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)
Same version of this article is posted on DailyTimes
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.
Same version of this Article is published in ArabNews
Pakistan enjoys cordial relations with all members of the SCO (except perhaps India). Geographic contiguity as well as shared cultural and historical bond have added depth and
dimension to the relations;
Pakistan has high stakes in the security, stability and prosperity of the region.Consequently, Pakistan supports the principles, purposes, objective and the activities of the SCO, of which it was an observer even before it became a formal member.
Over the past seventy years, Pakistan has been trying to promote peace in the region and beyond, but its efforts have not been reciprocated by some regional countries, particularly India;
Pakistan and Russia have a long history of bilateral relations, but unfortunately, both nations thus far, have not been able to achieve the full potential of to this relationship. Nonetheless, Pakistan has supported Russia’s membership in the Organization of Islamic
conference (OIC), and Russia is supportive of Pakistan’s membership of the NSG in principle.
There are ample possibilities for great relations between Pakistan and Russia in the future. Pakistan and Russia have a tremendous potential to improve their bilateral relations and lay down a stronger basis of economic and defense cooperation. The SCO provides an additional forum to develop and strengthen the interstate relationship
“Election adventurism of Mr. Modi has internationalized the Kashmir issue and time has come to resolve it once and for all” -Senator Sehar Kamran Aerial intrusions by the Indian fighter jets on the Line of Control (LOC) is not only a breach of Pakistan’s sovereignty but a flagrant violation of United Nations Charter article 2(4) and international law. India is playing with fire as it’s in sensible actions seriously undermining the fragile balance of deterrence in South Asia. It is feared that the current imbroglio between the two nuclear armed rivals have the potential to escalate, if Modi’s saber rattling remained unchecked.
The current standoff between the India- Pakistan makes it far more critical and catastrophic than the previous ones, especially in the backdrop of forthcoming general elections in India. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is accustomed of playing war mongering tactics and fueling anti-Muslim propaganda to seek votes. Indian intelligentsia need to examine why Indian elections are fought at the cost of peace and how long it will continue to risk regional safety and security.
Despite repetitive offerings of ‘dialogues’ from Islamabad, Mr. Modi, a known political charlatan, has chosen the path of fake misadventureism endangering regional peace for cheaper electoral gains. Pakistan’s political leadership on the other hand decided not to respond to empty war rhetoric and reckless jingoism. At the same time Pakistan made it categorically clear that a befitting response would be given to any mischievous act of India in self-defense.
In response to Indian intrusion of LOC, Pakistan struck back while engaging six ground targets. Meanwhile two Indian jets were shot down and one Indian fighter pilot was arrested. This was an ample display of ‘will’ and ‘capability’ to retaliate in case India decided to further escalate the situation. It is important to note that the strategic dynamics of the South Asia are delicate and strategic stability is fragile. The current scenario of action reaction game between Pakistan and India following ‘Pulwama Attack’ in the occupied valley of Kashmir draws a challenging picture for the deterrence stability in the region.
As a matter of fact Election adventurism of Mr. Modi has internationalized the Kashmir issue and time has come to resolve it once and for all’. Today world’s attention is not only towards the two nuclear rivals, and extremely tensed region, but also towards the global peace. The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed deep concern over the rising tensions between Pakistan and India. He also offered mediation between both countries for de-escalation. The UN chief’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, in response to a question at the regular briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, said that “his good offices remain available if both sides agree”. Some friendly countries have also issued similar statements and urged both countries to de-escalate the military tension and initiate a political dialogue for the peaceful resolution of Kashmir conflict. Furthermore, the United Status’s President Donald Trump also hinted “we have some reasonably decent news from India, Pakistan”. The people of Pakistan appreciate all sincere efforts and statements. However, the most decent news at the moment will be end of atrocities in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) and significant initiatives of International community for the peaceful resolution of Kashmir issue in accordance with the will of its people.
As far as the issue of terrorism is concerned, Pakistan has remained a victim of terrorism and is also facing the hybrid war; but despite all odds, Pakistan fought courageously to root out this menace from its territory. As a front line state in the fight against the terrorism, Pakistan has suffered immensely both in terms of human casualties and economically. In the wake of recent attack, Pakistan’s political and military leadership categorically made it clear that Pakistan will act and cooperate if India provide ‘actionable intelligence’ to Pakistan regarding the incident. After delay of more than two weeks, now Pakistan’s foreign office received the Indian dossier. It will be reviewed by the foreign office, all legal evidence will be probed and action will be taken if credible evidence are found.
To de-escalate the tension on the borders, Pakistan has taken a bold diplomatic step to release the captured Indian pilot as a gesture of ‘peace’. Pakistan overtures for peace should not be construed as an act of weakness or pressure. Pakistan is a peace loving country and will continue to pursue policy of ‘restraint with responsibility.’ Now it is the responsibility of international community and so called custodian of world peace to differentiate between the ‘peace overtures’ and ‘war mongering’- and put pressure on India to stop committing atrocities against unarmed people of Kashmir, killing of civilians in LOC ceasefire vilations and breaching the territorial sovereignty of Pakistan.
It may be noted that incidents like Pulwama, Uri, Pathankot and Mumbai won’t change the political dimension of Kashmiri freedom struggle. Instead of blame game, Modi’s government should admit that indigenous and legitimate political struggle of Kashmiris can’t be curbed with power and military tactics. Contrary to its fake claims, India as a democratic country has failed to bridge the contradiction between its ideals and actual state policies.
Time has come that Indian masses and civil society need to question their state’s failed ‘Kashmir Policy’. Furthermore, there is need to have a serious debate within India on Kashmir and its future. One thing is crystal clear that the brutal tactics, killing of innocent peoples and pellets guns’ wont silence the brave and just voices of Kashmiri people. Narendra Modi may win or lose election but Kashmir issue has once again won the world attention.
Same version of the article appeared in Stratforasia
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