21st Century Neo-Geopolitics in SA

SA has repeatedly suffered from episodes of conflict. It played key role in 19th, 20th and 21st century rivalries of giants. Besides intra-region animosities, every now and then there are super powers walking in the region. Consequently, SA remains least integrated, most impoverished and conflict prone region of the world.

Once again the future conflict is knocking at doors of SA. US is bent upon containing and restraining the rise of China. India enthusiastically has jumped the bandwagon. It’s important to see what has really changed in new matrix. While main antagonist ie US stays same, threat has shifted from Russia to China. In order to counter the new found threat, the US has replaced Pakistan with India as a conduit.

In the past Pakistan had to do fighting part for the US. In the 20th century fight between the US and USSR, Pakistan helped the US in its victory though later it felt betrayed. In the 21st century fight between the US and Terrorism, Pakistan suffered the most and there is a stalemate.

21st century Sino-US rivalry looks more menacing and terrifying because it’s based on threat to status of sole superpower which is agitated, frustrated, reactive and arrogant. It is led by a mercurial leader. Besides that within India which has been boorish, overbearing and condescending with its neighbours, Hindu fascism is rising. One one hand the US is ambitious in retaining its global hegemony, on the other hand India is craving for Akhand Basharat. It’s a deadly mix. Another change from past may be that Islamic extremists are being now replaced by Hindu extremists.

US having won the 20th century rivalry has stalemated the 21st century rivalry in Afghanistan. Future rivalry with China may turn out to be final blow for the US. This may be do or die situation for the US. People of SA must rally to stop another play of geopolitics in their region. The region has already suffered a lot due to prolonged conflict and it is craving for growth and development.

Is US Dooming?

Rise and fall of empires has been a hallmark of human history. The US as a modern day empire has ruled the world. It’s ascend started after WW1, rapidly rose after WW2 and peaked after end of Cold War. Unchallenged supremacy of the US spanned over last decade of 20th century.

With the advent of 21st century, challenges for the US started looming large. The very first year of 3rd Millennial, it faced humiliation through 9/11 as its Supremacy was challenged by the ragtag terrorists.

The West led by the US ruled the World through domination in three domains ie Technology, Economy and Control of flow of Information. The might of the US in all domains began to be challenged by other players. China emerged as the biggest challenger of the US might. Rise of China brought to fore the basic question ie Is US facing a downfall? China came to be known as waxing power where as the US as waning power. The rise of one power and downfall of the other remains dynamic and each day there are related developments.

Along with the projected change of global super power, also came projections of rise of Asia in 21st century, shifting of power from West to East and loss of hegemony of the dollar as a global currency.

As regards tipping point of the power shift from the US to China is concerned, various scholars have been predicting varying time frames. These estimates of time period range between 12-15 years to 3-4 decades. Logically speaking the US should attempt to retard the rise of challenging power with the basic purpose of delaying its own downfall. That may be US’ wish but there are indicators that the US is rather hastening it’s downfall. It may be a design of the providence because policy makers in US are not expected to be foolish.

Besides material down fall, moral degeneration has been one of the serious causes of demise of empires. It’s the moral degeneration of the US which is more serious and menacing than material degeneration. The process started with loss of writ of the US in global leadership. In 1991, the whole World stood by the US in war against Iraq, in 2001 half of the World was with the US, in 2018, on issue of shifting of US embassy to Jerusalem none was standing with the US. Seeing this outcome, the US instead of course correction resorted to browbeating the opponents.

President Trump’s coming to power has exposed moral ascendency of the US. Global leadership came to be exercised through coercion. A businessman came to rule the US and conflict of interest came to surface in its governance. Daughter of the POTUS running an office in White House is third worldly attribute and wasn’t expected from sole superpower. Neither was expected that the US will become a police state. The way super power has been humbled by the tiniest organ of COVID laid bare the true potential of the its power potential. The way racial riots played out and the way these were handled speaks a lot of moral degeneration of the society. A third World leader might claim that if he goes down, economy of the country will crumble, but same coming from President Trump was mind boggling. The unethical dimension of the pre-election debate has also been unprecedented.

Latest outrage of the President that he will not quit if he looses elections may serve as unprecedented catalyst for down fall of the empire. Civil war is being predicted in the US. While the US managed to evade a civil war in racial riots but simmering currents of the same might ignite flames of civil war in case President Trump walks his talk.

Indeed rivals of the US must be on cloud nine. Fall to a rise is also preordained but sudden fall of the US will not be in the interest of the World and more so that of people of America. It is hoped and prayed that sanity prevails in the US and third worldly tactics and petty politics do not come to haunt a super power.

BECA: Blessing Endamaged by Cursed Agreement

https://www.google.com/amp/s/mobile.reuters.com/article/amp/idUSKBN27C0OF

Signing of Indo-US agreement of BECA is a key development in the region. It is being viewed with concern by a few and as a milestone achievement of India by the rest. Indeed it emboldens India but it may be fallacious. Three global transitions are well accepted. Firstly, future is Asian; secondly, power is shifting from West to East and thirdly, China is waxing power while the US is a waning power. Seen in view of our region it is also a fact that while the US is a distant power; China is India’s neighbour.

In earlier play of geopolitics in the region, Pakistan repeatedly came to centre stage of rivalry of giants. Both of the times, Pakistan was made to play fighting role for the US. Pakistan suffered terribly for this dirty bidding for the US. While Pakistan suffered India had a hey-day. This time round, in the ongoing rivalry of the US and China while India is visibly doing fighting part for the US, Pakistan will get an opportunity for growth and development.

In 2018 at RUSI London, in a conversation with DA of India, I cautioned him that I saw India on route to fighting and I also urged him that in greater interest of the region, India should desist from doing that. He challenged my view and I explained to him by projecting the future rivalry in Indian Ocean. Things are unfolding much earlier than I had anticipated. With conflict at Ladakh still simmering, India is treading on a dangerous path. Dangerous for the region and even more menacing for itself.

US has been a very self-centred power. They once left Pakistan high and dry after winning Cold War. They will this time abandon India in similar fashion after losing rivalry with China. By then India would have been fleeced of its money for buying expensive US war equipment and will be left to the mercy of neighbouring giant ie China. It is preordained and it is a writing on the wall.

In an arms race vs Pakistan, India had an edge. In arms race vs China India will be at disadvantage. Given the present state of Indian economy where it is being termed as sick economy of the region, arms race will further aggravate Indian economic woes.

All along in its history India has been ruthless to rest of the states in the region. It has been overbearing, boorish and condescending with its smaller neighbours. As South Asia is transiting from India-centric to China-centric, smaller neighbours of India are getting emboldened and they have started to challenge India. There will be a time once India will be nibbled by its neighbours who remained oppressed by it.

India present leadership is eying at short term gains while being oblivious to long term impact.

Missing the Wood for the Trees

https://sammilogger.blog/2020/02/24/our-contradictions/

It’s extremely ironic that heinous crimes are not abating in our utterly Islamic society. It’s equally ironic that powers to be remain unmoved. Every time we cry hoarse on these disdainful incidents but do nothing to avoid recurrence. Legislators are shying away from legislation, judiciary is shying away from meting justice and teachers are shying away from converting animals into humans.

I have always been so much critical of our societal decay that sometimes I feel guilty of being over critical. However, ashamedly no sooner than later my intellect boils down to critiquing. I have written numerous blogs not to find faults with the society but to serve to create awareness. My above cited blog is on our contradictions. Unless we resolve or get these contradictions resolved we are not likely to find solutions.

Another aspect is equally ironic that every time in our ensuing debates we miss the wood for the trees. Essence of the issue takes a back seat and we grapple with subsidiary issues. Issues like how was she dressed, what did CCPO say, why she didn’t check the fuel etc etc are thrashed to the hilt. Both at macro and micro level visibly the focus remains flawed.

Justice should be our slogan. For a while we should forget about what’s happening outside Pakistan and we should focus on what is happening inside Pakistan. Our inner decay and disorder is more menacing than our external issues. Once house is in order external issues will fall in their place. More worrying than what’s happening to us, is the way society is reacting. Tweets, slogans, fiery speeches will not serve the purpose. Actions speak louder than words.

Hyper Imagination

Is China Investing in Iran After Losing Hope with CPEC?
Oct 29 , 2019
Anan Aamir https://www.chinausfocus.com/finance-economy/is-china-investing-in-iran-after-losing-hope-with-cpec

Came across this bizarre and disturbing assessment. Restraining forces which are bent upon scuttling CPEC are doing thier utmost to throw-up wonky narratives. The author seems to have very little knowledge about ground realities. Being imaginative is good but imaginations ought to be confined within bounds of irrefutable realities. A hyper imaginative mind may one day conclude that since weather is not harsh it may be raining on the Sun.

CPEC is a reality and Daniel Markey has said, “CPEC cannot fail – that is a political and diplomatic impossibility”. Undoubtedly, China has its ambitions and it needs certain allies for that. Pakistan, Iran, India and Afghanistan can fill these slots. However, each country has a peculiar set of advantages and limitations. These are based on geography, historical relationship with China, topography and demography. Based on these ground realities a particular country has a peculiar relevance for China. In all these aspects Pakistan is irreplaceable unless we decide to quit and China has no option but to choose the lesser evil. No port in the World has cargo handling capacity equivalent to Gawadar. Chabahar’s capacity is 20 times less than that of Gawadar. No country has been historical ally of China. Even if we imagine that Iran can replace Pakistan how will Iran be accessed by China? How will secure passage be ensured through Afghanistan which is still in control of US and India.

Karakorum Highway KKH has a relevance for CPEC. I call it as a prelude of CPEC. Will China dump this legacy of KKH and already built port of Gwadar and start a fresh for a new corridor.

For any change like BRI and CPEC, there are enabling and restraining forces. Enabling forces work for the change to occur while restraining forces strive for the change not to take place. It is incumbent upon enabling forces to reduce, curtail and mitigate potential of restraining forces. Because, if they gain greater potential than the enabling forces the change will no more be possible. Visibly, so far the US and India are on the lead of restraining forces. India had been wooing Iran and had even succeeded to get it on board. If Gwadar formed a pearl in Chinese strategy of String of Pearls, Chahbahar was supposed to be a diamond in Indian strategy of Necklace of Diamonds. China through huge investments in Iran is attempting to wean Iran away from restraining forces and in particular India. It is basically meant to curtail potential of restraining forces and secure CPEC.

Ladakh episode as well as agreements with Iran are China’s bidding to mitigate potential of restraining forces and secure CPEC.

If we follow anology of the author then we can even conclude that China is investing in Bangaldesh and Myanmar becuase China is no more interested in CPEC. I shall rather like to draw another analogy and put the worthy author in company of Modi and Trump based on this joke:

Narendra Modi announced in a news conference that India would be sending a man to the sun within ten years!

A reporter said – “But the sun is very hot. How can your man land on the sun?”

There was a stunned silence. Nobody knew how to react.

Then Narendra Modi quietly answered “We will land at night”.

The entire audience broke out in thunderous applause !

Back in the White House, Donald Trump and his entourage were watching the news conference on TV.

When Trump heard what Modi had said, he sneered – “What an idiot. There is no sun at night time !”

Now, his cabinet broke up in thunderous applause !!

Hail CPEC. Pakistan Ziandabad. Pak-Cheen Dosti Zindabad.

Hail CPEC

https://flip.it/_bif6T

CPEC is a sine-qua-non for BRI as well as rise of China. Its significance has been amply highlighted through chrestinging it as Linchpin, Flagship, Game-changer, Early Harvest and Pivotal project of BRI. Its importance for China, Pakistan and the region is getting vindicated through fast unfolding Chinese actions.

Kurt Lewin model of change assumes that for any change there will be ENABLING forces and RESTRAINING forces. The former will seek the change to occur while the later will try to scuttle it. The lines are already drawn. It is incumbent upon enabling forces to mitigate potential of restraining forces so that change can take place uncontested. In my view China is doing bidding for Pakistan too, by mitigating potential of possible restraining forces for CPEC. Ladakh and now roping-in of Iran are meant to keep India at bay. I always held a thought that Iranian stakes must be integrated into CPEC because owing to its proximity, Iran is the only country which can create security problems in Gwadar. Visibly India was collaborating with Iran to the same end. Iran being estranged with the US is a blessing in disguise for enabling forces. Else, US would have roped-in Iran to create trouble in Gawadar which is critical for the whole system of rise of China.

Around half a trillion dollar Chinese  projects in Iran and now elbowing out of India from Chahbahar related 628 km long Chabahar-Zahedan railway line are meant to mitigate restraining forces to CPEC.

All these developments signify importance of CPEC for China which will equally augur well for future security of Pakistan as well as economic interdependence of the least integrated and conflict prone Region of SA.

Tables Turning on India

In mid of 2018, I was visiting UK where I delivered a talk at Oxford University and also at Royal United Strategic Institute RUSI (oldest think tank of UK). The talks were on CPEC. At RUSI, Indian Defence Attache (an Army Brigadier) was sitting across the table. Towards end of discussion, I tried to leave a message for India. Addressing the Brigadier, I said that, in greater interest of the region, India should join CPEC, as region was craving for growth and development after prolonged conflict. I also said to him, that for many decades Pakistan had stayed on the course of fighting and cautioned him that in my assessment now India was getting on to that track. He looked at me with utter amazement and questioned me, how could I say that? I explained to him that the way India was toeing line with the US and the way battle for ports was going on in IOR between China and India, portended hostilities. I told him there were over five countries in IOR whose one port was with China and second with India. Rivalry in IOR between China and India could any time turn into hostility.

Now; that was the story of the past. Right now we were witnessing manifestation of my projections. A shallow leader in India felt flabbergasted with support of the US. He felt it to be the right time to flex his muscles. He created a challenge for Pakistan and China in Kashmir by abrogating Article 370. Apparently, an end in itself was actually a step towards endangering CPEC. Modi did bite more than he could chew. CPEC was more critical for China than even Pakistan. A threat to CPEC, China could never afford. Scuttling of CPEC infact meant endangering BRI and future ambitions of China.

Indian actions had to invoke response. China responded beyond expectations. Even for Pakistan, Modi’s actions were beyond tolerance, however, our vulnerabilities kept us at bay. Though we were clenching our teeth vociferously. Stand off at Ladkha in quick succession of the one in 2017 at Doklam has shaken India. India should now be looking towards its master the US. But alas! the master was engrossed in it’s own troubles.

China through its actions has attained a position of advantage and has effectively created a deterrence against future Indian misadventures. Though, this instability doesn’t augur well for the region but this storm will ensure future stability of the region. Because evil of Modi had to be nipped in the bud. In Feb 19, Pakistan did its bit to show India its place now again it was due from China. China has done it so well and so effectively that India for sure will rest in peace for at least a decade. That’s the critical time for CPEC to take foundations – unhindered and without trouble.

The future holds great promises for Pakistan, China and the region.

MENTAL HEALTH IN COVID

Corona Pandemic is a global challenge and more daunting for the poor countries. Allah be willing, this “SHALL TOO PASS”, however, it has started to impact our mental health. While this curse struck the World, the humankind was unprecedentedly interconnected, interdependent and communicative that the world was termed as a “global village”. The globalization was at its peak which warranted highest levels of interaction, travelling, communication and integration. Besides this, we are living in the age of Social Media which allows free and intense flow of information. In 1990, Philip Strong had said, “our daily lives are ordered by innumerable behaviors and actions that happen on auto-pilot. Many of these auto-pilot behaviors are related to social interactions and hygiene”. On the whole, Corona had suddenly severed all forms of communication and connectedness, less social media. Global village had been transformed in to smallest dwellings and households. The medium of social media has gained greater potency.

As regards social impact, first and foremost, Corona is impacting human psychology which forms bed rock of social problems. Humans have an evolutionary survival orientation—a primal skill of survival designed to help us survive the worst. With social interactions ceased, humans are in the grip of growing fear, suspicion, panic and irrationality. When we are rattled by the question, “Am I safe?” describing the feeling of fear. If the danger is invisible or incalculable – when one cannot see the enemy or the threat, but only the results – the fear may become more intense: an uncomfortable feeling of terror or dread. Then thoughts, “Could I die? Will I die? Will others I know and care about die?” start emerging. It is natural for us to start to view, every cough, sneeze, breath, communally-touched item with fear, terror, and dread.

Suspicion and its underlying belief that danger could be nearby, but can’t readily be verified, impacts our behavior. We may suspect other people may have the disease. We may suspect medical practitioners are not doing enough to effectively respond to the medical threat. We may suspect governments are not releasing true and accurate information. We may suspect the media is releasing inaccurate or sensational fear-inducing stories. We may suspect neighbors are stocking up on daily living supplies and that there will not be enough left for ourselves when we need it. This feeling of “scared to lose, scared to die” could get amplified in to crisis. For some, fear and suspicion can rise to the level of irrationality.

When disease arrives, the essential positivity is replaced by fear and suspicion. From a sociological perspective, humans then share those fears and suspicions through language to others. This phenomenon is heightened in the era of globalization; social media makes it easier and faster, and harder to contain. In tangible terms, the ill-effects could be:

  • Economic impact and Financial insecurity
  • Decreased business and trade
  • Price gouging
  • Unemployment
  • Food shortages due to panic buying
  • Psychological impact
  • Domestic violence
  • Educational impact

Allah be willing pandemic will be over sooner or later, fighting its ill-effects will be long drawn and daunting. Dr Elisa Pieri said, “pandemics often created inequalities, as well as exacerbating existing social inequalities that were already experienced in pre-pandemic times.”

Suggestions for coping & finding a middle path

  • A clearer understanding of how individuals and societies are affected by a pandemic for a better understanding of how to prevent an epidemic from becoming a social crisis.
  • Recognize that the tasks of daily living take more energy in an epidemic. Figure out what can be postponed and spend more time in self-care.
  • Identify what can be controlled and implement measures to control them. Identify things that can’t be controlled and let those things go.
  • Avoid leaning towards a natural tendency to catastrophize the issue. For example, “It is possible I could get the virus, but it is not probable.”
  • Assert control where it will be useful such as new social patterns of washing hands, not touching our faces and social distancing.
  • Engage in activities that develop our calmness and composure, such as yoga, mindfulness, and meditation.
  • Turn off screens for several hours a day to engage in exercise, reading or other pleasurable hobbies.
  • Increase your connection with loved ones by spending time together and expressing affection.
  • Find support with a mentor, wise friend, medical or mental health practitioner if you find that concerns about the virus are interfering with your ability to engage in the responsibilities of daily life.
  • Look for opportunities to engage in “random acts of kindness” that will increase our own positive feelings as well as strengthen the social fabric that binds us together as a community.
  • Be clear about the type of media reports you are consuming. Media reports without clear messages about how to protect yourself will increase anxiety.
  • Listen to information provided by friends and family and share information with others discerningly. Is it a fact? What is the source? Is it helpful or anxiety-provoking?
  • When spending time getting informed about the Coronavirus be sure to spend more time on official sites that provide reliable information about risk and guidance on coping.

Above all strengthen your faith. Trust in Allah. May Allah protect us all.

You Scrambled the Wrong One

Keeping in view our insatiable attitudes and views, I am reminded of a joke. A husband was hyper critical of actions of his wife. When she would fry an egg, he would say that he wanted the scrambled one. Once she would scramble, he would complain he wanted the fried one. One day wife prepared two eggs. One fried and second scrambled. She anxiously awaited his response. Husband frowningly blared, “You scrambled the wrong one”. Our criticism is unending. 2020 has been an abnormal year. Best of economies of the world are in shambles. Budget has been recently announced and there was fire blaring out on all the channels. No one says we should be prepared to chip-in our part in these testing times. We are upset for not getting pay rise. I for one would have even accepted pay reduction. As a nation we are not sharing miseries of less privileged masses. May be we want the best for ourselves with total disregard to what others are getting.

Another bad aspect is the way people are minting money. Any thing and every thing that gets short in supply gets exponential increase in price. Utter lack of sympathy and feelings for people in distress is mind boggling. It’s a normal natural inclination of humans that we bend to support people in trouble. But in our case every situation is exploited to the hilt. There is a maddening race to make money. I wish we feel for the people in distress and stop exploiting their vulnerability. That is what is expected from a civilised, Islamic and God fearing society.

Trump’s Omnishambles

President Donald Trump came to power in 2016. Exactly one presidential term ahead of him in 2012, omnishambles was declared as word of the year. Possibly nature already knew what was coming ahead. In 2017, Andrew Korybko titled his article, “Trump: Agent of Chaos (a.k.a. ‘The Kraken’)”. He postulated that President Trump was intentionally creating a chaos so that he could rebuild everything. Events of recent past indicated that chaos had turned into omnishambles. Such a great power which was known for dexterity and heterogeneity was first humbled by a micro-organism and secondly by unbeknownst (atleast for the US) racism, savagery and inhumanity. If not for else, at least for the US these evils were thing of the past. It was in 1950s that US looked as bad as being seen now a days.

Where did the enlightenment go? Where was the education? Where was the evolution of society? Where was the civility? Where was distinction between rich and poor? And to top it all where was the leadership?

President Trump came to power through elections which were alleged to be engineered by a rival country. This by itself was a big shame for a superpower who got tricked by the trick it employed against others. Ever since then nothing was going right for the US. The way the US was humbled by COVID 19 and racism was inconceivable. Still a question was being debated, was he (Trump) doing it by design or His (God’s) design was in play? The second seemed more plausible. Challenges for the US were mounting, many of those of their own making. It was wished that the US would sail out of these turmoils but the timings are ominous. While the US should be taking stock of changing international order, it was embroiled in it’s own menacing disorder.

My teenaged granddaughter scribbled her young heart,

Imagine, just imagine
A world where everyone lived in peace,
A place where everyone was treated equally,
Whether they were black, white, pink, blue,
Where people were not judged because of the colour of their skin, but by the content of their hearts,
A place where mothers were not scared that their sons or daughters might be unsafe outside because they were not white,
Imagine just imagine,
Wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone did not judge too quickly?
We won’t like to admit it,
But history was repeating itself.
Let’s think back to 1950’,
This was a time of racial inequalities, discrimination, and lack of justice,
Black on one side whites on the other,
White supremacism
If you were black you were degraded, belittled, unimportant and freak,
And why?
Because they were not white,
I may not be black myself, but that does not mean that I wouldn’t stand up for all the lives out there who had been killed in vain,
Those men and women who felt fear when they walked down the streets,
Those mothers and fathers who lost their son or daughter due to racist murderers,
A couple of days ago, in US, a man named George Floyd was murdered by a policeman for the accusation of forgery of a fake $20 bill,
“don’t kill me!” were George Floyd’s last words,
His life should not have been over,
George Floyd, a father and a person
And one of many black people who have been murdered for the colour of their skin,
We people of all colours need to speak up
We all have a voice, We need to stand up, and unite together
Imagine, just imagine
A world where everyone was equal.

God may bless us a World envisioned by my sweetheart Ms Safa Nisar