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Pakistan Focus Analysis

India between denial and despair!

Pakistan has briefed P-5 and EU on the arrest of serving Commander of Indian Navy Kulbashan Yadav employed by India in spy-state terrorist’s role, and his confession of involvement in state-terrorism and subversive activities in Pakistan. The international community is also being briefed through Pakistan’s missions abroad. His confession also confirmed what the then American defence secretary Mr Chuck Hagel had said in 2013 that India finances troubles in Pakistan from Afghanistan! Moreover, while in Bangladesh in 2015, Indian Prime Minister was fool hardy enough or comically arrogant to publicly state Indian government’s role in Pakistan’s breakup in 1971. Pakistan did well by releasing video tape of the RAW Yadav’s confession. This would make those elements in Pakistan rethink their approach of faulting Pakistan for not improving relations with India. Hopefully, the issue would not end at release of the video and Pakistani leadership would continue raising such issues forcefully with India and members of the international community.

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What and how of nuclear security

According to an Indian Express report (March 21), an anonymous tip-off has helped the Indian Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to bust a mineral smuggling racket that involved exports of beryl — an atomic mineral ore of Beryllium. Six persons were arrested in end-January and about 31 tonnes of atomic mineral was recovered; the US, Canada, Russia and Brazil are the recipients. Extracts of beryllium from the mineral ore are used in atomic power plants, space technology and scanning equipment. Beryl is one of the “prescribed substances” notified by the DAE under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962. Prior to the latest operation, a 20-tonne consignment of beryl is learnt to have possibly been smuggled to Hong Kong from Kandla Port in Gujarat in October 2015. The is alarming as India being a party to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its 2005 Amendment, is duty-bound to prevent the smuggling of atomic minerals of all kinds. The emergent global nuclear order is focusing on a greater role for India’s nuclear weapon status, transfer of nuclear technology and materials especially massive import of Uranium. Despite India’s poor track record, the US and its nuclear camp followers are trying to evolve an India specific criteria to upgrade India’s NSG waiver into a full-fledged membership. The DG IAEA has recently expressed his satisfaction over implementation of the agency’s safeguard measures in the country, while appreciating the nuclear safety and security record of Pakistan; even then Pakistan is being subjected to the renewed pressure to freeze its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile capabilities. Pakistan attaches highest significance to its nuclear safety and security and is fully compliant of all international and domestic obligations. With the summit event coming to a close, there is a question about successor organization. The most popular, and likely to be accepted, idea is that of the IAEA taking over the role. In July 2013, the IAEA had organized an international conference on nuclear security that was attended by 125 states and 21 organisations. By comparison, the NSS have been attended by only about 50 odd countries and 4 organisations. Nuclear security is a global concern. Securing nuclear materials is a perpetual journey sans an assured destination. To succeed, international nuclear regimes have to come out of biased attitudes and selective applications.

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Complexities of Afghan conflict

Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Mr Nicholas Haysom, has emphasised that the Afghan Government must manage its difficult transition, as the Security Council extended the UN mission there for another year, on March 18, 2016. He highlighted five major hurdles including a contracting economy, an intensifying insurgency, an increasingly divided political environment, significant medium-term financial demand, and the need to achieve progress towards a sustainable peace. “For 2016, survival will be an achievement” for the Government, he said. “Some may criticize this benchmark as being low, but survival does not mean inaction, or merely ‘treading water,’ but it means active engagement in confronting the five challenges,” he added.Heavy fighting has continued over the winter from Helmand in the south to Jowzjan province in the north, while suicide attacks have been launched in the capital and other urban centres. In a rare exception this time Taliban continued their tactical attacks even during harsh winters; earlier, each year they used to take a break from fighting from November to March. Taliban’s recent success on the battlefield inside Afghanistan has changed the equation. They have little incentive to step off the battlefield now, given recent gains and those likely to come in the next few months.War in Afghanistan was a willful creation, albeit a wrong one. Afghans are urging an end to this needless war. For the well-being of future afghan generations, comity of nations owes to Afghans a responsible end to this war.

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Kashmir conflict: unfinished agenda of partition

All Parties Hurriyet Conference leader Syed Ali Geelani has recently commented from his hospital bed in New Delhi: “British government played a key role in creating Kashmir issue”. Any historic scrutiny into origin of Kashmir conflict leads to culpability of the British Crown representatives in India. Who would know better than Hammond that Kashmir dispute was wilfully engineered through machinations of the last Viceroy Lord Mountbatten, who supervised the “Great Divide”. On pretext of fake and fabricated accession letter from Maharaja of Kashmir, Viceroy authorised air lift of Indian troops to mercilessly supress the popular uprising against the Indian intent to annex Kashmir by arm-twisting the Maharaja.Kashmir shall always be on the agenda of Pakistan-India dialogue, whenever it takes place. It is Kashmir that defines parameters of Pak-India relationship and gives it forward movement. One has to be a Pakistani to read between the lines on India’s Pakistan policy. Pakistan really doesn’t need British foreign secretary telling how to conduct relations with India! Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is keen for normalisation of relations with India on the basis of mutual respect and mutual interest, and is pursuing this policy with seriousness of purpose. Pakistan seeks uninterruptible and uninterrupted dialogue. Neither war nor disengagement is an option. Globalised world calls for active cooperation to address common challenges. Road to peace is always strewn with many impediments and requires courage to take difficult decisions. Peace is in mutual interest of Pakistan and India. However, it takes two to tango; and India cannot be given the right of veto over what should and should not be discussed.

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Afghanistan between mysteries and realities!

Two suicide attacks one each in Kabul and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan and prompt claiming of responsibility by the Taliban could be another conspiracy to derail the upcoming direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. May be someone else is acting as Taliban. Afghan conflict often throws up events that remain shrouded in mystery.This type of environment is quite intriguing. Afghanistan should have been keen for restoration of peace and tranquillity in the country that has suffered so much and for so long because of turbulence and turmoil triggered by a host of factors. Earlier, Afghanistan and some of its friends in the West had been complaining that peace process was not moving ahead because of lack of required support by Pakistan; however, over the last two years, Pakistan has been making hectic endeavours to help forward movement of peace process. Pakistan’s keenness has been widely acknowledged by the international community. Pakistan is deeply interested in speedy resolution of the Afghan crisis as unending conflict has badly damaged it in different ways including missed economic opportunities, deteriorating security situation and continued presence of millions of Afghan refugees that are adding to the socio-economic problems of the country.

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Evolving dynamics of Afghan conflict

Last week Afghan forces pulled out of bases in Musa Qala, a strategic district of the southern province of Helmand. The commander of the Afghan army’s 215th Corps, Mohammad Moeen Faqir, said troops had been ordered to pull back from Roshan Tower, their main base in Musa Qala, as well as other checkpoints to reinforce Gereshk, straddling the main highway, one which links Kabul with the south and west. “Now that the government has withdrawn its forces from this district, we will see Kajaki, Gereshk and Sangin collapsing very soon,” said deputy provincial council member Abdul Majid Akhundzada.The outgoing commander of Operation Resolute Support and American troops in Afghanistan, General John F Campbell, paid a farewell call on Army Chief General Raheel Sharif on February 18. Campbell paid rich tributes to the professionalism and phenomenal achievements of Pakistan Army in Operation Zarb-e-Azb. He also acknowledged Pakistan Army’s efforts towards regional stability. General Raheel thanked Campbell in particular for his efforts to bring about stability in Afghanistan! Two generals reviewed the ongoing reconciliation process in Afghanistan and discussed the way forward. Though generals may think that worst of the Afghan conflict is far behind them, from a commoner’s perspectives, Afghanistan faces numerous daunting challenges.

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CPEC: JIGSAW takes shapes in Balochistan

Balochistan would remain the soft belly of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for a decade or two. And in this context, the current security sate in Balochistan is likely to stay by and large the same. Internal disturbance and foreign interference are likely to continue. Direct and indirect foreign interference is likely to remain a potent facto. Therefore, security of the infrastructure has to be planned and executed in a comprehensive way, not only in terms of gun and bullet but also in terms of community participation. Security of personnel working on the CPEC related projects could only be achieved by making the local population stakeholders in these projects through Corporate Social Responsibility offset projects. From political perspective, the things are moving in the right direction. Mid-term political transition has been smooth and without any blame game. Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Khan Zehri has once again extended an invitation to self-exiled Baloch leaders to the negotiating table for resolving political issues and building on the reconciliatory approach of the government. This process needs to be accelerated to build on past breakthroughs. Narratives that engage the stakeholders rather than isolate them are key to stability. Politics of violence have hurt Balochistan, and the use of force brings nothing but destruction. Time is ripe for a new beginning, while at the same time window of opportunity may not be unlimited.Implementation of CPEC can also help overcome a number of problems of Balochistan and therefore, it is incumbent upon the political parties not to create hurdles in the way of execution of various projects under its umbrella. If socio-economic environment of the province is changed, then there would also be no no-go area there and this would, in return, help promote national unity and harmony. Balochistan, despite being the largest, remains the least developed, least secure of Pakistan’s provinces; with poorest Human Resource Development Indicators in the world. CPEC has the potential of reversing all these miseries. In the broader context, it is a century long project that would eventually inter-connect Asia-Europe-Africa under the broader umbrella of One Belt One Road (OBOR). Finances are readily available through Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank that has a projected equity of US$ 200; other major financial institutions have also shown interest in investing in CPEC projects.

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Pakistan’s peace wish list

india-pak-fs

I tend to begin by quoting from Mohammed Hanif’s recent heart rending column “Pakistan’s needless martyrs” carried by “International New York Times” on January 22: “Last week Pakistan’s prime minister and army chief were seen huddled together in a plane on their way to Saudi Arabia and then Iran. As the rulers of the sole Muslim nuclear power in the …

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India’s Pathankot Blues!

As of now, Pakistan should scan the horizon for the immediate strategic objectives for which India wants to render Pakistan a non-factor in 2016-2017 time frame, through a combination of carrot and stick, two such objectives are: India is being considered for its NSG membership in June 2016; and voting on UNSC expansion in UNGA may take place in October-November 2016. Indian wants to keep Pakistan under pressure till a certain point then release pressure offer few concessions, then ask America to apply pressure, neutralize Pakistan’s opposition and subsequently withdraw its own concessions—leaving Pakistan high and dry similar patterns it followed for cowing in Pakistan for voting at IAEA before NSG Waiver in 2008 and the promises about playing domestic series with Pakistan before strategic cricketing decision at the ICC. Pakistani policymakers need to realize is that they can’t continue to wait for Indian initiatives and form reactive responses on the Indian projections; instead we need to reduce the space acquired by India for distorting Pakistan’s image amongst comity of nations and need to take our own proactive initiatives. At the same time, Pakistan should strengthen its relations with other neighbouring countries and form strong alliances with other regional structures—SAARC, GCC, ARF, SCO, CICA etc. This will help Pakistan in stop negotiating from a position of weakness when dealing with India. Since Prime Minster Narendra Modi came to power, India has pursued a deliberate policy aimed at sabotaging bilateral dialogue with Pakistan. India has a evolved a tendency to treat even cultural and sports exchanges as a concession to Pakistan for which Pakistan must cede some strategic space; the fate of ICCI underwritten cricket series and the way India manoeuvred to scuttle it is reflective of prevailing Indian mind-set. Pattern has it that through diplomatic gimmicks Indian projects its peace gestures towards Pakistan with great fanfare to attract international focus—thus painting Indian as lovely guy— then quietly undoes it through professional intrigue—projecting Pakistan as problem Child. Even though Pakistan is sincere in having good relations with India. However, Pakistan can’t do it all alone at the cost of its core interests, especially when the other side is resorting to intrigue to undo Pakistan’s good work. This time, so far, both sides appear to have used the Pathankot attack as an opportunity. Pakistan has taken a step forward towards demonstrating to the world, and in the current context most notably to India, that it is determined to wage a battle against terrorism and ensure that militancy does not wreck the region. Will Indian leadership demonstrate the political will to take up issues like water sharing, Siachen and Kashmir with the same determination to resolve them? And on international forum will India give up its approach of maligning Pakistan for anything that has and could go wrong in this imperfect universe? The future of peace process depends on answers to these questions.

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Pakistan in the crossfire of Iran Saudi Sea-Saw

While in Pakistan, over the weekend, Saudi deputy crown prince and defence minister Prince Muhammad Bin Salman was emphasizing the counter terrorism aspect of upcoming 34-country military alliance, and simultaneously elsewhere, Saudi foreign minister was cautioning Iran that Saudi measures could go well beyond severance of diplomatic relations and trade embargoes should Tehran continue supporting terrorist elements. Pakistan’s assurances to visiting Saudi minster during last week remained measured, unflinching support for territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia and well short of any military commitment against any third country—more specifically Iran without naming it.Since the Iranian revolution in 1979, both Saudi Arabia and Iran have locked themselves in a race for influence within the Islamic world, involving: alliance building, sectarian focused influence paddling, social well-being projects, disaster mitigation programmes, conflict resolution strategies, religious education etc. Resulting into both desired and undesired fallouts. Most negative impact has been sectarian polarization amongst Muslim societies, hence weakening the Muslim State structures, be they Shiite or Sunni majority countries. Such state-society polarizations were hardly known before mid-1970s when Islam was taken as a single identity and a unifying rallying force—say against Israel. Iran has intensely focused on sectarian element and has mobilized significant non-government influence in contiguous Shiites belts running through the Sunni-majority countries of Asia through enabling and empowering of Shiite groups and have brought them up to the level of sustainable and resilient political pressure groups. Contours of this influence enhancement are clearly discernable in the Middle Eastern Shiite population belt. Likewise, since Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979, Saudis have also invested heavily amongst their school of thought through seminaries spread in the Sunni areas of influence. Moreover, they focused on alliance building amongst the Gulf monarchies with anti-Iran bias. The difference in the strategies has been that while Iran focused on Shiite communities which were not already politically empowered, Saudis were investing in the societies and governments where Sunni regimes were already in power. Now while those communities which received Iranian support are bursting at seams for political empowerment, at the cost of Sunni status quo political order, while those supported by Saudi Arabia—sub sects of Sunni school of thought— are either struggling to retain the Sunni status quo political order or claim their pound of flesh out of the same pie—hence becoming pariah like al-Qaida or Daish. Some Sunni regimes have already lost power to Shiite dispensations—say Iraq—others managed to survive from the brink—say Bahrain. Frustrated by the Iran-P+5 nuclear deal brightening the prospects of mainstreaming of Iran and likely reversion of America to early 1970s two pillars (Saudi Arabia and Iran) Gulf policy, Saudis may be mixing up chaff with grain. They need to reconcile that now for quite some time worst is behind Iran. For over a quarter of century, Saudis were in a diplomatic slumber while American and Iranian diplomats were busy hobnobbing in low profile meeting in un-important capitals around the world charting the parameters of neo-Gulf and neo-Middle East that would evolve through 2050.Even though all indicators point that ongoing tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have peaked off; both sides are poised to continue struggling with the debris of over-reaction, however. Fault lines continue to haunt the two sides and relationship is likely to remain on tenterhooks, ready for fresh estrangement bouts on trivialities. The silver lining is that, at strategic level, good sense prevails, there is firm understanding that if conflict draws beyond certain redlines, only third parties would benefit, to the peril of both. Saudi’s need to guard against their new fond liking for interventionist war fighting through coalition making, recent American experiences are quite instructive. And Iranians need to understand that tactical gains through sub-state level interventions do not necessarily add-up linearly or exponentially to the strategic gains of the states pulling the strings of their proxies abroad.

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