Pakistan, India and the Bi-Polar World Order

Daniel Crump

Image © Omer Wazir


Fukuyama’s ‘The End of History’ essay may not have correctly predicted everything it was supposed to, but one realisation certainly holds true to this day: Realist manoeuvrings and proxy inter-state wars have always been an inevitable feature of a Bi-Polar world. With the fall of the USSR, and the US’s securing of uncontested, top dog status, inter-state warfare has fallen to its lowest level since World War II, making this the most peaceful period of modern history.  The explanation being that in a world with two competing super powers, fragile alliances are held together by mutual enemies.

Although not yet a Bi-Polar world by most people’s evaluations, the rising influence of China will undoubtedly lead to nations asking serious questions of themselves and who they choose to associate with. This week, while the US ambassador to Pakistan stepped down for what Washington insisted was for personal reasons alone, The Chinese ambassador to Pakistan met with President Zardari to discuss matters of mutual cooperation and bilateral trade.

In recent years, Ambassador Munter may well have held the least coveted role in international relations. Following the arrest of a CIA contractor in Lahore and the US led mission to capture and kill Osama Bin Laden, Munter has had to deal with the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in November 2011 when the US strayed across the border from Afghanistan. His resignation may appear, after all this, to be the icing on a rather stale and crumbling diplomatic cake.

A Difficult Friendship

The most worrying aspect of these recent events is the fact that they do not come as much of a surprise to anyone. The US and Pakistan have quite a history of sharing mutual enemies and their relationship has, therefore, always been one of convenience and insincerity. Whether it was Nixon and Kissinger using Pakistan’s friendship with China to make Sino-US inroads, or Pakistani support of anti Soviet groups in Afghanistan, the US has always been able to find some beneficial reason to keep Pakistan within arm’s length.

The most recent chapter of this tale has certainly been the trickiest yet. Shortly after 9/11, President Musharraf ended his alliance with the Afghan Taliban while officially entering the Bush Administration’s War on Terror. Since 2001, Pakistan has handed over 5000 members of Al Qaeda to American authorities and received nearly $10 Billion in aid for its troubles. Despite this closeness, Pakistan has constantly been accused of ‘looking both ways’ when it comes to terrorism. Pakistan’s Inter-Services-Intelligence Agency (ISI) has been accused of training and sponsoring groups that the Americans claim to be fighting across the border in Afghanistan. Indeed, it was Pakistan’s Intelligence Agency that was instrumental in bringing the Taliban to power in Afghanistan in the mid 90’s with a view to setting up a favourable regime in a neighbouring country. With the US planning to withdraw a substantial number of troops from Afghanistan in 2014, all bets are off as to what condition Pakistani – US relations will be in if the Taliban were ever to re emerge in Afghan political life. Read more of this post

Should We Celebrate a Decline in Global Poverty?

Adam Parsons – Originally published by Share The World’s Resources

The World Bank’s latest data suggests a decline in global poverty throughout every region of the developing world, as well as the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on halving poverty well ahead of schedule. But is this really the ‘good news’ that we are led to believe?

You may be forgiven for missing the good news recently reported by the World Bank: that the number of people living in extreme poverty has declined in almost every region of the developing world. According to the latest global poverty estimates, both the percentage of people living on less than $1.25 a day and the number of poor declined between 2005 and 2008, the first time that an across-the-board reduction has been reported since the World Bank began monitoring poverty. Not only that, but preliminary estimates indicate that the share of people living in extreme poverty declined between 2008 and 2010, even despite the global financial crises and surging food prices. By 2010, it appears that the $1.25 a day poverty rate fell to less than half the 1990 rate, which means that the United Nation’s first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for cutting extreme poverty in half has already been achieved, five years ahead of schedule. This is surely a cause for celebration – or is it?

To answer this question, we first have to understand why the World Bank’s poverty statistics are so important, which is not only for what they tell us about the number of poor people in the world. The World Bank is the monopoly provider of global poverty figures, and it is no secret that they are often used to support the view that liberalisation and globalisation have helped to reduce poverty worldwide. In other words, a reduction in global poverty can usefully defend the Bank’s neoliberal policies that favour economic growth and free markets as the overruling means to combating poverty. Since around 2000 when the Millennium Development Goals were first conceived, the World Bank has consistently painted an upbeat picture of the global poverty situation. This is not a conspiracy, as some people might suggest, but simply an ideological justification for the current arrangements of the global economy and the status quo. So long as the MDGs remain in sight and global poverty is on a downward trend, then the Bank’s continued defence of neoliberal policies can be vindicated.

Read more of this post

Ten international relationships the UK must develop

Mike Morgan-Giles

Image © Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Following the Prime Minister’s decision to veto the proposed EU Treaty last week, which has put the UK in the slow lane within a two speed Europe, it’s important the Government looks to develop our other international relationships. Here are ten they should move forward:

  1. BRIC nations – Brazil, Russia, India and China are vast growing markets that we must look to enhance our ties with. Each can be approached in a different way, with perhaps closer links to Brazil on sustainability, energy cooperation with Russia, major trade links with India and offering cash-rich China unbeatable investment opportunities.
  1. Scandinavia – They share some of the euro-scepticism often cited in the UK; Norway isn’t an EU member, whilst Sweden and Denmark stand outside the eurozone. Ties can be strengthened over issues such as fishing and energy policy – for instance by creating a shared super grid. A more ambitious move would be to create an informal Northern European group, including all of the Nordic countries. Read more of this post

Chinese investment in Africa can be a force for good

China & Africa - C Gavin Coates

(c) Globalab

Henry Fowler is a recent politics graduate

The recent economic downturn has seen country after country in Europe finding themselves ‘cap in hand’ to their other European neighbours, either to bail them out or to help stabilise their disintegrating economies. China, the emerging superpower of the world continues to grow in influence with heavy investment in Africa. Justin Rowlatt’s recent BBC2 documentary, ‘The Chinese are coming’, only scratches the surface in this increasingly complicated and growing relationship. The estimated number of Chinese migrants in Africa is at about one million and looks to grow in the not too distant future.

With the growth in immigration and investment from China to Africa, what does this mean for Africa? As Rowlatt’s programme illustrated, this relationship creates many negatives for Africa. The negatives include the selling-off of large amounts of industries such as copper mines and steel works, mistreatment of workers and a lack of native employment in these Chinese-owned industries. There is an argument that this investment is merely 21st century economic imperialism. Read more of this post

The Trouble with Technocrats: China’s Xinjiang region

Lest we forget, we’re not the only ones doing a bit of political spring cleaning: China’s restive Xinjiang region has a new boss. A couple of days after the initial rioting in July 2009, ex-head honcho Wang Lequan’s face appeared on giant screens around Urumqi, Xinjiang’s largest city, telling people to calm down and return to their houses.  He was ignored by the Han Chinese who armed themselves with improvised clubs and iron bars and patrolled the streets.  When, several months later, rumours spread of syringe attacks on Han Chinese, angry protestors called for Wang’s removal from his post as Secretary of the Communist Party in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

China’s autonomous regions have a sort of dual power structure: the Chairman of the regional government comes from the largest local ethnic group (the Turkic Uyghur in the case of Xinjiang), while the Party Secretary, in fact the more powerful position, comes from the Han Chinese majority. So it was Wang Lequan, rather than the Uyghur Chairman Nur Bakri, with whom the buck stopped when things went wrong. Now he has finally been demoted and replaced by Zhang Chunxian, formerly Party Secretary in Hunan (a long long way from Xinjiang.)

So what did Wang do wrong? That depends who you ask. He was certainly no friend to the Uyghurs, instigating ‘Strike Hard’ campaigns against perceived separatist threats. He also made bizarre comments on the ‘backwardness’ of the Uyghur language (related to Turkish), suggesting that economic development would always elude the Uyghurs if they continued to use their mother tongue. To remedy this he encouraged Mandarin-medium education at the expense of the Uyghur language. A recent, much-satirized propaganda video has brought one Uyghur word (‘Yaxsi’ – ‘good’) to the attention of many Chinese, but this is about as far as the government goes in promoting the Uyghur language.  With the recent large-scale migration of Han Chinese to the resource-rich Xinjiang province, many Uyghurs feel that their culture and language are under threat.

If the Uyghurs resented Wang’s cultural chauvinism, many Han Chinese felt he wasn’t firm enough. The riots in which many Han Chinese died happened on his watch, and there was a strong feeling that the government was not doing enough to protect its people from ‘terrorists’. (It is interesting to note the effect that the War on Terror has had on the way people in China conceptualize ethnic conflict. ‘Terrorism’ is also an extremely useful term for the Chinese government, since it denies any possibility of legitimate grievance). The demonstrations against Wang Lequan after the syringe attacks showed the depth of feeling amongst Han Chinese.

Xinjiang’s new leader, Zhang Chunxian, was of course appointed by Beijing, not elected by the people. He appears to be a classic, post-Reform Era technocrat; just as it’s odds-on that the members of a Tory cabinet all went to top public schools, so is it highly likely that if you played Chat Roulette with the upper echelons of the Chinese government, you would end up face to face with an engineering graduate. At the risk of offending those more capable of building hydroelectric dams than I am, I want to suggest this ‘rule by engineers’ lies behind some of Xinjiang, and China’s, problems.

In the late 1990s a railway was built linking the city of Kashgar with the rest of China. A journey by train from the regional capital Urumqi still takes over 20 hours, but this new line has hastened the Sinification of this most Uyghur of cities: it is Han Chinese, for the most part, who use the train. The huge infrastructure projects that can be seen all over Xinjiang employ mainly migrant workers from China proper. Many Uyghurs resent this ever-increasing Chinese presence in what they see as their homeland. But according to the particularly one-dimensional idea of modernization which is fostered by the Chinese technocracy, roads and railways, runways and dams can only ever be a Good Thing. ‘Uyghur culture’ under this kind of technocracy becomes little more than colourful exotics doing appreciative dances on a newly-built motorway (see the video above).

It is of course difficult to argue that infrastructure projects are necessarily a Bad Thing. My point is rather that when a ruling class is made up almost entirely of technocrats, there is a danger that such projects are seen as an end in themselves and are divorced from their cultural implications. When this is combined with a blatant disregard for local languages and cultural practices, such as those of the Uyghur, there is clearly the potential for unrest.

Zhang Chunxian is apparently fond of using the internet to communicate with the masses. It is fitting, then, that he has been posted to Xinjiang, where the internet was shut down for months following the riots. One suspects that he is going to need more than New Media skills and an engineering degree to ensure the quiescence of the local population as China seeks to maintain its firm grip on this strategically important region.

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