South China Morning Post – Hongkong Sikh wants to change attitudes towards ethnic minorities, while also being first doctor in city to wear a turban

Medical student Sukhdeep Singh, 23, is on a mission to empower ethnic minority youth, starting with an NGO he set up with other young professionals

Stephanie Tsui

Hong Kong – Special administrative region – China, 11 May 2019. Sukhdeep Singh, 23, is used to getting stares. “It’s because I’m so handsome,” he says, chuckling. At nearly 1.9 metres, Singh naturally stands out from most Hongkongers, but he believes his height is not the only reason he is considered different.

“Some people who assume I don’t understand Cantonese would comment on my turban in front of me, and on the MTR, people would rather squeeze themselves into more crowded rows than take the empty seats next to me.”

Singh is a final-year medical student at Chinese University. When he graduates next year, he will become one of a handful of Sikh doctors in Hong Kong, and the first to be wearing a turban. While not all Sikhs wear turbans, Singh dons one as an article of faith and to keep his uncut hair tidy and clean. He has been letting his hair grow since he was about nine as a show of faith.

“The sad reality is, when I’m wearing scrubs and a lab coat, I get treated differently. If I’m wearing normal clothes, no one would believe I am a medical student,” says Singh, who is one of about 12,000 Sikhs in the city.

“Patients might develop a different perspective on people with turbans in Hong Kong when they see me, a turbaned doctor, and, hopefully, start to view other ethnic minorities differently.”

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Singh grew up surrounded by Cantonese speakers, including his own father, a civil servant. But he only realised the importance of speaking the language when he enrolled in medical school.

“Patients look at me strangely, and that’s normal. But whenever I speak to them in their own dialect, their faces light up.”

Although he struggled with Cantonese vocabulary at first, Singh is now fluent in the language and able to write in Chinese. He is determined to eventually “speak like a local”, saying: “If I really am a Hongkonger, I should embrace every part of the culture.” In the coming year, he hopes to improve his Mandarin to serve more patients.

While he has overcome communication barriers, Singh continues to be wary of the way patients perceive him, and keeps his beard tied and tucked in a low bun.

“At home, it’s always free flowing, but at the hospital, I keep it up because you don’t want to scare sick patients even more. As a community, we still need to address these sensitive issues through education.”

Ethnic minorities who wear religious clothing, such as turbans and hijabs, often face discrimination, says Shalini Mahtani, founder and CEO of The Zubin Foundation, which aims to improve the lives of people in such communities in Hong Kong.

“They’re often told they’re smelly, people don’t want to sit next to them on public transport. It’s particularly obvious when they’re on a packed MTR.

“At the workplace, other employees may complain about ethnic minorities bringing in food that ‘smells funny’ or ‘bad’.”

Citing a 2018 study by the foundation, Mahtani also gives the example of how many local kindergartens would not welcome ethnic minority children because they believe they are “lazy”, “stupid” and require too much attention from teachers.

But she expresses hope that professionals like Singh will help raise the profile of ethnic minorities.

“Having more visibility for ethnic minorities is very important.”

She also believes more can be done to raise awareness of ethnic minorities among Chinese Hongkongers.

“I don’t think we’re doing a good job,” she says.

Last year, Singh and other young professionals founded Pargaas, a non-profit organisation that hopes to empower ethnic minority youth. Pargaas holds workshops on higher education and self-improvement.

“If we want to improve the number of ethnic minority kids getting into higher education, you need an organisation that can help them improve basic skills like CV writing. There weren’t many educated Sikhs who could run an organisation like Pargaas, but now there are,” Singh says.

He adds that Pargaas is also building a database on the characteristics of the Sikh community to look at what needs to be improved.

“We want to achieve harmony and to help others understand our culture. I just hope people on the receiving end would listen with open hearts.”

https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/society/article/3009452/sikh-hongkonger-wants-change-attitudes-towards-ethnic

The Asian Age – Foreign policy options after May 23 verdict

In India, the Narendra Modi government’s changes in foreign policy are both cosmetic and substantive.

K C Singh

Op/Ed, 8 May 2019. It may be useful to analyse the possible impact on Indian foreign policy of the looming May 23 Lok Sabha results. Three possible scenarios are a government led by the BJP, perhaps without a majority on its own; or a similar alliance led by the Congress; or an alliance led by a Third Front leader, albeit supported by either the BJP or the Congress.

A less likely, but not improbable, scenario could be a BJP-led government under someone other than Narendra Modi.

A similar debate has begun in America as a battery of Democrats have lined up to challenge President Donald Trump. In particular, the entry of Joe Biden, vice-president under Barack Obama, has sharpened the debate due to his legacy and experience. But Democrats don’t simply want to return to the past or the Obama track. The Economist notes “rumbles of revisionism”.

Broadly there is a consensus on the need for restraint as an evangelical pursuit to change the world and endless wars have depleted America’s wealth and ill-served intended aims. They also agree foreign and domestic policies must not be in silos as the US, when peddling democratic values abroad, must not ignore corruption and kleptocracy.

Finally, they debate whether foreign policy making needs to be democratised rather than conducted under notional congressional oversight. The recent move to limit the President’s war-making powers points there.

A Democratic administration may return the US to the Paris Accord on climate change, rejoin the nuclear deal with Iran, albeit with suitable tweaking, return to the Nato alliance without ambiguities, and so on.

Yet some elements may have been changed by President Trump irreversibly, like the bipartisan consensus on Sino-US relations is trade and investment with China needs new terms of engagement. This has implications for World Trade Organisation (WTO) reform.

In India, the Narendra Modi government’s changes in foreign policy are both cosmetic and substantive. The first relates more to hugging and protocol aspects that a new incumbent can immediately change, but can be expected to be persisted with by a re-elected Modi government.

The second falls under following headings: India-USA relations; China-Indian relations; Pakistan and the “zero terror” policy; countering radical Islamic terror and Jammu and Kashmir; Gulf and Iran.

It is noteworthy that the consensus on foreign policy, which last broke over the India-USA nuclear deal in 2008, largely shattered in the past five years due to the highly personalised, and hyper-nationalistic diplomacy of Mr Modi. Berating the Opposition while abroad, albeit on the pretext of addressing the Indian diaspora, began its collapse.

India’s readjustment to the post-Cold War world began with the P V Narasimha Rao government in 1991. Between him, the Atal Behari Vajpayee-led BJP government of 1998 and the Manmohan Singh-led UPA-1 in 2004, there was continuity in style and content.

The USA was wooed while retaining strategic independence, China engaged to incrementally expand areas of convergence, putting disputes on hold, Pakistan unsuccessfully but repeatedly tested to wean it away from terror sponsorship and accept confidence-building measures as a precursor to dispute settlement, J&K handled with a combination of hard and soft approaches, and finally a balance maintained in India’s policy towards the Gulf, Iran, West Asia and Israel. India also had a more active “Look East” policy, renamed “Act East” by the Modi government.

Essentially, you act only after you look, so it was the 1991 policy continued, to balance China, help craft a new Asian security architecture through building blocks like Asean Regional Forum, East Asia Summit and even the Quad, comprising four democracies straddling the Indo-Pacific, Australia, India, Japan and the USA.

A non-BJP government may begin by toning down the excessive bonhomie towards the Trump administration, which has openly backed Mr Modi, ensuring “wins” before and during the Lok Sabha polls. It is unimaginable that Pakistan would hand back IAF officer Abhinandan Varthaman, while Mr Modi is still threatening Pakistan, unless the USA-Saudi-Emirati interlocutors assured the Imran Khan government that this was merely domestic posturing.

Mr Modi claimed his threat, apparently nuclear, got Pakistan to comply. If threats worked, why did not India get consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav, detained for espionage, and had to go to the International Court of Justice at The Hague?

Similarly, the rushed listing of Masood Azhar, that some reports said China was reluctant to concede during the Indian election, had a USA role, about which they reminded India when seeking Iran’s isolation. Earlier, the UAE had conveniently deported or extradited individuals during the Rajasthan and Lok Sabha polls as these were required to nail the Congress for corruption.

Desirable as cooperation is for combating corruption and terrorism, it must be balanced against insulating India’s elections from foreign interference. After all, Russia is similarly accused in America, which President Trump denies but the Robert Mueller report implicitly confirms.

A non-BJP government, particularly a Congress-led or supported one, may examine what, if any, were the trade-offs. First, Indian non-retaliation was conspicuous when the US imposed duties on Indian products. Second, the US pressuring India to distance itself from Iran and Russia.

Strategic independence, a core value on which our foreign policy rests, appears under pressure, if not compromised. But worse is foreign powers backing their favourites.

Pakistan is another case in point. Treating J&K as a pure law and order issue and Pakistan as a lunatic asylum impervious to anything but shock treatment of “surgical strikes” is brazen use of neighbourhood policy for communal-baiting domestically.

It may or may not win elections, but it leaves a poisoned chalice for a successor government, although it’s unlikely Pakistan policy will return to the romance of the Gujral-Vajpayee-Manmohan period. But no counter-terror policy can work which alienates a minority exposed to jihadi propaganda via the Internet, employment in the Gulf and travel.

The Sri Lankan Easter massacre is a warning of what awaits India. ISIS and its “caliphate” uprooted from Syria-Iraq is mutating and re-planting wherever fertile ground is available. Africa, particularly Sahel, is harbouring fleeing and new adherents, which the April 29 video of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi will fuel.

Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso have seen escalating attacks. British intelligence is tracking 10,500 jihadists in Sahel. How can India escape when BJP leaders are churning the communal pot for their electoral khichdi? The next government has a Herculean task to return the genie to the bottle, and counter politicisation of the military.

Hopefully, India’s voters will reject this dangerous gambit and its creator, Mr Modi, whom The Economist has dubbed “Agent Orange”.

The writer is a former secretary in the external affairs ministry.
He tweets at @ambkcsingh.

https://www.asianage.com/opinion/columnists/080519/foreign-policy-options-after-may-23-verdict.html

Tolo News – USA – Russia and China reach ‘consensus’ on Afghan peace

United States, Russia and China envoys said they support a second round of intra-Afghan dialogue in Doha.

Siyar Sirat

Kabul – Kabul Province, 26 April 2019. The trilateral meeting between special envoys of United States, Russia and China in Moscow on Thursday ended with a “trilateral consensus” on the Afghan peace process, reads a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

It was the second trilateral consultation on Afghanistan in Moscow, in which US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, Chinese Special Envoy Deng Xijun, and Russian Presidential Representative Zamir Kabulov discussed the current situation in Afghanistan and the ongoing peace process.

According to the statement, the three sides agreed on the following matters:

  • The statement reads that the three sides respect the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Afghanistan as well as its right to choose its development path. The three sides prioritize the interests of the Afghan people in promoting a peace process.
  • The three sides support an inclusive Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process and are ready to provide necessary assistance. The three sides encourage the Afghan Taliban to participate in peace talks with a broad, representative Afghan delegation that includes the government as soon as possible. Toward this end, and as agreed in Moscow in February 2019, we support a second round of intra-Afghan dialogue in Doha (Qatar).
  • The three sides support the Afghan government efforts to combat international terrorism and extremist organizations in Afghanistan. They take note of the Afghan Taliban’s commitment to: fight Daesh and cut ties with Al-Qaeda, ETIM, and other international terrorist groups; ensure the areas they control will not be used to threaten any other country; and call on them to prevent terrorist recruiting, training, and fundraising, and expel any known terrorists.
  • The three sides recognize the Afghan people’s strong desire for a comprehensive ceasefire. As a first step, we call on all parties to agree on immediate and concrete steps to reduce violence.
  • The three sides stress the importance of fighting illegal drug production and trafficking, and call on the Afghan government and the Taliban to take all the necessary steps to eliminate the drug threat in Afghanistan.
  • The three sides call for an orderly and responsible withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan as part of the overall peace process.
  • The three sides call for regional countries to support this trilateral consensus and are ready to build a more extensive regional and international consensus on Afghanistan.
  • The three sides agreed on a phased expansion of their consultations before the next trilateral meeting in Beijing. The date and composition of the meeting will be agreed upon through diplomatic channels.

https://www.tolonews.com/afghanistan/us-russia-and-china-reach-%E2%80%98consensus%E2%80%99-afghan-process

The Hindu – Analysis: The trouble with playing politics with foreign policy

Varghese K George

New Delhi – India, 14 March 2019. The current domestic hostilities over foreign policy questions, and public litigation of those make mature policy-making an uphill task for India.

“On some issues, there has always been a consensus in this country. And foreign policy is one of those. As far as foreign policy is concerned nothing has changed,” Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the first BJP Prime Minister, told Lok Sabha in 1999.

In the years that followed, the conduct of foreign policy has increasingly become a contentious topic in Indian politics. Hyperactive TV anchors and social media explosion have played their roles in this heightened frenzy over foreign policy questions.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a muscular foreign policy approach a part of his politics from the 2002 Gujarat State election campaign onwards.

Rahul Gandhi has taken a leaf out of Mr. Modi’s book. “Weak Modi is scared of Xi [Xi Jinping, Chinese President]. Not a word comes out of his mouth when China acts against India.

NoMo’s China diplomacy: 1. Swing with Xi in Gujarat. 2. Hug Xi in Delhi. 3. Bow to Xi in China,” Mr. Gandhi said on Twitter, after China blocked, for the fourth time, a move in the U.N. Security Council to list JeM chief Mazhood Azhar as a global terrorist.

He is trying to question Mr. Modi’s claims of a strident policy towards its hostile neighbours, Pakistan and China. JeM had claimed responsibility for the Pulwama terrorist strike that killed at least 40 Indian soldiers on February 14.

“With China having blocked our bid to designate Masood Azhar a global terrorist, the question on every Indian’s mind is, what was the use of all the swinging with Modi and President Xi,” the Congress said on its official Twitter handle. “A terrorist responsible for such bloody murders is let off the hook again by the BJP,” it claimed.

Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala and former Union Minister Manish Tewari also targeted Mr. Modi on China.

Mr. Modi had targeted his predecessor Manmohan Singh for alleged weaknesses on the international front before he became Prime Minister.

Though Pakistan has been a constant trope in his politics, Mr. Modi also used incidents such as the arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade by the United States to argue it was all happening because of Mr. Singh’s “weak leadership.”

Mr. Singh also had to deal with pressure from partners such as the Trinamool Congress, the DMK and the CPI (M) on key foreign policy issues, some he won, some he lost.

Once he became Prime Minister, Mr. Modi’s results have been mixed. His China policy vacillated, from bonhomie with Mr. Xi to military escalation in Doklam to reset of friendship.

With surgical strikes and cross-border raids in Pakistan, Mr. Modi has been successful in protecting his image on the western front, but with China, things have been complicated.

Under Donald Trump, the USA’s Asia policy is also less than reassuring for India. Mr. Trump has clubbed India and China in the same category of protectionist states on several occasions.

His management of China challenges Mr. Modi’s strongman claims. Mr. Gandhi wants to bring that to the front-burner, and question Mr. Modi’s triumphant claims with regard to Pakistan.

It is not that there were never disagreements in India on foreign policy in the earlier periods. But they were muted and discussed politely. The current domestic hostilities over foreign policy questions, and public litigation of those make mature policy-making an uphill task for India and could hamper the country’s international standing.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/analysis-the-trouble-with-playing-politics-with-foreign-policy/article26534151.ece

The Telegraph – Uighurs in China: Should we believe what we see?

Those who have fled detention centres describe oppressive conditions, but visitors see inmates laughing and learning

Neha Sahay

Calcutta – West Bengal – India, 05 March 2019. What is real and what is fake in news coming out of the Muslim-dominated province of Xinjiang is difficult to find out. Through January and February, diplomats and journalists from 30 countries, including India, visited the restive region, home to a violent separatist movement.

The foreign visitors were taken inside Xinjiang’s notorious camps where Uighurs are detained for months till they accept the Communist Party’s ideology. Those who have managed to flee have described the oppressive conditions inside: the overcrowding, the contempt for anything traditionally Uighur or Islamic.

But photographs in State-run newspapers of these foreigners’ visits showed inmates laughing with the visitors; or seated in classrooms learning Mandarin or vocational skills. At one camp, the inmates danced for the visitors to the tune of “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.”

Some inmates even told the visitors they had approached these “vocational education and training centres”. the official term for these camps, on their own. All of them said they had viewed and forwarded jihadi videos on the internet.

These videos had made them hostile, even violent, towards non-Muslims. One man said he stopped sending his kids to school and beat his wife when she objected.

Concerned at these changes, family members and friends had reported them to village officials or the police. Informed that forwarding such videos was a crime, they applied to be admitted to these centres.

“Had I not done so, I would have become a terrorist,” said one woman. Once they are proficient in Mandarin, China’s laws and a vocational skill that would help them earn, they would be able to leave the centre, they told the foreigners.

The delegates were also taken around Xinjiang. Curiously, wherever they went, they found Uighurs busy playing traditional musical instruments or dancing and chatting with Hans, the majority race in China, who have been systematically settled in Xinjiang.

In contrast to this propaganda was the blog by a Han student about her holiday in Xinjiang last October. She went as a curious tourist; her experiences there shook her. It was the National Holiday week; outside every house was the national flag.

The red flags, the security men and machines everywhere, the uniformed vigilante groups of local businessmen patrolling with long bats marred the “vibe” of the local architecture, she wrote.

The blog also described her meeting with two young Uighur civil servants. Shocked by their choice of jobs, she found, after spending time with them, that their concerns were no different from any Chinese youngster trying to make a career.

In fact, one of them who taught Mandarin to his fellow Uighurs was convinced that this would help them get jobs and avoid extremism.

Everywhere, there were separate queues for Uighurs and outsiders. Uighurs had to get their identity cards checked at every point. But “thanks to my Han face, I could start my trip as a typical, carefree tourist,” she wrote.

What chilled her to the bone was an encounter with a Han cop curious about what she was doing in this disturbed region. When she gushed to him about the local architecture, he replied: “Do you really think the architecture is pretty? These are Uyghur-style buildings.

We are against that.” As they chatted, he grew suspicious, even doubting that she was a student in spite of having seen her ID card. Back in her hostel room the girl was full of “terror and guilt”. How did the Uighurs cope with the “atmosphere of control” all the time, she wondered.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/uighurs-in-china-should-we-believe-what-we-see/cid/1686191

The Telegraph – World asks India, Pakistan to show restraint

In India’s and Pakistan’s immediate neighbourhood, too, there were similar calls

Anita Joshua

New Delhi – India, 28 February 2019. After the diplomatic offensive and outreach by both India and Pakistan since the Pulwama terror attack, it was the turn of countries across the world on Wednesday to reach out to the two nuclear-powered neighbours with just one message: Exercise restraint.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, who was in session with his Indian and Russian counterparts at the RIC trilateral in Wuzhen when word came of Pakistan’s retaliation to India’s “pre-emptive” strike on Tuesday, said Beijing was worried about the growing tensions and urged both India and Pakistan to exercise restraint and avoid further escalation.

“As a common friend of India and Pakistan, we hope that the two sides can find out the truth through dialogue, control the situation, solve problems and jointly safeguard regional peace and stability,” he said, offering to play a constructive role.

Russia, according to the media secretary of President Vladimir Putin, is closely monitoring the situation and is concerned about the “aggravation of relations” between India and Pakistan and calls on both sides to show restraint.

In a related statement, the Russian foreign ministry also called on both sides to step up efforts to resolve problems through political and diplomatic means, offering Moscow’s help in strengthening the counter-terrorism potential of both New Delhi and Islamabad.

British Prime Minister Theresa May addressed the issue in Parliament; expressing deep concern and calling for restraint by both sides to avoid further escalation.

“We are in regular contact with both countries, urging dialogue and diplomatic solutions to ensure regional stability. We are working closely with international partners, including through the UNSC, to de-escalate tensions and are monitoring developments closely,” she said.

Expressing anxiety at the “deteriorating situation”, France urged India and Pakistan to de-escalate and said its embassies in both countries were being mobilised to help French citizens.

The US, which was busy with President Donald Trump’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi, was the only P-5 country to not react officially to Wednesday’s developments.

But secretary of state Mike Pompeo had spoken to the foreign ministers of both countries after India’s pre-emptive strikes and advised restraint while asking Pakistan to take urgent action against terrorists operating from its soil.

From India’s and Pakistan’s immediate neighbourhood too, there were similar calls, with Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Iran worried about how further escalation could affect the region.

“As the current Chair of Saarc, Nepal, while underlining the importance of peace and stability in South Asia, calls on both sides to exercise utmost restraint and not engage in actions that would threaten peace and security in the region.

It also urges them to seek solution through dialogue and peaceful means in order to ease tension and normalise the situation,” Nepal’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Iranian news agency IRNA quoted foreign ministry spokesperson Bahram Qasemi as expressing deep regret over spike in tensions and the military showdown between India and Pakistan.

He said the two countries should keep in mind the complicated conditions in the region, marked by increasing insecurity and instability and foreign intervention.

Condemning terrorism in all its manifestations, the Maldives urged both countries to exercise utmost restraint and preserve peace and stability in the region. “It is important to seek a speedy resolution to the current crisis through diplomacy and dialogue,” the Maldivian foreign ministry said in a statement.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/world-asks-india-pak-to-show-restraint/cid/1685910?ref=india_india-page

Dawn – Pakistan foreign policy 101

Ashraf Jehangir Qazi

Op/Ed, 26 January 2019. Foreign policy is the external aspect of national policy. It covers the whole gamut of global, regional and neighbourhood developments, movements and strategies.

When national policy is substandard it puts a ceiling on the success of foreign policy no matter how good it is.

Similarly, given the external dependency of Pakistan’s national policy, it cannot achieve its goals without a prioritised and resourced foreign policy.

Some aspects of external policy are primarily dealt with by specialised ministries, departments and services.

But the Foreign Office should not be held responsible for the negative consequences of bad decisions it had no part in taking. This often happens and is always at the cost of the national interest.

This is obvious. Yet in practice it is usually ignored. Why? The main reason is the unwillingness of corrupt or weak governments to take any risks for good governance, including good foreign policy.

This is the soft state syndrome. It is often a prelude to a failing state. It precludes serving the national interest. Powerful vested interests define the national interest and make foreign policy. What is to be done?

If the political system is made participatory and inclusive it will eventually find the right answers. If it remains elitist, exclusive and exploitative it will not. Changing the system, however, involves risk-taking.

Pakistan has 10 major external relationships. Primarily: India, China, the US, and Afghanistan; and significantly: Iran, the GCC countries, Russia, the European Union (which still includes the UK,) the Central Asian states, and the UN.

India is Pakistan’s major adversary. China is Pakistan’s only strategic partner. The US is still the world’s mightiest and only comprehensive global power. Afghanistan is a force multiplier for Pakistan’s security or insecurity. Iran confronts Pakistan with critical choices.

The GCC countries are a major source of remittances and ‘brotherly’ assistance which almost always entails an embarrassing price.

Russia in partnership with China is a significant counter-force to the US and its alliance with India. Moreover, it has the potential to bring about a less imbalanced Russian policy towards India and Pakistan.

The EU is a major market and the Pakistani community in the UK (and the US) can be a foreign policy asset.

Central Asia can provide ‘strategic depth’ to Pakistan’s connectivity-based diplomacy. Improving cooperation with Russia can help here also.

The UN may seem irrelevant. It is not. It is where a country’s image, profile and voice are confirmed and contested. It is the forum in which the credibility of a foreign policy is measured. Its agencies, funds and organisations can be important knowledge-intensive and problem-solving assets.

Due to space limitations only Pakistan’s four ‘primary’ relationships will be very briefly commented on.

India: The core issues for Pakistan are progress towards a Kashmir settlement acceptable to opinion in the Valley and radically improving the horrendous human rights situation there. For India it is Pakistan’s use of “terrorist proxies”.

These core issues need to be addressed to the satisfaction of each other if dialogue is to be meaningful. Finding common ground for a negotiating process to be sustainable is a challenge.

Indian interference in Balochistan is a fact. However, the Balochistan ‘problem’ is not of India’s making. It is due to institutionalised bad governance and exploitation over decades.

Pakistan should continue to extend its hand of cooperation irrespective of a lack of response from India. It should keep the LoC quiet as best it can. It should build on the Kartarpur initiative. It should extend normal trading or MFN rights as promised. This is arguably a WTO obligation also.

Pakistan should offer travel, communications, confidence and security-building (including regular nuclear and water-management) discussions and proposals. Let India take its time to respond. Pakistan cannot lose by being consistent and reasonable.

Realistic rather than provocative narratives need to be developed. The people of both countries need to get to know each other more directly instead of through warped images.

Differences need to be contained, addressed and reduced through a realistic working relationship. This will enable South Asia to meet the survival challenges of the 21st century.

The leaders of both countries should make appropriate statements, stay in touch, and unfold a range of innovative initiatives. If India demurs, even after its elections, that is its problem.

China: The BRI and CPEC are golden opportunities for Pakistan. But they are not magic wands. Moreover, no other country is willing to invest on such a scale in Pakistan.

Pakistan needs to look after its own interests without making disconcerting public statements. It needs to assure the Chinese that it is a reliable economic and strategic partner.

The China agenda

Chinese concerns are growing. They need to be addressed. Chinese and Pakistani ‘dreams’ need to be integrated into a shared vision through mutually reinforcing policies. The BRI is the context for CPEC. Similarly, CPEC is the context for the transformation of Pakistan.

Sensitive issues can be dealt with confidentially, judiciously and on the basis of complete mutual trust.

The US: It is a strategic ally of India. India is focused on Pakistan. The US is focused on China. America cannot be a strategic partner for Pakistan. But its friendship is beneficial while its hostility is harmful. Pakistan must work with the US for an Afghan settlement, in consultation with China.

Afghanistan: Pakistan cannot eliminate India from an Afghan settlement process. Nor should it try to. If Pakistan plays its cards right it will always have a stronger hand than India in Afghanistan.

The Afghan Taliban despite their current military successes are not the future of Afghanistan. Unless they cooperate for a settlement they cannot become a 21st-century asset for Pakistan.

India is justly regarded as a large neighbour with a small heart. Many Afghans see Pakistan similarly despite the massive Afghan goodwill accumulated during the Soviet occupation. Why?

Pakistan need not create a two-front situation for itself. Being large-hearted towards a smaller neighbour is actually good strategy. Specific issues are more easily resolved when the fundamentals are okay.

The writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan.

ashrafjqazi@gmail.com

www.ashrafjqazi.com

https://www.dawn.com/news/1459874/pakistan-foreign-policy-101

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Tolo News – Kabul trilateral meeting agrees on joint anti-terror efforts

The three sides reiterated their firm commitment to implement activities and projects agreed under practical cooperation.

Kabul – Afghanistan, 15 December 2018. Foreign ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan and China met in Kabul on Saturday to continue their efforts on “building political mutual trust and support reconciliation, development cooperation and connectivity, security cooperation and counter-terrorism”.

A joint statement released after the Second Afghanistan-China-Pakistan Foreign Ministers Dialogue, reads that the three sides reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthening their relations, deepening cooperation and advancing connectivity under the Belt and Road Initiative, Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) and other regional economic initiatives.

According to the statement, Afghanistan, China and Pakistan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Counter-Terrorism to advance their cooperation in this respect.

The statement says that the three sides reiterated their strong resolve to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and without any distinction.

The statement reads that the three sides reiterated their support to an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led as well as an inclusive peace process.

Meanwhile, the three foreign ministers agreed to jointly continue their efforts for building political mutual trust and support reconciliation, development, cooperation and connectivity, society cooperation and counter-terrorism as the three areas of the trilateral cooperation.

The foreign ministers addressed a press conference in Kabul on Saturday where they stressed the need for mutual cooperation and a joint effort to end violence in the country.

Addressing the press conference, Acting Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani said the meeting was focused on security and counter-terrorism and that they emphasized on security, ending violence, and implementation of Afghanistan-Pakistan action plan.

“We discussed regional peace and regional projects to connect the countries. The projects will improve economic development. We hope china will implement economic projects in Afghanistan,” Rabbani said.

He said one of the main goals of the trilateral meeting is to work for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Rabbani said security and fighting against terrorism as well as creating political reconciliation were discussed in the meeting.

He said that the Afghan government hopes that Pakistan and China will cooperate with Afghanistan’s peace process and that now the time has come to show practical support.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to solve their problems through peaceful ways, adding that the three sides agreed to fight jointly against terrorist groups.

“We support Afghanistan and Pakistan efforts for peace and we call on the Taliban to join the peace process,” Chinese Foreign Minister said. “Cooperation between Afghanistan, Pakistan and China is import to bring peace in Afghanistan.”

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi stressed the need for mutual trust between Afghanistan and Pakistan and called for ending the “blame game” between the two countries.

“I came here to make trust bridge and reach peace and stability. Any improvement in Afghanistan will benefit Pakistan,” he said. “I am here to boost our bilateral trade.”

He said they agreed in the meeting to fight jointly against terrorism.

According to him, one of the main goals of the trilateral meeting is to work for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

“I am here to engage with Afghanistan and your happiness lies in my happiness. That is my mindset. Let’s not stick to the past and stop putting finger on Pakistan,” Qureshi said.

It was the second meeting of the three foreign ministers after their kick off meeting in Beijing last year.

The three foreign ministers are expected to meet in Islamabad next year.

https://www.tolonews.com/afghanistan/kabul-trilateral-meeting-agrees-joint-anti-terror-efforts

The New Indian Express – First India-Nepal passenger train on broad gauge likely to begin from December

The train will run from Jayanagar in Bihar to Kurtha in Dhanusa district in Janakpur Zone of south-eastern Nepal, which is a 34 km stretch.

New Delhi – India, 04 November 2018. The first passenger train to run on broad gauge between India and Nepal is likely to run from December this year, sources in the railways have told PTI.

The train will run from Jayanagar in Bihar to Kurtha in Dhanusa district in Janakpur Zone of south-eastern Nepal, which is a 34 km stretch.

An immigration check-post is likely to be established at Jayanagar station manned by either the Bureau of Immigration or the state government.

No visa will be required for Indian and Nepalese nationals crossing the border through this stretch, a source said.

The Nepalese authorities have informed the railways that the section will be opened with four trips and will ply in eight to 16 hour shifts.

While the first train is to be a passenger train, the Nepalese have stated that they want to run both passenger and freight trains on this section.

Nepal will take rolling stock, rakes, coaches and others, on lease from India for the purpose, another source said.

The ministry of external affairs have had several inter-ministerial meetings with the railways, government of Nepal and other stakeholders on this.

More meetings to finalise logistics are likely to take place.

The move is being seen as part of efforts to counter China’s plans to forge rail links with Nepal.

After Beijing decided to extend its railway network up to Kathmandu, New Delhi proposed the construction of new railway links during Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli’s recent visit to India.

Nepal and India have plans for four cross-border railway links, including one to link Raxaul to Kathmandu.

The Jayanagar-Kurtha rail line was originally built during the British Raj to transport logs from forests at Mahottari to India.

At that time, the line from Jayanagar in Bihar to Bijulpura in Mahottari was 52 km long.

More than 15 years ago, floods swept away the Bighi bridge, disrupting railway services on the 29-km stretch from Janakpur to Jayanagar.

The Rs 5.5-billion (Nepalese Rs 8.8 billion) project is divided into three phases.

The first includes construction of a 34-km segment between Jayanagar and Kurtha, the second comprises construction of an 18-km segment from Kurtha to Bhangaha in Mahottari district, and the third comprises construction of a 17-km segment from Bhangaha to Bardibas.

Of the total length, only three kilometres is in Indian territory.

The sale of tickets, the source said, will be through an unreserved ticketing system and passenger reservation system in Nepal which will be facilitated by the railways.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2018/nov/04/first-india-nepal-passenger-train-on-broad-gauge-likely-to-begin-from-december-1894204.html