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UNGA: Decoding Modi’s fortes and foibles

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India’s view is that abrogation of special status and Kashmiris’ hereditary proprietary rights is an internal matter. They harp that Kashmir is an integral part of India. Kashmiris’ struggle to shake off Indian yoke amounts to terrorism. And that its legislative coup d’état would be harbinger of peace, amity, and lasting prosperity in Indian-held Kashmir. Pakistan’s view is, unless revocation is withdrawn and curfew lifted, the situation would result in blood bath. There are eight million Kashmiris under clampdown by nine lac Indian troops.  What’s the truth?

Terrorists or freedom fighters

Unlike Kashmir, Bangladesh was not a disputed state like Jammu And Kashmir State. It was an integral part of Pakistan. But, harboured, nurtured, trained and armed Bangladeshi `freedom fighters’ in India’s lexicon. Pakistan calls them `terrorists’. USA’s gallery of `freedom fighters’: Noam Chomsky recalls USA sheltered gallery of Latin American terrorists, extolled as `freedom fighters’. Jallaludiin Haqqani (founding father of formidable Haqqani taliban) `was once a White House guest! (Indiavision news  September 28, 2011).

Kashmiris, not `terrorists’, but India, a `rogue state’

Let India not forget that Kashmir is a disputed state as per UN resolutions and the Simla accord. A state that flouts international treaties is called a `rogue state’ (Noam Chomsky’s Rogue States).

To refresh India’s memory: (a) It was India, not Pakistan, which internationalised or multilateralised the Kashmir issue by rushing a reference to the United Nations under Article 35 (Chapter VI). This Article enables any member to draw the Security Council or the General Assembly’s attention to any dispute or situation, which might lead to international friction or give rise to a dispute. Both India and Pakistan accepted ceasefire from Jan 1, 1949, onwards, and supervision by UN observers. (b) No UN resolution incorporates India’s view that Indian-held Kashmir has acceded to India by virtue of the Maharaja’s decision to accede to India. (c) Kashmir is not a domestic or strictly regional issue, as the UN has already intervened. The government of India has itself invoked and submitted to the jurisdiction of the UN and has accepted its role for resolution of the dispute, and acquiesced to the resolutions passed by the Security Council on Jan 17, 1949, Jan 20, 1948, April 21, 1948, and June 3, 1948. (d) Kashmir is still on the agenda of the Security Council though dormant due to culpable default. (e) The UN resolutions stand validated by the Simla agreement of 1972.

India is reminded of jus cogen, pacta sunt servanda (‘treaties are to be observed’) and are binding upon signatories. India may try to wriggle out of this maxim by pleading that the UN resolutions stand antiquated under another principle clasula rebus sic stantibus (‘things as they stand’ or ‘fundamental change of circumstances’).

But it has not yet so done for obvious reasons. It cannot renounce international and bilateral treaties without being declared a rogue state.

Terrorism against minorities

Why pro-India bloc is mum about terrorism and minorities’ persecution by ruling-BJP-RSS-Sangh Parivar conglomerate (maha gathbandhan)?  Why international community is blind, deaf and dumb towards persecution and killing of beef-eating Indian minorities, arson of Muslim houses at Meerut, hounding of Kashmiri students, girls included, and manhandling and looting of Kashmiri traders, across India?  When he was a chief minister, prime minister Narendra Modiled an 11-phase gaurav or papadshahi yatra (pride parade) to terrorise Muslim community in July 2002. He winked at Gujarat carnage, and Babri masjid demolition. Why UNO is hesitant to designate him a terrorist?

RSS’s anti-Muslim stance

Rashtrya Swayem Sevak Sangh (RSS) is busy r-imaging it in media as just a cultural entity without any political ambitions. But its severalacts unmask its brutal face.

Indian newspapers (datelined Kanykumari, July 6, 2003) have highlighted the anti -Muslim and -Christian resolutions, passed at RSS’s national executive’s meeting held at Kanykumari from July 5-6, 2003. The resolutions inter alia criticised so-called Christian terrorism against the Hindus.  The meeting appealed to the Christians not to submit themselves to the dictates of the `extra-territorial’authority of the Pope.

The RSS called upon the Hindus, particularly  Swayamsevaks, to be vigilant about `anti-national and terrorist’ Christian groups, posing a threat to the country’s internal security. It urged the Government to take strong measures against said groups. In a separate resolution, the RSS condemned Pope John Paul II’s statement criticising Indian states’ legislations banning conversions of the Hindus by missionaries. 

The executive declared that such conversions were a direct challenge to the sovereignty of the country (It is significant to mention that the Pope had just said that `free exercise of the natural right to religious freedom was prohibited in India’. Besides, the right to change one’s religion is enshrined in the UNO’s Charter of Human Rights, also). It urged the Centre to lodge a protest with the Pope for exhorting the Christian missionaries to carry on their campaign of conversions defying the law of the land.

RAW officers’ confessions

Some Indian diplomats and RAW’s cover officers have made startling revelations in their books about involvement in insurgencies or terrorism in neighbouring countries. . For instance, RK Yadav, and B. Raman (The Kaoboys of R&AW: Down Memory Lane)   make no bones about India’s involvement in Bangladesh’s insurgency.  They admitted that India’s then prime minister Indira Gandhi, parliament, RAW and armed forces acted in tandem to dismember Pakistan.  Raman reminds `Indian parliament passed resolution on March 31, 1971 to support insurgency.  Indira Gandhi had then confided with Kao that in case Mujib was prevented to rule Pakistan, she would liberate East Pakistan from the clutches of Military junta. Kao, through one R&AW agent, got hijacked a plane Fokker Friendship Ganga of Indian Airlines from Srinagar to Lahore. India’s security czar Doval publicly claims that he acted as a spy under a pseudonym in Pakistan for 11 years. In an article, titled How India secretly armed Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, in Hindu dated September 1, 2019, India’s former ambassador tells about India’s secret support to Northern Alliance. He discloses India’s ambassador Bharath Raj Muthu Kumar, with consent of then foreign minister Jaswant Singh, `coordinated military and medical assistance that India was secretly giving to Massoud and his forces. The support involved `helicopters, uniforms, ordnance, mortars, small armaments,  refurbished Kalashnikovs seized in Kashmir, combat and winter clothes, packaged food, medicines, and funds’. These supplied were `delivered circuitously with the help of other countries’ or ` through his [Masssoud’s] brother in London, Wali Massoud’. The less said about Kalbushan Jadhav, the better.

Mujeeb, a `terrorist’

Roedad Khan, in his book Pakistan: A Dream gone Sour’ ( page 70) writes Agartala Conspiracy Case was withdrawn, not because the prosecution case against Mujeeb was weak, but because over a million people were out on the streets of Dhaka, several government offices and the houses of ministers including Kawaka Shahabuddin’s  house-were burnt. .Ayub had no choice but to withdraw the case’.

`Free Balochistan’

Through its proxies like Naila Baloch, India sponsored offensive posters on taxi cabs and buses in Switzerland and Britain. USA has recently outlawed Balochistan Liberation Army. However, earlier, in 2012, a handful of Republican had moved a pro-separatist bill in US Congress. It demanded `the right to self-determination’. Diplomat Bharath Raj Muthu Kumar’s involvement in anti-Pakistan/taliban activities as well known.”

Pushtun Tahafuzz Movement 

Pushtun Tahafuzz Movement is apparently being backed up by India. In their over-ebullient speeches, PTM’s leaders openly scold Pakistan’s National Security institutions. For instance, Manzoor Pashteen, in his interview (Herald, May 2018, p.48), berates Pak army operations and extols drone strikes. He says, ‘The army did not eliminate even a single Taliban leader.  All the 87 Taliban commanders killed in the last 18 years were eliminated in drone strikes’. At a PTM meeting in Britain, even Malala Yusafzai’s father (Ziauddin), like His Master’s Voice, echoed anti-army sentiments. He said, “Pakistan army and intelligence agencies knew that Fazalullah was a terrorist who continued to operate radio station in Swat’. 

Kalbushan Jadhav’s episode

Jadhav was an Indian-navy officer, attached to the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). His mission was to covertly carry out espionage and terrorism in Pakistan. Pakistan also alleged there were Indian markings on arms deliveries to Baloch rebels pushed by Jadhav. To India’s chagrin, India’s investigative journalists confirmed from Gazettes of India that he was commissioned in the Indian Navy in 1987 with the service ID of 41558Z Kulbhushan Sudhir. A later edition of the Gazette showed his promotion to the rank of commander after 13 years of service in 2000. His passport, No E6934766, indicated he traveled to Iran from Pune under the name Hussein Mubarak Patel in December 2003. Another one of his Passports, No. L9630722 (issued from Thane in 2014), inadvertently exposed his correct address: Jasdanwala Complex, old Mumbai-Pune Road, cutting through Navi Mumbai. The municipal records confirmed that the flat he lived in was owned by his mother, Avanti Jadhav. Furthermore, in his judicial testimony before a Karachi magistrate, Karachi underworld figure Uzair Baloch confessed that he had links with Jadhav. India’s prestigious Frontline reportage (Praveen Swami, February 16, 2018, India’s secret war) surmised the possibility that Jadhav still served with the Indian Navy. Gazette of India Files bore no record of Jadhav’s retirement. India told the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that Jadhav was a retired naval officer. But, it refrained from stating exactly when he retired. The spy initially worked for Naval Intelligence, but later moved on to the Intelligence Bureau. He came in contact with RAW in 2010.

The myth of `revocation’ benefits

The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill is no panacea for the region’s prosperity and multifarious problems. It has in fact exacerbated Kashmiri’s misery (lockdown, no food, communication, sense of security).

The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill could not plug up `infiltration’ routes. The walnut and apples crops have been destroyed for want of buyers, rain, or immobility. No new jobs. The state already had over 484,901bloated jobs in 27 government departments. Where would Governor Satya Pal Malik absorb announced (August 28, 2019) new 50,000 jobs to be created  in three months. A Global Investor Summit is scheduled to be held in October. It is unlikely that Indian investors, let alone global, will come to the Union Territory in an risky environment.

Azad Kashmir

One of the outcomes of the reorganisation legislation is the renewed claim to “Azad Kashmir”. In the IHK’s 114-seat assembly, 24 have been kept aside for Azad Kashmir.During the debate in Parliament on the resolution on the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, Home Minister Amit Shah mentioned that the region included “Pakistan Occupied Kashmir” and that “we would be willing to sacrifice our lives for it” (that is, having it within the boundary of India). At a public event, a few days later,  India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh said that “in future, if talks are held with Pakistan, they will be on the issue of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and no other issue”.

Gilgit and Baltistan Tensions:  they are closer ethnically to Kargil, which has a mosaic of distinct ethnic and religious groups from the rest of the undivided State.

International fallout

Informal discussion of the issue in a closed-door format at the Security Council led to no resolution. Yet, it is a source of concern to India.  As soon as the situation becomes a threat to peace and security, P-V and security council would spring into action. 

China is executing several infrastructural projects in Gilgit and Baltistan bordering Ladakh and Azad Kashmir. The U.S. position tilts in Pakistan’s favour for consideration of Afghanistan exit. Pakistani diaspora in Britain and sikhs may increase Pakistan’s leverage.

Internal tensions and dissensions within IHK

The supporter and detractors of abrogation are now rigidly polarized. The pro-abrogation camp is frightened by demands in Jammu, including by local BJP leaders, to de facto continue the current practice of allowing only current State subjects to buy land or get local jobs. 

They have argued for the adoption of domicile rights as prevalent in States such as Himachal Pradesh.

In Ladakh, the tensions are already visible between the Buddhist-majority Leh and the Shia-majority Kargil districts. While Leh is in a celebratory mood, a different reality prevails in Kargil. There are significant minorities in both districts. Leh got its Autonomous Hill Council in 1995 when the State was under President’s Rule. Then people from Kargil opposed a collective Ladakh Council for Leh and Kargil. This was preceded by long bouts of tension between the two districts. In 2003, chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed decided to give Kargil its own council. In a memorandum to the Governor on August 30, 2019, Joint Action  Committee Kargil Chairman Sheikh Nazir demanded that the new Union  Territory be called Kargil-Leh, the rationale being that Leh had become  synonymous with Ladakh. On the other hand, the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) wrote to home minister Amit Shah seeking protection of the Buddhist community in Kargil. The letter written by LBA president P.T. Kunzang accused Sheikh Nazir of instigating communal tension in the region. Too, like the people of Jammu, the people of Leh want a check on outsiders acquiring lands and jobs in the new Union Territory.

Dalit residents of the State also are demanding permanent resident  Certificates  (PRCs). Over 1, 50,000 refugees who came from neighbouring Sialkot in 1947 also are clamouring for PRCs.. On February 8, 2007, the IHK’s Legislative Assembly rejected  a bill giving them the right to become citizens of the State. Speaking in the Assembly, the then State Finance, Law and Parliamentary Minister, Tariq Hamid Karra, said: “We have full Assembly sympathies for West 

Pakistan refugees. But the matter has to be resolved in a consensual manner as it has many dimensions.” A similar demand for PRCs was made by a section of the Dalit (Valmiki) community. Its members had come from the Gurdaspur and Amritsar areas of neighbouring Punjab province in 1957 to work as sweepers because sweepers in Jammu and Kashmir had gone on  strike.

Nuclear Armageddon: A fair worry? Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan warned war

between the nuclear rivals could `have consequences for the world’ (Washington Post Sep 27, 2019) Kashmir is the flashpoint that triggered the past wars in 1948, 1965, 1971 and 1999, besides a quasi-war or the military standoff in the years 2001-2002. It is the real casus belli between the two next-door nuclear-capable neighbours. Even today, it remains the nuclear tinderbox. India wants the issue to remain on the back-burner, but Pakistan wants its early resolution. John Thomson, in his article ‘Kashmir: the most dangerous place in the world’ has analyzed whether it is a myth or reality to perceive Kashmir as the most dangerous place in the world (Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu, Bushra Asif and Cyrus Samii (eds), ‘Kashmir: New Voices, New Approaches’). He has given cogent arguments to prove that the Kashmir issue could once again spark another Indo-Pak military confrontation with concomitant risks of a nuclear war.

Most western analysts, also, do not rule out the possibility of a nuclear war because of the Kashmir dispute. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has, inter alia, pointed out that ‘avoiding nuclear war in South Asia will require political breakthroughs in India-Pakistan’. The earlier India revamps its attitude to Kashmir dispute, the better. India is stoking up entente by alleging that Pakistan is air-dropping munitions in East Punjab through drones (Pakistan, drone, Punjab Police, Punjab, State Special Operations Cell,  NIA,The Statesman September 27, 2019).

India’s forte: Modi assures the world that India is headed for a five-trillion-dollar economy. He is a Buddha incarnate, a doyen of world peace. Some of his slogans may nevertheless be hollow. India has seen numerous slogans in 16 general during 72 years of independence_ Nehru’s slogan of “aaraam haraam hai.” (rest is not kosher), Lal Bahadur Shastri’s “jai jawan jai kisan” (long live farmer, long live soldier),  Indira Gandhi’s    “garibi hatao” (eradicate poverty),  post- 1977 echo of “Indira hatao, desh bachao” (remove Indira, save the country),  post-Indira-assassination (October  31, 1984) “jab tak suraj-chaand rahega, Indira  tera naam rahega” (till sun and moon shines Indira will live on) , BJP (1996) slogan “sabko dekha baari-baari, abki baari Atal Bihari” (now it’s Bihari’s turn), BJP (2014)  “achchhe din aane waale  hain” (good days are in the offing), BJP (2019) Modi hai to mumkin  hai (If Modi is there, then it’s possible), jal sey nal jal shakti (water power), jal jeevan (water is life ), ayushman bharat’ (happy India) and swachh bharat (clean India). . Prime Minister Narendra Modi was ‘Global Goalkeeper Award’ for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by the government. The world is enamoured of Modi’s reformist programmes.

Pakistan’s foible or Achilles’ heel

Indian propaganda is that Pakistan is headed for bankruptcy. Invisible `establishment’s rule’ has ruined its economy. Some `intellectuals like Ayesha Siddia Agha (author of military inc.) caricatures life-style of Pakistan’s armed forces visa-vis that of the common. Hey make no mention that successive civilian governments did nothing to provide universal healthcare or education to the people. In actual fact, the Military Inc. shares its blossoming profits with its burgeoning civil employees. One sore point however remains. The civilian governments shun defence-paid civilian employees. The civilian health and institutions regard them as pariah, as celestial aliens. Besides they are woefully inadequate to meet the burden of existing civilian employees in various ministries and departments.

The incompetent civilian governments wasted funds on deco rational projects, instead of establishing new hospitals. By a stroke of pen, the government shifted burden of general public to Federal government Services Hospital. As a result, the hospital became good for nothing for both serving civilians and general public. The Mil Inc. is nice enough to extend them medical and educational facilities at par with serving officers till superannuation. But, overpowered by its own load of retirees, the Inc. disentitles them from medi-care upon superannuation.  That, unfortunately is the time when the sexagenarians need medi-care, shelter and education most for their children. I, for one, spent over Rs.  60, 000 at Ali Medical for treatment of a  `disentitled’ family member without reimbursement. The defence establishment could benevolently extend benefit of `revolving fund’ to their defence-paid employees. In case of fund crunch, their proportionate share could be extracted from civil-hospitals budget. As a last resort, this fund could be insurance- or contribution (50% department, 50% retiree) –based. This is how the defence establishment could snatch away one propaganda lever from hands of `Inc.-bashers.  The contributory or insurance based formula could be extended by do-nothing civilian governments to all citizens.

Pakistan government could learn a lot from Ayusman Bharat and Thailand’s success in achieving universal healthcare in 2002. Thai lesson stressed importance of tight control within very limited resources at their disposal. They built a careful architecture which allowed them, through their Health Intervention and Technology Assessment Program, to clearly specify medically validated protocols and associated prices for all the available services, including diagnostics and medicines.

A few words about housing. Like Defence Housing Authority, two civilian bodies, federal government Employees’ Foundation and Pakistan Housing Authority, are supposed to cater for shelter needs of retired civilian officers. The DHA allots plots and flats to all military officers according to strict criteria. So is not the case with civ bodies. I, for one, have not been allotted any plot or flat despite 40 years of service. Look at my misery, a septuagenarian with heart, diabetes and kidneys ailment. Instead of following date-of-birth/retirement criterion, the civilian housing authorities allot plots only to Grade 22 officers, for sure, leaving other in the lurch. It is unfortunate that civilians devolve blame for their incompetence to the Inc. India propagates that defence allocations are lopsided.

Inference

Conflict of interests and war are natural to communities, societies and countries. Lasting peace has been unprecedented in history. A bitter lesson of history is that only such states survived as were able to strike a balance between constraints of security and welfare. Garrison or warrior states vanished as if they never existed. Client states, living on doles from powerful states, ended up as banana republics. We should at least learn from the European security experience.

Just think of what great status were empires like Austria-Hungary, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Sweden and Tsarist Russia (exposed to the 1917 revolution) and even the erstwhile USSR.

A common feature of all strong states had been that they had strong harmonious military and civil institutions, de jure capability to defend their territory and policies that favoured the citizenry rather than dominant classes _feudal lords, industrial robber barons and others. Pakistan needs to weed tout mafias,  put its economic house in order, and provide, at least,  universal healthcare to its people.

The clusters of sub-sets around the hegemon, with unequal capabilities may not share US vision. USA’s hegemony is imperiled by Venus effect, fanaticism (terrorism), political fragmentation of hegemon’s society, and chemical-biological terrorism. USA pampered India to be its proxy in the sub-continent. But she is tight–rope balancing Iran, Russia, and China.

EU experience shows how weak but intelligent states coalesced to ensure their survival by constraining the hegemon. Alternatively, they would have been on hegemon’s bandwagon in a subordinate position. India should read the writing on the wall and coalesce toward Pakistan.

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law.

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South Asia

Why Strategies of Stakeholders in Afghanistan Failing Against Taliban?

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taliban afghanistan

Taliban is increasingly gaining ground in Afghanistan, on daily basis, for considerable period. US may have declared ending its military mission in Afghanistan as “Mission Accomplished on ‘Global War on Terrorism’ (GWOT)”, but in reality, its embarrassing exit will continue to haunt its reputation for a long time. With Taliban gaining territory every passing day, simultaneously imposing horrifying restrictions on captured territory as ‘Islamic traditions’ it indicates transition of GWOT into global resurgence of terror, in collusion with Pakistan. While all regional stakeholders are concerned, but watching helplessly, it is evident the strategy adopted by Taliban, assisted by Pakistan has done better than that of others, so far, unless a positive mid-course correction takes place to turn the tides. A critical analysis of strategies of each of the stakeholder is necessary to infer future possibilities.

Why US lost GWOT in Afghanistan? 

US supported by multinational forces entered GWOT, post 9/11 incident, with an aim to dislodge Taliban Regime, which sheltered al-Qaeda under Osama Bin Laden, who masterminded execution of the barbarous terrorist act in New York.  Their military aim encompassed ensuring that no terror group in Afghanistan becomes strong enough to hit their mainland again, besides eliminating Osama Bin Laden and some other terrorist leaders. Peace and Development in Afghanistan was an expected side-effect, not their main aim. To execute it, US had to depend on Pakistan for logistics chain, intelligence and boots on ground, despite full knowledge of Pakistan’s support to Taliban and other terror groups, having gainfully used services of ISI and Pakistan Army against erstwhile USSR.   

As per principles of war, had US stuck to its aim and exited after dislodging Taliban Regime, reinstating a democratically elected Government in place, eliminating Osama Bin Laden, marginalising al-Qaeda and other terror groups, it would have been a graceful exit. It stretched its aim to impractical limit, of eliminating Taliban and other Islamic terror outfits from Afghan soil, least realising that the military power by itself can’t eliminate Wahabi ideology. Finding only military solution to problem of religious fundamentalism was a strategic misjudgement. This shifted achievement of the aim of multinational forces (MNF), beyond their culmination point, operationally.

MNF was of fighting from urban bases, through technology and airpower could not eliminate Taliban from rural areas. People are centre of gravity in such operations; hence one innocent kill in collateral damage of airstrikes can lead to birth of many terrorist, strengthening ideology of fundamentalists. Battle fatigue and political considerations steered the desire of MNF to pull out. In exuberance to do so, sham peace negotiations of US with Taliban (which turned out to be an exit deal) was the next error committed by US. It legitimised Taliban as political entity from terrorist status; which led to a tired US military, fighting defensive battle against a resurged, legalised Taliban for a safe exit. 

US consistently underplayed Pakistan’s support to Sunni terrorists in the region, making it a major beneficiary of monetary help and military hardware. It is to the credit of Pakistan that it lured US to extract maximum, by encashing their expertise in terrorism, and finally helped US in defeating itself in GWOT. Now after 20 years of war, losing 2400 soldiers, more than $3 trillion, US and MNF have also lost the strategic space, bases in Pakistan, amounting to a walkover in Af-Pak region. A threat by US, not to recognise Taliban, if it takes over Afghanistan by force, forming Quad with Pakistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, some drone strikes and evacuating informers are weak responses to mitigate embarrassment indicating its helplessness.   

Is Strategy Adopted by Taliban Superior?  

A battle hardened Taliban having learnt some lessons after losing war against MNF, managed to survive in rural areas with full support of Pakistan, hosting some of their leaders in safe sanctuaries in their country, despite claiming to fight for US and MNF. When the MNF crossed their culmination point, Taliban with Pakistan’s support started to gain ground in rural areas. Taliban encashed on the combat fatigue of US forces and its political ramifications, encouraged US Administration to talk, establishing its legitimacy as an essential actor. Pakistan’s mediation in this exercise favoured Taliban and not US, although the optics was differently narrated. Thus a rejuvenated Taliban was fighting a tired US Forces, operating from their bases avoiding rough terrain and infantry dominated operations, relying more on technology and firepower, which has serious limitations in type of terrain in area of operation. The air and drone strikes proved inadequate to prevent growing influence of Taliban. This triggered a race for strategic space in that region, with almost every neighbour (Russia, Pakistan, China through Pakistan, Iran and Qatar) organising peace talks between various stakeholders, primarily to suit their own interests.

With US Taliban Peace Deal signed and US withdrawal in progress, Taliban gained maximum strategic advantage by consolidating occupation of rural areas and then increasingly capturing various border districts to takeover crossings of Afghanistan with other countries to isolate Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF), which have numerical superiority, but are based in urban areas, having defensive mindset. With few military gains the strategic momentum of Taliban has improved and initiative is on their side. This has increased the pace of capturing territory, while their political and diplomatic wing continues with sham talks.

Taliban also encashed on urgency of US Forces to exit, by putting up demands like release of 5000 prisoners, which Afghanistan Government had to agree under US pressure. This in effect increased the numbers of fighters of Taliban. In the meantime Pakistan, increasingly under pressure from FATF, diverted over 10,000 terrorist to fight alongside Afghan Taliban, besides some professional guidance from Pakistan Army and ISI, and occasional air support. Taliban is now in a position to insert itself between important towns to isolate ANDSF, struggling with low morale, due to some surrenders.  

Taliban’s strategic aim is to get into power structure on their terms, without fighting any elections, by putting maximum pressure on negotiating table, after capturing maximum territory. That is why they are continuing with talks and offensive simultaneously. Taliban is aware that with Sharia Law tag it can never win an election (which it terms as non-Islamic governance model of West). It may not be keen to seize power by Force due to fear of being isolated, which will make it difficult for them to govern, giving rise to forces countering them within. They are aware that they don’t have mass people’s support, who have got used to democracy in last 20 years. Taliban thus finds talks and offensive simultaneously, as their best option for political solution in their favour.

All promises of Taliban leaders that it is moderate Taliban 2021 capable of meeting people’s aspirations, stand junked as ‘Shariah Law’ like curbs back in place in Taliban controlled areas. Men lose freedom to shave & smoke, forced to wear turban, women lose freedom to moving out without male companion and most disgusting is listing of single girls between 15 to 45 years, to be married to Taliban fighters as reward. Even if Taliban leaders pose moderate, their fighters will not let the leaders settle down for anything but Shariah Law.

What is Going Wrong with ANDSF Strategy?

ANDSF in numbers are two to three times more than Taliban fighters, but are low in morale, suffering a defensive mindset.  They are not venturing out of urban areas and trying to halt Taliban with less potent air power which Americans had. Over last 20 years they went into a syndrome of overdependence on foreign forces and foreign aid. The Afghan Government with fractured mandate and various groups eyeing to share power, weakened the homogeneity, as an effective establishment to govern. In military strategy, a defender can never win, but can at best delay the defeat. Operationally ANDSF are making same mistake as MNF made by trying to win by airpower and defending bases, thus leaving the initiative with Taliban. If ANDSF fights with offensive mindset, sound strategy, small gains can improve sagging morale, which can change the tide against Taliban.

China; A wild Card Entry!

Chinese strategic interest in Afghanistan includes, connectivity projects to Iran by extending CPEC to get warm water access, fill the strategic space vacated by USA and exploit mineral and other resources of Afghanistan, including share of narcotics  trade.

China, with initial hesitancy of not becoming the third power (after USSR and USA) to suffer “Graveyard of Empires” seems to have made an unprecedented move of recognising, engaging and striking a deal with Taliban by inviting its high power delegation to Tianjin, ignoring the Government of the day in Afghanistan. China hopes that it will be able to secure its security and economic interests with Taliban, which is promising no support to ETIM and inviting their investments, thus opening the window for economic exploitation, in a haste for recognition. It is interesting to see that Islamic Emirate, posing to champion Islamic cause are getting sold out to ignore atrocities to Uyghurs for the sake of power and money, or it’s a sham promise to get recognition.

This is a dangerous honeymoon, because neither Taliban is homogenous, nor Chinese have support of local population and there are many groups like ISKP, which may not buy the offer of China to ignore atrocities in Xinjiang. Taliban itself has ETIM cadres fighting for them including some commanders, who are unlikely to compromise, although they don’t mind making a sham promise for the sake of seeking international legitimacy. China may thus find that it may be much more risky to operate any transport corridor in Afghanistan, than doing so in Pakistan, where a politicised Army is involved in sustaining it with little success. Chinese however have learnt a lesson out of Russian and US debacle, therefore, despite their strategic interest they haven’t invested any large amount in Afghanistan so far, nor are they likely to do so, unless they are very sure of the viability of the next government.   

Pakistan’s Double Game: Unprecedented Opportunities and Concerns!

Pakistan’s strategic aim has always been to seek strategic depth in Afghanistan by enforcing Durand Line over friendly or weak government in Kabul, and edge out other players from Afghanistan. It has been uncomfortable with Indian presence for developmental work in Afghanistan and growing closeness between USA and India to an extent that it was propagating an unsalable narrative that India is trying to surround it from three sides. Its nexus with Taliban is quite old and its assistance to it was one of the causes of US failure in Afghanistan, as it managed to play a double game with US and Taliban. It was also an opportunity for Pakistan to send out large number of terrorists to fight alongside Afghan Taliban, whom it wanted to relocate to avoid FATF fallouts, to preserve what it terms them as their ‘Strategic assets’ to be used elsewhere later.

The opportunity is also marred with some serious concerns. Taliban in power never compromised on Durand Line and their stance in future is likely to be similar. Taliban also has many groups within including TTP, which will also get stronger to strike Pakistan, as power of Taliban grows. Innumerable refugees outflow along with some inimical terror groups is also a concern. Pakistan’s strategy of joining hands with Taliban, dumping Ghani’s Government and luring China in this strategic space has gone off well so far. It has also been successful in edging India out of Afghanistan, to some extent, with its terrorists incrementally damaging Indian built assets.  

Other Stakeholders!

All other stake holders are concerned with likelihood of export of terrorism, but are gravely short of options and leverages, as no one is keen to put boots on ground, knowing fully well that no foreign recipe of peace in Afghanistan has worked in past, nor will it work in future. Russia is concerned about export of terrorism in CAR states, where it assumes a priority right due to historical connect of USSR. It is however in no mood to burn its fingers again by any direct intervention. CAR countries are strengthening their military forces along borders to minimise export of terrorism into their countries and handle upcoming unprecedented refugee crisis, if Taliban comes to power.

The Indian Discomfort!

India has always been emphasising on Afghan led, Afghan owned, Afghan controlled, elected, democratic government and has invested tremendous amount of goodwill in people of Afghanistan and Ghani’s Government through large amount of development projects, and capacity building of various institutions, with a cumulative sunk cost of $3 billion, more than any other country in the region. India suffers from a major handicap that despite being a legal neighbour of Afghanistan, it doesn’t physically hold the common border, thus has no direct land route. This reduces the capability of India to directly influence outcomes in Afghanistan; hence it was never taken seriously by other stakeholders even during talks.

All effort by India are being made indirectly, through diplomacy and capacity building of institutions including ANDSF. The historical engagements with Taliban in past have not been positive, in the backdrop of Kandahar hijacking or Indian support to Northern Alliance; hence if Taliban comes to power it is unlikely to prioritise Indian interest over Pakistan. The Indian strategic interest include connectivity projects to CAR through Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan and prevention of export of terrorism. In this context, if Taliban comes to power, India will have to do business with Government of the day. It was known that Afghanistan was never stable in last few decades; hence Indian planners need to rethink if investment of $3 billion in an unstable country was worth the effort or otherwise.  

What Next?        

There is a need to boost the morale of Afghan Forces, with air support, military assets and maintenance of its existing damaged air assets. An offensive mindset, and sound military strategy can turn the tide in ANDSF favour. They need to focus on recapturing border crossings, utilise other non-state actors also in engaging Taliban to weaken blockades with guerrilla tactics. There is a need to create a viable countervailing force within Afghanistan, as Taliban suffers a weakness of poor population support and lesser numbers. There is a need for US to rein Pakistan in adding strength to Taliban through overt/covert means, for the sake of innocent people ladies and children of Afghanistan. History may not excuse global community, silently witnessing a democratic society being plunged into stone age governance, functioning on religious fundamentalism mode, ready to export terrorism globally.

If left to Afghan people, civil war will continue and Taliban even if in power, will also face unprecedented cycle of instability from angry population resenting Sharia law and rival groups in Afghanistan and within Taliban. Various tribes and terror groups will ensure that no single entity or  foreign player gets that strategic space exclusively. It is unlikely that China-Pakistan will find it easy to exploit the situation amidst expected instability. This will certainly have a telling effect on regional and global security situation, as Af-Pak Region will become the largest breeding ground for terrorism, with some of the terror groups again becoming strong enough to strike US, EU, China, India or CAR. Afghanistan seems to be heading for a situation where in different areas will be under influence of different entities, leaving helpless population in the hands of fundamentalists.

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South Asia

India’s North East: A cauldron of resentment

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The writer is of the view that the recent clash between police force of Mizoram and Assam is not an isolated event. Similar incidents have happened in the past. They reflect that it is not hunky dory in India’s north east as BJP’s government would have us believe. New states in India were created willy-nilly pacify agitation. Yet the boundaries of the new states do not satisfy the people of the new states fully. They are a simmering cauldron of resentment against India’s central government. They love their traditions more than monolithic Hindutva. s

On July 10, 2021, five Assamese policemen were killed while proceeding towards Varengate (outsider gate). Amid fiery statements of chief ministers of Assam and Mizoram, police officials and politicians, it appeared that the two states would launch a full-fledged war against one another. This was not the first incident of its kind. There had been similar clashes in the past (1979, 1985 at Mirapani where 42 persons were burnt alive and 2014 clash).

Crux of the problem

Hasty creation of states to deal with separatism

When India came into being, many of it states were in grip of insurgencies. To pacify the separatist movements India hastily bowed to demand for creation of new states by reorganising the existing territories of bigger states. Many northeastern states were carved out of the state of Assam. Under the Indian constitution, secession is an offence but a new state could be created through reorganistion of the bigger state. Mizoram and Nagaland were created in haste to meet insurgents’ demand for greater self-representation.

Northeastern frontier Agency was converted into Arunachal Pradesh after the fall of Dacca. Indira Gandhi hoped that China would remain a silent spectator to her initiative as it did while East Pakistan was seceded through intervention in East Pakistan.

Linguistic states of Maharashtra and Gujarat were created mainly owing to agitation by Marathi and Gujarati speaking populations of Bombay.

In 1960, the Indian government accepted the Naga tribes’ demand for a separate state. Three districts of the state of Assam were detached from Assam to create Nagaland. It had no railway station or airport. So Dmapur also was truncated from Assam and included in Nagaland. The Dima Kachhari tribe that mostly inhabited Dimapur resented this decision. Any how the city is now a throbbing commercial centre.

In 1966, the state of Punjab was divided to create the hind-speaking state of Haryana. In 1971 Himachal Pradesh was created. Then in early 1970s, three new states were created: Jharkhand out of Bihar, Chhattisgarh out of Madhya Pradesh, and Uttaranchal out of Utter Pradesh. In 2014, Talangana was created out of Andhra Pradesh.

Nagaling (Naga homeland)

The Naga consider that the demarcation of their state is repugnant to demarcation done in 1875 by the British government. Their concept of Nagaland extends up to Nepal.

Citizenship Amendment Act and the national Register of Citizenship

These two laws are abhorred in many states of the North East.

Concluding remarks

The pitched battle between the Mizo and Assamese policemen exposed India’s “myth of unity in diversity”. Like the British rulers, India is holding together its union of states by use of brutal force and draconian laws. However sub-surface against the Indian government persists. Obviously people cherish their tradition culture and religions more than monolithic Hindutva. The BJP has set up a north East Democratic Alliance to forestall disputes between the northeastern states. This body utterly failed to predict or prevent the recent Mizo-Assam clash.

India understood that if the erstwhile East Pakistan supported the insurgencies in the North east, it will be impossible for India to keep them within Indian fold. As such, India aided and abetted insurgency in East Pakistan.

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South Asia

Pakistani PM’s Interview with PBS News Hours on Afghanistan Issues

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In an interview with PBS News Hour, host Judy Woodruff asked PM Imran Khan multiple questions about Pakistan’s point of view for Afghanistan and its relationship with the United States.

When she asked the PM about his assessment of the situation in Afghanistan, he said that Washington had really messed up the situation in Afghanistan. The US military failure is causing mess-ups in Afghanistan. “First of all, they tried to look for a military solution in Afghanistan when there was never one. And people like me, who know the history of Afghanistan and kept saying there isn’t a military solution, were called anti-American. I was called Taliban Khan,” said PM Imran. But now the US, after spending trillions of Dollars, sacrificing thousands of servicemen, and killing millions of innocent Afghans, destroying Afghanistan infrastructure, and damaging the whole country, realized that it is un-win able and withdrawing its troops in hap-hazard, causing a huge mess-up.

PM Imran also shared that despite the US being in Afghanistan for 20 years and 46 nations’ strong allied forces up to 150,000 troops, he does not know what the US objective was in the country. Only the destruction of a country, killing human beings, is beyond understanding.

“I don’t know what the objective was in Afghanistan, whether there was to have some nation-building, democracy, or liberate the women. Whatever the cause was, the way they went about it was never going to be the solution,” said PM Imran.

While the US is facing tremendous unrest and the civil war-like situation at home and yet wanted to interfere in other domestic issues. Beyond understanding!

He also lamented the way the US dealt with this solution. The PM explained that when the NATO forces had decided that there was no military solution, the bargaining power they had was gone.

“When they finally decided there is no military solution, unfortunately, the bargaining power of the American or NATO forces had gone,” said PM Imran. He added that the US should have gone for a political solution when 150,000 NATO troops were in Afghanistan.

“Once they had reduced the troops to barely 10,000, and when they gave the exit date, Taliban thought they had won,” said PM Imran. He added that it is difficult right now to ask the group to compromise or “force them” to take a political solution. “It’s tough to force them into a political solution because they [Taliban] think that they won,” said PM Imran.

PM rejects claims of Taliban sanctuaries.

The anchor also asked PM Imran about claims of Taliban sanctuaries being present in Pakistan and a report about 10,000 fighters crossing the border to help the group in Afghanistan.

“Judy, for a start, this 10,000 Taliban, or as the Afghan govt. Says, Jihadi fighters have crossed over, is absolute nonsense. Why don’t they give us evidence of this?” he said in response.

As a matter of fact, the Afghan Government is confused and helpless. After the foreign troop’s withdrawal, they are left at the mercy of the Taliban. The US has admitted its defeat, Afghan Government as a puppet Government has also been defeated. Taliban is the winner and in a position to dictate.

To the question about the safe-havens, PM Imran wondered where the sanctuaries are located in Pakistan. In fact, Pakistan is a victim of terrorism, and the recent terrorist attack in Pakistan is planned, managed, and originated from Afghanistan. Pakistan has provided irrefutable evidence on several occasions.

The premier explained that Pakistan is hosting three million refugees, Pashtuns, the same ethnic group as the Taliban. He added that there are camps of 500,000 and 100,000 people or more. “Taliban are not some military outfit. They are normal civilians. If there are some civilians in these camps, how is Pakistan supposed to hunt these people down? How can you call them sanctuaries?” asked PM Imran.

The host had thrown this question to a follow-up on Washington and other organizations’ claims that Pakistan has helped the Afghan Taliban. The PM had told the host that the allegations were unfair and told her the history of the conflict. He explained that Pakistan had nothing to do with the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in New York. The premier said that Al Qaeda was based in Afghanistan, and no Pakistani was involved in the attack. “There were no militant Taliban in Pakistan, and no Pakistani was involved,” said PM Imran. He added that when Pakistan decided to join the US war on terror, the country was devastated as it lost 70,000 of its citizens, and $150 billion was lost in the economy.

Pakistan’s good and bad outcomes for Afghanistan

The host had also asked the PM about Pakistan’s good and bad outcomes for the Afghanistan conflict. PM Imran told the host that the good outcome for Islamabad would be if an inclusive government with all factions, including the Taliban, is formed in Afghanistan. He added that the worst situation for Pakistan would be a “protracted civil war” in Afghanistan.

In such a scenario, the PM said Islamabad would face two problems, firstly, of refugees, and secondly, the country fears that Pashtuns within Pakistan would be drawn to the conflict.

“What we fear is that a protracted civil war would bring more refugees, and you know our economic situation is not such that we can have another influx,” said the PM.

“Secondly, the worry is that the civil war will flow into Pakistan because Taliban are ethnic Pashtuns. Now there are more Pashtuns on our side of the border than in Afghanistan. And so the worry is if this goes on, the Pashtuns on our side will be drawn into it, and that is also the last thing we want,” said PM Imran.

US bases will make Pakistan a target: PM.

The PM also shared that having a US military presence in Pakistan would make the country a target. He told Woodruff that when Pakistan joined the war on terror, it lost 70,000 people and was on the verge of bankruptcy. “We do not have the capacity to have any more fighting within our border or any terrorism within our country,” said the PM. He reminded that at the height of the war on terror, there were suicide bombings taking place all over the country, and businesses and tourism had collapsed.

“If there is a conflict going on in Afghanistan and there are bases in Pakistan, we then become targets, and we will then become part of a conflict,” said PM Imran. The premier said that Pakistan wants to partner with the US in peace but not in conflict. He added that the last relationship between Islamabad and Washington was transactional. “Pakistan was more like a hired gun. The US says we gave you aid, and that’s why you were fighting this so-called war on terror,” said PM Imran. He added that the aid given by the US was “minuscule” compared to the cost of Pakistan’s participation in the conflict.

‘Afghanistan in this situation because of US military failure.’

PM Imran told the host that Pakistan could not do much if the Taliban take over Afghanistan as the military solution has already failed. “What are we supposed to do about it? Here was the US for two decades in Afghanistan trying to force a military solution. The reason why we are in this position now is that the military solution failed,” said PM Imran.

The premier repeated that the best choice that everyone has is that somehow a political settlement emerges in Afghanistan. He added that the Taliban sitting down with the Ashraf Ghani government to form an inclusive government was the best choice.

“Absolutely, there is nothing more we can do except push them as much as we can for a political settlement – that’s all,” the PM said when asked if Pakistan was willing to accept a Taliban government in Afghanistan. However, he said that all Pakistan could pray that the people of Afghanistan decide what Government they wish to have, “As far as Pakistan is concerned, we have done what we can,” said PM Imran.

It is well understood that the Taliban have won the war, and it is time to rule the country. The US has negotiated with the Taliban and recognized them as the actual power of pillar and real owner of Afghanistan. It is a practice that the winner will dictate the defeated ones. It is proved that the unholy and biased media projecting Taliban as terrorists, insurgents, and illegal outfits were right people and were freedom fighters and opposed their homeland’s foreign occupation. Suppose the Taliban were so bad, how the US negotiated with them and signed a peace agreement with them. It is indirectly recognition of the Taliban as legitimate rulers of the country.

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