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The Imran Debacle and Challenges for Pakistan’s Foreign Policy

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Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan becomes yet another Prime Minister in the South Asian nation’s history who failed to complete a full five year term. Losing the no confidence motion in the National Assembly earlier this week,  Imran Khan has left behind a trail of foreign policy challenges for the new government.

The Dramatic Rise and Fall

Imran Khan won the Prime Ministerial elections in 2018 by securing 110 out of 294 seats in the 2018 elections which were  quickly alleged to be rigged. Coming to power after more than a decade of stepping into politics, the former cricketer promised to change the course of Pakistan’s elite dominated politics in his inaugural speech by formulating pro-poor policies, establishing peaceful relations with India, crafting beneficial relations with the United States, maintaining good relations with China, balancing relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran and bringing peace to Afghanistan. He promised to mend the economy, make the rich pay taxes, create jobs and mend relations with the turbulent Federally Administered  Tribal Areas (FATAs).

However, he fell short of all his promises. His policies to usher in a “Naya Pakistan” (“New Pakistan”) miserably failed on all fronts from economy to domestic and foreign policy.

Contrary to raising lifestyles as promised, his regime saw the pauperisation of the middle class as the country grappled with one of its worst inflation crises. As per the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the Consumer Price Index rose to 13%, its highest in two years in January 2022. The prices of essential food items rose to 15.1%. Moreover, Khan’s comments that he ‘did not join politics to decide the price of potatoes and tomatoes’  angered the populace. Unemployment also surged with Pakistan Institute of Development Economics reporting 31% of the youth to be unemployed, 51% of them being women. His regime was also marked by massive economic mismanagement. The World Bank has slashed Pakistan’s economic growth rate forecast to 4.3%, a drop of one percent from last year, blaming the energy subsidies of the outgoing regime which destabilised the IMF programme.

Mr. Khan seemed to be on a fallout with both progressive and conservative sections.

While his derogatory remarks on women and support for the Taliban regime in Afghanistan drew flak from liberal and progressive sections, he failed to woo the conservative elements as evident in a massive series of rallies led by the religious leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the powerful right wing party, Jamiat Ulema-e Islam (JUI-F) who alleged him of coming to power through rigged elections. Rehman joined the other opposition parties such as the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and Pakistan’s People Party (PPP) to form a cross party coalition called the Pakistan Democracy Movement which demanded Imran Khan’s resignation. Though the movement eventually fizzled out, the opposition continued to raise demands of passing a no-confidence motion against Imran.

Soon the demand gained momentum and calls for ousting the Imran government strengthened. In a live address to the nation, Imran Khan left no stone unturned to save face by defining the move against him as a “foreign conspiracy” and demanding people to hit the streets against it. However, none of this worked as the Supreme Court of Pakistan allowed for a no-confidence motion to take place in the National Assembly which had been rejected by the Speaker. After a day full of political drama, Imran’s  Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party government was ousted at midnight, making Imran Khan  Pakistan’s first Prime Minister to be ousted through a no-confidence motion. PML-N’s Shehbaz Sharif, the brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been elected the new Prime Minister. The PTI boycotted the session and Imran resigned from the Parliament stating an unwillingness to “sit alongside thieves”.

With Imran gone, the new government has a lot many challenges to deal with specifically on the foreign policy front.

Self Respect

In his address to the nation days before being ousted, Imran Khan squarely placed the blame for the chaos on the opposition parties and their ‘foreign collaborators’.

He took a trip down the memory lane fondly remembering Pakistan’s founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s vision of a prosperous Pakistan which he claimed was meant to stand on the legs of “insaniyat” (humanity) and “khudaari” (self respect) but had been miserably failed by the elite political nexus that has been ruling Pakistan for the past eight decades. Crafting himself in the same light as Jinnah, Imran made every attempt to distinguish himself from  the opposition leaders by stating that he has no vested interests in politics unlike the rest.

Imran has been openly criticising General Musharraf’s compliance with the United States’ War on Terror which he stated brought immense suffering to both Pakistanis abroad and those who inhabit the FATA regions. Placing the events in the light of Pakistani leadership’s “fear” of the US, Imran pointed to how Islamabad was betrayed by Washington who did not prove to be as supportive.

His address was centred around a letter which he stated in a slip of tongue was received from the United States but soon retracted claiming it to be a “foreign country, not the United States” which allegedly claimed that Pakistan would ‘face consequences if Imran is not ousted’. The piece of paper has made repeated appearances at Imran’s recent rallies, waved to a crowd of hundreds to portray him as the only leader who dared to show teeth to the foreign powers for guarding  Pakistan’s dignity.

According to Imran, the letter is a consequence of his meeting with Russian’s Vladimir Putin,  days before the ongoing Moscow led invasion of Ukraine which Islamabad has abstained from criticising. Khan had previously criticised the alleged pressure put on Pakistan to come out in open support of Ukraine by claiming that Islamabad is ‘not a slave of the Western powers’. Emphasising on Pakistan’s sovereign right to chart an independent foreign policy course without being influenced by any foreign power, Imran has created a discourse where only an independent leader with no strings attached to any foreign power or vested interests such as himself could restore  the khudaari that Pakistan was meant to symbolise while painting all other leaders in a grim light of being collaborators who keep their petty interests over those of the nation.

However, restoring Khudaari would not be an easy task. As Pakistan knocks on the IMF’s door again for yet another bailout while already drowning in debt from both the United States and China, it is nearly impossible for it to have an independent foreign policy which would be influenced by either of the powers, whichever pays more.

Between Washington and Beijing

The harsh criticism that Imran has spewed  against the United States is reflective of a bleak reality. While the United States continues to be a top investor, Islamabad, which was once the path through which the United States reached out to Beijing resulting in the 1972 Shanghai Communiqué,  is no longer relevant  for Washington post the withdrawal from Afghanistan, who sees India as a possible power to curb the growing influence of China as reflected in the decision to form the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad.

The United States President Joe Biden has repeatedly expressed concerns over Pakistani soil being used as a safe haven for terrorism. While Islamabad has continuously escaped the FATF’s black list, the issue coupled with its falling significance in American eyes  has tarnished bilateral relations to the extent that Biden has not even cared to meet Imran since attaining power in 2020.

Mr. Khan’s open criticism of the United States has also irked the military which remained ‘neutral’ when the former, who was once their blue eyed boy, was being ousted.

Moreover, the Imran government has clearly allied Pakistan with the China-Russia nexus on the Ukraine issue. While many nations like India and South Korea have similarly refrained from sanctioning Russia, China and now Pakistan have come out in clear defense of Russia and its ‘legitimate security concerns’ while mooting the discourse on clearly allying with it either. Imran has also routinely praised China’s foreign policy describing it as a good friend.

The friendship between Islamabad and Beijing dates back to the 1960s. Pakistan was one of the first countries to recognise the Communist regime in 1949 as well as the first non-Communist regime to have direct airline connectivity with China. At that time, Pakistan was a staunch ally of the US and a member of both the  Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO). Washington’s refusal to aid Pakistan during the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War made Islamabad drift closer to China which shared a common animosity towards India. However, Beijing did little to help its ally during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War when East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh) was severed from the country.

Though China has not signed any major mutual defence agreement with Pakistan, the extent of its economic aid is unparalleled, evident in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (一带一路).

Originally valued at US$ 47 billion, CPEC’s  estimated value in 2020 rose to US$ 62 billion. As per official records, 20% of CPEC is debt-based financed while 80% are investments in Joint Ventures. The project is expected to create 40,000 jobs for Pakistanis and is expected to boost the  economy by enhancing connectivity and transportation which will benefit the agrarian and industrial sectors. Beijing offers Islamabad low-interest loans which critics like the United States and India have labelled as its “debt diplomacy”. Though Pakistan claims it to be equity-based financing, it is drowned in massive debt which increased the debt-to-GDP ratio by 6 percentage points from 67% in 2016-17 to 73% in 2017-18. With a sluggish economy, chances of repayment are razor-thin. Moreover, the project remains only partially functional and has shown sluggish progress which has created friction between China and Pakistan.

While a regime change would definitely better ties with the United States, to what extent Pakistan would delink with China and re-ally with Washington on issues such as the Ukrainian crisis where both stand diametrically opposed would be a major challenge.


Though marked with certain positive developments such as the opening of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor for pilgrimage, the Imran government has failed to make a major breakthrough in rekindling relations with India as top level peace talks and track two diplomacy remain non-existent.

Apart from raising the age-old rhetoric of Pakistani sovereign claims over Kashmir, his last few days in office saw Imran  showering praises on India for leading an “independent and people-oriented” foreign policy which he finds to be  lacking in his country. His pro-India  statements have drawn flak from opposition leaders like Maryam Nawaz who now lead the government. With the new Prime Minister already spewing criticism against India, mending bilateral relations remains a crucial challenge, for the failure of the new regime in negotiating with India would only make Imran come out looking better.


Imran Khan’s open affinities with the newly established Taliban regime in Afghanistan, with statements such as Taliban has “broken down the shackles of slavery“,  as part of an anti-US move would also be a major challenge for the new regime. Though the opposition parties including the PML-N had emphasised on the takeover being an “internal matter” of Kabul, 55% of the Pakistanis expressed satisfaction with the takeover, pointing to a rising wave of radical conservatism. While this rhetoric would be mellowed down as the new regime would try to ease tensions with the US left behind by Imran, simultaneously negotiating with the Taliban would be difficult, for the Taliban  possesses the capacity to infiltrate Islamabad’s already volatile regions of FATA and establish terror hubs there.

West Asia

Relations with West Asia have also been strained specifically after Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi blasted the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC), blaming it for failing to take a hardline stance against India’s conversion of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into a centrally administered Union territory.

Qureshi’s words infuriated Islamabad’s ally Saudi Arabia which froze a US $3.2 billion oil credit facility to Pakistan and demanded early partial repayment of a US $3 billion loan. General Qamar Bajwa visited Riyadh in order to ease tensions however, ties remain strained. Saudi eyes closer relations with New Delhi and Beijing  as  part of Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s Vision 2030 which aims to modernise the Saudi economy and make it less dependent on oil. However, owing to its economic dependence, Pakistan can not afford to isolate Saudi Arabia and tried hard to mend ties.

Another fallout soon came when Riyadh turned down Pakistan embassy’s request to observe public events on  October 27, the day Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India, as a ‘Black Day’. Iran also declined such requests, spoiling Mr. Khan’s dreams of playing a major role in mediating between the two rival powers.

Many Pakistan watchers noted that such a disenchantment stemmed from Islamabad’s embrace of the Erdogan regime in Turkey, whose ambitions in the region have irked both Riyadh and Tehran.

The Shadow of Imran

Though out of both the office and the National Assembly, the shadow of Imran Khan still lurks in Pakistan’s politics.

First, A national cricket hero, Mr. Khan still remains a charismatic leader among the radicals, upper middle class as well as Pakistanis abroad as depicted in the large crowd that hit the streets on his emotive calls to restore Pakistan’s self respect vis à vis the ‘foreign collaborators’.

Second, Mr. Khan has efficiently encashed  his image to dangerously destabilise popular faith in the functionality of Pakistan’s democracy, which needless to say remains defunct. His constant claims of the new regime being a ‘foreign import’, the suspicions over the no-confidence vote as a ‘foreign conspiracy’ and recently, questioning the impartiality of the judicial order that gave a green light to the no-confidence motion against him work  against the spirit of democracy and would pose a grave challenge to the new regime.

Third, Imran and his PTI have been masters of street campaigning and would leave no stone unturned to challenge the legitimacy of the new regime at every level.

Fourth, though inefficient, the hard reality is that Imran Khan is one of the few faces which do not form a part of the elite family nexus of Pakistani politics which has hampered the development of democracy in the South Asian country. While the alleged level of American interference is unfounded, it cannot be denied that past regimes in Pakistan have kept democracy at stake to pursue their own vested interests. As a person aloof from such notorious family nexus, Mr. Khan might recuperate support in his favour.

Fifth and most importantly, Imran Khan has commenced a dialogue with regard to Pakistan’s foreign policy in the public realm which seems to have no end. The dialogue around khudaari,  that he himself forgot during three and a half years of his rule, would act as a parameter on the basis of which all future governments might be judged and opposed. While chances are that it might dissipate, the anti-West or to put more precisely, the Anti-American  attitude that has been created in the region, reflected in both the rise of Taliban and the anti-US demonstrations in Pakistan on Imran’s call, points to the fact that it might intensify to become a permanent feature of Pakistan’s political life where too much affinity with Washington might be perceived as being antithetical to national interests.

While only time would tell how far Imran Khan would be able to impact the course of Pakistan’s politics, the whole episode points yet again to the pressing need of bringing in structural reforms so as to strengthen democracy in Pakistan.

Non-resident Vasey Fellow at Pacific Forum, Hawaii. Cherry Hitkari is an Advisory Board member of 'Tomorrow's People' at Modern Diplomacy. She holds a Masters in East Asian Studies specialising in Chinese Studies and is currently pursuing an advanced diploma in Chinese language at the Department of East Asian Studies, University of Delhi, India.

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South Asia

U.S. Strategic Engagement in the Bay of Bengal: Navigating Superpower Rivalry

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Over the past two decades, the geopolitical landscape of the Indian Ocean has undergone a profound transformation. China,  once viewed the Indian Ocean as the “Far Sea”  has enhanced its influence in East Asia and expanded its reach as far as Europe. India has emerged as a dominant maritime force in the Indian Ocean. Meanwhile, to contain India, China has invested billions of dollars in South Asian nations, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar. This strategic maneuver, coupled with China’s strong presence in the South China Sea has left the Bay of Bengal as a focal point for Washington’s ambitions to assert dominance in the Indo-Pacific region. 

The preceding half of the century saw the United States and its allies primarily focused on the Middle East and Africa. Their approach often involved aggressive tactics like regime changes, intimidation, and, in some instances, the elimination of perceived threats. In contrast, China adopted a “soft power” strategy in East and South Asia with non-interference in domestic affairs and economic and infrastructural developments. However, as the new century dawned, Beijing’s relations with South and East Asia began to expand and deepened significantly in line with its broader efforts to ‘Go Global’.

This transformative shift has placed Beijing in a formidable position to compete with Washington at a time when Indo-Pacific nations increasingly lean towards China. Consequently, a significant strategic maneuver has unfolded by the US, centering the Bay of Bengal, particularly in Bangladesh. 

For nearly two decades, Washington’s priorities in South Asia were significantly influenced by the conflict in Afghanistan. Concurrently, a strategic partnership with New Delhi was evolving within the geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific, later the Indo-Pacific. President Donald Trump first introduced Washington’s ” Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)” vision. Washington’s Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) is marked as the beginning of a US-led alliance aimed at containing China.  However, China’s soft power tactics have ensnared and indebted nations along the Indo-Pacific shorelines.

China’s strategic infrastructure projects, including seaports like  Gwadar in Pakistan, Hambantota in Sri Lanka, and Kyauk Pyu in Myanmar, as part of the “String of Pearls” strategy mark to contain India and secure a strategic advantage in the Indo-Pacific region. China’s relations with  North Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh, and Myanmar have successfully counterbalanced the  US and Indian geostrategic maneuvers. Beijing forced New Delhi to devote time and resources to its neighbors rather than extend influence into East Asia. Subsequently, India’s Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) government could not substitute China’s role in its neighbors. That is why, Washington’s supremacy in the Indo-Pacific is now at stake and necessitates a more robust,  action-oriented approach with the Bay of Bengal as a prime theater to establish its hard presence.  

In response, the United States has reevaluated its geostrategic approach towards the region to make its policies less about influencing the allied governments and more about engaging with people-to-people in South Asian nations. While, the United States sought to make the BJP  see  China through its eyes, and BJP also tried to showcase Indo-Pacific nations through its eyes. But, in the end, Washington has not gained any geopolitical leverage from India’s BJP.  While the USA was engaged with countering extremist groups in South Asia and sought to increase the capability of those nations to fight against terrorism, at that time, China was enhancing cooperation, low-cost consumerism, and people-to-people engagement in the Indo-Pacific region. 

India’s historical ties with Russia, its non-alliance membership, and its inability to prevent the expansion of BRICS have irked the US. In the last G20 summit, India’s diplomatic maneuvering on the Russia-Ukraine conflict further strained its relations with Washington. Furthermore, internal issues within India, such as BJP’s handling of human rights, and freedom of expression have dampened Washington’s enthusiasm for partnership with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  The unfolding events exposed India’s vulnerability when sandwiched between the Chinese and Russian blocs from all sides.

Bangladesh, a South Asian nation sharing borders with India and Myanmar has long maintained a balanced foreign policy. So far, Bangladesh has also maintained balanced relations with India, China, and the USA. But,  over the past decade, substantial Chinese investments in multi-billion-dollar projects have converged with Prime  Minister Sheikh Hasina’s development agendas.  It has raised the eyebrows of US  policymakers and they have found China’s massive influence over Bangladesh. Moreover,  Sheikh Hasina’s proposal to China for building a deep sea port in Sonadia made skeptical India, Japan, and the US. According to PM Hasina,  the US expressed the intention of establishing a naval base in the Bay of Bengal and this proposition met with rejection by her government caused discontent among the  Western powers. Hasina’s government stance is also not aligned with the US’s approach in Arakan of Myanmar. 

Washington has dissatisfied with the BJP’s approach towards China. When Barack Obama questions India’s territorial integrity that means Washington is taking an assertive posture toward South Asia.  The US-backed Canada’s accusation of the BJP government for Hardeep Singh’s murder has tarnished the diplomatic relations with the Western powers. Once India became preoccupied with domestic issues would create an opportunity for the West to destabilize  Bangladesh. The US seeks to establish an independent and puppet government in Arakan to contain China’s ascent.

China is always one step ahead of the USA in Indo Indo-Pacific region. Sino-Myanmar bilateral relations are very warm, in terms of economic and military cooperation. China’s influence in Myanmar is further evident by the Rohingya crisis. China considers Rohingya Muslims as its potential threat. The China-backed military junta in Myanmar is facing widespread civil protests, armed resistance from ethnic insurgent groups, and civil defense forces backed by the National United Government(NUG). NUG has acknowledged and accepted the arms struggle of the Arakan Rohingya  Salvation  Army (ARSA), which has a deep-rooted connection with the ISI( Pakistani espionage agency). Both NUG and ISI have strategic ties with the US. Hasina’s government stance on ARSA may not align with US expectations.

The Western powers have a keen interest in the golden triangle of Bangladesh Hill track, Mizoram, and Arakan areas, which are very rich in mineral resources. So, Beijing has worked to destabilize this region with the support of the Myanmar military and the Kuki-Chin nationalist front, a banned ethno- nationalist and separatist political organization. The strategy yields geostrategic advantages for China over India and the US.

PM Sheikh Hasina has openly lambasted the intention of the USA which does not want the Bangladesh Awami League in power. That is why we can see proactive measures taken by Washington to oust the ruling government. The USA emphasizes human rights, freedom of expression, and fair electoral practice, then what about Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, and Israel? Washington previously used a Visa restriction policy for fair elections in Nigeria and Uganda, after the election was held.  But, in Bangladesh, it was executed before the election. That means a fair election is not an issue for the Western powers. PM Hasina also refused to join the military alliance in QUAD. To contain China, Washington needs bold strategic maneuvers in the Bay of Bengal, necessitating reliable partners in India and Bangladesh. 

Bangladesh and other South Asian nations find themselves at the crossroads of superpower rivalry. A crucial time is ahead for these nations. To survive this crisis, national unity and political acumen are required to navigate this turbulent era. Last but not least, no Superpower will go against the local populace’s support. History attests that without it, Superpowers cannot remain in foreign lands, despite the presence of the fifth columnist. This historical lesson is evident in Bangladesh’s struggle for independence in 1971 and Afghanistan recently.  

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South Asia

The Significance of the United Nations High Seas Treaty for Bangladesh

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As the sun sets below the horizon over the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh is at a pivotal juncture in its distant past. The state of the seas is crucial to Bangladesh’s economic development and sustainability in the future because the country’s waterways and maritime heritage serve as a major defining feature. Thus,  the United Nations High Seas Treaty in 2023 provides Bangladesh with a once-in-a-generation chance to safeguard its interests and promote sustainable growth in an age of mounting international challenges.

The historic treaty to protect international waters from exploitation, oil extraction, and climate change has been signed after two decades of talks under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. In March of this year, countries reached an agreement on a worldwide commitment to protect marine life, and in June, the United Nations officially adopted the treaty for the protection of the world’s seas. The treaty was ratified by 67 nations on September 20, 2023. Under this treaty, the UN has recognized international jurisdiction over two-thirds of the seas. This implies that every nation has the right to engage in fishing activities, shipping, and scientific research in that particular region.

To protect vital ecosystems from “extractive activities,” member states will follow the guidelines established by the Treaty on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) to establish a marine protected area (MPAs). In this regard, it is considered a vital resource in attempting to achieve the “30 by 30” goal of protecting 30% of the world’s land and sea by 2030. As the signing process is scheduled to go until 2025, experts are optimistic that this will be a watershed moment in the history of marine conservation.

On September 20, 2023, Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, ratified the treaty to avert the further destruction of the maritime environment caused by overfishing and other human endeavors.

Water is more than a natural resource in Bangladesh; it is essential for survival. Bangladesh is often referred to as the “Land of Rivers” due to the country’s extensive river network. Water is are intricately interwoven with society, economy, and culture. The waters of the Bay of Bengal, which extend into the high seas, play a vital role in our daily lives, supplying us with fish—a primary source of nutrition for millions—and connecting us to the rest of the world. Under the provisions of the new treaty, countries will share genetic resource profits equitably. The Treaty is a forward-thinking piece of international law because it gives developing and least-developed nations such as Bangladesh a voice by promoting capacity development.

From the magnificent Royal Bengal tiger to the mysterious Irrawaddy dolphin and a variety of sea turtle species, Bangladesh is home to a diverse maritime ecosystem. However, overfishing and habitat loss pose major hazards to numerous species. The United Nations High Seas Treaty seeks to establish marine protected zones in international waterways, recognizing the interdependence of oceans and coastlines. The initiative is commensurate with Bangladesh’s commitment to marine life conservation. This treaty makes an explicit effort to ensure that everyone, including developing and underdeveloped countries, benefits from a shared space, a principle that has been neglected for decades in international agreements, particularly in terms of global commerce.

The issue of overfishing is a problem on a worldwide scale, and Bangladesh is not an exception. In the Bay of Bengal, there are several instances of local fishermen having to compete with foreign vessels. As the high seas are inaccessible without using enormous amounts of energy and money, this is crucial information: 97% of commercial fishing boats in the high seas are registered to higher-income nations. Countries with lower incomes are frustrated by the fact that fish migrating to their waterways are now being caught by wealthy nations. The pact seeks to solve this problem by encouraging responsible fishing techniques and enforcing strict rules in international waters. This not only safeguards Bangladesh’s fishery industry but also contributes to global efforts to reduce overfishing.

Bangladesh is at serious risk from climate change as rising sea levels submerge agriculture in salt water and force entire coastal villages to relocate. Due to its strong link with atmospheric CO2, the ocean is vital to climate change. Again, marine bacteria that break down methane could make biofuels. By addressing climate change globally and transforming clean energy, the deal indirectly helps Bangladesh. International cooperation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect vulnerable coastal areas from climate change is enabled under the pact.

There has been a rise in transnational threats, including piracy and illicit fishing in the Bay of Bengal. The UN High Seas Treaty is anticipated to increase maritime safety by encouraging governments to collaborate and share intelligence. This means a safer marine environment for Bangladesh, where fishermen have no reason to fear for their safety and criminals have no desire to leave.

There may be a palpable concern about obtaining sufficient funds for the treaty’s implementation. By establishing a shared trust fund to pay for technological transfers, capacity building, and training for low-income governments so they can participate in scientific missions and development, the Treaty aims to offer a framework for the equitable distribution of high seas earnings. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature estimates that $500 million will be required initially and yearly $100 million may be needed for a special implementation and capacity-building fund.

Despite its complexity, such as the potential harm of deep-sea mining on sensitive ecosystems, world leaders and environmental activists are optimistic about the treaty. According to Mads Christensen, the Executive Director of Greenpeace International, “we welcome so many governments signing the UN Ocean Treaty. This sends a powerful signal to the world that governments will maintain momentum towards protecting 30% of the oceans by 2030, after the historic Treaty agreement back in March. But this signing is a purely symbolic moment, now politicians must bring the Treaty home and ensure it is ratified in record time”.

Although Bangladesh is devoting a lot of resources to the blue economy and other development initiatives, environmental deterioration and climate change are major concerns. In the context of a global landscape characterized by enormous environmental and climatical concerns, the United Nations High Seas Treaty emerges as a source of optimism and promise for the nation of Bangladesh. It guarantees the continued success of the “Land of Rivers” and the protection of the waterways that connect us to the rest of the globe. The importance of this deal to Bangladesh goes beyond politics and directly threatens the country’s survival. Let us seize this opportunity as we navigate the murky oceans of the 21st century and collaborate with the rest of our neighbors to establish a safer, more prosperous maritime future.

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South Asia

No Alternatives for Taliban but Danger of Future Civil Conflict

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A family runs across a dusty street in Herat, Afghanistan. (file photo) UNAMA/Fraidoon Poya

Events and processes in Afghanistan are moving according to a negative scenario. Despite the significant information blockade, there is still some news regarding the situation in Afghanistan. The country’s economy is deplorable and has no significant moves towards stabilization. The humanitarian situation is stable but critical. Political repression against the Taliban’s opponents continues and became systemic. And it mainly occurred against national minorities, in particular Tajiks and Hazaras. The actions of global terrorist groups also cause particular concern and warning among reliable international players. Statements regarding threats from international terrorists are made by the UN, the USA, India, and the countries of the European Union. 

Paradoxically, despite the difficult economic and social situation, political transformations are still problematic to foresee. Afghanistan under the Taliban run is a classic case from the theory of political science of a rigid militarized authoritarian regime with average legitimacy. The masses cannot express their political views given repressions by government institutions. There is no rule in Afghanistan yet that could challenge the Taliban nationally. Currently, and possibly in the mid-term, there is no alternative to the Taliban. The opposition, consisting of national minorities, does not have the necessary military potential and support among the population. Regardless, international diplomatic circles and representatives of the world’s leading countries actively explain to the Taliban leaders that such a situation won’t last forever. The world centers of power are not interested in the total destabilization of Afghanistan and the beginning of a civil-military confrontation there. As the socio-economic situation of the Pashtuns, who form the core of the Taliban, deteriorates, contradictions can result in an armed uprising. And even the most oppressed ethnic groups will sooner or later begin to resist the authoritarian control of the Taliban.

One of the factual aspects of possible future destabilization could be Pakistan’s policy. Even though Islamabad is the key creator, sponsor, and mentor of the radical Islamist movement, which used terrorism as a method of political struggle, there are certain contradictions between them. In September, the Pakistani leaders decided to expel all Afghan refugees illegally living in the country. According to Pakistani media, this means that about 1.1 million Afghans will go to Afghanistan in the near future. The Pakistani government states that this number of Afghans have fled to Pakistan in the past two years — in addition to several million others living in the neighboring country for years. The decision to expel illegal Afghan refugees was made against the background of the fight against terrorism, currency smuggling, and illegal trade in sugar and fertilizers.

Ariana News informs that the plan to deport more than 1.1 million Afghan refugees was supported by the government and the Pakistani Foreign Ministry. It also means the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Pakistan consulted with all interested parties, including the Taliban. The Pakistani police have raided Afghan migrants over the past few months. Hundreds have been arrested, and many have already been dispatched homeland. Most Afghan migrants are Pashtuns from the poorest rural areas, but their mass flow to Afghanistan will lead to additional economic and social difficulties.

The contradictions between the Taliban and Pakistan also lie on a different plane. So, the recent attacks by the Pakistani Taliban, also known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, wreaking havoc, paints an alarming picture of rising instability across Pakistan. Especially the TTP’s recent incursion into the Chitral district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa bordering Afghanistan is very concerning for the Pakistan military apparatus. According to the Pakistanis themselves, after the seizure of power in Kabul, terrorist groups intensified on the territory of Pakistan. Before the Taliban’s victory, official Islamabad spread the narrative that the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban were unrelated. However, today, it is becoming evident that this is not the case, and strengthening one unit leads to activating another. 

It is difficult to predict the political events in Afghanistan, but it is evident that without attention from the responsible world centers of power, destabilization and strengthening of the international terrorist underground is unavoidable. 

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