Asia in Review Archive (2017)


Date of AiR edition

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29 December 2017

Pakistan: Further weakening of democracy

With political Islam rising, Prime Minister Abbasi’s unwillingness to repeal the country’s blasphemy laws, further impairs Pakistan’s already fragile democracy, argues A. Z. Mohamed is this comment [Gatestone Institute].

29 December 2017

Pakistan-China relations: CPEC long-term plan says goodbye to US dollar

Under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative the Chinese currency RMB will be used for transactions, Pakistan announced this week. China and Pakistan agreed to stop using the US dollar for CPEC bilateral trade, loans, and repayments as well as profit repatriation. However, Pakistan insists its rupee will be used in Gwadar and other areas where CPEC projects are underway. China had demanded that its RMB be the currency used in Gwadar, but Pakistan rejected the demand [The News Pakistan].

22 December 2017

Pakistan’s ability to protect religious minorities questioned

Pakistan’s ability to provide security of religious minorities, especially Christians, has once again been called into question as a result of a terror attack on a church packed with worshipers on Sunday in the troubled southwestern part of the country. At least nine people were killed, and at least 35 others injured. The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack in Quetta, the capital of the restive Baluchistan Province, in the country’s southwest. Christians make up at least 2% of the country’s population of about 198 million [The New York Times]. While there have been several terrorist attacks on churches in recent years, including one in the northwestern city of Peshawar in September 2013 that killed 85, ISIS has most targeted Shiite Muslims in Baluchistan Province [The Washington Post]. The author of the third piece, the former Director of India’s Intelligence Bureau, assesses the broader terror threat on the subcontinent from India’s perspective: He links faith-based extremism in the Pakistan-Afghanistan belt, Pakistan army-ISI support to Islamic militants of all hues, and the China-Pakistan military alliance as the three key factors India must confront to safeguard its national security [The Guardian].

22 December 2017

Pakistan-China relations: Beijing lavishes aid on Pakistan town

In a move that has fueled suspicion in New Delhi and Washington, China is lavishing vast amounts of aid on a small Pakistani fishing town that is strategically located on the Arabian Sea. Beijing has pledged half a billion USD in grants for an airport, hospital, college, and water infrastructure for the town of Gwadar.  In return, China’s rulers hope to obtain access to – and potential military control of – some of the world’s busiest oil and gas shipping lanes [Japan Times].

15 December 2017

China-Pakistan relations: Insecurity along China’s ‘belts & roads’

While some countries are having second thoughts about their initial enthusiasm to support China’s “One Belt One Road”, China also appears to be rethinking some of its major initiatives with partner countries. This reassessment has impacted its multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Beijing has taken several road, mass-transit and industrial zone projects off the table, either temporarily or permanently. Why? Political chaos, corruption, and deteriorating law and order all play a role, as well as brutal tactics by some in Pakistan to sabotage CPEC [Asia Times]. Beijing’s official news organizations increasingly highlight the security threats posed along China’s OBOR, per the editorial in the second articled, which asserts assaults against Chinese overseas organizations and personnel have seen an upward trend and specifically cites Pakistan for the murder of two Chinese there recently. Islamabad has promised a 15,000-man army division to protect projects along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, says this report, but the editors want China to do more to provide Chinese security along its “Belts & Roads” [Global Times]. In the final article, official Chinese media report that that Pakistani terrorists plan to launch a series of attacks on Chinese agencies and personnel in Pakistan in the near future.  Last Friday, China’s embassy in Pakistan alerted Chinese agencies based there and Chinese citizens in the country to “boost security awareness, strengthen internal precautions, minimize outdoor activities and avoid going to crowded places” [China Daily].

15 December 2017

Counter-Terrorism in Asia: India, Russia, China resolve to step up cooperation

India, China, and Russia agreed this week to increase counter terrorism cooperation as well as more effectively fight the illegal drug trade, during an annual trilateral meeting of foreign ministers. While all three countries called on states to take measures to prevent terrorist activity in their territory, India also express concerns over increasing acts of terrorism by Pakistan-based terror groups, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). This year’s agreements assume significance as China has been blocking the international efforts sanction a Pakistani terrorist leader who was the mastermind of a major terror attack in India [Outlook India]. Meanwhile, Michael Kugelman informs in his research report about signs of Pakistani government progress in countering the extremism and terrorist activity in North Waziristan which has been described as “the most dangerous place on earth”. There has been a sharp decrease in terror-related civilian deaths in recent years. But there is also reason to question the degree and endurance of the success, and obtained a clearer understanding of disconnects in U.S. and Pakistani perceptions of the terror threat in the region [War on the Rocks].

8 December 2017

India-China relations: Square off for sub-region navel supremacy

Sino-Indian naval competition for the Indian Ocean continues to intensify. China is considering deployment of warships to the Pakistani port of Gwadar, a move that would be of “grave concern” for India [Nation].  Beijing intends to develop Gwadar as a key hub in its global “Belt & Road” initiative, and claims it is a commercial aspect of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Based on the PRC’s incremental expansion of its military presence in Africa and elsewhere, sustained PRC military use of Gwadar is clearly probable, but such plans have not been formally announced. Meanwhile, Beijing continues to expand its commercial engagement and infrastructure development with Pakistan, to include high-level discussions of a free trade agreement.  In related developments, the second article reports India’s confirmation this week of its “mega-project” to build six nuclear submarines [Business Standard].  India also signaled its readiness to play a bigger in the proposed quadrilateral coalition with the US, Australia, and Japan. The third article reports a major Indian naval exercise at the time a Chinese nuclear submarine will transit into the Indian Ocean early next year [Times of India].  Finally, the fourth article examines China’s maritime strategy for the Indian Ocean, and the response of India and other countries to its advances into the sub-region [CIMSEC].

8 December 2017

Plans for alliances with radical Islamic forces for the next government coalition

Former dictator General Pervez Mushar-raf’s announcement to be ready to form a coali-tion with the – officially banned – Islamist militant groups Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and its political arm Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) in the next general election in September 2018 demonstrates that radical Islamism has become politcially accept-ed in Pakistan [Asia Times].

8 December 2017

One Belt, One Road initiative: Nepal, Pakistan wary of PRC investment – and Control

In the past two weeks, Nepal and Pakistan have rejected three infrastructure projects with China worth nearly $20 billion. They join a growing list of countries re-thinking Chinese infrastructure investment as Beijing aggressively pursues its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative [Quartz]. This article and the second article detail the common problems cited for countries refusing Chinese involvement in key projects: simply put, they don’t like Chinese pressure and they now realize that the infrastructure that is built will likely end up being controlled by China [Voice of America]. Nepal reflects the common pattern for China to sign controversial projects when a pro-China government is in place, only to have a new government cancel the contract once the opposition party takes control. A Dec. 7 vote could reverse the cancellation decision, if the Nepali Communist Party takes the reins of power again.

8 December 2017

Pakistan-US relations: Mattis’ Pakistan talks: Breakthrough, progress or continued Stalemate?

Despite publicly stating he does not plan to “prod” Pakistan, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis clearly expects Islamabad to keep its promises to combat terrorism.  Mattis met Monday with Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. The US alleges that Pakistan supports terrorists, particularly terror groups that attack NATO coalition forces in neighboring Afghanistan.  Islamabad rejects the accusation, alleging Washington is scapegoating Pakistan for its own failures in Afghanistan.  Mattis says he is trying to find “more common ground”—but patience in NATO countries is wearing thin and punitive measures against Pakistan remain an option [The News].  The second article highlights Mattis’ “softer approach” and questions whether it will be effective in mending badly frayed ties with Pakistan’s leadership [VOA].  The third article reports that despite Mattis’ efforts, the Pakistan and U.S. and NATO positions are stalemated, and it explores punitive actions Washington might take if Islamabad continues to resist its entreaties [Aljazeera]. The latest reflection of this stalemate is the order of Pakistan’s Air Force Chief to shoot down drones flying in country’s airspace, American drones included [Daily Mail].

1 December 2017

Political turmoil over Islamists’ protests

Pakistan’s law minister resigned Monday after the embattled government bowed to demands from a small Islamist group, striking a deal with the help of the military to end a weeks-long anti-blasphemy protest. The once-obscure Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah Pakistan (TLY) group paralyzed the capital since November 6 with just 2,000 demonstrators, enraging millions of commuters and the judiciary who blasted the government for hesitating to act against them. The capitulation is an unsettling sign of the influence even marginal religious groups wield in conservative Muslim Pakistan, and an embarrassment for the government before elections due in 2018. Islamabad’s High Court has demanded the government give a full accounting of the army’s role in the deal: TLY’s leader praised the Army’s collaboration with the protest group, and military leaders failed to respond to the government’s order to restore law at the protest site after police and para-military forces to do so. This incident is the latest in a series of heavy blows to the ruling party: in July, Nawaz Sharif was deposed as prime minister over graft allegations [Agence France-Presse]. Rabia Mehmood details the background of TLY, with both condemnation of Pakistan’s capitulation to it and allegations of Western backing of TLY in the mistaken belief it could be a conservative Muslim group counterforce to more extreme and sectarian militant groups. The author ties the capitulation into a larger “year of human rights abuses” in Pakistan that includes forced disappearances of activists, academics and journalists; killing of religious minorities; and violence against journalists and human rights defenders [Al Jazeera].

1 December 2017

Biggest business conglomerate: The Military

The Pakistani armed forces run over 50 commercial entities worth over $20 billion. Their enterprises span the economic horizon, from petrol pumps to huge industrial plants, banks, bakeries, schools and universities, hosiery factories, milk dairies, stud farms, cement plants, and vast tracks of prime real estate. In fact, says the author of this piece (a retired Pakistani lieutenant general), Pakistan’s military is the biggest conglomerate of all business in Pakistan. The “Culture of Entitlement” in the military has sparked nepotism and corruption among both the military and civil bureaucracies. Currently, says the author, it appears that the Pakistan military will never relinquish the primacy and unfettered powers it enjoys in its nation [Defense One].

24 November 2017

Pakistan-Saudi Arabia relations: How deep ties with Pakistan’s military helped Saudi purge

Pakistan has traditionally maintained that its bilateral relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is its “most important diplomatic relationship.” The high-level purge in Saudi Arabia last week appear to have hinged to a significant degree on the close relationship that the Kingdom shares with the Pakistani military. The two countries have long maintained a strong military relationship. Pakistani military personnel frequently serve in Saudi Arabia for training purposes, and its last army chief, General Raheel Sharif, now heads a 41-nation Islamic army coalition based out of Riyadh. While officials maintain that Pakistan is neutral between Tehran and Riyadh, in reality Islamabad is treading a fine line. “Even if the Pakistani troops aren’t physically involved in an attack on Iran – or in Yemen, Qatar or Lebanon – the fact that we are bolstering Saudi defense domestically naturally makes us an integral part of their camp,” a retired Pakistani Army officer said [Asia Times].

10 November 2017

Sharif’s review petitions dismissed by Supreme Court

Pakistan’s top court has declared that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif tried to fool the people, parliament, and the court in the Panama Papers case as it dismissed of the review petitions filed by Sharif, his children, and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. The petitions were dismissed September 15, but the actual written order with reasons was issued Tuesday.

10 November 2017

Constitutional politics in motion

Pakistan’s constitutional politics are in motion displaying a pattern of continuity and change both not in a very favorable direction.
After the impeachment of Prime Minister Sharif, the polity is all but calm while potentially shifting to a new balance of power in which influential political families, political newcomers, the judiciary and the armed forced will play the decisive roles in their ever-changing politics of cooperation and conflict. After the Sharif impeachment, his party is still in power but only ruling aside the military, very visible recently, when U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited the country holding talks with representatives of both parallel spheres of influence.
It has been a decade now since the military has retreated from formal politics to exert influence parallel to the formal power arrangements and the situation has not much changed insofar as military, judiciary, and politicians still seem to work on engineering a frame for political power albeit with much less optimism than in 2007. Since then no political actor gained much credibility. Provincial politics with advancing Islamic extremist groups, an expanding religious militancy and shifting parameter in terms of foreign policy form the background of the current power rearrangements, highlighted in two recent articles [Pakistan Today] [Daily Times].
The influence of the military is subject of an interesting article by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi. It takes a comparative view to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps regarding both what he views as a comparable power position and the outlooks for an institutional formalization of the Pakistani military’s role in politics as a possible example [Pakistan Today].

10 November 2017

Islamic State

The recent battle against ISIS in Marawi has been long and difficult for the Philippines. However, it has not only been won, but also facilitated previously stalled military cooperation with other parties in and outside of the Philippines. Throughout the fighting, the Philippine Army has cooperated with former enemies such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, but also re-kindled cooperation with neighbouring states equally concerned about Islamic Extremism [The New York Times]. Notwithstanding the positive developments of late, ISIS in Southeast Asia is far from beaten and according to the Philippine National Police, has a new leader in the Philippines who is followed by the remaining fighters of the Maute Group [Rappler/Asia Times]. Meanwhile, ISIS claimed credit for the murder of a Pakistani diplomatic corps member in eastern Afghanistan Tuesday. The Khorasan chapter of Rana Nayyar Iqbal, part of the ultra-violent Middle Eastern terrorist group, claimed responsibility for the killing of Aimaq.  Iqbal, who worked in the visa section of the Pakistan Consulate General in Jalalabad [The Express Tribune].

10 November 2017

Terrorism and international relations

Last week, China blocked a bid at the United Nations by the US, France, and Britain to list the chief of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militant group, Maulana Masood Azharas, a global terrorist.  Azhar is accused of several significant terrorist attacks in India.  China’s move is doing “material harm” to the already stressed India-China relationship and affirms Delhi’s belief in Sino-Pakistani collusion, top American experts say. China’s timing is significant, coming on the heels of Washington’s stronger rhetoric against Pakistan’s support for terrorism and China’s blocking of India’s application to become a member of the 15- nation UN Security Council [Deccan Herald/Press Trust of India].

3 November 2017

High profile corruption trials

While Pakistan’s ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returned home from London on November 2nd to face trial before an anti-graft court in the corruption cases spiraling from the Panama Papers scandal, an arrest warrant for Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has been issued on Monday after he failed to appear before a scheduled hearing. Dar and Sharif were indicted this month on charges of corruption this month. [The Economic Times], [Bloomberg].

3 November 2017

India’s new Afghan trade route via Iran, bypasses Pakistan

Opening a new trade route to Afghanistan that bypasses Pakistan, India has dispatched its first consignment of wheat to the war torn country via the Iranian port of Chabahar. The strategic sea route is a significant step in bolstering trade with Kabul that has been hampered because rival Pakistan does not allow India to transport goods to Afghanistan through its territory [Voice of America].

28 October 2017

Still in crisis mode

After Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s judicial ouster and attempts of his fol-lowers from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to turn the tables by claiming a con-spiracy led by the Army due to Sharif’s China friendly policies, Sharif, his daughter, Maryam and her husband, Safdar, have now been indicted over massive unexplained wealth amassed outside Pakistan by a criminal court. Following the indictment, a PML-N fellow and Cabinet minister suggested to replace Sharif as the party’s leader by his younger brother hinting to the likelihood of coming inner-party rifts after the PML-N dom-inated parliament had just passed a controversial new law that allowed disqualified politicians to continue leading political outfits [Gulf News]. Another sign of the growing pressure on the still governing Sharif camp might be seen in a recent speech of indicted son-in-law of the former Prime Minister, Captain Muhammad Safdar, who at-tacked the Ahmadis, a repressed Muslim sect, unusually aggressively in parliament effectively declaring them enemies of the state by saying: “These people are a threat to this country and its ideology and Constitution. Due to them, we have lost wars.” [The Hindu]

28 October 2017

Chinese foreign policy towards South Asia, Eurasia and East Asia

Being nuclear powers which account for almost half of the world population, the relations between China, India, and Pakistan build up one of the most tensest and explosive strategic configurations [China Policy Institute: Analysis 1]. Within this triangle, the strengthening of the Sino-Pakistani relations has put India under pressure to find strategies to counter China’s growing influence in South Asia [China Policy Institute: Analysis 2].  A latest example is New Delhi’s launching of a satellite program offering communication and meteorological data to its neighboring countries, such as Sri Lanka for which China had installed a satellite in 2012 and with which it has established strong economic and defense cooperation since 2015 [China Brief: The Jamestown Foundation].

The Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) with its members Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia is a core element in China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative as it not only secures China’s connection to Europe and provides economic opportunities due to the wealth of national resources in the EEU-region, but also stabilizes the relation to Russia as the first and foremost condition for the success of OBOR [East Asia Forum].

South Korea and China have signaled efforts to overcome their differences on the deployment of US anti-missile systems on South Korean soil to pave way to re-vitalize diplomatic relations. At the margins of the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting (ADMM) Plus in the Philippines, the defense ministers of both countries met and had talks for the first time since 2 years [Channel News Asia].

28 October 2017

India´s Dangerous Taiwan Gambit

Following the redefinition of its previous “Look East” policy to an “Act East” policy after the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) takes shape as a major geopolitical move that is accompanied by the impressive Chinese advancement in the Indian Ocean region India continues its daring rapprochement with Taiwan. Under Modi who has always been ‘Taiwan friendly’, the bilateral economic relations are thriving with some Indian voices recommending to send an Indian defense attaché to Taipei. The development is in line with a policy to use China’s ‘core issues’ like Taiwan, the Dalai Lama, and the South China Sea as a strategic card that gains weight in context of the emerging quadrilateral and triangular coalitions with the United States, Australia, and Japan [The Diplomat].

28 October 2017

Pakistan: Relations with US not getting better

US Secretary of State Tillerson met government and heads of security agencies in Pakistan to pressure Islamabad to take action on the support Taliban and other “terrorist organizations” receive in the country after one of the bloodiest weeks in Afghanistan with more than 200 people killed in multiple attacks on security installations and mosques across the country [Geo TV News 1] and recent US drone strikes on Pakistan territory viewed as a violation of the country’s sovereignty from the Pakistan side [The Washington Post]. Meanwhile Pakistan Interior Minister claims that 99 per cent of terrorist sanctuaries have been destroyed in the country [Geo TV News 2].

28 October 2017

Pakistan: The Gwadar port project and Chinese security concerns

Amidst reports on growing security threats for Chinese diplomats in Pakistan caused by infiltrators of the East Turkmenistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) following the killing of two Chinese teachers in June and some worries for Chinese workers [The Times of India], the Chinese financed and executed enhancement of Pakistan’s strategically located Arabian Sea port of Gwadar into one of the world’s largest transit and transshipment cargo facilities represents a highly significant geopolitical move to open an alternative trade route to the streets of Malakka. The report compares the project to the Sri Lankan-Chinese Hambantota port project [Financial Times].

20 October 2017

Navy SEALs were ready if Pakistan failed to free family held as hostages

An American woman, her Canadian husband and their three children, who were born in captivity, have been freed, nearly five years after being taken hostage by the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani Network in Afghanistan. With assistance from US intelligence, Pakistani military located the vehicle and rescued the family last week in a dramatic confrontation with its captors. The United States’ Navy SEAL Team was ready to mount a raid deep into Pakistani territory to free an American citizen and her family if the Pakistan government did not act against the Haqqani network – the terror outfit that had kidnapped the family five years ago [The New York Times].

13 October 2017

De-facto-military rule?

Recent remarks by the director general of Inter-Services Public Relations indicate that the Pakistani civilian leadership has only limited control over the country’s domestic and foreign policies, and that the army is, in fact, the actual ruler reflecting a political history with 36 of the 70 years of independence under direct military government and virtually none of the 17 prime ministers having completed a full term. Besides the general message that it is the military making the final calls in terms of both domestic and foreign policy some of the major-general´s remarks also carried an assertive claim of the military to act as a praetorian guard of an orthodox political Islam [The Wire]. A side note is the premature retirement of the former director general of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar, known for his professionalism after 35 years of military service while a regular change of command saw Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi sworn in as the new Chief of the Navy [Geo TV] [The News International].

13 October 2017

Pakistan no longer dependent on US and now one of the main destinations for China’s arms exports

Pakistan PM has said the days of Islamabad’s dependence on the US to meet its military requirements have ended [India Times]. US equipment makes up a large part of Pakistan’s military but it also buys arms from Europe, Russia and increasingly China, for which Pakistan has become a major arms export destination [Pakistan Today]. China would also welcome improved ties between India and Pakistan as this would aid its ambitions of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to the detriment of the strategic upper hand of the US in the region [Newsweek Pakistan].


6 October 2017

Ousted PM Nawaz Sharif returns as party leader

Nawaz Sharif has made a defiant comeback as head of Pakistan’s ruling party, more than two months after being disqualified as prime minister on charges of corruption. Mr Sharif was elected unopposed after his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz forced through a controversial new law allowing politicians disqualified from holding public office to continue as leaders of political parties. The development marks a dramatic turnaround for the three-time prime minister, after Pakistan’s supreme court ruled in July that he had not declared his full wealth when he stood in the 2013 general election and so was unfit for office (Financial Times).

6 October 2017

The growing ‘tug-of-war’ between Pakistan’s spy agencies

The conflict between the civilian Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the military’s Inter-Services In-telligence (ISI) has risen to new heights, with the former accused of overstepping constitutional bounds. Pakistan has long been beset by tensions between its civil and military authorities. But also its spy agencies compete with each other. This article summarizes past manifestations of the ongoing rivalry (Asia Times).

6 October 2017

Pakistan-Russia relations: Diversifying the partnership

Against the background of the chill in Pakistan-US relations, Islamabad needs to seize the opportunity to diversify its relation to Russia beyond strategic and defense interest and step into economic cooperation for which there is demand on the Russian side, Ume Ferwa argues.

6 October 2017


Across the globe new counter-terrorism legislation comes along with new terrorist threats. France’s lower house of parliament overwhelmingly approved a new counter-terrorism bill, making permanent several controversial measures in place under a nearly two-year-old state of emergency. It will allow the authorities to confine suspected militant sympathisers to their neighbourhoods, close places of worship accused of condoning terror and carry out more on-the-spot identity checks – all without the prior approval of a judge (AFP). In Bangladesh, the mass influx of refugees from Myanmar raises geopolitical risks for Asia as a whole, including terrorism and social unrest (Nikkei). And with the sudden emergence of an organization calling itself Jamaat ul Ansar al-Sharia Pakistan, it appears al-Qaeda may be on the rise again in Pakistan. Authorities there also believe that the group is comprised of highly trained and battle-hardened Pakistani returnees from the conflict in Syria, where many fought for this Islamic State (IS). Pakistan is an important stronghold for al-Qaeda: the group survived the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan by seeking refuge in tribal areas of Pakistan. With IS weakened, having lost more than 60 percent of its territories in Iraq and Syria, the al-Qaeda move to re-establish itself in Pakistan appears calculated and timely (Jamestown Foundation). In a related development Pakistan’s Interior Minister ordered close monitoring of activities of extremist elements on social media to stop the extremists from utilizing the platforms to spread propaganda. He also directed devising and implementing strategies that would lead to a national counter narrative against extremism and to fight “fake news” (The Express Tribune).

6 October 2017

Asia’s Maritime Order

The Philippines will begin important upgrades to its primary outpost in the disputed Spratly group in the South China Sea. The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Modernization Program will finance the paving of an airstrip on the largest Philippine holding in the Spratly group, where China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan also have claims (The Diplomat). Regarding the exploration of oil and gas resources within disputed areas, China reemphasized its commitment to a lifting of a moratorium and a joint commercial development of the petroleum blocks (Manila Bulletin). At the same time, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte voiced rare praise for the United States, calling it an important security ally, and dismissing historic grievances and his slew of past tirades against Washington as “water under the bridge” (South China Morning Post). Australia, in the meanwhile, needs to shift the focus of military presence from the Middle East to Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific, if it wants to succeed in coping with emerging security challenges in Asia-Pacific and protect its direct strategic interests (The Australian).

29 September 2017

Ousted PM Sharif’s return to politics deepens Pakistan’s constitutional crisis

Former Pakistan Muslim League-leader and for-mer PM Nawaz Sharif, who resigned from his political party’s leadership after the Supreme Court found him guilty in a corruption case, is expected to return to his previous role in the party due to a successful amendment of the Political Parties Order Sharif can become chief again. Given his highly tensioned relations to both the top judges as well as the military a rise to power again will be all but smooth.

29 September 2017

Pakistan-Russia-China military cooperation

A two-week long joint counterterrorism exercise between the special forces of Pakistan and Russia began as another sign of the growing military cooperation between the two countries in recent years with Russia having delivered 4 Mi-35 gunship helicopters to Pakistan in August and Islamabad having shown interest in purchasing the S-400 Russian missile defense system. Meanwhile the air forces of China and Pakistan have held joint training exercises in northwest China for the sixth time after their launch in 2011 (first link), and the joint Sino-Russian Baltic Sea Drill has been conducted as part of the countries’ “constantly expanding” maritime cooperation exercises. Russia and China have conducted these exercises regularly since 2012, with important practical and symbolic benefits countering Western efforts at isolation with Beijing displaying its new global military potential and increasing its relatively nascent operational skills at sea.

29 September 2017

India and Pakistan adjusting their international relations in Asia changing security order

As India expands its ties not only with the US and Israel but also the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), New Delhi is also seeking to strengthen its ties with Tehran made possible by the Iran nuclear deal signed in 2015. As a factor in Afghanistan, a gateway to the Central Asian markets and a neighbor to Pakistan, Iran offers opportunities India aims to exploit. A three-nation agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan seeks to establish a land transit and trade corridor across the countries while India faces a major challenge to strike a balance between increasingly good relations with Washington and closer ties with Tehran. Iran on the other side fosters good relations with China while it also threatens to advance against Sunni terrorist basis in Pakistan from which attacks on Iranian territory are launched (Fair Observer). With Pakistan having difficult relations with its neighbours, tough tones from the White House and even the recent BRICS summit – on behalf of China –, it is looking closely at Iran’s foreign policy as a model to counter isolation, for example its closer cooperation with Russia which it may want to emulate (Geo).

29 September 2017

Is terrorism linking Asia?

Recent developments highlight once more how the Near-, the Middle- and Far East are increasingly forming a belt of highly interactive unrest. While Iran has recently declared to root out ISIS in Syria and Iraq soon in concert with Russia, Assad-Syria, and Iraq, Iranian agents still seem to recruit Pakistani Shiites to fight in Syria for the pro-Assad Zainebiyoun Brigade allegedly formed and trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Their engagement has now been responded several bombs attacks by Daesh-linked militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Al-Alami in Pakistan (first link). At the same time, Pakistani Sunni militancy – having been instrumentalized by the state’s security apparatus for years – has become a breeding ground for an increasing (unwanted) ISIS presence in Pakistan. The article provides some reflections on ISIS´ presumed leader Shafiq-ur-Rahman Mengal as a prototypical example of violent radicalization of elite members and the complex links between state actors and extremists (second link). Lastly, a newly surfaced ISIS recruitment video is seen as a “game changer” in the ongoing ISIS efforts to further militarize political Islam in Southeast Asia (third link).

29 September 2017

Special report: The breakup of Pakistan 1969-1971

This special report dives into the bloody history of Pakistan in the late 1960s and early 70s and describes the background against which the Bangladesh Liberation War took place and resulted in the independence of People’s Republic of Bangladesh in 1971. It examines both domestic as well as international attitudes and provides a detailed and astute historical perspective.

29 September 2017

Pakistan, polio and the CIA

The CIA is supposedly using vaccination programmes and surveys to gather intelligence on terrorists in areas of Pakistan ahead of drone strikes. The suspicion has led militants in some areas to refuse vaccinators access, which brought back a disease in some areas of Pakistan and further afield that was once nearly eradicated. With less drone strikes being carried out, the number of polio infections dropped again.

22 September 2017

More votes for religious parties in by-elections

By-elections for a vacant seat of Lahore in the National Assembly have seen a surge in the vote-share of hard-line religious parties who came third and fourth respectively. The seat became vacant after PM Sharif was disqualified by a court after revelations linked to the Panama papers. The election was won however, by his wife with the seat remaining with Pakistan’s ruling party.

22 September 2017

India-China relations: After the Doklam stand-off and the BRICS-Summit – tensions are far from over

While the recent BRICS-Summit turned out as a major factor in resolving the Doklam stand-off, India and China will continue to find themselves at odds over numerous issues (Quartz). As an example: China will likely finish a huge hydro-power project in the disputed area of Kashmir way ahead of schedule. The project is part of the Pakistan economic corridor. China presses ahead: “The Belt and Road initiative cannot be delayed or sidetracked by the territorial disputes.” Another example of likely further tension is a strategically important China-Nepal highway (Hindustan Times) built by China. Demographics may turn the tables in the long run in India’s favour however (The Strait Times II). Last, but not least India’s Army Chief of Staff has spoken twice publicly on India’s ability to wage a two-front war against China and Pakistan. Gautam Sen, a retired Indian defence accounts officer, considers possible strategic reasons of such a statement as well as the substance of its claim. The author argues that short-term posturing may be detrimental to India’s long-term interests (Mainstream Weekly).

7 September 2017

National population census after two decades on Supreme Court order

A contentious national census has been complet-ed after the Supreme Court ordered the govern-ment to do so. Pakistan today has around 208 million people. Significant is the first separate count of transgender (around 10.000) and a par-ticular population growth rate in the provinces known as sites for militancy and terrorism.

7 September 2017

The Belt and Road to China-based globalization

China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative must not be understood only in economic terms but as nothing less than the launching of a China-based globalization with significant ramifications in the field of geo-strategy and geopolitics, especially for India in the wake of a intensifying China-Pakistan relationship, Colin Mackerras writes.


7 September 2017

Trump’s posturing on Pakistan is a gift to China

Calling out Pakistan as a safe-haven for terrorists and putting pressure on the government could aid Pakistan-China relations. China has long standing relations with the South Asian nation and their ties grow closer – especially since the beginning of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in 2015.


31 August 2017

South Asia and US

The alienation between Pakistan and the USA under Donald Trump’s administration has opened doors for the currently very good relations between India and the USA. In the light of expectations towards increased engagement India’s in Afghanistan, it remains, however, to be seen at what price US-Indian relations are to be bought on India’s side.

31 August 2017

Pakistan suspends talks and visits with US over Trump´s remarks

A wave of anti-American anger has swept Pakistan this past week, triggered both by President Trump’s threat to punish the country for harboring insurgents and by his invitation to India, Pakistan’s longtime rival, to become more involved in Afghanistan’s future. In protest Pakistan has reportedly now blocked all talks with the United States and visits to the country.

31 August 2017

China – Pakistan military commanders hold meeting in Tajikistan

General Li Zuocheng, chief of the Joint Staff Department under the Central Military Commission (CMC), met with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa in Dushanbe and pledged to further improve bilateral ties, the Chinese Defence Ministry reports.

24 August 2017

Between the legacy of founding father Jin-nah and Islam oriented authoritarianism Zia-ul-Haq

Two articles on the legacy of Pakistan’s founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah and fading influ-ence. Does the first show how Jinnah’s ideals of a secular rule of law state had been abandoned in wake of Zia-ul-Haq’s Islam oriented military rule, the second demonstrates the lasting influence of Jinnah’s “Two Nation Theory” for the discourse on the country’s national identity seven decades of its foundation.

11 August 2017

Pakistan: Nawaz seeking to destroy judiciary, democratic system after disqualification: Im-ran

Ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s plan to travel to Lahore in calcavade is perceived by political opponents as an attempt to brings politics to the streets and destroy the judiciary and democracy in Pakistan.

4 August 2017

Pakistan lawmakers pick Abbasi to replace ousted PM Sharif

Along-time ally of Pakistan’s ousted Primie Min-ister Nawaz Sharif has been elected to replace the ousted premier. Shahid Abbasi, takes Pakistan’s helm, vowing he is there to “work and get some important things done” and be a mere placeholder. But Shahbaz Sharif, Nawaz Sharif’s brother, waits in the wings for his chance to rule.

16 July 2017

The toxic path we still tread

The coup on July 5, 1977 by Gen Ziaul Haq left damaging scars and shapes Pakistan’s state and society until today. Forces four decades old still holds the country back and could create another big wave of violence.

16 July 2017

Pakistan, Indonesia Consultative Forum re-views economic, security matters

During Pakistan and Indonesia’s Bilateral Con-sultative Forum, aimed at reviewing and discuss-ing the countries’ political, economic, and securi-ty relations, the countries vowed to continue bi-lateral collaboration through the Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism and Policy Planning Dialogue.
(Business Recorder)

7 July 2017

Pakistan’s geopolitical maneuverings

Pakistan’s challenges in south and southwestern Asia are complex, as is the role it sees itself play-ing amongst its neighbors, friend and foe. Below, blogger Shajeel Zaidi argues for Pakistan to flex its military muscle to assert “hegemony” in the region, and in the second link the Washington Post’s Pamela Constable explains what she perceives as Pakistan’s “pivot” to China.
(The Express Tribune Blog, The Washington Post)