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US-Pak Relations in Historical Perspective

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With the changing geostrategic Situation and after the Twitter blitz, Donald Trump turns to Pakistan to get rid of Afghan Mess and seeking help from Islamabad to influence the Taliban by bringing them to the negotiating table. The Russia Peace Talks with the participation of the stakeholders along with Insurgent Taliban leadership and Afghanistan Peace Council Delegation held talks in Moscow to reach an agreement but the talks, unfortunately, did not bear any fruit.

US-Pakistan relations have always been overcast with mistrust but this time, the onus has been felt and new terms of engagement have surfaced with New Government of Pakistan. Imran Khan in his exclusive interview With the Washington Post has made it clear that Pakistan is not hired Gun and will not fight anyone’s war.

 The Peace in Afghanistan is in favour of Pakistan and welcomed the letter by giving a positive response to Trump’s request. The Foreign Office will draft the reply to the letter and will present to Prime Minister Imran Khan for approval.

The analysts and political pundits have termed the development as positive and this time the Trump administration seems to be serious in engagement with Pakistan. The incoming US central command Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie has also said that he will engage with Pakistan on priority basis  as directed by the US  president to him since the US wants to come in direct talks with the insurgent Taliban and bring them to negotiating table to devise a sharable government plan and the possible amendments in the Afghan Constitution.

 With Kartarpur Corridor opening to facilitate the Sikh Pilgrims of India and the recent paradigm shift in US-Pakistan Relations  are being termed as watershed moments for both Pakistan and US to work together to bring Normalcy in Afghanistan Since both US and Pakistan has suffered a lot in so-called War on terror and Pakistan has done a lot more than expected as US Ally . 

Pakistan facilitated the US by giving her ground, Air and communication channels that played a vital role as a close ally in post 9/11 arena and the US bid for regime change in Afghanistan.   Pakistan has laid down unprecedented sacrifices of  Civil and Military sacrifices in thousands and what Pakistan is facing today in terms of Economic crisis that is because of being a close ally of US in  War on terror and have significantly lost its Investment and Trade opportunities at the helm of America. 

Donald Trump’s so-called irresponsible Twitter Tirade against Pakistan blaming that despite paying millions of Rupees in security aid, Pakistan has deceived the US or did not do the damn thing ,has stirred widespread criticism since the World Community is well aware that Pakistan Suffered a lot being a US ally and that is the mistrust that has become the Stalemate between US-Pak relations and the ambiguities that have stalled the diplomatic relations. 

With increasing US alignment towards India and signing various trade agreement with Modi Regime ,Trump Administration has also created the sense of disappointment in the circles of Civil and Military leadership of Pakistan that despite making us a scapegoat and used as the hired gun –the salt is being rubbed on our wounds by favouring our arch-rivals  since we have lost our near and dear ones in various terrorist activities infiltrated from Afghanistan and the India patronizing the Separatist movements in the province of Baluchistan.

The Indian spy captured from Baluchistan province, Kalbhushan Yadav, had publically confessed that how Indian Secret Agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) carried out various terrorist activities within Pakistan to bring instability through terrorism.

The US might have been advised by various think-tanks and Influencing bodies of political and diplomatic circles  that an ally who fought the war on terror as an important ally of US  and still bearing the brunt of Terrorist attacks -be it Army Public School attack, the attacks on various Shrine, Shia-Sunni Sectarian killings patronized by international forces, is left out when it comes the development option or trade relations or when Pakistan needed US support to fix its balance of Payments Issue  .

Instead of giving support, US withheld a huge chunk of security aid and even tried to influence the International Monetary Fund (IMF) not to offer any bailout package as the same may be used to repay Chinese loans. Thanks to Saudis and China helping Pakistan to fix the issue of balance payments that alignment towards alternative powers might have prompted the US to change its stance.

Pakistan has always responded in positive gesture and has been overburdened with Afghan Refugees influx caused by US air Strikes on Afghanistan for regime change, Dismantling AlQaida and nabbing the Osama bin Laden.

Pakistan has the majority of Afghan refugees in KPK and Sindh province and often found involved in terrorist links or activities as Pakistan Army and Rangers conducted various anti-terrorism operations under the National Action Plan in FATA and KPK to cleanse the terrorist elements and so far, achieved tremendous success in eradication of Terrorism and restoring  peace in the country.

On the other hand, US has always demanded from Pakistan to do more that is really disappointing and hurting. Despite all these odds, Pakistan’s civil and military leadership appears to be on the same page and ready to engage with the US on revised terms of engagement for the sake of peace.

Both Pakistan and the US have suffered losses, now, it is the time that they should serve the common interests of each other.Pakistan can  play  a key role in the Afghan peace process since this time ,the regional powers of Asia such as Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Turkey and US  intend to resolve the issue through dialogue as  American have failed in bringing peace despite  their  presence in Afghanistan and have been waging war for the last 17 years   . 

This is perhaps one of the longest wars they have fought and apparently, they are losing the ground since the Taliban seem to be much organized and have become a party for talks rather than an insurgent group. They have control of various provinces and possess great influence in its controlled areas.

The Afghan Peace process will never succeed unless all the stakeholders are taken on board especially the Taliban leadership, as prior to the US-led Air strikes, Taliban had full control of all the areas of Afghanistan.

Owing to being a landlocked country, Afghanistan depends on Pakistan for the trade and supplies. The Peace Process may pave the way for Pakistan-Afghanistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) that was bilateral trade agreement signed in 2010 that calls for greater facilitation in the movement of goods between these two countries.

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor is yet another trade route that will benefit Afghanistan if the peace agreement reaches between the Taliban and the Afghan Government. 

CPEC is a game changer not only for Pakistan but also for the Central Asian States. The analysts are of the view that CPEC may trigger Hybrid war since it has a very significant geostrategic position that will attract more countries towards it including the OPEC to use the Gawadar Port for transportation of Oil and LPG gas to the South Asian and Central Asian States.

It is imperative that Pakistan and US must work together for regional peace and especially reaching an agreement with the insurgent Taliban leadership so that Peace could be maintained and restored in Afghanistan.

The withdrawal plan for the NATO forces may be chalked out and the refugees’ crisis may be overcome since Pakistan has not been compensated in a real sense despite being overburdened by 1.45 million Afghan Refugees as per recent statistics of UNHCR and UNHCR termed Pakistan as World’s biggest country to host such high number of Refugees.

It is hoped that this change of attitude will benefit both the countries and will improve diplomatic relations and help find out lasting solutions to bring peace in war-torn Afghanistan and repatriation of Afghan refugees.

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What will the post-COVID world look like?

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Although virologists have been warning of the risks of a global pandemic since the SARS outbreak in 2003, the world was still mostly unprepared when confronted with the COVID-19 crisis. However, it was also unlucky.

It was unfortunate that the pandemic came in the run-up to a US presidential election that has created an environment as politically polarized as any the country has experienced. As a result, much of the US media coverage of, and debate about, the virus and the global policies needed to deal with its effects have been more about the presidential race rather than the pandemic.

This has obviously had a clear effect on international politics because of the importance of the role of the US and its global leadership.

It was also bad luck that the health crisis came at a time of high tensions between the US and the second largest global power, China, where the virus originated. This further complicated any potential global unified response.

As a result of the global uncertainty, it is difficult to forecast how critical aspects of the crisis, which seems likely to continue for at least another 12 months, will play out in the Middle East, and also what a post-COVID world might look like.

One certainty is that most countries will be forced to shift their focus and resources to domestic matters rather than regional issues.

The virus and the resultant shutdowns imposed to “flatten the curve” of infections have had, and will continue to have, devastating consequences on economies and national budgets. It seems that despite the soft reopening of parts of economies around the world, the current health concerns will prevent a full restoration of business activities for some time, especially if the number of infections and deaths start to rise again after governments relax precautionary measures.

In our increasingly interconnected world, it is difficult to determine whether any country will come out on top economically, and consequently geopolitically, especially given mounting levels of debt.

Countries able to borrow in their own currency seem to be at an advantage; this applies mainly to the US and the EU (if the European countries can unify their policies), and indirectly also explains the current debate in the Gulf about the unpegging of currencies.

Another certainty is that with less money available, wars and proxy wars will become prohibitively expensive and all parties will be forced to scale down their ambitions. As a result, aggression will be reduced and consensus and agreement might be more readily reached. Countries and their allies or proxies who have refused to sit at the negotiation table might now change their minds and mellow, or perhaps even be forced to completely withdraw from conflict zones.

Take Iran, for instance, which has been targeted recently by a successful US policy of maximum pressure. The country is facing problems domestically and, with the added pressure of low oil prices, it will be less able to maintain its financial support to the Houthis in Yemen, the militias in Iraq, and Hezbollah.

Does that mean Tehran will cease its meddling? Nothing is certain but domestic turmoil might force it to do so.

As Iran’s problems have grown, the region has witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic the emergence of a more assertive Turkey. This has happened despite the fact the country is also suffering economically.

It has been a long time in the making. Turkish involvement has spread to many regional issues beyond its normal national security zone. Its involvement in neighboring Syria is understandable, given that the conflict there directly threatens Turkey’s security. More interesting is the Turkish interest in Libya, where Ankara is pushing for a continued presence with no apparent direct threat or rationale to explain this. This is happening while it also increases political rhetoric that promises continued interference in the domestic affairs of Arab countries in the years to come.

A closer look at the issues reveals that Turkey is focusing its involvement on key points on Europe’s energy routes. This is not surprising, as Europe remains Ankara’s main and constant focus. So, Turkey is now directly competing with Russia — the biggest supplier of gas to Europe — in Syria, where Iran is also strongly entrenched as the country is a key Mediterranean access point for its gas and energy deliveries to Europe.

Turkey is challenging Russia for control of the tap that provides Europe with its energy stability, and this explains its involvement in Libya and other countries. The same logic explains Ankara’s negative reaction to the Israeli-Greek-Cypriot gas-pipeline project, EastMed. This motivates its strategy, as it hopes to leverage it to make more gains in the region.

Therefore, we can expect an increased Turkish focus on the Mediterranean and on supply-chain routes and access points for energy, as well as merchandise being shipped from the East to Europe.

On that point, the land routes of China’s Belt and Road Initiative include one that goes through Russia and another that passes through Turkey. This massive project is also something Turkey is well aware of, and Ankara is striving to ensure it has a presence on key points along the BRI’s Maritime Silk Road. Once again, it is being guided not by national security concerns but a desire to increase its regional clout.

It is difficult to forecast how critical aspects of the corona crisis will play out in the Middle East. 

Khaled Abou Zahr

While Russia and Turkey face off on the ground over an increasing number of issues, it is interesting to note the apparent lack of any direct involvement by the US or China, the two biggest global powers, and, surprisingly, the total absence of European nations, which should be the most concerned about what is happening.

In weighing how global and regional powers will direct their foreign policies and manage existing conflict zones, their own domestic political, economic and social stability will play an important role.

Yet, apparent weaknesses might invite bold moves and dangerous power-grab attempts. This delicate balance will be the key driver for international policies in the coming years. One might say that uncertainty and volatility have spread from the stock-markets to the geopolitical arena.

  • Khaled Abou Zahr is the CEO of Eurabia, a media and tech company. He is also the editor of Al-Watan Al-Arabi.

Courtesy : Arabnews.pk

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US warns of ‘consequences’ if China abandons trade deal

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US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday he expects China to uphold a trade deal reached with Washington this year, and warned of “consequences” if the country did not.

The comments come amid a sharp drop in global trade caused by the coronavirus pandemic as well as a dispute between the two powers over fault for the spread of the virus, which first broke out in Wuhan, China.

The US and China in January signed an agreement to end a nearly two year-long trade war, that included a commitment by Beijing to buy an additional $200 billion in American goods over the next two years.

“I’m expecting them to meet their obligations,” Mnuchin said on Fox Business Network.

“I have every reason to expect that they honour this agreement and if they don’t, there would be very significant consequences in the relationship and in the global economy as to how people would do business with them.”

Ties strained

However, relations between Washington and Beijing have soured in recent weeks, with US President Donald Trump blaming China for the pandemic, and threatening tariffs.

The US has been hit with tens of millions of layoffs as the virus has spread, significantly weakening the previously solid economy, which Trump was counting on to win re-election in November.

The trade agreement signed in January includes $77.7 billion in additional purchases from the manufacturing sector, $52.4 billion from the energy sector and $32 billion in agricultural products.

The US currently runs a trade deficit with China, and the objective is to realign the trade balance between the two countries.

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Pakistani doctors on forefronts against COVID-19 worldwide: PM

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Islamabad:Prime Minister Imran Khan Saturday said Pakistani health professionals were on the front line in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic worldwide.

On Twitter, the prime minister said Pakistani doctors working abroad also desired to help the government in Pakistan for what a dedicated portal www.yaranewatan.gov.pk has been launched.

The initiative would provide the willing overseas health professionals a platform to register for voluntary services.

According to official portal, Yaran-e-Watan is a joint initiative by the Government of Pakistan and the Pakistani diaspora health communities.

The objective is to facilitate voluntary two-way engagement that addresses the gaps in the health needs of Pakistani people by coupling them with the expertise of Pakistani and foreign health professionals practising abroad.

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