India’s Outrageous Media Compounds Constant Failures Against Pakistan

By Aga Hussain
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One can barely get used to the mixture of amusement and disbelief that Indian propaganda delivered through its burgeoning network of news channels. Retweeted and spread about immediately by the world’s largest Twitter community, it seems odd that the cartoonish levels of false propaganda created and pushed by the Indian media hasn’t become a topic discussed and analyzed far and wide yet.

While this may be explainable by the fact that the Indian public’s overwhelmingly Pakistan-centric approach results in the fake-news campaigns directed at mostly Pakistani online communities, the capability of such a vast apparatus to escalate tensions between two nuclear-armed states makes it worth a lot more attention than it is getting.

The ‘Surgical Strike’ of 25 February and its embarrassing consequences

Early morning on the 25th of February, India claimed to have aerially struck ‘terror camps’ on the Pakistani side of the disputed Kashmir region. After initial variations, the main claim from Indian leaders and media settled around ‘300 Jaish e Mohammed militants killed’ (JeM is a Pakistan-based group that recruits fighters to attack India’s occupation forces in Kashmir). Cue the victory lap by Indian media and the announcements of Bollywood films to follow, and ‘revenge’ for the 14 February car-bombing by a Kashmiri of an Indian paramilitary force convoy that killed near 50 Indian personnel. JeM, of course, was blamed by India, without evidence and thus the 25 February strikes were hailed as ‘payback’.

However, Pakistan’s military PR wing quickly uploaded pictures of the site of the attacks and showed that, far from there being no evidence of such a large number of militants having been killed, let alone even being there, the Indian jets had merely dropped a ‘payload’ before speeding back into India after pursuit by Pakistani jets. The fuel tanks damaged trees and injured an old man, and that was about it. Videos taken separately by locals also matched the pictures the military released to Twitter.

The village where India’s few minutes-long incursion into Pakistani airspace yielded the ‘strike’ was Balakot, lying essentially on the de facto border or Line of Control. To maximize the ‘impressiveness’ of the ‘strike’, Indian media claimed India had hit a city with the same name in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province which would imply a very deep incursion as opposed to the real one which was only a few miles.

Pakistan’s army acted quickly in getting validation for its response to India’s erratic claims from third party sources and demonstrated that no such fantastic strike had been carried out by the Indians. Pakistan promised a response at a time and place of its own choosing and the stage was set for the Indian media to go from the offensive to the defensive and attempt to exert damage control over the impending losses India would soon incur.

Notwithstanding more recent statements by India ‘accepting’ that it scored no successes in its Balakot adventure, Indian media did still earn more ridicule by playing ‘recordings’ of ‘Pakistani’ militants ‘discussing the strike’ and using Hindi words as well as Indian accents to make it appear as if the strike happened.

Attempting to hide the beating at the hands of the Pakistani airforce with incredulous claims

Pakistan’s airforce successfully shot down two Indian jets, two MIG-21s, the next day as a response to the Indian aerial incursion. One had its pilot eject and land on the Pakistani side of the LoC and proceed to be rescued by Pakistani soldiers before he would have otherwise been killed by a mob as can be seen in this video. The captive Wing Commander, Abhinandan, was interviewed by the Pakistani military and shown to be treated as according to international humanitarian standards. He probably could not have guessed, however, that the Indians would be busy claiming he had downed a Pakistani jet himself.

As expected, there was no video of this Pakistani jet going down or its debris on the Pakistani side of the LoC, or of the mysterious F-16 Pakistani pilot claimed by India to have been ‘nearly lynched’ by a Pakistani mob ‘mistaking him for an Indian pilot’. Apparently, the Pakistani mob would be too foolish to recognize his Pakistani air force uniform or be able to communicate in proper Urdu with him, if one were to believe Indian media claims.

Pakistan stated that it had not used any F-16. In a strange way, then, of trying to prove the possibility of such having happened, Indian media went about attempting to explain that an F-16 had indeed been used by the Pakistani side. Claims were made that Pakistan’s released pictures of Abhinandan’s destroyed MIG-21 were actually pictures of a destroyed Pakistani F-16 and thus that Pakistan was engaging in false propaganda. However, it was soon shown by independent researchers that the pictures Indian media was flaunting desperately of the ‘destroyed Pakistani F-16’ were actually pictures of the downed Indian MIG-21. Despite desperate claims by India’s most prominent print and electronic media outlets, the pictures quite clearly showed discernible MIG-21 parts and not F-16 ones.

India’s continuingly deteriorating quality of propaganda during the escalated situation with Pakistan showed that it clearly had no plan B if its planned ‘surgical strike’ went wrong, whether on the military front or the media front. With officials now backpedalling on the ‘300 militants killed’ rhetoric, fissures seem visible in the Indian camp. Western Air Command Chief Air Marshal Chandrashekharan Hari Kumar’s retirement soon after the aerial combat losses may also have been compelled and one wonders what Abhinandan’s own life will be like from here on now.

Kashmir insurgency rises as India grows yet more erratic

Handwara, Kashmir, saw 2 Kashmiri fighters kill at least 7 Indian paramilitary personnel and police and injure several more. Reported as belonging to the JeM group, they compounded a tough month for Indian forces in Kashmir where continued ambushes by Kashmiri fighters persisted before and after the Pulwama blast.

Notably, the day of sabre-rattling before India’s ill-fated incursion into Pakistani airspace and subsequent ‘surgical strike’ claims had seen a large crackdown on Kashmiri political groups by India with particular focus on Jamaat e Islami. Declaring the popular party responsible for running hundreds of schools officially banned on 28 February, India added another large provocation to an already rising Kashmiri freedom struggle to go with several others such as hints at attempting demographic change and seeing considerable violence against Kashmiris in Indian cities and towns following the Pulwama blast.

The Kashmiri resistance won’t be diffused or defanged into a state of impotent ‘negotiations’ and stagnancy by an India acting as reckless as it is now. False propaganda about JeM chief Masood Azhar being dead seems to be India’s latest attempt to salvage pride out of its current strategic and military woes.

Setback at the OIC

On the diplomatic front, India also suffered a setback when the Organization of Islamic Cooperation condemned its atrocities in Kashmir and praised Pakistan’s conduct during the escalation. The presence of Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj at the OIC recently after an invite was hailed across India as a snubbing of Pakistan by the latter and provoked a refusal by Pakistan to send its own FM to attend (albeit it did send a lower-level delegation). However, the OIC responded to Swaraj’s assertions of India ‘fighting against terrorism’ by adopting a resolution condemning Indian state atrocities in Kashmir and also endorsing the rebuilding of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya which was destroyed by Hindutva groups in 1992 the day after Swaraj’s ‘guest of honour’ address to the organization.

Ruling party BJP bigwigs responded with anger soon afterward, with Hindutva ideologue Subramaniam Swamy insultingly declaring that Hindus should respond to the OIC verdict by ‘reclaiming the Kaaba’ as a ‘Shivaling’ (or phallus of the Hindu god Shiva).

The fact that the OIC doesn’t do or matter much as an organization here means little. That Pakistan clearly succeeded in getting the OIC to pass the condemnation of India’s atrocities is indicative of a more proactive Pakistan matching up against a more erratic India and a setback that comes amid bigger setbacks during the escalation with Pakistan. Pakistan’s coherence and unity, especially with regard to the civil-military relationship, has contrasted sharply with the conduct and behaviour of the Indian side and the latter shows little signs of bringing its tendencies under check for the foreseeable future.

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The Latest Kashmir Crisis Proved That India, Not Pakistan, Is the Real Rogue State

Astute News

The latest Kashmir Crisis resulted in a stunning reversal of international perceptions about India and Pakistan whereby the self-professed “world’s largest democracy” has now been recast as a rogue state wanting to wage a war of aggression on unproven pretexts while the previously presumed “rogue state” of Pakistan has been revealed to be a responsible international actor fighting to uphold the UN-enshrined rules-based international order that the US and “Israel’s” South Asian ally is dangerously trying to undermine.

The Kashmir Crisis of 2019 will go down in history as the moment when international perceptions about India and Pakistan were stunningly reversed. The fast-moving multi-dimensional developments that took place between the last week of February and the first week of March did more than anything else to ruin India’s global reputation (mostly through its own reckless actions) while greatly improving Pakistan’s, something that few observers could have expected because they’d been…

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Kashmir, Korea, Venezuela, Iran: hot, cold, hybrid war

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March 01, 2019

Kashmir, Korea, Venezuela, Iran: hot, cold, hybrid war

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

Turning and turning in a widening gyre, the geopolitics of the young  21st century resembles a psychedelic mandala conceived by Yama, the Lord of Death.

Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, fresh from a 70-hour train journey, meets in prosperous, communist Hanoi with fellow Nobel Peace Prize contender Donald Trump under the benevolent gaze of Uncle Ho.

This very sentence, if announced not long ago, would have elicited transcontinental howls of derision.

Chairman Kim, owner of a small nuclear arsenal, is deemed worthy of dialogue by the hyperpower while the nuclear-deprived leadership in Iran is not, even as the hyperpower ditched a multilateral, UN-approved, working nuclear deal.

In parallel, the hottest border in Asia reveals itself not to be the DMZ between the Koreas, but once again the Line of Control between nuclear powers India and Pakistan in Kashmir.

Although Islamabad and Delhi might, in theory, escalate to pointing nuclear missiles towards each other, the DPRK won’t point a nuclear-tipped missile at Guam and Tehran points to nothing at all, as it does not hold any nuclear missiles.

In a lighter, Looney Tunes vein, exit regime change in Pyongyang, while regime change in Iran stays, and enter regime change in Venezuela. Iran may still be placed in the Axis of Evil, but the new motto is the troika of tyranny (Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua) as the government in Caracas plays ‘Beep Beep’ to the hyperpower’s Wily Coyote.

An array of dodgy US neocons and shady “foundations” keep the flame of regime change in Iran alive, even fabricating a Tehran-al-Qaeda axis, while in Venezuela a stealth scenario advances. An astonishing briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Relations in Moscow this past Friday revealed that “US special forces and tech units will be delivered closer to Venezuela’s borders. We do have information that the US and its NATO partners are organizing for a mass delivery of weapons for the opposition in Venezuela, which will come from an Eastern European country.”

Facts are implacable. NATO, after nearly two decades, was miserably defeated in Afghanistan. The NATO-Gulf Cooperation Council war by proxy in Syria failed. The winners are Damascus, Tehran and Moscow. The conflict in Donbass is frozen. So, a remixed Monroe doctrine is back, even as a humanitarian ploy – reminiscent of the “humanitarian imperialism” that led to the destruction of Libya – may have failed, for now.

Brazilian Vice-President General Hamilton Mourao has introduced a dose of sanity going against the “all options on the table” regime change of his own President, Jair Bolsonaro. Mourao constantly insists “the Venezuela question must be decided by Venezuelans”, adding that US threats sound “more like rhetoric than action” as a military attack would be “purposeless”.

Watch that K

What’s in a name? Pakistan may indeed mean “land of the pure” in Urdu, but the key is in the acronym; K stands for Kashmir – alongside P for Punjab, A for Afghania (actually the Pashtun tribal areas), S for Sindh and T for the “tan” in Balochistan. K is a matter of national identity.

The first Indo-Pak war after Partition in 1947 was over Kashmir. In the following year, Kashmir was divided by the Line of Control (LoC), which remains the de facto Berlin Wall of Asia, way more dangerous than the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the Koreas. Another mini-war across the LoC took place in 1999.

Kashmir is a crucial geostrategic prize. Assuming India would ever own it all, that would represent a direct bridge to Central Asia and a border with Afghanistan while depriving Pakistan of a border with China, thus nullifying to a great extent the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), one of the key projects of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

If Pakistan ever owned it all, that would solve the country’s worries about water security. The Indus River starts in the Himalayas, in Tibet, and skirts through Indian-controlled Kashmir before entering Pakistan and running all the way down to the Arabian Sea. The Indus and its tributaries provide water to two-thirds of Pakistan. New Delhi has just threatened to weaponize the flow of water to Pakistan.

There’s no end in sight to Kashmir being roiled over and over by skirmishes or even partial conflagration between jihadis – protected by Islamabad at different levels – and the Indian army. The Islamist Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) wants the whole of Kashmir annexed to a Pakistan governed by Sharia law.

JeM’s Kashmir obsession is also shared by their de facto allies Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Both are supported – with degrees of nuance – by Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI. Most of all, both are heavily supported, financially, by the Wahhabi House of Saud and the United Arab Emirates.

There’s no solution for Kashmir that does not involve cutting off Saudi proselytizing, financing and weaponizing – the toxic cocktail that nurtured Pakistan’s famous Kalashnikov culture. And there can be no solution when the House of Saud’s ability to have nuclear weapons “on order” from Islamabad remains the number-one open secret in South Asia.

Russia and China as voices of reason

Were this a sensible realm, oblivious of Yama, India and Pakistan would talk, like Prime Minister Imran Khan has just offered, within a framework such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, of which both are members, with Russia and China as mediators.

And that brings us to what happened in Yueqing, China, on Wednesday, totally under the Western radar; a de facto, ministerial-level meeting of the “RIC” in BRICS, uniting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Lavrov may have denounced “absolutely brazen attempts” to “artificially create a pretext for military intervention” in Venezuela. But the game-changer should have been what Russia, China and India discussed on Kashmir, which may eventually have a direct impact on both Islamabad and New Delhi attempting to defuse a still explosive scenario.

China and Russia’s coordinated positions were absolutely instrumental in facilitating North Korea’s dialogue with the Trump administration. Yet it’s still a long way away from South Korean President Moon’s dream: Trump officially declaring an end to the 1950-53 Korean war, via a peace treaty replacing the current armistice with iron-clad security guarantees. After all, that is the number-one condition for the DPRK to start contemplating denuclearization.

China and Russia, in theory, also have what it takes to bring India and Pakistan to reason – plus the clout to put pressure on Saudi Arabia’s weaponized Wahhabism.

And yet, from Washington’s perspective, China and Russia are “threats” – from the National Security Strategy all the way down to functionaries such as Air Force General Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the Northcom commander, who just told a Senate committee that Russia’s “intent to hold the US at risk” presents an urgent threat.

Some more equal than others

China, Russia and Iran are essential nodes of Eurasia integration, which interlock key vectors of the New Silk Roads, via Iran’s trade agreement with the Eurasia Economic Union and expansion of the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC). Considering the stakes, Lavrov and Yi could not but be stunned by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif resigning from his post via Instagram.

Sources in Tehran maintained that the key reason for Zarif resigning was that he was not informed – and did not attend – an ultra high-level meeting in Tehran on Monday of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, the IRGC’s Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani and President Hassan Rouhani when they discussed strictly Syrian military matters, not diplomacy. Zarif may not have been in the room, but his number two, Abbas Araghchi, was.

In the end, Rouhani rejected Zarif’s resignation, stressing that it was against Iran’s national interests. And crucially, Soleimani said that Zarif had total support from Khamenei. Even as various factions of Iran’s hardliners may be fuming with both Zarif and Rouhani, characterizing them as fools who fell into an American trap, the last thing Tehran needs at the moment – under pressure by hybrid war – is internal division. In parallel, support from both Russia and China won’t waiver.

Washington may deploy variations of Hybrid War but most reflexes remain undiluted Cold War. The mechanism remains the same. A fortune in US taxpayers’ money is showered on the industrial-military complex, with defense contractors and major corporations paying back fabulous campaign contributions to the political class. That’s why someone like Tulsi Gabbard, who is anti-war – hot, cold and hybrid – and anti-regime change, will be smeared to Kingdom Come by the weapons lobby, and prevented from making a run for the presidency.

The Global South has learned that turning and turning in the widening gyre, some countries are indeed more equal than others. Even though some may be relentlessly blasted as terrorist enablers (Pakistan), and nuclear powers as a rule must be appeased (DPRK) and seduced (India as a plank of the “Indo-Pacific” strategy). Chairman Kim is now a “great leader” who can hand his nation a “tremendous future”.

Non-nuclear powers, especially those rich in natural resources and implementing strategies such as bypassing the US dollar, like Iran and Venezuela, face the fate of being regime change targets, slowly and painfully devoured by Yama, the Lord of Death.

A two part Pepe Escobar report on the China, Pakistan and the new Great Game

December 30, 2018

A two part Pepe Escobar report on the China, Pakistan and the new Great Game

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

The new Great Game on the Roof of the World

On top of the graceful Baltit Fort, overlooking the Hunza Valley’s Shangri-La-style splendor, it’s impossible not to feel dizzy at the view: an overwhelming collision of millennia of geology and centuries of history.

We are at the heart of Gilgit-Baltistan, in Pakistan’s Northern Areas, or – as legend rules, the Roof of the World. This is an area about 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles) crammed with spectacular mountain ranges and amidst them, secluded pristine valleys and the largest glaciers outside of the Polar region.

The location feels like vertigo. To the north, beyond the Batura Glacier, is the tiny northeast arm of Afghanistan, the legendary Wakhan corridor. A crest of the Hindu Kush separates Wakhan from the regional capital Gilgit. Xinjiang starts on Wakhan’s uppermost tip. Via the upgraded Karakoram highway, it’s only 240 km from Gilgit to the Khunjerab Pass, 4,934 meters high on the official China-Pakistan border.

What used to be called the Russian Pamir, now in Tajikistan, can be seen with naked eyes from one of the peaks of the Karakoram. To the east, past Skardu and an arduous trek that may last almost a month, lies K2, the second highest peak in the world, among a mighty group north of the Batura Glacier (also known as Baltoro), which is 63km long.

Receding Hopper Glacier

The receding Hopper Glacier in northern Pakistan. Photo: Asia Times

To the south lies Azad (“Free”) Kashmir and slightly to the southeast what locals define as Indian-occupied Kashmir. The former King of Kashmir agreed to be part of India after Partition in 1947 but troops were airlifted to the northern state and after a year of fighting, India went to the UN. A temporary ceasefire line was established in 1948 and runs down from the Karakoram towards the Nanga Parbat – the killer mountain, dividing Kashmir into two virtually sealed halves.

Massive mountain ranges

Driving across the Karakoram Highway (see part 2 of this report) we were face to face with three massive mountain ranges running in different directions. The Karakoram roughly starts where the Hindu Kush ends and then sweeps eastward – a watershed between Central Asian drainage and streams flowing into the Indian Ocean.

original Silk Road, parallel to K’koram hwy

The ancient Silk Road is seen above the Karakoram Highway. Photo: Asia Times

Driving across the Karakoram Highway (see part 2 of this report) we were face to face with three massive mountain ranges running in different directions. The Karakoram roughly starts where the Hindu Kush ends and then sweeps eastward – a watershed between Central Asian drainage and streams flowing into the Indian Ocean.

The Himalayas start in Gilgit and then run southeast through a cluster of high peaks, including the Nanga Parbat, directly on the Islamabad-Gilgit air route (flights by turboprop only take off if weather around the Nanga Parbat allows).

Strategically, this is one of the top spots on the planet, a protagonist of the original Great Game between imperial Britain and Russia. So it’s more than appropriate that here is exactly where a protagonist of the New Great Game, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), actually starts, linking western China’s Xinjiang to the Northern Areas across the Khunjerab Pass.

Karakoram politics

CPEC is the supreme jewel in the Belt and Road crown, the largest foreign development or investment program in modern China’s history, loaded with way more funds than years of US military aid to Islamabad.

And we are indeed in Ancient Silk Road territory. Looking at the millenary trail parallel to the Karakoram, lovingly restored by the Aga Khan Development Foundation, it’s easy to picture the great Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang traversing these heights in the 7th Century, and naming them Polo-le. The Tang dynasty called it Great Polu. When Marco Polo trekked in the 14th Century, he called it Bolor.

Early last month, I was privileged to drive on the upgraded Karakoram Highway along CPEC all the way from Gilgit to the Khunjerab, and back, with multiple incursions to valleys such as lush, pine-forested Naltar, Shimshal (manufacturers of sublime yak wool shawls), Kutwal and receding glaciers, such as Hopper and Bualtar.

The Karakoram Highway was originally conceived in the 1970s as an ambitious political-strategic project able to influence the geopolitical balance in the subcontinent, by expanding Islamabad’s reach into previously inaccessible frontiers.

Now it’s at the heart of a trade and energy corridor from the China-Pak border all the way south to Gwadar, the port in Balochistan in the Arabian Sea a stone’s throw from the Persian Gulf. Gwadar looks likely to be a crucial springboard to China becoming a naval power – active from the Indian Ocean to the Persian Gulf and on to the Mediterranean, while CPEC, slowly but surely, aims to change the social and economic structure of Pakistan.

Previous Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the controversial “Lion of the Punjab”, was an avid CPEC supporter after he won the 2013 elections. At the time current Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, winner of elections held in July, had already polled second nationwide and rose to power in the strategic Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province – straddling the area between Islamabad and the tribal belt.

Sharif, in June 2013, when he was about to enter negotiations with the Chinese, was lauding what would become CPEC as an infrastructure scheme that “will change the fate of Pakistan”. So far that has translated mostly into new hydroelectric dams, coal-fired power stations, and civil-nuclear power. The China National Nuclear Corporation is building two 1,100 MW reactors near Karachi for nearly $10 billion, 65% financed by Chinese loans. This is the first time that the Chinese nuclear industry has built something of this scale outside of their country.

More than a dozen CPEC projects involve power generation – Pakistan is no longer woefully energy-deprived. These projects may not be as sexy as high-speed rail and pipelines, which could arrive much later; after all CPEC in its planned entirety runs to 2030.

Of course, monumental business decisions will have to be addressed; the staggering cost – and state of the art engineering – involved in building a railway parallel to the Karakoram; and the fact that oil pumped via a pipeline from Gwadar to Xinjiang might cost five times more than via the usual sea lanes all the way to Shanghai.

A map shows the route of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Wanishahrukh

A map shows the route of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Wanishahrukh

What Imran wants

Imran Khan is way more cautious than Sharif, who had a “China cell” inside his office and commanded the Pakistani Army to set up a 10,000-strong security force to protect China’s CPEC investments.

But Khan knows well about the firepower behind CPEC: the Silk Road Fund, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), CITIC, Bank of China, EXIM, China Development Bank. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) projects that BRI could mobilize as much as $6 trillion in the next few years. What Khan wants is to negotiate better terms for Pakistan.

China’s ambassador to Pakistan, Yao Jing, never tires to stress that Pakistan’s serious debt problem relates to the initial phase of CPEC, due to the massive import of heavy machinery, industrial raw materials and services.

As I learned in Islamabad in various discussions with Pakistani analysts, Khan actually wants to expand CPEC and prevent it from leading Islamabad towards an unsustainable debt trap. That would mean tweaking CPEC’s focus away from too much infrastructure development to technology transfer and market access for Pakistani products. Financing for agriculture projects, for instance, could come via CPEC’s Long Term Plan, which unlike the so-called Early Harvest Plan does not come with a price tag attached and can be negotiated freely between Islamabad and Beijing.

According to a 2016 IMF report, $28 billion in projects included in Early Harvest will be completed by 2020: $10 billion to develop road, rail and port infrastructure, and $18 billion in energy projects via Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), with Chinese firms using commercial loans borrowing from Chinese banks.

CPEC though is an extremely long-term endeavor. Other CPEC investments in energy and transportation infrastructure financed by China will be finished only by 2030.

A new CPEC emphasis on industrialization via technology transfer would allow Pakistan to produce some of what China imports. That would imply reneg otiating the Pakistan-China Free-Trade Agreement (FTA), getting to the level of preferential treatment that China offers to ASEAN. Essentially, this is what Imran Khan is aiming at.

Hail the Ismailis

Gilgit-Baltistan is the safest place in the whole of Pakistan. Here, there’s no “terror threat” by the Pakistani Taliban or dodgy al-Qaeda or ISIS spin-offs. Major spoken languages are Shina and Burushaski, not Urdu. The population is overwhelmingly composed of Ismaili Shi’ites – like Karim Shah, an encyclopedia of Central and South Asian history and culture reigning over a cave of wonders in Gilgit where anything from authentic heads of Gandhara Bodhisattvas to 18th Century silk Qom carpets from a Persian royal family can be found.

Karim Shah and his cave of wonders in Gilgit. Photo: Asia Times

Karim Shah and his cave of wonders in Gilgit. Photo: Asia Times

We spent hours talking about Khorasan, the original Kipling-esque Great Game, Col. Durand (who drew the Durand Line separating Pashtuns on both sides of an artificial border), the Kashmir question, the astonishingly complex geo-eco-historical system of the Northern Areas, and of course, China.

Shah imparted the impression – confirmed by other traders – that the local population may see some tangible CPEC-related benefits, but does not know exactly what Beijing wants. Chinese visitors – engineers, bureaucrats – are remote; tourism has not picked up yet, as in the case of the Japanese, who have been Northern Areas enthusiasts for decades. Thus, an improvement in Xi Jinping’s “people-to-people exchange”, a key component of BRI, seems to be in order.

Legend rules that Hunzakuts, the inhabitants of the glorious Hunza Valley, are descendants of three soldiers of Alexander the Great who married beautiful Persian women of high aristocracy. While Alexander campaigned along the Oxus, the three couples traveled across the Wakhan corridor, discovered the marvelous valley, and settled down.

The tolerant Islam they came to practice centuries later is impervious to Gulf proselytizing. When I crossed an austere village by the Karakoram, visibly out of place, my Ismaili driver Akbar noted that these were “Sunni Wahhabis”.

Finding Gandhara art in Gilgit made perfect sense. Gandhara historically formed a sort of fertile and irrigated triangle between the Iranian plateau, the Hindu Kush and the first peaks of the Himalayas. Between the 6th Century BC and the Islamic invasions, it was the crossroads of three cultures: India, China and Iran. And it was here that an extremely original Greco-Buddhist art and culture flourished, way after Greek power had waned.

Gandhara Bodhisattva head, Gilgit cave of wonders

A Gandhara Bodhisattva head in Karim’s shop in Gilgit. Photo: Asia Times

The Kashmir question

As a new 21st Century crossroads, CPEC faces stern challenges – from geology (constant landslides and floods in Gilgit-Baltistan) to wobbly security in Balochistan, threatened by a combination of separatist and religiously or politically manipulated movements. I was not able to visit Gwadar and the south of CPEC even though contacts in Islamabad supplied military sources with an application for a NOC (No Object Certificate, as it is known on Pakistan) weeks in advance. The military response: too “sensitive”, as in dangerous, for a lone Western journalist, especially in the aftermath of the Aasia Bibi case.

China will need to find a way – perhaps via negotiations inside the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – to mollify India on CPEC’s route straddling Kashmir.

In 1936 the British made a deal with the Maharaja of Kashmir, getting Gilgit on lease for 60 years. But then came Partition. At the time the Kuomintang – in power in China, before Mao’s victory – was engaged in secret negotiations to restore Hunza’s fabled independence as a new state allied with China. But the Mir of Hunza finally decided to join the newborn Pakistani nation.

Few may remember that, during the 1950s, way before the India-China border war in 1962, there was trouble on the China-Pakistan border, when Beijing seized 3,400 square miles of Kashmir, including parts of old Hunza, whose Mirs always recognized Chinese suzerainty. When the British had first seized Hunza in 1891, the Mir actually fled to China.

Zhou EnLai visits Baltit Fort in early 60s

This puts into perspective some fabulous documents preserved at Baltit Fort, like China-Baltistan trade agreements and a picture of Zhou EnLai visiting the fort in the early 1960s.

It’s also fascinating to remember that at the time Zhou Enlai already thought about Karachi – no Gwadar at that time – connecting to an “ancient trade route, lost to modern times, not only for trade but for strategic purposes as well”. Xi Jinping has definitely read his Zhou EnLai thoroughly.

China Baltistan trade agreements

Historic trade agreements between China and Baltistan. Photo: Asia Times

Nowadays, the President of Azad (Free) Jammu and Kashmir, Sardar Masood Khan, always stresses that “unlike Indian propaganda”, the Pakistani side is “thriving politically and economically”, and CPEC could also be beneficial for Indian Kashmir. As it stands, this remains a red line for New Delhi.

Once in a lifetime chance

At the National Defense University in Islamabad, I was shown a paper by Li Xiaolu, from the Institute of Strategic Studies at the National Defense University of the PLA detailing how Beijing hopes that “by opening China’s west to Central and South Asia, building better transportation infrastructure, and by encouraging trade with South and Central Asian countries, the development of manufacturing, processing and industrial capacities in Western China can be promoted”.

Now compare it with road and rail infrastructure improved across Pakistan being able to turn the whole nation into an actual trade corridor, while the Pakistani Navy improves its defense in deep-sea waters with Gwadar positioned as a third naval base and offering support for Chinese ships across sea lanes close to the Middle East and Northern Africa.

No wonder Chinese analysts share a virtual consensus about traditional Chinese wisdom favoring unity for prosperity – a key plank of CPEC and BRI – and prevailing over containment and confrontation.

For CPEC to work, Beijing needs three things: a political solution for Afghanistan, which is already being worked out inside the SCO, with China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Iran (as an observer) directly involved; stable relations between India and Pakistan; and certified security across Pakistan.

Beijing is actively encouraging closer connectivity between Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the Quetta-Kandahar railway and the Kabul-Peshawar highway. CPEC is actually expanding from the Karakoram to the Khyber Pass, trespassing the artificial Durand line along the way.

In contrast, multiple factions in Washington continue to twist all possible faultlines to thwart these projects, with a propaganda campaign designed to portray BRI as a swamp of corruption, incompetence, a “debt trap” and “malign” Chinese behavior.

Yet among all BRI corridors, material progress across CPEC is more than self-evident. I saw every village in the Northern Areas with electricity and most of them linked by fiber optics, a stark contrast to when I traveled a severely dilapidated Karakoram, twice, two decades ago.

Pakistan now has a once in a lifetime chance to harness its geographical location – with borders intertwining centuries of history and culture with Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Middle East – to set itself up as a key bridge between the Middle East and both the Mediterranean and Western China.

Rumors abounded in Islamabad that Imran Khan is aiming for an international standard university in the capital, positioned as a center of study and research tracking the new mosaic of an emerging multipolar world. Young people power will be more than available, like Jamila Shah, currently at the National Defense University, doing a masters in Peace and Conflict Studies, and working with an NGO, the International Rescue Committee. Jamila, from Hunza, in Gilgit-Baltistan, is the face of Pakistan’s future.

Jamila Shah

Jamila Shah. Photo: Asia Times

Still hostage to a corrupt oligarchy, cartelized industries, falling exports (60% of which are textiles), and with almost half of their youths aged from five to 16 out of school, Pakistan faces a Sisyphean task.

Economist Ishrat Husain has correctly noted that Pakistan’s model of “elitist growth” must be replaced by “shared growth”. Enter a modified CPEC opening the path ahead, hopefully like those cargo trucks defying the slippery, snowy Khunjerab full blast.

CPEC trade Pak style

Trade on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. Photo: Asia Times

Up next: On the road in the Karakoram 

On the road in the Karakoram

On the Pakistani side, a wooden house serves as a small customs office fronted by “the highest ATM in the world” – though you try a foreign credit card at your peril. The Chinese side boasts an intimidating, metal-plated James Bond-esque structure with no humans in sight.

This is ground zero of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the point where the revamped, upgraded Karakoram Highway – “the eighth wonder of the world” – snakes away from China’s Xinjiang all the way to Pakistan’s Northern Areas and further south to Islamabad and Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea.

From here it’s 420 kilometers to Kashgar and a hefty 1,890 km to Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. But going south is where the fun really begins.

highest ATM in the world

World’s highest ATM. Photo: Asia Times

Traveling the Karakoram from Gilgit, the capital of the Northern Areas, to the Khunjerab and back is an exhilarating road trip along CPEC and its spin-offs. And it’s a crazy carousel.

Psychedelic Pakistani trucks, Chinese container road warriors – some trying to subdue the Khunjerab without chains on their tires – packed minivans plying the Hunza-Xinjiang route, Silk Road motels, the smell of curry interfacing with the best apricot juice in the world, roadside butchers, shacks advertising themselves as “Silk Road Investment & Credit Society Ltd,” many a Pak China Gateway Hotel, checkpoints consisting of a roadside table and a bunch of papers kept from flying away by pebbles, stashes of yuan crisscrossing rupees and dollars and messy, multi-level “people to people exchanges.”

Chinese container truck up the Khunjerab with no chains on tires

A Chinese container truck ploughs over the snow without chains on its tires. Photo: Asia Times

It’s one of the greatest road trips on earth. And in geopolitical terms, it may be the greatest.

Mind the yaks

Karakoram North starts at the environmentally protected Khunjerab National Park, where yaks roam freely on the road and ibex and marmots are easily spotted nearby. But there are no Marco Polo sheep, much less snow leopards. (Though local Ismailis insist a few dozen reside in the park.)

The Yak and Sheep Highway

Yak and sheep roam the highway. Photo: Asia Times

The first serious pit-stop in the Karakoram is Sost, which used to be the Pakistani border in the old days – as when I traveled the road, twice, 20 years ago by jeep from Kashgar. Now, the bustling trade entrepot is the HQ of the Silk Road Dry Port Sost. Chinese lorries unload their cargo and Pakistani trucks take up the relay to transport the merchandise all across the nation. It appears modern and well-organized. Everything proceeds smoothly.

entrance to the dry port at Sost

Entrance to the dry port at Sost. Photo: Asia Times

Snaking south, we pass right under the spectacularly receding Passu Glacier. In a nearby village, a funeral is in progress, with the crowd taking over the road alongside yaks and buffalos and interrupting traffic at will.

The receding Passu glacier by the Karakoram

The receding Passu Glacier by the Karakoram. Photo: Asia Times

The upgraded Karakoram is an apotheosis of Pak-China Friendship Tunnels – all exhibiting the obligatory commemorative billboard extolling a geopolitical friendship soaring “higher than the highest mountain.”

One of many Pak-China tunnels

One of the many Pak-China tunnels. Photo: Asia Times

This is CPEC in effect. It is astonishing when compared to the recent past. Between the Hunza and Gilgit rivers flowing parallel to impeccable asphalt worthy of an autobahn, a fiber optic cable runs all across the Northern Areas.

Chinese engineering has performed miracles. Around 160km south of the Khunjerab we drive around Attabad Lake, which totally submerged the road after a landslide in January 2010. For over five years there was simply no China-Pakistan overland trade, although some went via Kashgar-Gilgit flights. The solution by the China Road and Bridge Corporation had to be a tunnel – completed in 2015.

Attabad lake, now negotiated via a tunnel

Attabad Lake, now negotiated via tunnel. Photo: Asia Times

Trade along the Karakoram is bound to pick up – after years at less than 10% of total China-Pak trade, which tends to flow especially from Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces, not Xinjiang. Some stretches of the highway remain prone to constant landslides, rockslides or floods, which require a number of 24/7 rescue and maintenance teams. These are Pakistani, while the SUVs of the police in the Northern Areas have been supplied by China.

The heart of the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure projects are road and railway lines. These do not cost a fortune per se; the expense is in the construction costs for bridges and tunnels. Russia spent over $4 billion on its Kerch Strait bridge to the Crimea. New Silk Road costs will be exponentially higher. Tunnels can be way more expensive than bridges.

Where the Himalayas rise

From the Karakoram it’s sometimes possible to catch a glimpse of the formidable Nanga Parbat – Kashmiri for “Naked Mountain,” later nicknamed the “Killer Mountain.” It has never been climbed in winter, and is actually a series of ridges which anchors the western Himalaya range, culminating in an ice crest at 8,126 meters above sea level. That is the ninth highest peak in the world and the second in Pakistan after K2.

Glimpse of the mighty Nanga Parbat

Heading into the mighty Nanga Parbat (on the right). Photo: Asia Times

As we approach Gilgit, the road signs – in English, Mandarin and Russian – say 468 km to Abbottabad (site of the Osama bin Laden endgame) and 583 km to Islamabad. Way down south, in less mountainous terrain, I’m told the odd rockslide gives way to occasional floods.

South of Gilgit, the Chinese once again are in frantic building mode, attacking the road starting from the Karakoram to the strategic Mecca Skardu. The road, according to local Ismailis, should be ready before 2020.

meeting of the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush and Himalayas

Where the Karakoram, Hindu Kush and Himalayas meet. Photo: Asia Times

And then, on a bend of the revamped highway, the intersection of the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush and the Himalayan mountain ranges – bordering the confluence of the Gilgit River with the Indus, now flowing south all the way to the Arabian Sea – spreads before us. Nearly 85% of the Indus discharge happens between May and September, out of snow and glacial melt, propelling the monsoons. Abdul, the painter of the Karakoram, is applying the finishing touches to a white-clad viewing point.

Abdul, painter of the Karakoram

Abdul: Painter of the Karakoram Highway. Photo: Asia Times

The China-Pak embrace

The building of the original Karakoram – an engineering tour de force – took no less than 27 years and claimed the lives of over 1,000 Chinese and Pakistani workers.

The Karakoram Highway is much more than a road; it’s a rolling, graphic emblem of the China-Pakistan geopolitical embrace, surmounting all manner of economic, cultural, geological and security barriers over decades to the benefit of a strategic objective. And the strategic objective now is CPEC as the flagship BRI project.

At the recent opening ceremony of the China International Import Expo in Shanghai, where he was guest of honor, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan described CPEC, including the Karakoram highway, as a “vital link” for China and Pakistan with the Middle East and Central Asia. “CPEC is a mechanism to connect China, the Middle East and Central Asia that also opens ways for fresh investment and paves the way for new markets,” he said.

Khan also reassured his hosts – as well as domestic public opinion – that his new government is engaged in deep, meaningful reforms to ensure transparency and accountability; virtual ghosts as far as Pakistani business is usually concerned.

“Pakistan has an array of resources, minerals and renewables amidst the most diverse landscape,” Khan said, adding that his country is a leading exporter of sports goods, medical instruments and IT products, and has promising, 100 million-strong human resources under the age of 35. So, the potential is immense.

Islamabad is all in on completing CPEC up to 2030, with projections of up to 3% added to annual GDP growth, as industrial output is bound to rise with more electricity courtesy of CPEC investments and more production coming from Chinese-style Special Economic Zones.

CPEC’s Long-Term Plan (2017-2030), released one year ago, defines four priorities in Pakistan: Gwadar Port; energy projects; transport infrastructure (as in upgrading of the Karakoram); and industrial cooperation. Imran Khan’s government (see Part 1 of this report) is aiming for Pakistan to position itself, via CPEC, as the key hub uniting the overland Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road.

The big plan

This implies, geopolitically and economically, an even stronger, trans-regional, China-Pakistan alliance in contraposition to India and Washington. The US reaction to BRI in 2018 was to unleash a whispering campaign to try to discredit it. Beijing, for its part, expects India and Pakistan to at least discuss their political differences inside the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

From now on, China’s far west and south – Xinjiang and Yunnan – have to become the top drivers of the Chinese economy. Upgrading their road, rail and energy infrastructure and closely linking them to South Asia and Southeast Asia is essential for China to keep growing – all that boosted by crucial energy connectivity via a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan, an oil pipeline from the Caspian in Kazakhstan, further massive gas shipments from Siberia, and, further down the road, a possible gas pipeline from Gwadar port to Xinjiang parallel to the Karakoram.

Will it work? The Karakoram, Hindu Kush and Himalayas have seen it all come and all go over multiple millennia. So why not? The upgrading of the greatest geological and geopolitical road trip on earth is a start.

Karakoram checkpoint

Karakoram Highway checkpoint. Photo: Asia Times.

India Inadvertently Drew Attention To Kashmir By Pulling Out Of Talks With Pakistan

By Andrew Korybko

India thought that it would prompt the world to talk about Pakistan’s alleged “support of terrorism” by pulling out of its planned talks with the country at the UN, but this scheme backfired by drawing more global attention to the situation in Kashmir.

Indian’s Crumbling Narrative Monopoly

It was once thought that most of the world had already made up their mind about Kashmir, either regarding it as a “legitimate” part of India or as one of the worst examples of a modern-day occupation, and it seemed for a while that many people leaned towards the first-mentioned interpretation because of the success that India had in propagating its narrative during the era of traditional media. That all changed with the advent of new and alternative media, however, since New Delhi’s hitherto monopoly on the Kashmir issue has been broken just like its “Israeli” partner’s one about Palestine has in recent years. Global awareness about the true situation in Kashmir is nowhere close to what it is when it comes to Palestine, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t soon rival it if this emerging trend continues.

India’s present perception management strategy is to keep Kashmir off of the global agenda, and to this end it refuses to allow journalists into the region under its control and pressures its international partners to stay silent about it as a tacit quid-pro-quo for doing business with one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. The country’s totalitarian approach to this issue may have worked pretty well for it in the past but is now counter productively outdated because the generally cynical global public immediately suspects that the state is hiding something if it has to resort to such draconian measures to maintain its narrative. Whenever Kashmir does get brought up, India is quick to accuse Pakistan of “supporting terrorism” there and then hopes that the conversation quickly ends before people start asking questions about what’s really happening.

Setting A New Trend

Pakistan has collected ample evidence of the Indian Armed Forces regularly committing atrocities there and is keen to share its findings with the world, but up until recently, most people stopped paying attention the moment that India blew what has practically become the Islamophobic dog whistle of talking about “Pakistani-supported terrorism” in Kashmir. It’s not Islamophobic in principle to accuse any country of supporting terrorism, but the Hindu fundamentalist BJP that rules over India has a tendency to exploit global prejudices against Muslims in order to distract the world and tacitly justify its atrocious behavior. Simply blaming “terrorism” as the reason for the locals’ resistance to India’s refusal to abide by several UNSC Resolutions is nothing more than a distraction designed to divert the world’s attention away from the true state of affairs there.

Nowadays, however, it’s become increasingly more difficult for India to silence the global conversation on Kashmir as more and more people are getting their news from Alt-Media sources that aren’t under New Delhi’s influence. Not only that, but prominent media outlets like Qatar’s Al Jazeera, Saudi Arabia’s Al Arabiya, and Iran’s Press TV are beginning to pay attention to this issue in spite of their host country’s close relations with India, and the reason for this will be explained in a little bit.  Slowly but surely, India is losing control over the narrative in Kashmir, but sometimes it has nobody to blame for this but itself, as its recent actions at the UN proved. India thought that it could pull out of its planned talks with Pakistan there by blaming it for recent events in Kashmir, but this backfired.

The Khan Effect

Instead of the world unquestionably going along with the Indian narrative, a noticeable shift has been discerned whereby people are finally doubting whether New Delhi is fully telling the truth or not. A lot of this has to do not just with global information trends related to new and alternative medias, but also with the election of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who evokes worldwide curiosity because he’s so different from what the world has come to expect from the country. Pakistan’s international reputation was largely shaped by US and Indian information warfare campaigns up until this point, but even those intense operations weren’t able to influence the first impression that many people have of the South Asian state’s new leader. The former cricketer is genuinely popular and was even an international socialite at one time too.

As superficial as it may sound, sometimes people do “judge a book by its cover”, and truthfully speaking, Prime Minister Khan projects a very positive image of Pakistan abroad by his very being, which in this case has made many people think twice about India’s usual accusations of his country purportedly “supporting terrorism” in Kashmir. Instead of blindly accepting the mantra of “Pakistani-supported Islamic terrorism” being behind the unrest in Kashmir, people are wondering if India is playing the Islamophobia card and whether the situation might be more complex than they were led to believe. On the state-to-state level, interestingly enough, the same economic influences that had earlier been wielded by India to suppress talk about Kashmir might actually end up encouraging it because some countries might want to enter into better graces with Pakistan by doing so.

CPEC Changed Everything

CPEC is a game-changer in more ways than one. Not only does it provide China with reliable non-Malacca access to the Afro-Asian Ocean (popularly known as the “Indian Ocean”), but it also serves as the link for facilitating Chinese-Mideast trade, seen most powerfully through Saudi Arabia’s recent designation as the project’s third strategic partner. Influential Muslim countries, including rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, are now more interested in Pakistan than ever before, and their CPEC relationship with China allows them to balance their ties with India. Instead of fearing that India might purchase their competitor’s energy instead of their own and therefore self-censoring themselves when it comes to Kashmir, they’re now emboldened to flex their strategic independence by touching upon this issue, even if only mildly.

In fact, the state of affairs has now changed to such a point that India needs the Mideast countries for its energy imports more than they need it as a reliable buyer, which has flipped the strategic dynamics. This will very soon especially be the case with Saudi Arabia, which is poised to supply more of India’s energy than ever before as New Delhi gradually decreases its consumption of Iranian resources in compliance with the US’ forthcoming reimposition of sanctions against Tehran. Coupled with the Kingdom’s new role as CPEC’s third strategic partner, Saudi Arabia no longer has any reason to stay silent about Kashmir, particularly if Iran begins speaking up more loudly about this in response to India’s impending “betrayal”. Through this manner, the competition between both Mideast Great Powers could be constructively leveraged to the benefit of the Kashmiris.

The Way Forward

Looking forward, Pakistan must capitalize on the incipient momentum that’s building behind the Kashmiri cause in order to succeed in its quest of raising total global awareness about this pressing issue. It’s taken for granted that Pakistan will continue speaking about Kashmir at the UN, but Islamabad needs to do more in order for its efforts to reach the general populace whose perceptions about this conflict are what matter most in this context. Having said that, here are some suggestions that Pakistan should apply:

Encourage A Debate On Kashmir Across All Media Platforms:
The Indian narrative thrives in the absence of discourse whenever people are only fed New Delhi’s point of view about this issue, so it’s imperative for Pakistan to encourage all media platforms across the world – both mainstream and alternative – to debate Kashmir as much as possible.

Compare Kashmir To Palestine:
There are a plethora of comparisons that can be made between these two conflicts, and in some cases the situation in Kashmir is even worse than it is in Palestine (e.g. religious restrictions, human shields), so ardent efforts must be made to inform the Palestinian activist community about this.

Tap Into The Palestinian Activist Community:
Accordingly, it only makes sense to “cross-pollinate” both causes with one another’s activists, which in this case would see the Kashmiri cause receive an enormous boost by its much more globally well-known Palestinian counterparts.

Flip The Script On The Terrorism Narrative:
Aided by the Palestinian activist community and their newly enlightened awareness about the many commonalities between their cause and the Kashmiri one, it wouldn’t be hard to flip India’s narrative around by exposing its own state-sponsored terrorism just like activists have already done for “Israel’s”.

Emphasize The Undemocratic Nature Of Indian “Democracy”:
Again, just like Palestinian activists have proven that “Israel” isn’t the “democracy” that it and its American allies claim that it is due to its failure to allow the Palestinians to vote for their independence, so too is India also a fraudulent one by defying the UN and forbidding a Kashmiri referendum.

Concluding Thoughts

The wind is finally behind Pakistan’s sails when it comes to raising awareness about the Kashmiri cause, but the country needs to take advantage of the historic moment that it’s entering in order to ensure that the people receive every possible benefit they can from the increase in international pressure that a sustained activist campaign could bring. India inadvertently returned Kashmir to the global spotlight by clumsily blaming its withdrawal from the planned UN talks with Pakistan on what it claimed was its neighbor’s clandestine involvement in the region’s latest unrest, which ultimately turned out to New Delhi’s narrative disadvantage by reminding the world of this unresolved issue. The increased global attention that’s being given to Palestine at this time due to the “peace plan” that the Trump Administration is reportedly working on could be partially shared with Kashmir if Pakistan is successful in linking these two conflicts.

For that to happen, however, it needs to encourage all global media – especially the main ones broadcasting out of the Mideast – to debate the Kashmir conflict as much as possible in order to create the opportunity for comparing Palestine with Kashmir and “Israel” with India. This noble goal is no longer as difficult as it once was because CPEC changed the entire geostrategic equation and incentivizes India’s Mideast partners to flex their strategic independence by no longer self-censoring themselves over this issue, thereby enabling them to strike a balance between Pakistan and India. There are also innate religious obligations for Muslims to support the community of the faithful (“Ummah”) and especially those who are oppressed, which could be put to use to promote the Kashmiri cause among the global public. Should this be successful, then India might eventually end up isolated by the international community if it continues to defy the UN.

Source

Is another war in South Asia imminent?

On September 22, 2018, the Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat while talking to media said, “India needs to take stern action to avenge the barbarism that the terrorists and Pakistan Army have been carrying out. Yes, it’s time to give it back to them in the same coin, not resorting to similar kind of barbarism. But I think the other side must also feel the same pain”.

This statement by the senior most Indian Army officer came in the wake of the news of alleged killing and mutilation of a BSF soldier a day earlier. Shortly after Times of India reported inflammatory statements by Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat on Saturday, the Pakistan Army spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor responded by saying: “We [Pakistan Army] are ready for war but choose to walk the path of peace in the interest of the people of Pakistan, the neighbors, and the region”.

Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor added that Pakistan has a long-standing record of fighting terrorism, adding “we know the price [that is paid] for peace”.

“We have struggled to achieve peace in the last two decades. We can never do anything to disgrace any soldier,” he asserted, strongly denying the claims made by India that hold the Pakistan Army responsible for the killing of a Border Security Force (BSF) soldier. “They have in the past as well laid the blame on us for mutilating the body of a fallen soldier. We are a professional army. We never engage in such acts,” the ISPR chief said.

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry also promptly issued a response, backing the DG ISPR’s statement. “Pakistan and India are nuclear powers; a war is out of the question,” he said.

The information minister termed the Indian army chief’s statement an attempt to divert the attention of Indian public from the mega corruption scandal and the subsequent calls for resignation faced by PM Modi-led BJP government.

Is war Inevitable now?

The inflammatory statements by Indian military chief came at a time when Indian Occupied Kashmir is burning. In IOK, Indian troops launched a massive cordon and search operation in several villages of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Saturday.

The operation comes following the killing of three Indian police personnel posted in India-held Kashmir reportedly by armed Kashmiris, who have been waging a struggle for the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination. Several unarmed Kashmiri protestors have been killed in the past several days in addition to hundreds being injured and arrested by the Indian security forces.

“Small men who occupy big offices”: Imran Khan slams India

Press Tv

The Pakistani prime minister has taken to Twitter to slam India for calling off a meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers. Imran Khan said he is disappointed by what he called India’s arrogant and negative response and its decision to cancel peace talks. Khan also slammed what he described as small men who occupy big offices. New Delhi said its move was meant to protest the killing of Indian security personnel in Kashmir. Resumption of talks has been stalled for years over the issue of Kashmir. Tensions remain high in Kashmir, where its predominantly Muslim population has demanded autonomy from New Delhi or a merger with Pakistan.

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