1

Anticipated Outcomes of OIC meeting in Pakistan

Overview:

During the past time, Pakistan remarkably has hosted a number of major Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) events. Last year in December 2021, Pakistan held an extraordinary 17th session of OIC exclusively on Afghanistan. This year, Pakistan will again host OIC’s 48th session of Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) on 22-23 March, in Islamabad and that is a matter of great honor. For the particular session, Pakistani officials have confirmed the participation of the 48 Muslim countries’ foreign ministers until now. The Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi has been invited for the event as a “guest of honor”. Apart from that, a high-level Russian delegation would also take part in it. The meeting will be coinciding with the celebrations of Pakistan’s 75th Independence anniversary and the ministers will attend the 23rd March Pakistan Day parade.

Theme of the Meeting:

The session will be conducted under the theme of “Building partnerships for Unity, Justice and Development”. The General Secretariat will address the implementation of activities, projects and resolutions adopted on different issues in the Islamic world including Kashmir and Palestine. In addition, issues of Islamophobia, terrorism as well as developments in Afghanistan and its humanitarian consequences for the Afghan people will be the important part of meeting’s agenda. Cooperation issues with international community, specifically the United States, the Russian federation and the European Union will be discussed while considering the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis.

Prospects:

As the host country, Pakistan seeks to foster unity among OIC members, advance the cause of justice for Muslims, and accomplish the mutually reinforcing goals of prosperity and development for all OIC members. Right now, the majority conflicts in the world including Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Palestine and other regions depict that Muslim communities are at high risk, which implies the urgency of OIC’s function and position more crucial than ever. Issues such as peace, security, economic development, cultural and scientific collaboration and the role of the OIC will be discussed. Over the last few years, the organization’s activities particularly in relation to Kashmir and Palestine have received notable attention. The forthcoming CFM will be a great chance for member states to establish a common ground that will help to build ‘partnership’ and work as a bridge to address the variety of challenges that Muslim Ummah is facing. In OIC, Pakistan has taken a leadership role for countering Islamophobia which resulted in a good conclusion. On March 15th, United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution that was introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. In the imminent meeting, OIC will focus on Islamophobia and associated aspects such as hate speech, discrimination, intolerance and negative stereotyping against Muslims. This time OIC would be a significant platform and a voice for Muslim countries regarding their concerns that are needed to be heard in the international arena.

Kashmir will be the part of extensive agenda, ahead of the 48th session; Pakistan has drafted a resolution seeking adoption with the goal of directing its anti-India rhetoric at Kashmir. Hurriyat Conference members are also invited at the conference that will highlight the humanitarian challenges and will remind the world to look upon the stance of Kashmiris. The last OIC’s summit which held in Pakistan, ended with the establishment of the OIC-led Humanitarian Trust Fund for Afghanistan to channel aid, as well as the designation of the OIC Secretary General’s Special Envoy to work alongside the UN in the war-torn country. Moreover, the members will review the previous decisions on Afghanistan in this session.

In the view of contemporary challenges, OIC will be a unified voice not only for member countries but for the Muslims around the world. The world is going through difficult times and experiencing a renewed cold war due to Ukraine crisis. Therefore, the upcoming meeting holds importance for Pakistan along with other members in this regard. The OIC meeting will have the opportunity to examine increasing threats and the options available for the Islamic world to deal with the ongoing issues. Also, it will provide an opportunity to build a common attitude in attaining peace and stability at regional and global level.


Pakistan is looking forward for a productive session and has become a center stage of attention. Its efforts as well as contributions are being acknowledged and appreciated by the member countries. In the following event, brotherhood and unity which are also core Islamic values will be portrayed and this will create an image of cooperation and strong bonding of Muslim states worldwide.




Role of Digital Media in Projecting Kashmir Issue

We are living in the digital era where media is playing a prominent role in our daily lives from individual to statecraft. Media has its own atmosphere which impacts on human minds. So, in that realm of the digital world, we cannot ignore the presence of digital media and its influence in politics.

Digital media is the main source of information from common to upper classes, when states and regimes controlling the flow of information. According to data provided by “Our World”, it is estimated that one in three people uses social media worldwide, more than 2.3 billion people out of seven billion use the social media to access information. The use of social media for manipulation is commonly increasing in different parts of the world which is quite evident. Many political and non-state actors use social media to proliferate their ideologies in general population. Their activities range from disinformation campaigns to rumors over transit options and hate speech around different groups. Social media is leading to overloaded distrust information, critical gaps as well as confusion over news and information.

In the context of conflicted areas, social activists, international organizations, independent news agencies use social media as a weapon to report human rights violation.  State organized violence and mass killing highlights the stories of oppressed ones. In the region of Kashmir which is disputed territory between India and Pakistan. The social media have played an effective role during recent mass mobilization for “right to self-determination”. Indian administration imposed some serious censorship over digital and main stream media to cover up the human rights violations in the valley. Social media activism is posing a major challenge to the Indian state in Kashmir; most people are tending towards use of soft-power to empower their cause of right to self-determination.

Ground realities from conflicted area portrayed through digital media has helped international organizations, NGO’s and government institutions to pressurize the Indian occupation forces to stop violence. Frequent internet bans in Kashmir territory have been widely criticized by international organizations like UNO and Amnesty International. Many political analysts across the world as an arbitrary act to sabotage dissent and to serve as a form of ‘collective punishment’ for Kashmiri people in the region.

After the killing of Burhan Wani, a young social media activist with a fundamental ideological approach towards Kashmir movement, by Indian Armed forces inspired a whole generation of young people to raise their voices against Indian government and their atrocities in the region. This particular event and Burhan has become a symbol of both the youthful defiance on streets and the oppression of the Indian security forces by using Camera and Gun at the same time.

On August 5, 2019, India abrogated Article 370 and 35 A, which further more destabilized the valley of Kashmir. When the Indian government scrapped the region’s semi-autonomous status, and declared Kashmir as part of Indian union territory against all international and bilateral agreement with Pakistan, this created the political instability in the region and people started chanting on the streets against the unlawful act by the Indian Administration. In response to that, Indian authorities imposed a sweeping communication and internet shutdown in the region. The internet shut down continued for months, the longest internet suspension that took place in a democracy. According to an international organization “Access Now”, social media giants like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube joined hands with Indian government to remove the content related to Kashmir, which is projecting the freedom struggle of Kashmiri people.  Kashmiri voices in the digital spaces through the frequent suspension of the accounts of artists, academics, and journalists based in and outside the disputed region, a move termed by experts as “inacceptable in free world”.  Geeta Seshu, co-founder of Free Speech Collective group stated that, “Successive governments have censored and silenced voices of dissent in Kashmir for decades now but when social media companies do so too, it becomes all the more reprehensible.”

Kashmiri activists and artists came with new ideas to cope up with this situation and initiated campaigns using the instrument of Music, Culture and Poetry to support Kashmiris against the oppression of India.  On September 20th 2019, Kashmiri artists, highlighted the theme of “Resist to Exist” with the collaboration from British-Kashmiri artist Sumaya Teli and Kashmiri-American artist, Nouf Bazaz. Through the collaboration of artists, the event shared stories of the Kashmiri struggle against Indian occupation and militarization and for the right to Kashmiri self-determination. It went viral in different parts of the world, and help youth to understand the Kashmir situation and Indian mistreatment of Kashmiri people. In the recent six to seven years, we have seen, how digital media revolutionized the Kashmir Conflict and created the environment where young researchers and activists can access the information to understand the conflict and to advocate the worth of freedom for the next generations.




Hybrid Cold War in South Asia: The Status of Potential Conflict

Considering India’s growing hegemonic ambitions along with the regional countries having to ultimately bear the brunt of it, it is highly important to offset the hybrid cold war at play – all in order to maintain regional peace and stability.

The economic and strategic competition between China and the United States on the one hand, India-China and Pakistan-India on the other, has brought the entire South Asia on the verge of a hybrid cold war. This hybrid model combines psychological warfare, information operations1, fake news, sanctions regime and redeployment of military and strategic resources in the South China Sea. India’s continuous struggle with its internal strife and desire to recalibrate the balance of power in South Asia has also created multiple scenarios for potential conflicts. Ultimately, trade dispute2 between the U.S.-China, India-China border conflict and the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) issue between Pakistan-India may overshadow the regional peace and stability. The increasing partnership between Russia and China has also constrained India’s strategic posturing, and its relations with the U.S. and NATO members are being tested for a credible partnership. 
India’s role with regard to the containment of China3 is enhanced by the U.S.’ granting them access to sensitive intelligence and thereby opening up several battlespaces including cyber warfare and modernizing India’s space and missile defence system. The other key aspect of the hybrid Cold War is coercive international diplomacy towards Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran, which further poses the risk of conflict both in the South China Sea4 and in the wider South Asian region. The “rising China” factor is also considered a serious challenge to the U.S.-led “West-based international economic and security order”, which in some ways is aimed at strengthening India’s regional and international role driven by resources and power transition into the Asian Century. 

Why is India Fearful of China’s Economic Power?
The argument in service of the containment of China flows from the expansion of its strategic influence through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), corresponding with its growing economic and military might. The China-Russia collaboration in dealing with the U.S. at numerous international organizations has also created remarkable diplomatic difficulties for the U.S. and India. For the U.S. and NATO member states, preserving the post-World War II international security order is crucial and being perceived as a key to dominate the South Asian region. For India, the paradigm shift in the Chinese approach to defend its entities in the South China Sea and beyond has already been transforming a “new cold war” into a “hybrid cold war”. The procurement of enormous military hardware including the Rafale fighter jets by India is being perceived as a serious threat to China and Pakistan and hence, a caution of a low-medium intensity conflict exists. China has now openly warned the U.S. not to interfere in the South China Sea, and that India should not become an active part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) – an emerging military alliance led by the U.S., Australia, India and Japan. 
The U.S. and its allies’ “China containment” policy alludes to a conflict that has implications for the rights of coastal states, international law and conflict risks in engaging India and Pakistan. India’s China centric policy has also become a diplomatic obligation for the U.S. because a balanced U.S. foreign policy in South Asia appears to be the only way out of the current U.S.-China conundrum. Instead of working with Pakistan and periphery states (e.g., Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka), India has preferred intervening in the internal affairs of periphery countries and seeking to remotely control the regional order. The character of potential conflict in South Asia therefore is linked with preventing China’s economic rise and keeping the periphery countries instable and maintaining social chaos, a glaring aspect of prevailing hybrid Cold War. 
Ostensibly, the Taliban’s control over Afghanistan has significantly upset the Indian strategic plans. Vikas Panday, in an article for BBC titled Afghanistan: The Taliban’s Victory will Test India said, “The Taliban’s rout is likely to cause a significant shift in the geopolitics of South Asia, and it could be particularly testing for India, given the country’s historically tense relations and border disputes with Pakistan and China – both are expected to play a crucial role in Afghanistan’s future”… This potential geopolitical realignment could “change things upside down”, said Gautam Mukhopadhaya, India’s former Ambassador to Afghanistan and Syria. Afghanistan was a loose alliance between the democratic government in Kabul, the West, and other democracies like India. But the world is likely to see Pakistan, Russia, Iran and China coming together to play the next chapter”.5
Assessment and Implications
The prevailing rhetorical media and diplomatic environment between Pakistan and India has almost made it impossible to craft a new strategy that supports international peace efforts in Afghanistan. It is assessed that India is pursuing offensive intelligence operations and sponsoring syndicates of terrorist organizations inside Afghanistan, and there seems to be an implicit appetite among the other stakeholders to complement such operational designs. 
Consequently, there seems to be no near-term prospect of the resolution of Kashmir dispute and in practice, India is idealising a replay of a civil war in Afghanistan. This scenario is realistic because it favors India in at least two main sectors: a) If instability grips Afghanistan and a flux of refugees and border related security issues keep Pakistan engaged on the Western border, thereby constrains on Pakistan’s military would continue to undermine its focus on the Eastern side, and; b) If China and Russia also fail to evolve a joint strategy to partner up and support stabilizing Afghanistan, it would directly place India by creating strategic depth in the wider region. 
In practice, Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran can play a leading role to garner support to avert any future conflict that might hamper peace in Afghanistan. By all accounts, hosting the 17th OIC Emergency Conference (December 18-21, 2021) on the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, Pakistan has remarkably led the path to create a trust fund under the auspices of the Islamic Development Fund, and thus laid the foundation of a more structured and integrated effort to resolve the emerging challenges in the region. 
There is also a growing appetite to hold and sustain low-intensity conflicts by India, thus the status of potential local/regional conflicts can serve as catalysts when and if the U.S. and its western allies embark on raising strategic stakes in South Asia. This fact should not preclude China-India, Pakistan-India and U.S.-China to make cooperative arrangements and provide diplomatic mechanisms to establish regional peace and stability in South Asia. The joint ventures, and conducting joint scientific research to protect the environment and apportioning of financial resources, would become countermeasures against India’s offensive plans to sustain its intervention in periphery countries, and delay a peaceful resolution of the IIOJK issue. 
The reality, however, is that the U.S. is determined to undermine China’s economic influence in the form of BRI, although many Asian countries are convinced and making necessary compromises with regard to China’s legitimate international role.


The joint ventures, and conducting joint scientific research to protect the environment and apportioning of financial resources, would become countermeasures against India’s offensive plans to sustain its intervention in periphery countries, and delay a peaceful resolution of the IIOJK issue. 


Why Does South Asia Matter to the U.S. and the West? 
An analysis of a hybrid Cold War should start with the description of potential status of the conflict in the realm of regional security between China-India, Pakistan-India and the U.S. and China. There is no doubt that India is exerting security pressure on China and Pakistan by employing fake news, offensive intelligence operations, information warfare, propaganda, and politicizing the FATF’s outcome. India in particular has based its future strategy on a “zero-sum” approach toward IIOJK and promoting Western strategic depth against China. The other aspect that deserves serious attention is India’s infiltration into the bureaucratic sphere, multinational companies, political and policy making quarters. The ensuing analysis reveals that one of the main purposes of India’s actions is to spread false information against Pakistan and China. This pressure tactic has serious consequences in terms of Pakistan-U.S. and China-U.S. relations. A potential outbreak of a low-medium armed conflict is a crucial part of India’s coercive diplomacy and blackmail strategy. 
In general, South Asia’s hybrid Cold War may engulf the U.S. and Western nations, especially including their real political and military resources. The potential conflicts entail three risk scenarios: a subliminal conflict, limited and low-medium warfare, and unlimited warfare – the use of nuclear weapons cannot be ruled out due to the significant disparity present between different armies (i.e., larger vs. smaller armies and comprehensive modernization of the weapon systems).
China’s economic and security assertiveness in the South and beyond feeds the U.S. and its allies’ perceptions of a revisionist challenge to what it considers as the “economic security-based international strategic order”. China’s BRI is clearly objected and opposed by the U.S. and the West in general. The U.S. and West should refrain from creating further economic and military tensions and must comply with the doctrine of reducing friction through dialogue, agreements and a non-interventionist policy regime to prevent and clarify red lines that may cause a wider conflict.
Afghanistan Post-withdrawal and Peace Conundrum 
In the backdrop of the December 2021 OIC conference on Afghanistan in Islamabad, it is clearly described that the post-U.S. and NATO Afghanistan is rather facing significant humanitarian challenges6. Multiple risks and opportunities exist while the new Taliban government is grappling with economic, security and humanitarian crises. It is assessed that regional countries, especially Russia, China and Pakistan, are helping to stabilize Afghanistan. One of the main challenges is the continued attacks by the ISIS-K7 on the innocent civilians, together with the serious humanitarian crisis, refugee issue, and lack of international support to Taliban government. As a result, two interconnected instability factors are causing further uncertainty: a) The West, especially the U.S., is not releasing the frozen funds of the Afghan government, and demonstrating less real interest in addressing the economic and humanitarian issues that the Afghan people are facing; b) There is a need for a collective mechanism of major states to recognize the Taliban and engage them to address the issue of including other ethnic political groups in major government slots. Moreover, a joint mechanism of cooperation between Pakistan, China, Russia, Iran and other regional countries would add value and credibility to resolve the short and long-term challenges that the Afghan people have been facing. 


There is no doubt that India is exerting security pressure on China and Pakistan by employing fake news, offensive intelligence operations, information warfare, propaganda, and politicizing the FATF’s outcome. 


One of the main purposes of India’s actions is to spread false information against Pakistan and China. This pressure tactic has serious consequences in terms of Pakistan-U.S. and China-U.S. relations. A potential outbreak of a low-medium armed conflict is a crucial part of India’s coercive diplomacy and blackmail strategy. 


The past decade has transformed the Asian region significantly into one of the most volatile parts of the world where local/regional conflicts could potentially engage major powers (especially the U.S. and its Western allies), and the risk of a major war is real. The fact is that political confrontation involving military measures is a crucial part of hybrid Cold War. Current confrontation involves specific elements of the Cold War such as an economic and ideological clash (e.g., the RSS, right-wing white supremacists and opposition to China’s BRI). 
It is also assessed that India’s desire to “play a double hand”8 both with the Eastern and Western blocs has changed the political psyche of periphery countries including Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and these nations see an engagement with China as prevaricate against Indian dominance. “During the Cold War in the 20th century, the military factors (nuclear in particular) were dominating the non-military factors, however, the latter (especially the economy) were decisive in determining the outcome of the conflict. In the case of contemporary political confrontations, the relation between military and non-military factors is much more balanced and none of them is decisive. These circumstances are extremely varied, therefore, the confrontation can be perceived as a hybrid conflict. Consequently, the term ‘hybrid cold war’ seems to be appropriate to describe the current state of international security affairs”.9
It is necessary to undertake comprehensive counter diplomatic and economic measures to neutralize the threat of a hybrid cold war, and advocate against India’s false assumptions of dominating South Asia. The most important elements concerning India relates to all outstanding issues including the IIOJK, and is based on three important elements: dialogue regarding the current state of affairs in the IIOJK; mantra of surgical attacks and misadventures; threats of military operations other than war; as well as nuclear deterrence and defence against potential ground aggression.
Pakistan and China, on the other hand, are frontline emerging states against and the historical military alliances, therefore, they are more vulnerable to India and its allies’ aggressive (particularly low-threshold warfare) and diplomatic coercion. The victor and defeat in this confrontation would mean losing peace and consequently an end of the current balance of power in South Asia which would have a significant impact on the global economy and security. To sustain durable peace, it is necessary to introduce two elements of cooperation and joint mechanism: initiation of immediate dialogue between Pakistan-India and China-India; and non-deployment of any high and ready military forces by India and NATO in the South China Sea and in close proximity of the border with Pakistan.
It is important to develop capabilities against India’s political influences and infiltration into the U.S. and Western bureaucratic and political quarters, and mitigate the risks posed by its current political and military pressure, particularly information warfare, propaganda and cyber operations. Therefore, it is crucial to create foolproof information security systems including cyber security systems. 
The defence against low-threshold warfare should be guaranteed by the U.S. and NATO member countries within their international peace and security framework. This matter is extremely important due to the risks related to difficulties with consensus decisionmaking process under the RSS-BJP government of India.
From Pakistan’s perspective, the status of a potential conflict with India is based on the non-resolution of IIOJK issue and India’s desire to push the nuclear threshold. Therefore, the most efficient response to India’s threat is to strengthen our credibility of nuclear strike capabilities as an answer to India’s advantage in comprehensive modernization10 of its military, navy and army and of course nuclear weapons. India must be aware that crossing the threshold of nuclear conflict with Pakistan and China will entail the threat of nuclear war in South Asia on all levels, not only the tactical one.


 


1    https://pulaski.pl/en/hybrid-cold-war-in-europe/
2    https://www.fitchsolutions.com/long-reads/white-paper/china-west-tensions-global-economy-failing-confront-risks?utm_campaign 
3    https://www.scmp.com/comment/opinion/article/3148666/india-aligns-itself-west-it-entering-cold-war-china 
4    https://impakter.com/us-china-conflic-south-china-sea/ 
5    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-58240301
6    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/12/19/islamic-countries-hold-meeting-to-discuss-aid-to-afghanistan 
7    https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/isis-k-resurgence 
8    https://eurasiantimes.com/india-china-russia-us/
9    https://pulaski.pl/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Pulaski_Policy_Papers_Nr_14_16-1.pdf
10  https://www.dw.com/en/india-seeks-to-reform-its-military-amid-new-security-threats/a-58687337




Pakistan and Oman take part in Naval Drills in North Arabian Sea

Oman is the nearest Arab country to Pakistan, because of this, they both share a maritime boundary with each other. Pakistan and Oman cooperate in diverse sectors to enhance the bilateral economic, military and trade relations. Pakistan and Oman share common interests in ensuring maritime security and free flow of commerce through the region. Accordingly, navies of the two countries have been cooperating on a wide range of issues in maritime domain. Both navies have been regularly participating in Maritime Security Operations at sea. In the area of human resource, PN is providing officers and men on deputation to Omani Navy to support RNO in fulfilling its maritime and naval obligations. The two navies have also been closely collaborating in the field of training of respective officers and men.

This year The Pakistan Navy and Royal Navy of Oman (RNO) participated in the naval exercise ‘Thamar Al Tayyib 2021’ (TAT-21) in the North Arabian Sea. The exercise conducted in Pakistani territorial waters from December 13-18 included the participation of surface and air units, besides special operations forces from both navies. The Omani Navy Task Group comprised RNO ships Al Dhaferah and Al Seeb. Maritime patrol aircraft of Royal Air Force of Oman also participated in the exercise. The sea phase of the exercise comprised counter-terrorism, anti-air and anti-surface warfare operations with an overall aim to curb illicit activities at sea. Exercises between the two navies have regularly been conducted since 1990. The last exercise in the TAT series was conducted in Oman waters in 2019. During the harbour phase of the exercise, operational and tactical-level discussions and pre-exercise conferences were conducted. The sea phase of the exercise included counter-terrorism training, anti-air and anti-surface warfare operations with a focus on curbing illicit activities at sea, according to the official statement. Gwadar Port and Salalah Port can be used to create efficient communication channels between the two countries because both ports possess excellent infrastructure and other facilities.  Regular conduct of bilateral naval exercise between the Pakistan Navy and the Royal Navy of Oman are indicative of long-standing brotherly relations between the two countries in general and both navies in particular.




The Houthis, Saudi Arabia and the War in Yemen

The Houthis have a complex relationship with Yemen’s Sunni Muslims. The movement has discriminated against Sunnis, but also recruited and allied with them. Under the leadership of Hussein Badreddin al-Houthis, the group emerged as an opposition to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, whom they charged with massive financial corruption and criticized for being backed by Saudi Arabia and the United States.

The Houthi movement attracts its Zaidi-Shia followers in Yemen by promoting regional political-religious issues in its media, including the overarching U.S.  Israeli conspiracy theory and Arab “collusion”. In 2003, the Houthis’ raised a slogan, “God is great, death to the U.S, death to Israel, curse the Jews, and victory for Islam”, and it became the group’s trademark. Houthis officials, however, have rejected the literal interpretation of the slogan. Iran is widely accused of backing the Houthis, a Zaydi Shiite movement that has been fighting Yemen’s Sunni-majority government since 2004. The Houthis took control of the Yemeni capital Sanaa in September 2014 and continued on towards Aden, Yemen’s largest city. In response to Houthi advances, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states launched a military campaign in March 2015.

Recently, The Houthi armed group has fired artillery and ballistic missiles indiscriminately into populated areas of Yemen’s Marib governorate resulting in civilian casualties, including women and children, and causing a new wave of civilian displacement. And now Houthi rebel attack on the Saudi Arabian town of Jizan resulted in two casualties and seven injured. The Houthi–Saudi Arabian conflict is an ongoing armed conflict between the Royal Saudi Armed Forces and Yemeni Houthi forces that has been taking place in the Arabian Peninsula, including the southern Saudi regions of Asir, Jizan, and Najran, and northern Yemeni governorates of Saada, Al Jawf, and Hajjah since the onset of the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen in 2015. On December 7, 2021, Reuters reported that the Saudi-led coalition bombed military targets in the capital Sanaa after the Iran-aligned Houthis launched ballistic missiles and armed drones into Saudi Arabia.

What is happening in the conflict now?

As the war has dragged on, Houthis have stepped up the boldness of their attacks on Saudi Arabia. Using drones and missiles, the Houthis have launched attacks on Saudi airports, oil facilities and military sites.

While Houthi attacks have failed to cause massive devastation, they have been enough to rattle global oil markets. Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia have more than doubled this year compared to last year. CSIS records 78 Houthi attacks per month this year on Saudi Arabia, compared with 38 a month in 2020.

In Yemen, there is much criticism of the Saudi-led coalition’s attacks for targeting civilians in one of the world’s poorest countries. More than 80% of the population of 30 million requires food assistance. Estimates on the number of fatalities caused by the conflict vary widely, though at least some 130,000 have been killed over the course of the conflict. By contrast, the UN estimates the conflict will have claimed 377,000 by the end of the year, both through the direct and indirect consequences of war, such as disease and starvation.




OIC and Afghanistan: The way forward

OIC and Afghanistan: The way forward

 

By Shaista Riaz, Research Associate Pakistan House

 

The aftermath of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan has left significant gaps in the economic development of Afghanistan. The global response to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan remained distorted while Pakistan and China came forward to strengthen its ties with Afghanistan, in hopes to stabilise the country. Recently, an important step in the form of a coordinated response has been taken by the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) to avoid further damage in the country. After 24 years, Pakistan hosted another OIC meeting, this time of Foreign Ministers rather than heads of state, to address the looming situation in Afghanistan. The historic event, convened by Saudi Arabia as OIC chair was attended by 70 delegates who discussed the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.

 

Afghanistan’s economy is rapidly collapsing because under the last government, 75% of expenditure came from foreign grants. However, all that evaporated with the Taliban takeover. The Taliban realise that the West needs to lift sanctions and aid agencies need to return back to tackle the humanitarian crisis. Therefore, in the OIC meeting Pakistan proposed a six-point plan to solve Afghanistan’s woes. Foreign Minister of Pakistan addressed that the six points would entail coordinating aid, expanding investment, assisting with the reconstruction of Afghan institutions, and deploying technical experts to oversee the economy. US Special Representative for Afghanistan Tom West, who attended the meeting, has stated his commitment to cooperate with humanitarian organisations in the nation to find ways to distribute aid. Moreover, Qureshi proposed the establishment of an expert group of the OIC and UN officials to revive the banking sector in Afghanistan that collapsed after the Taliban took over Kabul. As a result, a humanitarian trust fund has been established in Islamic Development bank and Saudi Arabia has declared 1 billion Riyal for Afghanistan’s humanitarian assistance. However, it was stressed that humanitarian aid alone is not sufficient to support Afghanistan, therefore, the financial systems in the country should be restored with the help of the Western countries.

Additionally, the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Mr Hissein Brahim Taha, announced the appointment of Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian, Cultural and Social Affairs Ambassador Tariq Ali Bakheet as his Special Envoy on Afghanistan to follow up on the implementation of the resolution of the Council of Foreign Ministers, particularly as regards to coordinating efforts for the supply of humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people. However, it can be argued that a political figure instead of a bureaucratic one as a representative for Afghanistan could push the agenda more significantly.

This OIC summit should provide a ray of optimism not only for the region but also for the organization. It can aim to re-establish the institution’s relevance by resolving the current situation. Without any ifs and buts, all Muslim countries should band together to assist their brothers and sisters in Afghanistan. This is an excellent opportunity to do so, given the debacle in Afghanistan benefits no one. Moreover, the involvement of OIC delegates in this meeting also signifies the growing concern for the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and the joint involvement to support development in Afghanistan can become the common cause between regional leaders to strengthen strategic ties. However, there is still a lack of consensus in OIC because there are some countries like Tajikistan that still have not shown the desire to engage with the Taliban.

Moving forward, the OIC members plan to meet again in Islamabad after three months for their annual OIC summit, to report on the progress made in Afghanistan. However, the progress on the part of Taliban in terms of forming a representative government holds significance as well.




China’s Interests in Afghanistan: Post U.S. Military Withdrawal

By Zara Qurban

Since the withdrawal of the U.S. troops and its European allies after decades of war in April 2021, Afghanistan is entangled in the wickedest kind of security. Afghanistan’s commandeering by the Taliban after the U.S. military withdrawal has presented the regional States with many new emerging challenges. An abrupt withdrawal of the U.S. military from Afghanistan has created a huge power vacuum and neighboring States are extending helping hands to avert the possible fall of Afghanistan.
Countries such as Pakistan, Russia, India, Iran and Turkey have their own grounds to intervene but now the global are on China including re-evaluating its persistent ‘non-interference’ policy. China was against the invasion of the U.S. military and also opposed the abrupt withdrawal stating that it will leave Afghanistan in mayhem. China’s Foreign Ministry said “the recent abrupt U.S. announcement of complete withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan has led to a succession of explosive attacks throughout the country, worsening the security situation and threatening peace and stability as well as people’s life and safety.”
Many spectators are considering the exchange of dialogues between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and the Taliban leaders an attempt by China to exert more influence in the region. But, China does not look at Afghanistan from the lens of prospects, the Chinese influence and involvement, especially after the U.S. military withdrawal, is all about the management of threats. Another observation entails that Chinese political and economic interest in Afghanistan revolve around the wariness of Afghanistan becoming a safe haven for militant groups targeting China like the last time Taliban were in power.
Though Mullah Baradar and Wang Yi in Tianjin have been in contact for decades, the Taliban’s ideological agenda does not fit well with China. Andrew Small, Associate Senior Policy Fellow, states, “China certainly has substantial commercial and economic interests in the wider region, but they are minimal in Afghanistan itself. Its major investments there, the Aynak copper mine and the Amu Darya energy projects, have been in stasis for many years. There have been numerous discussions about Afghanistan’s involvement in the Belt and Road Initiative, including connections to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, but Beijing’s view has been that, in Afghanistan, stability has to precede serious new economic commitments.” Other than copper, Afghanistan has untouched mines of minerals such as cobalt, iron, mercury and lithium which are estimated to the value of about $1 trillion.
In order to maintain better political and economic relations with Afghanistan, China offered to rebuild the infrastructure “by funneling funds directly to the group through Pakistan.” As a result to continuous exchange of dialogues and China’s commitment of support in Afghanistan, the spokesman for the Taliban Political Office in Qatar established that they recognize China “as a friend of Afghanistan”, he also stated that Taliban and Afghanistan will no longer provide refuge or safe haven to Muslim Uyghurs. On one occasion the Chinese foreign minister said that Taliban are expected “to play an important role in the progress of peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan.”
China’s policy towards Afghanistan is primarily based on the security implications resulting from the U.S. and Taliban peace agreement, which China believes in not going in the right direction. The disturbances, instability and radicalization will eventually seep through the borders into China. As per the researchers based in Afghanistan, “through military assistance, China helped Kabul build its military mountain brigade in the Wakhan Corridor near Afghanistan’s northern Badakhshan province with the primary goal of preventing infiltration by the Islamic State into China.” It is believed that Beijing will keep close bilateral ties with Afghanistan in order to tightly manage any spill over into China by engaging all its diplomatic energies because it fears that the success of Taliban might encourage militant groups to carry out terror activities. If the security situation becomes better in Afghanistan, China is likely to go forward with more investment plans and programs but it will be very cautious.










Analyzing Persecutions of Muslims in Pseudo Democratic India

It is not the first time that Hindu mobs carrying pickaxes and iron rods hurled rocks at Muslims and other minorities. Delhi has seen one of the worst violence in the name of religion. The violence sparked in New Delhi after the first visit of President Donald Trump. The sit-ins and the protests started two months back after the Indian Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) changing the Citizen Amendment Act of 1955 that provoked peaceful protests by people from different backgrounds including students from different universities. However, analyzing the response of the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) it has been very aggressive as the violence has devastating religious overtones destroying mosques and targeting Muslim majority with gasoline bombs. Moreover, India’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been criticized for not acting on time.

Citizenship Amendment Bill has been passed by Indian parliament which offers amnesty to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from three neighboring countries. The bill provides citizenship to religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), says this will give asylum to people fleeing religious oppression. The CAB amends the 64-year-old Indian Citizenship law, which currently prohibits illegal migrants from becoming Indian citizens. It defines illegal immigrants as foreigners who enter India without a valid passport or travel documents, or stay beyond the permitted time. Illegal immigrants can be deported or jailed. The new bill also amends a provision which says a person must have lived in India or worked for the federal government for at least 11 years before they can apply for citizenship. Opponents of the bill say it is exclusionary and violates the secular principles enshrined in the constitution. They say faith cannot be made a condition of citizenship.

Delhi has become the center of the worst communal violence and the bill is said to be one of the most consequential action of the Modi government. People have seen a big part of Delhi burning and it has been said that what was a completely peaceful protest has been deliberately, in a planned way sought to be converted into a communal issue. The authorities claim that security has been deployed but this seems unlikely to be the end and the repercussions of what has happened are likely to affect all of India. It is clear that this bill has been passed to delegitimize the Muslim citizenship. It is a state sponsored terrorism as the police kept its silence against the rioters. The government have failed to curb the violence. Moreover, the current situation is a clear depiction of clashes of 2002 Gujrat Riots. The BJP government have been trying to use the religious criteria for the citizenship. However, as per human rights experts and political analysts the CAA was deliberately designed by the government to prevent Muslims from acquiring refugee status in India. Moreover, legal scholar considers this law as unconditional as it breaches article 14 and 15 of the constitution which guarantees equal protection for all and prevents religious discrimination. There is no doubt that the bill has been used as a legal process to discriminate Indian citizenship.

The Nationalist BJP government is pursuing its agenda of constructing a Hindu nation and it has been taking all the possible steps to achieve this mission. This can be clearly seen from the past events like the National Registration of the Citizens in Assam identifying them as illegal immigrants. Then in August the Indian government repealed the autonomous state of Kashmir removing its powers to formulate laws. Following this Hindus were granted permission to establish a temple at the place of Babri mosque devastated in 1992 which further aggravated the situation increasing the sense of insecurity among the Muslims of India. Critics say the bill is part of a BJP agenda to marginalize Muslims.

The International Community including United Nations, representatives of America and different international groups of religious organizations have raised their concerns calling citizenship bill discriminatory. Modi’s ideology is clear enough that he is trying to take India away from its democratic and secular roots and wants to convert it into land of Hindus. In short, these waves of communal violence have pushed India to the brink of chaos.

BY 




The UAE-Israel Relations and its Impact on Palestinians

Introduction

For many decades, Arab and Muslim states have remained hostile towards Israel and supported the Palestinian cause. The 21st century has seen many developments that Israel has established with the world, especially the Arab countries. The Middle East has tried to modernise with time, including its foreign policy that has sparked debate on sensitive issues such as the Israel-Palestine conflict and the new peace deal. While Israel’s peace deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain provides opportunities for trade, cybersecurity cooperation and lessens Israel’s isolation, it questions the chances of Palestinian independence.

The new peace-deal

Many experts and authors have tried to assess the significance of the peace deal in regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Different narratives emerge from the literature and media as the challenge to resolve the conflict increases. The ancient normative approach that has been applied to this issue was to isolate Israel, by countries closing their borders and restricting any economic exchange. This has resulted in assuring Palestinians that they have support from around the world. The emerging consensus among some scholars is that if Arab/Muslim countries establish peace with Israel, a better policy solution can be formed to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict. However, the question is to what extent can the Muslim countries benefit from Israel’s growing economy and innovation by establishing trade relations?

 

As experts and authors continue to reflect on the advantages of the peace deal, it is important to reflect on the intention of the countries recognizing Israel. The true nature of the peace deal seems to be based off on economic and trade relations, rather than to encourage a two-state solution regarding Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The initial statement issued by the UAE for the peace deal was to obstruct Israel’s plan of annexing the West Bank. However, as proclaimed by the Israeli officials, the UAE statement is invalid.  The DAWN news published the reality of the “peace treaty” illusions developed by the UAE, that may cost the Palestinians their land and their rights. As per Turkey and Iran, the anti-Israel states, claim that the former US President Trump influenced the motive of establishing the peace deal, in order to promote US’ Gulf state allies’ bilateral relations. So, when the idea of reforming the methods to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict is concerned, the real intentions of the states must be acknowledged. This is because the ideology of a state has a great impact on its politics. If a capitalist country decides to recognise Israel to better trade relations, then the threat to Palestinians is significant. The new approach towards Israel may still put the Arab/Muslim countries in a difficult situation.

Cybersecurity perspective

The cyber security cooperation between Israel and the UAE has been established in the recent years. According to Al Jazeera, the UAE has poured hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase the Pegasus spyware from Israel based on the conditions set by Israeli Intelligence service. A Palestinian analyst, Issa uncovers that “the Palestinians are at the weakest point ever in history”.

The NSO group is an Israeli company that sells the product called Pegasus, which is a spyware for mobiles. The company was founded in 2010 and has over 500 cyber security experts. Pegasus is the company’s essential product, used for offensive hacking. According to Cooper Quintin, a cyber security specialist, Israel is one of the most sophisticated cyber actors in the world. This is because the Israeli forces are training its military officials to use such offensive hacking in their Defence department. The NSO company claimed that it was launched to detect and prevent terrorism but the people it has targeted is questionable, as human right activists, politicians, and the elites are usually the ones targeted. So, the question arises, who are the NSO clients? Although the company is supposed to work for the government and is legally advised to not sell its services, it extends it services to other countries. The spyware service has been sold to Mexico, Saudi Arabia, UAE and even Colombia.

 

A possible analysis of UAE-Israel cybersecurity cooperation clearly indicates Israel’s ability to exploit confidential information of countries top officials with an advanced spyware in use. Israel can easily attain a position where rather than asking the US, it can turn to Saudi Arabia or UAE to make Palestinians accept a deal favourable for Israelis.

Conclusion

To witness Israel’s strength in cybersecurity and innovation, an allied sentiment of the Muslim countries on Israel-Palestinian conflict may be difficult to achieve. To approach Israel with a proposal for Israel-Palestinian conflict is risky business, as Israel has better and advance technology that can cause serious damage politically and economically to other countries. Considering the imbalance of power between majority of the Muslim countries and Israel, a safe approach would be to get Israel to recognise its boundaries with Palestine’s agreement before more countries open its borders to Israel with the intention of trade.




Israel’s 4th Election in 2 years

Israel had its fourth legislative election in a two-year period to establish a single dominating party rather than a coalition. Despite staying short of a clear parliamentary majority, Netanyahu’s Likud party has remained popular. The recent election results on 23rd March 2021 signified the possibility of another election in the summer to end the political deadlock. While Netanyahu remains popular, protests have erupted in Israel against Netanyahu’s policies and leadership. Critics have also accused Netanyahu of seeking new elections solely for the purpose of gaining enough support in parliament to pass legislation to end the legal proceedings against him. Netanyahu has refuted the charge, as well as any personal involvement in any potential criminal immunity moves.

The candidates who ran in the elections are as follows.

Benjamin Netanyahu – Likud party leader and runs his campaign on hopes to vaccinate the population and normalise ties with some Arab countries. But he is the first sitting prime minister to be indicted and is facing three corruption trials, earning him the title of “Crime Minister”. In his campaign, he has used his vaccination success and is offering one state solution and peace with the Arabs. Then is Naftali Bennet who belongs to the right-wing Yemina party and has criticised Netanyahu’s approach towards the pandemic but is likely to join Netanyahu’s coalition. Another right-wing candidate is Gideon Saar, the leader of New Hope party which supports settlement construction in the occupied west bank and opposes the Iran Nuclear deal. His campaign agenda is similar to Netanyahu’s. Then there is the TV host turn politician, Yair Lapid, the leader of opposition Yesh Atid party. He is considered the main challenger candidate to Netanyahu, even though he has served as a coalition partner in Netanyahu led government in 2013.

Exit polls showed the country remained divided, according to Mr Yohanan Plesner, President of the Israel Democracy Institute, a non-partisan think tank, and a fifth national election remained a viable choice. “At the same time, if Bennett joins his alliance, Netanyahu would be closer than ever to forming a narrow government comprised of the most radical elements of Israeli society,” Mr Plesner said.

On Twitter, Netanyahu remained cautious with his words to declare victory, he said, “It is clear that a clear majority of Israeli citizens are right wing”, expressing the country’s ideological preference. This allows for further analysis on why the citizens are maintaining the stable right-wing government in Israel.

Likud is expected to be the largest party with 30 seats, down from its existing 36 seats. Yesh Atid, the centrist opposition party led by Mr. Yair Lapid, came in second place with 18 seats. Mr. Lapid, 57, had hoped that the anti-Netanyahu bloc would be big enough to depose the veteran leader, who has been in power since 2009. Although, the results appeared in favour of Netanyahu, he would have to stitch together an unlikely coalition that might include Yemina party, Jewish ultra-Orthodox, ultra-nationalist and Arab parties to secure another term.

 

United Arab List (UAL) leader Mansour Abbas has proposed collaborating with Netanyahu to resolve the needs of Israel’s 21 per cent Arab minority – a stance opposed by most Arabs, and which forced Abbas’ faction to break from a coalition of Arab parties ahead of the vote. However, it seems unlikely that Mansour Abbas will be added to the Netanyahu led coalition. Netanyahu may provide Abbas some benefits under Socio-economic development and political representation but not a seat in the government. Although Bennett’s right wing Yemina party is yet to decide if he wants to join Netanyahu’s coalition, there is a good chance that it will. What he has said to the press is that he will do what is good for the state of Israel, which indicates that he will go with Netanyahu and extract a high price from him. Since analysts highlight that Bennett is interested to gain the position of Minister of Justice and to implement changes in the ministry of Justice, it is possible that Netanyahu negotiates a position in the ministry of justice for Bennett. Besides, for helping Netanyahu form a government, he may want a rotating prime ministership as well.

So, what does the new coalition mean for Israel? Since Israel has not had a budget for three years, they need a stable government to revise the 2018 budget. However, the new coalition could be less stable than anticipated, this is because the coalition parties can influence and raise demands from Netanyahu, resulting in a fairly unstable government. Despite Netanyahu being the Prime Minister for the past 2 years, he has not had majority in Knesset supporting his government, resulting in coalitions that have time and gain failed to bring political stability in the country.

Another aspect of Israel’s frequent election is because analysts believe that Netanyahu does not want to loose his power and revisit the corruption charges. He is scheduled to be back in court by the second week of April, possibly as the serving Prime Minister. But since he has not gained enough majority in the Knesset, his influence to revisit the charges may be low. It was anticipated that after winning majority, Netanyahu may replace the court judge who may work in his favour, however, with the new coalition he may feel the threat to be prosecuted on corruption charges.

Israel’s population faces the dilemma to vote for an alternative who is better than Netanyahu, however, the opposition fails to provide such a leader that the population could vote for. It is fair to say that Netanyahu has made great progress to vaccinate the population and end the lockdowns which affected many layers of the society. However, the critical masses of the opposition remined intact and even grew slightly in the past two years. The current polls indicates that Netanyahu has exhausted the electoral pool of which he has been living as Prime Minister.