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South Asia

Balochistan, CPEC Nexus

Syed Nasir Hassan

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CPEC is an epoch-making project going to put Pakistan-China friendship and their economic cooperation to new heights.

The long robust bond of China and Pakistan reached its new heights when CPEC was envisaged back in 2013. The moment this mega development collaboration came on the surface all kinds of narratives and speculations started sprouting. The first and foremost was what is in it for Pakistan and how it will address the socio-economic animosity between provinces and federation specifically Balochistan that has stood decades of abandonment from the federation.

China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative which was forecasted in 2013 and became an on ground reality, two years later in 2015. So far, the momentum of the project is going with its intended velocity and it already has started benefiting Pakistan in major sectors, mainly infrastructural and energy. Pakistan being a country with unstable and ailing economy needed such measurements precariously to support and sustain its stature in the sub-continent as its backyard rival India is flattering a huge market for investors worldwide. The project itself is self-propellant which means that once it has gained its momentum, its pace will escalate with the completion of each target under the umbrella of CPEC.

One of the contours of this magnanimous project was the development of underprivileged areas of both Pakistan and China. These include the western part of both Pakistan and China. The Pakistani western province namely Balochistan has seen ages of deprivation. Both the states are facing similar tumult in their western sides hence CPEC is aimed to be the remedy for this. The project therefore, would be a ray of hope for the locals residing in both sides of the border whose grievances can now be heard and met.

Balochistan, the province of Pakistan with least population and largest land mass in terms of area has a considerable share in the economy of Pakistan. Balochistan is known for its mineral rich soil. For years Balochistan has been providing its resources such as natural gas all over the country but itself witnesses scarcity at home. With CPEC becoming a reality the untapped potential of the province will be able to be consumed. An amount of 7.1 billion USD was set aside as the initial investment for Balochistan solely. The sum had to be utilized on developmental projects in order to improve the overall situation of country. After decades of exclusion from federal government agendas, Balochistan has now turn out to be the linchpin of the project and it seems like Balochis will now be heard and provided with their rights in order to make CPEC a success and consequently take Pakistan forward in a collaborative manner. The project became the aide for the federal government to make good use of land mass in the province and address the hitches of people there. The resource blessed land of Balochistan is a hand of Midas for Pakistan, only if there is a will to use it in the right way.

A query on how CPEC will benefit Pakistan through Balochistan?, is simple to answer as through developments. Since it holds great market and trade potential due to resources in it, even a small infrastructural development of road will give a great benefit in terms of trade and economy. With infrastructural developments, better markets would be created. Resultantly, investors would be attracted leading to the creation of better and a large number of job opportunities. Consequently, though not immediately, but would gradually uplift the local way of living.

Hitherto, the project has brought fruitful results to Balochistan as the societal structure of the province got upheaval with the inflow of investment for developments. There are proposed sites for industrial zones in the province including Quetta, Gwadar, Khuzdar, Uthal, Hub and Dera Murad Jamali. Also, there will be minerals processing zones for separation of valuable minerals from the leftover rock. The road and rail network will help in effective and rapid movement of goods making the trade more efficient and expanding the economic arms of the country. Apart from the road and rail network, there are three major energy projects in the province also, namely, Gwadar Coal power project, HUBCO Coal Power Plant 1x660MW and Gaddani Power park Project. These projects upon completion will contribute approximately 2,940 MW of energy to the national grid thus assisting in countering country’s energy deficit.

Before CPEC, the security situation in Baloch land was not satisfactory as there were ongoing military operation against the renegades. But soon after the announcement of project, Balochistan became the center of attention as the fulcrum of CPEC. Recently, National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), Pakistan revealed in their 2018 report that there was an overall 21% reduction in terrorist attacks as compared to preceding year. The report also revealed that volatile and fragile regions of Balochistan and FATA had seen a demotion in the terrorist activities. Law and order situation is improving in Baloch society as the CPEC developments are materializing. Once the socio-economic fabric of the province gets strong, there will be large influx of people migrating into the province increasing the cultural harmony in the country.

Most importantly, Gwadar, the anchor and key driver of this mighty collaboration between China and Pakistan is located in Balochistan. Gwadar, having one of the world’s deepest sea ports is said to be Dubai 2.0 by the time project gets into its final stages. The geo-strategically important part of the Balochistan is going to be the bridge between Asia on one side and the West on the other, making Pakistan a center point of trade between the continents. The city itself will see massive modernization by the immense infrastructural projects and also with the renovation of Gwadar port. Theses project will not only help in curtailing the antagonized environment but also bring the federation and province closer to each other. Via Gwadar port the national assets such as carious mineral and resources would help profiting Pakistan’s economy subsequently enticing traders and investors to become a part of it.

The Bilateral economic alliance will bring hope to the economic dystopia of Pakistan. Its routes will help reduce the tensions between federation and provinces but only if the threads are connected rightly and skillfully to fully decipher the dire needs of Pakistan on its  way to prosperity.

Syed Nasir Hassan is working as a Research Associate at Islamabad Institute of Conflict Resolution (IICR). He is a student of Conflict & Peace Studies.

South Asia

India may attack Pakistan under false flag operations

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Prime Minister Imran Khan once again stressed that India is gearing up for false flag operation to divert the entire world’s attention from the genocide it is committing in its part of Jammu & Kashmir.

India is accustomed to attacking Pakistan on lame excuses to divert world attention to its crimes. Last year, in February, using the self-designed Pulwama incident, committed surgical strikes deep into Pakistan. Just after the hours of Pulwama incident, without conducting any inquiry or collecting evidence, the Indian Prime Minister blamed Pakistan and threatened with surgical strikes. Pulwama was pre-planned and used as a lame excuse only. A similar trick can be repeated by India again.

In fact, India is facing a massive economic crisis, internal insurgencies, mass-protests, ethnic divides, and religious discrimination. Poor agriculture declined Industrial output, and lack of economic activities, the country is facing enormous challenges.

Due to its poor records of Human rights and religious discrimination, the world reaction is intensified. Human rights watch’s reports, or the US commission on religious freedom’s story, or EU reports, all are condemning India. Islamophobia has distanced India from the Muslim world too. India is facing isolation internationally.

Having disputes with all its neighbors, India is under immense pressure. Indian territorial disputes with Nepal had taken a new turn, when Nepal issued a new Map, showing its whole territory, parts of Indian Occupied territories too. Amended Citizenship Act may impact two million Muslims and may face deportation to Bangladesh, and water disputes make two countries (India-Bangladesh) enemies. With Mayanmar, territorial disputes and refugee issues also made odd-relations between them. By supporting Tamil insurgents, India spoiled its relations with Sri Lanka.  Over-interference in domestic politics, its ties with the Maldives soared. The Illegal occupation of Jammu & Kashmir, Gurdaspur, Juna Ghar, is the real cause of tension between India and Pakistan. Denial of right of Self-Determination of Kashmiri people for seven decades and non-implementation of UN resolutions passed in 1948 on Kashmir are genuine concerns for Pakistan. Frequent violation of line of control and cross-border terrorism is a matter of serious attention. Indian occupation of Chinese territory and border clashes are getting severe recently. India hosts the Dalai Lama’s exiled government of Tibet, and openly opposing BRI is causing discomfort between two countries. The over-tilt toward the US and Indian attempts to compete and contain China may be a genuine issue of concern for Beijing.

The recent tension with Nepal and China may become a catalyst, and India makes another false flag operation against Pakistan. India is using spy-drones against Pakistan, one of such was shot down by Pakistan 650 meters inside Pakistani territory.

Indian frequent violations of Line of Control (LoC) and cross border terrorism, are the tools to incite Pakistan and force to a full-fledged war.

Pakistan is in the hands of visionary leadership, and the people of Pakistan are peace-loving in nature. Pakistan has been observing restrains and patience because we know the consequences of war, especially when both India and Pakistan are nuclear states and posses enough piles of weapons to eradicate each other. If India is crazy, we are not.

It is an appeal to the international community to intervene and force India to cool down its war-craze. UN and P5 may notice an aggressive Indian attitude toward all its neighbors, especially with Pakistan. Timely intervention may avert a big disaster. 

However, our love for peace may not be mistaken as a weakness. If war imposed, Pakistan is in a position to surprise India. We did surprise India last year on 27 February and can surprise in a much stronger way if a situation arose in the future.

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South Asia

Afghan Peace Process and Indian Involvement

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The Afghan peace process initiated in 2018, marred with episodic halts, finally witnesses an agreement between the US and Taliban on February 29, 2020, in Doha. Both signatories Taliban and the US agreed to some core conditions and compromises to be made. Afghanistan, a land known as the Graveyard of Empires has become a huge quagmire for the US forces and now even after 18 years of war they are still nowhere close to defeating the Taliban. Eventually Taliban had to be accommodated in the US strategy for Afghanistan. The Taliban are still stronger on the ground. There have been occasions even after the deal when Taliban were found to carry out attacks to show off their military strength and presence. This sends out a message to the US that a reduction in violence may not be confused with complete termination of attacks. Taliban being fully aware of their limitations as a disciplined troop, realize it would be hard for them to bring back their militia into the region if peace process doesn’t settle desirably. Geographically Afghanistan is at the crossroads of Central Asia and South Asia and is also bordered with Middle Eastern states. Such geographical presence makes everything happening in Afghanistan reach a dozen of adjacent countries with great intensity and magnitude. Recently concluded agreement in February this year has offered a world to witness a historic moment in which parties at dispute are finally making adjustments to end this protracted war. This agreement will have far reaching impact on many regional countries which will be compelled to respond according to their interests and likely benefits.

Most recent development in the Afghan Peace process is the induction of a “Power sharing Deal” between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah. The power sharing deal is a political settlement wherein both Ghani and Abdullahare looking forward to sharing the burden together in a hope to pave a path to peace, improved governance, human rights, laws, values eventually moving towards successful materialization of Afghan Peace Process to have stable Afghanistan.US secretary of state Mike Pompeo also supported this political settlement to end the conflict. In the meantime, Secretary-General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg applauded the deal between Ghani and Abdullah.

This however wasn’t an easy feat. US had to nudge the naysayer: India in this case;for its negative and its covert activities to derail the peace process. India finds a stable Afghanistan unfavorable to execute its illicit activities and propaganda. There would be less chances to exploit the soil of Afghanistan for its vested interests. Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation had a meeting with India’s External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar in New Delhi and conveyed the firm message for India to shun its anti-peace role in Afghanistan. Chief Negotiator of Taliban, Abbas Stanikzai also criticized India stating “India has always played a negative role in Afghanistan. India supported traitors in the country.” Such Taliban sentiments are prevalent but rarely expressed. Afghan government/NDS and RAW has consistently opposed peace with the Taliban as both stands to gain from discrediting the Taliban. Therefore, depicting Taliban as violent and active propaganda showing them as unreliable to firmly handle the evolving situation, serves Indian interest. Coupled with all this, a delayed withdrawal of US troops and attacks still being carried out in Afghanistan fueled the violent situation to the relief of spoilers of peace that want to see the peace deal completely derailed.

India’s Afghanistan policy is very much  Pakistan-specific. India doesn’t want peace in Afghanistan because unrest on Pakistan’s western border makes it doubly challenging for Pakistan to secure its borders on two fronts. India backed anti-separatist elements get free flow across the porous Durand line into Baluchistan.  This is the very reason India never favored a peaceful political settlement between Taliban and Afghan government. Some Indian analysts such as former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran openly argue that Indian policy should aim at preventing complete Taliban takeover of Kabul, provoking Taliban towards a broad-based government.

While India remained active in hampering the peace process, globally Pakistan’s key role in the entire peace process has been highly appreciated. Zalmay Khalilzad US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation praised Pakistan’s efforts for the deal. Moreover, Pakistan’s role in the peace process is also recognized by Russia, China, and the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan has made several efforts to bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table with the US which eventually resulted in the much awaited peace agreement and has become a ray of hope for the stability of Afghanistan and region as well. There is no doubt this peace deal is in the interest of Pakistan and peace of region because stable Afghanistan means stable Pakistan. Moreover, there are now brighter prospects for lesser clashes near Durand Line between Pakistan Armed Forces and Afghan Forces .Afghan forces have been time and again attacking Pakistani forces near the Pak-Afghan border.  It is hoped that the new political regime will also help in maintaining border peace between the two neighboring countries. However, one has to keep looking out for possible Indian mischief as it doesn’t want peace to prevail in Afghanistan.

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South Asia

World Must React to Hindutva Terrorism

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The Hindu ideology has transformed into the crude discourses of anti-Muslim platitudes and therefore, existing language of local stereotypes in India has been reinforced with modern offensive terms of intolerance especially against minorities. Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, Hindu nationalism has erupted as a dominant power and this power has been executed by rightwing forces to implement the agenda of ideology based on Hindutva. V.D. Savarkar in 1923, used this term to accentuate that Hindutva was not synonymous with Hinduism. Hindutva is a racial ideology to establish Hindu identity while disposing of Indian nationalism in favour of Hindu nationalism. Hindutva’s aspiration is not only restricted to the ballot box, but its magnitude has also started to fabricate societal bondage in India. Through its offensive means “Hindu Renaissance” has made inroads into schooling, developmental initiatives, business activities, community, and virtually every other area of public life. What has transpired is that Hindutva has been growing and expanding well beyond the traditional sphere to explicitly or partially linked organizational network of its militant wings like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Hinduism is considered to be a nonviolent faith but unfortunately, racists mindset of Hindutva activists, who just perceive the material aspect of religion, exploited this faith. The aim of Hindutva is to create Hindu political dominance over non-Hindus through violent means while reducing demographic aspects of minorities to second-class citizens. Hindutva has embodied in the financial, social and cultural realms of India and its most influential incarnation is the sphere of radicalism and militancy. Signature activities of militant Hindutva include violence such as deliberate anarchy; the closure of 100 churches in 2018;the bomb blast of Samjhauta express; the anti-Muslim genocide in Gujarat 2002; thousands of deaths during anti-Sikh pogrom in 1984; vicious assaults on lower caste Dalits and the brutal death of India’s revolutionary leader Gandhi. Despite having strong evidence in most instances, victims of such crimes mostly avoided the repercussions of their acts. Now Indian society has accepted the alteration of glorifying Hindu extremism. The most prominent instance is two times election victories of the current Indian Prime Minister Modi, who was the driving force behind the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom.Hindutva’s extremist philosophy is once again capable of dictating the sociopolitical existence of India when Narendra Modi, who once operated as the main Hindu nationalist leader, gained power.

During the recent Delhi Riots, Indian government immediately claimed that the bloodshed was random as the neighbourhoods in India’s capital were burning and bloodletting engulfed about 40 bodies, most of them Muslim. The killings were neither accidental nor unwarned but they were inevitable due to continuous detest by Hindutva extremists towards Muslims. The initiatives of PM Narendra Modi have imposed tyranny, seized organizations and fostered religious hate. Methodically, the persistence of Modi’s policies is producing a toxic Hindu extremist environment.BJP government has appointed most heads of the major universities and cultural institutions from factions of extremist Hindu nationalist allies. Place names have been modified – even in the curriculum – to play down the connection of Muslims to India and to give Hindutva ideology most prominent position. With these policies in hands, it was just being a matter of time before everything blows up and Delhi riots are just a genesis of future religious conflicts in India. Several Muslim Indians have already claimed that they never feel so oppressed.

The official policy is skewed towards Indian Muslims and the whole society is at the crossroads. Terrorist activities and Muslims are often associated with each other because that is the natural understanding propagated by Hindu nationalists. BJP’s leadership has openly categorized Muslims as terrorists and suggested: “to feed them bullets, not biryani.”There are numerous, profound and long term implications of this witch hunt for Muslims. Hindutva outfits act in secrecy to carry out their dark plans with a veil of tradition. The false flag operations, the Malegaon Blast by Abhinav Bharat, Hement Karkare’s assassination and death of Advocate ShahidAzmi are major instances of Hindutva terrorist activities.

India is also at the brink of a new form of religious polarization in the latest crisis created by Covid-19. Thanks to the efforts of Hindutva nationalists, the Indian government is also scapegoating Muslims for the spread of the coronavirus. BJP’s leaders in India are calling for a boycott to do business with Muslims by spreading rumours that Muslim vendors are infecting vegetables with saliva. The pandemic has offered Hindu nationalists a fresh chance to suppress an otherwise vulnerable minority community and Indian Muslims are sensing more terror against them by Hindutva fanatics. 

Although the social inequalities in India remain a cause for alarm, the senseless aggression of its military is getting increasingly worrisome. PM Modi upset the whole India as he denied the decade-old tradition of giving the Indian army baton to the senior general as head of military forces; rather, by superseding two well-regarded generals in December 2016, he appointed hardcore Hindutva nationalist General Bipin Rawat. Subsequently, Modi has also created the Department of Military Affairs and institutionalised the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) to further adjust General Rawat into mainstream military decision making. Given the hawkish approach to Kashmir and other current insurgencies in India by General Rawat and the spreading of BJP’s nationalist narrative, the change was perceived as a politicizing the army.The infamous release under bail and reintegration into the Army of an intelligence officer after completing nine years incarcerated for violence and terrorism indictments further illustrate India’s military alliance with ultra-right-wing nationalist terrorism. Lt. Col. ShirkantPurohit is claimed to be the creator of another radical Hindu extremist party, Abhinav Bharat and he was also active in many militant assaults targeting Muslims under the influence Hindutva or Saffron terrorism.

As India aims to reach the global community and prove its international superiority, the world must be mindful of the transformation of India from a democratic and thriving society into a suffocating repressive religious ideology. The world must take note of the 2020 Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which recommends entitling India as “country of particular concern” for instituting national level policies violating religious freedom across India, especially for Muslims, and much more. Whereas in India Muslims are being murdered, the majority of the world is too sluggish to denounce these atrocities. Increased regional radicalisation and terror threats would be motivated by the Modi regime’s ability to carry on with its ideology of Hindutva. The international community must start paying more emphasis on countering Hindutva and saffron terrorism.

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