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
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
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
Filed under Afghanistan, Balochistan, China, Corruption, CPEC, Discussion, Events, Human Rights, India, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Politics, Trade, United States
‘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
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
The IAEA greatly values cooperation with Pakistan in peaceful uses of nuclear technology
Mr Yukiya Amano, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), recently made a three-day official visit to Pakistan. He visited various centres and facilities of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) in Islamabad, Faisalabad and Karachi. He also visited Pakistani premier Mr Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. “Pakistan is completely implementing IAEA guidelines,” is the way he chose to describe the status quo while delivering his keynote address to a seminar on The Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy and Pakistan jointly organised by The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) and the Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS) on 14 March 2018. During his visit to Karachi, Mr Amano praised Pakistan and stated that that the new Kanupp II and III “plants are very heavily protected. Your country needs more electricity and you are committed to nuclear safety; you are working with the IAEA”. He expressed the view that nuclear power should not be limited to developed nations and developing nations should also have the right to use atomic power.
Notably, on the military side of things, China has just sold Pakistan a powerful missile tracking system. The PIIA’s chairperson Dr Masuma Hasan introduced Mr Amano in her welcome address during which she highlighted Pakistan’s track record on nuclear safety and gave the welcome remarks. The important seminar was attended by participants from different walks of life including serving and retired diplomats, senior military officers, scientists, academics, scholars, media persons and university students. During the seminar Mr Amano said that: “You have the knowledge; you have the pool of well-trained people to do their job. We [IAEA and Pakistan] have a fruitful two-way relationship.” As reported in Dawn, the IAEA chief explained that while his organisation is known as a global nuclear watchdog, he is motivated by the body’s new motto: atoms for peace and development. Continue reading
“The current policies of the United States of America for South Asia can disrupt peace in the region” – President Mamnoon Hussain at the 70th Anniversary Conference of the PIIA.
Donald J Trump’s election to the White House demonstrates the extremely vulgar nature of American society. And it is difficult to disagree with the assessment that the American president really is a “deranged dotard”. Heaven knows, despite the tyrannical nature of his own country, North Korea’s insane “little rocket man” might even be making a valid point when he calls Trump’s sanity into question. Trump’s totally crazy brinkmanship with Pyongyang shows that he is willing to put the safety of billions of people at risk by his recklessness. But perhaps it is all just a charade to deliberately divert attention far away from emerging domestic problems connected to Robert Mueller’s investigation, the Sword of Damocles hanging over Trump and his cronies’ heads, about the Trump campaign’s collusion with the Kremlin to rig the election. Overall Trump is a sexist and a racist. He never tells the truth and serially dismisses all accusations of sexual misconduct/offending against him. Against American and British interests, he retweets from Britain First – a racist and neo-Nazi organisation.
His hatred of Muslims is so severe that he has even declared Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital. Clearly, he is deliberately destabilising the Middle East. Trump is a danger to the world and it is hard to disagree with the soft speaking figure of president Mamnoon Hussain that the present American administration is a threat to peace in South Asia (and indeed the rest of the world). The reckless and inflammatory rhetoric manifested by Trump can only bolster Hindus’ hatred for Muslims in India where killing Muslims for “love jihad” (or having a Hindu girlfriend or boyfriend) is seen as a force for good. In such testing times, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) organised a regional conference which was held last month in Karachi. Esteemed speakers from all walks of life addressed the lively audience. Continue reading
Filed under Accountability, Climate Change, Cyber Warfare, Disarmament, Discussion, Human Rights, India, Islamophobia, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Palestine, PIIA, Politics, Racism, UK, United States, Women