INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: Muslim renaissance; Kashmir is a flashpoint; Emergence of a new world power in South Asia; Khan’s US visit

 N.P. Upadhyaya -
Global politics is about to take a dramatic turn that may send chilling waves across the world should the statement made by 2+1 prominent Muslim countries act to what they have envisioned just the other day.
Though the “idea” is yet in its embryonic form, however, the countries who have issued this statement appear in a disposition that speaks that it is their “strong political determination” this time what they claim to be a tool that shall work for forging broader unity among the Muslim countries scattered in various parts of the continents.
Why is this urgency then? We shall come to it later.
To recall, such efforts aimed at bringing the Muslim countries together is, at least in my knowledge, had begun from the time (in the early eighties) of late Zia-ul Haq. However, things have not gone as announced each time by the Muslim leaders. Albeit, the Organization of Islamic Countries already is in existence whose last meet was held in Saudi Arabia some two months ago.
But this time it appears to take a formal shape as the countries which have felt the urgency of such a unity command respect and honor in the comity of nations more so in the crowd of Muslim countries.
Hardly had the Pakistani Prime Minister landed at Islamabad airport from his four day visit to the US, around the same time in far flung Ankara, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, put forward a formation of a tripartite alliance involving Malaysia, Turkey and Pakistan to speak on behalf of the global Muslim community.
Dr. Mahathir landed in Ankara for an official visit last Wednesday, July 24, 2019, for a four day visit.
One of the most revered and adored leader of the world that Dr. Mahathir that he is in his own right, while speaking at a joint press conference, July 26, 2019, with the Turkish President Erdogan, Dr. Mahathir lauded his host country, Turkey, for being a rare case of a developed Muslim-majority country that may prove to be a fitting “antidote” valuable in the effort that is yet to take a formal shape.
“What I propose, is for these countries to work together and strengthen the Muslim countries hoping that “we can speak louder as one voice with our own capacities in terms of many areas,” Dr Mahathir told the press at the Presidential Complex in Ankara.
Dr. Mahathir says enough has now become really enough and that “subjugation” is not acceptable henceforth.
The host President Erdogan, through his translators, provided his positive nod to the Dr. Mahathir’s proposition.
It would be useful for political commentators to recall that Dr. Mahathir was the Chief Guest this March at time of the National Day celebrations of Pakistan.
However, what is interesting is that at time of the announcement of the Turkey, Malaysia and Pakistan caucus in Ankara, there was no representative from the third country that is Pakistan.
However, what is more than surprising is that Pakistan though was absent in the Mahathir-Erdogen meet in Ankara, but yet on 27th July, 2019 the Pakistani Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi welcomed the emphasis laid by Turkish President Erdogan and Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad that Pakistan, Turkey and Malaysia for forging a broader unity. Qureshi was then in Islamabad.
Minister Qureshi in absentia has lauded this unity what has been coined as the “Muslim renaissance”.
The minister says that “he was privileged to be part of the Ministerial meeting of the three countries on the sidelines of OIC’s Makkah Summit” that was held in Saudi Arabia in the recent months.
“This important trilateral initiative will go a long way in fostering unity, cooperation and development across the Muslim world,” he added.
However, what is not known is whether this “Muslim renaissance” campaign shall include other Muslim countries and expand its scope and reach so that the voices of the Muslim countries will be heard by the powerful countries or not remains yet undisclosed.
The timing of this announcement is intriguing in that the OIC is in itself a big conglomerate of Muslim countries and yet Turkey and Malaysia think of more including Pakistan?
Is it that Dr. Mahathir has felt the continued pain of the Muslim community across the world more so in India after the Prime Minister Modi’s election victory? Or he is pained at the manner the Muslims have been demoralized across the globe by powerful countries? Is it that the Malaysian Prime Minister wants to revive the lost Muslim glory which at some point of time remained as a dominant world power? And why Pakistan?
Matured observers say that Pakistan’s inclusion in the three country caucus must have been due to its increased popularity the world over of late after Khan assumed the PM’s post and also because Pakistan being a country with nuclear capabilities among the crowd of the Muslim world, the added advantage is thus attached. All this put together makes Pakistan definitely an emerging global power. The Gwadar’s economic advantage shall make this country a game changer definitely, thanks the CPEC.
Does Mahathir and President Erdogen consider that the present Pakistani leadership under Imran Khan can play a crucial role in regaining the lost prestigious authority of the Muslim world?
Dr. Mahathir and President Erdogen must have thought intensely on why to include Pakistan prior to the announcement in Ankara?
Needless to say, the Muslim countries differ with each other. Some are rich and others are literally very poor. Is this divide rich-poor gulf weakening the Muslim countries? Or the division created by the Shia and the Sunni sects inside the Muslim world itself has made them weaker in essence? Many reasons could have been there for Dr. Mahathir’s proposition to which we fail to fathom, however, forging unity amongst the countries practicing the same religion mustn’t be discouraged. It is a welcome move provided the goals and the objectives are sacrosanct. Or else, the powerful countries shall prefer to play and finally break the unity much ahead of it taking a shape formally.
Having said that, yet it is hard to guess why for the urgency of such a Muslim renaissance? To achieve what? Aimed against which power? Is it China or India whose Muslim population are in trouble at the moment? India being our next door neighbor, we in Nepal understand that the Indian Muslims, in minority, are suffering the worst and that the Hindu terror Machine led by Prime Minister Modi is hell bent on humiliating or even lynching the Muslims in India. Even retired Muslim Army men are being targeted in BJP’s India.
As regards the Uighurs Muslims in China, we don’t have much knowledge about them and thus it would not be appropriate to delve in a topic where we in fact possess least knowledge.
However, what we have come to understand very freshly that in a matter of days that in the Indian occupied Kashmir some sort of bombshell is about to explode which might deteriorate the security situation in and around the troubled valley.
Worse of it all is Doval is likely to enter into the Valley.
The information is that the government under PM Modi is thinking to deploy some more killing machines in the valley, so claims the NDTV.
Madame Mehbooba Mufti, the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister has warned July 28, 2019, in Sri Nagar against the revocation of Article 35A, stating that any tinkering with the constitutional provision would be akin to setting a powder keg on fire.
“We want to tell the Central government that tinkering with Article 35A will be akin to setting a powder keg on fire,” the PDP president Mufti said.
This is perhaps the trailer of the upcoming dangerous situation in the valley. How the general Kashmiris react to the government’s new political overture must be watched. Yet observers in Nepal take Kashmir as a flash point which may bring India and Pakistan once again face to face demanding the immediate intervention of President Trump as secretly wished by PM Modi.
In a rare coincidence that it is, while Dr. Mahathir is talking of greater unity among the Muslim world, Dr. Subramanian Swamy-the arrogant BJP card holder, is of the view now that Nepal must be declared a Hindu country once again. Does he prefer a Hindu Nepal similar to BJP’s Hindu terror machine of India? If so then Nepal’s big “NO”. Nepal doesn’t need a religion which is being equated with terror. We in Nepal would prefer at best the SANATAN Dharma. Hindu religion smells foul as much as fanatic PM Modi. Swamy came Nepal with ulterior motive.
PM KP Oli has gone to Singapore, it is talked, complying with the instructions of S. Swamy whom Oli met for an hour plus just the other day in Kathmandu at his official residence.
We have enough tolerance even if in a secular order, claim the common Nepalese. So why copy Indian BJP’s orders?
Swamy is a former teacher of Harvard University and is a fanatic Hindu who doesn’t fit into Nepali tolerance. He hates Christians that we all know.
Let’s again switch on to Mahathir’s proposed Muslim Unity.
The Oxonian Imran Khan, the incumbent Prime Minister of Pakistan is tentatively the hero among the crowd of the world leaders. The reasons are unknown to observers in South Asia. But a strong Pakistan is the need for the South Asian stability. This is the Nepali desire.
If he is admired by the US President then he is equally liked and preferred by the Vladimir Putin of Russian federation. Khan’s ties with China needs no elaboration for he has already made two trips to Beijing and has met with President Xi Jinping twice or even thrice, the last one at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, (SCO) meet in Bishkek wherein he had met also with President Putin-around whom the world politics revolves visibly.
Notably, Russia and Pakistan are about to conduct a joint drill this October, reliable sources claim.
While he enjoys “intimate” personal as well as official relations with the US, China and Russian Federation then he is equally close to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, the UAE, and Turkey. Malaysia and above all Iran.
Notably, Saudi Arabia has strained relations with Qatar then Iran too has somewhat uneasy ties with Saudi Arabia.
However, S Arabia is close to the US then Iran and the US are not on speaking terms even.
Is it the US factor which divides the Muslim world?
However, what is common among these Muslim countries housed in the OIC is singly Pakistan which enjoys my dear and comfortable ties practically with the entire Islamic countries.
The US media, while reporting the resumption of military sales to Pakistan, called the prime minister’s July 20-23 visit to Washington as “ice-breaking”. During his three-hour stay at the White House, the prime minister also had a one-on-one meeting on July 22, 2o19, with President Trump.
Remarkably, it was Saudi Arabia which came for Pakistan’s rescue first which was followed by China.
The Emir of Qatar too apparently is talked to have supported Pakistan to get out from the financial crunch. Even Trump’s close relative Kushner too is talked to have influenced the US for inviting PM Khan this time.
Khan’s intimate relations with the Saudi Prince MBS is talked to have remained instrumental in making Khan’s US trip possible apart from so many other world leaders, obviously except India.
Now, for a moment let’s talk straight if PM Khan is so much popular among the Muslim brotherhood then he should now depute his foreign minister of for that matter the Foreign Secretary or even designate an Ambassador at large who should be entrusted with the responsibility to act as the Special Emissary of Pakistan Prime Minister and in the process work as a mediator in between the Muslim countries that have at the moment strained relations, for example, Saudi and Iran or for that matter Qatar with SA.
This Ambassador at Large should visit smaller neighbors in South Asia so that these visits act like a political deterrent to the regional bully-PM Modi of India who is all set to land in Nepal where the people love to hate him. Why not to begin with Nepal?
If Khan can assure President Trump that he will press the Talibans to come to the negotiating table sooner than later and extricate US forces from Afghanistan then, after the Afghanistan settlement as per the desires of the US, his envoy can take up the issue of patching up the difference that has marred the bilateral ties of the SA and Iran, and SA and Qatar respectively.
Qatar is being penalized by SA, we have been told.
Observers in Nepal are confident in the capabilities of PM Khan because a world class athlete turned a “popular” politician who can win the hearts of the US President Donald Trump, a tough politico as he is being taken the world over can thus go to any length in order to institutionalize peace not only in his country but around the vicinity and much beyond as well. His emphasis should also be primarily South Asia. But provided he gives it a try.
He impressed the US to the extent that just after his home return from the “melting pot”, Pakistan has begun receiving so far blocked US largesse as regards the technical support to its fleet of F-16 aircraft which practically has ended the freeze on military assistance to the country since long.
India must have come to its senses that in politics only “national interests” are taken into account.
As if the Kashmir mediation bomb exploded by President Trump were not enough, the approval of $125 million by the USA must have made the Indian leadership, Doval and Shankar included, to pull their hairs in private.
Doval reportedly plans to deploy one million soldiers in Kashmir valley perhaps to tame the freedom fighters. Ajit Doval, who is himself synonymous to terror, now is the commander of an Indian agency that has been entrusted with the charge on how to tame terrorists more so in Kashmir valley.
In the mean while “The US State Department, reports the Dawn dated July 28, 2019, has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to Pakistan for Technical Security Team (TST) in continued support of the F-16 programme for an estimated cost of $125 million,” said an official notification sent to the US Congress on last Friday.
As regards the Afghanistan settlement, unfortunately big brother India, which has massive stakes in Afghanistan, having invested over USD 3 billion in a whole range of development, infrastructure and even security assistance, does not find itself anywhere in the decision-making process or negotiations process, writes the Eurasia Review dated July 29, 2019.
Be it known that a humiliated India is a threat to Afghanistan peace settlement as expected by the US.
Not only was it left out of the trilateral US, Russia, China talks, for which Pakistan was included on July 8-9 (or June 11-12?), Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Envoy for Afghan Reconciliation, did not even swing by New Delhi to keep India briefed on either the Doha talks, where he claimed significant progress had been made, or the Beijing talks, adds the Eurasia Review.
Cutting a brilliant joke at India, President Trump said while talking to the international media the day, July 22, 2019, he was meeting PM Khan at the White House that “ Modi only tells him that India has built one library”.
In fact, the US President Trump in the past gave unwanted proximity to the Indian Prime Minister by elevating his ranks (that he doesn’t deserve in effect) that he dared to hug him. Now hugging has become his habit.
In fact, writes Zeeshan Khan in his Twitter handle July 28, 2019, that “Modi, accused of complicity in a pogrom in 2002 that killed hundreds of Muslims and displaced thousands, was barred for almost a decade from travel to the US and the United Kingdom.
In fact PM Modi should not be allowed to travel beyond South Asia. He is the man responsible for Godhara massacre.
While the entire South Asian population including some prominent world political stalwarts have openly been saying that PM Khan is the most popular politician in the world scene as of today, then some Pakistanis based in the USA itself have begun making inappropriate comments of their own Prime Minister.
On relations with India, PM Khan on July 23, 2019, at the American Institute of Peace said that ( sic) “Pakistan at the moment, most of all needs stability” and thus “a good relationship with our neighbors,” Khan said.
He further said that he has assured Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that, “you come one step towards us, we will go two steps towards you—because the biggest problem India and Pakistan face is poverty. The best way we can reduce poverty is if we start trading with each other.”
By stating this, the PM has thrown the ball on India’s court.
On Afghanistan, at the Peace Institute Khan has vowed that upon return home he will meet the leaders of the Afghan-Taliban and persuade them to drop their rejection of peace talks that include the Afghan government.
PM Khan at the peace institute was talking in front of the U.S. policymakers, scholars and diplomats following his talks with President Trump in his first visit to the United States as prime minister.
Khan discussed his meeting with Trump and hopes for an improved relationship with the United States, as well as Pakistan’s struggles with corruption and poverty back home, and relations with its neighbors mainly India.
All said and done, it remains to be seen now as to how PM Imran Khan handles the politics in the vicinity and fulfils the promises made to President Trump as regards extricating US forces from Afghanistan shall in effect determine his political and diplomatic acumen.
Notably, the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani have agreed that it was time to “accelerate efforts” to end the war in Afghanistan, a joint statement issued by the U.S. State Department said.
Pompeo and Ghani spoke by phone on July 25, the statement said. This talk must have meaning.
Regional observers opine that time has awarded PM Khan such an opportunity which if he handles with proper maturity then he can not only satisfy the US but could be of substantial help in institutionalizing peace in the South Asian region and much beyond, the Central Asian region included.
Khan must be able to cut the wings of the regional bully in the long run.
Khan has the moral backing of China, the Russian Federation and the United States on the goal of withdrawing foreign forces from Afghanistan and to seek an “inclusive Afghan-led” peace process, the three countries declared in a joint statement as back as in April this year itself.
“The three sides call for an orderly and responsible withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan as part of the overall peace process,” the joint statement issued on the website of the State Department said on April 26, 2019.
All that PM Khan has to take bold but all satisfying “diplomatic” steps. It may not be that easy as stated but since for the SA region India has got to be marginalized, Pakistan must make great efforts. Let India built libraries in Afghanistan as said by Donald Trump.
For the Road: Let me conclude this story by quoting to what Scott Lucas and Umer Karim from the University of Birmingham have to say, July 26, 2019, (sic) “ PM Khan’s official visit appeared to go exceptionally well, with warm greetings from key figures including the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. President Trump responded well to Khan’s compliment that he was the President of the most powerful nation of the world. And Khan established Pakistan’s key place with regard to Afghanistan, not as often alleged “supporter of terrorism” but as “the broker of a settlement”. That’s all.

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