Category Archives: Peace building

Peace in South Asia: Opportunities and Challenges: Regional Conference

This year, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, which is the oldest think tank in Pakistan, is celebrating 70 years of its founding. It was established as an independent, non-political, not for profit association in 1947, devoted to study and research in international relations, economics and jurisprudence. To mark its 70th anniversary, the Institute is holding a regional conference on Peace in South Asia: Opportunities and Challenges on 15 and 16 November 2017. Scholars from leading think tanks, academia and diplomats in the region are being invited to participate in this conference. South Asia, comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan is the most densely populated region of the world. Its population of 1.8 billion comprises one-fourth of the global population and almost 40 per cent of the population of Asia.

Two of the world’s nuclear powers, Pakistan and India, are located in South Asia and military expenditure in the region has been rising. It is threatened with insecurity because of long-standing inter-state disputes, terrorism, the presence of non-state actors, problems of water sharing, climate change, environmental degradation, the movement of refugees and illegal arms, people and drug trafficking. It has low social indicators and a large percentage of its population lives below the poverty line. On the other hand, South Asia is rich in explored and unexplored natural resources. Also rich in diversity, it is home to numerous religions and a multitude of languages and cultures. It hosts four of the world’s megacities: Delhi, Dhaka, Karachi and Mumbai. The youth bulge in its population can prove to be one of its largest assets for development. Continue reading

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Filed under Constitution 1973, Disarmament, Discussion, Events, Human Rights, India, Pakistan, Peace building, Sri Lanka

A Change of Approach is Needed in the Study of Indo-Pak Relations

‘A fresh approach to studying relations between India and Pakistan can help policy makers to reach some point where they can make better decisions for the common people on both sides of the Indo-Pak border’

Numerous obstacles exist to objectively analysing the field of politics and foreign policy. The field is full of conflicting approaches and theoretical perspectives. Another problem arises regarding the nature of analysis to be adopted. Noam Chomsky argues that in international relations ‘historical conditions are too varied and complex for anything that might plausibly be called “a theory” to apply uniformly’. For him ‘international relations’ is a discipline of theoretical disagreements – a ‘divided discipline’. Different approaches or paradigms, such as liberalism or realism are like different games played by different people. As there is more than one game to be played, it is hard to know which game to play. A theory should be clear with clarity of exposition. It should be unbiased and its scope should encompass the specific issue in both breadth and depth. The Indo-Pak rivalry has been one of the most important research topics in international security studies. Yet meaningful literature on the subject is scant.

What little is available is either descriptive or historical in orientation. Traditionally, Indo-Pak relations have been studied through the realist lens in international relations. It is submitted that the time has come for Indo-Pak relations need to be studied in a new way by moving away from the traditional realist/neo-realist, liberal/neo-liberal approaches which are based upon material benefits and the balance of power. The significance of Indo-Pak relations can be gauged from the following advice of President Clinton to his successor President Bush. Clinton said in 2004 that ‘continuing tensions between India and Pakistan’, should be high on the incoming administration’s list of priorities, ‘because both have nuclear weapons.’ Continue reading

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Filed under Congress, Discussion, India, Pakistan, Partition, Peace building, PIIA, United States

‘A German Perspective on Pakistan and its Big Neighbours’: A Talk by Professor Conrad Schetter

‘Power depends on economics and not on military forces’ – Watch Video

Professor Conrad Schetter, Associated Member of the Center for Development Research (ZEF), Directorate of the University of Bonn, Federal Republic of Germany recently addressed the members of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on A German Perspective on Pakistan and Its Big Neighbours. He is a notable scholar and some of his coauthored publications include Local Security-Making in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (2016), Security: What Is It? What Does It Do? (2016) and Protected Rather Than Protracted: Strengthening Displaced Persons in Peace Processes (2015). His key expertise concerns the civil-military nexus, the politics of interventions and local politics. Professor Schetter is also involved in numerous ongoing projects including On the phenomenon of so-called Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan and Protected rather than protracted – Strengthening refugees and peace.

In his talk on 13 December 2016 chaired by Dr Masuma Hasan, he emphasised Germany’s strong relationship with Pakistan pointing out in that regard that the name of Allama Muhammad Iqbal, Pakistan’s national poet, is very significant because he studied in Germany and was awarded his PhD from Munich University. He also highlighted that it is high time for Pakistan to realign its tactics in its own neighbourhood because in today’s global politics, economic power is more important than military or strategic power. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, China, CPEC, Discussion, Events, India, Iran, Pakistan, Peace building, Politics, United States

Regional Challenges and Opportunities for South Asia in the Decades Ahead

‘I look at the region not as Pakistan alone. I look at wider connectivity over the next two decades’ … ‘There’s no military solution to security issues’ …

Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army and the Wars Within is thought to be an important book. William Dalrymple called it the most “authoritative analysis” of Pakistan’s military and intelligence services. General Jehangir Karamat, the former Chief of Army Staff (1996-98), called it an “insightful study” and “the centre of gravity in Pakistan”. It has been called the “key” to understanding the complex framework underpinning power structures in Pakistan. “The most well researched and lucidly written book of its kind,” is how Ahmed Rashid described it. In a talk entitled Regional Challenges and Opportunities for South Asia in the Decades Ahead at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA), its author Shuja Nawaz stressed that terrorism would only be reduced if education levels remain high. He is a Distinguished Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Centre.

The Atlantic Council promotes constructive leadership and engagement in international affairs based on the Atlantic Community’s central role in meeting global challenges. The Council provides an essential forum for navigating the dramatic economic and political changes defining the twenty-first century by informing and galvanizing its uniquely influential network of global leaders. Because of historic rivalry, the degree of misunderstanding and mistrust between Pakistan and India is constantly skyrocketing. Continue reading

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Mani Shankar Aiyar: Continuity and Change in India’s Foreign Policy

‘If we don’t talk to Pakistan we will never be able to find a solution…It would be foolish to have cordial relations with Paraguay and just ignore Pakistan’ said the Rajya Sabha member and former diplomat – watch video.

“There is going to be no peace in India or elsewhere except on the basis of freedom,” remained Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s final denouement in The Discovery of India – his third book; written in captivity in Ahmadnagar Fort prison in 1944. Indira Gandhi explained that along with Discovery, Joe’s other books Glimpses of World History and An Autobiography were her close “companions in life”. Indeed, Nehru’s works and political strategy not only influenced his daughter but also inspired political activists in neighbouring Pakistan and elsewhere in the world. Just the other day, India’s government began to declassify secret files to finally settle questions over Subhas Chandra Bose’s death. Bose, a widely admired Congress party frontrunner, aligned his tactics with the Japanese in the 1940s to create a “national army” to fight colonial rule and expel the British from India.

In Discovery, Panditji noted the “astonishing enthusiasm” evoked by the court martial of members of the Indian National Army (INA). In admiration, he remarked that the trial “aroused the country as nothing else had done, and they became the symbols of India fighting for her freedom.” In Nehru’s eyes, INA activists and members, who were in fact his rivals, had “solved the communal problem amongst themselves” because “Hindu, Moslem, Sikh and Christian were all represented”. They had achieved utopia. Or perhaps even Nirvana. Continue reading

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The Great Thaw of China: Xi Meets Ma

Today will be remembered in history … Now before our eyes there are fruits of conciliation instead of confrontation,’ says Chinese president Xi Jinping in a historic meeting with Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou.

China’s unprecedented rise to the status of a global powerhouse and its close links to western capitalism mark the centrality of increasing, arguably even irreversible, economic interdependence in an era of rapid globalisation. History is now being rewritten and the misunderstandings between the Communist Party of China (CCP) and its old nemesis the Koumintang (Chinese Nationalist Party or KMT) seem like a thing of the past. It is as if western imperialism had lost and Sun Yat-sen’s historic Three Principles of the People, as propounded by the KMT, had finally come home to become fused with Chairman Mao’s variant of Marxism – quite strongly blended with his powerful and attractive Chinese anti-imperialist narrative of history. Of course, sometimes Sun and Mao agreed. So Beijing and Taipei are finally gravitating towards each other and, as shown by yesterday’s minute-long handshake between Chinese president Xi Jinping and his Taiwanese counterpart Ma Ying-jeou, great gestures of future friendship are being made after almost seven decades of frosty relations. Both sides acknowledge that trade between them as produced “unprecedented prosperity”.

At the historic summit in neutral Singapore yesterday, which symbolises a great thaw in relations, Xi publicly stood together with his Taiwanese counterpart after the landmark minute-long handshake and said: “Nothing can separate us … We are one family … We are brothers who are still connected by our flesh even if our bones are broken.” Continue reading

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Filed under China, CPEC, Discussion, Europe, Pakistan, Peace building, Politics

Viewpoints: UNGA’s Seventieth Session

As noted in earlier posts, big hopes were riding on the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). And as expected, the session was dominated by events in the ruined country known as Syria – once the beating heart of Arab nationalism – which we have discussed in recent posts here, here and here. Despite the veneer of cordiality, world leaders could not conceal the tensions between them. They are divided over the future of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. President Putin had thrown himself in the limelight in advance of the session by flexing Russia’s military might in the historic – without notice – style of the former Soviet Union. Predictably, on 28 September, he opportunistically presented himself as the missing link in the Syrian puzzle. The clever Russian president did not conceal his intentions in an impassioned speech which provided him the ideal opportunity to announce his future plans. Putin’s fans, like his blunt instrument in Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, rejoiced when military action ultimately became a reality and requested to be sent in as a ground force to fight (preferably hand-to-hand) the jihadis of ISIS.

After Putin had set the stage, just a couple of days later, on 30 September 2015, when Russia initiated airstrikes in Syria the west responded negatively and US defence secretary Ashton Carter accused the Kremlin of “pouring gasoline on fire”. However, unlike some others (e.g. Great Britain) Russia took military action with the consent of its parliament and at the invitation of a sovereign government – albeit the collapsing, murderous and much hated regime in Damascus. But Russia is nonetheless being condemned for attacking the Free Syrian Army Continue reading

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