Category Archives: Afghanistan

Converting CPEC into Pakistan-Central Asia Economic Corridor

We have to give up our India-centric policies and our slave mentality.

Pakistan is on a knife-edge with the upcoming general election on 25 July 2018. With Nawaz Sharif firmly behind bars, civil society organisations are predicting rigging in the election by the armed forces and there is a consensus in the country that the army is mass manipulating electoral politics in favour of its cronies. The economic problem arising out of the present political situation is that Pakistan is seriously in the doldrums owing to its debt to its international creditors. The country is facing a sovereign debt crisis and reliance on Chinese money is very high indeed. As reported recently in the Financial Times, Islamabad is headed for a foreign currency crisis but is keen to avoid yet another IMF bailout. So it is appealing to Beijing for more lending. In the year ending June 2018 Pakistan borrowed $4 billion from China and is facing problems with the devaluation of the rupee, the strategy used by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to keep the economy afloat. At the start of June 2018, the SBP only had $10 billion in foreign currency reserves in comparison to $16.1 billion just a year earlier.

The problem does not stop there because $12.7 billion in external payments are due in comparison to £7.7 billion last year. The country will need to raise $28 billion this financial year to repay its debt obligations. Therefore, in such an environment, it is hardly surprising that Kaiser Bengali thinks that “we have to play our cards right in case of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The opening up of China has enhanced travel but not trade.” He recently made these remarks while addressing members of the prestigious Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) and the media. Speaking on the subject, ‘Changing geo-politics and challenges for Pakistan’, he said: “My fear is that we will not be playing our cards right because of the slave mentality that our bureaucrats and planners have.” Elucidating further he said: “We are always looking to a bigger power to protect us against military adventurism.” In this context, he recalled that back in the 1950, we joined the US-sponsored defence pacts, the Cento and Seato, as a guarantee to be protected during times of aggression. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Balochistan, China, Corruption, CPEC, Discussion, Events, Human Rights, India, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Politics, Trade, United States

Former Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi Addresses PIIA Members

Kharazi says Tehran is ready to mediate between Islamabad and New Delhi on Kashmir dispute. Clearly, Iran is competing with its western adversaries for a peacemaking role in the Indo-Pak region. 

Chabahar project not in competition with CPEC: Iran’s ex-foreign minister. Kamal Kharazi, Iran’s former foreign minister (1997-2005), has said the perception in Pakistan that Iran’s Chabahar port, including subsequent development of roads and railways networks for enhancing the country’s trade, is a ‘rival project’ of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), is not correct. He was addressing a roundtable discussion with members, journalists, former and current diplomats and research students at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs on Friday. Numerous foreign policy issues relating to Iran and Pakistan relations and their impact on the wider region were discussed. Speaking on the occasion, Mr Kharazi was of the opinion that though it was true that India had massively invested in the Chabahar project, it was an open platform for all regional countries to participate in.

“The Chabahar project is aimed at connecting Iran with Central Asia, and the ultimate goal is to uplift the Iranian economy,” he said, adding that the project was under deliberations for a long time, hence, it was not correct to link its launch with that of the CPEC. “While we are engaging with India on the economic front and India is investing in Chabahar, we have not given exclusive rights on the project to them,” he said, adding that Iran “was considerate of the situation of Muslims in India and in the region” while making economic partnerships. “We have urged India a number of times to resolve the Kashmir dispute in a peaceful and justly manner,” he said. “We are even ready to mediate between Pakistan and India on the 70-year-old dispute, but we haven’t got a positive response from India on it ever,” he said. “But if we talk about economic partnerships, then Pakistan also has relations with the United States which has put a number of sanctions on us, but [Iran] doesn’t mind it,” he said. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, CPEC, Discussion, Events, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Politics, United States

A Conversation on the Current State of US-Pakistan Relations

Trump is actually a new face, not a new factor on US outlook on Pakistan

From Dawn by Peerzada Salman. Two eminent speakers on Thursday shed light on the current state of Pak-US relations at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA). The first speaker was Najmuddin Sheikh, former foreign secretary of Pakistan. He started his talk by mentioning a few myths that prevailed. He said there was the myth that Pakistan and the United States had mutual interests. It had never been the case. The ties were of a transactional nature from the beginning and the commonalities were contrived. We did not have a common aversion to the Soviet Union. During the Afghan jihad we were genuinely concerned about the Soviet Union consolidating its position in Afghanistan, the old idea that it was looking for warm waters, but the Americans had a different idea; they said they would do to the Soviet Union what it did to them in Vietnam. The only commonality was the war against terror.

Mr Sheikh then pointed out the errors that the US committed. He said: “Why did the US allow Osama bin Laden get shifted from Sudan to Afghanistan?” He [Osama] travelled by a C130 from Sudan to Afghanistan. In Sudan he was a relatively unknown figure whereas in Afghanistan he was a hero of the Afghan jihad. Two years later an American general sitting in the office of our chief of army staff said they were firing missiles across our air space but they were not meant for us; they were trying to hit a camp in Afghanistan where they believed Osama bin Laden was. Mr Sheikh said the current situation was that President Trump’s New Year tweet generated a lot of speculation and he [Sheikh] thought there was a more rational explanation for it. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, CPEC, Discussion, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, United States

Trump’s Tweets: The Denial Factor

Despite a furious response from the Pakistani media, the foreign office and ISPR have responded sensibly to the situation.

Trump is a total racist who thinks that black people from “shithole countries” such as poor Haiti are unworthy of the superior status he bestows upon white people from Norway. But of course he went on to quickly deny he said that at all. Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury confirms that Trump is an infantile person and his administration knows that he is an 11 year old. Psychoanalytic studies suggest that human beings always need an external object to put all the blames on him for their own misdeeds. We create an external enemy of ‘flesh and blood’ that can be fought and can be avenged. In other words, we imagine that our failures are not because of our own misdeeds but because of some other external forces. Such use of imagination helps us to come out of our inner sorrow by blaming some external enemy who is falsely thought to be the reason for our own failures. After all, states are run by human beings not stones. Indeed, states are often in ‘denial’ about accepting reality and the US is no different in that resect.  

A recent tweet by Donald Trump blamed Pakistan and argued that ‘The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!’ Mounting tensions have led Pakistan to react by halting intelligence sharing with the US after losing American military aid. Instead, Islamabad will turn to its ‘time tested friend’ and ‘reliable ally’ Beijing. In October 2017, the same Trump was found praising Pakistan for its cooperation in rescuing a North-American family from the Taliban. However, now, Trump has accused Pakistan of giving safe haven to the terrorists that Americans hunt in Afghanistan. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Discussion, India, Pakistan, Politics, Trump, United States

Ayesha Ahmed: All Weather Friendship: A Closer Examination

Though the interests of the two countries are increasingly intertwined due to CPEC, the question still remains as to what Pakistan should be able to expect from its “iron brother” on an international diplomatic stage.

The relationship between China and Pakistan is almost as old as the People’s Republic of China (PRC) itself and significantly Pakistan was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with PRC in 1950. Whilst relations between the neighbouring countries have remained largely positive over the years, the creation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in 2013 means the alliance between the two countries has entered a golden age. Indeed, China’s current investments in CPEC stand at around $62 billion and the project is expected to reinvigorate Pakistan’s economy. No wonder then that just two months after the establishment of CPEC former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif famously described the alliance in glowing terms as “sweeter than honey” and “higher than the Himalayas”. However, just last month a statement from the BRICS summit that China hosted in Xiamen threatened to undermine this warm rhetoric and the “all weather friendship” between the two countries.

On September 4th, a BRICS declaration against terror groups included, among others, Lashkar e Taiba, Jaish e Mohammed and the Haqqani Network. All three groups are based in Pakistan. This declaration came just three days after Chinese Foreign Minister spokesperson Hua Chunying told a press briefing that Pakistan’s counter-terrorism effort was not an “appropriate topic” for the BRICS summit. Granted, the Xiamen declaration neither explicitly named Pakistan nor made any overt comments about Pakistan’s ability to deal with terrorism, yet the very mention of these three groups opened Pakistan to speculation about its effectiveness in dealing with terrorism in its own backyard. Such a declaration, ostensibly endorsed by one of Pakistan’s closest allies at a high profile international summit, undoubtedly dealt a heavy blow to Islamabad. Continue reading

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The Indus Waters Treaty and the Need to Broaden its Scope to Mitigate Climate Change and Global Warming

The implementation review of the Dhaka Declaration and the SAARC action plan on climate change and ensuring its timely execution under Article IX is a panacea to environmental degradation.

The Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) ratified in 1960 with the arbitration of the World Bank is under a lot of stress due to growing water scarcity in Pakistan and India. This treaty may be considered a successful treaty as it withstood three wars. Yet, with the passage of time, one of the most stressed basins in the world is facing new challenges videlicet climate change, environmental degradation and global warming. There is no mechanism present in treaty to address these challenges due to their negligible significance at that time. The water crisis is a big question mark in Indo-Pak relations. The growing water stress between the two countries is likely to deepen further with current global climate changes. As a result, IWT has come under a lot of pressure due to changes in hydrological, demographic, political and economic environment. This is raising testing and novel questions on the normative, functional and administrative viability of IWT. Pakistan as a lower riparian country is at the receiving end and is suffering from water stress as a water scarce country.

Indeed, the per capital water availability has decreased from about 5,600 cubic meters available in 1947 to 1,032 cubic meters in 2016. Pakistan may become water poor if current situation persists. Pakistan is considered to be one of the world’s driest countries with a single basin. Pakistan’s dependence on external water resources is 76% while that of India is 34%. Annual influx into Indus through Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) regulates Pakistani economy. The basin accounts for 25% of Gross Domestic Product, 47% of employment and more than 60% of annual national foreign exchange earnings. So, Indus basin has critical importance for domestic water needs. IWT allows Pakistan restrictive uses of water. Furthermore, its lower riparian status aggravates the situation. Pakistan strongly feels that India does not follow the technical parameters laid down in the treaty. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Climate Change, Courts, Discussion, Energy, India, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Water

M.A. Shiwani: Of Wars and Contractors

Deploying mercenaries in Afghanistan will not only roll back the progress that has been made over the past decade, but it will also severely threaten future prospects for peace …

As the Trump Administration moves closer to releasing its policy review on Afghanistan, it has recruited Eric Prince, founder of Blackwater (now Academi) and Stephen Feinberg, owner of DynCorp International to assist the Pentagon in strategy formulation. DynCorp and Blackwater are both Private Military Companies (PMCs). In other words they are mercenaries. In accordance with its manifesto, the administration wishes to curtail the deployment of additional US troops in Afghanistan. In response, Prince and Feinberg have, rather unsurprisingly, presented a proposal that substitutes US troops with personnel provided by PMCs. Even though the Pentagon was recently given permission to deploy more troops into Afghanistan, Trump aides are adamant not to use the same policies that failed under the last two presidents and are thus seriously considering the proposal put forward by Prince and Feinberg.

Let us briefly go through the shadowy history of the United States’ use of private armies and military contractors. After the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, it was tasked with rebuilding the Afghan National Police (ANP) to fight the Taliban. Since Iraq and the threat posed by Saddam Hussein was slowly moving up the national security agenda, the US wanted to exit Afghanistan as quickly as possible while also using the bare minimum amount of resources required. It thus decided to employ DynCorp International to train the ANP, with the State Department giving DynCorp $24 million to set up training camps across Afghanistan. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Discussion, Mercenaries, Pakistan Horizon, Taliban, Trump, United States