Sunday 28 May 2023

Kashmiri hospitality on display at G20-Srinagar (The Sunday Guardian)


From 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought to bring back Kashmir to the prosperity it once enjoyed.

Among the most beautiful locations on the globe, Kashmir has suffered from 1947 onwards as a consequence of the obsession by the rulers of Pakistan to reaffirm the two-nation theory by snatching away by subterfuge mixed with violence a Muslim-majority state from India. The 1965 war between India and Pakistan would have been very different, had the then Chief of Army Staff been replaced by one of his juniors who had more spine. Had the COAS at the time been able to, he would have countermanded the decision made by Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri to take the pressure away from Kashmir by attacking across a broad front. As is the norm in India, where nothing succeeds as much as failure, despite his poor leadership, the then COAS was rewarded by a diplomatic assignment while the Lt General, who was the actual hero of the 1965 war, went unacknowledged. At the Tashkent conference, what slivers of Pakistan territory captured by India was given back, as also the most effective gateway for terrorists to cross into that part of Kashmir that was rescued by India in the 1947 war, the Haji Pir pass. An even bigger gesture of making futile unilateral concessions at Shimla in 1972 brought no respite from the overt and covert war that the Pakistan military establishment was conducting against India. Indeed, it was during the 1980s that several schools were set up in Liberated Kashmir that indoctrinated the youth attending them to hate their own country and back its secession. Worse, several individuals who were not even covertly opposed to India were allowed to cross over from the other side of the Line of Control and settle in Liberated Kashmir. It was from this influx that the human seeds of the asymmetric warfare that ravaged the Valley in particular for much of the 1990s came from. Worse still, political parties that were plainly opposed to the 1947 integration of Kashmir into the Union of India were wooed by national parties and made part of the machinery of the government of the state. Small wonder that the wound inflicted on the wellbeing of the people of Kashmir by GHQ Rawalpindi and its proxies continued to fester. A state that ought to have been among the top ten tourist destinations of the world, that ought to have been the location of the best educational and health facilities in India, slipped into the abyss of insurgency.
And it was not only in Kashmir that the Pakistan army showed its gratitude-in-reverse for the incredibly generous concessions made by the Indian side at Shimla, including the effective pardoning of the many officers of the Pakistan army that had been guilty of rape, lool and genocide in Bangladesh during the years preceding the 1971 war that ended in the Indian armed forces and the Mukti Bahini liberating Bangladesh. Soon after Shimla, planning began at GHQ Rawalpindi to convert Punjab into an inferno through the Khalistan movement, which is now going largely as a consequence of funds handed over the purpose to GHQ Rawalpindi by the military that is its master in all but name. Together with the military and police, the people of Punjab defeated that conspiracy to melt down the state. The Sikh community in particular once again showed its patriotism and commitment to the Tricolour. The G20 meeting on tourism that has just taken place in Srinagar has demonstrated that the people of Kashmir too have stepped forward to support not those from across the western and northern borders of India that want the Union Territory to plunge into chaos and violence, but those who seek to ensure that Kashmir reaches its potential as a peaceful and prosperous part of India. From 2014, Prime Minister Modi has sought to bring back Kashmir to the prosperity it once enjoyed before Sheikh Abdullah was brought back to power in the state during 1975 by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. From 2014 onwards, Modi worked towards this objective, and there can be no better evidence of the confidence that the Prime Minister has in the Kashmiri people than in his decision to hold the G20 meeting on tourism in Srinagar. The intention was to once again make Kashmir an international destination for tourism and investment, and the people of Kashmir lived up to his expectations by showing the warmth and hospitality that had long been the defining characteristic of the people of Kashmir, and which GHQ Rawalpindi and its external masters have long been seeking to replace with a mixture of intolerance and mayhem.
President Erdogan of Turkey repaid India for the unstinted assistance given to his country by India during the 6 February earthquake by refusing to send any delegate from his country to the G20 summit. China naturally absented itself, as seeing the placid atmosphere in Kashmir despite pumping in so much assistance to the Pakistan military would have resulted in a nervous breakdown among many in its delegation. As for the Saudi absence, it is clear that the modernising hand of Crown Prince Mohamad bin Salman is not all-powerful in the Kingdom, else the Saudis would have followed the Indonesians, the Europeans, Brazil, South Africa and the big European economies in attending the meeting. Perhaps it was simply fear that kept the Egyptian and Saudi delegations away, given that both are modernising rather than slipping back into medievalism in the way some other countries are. Riyadh and Cairo may have taken seriously the informal warning given by Beijing that the Srinagar meet was hopelessly unsafe, and not to risk their lives by going. Unfortunately for them, the overwhelming majority of countries in the G20 attended. As for Turkey under Erdogan, Ankara has followed the example of Islamabad and Beijing in repaying help given by India with a contrary action that brings harm. The Turkish absence serves as a warning to those in the Lutyens Zone who never learn that unilateral concessions beget only a demand for more concessions rather than cause a change in established behaviour patterns of hostility

Sunday 21 May 2023

G7 needs to ensure a Russia-Ukraine ceasefire (The Sunday Guardian)


It is fitting that Hiroshima was chosen as the location for the G7 meeting, for the chances that the ongoing proxy war between Russia and NATO will enter a nuclear dimension are not zero, or even close to zero.

Once, on a visit to Japan. I was asked by my courteous Japanese hosts if I wanted to visit Hiroshima, which is thus far the scene of one of the only two cities bombed by atomic weapons in human history. They were surprised when the offer was refused and instead, a request was made by me to visit a Buddhist temple. At the temple, it was not the usual time for prayers, but in a gesture exemplifying the best of the teachings of the Buddha, the monks prayed in my presence. With eyes closed, I sought to better understand why President Harry S. Truman had deemed it necessary to use the newly created atom bomb to force the leadership of a proud nation to surrender. Had the war not been cut short by the catastrophe that fell from the skies onto Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August 1945, it is certain that the Japanese forces would have fought on long after the surrender of Germany on 7 and 9 May 1945. Imbued with the samurai spirit, the Japanese military would have fought on, bringing upon themselves an unprecedented hail of explosives from the skies and the seas as a consequence of the domination by the US Air Force and the US Navy by that stage of the war. This would be apart from the US soldiers, sailors and airmen who would have paid with their lives to defeat Japan. Many hundred thousand more Japanese than perished at Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have died as a consequence of the prolongation of a war that Japan had already lost, but whose military rulers were refusing to accept the inevitable until forced to Emperor Hirohito, who was devastated by images of those who perished in the two cities bombed by the US Air Force. This columnist had come across photographs, written accounts and newsreels of the nuclear carnage, and had no desire to have the embers of the emotions stirred by such knowledge, feelings that would once again have burst into flame as a consequence of walking on the same ground that had been the receptacle of “Little Boy”, the nickname given to the first atom bomb dropped on a human target on 6 August 1945. Instead, the alternative chosen was to search for the inner calm, the inner confidence that humanity as a species is inherently kind and not cruel, and this was found in the soothing chanting of the Buddhist monks in a temple in Tokyo that unforgettable day.
Passing up the chance to visit Hiroshima was the memory which bubbled up when it was announced that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida had decided to host the G7 summit at Hiroshima, a summit to which he invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India as well as Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, so that at the least an informal meeting of the four members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue could take place. Such a summit not taking place at all would have conveyed a signal of unconcern that would be welcomed only by those powers who were opposed to a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific, especially a superpower who was intent on making large parts of those vast water spaces a private lake.
Given the stakes involved in ensuring a resolution of the debt ceiling standoff between the Republicans and the White House, it was understandable that President Biden had to cut short his overseas tour to return to Washington for meetings aimed at finding common ground with Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his party before the month was up. US Senators and Presidents fly far fewer times to locations in Asia than they do to locations in Europe, and this has been particularly true of Biden, who therefore ought to make a visit to Papua New Guinea and Australia soonest, not to forget a long-delayed visit to India. Much of the media in the West is behaving the way “embedded media” did during the 2003 war launched by George W. Bush on Saddam Hussein, and is writing less about the security of the Indo-Pacific than Ukraine as being the centrepoint of attention at the summit. Since last year, NATO began a jihad against the Russian Federation, pouring men and resources into Ukraine for the purpose. All this is in order for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to continue his quixotic mission of recovering the territories lost since 2014 to the Russian-speaking Ukrainians who since 2012 were being treated not just as second-class citizens by Kiev but as outcasts. Given the reality of the Ukraine focus of the leadership of the G7 (barring perhaps Prime Ministers Fumio Kishida and Giorgia Meloni of Italy, who however have been keeping their more pragmatic views to themselves whenever Ursula von der Leyen and others at the table have fulminated about needing to make “ever greater sacrifices for saving European civilisation”). And how better than by assisting Kiev to humiliate Russia on the battlefield? The longer such an effort drags on, the greater the risk that the authoritarian superpower would seize the chance to try and extinguish the sovereignty of some of the countries in the Indo-Pacific either wholly or partially. This would ensue once the public in the West turns against any kinetic involvement in any theatre by their governments as a consequence of the blowback of the impact on their lives of the Ukraine jihad. If George W. Bush had Tony Blair to cheer him on and join in the evisceration of Saddam’s forces in 2003, Joe Biden had Boris Johnson joining him fifteen months ago in launching a course of action in Ukraine that has already created misery worldwide and may yet turn into an indescribable catastrophe. Apart perhaps from Meloni and Kishida, it is unlikely that the other five leaders at the G7 summit will even realize the risk to overall security of their obsession with Russia. This fixation has come at the precise time when the superpower that is the actual threat has been revealing (and using) its claws more and more often. In part because western media these days resembles outlets in authoritarian states in their uniformity of opinion and coverage, as yet most citizens of G7 member countries do not understand that much of their recent travails have been caused by the actions since the start of 2022 of their leaders. They will, most probably soon.
It is fitting that Hiroshima was chosen as the location for the G7 meeting, for the risk that the ongoing proxy war between Russia and NATO enters a nuclear dimension is not zero, or even close to zero. Perhaps this was the message being sought to be conveyed to his G7 partners by Prime Minister Kishida. In the words of Prime Minister Modi, this is “not an era of war”. Backing an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine would be the best gift that the G7 could give to a world that many believe to be on the edge of a free fall into catastrophe.

Sunday 14 May 2023

GHQ Rawalpindi has no good options on Imran (The Sunday Guardian)


If Imran once again becomes an instrument of the generals, Pakistanis are unlikely to follow him, which is what makes any softening of Imran’s stand unlikely.

If ever any additional proof was needed that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif serves at the pleasure not of the people of Pakistan but of the star officers of GHQ Rawalpindi, it was provided in his nervous press appearance on 12 May. In a somewhat tremulous voice, the younger of the Sharif brothers appealed to the public to turn away from Imran because his supporters had “attacked the military”. There had been attacks and even torching (Sri Lanka style) of the private homes of the Sharifs brothers, but these were minor acts of violence in comparison with what had apparently horrified the Prime Minister of Pakistan the most, which was that high-ranking officers of the Pakistan Army were attacked, including the official homes of some Corps Commanders. The Corps Commanders were the electoral college that deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999 and installed the dismissed Chief of Army Staff ex-General Pervez Musharraf as the Chief Martial Law Administrator. The senior Sharif was serially appointed and deposed (and lastly exiled) by the Pakistan military, and this has engendered in the mind of Shehbaz Sharif a fear of the military, the emotion that made the Corps Commanders in GHQ Rawalpindi catapult him to his present job. Equally, it had been the Army generals who had chosen Imran Khan as the next Prime Minister and got him installed in August 2018, only to turf him out in April 2022. The generals had by then made the Pakistan Army an auxiliary of the PLA, but were anxious to protect their assets and relatives located in Europe and in the US. They had calculated that Imran Khan, who had a long list of admirers in those parts of the world (not to mention in India), would be able to camouflage the sellout of the military to the CCP and once again prise open the cornucopia of benefits that western countries, the US in particular, had once showered on GHQ Rawalpindi. Unfortunately, perhaps because of age or because wiser counsel had begun to prevail in Washington and Berlin, the flow of assistance from both sides of the Atlantic to Pakistan’s uniformed services failed to approach past levels of abundance. A decision was taken by the generals (the admirals and air marshals being of less consequence in military headquarters) to toss out Imran and bring in the younger Sharif, who was a full-blooded Punjabi and more importantly, had in the course of amassing his fortune, acquired as a by-product a host of legal vulnerabilities that made him the acquiescent Prime Minister that the generals sought.
Unlike the Zardaris and the Sharifs, Imran Khan Niazi does not come from a family whose members have become billionaires as a consequence of growing their businesses under the patronage of those that count in Pakistan, the uniformed services and the religious zealots. The deposed Prime Minister did not vanish into the shadows and shortly thereafter appeared at the doors of the generals begging to be given a second chance in the manner that some of his predecessors had done Rather than wasting time on puppets, he went after the masters themselves, directing his ire at the military. Earlier, both Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif while in power had challenged the military hierarchy by seeking to install puppets of their own at the apex of the Pakistan Army. The first was executed with help from a compliant judiciary, while the other was sent into exile. Imran Khan has challenged the military not while he was in high office but after having been removed from it. He has stripped away the camouflage netting of the country’s civilian interface and exposed the involvement of the generals in his overthrow and subsequent harassment through multiple cases filed against him. And rather than lose public support as a consequence, Imran has picked up much more backing from the people of Pakistan than he had ever enjoyed earlier. Finally, it would appear, even in the Punjab province the people of Pakistan understand that they have been taken for a ride by the generals. That they have been victims of a confidence trick designed to keep them in poverty, religious fanaticism and illiteracy by an army leadership that had long made a career out of serving as a mercenary force, initially for the US and later on, to China. Throughout the 21st century, Chinese Communist Party functionaries have visited Pakistan in much the way that US servicemen used to visit the Philippines in the years prior to World War II, as overlords. They have provided generous assistance to GHQ Rawalpindi in the latter’s efforts to inflict a thousand cuts on India. At the same time, the men in khaki have covered up the reality of their parasitical existence by pointing to an imaginary threat from India as the reason why the military should be allowed to reign supreme over Pakistan while itself functioning under its Liege Lord, the CCP.
If the National Accountability Bureau of Pakistan were serious about accountability for the many charges that have been flung in the direction of Imran Khan Niazi, they would have arrested most of the higher ranks of the Pakistan Army as well as civilian officials, not to mention politicians. When those who have swindled hundreds of billions of dollars accuse Imran of illegally benefitting from much smaller sums, such accusations carry little credibility in the public mind. GHQ Rawalpindi is as frightened of holding fresh elections as are the Sharif brothers or the Zardaris. They can of course be sure that the men in khaki can assure them a comfortable victory when the ballot boxes are emptied, but are aware that this time around, the public reaction will be what it was when Bilawal Zardari’s grandfather Z.A. Bhutto rigged the 1977 polls and ignited a furious public reaction that gave cover to General Zia to depose and later on hang him. This time around, the cry of the public is that the generals themselves be punished for what they have done to the future of Pakistan. If Imran reverses his stance and once again becomes an instrument of the generals, the people of Pakistan are unlikely to follow him in such a betrayal, which is what makes any softening of Imran’s stand unlikely. Will he go the way of Benazir Bhutto and die in an explosion or through a bullet? Will he be locked up and the key thrown away in the hope that he loses his spine? None of the available options are without grave risks for the generals. As for the Chinese, the reality is that Imran Khan Niazi would not have been thrown out of power unless Beijing had given the nod to GHQ Rawalpindi. This is a truth that the most popular, the most endangered, the most dangerous, politician in Pakistan must be mulling over.

Sunday 7 May 2023

President Biden, catch up on reality (The Sunday Guardian)


The day Xi Jinping believes that there will not be a proportionate and kinetic response from the US, and Japan, to an armed attack on Taiwan, an invasion would be imminent.

TINA, “There is no alternative”. This is the conviction that has underpinned much of US policy and action over several years. After Operation Desert Storm was successfully concluded against Saddam Hussein in 1991, President George H.W. Bush encouraged Kurds and Shias in particular to revolt against the weakened Iraqi dictator, only to stand by and do nothing when Saddam Hussein brutally extinguished such sparks of resistance. Indeed, the Bush I administration helpfully withdrew its “No Fly Zone” across Northern Iraq so as to enable the sending of helicopters by Saddam to kill Kurdish villagers. The trusting Kurds were slaughtered from the air, including in major population centres, without a twitch from the White House. Those US officials who had directly prompted the Kurds in particular to challenge Saddam broke off contact from those who were being chopped to pieces because they had believed in the promises of US support freely handed out after Desert Storm. Despite such a betrayal, it was again the Kurds whose ground forces were instrumental in using US logistical help to defeat the ISIS in Syria and Iraq by 2014
President Trump rewarded this ally in the Global War on Terror by handing over control of Kurdish territory in 2019 to the very leader who had for long openly called for the extinguishing of the same Kurdish groups that had, with US help, battled and bested ISIS. A public record of the dealings between Turkish intelligence and ISIS has yet to emerge that may explain why the most deadly foes of Daesh were repeatedly labelled as “terrorists” by Erdogan. But such a display of US unreliability as an ally was eclipsed by what President Biden did in 2021. Without a twinge of conscience, Biden abandoned to their sworn enemies hundreds of thousands of Afghans who had assisted US forces since 2001 in dealing with the Taliban. Western media routinely interviews Taliban officials and tosses queries at them, the answer to which is obvious to the whole world (such as whether the present rulers of Afghanistan have no interest in educating women). At the same time, western journalists in Afghanistan do not find the time to investigate the hundreds of families where the Taliban has executed individuals named in the lists of Afghans who cooperated with the US during 2001-14. Lists that were handed over to the Taliban by US authorities in 2021 ostensibly to protect them, but in effect, to seal their doom at the hands of a foe that neither forgets nor forgives .
Given such a record, it comes as no surprise that fewer and fewer policymakers in those parts of Asia most threatened by PRC expansionism place much trust in promises handed out by the White House of providing backing against that threat. India and Taiwan are two countries that are on the receiving end of PLA aggression. In India, land and cyber space has been sought to be taken over, while in the case of Taiwan, aggression routinely takes place against that island nation’s air, sea and cyber space, coupled with almost daily threats from some CCP outlet or the other of an impending land assault. No less a personage than Morris Chang, the founder of TSMC, the world’s leading maker of computer chips, said in a public meeting in Taiwan on 16 March that the US does not consider Taiwan to be a friend where “friendshoring” is concerned. Rather than seeking to decouple from China, the US President has said that what he seeks is not decoupling (from China) but “de-risking”. Add that to the many comments expressed in public and private by US officials of the “risks” in investing and operating in Taiwan, and it will be clear that the present US administration is reacting in the way Jawaharlal Nehru did when told of the extent of the Chinese advance in the Northeast, that his heart “went out to the people” of the region but not it his military aircraft and fresh tanks and artillery. The day Xi Jinping believes that there will not be a proportionate and kinetic response from the US (and therefore Japan) to an armed attack on Taiwan, an invasion would be imminent. And the longer and more deadly the proxy war between Russia and Ukraine becomes, the greater will be the chance of that day arriving. Ukraine has been given free of cost more weapons and other military assistance during the past fifteen months than the weapons that Taiwan has been sold by the US during the past fifteen years. Not only has the country that is essential to the defence of the Indo-Pacific been sold rather than gifted weapons in the manner Ukraine has, but not just the quantity but the quality of such equipment is vastly inferior to that handed over to the Kiev regime. A man is judged not by words but by deeds. Why Taiwan matters so little in substantive action (as distinct from words) to Joe Biden and to his other partners in NATO, and Ukraine so much more is a question that folks in Asia, Africa and South America believe has an obvious answer., although hopefully they are wrong They point to divergence in ethnicity between Taiwan and Ukraine combined with what they regard as a palpable fear of China. If there is to be a deterrent in the form of security assistance to the target countries facing Xi’s expansionism, this has to be provided now and not when it is too late to prevent the PLA from launching a comprehensive assault on targets such as India, Vietnam, the Philippines or Taiwan. It’s Cold War 2.0, President Biden, Cold War 1.0 got over in 1991. Catch up on reality before it is too late.