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Asian Century on a Knife-edge

Asian Century on a Knife-edge

by John West [Courtesy Asia Century Institute].China and other Asian countries will dominate global politics and the world economy in the 21st century. Right? That's the usual refrain. After all, Asia has stunned the world with decades of stellar growth, and by some measures, China has already become the world's biggest economy. And while China's economy has slowed sharply, it is still growing at the respectable rate of 6-7%. The rise of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States has only accelerated the global shift towards Asia. Trump's America has relinquished global leadership, notably through its withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, and the Trans Pacific Partnership, along with burgeoning protectionism, while China is positioning itself as a defender of the liberal international order. Indeed, China is demonstrating remarkable global leadership through initiatives like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the Belt and Road Initiative. Today, China is increasing appearing to be a much safer and steadier global leader as Trump competes with North Korea's Kim Jong-un in the global hysteria stakes, and the White House and Washington have descended into turmoil, which is paralysing the capacity of the Trump administration to get things done. Washington's allies in East Asia and even Australia are now questioning the reliability of the US.

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How Not to Engage With Pakistan

How Not to Engage With Pakistan

by Richard G. Olson [Courtesy The New York Times] President Trump’s decision last week to suspend almost all security aid to Pakistan, which quickly followed his accusation that Pakistan had “given us nothing but lies and deceit,” suggests that his administration is carrying out the hard-line approach that the president foreshadowed in August.The harsh truth is that American leverage over Rawalpindi and Islamabad has been declining. And as United States aid levels have diminished — reflecting bipartisan unhappiness with Pakistani policy — aid from the Chinese has increased. China has invested around $62 billion in Pakistani infrastructure under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, an element of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative. Its magnitude and its transformation of parts of Pakistan dwarf anything the United States has ever undertaken.Thus, the Trump administration’s attempt at humiliating and penalizing Pakistan is unlikely to work. Pakistan, like most countries, reacts very badly to public attempts to force its hand. It is likely to respond by showing how it can truly undercut our position in Afghanistan.

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Pakistan’s gracious approach towards Jadhav

Pakistan’s gracious approach towards Jadhav

When Indian media and parliament were belittling Pakistan over Jadhav’s meeting with his mother and wife, they should have also taken stock as to how India treats its own prisoners. Indian MPs need to go through the memoir of journalist Iftikhar Gilani arrested for several months on false charges of spying. Gilani narrated in his book “My days in Prison” about the way his meeting took place with his wife: “I saw Aanisa. She was looking tired and pale. It was extremely frustrating not to be able to talk to her without the barriers. It was very difficult to see her under the watchful eyes of my tormentors. I could see Aanisa was also under great anxiety … Just getting to jail was difficult, and added to that was the incontestable humiliation at the hands of the jail staff she had to contend with.” Afzal Guru and Maqbool Butt are other examples of the way India illtreats its own prisoners. Let Jadhav be the judge, as to which of the two countries treat their prisoners more humanely. While Indian Foreign Minister Shushma Swaraj is known for playing dirty on grant of visa to Pakistani nationals even for pilgrimage and medical treatment, Indian Navy Commander Jadhav’s mother publicly thanked Pakistan for the humanitarian gesture. In a video message, Jadhav also thanked Pakistan’s government for setting up the meeting. “Thankful to the government of Pakistan for this kindness.” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister aptly put it: “We have allowed access to Jadhav’s family purely on a humanitarian basis. However, if we were in the same place, India wouldn’t have been so kind to us.” It is deplorable that as Pakistan was arranging a meeting of terrorist-spy Jadhav with his family members, Indian troops engaged in unprovoked firing on the Line of Control killing three Pakistani soldiers and injuring another on Rakhchikri sector.

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American hangover of unipolar World

American hangover of unipolar World

The new US National Security Strategy 2017 has three cardinal points: “America First” shall be the underwriter of the US national security strategy; America shall compete against China and Russia; and, Climate change is no longer a priority. Strategy explicitly designates China and Russia as top national security threats, based on presumption that the two countries “challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity.” Policy has also hurled unsubstantiated allegations towards Pakistan. Pakistan has rejected these unfounded accusations that belie facts on ground and trivialize Pakistan’s efforts for fighting terrorism and its unmatched sacrifices. Document has also attracted strong rebuttals from China and Russia. Strategy is reflective of American hangover of unipolar World. American hangover of unipolar World American hangover of unipolar World Every NSS articulated since mandated by the Goldwater-Nichols Act 1986 has either been quickly forgotten or never implemented. Foreign policy follows its own trajectory, wars are declared whimsically, allies go their own way, unforeseen threats emerge more frequently than those forecast in the NSS. Congress does not appropriate funds in line with NSS predictions.

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Jerusalem conundrum

Jerusalem conundrum

Despite crude threats by the United States, comity of nations has expressed over-whelming global sentiment in favour of Palestinian people through 129-8 UN General Assembly resolution. Middle East is entering the culminating phase of post Cold War American vision about this region—Israel pliant Middle East. Trump’s announcement to recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel was topping of the cake. It prompted an outpour of anger in the Muslim and Arab world. Collective and formalized response was channeled through the summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). With the Islamic world itself mired in division, the summit fell well short of agreeing on any concrete sanctions against Israel or the United States. The status of Jerusalem, a city holy to Christians, Jews and Muslims, is perhaps the most sensitive issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel sees the entire city as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state. And the Pope aired the Christian aspirations. Jerusalem conundrum thrown up has shaken the entire World.

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Drivers of instability in South Asia

Drivers of instability in South Asia

South Asia is an instable region; two major drivers of this situation are hegemonic designs of Indian leadership, and continued occupation of Afghanistan by the United States. Other contributory factors are inter-state territorial and resource distribution claims amongst the constituent states. With simultaneous rise of ultra-right nationalist leadership in the US and India, both leaderships have found a common ground in operationalizing Machiavellian tactics by perpetuating instability in select hotspots. This convergence of interest is resulting in prolonging the hardship of Kashmiri and Afghan people. Impeding development projects of Pakistan is another facet of Indian strategy, while the US is ganging up South China sea and East China sea littorals to bog down China in its own proximity. Then, there is second ring having heavy weights like japan, India and Australia to blunt Chinese growth. Pakistan is paying a high price for instability in Afghanistan. Presence of terrorist safe havens in Afghanistan is an established reality. Latest report by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) confirms that more than 43 percent of Afghan territory is not under the control of the Afghan Government. This is alarming as it provides opportunity for all kinds of terrorist groups to use these as sanctuaries. Pakistan wishes to have friendly relations with all its neighbors. Pakistan, as a responsible member of the international community believes in peace and strategic stability—in South Asia and beyond.

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Booted out from Doklam, India meddles in Gilgit-Baltistan

Districts of Gilgit Baltistan

After a humiliating set back in Doklam to disrupt One Belt One Road (OBOR), India has shifted its focus on impeding China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by fermenting unrest in Gilgit-Baltistan(GB). Importance of GB territory shot up in 1984 with the opening of the Karakoram Highway and this region's population came to be more connected with mainland Pakistan. With the improvement in connectivity, local population availed opportunities of getting educated in the rest of Pakistan. Improved connectivity also allowed broader socio-political development. Political parties of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir were able to setup local branches, and raise political awareness in the region. Root-taking by these political entities have played a laudable role in organizing a movement for democratic rights among the residents of GB.Rather than making efforts to have political engagement in Kashmir and truly follow the oft repeated assertion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to emulate Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s doctrine based on “Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat and Kashmiriyat”, all those forces who are promoted and patronized by New Delhi are adding fuel to the fire. Pakistan has set an example by following a principled approach towards managing its GB region politically, India could learn a lot from this model.

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Out of the frying pan into the fire!

Out of the frying pan into the fire!

When a journalist asked Tillerson if it would be accurate to say that he received a message of defiance from the Pakistanis who told him, “We will not be coerced”. “That would be a complete mischaracterisation of the meeting,” replied Tillerson, alongside affirming that he told Pakistan that Washington would implement its new strategy with or without Islamabad because “this is what we think is necessary. And if you don’t want to do that, don’t feel you can do it, we’ll adjust our tactics and our strategies to achieve the same objective a different way”. So, even though the Pka-US relationship may have receded a bit from the brink, it is likely to remain troublesome. Current America thinking is that through a reinforced military option, it could subdue the Taliban, and the Taliban also think that their war is winnable through more and more application of military power. Hence, at least for now, there is no desire from either side to take a route of political process leading to peace. Earlier this month, CIA Director Mike Pompeo speaking at a security conference at the University of Texas vowed to make the CIA more vicious and unleash it against the Taliban. Reports on the kill and hunt programme approved by the Trump administration, and Pompeo’s comments, reveal true US strategy for Afghanistan. Likes of Tillerson are just side kick in this affair. Both combatants are following the strategy of military victory, rest is eyewash, be it QCG or else. Like in other foreign policy domains, Trump has been a disappointment in Afghanistan as well. The US foreign policy is increasingly becoming victim of its historic prejudices.

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Receding American leverage over Pakistan

Pakistan Focus

While the American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in session with Pakistani civil and military leadership, Senate was castigating his remarks in Kabul. Tillerson’s recent statement in which he had warned Pakistan to move against the Taliban and other groups inside the country “or face consequences”, did not go down well with the Senate. Chairman Raza Rabbani aptly remarked that the tone and tenor of Tillerson was not acceptable to Parliament of Pakistan. “He is acting like a viceroy.” A day earlier, while speaking at a press conference in Kabul, on October 23, Tillerson had said that during his visit to Islamabad he would reinforce Trump administration’s demand to move against the Taliban and other extremists based inside its borders or face the consequences. While American actions are eroding ts leverage over Pakistan, America continues to pose as if it is enhancing. This dichotomy is breeding confusions at policy and functional level. How do we interpret such confusing statements of American leadership? For this we may refer to Iranian supreme leader’s October 19 remarks: “[Trump] pretends to be an idiot, but we should not let our guard down”.

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A view from India: Sectarianism suppressing democratic right of Expression

Cattle triggers violence in India

Freedom of expression has been the core value which accompanied the struggle for India’s Independence. The British did attempt to stifle the voices of dissent but the freedom fighters did see this as a crucial mechanism of rooting democratic ethos in the society. At heavy cost the major leaders had to face the wrath of British colonialist powers for upholding the foundation of a democratic society through freedom of expression. The same values got enshrined in our Constitution, with various articles and clauses upholding it. What we are witnessing today is a stifling of dissent from the ruling party, the ruling ideology of sectarian nationalism. The suppression of dissent and freedom of giving expression is not just through control of media and stifling of writers. Ruling party; through control of a section of media; is using heavy hand to control the free thinkers. One major and frightening phenomenon accompanying this attempt to muzzle the dissenting opinions has been to eliminate the thinker’s writers physically.Diverse opinions, debated in an open spirit are the best guarantee for democratic society. The sectarian ideologies are opposed to democratic ethos and so they are pushing the intolerance worse possible levels. There is a need to protect the democratic freedom by combating communalism.

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