Chinese Investment in Pakistan: Rhetoric or Reality?

Chinese Investment in Pakistan: Rhetoric or Reality?

Much has been written and said about the announcement by the Chinese government in April this year to invest $46 billion in building an economic corridor, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), in Pakistan linking China to the Central Asian republics. The announcement came on the back of the $12 billion loan package made to Pakistan by the World bank the previous year. However, despite the political rhetoric and the show of bonhomie between the leaders of the two countries, and, the media frenzy that followed such announcement, there are serious questions that need to be raised as regard the risks of the promised Chinese investment in Pakistan.  The lion’s share of the investments are largely going to be in the form of loans of $22 billion by Chinese banks to help resuscitate some of the ailing debt-ridden Pakistani coal and nuclear power plants. The loans can be broken down into two broad temporal categories, the ‘Early Harvest’ ones in the next 3-4 years, and, the other loans promised after 2020. [1]  The key question that China watchers need to raise here is, how much is the Chinese government willing to stretch it’s banks now that there is a stock-market meltdown, currency devaluation, import stagnation and deepening recession within it’s own country? Advocates of China’s overseas investment model will no doubt point to the muscular investment by China in countries fraught with high political, financial and credit risks in Latin America and Africa in the last ten years. In fact, the example of Venezuela, a politically and financially high-risk country in which China has invested over $52 billion from 2008 up till 2014, the biggest Chinese investment in any single country so far, may hold some of the answers.  Although foreign loan-related information is hard to come by as regards most Chinese state-owned lenders, it is estimated that international investments comprised one-fifth of China Development Bank’s loans in end-2014. The majority of the loans were commodities-backed and have gone to resource rich countries in Latin America and Africa which were deemed extremely high risk by western banks or western multilateral institutions. [2]  The overseas investment model of China Development Bank was based on the oil-for-loan model...

Impact of Cultures, Ideals and Visions on Alternative Movements

Impact of Cultures, Ideals and Visions on Alternative Movements

Knowledge has been the foundation of all development and every age and era has seen some product or service that became a standard or benchmark for that time. This was always a general trend to follow and adopt a popular product or behavior but after the Industrial Revolution of 18th century it became possible to offer products made through different technologies that that offered alternative methodologies for producing the same product. An everyday example would be of soap that has remained a cleansing product for over two centuries. The end-use remains same despite change in technologies. It has become a dominant standard for cleansing. But in case of more complex products like software totally different technologies compete for space for same or similar value added end uses. An example is that of Microsoft Office that is based on Windows based technology while a similar product the Open Office that is based on Linux. Office was offered as a method of writing and recording. In this case the dominant trend is being impacted as the end-use is changed substantially by technological dexterity and Office is now used beyond its original simpler usage. Competitive advantage (Porter, 1980) has been the strategic reason for adoption of different technologies but this was until now product-centric. Competition has now moved to a different level. It is the different technologies that are now competing for producing the same product. This has been termed as differential generic strategy (Porter, 1996) that now attempts to corner niche markets or even carve out a new niche from the old one. A good example of this is the Southwest Airline that carved a niche for itself by offering low -cost no-frills flying to consumers and beat the dominating trend of flying with fully loaded services offered by traditional airlines. The competing methodology in this case was creating a new consumer who could now switch from driving or taking a train to flying short hauls at competitive or even lower price within a far shorter time. But can it be said that new alternatives, technological or strategic practices, can upset or change the dominating trend and set new standards or benchmarks? (Hofstede, 1991) said that...

Kashmir: A Sociology of Conflict

Kashmir: A Sociology of Conflict

Adfar Shah Kashmir Conflict being one of the worlds’ most worrisome conflicts is a social fact and therefore its fallouts are clearly reflected in the structure of society of Kashmir and on the essence of overall social collective. There is a monster of damage of the conflict before us in terms of killings, lawlessness, social anomie and irreversible social pathology, the economic weakness, the attitudinal change in terms of criminality, collective deviant behavior, mounting mental health issues, effect on environs, etc. The conflict affected the very socialization of the vulnerable younger lot for it introduced many new undesirable activities in the individual mindset and in the larger society. During the period of violent armed conflict Kashmiri youth witnessed and a chunk of them participated in the hostilities resulting in the breakdown of our collective ethos and social fabric. They suffered of violence and uncertainty and a chunk of them perpetrated and perpetuated the suffering on others. For the youth of Kashmir, this is hardly any solution for the conflict situation in mind because they have more often than not been used by the vested interests and contractors of the conflict. They have lived amid the security crisis, brutal unaccounted arrests and tortures. They hardly received any quality education due to system collapse during the peak conflict era. They lived with horrible experiences of brutal killings, perceived loss of dignity and identity. They witnessed the deaths of their close ones, the loss of confidence in people, security forces and the state. The disintegration of the basic structure of society, loss of moral and social values, violence and destruction actually affected every aspect of their psycho-social development. Seeing the cost of militancy and conceptualizing Kashmir caught in brutal violence, Valley’s only acclaimed sociologist Professor Dabla (2010) in his paper titled ‘Sociological Implications of Conflict in Kashmir’ argues that the militancy in Kashmir affected all sections of the society and all sectors of human social life. Thousands of innocent and common people were killed, injured, tortured and made disabled-handicapped. Most of the locals including elders were abused and dishonored repeatedly. Most of the local youth were brutally treated and most of the local children were harassed-tortured and...

Return of the Kashmiri Pandits

Return of the Kashmiri Pandits

India’s newly elected Prime Minister Mr. Modi leading National Democratic Alliance (NDA=BJP+ other supporting parties) seems committed towards ensuring the return of Kashmiri Pandits (Hindus of Kashmir valley who had left Kashmir in 1990’s when the armed conflict broke out).Though it is not the first rehabilitation package of its kind but certainly appreciable and unique as the PM though having recently taken over is fast delivering on his promises. The whole Kashmiri Muslim society seems equally happy about the idea, who have communally labelled a lot and even sometimes treated responsible for the Pandit exodus, which is however a concocted myth. The fact remains that when the turmoil hit the valley in 1989 and armed conflict started, the law and order literally collapsed and everyone’s life got endangered and the minorities turned doubly vulnerable and left their homes in distress. It is not that Muslims wanted them to leave but lamented their forced migration. Not only Pandits but many Kashmiri Muslims left the valley in panic. Now the home ministry is all set to approve an enhanced package of Rs. 20 lakh (2 million INR) per family for re-construction of their houses in the Valley. The step is undoubtedly a timely and appreciable decision with a human touch. However, the question is about the very design and methodology of the idea of “making the return” after a gap of more than two decades with lots of apprehensions still in the collective psyche. The new rehabilitation plan should not be merely incentive based like the previous plans and packages but top priority must be given to the very question of security and safety of the human lives involved, as the uncertainty has not gone from the valley. Also there has to be a holistic and comprehensive rehabilitation of not only Pandits but all the migrant groups or individuals be that Kashmiri Muslims, Pandits, Sikhs or Christians or others. Even all those need to be amply compensated whose nears and dears lost their lives or turned handicapped during the conflict situation. All those need to be helped whose business got affected due to the armed conflict. Politicising the Pain of Pandits Since Pandits left the valley, their pain and...

Tosa Maidan: Avoiding Triggers in Kashmir

Tosa Maidan: Avoiding Triggers in Kashmir

Syed Ata Hasnain  The Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) land case of 2008 is well outside public memory because Kashmir is always looked at from the ‘crisis to crisis’ point of view. Yet, we have another similar case looming on Kashmir’s landscape as the winter ebbs and spring is upon the Valley in all its finery.No one took the SASB case seriously until it hit us in the face and led to all kinds of incorrect decisions taken in the vacuum of realistic information about the Valley, the aspirations of its people and the propensity for mischief which exists from time to time. This time it is all about a faraway meadow on the very same Pir Panjal range on which exists Gulmarg; the meadow is called Tosa Maidan. It has nothing to do with shrines and gods but this time it is all about the people who live around it and the Army which uses this small tract of ground as a field firing range. Tosa Maidan, as stated before, lies on the Pir Panjal Range South East of Gulmarg. Access to it lies via the same road leading from Srinagar to Gulmarg; the drive has to be diverted from Kunzar towards Beerwah and then to Gogaldhara from where a mountain track(road) maintained by the Army takes you up the winding slopes to one of the most exhilarating landscapes in Kashmir. Since 1964 the area has been leased to the Army and the Air Force for use as a field firing range and the 50 year lease runs out on 18 April 2014. For the less informed on military detail, a field firing range is a tract of ground to be used for live firearms practice depicting battle conditions. Weapons are usually fired at optimum ranges as against the restrictive ranges in cantonments and military stations. Such ranges also provide scope for conduct of restricted tactical maneuvers in realistic settings under battle conditions. All the formations of the Army in the Kashmir Valley are dependent on this tract of land at Tosa Maidan which measures approximately 3000 kanals, to conduct their annual field firing which is a compulsory part of annual training. There is no population which is allowed to reside within the...

Drawdown questions

Drawdown questions

Syed Ata Hasnain  For the US to take its final decisions, it needs to also view the survivability of post-withdrawal Afghanistan. (Reuters) US withdrawal from Afghanistan may not go according to plan. ——————————————————————————————————————————————-   Recent weeks have seen a turn of events in the Middle East that is likely to have  significant effects on the strategic picture emerging in the Af-Pak region specifically and the new Great Game in general. These are being discussed in muted terms in strategic discussions in New Delhi without much clarity or consensus. The sudden upsurge of violence in Iraq, in the Fallujah and Ramadi tribal strongholds, has seen the return of al-Qaeda to seek its place in the sun in areas where it had been effectively neutralised or evicted by US and Iraqi forces. Obviously, with this message to the West about its survivability, al-Qaeda also appears to be spreading itself to gain an expanded footprint in areas beyond Syria, lest its effectiveness be questioned within its rank and file. The expanded footprint in Africa does not satisfy its ambitions and would probably be seen as just a temporary hold out. Fallujah and Ramadi in the Anbar area are symbols of radical resurgence, a message to the world about what could be expected in Afghanistan after the ISAF drawdown and eventual pull-out. How seriously should this be taken by those analysing the post-ISAF scenario in the Af-Pak region? Three aspects impinge on the events in Iraq. One, the internal Shia-Sunni discord within Islam in the Middle East is now reaching serious proportions. The rising power of the Hezbollah and the nascent improvement of US-Iran relations are possibly being viewed as the strengthening of Shia Islam. Two, the failure of the Arab Spring and the hopes it sparked creates a psychological space that needs to be filled. If liberalism could not find place, then its replacement must be the radical ideology of one of the segments of Islam. Three, declining interest of the US in the affairs of the Middle East is leaving Israel freer to pro-actively confront its foes; its power cannot be allowed to proliferate. In the light of these, has al-Qaeda acted prematurely and revealed its...

Interview with Peter Tase – American Journalist

Interview with Peter Tase – American Journalist

Peter Tase is a contributor, freelance journalist and a research scholar of Paraguayan Studies and Latin American Affairs in the United States. He’s a frequent contributor to Foreign Policy News and Eurasia Review. He talks to Adfar Shah-Who is a columnist at South Asian Idea and Analyst World besides some other prominent newspapers in the country on a few socio-economic themes in india.  Author’s Profile : Adfar Shah-who hails from India’s central Kashmir, is presently defending his doctoral dissertation on the theme “Muslim Endowments and Society in Kashmir” at the department of Sociology, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi-India’s reputed central university. He completed his B.Ed, SET and Masters in Sociology, from the University of Kashmir, India. Adfar shuttles between New Delhi and Kashmir, writing on South Asian societies and politics for several prestigious publications like Eurasia Review, Analyst World, South Asian Idea, Countercurrents, Amazons.com, Kashmir Monitor, Kashmir Images, Point Blank 7 and other web portals and newspapers.  Currently he works as a research fellow at SNCWS, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi where he continues to understand the gender question. Besides as a freelancer his core interests are South Asian politics, Kashmir in conflict, Military sociology, Indian Military Apparatus, Af-Pak strain and Muslim identity issues. The author has about 65 academic publications and hundreds of conceptual articles to his credit. His upcoming book titled “The Indian Lens of South Asian Politics” actually his collection of articles on Kashmir, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Middle East, War on terror, etc, is under print at Dictus Publishing House, Germany. The author is of the opinion: Q. How do you envision the US – India Relations and what are the main areas of cooperation between both the countries? Ans.  India and the US have a congruence of interests – liberal democracy, secularism and tolerance for diversity – which drives their relations. The United States of America is still the second largest importer of Indian goods and its economy is linked to India through the globalized economic system. India needs US cooperation in the field of science and technology (to include disaster management, weather forecasting and agricultural research, aviation, machinery and education). India’s diaspora in the US is the largest segment of Indians outside India,...

Blindfold in Bangladesh: Western Democracies’ Support to Islamic Forces

Blindfold in Bangladesh: Western Democracies’ Support to Islamic Forces

RAJIV KUMAR I just recently learnt about the lack of response from the majority of the Western countries to the recent electoral outcome in Bangladesh.  In a meeting with a senior Japanese diplomat, I found out that Japan had wisely decided to break the ranks of developed democracies to write a congratulatory letter to Sheikh  Hasina on her electoral victory. India had of course conveyed its support and good wishes to the prime minister immediately after the results were declared. And Pakistan for obvious reasons has not done that so far. Several ASEAN countries have acknowledged the Awami League victory but not whole heartedly supported it. The reason given for this lack of recognition of Sheikh Hasina’s electoral success is the boycott by the main opposition party, the BNP, led by Begum Khalida Zia. It is clear that the elections followed the constitutional provisions and process and BNP chose to boycott the elections at its own risk. The stand taken by the US and its European allies along with others like Pakistan is that an election boycotted by the largest opposition party does not measure up to the global democratic benchmarks. According to them, Sheikh Hasina does not command sufficient legitimacy to deserve to be congratulated on her victory. This is  a bogus stand and one which demonstrates lack of understanding of the complex realities of South Asia. To couch it in high moral rhetoric does not hide the fact that western powers completely fail to understand the dangers posed by a fundamentalist political Islam in South Asia and other parts of the world. Also it reveals dangerous inconsistency on their part as they condone and connive with the dismissal of Mohammed Morsi in Egypt while calling for a re-election in Bangladesh. This is despite the fact that Begum Zia derives her principal support from the Jamait- e Islami and other more fundamentalist Islamic groups in Bangladesh. It will do a lot of good for Americans and Europeans to realise the Sheikh Hasina has been fighting their  war against the ‘Islamisation’ of Bangladesh society. By this I do not for a minute mean that the people of Bangladesh or for that matter any other...

A Matter Of Honour

A Matter Of Honour

SYED ATA HASNAIN Some years ago I was commanding a Division in Kashmir. One morning I received a call from a senior staff officer at the Command HQ at Udhampur that the Army Commander was upset at the string of non-battle casualties in my formation; two suicides, a vehicle accident, a weapon lost in a training exercise, two jawans dead because of avalanches etc. I stated to the officer that none of these incidents were under my direct control; that while I was morally responsible physical responsibility did not rest with me. I was, however, willing to be removed from command if it pleased my superiors and sent an appropriate message to the command chain. I never heard of the issue again. However, in the wake of Admiral DK Joshi’s resignation as the Naval Chief all this came rushing back into the mental hard disc. The issue is one of physical versus moral responsibility. Let me start by stating unequivocally that Admiral Joshi is one of India’s finest scholar sailors, a gentleman to the hilt, a man of great virtue and someone who carries the stamp of being a professional to the core. Therefore my heart bleeds to see such a man go. No doubt he has raised the level of honor by many notches for all three Services by his act of resignation taking full moral responsibility for the string of accidents which have occurred in the Navy in the last few months, the one with the INS Sindhuratna being the latest. The morning blogs and papers are full of the necessity of some others also taking the rap for the failures, primarily the bureaucracy and the political level too. It actually boils down to the difference between the moral and physical responsibility, the issue I raised at the beginning of this piece. Who is responsible for what? Obviously there is nothing black and white about this. Are the numerous crashes of Migs the responsibility of the Air Chief, the AOCs, the Air Force Station Commanders or the Squadron Commanders; not easy to peg. Whose responsibility is the series of negative incidents on the LoC? The failure to provide sufficient intelligence to prevent...

Understanding The Virtual Edge

Understanding The Virtual Edge

Adfar Shah Prelude This age is the age of telecommunication, an era of android/blackberry sensation and other advanced electronic forms of communication. This is the time of new contact practices across the cultures and boundaries where social networking, connecting even to unknown people not for any particular significant purpose/reason but for pleasure seeking and leisure enjoyment, is the order of the day. Today the Internet is acting as the basic medium for interpersonal relationships that have merely got reduced to electronic conversations, especially the youth. This conceptual paper takes a dig at the psycho-social aspect of the virtual relationship that still remains a least described aspect of social relations in the contemporary era. The article also discusses how the virtual intimacy trend has changed the frequency and content of the entire communication ethos  in the contemporary times. Introduction The Internet has become a popular medium for forming interpersonal relationships. Not only are people developing cyber friendships, but some move beyond virtual communication and interact more directly through telephonic contact and face-to-face encounters (McCown, et al. 2001). Relations where people are not actually present but communicate or interact exclusively via internet, mobile phones or other communication devices, are termed as virtual relationships. Such bonds can be simply understood as e-relations in the present-day communication scenario. Literally, virtual relationships are temporary relations where bonds develop out of a constant contact with strangers via social networking sites, dating or matrimonial sites, constant phone calls, chatting and texting, etc. However, it can be safely argued that such relations can turn to actual relationships as well. For instance, intimacy developed through the virtual media like chatting or connecting through social networking, can actually lead to  romantic relationships and lasting friendships. The Pros and Cons of Virtual Relationships  Despite a number of difficulties, the virtual environment is perceived as a safer environment for sharing intimate information. In the domain of Sociology, such a trend can be analyzed as the emergent social change in the living, leisure and communication patterns of  people across the globe. Vybíral and colleagues (2004), argue that adolescents get involved in such relationships because it offers them a space in which they find support, interest and a certain form...

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