Afghan Peace: A Pre-requisite for Prosperity in Eurasia Region

Afghan Peace: A Pre-requisite for Prosperity in Eurasia Region

October 10, 2019

by Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan for The Saker blog

Afghanistan is a landlocked country located within South-Central Asia. Afghanistan is bordered by Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and China. With its population of 35 million approximately, having a GDP (nominal) of 22 billion US dollars in total, and per capita income of 600 Dollars only. Rich with minerals and natural resources, and well-known for its fruits and nuts, still suffering and laying among the least developed country of the world, ranked 177. Four decades of war have damaged the whole country and the whole nation is a victim of war imposed on them.

Its geopolitical location is vital for the whole Eurasian region, as it connects Central Asia, Iran, China, and Russia, with Pakistan, leading towards Warm Waters – the Arabian Sea or the Indian Ocean. All of the countries are suffering due to instability in Afghanistan and desires a long-lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Very unfortunate! Afghanistan is under war or war-like situation for the last 4 decades. Are Afghans are people of lesser God??? No sufficient food, No education, No health care, severe shortage of electricity, Shortage of fuel, are witnessed in Afghanistan. It seems the sufferings of Afghans are going to end. The world has realized that it is enough and now think in the restoration of peace and stability in Afghanistan. The common man has suffered for more than 4 decades, which started with the former USSR entry of Afghanistan on the 25th of December 1979 and then internal power struggle among various factions of Afghanistan and finally after 9-11 incident happened in the US, NATO and allied forces entered into Afghanistan. NATO allies have been fighting in Afghanistan for 18 long years, but are still without control anywhere in the country. Even now, the US Army cannot move freely and fearlessly outside of Bagram Airbase. Taliban forces still control major parts of the country. After spending trillion Dollars, killing thousands of innocent people, testing and dumping tons of explosives, finally, the US has understood that they cannot win in Afghanistan. As a matter of fact, the US economy cannot sustain anymore, such as heavy and expensive wars. That is why the US has also decided to withdraw its troops from Syria too.

In fact, Afghanistan was never totally ruled by foreign powers, although in the country’s history many misadventures happened. The people of Afghanistan always defeated invaders. It has been invaded by Alexander the Great, Mauryas, Muslim Arabs, Mongols, British, Soviets and since 2001, by the United States with NATO-allied countries. But it has proved itself unconquerable. Afghans are brave people and believe in freedom only.

All of the regional countries, including Central Asian States, Russia, Iran, China, and Pakistan were trying to bring Peace and Stability in Afghanistan. Several initiatives for peace in Afghanistan were taken in the past, but none as successful as they were not involved or owned by locals –Taliban and were opposed by the US and its allies. The US-backed elected Governments in Afghanistan, do not enjoy popularity among masses and may not represent the voice of common Afghan nationals.

Pakistan, being neighbors with a long common border, understands Afghanistan well. We share rivers, mountains and a common culture, language and ethnicity, and language. That is why we understand Afghanistan much better than anybody else. The role which Pakistan can play, no other nation can. There is no other country to substitute Pakistan in this regard. The US was trying to involve India in Afghan Issues, but due to the reason it does not have any land linkage, neither any cultural or ethnic commonalities with Afghan, cannot understand their society or issues and helpless in resolving their issues. The world may acknowledge Pakistan’s sacrifices and positive role in this region. Pakistan sincerely wishes for peace and stability in Afghanistan, and as we have suffered losses of around 75,000 lives and $250 billion due to unrest in Afghanistan. We will be the first nation to support peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Pakistan was a very close ally with the US-led West alliance, for almost seven decades. We were partners during the Cold War against “Communism Threat” and a frontline state against the USSR invasion of Afghanistan, a strong supporter and close ally during the war on terror. Pakistan was strongest ally with West out-side NATO. Pakistan can play a vital role in a sustainable solution to the Afghan conflict. Complete withdrawal and an Afghan-led solution is the only permanent way out. Pakistan can facilitate an honorable and safe passage for US withdrawal.

Prime Minister, Imran Khan, a longtime critic of the Afghan war, is in the driving seat in Pakistan. In his maiden speech after winning the election on July 26, he expressed his wish to resolve Afghan issues. His stance, though very unpopular a few years ago, is extremely popular now, domestically as well as internationally, especially coincides with the currently emerged Americans approach. The US government knows that Pakistan under Khan’s leadership can woo the Taliban into accepting some kind of long-term ceasefire.

Pakistan wants to help with the Afghan peace process; peace in Afghanistan would be the best thing that could happen to Pakistan in decades, but certainly not at Pakistan’s expense. The US has asked Pakistan to bring the Taliban back to the table. How can Pakistan do this when the US had previously intentionally derailed the peace process? Recently U-turns by President Trump is even a major obstacle as a credibility issue. Yet, Pakistan did a lot to bring the Taliban on the negotiating table. But the peace process needs sincerity and persistence.

The US has to wake up to the realities in Pakistan. It cannot expect on one hand to harm Pakistan’s core interests and on the other hand strengthening its ties with India, especially after the Indian accession of Kashmir on the 5th of August 2019.

Criticizing Pakistan only, while ignoring Israel and India, who are engaged in genocide and worst atrocities against muslin and other minorities in their countries. On one hand, the US objects to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and resists Pakistan’s economic takeoff. And not extending any support to Pakistan to overcome its economic crisis.

The Taliban have been very clear in their demands from the very beginning, and that is a complete withdrawal of the US and its allied forces from Afghanistan. However, the US cannot sustain economic pressure and have to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan just like Syria. There are people in the US who think that after spending trillions of dollars, and still no achievement on the ground, is a blunder. Taxpayer are asking the government for accountability of heavy expenditures and wastage of their tax collected money. We hope, in the wider interest of humanity, the US may show flexibility and seriously consider the Afghan Peace Process. It will be good for Afghanistan, the region and over-all for the whole world.

Instability in Afghanistan makes many of its people flee into Pakistan, which has hosted up to 5 million Afghan refugees at peak times. No other country has accepted such a huge number of refugees, while Pakistan, a country with meager resources and a weak economy has accommodated them for such long 4 decades.

Pakistan was in the past a very tolerant and peace-loving, balanced society, but during the 1980s war in Afghanistan, Pakistan suffered extremism, intolerance, terrorism, gun culture, and drug culture. For four decades, the war in Afghanistan pushed Pakistan to give the highest priority to its defense and ignore other sectors such as education, health, science and technology, and innovation, as well as the social sector and developmental sectors. As a result, the nation was pushed backward.

In the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s Pakistan’s economy was performing very well – it was one of the most rapidly developing countries in South Asia. Singapore, South Korea, and Malaysia wanted to learn from Pakistan and its development model. The Pakistani passport was well respected in the world, with many countries offering us visas on arrival.

But since December 25, 1979, with the situation in Afghanistan has impacted Pakistan severely. Terrorism reached extreme levels and bombings, suicidal attacks and insecurity were witnessed everywhere.

After a school attack on December 16, 2016, in Peshawar, Pakistan formulated a National Action Plan (NAP). With the implementation of this program, Pakistan has achieved significant improvement in the country’s overall security landscape in recent years.

However, while Pakistan is successfully fighting the terrorists on its soil, it also expects the US, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Afghan forces to do the same in Afghanistan.

Several Peace initiatives are witnessed recently, either it is Doha talks, Moscow Format, Beijing or Islamabad talks, Talban’s are serious and moving forward with a hope to restore peace in Afghanistan permanently. Talban’s are the actual pillar of Power in Afghanistan, who holds major part of the country in their control and enjoys popularity inside Afghanistan. The US administrations has also realized their power and believes talking with them directly. A peaceful and developed Afghanistan is vital for the whole Eurasian region. It will promote trade and economic activities and change the whole pattern of trade around the world. Beneficiary will be not only Afghanistan only, but the whole Eurasian region.

Author: Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist, ex-Diplomate, Academician, Researcher, Peace-activist, Geo-analyst, Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), Islamabad, Pakistan. E-mail: awanzamir@yahoo.com)

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We are all hostages of 9/11

Pakistanis raise their weapons in the border town of Bajour as they shout anti-US slogans before leaving for Afghanistan in October 2001. Thousands from this tribal area go to join the Taliban in its ‘holy war’ against the US. Photo: AFP /Tariq Mahmood

September 11, 2019

BWe are all hostages of 9/11y Pepe Escobar – Posted with permission

After years of reporting on the Great War on Terror, many questions behind the US attacks remain unresolved

Afghanistan was bombed and invaded because of 9/11. I was there from the start, even before 9/11. On August 20, 2001, I interviewed commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, the “Lion of the Panjshir,” who told me about an “unholy alliance” of the Taliban, al-Qaeda and the ISI (Pakistani intel).

Back in Peshawar, I learned that something really big was coming: my article was published by Asia Times on August 30. Commander Massoud was killed on September 9: I received a terse email from a Panjshir source, only stating, “the commander has been shot.” Two days later, 9/11 happened.

And yet, the day before, none other than Osama bin Laden, in person, was in a Pakistani hospital in Rawalpindi, receiving treatment, as CBS reported. Bin Laden was proclaimed the perpetrator already at 11am on 9/11 – with no investigation whatsoever. It should have been not exactly hard to locate him in Pakistan and “bring him to justice.”

In December 2001 I was in Tora Bora tracking bin Laden – under B-52 bombers and side by side with Pashtun mujahideen. Later, in 2011, I would revisit the day bin Laden vanished forever.

One year after 9/11, I was back in Afghanistan for an in-depth investigation of the killing of Massoud. By then it was possible to establish a Saudi connection: the letter of introduction for Massoud’s killers, who posed as journalists, was facilitated by commander Sayyaf, a Saudi asset.

Saudi-born alleged terror mastermind Osama bin Laden is seen in a video taken at a secret site in Afghanistan. This was aired by Al-Jazeera on Oct. 7, 2001, the day the US launched bombing of terrorist camps, airbases and air defense installations in its campaign against the Taliban for sheltering bin Laden. Photo: AFP

For three years my life revolved around the Global War on Terror; most of the time I lived literally on the road, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, the Persian Gulf and Brussels. At the start of ‘Shock and Awe’ on Iraq, in March 2003, Asia Times published my in-depth investigation of which neo-cons concocted the war on Iraq.

In 2004, roving across the US, I re-traced the Taliban’s trip to Texas, and how a top priority, since the Clinton years all the way to the neo-cons, was about what I had baptized as “Pipelineistan” – in this case how to build the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline, bypassing Iran and Russia, and extending US control of Central and South Asia.

Later on, I delved into the hard questions the 9/11 Commission never asked, and how Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign was totally conditioned by and dependent on 9/11.

Michael Ruppert, a CIA whistleblower, who may – or may not – have committed suicide in 2014, was a top 9/11 analyst. We exchanged a lot of information, and always emphasized the same points: Afghanistan was all about (existent) heroin and (non-existent) pipelines.

In 2011, the late, great Bob Parry would debunk more Afghanistan lies. And in 2017, I would detail a top reason why the US will never leave Afghanistan: the heroin rat line.

Now, President Trump may have identified a possible Afghan deal – which the Taliban, who control two-thirds of the country, are bound to refuse, as it allows withdrawal of only 5,000 out of 13,000 US troops. Moreover, the US ‘Deep State’ is absolutely against any deal, as well as India and the rickety government in Kabul.

But Pakistan and China are in favor, especially because Beijing plans to incorporate Kabul into the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and have Afghanistan admitted as a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, thus attaching the Hindu Kush and the Khyber Pass to the ongoing Eurasia integration process.

Praying for a Pearl

Eighteen years after the game-changing fact, we all remain hostages of 9/11. US neocons, gathered at the Project for the New American Century, had been praying for a “Pearl Harbor” to reorient US foreign policy since 1997. Their prayers were answered beyond their wildest dreams.

Already in The Grand Chessboard, also published in 1997, former National Security Adviser and Trilateral Commission co-founder Zbigniew Brzezinski, nominally not a neocon, had pointed out that the American public “supported America’s engagement in World War II largely because of the shock effect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.”

So, Brzezinski added, America “may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat.”

As an attack on the homeland, 9/11 generated the Global War on Terror, launched at 11pm on the same day, initially christened “The Long War” by the Pentagon, later sanitized as Overseas Contingency Operations by the Obama administration. This cost trillions of dollars, killed over half a million people and branched out into illegal wars against seven Muslim nations – all justified on “humanitarian grounds” and allegedly supported by the “international community.”

Year after year, 9/11 is essentially a You Have The Right to Accept Only The Official Version ritual ceremony, even as widespread evidence suggests the US government knew 9/11 would happen and did not stop it.

Three days after 9/11, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that in June 2001, German intelligence warned the CIA that Middle East terrorists were “planning to hijack commercial aircraft to use as weapons to attack important symbols of American and Israeli culture.”

In August 2001, President Putin ordered Russian intel to tell the US government “in the strongest possible terms” of imminent attacks on airports and government buildings, MSNBC revealed in an interview with Putin that was broadcast on September 15 that year.

No US government agency has released any information on who used foreknowledge of 9/11 in the financial markets. The US Congress did not even raise the issue. In Germany, investigative financial journalist Lars Schall has been working for years on a massive study detailing to a great extent insider trading before 9/11.

While NORAD sleeps

Discrediting the official, immutable 9/11 narrative remains the ultimate taboo. Hundreds of architects and engineers engaged in meticulous technical debunking of all aspects of 9/11’s official story are summarily dismissed as “conspiracy theorists.”

In contrast, skepticism rooted in Greek and Latin tradition came up with arguably the best documentary on 9/11: Zero, an Italian production. Just as arguably the most stimulating book on 9/11 is also Italian: The Myth of September 11, by Roberto Quaglia, which offers a delicately nuanced narrative of 9/11 as a myth structured as a movie. The book became a huge hit in Eastern Europe.

Serious questions suggest quite plausible suspects to be investigated regarding 9/11, far more than 19 Arabs with box cutters. Ten years ago, in Asia Times, I asked 50 questions, some of them extremely detailed, about 9/11. After reader demand and suggestions, I added 20 more. None of these questions were convincingly addressed – not to mention answered – by the official narrative.

World public opinion is directed to believe that on the morning of 9/11 four airliners, presumably hijacked by 19 Arabs with box cutters, traveled undisturbed – for two hours – across the most controlled airspace on the planet, which is supervised by the most devastating military apparatus ever.

American Airlines Flight 11 deviated from its path at 8.13am and crashed into the first World Trade Center tower at 8.57am. Only at 8.46am did NORAD – the North American Aerospace Defense Command – order that two intercepting F-15s take off from Otis military base.

A hijacked commercial plane crashes into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 in New York. Photo: AFP / Set McAllister

By a curious coincidence a Pentagon war game was in effect on the morning of 9/11 – so air-controllers’ radars may have registered only ‘ghost signals’ of nonexistent aircraft simulating an air attack. Well, it was much more complicated than that, as demonstrated by professional pilots.

‘Angel was next’

World public opinion is also directed to believe that a Boeing 757 – with a wingspan of 38 meters – managed to penetrate the Pentagon through a six-meter-wide hole and at the height of the first floor. A Boeing 757 with landing gear is 13 meters high. Airliners electronically refuse to crash – so it’s quite a feat to convince one to fly five to 10 meters above the ground, landing gear on, at a lightning speed of 800 kilometers an hour.

According to the official narrative, the Boeing 757 literally pulverized itself. Yet even after pulverization, it managed to perforate six walls of three rings of the Pentagon, leaving a two-meter wide hole in the last wall but only slightly damaging the second and third rings. The official narrative is that the hole was caused by the plane’s nose – still quite hard even after pulverization. Yet the rest of the plane – a mass of 100 tons traveling at 800 kilometers an hour – miraculously stopped at the first ring.

All that happened under the stewardship of one Hani Hanjour, who three weeks before had been judged by his flight instructors to be incapable of piloting a Cessna. Hanjour, nonetheless, managed to accomplish an ultra-fast spiral descent at 270 degrees, aligning at a maximum 10 meters above ground, minutely calibrating the trajectory, and keeping a cruise speed of roughly 800 kilometers an hour.

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers, left, and US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld brief reporters at the Pentagon on Oct. 8, 2001 following the US bombing raids on Afghanistan in response to 9/11 attacks. Photo: AFP / Luke Frazza

At 9.37am, Hanjour hit precisely the Pentagon’s budget analysts’ office, where everyone was busy working on the mysterious disappearance of no less than $2.3 trillion that Defense Secretary Donald “Known Unknowns” Rumsfeld, in a press conference the day before, said could not be tracked. So, it’s not only Boeings that get pulverized inside the Pentagon.

World public opinion is also directed to believe that Newtonian physics was suspended as a special bonus for WTC 1 and 2 on 9/11 (not to mention WTC 7, which was not even hit by any plane). The slower WTC tower took 10 seconds to fall 411 meters, starting from immobility. So it fell at 148 kilometers an hour. Considering the initial acceleration time, it was a free fall, not the least impeded by 47 massive, vertical steel beams that composed the tower’s structural heart.

World public opinion is also directed to believe that United Airlines Flight 93 – 150 tons of aircraft with 45 people, 200 seats, luggage, a wingspan of 38 meters – crashed in a field in Pennsylvania and also literally pulverized itself, totally disappearing inside a hole six meters by three meters wide and only two meters deep.

Suddenly, Air Force One was “the only plane in the sky.” Colonel Mark Tillman, who was on board, recalled: “We get this report that there’s a call saying ‘Angel’ was next. No one really knows now where the comment came from – it got mistranslated or garbled amid the White House, the Situation Room, the radio operators. ‘Angel’ was our code name. The fact that they knew about ‘Angel,’ well, you had to be in the inner circle.”

This means that 19 Arabs with box cutters, and most of all their handlers, surely must have been “in the inner circle.” Inevitably, this was never fully investigated.

Already in 1997, Brzezinski had warned,

“it is imperative that no Eurasian challenger emerges capable of dominating Eurasia and thus of also challenging America.”

In the end, much to the despair of US neocons, all the combined sound and fury of 9/11 and the Global War on Terror/Overseas Contingency Operations, in less than two decades, ended up metastasized into not only a challenger but a Russia-China strategic partnership. This is the real “enemy” – not al-Qaeda, a flimsy figment of the CIA’s imagination, rehabilitated and sanitized as “moderate rebels” in Syria.

 

China and Jammu and Kashmir’s new status

August 10, 2019

China and Jammu and Kashmir’s new status

Beijing has a lot of influence over Pakistan and indirectly is in a position to leverage the next moves by Islamabad

M.K. BHADRAKUMAR

In the aftermath of the Indian government’s decision to remove “special status” for Jammu and Kashmir and split the state into two union territories, the most keenly awaited regional and international reaction – and a hugely consequential one – would be that of China, not the US or even any of the other three permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

This is for three reasons. First, China is the only P5 member that is party to the Kashmir dispute by virtue of its Faustian deal with Pakistan in 1963 – the Sino-Pakistan Frontier Agreement and Sino-Pakistani Boundary Agreement – as well as because of Aksai Chin being a disputed territory.

Second, it is well known that China has a larger-than-life influence over Pakistan, and therefore, indirectly, is in a position to leverage the next moves by Islamabad on the J&K situation in practical or political terms.

Third, of course, China is a veto-holding P5 member. Although not involved in the making of the UN resolutions on Kashmir in 1948-1949 – which was an Anglo-American enterprise at a juncture when Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru somehow deliberately refrained from seeking Soviet help to counter India’s isolation in the UNSC – nonetheless, China is a powerful protagonist today if the Kashmir file were to reopen in New York at Pakistan’s behest.

Chinese reaction

On Tuesday, the Chinese reaction to the announcement in Delhi on Monday relating to J&K has come in two parts in the nature of remarks by the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman in Beijing – a relatively low-key reaction in diplomatic terms in comparison with a full-fledged statement, as Turkey, for instance, has done. One part exclusively relates to Ladakh’s new status as union territory, while the other one relates to the “current situation” in J&K.

Both remarks are devoid of any stridency, and on the whole India can live with them, although Western media, unsurprisingly, has hyped them. In fact, neither voices any overt backing to Pakistan. And, importantly, there are no new overtones as such in the well-known Chinese stance.

The remark on the change in Ladakh’s status begins by underscoring explicitly that China is voicing its “firm and consistent position,” which “remains unchanged.” That is to say, it regards part of Ladakh to be Chinese territory and India should not unilaterally create facts on the ground through domestic laws. If India does, China will consider that unacceptable and it “will not come into force.”

The remark rounds off stating the Chinese stance that India should speak and act with prudence on the boundary question, strictly abide by relevant agreements on peace and tranquility and avoid precipitate steps.

This is exactly what China has maintained and can be expected to state. No doubt, this is also what India would expect China to observe in regard of the unresolved border dispute. The Indian stance on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a fine example.

The gray area here is whether the administration of Ladakh as a union territory will entail administrative arrangements on the ground that tread on Chinese sensitivity. Prima facie, that is unlikely to happen, since the two militaries present in the vacant spaces observe ground rules.

On the other hand, the interesting aspect of the Chinese spokeswoman’s remark on the J&K situation is that there is no direct reference to the specific situation involving the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution. The remark is of a generic nature. It repeats that the J&K situation is a matter of serious concern, but underscores categorically that “China’s position on the Kashmir issue is clear and consistent.”

‘International consensus’

Most important, it flags that China is in sync with the “international consensus” that the Kashmir issue is a historical conundrum that India and Pakistan have to grapple with by exercising restraint and prudence. This means, however, that the two countries “should refrain from taking actions that will unilaterally change the status quo and escalate tensions.” China calls on the two countries to “peacefully resolve … [their] relevant disputes through dialogue and consultation” in the interest of regional “peace and stability.”

Indeed, the “known unknown” here is to what extent, if any, the current upheaval in Hong Kong influenced Beijing to sidestep the Indian government’s specific move to abolish Article 370 and abandon J&K’s “special status.” To be sure, a grave situation has arisen in Hong Kong, which has assumed anti-China overtones.

No analogy holds 100% in politics, but there are similarities in the public alienation in J&K and in Hong Kong that foreign powers are exploiting. In fact, China also has to contend with its equivalent of India’s Article 370 – the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which is as sacrosanct as an international bilateral treaty, signed between China and Britain on December 19, 1984, in Beijing.

Legally binding

Curiously, the Joint Declaration is also legally binding, and like Article 370, it commits China to allow Hong Kong to “enjoy a high degree of autonomy, except for foreign and defense affairs” even as the territory will be “directly under the authority” of Beijing.

Most important, the Joint Declaration affirms that the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) is responsible for the “maintenance of public order … Military forces sent by the Central People’s Government to be stationed in … [the HKSAR] for the purpose of defense shall not interfere in the internal affairs” in the HKSAR.

The treaty is valid for 50 years, but a crisis is looming large on the horizon, and there is much speculation that patience is wearing thin in Beijing. A top Chinese official said on Wednesday: “Hong Kong is facing the most serious situation since its return to China.”

A Beijing-datelined commentary by Xinhua on Monday titled “Bottom Line on Hong Kong brooks no challenge” was furious that “black-clad, masked protesters removed the Chinese national flag from a flagpole in Tsim Sha Tsui of Hong Kong and later flung the flag into the water Saturday, an unforgivable, lawless act that has blatantly offended the national dignity, is an insult to all Chinese people, including Hong Kong compatriots, and must be severely punished in accordance with law.”

All factors taken into account, as the saying goes, the pot cannot call the kettle black. The MEA’s response to the Chinese remarks on J&K has gently drawn attention to the reciprocity that governs inter-state relationships by underscoring that the legislation known as the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill 2019, introduced by the government in Parliament on August 5, is “an internal matter concerning the territory of India. India does not comment on the internal affairs of other countries and similarly expects other countries to do likewise.” India has scrupulously maintained silence on Hong Kong developments.

asiatimes.com

The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.

Hong Kong, Kashmir: a Tale of Two Occupations

August 09, 2019

Hong Kong, Kashmir: a Tale of Two Occupations

By Pepe Escobar : with permission and crossposted with Strategic Culture

Readers from myriad latitudes have been asking me about Hong Kong. They know it’s one of my previous homes. I developed a complex, multi-faceted relationship with Hong Kong ever since the 1997 handover, which I covered extensively. Right now, if you allow me, I’d rather cut to the chase.

Much to the distress of neocons and humanitarian imperialists, there won’t be a bloody mainland China crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong – a Tiananmen 2.0. Why? Because it’s not worth it.

Beijing has clearly identified the color revolution provocation inbuilt in the protests – with the NED excelling as CIA soft, facilitating the sprawl of fifth columnists even in the civil service.

There are other components, of course. The fact that Hong Kongers are right to be angry about what is a de facto Tycoon Club oligarchy controlling every nook and cranny of the economy. The local backlash against “the invasion of the mainlanders”. And the relentless cultural war of Cantonese vs. Beijing, north vs. south, province vs. political center.

What these protests have accelerated is Beijing’s conviction that Hong Kong is not worth its trust as a key node in China’s massive integration/development project. Beijing invested no less than $18.8 billion to build the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, as part of the Greater Bay Area, to integrate Hong Kong with the mainland, not to snub it.

Now a bunch of useful idiots at least has graphically proven they don’t deserve any sort of preferential treatment anymore.

The big story in Hong Kong is not even the savage, counter-productive protests (imagine if this was in France, where Macron’s army is actually maiming and even killing Gilets Jaunes/Yellow Vests). The big story is the rot consuming HSBC – which has all the makings of the new Deutsche Bank scandal.

HSBC holds $2.6 trillion in assets and an intergalactic horde of cockroaches in their basement – asking serious questions about money laundering and dodgy deals operated by global turbo-capitalist elites.

In the end, Hong Kong will be left to its own internally corroding devices – slowly degrading to its final tawdry status as a Chinese Disneyland with a Western veneer. Shanghai is already in the process of being boosted as China’s top financial center. And Shenzhen already is the top high-tech hub. Hong Kong will be just an afterthought.

Brace for blowback

While China identified “Occupy Hong Kong” as a mere Western-instilled and instrumentalized plot, India, for its part, decided to go for Full Occupy in Kashmir.

Curfew was imposed all across the Kashmir valley. Internet was cut off. All Kashmiri politicians were rounded up and arrested. In fact all Kashmiris – loyalists (to India), nationalists, secessionists, independentists, apolitical – were branded as The Enemy. Welcome to Indian “democracy” under the crypto-fascist Hindutva.

“Jammu and Kashmir”, as we know it, is no more. They are now two distinct entities. Geologically spectacular Ladakh will be administered directly by New Delhi. Blowback is guaranteed. Resistance committees are already springing up.

In Kashmir, blowback will be even bigger because there will be no elections anytime soon. New Delhi does not want that kind of nuisance – as in dealing with legitimate representatives. It wants full control, period.

Starting in the early 1990s, I’ve been to both sides of Kashmir a few times. The Pakistani side does feel like Azad (“Free”) Kashmir. The Indian side is unmistakably Occupied Kashmir. This analysis is as good as it gets portraying what it means to live in IOK (Indian-occupied Kashmir).

BJP minions in India scream that Pakistan “illegally” designated Gilgit-Baltistan – or the Northern Areas – as a federally administered area. There’s nothing illegal about it. I was reporting in Gilgit-Baltistan late last year, following the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Nobody was complaining about any “illegality”.

Pakistan officially said it “will exercise all possible options to counter [India’s] illegal steps” in Kashmir. That’s extremely diplomatic. Imran Khan does not want confrontation – even as he knows full well Modi is pandering to Hindutva fanatics, aiming to turn a Muslim-majority province into a Hindu-majority province. In the long run though, something inevitable is bound to emerge – fragmented, as a guerrilla war or as a united front.

Welcome to the Kashmiri Intifada.

How to kill 10 million Afghans and not win

July 24, 2019

by Pepe Escobar : Posted with permission

Afghan security officials inspect the scene of a bomb blast near the University of Afghanistan in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 19. At least 8 people were reported killed and 33 others injured. Two vehicles caught fire following the explosion. Photo: AFP / Haroon Sabawoon / Anadolu Agency
How to kill 10 million Afghans and not win

“We’re like policemen. We’re not fighting a war. If we wanted to fight a war in Afghanistan and win it, I could win that war in a week. But I don’t want to kill 10 million people. Afghanistan could be wiped off the face of the Earth. I don’t want to go that route.”

Even considering the rolling annals of demented Trumpism, bolstered every single day by a torrent of outrageous tweets and quotes, what you’ve just read is simply astonishing. Here we have the President of the United States asserting that,

1) The US is not fighting a war in Afghanistan;

2) If the US wanted a war, the President would win it in a week;

3) He would kill 10 million people – although he doesn’t want it;

4) “Afghanistan” as a whole, for no meaningful reason, could be wiped off the face of the Earth.

Trump said all of the above while sitting alongside Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan – who, in a deft move, is trying to appease the White House even as he carefully positions Pakistan as a solid node of Eurasia integration alongside Russia, China and Iran.

When Trump says the US is not fighting a war in Afghanistan, he’s on to something, although it’s doubtful that Team Trump have told the boss that the real game in town, from the beginning, is the CIA heroin rat line.

It’s also doubtful Trump would ask for input from his hated predecessor Barack Obama. Obama may not have killed 10 million people, but the forces under his command did kill scores of Afghans, including countless civilians. And still Obama did not “win” – much less “in a week.”

Barack Obama did entertain the notion of “winning” the war in Afghanistan. After deliberating in solitary confinement for 11 hours, as legend goes, he “methodically” settled for a two-step surge, 21,000 troops plus 30,000. Obama believed the war on Afghanistan was a noble crusade and during his presidential campaign in 2008 always defined it as “the right war.”

Obama defended his surge on humanitarian imperialist grounds: “For the Afghan people, the return of Taliban rule would condemn their country to brutal governance, international isolation, a paralyzed economy and the denial of basic human rights to the Afghan people, especially women and girls.” The New York Times and the Washington Post applauded.

But, Kabul, we have a problem. Afghanistan, bombed and invaded under the Cheney regime, was never a “right” or “just” war. There was never any established Taliban connection to 9/11. Plotting and financing for 9/11 involved Saudis and cells in Germany, Pakistan and the UAE. Mullah Omar never dispatched any “terra-rists” on one-way tickets to America.

Nevertheless, the Taliban leadership in Kandahar did agree to a deal – brokered by Moscow – to surrender Osama bin Laden, who, without even the hint of an investigation, was proclaimed the evil 9/11 culprit only a few hours after the collapse of the Twin Towers. The Cheney regime rejected the Taliban offer, as well as a subsequent one, to hand over Osama to a Muslim nation for trial. The Cheney regime only wanted an extradition to the US.

The SCO steps in

With puppet Hamid Karzai barely reigning in Kabul, and the neocons already focused on their real target, Iraq, the occupation of Afghanistan was handed over to NATO. This had already been decided even before 9/11, at the G8 in Genoa in July, when it became clear Washington had a plan to strike Afghanistan by October. The Cheney regime badly needed a beachhead in the intersection of Central Asia and South Asia not only to monitor Russia and China but also to coordinate a drive to take over Central Asia’s massive gas wealth.

Notoriously fickle history in the Hindu Kush ruled otherwise. Incrementally, the Taliban started to get their mojo back throughout the 2010s, to the point that now they control as much as half of the country.

Even that fountain of vanity General David Petraeus – who had crafted the (failed) Iraq surge – always knew the Afghan war was un-winnable. Disgraced General Stanley McChrystal at least was more surgical: “We’ve shot an amazing number of people and killed a number, and to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat.”

Still, certified fun and games were assured by stuff such as Lockheed Martin’s high mobility artillery rocket system laying waste to Pashtun villages and devastating wedding ceremonies. Pentagon propaganda about “low collateral damage” never disguised the absence of real, actionable intel on the ground.

Seymour Hersh argued that Obama’s version of the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 was an elaborate work of fiction – subsequently duly enshrined by Hollywood. One year later, Obama’s surge still had 88,000 soldiers in Afghanistan plus nearly 118,000 contractors. The surge then died a slow, ignominious death.

Anyone remotely familiar with the fractious geopolitics at the intersection of Central and South Asia knows that, for the US military-industrial-security complex, to withdraw from Afghanistan is anathema. Trump may be emitting some noise – but that’s just noise. Bagram air base is an invaluable asset in the Empire of Bases to monitor the evolving Russia-China strategic partnership.

The only feasible solution for Afghanistan is a pan-Eurasia mechanism being advanced by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, with Russia and China at the helm, India and Pakistan as full members and Iran and Afghanistan as observers. Afghanistan will then be fully integrated as a node of the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative, as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as well as the Indian mini-Silk Road through Afghanistan towards Central Asia starting from the Iranian port of Chabahar.

This is what all major Eurasia players want. This is how you “win” a war. And this is how you don’t need to kill 10 million people.

Sultan shines in the court of the Dragon King

Sultan shines in the court of the Dragon King

by Pepe Escobar : Posted with permission

July 10, 2019

The graphiSultan shines in the court of the Dragon Kingc image of Turkey pivoting away from NATO towards the Russia-China strategic partnership was provided, in more ways than one, by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing right after the G20 in Osaka.

Turkey is a key hub in the emerging New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative. Erdogan is a master at selling Turkey as the ultimate East-West crossroads. He has also expressed much interest in joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), led by Russia-China, whose annual summit took place in Bishkek a few days before Osaka.

In parallel, against hell and high water – from threats of sanctions by the US Congress to NATO warnings – Erdogan never budged from Ankara’s decision to buy Russian S-400 defense missile systems, a $2.5-billion contract according to Rostec’s Sergei Chemezov.

The S-400s start to be shipped to Turkey as early as this week. According to Turkish Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar, their deployment should start by October. Much to Washington’s ire, Turkey is the first NATO member state to buy S-400s.

Xi, as he welcomed Erdogan in Beijing, stressed the message he crafted together with Putin in their previous meetings in St Petersburg, Bishkek and Osaka: China and Turkey should “uphold a multilateral world order with the United Nations at its core, a system based on international law.”

Erdogan, for his part, turned up the charm – from publishing an op-ed in the Global Times extolling a common vision of the future to laying it out in some detail. His target is to consolidate Chinese investment in multiple areas in Turkey, directly or indirectly related to Belt and Road.

BEIJING, CHINA – JULY 02: President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) walk past the honor guards during an official welcoming ceremony at Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China on July 02, 2019. Volkan Furuncu / Anadolu Agency

Addressing the extremely sensitive Uighur dossier head on, Erdogan deftly executed a pirouette. He eschewed accusations from his own Foreign Ministry that “torture and political brainwashing” were practiced in Uighur detention camps and would rather comment that Uighurs “live happily” in China. “It is a fact that the peoples of China’s Xinjiang region live happily in China’s development and prosperity. Turkey does not permit any person to incite disharmony in the Turkey-China relationship.”

This is even more startling considering that Erdogan himself, in the past decade, had accused Beijing of genocide. And in a famous 2015 case, hundreds of Uighurs about to be deported from Thailand back to China ended up, after much fanfare, being resettled in Turkey.

New geopolitical caravan

Erdogan seems to have finally realized that the New Silk Roads are the 2.0 digital version of the Ancient Silk Roads whose caravans linked the Middle Kingdom, via trade, to multiple lands of Islam – from Indonesia to Turkey and from Iran to Pakistan.

Before the 16th century, the main line of communication across Eurasia was not maritime, but the chain of steppes and deserts from Sahara to Mongolia, as Arnold Toynbee wonderfully observed. Walking the line we would find merchants, missionaries, travelers, scholars, all the way to Turko-Mongols from Central Asia migrating to the Middle East and the Mediterranean. They all formed the stuff of interconnection and cultural exchange between Europe and Asia – way beyond geographical discontinuity.

Arguably Erdogan is now able to read the new tea leaves. The Russia-China strategic partnership – directly involved in linking Belt and Road with the Eurasia Economic Union and also the International North-South Transportation Corridor – considers Turkey and Iran as absolutely indispensable key hubs for the ongoing, multi-layered Eurasia integration process.

A new Turkey-Iran-Qatar geopolitical and economic axis is slowly but surely evolving in Southwest Asia, ever more linked to Russia-China. The thrust is Eurasia integration, visible for instance via a frenzy of railroad building designed to link the New Silk Roads, and the Russia-Iran transportation corridor, to the Eastern Mediterranean and the Red Sea and, eastwards, the Iran-Pakistan corridor to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, one of Belt and Road’s highlights.

This is all being supported by interlocking transportation cooperation agreements involving Turkey-Iran-Qatar and Iran-Iraq-Syria.

The end result not only consolidates Iran as a key Belt and Road connectivity hub and China’s strategic partner, but also by contiguity Turkey – the bridge to Europe.

As Xinjiang is the key hub in Western China connecting to multiple Belt and Road corridors, Erdogan had to find a middle ground – in the process minimizing, to a great extent, waves of disinformation and Western-peddled Sinophobia. Applying Xi Jinping thought, one would say Erdogan opted for privileging cultural understanding and people-to-people exchanges over an ideological battle.

The flags of China and Turkey flutter in Beijing during Erdogan’s visit to China on July 2. Photo: Wang Xin/ ImagineChina / AFP

Ready to mediate

In conjunction with his success at the court of the Dragon King, Erdogan now feels emboldened enough to offer his services as mediator between Tehran and the Trump administration – picking up on a suggestion he made to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the G20.

Erdogan would not have made that offer if it had not been discussed previously with Russia and China – which, crucially, are member signatories of the Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA).

It’s easy to see how Russia and China should consider Turkey the perfect mediator: a neighbor of Iran, the proverbial bridge between East and West, and a NATO member. Turkey is certainly much more representative than the EU-3 (France, UK, Germany).

Trump seems to want – or at least gives the impression of imposing – a JCPOA 2.0, without an Obama signature. The Russia-China partnership could easily call his bluff, after clearing it with Tehran, by offering a new negotiating table including Turkey. Even if the ineffective – in every sense – EU-3 remained, there would be real counterbalance in the form of Russia, China and Turkey.

Out of all these important moves in the geopolitical chessboard, one motivation stands out among top players: Eurasian integration cannot significantly progress without challenging the Trumpian sanction obsession.

Imran Khan’s Patriotic Leadership Secures a $3 Billion Loan to Ease Crisis

By Adam Garrie
Soruce

Saudi Arabia has recently been making headlines for all of the wrong reasons. While the $10 billion investment agreement that will see Riyadh join the Belt and Road initiative by building a new oil refinery in Pakistan’s Gwadar port city, this story has generally be buried beneath those discussing the murder of Saudi born journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. But while for nations with the economic luxury of investigating the Khashoggi matter, business might not proceed with Riyadh as usual, for Pakistan, there is a crisis at hand that effects not the family of a single slain man but the lives of over 200 million Pakistanis.

Decades of domestic mismanagement in respect of the Pakistani economy appears to have forced Islamabad back to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a new bailout to stop Pakistan’s current account deficit from causing a major economic crisis. While Prime Minister Imran Khan recently stated that he will approach three nations (which he did not name) prior to approaching the IMF, further statements from Pakistan’s government indicate that a new IMF bailout may be inevitable. That being said, Pakistan has yet to formally make the request to the IMF.

The risk of Pakistan not being able to pay back its debts due to the domestic current accounts deficit has led Imran Khan to suggest that a possible hybrid solution involving a smaller IMF loan in combination with loan agreements with sovereign partners may be the best way forward. It is against this background that Imran met with top Saudi officials including King Salman in Riyadh where he is attending the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference, sometimes called the “Davos in the desert”.

During a lengthy interview before attendees of the FII conference, Imran Khan spoke candidly about the pressing matter of a monetary injection either from an cooperative partner nation, the IMF of both. He also laid bear the reality that economic reforms implemented today might not achieve their full desired goal for months or even a year. That being said, Imran balanced this honest and frank assessment against his medium and long term goal to rejuvenate Pakistan’s founding mission as articulated by national father Muhammad Ali Jinnah who sought to built a state where the welfare of all citizens was collectively assured through progressive measures designed to enhance social harmony.

Turning to his nation’s relationship with China, the Pakistani Prime Minister stated that as a country that was able to lift 700 million people out of poverty in thirty years, China is naturally an inspiration for Pakistan as Imran looks to elevate the condition of his people in the most rapid fashion possible. Iman Khan went on to speak of the great economic potential of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and in particular the Gwadar port. He then invited members of the international business community to invest in the special economic zones that are being built at Gwadar while drawing a helpful comparison to Gwadar’s deep water port to that of Singapore. Imran Khan then reflected on the modern housing programme his government has just inaugurated.

In addition to explaining to his audience of Saudi and international investors that Pakistan is a resource rich country ripe for forward looking foreign direct investment, the Prime Minister further explained how years of a war on terror which saw extremists enter into Pakistan from the Afghan side of the Durand Line made many international investors concerned with the safety of investments in Pakistan. While Pakistan has largely won its own war on terror thanks to the professionalism of the security services that Imran paid tribute to, this fact remains scarcely reported outside of Pakistan. Therefore it was of supreme importance that Imran explained that while Pakistan’s economy is current going through a difficult period, that this is partly do to the supreme sacrifices that Pakistan made to rid itself of the plague of terrorist extremism. In this sense, Pakistan today is not only a sound investment but in a literal sense it is also a safe one.

In making the point that whilst Pakistan was one of the fastest growing economies in Asia during the 1960s but that subsequent decades of poor governance meant that the country “lost its way”, today under his government, Imran Khan looks to restore balance to society while attracting unprecedented levels of foreign direct investment.

Iman Khan’s statement was focused, honest and deeply informed. For the first time in decades, Pakistan has a highly articulate Prime Minister who is willing and able to act as an economic ambassador whose mission is to secure the best possible future for his fellow Pakistanis. The long term future is of course a bright one as CPEC and related projects will doubtless flourish in future years and decades. Therefore, Pakistan’s challenge in the immediate term is to secure credit lines with reliable and trustworthy partners who can help Islamabad to get over the current obstacles erected by a combination of poor governance from recent decades and a nationally exhausting war against extremism that was won at a great price to society.

By focusing on Pakistan and its relations with its traditional partners including China and his Saudi Arabian hosts, Imran Khan has not fallen victim to vainglorious temptations that were so attractive to many of his predecessors. Rather than speak as though he was more concerned with remote issues than those facing his people, Iman Khan spoke about what Pakistan needs, wants and can offer. This is mature statesmanship that offers the best possible solution to the present current accounts deficit issue.

While much of the world, including and especially Europe tries to exploit the tragedy of others for its own gain, Pakistan’s new Prime Minsiter has demonstrated calm, decisive and honest leadership at a time when anything else could harm Pakistan’s fortunes greatly. While some domestic opponents continue to argue among themselves, Imran Khan is making the case for Pakistan’s future to those who are in a position to extend a helping hand on a win-win basis. This is the difference between decades of failure and the potential of Naya Pakistan (New Pakistan).

As a result of Imran Khan’s discussions with the Saudi King and Crown Prince, Riyadh has agreed to loan Pakistan $3 billion as part of a year long credit agreement. Additionally, Saudi Arabia will allow Pakistan to defer payments for oil imports up to the amount of an additional $3 billion in an agreement set to last for one year. With Imran Khan soon to visit China, there is now hope that Pakistan can help to cut its deficit through a series of loans from friendly nations. 

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