Posts by QamarSyed:

    Indo-China Border Tensions—No End Yet?

    October 31st, 2017

     

    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.

     

    A recently held fierce border standoff between China and India in Bhutan’s Doklam region —albeit temporarily resolved– seems yet to pave the way for the brewing confrontation between Beijing and New Delhi in so far as the said conflict may be getting anytime a new turn and twist because of the twin nature of the conflict both in land and sea since New Delhi has been growing its hyper concerns about a Chinese naval presence in its backyard: the Indian Ocean.

    In August, India and China have reached an agreement to end the most serious dispute in years between the Asian powers. The two sides agreed to settle a border dispute at Doklam in the eastern Himalayas. Increased tensions there had raised fears of a wider conflict between the two countries. China’s foreign ministry said that Chinese soldiers will continue to patrol the area. A foreign ministry official said “China will continue to exercise sovereignty rights to protect territorial sovereignty in accordance with the rules of the historical boundary.”

    But the strategists apprehend that despite the resolution of this conflict, there are still prompt signs that the two sides may get involved in their border clashes in future. Experts from India, China and the UK told Sputnik that while being the host of the upcoming BRICS Summit in the southern port city of Xiamen, China had to make some concessions to try to ease tensions over its the border dispute with India which in recent months in order to avoid any unintended surprise at the event.

    The Shanghai-based expert pointed out that the recent standoff has helped China better understand the potential harm India can cause. “This incident has allowed China to clearly understand potential threat from India. I would call India an ‘incompetent bungler.’ That’s because India always is a spoiler in all the international organizations it becomes a part of. It always takes outrageous and irrational actions. After this incident, China realized that India is not a friendly partner, but a trouble-maker,” Hu claimed.

    India, a close ally of Bhutan, then deployed troops to stop the construction project, prompting Beijing to accuse India of trespassing on Chinese soil. Tensions along the LAC rose in 2014. China has said India must withdraw its troops before any proper negotiation takes place. India said both sides should withdraw their forces together.

    The plateau is strategically significant as it gives China access to the so-called “chicken’s neck” – a thin strip of land connecting India’s northeastern states with the rest of the country. The two nuclear-armed neighbours fought a brief war in 1962 in India’s border state of Arunachal Pradesh China’s foreign ministry said in an official statement that “the Indian side must immediately and unconditionally withdraw all personnel and equipment from the Chinese soil”, while reiterating that its troops had been inside Chinese territory when the confrontation took place.  An official statement from India’s foreign ministry said that “there is no commonly delineated Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the border areas between India and China.”

    It added that differences in perception of the LAC have caused situations on the ground that could have been avoided if there was a consensus on the border lines.The latest skirmish occurred even as the two armies continued a two-month stand-off further east, near a plateau known as Doklam in India and Donglang in China. Since the confrontation began in June, each side has reinforced its troops and called on the other to retreat. The latest incident comes amid an ongoing dispute between the two sides over a strategic Himalayan plateau thousands of kilometres away where hundreds of Indian and Chinese soldiers have been facing off against each other for more than two months.

    The border trouble began in June when Chinese soldiers started to extend a road through the Doka La territory — known as “Donglang” in Chinese. The area is disputed between China and Bhutan. China has said India must withdraw its troops before any proper negotiation takes place. India said both sides should withdraw their forces together. The plateau is strategically significant as it gives China access to the so-called “chicken’s neck” — a thin strip of land connecting India’s northeastern states with the rest of the country.

    A ceremonial Border Personnel Meeting on the Indian Independence Day was also not held this time as the Chinese side did not respond to a communication from the Indian side, according to IANS. It was the first time since 2005 that the meetings were not held. However, there were reports of troops from both sides exchanging sweets on the occasion on Tuesday.

    According to the Indian claim, Indian troops are militarily much better-placed there and can easily threaten China’s narrow Chumbi Valley in the region, if required, the according to India’s assessment. “But the PLA could try something in eastern Ladakh, as was seen on Tuesday, or eastern Arunachal Pradesh or Lipulekh Pass and Barahoti in the central sector (Himachal-Uttarakhand),” one of the sources said. 

    The Indian defence establishment, however, is sticking to its belief that China will not risk a full-fledged war despite its major build-up of troops, artillery, air defence, armoured and other units in the southern part of the Tibet Military District that falls under the Western Theatre Command (WTC) of the PLA, after the Doklam confrontation erupted on the eastern front in mid-June.

    In this situation, the role being played by both Japan and the US, the two India’s backers, cannot be ignored.  Tokyo has ‘been watching the situation very closely’, the ambassador appeared to justify and support New Delhi’s position by saying, “We understand that India is involved in this incident based on bilateral agreements with Bhutan.” “What is important in disputed areas is that all parties involved do not resort to unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force, and resolve the dispute in a peaceful manner,” he said.

    Japan is no stranger to such efforts, particularly involving China. Tokyo has repeatedly warned the Chinese about their deteriorating ties over the Senkaku Islands. While China claims that they were aware of the islands from the 15th century, the Japanese contend that when they surveyed the island in the 1800s. India, Japan and US conducted the naval exercise this year amid growing tension with China. As the warships left Chennai and maritime surveillance aircraft of the Indian and US navies, China also began deploying personnel of its PLA-Navy to Djibouti, a naval base on the Horn of Africa.

    There is something essentially flawed about the idea that Indian naval power can prevent Chinese warships and submarines from accessing India’s near-seas. But unlike that international waterway, the Indian Ocean isn’t a site of overlapping sovereign rights, meaning Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to counter the mainland on his home turf may not be sustainable.

    As for the US, Washington has had no inclination to intervene in the said conflict and pragmatically it would also observe a non-intervening policy in future. Experts say the Trump administration might want to steer clear of upsetting Beijing, especially given it wants help resolving the North Korean nuclear threat.

    “The standoff has ended without resolving the dispute over the Doklam plateau. The Indian forces have retreated 500 meters to their ridge-top post at Doka La and can quickly intervene if the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) attempts to restart work on the military road — a construction that triggered the face-off. As for China, it has withdrawn its troops and equipment from the face-off site, but strongly asserts the right to send in armed patrols. A fresh crisis could flare if the PLA tries again to build the controversial road to the Indian border,” Brahma Chellaney, a professor of strategic studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research, told Sputnik.

    The Chinese Defense Ministry said that China will maintain a high combat readiness level in the disputed area near the border with India and Bhutan and will decisively protect China’s territorial sovereignty.

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    Trump’s Foreign Policy: Trajectory of Diversions & Dissensions?

    October 19th, 2017

    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.

     

    US President’s Donald Trump’s exclusive adventurism with regard to the US’ ventured foreign policy orientations, its goals and objectives pose a big question: Will America under Trump’s administration recollect its lost power clout in the global affairs or will it further lose its image as the global power? Though apparently, Trump’s endorsed America first doctrine is aimed at protecting US’ political and economic interests, yet intrinsically this policy is seen as the embodiment of such an American indoctrinations which futuristically seems to be undermining US’ global participatory role.

    The reasons behind Trump’s disengagement mantra revolves around the argument that the U.S. economy is no longer big enough to sustain a global role of the old kind, or that domestic problems should take priority. Others ask whether the public is ready for new exertions.

    But seen objectively, American “leadership,” under Trump’s America first doctrine seems to distance itself from the Obama’s projected pragmatic internationalism, US’ indoctrinated traditional narrative of collective security, and US’ conceived policy towards international integration based on balance of power. Any yet not surprisingly some pragmatic shifts are also manifested in Trump’s external relations with global powers.

    During his campaign, Trump promised to disengage from burdensome commitments to other countries, shifting the risks and costs of the security of allies away from the United States. He promised to enact policies that promote U.S. national interests, which he defined as U.S. economic security, not global security. While seeing his policies’ proclivities vis- a-vis  Iran ,South Asia, Syria, North Korea, China, Russia Pacific Rim, Europe and South America , it is clearly reflected that he is yet divided, confused and unpoised on his actions what he advocated during his election campaign.

    Trump accused Iran of committing “multiple violations of the agreement (JCPOA),” despite the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency, America’s European allies and even his own government say that Tehran is complying with the 2015 deal agreed by former President Barack Obama and major world powers. He accused Iran of “not living up to the spirit” of the nuclear agreement and said his goal is to ensure Tehran never obtains a nuclear weapon, in effect throwing the fate of the deal to Congress.

    He singled out Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for sanctions and delivered a blistering critique of Tehran, which he accused of destabilizing actions in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

    “We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout,” Trump said. This volte face– in US’ policy towards Iran which has no supportive view from Germany France and the UK –may put the US policy makers in a confused and divided position futuristically. “If the Iran agreement falls, war will become much more likely – both in the Middle East and on the Korean Peninsula – and American lives will be put at risk,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said. “President Trump’s decision today is dangerous,” Kerry said in a statement Friday. “He’s creating an international crisis. It endangers America’s national security interests and those of our closest allies.”

    As for Trump’s South Asia policy , this gridlock has to be understood by the geostrategic connotation explained by Michael Kugelman, the deputy director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Center, said, “the notion of India having a major footprint in Afghanistan is very alarming,” Kugelman said—and it is one that Trump welcomed in his speech. This, argues Kugelman, is one of the reasons Pakistan insists on providing support to the Afghan Taliban and its affiliates in the first place—fearing that India is using Afghanistan as a base from which to meddle in Pakistan, including support for separatist rebels in Balochistan Province, Pakistan supports other groups “that help promote Pakistan’s interest of keeping India at bay in Afghanistan.” But it is a thinking of common intelligence that says that a problematic Afghanistan is a blessing for both America and India to play their devious game to deter Pakistan’s growing influence in Afghanistan and Kashmir.Afghanistan continues to be a proxy war between New Delhi and Islamabad, and both sides see it as a zero-sum game,” said Seth G. Jones, an Afghanistan expert at the RAND Corporation, a policy research institute. “Will any of what Trump said move the dial in Islamabad? Probably not,” he said.

    As for as Trumps’ administration approach on Syria and Ukraine is concerned, it appears that Washington is applying a cautious approach on these both issues. His personal bete noire about US-Iran nuclear deal is much manifested in his official speech that he delivered as US president.  But one trend that remains unchanged during the Trump’s foreseen foreign policy is Washington’s overriding love and bilateral enthusiasm towards Israel.   

    And yet, many say Trump’s foreign policy is full of paradoxes and rhetorics, and narratives . Washington’s policy towards N Korea is a befitting case in this regard. Once, there was North Korea, a country that was not a nuclear threat to the United States. It was a threat to Japan and South Korea, and indeed during the campaign Trump said Japan ought to develop its own nuclear weapons. In other words, he said that North Korea was a Japanese and South Korean problem, not a U.S. problem. But when it appeared that North Korea was nearing the point where it had deliverable nuclear weapons, he got indulged in it by repositioning the United States for potential military action as it led diplomatic confrontations with Pyongyang. This remains the definition of U.S. policy on North Korea for several administrations.

    And it is a policy that features prominently in Washington’s relationship with Beijing. Trump has said the United States would make some trade concessions to China if China helped the United States on the North Korea issue. But unfortunately, this is a long-standing strategy Washington has pursued. In fact, there has generally been more continuity than disruption in U.S.-China relations, with an apparently cooperative rapport between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Accepting the status quo at least for now, the United States has not shifted its stance on China. And yet, the experts from both sides, Washington and Beijing think that Trump’s upcoming visit to China will bring two global powers towards better understanding beyond illusion of a false dawn.

    There is also a brewing cold war in the president’s camp about Trump’s divorcement of the TTP. In view of the Brookings experts, the Trump’s indoctrinated Trans-pacific Trade partnership (TTP) vision, the very concept of hybrid bilateralism seems a workable compromise between the preference of Trump’s trade team to negotiate with one country at a time, and the need of a multilateral economic architecture to increase economic efficiency. But the downsides may outweigh the benefits.

    The U.S. has already tried trade bilateralism and found important limitations in this strategy: huge transaction costs of negotiating multiple one-on-one deals, and serious constraints in disseminating coherent and high-standard economic rules (each party presses for its own idiosyncratic standards). Importantly, this strategy would hinge largely on a U.S.-Japan bilateral trade deal. But the room for agreement under Trump’s “America First” philosophy is narrower. Tokyo is unlikely to react positively to the notion of reviving the managed trade approach of the Reagan years, tightening rules of origin that limit the efficiency of Japanese supply chains and imposing binding rules on currency manipulation that deviate from International Monetary Fund standards.

    As for the US- EU transatlantic agenda, Germany’s Angela Merkel has been taking a hard line with Trump on a range of issues. Her conservative party, the CDU/CSU, has just removed the ‘most important friend’ description of Germany’s relationship with the United States in its electoral campaign program.

    Focusing here on NATO, these developments may well portend disaster for US global power and influence, as Abe Newman and Daniel Nexon have written. Angela Merkel followed up Trump’s speech in May by suggesting Europe was on its own. Meanwhile, the head of the ruling Law and Justice Party in Poland, Jarosław Kaczyński, has claimed that Europe now needs its own nuclear arsenal to rival Russia’s, which was followed shortly thereafter by the release of a German review of that subject. Meanwhile, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, has worked up an elaborate plan for a more robust European security and defense architecture. Although there is no a priori reason why the EUs ‘Implementation Plan on Security and Defence’ and related measures must come at the expense of NATO, if the Europeans take Trump seriously there is also no reason why it should not.

    The U.S. relationship with NATO, meanwhile, remains intact. Trump campaigned on the belief that NATO should be redefined, but he has since reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to NATO, though he has notably asked for increased European spending.The Brexit paradigm seems to decline Washington’s clout in the European Union.Turkey is moving full steam ahead on its plans to buy the Russian S-400 air defense system and already “paid a deposit to bring it immediately into force,” Turkish Harriyet newspaper reported Tuesday.

    It comes as Turkish-U.S. relations have chilled and questions raisedabout whether Turkey can be counted on longer term by the U.S. and NATO alliance. For its part, Moscow appears to relish the fact that it’s stoking tensions in the NATO alliance and also flexing its muscles as a global arms supplier. Russian media has closely followed the Turkish interest in the S-400 and touted the air defense system as something India wants too.

    And yet a revolt against global integration is underway in the West. The four most prominent candidates for president of the United States — Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz — all oppose the principal free-trade initiative of this period: the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Trump’s proposals to wall off Mexico, abrogate trade agreements and persecute Muslims are far more popular than he is. The Brexit movement in Britain commands substantial support and could prevail. Whenever any aspect of the E.U. project is submitted to a popular referendum, it fails. Under pressure from a large influx of refugees, the European commitment to open borders appears to be crumbling. In large part because of political constraints, the growth of the international financial institutions has not kept pace with the growth of the global economy.

    In terms of Trump-Putin relationship, the Trump presidency has also been overshadowed by allegations that his campaign team colluded with Moscow during last year’s US presidential campaign in which he defeated Hillary Clinton. After meeting his Russian counterpart at a G20 summit in Germany last month, Trump said he wanted to work more closely with Moscow on areas such as the conflict in Syria.

    But the legislation — which also includes measures against North Korea and Iran — greatly limits his room for maneuver and underlines the lack of trust from lawmakers, even though his own Republican Party controls both houses of Congress. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that he would meet with his Russian counterpart Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov very shortly, but warned US-Russia ties could still get worse.

    A special prosecutor is investigating whether Trump advisers colluded with what US intelligence has concluded was an attempt by Russia to covertly support the real estate mogul’s 2016 campaign.

    In Latin America Trump is trying to partner with Mexico to reduce Central American migration, bully Mexico into building a border wall, impose sanctions on Venezuela, and foster stronger commercial ties with Argentina. To get a sense of how the U.S.’s relationship with Latin America is evolving during the first year of the Trump presidency I reached out to Jason Marczak, the newly appointed Director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council, a Washington D.C.-based think-tank.

    US foreign policy experts, many of whom worked in the National Security Council, State Department, or Pentagon in the past, say they’ve rarely seen such a wide-open divide between what a US president is saying and long-stated US government agenda, or between the president and his own top policy and security advisors. “It looks like we have two governments at the moment,” said Edward Goldberg, a professor at New York University’s Center For Global Affairs, and author of The Joint Ventured Nation: Why America Needs A New Foreign Policy.  And here, it would be more pertinent to refer Richard Haas’ reflections– that he delivered in his 2017-published book ‘The World in Disarray’—must be taken as learning precepts for the Trump administration’s learning about the global affairs. The lack of systematic and collective institutional approach is highly reflective in Trump’s foreign policy since it is being dominated by Trump’s individualistic approach.

    “Ever since the end of the Cold War, the overwhelming power of the U.S. military has been the central fact of international politics.” This is particularly crucial in three regions: East Asia, where “the U.S. Navy has become used to treating the Pacific as an ‘American lake’”; Europe, where NATO — meaning the United States, which “accounts for a staggering three-quarters of NATO’s military spending” — “guarantees the territorial integrity of its member states”; and the Middle East, where giant U.S. naval and air bases “exist to reassure friends and to intimidate rivals.”

    The problem of world order today, the economist Gideon Rachman  continues, is that “these security orders are now under challenge in all three regions” because of Russian intervention in Ukraine and Syria, and because of China turning its nearby seas from an American lake to “clearly contested water.” The fundamental question of international relations, then, is whether the United States should “accept that other major powers should have some kind of zone of influence in their neighborhoods.” Rachman thinks it should, for reasons of “diffusion of economic power around the world — combined with simple common sense.”

    To conclude, it seems that conversely to the previously held policy notions, the new goal of U.S. strategy under president Trump seems not to integrate rival great powers—Russia and China into a truly global world order, but to defend the existing international system — successful yet incomplete as it is — against their depredations. In short, the goal of achieving a fully integrated world under the US curatorship is no longer possible today under Trump’s America. For a cul de sac foreign policy to defend the existing international order– that the U.S. has retrospectively constructed and led over the years– will be a challenge enough to continue and establish further.

     

    www.defenseone.com/politics/2017/04/trump-preventing-foreign…/137006/

    https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/08/trump-pakistan…/537564/

    http://edition.cnn.com/2017/10/13/politics/iran-deal-decertify/index.html

    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/john-kerry-trump-creating-an-international-crisis-by-threatening-iran-nuclear-deal/article/2637497#!

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/22/world/asia/trump-pakistan-afghanistan-strategy.html

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear-usa/trump-strikes-blow-at-iran-nuclear-deal-in-major-u-s-policy-shift-idUSKBN1CI24I

    https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/a-new-meaning-for-tpp-restrain-trump-era-protectionism/

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/whats-behind-the-revolt-against-global-integration/2016/0

    http://news.abs-cbn.com/overseas/08/03/17/trump-blames-us-congress-for-russia-

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/nathanielparishflannery/2017/08/30/is-trump-damaging-the-uss-relationship-with-latin-america/#30ab7c1275df

    http://politicalviolenceataglance.org/2017/07/11/why-the-transatlantic-relationship-will-probably-survive-trump/

    https://www.salon.com/2016/05/10/noam_chomksy_america_is_a_state_in_decline_partner/

    https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-09-27/america-s-new-world-order-is-officially-dead

     

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    Germans’ Political Race: Merkel’s Win Amid Triumphs & Challenges

    September 27th, 2017

     

    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.

     

    As was expected, Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel once again endorsed her victory– in the currently held election-2017– thereby astutely making a history of coming to power through her fourth consecutive term as Germany’s head of state. Despite ensuring her win in the election, German Chancellor Angela Merkel Party, center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) faces new challenges ahead since an atmosphere of forging a coalition between German far right and the far left political parties is yet underway. Yet, to the Germans the question arises: whether the electoral success of right-wing populists evidence that the government is leading Germany in a direction both domestically and externally. And while for the EU’s citizenry, Merkel rise to power seems simultaneously an affair of both hope and despair, for the Trump administration,  Merkel’s inexorable rise to power in Germany paves the way for Washington’s cautionary pragmatism vis-à-vis EU-US partnership.

    Schulz’s Social Democrats party(SDP) secured second lead by having 20% of votes trailing by double digits but the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) also emerged as the third largest party, complicating the outlook for Merkel’s next coalition.  Schulz asserted that Merkel was “a world champion in not deciding,” someone who simply parroted others’ ideas. He vowed to push for further reforms, including better elderly care facilities, affordable housing, an end to discriminatory practices that harm children of migrants, and free child care.

    Interestingly yet not surprisingly, Germany’s currently reformed electoral system has a dual voting system based on a direct vote and an  indirect vote of proportional representation—firstly for local participation and secondly for the national Parliament to be given on the same ballot paper. The country’s 61.5 voters give their respective choice of vote through single ballot paper.

    Merkel’s interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere, told Internet provider t-online. de the government would combat “Islamist terrorism” by strengthening European borders and bolstering security at home.

    Previously, German polls suggested that Germany far right( the Alternative for Germany party) (AFD)  under the auspices of Frauke Petry whose party espoused the cause for national conservatism or right wing populism characterized by euroscepticism had the chance to win up to 60 seats after using anti-immigration rhetoric during the election. The gain for the populist party will deal a blow to Mrs Merkel who has pleaded with German voters to only “vote for parties loyal to the German constitution”.

    Alternative for Germany (AFD), emerged as the third largest party won support with the electorate after vowing to keep the pressure on Mrs Merkel to answer why she let in a million asylum seekers into the country. Support for the AfD, jumped two points to 11 percent in a Forsa poll, putting it on course to become the first hard-right party in more than half a century to clear the five per cent hurdle and enter parliament. The party wants to launch a probe into whether the German chancellor broke the law by allowing in around a million refugees at the height of the migrant crisis in 2015.

    The grand coalition will give Merkel a ready-made excuse to mollify the hard-right element in her own party and a way to bring the leftist elements of the Social Democrats into line. Interestingly, the formation of the government via coalition process has been an inexorable governmental arrangement orchestrated for the last three terms during which Merkel emerged as German political leader.

    As for Germany’s profile– as an EU’s economic and political power house needs no further explanation other than that – president of the European parliament (2007-09), chairman of the EPP-ED group to which British Conservatives once belonged from 1999 until 2007, and a long-standing member of the European parliament, Germany belongs to the Union in a manner as heart is to the human body.

    Though many of the Europhiles remained rightly convinced enough that deepening European integration via institutional approfondissement is the only way forward for the European Union, yet this hopeful scenario seems to be stymied because of the policy crisis in the European Union. And of course, the Brexit experiment has given a mammoth challenge to the European goal towards deepening integration. As for the Europeans, the EU and the euro are not perfect, but the Europeans have the chance, if not the duty for the sake of the coming generations, to improve them. Therefore, an EU”s  course of action to overcome the crisis as well as measures to strengthen the EU are paramount.

    Today, European Union also need a stronger common foreign, security and defence policy to give the EU more power and authority on the international stage. Let me give you an example: my party, the German Christian Democrats (CDU), is a strong advocate of a free trade agreement between the EU and the United States.

    Polls have shown that the parties’ closest rival, the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), has failed to gain momentum and it is currently in second place with around 22 percent of the vote.

    The anti-immigration, anti-euro Alternative for Germany (AfD) party could come in third place with around 11 percent of the vote — gaining more than the 5 percent threshold of votes needed to enter parliament for the first time — as could the pro-business Free Democrats party (FDP), seen gaining around 10 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, The Left (Die Linke) party is also seen gaining around 10 percent of the vote while the Greens are seen with 8 percent of the vote.

    She may be the world’s most powerful woman, but German chancellor Angela Merkel has governed with the utmost caution—one of several contradictions that make her an enigma at home and abroad. After a year that forced Merkel into confrontations with Putin and Obama, Maureen Orth explores how a once frumpy physicist has led her reluctant country to new prominence on the global stage.

    She is often referred to as the world’s most powerful woman, although those in Merkel’s immediate circle utter disdain for even bringing up such a concept.  She governs by silence,” says Dirk Kurbjuweit of Der Spiegel, who wrote a 2009 biography of Merkel. “It’s her biggest advantage and disadvantage. She never says something fast. She waits and waits to see where the train is going and then she jumps on the train. Part of this she learned in the G.D.R. [Communist East Germany]. She knew she had to watch her words—there’s nobody better at [vague] words than Angela Merkel.”  In fact, 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germans instinctively recoil at the idea of being powerful because that presumes responsibility on a global scale that they do not yet seem ready to take. The older generation still remembers the ravages of Hitler and the Third Reich, and the younger generation has grown up under the defense umbrella of the U.S. and NATO, which has been in place for nearly 70 years.

    Put retrospectively, by the time she had won her third term, in September 2013, Merkel had already stubbornly maneuvered the euro crisis to Germany’s will, demanding, in exchange for not overly generous bailouts, painful structural reforms of the spendthrift South—Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy—and Ireland. She made few friends along the way. The Greeks even waved placards of her with a Hitler mustache. But the German economy, the richest in the Eurozone, seemed to be purring, if not exactly roaring.

    During her 2013 campaign, Merkel said that by 2015 Germany would have a balanced budget—“black zeros”—for the first time since 1969, and even today she still insists she will not back down from that pledge; she will not go into deficit spending to stimulate the German economy despite two consecutive flat quarters of growth in 2014 and ominous warnings of recession and stagnation in Europe. Germany’s recalcitrance with regard to stimulating its own economy has been a continuing thorn in the side—if not a source of outright rage—to markets worldwide.

    And yet recently, after a G-20 with plenty of drama but little substance, German Chancellor Angela Merkel must now face the ultimate test. She must exit the international stage and start speaking to German voters in a quest to be reelected for a fourth term. Although the G-20 was not the best showcase for the chancellor thanks to protests on the streets of Hamburg, her Christian Democrat party (CDU) has surged ahead in the polls over the last couple of months, giving Merkel a considerable lead of approximately 15 percentage points over Social Democrat party (SPD) challenger Martin Schulz. To maintain momentum, Merkel should address skepticism within her own party about domestic security and the creditworthiness of Germany’s EU partners while continuing to position herself to German voters as a bulwark against Trump.

    But the overall situation in Germany has not been so good as ordinary people believe. The long-term and sustainable solutions for refugee issues, and the rise of right-wing populism, among other difficult issues, need to be addressed by Merkel and the German government.

    Yet today, to some extent, Germany is enjoying some best times after the 2008/2009 financial crisis. Its economy keeps gaining momentum for growth, its export is robust, and economic think-tanks keep raising their expectations of Germany’s GDP growth rates. Employment is booming, as Merkel in her campaign outline vowed to achieve full employment by 2025.

    The sound economic situation made the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) enjoy its upper hand against the Social Democrats (SPD), a center-left party traditionally representing workers and employees and always paying attention to social justice. But in its coalition with SPD, Merkel’s center-right Union has addressed a series of issues concerning social justice and showed center-left political stances, including supporting a welfare state and legal minimum salaries, and turning off Germany’s nuclear power plants. SPD has also been accused of lacking difference between itself and the Union in both domestic and foreign issues.

    It appears that Merkel (who has been accused of foisting its own rules on Europe for its sole gain as export king and economic wunderkind), realizing she cannot win an absolute majority in any case, has refrained from pushing up the score. It seems like the last thing she wants is to get more than 40% of the vote and be obliged to form a coalition with the contentious Free Democrats, feeling their oats after once again being able to cross the 5% threshold to get into Parliament.

    Ditto for the Greens, who would be even more contentious, while the so-called “Jamaica coalition” — Christian Democrats (black is their signature color), Free Democrats (yellow) and Greens — would be a nightmare of bargaining and compromise. Merkel likes the center and that’s why partnering with the center-left is ideal for her. Loosely speaking, the Free Democrats — liberal in the classic sense — are to the right of the Christian Democrats and the Greens — with their emphasis on environment — are to the left of the Social Democrats. With immigration and refugee issues still the top priority for many voters, it certainly helps that the flow of new asylum-seekers into Germany has slowed. In the first quarter of 2017, statistics from the German government show that 54,600 people applied for asylum in Germany—a stunning 73-percent drop over the same period in 2016. With fewer new arrivals, AfD has found it difficult to sustain its momentum: down from a high of 15 percent nationally, it is currently polling anywhere between seven and 10 percent in national polls.

    As seen domestically Germans are hemmed in by manifold problems, albeit 25 years of German unification is a good reason for Germans in the East and in the West to rejoice not only over their national unity, but also over their mutual success. The problems in East Germany today are of a different nature: inadequate specialized labor, demographics, the complications of energy consumption, and the wave of asylum seekers. Land erosion. These are the same complications faced by most regions in the West. So, Germany’s problems have grown together too. How these problems are solved? With a lot of effort, a measured response, and most of all, with the same willingness to embrace change that the East Germans displayed in 1989 and ‘90.”But resurrection of white heat of such enthusiasm in the Germans’ mind seems a devious task yet.

    Internationally and trans-regionally, too, Angela Merkel is faced with multiple challenges and threats. As for the Americans, ’Germany policies towards Nato, Russia’s intervention in Ukraine seem highly worrying keeping in view Germany’s comforting notions about the obsolescence of “hard” (military) power and the importance of “soft” (civilian) power. Germany’s liberal and internationalist foreign-policy approach is perceived to have come under threat also by the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. This happening has widely been interpreted in Germany as part of a dangerous Zeitenwende, where nationalism, anti-liberal, and authoritarian tendencies; “Great Power” rhetoric and policies; geopolitical revisionism and irredentism; and trade protectionism threaten to produce new conflicts. In Europe, such tendencies, in various combinations, are underlined by the UK’s Brexit, Poland’s PiS, Hungary’s Orban and Jobbik, France’s LePen, Austria’s Hofer and the FPÖ, and the Netherlands’ Wilders. Outside but adjacent to Europe, they have arisen under Erdogan, his de facto abandonment of the EU option and turn to cooperation with Russia and Iran. How far Merkel remains instrumental in addressing these multidimensional challenges seems the litmus test of her statecraftship.

    While having a juxtaposition of UK’s iron lady Margaret Thatcher with Germany’s unyielding Angela and EU’s dashing Merkel– we find that as in her third term, Mrs Thatcher tried  and failed  to turn Europe away from the “ever closer union” that saw the creation of the euro and the aggrandisement of Europe’s institutions– now another European woman leader in her fourth term has an enormous task of repairing  the waning fate of the European Union in her hands by saving the Europeans from their shattering  dream of a closer Union, a task that the European Union intrinsically and drastically faces in the wake of the Britain’s exit from the European club.

    Though in the post Brexit phase, the challenges eyeing to Merkel are great and keeping in view the EU’s internal unity– posed by the expanding security threats and the emerging EU’s challenges in terms of transnationalism vis-à-vis EU’s institutional revitalisation. But many Germans still hope that under charismatic Merkel’s leadership, Germany will revitalize its role not only to resolve the German problems but also of those Europeans who hail from the community of 27 European nations.

    The European Union—apparently a symbol of unity in diversity is presently seen to have horizontal and vertical polaristion in its body politic. It is here that Merkel has to address the task of EU’s political, economic, and institutional unity. As for the Europeans, the EU and the euro are not perfect, but the Europeans have the chance, if not the duty for the sake of the coming generations, to improve them. Therefore, an EU”s course of action to overcome the crisis as well as measures to strengthen the EU are paramount.

    The EU needs a stronger common foreign, security and defence policy to give the EU more power and authority on the international stage .And as for German foreign relations, Angela has to astutely deal its relations with Turkey who seems to have been poised against Germany’s asylum policy accompanied by its stand on Turkish European membership. Veritably and most significantly, She has to also reset its relations with the UK in the post Brexit phase, and while strategically given her tilt towards Russia’s Putin , she has to profoundly and rightly readdress the chartered transatlantic challenges particularly Germany’s future role in Nato, and its trade relations with North America.

     

    https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/232177-Merkel-Schulz-urge-Germans-to-vote

    http://www.dw.com/en/opinion-germany-votes-and-the-whole-world-is-watching/a-39156589

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/24/merkel-eu-policy-germany-europe

    http://www.dw.com/en/the-spd-germanys-oldest-political-party/a-16825489

    https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/01/angela-merkel-profile

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/10/06/german-reunification-25-year-anniversary_n_8247324.html

    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2017-08/31/content_31356109.htm

    https://www.eventbrite.com/e/chancellor-merkels-germany-coping-with-domestic-and-international-challenges-us-election-fall-out-tickets-33926037692#

    http://www.marketwatch.com/story/german-chancellor-angela-merkels-challenge-not-winning-but-going-the-distance-2017-09-20

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    Rebooting Peace in the Korean Peninsula?

    September 14th, 2017

    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.

     

    Today, Washington seems more prone to reckoning the resonance of realism than idealism in the Korean peninsula as reflected by the tune and diplomatic postures of the Trump’s administration regarding the US-North Korea nuclear rift. There seems an escalation of war rhetoric from both North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un and USA’s Donald Trump. There is some sympathy with the view that North Korea is only building nuclear capability because there has been a near constant threat from the USA that war could break out at any time.

    The most recent explosion of Hydrogen bomb/ ballistic missiles are extremely worrying and there is considerable anxiety that it will take just one foolish statement/gesture to escalate things completely out of hand—dragging the whole peninsula into the horrors of war. But a real peace move can only be successful when two sides-the US and N Korea adopt the restraint policies in terms of US’S adopted approach towards imperialism and the North Koreans’ adopted gravity towards ultra-nationalism.

    The Korean peninsula has been the vortex of politics and war for much of the 20th century and while the start of the 21st century yet puts both the Koreans from North and South under the growing shambles of insecurity and confusion. World War II ended with its division, and today the divided Korea continues to attract the attention of Pacific countries.

    Isolated and alienated by ideology and the collapse of world communism, North Korea presents a new problem to the post-Cold War international order, with its determination to develop nuclear weapons, and to maintain a large standing army threatening South Korea. It is further hobbled by a malnourished population in a declining economy. Deserted by allies and isolated by the economic success of her neighbors, North Korea is ruled by basically the same regime since before the Korean war – under the son of the former ruler.

    International organisations, alliances and nation states have attempted to address these issues in a manner that ties some or all of these problems together, seeking an integrated solution. Since 2003, the Six Party Talks on denuclearisation have been the centrepiece of interaction with North Korea, and thus have tied international engagement to the nuclear issue. Following the DPRK’s withdrawal from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in 2003, South Korea, China, Russia, Japan and the US have sporadically negotiated with the DPRK, but there has been little progress. International attempts to address hunger, especially those involving the US and South Korea, are held contingent on progress in ending North Korean nuclear ambitions. Efforts to replace the 64-year-old armistice flounder as the DPRK refuses to abandon its nuclear programmes in return.

    The US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, illustrated this transactional approach by stating, “we have to see some sort of positive action by North Korea before we can take them seriously”, after a Security Council meeting in New York on the escalating Korea crisis. That is a reasonable, but intrinsically flawed, approach. History tells us that this integrated approach will not work when dealing with North Korea. What is needed is a comprehensive, federated strategy which addresses the various threads independently to establish a lasting peace on the peninsula.

    Transactional diplomacy that binds any progress in other areas to North Korean willingness to relinquish its nuclear programme stymies progress in all areas. There is no evidence indicating that the DPRK is ready to do that in the near term, if ever given the chance to reestablish the course of muliteral diplomacy. This is the ideology brief of the mind- set presently working in the White House under the presidentship of Donald Trump.

    The US military has a huge presence in the area around North Korea, particularly in Japan and increasingly close allies South Korea. There are almost 40,000 US troops serving in Japan, more than in any other country, and earlier this year the US Air Force lined up a huge array of helicopters, tactical fighter jets and surveillance aircraft in a show of force aimed to intimidate Kim Jong-un.

    The White House and the US state department policy mangers yet advocate the point despite shared ethnicity and history, the creation of a single Korea must be held in abeyance for the foreseeable future. North and South have evolved in opposite directions, and are more different than they are similar. The struggles of defectors and refugees from the DPRK to integrate into 8 modern societies in the ROK and elsewhere provide a glimpse of the extraordinary difficulty of merging the two Korean populations. These suggestions are not offered with naiveté. Some will fail, and none will, in their own right, deliver real progress. All will be viewed suspiciously by North Korea, and the government will attempt to twist words, deeds, and outcomes to support its fundamental premise. It would, however, be insane to expect the long-standing, interwoven and failed approach to peace to succeed. This is a moment of as much opportunity as there is risk, and an imaginative, federated approach to the issues on the Korean Peninsula is needed to seize this opportunity to change a very dangerous paradigm.

    “Without holding the key to the DPRK’s security concerns, China has no leverage to convince this foreign nation to stop its nuclear program,” Fu Ying, chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of China’s legislature, wrote in a May paper for the Brookings Institution, using the initials for North Korea’s formal name.

    “The U.S., which the DPRK sees as the source of threats to its security, has been neither interested nor willing to consider responding to the DPRK’s security concerns,” Fu said. The only way Kim may stop, the thinking goes, is for the U.S. to offer him a security guarantee, such as signing a legally binding non-aggression treaty. But former U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill says the U.S. is concerned that, even with a treaty, the regime can’t be trusted not to use its weapons to attack a U.S. ally such as South Korea. Putin’s core point is that the central strategy of US policy under Trump, Obama, and Bush — attempting to pressure North Korea into giving up its nuclear program — has now conclusively failed. North Korea now believes that its nuclear arsenal is its best deterrent against an American invasion, and hence will not give it up no matter how much the United States tries to push them.

    “They see nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction as the only way for them to protect themselves,” the Russian president said during the Thursday presser, held at an economic forum in Vladivostok, Russia.

    Whereas those who yet strive for a peaceful recourse of this crisis advocate that, US policy must be privy of peace, pragmatism. They urge the American exigency of committing  to take actions to: a) Work with   other governments to mandate the United Nations Security Council to initiate new efforts for peace-building across the Korean Peninsula and to lift the existing economic and financial sanctions imposed on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; b) Embark upon a universal campaign for a Peace Treaty to replace the Armistice Agreement of 1953, bringing an end to the state of war; c) Call upon all foreign powers in the region to participate in a creative process for building peace on the Korean peninsula by halting all military exercises on the Korean peninsula, by ceasing their interventions and reducing military expenditures; d) Ensure the complete, verifiable and irreversible elimination of all nuclear weapons and power plants in -North East Asia, by taking steps to establish a Nuclear-Free World and simultaneously joining the emerging international consensus for a humanitarian ban on nuclear weapons in all regions of the world, so that life is no longer threatened by nuclear dangers anywhere on earth; e) Urge the governments in both North and South Korea to restore human community with justice and human dignity by overcoming injustice and confrontation, and to heal human community by urgently addressing the humanitarian issue of separated families, by establishing a sustainable process allowing confirmation of the whereabouts of family members and free exchanges of letters and visits, and by offering the support of international agencies where necessary; and f) Work with the governments of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Republic of Korea in providing international cooperation to maintain a truly Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and transform it into a zone of peace.

    President Donald Trump warned recently that the United States would no longer tolerate North Korea’s actions but said the use of military force against Pyongyang will not be his “first choice.”

    His comment appeared to be in line with classified briefings to Congress in which Trump’s top national security aides – Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence – stressed the search for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, lawmakers said. Nonetheless, Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel and Switzerland’s president Doris Leuthand    have offered their respective roles towards promoting peaceful diplomacy to end this chronic nuclear dispute between Pyongyang and Washington. Both sides– US and the N Korea– need to refrain from their policies: the former’s fostered policy of imperialist pursuits, and latter’s adopted policy of ultra-nationalism.

    Despite the American argued reservations over the reunification plan, the best way to reboot and reorient an effort for a lasting peace in the Korean peninsula, Washington has to give the space for a reunification plan. It is highly expedient that a fifty years old policy of antagonism, imperialism and unilateralism must now be gradually be replacing with a forward looking approach-an approach cherished by diplomacy of multilateralism, objective internationalism, humanitarianism and negative consequentialism.  

     

    https://nautilus.org/napsnet/napsnet-policy-forum/napsnet-forum-7-challenges-to-peace-on-the-korean-peninsula/

    https://ctbi.org.uk/analysis-peace-on-the-korean-peninsula/

    https://ctbi.org.uk/analysis-peace-on-the-korean-peninsula/

    http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/848824/north-korea-news-president-trump-us-military-navy-air-force-world-war-3-bombers-arsenal

    https://www.vox.com/world/2017/9/8/16276122/north-korea-putin-trump-comments

    https://www.hdcentre.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Peacewriter-Prize_An-urgently-practical-approach-to-the-Korean-Peninsula.pdf

    https://www.oikoumene.org/…/peace…korean-peninsula/…/PIC%2002_3%20ADOPT

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-nuclear/trump-says-u-s-not-putting-up-with-north-koreas-actions-idUSKCN1BD0VW?il=0

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-10/china-and-u-s-both-think-the-other-can-solve-north-korea-crisis

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    US Afghan Strategy: Flaws & Evolving Challenges?

    September 1st, 2017

     

    By Qamar Syed Rizvi.

     

    President Trump on last Monday unveiled his much-anticipated agenda for Afghanistan, a plan heavy on broad goals and light on details. But seen realistically, the Trump administration has added troubles to much complex Afghan scenario. The Current Afghan policy fostered by Washington seems to be a future part of the problem rather than resolving the crises faced by the most turbulent region.

    Trump’s team has been working on a new US strategy in Afghanistan for months now. Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee in June that he would be able to present a strategy for victory there in mid-July. But the deliberations continued past that deadline, and Mattis said last Monday that the administration was “very, very close” to a decision after presenting Trump with a wide range of options, including everything from a surge of troops there to a full withdrawal.

    Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that Trump administration has almost reached a decision on a new approach for fighting the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan. Months ago the Pentagon had settled on a plan to send approximately 3,800 additional troops to help strengthen the Afghan army, which is stuck in what some call a deteriorating stalemate with the Taliban insurgency.

    Trump said, ‘’as a result of our comprehensive review, American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia will change dramatically in the following ways. A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions. I’ve said it many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin or end military options’’.

    Trump said,” We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting,” he said, warning that vital aid could be cut. That will have to change and that will change immediately’’.

    If the US does not consider our legitimate concerns and just toes India’s line, then we will certainly move closer to China and Russia,” the Pakistani official said, referring to Pakistan’s first “contingency plan.” 
    As for the Americans, the confusion hovering over the rounded debate about the new policy is: as to how the US administration can closely align the Taliban is today with the terrorist groups, and whether the Taliban would once again allow al-Qaida to operate out of a territory it controls. The Taliban also actively battles the Islamic State in Afghanistan, which consists of several splinter groups and elements expelled from the Taliban. At the same time, the Taliban has not denounced al-Qaida officially and, while al-Qaida has been severely degraded, it has lost none of its zeal to strike Western countries and undermine governments elsewhere.

    Whereas for the Pakistani administration, a US South Asia policy, highly reflective of an Indian mindset, by no means be acceptable to Islamabad since it has had no consideration of the concerns established by Pakistan vis-à-vis India’s provoked terrorism via Afghanistan.

     

    Some American policy strategists urge that U.S. interests in Afghanistan go beyond terrorism. An unstable Afghanistan risks also destabilizing Pakistan and the entire region of Central and South Asia. If Afghanistan is unstable, Pakistan risks becoming deeply destabilized and distracted from tackling its other crises. And from a strategic perceptions standpoint, few areas are as important as Afghanistan. A gradual but steady crumbling of the Kabul government, with a progressively greater accretion of territory and power by the Taliban, would be sufficient to claim victory.

    The US reputation and self-regard—as a country that can be relied upon to honor its commitments—are at stake in Afghanistan. The United States made a pledge to the Afghan people to help them improve their difficult condition and not abandon them once again. To be sure, altruistic concern for the people of Afghanistan is not sufficient for the U.S. to undertake—or to perpetuate—what has turned out to be an immensely costly effort. Nor should the tyranny of sunk costs determine U.S. policy in Afghanistan; as George Kennan once said about Vietnam, the hallmark of a great power is to know when to liquidate unwise commitments. But U.S. engagement in Afghanistan—including the deployment of adequate military force—still advances key U.S. interests. But these idealist aspirations harboured by the US policy makers in the White House have remained unable to realistically look into the Afghan scenario.

    The Trump administration is going to have to explain why US is staying there, not in terms of the original reason the US went in, but in terms of what has always been a kind of secondary mission—important and costly as that mission is today—that was never the prime reason for the US to be staying there. Ant that is why the former administration of the White House under Obama has moved towards an exit strategy.

    Trump said, “our new strategy breaks from previous approaches that set artificial calendar-based deadlines. We are making clear to the Taliban that they will not win on the battlefield. The Taliban has a path to peace and political legitimacy through a negotiated political settlement to end the war.” He also suggested that, unlike the Obama administration, his goal in Afghanistan was to kill terrorists, not engage in nation-building. (That is actually less of a distinction between the two administration’s policies than Trump suggests.) Trump said, India’s role is critical in Afghanistan stability. He highlighted India’s future role in the economic development of the Afghan people- an approach that New Delhi does not support. And yet fundamental flaws shown in Trump’s Afghan policy are as following;

    1-Under the new policy, a gap of misunderstanding between Washington and Islamabad would be more widened.

    2-A gap– of misunderstanding on the issue of Taliban and the governance in Kabul—would be more widened between New Delhi and Islamabad

    3- The increase of NATO troops would develop sick confidence about US’s exit intention from the Afghan soil- an intent that majority of Afghan Taliban desires

    4-Without involving Pakistan, It appreciates to be an illusionary scenario that a stable Afghanistan can emerge

    5-The cost and benefit analysis of the present US policy indicates that a more tense regional dynamics can be orchestrated as the twin play game by both US-India in Afghanistan

    6-Pakistan will be enhancing and depending more on China and Russia, and would try to rebalance the US-India Afghan strategy there with making a closer union with Turkey- Iran-Pakistan

    7-To dash out the expanding threat of Al-Qaeda/Daesh or its penetration into different parts of Afghanistan seems not an easy going game without Pak military support since Pakistan forces have profound experience in tacking counterinsurgency issue more skilfully than India

    8-The divisions or regrouping in Afghan Taliban is highly possible after the new US policy

    9-Pakistan may become more resilient on the issue of Haqqani network

    10-The new policy will brew an atmosphere of new confusion and misunderstanding between Kabul and Islamabad

    The above mentioned flaws brew some significant challenges to the Trump administration: First, the establishment of regional peace seems a mammoth task. Second, the future of US-Pak relations seems uncertain. Third, US military as well the strategic objects of the Afghan war seem highly unpredictable to achieve. Fourth, there is high risk of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan since with the new Afghan policy India may be euphoric about its role. Fifth, the relations between Beijing and Washington and Moscow and Washington may become more tensed. Sixth, the majority of the Afghans and the Taliban may form a greater alliance against the US and its Nato allies in Afghanistan.

    Objectively, U.S. policy should aim to protect the integrity of the Afghan state and, toward that end, attempt to end the conflict in ways that mitigate the threats of terrorism, instability, and conflict in the region. More troops—he refused to specify the number—are headed for Afghanistan, not, Trump hastened to note, to engage in nation building, but to kill terrorists. After sixteen years in Afghanistan, America has already killed a lot of terrorists, but new ones are doting up to replace the old, much like the opium poppy fields in that country. The more likely prospect is that Washington will remain mired for years in Afghanistan, engaged in a protracted holding action to be hemmed in by the hovering uncertainties with regard to a future direction in that area.

    Should not the true failures of the US war in Afghanistan be examined by the American policy researchers that the smart power doctrine once promised by the Obama administration was not implemented in its letter in spirit in Afghanistan? To refrain from the possible hurdles that may act as stumbling block in the way of establishing durable peace in the South Asian region, America needs must to bring the three important players—Pakistan, Afghanistan and India to the negotiating table, failing which, no plan would become successful. While taking into confidence the other stake holders—China, Russia, and Iran, is also imperative to restoring the atmosphere of regional harmony and peace. Pakistan does not want material or financial assistance from the US, but needs to be trusted and treated with respect, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa told US Ambassador David Hale in Islamabad.

    A comprehensive diplomatic discourse has to be exhausted between Washington and Islamabad in order to mend the fences between the two sides since Pakistan holds key strategic position in the brewing Afghan conflict. And it is highly suggestible that the Trump’s administration must take the benefit from the thought that Richard N Haass (President of the Council of Foreign Affairs) has imparted towards South Asia. Has argues in his book, war of necessity, war of choice that Afghanistan has become a war of choice. “Doing more militarily may not result in lasting improvements in the security situation that are commensurate with the costs.” The South Asian regional dynamics graduate the wisdom that pragmatism, not realism should be the core of US policy in Afghanistan and South Asia.

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    Rohingyas’ Deportation: India Violates In’t Law

    August 16th, 2017

     

    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.

     

    Needless to say, Modi’s government in India has no regards about the sanctity of international norms or international law seen from New Delhi ‘s negative initiative to unjustifiably deport the Rohingya Muslims, thereby violating the Refugee Convention 1951. All of an estimated 40,000 Rohingya Muslims living in India are illegal immigrants, even those registered with the UN refugee agency, and the government aims to deport them, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju has told news agency Reuters.

    The Minister of State for Home Affairs told parliament last week the central government had directed state authorities to identify and deport illegal immigrants including Rohingya, who face persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.

    The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has issued identity cards to about 16,500 Rohingya in India that it says help them “prevent harassment, arbitrary arrests, detention and deportation”.

    The UNHCR’s India office said on Monday the principle of non-refoulement – or not sending back refugees to a place where they face danger – was considered part of customary international law and binding on all states whether they have signed the Refugee Convention or not.

    The office said it had not received any official word about a plan to deport Rohingya refugees, and had not got any reports deportations were taking place.
    The treatment of the roughly one million Rohingya in Myanmar has emerged as its most contentious human rights issue as it makes a transition from decades of harsh military rule.

    Meenakshi Ganguly, Human Rights Watch’s South Asia director, slammed the plan, noting that India as a member of the UN Human Rights Council was aware of the risks Rohingya refugees faced if deported. 

    “India was part of the council that authorised a fact-finding mission after tens of thousands of Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh from Mynamar, following a security operation in which hundreds were killed and raped,” she told Al Jazeera.

    “So India is aware of the risks of abuse, and India has an international obligation to protect them.”

    Thousands of Rohingyas were forced to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh after Myanmar security forces launched a crackdown in the wake of a deadly attack late last year. Many of them crossed the border into India. Others have also fled to southeast Asia, often on rickety boats run by people-smuggling gangs

    Rijiju told parliament last week that the central government had directed state authorities to identify and deport illegal immigrants, including Rohingya. HRW’s Ganguly said she was worried that Rijiju’s comments could encourage vigilante violence against the Rohingya community in India.

    The 1951 Refugee Convention is the key ‘legal document’ that forms the basis of refugees’ right. Ratified by 145 State parties, it defines the term ‘refugee’ and outlines the rights of the displaced, as well as the legal obligations of States to protect them.

    The core principle is non-refoulement, which asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom. This is now considered a rule of ‘customary international law’. 

    UNHCR serves as the ‘vanguard’ of the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol. According to the legislation, States are expected to cooperate with us in ensuring that the rights of refugees are respected and protected

    She also questioned the practicality of rounding up and expelling thousands of people scattered across the country. The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Burma and classified as illegal immigrants, despite claiming roots there that go back centuries, with communities marginalised and occasionally subjected to communal violence.

    Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled from Burma, with many taking refuge in Bangladesh, and some then crossing a porous border into Hindu-majority India. Many have also headed to South East Asia, often on rickety boats run by people-smuggling gangs. Rohingya are generally vilified in India and over the past few months, there has been a string of anti-Rohingya protests. The treatment of the roughly one million Rohingya in Burma has emerged as its most contentious human rights issue as it makes a transition from decades of harsh military rule.

    The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Burma and classified as illegal immigrants, despite claiming roots there that go back centuries, with communities marginalised and occasionally subjected to communal violence. After violating the rights of the Kashmiri Muslim, India now brutally undermines the rights of the Rohingyas whose rights are protected by the UN’s Charter of the Human rights as well as the UN’s Convention of Refugee 1951.

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    Trump’s Pakistan Policy: Challenges & Strategies

    July 2nd, 2017

    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.

     

    It seems very much inconvenient at the part of Islamabad that despite Pakistan’s indefatigable role in the US-waged war on terrorism for the past sixteen years, Washington yet blames Islamabad for the ongoing state of turmoil in Afghanistan and presses to do more. It is also true that deviousness in this situation has not been a Pakistani display. While it has been insisting that Islamabad press on with attacks against the Taliban over the past year, the US has held secret meetings with Taliban representatives in Germany and Doha, Qatar—and kept Pakistan out of those talks. This only increased Pakistani insecurity and reinforced the idea that Washington will ignore its interests in the Afghan endgame. Needless to say, the US-Pak relationship undergoes some currents and cross-currents. Not realpolitik, but pragmatism must be the core of Trump’s policy towards Pakistan.

    Pakistan became the pivotal coalition partner of the US-led global war against terrorism as the geographical position on the Southern and Eastern border of Afghanistan was the best location of supporting the US coalition against the strongholds of Taliban. Pakistan was also in a position to provide the vital intelligence that made it necessary for the US to renew its military and diplomatic relations with Islamabad. Pakistan transformed itself from supporter of Taliban to a partner of an on-going war against terrorism and the US applied this leverage to achieve its own objectives. In the Post-Taliban scenario too, Washington continued to rely on Pakistan to root out Al-Qaeda terrorists who were suspected to operate from within Pak-Afghan border.

    Potential Trump administration responses being discussed include expanding U.S. drone strikes, redirecting or withholding some aid to Pakistan and perhaps eventually downgrading Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally, the two officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity. A press spokesperson for Pakistan’s embassy in the U.S. said it would not improve the security situation, noting that Pakistan was carrying out its own efforts to tackle militants in the country. The United States is again poised to deploy thousands more troops in Afghanistan, an acknowledgment that U.S.-backed forces are not winning and Taliban militants are resurgent. Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Saturday stated that it was about time for the other stake holders particularly Afghanistan to do more in the fight against terrorism.

    “Unfortunately our sacrifices against terrorism are not well acknowledged and we are often subjected to demand of do more,” the army chief was quoted as saying by the Inter Services Public Relations.

    Per se , there are some fundamental problems undergirding US-Pakistan troubles. First, instead of a boldly and fairly admitting Pakistan role in the war against terror, the US administrations Democratic or Republican have been demanding to do more from Pakistan. Second, the two countries have a one-dimensional transactional relationship centered along security concerns, i.e., the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Many Pakistanis view the Washington demand of taking actions against Haqqani network differently as they argue since American Black Water treacherous activities inside Pakistan were not rightly tackled by the US administration as to how and why the Americans push us the Pakistanis to tack actions against those who may pose great security risks to Pakistan. Nevertheless, Pakistani government is cautiously taking action against the Haqqanis. In a way, General Jehangir Karamat, Pakistan’s retired Army chief and ambassador to the US, once underscored this point, saying that, in his assessment …..’’US-Pakistan relations are further complicated because of clashing security interests, especially vis-à-vis the Afghan Taliban’’.

    Third, Pakistani region remains unstable — especially because of India’s terrorist moves inside the Pakistani territories in Balochistan and TTP’s provoked attacks in the Pak-Afghan border . The mistrusts between India and Pakistan could damage the US interests in Afghanistan and Central Asia too. Stabilizing relations between Pakistan and India will be an important challenge for Trump. What is important to note is that Pakistan aspires for talks with India for revamping ties despite the hostile approach that India has currently adopted on the Line of Control and in occupied Kashmir. Recently, Pakistan tried to attract the world’s attention toward its issues with India especially Kashmir. However, India has delayed resumption of dialogue with Islamabad for one reason or the other. Trump’s expressed support for addressing the outstanding issues of Pakistan in the region is therefore a welcome step in the right direction.

    Fourth, counterterrorism strategy: including aid to Pakistan. As under the Obama administration and now under the Trump administration the counterterrorism  financial assistance to Pakistan have been gradually cut thereby having an emphasis onto ‘do more’—creates a new gray area of US-Pakistan relationship in the post- Cold War era.

    Fifth, the growing US-India ties in the post 9/11 world where the two sides Washington seem to have been two great economic, military and diplomatic partners, creates a new challenge of US-Pakistan relationship.

    Seen retrospectively, Pakistan experienced friendly relations with the US during the Cold War period. Despite convergence of many interests, the US has divergence of interests on several issues and policies. So there are frequent ups and downs in bilateral relations of the two countries. The attacks of September 11 transferred Pakistan from failing to a frontline state and reduced its status from the major recipient of the Western aid in South Asia. It soon became obvious to policy-makers that they had no choice of losing or preserving their strategic position in Afghanistan at the cost of Washington. They had no option but to support the American intervention.

    At the same time, India’s announcement of unconditional support and extending offer for logistic facilities to American troops further tightened the position of Pakistan. The US tried to balance its interest in the region and Bush administration assured Indian leaders that the military and economic assistance provided to Pakistan, was designed to assist the war against terrorism (Mohan, 2002-3: 144). India’s general importance to US interests after the Cold War has not been set back directly by the war on terrorism. The US perception of India’s future importance as a strategic partner remained as an inducement to cultivate further security cooperation.

    And it has been in this backdrop that the US tried to reorient its relationship dynamics with Pakistan. But the US administration changing Pakistan policy at the behest of India-US interests may pave for open conflict of interests between Washington and Islamabad. Without having a profound cost and benefit analysis, Trump’s administration’s pro India policy would invite many hurdles to US’s South Asia stakes. A stable Afghanistan cannot be possible without Pakistani support and nor an instable South Asia being under fire because of the ongoing Pak-India strained relationship cannot help produce conducive results for Washington in the region. Before Indian premier Narendra Modi’s state visit to Washington, the Pentagon has sanctioned a deal that provides 22 spy drones to India-a move that displeases Islamabad.

    These problems will not yield to quick diplomatic fixes. Barring a fundamental re-thinking, Washington and Islamabad should get used to making the best use of the positives imbibed so far in this relationship: A feeling persisting in the psyhe of the Pakistani public is that the US- -by using Pakistan to the best of its interests– Washington now treats Pakistan as a second or third priority state at the altar of growing its heroic partnership with India .  India-US adopted strategy of coopted interests in the Afghan game is making an alert in Islamabad.

    The ongoing war of competition over the endgame in Afghanistan seems to create a challenging situation in the region. The US wishes to have strong trade ties in the region — and it would not be fruitful if the Afghanistan. While the US-India partnership is unlikely to undergo major reversals, the rise of China and the security situation in Afghanistan are likely to remain the enduring filters through which a strident Republican Presidency seems reviewing its Pakistan policy and adapt its strategic interests in South Asia albeit not without some provoking challenges.

    Any seemingly policy review by the Trump administration to accelerate the drone strikes inside the Pak-Afghan territory would be counter-productive as has been accepted by some American policy experts. Not only these controversial strikes imperil the sanctity of international law but also promote in the Pakistani people a feeling of bete noire about the US administration since the said strikes violate sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan.

    Keeping in view the above stated arguments, it is suggestible that the Trump administration’s policy managers give a serene thought while remaking US’s South Asia policy. During the current visit of Indian PM Modi to the US, the Trump administration must convince him to make a move forward vis-à-vis’ the Kashmir situation. Only a pragmatic collective approach to protecting peace in the region led by a pivot US-Pak counterterrorism cooperation can be instrumental in reviewing a new US- strategy. As for Pakistan, relations with the new administration and strategically plot a decisive roadmap for bilateral engagement as well as contingencies for Pakistan-US ties over whatever path Trump takes.

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    US-India-Japan Naval Trajectory & Australia?

    June 14th, 2017

    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.

     

    After making a pitch for an observer status during this year’s Malabar trilateral naval exercises  that were scheduled to be held in June, Australia had indicated that it is keen for a logistics support agreement with India along the lines of the one concluded with the United States last year.  As for US’s strategic calculation, China’s growing assertiveness and economic heft across Asia, combined with a newly reticent United States, is making countries in the region wonder if and when they’ll have to choose sides between Washington and Beijing. Against this a backdrop, the US administration mindset advocates that the US and Indian navies could carry out ‘benign naval and maritime activity’ during periods of diplomatic strain. But for New Delhi’s strategic reconsideration, Australian Naval venture could not be realized.

    That’s exactly what appeared to happen last week, after India rejected Australia’s request to send warships to participate in big naval exercises in the Bay of Bengal. News reports painted the rejection as a way for India to appease China, or at least avoid needlessly provoking Beijing.

    “New Delhi hasn’t forgotten Canberra’s hasty capitulation a decade ago,” said Nitin A. Gokhale, a New Delhi-based national security analyst, in an email to FP. “Moreover, the foreign policy establishment is aware of the deep economic and political relations that Australia and China have.”

    Since AUSINDEX in 2015, Indian Navy vessels have visited Australia for port calls, but not for exercises. Neither the Australian nor the Indian navies have clarified any operational focus for the upcoming exercise. This comes at a time when there is a lot of hue and cry in India about Australia scrapping its skilled visa program — the employer-sponsored temporary work visas, popularly known as the 457 visa. While the government of Malcolm Turnbull may have taken a short-sighted approach in its engagement with India by moving ahead with its new visa restrictions, New Delhi would be equally short-sighted if it just focuses on this issue at the risk of overlooking larger shifts in regional balance of power.

    India and Japan have an institutionalized trilateral strategic dialogue partnership with the United States. Initiated in 2011. Maintaining a balance of power in the Asian-Pacific as well as maritime security in Indo-Pacific waters became an important element of this dialogue. A similar dialogue exists between the United States, Japan, and Australia. Under Modi, such security trilateralism in Asia has received not only new momentum and is being expanded to incorporate other regional powers: in June 2015, India, Australia, and Japan held their first ever high level dialogue in New Delhi.

    These trilateral initiatives have a serious potential to transform into a ‘quad’ of democracies in the Indo-Pacific region. The roots of this potential partnership were laid in late 2004 when navies from the U.S., India, Japan, and Australia collaborated in tsunami relief operations all across the Indian Ocean. Japan has been the most vocal supporter of such an initiative. In 2007, Abe, in his earlier stint as Prime Minister, lobbied for Asia’s democracies to come together.  This was also actively supported by the United States. Such an initiative resulted in a five nation naval exercise in Bay of Bengal in September 2007 code-named Malabar 07-02. However, perceiving a possible ganging-up of Asia’s democracies, China issued demarches to New Delhi and Canberra, causing this initiative to lose steam, since both Australia and New Delhi felt it unwise to provoke China. As China becomes more aggressive in the region, there are signs that India and Australia may be warming up to the idea again.

    India and Australia are wary of China’s assault on maritime security and freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific region. These common concerns have strengthened the need for greater maritime cooperation between the two nations and the two have started conducting joint naval combat exercises. During Modi’s visit to Australia, a security framework agreement was signed by the two countries, further underscoring the importance of defense cooperation in the Indian Ocean region. India and Australia are leading powers in the Indian Ocean region. The two countries are also at the helm of Indian Ocean Regional Association (IORA), a formal grouping consisting of the Indian Ocean Littoral States. Australia is also a permanent member of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, which brings together the local navies of Indian Ocean region. The extent of their regional cooperation in Indian Ocean can also be ascertained by their annual trilateral dialogues with countries like Japan and Indonesia

    So countering China, United States, Japan, Australia and India created Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD). China invested heavily in Australian mines. There are some author who suggested that China may attack Australia in war situation.

    Australia is less populous region. Japan security is based on US army, India is a powerhouse and have very good global firework index. US is distant from Asian mainland. Cost of deploying international army is very high. So all these four groups are friends of benefits. They can empower each other and secure each other and also counter growing Chinese army in South China sea. The below map illustrate how India, Australia and Japan can counter China.

    On the other hand India, Iran have good ties to counter Pakistan. India, Japan have good ties to counter China. US and Pakistan have good ties to counter India. The US Navl officer advocated that its navy and their Indian counterpart could undertake joint naval operations in Indo-Asia-Pacific region and pushed for quadrilateral arrangement between Delhi, Washington, Tokyo and Canberra with an eye on ensuring stability in the region amid China’s initiatives to unilaterally change rules of international order. 

    Addressing the Raisina Dialogue here Admiral Harry B Harris Jr, US Pacific Command, said India and the US are uniquely placed to provide security in the r .. “I’m sometimes asked why I always use the term “Indo-Asia-Pacific” versus the commonly used “Asia-Pacific” by smart people like those in the room today. My answer is simple – Indo-Asia-Pacific more accurately captures the fact that the Indian and Pacific Oceans are the economic lifeblood that bind India, Australia, Asia, Oceania and the United States together. Strengthening that economic connective tissue through security and diplomatic partnership is what America’s rebalance to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. 

    In 2015,India hosted Japan and Australia for its first ever high-level trilateral dialogue in New Delhi and that some of the topics discussed were maritime security — including freedom of navigation patrols, he suggested, “One idea to consider is initiating a Quad-lateral Security Dialogue between India-Japan-Australia and the United States. Adding the U.S into this dialogue can amplify the message that we are united behind the international rules-based order that has kept the peace and is essential to all of us.” In view of a senior US Naval Commander ‘’by being ambitious, India, Japan, Australia, the United States and so many other like-minded nations can aspire to patrol together anywhere international law allows.

    “The idea of safeguarding freedom of access to international waters and airspace is not something new for us to ponder – this is a principle based upon the international and rules-based global order.”  And yet, India is also opposed, in principle, to military ships traversing through its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and seeks prior consent for military exercises or manoeuvres in its EEZ. This position is similar to that of China and some other maritime countries. Were India to participate in the US-led Fonops, it would have to rescind on this principle and also accept the possibility of other navies—especially Chinese navy—being present in its EEZ.

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    Palestine & Kashmir:The Unending Transgressions

    May 8th, 2017

     

    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.

     

    It goes without saying that there have been closed similarities in the policies practiced by both the Israeli and Indian authorities vis-à-vis Palestine and Kashmir. Intransigent-cum- belligerent occupation remains the core feature of Israel- India state policies in the Palestinian territories and Kashmir vale.

    Israel’s Settlements in the Palestinian Held Territories

    Notwithstanding the remonstrance shown by the Palestinian community, the reservations established by international legal community, the clear denouncements leveled by international human rights organistaions, and President Trump’s request to hold back on settlements as part of a possible new push for Israeli-Palestinian peace, Israel deliberately intends to build 15,000 new settlement homes in East Jerusalem, the Housing Ministry said on last Friday.  A formal announcement of the settlement plan, quickly condemned by the chief Palestinian negotiator, could come around the time Trump is scheduled to visit Israel this month.

    Israel views all of Jerusalem as its “eternal and indivisible capital”, but the Palestinians also want a capital there. Most of the world considers Jerusalem’s status an issue that must be decided through negotiations. The last peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014.

    Israel’s Housing Ministry is reportedly pushing forward with a massive plan that would add some 25,000 new homes to Jerusalem, including 15,000 units over the Green Line, in a move that may test the new US administration’s understandings with Israel over building in areas the Palestinians want for a state.
    According to a Channel 2 report recently exposed , the plan is set to be announced while US President Donald Trump is in the country in late May, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem and the unification of the once-divided city.

    Housing Minister Yoav Galant (Kulanu) is unjustifiably pushing the initiative in meetings with Jerusalem city officials. According to the report, the plan will cost some NIS 4 billion ($1.1 billion).Parts of the plan were reported by Channel 10 earlier in the week. Galant’s office and the Jerusalem municipality could not be immediately contacted for confirmation. Israeli officials confirmed that Trump’s team is planning a visit on May 22-23.

    The White House told The Times of Israel that it is “exploring” the visit, but did not flesh out any further details. Jerusalem Day, which marks the capture of East Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War, begins on the evening of May 23.  Of the 15,000 units planned over the Green Line, the lion’s share would be in two new residential neighborhoods: Atarot in the north of the city and Givat Hamatos in the south.

    The settlements are illegal under international law. The Fourth Geneva Convention, which concerns civilian populations during a time of war, states in Article 49 that, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

    United Nations Security Council resolution 2334, which the United States did not veto, and was passed in December 2016, angering Israel, reaffirms this position. It states that settlements have “no legal validity” and constitute “a flagrant violation under international law.” The resolution references previous Security Council resolutions 242, 338, 446, 452, 465, 476, 478, 1397, 1515, and 1850. Of these, 465, 476, and 478 established that settlements have “no legal validity” in 1980.

    The International Criminal Court (ICC) currently has a preliminary examination underway that is looking into Israeli actions, including settlements, in the occupied territories since Jun 13, 2014. The examination, which is meant to determine whether there is enough evidence to begin an official investigation, was launched on January 16, 2015.

    Israel, along with a few legal analysts, disputes that settlements are illegal. There are three primary reasons they use. Some cite religious reasons, claiming religious scripture gives Jews a right to build anywhere in Israel and the West Bank. Others use historical reasons, saying Jews have lived in the region for thousands of years, and it remains their land.

    Some others use legal reasons. In 2012, the Israeli government, under the direction of Prime Minister Netanyahu, published the Levy Commission Report, which summarized this legal position. The report rejected the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the West Bank, arguing that the West Bank was never a legitimate part of any Arab state. “Consequently, those conventions dealing with the administration of occupied territory and an occupied populations [sic] are not applicable to Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria,” the report read.

    This is not a position that any country or international forum has accepted. Israel has withdrawn from settlements on a few different occasions. In 1982, Israel began withdrawing from settlements in Sinai as part of the 1979 peace deal with Egypt. In 1989, the withdrawal was completed, constituting a full Israeli withdrawal from Sinai. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from settlements in Gaza. At the same time, Israel also withdrew from some settlements in the northern West Bank. Under international law, settlements in East Jerusalem are no different than settlements in the West Bank. So why consider them separately?

    Former Secretary of State Kerry singled out Jerusalem as one of the most sensitive and complex points, as did President Bill Clinton when he offered his ideas for peace in 2000. Both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as the capital of their state. The Palestinian statements warn Israel and the international community of the danger of this Israeli step, which could open the door for several options for the Palestinians. The Palestinians may not only resort to international diplomatic work, but could also threaten to turn the popular uprising into an armed one in the event that the international community fails to put pressure on Israel to back down.

    However, the Palestinians did not wait long before taking action. On Jan. 20, a group of activists from the popular resistance and foreign supporters of the Palestinian cause rallied in the park in Ma’ale Adumim, where they pitched a tent to protest against the Israeli government’s intention to annex the settlement and the E1 zone to Jerusalem. The Israeli police cracked down on the protesters and forced them to clear the area. Even so, this protest might as well be a prelude to further escalation by the popular resistance.

    Nevertheless the Israeli view also fully acknowledges that a military occupation is significantly different, both as a matter of law and politics, from building civilian settlements even in a territory that is legitimately subject to a military occupation. That’s why some of the Israeli experts have also opposed the building of settlements in the West Bank. They believe it has caused resentment and has given enemies of Israel an excuse to attack the legitimacy of the occupation in general.

    The Netanyahu advocated doctrine– which solicits the land for peace as it has done on multiple occasions over the last few decades—yet delivers no positive course to pacify the simmering Arab-Israeli dispute. In 2010, Israel announced its intent to build homes in East Jerusalem during a visit by then-Vice President Joe Biden, who condemned the plan. It caused huge embarrassment to Netanyahu, who suspended the plan before reintroducing it in 2013.

    As for true legal position about these settlements– the judicious perceptivity shared by the International Court of Justice accompanied by the EU’s disapproval, as well as the policy stand held by the UN via its celebrated resolutions, and most significantly the cultural, historical and territorial truth proclaimed by the Unesco resolution of December, 2016, branding Israel as an occupying power in East Jerusalem– all is tantamount to saying no to these settlements.

    India’s Intransigence and Belligerence in IHK

    Undeniably, the Indian security and paramilitary troops have been constantly killing/targeting the young Kashmiris. India’s security forces have started the search operation throughout the vale at a very large scale thereby undermining the fundamental norms of civility and human rights. Sadly enough, ruthless India’s role as an occupying power in Kashmir is being overlooked by the international community. India commits human rights violations without any remorseful feeling. The Indian army, Special Task Force, Border Security Force, and village defence committees, including the principal government forces — who operate in Jammu and Kashmir — have systematically violated the fundamental norms of international human rights law for the last six decades.

    In his latest state visit to India, Turkey President Tayyip Erdogan said India and Pakistan were both friends of Turkey and he wanted to help strengthen the dialogue process among the stakeholders for resolving the Kashmir issue which has been festering for the last 70 years. “We should not allow more casualties to occur (in Kashmir). By having a multilateral dialogue, (in which) we can be involved, we can seek ways to settle the issue once and for all,” he told WION news channel in an interview.

    Indian repression in IHK does not work. Repression may push dissent and resistance further underground temporarily, but they eventually rise back to the surface. Kashmir is fundamentally a political problem, not a security one the state of India cannot bludgeon its way to a new reality. Second, the Kashmir dispute is real and lies at the root of the dissent in the occupied territory and the troubles between India and Pakistan. Only a political settlement can pave the path to stability in all of Kashmir and general peace in the region a reality that successive Indian governments, whether right-wing or otherwise ideologically inclined, have eventually been forced to recognise.

    Arguably, article 42 of the 1907 Hague Regulations (HR) states that a territory is considered occupied when it is de facto placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation extends only to the territory where such an authority has been established and can be exercised. The Article 2 of four Geneva Conventions of 1949 says that it can be virtually applied to any territory occupied during international hostilities. They can also be applied in situations where occupation of state territory meets with no armed resistance.

    The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears to be extremely stubborn: it does not accept the futility of repressive measures in IHK and it does not appear to endorse the inevitability of dialogue with Pakistan on the Kashmir dispute. This attitude has given rise to creating dangerous instability not only in the Kashmir region, but between India and Pakistan themselves. Unless Mr Modi is willing to reconsider his approach to both IHK and Pakistan, there is little hope of the situation becoming more stable across the region.

    It is against this background that the UN, the EU and the United States must mutually play such an instrumental role– to counter and deter both Israeli and Indian policies of unwarranted occupation, aggression and repression in Palestine and Kashmir– a role that these global players historically played in Kosovo.

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    India’s Nuclear Doctrine: The Changing NFU Strategy?

    April 28th, 2017

    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.

     

    There are current reflections that advocate the impression that India might be reconsidering its policy of no first use of nuclear arsenal. This revisionist approach echoing in the mind of Indian policy makers is a peace caveat for South Asian region that is already under fire because of Modi’s ultra nationalist-cum-extremist policy ventures in the region, particularly its ongoing tense relationship towards Islamabad.

    India’s no-first-use policy was originally declared by the BJP and the National Democratic Alliance government after it conducted the May 1998 nuclear tests. The prime minister at the time, Atal Behari Vajpayee, stated thereafter that India would pursue a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons vis-à-vis other nuclear-armed states and would not use these weapons against nonnuclear countries. This restraint was also embedded in the BJP’s draft nuclear doctrine, declared in August 1999, which took several years to be finalized. It was finally endorsed by the Cabinet Committee on Security and officially promulgated in January 2003. Consequently, India’s no-first-use policy and its nuclear doctrine are BJP formulations. The Congress party adopted them and, with Singh’s April speech, simply sought to extend no first use globally. This makes the BJP’s concern with its own no-first-use policy and nuclear doctrine part of the mystery of Singh’s proposal.

    India’s no-first-use declaration cannot be separated from the country’s overall nuclear doctrine as it has been articulated since 1999. Inadequate as it is, this doctrine deserves to be reviewed in the light of changes over the past fifteen years.

    The current nuclear doctrine dictates that nuclear retaliation against a first strike would be “massive” and designed to inflict “unacceptable damage” upon the attacker. This is an unrealistic certitude because, ethically, punishing large numbers of noncombatants contravenes the laws of war. Besides, threatening massive retaliation against any level of nuclear attack, which would inevitably trigger assured nuclear annihilation in a binary adversarial situation, is hardly a credible option. No doubt, it raises a ticklish question: Would India then favor a counterforce or countercity strategy? India’s stated adherence to an assured and massive second strike suggests the latter.

    However, in addition to the other infirmities of a massive retaliation response, the uncomfortable reality is that the trade winds in May–September associated with the southwest monsoon blow from Pakistan into northern India. Consequently, secondary and tertiary radiation from a nuclear attack launched by India against Pakistan in these months would blow back into India’s agriculturally rich Punjab and Haryana states and, indeed, into New Delhi. India therefore faces a huge time constraint to mount a massive nuclear attack into Pakistan. Operationally, too, destroying the territory in dispute is feckless.

    In a nuclear adversarial situation, moreover, the inevitability of mutual destruction must also be considered. Is a counterforce attack on the adversary’s military formations and assets the answer? The issue of uncontrollable escalation then arises, for which there is no reassuring answer. Leaving the problem of how India should retaliate to a nuclear first strike to the discretion of the prime minister would provide greater flexibility to mount the counterattack instead of threatening assured nuclear annihilation, which is just not credible.

    The possibility that India might use nuclear weapons first directly contradicts the key pillar of Indian nuclear thinking since the publication of its official nuclear doctrine in 2003: a no first-use policy. Successive prime ministers — including Narendra Modi, not exactly a dove — have affirmed this. Indeed, a major revision of India’s public doctrine will fly in the face of it’s long history as a reluctant nuclear power. On the other hand, the evidence Narang marshals to support this astounding claim is scant and centers around a couple of paragraphs from a book by a former Indian national security advisor Shivshankar Menon who retired three years ago, before Modi came to power.

    Despite Narang’s claims, we still do not have sufficient evidence that India has reversed its no first-use policy or — for that matter — any other major tenets in its public nuclear doctrine. Indeed, at a time when there are growing calls inside India to revisit its nuclear doctrine, it is worth keeping in mind that India’s doctrine already allows considerable space for innovation. As Menon put it to a journalist, “India’s nuclear doctrine has far greater flexibility than it gets credit for.” In other words, India’s extant doctrine can absorb the consequences of future Pakistan-related contingencies without any major changes.

    Former National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon’s take on India’s No First Use (NFU) pledge in his recent book has led some nuclear thinkers to offer an exciting interpretation of India’s changing nuclear doctrine. As Vipin Narang of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently suggested, India may conduct a preemptive first strike if the use of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal appears imminent. This first strike would decapitate Pakistani arsenal to the effect that its ability to retaliate further is taken out of the equation. In short, India’s NFU policy is up for major revisions.

    That has not been the official story, however. Critics are right in pointing out that since 2003, India has conditioned its NFU, its former strategic forces commanders have openly questioned NFU and Manohar Parrikar as Defence Minister had recently raised doubts on the desirability of NFU (in his personal capacity).

    Yet, in 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had unequivocally asserted that India’s No First Use (NFU) policy is not open to change. In view of some policy experts, the most important take-away from the current debate is that such rethinking on India’s nuclear behaviour cannot be restricted to ideological leanings of any particular government in power.

    The current doctrinal shift appears to have been in place since 2008 when the UPA government was in power. Menon’s writings suggest that India’s national security considerations are not defined either by Hindu or by secular nationalism. They are merely a response to its changing security requirements. However, it also necessitates that the Indian government should officially review its nuclear doctrine in order to convey deterrence more effectively. Narang, a professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who specialises in nuclear proliferation and strategy, said in his prepared remarks that there was increasing “evidence that India will not allow Pakistan to go first”. George Perkovich, vice president of Carnegie and an opponent of the 2008 India-US nuclear deal, said ultimately it was about “psychological mind games” and sending signals. He questioned India’s capacity to conduct a “comprehensive” strike while warning of the massive costs involved in developing such capabilities.

    Sameer Lalwani, deputy director of Stimson Center’s South Asia programme, said in an e-mail response that the risks of India changing its posture were worrisome. Pakistan would try to find ways to make its nuclear arsenal survive an Indian strike by “expansion of its missile arsenal, putting strategic nuclear weapons at sea, increasing arsenal readiness or reducing the timeline for launch”.

    Given the herein above-mentioned arguments, one thing is clear that what so ever remain the strategic exigencies or political expediencies regarding India’s nuclear doctrinal change, a revisionist Indian approach is a reflection on BJP’s realpolitik doctrine that has already been poisoning the peace future of South Asian region.

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    IMAFT’s built bastion against terrorism?

    April 11th, 2017

    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.

    Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, is an intergovernmental– cum-intercontinental counter-terrorist alliance , the largest global military alliance of 41 Muslim countries( even lager than the Western military alliance of 28 Nato states), united having a bastion   against ISIL and other terrorist networks .  Its creation was first announced by Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Defense, on 15 December 2015. The alliance was to have a joint operations center in RiyadhSaudi Arabia.  Under much criticism and controversies, after all the emerging Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT) albeit with a notable missing that some of the states like Indonesia, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Tajikistan are not included in this alliance. But exclusion of these states must not be taken as a sign of resentment. It is all possible that subsequently some of these countries may join this club. IMAFT must be taken as Muslim Nato to guard against strategic and tactical terrorism.

    The alliance with its military Command Headquarters based in Riyadh was announced as an Inter- Governmental Alliance first by Saudi Defence Minister Muhammad bin Salman on 15 December 2015.Its mandate was to counter terrorism from organisations such as ISIL and their other variants. Pakistan’s Defence Minister in a press statement revealed that Pakistan’s ex-COAS General Raheel Sharif has been appointed as the Commander in Chief of that alliance.  

    Despite the fact that some of the critics view that IMAFT’s plan for destroying Daesh has a relatively limited stated objective, its creation would act as a caution to terrorist missions. To protect the Muslim countries from all terrorist groups and organizations (irrespective of their sect or name), and to fight terrorists in “Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, and Afghanistan”. Essentially, due to the dominance of the states having Sunni-majority populations (with the notable absences of Iran and Iraq), IMAFT in view of few analysts, is a coalition with a sectarian agenda. But in reality, this impression is grossly based on wrong perception leveled by those who lack neutral perceptivity.

    There is the argument that Daesh deceitfully presents itself as a representative of authentic Islam, commonly known as Salafism, as practiced by the early generations of Muslims. It includes the special brand of Wahhabism adopted by Saudi Arabia, whereby many Islamic principles of the dominant Sunni and Shi’ite sects are considered polytheistic—such as philosophy, spirituality, the spirit of sharia, and use of metaphors. But this argument is painted by those who are brushed by ethnic orientation. There is need to look into this alliance by having an objective appraisal and assessment. Until there is greater recognition of the interplay between the ideas and politics, many observers will likely continue to misperceive Daesh’s ideology. Ultimately, while most non-Arab Muslim-majority member countries such as Pakistan are unanimously in favor of preserving the sanctity of the holy sites of Mecca and Medina, they are not necessarily in favor of “re-Sunnifying” both Iraq and Syria and flipping the existing power structures-this outlook strategically demands to be anchored.

    When the coalition was announced there were 34 members. Additional countries joined and the number of members reached 41 when Oman joined in December 2016. On 6 January 2017, Pakistan‘s former Chief of Army Staff, General (Retd.) Raheel Sharif was named the IMA’s first Commander-in-Chief. Later his appointment was confirmed on 9th March 2017 by Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in a press release. According to Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khawaja Asif NOC for Raheel Sharif is issued on 25 March 2017 and he will sign contract on first week of April.

    The answer to above may lie in the IMAFT aping a Western model with a dominant country accompanied by two or three serious and several token allies wreaking havoc on countries with or without UN sanction. The view shared by some polarized thinkers holds that IMAFT would mainly be brandishing the military muscle of countries like Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia with several countries on the fence caviling at the need and appropriateness of such military interventions. And then there is the knottier question of the military alliance’s strategy and tactics against an amorphous enemy wielding asymmetric tactics. Before joining the IMAFT, Pakistan fully took into account the future ventures and challenges that could be posed to this alliance.

    Though apparently appointment also contradicts Pakistan’s national commitment towards neutrality with regard to the Yemen crisis after a parliamentary resolution was passed in April 2015,yet pragmatically,this unfolds the underpinning exigencies that strongly advocate for participating in this.The strategist argue that  the Yemen intervention, also known as Operation Decisive Storm, was a Saudi Arabia-led crackdown against Houthi rebels and was more about a power struggle centering on reinstating Yemen’s dictatorship of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi rather than cracking down on terrorism.

    However, it is an overgeneralized impression that the IMA will assume a sectarian character. Last month, the kingdom scored another victory by bringing in a new member: Oman. For the sultanate, which has traditionally distanced itself from Riyadh’s efforts to isolate Tehran, joining IMAFT raises important questions about Muscat’s foreign policy agenda as Arab Gulf-Iranian tensions escalate. Saudi voices were quick to hail Oman’s decision to become the Saudi-led alliance’s 41st member as a sign of strong Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) strength and “a new chapter in regional and Muslim unity.”

    As neighbors and fellow GCC states, Oman and Saudi Arabia have long maintained a close alliance, yet Muscat’s close ties with Iran have created friction in Omani-Saudi relations. By hosting secret talks between American and Iranian officials in Muscat, which led to the historic 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, Omani officials unnerved their Saudi counterparts. More recently, members of the Saudi government have accused Oman, which has thus far maintained neutrality in the Yemen civil war, of permitting weapons smuggling across the Oman-Yemen border into the hands of Houthi fighters — a claim denied by officials in Muscat.

    The procedural aspects of the former Pakistani chief of army staff’s appointment aside, the fact that the alliance seeks to carry out counterterrorism operations in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, and Afghanistan, particularly with Syria witnessing the consolidation of power of an Alawite government under President Bashar Al Assad recently, hints at how geopolitics in the region will play a significant role in shaping the IMAFT’s role. The catastrophic effects of regimes being toppled throughout the Middle East had led to great instability in the form of rebel movements and insurgencies that ultimately have assumed a sectarian character. As for the Iranian reservations for the alliance, one fact is clear as rightly clarified by Islamabad that the alliance is by no means a coalition against Iran. It is an Islamic coalition against global terrorism. And naturally the Muslim community at large expects that Iran should join this coalition without chartering unwarranted reservations.

    For Pakistan, tackling terrorism at home is a top priority for civilian leadership and the military establishment. That said, if the preconditions of joining the alliance are not met, Sharif will most likely withdraw from command of the IMA. His appointment, however, will continue to be questionable on grounds of neutrality. By endorsing the appointment of Gen Raheel to head IMAFT, Islamabad shows its unflinching resolve against global terrorism. While evaluating the scope of the IMAFT and its future role, we may pragmatically conclude that despite many controversies and misfits, the seemingly establishment of IMAFT to fight regional and trans-regional terrorism should be viewed as an encouraging development.

     

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    Russia’s Role In Afghanistan: Myths & Orientations

    March 29th, 2017

     

    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.

     

    Moscow is holding an Afghan peace moot. But Washington has declined the Russian offer to participate in this conference.  The other twelve regional actors are determined to attend this event. An increased Russian involvement in Afghanistan has surprised many observers. While Moscow has invited Washington to the upcoming talks scheduled for mid-April, the optics of the U.S. merely being a participant at a Moscow-led gathering would send a signal of diplomatic weakness in the region. What does Moscow want to achieve in the war-torn country? After Syria, is another US-Russia conflict being played out in a different arena? A new wave of skepticism/propaganda about the Russian perceived objectives in Afghanistan is being blown in the western media.

    Lately, Russia has increased its involvement in Afghanistan. For many experts, this is surprising, because Moscow had maintained an apparent distance from the Afghan conflict for many years. In fact, Russia even supported the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the subsequent toppling of the Taliban regime. At the time, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai rightly said that Afghanistan was probably the only place where the interests of Moscow and Washington didn’t clash.

    But a new geopolitical situation is emerging in the region, and it seems that Russia has decided not to remain “neutral” in the protracted conflict wracking the Asian country. The recent tripartite meeting in Moscow involving China, Pakistan and Russia to discuss Afghanistan’s security is just one example of Russia’s growing interest.

    Russia first established contacts with the Taliban leadership in 2007 to discuss the issue of drug trafficking through Central Asian countries that share borders with Afghanistan. Now there are reports that Moscow is again in contact with the Taliban. But this time the Moscow-Taliban contacts are not limited to talks on drug trafficking, according to analysts. Russia, they say, realizes the US policies in Afghanistan have failed, and therefore wants to intervene.

    As Afghanistan has drifted closer to India, Pakistan is seeking to forge closer ties with China and Russia to counter New Delhi’s growing influence in Kabul. India and Afghanistan have been extremely critical of Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan. They accuse the Pakistani military and spy agencies of backing Taliban insurgents and destabilizing Afghanistan so that Islamabad can have an upper hand in geopolitics.

    Speaking at the sixth Heart of Asia ministerial conference earlier this month, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani urged Pakistani authorities to act against the militants’ sanctuaries in their country’s northwestern tribal areas. Ghani said the $500 million (478 million euros) in aid that Islamabad pledged for the reconstruction of Afghanistan would be better spent on eradicating terrorists that continue to launch attacks in Afghanistan from Pakistani soil.

    “We must confront the specter in the room,” Ghani said in the Indian city of Amritsar, referring to what he said was a fresh wave of terrorism and political violence affecting the region. Stanford political scientist Kathryn Stoner says that Russia does not want U.S. military forces to stay in Afghanistan, 

    “Responses of states on this have been significant, but some states provide sanctuary and tolerate these networks,” Ghani said, adding that a Taliban leader had said recently that if the group did not receive sanctuary in Pakistan, it would not last a month. “Russian leaders point to the fact that heroin trafficking was less under the Taliban than in the past five years under the U.S./NATO coalition,” noted Stoner, adding that narcotics were reaching the Russian population.

    Meanwhile, Russia is exploring the possibility of moving additional troops to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as well as re-equipping those countries’ armies to provide a “defensive zone in Central Asia against Afghan radical or narcotics incursions into the Russian heartland,” according to Stoner.

    Islamabad denies allegations that it is not cooperating in the fight against the Taliban. “Pakistan has suffered a lot in the war on terror but Washington blames us for the turmoil in Afghanistan,” Mushahid Ullah Khan, a close aide to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, told DW. “The US has failed to bring peace to Afghanistan, so now we are trying to engage with other regional countries to work for Afghanistan’s stability, which is essential for peace in the entire region.”

    According to Andrew Weiss, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

    “I think the Russian government is unlikely, as they say in Russian, step into that river twice. But we are seeing, I think, is a revival of Cold War-style thinking. There was a great interview the other day in TASS, the Russian state news agency, with their main envoy for Afghanistan. And in this interview, Ambassador Kabulov really portrays the entire question of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan in Cold War terms. He talks about how the U.S. used to have these big bases in Iran, we got kicked out of Iran after the revolution. We then seized on Afghanistan as a pivot point to project influence toward the Middle East, toward China, Pakistan and Russia. And he sort of talks about, you know, ‘We lived through the Cold War, we know what this is all about,’ and there’s this really larding it quite darkly in terms of being geopolitical great-gain competition. I think that kind of talk is a reflection of what policy’s all about, which is if they can do things to squeeze out the United States or to make the U.S. lose, that’s gotta be good for Russia. I think that’s a misguided way to think about a problem as complex as Afghanistan, but it clearly holds a lot of sway at senior levels in the Russian government.”

    Russia, Pakistan and Iran are working to “legitimize and support” the Taliban in Afghanistan, according to the top U.S. military commander in the war zone, who told lawmakers Thursday that thousands more American or NATO troops are needed to break the “stalemate” between Afghan forces and the insurgent group while the Islamic State also remains active in the nation.

    Army Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr. told the Senate Armed Services Committee that outside powers led by Russia have increased their interference in the Afghanistan fighting over the past year, greatly complicating the task for the U.S.-backed government in Kabul.

    The general offered a sobering assessment of the 15-year-old U.S. mission in Afghanistan at a moment of growing uncertainty over how the Trump administration may seek to reshape U.S. strategy in the conflict.

    President Trump so far has focused heavily on fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. He has mandated that a fresh plan be developed within 30 days to defeat the terrorist group but has said little about Afghanistan despite the ongoing battle against a defiant Islamic State affiliate there and a growing surge by the Taliban. Some people believe that Russia has started supplying the Taliban with weapons and equipment, and repairing the group’s weapons, including tanks and vehicles.

    According to Russian officials these reports are false.

    On Feb. 10, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissed allegations by General John Nicholson, Commander of the U.S. and NATO Forces in Afghanistan, of Russian supplies of weapons to Taliban. 

    There is no doubt, that Russia needs a communication channel with the Taliban and other armed groups inside Afghanistan. The release of its pilots from the Taliban’s captivity explains that the main role for this channel is to help Russian citizens.

    As for the Russian common interests and dialogue with Taliban, these possibilities will remain cloudy due to the Taliban inability to stop both terrorist activities inside Afghanistan and neighboring countries and involvement in drug production and trafficking.

    If the relations between Russia and the United Sates improve, Moscow will most likely keep the communication channel with the Taliban open, but it will not raise questions about common interests with the movement. If the U.S.-Russian relations go bad, Moscow will probably try to challenge every part of U.S. policy towards Afghanistan, and Russian statements about the Taliban will be used for this purpose.

    But the fact of the matter is that US own policy failures in Afghanistan have paved the way for other regional actors, particularly Russia to take on its prescribed policy interest to meddle in the Afghan politics, thereby defending its own geostrategic peace concerns and trying to infuse its own leverage in the Taliban network without whom the future stakes of peace cannot meet with prompt results. And it would be not wrong to estimate that a negatively woven India-US-Afghan policy has made a closer union between Turkey-Iran-China-Russia and Pakistan.

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    Reflections on Erdogan’s foreign policy

    March 14th, 2017

    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.

     

    Much is being discussed in the Western print media about Turkey’s President Tayyab Erdogan’s foreign policy ventures. But it appears that what Erdogan is doing, he is trying his best to defend his country’s strategic interests. However, a look– into the following discussed foreign policy reflections—provides much food for thought.

    On two separate occasions, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the Treaty of Lausanne, which created the borders of modern Turkey, for leaving the country too small. He spoke of the country’s interest in the fate of Turkish minorities living beyond these borders, as well as its historic claims to the Iraqi city of Mosul, near which Turkey has a small military base. And, alongside news of Turkish jets bombing Kurdish forces in Syria and engaging in mock dogfights with Greek planes over the Aegean Sea, Turkey’s pro-government media have shown a newfound interest in a series of imprecise, even crudely drawn, maps of Turkey with new and improved borders.

    Turkey won’t be annexing part of Iraq anytime soon, but this combination of irredentist cartography and rhetoric nonetheless offers some insight into Turkey’s current foreign and domestic policies and Ankara’s self-image. The maps, in particular, reveal the continued relevance of Turkish nationalism, a long-standing element of the country’s statecraft, now reinvigorated with some revised history and an added dose of religion. But if the past is any indication, the military interventions and confrontational rhetoric this nationalism inspires may worsen Turkey’s security and regional standing. Erdogan, by contrast, has given voice to an alternative narrative in which Ataturk’s willingness in the Treaty of Lausanne to abandon territories such as Mosul and the now-Greek islands in the Aegean was not an act of eminent pragmatism but rather a betrayal. The suggestion, against all evidence, is that better statesmen, or perhaps a more patriotic one, could have gotten more.

    Mr. Erdogan, the country’s leader for 14 years, is the one chiefly responsible for putting the Ottoman Empire at the center of Turkey’s collective imagination. The Ottoman sultans are often hailed as the caliphs of the Muslim world. This is not lost on the supporters of Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party – the A.K.P. The chairman of the A.K.P’s youth wing recently declared Mr. Erdogan “president of all the world’s Muslims.” A Muslim Brotherhoodcleric echoed similar sentiments when he declared, Turkey’s president as “the hope of all Muslims and of Islam”.
    These ambitions seem to have had a distinct effect on Turkey’s Middle East policy. After Syria’s civil war began in 2011, Ankara sought to topple Assad’s regime by bringing in Islamist allies. For this purpose, it funded loyal armed groups to do its bidding- groups named after Ottoman rulers -the Sultan Murad Brigade being one example. Nonetheless, recently Erdogan has displayed political maturity by being an integral part of the recent Moscow Declaration with Russia and Iran- the joint eight-point statement of principles calls for the extension of a ceasefire throughout Syria and a negotiated settlement between the Syrian government and its opponents.

    In August, the Syrian Kurds, with American support, were poised to gain control of a long strip along the Turkish-Syrian border. Once this became clear, Turkey, together with its Syrian proxies, launched a military operation to push back the Kurds and the Islamic State.

    It was a success — of sorts. Turkey and its proxies gained control of an area that they used to create a buffer zone between two Syrian Kurdish-administered territories. Iran and Russia, too, were happy to see the American-backed group’s ambitions checked. If Syria’s Kurds were to achieve independence with American assistance, Moscow and Tehran feared, they could be counted on to remain an American ally and perhaps even to host American military bases, threatening Iranian and Russian interests. Accordingly, by using Turkey to beat the Syrian Kurds, Moscow and Tehran hope to drive them away from the United States and into their own arms.

    Turkey’s rapprochement with Russia goes beyond Syria. Lately, Mr. Erdogan has been openly toying with the idea of joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a pact led by Russia and China that is meant to rival the European Union. In doing so, Turkey is turning away from potential partners in the West that still — at least for now — value democracy and human rights, and toward another world of autocrats, pseudo-monarchs and aspiring czars.

    “Due to the active action of Turkey and Russia we managed to bring the rival forces together, and due to our joint effort the Syrian ceasefire continues,”  Putin told reporters on Friday, hailing Ankara’s  “exceptional cooperation” in keeping the truce.

    For his part, Erdogan said that there are “no doubts” about the “very successful” Syria talks sponsored by the two countries, adding that Turkey was cooperating entirely with Russia’s military. Erdogan also praised the two countries’ friendship, saying it is “strong enough to overcome their differences”, even as he urged Russia to lift all sanctions it imposed on Ankara following the downing of a Russian plane in 2015.

    The increasingly close cooperation on Syria between Russia and Turkey marks a sharp turnaround for the two nations, which have  also coordinated their operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) armed group in Syria.

    Russia has an active military presence in Syria in support of Assad’s forces, while  Turkey, which backs anti-Assad groups, launched a military operation in August to create a safe zone along its border inside Syria.  Tensions between the German and Turkish governments, triggered by the arrest of Die Welt’s correspondent Deniz Yücel and culminating in Erdoğan accusing Germany of “Nazi practices” over banned rallies in German cities, had merely strengthened his allegiance, said 20-year-old Mehmet. “To be honest, when America, Germany and France tell me to vote no in the referendum, then I am going to vote yes.”

    Both said no German party represented their interests: “We are just foreigners to them.”

    The heightened fervour of support for Erdoğan even among younger members of Germany’s population with Turkish roots – a community of about 3 million, of which roughly half are entitled to vote in April – has scandalised the country’s public and media.

    German politicians allege that the AKP is trying to influence the diaspora vote not just through public rallies but by covertly pressurising and threatening its opponents in Germany via religious and business networks. In January, Turkish-German footballer Hakan Çalhanoğlu was publicly criticised by his club Bayer Leverkusen for posting a video on social media in which he declared his allegiance with the evet (yes) camp.

    Nevertheless, being highly frustrated over the European Union’s exclusive behavior regarding Turkey’s EU’s bid; and being dejected from German ‘s orthodox foreign policy behavior, and being extremely  dismayed over US’s backing of the Kurds in Syria and Iraq, President Erdogan has been trying to reorient Turkey’s foreign policy keeping in view the current geostrategic and geopolitical dimensions of the region. His tilt towards both Russia and Iraq seems to warrant the fact that he wants to protect Turkey’s interests both regionally and globally.

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    The Border Management & Pak-Afghan ties?

    February 28th, 2017

    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.

     

    Pakistan has recently decided to seal the 1800 km Pak –Afghan border at significant points owing to the worst situation hemmed in by the cross-border terrorism. Borders, around the world, are physically managed by the border police or paramilitary forces, and in certain cases by the armed forces, in conjunction with immigration departments. However, it is a complex national responsibility involving a host of agencies. It also calls for efficient communication with the corresponding agencies of the neighbouring countries.

    ‘’Border management takes care of two different aspects; the negative and the positive. The negative facets include illegal crossing of each other’s citizens, drug trafficking, the trafficking women, children and labour, and smuggling of weapons and explosive, etc. The positive aspects include legal immigration and movement of goods as part of the trade agreements, etc.

    Pakistan shares 7,092 kilometres border with other countries; 2,611 kilometres with Afghanistan, 523 kilometres with China, 2,912 kilometres with India and 909 kilometres with Iran, besides 1,046 kilometres of coastline. Amongst these, the porous and volatile border with Afghanistan poses a great challenge. The border with Afghanistan is unique from many angles. A total of 11 out of 34 Afghan provinces adjoin three federating units of Pakistan to include Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Ethnically, the Pashtun population bestrides the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. There are a number of tribes living on both sides of the border.’’

    Besides, there are 23 divided villages, six in FATA and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and 17 in Balochistan, which are split by the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. However, practically, it is neither possible to stop their movement nor is being done so. The people from the divided villages move under the Rahdari System. An important point that must be kept in mind by the readers is that the Pakistan-Afghanistan border is not like the Pakistan-India border. Pakistan and Afghanistan are two brotherly countries, and the border between them has to be managed, not closed, controlled or defended. An effective border management would certainly benefit both the countries in all spheres such as political, social, economic and security. The need for security ought to be balanced with the liberty of movement of people in keeping with the anthropological realities of the region.

     

    Pak-Afghan Border Routes

    ‘’In addition to the routes serving the three trade corridors, there are about 100 frequented and unfrequented routes. A few of these are notified. Many of these routes are smuggling prone. Some 10,000 to 30,000 people cross the Chaman and Torkham border points daily, which include legal immigrants, traders, personnel from NGOs and NATO assets. Besides, 5,000 to 6,000 illegal crossings take place daily using both frequented and unfrequented routes. This happens despite the fact that there are hundreds of border posts held by Pakistan’s security forces on the Pakistani side of the border and a few by the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan Border Police (ABP) supported by ISAF/ NATO. This shows the magnitude of problem. Certainly it is not desirable to completely seal off the border. The best answer to the predicament is to carry out a joint, effective and integrated border management’’.

     

    Cross-Border Attacks and the Foreign Terrorists

    ‘’During the last few years, this has emerged as one of the most serious border issues. The terrorists from Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are hiding in and operating from their sanctuaries in Kunar and Nuristan provinces of Afghanistan since 2010. During the last about four years, there have been 17 attacks by TTP using its sanctuaries in Afghanistan wherein dozens of civilians and soldiers embraced shahadat. The menace is not receding anyway and needs stern action by the Afghan government and the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Another issue is that of the foreign fighters e.g. Uzbeks. These terrorists come to Pakistan via Afghanistan and cross over the less-than-well managed border. A better managed border is likely to provide answers to some of the questions.

     

    Drug Trafficking

    One of the gravest threats along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border is from the movement of drug traffickers. Whereas Pakistan is a poppy-free country since long, narcotics virtually make up for 50 percent of Afghanistan’s GDP according to international sources. About 2.5 million Afghans depend directly on the narcotics production and trafficking. Approximately 94 percent of world opium production transits the region, Afghanistan being the main source. It poses a health security threat not only to the Pakistani populace but other countries beyond Pakistan, too.

     

    Pak-Afghan Politico-Military Communication

    There have been ebbs and flows in Pak-Afghan military and political relations.Despite security challenges marred by the terror acts on both sides due to the nature of border, Pakistan and Afghanistan have been able to evolve a functional sense of bilateralism over the last few years.  Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Kabul on November 30, 2013. During his meeting with President Hamid Karzai, he said, “Achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest. Islamabad desires friendly and good neighbourly relations with Afghanistan based on mutual trust‚ respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The visit by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s special envoy, Mehmood Khan Achakzai, to Kabul on June 20, 2014 was a positive step in the same direction.

    He held a meeting with the Afghan President to seek Kabul’s cooperation in eliminating terrorism while Operation Zarb-e-Azb had already been launched. He was also accompanied by Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry. Media reports suggest that Mehmood Achakzai sought extradition of the TTP chief Mullah Fazlullah from Afghanistan. This was immediately followed by Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser Dr Rangin Dadfar Spanta’s visit to Islamabad on June 26, 2014. He led delegation-level talks with Sartaj Aziz, the Adviser to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs. These meetings have been respectively scheduled during the years 2015-16.

    The peace process in Afghanistan and bilateral cooperation has a concrete linkage with the situation on border. This calls for a military level answer, which lies in sound and trust-based mil-mil relations between the two countries. To this end, several meetings and rounds of talks have been held heretofore, the latest one held during the month of Feb.2017, as Pakistan Army Chief Gen.Qamar Bajwa affirmed on promoting bilateral security ties with Kabul. Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday(Feb-17) also phoned US General John Nicholson, Resolute Support Mission (RSM) Commander in Afghanistan, and expressed his concerns over continued acts of terrorism in Pakistan with impunity from Afghanistan, ISPR DG Major General Asif Ghafoor said in a tweet.

     

    The Ashraf-Ghani unity government: New Challenges

    ‘’This change in Kabul’s Pakistan policy sparked enormous reactions in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s foreign affairs adviser and top representatives at the Heart of Asia Conference, slammed Ghani’s remarks as “baseless accusations.” He said, “It is simplistic to blame only one country for the recent upsurge in violence. We need to have an objective and holistic view.” When Aziz returned home, he told reporters in Islamabad that “Ashraf Ghani’s statement was meant to please India.” He added, “India’s efforts to divide us [Pakistan and Afghanistan] will not go very far.”

    Reactions in Kabul, however, were mostly positive. The Pakistani reaction can be clearly understood by a look into Pakistani print and electronic Urdu and English media, where Ghani’s snub was covered widely initially and then vanished from headlines as media turned their attention to news of singer-turned-preacher Junaid Jamshid’s death in an airplane crash.

    Unfortunately, when it comes to Afghan, Indian, and Pakistani foreign policies regarding each other, they do not look through the prisms of bilateral relations. There is always a triangle, which deeply influences their policies. Pakistan’s Afghan policy is very much India-centric; Indian policy in Afghanistan is heavily influenced by the desire for a security and psychological advantage over Pakistan. Meanwhile, Kabul uses the Pakistan-India cards in a manner similar to Afghan leaders balancing Czarist Russia and British India during the “Great Game.” From the Cold War through modern-day, Kabul has varied in its closeness to India and Pakistan, with gains by one side coming at the expense of the other.

     

    Operation Zarb-e-Azb and the Border Management

    ‘’Operation Zarb-e-Azb has been an important venture (started by former army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif) in the context of border management from many angles. First, the terrorists of various hue and colour – TTP and foreign terrorists etc – fleeing from North Waziristan would go across the border, not to live in the shadow of barren boulders of Tora Bora, but somewhere in the populated area of perhaps the Eastern and Southeastern Afghan provinces, and in certain cases in Kabul, Balkh, Badakhshan, Herat, Kunduz and Mazar-e-Sharif depending on their lingo and linkage.

    The Afghan government can play an important role to check the movement of terrorists across their border into their country. The Pakistani government had already asked the Afghan government to seal the escape routes from North Waziristan into Afghanistan. NATO and ISAF share this responsibility. Second, Mullah Fazlullah, the topmost leader of the TTP, along with some of his companions, is living in Afghanistan. He has complete liberty to move around in Afghanistan and plan and conduct terror acts in Pakistan.

    His group is being routed in North Waziristan. Certainly, he would endeavour to provide support to them. Third, the displaced persons (DPs) from North Waziristan have been largely moved to the Frontier Region (FR) Bannu in Bakka Khel area albeit most of them have shifted either with their relatives or in their own hired or second homes. Some of the families, mainly of Afghan origin, have reportedly crossed over to Afghanistan. Some of those going to Afghanistan from North Waziristan are reported to have returned via Khyber and Kurram agencies. The Afghan government needs to register all those moving across the border in any of the two directions.The military high command has also made necessary coordination with the Afghan counterparts at various levels.’’

     

    Operation Raddul Fasad

    “THE armed forces under the command of Gen Qamar Bajwa, on Wednesday, launched a country-wide crackdown code named ‘Raddul Fasad’ (Elimination of Mischief) against terrorists and extremists. The operation, initiated in the backdrop of latest wave of terrorism, envisages involvement of all wings of armed forces, paramilitary organisations, civilian law enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies. It has four main elements — operation in Punjab by Rangers; continuation of operations in other parts of the country; border management and de-weaponisation and explosive control.
    As the operation is being led by armed forces, which have track record of delivering, there are reasons to believe that it would prove to be a remarkable success and lead to complete elimination of terrorists and hard-core criminals. There should be no mercy against those associated, in any way, with terrorism and serious crimes as both our religion and laws of the land envisage no leniency for such elements. Islam ordains strict punishment for those indulging in ‘Fasad fil Ardh’ (spreading mischief in the land)’’.

     

    Pakistan-Afghanistan Border Management System (PA-BMS)

    ‘’Notwithstanding the challenges, keeping the border stable and managed is the strategic priority of the two countries. Modern methods can help overcome the challenges. Integrated Border Management (IBM) – a concept embraced by the European Union (EU) – offers a modern template for coherent and coordinated handling of border affairs. This entails multi-agency cooperation on both sides of the border.

    A border coordination mechanism based on IBM system can evolve only through political will, sound military planning and right execution on the border. Four levels of planning and execution are envisaged for PA-BMS as follows:

              Political Level (PoLvl). This may also be called the decision level. Success is contingent upon the political will exhibited by both sides at this level. Mutual trust and belief in each other’s sincerity is imperative to bring the two polities to the table of consensus to take and retake important decisions. Narrowing the communication gap through frequent interactions can be of great value in this regard. When trust at political level would be able to survive the heat of practical situations, it would turn into people’s belief in each other’s sincerity and seriousness. Pakistan and Afghanistan need to prevent foreign intervention into their affairs. This can happen only if the notion of bilateralism works with trust at the PoLvl.

               Military Level (MiLvl). This may also be called the planning level. It is the level of interaction between Pakistan Army and Afghan National Army (ANA). The decisions taken at the political level should be evolved into a functional border management strategy at this level.           Operational Level (OpLvl). This may also be called the coordination level. It should work at the level of headquarters of formation and forces deployed on the border to include Pakistan Army and Afghan National Army, Frontier Corps Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, and the Afghan National Police (ANP) and Afghan Border Police (ABP). This level should ensure implementation of the border management strategy and steer the under command units.’’

               Border Outpost Level (BoLvl). This may also be called the execution level. Much of the issues relating to border management can be resolved and decided right at the point of occurrence on the border if the officials on the border outposts of the two countries are aware of the politico-military policies and know as to what they need to do under what circumstances. This level should receive guidelines from the operational level and get back to the same level for clarification, yet without causing delay or disruption to the routine management. It is at this level that various kinds of border violations must be prevented and, if not, at least correctly reported to the superior channels. The violations could be of kinetic nature such as terror attacks or movement of weapons or explosives across the border, or military breaches such as fire or movement across the border. Else, they could be non-kinetic such as the movement of drugs or illegal crossing by the commoners.

     

    Conclusion

    Pakistan and Afghanistan are two conjoined twins as articulated by the Afghan President Hamid Karzai in March 2010. They share religion, history, geography, ethnicity, culture, language, border and even sentiments. They share economic prospects, political future and thus the destiny. Pakistan and Afghanistan have been together throughout the history of mankind. Thus, it is imperative for both nations to work together for security and stability in the region. Effective management for friendly borders with well regulated human and material flow can contribute a great deal towards to bringing back security on both sides of the Hindu Kush. Bilateralism not skepticism is the order to restore strategic peace in the region. It must be hoped that through viable diplomatic discourse– between Kabul-Islamabad-Beijing-Moscow-Tehran– can provide the best response for all kinds of conflicting regional situations and national aspirations. Yet the border management is the core to resettle the underlining misunderstandings and complexities.  But this hopeful scenario, is only possible via good will diplomacy between Kabul and Islamabad- a driving and inevitable imperative of present times.

     

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    Trump’s endangered Mideast policy?

    February 18th, 2017

    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.

     

    After resuming his office as the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump is being seen as playing with political jugglery richly reflected by his Israeli tilt as he has been thinking of shifting the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem and now he is caught in delivering his current orientation of looking beyond the scope of a two state- solution. For international peace community and the Mideast policy experts these developments are unworthy and alarming signs to the future of Mideast peace dialogue.

    In a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he said that he would not insist on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That means no longer committing to the creation of a Palestinian state; one that would exist peacefully alongside Israel.

    “I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two, but honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians — if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best,” Mr. Trump said.

    With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side, President Trump on Wednesday dropped the decades-old U.S. position that Middle East peace requires the creation of a viable Palestinian state. The unpredictable commander in chief also watered down campaign-trail pledges to move America’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and dismantle the Iran nuclear deal.

    The so-called two-state solution, under which Palestinians would get their own state, has underpinned Middle East peace efforts for a generation. In January 2001, Bill Clinton became the first sitting U.S. president to explicitly declare that “there can be no genuine resolution to the conflict” without one. Nine months later, George W. Bush became the first to make this official U.S. policy. Since taking office, Trump and his top aides had omitted it from public statements. The Palestinians are unlikely to accept a peace agreement that does not give them an independent state.

    While the remarks appeared to delight Netanyahu, Trump seemed to surprise his guest by calling publicly for a pause in Israeli home building on Palestinian land. “I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit,” the president said.

    “There are two prerequisites for peace,” said the Israeli prime minister. “First the Palestinians must recognise the Jewish state.

    “Second, in any peace agreement, Israel must retain the overriding security control over the entire area west of the Jordan River.”

    Trump bolstered his pro-Israel credentials by announcing that the US Embassy will move to Jerusalem, but he has also talked about the importance of being neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He urged Obama to veto the recent UN Security Council Resolution but suggested he could deploy his legendary negotiating skills to broker an Israeli-Palestinian deal. 

    None of this adds up to a coherent set of policies to achieve long term solutions to serious conflicts. But the analysts striving to understand how a coherent strategy can be carved out of this mess are missing this point. The Twitter President cares about image and impact, guided by his instincts. Trump is not interested in long term consequences and this approach is bolstered by his loose relationship with reality.

    Meanwhile the Palestinian presidency stressed its commitment to a two-state solution and an end to the Israeli occupation, Reuters news agency reported. Earlier officials had urged the White House not to abandon the concept of a Palestinian state.

    Trump bolstered his pro-Israel credentials by announcing that the US Embassy will move to Jerusalem, but he has also talked about the importance of being neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He urged Obama to veto the recent UN Security Council Resolution but suggested he could deploy his legendary negotiating skills to broker an Israeli-Palestinian deal. 

    None of this adds up to a coherent set of policies to achieve long term solutions to serious conflicts. But the analysts striving to understand how a coherent strategy can be carved out of this mess are missing this point. The Twitter President cares about image and impact, guided by his instincts. Trump is not interested in long term consequences and this approach is bolstered by his loose relationship with reality.

    Though president trump has shown his reservation now over Israeli policy of settlements, yet his call for not focusing on a two-state solution has created warranted and qualified doubts and apprehensions in the Palestinian community over his intentions to handle this issue of the Arab-Israeli conflict

    Seen by his power play tactic to reinvent a new American doctrine of change and development, Trump, an author of ‘the art of the deal’ has been losing a balance that is much required for such a sensitive office to regulate the global affairs. What important policy considerations and appraisals that Mr Trump severely needs to review are: his call for Muslim exclusivism in the United States; his overriding and gravitating tilt towards Israel; his policy style of jumping to the conclusions. By all justifiable imperatives, President Trump must evolve his foreign policy strategy on a paradigm of cautious pragmatism rather than trying adventurism in the US foreign policy. As for Middle East peace negotiating deal, no such emotional carriers could be successful to achieve a peace deal. Much thoughtful deliberations led by an insightful mediation needs to followed up.

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    The reset of US-Russia relations?

    February 9th, 2017

    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.

     

    Much is being trumpeted in the global print and electronic media that under the new administration of Donald Trump in American, a remarkable reset of US-Russia relations would be observed. But looking through the mirror of ground realities, it appears that not so much will appear to be changed except few venturing developments between White House and the Kremlin.

    In the eyes of the Russian leadership, no country signed any obligation to consider the United States the only superpower and therefore nobody should comply with its leadership. This logic explains the confrontations over Ukraine and Syria. For the Kremlin, both were used to demonstrate that there are “red lines” and that there is a need for a new world order. Russian foreign policy analysts have repeatedly claimed that the new US president might be ready to negotiate the creation of a new system of international relations to replace Yalta and the current unipolar model.

    The “new Yalta” would redistribute spheres of responsibility to recognised great powers. The Kremlin, of course, sees Russia as one of them (alongside with the US, China, and perhaps Europe).

    Time will be the right determiner about what direction US-Russian relations move on. But if history is to have any predictive value, we should not be too optimistic. Both George W Bush and Barack Obama started their presidencies with rapprochement between the two countries – Bush looked into Putin’s eyes and saw his soul, while Obama was eager for a “reset” policy. Both ended their second terms at a low point in relations (with the Russia-Georgia war in 2008 and with Syria and the hacking scandal in 2016, respectively).

    Trump has alo reiterated his intention to pursue good relations with Russia, pointing out that it would be mutually beneficial and would allow both sides to step up the fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL).

    “I don’t know Putin, but if we can get along with Russia that’s a great thing, it’s good for Russia, it’s good for us, we go out together and knock the hell out of ISIS, because that’s a real sickness,” he said. Trump again reiterated his intention to pursue good relations with Russia, pointing out that it would be mutually beneficial and would allow both sides to step up the fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL).

    “I don’t know Putin, but if we can get along with Russia that’s a great thing, it’s good for Russia, it’s good for us, we go out together and knock the hell out of ISIS, because that’s a real sickness,” he said.

    The Kremlin said the two men planned to meet soon to discuss “joining forces” in the Syrian conflict and “partnering” to solve global issues. The White House made no reference to a meeting, but said the “positive call was a significant start to improving the relationship between the US and Russia that is in need of repair”.

    The Kremlin and White House statements made no reference to a possible easing of US sanctions on Russia over the Ukrainian conflict. But Moscow said the two leaders agreed on the importance of “restoring mutually beneficial trade and economic links”. “When there’s a change of leadership and other interests coincide, then things can actually improve pretty quickly,” said Robert English, a specialist on Russia and director of the University of Southern California’s School of International Relations. “When there’s a change of leadership and other interests coincide, then things can actually improve pretty quickly,” said Robert English, a specialist on Russia and director of the University of Southern California’s School of International Relations. There’s been a pattern of Russian relations going sour in the past three U.S. presidential administrations, both Democratic and Republican. Some experts suggest Trump and Putin exchanging pleasantries is a positive step but may not be enough to fix the relationship that has suffered from long-standing differences over geopolitical issues.

    But the number of contentious issues between US and Russia is large, and goes well beyond fighting ISIS in Syria. Russia annexed Crimea, is involved in the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine, and is actively challenging NATO by opposing its eastward expansion and threatening conflict in the Baltic Sea region. These issues don’t seem to be on the list of Mr. Trump’s foreign policy agendaS, but are important to Mr. Putin. Thus one can expect that at least Eastern Europe, if not NATO, will be used as a bargaining chip in achieving a deal over Syria. What will a US-Russia deal over Syria look like? This is so far unclear, but Russia is likely to lead.

    On the other hand Russia is an ally of Iran and China. These two countries do appear at the top of Mr. Trump’s agenda. In Mr. Trump’s seven point plan to rebuild the American economy China occupies three spots. Mr. Trump says he intends to have China labeled as a currency manipulator, “bring trade cases against China … [for] unfair subsidy behavior” and “use every lawful presidential power to remedy trade disputes if China does not stop its illegal activities, including its theft of American trade secrets.” Moreover, Mr. Trump has called the Iran deal the “worst deal ever made” and does not hide his distaste for Iran.

    In a recent interview when Mr. Trump was questioned on the nuclear threat emanating from North Korea, he responded that “China controls North Korea” and “the closest partner of North Korea is Iran.” It’s possible that the geopolitical and strategic considerations that shape the US-Russia relationship will dictate the pace and breadth of Trump’s engagement, regardless of his past statements or future intentions.

    “I think US policy especially with respect to a big geopolitical actor like a Russia or China is more often driven by the shape of the broader world and US and Russian interests in it than it is driven by the individual proclivities of a US president or a Russian president,” said Matthew Rojansky, a Russia expert at the Wilson Center.

    Conclusively, it appears that a new stream in the line of thinking between Moscow and Washington may be marked if Trump’s revisionist approach regarding in Nato’s eastward expansion camp is positively characterized. As for as the Ukraine issue is concerned, Washington may not give any lease to Russian leanings towards Kiev. Yes some trade ties between the two sides might improve therewithal a congenial approach towards searching a solution of the Syrian crises.

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    Trump’s lethal call for Muslim apartheid

    February 1st, 2017

    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.

     

     

    President Trump’s executive order– of Jan. 2017 , a heraldry of communal legacy, characterized by Muslim exclusionism– halted the entire US refugee programme for 120 days, indefinitely banned Syrian refugees, and suspended all nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries—Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq ,Libya and Iran. Trump’s order ushers in a new apartheid era towards Muslims. History will determine the futurity (a long-term impact of Mr Trump’s immigration order), but his early praise for its implementation will not easily be forgotten. What a Trump’s euphoria about his order!

    “It’s working out very nicely,” Mr Trump said in a brief response to a question on Saturday afternoon. “You see it in the airports, you see it all over. It’s working out very nicely, and we are going to have a very, very strict ban, and we are going to have extreme vetting, which we should have had in this country for many years.”

    On the ground at major US airports, things weren’t going quite so nicely, however. Immigration officials were having a difficult time implementing Trump’s order after receiving conflicting instructions on who to bar from entry into the US – and what to do with them once they were held. And as the day progressed, and word spread of the detentions, crowds of protesters at international terminals grew from dozens to hundreds to thousands.

    While on the campaign trail, it was easy for Mr Trump to roundly decry the US immigration system as broken and make a general call for bans and moratoriums. As president, however, his team has had to fill in the details – and it seems they faced some difficulty translating his pre-election rhetoric into policy. The White House overruled that guidance overnight, according to officials familiar with the rollout. That order came from the President’s inner circle, led by Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon. Their decision held that, on a case by case basis, DHS could allow green card holders to enter the US.

    There had been some debate whether green card holders should be even allowed to board international flights. It was decided by the Department of Homeland Security they could fly to the US and would be considered on a case-by-case basis after passing a secondary screening. President Trump’s executive order on immigration, parts of which have already been put on hold by several federal judges, is likely to face a series of new legal challenges about whether it violates a 1965 anti-discrimination law and the Constitution, scholars said Sunday.

    ‘’Trump’s order cites seven Muslim-dominant countries, and the president has signaled he favors Christian entrants over Muslims. Four federal judges have put various holds on the ban, and other courts are expected to consider similar stays. A group of 16 state attorneys general said Sunday they believe the executive order is unconstitutional, probably presaging an intense round of legal action against it.

    Ruthann Robson, professor of law at City University of New York School of Law, said the fact that all four judges who had reviewed the order by Sunday afternoon put various holds on it indicates that the measure faces serious challenge.’’

    “When the federal judges are ruling on the injunctions, one of the requirements is that they have to say that there is a substantial likelihood that the plaintiffs will prevail on the merits,” Robson said in an interview. Trump shows signs of being a compromiser. Apparently while writing the book: The Art of the Deal – a book that discusses his willingness to achieve goals through deals. The executive order is against the thought he narrated in his book. A group of Michiganders, including a Yemeni student and a Syrian seeking to become a permanent U.S. resident, are among those who Monday filed a legal challenge to President Trump’s order suspending the entry of refugees and others from several majority-Muslim nations.

    ‘’The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Virginia, wants a ruling blocking enforcement of Trump’s executive order signed Friday, saying it discriminates against Muslims and violates protections for the free exercise of faith and prohibitions on governmental establishment of religion. It also says people affected by the order are being denied due process of law.

    Referring to the order as a “Muslim Exclusion Order,” the complaint — which includes 27 plaintiffs from across the U.S. — says it “implements an impermissible religious gerrymander that divides foreign nationals, even those lawfully present inside the United States, into favored and disfavored groups based on their faith.” A group of Michiganders, including a Yemeni student and a Syrian seeking to become a permanent U.S. resident, are among those who Monday filed a legal challenge to President Trump’s order suspending the entry of refugees and others from several majority-Muslim nations.

    His executive order went into effect on Saturday which temporarily bans the entry of people trying to get into the United States coming from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen. Trump said during his campaign that in order to combat terrorism he wanted to ban Muslims from entering the United States.The aforementioned countries are all predominantly Muslim nations.

    But included in the new president’s executive order are VISA holders, green card holders, and permanent resident’s of the United States who have a legal right to be here. Refugees and asylum seekers from the mentioned countries are also part of the ban. Even military interpreters can’t get visa’s, they must stay in their countries and face retaliation for working with the American Government’’.

    Trump’s strategy of making a communal divide between Muslims and Christians paves the way for enhancing the theory of the ‘clash of civilizations’ advocated by Professor Huntington.

    ‘’Huntington paid due attention to the Islamic World as a civilization field that has a strategic location in the world and has burning points of contact with the West. But he didn’t understand how Islam became widespread outside its birthplace in the Arabian Peninsula reaching the heart of Europe and the heart of China on one hand and how the European colonialism affected Islamic countries later and the effects this has left as a direct impact on the contact between the two parties.

    On one hand, the twentieth century has complicated the nature of these relations, for the creation of Israel due to efforts of European countries at the beginning before America adopting it and making its security its own objective, had its impact on poisoning the relations with the Islamic peoples with the West. On the other hand, millions of Arabs and Muslims moved to live in the West, which some estimate their numbers by forty million people. Between this and that the world knew the globalisation and the Information Technology Revolution’’.

    By no fair yardstick, Trump immigration order fulfills the pondering human rights values, rather it paves the way for an America, building more communal ghettos-an antithesis to the very semblance of the  Declaration of Independence, American constitution, and American credo of ‘exceptionalism’.

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    The plight of Rohingya Muslims

    January 30th, 2017

     

    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.

     

    The Currently held OIC moot in Malaysia has shown a touchy concern about the sufferings of Myanmar’s Muslims. The international community has acted as silent spectator since 2015, by watching the agony of the Rohingya Muslims at the hands of the Buddhist government in Myanmar. There are speculations too that such tyranny is being implied at the behest or the due to the corroboration of some neighboring states. It is only some days before that the newly elected UN chief has taken a diluted notice by deploying a special UN representative. Communal violence is not a new phenomenon, specially in this part of the world. Myanmar is a Buddhist majority country and the Muslim minority in Myanmar are the descendants of the Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh, China (Yunnan Province).

    The irony of the fact is that the Rohingya persons are also denied their right of citizenship which depicts the incapacity of the Myanmar government to ascertain the veracity of the citizenship claims. In this way, the Rohingya Muslims are becoming the targets of the state persecution as the government has miserably failed to check the human rights abuses including crimes against women and children.

    In order to avoid such distress and fearing increase in torments, influx has started to pour in the neighboring countries which has further resulted into disastrous news of sinking the boats of the refugees and the disappearance of the migrant’s boats. In retaliation to such a level of persecution the The Rohingya Muslims are not far behind to retaliate this by skirmishes in the severely affected areas. The Western state of Rakhine has been the epicenter of this deepening crisis.

    The situation was chiseled by the reports that the army is also involved in severe torture against the Muslims in the form of rape and child abuse.  As per the reports of the Human Rights Watch more than 400 buildings have been devastated as a well- planned and organized procedure is being adopted to seek this ethnic cleansing from the territory of Myanmar. Even in the Rakhine state, the Rohingya Muslims are living in terrible state in the refugee camps, deprived of basic health and sanitation facilities.

    With the Myanmar military preventing independent investigators from documenting the events taking place in northern Rakhine State, even after several commitments to open the area, there remains an ‘information black hole’. The most effective way for human rights groups to verify and document claims of abuses has been to compare photos, videos and personal accounts from the conflict zone to changes in the landscape using remote sensing analysis.

    Such kind of communal tensions do take place in such a society, however the magnitude of the souring problem literally goes out of control where state protection is not available to the minorities. The Rakhine Buddhists protected by the government have remained indifferent in this regard, rather have been instigating the tortures against the Rohingya Muslims. Rohingya groups said the killing in village of Duchiridan, locally known as Kilaidaung, was unlawful. Rohingya Vision TV reported that Myanmar Border Guard Police shot the man after their search for methamphetamine tablets in his home came up empty-handed.“The group of the BGP didn’t find out any illegal materials at the residence of U Hamid (55). Yet the BGP commander simply dragged him out and shot him at his back at a point-blank range”, an eyewitness told Rohingya Vision TV on the condition of anonymity.

    The most intricate issue in this regard is that the Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi can play a pivotal role in justifying her stature but the constitution of the country hampers her to do so. Another alarming situation is that militant groups which are well trained in the gruella tactics and have been funded from the outside countries like  Harakah al-Yaqin (Faith Movement, HaY), is justifying its existence only due to the idle handling of this multifarious problem by the government in addition to the supporting go ahead signals given by the clergy from outside the country.

    MEHROM( A Malaysian Human Rights NGO) has been echoing voice against human rights violations in Myanmar. Addressing a 5,000-strong rally in Kuala Lumpur, Najib Razak, Malaysian Prime minister said the Myanmar government must stop the bloody crackdown in its far west that has sent thousands of Rohingya fleeing, many with stories of rape, torture and murder.”What’s the use of Aung San Suu Kyi having a Nobel prize?” Najib asked a raucous crowd. While Aung San Suu Kyi sweet talked the nine other ASEAN foreign ministers about her government’s military operations in Rakhine State on Monday morning, a photo (graphic) of the bloodied body of a man killed in southern Maungdaw Township began circulating on social media.

    Now this situation is again being taken by the government as a plea to keep the cleansing operation going as the insurgents or terrorists have to be eliminated in any case, as they challenge the writ of the state. The government denies that any incidents of rape or torture or child abuse have taken place in this regard, (though the human rights organizations and their reporters or workers have been banned to visit the troubled areas to discover the probity of the facts.

    Discerning the facts without prejudice, it may rightly be concluded that it is not only the persecution which is the main problem, rather there is a multidimensional approach to calculate the agony; the denial of political and civil rights remains at the top which the Rohingya Muslims are suffering from. If such a situation continues for a long while, this crisis which involves human element in itself, would certainly result in screeching consequences, particularly in giving rise to Muslim insurrection.  

     

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    China’s growing South Asian role

    January 10th, 2017

     

    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.

     

    Given the imperatives of the rising of extremist forces that exercise ideological influence across the region and potentially in Xinjiang itself; or given the proxy battles in Afghanistan between India and Pakistan escalating tensions in South Asia, and given the exigencies of emerging economic order, China’s role in South Asia seems much emerging day by day.

    China’s current strategic interests in Afghanistan are coped with a series of negative outcomes that it wishes to avoid: that the country seems to have become a safe haven for Chinese Uighur militant groups again, as it was in the late 1990s; China also has an ardent interest in ensuring that there is no long-term U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, which it sees as an encirclement threat.

    China’s close relationship– with Pakistan, which is central to the security dimensions regarding its policy toward both India and Afghanistan– has been mediated through its military, intelligence services, and senior political leaders. The PLA’s influence stems from its comprehensive network of relationships with the Pakistani military, spanning each branch of the armed services, PLA-linked companies involved in joint production of supplies and equipment, continued cooperation on nuclear and missile technology, and military intelligence (2-PLA). The intelligence services’ operation has been focused on– the terrorist threat in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia since the 1990s, as well as involving the role of non-state actors such as the Taliban and has been mainly focused on counterterrorism concerns.

    Despite the fact that exposure to Pakistan and Afghanistan among Chinese business community has been significantly less than to India, Pakistan-china friendship seems much moored with good faith via strong bondage of people’s diplomacy.

    As for the Indians, India is often perceived as a regional power, but a closer look reveals that New Delhi is in a disadvantageous position vis-à-vis China in South Asia. The first reason is that Indian governments never utilized their political, economic, and military capacities to pursue their regional power ambitions with their neighbours in the long run. South Asian countries could always play and rely on their China card in order to evade India’s influence. Second, although India’s new South Asia policy with the focus on trade and connectivity has improved regional cooperation since 1991, but China still remains an economically more attractive and politically more reliable partner for India’s neighbours.

    In the present scenario, the geo-economic dictates reflect maximum radiation of CPEC economic flows in the South Asia region. The absence of this link restricts India-China trade to $71 billion and India-Pakistan trade to $2 billion. The absence of the link with India seriously constrains the trade volumes of other Saarc members. Their dividend would remain limited unless India fully partakes of CPEC. Goods from the landlocked Bhutan and Nepal cannot access the Pakistani markets through the shorter land route passing through India. It is pragmatically suggested that Indian strategists must exercise a forward looking approach towards the CEPEC phenomenon which could provide a multilateral boon to the regional economy.

     

    Likely, Bangladesh cannot access the shorter land route through India to Pakistan and onward to China or West Asia, North Africa and Gulf states. The island nations of Maldives and Sri Lanka can of course reach China through Gwadar. Bhutan and Nepal can directly link with China, while Bangladesh lies on the Southwestern route of the Silk Road linking it with Kinmin in Yunnan province of China. The one deriving factor behind India’s current move of suspending its participation in the SARRC is that New Delhi is does not want China’s leverage in the SAARC. This Indian parochial approach towards China and CPEC is detrimental to the future of SAARC economy.

     

    Veritably, China’s major interests in South Asia include promoting stability in both Afghanistan and Pakistan in order to curb the influence of Islamist extremists, and to facilitate trade and energy corridors throughout the region that China can access. It is in this back drop that China is also inviting Iran to join the CPEC. China has been enhancing its influence over other South Asian states, including Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives, to further help it secure energy and trade flows from the Middle East and Europe, and as part of a global effort to extend its diplomatic and economic influence. Furthermore, China seeks to contain Indian power by building close ties with Pakistan and bolstering Islamabad’s strategic and military strength. China likely assesses that, by tilting toward Pakistan, it can keep India tied down in South Asia and divert its military force and strategic capabilities away from China.

    China has a willingness to play a more active economic and diplomatic role in efforts aimed at stabilizing Afghanistan. Washington positively welcomes Beijing’s increased involvement in Afghanistan and views efforts such as the establishment of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (made up of U.S., Afghan, Chinese, and Pakistani officials) as a rare opportunity for Washington and Beijing to work together toward a common security goal.

    Despite the fact that India–China economic relations have expanded in recent years, but India remains wary of Chinese overtures to its neighbors and efforts to expand China’s maritime presence in the Indian Ocean Region ( that connects to forty two states of the Indian Ocean). On the other hand, the unresolved border disputes continue to undermine relations, and there have been border flare-ups that raised bilateral tensions on at least two occasions in the last three years.

    More recently, China has agreed to join the U.S., Pakistan, and Afghanistan as part of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) to facilitate peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. The first meeting of the QCG was held on January 11, 2015 in Islamabad, where the participants valued the need for direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, while also committing to preserving Afghanistan’s unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. It is noteworthy that China is now willing to be part of the U.S.-supported QCG peace effort. In the past, China did avoid any association with U.S. policies in the region, apprehending that doing so would land them in the cross-hairs of Islamist extremists. 

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    Europe and UK after Trump

    December 26th, 2016

     

     

    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.

     

    Seen from the post US-election 2016, much seems in opaque about the US-EU relations. There appears no doubt to predict that under the new administration of Donald Trump, transatlantic relationship would face new frontiers of challenges. Apart from myriad other corollaries, EU has ostensibly appeared on the face of the globe on the most critical position of the US elections. Europe is already at loggerheads with each other on the refugee dilemma and when it is combined with the simmering knots of economic and demographic challenges, the situation appears to be too critical.

    The political pundits and analysts in international relations are discussing the victory of Donald Trump in comparison with the coalitions and group formations early in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, however, on thing that has to be kept in mind is that now the global scenario has been changed out rightly in all aspects. The expectations of the public in general in terms of economic advancements have shooten up. The influx of information technology, communication and media advances have changed the mindset of the people in one way or the other. In this context, it may be observed that if the organizations, coalitions or political or economic configurations do come up with symmetry of the popular electoral inclinations, the outcome turns out to be Brexit.

    The departing President of the US has emblazoned the flourishing democracies in Europe and the array of similarities that have converted the transatlantic relations into a bliss. Nonetheless, the European media is being sceptic about the same line of role by the US, after the Trump entry. Though the contribution of the United States, has been outstanding (sometimes for its own political and economic motives) in the European arena, specially after the two world wars, after the abatement of Communism and then the restructuring of the East European countries, in addition to the settlement of the political issues around Balkan peninsula.

    In spite of all that has been said, the most important point that is roaming in the minds of many Americans  (which is revealed in the recent American elections) is that the American Economy can’t afford to promote, protect and sustain democracies all around the globe, that too at the cost of American tax payer’s bucks. This is the core point, whereby Donald Trump has been able to convince the people that the post war alliances, may be that military ones or the political, would be given a rethinking, a reconsideration.

    In this way, the American nationalism has come up with a new vigor and zeal, rejecting the idea of constant sticking to the agendas in Western Europe. The same views have also been expressed and endorsed by European powers themselves, especially Germany. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, remarked “The Americans will not see to Europe’s security forever.

    We have to do it ourselves,” he said in a speech in Berlin. Former US Ambassador to Germany John Kornblum also expressed the same thoughts in an essay published by the German journalism consortium RND. “The American umbrella over Europe is gone forever. Trump’s election marks the end of the postwar order.” Apart from all these factors, the caution of the then-European Central Bank Chairman Jean-Claude Trichet warned that Europe was as tense as before World War I or II was worthy of given a thorough consideration. In addition to this, Germany also decided to endeavor its re-militarization drive, so that it might get itself free from the clutches of United States to initiate any military operation.

    And while Trump often contradicts himself, as Thomas Wright of the Brookings Institution has demonstrated, a core consistency has animated his understanding of foreign policy for decades. There are three pillars of his foreign policy thinking from which he has never wavered. The first is the idea that America is getting a bad deal from its allies; the second is that the American approach to free trade has impoverished American workers and weakened the United States; and the third is that as a strong leader he can secure better deals with authoritarian strongmen than by working cooperatively with European allies.

    Trump is set on securing a better deal from US allies. A better deal, in Trump’s version of the transatlantic alliance, involves European allies like Germany paying for the privilege of American protection. If they fail to meet their “obligations”, they will not be defended. More than this, Trump’s view is that allies should not need American protection at all. He will expect Europe to shoulder the burden for dealing with conflicts that are primarily European problems, such as the war in Ukraine and the refugee crisis.

    Trump had fervently endorsed the Brexit campaign during the UK’s EU referendum, thus distancing himself from the Obama administration’s stated preference for a strong and united EU. Obama seems affirmed that the UK could not expect favourable treatment upon leaving the EU and would instead be at the back of the queue for a trade deal, with TPP and TTIP given priority.

    Trump’s protectionist rhetoric and stances on major trade deals should give cause for concern about whether Trump will be committed to putting the UK to the front of the queue for a deal. Even if he does, there is every reason to expect that he will play hardball; Trump will be able to utilize the leverage of the US’s economic strength to ensure that the deal favors US interests, and his background as a businessman suggests that he will not allow sentimentality to result in unnecessary concessions to the UK. The British government needs to remember that it is now in a weaker negotiating situation than it was when part of the EU, and that they need the deal much more than the US does.

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