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Indian Press (23 Sep 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Trump’s Attack On Pak and Its Aftermath By T C A Raghavan: New Age Islam's Selection, 23 September 2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

23 September 2017

Trump’s Attack on Pak and Its Aftermath

By T C A Raghavan

‘Terroristan’: Living In Denial

Editorial Asian Age

Suu Kyi’s Crown of Thorns: the Future of the Rohingyas and Myanmar Are Both at Stake

By Sanjoy Hazarika

German Elections: Polls Indicate Merkel’s Open Door To Refugees Worked Politically

By David Devadas

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Trump’s Attack on Pak and Its Aftermath

By T C A Raghavan

Sep 23, 2017

President Trump’s strong words against Pakistan while announcing his new Pak-Afghanistan policy late last month have drawn opposite reactions in both countries. In Afghanistan, the relief that no immediate US disengagement was contemplated was further enhanced by the sense of being vindicated that the source of their problems had been so bluntly identified. In Pakistan, the predictability of the response was denial and a sense of being victimised and was matched by deep dismay at the tone and content of the US President’s message. As the President put it, “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations.” The earlier decisions of the US designating the Hizbul Mujahideen and Syed Salahuddin as terrorists are all seen as the general trend that the US is now firmly aligned to India. That within a few days the US statement would be followed by a statement from the BRICS Summit in Xiamem in China with references to terror groups in Pakistan added to and perhaps multiplied these concerns. In both cases what was new was not so much what was stated as the level at which the statements came.

With regard to China, the Government of Pakistan has been at pains to emphasise that the BRICS statement used language which had earlier been employed and as such no change of substance in China’s position had taken place and the fact that since the groups mentioned were in fact banned by it also meant that the statement was not directed at Pakistan. A visit by the new Pakistan Foreign Minister to Beijing soon thereafter, his first foreign tour after being appointed Foreign Minister, and supportive statements from his Chinese counterpart have provided additional reassurance. That Chinese stakes in Pakistan are too deep and vital to be really affected by the odd multilateral communique strengthens the assessment that the China axis remains strong.

Unrelated developments, such as a slight diminution in Pakistan’ s cricket isolation – an international cricket team has visited Pakistan this month and will be followed by the Sri Lankan team- also help in shielding domestic public opinion from the extent of Pakistan’s poor external image. Certainly, only the most committed Chinese supporter in Pakistan believes the Chinese government has total equanimity with regard to extremist groups in Pakistan- the Xiamem  BRICS statement suggests a greater convergence of China with US and other assessments.  The difference however is that China for the time being is concentrating on other aspects of its relations with Pakistan. In particular China will also try to see if it can reduce the huge friction in the Pakistan- Afghan interface. This is a task which the US has failed to do.

From the United States there is less joy as far as Pakistan is concerned. A visit by the Pakistan FM to Washington was postponed in the immediate aftermath of the U S Presidential statement as were some incoming visits by US officials. It would be a fair assessment that US postures have added to the sense of isolation and anxiety many Pakistanis feel about their country’s external standing and image. This state of siege, especially among Pakistan’s elite, was further enhanced by measures announced by the New York State’s Department of Financial Services against the Habib Bank – Pakistan’s largest bank- for its failure to comply with regulatory regimes directed against money laundering, terrorist financing and other illicit financial transactions.

The Habib Bank announced consequently at the end of August that it was closing down its New York Branch. It also reached an out of court settlement to pay a fine of $225 million. This is the largest fine ever imposed on a Pakistani bank. In financial and banking circles in Pakistan the impression certainly is that the action against the Bank   was not unrelated to President Trump’s new policy approach. Many felt that this was the clearest possible sign that the lessons gained by the US in the past decade from the financial squeeze on Iran would now be applied to Pakistan. With signs looming for the Pakistan economy that seeking IMF assistance may be, after a four-year gap, around the corner again and with hefty doses of fiscal populism expected with the elections due next year, the tough US postures at this juncture add to the sense of pressure and isolation in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s anxieties are fueled further by speculation over the US moving beyond measures similar to those taken in the past – withholding payments of either aid or repayments for facilities provided by Pakistan for access to its troops and bases in Afghanistan.

Steps beyond this are being speculated or leaked to the media – these include sanctions on Pakistani Intelligence officers who are handlers of extremist outfits or withdrawal of the major non-NATO ally (MNNA) status which Pakistan has had since 2004.  Measures like the withdrawal of MNNA would certainly put additional pressure but also enhance Pakistan’s all-pervasive mood of defensiveness. These steps may also see Pakistan responding in two key areas where US requirements, if not dependence on Pakistan, are considerable – sharing of   intelligence about extremist groups active in Europe and US and minimum logistics support with regard to Afghanistan.

The Trump broadside and related developments have left many in Pakistan shaken but such pressures are intrinsically not new. It is evident that after some initially strong statements in response from the National Assembly and the National Security Council, Pakistan has chosen to try and deal and engage with the US rather than only condemn it.

An effort seems to have been made to contain domestic rhetoric. Public opinion is being reassured that a regional consensus on terrorism and Afghanistan is being evolved with the Foreign Minister’s visits to Turkey and Iran apart from China. The China visit is to be followed later in the year by a Trilateral Foreign Ministers Meeting with China, Pakistan and Afghanistan. These regional efforts will enable the Pakistan FM to make his postponed visit to the US and help him explain Pakistan’s difficulties and challenges both internal and with Afghanistan and India, and reiterate his country’s commitment to fight terrorism. The kind of response he gets from the US remains to be seen.

Source: freepressjournal.in/analysis/trumps-attack-on-pak-and-its-aftermath/1141630


‘Terroristan’: Living In Denial

Editorial Asian Age

Sep 23, 2017

Pakistan’s accidental Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, will doubtless cause mirth in international circles with his recent claim that his country — justly perceived as “Terroristan” — was a “responsible global citizen”. The burden of Mr Abbasi’s song at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York Thursday was that his country’s rapidly proliferating short-range nuclear arms  — meant to counter India’s “cold start” doctrine — were completely safe from terrorists, and that Pakistan’s system was indeed as safe as any in the world and had “complete civilian oversight through the Nuclear Command Authority”.

This would raise guffaws. It is well known that top guns from Khan Laboratories, founded by metallurgist A.Q. Khan, the so-called “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, were in touch with Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda’s chief and founder, who was shot dead by the Americans while hiding at a Pakistani cantonment town near Islamabad.

As for “civilian oversight”, let Mr Abbasi be reminded that not so long back even the country’s PM couldn’t sit in on the Defence Committee of the Cabinet.

Mr Abbasi wants us to believe that Pakistan’s nuclear programme goes back to the 1960s. Not true. It got off the ground much later after the notorious metallurgist stole crucial components from the Dutch company where he worked (with America, that lectures the world on non-proliferation, winking at the theft), and gathered steam with China surreptitiously supplying critical help.

For all its civilian trappings, Pakistan is a military state. Mr Abbasi will be tolerated only as long as he toes the Army’s line.

Source: asianage.com/opinion/edit/230917/terroristan-living-in-denial.html


Suu Kyi’s Crown of Thorns: the Future of the Rohingyas and Myanmar Are Both at Stake

By Sanjoy Hazarika

Sep 22, 2017

If anything, Aung San Suu Kyi’s 29-minute State of the Union address underlined the crown of thorns that she wears.

When Myanmar’s State Counsellor and non-official head of government, broke her resolute silence today on the Rohingya crisis, having held out for weeks against international appeals on the military crackdown in the Muslim-dominated parts of Rakhine state, she still avoided addressing the critical issue of oppressive State violence.

The broadcast was dominated by the Rohingya crisis though she referred to the community only once by name and that too when she spoke of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) which has been designated as a terrorist group by her government. Suu Kyi acknowledged that thousands of Muslims had fled into Bangladesh and assured of the upholding of human rights and promised action against those regardless of religion, ethnicity or political connections. To many, it did not go far enough. But could she?

For it is not just the Rohingyas, the immediate tragedy, which is the core issue – it is securing and stabilising the very future of Myanmar’s democracy based on its multi-ethnic structure, a point she returned to time and again.

When Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won an overwhelming majority in national elections two years back ending decades of military rule, expectations were sky-high in the world, not just her homeland. It has not been easy. Efforts to broker peace with Myanmar’s many warring ethnic groups have been shaky, the economy is in poor shape and it’s been a delicate tango with the generals who hold four key Cabinet posts and 25% of the Parliament’s MPs.

Suu Kyi held out hope for the return and repatriation of the Rohingyas – but it was conditional: if they agreed to abide by a process of verification. She acknowledged that there were many charges of human rights abuse but made no mention of the fact that it was the military which was largely accused of this violence. The predicament in which the Nobel Peace Prize winner finds herself is seen in her guarded references to the military, that they had been told to abide by the law, respect human rights and that no security operations had taken place recently.

Suu Kyi, who has been criticised by several fellow Nobel Laureates, spoke glowingly of how many Muslims continued to live in their villages. “More than 50% Muslim villages” were unaffected by the violence, she said.

But that immediately asked a simple counter-question: what happened to the other 50% and why?

In fact, in just over a month, close to 400,000 had left their homes and flowed into Bangladesh, propelled by fear and the impact of violence and security campaigns. There are 300,000 Rohingyas who had left in earlier years and are too scared to return. The army went on offensive following coordinated attacks by ARSA on 30 military camps, timed to devastate the sliver of hope which had appeared when former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s report on the situation was released. Suu Kyi’s government responded positively to the call for dialogue – but it was not to be.

As a result of successive government policies, largely that of strong-arm army regimes which ruled with an iron fist despite internal schisms and changes, the Rohingyas, who happen to be Muslim with a history of living in the western part of the country over centuries, have been converted into stateless, non-citizens of Myanmar for nearly 60 years.

Suu Kyi sought to deflect widespread criticism, by inviting diplomats “and friends” to visit the affected areas, and declaring that the Rohingya crisis was but one of many challenges.

She is clearly at a perilous point of her political journey, when she needs to reach out to the majority Burman community and calm the fears of both sides, opening a transparent dialogue that enables the Rohingyas to return to their homeland in peace and dignity. She knows, as much as anyone else, especially the generals, that her elected government represents a truly critical transition period that stands between a democratic Myanmar and returning to an unenviable past.

We note that the Government of India has asserted in the Supreme Court that there are security issues in the presence of 40,000 Rohingyas here. But there cannot be a blanket blacklist of tens of thousands of poor and vulnerable people who have sought refuge here. After all, Suu Kyi’s offer of taking back refugees from Bangladesh is conditional. And can India carry out collective expulsions, or return people to a place where they risk torture or other serious violations?

New Delhi has to instruct its agencies to adhere to the law. Article 21 of the Constitution lays an obligation on the Government to ensure the life and liberty of all living in the country, without distinction of nationality or otherwise.

Source: hindustantimes.com/opinion/suu-kyi-s-crown-of-thorns-the-future-of-the-rohingyas-and-myanmar-are-both-at-stake/story-FtjDasP0wYuhoRCQLX0hJJ.html


German Elections: Polls Indicate Merkel’s Open Door to Refugees Worked Politically

By David Devadas

Sep 22, 2017

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s politically bold refugee policy in 2015 appears to be paying off two years on. If the opinion polls are right, Merkel is heading for a fourth term in office after Germany’s federal elections next Sunday. My take is that, if she does win, it won’t be despite that risky refugee policy but rather—in part—because of it.

Many analysts had predicted that her open-door policy for refugees for a few months from the late summer of 2015 could cause a backlash by the time elections were held. This view was strengthened after the sexual abuse that occurred in Koln and other cities during street celebrations at the end of that year.

However, Merkel’s move was actually a bold and calculated move on the chess board of national politics. She is an uncommonly insightful and shrewd politician with a firm grip on the political steering wheel.

By allowing more than a million Syrian and other refugees into Germany in 2015, Merkel not only won brownie points among liberals at large, but also cornered her main political opponent, the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SDP), on an issue that dominated the headlines for a very long time.

The SDP’s political manoeuvrability was already squeezed since it was a coalition partner of Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Given its long-established Left-liberal positions, the SDP would surely have asked for openness to refugees, and criticised her if she had shut the door. But by announcing the open-door policy, and taking responsibility and credit, she left the SDP no option but to back her — and lose marginal voters to her.

Merkel’s real gamble was not with regard to her party’s traditional opponent but the xenophobic party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has gained ground over the past few years. The open-door refugee policy handed the AfD a major issue to oppose her, which it used with great gusto. Yet, if recent opinion polls are right, Merkel’s bet has paid off. The AfD has apparently not gained enough ground to be a real contender for power.

Polls say that the AfD has not even become Merkel’s chief challenger. The SDP remains the number two party. In fact, some polls say the Green Party or the Liberal Party could still emerge as the third largest in the new house, rather than the AfD.

This would be a contrast to France, where National Front leader Marine Le Pen came close to winning the presidential elections in May. Similar ultra-right parties have performed strongly in countries like Hungary and Poland, even Holland, and xenophobic sentiment led to the success of the June 2016 ‘Brexit’ referendum for the UK to leave the EU.

Merkel’s bet essentially boiled down to the legacy of the Holocaust. The majority of Germans still have a horror and deep sense of shame about what happened under Hitler’s genocidal National Socialist party from 1933 to 1945. In fact, many Germans refer to AfD supporters as neo-Nazis.

Of course, Merkel’s bet would have hinged on a more basic bet: the continued bouyancy of the German economy. The open-door refugee policy could only work as long as economic sentiments remained strong. As things stand, Germany’s is one of the very few confidently buoyant economies in a general global scenario of gloom and doom.

Her deft foreign policy has also won approval. She has moved closer to Russia since Donald Trump won the US elections, but kept the NATO alliance in place. And she is strengthening the European Union, of which Germany is the strongest bulwark.

If Merkel did bet that Germany’s post-Nazi dread of racist xenophobia would prevent AfD from overwhelming her centrism, she must also have astutely realised that the trend of the times would not favour the traditional socialist party, the SDP.

The 1970s was the time of socialism in the West. The SDP’s legendary Willy Brandt was German chancellor from 1969 to 1975. Some left-of-centre parties reinvented themselves as broadly centrist under leaders such as Bill Clinton and Tony Blair in the 1990s.

However, Hillary Clinton’s loss in the US elections last November indicates that even centrist politics are hard pressed now. France’s socialist party came to the presidential elections as the incumbent, but got just six per cent of the popular vote earlier this year. The debacle prompted BBC News to ask in a headline: “Is France’s Socialist Party dead?”

If Germany’s pollsters are right, this wider context – losing Left and hardening right – would make Merkel’s success, after she let in a million-plus refugees, extraordinarily remarkable.

Source: hindustantimes.com/analysis/german-elections-polls-indicate-merkel-s-open-door-to-refugees-worked-politically/story-1VVYoZexb1VjApMqEAg4eJ.html


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