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Old Sunday, June 12, 2016
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The new Great Game


THE recent India-Iran-Afghanistan agreement to develop a trade route from Chabahar to Central Asia has been portrayed by Indian commentators as having changed the historical ‘Great Game’ for control of the connection between South and Central Asia through Afghanistan. It has been claimed that the agreement will end India’s ‘isolation’ from Central Asia and Pakistan’s ‘stranglehold’ over Afghanistan and create a ‘new security paradigm’ and a ‘geopolitical shift’.

But the Great Game has already changed. It is being played on a wider canvas with different players and rules. The power contest in Asia is now mainly between China and America, and, to a lesser extent, between America and Russia — with India, Pakistan, Iran and others in subsidiary roles. In this context, the strategic and economic implications of the tripartite agreement are likely to be limited.

Chabahar port has been on the drawing board for many years. Its main purpose was and will remain to expand Iran’s oil and other trade including with India.

Implementation of the trade route to Central Asia will remain challenging until peace can be restored in Afghanistan. With the collapse of the inter-Afghan negotiations, Afghanistan is likely to witness a further escalation of conflict and chaos. Transit to Central Asia via Iran, or Pakistan, is not viable at present.

Even once the route is operational, its economic significance will remain modest. India’s oil needs can be met by Iran (and Saudi Arabia). The Central Asians do not have pipelines to Chabahar; they do to China. New gas pipelines are being constructed to Europe. Their mineral resources are also flowing north, east and west; not south.

America is and will remain a major player in the new Asian Great Game.
With a population of only around 50 million, Central Asia will not become a huge market for manufactured goods. It will be twice as expensive for India to send goods to Central Asia through Chabahar than it would be overland across Pakistan. Indian goods are thus unlikely to be competitive against Chinese products shipped overland.

The strategic advantages for India are also questionable. Its influence in Afghanistan will be more dependent on Iran. Pakistan’s cooperation will continue to be essential to restoring peace in Afghanistan. Indian shipping lanes to Chabahar will be vulnerable to disruption. India’s limited influence in Central Asia will not dent that of Russia and China.

The new Great Game will increasingly revolve around China’s One Belt, One Road vision of land and sea connections between Asia, Europe and beyond. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the first component of this ambitious project.

In comparison to the Chabahar route, the strategic and economic implications of CPEC are enormous. It will transform China from a one- to a two-ocean power; enable a part of its $4000 billion annual trade to circumvent the Malacca straits and other potential choke points in the Indian Ocean and shorten China’s supply lines to the Gulf, West Asia and Africa. For these reasons, if no other, China has a vital stake in Pakistan’s strategic stability and socioeconomic development. The Chinese commitment of $46bn for CPEC projects is but the first instalment of the massive capital which China is prepared to deploy in Pakistan.

Instead of being distracted by the moves of its adversaries, Pakistan must remain focused on the implementation of CPEC. This strategic enterprise should not be allowed to be stalled or delayed by external pressure or internal politics, inefficiency or corruption. It would be wise to create a separate and independent CPEC Authority which can be a ‘one-stop-shop’ entrusted with achieving CPEC’s enormous potential for Pakistan’s development. CPEC projects must go beyond infrastructure development to encompass manufacture, consumer goods, housing, health, textiles, finance and other sectors. To this end, the interaction between Pakistani and Chinese private- and public-sector companies must be actively expanded and intensified. Some of the externally imposed limitations on CPEC investment projects, such as restrictions on ‘sovereign guarantees’ for debt finance, need to be removed expeditiously.

CPEC faces threats from Pakistan and China’s adversaries. These will have to be met forcefully.

India’s opposition has been announced openly. New Delhi will continue to utilise Afghanistan as a base to destabilise Pakistan and undermine CPEC. The recent spate of attacks on Chinese workers in Pakistan is no accident. Pakistan will have to further enhance security for them and consider direct action to remove the Afghan-based threat from the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan.

Iran has assured that Chabahar is not designed to compete with Gwadar or CPEC. Pakistan and Iran can cooperate for mutual benefit: to end terrorism in Balochistan, expand trade, and construct the Iranian gas pipeline and a Gwadar-Chabahar economic corridor. However, Tehran often wants to run with the hare and hunt with the hound. Some recent events have sent disturbing signals which Pakistan cannot ignore.

To balance the growing Indo-Iranian relationship, Pakistan must maintain and reinforce its relationship with Saudi Arabia and Turkey. It would be in Pakistan’s interest to help in giving substance and form to the ‘Islamic coalition’ hastily formed by Riyadh. It should also convince the GCC states of the benefits of CPEC as a path to their closer connection with China.

America is and will remain a major player in the new Asian Great Game. To bolster its strategic contest with China, the US is moving towards a military alliance with India. The Obama administration is also cooperating tactically with Iran in the fight against the militant Islamic State group in Iraq and, less clearly, in Syria. It wants Iran to help in stabilising Afghanistan. But the US-Iran relationship could again become hostile if new sanctions are imposed by the US Congress or differences arise over Iraq, Syria, Hezbollah or Israel.

For Islamabad, the major threat now is possible hostile US action to destabilise Pakistan and disrupt CPEC. Wisely, China has invited US participation in CPEC. The US has declared, perhaps diplomatically, that it is not opposed to CPEC. But the signals from Washington, as it hosts India’s Modi, are ominous. The new Great Game is about to get tougher and rougher.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Source: The new Great Game
Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2016
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  #22  
Old Sunday, June 26, 2016
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Pakistan’s nuclear diplomacy

GIVEN the growing conventional arms imbalance with India, Pakistan’s security is now critically dependent on nuclear deterrence. In the long, difficult struggle to develop this capability, in the face of determined Western opposition, Pakistan’s scientists, almost all its political leaders, and several of its soldiers, played vital roles. No less important was the part played by Pakistan’s diplomats.

It was the foresight of diplomats like Agha Shahi and Iqbal Akhund which held back Pakistan’s leaders from accepting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Pakistan warned the world even before the NPT was adopted that India would use the non-safeguarded facilities and fuel provided by Canada and the US to build N-weapons.

After India’s 1974 explosion, Pakistan’s proposal to create a South Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone put India on the diplomatic defensive and politically retarded its N-weapons plans.

Through active diplomacy, Pakistan secured the agreement for the French sale of a nuclear reprocessing plant. This was disrupted by the US; but not before Pakistan had acquired the plant designs and technological knowhow.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Pakistan was engaged in a diplomatic battle to avoid Western demands for restrictions on nuclear enrichment at Kahuta and termination of its nascent missile development.

The country must break out of its defensive mode.
An agreement was concluded for peaceful nuclear cooperation with China before it acceded to NPT (as an N-weapon state). It included a clause that has enabled (‘grandfathered’) China’s supply of nuclear reactors to Pakistan.

In 1994, Pakistan rejected a US ‘offer’ to release of 72 F16 aircraft Pakistan had purchased, and Washington had blocked unilaterally, in exchange for a ‘temporary’ freeze on nuclear enrichment. Stopping the Kahuta centrifuges would have destroyed half of them.

In May 1998, on the Foreign Office’s advice, Pakistan turned down US offers of billions in aid not to reciprocate India’s nuclear tests. Not to do so would have raised doubts about Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities and destabilised deterrence.

Following the 1998 tests, Pakistan ensured the UN Security Council Resolution 1172 recognised that India had tested first, maintained parity in the restraints asked of the two countries and included a call for resolution of the Kashmir dispute. In the parallel dialogue which the US initiated with Pakistan and India, Pakistan insisted on an identical agenda covering nuclear and missile restraint as well as the Kashmir dispute.

In the wake of the A.Q. Khan proliferation affair, Pakistan avoided penalties and succeeded in defanging provisions in the US-sponsored UNSC Resolution 1540 aimed specifically at Pakistan.

However, this ‘affair’, and Pakistan’s unequal alliance with US in the ‘war on terror’, provided the US with the excuse and diplomatic leverage it needed to ‘de-hyphenate’ Pakistan and India and offer the latter an ‘exception’ for civilian nuclear cooperation as a means of securing its strategic support against China.

At a critical point in 2008, when the Indo-US ‘Safeguards’ Agreement came up for approval to the IAEA board Pakistan’s representatives were instructed by a new Islamabad leadership, beholden to Washington, not to force a vote. If Pakistan had asked for a vote in the board, several NPT members would have been obliged to oppose or abstain. Thereafter, they would have been unable to support the clearance of the Indo-US ‘exception’ in the subsequent meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG), denying it the consensus required for approval.

The consequences of this diplomatic default have been strategically significant. It broke the political ‘parity’ between Pakistan and India’s nuclear status. More importantly, the external nuclear fuel and nuclear reactors acquired by India under the ‘exception’, will enable it to utilise all its indigenous fissile material stocks for weapons production.

Since this reversal, while Pakistan has intensified its fissile material production and blocked the so-called Fissile Materials ‘Cut-Off’ Treaty, its nuclear diplomacy has been mostly reactive and defensive.

To ‘prove’ its non-proliferation credentials, Pakistan has engaged in nuclear consultations with the US and adopted various export guidelines and nuclear ‘safety and security’ measures, often with US ‘help’. No doubt, the US has gained closer insights into Pakistan’s programmes and plans. Worse, Islamabad has embarked on the fool’s errand of seeking a US nuclear ‘exception’ similar to India’s.

Even in the unlikely event this is granted, Pakistan will not be sold nuclear reactors by the US or its allies. Nor can Pakistan afford them. But the plea for this ‘exception’ has opened Pakistan to new demands from Washington: to halt fissile material production and development and deployment of tactical and long-range missiles and sign the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty without waiting for India. In exchange, the US would consider making a positive recommendation of Pakistan’s case. It is folly to go further down this path.

Pakistan’s diplomacy must break out of its defensive mode and utilise all the leverage it can muster to reverse the discriminatory restrictions; impede India’s strategic build-up and preserve the credibility of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence.

To this end, here are some of the actions Pakistan could initiate: one, an active diplomatic campaign at the UN, in major capitals and media, to expose the false premises for the discriminatory restrictions against Pakistan and the West’s double and triple standards on disarmament and non-proliferation.

Two, proposals to India for reciprocal arms control and strategic restraint, such as non-use of force; low force zones; non-deployment of destabilising weapons. At the very least, this would put India on the diplomatic defensive and help to resist US pressure on Pakistan to accept unilateral restraints.

Three, offers of peaceful nuclear cooperation, under IAEA safeguards, to Saudi Arabia, Iran and other Muslim and developing countries. This may motivate NSG to invite Pakistan to join the group.

Four, proposals, initiated with China and other developing countries, for genuine disarmament, including treaties to halt the current multi-billion dollar upgrade and miniaturisation of US and Russian nuclear weapons and bans on the development and deployment of laser, anti-satellite and other space weapons.

To enable Pakistan to revive active nuclear diplomacy, the disarmament department in the Foreign Office must be strengthened and staffed with the best and brightest diplomats. This would be a cost-effective investment in preserving the credibility of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Source:Pakistan’s nuclear diplomacy
Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2016
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Old Sunday, July 10, 2016
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The end of Europe?


THE fateful decision of British voters to leave the European Union has been welcomed by all stripes of extremists.

The departing head of the UK Independence Party, Nigel Farage, crowed that “we have won back our country”. Marine La Pen, of the National Front (FN), declared: “Maintenant France” (Now France)! Donald Trump claimed he was “on the right side” on Brexit. And, Al Naba, the militant Islamic State (IS) group’s magazine, welcomed Brexit and predicted it will lead to “the disintegration of the UK — and of Europe”.

The English vote for Brexit represented a microcosm of the resentments, racism and xenophobia unleashed among the European working class by the prolonged economic crisis and high unemployment, the failure to fully integrate immigrants, the huge recent influx of mostly Muslim refugees and African migrants, and the terrorist attacks in Paris and elsewhere. These sentiments are now widespread across Europe and extend to the US. Brexit’s consequences will be extensive and strategically significant.

The Czech foreign minister wrote in the Financial Times that the UK now faces “a currency plunge, an economic slowdown, a political vacuum, the possible secession of Scotland, and uncertainty over the Northern Ireland peace settlement”. British politicians want to retain the benefits of the EU’s ‘single market’ and London’s role as a global financial centre but they do not want the EU’s “freedom of movement”. The two basic options available to the UK are both bad: either isolate itself economically from Europe, or accept a Norway-like status allowing trade and labour movement within the EU but without a voice in EU decision-making. Reversing the referendum does not appear to be a politically viable option.

Brexit has happened at a sensitive moment for European security.
A UK in political disarray has delayed ‘triggering’ exit negotiations. Other EU members want a speedy divorce. Most of them seem determined to penalise the UK for its decision, mainly to ensure that others are not tempted to follow its example. The precise nature of the UK’s relationship with the EU and other economic partners will not be clear for at least two years.

Meanwhile, in view of the uncertainty, investment in the UK will decline as will its trade. Other Europeans have already begun to vie for London’s financial institutions and companies. A slowed British economy may heighten social and political tensions, propel separatism in Scotland, revolt in London, and instability in Northern Ireland. It could become an existential crisis for the UK.

Brexit could not have happened at a worse time for the European Union. Despite massive ‘monetary easing’ by the European Central Bank, EU growth remains abysmal. Greece’s economic crisis will recur. A Greek exit from the Euro (Grexit) remains on the cards. The border blocks thrown up by several EU members to stop the refugee influx have heightened political divisions and threaten to break down the Schengen visa-free zone. The racial and religious prejudices, crystallised by the inflow of refugees, high unemployment and low growth, have contributed to the rise of populist right-wing parties across Europe. Hungary and Poland are now ruled by such ‘nationalists’. France, Austria and the Netherlands may well be so ruled soon.

The exit of Europe’s second largest economy will reduce the size and economic potential of the European Union. Germany’s insistence on economic austerity and monetary discipline, unless reversed, may slow down growth further, reinforcing the rise of the Eurosceptics. EU leaders could face challenges from other ‘exiters’, perhaps France under the FN, or the Netherlands and Austria if the nationalist parties there win forthcoming elections. The preservation of the European Union may emerge as its principal agenda in the near future.

Copious amounts of vodka must have been consumed in the Kremlin after the Brexit referendum. Britain’s exit will eliminate one of Moscow’s main antagonists within the EU. The greater influence of Germany, Italy and France, who favour engagement with Moscow, implies that the Ukraine-related EU ‘sanctions’ against Russia will dissolve very soon, opening the way for restored economic relations.

Brexit has also happened at a sensitive moment for European security. The forthcoming Nato summit in Warsaw is to consider plans to enlarge military deployments close to Russia’s western borders, to reassure the Baltic states and Poland in the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis. Apart from these border states, plans for Nato remilitarisation have been most vigorously propagated by the UK and US. The major EU members — Germany, Italy and France — are cautious about large permanent deployments and military exercises in Eastern Europe that may violate the post-Cold War Nato agreements with Moscow and provoke an unwanted military crisis.

These countries also want to create a European defence force independent of Nato. An ambitious Nato build-up may thus become more difficult to realise in the post-Brexit environment. British and American influence over European security decisions may decline progressively. The security relationship between Europe and Russia could change from hostility to coexistence, if not cooperation.

There is genuine concern among thinking Americans that the result of the reckless British referendum may propel resentful white working class voters in the US to turn to Donald Trump to ‘get back’ their country. If Trump is elected and actually does what he has promised — to withdraw from trade agreements and military alliances with Japan and South Korea as well as Nato, build a wall against Mexican immigrants and ban the entry of Muslims — it could return America to isolationism, proliferate protectionism, provoke multiple trade wars, fragment the world economy, unleash a clash of cultures, validate the IS and Al Qaeda narrative, intensify global terrorism and erode American global dominance.

Apart from President Obama, Western democracies do not appear to have leaders with the vision required to avoid the populist rush towards self-imposed disaster. The global power balance is in rapid flux. China is rising and Russia reviving.

Source: The end of Europe?
Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2016
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Old Sunday, July 24, 2016
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Default July 24th, 2016

The Thucydides trap


THE ancient Greek historian Thucydides theorised that when an established power encountered a rising power, a conflict between them was inevitable. Today, the US, the current global hegemon, and China, the rising power, appear to be hurtling towards the Thucydides trap.

As the former Chinese foreign policy czar, Dai Bingguo, recalled at a US-China conference, in a little over 40 years China-US relations have “produced tremendous and extraordinary outcomes”: in bilateral trade and investment, restraining threats to peace and security and addressing global problems.

However, the US now clearly perceives China’s rise as a threat to its global pre-eminence. President Obama announced a US ‘pivot’ to Asia three years ago. The pivot is now firmly under way.

American military moves to contain China have become more robust and overt in recent months.
Two-thirds of US naval power is being deployed to the Pacific. The US is building a ring of alliances with countries around China’s periphery: from South Korea to Afghanistan. It has interposed itself in China’s maritime disputes; accused China of unfair trade, cyber attacks and espionage and human rights violations; excluded China from the US-sponsored Transpacific Trade Partnership and boycotted the China-sponsored Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

American military moves to contain China have become more robust and overt in recent months.

These include: support for Japan’s militarisation; the stationing of US naval and air forces in the Philippines; aggressive naval patrolling in the South China Sea; ever closer defence cooperation with and supplies to India; pre-positioning of US military equipment and supplies in Vietnam; joint naval and military exercises with Japan, South Korea, Australia and India; an agreement with South Korea to station the sophisticated THAAD anti-missile system there; ostensibly to counter North Korea’s missile threat, but which would also enable the US to partially neutralise China’s long-range missile capabilities; and in the context of China’s assertion of its claims in the South China Sea, the hawkish, half-Japanese head of the US Pacific Command has reportedly told his troops to be ready “to fight tonight”.

The recent ex-parte award against China on the South China Sea islands dispute by The Hague Arbitration Tribunal, set up pursuant to the Philippines’ unilateral approach to the International Court, could bring the growing Sino-US tensions to a climax.

In the aforementioned speech, Dai Bingguo recalled that, at the end of the Second World War, the US had actually helped China to recover control of the South China islands from Japanese occupation, thereby acknowledging China’s historical claim. Dai said that 42 islands and reefs were ‘illegally’ occupied by the Philippines, Vietnam and others after 1970. The later US declaration, that it took no position on the issue of sovereignty over these islands, Dai said, amounted to ‘back-pedalling’. Three years ago, the US declared it had a ‘national interest’ in these disputes and encouraged their multi-lateralisation.

The Hague award has stated that China has no historical claim to several of these islands. The US asserts that this is now international law which China must observe, thus reversing its post-War position. Washington’s stance is all the more invidious since it, unlike China, is not a party to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

China asserts that the ‘tribunal’ was constituted unilaterally; it had no jurisdiction under UNCLOS to proceed without China’s concurrence, much less to pronounce on territorial issues which are not within the scope of the convention.

The full scope of China’s response to US moves against it is as yet unclear. Given the rising pride and nationalism in China, Beijing will resist any ‘humiliation’ or concession on China’s ‘territorial integrity’.

China has announced it will soon hold extensive military exercises in sections of the South China Sea, no doubt designed to reaffirm its territorial claims. Any attempt by the US to conduct so-called ‘freedom of navigation’ forays during such exercises could trigger an early test of strength.

China will, no doubt, attempt to persuade the new Philippine president to desist from attempting to ‘implement’ The Hague award and opt for a negotiated settlement. In exchange, the Philippines could be offered extensive Chinese support for infrastructure development. If Manila spurns this offer, Beijing’s response is likely to be harsh, all the more so to ensure that others littoral states do not follow the Philippines’ example.

If Seoul proceeds to deploy the THAAD anti-missile system, China’s political and trade relations with South Korea may deteriorate significantly. Instead of sanctions, China could expand economic and defence assistance to North Korea to prevent its collapse.

Beijing’s posture towards Japan is also likely to harden. The US-Japan-South Korea military exercises could be countered by joint China-Russia naval operations in the North China Sea.

In response to growing Indo-US military cooperation, China could ‘activate’ the northern disputed border, extend its naval operations into the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, further enhance its strategic partnership with Pakistan and intensify efforts to build greater influence in Afghanistan and other South Asian states.

The escalating Sino-US rivalry will compel Pakistan to align itself even more closely with China. Consequently, Pakistan will face even greater US pressure and coercion, including on Afghanistan, terrorism, nuclear and missile issues.

The impact of a Sino-US confrontation would be global. Sino-Russian defence cooperation would intensify. The One Belt, One Road project will link China with Europe through Russia, reducing American influence. In the Middle East, China could align with anti-US states. Africa could divide between Western and Chinese blocs. In Latin America, Mexico, Brazil and some other states may be open to closer relations with China to challenge American domination. The Sino-US economic relationship, including cross-border investment and their trillion dollar trade, would decline sharply, slowing growth in both countries and the world economy and possibly igniting another global economic crisis.

Of the 15 historical cases reviewed by Dr Kissinger of established powers encountering rising rivals, 10 resulted in conflict. The US and China could yet back away from the Thucydides trap. The onus for doing so rests with Washington. Unfortunately, the anti-China populism reflected in the current US presidential campaign does not augur well for the triumph of restraint and reason.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Source: The Thucydides trap
Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2016
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  #25  
Old Sunday, August 07, 2016
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Is Pakistan isolated?


SEVERAL Pakistani commentators have concluded that Pakistan is isolated because its relations with three of its four immediate neighbours are hostile. Some have ascribed this ‘failure’ exclusively to the absence of a fulltime foreign minister and the hydra-headed leadership at the Foreign Office.

Pakistan is far from isolated. It enjoys a very close strategic relationship with its largest neighbour China, the emerging superpower. Relations with Iran are complex, but not hostile, and can become cooperative. Relations with regional neighbours Saudi Arabia, the GCC and Turkey remain friendly, with considerable potential for collaboration. Pakistan enjoys influence within the wider international community due to its size, strategic location, military strength and economic potential.

That Pakistan’s relations with India are tense should come as no surprise. This is almost a historical norm. The hostility of a Hindu supremacist BJP government was anticipated by most Pakistanis, except the purblind. But Modi’s arrogance and belligerence towards Pakistan have outstripped anticipation, partly because of the perceived weakness in Islamabad, but mostly due to the shift in the global and regional strategic environment and India’s growing alignment with the US in the context of its rising rivalry with China.

This emerging US-Indian alliance has not only encouraged New Delhi’s belligerence, it has exacerbated Pakistan’s security challenges, reflected in American support for India’s massive arms build-up; wide-ranging US attempts to contain and neutralise Pakistan’s nuclear and missile deterrence capabilities; and growing US pressure on Pakistan to act against ‘terrorists’.

Our diplomacy has displayed several missteps which illustrate an absence of strategic direction.
The strategic evolution has also complicated Pakistan’s relationship with the ‘unity’ government in Afghanistan. The Obama administration has accepted the Pentagon’s proposal for an indefinite US military presence in Afghanistan. Assured that American and Nato forces will stay indefinitely and prevent its collapse, Kabul has shifted from seeking reconciliation with the Afghan Taliban to demanding that Pakistan join in crushing them militarily. Fighting, rather than reconciling with the Taliban, has always been India’s preferred option.

Pakistan, with China’s cooperation, can meet India’s security challenge and maintain credible deterrence, nuclear and conventional. Pakistan has no compulsion to press for a dialogue so long as New Delhi refuses to address the fundamental issues of Kashmir and peace and security.

What Pakistan does need to reverse at present is, first, India’s long-standing attempts to sow domestic discord and destabilise Pakistan, including in Balochistan, rural Sindh and Karachi; and, second, the attacks against Pakistan’s civilians and security forces conducted by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan militants and the Balochistan Liberation Army insurgents from the territory of Afghanistan, with the sponsorship of Indian and Afghan intelligence.

Pakistan could respond effectively to these Indo-Afghan sponsored interventions. Kashmir remains India’s Achilles’ heel, as recent events illustrate. Pakistan also has the capability to eliminate TTP safe havens in Afghanistan. However, Pakistan is prevented from recourse to such robust responses by the political and security ‘umbrella’ extended by the US to Kabul and New Delhi. While extending limited help to counter the TTP’s safe havens in Afghanistan, the US is exerting pressure on Islamabad to fight the Afghan Taliban and clamp down on the pro-Kashmiri militants now outlawed as ‘terrorists’ at India’s instance.

Thus, in order to respond to India’s mischief and Kabul’s renewed hostility, Pakistan has to address, primarily, America’s alignment with these two neighbours. Pakistan will have to evolve policies which can neutralise those US positions which are antithetical to Pakistan’s vital interests, while preserving its vital strategic partnership with China. This is the major foreign policy challenge confronting Islamabad. This challenge is likely to become more daunting if, as anticipated, Sino-US rivalry and tensions escalate further.

Confronted by these regional and global strategic developments, Pakistan must formulate and execute its external policies with clarity and imagination. As Einstein said “You cannot solve problems at the same level of thinking where they were created.”

Unfortunately, Pakistan’s diplomacy has displayed several missteps which illustrate an absence of strategic coherence and direction. These include: the prime minister’s participation in Modi’s inauguration and inability to meet Kashmiri leaders; the Ufa declaration, emphasising terrorism and ignoring Kashmir; unwarranted confidence about bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table; uninvited admission of the presence of insurgent leaders in Pakistan; the fumbling response to the Saudi request for military support; the tepid reaction to Afghan and US assertions regarding Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan and the US’ unilateral drone strike in Balochistan.

Almost all of these missteps have been the consequence of shortsighted and often naive political intervention in the foreign policy process. The formulation and execution of foreign policy, like military policy, must be left to the professionals. The foreign service should be enabled and encouraged to provide objective and independent advice to the political leadership, rather than be whimsically directed from above. According to the government’s Rules of Business, the foreign secretary’s policy recommendations can be overruled by the political leadership, but they cannot be dictated to him.

Obviously, the organisational mess at the Foreign Office needs to be cleared. The government should have a fulltime foreign minister, not only for protocol reasons, but also to serve as a single, credible conduit for the expression and execution of foreign policy. There is an important role for the prime minister’s special assistant: to reconcile external policy with the government’s political priorities. But this role should be exercised, not from the foreign ministry, but the Prime Minister’s Office, where a foreign service official is, exceptionally, absent.

The security dimensions of foreign policy should be integrated through established institutional mechanisms, particularly the high-level National Security Command. If these mechanisms are not utilised, the ‘security establishment’ will find ‘informal’ ways of influencing policies.

Likewise, external economic policy cannot be formulated or conducted without the foreign ministry’s participation. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is an example of the nexus between diplomatic, economic and security policies. Unfortunately, at present, development, trade and investment policies are formulated and implemented largely without the benefit of the foreign policy dimension.

A modern state cannot function without competent institutions of governance. For Pakistan, which is compelled to conduct a multi-directional external policy in a strategically challenging environment, a competent, empowered and motivated foreign service is as indispensable as Pakistan’s security forces.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Source: Is Pakistan isolated?
Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2016
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Kashmir: why talk to India?


FOLLOWING the extensive discussions at the recent Pakistan envoys’ conference, Pakistan proposed a ‘separate’ dialogue on Jammu and Kashmir to India.

As expected, India promptly interposed preconditions for the talks, even more onerous than in the past. Pakistan’s counter — that the talks would be strictly on the basis of the UN resolutions on Kashmir — indicates that the proposal for talks was largely a tactical move to expose India’s obduracy.

It would have been unseemly to hold talks with India when it has just killed over 70 Kashmiris like Burhan Wani and blinded hundreds, including small children, and is continuing with its campaign of oppression. A ‘separate’ dialogue on Kashmir will not stop India’s repression. On the contrary, talks would have enabled India to deflect world attention from its atrocities by focusing on ‘terrorism’ and could have defused this latest Kashmiri revolt.

During Kashmir’s last major revolt in the 1990s, Pakistan refused talks with India unless it agreed to substantive discussions on the Kashmir dispute. Detailed proposals and counter proposals were exchanged prior to and following the foreign secretary-level talks in 1994. Pakistan called for implementation of the UN resolutions; India obfuscated. But, its foreign secretary indicated a readiness for a solution based on ‘autonomy plus’ (that is, more than provided in Article 370 of the Indian constitution) and ‘independence minus’ (that is, short of full statehood).

Talks with India at this point will not resolve the dispute and could demoralise the Kashmiris.
Obviously, since then, the ‘correlation of forces’ have moved negatively against Pakistan and the Kashmiri people. The Kashmiri freedom struggle was infiltrated and corrupted by India’s intelligence agencies, and then brutally suppressed by its half-a-million-man occupation force. After 9/11, and the attack on the Indian parliament, Pakistan was obliged, under heavy US pressure, to undertake not to allow its territory to be used by ‘terrorists’. As Islamabad’s support to the Kashmiri struggle ended, some ‘jihadist’ groups turned against Pakistan or went ‘rogue’. India now portrays any resistance in Kashmir as terrorism. Its powerful Western allies now accept this equation, enabling India to act with complete impunity in suppressing Kashmiri demands for azadi (freedom).

There is thus no point in talks with India at this time. It will not resolve the dispute; it could demoralise the Kashmiris. There are, however, two objectives which Pakistan can promote to help the Kashmiris; neither requires talks with India.

First, Pakistan should launch a major diplomatic offensive in international forums and the world’s capitals to halt India’s massive human rights violations in occupied Kashmir. Pakistan can call for: international investigations of India’s reported crimes, including the murder of Burhan Wani and blinding of unarmed children; the release of thousands of Kashmiri prisoners; the abrogation of India’s emergency laws; freedom for the Kashmiris to demonstrate peacefully; freedom for Kashmiri leaders to travel abroad and be released from imprisonment or house arrest; provision of medical and material assistance, including from Pakistan, to the suffering Kashmiris; withdrawal of Indian security forces from towns and villages into their cantonments and barracks; repatriation of all the refugees from India-held Kashmir, presently in Pakistan or elsewhere.

To be taken seriously, such demands would have to be translated into official proposals in the relevant international forums, such as the UN Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. Even if such proposals do not command majority support, they would draw world attention to the plight and aspirations of the Kashmiris and oblige Western governments and UN officials to press India to ease its oppression. More importantly, this will reinforce Kashmiri resistance.

Pakistan’s second objective should be to revalidate the legitimacy of the Kashmiri freedom struggle and distinguish this from ‘terrorism’.

There is a substantial body of international law and precedent to establish the legitimacy of the Kashmiri freedom struggle. The right to self determination is a central principle enshrined in the UN Charter. It has been repeatedly reaffirmed as a right of colonised and ‘dependent’ peoples. The Security Council resolutions on Kashmir have called for a plebiscite to enable the Kashmiri people to exercise their right to self-determination.

Further, UN General Assembly Resolution 2649 ( 1970) “affirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples under colonial and alien domination recognised as being entitled to the right of self determination to restore to themselves that right by any means at their disposal”. It was explicitly recognised in UN debates that “any means at their disposal”, includes armed struggle. The resolution also “recognises the right” of such peoples “to seek and receive all kinds of moral and material assistance” in the “legitimate exercise of their right to self-determination”. It is not illegal for Pakistan or anyone else to support the freedom struggle of the Kashmiris.

Pakistan should clearly reaffirm this internationally endorsed legal and political position and assert the right to provide both moral and material support to the Kashmiris. At present, such material support could be in various forms: finance for rehabilitation of Kashmiri families uprooted by Indian security forces; help to the Hurriyet for political mobilisation; expenses for the travel of Kashmiri leaders and for Kashmiris seeking medical treatment abroad; scholarships for Kashmiri youth in Pakistani and other educational institutions. Pakistan’s clear and tangible support to the Kashmiri resistance will make it easier for the government to act against outlawed groups which have assumed the mantle of solidarity with the Kashmiri struggle.

Promoting the two objectives outlined here may not immediately change the current balance of power within Kashmir. However, the Kashmiris have displayed extraordinary courage and resilience over the past 70 years in resisting India’s occupation. Today, a third generation of Kashmiris has risen to confront Indian rule. With moral and material support from Pakistan, the Kashmiris can sustain this resistance. Ultimately, like so many other peoples under colonial and alien domination, the Kashmiris will succeed in winning their freedom.

What Pakistan can do is to create the best conditions for the success of their struggle. This requires, for the present, active and bold diplomatic action by Pakistan; not talks with India. A Pakistan-India dialogue will be meaningful only when India comes to the conclusion that it cannot sustain its occupation of Kashmir — politically, militarily and morally.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Source: Kashmir: why talk to India?
Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2016
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Opportunity and challenge


THE China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is part of the ‘One Road, One Belt’ vision expounded by President Xi Jinping to establish close land and maritime links between 60-plus countries across Asia and Europe. This is China’s pivot to the West. Unlike America’s pivot to Asia, its motivating force is prosperity rather than the preservation of power.

The OBOR vision, of which CPEC is a part, can contribute to regional and global growth by building infrastructure, physically integrating over 60 economies and focusing investment in regions with large latent economic potential.

CPEC’s importance for China, and particularly for Pakistan, cannot be overstated. It will revive the ancient Silk Road. It is the first and essential phase of the OBOR enterprise. It will cement and add a vital economic dimension to the strategic partnership between Pakistan and China.

CPEC will provide China a shorter and secure route for its trade and interaction with Pakistan, West and South Asia, the Arabian Peninsula and Africa, circumventing the possible choke points in the western Indian Ocean and the South China Sea through which 80pc of China’s $4,000 billion annual trade presently flows. It will contribute to the development of China’s vast western region. It will accelerate investment, trade and growth in Pakistan, and help to stabilise the country.

Encouraging progress has been made on the planning and initial execution of several CPEC projects. But there is no room for complacency. CPEC faces many challenges, internal and external. There are several steps that Pakistan and China can take to ensure CPEC’s realisation. Pakistan should ensure:

— equitable distribution of economic projects and benefits to all of Pakistan’s provinces and regions. This is essential to counter external attempts to create internal discord in Pakistan;

— consistency in economic policies. For instance, the sudden ban on new power plants using imported fuel will disrupt several projects under way;

— transparency in decision-making, also required to avoid charges of crony capitalism;

— speedy and fair dispute resolution, to avoid time consuming litigation;

— expansion of its capital markets to provide adequate local financing for projects;

— availability of qualified personnel for project execution through large-scale programmes for vocational training and skill creation.

The CPEC trade corridor will be complete only when the rail link and oil pipelines are added to the road network being constructed presently. Roads can cater to only a small part of China’s potential trade flows with the countries accessed via CPEC.

To ensure adequate spin-off benefits for Pakistan’s economy, the scope of CPEC projects eligible for government financial and policy support will have to be considerably enlarged to cover other sectors besides transport and energy, to include mining, oil and gas exploration, agro-industry, textiles, automotive and consumer goods.

CPEC’s success and its economic promise cannot be achieved without the fullest participation of the private sector in both countries, including small and medium-sized enterprises. Pakistani enterprises should be encouraged and helped to interact closely with Chinese companies, including through sponsored visits and exchanges. The Pakistan Business Council and other business bodies in Pakistan should identify specific ventures that can be undertaken with Chinese counterparts, and establish a mechanism for continuous exchange of information with them on such opportunities.

Given the strategic significance of the CPEC enterprise and its challenges, not only of security but also of coordination within Pakistan and with Chinese entities, serious consideration should be given to creating an independent ‘CPEC Authority’ which can serve as a ‘one-stop-shop’ to address all issues relating to CPEC.

China has allocated $46bn in mostly concessional loans to identified CPEC projects. It has extended other financial support to ensure that Pakistan remains economically viable. But equity finance can be a constraint. The Chinese authorities should encourage larger equity investment by Chinese state and private companies in projects, ventures and businesses in Pakistan. The creation of one or more Pakistan-focused private equity funds, with the political support of the two governments, could be an important avenue for enhanced financial flows to and economic growth in Pakistan.

Second, Chinese insurance providers could adjust their terms and conditions to finance a wider scope and number of projects, for instance, by accepting commercial as well as sovereign guarantees.

Third, Chinese industry associations could make a conscious effort to identify production and manufacturing lines that are becoming less competitive in China and that could be relocated to Pakistan instead of countries like Vietnam, the Philippines and Bangladesh.

CPEC’s success can also be ensured by creating stakes in it for a wider group of countries. To this end, Pakistan and China should encourage the participation of public and private companies in CPEC projects from a number of countries, including the US. Russia’s proposed involvement in the construction of the south-north gas pipeline is a positive sign. The early construction of oil pipelines and trans-shipment infrastructure at Gwadar to expedite oil exports to China from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf will give real meaning to the corridor. A road link from Chabahar to Gwadar can bring Iran into the CPEC network. Afghanistan is unlikely to be part of the network unless peace is restored there; India may maintain its hostility indefinitely.

Security is likely to remain the most important challenge to CPEC’s success. Given the emerging strategic alignments, CPEC may have already become the target of an economic ‘war’.

While Pakistan is addressing the internal problems of extremist violence and terrorism, it is also compelled to counter the support that the intelligence agencies of India and Afghanistan are extending to TTP terrorists and Baloch insurgents. Modi’s reference to Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan cannot be ignored. Nor can the workings of a foreign hand in Karachi be ruled out.

The ever closer Indo-US alignment, and escalating Sino-US rivalry, provide India and other detractors with a new strategic motivation to destabilise Pakistan and CPEC. Pakistan has created a dedicated force to provide security to CPEC projects. This force is being further augmented. Yet, fending off the foreign mischief through defensive and defensive-offensive measures has assumed a new priority. The security of CPEC is the joint responsibility of Pakistan and China and they must take appropriate joint action to ensure this.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.
Source : Opportunity and challenge
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Default September 18th, 2016

The threat of US sanctions


FOLLOWING the failure of Pakistan’s effort to revive talks between Kabul and the Afghan Taliban, a US drone strike killed Taliban leader Mullah Mansour, the US Congress blocked money for Pakistan’s acquisition of eight F-16 aircraft and later the US defence secretary stopped repayment of several million dollars of ‘Coalition Support Funds’.

In a US Senate hearing last July, several American legislators and ‘experts’ expressed anger against Pakistan for its alleged failure to act against the Haqqani ‘network’ as well as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) ‘terrorists’. The hearing was stacked with anti-Pakistan legislators and ‘experts’. Several proposals were made to impose new sanctions on Pakistan, most specifically by Zalmay Khalilzad, the Afghan-origin ex-US ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the UN. Even more disturbing were remarks by some US senators, such as Dana Rohrabacher’s expression of support for the ‘independence’ of Balochistan, Sindh and other ‘parts’ of Pakistan.

A second Senate hearing in early September was more balanced. While there were expressions of frustration from Senator Corker and other legislators, all three ‘experts’ testifying at the hearing advised against recourse to sanctions against Pakistan. The US State Department spokesman also assured afterwards that the administration had no intention of imposing anti-Pakistan sanctions and fully supported Pakistan’s territorial integrity.

Today, Pakistan has few friends and many enemies in Washington.
Something obviously changed between the first and second Senate hearings. Perhaps sober minds in Washington assessed the high costs and dangers of anti-Pakistan sanctions for America’s short- and longer-term objectives in the region. Perhaps warnings and/or assurances were conveyed from Islamabad. While the US rhetoric has been dialled down, Secretary Kerry was obliged to please his Indian hosts recently by urging Pakistan to do more against the Afghan and Kashmiri ‘terrorist’ groups.

The Indians have gone into diplomatic overdrive. At the G-20 and Asean summits, Modi railed against Pakistan as the ‘instigator’ of terrorism. Kabul has joined the campaign, as evidenced by the recent Modi-Ghani joint statement in New Delhi.

India’s anti-Pakistan campaign is obviously designed to divert attention from its ongoing repression in occupied Kashmir and to convince the Americans to revive the sanctions threat against Pakistan. Likewise, President Ghani, beset by political division and a security collapse, is desperate to transfer blame onto Pakistan.

However, the danger for Pakistan does not reside in the rhetoric from New Delhi or Kabul; it still emanates from Washington.

At the second Senate hearing, Robert Grenier, the former CIA station chief in Islamabad, recalled that in 1994 Pakistan “came within a hair’s breadth” of being put on the US list of “state sponsors of terrorism”. Actually, Pakistan forcefully rejected the threat, telling the US that the legitimate Kashmiri struggle for self-determination could not be equated with terrorism and Pakistan would not sit idle while Indian occupation forces were killing thousands of Kashmiris. The threat was not pursued further.

In 1994, despite the Pressler nuclear sanctions, the Benazir Bhutto government still had many friends in Washington. The Indo-US strategic partnership had not been formed. Pakistan’s image had not been systematically trashed. Today, Pakistan has few friends and many enemies in Washington.

Despite the recent assurances from the State Department, the ‘terrorism file’ against Pakistan is being built up steadily by India and the US at the UN. The first step was to place the Haqqani group and the LeT and JeM on the Security Council’s ‘terrorist’ lists. Pakistan’s previous government agreed to this. The second step was to press Pakistan through the Security Council committees to outlaw these organisations and seize their assets. Pakistan has done so. The third step, now under way, is to demand that Pakistan arrest the ‘leaders’ of these organisations and eliminate the presence of these organisations. In the best of circumstances, this would be a challenging task. With Indian repression rampant in Kashmir, and Indian-Afghan support for the TTP and BLA ongoing, these are not the ‘best circumstances’. Pakistan’s inability or unwillingness to act against the designated groups could be used to justify future UN or unilateral US anti-terror sanctions.

It is therefore essential for Pakistan to formulate and execute a well-considered strategy to respond to the Indian and Afghan rhetoric and neutralise the threat of US sanctions.

Pakistan should more vigorously project that all militant groups, including the Haqqanis, have been eliminated from North Waziristan and other agencies and remaining hideouts are being cleared. It should call for Afghan and US support to fence parts of the border and strengthen cross-border controls (which are being resisted by Kabul). It should demand action from Kabul and the US to eliminate the TTP’s safe havens in Afghanistan and end Afghan and Indian support for the TTP and BLA; and project the affiliation or integration of TTP elements with the militant Islamic State group, which poses a common threat to Kabul and the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan should reaffirm the international consensus that peace in Afghanistan can be restored only through negotiations between Kabul and the Afghan Taliban. Finally, it should indicate the grave consequences for Afghanistan if Pakistan is penalised by sanctions.

Pakistan’s response on the Kashmir dimension should be even more robust. It should reaffirm the legitimacy of the Kashmiri freedom movement, reject its equation with terrorism, uphold the Kashmiris’ right to receive moral and material support; seek condemnation of India’s gross and systematic violations of human rights in occupied Kashmir; expose India’s current and past role as a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’ and a serial perpetrator of ‘state terrorism’. It should reject all discussions with India on terrorism until it halts its repression in Kashmir and ends its sponsorship of the TTP and BLA.

Hopefully, the next US administration will carefully review the implications of sanctioning Pakistan — chaos in Afghanistan, end of counterterrorism, non-proliferation and arms control cooperation and a heightened danger of an India-Pakistan conflict — and come to the conclusion that coercion is not an option in the conduct of relations with Pakistan.

For its part, while seeking a peaceful solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and the right of self-determination for the people of Kashmir, Pakistan too would be well served by eliminating terrorist and extremist groups from its soil.

There is thus room for constructive diplomacy between Pakistan and the US.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Source: The threat of US sanctions
Published in Dawn September 18th, 2016
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Default 2nd October 2016

Modi’s war


FRUSTRATED by Pakistan’s refusal to bow to Indian diktat, encouraged by its strategic partnership with the US, alarmed by the renewed revolt in Indiaheld Jammu and Kashmir and humiliated by the killing of 18 Indian soldiers in Uri, Narendra Modi is on the path of war against Pakistan. He has vowed to “isolate” Pakistan, support Baloch separatists, dam Pakistan’s rivers and conduct “surgical strikes” against Pakistan. Pakistan must assess these threats objectively. Its response should be characterised by resolve, responsibility and reciprocity.

New Delhi’s confrontational course reflects the ideological nostrums of the BJP-RSS cohort and the presumption that America will endorse Indian intimidation of Pakistan. The US no doubt would welcome a degree of Indian pressure on Pakistan to promote its own objectives, especially Pakistani action against the Haqqani ‘network’ operating in Afghanistan. To please India, it is also asking Pakistan to suppress pro-Kashmiri groups (LeT and JeM).


But Washington is not likely, at this time, to declare Pakistan a “state sponsor of terrorism”. The resolution moved in the Congress by two legislators is unlikely to be adopted much less endorsed by the current US administration. Declaring Pakistan a terrorism sponsor would hurt Pakistan, but would also lead to termination of all Pak-US cooperation, with dire consequences for peace in Afghanistan and South Asia. In any case, America is not the world. Isolating Pakistan will be a challenging, ultimately fruitless endeavour for India.

China is a neighbour of both Pakistan and India and Pakistan’s strategic partner. In a conflict, China’s posture would be more relevant than America’s. Beijing has advised both Pakistan and India to open dialogue and exercise restraint. But it’s obvious which one needs to be restrained at present. Indian aggression against Pakistan will evoke a strong Chinese response.

The third major power, Russia, which has considerable regional influence, is no longer India’s all-weather ally, given Modi’s rush to jump into America’s strategic lap. Significantly, even as India’s anti-Pakistan rhetoric has been ramped up after Uri, the first joint Pakistan-Russian military exercises have gone ahead — that too in Gilgit-Baltistan, to which India lays claim.

Bangladesh, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka have bowed to Indian pressure and joined its decision not to attend the Saarc summit (which Pakistan should have itself cancelled in response to Modi’s threats). Their powerlessness illustrates how Pakistan’s national independence would be compromised were it to succumb to Indian hegemony. It validates the wisdom of our founding fathers in creating Pakistan and of our leaders in securing an effective conventional and nuclear capability to neutralise India’s ability to coerce Pakistan.

Afghanistan’s current alignment with India is strategically more significant. Partly, it is the result of Pakistan’s overpromise and under-delivery of a dialogue with the Afghan Taliban; partly, it is a reflection of the US attempt to use India to displace the influence of Pakistan and China in Afghanistan. But India’s presence in Afghanistan, like that of the US, is vulnerable to the hostility of Afghan insurgents. And, if Afghan territory continues to be utilised, especially by India, for terrorism and subversion against Pakistan, the latter has options for direct action to counter this. Pakistan has considerable space, now and in future, to reverse Kabul’s hostility through incentives and disincentives.

‹ Modi’s threat to support Baloch separatists is ‘real’. Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies are already active in sponsoring subversion and terrorism by the BLA and other insurgents in Balochistan. This is likely to be intensified. Pakistan should be ready to inflict pain on the perpetrators of such hostile intervention. It should adopt more robust and imaginative measures, combining counterterrorism and accommodation of legitimate Baloch grievances to defeat the insurgency.

Modi’s desire to choke off Pakistan’s rivers is a more distant, yet more existential, threat. Pakistan should apprise the World Bank and the Indus Waters Treaty’s arbitration mechanism of the grave consequences of such action. Under international law, arbitrary blockage of rivers amounts to ‘aggression’ — justifying a military response from Pakistan.

In the immediate context, war is most likely if India conducts ‘surgical strikes’ or other military operations against Pakistan. Modi’s men have had to reconsider their post-Uri threats to launch such strikes. No doubt they’ve been cautioned against doing so by most countries. The Indians have tried, disingenuously, to portray their artillery attacks along the LoC as ‘surgical strikes’ to appease whipped-up public fervour in India to ‘punish’ Pakistan. The open Indian claim to have crossed the LoC provides Pakistan with justification to retaliate against India across the LoC at a time of its choosing. Hopefully, Pakistan’s restraint in refraining will not encourage India to try ‘bolder’ action which could lead to a general conflict.

‹ There’s a real danger that as frustration at the failure of threats and bluster mounts in India, and Kashmiri protests continue, Modi may be tempted to take further reckless action. There are signs that India has been planning over the past few months for the possibility of a conflict with Pakistan. It would be wise for Pakistan to warn the world, including the Security Council, of the dangers of such adventurism. Islamabad should demonstrate, in part through its deployments, its readiness to respond to such Indian aggression.

Nor should Pakistan be diverted by the Modi-manufactured crisis from pressing for a just, durable solution to the Kashmir dispute. Unless this is resolved in accordance with the Kashmiri people’s wishes, they will persist in revolting against Indian rule. India will continue to respond brutally, evoking militant retaliation, for which India will always blame Pakistan. Unless Kashmir is resolved, war between Pakistan and India will remain an ever-present possibility.

To this end, Pakistan should open consultations with Security Council members mentioned by Nawaz Sharif in his recent address to the UN General Assembly. In such consultations, Pakistan’s aim should be to secure support for ending India’s human rights violations in occupied Kashmir, progressive demilitarisation of Jammu and Kashmir and elaboration of modalities for a free and fair plebiscite there.

Even if war is avoided, normalisation of Pak-India ties is unlikely until the departure of the Hindu fundamentalist cohort from office. Pakistanis, including those who entertained illusions of friendship with Modi’s India, must unite to defend our nation from the menace we wisely escaped 69 years ago.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2016

http://www.dawn.com/news/1287408/modis-war
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India’s sound and fury


IN the current crisis, it is tempting to dismiss India’s dire threats, outlandish propaganda, childish antics and illusory ‘surgical strikes’, in Shakespeare’s words, as “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. The clamour from India is certainly replete with idiocy and delusional nonsense. Yet, India’s aggressive posture and propaganda may signify a more ominous portent.

It is clear that India has been encouraged by its new alliance with the US to conclude that it can suppress the latest revolt in India-held Jammu and Kashmir with brutal impunity. America and other Western powers are not prepared to speak out against India’s massive violations of human rights in Kashmir.

The fictional ‘surgical strikes’ across the LoC have led some Indian analysts to assert that New Delhi has established a new threshold for military action against Pakistan without evoking retaliation. Do the Modi government and Indian military leaders actually endorse this thesis? Was India prevented from carrying out cross-LoC strikes because of its own assessment that Pakistan would retaliate, or because of the cautionary advice of the US and other powers? If this is not clear, Pakistan will need to evaluate what it needs to do to re-establish the mutual deterrence inducted after the 1998 nuclear tests.

The high-level meeting convened in Islamabad to review the current crisis with India should have focused on such strategic issues and the challenge of defending the hapless Kashmiris. Instead, if the report in this newspaper is correct, it appears that the meeting focused on India’s thesis that Pakistan will be ‘isolated’ because of its incomplete action against ‘terrorist’ groups. Apart from the legal and political complexity of the issue, action on this issue at this time would be interpreted as capitulation to Indian military pressure and threats and, that too, while India openly supports insurrection in Balochistan and sponsors the TTP from Afghan territory. To confound confusion, the sensitive internal deliberations were ‘leaked’ to the press.

Pakistan’s policymakers must restore focus on the real challenge posed by India’s hostility and its oppression in occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The prime minister made a bold speech at the UN General Assembly, proposing an investigation of India’s human rights violations in occupied Kashmir; Pakistan-India arms control and military restraint; and consultations with the Security Council to demilitarise Kashmir and implement the Security Council resolutions.

These proposals must be actively promoted by Pakistan’s diplomacy in the Security Council, the Human Rights Council and other relevant forums. The major powers should be apprised of the ground realities. The 20 political envoys dispatched by the prime minister, with some exceptions, are unlikely to be equal to this task. There are at least a dozen experienced and respected diplomats available in Islamabad who could be used for this purpose.

There are three essential messages that need to be conveyed to the international community.

One: Kashmir remains a nuclear flashpoint. India has been unable to extinguish the Kashmiri demand for self-determination in 70 years; it will be unable to do so in the foreseeable future. Every generation of Kashmiris will keep rising against Indian rule. Indian violence will be met by Kashmiri retaliation. India will always blame Pakistan for this. A Pakistan-India war will remain an ever-present threat.

Two: India is obviously being encouraged in its brutality and belligerence by its new-found alliance with the US. New Delhi may convince itself that it is in a position to engage in a limited or punitive war against Pakistan. This would be a catastrophic mistake. Pakistan and India need to adopt measures for mutual restraint to avoid any conflict, now or in the future.

Three: since bilateral efforts have failed for 70 years, it is essential that the international community intercedes forcefully to promote a peaceful solution to the Kashmir dispute and prevent a war between Pakistan and India, by design or accident.

Our leaders and people should be clear: Pakistan is not isolated, nor likely to be. In fact, there are several current opportunities for Pakistan’s diplomacy to shift the strategic balance in its favour.

First, Pakistan should open an early dialogue with the incoming US administration to underline the need for a balanced US policy to prevent an Indian threat to Pakistan’s security and to sustain Pakistan-US cooperation on Afghanistan, counterterrorism, non-proliferation as well as trade and investment.

Second, while US support for India’s military build-up is aimed against China, it is Pakistan which faces the primary threat from this build-up. As Pakistan’s strategic partner, China must be asked at the highest level to intensify its strategic cooperation with Pakistan and enable it to effectively counter the advanced military capabilities India is deploying against Pakistan.

Third, Islamabad needs to take full advantage of Russia’s new openness to a strategic relationship with Pakistan and build a relationship covering defence, technology, energy, Afghanistan and countering terrorism.

Fourth, Pakistan and Iran have a common interest in stabilising their Baloch provinces. This can be the foundation for a restored strategic relationship encompassing trade, energy, defence and Afghanistan.

Fifth, Saudi Arabia is strategically adrift due to the erosion of its alliance with the US. Pakistan can extend support to the House of Saud without becoming involved in the competition between Riyadh and Tehran.

Sixth, Turkey’s ties with the US and Nato are also frayed. Pakistan’s already close relationship with Ankara can be expanded across the board.

Last, while the threat from India is existential, it is potential. The hostile intervention from Afghanistan by the TTP and BLA is operational. In the absence of Kabul’s cooperation, ‘surgical strikes’ against TTP safe havens and BLA safe houses should be an active option for Pakistan. Moreover, if Ghani’s government continues to refuse a negotiated peace, Pakistan is well placed to promote an alternative peace process involving those Afghans who are ready to reach a peace settlement based on power-sharing and the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Published in Dawn October 16th, 2016
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