Regional realignments in the offing
Asif Haroon Raja
Plethora of problems loaded by India
India reluctantly accepted the Partition plan as a stopgap arrangement under the fond hope that it will not survive beyond six months. To make it happen, Bengal and Punjab were bifurcated, Pakistan’s share of finances and other assets withheld, nine million of destitute refugees forced to migrate from East Punjab and Central India.
Soon after the creation of Pakistan in August 1947, while Pakistan’s leaders grappled with umpteen problems to build Pakistan from a scratch, India forcibly annexed Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), which resulted in a war in Kashmir. In 1948, India stopped water in the rivers flowing into Pakistan from Kashmir. In 1950 and 1951, India mobilized its forces and deployed them along its border with Pakistan and next enforced trade war with Pakistan. India launched the 1965 war with the intention to decimate Pak armed forces.
East Pakistan, located 1000 miles away from West Pakistan without any land access was marked as the first target by Nehru in 1948 for subversion and detachment from Pakistan to disprove two-nation theory. With this motive in mind, the educated and prosperous 19% Hindu community in East Bengal was asked to stay on and play its role in subverting the youth. In a matter of 23 years, the Hindu teachers, lecturers and professors brainwashed the students so thoroughly that they viewed West Pakistanis as their enemies and India as their friends.
Amputation of eastern limb and thereafter
After amputating eastern limb of Pakistan in 1971 with the help of its chief patron USSR, India shifted its focus on Sindh to fuel Jeeay Sindh movement and Baloch insurgency in Baluchistan in 1973. RAW was employed to carryout sabotage and subversion in the selected regions. KGB and KHAD were fully involved in Baloch insurgency in the 1970s; Pakhtunistan movement was also backed. Moscow had reasons to settle scores with Pakistan since the latter was instrumental in bringing a thaw in China-USA relationship in 1971.
Pakistan took its sweet revenge by playing a key role in the Afghan Jihad which culminated in defeat of Soviet forces, fall of Berlin wall and eventual disintegration of Soviet Empire. When the time ripened to remove the blot of 1971 tragedy, Gen Ziaul Haq who had made plans to liberate Kashmir and also assist the Khalsas in establishing Khalistan, died in a mysterious air crash. After his departure, Pakistan economy fell behind Indian economy and Pakistan adopted defensive and apologetic foreign policy. India on the other hand became assertive and aggressive under the patronage of its new paramour USA, particularly when BJP took over power and carried out nuclear tests in 1998. Advani threatened to annex Azad Kashmir (AJK).
Another international conspiracy woven after of 9/11
After 9/11, India in collusion with its strategic partners USA, Israel, NATO and Afghanistan, launched biggest ever covert war from Afghan soil to denuclearize and fragment Pakistan into four parts. For this purpose, India relentlessly expanded and modernized its armed forces and nuclear/missile/cyber power with a view to undertake a military offensive under the Cold Start Doctrine at an opportune time. The grand strategy included destabilization, strategic encirclement, defamation and isolation of Pakistan.
For this purpose, Indian military presence in Siachin Glacier and occupied Kashmir was beefed up, water terrorism was employed as a coercive tool, influence in Afghanistan was enlarged, defence & strategic agreements with Iran were signed, Arab Gulf States were won over, FATF used as a weapon to blacklist Pakistan and hybrid war unleashed to tarnish the image of Pakistan.
FATA/Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Baluchistan were made restive by triggering Pashtun/Baloch separatist movements. Balwaristan movement was fueled in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB). Pakistan’s economic hub-centre Karachi was made lawless with the help of MQM. PPP added fuel to urban terrorism in the port city. Apart from the nationalist parties that had played a major role in preventing construction of Kalabagh Dam, PPP and PML-N were also cultivated by India to keep the Kashmir cause on backburner and to disrepute Pak Army.
Some TV channels and English newspapers were heavily funded by foreign agencies for selling tutored themes, building perceptions, stimulating liberalism, undermining Islam, discrediting state institutions and fomenting divisions in society.
India used its diplomatic clout and military power to keep SAARC under shadows. It tried hard to change this forum into South Asian Economic Union dominated by Delhi. Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and Burma were turned into Indian satellites. Hasina Wajid was forced to pursue anti-Pakistan policies.
In order to spoil Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan and Iran, and to keep Iran away from BRI, India signed strategic partnership agreement with both, built a highway from Zaranj to Delaram in Afghanistan to connect it with Chahbahar Port, invested money for upgradation of Chahbahar Port, started building North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) connecting Mumbai Port with Bandar Abbas Port in cooperation with Russia. India also undertook 628 km long railway project to connect Chahbahar with Zahedan and finally to Zaranj. These projects were undertaken with the sole objective of creating an alternative trade route to Afghanistan-Central Asia, reduce Kabul’s dependence on Islamabad, and undermine upcoming Gwadar Port as well as China’s BRI initiative.
While Russia has been tacitly supporting NSTC, USA has been implicitly favoring upgradation of Chahbahar with Indian effort to undercut Gwadar. Chahbahar-Gwadar rivalry suits both US and India.
While using terrorism as a stick to lambast and browbeat Pakistan, India built a false narrative that Pakistan was an abettor and India a victim of terrorism. The world accepted the fake narrative since it was backed by USA and the West.
Pakistan made no effort to build a counter narrative to put the record straight since successive regimes followed policy of appeasement of USA and India. Consequently India managed to hide its massive crimes against Kashmiris and Indian minorities.
BJP regime under extremist Modi, a product of RSS, broke all records of state terrorism and human rights violations during its six-year inglorious rule and has maintained a highly aggressive posture against Pakistan. In the books of Indian leaders, Pakistan can exist if it accepts Indian hegemony and agree to become a compliant state.
Inclusion of India into Asia-Pacific quad to contain China and naming India as the bulwark against China, and policeman of Indo-Pacific region made Modi and his Hindutva loving team of fascists ecstatic and they began to imagine India a super power of South Asia. Accordingly they carved out a muscular policy.
The happy tidings for intolerant Modi regime soured in the aftermath of its false flag operation enacted at Pulwama on February 14, 2019, which was aimed at preparing grounds for conducting a surgical air strike against Pakistan so as to boost its Hindu vote bank for elections in May that year, and next to abrogate the special status of J&K followed by limited attacks in GB-Azad Kashmir (AJK). All the offensive acts of India backfired and it has suffered one humiliation after another.
Setbacks/fallouts effects suffered by India
The setbacks and the fallout effects suffered by India, together with some connected regional developments are tabulated hereunder:
1. Abortive airstrike in Balakot on February 24th, 2019 which was chased out by PAF.
2. Pakistan’s counteraction on the night of February 26, followed by an air duel on February 27th in which two Indian jets were downed and two pilots (Indian and Israeli) captured. One Indian helicopter was shot down in panic by own troops.
3. India snatched the special status of disputed J&K on August 5 which created an uproar in the international arena and once again brought the oldest unresolved dispute of Kashmir in limelight.
4. Lockdown of 8 million Kashmiris for 11 months, their inhuman persecution, torture and rapes exposed the ugly face of fascist India, evoking strong censure from the world. India’s grave violations of human rights are widely censured by international media and notables in Europe and USA.
5. Imposition of anti-Muslim discriminatory citizenship amendment act in India in December 2019, sparked nationwide protests of all the minorities, and led to bloodshed of Muslims in Delhi in February 2020 by Hindu fanatics duly protected by the police. It resulted in 53 deaths, injuries to over 200 and destruction of Muslims properties. Paradoxically, Muslims were blamed for the carnage.
6. Promulgation of new domicile act in J&K to change the Muslim majority into minority. It has given added fillip to the resolve of Kashmiri freedom fighters to resist the occupying forces.
7. Among the dozens of insurgencies and separatist movements raging in India, Khalistan movement is assuming dangerous proportions and preparations for a referendum in coming December are being made enthusiastically.
Other regional developments in 2020
1. Historic peace agreement signed between USA and Taliban on February 29, 2020 consternated India and Ghani regime in Kabul. For all practical purposes, Afghanistan has slipped out of the hands of India and USA, but spoilers are trying their best to derail peace process.
2. Delay in the prisoners swap is the major hindrance in the start of intra-Afghan dialogue.
3. Taliban are keeping up the momentum of attacks and exit of bulk of US troops this year is a foregone conclusion.
4. India is averse to the Taliban and so are the Taliban to Indian presence in their country. Conversely, China, Pakistan have a happy understanding with Taliban and with Kabul regime. After the exit of US troops, Indian political, economic and intelligence influence would drop to lowest ebb thereby enabling China to take Afghanistan in the loop of BRI.
Indo-China border scuffle
1. In reaction to Indian military provocations and fast track construction of Chushal-Darbuk-DBO/Siachin supply route, China lost its traditional cool. The intruding Indian soldiers in Galwan River Valley were brutally thrashed by PLA soldiers with batons, sticks and fists. 0ver 25 Indian soldiers including a Col were mauled to death, dozens badly injured and over 50 captured in three scuffles in May/June 2020. The feat which deflated the heat of Indian jingoism and chastened BJP leaders was achieved without firing a bullet.
2. The whole Galwan Valley is now under the control of PLA and LAC redrawn. It has forestalled India’s intentions to establish Indo-US-Israel military bases in Ladakh, make Ladakh a permanent military station, threaten Aksai Chin, scuttle CPEC, destroy Bhasha dam, and annex GB.
3. China-Pakistan are now in a sound position to undertake joint military operation in Ladakh whenever the need arose. Arunachal Pradesh has become more vulnerable and so is the Siliguri chicken neck.
4. Ladakh’s neutralization has rendered Indian 3 Corps presence at Leh and Siachin untenable.
5. It will also have a domino effect on Indian 9 lacs forces in J&K which are finding themselves cornered by China, Pakistan and Kashmiris.
6. Pakistan, India and the Kashmiris are the three stake holders in Kashmir dispute, but now China has become the 4th stake holder. This equation has loaded the dice against India.
7. Indo-US-Israel nexus which is poised against CPEC has bonded Pakistan and China as iron brothers. Both can count upon each other whenever security interests of any country are threatened.
8. India’s power projection was based on fanciful imaginations, daydreaming and dramatized by Indian media and Bollywood.
9. Remaining out of combat zone after 1971, Indian armed forces have become soft and languid. Indian soldiers quench their macho thirst by killing hapless unarmed civilians in India, in occupied Kashmir and along the LoC. Sikhs are their best fighters but of late many have put up resignations in order to join Khalistan movement.
10. Indians are getting restless over muteness and inaction of Modi regime which had won elections in 2014 and 2019 on account of Modi roaring like a lion and making them rapturous. They are thumbing their noses at Indian media which at the slightest provocation go berserk and create war hysteria. Indians are also questioning their military leadership as to what happened to their tall claims that they can conveniently take on both China and Pakistan.
11. Next six months are crucial for India and in case corona virus spins out of control and economy dips further, domestic situation in India would get highly explosive.
USA which mothers India and Israel and uses the duo to serve its ends in South Asia, Afghanistan and Middle East is caught up in a logjam of its own making. Its whole-hearted support to the anti-peace regimes and going an extra mile to cover-up their crimes against humanity has lowered its prestige in the world. It is badly stuck up in Afghanistan, in Persian Gulf, in Syria, in Yemen and in Ukraine.
Its economy, which was already off-colour due to 19-year war on terror and support to proxies, has been further depleted by trade war with China, tussle with Russia, and the corona pandemic which has severely impacted the global economy.
Trump himself is too deeply engrossed in battling internal and external challenges. His major focus is on November elections and has no time to get involved in China-India tiff in the Himalayas.
Trump’s policy of intimidation through sanctions, embargo and isolation of Iran has backfired and has impelled Iran to veer towards China.
$ 400 billion Sino-Iran deal has further deepened US-China rivalry. Whosoever wins the next presidential race, (Trump or Joe Biden), will have to take-up emerging China-Iran equation on priority.
Sino-Iran strategic agreement
1. Iran had resisted the offer of $400 billion made by President Xi Jinping in 2016 as part of his BRI project and preferred to remain within the loop of Russia, India and Afghanistan. It remained more involved in expanding its Shia arc in the Middle East.
2. Iran changed its heart when India stopped buying oil from Iran last year under the US pressure. The change was discernible when Iran supported the cause of Kashmiris, and didn’t utter a word over Indo-China skirmish in favor of India.
3. Other reasons for the change are that India has become the most allied ally of US, while both Iran and China are hostile to USA. Iran was uncomfortable with ever growing India’s partnership with its arch rivals USA and Israel, and with Saudi Arabia, UAE.
4. Cancelation of railway line project given to India by Iran to connect Chahbahar with Zahedan, and China-Iran $400 billion agreement in July 2020 by virtue of which China will invest $250 for energy projects, and $150 for infrastructure in Iran, in return for China buying oil from Iran on 20% discount spread over 25 years in yuan are clear-cut indications that over a period of time Iran will rely more on emerging super power than on India.
5. While Iran would either complete the Chahbahar-Zahedan-Zaranj railway project by March 2022 at its own, or with China’s assistance, possibility of Iran handing over technical control of Chahbahar to China cannot be ruled out.
6. Iran is under duress due to US, UN, EU sanctions and Covid-19 pandemic. $400 billion deal will go a long way in easing its economic woes and diplomatic isolation. Trade in yuan will give impetus to de-dollarization.
7. Iran doesn’t gain anything by pitching Chahbahar against Gwadar, and gains a lot through collaboration. Lessening of the Indian influence will impel Iran to gravitate towards China and it might decide to join CPEC to draw much-needed economic benefits.
8. Envisaged China-Iran joint venture of constructing a new port at Jask-e-Bandar, east of strategic Suez Canal will have adverse implications for the imperialist agenda of Indo-US-Israel nexus in the Middle East wanting to control all the seven key choke points and sea lanes. China’s naval presence at Gwadar, Djibouti and in future in Jask, would cause a setback to Indo-US plans to completely dominate Indian Ocean.
Evolving global/regional scenario
1. Moscow has now reconciled with Pakistan owing to changed geopolitical realities. China-USA are now rivals, while China-Russia are strategic partners and India is strategic partner of USA. Russia is eager to befriend Pakistan because of China-Pakistan closeness, and its age-old quest for warm waters which can be fulfilled by CPEC in the form of RPEC. However, Putin is so far a bit reluctant due to Pakistan’s continued dependence upon USA.
2. These fast moving developments have made NSTC project redundant and seem to have died in the crib.
3. CPEC being the flagship project of BRI, acts as a magnet and will surely attract Russia, Afghanistan (CAPEC) and landlocked Central Asian States towards it.
4. Regionally, China has befriended all the regional countries including GCC States and Israel and has promoted the concept of peace, friendship and economic returns through equitable partnership. China is the only country whose economy is growing since the onset of coronavirus. Its export size is 75% of world trade and bulk of it would be passing through CPEC, which will greatly benefit Pakistan.
5. India is the lone war monger harboring grandeur ambitions and is in conflict with all seven South Asian States and China. Nepal, Bhutan, and Sikkim have begun to flex their muscles for the first time. Surprisingly, Bangladesh has expressed desire to normalize relations with Pakistan.
6. Sino-Iran strategic agreement when seen in context with US-China trade/pandemic war, US-Iran stand-off in Persian Gulf, Indo-China face-off in Himalayas, India’s dangerous designs against Pakistan will have far reaching ramifications for the overall geo-strategic environment that are presently in a flux, and might lead to new alignments in Asia.
7. The fast evolving global and regional scenario has almost unhinged India’s encirclement plan and today it finds itself encircled and isolated.
8. Modi is upset that so far USA has not come to his rescue and Russia has decided to watch the conflict from a distance. Whatever additional weaponry he may acquire, wouldn’t match China’s military power, which is far superior. More so, it is the morale and will to fight which matters and not the tangible factors. Indian military is deficient of these vital ingredients.
Happy tidings for Pakistan
Since 2001, Pakistan was encircled and choked under a calculated scheme and was left with no breathing space due to war on terror, hostility of India, Afghanistan and non-cooperation of Iran. Neutralization of Afghan and Iran fronts would give a deathblow to Indian sponsored terrorism in Baluchistan and KP and would not only let Pakistan breathe freely after the impending crack-up of India’s strategic encirclement plan, but would also diminish threats to security of CPEC.
Guidelines for Pakistan
Unfortunately, Pakistan leadership has still not come out of the obsession of befriending India, which has repeatedly threatened to splinter Pakistan. India has still not reconciled with the existence of Pakistan and it keeps scheming to undo Pakistan, which it sees as the only stumbling block in its way to become unchallenged super power of South Asia and a global power.
We naively think that prosperity of Pakistan hinges upon friendship with India and promotion of trade and business between the two countries. This myopic fixation must end and we should learn to look elsewhere to make the country prosperous.
Pakistan should further galvanize its efforts for early political settlement in Afghanistan, and facilitate in growth of understanding between Iran and China. Correspondingly, China can help in mitigating the irritants between Iran and Pakistan.
With China’s entry, Chahbahar-Gwadar would complement as sister ports instead of rivalling each other to draw mutual benefits. Pakistan must put in concerted efforts to complete the phase-2 projects of CPEC in next three years since it has become its economic life line.
Idea of RPEC should be turned into a reality.
Pakistan is enmeshed in host of political, economic and Covid-19 problems. With external geopolitical environments showing signs of improvement, the government must redouble its efforts to put its house in order by making visible improvements in governance, financial management, moral rearmament and above all alleviating the socio-economic issues of the poor.
In conclusion one can say that Indo-US- Israeli nexus supported by UK in their bid to monopolize the world have disturbed the peace of the world and made it unsafe and insecure. The trio is pushing the world towards 3rd world war. The world is in need of a new international order based on equity, justice and fair play. USA is a descending power and China an ascending power. Space for the war mongers and spoilers is shrinking and for peacemakers expanding. The economic pivot has shifted from the west to the east and the 21st century will be Asia’s century.
The writer is a retired Brig Gen, war veteran, father of 3rd generation officer Maj Faheem Asif Shaheed, defence & security analyst, international columnist, author of five books, Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, Member CWC and Veterans Think Tank PESS, Member Council Tehreek Jawanan Pakistan. firstname.lastname@example.org