State of Pakistan's Relations With Iran and India

What does Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan hope to accomplish during his Iran visit? What are the key issues bedeviling Iran-Pakistan relations? Cross-border terrorism alleged by both? Pakistan's relations with the Gulf Arabs? CPEC? Afghanistan? Gwadar? Chabahar? Indian RAW's use of Iran to launch terror attacks in Pakistani Balochistan? Who calls the shots in Iran? President Rouhani or the hardline Iranian Revolutionary Guard leaders?

Why is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi continuing to threaten Pakistan with use of force, including use of nuclear weapons? Is this part of his election campaign to appeal to his base? Or will this intimidation go beyond elections if he wins a second term? Is Pakistan Prime Minister's hope of better ties with India under BJP just a mirage? Are analysts like Moeed Yusuf right about India waiting it out to achieve overwhelming superiority to eventually dictate term to Pakistan?

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

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Indian Agent Kulbhushan Jadhav Operated From Iran

Modi's India: A Paper Elephant?

Dr. Moeed Yusuf on Future of India-Pakistan Conflict

Iran-Pakistan Ties

Iran-Saudi Conflict

Pakistan's Nuclear Program

Iran Nuclear Deal

1971 India-Pakistan War

Chabahar vs Gwadar Ports


Riaz Haq said…
#India’s perilous obsession with #Pakistan. Hyper-nationalistic frenzy to ‘defeat’ Pakistan comes with huge human & material costs.
Come Indian elections, the bogey of Pakistan has overwhelmed the #nationalist discourse in the shrillest manner. #Modi #BJP


Here, one should ask the most pertinent question: why does India compete with Pakistan in every sphere, from military to sport, rather than with, say, China, which is comparable in size and population, and which in 1980 had the same GDP as India? (China’s GDP is almost five times that of India’s now.)

Come Indian elections, the bogey of Pakistan has overwhelmed the nationalist discourse in the shrillest manner, with the Prime Minister and other Ministers’ relentless branding of the Congress/Opposition as ‘anti-national’ and as ‘agents of Pakistan’. Further, the Prime Minister even made an unprecedented threat of using nuclear weapons against Pakistan.

As a country born of the two-nation theory based on religion, and then having to suffer dismemberment and the consequent damage to the very same religious identity, it is obvious why Islamic Pakistan must have a hostile Other in the form of a ‘Hindu India’. But what is not obvious is why India, a (much larger) secular nation, must have a hostile antagonist in the form of Pakistan.


Wars and military competition produce madness. Nothing exemplifies this more than India-Pakistan attempts to secure the Siachen Glacier, the inhospitable and highest battle terrain in the world. India alone lost nearly 800 soldiers (until 2016) to weather-related causes only. Besides, it spends around ₹6 crore every day in Siachen. Operation Parakram (2001-02), in which India mobilised for war with Pakistan, saw 798 soldier deaths and a cost of $3 billion. This is without fighting a war. Add to this the human and economic costs of fighting four wars.

Granted, the proponents of India’s muscular nationalism who want only a military solution in Kashmir might close their eyes to the killings of some 50,000 Kashmiri civilians and the unending suffering of Kashmiris, but can they, as nationalists, ignore, the deaths of around 6,500 security personnel in Kashmir and the gargantuan and un-estimated costs of stationing nearly 5 lakh military/para-military/police personnel in Kashmir for 30 years?

Ten years ago, Stephen P. Cohen, the prominent American scholar of South Asia, called the India-Pakistan relationship “toxic” and notably termed both, and not just Pakistan, as suffering from a “minority” or “small power” complex in which one is feeling constantly “threatened” and “encircled”. Tellingly, he argues that it is the disastrous conflict with Pakistan that has been one of the main reasons why India has been confined to South Asia, and prevented from becoming a global power.


Here, a look at the military expenditures is revealing: while India spent $63.9 billion (2017) and Pakistan $9.6 billion (2018-19), Bangladesh spent only $3.45 billion (2018-19). Only a muscular and masculine nationalism can take pride in things such as becoming the fifth largest military spender in the world, or being the world’s second largest arms importer. The bitter truth hidden in these details is that India, ranked 130 in the HDI (and Pakistan, 150), simply cannot afford to spend scarce resources on nuclear arsenals, maintaining huge armies or developing space weapons. Besides, in an increasingly globalised world, military resolution between a nuclear India and Pakistan is almost impossible.

Riaz Haq said…
#Iran FM Zarif: Development through #BRI (#CPEC) can be a major blow to extremist #terrorism in #Pakistan, #Afghanistan, including from #Chabahar in Iran to the #Pakistani port of #Gwadar

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said projects under China's Belt and Road Initiative can help bring economic development to areas in its region and also deal a major blow to “extremist terror” in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The minister said that much of the terrorism in this particular region, including from Chabahar in Iran to the Pakistani port of Gwadar, which also connects to Afghanistan, is due to lack of economic development.
Riaz Haq said…
#India's ruling party is exploiting a neighbor's pain for electoral gain. #Modi has been swift to bring up #SriLankaAttacks as a reason to vote for #BJP "to destroy terrorism of the sort Sri Lanka had suffered" #Islamophobia @mihirssharma via @bopinion

No doubt this will become a factor in elections later this year: Former Defense Minister Gotabhaya Rajapaksa — whose family, led by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, dominated Sri Lankan politics till a few years ago — recently insisted in an interview with Bloomberg that the government was “never serious” about security and was “more concerned” about reconciliation after Sri Lanka’s decades-long civil war.

Fair enough. In the elections already underway in next-door India, though, the attacks are adding more fuel to an already ugly politics of patriotism and national-security. And accountability is the last thing being discussed.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was swift to bring up the Sri Lanka attacks as a reason to vote for his Bharatiya Janata Party: A vote for the BJP, he said, was a vote to destroy terrorism of the sort Sri Lanka had suffered.

This feeds into the Modi campaign’s ongoing efforts to exploit high-octane nationalism. The BJP seized upon a confrontation with Pakistan in February to turn the national conversation away from its spotty economic record.

Since the BJP is actually in power, though, it can’t snipe from the outside as the Rajapaksas are doing. So BJP figures have essentially resorted to calling the opposition terrorist sympathizers.

The Congress Party’s fairly detailed election manifesto could have served to open an argument on the most effective way to balance welfare and economic growth. Instead, the BJP has zeroed in on the Congress’ proposal that some particularly draconian and illiberal laws be diluted. Modi’s finance minister, who you’d think would have had plenty to say regarding the opposition’s lack of fiscal mathematics, instead focused on calling their manifesto a “charter to weaken India” and an “agenda for balkanizing India.”

Other rhetoric has been much harsher than that to which Indians are accustomed. Modi’s right-hand man, BJP President Amit Shah, said this week that after an Indian air strike on Pakistan there was “mourning” in just two places: Pakistan and the Congress. This is a familiar charge: Before elections in Modi’s home state of Gujarat a couple years ago, Modi accused his predecessor as prime minister Manmohan Singh of a “secret meeting” with Pakistani diplomats, implying that the latter were seeking to influence the election results.

It has been absurdly easy for Modi and the BJP to make security into a major, if not the primary issue in the election. Unfortunately, this heated rhetoric seems to be considered an adequate replacement for any more rational response.

India’s February air strikes into Pakistan — in retaliation for an attack on an Indian paramilitary convoy in troubled Kashmir — were seen in many quarters as influenced by electoral considerations. Crucially, there has been no accountability for the security failures that led to the convoy bombing. Kashmir is so heavily militarized that a sophisticated attack of that sort should have been prevented.

Unlike in Sri Lanka, nobody in New Delhi has taken responsibility for the original failure. It’s fine to talk about national security during a campaign. But the most important questions aren’t being asked: Why did the attack happen? Which group organized it and how did they build up their strength? How can other such attacks be prevented?

The coarseness of the current debate in India is not just a betrayal of the large part of the electorate that wants a clear discussion of bread-and-butter issues. It is frankly dangerous for national security itself. One hopes Sri Lanka will, over the next few months, have a more productive political dialogue than India has had.
Riaz Haq said…
For the #BJP , with largest number of candidates implicated in #terrorism, the #India elections are about #Hindutva and not development. #Modi #Samjhauta #Malegaon #Islamophobia

In a recent interview, the prime minister, Narendra Modi, said that he felt a “sense of responsibility”. But by fielding “Sadhvi” Pragya Singh Thakur, an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case who is out on bail, the Modi-Amit Shah duo has shown the world that the Bharatiya Janata Party has made the elections about Hindutva and not development (“Full on”, April 22). One wonders how the BJP has remained nonchalant about the Supreme Court’s recommendation to Parliament to enact a “strong law” which would direct political parties to revoke the nominations of candidates against whom “heinous and grievous” charges have been framed. In India there are many lawmakers with such criminal charges. Their place is not in state assemblies or Parliament.

The Modi-led government has failed to deliver on almost all of its major election promises of 2014. Now the only option it has for attracting votes is to use Hindutva as a political tool. Further, given that the Congress nominated the two-time former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Digvijaya Singh, as its candidate from Bhopal, the BJP felt the dire need to ratchet up a Hindutva component by announcing the candidature of Thakur in the same constituency. In effect, the BJP has let short-term electoral gains dictate its policies. Unfortunately, this will only serve to divide Indian society irreparably in the long run.

Riaz Haq said…
#India further behind #China during #Modi's 5 years. #Beijing continues to outspend India on #defense, reforms in its #military and #diplomatic structures, and built strategic #infrastructure in #Pakistan. #CPEC #BRF2019

Yet for all that, India has only fallen further behind China over the past five years. Beijing has continued to outspend India on defense, implemented sweeping reforms in its military and diplomatic structures, and built strategic infrastructure in India’s backyard -- not to mention providing arch-rival Pakistan with defense technology.

“It’s impossible to keep pace with China,” said Vishnu Prakash, a former Indian ambassador to South Korea and consul general in Shanghai. “We cannot get into checkbook diplomacy with China. We don’t have that kind of economic muscle.”
Whether Modi returns to power or not, India’s next government will still be saddled with aging equipment like Soviet-era MiG warplanes, a bureaucracy that hinders military upgrades and an undersized diplomatic corps. To fend off China, it’s likely to continue shifting toward the U.S. and other like-minded countries in Asia while seeking to protect its periphery.

“A major long-run test for India is to ensure that China does not turn India’s own geography against it by encircling it with a string of military bases in the Indian Ocean,” said Rory Medcalf, who heads the National Security College at the Australian National University. “Delhi will play a long game. As India’s economy grows, this will still eventually translate into the world’s third-largest defense budget.”


"Admittedly, China has a much larger economy and defense budget in line with its own needs and plans," Rao said. "India is not in any arms race with any country and has a defense budget that is adequate as per its needs. Streamlining the armed forces and reforms has been an ongoing process."

Still, India continues to lag China on every geopolitical metric, according to the Lowy Institute’s Asia power index, which ranks countries according to economic resources, military capabilities and diplomatic influence.

Modi’s injection of personal enthusiasm into Indian foreign policy hasn’t led to more resources at the severely short-staffed Ministry of External Affairs, said Happymon Jacob, associate professor at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University’s School of International Studies. India only has roughly 940 diplomats compared to China’s estimated 7,500.
That lopsided situation is echoed in the armed forces. Xi has overseen China’s most sweeping military reforms since the 1950s, cutting back non-combat personnel and modernizing its military technology with space and cyber operations. Meanwhile, India maintains a sprawling 1.4-million strong army and spends the bulk of its defense money on salaries and pensions, rather than new equipment.


Beijing has also kept India out of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which controls the export of nuclear materials, and recently blocked Indian and Western efforts at the United Nations to list as a designated terrorist the leader of a group that claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries.
Riaz Haq said…
#Modi's #Muslim Ban: #India wants to grant citizenship to refugees from nearby countries — unless they're Muslim. Critics say making #religion a criteria for citizenship violates India's #secular character. #Hindutva #Islamophobia


This past week, we've been bringing you a series of stories from India about what some people call Hindu pride and others call Hindu nationalism. It's central to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision for his country as he runs for re-election. His government has proposed new rules to redefine who is or who can become an Indian citizen. The criteria include religion for the first time. NPR's Lauren Frayer reports.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Tobiron Nessa washes dishes under an outdoor pump between rice paddies, a stone's throw from where she was born in northeast India. She married a local man and had five children. At 45, she's about to become a grandmother.

TOBIRON NESSA: (Speaking Assamese).

FRAYER: But Nessa is now the only one in her family whom the Indian government recognizes as a citizen. Her husband and five children have all been left off of the National Register of Citizens, or NRC. It's like a census, but only for this one part of India called Assam, which borders Bangladesh and has always had lots of immigrants from there. Authorities are trying to figure out who's been here for generations and who might be an undocumented migrant.

For decades, families have submitted paperwork. But then the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power and issued a preliminary list of citizens. Four million people who thought they were Indian are not on it, including Nessa's family.

NESSA: (Speaking Assamese).

FRAYER: She's worried they'll lose their government food rations or get detained and eventually deported. But to where? They have Indian birth certificates, she says, proper documents.

AKRAM HUSSAIN: They have proper documents. Still, they have been declared foreigners and thrown to the detention camp.

FRAYER: Detention camp?

HUSSAIN: Yeah, detention camp.

FRAYER: Akram Hussain is an activist who visits detainees. Hundreds of people are being held in camps here. He helps them file appeals. The majority of them are Muslim. Like the U.S.-Mexico border, tribunals and detention centers have been set up here. And like the Trump administration, India's ruling party says Islamist terrorists are trying to infiltrate these borders.


AMIT SHAH: (Speaking Assamese).

FRAYER: At an election rally this month, the president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, Amit Shah, warned against migrants crossing into India from Muslim majority Bangladesh.


SHAH: (Through interpreter) These infiltrators are eating away at our country like termites. The NRC is our means of removing them.

FRAYER: Until now, the NRC, the National Register of Citizens, has only been carried out in the northeast state of Assam, where there are a lot of immigrants. But Shah says he wants to extend it to the entire nation, make every Indian citizen prove her origin.

In this part of Assam, up to a third of residents have been struck from the citizenship register. In a municipal office, workers stamp reams upon reams of appeals. It's difficult for people like Nessa, who is poor and illiterate, to sort through decades-old family documents. Officials acknowledge there are errors, and they do allow time for appeals. All of this is happening in a corner of India that's actually been celebrated for its diversity.

Riaz Haq said…
"#Modi is campaigning as a strongman with the character to stand up to #Pakistan .. sending warplanes to bomb #India’s nuclear neighbor earlier this year was not so much an act of strength as recklessness that could have ended in disaster" via @TheEconomist

When the Bharatiya Janata Party (bjp) won a landslide victory in India’s general election in 2014, its leader, Narendra Modi, was something of a mystery. Would his government initiate an economic lift-off, as businessfolk hoped, or spark a sectarian conflagration, as secularists feared? In his five years as prime minister, Mr Modi has been neither as good for India as his cheerleaders foretold, nor as bad as his critics, including this newspaper, imagined. But today the risks still outweigh the rewards. Indians, who are in the midst of voting in a fresh election (see article), would be better off with a different leader.

Mr Modi is campaigning as a strongman with the character to stand up to Pakistan for having abetted terrorism. In fact, sending warplanes to bomb India’s nuclear neighbour earlier this year was not so much an act of strength as recklessness that could have ended in disaster. Mr Modi’s tough-guy approach has indeed been a disaster in the disputed state of Jammu & Kashmir, where he has inflamed a separatist insurgency rather than quelling it, while at the same time alienating moderate Kashmiris by brutally repressing protests.
Riaz Haq said…
#India's incredulous data: #IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath has raised the issue of “transparency” with #Indian officials in data collection and, in particular, measurement of the #GDP deflator - the adjusted inflation rate used to estimate real GDP

Economists and investors are increasingly showing that they have little or no confidence in India’s official economic data – presenting whoever is elected as the next prime minister with an immediate problem.

There have been questions for many years about whether Indian government statistics were telling the full story but two recent controversies over revisions and delays of crucial numbers have taken those concerns to new heights.

The government itself has admitted there are deficiencies in its data collection.

A study conducted by a division of the statistics ministry in the 12 months ending June 2017 found that as much as 36 percent of the companies in the database used in India’s GDP calculations could not be traced or were wrongly classified.

But the ministry said there was no impact on GDP estimates as due care was taken to adjust corporate filings at the aggregate level.

Last December, the government held back the release of jobs data but an official report leaked to an Indian newspaper showed the unemployment rate had touched its highest level in 45 years.

Economists and investors are now voting with their feet – by using alternative sources of data and in some cases creating their own benchmarks to measure the Indian economy.

Ten economists and analysts at banks, think-tanks and foreign funds interviewed by Reuters said they were moving to use alternative data sources, or at least official data of a different kind.

Among the numbers they prefer are fast-moving indicators like car sales, air and rail cargo levels, purchasing managers’ index data, and proprietary indices created by the institutions themselves to track the economy.

Many economists said they were stunned when the government upwardly revised GDP growth for 2016/17 to 8.2 percent from 6.7 percent, although the demonetization of high value notes hit businesses and jobs in that financial year.

“Our response has been to spend time developing an Indian Activity Index, which takes a range of time series data that in the past were strongly correlated with real GDP growth and extract the common signal from them,” said Jeremy Lawson, chief economist at Aberdeen Standard Investments, which manages more than $700 billion in assets.

The preliminary evidence from the index, which includes components like car sales, air cargo and purchasing managers’ index data suggests the government has over-estimated GDP growth, he said.

“Our index would suggest that there was stable growth, rather than the rapid acceleration suggested by the GDP figures,” he said, referring to three years of data from 2014.

Even those close to the government have said the lack of accuracy in the official data makes it much more likely that authorities will miss major swings in activity and be unable to react quickly to head off a crisis. It is also a problem for investors who may be misled into thinking the economy is more robust than it really is.

Riaz Haq said…
The second half of Narendra #Modi's term has made a mockery of hopes that he would be #India's Shinzo Abe, @andymukherjee70 writes. #BJP #Hindutva via @bopinion

Five years ago, I wrote that Narendra Modi could be India’s Shinzo Abe. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The chief minister of Gujarat state had just been chosen by his party to become the next prime minister if it won the popular vote. Writing for Reuters then, I predicted he could lift the country’s drooping economy, just as Abe had been attempting to do in Japan.

To get an idea of how badly Modi has undershot expectations, look at India’s largest maker of consumer staples. Hindustan Unilever Ltd. recently reported March quarter revenue growth of 7%, the weakest in 18 months. But it was what CEO Sanjiv Mehta said that unnerved investors. Consumer essentials are “recession-resistant but not recession-proof,” Mehta said. “At the end of the day, it depends on money in the hands of consumers.”

Recession? In what Team Modi professes to be the world’s fastest-growing major economy?

From carmakers to toothpaste sellers, Indian firms have had a lousy start to 2019. It’s a performance that belies the economy’s official GDP growth rate of 7%, not to mention its advance to 77th place in the World Bank’s ease of doing business ranking, from an abysmal 142nd four years ago.

In Japan, Abe has presided over what’s possibly the longest economic expansion in its post-World War II history despite the burden of an aging population. The signature piece of his reforms has been unprecedented monetary stimulus to end the country’s deflationary mindset.

For a long time it looked like Modi would catch up with his counterpart, who had a head start of about 18 months after taking office in December 2012. India’s leader certainly had successes. They included a $48 billion reduction in the crippling debt of power distribution companies (so they could be healthy again and pay producers on time). In May 2016, Modi’s government gave India its first modern bankruptcy law, and in August that year, parliament voted in favor of a national sales tax, promising freedom from a bewildering array of state levies.

As late as October 2016 there was nothing to distinguish between the 30% gains (in U.S. dollar terms) delivered by benchmark stock indexes in Japan and India since Abe took office.

Riaz Haq said…
#Modi Promised Better Days and Bridges. #India’s Voters Are Still Waiting.“govt was willing to play with numbers to score a point,” says Amiya Kumar Bagchi, an economist at Institute of Development Studies. Numbers “are wrong and possibly fabricated" #BJP

he has failed to spur significant economic growth, in part because of his disappointing record in reviving stalled infrastructure projects. The prime minister has championed rail, road and electrical links as a means of furthering development across this country of 1.3 billion people.

Although road-building has proceeded aggressively, infrastructure over all has fallen short. During the last three months of 2018, investments in new projects slumped to their lowest level during Mr. Modi’s tenure, according to the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy, an independent research organization in Mumbai.

“The fall after 2016 has been quite severe,” says Mahesh Vyas, the center’s managing director. “He thought he could solve all those things with a magical wand.”

Slowing growth has reduced government tax revenues, forcing Mr. Modi to slash spending on public works. Private toll roads and power plants have stalled as banks have withheld finance after losses on previous ventures.

The prime minister inherited a troubling condition that has plagued India for decades: What economic growth the country generates does not produce enough jobs. He vowed to create 10 million jobs a year.

As a former chief minister of his home state of Gujarat — widely hailed as India’s most entrepreneurial — he was celebrated as a leader who could harness India’s natural resources, intellectual prowess and enormous work force toward industrializing.

But a signature program, Make in India, which aimed to help manufacturing, has produced a bumper crop of public pronouncements and scant hiring, in part because the nation’s patchy infrastructure has discouraged investment. The unemployment rate climbed to a 45-year high of 6.1 percent last year, from 2.2 percent in 2011, according to the government’s National Sample Survey.

Nonetheless, Mr. Modi has won the ardor of the masses with his appeals to Hindu nationalism and his military confrontations with India’s nemesis, Pakistan. He is widely expected to claim re-election after voting ends on Sunday.

But some of India’s troubles flow directly from Mr. Modi’s actions, not least his disastrous 2016 move to ban most Indian rupee notes in a bid to disrupt finance for terrorists and black marketeers. The government failed to have new notes ready, creating a crippling shortage in an economy dominated by cash.

“I cannot begin to explain the sheer stupidity of that,” says Jayati Ghosh, an economist at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. “What you did was suck the lifeblood from the market system. It was a huge crime on the Indian population.”

Mr. Modi’s lack of success in completing stalled infrastructure projects has left many rural people stranded far from jobs.
Riaz Haq said…
5 more years of Narendra #Modi will take #India to a dark place.If the Indian prime minister is returned to office, his sectarian politics will make #bigotry the defining ideal of the republic | Kapil Komireddi #Hindutva #Islamophobia #violence #terrorism

The refrain from Hindu voters has been identical: Modi has failed us, yes, but he's at least put Muslims in their place

None of the big promises that delivered Modi’s Hindu-first Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) an absolute majority in parliament in 2014 – the first time in 30 years that a single party was voted into power – have been honoured. Modi pledged to create 20m jobs annually. Today, the rate of unemployment is the highest India has known in 20 years. He enraptured young Indian voters with visions of what he called “smart cities”: facsimiles of Seoul and Singapore on the Deccan Plateau and the northern plains – clean, green and replete with skyscrapers and super-fast trains. There is nothing of the sort in sight. He vowed to purify the Ganga, “the river of India” as Jawaharlal Nehru called it. Five years later, it remains a stream of unquantifiable litres of sewage and industrial effluents.

Worse, democratic institutions have been repurposed to abet Modi’s project to remake India into a Hindu nation. The election commission, which has conducted polls in impossible circumstances since 1952 and is revered for its incorruptibility and fierce independence, functioned during this vote as an arm of Modi’s BJP, too timid even to issue perfunctory censures of the prime minister’s egregious use of religious sloganeering. The military has been politicised and the judiciary plunged into the most existential threat to its independence since 1975, when Indira Gandhi suspended the constitution and ruled as a dictator for 21 months.
Riaz Haq said…
#Modi Seduced #India With #Envy and #Hate.. licensed his supporters to explicitly hate #Pakistanis and #Indian #Muslims. His assault on #Pakistan in February damaged nothing more than a few trees across the border, while killing 7 #Indians in friendly fire

India under Mr. Modi’s rule has been marked by continuous explosions of violence in both virtual and real worlds. As pro-Modi television anchors hunted for “anti-nationals” and troll armies rampaged through social media, threatening women with rape, lynch mobs slaughtered Muslims and low-caste Hindus. Hindu supremacists have captured or infiltrated institutions from the military and the judiciary to the news media and universities, while dissenting scholars and journalists have found themselves exposed to the risk of assassination and arbitrary detention. Stridently advancing bogus claims that ancient Hindus invented genetic engineering and airplanes, Mr. Modi and his Hindu nationalist supporters seemed to plunge an entire country into a moronic inferno. Last month the Indian army’s official twitter account excitedly broadcast its discovery of the Yeti’s footprints.

Rived by caste as well as class divisions, and dominated in Bollywood as well as politics by dynasties, India is a grotesquely unequal society. Its constitution, and much political rhetoric, upholds the notion that all individuals are equal and possess the same right to education and job opportunities; but the everyday experience of most Indians testify to appalling violations of this principle. A great majority of Indians, forced to inhabit the vast gap between a glossy democratic ideal and a squalid undemocratic reality, have long stored up deep feelings of injury, weakness, inferiority, degradation, inadequacy and envy; these stem from defeats or humiliation suffered at the hands of those of higher status than themselves in a rigid hierarchy.

I both witnessed and experienced these explosive tensions in the late 1980s, when I was a student at a dead-end provincial university, one of many there confronting a near-impossible task: not only sustained academic excellence, but also a wrenching cultural and psychological makeover in the image of the self-assured, English-speaking metropolitan. One common object of our ressentiment — an impotent mix of envy and hatred — was Rajiv Gandhi, the deceased father of main opposition leader Rahul Gandhi, whom Mr. Modi indecorously but cunningly chose to denounce in his election campaign. An airline pilot who became prime minister largely because his mother and grandfather had held the same post, and who allegedly received kickbacks from a Swedish arms manufacturer into Swiss bank accounts, Mr. Gandhi appeared to perfectly embody a pseudo-socialist elite that claimed to supervise post-colonial India’s attempt to catch up with the modern West but that in reality single-mindedly pursued its own interests.


Intoxicating voters with the seductive passion of vengeance, and grandiose fantasies of power and domination, Mr. Modi has deftly escaped public scrutiny of his record of raw wisdom — one that would have ruined any other politician. Back in 2014, the Hindu supremacist pioneered the politics of enmity that corrodes many democracies today. This week, he triumphantly reaped one of the biggest electoral harvests of the post-truth age, giving us more reason to fear the future.

Riaz Haq said…
#Tamil #Dravidian #DMK Leader Stalin : Will Support Formation of Separate Country if #Southern States Want to Break Away From #India #Modi #BJP | India News,

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) working president MK Stalin on Saturday said that he would support if the southern states demand the formation of a separate country ‘Dravida Nadu’. He said that he would welcome any situation in which the southern states demand to break away from India.

“If such a situation comes, it would be welcome. We hope that such a situation arises,” Stalin said in Erode,” he said, The Hindu reported.

Dismissing Stalin’s comments, RK Nagar MLA and ousted AIADMK Deputy General Secretary TTV Dhinakaran said that the route DMK leader has taken, will lead him nowhere. “First let him focus on Cauvery issue, what has he done in all these years when he was in power? He should use his influence to solve the matter, he is taking a route which leads nowhere,” he said.

P Maniarasan, the leader of the Tamil Desiya Periyakkam, said, “If he is really serious about creating Dravidanadu, let him visit the neighbouring states and muster support,” adding, “s he ready to include the proposal in the election manifesto of his party? Is he ready to convene a special general council of the DMK to propagate the idea?” The Hindu reported.

Stalin later said that he didn’t mean that he would start a campaign for the formation of Dravida Nadu but was merely answering a question. “Yes I had made remarks on Dravida Nadu but it was only after I was asked a question on it, but this does not mean that I am undertaking campaign for Dravida Nadu,” Stalin said.

Stalin’s comment has come merely a week after two southern Chief Ministers complained that southern states contribute more to the taxes than it gets in return.
Riaz Haq said…
Amb Ashraf Jahangir Qazi:

"Hindutva as a fascist, communal, irrational and vengeful ideology can never provide India a basis on which to emerge as a credible great power in the 21st century. As a lunatic fringe movement it was a phenomenon common to all political societies. But as a lunatic mainstream ideology it will degrade India’s future and threaten regional and possibly global stability...It has led to the tragic defeat of a progressive and secular dream — which may have been more aspiration or even pretence than reality — by an atavistic and obscurantist nightmare. This throwback is mindlessly supported by a deliberately deprived and exploited population whose frustrations are manipulated and channelled in directions against their own interests. The RSS, the Sangh Pariwar, the BJP and Modi embody this political malignancy."

How come? Modi exploited the several fault lines in Indian society and managed to electorally present major issues confronting India into an emotional Hindu versus Muslim and India versus Pakistan issue. He cleverly exploited Pulwama and Balakot. Moreover, 21st-century social media and fake news technologies have enormously enhanced establishment capacities to manufacture and mould public opinion against the public interest. Deb notes that Modi’s control over India’s middle classes enormously helped in this regard. In addition, Indian corporations “contributed as much as 12 times more money to the BJP than to those of the other six national parties combined, amounting to 93 per cent of all corporate donations.”

Similar criticisms can apply to Pakistan, the US and other ‘democratic’ countries. Like India, they are not really democracies; they are corporate, praetorian, or plutocratic systems in which elected representatives and cabinets represent establishment and elite institutional interests that facilitate and finance their electoral campaigns. Parliamentarians no longer represent constituency or voter interests. Such systems are not just imperfect developing democracies; they are authoritarian and ‘extractive’ systems in democratic disguise.

Where do India-Pakistan relations go from here? There are broadly two views about a triumphant Modi’s likely attitude towards Pakistan. One sees him as seeing Pakistan as illegitimately torn from the womb of Bharat Mata and which now, in recalcitrant fashion, stands in the way of India realising its destiny as the regional hegemon in South Asia. Acco­r­dingly, he will seek to teach Pakistan a lesson in strategic decorum. He will, therefore, avail of a whole array of bilateral and international options to exert escalating and unrelenting pressure on Pak­istan, short of all-out war, to conform to India’s will.

Alternately, a supremely confident Modi, faced with a Pakistan already on the ropes, may choose a number of subtler options to ‘influence’ Pakistan in the ‘right direction’. These may include resuming informal, and later, structured dialogue and progressively allowing a range of movement in the bilateral relationship. In return, Modi would expect Pakistan to ‘behave’ with regard to Kashmir (including a possible resumption of back-channel negotiations and permanently ending cross-LoC militant activities;) terrorism (including meeting FATF requirements and dismantling alleged terrorist structures, safe havens and services;) and ‘deference’ towards Indian strategic interests in Afghanistan and the region. Modi will eventually expect Pakistan to maintain a ‘balance’ in its relations with China and India, which should ‘contextualise’ its participation in CPEC.
Riaz Haq said…
Iran FM Zarif seeks help from #Pakistan. It appears that #Iran, seeing that Pakistan’s close ties with #SaudiArabia and #Islamabad's long alliance with the #UnitedStates could help reduce tensions, is not interested in any conflict. via @AlMonitor

Conveying the urgent nature of his visit on arrival in Islamabad, Zarif said, “I have come to Pakistan for consultations as dangerous steps have been taken in the region.”

Zarif held separate meetings with Prime Minister Imran Khan, army chief Qamar Bajwa and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. Though the details of these meetings have not been made public, it is apparent that Iran has requested help in de-escalating the situation.

Both the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League are about to hold summits where Saudi Arabia might push for resolutions against Iran. Ostensibly, the Iranian foreign minister would want Islamabad to convince Riyadh to adopt a less strident approach. It appears that Iran, seeing that Pakistan’s close ties with Saudi Arabia and Islamabad's long alliance with the United States could help reduce tensions, is not interested in any conflict.

De-escalation should be the immediate target, followed by dialogue and a new nuclear deal. Renegotiating the JCPOA is the best option for establishing peace in the region under the circumstances. Traditionally, Oman has been an intermediary between Iran and the United States, but Pakistan is facilitating Washington in the Afghan peace process nowadays and it could be an effective mediator in this crisis as well. Matters have reached a critical turning point since Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rejected talks with the United States after the recent escalation.

Assuring Zarif of Pakistan’s support, Qureshi said his country wanted "resolution of all outstanding issues through diplomatic engagement," as regional tension was in no one’s interest. However, in announcing that sides would not be taken in the ongoing confrontation just before Zarif’s arrival, the Pakistan Foreign Ministry kept its neutral stance and the official statement urged all sides to “show restraint, as any miscalculated move can transmute into a large-scale conflict.”

Balancing the interests of Tehran, Riyadh and Washington at the same time is an uphill task, so Islamabad will stick to neutrality. Pakistan cannot afford the risk of any confrontation between Riyadh and Tehran as frictions between them can have a sectarian spillover effect in Pakistan. In recent months, Pakistani-Iranian relations have not been at their best due to various complications.

Riaz Haq said…
#India unhappy as #Iran goes to #Pakistan asking to link #Chabahar to #Gwadar #CPEC Deccan Herald

As New Delhi complied with US sanctions on Iran and stopped buying crude oil from the Islamic Republic this month, Tehran responded by offering to connect its Chabahar Port with Gwadar Port of Pakistan.

Iran was the third-largest oil supplier for India after Iraq and Saudi Arabia. India bought 23.6 million tons of oil from Iran in the 2018-19 financial year.

India is concerned over the proposal Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif mooted during his recent visit to Pakistan late last week. Zarif proposed to connect Chabahar Port of Iran with the Gwadar Port, which was developed by China on the south-weste...

New Delhi perceived Chabahar Port in Iran as a counter to the Gwadar Port, which China developed as part of its “String of Pearls” policy to develop strategic assets around India.

New Delhi has been stayed away from the BRI, as the CPEC, linking Xinjiang in China and Gwadar Port of Pakistan passes through parts of Kashmir that India has been claiming as its own and accusing Pakistan of illegally occupying.

Riaz Haq said…
#Afghan-#India #Trade Impacted Due to Cut in #Chabahar funding, #US sanctions on #Iran and #Pakistan airspace closure. Banks in #Afghanistan are not willing to open credit lines for shipment via #Iran ports.

While the (Indian) government has been allocating Rs 150 crore for the port for the past couple of years, this time around, funds allocated have been reduced to Rs 45 crore

The government's decision to slash funds for the development of Chabahar port in Union Budget 2019-20, coupled with the sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran, will affect the trade between India and Afghanistan, The Hindu has reported.

This is in addition to the effect that Pakistan's decision to close its airspace for flights to and from India is having on trade between the two countries, according to the report.

The report states that while the government has been allocating Rs 150 crore for the port for the past couple of years, this time around, the funds allocated have been reduced to Rs 45 crore.

Sources in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) told the newspaper that the readjustment in funds is "based on realistic assessment of likely expenditure to be incurred this financial year", indicating that India does not anticipate developing Chabahar port at the same pace as earlier.

"During the last months (February-May), Chabahar had flourished for transportation of goods and commodities to Afghanistan and central Asia with the volume of loading and unloading twice as much as before," Iran’s Ambassador to Delhi Ali Chegeni told the newspaper. He, however, added that hostile statements by US officials on Iran's sanctions "naturally and indirectly has negative impacts and led to worry among companies about working with Iranian ports, including Chabahar".

While the US has stated that Trump's decision not to grant sanctions exemptions to any oil customers of Iran would not have any effect on the port, the report states that the sanctions have slowed business down.

This is because the banks in Afghanistan are not willing to open credit lines for shipment, while cargo handlers and shippers are not servicing the Chabahar port, according to the report.

Chabahar is the only seaport Iran has in its energy-rich Sistan-Balochistan province by the Gulf of Oman and consists of two ports with five berths each. The port is a counter to Pakistan's Gwadar port, which is being developed with Chinese investment.

The port, inaugurated in December 2017, has opened a new strategic route connecting Iran with India and Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan.

In December 2017, India took over the operations of port and commissioned the second port this January, marking the country's maritime entry into a foreign land.

The report states that the trade with Afghanistan through the air route has also been stalled due to Pakistan's airspace restrictions, with officials stating that a flight from Delhi to Kabul, the Afghanistan capital, taking five hours where it would have taken one-and-a-half hours normally.
Riaz Haq said…
#Iran VP Among 7 Officials to Have #Coronavirus. Others: Mojtaba Zolnour, head of Parliament’s national security committee; Mahmoud Sadeghi, member of Parliament; Iraj Harirchi, deputy health minister; Mayor Morteza Rahmanzadeh of Tehran & Dr. Reza Ghadir

Masoumeh Ebtekar, President Hassan Rouhani’s deputy for women’s affairs and the highest-ranking woman in the government, was at least the seventh Iranian official to test positive.

A senior figure in Iran’s government, who sits just a few seats away from President Hassan Rouhani at cabinet meetings, has fallen ill with coronavirus, making her Iran’s seventh official to test positive, including one prominent cleric who has died.

Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar, Mr. Rouhani’s deputy for women’s affairs and the highest-ranking woman in the government, has a confirmed coronavirus infection and is quarantined at home, her deputy said Thursday.

The disclosure came a day after a cabinet meeting in which she was in close contact with other government leaders, including Mr. Rouhani. A photo posted by a BBC Persia reporter on Twitter showed she had been sitting a few yards from the president.

Ms. Ebtekar, one of four vice presidents, was known to Americans as “Mary” during the Tehran hostage crisis four decades ago, when, as a young revolutionary, she was a spokeswoman for the captors of the 52 Americans held at the United States Embassy.

Iran now appears to have the highest number of government officials infected by the coronavirus, which was first officially reported in the holy Iranian city of Qom on Feb. 19. The disease is believed to have spread to the country from China, which has maintained close economic relations with the Tehran government despite American sanctions.

A regional crossroads, Iran also appears to be a primary source of the infections that have spread to neighbors.

At least 245 people have been infected in Iran, with 26 deaths, Health Ministry officials said Thursday, most of them in Qom, a destination for Shiite pilgrims.

But health experts estimate the number of infections is far higher, possibly over a thousand, because the country’s fatality rate of about 20 percent seems so high. The World Health Organization has said the fatality rate is about 2 percent.

Cases surfacing in recent days in Bahrain, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Oman, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and Kuwait all have afflicted people who had visited Iran. There were unconfirmed reports Thursday that Austria’s foreign minister, Alexander Schallenberg, was being tested for a coronavirus infection after returning home from Iran and showing symptoms.
Riaz Haq said…
Should #Iran blame #ISI while it helps #India's #RAW against #Pakistan? Iran also cannot afford to turn Pakistan into an enemy given its current level of hostile relations from #US, #Israel to #GCC countries, shared border logic. #KarachiTerroristAttack

Iran’s blame against the ISI came as a surprise raising many questions: how come Iran is so sure of the ISI’s involvement? Why Tehran did not entertain the possibility of an Indian hand beyond this incident? And why Iran did not take into account the fact that RAW has been operating out of Baluchistan and involved in false flag operations?

Following are the reasons which defy the underlying logic of Pakistan’s alleged involvement in the blast:

Why Pakistan would want to undermine its relations with Iran at a time when it needs Tehran’s supporting role (not spoiler’s role) in Afghanistan.
Islamabad, particularly the Army Chief Gen Bajwa worked very hard to improve ties with Iran.
Pakistan’s policymakers are very much convinced that Islamabad belongs to this region and it took more than 10 years to restore credibility in the eyes of Iran and Russia for forging close relations and for its quest to pivot to Euro-Asia.
Any attempt of undermining Iran means potentially undermining the Entente Cordiale, Pakistan pain strikingly achieved with Russia.
Upsetting China—which sees Iran as long term important friendly country to connect with its ambitious BRI project—is not in Pakistan’s interest; in other words, whatever concerns Pakistan may have with Iran, they may not be necessarily shared by the China which has much bigger priorities as a rising world power.
Any kinetic operation by the ISI in Iran will never get approval a) when Pakistan itself is vulnerable [read Baluchistan] b) having Iranian leverage against its second largest Shia population and c) Shia community has respectable representation at the top echelon of the inclusive Pakistan army forces which will never be bypassed nor behind its back any approval will be granted for any such operation on Iranian soil.
The proximity factor also precludes the ISI of doing any such operation next door to Pakistan’s Baluchistan province (e.g., Sistan/Baluchistan).
The predecessor of the blamed militant outfit was neutralized by the ISI and its leader Ragi was handed over to Iran.
The incident happens on a very unfortunate time when Pakistan is trying to pull off Afghan reconciliation and many spoilers do not want to see Islamabad succeed.
How come Tehran is so sure that this is not a “false flag” operation, when the Indian Intelligence Agency, RAW, is very much active in Pakistani’s Baluchistan border region; after all, it burnt down the province (Baluchistan) in the aftermath of the Mumbai attack in 2008; therefore, the fact that it has the hallmark of the RAW’s false flag operation could not be ruled out.
Pakistan’s big picture with Iran is clear: it has 900 km border with Tehran so cannot afford Iran as an enemy after hostile Indian and Afghan borders hence are not beneficiary in annoying Tehran.
Riaz Haq said…
Operation underway against militants near Pakistan-Iran border

In the most recent attack that has caused friction between the two nations, six Pakistani security personnel were killed in a bomb attack on a paramilitary Frontier Corps vehicle, the army’s media wing said on May 19. Six Pakistani soldiers were also killed in a roadside bomb attack in Balochistan on May 8.

Several militant groups are active in Balochistan, Pakistan’s biggest but poorest province. Much of the violence in the past has been blamed on, or claimed by, ethnic Baloch separatists.

Baloch Khan, a spokesperson for Baloch Raaji Ajoi Sangar (BRAS), an umbrella group of Baloch insurgent groups, confirmed in a media statement last month that a “Pakistan army operation” was ongoing and soldiers were surrounding and raiding remote villages. However, he said no commanders or fighters of BRAS had been killed in the attacks.

An intelligence official who declined to be named told Arab News that it is called the Ground Zero Clearance Operation.

Two additional intelligence officials confirmed that an operation is ongoing. Two local witnesses in the Mand area of Kech district also confirmed “actions” in their area.

In a Twitter post on May 23, a pro-government politician from Balochistan, Nawabzada Jamal Khan Raisani, said the Pakistani military had launched “a sweeping operation” against the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) along the border with Iran.

Both groups are part of BRAS, along with the Baloch Republican Army and the Baloch Republican Guards.

“The action began (on May 21) with a string of terrorists neutralized and hideouts busted,” Raisani said.

He told Arab News that a senior BLF commander, Abdul Hameed (alias Ghazin Baloch), was among two dozen militants killed in the ongoing operation, which he said was led by Pakistani soldiers and intelligence officers.

The media wing of the Pakistani military and the Foreign Office declined a request by Arab News for comment.

Ijaz Ahmed Shah, the federal interior minister, said his team would respond to emailed questions, but no reply had been received until the time of press.

Balochistan Home Minister Mir Zia Ullah Langove did not respond to specific questions about the operation “for security reasons,” but said: “We have taken effective actions.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media on the issue, one intelligence officer based in the city of Turbat said a “bank of targets” had been gathered by officials over many weeks, and raids are now being carried out in several areas, particularly against militants hiding in the border areas of Kecch, Panjgur and Gwadar.

Pakistan began fencing its 900-km border with Iran in May last year, which had become a source of “frustration” for militants, the intelligence official said, leading them to plan more attacks.

Last month, Pakistan’s military chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa spoke to his Iranian counterpart Maj. Gen. Mohammed Bagheri via telephone.

They discussed border fencing, the improvement of border terminals, enhancing security and recent attacks on Pakistani troops near the border, among other issues, according to a statement from the Pakistani Army’s media wing.

On April 20 last year, just days after militants killed 14 bus passengers in an attack along the border with Iran, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the insurgents behind the attack were based in Iran, calling on Tehran to take action. The attack had been claimed by BRAS.

“The training camps and logistical camps of this new alliance (BRAS) ... are inside the Iranian border region,” Qureshi told reporters in Islamabad. Iran denied any state involvement.

Riaz Haq said…
US Examines Whether #Saudi Nuclear Program Could Lead to Bomb Effort. #American Intelligence agencies are scrutinizing whether the kingdom’s work with #China to develop #nuclear expertise is cover to process uranium and move toward development of a weapon

American intelligence agencies are scrutinizing efforts by Saudi Arabia to build up its ability to produce nuclear fuel that could put the kingdom on a path to developing nuclear weapons.

Spy agencies in recent weeks circulated a classified analysis about the efforts underway inside Saudi Arabia, working with China, to build industrial capacity to produce nuclear fuel. The analysis has raised alarms that there might be secret Saudi-Chinese efforts to process raw uranium into a form that could later be enriched into weapons fuel, according to American officials.

As part of the study, they have identified a newly completed structure near a solar-panel production area near Riyadh, the Saudi capital, that some government analysts and outside experts suspect could be one of a number of undeclared nuclear sites.

American officials said that the Saudi efforts were still in an early stage, and that intelligence analysts had yet to draw firm conclusions about some of the sites under scrutiny. Even if the kingdom has decided to pursue a military nuclear program, they said, it would be years before it could have the ability to produce a single nuclear warhead.

Saudi officials have made no secret of their determination to keep pace with Iran, which has accelerated since President Trump abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledged in 2018 that his kingdom would try to develop or acquire nuclear weapons if Iran continued its work toward a bomb.

Last week, the House Intelligence Committee, led by Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, included a provision in the intelligence budget authorization bill requiring the administration to submit a report about Saudi efforts since 2015 to develop a nuclear program, a clear indication that the committee suspects that some undeclared nuclear activity is going on.

The report, the provision stated, should include an assessment of “the state of nuclear cooperation between Saudi Arabia and any other country other than the United States, such as the People’s Republic of China or the Russian Federation.”

An article in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday said that Western officials were concerned about a different facility in Saudi Arabia, in the country’s northwest desert. The Journal said it was part of a program with the Chinese to extract uranium yellowcake from uranium ore. That is a necessary first step in the process of obtaining uranium for later enrichment, either for use in a civilian nuclear reactor or, enriched to much higher levels, a nuclear weapon.
Riaz Haq said…
Iran Primer: Iran and the Gulf States - Tehran Bureau | FRONTLINE | PBS

Modern Iranian leaders -- from shahs to ayatollahs -- have sought a dominant role in the Gulf region because of Iran's economic and demographic weight, as well as the value of Persian Gulf oil shipping lanes. In the 1960s and 1970s, Iran was the preeminent Gulf power and guarantor of U.S. national interests in the region.
Iran's 1979 revolution dramatically altered Tehran's regional stance. Revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called for the overthrow of existing pro-American monarchs in the Gulf. Iraq's 1980 invasion of Iran pulled the Gulf Arabs and the United States into the brutal eight-year conflict, mostly on Baghdad's side.

The end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988, the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989, and the rise of more pragmatic leadership in Tehran led to an easing of tensions between Iran and the Gulf Arab states. The two subsequent "Gulf wars" in 1991 and 2003 weakened Iraq, thereby strengthening Iran's relative regional power. Iran's relationship with the smaller states of the lower Persian Gulf has historically been centered on trade. The emirate of Dubai has emerged as Iran's most vital Gulf trade partner and an occasional outlet to skirt sanctions.


The future

* An Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities could spark a wider regional war with dramatic repercussions for the Persian Gulf region, leading to a skyrocketing oil prices, and potential conflict between Iran and America's key Gulf Arab allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

* The world's major oil players have largely abandoned Iran, but are active in Iraq. If Iraq achieves its ambitious oil targets, it could surpass Iran as the Gulf's second largest producer within a decade. This would have repercussions for the regional balance of power.

* The Iran-Dubai trade relationship will be tested by sanctions and U.S. pressure. But historic links are too deep to imagine a drastic reduction in trade, even though Iranian merchants may not feel as welcome as in the past.
Riaz Haq said…
The Guardian of
Pakistan’s Shia
By Alex Vatanka

The town of parachinar, located in a far-flung corner of western
Pakistan, is fondly called by some Iranian Shiites “Little Iran.” The majority of the town’s residents are ethnic Pashtuns who belong to the Shia
faith. It is also the capital of Kurram Agency, one of the seven tribal districts that make up the politically volatile Federally Administrated Tribal
Areas. In recent years, Parachinar has effectively been under siege by Sunni militants.
Since 2007, waves of sectarian violence have killed hundreds of Shia from Parachinar.
In reaction to this, Parachinar has become a potent symbol of Shia suffering, and the
plight of its Shia residents has become a rallying cry for elements of the Iranian
The tragic state of affairs in Parachinar may be seen as a reflection of the mounting sectarian strife which has threatened in recent years to engulf the Pakistani nation.
It may also be used as a yardstick to measure the willingness and ability of the Islam -
ic Republic of Iran to protect Shia communities wherever they might be. After all,
the Tehran regime is often looked upon as the global champion and guardian of the
Shia. And historically, the Islamic Republic has actively supported Shiite militancy
internationally, including in Pakistan.


In the end, Tehran can disguise the international pursuit of its political objectives
as religious outreach, but Iran’s influence among Pakistan’s Shia should not be exaggerated. Iran’s clerical government and its religious practices are by no means acceptable or appealing to all the Shia of Pakistan. Moreover, because Tehran’s actions
do not match the rhetoric of some elements in the Islamic Republic, Pakistan’s Shia
are increasingly unlikely to view Iran as a reliable guardian or benefactor. Indeed,
Tehran’s reaction to the siege of Parachinar is a good example of the political cautiousness of Iran’s clerical rulers, and of the fact that Iranian support for the Shia in
Pakistan has become as much, if not more, a product of geopolitical calculation as it
is of religious sympathy or Islamist ideology.
Despite this, Iran’s outreach to the Shia of Pakistan has historically fluctuated as a
function of sectarian relations inside Pakistan and of Tehran’s overall relations with
Islamabad. When sectarian tensions rise in Pakistan and Tehran-Islamabad relations
are poor, Iran’s support for the Pakistani Shia has historically been at its strongest. In
the early 1980s to the mid-1990s, for example, when sectarian tensions and violence
expanded in Pakistan, the Iranian regime became a strident supporter of the Shia
and of militant Shiism. Now, given the deteriorating state of Shia-Sunni relations in
Pakistan, and also given the fact that Iran’s clerical establishment is under attack by
“Shiite nationalists” at home, conditions may be ripe for Iran to take renewed interest in the plight of Pakistan’s Shia once again.
Riaz Haq said…
Can President Ebrahim Raisi turn Iran’s economic Titanic around?
By Nadereh Chamlou

According to the International Monetary Fund, Iran’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—based on Purchasing Power Parity (PPP)—accounted for 1.86 percent of the world’s GDP (PPP) in 1980. By 2021, its share had declined to 0.8 percent. Within the same timeframe, South Korea’s share rose from 0.6 to 1.7 percent and Turkey’s from 1.2 to 2 percent. This means that Iran has lost considerable economic power on the global stage in comparison to where it was in 1980. Economic underperformance combined with a near trebling of Iran’s population has also led to a per capita income that has barely grown in three decades and one that falls short of its comparators.

Low growth, high inflation, and widespread un- or underemployment have diminished the purchasing power of many income deciles, causing widening income inequality. Iranians below the national poverty line have doubled in the past three years, now encompassing 35 percent of the population. There are daily reports of a decline in the purchase of basic food staples, such as a 50 percent drop in meat, dairy, eggs, and fruits. Even more affordable imported rice, rather than the domestic variety, is being sold one cup at a time rather than in bulk as was done before. There is a shortage of affordable housing, and an average of 40 percent of Iranians—and as high as 70 percent in Tehran—are “house-poor,” i.e. spend the lion’s share of their income on housing, leaving them exposed to sudden poverty in case of cost of living shocks. The anxiety about an ever-increasing uncertain future has also created a mental health crisis.

Unemployment among the educated youth is as high as 40 percent, and one in three Iranians is eager to emigrate. Since the revolution, Iran has become a leading country in brain drain. For instance, in just one category and in 1399 alone (the last Iranian calendar year: March 2019-March 2020), some 250,000 nurses left Iran. It’s a critical number for a country with one of the earliest and worst coronavirus outbreaks in the Middle East. Supreme Leader Khamenei has weighed in by issuing a stern warning against those who encourage the skilled to emigrate, calling it treason.

Officials are quick to blame Iran’s economic underperformance on decades of sanctions imposed by the United States, which have indeed impacted and distorted Iran’s economy. Yet, a 2021 paper co-authored by Hashem Pesaran, Iran’s most renowned economist, faults predominantly domestic policies. The study examines foreign exchange fluctuations and output growth as the leading indicators since 1989. It finds that 80 percent of foreign exchange fluctuations and 83 percent of variations in output growth cannot be explained by sanctions. These “most likely relate to many other latent factors that drive the Iranian economy,” writes Pesaran. Indeed, “state-dominated institutions, heavy-handed bureaucracy, and a banking sector plagued with problems are Iran’s self-imposed sanctions,” concurs Roozbeh Pirouz, a British-Iranian entrepreneur.

The Islamic Republic’s economic model, as designed and implemented by its founders, has failed to fulfill in the last forty-three years any of the grandiose promises that Ayatollah Khomeini made to the Iranian people, such as affordable housing, free utilities, and the eradication of poverty.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan expresses ‘solidarity’ with #SaudiArabia after #US criticism over #oil cut.“We reaffirm our longstanding, abiding and fraternal ties with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia” #MBS #energy #economy #OPEC #Russia

Pakistan on Tuesday expressed solidarity with Saudi Arabia in the wake of “statements made against the kingdom” following the Saudi-led Opec+ cartel’s decision to cut oil production target despite objections from the United States.

Opec+, the producer group comprising the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) plus allies including Russia, had earlier this month agreed to reduce two million barrels per day from November at a meeting in Vienna — a move that angered the US.

Following the announcement, US President Joe Biden vowed to impose “consequences” on Saudi Arabia for siding with Russia in supporting the cuts.

The Opec+ move undermines Western countries’ plans to impose a cap on the price of Russian oil exports in response to Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat who chairs the Senate’s foreign relations committee, also called for a halt to most US arms sales to Saudi Arabia after the Opec+ move.

Commenting on the matter, the Foreign Office said it appreciated Saudi Arabia’s concerns about avoiding market volatility and ensuring global economic stability.

In a statement, the FO said Pakistan encouraged a constructive approach on such issues based on engagement and mutual respect.“

“We reaffirm our longstanding, abiding and fraternal ties with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the statement added.
Riaz Haq said…
Pak-Saudi reset
The countries have reiterated their resolve to graduate their relations to new heights

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have reiterated their resolve to graduate their relations to new heights, and agreed to work collectively on issues of regional and international concerns. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who was on a whirlpool visit to the Kingdom, to iron out the upcoming itinerary of Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammad bin Salman’s visit to Pakistan, took the opportunity to seek renewed investment in Pakistan, and assured that the country is striving to pull out of degeneration through forward-looking policies. Riyadh had been of great support in cushioning Pakistan’s economy in times of crisis. It has recently rolled over its $3 billion cash tranche for another year. Besides, the assistance in the wake of monsoon destruction is highly valued, and the PM made it a point to thank Royal leadership for their sustained generosity.

The visit will make way for Prince Salman’s visit to Islamabad next month, wherein he is scheduled to open new investment opportunities. Saudi Arabia has already signed MoUs and other protocols for over $20 billion investment in refinery and other power sector avenues, and the leadership will take a review of it, accordingly. Shehbaz also addressed the ‘Future Investment Initiative’ conference and underlined the importance of clean energy resources, as well as other multifaceted aspects that can be tapped bilater- ally. The Middle Eastern state is home to Pakistan’s biggest diaspora, and expatriates are the backbone of the economy who funnel in more than a billion dollars per month.

Shehbaz’s two-day sojourn has come at a time when Pakistan is passing through a critical phase of instability and economic hardship. The PM is scheduled to fly into China in the next couple of days, and it seems the visits are part of grand initiatives to pull the economy out of slumber, and kick-start a new phase of development. The rapidly evolving power equation in the region, especially in the backdrop of the Saudi-US tension, has poised a new fulcrum and Pakistan’s tilt is of immense importance on either side. This is where Islamabad’s proactive diplomacy counts, and is a tangible factor in realpolitik.

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