The Russian Institute of Oriental Studies marks not only 200 years of its founding but makes a statement about a changed world
Some institutions are resilient and survive the ups and downs of fate. Others cannot sustain themselves and fall by the wayside. A great survivor is the Institute of Oriental Studies (IOS) of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which commemorates the 200th anniversary of its founding this year. The bicentennial was recently celebrated in October in Moscow with a congress. The congress itself, where I was invited to speak, was a gala event — essentially a Russian affair with marginal input from Western scholars, which is what made it remarkable. In Pakistan, we are used to only hearing about and from Western academics about the region. It coincided with Russian’s tilt to the East in world affairs, a celebration of the Asian part of its Eurasian identity. President Vladmir Putin did not attend the congress but a message from him was read out at the inauguration. As much as anything, the gathering signalled the increasingly multi-polar nature of our world.
The IOS was founded in 1818, in Russia during the reign of Emperor Alexander I. It has gone through many vicissitudes through empire, wars, invasions, revolution and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It was originally established in St. Petersburg as the Asian Museum under the Imperial Academy of Sciences, as a depository of oriental manuscripts and a library facilitating scientific research. In 1950, the institute was shifted to Moscow, becoming a major centre of oriental studies. Today its depositories house more than one million volumes of ancient books and manuscripts. In 2008, the St. Petersburg (later Leningrad) branch was reorganised into a separate Institute of Oriental Manuscripts. The institute in Moscow is a unique venue for the study of the problems in history and cultures of the Orient, especially the countries of Asia and North Africa. Hundreds of experts work there. Continue reading
Empress Market was not meant to be a museum.
Those of us who have seen Empress Market develop over the years into the vibrant heart of Saddar in Karachi wonder about its fate after the anti-encroachment drive of recent days. At the risk of repetition, it may be relevant to recall its glorious past. It is believed the British used this space to execute freedom fighters after the uprising of 1857, and that the ground on which it stands is hallowed by the blood of martyrs. Those who were not hanged or sent via Karachi port to Kala Pani, as the prison in the Andaman Islands was called, were tied to the mouths of cannons and blown to smithereens as a message to anybody who dared risk mutiny. However, legend has it that every morning the British found the massacre ground strewn with rose petals — the red of the petals signifying the blood of the freedom fighters. Fearing the space would become a permanent memorial to the martyrs, they decided to build a monument on the site dedicated to Queen Victoria, Empress of India. Empress Market was built as a market, a bazaar. It was not meant to be a museum or gala dining room. And it developed as a thriving bazaar in which items of daily use, including some exotic ones, were available under one roof.
It was a shoppers’ paradise visited by people from even distant neighbourhoods. Around it sprang up vegetable, fruit and tea markets, and the fabulous bird market where one could buy pigeons, parakeets, parrots and many rare birds. The shopkeepers were a multi-ethnic community, something to cherish and celebrate. Poor-friendly hawking also developed in the lanes and by-lanes around the market. Empress Market has great political significance for our country. It has been a meeting ground for countless political rallies and demonstrations. It was also the focal point from where the leaders and activists of the Movement for Restoration of Democracy against Ziaul Haq courted arrest in 1983. The eateries and cafés within and around it were frequented since Partition by young progressives, some of whom rose to political eminence. Continue reading
Centennial Conference of the Institute of Oriental Studies Russian Academy of Sciences Moscow – 30 October 2018. Speech by Dr. Masuma Hasan: I wish to begin by paying a tribute to the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences on the 200th anniversary of its founding – to its resilience, the remarkable academic assets it has developed over two centuries, its proud history and the excellence and dignity of its scholars. It is an honour for me to have been invited to this great event. On this occasion, I want to acknowledge the scholarship of Professor Yuri Gankovsky who headed the Centre for the Study of the Near and Middle East and also recognise the work of the present head of the Centre, Professor Vyacheslav Belokrenitsky, and his colleagues. Turning now to our subject, “The East in World Politics – the New Power”, as we have seen in recent years, the new power in the East is the tilt towards Asia.
In terms of sheer numbers, two-thirds of the world’s population or more than 5 billion people will reside in Asia by 2050 but population is declining in North America and Europe. Some analysts believe that Asia might produce half the world’s GDP by 2050 with an expansion of human capital and production. It is dominated by the strategic interests of two great powers, China and Russia, and the pitch for regional and global status by India. Today, if the East is seen as a new power in world politics, it is undoubtedly mainly due to China’s phenomenal rise and its economic and global aspirations but also because of Russia’s assertive role in global politics and “turn East” policy. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is reflected in its six economic corridors along two routes: the New Silk Road Economic Belt running west through Russia and Central Asia and the 21st Century Maritime Road to reach Europe through South Asia and South-west Asia. One of these corridors, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor runs from Kashgar in Xinjiang to Gwadar in Pakistan and has been described as a game changer for Pakistan’s economy. Continue reading
The relationship between Russia and India is beneficial not just to one party, but to both. Moscow needs New Delhi for revenue and New Delhi needs Moscow for military spare parts.
On the heels of the United States 2+2 strategic dialogue with India, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited India on a three-day trip. The structured 2+2 dialogue was due to take place between the foreign and the defense ministers of both the countries. The External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Sitharaman were to due meet Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Willing to carry out the 6th September 2+2 discourse America invited India to Washington in 2017. A decision to meet again in the first quarter of 2018 but this was postponed until April. Another unexpected event occurred when Rex Tillerson was fired and the Oval Office was running without a Secretary of State, prior to Mike Pompeo taking office as the new Secretary of State for the US. The 2+2 got further delayed, as 1+2 was not adding up. The following summer was rescheduled for another meeting but the United States cancelled again, this time reasons not explained. As it turned out, Pompeo was visiting North Korea, which gave the North Koreans precedence over the Indians.
New Delhi soon grew skeptical of America providing the defense military equipment to India. President Vladimir Putin arrived in New Delhi to attend the 19th Indo-Russian summit. The Kremlin is clear that it is open for business without sanctions. During the three-day visit to India, $5 billion deal was signed according to which, Russia would sell the prized S-400 Triumph missile system to India, which it needed for its air defense system. The S-400 missile system can knock and track down any kind of aircraft ranging up to almost 400 kilometers. It can instantly gather information of aircrafts that come under its radar, including the powerful US state of the art, multirole and multi-variant fifth generation F-35 fighter jet. Despite costing $400 million a piece, the truck mounted missiles have also been purchased by Turkey and Saudi Arabia and Qatar are also potential clients for Moscow. Continue reading
“Pakistan is still in the clutches of World Bank, IMF”: a claim recently made by a prominent politician and member of the National Assembly, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, urges us to reflect on the ties between powerful financial institutions and unstable countries such as Pakistan. The word ‘clutches’ forces us to dramatically picture such ties as shackles of oppression from which underdeveloped countries have been attempting to break free. Since the formation of IMF and World Bank in 1944, their involvement has been heavily present in the Third World. On paper, their participation seems like a glorious blessing paving way for efficient global progress. However, after inspecting further we can view the birth of such institutions as a strategic move by former colonial powers to maintain their hegemony. Such strategies are a disguise by various measures, one of them being the use of Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs). SAPs have long prevailed as a rescuing mechanism by international financial institutions such as the IMF or the World Bank, posing as caped heroes who implement specific economic policies in return for providing aid to developing countries.
However, their continuous attempts to save the financial problems can be inspected with a critical eye. SAPs have expanded to several developing and underdeveloped areas such as Latin America, Africa and South Asia. Restructuring the economic framework is vital for the successful progress of any country but problems arise when such restructuring gives precedence to benefitting the West over the main victims in need for development. An initiative taken by the Bretton Woods institutions, namely, the IMF and World Bank, SAPs were developed in the 1980s as conditions and loans for developing countries. To tackle the influx of debt in 1970s due to boycotts and decreased consumptions from the West by the Third World unison, a restructuring of development and governance evolved after the IMF and World Bank inspections. Continue reading
‘Trump-Kim summit unlikely to have great impact on world’
Donald Trump is a huge showman and his despotic tendencies became all the more apparent when he extended his hand in friendship to Kim Jong-un, the autocratic and reclusive leader of North Korea. Trump had mocked Kim as “little rocket man”. In return, the US president was given the moniker “deranged dotard”. Yet despite such insults from Pyongyang, Trump still went out of his way to please Kim and both the ego-manics got on like a house on fire. The Singapore Summit on 13 June 2018 was little more than an exercise in gimmickry and it has achieved nothing in concrete terms. If anything, it has strengthened Kim’s hand and he is more powerful than ever at home and abroad. China has played a vital role in these developments. Military exercises between the US and South Korea have been suspended to please the petty dictator and of course the summit is already a forgotten affair because of huge immigration problems for Trump at home in America. Now Trump is on an offensive with his own allies and he even resorted to calling Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau “dishonest”.
He has also imposed tariffs on his country’s European allies who have countered his move in a tit-for-tat offensive. Despite all the brinkmanship, lies and false promises, it is clear that the world is a much more dangerous place that it used to be prior to Trump beginning his presidency. Trump, a racist and sexist American loudmouth, is simply incapable of performing anything positive for world peace and this is especially clear from his retrogressive policies on Palestine and human rights. Pyongyang’s war of words with Washington may have ended but Kim is still purging his opponents with extreme ruthlessness. The caging of children taken away from their parents for illegally crossing the US-Mexican border caused such outrage that even the first lady Melania Trump decided to oppose her own husband. Of course, as a past illegal immigrant herself, Melania probably thought of how horrible it would be if she were separated from her son Barron Trump? Continue reading
Filed under China, Corruption, Disarmament, Discussion, Europe, Events, Human Rights, Immigration, North Korea, Pakistan, PIIA, Politics, Singapore Summit, Trump
We have no problem with Iran. Besides, we share a long border and are culturally more akin to Iran than to Saudi Arabia.
The standoff in Yemen between the Saudis and Iranians shows that a high death toll and human suffering alone will stop neither side from trying to build up its influence in the region. In Syria, after a relentless war which has left countless innocent people dead, Iran’s influence is in the ascendency along with its old ally Russia. The fall of Ghouta confirms this point. It demonstrates the impotence of the West as a player in the Middle East. After Saddam’s fall in 2003, Iran quickly developed its importance in Iraq. Iran was also quick to protect its neighbour when ISIS took over large parts of Iraq in 2014. Interestingly, John Bolton, who has been made Trump’s national security advisor after general McMaster was cashiered, wants to destroy the Iranian regime and advocates its replacement by Maryam Rajavi’s Mojahedin-e Khalq organisation, whose members had been proscribed as terrorists in many western countries. Mohammed bin Salman, who has recently been on a charm offensive and has been rubbing shoulders with Theresa May and schmoozing with president Trump making billion dollar deals, is now on a mission to win over support in Iraq.
The Saudi crown prince, who is on a quest to remake the Middle East, also says that Riyadh also has strategic interests with Tel Aviv despite the ongoing slaughter of the Palestinians by the Israeli military machine. Anyhow, the Wahabi Saudi regime is extending a hand of friendship to disillusioned Shias in Iraq who do not wish to align their interests with Tehran. For example, Muqtada al-Sadr, the stern leader of the Saraya al-Salam met Mohammed bin Salman in Najaf last year. Najaf is a natural place for the Saudi-Iranian rivalry to pan out further, of course Tehran has much more experience than Riyadh on the ground in Najaf and Southern Iraq. In these interesting times Pakistan’s former ambassador Karamatullah Ghori delivered lecture on The Arab World on Turmoil on 31 March, 2018 at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA). Continue reading
Filed under Discussion, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Islam, Israel, Karachi, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Palestine, Politics, The Arab Spring, The Middle East, Trump, United States