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Old Sunday, June 11, 2017
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Default June 11th, 2017

A dark age


IN the 14th and 15th centuries, Christian Europe was divided by the rivalries of the kingdoms of Spain, France and England, the Holy Roman Empire and the squabbling papal and city states of Italy. They were unable to unite in halting the advance of the ascendant Ottomans who reached the gates of Vienna and were stopped there more by Sultan Suleiman’s demise rather than credible Christian resistance.

Today, the roles are reversed. It is the Muslim world which is unable to unite to fend off the domination of the West. The crisis between Qatar and its GCC partners is reminiscent of the rivalries of Italy’s papal states and role of external powers in determining the destiny of its weak rulers.

The Islamic world, wracked by multiple conflicts and crises, is traversing a period akin to Europe’s Dark Ages.

Today’s vulnerable Muslim world is wide open to the influence and domination of external powers.

First, in many Muslim countries, there is crisis of political legitimacy. Governance structures, mostly bequeathed by departing Western colonists, have corroded. The authoritarian regimes in the GCC and Iran were untouched by the Arab Spring; but most are vulnerable domestically to both democratic and ideological challenge.

Egypt has reverted to military rule. Turkey’s populist leader battles internal and external opposition. External intervention in Libya has yielded a civil war and the emergence of the militant Islamic State group and other terrorist groups. Similarly, Syria has been destroyed by external intervention and a brutal sectarian and ethnic civil war. The fiction of Iraq’s unity is preserved by the presence of Iranian militias, US military support and the war against IS. The US-installed Afghan regime is weak, corrupt, divided, and militarily beleaguered. Ironically, among OIC members, Pakistan is one of the few which, despite corruption scandals, retains a modicum of democratic legitimacy.

Second, violence is spreading across the Muslim world. Global terrorist groups — IS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al Shabab, etc — are now active participants in civil and cross-border conflicts and pose a threat to global stability.

Muslim nations are not the main sponsors of global terrorism; they are its principal victims. Some major powers have fought terrorists selectively and at times used them for partisan purposes. No effort has been made to stop state terrorism or to differentiate between terrorists and insurgencies which, like the Afghan Taliban, have local, negotiable goals. Most important, no concerted effort has been made to address terrorism’s ‘root causes’: persistent injustices against Muslim peoples eg in Palestine and Kashmir, or poverty, ignorance and social alienation which create recruits for terrorism, including over the internet.

Third, the crises within the Islamic world have been exacerbated by ideological and doctrinal differences. The most vital schism is between Sunni and Shia power. This schism was dormant until Iran’s 1979 ‘Islamic Revolution’. It rose to the fore in the Iraq-Iran war. It was manifest in the Afghan civil war between the Afghan Taliban and the Northern Alliance. It was, however, the US invasion of Iraq, its dismantling of the Sunni-dominated Baath party and army and the organisation of one-man one-vote elections that enabled the Iran-sponsored Shia parties to gain central power in Iraq and extend Iranian influence across the Levant and beyond.

Iran’s rise is anathema to its Sunni rivals: Saudi Arabia, the GCC and Egypt. Turkey has also been uncomfortable; although it has been obliged recently to moderate its rivalry and secure Tehran’s cooperation to forestall Kurdish separatism. Pakistan’s once close ties with Iran also deteriorated over time due to multiple reasons: Islamabad’s termination of peaceful nuclear cooperation, competition for influence in post-Soviet Afghanistan, Iranian ‘interference’ with Pakistan’s Shia community, cross-border events in Iranian and Pakistani Balochistan and Iran’s sudden reversal of support on Kashmir in response to Indian ‘incentives’.

But the sectarian divide is not the sole ideological rift within the Muslim world today. The Muslim Brotherhood and its populist ideology have become abhorrent to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE. Hamas, the Palestinian affiliate of the Brotherhood, has suffered collateral damage. On the other hand, Qatar and Turkey have espoused the Brotherhood and Hamas, offered refuge to their adherents and support to them in the Libyan civil war. Such Qatari divergence was evidently the main reason for the Saudi-UAE break with Doha.

Last, but not least, today’s weak, vulnerable Islamic world is wide open to the influence and domination of major external powers. The recent Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh was, more than anything, an illustration of the susceptibility of most of the assembled Muslim nations to US domination. Russia also enjoys critical influence with several Muslim countries, including Iran and Turkey, due to its military power and growing role in Syria and the region. So far, China has remained aloof from inter-Islamic differences. Its desire seems to be to use its economic and financial power as a force for greater cohesion with Muslim countries.

What seems most dangerous for the immediate future is the hard-line positions being adopted by the Trump administration on most international disputes and crises, including North Korea, South China Sea, Syria and Iran. If implemented, these positions, particularly the formation of an alliance against Iran, are likely to lead to the intensification of the conflicts affecting the Muslim world.

Pakistan’s main preoccupations are: TTP and IS terrorism, Afghanistan and India. It appears that Pakistan will face challenges in addressing these issues. President Ghani’s recent atrocious accusations against Pakistan obviously had clearance from his US patrons. Trump’s refusal to meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Riyadh was no accident. The Pentagon’s pre-emptive identification last week of Pakistan as host of a Chinese military base is another negative signal.

While addressing its own priorities, Pakistan cannot ‘play possum’ on issues involving the Islamic world. Such abstention does not behove the Muslim world’s second largest nation, its largest military power and its only nuclear weapon state. Pakistan has consistently concluded that its national and security interests can be best advanced by promoting unity and cooperation among Muslim countries. Today, more than ever, Pakistan is obliged to play an active role to develop viable avenues for conflict resolution and cooperation among the Islamic nations and, hopefully, lead the way to a new age of enlightenment in the Muslim world.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.


Source: A dark age
Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2017
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Default June 25th, 2017

Strategy-free force



IN a recent Wall Street Journal column, President Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, and senior economic adviser, Gary Cohn, wrote: “The world is not a global community but an arena where nations, non-governmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage”, and “we embrace” this “elemental nature of international affairs”.

Under the slogan ‘America First’, and led largely by his generals, Trump seeks to reassert global primacy through raw military and economic power. In almost every conflict where it is engaged, the US has escalated or threatened to escalate the use of force, even in the absence of a long-term strategy.

Unfortunately, the preference for military options can be contagious. Other powers, like Russia, Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have not been reluctant to resort to force. Even mini-money states, like the UAE and Qatar, have embarked on foreign military operations. If military force becomes the first rather than last option for states, international relations will be transformed into a Hobbesian jungle of all against all.

The wars in Syria and Iraq reflect this dystopian reality. Latest events — the US downing of a Syrian government aircraft and the Russian demand that US aircraft not fly west of the Euphrates — have confirmed the danger of a direct US-Russia conflict in Syria. Once the militant Islamic State group is defeated, Iraq’s three-way (Shia, Sunni, Kurd) crisis will revive, with the Sunni minority turning to Saudi Arabia for support against the Shia-led government in Baghdad.

The Kurds in Iraq and Syria will try to break away, but face Turkish and Iranian opposition and may be ultimately betrayed by their Western sponsors (again). Even after its defeat in Mosul and Raqqa, IS will survive in some form, perhaps merging with other Sunni extremist groups, or escaping to new locations, like Afghanistan. Its campaign of global terror will remain potent.

The Trump summit in Riyadh virtually declared the opening of hostilities against Iran. Predictably, Iran blamed Saudi Arabia for the subsequent terror attacks in Tehran. US Secretary of State Tillerson has upped the ante by referring to the prospect of regime change in Iran.

The recent Iranian missile strikes against IS in Syria were an unsubtle message to the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia that Tehran has the will and capacity to retaliate against hostile actions. Iran could inflame West Asia and the Levant; rain Hezbollah rockets on Israel; threaten Saudi oilfields and US bases in Afghanistan; mobilise Shia minorities to destabilise shaky rulers in the Gulf. The Saudi-UAE vendetta against Qatar reveals the fault lines within the Sunni alliance which can be exploited by Iran in the context of the wider regional confrontation.

Afghanistan is about to endure another cycle of violence as the US digs itself deeper into the Afghan quagmire. The new US ‘surge’ (of 4,000 troops) may prevent the collapse of the US-installed Kabul regime, at enormous human and financial cost; but it will not deliver either military victory or force the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table. Pressure on Pakistan to eliminate the alleged safe havens may prove counterproductive. A focus on fighting the Afghan Taliban will erode the prospects of collective action against IS and other terrorist groups, like the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, etc which are present in Afghanistan and pose a threat to the entire region.

Kashmir could spark another India-Pakistan war. The popular Kashmiri revolt against Indian rule has persisted for over a year despite Indian brutality, Pakistani impotence and world indifference. In the run-up to the 2019, Indian general elections, Prime Minister Modi may try to deflect attention from India’s Kashmiri quagmire by escalating the Line of Control ceasefire violations or even attempting a (real) cross-LOC ‘strike’. The ensuing Pakistan-India conventional conflict will not remain limited and could easily escalate to the nuclear level. President Trump should press Modi in Washington this week to accept his offer of mediation to avoid a disastrous Pakistan-India war.

So far, Trump has avoided the Thucydides Trap by holding back from an overt containment of China. He has conditioned the US position on trade on Beijing’s ability to restrain North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes.

However, extreme Chinese pressure on North Korea is unlikely since this may lead to regime collapse, millions of refugees, Korean unification and US troops on China’s border. Beijing’s preference is for a freeze in North Korea’s missile and nuclear programmes and reciprocal military restraint by the US and its allies. If attempts to evolve a deal collapse, the military option may come back to the fore and Sino-US differences on trade, the South China Sea and other issues may revive, generating tensions across Asia.

Despite the early optimism in Moscow, Trump’s campaign desire for a cooperative relationship with Russia has been stymied by the American ‘establishment’. On the contrary, the new unilateral anti-Russia sanctions imposed by the US Congress last week are an indication that US-Russian tensions will persist and probably escalate. Close ‘encounters’ between Russian-Nato air and naval forces are now commonplace and could lead to a military incident.

The balance of power in Europe favours Russia. Its absorption of Crimea is a reality. Ukraine’s division is unlikely to be overcome except on Moscow’s terms. Nato’s forward deployments, and/or installation of an advanced ballistic missile defence system, will evoke strong Russian responses even as support of several European countries, which desire cooperative relations with Russia, wavers.

To manage the several simultaneous political, economic and technological transitions under way, and meet the existential challenges of climate change, demographic explosion, poverty, terrorism, refugees and communicable diseases, the international community requires intense cooperation and collective action.

Such cooperation is impossible while states are allowed to have recourse to the untrammelled and unilateral use of force. It is essential to revive unconditional adherence by states to their UN Charter commitment to refrain from the use or threat of force in their international relations. Making this commitment a reality should be the first priority of the UN’s new secretary general.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2017
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  #43  
Old Monday, July 17, 2017
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Default July 9th, 2017

Modi’s American embrace


THE widely circulated picture of Indian Prime Minister Modi clinging to a visibly uncomfortable Donald Trump’s breast illustrates the nature of the emerging relationship between India and the US.

Modi’s eagerness to serve as America’s ‘natural partner’ to contain a rising China is based on the expectation that this will provide India multiple advantages: latest military equipment and technology; expanded US investment; unconditional US support against Pakistan, a free hand in Kashmir and vigorous endorsement of India’s great power ambitions in South Asia, the Indian Ocean and beyond.

The Indo-US alliance has grave security implications for Pakistan. It will exacerbate the military imbalance and make India even more intransigent on Kashmir and belligerent towards Pakistan. Indeed, to deflect attention from its failed oppression of the popular Kashmiri revolt, Modi may feel sufficiently emboldened to actually attempt a cross-LoC ‘surgical strike’ against Pakistan, provoking a war which is unlikely to remain limited.

However, the alliance with America will involve challenges and costs for India which Modi appears to have discounted.

The US and India are unequal powers. As the practitioner of the Art of the Deal, Trump will not be shy to exercise the leverage which the US will progressively acquire over India, eg, to open India’s restrictive trade regime or curtail its traditional ties with Russia and Iran. To sustain the ‘partnership’, India will have to learn to bend, often, to America’s will, compromising the ‘independence’ of its foreign policy.

The alliance with America will involve challenges and costs for India.

As Pakistan discovered, defence ties with the US can be a mixed blessing. The arms and technology tap can be turned on and off by Washington to secure desired behaviour from its allies and partners. When Lockheed’s F-16 production is relocated to India, will the US, as it did with Pakistan, implant software to neutralise the aircraft’s operational capabilities in a crisis? New Delhi will never be sure that any equipment it acquires from the US, or Israel, will not be ‘compromised’ if India attempts to use this for purposes other than those endorsed by the US.

While the US will wish to use India to strategically harass China, it may be more reluctant to support all India’s aims against Pakistan and other smaller neighbours. As a ‘global’ power, the US will want to retain direct influence over Pakistan and other South Asian states rather than delegate this to India.

Undeterred by such considerations, Modi seems to have embarked already on his assigned mission to contain China. India is the only major country to reject China’s Belt and Road initiative. It provoked China by inviting the Dalai Lama to disputed Arunachal Pradesh/south Tibet. And, it has blocked Chinese road construction on Chinese territory along the Bhutan-China border. Beijing has demanded the withdrawal of Indian troops “as soon as possible” and reminded India of the lessons of history, ie India’s 1962 defeat.

In his book, Implosion: India’s Tryst with Reality, John Eliot argues that India is not well placed to confront China. Although India’s GDP is growing annually at seven per cent and China at 6.5pc, the gap is widening since the Chinese economy is more than four times the size of India’s.

Given that India has been unable to bully Pakistan, it is hardly in a position to confront China simultaneously. Even the smaller South Asian states are entering into economic and defence relationships with China. The Bangladesh government, although deeply beholden to India, is buying Chinese submarines and will exploit its major Bay of Bengal gas field with a Chinese rather than an Indian partner.

China’s Global Times asked: “With GDP several times higher than that of India, military capabilities that can reach the Indian Ocean and having good relations with India’s peripheral nations, coupled with the fact that India’s turbulent northern states border China, will Beijing lose to New Delhi?”

India’s vulnerabilities are extensive. Kashmir remains India’s Achilles heel (where, so far, China has urged Pakistan to exercise restraint). India is fighting 17 ‘active’ insurgencies in 119 districts (according to former prime minister Manmohan Singh), including the Naxalite, Naga and Mizo rebellions, the latter two in areas adjacent to China. With millions of Muslims and ‘lower’ caste Hindus alienated by BJP-RSS inspired discrimination and violence, India is also fertile ground for civil chaos.

Despite the grave implications of the Indo-US alliance, Pakistan should exercise strategic patience. India is on the wrong side of history. It is building alliances with distant powers, the US and Israel, both of which are disliked by the people if not all Muslim regimes. Pakistan has the opportunity of building strong ties not only with China but also Russia, Iran, and others across Eurasia who will be part of the Belt and Road initiative, which is likely to have a more profound impact on regional peace and prosperity than the US military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, etc.

Faced with India’s growing militarisation, Pakistan’s primary objective is to ensure ‘full spectrum deterrence’ against India. The successful test of the short-range Nasr missile is an important step. Islamabad desperately needs a clear, active, national Kashmir strategy to support and sustain the indigenous Kashmiri freedom movement. There is no longer any downside to raising the Kashmir dispute formally in the UN Security Council and other international forums, including the International Court of Justice.

Despite its imbalanced posture, there is no point in a confrontation with the US. In the immediate future, Pakistan may need to reach tactical ‘accommodations’ with the US on Afghanistan in exchange for its active support to end Indian-inspired terrorism in Pakistan.

Over time, the ‘correlation of forces’ in the region will change. India’s friendship with Russia and Iran will erode. (Ayatollah Khamanei mentioned Kashmir twice of late). India may blunder into a conflict with China. Its alliance with the US may erode if India proves reluctant to actually confront China, loosen its links to Iran and Russia or to open its market to US trade and investment.

Meanwhile, Pakistan should continue to ask Washington: would not US interests in Asia be better served by cooperation rather than confrontation with China? Do you really want to step into the Thucydides Trap?

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.


Source:Modi’s American embrace
Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2017
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Default July 23rd, 2017

Sticking it to Pakistan


THE Trump administration is about to complete its much-awaited comprehensive review of US policies on Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. There is widespread speculation that the new policy will involve intensified US military operations in Afghanistan, including the addition of several thousand troops, a tougher posture towards Pakistan and closer cooperation with India.

Questions still abound about America’s strategic objectives in Afghanistan. US generals, who appear to run Afghan policy in the Trump administration so far, have repeated the usual mantra about eliminating terrorism and militancy. But their strategic objectives, even if not yet endorsed by the US president, now appear to be much broader than the pacification of Afghanistan and an early exit from there.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the primary aim of the US ‘establishment’ in Afghanistan is to prop up its client regime in Kabul, neutralise the rival influence of China, Russia, Iran or Pakistan in Afghanistan and, if needed, to use it as a base to project power in the entire region. As the commanding US general in Afghanistan recently declared: “We are staying” (indefinitely).

While the US and Kabul continue to declare that they favour a negotiated settlement with the Afghan Taliban, they insist on terms that are obviously unacceptable to the latter, ensuring a continuation of the Afghan conflict. Indeed, the persistence of conflict within Afghanistan and the region creates conditions to promote what may well be the new strategic objective of the US and India: to disrupt the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and prevent China’s direct access to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.

US demands on Pakistan are no longer limited to the Afghan Taliban or the Haqqanis.

The reported presence of some Afghan Taliban leaders in Quetta, or a few fighters in the scattered hideouts in the forests of Fata, is not critical to the military outcome in Afghanistan. The insurgency now operates from the vast areas the Taliban and other groups, like the militant Islamic State (IS), control within Afghanistan.

But Washington blames Pakistan for the military stalemate in Afghanistan for several reasons: one, to explain the US military’s failure; two, to justify escalated US air and ground operations; three, to pressure Pakistan to take military action against the Afghan Taliban, especially the Haqqanis, and ease the US fight against them; and four, perhaps to condone the (Indo-Kabul) intervention from Afghan territory to destabilise Pakistan and disrupt the CPEC venture.

Moreover, American demands on Pakistan are no longer limited to the Afghan Taliban or the Haqqanis. Apart from ignoring the achievements of Pakistan’s several past and ongoing military operations against various militant groups, the US now also demands Pakistani action against Kashmiri groups to accommodate its Indian (anti-China) ally. While Indian repression is under way in occupied Kashmir, Pakistan will be loath to act against the Kashmiris. America’s accommodation of India’s objectives makes it impossible for Islamabad to evolve a strategic agreement with the US on regional peace and security, including Afghanistan.

Numerous reports in the American media have asserted that the US will henceforth rely on ‘sticks’ rather than ‘incentives’ to secure Pakistan’s cooperation against terrorists and ‘safe havens’ on its territory.

The actions to ‘punish’ Pakistan proposed in the US media, think tanks and Congress include:

a) a cut-off of Coalition Support Funds. The US defence secretary has blocked $50 million from the 2016 reimbursement and Congress has enlarged the onerous conditions (cooperation against the Afghan Taliban, Haqqanis and Kashmiri groups) to release the 2017 CSF allocation which Pakistan will be unable to meet. It will have to live without this money.

b) cancellation of ‘non-Nato ally’ status. Since Pakistan is unlikely to buy any advanced US weapons, the impact of this measure would be mostly symbolic.

c) intensified US drone strikes on Pakistan territory. Pakistan reportedly shot down a wayward Iranian drone. Will it shoot down a US drone? Or, conduct Pakistani drone/air strikes against the TTP and Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA) ‘safe havens’ in Afghanistan?

d) cross-border operation by US/Afghan forces. This would be a gross violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and a dangerous precedent likely to be emulated by India. Pakistan will be obliged to respond militarily in case of such intervention.

e) visa and financial restrictions on designated officials. This will have no meaningful impact. Pakistan could respond with equivalent measures.

f) sanctions against designated entities/agencies. Again, these would mostly have symbolic effect.

g) designation of Pakistan as a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’. This will be a strategic development. It would put Pakistan in the company of America’s enemies: Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria. It could propel Islamabad into open support for the Afghan Taliban and the Kashmiri freedom struggle.

h) US financial restrictions, including on US dollar transactions by Pakistani banks. Pakistan will be obliged to rely on China to avoid an economic collapse.

Apart from reacting to US sanctions, Pakistan could take other calibrated and graduated measures to retaliate against the US ‘sticks’.

These could include: a halt or drastic slowdown in the transport of US-Nato supplies to Afghanistan across Pakistan territory; suspension of all/most Afghan transit trade; ban on over-flights of US, Nato, Afghan and Indian military-related flights to and from Afghanistan; accelerated expulsion of Afghan refugees; expulsion of identified/suspected US-Nato and Afghan intelligence personnel; withdrawal of recognition from the Kabul regime and formation of an Afghan ‘government in exile’ (including the Afghan Taliban and disaffected leaders like Dostum).

India will, without doubt, attempt to take advantage of Pakistan-US tensions. Terrorist attacks by the TTP, JuA and IS against Pakistan could intensify. New Delhi may feel sufficiently emboldened to actually conduct the vaunted ‘surgical strikes’ across the LoC. This could ignite a war with Pakistan which will not remain ‘limited’ and may escalate to the nuclear level.

Pakistan’s current domestic crisis has restricted its ability to influence the policies of the Trump administration. Yet, the stakes are high. Even at this late stage, Pakistan should engage the White House and responsible US leaders to clarify positions and explore avenues to avoid a mutually damaging confrontation. Simultaneously, Islamabad should open urgent consultations with China and other friendly powers to develop a collective response to emerging US policies in Afghanistan and South Asia.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Source: Sticking it to Pakistan
Published in Dawn, July 23rd, 2017
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Default August 6th, 2017

The new cold war


WHEN the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, US President George H. W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker promised Moscow that Nato would not be moved closer to Russia’s new borders. That promise was broken some years later by the Bill Clinton administration when the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland were incorporated into Nato, followed soon after by Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, previously part of the Soviet Union itself.

George Kennan, the famous ‘X’ who anonymously penned the 1947 Foreign Affairs article that provided the blueprint for America’s successful containment of the Soviet Union, was quoted by Tom Friedman (New York Times, May 2, 1998), as saying: “I think it (Nato expansion) is the beginning of a new cold war. ...the Russians will gradually react ... it is a tragic mistake”.

The Russians did react, as Kennan predicted, after Vladimir Putin had consolidated power. When the attempt was made to bring Georgia into Nato, Moscow sliced off two statelets from Georgia. When the pro-Russian president of Ukraine was ousted in a ‘political coup’, Putin took over Crimea and supported the ethnic Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Although the US is no longer the global hegemon, it continues to behave as if it is.

Today, Russia is again a first-rate military power. Its actions in Georgia and Ukraine will not be reversed. Moscow’s forces robustly patrol its western land, air and sea frontiers. The forthcoming large military manoeuvres across Belarus will illustrate Nato’s vulnerability. Russia has also reasserted its political, military and diplomatic role in the world’s ‘hot spots’.

The cerebral president Barack Obama displayed surprising strategic naiveté by simultaneously provoking Russia and announcing his vaunted ‘pivot to Asia’ to contain a rising China.

Despite America’s formidable naval power in the Pacific and its alliances with Japan, India and Australia, the US will be unable to oblige China to relinquish any of the territories or islands it claims unless it resorts to a full-blown war. China’s growing military and economic power also implies that the US will be unable to build reliable alliances to encircle China or block its sea routes.

In the new Cold War, America is pitted against two great powers which, between them, are likely to control the Eurasian ‘heartland’ and thus, if Halford McKinder’s thesis is right, also ‘control the world’. The US, meanwhile, is mired in the self-created quagmires of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Although Donald Trump is a geopolitical novice, realisation of his desire to normalise relations with Russia (whatever his personal motives) would have reduced America’s great power adversaries from two to one. The US Congress has scuttled this option by imposing the new sanctions against Russia.

Trump’s effort to secure China’s cooperation on North Korea was also sensible. The attempt proved infructuous because the US demand that China apply extreme pressure on Pyongyang to unilaterally give up its nuclear and missile capabilities was exorbitant and unrealistic. Trump’s tweeted rants against China after the latest North Korean missile tests, US weapons sales to Taiwan, and renewed ‘freedom of navigation’ forays in the South China Sea have soured the prospects of Sino-US cooperation.

The early years of the first Cold War, when the US and the Soviet Union sought to consolidate their respective spheres of influence and resorted to brinkmanship, were the most dangerous. It was only after the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis that both awoke to the danger of a nuclear Armageddon and instituted measures to regulate their competition, including nuclear arms control. Thereafter, the Cold War was fought either in the shadowy world of espionage and sabotage or through proxies.

The second cold war is in an early and dangerous phase and will be difficult to ‘manage’.

First, unlike the first Cold War, it is a trilateral, not bilateral, power struggle. Crisis management will become even more complicated once other militarily significant states align themselves with or against the major powers. Indeed, as at the outbreak of the First World War, international peace and security could be disrupted by the actions of any one of several state and non-state actors.

Second, the US appears to be seriously overestimating its power. Although the US is no longer the global hegemon, it continues to behave as if it is. Coercion and force seem to be Washington’s preferred option to address almost every challenge it confronts. Unless such belligerence is moderated, a great power conflict could erupt in Eastern Europe or the South China Sea; and the US could end up in shooting wars with North Korea and Iran. Some have even advocated US counterterrorist intervention in Pakistan without calculating the consequences.

Third, the potential for catastrophe has been magnified because, unlike the 1950s, now there are not two but nine nuclear weapon states. A conventional conflict in Korea or South Asia could rapidly escalate to the nuclear level.

Fourth, today’s conflicts are mostly ‘hybrid’ wars, encompassing special operations, sabotage and cyber warfare. As Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine, Syria, Libya and Yemen have illustrated, it is easy to start such ‘complex’ wars but extremely difficult to prevent their escalation and expansion.

The most tragic consequence of the new cold war will be the erosion of the collective efforts required to address the emerging existential and global threats: poverty and hunger, climate change, nuclear war, mass migration, communicable diseases. Nor will it be possible to collectively exploit the vast opportunities for human progress and wellbeing that technology and innovation now promise.

In the article mentioned, George Kennan added that what bothered him was “how superficial and ill informed the whole US Senate debate was’ (on Nato expansion). The same can be said about recent debates in the US Congress on Russia, Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan and a host of other issues.

The world’s destiny cannot be left to be determined by militarists, political pygmies, or partisan interests. It is imperative that political leaders who possess a global vision of a shared human future forge a new ‘Westphalian’ consensus to circumvent a second cold war, effectively prohibit the resort to force, control armaments and promote active international cooperation to address the common challenges that confront mankind.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Source: The new cold war
Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2017
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Default August 20th, 2017

‘K’ is for Kashmir


WHILE celebrating the nation’s 70th independence anniversary, we cannot forget that the ‘K’ in Pakistan’s name — Kashmir — is not (yet) part of our country. The men, women and children of India-held Kashmir (IHK) are even now engaged in a heroic David and Goliath struggle for freedom from India’s brutal occupation and oppression. Pakistan has done very little to support them.

An equitable solution to the Jammu and Kashmir dispute will not be easy. However, for political, strategic, moral and legal reasons, Pakistan cannot resile from its position on Kashmir.

By any objective criteria, Kashmir should have been part of Pakistan. The Kashmiris demonstrate each day their desire for integration with Pakistan. Pakistan has a political and moral obligation to support their aspirations and the political vision that inspired its own creation.

Some among Pakistan’s elites appear to have lost the will to support the occupied territory’s struggle.

Pakistan is a party to the UN Security Council resolutions prescribing a UN-supervised plebiscite to enable the people of Jammu and Kashmir to exercise their right to self-determination. It is thus legally bound by this commitment.

Kashmir is the source of the rivers that feed the Indus Valley. Water is an existential issue. Control over this life source cannot be legally surrendered to India.

Kashmir is India’s Achilles heel. Its massive military deployment in Kashmir diminishes India’s capacity for aggression against Pakistan. Its brutal suppression of the Kashmiris erodes India’s moral and political claim to regional domination and great power status. The leverage which Kashmir provides Pakistan to achieve an ‘equal’ relationship with India should not be unilaterally discarded.

Unfortunately, in the face of India’s growing power and the pressure exerted on Pakistan through the campaign against ‘Islamic terrorism’, some among Pakistan’s elites appear to have lost the will to support Kashmir’s struggle for self-determination and seem ready to accept the status quo in Kashmir.

The much-touted peace plan negotiated with India during the latter years of the Musharraf government was no more than a dressed-up acceptance of the status quo. It may have proved to be even worse since it envisaged joint India-Pakistan ‘administration’ of both sides of Jammu and Kashmir, thus conceding that India has a legitimate presence in Kashmir. Moreover, since the ‘problem’ — insurgency and resistance — is in Indian-occupied Kashmir, why would Pakistan give India an ‘administrative’ role in Azad Jammu and Kashmir? The mischief that India could play there is not difficult to imagine. New Delhi could insist that the northern territories be included as part of the area being jointly administered. It could seek a role in the management of the Karakoram Highway and attempt to disrupt this sole and strategic road link between Pakistan and China. (It is not surprising that the plan was rejected by Syed Geelani, the one Kashmiri leader who has been the most vigorous and consistent in his support for Kashmir’s integration with Pakistan.)

Unfortunately, intimidated by the US and India, the succeeding PPP and PML-N governments shied away from actively supporting the Kashmir cause.

However, in a welcome signal, both the new prime minister and foreign minister have expressed support for the Kashmiri cause in their maiden statements to the media.

Indeed, the present moment, when regional power equations are in flux and the Kashmiris have launched a popular indigenous struggle for freedom, may be opportune for Pakistan to promote a coherent strategy designed to halt India’s oppression, reassert the legitimacy of the Kashmiri freedom struggle, and intensify international pressure on India to accommodate Kashmiri rights and aspirations.

Pakistan should firstly support several objectives which the Kashmiris themselves need to achieve: reunification and rejuvenation of the Hurriyat parties; selection of a deserving successor to the indomitable but aging Syed Geelani; delegitimising the puppet government in Srinagar; possible formation of a ‘shadow’ government; organisation of an ‘independent’ referendum (like the Iraqi Kurds) in Kashmir pending the UN plebiscite.

Second, to regain legitimacy, the composition and profile of the Kashmiri resistance has to change. Its leadership must come mainly from new and younger Kashmiris untainted by association with any proscribed terrorist group.

Third, the projection of the Kashmiri struggle and India’s oppression must be significantly improved in the mainstream and social media. This is vital to achieving the strategy’s objectives.

Pakistan should initiate an active and sustained diplomatic campaign to exert international pressure on India. This campaign could include:

One, formal submission of the proposal to send a UN commission to investigate human rights violations in IHK. If India blocks a visit, Pakistan can ask for an offsite report. Concurrently, Pakistan should seek endorsement for a UN resolution calling for an end to Indian firing on peaceful demonstrators; inhuman treatment of Kashmiri children and youth and women; curfews; media blackouts; emergency laws; and the arbitrary detention of Kashmiri leaders.

Two, a formal proposal in the UN Security Council and General Assembly to adopt measures to prevent another Pakistan-India war, including: formalisation of the 2003 LoC ceasefire; expansion of the UNMOGIP and its deployment on both sides for comprehensive monitoring of the ceasefire; withdrawal of heavy artillery from LoC positions; exchange of solemn mutual assurances by Pakistan and India not to resort to force and not to interfere and intervene against each other, including through the sponsorship of terrorism.

Three, a complaint to the International Court of Justice accusing India of violating the Genocide Convention.

Four, approach the UN Security Council to implement its resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir by appointing a special envoy to promote demilitarisation of both sides of Jammu and Kashmir and to review and update the modalities for the organisation of a UN-supervised plebiscite there.

Pakistan’s active promotion of the Kashmir cause will not provoke a war, and it need not divert Pakistan from economic development. Even if Pakistan’s proposals are not adopted in UN forums, their submission and discussion will exert diplomatic pressure on India and ease the suffering of the Kashmiri people. It may even convince India to seek a dialogue and a modicum of normalisation with Pakistan.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Source: K is for Kashmir
Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2017
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Default September 17th, 2017

America’s new Afghan war

GIVEN US President Trump’s initial opposition to continuing the Afghan war, his new policy — to escalate the US military campaign in Afghanistan and blame Pakistan for the stalemate and threaten it with penalties — represents a serious political setback for Islamabad. After its anticipated angry response, Pakistan’s senior diplomats have rightly advocated a continued effort to engage the US and simultaneously develop a regional response to the new US policy.

Islamabad and other regional capitals no doubt realise that America is embarking on a ‘new’ war in Afghanistan, after its initial ‘war of revenge’ (2001-2004); ‘nation building’ ( 2005-2009) and Obama’s various combinations of a ‘fight, talk, pacify and withdraw’ policy. Trump’s new policy can be described as ‘stay and fight’.

The immediate US goal in Afghanistan is to prop up the pliant Kabul regime militarily and prevent its overthrow by the Afghan Taliban. The US generals, who are driving this policy, know that neither complete victory nor an acceptable political settlement is likely.

The US is no longer interested in a political settlement unless the Afghan Taliban accept America’s terms.

The strategic purpose of staying on indefinitely in Afghanistan is not to pacify it but to use it as a base for the promotion of America’s broader objectives in the region: one, to impose a ‘Pax Indo-Americana’ in South Asia, including by securing Pakistan’s acceptance of the status quo in Kashmir and severe restraints on Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence capability; two, to reverse Iran’s ascendancy in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq and neutralise its perceived threat to Israel; and, three, to limit the influence of China and Russia in Afghanistan and its neighbourhood and impede China’s ambitious One Belt, One Road initiative including the CPEC project.

The US is clearly no longer interested in a political settlement in Afghanistan unless the Afghan Taliban accepts America’s terms. Washington is not asking Pakistan to persuade the Afghan Taliban to agree to talks. It is demanding that Pakistan fight the Afghan Taliban itself and thus make it ‘easier’ for the US to prevent a Taliban victory and ‘stay on’ in Afghanistan.

The Americans know full well that almost all the Afghan Taliban fighters are in Afghanistan. Some may try at times to hide in border valleys and forests. Some Taliban leaders cross over to the large refugee camps and Afghan ‘neighbourhoods’ in and around Pakistani cities. Their periodic presence there has been used in the past by all parties, including the Americans, to facilitate inter-Afghan contacts and dialogue.

If Pakistan were to capture or kill the Afghan Taliban leadership, they are likely to forge an alliance with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and other militants who are attacking Pakistan. This will severely exacerbate Pakistan’s security challenges, including from the India- and Kabul-sponsored TTP and Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) militants.

Second, with the elimination of the Afghan Taliban leadership, negotiating an Afghan peace settlement will become virtually impossible. US generals may not mind a never-ending war; but the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan deserve a strategy that leads to peace, not perpetual war.

Third, eliminating the Afghan Taliban, whose political agenda is limited to Afghanistan, will strengthen the extra-territorial terrorist groups in Afghanistan: the militant Islamic State (IS) group (against whom the Afghan Taliban are fighting); Al Qaeda, with whom the Afghan Taliban have renounced past links; and Al Qaeda associates TTP, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (Etim) which are mainly threatening Afghanistan’s neighbours Pakistan, Russia, China and Central Asia. It is for these reasons that these neighbours have opened channels of contact with the Afghan Taliban.

Pakistan’s energetic new prime minister has offered intensified counterterrorism cooperation and joint border patrols to the US and Kabul. Pakistan’s ongoing programme to fence and closely monitor the border can be effective in preventing cross-border attacks. The US should convince Kabul to support it. Pakistan’s cooperation would encompass joint action against IS, Al Qaeda and their associates. Islamabad can undertake further steps to promote dialogue between Kabul and the Afghan Taliban. Naturally, Pakistan would expect reciprocal US and Afghan action against the TTP and BLA safe havens in Afghanistan.

Even if Pakistan were to accommodate the US on Afghanistan, it would not be satisfied. Its demands include calls for action against the pro-Kashmiri groups (Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad) and for acceptance of one-sided constraints on Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence capabilities.

Under US pressure, previous Pakistani governments agreed to put the LeT and JeM on the Security Council’s ‘terrorism’ list. Islamabad has outlawed them and seized their assets. The US and India want Pakistan to eliminate the iterations of these organisations and incarcerate their leaders. It would be unwise for Pakistan to accept the onus for putting its ‘house in order’ and enable India to subvert the legitimate Kashmiri struggle for self-determination and continue its brutal repression in occupied Kashmir.

Pakistan is also unlikely to entertain American demands to halt the development and deployment of short- and long-range nuclear-capable missiles, especially when the US is promoting Indian armament, not disarmament, and is known to have formulated plans to neutralise Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence capabilities in a crisis.

Consequently, the proffered engagement with the US is likely to prove infructuous. Pakistan should prepare itself to bear the ‘pain’ of the threatened US sanctions. It should draw its own ‘red lines’. Any sign of weakness will intensify, not ameliorate, US coercion.

The Pakistani foreign minister’s consultations with China, Turkey, Iran and Russia will hopefully yield a regional consensus that would be valuable in resisting America’s new and aggressive posture. Such a regional consensus could: one, accord highest priority to eliminating IS, Al Qaeda and ‘associated’ militants TTP, Jamaatul Ahrar, Etim, IMU; two, extend support for a negotiated settlement between Kabul and the Afghan Taliban; three, endorse Pakistan’s plan to fence and closely monitor the Pak-Afghan border; and, four, demand strict respect by all, including the US-Nato forces, for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan and other regional states.

Ultimately, as history attests, an external military solution cannot be imposed on the Afghans. Like others, the US will leave the ‘graveyard of empires’ in ignominy if it does not depart in dignity.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Source: America’s new Afghan war
Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2017
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Default October 1st, 2017

The nuclear dimension

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump spoke harshly about Pakistan; but he has not yet imposed sanctions, as has been the case with Iran, nor threatened to “totally destroy” it, like North Korea. Pakistani diplomats believe there is room to maintain a working if not a cosy relationship with Washington.

That remains to be seen. Islamabad disagrees with the ‘new’ US strategy concerning Afghanistan. It will not fight Afghanistan’s war on its soil. It will continue to oppose an expanded Indian role in Afghanistan. It wants a political settlement between Kabul and the Afghan Taliban, rather than continued conflict, and coordinated action to eliminate the militant Islamic State group and Al Qaeda, as well as the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, the Jamaatul Ahrar and the Balochistan Liberation Army, that operate from safe havens in Afghanistan.

Even if Pakistan and the US are able to reconcile their divergent positions on Afghanistan, the emerging strategic alignments that will shape policies in Asia are unlikely to change. The US has chosen India as its major strategic partner in Asia to counter the rising power of China. The resulting escalation in the Indian threat to Pakistan’s security is either irrelevant for the US or part of its strategic plan to weaken Pakistan’s opposition to Indo-US regional domination. The recent visit of the US defence secretary to India has confirmed and reinforced their strategic alliance and intention to collaborate in Afghanistan.

Without its nuclear and missile capabilities, Pakistan would have been sanctioned like Iran.

Pakistan’s ability to resist Indian diktat and to disagree with America’s strategic design flows from one principal source: its nuclear and missile capabilities. Without this, Pakistan would have been attacked like Iraq or sanctioned like Iran. On the other hand, North Korea, despite its isolation, has been able to thumb its nose at America because of its demonstrated nuclear and missile prowess.

An Islamic nuclear power was always anathema for America and much of the Western world. The US worked ceaselessly — even when Pakistan was a close ally — to retard and reverse its nuclear and missile programmes. This endeavour has intensified since the emergence of the American alliance with India. Apart from the discriminatory technological and political restrictions it has long imposed against Pakistan’s strategic programmes, the US now demands that Pakistan unilaterally halt fissile material production and the development and deployment of short- and long-range nuclear-capable missiles. Meanwhile, it is actively assisting India in enlarging and modernising its nuclear arsenal, its missile and anti-ballistic missile capabilities, its air and naval forces, as well as satellite and space capabilities.

There are credible and not-so-secret reports that the US has formulated plans to seize or destroy Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in a crisis. American think tanks have concocted scenarios of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists or, even more absurdly, of the Pakistan Army turning into an ‘extremist’ or ‘jihadi’ force. Indeed, such scary scenarios could be engineered as an excuse to execute the ‘seize or destroy’ plans.

Matters are more likely to come to a head in the event of another war between Pakistan and India. Kashmir is an ongoing dispute and a nuclear flashpoint. Every India-Pakistan war game confirms the likelihood of a rapid escalation of a conflict to the nuclear level due to the asymmetry in conventional forces. A war should thus be unthinkable. Yet, India’s political and military leaders continue to speak of ‘surgical strikes’ and a ‘limited’ war against Pakistan. If India does ever decide to go to war with Pakistan, it would have to first conduct a pre-emptive strike to eliminate Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence capabilities. Or, would the US be prepared to do so on India’s behalf? Pakistan must be prepared for both contingencies.

Islamabad must presume that in the course of its past (ill-considered) ‘cooperation’ with the US to enhance the ‘safety and security’ of Pakistan’s nuclear assets, the US has gained considerable intelligence about Pakistan’s strategic assets. However, Pakistani officials correctly discount America’s ability to seize Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. These are too many, and too widely dispersed and well protected, thus not amenable to any seizure or strike. But nuclear delivery systems are more difficult to hide and protect.

In a crisis, it is the delivery systems that will be the prime target of a pre-emptive strike. These are most likely to be detected when, in a crisis, they are being ‘mated’ with the separately stored warheads. Furthermore, as revealed during the current Korean drama, missile launches can be sabotaged by cyberattacks and other technical means.

In the emerging strategic scenario, nuclear deterrence is Pakistan’s ultimate assurance against external aggression and coercion.

Pakistan needs to take several measures so that the credibility of its nuclear deterrence is assured. One, the massive deployment of artillery and short-range missiles (à la North Korea) as the first line of conventional deterrence and defence against an Indian Cold Start attack. This would deter Indian attack and also raise the nuclear threshold. Two, the multiplication of long-, medium- and short-range nuclear-capable missiles to ensure the penetration of any ballistic missile defence systems that India deploys. Three, the continued production of fissile materials to provide warheads for the enlarged missile force.

Then, there is the need to ‘mate’ at least some warheads with delivery vehicles, their dispersal and disguise, or protection in hardened silos, to respond to a pre-emptive strike. Eventually, submarine-launched ballistic missiles could provide an assured second-strike capability. Five, the deployment of effective air defence systems plus a limited number of advanced (and expensive) anti-ballistic missile systems to protect command and control centres. Six, the development of offensive and defensive cyber-warfare capabilities.

Following this, Pakistan needs the acquisition and deployment of early-warning capabilities — satellites, surveillance aircraft and drones. In the meantime, Pakistan should utilise Chinese early warning capabilities. Lastly, greater integration and inter-operability with Chinese land, air and naval forces to enhance conventional and strategic deterrence, quickly and cheaply.

Once Pakistan can demonstrate the complete credibility of its nuclear deterrence posture, its offers to negotiate peace and security in South Asia and to resolve the Kashmir dispute may evoke a more positive response from both India and the US. Pakistan will then also be able to pursue its socioeconomic objectives free from the threats of external coercion, intervention and aggression.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Source: The nuclear dimension
Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2017
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Default China-US: shaping the future

THIS century’s future will be largely defined by the relationship between a rising China and a resentful America.

China has so far risen peacefully. Over 40 years, the US and China have developed an interdependent economic and a largely cooperative political relationship. The positive tone of the two Xi-Trump summits generates hope that China and America may yet avoid the Thucydides Trap (which postulates the inevitability of a clash between an established and rising power).

At the recent 19th CPC Congress, President Xi Jinping outlined China’s rather modest objectives: to become “a moderately prosperous country” and a “fully modern” economy and society by 2035 and “a global leader of composite national strength and international influence” by 2050.

The rivalry between China and the US will depend on the vibrancy of their governance systems.

On the other hand, Trump’s ‘America First’ slogan is a signal of a determination to win back the economic, political and strategic pre-eminence which the US enjoyed over the last 70 years. Trump’s ‘ideologue’, Steve Bannon, (out of office but still influential), sees China as “the greatest -term threat to the US”. He said: “We have to reassert ourselves as the real Asian power....”

Fortunately, Trump has so far stepped back from his campaign denunciations of China and erosion of the ‘One China’ policy and focused instead on securing Chinese cooperation to confront the North Korean nuclear threat and to redress the Sino-US trade ‘imbalance’. However, Trump may be disappointed if these aims are not achieved in the near term. This could lead to a more confrontational course, especially since even his ‘grown-up’ advisers, like Defence Secretary Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, see China more as a rival than a partner and have outlined policies to contain, and if needed, to confront it.

In the economic sphere, the US enjoys several advantages: the US dollar is the world’s main reserve currency; the US heavily influences, if not controls, global financial markets and institutions; it sits at the top of several ‘supply chain’ networks, and maintains a (narrowing) lead in innovation and new technologies. But ‘demand’ in the US economy is low since people’s ‘basic needs’ have been met and population growth is slow. Manufacturing jobs have been lost offshore due to high wages and aging equipment. They are unlikely to return. Despite massive financial injections, the US growth is not more than two to three per cent.

China’s growth has been driven to a considerable extent by exports and investment. It is now vulnerable on the external front given rising Chinese wages and Western trade protectionism. However, trade dependency is a two-way street. And, the Chinese economy will continue to grow due to rising demand from: the 300 million Chinese who are even now emerging from poverty, the rapidly expanding consumerism of China’s growing ‘middle class’ and the trillion dollars to be invested in projects under the historic Belt and Road Initiative. Meanwhile, China is creating an alternative financial structure that could eventually challenge the US-dominated financial system and it is investing heavily, at all levels, in advanced technology.

The US retains a significant military edge over China. Its $600 billion military budget is more than four times larger than China’s. The US possesses and is developing cutting-edge weapons systems and war-fighting techniques. It has established formal and informal military alliances with a number of militarily significant states, including three of Asia’s largest powers: Japan, India and Australia. The US will continue attempts to exploit China’s maritime disputes in the South China Sea and to build a string of alliances around China’s periphery to mobilise resistance to China’s influence in the region.

However, China is rapidly developing the capacity to confront or neutralise America’s military advantage. First, although China’s defence budget is smaller ($150bn), it can deliver a ‘bigger bang for the buck’ (due to the huge cost differentials between China and the US). Second, under President Xi Jinping’s guidance, the PLA is being comprehensively reformed to become a “technologically sophisticated army”. China is spending heavily on military R&D. Some of the weapons systems it has recently unveiled have surprised Western military observers.

Of course, America’s Asian military alliances are formidable. China’s only strategic and military ‘partner’ now is Pakistan. But to a considerable extent, China will be able to circumvent the US and ‘allied’ naval dominance across the Indo-Pacific through the Belt and Road connection across Eurasia. Notably, CPEC will transform China from a one-ocean to a two-ocean power.

Second, China is building strong economic and military links with a resurgent Russia which will amply balance America’s Asian alliances. Finally, India, if not Japan and Australia, may turn out to be a ‘fake friend’. China is its largest trading partner; while India will welcome America’s economic, military and technological largesse, it is unlikely to confront China militarily, especially not to advance US interests.

While America’s historical alliances no doubt enhance its global power and influence, it is also severely constrained, politically and militarily, by ‘legacy issues’, such as the unconditional commitment to Israel; the ‘war on terror’; the intervention in Iraq; the confrontation with Iran; the Afghan quagmire; and the ‘new Cold War’ with Russia.

Most importantly, the outcome of the strategic rivalry between China and America will depend on the vibrancy and credibility of their respective systems of governance. China’s ‘socialist democracy’ is now seen as a most effective form of government. In contrast, the US political system seems to be broken, divided and corrupt.

In an incisive article last month, entitled: ‘When China Leads’, Kevin Rudd, the former prime minister of Australia, writes: “The West, by and large, has no idea what awaits it as China continues its rise. The United States ... has become a global laughingstock.... Europe ... remains a rolling seminar on itself...”. He adds: “It would be reckless to assume, as many still do in the US, Europe, and elsewhere, that China’s transition to global pre-eminence will somehow simply implode....”

In such circumstances, Washington would be wise to consider seriously Xi Jinping’s proposal to create “a community of a shared future for mankind”.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2017
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