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

Unvisionary Leaders

Will USA survive these crises? https://youtu.be/v1tNoCq_nWM

Two countries have all along affected Pakistan the most – the US and India. Both these countries are presently ruled by nationalists. On one hand POTUS supports and exudes white supremacy and on the other hand Modi does same for Hinduism. Both have sown risky and unvisionary seeds for shoddy political gains. Both have just started to cut what they have sown. Racial riots in US and similar simmering undercurrents in India portend a huge crisis. African-Americans in the US and Muslims in India have similar feelings of maltreatment, persecution and subjugation. From slavery the world had evolved to enlightenment but the curse is haunting again due to unvisionary leaders. Leaders are supposed to be trend setters. The killing of George Floyd by Policeman David Chauvin speaks of the trend. Unless leadership doesn’t come out to mend these trends and renounce such criminality, both the US and India are bound to see bloodshed. It is prayed that sanity prevails and political leaders rise above petty political gains.

New Regional Order

Amidst altering International Order, our region South Asia (SA) also seemed to be heading for a new Regional order. Historically, SA had a mercantile significance becuase in the centuries old age of sail, natural monsoon, powerful winds and sea currents favoured the sea voyages in Indian Ocean. Indian Ocean remained a conduit for trade between better developed Atlantic and Pacific regions but ironically it itself remained conflict prone and least integrated apparently due to great games and geopolitics of the developed world. In the changed environment, SA would have economic significance as fossil fuels as well as mineral riches were endowed to this region. With the rise of China and contestation of this development by the US, the region once again was coming to the forefront. IOR region was already projected as centre stage of rivalry for 21st century. A day did not pass without a new development in this regard. Sino-India stand off in Ladakh, Indian change in status of IOK & Ladakh, new found US’ love for autonomy of Hong Kong and US desire to declare Tibet as independent country were the moves on the same chess board. Rise of China will never go uncontested and the game was already on. IOK, Ladakh, Aksai Chin and Tibet are getting in focus. The target was rise of China and scuttling of CPEC/ BRI was the mean to that end. Following focators would dictate the new regional order:

– Rise of China was a given reality, while degree and form of contestation would impact the entire region.

– Pakistan for over 4 decades as an ally won the wars for ungrateful US. Thanks God now India was on that route. On behest of the US, India would contest rise of China and would get it’s due share. Happy to see India doing dirty job.

– Incase this contestation went in favour of China which was most likely then the US would further shrink to its home base and India would face the wrath of China.

– For quite some time India had played a dirty role in Afghanistan. With deinduction of the US from Afghanistan, India would be cut to size in Afghanistan.

Prior to 1947 division of subcontinent, major drivers of conflict in our region were presence of Britain in the region, great games of superpowers and prolonged instability in Afghansitan. After 1947, major drivers of conflict were, division of the subcontinent, unfinished agenda of this division in shape of political conflicts and non-reconcilation of India. India thus picked up issues with all its neighbours.

Drawing strength from China erstwhile vassal states of India like Nepal were now staring India in its eyes.

In sum India would have a reduced role in new regional order which would be dominated by China. Last battle of Cold War was won by the US in this region which devastated Pakistan. The US’ Waterloo would also be fought in this region but hopefully this time not Pakistan but India would get the battering.

Stray Reflections and Random Thoughts

Through my reflections, I noticed that my mind is in fact a, “wandering falcon”, “a restless ocean”, “an oscillating energy”, “an unbridled horse”. It randomly switches from one thought to another. There is no definite and fixed pattern or subject. It roams around in a strange but very exciting way. If I leave it to wander it takes me to very different memory lanes or thoughts with no linkage or pattern. Around a decade ago, I conceived the idea to start recording my thoughts and titled these as, Random Thoughts. Before I could put my idea into action, I was pleasantly surprised to know about Allama Muhammad Iqbal’s book, “Stray Reflections”. This was indeed a great booster for my latent idea.

There was yet another pleasant surprise once I received this book from a friend. The book has been edited by Dr Javed Iqbal son of Sir Allama Muhammad Iqbal from the handwritten note book of the great philosopher. Allama Iqbal initially titled the notebook as, “Stray Thoughts” and then replaced word ‘thoughts’ by ‘refelctions’. Original idea of Allama Iqbal was even more closer to mine.

In one of his stray reflections, Allama Muhammad Iqbal said, “Belief is a great power. When I see that a proposition of mine is believed by another mind, my own conviction of its truth is thereby immensely increased”. The kind of increase in conviction of my belief was more than immense, once I saw that my proposition was also believed by great mind like Allam Iqbal. I am no where near to great philosopher but this small peck of germination of thought boosted my confidence.

My blog is in fact a manifestation of same idea. I found blog a good mean to record my Random Thoughts. One day these might be published in form of a book.

Intelligent use of Intelligence

https://sammilogger.blog/2019/06/14/the-future/

Mother nature blessed homo-sapiens with intelligence. That’s the attribute which makes them special and distinct amongst other animals. Homo-sapiens were given free will and choice to make use of this intelligence. One scholar gave a different perspective to banishment of Adam and Eve from the heavens. He said, it wasn’t as a result of punishment meted to them for a wrong decision. Mother nature, rather put them through a test of taking independent decision. On incitement of devil, once they made an independent decision, they passed the test and they were deemed fit to be descended to planet Earth.

Intelligence which was meant to exercise judgements, enjoy free will, explore universe, improve blessings of mother nature, brought humans, rather in conflict with nature. Human intelligence became anti-nature. Human actions started impinging upon delicate and fine balance created by mother nature in every system. Starting from localised effects, human actions have now started affecting balance in global systems. Depletion of Ozone, degradation of environment, chaotization of weather and disruption of ecosystems are a few of man made disasters. Once Adam was being banished from heavens, angels protested that humans will create conflict on planet Earth. We successfully passed that test too.

Indeed mother nature is all aware and the wisest. It’s hard to comprehend the design of mother nature. Misuse of intelligence was preordianed by mother nature. Either mother nature will continue to make interventions for course corrections or she will leave humans on self-destruction course. It might happen that ultimately human actions create so much of imbalance in systemic balance that every thing falls on to itself.

In my above quoted blog, I mentioned that, “Harari talks about End of History (Farncis Fukuyama also did) and says that ….and if the failure of history to come to its envisioned happy ending can only mean that it is hurtling towards Armageddon. We pray a wise interjection by God or by us humans takes us farther from this apocalyptic route”.

A prayer never envisions a negative outcome. If COVID 19 is an intervention by mother nature, so it be. For sure it is for overall good of destructive homo-sapiens. The attached clip is worth watching and relating to my writings. Allah may bless us all.

STEPHEN HAWKING: THE MIND BEYOND MAN

’99 percent of humans take birth, eat, sleep, produce children and die. Only 1 percent contribute towards humanity’. Anonymous

Stephen Hawking who passed away recently on 14 March 2018, (the day also known as Pi Day in the world of mathematics) was amongst the one percent who lived to contribute towards wellbeing of humankind. He was regarded as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Einstein. He contributed tremendously as a cosmologist, an author and Director of Research at the Centre of Theoretical Cosmology of Cambridge University. In his illustrious career, for 30 years he held the coveted position of Lucasian Professorship of Mathematics in University of Cambridge, a post once held by Sir Isaac Newton and Paul Dirac. He was conferred with eighteen top research awards from 1966 to 2015. Although he regretted not getting Nobel Prize, as he himself said, ‘I think most theoretical physicists would agree that my prediction of quantum emissions from black holes is correct, though it has so far not earned me a Nobel Prize because it is very difficult to verify it experimentally’. He has been a rare combination of physical disability and mental brilliance as he was called a disabled genius.

He was born in Oxford on 8 January 1942 (exactly after three hundred years of death of Galileo) in an erudite family of UK, though not financially well off. His ancestors had couple of bouts of bankruptcy which compelled his father for extra toil to support his parents. His childhood memories, included, his complaint to parents that teachers were not teaching him anything, his love for the toys especially infatuation for an electric train and his inquisitiveness about how things worked for which he would take them apart and was not good at putting them back together again. At 10, he qualified eleven-plus intelligence exam meant to sort out children suited for academic education. At 13 his father expected him to enter Westminster School for which he had to win scholarship as his parents could not afford it. In 1959, at young age of 17, he managed to fulfil his father’s desire by entering Oxford University. On vacations following his graduation, he travelled to Turkey and Iran. In Iran he had a narrow escape of life once caught in Bou’in-Zahra earthquake of 7.1 magnitude. In 1962, he entered Cambridge University for his masters and PhD. Besides his amazing contributions in the field of astronomy and mathematics he has left certain lessons for the mortal humans.

While at Oxford, at 20, he started becoming clumsy in his movements ie tumbling here and there and unable to perform routine functions of neuro muscular coordination. He was diagnosed with a rare disorder called Motor Neuron Disease (known in US as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis – ALS). His muscles were wearing down. Doctors suggested that he may not survive for more than couple of years. He described these agonizing moments in his memoir, ‘My dreams at that time, however, were rather disturbed….shortly after I came out from hospital, I dreamed that I was going to be executed. I suddenly realized that there were a lot of worthwhile things I could do if I was reprieved. Another dream I had several times was that I would sacrifice my life to save others. After all, if I was going to die anyway, I might as well do something good’. He and his family were devastated by this crushing reality. No one knew at that time how this young man will defy death and become one of greatest minds of his time.

An ordinary mortal will give up on everything and start winding up for life hereafter. But this brilliant mind took a different course. Despite the disease, he got back to his research at Cambridge. He married and produced three children. He chose to rise as the greatest physicist. His works included, research on Gravitational Waves, Big Bang, History of time, Black Holes, Theory of Relativity and Quantum Theory. I was introduced to him in 1986 through his phenomenal book, A Brief History of Time: From Big Bang to Black Holes, to which I was drawn due my interest in black holes. The book was published in 1982, which was an international best seller and stayed on Sunday Times best seller list for 237 weeks. In his life time, he yearned for a unified theory through which he believed we would really know the mind of the God regarding creation of universe. He worked a lot on possibility of travelling back in time. He finally concluded that it may never be possible to go back in time. His other books included, Black Holes and the Baby Universe, The Universe in a Nutshell and the Grand Design.

In his professional career, he was such a spirited and lively man that most of the times he ran into bets with his colleagues on theoretical issues. His professional journey was by no means free of troubles. Two thirds of his life, he spent on a wheel chair. In 1979, once he was 37, his wife felt convinced that he was going die very soon, so she desired to marry another person who would support her and children once he was gone. The great man did not object to it. Many a times he had a narrow miss with death. He had choking fits, attacks of pneumonia, low oxygen levels, went on ventilators, and had tracheotomy. One odd time doctors proclaimed him dead and wanted to remove his ventilator, but his wife refused, and he bounced back. His speech had become slurred and tracheotomy had removed his ability to speak altogether. He could only communicate with special computers, equalizers, synthesizers and with his eye lid gestures – the only motor function which stayed on. He was kept on life support medical interventions, but his outstanding mind was never there to give in. On divorcing his first wife he married a nurse who also got divorced in 2007 from whereon he lived alone with a housekeeper.

Super performance of a mind afflicted with debilitating and crippling physical disabilities is indeed outlandish. He led an accomplished life. He married twice and had three well accomplished children. He had a successful scientific career. He said that he had a satisfying and fulfilling life. He extensively travelled to include, seven times to Soviet Union, six times to Japan, three times to China, every continent including Antarctica, with exception of Australia. He met Presidents of South Korea, China, India, Ireland, Chile and the US. He had been under the sea in a submarine and up in a hot air balloon and a zero-gravity flight. His early works showed that classical general relativity broke down at singularities in the Big Bang and black holes. His later work had shown how quantum theory could predict what happened at the beginning and the end of time. He said in his memoir, ‘It has been a glorious time to be alive and doing research in theoretical physics. I am happy if I have added something to our understanding of universe’.

Stephen Hawking exemplified that mind is the real power a human is endowed by providence. With crippling Motor Neuron disease, he not only defied death for over 55 years but also optimally utilized outstanding power of his mind. The usual dictum, ‘healthy body carries healthy mind’ may be rephrased as, ‘a strong mind can take care of a weak body’. His happiness and satisfaction with life, notwithstanding his crippling disease is amazing; what an epitome of GRATEFULNESS? Towards end of his memoirs he calls his disability as an asset because he could focus on research without wasting time elsewhere. WHAT A POSTIVITY? He says disabled people should concentrate on things that their handicap doesn’t prevent them from doing and not regret those they cannot do. WHAT A POWERFUL MESSAGE? All these aspects serve as big lessons for us. We ought to be grateful for whatever we are blessed with, we ought to be positive and we ought to rely on power of our mind.