Author: Saba Aslam

China-Pakistan Relations—The Road Ahead

China-Pakistan Relations—The Road Ahead

Pakistan and China are two of the closest states in terms of positive bilateral relations. They have had relations which date back to the era of decolonization. The premise of the relationship between Pakistan and China depends largely on mutual needs which are not just political but economic, strategic, diplomatic and even security based. The history of the two states is not a convoluted one it is simplistic; the two states have had each other’s back, even at a time when Pakistan was a forefront US ally and the latter state did not approve much of the growing bond between Pakistan and China. Yet over time this bond only grew since the added aspect was that both states happen to be neighbours. Another factor which amounted to the two nations growing closer ties was the insecurity both Pakistan and China faced due to the India factor.

In the past five year, perhaps this relationship has grown on a massive scale and much of this is because of the Chinese ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative of which CPEC is a mega-project. Because of this project there has been projected a large scale of development of not just Pakistan but of the entire region. As a result, China will be attaining massive economic benefits in its race of economic power within the bigger powers. Thus the past government of Pakistan put all of their weight behind the CPEC project. The regional connectivity serves Pakistan quite feasibly since the state aims to enhance its development and trade as well. All in all, the previous government had chalked up a rather vast map towards closer cooperation with the Chinese in economy, military and strategic characteristics along with making CPEC not just a bilateral but a regional as well as international reality.

After the 2018 General Elections in Pakistan, the domestic dynamics have largely changed in that there is not just a change of government but a change of faces and a new political party has made its way to power. They have their own ideology and agenda which is poles apart from the previous party in power. Of course this makes the concerned channels wonder what is to become of the CPEC and whether or not China will be as close to Pakistan as it was in the last tenured management. 

But things seem to be settled up because the new government has shown many positive signs of maintaining cordial ties and augmenting them with China. The first speech of the Prime Minister Imran Khan specifically pin pointed the importance of the China-Pakistan relations. In fact China happens to be on the forefront of the foreign policy agenda. The foreign office has specifically claimed that because of the push back in the US-Pakistan relations, China has taken the chief place in the foreign policy agenda. The reason for that happens to be the fact that China will probably not cease to be important for Pakistan and vice versa. This gives Pakistan an edge in the development plans of the coming century.

Pakistan’s is an economy which might meet with ups and downs but regardless of that, it is a steadily growing economy. China has very recently promised to aid and help Pakistan in its economic disparities and claimed that it will push its agenda ahead as well. But obviously for that, there must be some mechanisms which would move the relationship of China and Pakistan ahead under a new management and that too a novice one, making it a challenge for Pakistan. In this course of things, the new government also needs to plan how CPEC ought to be moved forward. Given the magnanimity of the project one wrong move and there could be trouble for the entire development scheme.

First of all, the new government of ought to expand on the soft power aspects of the Pakistan-China relations a bit more and open up channels of more people-people contacts. Then the government needs to build up diplomatic channels because there is new management which might not be familiar with the Chinese side and vice versa. As long as there is a gap in the leaders and no dialogue there is going to be a lag in the overall relations. The new government ought to make the Chinese side comfortable and reassure them that they are as serious about the relations as much as they are.

Furthermore, the new management also needs to cater to the security gaps which are present and pose as a threat to CPEC. If the new leadership assures of ridding discrepancies and acting on it, the relations will automatically be rid of any misnomers. The Chinese side is already tilted toward Pakistan and the new leadership needs to act swiftly on this turn. They need to open up the political channels between themselves and the Chinese side in order to achieve maximum closure. This will work in the larger run for the benefit of CPEC as well. 

Apart from China, there are many other states which are willing to become a part of CPEC and the new management ought to work on bilateral relations with these states as well. Not only will that be beneficial for the mega-project but also for Pakistan’s own trade and economic emancipation capacity. 

With the new government in Pakistan, there can be a new working scheme for the domestic politics surrounding CPEC and its routes. This already proved to be quite cumbersome and the Chinese side had certain apprehensions. The new government can find new political headways to resolve all these issues. This will work like the domino effect; one domestic issue resolved will automatically lead to the opening of channels for the resolution of other issues.

The new government needs to realize that the situation surrounding security is pretty vulnerable to CPEC which is necessary for the cooperation between Pakistan and China. There need to be proper ways and mechanisms for opening up of new ways, measures and channels for the advancement of Pakistan-China relations. These are requires for the security of Pakistan and even China especially in the coming periods of anarchy which surrounds the international arena. 

The Track to Prosperity

The Track to Prosperity

The world is rebalancing and one of the key gears of this shift is that the tide has turned towards eastern hemisphere. The world is being reshaped here, not just politically but also economically. The long awaited curse has now been lifted as the cogs of new era are positioned in destiny of eastern hemisphere. As liberalism re-emerges over international arena, the thrust of this new order is in trade and connectivity.

One such cord to this anecdote is Uzbekistan and its rising role in the infrastructural developments and regional activity. This Central Asian region and Afghanistan had been conflict zones for long periods of time but now Asian picture is changing. With changing regime in Pakistan, US-Taliban Dialogues going on in Afghanistan the dynamics of regional politics are changing. Tashkent already has cordial relations with Kabul and thus leads many developmental projects in the Afghani land including the Hairatan to Mazar-e-Sharif Railway Project. Being the only country without any rift with Kabul administration, Uzbekistan is seeking to put its influence not by force but by the fist of development. Mutual benefits of both countries can open new doors to regional connectivity and prosperity. Not only this, Uzbekistan is determined for regional connectivity with various projects including Central Asian countries, china and South Asia. Uzbekistan also shares good relations with Pakistan, which is its second largest trade partner in the region after Russia. Also Uzbekistan also shares the floor of Shanghai Cooperation Organization with Pakistan. But after the changed ruling party and its policies, Uzbekistan came up with better ideas.

One such venture was recently proposed by the delegation led by Uzbekistan’s foreign minister, Mr Abdulaziz Kamilov, who visited Pakistan and met his Pakistani counterpart, Mr Shah Mehmood Qureshi at the end of the last year. The proposal which may evolve into Euroasian concept of interconnectivity, aimed at connecting Pakistan with Uzbekistan through a railroad network which will pass via Afghanistan’s Mizari-Sharif. The two possibilities for the construction of lines are Mazar-i-Sharif-Khulm-Puli-Khumri-Doshi-Surabai-Jalalabad-Torkham on Pakistani side or along Surkhan – Puli-Khumri – Doshi – Surabai-Jalalabad-Peshawar (Pakistan).

The proposal if implemented will have far-reaching outcomes, booming the trade which is the dire need of economy for these countries. The trans-afghan railway project will not only connect Pakistan to central Asia and its market but also open doors to Russia, which can also play key role in the economics of the nation. The five year plan which was presented in December of 2017 by Uzbekistan involved such developments which will help the country to boost up its economy by establishing transit trade routes benefitting the economy and amplifying the regional connectivity. The trade route between Uzbekistan and Pakistan will allow access of central Asian states to open waters enabling their reach to the rest of the world through the deep sea port of Pakistan.

The Uzbek soil is enriched with the production of cotton and sugar and apart from this the agro-machinery in Uzbekistan is more advanced than in Pakistan since Islamabad and Tashkent already are trade partners which can clearly be seen as in 2018 the trade between two, crossed the 90 million US dollars mark. This trade volume can reach new altitudes if the direct link is established between the two countries and Pakistan, a country with agro centered economy, can have advanced parameters.

Such collaborations not only can decrease the trade deficit but also boon the local industry and economic growth can be achieved in areas which are underdeveloped. Also the majority of the population in this part of the world lives below the poverty line, the track can help in improving their living standards. Various studies indicate that high cost of trade in this region is because of lack of interregional infrastructure. Therefore leading to lower prices of trade can help raising lower class and expanding middle class. Also when there is a market, Foreign Direct Investment comes in rushing. Hence overall the conditions of the states would improve drastically over the years.

Uzbekistan has been long interested in Afghan soil which is conflict ridden from its postmodern to modern history. It is difficult for the landlocked Uzbekistan to have a global access. Thus in order to open its trade tentacles Uzbekistan needs Afghanistan and to outreach globally it needs a port which is deep sea. The proposal if comes into reality will make good use of Pakistan’s strategic location, making Pakistan as the focal point for regional trade and its connectivity with the rest of the world. Uzbekistan and Afghanistan are landlocked states and need a country like Pakistan with warm water sea ports for getting to hot waters.

A railway line will reduce the cost of transportation and make it convenient for the two states for getting a suitable sea port. Also, a train would take not only goods but also people. This would lead to increased people to people contact. With people connected together, peace and stability in the region would be comparatively easy to attain. Developing the underdeveloped areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan and the sense of insecurity which is visible will be minimized. These developmental projects can enhance the capacity to achieve collective prosperity and enrich the relation between the countries. Consequently, a better image of these countries will eventually be projected. Through such initiatives the whole eastern region will be interconnected with each other and trade will be boomed benefitting participant countries.

Apart from this, the world has now left with only a few untapped resources which are mainly located in central Asia and Afghanistan. If odds don’t go against, it will be a great victory for Pakistan to be connected with Central Asian states directly through the rail road network. With the new shift and East into light, everyone is eyeing on Asia and its proximities for energy reserves. Pakistan, once connected through railroad, can take maximum possible advantage of this untapped potential in the region which would not only be beneficial for countries itself but for Pakistan as well.

Recent proposal can curb the miseries of Afghanistan and steer it into a healthy voyage of productivity, and through developments peace and security can be achieved in the Afghanistan. Such initiatives will open doors not only for Pakistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan but also for the countries that have potential markets. Apart from this, these acts will make region interdependent which further can deescalate the tensions among countries opening them for each other and becoming market for each other. The regional connectivity will also boost the integration and regional harmony.

The Khojaly Massacre: An Unforgettable Episode of the History

The Khojaly Massacre: An Unforgettable Episode of the History

The cruel tragedy against the innocent civilians of Azerbaijan is commemorated from people around the world. February 26th, 1992 marks as the worst morning in the history of Azerbaijan.  Its 27th anniversary of the Khojaly genocide:  a historical crime against humanity by the Armenian forces in Azerbaijan. It would not be considered as an understatement that it was one of the most brutal acts of terrorism of a state against another state. Hundreds of Azerbaijanis were mowed down in their home town of Khojaly (a strategically located Azerbaijani town on the Agdam-Shusha and Hankendi (Stepanakert)-Askeran roads in Nagorno-Karabakh region) by the Armenian forces during the Nagorno-Karabakh War. A little town which constitutes of about 7,000 populations was viciously turned into flames and mayhem. They forgave no one; men, women, children, elderly, they all were killed brutally. All that was done on that night of 25th-26thFebruary 1992 in Khojaly had a long history. 

From very early times up to the 19thcentury, this region of Nagorno-Karabakh was part of different Azerbaijani states and was densely populated with Azerbaijanis. After the signing of Gulustan and Turkmanchy treaties in 1813 and 1828, according to which Southern Azerbaijan was given to Iran and Northern Azerbaijan to Russia, Armenians started to settle in bulks in the Azerbaijani lands from Turkey and Iran.  Late 18thcentury and early 19thcentury was the time when Armenians appeared in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The process of resettlement of Armenians on the Azeri lands ended up with creation of Armenia on the historical territories of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan Democratic Republic with Nagorno-Karabakh as a territorial part of it came into being in 1918 but the independence lasted for only 1 year and 11 months. And after 71 long years, Azerbaijan finally regained its independence on October 18th, 1991. 

However, with the support of USSR leadership, the Armenians raised the territorial claims to Azerbaijan asking for the Nagorno-Karabakh district. As a result of it, interethnic disputes erupted in Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. Hence, approximately 300,000 Azerbaijanis were thrown out from Armenia. Moreover, Armenians by invading Nagorno-Karabakh along with 7 other districts of Azerbaijan made the situation more hostile. The Armenians started ethnic-cleansing in these areas and as a result of that around 20,000 Azeris lost their lives. And so, the Khojaly Massacre in an ill-fated small town of Nagorno-Karabakh district by the Armenians was the most terrible episode in the Azerbaijan’s history. 

Armenian armed forces with the support of the 366thmotorized infantry regiment of former USSR, committed an unimaginable, heinous crime against Azeris. Because of that aggression about 613 civilians were killed, including 70 elderly persons, 106 women, and 83 small children. In addition, around 1,275 persons were taken prisoner and subjected to severe torture and humiliation and approximately 1000 civilians were left disabled. Of those who died, 56 persons were killed with extreme brutality: as they were scalped, beheaded, their eyes were gouged out, set on fire alive, and pregnant woman were stabbed in the abdomen. Human Rights Watch (HRW), described the event in Khojaly as “the largest massacre to date in the conflict.” 

It is necessary to know the Armenians driving goals behind all that: 

  1. One of the main goals of Armenian armed forces was the “liquidation of Khojaly” and as it was said by one of the commanders of this genocide Serzh Sargsian, who is presently the President of Armenia, “…our aim was to break a stereotype that Armenians cannot annihilate civil population”.
  2. The razing of Khojaly as it was an inhabited place. Armenians destroyed the historical cultural monuments and graveyards of Khojaly which reflected the history and traditions of Azerbaijan since the ancient times. 

These are the obvious examples of Armenian barbarism and aggression against the world culture and humanity.

Still, the two and a half decades old brutal episode is looking for the justice; as no appropriate legal assessment was given to that event. The facts and evidence of Khojaly Massacre, an act of war crime which led to Srebrenica Massacre in 1995, were never seriously followed by the relevant international bodies. Many of those who are responsible for the massacre still remain inside Armenia and the occupied regions of Azerbaijan. Both the countries signed a ceasefire in 1994. The ongoing occupation of Azerbaijani territories despite 4 UN Security Council resolutions (822, 853, 874, and 884) badly hampers the efforts of international community to bring lasting peace to the region.

Azerbaijani nation is in a continuous struggle for justice and waiting for a peaceful settlement with the Armenians. Azerbaijan being a peace loving country does not advocate war; rather they want the international community to look into the issue as no crime should be remained unpunished. The Armenians should handover the Azeri territory to the Azeri people. The call of the innocent civilians who survived that barbarian act should be attended now. 

Pakistan has always been criticizing such massacres on international forums and also recognizes Khojaly as genocide. On February 1st, 2012, Pakistan’s Senate Committee on Foreign Relations approved a resolution condemning the occupation of the territories of Azerbaijan and the genocide against Azerbaijani civilians committed by Armenian armed forces in the Azerbaijani town of Khojaly on 26 February 1992.

The committee has also reaffirmed the sovereignty of the Republic of Azerbaijan within its internationally recognized borders, and demands the execution of four UN Security Council resolutions (822, 853, 874 and 884) on the unconditional withdrawal of Armenian forces from the occupied Azerbaijani territories. Pakistan is always with the Azerbaijan in its continuous struggle for justice. The international community needs to take vigorous steps to address the massacre in a rightful manner and ensure that such instances never occur in the future. They should provide Azerbaijan with monetary aid and ensure its border securities. Secondly, the issue of occupied territories by needs to be addressed under the settings of ICJ and rightful ownership of state lands within Azerbaijan should be given back either by forceful removal of Armenian forces or by legal declaration. Recently, Armenians has violated the ceasefire again and such developments only create loopholes for similar incidents to occur again. Armenians time and again violating the Human Rights law. This and many other cases in the world shows the weaker picture of the international bodies responsible for ensuring the peace and stability of our beloved globe. The UN needs to address the Khojaly issue timely to prevent further violation of human rights and protect Azerbaijan’s national security and integrity.