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The flood caused unimaginable damage to Pakistan

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A child holds on to his belongings as families move to safer areas after floods in Balochistan province, Pakistan. © UNICEF/A. Sami Malik

The initial estimates show, that the damage from the floods in Pakistan will be “far greater” than $10 billion, according to the planning minister, after millions lost their homes and livelihoods while key roads and bridges have been washed away.

As officials are still tallying the cost of heavy flooding that has claimed more than 1,300 lives, the latest assessment shows the damage will be worse than the initial forecast. The final value will take six to eight weeks to determine, said Ahsan Iqbal, the minister of planning and development, adding that the climate disaster is due to the actions of the developed world.

“All those countries that contributed to global warming have a responsibility to help us now and be partners in rehabilitation and rebuilding,” Iqbal, who’s leading the country’s flood relief efforts, said by phone. “This tragedy is not of our own making. It’s due to global warming.”

All the efforts are in rescuing humankind and providing food to needy people in flood-hit areas. This relief and rescue operation is will continue till all human beings are shifted to safe places. But, the rehabilitation operation will start once the water is flown away or dried off. Repair of infrastructure, roads, and railway network, restoration of electricity, rebuilding of houses for the affected, etc., may take years to complete. Psychological trauma may also take a longer time to recover completely.

United Nations Secretary-General (UNSG) Antonio Guterres visited Pakistan on 9-10 September 2022 to show solidarity with the people of Pakistan, braving a colossal climate-induced natural disaster caused by unprecedented rains and floods across the country. The two-day visit comprised high-level meetings, briefings, interactions with displaced people, first responders, UN country representatives, civil society, and media.

The UNSG called on Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif. Several members of the Federal Cabinet joined the meeting. The PM expressed his gratitude for the Secretary-General’s personal attention to the situation arising from the floods and greatly appreciated his visit and concern for the affected people. The PM informed the UNSG about the efforts of the Government of Pakistan in addressing the daunting challenges posed by the flash floods, including the provision of Rs.35 billion in cash relief through the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), rescue and relief operations, and delivery of humanitarian assistance in coordination will all national stakeholders and with support of international partners. While appreciating the UNSG’s video message for the UN Flash Appeal, the PM highlighted that with less than 1% of global carbon emission Pakistan is facing the brunt of natural calamities in the form of heat waves, glacial outbursts, droughts, torrential rains, and unprecedented monsoons. The PM called for urgent mitigation and adaptation efforts in addition to mobilizing support for recovering and rebuilding from such extreme climate events.

The UNSG said that countries like Pakistan, which have done almost nothing to contribute to global warming, do not deserve this. He added, “I know how volunteers, civil servants, army, NGOs have been working together in a remarkable way to mitigate the suffering of Pakistani people”. The UNSG stated, “My voice is at the service of the Government and people of Pakistan. I have seen the enormous generosity of Pakistanis in protecting and assisting more than 6 million Afghan refugees and helping each other in previous calamities such as during the earthquake and floods. My admiration for this country is limitless”. He assured us that the UN would do everything in its capacity to help the people of Pakistan. The UNSG appealed to the international community to provide massive support to Pakistan for not only relief assistance but also for rehabilitation and climate resilient reconstruction. He emphasized that it was not just a matter of solidarity but a matter of justice, as countries like Pakistan that have not contributed to climate change are amongst the frontline countries impacted by climate change.

The UNSG was briefed on the overall ground situation, humanitarian activities, and coordination amongst national and international stakeholders at the National Flood Response and Coordination Centre (NFRCC). The PM and the UNSG also had a joint presser.

The UNSG held delegation-level talks with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, followed by a joint press stakeout. A broad range of issues related to the recent floods and climate change came under discussion. The FM noted that one-third of the country was inundated, around 33 million people were affected across the country, over 1300 lives were lost including more than 400 children, nearly 800,000 livestock perished, more than 1.7 million houses and 6000 km of roads have been destroyed or damaged. The Foreign Minister said that though the people impacted by the floods have made no contribution to climate change, they were suffering the most due to it, and therefore, it was the shared responsibility of the international community to do its utmost to assist the millions of affected to return to normal lives and livelihoods in a sustainable manner. The FM emphasized that it was critical that the momentum on the Flash Appeal, which was jointly launched by the Government of Pakistan and the UN, was sustained and looked forward to the UNSG’s support in further mobilizing the international community for the subsequent phase of sustainable rehabilitation and reconstruction.

The UNSG stressed that an important reason for his visit was to draw the attention of the international community to this climate catastrophe and to appeal for massive support for Pakistan. UNSG told the reporters, “I’m here to express my deep solidarity with the Pakistani people over the devastating loss of life and human suffering caused by this year’s floods”. The Secretary-General said that it was not only a matter of solidarity but a matter of justice. The UNSG reiterated that “today it is Pakistan, tomorrow it can be anywhere else”. The UNSG commended the Government of Pakistan’s strong leadership in the flood response efforts and reiterated the United Nations’ engagement to continue supporting the government’s relief efforts. He reaffirmed his commitment to galvanizing international support for the people of Pakistan through the recently launched Flash Appeal and Floods Response Plan and shared that funds have been released from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). The UN Secretary-General thanked the Government and the Foreign Minister for the facilitation provided to support international partners to scale up their efforts in support of Pakistan.

The Secretary-General reaffirmed the full support and cooperation of the UN both for ongoing humanitarian relief work as well as for long-term recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction. The Secretary-General discussed various ideas for mobilizing finance and for enhancing fiscal space for Pakistan’s efforts to rehabilitate and reconstruct. Both sides exchanged views on how to reinforce climate action, with special emphasis on supporting the adaptation efforts of developing countries through debt swaps.

The UNSG, accompanied by the PM and the FM, visited flood-affected areas of Sindh and Baluchistan including Sukkur, Larkana, Mohenjo Daro, and Usta Muhammad, where he was given an overview of the rescue and relief efforts of the Government of Pakistan and national and international partners. The UNSG got a first-hand assessment of the on-ground situation by the displaced people, civil society, first responders, and others. The FM shared deep appreciation and acknowledgment of UNSG’s visit and efforts for international awareness raising, the show of solidarity with the Pakistani nation, and the mobilization of necessary support from the global community.

The Importance of the Secretary-General’s visit to Pakistan was that he visited the flood-hit areas and got first-hand information. He has witnessed the suffering of the people and the devastations of the flood himself.

Some areas of Pakistan usually have a rainfall of around 50 mm annually, but, this time there was rainfall of up to 1700 mm just in a couple of weeks, the amount of water, was unimaginable and beyond description in a simple world. The magnitude and intensity of the flood were unprecedented.

It is not only Pakistan, a few other nations also faced the impact of climate change. Facing natural disasters like these heavy floods is not possible for any single country to overcome. It is the collective responsibility of whole humankind to fight against natural disasters. Only collective efforts can defeat disasters. Especially, where, the cause of climate change belongs to G-20 nations, it is their moral obligation and legal compulsion to share their social responsibility generously.

G-20 is making rapid economic developments but at the heavy cost of climate change. Pakistan’s carbon emissions are much below permissible but became the worst victim of Climate change.

It is to be alarmed that usually heavy rains and floods may follow earthquakes, which can be more fatal.

It is urged that the Government of Pakistan compile a comprehensive report of flood-related damages, and estimate the cost of complete rehabilitations. Then approach the UN appropriate platform, and demand compensation legitimately. 

It is appealed to all nations and individuals to join hands in protecting humankind from natural disasters, not only in the case of Pakistan but also in any corner of the earth, where ever is required. The rich nations must proactively and generously extend a helping hand, especially the G-20 who are responsible for up to 80% of climate change.

Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan.

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South Asia

The South Asian Triangle

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photo credit: UN

Indian External Affairs Minister (EAM) Jaishankar has been a particularly busy man for the last few days. Even by his own standards, the last few days have proved intense and hectic.

A passing glance at his schedule gives us a snapshot of the scope of India’s contemporary foreign policy. Tackling a whole host of multilateral, regional, trilateral and bilateral relationships in a span of ten days, he has signaled India’s dexterity to engage in diverse relationships and juggle multiple balls at the same time.

The key takeaways of the last few days have been reformed multilateralism at the UN, South-South cooperation within the CELAC, CARICOM and IBSA forum, rebalancing in the Indo-Pacific through the QUAD and regional trilaterals like the India-UAE-France, India-France-Australia and India-Australia-Indonesia.

Seen by some as an ineffective talk shop, the minister also didn’t shy away from the BRICS foreign ministers meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA and demonstrated New Delhi’s willingness to balance ostensible contradictions with a straight face.

The minister’s visit also allowed India to undertake an honest stocktaking of its bilateral partnership with Washington. The press conference with Secretary of State Blinken captures the plethora of domains which have witnessed vigorous cooperation between the two partners over the last few years.

However, like mature states covering for their own interests, some disagreements naturally surfaced between them. Primary disagreements were over New Delhi’s oil imports from Russia and Washington’s sustenance of F-16s to Pakistan for supposed counter-terrorism purposes.

At a community gathering, Minister Jaishankar, referring to restarting of the maintenance of the F-16S for counter-terrorism, nippily quipped that the US was “not fooling anybody by saying these things” and questioned the merits of the US-Pakistan relationship. When the Americans were asked about it, the US tried to give New Delhi a taste of its own medicine.

Experts believe that if New Delhi wishes to demonstrate “strategic autonomy” by engaging multiple sides and maintain friends in all camps by engaging the QUAD, SCO and Russia at the same time, others might also seek to do the same. After all, whether one likes it or not, interests trump values.

It is no coincidence that Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto also happens to be visiting Washington at the same time as his Indian counterpart. An urgent change in US-Pakistan ties is an important prospect from Rawalpindi’s point of view. In the short-medium term, Pakistan urgently seeks western assistance for rehabilitation due to the havoc caused by the recent floods. It also seeks to mend its crumbling economy when usual creditors like Beijing seem wary of lending.

Washington, perhaps, still feels that Pakistan’s geography doesn’t allow it to remain immaterial in its own strategic calculus. Pakistan shares close geographical proximity, and land borders in some cases, with Afghanistan, Iran, China and India. Washington also thinks that Pakistan could provide help in stabilizing Afghanistan while it remains preoccupied with Ukraine and China.

Coming back to US-India relations, some analysts believe that the bilateral relationship, despite all its progress over the last two decades, was witnessing signs of stress. They see minister Jaishankar’s visit as primarily aimed for damage control and corrective dialogue.

All said and done, the India-US partnership still remains one of the most consequential relationships of the century and holds immense potential in ensuring stability at a time when the global order is under a tumultuous flux.

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South Asia

BJP’s ‘Akhand Bharat’ Dream is Not Only Problematic, Fascist Also

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Image source: burningcompass.com

On 7th September, Assam Chief Minister (CM) Himanta Biswa Sarma made a very controversial remark about ‘integrating Bangladesh and Pakistan’. Minister Sarma tried to counter Congress’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ and remarked that “India is united. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, Silchar to Saurashtra, we are one. Congress partitioned the country into India and Pakistan. Then Bangladesh was created. If Rahul Gandhi feels apologetic that my maternal grandfather [Jawaharlal Nehru] made mistakes, if he regrets it, then no point of ‘Bharat Jodo’ in Indian territory. Try to integrate Pakistan, Bangladesh and strive to create Akhand Bharat.” Minister Sarma made the remark at a time when the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina was officially visiting India, hence present in India.

Though it may seem that the BJP leader was trying to ‘tease’ Congress, his rhetoric is a part of BJP’s controversial ‘Akhand Bharat’ concept- a concept of unified India that covers whole South Asia and Myanmar. The concept is therefore quite alarming for the sovereignty of all other South Asian states.

‘Akhand Bharat’ is a concept associated with Hindutva ideology. The concept cherishes for a mythological India that dates back to state formation and pre-partition era. The concept takes ‘Hindu hegemony’ as granted. Hence, the majoritarian concept is supported by right-wing Hindu nationalist parties of India such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), Shiv Sena, and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) etc.

In the contemporary world, Akhand Bharat has a contrasting relation with Westphalian order. It tries to override the concept of sovereignty based on ‘so-called’ historical claim and calls for physical expansion- a fascist method to increase land boundary. Even though the concept was considered as radical in its early days, the prolonging BJP rule in the last decade has made it mainstream through like-minded media coverages.

While many cherishes this united India dream, the concept also faces ‘backlash’ from the progressive quarter of India. Unfortunately, the growing majoritarian trend since last decade in ‘World Largest Democracy’ is resulting in wider acceptance of the concept within India as BJP’s public support is skyrocketing. The promoters Hindutva is using India’s democratic culture and manipulating large population to achieve their dream. Assam CM’s latest remark mentioned in the beginning of the article while the PM of the particular country is present, also shows how mainstream the concept has become.

However, this fascist concept and Hindutva ideology is bringing adverse impact for India both internally and externally.  Internally, it is contributing in the growth of right-wing politics in India. The radical interpretation of Hindu Supremacy is also dividing the population of India creating a ‘Us vs. Them’ narrative which is detrimental to India’s federation also. For instance, when the BJP government scrapped Article 370 for Kashmir revoking its semi-autonomy, the right-wing parties were quick to acknowledge it as a part of building Akhand Bharat. In the same way, when former Pakistani Cricketer Danish Keneria expressed his desire to visit ‘controversial’ Ram Mandir(Temple) in Ayoddhya, the temple trust’s chief also used the concept saying that “Pakistan is a part of Akhand Bharat and Hindus living there are our brothers. If he (Kaneria) wants to visit Ram Mandir and offer prayers, then he is most welcome,”

As India is a federal union among total 36 states and union entities, the Hindu Majoritarianism poses threat to its social harmony and makes other religions minority. It also poses a threat to its social harmony by fueling hate-speech, Islamophobia and misinformation- popularly known as ‘WhatsApp University’.

Externally, the concept creates fear over sovereignty for other states included in Akhand Bharat map. There is always a fear in the back of the mind that India may have a ‘Kautilya-like’ long-term strategy to annex them. The annexation of Sikkim serves as an example for their fear, even if the case may be different. It is also a disrespect to the idea of sovereignty and self-determination for most small South Asian states. The Spillover effect of growing hate-speech and Islamophobia in India also adversely affects South Asia’s communal harmonies.

Again, this fascist concept also keeps a fear of physical expansion alive in South Asia- an overall peaceful region. The concept is also problematic for small South Asian states who tries to maintain a warm and balancing relation with India for their strategic calculation.

However, the fear is also not irrational considering BJP leaders’ so-called master-plan. Last year, Tripura’s CM and BJP leader Biplab Deb created a controversy by revealing that BJP has plan to expand its footprint by establishing government in Nepal and Sri-Lanka.  Such ‘expansionist dream’ is also contradicting to existing wisdom of international relations and law.

In conclusion, India is not only the world’s largest democracy but also has the role of ‘Powerhouse’ in South Asia. It’s ruling party’s such expansionist dream is a symptom of fascism and is only comparable to Mussolini’s great Roman empire and Hitler’s Lebensraum. Hence, the growing fear of physical expansion is rational. Therefore, Akhand Bharat and related speeches by top right-wing leaders are not only problematic, fascist also.

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South Asia

Floods; A Challenge to Comprehensive National Security of Pakistan

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Starting mid-June 2022, flooding and landslides caused by heavy monsoon rainfall have brought widespread destruction across Pakistan. © WFP/Saiyna Bashir

Pakistan is encountering one of the major catastrophic occurrence in the present day history. The colossal floods, along with the glacier melt, have prompted 33% of the nation to submerge underwater with more than a million individuals being displaced along with a loss of above 43 billion.  The rising recurrence of floods, outrageous rainfall, and heatwaves have moved environmental change from a hypothetical conversation to an intense burden on the country and its people. Looking at the human perspective, the losses are too grave to quantify. However, in political terms, they address the missing area of climate security in the state’s national security paradigm, which could present existential difficulties for Pakistan.

Pakistan’s comprehensive national security is under stress by the adverse consequences of outrageous weather events across different areas. It isn’t just about financial security versus traditional security any longer. Comprehensive National Security can never be comprehensively achieved because national power comprises of all components and assets that facilitate the state to pursue interests. Hence, all these components, resources, and areas form the crux of what we call comprehensive security. Subsequently, to address the existence of multiple threats, an extensive perspective on national security is expected with an equivalent focus on all areas, while prioritizing climate security because of its seriousness and immediacy. The grave economic losses may be quantified in the long run but societal and political impacts also cannot be ignored. Pakistan’s representative of UNICEF, Abdullah Fadil reposts that “At least 18000 schools have been damaged in the flood, which have affected an estimated 16 million children. Many children are now at heightened risk, without a home, school or even safe drinking water. There is therefore a risk of many more child deaths.” International experts, humanitarians and Social workers visiting Pakistan have termed it as one of the largest catastrophe of the modern history. South Asian expert Michael Kugelman states “that the only hope within the flood victims is the International aid but it is slow to come”. The international world needs to respond to the aid appeals as a collective responsibility rather than a favor to Pakistan because the climate change crisis is largely driven by the world’s most industrialized countries.

The 2022 floods in the country have uprooted entire communities, finished occupations and revenue generation sources, and have drastically expanded migrations inside the country and levels of urbanization. Assume relief projects are not comprehensive and the impacted population feels that they have not been accommodated Post-catastrophe which they themselves didn’t create.  Considering all this, their confidence in the legitimacy or administering authority of the state could be antagonistically affected, creating threats of mass unrest. Destroyed homes, displacement within the country, and temporary camp-like arrangements have a potential of posing critical identity challenges and meanwhile create financial instabilities among impacted communities. Such aftereffects severely hurt the societal and political segments of security, undermining comprehensive national security. Such extreme climatic disasters account for short term reliefs along with long-term impacts on the resources of state. Increased displacement within the country, increased poverty with unemployment rate on the surge creates huge risks which directly impact the comprehensive national security. Violence against women tend to rise, Children drop out of school as there exists no infrastructure, food security is challenged, health security is badly endangered and quality of human life declines in a worst possible way. Extremists, Proxies and non-state actors may capitalize on resentment felt by the displaced. In short, human security is challenged in all basic forms.  So when human security is challenged, how can a state achieve comprehensive national security which itself places human as a center point.

Another challenge which is indirectly affiliated with the climate change is directed towards military. Pakistan’s military has played a crucial and a comprehensive role in flood through its rescue efforts, humanitarian relief and rehabilitation process. Military has rendered sacrifices in these flood operations especially when a Corps Commander along with senior officers embraced martyrdom in the Lasbela district in Balochistan while overlooking relief activities. The IPCC report itself states that Pakistan’s Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) will only increase over time. Military resources being expended to HADR will obviously take away military’s attention away from hardline security issues and put it under increased management stress in times to come.

It can be asserted that the comprehensive national security is under stress by the negative impacts of horrific weather incidents across the various sectors of the society. It isn’t only about economic security versus the traditional security anymore, because today what constitutes the national power and comprehensive national security isn’t only the traditional and economic security but all societal elements form a collective part of this comprehensive framework. Thus, a comprehensive outlook of national security is required with equivalent focus on all sectors, with a priority on climate and food security due to its immediacy.

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