By: | Muhammad Ali Azlan |
India and Iran on Saturday signed agreements, including Tehran leasing to New Delhi operational control of part of the Iranian east coast port of Chabahar for 18 months.
The $85 million project, just 90km from Gwadar port, creates a transit route between India, Iran and Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan.
India is trying to develop Chabahar as a way to gain access to the markets of Central Asia countries as well as Afghanistan.
A leasing agreement giving operational control to India of Shahid Beheshti port — phase one of the Chabahar port — was signed in the presence of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Later, addressing a joint press conference with the Iranian president, Mr Modi said both countries wanted to expand bilateral ties and cooperation in economic development.
“We will support the construction of the Chabahar-Zahedan rail link so that Chabahar gateway’s potential could be fully utilised,” he said. “We want to expand connectivity, cooperation in the energy sector and the centuries-old bilateral relationship.”
Other agreements included a double taxation avoidance treaty, extradition, and cooperation in the farm sector.
Peace in Afghanistan
The Indian prime minister and the Iranian president agreed to step up efforts to bring stability to war-ravaged Afghanistan.
Mr Modi reiterated India’s commitment to help Afghanistan become “a peaceful, secure, permanent, prosperous and pluralistic country” after holding talks with Mr Rouhani in New Delhi on the last day of his three-day visit.
“Looking at our common interests, we are committed to stopping the expansion of such forces that promote international organised crime in terrorism, extremism, illegal drug trafficking, cyber crime and various forms,” Mr Modi said.
“We want to see our region and the world free from terrorism,” he added.
There was no mention of financial assistance or providing weapons to help Afghanistan fight militants by either leader. They did not name Pakistan.
India has been a key supporter of Kabul’s government and has poured more than $2 billion into the country since the Taliban were toppled in 2001.
India has been a key purchaser of Iranian oil and gas, and maintained trade ties even as international sanctions were imposed on Tehran over its nuclear programme between 2012 and 2016. However, local Indian media have reported frustrations over delays in awarding a contract to develop a major gas field known as Farzad B. in the Gulf.
COAS address at MSC Germany on 17 Feb 2018
In Pakistan, the notion of caliphate has not found any traction, but jihad has definitely been used to radicalize fairly large tracts of population. However, this phenomenon is not a recent creation or started after 9/11. The Frankenstein was actually created by the liberal free world, with willing, but myopic cooperation from our side after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Therefore, we allare responsible for making the world population in general and Muslim population in particular, hostage to this extremist ideology.
Times have surely changed since the noon of March 10, 1982, when, President Ronald Reagan, dedicated the March 22nd launch of the Columbia Space Shuttle to the valiant Afghan Mujahedeens or Jihadis and termed their struggle against the Soviet occupation forces as a representation of `man’s highest aspirations for freedom’
When I was young, Pakistan was as normal a country as any other on the earth. Jacqueline Kennedy flew to Karachi, the Beatles visited us, Queen Elizabeth went to the Khyber pass to chat with the tribesmen. We were a favorite tourism destination for many. We were hosting world cups of hockey and cricket, besides many other multi-national events. World Bank termed Pakistan in 1963 as one of the most progressive and dynamic developing country in Asia
The seventies were nothing less than a disaster for us, but even the separation of the Eastern part of our country and the political upheavals thereafter, did not change the society as deeply as the events of 1979, the year the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and the Iranian revolution happened, next door. It was only then that we started learning that we were not only Muslims, but were Sunnis and Shias. It was also the time that we were drawn to conviction of fighting the Soviet invasion and also challenging communist ideology
“With the able intellectual assistance of free world, a syllabus was designed in
one of the Western University for Madrassahs wherein jihad was fed to young
minds in a concentrated dose without context or explanation. An exception was
created, using a ‘self defence’ clause to justify declaration of jihad by Non State
Actors. Young men were recruited from all over the world, radicalized and then
left and disowned after they had delivered us, the success.”
With this rather long context, let me now come to the story of Pakistan’s struggle against extremism, terrorism and so called Jihadism
Pakistan Army has waged a relentless and bloody fight against terrorism and violent extremism, at a monumental human and material cost:-
Over 35,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives
Over 48,000 are critically wounded or disabled
Financial cost exceeding US $ 250 Billion – only a fraction of which is actually shared by our global partners.
Out of the last 131 terrorist attacks in our border areas last year, 123 were conceived, planned and executed from Afghanistan. We understand their predicament therefore we do not blame them, but instability in Afghanistan is also hurting us badly – and it is happening despite the presence of the most powerful alliance in Kabul.
Unfortunately, Afghanistan, success of 2003 was lost when resources were pulled out prematurely for war in Iraq. Today, after spending more than 1.4 Trillion, the situation can best be described as a stalemate. But to my reckoning the cause of stalemate is not only the Haqqani Network or TTA, as they had almost been defeated 13 years ago; it was the pursuit of a wrong strategy which led to their resurrection. Let me say that the popular assertion of TTA not being defeated in totality due to presence of part of their leadership in Pakistan, is not correct or whole truth. We defeated Al-Qaeda, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and Jamat-ul-Ahrar, while their safe heavens still exist in Afghanistan at a mere fraction of resources employed on the other side of the border. Now instead of blame games, it is time for NATO and allies to conduct an audit and introspection to find out causes for this stalemate.
Saudi Arabia has allowed Air India to use its airspace for flights between Delhi and Tel Aviv, Israeli daily Haaretz has reported.
However, there has not been an official confirmation from either the ministry of civil aviation here or Air India.
According to a spokesperson of the airline, the national carrier has sought permission from regulatory body DGCA for thrice-a-week flight services between Delhi and Tel Aviv from March, which is awaited.
Another Air India official said the airline is also waiting for slots at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport and Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport.
Many Arab and Islamic nations do not recognise Israel and, therefore, disallow airlines from using their airspace for flight services to that country.
According to the official, an approval from Saudi Arabia to use its airspace will allow Air India to take a shorter route by flying over Ahmedabad, Muscat, Saudi Arabia and then land at Tel Aviv.
This route will lead to a shorter flight duration between the two cities by two and a half hours and save fuel costs, the official said.
As of now, Israel’s El Al flights between Tel Aviv and Mumbai take a seven-hour circuitous route and fly over the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and then enter India and avoid countries that are on the direct flight path such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Due to route overflying issues Air India was earlier also examining the possibility of operating flights from Mumbai to Tel Aviv.
Israel’s tourism ministry has announced a one-time grant of 750,000 euros to Air India for flight operations.
Saudi Arabia has invited India to play a ‘key role’ in its economic transformation as it embarks on an ambitious plan to diversify sources of its revenue and to cut dependence on oil exports following a long period of decline in crude prices.
The call made to India to engage more intensively with the Kingdom comes within the framework of the Saudi Vision 2030.
“Saudi Arabia is now looking to a post-oil age that will usher in an era of world-class technological research, start-up development, entrepreneurial vigor and vast investment opportunities,” Saudi Ambassador to India Saud Al-Sati said, while speaking at the ‘Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit’ in India. “We welcome India as a central participant in this exciting new phase of our country’s profound growth,” he added.
Referring to the Saudi participation at the four-day business summit, Al-Sati told Arab News Saturday that a strong 20-member Saudi delegation was participating in the conference that concluded Friday. A large number of Saudi companies and institutions including SABIC and Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) attended the business summit in Gujarat, the home state of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In his speech at the Saudi Arabia country seminar at the summit, the envoy explained Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan to “transform the entire foundation of the Saudi economy.”
He elaborated about how strong ties with countries like India can contribute to Saudi Arabia’s economic development and also provide opportunities for allies and friends to share the “economic cake” as the countries march together for development.
“Through the Vision 2030 program, we are aiming to free the Saudi economy from dependence on oil by diversifying the Kingdom’s sources of income, attracting foreign investment and making Saudi Arabia a manufacturing hub,” he added.
“While Saudi Vision 2030 emphasizes future focus on the non-hydrocarbon sector, the oil sector of our economy will, of course, remain vital for years to come, and we will continue to meet India’s energy needs,” Al-Sati said.
Referring to the visit of Indian Prime Minister Modi to Riyadh early last year, he said that the premier’s visit that led to the signing of several agreements elevated the bilateral ties to “a new era of strategic partnership, and enhanced cooperation in political, economic, and security affairs.” Noting that bilateral trade in 2015 was worth nearly $40 billion with India importing a fifth of its oil needs from Saudi Arabia, the ambassador highlighted some latest milestones in Indo-Saudi economic relations.
He said that Riyadh was keen that its bilateral trade and investment relations with India grows beyond oil and energy, notably in areas such as food, chemicals and textiles.
Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth largest trade partner and a major source for its energy security, accounting for some 20 percent of its crude oil needs.
Besides these positive indicators, it is import to mention here that the SAGIA has given operating licenses to 426 Indian companies so far.
On the sidelines of the business summit, Saudi and Indian companies signed several memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with commitment to invest millions of dollars in joint projects.
Saudi Arabia on Wednesday committed to invest in Gujarat by inking six MoUs in solar power, chemicals, and information technology sectors with the state-run Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers Corporation (GNFC), according to a report published by ‘The Times of India’, a major English daily newspaper of India.
This was for the first time that a large delegation from the Kingdom participated in the business summit in India.
Departing for the ‘Kingdom Of Arabia’
A day after the military announced the deployment of Pakistan Army troops to Saudi Arabia for a training and advisory mission, Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir said the final decision was taken after the rules of engagement were clarified.
“Negotiations were ongoing regarding the rules of engagement, and once we attained clarity on the issue that the troops will be on a training and advisory mission to strengthen the ground defence of Saudi Arabia, the troops were sent,” said the defence minister.
He elaborated that Pakistani troops are needed to better train and advise Saudi troops as the country has come under repeated missile attacks from Yemen’s Houthi militia.
When asked how the Pakistani forces will assist in stopping the missile attacks, Dastgir said, “we will not be giving them air defence”.
“We only want to train their forces and better advise them. The areas bordering Yemen are mountainous, and as Pakistan’s army is highly trained in mountain warfare, we will train and advise them.”
No country, except China, has committed to vote for Pakistan as it struggles to avert terror-tag at the six-day meeting of the Financial Action Task Force – a global body combating terror financing and money-laundering.
The FATF meeting started on Sunday in Paris and will also consider the United States’ resolution to place Pakistan on the terror watch list.
Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Pakistan had contacted almost all the members of the FATF through diplomatic channels but “they showed inclination” to the US resolution against Pakistan .
One official said: “Some countries like Russia, Germany and Belgium gave a little hope but there was no commitment. Majority of the (FATF member) countries looked firm to raise their hands for the US. We are sure of one vote from China as they (China) have always supported Pakistan . “The development is, of course, shocking for Pakistan . We have been working to control the damage,” he said.
The 37 permanent members of FATF include Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, European Commission, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Gulf Co-operation Council, Hong Kong, China, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Russian Federation, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom and the US. Israel and Saudi Arabia have observer status.
Before the FATF meeting, Prime Minister’s Adviser on Finance Miftah Ismail visited Germany, Netherlands and Belgium to seek support. Federal minister Awais Ahmed Khan Leghari also visited Malaysia. Both of them did not return with the desired results.
The imminent FATF verdict will be a huge setback as major global financial institutions – including International Monetary Fund and World Bank – are under the FATF influence. The European Commission and the United Nations also give importance to the FATF. Last week, US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert had announced that a resolution to place Pakistan on the global terror-financing watch list had been submitted to the FATF. She said the US had been concerned about Pakistan’s actions for a long time. “We have therefore decided that we want to place Pakistan on an international watch list,” she added.
This month, the US had imposed sanctions on three individuals linked to ‘Pakistan-based militant networks’ in a bid to push Islamabad to crack down on the alleged perpetrators of attacks on Afghanistan.
The US Treasury Department designated the men as “global terrorists” for their alleged connections to Lashkar-e-Taiba and other groups. It came after the US blacklisted six people accused of supporting the Taliban and Haqqani network in Afghanistan, and stressed their links to Pakistan .
The decision targeted Rahman Zeb Faqir Mohammed, who collected funds for Lashkar in the Gulf. The other two blacklisted men – Hizb Ullah Astam Khan and Dilawar Khan Nadir Khan – were accused of acting on behalf of Sheikh Aminullah, who was sanctioned in 2009 for providing material support to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
The US has already suspended security assistance to Pakistan targeting the Coalition Support Fund. Heather Nauert said Pakistan will be able to receive the suspended funding if it took ‘decisive actions’ against the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban.
Pakistan claims the money it had received from the US was mainly reimbursements for supporting US-led coalition forces after they invaded Afghanistan in 2001. Islamabad also made it clear that US aid did not run Pakistan’s the anti-terror or play a significant economic role.
Islamabad also threatened to end the partnership if pressed to the limits. Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohammed Asif even publically snubbed Washington saying the alliance with the US was “over”.
Earlier, US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said his country could “consider ending a suspension” of security assistance to Pakistan if “decisive and sustained” action was taken against all the militant groups, referring to the Haqqani Network.
He told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “We may consider lifting the suspension when we see decisive and sustained actions to address our concerns, including targeting all terrorist groups operating within its territory, without distinction.”
Another official at the foreign ministry said Pakistan was in contact with the Muslim-majority countries to counter the US move. But, he added: “The influential Muslim-majority countries are allies of the US. The others are mere numbers. They do not have international status,” he remarked.
Foreign office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said Pakistan was committed to combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. “Such motions (like the resolution being considered by the FATF) are aimed to hamper the economic growth of Pakistan ,” he added.
Defence analyst Brig (retd) Harris Nawaz said the US should not target Pakistan as “Pakistan has given huge sacrifices in the war on terrorism.” He said the US should also monitor India’s intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, which was involved in terrorist activities across Pakistan .
“They (the US) are discriminating. They are ignoring India’s terrorism and criticizing our war on terrorism. This is hard to understand. We have lost lives and money and we are being blamed of sponsoring terrorism,” he argued.
With forever changing dynamics of the geopolitical tussle, Pakistan ends up losing from whatever angle you see the situation.
Whilst everything around us goes up in flames due to poor planning and Incompetency, we continue to support and promote snakes in our sleeves.
Pakistan’s Military establishment continues to win battles but sadly they are losing this war.
Civilian leadership is as meek as ever, Where a person humiliated and removed thrice from his democratic throne looks to reign yet again for the fourth time due to a possible hung parliament.
Our severe diplomatic deficiencies and lack of a multi faceted awareness to the astonishing changes and partnerships blossoming around the global spectrum have left us severely isolated and perhaps ill-prepared.
It makes up for a very bleak and blurry account of things and the future does not look that hopeful if we don’t start taking aggressive policy steps to counter the looming threats which have us cornered from every side imaginable.
As new bonds are forged and new ally’s made, you may enjoy this interpretive sword dance by the Ex-COAS of Pakistan Army in Saudi Arabia serving as the head of a 41-nation Islamic military alliance.