China-India Standoff; Panama JIT; Indian Asylum Seekers

What is India-China standoff in Bhutan's Doklam about? What are the risks of either side miscalculating? Can this border conflict spiral out of control and escalate into a full-scale war like the the 1962 war? Can it lead to a wider regional conflict? How would such a war conclude?

What are the political implications of the ongoing Panama case hearings in Pakistan Supreme Court? How are the media and political parties lining up on this? Will the Supreme Court disqualify and remove Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from holding office for corruption? Will it be seen as normal democratic process of accountability or a conspiracy to subvert an elected government?

Why are Indians among the top 5 asylum seekers in the world along with Syria? What's driving Indians to seek refuge in OECD nations? Is it lack of economic opportunity or increasing religious violence? Or something else?

Viewpoint From Overseas host Faraz Darvesh discusses these questions with Misbah Azam and Riaz Haq (

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Hindu Nationalist Delusions; Modi's Blunders

New Post Cold War World Alignment

Pakistan JIT in Panama Case

Indians Among World's Top Asylum Seekers

Lynchistan: India is the Lynching Capital of the World

Talk4Pak Youtube Channel


Riaz Haq said…
India faced more terror attacks than Syria in 2016: US report
"On average, terrorist attacks in India caused 0.4 total deaths per attack in 2016, compared to 2.4 deaths per attack worldwide. Nearly three-quarters of attacks (73%) in India in 2016 were non-lethal," the report said.

The US State Department recently released its annual report on terrorism which analyses the counter-terrorism initiatives adopted by different countries. The Country Reports on Terrorism 2016 also elaborates on the looming terror threat facing South Asian region and provides inputs to combat terrorism.

According to the report, the number of terrorist attacks in India increased by 16 per cent in 2016 and the total number of deaths too went up by 17 per cent. Globally, however, the total number of terrorist attacks in 2016 decreased by 9 per cent and so did the total deaths due to terrorist attacks (13 per cent decreased). The report attributes this to fewer attacks in Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Yemen.
The same year, India was also ranked third — behind Iraq and Afghanistan — in the list of the countries that faced the most number of terrorist attacks.
“Compared to the other countries that experienced the most terrorist attacks and fatalities in 2016, the diversity of perpetrator groups was much greater in India, with 52 active groups,” the report stated along with adding that nearly two-thirds of the terrorist attacks carried out in India in 2016 (65 per cent) were attributed to the Communist Party of India-Maoist or Maoist perpetrators.
The naxals were classified third, above Boko Haram, in the list of terror groups responsible for carrying out the most number of attacks. Islamic State and Taliban makeup the top three.
The “lethality” of attacks in India, however, remained relatively low compared to other countries. “On average, terrorist attacks in India caused 0.4 total deaths per attack in 2016, compared to 2.4 deaths per attack worldwide. Nearly three-quarters of attacks (73%) in India in 2016 were non-lethal,” the report said.

Riaz Haq said…
Big drop in number of #Indians heading to #oil-rich #GCC from 775K in 2014 to 507K in 2016, remittances dip. #India

The number of Indian workers emigrating to the Gulf for work has dropped in the past couple of years, possibly due to slowing economies of countries part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) which have been hit by weaker oil prices. The decline has been significant between 2014 and 2016.
According to official figures, the number of Indian workers emigrating to the GCC countries was 775,845 in 2014 and fell to 507,296 in 2016.
Though disruptions due to the Islamic State were largely in Iraq-Syria, the instability affected perceptions about the region as a whole.
The reduced flow of Indian workers to the Gulf is seen to have impacted remittances from these countries. While the breakup is not available, overall remittances as recorded in India's balance of payments statistics fell slightly from $69,819 million in 2014-15 to $65,592 million in 2015-16.
In terms of number of Indians emigrating, Saudi Arabia showed a sharp decline from 329,882 in 2014 to 165,356 in 2016, almost a 50% drop.
Part of this is attributable to a slowing Saudi economy due to low oil prices. But for the past few years, Saudi Arabia has been following what the Indian government calls a 'Saudiisation' policy, which is aimed at employing more Saudi nationals rather than foreigners.
"This is to encourage the private sector to employ greater number of Saudi nationals as well as to reducing reliance on expatriate workers. Further, against the backdrop of declining oil prices, the Saudi government has introduced a number of new taxes/VAT so as to augment the sources of government revenue," the foreign ministry told Parliament this week.

In Bahrain, a construction company employing nearly 1,500 Indians laid off around 700 workers but was unable to repatriate them after clearing their dues due to the financial crisis. All such stories have an adverse impact on worker mobility. Indians also continue to get duped by fake recruiting agents. Instances of mistreatment of Indian workers could have added to the slowdown.
Riaz Haq said…
#China warns #India not to harbor illusions in border stand-off. #DoklamStandoff #bhutan

Chinese state media have warned India of a fate worse than the defeat it suffered in their brief border war in 1962.

This month, state media said China's military had carried out live fire drills close to the disputed area.

"Shaking a mountain is easy but shaking the People's Liberation Army is hard," ministry spokesman Wu Qian told a briefing, adding that its ability to defend China's territory and sovereignty had "constantly strengthened".

Early in June, according to the Chinese interpretation of events, Indian guards crossed into China's Donglang region and obstructed work on a road on the plateau.

The two sides' troops then confronted each other close to a valley controlled by China that separates India from its close ally, Bhutan, and gives China access to the so-called Chicken's Neck, a thin strip of land connecting India and its remote northeastern regions.

India has said it warned China that construction of the road near their common border would have serious security implications.

The withdrawal of Indian border guards was a precondition for resolving the situation, Wu reiterated.

"India should not leave things to luck and not harbor any unrealistic illusions," Wu said, adding that the military had taken emergency measures in the region and would continue to increase focused deployments and drills.

"We strongly urge India to take practical steps to correct its mistake, cease provocations, and meet China halfway in jointly safeguarding the border region's peace and tranquillity," he said.

Indian officials say about 300 soldiers from either side are facing each other about 150 meters (yards) apart on the plateau.
Riaz Haq said…
Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Toppled by Corruption Case

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Nawaz Sharif stepped down as Pakistan’s prime minister on Friday after the Supreme Court ordered his removal over accusations of corruption, in a ruling that is likely to shift the country’s tumultuous political balance.

The removal of Mr. Sharif, who was serving his third term in office, came roughly a year before his term was to end. And it deals a serious blow to the legacy of a man who helped define the past generation of Pakistani politics.

The governing political party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, must now choose an interim prime minister to replace Mr. Sharif until the next general election, which is scheduled for mid-2018.

Announced by the five-member Supreme Court, the verdict caps more than a year of high political drama, breathless court proceedings and a piercing investigation into the finances of the Sharif family.

Watching the courtroom drama was the country’s powerful military, which has traditionally decided the fate of civilian governments. There had been hushed speculation that the court, in coming to its decision, had the tacit, if not overt, backing of powerful generals.

The charges against Mr. Sharif and three of his children — two sons and a daughter — stemmed from disclosures last year in the Panama Papers, which revealed that the children owned expensive residential property in London through offshore companies.

In their unanimous verdict on Friday, the justices declared that Mr. Sharif was not “honest” and that he was therefore “disqualified to be a member of the Parliament.” They also ordered the opening of criminal investigations focusing on the Sharif family.

Imran Khan, the opposition politician who has been spearheading the campaign against Mr. Sharif since he took power in 2013, stands to gain the most politically from the prime minister’s removal. Mr. Khan has doggedly and almost obsessively led the charge against Mr. Sharif and rallied a wide swath of the public against him through a mix of street agitation and court petitions.

The Supreme Court had asked the members of the Sharif family to provide a paper trail of the money they used to buy their London apartments. Investigators found that they were “living beyond their means.”

Despite repeated court exhortations, Mr. Sharif’s family and its lawyers failed to provide satisfactory documentation, the justices said. Several of the documents they produced were declared fake or insufficient.

A representative of the governing party said that although Mr. Sharif was stepping down, the party had “strong reservations” about the verdict and was contemplating “all legal and constitutional means” to challenge it.
Riaz Haq said…
#India is not shimmering, it is simmering. #IIP Down. #FarmerSuicides #unemployment #Lynchistan #KasaiCrisis #Modi

India is not shimmering, it is simmering. The Bharat-India cleavage has widened to an unprecedented degree. The disconnect between ground narrative and the public discourse is nothing short of hallucinatory.
There is unprecedented farmer distress in the country.As many as 12,602 persons involved in the farming sector– 8,007 farmers-cultivators and 4,595 agricultural laborers –committed suicide in 2015, according to figures provided by the central government to the Supreme Court.Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh told Parliament that according to National Crime Records Bureau data for 2016, which is yet to be published, 11,400 farmers committed suicide; in 2015, the number was 12,602.
From Tamil Nadu to Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh and even in the food bowl, Punjab, falling farm incomes are driving farmers to take the extreme step of ending their lives.
Similarly, the industrial scenario is dismal. In June 2017, eight core sectors of the economy grew by a dismal 0.4% , down from 7% for the corresponding month in 2016. The growth in Index of Industrial Production (IIP) was 1.7 per cent in May 2017, as compared to a growth of 8.0 per cent in May 2016.
As opposed to 380 lakh new jobs that India required in the38 months this government has been in office, job creation or job growth for 2015 and 2016 (April-December) stood at 1.55 lakh and 2.31 lakh in numbers respectively. The former minister for rural development Jairam Ramesh recently underscored this worrying downturn when he said, “In the first two years of the Modi government, only 4.4 lakh jobs were created in the organized sector as opposed to 21 lakh jobs created during the first two years of the UPA-II government.”
Demonetization and the implementation of the flawed GST have further broken the back of the informal sector of the economy leading to widespread chaos. The GDP growth numbers evidence this phenomenon. In the fourth quarter of 2016 the economy clocked only 6.1% which at 2004-05 base year translates into a measly figure of 4.1% only.
Social harmony has been torn to shreds with Hindustan acquiring the notorious sobriquet of Lynchistan – all thanks to the active encouragement and support of the ruling dispensation, notwithstanding the pro-forma condemnation by the prime minister once in a while. It does not require rocket science to discern the truth. You only need to ask why these lynchings weren’t taking place between 2004-14 and why have they become a norm these past three years?
Internal security lies in tatters. Kashmir is up a creek without a paddle. It is a volcano waiting to explode again as it did last year after Burhan Wani was killed by security forces last year. Maoist activity is on the rise. From January 1-July 15, 170 deaths in 504 incidents have taken place. The North East is on the boil with the Gorkhaland violence having peaked this summer.The 47-day-long indefinite shutdown, which started on June 15, is the longest so far in the picturesque hill station which had last witnessed a 40-day bandh in 1988 by the Gorkha National Liberation Front and a 44-day shutdown in 2013 by GorkhaJanmuktiMorcha on the statehood issue. Even in the otherwise peaceful state of Tripura, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura has upped the ante on their demand to carve out Tipraland— a separate state from Tripura. Meanwhile, there is no sign of the fabled Naga Accord.

Riaz Haq said…
Opinion | #India's #Modi wanted a friend in #Trump. Instead, it’s getting chaos. #China #DoklamStandoff #Pakistan

Political attention here has been focused this summer in two very different directions. There is the Himalayan plateau where Indian and Chinese troops are engaged in the most tense and potentially explosive standoff since a 1962 border war. And there is the din emanating from the Trump administration, which has managed to frighten and confound just about every nation that counts on U.S. global engagement.

The two problems are not directly related: Indians wouldn’t want the United States to get involved in their dispute with Beijing, dangerous though it is, even if a more functional administration were in office. But the confluence is nevertheless unnerving. It has meant that India, a country with which President Trump claims to have established excellent relations, has had to grapple with both a dramatic demonstration of the strategic threat posed by China and an incipient crumbling of confidence in the American partnership it has seen as the antidote.

Let’s start with the border spat, which resembles China’s clashes with Japan over a disputed island chain and its invasive construction of islets and airstrips in the South China Sea. It began in June with a unilateral move by Beijing to construct a road in a disputed piece of mountain territory where India, China and Bhutan come together, overlooking the narrow strip that connects India’s northeast to the rest of the country.

Rather than tolerate the intrusion, the government of Narendra Modi, a populist and nationalist who shares Trump’s autocratic instincts, dispatched troops to block the bulldozers. Now Indian and Chinese soldiers are deployed just hundreds of yards apart, even as Chinese state media outlets blare angry rhetoric. Though Indian analysts say a shooting war is unlikely — China would be hard-pressed to dislodge the Indian forces from the high ground they hold — they expect the standoff to drag on through China’s Communist Party congress in the autumn.

The dust-up has served to accentuate growing Indian anxiety about its emerging- superpower neighbor. Watching China’s initiatives in South Asia, from the construction of ports in Sri Lanka and Pakistan to the hugely ambitious “belt and road” projects from Central Asia to Africa, Indians need not be paranoid to feel encircled. Their sense of vulnerability has been compounded by the perception that Russia, a traditional ally, has been driven into the arms of China by its growing conflicts with the West.

India’s strategy for balancing China depends heavily on the United States. Though unwilling to conclude a direct alliance, Modi has followed previous Indian governments in moving steadily closer to Washington, conducting joint naval exercises and buying U.S. military equipment. His was one of the few friendly governments to find some cheer in Trump’s election: The candidate, after all, had promised to improve relations with India’s friend Russia and get tough on China and terrorism by Muslim extremists.

Instead, what Indians have seen from Washington is contradictions and chaos. Though not the aim of the White House, U.S. relations with the regime of Vladimir Putin are considerably worse now than they were six months ago. Trump, meanwhile, has gyrated between embracing China’s Xi Jinping and assailing him on Twitter for failing to rein in North Korea. U.S. “freedom of navigation” patrols challenging Chinese claims in the South China Sea ceased for a while before suddenly starting again.

In Afghanistan, a vital interest for India, the Trump administration at first seemed set to adopt a welcome new policy of beefing up U.S. forces to stop the Pakistan-supported Taliban. Then reports emerged that Trump had rebuffed the plan and was leaning toward abandoning the war.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's an excerpt of Barbara Constable's Playing With Fire:

"Throughout the 1990s, during two periods of rule by Sharifs and two by his archrial Benazir Bhutto, the privatization process became a game of grab and run. Investing of investing in solid projects, many business groups colluded with corrupt officials to make quick profits. They borrowed huge sums (from state-owned banks) without collateral, created and dissolved ghost factories, purchased state assets at token prices, avoided paying taxes, defaulted on shaky loans, or deferred paying them indefinitely....Major defaulters and beneficiaries of loan write-offs, granted by both the Bhuttos and Sharif governments, included some of Pakistan's wealthiest business families-- Manshas, Saigols, Hashwanis, Habibs, Bhuttos and Sharifs......using the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the (Musharraf) regime (after year 2000) went to prosecute eighteen hundred cases of corruption to recover nearly $3.4 billion in assets."
Riaz Haq said…
Dangerous liaison: #Bhutan people drift away from #India, toward #China as #Dolklam continues. #IndiaChinaStandoff

As the Doklam crisis continues to linger, Bhutan seems to be drifting away from India. In the capital, THE WEEK finds young Bhutanese openly proclaiming their love for China. Even monks and senior officials are not immune to China’s charm

Outside the arrival gate at the Paro airport, the only international airport in Bhutan, I was greeted by a gush of wind on August 11. It was, however, not too cold, and thick clouds were kissing the surrounding hilltops. As the taxi reached the outskirts of Thimphu, the capital city 48km away, it started raining heavily. And the lush green hills glittered like a string of pearls.

Bhutan has been witnessing a glittering transition over the past decade. Once a conservative monarchy, it made a smooth switch to democracy in 2008. Three years ago, the country witnessed a dramatic break from the past as the young king, Jigmey Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk, publicly kissed his wife, Jetsun Pema—twice on her cheeks and once on the lips. The king’s public display of affection hinted at a big change in the Himalayan kingdom.

Some of the changes are quite visible. I was under the impression that smoking was banned in Bhutan, and that there were no pubs or discotheques. But the taxi driver, Karma Dorjee, said there was no such ban. “This king is great. He has given us the freedom of choice,” said Karma. In Thimphu, I saw several pubs and discotheques. “Young girls dance here for money. These dance bars are only for adults,” Karma said. Although smoking is banned, tourists and others were puffing away in public. And, public displays of affection are no longer taboo.

What seems forbidden is any discussion of the Doklam standoff in the trijunction of India, Bhutan and China. “Two big nations are fighting and we are caught in the crossfire. We don’t know where will we go if war breaks out,” said tour operator Sonaem Dorji.

So, no open support for India. Is support for China growing?

Sonaem said some Bhutanese supported China out of fear. “They will finish us if we get closer to them. China is a nasty country and we don’t want it to be here in any form. India controls Bhutan, but it will never invade us,” he said. As I spent more time in Bhutan, I realised that people like Sonaem could be in the minority.

For an official reaction to the Doklam crisis, I rang up the prime minister’s office and requested an appointment. Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay replied through his personal secretary: “For the next two months, I am totally occupied. I have a series of meetings and foreign trips.” The secretary directed me to the ministry of foreign affairs, with a word of caution. “If you raise the Doklam issue, you will not get any response. It is a calculated decision, which has come from the top. No one would speak a word,” he said.

Foreign Minister Lynopo Damcho Dorji’s secretary told me over the phone that the minister was in Nepal for a conference of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation). “Neither the minister nor the officials would make any further comment on the Doklam standoff,” he said.

Located in northwest Bhutan, Doklam is an inaccessible piece of strategic real estate. The crisis erupted after China started building a paved road, which can carry vehicles up to 40 tonnes, in the region. It would have linked Bhutan with Tibet and threatened the vulnerable Siliguri corridor.

Strategic experts in Bhutan say that, to resolve the crisis, India should respect the Anglo-Chinese treaty (1890), which has been accepted by successive Indian governments since independence. “And that clearly says India would have access to Nathu La while China could access Doklam,” said political commentator and blogger Wangcha Sangey.

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