A Non-Ally Relationship with Pakistan

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The language of President Trump’s New Year’s Day tweet about Pakistan was undeniably, and undiplomatically, harsh: “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools,” Trump tweeted. “They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

Quibbles about his choice of words notwithstanding, the President’s tweet reflected dissatisfaction with the state of U.S.-Pakistan relations that dates back several decades. Indeed, his assertion that Pakistan is an unreliable ally is a historically grounded one, acknowledged even by those who insist that the United States has no alternative but to maintain an alliance with Pakistan. This “no alternative” argument has for too long held sway over American policymakers—and it is part of the reason Americans have had so much difficulty with Pakistan since the beginning of the two countries’ relationship in the early 1950s.

Most alliances are based on convergent interests or shared enemies. Allies occasionally disagree over tactics, methods, and operations, but are united by similar concerns. In Pakistan’s case, the United States signed up an ally whose principal enemy—India—was not America’s, and whose definition of its own interests has seldom converged with Washington’s.

Pakistan has undoubtedly been useful to the United States. It provided listening posts and an air base to spy over the Soviet Union during the 1950s and 1960s, served as the staging ground for jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s, and has provided some intelligence and convenient supply routes for U.S. troops since 9/11. In return, the Pakistanis have received economic and military assistance. But transactional arrangements are never a substitute for shared interests and goals.

During the Cold War, critics of the U.S. alliance with Pakistan complained that Pakistan’s desire to fight India far outweighed its commitment to defeating communism. President Eisenhower’s ambassador to Pakistan, James M. Langley, expressed concern as early as 1957 about what he called “the Pakistan problem.” He noted that the country, then only ten years old, was becoming aid dependent, highly militarized, and focused exclusively on its competition with India. He worried that the United States was aggravating that dysfunction through its support for Pakistan.

Langley owned and edited the Concord Monitor newspaper in New Hampshire and did not share the preoccupations of bureaucrats in the Pentagon, the State Department, and the CIA. For those officials, the facilities Pakistan offered were worth their price in aid, especially since no other country in South Asia was prepared to provide a base for U.S. spy planes.

Langley fretted that American officials had “collectively developed certain generalizations about Pakistan” and had “proceeded to accept them as gospel truth without sufficient periodic scrutiny.” He described as “wishful thinking” the view that Pakistanis were pro-United States and pro-Western. It was obvious to him that Pakistan planned to use American military equipment only against India and that the U.S. military program in Pakistan was “based on a hoax”—the assumption that Pakistan needed weapons to confront the Soviet threat.

Langley’s fears were realized in 1965 when Pakistan initiated war with India and President Lyndon Johnson was forced to suspend military supplies in retaliation. This decision was the first to give rise to the sight of Pakistani protesters burning U.S. flags—but the United States did not give up on Pakistan. President Nixon supported it during the 1971 civil war that resulted in the creation of Bangladesh, and the transactional relationship muddled through until the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

This time, Americans returned to dole out military assistance and economic support in return for using Pakistan as the staging ground for creating a Vietnam-like situation for the Soviets. For once, there seemed to be a shared goal of forcing a Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, but soon the divergence in Pakistani and American interests grew once again.

The United States faced the fait accompli of a nuclear-armed Pakistan, partly facilitated by American officials who deemed a mujaheddin victory more important than preventing nuclear proliferation. Pakistan also diverted some of the resources provided by the Americans for Afghanistan towards insurgencies against India in Punjab and Kashmir.

More significantly, Pakistan planned for an Islamist Afghanistan that would provide it strategic depth against India instead of supporting the American objective of returning Afghanistan to a broad-based, stable non-communist government once the Soviets withdrew. Pakistan saw the Soviet withdrawal as an opportunity to expand jihad for regional influence and to gain leverage against India in the Kashmir dispute.

Pakistani support for terrorist groups has been a sore point in U.S.-Pakistan relations ever since. Turning Afghanistan into a satellite with the help of obscurantist proxies like the Taliban and the Haqqani Network has become an obsession for the all-powerful Pakistani military and intelligence services. Even blowback in the form of extremist attacks inside Pakistan has done nothing to alter that calculus.

After 9/11, the United States returned with a new bargain. It would pay Pakistan to fight the jihadis and to allow American use of Pakistan’s ground and air space to wage war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Thus began the double game that Trump referred to in his candid tweet on New Year’s Day. Presidents Bush and Obama also understood the double game but they hoped that positive incentives, and occasional threats, would eventually change Pakistan’s strategic calculus.

President Trump appears willing to reconsider whether the U.S.­-Pakistani alliance is worth preserving. Such reconsideration is also the demand of those Pakistanis who recognize their country’s dysfunction, which has been assisted by American largesse. Pakistan is the sixth largest nation in the world by population, has the sixth largest army and 11th most powerful military, but is only 25th by size of GDP on a purchasing power parity basis, and 42nd in terms of nominal GDP.

40 percent of Pakistan’s population cannot read or write. 57 percent of Pakistan’s adult population above the age of fifteen, 31 percent of Pakistani men, and 45 percent of Pakistani women remain illiterate. Pakistan is home to the third largest illiterate population globally, and there are only 15 countries in the world with a lower literacy rate.

The relatively small size of Pakistan’s economy makes it the smallest of any country that has tested nuclear weapons thus far, with the exception of North Korea. Furthermore, Pakistan suffers from massive urban unemployment, rural underemployment, and low per capita income. Approximately 60.3 percent of Pakistan’s population lives on less than $2 per day.

Nevertheless, Pakistan’s leaders insist on pursuing military competition with India, a country six times larger in population and ten times larger in terms of economic size, instead of addressing such massive problems at home. They are unlikely to revise their entrenched definition of the national interest any time soon. Similarly, the United States cannot accept the Pakistani military’s vision of Pakistani preeminence in South Asia or equality with India. The enemy and goals of the United States and Pakistan remain fundamentally mismatched.

The facilities and conveniences Pakistan offers the United States, such as the lines of communication for troops in Afghanistan or occasional intelligence about al-Qaeda, are also not worth more than the lives of Americans who are killed by the Taliban and Haqqani Network fighters possibly supported, or at least tolerated, by Pakistan’s military.

With fewer troops now on the ground in Afghanistan, the United States now has fewer supplies to transport; these can be flown in if Washington so chooses. In addition to ending the flow of aid, other instruments of U.S. policy towards Pakistan could include “hot pursuit” raids inside Pakistan, some broad economic sanctions, and targeted sanctions against ISI’s terrorism facilitators.

There is no reason to assume that the past transactional arrangements are the only possible foundation of an American relationship with Pakistan. For all practical purposes, Pakistan and the United States are not allies, and the two countries need to explore ways to structure a non-allied relationship. The United States should be unambiguous in defining its interests and then acting on them, just as Islamabad has done for years.

A non-allied relationship need not be an adversarial one, though it would not preclude actions normally reserved for adversaries, such as targeted sanctions or military operations. It would involve cooperation where possible and a pre-determined quid pro quo. The United States would provide assistance on a conditional basis and pay for specific services, while being prepared to act unilaterally and without the deference normally due to allies.

Those voicing fears that walking away from Pakistan would result in it embracing China or acting against American interests must acknowledge that Pakistan is already as close to China as a country can be, and its actions already run counter to American interests. China has tried to reassure Pakistan after President Trump’s recent tweet by saying it knows of Pakistan’s suffering due to terrorism. The fact that it did not go further indicates its own concerns about Pakistan’s support and tolerance of jihadi groups, some of whom have also targeted China’s Muslims for recruitment.

Instead of rejecting the Trump Administration’s new approach over partisan considerations or personal dislike for the President, Americans must recognize the opportunity to break out of a situation that has vexed policymakers for decades.

The withdrawal of American subsidies for Pakistan’s pursuit of regional pre-eminence at the cost of its people is not just a wise course for Washington. It could also spark the serious and long overdue debate Pakistan needs at home about its prospects as a nation. Pakistan has the right to define its national interest as its leaders see fit, but the United States does not need to subsidize Pakistan’s pursuit of policies that do not advance American objectives.

Husain Haqqani, director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington DC, was Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States from 2008-11. His forthcoming book is Reimagining Pakistan.

(This article was originally published in The American Interest on January 12, 2018. It has been re-published here with permission from the author. Read the original article here

Sri Lanka Leases Hambantota Port to China: Is this the Beginning of Chinese Debt Trap in South Asia?

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Terms such as creditor imperialism, debt-trap diplomacy, modern ‘Thucydides Trap’, “Land of Morning Warning” are making the rounds lately. These terms all refer to China, whose rise is being curiously watched and debated time and again in geopolitical circles. Concerns about Chinese regional machinations have been trending for a while now, but recently Beijing appears to have adapted a new, more subtle strategy for bolstering its influence in South Asia.

Last month, Sri Lanka handed over its strategic port of Hambantota to China on a 99- year lease. This comes seven years after Sri Lanka opened this port using debt from Chinese state-controlled entities. Colombo’s failure to repay its debt led China to strike a deal to control 80 per cent stake in the port. The port sits on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, providing China access to critical Indian Ocean sea lanes. This has further helped China’s “One Belt and One Road” Initiative in South Asia, thereby raising concerns for countries with strategic interests in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Many see Sri Lanka as the latest victim of China’s debt-trap diplomacy – a policy allegedly using economic tools to advance country’s geopolitical interests.

Scholars point to a pattern in Chinese investments and soft loans. China makes huge loans to infrastructure projects in “strategically located developing countries”. These projects are built on Chinese money (at a very high cost), largely employing Chinese workers and are meant to open markets for Chinese goods, and as mostly observed they often fail to generate expected revenue. These projects not only serve China’s economic interests but also carry strategic benefits. Unlike, the IMF and World Bank which lend soft loans at interest rates of 0.25 to 3 percent, loans from China come with an interest rate as high as 6.3 percent. Unable to pay off their debt to China, many nations sell stakes in Chinese financed projects or end up giving access to their strategically important natural assets including ports and mineral resources. At times, in lieu of rescheduling payments, China secures contracts for new projects – this keeps the recipient country trapped in a vicious cycle of never-ending debt.

Globally, China has been accused of using similar tactics in Greece (Piraeus port), Australia (Darwin port), Kenya (Mombasa port and the new SGR line), Djibouti (China’s first overseas military base) and other countries in similar need of investment. It is not difficult to guess the blueprint here. Many of these countries are experiencing economic slowdown or are cash-strapped; they also lack recourse to alternate institutional investments; and possess strategically important economic/natural assets that can fit neatly into China’s One Belt, One Road project.

Several countries in South Asia are also witnessing a similar trajectory. Many experts expect Pakistan’s Gwadar port (part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor), Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port, Maldives-China Free Trade Agreement and Chinese loans to Bangladesh to meet with similar fate.

In Pakistan, China is spending more than US$ 55 billion, mainly comprised of loans. Earlier, there were also demands for transfer of ownership and to use renminbi as legal tender in Gwadar city, which were rejected by Pakistan. According to the Gwadar port revenue sharing and control agreement, China Overseas Ports Holding Company will receive 91 percent share of the revenue while only 9 percent will go to Gwadar Port Authority for the next 40 years. It doesn’t stop at that – for next 20 years Pakistan would have to make repayments worth US$3.5 billion every year for loans taken under CPEC. According to one estimate, CPEC loans will add US$14 billion to Pakistan’s total public debt, totaling it to US$90 billion by June 2019. Hence, Pakistan’s ability to repay Chinese loans is severely under question, raising concerns whether Pakistan might fall prey to Chinese debt trap diplomacy.

In the case of Sri Lanka, the total external debt stands at US$64.9 billion, of this US$8 billion is owed to China. Sri Lanka borrowed US$301 million for the Hambantota port at an interest rate of 6.3 percent which because it was unable to repay, had to be leased out in a debt-equity swap. Additionally, China has also taken over the operating and management control of Mattala airport due to Sri Lanka’s inability to bear annual expenses. The airport is built by Chinese loans of more than US$ 300 million. Both of these serve China’s strategic military interests and are a grim reminder of Chinese debt trap at play.

At a recent meeting of the SinoBangladesh Joint Economic Council, China proposed to convert soft loans offered during Xi Jinping’s 2016 visit to Dhaka into commercial credit. If implemented, this is going to incur higher interest rates on Bangladesh. So far, Bangladesh and China have signed deals worth US$25 billion comprising of 34 projects.

In 2017, China pledged the highest investment in Nepal at US$ 8.3 billion. These include grants, interest-free loans and concessional loans. China has projects in many sectors such as agriculture, tourism, manufacturing and hydropower. The Chinese capital invested in these projects comes with conditions. They decide who works (preferably their own labor and technicians), and how the money is utilized. There are also fears of compromise over Nepal’s sovereignty – Chinese companies suggested to place PLA troops near dams to protect their investments. In November last year, both Nepal and Pakistan withdrew from two dam building deals with China due to dissatisfaction over inequitable terms of their deals[S1] .

However, there are other viewpoints that argue that these warnings may be exaggerated. In the case of Sri Lanka, much of the debt has accumulated as a result of the large scale and extremely expensive infrastructure projects undertaken during the Rajapaksa government. At the same time, Chinese investments could potentially result in good domestic growth ; China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a salient case-in-point.

Whether South Asia will succumb to China’s debt-trap diplomacy or not remains to be seen. However, it cannot be ruled out that insurmountable Chinese debt in smaller countries will allow China’s leverage in those countries to increase. At the same time, failure to repay debt in time will continue to result in loss of access to important assets and natural resources. Thus, while developing countries are willing to accept Chinese loans, they should be aware of the risks that accompany them.


Maldives- China FTA: A Cause of Concern for India?


On December 7th 2017, representatives from China and their counterparts from Maldives concluded a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) – China’s 16th FTA in all, second in South Asia after its agreement with Pakistan, and Maldives’ first ever FTA signed with any country. As the news broke, Indian officials were swiftly asked about New Delhi’s response. Those in the media called it a setback for India; some questioned India’s cautious silence and others suggested that India revisit its Indian Ocean Region neighborhood policy. In its response, India welcomed closer ties between China and Maldives, but with the expectation that  the latter remain sensitive to its concerns.

The negotiations that began in December 2015, culminated in September of this year. The agreement covers trade in goods, services, investment, and economic and technical cooperation. With respect to trade in goods, the two countries would reduce tariffs for about 96 percent of goods to zero. Most of the Chinese industrial and agricultural products (flowers, plants, vegetables) and Maldivian aquatic products will benefit from this. The FTA opens up the Chinese market to Maldivian fishery products, cotton, coconut seeds, eggs, soy bean, etc. at zero duty.

In terms of trade in services, Chinese entrepreneurs and businesses can offer services in Maldives belonging to 64 areas. Some of these services are financial, engineering & urban planning, educational, tourism, telecommunication, health, insurance etc. However, this raises concerns for local entrepreneurs and professionals in Maldives due to the benefits that may arise due to increased competition, with consumers having more options to choose from at lower prices.

Much has been said about the forced nature of the FTA on Maldives and the manner in which it was passed (without any debate) by the Maldivian Parliament (Majlis). The Members of Parliament were neither timely notified nor were they given access to the document, and it was approved with just thirty votes. Moreover, many in Maldives opine that the agreement is tilted largely in favor of China – exports from Maldives are less than 1 percent of those coming from China holding huge advantages for Beijing. Domestic critics have also argued that Maldives could be the latest victim of the Chinese debt trap after Sri Lanka, who leased Hambantota port to China earlier last month.

Many in India are concerned that that the strengthening of Chinese- Maldivian ties will lead a weakening of the traditionally robust Indo-Maldivian relationship.Maldives and India have shared close and friendly relations since India first recognized Maldives after its independence in 1965, and established its mission there in 1972. Time and again, the two have supported each other in multilateral fora such as the UN, the Commonwealth, the NAM and the SAARC. In 2015, on the occasion of Maldives’ 50th Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to Maldives as “a valued partner in the Indian Ocean neighborhood” and also said that the ties between them are built on “strong foundation”. During his 2016 visit to India, Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen described India as Maldives’ most important friend and called its foreign policy an “India first” foreign policy.

In the wake of the 2014 water crisis in Maldives, it was the Indian Air Force (IAF) that came to the rescue and dispatched planeloads of water to Male. Maldives also supports India’s bid for a permanent membership of the UN Security Council. Last year, the two countries signed several agreements including the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA); Agreement for Exchange of Information on Taxes; MoUs for cooperation in areas of tourism; conservation and restoration of ancient mosques, and joint research and exploratory surveys in Maldives; and also signed an action plan for defense cooperation. Despite minor hiccups, the two nations have had mutually beneficial relations and share common interests; peace within Maldives remains a great concern for India.

 this backdrop, the Maldives-China FTA doesn’t augur well for Indian interests and its ‘Neighborhood First’ policy. Apart from China, Male doesn’t have an FTA with any other country, including India. In 2015, PM Modi cancelled his proposed trip to Maldives and has not visited the country since. China is making the most of India’s sluggish engagement with Male and has also received Maldives’s endorsement forthe Maritime Silk Road (MSR). In the past, Maldives terminated the agreement for modernization of its international airport entered into with an Indian infrastructural company GMR by the then Nasheed government, and later gave it to a Chinese company. Most ominously, in a press release from the Maldivian President’s Office regarding the invitations extended to establish FTAs with other countries, there was no mention of India. Throughout the process of its FTA negotiations with China, Male kept India out of the loop. This speaks volumes about where the bilateral relations are headed.

Looking at the recent developments, India will need to consider certain issues. In all, Maldives and China signed 12 agreements including the controversial FTA. Those of concern to India include a pact to jointly promote One Belt One Road (OBOR) Initiative, the agreement on “Airport Economic Zone Development in Hulhumale” and the “Protocol on Establishment of Joint Ocean Observation Station”. The lack of scrutiny and the speed with which the negotiations were completed are also a cause of worry for India. There were no public disclosures or prior consultations with the business community within Maldives. Considering that South Asia is an important part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), this is just the beginning of Chinese FTAs in the Indian neighborhood. After Pakistan and Maldives, China is working on FTAs with Sri Lanka and Nepal.

In August 2017, three Chinese warships were permitted to dock in Male. Thus, Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation cannot be ruled out, especially so with the Gwadar and Hambantota port agreements in place. This can have significant politico-strategic ramifications for India and the region as a whole. Of late, Yameen government has also expressed its dissatisfaction over the working of FTA negotiations with India. In fact, the increased interaction of India with Maldivian opposition and former president Mohammed Nasheed has caused estrangement between the two governments. Recently, the government suspended three local opposition party councilors for meeting Indian Ambassador Akhilesh Mishra, after new rules on meetings between foreign envoys and local officials were introduced.


These issues will continue to cast a shadow on Indo-Maldivian bilateral relations for the foreseeable future. Despite assurances by Maldives that China’s policy does not interfere in its relations with India and its denial of Chinese plans to establish any bases in Maldives, Beijing’s strategic footprint continues to grow within New Delhi’s backyard. China continues to challenge India’s hegemony in the region by bringing India’s traditional partners under its influence. Time and again, India’s small neighbors have also hinted at its half-hearted attempts at forging bilateral trade & investment relations with them, giving China the requisite space to squeeze in and take advantage. It is becoming increasingly important for India to rethink its bilateral relations with its neighbors and make all possible re-adjustments.

Catch- 22 in Afghanistan

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The conventional wisdom in Washington DC and Islamabad states that the U.S. cannot win in Afghanistan without the assistance of Pakistan. This rationalizes a policy that, at best, can only produce a perpetual stalemate. This policy will continue to fall short because of divergent American and Pakistani desires and interest. Pakistan doesn’t want the US to win in Afghanistan; instead, it wants a client state as strategic depth against its archrival, India. The US, on the other hand, wants a stable, independent, democratic and terrorist-free Afghanistan.

It is the classical paradoxical situation, similar to what Joseph Heller described in his 1961 novel Catch-22. Roughly defined, it is - you can’t get out of the Army unless you are crazy and, if you want to get out of the Army, you can’t be crazy.

President Trump, in a New Year’s Day tweet, threatened to cut off American aid to Pakistan if the Pakistani government does not do more to restrain the Taliban and the Haqqani Network, both of whom operate from safe havens in that country.

That tactic of persuasion has been tried before and everyone knows that it won’t work, which is why, ironically, the President’s advisors have recommended to him a course of action which also won’t work, namely more of the same counterinsurgency and nation building In essence, the US does not determine its policy in Afghanistan, Pakistan does.

Pakistan controls the operational tempo of the war through its Taliban and Haqqani Network proxies and maintains a stranglehold on the supply of U.S. troops in landlocked Afghanistan. In other words, no matter what tactics the U.S. employs in fighting the war in Afghanistan, the strategic conditions give Pakistan the ability to regulate the level of success, leaving the U.S. with a dismal choice between stalemate and ignominious withdrawal.

So, if the U.S. really wants to achieve its stated objectives in Afghanistan instead of simply maintaining it as a playground for military careerists and theorists, the Trump Administration should be developing policies that more directly address the strategic environment. Simply increasing troop levels will only increase U.S. reliance on the Pakistani supply route without decisively altering the tactical situation in Afghanistan.

If policies are in place to affect the strategic conditions, then the status quo requiring low U.S. troop levels is acceptable in the short term. Nevertheless, even in the short term, alternative supply routes not running through Pakistan need to be identified.

An ideal solution for changing the strategic conditions would be stronger civilian control of a less militant and more secular Pakistani government. That seems doubtful while the Pakistani military foments a constant state of internal and external crisis to maintains its iron grip on power. Until the policies being pursued by the Pakistani military are discredited, there is little chance for a change of course.

In order of importance, Pakistan has only two strategic cards to play, nuclear weapons and terrorism, the latter being mostly a regional threat without the former Given Pakistan’s history of playing fast and loose with nuclear proliferation, the highest priority should be given to plans for securing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal for any plausible eventuality. It is especially urgent due their expansion of a tactical nuclear warhead program.

I have previously outlined a series of relatively mild measures that can be taken to counter Pakistani intransigence including; reduction in aid, cancellation of Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) status, Congressional declaration of Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism, and questioning the Durand Line on which Pakistan depends for its geographic identity. Those are unlikely to have much long-term impact. Pakistan does, however, have two major potential pain points, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and ethnic separatism.

First, Pakistan has significant economic incentive to exclude western countries from maintaining any influence in Afghanistan. CPEC, which is part of China’s larger Belt and Road Initiative aims to connect Asia through land-based and maritime economic zones. In Pakistan, it is an infrastructure project, the backbone of which is a transportation network connecting China to the Pakistani seaports of Gwadar and Karachi located on the Arabian Sea. The Chinese are reportedly planning to build a naval base near Gwadar on the Jiwani peninsula, capable of influencing maritime traffic at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. That would complement an already existing Chinese naval base in Djibouti at the entrance of the Red Sea and the Suez Canal creating two critical strategic choke points. Disruption of CPEC is a potential opportunity to alter the strategic conditions.

Second, Pakistan is the Yugoslavia of South Asia. Probably the greatest of all potential Pakistani pressure  points is ethnic separatism, which is an existential threat. Pakistan was founded on the religion of Islam and is composed primarily of five ethnic groups that never coexisted, the Bengalis, Punjabis, Pashtuns, Sindhis and Baloch. Pakistan’s Islamic nationalism program was specifically designed to suppress ethnic separatism, an effort that eventually led to the proliferation of Islamic terrorist groups within its borders and their use as instruments of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Exploitation of ethnic separatism within Pakistan, such as in Balochistan, remains an option. That is, fight the Pakistani-sponsored insurgency in Afghanistan with an insurgency affecting its own vital interests. Internal instability is a concern not lost on the Chinese and a factor that could determine the outcome of China’s investment in CPEC.

Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired US Army Reserve colonel, an IT command and control subject matter expert, trained in Arabic and Kurdish, and a veteran of Afghanistan, northern Iraq and a humanitarian mission to West Africa. He receives email at lawrence.sellin@gmail.com.

Trump May be Talking Divorce, but Pakistan's Hoping it's Just a Break

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President Trump’s New Year’s Day tweet accusing Pakistan of “lies and deceit” was not a random emotional comment by an American leader who tends to follow his instincts more than the advice of the entrenched foreign policy community. It reflected the deep mistrust that has characterized the U.S.-Pakistan relationship and that has only grown since 9/11.

After that tweet, the U.S. has suspended security assistance to Pakistan and Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Khawaja Asif, has declared that the two countries are no longer allies.

It has been six years since I first used the metaphor of a bad marriage to characterise the US-Pakistan relationship. I had suggested that the two countries should stop pretending they are allies and amicably ‘divorce’, citing unrealistic expectations in both countries that included US hopes that Islamabad will sever its links to extremists.

“If in 65 years, you haven’t been able to find sufficient common ground to live together, and you had three separations and four reaffirmations of marriage, then maybe the better way is to find friendship outside of the marital bond,” I had said in a speech at the Center for the National Interest, a Washington think tank.

My recommendation was that the United States and Pakistan should downgrade the status of their relationship to break from what has been a dysfunctional relationship since its inception.

At the heart of that dysfunction is the divergence of core interests in South Asia. Even at the height of the alliance, the United States never shared Pakistan’s views about its co-leadership in the region and its envisioning of India as a major threat to its neighbours. Pakistanis first started burning US flags in protest over America’s refusal to support them in the 1965 war that had been started by then dictator Field Marshal Ayub Khan in the hope of wresting Kashmir from India.

After many more flag burnings, and a much improved post-cold war India-US relationship, it should be obvious to Pakistanis that the transactional relationship that they have carefully nurtured cannot work to their advantage forever.

The Americans doled out military assistance and economic support in return for favours such as intelligence bases against the Soviet Union and China during the 1950s and 60s as well as for using Pakistan as the staging ground for jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s.

The US overlooked broken promises over development of nuclear weapons because, on balance, they saw advantage in creating a Vietnam-like situation for the Soviets. But once the Soviets left Afghanistan, American interests changed.

Pakistan, on the other hand, single-mindedly defined its national interest in terms of rivalry with India. The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan was not the end of jihad for Pakistan but the beginning of an opportunity to expand jihad to Kashmir and even India.

Turning Afghanistan into a satellite with the help of obscurantist proxies like the Taliban and the Haqqani Network became an obsession for the all-powerful Pakistani military and intelligence services. Even blowback in the form of extremist attacks inside Pakistan did not alter that calculus.

After 9/11, the US returned with a new bargain. It would pay Pakistan to fight the jihadis and to allow American use of Pakistan’s ground and air space to wage war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

General Pervez Musharraf saw it as an opportunity to replenish Pakistan’s coffers and modernise its military with better quality US equipment. But he did not envisage changing anything that involved the military paradigm of permanent conflict with India. With that began the double-game that Trump referred to in his candid tweet on New Year’s Day.

The US understood that Pakistan was not on board with its vision for Afghanistan as well as the entire region. But there were NATO trans-shipments and intelligence sharing to consider. Presidents Bush and Obama also hoped that incentives, and occasional threats, would eventually lead Pakistan to change its strategic calculus.

For that reason they put up with a situation in which American troops died in Afghanistan at the hands of fighters who received assistance and protection across the border in the territory of an ostensible ally who received economic and military assistance from the U.S.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s military believed that the policies it was pursuing are in the country’s national interest as the generals define it. They would not change their definition of national interest until the cost of pursuing it became higher than what they are willing to bear.

As a businessman, President Trump probably understands the nature of transactions better. Given that American and Pakistani interests in Afghanistan do not coincide, it works for Pakistan to take US support and still do what it does while denying that it is doing anything wrong. But that does not work for the United States.

Trump seems ready for divorce with Pakistan in a way his predecessors were not. He is willing to use greater force to ensure that the Taliban and Haqqani Network cannot easily use their safe haven in Pakistan. But to do that he would have to end dependence on Pakistan as the principal supply route to NATO troops in Afghanistan.

Having fewer troops on ground already means that fewer supplies need to be transported for them. The U.S. can fly them in if it so chooses. Other arrows in the US quiver include ‘hot pursuit’ raids inside Pakistan, some economic sanctions, and targeted sanctions against ISI’s terrorism facilitators.

Many officials in the Pentagon and the State Department might find entering uncharted territory in relations with Pakistan somewhat daunting. There will still be strong voices advocating caution and advising restraint. Trump will face calls for another trial separation or new co-habitation arrangements even if arguments for a relationship with Pakistan that retains engagement without alliance remain overwhelming.

Pakistan’s initial bravado indicates that it is ready for divorce. After all, it is already in China’s arms and the chemistry between the two is much better. But China gives credit for projects, not hard currency for budget support, and with low exports, Pakistan is chronically short of hard currency. Also, China is not a high-tech weapons supplier.

Pakistanis integrated in Western ways generally prefer American goodies and the existing assistance model. They might find China’s terms onerous and might not easily adapt to being exclusively beholden to China. Having options is better, which is why intimate ties with Beijing dating back to the 1960s have not stopped Pakistanis from seeking closeness with the Americans.

As in all divorces, the temptation to string along rather than taking the final step might still prove too strong to resist.

Husain Haqqani, director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington, was Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States from 2008-11. His forthcoming book is ‘Reimagining Pakistan.’

(This article was originally published in The Print on January 6, 2018. It has been re-posted here with permission from the author).

Why Trump is Right About Pakistan

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In his first Tweet of 2018, President Donald Trump highlighted the chronic Pakistani duplicity in regard to the war in Afghanistan:

"The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!"

While publicly supporting U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, Pakistan secretly provides safe haven and de facto sponsors a Taliban educational, training and financial infrastructure to sustain a proxy war against Afghanistan in order to preserve it as a client state.

Case in point from information provided by on-the-ground sources in Pakistan.

Abdul Basit Ahmedzai Mengal operates a religious school (Madrasa Qazi Abad) and mosque in Nushki District, Balochistan province, Pakistan. Originally from the village of Zaro Chah near the border with Afghanistan, he has two wives and his son, Abdul Latif Mengal, is a student at Bolan Medical College in Quetta.

Abdul Basit Ahmedzai Mengal is said to be affiliated with the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Nazryati political party and a staunch supporter of the Taliban. The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) party has its origins in the fundamentalist Deobandi ideology and the JUI offshoots have opposed Pakistan's logistical support of the U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Abdul Basit Ahmedzai Mengal reportedly lived in Afghanistan when the Taliban were in power.

Whether Abdul Basit Ahmedzai Mengal is aware or not, the sources claim that the Madrasa Qazi Abad is a well-known transit point and resting place for Taliban fighters going to and returning from Afghanistan.

It is also said to be located near a Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) office/safe house with whom Abdul Basit Ahmedzai Mengal is reported to have close relations.

This alleged Taliban transit point and rest stop in Pakistan is about a forty-minute drive on public roads from the Afghanistan border. Despite numerous Pakistani military check-points along this route, local observers have noted no restrictions for personnel traveling to and from Madrasa Qazi Abad.

The Taliban are said to cross the border into the Kandahar province, Afghanistan from an area called Gaz Nali and then move to temporary camps in the region known as Ghori or Goori. The Afghanistan area for the movement of Taliban fighters back into Pakistan's Nushki district is most often Shorawak.

Such on-the-ground reports of official Pakistani support of or acquiescence to the Taliban presence are difficult to verify because access to border areas is highly restricted. Nevertheless, there are dozens of other such examples demonstrating a permanent infrastructure in Pakistan that sustains the Taliban and acts as staging grounds for attacks in Afghanistan. The strategy Pakistan employs is always to do just enough to prevent the U.S. and NATO from succeeding in Afghanistan, that is, perpetual stalemate.

That should not be surprising because Pakistan sees China as its most important ally, not the U.S. And Chinese regional ambitions cannot be achieved if the U.S. maintains influence or a presence in Afghanistan.

The ISI chief, Lieutenant General Naveed Mukhtar, for example, wrote in his U.S Army War College thesis entitled "Afghanistan -- Alternative futures and their implications," that there are four possible scenarios for the future of Afghanistan, all of which involve U.S. and NATO withdrawal. He states that Afghanistan's true stakeholders are its six immediate neighbors China, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. The future U.S. role in Afghanistan, according to Mukhtar, is relegated to diplomacy, where "America would have to make aggressive diplomatic efforts to dissuade provocative action or intervention by regional players," meaning, mainly, preventing Indian influence in Afghanistan.

President Trump is correct to question our investment in Pakistan's intentions, as well as an Afghanistan strategy dependent upon them.

Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired colonel with 29 years of service in the US Army Reserve and a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq. Colonel Sellin is the author of "Restoring the Republic: Arguments for a Second American Revolution ". He receives email at lawrence.sellin@gmail.com.

(This article was originally published in "Family Security Matters" on Jan 3, 2018. It has been re-published here with permission from the author. Original link is here.). 

Most Pakistanis Would Rather Forget the Tragic Day of 16 Dec, 1971, Than Learn From It.

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The East Pakistan Tragedy shows the pitfalls that Pakistan must avoid in civil-military relations, military decision-making in the politics, and ideas of superiority that can only divide the nation.

Most nations remember their moments of disaster more than their hours of glory. It helps in learning lessons and avoiding future catastrophes.

As national calamities go, Pakistan’s failed misadventure in erstwhile East Pakistan features among the greatest tragedies to befall any country in recent times. With the surrender of its army’s Eastern Command to the joint forces of India and Bangladesh on 16 December, 1971, Pakistan lost more than half its population, a third of its territory, and much of its prestige.

But most Pakistanis would rather forget that tragic day than remember or learn from it.

Soon after the debacle, which surprised Pakistanis because every aspect of it had been hidden from them, a Commission was set up to inquire into the circumstances that led to the creation of Bangladesh. Headed by Supreme Court Chief Justice, Hamoodur Rahman, the Commission prepared a comprehensive report, which has not been officially released to this day. The Commission’s findings were leaked three decades later, only to be cursorily discussed in Pakistan’s media, before being ignored once again.

The Hamood Commission Report exposed Pakistan’s politicians at the time as selfish individuals willing to risk the country’s future for personal gains. But it was the army that got exposed the most. The president and Chief Martial Law Administrator at that time, General Yahya Khan, and his closest aides were described as depraved hedonists. The military leadership was painted as a victim of delusions about its strength and the state of Pakistan’s international relations. Men trained well in the art of military science were shown to have formulated a ‘defective strategy.’

It is to protect the military’s charisma as Pakistan’s institution of last resort that the Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report was never officially put in the public domain. The East Pakistan fiasco, culminating in the surrender of an entire army Corps, raises questions about the army’s institutional role in Pakistan’s history. Most members of Pakistan’s elite prefer to avoid these tough questions, lest they offend the powerful military. But shouldn’t the military itself be most interested in figuring out what went wrong, so that the errors are never repeated again?

Like all of Pakistan’s military rulers, General Yahya Khan had assumed power at a time of national crisis, with considerable support from the people. He had attempted to reform the country’s polity and lay the foundations of democracy guided by him and his uniformed associates.

Personal weaknesses relating to wine and women notwithstanding, he was reputed to be an able soldier and a financially honest man. His intentions were probably as good as those of other military rulers that have assumed power in Pakistan. But his inability to understand and deal with the political issues led to a military defeat, and the division of Pakistan.

Instead of accepting the sentiment of Bengalis, respecting their identity, and granting greater autonomy, Yahya insisted on imposing his narrow vision of what it meant to be Pakistani by force. Similar attitudes can be found at work in various regions of Pakistan today.

Yahya believed that he had been assigned a mission by the Almighty to save Pakistan from politicians, who he believed to be corrupt and unsuited to lead the nation. He did not waver for one minute from the ‘strategy’ that he and his fellow generals evolved, ignoring public opinion and the voices of the intelligentsia. The ‘strategy’ turned out to be a recipe for national disaster.

The lesson, if there is one, is to acknowledge that the complex problems of a nation such as Pakistan cannot be solved by the simple though straightforward approach of a soldier with a sense of God-given mission. Soldiers are trained to be courageous and to ignore suggestions that interfere with their brave prescriptions. A ruler, on the other hand, needs to take into account many factors that may not fit the do-or-die paradigm.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, a military hero, was elected President as the nominee of the Republican Party in 1952, succeeding President Harry Truman, the quintessential politician. On the day of Eisenhower’s inauguration, Truman, reportedly remarked to his staff: “Poor Ike. All his life he has told soldiers ‘Do this, do that’ and his orders have been carried out. Now he’ll do the same from the Oval office and discover that his commands are not always fulfilled.” Although Eisenhower won the re-election four years later, his tenure as President was far from successful or brilliant.

Since General Ayub Khan took over as the first indigenous commander of the Pakistan army, replacing British generals who lingered for a few years after Independence, officers of the Pakistan army have looked down upon the country’s civilians. Politicians, in particular, have been an object of contempt and the military men have always taken it upon themselves to save the country from its own civilian leaders. There are reasonable grounds for criticism of the country’s traditional political class. But after every military intervention, overt or covert, Pakistan’s leadership crisis has only deepened.

The East Pakistan Tragedy shows the pitfalls that Pakistan must avoid in civil-military relations, military decision-making in the political arena, and ideas of religious or racial superiority that can only divide the nation. But the debacle is seen only as an affront to the honour of Pakistan and its army that resulted from India’s machinations. It is bad enough that Pakistan underwent the loss of great magnitude; it is worse that the Pakistani elite refuses to draw lessons from that great loss.

Husain Haqqani, director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington D.C., was Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States from 2008-11. His forthcoming book is ‘Reimagining Pakistan.’

(This article was originally published in The Print on December 16, 2017. It has been reproduced here permission from the author). 



Chinese Army Prepared for 1962 War by Fighting Tibetans

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In path breaking research into the Tibetan uprising in 1956-59 and the lead-up to the 1962 war, Chinese scholar Jianglin Li has accessed Chinese Communist Party (CCP) documents and interviewed People’s Liberation Army (PLA) veterans from that war to present critical new aspects of that period’s history.

Li’s research illustrates that Mao Zedong cynically regarded operations against the Tibetan resistance – called Chushi Gangdruk – as an opportunity to train the PLA.

This research rebuts earlier claims by 1962 war veterans like Yin Fatang, a former CCP boss in Tibet, that the PLA fought the 1962 war unprepared. A similar claim was made in the 2008 memoir of Ding Sheng, who commanded the PLA’s 54thArmy in Walong sector. Ding says that in October 1962, the 54th Army was scattered across Sichuan for agricultural work. On October 28, when he received the order to attack Walong, “the troops were hastily mobilized, issued warm clothing and rushed to Tibet for the battle at short notice”, Ding says.

Li’s research – which is posted on the “War on Tibet” website in a research article entitled  “‘Suppressing Rebellion in Tibet’ and the China-India Border War” – shows the PLA presented a formidable contrast to the poorly equipped and poorly acclimatised Indian troops.

CCP documents indicate that, in the three years from March 1959 to March 1962, the PLA fought 12 major battles in Central Tibet, targeting the Chushi Gangdruk. Li concludes that, when the 1962 war began, “It had been less than a year since Ding’s troops pulled back from Tibet after three years of fighting.”

Beijing’s hostility came even though India helped China sustain its occupation of Tibet. “In the early 1950s, China needed India’s help to send supplies into Tibet, so that the PLA could consolidate the occupation. India was quite generous in providing this help. In 1952, Beijing “used diplomatic channels” to ship 2,500 tons of rice from Guangdong province to Calcutta, and transport it up to Tibet through Yadong (Dromo). By April 1953, all the rice had arrived. This basically solved the food supply problem for PLA troops, and enabled them to establish a preliminary footing in Tibet”, according to a book, “Remembering Tibet – Collected Recollections of Advancing and Liberating Tibet”.

After discovering the existence of the border dispute in 1952, when the Chinese Foreign Ministry “absorbed the former foreign office of the Kashag (Tibetan government) and acquired its archival documents”, Zhou Enlai sought to buy time.

“India is still under British and American influence, so we want to win it over… [Border disputes] should be solved in future… due to insufficient documents now”, says Zhou’s 1954 directive on the border issue, according to Wang Gui, of the Tibet Military Command Political Department.

Unlike the patient Zhou, Mao had decided to teach India a lesson by end-March 1959, soon after the Tibet uprising and Dalai Lama’s escape to India. Wu Lengxi, who headed Xinhua and People’s Daily at that time, describes Mao fuming in a Party Central Committee meeting in Shanghai: “Let the Indian government commit all the wrongs for now. When the time comes, we will settle accounts with them”.

PLA aggression on the McMahon Line started right away, says Wang Tingsheng of the 54th Army Division. His memoirs recount: “PLA soldiers crossed the McMahon Line at three locations in pursuit of escaping Tibetans.”

Even so, Mao carefully lulled India into complacency, ordering the inclusion of a paragraph into a May 15, 1959 letter from Beijing to New Delhi: ““China’s main attention and principle of struggle is focused on the east, the West Pacific region, on the ferocious American imperialism, not on India, the southeast or south Asian countries at all. …China will not be so stupid as to make enemies with the US in the east, and make enemies with India in the west. Pacification of rebellion and implementing democratic reform in Tibet would pose no threat to India whatsoever.”

At the time Mao made this statement, PLA 11 Infantry Division was already fighting the Tibetan resistance in Chamdo. Three years later, on October 20, 1962, this battle-hardened division would start the Sino-India war with its attack on Indian positions on the Namka Chu rivulet, near Tawang.

Li shows that Mao viewed operations against the Tibetan resistance as training ground for the PLA, causing the use of disproportionate force and warfighting weaponry against Tibetan civilians. From January 22nd to February 19th 1959, Mao Zedong added written instructions to four reports on the Tibet situation, stating: “Rebellion is a good thing”, as it could be used to “train the troops and the masses”, and to “harden our troops to combat readiness.”

Xu Yan, a professor at the Chinese National Defence University, says the key differentiator in the 1962 war was combat experience. “Most of the troops of the [PLA] who fought at the China-India border have a glorious history”, he commented, “Besides that, they had also acquired rich combat experience in high and cold mountain regions in the five years from the Khampa rebellion in 1956 to the end of the suppression of Tibetan rebellion in 1961." 

(This article was originally published in Broadsword on 12/8/17. It has been reposted with permission from the author. Original link is here

Afghanistan is a Proxy War, Not an Insurgency


There is a reason why we are still struggling in Afghanistan. We are fighting the wrong war, using the wrong strategy, under conditions that make it virtually impossible to win.

After the overthrow of the Taliban, the U.S. and NATO set up a government in Afghanistan, which Pakistan and Iran do not like. So, they exploit a level of internal discontent by supporting armed proxies to overthrow that government in Afghanistan in order to replace it with one more amenable to their national interests.

As the Taliban have demonstrated for over a decade, it is easier and more cost-effective to destabilize than to conduct counterinsurgency, that is, to engage in stability operations and nation building.

Just who are the Taliban?

Strip away the religious veneer and you have a criminal gang, hired thugs who extort villagers at gunpoint, perform “drive-bys” with IEDs, traffic in drugs, engage in turf wars and kill cops. They are the MS-13 of South Asia.

Even if you define the conflict in Afghanistan as an insurgency, we don’t control the operational tempo or the supply of our troops. And Pakistan and Iran will always do just enough to prevent the U.S. and NATO from ever reaching the point of ensuring a stable and secure Afghanistan on our terms.

It should enlighten even the dumbest of Washington DC policymaker to learn that, former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf, our “partner” in fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan from 2001-2008 recently said that he is the biggest supporter of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Pakistani Islamic terrorist group reportedly responsible for the deadly 2008 Mumbai attack in India, which killed 164 people and wounding over 308.

Given the strategic conditions in Afghanistan, we will always be on the defensive and never gain the military initiative, a vital factor in military success and the pathway to a favorable outcome.

What then, should be done? Well, if you can’t beat a proxy war, join it.

First, from a military standpoint, the U.S. was most effective in the first months of the Afghanistan campaign when a few hundred CIA agents and special operations forces hired some Afghans and bombed the Taliban out of power. The shift to counterinsurgency strategy actually placed U.S. forces at roughly the same tactical and technology level as the Taliban, playing to their strengths not ours.

Second, from a political standpoint, if Pakistan and Iran were not fighting us, they would be fighting each other or amongst themselves. Their two most exploitable vulnerabilities are ethnic separatism and the Sunni-Shia religious divide.

Pakistan, the Yugoslavia of South Asia, is an artificial state composed of ethnic groups that never interacted in any significant way. Pakistan’s “Islamization” program, begun by President Zia-ul-Haq (1977-1988), which involved the proliferation of Islamic schools “madrasas” and the promotion of Islamic law “Sharia,” was specifically designed to create national unity by suppressing ethnic separatism and religious diversity. This is particularly the case for traditionally secular and tolerant Balochistan, Pakistan’s southwestern province, where an independence movement has existed since the formation of Pakistan 1947, when Balochistan was forcibly incorporated by an invasion of the Pakistani Army. The stability of Balochistan is critically important to the success of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a project vital to Pakistan and China and an obvious potential pain point.

Likewise, Iran is sandwiched between two restive ethnic groups, the Kurds in the northwest and the Baloch in the southeast.

In addition, the 1979 Iranian revolution increased the momentum of Pakistan’s Sunni “Islamization” policy resulting in the proliferation of ever-more extreme and intolerant forms of Sunni supremacism. They include the virulently anti-Shia groups Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jundallah and its splinter faction Jaish al-Adl, the latter two reportedly responsible for cross-border attacks on Iran from Pakistan’s western province of Balochistan. It is interesting to note that Jaish-al-Adl claimed that a Kurdish visitor was abducted together with two of its members and turned over to the Iranians, all of whom are now in Zahedan Prison, waiting to be hanged by Iran.

Our current strategy in Afghanistan is a bridge to nowhere. It is time to regain the initiation by exploiting the weaknesses of the enemy rather than exposing our own.

Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired US Army Reserve colonel, an IT command and control subject matter expert, trained in Arabic and Kurdish, and a veteran of Afghanistan, northern Iraq and a humanitarian mission to West Africa. He receives email at lawrence.sellin@gmail.com.

(This article was originally published in The Daily Caller on 12/07/17. It has been reposted here with permission from the author. Original link is here

Nepal: End of Peace Transition or Recurrence of Armed Conflict?


Nepal has conducted elections for all three levels of government in several phases under the new federal structure of the constitution. The peace process that began with the Comprehensive Peace Process of 2006 between the Maoist insurgents and political parties went through several challenges –combatant management, constituent assembly, state restructuring etc. Now, with the final phase of elections completed on December 6, 2017, the peace process has arguably come to a logical end, paving the way for peace.

However, the main question now is: will Nepal have a quality peace? There is still a degree of skepticism among citizens in that respect, not least due to reservations of some regional and identity groups and monarchists, respectively, about the constitution. Moreover, the incidents such as the bomb attacks in the run-up to the federal parliamentary elections have reminded citizens about the violent Maoist insurgency once again.        

Some social science studies show that conflicts that end in a negotiated peace settlement between warring sides, i.e. governments and rebels, are much more likely to relapse compared to conflicts that end in a victory in which one side decisively wins. Especially in the cases in which rebels win, some argue, the likelihood of a renewed war is much lower. Nepal represents one such victory case in which the Maoist insurgency ended by an alliance between political parties and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist defeating the government of King Gyanendra. The Maoists got perhaps more than what they had expected, and the King’s regime did not have the condition to fight back, thus the war did not recur. (Incidentally, in some conflict literature, Nepal’s case is categorized as a “negotiated settlement” rather than “victory” as they are only considering the understanding between the Maoists and political parties)  

In cases where the conflict relapsed, most of them were waged by some splinter groups, but not mother rebel parties who signed peace agreements. This is exactly what happened in Nepal where the Maoist’s splinter faction of Netra Bikram Chand is found to be spreading terror on many occasions, allegedly including in the latest phase of elections in connivance with other spoilers. However, a conflict that remains ended for a ten-year period is not likely to recur; in fact, academic studies take just a five-year period,  one election cycle, as a unit of measurement for considering a lasting termination of war. The recalcitrant Chand’s modus operandi clearly shows that there is no condition, strength or agenda for a renewed war. Besides, since Chand’s senior fellow comrades and war architects like Prachanda and Baburam preferred the utilities of peace more than the utilities of war (a rationalist explanation), as it was expected, none of the Maoist factions was capable of waging an insurgency.

Likewise, as research show, conflicts that include identity politics are intractable and peace agreements that do not contain provisions of territorial autonomy in conflicts that include territorial or regional issues will lapse. True to such findings, what really came to shake the whole peace process in Nepal was identity politics –movement of indigenous groups, ethnic groups, and regional groups both from the hills and the plains – namely the Madhesi movement in the southern strip of Nepal. After the Maoist insurgency, it was in the Madhesi movement in which Nepal witnessed most killings. In fact, it was the violent uprising of Madhesi Janadhikar Forum led by Upendra Yadav (former Maoist himself) in 2007 forced leaders in Kathmandu to include the term “federalism” in the interim constitution. After a decade of tumultuous political course, Nepal has been federalized into seven provinces. Madhesis, and also other identity groups, still have some reservations about getting their fair share, but the two federalized provinces in the south and a democratic and progressive constitution render any armed conflict unreasonable.  The new constitution gives 78 electoral constituencies out of the total 165 to 20 districts in the south.  

However, although occurrence of any full-fledged armed conflict in Nepal is highly unlikely, the peaceful implementation and practice of federalism in Nepal is not warranted given the financial, geographical and psychological complexities attached to it. Federalism does not entail any particular governance model details, but varies country-wise, taking shape as it goes via the interactions between the federal center and local entities/states. The political spirit, leadership, and the role of courts on disputes over prerogative and power sharing are critical factors. The fragility of the new constitution was underscored by the defiance and bloodletting in the south. Similarly, the truth and reconciliation process regarding war-era crimes is still outstanding. Not to mention all other harmful by-products of prolonged political transition and weak law and order and their negative impact on the federal Nepal. Therefore, while there are no chances for a sustained armed conflict, the days of regular disturbances are perhaps not over yet. Nevertheless, such disturbances will not be sufficient to jeopardize Nepal’s overall governance and development.

U.S. Looks at 100-year Relationship with India

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It is unusual for the U.S. State Department to think of foreign relations beyond the next few years. But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has declared that close ties with India would be an American priority for the next one hundred years.

From being ‘estranged’ democracies during the Cold War, India and the US today are in the words of Mr. Tillerson the “two bookends of stability - on either side of the globe - standing for greater security and prosperity for our citizens and people around the world.”

In the last two decades, New Delhi and Washington have become closer to each other and yet there was something missing in this relationship. Indians see themselves as inheritors of a 5000-year old civilization. They do not like short-term military alliances even as they are pragmatic in their international dealings. If India is to be America’s partner in balancing China, New Delhi wanted a deeper American commitment to helping India’s rise. Mr. Tillerson appears to be making that commitment.

So far, Washington’s other preoccupations in the region and beyond prevented American leaders from understanding what India sought from them. Mr. Tillerson’s speech on Wednesday, titled “Defining Our Relationship with India for the Next Century,” offered India the assurance that the United States finally understands the unique potential of India.

Instead of referring simply to the seven decades old relationship, Mr. Tillerson actually referred to a “shared history” between the two countries based on the decades old linkages between the Indian and Pacific Oceans including the fact that the US national anthem was written by Francis Scott Key while aboard a ship built in India, the HMS Minden.

According to the Secretary of State the “driving force” of the relationship rested on the people-to-people ties. Four million India-Americans, 1.2 million American visitors to India annually and 166,000 Indian students studying in the United States are a reflection of this relationship between “our citizens, business leaders, and our scientists.”

600 American companies operate in India and over 100 Indian companies operate in the United States. There has also been a 500 percent increase in foreign direct investment by the US in India in the last two years. From $20 billion in bilateral trade in the year 2000 to over $115 billion in 2017 the India-US economic relationship has built a strong foundation though it still has a long way to go before it reaches the goal of $500 billion.

In early October, a shipment of American crude oil arrived in India providing access to energy from a dependable partner that believes in India’s potential and from whom India does not have to fear blowback.

From having almost no military relations during the Cold War to India becoming a Major Defense Partner of the United States, the two countries have come a long way. The two countries conduct the largest number of military exercises each year. Mr. Tillerson stated that the exercises should be interpreted as “a powerful message as to our commitment to protecting the global commons and defending our people.”

Mr. Tillerson also affirmed that the US saw India as a potential regional security provider and thus sought to help build its military capabilities by offering India critical defense equipment. He also spoke about the need to build security capacity through commercial and defense cooperation between the two militaries.

The Secretary of State explained why a democratic, pluralistic, tolerant, open, innovative India was the ideal partner for the United States. He spoke about the two countries having “open societies” that will help generate the ideas of the future. Referring to India as the birthplace of four of the world’s major religions Mr. Tillerson praised the strength of Indian society and democracy.

India’s founding fathers and especially first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru would have been thrilled to hear that in the words of the American Secretary of State the power of India’s democratic example was the reason why despite having the second largest Muslim population in the world, very few Indian Muslims had joined international terror groups.

Asserting US commitment to India’s “sovereignty and security” Mr. Tillerson promised that the two countries shared security concerns: “Security issues that concern India are concerns of the United States.”

In his speech, the US Secretary of State also addressed the two countries whose policies India perceives as threats to its national interests: Pakistan and China.

Pakistan was mentioned as “an important” partner but the Pakistanis had to “take decisive action against terrorist groups based within their own borders that threaten their own people and the broader region.”

Pakistan is no longer the eastern most anchor of US foreign policy as it had been during the Cold War; India is now one of the two beacons (the other being the US) of the Indo-Pacific.

As for China, Mr. Tillerson described India as America’s ideal reliable partner in the defense of “a rules-based order to promote sovereign countries’ unhindered access to the planet’s shared spaces, be they on land, at sea, or in cyberspace,” which China seeks to undermine.

China and Pakistan will find little to cheer in recent articulations of U.S. policy. Two weeks ago Secretary of Defense General James Mattis had told Congress that the United States believed the One Belt One Road initiative of China passed through disputed territory, in effect agreeing with India’s objections to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which passes through the territory of Kashmir.

In his Wednesday speech, Mr. Tillerson also argued for the need to build infrastructure investment programs and schemes that would counter China’s plans and help nations with limited alternatives. The Expanded Partnership for Quality infrastructure launched by Japan in 2016 which aims to provide $200 billion for promoting infrastructure in partner countries would be one such scheme that both India and the US could support.

India is definitely viewed by the United States as a global partner with whom it shares “growing strategic convergence.” Mr. Tillerson emphasized that the partnership rested on “a shared commitment to upholding the rule of law, freedom of navigation, universal values, and free trade.”

Thus, he acknowledged publicly that the India-U.S. entente was not a short-term tactical relationship. He also made it clear that to America, India is no longer just a regional power. The U.S. vision for the future recognizes the centrality of India in the global order emphasizing political and economic freedom.

The question now is, what concrete steps can Washington and Delhi take to realize that vision in practical terms.

(This article was originally posted by the Huffington Post on 10/19/17. It has been reposted here with permission from the author. Original link is here.)

Indo-China Border War Scenario and the Role of Japan-India Cooperation

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Despite the tension in the June 16 to August 28 2017 Indo (and Bhutan)-China border stand-off have eased, there is still a possibility that a similar stand-off that could escalate to a military conflict, could happen again. If Japan-India cooperation has a role to play, what should it be? To answer this question, this article will analyze two questions; i.e. What kind of a war scenario can we foresee if the Indo-China border stand-off escalates? What options does Japan-India cooperation have?

What type of scenario can we foresee? From a military balance perspective, China has the advantage. For example, geographically, China operates from higher ground. Their ground forces can identify from above where they should aim and fire guns. It is also easier for China to transport heavy cargo because this will be done downhill whereas India will need to transport cargo uphill. China can also overcome the effects of altitude sickness before operation starts while Indian soldiers who remain on lower ground will only be able to overcome altitude sickness after any operation starts. In addition from the perspective of infrastructure development,China has an advantage. Within two days, Chinese armed forces can be ready for battle in the border area whereas India needs one week preparation due to a lack of infrastructure on the Indian side.

However, it is expected the reaction from India will make China restrain the size of operation. Firstly, from an air operation perspective, China does not have the advantage. Their airports are located on high ground. This means that the air is thin and fighter jets therefore cannot get enough lifting power. Chinese fighter jets can carry only about half of their payload in such thin air. If the ground battle escalated to an air battle, this would be a better scenario for India. Secondly, if the international community including the US and Russia think that the Indo-China military conflict might escalate to a nuclear war, they will intervene to prevent this. In such a scenario, it is expected that the US and Russia will support India. India could warn of the possibility that a nuclear war could take place. In addition, if the purpose of the military operation is to provide a warning to India and to other countries to recognize China's power, China needs "victory" even in a small operation. This means that a massive scale military operation is not necessary to achieve "victory". These factors make China restrain the size of operation.

If Japan-India security cooperation has a role to play, what should it be? Dissuading China from Starting a military operation should be any Japan-India’s policy goal.As a good means to dissuade China, Japan and India can make effective use of their respective geographical locations. Because of their geographical locations at opposite sides of China, Japan-India cooperation can lessen their respective numerical inferiority. For example, if India and Japan work together, India would not need to deal with all Chinese fighters at the same time as China is likely to want to keep some of its fighters to its east against Japan and vice versa.

In this case, Japan's infrastructure projects in Northeast India is an effective choice. The main target of this project is to increase India–Southeast Asian trade. However, by using this road, the Indian army can deploy more forces and supply to the border area. In addition, Japan should support India's efforts to modernize India's defence in the Indo-China border area. For example, because India's air defence system is obsolete, exporting Japan's radar system to strengthen India's for air defence and air control capabilities in the Indo-China border area, would be an effective measure.

However, in the event of Indo-China crisis, India needs quick result to dissuade China’s objectives. Viewed from this angle, Japan-India cooperation at the Indo-China stand-off at Doklam was a good model. Though Japan was not a country involved in the June 16 to August 28 2017 Indo(and Bhutan)-China border stand-off at Doklam, Japan played an important role. Firstly, in this Indo-China border stand-off, during the Malabar Exercises 2017, Japan dispatched the helicopter carrier Izumo to join US and Indian aircraft carriers. Because China was concerned by actions taken by Japan, the Chinese media emphasized that India should not depend on Japan's support. Secondly, on August 18, Japanese Ambassador to India Kenji Hiramatu stated that no side should seek to change the status quo by force. Because India had blamed Beijing for changing the status quo, this remark meant unequivocal support for India (and Bhutan). In addition, This timing was also just before Indian Defence Minister Arun Jaitley's visit to Japan on 5-6 September and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to India on 13-15. Given this context, it is thought that China did not wish to encourage increased Japan-India security ties by continuing the border stand-off. Japan can use similar measures in a future crisis.

In addition, Japan should draw China's attention toward Japan instead of toward India. For example, if Japan deployed the Self Defense Forces (SDF) in the Senkaku islands, China will deploy more forces to Japan rather than to India. If the SDF join Freedom of Navigation of Operation of the US Navy in the South China Sea, China could not concentrate its military forces at the Indo-China border area. If China cannot concentrate its forces at the Indo-China border, it cannot commence military offensive operations against India.

To deal with the increasing China’s assertiveness at Indo-China border area, Japan and India cooperation is an effective response.

Dr. Satoru Nagao is a Visiting Fellow at Hudson Institute and a research fellow at the Institute for Future Engineering (He was a research fellow at the Tokyo Foundation) and he is also a visiting research fellow at Gakushuin University (email:satorunagao1s@gmail.com).

India and China after the Doklam Standoff

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On November 16, Hudson Institute’s South Asia Program hosted a talk concerning India and China after the Doklam standoff. Dr. Aparna Pande, who moderated the discussion, introduced the topic by contextualizing the importance of Doklam, a disputed area between the borders of China and India. “This summer the two countries [India and China] were involved in almost a week long standoff for the 2,000 miles long border. The crisis set up when India opposed China’s attempts to extend their border to the Doklam plateau,” which led to an eight-week-long standoff between the two countries. To discuss the extent of this situation, Hudson Institute invited Mr. Manoj Joshi, a distinguished fellow  with the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.

“This Doklam standoff began in June 16 when China tried to build a road in the Doklam area” said Mr. Joshi, who exemplified in a map where the conflict began. On June 30, the Indian government issued a statement affirming that India’s security was affected by the construction of that road, especially due to the building of a very sensitive bridge that could compromise Bhutan,  which was China’s objective. To become a world power a country must start by becoming a regional power, which explains China’s interest in Bhutan.

From his own experience, Mr. Joshi explained that in his most recent trip to China he witnessed the point of view that affirmed that the Bhutanese do not own the Doklam area but the owner is China, and that according to the bhutanese people the territory intervened by India was not theirs. The speaker explained that this story does not include the  fact that “the Bhutanese did formally protest on June 29th.” Mr. Joshi affirmed that the conflict would have been an occasion, but not the cause, because an invasion of one hundred meters does not justify the magnitude of the problem based on the Chinese perspective on Doklam.  

The internal problems between China and India have deeper roots, including the measurement of the border, as China recognizes two thousand kilometers while India affirms that there are four thousand fifty-seven kilometers, affirmed Mr. Joshi. This contradiction comes from the dispute of Jammu and Kashmir. The rise of both countries with their own historical perspective highlights the differences. The speaker discussed China’s need to establish regional preeminence, taking advantage of India’s dispute with Pakistan to increase its influence in the region. India on the other hand rejects China’s drive for primacy, therefore increasing its ties to  Japan and the U.S. This further escalates tensions as Beijing believes these countries are working together to stop their goal. In Mr. Joshi’s perspective, India needs to remember that its military is not modernized and its  economy has just entered the  high-growth path. If the current government led by  Prime Minister Narendra Modi utilizes this opportunity to strengthen relations with the United States, it could be costly if China decides to respond negatively.

The Doklam crisis shows that the border issue could have been resolved, but the conflict resolution measures in place since 1993 were unsuccessful. Next month (December 2017) some meetings will take place to discuss the problem, but the question about China’s reasons to own the area remain open. The Doklam region suffers from depopulation due to the hard conditions of the mountains. Since 1990s both countries have been talking about cooperation in this area, while at the same time as having conflict. China’s  economic influence is preventing  Indian ties in  Central Asia, so one solution is for India to get closer to Japan and work bilaterally to develop infrastructure in Africa and provide non-predictable economic assistance to achieve regional stability. Nevertheless, the Doklam conflict could affect both countries.

An idea from the Indian perspective  is to reform the armed forces to provide better means to deter China. India could also improve its relations and policy concerning its neighbourhood, and not over securitize those relations. Finally, getting economic policy reactivated is key, as the last government systems were caught in a cycle of elections in which the economy was not the priority.

Doctor Aparna Pande asked the speaker how China sees the South Asian countries as an important part of its plan. Mr. Joshi explained that a country such as Pakistan can be helpful for energy, while Bangladesh is very important for investment. Overall, China has the means to construct infrastructure in the South Asian countries. India does not have the means to invest in other countries as much as China because of the need to improve its own infrastructure. The U.S. has not focused on economic policy as much as security issues in the region, leaving the door open for an assertive China, giving this country the power to impose sanctions on those countries that do not want to cooperate.

In the context of a speech by  U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson concerning  the next hundred years of U.S.-India relations,  Joshi’s  affirmed that national interest plays a bigger role than values, threatening international relations. Dr. Pande inquired on the skepticism the speaker used to refer to this topic. Mr Joshi explained that national interests are shaped by national values, while international relations can unfold. “Indians have seen that the U.S. was an ally to Pakistan so there were not shared values” and ”the reality is that nations pursue  their interests.”  In his opinion, every nation wants to follow its own interests. For example, India’s foremost external interest is in Persian Gulf and Northern Arabian Sea region as 70% of India’s oil and $35 billion of remittances comes from this places. On the other side, United States wants India to cooperate in the Asia-Pacific region, but there there is no talk of cooperation in the Persian Gulf and Northern Arabian Sea region. In conclusion, the U.S.-India 100 year friendship needs to be built with more solid bases, taking into account the differences in national interests.

The discussion ended with a Q&A section in which the speaker answered several questions such as the role of Russian influence in the region, to which the speaker argued that investment and aid in many countries depends mainly on China, while Russia does not have “the capacity to maintain their primacy in Central-Asia” nor the incentives to do it. Regarding strategic fencing replacing relationships based on shared values, Mr. Joshi explained that India “does not face an existential threat from China” so it does not need to depend on an external military system. To elaborate on the present situation in Doklam, the speaker explained that the region is connected to the north-east part of India in the shape of a dagger, and from the military point of view the existence of a  Bhutan that cannot defend itself while existing in a sensitive area represents a threat.

This event took place on November 16, 2017 at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. You can watch the event here.


Pakistan's Army can't stay out of politics because it thinks it's the nation's saviour

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The Pakistani military continues to re-engineer politics by removing undesirable politicians and advancing the careers of civilians considered more pliable.

If insanity is doing the same thing again and again, and expecting a different result then Pakistan’s permanent establishment is definitely insane.

After four military coups, several constitutional changes, and military-sponsored reconfigurations of political parties, the Pakistani military is persisting with its efforts to re-engineer the country’s politics. The objective, as in the past, seems to be to change the country’s political landscape by removing undesirable politicians and advancing the careers of civilians considered more pliable by military generals and intelligence colonels.

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), brought to the fore in the 1980s as the beneficiary of similar engineering under the late dictator General Zia-ul-Haq and his immediate successor, Generals Aslam Beg and Hamid Gul, is now being decapitated. The removal of its leader Nawaz Sharif from the office of the prime minister was the first major step in that direction.

Ironically, a similar effort to contain the PML-N was made by General Pervez Musharraf after his 1999 coup d’etat. Back then, many of the party’s legislators were herded into a rival PML faction, which disintegrated soon after Musharraf lost power. Nawaz Sharif returned from exile to reclaim his party’s leadership, only to be subjected again to a similar cycle of judicially backed disqualification from office.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the country’s largest political party for decades, was the target for demolition when the PML-N was being built up. Zia hated the party of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the man he toppled from power and executed after a show trial. The party won three elections (1988, 1993, and 2008) despite the establishment’s machinations against it but was never able to govern effectively.

It is now considerably weakened after having lost its leader, Benazir Bhutto, to a terrorist attack in 2007 and being battered by charges of corruption for almost three decades. Ironically, none of these corruption charges, though widely believed in Pakistan, have ever resulted in convictions after trial.

Now, the Sindh-based political party representing the ethnic Muhajirs, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), is in the establishment’s crosshairs. The establishment has always resented the party’s control over Pakistan’s major port city, Karachi. It has won every election in the city since 1987 and has periodically been targeted for repression.

Musharraf, himself an ethnic Muhajir attempted to mainstream the MQM by including it in his government. As dictator, he convinced other generals that the MQM would mellow after tasting power and would change its stance away from its demand for a multi-national state and its single-minded opposition to Pakistan’s Islamist ideology.

But when the party’s exiled leader, Altaf Hussain, called Pakistan “the epicenter of terrorism” last year, intelligence operatives set about trying to divide the MQM once again. Altaf Hussain has been in exile since 1992, when the military began operations in Karachi aimed at cleansing the city of his devotees.

Ethnic Muhajirs, immigrants to Pakistan from India and their children, have remained loyal to Altaf Hussain, whom they see as the father of a Muhajir nation. Until Hussain came on the scene, the Muhajirs had no one speaking of protecting their rights while every other ethnic group had its spokespersons.

Altaf Hussain annoyed the authorities particularly by warning them that Muhajirs would choose not to be loyal to the country if the “extra-judicial killings” of MQM activists continued. For decades, the military has accused the MQM of acting like the mafia and being involved in racketeering, abductions, torture and murder.

The party denies these charges and adds them to its long list of complaints about decades of discrimination and injustice at the hands of a Punjabi elite.

In an unprecedented step last year, the Lahore High Court ordered registration of a treason case against Hussain and banned his speeches and images in the Pakistani media.

The military’s political engineers assumed that once Altaf Hussain was out of sight, Karachi’s Muhajirs could be persuaded to abandon him. Hussain, known for his emotional speeches, was accused of saying ‘Pakistan Murdabad’ (Down with Pakistan) in one of his addresses and his explanation of the context of that remark in terms of reaction to oppression and injustice was not accepted.

In March 2016, some of the MQM figures most associated with the criminal activities attributed to the party announced the formation of the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) led by former Karachi Mayor, Mustafa Kamal. Later, another former Karachi Mayor and a consummate politician, Dr. Farooq Sattar, broke away from Altaf Hussain to create MQM-Pakistan. The two parties have been in merger talks as neither has been able to mobilise popular support.

Kamal, the PSP leader, said publicly that the Pakistan Army, ISI and Military Intelligence (MI) wanted to close down the MQM for good because “they know Altaf Hussain works for [Indian Intelligence] RAW” and because “he is a traitor.” According to him, “MQM-P was formed in the room of former Director General Sindh Rangers Bilal Akbar” following Altaf Hussain’s speech criticizing Pakistan.

Thus, while the PSP had been spawned by the ISI then led by Lt. General Rizwan Akhtar, the MQM-P had been sponsored by the Rangers commander, Major General Bilal Akbar.

Subsequently, the current Director-General of Sindh Rangers, Major General Mohammed Saeed, admitted to his institution’s role in brokering the merger of the two parties created by two wings of the establishment, only to backtrack after widespread media criticism. After all, it is one thing for generals and colonels to unconstitutionally interfere in the political process, it is quite another to brag about it in public.

But the real question remains: why do Pakistan’s senior military and intelligence officers consider it their right to intervene in politics, publicly or privately, even though it violates their constitutional oath as military officers?

Under article 244 of Pakistan’s Constitution, all military officers must take an oath specified in the third schedule. That oath says that every military officer must “solemnly swear to bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan and uphold the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan which embodies the will of the people.” The oath also says that “I will not engage myself in any political activities whatsoever and that I will honestly and faithfully serve Pakistan in the Pakistan Army (or Navy or Air Force) as required by and under the law.”

Adhering to the Constitution and fulfilling the oath to stay out of politics is difficult for an army trained to think of itself as Pakistan’s saviour. The generals and colonels who meddle in politics convince themselves that they are only protecting Pakistan from ‘treasonous politicians’ by breaking their solemn oath.

The military officers alone are judges of treason, a charge that is frequently made but has never been brought or proved in court against any Pakistani public figure since independence.

That they won’t succeed in their political engineering just as their predecessors failed is beyond the grasp of simple, patriotic soldiers. Until Pakistan’s soldiers understand that the flaws of politics and politicians can only be remedied by better politics and politicians, they will continue to make and break political parties and alliances.

The new parties and alliances will go the way of similar engineered political entities of the past. The list is long and getting longer. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s politics are not getting any better.

This article was originally published on November 17, 2017 by The Print. A link to the original article can be found here

Pakistan Caught Between Mosque and Military, Again

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Army chief General Qamar Bajwa seems to be against the military’s direct intervention in politics but Khadim Rizvi and his cohorts have been making insinuations that the general might not belong to the right sect.

If the history of Pakistan was made into a movie, one scene would be repeated several times albeit with a new cast of characters each time: fanatics rioting in streets over some religious issue, civilian leaders attempting to alternately appease and suppress them only to discover that the situation cannot be resolved without military intervention, and the military being portrayed by its ubiquitous supporters as the country’s only saviour.

The recent troubles began when some three thousand supporters of a firebrand cleric, “many armed with sticks and iron rods,” according to wire service reports, blocked the main entrance to Islamabad since November 6. Led by Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the colourful leader of the Sunni extremist Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), the protestors demanded strict adherence to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and stricter laws against other religious sects.

A sit-in by three thousand people in a country with a population of 210 million should not be a serious threat either to law and order or to the stability of the government. But Pakistan is, and has always has been different from the rest of the world.

Rizvi, who laces his speeches with four-letter words and choicest Punjabi language abuses, is the self-appointed guardian of the ‘Prophet’s honour.’ He is also the latest Pakistani religious-political leader to rail against Hindu and Jewish agents in addition to speaking about fighting alongside the Pakistan army for Islam and Pakistan.

Rizvi’s followers were responsible for the murder of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer who was murdered by his own bodyguard in January 2011 for suggesting that Pakistanis debate their blasphemy laws.

He is one of many Sunni Barelvi clerics that were built up by Pakistan’s military-intelligence complex under the Musharraf dictatorship, and in the years since, as potentially moderate alternatives to Deobandi and Wahabi clerics who had been supported by the Pakistani state under General Ziaul Haq and during the 1990s.

The timing of Rizvi’s relatively small sit-in with larger consequences is interesting. It came after the disqualification of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his re-election as leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N, and the rejection by parliament of a bill that would have made it unlawful for political parties to be headed by someone disqualified to be a member of parliament.

Rizvi called the protests over changes to electoral laws, which he claimed unacceptably altered the language of the oath for lawmakers declaring Prophet Muhammad as God’s final prophet. The original language was restored and the government said it was a clerical error any way but that was not enough to calm Rizvi’s blood thirsty followers from threatening violence.

Between Punjabi swear words, Rizvi declared like all religious demagogues before him, “We will lay our lives, but we will not step down from our demands.” His followers chanted “Labaik Ya Rasool Allah, Labaik” (I am here, Prophet of God, I am here), not noticing the irony of declaring honourable intent in response to a cleric’s vulgar language.

The three thousand protesters got more airtime on Pakistan’s military-backed TV channels than a crowd this size deserved. That only helped make Rizvi’s sit-in as threatening as the ‘dharna’ organized by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan that had paralysed Islamabad for several days a couple of years ago.

Moreover, blasphemy has often been invoked to foment violent riots and vigilante justice in Pakistan, leading the already embattled government to act slowly and cautiously.

The Islamabad High Court ordered the protestors to clear the streets. When the government acted finally, with the High Court order in hand after almost twenty days of patience, it only generated widespread violence.

The army’s spokesman tweeted to appear neutral between protestors and the government, as if the army is above the government and not its part. “COAS telephoned PM. Suggested to handle Islamabad Dharna peacefully avoiding violence from both sides as it is not in national interest & cohesion,” declared Major General Asif Ghafoor, head of Inter-Services Public Relations.

It being Pakistan –the land of many coups and constant military interventions – no one can ask why Rizvi said at his rally “The military will not act against us because we are doing its work.” Rumours are afloat about the prospect of the military acting, not to prop up the beleaguered government, but to replace it with a new experiment of technocrats setting the country right.

Author Herbert Feldman had written at the end of Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s ten-year dictatorship of a sad fact of political life in Pakistan. Ayub had handed power over to his successor as army commander, General Yahya Khan, at the end of five months of rioting. In Pakistan, Feldman wrote, there was a widespread feeling that “whenever it was felt in General Headquarters that things were not going according to the taste and opinion of senior officers, the armed forces (in effect the army alone) would move in or contrive to do so”.

Army chief General Qamar Bajwa seems to be against the military’s direct intervention in politics but Rizvi and his cohorts have been making insinuations (totally unjustified) that the general might not belong to the right sect. He would have to be careful in tackling the situation in an emotionally charged environment wherein his own faith is under question.

For those who wish to understand the broader nexus between the mullahs and ambitious military officers, I have already written the book ‘Pakistan Between Mosque and Military.’ It seems that I might have to add a new chapter to the book, which was only updated a year ago.

This article was originally published on November 26, 2017 by The Print. A link to the original article can be found here

U.S. Afghan strategy will be governed by events in Balochistan


The Pentagon is spinning its wheels in Afghanistan, continuing a questionable counterinsurgency and nation-building strategy because, quite literally, it knows that it won't work, but cannot think of anything else to do. 

It will not succeed because the U.S. and NATO will never regain the military dominance the alliance had in the years immediately after the 2001 toppling of the Taliban government, without which negotiations can only occur from a position of weakness.

The U.S. and NATO do not control the operational tempo or the supply of our troops in land-locked Afghanistan. Pakistan and Iran fuel the insurgency, while the former maintains a strangle-hold on supply convoys. Both Russia and China want us out of the region, preferably precipitated by a humiliating defeat.

Raising troop levels and changing tactics on the ground will not improve the unfavorable strategic conditions.

In fact, U.S. policy in Afghanistan is about to be overtaken by events in Pakistan's southwest province of Balochistan, rendering it obsolete.

And Balochistan is going to get very messy indeed.

In the late 1970s, Pakistan President President Zia-ul-Haq initiated an "Islamization" program, which involved the proliferation of Islamic schools "madrasas" and the promotion of Islamic law "Sharia," designed to create national unity by suppressing ethnic separatism and religious diversity. That policy set in motion a gradual transformation of Balochstan from a traditionally secular and tolerant region into one virtually overflowing with Islamic fundamentalists.

Thanks to that policy and Pakistan's use of Islamic terrorist groups as instruments of its foreign policy, the Taliban now have a solid foothold, not only in the Pashtun Belt of Balochistan bordering Afghanistan, but they are recruiting deep into central Balochistan. There are, for example, two madrasas in Nag, Washuk district (map coordinates 27.408153, 65.136318 and 27.414241, 65.126743), run by active members of the Taliban, who send young jihadis to fight U.S. troops in southern Afghanistan. Statistics provided by the Pakistani government estimate that there are more than 5,000 Afghans studying in madrasas in Balochistan, not to mention thousands of Pakistanis undeterred by their government from taking up jihad in Afghanistan. The Taliban will never run out of bodies.

It is important to note that the Taliban do not recognize the present Afghanistan-Pakistan border, defined by the Durand Line, and seek to incorporate Pashtun lands now in Pakistan into a greater Taliban-governed Afghanistan.

Pakistan's Islamization policy created a fertile environment for the growth of Wahhabism in Balochistan, largely fueled by Saudi Arabia and other wealthy Arab states. Many of those terrorists are transnational, including the Islamic State (ISIS) and virulently anti-Shia groups, such as Jundallah and its offshoot the Salafist Jaish al-Adl, which conduct cross-border attacks on Iran. To counter presumed Saudi attempts to bracket Iran, Iranian intelligence has reportedly both infiltrated and recruited members of separatist groups in western Balochistan opposed to the Pakistani government, a significant development to say the least.

On a collision course with the proliferation of transnational terrorist groups in Balochistan is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is part of China's larger Belt and Road Initiative, aiming to connect Asia through land-based and maritime economic zones. CPEC is an infrastructure project, the backbone of which is a transportation network connecting China to the Pakistani seaports of Gwadar and Karachi located on the Arabian Sea.

But CPEC is more than a commercial initiative. It is one element of China's strategy to overtake the U.S. as the world's foremost superpower. Huge tracks of land in Gwadar for up to 500,000 Chinese professionals have been allocated for port and naval facility development as well as expansion of the international airport to handle heavy cargo flights. The Chinese have visited and bought land in Sonmiani, which houses Pakistan's spaceport and space research center as well as a planned liquid natural gas terminal.

Chinese military control of Balochistan's Makran coast would allow Beijing to dominate vital sea lanes leading to the Persian Gulf and link to the Chinese base in Djibouti at the entrance of the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, both strategic choke points.

It is clear that China and Pakistan see a continued U.S. and NATO presence in Afghanistan as an obstacle to CPEC and their strategies for the region.

Concerned about the growing Islamic terrorist threat, there have been a number of meetings on the Pakistan-Iran border near Gwadar in the last few months among Chinese, Iranian and Pakistani officials to discuss security issues.

So, as the Pentagon tweaks its counterinsurgency and nation-building strategy in Afghanistan, just to the south, events in Balochistan are about to make that strategy irrelevant - an explosive mixture of Chinese hegemony, Pakistani and Iranian regional ambitions, transnational Islamic terrorism and a potentially new, Syria-like, Sunni-Shia battleground.

The Pentagon had better check its six o'clock and learn to manage instability.

This article was originally posted by the Balochwarna News on November 10, 2017. It was posted here with the author's permission. 

Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired colonel with 29 years of service in the US Army Reserve and a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq. Colonel Sellin is the author of "Restoring the Republic: Arguments for a Second American Revolution ". He receives email at lawrence.sellin@gmail.com.

An Integrated Approach to the Himalayas: Report of the Working Group on the Himalayan Region


On October 31, Hudson Institute’s South and Central Asia Program welcomed Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island for keynote remarks at the launch of a new report, An Integrated Approach to the Himalayas. The report, the product of a working group of seven eminent U.S.-based experts on Asia, lays out a plan for the U.S. to pursue an integrated approach with friendly states and peoples in the Himalayas to address strategic and population security issues, regional connectivity, water usage and climate change, and cultural preservation, including the protection of women and minorities.

A discussion followed Sen. Whitehouse’s remarks, featuring the co-chairs of the working group: Jeff Smith of The Heritage Foundation, Michael Kugelman of the Wilson Center, Aparna Pande of the Hudson Institute and Eric Brown of Hudson Institute. The conversation was moderated by Amb. Husain Haqqani, director for South and Central Asia at Hudson Institute.

In his keynote speech, Senator Whitehouse talked about the environmental, economic and geopolitical consequences of glacial retreat on the Tibetan plateau, the most intense in the Himalayas. Poor responses to climate shifts will create shortages of resources such as land and water. This in turn will lead to negative secondary impact such as sickness, hunger, joblessness and conflict. As a result, it will cause reputational harm to America, capitalism and democracy for having failed to address the carbon emission problem in a timely manner. The yearly snow and glacier melts feeds rivers throughout Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal. More melting due to climate change will intensify heavy rains during monsoon seasons and will lead to devastating floods. The 2010 floods in Pakistan killed 1700 people, caused food shortages for 4 million people and resulted in $4000 billion loss in property damages. If the glaciers in the western Himalayas continue to disappear, the runoff that supplies Pakistan’s rivers could drop by 40 to 50%. India is planning to build dams in the Chenab river in volatile Kashmir through which the river flows downstream to Pakistan. Pakistan fears that India is using the Chenab flow to put pressure on Islamabad, especially in times of heighten conflict. Senator Whitehouse believes that carbon pollution is driving global climate change. Therefore, he introduced carbon fees through the introduction of American opportunity Carbon Free Act.

Jeff Smith of The Heritage Foundation stated that India’s relationships with many of its neighbors have improved, particularly with Bangladesh as both the countries have resolved their maritime and territorial disputes. According to . Smith, India’s relationships with its two neighbors, China and Pakistan have deteriorated. Chinese incursions in Ladakh, its control of the Gwadar port in Pakistan, military base in Djibouti, and the recent Doklam standoff have created avenues for friction and competition between China and India.  Smith further stated that he is “highly critical of Pakistan’s role in supporting insurgencies, terrorist groups operating within Pakistan targeting India, Afghanistan and United States.” He does not see Pakistan taking a fundamentally different approach towards terrorists within its borders. However, he does see the US government taking a different approach as witnessed from the recent statements by Secretary of State, Tillerson and Secretary of Defense, Mattis. Their statements show greater willingness from the U.S. to use a transactional approach to convey to Pakistan that if there are not results, there will be costs to pay.

Michael Kugelman of the Wilson Center started with a broad overview of the report and how it highlighted shared challenges among South Asia and the need for the U.S. to play a greater role in the region. By using water to understand how non-security issues can impact security, Kugelman explained several facets of water stress and its implications. South Asia is a region where there are multiple instances of nations’ sharing water, but not getting along. Kugelman commented that “upper riparian’s may be more inclined to take certain actions that would be able to bottle up water and prevent it from flowing downstream.” When water stress intensifies, “lower riparian’s may be more inclined to retaliate with harsher measures, including violence, to hit back.” In addition to possibly triggering state conflict, water stress can lead to an increased threat of militant insurgencies. Kugelman stressed that “water can become a weapon in regional geopolitics,” highlighting how last year India threatened to unilaterally leave the Indus Waters Treaty when relations deteriorated. As climate-induced issues such as migrating populations, increased urban tension, and the loss of land to drought or flood all rise in intensity and existence, Kugelman asserted that the U.S. should play a more involved role in the Himalaya region to help prevent major security threats.

Aparna Pande of the Hudson Institute focused on trade and connectivity in the Himalayan region, saying that weaker states with contested sovereignty have used regional actors to achieve economic and physical integration. The region suffers from various border disputes, and to work around them, most initiatives to create connectivity have geopolitical significance. Pande reasons that “as a result, there is an inherent challenge in trying to disentangle the benign aspect of trade and infrastructure development with that of strategic concern and the broader contest for influence.” She uses China’s One Belt, One Road initiative as an example, since there is growing concern that China’s influence will negatively impact the opportunities of the people in the region. She argues that the U.S. has played a hands-off approach, but needs to be more hands-on as there is an opportunity to promote American interests, as well as impact standards of finance and trade, environmental issues, anti-corruption, and shift the regional balance of power in favor of U.S. friends and allies.

Hudson fellow Eric Brown discussed the geopolitical significance and security implications that lead to this report.  Brown mentioned the importance of the Himalayas as “geopolitics and population security are deeply connected,” the Himalayas used to repel intrusions from those who wanted to own its strategic position, but “history has changed, the people of the Himalayas are very much caught up in the contest for power that has been ongoing between different states”. China is pressing unfounded territorial claims against maritime nations in East and South China Sea, and territorial claims across the Himalayas. Various Indo-Pacific states have come together with India as they are concerned about their security and sovereignty.  Brown further added that  Secretary Tillerson recently made a remarkable speech looking at U.S.-India relations in a 100-year frame, and is looking at India as its strategic partner for this century. If the goal is for free and open Indo-pacific, then we cannot ignore the concerns of  states whose livelihoods depend on the rivers and geography of the Himalayas. India is hesitant about being involved in maritime Indo-Pacific, as it has territorial security concerns across its Himalayan borders. Since 2008, there has been an increase in Chinese incursion policy. Citing Brahma Chellaney, Brown states that there is an incursion by the Chinese forces into Indian territory every 24 hours.

Ambassador Haqqani stated that an assertive China dominated the report and discussion. He further asked if the people and states of the Himalayas such as Bhutan and Nepal would be able to retain their culture and identity, or is it their fate to get squeezed by the giants around them. This region is dominated by India-China competition and questions concerning the role of  the US in preventing cultural repression. Regarding China, Brown stated that there has been cultural repression of people in Xinjiang and Tibet. Previously, New Delhi didn’t want to develop infrastructure along the Himalayan border as it would have encouraged competition and animosity from Pakistan and China. However, New Delhi’s old strategy failed as China started building infrastructure along its Himalayan border, forcing India to change its strategy.  Pande added that the region has ecological challenges and is not well developed. As China-Pakistan Economic Corridor expands, Chinese laborers and engineers enter and there has been change in ethnic demographic of the region.  Smith stated that initially India was the only country to publicly express criticism against the China’s One Belt One Road Initiative. Recently, Secretary Mattis expressed reservations about China’s One Belt One Road Initiative and subsequently, Australia and Japan have expressed their concerns. US, India, Japan and Australia have been working through bilateral and trilateral discussions to promote alternative infrastructure vision. Michael Kugelman stated that if US looks at CPEC from economic lens, then CPEC hopes to build infrastructure and power plants in Pakistan. But if US looks at CPEC from strategic lens, then it is concerning as China is cementing its presence in this region where US has less presence.

In the Q&A round, a question was asked that how other South Asian countries would view an alternative vision to the China’s One Belt One Road initiative from the India-U.S perspective. Smith stated that initially South Asian countries used China to balance off India and increase their leverage against New Delhi. However, there are consequences to Chinese investment in the region. Sri Lanka borrowed billions of dollars of Chinese loans for commercial projects such as the Hambantota airport which is not reaping economic benefits. The money went to Chinese companies, laborers and banks who built and sponsored the investment. When Sri Lanka had problem repaying the loans and asked for China’s help, China suggested that Sri Lanka either borrow more money or give equity stake to China. China also had some secret provisions in the agreement such as sovereign control of the airspace over parts of the airport. This was unacceptable to Sri Lanka. China has also been illegally funding its favorite Sri Lankan political candidates which has also been under investigation. There is broader belief that One Belt One Road initiative is used to promote China’s strategic interests rather than economic/commercial interests.

Additional Authors: Corey Bolyard, Laura Ruiz-Gaona

This event took place on October 31, 2017 at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. You can watch the event here.


Prepare Yourself for Jihad 3.0

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Tuesday’s terrorist attack in New York City, committed by an immigrant from Uzbekistan, is a reminder that radical political Islam won’t end with the recent defeat of Islamic State in Raqqa.

Just as the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan soon after 9/11 did not mark the end of al Qaeda, extremist forces in the Muslim world will continue to resuscitate themselves in other forms, in other theaters. If al Qaeda was Jihad 1.0 in our era, and ISIS was Jihad 2.0, we should now prepare for Jihad 3.0. Islamism will continue to be a U.S. national-security concern for years to come.

The New York attacker, Sayfullo Saipov, did not match the standard profile of a jihadi terrorist. He was likely self-radicalized, did not overtly belong to a major terrorist group, and would not have been denied entry under President Trump’s “travel ban” due to his country of origin.

In trying to re-create an Islamic state, radical Islamists draw inspiration from 14 centuries of history. It is important to understand the various Muslim “revivalist” movements, involving various degrees of violence and challenges to the global order of the time. Contemporary radicals often reach into the past to find models for organization and mobilization

It is not a coincidence that al Qaeda (literally “the base”) tried to establish itself first in Sudan before finding a home in Afghanistan. Both Sudan and the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region had experienced jihad against European powers resulting in short-lived Islamic states in relatively recent times.

ISIS’ choice of Syria and Iraq to declare a caliphate was also a function of the Islamist reverence for historic precedents. Damascus was the capital of the Umayyad Caliphate (661-750), and Baghdad was the base of the Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258).

In Sudan, Muhammad Ahmad declared himself Mahdi (“the reviver”) and established an unrecognized state from 1885-99 before being defeated by the British. The Mahdists terrorized locals, persecuted religious minorities (notably Coptic Christians), revived the slave trade, and challenged Egypt and its protector, Britain. The death of the movement’s founder in 1885 did not mark the end of jihad.

Eventually, the British defeated the Mahdists militarily with an Anglo-Egyptian force. They also used traditional religious and tribal structures and institutions to challenge Mahdist ideology. Today the Mahdists exist as a Sufi order rather than an extremist group.

Similarly, the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area became the base for the jihad movement of Syed Ahmed Barelvi in 1826. Just as Osama bin Laden moved from Saudi Arabia, giving up a comfortable life, Syed Ahmed came from northeastern Indian nobility. He mobilized funds throughout the subcontinent, moved it through the hawala system, and bought arms to use against the British-aligned Sikh empire along the border of modern-day Afghanistan.

Although he was killed in 1831, ending his short-lived Islamic state, Syed Ahmed’s followers continued their random stabbing campaign against the British for another 70 years. Driving cars or trucks into crowds is today’s equivalent of that terrorist campaign.

Eventually, the British deployed military and intelligence means to defeat the jihadists. They also discredited the terrorists’ beliefs by supporting Muslim leaders who opposed radical ideas.

In the Middle East, the Ottoman Empire had less success in dealing with the Wahhabis, who fought the empire for control over the Arabian Peninsula through much of the 19th century. After creating the modern state of Saudi Arabia in 1932, the Wahhabis modified their approach to international relations, though not their theology. Al Qaeda and ISIS manifest the more radical beliefs of the Wahhabis and, though opposed by the modern state of Saudi Arabia, can be construed as a continuation of their Wahhabi teaching.

The U.S. is not capable of whole-scale changes to Islamic theology, nor is it in America’s purview. And portraying the contemporary struggle as a battle with Islam risks making the world’s Muslim population—1.8 billion people—Islamic State’s recruiting pool.

Islam means different things to different people and has been practiced in many ways among various sects across the world and throughout time. The doctrine of jihad is open to interpretation, much like the Christian notion of “just war.” Muslims who consider Islam a religion, not a political ideology, and who pursue piety, not conquest, remain important partners for the U.S.

The U.S. must re-evaluate its alliances in the Muslim world based on whether or not partners encourage extremism. Saudi Arabia’s recent avowal to teach moderation in religion, emulating the United Arab Emirates’ campaign against radical Islamism, deserves American support, as does Morocco’s decision to work with the Holocaust Memorial Museum to educate its people about the Holocaust and teach tolerance.

On the other hand, Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey’s decision to include jihadi teachings in its school curriculum indicate their support of radicalism.

Above all, the U.S. must focus on defeating radical Islamist ideology, not just its periodic manifestation in terrorist attacks.


This article was originally posted by the Wall Street Journal on November 3, 2017. It was posted here with the author's permission. 


Gaps in Indian Midday Meal Scheme's Goals and Vision

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On October 27, 2017, India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) expressed concern over malnutrition and recommended an increase in protein consumption of children enrolled in  the Midday Meal Scheme. The scheme was introduced in all the states of India after 2001, following the Supreme Court’s judgement in order to improve the school enrollment and nutrition of children. The program covers primary government schools (1st to 5th grade) and upper primary government schools (6th to 8th grade). According to various reports and scholarly studies, Midday Meal, the largest school nutrition program in the world with 120 million students, has not only increased enrollment but has also improved nutrition of low-income students (Jayaraman and Simroth 2015; Afridi 2010, 2011; Singh, Park, and Dercon 2014).

Despite the program’s success, only 75% of enrolled students are covered in this program. The Midday Meal Scheme is missing a public vision. A detailed plan on how the goals will be achieved, with target years, will aid the government in its ability to fulfill the scheme’s goals of eliminating malnutrition, reducing nutrition related deficiencies, increasing attendance and closing gaps in infrastructure. Midday Meal Scheme’s success would help India meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals of 2030. Previously, India had not met the UN Millennium Development Goals in terms of health and education with the target year of 2015.


One of the primary objectives of the Midday Meal Scheme is to improve nutrition of school children so that they can concentrate on their studies. According to official government data, 21.9% of the population still lives below the poverty level, and so the concept of a free meal through this scheme acts as a powerful incentive for poor people to send their children to school. Studies have shown that Midday Meal Scheme has improved the nutrition of children, especially those who live in poverty stricken and drought affected areas (Afridi 2010; Singh, Park, and Dercon 2014). Afridi conducted her study in the poverty stricken Chindwara district of Madhya Pradesh and found that, per school day, for as low a cost as 3 cents per child the scheme reduced the daily protein deficiency of a primary school student by 100%, the calorie deficiency by almost 30%, and the daily iron deficiency by nearly 10% (Afridi 2010), In addition, Singh, Park and Dercon found that the MDM program acted as a safety net for children, providing large and significant health gains for children whose families suffered from drought (Singh, Park, and Dercon 2014).

In spite of these gains, nutrition related deficiencies such as malnutrition, stunting, underweight and anemia remain significant among a sizable proportion of children. Midday Meal Scheme’s Fifth Joint Review Mission was the most comprehensive report as 18 states and union territories were covered. The report showed that in the category of moderately malnourished children, the highest number for boys was 31.65% in Tamil Nadu whereas the lowest number for boys was 6.08% in Arunachal Pradesh. These findings are significant as boys who were moderately malnourished were in the range of 6.08%-31.65% in different states. Severely malnourished boys ranged from 30.73% in Uttar Pradesh to 0% in several other states. In addition, moderately malnourished girls ranged from as high as 31.53% in Gujarat to as low as 4.11% in Manipur. Severely malnourished girls ranged from 21.02% in Uttar Pradesh to 0% in several other states. A different Joint Review Mission Report of 2015 was based on visits to the states of Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka and Kerala and concluded that “in most states, the nutritional status of a majority of the students of both sexes was very poor, with high incidence of stunting and underweight for the age of the children, and anemia and micronutrient deficiency.”

In 2000, India pledged eight Millennium Development Goals, out of which was to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger by 2015. For India, that target was 26%, but malnourishment declined to only 40%. In 2015, India pledged to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal of ending hunger and malnutrition by 2030. Indian government’s premier think-tank NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India) states that Midday Meal Scheme would be one of the government’s interventions in achieving this goal. However, there is no publicly available document which mentions how such a goal would be achieved. In the 2017 National Voluntary Review report submitted to the UN, the Indian government states that although children with stunted growth and that are underweight at under age five have declined to 38.4% and 35.7%, the absolute levels still remain high. Though the government mentions that Midday Meal Scheme is one of the interventions used to end hunger and promote nutrition, it fails to mention proportions of stunting, underweight and anemic primary school children, which are addressed in various Midday Meal central and state reports. These problems are not just restricted to children less than 5 years old but also within primary school children.

These reports by the government show that nutrition related deficiencies still remain major challenges to be overcome. The disconnect between the various Midday Meal reports and the government’s efforts to reverse stunting, anemia and malnutrition prevents Midday Meal Scheme from reaching its goals. There needs to be detailed plan with deadlines and a vision so that the goals of ending hunger, malnutrition and nutrition related deficiencies could be achieved by 2030.


One of the major objectives of the Midday Meal Scheme is to increase the enrollment, attendance and retention of primary school children. Studies by scholars such as Afridi (2011) and Jayaram and Simroth (2015) conclude that Midday Meal Scheme leads to an increase in daily school participation in lower grades (Afridi 2011; Jayaraman and Simroth 2015). Despite significant gains in primary school enrollment and completion, enrollment and completion figures drop at the upper primary school level (class 6th -8th). The 2014-2015 report titled, School Education in India, published by the National University of Educational Planning and Administration and Ministry of Human Resource Development, stated that at the primary level, the net enrolment ratio and retention rate are 87.41 and 83.7. However, the net enrolment ratio at the upper primary level is 72.48. So, there is still room for improvement at primary and upper primary levels. The gross enrolment ratio numbers are much higher, with primary level at 100.08 and upper primary level at 91.24. As the class increases, the net enrolment ratio also drops.

UN Millennium goals website states that India made “moderate progress” on the universalization of primary education in 2015. As far as the UN Sustainable Development Goals of 2030 are concerned, the government has pledged that all girls and boys would complete primary and secondary education by 2030. The government states that Midday Meal Scheme is one of its schemes which would help it achieve the 2030 goal. Again, there is no document available which explains how this goal would be achieved. The education objective of the Midday Meal Scheme needs a detailed plan and target years so that 2030 goals could be achieved.


Meal preparation is an important part of the Midday Meal Scheme but there are still delays in the construction of kitchen-cum-stores and the availability of LPG gas. With such serious infrastructural gaps, the objective of the scheme in terms of nutrition and education could not be realized. The document from the 10th Meeting of National Steering-cum-Monitoring Committee (2016) states that out of 1 million sanctioned kitchen-cum-stores, construction in 12% of them has not even started. Construction of kitchen and stores are very important in ensuring safety and hygiene of food. Bihar’s Gandamal school in which 23 children died due to meal poisoning, neither had a kitchen (food was cooked in a verandah) nor a proper storage facility to cook food (Khera 2013). In addition, only 38% of schools have LPG gas available to cook food. The Joint Review Mission reports have continuously raised concerns about the use of firewood still prevalent in schools. Firewood is not only unsafe, but also unclean for the school premises.


So far, Midday Meal Scheme has helped improve enrollment, attendance and nutrition of primary school children. The achievements have been exemplary, but still the lack of universal primary enrollment/attendance, malnutrition and nutrition related illnesses remain major concerns. The scheme needs a public vision so that its objectives of universal primary education and improved nutrition can be fully realized. Simultaneously, the scheme still has major infrastructural gaps which need to be addressed.

By clearly stating target years and detailing a plan on how the goals will be achieved, a public vision of the program would promote accountability and transparency. Studies have shown that when citizens have access to government information, it has resulted in accountability and transparency, such as with the Right to Information Act. Publicly stated goals with various target years would not only prompt the government to achieve the ultimate 2030 goals but would also encourage citizens to ask questions regarding the program’s progress. Journalists, activists and citizens can ask questions from the government if the target year deadlines are not met on time. Publicly stated goals and target years with detailed descriptions of how these goals will be achieved are necessary in making the government accountable. Otherwise, 2030 goals will remain as unfulfilled as the 2015 UN goals.




Afridi, Farzana. 2010. “Child Welfare Programs and Child Nutrition: Evidence from a Mandated School Meal Program in India.” Journal of Development Economics 92 (2):152–65. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jdeveco.2009.02.002.

Afridi, Farzana. 2011. “The Impact of School Meals on School Participation: Evidence from Rural India.” The Journal of Development Studies 47 (11):1636–56. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220388.2010.514330.

Jayaraman, Rajshri, and Dora Simroth. 2015. “The Impact of School Lunches on Primary School Enrollment: Evidence from India’s Midday Meal Scheme: Impact of School Lunches on Primary School Enrollment.” The Scandinavian Journal of Economics 117 (4):1176–1203. https://doi.org/10.1111/sjoe.12116.

Khera, Reetika. 2013. “Mid-Day Meals: Looking Ahead.” Economic & Political Weekly (Mumbai, India), August 10, 2013. http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/158C9F0788FDDD58?p=AWNB.

Singh, Abhijeet, Albert Park, and Stefan Dercon. 2014. “School Meals as a Safety Net: An Evaluation of the Midday Meal Scheme in India.” Economic Development and Cultural Change 62 (2):275–306. https://doi.org/10.1086/674097.


Neighbors in Arms: An American Senator’s Quest for Disarmament in a Nuclear Subcontinent



On October 25, Hudson Institute hosted a discussion on former Senator Larry Pressler’s book “Neighbors in Arms: An American Senator’s Quest for Disarmament in a Nuclear Subcontinent.” Former Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States Husain Haqqani, who moderated the conversation, introduced Larry Pressler, also known as the author of the Pressler Amendment that “limited foreign countries from using U.S. aid to develop nuclear weapons”. The amendment resulted in the discontinuation of U.S. aid to Pakistan in the 1990s. The discussion included the history of the amendment, and the Senator’s opinion on the spread of weapons of mass destruction, as well as his concern on specific countries such as Pakistan and India.


To the question “How concerned are you about the proliferation of nuclear weapons,” Senator Pressler stated “Pakistan is more dangerous than North Korea.” The Senator explained that Pakistan does not have an organized and centralized control of nuclear weapons, so the weapons could be easily exported to other countries. Senator Pressler explained that the seriousness of the problem was exacerbated by the role American law and consulting firms played as intermediaries in accessing the policies of the U.S. government. He referred to this system as “the octopus,” because of its tentacles that convert the U.S. in a military industrial state. For the Senator, foreign policy should not depend on law and consulting firms, but on rational policies far removed from personal interests. He explains that if the amendment had been followed, the Asian sub-continent would be a nuclear-free zone.

Ambassador Haqqani stated that some people find it discriminatory how harsh the senator’s discourse is towards Pakistan compared to India. Mr. Pressler ensured that his criticism was directed towards nuclear weapons in multiple countries, including India, but he emphasized Pakistan because of its lack of transparency regarding the nuclear weapons programs. India on the other hand, showed discomfort with the amendment but was more reliable. Furthermore, the speaker explained that in the U.S., about fifteen people are in control for the launch of nuclear weapons, whereas in India the Parliamentary system makes it clear who is in charge. However, in Pakistan, the power is concentrated among army and that makes it very difficult to know who controls the nuclear weapons.

Regarding the spread of nuclear weapons, Ambassador Haqqani asked a question about the possibility of going back to a global order where a limited number of countries would have nuclear weapons, and if it would be possible for some countries to give up their nuclear weapons. The senator explained that it is not possible, but his book contains certain policy recommendations such as determining sanctions and developing international pressure in order to generate transparency.  One suggestion was to declare Pakistan a terrorist state and to treat India as a priority. In the current context, the senator explains that Trump’s government has been on the correct road to nuclear non-proliferation as it has been prioritizing India-U.S. relations and free trade.

Ambassador Haqqani continued the discussion by asking about the conflict in Senator Pressler’s discourse of engaging and isolating countries. His first discourse presented in the Pressler Amendment was pro engagement, giving conditional aid to the countries who did not go nuclear, while now the idea of isolating countries seems more plausible. The speaker explained that the first amendment aimed to negotiate, but when former president George H.W. Bush found that Pakistan had nuclear weapons and was not being transparent, he understood that the U.S. needed to stop sending aid to to Pakistan, but the amendment would have been a good way to stop the proliferation. Ambassador Haqqani contradicted this point by asking why the sanctions imposed did not stop Pakistan from developing nuclear weapons, to which Mr. Pressler responded that Pakistan thought that the amendment was a temporary measure, not a part of the administration policy, but with complete information about the consequences Pakistan would have stopped constructing weapons. Regarding the current context, conditions to terrorism are not being accomplished, “secretary Tillerson is taking to both the Koreans and the Pakistanis to all of this”.

“North Korea is a major treat that people recognize”, asserted Ambassador Haqqani, as there is no transparency about the decision making of the country, so “why isn’t there more of a focus on North Korea’s nuclear program that we already see?” Senator Pressler explained that China and Russia have been involved, but also international firms export arms without caring about whom they are selling them to. Washington, for example, has agencies that can be lobbied to get licenses to export weapon materials, so “United States is a massive proliferator if we go back to the very beginning.”

To the question of what legislations the senator would pose if he was in the senate again, he answered that going back to the old school republican public policy would be his solution, using trade and non-proliferation to be sure there is a transparent structure.

“Getting Brazil to give up nuclear weapons led Argentina to stop its programs, so would this work in South Asia too?”, asked the moderator Haqqani. The senator answered that the problem came in the 70’s and 80’s, when the U.S. was sending a message in South Asia about how important it was to stop nuclear weapons proliferation. The speaker affirmed that policy formulation need to come from several institutions with a common ground and US-India nuclear agreement still needs further development.

At the end of the conversation, Ambassador Haqqani asked Mr. Pressler what had been his motivation in writing the book. The speaker replied that he wrote this book as he is concerned that the nuclear issue might become a threat to the human race and he hopes that his book can initiate this conversation in party platforms and campaigns. The senator finally explained that he is not anti-Pakistan, but his main point is lack of transparency in Pakistan’s nuclear program.

Questions and Answers

Finally, the discussion ended with questions and commentaries for the audience. Commentaries included the challenges of creating India-U.S. nuclear power plants, the ineffectiveness of sanctions in Pakistan, the critiques of the amendment that might have exacerbated the nuclear expansion in Pakistan, and the problem of isolating countries, as they will start selling weapons to terrorists. Some of the questions included the importance of North Korea’s threat, to which Mr. Pressler answered that it is important to listen and understand the ego behind the nuclear programs. Another question was how is it possible that Pakistan has not had incidents with nuclear weapons while the U.S has, to which the senator explained that the problem of nuclear proliferation is that mistakes affect everyone, not just the country that owned the weapon.