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Why Pakistan is Swamped with Floods

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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

Aside from the monsoon coming in waves leaving hapless Pakistan looking like an inland sea, Pakistan also has the mighty Indus serving as a spine and its huge tributaries fanning out through its most productive province of Punjab — the name itself meaning five waters.

The monsoon season is short so the fertile soil is irrigated by means of a network of canals feeding the province. The water is vital and thus the prospect of India building a dam at the head of any of these rivers without an equitable solution for sharing could lead to war.  As it is, the river Ravi runs almost dry as it reaches Lahore close to the Indian border. 

To return to the floods this year caused by an unusual phenomenon:  The normal course of the monsoon takes the moisture laden winds north from the Bay of Bengal, then unable to traverse the high Himalayas, they are pushed west along the foothills, shedding water as they rise all the way across India into Pakistan.  By the time they reach the latter, they have lost most of their moisture leaving Pakistan a very short rainy season … over the latter parts of August and early September.

Global warming has changed things.  This year the moisture laden air from the Bay of Bengal was hot enough to prevent precipitation, jamming it up against the Himalayas.  As more monsoon winds collected in the rear, these were forced on to an alternative route directly westwards, racing across the middle of India without impediment until the Hindu Kush mountains in Pakistan.  So it was that all the collected moisture got dumped on to Pakistan.  If this is a harbinger of the future under global warming, the rich croplands of Uttar Pradesh are in danger.  Do they also have irrigation canals in their future like the Punjab? 

Pakistan’s other source of moisture is the Arabian Sea, and this year a depression i.e. an intense low-pressure system settled in it bringing heavy rain to coastal provinces as early as June; all of which was exacerbated by extreme heat.  Temperatures in May soared as high as 51C in Jacobabad as an example.  Hotter air carries more moisture and this heatwave continued through April and May.  Moreover swollen rivers from greater glacial melt up high in the Himalayas have not helped. 

Pakistan thus must plan for the future.  Flood control measures are not unknown in the country, and perhaps an appropriately irrigated Balochistan could become another granary for the country — if only the politicians can stop quarreling long enough to listen to the cries of the flood victims.

Nettlesome politicians on both sides of the border, and the subcontinent sheds its tears in floods.  A tragedy if ever there was one.

Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a former Professor based in the US. Educated at King's College London, OSU and The University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. Thus he headed the analysis of an innovation survey of Norway, and his work on SMEs published in major journals has been widely cited. He has for several decades also written for the press: These articles and occasional comments have appeared in print media such as The Dallas Morning News, Dawn (Pakistan), The Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Monitor, The Wall Street Journal and others. On the internet, he has written for Antiwar.com, Asia Times, Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Countercurrents, Dissident Voice, Eurasia Review and Modern Diplomacy among many. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in its Congressional Record.

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South Asia

The Taliban and the current Afghanistan

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

After the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, the Afghan state and the public rapidly declined. The country’s territories have become the source of international terrorism and many global problems.

August 15 is the first anniversary since the power in Afghanistan was seized by the Kabul Taliban, and the ex-president of the Afghan state, Ashraf Ghani fled. After a year of the Taliban’s power, their power has not yet been recognized by any state in the world.

According to the UN International Labor Organization, the Taliban’s ascension to power in Afghanistan has led to rapid growth in the unemployment rate among the population. Based on the data of the UN, such a situation in the Afghan labor market was caused by the economic crisis and the prohibition on work for the female population. Over five hundred thousand people in Afghanistan lost their jobs during the first month of the Taliban rule. “The crisis has affected women the most. Thus, their employment level, already extremely low by world standards, decreased by 16% in the third quarter of last year. By mid—2022, it is projected to fall to 28%,” the UN investigation states.

In addition to the economic decline, there has been a rise in drug production in Afghanistan. Drugs are one of the Taliban’s main income zones, and their power has re-activated the production and export of opium and heroin. However, the drug business was also active under the former Afghan authorities. According to the UN, in 2021, Afghanistan’s income from drug exports amounted from 1.8 billion to 2.7 billion US dollars. This profit is from 6 to 11% of the GDP of the Afghan state. As before, the main drug export channels pass through Pakistan. The leader of the Taliban, Haibatullah Akhundzada, issued a fatwa in 2022 to ban the production and distribution of opium and other drug substances in Afghanistan. However, there have been no significant changes in this situation. Nevertheless, the Taliban repeatedly make statements about the cessation of drug production, but they also confirm that the prohibition on opium production will lead to the loss of the only way of earning for peasants, leading to an uprising.

Pakistan acts as the main partner country for Afghanistan. Bypassing sanctions, weapons are coming from Pakistan to Afghanistan. And the majority of Afghan drugs are exported through Pakistan’s western provinces – the southern route. The main patron and sponsor of the Taliban is also the Pakistani military leadership. With the help of Pakistani support, the radicals seized power in Afghanistan and persecuted other alternatives to power.

The Taliban’s first financial income was provided by transportation fees that the militants took from truck drivers on the border of Afghanistan and the state’s territory. The Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan concentrated its forces on extracting natural resources. In February 2022, the Afghan media reported on the negotiations of the new Afghan government with China on the development of copper and lithium by Chinese companies. But even though China, along with Pakistan, is a vital partner of the Taliban regime, mineral development has not yet begun. Without the support and diplomatic assistance of China and Pakistan, the Taliban would not have been able to establish their authority over Afghanistan. However, Beijing still has not officially recognized their power.

Also, summing up the results of the year of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, we can definitely say that the new regime fails to solve the economic and social problems of the state. According to UN research, Afghanistan is on the verge of famine and humanitarian collapse. It is worth noting that during the presence of the United States and NATO in the country, there was no such catastrophic situation. Also, during the period of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the position of terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State has strengthened. The Taliban does not intend to start the fight with the presence of these organizations.

Also, in June 2022, an earthquake with colossal consequences occurred on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The death toll during the disaster was more than 1.5 people, and more than two thousand were injured. The UN has recorded that Afghanistan’s government cannot cope with the threats that the Afghan society is forced to cope with alone.

UNICEF and the World Food Program note the catastrophic situation of Afghan children, and organizations make statements about the high level of undernutrition and that over 3.5 million children urgently need treatment. The UN website says, “Hospital wards are full of malnourished children: many one-year-olds weigh as much as a six-month-old baby would weigh in a developed country, and some are so weak that they cannot move.”

The new government of Afghanistan carries out mass executions, severe human rights violations, and forced disappearances of citizens and previous security forces employees. This is recorded by the United Nations Assistance Organization in Afghanistan. To a large extent, the repression is carried out by two Talib departments – the Ministry of Propaganda of Virtue and Prevention of Vice and the General Directorate of Intelligence. Both organizations are under the auspices of Pakistani security agencies.

UNAMA experts report “arbitrary arrests and detentions of journalists, human rights defenders and protesters.” There were 160 extrajudicial executions, 178 unjustified arrests and 56 cases of torture of former Afghan military and Government employees. In addition, 2106 victims were registered among ethnic and religious minorities (700 killed, 1406 wounded).

After a year, the Taliban authorities, according to international organizations, destroyed the essential state structures in Afghanistan responsible for solving social issues such as jobs and the state’s humanitarian condition. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission premises were also seized, and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs was closed. Afghan women are deprived of the right to work. Except for some professions, they are not allowed to travel more than 72 km unaccompanied by men and cannot appear on the street with an open face. Responsibility for all violations of the rules of a woman is borne by her father or another close male relative. The punishment is dismissal from work or imprisonment.

Freedom of speech was also seriously impaired. The international human rights organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reports that there are half as many media in Afghanistan as a result of the year-long run of the Taliban. During the year, 219 organizations out of 547 media were closed. Before the Taliban came to power, there were 11,857 journalists in the country. Today only 4,759 of them remain. Female journalists took the first impact. Almost all of them were left without their job.

The Taliban sees the UN’s message about human rights in Afghanistan as propaganda. On July 21, Taliban official Zabiullah Mujahid posted on social media: “There are no arbitrary killings or arrests in the country. If someone kills or arbitrarily arrests, that person is considered a criminal and will be brought before Sharia law.”

In sum, a few conclusions about the power of the Taliban must be noted. The Taliban is characterized by a lack of qualification in the country’s rule, and the leadership cannot organize public service. Also, the Taliban does not fulfil its duties to combat terrorist organizations, which has ensured the strengthening of the position of existing banned groups. The female population of Afghanistan and various social minorities suffered. The Taliban are building strong relationships with authoritarian countries such as Pakistan, China and Russia. Islamabad carries out the actual control of the Taliban and also uses the Taliban in the South Asian region for its geopolitical purposes.

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South Asia

Khalistan Referendum

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Every charter of Human Rights provides a framework for the basic individual rights. Under these civil liberties, all humans are entitled to revel in those privileges. Sikh community residing around the globe is facing heinous behavior from the India’s Modi regime as it is a home for many Sikhs. The episode of unlawful arrest of the UK-based Sikh activist named Jagtar Singh Johal in 2017 with the help of UK government ignited a huge number of protests across the world. According to his lawyers from Scotland, he has been tortured and falsely accused to whom British PM Boris John acknowledged while showing his concern. Most recently, the murder of Sidhu Moosewala who was an active supporter of Sikh rights is an example of India’s unjust activities. Provision of security was denied by BJP government before his murder. In support of Sidhu and separate homeland for Sikhs, more than 17,000 Sikhs voted for Khalistan Referendum in Rome, Italy. Similarly, UK having one of the highest ratio of Sikh diaspora, organized a campaign under the active advocates of Sikh rights “Sikhs for Justice (SFJ)” in which 30,000 British Sikhs voted for referendum on 31st October 2021. Series of Sikh referendums are lined up and SFJ declared that after completing this voting series, it will be a decision of 120,000 Sikhs showing the desire for separate land under the rule and law provided them by International Justice System.  A huge referendum is planned for the Sikhs of Punjab on 26th January 2023.

The roots of these referendum are enrooted into the event of Operation Blue Star happened in 1984. Under this operation, Indian army attached on the holiest place of Sikhs, “Golden Temple” to capture Sikhs whom Indian Army declared as terrorists and claimed that they are hiding weapons inside the temple as well. Many innocent Sikhs lost their lives. The level of brutality not only stopped at killing innocents but also disrespected the sentiments of the followers of this particular religion. A homeland that ought to be safe place for its residents became a threatening region. That’s why a huge number of Indian Sikhs migrated to other states like UK, Canada, Italy and US to seek a safe residence. The fight for the cause of Sikh’s rights is still going on, as there is a referendum on 18th September 2022, Toronto, Canada, in which high ratio of Sikh voters are expected to participate.

Massive genocide and extra-Judicial killings are the major tools of Modi regime against the Sikh community. To deal with all these unlawful activities, Sikh diaspora has organized itself into groups like “Sikhs for Justice (SFJ)” who are arranging referendum, holding protests and advocating Sikhs right at all possible platforms. Specifically for the Khalistan Referendum, Punjab Referendum Commission (PRC) has been designed to have free and fair voting for the basic demand. Through such representation, Sikhs are asking for a legal demand from India’s Modi regime. These organizational setup shows that Sikh community is well aware of its rights, and using the peaceful means to convey their message to the world. 

If India is real democracy and wants to be seen as democratic country, it should accept Sikh referendum results.  The result of referendum can always be leveraged in “Law fare domain” to ask India to hold an official referendum for the purpose.  Democracies are torch holder of freedom, human rights and their liberties. This behavior of India is not acceptable to be an example for the rest of aspiring democratic states where the Modi Regime is having genocidal designs against the specific communities. Khalistan Movement with the aspirations of a separate homeland is the legitimate demand of Sikh community. By overturning these movements and referendums, India is suppressing its minorities and violating their right to self-determination through peaceful means.

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Like-Minded Coalitions, New-Age Models for Cooperation? An Indian Perspective

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There is an increasing trend of like-minded countries coming together for collaborating on specific issues in the global arena. For emerging countries like India, these “coalitions of the capable and willing” appear to be conducive alternatives to sclerotic alliances, historically perceived to constrain maneuverability. Such issue-based and niche coalitions also supplement India’s emphasis on multilateralism.

Coalitions of like-minded countries are the new game in town. These are loose groupings of countries tackling issues of mutual interest. These groupings are flexible in nature and are not based on hard security guarantees. This article explores the various areas in which India has demonstrated its intent in forging innovative combinations. 

The common thread in most new-age coalitions of ‘like-minded” partners is to reduce structural dependencies on China, enhance meaningful exchange of technology through multi-stakeholder partnership and build robust infrastructural alternatives for the participant nations.

In recent times, India and the US have felt the need for cooperation with like-minded partners for creating a robust governance architecture for emerging and advanced technologies, a phenomenon precipitated to counter China’s multiplying technological capabilities. Other motivations for tech coalitions include the urge to cooperate with similar techno-democracies like EU, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Canada and Israel to enhance individual and mutual capabilities. Various ad-hoc arrangements like the D-10, T10, T12 have already been proposed. AI, telecommunications, quantum computing, financial technology, semiconductors, drones, autonomous weapons and biotechnology are potential areas gathering steam. These are important as technological innovations form the foundation of a country’s economic and military strength.

A practical example assuming shape includes the Clean Network initiative, which calls for adoption of rules on digital governance. Such initiatives are aimed at reducing dependencies on China for technology acquisition and use, especially in the light of developing Chinese espionage and surveillance capabilities. Ostracization of Chinese telecom companies like Huawei in many Western countries is a tangible outcome.

Such coalitions improve supply chain resilience, reform global norms, mitigate national security concerns and give a leg up to technological competitiveness of the participant countries. Setting technological standards is also a crucial component of the QUAD partnership.

Various experts have called for building coalitions around cyber-security. This would help in recognizing and working on broad data privacy norms while being nimble enough to make room for domestic approaches to protecting data privacy. Recognizing broad norms could pave the way for implementing internet regulations to tackle mischievous cyber activity, grounded on values of transparency and accountability. A workable manifestation could be an international cybercrime center to coordinate botnet takedowns.

A natural beneficiary of this process will be digital trade flows between countries based on mutual trust. This could also entail removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers on digital goods; advancing digital flows.

In 2019, India took the lead in establishing the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) for sustainable development. CDRI aims to make infrastructure systems resilient to tackle climate and disaster risks. CDRI is a partnership of multiple stakeholders including national governments, private sector organizations, knowledge institutions, UN agencies, multilateral development banks and financing mechanisms. Various countries from Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe and North America have demonstrated their interest in joining this initiative.

India along with Japan and Australia has also launched the Resilient Supply Chain Initiative (RSCI) to complement the QUAD’s efforts to reduce vulnerabilities in global supply chains.

Experts have called RSCI to promote integrated supply chain clusters of manufacturing bases which are backed by financial incentives like favorable regulatory and tax policies. Recently, a new roadmap has been outlined by 18 countries including the EU, US, Japan, Singapore and India for building supply chains grounded on the values of transparency, sustainability, diversification and security.

India has also demonstrated keenness in joining niche new-age coalitions that seek to “bridge the gap between theory and practice on AI.” An example in point is the Global Partnership for AI (GPAI) supported by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OCED), France and Canada.

GPAI aims at multi-sectoral cooperation for promoting cutting-edge research to support the responsible evolution of AI. This complements India’s own efforts for leveraging AI through its National AI Strategy and National AI Portal. The NITI Aayog has also launched its “AI for All” initiative which fits under the overall rubric of the GPAI.

In outer space, the US led Artemis Accords is an agreement for lunar exploration and beyond. As of March 2022, it has 18 signatories. It is in the context of the decaying nature of the Outer Space Treaty (OST) regime that the Artemis Accords are gaining shape. it aims at promoting transparency, interoperability, emergency assistance and peaceful international cooperation. The benefit of this arrangement lies in its usefulness to have great powers agree upon and comply with a common set of principles, guidelines, best practices to ensure better compliance with the established governance treaties.

Seasoned diplomats have called for India to introduce a Growth with Renewable Energy, Entrepreneurship and Nature (GREEN) coalition of countries to intensify efforts for greenhouse gas reduction, introduction of clean technologies, climate adaptation and development of renewable energy sources.

Underlining India’s civilizational links to nature, India, along with France, has taken the lead in establishing the International Solar Alliance (ISA) in 2015 to promote solar energy and marshal investment for utilization of solar energy at affordable costs, increasing its access and reach. This coalition has already onboarded 89 countries, many of them developing countries of Africa and small island states.

The I2U2 grouping between India, UAE, US and Israel has publicly stated its goals which include focus on joint investments, private-sector partnerships, start-up collaborations and new initiatives in water, energy, green technologies transportation and space. Some analysts have viewed this grouping through a security lens, calling it an attempted integration of two separate strategic contexts of the Indo-Pacific and the Middle East to counter Chinese influence in the region. However, imposing geostrategic models on a nascent idea might perhaps be a little early. The grouping is exploratory in nature and has primarily revolved around economic themes and opportunities for the future.

The QUAD is the most pertinent and trumpeted example of comprehensive strategic convergence spanning many fields and areas.

Potential Coalitions that India should work with in the future

There are some new evolving coalitions that India is not yet a part of. This is due to India’s lack of significant expertise or natural resource endowments in these exclusive areas. Building substantial proficiency and bandwidth in the long term will help India economically and will also act as an entry pass into these coalitions. Two relevant coalitions are Minerals Security Partnership and Chip 4 Alliance.

The Minerals Security Partnership (MSP) aims to explore and build alternatives to China, which has built crucial processing capacities and has acquired mines in Africa for Cobalt. MSP aims to strengthen mineral supply chains between countries bound by trust and shared interests.

Existing supply chains of rare earth elements, with huge dependencies on China, like Cobalt, Nickel, Lithium etc. have become vulnerable due to the sharpening geopolitical environment. Securing these elements is necessary as they are crucial inputs for making batteries in electric vehicles, semiconductors, solar panels, wind turbines and high-end electronics.

The United States has taken the lead in putting together an ad-hoc grouping ‘Chip 4’ alliance that seeks to create a semiconductor supply chain between US, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. The implicit message is to keep China out and cut Beijing’s access to intellectual property from firms in these four countries.

Severe semiconductor supply constraints faced during the Covid-19 pandemic have propelled US to initiate cooperation with Taiwan, Japan and South Korea on design and production of semiconductor chips. However, South Korea is treading cautiously as it doesn’t wish to abandon the massive Chinese market; where South Korean firms have noticeably established themselves.

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