PAKISTAN’S AFGHANISTAN POLICY: NO ROOM FOR DOUBLESPEAK - The Daily Guardian
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PAKISTAN’S AFGHANISTAN POLICY: NO ROOM FOR DOUBLESPEAK

With the battleground clearly outlined, Pakistan has to either choose the path of peacemaker or become an international pariah by promoting chaos in Afghanistan.

Ashish Singh

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The US departure from Afghanistan as early as 4 July 2021 has led to consternation within Pakistan military establishment. Think tanks in Pakistan have been conducting seminars to fathom the scenarios developing due to this withdrawal. The National Security Adviser (NSA) of Afghanistan, Hamdullah Mohib’s bitter controversial comments of calling Pakistan a “brothel house” has temporarily upset the bilateral talks between the two countries. Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has also been expressing his annoyance over the conduct of Pakistan in Afghanistan’s affairs. In his recently published article, “A Path to Peace for the Country and the Region”, he seems apprehensive about the Taliban and their patrons in Pakistan. Kabul has not forgotten the role of Pakistan during the traumatic horrors of the 1990s. Hence, President Ghani has squarely laid the onus of peace on Pakistan, urging the hybrid government in Pakistan to adopt a constructive approach. He also warned Pakistan not to support the Taliban if it wants to leverage dividends from orderly peace in Afghanistan. He expressed Kabul’s resolve in dealing with the Taliban, both at the peace talks table and the battlefield. With the battleground clearly outlined, Pakistan has to either choose the path of peacemaker or become an international pariah by promoting chaos in Afghanistan. The ball is in the Pakistani court, leaving Pakistan with no choice but to recalibrate its Afghan policy.

The recently conducted seminar at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Islamabad showed the dilemma faced by Imran Khan. The seminar pointed out that the lack of credible governance structure in Afghanistan and highlighted that the intense power rivalry will descend Afghanistan into chaos. Pakistan, which has always treated Afghanistan as the extension of its strategic space, may find it challenging to use the Taliban as a strategic asset to leverage the Afghanistan government. Syed Abrar Hussain, Pakistan’s former Ambassador to Afghanistan, made it clear that the regional countries do not want the Taliban to rule Afghanistan again. These countries fear the resurgence of violence and political patronage to terrorist organisations like Al Qaeda and The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Having sunk trillions of dollars to bring stability to Afghanistan, the US has clarified that it is only withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and is not leaving the country. It wants to stay in the game, and like President Ashraf Ghani, it is too looking for a more constructive role from Pakistan. Pakistan, therefore, has no choice but to re-evaluate its ‘strategic depth’ policy. The exciting part is how Pakistan is going to play its game.

Pak-US Relationship

As the days of the withdrawal are nearing, Washington and Islamabad’s flurry is gathering momentum. Once an alliance partner post-9/11, Pak-US relations have morphed into a transactional one over the past few years. For the first five months of the Biden administration, the policy on engagement with Pakistan centred on Afghanistan. The first face-to-face high-level official meeting of the two governments took place in May 2021 between the US NSA Jake Sullivan and his Pakistan counterpart Moeed Yusuf at Geneva. The joint statement issued only pointed to the “ways of advancing future cooperation” between the two nations. For the US, Pakistan is vital for ensuring a smooth exit plan and its post-withdrawal security plan. The US has been scouting for options for bases in the region. However, growing clamour within Pakistan against it may pose problems in its negotiations. In his interview with the BBC, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested that Pakistan should remain positively engaged in its interest. However, Islamabad is also aware that it has no option but to support the US objectives. The safe US troop’s withdrawal, safeguarding the US investments in Afghanistan and not impeding the political settlement in Kabul are the tasks that the Pakistan military will have to perform. The telephonic conversation between US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin and Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa on 21 March 2021 may have triggered the US-Pak engagement. However, the 24 May 2021 conversation raises doubt about the secret deal between the US and Pakistan. On 05 June 2021, the bold budget speech by Pakistan Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin of walking away from International Monetary Fund (IMF) guidelines may be one of them to provide succour to Pakistan ailing economy besides the need to provide basing rights to the US forces. The details are likely to get clear in future as both the US and Pak have learned to tread their transactional relationship under wraps.

Pakistani Fears and Way Forward

On 14 June 2021, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Quereshi, while addressing the Pak-Afghan Bilateral Dialogue at Islamabad, asserted that he does “not want to see ‘Talibanisation’ of Pakistan”. He blamed the current Afghan leadership for failing to negotiate the transition in the country. He clarified that Pakistan would not take responsibility for the deteriorating Afghan situation. He made it abundantly clear that the Taliban are Afghani, and Pakistan does not represent them. Imran Khan often called ‘Taliban Khan”, shows the Pakistani closeness towards the Taliban. Probably, distancing itself from the Taliban has been proving difficult for the Pakistan government. The lack of intra-Afghan trust and lust of Pakistan peddling in Afghanistan affairs has impeded the peace process. With time running out and the dangers of civil war looming large, Pakistan is finding its back against the wall. The increasing violence, the stalemate of negotiations, expanding footprints of the Taliban and influx of large numbers of refugees is something that Pakistan fears most. Having burnt its bridges with the Taliban during President Musharaf’s time, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) finds it hard to leverage its past connection. Qureshi appeal to the world and the Afghan government about Pakistan sincerity in building bridges is finding no takers. As alluded to earlier, statements of the Afghan NSA sums up the mood in the Afghanistan camp. Pakistan must walk the talk and should not sow seeds of dissent. It’s time for it to reset its Afghan policy and avoid being an international pariah.

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Defence

AIR MARSHAL SURAJ KUMAR JHA ASSUMES CHARGE AS AIR OFFICER IN CHARGE PERSONNEL

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Air Marshal Suraj Kumar Jha has assumed the appointment of Air Officer in Charge Personnel at Air HQ. The Air Marshal was commissioned in the Fighter stream of IAF on 08 June 1984. In a career spanning 37 years, the Air Officer has flown over 2900 hours, including operational flying on a wide variety of fighter aircraft in the inventory of IAF.

During his career, the Air Officer has held numerous important appointments. He was the Commanding Officer of a front-line fighter squadron and has also commanded a premier fighter base. As an Air Vice Marshal, he held the coveted appointments of Air Officer Commanding Advance Headquarters, Commandant of College of Air Warfare, Assistant Chief of Integrated Defence Staff at Head Quarter IDS and Joint Secretary (Air) at the newly established Department of Military Affairs under Ministry of Defence. As an Air Marshal prior to taking over the present appointment, he was Deputy Chief of the Air Staff at Air HQ. The Air Marshal is an alumnus of Defence Services Staff College Wellington. In recognition of his service, the Air Marshal was awarded Mention-in-Despatches in 1999 for Kargil Ops and Ati Vishisht Seva Medal in 2021.

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Defence

INS KHANJAR MAKES MAIDEN VISIT TO GOPALPUR PORT

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Indian Naval Ship Khanjar becomes the first Indian Navy ship to call at the heritage coastal port of Gopalpur in Odisha. The two-day visit which concluded on Monday was organised as part of Aazadi ka Amrit Mahotsav as well as Swarnim Vijay Varsh celebrations to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Independence and the 50th anniversary of the 1971 War. The maiden visit of the Naval Ship was aimed at enhancing ties and spreading awareness with the local populace on aspects of coastal security and maritime operations.

During the visit, ship’s officers interacted with Port Officials and discussed aspects related to berthing facilities for OTR of Naval ships and security overview of port infrastructure. The ship’s team also undertook a cleanup drive at Gopalpur beach and tree plantation in the port premises. In addition, books and dry provisions were distributed to Samarth Orthopedically Handicapped Welfare Association, at Chatrapur in Ganjam district.

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Defence

SWARNIM VIJAY VARSH VICTORY FLAME RECEIVED BY ANDAMAN AND NICOBAR COMMAND

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The Victory Flame of Swarnim Vijay Varsh, commemorating the 50th anniversary of India’s victory in the 1971 war, was received by Commanding Officer, 231 Transit Camp, Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) Col Gyan Pandey on behalf of ANC in Chennai. The Victory Flame, after covering 3,000 km on the mainland, is scheduled to travel 700 nm (1300 km) in the sea onboard the Indian Naval Ship Sumedha and reach Port Blair. On reaching Port Blair, the Flame will be received by the Lieutenant Governor, A&N Islands, Admiral (Retd) DK Joshi who would then hand it over to Commander-in-Chief, Andaman and Nicobar Command (CINCAN) Lieutenant General Ajai Singh for the conduct of commemorative activities under the aegis of ANC.

The Victory Flame would be taken to the towns of Port Blair, Mayabunder, Baratang, Diglipur, Hutbay, Car Nicobar and Campbell Bay, wherein it would be hosted by local defence establishments and would be on display for visitors and war veterans. Various events such as interaction with War veterans/Ex-serviceman/War widows, showcasing of the flame through the important streets, culture/entertainment programs, and cycle expeditions are planned at various stations. The flame will also be taken to Landfall Islands, the Northernmost deployment of ANC; Barren Island, India’s only active volcano and Indira Point, the southernmost point of the country. The journey aims to spread the message of India’s victory and the sacrifices of our war heroes to the remotest areas and shores of the country.

In December 1971, the Indian Armed Forces had secured victory over the Pakistan Army, and a new nation ‘Bangladesh’ was created. The victory resulted in the largest military surrender post World War II wherein approximately 93,000 soldiers of the Pakistan Army surrendered to the Indian Army. The ‘Swarnim Vijay Varsh’ celebrations began with Prime Minister Narendra Modi lighting the Victory Flame on 16 December 2020. The Victory Flame was lit from the eternal flame of the National War Memorial, signifying the bravery of the soldiers of the war. Since then, the Victory Flame is travelling across the length and breadth of India and a large number of commemorative events are being conducted during its journey.

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Defence

NAVIES OF INDIA, INDONESIA UNDERTAKE 36TH EDITION OF COORDINATED PATROL

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Indian Naval Ship (INS) Saryu, an indigenously built Offshore Patrol Vessel, is undertaking coordinated patrol (CORPAT) with Indonesian Naval Ship KRI Bung Tomo last weekend. The 36th edition of CORPAT between India and Indonesia will also witness the participation of Maritime Patrol Aircraft from both nations. The exercise, being conducted as a ‘non-contact, at sea only’ exercise in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, highlights the high degree of mutual trust and confidence, synergy and cooperation between the two friendly navies.

India and Indonesia have been carrying out Coordinated Patrols along the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) twice a year since 2002, to keep this vital part of the Indian Ocean Region safe and secure for commercial shipping, international trade and conduct of legitimate maritime activities. CORPATs help build understanding and interoperability between navies and facilitate the institution of measures to prevent and suppress Illegal Unreported Unregulated (IUU) fishing, drug trafficking, mari-time terrorism, armed robbery and piracy.

As part of the Government of India’s vision of SAGAR (Security And Growth for All in the Region), the Indian Navy has been proactively engaging with countries in the Indian Ocean Region to enhance maritime security in the region. India and Indonesia have traditionally enjoyed a close and friendly rela-tionship covering a wide spectrum of activities and interactions, which have strengthened over the years. Maritime interactions have been growing steadily between the two navies with frequent port visits, bilat-eral exercises and training exchanges. The 36th edition of India-Indonesia CORPAT seeks to bolster the maritime cooperation between the two navies and forge strong bonds of friendship across the Indo Pa-cific.

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Defence

DEFENCE SECRETARY LAUNCHES WEBSITE ON 75TH INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATIONS

The mobile app of the IDC 2021 platform will be launched in the coming days.

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India is celebrating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, marking the 75th year of Independence from the foreign rule. The whole country is gripped into a patriotic fervour. To mark this momentous occasion, Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar launched a website on the 75th Independence Day Celebrations 2021 (IDC 2021), https://indianidc2021.mod.gov.in, in New Delhi on Tuesday. It is a platform to connect Indians from the world over to celebrate the National Festival. The mobile app of the IDC 2021 platform will be launched in the coming days. The platform is freely accessible to all and provides updates and information regarding activities centred on the IDC 2021. It encompasses the entire Indian diaspora as if they were a part of the celebrations in person. It is an attempt to engage people of all ages, especially the youth.

For the first time ever, the platform will live stream the Independence Day Celebrations from the majestic Red Fort on 15 August 2021, in Virtual Reality (VR) 360 degree format. People can use this feature with or without VR Gadget. The platform also provides features like a special IDC Radio, Gallery, Interactive filters, E-books on deeds of Gallantry, 50 years of 1971 victory and Blogs on the Freedom Movement, Wars and War Memorials. Netizens can also log on to know the information related to the Independence Day event including minute-to-minute programme, route map, parking details, RSVP and details of other activities. The programme calendar for all initiatives taken by various ministries to mark the occasion is also available on the platform. Around 40 events are being organised across the country by the Armed Forces and various other segments of the Ministry of Defence, including Border Roads Organisation (BRO), National Cadet Corps (NCC) and Indian Coast Guard (ICG). Under the unique web-based RSVP system, a QR code will be affixed on each invitation card which is to be scanned by the invitee using his/her smartphone. On scanning the QR code, a web link will be generated through which the invitee will be directed to the web portal. On the portal, invitees can submit their willingness to attend the function.

Speaking on the occasion, Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar said, the platform aims to imbibe the culture of togetherness among the masses so that they can celebrate this landmark occasion and unite under the common identity of being Indians. He shed light on the number of activities planned in the run-up to IDC 2021, including all women mountaineering expedition at Mount Manirang, 75 medical camps being organised by BRO and statue cleaning activities to be carried by NCC cadets at 75 places across the country. Dr Ajay Kumar added that people will soon be able to pay online tribute to the fallen heroes at the National War Memorial (NWM) in New Delhi. Interactive kiosks are being set up at NWM where people can pay homage to the brave hearts through digital means, he stated. The Defence Secretary also said that motivational talks with gallantry awardees or their next-to-kin and Veer Naris are also being organised as part of the IDC 2021. The details of the events are available on the website.

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Defence

VICE ADMIRAL GHORMADE ASSUMES CHARGE AS VICE CHIEF OF THE NAVAL STAFF

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Vice Admiral SN Ghormade, AVSM, NM has assumed charge as the Vice Chief of Naval Staff from Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar, PVSM, AVSM, VSM, ADC at a formal ceremony held at South Block, New Delhi. Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar is retired after glorious service of 39 years.

Vice Admiral SN Ghormade is an alumni of the National Defence Academy (NDA), Khadakwasla, Naval Staff College at the United States Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, and the Naval War College, Mumbai. The Flag Officer was commissioned in the Indian Navy on 1st Jan 1984 and is a Navigation and Direction specialist. The Flag Officer has had extensive operational tenures onboard frontline warships of the Indian Navy. During his career spanning over 37 years, he has been through a myriad of operational and staff appointments. His important operational appointments include Commands of Guided Missile Frigate INS Brahmaputra, Submarine Rescue Vessel INS Nireekshak, and Minesweeper INS Alleppey, and Second-in-Command of Guided Missile Frigate INS Ganga. INS Nireekshak was awarded the Unit Citation for the first time during his command.

His important staff appointments ashore include Assistant Chief of Personnel (Human Resources Development), Principal Director of Personnel, Director Naval Plans and Joint Director Naval Plans at Naval Headquarters as separate assignments, Director (Military Affairs) at the Ministry of External Affairs (Disarmament & International Security Affairs), Local Workup Team (West), and Instructor at the Navigation Direction School and the National Defence Academy. The officer also held the coveted appointments of Flag Officer Commanding Karnataka Naval Area and Flag Officer Commanding Maharashtra Naval Area. In the rank of Vice Admiral he has held the challenging and coveted appointments of Director General Naval Operations, Chief of Staff Eastern Naval Command and Controller Personnel Services. The Flag Officer was holding the tri-service appointment of Deputy Chief (Operations & Training) at Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff prior taking over the present appointment as Vice Chief of the Naval Staff at IHQ MoD(N).The Flag officer was awarded the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal on 26th Jan 17 and Nausena Medal in 2007 by the President of India, and Commendation by the Chief of the Naval Staff in 2000.

He has succeeded Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar who retires after more than 39 years of illustrious service. During his tenure as VCNS, the Navy saw an increase in budget allocation with 100% utilisation of allocated budget with impetus on capital acquisition. He proactively pushed for adopting ‘AtmaNirbhar Bharat’ Mission with Navy allocating more than 2/3rd of capital procurement from indigenous sources, 39 out of 41 ships and submarines for Indian Navy are being constructed in Indian Shipyards. The first ever procurement case under the Strategic Partnership Model for Project 75(I) was successfully progressed for issuance of RFP during his tenure. Many other instances of technological advancements, capability enhancements and research and development projects with DRDO and DPSU were progressed during his illustrious tenure.

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