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The Ground Reality of the Longest War and Efforts of India to Bring Peace

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December 2019 or much earlier to that. Wuhan Virus came in being. Naturally or produced in a lab no one knows unless a tough investigation is conducted. It has gobbled up almost 2-3 million lives worldwide. Immediately after second wave which turned catastrophic in India ,Israel launched lethal airstrike on Hamas. Few days back US Troops have started vacating Afghanistan. In the beginning of this millennium September 11 happened and then President Bush’s “War on Terror” started which spread in Iraq, Afghanistan and few more countries. Saddam Hussien was captured and killed, Osama Bin Laden was captured and killed in Pakistan. Hundreds of Taliban leaders were killed in Afghanistan and inside Pakistan. Pakistan turned in to a heaven for terrorists. George W Bush launched an all out war in Afghanistan. During Arab Spring Husn-E-Mubaraq, Col Gaddafi were captured and killed .Syria survived as Russia intervened there.

Now US troops have started returning back to their US bases and by August 31st,2021 last soldier of US will leave Afghanistan. Afghanistan is not only India’s friend but also its neighbor and member of SAARC countries. While now Taliban leaders are marching ahead in Afghanistan but Pakistan has promised them Air Force support which means Pakistan is siding with Taliban. Afghanistan have seen days of General Dostam, Gulubuddin Hikmatyaar, Mohammad Najibullah, Malick Pahalwan, Abdul Nasir, Mullah Omar, KGB, CIA, Russian Army, US Army, Hamid Karzai, and now Ashraf Ghani and all have exploited Afghanistan through various international forces.

Since India’s interests overlaps with that of Afghanistan ,India leadership has started observing situation closely.

India ‘s Foreign Minister Dr S. JaiShanker met Afghanistan ‘s President Ashraf Ghani to visit the war-torn country  when US Troops are vacating Afghanistan. Dr Jai Shankar said that he wants to see Afghanistan in peace , stability and development

India will send humanitarian aid

Afghan forces which are currently involved in rescue operation will most probably soon will engage with Taliban and if we belive statement of US President Joe Biden then they will out number Taliban as they are less. However it does not seem reality in my eyes. Ghani ‘s office has requested  to Dr S-.Jaishankar for humanitarian help of 150,000 tons of wheat .

Foreign Minister said  that India will keep working. Dr S.Jaishankar also met to American Deputy National Security Advisor Elizabeth Sherwood – Randall and shown his commitment for ensuring Afghanistan Peace & Stability.

He also met Bangladesh ‘s Foreign Minister in Tashkent. Tashkent connectivity conference which was jointly held by Afghanistan, India ,Bangladesh & Russia put forward a good opportunity for peace.

Jaishankar had reached Tashkent after a two – day visit to the capital of Tajikistan , Dushanbe . Dr S Jaishankar also attended Shanghai Cooperation Organization ( SCO ), the Foreign Ministers of the important nations which are involved in meeting.

The discussion of SCO was how to ensure peace in Afghanistan once influence of Taliban will grow.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ decision to call back US troops from Afghanistan has allowed Afghan Army’s influence to decrease and Taliban influence to grow which I expect will jeopardize already war torn country completely.

India’s Foreign Minister is keeping no stone unturned for ensuring peace for its long time friend, Afghanistan. He also had a long meeting with Russian counterpart Lorov before Tashkent meeting

Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar on Friday said that his talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have been fruitful.

S Jaishankar and Sergei Lavrov’s talks in Moscow reviewed the ongoing cooperation between the two countries on space, nuclear sector, energy and defense matters.

The two leaders also discussed international and regional issues such as Afghanistan, Iran and Syria.

S Jaishankar was on a three-day visit to Russia before he headed to Dushambe and Tashkent.

He said, “Many things are changing in the world. Some already and some due to the result of the corona pandemic. But despite this, the relations between India and Russia have remained unshakable. Both countries have contributed to global peace, security and stability. “

Russian help appreciated

In a joint press conference with Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, S Jaishankar said, “I think what makes working with us so natural and comfortable is our belief in a multipolar world. Two countries in the 21st century This is a very natural process for the formation of relationships. We see it as an image of this.”

“Our time-tested and trust-based relationship is not only on the right track but also remains strong and continues to grow.”

Along with this, he also appreciated the Russian help to India during the second wave of Corona epidemic.

S Jaishankar said, “India has now become a partner of Russia in the use and production of the Sputnik V vaccine. And we believe that this is not only good for our two countries but it will also have a positive impact on the rest of the world.”

“Most of our discussions were on reviewing the progress of ongoing cooperation in many areas. We have made significant progress.”

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cooperation in defense

He said, “A new dimension that has been added to our relations is that the Foreign and Defense Ministers have agreed on 2+2 talks. We think we should do it sometime later this year. “

The External Affairs Minister said, “We are satisfied with the overall development of our relations. There is a lot of cooperation between us on space, nuclear sector, energy and defense matters. Kundakulam Nuclear Power Plant is on track.”

He said that Russia is India’s real and most powerful partner in the space sector.

“Our cooperation in the energy sector has grown significantly in the last few years. We have agreed to cooperate in the oil and gas sector and this is reflected in some new potential investments and long-term commitments,” he said.

“Cooperation on military technology in the defense sector. I would like to say that Russia’s interest in the Make in India program has strengthened our cooperation in the industrial sector.”

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Important agreement between Russia and India between China and China discussion on Afghanistan

There was a discussion between the two leaders regarding connectivity, especially the North-South Corridor. S Jaishankar said, “Overall our sentiment towards economic cooperation and partnership in the field of science and technology was very positive.”

There was also a discussion about Afghanistan between the two leaders.

He said, “We have a lot of attention on Afghanistan because it has a direct impact on regional security. If you look inside and around Afghanistan, we think what needs to be done quickly is in the violence. have to decrease.”

“It is important for India and Russia that we work together to maintain the progress that has been made in the economic, democratic and social spheres in Afghanistan. Both India and Russia seek an independent, sovereign, unified and democratic Afghanistan. Committed to taking it.”

Prof (Dr) Ratnesh Dwivedi Award-winning Academic/NASA Certified Educator/Interdisciplinary Scientist/Awarded Sec,Intel & Def Expert/Peace Prize Winner

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South Asia

Saudi-Chinese Friendship: Should India be Concerned?

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Image source: Xinhua/Xie Huanchi

Saudi Arabia hosted the grand China-Arab summit in December last year and leaders of the two nations deliberated on future trade ties and regional security. The summit happened at a time when USA and Saudi ties are at an all time low. There lies massive uncertainty on global energy markets after the West forced a price cap on Russian oil and Washington is looking guardedly at China’s rising influence in the Middle East.

In Oil trade, China is Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner, with bilateral trade more than $87 billion in 2021. Saudi Arabia is China’s top oil supplier, making up 18% of China’s total crude oil purchases. The two countries have deals in refineries, power and military & security.

 Africa’s natural resources have long been a Chinese favourite. Every year, China doles out billions in grants and loans to African governments as an inducement to secure raw material deals or to finance the infrastructure projects which are ultimately going to benefit its own companies.

What is India’s position on the China- Arab summit that intends to boost development and cooperation among the two? India would be in a bit of a quandary one may assume as Arabs are their good friends, as they claim; while the Chinese are not. The trio of the China, Arabs and Pakistan (being used as a mere proxy), uniting is bound to be a slight source of worry for India. What is India’s take on this friendship?

From a diplomatic perspective, if their friendship and goodwill is promoted, it’s a good thing but one hopes that this does not undermine Indian interest, as any bilateral relation must not  destabilize a third relation. In general when one talks of the Arab world, one thinks of its gargantuan energy power and energy crisis and its management is a global issue right now. With the Ukraine Russia war hanging around the energy crisis, it could be an ‘Energy Security’ thing they are trying to do bilaterally. If a big country like China enters the domain of energy, food etc it could turn out into a fairly big movement in the markets, in terms of prices and availability. India has to reckon by the fact that China is large and when you take out a large chunk of something that is available, that can create a pressure situation for others.

Also the union of China, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan may have certain repercussions on India, as China and India already have problems and those are huge problems, there’s no denying that. Sachin Sawant, Senior leader of the Indian National Congress leader, the country’s main opposition party states that they are already over-exerting their power on India. The Chinese are going on building roads, tunnels and bridges nonstop along the border. India needs to develop stronger guiding principles, when dealing with China and its global intentions are concerned. It is a huge point of worry for India.

India definitely cannot do or say much if two good friends decide to meet, but it does have its  set of concerns. If China forges more business alliances with the Arabs in the energy and other sectors, India foresees instability in the markets which may be against its economic interest. It also is wary of the Chinese and Arabs getting together as this is a powerful alliance and its outcome may have a negative impact on Indian interest.

What could be the intentions of China to promote this friendship further and strengthen their relations with the Arabs. How does India look at this union of two economic superpowers? Every country wants to have good friends. They both have global ambitions and one goes about a decade back or lesser, they had invested heavily in Africa. They went there and tried to get hold of all the mines that were of strategic importance to them. They need nickel, gallium etc which are crucial for smart phone manufacturing. So, yes! They would be eyeing many such opportunities in their bilateral ventures.

China is known for its expansionism and they use their financial strength to arm-twist many countries, especially the economically weaker ones. “They are the Shylock kind of money lenders; they keep on lending money at exorbitant rates and then the poorer countries like Pakistan get into that vicious cycle where China takes hold of all their resources at very cheap rates. India is not at all bothered about their befriending the Arabs, because Chinese intentions are well known to the world,” says a concerned Sawant.

India says it is well aware that the Chinese mean business when they talk of befriending the Arabs. Together the two may explore many more avenues of business which strengthen their respective economies. Would their friendship affect India’s foreign policy in anyway? How affected or concerned is the Indian Government with this strategic partnership of China and the Arab nations?

Both Saudi Arabia and China are also part of G-20, and they must work in some areas of convergence that emerge from this global exercise. India closely follows whatever they are doing in terms of multilateral regional matters which impact the well being of all people, and also other matters that are taken up in G20, like climate change, green development and digital economy. India has sufficiently strong relations with the Arabs and its foreign policy will only be affected if China does something that is out of line of its interest.

Sawant reiterates that it is a matter of concern for India. The leader says that the alliance of China with the Arabs is definitely rooted in more trade and greater geo-political ambition. It can harm India. He says that China has this habit of deliberately targeting India’s neighbours, antagonizing them like it has been doing with Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, all in a bid to weaken India. It has been their strategy and India should be worried about that. “India needs to revamp its foreign policy in dealing with China. On one hand we ban their apps but then our imports from them are also growing multi-fold, this has to stop. Even on the Bhutan front India needs to be more proactive in protecting the interests of people in that region,” argues Sawant.

If India looks at the China-Arab partnership through the prism of G20 then, it will jointly work on pressing global issues and is confident of a positive outcome. However, it would expect  China to cooperate with it in its G20 endeavours. Does the Indian Government have any certain policy to enhance cooperation and influence in the Mid East Region? Yes, the Middle East is India’s immediate neighbourhood. India has an authentic historical and cultural relationship with them which is now nicely developing into a stronger and closer economic partnership. Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is India’s major economic partner; most of its energy comes from there. Also, it has huge Diasporas in the Arab countries who are emerging as investors in India’s growth and infrastructural development.     

“Any foreign policy is good until is serves the interest of the country. Just on the basis of how you are welcomed by foreign countries and how we welcome them cannot help determine foreign policy; this is a holistic issue. The Chinese President comes here and enjoys a resplendent welcome but that doesn’t stop their army from attacking us. What exactly we do in the interest of the country will help shape up strong foreign policy with any country. The Arabs, though our good friends will obviously be happy with the trade agreements with China, but we must be wary that it does not harm us or our economy inadvertently,” says Sawant.

In the end, India must be confident of its faith and friendship with the Middle East. Being a long time economic partner of theirs, they also benefit from the fact that Indians living in the Arab nations are a huge plus point for them. While there seems to be a bit of skepticism about the China- Arab ties, India should be confident that this will not come in the way of their strong relations with the other 7 GCC countries.

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South Asia

Taliban and the crisis in Afghanistan

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Source: Twitter

In 2021, the Afghan Taliban took back control of Afghanistan after fighting a rebellion for twenty years. The Taliban reformed and began regaining territory less than 10 years after the American-led invasion that overthrew the previous regime in 2001. In line with a 2020 peace agreement with the Taliban, they staged a swift assault as the US started to evacuate its last forces from Afghanistan.

Even though they promised to preserve the rights of women and communities of religious and racial minorities, the Taliban have enforced a strict interpretation of Islamic law. The Taliban have failed to provide Afghans with sufficient food supplies and economic possibilities as they have evolved from an insurgent organization to a functioning administration.

Numerous instances of human rights violations have been documented by the UN mission in Afghanistan. Because the Taliban scared off journalists and put limits on press freedom, more than 200 news outlets had to close. Activists and protesters have been tracked and forcefully disappeared, and their government has ruthlessly suppressed protests. They also reinstated the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, which was previously in place, and enforced laws against actions judged to be contrary to Islam. They instructed judges to apply their version of sharia in November 2022; in the following weeks, authorities resumed public hangings and floggings.

Women’s rights have been undermined. Due to restrictions put in place by the Taliban, girls are not allowed to go to high school, and women are not allowed to go to college or teach there. The group banned women from working for local and international voluntary groups in December 2022. According to estimates from the UN Development Program (UNDP), limiting women’s employment might cost Afghanistan’s GDP up to 5%. Amnesty International reports a substantial increase in the number of women jailed for defying discriminatory rules, such as those requiring women to cover their whole bodies while in public and to only appear with male chaperones. In addition, there are now more child marriages.

The UNDP says that the Taliban’s rule has also taken away the gains that Afghans made in their living conditions in the 20 years after the US invasion. In a study from October 2022, the organization claimed that practically all Afghans were living in poverty. Since the takeover, the economy has contracted by up to 30%, and there have been an estimated 700,000 job losses. More than 90% of individuals are impacted by food insecurity. The problem is getting worse because several countries and international groups have stopped giving aid, which is vital to the economy and public health.

International observers are nonetheless worried that the Taliban pose a danger to national and international security through their funding of terrorist groups, especially Al-Qaeda. Taliban leadership might convert Afghanistan into a haven for terrorists who could launch attacks against the US and its allies, despite Taliban pledges that the country’s territory wouldn’t be used against the security of any other country. The violence has also increased along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, which has always supported the Taliban. Tehrik-e-Taliban, a terrorist organization commonly referred to as the Pakistani Taliban, has gained strength due to the Taliban’s ascent to power. The organization broke off a cease-fire with the Pakistani government in 2022 and began carrying out assaults throughout the nation. Officials from Pakistan have charged the Afghan Taliban with giving the extremists a safe harbor in their country.

For many years, the Afghan government relied on help from a number of countries; according to 2019 World Bank research, contributions from foreign partners funded 75% of the government’s public expenditures. Many of these countries stopped off aid when the Taliban took control, fueling concerns about potential future economic turmoil. Nevertheless, aid rose in 2022 as donors sent more than $2.6 billion. The US has donated more than $1.1 billion in help since the coup. However, according to UN authorities, the pledges fell short of the nation’s humanitarian requirements.

Many Western countries, most notably the US, shut down their diplomatic posts in Afghanistan when the Taliban took power. Diplomatic relations and recognition have been withheld from the Taliban regime, which refers to Afghanistan as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The UN General Assembly has also postponed a decision on who would indefinitely represent Afghanistan at the UN. The Taliban are now being investigated by the International Criminal Court for suspected atrocities, including crimes against humanity, committed against Afghans.

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South Asia

Decoding Donald Lu’s Visit: A Positive Upward in US-Bangladesh Relations?

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The U.S Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Donald Lu paid a visit from January 12 to 15. During his brief but swarming itinerary the two parties discussed various issues ranging from diplomatic to political. Interestingly, this is the 11th visit of any U.S high-official in the past two years. The frequent swapping of delegations from the both sides pose a critical juncture between the U.S-Bangladesh relationship. Experts believe that recurrent visits from US high-ups are definitely an auspicious sign between the relationship of the two nations. Therefore, the visit of Donald Lu is an offshoot of the “growing reciprocity and renewed engagement” between Dhaka and Washington.

Needless to say, Bangladesh has a long standing and steady relationship with the US since the latter recognized the former shortly after independence on April 04, 1972. Recently the US-Bangladesh celebrated the completion of 50 years of bilateral relationship and US President Joe Biden termed this as “robust partnership”. Amid such backdrop, it goes without saying that the recent visits signal to a significant positive tie-up between the two parties and the visit can be interpreted in the context of international and domestic backdrop of international politics.

The US is the largest market for Bangladesh’s RMG export. Naturally, the issue of GSP reinstatement plays a key role in bilateral camaraderie. Under such circumstances, Lu’s visit is important to hold talks of economic in the context of Bangladesh’s growing needs, especially after the LDC graduation. Moreover, in the annual Global Firepower 2023 Military Strength Ranking, Bangladesh is placed 40th out of 145 nations. On the other hand, Bangladesh came in 12th place on the GFP review’s list of ‘Strengths on the Rise,’ which emphasizes national military powers based on strong growth patterns until 2023. In this context, the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and Acquisition and Cross-servicing Agreement (ACSA) agreement indicates to a deeper and strategic engagement from the US rationale.

Bangladesh’s stands at the heart of a strategic position of the US’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, which aims to counter the increasing footprint of China in the Indo-Pacific region. However, Bangladesh maintains a neutral position in terms of its foreign relations and has been carefully helming without taking any side of any major powers. Washington’s focus on free and fair election is important to maintain a stability in the greater Bay of Bengal neighborhood- an important feat in it’s IPS. Conversely, Bangladesh values economic partnership to sustain her ongoing upward trend. However, at the same time Bangladesh should be careful not to succumb to any pressure, a case in point when the Foreign Minister announced that the US proposed strategy is being vetted under the lens of economic opportunity.

On the domestic fore, arguably, the U.S has been advocating for a free and fair election, upholding democratic values, and condemning extra judicial excesses. However, continuous engagement between the two parties resulted helping to mitigate tensions and create a more positive atmosphere. The crux of Donald Lu’s visit is to reaffirm democratic ideals in state mechanism, rule based international system and Bangladesh to be part of the Indo-Pacific Strategy. Accordingly, Bangladesh has committed to hold a fair election and the recent decline of the controversial RAB’s extrajudicial excesses reported by Human Rights Watch as well as peaceful demonstrations of the opposition have been markedly praised by Donald Lu. From Bangladesh’s perspective rescinding of sanctions, reinstatement of GSP, and more support for Rohingya Refugees were reiterated. More importantly, Dhaka’s impartial foreign policy goals align with Washington’s interest in the South Asian region and it will be of American interest to consider Bangladesh as an important ally in the geopolitical chessboard of the Indo-Pacific region.  

However, the visit is also crucial for Donald Lu who is accused of meddling with the internal affairs of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal. But, Donald Lu manifested his diplomatic acumen to “manage the fissures of the diplomatic ties’ and “highlight on the areas of convergence” in the recent visit. Evidently, the past year has been tumultuous for South Asian nations, following the collapse of Colombo, the Pakistani Economic Crisis and the revolving debt crisis around the region. Amongst her neighbors, Bangladesh has endured relatively steady political and economic pursuit. Therefore, US needs to formulate a comprehensive South Asian policy to accommodate the interests of the respective nations on its own merit.

Bangladesh’s relationship with the U.S is vital in both economic and political stance. Continued engagement and partnership between the two states is critical for the security of South Asia as well as Bangladesh’s ongoing economic prosperity. On a pragmatic tone, it would take more than just this one visit for Bangladesh to solve these complex geopolitical issues. For now, the visit has symbolized strengthening of U.S-Bangladesh relationship going forward by exonerating the mutual interests to diplomatically resolve pressing bilateral issues and elevation of continuous engagement.

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