Sunday, 8 October 2017

CPEC Myths and Realities

In Pakistan a lot is being said and talked about China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). While some analysts term it a mega initiative by Pakistan’s ‘time tested friend’, cynics label it ‘another East India Company in Making”. Another group says, “British Raj undertook many mega developmental project in Indian subcontinent but most of these were aimed at taking the raw materials from one of its bountiful colony to the home town and sell its finished products to one of the huge markets enjoying substantial purchasing power, as against this CPEC is aimed at ushering prosperity in the rural areas of Pakistan”.

China has one of the largest population and industrial base. The country is deficient in indigenous production of energy products. To keep the factories running it has to import huge quantities of crude oil and finished products. Bulk of these products comes from Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Carrying these through ships takes long time and the cost is also high. Presence of navies of various super powers, particularly the US Navy, poses serious security risks for the ship carrying oil to China. Therefore, another route has to be constructed that is short, efficient and cost effective. Taking goods from Gwadar to Kashgar though Pakistan does not pose serious problems because most of the road and rail network is already in place, which can be further improvised at a faster pace and with lesser expenditures.

China, the fast growing economic power has embarked upon ‘One Road, One Belt’ program, which consists of economic belt and maritime road. A closer look at the illustration hardly shows any road or railway track passing through Pakistan. This implies that Pakistan is not the sole beneficiary of this grand plan but will reap the benefits to the extent it is able to use the corridor. At the best it will collect transit fee and the roads may make any contribution in boosting Pakistan’s GDP. The experts having futuristic vision say that adding to power generation and developing robust infrastructure can help in containing electricity outages and post-harvest losses, which means additional contribution to country’s GDP. However, reaping benefits will totally depend on conceiving right policies and their implementation in letter and spirit. The overwhelming perception is that the Government of Pakistan has not come up with any ‘home grown plan’ to fully exploit the true potential of CPEC.  

It is being said that CPEC envisages investment ranging from US$46 billion to US$72 billion. However, only scanty details are available about the projects and component of equity and debt. The overwhelming perception is that bulk of the money will come as debt and Pakistan may face serious debt serving constraints. Drawing substantial and sustainable income from infrastructure projects is a long drawn process. Sri Lanka already faces such a problem. Therefore, local policy planners have to take swift remedial steps to avoid a similar situation. It may be true that CPEC may yield enormous benefits for Pakistan, but it is more important to take into account any potential fallout and come up with ‘Disaster Recovery Plan’.

One of the basic lessons taught in management sciences is having a recovery plan in case the original plan fails. This is unavoidable because Pakistan faces internal and external treats. Even after seventy years of independence Pakistan is surviving on aid, grants, and loans and on the crutches of multilateral donors, particularly International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The primary obstacle to the CPEC’s full implementation is security. To address Chinese concerns and ensure the safety of these projects, Pakistan has created a dedicated CPEC force, but even a force of that size may not prove substantial. Many of the constituent projects are being constructed in the areas having sanctuaries of terrorist and anti-state groups. Attacks on the work force or Chinese engineers could delay or derail the CPEC.

A decades-long insurgency simmers in Baluchistan, where a number of important CPEC projects are underway. The CPEC also faces domestic political opposition in Pakistan, with infighting between provinces and the central government over the allocation of investments. The lack of transparency surrounding the negotiated deals has heightened concerns and skepticism that only a select few, if any in Pakistan, will benefit from the investments. In case Pakistan is unable to provide sufficient security or address the concerns of domestic opponents, projects will have trouble getting off the ground and will fail to prompt follow-on investments or deliver commercial success.

On the external front, CPEC face threats from the United States, India and Afghanistan. Indian Prime Minister has already lodged protest with China. Washington is likely to join hands with India, having concerns about the CPEC, as it represents the leading edge of China’s expanding access to, and likely influence within Eurasia. Any direct intervention by the US or India could be costly, unwinnable and almost certainly counterproductive to other US goals in Pakistan and the region.
This article was originally published in Pakistan & Gulf Economist

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Implications of Kurd referendum outcome

The big news is that the overwhelming majority of Iraqi Kurds have voted in favor of an indecent state of their own. Now the big question is, will the other states harboring Kurds approve splitting of Iraq or support it in defying the Kurd verdict.
The initial reports indicate that Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran, having already rejected the idea of holding a referendum collectively decided to resist formation of an independent Kurd state. However, it is feared that the US and Israel will provide money and arms to the Kurds to initiate full-scale encounter with Iraqi forces that are already busy in fighting ISIS. All the stakeholders must keep in mind that the war among the Muslim countries, which are also major oil producing countries would benefit their enemies.
While many Muslim countries of the Arabian Peninsula have chosen to remain silent, Hezbollah has categorically stated that Kurdish vote marked the first step towards fragmentation of the Middle East, which could lead to the Muslims killing each other. Hezbollah Chief, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, said Kurds vote for independence was a threat to the whole region and not just Iraq and neighboring states with Kurdish populations.
Nasrallah said pointblank that arch enemy of Muslims, Israel had come out in support of independent Kurdish state and described the referendum as part of a US-Israeli plot to carve up the region. He had warned earlier this year that a future Israeli war against Syria or Lebanon could draw thousands of fighters from countries such as Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan, and could take place inside Israel.
Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan said that Iraqi Kurdish authorities would pay the price of the referendum. Turkey had built strong commercial ties with Kurdish authorities, which pump hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil daily through Turkey for export to world markets. However, after the referendum Turkey threatened to impose economic sanction, effectively cutting their main access to international markets. Erdogan went to the extent of saying that Iraqi Kurds would go hungry if Ankara halted export of Kurdish oil.
Prior to referendum, Saudi Arabia had urged Kurdish leaders to call off planned referendum in the interests of Iraq’s stability, security, unity and sovereignty. The referendum “may result in negative repercussions” for the fight against terrorist organizations, and “it would be best to avoid new crises,” said a Saudi government.
I am of the view that the Kurd referendum is part of creation of ‘Greater Kurdistan’ which will be formed by instigating Kurds from Turkey, Iran and Syria to also take similar decision. I would also say that separating Kurds from Iraq is the preamble of splitting the country into Sunni and Shia states. The US has been working on this plan ever since it attacked Iraq accusing it for developing weapons of mass destruction soon after 9/11.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

US adamant at destroying the world

My special thanks to Bryan Drurzin for posting this on Linkedin. I started writing blogs in June 2012 and named my website Geo politics in South Asia and MENA. The caption of my second blog was US – The biggest Arm Seller . I would not hesitate for a second in admitting my inadequacy at that time, but had a strong faith that the US creates conflicts around the world, facilitate in forming rebel groups, supply them funds and arms for spreading anarchy.
I often wonder that the citizens of the largest democracy never demand their government to stop spending taxpayers’ money on destruction. At times I feel that the US citizens suffer from the worst apathy. They are hard working, but their sole objective is to make money and spend it for pleasure, from alcohol to drugs and from satisfying labedo to gayism. In a way the US government  endorses production of kids without marriage and permits same sex marriages. I suspect that all these liberties are given to keep them under sedation so that they don’t question what the government is doing.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Pakistan: Time to quit US proxy war in Afghanistan

My narrative may sound undiplomatic, but it is a true reflection of the feelings of Pakistanis. Those in power or seeking access to the corridors of power may still be willing to negotiate the terms to continue to tow the US foreign policy. However, the demonstrations held in various cities of Pakistan on Sunday were a clear demonstration of the feelings of the masses. The use of power to disperse the demonstrators, the use of tear gas shells and the insulting attitude towards religious clerics was enough to instigate the mob.
The worst was the helplessness of the government that was evident when it admitted that resorting to assault by police was uncalled for and those arrested were also released to avoid further agitation. It is a practice around the world that people submit a note of descent at the embassy/consulate which is received by them. Pakistanis were also following the same protocol/code of conduct and wanted to hand over their note to the US Consulate in Karachi.
The anti Pakistan statements of the US president and other functionaries (including foreign office and the army) are nothing but the release of growing frustration after facing defeat after defeat. Though, the US administration is still not ready to accept its defeat in Iraq and Syria, it is eager to shift the attention to some other parts of the world.
The effort by the US to initiate an arm- encounter between Saudi Arabia and Qatar failed and no one seems to be ready to accept its allegation against Iran. In the Korean Peninsula the US faces serious resistance from China and Russia. India already faces strangulated relationship with China and seems not ready to indulge in any other adventure.  This gives it (the US) the chance to talk about Afghanistan, where the war is going on among the tribes to get control over opium cultivation.
The US has already lost its war in Afghanistan and its sympathizers are confined to the presidential palace in Kabul. The classification of the good and the bad Taliban has also lost its meaning. It is apprehended that the ISIS members on the run from Iraq and Syria are landing in Afghanistan. To keep these blood-thirsty and ruthless beasts busy the US has the option to herd them into Pakistan or Iran. After the recent failed adventure of ISIS in Iran, Pakistan becomes the softest target, because of hundreds of kilometers highly porous Pak-Afghan border.
Under the prevailing circumstances, Pakistan Army has the prime responsibility of protecting its borders with ever hostile India and Afghanistan and stopping any attack on Iran from Pakistani soil. Many of the critics have already pointed out that some of the local channels, getting support from outside Pakistan, are busy in creating anti army sentiments, this policy in the past has led to the creation of Bangladesh. The masses expects that the army will not move its focus away from defending Pakistan to fighting any proxy war.
The Government of Pakistan will have to tell the US in clear words that it does not need the paltry payment for providing logistic support to the US troops. Pakistan will also have to mend its relationships with India and Iran. My humble advice to the Indian government is that it should abstain from opening fronts against Pakistan, because the war would force the foreign investors not to invest in war-ridden country.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Pakistan should review its relationship with the US

Lately I have read a few interesting but contradictory news about the US policy towards Pakistan. It is not only a mockery of diplomatic relationship, but also shows the complete disarray in the US administration. According to one of the news, the US Military Chief, General Joseph Dunford Said that no victory in Afghanistan was possible without Pakistan’s support. As against this, the US Defence Secretary, James Mattis said  that the recent decision to stop reimbursements to the Pakistani military was not a tougher new policy for Pakistan but did reflect ground realities. He went on to say that the President Trump’s administration was reviewing its policies for the entire South Asian region and not just Afghanistan.
This takes me back into the history as back as 2012 when the then US Secretary of Defence, Leon Panetta had said, “In order to really have a secure Afghanistan, ultimately Pakistan is going to have to take responsibility for taking on these terrorists and eliminating the safe havens”. He also said that the US presence in Afghanistan would continue  beyond 2014 if more of the safe havens were not dealt with more stridently than they’ve been to date.
Over the years I have been saying that the US troops will never be pulled out of Afghanistan. My point of view has been recently substantiated by General Dunford as he warned against placing the artificial timeline on operations in Afghanistan. He went to the extent of saying that additional forces for Afganistan security forces would make them more competitive.
This is not something new; over the years the US has been saying that restoring peace in Afghanistan depends on the commitment of Pakistan to fight the terrorist. Instead of stopping incursions from Afghanistan, Pakistan is often accused of providing safe sanctuaries to those who are fighting with the occupying forces.
May be the time has come to find explanations for some basic questions:
1)       Why Afghanistan was invaded by the USSR as well as the US?
2)       Why US wishes to keep its forces there?
3)       Why should Pakistan fight a proxy war of the US?
There is growing realization in Pakistan that if the USSR had attacked Afghanistan for a passage to warm waters, the US is not serious in bringing peace to Afghanistan but achieve other motives. There are suspicions that troops are being kept there for two reasons 1) to protect the opium growers and refining laboratories and 2) a built up troops for immediate attack in case US arrive at the conclusion that appropriate time has come to attack Iran.
It may not be wrong to say that soon after getting independence from the British Raj in 1947, Pakistan became subservient to the US foreign policy, dominated by ‘cold war’. Despite putting its existence at stake, it followed the US dictate of taking anti USSR and anti China stance. However, when the US wanted to make China friend, Pakistan secretly took Henry Kissinger, the then Secretary of Sate, to Beijing. Since the late seventies, Pakistan has been fighting US Proxy war in Afghanistan. Therefore the time has come for Pakistan to decide if it wishes to remain part of the US proxy war or protect its sovereignty.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

America’s Embarrassment

I am an early bird and having entered 65th year, I usually get up around 5.00am, even on the weekends. Reading leading stories in the mainstream media, is a must for writing my blog, Geo Politics in South Asia and MENA. I also go through select articles, to which I am a subscriber because these are eyes opener. That is the reason I often term mainstream western media ‘dishonest’. 

This morning I read an interesting blog by Margaret Kimberley titled ‘America’s Embarrassment’.  I have picked up a few paragraphs from this and copy paste these.
  • Donald Trump is a national embarrassment. Corporate media pundits have declared this statement to be true and millions of people are in agreement. As a candidate and as president Trump has certainly deviated from the norms of acceptable public behavior, but how much does that really matter?
  • Many Americans love to brag that theirs is “the richest country in the world.” There are certainly big banks, rich individuals and trillions of dollars in the treasury but the masses of people rarely benefit from this wealth. This country routinely ranks near the bottom when compared to other “developed” nations in any measure of how it treats its people. It is now considered a “second tier” nation in terms of the well being of its citizens.
  • It is certainly unusual to have such a decidedly boorish president. Trump literally pushes other presidents aside, engages in public feuds with celebrities and makes anyone an enemy who dares to oppose him or his policies. He makes up terms like “bigly” and “modern presidential” and excoriates the press when they criticize him. Condemning this kind of behavior is the lowest hanging fruit.
  • Trump can be blamed for quite a lot during his first six months in office. His travel ban against citizens of seven nations is an unconstitutional exercise in Islamophobia and has been struck down by federal judges. Trump bans Libyans from traveling to the United States, but Obama destroyed that country and created an ongoing humanitarian disaster.
  • The concluding remarks are most interesting, “The list of reasons to be embarrassed about America is very long and it existed before Trump was inaugurated. He has surely added to that ledger, but legitimate cause for concern shouldn’t be pushed aside in favor of phony outrage about optics. President Trump is an ill- mannered, impulsive, happily uninformed bigot. Most of his predecessors were better behaved and followed rules of public relations. But they filled the jails, ended the right to public assistance, killed millions of people abroad, kept wages low and used a variety of schemes to make the rich even richer. Despite his obvious shortcomings Donald Trump is not the worst among them. And that is the most embarrassing fact of all”.
I request the readers of this blog to read the details by clicking