Feb 3

Modi’s desperation

Posted on Friday, February 3, 2017 in The Friday Times (Editorial)

Modi’s desperation

India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, claims that the rivers of the Indus Basin belong to India and Pakistan has no rights over these resources. He says he will repeal the Indus Waters Treaty with Pakistan so that water can be diverted upstream from flowing into Pakistan in order to fulfill the requirements of agriculture in India’s states of Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir. He says Pakistan “must pay for its wrong doing” because “terrorism will not be tolerated by India any more”.

Pakistan has declared that any attempt to do so will cause an unprecedented humanitarian disaster and will be construed as an “act of war”. Pakistan’s Indus Water Basin underwater aquifer is the second most “water-stressed” in the world because its economy is the most water intensive in the world.

The Indus Water Treaty was signed in 1960 by PM Jawaharlal Nehru and President General Ayub Khan under the aegis of the World Bank. It has survived three wars between the two countries and equitably distributed water to 300 million people over 26 million acres in the Indus Water Basin. It allocates nearly 20 percent of the Indus water to India mainly through the three eastern rivers and about 60 per cent to Pakistan through the western rivers.

The need for such a treaty arose after partition when the “standstill agreement” between the two countries on water sharing expired in 1948, and India cut off the water in the Central Bari Doab Canals. India also took the Kashmir dispute to the UN following a short war in the disputed territory. It took ten years of haggling before the two countries agreed to sign the treaty and that is one reason why it has withstood the test of time. In recent years, however, tensions have arisen following Indian designs to build big and small dams and reservoirs upstream on the Indus that seem to violate certain provisions of the Treaty regarding the waters of the three western rivers allotted to Pakistan. After bilateral efforts failed to resolve these issues, Pakistan approached the World Bank to facilitate arbitration as allowed in the rules and practised earlier but India continues to resist third party arbitration. This Indian obduracy has led to bitter recriminations in Pakistan. Under the circumstances, Mr Modi’s latest threat following renewed hostilities along the LoC and international border in which about 100 soldiers and civilians have died on both sides is raising hackles in Pakistan.

Mr Modi’s anti-Pakistan agenda is basically aimed at winning votes in elections and diverting international attention from his government’s continuing human rights atrocities and violent repression in Indian Kashmir. His focus is on sanctioning Pakistan as a “state sponsor of terrorism” and isolating it. How effective is he likely to prove?

Mr Modi’s election tactics may not work in the Punjab and UP, both of which are poised to ditch the BJP. The new Trump administration is not likely to back his aggressive designs vis a vis Pakistan until it has had a chance to try and “incentivise” Islamabad to play ball in Afghanistan. Nor is India likely to succeed at sanctioning Pakistan at the UN. The Chinese are likely to continue using their veto power to protect Pakistan in which their stakes have grown exponentially following proposed investments in CPEC. This is aimed at securing an alternative route for their trade and commerce, reducing their dependence on the sea route that is increasingly being threatened by the US in tandem with India, Australia and Japan. The military options of cold start and hot pursuit across the border to intimidate Pakistan are also non-starters because Pakistan has fashioned appropriate defensive military strategies to counter such adventurism. Finally, there are some very good reasons why India dare not abrogate the Indus Water Treaty unilaterally without seriously adverse consequences for itself.

First, it would bring global condemnation, India would lose the high moral ground in the post-Uri period and attention would switch back to the Kashmir imbroglio that is the root cause of Indo-Pak hostilities. Second, Any attempt to bottle up the water in the upper Indus without first building dams and reservoirs – long term projects — would lead to massive flooding in major cities in Indian Kashmir and Punjab. Third, by setting an outrageous precedent, Pakistan would be provoked to pressurise China – with which India has no such treaty — to divert the waters of the Brahmaputra river and erode the agricultural economy of Assam on which India is dependent. Fourth, if India closes the water tap Pakistan is most certainly going to respond by opening the jihad tap to engulf north India in flames. This would push the two countries into an outright war situation in which neither can be a winner because of their nuclear arsenals.

Narendra Modi’s warlike rhetoric and desperate actions are jeopardising India’s economic growth and the secular democracy that underpins it. Pakistan’s patience and restraint is laudable. It must not be provoked into any precipitous action.

Feb 1

Aapas Ki Baat – 1 February 2017

Posted on Wednesday, February 1, 2017 in Aapas ki baat with Najam Sethi on Geo

Jan 31

Apas Ki Baat – 31 January 2017

Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2017 in Aapas ki baat with Najam Sethi on Geo

Jan 30

Aapas Ki Baat – 30 January 2017

Posted on Monday, January 30, 2017 in Aapas ki baat with Najam Sethi on Geo


Jan 27

Sauce for the goose

Posted on Friday, January 27, 2017 in The Friday Times (Editorial)

Sauce for the goose

The military establishment continues to hog the news, unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. True, it is a central actor in the unfolding script of a newly democratic nation state and must have a place at the table. But no less true is the requirement for a discreet and noncontroversial role to anchor the country rather than a bristling, self-righteous and destabilizing one. Consider the record of the last decade or so.

Shortly after the PPP regime came into office in 2008, the US government passed the Kerry Lugar bill to assist Pakistan financially on the condition that it remained firmly on the democratic path without undue military interference. Within no time, however, the Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmud Qureshi, was lambasted for enabling such conditions and packed off to Washington to dilute the clause in an appropriate addendum. Shortly thereafter, President Asif Zardari tried to mend fences with India by offering to sign a no-first strike treaty, only to be rebuffed dramatically by a terrorist strike in Mumbai whose footprints were traced back to Pakistan. The Mumbai terror attack put paid to any talk of peace. Memogate followed when Mr Zardari’s confidante and Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani, was hounded out of office for allegedly endangering “national security”. Mr Zardari became a nervous wreck and was hospitalized in the UAE. If the Raymond Davis affair of 2011 estranged the US administration from the Zardari government, the Salala-provoked blockade of NATO transit facilities ruptured it altogether. The PPP government bought a reprieve by extending the term of the ISI chief, Lt General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, and gave a full second term to the army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. Despite these sacrificial offerings, however, the PPP lost one prime minister, Yusaf Raza Gilani, and the second, Raja Ashraf Pervez, was barely saved by the bell tolling new elections.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has fared no better. His vision to build peace in the region in order to focus on economic development and public welfare has been thwarted from Day One. A dubious policy of good Taliban/bad Taliban viz Kabul and proxy warring with India has kept both neighbours alienated and hostile. Meanwhile, any hope that the arrival of General Raheel Sharif, ostensibly an apolitical officer, in 2013, would usher in a period of relative calm was quickly dissipated by the “third-umpire” instigated dharnas of Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri. The price for denying an extension in service to General Sharif was high – Dawnleaks was billed as treasonable and cost the PMLN Information Minister, Pervez Rashid, his job.

The PM’s selection of General Qamar Bajwa as COAS has not been without its hiccups, even though it is in line with past practice. First, an unsavoury campaign was launched alleging that he had Ahmedi links or leanings. This was done in order to dissuade the PM from selecting him. Then, when the deed was done, and the COAS indicated a reluctance to follow the interventionist policies of his predecessors, a report was leaked to The Times of London alleging junior officer pressure on him not to tow the elected government’s line. No one cared to remind anyone that if Dawnleaks was a blot on the civilians that entailed an inquiry and censure for undermining national security, TheTimesleak was no less an attempt to undermine the authority of the army chief by sowing discord in the ranks. But, clearly, what is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander and the conspirators behind the Ahmedi campaign and TheTimesleak against the army chief go scot free, suggesting that the remnants of the ancien regimes are alive and kicking even in retirement or on transfer.

Now we hear that General Raheel Sharif has landed himself a highly lucrative job with the Saudis, heading an alliance of sectarian Sunni states aligned against Shia Iran and Iraq and Houthi-Yemen and Alawi-Syria. Given Pakistan’s national security interests, this is as objectionable as the practice of a couple of ex-DGs-ISI securing themselves similarly profitable jobs as advisers to the UAE government or a couple of ex-army chiefs enjoying financial benefits from the Saudis. The point is that when civilian leaders seek help in London, the UAE or Jeddah, they are berated and hounded, but when their military counterparts do the same they are not even mentioned.

General Bajwa is now in the spotlight because half a dozen web-bloggers have “disappeared” on his watch and the common perception is that secret agencies under his command have something to do with it because the bloggers were indulging in some rhetorical criticism of the military’s political role in Pakistan. The civilian government is seemingly helpless in this matter because irresponsible criticism or abuse of the armed forces is constitutionally banned. But so is hate speech and incitement to violence against them by supporters of those who have “disappeared” them.

Surely, what is sauce for the goose must be sauce for the gander too.