Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies and National Institute of Maritime Affairs sign a Memorandum of Understanding at Bahria University, Islamabad on 13th June 2019. The memorandum was signed by Vice Admiral (R) Syed Khawar Ali Shah HI (M) on behalf of NIMA and Ambassador Shaukat Ali Mukadam member advisory board. The signing ceremony was graced by Senator Sehar Kamran (TI) President of CPGS. Both the think tanks, realizing the need of in depth research on the potential of oceans in the global geo-strategic and economic dynamics and to face the challenges arising from the power kinetics in the oceans, have decided to share their intellectual endeavors. The MoU is a timely step in the right direction for realization of responsibility on part of the both institutions to enhance strategic awareness as well as render policy recommendations to the concerned quarters on matters of national concern.
Geopolitical and strategic dynamics of broader Middle East are undergoing seismic changes due to escalating tension between the United States and Iran, after unilateral American withdrawal from the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 countries. The situation further aggravated with subsequent re-imposition of the US sanctions on Iran earlier lifted as a result of Iranian compliance of the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA), also known as the P5+1 Agreement. The recent escalation started when last month, the Trump administration cancelled the US waivers allowing eight countries – China, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey to continue buying oil from Iran. Moreover, the US designated Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization, and threatened others to stop ‘doing business’ with Iran as this would be considered as ‘bankrolling terrorism.’ In a tit for tat response, Iran declared American military’s Central Command (Centcom) as a terrorist organization and the US government as sponsor of terror. The defiant reciprocal moves by Iran have vitiated the already precarious security environment of the region.
In October 2017, the people of Raqqa were finally freed from the heinous rule of the Islamic State (IS) by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) comprising Kurdish and Arab fighters after suffering in absolute hell under the tyranny of IS for about four years. The defeat of Islamic State’s territorial caliphate in Syria had compelled foreign fighters to flee and return to their native countries.
Many security analysts are of the view that though IS has suffered a ‘physical defeat’ but its ideology still holds the power to inspire extremist recruits and it will continue to attract the ideologically motivated Jihadis around the world. The IS appears to have transformed itself from ‘state to a fluid organization’ capable of offering umbrella to different local, regional and international militant organisations to use its name and new method i.e. ‘Do-It-Yourself terrorism’. The recent terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tunisia and Sri Lanka are the prime examples of this new modus operandi adopted by the IS and their local affiliates.
Senator Sehar Kamran
Outer space is ‘global commons’ and ‘common heritage’ for all mankind. It has a tremendous amount of significance for socioeconomic development. According to the Bank of America, the current space market is valued at roughly $350 billion and will continue to grow to reach roughly $2.7 trillion within the next three decades. Countries and commercial entities are investing in telecommunication, earth observation, and orbital manufacturing and private habitat and it will further develop and increase the share of space economy in the future. Apart from civilian and peaceful use of space, high tech advanced countries are using the space for military purposes, and hence their defensive and offensive military activities have the spectre of the arms race in the outer space. That in turn, will further increase the potentially ruinous consequences by creating the space debris and risking the relative stability in the outer space.
The issue of prevention of arms race in the outer space (PAROS) has been on the agenda item of the Conference of Disarmament (CD) but up till now, no substantive outcome or legally binding guidelines have emerged.
On 27 March 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in a national address that India carried out maiden anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon test for the first time. According to India’s DRDO press statement, the ‘Mission Shakti’ took three minutes to destroy the intended target i.e. satellite at an altitude of 300 km, in low earth orbit (LEO). With this test, India joined the league of three nations namely USA, Russia and China, who already demonstrated that capability in the past.
India’s ASAT test once again highlighted the ineffectiveness of international regimes governing the activities of outer space and failure to formulate the binding rules to regulate countries space endeavours. Moreover, the absence of ‘no rules’ opens a window for states to exploit these legal loopholes for their geopolitical and geostrategic considerations while threatening the global prosperity on one hand and setting of a precedent for other states to follow suit. Unchecked ‘weaponization of outer space’ and ‘prestige’ led space arms race has the potential to trigger lethal ‘cascading effects’ for international peace and stability.
“Unchecked ‘weaponization of outer space’ and ‘prestige’ led space arms race has the potential to trigger lethal ‘cascading effects’ for international peace and stability.”
Pakistan condemned the Indian ASAT test and according to Foreign Office press statement “Pakistan remains a strong proponent of non-militarization of outer space.” Furthermore, it stated that it’s a “matter of grave concern for the international community not only in terms of generation of space debris but also because of its ramifications for long term sustainability of peaceful space activities. And if these moves were unchecked, it could pose serious consequences for “global and regional peace, stability and security.”
In the context of the current state of play in South Asia, where strategic stability is under tremendous pressure due to Modi’s irrational and delusional blunders, since 14 February 2019, the threat of ‘nuclear nightmare’ has been looming large on the horizon and currently, there is no hope that the security situation will be diffused till the conclusion of Indian ‘General Elections’ in May 2019. According to Indian domestic political analysts, the primary purpose behind the ‘Balakot Misadventure’ and ‘ASAT test’ was to woo its electorates to win the elections; and for this very purpose, Narendra Modi could go at any length.
The recent statement of Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi added further context to that premise. He said “India is planning a new attack on Pakistan… this could take place between April 16 and 20,” and it is the “responsibility of the international community” to shun their silence for the larger stability of the region.
Given post-Balakot domestic and international scrutiny of India’s Ministry of External Affairs and Indian Airforce false narrative regarding the tally of casualties of alleged militants in Balakot and downing of F16 jets, subsequent international reports regarding Indian claims tell different story and for instance, the ‘Foreign Policy’ magazine’s exclusive report on ‘F16 Controversy’ further embarrassed the Indian air force and pushed PM Modi into tight spot. According to Lara Seligman, “two senior U.S. defense officials with direct knowledge of the situation told Foreign Policy that U.S. personnel recently counted Islamabad’s F-16s and found none missing.”
Amidst increasing domestic criticism, Indian Air Vice Marshal R.G.K Kapoor held a press conference and refuted the assertion of FP story. Air Vice Marshal Kapoor stated that India has “irrefutable evidence” that Indian jet downed Pakistani F-16 in a dogfight. Interestingly, in his concluding remarks, he said that IAF cannot provide more information to the public due to “security and confidentiality concerns.” That essentially means that there exists no such information and if it had, India would have made it public to embarrass Pakistan.
In a quid pro quo, DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor while commenting on Indian Air Vice Marshal’s presser said that “repetitions do not make [the] truth a lie” and fact is that PAF shot down two IAF jets, wreckage [has been] seen on the ground by all.” Likewise, MIT Assistant Professor, Vipin Narang said that “it looks worse and worse for the Indians,” and it seems India “failed to impose significant costs on Pakistan, [instead] lost a plane and a helicopter of its own in the process.”
That said, India’s testing of ASAT capability again perceived as an attempt of face-saving by the Modi government on one hand and divert the ‘microscopic’ scrutiny on the other. However, the abrupt response from NASA administration was a setback as it briefly halted working with ISRO after the Indian ASAT test. The NASA administration not only visualizes the test from the strategic stability perspective but also as a threat to the concept of space as global commons.
In the background of these dangerous developments in the region, it appears that Indian government narrative is not finding traction in national and international level. Also, it remains to be seen how testing an ASAT capability would elevate the socioeconomic status of a country whose seventy-five percent of population is living under the abject poverty, 200 million people don’t have sufficient access to food and 25 percent children do not have access to education.
Senator Sehar Kamran is the President of Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS) and member of the Senate Forum for Policy Research (SFPR). She has also served as a member Senate of Pakistan for the term 2012-2018)
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Same version of this article is posted on Pakistan Today
In the world’s shifting power dynamics, today’s nation states need to align themselves with organizations that secure their interests through dialogue and cooperation. In large part, peace and regional security now rest within states’ membership of legitimate intergovernmental organizations.
In South Asia, the idea of regional governance and international mediation is not new. But despite the existence of various regional organizations and third-party mediation, the region has historically failed to address and resolve its most longstanding regional disputes. There are a number of reasons for this, but power politics by member states and the vested interplay of global powers are two important ones.
Legitimate international governance is now the need of the hour, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), with its focus on the maintenance of regional peace and economic and humanitarian cooperation, has emerged as an important catalyst for regional integration.
Peace in South Asia depends perhaps singularly on the normalcy of relations between Pakistan and India. The strategic instability between them undermines the scope of regional cooperation and allows non-state actors to wreak havoc. In fact, the military standoff between the two nuclear armed neighbors in the wake of India’s Balakot misadventure in February have challenged the entire conflict resolution framework of our recent histories.
As for the two countries’ invaluable geo-strategic significance to the world, it becomes difficult to say whether or not this is a blessing as the region becomes increasingly prone to unresolved conflicts like Kashmir.
But it is precisely these broad security and economic concerns that have given SCO the impetus to operate as a balanced forum. Despite criticism, it is a fact that the organization understands security as a multidimensional idea comprising military, economic, environmental, human and political factors; a holistic security paradigm which allows both member and non-member states to pool in their resources and potential to maximize output and counter common challenges. Accompanied by a democratic charter and a 2025 development agenda, SCO can serve India and Pakistan as both a conflict resolution framework and a road-map towards stability.
Legitimate international governance is now the need of the hour, and the SCO, with its focus on the maintenance of regional peace and economic and humanitarian cooperation, has emerged as an important catalyst for regional integration. Sehar Kamran
The organization’s charter lays down a criterion-based approach to ensuring regional integration. It’s very first article ensures that existing and aspiring members avoid direct military conflict. The second article deals with the principle implementation of mutual non-use of force. Article three covers the idea of regional integration through economic cooperation. This trilateral combination of SCO articles means that states agree to set aside differences in favor of long-term gains. In the end, it is the idea that economic and political stability are outcomes of economic development that serves as the foundational ground for SCO membership.
The availability of a mature regional anti-terrorist structure (RATS) and joint military exercises further add to the SCO’s strategic significance for India and Pakistan and the convergence of their interests empower the organization to bridge trust deficits. RATS is the first institution of its kind, and manages to engage the collective efforts of all member states to address separatism, extremism and terrorism. It could benefit not only Pakistan, India and Afghanistan but other regional states as well.
According to Chinese President Xi Jinping, “SCO members have created a new model of international relations- partnerships instead of alliance.”
It is imperative for policymakers to keep in mind that geopolitics and geo-economics are not only about overriding one’s competitor but to find space for creating mutual interdependencies i.e. to cooperate instead of competing for power. It is these mutual interdependencies that minimize the risk of conflict and enhance the prospects of a lasting peace.
*Senator Sehar Kamran T.I. is the President of Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS) and member of the Senate Forum for Policy Research (SFPR) from 2018-2021. She has also served as a member Senate of Pakistan for the term 2012-2018.
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