Saturday 28 January 2023

Churchill’s prejudices reflected in BBC docuseries (The Sunday Guardian)


There are indeed ‘men of straw’ in high positions, but not in the country where Churchill and his intellectual progenitors claimed they were.

According to Winston Churchill, “Hindoos were a beastly people”. As for those who were expected to take over the reins of a free India, they were “men of straw” of whom in a brief period, “no trace will remain”. Churchill opposed efforts in the 1930s to make India a Dominion rather than a colony of Britain, arguing that only those who had European ethnicity had the qualities needed to qualify as a Dominion rather than remain a colonised people. The 1947 Partition of India was the consequence of both the convincing of Whitehall by M A Jinnah during World War II that a newly created Pakistan would be a much more reliable post-colonial ally of Britain and the west in general than “Hindoo India”. Equally fraught was the decision taken in 1946 by the leadership of the Congress Party to ignore the wishes of Mahatma Gandhi and go accept rather than oppose the Labour PM Clement Attlee’s plan to partition India, Until 15 August 1947, it had been the policy of the Congress Party to emphasise (correctly) that dividing the people of India on the basis of whether they were Hindu or Muslim was absurd. Both the Hindu Mahasabha as well as the Muslim League was, in pre-Independence days, opposed by the Congress leadership. After Independence, in perhaps a reflex designed to smother any impetus towards a second partition on the same lines as the first, the new leadership of the country divided the population into the “majority community” (ie the Hindus) and the “minority community” (i.e., non-Hindus). Since then, the concept that the people of India are composed of two parts, minority and majority, has been allowed to take deep root, including in s administrative and legislative edicts forms.
Was Partition a good enough reason for creating such a distinction, a presumed difference that is difficult to explain, given the numerous common strands that bind together the people of India, no matter what their faith? Strands such as a common history spanning several thousands of years as well as cultural and societal fusion rather than the fission that the “Majority-Minority” binary explicitly assumes to be the case. It is in the context of the reality of the people of India having a common societal DNA irrespective of faith that the two-part BBC documentary titled “The Modi Question” needs to be viewed. There is nothing different in the documentary that a diligent search of YouTube would not be able to uncover, except the Straw Report. The BBC has given the names those who produced the two parts of its portrayal of India, a vision that is completely congruent with Churchill’s assertion that a people such as the citizens of India would never be able to cohere into a stable, progressive population, but would disintegrate into bits and pieces. The BBC worked tirelessly to defend British rule during the period when India was subjugated, has shown through this and other broadcasts that the channel believes that those who the people of India have been elected to power remain what Churchill vitriolically described them as being, “men of straw”. With unintended irony, the individual the channel turned to for validation (besides a surfeit of material of the kind available on YouTube) was a forgotten politician, Jack Straw.
The words “Nazi” and “Fascist” get blithely strewn across the landscape of political discourse in India and the world. After Part One was aired, Jack Straw was interviewed by a prominent television presenter, the entire interaction being subsequently aired on an equally prominent news website located in India. There are several media outlets that are critical of the present government, especially its top tier, as indeed they have a right to be in a democracy. That such news channels would not have survived a week in Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy does not seem to have troubled those in the BBC and elsewhere across the world that parrot the allegation of the Sino-Wahabis that India today is both Fascist as well as Nazi. And that the country is on the “brink of genocide”, something that has been repeatedly asserted by several Argumentative Indians since 2014 in varied locations, never mind that such a “brink” seems no closer to being crossed in 2023 than it was in 2014. Or that there are as many as 230 million non-Hindus in a country they claim is dominated by “Intolerant Hindus” who they claim routinely go about committing atrocities on non-Hindus. The steady growth of the population of minorities in India goes along with a comparative drop in the number of communal incidents in India since Modi took over as Prime Minister as compared to the period before that. It is not known who in the Government of India took the decision to block the BBC series on PM Modi from being digitally accessed in this country, but this is as unimplementable a proposition as the recent suggestion by the RBI that crypto assets should be banned. Morarji Desai was awarded the highest honour in Pakistan by General Zia. He ought to have been given similar recognition in Dubai as well, for it was his Gold Control Order that began the transformation of what was an insignificant trading post into a global dynamo. The prosperity of Dubai was founded on the smuggling of gold into India, a process that bloomed once Finance Minister Desai sought to turn back through a firman the waves of India’s attraction for gold. Blocking the series was a boon to the BBC, in that such a move has generated worldwide interest in a mediocre documentary that is an undiluted exercise in vilification directed at India, specifically at Hindus and still more directly at Prime Minister Modi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi could not have been in the decision loop when the blocking of the BBC series was ordered, most likely much lower down. This BBC docuseries is only the latest in 999,999,999 earlier efforts at maligning him through regurgitating shaky arguments that have been used against Narendra Modi throughout his political career. None of such abuse has had any impact on his trajectory, which is why PM Modi must be unconcerned, indeed amused, by the BBC series.
Jack Straw’s Dodgy Dossier was taken to be gospel truth by the BBC in 2023, the way the channel accepted his equally mendacious litany of lies in 2003 that Saddam Hussein had huge stockpiles of WMD, including nuclear materials. Had that been true, there would never have been any US-UK invasion of Iraq. Ask Kim Jong Un, who is going forward with impunity in adding to his WMD stockpile, with a wink and a nod from Beijing and Moscow. The Straw Dossier that was the principal basis of the 2-part BBC documentary was an effort by the then British Foreign Secretary to serve his political interests. Foreign Office mandarins exhibited their fealty to Churchillian prejudices about India by obeying Jack Straw’s self-serving command to write a report whose conclusions had been pre-cooked, exactly as the Iraq WMD dossier was concocted a year later. The Straw dossier was based entirely on motivated gossip retailed within India and outside by those who for varied reasons opposed Narendra Modi. A hubbub is being sought to be created worldwide about what resembles a cut and paste job from YouTube, mixed with an interview with a politician previously discredited for his strident characterisation as fact the falsehoods that were used to justify the 2003 Bush-Blair war on Iraq. There are indeed men of straw in high positions, but not in the country where Churchill and his intellectual progenitors claimed they were, but in the land of Jack Straw and what must be a favourite channel of such individuals, the BBC.

Saturday 21 January 2023

Mr Guterres, end the Ukraine war (The Sunday Guardian)


Neither Russia nor Ukraine nor the EU is gaining from this war, neither is the rest of the world, especially the poorer countries.

Wars are a catalogue of misery brought about by miscalculation. When he gave the command to launch the “Special Military Operation” against Ukraine that began on 24 February 2022, President Vladimir Putin would not have been aware of what much later was revealed by Angela Merkel and others. That the Minsk process, on which Moscow had pinned its expectations of a peace settlement, was only a ruse designed to give the regime in Kiev sufficient time. This was to prepare for a Ukrainian offensive designed to retake the territories lost after the success of the 2014 regime change operation in Ukraine, with indirect but very substantial involvement by NATO. Given that Russian intelligence agencies have honeycombed the Kiev establishment, that there would shortly be such a military offensive would have become known to the Kremlin. Rather than wait for the blow to fall in the manner Saddam Hussein did in 2003, Putin decided on a pre-emptive strike before the Ukrainian military had completed preparations for the recapture of Lugansk and Donetsk, if not Crimea. The “Special Military Operation” presented an opportunity for war planners within NATO to entangle that Russian military in a quagmire such as what the alliance had faced in Afghanistan as a consequence of the Pakistan military sabotaging efforts at eliminating the Taliban. In other words, Ukraine in the 2020s was to be what Afghanistan had been to the Soviet Union in the 1980s, a bleeding wound that would drain away the resolve and resources of the Russian military. Surprisingly, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who had been elected on a promise to pursue peace rather and confrontation with Russia metamorphosed into as determined a champion of such a kinetic challenge to the Kremlin as Russophobes such as Petro Poroshenko, who had been installed in 2014 to head the government in Kiev that was to win back territories that had been lost during that year. Since then, the government in Kiev had sought to pummel the territories lost by constant harassment caused by shelling that resulted in a consistent drip drip drip of civilian lives lost in Donetsk and Lugansk. Concurrently, an influence building operation was launched that has become among the most successful in its genre. This was to portray Ukraine as a country denuded of Russian-speaking citizens, and which historically had only the most tenuous of links with Russia, neither of which is true. Next was to portray the post-2014 governments in Kiev as exemplars of integrity and having the finest of cultural traditions to be found in Europe. The final touch was to link Ukraine to the defence not just of western civilisation but western security, such that any increase in Russian influence in that country would go counter to both western civilisation and security. After Russia launched its war on Ukraine last year, such a process was speeded up by barring any media outlet that portrayed a Russian perspective on the conflict. Few of the many across both sides of the Atlantic who seek to educate the rest of the world on the desirability of freedom of speech appear to disagree with the view of chancelleries in the western world that the only way to protect free speech was to bar any that was at variance with the approved version of events in Ukraine. Similar is their view that jailing Julian Assange or Chelsea Manning was essential to the preservation of democracy in the West.
As mentioned by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, it is extraordinary that Europe believes its own problems to be the world’s problems, but does not consider the rest of the world’s problems to be its problems. Whether it be Asia, Africa or South America, very few countries back the stance taken by the NATO powers on the Ukraine war, that the defeat of Russia is an existential battle for democracy itself. Their prowess in Perception Management resulted in several media outlets and commentators in the three continents mentioning breathlessly forecasting from the close of March 2022 itself that the Ukrainian military was on the cusp of pushing Russian forces back towards the vicinity of Moscow. Similar to a carrot being waved in front of a donkey to get the animal to trot along carrying the cart with him, this “cusp of victory” seems to be getting not less but more distant by the month. The problem is that Europe’s problem has become the world’s problem. More than the war, the sanctions imposed against Russia by the US, EU and others have caused shortages of essential commodities and inflation across the world. They have also underscored the imperative of moving away from the US dollar as the global reserve currency, given the collateral damage that a rising dollar is causing to the debt burdens of poor countries and to global inflation. A rising dollar may not be as helpful as is supposed in taming inflation in the US, but it certainly pushes inflation and consequent misery in countries that have a low per capita income. As for the inflation now being witnessed in the US, the UK and the EU, a substantial portion of that has been self-inflicted, through the backfire of sanctions. Not that this gets mentioned in a media that has cosily embedded itself within the pre-approved information stream of NATO.
Before the war, the perception within the Atlanticist world was that Vladimir Putin, if replaced, would give way to another Gorbachev or Yeltsin and be as mindful of western needs as the two were. Now, the course of the proxy war between Russia and NATO that is being conducted in Ukraine is steadily ensuring that were Putin to fall, the next in line would be even more hardline than the present President of the Russian Federation. Not only are the bridges between Russia and the EU, US and UK being burnt, the ashes are being scattered with little hope of retrieval. Neither Russia nor Ukraine nor the EU is gaining from this war, neither is the rest of the world, especially the poorer countries. In the name of bringing back territory lost to Russia in 2014, Ukraine is being destroyed. The only gainer from the present conflict is the CCP, which got a reprieve from attention towards its ultimate geopolitical objectives getting diverted in the way that was the case when 9/11 took place in 2001. Short of a meltdown of Russia, there is no chance of Ukraine getting back its lost territories. In its eagerness to ensure such a meltdown, NATO goaded by the US, the UK, the Baltic states and Poland are ignoring one red line after the other, bringing closer the point when it will find itself in a direct and cataclysmic direct conflict with the Russian Federation. The time has long past for the conflict to end. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres needs to call for an immediate ceasefire as well as the rollback of Ukraine-related sanctions on Russia. The world must not be forced into enduring the pain of a conflict that both sides to it have blundered into.

Saturday 14 January 2023

Harry and Meghan upstage Will and Kate (The Sunday Guardian)


Unless he is a superb actor, the story Harry has been expounding rings largely true.

Some of the points made in interviews by Prince Harry Windsor are disturbing if true, especially that Camilla, now the Queen Consort of the UK, was active in poisoning the atmosphere surrounding Harry and Meghan while they were resident in one of the palaces retained for personal use by the House of Windsor. The slurs against Meghan are similar to those cast in the direction of Camilla during the period when Diana and Charles were in the process of first separating from and subsequently divorcing each other. Camilla was then called a witch by British tabloids, exactly what Meghan is being called ever since marrying Prince Harry. To be an effective writer in the tabloid press, a journalist needs to have a surfeit of voyeurism as well as generous doses of envy directed at their targets. For those on the outside of the goldfish bowl that is Royal life in Britain, there was no doubt that Diana, the mother of his two children, was in love with Charles. She was visibly devastated when she realised that his heart had belonged to Camilla Parker-Bowles even during the time when he was courting Diana Spencer. In hindsight, Queen Elizabeth was wrong in her refusal to accept that her successor to the Crown could marry a divorced woman. In much the same way, the Queen was wrong when she blocked the marriage of her sister Margaret to a divorced man, Peter Townsend, despite the couple being in love with each other. Elizabeth considered her life to be indistinguishable from her role as Monarch. To the approving Palace staff, her Victorian ways distinguished her from commoners, and hence was regarded as essential to retain. Her sister and her son fell victim to Elizabeth’s steely determination to live the constricted life that she regarded as essential to prevent the Windsors from being turfed out of the Monarchy. Was Charles persuaded to marry Diana because Camilla decided to go by what she thought were Rules for Royals and told Charles that she was never going to tie the knot with him? Until Queen Consort Camilla writes her own autobiography, there is no way of knowing why Charles married a girl he never loved, inevitably causing her much heartbreak. Diana’s eldest son William seems in his grandmother’s mould, always going by what is expected of him (at least in public). Harry was from the start in a different mould, the way his mother was. It was no surprise that William married a young, uncomplicated girl who had a temperament suited to playing a role for most of the day every day. Whatever, Kate and Will seem happy together, although William seems to share his grandmother’s fear that the British people may someday revolt against them and storm the Palace, or make enough fuss to get them evicted by the House of Commons. This may explain why the Prince of Wales seems as controlled by the environment and staff around him as Queen Elizabeth.
Meghan was as different from her sister-in-law as Harry was from his elder brother. She had established herself independently of her family, or even despite some in her family. It speaks for Harry’s refusal to conform to the unwritten rules governing Royal marriages that he met, fell in love with and married Meghan oblivious as to what his family would think about his marrying a mixed-race divorcee from the US. Goaded by Palace retainers if not by Camilla, the tabloids went after Meghan in the manner of piranha going after a swimmer in a lake, and worked at devouring her reputation. Harry’s view that his brother and others in the family added fuel to the tabloid fire may or may not be accurate. What is obvious is that he and Meghan were turfed out of Royal privileges by the Queen in an unseemly hurry. Since then, Meghan continues to be pilloried by the tabloids, essentially for not being more like Kate, while Harry is under attack even for his stint in the military. Any death is of course unfortunate, but by “neutralising” 26 Taliban fighters, Harry may have saved the lives of at least half that many Coalition troops who would have been in danger of being killed by the extremist militia. Paraphrasing Marx, it may be said that war is not a picnic. According to Taliban spokespersons approvingly quoted by the BBC, “human beings are not chess pieces”. Is that why so many pro-western Afghans that had been left behind by President Biden are being identified and “neutralised” by Taliban “chess players”? Genteel folks in the UK are aghast that Harry killed such exemplars of humanity as the Taliban, rather than handing over bars of chocolate to them. Shocking behaviour. Not at all what King Charles, Prince Andrew or the Prince of Wales would have done, had any of them gone to fight in Afghanistan. Unlike Harry, none of the three would have been reckless enough to stray within range of a Taliban sniper. The barb directed at the woman who supplanted his mother in the Palace should not mean that King Charles not follow his own generous nature and bring the two prodigals back into the Royal fold. Such a step would do more for the Windsors than any amount of tabloid venom directed at Meghan and Harry.
If Harry’s suspicions about his stepmother’s conduct towards Meghan and him are true, it is almost as though Camilla sought to win the approval of Diana’s eldest son and others in the family circle by rounding on Meghan and Harry. Unless he is a superb actor, the story Harry has been expounding rings largely true, and has won for himself and his bride the sympathy and the support of the overwhelming majority of citizens of Commonwealth countries, including many in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. Were the two exiles to remain estranged from the rest of the family, within the Commonwealth and in most other parts of the world, Charles and Camilla, not to forget Will and Kate, will be regarded with less than affection. If the British Royals wish to survive as an institution respected by the Commonwealth, Kate and Will may need to ensure that Meghan and Harry are welcomed back from the cold. And that this time around, the choice given to them should not be accepting a straitjacketed way of living or facing expulsion.

Saturday 7 January 2023

Xi’s target countries need to close ranks to resist (The Sunday Guardian)


An FTA between India and Taiwan could open the way for TSMC among others in relocating some of its factories to India. Such a shift would be a nightmare for the CCP leadership.

Given that pork is the favourite dish of many people in China, it is small wonder that Xi Jinping has emerged as an enthusiastic practitioner of what may be termed as sub-critical conventional and asymmetric attacks against India and Taiwan. During previous regimes, “salami slicing” was carried out at regular intervals, with a lack of response from the Indian side. During those times, military officers who went along with the pacifist instincts of the civilian leadership were given more consideration in matters of placement than officers who were energetic in fighting back against PLA efforts at slicing away territory. Amazingly, the newly re-built Daulet Beg Oldi airfield was ordered to be shut down by the previous government. The file concerning this decision needs to be made public, so that the politicians and officials guilty of such a dereliction of duty towards the nation get identified. Military historian Shiv Kunal Verma has mentioned about a confidential proposal to South Block in 2005 by US President George W. Bush. This was that India withdraw from Siachen so that the generals in Rawalpindi (to whom he had outsourced much of the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan) could be appeased. During that period, this columnist was warned from within the government about this attempted sellout. This was by those in the governance system who were more committed to the territorial integrity of India than their political superiors during that period. During the months that the White House sought to arm-twist Prime Minister Manmohan Singh into ordering a withdrawal from Siachen, this columnist issued a warning through the columns of Organiser about the impending sellout. He also met the US Charge-d’Affaires at the US Embassy to warn that were Prime Minister Singh to succumb to such pressures, not only would India-US relations hit a long, deep trough but that the PM himself would have to face multitudes of citizens eager to hold him accountable for treason. Fortunately for the country, better sense prevailed in South Block and the US pressure to leave Siachen went unheeded. Had Manmohan Singh been to a greater extent the actual rather than the virtual Prime Minister of India, this man of intellect and drive would have had a stellar record of transformation of India.Thanks to the military, it has proven a challenge these days for the PLA to cut away slices of territory from control by India or Bhutan. At Doklam in 2017, Galwan in 2020 and Yangtze in 2022, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave freedom to the armed forces to repulse PLA efforts at chipping away at the territory of the Republic of India. The Modi government also rescued the DBO airstrip from shutdown, as well as opened up several other previously defunct airfields throughout the India-Tibet border. In addition, roads and fortifications were built that would be essential in repulsing any future PLA attack on borders that have deliberately been kept undefined by the CCP leadership. It is not a question of whether a large-scale attack on the Sino-Indian border will come from the PLA but when. CCP propagandists in Taiwan, Japan and South Korea incessantly claim that relocating industrial facilities to India from China would be at risk from the PLA. The truth is that only some border areas would be affected even in a 1962-magnitude attack, given the present-day nuclear, conventional and asymmetric retaliatory capability of India. Investments by foreign countries would be much safer in India than they are proving to be in Xi’s China. Since 2014, India has been getting better prepared militarily to deal with such a threat.Now comes Taiwan, the other country in the Indo-Pacific that is at an elevated risk of a fullscope PLA attack. Since his tenure in the PRC’s highest office of Jiang Zemin, the CCP has sought to make the PRC the only back office and manufactory of Taiwan, a process boosted enormously by the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed in 2010 between Taipei and Beijing. Especially since the Covid-19 pandemic, influence operations of the CCP have been working overtime in multiple countries in order to prevent any large economy from signing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Taiwan. Were an FTA to be signed between Taiwan and India, the PRC would lose much of the benefits it gained from ECFA. General Secretary Xi is unworried about India’s signing an FTA with the UAE or the UK, as neither poses a threat to the Chinese manufacturing base in the manner that an FTA between India and Taiwan would. Such a move could open the way for TSMC among others to follow Foxconn in relocating some of its factories to India. Such a shift would be a nightmare for the CCP leadership. Small wonder that in Taiwan, there are shrill dog whistles from the Communist Chinese influence network about “India being unsafe for foreign investment” because of governance, labour, societal or kinetic issues. Unfortunately for Xi, more and more Taiwanese are seeing through such efforts at deception, and are looking at India while considering relocation from the PRC, a country that is the greatest threat by far to their country. Given the concessions likely to be made to India by Taiwan in the service sector, inevitable as a consequence of our country’s First Mover advantage, an FTA between the two democracies most at risk from the PRC could open the door to more than USD 300 billion of Taiwanese investment into (a) manufacturing in India, (b) export of services and an explosion of synergy between their Information Technology and IT hardware sectors.There are a few in think tanks that are influential in South and North Blocks that get the wrong answer because they have a habit of asking the wrong questions. Among these are why India should not wait until a US-Taiwan FTA has been signed. That question ignores the reality that tariffs between Taiwan and the US are 5% or in most case, below this level. Such rates have ensured a de facto ECFA between Washington and Taipei, a fact overlooked by many in the world’s biggest democracy. Whether de facto or de jure, an India-Taiwan FTA needs to be a priority in 2023 for both sides. During his third 5-year term, CCP General Secretary Xi is struggling to showcase achievements that could be used by him to justify a fourth term, especially in the military sphere. Which is why it is necessary for the principal targets of Xi’s malevolent attentions (such as the US, Japan, India and Taiwan) to work together to repel his expansionist moves. Such is the reality that more and more legislators in the US, the EU, the UK, Japan, South Korea and India are increasingly understanding.

Pak Army set to disappoint PRC and the U.S. in 2023 (The Sunday Guardian)


So rapidly is the momentum for a free Balochistan and a free Pashtunistan developing that GHQ Rawalpindi is proving itself unable to alter the situation to its advantage.

VISHAKAPATNAM: Since the 1960s, GHQ Rawalpindi has been supported enthusiastically by the United States and China. Despite the two having drifted apart since the takeover of the CCP by Xi Jinping in 2012, the two continue to indulge the Pakistan military. While in the past, it was the US that played Santa Claus, not to the people of Pakistan but to the men in khaki. Around 2011, it became obvious even to its most ardent backers in Washington that the Pakistan Army was sabotaging efforts by US forces to finish off the Taliban. The consequence was that the US, in effect, after a decade of seeking to eliminate the Taliban, began seeking a deal with that collective of armed zealots, a process that it was expected could be carried out with the help of GHQ Rawalpindi. Despite a few pungent words every now and then directed at the men in khaki, in practice US assistance continued to be directed towards that force in an ultimately futile effort at securing a respectable peace agreement between the NATO-backed Afghan government and the Taliban. In the manner of an arsonist taking along a fire truck without water, each disaster in which it had played a significant role presented an opportunity to showcase GHQ Rawalpindi as necessary to put out the fires of terror strikes and the killing of Afghan and Coalition forces by the Taliban and its associate groups. The Santa in Beijing continues to shower the army, navy and air force of GHQ Rawalpindi with assistance, following in the footsteps of the US by not bothering about the people of Pakistan. For both Washington and Beijing, only GHQ Rawalpindi counts and not the rest of the population, least of all the civilian leadership of the country.
In the US calculus, the Pakistan Army offered a pathway to an exit from Afghanistan in a manner different from the abandoning of South Vietnam in 1975. For China, that military is a useful instrument to keep India focused on its western border, thereby having to pay less attention to the much greater threat that the country is facing across the Himalayan massif from a PLA that had been given the same freedom under Xi that it had enjoyed under Mao during the early years of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. Much effort was lavished within the higher ranks of the Pakistan military on ensuring an accommodative and bountiful attitude from the US and China. From the start, given his fascination with soldiery, Xi in particular has poured money into Pakistan, including by coming up with a project that had no chance of success from inception, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It was the initiation of the CPEC that convinced many analysts in India that it was a futile quest to chase after a collaborative relationship with China, at least so long as Xi was in charge of the CCP. Meanwhile, the Pakistan Army had what it thought was a stroke of luck, when a US politician, who had been a stout backer of the men in khaki throughout his three decades as a Senator took over in 2021 as President of the US. Joe Biden did not disappoint such hopes. His White House reopened channels that had been shut under Donald Trump. Once Biden became the principal architect of the NATO proxy war against Russia by early 2022, the White House saw a cosying up to GHQ Rawalpindi as enabling the US to withdraw from Afghanistan through the deal brokered by Trump between the US and the Taliban at Doha the previous year. Despite his tough guy exterior, Trump is a pacifist at heart who abhors war, and he was prepared to cut and run from Afghanistan in the same way as he had earlier abandoned the Kurds to the non-existent mercies of R.T. Erdogan. Fortunately for him, it was Biden and not himself that actually carried out that surrender, ostensibly to focus on China, but in reality to concentrate on kneecapping not China but Russia. In a pattern that ought to have become familiar since the 1990s, the 15 August 2021 handover by the US of Afghanistan to the Taliban saw GHQ take the bounty offered but failing to deliver the outcomes expected. Those in the White House, State and NSA, who had been credulous enough to trust Pakistan to keep their interests in mind during any negotiation with the Taliban, saw the inevitable take place. That collection of militias systematically hunted down and killed or imprisoned NATO-leaning Afghans after the 2021 takeover, assurances of their safety notwithstanding. The Taliban had indeed changed since they had been turfed out of power by US and Afghan forces in 2001, but for the worse.

The men in khaki in GHQ Rawalpindi were delighted at the mountains of equipment and buildings left behind in Afghanistan by the withdrawing US forces. They seemed uncaring that the Taliban was split up into six groups, with three outside the control of either the PLA or the Pakistan Army. This Free Taliban component comprised the younger fighters, with the group owing allegiance to the PLA and the two others swearing (in private) fealty to GHQ Rawalpindi comprising almost entirely of old or middle aged fighters, many of whom had spent much of the war with NATO in Dubai, Doha or in Peshawar. Within a few months of takeover of power, the Free Taliban treated what may be termed the Bound Taliban with contempt. While the latter may have remained in the high-level jobs that they placed themselves in after the 2021 handover to the Taliban, by October 2021, the other three factions began to ignore their commands, and by November had begun the process of replacing field commanders with their own men.

Given the nature of the Pashtuns, in whom pride is an attribute worth giving up one’s life for, it was unrealistic to expect that the Potohar-infused Pakistan Army would be able to win over the younger Pashtuns in the Taliban. They had seen the way in which their seniors genuflected to the men in khaki from across what they considered an illegitimate Durand Line, and wanted no part in such helotry. After October 2021 itself it was proving difficult for GHQ Rawalpindi to purloin the weapons left behind by NATO forces, except those that were beyond the capability of the Taliban to use. By November 2021, it became impossible for Pakistan to secure weapons useful to the Taliban, such as guns and ammunition. In the hearts of the Free Taliban, the objective was never absent of a Greater Afghanistan that would include the Pashtun areas now ruled from Rawalpindi. Which is why about a third of the cadres of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are from across the Durand Line rather than from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In 1947, it would have been possible for India to secure the assistance of the Baloch and the Pashtuns and ensure that both these provinces became independent of Rawalpindi. Such a thought was anathema to the saintly leadership of the Above Ground Freedom Movement of the 1930s and much of the 1940s (until Independence came in 1947). Since November 2021, turbocharged by access to poppy fields and US weapons left behind, young Baloch and Pashtuns are seeking to rectify a situation created by the refusal of India to assist even such Congress Party stalwarts as Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in their efforts to keep the Pashtuns free of overlordship by those from another province of Pakistan. So rapidly is the momentum for a free Balochistan and a free Pashtunistan developing that GHQ Rawalpindi is proving itself unable to alter the situation to its advantage in the manner that it had succeeded in doing earlier. As a consequence, it is losing its value to the US as a bridle giving direction to the Taliban, and to Xi’s China even as a means of keeping India focused not on the north but the west.

Z.A. Bhutto and later Nawaz Sharif sought in their heyday to bring the Pakistan Army under civilian control. Bhutto paid with his life, while Sharif was forced into exile. Now the men in khaki are again being challenged by an individual whom they had long regarded as a useful puppet, Imran Khan. The deposed politician has overtaken his predecessors in the virulence of his sallies against the military.The consequence has been not less but more popularity. The worry in GHQ Rawalpindi is that any effort to either murder or lock up Imran would lead to an uncontrollable explosion of popular anger, including within several of the younger elements in the military. The two blades of the scissor, Baloch and Pashtun resistance to the military occupation, and next, the growing popularity of Imran Khan, are coming closer together. This is threatening the hold of the army over the governance of Pakistan. The good news for the generals is that neither Washington nor Beijing as yet has read the tea leaves except in the way GHQ Rawalpindi wants them to. Such blissful ignorance on the part of the two feuding superpowers about the diminishing degree of effectiveness of the men in khaki is likely to have Sino-US confidence in GHQ Raswalpindi put to a severe test in 2023, the year when India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads both the SCO as well as the G-20.

Pak Army set to disappoint PRC and the U.S. in 2023