Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Greece Boat Tragedy: Are Pakistani Migrants Fleeing Hunger and Poverty?

The extensive news coverage of the loss of Pakistani migrants' lives in the recent Greece boat tragedy has linked it to "hunger" in Pakistan. The essence of these news stories is captured by a quote in a CNN headline: "We'll die of hunger anyway". It is attributed to a young man from the Pakistani town of Gujarat who is unfortunately believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean on his way to Greece.  These stories beg the following questions: Is it really true that Pakistani migrants are fleeing hunger and poverty? How can people suffering from hunger afford to pay thousands of dollars to human smugglers to leave for greener pastures?  

Pakistan Per Capita GDP. Source: World BankPakistan's GDP per capita is about $1,600

The above questions are answered by two recent studies released by the Center for Global Development as follows:  As GDP per capita rises, so do emigration rates. Emigration is seen as an investment as migrants are better-educated and richer than others. A similar 2010 study by the African Development Bank on emigration found that the share of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa remains low despite high levels of hunger and poverty in the region.  Pakistan's rates of emigration have been rising along with  GDP per capita growth over the last decade. It is currently about $1600 per person, according to the World Bank.  Pakistan's latest economic survey  reported that the per capita income in US dollar terms fell to $1,568 in FY23 from $1,766 in the previous year and $1,677 in FY21.

Outward Migration of Pakistani Workers. Source: Pakistan Bureau of Emigration

Two studies based on research by Michael Clemens and Mariapia Mendola released by the Center for Global Development (CGD) report that those who migrate are not among the world’s poorest. To the contrary, they find that migration is seen as an investment as migrants who are better-educated and richer than others. Here are the key points about migration as reported by the studies: 

1. As GDP per capita rises, so do emigration rates. This relationship slows after roughly US$5,000, and reverses after roughly $10,000 (i.e. low- to middle-income, or the level of China or Mexico).  Pakistan's current GDP per capita is about $1,600.  Pakistan's latest economic survey  reported that the per capita income in US dollar terms fell to $1,568 in FY23 from $1,766 in the previous year and $1,677 in FY21

.2. Successful, sustained economic growth in the low-income countries is therefore likely to raise the emigration rate, at least in the short-term. As incomes rise, so too does people’s ability to afford the investments that make migration easier.

3. These new migrants will not be among their countries poorest: in low-income countries, people actively preparing to emigrate have 30 percent higher incomes than the population on average, and 14 percent of these higher incomes come from more years of education.

“The world’s poorest are not the ones who migrate,” said co-author Mariapia Mendola, professor of economics the Universit√† degli Studi di Milano Bicocca and Director of the Poverty and Development Program at Centro Studi Luca d’Agliano in Milan, according to the CGD.  “Migration is seen as an investment, just like higher education. You wouldn’t decide not to send your kids to college just because your family is getting wealthier. Similarly, families are not deciding to stay put as their incomes rise. Migration changes lives and economies for the better.”

“This pattern is not new, or something to fear,” Michael Clemens, director of Migration, Displacement, and Humanitarian Policy and senior fellow at CGD, says. “As a poor country gets richer, at first more people emigrate, until the process eventually slows and reverses itself. We’ve seen it with Sweden a century ago and Mexico a half century ago. We’re seeing it now in Central America, and we’ll hopefully see the pattern emerge in sub-Saharan Africa as that region gets richer.”

A similar 2010 study by the African Development Bank on emigration found that the share of emigration from sub-Saharan Africa remains low despite high levels of poverty. Here's an excerpt of it: 

"Results show that despite an increase in the absolute number of migrants, Africa, particularly SubSaharan Africa, has one of the lowest rate of emigration in the world .... Poorer countries generally have lower rates of emigration ......Bad socio-economic conditions generally seem to lead to higher rate of emigration by highly skilled individuals. Generally, migration is driven by motives to improve livelihoods with notable evidence of changes in labor market status."

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Pakistan is the 7th Largest Source of Migrants in OECD Nations

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Pakistan's Growing Human Capital

Two Million Pakistanis Entering Job Market Every Year

Pakistan Projected to Be 7th Largest Consumer Market By 2030

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Saturday, July 22, 2023

Pakistani Students Account For Largest Share of Increase in Interest in Europe

Interest in studying in Europe  is growing in certain key markets like Pakistan and Bangladesh in particular, according to a recent report on foreign students coming to Europe. Although India generates the largest share of relative demand, this fluctuates drastically and has gradually declined overall in recent years, the report adds.  

Interest in Bachelor's Programs. Source:

The chart above shows the top origin countries for interest in Bachelor’s programs in Europe, as well as the evolution of that interest over the last four years. 

Interest in Bachelor's Programs. Source:

Bangladesh and Pakistan also show strong demand in Master’s programs, alongside students in Turkey and Iran. The report reveals widening European interest and shift towards STEM

Among 2,835 students from 143 countries selected for the Erasmus Mundus Joint Masters program, Pakistani students rank at the top with 192 scholarships, followed by India 174, Bangladesh 140, Mexico 118, and Nigeria 109, according to an EU tweet. Currently, there are 7.114 Pakistani students studying in Germany. 

The United Kingdom emerged as the top destination for Pakistani students with 28,188 student visas granted in 2022,  up 95% from the previous year. The UK has now surpassed China has the biggest draw for Pakistani students after the COVID19 pandemic.  Of the 486,868 UK student visas granted (to both main applicants and their dependents), 117,965 went to Indian nationals. This is an increase of 80,569 (+215%) compared to 2019, and slightly more than the 115,056 granted to Chinese nationals — but Pakistani nationals saw a bigger increase in approvals for their UK student visas at 377% compared to India’s 215%, according to Study International

Foreign Students in the US. Source: Open Doors

The US also reported a 17.4% increase in the number of Pakistani students studying in the United States during 2021-22. This brought their number to 8,772, according to Open Doors. The Open Doors Report identified China and India as the largest sources of international students to the United States. During 2021-22, China sent 290,086 students, which is 30.6% of the total number of international students in the US, a decline of 8.6% from the previous year. India, which sent 199,183 students this year — 21% of the total — saw a 19% year-over-year increase. Toge­ther, China and India make up more than half of all international students in the United States.

The number of Pakistani students studying in Australia has also increased 21% to 20,935 in 2022.  The number of first-time enrollments of Pakistanis jumped 71% in the year, according to ICEF Monitor

Offsetting a decline in Chinese enrollments in Australia (177,470 in 2022, down 11% y-o-y) and zero momentum from India (128,980, up .03%) were notable enrollment increases from:

Thailand, the 6th largest market, up 61% to 25,792

Nepal, the 3rd largest market, up 21% to 71,805

Colombia, the 4th largest market, up 21% to 28,435

Pakistan, the 9th largest market, up 21% to 20,935

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Saturday, July 15, 2023

Is the West Unwittingly Helping Modi Realize His Akhand Bharat Hindutva Dream?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recently opened a new parliament building in New Delhi. Prominently displayed in this new building is a provocative map of "Akhand Bharat" (Greater India) that includes neighboring nations of Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka as part of India. After the inauguration, Modi's parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi  tweeted a picture of the mural and wrote: “The resolve is clear – Akhand Bharat.”  Akhand Bharat is part of the Fascist Hindutva ideology of Modi's party.  In the last two months since this chauvinistic display, the tight embrace and arming of Modi by the West is raising fears of destabilizing South Asia. Pakistani officials have recently talked about a revision of the country's "full-spectrum" nuclear doctrine with the addition of "zero-range" nuclear weapons as a deterrent against western-armed Hindutva-fueled Indian aggression.

Akhand Bharat Mural in Indian Parliament. Source: Pralhad Joshi

Akhand Bharat: 

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Modi's ideological leader chief Mohan Bhagwat,  the head of the right-wing Hindu organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), said ‘Akhand Bharat’ was the undisputed truth and a divided Bharat was a nightmare. 

Now the Akhand Bharat mural and its justification by an Indian minister have drawn condemnation from Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan. “The gratuitous assertion of ‘Akhand Bharat’ is a manifestation of a revisionist and expansionist mindset that seeks to subjugate the identity and culture of not only India’s neighboring countries but also its own religious minorities,” said Pakistani foreign office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch.

Western Arms Deals:

Large arms deals have been recently announced during Prime Minister Modi's recent visits to Washington and Paris. New weapons acquisitions range from modern fighter jets to submarines. India is already the world's largest arms importer. India's defense budget ($81 billion) is the fourth largest in the world, according to Stockholm-based think tank SIPRI. Coming soon after the unveiling of  the Akhand Bharat mural,  these new modern lethal weapons' purchases by New Delhi are seen as a serious threat by India's neighbors. 

America's Bad Bet:

While the western nations are seeking an alliance with India to counter rising China, the Hindutva leadership of India has no intention of confronting China. In a piece titled “America’s Bad Bet on India”,  Indian-American analyst Ashley Tellis noted that the Biden administration had “overlooked India’s democratic erosion and its unhelpful foreign policy choices” in the hopes that the US can “solicit” New Delhi’s “contributions toward coalition defense”.

Earlier this year, India's External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar confirmed New Delhi's unwillingness to confront China in an interview: “Look they (China) are a bigger economy. What am I going to do? As a smaller economy, I am going to pick up a fight with bigger economy? It is not a question of being a reactionary; it is a question of common sense.”

Modi's India is driven much more by a desire to bring back what the right-wing Hindus see as the "glory days" of India through "Hindu Raj" of the entire South Asia region, including Pakistan. The arms and technology being given to Modi will more likely be used against India's smaller neighbors, not against China. 

Pakistan's Likely Response:

General Khalid Kidwai, Advisor to Pakistan’s National Command Authority and pioneer Director General of Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division, has warned about the  ‘toxic mix of poisonous ideology’ posing a serious threat to strategic stability in South Asia. “I have no hesitation in stating that minimum Pakistani counter measures would be put in place if a reckless imbalance is induced in South Asia, it is not a warning, it's a contingency foreseen,” General Kidwai added, according to Pakistani media reports. 

In May this year, retired Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai provided new details of Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine. He has talked about "zero range" nuclear weapons. Prior to this, the officially acknowledged lowest range in Pakistan’s nuclear inventory was the Nasr, or Hatf-9 ballistic missile, with a range of 60 kilometers (about 37 miles).  Kidwai described two dimensions of Pakistan's Full Spectrum Deterrence: “horizontal,” which comprises of a robust land, air and sea inventory of a variety of nuclear weapons, and “vertical,” which encapsulates adequate range coverage of its vectors from “zero meters to 2,750 kilometers”with “destructive yields suited for strategic, operational, and tactical levels.” Such an elaborate arsenal, he argued, provides Pakistan with a “strategic shield”, blunting the extant conventional asymmetry with India. Most significant was his statement that “vertically the spectrum encapsulates adequate range coverage from 0 meters to 2,750 kilometers [about 1,700 miles] as well as nuclear weapons destructive yields at three tiers—strategic, operational, and tactical.”  Talking about "zero range" weapons, analyst Sitara Noor  explained it as follows in a recent article that appeared in Foreign Policy magazine:  

"Talk of zero-range weapons suggests that Pakistan is either going to develop artillery shells as the United States, Soviet Union, and United Kingdom did during the Cold War—raising questions of whether it is going to be an M28/M29 Davy Crockett-style recoilless rifle system, the smallest weapon in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, developed during the 1950s as a front-line weapon with yields as low as a fraction of a kiloton—or it could be a hint that Pakistan could possibly lay nuclear land mines across the India-Pakistan border to deter Indian advances. Observers, especially in India, are left wondering whether this statement is based on some existing scientific research and design testing and necessary doctrinal thought process. Kidwai’s statement does not provide any such details, and in the spirit of ambiguity that Pakistan seems to have benefited from, there is unlikely to be a follow-up soon to clear the air". 


The West is making a "bad bet" on Modi's India as a check against rising China. Modi and his fellow right-wing Hindus have no interest in confronting China. They are much more obsessed in realizing their Hindutva dream of Akhand Bharat (Greater India) by attempting to subjugate their smaller neighbors.  This obsession could lead to a destabilization of the South Asia region, including an  India-Pakistan nuclear war

Saturday, July 8, 2023

Are India's Leaders Uneducated? What is Modi's Education Level?

Bollywood star Kajol has said at a recent event that Indian political leaders are uneducated. Though she did not name anyone, she is facing vicious attacks by Modi Bhakts, a label embraced by the staunch supporters of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Here's what she said, "Change especially in a country like India is slow. It’s very very slow because for one we are steeped in our tradition, steeped in our thought process and, of course, it has to be with tradition. You have political leaders who do not have educational system background. I’m sorry I’m going to go out and say that.”   “We are being ruled by leaders, so many of them, who do not have that viewpoint which I think education gives you”, she added. 

Copies of Modi's Degrees. Source: BJP

There have long been questions about the educational qualifications of Mr. Modi who has talked about his humble origins as chaiwalla (tea seller) . These questions have been stoked by contradictory assertions by Mr. Modi and his closest lieutenants in the BJP party. First, Mr. Modi allegedly said in a 1990s interview, well before he ascended to the office of the prime  minister, that he did not have any formal education. In multiple video clips that circulated on social media, most of them before the 2014 general election, Modi mocked himself for being ‘uneducated’.  But in 2016, Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley showed copies certifying that Mr. Modi was awarded a BA (division III) from Delhi University in 1978 and Gujarat University gave him an MA (division I) in Entire Political Science in 1983 as an external candidate. In response to an RTI (right to information) query, seeking a list of students who had qualified for a BA degree in 1978, the SOL (School of Open Learning) said, "The data is not maintained in the branch in the order as desired by the applicant." It should be noted that there's no such discipline as "Entire Political Science" offered at Gujarat University.  

Attempts by Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Admi Party (AAP) Chief Arvind Kejriwal to get Gujarat University to confirm the BJP leaders' claim have so far failed. The AAP chief has now filed a review petition after the High Court set aside an order from the Central Information Commission (CIC) that had directed the university to "search for information" regarding PM Modi's degree, according to ANI reports

In an open letter,  Aam Aadmi Party leader Manish Sisodia has warned that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “lack of educational qualification” was dangerous for India. “Modi does not understand science…” Sisodia alleged. “He does not understand the importance of education. It is necessary to have an educated prime minister for the progress of India.”

The Indian Prime Minister's poor education is reflected in his lack of understanding of the complexity of the idea of Indian nationhood and its long contentious history. It also shows in his poor decision-making processes in demonetization and nation-wide covid lockdown.  

Modi's attempts to forge India's new Hindutva identity as a Hindu Rashtra are raising serious doubts about maintaining its unity. Hatred against religious minorities,  particularly Muslims, has reached new heights. In a recent Op Ed,  Mr. Shashi Tharoor summed it up in the following words:  "The BJP’s belligerent Hindutva nationalism – which promotes a narrow interpretation of history and demonizes India’s minorities, particularly Muslims – can be likened to a toxin injected into the veins of Indian society". 

Gopal Krishna Pillai, one of India’s most highly regarded former home secretaries, says “secular Hindus are uncomfortable, frustrated” adding “and don’t know what should we do in Modi’s India”. He told Karan Thapar in a recent interview that India could be 10 years away from danger point which he described as “civil disturbance” if the present treatment of Muslims is not checked and reversed,  At one point in the interview he even briefly accepted that India could face “civil war”.

In a recent interview to CNN, former US President Barack Obama has pointed out the consequences of BJP's anti-Muslim policies. “If the (US) President meets with Prime Minister Modi, then the protection of the Muslim minority in a Hindu majority India is worth mentioning. If I had a conversation with Prime Minister Modi, who I know well, part of my argument would be that if you don't protect the rights of ethnic minorities in India, there is a strong possibility that India would at some point start pulling apart,” Obama had said. “We have seen what happens when you start getting those kinds of large internal conflicts. So that would be contrary to the interests of not only the Muslim India but also the Hindu India. I think it is important to be able to talk about these things honestly,” said Mr. Obama.

The poor handling of demonetization and the Covid pandemic by the Modi government have caused untold suffering for the Indian people, particularly the poor. Modi's attempts to accelerate the documentation of the Indian economy have killed the informal sector which employs the bulk of India's workers, causing persistently high unemployment.  Nationwide COVID lockdown has further exacerbated the situation for India's poor. It has resulted in worsening inequality in the country.  A recent survey found that the income of the poorest 20% of the country declined by 53% over the last 5 years. The survey, conducted by the People's Research on India's Consumer Economy (PRICE), a Mumbai-based think tank, also shows that in contrast, the same period saw the annual household income of the richest 20% grow by 39%, according to a report The Indian Express

Modi's false claims of India's glorious Hindu past seems to have been accepted by his followers without question. These claims include the inventions of computers, rockets, spacecraft, the internet, plastic surgery and nuclear weapons in ancient India—long before Western science came on the scene. Here's an excerpt of a report on Indian Science Congress held in 2019: 

"The most widely discussed talk at the Indian Science Congress..... celebrated a story in the Hindu epic Mahabharata about a woman who gave birth to 100 children, citing it as evidence that India's ancient Hindu civilization had developed advanced reproductive technologies. Just as surprising as the claim was the distinguished pedigree of the scientist who made it: chemist G. Nageshwar Rao, vice-chancellor of Andhra University in Visakhapatnam. "Stem cell research was done in this country thousands of years ago," Rao said". 

Hindutva ideologues are now in charge of school textbooks. They are deleting references to India's long Muslim history, particularly the Mughal period that produced top tourist attractions like the Taj Mahal in Agra and the Red Fort in Delhi. 

India has also dropped Darwin's theory of evolution and the periodic table of elements from some school textbooks, part of a widening campaign by Modi's Hindu nationalist government that has prompted warnings from educators about the impact on teaching and the country's vital technology sector, according to media reports

Prime Minister Modi's poor education was obvious when he addressed the joint session of the US Congress during his recent state visit to Washington D.C. He had trouble reading his speech from a teleprompter. He said "investigate" instead of "invest" in girls. He incorrectly read "optical" fiber as "political" fiber. He pronounced "relationship" as "relasonsippi". It's amazing how wildly popular he is with the Indian diaspora, particularly in the United States where Indians are considered to be the best educated ethnic group.