After decades of dysfunction, a sigh of relief was on the horizon. The US-Afghan peace process was on its stage of finalization after a tiring, exhaustive yet profitable period. For the region, it is far from getting out of turmoil. It is a far-fetched idea as the Kashmir valley burns with an intensity that may burn the entire region if appropriate policies and islamophobia won’t be addressed.
An effective American presence is required. For all his misgivings, the outgoing US President, Donald Trump, tried in vain to bring India to the dialogue table. Trump is now out and a new sheriff is ruling the streets. Hopes and fears are attached with the new administration. This stems from the careful selection of words from Kamala Harris, Antony Blinken, and General (retired) Lloyd Austin relating to the region. It shows the concern and mindfulness of the new regime about the matter at hand.
Kashmir and treatment of Muslims in the BJP led regime has caught the attention of Biden and his team. At the Washington DCbased Hudson Institute, Secretary Blinken expressed his concerns relating to the situation in the South Asian region especially Kashmir. During the presidential campaign, Blinken asserted that the Biden Administration intends to raise the issue of Kashmir with India. US’s concerns on recent Indian legislature that discriminates against Muslims is also on their agenda.
They have criticized the actions taken by the Indian government particularly relating to freedom of movement and freedom of speech in Kashmir, and about the laws on citizenship. He shared the Biden administration’s plan to discuss Kashmir and other issues with India as pieces of evidence have surfaced that leave no space for ambiguity.
Biden himself has expressed his disapproval of the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens. During the presidential campaign was outspoken about the Kashmir issue and clearly stated it in the “Joe Biden’s Agenda for Muslim Americans”. The campaign expressed several outrages against the Muslim community and increasing islamophobia around the world. The brutalities faced by humans of Kashmir and persecution of Rohingyas were brought to light. Promise to take necessary steps to restore the rights of all the people of Kashmir was made.
The new administration wants to promote the ideology of peace and harmony, and the region will be under consideration as at least 20 South Asian-Americans have been appointed to the key positions in president Joe Biden’s administration.
However, the list has excluded some Indian-Americans, Sonal Shah, and Amit Jani, who had worked on the Biden campaign, allegedly due to their Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) links. According to a report, those with RSS-BJP links have not found a place in Biden’s team because secular Indian-American organizations have urged his transition team to keep such individuals on the sidelines.
Another key actor in the Biden presidency will be Ilhan Omar. He represents Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S, openly condemned the “Hindu nationalist project” by BJP. “At what point do we no longer share values with India? Are we waiting for the Muslims in Assam to be put in those camps?”
Biden administration accepted that they are aware of restrictions on arguments on opposing opinions and peaceful protest. Shutting communications and slowing the internet showed a weakened democracy, which was in notice of the Biden Administrations and they look forward to findinga solution to all unsolved human crises occurring against minorities.
The choice of advisors in Biden administration has been interesting and surprising to say the least. Not only have they inducted members from all opinions, but people who have first-hand experience of the region. Recent inductees include two Held Kashmir-born female experts (Sameera Fazili and Aisha Shah), bringing Kashmiris a glimmer of hope that they might now be felt better through receptive and sympathetic hearts in Washington, DC.
Sri Lankan American, Rohini Kosoglu, has been chosen as Domestic Policy Advisor to the Vice President, whereas Bangladeshi-American, Zayn Siddique, would be discharging duties as Senior Adviser to the White House Deputy Chief of Staff.
Earlier in December, Pakistani American Ali Zaidiwas chosen as Deputy National Climate Adviser. He had played a key role in drafting and implementing the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan and helped negotiate the Paris Climate Agreement. Zaidi will be working directly under former Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been appointed US President’s Special Envoy for Climate.
Laterin January, the President Biden inducted a second Pakistani American, Salman Ahmed into his Foreign Policy team. He would be serving the Biden administration as Director of Policy Planning in the US State Department. Ahmedhad previously served as head of strategic planning in the Obama National Security Council, was chief of staff of the US Mission to the United Nations. He had also directly supported the-then US Secretary of State John Kerry’s negotiations with Russia on Syria between 2013 and 2016. He was the co-chair of the International Ceasefire Task Force in Geneva.
With the administration having a varied pool of different ethnicities, it signals they will be casting a wide net in international politics. For Pakistan, Islamabad hopes for acknowledgment of its efforts in regional stability and fight against terrorism. The signals received have been positive as American Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, told the Senate Armed Forces Committee, “Pakistan was ‘an essential partner’ in the Afghan peace process. (Islamabad) Has promised to deter regional actors from spoiling the peace of the region if he was confirmed as the secretary of defense.”
Austin has stated on an account that “continuing to build relationships with Pakistan’s military will provide openings for the United States and Pakistan to cooperate on key issues.”He also admits to the blood and sweat hard work of Pakistan to take steps to take out anti-Indian groups, such as Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Muhammed.
Biden must have an agenda for Pakistan, as the country is in the middle of south Asian regional politics. Over the last couple of years, Islamabad has been successful in dropping its grade from 3rd to 7th in the global terror index. This has come about after continuous efforts to keep its borders and those of its neighbors safe from terrorism. Islamabad has worked hard to protect its integrity in eyes of the world and is emerging as a leader in the Muslim community around the globe.
It is a fact that Islamabad has never played the role of an ally to any country during the Afghan-US peace dialogues and has shown continuous efforts to eradicate all the terrorism possible. But the unrest in the region has made it difficult to achieve the desired results. The bipartisan role played needs to be lauded and the country assisted in its march towards regional stability.
Opposing Hindutava: US conference raises troubling questions
Controversy over a recent ‘Dismantling Global Hindutava’ conference that targeted a politically charged expression of Hindu nationalism raises questions that go far beyond the anti-Muslim discriminatory policies of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and ruling party.
The conference and responses to it highlight a debilitating deterioration in the past two decades, especially since 9/11, of the standards of civility and etiquette that jeopardize civil, intelligent, and constructive debate and allow expressions of racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic attitudes to become mainstream.
Organizers of the conference that was co-sponsored by 53 American universities, including Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, Berkeley, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers, insisted that they distinguish between Hinduism and Hindutava, Mr. Modi’s notion of Hindu nationalism that enables discrimination against and attacks on India’s 200 million Muslims.
The distinction failed to impress critics who accused the organizers of Hinduphobia. Some critics charged that the framing of the conference demonstrated a pervasiveness of groupthink in academia and an unwillingness to tackle similar phenomena in other major religions, particularly Islam.
The campaign against the conference appeared to have been organized predominantly by organizations in the United States with links to militant right-wing Hindu nationalist groups in India, including some with a history of violence. The conference’s most militant critics threatened violence against conference speakers and their families, prompting some participants to withdraw from the event.
Opponents of political Islam noted that Western academia has not organized a similar conference about the politicization of the faith even though powerful states like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt have lobbied Western capitals against the Muslim Brotherhood and its Turkish and Qatari supporters with notable successes in France, Austria, Belgium and Britain.
Academia was likely to have been hesitant to tackle political Islam because Islamophobia is far more prevalent than Hinduphobia.
Moreover, perceptions of political Islam, are far more complex and convoluted. Islam is frequently conflated with political expressions and interpretations of the faith run a gamut from supremacist and conservative to more liberal and tolerant. They also lump together groups that adhere and respect the election process and ones that advocate violent jihad.
Scholars and analysts declared an end to political Islam’s heyday with the military coup in Egypt in 2013 that toppled Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brother, who was elected president in Egypt’s first and only free and fair poll. Political Islam’s alleged swansong loomed even larger with this year’s setbacks for two of the most moderate Islamist political parties in Tunisia and Morocco as well as hints that Turkey may restrict activities of Islamists operating in exile from Istanbul.
A more fundamental criticism of the framing of the Hindutava conference is its failure to put Hindutava in a broader context.
That context involves the undermining of the social cohesion of societies made up of collections of diverse ethnic and religious communities since Osama bin Laden’s 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.
The attacks fueled the rise of ultra-nationalism and politicized expressions of religious ultra-conservatism not only in the Hindu world but also in the worlds of other major religions.
These include politicized ultra-conservative Islam, politicized Evangelism and Buddhist nationalism. Right-wing religious nationalism in Israel, unlike Islamism and politicized Evangelism, is shaped by ultra-nationalism rather than religious ultra-conservatism.
The worlds of religious ultra-nationalism and politicized expressions of religious ultra-conservatism are often mutually reinforcing.
Scholar Cynthia Miller-Idriss’s assessment of the impact of Al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks on the United States is equally true for India or Europe.
“In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the rise of violent jihadism reshaped American politics in ways that created fertile ground for right-wing extremism. The attacks were a gift to peddlers of xenophobia, white supremacism, and Christian nationalism: as dark-skinned Muslim foreigners bent on murdering Americans, Al-Qaeda terrorists and their ilk seemed to have stepped out of a far-right fever dream,” Ms. Miller-Idriss said.
“Almost overnight, the United States and European countries abounded with precisely the fears that the far-right had been trying to stoke for decades,” she added.
The comparison of politically charged militant nationalist and ultra-conservative expressions of diverse religions takes on added significance in a world that has seen the emergence of civilizationalist leaders.
Scholar Sumantra Bose attributes the rise of religious nationalism in non-Western states like Turkey and India to the fact that they never adopted the Western principle of separation of state and church.
Instead, they based their secularism on the principle of state intervention and regulation of the religious sphere. As a result, the rejection of secularism in Turkey and India fits a global trend that conflates a dominant religious identity with national identity.
Sarah Kamali, the author of a recently published book that compares militant white nationalists to militant Islamists in the United States, notes similar patterns while drawing parallels between far-right xenophobes and militant Islamists.
Militant Islamists’ “sense of victimhood […] is similar to that of their White nationalist counterparts in that [it] is constructed and exploited to justify their violence… Both mutually – and exclusively – target America for the purpose of claiming the nation as theirs and theirs alone, either as a White ethno-state or as part of a global caliphate,” Ms. Kamali writes.
Similarly, the Taliban defeat of a superpower energized militant Islamists, as well as proponents of Hindutava, with Islamophobic narratives spun by Mr. Modi’s followers gaining new fodder with the assertion that India was being encircled by Muslim states hosting religious extremists.
“Modi is essentially helping the recruitment of…jihadist groups by taking such a hard, repressive line against the Islamic community in India, who are now being forced to see themselves being repressed,” said Douglas London, the CIA’s counter-terrorism chief for South and South-West Asia until 2019.
Panjshir – the last stronghold of democracy in Afghanistan
The Taliban’s rapid advance in Afghanistan has briefly stalled only in the face of strong resistance mounted by the people of the country’s recalcitrant mountainous province of Panjshir. Whoever controls the region’s passes controls the routes leading to China and Tajikistan, but to seize this mountain valley and, most importantly, to keep it permanently under control has always been a problem for all invaders. Eager to let the international community see for the first time in 40 years a united Afghanistan as a sign of their final victory, the radical Islamists were prepared to make any sacrifices, including filling the approaches to the Panjshir Valley up with dead bodies. Moreover, the Taliban’s longtime ally Pakistan, which, regardless of its status of an ally of the United States, has provided them with direct military support. In fact, Islamabad admitted its less than successful role when it proposed signing a truce to find and take out the bodies of its special Ops forces who had died during the attack on the valley. However, drones flown by Pakistani operators, professional commandos (possibly once trained by the Americans), air support and other pleasant gifts from the allies eventually bore fruit letting the Taliban be photographed in front of the mausoleum of Ahmad Shah Massoud Sr., the famous “Lion of Panjshir,” who controlled the valley from 1996 to 2001. The Islamists also took control of the province’s central city of Bazarak.
Having deprived the province much of its Internet access, the radicals, who control most of the Afghan territory, found it easier to wage an information war. Their claims of victories were now more difficult to contest, even though information about their retreat did reach the outside world. Reflective of the heavy losses suffered for the first time by the Taliban and their allies – the Haqqani Network and other remnants of al-Qaeda, as well as by the regular Pakistani army is the brief truce arranged by Islamabad. Looks like the mountain passes leading to Panjshir were literally filled up with corpses…
As for Massoud Jr., the young lion of Panjshir, and his supporters, they retreated to the mountains. In fact, they had nowhere to fall back to. The problem of Afghanistan is its ethnic diversity. Thus, the country is home to 23 percent of ethnic Tajiks, most of whom live in the Panjshir Valley. However, the Taliban rely mainly on the Pashtuns, who account for over 50 percent of the country’s population. As for the new masters of Afghanistan, they are ready to carry out ethnic cleansings and even commit outright genocide in order to bring the valley into submission. To make this happen they are going to resettle there their fellow Pashtun tribesmen. Local men aged between 12 and 50 are already being taken away and, according to the National Resistance Front, no one has seen them again. However, due to the information blockade, the Taliban will not hesitate to refute such facts. One thing is clear: Massoud’s Tajik fighters and the government troops that joined them are fighting for their lives, and there will be no honorable surrender!
The main question now is whether the young lion of Panjshir will receive the same support as his father once did, or will find himself without ammunition and food. After all, the Taliban leaders have reached certain agreements with the United States. Suffice it to mention the numerous remarks made, among others, by President Biden himself about the Taliban now being different from what they were 20 years ago.
But no, the Taliban`s remain the same – they have only hired new PR people. Meanwhile, hating to admit their defeat, Brussels and Washington will have to engage in a dialogue with those who are responsible for the tragedy of September 11, 2001, and for the numerous terrorist attacks in Europe. The Taliban are pretending to make minor cosmetic concessions. Minor indeed, since they are still depriving women of the opportunity to work and study, destroying higher and secondary education and brutally clamping down on people who simply do not want to live according to religious norms.
The United States is actually helping the “new-look” Taliban. Their potential opponents, including the famous Marshal Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek, left the country under various guarantees, and Washington is trying to keep them from any further participation in the conflict. Democratic politicians naively believe that by creating an Islamic state and ending the protracted civil war in Afghanistan the Taliban will ensure stability in the region and will not move any further. Uzbekistan and Tajikistan do not think so and are strengthening their borders and preparing to protect their Afghan compatriots, because they know full well that the Taliban`s are not a national political party; they are a radical Islamist ideology.
It knows no borders and spreads like a cancerous tumor, destroying all pockets of Western culture. It can only be stopped by force. However, the two decades of US military presence in Afghanistan showed that Washington, which quickly took control of the country in 2001, simply had no strategy to keep it. The Afghans were given nothing that would appear to them more attractive than the ideas of radical Islam. As a result, the few Afghans who embrace European values are fleeing the country, and those who, like Massoud Jr., decided to fight for their freedom, now risk being left to face their enemy all by themselves.
Misjudgements in India’s Afghan policy
India’s Afghan policy has always been obsessed with the desire to deny Pakistan the “strategic depth” that Pakistan, according to India’s perception, yearns. If India had a pragmatic policy, it would not have found itself whimpering and whining like a rueful baby over spilt milk.
India supported the invasion of Afghanistan by both the former Soviet Union and the USA, both losers. President Trump mocked Modi for having built a library for the Afghan people. Trump expected India to contribute foot soldiers, and by corollary, body packs to the Afghan crisis. India played all the tricks up its sleeves to convince the USA to make India a party to the US-Taliban talks. But the USA ditched not only Modi but also Ashraf Ghani to sign the Doha peace deal with the Taliban.
India’s external affairs minister still calls the Taliban government “a dispensation”. Interestingly, the USA has reluctantly accepted that the Taliban government is a de facto government.
The United Nations’ Development Programme has portrayed a bleak situation in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is faced with multifarious challenges. These include prolonged drought and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, upheaval caused by the current political transition: frozen foreign reserves, and rising poverty.
About 47 per cent of its people live below the dollar-a-day poverty line. If the poverty line is pushed to $2 a day, 90 per cent of Afghans would be poor. About 55 per cent of Afghans are illiterate.
Ninety seven percent of the population is at risk of sinking below the poverty line, As such, Afghanistan teeters on the brink of universal poverty. Half of the population is already in need of humanitarian support. The UNDP has proposed to access the most vulnerable nine million people by focusing on essential services, local livelihoods, basic income and small infrastructure.
Currently, the gross national product of Afghanistan is around $190 billion, just a little more than the $160 billion economy of Dhaka city. The country’s legal exports of goods and services every year account for $1 billion. It imports$6 billion worth of goods and services every year.
About 80 per cent of world production of opium comes from Afghanistan. Every year, Afghanistan produces nearly 10,000 tons of opium and the revenue generated from it amounts to $7 billion approximately. About 87 per cent of the income of opium producing farmers comes exclusively from this single product. The illicit opium export by Afghanistan is worth $2 billion every year. The role of opium is significant.
About 80 per cent of public expenditure in this country is funded by grants. Since 2002, the World Bank has provided Afghanistan with a total of $5.3 billion as development and emergency relief assistance. The IMF earmarked for Afghanistan $400 million in Special Drawing Rights (SDR) for combating the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
The United States has frozen about $10 billion worth of Afghan assets held at various banks in Afghanistan. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has withdrawn the $400 million worth of SDRs allocated earlier to Afghanistan for addressing the Covid-19 crisis. The World Bank has not said anything as of yet, but it may also put restrictions on its funding to Afghanistan.
India’s lip service to Afghanistan
India provided around $3 billion in aid to fallen U.S.-backed Afghan government. It trained the Afghan army and police. But now it is not willing to pay or pledge a penny to the Taliban government. Look at the following Times of India report:
“India did not pledge any money to the Taliban ruled Afghanistan probably for the first time in 20 years. That it has not done so as Jaishanker declared … (At UN, India offers support to Afghanistan but does not pledge money. The Times of India September 14, 2021).–The Hindu, September 11, 2021
India’s tirade against Afghanistan
Indian policymakers and experts say they see no guarantees that Afghanistan won’t become a haven for militants. “Afghanistan may be poised to become a bottomless hole for all shades of radical, extremist and jihadi outfits somewhat similar to Iraq and Syria, only closer to India,” said Gautam Mukhopadhaya, who was India’s ambassador in Kabul between 2010 to 2013. He added that the Taliban victory could have an “inspirational effect” not only for Kashmir’s rebels but wherever religiously-driven groups operate in the broader region… Lt. Gen Deependra Singh Hooda, former military commander for northern India between 2014-2016, said militant groups based across the border in Pakistan would “certainly try and push men” into Kashmir, following the Taliban victory in Afghanistan (With Taliban’s rise, India sees renewed threat in Kashmir, Star Tribune September 14, 2021). “Meanwhile, Rajnath Singh conveyed to Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton that the rise of the Taliban raises serious security concerns for India and the region. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appealed for an injection of cash into Afghanistan to avoid an economic meltdown that would spark a “catastrophic” situation for the Afghan people and be a “gift for terrorist groups.”). Afghan economic meltdown would be ‘gift for terrorists,’ says U.N. chief” (The Hindu, September 11, 2021)
India’s former envoy to Kabul, Ambassador Gautam Mukhopadhyay is skeptical of the conciliatory statements by the taliban government. He advises: “We should welcome recent statements by Stanekzai and Anas Haqqani that suggest some independence from the ISI. But we should also ask some hard questions and judge them by their actions and words, and not let down our guard, both with regard to our multiple security concerns such as whether they can protect us from the Ias and ISI, sever ties with other terror groups, especially those supported by the ISI against India, deny Pakistan strategic depth, and preserve and build on our historic P2P and trade ties; and a genuinely inclusive govt in Afghanistan that accommodates the majority of Afghans who want the rights and freedoms enshrined in the 2004 Afghan Constitution or at least acceptable to the Afghan people.” (Taliban move to form govt, Naya Afghanistan brings new challenge for India, September 2, 2021).
India wants a “central role’ to be given to the UN in Afghanistan. India’s mumbo jumbo implies that Afghanistan should be made a UN protectorate. Indian media is never tired of calling the Afghan government a bunch of terrorists. They have even launched video games about it.
India needs to rethink how it can mend fences with Afghanistan that it regards a hothouse of terrorists.
COVID vaccines: Widening inequality and millions vulnerable
Health leaders agree that a world without COVID-19 will not be possible until everyone has equal access to vaccines. More...
Moscow electronic school — the future of education
The Moscow Electronic School (“MES”) project is a cloud-based Internet platform launched in 2016 that unites all educational institutions in...
Economy Contradicts Democracy: Russian Markets Boom Amid Political Sabotage
The political game plan laid by the Russian premier Vladimir Putin has proven effective for the past two decades. Apart...
Over 50 Companies Reporting on Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics as International Support Grows
The World Economic Forum announces today the continued growth of the coalition of companies supporting the Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics initiative....
Japanese firms’ slow and steady exit is sounding alarm bells in Beijing
Last year in March, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had indicated Japan would initiate measures to reduce the country heavily...
Bringing People Together with Easy to make Russian Comfort Food
Russia has a long history of droughts and famines. Although there have been no famines since 1947, the former Soviet...
UNGA76: Giant eco-friendly artwork set to inspire world leaders
A new 11,000 square metre ‘ephemeral fresco’ created by Swiss artist Saype, has set the stage at UN Headquarters in New...
Economy4 days ago
Russia, China and EU are pushing towards de-dollarization: Will India follow?
Middle East2 days ago
Turkey’s Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Cyprus, Turkey, Artsakh
South Asia4 days ago
Panjshir – the last stronghold of democracy in Afghanistan
Defense4 days ago
Developments on Korean Peninsula risk accelerating regional arms race
Economy4 days ago
Today’s World Demands Sustainability
Americas3 days ago
Was Trump better for the world than Biden, after all?
South Asia3 days ago
Opposing Hindutava: US conference raises troubling questions
East Asia3 days ago
How China Exacerbates Global Fragility and What Can be Done to Bolster Democratic Resilience to Confront It