The sizzling “Political Matrix”; What will happen now? – Modern Diplomacy

Politics in Pakistan is unfortunately leaving scars that will fade away not that easily. Islamabad today is wrapped in thick political clouds since past few weeks. These last few weeks have altered all assumptions and calculations in the national political matrix.  While the political landscape today is sizzling with intensity, aggression and strain the economy is shattering every day.  Who is to blame for? What will happen now? And will sanity prevail?
The entire edifice of the “conspiracy mantra” which even made PTI commit violation of the constitution stands demolished today. It was one of the worst advices Imran khan could ever get from his party among the list of many others. Sadly he made his entire politics captive to this conspiracy myth.  But today no one questions them on the impact it had on our foreign policy. US today feels betrayed, Saudis not ready to give aid, Chinese worried about their stakes and it continues.  So diplomatically this conspiracy mantra has damaged Pakistan like anything.
Imran Khan’s followers see nothing wrong in what he says and what he does. They absolutely reject all the facts, all the logics and embrace the rhetoric which is fuelling more today with a greater intensity. Imran khan is leading this campaign more aggressively. Khan very well knows that bringing large crowds to Islamabad will have an impact only if there is some kind of aggression.  The leaders on different occasions already hinted towards an aggressive March. He very well realizes that the figure of 2.5 Million is unrealistic but keeping in view the size of Islamabad, 0.1 Million crowd will even be perceived as a bigger crowd. So can he force the early elections at this stage? How will the government react to it? For instance let’s accept this narrative that the pressure of crowd aids PTI in getting an early election call and PTI wins it. So now what next? How will you deal with the mighty US? The economy is already sinking. You need aid to feed it but no one is providing you that. Then how will you stop dollar from going above 200? How will you provide relief from the soaring fuel prices when you won’t have money for a subsidy even? Forget about one lakh jobs and 50 lakh houses.
From the past few weeks we haven’t heard any PTI leader telling any economic plan or any diplomatic plan to revive relations. How will you deal with the IFI’s, World Bank & IMF when they’re all US controlled and as per your narrative you won’t accept “Amreeka ki Ghulami” or USA’s dictatorship.
So now what options the present regime has? The government would of course like to stop this building dangerous momentum of “Azadi March”. They would not like any big clash in Islamabad which results in bigger mess and chaos. The PDM government also has a much bigger fish to deal with, the same sinking economy. They came into power with this narrative to fix economy as former Premiere was unable to do it.  The key cabinet members made more than two different official visits.  The instructions are coming from London today as a decisive power so who will run the government? Who will run the system? Will the IMF aid? What will be the upcoming budget about? This upcoming budget is a bigger risk for this government along with an already announced to Long march call. Khan has already played a dangerous narrative especially with the blame of another conspiracy being made about his Life.   
The stakes, the narrative and the politics of every party is at risk today.  But above that, Pakistan is at risk. The dread is in the air. The end of May will be heated ferociously in Islamabad, whether politically or meteorologically.
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Chietigj Bajpaee, China in India’s Post-Cold War Engagement with Southeast Asia, Routledge, Abingdon, UK, 2022, Hardback, ISBN: 9780367464066, Price: £120.00, 316pp.
India adopted the “Look East” policy in the 1990s to revive the importance of Southeast Asia in its foreign policy agenda and focus on maximising the economic potential of the relations with Southeast Asian countries. China’s role in India’s engagement with Southeast Asia has been an important point of discussion but has been rarely documented in a systematic manner. This is the gap that Chietigj Bajpaee’s China in India’s Post-Cold War Engagement with Southeast Asia attempts to fill by providing an in-depth analysis of India’s Look East Policy (LEP) by explaining its evolution through different phases.
The fundamental aim of the book is to explore China’s role in India’s post-Cold War engagement with Southeast Asia with a focus on the Sino-Indian relationship. The author underlines that their relations show the extent to which China has been a priority in the transition from Look East to Act East policy. The book takes note of a report by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) of 2020-21, which states that “ASEAN centrality has been, and will remain, an important aspect of India’s ‘Act East policy which is a central element in India’s Foreign Policy” ().
This book contains eight chapters, including the introduction and conclusion. The introductory chapter talks about an overview of India’s Look-East Policy (LEP) and its historical linkages to it. It has attempted to critically analyse the historical background of the LEP. Chapter two talks about the evolution of India’s engagement with Southeast Asia and focuses on the post-Cold War period under the Look East/Act East policy. The author goes deeper into verifying if the rhetoric of the policy corresponds with India’s engagement with Southeast Asia in areas of economic integration, maritime security and soft power engagement.
Chapter three focuses on the methodology for establishing strategic elites as the agents of Indian foreign policy. The author employs Regional Security Complex Theory to bound India and China within the same region centred on Southeast Asia’. Mr Chietigj has explored this area through the assumption that the origins and evolution of India’s foreign policy can be traced to an interaction between structure and agency.
The following four chapters explore how China has been a priority in discourses on India’s LEP.  Each chapter begins with a brief explanation of the Sino-Indian and China-Southeast Asia relationship during the period. The chapters have been divided into four phases. The book explores the phases in terms of, ‘A broadening’ and ‘deepening’ of India’s eastward engagement has characterised each phase of the LEP’. Chapter four deals with the phase of the launching of the LEP, that is, until 1996. This chapter explores that the China factor played a vital role in the launch of the policy. It explains the Sino-Indian relationship in brief and considers engaging China’s narratives by focussing on China-Southeast Asia relations. “ ‘Balancing China’ narratives emanated from calls for a ‘balanced’ regional architecture amid concerns of a post-Cold War regional order dominated by China, as evidenced by India’s admission to the ASEAN Regional Forum in 1996”.
Chapter five elucidates the first phase until 2004 as several developments accelerated the pace of India’s interaction with ASEAN. This phase includes the Asian financial crisis and the expansion of ASEAN membership to further include countries in the Indo-China subregion. The author explained that China’s view in the LEP was quite prevalent in the official discourses which evolved through the convergence of Chinese and Indian interests in Southeast Asia.
Chapter six explained the second phase until 2014 and the author observed that over time balancing the China narrative became prominent in official and strategic elite discourses. This phase saw hedging and soft-balancing amid China’s growing regional assertiveness by deepening India’s participation in the regional architecture. China’s aggressive behaviour was also to be challenged in the South China Sea (SCS)  by working towards a peaceful resolution of maritime territorial disputes. “ ‘Balancing China’ was also evident in calls for deepening relations with countries with historically difficult relations with China, both in Southeast Asia – such as Myanmar, Vietnam and Indonesia and the broader East Asia region, such as Japan.”
Chapter seven explains the third phase of India’s Act-East policy since 2014, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Act-East policy focuses on India’s broader engagement with Southeast Asia and East Asia. India also became willing to challenge China’s assertive regional behaviour. ‘Act East Policy encompassed the Indo-Pacific region, comprising Southeast Asia and East Asia’. ‘India became more willing to challenge China’s regional behaviour, although China’s emergence as a major power made it wise for India to bandwagon with China on occasion.
The last chapter summarises all the chapters of the book and examines the importance of the China factor in India’s engagement with Southeast Asia. China’s regional role has further contributed to the resilience of the LEP. It concludes that China’s regional role has contributed to the resilience of the LEP.
One of the drawbacks of this book is that it has used a lot of theoretical terms of international relations (IR) like hedging, and bandwagoning which may not cater to the understanding of the general audience. Therefore, it could be difficult for a person who does not possess much knowledge of theories of IR to understand. Nevertheless, this book provides an important yet insightful analysis of the interplay between India’s relations with Southeast Asia and China. This book will intrigue academicians, scholars, policymakers and experts in the fields of international relations, China’s foreign policy and also Indian foreign policy. The book is highly recommended for the experts in these fields to gain a better understanding of China’s role in the LEP over time.
The Foreign Minister received the high-level Chinese delegation at the Foreign Office, led by His Excellency Yang Jiechi, Member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and Director of the Central Commission on Foreign Affairs of the CPC.
Director Yang was accompanied by Vice Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Commerce, Vice Chairman of the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA), and Deputy Secretary-General of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).
During the talks, the two sides held wide-ranging discussions on the entire gamut of bilateral relations and comprehensively reviewed developments at the regional and international levels.
Welcoming Director Yang to Islamabad, the Foreign Minister underscored that his visit reflected the strong momentum in high-level exchanges in recent months, and also signified the importance attached by both sides to further deepening and broadening the unshakable and time-tested All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership.
He reaffirmed Pakistan’s staunch support for the “One-China” policy and all core issues of China including Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and the South China Sea. He also thanked for China’s firm support of Pakistan’s territorial integrity and sovereignty as well as its steadfast support of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.
The Foreign Minister underlined that over the years, China had immensely contributed to Pakistan’s socio-economic development. CPEC, the flagship of the Belt and Road Initiative, had significantly bolstered Pakistan’s energy and transport infrastructure. The Government was committed to fast-tracked progress on ongoing CPEC projects, and advancing new projects, like ML-1 and Karachi Circular Railway, for Pakistan’s development and the well-being of its people. Special focus was being accorded to increased Chinese investments in CPEC SEZs in order to catalyze industrial development and enhance employment and livelihood opportunities for the local people.
The Foreign Minister thanked China for its invaluable assistance to economic well-being and development. He thanked for the renewal of the RMB 15 billion (the US $ 2.3 billion) syndicate facility.
The Foreign Minister highlighted that the people of Pakistan had a strong affinity with the brotherly Chinese people, who had always reinforced Pakistan’s efforts for national development. He added that the Government was fully committed to ensuring the safety, security, and protection of Chinese workers and projects in Pakistan.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed satisfaction at the ongoing cooperation and coordination between Pakistan and China in the security and defense sector, which was a factor of peace and stability in the region.
In the regional context, the Foreign Minister expressed concern at the worsening humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, aggravated by the recent earthquake. He highlighted the importance of unfreezing Afghanistan’s assets to ease the suffering of the Afghan people.
The two sides agreed to remain in close contact and work together to further deepen the multi-faceted, strategic cooperative partnership for mutual benefit.
Earlier, at the invitation of State Councilor and Foreign Minister H.E. Wang Yi, H.E. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari visited Guangzhou on 21-22 May 2022 for his first official bilateral visit after taking office as Foreign Minister of Pakistan. The visit coincided with the 71st anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Pakistan.
Pakistan’s Prime Mister Mr. Shahbaz Sharif, spoke to Chinese Premier Mr. Li Ke Qiang earlier over the phone. High-level interaction between the two Iran Brothers is a routine matter and quite frequent. On the one hand, it strengthens our mutual consultation and understanding, and on the other hand, it counters to anti-China, and Anti-Pakistan propaganda spread by our common adversaries.
As a matter of fact, Our common adversaries are over-engaged in spreading fake news, fabricated stories, and distorted narratives regarding China, and Pakistan, especially, trying to create misunderstandings between the two Iron Brothers.
Few countries are over-engaged in using Media as a tool of hate, misunderstanding, and coercion. They are trying to disturb China-Pakistan relations, and harm China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). India is leading an anti-Pakistan campaign and undermining CPEC. The US is aimed to counter China, Contain China, and resist China’s rise. The US wanted to isolate China and pressurizing Pakistan against China. Japanese media is playing an equally dirty role in this regard.
However, the high-level mutual visits and interactions cancel their negative propaganda. Especially, Yang Jiechi, a Member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and Director of the Central Commission on Foreign Affairs of the CPC, the visit ends all negative propaganda.
5 years have passed since the Rohingya refugee influx in August, 2017.  Bangladesh is currently hosting 1.2 million Rohingya refugees in 34 camps in its southern district of Cox’s Bazar. The increasing rate of trans-border crime in those bordering camps is not only making the Rohingya refugees vulnerable and prone to crimes but also threatening South Asian security as a whole. The Rohingya community leader’s speech of “We don’t want to stay in the camps. It’s hell.” in the ‘Go Home’ campaign in 20th June, 2022, made us rethink about the security situation in the camps and how the safety and security of Rohingya refugees is linked to South Asian Security.
Security Situation inside the Rohingya Camps
More than 1,200,000 Rohingya refugees are now living in the camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar, making it the largest refugee settlement in the world. While Bangladesh has the ninth-highest population density in the world, around 40,000 to 70,000 refugees are living in per square kilometre in the Rohingya camps, which is 40 times higher than the average population density in Bangladesh. With no sign of repatriation combined with the lack of economic alternatives for Rohingyas and the difficulty in maintaining law and order in overcrowded camps, frustrated Rohingyas are increasingly becoming involved in criminal activities or being targeted by criminal groups.
Currently, around 14 armed criminal gangs are operating in the camps, in which seven gangs known as Hakim Bahini, Hasan Bahini, Sadeq Bahini, Nurul Alam Bahini, Nur Mohammad Bahini and Hamid Bahini are in Teknaf and seven gangs named Munna Bahini, Asad Bahini, Jamal Bahini, Manu Bahini, Rahim Bahini, Kamal Bahini, and Giyas Bahini are active in Ukhiya camps.
According to law enforcement agencies at least 10 groups among these are engaged in 12 types of crimes including murder, rape, kidnapping, drug smuggling and human trafficking. The fighting over controlling the camps among the armed gangs is also deteriorating the security situation inside the camps. A Rohingya refugee in the camps said in an interview, “Everything seems calm in daytime. After sunset, the situation becomes fully different.” As there is no police or army surveillance from 4 pm to 8 am, camps come under the control of gangs at night. They are equipped with weapons like lead meat choppers, knives and other made weapons.
According to Prothom Alo report citing the police, in the last two and half years, more than 50 Rohingyas have been killed in clashes between Rohingya armed gangs over establishing supremacy in the camp area, drugs and gold smuggling, money laundering and extortion.  Recently, the Armed Police Battalion (APBn) has recovered M16 assault rifles with 491 bullets from a camp in Ukhiya which indicates the worsening security situation in the camps. At night Rohingya women are also taken from their houses & are return in the morning. At least 59 women have been raped in the Rohingya camp. As crimes often go unpunished, no one in the camps has the courage to speak against the criminals. Sometimes, for ensuring own security, Rohingyas themselves, including children become engaged with smuggling, narcotics trafficking and other crimes.
As of May 2022,a total of 12,97 cases have been filed against 3,023 Rohingyas. Among them, 73 cases are in charge of murder, 762 are narcotics cases, 28 cases are filed on the allegation of human trafficking, 87 for illegal weapons, 65 are rape charges, 35 for kidnapping and ransom, 10 for robberies, and 89 are other cases related to crime and violence.
Besides, it is believed that Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a Rohingya insurgent group are also active in Rohingya camps and made contract with a Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). ARSA is not only relying on arms like AK-47s, M-22s, M-21s and M-16 rifles but also gaining support through other means. More than 500 madrassas in the Rohingya camps are  said to be controlled by an ARSA affiliates which will help ARSA to gain sympathy, spread propaganda and extend their network.
A Threat to South Asian Security
Since Cox’s Bazar provides a strategic route for smuggling and a shelter to Rohingyas refugees who have lack of economic alternatives, the bordering Rohingyas camps are turning into a breeding place for criminalities and the insecurity in the camps can threaten the security of the whole region.
Cox’s Bazar is used as a direct route from eastern India to Nepal for arms smugglers to reach Indian and Nepali buyer. United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), an insurgent group seeking independence from India, also buys arms from China and smuggles them using Bangladeshi ports and overland to India.
The Naaf river, the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar, is also the busiest drug route in the region. Almost 80% of Yaba enter in Bangladesh through Naikhyangchhari and 70% of them are stored in Rohingya camps before distributing them and Rohingyas are increasingly getting involved in peddling yaba for their survival.
Besides, drug trafficking, Rohingyas are also taking part in trans-border crimes, including human trafficking, extremism, arms fighting and the camps can be a potential base for extremist activities and the insecurity in the camps and border could transcend to Bangladesh anytime and create insecurity for the whole region of South Asia. As there is a growing concern over the recruitment of refugees by the extremist networks like Hizb-ut Tahrir and Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), as well as by radical Islamist groups like HeI. It is also reported that the influence of HeI is growing among the traumatized and frustrated Rohingyas which could fuel militancy not only in Bangladesh but also across the South Asian region. Along with this, the Rohingya militant groups bordering Myanmar i.e.  Arakan Rohingya National Organization (ARNO), Rohingya National Alliance (RNA), the Arakan Rohingya Islamic Front (ARIF), and Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO) could also recruit from Rohingyas and threaten regional security.
From security perspective, ensuring the security of Rohingyas is directly linked to the security of the region Though Bangladesh has taken several measures to ensure the security of these displaced people, it is tough to maintain law and order in the densely populated camps near the border. Therefore, safe, sustainable and dignified return of these displaced people is the only solution. Since Rohingya refugees have also expressed their desire to go home through the “Go Home” campaign, in which thousands of Rohingyas in Ukhiya & Teknaf camps staged demonstration on World Refugee Day demanding their repatriation back to Myanmar. Bangladesh as well as the international community should act together to facilitate Rohingya repatriation to ensure the security of Rohingyas as well as the South Asian region before its too late.
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