Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Pakistan Makes A Compelling Case That India Is A State Sponsor Of Terrorism

By Andrew Korybko | One World | November 15, 2020

This year’s Diwali celebration got off to a very symbolic start after Pakistan shined some light on the dark activities that it accused India of carrying out in the region. Islamabad released a detailed dossier during a press conference on Saturday strongly making the case that India is a state sponsor of terrorism whose intelligence services have weaponized this phenomenon as part of the proxy war that they’re fighting with respect to the UNSC-recognized international Kashmir dispute and against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of Beijing’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). These claims aren’t anything new, but what’s novel is the amount of detail devoted to proving them this time around.

According to Pakistan, Indian diplomatic facilities in Afghanistan are being used to coordinate the training of various terrorist groups on that landlocked country’s territory, including efforts to unite relevant Baloch and Pashtun ones as well as create a new ISIS branch dedicated to attacking Pakistan. Islamabad mentioned names, dates, bank accounts, phone numbers, and other identifying information such as exposing the Indian mastermind of these regionally destabilizing activities to make its case that India is a rogue state whose behavior should be investigated by the international community, which might find it fitting to sanction the country through the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and other related bodies.

Pakistan’s diplomatic masterstroke puts India in a very uncomfortable position because it had hitherto been the latter making such claims about the former and not the reverse. The comparatively muted reaction from the international community in the 24 hours since the dossier was revealed suggests that they feel uncomfortable about the accusations and aren’t too sure how to respond. India is a close military and economic partner of a growing number of influential players such as the US and “Israel” who might now be embarrassed for so closely associating with a country that’s been convincingly accused of such rogue behavior. At the same time, however, “birds of a feather flock together”, as they say.

For reasons of self-interest, it might turn out that the international community as a whole doesn’t react the same way to Pakistan’s accusations as they’ve done in the past whenever India made similar but much less detailed ones. Nevertheless, what’s most important to pay attention to is how these revelations might shape Chinese-Indian relations considering their clashes along the Line of Actual Control this summer and ongoing state of ever-intensifying cold war. The grand strategic interests of the People’s Republic are directly threatened by India’s Hybrid War of Terror on Pakistan, which aims to destabilize CPEC’s northern and southern access points in Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan respectively.

In fact, the timing of this dossier’s release might have been connected to those two countries’ rivalry. To explain, India was handily defeated by China during their clashes over the summer, which might be why it’s doubling down on its proxy war of terrorism against Pakistan in response. After all, Islamabad warned that New Delhi would soon seek to intensify its terrorist efforts in the coming future, so the dossier might have been intended to preemptively thwart that by exposing these plans in order to put pressure on India to reconsider its actions. Of course, it also took plenty of time to assemble all the details that were disclosed, but the timing was at least very convenient from the Pakistani perspective even if it was ultimately coincidental.

All told, the dossier heralds the advent of a new phase of Pakistani diplomacy where Islamabad confidently exposes India’s Hybrid War of Terror on the world stage. Since it can be assumed that China considers these claims credible considering the fact that its interests are directly threatened irrespective of the country’s public reaction (or potential lack thereof in line with its diplomatic traditions), the conclusion can thus far be made that this report already had a significant impact. It might very well end up being the case that Chinese-Indian relations will never return to their former friendliness, especially if Beijing begins to wonder whether Washington might be tacitly supporting New Delhi’s proxy war on CPEC.

Andrew Korybko is an American political analyst.

November 15, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in crisis

By Lucas Leiroz | September 17, 2020

In early August, the diplomatic crisis between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia increased considerably when Pakistani Chancellor Shah Mehmood Qureshi officially criticized the Arab country for its lack of support for Islamabad’s interests in the dispute with India over Kashmir. According to the Pakistani government, there should be greater cooperation between both countries due to the fact that they share religious ties, and this is not happening.

Qureshi recently said during an interview that Islamabad expects the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to convene a meeting soon to discuss the issue of Kashmir. Furthermore, he said that if the OIC does not convene such a meeting, Pakistan itself will be obliged to organize a meeting of Islamic countries in order to obtain support in the dispute for Kashmir. Qureshi’s words were immediately received by the Saudis as a threat of conspiracy against the OIC for the creation of a new bloc, led by Islamabad.

There are three countries that unconditionally support Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir, which are Turkey, Iran and Malaysia. These countries, in December 2019, met at the Kuala Lumpur Summit, where they discussed various topics related to the entire Islamic world. Since then, Saudi Arabia sees the alliance of these countries as a threat to its interests and to the role of hegemony it exercises over the OIC. So, if Pakistan convenes a meeting with such countries, a major step will be taken towards the creation of a new group of Islamic nations.

Qureshi’s comment was made to warn the Saudis, but the consequences were disastrous. Riyadh immediately refused to give a third of the 3 billion dollars loan it had granted Pakistan in 2018, and the 3.2 billion dollars oil credit line that was also part of the 2018 deal has not been renewed.

Until now, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have shared close ties, forming an important alliance in Asian geopolitics. Both countries have shared strategic ties of mutual interest for decades and on several occasions have supported each other diplomatically, economically and militarily. Examples of this shared interest can be seen in events such as the placement of Pakistani troops in the Saudi territory, joint military exercises, oil supply by Saudi Arabia amid sanctions on Pakistan due to its nuclear tests and several other cases of economic aid and diplomatic support.

But, occasionally, the interests of both countries have collided. There were reprisals after Pakistan’s refusal to send troops within the Saudi-led coalition in the 2015 Yemen war, for example. Interestingly, in Yemen Iran and Saudi Arabia face each other in a proxy war. Iran supports Pakistan in Kashmir, while the Saudis hesitate on this issue. Certainly, the cases are related, but that is not enough to explain the current crisis.

The geopolitics of the Islamic world is changing completely. The Arab countries’ peace agreements with Israel, mediated by the US, are becoming a strong trend. Saudi Arabia has already denied the possibility of entering into such an agreement, but the precedent set by Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates is significant and it is very likely that, over time, pro-Western Arab nations will gradually join peace with Israel. Such Arab nations have not changed their views on Palestine, but the current situation in the region has become too dangerous for them. These countries fear the advance of the Muslim Brotherhood supported by Turkey, which grew a lot in the Syrian War. And, above all, the rivalry with Iran cannot be ignored, especially when Tehran and Ankara progressively tighten their ties.

With Pakistan trying to get closer to the Kuala Lumpur Group – which includes Iran and Turkey – the tendency is for the Saudis to not only distance themselves increasingly from Islamabad, but also to carefully consider the possibility of joining peace with Israel, which, indeed, is the only condition for the kingdom to continue to receive the Western support it currently receives.

This “schism” in the Islamic world will be costly for Pakistan, which has always received great economic support from the Saudis. Currently, Saudi Arabia is home to around 2.5 million Pakistani expatriates, whose remittances contribute highly to Islamabad’s economy. Remittances abroad represent about 86% of Islamabad’s foreign reserves. Of these, 30% are inflows from the Saudi kingdom. In addition, Pakistan imports about a quarter of its oil from Saudi Arabia. In 2019, 74% of their bilateral trade, totaling 1.7 billion dollars, was due to oil imports. In addition, there are latent cultural issues. Saudi Arabia has in its territory the sacred sites of Mecca and Medina, where about 500,000 Pakistanis travel each year on pilgrimage.

However, economic and cultural issues tend to be overlooked when topics involve national security, defense and risks of war. A new bloc of Islamic nations is likely to emerge, rivaling the OIC, opposing Iran, Turkey and Pakistan against the Saudis. Interestingly, such a split will lead to an ethnicization of the geopolitics of the Islamic world, considering that Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and Malaysia are not Arab nations, and this may be another focus of tensions in the future.

Lucas Leiroz is a research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

September 17, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , | Leave a comment

Qatar, Pakistan rule out possibility of normalization with Israel

Press TV – September 15, 2020

A high-ranking Qatari official says Doha will not follow in the footsteps of neighboring Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to normalize relations with Israel, emphasizing that Doha will not take such a measure as long as the Palestinian issue is unresolved.

“We don’t think that normalization was the core of this conflict and hence it can’t be the answer,” Qatari Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Lolwah Rashid al-Khater, said in an exclusive interview with Bloomberg television news network on Monday.

She added, “The core of this conflict is about the drastic conditions that the Palestinians are living under” as “people without a country, living under occupation.”

Last week, Bahrain joined the UAE in striking an agreement to normalize relations with Israel.

In a joint statement, the United States, Bahrain and Israel said the agreement to establish ties was reached after US President Donald Trump spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah.

The deal came one month after the UAE and the Tel Aviv regime agreed to normalize ties under a US-brokered accord.

Bahrain will join Israel and the UAE for a signing ceremony at the White House hosted by Trump later on Tuesday. The ceremony will be attended by Netanyahu, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani and Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Elsewhere in her remarks, Khater pointed to the attempts, backed by Kuwait, to end the economic and diplomatic blockade Saudi Arabia and a number of its allies imposed on gas-rich Qatar in June 2017, noting that the efforts have not yet reached a tipping point.

“In the past couple of months, there have been messages and messengers going back and forth,” she said.

“It’s very early to talk about a real breakthrough,” but “the coming few weeks might reveal something new,” the top Qatari official pointed out.

“We’re beyond this point. The point we are at is engaging constructively in unconditional negotiations and discussions” that “do not necessarily need to include all parties at once,” Khater said.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on June 5, 2017, after the quartet officially accused Doha of meddling in regional affairs and supporting terrorism.

The quartet later issued a 13-point list of demands in return for the reconciliation, which was rejected as an attack on Qatar’s sovereignty.

‘Pakistan won’t compromise on Palestine cause’

Meanwhile, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan reacted to Bahrain’s normalization of ties with the Israeli regime following the UAE, saying, “Any recognition of Israel will face strong opposition from Palestinian people. We cannot make a decision which runs counter to the aspirations of the oppressed Palestinian nation. We will continue to support the fair resolution of the Palestinian issue.”

“If the whole world wants to recognize Israel, Islamabad would not do so and would never make a decision contrary to the wishes of the Palestinian people” Khan told Urdu-language 92 News television news network on Tuesday.

He underlined that the Pakistani government will never compromise on its fundamental principles of supporting Palestine and its liberation, as stated by the founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

“Until a just solution to the Palestinian issue is produced, any recognition of the Zionist regime is ruled out. How can we accept to normalize with the Zionists when the main Palestinian parties do not accept it?” the Pakistani premier said.

September 15, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran, China, Russia to partake in Caucus 2020 military drills

Press TV – September 10, 2020

Military forces from Iran, China, and Russia are scheduled to take part in joint military exercises with a number of other countries in southern Russia later this month.

China’s Defense Ministry made the announcement in a news release on Thursday and said troops from Armenia, Belarus, Myanmar, and Pakistan would also participate in the drills, code-named “Caucus 2020.”

The ministry added that the exercises, to be held from September 21 to 26, would focus on defensive tactics, encirclement, and battlefield control and command.

The drills have special significance “at this important moment when the entire world is fighting the pandemic,” the ministry said.

The United States administration has insinuated that the coronavirus was artificially developed in a Chinese lab. China has rejected that insinuation.

Iran, China, and Russia have over the past years increased their military and diplomatic cooperation to counter the United States’ hostile policies and extra-territorial presence in their regions.

Late last year, the three countries held four days of naval exercises code-named the “Marine Security Belt” to promote regional security and peace and safeguard international trade in the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean.

September 10, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Pakistani Olive Branch Extended In Efforts to End the Afghani Conflict

By Vladimir Odintsov – New Eastern Outlook – 30.08.2020

In the face of the obvious failure of US policy in Afghanistan, Pakistan has stepped up its efforts to peacefully resolve the Afghani conflict.

On August 24, at the invitation of Pakistani Foreign Ministry, a delegation of the Taliban (movement banned in the Russian Federation – ed.), headed by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar arrived from Doha, capital of Qatar, to meet both civilian and military representatives of Pakistan. Its purpose was to discuss the latest developments in the peace process in Afghanistan and further steps in this direction, improving the security situation for civilians in Afghanistan as well as trade between the two neighboring countries, as confirmed by Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen on his Twitter.

This meeting was already the third of its kind: previously the parties met in October 2019 at the Pakistani Foreign Ministry and in February this year in Doha. This third visit of the Taliban delegation, as intended by those behind it, should contribute to resolving the contradictions that have arisen in recent days on the eve of the intra-Afghan peace talks that did not start on August 20 and were postponed to a later date, and were part of the agreement signed in Doha in February between the Taliban and the United States. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi emphasized in his statement that Islamabad invited the Taliban to emphasize the importance of negotiations, adding that negotiations are “the only way forward” in Afghanistan. “It is the Afghanis who need reconciliation, and our task is mediating,” he said. “The main goal is to ensure peace, and the next stage should be the beginning of an intra-Afghan dialogue.”

In a statement in connection with this meeting, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry highlighted Islamabad’s positive contribution to the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan, which culminated in the signing of a peace agreement between the US and the Taliban in Doha on February 29, 2020. Therefore, Pakistani officials are confident that Afghani stakeholders must seize this historic opportunity to secure a comprehensive political negotiated solution to the Afghani conflict. Islamabad called on the international community to step up its participation in the reconstruction and economic development of Afghanistan, by creating the necessary economic opportunities and conditions conducive to the return of Afghani refugees to their homeland.

Islamabad leaping to action in the peaceful resolution of the Afghani crisis is in part due to Washington’s unrelenting criticism of Pakistan for “insufficient efforts to counter Afghani anti-government forces,” which the US State Department has repeatedly noted in its reports. In particular, the United States emphasizes how Pakistan failed to prevent a number of attacks by militants from its territory against Afghanistan, and makes minimal efforts to suppress the activities of terrorist organizations. At the same time, it is especially clear Islamabad only conducted anti-terrorist operations against those militants who carried out attacks specifically on Pakistani territory. This critical position has been repeatedly voiced by the current Afghani authorities close to the United States, accusing Islamabad of supporting the Taliban and other militants operating in the weakly defended border, indicating, in particular, that Taliban leaders are based in cities along the Pakistani-Afghani border, including Quetta and Peshawar.

Washington’s latest accusations against Islamabad were voiced in the annual report on terrorism published by the US State Department on June 24. In it, in particular, it was noted that Pakistan is a haven for terrorists and terrorist groups operating in South Asia, such as the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and aysh-e-Mohammad (all banned in the Russian Federation), and the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan and the Pakistani army have been accused of inaction. In addition, the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report indicated that religious minorities and children are frequent victims of the slave trade in Pakistan.

For these reasons and for alleged “insufficient support by the Pakistani authorities for the American strategy on South Asia” in 2018, the United States refused to provide financial assistance to Islamabad in the amount of $300 million. This has already caused Islamabad’s harsh discontent with such assessments of Washington’s actions by Pakistan, since the indicated amount was supposed to be not help, but compensation for funds already spent by this country on countering terrorism.

However, today everyone is already well aware that Washington’s criticism of Pakistan in recent years is primarily due to the desire of the current American authorities to shift the blame for the apparent failure of their policy in Afghanistan to a third party, including the deaths here of more than two thousand American soldiers as well as over 20 thousand injuries, hundreds of billions of dollars worthlessly spent on goals incomprehensible to the public, which was more than enough to have long ago made Afghanistan a flourishing state in many ways. An important factor in such attacks by the Donald Trump administration on the Pakistani authorities is also the establishment of closer bilateral relations between Pakistan and China, as a result of which the traditional ties between America and Pakistan have all but disintegrated.

Although it is still early to speak into the results of the third meeting of Pakistani representatives and the Taliban, it is nevertheless obvious that the negotiations that took place in the current situation were very necessary in hopes to settle the Afghani conflict. And once again it was Islamabad who extended the olive branch in an effort to achieve peace in Afghanistan.

August 30, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

India should not participate in Washington-led anti-China coalition

By Lucas Leiroz | July 13, 2020

For years, the US, Japan and India have maintained Malabar military exercises on an annual basis. As the US and Japan are absolutely aligned countries and India is a Washington regional strategic partner, the common objective of the three participants is to face the Chinese advance and to strengthen a coalition against Beijing and its presence in the Indian Ocean. Now, with the increasing of tensions between China and the United States for naval supremacy and between China and India for territorial reasons, Malabar exercises take on a new dimension, being the moment of greatest risk of war in the region in recent years.

Since 2017, Australia has asked to join Malabar naval exercises. The US and Japan have already voted in favor of the Australian participation, but India has not allowed it – the US, Japan and India are the permanent members of the tests and the adherence of a new country depends on a unanimous vote. There was a logistical disagreement between India and Australia, which prevented them from reaching a consensus on the execution of the exercises. In June, both countries signed a mutual logistical support agreement, thus removing the obstacle to Australian participation. Now, as the impasse with China increases, India can change its vote and finally approve Australian participation. The result would be an even stronger coalition scenario against China, which would certainly respond accordingly.

Beijing will not allow its oceanic region to be the target of powerful military exercises by enemy powers without offering high-level war tests in return. China has recently reached an advanced stage of naval military power, practically equaling American power by crossing the International Date Line. In addition, China has significantly increased its military campaign in the South China Sea and has built a large fleet for the Arctic. It is this adversary that the Malabar coalition is facing when promoting a siege in the Indian Ocean. So, what will happen if China invests even more in naval power, modernizing its Navy and devoting itself to a military strategy focused on maritime defense?

On the other hand, Beijing’s reaction may be different and even more effective: investing in Sino-Pakistani military cooperation to affect India. If China and Pakistan start joint naval exercises in the Indian Ocean, a coalition dispute will form, in which both groups will begin a series of regular tests and demonstrations of strength, seeking to intimidate each other.

In all scenarios, a central point is inevitable: the increase of tensions and violence in the Indian Ocean. Perhaps this is, in fact, the American desire in the region, taking into account that the increase in the crisis will inevitably forge the strengthening of the anti-China coalition and its ties with Washington, in addition to encouraging regional reactions from the Chinese Navy and delaying Beijing’s global projections – like the Chinese presence in the Arctic, for example. Having been subjected to the American naval umbrella for decades, Japanese and Australian participation is predictable and it is not surprising that Tokyo and Canberra support aggressive operations against China in the Indian Ocean. However, the same cannot be said about India.

India should not be part of a Washington-led coalition against China. The rivalry between India and China is different from the dispute between the US and China, and the mere fact that Beijing looks like a “common enemy” does not justify a coalition. China and India have an historic dispute of a territorial nature – a regional conflict over a physical, continental space. This is different from the American quest for global hegemony – to which China poses a threat today. China and India have much more in common than opposites: both are emerging Asian nations, with enormous growth potential and which aim to increase their degree of participation in the international scene, at the economic and geopolitical level. Washington, in this sense, is against both – because it seeks to preserve unipolarity and the American global dominance. Beijing and New Delhi can reach a common agreement sovereignly, with regional negotiations and bilateral diplomacy, as, in fact, they have been doing recently, resulting in the reduction of the border violence and the evacuation of troops.

By maintaining its participation in the exercises and encouraging the growth of the coalition, India will be making a big mistake – both in its relations with China and in its relations with Pakistan. Japan and Australia are nations willing to collaborate with American hegemony – India is not. The best path to be taken by the Indians is the abdication from the Malabar exercises, or, if it is not possible, at least, to prevent the Australian entry again, avoiding the strengthening of the anti-China alliance.

Lucas Leiroz is a research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

July 13, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Crippling lockdown on Kashmir surpasses 200 days

By Javed Rana – Press TV – February 21, 2020

The crippling security and communications lockdown in the Muslim-majority Indian disputed Kashmir region has entered its 200 days. Nearly 900,000 military and paramilitary troops are deployed to prevent mass agitation since August 5 last year when New Delhi revoked Kashmir’s special status and forcibly annexed it into India.

The controversial merger of the disputed territory was in defiance of eleven UN Security Council resolutions which call for a plebiscite to allow Kashmiris to decide on whether they want to stay with India or join Pakistan.

Since then, the top Kashmiri leaders including three former chief ministers have been imprisoned. In their absence, the second tier leaders held press conference in Islamabad to inform the world of what India seeks to hide.

India has banned the entry of independent journalists, human rights activists, observers and even many western politicians from entering into disputed Kashmir region.

Kashmiri leaders believe that the Indian government has been deliberately crippling the economy to create adverse conditions for Kashmiris to force them to sell their properties to Hindu businessmen. This, they say, is aimed at altering the demography of the Muslim-majority state.

February 21, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | 1 Comment

Is the UK a rogue state? 17 British policies violating domestic or international law

By Mark Curtis • Declassified UK • February 7, 2020

UK governments routinely claim to uphold national and international law. But the reality of British policies is quite different, especially when it comes to foreign policy and so-called ‘national security’. This explainer summarises 17 long-running government policies which violate UK domestic or international law.

British foreign secretary Dominic Raab recently described the “rule of international law” as one of the “guiding lights” of UK foreign policy. By contrast, the government regularly chides states it opposes, such as Russia or Iran, as violators of international law. These governments are often consequently termed “rogue states” in the mainstream media, the supposed antithesis of how “we” operate.

The following list of 17 policies may not be exhaustive, but it suggests that the term “rogue state” is not sensationalist or misplaced when it comes to describing Britain’s own foreign and “security” policies.

These serial violations suggest that parliamentary and public oversight over executive policy-making in the UK is not fit for purpose and that new mechanisms are needed to restrain the excesses of the British state.

The Royal Air Force’s drone war

Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) operates a drone programme in support of the US involving a fleet of British “Reaper” drones operating since 2007. They have been used by the UK to strike targets in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Four RAF bases in the UK support the US drone war. The joint UK and US spy base at Menwith Hill in Yorkshire, northern England, facilitates US drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia. US drone strikes, involving an assassination programme begun by president Barack Obama, are widely regarded as illegal under international law, breaching fundamental human rights. Up to 1,700 civilian adults and children have been killed in so-called “targeted killings”.

Amnesty International notes that British backing is “absolutely crucial to the US lethal drones programme, providing support for various US surveillance programmes, vital intelligence exchanges and in some cases direct involvement from UK personnel in identifying and tracking targets for US lethal operations, including drone strikes that may have been unlawful”.

Chagos Islands

Britain has violated international law in the case of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean since it expelled the inhabitants in the 1960s to make way for a US military base on Diego Garcia, the largest island.

Harold Wilson’s Labour government separated the islands from then British colony Mauritius in 1965 in breach of a UN resolution banning the breakup of colonies before independence. London then formed a new colonial entity, the British Indian Ocean Territory, which is now an Overseas Territory.

In 2015, a UN Tribunal ruled that the UK’s proposed “marine protected area” around the islands — shown by Wikileaks publications to be a ruse to keep the islanders from returning — was unlawful since it undermined the rights of Mauritius.

Then in February 2019, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in an advisory opinion that Britain must end its administration of the Chagos islands “as rapidly as possible”. The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in May 2019 welcoming the ICJ ruling and “demanding that the United Kingdom unconditionally withdraw its colonial administration from the area within six months”. The UK government has rejected the calls.

Defying the UN over the Falklands

The UN’s 24-country Special Committee on Decolonisation — its principal body addressing issues concerning decolonisation — has repeatedly called on the UK government to negotiate a resolution to the dispute over the status of the Falklands. In its latest call, in June 2019, the committee approved a draft resolution “reiterating that the only way to end the special and particular colonial situation of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) is through a peaceful and negotiated settlement of the sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom”.

The British government consistently rejects these demands. Last year, it stated:

“The Decolonisation Committee no longer has a relevant role to play with respect to British Overseas Territories. They all have a large measure of  self government, have chosen to retain their links with the UK, and therefore should have been delisted a long time ago.”

In 2016, the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf issued a report finding that the Falkland Islands are located in Argentina’s territorial waters.

Israel and settlement goods

Although Britain regularly condemns Israeli settlements in the occupied territories as illegal, in line with international law, it permits trade in goods produced on those settlements. It also does not keep a record of imports that come from the settlements — which include wine, olive oil and dates — into the UK.

UN Security Council resolutions require all states to “distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967”. The UK is failing to do this.

Israel’s blockade of Gaza

Israel’s blockade of Gaza, imposed in 2007 following the territory’s takeover by Hamas, is widely regarded as illegal. Senior UN officials, a UN independent panel of experts, and Amnesty International all agree that the infliction of “collective punishment” on the population of Gaza contravenes international human rights and humanitarian law.

Gaza has about 1.8 million inhabitants who remain “locked in” and denied free access to the remainder of putative Palestine (the West Bank) and the outside world. It has poverty and unemployment rates that reached nearly 75% in 2019.

Through its naval blockade, the Israeli navy restricts Palestinians’ fishing rights, fires on local fishermen and has intercepted ships delivering humanitarian aid. Britain, and all states, have an obligation “to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law” in Gaza.

However, instead of doing so, the UK regularly collaborates with the navy enforcing the blockade. In August 2019, Britain’s Royal Navy took part in the largest international naval exercise ever held by Israel, off the country’s Mediterranean shore. In November 2016 and December 2017, British warships conducted military exercises with their Israeli allies.

Exports of surveillance equipment

Declassified revealed that the UK recently exported telecommunications interception equipment or software to 13 countries, including authoritarian regimes in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and Oman. Such technology can enable security forces to monitor the private activities of groups or individuals and crack down on political opponents.

The UAE has been involved in programmes monitoring domestic activists using spyware. In 2017 and 2018, British exporters were given four licences to export telecommunications interception equipment, components or software to the UAE.

UK arms export guidelines state that the government will “not grant a licence if there is a clear risk that the items might be used for internal repression”. Reports by Amnesty International document human rights abuses in the cases of UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman, suggesting that British approval of such exports to these countries is prima facie unlawful.

Arms exports to Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has been accused by the UN and others of violating international humanitarian law and committing war crimes in its war in Yemen, which began in March 2015. The UK has licensed nearly £5-billion worth of arms to the Saudi regime during this time. In addition, the RAF is helping to maintain Saudi warplanes at key operating bases and stores and issues bombs for use in Yemen.

Following legal action brought by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, the UK Court of Appeal ruled in June 2019 that ministers had illegally signed off on arms exports without properly assessing the risk to civilians. The court ruled that the government must reconsider the export licences in accordance with the correct legal approach.

The ruling followed a report by a cross-party House of Lords committee, published earlier in 2019, which concluded that Britain is breaking international law by selling weapons to Saudi Arabia and should suspend some export licences immediately.

Julian Assange’s arbitrary detention and torture

In the case of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange — currently held in Belmarsh maximum-security prison in London — the UK is defying repeated opinions of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention  (WGAD) and the UN special rapporteur on torture.

The latter, Nils Melzer, has called on the UK government to release Assange on the grounds that officials are contributing to his psychological torture and ill treatment. Melzer has also called for UK officials to be investigated for possible “criminal conduct” as government policy “severely undermines the credibility of [its] commitment to the prohibition of torture… as well as to the rule of law more generally”.

The WGAD — the supreme international body scrutinising this issue — has repeatedly demanded that the UK government end Assange’s “arbitrary detention”. Although the UN states that WGAD determinations are legally binding, its calls have been consistently rejected by the UK government.

Covert wars

Covert military operations to subvert foreign governments, such as Britain’s years-long operation in Syria to overthrow the Assad regime, are unlawful. As a House of Commons briefing notes, “forcible assistance to opposition forces is illegal”.

A precedent was set in the Nicaragua case in the 1980s, when US-backed covert forces (the “Contras”) sought to overthrow the Sandinista government. The International Court of Justice held that a third state may not forcibly help the opposition to overthrow a government since it breached the principles of non-intervention and prohibition on the use of force.

As Declassified has shown, the UK is currently engaged in seven covert wars, including in Syria, with minimal parliamentary oversight. Government policy is “not to comment” on the activities of its special forces “because of the security implications”. The public’s ability to scrutinise policy is also restricted since the UK’s Freedom of Information Act applies an “absolute exemption” to special forces. This is not the case for allied powers such as the US and Canada.

Torture and the refusal to hold an inquiry

In 2018 a report by parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee found that the UK had been complicit in cases of torture and other ill treatment of detainees in the so-called “war on terror”. The inquiry examined the participation of MI6 (the secret intelligence service), MI5 (the domestic security service) and Ministry of Defence (MOD) personnel in interrogating detainees held primarily by the US in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay during 2001-10.

The report found that there were 232 cases where UK personnel supplied questions or intelligence to foreign intelligence agents after they knew or suspected that a detainee was being mistreated. It also found 198 cases where UK personnel received intelligence from foreign agents obtained from detainees whom they knew or suspected to have been mistreated.

In one case, MI6 “sought and obtained authorisation from the foreign secretary” (then Jack Straw, in Tony Blair’s government) for the costs of funding a plane which was involved in rendering a suspect.

After the report was published, the government announced it was refusing to hold a judge-led, independent inquiry into the UK’s role in rendition and torture as it had previously promised to do. In 2019, human rights group Reprieve, together with Conservative and Labour MPs, instigated a legal challenge to the government over this refusal–which the High Court has agreed to hear.

The UN special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, has formally warned the UK that its refusal to launch a judicial inquiry into torture and rendition breaches international law, specifically the UN Convention Against Torture. He has written a private “intervention” letter to the UK foreign secretary stating that the government has “a legal obligation to investigate and to prosecute”.

Melzer accuses the government of engaging in a “conscious policy” of co-operating with torture since 9/11, saying it is “impossible” the practice was not approved or at least tolerated by top officials.

UK’s secret torture policy

The MOD was revealed in 2019 to be operating a secret policy allowing ministers to approve actions which could lead to the torture of detainees. The policy, contained in an internal MOD document dated November 2018, allows ministers to approve passing information to allies even if there is a risk of torture, if “the potential benefits justify accepting the risk and legal consequences”.

This policy also provides for ministers to approve lists of individuals about whom information may be shared despite a serious risk they could face mistreatment. One leading lawyer has said that domestic and international legislation on the prohibition of torture is clear and that the MOD policy supports breaking of the law by ministers.

Amnesty for crimes committed by soldiers

There is a long history of British soldiers committing crimes during wars. In 2019 the government outlined plans to grant immunity for offences by soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland that were committed more than 10 years before.

These plans have been condemned by the UN Committee Against Torture, which has called on the government to “refrain from enacting legislation that would grant amnesty or pardon where torture is concerned. It should also ensure that all victims of such torture and ill-treatment obtain redress”.

The committee has specifically urged the UK to “establish responsibility and ensure accountability for any torture and ill-treatment committed by UK personnel in Iraq from 2003 to 2009, specifically by establishing a single, independent, public inquiry to investigate allegations of such conduct.”

The government’s proposals are also likely to breach UK obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, which obliges states to investigate breaches of the right to life or the prohibition on torture.

GCHQ’s mass surveillance

Files revealed by US whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013 show that the UK intelligence agency GCHQ had been secretly intercepting, processing and storing data concerning millions of people’s private communications, including people of no intelligence interest — in a programme named Tempora. Snowden also revealed that the British government was accessing personal communications and data collected by the US National Security Agency and other countries’ intelligence agencies.

All of this was taking place without public consent or awareness, with no basis in law and with no proper safeguards. Since these revelations, there has been a long-running legal battle over the UK’s unlawful use of these previously secret surveillance powers.

In September 2018, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that UK laws enabling mass surveillance were unlawful, violating rights to privacy and freedom of expression. The court observed that the UK’s regime for authorising bulk interception was incapable of keeping “interference” to what is “necessary in a democratic society”.

The UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the body which considers complaints against the security services, also found that UK intelligence agencies had unlawfully spied on the communications of Amnesty International and the Legal Resources Centre in South Africa.

In 2014, revelations also confirmed that GCHQ had been granted authority to secretly eavesdrop on legally privileged lawyer-client communications, and that MI5 and MI6 adopted similar policies. The guidelines appeared to permit surveillance of journalists and others deemed to work in “sensitive professions” handling confidential information.

MI5 personal data

In 2019, MI5 was found to have for years unlawfully retained innocent British people’s online location data, calls, messages and web browsing history without proper protections, according to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office which upholds British privacy protections. MI5 had also failed to give senior judges accurate information about repeated breaches of its duty to delete bulk surveillance data, and was criticised for mishandling sensitive legally privileged material.

The commissioner concluded that the way MI5 was holding and handling people’s data was “undoubtedly unlawful”. Warrants for MI5’s bulk surveillance were issued by senior judges on the understanding that the agency’s legal data handling obligations were being met — when they were not.

“MI5 have been holding on to people’s data—ordinary people’s data, your data, my data — illegally for many years,” said Megan Goulding, a lawyer for rights organisation Liberty, which brought the case. “Not only that, they’ve been trying to keep their really serious errors secret — secret from the security services watchdog, who’s supposed to know about them, secret from the Home Office, secret from the prime minister and secret from the public.”

Intelligence agencies committing criminal offences

MI5 has been operating under a secret policy that allows its agents to commit serious crimes during counter-terrorism operations in the UK, according to lawyers for human rights organisations brin

ging a case to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal.

The policy, referred to as the “third direction”, allows MI5 officers to permit the people they have recruited as agents to commit crimes in order to secure access to information that could be used to prevent other offences being committed. The crimes potentially include murder, kidnap and torture and have operated for decades. MI5 officers are, meanwhile, immune from prosecution.

A lawyer for the human rights organisations argues that the issues raised by the case are “not hypothetical”, submitting that “in the past, authorisation of agent participation in criminality appears to have led to grave breaches of fundamental rights”. He points to the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, an attack carried out by loyalist paramilitaries, including some agents working for the British state.

The ‘James Bond clause’

British intelligence officers can be authorised to commit crimes outside the UK. Section 7 of the 1994 Intelligence Services Act vacates UK criminal and civil law as long as a senior government minister has signed a written authorisation that committing a criminal act overseas is permissible. This is sometimes known as the “James Bond clause”.

British spies were reportedly given authority to break the law overseas on 13 occasions in 2014 under this clause. GCHQ was given five authorisations “removing liability for activities including those associated with certain types of intelligence gathering and interference with computers, mobile phones and other types of electronic equipment”. MI6, meanwhile, was given eight such authorisations in 2014.

Underage soldiers

Britain is the only country in Europe and Nato to allow direct enlistment into the army at the age of 16. One in four UK army recruits is now under the age of 18. According to the editors of the British Medical Journal, “there is no justification for this state policy, which is harmful to teen health and should be stopped”. Child recruits are more likely than adult recruits to end up in frontline combat, they add.

It was revealed in 2019 that the UK continued to send child soldiers to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan despite pledging to end the practice. The UK says it does not send under-18s to warzones, as required by the UN Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, known as the “child soldiers treaty”.

The UK, however, deployed five 17-year-olds to Iraq or Afghanistan between 2007 and 2010: it claims to have done so mistakenly. Previous to this, a minister admitted that teenagers had also erroneously been sent into battle between 2003 and 2005, insisting it would not happen again.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern at the UK’s recruitment policy in 2008 and 2016, and recommended that the government “raise the minimum age for recruitment into the armed forces to 18 years in order to promote the protection of children through an overall higher legal standard”. Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights, the children’s commissioners for the four jurisdictions of the UK, along with children’s rights organisations, all support this call. DM

Mark Curtis is editor of Declassified UK and tweets at @markcurtis30

February 9, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Facebook Blocks State-run Radio Pakistan’s Live Streaming for Highlighting Kashmir Issue

Sputnik – December 30, 2019

For four months, the Pakistani government has been accusing Twitter of suspending hundreds of accounts of Pakistanis for raising issue related to Indian-administered part of Kashmir. The communication blockade entered its 148th day in Kashmir since the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir by Modi’s government.

Pakistan’s government has criticised the American social media giant Facebook for blocking the live streaming of news bulletins run by state-run Radio Pakistan, terming it a violation of basic human rights.

Special Assistant on Information and Broadcasting Ministry Firdous Ashiq Awan said that government will “make efforts for the restoration of the live streaming of Radio Pakistan’s news on Facebook”.

The minister said every time the state-run radio service tries to highlight “human rights violations” in Kashmir on social media platforms, “the accounts are suspended”.Earlier in the day, Radio Pakistan said its live streaming service of news bulletins was blocked for highlighting “Indian atrocities in Kashmir”.

The news coverage exposing “continued atrocities, curfew and military lockdown” led to the blockage, the statement read.

Radio Pakistan has also shared a screenshot message reportedly sent by Facebook in which the American firm claimed that “your post goes against our Community Standards on dangerous individuals and organisations”.

A huge number of Pakistani nationals have been venting their ire on social media since the Indian parliament revoked the decades-old temporary special status of Jammu and Kashmir State on 5 August and bifurcated it later into two federally-administered Union Territories.

A number of accounts of Pakistani journalists, activists and even some of government officials were suspended in August, triggering outrage among the people.

The Kashmir region has been a bone of contention for India and Pakistan. Both the nuclear-armed neighbours claim Kashmir in full but rule only part of the region.

December 30, 2019 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 1 Comment

Saudi Arabia reads the riot act to Imran Khan

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | December 17, 2019

The Kuala Lumpur Summit 2019 hosted by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur on December 18-21 was originally conceived as a landmark event in the politics of the Muslim world. It still is, albeit on a wet wicket struggling to tackle a nasty googly that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan threw at the event at the last minute.  

To recap, the idea of the KL Summit was born out of a trilateral pow-vow between Turkish President Recep Erdogan, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed and Pakistan’s Imran Khan in September on the sidelines of the UN GA session in New York.

The common perception of the three countries was that the Muslim World failed to react forcefully enough to the emergent situation affecting the Kashmiri Muslims. Pakistan actively promoted the perception that the leadership of the ummah was not reacting forcefully enough over Muslim issues such as Kashmir.

On November 23, while announcing his decision to host the KL Summit, Mahathir said that the new platform hoped to bring together Islamic leaders, scholars and clerics who would propose solutions to the many problems facing the world’s 1.7 billion Muslims. He disclosed that dignitaries attending the KL Summit would include Erdogan, the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, and Imran Khan.

The role of politics in development, food security, preserving national identity, and redistributing wealth were listed as other topics to be discussed, alongside the expulsion of Muslims from their homelands and the categorisation of Islam as the “religion of terrorism”.

In poignant remarks, Mahathir bemoaned that no Muslim country was fully developed, and that some Islamic nations were “failed states”. He said,

“Why is there this problem? There must be a reason behind this. We can only know the reason if we get the thinkers, the scholars, and the leaders to give their observations and viewpoints.

“Perhaps we can take that first step … to help Muslims recover their past glories, or at least to help them avoid the kind of humiliation and oppression that we see around the world today.”

Importantly, Mahathir described the summit as a meeting of minds that had the “same perception of Islam and the problems faced by the Muslims”.

From among the list of invitees, it now turns out that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will be attending tomorrow’s summit, but King Salman of Saudi Arabia has regretted that the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) is being bypassed.

Mahathir disclosed that King Salman  conveyed to him in a phone conversation that it was better that the Muslim issues were discussed in a full-fledged OIC meeting. Mahathir said laconically,

“He (King Salman) wanted to tell me the reasons why he couldn’t make it. He’s afraid that something not good will happen to the Muslims. He has a different opinion from us. He feels that matters like these (Muslim issues) shouldn’t just be discussed by two or three countries, and there should be an OIC meeting and I agreed with him.”

The testy exchange signalled that the Saudi regime sees the KL Summit as a calculated challenge to its leadership of the ummah and as an initiative about laying the foundations for an Islamic alliance.

Mahathir is outspoken but what is less noticed is that his positions actually align closely with those of Turkey and Pakistan. These include the Palestinian question, the situation in Jammu & Kashmir and the persecution of the Rohingya community in Myanmar.

According to the Malaysian news agency Bernama, the KL Summit “aims to revive Islamic civilization, deliberate (over) and find new and workable solutions for problems afflicting the Muslim world, contribute (to) the improvement of the state of affairs among Muslims and Muslim nations, and form a global network between Islamic leaders, intellectuals, scholars, and thinkers.”

In sheer brain power, Saudi Arabia cannot match such an agenda. A sense of frustration has been building up over the past decade or so among the Muslim countries that the OIC is reduced to an appendage of the Saudi foreign policies. Saudi Arabia’s rift with Qatar, its rivalries with Iran, the brutal war in Yemen, the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, etc.  also seriously dented Riyadh’s image in the most recent years.

Of course, Saudis hold a big purse and that still translates as influence but the new Islamic forum is poised to move in a direction that is progressive and far more inspiring, with plans to pursue joint projects, including, eventually, the introduction of a common currency.

Mahathir is on record that this mini-Islamic conference could turn into a much grander initiative down the road. Such optimism cannot be disregarded since a growing number of Muslim-majority countries harbour great unease over the near-term prospect of the ascendancy of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the Saudi king and the next Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.

Saudi Arabia, anticipating the gambit being thrown down by Mahathir has reacted viciously to undercut the KL Summit. It tore into the summit’s ‘soft underbelly’ by reading the riot act to Imran Khan,  which put the fear of god into Imran Khan and how it happened we do not know, but the great cricketer panicked and has since called Mahathir to regret that he cannot attend the KL Summit.

No doubt, it is a big insult to Mahathir’s personal prestige but as the old adage says, beggars cannot be choosers and Imran Khan is left with no choice but to obey the Saudi diktat like a vassal.

With Imran Khan staying away, Mahathir is left to host his counterparts from Turkey, Iran, Qatar and Indonesia. The fizz has gone out of the KL Summit. Nonetheless, Mahathir is not the type of person to forget and forgive. His initial reaction to Imran Khan’s cowardly behaviour shows studied indifference, betraying his sense of hurt.

Pakistan is ultimately the loser here, as its credibility has been seriously dented. Imran Khan was the original promoter of the idea of the three-way axis of Turkey-Pakistan-Malaysia. But to be fair, his modest agenda was to create an exclusive India-baiting regional forum that he can use at will, whereas Mahathir turned it into an unprecedented Islamic forum that is independent of Saudi influence. Perhaps, Mahathir can only blame himself for the overreach.

December 17, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

‘We’ve always been on receiving end of US hegemony’: Pakistan seeks closer ties with Russia, and has a real chance of success

RT | December 15, 2019

Islamabad, which just settled a Soviet-era debt dispute with Moscow, now wishes for “a new phase” in relations with Russia. Geopolitics, coupled with promising new trade opportunities, could help them thrive, analysts explain.

Russia-Pakistan relations returned to a brighter place this week, when Prime Minister Imran Khan voiced his desire to give them a powerful boost. While hosting a sizable Russian delegation led by Trade Minister Denis Manturov, Khan signaled that his country is ready to open its doors to Russian businesses and investors.

And it doesn’t look like wishful thinking at all. Under a massive deal signed in Islamabad, Russia will pour $1 billion into the revival and upgrade of the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM), built with Soviet assistance. The two also had in their sights reconstructing a gas pipeline, building a railway network and procurement of the Sukhoi-built SSJ-100 narrow-body jets.

Pakistan has also agreed to pay off $93.5 million it had borrowed from the Soviet Union, thus dismantling the last hurdle affecting its commercial ties with Russia. Obviously, both Moscow and Islamabad want the ball to roll faster – at least when it comes to doing business – but could they engage each other, given Russia’s time-tested ties with India, and Pakistan’s alignment with the US?

Well, geopolitical considerations may previously have played a role, but old alliances shift or become more flexible, some analysts RT has talked to believe.

“A new world order is in the making that provides Pakistan a window of opportunity to diversify its foreign policy options,” Dr Khuram Iqbal, assistant professor at the National Defense University of Pakistan, pointed out.

Islamabad sided with the US during the Soviet military presence in Afghanistan and contributed to the post-9/11 War on Terror, but being “on the receiving end of American global hegemony” didn’t yield much.

Back in the 1980s, Pakistan antagonized the USSR by aiding and abetting the Islamist Mujahideen fighting Soviet troops; in the 2000s, it suffered from a terrorist spillover from neighboring Afghanistan, and saw numerous unauthorized US drone strikes on its own soil.

“There is a growing realization in Pakistan that the American-led world order has benefited only a few, at the expense of too many.”

By contrast, Russia has been instrumental in cooling down – if not defusing – some tensions Pakistan has had with its neighbors. “Russia has a proven history of acting as an effective mediator between India and Pakistan,” Iqbal noted.

On numerous occasions since the Cold War, Moscow managed to get both nuclear-armed arch-rivals to the table and to avert an all-out war, he recalled.

In modern times, Russia brokered Pakistan’s and India’s entry to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – “the only functional multilateral forum” in which Islamabad and New Delhi could talk about countering “the common threat of transnational terrorism.”

For his part, Alexey Kupriyanov, a research fellow at Moscow’s Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) suggests that Russia will not go to extremes even if Pakistan truly wishes this to come true. When engaging Islamabad, Moscow could rely on “some traditional spheres of cooperation,” namely economy and security, provided that “it doesn’t touch upon Pakistani actions and claims regarding Jammu and Kashmir.”

In recent years, the Pakistani and Russian militaries held an array of joint counter-terrorism drills; there have also been some remarkable arms deals, not to mention Islamabad’s appetite for Russia’s top-notch aircraft, firearms and armor.
Whatever political strains exist, Pakistan is hoping for bigger things to come. As Iqbal said, there could be a “major breakthrough” in relations if Vladimir Putin visits Islamabad in the near future as it would serve as a real opportunity to prove to Pakistani policy-makers that this chance is real.

December 15, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , | 1 Comment

With eye on India, Pakistan strengthens military ties with Iran

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | November 20, 2019

he low-key coverage by the Pakistani media on the 2-day visit of the army chief General Qamar Bajwa to Iran notwithstanding, the event signifies a surge in the tempo of ‘mil-to-mil’ exchanges between the two countries.

The Iranian side gave the event a distinct political colouring with the Pakistani COAS having meetings with President Hassan Rohani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani, apart from  talks with his host, Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri.

Border security and counter-terrorism are key issues for Iran. But Gen. Bajwa’s talks extensively covered regional developments and even dwelt on the two countries’ “coordination on the major issues of the Muslim world”.

The Iranian reports did not make any references to the Kashmir issue or India-Pakistan tensions, but it is inconceivable that Gen. Bajwa sidestepped the topic.

In fact, even as Gen. Bajwa headed for Tehran on Monday, Pakistan conducted a training launch of the surface-to-surface ballistic missile Shaheen-1, a day after India conducted the first night trial of its Agni-II missile.

The Iranian news agency IRNA took note that the launch of Shaheen-1 “aimed at testing operational readiness of Army Strategic Forces Command, ensuring Pakistan’s credible minimum deterrence.”

The Pakistani army spokesman tweeted that Gen. Bajwa discussed with Rouhani the “regional security environment and matters of mutual interest”. According to the Iranian agency IRNA, Gen Bajwa told Rouhani that Pakistan was prepared to strengthen bilateral relations “in all spheres”.

Rouhani in turn hailed Pakistan’s role towards regional peace and called the relations between the two Muslim nations as “an invaluable asset” which should be used to further boost mutual cooperation.

Iranian reports quoted Gen. Bajwa as saying Pakistan and Iran face “common threats and have common interests”, calling for close cooperation and interaction.

An IRNA commentary said, “In recent years, Tehran and Islamabad have witnessed high level exchanges from top military officials and the recent visit of Pakistan Army Chief to Iran demonstrates the commitment of the two sides to consolidate defense ties through active diplomacy.”

The semi-official Fars agency reported that Gen. Bajwa and Gen. Baqeri discussed “different issues ranging from security partnership, regional developments and maintaining stable security at the regional level” and “explored avenues for bolstering and reinvigorating defence relations”.

Notably, Admiral Shamkhani, who reports to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, called for “all-out expansion of ties” with Pakistan “in a bid to provide regional security.” Equally, Foreign Minister Zarif and Gen. Bajwa “discussed a broad range of issues, including the political, economic and military relations” between Iran and Pakistan as well as “regional cooperation and the ongoing developments in the region, including the situation in Afghanistan.”

Without doubt, the Iranian reports uniformly underscored Tehran’s high expectations that a new phase of Iran-Pakistan relations may be commencing.

Gen. Bajwa’s visit tops up an intensification of high-level exchanges between the two countries during the past two-year period since his pathbreaking trip to Iran in 2017, which was the first by a Pakistani COAS in over two decades.

During the 2017 visit, Gen. Bajwa had told Rouhani that Pakistan was determined to expand its ties with Iran in all spheres and hoped that the two neighbours could collaborate for regional peace and security. To be sure, the shifts in the geopolitics of the region acted as catalyst in injecting new verve into the relationship.

Principal among them would be Delhi’s ‘pivot to Saudi Arabia’ in its Gulf strategy, markedly deviating from the traditional course of walking a fine line in the intra-Gulf discords and rivalries from a standpoint of benign neutrality.

Even as US-Iranian tensions began accelerating, the Modi government unceremoniously complied with Washington’s diktat to roll back ties with Iran by terminating all its oil imports from that country. The pusillanimous attitude of the self-styled nationalist leadership in Delhi took Tehran by surprise.

Tehran put its deep disappointment on display once it became apparent that the Modi government retracted even from its commitments at the highest level of leadership to cooperate with Iran on the development of Chabahar Port, which was a key underpinning of regional connectivity and security linked to the stability of Afghanistan. (See my column in Rediff, Why Iran is upset with India.)

The Indian U-turn on Chabahar has come to symbolise the phenomenal shift in Indian regional policies in the direction of harmonising with the US strategy at a critical juncture when Washington’s maximum pressure approach is fuelling tensions in the Gulf and leading to a steady augmentation of the American military deployments in Saudi Arabia that could well be the prelude to confrontation with Iran.

The unkindest cut of all is that Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province is also targetted by terrorist groups that are allegedly backed by Saudi Arabia. Tehran senses that the Modi government is inexorably gravitating toward the US-Israeli-Saudi axis, jettisoning India’s traditional independent Gulf policies.

The ardour of PM Modi’s personal friendships with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu must have set alarm bells ringing in Tehran.

On the other hand, Pakistan is closely gauging the downhill slide in the India-Iran relationship and estimating that the 40-year old Indian strategic embrace of Iran as a “second front” is ending. Meanwhile, for the first time since the Islamic revolution in in 1979, Iranian leadership is appreciating Pakistan’s independent foreign foreign policies.

Tehran would estimate that conditions are getting ripe for a breakthrough in Pakistan-Iran military cooperation. Importantly, the UN’s five-year time frame for embargo on arms trade with Iran expires next year, while the eight-year limit on Iran’s missile activities ends in 2023. (See a recent IRNA commentary titled JCPOA, Sunset Clauses and struggle of Americans.)

Of course, Tehran’s willingness to support Pakistan on the Kashmir issue could be the ultimate clincher.

In geopolitical terms, Iran’s overarching foreign-policy agenda of Eurasian integration brings Tehran and Pakistan more or less onto the same page in regional politics.

Zarif acknowledged at a recent meeting in Tehran with a group of visiting Indian writers and journalists that US economic and political actions had created “an understanding” between China, Russia and Iran “that we’re all (US) targets” and there was “a commonality being felt” by the leaderships of the three countries. Of course, Islamabad is well aware of it, having been a “target” itself.

November 20, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 2 Comments