Pak-Saudi Security ties in a Churn (RSTV Debate)

Pak-Saudi Security relationship seems to be undergoing a reset. Last year, former Pakistani Army Chief General Raheel Sharif was selected by Riyadh as the commander of the Saudi-led alliance of Muslim majority countries, ostensibly aimed at counter-terrorism. The alliance is meant to essentially target the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen who are active on the Saudi borders. Then came the news last week since denied that Pakistan would send a brigade strength of combat troops to Saudi Arabia for deployment along its southern borders in the ongoing conflict with Yemen. Islamabad and Riyadh have had a close security relationship. Not only does the Pakistan army regularly train the Saudi soldiers, experts estimate that there are as many as 70,000 Pakistanis serving across the Saudi military services. Pakistani combat troops have been sent to Saudi Arabia in the past also in 1979 after the attack on the Grand Mosque Complex of Mecca and during the First Gulf War when the Saudis feared an attack by Saddam Hussein. In 2015, Saudi Arabia requested Pakistan to join an Arab-military coalition against the Houthi rebel movement in Yemen. However, the Pakistan Parliament voted to remain neutral in the conflict. Let us see if the Pakistanis are reconsidering its position on joining the Riyadh-led alliance against the Houthis and if so, why is there a churning in Pakistan on this issue and what does it mean for the Gulf region?

What are the factors that have shaped and continue to shape the Pak-Saudi Security Relationship?

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy a very close relationship to the extent that at one moment there was a suspicion that Saudi Arabia is financing the nuclear programme of Pakistan (members of the Saudi Royal Family are the only ‘foreigners’ who are allowed to visit the nuclear facilities of Pakistan). In the 1980s, when Saudi Arabia procured the Chinese CSS-2 missiles, the speculation was rife that this procurement is senseless unless they are armed with nuclear weapons. Hence, it was argued that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons would be made available for Saudi Arabia in the time of crisis. Pakistani troops have also served in Saudi Arabia to accord protection to the Saudi Royal family. Saudi Arabia has recognised Taliban regime and financed Madrasas (a college for Islamic instruction) all over Pakistan to spread Wahhabism (identified as the main source of global terrorism by European Parliament).

Today Saudi Arabia is constrained heavily in its fight against the Houthi-rebels of Yemen (allegedly supported by Iran). In fact, there have been instances of serious attacks along the southern borders of Saudi Arabia by the Houthis. Saudi Arabia’s army is incapable of fighting a serious war effectively (forget the Guerrilla warfare) and it exists only on papers. Therefore, Pakistan becomes very valuable in this regard.

Pak-Saudi Security | Why Saudi Arabia selected General Raheel Sharif as the commander of the alliance of Muslim countries?

It could be regarded as a precursor to Saudi Arabia’s hope of obtaining combat troops from Pakistan in its fight against the Houthi rebels. Although there are some inhibitions inside some quarters of Pakistan over General Raheel Sharif taking over the job offered by the Saudis, there is no rejection/acceptance till now.

There was an ‘anger’ in Pakistan regarding Saudi’s request for combat troops in 2015 was not only on substantive grounds (non-meddling in the Saudi-Iran affairs) but also on procedural grounds. The procedure in which Saudi Arabia requested Pakistan to send combat troops to Yemen forced few sections in Pakistan to feel the vassal status of Saudi Arabia vis-à-vis Pakistan.

Pak-Saudi Security | Would Pakistan send troops to Saudi Arabia? What could be the consequences of such an involvement?

A newspaper in UAE leaked the Saudi-Pak plan to cooperate via troops in combating the Houthi problem which has reached to the doors of Saudi Arabia. Defence Minister of Pakistan has denied the reports of such cooperation. Pakistan may be hedging in this arena taking into account the Iran factor.

Even if the troops are sent for ‘emergency deployment’ in Saudi Arabia i.e. to play the defensive role and protect the vital security interests of Saudi Arabia’s territory, the sole purpose would be to extract money via grants and soft loans. Saudis would be happy to do the same, especially when they are getting cheap sources of security at the time of dwindling economy as compared to the costly Western forces in the region.

The implication of such an involvement of Pakistan would be that it would find itself enmeshed in the Sunni-Shia conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Shias in Pakistan are being already targeted by the Sunni extremist groups and it cannot afford to alienate a large section of its population (Shias hold significant positions in Pakistan Army also) further by entering into such an alliance. But the relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia-UAE grouping have already deteriorated in the past few years, so it is in a dilemma over its future course of action.

Pakistan is also unsure of gaining gravitas in American calculus as a regional power by what they perceive to be serving the strategic goals of the United States in the Gulf region.

Pak-Saudi Security | Why Saudi Arabia needs Pakistani troops when it can get mercenary contractors from the West?

One of the reasons could be the diversification strategy on part of the Saudi Kingdom to divert away from their security dependence on the West and look for cheaper alternatives to it. The sheer competence of Pakistan Army in the region could be another factor for Saudi shift towards Pakistan in this situation of war. As discussed earlier, this relationship also goes back to decades of security cooperation. This close security cooperation makes it imperative for the Gulf to prefer Pakistani troops in the event of a security need.

Pak-Saudi Security | Repercussions on Iran-Pakistan relationship

If Pakistan decides to send the troops to Saudi Arabia, it could disturb the relationship between Iran and Pakistan. It is doubtful if Pakistan can afford to lose a significant partner like Iran in the proposed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Pakistan became the surrogate of Saudi-Iran proxy war through the sectarian conflicts in the 1990s and this is the real danger that Pakistan perceives to be repeated again, in the case of its involvement in the Yemen affairs.

Pak-Saudi Security | India factor in Pakistani calculus

Pakistan is worried about the closeness developing between the Gulf countries and India in the last few years with respect to economic and security interests, especially with the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Pakistan has a traditional policy to isolate India and complicate its relationship with these countries. Contrary to the popular perception, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has managed to penetrate the Gulf region with his skilful diplomacy and secured a strategic leverage vis-à-vis Pakistan in terms of a developing security relationship with the region. Gulf countries have successfully managed to put the predominance of Islamic factor behind the contours of their relationship with India and are managing to cooperate effectively with India as against their traditional position. Gulf countries and most importantly the UAE is seriously looking towards India for defence and security cooperation to signal Pakistan that they may end the monopoly of Pakistani security umbrella in the region.

Pak-Saudi Security | Conclusion

It would be interesting to see how Pakistan decides to sail across the Arabian Sea to reach the Gulf of Aden through a tightrope diplomacy. Would it be able to prepare an effective solution to escape out of the zero-sum game between Saudi Arabia and Iran?

To See the Full RSTV Debate Click Below : 

 

US Russia Rivalry in Afganistan

Moscow and Washington seem to be heading for a face-off in Afghanistan. Last December, Moscow initiated a regional dialogue on Afghanistan. It has held three meetings of the group which contains Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, China, India and a few Central Asian republics. The US declined the invitation to attend the last meeting saying that the agenda of the meeting was unclear. The US sees the Russian initiative as a counterweight to its influence in Afghanistan. US President Donald Trump is still in the process of shaping his Afghanistan policy. Last week, he sent his National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster to Kabul, Islamabad and New Delhi to take stock of the situation. On April 13th, the US dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, ostensibly to destroy some caves being used by the Islamic State fighters. This happened on the eve of the third multinational meet on Afghanistan conveyed by Russia. It also preceded General McMaster’s visit to the region. As Russia begins to reassert its influence in Afghanistan and the Trump administration is yet to formulate its Afghanistan policy, what does the Russia-US face-off in Afghanistan would mean for the Afghan region?

US Russia Rivalry | Is Afghanistan the next theatre for Russia-US rivalry?

Historically, the US has used Afghan Mujahideen to dislodge the Soviet Union from Afghanistan during the cold war era. Most probably this situation would not be recreated again to settle current rivalries.

Russia is allowing the northern route to operate in Afghanistan for supplies to the region. They also realise that the United States has a role to play in circumscribing the ambitions of Islamic State in the region, but it simultaneously doubts the intentions of the US in manipulating these extremist groups to its advantage. This American support for Islamic militancy in Afghanistan would destabilise Central Asia with spill-over effect on the Russian federation.

Apart from taking action against the drug trafficking business emanating from Afghanistan borders, Russia has not taken any significant political stance on Afghanistan yet. But with the emergence of Islamic State extremism in Afghanistan, it is bound to take a concrete initiative in Afghanistan to secure its strategic interests in the region. But this does not necessarily imply a ‘face-off’ between the Americans and the Russians again.

US Russia Rivalry | Credibility of Islamic State threat in Afghanistan

Russia has been permeating a belief that Islamic State is gradually gaining ground in Afghanistan and it would subsequently affect the Central Asian republics and the Russian federation in the future. Whereas, the US is alleging that Russia is sharing critical intelligence inputs and military hardware with the Taliban groups to safeguard itself against the onslaught of Islamic militancy in the region.

But the boots on the ground confirm that the threats posed by Islamic State in Afghanistan are nowhere close to the threat of Taliban. Afghan ISIS consists of Pakistan-backed Taliban, Pakistani terrorists, Afghan Taliban, a few local criminals and an omnipotent force of Salafists in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces of Afghanistan. Hence, it might be premature to conclude that ISIS will pose a direct threat to the region beyond Afghanistan itself.

But the people who are following the Islamic State militants very closely in Syria confirm that the second most spoken language in the ISIS is Russian. This means that a number of people from the Central Asian republics who speak Russian language and Chechen rebels are growing in ISIS. Once they are squeezed in Syria by a strong attack on Raqqa initiated by the anti-ISIS forced, they will possibly gravitate to another ungoverned territory, most probably, Afghanistan. Hence, the Islamic State militancy at the doorstep of Central Asia is not a non-serious threat for the Russians.

US Russia Rivalry | Russian peace initiatives in Afghanistan

Apparently, the Russian peace initiative in Afghanistan undermines the efforts of NATO in the region. NATO wishes to keep the pressure high on Taliban to improve the security situation and streamline Taliban into the political process.

If the reports suggesting Russian material help to Taliban is correct, then it would only complicate situations which would finally benefit Pakistan as the pot keeps boiling. Russia sees the current political dispensation in the form of division of powers in President and Chief Executive of Afghanistan as a more US-oriented system. Russia has been wishing to reinstall former Afghan President Hamid Karzai to the leadership position as evident from his recent visits to Moscow in the last few months.

Russia wishes to replicate the regional collaboration strategy in Afghanistan by aligning with Iran, China, Central Asia and India to establish peace in the region. The same strategy has been followed by the Russians in Syria where they have aligned with Iran and Turkey to defeat the Islamic State militancy and anti-Assad rebels. The biggest drawback in this strategy is the absence of Russian assets on the ground in Afghanistan unlike in Syria. Therefore, this report of aligning with the Taliban could be an effort in this direction by the Russians.

US Russia Rivalry | Are the fears of the Russians justified in Afghanistan?

Russians believe that Islamic State is gaining ground in Afghanistan and it could be another arena for conflict between Islamic State fighters and the Russians. However, the experts believe that these concerns are exaggerated and the Salafists ideology is marginal in Afghanistan. Taliban is driven and stretched for so long due to the philosophical underpinnings of the ‘Deobandi’ movement.

As far as the issue of drugs is concerned, Taliban does not control poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, except once when they acted as ‘market stabilisers’ due to excess cultivation in Afghanistan. During that period, Taliban enforced ruthless market stabilisation techniques under the leadership of Mullah Omar, who is absent today and the leadership vacuum makes Taliban a weak force to be easily dealt with in Afghanistan.

There is no issue in opening channels of communication with the Taliban to secure one’s strategic interests, but the outright military support to them could boomerang to the Russians similar to the Americans in the last decade.

US Russia Rivalry | American response to Russian peace initiatives

The US has described the Russian initiative to Afghanistan as a ‘unilateral’ attempt to assert influence in the region, even when it is in practice a multilateral initiative to find solutions for the conflict. Americans do not find it constructive at this point because of their own strategic calculations.

The meeting of the Russia-led peace initiative in December was third in such direction. While the previous two meetings were low key, the third meeting in December was planned at a higher level of government participation from all the multiple stakeholders, yet it excluded Afghanistan from the talks. Therefore, it created a range of controversies and raised questions about the Russian initiative.

The American position is justified in the context that it has boots on the ground and with such presence, it wishes to utilise the present stalemate in peace negotiations to strengthen Afghan soldiers to prepare them for the future war of struggle of power.

US Russia Rivalry | Confusion in American strategic calculations about Afghanistan

America continues to be suffering from a basic dilemma of ‘how to contain Taliban’, even after close to two decades of entanglement with the Afghan affairs. Moscow has been alerting the Americans that until the safe havens in Pakistan are destroyed, Taliban will continue to flourish in Afghanistan and this quagmire would only get deeper with every thrust on Afghan soil by the NATO or even Russian forces.

The military aid given to Pakistan is being used to flourish Taliban in madrasas of Pakistan. Until these sanctuaries are destroyed, the issue cannot be resolved. The Americans understand it, yet they prefer to surrender themselves to Pakistan for petty contemporary interests.

US Russia Rivalry | India’s strategic realignment

Under the Modi Government, India has shown the political will to meet Afghanistan’s request for lethal supplies in the form of combat helicopters. The US has requested India to continue its military and developmental assistance to Afghanistan as both have been astoundingly successful in its objectives so far in Afghanistan.

Among the Afghan National Army, the Special Forces Division is actually capable of giving a tough blow to Taliban. Hence, there is a need to strengthen this small 17,000 men division to ensure a peaceful post-NATO period for Afghanistan. India has been actually training this division on Indian soil to manage a rapid action force to secure Afghan sovereignty over its territory.

US Russia Rivalry | Conclusion

India should make a discreet contact with the Taliban but we should take the Afghan Government in the loop to ensure stability and peace in the region. Each stakeholder already has established contacts with the Taliban at different levels, India should maximise its channels of communication with most of the Taliban factions. It is high time for the Americans and the Russians to realise that a Pakistan engineered Taliban would be deplorable for not just India and Afghanistan, but for the rest of the world too.

UK Begins Brexit Process | RSTV

Brexit is a commonly used term for the United Kingdom‘s planned withdrawal from the European Union. British Prime Minister Theresa May formally began her country’s divorce from the European Union recently after reiterating that there was no turning back. As a result, PM May notified EU Council President in a hand-delivered letter that Britain would quit the block which it joined in 1973. Unlike last year’s unease during the referendum, the triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty did not worry the India much this time. Although it is still early days to gauge its real effects, Indian companies and sectors such as automobile, metal, Information and Technology, tours and travels, and education that have a notable exposure to the region are likely to see the considerable impact in the days to come.

Brexit | Analysis

Companies are looking to hedge their bets because Britain was a centre for significant financial activities. Easy access to markets in Europe enabled London to emerge as a flourishing centre for trade and investment services. Following this trend, companies from India have heavily invested in the UK such as the Tata Group which invested both in steel and automobile sector.

It would be interesting to see the future trade relation among EU nations and the UK now. If there is a free flow of goods and services through the proposed Free Trade Agreement, then there might not be much problem for Indian exporters as they would not lose the access to European markets. But in the case of a hard Brexit, where UK is unable to export to EU countries on the similar terms, then the picture might get different. For instance – Currently, Bangladesh has a significant advantage over India in textiles sector because of the tariff preferences which it receives in the European Union because of tariff concessions by Britain. After Brexit, this will be an open question whether Britain would continue to grant Bangladesh those tariff concessions or not. If Britain reverses this policy, it would be advantageous for India as the exports from India would get on par with Bangladesh, at least on input cost (tariff) fronts.

Brexit | Implications for India

  • Due to high volatility surrounding the GBP (Pound), it is expected that Indian stock exchange might feel the punch and Indian businesses in Europe might be at risk. This volatility in currency might also have an adverse impact on investment and movement of professionals to the UK.
  • The uncertainty surrounding the Brexit process might affect India’s flagship IT sector. In the case of a hard Brexit, Indian IT companies will have to establish separate offices and hire different workforce for the Britain and the EU.
  • Currently, Indian firms have their base in Britain because they avail a border-free access to the rest of Europe. This was one of the main reasons for Indian companies to establish their business in Britain itself. With this lucrative option gone post-Brexit, the investment decisions of Indian companies in Britain might see some change.
  • Shunned from the Europe, British companies would look towards emerging markets which may also lead to greater investments by the British companies into India. This will increase the overall outflows of the domestic market of Britain, hence, disturbing the British economy further.
  • As one can see through the recent moves by the British Government, Britain is willing to woo investors from India in terms of tax breaks, lesser regulation and other financial incentives which might be beneficial for the existing as well as future investors from India.
  • India can explore significant opportunities in the pharma sector of British market due to rising health concerns In the case of larger government procurement of generic medicines from India, Indian pharma companies would find a big market for their exports.

Conclusion

The secession of Britain from the European Union does weaken the whole block at one level. It also reflects anti- immigrant or xenophobic sentiment sweeping across Europe and America in particular. Although it is premature to make assumptions about the course of Brexit negotiations, much will depend on the terms that are negotiated under Brexit. If the history is to be believed, the process of Brexit might not get complete within the next two years itself.

To Watch the Full Debate on RSTV : Click Below

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Indus Water Treaty | New Updates

Indus Waters Commissioners from India and Pakistan are likely to meet later this month for their routine annual meeting. The meeting had been postponed after India had declared that blood and water cannot flow together after the Uri attacks in September. The Indus Waters Treaty was signed in 1960 as a river sharing agreement between India and Pakistan and has worked quite smoothly between the two otherwise hostile neighbours since the last 57 years. Under the agreement, the control of the three eastern rivers, the Beas, the Ravi and the Sutlej was given to India, whereas the control over the western rivers, the Indus, the Chenab and the Jhelum was given to Pakistan. The World Bank is the designated facilitator for the agreement. The Indus Treaty does not permit India to build storage dams on the western rivers i.e. the rivers meant for Pakistan but allows limited use of the waters for power generation through runaway river schemes. Pakistan has objected to the Baglihar run-of-the-river project as well as two other similar projects i.e. Kishanganga Hydroelectric Plant on the Kishanganga/Neelum river (a tributary of the Jhelum river) and the Ratle Hydroelectric Plant project on the Chenab river. Pakistan is seeking the help of World Bank for arbitration saying that these projects are not justified under the treaty. The Indus Waters Commission is mandated to meet annually or whenever either country demands it. If it is not met before March 31st this year, it could jeopardise the future of the treaty. Let us see why India has stepped back from its rhetoric on the Indus Waters Treaty and to discuss the cross-border sharing of waters between India and Pakistan.

 Is it pragmatic on part of India to step back from the tough stance on the Indus Waters Treaty?

The temperatures were high in India after the Uri attack and a view was presented before the Government of India that we cannot allow the existing treaty mechanisms to go on while everything else around it has changed.

India had followed a twin approach on the Indus Waters Treaty after the Uri attack – Firstly, the Prime Minister of India has never said that the Indus Waters Treaty is in jeopardy. He repeatedly said that we will use all the waters assigned to us under the treaty and for this purpose an inter-ministerial task force was set up under the chairmanship of Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Shri Nripendra Misra. Secondly, the meeting which was held after eight days of the Uri attacks, ‘sources’ told the media that ‘blood and water cannot flow together’ and that the commission can meet only in an atmosphere free from terror.

Should such issues be kept out of politics?

India never had the intention to jeopardise the Indus Waters Treaty but it was necessary to signal Pakistan about a pawn in the game that India could play in case the troubles emanating from Pakistan are not exterminated. Moreover, the treaties do not get jeopardise in practice if the meetings are not held in time. The temporary postponement of the Indus Waters Commission meeting could also have been an attempt to deny Pakistan a bilateral grievance redressal mechanism.

Did the pressure on Pakistan work?

Primarily, the intended objective was to manage the domestic public opinion after the terrorist attack. The unease among the Pakistani media over the uncalculated consequences of the suspension of Indus Waters Treaty is certainly visible.

As a result, Pakistan wants to include Indus Waters Treaty negotiations under the composite dialogues. It has called the Indus Waters Commission under the Indus Waters Treaty as an ‘inefficient forum’ for resolving water issues.

 Impact on Pakistan if India implements the Indus Waters Treaty in letter and spirit

India is allowed to use 3.6 million acre-feet of the water of the western rivers (for non-consumptive purposes) which are otherwise under the control of Pakistan as per the treaty. Despite such an arrangement, India uses only about 4% of the assigned water from the western rivers.

Although the real issue in Pakistan is the mismanagement of waters from their share of the western rivers, Pakistan would be in serious trouble if India starts utilising its allotted space as per the treaty conditions. The structure of agriculture in Pakistan is such that it needs a continuous flow of water from Chenab and Jhelum for the irrigation purposes during ‘Kharif’ season. It should be noted that the Chenab, Kabul and Jhelum rivers are called the ‘early risers’ in Pakistan as they start getting water in the month of March itself which is the time of sowing of ‘Kharif’ crops such as sugarcane and cotton in Pakistan. If the waters from Chenab and Jhelum are stalled and Afghanistan also stores about 4.7 million acre-feet of waters from the Kabul river as per the Kabul river basin agreement, it will seriously impact the Kharif sowing season in Pakistan.

Why has the Indus Waters Treaty come under so much strain?

There are a number of reasons for this issue such as inefficient water management by Pakistan, climate change variables like melting of glaciers and alleged upstream consumptive use by India. Pakistan has nothing substantial to blame about the Indus Waters Treaty provisions as it already favours it substantially even to the extent of disfavouring India’s interests. But the treaty has become a domestic political football for Pakistan whereby it showers the blame of its water woes on India and not on its inefficiency in management of river waters. The political elite and strategic thinkers in Pakistan are aware that the treaty provisions favour the interests of the lower riparian interests i.e. the interests of Pakistan, in general.

Pakistan’s population in 1951 was 31 million and currently, it stands at about 94 million. By 2020, it is expected to touch a whopping number of 220 million. Therefore, to feed this exorbitant increase of population, Pakistan would require almost another two-thirds of another Indus river. The inefficiency of storage facilities in Pakistan is forcing the entire waters from Chenab to flow into the sea i.e. the wastage of about 30 million acre-feet of waters. It also has the most inefficient agriculture in the world and compounded with the rising water woes, it is playing the political football by blaming all its inefficiencies on India to save their face domestically.

Would it benefit India is the Indus Waters Treaty is renegotiated?

The current Indus Waters Treaty was premised on political considerations. The political consideration was shaped in the form of an assurance that India will not dry out Pakistan in the future. It was hoped that the waters of the Indus would bridge the gaps of hostility prevailing in the minds of Pakistani leadership towards India. Unfortunately, it never happened. The treaty is highly unpopular in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir because it is devoid of its river waters itself to favour the interests of Pakistan. Therefore, if the treaty is renegotiated, India’s claim will only increase and it is in India’s interest to push for renegotiation. Similarly, it is in Pakistan’s interest to adhere scrupulously to the current treaty provisions, but the voices for renegotiation are rising in Pakistan which is almost like music to the ears of Indian Government.

In the case of renegotiation, India should put up this fact on the table that Pakistan is an irresponsible state which allows more than 30 million acre-feet of water to get wasted into the sea and if Pakistan cannot make productive use of it, the waters of the Chenab should be placed under India’s control.

Conclusion

There is no explicit ‘exit clause’ to the treaty and it is doubtful that anyone would opt for it because, in the end, all water related issues are sensitive. India has already seen the examples of it during the inter-provincial water disputes. Quite pragmatically, the present Indian Government is allowing the dispute resolution mechanisms under the treaty provisions to function effectively, which would work in India’s favour. Indus Waters Treaty provides a cooperative mechanism and that spirit is important because, in the absence of it, there would be huge difficulties to proceed further on such a sensitive issue like that of international bilateral negotiation for river-water sharing.

Racial Attacks | Kansas Shooting

Few days ago there was a shooting incident in Kansas City on two Indians. It was termed as a hate crime/racial attack as the shooter shouted slogans such as “get out of my country” before opening the gun fire. Since the last few years, race superiority has gained prominence in American society. There is one more dimension to the problem i.e. due to immigration issues.

Although it is quite exaggerative on our part to paint the entire American society as racist as the attack can be due to individual frustration out of immigrants, it is not acceptable in a civilised society like that of America as a whole.

Emergence of Protectionism and Racism

  • As the United States is also a nation after all, so the primacy for domestic concerns is bound to arrive at a particular time oozing out of radical nationalism. The United States did follow a protectionist policy, especially during the time of Abraham Lincoln. It all depends on the economic context of the competitiveness.
  • By that logic even India has been following protectionist tendencies through import substitution. Communist China and all the rising powers are also having their own concerns about globalisation and so is the case with US. The US is a sovereign nation and it has every right to control the process of migration and oust illegal migrants because the concerns of the citizens are every government’s topmost priority.
  • For the Trump administration, the era of protectionism and building a wall between US and Mexico is the national interest and not identity politics.
  • Indian students had also faced the wrath of racial attacks in Australia few years ago which led to a dramatic decrease in the number of students opting Australia as their preferred destination for higher education. Observers point out that this trend might soon be replicated in the case of United States too. Acquisition of citizenship through legal means is not an issue for the Americans but the problem which becomes acute is the illegal migration. It is the right of the United States to curb such illegal immigrants from arriving and staying back at the US soil.

Immigration and Visa rules

  • President John F Kennedy administration liberally opened the immigration during 1965 via Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. The result of it is that the United States is a nation now where the original inhabitants have developed a fear that they might become a minority soon.
  • In the world today whereonly 3% of the world population is categorised as international migrants, the remaining 97% of the population who are nationalistic and patriotic is feeling the pinch of immigration anxiety. It is vital on the part of the State to look after the welfare needs of this nationalistically charged population and accommodate their concerns. The Trump presidency is a reflection of this and the same is reflected in Europe also with Brexit and PEGIDA as significant examples.
  • It is being reported that President Trump wishes to bring changes in the H1B and L1 visa rules which will affect many Indians because more than 50% of the H1B visa quotas are used by Indians. No country has a claim over the international visa policies and every country can build their immigration and visa rules as per their self-interest. India may express its concerns if the policy is very abrupt but it cannot expect a definite action. Rather we should provide adequate employment opportunity to our qualified people and build the country forward to curb the brain-drain of the youth.

Conclusion

The relations between the nations are determined by mutual interests and shared concerns. The incidents of immigration, racial, identity politics does not have a bearing on US-India relations as they are linked towards internal and sovereign policies of our governments. If we look back to the effectiveness of American administration which is a modern state and a well-established democracy, we might expect that they will be able to address the problems quite well within their constitutional framework which has successfully continued for more than 200 years.

Trump & Russia | RSTV

Trump & Russia had a shaky start as Michael Flynn who was appointed the National Security Advisor to the United States President Donald Trump resigned barely a month after he assumed the office. Flynn was forced to resign for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his telephonic conversations with Russian Ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak (before Trump took over as President). He had apparently discussed the US sanctions on Russia for interfering in the US Presidential elections. Flynn had allegedly advised Russia to not act harshly as the sanctions were likely to be reviewed once the Trump Administration assumes office. Incidentally, he told Vice President Pence that he had not discussed the sanctions with the Russian Ambassador, to which VP Pence had defended NSA Flynn during his television appearance. Is Michael Flynn’s exit a large part of the narrative guiding the antipathy of the ‘deep-state’ towards President Trump and Russia?

Trump & Russia | Is the ‘deep-state’ targeting President Trump or the US-Russia relations?

In a sense, the both are being targeted as both the concerns are directly/indirectly linked to the Russian angle. Apart from the personal bitterness over the victory of President Trump, the ‘cold-war-warriors’ ranging from the political parties, politicians, military industrial complex (arms lobby), the intelligence community, mainstream media, think tanks and other interest groups who have invested their careers in maintaining an ebb in US-Russia relations cannot risk their control over power by diluting their relevance in the policy establishment. Therefore, they perceive that an improved relationship with Russia would diminish their salience within the system.

Trump & Russia | Is it justified to assume that Michael Flynn was vulnerable to Russian blackmail?

This is one the prime reasons being cited for the termination of NSA Flynn. President Donald Trump had advocated mending the US-Russia relations during his campaign trail. Any policy which is entrenched for decades in the ‘deep-state’ cannot be reversed without the preparation of a soft ground to avoid political instability. For instance, during the tenure of President Richard Nixon, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger knitted a secret web of his own visits to establish ties with China before the official visit of President Nixon to the Communist nation. This avoided the wrath of the ‘deep-state’ against President Nixon’s administration as the ground was prepared to smoothen the flow.

President Trump has been acting precipitately over his intentions towards Russia which is not in synonymity with the objectives of the ‘deep state’. Therefore, trip-wires are being constructed in the path of President Trump to deviate this policy narrative which goes against the interests of the ‘deep state’. This ‘deep-state’ wants to helm in President Trump over his pursuance of an intensified engagement with Russia.

Trump & Russia | Why did President Trump take a reconciliatory approach towards Russia despite opposition from the ‘cold-war-warriors’?

We should remember that President Trump defeated the influential Republicans first before defeating the Democratic Party, thereby alienating himself from the clutches of ‘the establishment’. There is a minuscule minority in the United States which is guided by the theories of ‘realism’ rather than the customary liberal-interventionist majority which aspires to paint the world with American colours. For this ‘realistic’ minority, China is a greater threat to the future interests of America than the dwindling state of Russia which currently holds limited abilities to hurt the immediate interests of America in both economic and geopolitical terms.

Trump & Russia | Is the hysteria built up around Flynn-Kislyak talks antithetical to normal practices?

For a country which prides itself for its democratic credentials, the Flynn episode looks exaggerated and hysterical. It is a routine practice for the diplomats to engage with the incoming administration in every country, especially establishing contacts with the closest advisors of the political executive. It is not in sync with the accusation that Michael Flynn has violated the Logan Act provisions by establishing contacts with the Russian Ambassador. It is to be noted that only one indictment has taken place under the Logan Act (Francis Flournoy, 1803 case) despite several serious accusations.

Trump & Russia | Why has President Trump not yet assumed full control over the intelligence community?

It is apparent that these secured data leaks have come deliberately from the intelligence community. Ideally, these agencies should be under the President’s control but unfortunately, the time honoured Washington tradition which proves that the multi-agency network in the United States (each having different agenda) has led to various push and pulls in separate directions making these centrifugal tendencies inimical to the interests of the political executive. But these centrifugal tendencies should not have arisen so early in a President’s term, which is the real issue at hand before President Trump. It is yet to be seen if President Trump would be able to retrieve the lost ground which has invited him the wrath of the ‘deep state’.

Trump & Russia | Will President Trump compensate the loss of face by taking a harsh stance against Russia?

There is an apparent change in tone of Washington with respect to Russia. It may be tactical i.e. to diffuse the opposition’s propaganda or to redesign their limited velvet glove policy towards Russia by focusing on the irritants at this point of time to commensurate their domestic politics. This change of tone is rather good for the Trump Administration as this would extinguish the fire of opposition for a while and bring stability in domestic politics which is good for building a ground of cooperation with Russia in the future. The ‘realistic’ minority of America wishes to signal a thaw in relations with Russia to delink Russia-China nexus. It is to be seen if the Russians fall into the trap or not, to gain a pie in the sky.

Trump & Russia | Did the expectations from President Donald Trump already low in Russia since the beginning?

The Kremlin has not shown over-enthusiasm over the victory of President Donald Trump. Rather they have been consciously constructing their words by remarking that they welcome the intentions of President Trump to improve relations with Russia ‘to the extent that he is able to’. Russia realises that it is not an overnight process for an individual or minority group to manage a breakthrough in relations, given the fact that this animosity is entrenched within the system. Apart from the domestic opposition to this operationalisation of normalcy in relations with Russia, the geopolitical allies, especially in Europe and West Asia, would be inimical to the idea of a modus vivendi in US-Russia relations. Even if the relationship is introduced towards the road of normalcy, it would contain only limited areas of cooperation and not a complete reversal of the status quo.

Trump & Russia | Future of sanctions on Russia

The US may review few sanctions as already indicated by Michael Flynn during his telephonic conversation with the Russian Ambassador. But the strategic sanctions imposed on Russia due to its actions in Crimea might not get lifted so easily due to the pressure from NATO allies and other geopolitical calculations.

Trump & Russia | Conclusion

Although it is too early to predict the future course of action of President Trump, it can be reasonably assumed that at least modus vivendi can be arranged between the US-Russia ties in the near future as Russia does not pose an existential threat to America in the near term.

United States Policy Shift in Afgan-Pak Region

The United States under the Trump Administration seems to be undertaking a review of its Afghanistan-Pakistan policy. The top military commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, General John Nicolson Jr. has called for a holistic policy review towards Pakistan. While President Obama had declared that the official combat mission in Afghanistan was over in 2014, roughly 13,000 international troops, of them about 8,400 US troops remain in that country. However, General Nicolson has hinted the need to deploy a few thousand more troops of the US in Afghanistan if the war against terrorism is to be won. Up till now, hardly any specific details have emerged regarding the possible change in the stance of the US strategy towards Af-Pak region. What could be the reasons of a rethink of such policy? What are the factors shaping the new policy?

Will there be a change in the policy of the United States towards Afghanistan and Pakistan?

There are three concerns which are important pillars to address this rethink of policy. The first two concerns are intertwined, while the third remains a standalone due to its significance for the Americans.

  1. Is the Taliban ready for peace with Kabul? Are they willing to adopt some accommodative approach with Kabul under the leadership of Haibatullah? There are no definite answers to it yet.
  2. Is Pakistan ready to re-evaluate its basic thrust towards Afghanistan? It is about Pakistan having a preponderant influence over Afghanistan’s external policies, especially with India.
  3. What are the plans of the Russians and Iranians in the region? General Nicolson indicates in his testimony that they are embedded with the Taliban now and Taliban is carrying alien weaponry now.

Pakistan’s role in the Taliban issue

The contemporary policy of the United States simply caters to a combination of a hard-line approach with incentivising Pakistan in the name of curbing extremism in Afghanistan.

The United States has to rethink if it can ever win its fight against Taliban if Pakistan does not end its support to the Taliban militant groups and other externally sponsored groups in Afghanistan. These groups retreat back to the safe soil in Pakistan after launching terrorist attacks in Afghanistan. These groups target foreigners, diplomatic and consular missions in order to gain attention and legitimacy in the terror business.

Pakistan is recalibrating its policy towards Taliban by regulating the ‘Ishaqzai’ faction of Taliban, due to strong factionalism prevailing in the Taliban regime. These elements hold considerable influence in the Taliban regime today amidst the growing despondency in the otherwise disintegrated terror module.

Pakistan is also trying to bring several powerful factions together to establish a stronger force of Taliban which would present long-lasting effects on the peace aspirations of Afghanistan and the region beyond it. Moreover, it is not a big secret anymore that all the factions of the Taliban are having linkages with Pakistan as they are based in Quetta (Pakistan). Pakistan can squeeze the Taliban regime on any day of their choice even to the extent of suffering a little backlash then.

What are the interests of the United States in the region? Are they limited to counter-terrorism?

NO, the interests are not confined to counter-terrorism alone. The primary interest of the United States is to ensure the stability of Pakistan because it is a nuclear weapon state and a fragile, if not a failing state. These concerns have crippled the American policy on Afghanistan since 2001.

President Trump has cast aspersions on the Russian and Iranian rapprochement towards the Taliban, whereas he is also concerned about the growing influence of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). He is concerned about the growing export of radical extremists to the Islamic State militants in Syria by the TTP grouping.

What does a holistic review of American Af-Pak policy (as per General Nicolson’s terms) could actually mean?

Before addressing this question, let us understand that there are two main groups of Taliban which are active now – Mullah Rahim group and the other is Sirajuddin Haqqani network. The latter one lies low at present with a small presence in the east Afghanistan. But Mullah Rahim group is powerful in Helmand province and North and West Afghanistan.

Most ostensibly, the ‘holistic view’ would mean a hardening of the American stance to dismantle the Haqqani network, which is directly supported by Pakistan. But Pakistan seems to be not anxious about this position and it thinks that it is a business as usual for America to seek such favours. Defence Secretary General Mattis testifies that the US needs to engage with Pakistan and incentivise those responses, which is an ‘old wine in a new bottle’. At the most, there could be some muscle flexing and rhetoric to secure Pakistan’s cooperation, but it has already been done by the previous administrations.

Is there a possibility of more US troops in Afghanistan?

The war in Afghanistan is costing $13 million to the US taxpayers. The public is also against the United States playing the role of world policeman. But, General Nicolson has advocated maintaining a balance in the region by not letting the situation to get adverse to the Kabul authorities. He suggests that combat assistance is required at this time apart from following the training procedures. Given the strategic importance of the region, the US Congress may approve a few more thousand troops without much hassle.

How can America make costly for Pakistan for supporting Afghan Taliban?

Hudson Institute has called for a reevaluation of the United States policy towards Pakistan. It said that the Trump Administration should make it more and more costly for Pakistani leaders to employ a strategy of supporting terrorist proxies to satisfy regional strategic goals.

It is of prime importance to reign in the Haqqani network which is the brainchild of the Pakistani establishment. Another significant development could be driving the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table. There could be a harsher approach in the following terms –

  • Reduction of economic and military support.
  • Increasing number of drone strikes on the Af-Pak border.
  • Sanctions against Pakistan-based entities and individuals who are responsible for terrorist activities in the region.
  • Moving towards declaring Pakistan, as a state sponsor of terrorism.
  • Extending the travel ban to Pakistan or at least forbidding certain individuals of Pakistani State authorities from entering the US soil.

These measures might not be adopted in the immediate future, especially in the context of the Hudson report. But the Trump Administration possess an enormous scope for embarrassing the Pakistani State for their immoral activities around the world.

But the concerns of America regarding Pakistan revolve around the Chinese support for Pakistan and Pakistan’s ability to sabotage American interests in a wider Islamic world. Hence, the room of manoeuvring for the Americans is severely constrained by such considerations. In symbolic terms, there could be some actions oriented towards embarrassing the Pakistani State, but in substantive terms, the choices are limited to raise the actual costs for Pakistan for its support to the terror dens.

What are the interests of the Russians in supporting the Taliban regime?

Trump administration should also keenly observe the developing nexus of Russia, China and Pakistan which could present a serious challenge to American authority in the region.

Some factions of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan have morphed into Islamic State or Wilayat Khurasan inside to the eastern Nangarhar (Afghanistan). These elements could displace towards some disturbed regions of Chechnya in south-west Russia. Therefore, the strategic thinkers portray that this support for these groups is more of a quid-pro-quo than a direct support for oscillating terrorism on Afghan soil. But this policy is myopic because if you want to control the TTP, then the Russians should have contacted the Pakistanis because TTP is a Pakistan-based group, operating in Pakistan itself. Hence, it is compelling to believe that it is a large design of President Putin to take on the Americans in the same Afghan quagmire that fuelled the disintegration of USSR.

How does the United States Af-Pak policy concern India?

America has been welcoming towards India’s initiatives of helping the National Unity Government of Kabul in both economic and military terms. Any such policy would stay away from the Kashmir issue because the Americans have realised it historically that the experience of meddling in the internal affairs of India has not been fruitful in strategic terms. Moreover, the content of this change in approach has not yet come out of the box, so the crystal ball gazing might not be effective in addressing this critical issue through the lens of India.

Conclusion

After President Trump came in, there were speculations that he would wield more sticks than the carrots towards the Taliban regime in general. As discussed earlier, before jumping to any conclusion or speculation, a lot more is to be seen in the Afghan theatre and how the opera directed by multiple actors plays out in the theatre before the Americans start puppeteering the stage.

News Update : 06th October 2016

News Update : 06th Day of October 2016

News update covers the essential news articles from various newspapers segregated according to various subjects falling under the realm of civil services preparations.

The aspirants are advised to make their own notes for future reference (Point wise)

Below are the topic wise important News for Today

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  1. Automation threatens 69% jobs in India: World Bank
  2. Markets price in more easing by RBI, see risk in policy shift
  3. Services sector slows in Sept.
  4. Steel imports dip, Centre retains minimum price
  5. ‘India will need freer trade’
  6. Cashless India: Challenges and benefits

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  1. Bill to protect HIV community from bias gets approval
  2. Amnesty by another name

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  1. UN court rejects disarmament case against India
  2. Indo-Pak chill won’t impact S.Asia
  3. U.S. poll offers Kremlin a window of opportunity in Syria
  4. Xi Jinping may delay choosing a successor
  5. SAARC must address terror, says Sri Lanka

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[accordion_content accordion_label=”Science & Technology”]

  1. Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to builders of molecular machines

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[accordion_content accordion_label=”General Reading”]

  1. Three shades of denial

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News Update : 05th October 2016

News Update : 05th Day of October 2016

News update covers the essential news articles from various newspapers segregated according to various subjects falling under the realm of civil services preparations.

The aspirants are advised to make their own notes for future reference (Point wise)

Below are the topic wise important News for Today

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[accordion_content accordion_label=”Economy”]

  1. New regime at RBI debuts with rate cut
  2. Financial gains in giving
  3. Global growth to stay weak: IMF
  4. SEBI to audit its governance standards
  5. ‘NPA situation to be dealt with firmness, pragmatism’

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[accordion_content accordion_label=”Polity & Governance”]

  1. Cauvery board formation put off, SC gives nod for ‘technical team’
  2. To be truly transparent
  3. New rules of the game

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[accordion_content accordion_label=”International Relations & Security”]

  1. Clinching the N-deal with Japan
  2. A lost opportunity
  3. U.S. suspends Syria talks amid rising tension with Russia

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[accordion_content accordion_label=”Science & Technology”]

  1. Physics Nobel shared by three, one half by one and the other by two

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We would appreciate your feedback on this post. Do let us know in the comments sections about what else would you like to see on this website

News Update : 04th October 2016

News Update : 04th Day of October 2016

News update covers the essential news articles from various newspapers segregated according to various subjects falling under the realm of civil services preparations.

The aspirants are advised to make their own notes for future reference (Point wise)

Below are the topic wise important News for Today

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[accordion_content accordion_label=”Economy”]

  1. Reliance inks defence deal with Dassault
  2. Manufacturing growth slows in Sept.

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[accordion_content accordion_label=”Polity & Governance”]

  1. The battle over Bt cotton
  2. All about means and ends

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[accordion_content accordion_label=”International Relations & Security”]

  1. The lines that have been crossed
  2. India fair to boost intra-BRICS trade
  3. The elusive peace in Colombia
  4. River Diplomacy On Test

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[accordion_content accordion_label=”General Reading”]

  1. Karnataka starts release of water, ends defiance of SC
  2. Growth of wealth gives way for growth in charity
  3. Govt receives bids worth Rs.56,800 cr. on Day 2

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