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Posts tagged as Central Asia

Modi, media, military a dangerous combination

Bollywood has a strange effect of taking you away from reality and that is exactly what sells in a country of 1.4 billion people. Unfortunately, in the electioneering season it can also cloud the judgement of beleaguered political leaders.
What follows for the next three weeks is a classic example of falling prey to deceitful narratives, built on flawed intelligence information.It is here that the role of the Indian media in fanning war hysteria comes in. If the spin doctors could embroil the US and the West in Iraq and countless other conflicts, why couldn’t this be done in India? With over 400 TV channels and 200 million whatsApp users, the world’s largest, this was easy.
To justify military action, a new terminology of non-military pre-emptive strikes’ was coined.While the air incursion had all the elements of copying the US- Israeli airpower model used against benign victims, the Indians ignored Pakistan’s resolve and military potential.The Indian Air force tasked to boost Mr Modis vote-bank must have put in their Tom Cruises in their best machines, to undertake the task of eliminating battle-hardened terrorists. How the incursion was executed and where the bombs were ultimately thrown is another story.
Of consequence is how the Pakistan Air Force clinically struck back. Taking on six targets, shooting down two aircraft and capturing one pilot is a rare feat and an embarrassment which will haunt the IAF for decades.Meanwhile, sensing a nuclear showdown, the world powers which had edged India pulled back to their own agendas; the Trump-Kim summit, Brexit, Venezuela and so on. The release of the Indian pilot and calls for talks by the Pakistani Prime minister have fallen on deaf ears.
With the BJP chief Amit Shah asking people to vote for Modi, a mere eight hours after the Jaba fiasco, the realisation of a plot has finally dawned on the Indian opposition. The media-bollywood hypnotized public is slowly waking up to reality.As Modi bemoans for the Rafale machines, it is clear that a semblance of sanity has crept in. It is now an Indian battle of the sane voices versus the insane.The sane club is appalled at the combined failure of the strong Indian political and military systems, and calls for reappraisal and restraint. It is bewildered at the brazen use of military might for political gains.The ordinary Indian realizes that without a resolution of the Kashmir issue the region will remain embroiled in a brutal circle of violence. It yearns for the Gandhi, Nehru and later, Mother Teresa era, when India had some character.
The non-aligned movement, support for the Palestinians were at least a semblance of Indian balance and a just and righteous image.The sanity propagators are also deeply concerned about the rise of Hindutva doctrine, the slow painful death of Indian secularism and the perils of playing around with Pakistan’s deterrence regime.They recognise gains of an engagement strategy with Pakistan and understand that the only way forward is to coexist in harmony. It is only then that the potential of seemingly endless possibilities of prospering together, sharing benefits of mutual trade and energy with Afghanistan and Central Asia can be realised.
The insane club led by Modi, media and the military is sluggishly coming out of stunned disbelief. They very well know that the world supports India for its money, and not for its principles.
It’s already put the contingency plan in motion. The events have not gone as portrayed in the movies.It’s time for the media wizards to sound the victory mantra on every event. Spin a web of lies and deceit.Consequently, the fantasy of Abhinandan’ the hero, who shot an F-16; in reality, the poor guy didn’t know what hit him. The assumption that Pakistan is down on its knees, India must get new intel capabilities and weapons ASAP.
Get Rafale’s or whatever from the experienced Israelis to exact revenge, accelerate the covert operations and hybrid war in Pakistan, isolate it internationally, and if all else fails, plan another Pulwama to settle scores.With dreams of Indian grandeur, it is the insane group currently in majority which worries Pakistan.After Pulwama, the BJP under a struggling Modi is deaf, dumb and blind. A very thin line separates the regimes policies from active coercive terrorism.Practically, with no international condemnation for its actions, it feels emboldened to go a step further.This would again be a serious miscalculation.
But then again it’s a forty- day Indian style election season. Under the circumstances, who so ever wins the contest has implications not only for the region alone but also for the world? In the meantime, it would be prudent to keep Mr Modi away from the movies.The writer is director of policy and doctrine at the Centre for Aerospace and Security Studies. He can be reached at The 14th February Pulwama incident handling reflects the implausible chain of events, which has ensnared the Indian government in a dangerous vicious cycle.What follows for the next three weeks is a classic example of falling prey to deceitful narratives, built on flawed intelligence information. It is here that the role of the Indian media in fanning war hysteria comes in.
If the spin doctors could embroil the US and the West in Iraq and countless other conflicts, why couldn’t this be done in India? With over 400 TV channels and 200 million whatsApp users, the world’s largest, this was easy. To justify military action, a new terminology of ‘non-military pre-emptive strikes’ was coined.
While the air incursion had all the elements of copying the US- Israeli airpower model used against benign victims, the Indians ignored Pakistan’s resolve and military potential. The Indian Air force tasked to boost Mr Modis vote-bank must have put in their Tom Cruises in their best machines, to undertake the task of eliminating battle-hardened terrorists.How the incursion was executed and where the bombs were ultimately thrown is another story. Of consequence is how the Pakistan Air Force clinically struck back.Taking on six targets, shooting down two aircraft and capturing one pilot is a rare feat and an embarrassment which will haunt the IAF for decades.Meanwhile, sensing a nuclear showdown, the world powers which had edged India pulled back to their own agendas; the Trump-Kim summit, Brexit, Venezuela and so on.
The release of the Indian pilot and calls for talks by the Pakistani Prime minister have fallen on deaf ears. With the BJP chief Amit Shah asking people to vote for Modi, a mere eight hours after the Jaba fiasco, the realisation of a plot has finally dawned on the Indian opposition.The media-bollywood hypnotized public is slowly waking up to reality. As Modi bemoans for the Rafale machines, it is clear that a semblance of sanity has crept in.
It is now an Indian battle of the sane voices versus the insane.The sane club is appalled at the combined failure of the strong Indian political and military systems, and calls for reappraisal and restraint.It is bewildered at the brazen use of military might for political gains. The ordinary Indian realizes that without a resolution of the Kashmir issue the region will remain embroiled in a brutal circle of violence.It yearns for the Gandhi, Nehru and later, Mother Teresa era, when India had some character. The non-aligned movement, support for the Palestinians were at least a semblance of Indian balance and a just and righteous image.
The sanity propagators are also deeply concerned about the rise of Hindutva doctrine, the slow painful death of Indian secularism and the perils of playing around with Pakistan’s deterrence regime. They recognise gains of an engagement strategy with Pakistan and understand that the only way forward is to coexist in harmony.
It is only then that the potential of seemingly endless possibilities of prospering together, sharing benefits of mutual trade and energy with Afghanistan and Central Asia can be realised.The insane club led by Modi, media and the military is sluggishly coming out of stunned disbelief.
They very well know that the world supports India for its money, and not for its principles. It’s already put the contingency plan in motion.The events have not gone as portrayed in the movies. It’s time for the media wizards to sound the victory mantra on every event.Spin a web of lies and deceit. Consequently, the fantasy of ‘Abhinandan’ the hero, who shot an F-16; in reality, the poor guy didn’t know what hit him.The assumption that Pakistan is down on its knees, India must get new intel capabilities and weapons ASAP. Get Rafale’s or whatever from the experienced Israelis to exact revenge, accelerate the covert operations and hybrid war in Pakistan, isolate it internationally, and if all else fails, plan another Pulwama to settle scores.With dreams of Indian grandeur, it is the insane group currently in majority which worries Pakistan. After Pulwama, the BJP under a struggling Modi is deaf, dumb and blind.A very thin line separates the regimes policies from active coercive terrorism. Practically, with no international condemnation for its actions, it feels emboldened to go a step further.This would again be a serious miscalculation. But then again it’s a forty- day Indian style election season.

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The bittersweet smell of money

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS) has come and gone. He arrived amid great fanfare and departed on a high note, leaving behind a government grateful for a seemingly significant package of promised investments worth billions of dollars.
But what does the visit really amount to in both political and economic terms? The promise of $21 billion is nothing to trifle about.But seen in a broader historic context, the promises come in the shape of memoranda of understanding (MoU), not actual investments. A report in this newspaper last week revealed that Pakistan had signed over 10,000 MoUs in the last two decades but only two percent materialised into on-the-ground investments.The political context matters. The latest Saudi promises translating into MoUs have been underwritten by MBS himself on his first-ever visit to Pakistan, and come on the heels of hectic deliberations over the last four months, including two meetings between him and IK in Riyadh and another three with Pakistan’s military leadership.
They also follow two separate sets of $3 billion assistance for balance of payment support and oil on deferred payments, which led to similar arrangements with the UAE and China, thus preventing potential bankruptcy.This total of $12 billion worth of investments in oil and mineral sectorare already materialising and go beyond MoUs, so that is something.
The other significant aspect is that the MoUs are for investments that specify several projects and acquisitions such as a major refinery in Balochistan and power plants in Punjab — in a staggered manner over the course of five years. That the promised money has a high probability of materialising into Pakistan’s fraught economy is hinted at by the establishment of an Implementation Coordination Council to be co-chaired annually by MBS and IK, with its maiden meeting held in Islamabad and co-chaired by the two leaders even before the ink on the MoUs had dried.A three-year priority list and action plan were promptly drawn up, bilateral working groups created, and tasks assigned. This is super-fast by Pakistan standards and smell of real money!While the fate of the investments is in the hands of the working groups, what cannot escape scrutiny is the fact that these promises-leading-to-investments really constitute an economic bailout for Pakistan, which require payback.
Pakistan must start paying back $12 billion to Saudi Arabia, UAE and China starting from the new fiscal year in equal annual installments. This is on top of the current annual $9 billion debt servicing obligations.
The $21 billion Saudi investments will come at an average of $5 billion a year, if all of it will flow in, and that too will depend on Pakistan creating and utilising capacity for delivery.In addition to Pakistan having to deliver on these tough financial terms and economic performance, the real cost of this Saudi bailout over several years may be political and tougher to deliver.
The deep involvement of the Pakistani military in bringing fractured bilateral ties between Islamabad and Riyadh cannot come without expectations on the issue of security.The Saudi refinery at Gwadar will kill any remaining chances of a long-gestating Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline as it allows the Saudis to export oil supplies to China and Central Asia right through Iran’s backyard.
A former Pakistan Army chief is already head of the security alliance against terrorism based in Saudi Arabia. He shuttled between Islamabad and Riyadh, meeting both IK and the COAS, ahead of the MBS visit.The previous government led by Nawaz Sharif, otherwise considered historically close to the Saudis, balked at providing outright support of the military to the Saudi security alliance which is seen as one that aligns Sunni states. It was IK who protested on the streets against Pakistan aligning itself with the military alliance currently fighting Iran-backed rebels in Yemen.
Ironically, IK seems to have reversed his stance on the issue now that he is in power and is ready to go the extra mile with Saudi Arabia.While there has been no formal mention of Pakistan’s security partnership during the MBS visit, everyone found themselves focusing on it when the Saudi foreign minister, accompanying MBS, said in a press conference jointly with his Pakistani counterpart that Iran was a sponsor of terrorism.This brought into open the elephant in the room – Pakistan’s ties with Iran – even though the engagement was a bilateral one between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. This embarrassed Pakistan and its foreign minister had to call his Iranian counterpart within a couple of hours of his press conference with the Saudi foreign minister to assuage concerns that Pakistan was neutral with Iran and that its ties with Saudi Arabia were not going to influence its relationship with Iran.
This ‘X’ factor in Pakistan’s strengthening ties with Saudi Arabia – Iran –will test Pakistan’s diplomatic and political skills at packaging a neutrality-in-policy that is not neutrality-in-practice. The Saudi refinery at Gwadar will kill any remaining chances of a long-gestating Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline as it allows the Saudis to export oil supplies to China and Central Asia right through Iran’s geographic backyard.Iran will not let go this strategic slight by Pakistan. This will make a long-term de facto or de jure security pact between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia all but inevitable to counter Iranian anger.
The MBS visit to Pakistan definitely carves out a more strategic engagement with Pakistan by moving the course from hitherto an assistance relationship to an economic relationship. But that is really a thin cover for a broader, long-term security relationship that will pitch Pakistan into a larger strategic regional game but, considering how security interests in Pakistan impact national polity, will end up changing Pakistan’s political landscape.And, from the perspective of the people, this will not necessarily be for the better. COAScrown prince Mohammad bin Salman Gwadar Imran Khan MBS Pakistan and Saudi relations Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia and Pakistan Adnan Rehmat 2019-02-24 TNS Editor tweet The author is a political analyst and media development specialist.

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Afghans Mark 30th Anniversary Of Soviet Withdrawal

February 15 marks the anniversary of the complete withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan after a bloody nine-year war. Related News.
Related NewsSoviet Withdrawal, A Date To RememberEx-Soviet Soldier Who Stayed Behind Talks About Life In HeratHundreds of Afghans, who said they are families of war victims, gathered at the Loya Jirga tent in Kabul on Friday to mark the 30th anniversary of Soviet troops withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The speakers of the ceremony said the past years’ gains should be protected in any process which will help the country to move towards peace.“There are lots of people who have misused the sacrifices of martyrs.They should know that the heirs of the martyrs will stand on their own feet after this,” said Attaullah Safi, member of a newly-founded forum on war victims’ families.One speaker at the ceremony said they represent thousands of Afghans who lost their lives during the Soviet-Afghan war. “My first demand and expectation on behalf of the forum is a lasting peace and a peace with dignity,” said Abdul Razaq Bashardost, an organizer of the event.Those who attended the event said they want a bigger role in the peace process and that they support elections, democracy, and peace in the country.
Meanwhile, Abdul Wahid Qatali, head of the Administrative Office of the President, said the last big mission of President Ghani is to make the country stable and leave a sustainable Afghanistan for the next generation.Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan Thirty years ago today 5 February 1989, the former Soviet Union announced its complete withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, ending a nine-year war that claimed the lives of millions of Afghans.
In 1979 the Soviet Union entered then neighboring Afghanistan in the hope of shoring up the newly-established pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. Quickly almost 100,000 Soviet Union soldiers took control of major cities and highways around the country, but war soon broke out with the rise of the Mujahideen.
The war lasted nine years and, in that time, an estimated one million civilians, including children, were killed, along with 90,000 Mujahideen fighters, more than 20,000 Afghan troops and over 14,000 Soviet soldiers.Marking the anniversary, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Thursday on that “Feb 15 marks the end of the Soviet Union occupation of Afghanistan.Since the invasion, Afghans have paid a heavy price in life and treasure. I pay tribute to the Afghan nation in the fight against the Soviets and to those who have lost their lives during and after the withdrawal.
“But none of that has broken our resolve as a nation to invest in and to rebuild our country together. In the same spirit, we must be self-reliant economically to achieve full independence.“I, therefore, encourage all Afghans to stand behind government’s reforms agenda to increase our productivity and economic growth in order to restore a nation free of war and instability for our future generations,” he said.In 1979 Hafizullah Amin was the ruler of Afghanistan.The Soviets were told by its KGB spies that Amin’s rule was a threat to the part of Central Asia that was the USSR and they suspected that he was not loyal to the Soviet Union.The Soviets also suspected that Amin was behind the death of his predecessor president Nur Muhammad Taraki.In light of this they decided to remove him and on 22 December 1979, Soviet advisers to the army of Afghanistan took many steps. They stopped all telecommunication links in Kabul.No messages could come inside the city, or go outside the city. Soviet air force troops also reached Kabul.Noting some danger, Amin sought refuge in the presidential palace but on December 27, about 700 Soviet troops took over major government and military buildings in Kabul.On the same night, the Soviet troops reportedly destroyed Kabul’s communication systems and minutes later stormed the presidential palace.
By morning, Amin and his two sons had been killed. Babrak Karmal was immediately appointed as head of government and ruled the country until he resigned in 1986.Dr Najibullah Ahmadzai took over in 1987 and ruled until 1992.Soviet soldiers remained in control of most major cities thereafter, while the Mujahideen continued to fight them around the country.Globally there was dissatisfaction about the Soviet’s occupancy and the then president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, said the Soviet action was “the most serious threat to the peace since the Second World War”.By the mid-1980s, many Mujahideen groups had organized themselves and were receiving help from a number of countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.
At the time, Islamabad felt the Soviet war in Afghanistan was also a threat to Pakistan.As the war continued, and more and more Soviet soldiers were killed, the USSR’s leader at the time, Mikhail Gorbachev, was quoted as saying their war in Afghanistan was a “bleeding wound”.
The Soviets were also treated as invaders and morale among Soviets was low.But after their withdrawal, peace in Afghanistan remained elusive as civil war broke out.

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