Russia Hosts Milestone Conference on Afghanistan to Kick-Start Peace Process

By Peter Korzun
Source

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There’s a first time for everything. On Nov. 9, a Taliban delegation attended a one-day diplomatic conference in Russia to explore potential solutions for a peaceful settlement. It was the first time the Taliban had ever taken part in such a high-level international event that brought together India, Pakistan, Iran, China, and five countries from Central Asia. The US was invited as an observer but did not attend.

Russia hopes “to open a new page in the history of Afghanistan through joint efforts,”according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. He believes that the participation of both Afghan leaders and the Taliban was an important contribution that helped to create a favorable environment for kick-starting direct talks.

The US efforts to involve the Taliban in the negotiations not been successful thus far. Former US Ambassador to Afghanistan and Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has held meetings with the Taliban in Qatar, but to no avail. The US is not happy with the “Moscow format” talks on Afghanistan, especially with the Taliban present, but nothing can be done about it — Moscow is spearheading the Afghan peace process. Russia was the first to get the Afghan delegates and the Taliban into the same room and at the same round table, with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov seated between them. As CNN put it on Nov. 9, “Taliban Representatives in Moscow Signal Russia’s Rising Diplomatic Clout.”

Kabul was not officially represented at the Moscow conference. Instead, it sent a delegation from Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (AHPC), a semi-official body that oversees peace efforts but does not represent the government. It did not prevent the members of AHPC from communicating President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to launch peace talks without preconditions. In February 2018, Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani devised a peace offer for the Taliban that included readiness to both recognize the movement as a political party as well as to engage in unconditional talks with that group.

The Taliban officials refused to hold direct talks with the government in Kabul but they reaffirmed their readiness to discuss Afghanistan’s future with the United States. They are demanding a US withdrawal from their country and the adoption of a new constitution “based on the principles of Islamic religion.”

This one-day event was not intended to be a diplomatic breakthrough, but Moscow demonstrated its ability to act as an effective mediator between the Taliban and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government — a mission the US has so far failed to accomplish. As a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Russia has become a major contributor to the Shanghai Organization’s rising prominence, promoting the credibility of the peace efforts undertaken by the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group. Afghanistan has an observer status in the SCO — a group that can turn the peace process into a multilateral effort. This will weaken US clout in the region but will stop the fighting.

The Moscow conference also demonstrated that Russia has become a potentially vital bridge between the Taliban, the Afghan government, and the US at a time when Washington is seeking to end this war that is sapping its resources and proving a distraction from its other efforts, such as setting up a major anti-Iranian military alliance in the Middle East (Arab NATO). Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai believes Russia can play a decisive role in ending America’s longest war. As the participants of the “Moscow format” talks agreed, the Russian-brokered consultations will continue. After all, Russia, the Taliban, and the Afghan government all face a common enemy — the Islamic State.

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US Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan Killed 500,000 People

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Over 60,000 US troops either killed or wounded in conflicts

Jason Ditz

Brown University has released a new study on the cost in lives of America’s Post-9/11 Wars, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The study estimates between 480,000 and 507,000 people were killed in the course of the three conflicts.

This includes combatant deaths and civilian deaths in fighting and war violence. Civilians make up over half of the roughly 500,000 killed, with both opposition fighters and US-backed foreign military forces each sustaining in excess of 100,000 deaths as well.

This is admittedly a dramatic under-report of people killed in the wars, as it only attempts to calculate those killed directly in war violence, and not the massive number of others civilians who died from infrastructure damage or other indirect results of the wars. The list also excludes the US war in Syria, which itself stakes claims to another 500,000 killed since 2011.

The report also notes that over 60,000 US troops were either killed or wounded in the course of the wars. This includes 6,951 US military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11.

The Brown study also faults the US for having done very little in the last 17 years to provide transparency to the country about the scope of the conflicts, concluding that they are “inhibited by governments determined to paint a rosy picture of perfect execution and progress.”

Those wishing to read the full Brown University study can find a PDF version here.

Pakistan in the Middle of Saudi, Iran and Rival Pipeline Plans

Astute News

A tweet roared like announcing a blockbuster premiere and sanctions did engulf Iran on time – despite opposition from Russia, China and the EU-3 (France, Germany and the United Kingdom), who still support the United-Nations endorsed Iran nuclear treaty.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has called this an economic war waged by a “bullying power”.

The US has imposed sanctions on Iranian shipping, finance and energy exports, blacklisting 700 people. They target the EU special mechanism to facilitate purchases of Iranian oil, a sort of alternative international payment system, and threats persist about cutting Iran completely off the Swift system (although several Iranian banks are already suspended).

There are also “temporary waivers” related to oil exports granted mostly to China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey, plus two Italy and Greece. This means that in the real world, beyond all the bluster, there’s no way to downgrade Iranian oil imports…

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Assessing Imran Khan’s Historic Visit to China

By Adam Garrie
Source

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has just concluded his five day visit to China which saw him hold meetings with top Chinese officials including President Xi Jinping in Beijing before flying to Shanghai where Xi, Imran and other world leaders opened the first China International Import Expo (CIIE). While Imran’s visit was one characterised by mutual optimism in respect of intensifying the all-weather friendship between China and Pakistan, now that Imran is back in Islamabad, it becomes crucial to assess the specific achievements and/or shortcomings of his historic visit.

Loan or no loan? 

Many expected Pakistan’s Prime Minister to depart from China with a guarantee for a loan that will help Islamabad to plug the substantial current account deficit left by the previous government. In October, Imran secured a $3 billion loan and a further $3 billion deferred payment agreement with Saudi Arabia after meeting with de-facto Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman as well as the Saudi King.

Many expected Imran to leave China with a similar agreement although this has not happened. Predictably, Indian media and Pakistani media hostile to the PTI government have classed this as a failure. Yet, no single element of a visit that covered a wide variety of issues can be analysed in a vacuum and as such, it is simplistic to class the substantial visit as a failure simply because China did not offer a Saudi style loan to Pakistan.

China is well aware that in spite of previous IMF loans and loans from partner nations, previous Pakistani governments have not made proper use of such cash injections. The proof of the failure of previous Pakistani governments in this respect lies in the fact that Pakistan is back to square one in terms of requiring further injections of hard cash due to prolonged irresponsible fiscal policies and woefully inadequate tax collecting on the part of previous governments.

Beyond this, black propagandists from throughout the world (including in some quarters of Pakistani mainstream media) have accused China of offering unrealistic loan agreements to partner nations while failing to accept that like in any mature partnership, responsibility is required from both sides. This has naturally made China think twice before offering loans that could potentially garner bad publicity should the party accepting the loan find itself unable to fulfill the terms of the agreement.

By no means is this to say that China thinks that the PTI government is a carbon copy of previous Pakistani governments, but it does imply that in any situation where large loans are offered, China will examine the geopolitical due diligence underlying such agreements before offering any publicly aired concrete proposals.

Beyond this, China’s method of elevating its own people as well as working with partner nations has always been based on a sustainable growth model that prioritises joint infrastructural development, joint job creating initiatives and mutual trading pacts that allow a financially poorer partner to trade its way into solvency rather than borrow its way into temporary rather than sustainable solvency. To put it another way, while some partner nations give an indebted party a fish, China would rather give a world-class fishing poll so that a partner can learn how to fish for its own proverbial meals over the medium and long term future.

The overall tone of the meeting as well as the agreements which were made indicate that this was China’s goal and in this sense the goal has been achieved on a win-win basis.

Trade in national currencies 

Of the fifteen memoranda of understanding (MOUs) signed between China and Pakistan, by far the most far reaching is the agreement to conduct bilateral trade in a combination of Chinese Renminbi and Pakistani Rupees. This effectively ends the domination of the US Dollar in trade between Pakistan and its most vital partner.

This itself will function as a kind of a loan as it will relieve pressure on Pakistan in terms of requiring Dollar reserves in order to buy much needed goods from China while it will also allow Pakistan to simultaneously build up reserves of the increasingly important  Renminbi over the long term.

As the rate-hike heavy policies of the US Federal Reserves combined with the Trump trade wars that have put pressure on currencies in emerging markets are combining to make Dollar based repayments all the more difficult for developing economies, by switching to a bilateral currency agreement in trade with China, Imran Khan’s government has helped to shield Pakistan from the increasingly tumultuous reality that is implicit in respect of dealing in Dollars when one is an emerging market economy.

China to bolster Imran Khan’s housing drive 

One of Imran Khan’s flagship domestic policies is the Naya Pakistan Housing Project. The new government seeks to build modern homes for millions of Pakistanis throughout the nation as part of the drive to reignite the spirit of the Islamic welfare state that national father Muhammad Ali Jinnah envisaged.

China looks set to contribute expertise to the Naya Pakistan Housing Project which will be an invaluable asset in terms of expediting the project as China has a proven track record of rapidly building modern housing infrastructure. By learning form China, Pakistan can see the creation of new local communities that themselves can help to become modern dynamic economic centres for future residents.

CPEC Special Economic Zones 

During the early days of the 1978 Deng Xiaoping reforms, China created a series of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in strategically located areas. These SEZs served as a model for China’s future economic drive for openness as the SEZs allowed for the inflow for foreign capital, technology and services which created jobs in the short term and allowed China to then develop its domestic industrial base that continues to lead the world.

During bilateral meetings between Chinese and Pakistani officials, it was agreed that China will help Pakistan to create its own SEZs along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This can help to transform Pakistan’s long term economic development on a model that helped China to achieve immense success over the last 40 years.

As CPEC carries goods and now people across a highly diverse terrain, strategically placed SMZs can help Pakistan to internationalise CPEC and in so doing, Pakistan can be transformed into a hub of world trade and innovation exchange that will have positive long term economic effects, the likes of which were previously thought impossible.

Free trade 

During his keynote speech before the CIIE, Imran Khan affirmed Pakistan’s commitment to free trade and economic openness. As he quoted Xi Jinping regarding China’s perpetual state of modern economic openness, Imran gave an indication that Pakistan’s own markets will open up to more foreign investment and goods at a time when both can help to revitalise the economy.

As Pakistan is strategically located and as such has been referred to as the “zipper of Asia”, by embracing free trade, Pakistan can geopolitically position itself at the centre of major trading crossroads linking the Pacific to the Afro-Mediterranean region via important maritime belts as well as linking south Asia to central Asia and northern Eurasia via new trading roads.

Free trade can help Pakistan to become a regional economic leader in terms of goods, services and logistics. Such a development will have far reaching positive implications for the domestic economy.

Conclusion 

The key takeaways from Imran’s visit to China include a mutual agreement to trade in national currencies rather than the US currency, an agreement to open Pakistan up to new trade and foreign direct investment, the creation of Special Economic Zones along CPEC and agreements to work jointly on infrastructural development including on Imran’s flagship Naya Pakistan Housing Project.

Of course, China will be in close communication with its Pakistani partners regarding the latter’s discussions with the IMF regarding a loan to plug the current account deficit. While China did not offer a loan upfront, it remains a likely possibility that if the IMF proposed terms of a would-be loan agreement threaten China’s long term connectivity projects in Pakistan, Beijing may ultimately offer a short term fish in to its all-weather friend in addition to the fishing poll that China has already given to Naya Pakistan.

Under the Pakistani volcano

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Via The Saker

November 04, 2018Under the Pakistani volcano

While Khan plays on a complex geopolitical chessboard, Chinese aid could be a financial lifeline as Islamabad faces off against deadly religious extremism

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with The Asia Times by special agreement with the author)

It has been a breathless week, huddled in the shadow of the simmering, bubbling, politico-religious volcano that is Imran Khan’s Pakistan.

And this week’s multi-faceted developments may just signal seismic shifts in Pakistan’s internal and external relations for the foreseeable future.

Before moving on to bloodier matters, let’s start with the “Mr. Khan Goes to China” episode – essential for reviewing all aspects of what is enthusiastically described by both sides as the “all-weather strategic cooperative partnership”.

Xi’s financial lifeline for Khan?

Prime Minister Khan, leading a fresh government elected in July and facing a range colossal challenges, set the tone from the start. He did not mince words.

“Countries go in cycles, they have their high points, they have their low points,” he said. “Unfortunately, our country is going through a low point at the moment with two very big deficits, a fiscal deficit and a current account deficit. And so we, as I’ve said, have come to learn.”

Arguably few teachers beat Chinese President Xi Jinping, praised by Khan as a role model. “China’s phenomenal achievements are worth emulating,” Khan said. “No other country has tackled poverty and corruption the way China has tackled it.”

The lynchpin of the strategic partnership is inevitably the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of the New Silk Road, or Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI). Before his stint as guest of honor of the First China International Import Expo in Shanghai, Khan met a crucial player in Beijing for CPEC financing: Jin Liquan, president of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Right from the start, Pakistan’s new Planning Minister Makhdoom Bukhtiar was confident that Islamabad would not need to reschedule around $2.7 billion in Chinese loans due for repayment in 2018. Instead, what’s in the cards is an improved economic package centered on taking CPEC to the next level.

A financially stable Pakistan is absolutely crucial for the success of BRI. A Pakistani audit of projects approved by the previous Nawaz Sharif administration called for streamlining CPEC, not curtailing it. Now, Team Khan does not subscribe to the notion of CPEC as a debt trap.

With Saudi Arabia and China stepping in with cash, Islamabad may avoid becoming further indebted to the IMF and its trademark “strategic adjustments”- widely dreaded across the Global South for producing a toxic mix of austerity and inflation.

Pakistan juggles China, Iran, Saudi, Turkey

Pakistan is all about its prime geopolitical location, the crossroads of South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia.

For Beijing, Pakistan as a key BRI node mirrors its new role as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). As Khan has clearly identified, this interconnection can only turbo-charge Pakistan’s geo-economic position – under the institutional framework of SCO. The Xi-Khan partnership may actually center around an economic win-win for Pakistan and the SCO.

Of course, myriad challenges lie ahead.

Take for instance Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Lu Kang having to clarify that “all the cooperation between China and Pakistan has nothing to do with territorial disputes.”

Kang was referring to the hoopla surrounding the fact that a Pakistani company launched a bus service from Lahore to Kashgar via Islamabad; essentially the northern CPEC route via the Karakoram Highway, which skirts Kashmir. China does not want any interference whatsoever in the ultra-volatile Kashmir dossier.

Saudi Arabia is also making some not-too-subtle moves. Islamabad’s official position is that Riyadh’s recent financial offer came with no strings attached. That’s unlikely to be the case; Saudi traditionally casts a long shadow over all matters Pakistani. “No strings” means Islamabad should keep closer to Riyadh, not Tehran.

The House of Saud – paralyzed by the fallout of the bloody Istanbul fiasco – will go no-holds-barred to prevent Islamabad from getting closer to Tehran. (Or Ankara, for that matter). A possibly emergent, long-term, game-changing Turkey-Iran-Pakistan alliance was the talk of the town – at least during the first part of this week of weeks.

That brings us to the crucial visitor Khan received in Islamabad before his trip to China: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Last month, 14 Iranian border guards were kidnapped by the Pakistan-based Jaish al-Adl Salafi-jihadi fanatics. Pakistan security forces have been helpless so far.

Khan and Zarif talked about that – but also talked about Khan’s offer to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia in trying to find a solution for the tragedy in Yemen. The fact is, a Tehran-Islamabad rapprochement is already a work in progress.

That is the sophisticated geo-political game Khan must play. Meanwhile at home, he has to get down and dirty as he gets to grips with violent domestic religious turmoil.

‘Go legal – or else…’

I’ve been in Islamabad since Monday – right on the lip of the volcano, and enjoying the privilege of being part of one of the most extraordinary geopolitical conferences in recent times, something that in the current polarizing dynamic could only happen in Asia, not the West. But that’s another story.

While I was parsing elaborate analyses of this geopolitical chessboard, reality intervened.

Or – perhaps – it was a graphic intimation that Pakistan may just be changing for the better.

Street blockades paralyzed key nodes of the nation because Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman laborer, in jail for nine years, was finally acquitted by the Supreme Court of spurious charges of blasphemy. There are less than 4 million Christians in Pakistan out of a total population of 197 million.

I was with a small group on the motorway to Peshawar, prior to taking a detour to Taxila – Alexander-the-Great land, where I planned further research on ancient Silk Roads – when suddenly we were halted.

A mullah was blaring his hate through a loudspeaker. A couple of his minions blocked all circulation.

Why the police would not dislodge this small group is the matter of all matters in Khan’s arguably new Pakistan. The highway standoff embodies the high-stakes grapple underway between the state and religion.

Back in Islamabad, as he led me around the campus of the National Defense University, Timoor Shah, a bright young man at the Center for Policy Studies, gave me a crash course on the nuances.

What a global audience should understand is this. On one side stand the state, the military and the judiciary. (Accusations continue to be hurled that Khan was privileged in the July elections by the military – the top institution in Pakistan – and an activist judiciary.) On the other side, stand fringe religious nuts and an opportunistic, discredited opposition.

The Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP), a minor extremist political party whose only platform is to punish blasphemy, has issued death threats against the three Supreme Court judges. Pakistan could do worse than import a strangle/bone-saw/dissolve-in-acid Saudi execution squad to deal with such groups.

It’s instructive to consider what the director general of the PR arm of the powerful intelligence service, ISI, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor had to say: This is a legal matter and the Pakistan Army should not be dragged into it. Ghafoor also stressed, “We are close to winning the war against terrorism and our attention should not be diverted.”

Ghafoor told politico-religious parties protesting against the Supreme Court judgment – quite a few of which were firmly on the lunatic fringe – to go legal or else. Amid this, TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi swears that that the Army has threatened to “destroy” his party.

The military sent a delegation, including ISI officials, to talk to the religious protesters. Ghafoor was careful to stress that the ISI is an intelligence department that reports to the prime minister.

In the end, the government caved in. Despite knowing that Aasia Bibi faces fundamentalist wrath and her only path to safety would be a one-way ticket out, they agreed to put her on something called the “Exit Control List.” Even that did not prevent TLP fanatics from threatening “a war if they sent Aasia Bibi out of the country.”

‘Taliban Godfather’ killed

As if all this were not toxic enough, on Friday evening Maulana Samiul Haq – the fabled “Godfather of the Taliban” – was stabbed to death in his house in Rawalpindi, Islamabad’s twin city.

Haq led the sprawling Darul Uloom Haqqania, a madrassa, or religious school, in Akhora Khattak, near Peshawar, founded in 1988. The madrassa graduated none other than Mullah Omar, as well as other Taliban notables.

Haq embodies a torrent of turbulence in modern Pakistani history – including his stints as senator during the Zia ul Haq and Nawaz Sharif administrations. He also tabled a notorious Sharia bill during Sharif’s last term.

But for me, the story was personal. In a tortuous way, Samiul Haq saved my life – courtesy of a letter of introduction he had signed after I visited his madrassa to follow a Talibanesque indoctrination in progress.

When, along with my photographer Jason Florio, we were arrested by the Taliban at a military base in Ghazni in the summer of 2000, we were only released from waiting six months to be tried as “spies” because of Samiul Haq’s letter.

This obviously pales when compared to the high-profile, principled move by the Pakistani Supreme Court to save Aasia Bibi from a death sentence.

But it could be the first salvo in a Khan-era Pakistani war against religious fundamentalism.

Imran Khan Sucks Poisonous Ideology Out of Pakistan’s Diplomatic Relations

By Adam Garrie
Source

Any country that forms its diplomatic relations on the basis of ideology rather than pragmatism is necessarily signing up for conflicts which are as unnecessary as they are detrimental. Just as so-called interlocking alliances in Europe led to a regionalised Balkan conflict growing into a monstrous First World War, so too did the ideological divides of the Cold War lead to multiple global conflicts that could have otherwise been avoided. From the time of Pakistan’s birth to the US led invasion of Afghanistan, multiple Pakistani leaders have felt an inexplicable need to form alliances on the basis of someone else’s ideology. As a result, Pakistan was cut off from opportunities in the wider world while Pakistan’s own partners had not sufficiently respected Pakistan as a sovereign nation with monumental potential as an economic and diplomatic powerhouse in Asia.

During this year’s general election in Pakistan, Imran Khan’s PTI party campaigned on a manifesto of pragmatic non-alignment whereby Islamabad would remain neutral in the conflicts of others while simultaneously working with all nations in order to secure win-win outcomes for the Pakistani people. Already, Imran’s policy shift from ideological subservience to intelligent openness has literally paid dividends. At a time when western Eurasian and European nations questioned their relationship with Saudi Arabia over the controversial murder of a journalist, Imran not only remained neutral but he turned the tables on a long standing relationship in order to replace lopsidedness with equality and the win-win mentality.

It was Imran’s tactful diplomacy that secured from Riyadh a much needed one year $3 billion loan in addition to a further $3 billion in the form of deferred payments of oil purchases. It was also under Imran’s watch that Saudi Arabia decided to integrate itself in the Belt and Road initiative in the form of a deal to invest $10 billion for the building of a new oil refinery in Pakistan’s Gwadar port city.

But this did not happen in isolation. Days prior to Imran’s trip to Riyadh (the second since becoming Prime Minister), he held a positive meeting with Qatari officials. Likewise, not long after Imran’s second trip to Riyadh, Pakistan’s President was dispatched to Turkey where he spoke positively about expanding the scope and breadth of relations between two nations that have long standing fraternal relations. When one considers that Saudi Arabia is currently in the midst of a manifold diplomatic row with both Turkey and Qatar, Imran’s achievement was to make the most of warm relations with all – without taking a side in affairs remote from Pakistan’s national interest. Likewise, Pakistan’s offer to mediate in the three year long war in Yemen has been met with good will from all quarters, thus demonstrating that Pakistan’s international prestige has already increased as a result of Naya Pakistan (new Pakistan) replacing a beleaguered Pakistan.

While Pakistan’s relations with neighbouring Iran have long been strained, Imran has already met twice with Tehran’s influential Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. While the proximate cause of Zarif’s recent visit to Islamabad was to discuss the most unfortunate and mysterious kidnapping of Iranian border guards who were brought into Pakistani territory, the meetings also covered a wide range of issues in-line with the gradual rapprochement between Pakistan and Iran. Coming to Pakistan in a spirit of good will, Iran’s Foreign Minister stated,

“Iran and Pakistan are two very good neighbours, and Tehran enjoys good relations with Islamabad. We consult with them on all matters”.

Later Pakistan’s Foreign Minister released the following statement:

“While expressing satisfaction over cooperation with regard to the Pakistan-Iran border, it was agreed to continue close consultations through the established multipronged mechanism between the two countries. Foreign Minister Qureshi underlined that the Pakistan-Iran border was a border of peace and Pakistan will spare no effort to keep it this way”.

Pakistan looks therefore to continue improving relations with Iran while simultaneously enjoying a more equal and more importantly a more meaningful relationship with long standing allies Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Any notion that Pakistan must choose to align itself with one set of rivals over another is not only counter intuitive in a multipolar world but it runs contrary to Pakistan’s own national interests.

While the poison of a zero-sum mentality to foreign affairs is being sucked out of the Pakistani body politic by the new government, just over the border in India, Pakistanis can see how the government of Narendra Modi is scrambling to re-align itself after a policy of almost subservient devotion to the United States backfired on several fronts.

First the US refused to exempt India from its tariffs which came as a shock to some policy makers in New Delhi. Then India was excoriated by elements of the US establishment for purchasing the S-400 missile system from Russia and finally, in a symbolic blow to India’s prestige among its newfound American partner, Donald Trump refused an invitation to the country’s Republic Day parade. In this sense, India has learned the hard way that if one doesn’t have good relations with as many nations as possible, one stands to be exposed and humiliated by a hegemon disguised as a co-equal partner.

India’s disappointment in the US (however temporary it may prove to be) will be a familiar tale to Pakistanis who have witnessed decades of humiliation due to Islamabad’s track record of locking itself into lopsided alliances formed on the basis of foreign ideologies. By contrast, US President Richard Nixon once said that Indira Gandhi, “suckered us”, referring to the fact she was willing to engage in dialogue with the US without evading strong relations with India’s then Soviet ally.

Today, Imran Khan is neither suckering anyone nor is he insulting Pakistan’s dignity by locking the country into the rusty cage of ideological alliances and partnerships. Indeed, even by approaching the IMF at a time when it would clearly be more beneficial for Pakistan to rely on loans from friendly countries, Imran has been able to use this reality to leverage both the cash rich Saudi Kingdom and Pakistan’s all-weather Chinese partner in order to secure the best deal possible for Pakistan.

As Imran is hours away from departing for China where he will hold the most important meeting of his career with President Xi Jinping, he can go in the confidence that Naya Pakistan is win-win Pakistan. The ghosts of the past are being exorcised in more ways than one and Imran is prepared to make the best of any potential situation through his steadfast and open approach to diplomacy which has already helped to ease the economic tensions he inherited from his predecessors.

The Asian Parliamentary Assembly Meeting In Gwadar Was Good News For CPEC

 

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By Andrew Korybko
Source

It was a very prudent move for Pakistan to have Gwadar host this year’s Asian Parliamentary Assembly instead of any other of the country’s cities because Islamabad showed off the progress that’s been made thus far on CPEC, encouraged its fellow institutional members to feel like they have a stake in its future success, and opened their eyes to the peaceful state of affairs in Balochistan.

This year’s Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA) just took place in the southwestern Pakistani port city of Gwadar, the terminal point of the Silk Road’s flagship project of CPEC as well as its mainland-maritime pivot, which importantly allowed Islamabad to show off the progress that’s been made thus far on this game-changing initiative. Around 100 parliamentarians from 26 countries such as Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia arrived to participate in the event, which was the first high-profile multilateral one of this level to take place there. The author suggested back in Spring 2017 during a speech at Pakistan’s National Defence University (NDU) that the country prioritize hosting large-scale events in this growing connectivity nexus in order to promote CPEC, proposing at the time that a brand-new function one day be unveiled provisionally called the “Gwadar Gathering” for bringing together a wide array of academic, political, military, business, and civil society figures.

The two-day APA meeting can therefore be seen as an organizational and logistical precursor for preparing Gwadar to host even larger functions in the future such as the unique one that the author suggested. It’s also relevant in and of itself not only for the work that the organization carried out during this time, but because of the soft power goals that Pakistan advanced as well. CPEC recently secured significant Saudi backing during Prime Minister Khan’s visit to the Kingdom in mid-September which was seen as proof of this project being the “Zipper of Eurasia” in at least connecting West Asia with East Asia via Pakistani territory, let alone of its larger potential in ultimately becoming the “Convergence of Civilizations” in Afro-Eurasia. These geo-cultural integrational possibilities could powerfully debunk Huntington’s thesis about the imminence of a so-called “clash of civilizations” if successfully actualized and thus stabilize the emerging Multipolar World Order.

Accordingly, it only makes sense that Acting President Sadiq Sanjrani emphasized the angle of CPEC’s Asian integrational vision and also took the time to talk about Pakistan’s many sacrifices in the War on Terror. This latter part of his remarks drew attention to the peacemaking achievements that were made in the Balochistan region over the past couple of years that enabled Pakistan to guarantee the security of CPEC and therefore make APA’s Gwadar meeting a reality. The intention behind doing all of this was to make the visiting dignitaries feel like their countries have a stake in CPEC’s success, but it also had another motivation to it as well. Showing the foreign parliamentarians the developmental progress that CPEC has made in Gwadar and the entire Balochistan region, as well as Pakistan’s future plans for them, exposed the fake news narrative  that the supposedly “hopeless plight” of the native Baloch has given rise to a “rebellion” as nothing more than a debunked infowar narrative spread by hostile forces.

The fact of the matter is that approximately 100 visiting parliamentarians saw that CPEC is delivering tangible benefits to the people of Balochistan and that the Pakistani state has successfully defeated terrorism there, though the region nevertheless remains in the crosshairs of Hybrid War precisely because of its strategic significance vis-à-vis the “Zipper of Eurasia” concept and its larger “Convergence of Civilizations” one. Having said that, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the rare attacks that still occur there every once in a while are due to foreign-backed terrorist infiltrators and not indigenous “rebels”, which former separatist leader Dr. Jumma Baloch proved to the world since switching sides, exposing how India hijacked his people’s struggle, and launching the Overseas Pakistani Baloch Unity organization for rehabilitating his remaining wayward compatriots. As such, it can be said that Gwadar’s hosting of the latest APA meeting was a success because it informed 26 countries’ representatives of CPEC’s grand strategic importance and the peaceful state of affairs of Balochistan.

 

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