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Tag Archives: America

Another ‘Ugly American’ in the making

Ugly American

So far Donald J Trump has not outgrown his campaign style, he continues to manage his transition in the same manner from the 58th floor of Trump Tower. Smart and experienced Republicans are being sidelined in favour of men having a track record of hate. Initial indicators point out that: a man associated with white supremacy may be the chief strategist; future attorney general may be a person dropped to judgeship on account of alleged racism; and an Islamophobe may be the National Security Advisor. Trump’s new partners in shaping world economy are likely to be ‘Brexit and make in India lobbies’. indeed another 'Ugly American' may be in the making.

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America and Pakistan’s nuclear programme

Nawaz Obama Summit

Father of Pakistan's nuclear programme Abdul Qadeer Khan said while addressing a gathering in Islamabad on the 18th anniversary of Pakistan's first nuclear tests, that: “We were able and we had a plan to launch nuclear test in 1984. But President General Zia-ul-Haq had opposed the move”. Presidents Zia-ul- Haq and CarterHe thought it could invoke international military intervention and curtailment of aid flow. Notwithstanding, his commitment to Pakistan's nuclear weapon programme was unwavering: as firm as iron. Progress towards comprehensive nuclear disarmament is being delayed by some countries who advocate abstinence for others but are unwilling to give up their large inventories of nuclear weapons or their modernisation ambitions. Instead of fulfilling their legal disarmament obligations, these States have exclusively pursued non-proliferation with messianic zeal. The largest event of the century in the context of horizontal nuclear non-proliferation is Indo-US Agreement 123, which has set the precedent of keeping nuclear power reactors outside IAEA safeguards. The Indo-US nuclear deal provides India with fissile material for at least 50 additional warheads every year sans all other resources. Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz informed Senate on May 19 that Pakistan is considering to move a resolution in United Nations General Assembly in the next session, urging it to declare the Indian Ocean a “nuclear free zone”. Pakistan is planning to highlight the dangerous implications of India’s plans to nuclearize the Indian Ocean at all relevant international forums. Issue of recent test of India’s advanced air defence missile Ashwin would also be raised with all major powers ‘bilaterally and multilaterally’. Here, one could recall the fate of similar efforts by Pakistan during 1980s to declare South Asia a nuclear weapon free zone. Pakistan’s new effort of having Indian Ocean declared as nuclear free zone shall also meet similar end. Since the inception of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, America is orchestrating a smear campaign against it. Fast forward: On May 27, 2016 deputy spokesperson of US State Department Mark Toner made this tilt more clear and visible when he blatantly declared that India is entitled to and qualifies for the membership of the NSG. While trying to prove Indian credentials for the NSG membership, the deputy spokesperson totally ignored the legitimate right of Pakistan in this regard. The US is likely to continue its discriminatory policy and go an extra mile to help New Delhi become member of the NSG. This coupled with nuclearization of Indian Ocean could dangerous repercussions and is bound to trigger a nuclear arms race in the region. Pakistan’s policy makers must revisit and review their approach in dealing with the United States, without straining our ties with Washington. There is need to strengthen our lobbying in the United States to present our point of view more effectively.

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Shifting sands of Afghan conflict

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Under the dry circumstances a big supportive push for Afghan peace process came from the Chinese President Beijing—President Xi Jinping. While addressing the opening ceremony of fifth foreign ministers’ meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) on April 28, he assured that his country will play pro-active role for the success of peace process in Afghanistan and to seek more international support for the country’s reconstruction. President Xi further said, China supports an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned” inclusive political reconciliation process, hopes the country can realize peace, stability and development at an early date.There is need for paradigm shift if the Afghan peace process is to take a sustainable trajectory, the QCG should convince itself that the Afghan Taliban are no more an affiliate of the al Qaeda, but represent a home grown Afghan nationalist movement. Blaming Pakistan for the Afghan rulers' failure to either defeat the Taliban in the battlefield or to coax them to come over to their side is not likely to help anyone. Pakistan is in no position to unilaterally engage Haqqanis militarily and succeed. It cannot afford to open a new front with the entity that so far poses no threat to it militarily. As Haqqanis are an integral part of the Taliban under Mullah Akhtar Mansur, any attempt to engage them by the QCG either militarily or for negotiation would be a non-starter. Likewise, attempt to isolate Pakistan diplomatically is going to take nobody anywhere. For Afghanistan and the US piling public pressure on Pakistan at the moment appears to be the preferred tactic — far removed from the broader strategic needs of the region.

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NSG Membership: Will the nuclear apartheid continue?

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Obama-Nawaz summit of October 2015 survived a derailing attempt by America media that aired reports that an1213 agreement was near completion for constraining Pakistan’s “fast growing nuclear programme. And in-return, the US would press the NSG to issue a waiver to Pakistan. While following this approach, America was capitalizing on the desperation of Nawaz government to drastically make a visible cut in loads-shedding before 2018 elections. American gamble failed. Because any Pakistani government would rather reconcile with an electoral setback than to compromise on Pakistan’s nuclear capability. America, known for its cherry pick approach on nuclear affairs, circulated a paper to NSG members in 2012 suggesting that instead of granting membership on the basis of already laid down criteria by the NSG, India’s actual nuclear profile should become the criteria for its membership. This is a clear example of going much beyond proverbial shifting of goalposts; it amounts to altogether dismantling the goal posts.There are striking similarities in the nuclear profile of the two countries; hence if criteria based approach is followed then either both would qualify or none would qualify. The US had a lot of difficulty in getting the waiver for its nuclear protégé. India gave a number of assurances to NSG in an effort to bolster its non-proliferation credentials. These included reference to its “No First Use” doctrine, Indian participation in FMCT negotiations and its unilateral test ban. Continuation of Waiver would be in serious jeopardy if India reneges from any of these commitments. Ever since, Indian strategic community is uneasy with No First Use and scientific community is uncomfortable with a ban on further nuclear tests. Thus India is desperate to get a membership of the NSG, because once a member, it will not be bound by these restrictions; rest is a fiction built around it. Major driver for America to sign Indo-US Agreement 123 was sale of its nuclear power reactors. For India’s part, even at the time of signing Agreement 123, it was quite close to fabricating its own nuclear power plants. However, shortage of Uranium had emerged as centre of gravity for its nuclear programme. Hence, for India major driver for Agreement 123 was to have openings for Uranium supply. So for no American nuclear power plant has been bought by India. And Indian Agreements with Australia, Canada and some other countries focus on purchase of Uranium. These countries have chosen to ignore the fact that projected quantities of Uranium that India wishes to buy is much more that its genuine electricity requirement, and it could be used to develop nuclear weapons. International community is wilfully violating, the little known [Senator] Barak Obama amendment to Indo-US Agreement 123 that stated that nuclear fuel provided to India should be proportionate to its requirement for production of electricity.There is a need for the international community to ponder over the results of the nuclear apartheid; it has certainly not been helpful in achieving the objective of universal non-proliferation. All countries which felt the need to acquire nuclear weapon capability, and had the requisite political will, have been able to acquire nuclear weapons. A reappraisal in this context is long overdue.

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Afghanistan: a rudderless ship!

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China has offered to host a meeting between Afghan government and Taliban, but has declined to mediate. China’s special envoy for Afghanistan Deng Xijun called the Taliban “one of the main forces in Afghanistan’s political arena.” Like Pakistan, China opposes a military solution to the Afghan conflict, and favours intra-Afghan dialogue. “We think dialogue is the only way out for Afghanistan to achieve lasting peace and stability,” Deng said. “We have difficulties and obstacles when we have in such kind of things. We have many problems and challenges ahead but if we sit down, if we talk with each other, then I think the future is bright”, he added. He reassured Pakistan of China’s continued support in addressing common challenges faced by the region. Both Pakistan and China have convergent interests and shared goals with regards to Afghanistan. A report by the ‘US Congressional Research Service’ published in October has revealed that India’s goals in Afghanistan are: to deny Pakistan strategic depth and the ability to block India from trade and other connections to Central Asia and beyond; India also wants to prevent militants in Afghanistan from attacking Indian targets in Afghanistan; it wants to prevent Pakistan from regaining “preponderant” influence in present day Afghanistan. Report added that “it (India) does not want to be saddled with the burden of helping secure Afghanistan” after the US departure. It says that Afghanistan also seeks close ties with India because it wants access to India’s large and rapidly growing economy – “but without alarming Pakistan.” Apparently intra-Afghan battles of turf shall gradually come to an end and the peace process shall resume. Peace in Afghanistan is vital for the stability of the entire region. The underlying factor for resumption of Murree process is how long President Ashraf Ghani takes to calibrate the extent and limits of his political outreach with Taliban. Extension in the tenure of foreign forces limits the chances that during next fighting season the Taliban could over run urban centres one after the other; while at the same time, it also limits the Taliban to not to finalize a political deal before at least end 2016, on the pretext of presence of foreign forces. Until then, pot is poised to keep simmering—patterns would will continue jockeying between fighting and talking seasons.

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Indian fits of brinkmanship

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American National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s visit had been planned in advance had nothing to do with the current tension between India and Pakistan. Also, it would be unrealistic to harbour expectations regarding the US role in Indo-Pak relations. Notwithstanding, trails of Indian arrogance lead towards undue coddling by America. India has to realize that the only way to bring an end to human misery on both sides of the border is to hold talks—especially on Kashmir. Idian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s frustration is understandable, due to childish approach, he has gathered phenomenal political baggage on personal, domestic and foreign policy counts. Modi’s obsession to cage Pakistan is firing back. During his recent visit to UAE, Modi tried to woo the Arab countries towards India, with a condition that they ditch Pakistan enbloc and comprehensively. He offered them defence cooperation in lieu of Pakistan’s constraints regarding sending its forces to quell the Yemen insurgency if Arab countries withdrew hand of assistance to Pakistan and show indifferent attitude to Pakistan on defence and economic matters. Again, Modi underestimated the depth of the relationship between Pakistan and Arab countries. King of Saudi Arabia made it clear in categorical terms that Saudi Arabia would never allow any Modi-led conspiracy against Pakistan to succeed. Tainted with his terrorist background, Modi lacks civility, patience and diplomatic skills. BJP needs to reconsider its prime ministerial choice lest all gained during Vajpayee era in India Pakistan bilateral context is reduced to ashes.

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Afghanistan’s erratic trajectory

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Afghan government is pressurizing Pakistan through the US, it has persuaded America to suspend the next tranche of Coalition Support Fund(CSF) to Pakistan for not doing enough against Haqqani network. Though formal announcement is likely to take sometime, reportedly the decision has informally been conveyed to Pakistan's embassy in Washington. This would cause a loss of US$ 1.5 billion; the amount has already been budgeted in the current year's budget. CSF is a reimbursement of amount already spent by Pakistan for providing services in connection with American counter terrorism effort. It is unbecoming of an ally to withhold such payments. This would be a setback for Pakistan and Afghanistan would stand absolved of what all it has uttered in the recent past. President Ashraf Ghani’s frustration is understandable, but his approach to resolve the issues is unfortunately getting more and more erratic. More than a decade long Pakistan bashing neither helped Americans nor Ashraf’s predecessor; it is not likely to help him either. Americans have corrected their course, and it would serve Ashraf well, if he follows the suite. Afghan conflict needs a professional handling. President Ashraf Ghani should have done his calculations before signing the Bilateral Security Agreement with America that a very powerful component of Taliban is not likely to compromise on presence of foreign troops on American soil. Despite stern tone in his comments on Pakistan, Ghani failed to come up with something concrete to achieve the desires objectives. Afghan leadership should comprehend that it is an exercise in futility to assume that Pakistan has compelling influence on Taliban. Bad experience of cobbling together a broad based Mujahedeen government in the wake of Soviet withdrawal from Kabul in the 1990s is not a distant memory; and ever since, Afghan insurgent leadership’s psyche has not changed much.

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Brittleness of Afghan peace process

Afghanistan

As second round of direct talks between the Taliban and Afghan government is about to begin, all is not well on the Taliban side. Amid uncertainty over Mullah Omar’s fate, internal power struggle has flared up; Mullah Omar’s eldest son Mullah Yaqoob has taken the centre-stage. He is all set to take over the Taliban leadership in case his father’s death is confirmed. De-facto Taliban head Mulla Mansur is facing a rebellion by important military commanders. Opposition to Mansur, is centred round Mulla Yaqoob. Mansur heads the pro-talks faction; while those opposing the talks are gravitated towards Yaqoob. Some Western diplomats, long sceptical about Pakistani promises, say Islamabad now seems serious about promoting Afghan stability. “This is the most genuine push we have seen from Pakistan,” said one diplomat. According to the Afghanistan Strategic and Regional Studies Centre, the Taliban’s growing political activities could be viewed as a rejoinder to mounting pressures it is receiving from Pakistan. President Ashraf Ghani has welcomed the Murree process and is hopeful that the talks would lead to restoration of durable peace. “The whole nation wants peace. During the past 14 years we tried to hold face-to-face talks but could not succeed. But it has happened now.” Ghani said. He has called upon the Taliban to come up with a list of their demands at the second round of talks. Pakistan is striving to live up to its principled stance on peace process; however, it would be unfair to assume that it exercises control over the Afghan Taliban. The start of talks is a positive step, but much could still go wrong. Peace process needs a whole-hearted support from international community and an unflinching UNSC underwriting; it’s time for the P-5 to join the effort and evolve a strong system of guarantors.

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Peace in Afghanistan: a distinct possibility

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One could now hope that Afghan peace process has gathered requisite critical mass and it would now continue moving forward. Long wait for the honest broker is over, China has filled the void. The other important factor is Pakistan’s distancing away from the current Spring Offensive by the Afghan insurgents, led by the Taliban. The only spoiler left in the …

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Pakistan’s Emerging neighbourhood

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During the last month, President Xi Jinping made two high-profile visits to Asian countries—Pakistan and Indonesia—which is indicative of China’s push for regional outreach, from East Asia to West Asia. While in Islamabad, Xi unveiled China’s biggest aid and investment package for a single country. And while in Jakarta he had a detailed meeting with Myanmar President U Thein Sein. …

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