belt and Road Forum held last year in Beijing, President Xi Jinping declared that the Belt and Road Initiative would be ‘green, low-carbon, circular and sustainable.’ Considering that CPEC as part of the overall Belt and Road Initiative is an attempt to internationalize the Chinese Development model, this emphasis on promoting environmental stability along with massive state led infrastructure roll-outs present a unique yet highly welcome direction for future developmental efforts.

As Francis Fukuyama has rightly pointed out, this emphasis on building massive infrastructure projects based on enhancing roads, sea ports, railways, airports and energy production has characterized the Chinese development model for over the last few decades. When considering how development models themselves have been internationalized, the Chinese model  stands in stark contrast to more recent US and European International Development efforts, that tend to focus more on investing in public health care, women’s empowerment, support for civil society, and anti-corruption measures.

It is no surprise why the Chinese impetus on investing in massive infrastructure projects as part of the BRI has been welcomed across the world, particularly by developing nations. Yet, it is up to these developing nations to ensure that these projects are also used to address their unique developmental challenges in an environmentally sustainable manner.

The political and financial will from the Chinese side is clear in this regard. Over the last few years, China has taken clear concerted steps in remedying the environmental and ecological impacts of its rapid economic development. It has invested billions into renewable energy, while prioritizing water, air and soil conservation. It has employed state of the art technology coupled with stringent regulations and enforcement. It has called for institutional reform and drafted clear guidelines and targets for what it wants to achieve as part of its overarching vision of building an ‘Ecological Civilization’.

Extending this vision to the BRI and consequently CPEC, policy makers on our side of the border too need to arm themselves with the necessary policy tools and information when taking into account environmental and ecological concerns. Moving beyond rudimentary Environmental Assessment Impacts (EIAs), there is a severe dearth of political will and financing when it comes to employing pragmatic solutions to improving water and food security. While fulfilling the Energy gap has been a highlighting feature of the entire CPEC initiative, the potential for improving water conservation both within the country’s urban areas and agricultural and farming complexes for instance, has received little to any attention other than on paper.

Countless lessons can be gleaned from China’s own experience of transitioning from environmentally unsustainable progress to greener initiatives. Its recent Sponge city initiative for example presents a ready-made model for combating excessive flooding and water scarcity in urban areas. Through a combination of smart engineering and stringent enforcement the initiative aims to absorb and reuse rainwater to help replenish depleting ground water reserves, while reducing flood risks.

Other initiatives have involved putting forth strict guidelines and penalties for soil and air pollution, where clear and enforceable laws have allowed the government to penalize polluters and set targets for what it considers as environmentally sustainable levels.

All of these and other similar initiatives can be easily deployed within the CPEC framework. Recent steps taken to address the growing water shortage in Gwadar for instance are definitely taking this initiative in the right direction. However, there is still a lot more that can and should be done at the provincial, federal and regional levels.

Building on the steadily increasing momentum within Pak-China relations, the idea of promoting an environmentally sustainable and green development agenda fits in perfectly with the win-win dynamics of President Xi Jinping’s vision for the Belt and Road Initiative. After all what good is robust economic growth to future generations if it comes at the expense of the basic food and water security passed on to us from our founders and forefathers. This valuable opportunity to prioritize environmental sustainability as part of Pakistan’s development agenda should not be squandered.

Research Associate and Program Coordinator for the China Study & Information Centre (CS & IC) at the Strategic Vision Institute, a non-partisan think tank based out of Islamabad. He can be reached at waqas[at]thesvi.org

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South Asia

Convergence of interests determines Russia-Pakistan Relations

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Russian FM is being received by his Pakistani counterpart upon arriving at the Foreign Office. PHOTO: TWITTER/SMQureshiPTI

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Pakistan on 6-7 April 2021 and held delegation-level meetings with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, in addition to called on Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army Chief, as well as had interaction with other dignitaries and senior officials during his two-day stay in Islamabad, Pakistan.

It is worth mentioning that Russia and Pakistan face similar challenges and pass through similar difficulties, including sanctions, economic challenges, security threats, etc. Both countries share similar views on the Afghanistan issue, terrorism, regional security, and China’s common friend. There exists a comprehensive convergence of interests.

Especially after India signed a series of Defense agreements and acted as a “Major Defense Partner” and American-led Quad or concept of Asian NATO, the geopolitics has emerged so that Russia and Pakistan must cooperate with each other. As a matter of fact, we left with no option except strengthening regional cooperation.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Moscow and Islamabad would boost ties in the fight against terrorism, with his country providing defense equipment to Pakistan and the two holding joint military exercises.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Imran Khan restated Pakistan’s determination to expeditiously complete the mandatory legal process for the “Pakistan Stream” (North-South) Gas Pipeline project and begin the work as early as possible.

Pakistan-Russia mutual relations and issues of regional and global importance were discussed in the meeting. The Prime Minister fondly recalled his interaction with President Vladimir Putin during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in Bishkek in June 2019. He had emphasized his desire to take the bilateral relationship to a new level. He repeated that the importance Pakistan attached to its relations with Russia as a critical foreign policy priority. The Prime Minister uttered satisfaction at the steady growth in bilateral ties, including deepening cooperation in trade, energy, security, and defense.

Citing to the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), the Prime Minister shared Pakistan’s perspective on peace and security issues in South Asia, including the need for sustainable, peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

The Prime Minister repeatedly extended his invitation to President Putin to visit Pakistan at his earliest convenience. It is hoped that President Putin will visit Pakistan soon.

Moreover, disturbing the peace process in Afghanistan, where both countries have long histories of concerns. It was the first time a Russian foreign minister had visited Pakistan in nine years and comes at a delicate time for Afghanistan with peace talks making little progress and a deadline approaching for the United States to withdraw its forces. “(Pakistan and Russia) share convergent positions on several issues … including peace and stability in Afghanistan,”

The visit comes as Moscow seeks to increase its stature in the region, particularly in war-torn Afghanistan, where it has sought to inject itself as a critical player in fast-tracked efforts to find a permanent peaceful end to decades of war.

As Washington appraisals an agreement it signed more than a year ago with the Taliban and rethought a May 1 withdrawal of its troops, Moscow has stepped up its involvement in Afghanistan, emerging as a significant player. Last month it hosted talks between the Taliban and senior government officials, and Lavrov suggested another high-level meeting could again be held in Moscow.

Addressing a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Lavrov expressed satisfaction over a 46 percent increase in trade between them. He, however, stressed there is a need to diversify it further. Discussing the energy sector opportunities, he said both the countries are now discussing a new protocol on the Stream Gas Pipeline Project, an ambitious project to transport 1.6 billion cubic feet per day of regasified liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Karachi to Lahore. As soon as it is signed, the construction work will begin. The top Russian diplomat termed the relationship between the two nations mutually beneficial and constructive. He recalled Russia had provided 50,000 doses of its Covid-19 Sputnik-V Vaccine.

Qureshi said Pakistan wanted to build a relationship with Russia that is based on trust. He said Moscow has always advocated the importance of international law and multilateralism. “These are principles that Pakistan adheres to. Our coordination and cooperation at the United Nations level have been excellent.” At this, Lavrov reaffirmed the commitment to deepen ties with Pakistan and create win-win cooperation between them.

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India’s Naxalbari Achilles’ heel

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On April3, 2021, there was a pitched battle between a Naxalite (or Maoist) group (called “rebels”) by Indian government) and government forces of over 1500 “jawan”, equipped with state-of-the art weapons and helicopters at the Bijapur-Sukma border. The Naxals armed with machine guns gunned down 22 members of the government forces and injured 31 others, excluding missing personnel. Eight of the dead jawans were from the CRPF,  seven from the elite Cobra (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) while the others were part of the Bastariya Battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the District Reserve Guard (DRG). Two of the dead CRPF jawans were from Assam, where assembly polls are on.

 The Naxalite decamped with forces’ weapons, uniforms and shoes.  The government claims that they killed 10 Naxalite, but could only produce the corpse of a dead woman as a “rebel”. The government claims that the Naxalites take along their dead and injured.

(Twenty-two jawans killed in Chhattisgarh Maoist gun battle. Officers claimed more than 10 ultras were killed in Saturday’s encounter but other sources said the police had found the body of a lone rebel — a woman. Telegraph India April 5, 2021).

Lapses

Media described the “counter-insurgency operation” as an “intelligence failure and poor leadership by the CRPF commanders and drew parallels with the February 2019 Pulwama massacre of 40 personnel in the run-up to the general election”.  Earlier in April 2017, the Naxal had killed 25 CRPF personnel near Burkapal in Sukma. The media blames home minister and the government of being preoccupied in winning elections in some state assemblies through turn coats. It is alleged that “five teams totaling 2,000-plus security personnel had on Friday night launched a concerted operation in the Maoist-hit Bijapur and Sukma districts after learning that rebels led by the dreaded Madvi Hidma were hiding in the forest.  A CRPF officer admitted, `The operation was launched from five places Tarrem, Usoor and Pamed in Bijapur, and Minpa and Narsapuram in Sukma.  While a team was advancing through the forests near Jonaguda, around 500km from state capital Raipur, it was ambushed by some 250 Maoists on Saturday afternoon, said. He said the forces were scattered and trapped along a two-km stretch of forest. The patrolling team from Tarrem came under heavy fire, prompting some of them to move to what appeared a deserted village, where the Maoists lay in wait for them.  The Maoists fled with the weapons, bullet-proof jackets and the shoes of the dead troops’.

Naxalite clout

The recent encounter belies government claim that it has wiped out Naxalism from their stronghold Bastar. Bastar division of Chhattisgarh has a population of 23, 48,808 persons. It is spread over 40,000 square kilometers (Census 2011). Bastar division has a security-personnel-to-civilian-population ratio of 1:22 with the deployment of 58,772 central paramilitary force personnel and another 50,000 of state armed-police personnel, the. Security forces occasionally conduct “search and destroy” operations in the area killing or arresting innocent people for “Naxal offence”. . The jails are overcrowded to the extent of three times the prison capacity, filled with Adivasis (tribals). The report of a High Level Committee headed by Virginius Xaxa, submitted to the government in May 2014, highlighted this fact.

Even expression of sympathy with Naxals is now a heinous offence.

 In the Bhim Koregaon planted letters case, several intellectuals and rights activists including Navalakha were declared “traitors” by the government. They were even accused of having links with Kashmiri militants. It was claimed that they were in communication with Ghulam Nabi Fai, a Kashmiri leader who has served two-year imprisonment in the USA for having illegally received funds from the inter-services intelligence of Pakistan.

Despite repression under draconian laws, the Naxalbari uprising has still been alive since May 1967.

According to India’s home ministry “more than two-thirds of Maoist related violence is now restricted to only 10 districts of the country. However, media reports reflect Maoists are well entrenched in at least 68 districts.  The movement could not be quelled despite tall claims by Indian authorities over the past 53 years. Indian home ministry has a whole division dedicated to dealing with the movement.

No writ of government

In Naxalite-influenced rural areas, there is no trace of India’s judicial system.  There, the Naxalite organisations act ‘virtually like policemen, arresting, meeting out “justice” and in some cases even executing the guilty’ (“Internal security situation”, India’s National Security: Annual Review 2004, New Delhi, India Research Press, 2005, p. 87).

With the merger of pro-Naxalite revolutionary bodies, the Naxalites are the sole arbiters of justice in rural areas. 

Concluding remarks

The term “Naxalite” is rooted in Naxalbari village (West Bengal) where Kanhu Sanyal presented the concept of “forcible protest against the social order relating to holding of property and sharing of social benefits”. They started the Naxal movement on March 3, 9167 at Naxalbari village, near Siliguri sub-division in West Bengal. It is 30 to 50 miles from Sikkim. Tibet and Bhutan in the, Nepal in the West and from Bangladesh in the east. To him the purpose of the protest was “organizing peasants to bring about land reform through radical means including violence”.

Naxalite movement in India is viewed as an internal security problem.  However, the populist appeal of the movement’s ideology reflects that it could soon assume international dimensions if China supports it.  India’s Lieutenant General KM Seth laments, ‘Unfortunately, the threat to internal security from Naxalites has acquired dangerous proportions and can no longer be wished away.  …they are also developing links with Turkish and Philippino terrorist organisations…We have suffered and bled patiently and have taken huge human casualties, which could exceed 13,000, uniformed personnel and 53,000 civilians during the last 25 years… As of today, their overall strength could be put to approximately 20, 000 undergrounds, 50,000 overgrounds and more than a lakh in frontal organisations. Their armoury  is reported to comprise approximately 900 AK-47 rifles, 200 light machine guns, 100 grenade firing rifles, 2 inch mortars, thousands of .303 rifles, self-loading rifles and .12-bore guns with a huge quantity of explosives at their disposal’. (“Naxalite Problem”, U. S. I. Journal , January-March 2005, New Delhi, p. 19, 23).

India may blame Pakistan for the freedom movement (‘insurgency’ or ‘militancy’) in occupied Kashmir.  But, who shall she blame for the Naxalite insurgency in Andhra Pradesh and other Indian states? This is a movement against economic deprivation and brutality of the state or central government’s law-enforcing agencies.

Indian media has now begun to report that the counter-insurgency forces are fearful of grappling the Naxalite.  In Guntur (Andhra Pradesh), the Naxalite announced a cash reward of five lac rupees per policeman (“Reward scheme sends forces into huddle”, Indian Express, August 25, 2005). IG (Guntur Range) Rajwant Singh admitted, ‘My men are removing the posters and convincing the villagers to inform them about the activities of Naxalites’.

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The ‘constructed’ world

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Karl Popper’s theory of falsification by refuting the classic positivist theory is not new. It is already applied by rejecting Aristotle’s Geocentric model by Copernicus as a Heliocentric model in the 16th century. Newton model of absolute time was refuted by Einstein in the 20th century as Time is relative and flexible. So, humanity has always revised pre-existing knowledge with experience and relation to surrounding in the course of time. Knowledge is an infinite process of getting into more advanced forms. From Aristotle to Copernicus and Popper—everyone is defending Eurocentrism. It is a huge construct that knowledge is only the ‘knowledge’ generated from the West. For example: ‘Feeling & sex’ is a biological construct. ‘Showing love’ is social construct. ‘Valentine’ is a political construct. Celebrating Valentine in Global South is part of assimilation process. Commenting on it is a part of ‘rationality’ choice with political cognitive building. Underneath, is a ‘realist’ model of state’s intention to achieve its vested interest via ‘cultural colony’ building. At the end, who controls, the story(Ideology, Process, Frame, Implementation and outcomes) wins the race. Here, west is leading with no doubt.

 Second Example: My personal interest in the US election is a bi-product of constructivist world where ideas, beliefs, identities, interest and social norms are shaped by actions and interactions of agency and structures. This put us; grip of knowledge on the western politics shapes my identities as a cosmopolitan and signals my interest of what I am looking from this continuous follow-up of election update–more data driven epistemology and ontology which is helpful in my running PhD. marathon. Like I said; my 1 OPED related to the US election in New York Times  is much more powerful than my 1000 OPEDs in Kathmandu based media. This is not caused by the capacity of these two giant media tycoon(material structures)companies rather meaning given to it; which is a ideational structures meaning constructed world; publishing in western media proves my talent.

Third Example: In the last week of December 2020, the Nepali PM dissolved the parliament and had called for a fresh election in April & May 2021. Although, Supreme Court ruled out the Parliament dissolve decision of government. However, before Supreme Court decision, this event followed several tantrums among Nepal Communist Leaders. Nepali Prime Minister K. P Sharma Oli remarks on several occasions are puerile. His counter words to opponents of his party i.e. Prachanda & Madhav Kumar Nepal is a floccinaucinihilipilification mindset. In one of the accounts, Bhim Rawal’s (one of the key leaders of the Communist Party) speech targeting sexuality to PM Oli( degraded mental conditions due to Kidney transplant provided by woman donor) was a repulsive example of puritanical patriarchy. These series of watershed among leaders made the content of the social media walls farrago and users are webaqoof. The is resulting the Nepal into entropy. And, for this Nepali leaders takes a big share for such de-growth. Nepali leaders recklessly bore the public with rodomontade. They are purely a snollygoster in power. For this, political leaders mishandling any political affairs in Nepal with a predetermined attitude of non intervention by Nepali public causing the situation to worst. Non-interventions on lacunae by the public due to public trauma of being mobilized to several revolutions and movements since 1950’s is creating a frisson. We are brewed by the agathokakological elements and politicians are not an exception. And we found ourselves in Zugzwang position. Zugzwang politicians are everywhere in Nepal and they are either by a foreign power or cadres pressure not necessarily proving advantageous for Nepal public. Prachanda and KP Sharma Oli had a sesquipedalian marathon via 19 pages and 38 pages document presented by themselves respectively —reproachful Oli of taking a decision without party consultations. Both parties had claimed; it was limpid. Allegations are also on the floor—-PM Oli and President of Nepali had closed ‘personal’ consultations to dissolve parliament. Rivals to both PM & President claimed the consequences occurred after the parliament dissolves due to muliebrity because the president is a woman and she should be taking responsibility. Opponents use Lalochezia targeted to the sexuality of the president. The overall current scenario in Nepal is the result of kakistocracy rather than democracy.

Way forward

From above Karl Popper to the US election and Nepali politics—All these carries western led constructivist attitude with mansplaining.  Rural youth of Nepal are constructed of all urban dwellers are feudal. And, therefore degradation of them is necessary. So, several radical groups are formed in Nepal for past few years. These groups created ‘tension’ in the national life of Nepal. As a result, government conduct dialogue with them for peace process. The leaders of the groups get benefited with state facilities and followers are left behind with dozens of Nepal changing dream. This has been the reality of Nepal where dynamic youth are lured for the vested political purpose. What I have to say; now “capital” is generated by “Dialectical Silicon Materialism” rather 19th and 20th Century “politicized” concept of labor-Industrialist dichotomy. But, in Nepal we are concentrated in the latter one.

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