Thursday 14th March 2019 02:15 EDT

‘New’ Pakistan: New wine in old bottles

Addressing a rally in Sindh province, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan pledged his government’s commitment to peace, stability and prosperity for all Pakistanis irrespective of gender, faith or ethnicity. He also pledged that,‘we will not allow our soil to be used for terrorist activities anywhere in the world. This is a new Pakistan, a new time. We want investment in this country. Our ‘naya’ [new] Pakistan will be prosperous, stable and peaceful. As a responsible country, and part of the international community, we will not allow any militant group to function here,’ he said. He spoke about ‘eliminating poverty’ and hoped India would participate in a similar endeavour from across the border. Prime Minister Khan would do well to take on board a critical reality: India, warts and all, has reduced its endemic poverty level from 52 per cent of the population in 1990 to around mid-20 levels today and declining. Furthermore, the size of its economy is poised to be the world’s fifth largest, and it’s the world’s fastest-growing large economy. The economy of Indian State of Maharashtra alone is larger than that of Pakistan.

Prime Minister Khan must get real. The proliferation of jihadi terror organizations aided and abetted by Pakistan‘s infamous Inter Services Intelligence directorate with the connivance of the Pakistan Army and governments have for long been a harsh ground reality. After all, Osama bin Laden was tracked down and killed by US Navy Seals in his Pakistan hideout, following years of official denials from Islamabad that he was in Pakistan.

The record in recent years has been a revolving door policy on jihadi leaders, such as Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar, who had a free run going in and out of their sanctuaries with official connivance. The West having passively acquiesced to the reality is now showing signs of recognizing the scourge that jihadi terrorism poses to its own peace and security. Britain, France, Belgium and Spain have witnessed firsthand horrible deaths and injuries meted out to their citizenry. Britain’s National Security Adviser Mark Sedwill has spoken to his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval twice within a week, offering full cooperation in combating the terror threat. The European Union has expressed its concern at the terrorism emanating from Pakistan. At around the time of the suicide bombing in Pulwana, a Pakistani Sunni terror group shot dead 27 Iranian border guards on their common frontier. The Iranian riposte, a week or so later, resulted in the deaths of eight Pakistani soldiers.

As significant is the convergence of India-Iran national interests in stepping up counter-terrorism cooperation in recent years. This will be enhanced at next round India-Iran talks. Neighbouring Afghanistan has been plagued for decades by the bombings and shootings of Afghan soldiers and civilians and the destruction of the country’s civilian and military installations by Pakistan-based Taliban operatives.

Former Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, the first Pakistani woman to occupy the post, interviewed on an international TV channel, claimed that India faced isolation following its surgical strike on Balacot, reminding one of an old Punch cartoon, ‘Fog in the English Channel, Continent isolated.’! The strike, claimed Begum Khar, now a member of the Pakistan’s National Assembly, had been an abject failure, the site totally unscathed. However visiting Reuter Correspondents wishing to inspect the area were turned back by Pakistan policemen on grounds of national security. ‘Isolated’ India was in communion with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, much to Pakistan’s chagrin and displeasure.

Hina Rabbani Khar echoed Prime Minister Imran Khan, stating disingenuously, that whatever had happened on the terror front in the past had undergone seminal change, that that the ‘New’ Pakistan was a full blown democracy, characterized by gender, ethnic and religious equality and tolerance, with regressive India moving the other way.

This clearly remains the dialogue of the deaf. Sight and sound may be restored on both sides by a perusal of Tehmina Durrani’s explosive autobiography, My Feudal Lord, which tells the story of her marriage to the once notorious Pakistani politician and minister Ghulam Mustafa Khar’s as the sixth of his six wives. If, as one suspects, Rabbani Khar is Tehmima’s niece, she may recall the opening paragraphs of her aunt’s dedication, which reads: ‘To the people of Pakistan , who have repeatedly trusted and supported their leaders – leaders who have, in return, used the hungry, oppressed multitudes to further personal interests. I want the people of my country to know the truth behind the reality, so that they might learn to look beyond the façade.

‘To the five other ex-wives of Mustapha Khar, who have silently suffered pain and dishonor while he walked away with impunity. As his sixth wife, I am holding him accountable.’ Enough said.

$3 billion nuclear sub deal with Russia

India has signed a mega billion nuclear submarine deal with Russia involving the lease of nuclear powered Akula class-1 attack submarine to replace the INS Chakra, an older Russian version on a 10-year lease to India in 2012 and extended to 2025, when the new submarine will be operational. It will come with a package including comprehensive refurbishment, spares, support systems, and training for Indian personnel.

Anxieties about threatened US sanctions are unwarranted. India is not a member of US-sponsored organizations targeting Russia. Sanctions without a UN imprimatur lack the required weight of International Law. India is neither Porto Rico, nor a Latin American banana republic in hoc to Uncle Sam. It is a sovereign entity with its own written Constitution and laws, which in no way includes fealty to an external authority.

Truth is the world grows more unstably by the day. US and NATO-led wars of intervention in the Greater Middle East have undermined global order and stability. The consequences of these interventions have resulted in a humanitarian catastrophe that continues apace. The old Cold War red lines led to measures of nuclear arms control. The Trump Administration and Congress have upped the ante in relations with Russia, with little serious thought of its consequences. An arms race between the two military Superpowers are certain to have regional spillovers, as is already the case in many corners of the world. It is well nigh impossible to put the already existing multi-polar world into a pre-arranged uni-polar straitjacket., as the denizens of cloud cuckoo land believe.

The existential challenges confronting India are regional in content and design. The existing face-off with Pakistan was preceded in August 2017 by a potentially more combustible square-up with China - Pakistan’s ‘all-weather friend,’ and mentor, on the Bhutan-Tibet border. A once peaceful, non-threatening Tibet is today militarized with nuclear and conventional weaponry, following the Chinese invasion and occupation of the country in October 1950. A Sino-Pakistan strategic alignment imperils Indian security, while Chinese control of the headwaters of Asia’s major river systems cast a menacing shadow over the rights of littoral states in South and South East Asia.

The canvas presented here should help understand India’s dilemmas and the precautions under way to safeguard its national interest. The lessons of the past, whether in 1962, 65 or 71 have been digested through hard experience; the determination now is to prevent such events from occurring again with adequate, fully functioning mechanisms of deterrents in place.

Cool off General V K. Singh

General V.K Singh was once the Indian Army’s Chief of Staff, now as Minister of State, Ministry of External Affairs, he roared like a bull in a china shop, tweeting that the Opposition, media, staff and students at the Jawaharlal Nehru University had prevented India from emulating Israel in striking perceived hostile bases across its borders at will. His solution presumably entails abolishing universities and media in their present form and substitute them with a new Ministry of Acceptable Thought. Bringing up Israel as a junior minister in the Ministry of External Affairs says little for his diplomatic skills.

General Singh made a name not on the battlefield or at Army headquarters as a modernizing transformer for 21st century purpose, but as a wheeler-dealer in the military bureaucracy.. He achieved a measure of notoriety when he placed a second birth certificate making him younger by a year, and hence extending his tenure as Army chief. The Defence Ministry refused to accept his application for a review and the Supreme, to which General Singh had appealed, rejected his claim. There were tales of factionalism and serious service discord under the general’s dispensation. Thereafter, he enlisted with the BJP and was duly appointed Minister of State at the Ministry of External Affairs, when the party assumed power following the general election of May 2014. The national interest took second place to party politicking. More’s the pity.

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