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South Asia

The Road towards Peace and Stability of Afghanistan

Adeela Ahmed

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Afghanistan is a state which is viciously suffering from Chaos and Instability. The people of Afghanistan have been in the anguish of Wars since long, in a recent decade, it is being estimated that around more than 10,000 innocent people have been killed. Consequently, religious and ethnic hatred has been increased. Adding more to injury, corrupt regimes has become the very reason for unemployment. The precious natural resources are being plundered by the external forces. At the societal level, around 10 percent of the population is a drug addict. The rate of smuggling has been increased to 87 percent. Surely, Afghanistan cannot rehabilitate without the economic, educational, cultural, social and political prosperity.

In such an adverse situation, the National Stability of Afghanistan seems uncertain. So, there is dire need to address the major stumbling blocks and bargain an ultimate consensus among belligerents. In Afghanistan, long war failed to determine any military victory among belligerents.

On one hand, the Taliban wanted the complete evacuation of foreign forces out from Afghanistan to end this unfruitful war and to stop all types of sophisticated weapons including chemical weapons. They wanted the assistance of friendly countries like Russia for reconciliation. In addition to that, they wanted to set free all their prisoners from blacklist so that the Taliban can also live freely.

On another hand, currently, US cannot fulfill their demand as the US wanted to monitor the activities of China, Pakistan, Iran, and Russia in the most important region. The US wanted to give India the status of regional power in the region and wanted to counter China. If Russia will be successful to eradicate the stumbling blocks in the Afghan reconciliation process then It will be a great failure for the USA. As Russian are eager to find some common grounds for peace. In Moscow Conference, Russian Foreign Minister said that it would be a good option that Government and Taliban negotiate directly and put their stance on table talk. We will assure the Taliban, that their land will not be exploited any more by external powers. If China and Russia become successful to find a peaceful way of resolution then the strategic role of India and US in the South Asian region would be badly affected.

The new era of Peace Talks has been initiated after a violent period of war.  Taliban’s are in a strong position and bends US Grand Strategy in Afghanistan to be flexible for Peace Talks.  More than 70 to 75% of the land is practically under Taliban’s while the Afghan Government is fighting to take control of 132 districts. Chairman of US Joint Chief of Army Staff General Joseph Dunford said that the Taliban “are not losing” in Afghanistan, and much more need to be done to bring peace to the war-torn country but Taliban proved to a strong opponent. Dunford said that while there would never be a “military solution” on its own to bring peace to Afghanistan. it is in their interest to negotiate a political solution to the crisis with the government in Kabul

It is the reason that principled state like US, Afghanistan (Afghan Taliban-Afghan Government) and Pakistan along with regional players India, Iran, China, Central Asian States, Middle East, and Russia are extremely vigorous to play their role in Afghan Reconciliation Process. The vulnerable situation of Afghanistan is not only confined to its territorial boundaries but It is an alarming fact for the entire region. Peace is relative process and Peace in Afghanistan is essential for regional prosperity and its geographic factors keep Afghanistan in the limelight of Great game of powerful countries. The growing influence in India Pacific region instigates the US and other states to keep their boots in the ground.

US Deputy Foreign Minister Alice Wells, Mike Pompeo visited South Asia uninterruptedly. The reason behind their visits is none other than the safe exit from Afghanistan and political settlement.  NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that political negotiations are needed to end the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan.  He said that the continued fighting in the war-torn country was “pointless and counterproductive. It is important to prevail stability under Afghan governance.

The flexible approach of states working on Conflict management, resolutions models and diplomatic tools resulted in different direct and indirect Talks between these states for peace-making. It included high official level meetings: Kabul Process, several bilateral, trilateral, quadrilateral and multilateral efforts, Murree Peace Process, Russia-China-Pakistan Trilateral Dialogue, US direct Talks with Taliban at Qatar, Moscow Conference in which 11 countries participated including Taliban, US special representative Zalmay Khalilzad meetings with different states, US high official’s various visits to South Asia. This peace initiative plays the role of catalyst to move the snail towards stability. Such steps are small and fragile but a ray of hope for Afghan that Peace can prevail.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad with US President Donald Trump’s new policy is looking for Pakistan’s assistance to persuade the Afghan Taliban to join the Afghan peace process. Washington urges Islamabad to play a key role in facilitating talks between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban. The Foreign Minister of Pakistan said that Pakistan is sincere to cooperate for a political settlement in Afghanistan because peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s best interest. It is not the first time that Pakistan respects the sovereignty of Afghanistan and lets us give a chance to the people of Afghanistan to decide the fate of Afghan people.

Pakistan as a responsible state wanted a positive and balanced relationship with neighboring countries. Pakistan had sacrificed for war against terrorism but now it is not in a position to contribute more for more results.  No state can sacrifice as Pakistan did for War against terrorism. Pakistan suffered 75,000 causalities in this war. Pakistan economy also suffered a loss of 123-billion-dollar due to war against terrorism while US aid was just 20 billion dollars.

Hence, a politically negotiated settlement is the only solution to end the Afghan crisis which can only be achieved by establishing peace with the Taliban and the Afghan government through constructive engagement and dialogue.

Pakistan “remains a critical partner” to America’s South Asia strategy but USA strategic policy towards Pakistan and Taliban remain miscalculated. After allegations and accusation, they are willing to make them part of the resolution. US should comprehend from the past statistics that the world can survive without USA intrusion and their boots on the ground.

Independent Researcher/ Freelance Columnist Area of Interest: Defence and Security Issues MPhil from Quaid e Azam University Islamabad in Defence and Strategic Studies, Master from Bahhahudin zakaria University Multan in International Relations

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South Asia

Nepal Should get rid of Sino-India paranoia and must accept US MCC Aid

Vikash Kumar

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The US has offered, under its MCC grant, 500 million US $ aid to Nepal which is reluctant to accept it due to Chinese concerns. Nepal should get rid of Sino-India paranoia and accept this aid. It should relinquish geopolitical adventures and its engagement with nations other than India and China will be a step further in the assertion of the country’s strategic autonomy. Nepal’s sovereign decision should be precipitated by its own concern for national interest and not of any third party’s imagined interest collision with it.

Among diverse political turbulences being seen in Nepal, one which is being less talked about is Nepal’s indecisiveness over US aid amounting to 500 million USD under Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). While the government is inclined to accept it – Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada incorporated this in the new budget before its parliamentary endorsement – the grant is facing opposition, inter alia, from within the Nepali Communist Party (NCP).

The opponents are forwarding the arguments that accepting it may damage blossoming ties with China. There may be strong element of truthfulness, prima facie, in this argument but this advocacy is shorn of any understanding of Nepal’s national interest.

Nepal is sandwiched between two Asian Giants sharing great ambitions for future whose geo-political interests are colliding as they try to sell off their versions of worldview. Nepal is, of late, becoming hotbed for this bilateral competition. History is evidence to the fact that any great power rivalry has resulted unbearable consequences for playgrounds – where big power competes for their interests in other nations. Middle east and Afghanistan are two evergreen examples.

The obsession with fear of China’s reaction over a sovereign decision, essentially economic in nature, speaks volume about the intrusion of that country in Nepalese political landscape. Discussions in Nepalese media platforms and among policy makers are revolving more upon the US Indo-Pacific Agenda versus China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which should, in no way, be Nepal’s immediate priority. Surprisingly, absent in the discussions are cost-benefit ratio of these projects. A perusal of the MCC aid and geopolitical events of recent past shows that the cost-benefit scale skews in favour of economic advantage to the country.

Firstly, the MCC aid is a grant not a loan. Thus, it comes with benefit sans any obligation. There are no legal or political conditions attached to it and thus a claim that Nepal’s sovereignty will be promised by accepting the aid is wholly fallacious.

Secondly, these projects relate to ‘Electricity Transmission’ and ‘Road Maintenance’. As per MCC, the electricity projects include, inter alia, laying of 300 km of high voltage power lines, equivalent to one-third the length of Nepal; the addition of a second cross-border transmission line to facilitate greater electricity trade with India; and activities to improve sector governance to increase private investment. The road projects chiefly concerns maintaining ‘key roads’ admeasuring a length of 300 km which are vital for movement of goods and people. An aid amounting to nearly 1.5 % of GDP must not be rejected for imaginary fear of the Dragon.

Thirdly, China must not be expected to react negatively just because of the fact that the aid is coming from a rival nation. If it is not so, India should have acted in similar imaginary way in 2017 when Nepal became a party in BRI, an initiative India rejects as it passes though Pakistan Occupied Kashmir! Also, the sensitivity of India’s concern which relates to geopolitical issue is graver than that of China’s as it concerns an economic project.

Concerns relating to issue of provisions of MCC may be alleviated by having recourse to negotiation with US over it. For example, Nepal can negotiate that in place of US law it will be provisions of international law which will apply and there would be an independent international tribunal to settle any disputes, whatsoever arises pertaining to the project.

In past, we have seen Nepal’s compulsion as it has accepted the fate to play between India and China, letting itself more vulnerable to whims and caprices of these two countries. US aid under MCC is a golden opportunity for Nepal to look beyond India and China and seek greater engagement with other powers to derive economic benefit and relinquish meaningless geo-political adventures.

The best example in south Asia following ‘strategic autonomy’ is India which followed a non-aligned policy, although shaky one, throughout the cold war which enabled it to get benefits from both the superpower blocs and wrath of none. Now, of course, there has been a shift in strategic alignment of India – it is undertaking appropriate diplomatic manoeuvring– as China’s claim of peaceful rise seems rather flimsy in view of perennial projection of hard power against its neighbours and US under Donald Trump is more unstable now. The occasion has not come, till now, for Nepal to take any sides.

Economic cooperation should not be halted due to a geo-political competition wherein Nepal does not have any significant stakes. Nepal must catapult the entanglement of Sino-Indian paranoia and assert its strategic autonomy. Not only US, Nepal should seek greater engagement with other powers too. Rather than out rightly rejecting the MCC aid, it must undertake a negotiation to ward off its concerns relating to sovereignty. The message should go to both Asian giants that Nepal could not be taken for granted as it will follow a multi-aligned approach in contradiction to its hitherto Sino-Indian balancing approach. This will ensure more diplomatic leverage and clout to Nepal vis-à-vis India and China.

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South Asia

Current Political Scenario in Pakistan

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Imran Khan, born in 1952, educated in the UK, brought-up in Western Word, very well aware of Western Culture, yet equipped with strong traditional values, is 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan. He is known for his honesty, love for humanity, and great leadership qualities. He asserted himself in the international community as a visionary global leader, especially after his speech in the UN General Assembly in 2019, which has made him attract international attention.

He struggled for 22 years to become Prime Minister of Pakistan. He is also Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) – a political party that he formed in 1996. As a result of General election 2018, PTI won 116 seats in the National assembly out of 270 and declared the largest political party.

After taking charge of his office, PTI announced a 100-day agenda for a possible future government. The agenda included sweeping reforms in almost all areas of Government, including the creation of a new province in Southern Punjab, fast-tracking of the merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the betterment of law and order situation in Karachi, and betterment of relations with Baloch political leaders. In his first spec h, he announced that as he is impressed by China, how they eradicated poverty and corruption, he would like to learn from the Chinese experience.

PTI was envisaged as a Movement to fight for a just and equitable society based on the system that Prophet Mohammad(PBUH) laid down in the Medina Charter, which was the foundation of the model Islamic state, an egalitarian society based on the rule of law and economic justice – the first welfare state in the history of humankind. It is these principles of justice and egalitarianism that Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah envisaged Pakistan, and it is these principles that are the foundation of PTI.

During his election campaign, he made several promises with people of Pakistan, and masses trusted him and voted him. It was a very unusual election in Pakistan, against the traditional politics, the majority voted him, especially the middle class, educated people, and youth& women. He emerged as the third most popular leader in the history of Pakistan, just after Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan and former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

People of Pakistan had high expectations from him in return for voting him and trusting him. Unfortunately, most of the expectations turned unfulfilled. The cost of living has gone up, shortage of Atta, Sugar, Petrol, high inflation, devaluation of currency, joblessness, shortage of electricity, etc., are common issues hitting the common man. Yet, he enjoys popularity. Most people believe that PM Imran Khan is sincere and wanted to full-fill his promises, but his team is not with him on the same page. Masses still do not blame him but blame his team instead.

In fact, it is believed that although Imran Khan is the Prime Minister of Pakistan because of some of his good deeds which All-mighty Allah (God) liked and elevated him to the long-desired position as Prime Minister of Pakistan. But it is not the PTI-led Government.

His team includes non-elected members, foreign imported members, dual national members, electable elite, who joined him only recently for getting better positions in his Government. The hard-core, PTI workers are out-side his Government or a very little percentage at some unimportant positions. For example, the most important is Finance, a non-PTI led, Governor State Bank, led by non-=PTI, Strategic Planning, led by non-PTI, Interior Ministry, again a non-PTI-led, Commerce, again a non-PTI led, and so on….

Some of PTI friends argue that previous Governments also hired Imported, non-elected, and dual nationals in their tenures. It is true, the previous Government also did similar things, but what happens to them? Are people of Pakistan liked their acts? Voted them again? If PM Imran Khan also follow their path and he should be ready to face the same outcome.

We voted PTI for a change, reforms, meritocracy, justice, equality, change of status quo, and transformation completely. People of Pakistan can sacrifice a lot but have voted PTI for a cause. It is afraid if the cause is not served, the people of Pakistan may think differently. Pakistan can not afford any more crisis. The rapidly Emerging Geopolitical scenario may not allow us to have any disturbance internally.

However, neutral, intellectuals in Pakistan think that;  is he so helpless? Is making his team was not his own choice? What were pressures to form a team of not-his-choice? And so many similar questions. At least, people may blame him for not making his team based on merit, honesty, sincerity, loyalty with Pakistan. It is suggested, PM Imran Khan should think about how to satisfy the public before it is too late.

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South Asia

Pandemic is the weapon to remain the ‘throne’ sustainable

Mohammad Kepayet

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Do you think, now rulers are using the pandemic for its favor? How pandemic is appearing in front of the people? In what ways is pandemic being sold? The government using this Covid-19 for its sustainable advertisement. When Coronavirus is deadly to the average people, at the same time it is an important tool to persistence to the government. This unknown enemy is the main topic of discussion in the national parliament. But the budgetary allocation in the health sector is poor. Pandemic is the common trading point from the MP and to the government bureaucrats. It is the weapon to remain the ‘throne’ sustainable.

The European country Hungary has set an excellent example. That defective democratic country has become completely autocratic country. Prime Minister Viktor Urban has been given the power to rule the country until the end of the Coronavirus crisis. As a result, parliamentary elections were effectively canceled. Urban says, he needs to have such capabilities to prevent coronavirus infections. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has postponed Hearing a corruption case against him for three months. Interesting thing, corrupted rulers are using this crisis to their favor.

In the post-independence Indian subcontinent, famine and natural disasters have occurred at different times. The Colonial rulers have tried to suppress the citizens through those disasters. Colonially, the Indian subcontinent has also learned how to sell a national crisis and how to suppress and absorb its citizens. Now the government of this subcontinent is still following that same method.  

Where one’s own life is in crisis, there is less opportunity to think about what is happening to others. Ordinary people only want to know more about the pandemic. They try to know how many dead and how many are infected in COVID-19. And they want to know which area is being under lockdown. Because they need to buy some necessary things, so they are seeking which shopping malls are open for all. 

In Bangladesh, the mass media also broadcasting news, according to the needs of ordinary people. The media industry is not able to understand some times it is being used by governmental publicity. And it is the main medium for selling this pandemic. Traditional mass media are not doing any follow-up news about how many people were detained under the Digital Security Act amid the pandemic situation! Even the media did not do any investigative news about how many people lost their lives by extrajudicial killings! How many people have become unemployed? How many farmers are not able to sell their commodities due to the transport crisis? The rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer in the result of the Covid-19 catastrophe. 

The consequence of pandemic is everywhere. This virus not only taking away people’s lives but also taking away the minimum assurance of human survival. It is doing deep damage to human life. That damage cannot be seen with the open eyes. We can only see the statistics. We only see the number of dead and infected people.  

When the state goes through a national crisis, other problems become minor. The same thing has happened in the case of Bangladesh. The ruling government has been ruled since 2008 has now matured. There is no battle in the political ground because of the Covid-19 crisis. So-called opposition party BNP has almost been suppressed. The government has increased surveillance everywhere in the name of Coronavirus confrontation. From airports to people’s personal lives is now under surveillance. At this time the only voice that can be heard is the voice of the government and the voice of the bureaucrats. Where no presence of the common people. In this pandemic, the government seems to have become stronger and more powerful. 

There are no rebellious music-songs, poem-novel amid Covid-19. No criticism in the mass media. Political ground is calm, with no meetings and rallies. Universities and readymade garments are closed. No movement to control road accidents. No movement against rape. No demand for an increase in salaries and allowances of school teachers. People only seeking to save their lives. Is the government able to fulfill the demands of the people? Or the rulers are strengthening themselves by using this Pandemic.     

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