Posts by QamarSyed:

    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.



    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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    Cementing Ankara-Moscow ties

    October 19th, 2016

    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.



    Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Istanbul on Monday, an official said, on his first trip to Turkey following a crisis sparked by the shooting down of a Russian war plane over Syria last November, Agence France-Presse reported. A Euromed and Nato member Turkey is trying to rebalancing its foreign policy pendulum towards both the West and the East. Yet, the most driving factors to influence the future relationship between Ankara and Moscow are: the US factor; the Syrian factor, the European factor, the Crimean factor; and the economic factor.

    Putin and Erdogan demonstrated powerful personal chemistry in Istanbul, and both seemed at ease dismissing criticism from Western countries over human rights. In what appeared to be a careful piece of diplomatic choreography, during the energy summit Erdogan posed for photos flanked by Putin and another bogeyman of Washington’s, Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro.

    Many good hopes in ejecting bilateralism notwithstanding, powerful and conflicting forces continue to influence Russian-Turkish relations, analysts caution. “It’s a misnomer to characterize this as a rapprochement,” said Sinan Ülgen, a visiting scholar at the Brussels-based think tank Carnegie Europe. Ulgen pointed out the differences over the Syrian civil war that culminated in the downing of the Russian bomber remain unaddressed.

    In September, Erdogan rolled out the red carpet – although in Turkey, it is turquoise – for the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, as Turkey continues to build ties with countries with goals contrary to Russia’s in Syria. The Saudi visit was the latest in intensifying diplomatic traffic between the countries. Ankara has again been calling for the immediate removal of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, a demand that walks back a gesture to Moscow in which Ankara suggested the Syrian dictator could play a role in a transition of power.

    The Putin-Erdogan summit at St. Petersburg on Aug. 9 marked the beginning of a new era in relations between Russia and Turkey. Murat Yetkin, editor-in-chief of Hurriyet Daily News, in an Aug. 9 article provided details of the “secret diplomacy” that eased Turkish-Russian tensions. According to Pekin, the Homeland Party believes it played a critical role in improving relations, but in the diplomatic corridors of Ankara, there are suggestions that the party is trying to make a name for itself through political maneuvering.

    As Ankara’s relations with the United States soured over Turkey’s demand for the extradition of cleric Fethullah Gulen, Turkey was able to repair its relations with Russia thanks to quick, wise diplomatic initiatives. Just before his meeting with Putin, Erdogan told Tass, “The most important actor for bringing peace to Syria is Russia.” In late June, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan apologized to Moscow for the incident with the downed Russian plane that took place on Nov. 24, 2015 and triggered a seven-month-long crisis in bilateral relations.

    The thaw in two states was orchestrated following the apology: Putin and Erdogan had their first telephone conversation since the November incident, the parties agreed to meet in person in the near future, andrestrictions on travel to Turkey for Russian tourists were lifted.

    “In general, the situation should not have a negative effect on Russian-Turkish relations,”saidI lshat Sayetov, a Turkey expert and head of the Center for Contemporary Turkish Studies.

    “The country is headed by a leader who has expressed a clear intention to restore relations. However, the overall instability in Turkey – terrorist attacks, semi-coups, polarization of society and so on – is, of course, not to the benefit of the two countries’ relations,” said Sayetov.

    “The concentration of all power in the hands of the Turkish president increases the risk of ill-judged decisions, and the Russian authorities will be taking this into account,” he said.

    And yet it goes without saying that the current mode is one of waiting to see if Ankara will soften its red line and adjust the priorities of its Syria policy. Beyond its geographic proximity to the peninsula in the Black Sea, Turkey also has deep historical ties to Crimea, once an Ottoman province, and strong interests there, especially with regards to the fate of Muslim Crimean Tatars, who make up an estimated 15 percent of the population.

    Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu recently expressed his concern about how developments in Crimea might impact the Tatars and today his ministry issued a statement calling the upcoming referendum there on whether the region should become part of Russia as a “wrong” move. Meanwhile, Turkey and Russia will establish a joint investment fund with capital of $1 billion, Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci was reported as saying by state-run Anadolu Agency.

    Many experts are of the view that the normalization of relations with Russia will help Turkey to revive its tourism industry. As reported by Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News, Turkey’s “long-suffering” tourism sector might soon “reap diplomatic fruits” of ongoing efforts to improve bilateral relations.
    By all fair strategic calculations, the Turkish government has been making the case that it is best positioned, both geographically and politically, to find a solution to Europe’s energy problem — the continent depends largely on Russian natural-gas exports for energy, even as it is locked in a confrontation with the country over its role in the eastern Ukrainian war.

    Turkey seems to have been gaining from this Western conundrum. It has been participating in pipeline projects that benefit both Russia and the West. The proposed pipeline represented the Turkish Stream was catapulted into its next planning stage whereby Ankara and Moscow agreed on the route for the 700-mile pipeline, which could begin delivering oil as early as December 2016. It is assumed that the pipeline will run from Russia through the Black Sea to the Greece-Turkey border. The U.S. and its European allies are seen attempting to dissuade Greece and Serbia from signing on to the project as transport countries because they are worrying it would give Russia even greater energy dominance in the region.

    There is much likelihood that the growing chemistry of relationship between Ankara and Moscow would bring about the impact on the ongoing currents-cross currents not only in the Middle eastern politics but also towards Ankara’s relations with Europe and America.

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    US-Russia recourse to peace diversion in Aleppo?

    October 9th, 2016


    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.


    The ongoing interplay– of centripetal and centrifugal forces in Syria seems– to have caused the peace prospects more complicated than ever. The United States and Russia have grappled over plans to halt the fighting in Syria, as resurgent Moscow-backed regime forces tightened the noose around the beleaguered city of Aleppo.

    In Geneva, secretary of state John Kerry was once more locked in talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, but US officials warned that negotiations could not be a sucess without a breakthrough. Washington views Moscow to help clinch a ceasefire, get humanitarian aid to civilians and — eventually — set the stage for political talks to end a five-year war that has killed more than 290,000.

    The twin powers backed- scenario reflects opposite sides in the civil war, with Moscow supporting Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime and Washington behind a coalition of rebel groups it regards as moderate. Senior US official travelling with Mr Kerry said he would not have flown out once again to new face-to-face talks with Mr Lavrov (the Russian Foreign Minister) unless he thought there was a chance of progress.

    A US official symbolises the talks as “crisp and businesslike”, focused on specific technical details of how the ceasefire would be observed. In a break in proceedings, the US delegation was to update Washington on progress. But officials warned there was no guarantee of a final agreement before both men return home later on Friday, just four days after the pair met in China and failed to narrow their differences.

    Ironically, Aleppo has served as a major rebel base since 2012, when the Syrian civil war really took off in earnest. In late September 2015, Assad’s forces began a concerted effort to retake the city. The above map shows their progress: By December, they had made significant advances around the city and, by February 5, had essentially surrounded it.

    Assad’s forces, weakened by attrition and serious recruiting problems, were unable to accomplish this alone. Russian bombing, as well as Iranian troop deployments, was absolutely vital to Assad’s offensive in Aleppo (as well as similar gains in southern Syria, near Daraa).

    “The operations in Aleppo Province have hinged upon heavy military support from both Russian warplanes and Iranian proxy fighters,” Christopher Kozak, a research analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, concluded.

    Retrospectively,on 10 September 2016, Russia and U.S. concluded a deal on establishing a cease fire between the Syrian Assad government and a US-supported coalition of so-called ‘mainstream Syrian opposition rebel groups’ including umbrella group ‘High Negotiations Committee’ (HNC), effective from 12 September, while jointly agreeing to continue attacks on Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (former al-Nusra Front) and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia and U.S. had configured five documents to enable coordination of the fight against Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and ISIL and a revival of Syria’s failed truce in an expanded form.

    But on 16 September, the heaviest fighting since weeks broke out at the outskirts of Damascus and air attacks elsewhere in Syria resumed. On Saturday 17 September, Russia accused groups supported by the US to have violated the ceasefire 199 times, and said it was up to the US to stop them and thus save the ceasefire. Later on 17 September, the US-led coalition with Danish, British and Australian aircraft bombarded the Syrian army near ISIL-dominated territory in northern Syria killing 62 Syrian soldiers, which for the Syrian government proved that “the US and its allies cooperate with terrorists”.While the US contended the bombs on Assad’s troups were by accident, Russia said it was on purpose.18 September, bombarding also in Aleppo resumed.

    Monday 19 September, Assad’s government declared the ceasefire as ended, mainly because of the US-led coalition’s attacks on Assad’s troops. Soon afterwards a UN food convoy near Aleppo was bombarded or shot at, unclear was by whom. On the 3rd of October, the US has formally declared the suspension of diplomatic contacts with Russia over the Syrian situation, marking the end of the cease fire deal.

    One week after the collapse of a tenuous ceasefire, tensions between the United States and the Russian-Syrian alliance appear to be at a boiling point, while the consequence of that political fall-out is “nothing short of a human catastrophe.”

    At an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Sunday, western powers blatantly accused Russia of “barbarism” and aiding the Syrian government in committing “war crimes.”

    “What Russia is sponsoring and doing is not counter-terrorism, it is barbarism,” said Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “Instead of pursuing peace, Russia and Assad make war. Instead of helping get life-saving aid to civilians, Russia and Assad are bombing the humanitarian convoys, hospitals, and first responders who are trying desperately to keep people alive,” Power told the 15-member council.

    A spokesperson from the Kremin rebuffed those accusations as “unacceptable,” while the UNSC’s Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin reminded the council that it was the U.S.’ bombing of Syrian government forces on September 17th, and its failure to convince so-called “moderate” rebels to disassociate with the al Qaeda-linked Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (previously the al-Nusra Front), that “sabotaged” the peace effort.

    This followed similar statements made by Syrian President Bashar Assad, who told the Associated Press last week that he “believe[s] that the United States is not genuine regarding having a cessation of violence in Syria.”

    According to Kyle Orton, a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, Syria’s revolution is now unequivocally in the balance. He further points out that Aleppo– the last major urban—seems to have been holding of the mainstream armed opposition in Syria. If the political process– is to amount to anything other than a regime victory in all but name– the rebels have to hold Aleppo City. For its part, the regime, with Russian and Iranian help, has severely lessened the strategic threat from the insurgency already — for them to retake Aleppo City would kill it. Orton is blunt: “In short, the course of the entire war is in the balance with the fate of Aleppo.”

    If the rebels succeed in breaking the siege then the pro-regime coalition will suffer a serious strategic setback. As Orton further notes, “the pro-Assad forces [are holding] out in northwestern Syria by some relatively tenuous supply lines through Hama and southern Aleppo.” If the rebel positions in Idlib Province and southwestern Aleppo are expanded to include areas of Aleppo City, Assad’s bases in the north come under serious threat, and with it Assad’s chance of crushing the rebellion entirely.

    Needless to say — if the rebels get minor gains or they become successful in articulating a strategy of  maintaining the status quo in the city — then once again it would be none but the Jabhat Fatah al-Sham group that benefits the most. In leading the charge to rescue the besieged population while the world looks on, it would have irretrievably bound itself to the armed opposition in Northern Syria. The Assad-supportive groups aligning with Russia may pose a new paradigmatic challenge to any peace prospects in Aleppo. And that is a scenario– that benefits no one : not the mainstream rebels and most of all, not Syria’s long-suffering people—and not those holding the prospects of any combined US-Russia operation against the rebels, and most of all, nor Syria’s long-suffering people.

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    India’s controversial surgical strike

    October 7th, 2016


    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.


    It goes without saying that if the leadership of a country makes a wrong statement/claim or an impression just to gain its ulterior motive, not only damages its international image or clout but also punctures the morale of its nation both domestically and internationally. This is what has been a true case about India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose government’s fabricated claim regarding a surgical strike (on Sept.29) against Pakistan has caused a cringe worthy development for both its people and its military personnel.

    A surgical strike, according to a widely accepted definition, is “a military attack which results in, was intended to result in, or is claimed to have resulted in only damage to the intended legitimate military target, and no or minimal collateral damage to surrounding structures, vehicles, buildings, or the general public infrastructure and utilities”.

    But the circumstantial evidence gives no support to such an Indian held claim that it had made a surgical strike against Pakistan ( on Sept.29). Although one can better understand why it was so politically expedient for the Indian government to show its actions: the fact is that by doing such an act the Modi government has largely lost its credibility in the eye of its public.

    Following the refusal from UN to confirm the Indian claims of ‘surgical strikes’, Pakistan Army on Saturday took independent journalists to the Line of Control (LoC) at Baghsir 20 kilometers from Bhimber to show the situation on ground.

    Despite the fact that publicising such operations is tricky and devious, it logically appears that in today’s world of hyper media technology such concoctions and fabricated stories do leave a very negative impact. And furthermore, the publicity of such act confuses who the target audience really is, and sets unwieldy expectations of the public, i.e. a desire for “revenge” risks becoming an end unto itself.

    Now while analysing the Modi government’s motive behind such development, one may reasonably argue that if the message was meant for Islamabad—as it appears to have been—then it is futile to make it public without clear long-term strategic benefits. Pakistan has been not been deterred in the past, and is unlikely to change its approach based on such strikes, which its army is used to. This Indian ploy has intensified a feeling that people of India are no safer today than they were yesterday.

    The fact of the matter is: the success of any military conflict cannot be guaranteed. It might weaken India further and make it more vulnerable, if military action is unsuccessful. After 26/11, then prime minister Manmohan Singh had considered air strikes against Pakistan. But the air force chief had said India didn’t have accurate digital data on terrorist camps in Pakistan, and the army chief had said the Indian Army was not prepared for a brief, surgical strike. Military experts say it would take years for India to develop strategic capabilities for targeted cross-border operations. Politically, military action that is seen as a failure would hurt the Modi government more than not doing anything.

    Be it a surgical strike or hot pursuit, any military action against Pakistan is a bad idea. It appreciates to be impossible to achieve the desired results. On the contrary, it could backfire .Following are some diplomatic reactions demonstrated by the respective governments regarding the ongoing situation along with the line of control (LOC).

    With tensions escalating between the two neighboring countries, Britain asked India and Pakistan to “exercise restraint in the wake of surgical strikes by Indian troops across the Line of Control’. A spokesperson from Britain’s Foreign Office said: “We are monitoring the situation closely following reports of strikes carried out by the Indian Army over the LoC in Kashmir. We call on both sides to exercise restraint and to open dialogue.”

    China has said it is in ‘constant touch with both countries to reduce tensions’. Geng Shuang, a spokesperson of China’s Foreign Office, said: “China was in communication with both sides through different channels and hoped that Indian and Pakistan can enhance communication, properly deal with differences and work jointly to maintain peace and security.” China expressed hope that “Islamabad and New Delhi will resolve the issue through dialogue and maintain regional peace and stability by joint efforts”.

    The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a strong statement after the surgical strikes conducted by Indian troops. “We are concerned with the aggravation lately of the situation along the Line of Control between India and Pakistan. We are calling on the parties not to allow any escalation of tension and to settle the existing problems by political and diplomatic means through negotiations…..”

    Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for UN Secretary-General, urged both India and Pakistan to exercise restraint and resolve differences through dialogue. He added that officials were following the increase in tensions in Kashmir with great concern. “UN military observers were in contact with both sides to try to obtain further information,” he said.

    Pragmatically, Modi must recognise that his agenda of enhancing regional cooperation in South Asia will remain unfulfilled without mending the fences with Pakistan. At a time when interconnectivity seems a glaring norm across the world, two neighbours-India and Pakistan cannot afford to be locked in a spiral of perpetual hostility and violence.

    But Modi’s decision to engage with Pakistan was seen by some in Delhi’s as India’s “on again, off again” inconsistent approach towards Pakistan. And yet some sections within his own party were against overtures to Pakistan. And then the Pakistani military also decided to reassert its supremacy on India thereby reasserting itself.

    Given the ongoing scenario of tensions along the line of control (LOC) between India and Pakistan, it seems a glowing imperative of diplomacy to use its course bilaterally and particularly the Indian leadership must adopt political acumen-cum- enlightenment to pacify the plight of the Kashmiri people thereby tabling a statesman- like solution of the Kashmir problem which could only viably possible while honouring the UNSC’s resolutions on Kashmir. Needless to say, both India and Pakistan must try to diplomatically engage each other so as to water down the boiling temperature in the South Asian region-an emerging alarm of peace and stability.

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    India’s new game of water war?

    September 30th, 2016


    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.


    A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned “blood and water cannot flow together,” Pakistan has declared that if India opts out of a key water-sharing agreement, it would amount to “an act of war.”Water sharing, transparency and collaboration are the pillars on which the unique Indus Waters Treaty was erected in 1960.

    Islamabad’s recently moved solicitation regarding the Indian violation before an international arbitral tribunal is an index of the Indian policy of playing with water shenanigans despite a treaty that is a colossus among existing water-sharing pacts in the world. The fact of the matter is that being an upper riparian state, India has to strictly adhere to the stipulations laid down under the said treaty.

    In Asia, the vast majority of the 57 transnational river basins have no water-sharing arrangement or any other cooperative mechanism. Though through this comprehensively drafted Treaty both India and Pakistan have a balanced water sharing mechanism, there yet appear some windowing misunderstandings between the two sides.

    Significantly, India’s treaties with Pakistan and Bangladesh are the only pacts in Asia with specific water-sharing formulas on cross-border flows. They also set a new principle in international water law. The 1996 Ganges treaty set a new standard by guaranteeing delivery of specific water quantity in the dry season. But unfortunately so far this approach has not been proactively adopted by India’s government as regard to the Indus Basin Water Treaty.

     In 1951, Indian Prime Minister Nehru, whose interest in integrated river management along the lines of the Tennessee Valley Authority had been piqued, invited David Lilienthal, former chairman of the TVA, to visit India. Lilienthal also visited Pakistan and, on his return to the US, wrote an article outlining his impressions and recommendations (the trip had been commissioned by Collier’s Magazine-international water was not the initial aim of the visit).

    After three weeks of discussions, an outline was agreed to, whose points included: determination of total water supplies, divided by catchment and use;determination of the water requirements of cultivable irrigable areas in each country; calculation of data and surveys necessary, as requested by either side; preparation of cost estimates and a construction schedule of new engineering works which might be included in a comprehensive plan.

    In a creative avoidance of a potential and common conflict, the parties agreed that any data requested by either side would be collected and verified when possible, but that the acceptance of the data, or the inclusion of any topic for study, would not commit either side to its “relevance or materiality.”

    The Indus Water Treaty seems to have addressed both the technical and financial concerns of each side, and included a timeline for transition. The main points of the treaty included (Alam, 2002): an agreement that Pakistan would receive unrestricted use of the western rivers, which India would allow to flow unimpeded, with minor exceptions provisions for three dams, eight link canals, three barrages, and 2500 tube wells to be built in Pakistan a ten-year transition period, from April 1, 1960 to March 31, 1970, during which water would continue to be supplied to Pakistan according to a detailed schedule a schedule for India to provide its fixed financial contribution of $62 million, in ten annual installments during the transition period additional provisions for data exchange and future cooperation.

    Although the two countries have been managing to share the waters albeit with some major differences that Pakistan government has so far been showning over India’s construction of Wuller Barrage, Baglihar Dam and Krishanganga dam that India has bulit , and has been building on the Indus tributaries that seat in the IHK.The experts say that the agreement is one of the most lop-sided with India being allowed to use only 20 percent of the six-river Indus water system. Pakistan has also recently sought an international arbitration if India sought to build hydro power projects on the Jhelum and Chenab rivers.

    Despite the fact that the agreement has been seen as one of the most successful water-sharing pacts, the current tension between the two South Asian neighbours might well lead to a flashpoint. The Security and Strategic affairs experts are of the view that future wars could well be fought over water. 

    But one cannot overlook the fact that the well defined characteristics of the Treaty set a precedent of cooperation between the two countries–accompanied by an emblem of confidence building measure–vindicated by the fact as it is the only treaty to have survived three wars and other hostilities between the two countries.

    India has developed different Hydroelectric Power Projects (HPP), with the cross installed capacity of 2456.20 MW after signing Indus treaty, however the total electricity demand of IHK is 1589 MW. India has also developed several run-of-the-river projects. Moreover, other four projects, MW Uri-II, 120 Sewa-II, 45 MW Nimo Bazgo and 44 MW Chutak Hydro electric projects that have been completed in early 2012.

    A strategy of implementing CBMs regarding the water dispute between the two sides, India and Pakistan can be virtually applied via invoking Article VII of the treaty which focuses on future co-operation between the two countries by mutual agreement to the fullest possible extent.

    To further translate this into the best practices in managing shared water and the Baglihar Dam Judgment in 2007 are the guiding principles to develop consensus to make treaty 100% transparent in order to avert any potential conflict and pitch a win-win solution for both countries.

    In this regards after efforts of three years and in-depth discussion and deliberation with Indian water and energy experts, intelligentsia, environmentalists and other experts during series of various dialogues held at New Delhi, Islamabad, Bangkok and Dubai, following recommendations have been unanimously reached that offer win-win doable, practical solutions, already replicated in Nile(Egypt) and Danube River Basins(a water distribution system between Central and Eastern European states):

    1-Recognizing that Indus Water Treaty is evidently the most successful Confidence Buildings Measure (CBM) between the two countries, India has the right to use provisions granted in annexure ‘D’ and ‘E’ nevertheless there is a need to make treaty more transparent by using state-of-art information communication technology tools.

    2-To remove mistrust on data exchange, install satellite based real-time telemetry system in IHK Kashmir at a minimum 100 loctions for monitoring water quality and quantity.

    3-There is a need to setup an independent office of Indus Water Commission(IWC) comprising neutral experts outside of South Asian region, having unblemished record and integrity. This may also include experts from various international agencies such as the World Bank, the UNEP and the EU, etc. This independent commission of experts shall work directly under the UN to monitor and promote sustainable development in Kashmir and HP.

    4-The Independent IWC will also arrange real time data of miner, major tributaries and at all head-works, dams, etc. by website including three dimensional models of dams, three-dimensional model to represent of geometric data of dams (flood storage+ Run of River Hydropower projects) for clarity for the global community.

    5- It was agreed that environmental threats do not respect national borders. During last three decades, the watershed in IHK is badly degraded. To rehabilitate watershed in IHK and Himachal Pradesh (HP), both countries are to take initiative for joint watershed management in these two states.

    6-To rehabilitate watershed in IHK and HP, an environmental impact assessment is the best instrument to assess the possible negative impact that a proposed project may have on the indigenous environment, together with water flow in rivers .The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context provides the best legal framework for Transboundary EIA for sustainable flow in Indus Rivers System, so that India should share TEIA before physical execution of any project including hydropower.

    7-Glaciers are important and major source of Indus Rivers System. To preserve these glaciers, there is immediate need to declare all Himalayan Glaciers as “Protected Area” including immediate demilitarization from Siachen to preserve this second longest glacier of planet to fall in the watershed of the Indus River.

    Technically, India does not have the resources, capacity or infrastructure to handle the increase in water in case the Indus Waters Treaty is dissolved. Ashok Swain, a teacher at the department of peace and conflict research in Uppsala University Sweden noted that India did not have enough storage to create supply problem for Pakistan immediately.

    As for India’s revocation of the treaty, this seems an unlikely scenario since the treaty has survived three wars between the two countries. Although the Modi government in India has raised the issue, saying that for a treaty to work there had to be “mutual cooperation and trust” between the two sides, this seems to be more pressure tactics than any real threat to review the bilateral agreement.

    And the idea that India can intimidate Pakistan by threatening to cut of river waters is nothing new; past is honeycombed with such envious Indian reflections. It has arisen before every major conflict. And it goes without saying that a unilateral abrogation as India threatens to do would also attract criticism from world powers, as this is one arrangement which has stood the test of time. Nonetheless, an insight given into the preamble of the treaty gives enough light to the understanding that India cannot unilaterally exercise a revocation of the treaty.

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    India: Modi’s war mongering hysteria

    September 27th, 2016



    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.



    It goes without saying that from the very day Narendra Modi took charge as India’s new Prime Minister, it has been an idee fixe of Modi’s government to demonstrate a military misadventure against Pakistan without realising the harrowing consequence of such aggressive offensive.

    Since the September 18 attack on an Indian army base in Uri, India’s war hysteria has increased exponentially. Heuristically, Indian media, politicians and analysts didn’t even waste a single minute and as soon as the story of the attack broke the attack was blamed on Pakistan. The circumstances and the Indian story of how the attack unfolded are sketchy at best.

    The fact of the matter is that in some circles in India it is reported that that it was a false flag operation as the ‘alleged’ evidence provided by the Indian forces through which they are trying to link the attack to Pakistan is nothing but Indian tomfoolery– of concocting the story against Pakistan—vindicated by the fact that some in India are of the opinion that there was never any attack and it was merely an accidental explosion in some oil storage tanks. The relentless war mongering and propaganda against Pakistan by Indian media has well exposed Modi’s government’s policy evolving the negative Indian mentality and their love for violence and war-an RSS policy objective. And yet many Indian analysts took to Twitter to spew venom against Pakistan. Some were seen making polls whether a nuclear attack should be launched against Pakistan or not.

    By all fair calculations and deliberations, the Indian war hysteria is not only unfortunate but highly irresponsible reflected by the fact that some Indian anchors vocally demanded their Prime Minister to launch a military attack on Pakistan. The above mentioned reflections are suffice to expose India’s real face to the world community. Au contraire, the response from Pakistan’s government has been much responsible.  The Pak Army Chief Gen Raheel and the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made it clear that any Indian misadventure will be dealt with full force and India will have to pay for its miscalculation about Pakistan yet at the same time it has been made clear to the world community that as a peaceful country Pakistan wants to resolve all issue on the dialogue table.

    Politically too, in today’s surcharged atmosphere, it is improbable that any opposition party will want to support Modi’s leap of faith toward Pakistan. They will only see Modi as grandstanding in the run-up to the elections coming up in Bihar — and later in West Bengal and UP — or as attempting to distract attention from the ongoing Kashmir stalemate. It also looks that Modi would know he is trying to cut the Gordian knot, but then, what is the alternative? India is getting isolated in its own region as a result of the deadlock in the relations with Pakistan entailed by India’s unwarranted, unjustified and intransigent Kashmir policy. India has no locus standi regarding its Kashmir occupation; it has been reduced to a marginal player in Central Asia; and the China-Pakistan relationship is assuming global significance. India is walking back to the pavilion run out in the great game.

    Similarly, the resistance from within the establishment is going to be fierce. Strong vested interests exist within the Indian establishment. Besides, it won’t be surprising if sections within the ruling elite who militate (for their own reasons) against what Modi is attempting may quietly connive with the disgruntled elements within the establishment. Meanwhile, Modi’s own agenda of regional cooperation in South Asia is unable to take off because of India-Pakistan tensions. Most important, India lacks any leverage to influence Pakistani policies. The containment strategy pursued by India toward Pakistan seems doomed to fail. Obviously, the international community regards Pakistan to be a key regional power. Taken at face value, there appears to be some validity to this line of thinking. Indian defense spending has doubled in real terms since 1997, growing at an average of 6.3 percent per year. The Modi announced a further 11 percent hike, raising the 2015–2016 military budget to $39.8 billion. Moreover, India is presently the world’s largest buyer of conventional weapons, with upwards of $100 billion expected to be spent on modernizing its defense forces over the next decade.

    Modi faces a policy dilemma. It is true that he leads the BJP, which is not overly friendly toward Pakistan. But as the old saying goes, war stifles reform. If India gets distracted by war, it will stifle his program of forcing through tough economic reforms. That program means far more to him and his party’s future than posturing with Pakistan. Launching strikes inside Pakistan or initiating a military excursion using army, navy and air force should not be a problem for the world’s third largest military.

    Such an action may also cause a sharp spike in public approval of Modi government’s decision. But the major issue will be the outcome of crossing the Line of Control, or even violating the sovereign airspace which rests on India’s objective behind the move. Is it only to punish the alleged non-state perpetrators of the Uri attack or penalise Pakistan itself? The other fundamental question remains India’s capacity to zero in the target precisely and eliminate them in the shortest possible timeframe and with the least cost.

    Each country has a good military reason not to fight. The Indian military weaponry is, frankly, backward. India has been on a shopping spree of foreign arms purchases. But it still has a long way to escape its situation after the Mumbai terror attack by terrorists from Pakistani-supported groups, when India’s land forces were simply not in shape to strike back.

    Despite the fact that Pakistan has an internal war against militants, especially the Pakistan Taliban, the war is long past the point of full hostilities, And the Indian policy thinkers that it is perhaps an expedient time to intervene into Pakistan since by doing that Pakistan’s armed forces would face a two-front war if they took on India. Yet, this line of Indian thinking seems unfit since it must be admitted that it is never far from the minds of the Pakistani military that they might fight with India because of its negatively projected or adopted policy of military brinkmanship in Kashmir and clandestinely engaging its espionage to destablize Pakistan, and so they are probably ready to cope with India.

    There is little clarity as to how both the countries will be adhered to a limited war scenario. Will Pakistan deal with an Indian intrusion in Azad Kashmir as a limited conflict or a full-scale war? The most probable answer from the Pakistani point of view may be that they are not planning a war offensive against New Delhi .But If war is imposed on them (Pakistanis) they are ready enough to response to it in any manner that may suit to Pakistan’s military and defensive expediencies. Strategists in India have not been certain about the prospects of a limited war with Pakistan for years. Given the grandiloquence of Modi’s promise, the chances for a Kargil-like incursion are negligible. Pakistan’s response so far has been very explicit and prompt. The arm-laden fighter jets takeoffs and landings from motorways, mobilisation of other vital military resources and launch of a diplomatic offensive on the sidelines of UN General Assembly and elsewhere have exposed Indian plans regarding the Cold Start.

    Apparently New Delhi may be relieved by having a Rafale deal with France since the Indian air force must have had its anxiety about Pak air superiority over India. Evidently, there are no options available with Delhi bordering on good to appease the RSS cheerleader. The sabre-rattling may not satisfy Modi’s electoral, but fruitless if not humiliating incursion will cost him more dearly in every sense of the word. And yet the chances of a nuclear strikes between the two states cannot be overlooked keeping in view the uncertain psychological dynamics of war. The military strategists in India are well cognizant of nuclear capabilities of Pakistan.

    Though, it looks that India will much likely to depend on funding its proxies in Pakistan and to intensify its diplomatic assault on Pakistan than to really engage in a military offensive against Pakistan, but an unfair and devious India’s policy of sponsoring proxies in Pakistan will be opening more windows to promote hostility and polarisation in both government and people of Pakistan against India. In the present state of deadlock between India and Pakistan, the imperative to be engaged diplomatically is seen not only in India’s interest but broadly envisaging in the interest of 1.45 billion people of the South Asian region.


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    India’s Kashmir faux pas & UN role

    September 12th, 2016

    By Syed Qamar Rizvi.



    Kashmir remains an international humanitarian, political and legal issue. Years after years both the governments and leaderships remained changing in India but what has not been changed is the toxic Indian policy or attitude in the Indian held Kashmir. Unfortunately the Indian thinking for the last 69 years has been that as longer as India delays a resolution on Kashmir the better. Yet what India cannot be changed is the irrevocable, unmutable and irrefutable truth: Kashmir legally, ethically, morally and culturally does not belong to India.

    The territory of Kashmir belongs to its people. India can suck every drop of Kashmir blood but it can never make the soul of Kashmiri people sick under its ‘tutelage’. This is why the truth of Kashmir is as live today as it was 69 years before. Same rest with the truth about the UN’s resolution on Kashmir. The ‘resolutions’ which are never moribund. As per the compliance of the UN’s Charter, the UN’s resolutions can never be inapplicable or ineffective.

    Today India has been deploying more than 80,0000 military troops in the Kashmir vale. About 3rd fouth of the Indian Army has been positioned in the valley. This holds sufficient warrants to the fact that India is terrified with the psyche of the Kashmiri people whose unflinching, unwavering and uncompromising commitment to the cause of Kashmiri freedom is the real might against the Indian military and its government. Every fragment of the Kashmiri community, man, woman and child is strongly determined to foil the Indian military occupation of Kashmir.

    But Kashmir, even according to India’s constitution is a ‘disputed territory’ and the more than six-decade-old bloody conflict in the region has so far claimed at least 98, 000 human lives, including civilians, Kashmiri and freedom activists. While the unfamiliarity of majority of Indians vis-à-vis Kashmir issue can’t be neglected, a major chunk, despite being aware of the legitimate rights of the kashmiri people, are playing deliberately attempted tactics because of their ‘ultra-nationalism’.

    On 1 January 1948, India brought the Kashmir issue to the attention of the Chairman of the Security Council of the United Nations. The ‘Presentation’ of the Indian case, the Pakistani reply, and the series of debates which followed over the years, have all tended to obscure the ‘original terms’ of that Indian reference. This was made under Article 35 of the Charter of the United Nations in which the mediation of the Security Council was expressly sought in a matter which otherwise’ threatened’ to disturb the course of international relations. The issue was an Indian ‘solicitation’ for United Nations mediation in a dispute which had transcended the ‘diplomatic resources’ of the two parties directly involved, India and Pakistan, and not, as it is frequently represented, an Indian demand for United Nations condemnation of Pakistan’s aggression.

    This point, despite much Indian and Pakistan rhetoric, can be determined easily enough by relating the contents of the reference to the ‘specifications of Article 35’ of the United Nations ‘Charter’. The United Nations was asked to devise a formula whereby peace could be restored in the State of Jammu & Kashmir so that a fair and free ‘plebiscite’ could be held to determine the State’s future. The matter of the Maharajah of Kashmir’s accession to India was not in this context of the slightest relevance.

    Pakistan’s army chief General Raheel Sharif has spoken about “raining” of bullets on people in Kashmir and made veiled references to India by talking of “covert and overt intrigues of enemies”.

    Describing Kashmir as Pakistan’s “lifeline”, he said the true solution to the Kashmir issue lies not in “raining bullets” upon people in the Valley but in “heeding” to their voices and respecting their aspirations. “Kashmir issue can only be resolved by implementing the UN Resolutions,” he said during a ceremony marking ‘Defence Day’ in Rawalpindi . “The international community, especially the permanent members of the UN Security Council and the European Union have an important role to uphold the principles of human rights and international humanitarian law,” said the adviser to the prime minister on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz.

    The United Nations itself principally promised the people of Kashmir the opportunity to express their wishes regarding their governance and the international status of their country through a fair plebiscite. Even absent that express recognition of the right to determine their status, the Kashmiri people meet all international law tests for the right to self-determination.

    The right to self-determination is end-all and be-all of fundamental principle of human rights law, is an individual and collective right to freely determine political status and to pursue economic, social and cultural development. The International Court of Justice refers to the right to self-determination as a right held by ‘people’ rather than a right held by ‘governments’ alone. The right to self-determination is indisputably a norm of jus cogens.

    The two important United Nations studies on the right to self-determination set out factors of a people that give rise to ‘possession’ of right to self-determination: a history of independence or self-rule in an identifiable territory, a distinct culture, and a will and capability to regain self- governance.The cases of Kosovo and East Timor are the current examples.

    The Kashmiri claim– to the right to self-determination–seems an exceptionally strong. The area had a long history of self- governance pre-dating the colonial period. The ‘territory’ of Kashmir has been clearly defined for centuries. Kashmiri people speak Kashmiri, which, while enjoying Sanskrit as a root language as do all Indo-European languages, is clearly a separate language from either Hindi or Urdu. The Kashmiri culture is similarly ‘distinct’ from other cultures in the area in all respects — folk-lore, dress, traditions, cuisine.

    The war in Kashmir between the Indian armed forces and Kashmiri freedom fighters automatically invokes the ‘humanitarian law’. Humanitarian law will remain in effect for the duration of an armed conflict or as long as India occupies Kashmir, a territory to which it has no ‘legitimate claim’. Humanitarian law rightly became applicable in Kashmir in 1947 with the first military actions of the Azad Kashmir forces.

    The Kashmiri War is a war of national liberation in ‘defense’ of the right to self-determination. It is legally invalid, unfair and unfit to refer to this war as a ‘civil war’. Such a ‘characterization or frame of reference’ would assume that India’s occupation of Kashmir is legitimate and the Kashmiri resistance is composed of dissident or opposition groups within the meanings set out in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 Article 3 or Protocol Additional II to the Geneva Conventions. It is also legally incorrect to refer to resistance groups as ‘terrorists’, given their status as military resistors to foreign occupation in a war of ‘national liberation’.

    The Kashmiri people first ‘established’ military units in the late 1940s to defend themselves against the ‘maharajah’s forces’ and then the Indian forces and to vindicate their right to self- determination. At present there are manifold opposition military factions of Kashmiris resisting India of which the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) is one of the oldest and widely supported and espoused. It is reasonably reported that several other groups also enjoy wide following. Kashmiri armed militants operate under their own military commands. Since the Indian forces entered into combat against the Azad Kashmir forces in 1947, military actions against the Kashmiri people has continued to the present. It blatantly worsens in response to renewed demands by the Kashmiri people for their self- determination.

    The Modi government’s policy to suppress the cause of Kashmir freedom by dint of military might can no more be a successful tactic in preventing the Kashmiris to defend their substance of freedom granted and protected by the UN Charter.

    The herein abovementioned arguments are sufficient enough to draw the attention of the international community to play its ascribed moral, legal and ethical role in the Indian held Kashmir. In the upcoming session of the UN at its New York based headquater, the matter must be given an urgent consideration. And for course the issue has to be rightly upheld and tabled by the would-be Secretary General of the United Nations whose election is being currently processed and operated by the UN.

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    Moscow-Ankara move towards rappochement

    July 6th, 2016


    By Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi.



    Moscow-Ankara move towards pacification

    On 29 June 2016, Russian president Vladimir Putin and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a 45-minute-long telephone call in which they “highlighted the importance to normalise bilateral relations” and declared the need to make joint steps to improve political, economic and humanitarian co-operation.

    This comes after what the Kremlin described as a letter from Erdogan to Putin, on 27 June, officially apologising for the shooting down of a Russian Su-24 fighter by the Turkish Air Force on the Turkey-Syria border in November 2015. This led to the introduction of numerous Russian restrictions on trade, investments and tourism, damaging bilateral economic ties.

    The events of tensions

    On 3 October 2015, a Russian Su-30 entered Turkish airspace after a bombing run in northern Syria. The jet departed after two Turkish F-16s scrambled in response. The move was interpreted as deliberate by Turkey, while Russia claimed that it was merely a navigation error. In response, the Russian ambassador inAnkara was called to the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in protest, after which Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu’s made a direct phone call to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.

    A second incident took place on October 4, during which an unidentified MiG-29 coming from Syrian airspace locked its radar on Turkish jets for a duration of five minutes. The following day, another unidentified jet “painted” eight Turkish jets with its radar lock, after which missile systems inside Syria locked on to Turkish planes for about four minutes. In response to such continued escalation, NATO has stepped up its criticism of Russia, with Secretary General Jens

    Stoltenberg denouncing the violations as “deliberate.” The White House also stepped in, criticizing what it sees as “provocation U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the incident could lead to more intense escalation if violations continued.

    The Turkish initiative

    After seven months of stalled relations–barbed comments and sanctions–Russia and Turkey may be moving toward a rapprochement. On Monday, according to the Russians, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent a letter “in which the Turkish President expressed his desire to settle the situation concerning the downing of a Russian military aircraft.”

    In the letter, Erdogan “expressed his deep regret for what happened” regarding the November 24, 2015, incident in which Turkey shot down a Russian jet along the Turkish-Syrian border, resulting in the pilot’s death. The incident led to a breakdown of relations between the two countries: Russian President Vladimir Putin called Turkey “accomplices of terrorists” and imposed imposed sanctions on Turkey as well as suspending visa-free travel and package vacations to the country.

    Since Turkey shot down a Russian jet in November 2015, tensions with Moscow not only had negative effects on the Turkish economy but also limited Ankara’s involvement in the Syrian civil war. In recent months, the threat of Russian attacks against Turkish jets prevented Turkey’s participation in coalition missions as Moscow placed Turkish interests at risk by actively supporting the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the PKK’s Syrian franchise. In recent months, Turkish leaders had made it clear that they would like to leave the dispute with Russia behind them. To facilitate rapprochement, a high-level Turkish delegation recently visited Moscow and shared Turkey’s side of the story. At the same time, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on multiple occasions stated that it made little sense for Turkey and Russia to let a Russian pilot’s mistake derail mutually beneficial relations.

    In response, the Russian government announced that they would like Turkey to meet three demands – issue an apology, offer compensation and hand over those responsible for the jet’s downing to Russian authorities. Obviously, Ankara found the demands unacceptable. Provided that the Russian jet had violated Turkish airspace, accepting the Kremlin’s terms would mean accepting the charges.

    On July 1, at the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organisation’s foreign ministers meeting in Sochi, Russia, the Turkish and Russian foreign ministers met. The two presidents also reportedly agreed to work towards meeting in the near future. The Kremlin categorized the call as “business-like, constructive, and focused,” an improvement over the rhetoric of late 2015 between the two leaders.

    But it’s not necessarily smooth sailing from here for Ankara and Moscow. The two nations still don’t see eye-to-eye with regard to Syria; Turkey is staunchly in favor of booting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who enjoys Russian support. At the same time, Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian tendencies have put him more at odds with the West and politically closer to Russia, perhaps generating some of the energy in Ankara to repair relations with Moscow.

    Steps towards pacification?

    It would appear that Turkey and Russia are ready to take the necessary steps to settle the dispute through dialogue. Needless to say, turning over a fresh leaf would serve the interests of both countries, who suffered unnecessary setbacks in recent months. But it’s important to note that Ankara and Moscow will continue to disagree on the future of Syria and the Russian invasion of Crimea. And new confrontations won’t be off the table unless Moscow stops bothering Turkey and the international community.

    Officials have encouraged Russians to spend their holidays inside Russia as part of a resurgent nationalism in recent years and a drive to boost national industries. This was aided by the 2014 run on the ruble amid falling oil prices and Western sanctions on Moscow that made foreign travel beyond the reach of many ordinary Russians.

    Russians traditionally flock to resorts on Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean coasts year-round — but the number of visits collapsed seven months ago because of the Kremlin ban and some beaches are reportedly empty. Russian tourist numbers in the popular resort of Antalya in the first half of June were down 98.5 percent, the Association of Russian Tour Operators said last week.

    While experts are divided over how quickly airlines and tour operators will be able to reintroduce the sale of package holidays to Turkey, most agreed that large numbers of Russians could return to Turkey by the end of August, in time for the last two months of the summer season. 

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    A Britain without an EU: The hovering impacts

    June 24th, 2016


    By Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi.



    The verdict of the Brexit’s referendum is out. With exception of cosmopolitan London’s no to leave– espoused by Scotland and the Northern Ireland, the rest of the British voters have decided to leave the decades old UK’s partnership with the European Union- a decision that will unveil far reaching global effects, particularly for Britain, Europe, and the United States. The vote counts for ‘Leave’ have been 51.89 against those of the ‘Remain’ that are 48.11.

    The point in time when the UK would secede from the EU, including its institutions as well as agencies, and once again become an independent sovereign nation would be precisely two years after the result of the referendum in favour of a UK withdrawal from the EU. The withdrawal agreement would also have to be ratified by Parliament – the House of Lords and/or the Commons could vote against ratification, according to a House of Commons library report.


    It adds: “If the Commons resolves against ratification, the treaty can still be ratified if the Government lays a statement explaining why the treaty should nonetheless be ratified and the House of Commons does not resolve against ratification a second time within 21 days (this process can be repeated ad infinitum).”


    The Leaving criteria


    Negotiating for the EU would be a team nominated by the Commission and approved by the Council. Article 50 requires any withdrawal agreement contain both a deal for the withdrawal of the member state and a framework for a post-withdrawal relationship with it. This whole deal would have to satisfy the remaining EU member states through a vote in the European Council, and receive the support of the European Parliament.

    This timetable arrangement for Britain to secede from the EU is in keeping with the stipulations contained within the Treaty of Lisbon (2009. This stipulation will be activated after notification of a nation state’s decision to secede from the EU, in which there will be a two year period which constitutionally obligates the EU to negotiate a free trade agreement (FTA) with a withdrawing member state, and arrange the terms of such an agreement and the specific features of the arrangement in preparation for the member state after the two year period.

    This official notification of the UK’s intention to secede from the EU should also be supplied to Britain’s economic and geo-political partner nations and organisations, such as Britain’s partners in the Commonwealth; the President of the United States; the Heads of State and Government of European countries and other nations; and to the Secretaries-General of the United Nations (UN), the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the world Bank amongst others.


    Impact on Asia and Australia


    Britain has made a concerted effort in recent years to boost its involvement in the politics of Asia, knowing the growing wealth of China is tilting the global balance of power to this region.

    But Britain without Europe will be a weaker actor in Asia.

    For a long time Australia’s relationship with Britain had drifted into the realm of nostalgia, a matter of symbolism rather than strategy. But renewed British engagement with our region, arresting a decline from the days of Empire, presented Australia with a familiar partner to share perspectives, intelligence and goals.

    Europe’s grand economic experiment is gradually evolving into a deeper relationship for a shared outlook on the world. This internationalism makes intuitive sense, as collectively, Europe has immense weight as one of the world’s largest economies.

    Australia could lose influence if Britain exits the European Union.

    With Britain inside the corridors of Brussels, there was also chance to shape views. British influence helped in the decision last November for the European Union to start free trade negotiations with Australia.

    This allowed Australia to jump ahead of a push by other countries, notably Latin American nations, for their own deals.


    Impact on Europe & related institutions


    An EU without Britain might be a more united union that functions better. It might also become more divided, with a Brexit unleashing centrifugal forces that unravel the EU. It might also become more divided, with a Brexit unleashing centrifugal forces that unravel the EU.

    A Brexit could also have significant implications for NATO, wider European politics, transatlantic relations and Europe’s position in the international system. It is concerns over such implications that will shape the way countries such as the USA, Russia or emerging powers will view a Brexit. A Brexit that added to Europe’s divisions and security weaknesses, or turned it inwards would be of serious concern to Washington D.C. A focus in UK political debate on US-UK relations distracts from how geopolitical thinking about a wider transatlantic relationship will shape the response of the USA to a Brexit. The context within which a UK withdrawal takes place could therefore be another period of considerable EU institutional change, naval-gazing and tense relations between individual leaders and national elites.

    Any institutional naval-gazing would also be the result of the EU needing to make changes to its own institutions and procedures to fill the gap left by Britain. The EU would face the never-easy task of negotiating changes to the voting system used for making decisions in the European Council, a reallocation of seats in the European Parliament, changes to staffing quotas, and increases in budgetary payments to make up for the loss of the UK’s large net contribution (£8.5 billion in 2015).

    When combined with possible changes to the Eurozone, a Brexit could add to shifts to the EU’s balance of power and changes to the EU’s policies and outlook. If the UK and other non- EU members thrived and the Eurozone continued to struggle, then Britain’s withdrawal could trigger centrifugal forces leading other member states to question their membership and commitment to integration, in turn stalling integration and beginning a process that unravels the EU. The key here is likely to be Germany. In writing about the potential for the EU to disintegrate, Douglas Webber notes that the EU has never faced a ‘crisis made in Germany’, the EU’s driver, paymaster and indispensable nation.

    What that crisis might be is not clear, but a Brexit that combined with another crisis in the Eurozone or Schengen could strike deep into the EU’s heart leading both Germany and other members to question their membership. Any such ‘domino theory’ by which a Brexit makes other EU members states question and abandon their membership or commitment to integration, has to be set against the likelihood of another domino effect within the EU should the UK secure a renegotiated relationship that provokes envy elsewhere. Other states could then demand concessions, creating the aforementioned EU ‘a la carte’.


    The impact on EU’s power geometry


    The centre of power in the EU could also shift. Germany’s already strong position could be further strengthened with implications for the Franco-German axis. Britain has sometimes played a role in this bilateral relationship. France could be left facing an EU where the centre of gravity has shifted further eastwards and where Germany’s ‘culture of restraint’ and preference for geoeconomic thinking over the geopolitical, comes to shape the EU’s international standing. However, Germany might also be left feeling uneasy at the withdrawal of an ally that has helped it push an economically liberal, free-market agenda. The political and geographical centre of the EU could shift eastwards and southwards. Some member states may gain from a withdrawal, seeing it as a chance to enhance their position within the EU.


    Impact on the UK politics


    The European Question is not simply about whether to be or not to be in the EU; it is more about tensions within the UK’s party politics, changing constitution, identity politics, political economy, responses to globalization and place in a changing Europe.


    Impact on the USA & Nato


    Speaking alongside British Prime Minister David Cameron in London in April, Obama called the referendum “a matter of deep interest to the United States because it affects our prospects as well. The United States wants a strong United Kingdom as a partner. And the United Kingdom is at its best when it’s helping to lead a strong Europe.” But U.S. officials have also stressed that whatever the result of the vote, it will not change U.S.-U.K. relations. State Department spokesman John Kirby said last week, “We don’t anticipate anything changing the special relationship that we have with the U.K.” But the commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, warned on the BBC that if the EU begins to become unraveled, there “can’t help but be a knock-on effect for the NATO alliance.”

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    The Brexit paradigm: winds of change?

    June 16th, 2016

    By Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi.



    UK’s former Prime Minister Sir John Major has launched a scathing attack on the Leave campaign accusing it of misleading people.

    A supporter of remaining in Europe, Major accused the Leave campaign of being “dishonest” and “verging on the squalid”.

    “I’m not prepared to give the benefit of the doubt [to the Leave campaign]… this is a deceitful campaign,” he said appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday morning.

    Research from the Economist Intelligence Unit forecasts that in the first instance there will be tumultuous financial market volatility, followed by a “swift impact on the real economy with households and businesses reining in their spending until the dust settles”.

    The research joins the likes of the Treasury, International Monetary Fund and Bank of England in predicting a negative economic shock from a Brexit vote.

    Specifically, there would be a sell-off in UK assets and a depreciation of the pound, with yields increasing, consumer confidence slumping and companies delaying investment and hiring decisions.

    In January and February as David Cameron sought an agreement with other European Union leaders to change the terms of Britain’s membership. He says the deal, which will take effect immediately if the UK votes to remain in the EU, gives Britain “special” status within the 28 nation club, and will help sort out some of the things British people say they don’t like about the EU, such as high levels of immigration and giving up the ability to run our own affairs.



    Why the Brexit?


    The proponents of the Brexit believe Britain is being held back by the EU, which they say imposes too many rules on business and charges billions of pounds a year in membership fees for little in return. They also want Britain to take back full control of its borders and reduce the number of people coming here to work. One of the main principles of EU membership is “free movement”, which means you don’t need to get a visa to go and live in another EU country. They also object to the idea of “ever closer union” and what they see as moves towards the creation of a “United States of Europe”.

    For Eurosceptics, ‘ever closer union’ threatens Britain’s sovereignty, democracy and allows immigration to pressure its social unity, meaning Britain’s security and stability would be better preserved by leaving. But Britain’s departure could allow the EU to further unite. One of Britain’s longest standing international aims has been to prevent any single power dominating Europe. The EU would be a benign power compared to previous attempts, but such an outcome warrants careful consideration.

    Significantly, if the first concern of any state is its own survival then the referendum could tear the UK apart. The immediate concern is Scotland:  a vote by the rest of the UK to leave the EU while the Scots vote to stay could trigger another independence referendum. This would lead to an avalanche of political, economic and social costs to say nothing of the costs for UK defence and national security, most notably over Trident. Northern Ireland might seem peaceful from the perspective of the UK mainland, but the peace process is under constant pressure and a Brexit could test it to breaking point. A descent into violence in the province should not be overlooked.

    Brexit could also add to tensions within England. In focusing on Scotland we have overlooked that the part of the UK that is increasingly different is London. An international metropolis that doubles as the UK and England’s capital, London has thrived from immigration, Europe and globalisation, much to the chagrin of some elsewhere in England and Britain who feel they have been left behind.



    Why retaining the EU membership?


    Those campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU say it gets a big boost from membership – it makes selling things to other EU countries easier and, they argue, the flow of immigrants, most of whom are young and keen to work, fuels economic growth and helps pay for public services. They also believe Britain’s status in the world would be damaged by leaving and that we are more secure as part of the 28 nation club, rather than going it alone.


    The campaign UK- stronger Europe


    The main cross-party group campaigning for Britain to remain in the EU is headed by former Marks and Spencer chairman Lord Rose. It is backed by key figures from the Conservative Party, including prime minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne, most Labour MPs, including party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Alan Johnson, who is running the Labour In for Britain campaign, the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, the Alliance party and the SDLP in Northern Ireland, and the Green Party

    Vote Leave – A cross-party campaign that has the backing of senior Conservatives such as Michael Gove and Boris Johnson plus a handful of Labour MPs, including Gisela Stuart and Graham Stringer, and UKIP’s Douglas Carswell and Suzanne Evans, and the DUP in Northern Ireland. Former Tory chancellor Lord Lawson and SDP founder Lord Owen are also involved. It has a string of affiliated groups such as Farmers for Britain, Muslims for Britain and Out and Proud, a gay anti-EU group, aimed at building support in different communities.


    The impact on the transatlantic relations?


    A British exit from the EU would add to growing strains on the United States’ relations with Britain and the rest of Europe, but by itself would not lead to a breakdown in transatlantic relations due to the scale of shared ideas and interests, institutional links, international pressures and commitments by individual leaders. It would, however, add to pressures on the US that could change the direction of the transatlantic relationship. From the perspective of Washington, Britain risks becoming an awkward inbetweener, beholden more than ever before to a wider transatlantic relationship where the US and EU are navigating the challenges of an emerging multipolar world.


    The geometry of EU-UK relationship


    European integration has long had a security side to it whether as Franco-German reconciliation or integrating former Communist states in Eastern Europe. To what extent the EU has itself been able to keep the peace is open to debate. Nevertheless, for post-war prime ministers such as Harold Macmillan, Britain’s ability to shape the world around it was declining as rapidly as its economic base. Joining the then European Economic Community was, in part, a step forward for the security and stability of a country that had recently ended its retreat from empire and was struggling internally and externally to find a place in the world.

    Support for membership amongst Conservative MPs in the 1970s was driven by hopes that EEC membership would lock Britain into a capitalist, free market club allowing the country to shed its ‘sick man of Europe’ label, a reason some on the left resisted membership. Membership would also enhance Western European unity in the face of a still formidable Communist world, Saigon having fallen to North Vietnam only a month before the 1975 referendum.

    Today, EU membership still means a lot to Britain’s national security. As the UK’s Strategic Defence and Security Review showed, Britain’s own economic and military capabilities remain substantial, but being able to draw on the EU as a force multiplier has become increasingly central as they have been stretched to their limits. For David Hannay, the EU allows Britain to better manage challenges as diverse as a newly assertive Russia through to climate change and instability in the Middle East. Working through the EU is not without its flaws, but other options for Britain to pursue its interests such as by rebuilding the Commonwealth, developing the ‘Anglosphere’, joining NAFTA, or becoming a ‘Switzerland with nukes’, are either limited or overplayed.

    Leaders from around Europe and the world have regularly cast doubts on whether a Brexit will boost Britain’s international standing and security. Eurosceptics will argue that Britain is weak in the EU, frequently outvoted and sidelined. Such an approach views the EU through the prism of Westminster’s majoritarian politics: a zero-sum game where the Britain either wins or loses. Through such an outlook every EU member state struggles to win. The one thing that does set Britons up for failure is isolating themselves, an approach the UK has in recent years adopted more than ever before.

    And yet the verdict– of the British people on June 23 regarding losing or retaining their old partnership with the European Union–will not only herald a new history with regard to EU-UK relationship, but it will also cast an organic impact upon Britain’s relationship with the United states.




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    US-India relationship vis-a-vis Pakistan

    June 8th, 2016

    By Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi .


    US-India relationship & Pakistan


    The Indian premier Narendra Modi and the US president Barack Obama seem to have lost their love during a recently held rendezvous at the White House. The modes– between the two sides-swings towards new rejuvenation. But this show of improving bilateral talks happened at a times when the climate of relationship between Washington and Islamabad and also between India and Pakistan touches the low-ebbs. Amid this situation of US- India promising relationship, the question arises is: How would a strong relationship between the United States and India affect America’s relations with Pakistan?

    Senator Ben Cardin’s question, asked at a recent hearing of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, led to a long debate on this issue among US lawmakers, a senior State Department official and think-tank experts.

    The hearing, called to review US-India relations, moved on to Pakistan when Senator David Perdue, a Republican member of the committee, asked Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal for an update on the Pakistan-India security issues and to share the State Department’s perspective on the relationship between the two countries.

    Senator Cardin, the committee’s ranking Democrat, however, further expanded this debate when he asked the participants to help the panel “understand how the United States can strengthen its ties with India as it relates to our relationship with Pakistan”.

    Senator Cardin, while widening the debate, noted that the US had made a decision several decades ago to have a more strategic relationship with Pakistan.


    “We have many issues with what Pakistan does, but we have a strategic partnership that’s critically important to our counter-terrorism activities,” he said. “As a result, there are economic issues between our two countries, including military issues that advance US interest.”


    US-Pak strategic dialogue


    The United States and Pakistan had the sixth round of their strategic dialogue in Washington recently. The U.S. Pakistan Strategic Dialogue Joint Statement issued after the talks details extensive ongoing cooperation in the fields of energy, trade, investment, education, and science and technology, and reiterates the commitment to continue it.  It also speaks of close cooperation in counterterrorism, especially action against Al-Qaeda and its affiliates and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)/Da’esh. But on regional security issues, strategic stability, and non-proliferation, there were largely hints of policy differences glossed over by generalities, with Afghanistan being the exception where the need as well as desire for cooperation was obvious.

    Overall, the statement, though strong on rhetoric was mixed on substance. It was essentially an aspirational statement. And given the complexities of the U.S.-Pakistan relations and their recent history, one would say much work needs to be done by both sides to realize its objectives.

    The United States and Pakistan had the sixth round of their strategic dialogue in Washington recently. The U.S. Pakistan Strategic Dialogue Joint Statement issued after the talks details extensive ongoing cooperation in the fields of energy, trade, investment, education, and science and technology, and reiterates the commitment to continue it.  It also speaks of close cooperation in counterterrorism, especially action against Al-Qaeda and its affiliates and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)/Da’esh. But on regional security issues, strategic stability, and non-proliferation, there were largely hints of policy differences glossed over by generalities, with Afghanistan being the exception where the need as well as desire for cooperation was obvious.

    Overall, the statement, though strong on rhetoric was mixed on substance. It was essentially an aspirational statement. And given the complexities of the U.S.-Pakistan relations and their recent history, one would say much work needs to be done by both sides to realize its objectives.


    Afghanistan’s quandary


    Over time, both the U.S. and Pakistan governments accepted the losses grudgingly and gains ungratefully and still found each other relevant in times of need. But times have changed. Since the September 11 attacks, the relationship has gotten entangled with the ongoing war in Afghanistan.  It is never easy to handle a war-related relationship, especially when that war has not been going well. This is even more so when there are multiple issues and stakeholders with competing interests and priorities. Also impacting the relationship is Washington’s growing ties with India, along with a whole set of new security issues which have agitated public concerns, fueled by a 24-hour news cycle and an activist think tank community.


    CPEC & US-India anxiety


    And yet obsessed with the ongoing CPEC’s development, the Indian policy makers with a tacit US approval, seem to have been orchestrating a game of ‘negative trajectories’ via RAW, Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS), and Afghanistan’s Intelligence agency Riyast-i-Amoor-o-Amanat-i-Milliyah (RAAM) collaborated negative role to destablise Pakistan. The propellers of new advocacy regarding US relationship towards Pakistan emphasise that Washington must end its support for the country’s turgid ‘military establishment’ which sustains a perverse strategic culture that has ill served Pakistani and U.S. interests for decades.




    Pakistan feels bitter about Washington’s embrace of India and the blowback from US counterterrorism policies. Washington feels embittered by Pakistan’s decisions and seeming incapability of changing course.

    In retrospect, the last stand of wishful thinking in the US was the 2010 Kerry-Lugar-Berman (KLB) legislation. Washington’s strategy then was to put more money on the table to incentivise a reconsideration of Pakistan’s policies towards internal threats, Afghan­istan, ties with India, and its nuclear posture.

    From Washington’s perspective, the timing of KLB seemed right. A new civilian government was in place and in need of reinforcement. A thaw with India – a necessary condition to spur Pakistan’s economic growth  –  seemed possible. Perhaps Pakistan could be persuaded to not veto negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, since it was harming Pakistan’s standing without constraining India. And maybe both countries could collaborate on finding a workable political settlement in Afghanistan.

    KLB did not fare very well. Well-meaning but tone-deaf members of Congress included a provision supporting civilian control of the military, prompting a backlash and antagonising those capable of changing Pakistan’s national security policies.


    US-India trajectory vis-a vis Pakistan


    India should also be more confident of its own ability to shape the future trajectory of Indo-U.S. ties. After all, Lockheed Martin, the builder of the F-16, recently offered to move its production line to India from the United States to support the Modi government’s “Make in India” program. Indian elites too need to de-hyphenate New Delhi from Islamabad in their own minds. Any overture that Washington makes toward Pakistan is immediately pounced upon as a sign of American duplicity. The reality is that Washington’s ties with New Delhi are truly strategic while its relationship with Pakistan is at best transactional, whatever gloss the two sides might want to put on it. India and the United States are today talking of jointly working on aircraft carriers, discussing joint patrols in the South China Sea, and are nearing completion on an agreement to share military logistics.

    As New Delhi and Washington chart an ambitious trajectory in their bilateral ties, they need to find a more effective way of dealing with Pakistan. The Pakistan factor cannot be allowed to derail the positive momentum in this very important bilateral relationship, one that will be key in shaping the larger Indo-Pacific balance of the power in the coming years


    US’s unwarranted Indian support for NSG membership


    The U.S. has argued that despite its status outside the NPT, India is sufficiently like-minded regarding nonproliferation to merit membership. Yet the facts speak about a different version and that is that India is escalating nuclear arms race in South Asia by means of nuclear build-ups. For making its deserving case for the NSG, India needs to sign the NPT, CTBT and FMCT treaties .It is here that will work hard to meet such conditions. Like the waiver, India and the United States will have to invest significant diplomatic energy to get the required consensus for NSG membership. To build support in the NSG, which operates by consensus, India will need to take additional steps to demonstrate its commitment to nonproliferation.

    Given these ‘perceived deficiencies’ in Indian behavior, certain Western European states (and many nonproliferation experts) argue that India is not a fit case to be eligible for the NSG membership.


    US Task of keeping the balance


    Fifty years after gaining independence, India and Pakistan remain at odds. Given both countries’ de facto nuclear capabilities, their continued rivalry flirts with disaster. U.S. interests in South Asia, although not vital, are important and increasing. These interests include preventing major war and further nuclear proliferation; expanding economic growth, trade, and investment; promoting robust democratic institutions; and cooperating on issues ranging from enhancing stability across Asia to combating terrorism and drug trafficking.

    On the other hand, as part of its post- cold war politics, in 2010 the US had signed agreements of strategic partnership and nuclear deal with India as a counterweight to the rising China, although India’s excess to western civil nuclear technology and military hardware and technology as a consequence of these agreements have become a source of eroding strategic balance in South Asia. Using its very close relations with the US although India is enhancing its influence in Afghanistan to the detriment of Pakistan, as already mentioned, the US also wants to build closer relations with Pakistan.

    A message of ‘prescience’ that has to be rightly and pragmatically reckoned by the political and legal mentors in the US Congress, the military policy strategists in the Pentagon, and the diplomats/ policy experts in the US-State department is that engaging cooperatively and patiently with Pakistan remains the only viable option for the US.

    Under the ongoing South Asia environment it appears that it would be in the strategic interest of the US to keep good relations with both Pakistan and India. In this regard while India may be useful to the US in Asia Pacific, Indian Ocean and other parts of the world, as a friend, Pakistan will be significant for the US for keeping peace and stability in Afghanistan, Central Asia, Middle East, Persian Gulf and even Far East (being close friend of China), as also propounded by a renowned US scholar Danial Murkay in his book titled, “No Exit from Pakistan”.

    To conclude, it can be said that it will serve US interests better if it keeps good and balanced relations with both Pakistan and India. For this purpose the US should seriously consider signing of agreements of strategic partnership by constraining India from destabilizing Balochistan and facilitating resolution of Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India.

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    Upbeat in Russia-Greece Relations

    June 2nd, 2016

    By Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi.



    Russian President Vladimir Putin has met with Greek leaders in Athens as he makes a first visit to the European Union this year shortly before the bloc is due to weigh whether to extend sanctions against Russia over Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to build closer relations with Greece as he wrapped up a two-day trip to the EU state by visiting the monastic community of Mount Athos, one of Orthodox Christianity’s holiest sites. Russia and Greece are both largely Orthodox Christian countries and share close religious ties.


    Europe’s alarming


    Deepening ties between Greece’s new government and Russia have set off alarm bells across Europe, as the leaders in Athens wrangle with international creditors over reforms needed to avoid bankruptcy.

    While Greece may be eyeing Moscow as a bargaining chip, some fear it is inexorably moving away from the West, towards a more benevolent ally, a potential investor and a creditor.

    The new government’s intention to forge closer ties with Moscow became evident as soon as the leftist Syriza party won the 25 January election.

    Within 24 hours, the first official to visit the newly-elected prime minister was the Russian ambassador, whereas it took German Chancellor Angela Merkel two days to congratulate him with a rather frosty telegram.

    On becoming foreign minister, Nikos Kotzias questioned the rationale and effectiveness of EU sanctions against Russia over Ukraine and, from day one, the defence minister advocated stronger relations with Moscow.

    Like most members of the Syriza cadre, Mr Tsipras and Mr Kotzias descend politically from the pro-Russian Greek Communist Party.

    Mr Kammenos, in common with other hard-right European politicians, also has longstanding ties to Russia.

    Samuel Huntington’s controversial thesis on “the clash of civilisations,” which places Greece squarely in the Russian-led Orthodox axis, is rejected by many scholars, but widely accepted by Greeks.

    A global survey by the Pew Research Center from September 2013 found that 63% of Greeks held favourable views of Russia.

    Only 23% of Greeks had a positive view of the EU last autumn, in the latest Eurobarometer survey.


    Historical linkage


    Relations between Greece and Russia were established in 1828 and have been maintained since, aside from a short pause between the October Revolution in 1917 and 1924, when they were reestablished. On December 27, 1991, Greece recognized Russia as the legal successor to the Soviet Union.

    Moscow and Athens engage in active political dialogue, over 10 official and high-level working visits have taken place since 1993. The most recent one was Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ visit to Moscow in April 2015.

    At the May 9, 2015 events in Moscow devoted to the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, the Hellenic Republic was represented by Parliament Speaker Zoe Konstantopoulou.

    Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias was in Moscow with a working visit in February 2015, at the invitation of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.


    Greece is linked to Russia by strong historical ties of friendship based on shared spiritual and cultural values. Contacts between the two countries are frequent and include reciprocal visits of the ministerial and political leadership. The most recent visits of Russian officials to Greece were those of the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov (October 2013), Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (December 2013), and Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksey Meshkov (November 2014). There is a Joint Interministerial Committee between the two countries on issues of economic, industrial, scientific and technological cooperation. The Greek-Russian JIC last convened in 2013 and a new meeting is being pursued for 2015. There are also broad prospects for cooperation in the cultural sector, and by joint decision of the two sides, 2016 will be a ‘Year of Greece’ in Russia and a ‘Year of Russia’ in Greece.

    An additional important factor contributing to the development of the relations between the two countries is the historical presence in the Russian Federation of a significant number of Russian citizens of Greek origin, who reside mainly in the southern Russian periphery, on the Black Sea. The Greek language is taught at a number of Russian universities, including at the Byzantine and Modern Greek Philosophy Department of the Lomosonov Moscow State University, the Modern Greek Department of the Moscow State Pedagogical University, the Greek Literature Department of Kuban State University, and the chair of Philology of Petrozavodsk State University, in Saint Petersburg.


    What Americans think


    Russia may find some pleasure in threatening to punish the sanctions-fixated EU with counter-sanctions—much in the same way the Greeks found joy in rejecting the EU’s demands for financial discipline. Tsipras called Putin the morning after the referendum and received hearty congratulations for Greece’s exercise in democracy. But he didn’t get a single ruble in urgently needed credits. Escalating budget cuts in Russia have begun to inflict pain on Putin’s own oligarchs, not to mention pensioners. The international arbitration court’s ruling that Russia must pay $50 billion for expropriating the assets of former oil giant Yukos looms large over the stressed and shrinking Russian state budget.

    Nevertheless, Putin and Tsipras keep pretending that they could somehow join efforts in resisting EU pressure. While this is perhaps only a minor irritation for Brussels bureaucrats, it is to the great detriment of the deeply troubled Greek and Russian peoples.


    Economic ties


    According to Russian customs statistics, Russia’s trade turnover with Greece in 2014 amounted to $4.17 billion and to $2.28 billion in 2015.

    The decline in trade is related, in particular, to the ban of EU food products import imposed by Russia in August 2014 in response to sanctions against Moscow.

    Russian direct investment in Greece was estimated at $653 million in the first nine months of 2015.

    The Joint Russian-Greek Commission on Economic, Industrial, Scientific and Technical Cooperation has been in place since 1997. The commission is chaired by Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov and Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Mardas. The most recent meeting of the joint commission was held in the Russian Black Sea city Sochi in November 2015.


    Cultural ties


    The countries also maintain cultural cooperation. In January 2016, Putin and his Greek counterpart Prokopis Pavlopoulos announced a cross-cultural year at an opening ceremony in Moscow. The event program includes not only cultural exchange but also the boost of political, defense, economic, tourism, science and technology cooperation.

    According to the Russian Federal Agency for Tourism, Greece was the third most popular country among Russian tourists for the first nine months of 2015. However, this figure is 48 percent lower than that for the same period in 2014, which is attributed to the ruble exchange rate fluctuations, while the number of Greek tourists traveling to Russia increased by 7 percent during the same period.

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