Saturday, January 31, 2015

US-India Ties' Impact on Pakistan and Afghanistan; Middle East After Saudi King Abdullah's Death

How will President Obama's India visit change US-Pakistan ties? How will it impact the situation in Afghanistan? 

What is China's role in Afghanistan? Why are the Afghan Taliban visiting Beijing?

How will Saudi King Abdullah's passing change the situation on the ground in the Middle East? 

Why has the Punjab governor Muhammad Sarwar resigned his position? What's next for him?

ViewPoint from Overseas host Sabahat Ashraf (iFaqeer) discusses these questions with panelists Ali H Cemendtaur , Misbah Azam( and Riaz Haq (

US-India Ties' Impact on Pakistan and Afghanistan; Middle East After Saudi King Abdullah's Death; Pak Punjab Governor's Resignat from WBT TV on Vimeo.


Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Kerry-Modi Meeting

India Financing Terror in Pakistan

Nawaz Sharif's Poor Governance

Viewpoint From Overseas Vimeo Channel

Viewpoint From Overseas Youtube Channel

Is India Shining and Pakistan Collapsing?


Anonymous said...

A country cannot advance unless it has an ethos that comes from within it. Pakistan's ethos comes from being anti-Indian. This makes for much frustration since a positive and independent foreign policy is by definition made impossible. India's GDP is now some 11 times that of Pakistan's. It is growing much faster also. Nowhere in the World do two countries of such economic disparity compete. No one in the World, except of course Pakistan, looks upon the two countries as some sort of equals. And basically, Pakistan does not compete with India, but keeps on thinking that it does. The writer is an excellent example of this wishful thinking. Since Independence, India has always had its own foreign policy, good or bad. On the other hand, Pakistan has always implemented someone else's policy (first the British even before Independence, then the US, finally China) in the hope that somehow this would affect India adversely. It won't and Pakistan has wasted a lot of its time and resources instead of unleashing the growth factors amongst its brilliant citizens, and become essentially irrelevant in the process. Hopefully, at some time common sense would prevail for the good of Pakistan, and also the rest of the region.

Iqbal Singh said...

Pakistan has the misfortune of having its diaspora, Generals and many politicians constantly mislead Pakistanis into a bygone narrative that has expired and is no longer valid today.

India's attention is primarily on its economy. As far as foreign affairs, the US and China are far more important. Pakistan is of mention only because, obviously, India shares a border with it and the instability that Pakistan brings with its non-state actors.

For India, Pakistan has not brought any economic value in the past and is less likely to do so in the future because of the reasons mentioned in the first paragraph above. In essence, Pakistan only has a nuisance value due to the constant haggling and drawn out comparisons, statistics and the rivalry that it affords. The obsession if any ends there.

The only bright spot is in the media. Balanced and thoughtful Pakistanis are making themselves heard. Pervez Hoodbuoy, Hassan Nisar, Najam Sethi, Ahmed Rashid and others drawing attention to failed policies and blunders of the past and how Pakistanis have suffered because of it and the reason why Pakistan is increasingly isolated in the world today

Riaz Haq said...

Talking about narratives, the "India Shining Pakistan collapsing" narrative promoted by India and its newly-found post Cold War post 911 western friends has been thoroughly debunked by Indian journalist-author Pankaj Mishra who recently visited Pakistan:

...I also saw much in this recent visit that did not conform to the main Western narrative for South Asia -- one in which India is steadily rising and Pakistan rapidly collapsing.

Born of certain geopolitical needs and exigencies, this vision was always most useful to those who have built up India as an investment destination and a strategic counterweight to China, and who have sought to bribe and cajole Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment into the war on terrorism.

Seen through the narrow lens of the West’s security and economic interests, the great internal contradictions and tumult within these two large nation-states disappear. In the Western view, the credit-fueled consumerism among the Indian middle class appears a much bigger phenomenon than the extraordinary Maoist uprising in Central India.
Traveling through Pakistan, I realized how much my own knowledge of the country -- its problems as well as prospects -- was partial, defective or simply useless. Certainly, truisms about the general state of crisis were not hard to corroborate. Criminal gangs shot rocket-propelled grenades at each other and the police in Karachi’s Lyari neighborhood. Shiite Hazaras were being assassinated in Balochistan every day. Street riots broke out in several places over severe power shortages -- indeed, the one sound that seemed to unite the country was the groan of diesel generators, helping the more affluent Pakistanis cope with early summer heat.

In this eternally air-conditioned Pakistan, meanwhile, there exist fashion shows, rock bands, literary festivals, internationally prominent writers, Oscar-winning filmmakers and the bold anchors of a lively new electronic media. This is the glamorously liberal country upheld by English-speaking Pakistanis fretting about their national image in the West (some of them might have been gratified by the runaway success of Hello magazine’s first Pakistani edition last week).

But much less conspicuous and more significant, other signs of a society in rapid socioeconomic and political transition abounded. The elected parliament is about to complete its five- year term -- a rare event in Pakistan -- and its amendments to the constitution have taken away some if not all of the near- despotic prerogatives of the president’s office.

Political parties are scrambling to take advantage of the strengthening ethno-linguistic movements for provincial autonomy in Punjab and Sindh provinces. Young men and women, poor as well as upper middle class, have suddenly buoyed the anti-corruption campaign led by Imran Khan, an ex-cricketer turned politician.

After radically increasing the size of the consumerist middle class to 30 million, Pakistan’s formal economy, which grew only 2.4 percent in 2011, currently presents a dismal picture. But the informal sector of the economy, which spreads across rural and urban areas, is creating what the architect and social scientist Arif Hasan calls Pakistan’s “unplanned revolution.” Karachi, where a mall of Dubai-grossness recently erupted near the city’s main beach, now boasts “a first world economy and sociology, but with a third world wage and political structure.”

Even in Lyari, Karachi’s diseased old heart, where young gangsters with Kalashnikovs lurked in the alleys, billboards vended quick proficiency in information technology and the English language. Everywhere, in the Salt Range in northwestern Punjab as well as the long corridor between Lahore and Islamabad, were gated housing colonies, private colleges, fast- food restaurants and other markers of Pakistan’s breakneck suburbanization....

Riaz Haq said...

Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar on Thursday announced his decision to resign as the governor of Punjab, saying that there was a deficit of truth in the country and he could not solve the problems of the people.

President Mamnoon Hussain accepted the resignation. Sarwar said the land mafia and land grabbers were more powerful than a governor in Pakistan. “As a governor, I failed to address the problems. I regret to say that the land mafia and land grabbing have become a business and these mafias are more powerful than a governor,” said Sarwar, addressing a news conference at the Governor’s House.

Sarwar said it was really regrettable that oppression and injustice were on the rise in Pakistan, land mafias were active, incidents of crimes against women — such as rape and acid-throwing — were increasing, children were abducted, raped and murdered but their relatives had no access to justice. “Ethnic minorities are insecure, people’s lives and properties are not safe,” added the ex-governor.

“Despite the passage of 68 years of our independence, half of the country’s population has no access to clean drinking water and 23 million children are deprived of school education,” he said. He said he regretted that he had failed to come up to people’s expectations, especially overseas Pakistanis.

The overseas Pakistanis, he added, rendered great services for Pakistan and they were sending billions of rupees annually to the nation.

“I will live and die in Pakistan, and serve my country whole-heartedly,” said Sarwar. He said he would not leave the country like Shaukat Aziz and Moeen Qureshi.

The former governor, who assumed office in August 2013, said he was thankful to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan for his appointment.

Iqbal Singh said...

@Riaz Haq

Sir, once again you have misdirected the old "The India Shining" slogan that was created in 2003 by the BJP election committee.

The slogan was then used as a central theme in the BJP's campaign for the 2004-05 national elections, a move criticized by the BJP's political opponents, who felt that public money was being used for partisan purposes. In response, the Indian Election Commission banned the slogan's broadcast until after the elections, although BJP politicians continued to use the slogan in the upper house and other state and provincial political contexts.

Please read The Hindu, Feb 7th, 2004

In 2005, the BJP stopped using the India Shining slogan. The Mishra opinion article is at least that many years old and is misconstrued by you. It is out of context today and has no bearing on India's foreign affairs.

Riaz Haq said...

Iqbal Singh: "once again you have misdirected the old "The India Shining" slogan that was created in 2003 by the BJP election committee"

Talking about "India Shining" vs "India Rising" is splitting hair.

Read again what Mishra wrote in April 2012 issue of Bloomberg titled " Pakistan’s Unplanned Revolution Rewrites Its Future"

"...I also saw much in this recent visit that did not conform to the main Western narrative for South Asia -- one in which India is steadily rising and Pakistan rapidly collapsing."

Riaz Haq said...

US President Barack Obama on Monday proposed more than USD 1 billion in civilian and military aid to Pakistan, describing it as a "strategically important nation".

The key elements of the proposed budget include strengthening Pakistani military for its fight against extremism, safety of nuclear installation, stability in Afghanistan, economic development and improvement in ties with India.

The budgetary proposals released by the State Department, after Obama sent his annual budget proposals to the Congress shows a more than six fold increase foreign military financing (FMF) to Pakistan from USD 42.2 million in 2014 to USD 265 million in 2016.

In addition, the Obama Administration proposed USD 334.9 million for economic support fund; USD 143.1 especially for counter-terrorism and non-proliferation efforts.

Pakistan lies at the heart of the US counter-terrorism strategy, the peace process in Afghanistan, nuclear non-proliferation efforts, and economic integration in South and Central Asia, the State Department said.

For Pakistan, the budget demonstrates US commitment to fostering stability and prosperity, and provides security assistance that promotes counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency capabilities, the State Department said.

The budget continues to support public engagement and partnership programs in Pakistan and maintains staffing in order to support these critical US priorities, the State Department said.

Proposing USD 265 million for Pakistan under foreign military funding (FMF), the State Department argued this is essential to Pakistan's efforts to increase stability in its western border region and ensure overall stability within its own borders.

Riaz Haq said...

Modi's Hindu Nationalist thugs now target churches: Writer and activist Farah Naqvi says there has been a spate of incidents against Muslims, Christians and even Dalits [formerly known as untouchables in India's caste system] which have made minorities feel "insecure" and "under threat."
Unease is rippling through India's small Christian community as vandals mar church property and raise fears that Hindu fundamentalists have interpreted government silence as a green light to pursue a campaign that places Hinduism above other religions.
The latest incident was a break-in at a Catholic church on Monday in New Delhi. The parish priest of St. Alphonsa's Church, Father Vincent Salvatore, tried to convince police it was no run-of-the-mill theft but rather a desecration.
"If they were interested in stealing, they could have ransacked the whole thing ... It is not a theft," the priest said emphatically.
To make the point, Salvatore swept his arms across a cupboard with shelves of gold-plated chalices. All were intact, he said, as were the collection boxes filled with cash. The only missing items were vessels used to preserve the Eucharist.
The latest episode comes one week after a visiting President Obama urged Indians to defend the right to freely practice their religion. Some derided the speech as patronizing. Still others praised Obama for giving voice to an issue that the Indian government has so far failed to join.…/in-india-catholic-church-attacks-spark…

Riaz Haq said...

Did Obama Legitimize Extremist Violence With His Visit to India?

The combination could not have been more bizarre: a Soviet-style grand military parade lasting two hours; a British-Indian imperial venue in front of the former Viceregal Lodge; jingoistic display of a range of armaments, many of heavy Russian make; stifling air pollution that exceeds Beijing’s levels and is estimated to have cut Obama’s expected lifespan by six hours; sorties by brand-new US-made warplanes to showcase sophistication; colorfully dressed mustachioed soldiers riding caparisoned camels; motorcycle stunts with multiple riders that would put virtuoso circus artists to shame…

Barrack Obama drank it all in as the chief guest at India’s Republic Day (January 26), the first US president to have been invited thus, and also the first president to visit India twice while in office. Obama arrived in style, with a several hundred–strong business delegation, officials from numerous departments and agencies, and an entourage of 1,600, including forty sniffer dogs, some of them of officer rank and hence assigned suites with their handlers in the same five-star hotels as other high-level functionaries. The center of India’s capital was taken over, scoured upside down, “sanitized” and “secured” by US Secret Service operatives days before Obama arrived.

Obama had more than half a dozen rounds of talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on economic, diplomatic and strategic relations, and signed more than fifteen agreements on military cooperation and arms sales, investment and trade, renewable energy and nuclear power, “smart cities” and visas for information technology workers, and on joint projects in defense and space technology. He signed a 5,700-word joint statement with Modi and performed at five high-profile public-speaking events over three days.

Obama left India immediately after making a town hall speech where he appealed for respect for the freedom to practice, preach and propagate religion, stressed the importance of religious pluralism, and said, “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along lines of religious faith…”

This was Obama’s only reference, albeit oblique, to the concerns aroused by the ascent of Modi’s right-wing Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to national power last May, and by the campaign launched by its even more extreme associates like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS or National Volunteer Corps, an all-male Hindu-supremacist group akin to a secret society, with a history of admiration for Mussolini and Hitler) to physically attack Muslims and Christians or bully them into “reconverting” to Hinduism.

Obama was speaking not to Modi’s ministers, but to a 1,500-strong audience mainly comprising students. The president made this intervention probably under pressure from US-based human rights campaigners to address the threat to religious freedom and diversity in Modi’s India. Some of the campaigners were groups like Human Rights Watch, which successfully lobbied the State Department for a decade to refuse a visa to Modi on account of terrible religious violence in Gujarat in 2002 on his watch, in which more than 1,000 Muslims were butchered.

Gujarat’s climate has remained vitiated ever since, allowing Modi to win three state elections as chief minister, which paved his way to national power. Modi won, despite a minority (31 percent) vote, by polarizing the electorate along religious lines in the populous North. He ran a high-octane, corporate-funded campaign, estimated to cost the equivalent of a US presidential election, and cynically exploited the weaknesses of opponents, especially Sonia Gandhi’s Congress.

Riaz Haq said...

Following US president Barack Obama's successful visit to the country, India is hoping to incorporate the state-of-the-art US technology to boost the potency of a planned aircraft carrier. The move is aimed at countering China's military influence in the region.

Meanwhile, some media reports have surfaced suggesting that US and India's nemeses - Russia and Pakistan - may be looking to renew their friendship.
The proposal for military cooperation between India and the United States has, however, not been confirmed; but obliquely referred to in a joint statement made towards the end of President Obama's visit to India, reports Reuters.
"India is destined to be a strategic partner of the United States," Ashton Carter, Obama's nominee for Defence Secretary, announced during his confirmation hearing on Wednesday. While addressing the US Senate Armed Services Committee, he added that he personally would take a strong interest in strengthening US-India ties, if news of sharing aircraft carrier technology is confirmed. He further said that a "great deal" could be done to strengthen the military and defence technology cooperation between the "world's greatest democracy" and the "world's largest democracy".
Even though the news has not been confirmed, it would take at least a decade for such an Indian aircraft carrier to be ready. Nevertheless, the cooperation is expected to help bring a balance against China's escalating presence in the Indian Ocean.
The cooperation between India and US would also ensure that the former does not rely on Russia, US's greatest competition in terms of military expansion, for military hardware.
Meanwhile, India's arch enemy – Pakistan - is reportedly making efforts to warm up to Russia, which have been frosty since the Cold War. Pakistan is mulling over buying three dozen Russian Mi-35 helicopters and using the European nation's assistance to counter terrorism, narcotics, and meet chronic energy shortages, according to the guardian.

Riaz Haq said...

On February 9, China’s assistant foreign minister, Liu Jianchao, joined his Afghan and Pakistani counterparts in Kabul for the first round of a new trilateral strategic dialogue. The dialogue, attended by Liu, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, and Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai provided a tantalizing glimpse of what trilateral cooperation between these neighbors could mean for Afghan stability.

As Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying noted in her press conference today, Afghanistan’s security situation was “a major topic” at the trilateral dialogue. All three countries “reaffirmed their commitment to [the] peace and stability of Afghanistan and the region” and China and Pakistan emphasized their support for a peace process “led and owned by the Afghans.”

Though the emphasis was on security, most of the deliverables from the meeting were actually in the economic realm, where China is most comfortable. China committed to helping build a hydro-electric dam on the Kunar River and to constructing new road and railroad connections between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Kunar dam, to be constructed within Afghanistan but close to the Pakistan border, is expected to provide electricity for both countries.

Indeed, the whole theme of the meeting seems to have been greater Afghan-Pakistani cooperation, facilitated by China. Afghanistan’s representatives at the talks specifically asked China to “play a constructive role in promoting bilateral interactions between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” according to Hua. China has a close relationship with Pakistan, often described as an “all-weather friendship.” Kabul hopes that China can use its unique ties with Islamabad to pressure Pakistan into playing a constructive role in Afghan security. Afghanistan in particular wants Pakistan to nudge the Afghan Taliban into negotiations over a true unity government – rather than supporting the group’s more militant ambitions.

Beijing itself hosted representatives from the Taliban last year, in what was widely read as an indication China is willing to play the role of mediator in negotiations. But Afghan officials believe that Pakistan will have to be at the table as well and they hope China can help convince its ally to join the negotiations in good faith. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will be in Islamabad later this week; Kabul will be watching closely.

U.S. officials interviewed by the Wall Street Journal believe that China is ready to become more politically involved in promoting Afghan security – both through mediation and through more concrete measures such as stepping up the training of Afghan troops. However, the recent trilateral dialogue mostly limited itself to economic commitments. Promoting economic projects that will link Afghanistan and Pakistan has undeniable political ramifications, but still relies on the tools (investment and aid) China has grown accustomed to using around the world.

Outside of economic deals, China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan committed to broadening their cooperation on counter-terrorism, but there are no specifics on how the countries will do so. All three countries have suffered from deadly terrorist attacks in the past year and remain concerned about the growing influence of jihadist militants groups (including not only the Talban but Islamic State, which has been ramping up its activities in the region as well).

Riaz Haq said...

India is sending its top foreign ministry official to Pakistan to resume talks after a six-month hiatus.

Taking advantage of the Cricket World Cup, where their teams play this weekend, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted Friday he spoke to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the phone and offered to further strengthen ties.

Sharif welcomed the Indian official's proposed visit to Pakistan "to discuss all issues of common interest," Sharif's press secretary said in a statement in Islamabad. No dates have been announced for the visit.

Modi also said he spoke to leaders of some of India's other neighbors — Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan — all cricket-mad nations participating in the sports competition being jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

"Conveyed my best wishes for the Cricket World Cup," Modi said.

India's Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar is also scheduled to visit Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan apart from Pakistan, Modi said.

Last August, India called off talks with Pakistan after its ambassador in New Delhi met with Kashmiri separatist leaders, saying the Pakistani official could either talk with India, or talk with the rebels.

The setback came shortly after India and Pakistan had agreed to resume talks in May when Sharif attended Modi's inauguration.

As tensions increased, Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged fire regularly in the disputed Kashmir region.

India and Pakistan have used "cricket diplomacy" to break past impasses.

Then-Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met with then-Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2011 during a World Cup cricket match in the northern city of Chandigarh, using the same cover employed in 2005 by then-President Pervez Musharraf for a meeting with Singh during an India-Pakistan cricket match.

Then-President Ziaul Haq visited Jaipur, India, to watch a cricket match between the two countries in the 1980s.

Since their independence from Britain in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three wars, two of them over Kashmir. Both countries control parts of the Himalayan region and claim it in its entirety.

Riaz Haq said...

#American, #Indian troops struggle to understand each others' accents in US-#India military exercise in #Washington …

Gunfire rang out violently. Indian and American troops stormed a compound in Leschi Town, a mock city soldiers use for urban combat training at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. The soldiers hauled ladders to scale the walls while a machine-gun team laid down suppressing fire from a nearby ridge.

The soldiers hurriedly scurried over the wall shouting instructions at each other. The American and Indian troops occasionally struggled to understand each others' accents — and vocabularies. The Indian troops' English had different words for tactics and formations.

But the soldiers ultimately figured out how to communicate fairly quickly — often through gestures — as they worked together to take the facility. Mixed teams worked together to breach doorways and clear out buildings.

It's part of Exercise Yudh Abhyas 2015, the 11th iteration of an annual exercise between the U.S. and Indian militaries. The two militaries trained together for two weeks in September while also breaking for social functions like going to the beach and tailgating at a Mariners game.
In recent years, U.S. President Barack Obama has put renewed military focus on Asia as part of the "Pacific Pivot." The U.S. has strengthened ties with Cold War allies Japan and the Philippines — and even former enemies such as Vietnam — many of whom are suspicious of China's growing military strength and increasingly bold moves in the South Pacific.

JBLM is home to the U.S. Army's I Corps, which oversees Army units based on the American West Coast, most of which operate in Asia and the Pacific. While Indian troops trained at JBLM, I Corps also hosted Japanese troops just across the Cascade Mountains as they trained at the Yakima Training Center.

India, in many ways, shares concerns about its large and powerful neighbor. Lately, trade relations between the two giants have heavily favored China. There have also been continued tension along the border. In September 2014, Indian authorities accused the Chinese military of crossing the border into India's Chumar sector.

"India is a major regional power, at present, in Asia with a long standing border dispute with China with no foreseeable solution," said Gopalan Balachandran, a researcher at India's Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses. "It is a border dispute over which the two countries had gone to war, of a sort, in the past and where Chinese actions in recent past have raised tensions between the two countries."

"Many of the East and South East Asian countries have felt, and expressed in many open fora, that India should play a more active role in future Asian security architecture," Balachandran added.

Cohen said that New Delhi is definitely wary of Beijing's growing military strength and the security along the two nations' borders. But he added that preparing for natural disasters, "broken down governments," and quelling insurgencies are in many ways more pressing in the eyes of many Indian officials than fear of potential Chinese expansionism, which Cohen called a "hypothetical threat."

Tragedies such as the massive 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the destructive earthquake in nearby Nepal have made New Delhi concerned about disaster readiness. In the immediate aftermath of such huge cataclysms, the military's logistical capabilities are often needed to deliver aid and conduct search and rescue operations.