Understanding Current Economic Havoc in Pakistan – Modern Diplomacy

Economic position of Pakistan is incompatible with its economic potential. It has wide range of natural resources encompassing, reserves for chemical, industrial, and textile businesses. It also possesses prevalent network of rivers i.e. support for agro-production and huge potential of hydroelectric energy generation. As well as, it has opulent mountainous ranges containing precious minerals like copper, gold, granite etc. Above and beyond, the country is rich in other economic ignitors like agro-industry, livestock, construction industry, tourism, and small manufacturing industries. Despite such huge economic capability and ingenious global-market-penetration capacity, the country still fails to turn its status as a developed economy.
Surely, one will eagerly strive to dig out the stumbling block that halts economic development in the country. Reason is apparent i.e. archaic, oblivious and biased policy mechanism, comprised of, obsolescent policy framework, egocentric political frat and inapt intervention of transnational entities in policy structure.
Policymaking fraternity in Pakistan seems inept at managing the crisis with prescience due to unawareness of modern-global policy making tools. They appear to be inexperienced in dealing with the colossal economic disorder because of frail strategic approach for resource management and lack of expertise to prioritize best choice during policy formulation. This incompetence, in policy machinery, paves the way for an unending jumble of economic crisis in the state. 
Moreover, the policies in Pakistan remained prey of vested interests of political leaders. The elected public representatives appear to be more focused on personal gains regardless of public welfare. So forth, the country’s political culture is transformed from serving people to tug of war for reigns of governance. This paradigm shift in political role of leaders created an environment of wandering competition between different political groups. On one hand certain political groups have joined together to jolt their common opponent through all possible gambits. On the other hand the latter try to revive its governance control by hook or crook. Resultantly, the economic affairs of the state are ruined by the unsympathetic leaders, who, deemed to fail in addressing the remedies to eradicate the current economic turmoil from the country.
Additionally, the transnational companies cause a severe threat to economic activity in Pakistan. They play a major role in downgrading the policy making process in the country. The companies influence the policy makers to drive the policies in their favor to boost their market share for retaining their decades-long monopoly in open market. This monopolized market structure minimizes the opportunity for new entrepreneurs and creates a gap in demand and supply of commodities. Resultantly, a market in-equilibrium appears in the country which further exaggerates the rise in prices and leave people with minimal choice of commodities.
Consequently, the above perils drowned the country into economic catastrophe. Foreign debt burden, imbalance of payments, high inflation rates, low production and depreciation of currency created a dilemma of muddle for financial institutions of the country. Most of the industries including automobile, textile, stock market, agricultural production and transportation are at the brink of fiasco. The incumbent government is looking feebly towards IMF for bailouts on hard conditions that further will increase debt burden on the ex-chequer of Pakistan. State bank reserves are declining swiftly. Consequently, tax burden on public commodities is increasing day by day. Simultaneously, consistent increase in dollar rate puts pressure on Pakistani rupee. Import of products like Mineral fuels including oil, electrical equipment, iron, steel, pharmaceuticals, Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes, plastics, plastic articles, organic chemicals, oil seeds, in short, each and every commodity of day to day utility has become more costly. Down to that an overall inflation is raising its head which further ignites poverty in the country. Moreover, hike in petroleum prices owing to twofold reason i.e. global price increase due to Russia-Ukraine War and IMF conditions to impose petroleum development levy, aggrandized heavy tolls on transportation, food industry and  other economic activities around the country.
 Thus, for a prosperous economic state, it is need of the hour to ponder over the above roots of the current economic turmoil and eradicate the menaces with prudence and efficient manner. Policy makers should adapt modern approaches while policy formulation. They should include most of the options with clarity and succinct way to remove all kinds of uncertainties and to prioritize the best one amongst the chosen ones for implementation. Politics should be for public service not for self-interests. Political groups should reevaluate their vision and endeavor for the country to make it a shining star in the galaxy of the world. Policy implementation should be equitable and equal. Intervention of transnational business groups and pressure groups in policy procedures should be condemned. Market competition must be supported through easy and doable policies for new entrepreneurs. So that, a healthy competition between the entities may be created to maintain market equilibrium and eradicate monopoly of fewer business units.  
Crisis in Sri Lanka and The India-South Asia Challenges: Way Forward
Wickremesinghe will not solve the political and economic crisis in Sri Lanka without meaningful reforms

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Authors: Dr Aditya Anshu and Nipun Tyagi*
Lot of articles and theories which are describing the current state of Sri Lanka and major factors that contributed towards the deteriorating performance of Sri Lankan economy. The ongoing Sri Lankan crisis has been examined by experts from global economic perspective and regional security but India as a country faces multi-faceted challenges, which must be managed sensibly. The approach of India should be balanced and crafted politically as well as diplomatically to protect the strategic Indian interest in Indo pacific region and to counter the influence of China and its expansionist policy.
To believe economist and experts on Sri Lanka, the blame initially was colored upon the COVID 19 pandemic for economic fall and disparity that engulfed the Island nation. It was argued trade has been adversely hit, the foreign remittances from the tourist were near to none, which possibly caters biggest foreign currency deposit. To add, the series of deadly bomb blast in 2019 at Colombo could be direct possible connection towards the decreasing number of tourists in Sri Lanka. Hitherto no expert or possible specialist cared to argue the failure of Rajapaksa brothers far-right nationalist policy of last 10 years was creating a liability trap for Sri Lanka along with creating deep cleavage in peaceful multicultural society.
The ramifications of the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia are also creating difficulties and is one of the other prominent factors for the sluggish economic conditions of Sri Lanka. The Russia – Ukraine war has further exacerbated the economic calamity of the country as Russia is the second biggest market to Sri Lanka in tea exports. On the other hand, Sri Lanka’s tourism sector is heavily reliant upon these two nations for the tourist arrivals. As a result, the Ukrainian crisis has further created an adverse graph of already ailing economy of Sri Lanka. 
When Rajapaksa-led governments, liaising with extremist Buddhist ideology, entered with full majority in Sri Lankan political regime post 2009. This resulted in the end of over the ground ethnic persecution of Tamil and other minorities community. However, the persecution and intimidation continued in more subtle and systematic way for Tamils and other minority groups resulting division, hate and selective development. Being anti-minority became the symbol of jingoistic nationalism which helped Rajapaksa winning elections for next two decades.
On the Indian domestic front, Congress and other opposition parties are comparing Indian economy and its slothful growth with Sri Lankan crisis and blaming government for inflation, food crisis, rising unemployment and imbalance of economic situations. Significantly, inter-religion conflicts, caste division, income disparity and rising unemployment in India has been severely criticized by opposition parties and civil society groups drawing similarity of parallel class conflicts in Sri Lanka during the period of 1990 till now. The political parties alleged that ruling BJP is adopting the same Sri Lankan pattern to prosecute the minorities and ignoring economic turbulence which can be resulted for crashing Indian economy in the long run. But in view of scholars and academics it would be too early to comment on the opposition political parties assertion on government and about the Indian economy’s performance, nevertheless India needs to seriously monitor the situation with caution that is developing in Sri Lanka on various-fronts.
The first and the foremost issue which needs to be handled cautiously will be that of displaced migrants landing on Indian shores. The impact of the Sri Lankan crisis can increase the burden of refuges towards India. It will be very challenging for India to absorb the possible migration from Sri Lankan for food, shelter, and job opportunities; creating clusters in southern cites in which they can be deprived of basic human needs and rights. To cater women and children will not only be tasking for India but also can create a situation like Rohingya crisis. The proximity of Sri Lankan peoples to southern Indian states can help them to enter Indian territories which may disturb the sovereignty, regional stability, and could be the cause of national security of the country. “There is no accurate data on the number of refugees, but India has about 400,000 refugees including 238,222 recognized and documented refugees according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Report, 2021.
The second issue of concern for Indian government is to handle security challenges, regional security, peace and maintenance of law and order in India and South Asia. There are several reports which indicated the presence of Islamic State (IS) and other terror outfits active in southern states of India which can manipulate and employ the poor migrants landing on Indian shores for terror and illegal activities.  Investigation in a series of cases by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), a federal agency to counter terror has revealed numerous times about the strong presence of Islamic State (IS) in the southern states of India.  The Ministry of Home Affairs confirmed in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) of Parliament on 16 September 2020 about 17 cases registered related to the presence of Islamic State (IS) by in southern States of Telangana, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu resulting to arrest of 122 accused.
There is no doubt that deep set networks for terror finance, extreme ideology and human resources connected with Sri Lanka exist in parts of Southern India. It is already evident after the terror events of 2019 in Sri Lanka and activation of all these will spell potential threat to security of South-Asia in general and India in particular.  The IS and other terrorist organization may take the advantage of internal violence and fragile administrative capability in Sri Lanka and can become serious threats for India’s national security.
To extend further, it would be very dangerous for the country like India to have the political and economic instability in neighboring countries as near as Sri Lanka. This might trigger a ‘domino-effect’ in the region, creating socio-economic imbalance in South-Asia.  The recent political and economic changes in Sri Lanka have created a threat for India’s vision for regional stability and security in South-Asia region.  In 2014 government of India launched Act East policy focusing on boosting economic co-operation, building infrastructure for greater connectivity, improving important strategic & security ties, and Greater focus on defense cooperation with East and Southeast Asia countries. India’s ‘Neighborhood First’ policy towards Sri Lanka had resonated with Sri Lanka’s ‘India First’ foreign and security policy in 2020. Therefore, the role of India becomes very important as well as challenging, to help the Sri Lanka maintain its peaceful internal order and to counter the debt trap policy of China.
Geopolitical experts have also argued that India can make use of this opportunity to revamp its diplomatic ties with Sri Lanka, which have been at distant owing Sri Lanka’s proximity with China under Rajapaksa’s rule. It would be strategically and geopolitically important for India to extend assistance to Sri Lanka during this crisis times for a better and conducive atmosphere in southern Indian ocean area.
Sri Lanka’s economic collapse may be an opportunity for India to swing the pendulum back with massive financial assistance to Sri Lanka. This has been followed up with India’s four-pronged economic and financial assistance approach to Sri Lanka. It includes credit lines for the import of food, fuel, and medicines; currency swaps to boost foreign exchanges; modernization; and holistic investments, in the sectors of renewable energy, ports, logistics, infrastructure, connectivity, and maritime security.
As a friendly and cooperative neighbor, India must carry multiple role and responsibility for Sri Lanka’s political stability, economic recovery, and strategic security where with right-intent diplomatic strategy is the key to determining India’s geopolitical influence in the region to counter interventionist China and its not so friendly policies. We cannot ignore the fact that turmoil in Sri Lanka is always perceived to influence India. That was in a speech by the then US Defence Secretary Robert Gates in the 2009 edition of the “Shangri La Dialogue”, when he said, “We look to India to be a partner and net provider of security in the Indian Ocean and beyond…”. It  is the time for India to come forward and prove it .
*Nipun Tyagi is scholar of Defense & Strategic Studies and Currently looks the International Office at Bennet University, India.
Celebrations in Sri Lanka have quickly evaporated with the election of Ranil Wickremesinghe as president. Instead, the economic crisis shows no sign of abating and violent crackdowns on protesters continue in response to ongoing calls for meaningful political and economic reform.
This comes after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was driven from office after months of calls from protestors to stand down. The former President fled to the Maldives on 13 July and subsequently resigned after protesters stormed the presidential residences and other government buildings. He is now in Singapore, with his replacement stating that there is no set date for his return, fearing it could inflame political tensions further.
This was in response to the worst crisis Sri Lanka has faced since independence. Poor economic management by the former government has left the country with a foreign debt of more than $51 billion, leaving it unable to pay for imports of basic goods, such as food, fuel and medical supplies. This has caused a scarcity of goods, with food and fuel prices soaring and people lining up for hours at petrol stations. This brought protesters out on the streets in large numbers, particularly in Colombo, to demand government action and accountability.
Wickremesinghe, who became acting president on 13 July when Mr Rajapaksa fled, was elected as president by Sri Lankan MPs on 20 July, soundly defeating his rival 134 votes to 82. Wickremesinghe has served as Prime Minister six times, never serving a full term, with his latest stint in May this year as part of an unsuccessful attempt by the former president to remain in power.
The decision was immediately criticised by protesters, who pointed out that the new President is close with the Rajapaksa family and arguably owes his position to the support of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party. There are also fears that Wickremesinghe will protect the Rajapaksa’s from prosecution against accusations levelled against them. This, according to protesters, is evidence that the political change they have called for has not eventuated.
The fears of protesters seem to have been justified. President Wickremesinghe has vowed to crack down on protests, condemning them as “against the law” and calling protesters “fascists”, indicating that he would not hesitate to respond harshly.
On the same day Wickremesinghe was declared president, a court order was issues forbidding anyone from gathering within 50 metres of the statue at Galle Face in Colombo, the same spot where thousands of protesters have camped for months in protest.
The new government has also extended a state of emergency for another month, in a bid to control political unrest, giving the authorities powers to detain people, limit public gatherings and search private property. Authorities also raided and cleared a protest camp on government property, with footage showing armed soldiers in riot gear tearing down tents. Organisers claim that at least 50 protesters were injured in the raid.
To Sri Lankans, this represents a depressing status quo. One where legitimate demands for political and economic reform are met with state violence.
It is in the best interests of Wickremesinghe and his government to win the support of both opposition parties and the protesters. The best way to achieve this is to stop crackdowns on protesters and open the door to a power sharing agreement with opposition parties. The new president would also do well to listen to protesters demands of political reform, including a reduction in executive powers, the introduction of stronger anti-corruption measures and a strengthening of democratic institutions.
Sri Lanka will also need the support of the international community if it is to survive this crisis. Attacks on protesters have been condemned by the United Nations Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International. The UK High Commissioner and the US Ambassador have also made public statements outlining their concern and calling for authorities to “act with restraint and avoid violence”. Considering Sri Lanka is reliant on these countries for trade preferences and economic assistance, it would be wise for Wickremesinghe to refrain from state violence, listen to protesters grievances and project good governance.
Before Sri Lanka can begin to lift itself out its economic crisis it desperately needs political stability. The election of Wickremesinghe and the establishment he represents is an afront to protesters who have spent months calling for legitimate reforms. If the new president is to win over long suffering Sri Lankans, he needs to respect the human rights of protesters, form an inclusive all-party government and enact meaningful political reforms that strengthen democracy and eliminate corruption. 
Doing so will provide much needed legitimacy and stability for the difficult road ahead.
What happens when society faces a dilemma on who and what to trust? In a situation where an often blurred line separates reality and propaganda, society is both the weapon and the victim.
Today, social media has become the go-to platform for getting updated with national and international developments. But while scrolling through apps like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, one often does not know the source of the information or the intention behind it.
In a well-noted speech, India’s National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval, remarked that civil society is the new frontier of warfare and that in today’s age of information revolution, the ‘will of the nation’ is under attack. As he defined it, the will of the nation is moulded by the common people, their thinking, their sense of well-being, and their perception of their governments.
More recently, speaking at a seminar on July 18, India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, reflected upon this concern yet again. He underlined that national defence is no longer confined to borders but has expanded towards cyberspace and economic and social spheres. Drawing attention to constant attacks on India through disinformation and misinformation campaigns, he highlighted the cruciality of thwarting these attempts from both within India and abroad.
The extent of these issues and their effects are often underestimated. The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war shows how future warfare will occur in a heavily ‘informationized’ environment. Both sides have tried to create an information environment where losses are downplayed and wins are exponentially magnified. Their allies from around the globe have aided their effort.
The manipulation of reality in wartime and in the lead-up to the war itself is not new. Throughout the previous century, the world has witnessed propaganda through posters, newspapers, pamphlets, and radio channels. Today, this has shifted to the much more anonymous, faster, and less costly cyber domain. 
The question is whether India is in a war or proceeding towards a war. The answer is both.
Today, India is facing two vile adversaries in this domain. India is being attacked not only at the domestic level but at the international level as well. A Pakistan-China nexus is trying to sow doubts in Indian society regarding its governance systems and defence capabilities. There have been reports of coordinated attacks that tarnish India’s image on the global pedestal by creating fake narratives whenever the nation undergoes sensitive situations and disruptive events.
China’s cyberwarfare capabilities are now well-known across the world. Several sustained cyber espionage campaigns related to Chinese-origin groups have come to light in recent years. These groups have worked towards endowing political, economic, and strategic benefits to the Communist Party of China. For example, when New Delhi banned China-made apps over privacy concerns, India observed hacking campaigns on government agencies, which were later revealed in several reports to be led by Chinese groups. Cyber espionage campaigns have also been noted in India’s critical infrastructure sectors like energy and telecom.
Similarly, groups from Pakistan have intruded into India’s cyberspace with phishing and espionage activities. In recent months, dozens of Pakistani-origin YouTube accounts were banned, which disseminated exploitative and fake narratives to foment unrest in India.
In a report by cybersecurity firm Kaspersky this year, it was reflected that India’s cyber threats are growing, primarily due to the penetrating attacks from Pakistan and China.
Pakistan has followed the strategy of ‘bleeding India through a thousand cuts’ for many decades. This strategy depends on waging a covert war against India by invoking insurgency at multiple locations. However, as cyberspace is borderless, the information warfare strategy is being deployed without the need for cross-border infiltration.
 China has followed a similar strategy against its adversaries. China’s ‘acupuncture strategy’ depends on asymmetrical warfare and aims to paralyse the enemy by attacking it at multiple weak points. In information warfare, the needles seek India’s strategic issues like government agencies and critical infrastructure, but most importantly, the societal perspective.
 Today, these two strategies are being used in conjunction against India. This ‘Cuts and Puncture’ strategy relies on manipulating the psyche of the Indian society by sowing doubts through fake narratives.
Pakistan Army’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) wing, which handles information warfare, is said to be leading the thousand cuts mission in the cyber domain. Over the years, it has cultivated several thousand assets through propaganda training. On the other hand, China has multiple units dedicated to this objective, targeting different countries and sectors.
The cuts and puncture approach is much more than a social media propaganda campaign or a cyber espionage mission. At its core, it seeks to destabilise the fundamental functioning of the Indian society at the social, political, economic, and cultural levels. It exploits the community’s underlying impatience, unawareness, and fears and magnifies them to satisfy nefarious ambitions. Consequently, it invokes hasty actions based on emotions and insecurities, forcing the victim to ignore the necessity of verifying their perceptions.
It is often argued that India should develop cyber offensive capabilities to counter information warfare and respond in the same language. However, while cyber offensive and defensive abilities can be established, it is also upon the Indian society to take the onus for raising awareness for identifying, flagging, and neutralising the mechanisms of information warfare which are seeking to engulf India today.
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