Turbulent 2020

Afghan Taliban fighters and villagers attend a gathering as they celebrate the peace deal signed between US and Taliban in Laghman Province, Alingar district on March 2, 2020. The agreement was signed in Doha, Qatar, by US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad -- the chief US negotiator in the talks with the Taliban -- and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar -- the Taliban's chief negotiator. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo witnessed the signing. (Photo by Wali Sabawoon/NurPhoto) (Photo by Wali Sabawoon/NurPhoto)

Asif Haroon Raja

The year 2020 upon which we had pinned high hopes for better days ahead is proving to be another difficult year. The whole world is in a flux and hardly any corner is safe from troubles. End of super power rivalry and the 45 years Cold War should have made the unipolar world under the USA peaceful.

Instead, initiation of destructive global war on terror by the crusaders after 9/11 to make the world safe made it more unsafe due to their insincerity of intentions and global ambitions. Flames of terrorism have reached every nook and corner of the world.

The two oldest disputes of Palestine and Kashmir remain unresolved due to lackadaisical approach of the US influenced UN, which has bred religious extremism.

While the US strives to retain its global hegemony through force and intrigue, Israel aspires for Greater Israel. India is obsessed with Akhand Bharat and Hindutva. The colluding trio have replaced grand wars with low intensity conflicts, covert war, proxies and trade war.

China wants to become the leading economic power through its peace oriented Belt & Road initiative, while the US wants to curtail its growth through trade war/sanctions/containment. Russia is keen to reassert its authority in global affairs. The Muslim world is a house divided and deeply enmeshed in internal imbroglios.

Melting down economies of targeted countries through hybrid war, blockades, sanctions and regime changes are preferred options of the US, Israel and India.

Never before has the world seen so much turbulence in one time. There are so many flashpoints like the nuclearized Korean Peninsula, explosive South China Sea, Indo-Pakistan antagonism in nuclearized South Asia, volatile Af-Pak region, Sino-India flare-up, chaotic Middle East and simmering Ukrainian conflict. As if these troubles were not enough, Covid-19 having morphed into a global pandemic is damaging global economies.

With so many simmering lavas, and USA and Russia sitting over huge stockpiles of nukes and ICBMs, the world has become a powder keg. 1% rich in USA controlling world resources favor continuation of aggressive policies to keep their war industry running.

Pakistan too has its own set of grave internal and external challenges. It is faced with perpetual hostility from India which wants to balkanize Pakistan. Hostile Afghanistan in league with India and USA has been bleeding Pakistan profusely. Our southern backyard hasn’t been so secure due to US-Saudi standoff with Iran and Iran’s closeness to India.

Above all, Pakistan continues to remain under the US spell despite its double dealing and strategic alignment with India.

The grim situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) and vulnerability of 200 million Indian Muslims in India, together with uncertain Afghan peace agreement which has begun to unravel, have serious ramifications for Pakistan’s security.

India under Modi is determined to completely absorb J&K including Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK into Indian Union and is fixated with its fascist ideology to make India a Hindu State. The US and Israel support the goals of Modi.

Internally, the government faces political instability, economic crisis and governance problems. Corona virus coupled with slowdown of CPEC have added to the woes of cash-strapped Pakistan.

Our inaction is allowing India to consolidate its gains in IOK, and might encourage it to embark on an adventure in AJK-GB.

So far we have not framed any strategy to lessen the pains of 8 million Kashmiris languishing in the biggest open jail since August 5 last year and subjected to the worst abuses.

Instead of waiting for divine help, or for India to invade AJK-GB to respond, a wiser course is to fight covertly in IOK instead of fighting limited war on our soil.

Our wait and see policy is no policy and amounts to giving up two-third Kashmir to India. Diplomatic front has not been mobilized the way it should have been done.

Our leaders are still not prepared to accept the hard reality that India will never miss any opportunity to break up Pakistan and our unilateral efforts to befriend India will never be reciprocated by India. We naively think that prosperity of Pakistan hinges upon friendship with India and promotion of trade and business between the two countries. This myopic fixation must end and we should learn to look elsewhere to make the country prosperous.

India will accept the existence of Pakistan only if it forgets about Kashmir, disables its nukes and agrees to become a secular compliant state.

Continued resistance of Kashmiris in the face of extreme odds, country-wide protests in India against discriminatory citizenship law and international backlash, resurgence in the Khalistan movement, China’s strategic gains in Galwan Valley, India’s domineering attitude being challenged by Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim for the first time, strains in Indo-Bangladesh relations and the latter indicating interest to normalize relations with Pakistan, and Iran preferring China over India have provided a window of opportunity for Pakistan to put the heat on India. Never before has India faced such a diplomatic isolation and internal disorder.

Inaction by Pakistan and silence of major power centres would enable India to overcome resistance in IOK and in India by using brute force and also change the demography of IOK.

Disruption of intra Afghan talks in Afghanistan suits the spoilers including the USA. The US would resist the formation of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Pakistan has no mechanism or capacity to resolve the current impasse in Afghanistan except to keep supporting both sides and further pressing the Taliban to be more accommodative by reconciling with the Ghani regime. Even if the two reconcile, which seem difficult, Dr. Abdullah and other northern warlords would not. Failure of intra-Afghan dialogue would result in inter-tribal infighting for power.

Our effort should be on speedy exit of occupying forces, elimination of perverse influence of India, and success of intra-Afghan dialogue for the establishment of a broad based regime in Kabul friendly to Pakistan. We should however, be prepared for another round of civil war in Afghanistan with fallout effects on Pakistan.

Pakistan should facilitate the growth of understanding between Iran and China. Correspondingly, China can help in mitigating the irritants between Iran and Pakistan.

With external geopolitical environments showing signs of improvement, the government must redouble its efforts to put its house in order by making visible improvements in governance, financial management, and above all alleviating the socio-economic issues of the poor.

Besides adopting a positive mentality by saying “we can do irrespective of adversities”, we should not focus only on tangibles, but also profitably exploit our human capital. To enhance our national output, we should boost our agriculture, technical skills and use technology to reduce poverty. Sick state-owned enterprises must be made profitable.

Japan, Europe and the USA are beset with an aging population. We are fortunate to have over 60% of the population young, which if imparted higher education and specialized skills, and utilized properly, coud turn around our economy.

The three tiered education system should be replaced with a single unified system to provide equal social growth opportunities to all, and thus achieve national integration.

Tax culture should be built to broaden the tax base and to improve revenue generation.

Merit based system must be evolved, and austerity should replace pomposity.

Critical reforms in education, politics, bureaucracy, judiciary, police, and other state institutions should be undertaken, because without reforms, no headway can be made.

To rid the society of social diseases, there is a need for moral and ideological re-armament.

All out efforts must be made to reinvigorate the CPEC, which is the economic lifeline of Pakistan.

Pakistan’s economy will remain in doldrums as long as Pakistan remains under the sway of the USA, remains fearful of FATF and remains dependent upon the IMF. We have to charter independent foreign and economic policies to make Pakistan self-reliant.

The writer is a retired Brig, war veteran, defence analyst, international columnist, author of 5 books, Chairman TFP. asifharoonraja@gmail.com  


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