Establishment of Bittersweet Relations
Pakistan and Iran share strong historical, religious, cultural, and linguistic bonds. The relationship witnessed ups and downs, but despite all that the two countries tried to maintain a smooth path. Soon after Pakistan’s independence, Iran was the first country to recognize its independence from the British raj. The diplomatic ties started with the visit of the then PM Liaqat Ali khan in 1948. The relationship took a good flight with the visit of the Shah of Iran in 1950. Both the countries enjoyed cordial relations until 1996 but then due to divergence of interest in Afghanistan both moved apart. Pakistan was pro-Taliban whereas Iran supported the anti-Taliban alliance (i.e. Northern Alliance). Pakistan’s post 9/11 policy had further increased the void. Islamabad’s pro-Saudi and West policy added salt to the recipe. Being partner of United States of America in WoT, and under a great American and Saudi Arabia’s influence, Pakistan and Iranian relations suffered a lot. The General Zia’s regime with a strong pro-Saudis attitude also negatively impacted the two. However, the land connection between the two gave an opportunity to revive the relationship.
Adding Economic dimension
Being immediate neighbors, Muslim states and once good partners tried to fill-up the gap through non-economic means. However, in the age of development, both the states have to analyse the level of their relations through the lens of economic means as well. As, both the states have huge potential. Both Pakistan and Iran look towards the untapped the economic opportunities in order to have a strong regional bond. In addition, history also witnessed that both the states have extended their support to each other in worst times as well.
With the help of China and smooth development of CPEC, United States’ influence in the region could be countered. Convergence of interest in this very case is of utmost importance. The impetus behind the closer relations between the two should be prospered in developed state system.
Pakistan as a growing state needs to meet the energy deficiency, and for that Iran could be a good option, being a neighbor rich in natural resources especially oil and gas is vital for an energy deficient state. On the other hand, Pakistan, a country of 209 million people with a per capita income of $1,480, is a developing economy with a GDP of $312.57 billion and an estimated real growth rate of 3.3% (2019). Pakistan has to strengthen its trade relations with Iran and vice versa for a prosper future. To that end, both states have to utilize economic means as well, an element of soft power, to further deepen the economic dependency for development and growth.
|Trade||Amount US Dollars|
|Pakistan Exports To Iran||Rice, Meat, Paper and Paper Board, Chemicals, Textiles, Fruit & Vegetables||22.86 million|
|Pakistan Imports From Iran||Iron Ore, Hide & Skins, and Chemical Products||369.23 million|
|Total Trade Volume||392.08 million|
Table 1: Pakistan – Iran Trade Volume
Other spheres of cooperation
The people to people contact between the Pakistani and Iranian community is unique. Religion, Sufism, and Persian language all have a deep imprint. The state relations currently are in transformative phase. Positive state attitude tip-offs that both Iran and Pakistan desires to work together for a brighter future. In the recent history, and under the current government of PTI, the relations took a new height. Exchange of high profile visits including Iranian Foreign Minister Dr. Javad Zarif (August 2018, October 2018, May 2019) and Pakistan’s Foreign Minister (Dec 2018), and Prime Minister Imran Khan(21-22 April 2019) all are a start of new beginning. Moreover, helped enhance mutual understanding on political, economic and security sectors. Strong communication links between the two also facilitated policy formation for a consistent and mutually beneficial diplomatic, political, and trade ties. Pakistan and Iran signed Declaration for Cooperation in Healthcare Sector; opening of new crossing points, initiation of the process for release of a number of Pakistani prisoners; and call for peaceful solution of Jammu &Kashmir dispute.P akistan’sbacking on Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and commitment towards Tehran in the face of U.S.’s unilateral sanctions has been a great source of strength and applauded by Iran too.
Iran’s Standing in the Middle East
Iran has a long history and is an important regional player, one of well-known Middle Eastern power bloc. Iran survived and is surviving despite of all the International sanctions. Power politics is not only western dream but is admired by the eastern countries too. Iran has a good regional connection and time and again has played its role in a very smart manner. Its affiliates are everywhere, from Palestine to Iraq and Syria, Afghanistan, & Pakistan.
Since, Iran played a major role in Middle East, a strong Iran is always seen as a challenge not only to the Middle Eastern power machines but also world’s superpower U.S. A fragile Iran favours of all those. To this end, even America played its card well and hence tried to put it under pressure.
Iran vs USA
To this lead, even killing of Quds Force commander Qasem Solemani in January is also a move to further weaken Iran. U.S. instead of acting wisely, start frivolous acts, for instance trade war with China, assassination of Solemani, zero response on Kashmir and Palestine, just to keep itself up.
U.S. was well aware of that in wake of Solemani’s murder, Iranians would fight back. Though Iran would not indulge in any straight conflict but proxies. Hence, U.S. tried to influence regional states even Pakistan to be part of its dirty games. Pakistan as already trapped in Afghanistan, and lost so much in terms of human life and economics, doesn’t want to support the Big Might this time. Hence, Islamabad refused to be part of a problem that would be a havoc for the regional peace and stability. One reason behind U.S.’s all these efforts is also to disturb China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). CPEC a game changer for the region which is also perceived by the world community is a problem for U.S. China’s rise and economic influence in the region is wearisome for U.S.
U.S. wanted to have a permanent presence in Balochistan near Iran, not only to keep an eye on Tehran but also Beijing and Gwadar. The impetus was to destabilize the CPEC progress through its presence there. As, if the conflict erupts and U.S. start operating for Balochistan, there would be no moment and no development and hence will indirectly hinder CPEC.
Pakistan’s stance on the emerging conflict
Pakistan’s establishment and political parties were well aware of this odd game and hence were on the same page; therefore sent a straight message to Washington that it will not be part of any ferocious act. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi conveyed the message that, “Pakistan’s soil will not be used against any other state, and nor will Pakistan become a part of this regional conflict and doesn’t endorse any unilateral action”.
Pakistan’s strong position on that fortunately hoarded the region from another Afghanistan to happen. Pakistan is trying to correct its already complex relations with Iran.
Power shift in Iran
Iran just had the first round of its parliamentary elections in last week, the second round is yet to happen in May most probably, but the results have clearly indicated the patterns and the ones sliding into the power corridors are been identified. However, a number of factors are responsible for these “obvious results” as some citizens are calling them to be.
Giving a brief account of the ideologies into play, Iran had a coalition for reformists and another of principlists. There was the right wing, the left wing and the centrists i.e. the ones with a moderate approach. In 2016, the 120 seats were won by the reformists while 113 were taken up by the principlists or conservatives. The remaining ones were distributed between the independents largely and others. However, the emerging picture of results in 2020 is very different from what it was four years back.
The parliamentary elections 2020 for Iran had made it easy for the conservatives or the hardliners to get to power. In Islamic Republic’s Majlis of 290 seats, 219 are already won by them. Primarily, because of the fact that only a small number of participants are allowed to run for the office or contest the elections. Prior to elections the contestants are supposed to go through a scrutiny by the Guardian Council. It is a body that includes six jurists and six clerics who are appointed by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This time, the GC had disqualified more than fifty percent of the total 14,000 applicants who had applied to run for the office. Most of these disqualified names were those of the reformists or the moderates.
So far, the canvas seems clyster the brush is in hand of conservatives with the lead of 219 seats in the majlis. The lowest voter turnout since 1979 was also alarming however, even though it favoured conservatives, it will have an impact until the next parliamentary elections. Whatever excuse or loopholes one may identify, the point to notice is now that the conservatives appear to be at the driving seat, how can the outcome for the internal as well as external Iranian affairs can easily be contemplated.
Another factor to understand here is that Iran experienced lowest voter turnout since the Iranian revolution of 1979. Less than half of the total voters is said to have voted in the recent elections. It is said that some people didn’t participate because of the economic situation. The most important reason for those people is the sanctions by the USA and so they have became hopeless as of anything can be changed. However, the good news is that if the new representatives would do anything against the illegal sanctions, the domestic situation can be changed in favor of the government. It has been said that people have shown dissatisfaction over the clerical rule particularly after the Ukrainian plane massacre. If conservative proceed with narrower scope to function there is likely a chance that they can face fallout of the mass protests leading to the worsening of the situation for Iran.
In bag for Ruhani
The new parliament will not be an ally for Ruhani. Because conservatives are not so fond of him and reformists. They cannot forget his politics and political rhetoric about their opinions and principles. Also, it seems they will put more pressure on him in order to get more privileges. So, Ruhani should be prepared for new critics and hard domestic situation.
In all, the foreign policy of Ruhani toward the west will be more weakened because the new parliament is not expected to be on the same page as him. Although, Ruhani has shown a flexible political opinion which made him able to work with all parties of Iran, the new era of Iran’s domestic affairs are not so clear. So it’s a little soon to predict the future!
Who could be the next supreme leader?
The struggle for power is already into play admist US sanctions. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei’s failing health and increasing age has led to the speculations of who could take his place. His resign or death can altogether reshape Iranian politics. The most likely names in this regard are Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, Sadeq Larijani and Ebrahim Raisi.
The imminent question rises that next president off course would be from conservatives, how they will orientate state cogs when it comes to dealing with Washington? Will they behave in same manner or worse? Or there is any minute chance that they will behave in an opposite manner and try to men the ties with international community and Oval? While it this point in time, the parliamentary elections cannot directly have an impact on the foreign policy but after the presidential elections, where the same conservative parliament can elect their president things can get a little shaky. The conservatives apparently are not so fond of the direct negotiations and can lead to re-imposition of sanctions as well. At this moment when the global economy is on a gamble in post corona outbreak, Iran being affected by this terrible news too, needs to secure their economic interests. There is likely a chance that conservative would act in a liberal and a quite understanding manner when it comes to dealing with Washington.
Pak-Iran and the West
As both the states have new political elites, it is time to counter the western influence in the region, both states have to entrust working closely with each other in different sectors. Following are some points highlighting the Pakistan – Iran convergence of interest:
- Pakistan – Iran cooperation and collaboration in Afghanistan
- Combating terrorism, extremism, & separatism
- Countering Epidemic Disease
- Iran – Pakistan Gas Pipeline
- Trade: Iran – Pakistan Economic Corridor
- Promotion of Tourism
- Gwadar – Chabhar Junction
- Marine Investment
- Defence/Military Relations
- Energy Sector
- Counter border Corruption
- Controlling illegal goods and human trafficking
- Vocational/Professional trainings
- Joint working groups on regional strategic stability
To conclude, Pakistan doesn’t want to be part of any game that could have a negative impact on Pakistan. Pakistan, a sectarian sensitive state could have severe internal civil consequences. Being part of U.S. against Iran could have triggered an upsurge in sectarian tensions of the region especially Pakistan and Afghanistan. So, it opted to be neutral. Pakistan, has to work on its foreign policy viz-a-viz Middle Eastern states. Both Pakistan and Iran as to realize the importance of their positions and relations in the region and also have to reap their full economic potential. It’s time to come to workable agreements and negotiations in order to show need for cooperation and collaboration.
Kashmiri Lives Matter
Inspired by the movement “Black Lives Matter” after the murder of George Floyd, on 25 May 2020. Many other movements are gaining momentum against discrimination around the world. Kashmiri movement for their legitimate right of self-determination, also gained momentum. Kashmiris are struggling for their rights for 72 years, but India not only denying their legitimate right but using accessive force to suppress them.
Starting from Times Square, New York, on the 5th of August 2020, to almost all capitals of Europe and other parts of the world, Kashmiri people staged protests, agitations, demonstrations, to express their anger and dissatisfaction with the situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir. They were displaying banners with various slogans like Kashmir Lives Matters, Freedom for Kashmir, Condemned India atrocities, Respect for human lives, etc. Not only the Kashmiris, but local people also joined them in such protests. Mainstream Media, around the world, has covered their protests and published or broadcasted the Indian atrocities and brutalities in Kashmir. Seminars, Conferences, were held to address the Kashmir issue in many countries.
PM Narendra Modi, won the Elections based on anti-Muslim and Anti-Pakistan slogans and it was expected that his policies will be anti-Muslims and Anti-Pakistan. But PM Narendra Modi has not calculated well the consequences. Today, the Indian economy collapsed, society has been divided, law and order situation deteriorated, Government rit has weakened, insurgencies go momentum. Simply India as a country may not survive long and may disintegrate soon. PM Modi is pushing India toward disaster. His Nazi thinking and extremist policies have ruined India already. India used to be known as a secular state, but today India is an extremist Hindu state, with no rights to minorities and low caste Hindus.
One year ago, on the same day, the 5th of August 2019, India revoked its own constitution Articles 370 and 35A and annexed Kashmir. The merger of Kashmir and Ladakh to Union territory ends the special autonomous status of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, which is a disputed territory, recognized Internationally. The UNSC passed dozens of resolutions to resolve the Kashmir Issue. But India is not implementing the UNSC resolutions and became defaulter to the UN, which is a criminal act. Kashmir is a disputed territory among China-Pakistan and India. The Unilateral actions taken by India angered the stakeholders and offended the international community. It is a clear breach of international law and fair practices of the civilized world. It was Indian international commitment, the legal binding under Delhi agreement 1952, to implement the UNSC resolutions.
India is spoiling the peace of the whole region. It has initiated arms race in this region and procuring more and more lethal weapons. It should be known that the region is heavily armed with nuclear weapons. India, China, Pakistan, and Russia, al are nuclear countries. Any misadventure may cost the human lives of almost half of the world population.
Indian cross-border terrorism and aggressive acts are increasing and threatening the neighboring countries. India has disputes with all of the regional countries, like Nepal, China, Bhutan, Sikkim, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.
Almost nine hundred thousand troops of the Indian army, empowered with draconian laws, have illegally occupied the territory and are keeping the 8 million people of Kashmir under siege while violating with impunity the International Humanitarian law and practices. Kashmir has become the largest jail. Indian troops are using lethal weapons, cluster bombs, pallet guns, and perpetrating Sexual offenses, destroying Muslim religious and private properties. Whereas the Kashmiri civilians are innocent and unarmed. They are protesting and agitating peacefully for their legitimate right of self-determination, sanctioned by UNSC in 1948. Although UNSC resolutions are legally binding on India, but, India is delaying and not implementing UNSC resolutions passed in 1948.
Estimated killings so far are said to be 352, including 75 unarmed civilians, 196 freedom fighters, and also 81 from the occupational forces. 170000 persons have been arrested including old-aged, women, and under-aged children. The top political leadership has been arrested or house arrest. The activists and youth are arrested are shifted to detention camps. Children are separated from parents and messed in detention camps. It’s now a year since the curfew was clamped. There is a severe shortage of food, medicines, fuel, and electricity and the basic necessities of daily life. The phone and internet services are suspended. Travelling is restricted, especially media persons and foreigners. Kashmir is totally cut-off from the rest of the world, and blacked-out, with no flow of information. Only state media is reporting the censored reports. Whatsoever is reported in the International media is only a fraction, as leaked information is always limited only. The actual situation on the ground is rather much more severe and dangerous. Kashmir is split into two Indian union territories as Kashmir and Ladakh.Against the wishes of the stakeholders. This is the worst type of tyranny being faced by the helpless people of Kashmir in the history of humankind.
For 72-years of Indian atrocities and brutalities, have forced Kashmiris to seek a merger with Pakistan. The more force India will use to suppress Kashmiris, the more hate will increase against India, and the more love for Pakistan will increase. The ultimate solution to Kashmir is the merger with Pakistan according to UNSC resolutions through holding a plebiscite. India is granting domicile to non-Kashmiris, especially Hindus from other parts of India, to change the demography of Kasmir. India wanted to change the Muslim majority of Kashmiris which stands 87% to the Hindu majority. India failed to control Kashmir for 72-years, and will never keep occupation forever. India has to leave Kashmir, the sooner, the better. The spirit of Kashmiris can not be suppressed by any means, they are determined to keep their struggle till victory. People of Kashmir are brave, bold, and committed. No one can suppress them. Salute to the brave men and women from Kashmir, who are fighting with the huge Indian Army and yet not surrender. Their struggle will reach a logical end with Victory only.
Indian Imbalanced Balance
A serious crisis is looming over journalism in India, which is increasingly vested in the hands of authority. On the one hand, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee asks for “discussion and dissension” for a vibrant democracy. “There should always be room for the argumentative Indian, and not the intolerant Indian. The media must be the watchdog, the mediator between the leaders and the public,” Mukherjee said while paying his regards to Ramnath Goenka – former press baron. On the other hand, Indian media has lost its credibility regionally as well as internationally owing to quality of Indian public discourse. According to criminal lawyer Rebecca Mammen, “The true test of a robust democracy is the independence of its media. Over the past few years our media has become the mouthpiece of the party in power. Coupled with the fact the corporate owners of media houses share close links with the government, the Indian media has tragically lost its voice.”
The mainstream media is vested in the hands of a selected few and refuses to question authorities. The ‘Reporters Without Borders’ annual Press Freedom Index, which was released on April 20, has ranked India at 142 among 180 countries reflecting poor credibility due to pressures by government. According to the Report, the Indian media is reeling under a Hindu nationalist government, which has time and again tried to gag journalists. Moreover, India’s influential TV news channels function largely as government mouthpieces.A European non-governmental group “EU disinfo lab” had uncovered a network of 265 ‘fake’ news outlets sponsored by an Indian network to influence the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) with content against to Pakistan.
The crisis in the Indian media will have deeper impacts on Indian democracy. With a feeble opposition, weak institutions, and an inadequate media, Indians have no checks and balances. For instance, maligning Pakistan High Commission, Colombo(PAHIC) during a recent Indo-China conflict was an Indiangovernment instructed media strategy to divert public opinion from their failures in North. In other words, media strategy inadvertently defines poor political will of India to stand up to China while feel strong enough to bully the smaller neighbourhood.
The sane voices in Indian media have continuously shrinking space.Having almost 400 news channels, Indian media has failed to highlight serious matters, such as beef ban, human rights violations in Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IoJK), and numerous discriminations against Indian Dalits. “Over the last few years – especially after Prime Minister Narendra Modi won the general election of 2014 – the Indian mainstream media has allowed itself to be undermined by the transcendent political power that he represents,” said Pamela Philipose, The Wire. “A new note of muscular nationalism has crept into media discourse. Also conspicuous is the curbing of dissent and the rise of the surveillance state – developments that bode ill for the independence of the Indian media,” says Philipose.
In a similar manner, a political scientist Giles Vernier argues that “a new note of muscular nationalism has crept into media discourse. Also conspicuous is the curbing of dissent and the rise of the surveillance state – developments that bode ill for the independence of the Indian media.One reason why we don’t see much criticism in the media is that the government, in the person of the Prime Minister, has the ability to completely dominate the media’s agenda, by saturating the public and media sphere with the message, image, and his voice.”
Journalists should be critical of government’s handling of its internal and external matters to keep it on the right track. TV channels will call speakers of their choice, who would heavily lean to one side of discussion and pretend that it is balanced.
In the current atmosphere, with enraptured legislative issues and social perspectives, with populist political leadership, with developing bigotry against minorities and dissenters, the media can and ought to be an encouraging sign for liberal, mainstream and law based thoughts, yet additionally to guarantee that outrageous perspectives does not get into the papers or on TV. Rather, the media in India has become some portion of the issue, either excitedly partaking in preparing of contempt against the helpless, or carrying on in an insincere path by permitting the most exceedingly terrible components a free run of significant reality on their foundation. Whole ages of columnists are growing up with the possibility that they are playing out an important help; they have scarcely any good examples to gaze upward to, since their own managers, who should know better, are either sold out, ideologically dedicated to fanaticism or are indecisive, without firm feelings or just fearful. In any case, Indian reporting is in a profound emergency, all for the sake of ‘balance.’
This is Pakistan
With an unprecedented progress in politico-socio-economic domains, Pakistan has a new face in the world. It has not only successfully corrected misplaced perceptions about it, but the internal and external circumstances around it have also changed, which has helped shaping Pakistan its renewed look according to changed regional and international environment. The successes at the security front has also led to the economic progress in Pakistan.
In result of Pakistan’s fight against terrorism and anti-extremism operations, it lost tens of thousands of people, including soldiers and civilians. Pakistan’s strong resolve together with sustained military operations against terrorist elements, however, brough back peace and stability in the country. According to Security Report 2019 by Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), “Pakistan witnessed a further decline in the number of terrorist incidents and consequent casualties… terrorist attacks this year decreased by around 13 percent as compared to 2018.” The report clearly depicted a gradual decrease in terrorist attacks and casualties since 2009. In this regard, Pakistan’s National Action Plan (NAP) helped eliminating the menace of terrorism from the country. The improved security situation in the country resulted in the economic dividends in the shape of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Pakistan is also appreciated for its nuclear material safety. In its annual report, the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) – a leading United States non-proliferation watchdogdivulged that “Pakistan’s improvements in the Security and Control Measures category are significant because strengthened laws and regulations result in durable boosts in Pakistan’s score as well as provide sustainable security benefits.” While appreciating Pakistan’s further improvement in nuclear materials’ safety, Laura Kennedy, a former United States diplomat, tweeted that “one welcome bit of news reported by #NTIindex is that #Pakistan ranked as most improved in security of those countries holding nuclear materials.”
Pakistan’s fight against Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) is used as a role model by developed countries of the world. The Government of Pakistan (GoP) revealed a PKR 1.13 trillion relief package to help to the powerless and securing industry and other organizations. The concept of ‘Smart Lockdown’ also reaped its dividends and Pakistan has come out from the dangers of this deadly virus.
On the socio-economic front, Pakistan is making progress as well. For instance, the current account deficit has reduced from US$ 20 billion to US$ 3 billion together with a significant decrease in trade and fiscal account deficits. The stalled construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam has also been approved, which will result in additional water supplies for better agricultural production. There has been increase in the rights activism i.e., Transgender Pride March, Aurat March, Climate March, and Student Solidarity March. Women sports stars of Pakistan won international medals and recognitions.For instance, 8-year-old Pakistani Taekwondo star Ayesha Ayaz won a bronze medal for Pakistan at the 7thFujairah Taekwondo Open Championship in United Arab Emirates (UAE); Hajra Khan won 3 Guinness World Records; Mahnoor Shahzad won the Annapurna International Badminton Tournament; Nida Dar became the first Pakistani woman to sign a deal with an international cricket league, Sydney Thunder; Shahida Abbasi from Hazara won one of the total two gold medals for Pakistan at the South Asian Games 2019; and Mallak Faisal Zafar won first position in the Basic Novice Girls II category at the 24th International Eiscup Innsbruck 2019. Test cricket also returned to Pakistan.
Culturally, Pakistan is projecting itself more prominently. Pakistani celebrities are mamking it to international fashion weeks – Mushk Kaleem and Alicia Khan walked the ramp for Milan Fashion Week 2019. Pakistani film Laal Kabootar won the Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival for the Best Feature Film Award. ActressMahira Khan was appointed National Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, strengthening the bond between the people of Pakistan and the international community. Moreover, Mehwish Hayat was appointed ambassador to UK based international humanitarian charity, Penny Appeal.
On the entrepreneurial front, 9 Pakistanis made it to Forbes’ coveted 30 under 30 Asia list: Ahmed Rauf Essa: Founder, Telemart; Karishma Ali, President, Chitral Womens Sports Club; Laila Kasuri, Water Analyst, Global Green Growth Institute; Hanaa Lakhani, Hasan Usmani,Gia Farooqi and MoneebMian, Cofounders, Roshni Rides, Zain Ashraf, Founder, Seed Out; and Zainab Bibi, Founder, Pakistan Society for Green Energy (PSGE).
Regionally, Pakistan’s foreign policy is paying its dividends. Pakistan’s relations among Iran, Afghanistan, Sri-Lanka, Russia, United States and others has improved significantly. Overall, there is many encouraging events happening in and around Pakistan.
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