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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

Imran Khan ‘Puzzled’ Over Vast Media Coverage of Hong Kong and ‘Disregard’ of Kashmir Issue

Sputnik – October 11, 2019

Ahead of last month’s UN General Assembly (UNGA) summit, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan raised various concerns while travelling to New York, accusing world leaders of avoiding the Kashmir issue and the alleged humanitarian crisis in the Kashmir valley.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan took to Twitter​ to say how “puzzled” he is over the sharp contrast in international media coverage of the situations in Hong Kong and Kashmir while squarely blaming the press for not highlighting the situation in Kashmir properly.

He claimed that the media paid much attention to the ongoing Hong Kong protests while surprisingly avoided giving importance to the “dire human rights situation” in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Khan, who returned from China on Thursday, chose to highlight the issue hours ahead of the crucial second Informal Summit to be held between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

China has already extended its full support to Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. In a joint statement, it has said: “The Kashmir issue is a historical dispute, and should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements.”

China has already expressed its opposition to India’s unilateral action on 5 August to strip the special status of Jammu and Kashmir state and split the region into two federally administered territories. It has said the decision scrapping the special status of Jammu and Kashmir “complicates the situation”.

Pakistan Prime Minister Khan in his Tweet has said the communications blackout and curfew in Kashmir since 5 August is a growing humanitarian crisis.

“For over two months there has been a complete blackout of communications, thousands imprisoned, including the entire spectrum of political leadership and children, and a growing humanitarian crisis. In Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir 100 thousand Kashmiris have been killed over 30 years of fighting for their right to self-determination,” he added.

India and Pakistan have been at loggerheads over Kashmir since they attained independence from British Colonial rule in 1947. While the two neighbours both claim the entire territory, they administer separate parts of Kashmir.

October 11, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , | 1 Comment

Iran, Pakistan sign new agreement on major gas project: Report

Press TV – September 17, 2019

A major deal for exports of gas from Iran to Pakistan has been revised after several years of uncertainty surrounding the project, shows a report in the Pakistani media.

The Express Tribune said in a Monday report that national gas companies from Iran and Pakistan had inked an agreement to revise the terms of an old deal meant for exports of gas from Iran which had been supposed to be implemented by 2015.

The deal had stalled mainly because Pakistan was unable to construct a pipeline through its territory to transfer the Iranian gas to the port of Karachi. Islamabad was also unwilling to pay compensation for its delay, saying it had been caused by sanctions imposed on Iran.

The report said the Inter State Gas Systems (ISGS) of Pakistan and the National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC) had agreed to allow Pakistan to finish construction of the pipeline in its territory until 2024.

It cited sources as saying that Iran would not sue Pakistan for a fresh delay beyond 2024 unlike the previous contract under which Iran had threatened Islamabad with legal action. There was no comment on the report from the Iranian officials.

It said the two companies would seek to devise solutions for completion of the project which would enable Pakistan to import 750 million cubic feet of gas per day from Iran.

Based on the terms of the previous deal, Pakistan had been supposed to complete its section of the gas pipeline within 22 months after construction activities for the project kicked off in March 2013.

However, Pakistan later backtracked from the commitment and officials said that sanctions imposed on Iran had made it impossible for the country to build the 1,600-kilometer pipeline.

Iran has almost completed its sides of the pipeline which starts from installations of the South Pars gas field located on the Persian Gulf port of Asaluyeh and runs 1,172 kilometers through two provinces to reach the Pakistani border.

September 17, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , | Leave a comment

India’s narrative on J&K is hyperbolic

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | August 13, 2019

Editorials have appeared in two leading Delhi newspapers today (here and here) urging the government to present a credible, appealing diplomatic narrative on the J&K developments.

The Indian narrative so far is largely focused on the domestic audience. It has gone to ridiculous extents by projecting that the situation is actually quite “normal” in J&K. Pictures of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval savouring (mutton) biryani with Kashmiri Muslims on a street corner in Srinagar have been doing the rounds. (Indeed, it was a charade to hoodwink the public.)

Crude propaganda won’t win hearts and minds. A narrative has to be crafted rationally. It’s common knowledge that there is little acceptance of the government move among Kashmiri Muslims.

When it comes to the external projection of the Indian narrative, given the fact that India’s case is flying in the face of international law and the UN Charter, the government must be capable of sensitivity.

The government would have seized the initiative at the diplomatic level if only soon after Home Minister Amit Shah piloted through both houses of the parliament at breakneck speed the legislation on abrogating Article 370 of the constitution, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had stood up and made a suo moto statement offering to discuss all differences with Pakistan bilaterally in a comprehensive dialogue in the best interests of regional security, peace and stability.

Of course, such a momentous initiative would have required imagination, far-sightedness and wisdom — and, most important, political courage at the leadership level. The shortfall in statecraft and diplomacy is appalling.

A self-righteous attitude will not do. Take EAM’s demarche with the Chinese counterpart State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing on Monday. The MEA readout spells out the Indian stance on the following lines:

One, constitutional amendment is an “internal matter for India” and the “sole prerogative of the country”.

Two, abrogation of J&K’s special status (including changes in Ladakh’s status) is aimed at “promoting better governance and socio-economic development”.

Three, the government move has “no implication for either the external boundaries of India or the Line of Actual Control” with China.

And, four, India is “not raising any additional territorial claims.”

Incredibly enough, this was how EAM brushed aside China’s “serious concern over the recent escalation of turmoil in Kashmir” – that “any unilateral action that may complicate the situation in Kashmir should not be taken; that the Kashmir issue is a dispute born out of the region’s colonial history and should be properly handled in a peaceful way in line with the UN Charter, relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and bilateral agreements between Pakistan and India”; and, its expectation that “India will play a constructive role in regional peace and stability.” (here, here, here, here and here

EAM’s rejoinder may have some resonance domestically within India as a macho attitude, but it will only arouse mirth and derision abroad — even in the diplomatic enclave in Chanakyapuri area.

No P5 member country has officially voiced support for India. There is no shred of evidence that the Russian Foreign Ministry voiced support for India on the issue — not on the FO website; neither in a Tass or Novosti report nor even in the irrepressible Russian press. Some fly-by-night operator well-versed with the Indian rope trick, apparently spread fake news on a Friday night and it became “breaking news” in India by next morning. Pathetic.

Simply put, the Indian stance articulated by EAM is fundamentally flawed in logic and can only be counter-productive, as it shuts the door on discussion. The point is, Kashmir is an international dispute and India unilaterally changed J&K’s “status” in violation of the relevant UN resolutions. No one will accept India’s claim that it is an “internal matter”.

World opinion accepts that Pakistan is a party to Kashmir dispute. It is beside the point that India is not redrawing boundaries. And it’s gratuitous to say there is “no implication” for the LOC or the LOAC. If things were that simple, why couldn’t Modi government stomach the CPEC passing through Gilgit-Baltistan? We screamed, “territorial sovereignty” blah, blah.

World opinion will only believe that Delhi’s real intention is to change the demographic balance so that there shall be no Muslim-majority entity henceforth within the Indian Union.

If such unilateral acts in modern history are as simple as “internal matter”, why is no one recognising Russia’s annexation of Crimea? Why is Beijing so sensitive on intervention in Hong Kong? Why is the US insisting on “freedom of navigation” in South China Sea? Why is the US raising eyebrow over the North Sea Route and the Arctic? What is wrong with Iran’s claim over Persian Gulf as sovereign territory? What prevents Sri Lanka’s Mahinda Rajapaksa from solving the Tamil problem in similar fashion (as he hinted last week)?

The Modi government will be creating a long-term, intractable problem for India for generations to come by adopting such an ostrich approach. Analysts have pointed out (here and here) that the change in Ladakh’s status makes the India-China border dispute incredibly complicated and all but unsolvable. India’s international standing can get seriously damaged.   

The only way to address the conundrum is to propose to Pakistan that India is ready to discuss these differences. Fortuitously, Pakistan also faces the unhappy situation that no one in the international community is showing willingness to stand up and be counted as its partner to push back at India.

The bottom line is that India enjoys wide acceptance for its insistence on bilateralism to resolve differences with Pakistan. India should now tactfully exercise this privilege. It is always possible to hold out informal assurances that there’ll be no “colonisation” of Kashmir valley. After all, we have such safeguards for many regions of India.  

The window of opportunity shall not remain open for long. From all accounts, the ground situation in J&K is explosive and the grating roar of human misery is approaching. PM Imran Khan’s prognosis on another Pulwama is not off the mark. For Delhi to build a new architecture in J&K out of the debris all around, a dialogue with Pakistan is critically important.

August 13, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , | Leave a comment

China backs the opening of Kashmir file in UNSC

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | August 10, 2019

The “special and emergency visit” by Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to Beijing on Friday August 9 has been highly successful in getting China to voice open support for Islamabad’s proposed move to raise the Kashmir issue in the UN Security Council.

From both Pakistani and Chinese accounts, the outcome of the meeting between the Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Qureshi conveys a significant “pro-Pakistan” shift in Beijing’s stance apropos the situation around J&K, which was more or less on neutral ground initially. (See my blog China reacts to J&K, India demands reciprocity.)

How far the reference to China’s “internal affairs” in the MEA spokesman’s remarks on August 6 (which appeared to be a knee-jerk reaction) provoked Beijing is a moot point now. Indeed, Qureshi’s air dash to Beijing signalled Pakistan’s desperate need of Chinese open support and China cannot afford to be seen wanting.

According to the Xinhua report, the cutting edge of Wang’s remarks lies in his listing of the UN Charter (which upholds international peace and security, fundamental human rights, adherence to international law and obligations of member states to adhere to treaties, etc.), relevant resolutions of the UN SC on Kashmir (on the status of J&K, holding of plebiscite, UNMOGIP, etc.) and the bilateral agreements between Pakistan and India (Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration) — in that sequence as the road map on Kashmir.

China has de facto pledged support to Pakistan when the latter raises the Kashmir issue in the UN SC. Wang doubled down on Beijing going the whole hog to support Pakistan: “China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic partners and have always understood and supported each other on issues concerning core interests, which is also a good tradition that both countries should cherish. China will continue to firmly support Pakistan in safeguarding its legitimate rights and uphold fairness for Pakistan in international affairs.”

Qureshi reciprocated subsequently by telling the media in Beijing, “Pakistan is not looking at the military option. We are rather looking at political, diplomatic and legal options to deal with the prevailing situation.” Wang reportedly advised Qureshi that Pakistan should prioritise its national development and peace in South Asia and seek a new path of peaceful co-existence with India.

The Radio Pakistan reported that the Wang-Qureshi meeting lasted for two and half hours, which suggests that substantive discussions took place regarding strategy on Kashmir. The Pakistani report said Wang also agreed that “steps taken by India are unilateral that have changed the status quo and structure” of J&K and “could jeopardize the peace and stability in the region.” It added that Wang “was in concurrence that Jammu and Kashmir has been recognized as a disputed region and its resolution should also be in the light of UN resolutions.”

The overt, dramatic shift in the Chinese stance against Indian interests would have taken into account the ambivalence in the US position on Kashmir. Against the backdrop of the controversial remarks by President Trump to mediate on Kashmir, the US state department spokesperson, when asked on Friday’s press briefing in Washington, blithely passed the buck to the White House.

The spokesperson also underscored, “Obviously, we just had Prime Minister (Imran) Khan here, not just because of Kashmir. That’s certainly an incredibly important issue and something that we follow closely, but we have a host of issues that we work with India on quite closely and that we work with Pakistan on quite closely. I would say that we are – as a State Department, we are incredibly engaged in Southeast Asia.”

During the coming week, two senior US officials are landing in Delhi at the same time — US deputy secretary of state John Sullivan (corresponding to ministerial rank) and Acting deputy secretary of state in charge of South Asia Alice Wells. Sullivan is reaching Delhi from Bhutan while Wells who was on a scheduled visit to Islamabad has extended her tour by travelling to India as well.

By the way, Sullivan becomes the highest ranking US official to visit Bhutan in decades. His visit signals a Churchillian approach in the US policies toward China lately — “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills.” Historically, this is the first time that Bhutan finds itself being courted as a frontline state in the Cold War cockpit.

Clearly, Sullivan’s visit augurs the same centrality to Bhutan in the US geo-strategy that Washington has lately begun attaching to Mongolia. In June, US National Security Advisor John Bolton visited Ulaanbaatar; in July, President Trump hosted Mongolian President Khaltmaa Battulga in the White House; by August already, the US Defence Secretary Mark Esper touched down in Ulaanbaatar on a daylong follow-up visit “to expand their military training, joint exercises and defense intelligence sharing”, according to Stratfor, US think tank wired into the security and defence establishment.

The big question is, whether Sullivan is delivering an invitation from Trump to the Dragon King of the Kingdom of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

Equally, there is the likelihood that the US may seek the establishment of intelligence outposts in Bhutan. En route to Mongolia, Def Secy Esper told reporters openly that the US is working to build relationships with key countries in the Indo-Pacific that share values and respect for each other’s sovereignty, “whether it’s Mongolia this trip, Vietnam, a future trip, Indonesia, other countries who I think are key.”

In a reference to China, Esper said, “We’ve got to be able to compete with them.” An AP report quoted a senior US official that the US seeks to expand its defense and intelligence cooperation with Mongolia, noting that its location makes it ideal for listening posts and monitoring stations for peering into both U.S. adversaries.

According to the US state department, Sullivan “will explore expanding and deepening our ties with the government and people of Bhutan.” Of course, any significant expansion of US-Bhutan relations can only happen with the concurrence and approval of India. This is where Chinese sensitivities arise.

Possibly, Beijing senses that Sullivan’s Bhutan trip figured in the meeting between foreign minister S. Jaishankar and his American counterpart Mike Pompeo in Thailand recently. Sullivan is expected to meet Jaishankar.

Most importantly, the state department announcement on Thursday implied that Sullivan’s visits to Thimpu and Delhi are a back-to-back mission with the aim “to advance the United States’ partnership with two nations that are critical to preserving the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region.”

To be sure, Beijing would have taken note that the fizz has gone out of the Wuhan Spirit — with just a couple of months left for the visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to India in October. The Wang-Qureshi meeting testifies to it.

August 10, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

India Responded To Trump’s Mediation Proposal By Killing More Kashmiris

By Andrew Korybko | EurasiaFuture | 2019-08-05

India defiantly responded to Trump’s mediation proposal by killing more Kashmiris and concocting yet another “politically convenient” conspiracy theory about so-called “Pakistani-backed terrorists” there in order to distract the world from its plan to unleash a wave of “Weapons of Mass Migration” that might forever change the demographic balance of this disputed territory to its long-term favor.

Modi’s Response To Trump

The situation in Indian-Occupied Kashmir (IOK) and along the Line of Control (LoC) is almost worse than it’s ever been before after New Delhi’s latest aggressive actions there that can be interpreted as an asymmetrical response to Trump’s recent mediation proposal. The US’ new military-strategic ally rejected the President’s earlier claims that Modi requested his assistance in mediating an end to the decades-long Kashmir Conflict, which coincided with increased shelling along the LoC that started during Pakistani Prime Minister Khan’s very successful visit to Washington last month and continues to this day. These provocations were shortly thereafter followed by the concocting of a “politically convenient” conspiracy theory about so-called “Pakistani-backed terrorists” there in order to distract the world from India’s egregious human rights abuses against the people of Kashmir and its illegal use of cluster bombs in targeting civilians on the Pakistani side of the LoC.

“Weapons Of Mass Migration”

While all of this might seem like a random flare-up of violence to the unaware observer, there’s actually a method behind the madness in that India is preparing to unleash a wave of “Weapons of Mass Migration” that might forever change the demographic balance of this disputed territory to its long-term favor. There were suspicions that the recent dispatch of over 20,000 more paramilitary forces to IOK wasn’t just to “protect Hindu pilgrims” like the Indian media alleged, but to reinforce the over half a million forces that are already there ahead of what turned out to be the repealing of constitutional clauses that guarantee a relative degree of “autonomy” for the region and prevented non-residents from purchasing property there. The implications of doing away with this special policy are enormous because they could lead to the large-scale influx of foreigners that would almost certainly provoke another wave of armed resistance from the desperate locals.

Machiavellian Perception Management

Anticipating this, India knew that it would inevitably have to dispatch more military forces to IOK, but it wanted to do so under the cover of a “publicly plausible” pretext in order to avoid international criticism, ergo the excuse of the latest reinforcement measures being due to what it claimed was the threat posed by “Pakistani-backed terrorists” to Hindu pilgrims. It then initiated a new round of shelling across the LoC, using cluster bombs in order to guarantee a response that it could then decontextualize and deceptively misportray as “Pakistani aggression”. This in turn led to New Delhi ordering non-Muslims to leave the region “in the interests of (their) safety and security” when the real reason that all of this is happening is so that they’re not caught up in the impending wave of violence that might soon be unleashed after the authorities revoked Kashmir’s “autonomous” status a little more than a week before India’s independence day later this month.

Exposing The Plot

This Machiavellian plot might very well backfire, though, because Pakistan is already preemptively exposing it in the international informational sphere and proving that there’s a reason why India can be regarded as a rogue state nowadays. Prime Minister Khan even tweeted about it too, thereby ensuring that the rest of the world pays more attention to Pakistan’s serious concerns about the deteriorating security situation along the LoC and the ever-worsening humanitarian one in IOK. In addition, India’s regional aggression is a personal affront to Trump’s peacemaking efforts, which might trigger him to double down on the game of “hardball” that he’s playing with it lately. The Democrats could also sense a self-interested political opportunity to put pressure on his administration by demanding that they cease further security cooperation with India until it stops its human rights violations in Kashmir, just as they’ve tried to do vis-a-vis Saudi Arabia and Yemen earlier this year.

Self-Inflicted Damage

Whichever way one looks at it, India’s recent aggression is counterproductive to its own interests. The country’s carefully crafted international image of supposedly being the peaceful land of Bollywood and yoga is shattered, and any revocation of Kashmir’s “autonomy” will return the region to being a global flash point, to say nothing of making it even more difficult for the military to indefinitely perpetuate its occupation in the face of heightened resistance from the locals. India had the chance to change history by admitting that it asked Trump to mediate in Kashmir and then taking his public disclosure of this secret as a signal to start that process, but it instead tried to make a fool out of him by pretending that no such request was ever made. Such strategic missteps as that one and the aforementioned risk isolating India even more in the international community and could even endanger its very existence in the event that they eventually lead to a hot war with Pakistan.

August 5, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

India strips Kashmir of autonomous status; Pakistan warns of ‘all options’

Press TV – August 5, 2019

The Indian government has scrapped the special autonomy status for the disputed region of Kashmir as part of attempts to fully integrate the Muslim-majority region with the rest of the country.

The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs announced on Monday that India’s President Ram Nath Kovind had signed a decree abolishing Article 370 of the constitution that grants a measure of autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir, including the right to draft its own laws.

The decree declared the measure came into force “at once.”

The president also moved a bill proposing that the Indian-administered part of Kashmir be divided into two regions directly ruled by New Delhi.

The government in New Delhi lifted a ban on property purchases by people from outside Jammu and Kashmir, opening the way for Indians to invest and settle in the disputed region like any other part of India, a measure likely to provoke a backlash in the territory.

The controversial move came after large parts of the Muslim-majority territory was placed under lockdown, with mobile networks, internet services and telephone landline services having been cut.

Moreover, prominent political leaders in the Indian-administered region of Kashmir were placed under house arrest and the Indian paramilitary forces deployed thousands of extra troops across the region, raising fears of a crackdown.

Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, had earlier pushed for radical political changes in Jammu and Kashmir even before he won a re-election in May.

Modi said the old laws had hindered Kashmir’s integration with the rest of India.

Pakistan slams ‘illegal’ India move in Kashmir

The Indian government’s move on Monday to strip Kashmir of the special autonomy it has had for seven decades prompted a furious response from nuclear-armed rival Pakistan.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry denounced the move as “illegal” in a statement, saying, “as the party to this international dispute, Pakistan will exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps.”

Meanwhile, a senior Pakistani security source said that a meeting of the Pakistani military’s top commanders had been called for Tuesday.

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since it was partitioned in 1947. Both countries claim all of Kashmir and have fought three wars over the territory.

Indian troops are in constant clashes with armed groups seeking Kashmir’s independence or its merger with Pakistan. India regularly accuses Pakistan of arming and training militants and allowing them across the restive frontier in an attempt to launch attacks. Pakistan strongly denies the allegation.

In recent years, southern Kashmir has seen intense fighting between Indian forces and armed Kashmiri fighters, who are demanding independence for the Himalayan region.

The conflict has left tens of thousands dead, mostly civilians.

August 5, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Illegal Occupation | , , , | Leave a comment

The Western Alliance is Falling Apart

By Peter Koenig | Dissident Voice | August 2, 2019

Ever since Imran Khan became the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan in August 2018, the winds have changed. While his predecessors, though generally leaning eastwards, have often wavered between the US and the China orbit, Khan is in the process of clearly defining his alliances with the east, in particular China. This is for the good of his country, for the good of the Middle East, and eventually for the good of the world.

A few days ago, RT reported that China, in addition to the expansion of the new port in Gwadar, Balochistan, has entered into agreements with Pakistan to build a military/air base in Pakistan, a new Chinese city for some half a million people, as well as several road and railway improvement projects, including a highway connecting the cities of Karachi and Lahore, reconstruction of the Karakoram Highway, linking Hasan Abdal to the Chinese border, as well as upgrading the Karachi-Peshwar main railway to be completed by the end of 2019, for trains to travel up to 160km/hour.

This rehabilitation of dilapidated Pakistani transportation infrastructure is not only expected to contribute between 2% and 3% of Pakistan’s future GDP, but it offers also another outlet for Iranian gas/hydrocarbons, other than through the Strait of Hurmuz, for example, by rail to the new port of Gwadar which, by the way, is also a new Chinese naval base. From Gwadar Iranian hydrocarbon cargoes can be shipped everywhere, including to China, Africa and India. With the new China-built transportation infrastructure Iranian gas can also be shipped overland to China.

In fact, these infrastructure developments, plus several electric power production projects, still mostly fed by fossil fuel, to resolve Pakistani’s chronic energy shortage, are part of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also called the New Silk Road. They are a central part of the new so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which was first designed in 2015 during a visit by China’s President Xi Jinping, when some 51 Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) worth then some US$ 46 billion were signed. Pakistan is definitely out of the US orbit.

Today, in the CPEC implementation phase, the projects planned or under construction are estimated at over US$ 60 billion. An estimated 80% are direct investments with considerable Pakistani participation and 20% Chinese concessionary debt. Clearly, Pakistan has become a staunch ally of China and this to the detriment of the US role in the Middle East.

Washington’s wannabe hegemony over the Middle East is fading rapidly. See also Michel Chossudovsky’s detailed analysis “US Foreign Policy in Shambles: NATO and the Middle East. How Do You Wage War Without Allies?

A few days ago, Germany refused Washington’s request to take part in a US-led maritime mission in the Strait of Hormuz, under the pretext to secure hydrocarbon shipments through this Iran-controlled narrow water way. In reality it is more like a new weaponizing of waterways, by controlling what ships do what to whom and applying “sanctions” by blocking or outright pirating of tankers destined for western ‘enemy’ territories.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced last Wednesday in Warsaw, Poland, that there “cannot be a military solution” to the current crisis in the Persian Gulf and that Berlin will turn down Washington’s request to join the US, British and French operation “aimed at protecting sea traffic in the Strait of Hormuz, and combating so-called “Iranian aggression.”

This idea of the Washington war hawks was conceived after Iran’s totally legal seizure of the British-flagged Stena Impero oil tanker, after it rammed an Iranian fishing boat a couple of weeks ago. However, nothing is said about the totally illegal and US-ordered British piracy of the Iranian super tanker Grace I off the coast of Gibraltar in Spanish waters (another infraction of international law), weeks earlier. While Grace I’s crew in the meantime has been released, the tanker is still under British capture, but western media remain silent about it, but lambast Iran for seizing a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.

Germany remains committed to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA (the Iran nuclear deal), from which the United States unilaterally withdrew a year ago, and Germany will therefore not intervene on behalf of the US.

Add to this Turkey – a key NATO member both for her strategic location and NATO’s actual military might established in Turkey – moving ever closer to the east, and becoming a solid ally of Russia, after having ignored Washington’s warnings against Turkey’s purchasing of Russian S-400 cutting-edge air defense systems. For “sleeping with the enemy”; i.e., moving ever closer to Russia, the US has already punished Turkey’s economy by manipulating her currency to fall by about 40% since the beginning of 2018. Turkey is also a candidate to become a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and so is Iran.

Turkey has become a de facto lame duck as a NATO member and may soon officially exit NATO which would be a tremendous blow to the North Atlantic Alliance and may tempt other European NATO nations to do likewise. Probably not overnight, but the idea of an ever more defunct NATO is planted.

All indications are that the future, economically and security wise – is in the East.  Even Europe may eventually ‘dare’ making the jump towards better relations with primarily Russia and Central Asia and eventually with China.

And that especially if and when Brexit happens, which is by no means a sure thing.  However, just in case, the UK has already prepared bilateral trade relations with China, ready to be signed, if and when, the UK exits the EU.

Will the UK, another staunch US ally, jump ship?  Unlikely. But dancing on two weddings simultaneously is a customary Anglo-Saxon game plan. The Brits must have learned it from their masters in Washington, who in turn took the lessons from the Brits as colonial power for centuries, across the Atlantic.

Western, US-led war on Iran is therefore unlikely. There is too much at stake, and especially, there are no longer any reliable allies in the region. Remember, allies — shall we call them puppets or peons — are normally doing the dirty work for Washington.

So, threatening, warning and annoying provocations by the US with some of its lasting western allies may continue for a while. It makes for good propaganda. After all, packing up and going home is not exactly Uncle Sam’s forte. The western alliance is no longer what it used to be. In fact, it is in shambles. And Iran knows it.


Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a former World Bank staff and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for independent media. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe.

August 3, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

‘Nuclear war is not an option’: Pakistani PM says he’d give up nukes if India did so too

RT | July 23, 2019

In a stunning statement, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said that he would be willing to give up his nation’s nuclear weapons if its rival India vowed to do the same. He also urged New Delhi to come to the negotiating table.

When asked by Fox News’ Bret Baier if India offered to relinquish it nuclear arsenal, would Pakistan, Khan answered with an emphatic “yes.”

“Because nuclear war is not an option. And between Pakistan and India, the idea of nuclear war is actually self-destruction, because we have two and a half thousand-mile border,” Khan said.

The Pakistani PM added that the recent escalation in tensions between the two nuclear rivals, following sporadic outbreaks of violence in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack, was unnecessary.

Khan said he had asked US President Donald Trump to mediate between the two regional powers over the Kashmir issue, which Khan said was the only reason for which, over the past “70 years that we have not be able to act like civilized neighbors.”

Khan played down India’s fiery response to reports of potential talks mediated by the US, in which New Delhi insisted that negotiations could only take place bilaterally. He instead urged India’s government to come to the table.

“We’re talking about 1.3 billion people on this Earth. Imagine the dividends of peace if somehow that issue could be resolved.”

July 23, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , | 1 Comment