Is Shahzad Chaudhry Right "On India"?

The Pakistan Air Force's Retired Air Vice Marshal Shahzad Chaudhry has recently penned an op-ed for The Express Tribune newspaper calling on his country to make peace with India. He argues that "India is relevant to the world", implying that Pakistan is not. Chaudhry believes that the "gap between Pakistan and India is now unbridgeable".  Chaudhry concludes his piece with the following recommendation: "It is time to recalibrate our policy towards India and be bold enough to create a tri-nation consensus, along with China, focusing on Asia to be the spur for wider economic growth and benefit".

Prime Minister Indian PM Modi Boasts of Having "56 inch Chest"

History of India-Pakistan Peace Talks:

While I completely support Chaudhry's call for Pakistan to make peace with India, I do wonder why India's Hindu Supremacist Prime Minister Narendra Modi would even seriously entertain such a thought if "India is relevant to the world" and Pakistan is not? And if Modi does agree to talks, what kind of peace would come out of such talks?  Would it be similar to Bangladesh-India peace based on client-patron relationship? Retired senior Indian officials like Shyam Saran and AS Dulat have blamed Indian security establishment for past failures to reach a peace deal with Pakistan. 

I also question Chaudhry's idea of creating "a tri-nation consensus" with India and China. Why would China agree to such an arrangement while both Asian giants are seeking to establish regional hegemony? Why wouldn't China pursue its own version of Monroe Doctrine in Asia? 

Let me expand on the above two points about "relevance" of India and Pakistan and "tri-nation consensus" with China. 

Pakistan's Global Relevance:

Chaudhry argues that "India is relevant to the world". So is Pakistan. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has pursued a policy of internationally isolating Pakistan for the last 8 years. Indian diplomats and mainstream media have engaged in a concerted campaign to hurt Pakistan diplomatically and economically during this period. Even the sport of cricket has not been spared.  All of the available evidence suggests that this Indian campaign has failed.  

Pakistan PM with Other World Leaders at SCO Summit in Samarkand, Uz...

A prominent Indian journalist Shekhar Gupta has recently summarized the reasons for the Modi government's failure to achieve its objectives relative to Pakistan. Gupta argues that Pakistan is too important to be ignored or isolated by the international community. He says, "Pakistan is too big in terms of population, too powerful militarily, too Muslim, too nuclear and too well located to be isolated". 

Pakistan PM Shahbaz Sharif with President and Mrs. Biden. Source: White House

Here are some of the key points Shekhar Gupta makes in episode 1093 of his show Cut The Clutter : 

1.Pakistan is our most important neighbor. We must focus on Pakistan.

2, We can not ignore Pakistan in India because the world can not ignore Pakistan

3. The Western world has an intrinsic relationship with Pakistan which doesn't go away

4. The West does not see Pakistan as so useful to them today and yet Pakistan can not be isolated.

5. You can see all the indications that Pakistan is not isolated.

6. A lot of (Indian) TV channels say Pakistan is isolated but the evidence doesn't support it.

7. Pakistan FM visited Washington and met his counterpart Tony Blinken. 

8. Pakistan Army Chief has received a warm welcome at the US Defense Dept and met US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Bajwa matters more than the Pakistan Defense Minister. Nobody knows his name.

9. US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome, a career diplomat, has visited "Pakistan Occupied Kashmir" and called it Azad Kashmir...Azad means free.

10. When the chips are down in the region Pakistan is the ally Americans reach out to.

11. The US does not want Pakistan to drift to China.

12. German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock has spoken about Kashmir...the K word. She has asked for the UN to help solve the Kashmir issue.

13. Pakistan Army Chief General Bajwa is not a warmonger. He wants to normalize ties with India. He wants to trade with India. He doesn't want Faiz Hameed to succeed him. He used to be the ISI chief and took credit for the Taliban victory in Afghanistan. Do the Americans have leverage here?

14. Where does Pakistan's unique power come from? Why can't Pakistan be ignored? Why can't Pakistan be isolated?

15. The Indian public needs to understand it.

16. Pakistan is too big in terms of population, too powerful militarily, too Muslim, too nuclear and too well located to be isolated.

17. Pakistan has the 5th largest population and its population is growing fast. It could soon exceed Indonesia to become the largest Muslim nation in the world.

18. Pakistan has the 5th strongest military in the world.

19. In terms of nuclear weapons, Pakistan has the 4th largest nuclear arsenal in the world.

20. Pakistan is too well located to be isolated. It has a geo-strategic location. Pakistan is the western gateway to China. Pakistan opened China's ties with the US. And then helped the US defeat the Soviet Union.

21. The factors that made Pakistan such a strong ally to the US still exist. Don't blame the Pakistanis for it.

22. India is not willing to commit to an alliance with the US.

23. Imran Khan tried to change Pakistan's foreign policy to be more like India's but he failed.

Tri-nation Consensus:

Prime Minister Modi's revocation of Article 370 and annexation of Jammu and Kashmir as Indian union territories have angered not just Pakistan but also China. Modi's actions are not only an affront to the people of Jammu and Kashmir but also in clear violation of India's international and bilateral obligations under United Nations charter and the Simla Accord. China, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, lays claim to the Ladakh region. It has objected to India making it a union territory.

Since Modi's annexation of disputed territories of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, China has dramatically stepped up pressure on India in Ladakh. China has increased its troop presence, killed and injured dozens of Indian soldiers and taken at least a thousand kilometers of territory claimed by India. As a result, India has had to move troops from the line of control (LoC) with Pakistan to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China. 

Indian Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi summarized the situation well when he said, "China has taken our land. They are beating out soldiers. The threat of China Is clear. And the government is hiding it, ignoring it. China is preparing for an offensive in Ladakh and Arunachal. And the government of India is sleeping". 

 
India-Bangladesh Ties:
 
India's relations with Bangladesh are essentially patron-client relations. This fact became amply clear when Bangladeshi Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina recently visited New Delhi to seek political and economic assistance from the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 
 
Modi-Hasina Delhi summit was preceded by Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abdul Momen's trip to India where he said,  "I've requested Modi government to do whatever is necessary to sustain Sheikh Hasina's government".  Upon her return from India, Sheikh Hasina told the news media in Dhaka, "They (India) have shown much sincerity and I have not returned empty handed". It has long been an open secret that Indian intelligence agency RAW helped install Shaikh Hasina as Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and her Awami League party rely on New Delhi's support to stay in power. Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abdul Momen has described India-Bangladesh as one between husband and wife. In an interview with Indian newspaper 'Ajkal,' he said, "Relation between the both countries is very cordial. It's much like the relationship between husband and wife. Though some differences often arise, these are resolved quickly."  Both Bangladeshi and Indian officials have reportedly said that Sheikh Hasina "has built a house of cards". 

India-Pakistan Gap: 

There's no question that Pakistan is in the midst of a major economic crisis. The country's economic performance is dismal right now. At the same time, it must be acknowledged that Pakistan, with its youngest population in Asia, has a bright future ahead if its leaders can resolve the internal political situation. 

Pakistan Population Youngest Among Major Asian Nations. Source: Nik...
In fact, Goldman Sachs analysts Kevin Daly and  Tadas Gedminas project Pakistan's economy to grow to become the world's sixth largest by 2075.  In a research paper titled "The Path to 2075", the authors forecast Pakistan's GDP to rise to $12.7 trillion with per capita income of $27,100.  India’s GDP in 2075 is projected at $52.5 trillion and per capita GDP at $31,300.  Bangladesh is projected to be a $6.3 trillion economy with per capita income of $31,000.  By 2075, China will be the top global economy, followed by India 2nd, US 3rd, Indonesia 4th, Nigeria 5th and Pakistan 6th. The forecast is based primarily on changes in the size of working age populations over the next 50 years.  

GDP Ranking Changes Till 2075. Source: Goldman Sachs Investment Res... 

 

Economic Growth Rate Till 2075. Source: Goldman Sachs Investment Re... 

Economic Impact of Slower Population Growth: 

Daly and Gedminas argue that slowing population growth in the developed world is causing their economic growth to decelerate. At the same time, the economies of the developing countries are driven by their rising populations.  Here are four key points made in the report:

 1) Slower global potential growth, led by weaker population growth. 

2) EM convergence remains intact, led by Asia’s powerhouses. Although real GDP growth has slowed in both developed and emerging economies, in relative terms EM growth continues to outstrip DM growth.

3) A decade of US exceptionalism that is unlikely to be repeated. 

4) Less global inequality, more local inequality. 

Demographic Dividend: 

With rapidly aging populations and declining number of working age people in North America, Europe and East Asia, the demand for workers will increasingly be met by major labor exporting nations like Bangladesh, China, India, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia and Vietnam. Among these nations, Pakistan is the only major labor exporting country where the working age population is still rising faster than the birth rate. 

Over 10 million Pakistanis are currently working/living overseas, according to the Bureau of Emigration. Before the COVID19 pandemic hit in 2020,  more than 600,000 Pakistanis left the country to work overseas in 2019. Nearly 700,000 Pakistanis have already migrated in this calendar year as of October, 2022. The average yearly outflow of Pakistani workers to OECD countries (mainly UK and US) and the Middle East was over half a million in the last decade. 

Consumer Markets in 2030. Source: WEF

World's 7th Largest Consumer Market:

Pakistan's share of the working age population (15-64 years) is growing as the country's birth rate declines, a phenomenon called demographic dividend. With its rising population of this working age group, Pakistan is projected by the World Economic Forum to become the world's 7th largest consumer market by 2030. Nearly 60 million Pakistanis will join the consumer class (consumers spending more than $11 per day) to raise the country's consumer market rank from 15 to 7  by 2030. WEF forecasts the world's top 10 consumer markets of 2030 to be as follows: China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Russia, Brazil, Pakistan, Japan, Egypt and Mexico.  Global investors chasing bigger returns will almost certainly shift more of their attention and money to the biggest movers among the top 10 consumer markets, including Pakistan.  Already, the year 2021 has been a banner year for investments in Pakistani technology startups

India's Kautilya Doctrine: 

“Every neighboring state is an enemy and the neighboring state's neighbor is a friend.”  ― Kautilya, The Arthashastra

The name of Kautilya, meaning crooked, is invoked by former Indian foreign secretary Shyam Saran's book “How India Sees the World: Kautilya to the 21st Century”.  This invocation of Kautilya in the title of the book makes the above quote about "neighboring state is an enemy" particularly relevant to how Indian policymakers like Shyam Saran see Pakistan and Afghanistan. 
 
Kautilya presented a theory of international relations called the “circle of states,” or Rajamandala. It says hostile states are those that border the ruler’s state, forming a circle around it. In turn, states that surround this set of hostile states form another circle around the circle of hostile states. This second circle of states can be considered the natural allies of the ruler’s state against the hostile states that lie between them. Put more succinctly, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  
 
Pakistanis like AVM Shahzad Chaudhry must understand that India's foreign policy has always been and continues to be guided by the Kautilya Doctrine. 
 

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Comment by Riaz Haq on January 22, 2023 at 2:32pm

Can't imagine Universe without cows; all problems on Earth will be solved if cow slaughter is prevented: Gujarat Court

https://www.barandbench.com/news/cant-imagine-universe-without-cows...


While sentencing a man to life in prison for illegally transporting cattle, judge Samir Vyas said that unless cow slaughter is completely prohibited, "the saatvik climate change cannot have its effect."

A court in Tapi, Gujarat recently sentenced a youth to life imprisonment for illegally transporting cattle from Maharashtra, while noting that all of Earth's problems will be solved if cow slaughter is prevented.

In an order passed in November, Principal District Judge Samir Vinodchandra Vyas paid tribute to the importance of cows to the entire Universe.

"Cow is not only an animal but it is mother that is why it is given the name of mother. None is as grateful as a cow. A cow is the living planet of 68 crore holy places and 33 crore gods. The obligation of cow on the entire Universe defies description. The day when no drop of blood of cow drops on the earth all problems of earth will be solved and the well being of the earth will b established..."

The order, translated from Gujarati, goes on to lament the fact that all the talk surrounding cow protection has not been put into practice.

The judge was seized of a criminal case pertaining to one Mohammad Ameen, who was arrested on August 27, 2020 for illegally transporting over 16 cows and its progeny in a packed truck with no proper arrangements for the cattle to sit, eat or drink.

He was booked under relevant provisions of the Gujarat Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, 2017, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, Gujarat Control of Animal Transport Order, 1975 and the Gujarat Essential Commodities and Animal Control Act, 2015 as well as the Central Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2015.

Besides several lesser punishments, the judge sentenced him to life in prison and a fine of ₹5 lakh.

In his order, the judge called for the need to consider not only the religious aspects of a cow, but also its economic, social, scientific and health benefits. Mechanised abattoirs, the judge said, have come up for slaughter of cows and and they are being slaughtered. Therefore, there is 'great hazard for their life.'

"Non-vegetarian people consume meat and cow meat is also being used for the purpose. Cow products are very useful for human life. These products mean milk, curd, ghee, cow-dung and gaumutra," the order stated.

Tridev (Brahmha, Vishnu, Mahesh) is not separate from cows as it is said that they have emerged from Adigau Surabhi, the judge has said, adding that even religion is born from cow as it is in the form of Vrushabh and son of a cow is also called Vrushabh.

"In these circumstances the slaughter and transportation of cows is a matter of pain and sorrow. Science has proved that houses made of cow-dung are not affected by atomic radiation. Use of Gaumutra (cow urine) is a cure for many incurable diseases. Cow is the symbol of religion," the judge claimed.

While referring to various Shlokas, the court stated that 'if cows are kept unhappy then our wealth and property disappears'

"If we look at the present situation it would become clear that 75 per cent of the cow wealth has been lost or destroyed. Now only 25 per cent has remained. A time will come when people will forget to draw the picture of cows. A period of more than 70 years has elapsed since we got independence. Not only the cow slaughter has not stopped but it is reaching its climax," the judge opined.

"The problems that exist today are because of the increase of the irascibility and hot temper. The only reason for increase is the slaughter of cows. Till this is completely prohibited the saatvik climate change cannot have its effect," the court said.

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 23, 2023 at 8:57am

Pakistan Will Not Collapse! The Hindutva Celebration Will Be Very Short-Lived!!

Hindustan Times Op Ed: "Despite the severity of the challenges, Pakistan is unlikely to collapse — largely because of its geostrategic importance. A bailout by IMF or friendly countries will happen"

https://www.hindustantimes.com/opinion/pakistans-economic-turmoil-m...

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 23, 2023 at 8:57am

Analysis: Why a financially stable Pakistan is in US interest

https://www.dawn.com/news/1732787

IN recent weeks and months, the US has made no secret of the fact that it is closely monitoring developments in Pakistan, both on the security and economic fronts.

In the past three months, over a dozen statements have mentioned Pakistan specifically or in passing, and in each case, the tone and tenor reflects a level of concern seldom seen in the past.

The latest State Department statement hoped for economic stability in the country, while stressing that Washington was not only aware of Pakistan’s financial issues, but was also backing efforts to rebuild the national economy.

Asked if Washington shared the fear — which many in the country have been voicing — that Islamabad is close to economic collapse, a State Department spokesperson told Dawn the country needed to work with international financial institutions to strengthen its economy.

“To put Pakistan on a sustainable growth path and restore investor confidence, we encourage Pakistan to continue working with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on implementing reforms, especially those which will improve Pakistan’s business environment,” the US official said.

“Doing so will make Pakistani business more competitive and will also help Pakistan attract high quality foreign investment.”

When a similar question was put to Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, he told Dawn: “As long as we are willing to help ourselves”, others would continue to help Pakistan.

“We need to help them help us by taking necessary steps at home.”

The foreign minister noted that at a recent conference in Geneva, the international community had pledged to provide around half of the funds Pakistan needed for reconstruction after the 2022 floods. “Now, Pakistan needs to come up with the other 50 percent.”

The foreign minister also underscored the need to reach a “conclusion with the IMF” and follow up with French President Emmanuel Macron and UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres’ offer to renegotiate our debt.

To put things into perspective, the State Department official said, “Pakistan’s macroeconomic stability is a topic of conversation between the Pakistani and US governments, including the US Department of State and our counterparts, the Department of the Treasury, and the White House.”

Great power rivalry in South Asia

But why is Washington so preoccupied with Pakistan’s stability, economic and otherwise? Conventional wisdom suggests that the driving factor is our nuclear programme, and that the world cannot afford to see a nation with a nuclear arsenal teetering on the brink of oblivion. But this conventional wisdom only reveals the tip of the iceberg.

“Pakistan is the fifth largest country in the world and the second largest Muslim country – and that too with a large army and an extensive nuclear infrastructure,” says Hassan Abbas, distinguished professor of International Relations at the National Defense University, Washington DC.

“For anyone interested in global stability and maintenance of prevailing international order, economic collapse of Pakistan can be devastating. The US, as a major global power, is naturally concerned.

“Secondly, the US would not like to see Pakistan’s economy collapse while it is steered by a democratic government which is trying hard to normalise its relationship with the US,” he says.

He also makes a point about the great power rivalry in South Asia: “[It’s] nature is such that it is in the US interest to convey to Pakistan that it wants to stay engaged and cooperate where possible, so that Pakistan is not leaning too heavily in China’s direction.”

This view is echoed by John Ciorciari, who teaches at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. He notes that donors such as China and Saudi Arabia may not include many explicit conditions to their aid, but implicit strings are always attached.

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 23, 2023 at 8:58am

Saudi Arabia Eyes Boosting Investment in Pakistan to Over $10 Billion - Bloomberg

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-01-10/saudi-eyes-boost...

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has ordered exploring increasing the kingdom’s assistance and investments in Pakistan, a step toward furthering relief to the South Asian nation economy reeling from deadly floods.


The Saudi Fund for Development will conduct a study on increasing the deposit in Pakistan’s central bank to $5 billion from $3 billion earlier, state-run Saudi Press Agency reported Tuesday. It will also assess the plan to increase investments in Pakistan to $10 billion, according to the same report.

The kingdom’s fund provides soft loans and grants to developing countries as a means to bolster allies and cement new relationships. The statement comes a day after the Crown Prince met with Pakistan’s army chief General Syed Asim Munir to review ways to enhance bilateral ties and strengthen cooperation.

Pakistan’s 7.375% 2031 dollar bond was indicated 0.8 cents higher at 36.1 cents on the dollar, up by the most since the start of December. The South Asian nation’s 8.25% 2024 dollar bond was indicated up 0.8 cents at 54.2 cents on the dollar. The nation’s benchmark KSE-100 Index rose 0.8% at 2:34 p.m. local time

Pakistan’s economy was strapped for funds after a gridlock with the International Monetary Fund over tax targets delayed disbursal of loan installments. The situation was made worse by floods that inundated a third of the nation and cut its growth by half. Pakistan has relied on friendly nations to tide over the crisis. Earlier this week, the nation received commitments of more than $10 billion in assistance.

The nation’s foreign exchange reserves dropped to $5.6 billion — the lowest in almost nine years and enough to cover less than one month of imports. The deteriorating economic outlook triggered downgrades, forcing authorities to announce austerity measures to reduce energy bills and save dollars.

It’s a strong commitment from Saudi Arabia, but likely to be subject to resumption of the IMF program, said Tahir Abbas, head of research at Karachi-based Arif Habib Ltd. “The investment would be in setting up a refinery in Pakistan, for which the government needs to complete modalities including finalization of refinery policy.”



Saudi Arabia last month extended another loan of $3 billion at 4% to Pakistan for a year. The Saudi government will “continue to support Pakistan as much as we can,” Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al Jadaan said at a press conference last month.

Pakistan is also looking to seek extension of a $2.1 billion from China that is due in March. About 30% of Pakistan’s foreign debt is owed to China, including state-owned commercial banks.

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 23, 2023 at 8:59am

China, which has offered a $9 billion bailout package to Pakistan, on Monday pledged more support for the cash-strapped nation, saying that it has done its "utmost" to stabilise the financial situation of its all-weather ally and will continue to do so.

https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/we-will-not-let-you-down-xi-jingpin...

Pakistan had been engaging with China and Saudi Arabia for financial support, including rolling over maturing loans as part of arrangements for about $35 billion in putouts against debt and liabilities during the current fiscal year.

Pakistan's Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Saturday last said that Islamabad would be getting about $9 billion from China and $4 billion from Saudi as the government tries to steady the nation's weak economy.

Quoting Xi Jinping, Dar said the Chinese President in his meeting with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during his recent visit to Beijing on November 3 had assured him, "don't worry, we will not let you down".

Replying to a query on his reactions to Dar's assertions, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing here, "China has done its utmost to help Pakistan stabilise its financial situation. We have been doing so, and we will continue to do so."

Zhao declined to comment on the current political crisis in Pakistan following the failed assassination attempt on former prime minister Imran Khan, saying, "China has noted relevant reports. We express our sympathies to Imran Khan and wish him a speedy recovery."

Khan, 70, suffered bullet injuries in the right leg when two gunmen fired a volley of bullets at him and others mounting on a container-mounted truck in the Wazirabad area of Pakistan's Punjab province where he was leading a long march against the Shehbaz-led government.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party chairman underwent surgery for bullet injuries at the Shaukat Khanum Hospital in Lahore and was discharged on Sunday.

Pakistan owes Paris Club countries a combined sum of around $10.7 billion. The Paris Club is a group of officials from major creditor nations whose role is to find coordinated and sustainable solutions to the payment difficulties experienced by debtor countries.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Pakistan's total non-Paris Club bilateral debt currently stands at about USD 27 billion, of which Chinese debt is about $23 billion.

During Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz's visit to Beijing, the Chinese leadership promised to roll over $4 billion in sovereign loans, refinance $3.3 billion commercial bank loans and increase currency swaps by about $1.45 billion.

Sharif was among the first foreign leaders to visit China following the recently-concluded historic 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in which President Xi won an unprecedented third five-year term in power.

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 24, 2023 at 2:31pm

#Japan's #demographic crisis. More retirees, fewer workers. Japan has one of the lowest #birth rates in the world, with the Ministry of #Health predicting it will record fewer than 800,000 births in 2022 for the first time since records began in 1899. https://www.cnn.com/2023/01/23/asia/japan-kishida-birth-rate-popula...


Japan’s prime minister issued a dire warning about the country’s population crisis on Monday, saying it was “on the brink of not being able to maintain social functions” due to the falling birth rate.

In a policy address to lawmakers, Fumio Kishida said it was a case of solving the issue “now or never,” and that it “simply cannot wait any longer.”

“In thinking of the sustainability and inclusiveness of our nation’s economy and society, we place child-rearing support as our most important policy,” the prime minister said.

Kishida added that he wants the government to double its spending on child-related programs, and that a new government agency would be set up in April to focus on the issue.

Japan has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, with the Ministry of Health predicting it will record fewer than 800,000 births in 2022 for the first time since records began in 1899.

The country also has one of the highest life expectancies in the world; in 2020, nearly one in 1,500 people in Japan were age 100 or older, according to government data.

These trends have driven a growing demographic crisis, with a rapidly aging society, a shrinking workforce and not enough young people to fill the gaps in the stagnating economy.

Experts point to several factors behind the low birth rate. The country’s high cost of living, limited space and lack of child care support in cities make it difficult to raise children, meaning fewer couples are having kids. Urban couples are also often far from extended family who could help provide support.

Attitudes toward marriage and starting families have also shifted in recent years, with more couples putting off both during the pandemic.

Some point to the pessimism young people in Japan hold toward the future, many frustrated with work pressure and economic stagnation.

Japan’s economy has stalled since its asset bubble burst in the early 1990s. The country’s GDP growth slowed from 4.9% in 1990 to 0.3% in 2019, according to the World Bank. Meanwhile, the average real annual household income declined from 6.59 million yen ($50,600) in 1995 to 5.64 million yen ($43,300) in 2020, according to 2021 data from the country’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

The government has launched various initiatives to address the population decline over the past few decades, including new policies to enhance child care services and improve housing facilities for families with children. Some rural towns have even begun paying couples who live there to have children.

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 24, 2023 at 9:28pm
#India's Ban on #BBC's #ModiDocumentary Backfires: It's now being screened across school campuses in India. “Frankly, the ban has been pretty stupid because it’s attracted far more attention to the documentary than would have been otherwise possible" https://time.com/6249393/the-modi-question-documentary-bbc-india-co...
 
 
This is compounded by the fact that banning a documentary that was not otherwise popular in India has only invited more viewers, says Hartosh Singh Bal, the political editor of Indian magazine The Caravan, who also appears in the documentary as a commentator. “Frankly, the ban has been pretty stupid because it’s attracted far more attention to the documentary than would have been otherwise possible,” says Bal. He adds that it is now being screened across school campuses as “an act of resistance” among teenagers who previously viewed these events as a dated chapter in history.
Comment by Riaz Haq on January 24, 2023 at 10:11pm

#Godhra Fire Started By a Karsevak's Stove Inside the Train. The flames remained restricted to that area but the smoke the fire created spread to the rest of the carriage, causing deaths by asphyxiation. #modiDocumentary #Gujarat2002 #Modi #BJP
https://thewire.in/communalism/godhra-where-the-fall-of-indias-demo...


https://thewire.in/communalism/godhra-where-the-fall-of-indias-demo...

The cause of that fire was known and not in doubt: it had begun in the centre of the carriage, possibly when someone knocked over a lighted cooking stove on which food was being warmed or tea made.

The flames had remained restricted to that area but the smoke the fire created had spread to the rest of the carriage, through the gaps between the upper and lower berths, and along the underside of the ceiling. As in S-6, the majority of deaths had resulted from asphyxiation. This explanation gained credibility because the railways were not using flame-retardant materials in second-class compartments then. So even a lighted match could start a fire and create large volumes of toxic smoke. What is more, cooking or warming one’s own food on long train journeys was, and may still be, a common practice among orthodox Hindus.

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 25, 2023 at 6:06pm

Indian Express Editorial: #India must not miss an opportunity to improve relations with #Pakistan at #SCO FM Meeting in #Goa. Multilateral settings are often viewed as opportunities for countries with problematic relations to find a way forward. #SouthAsia https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/editorials/sco-meet-india...


A meeting of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation that India will host in May is expected to bring together foreign ministers of the regional grouping, which includes China, Russia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Bilateral ties with Pakistan and China are at a new low. But multilateral settings are often viewed as opportunities for countries with problematic relations to find a way forward, as the famous Musharraf-Vajpayee handshake did for India and Pakistan at the Kathmandu SAARC summit 20 years ago. Equally, nothing may change, as seen from the “exchange of pleasantries” between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Indonesia last November.

The history of India-Pakistan attempts to find common bilateral ground during multilateral meetings gives a veritable tour of exotic settings, from Male to Sharm El-Sheikh to Thimphu, from New York to Ufa to Dushanbe. Many of these attempts, however, were stillborn. Former PM Manmohan Singh never recovered politically after his own party opposed his joint statement with Pakistan at Sharm El-Sheikh. Former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif was excoriated at home for a joint statement with Modi at Ufa that made no mention of Kashmir. When the multilateral meeting is to be hosted by a country that is on one side of the rift, the first step is for the other side to accept the invitation. At times, the other side arrives hoping to be welcomed warmly but gets a chilly reception, as the then Pakistan foreign minister, Sartaj Aziz, found at the Heart of Asia conference in Amritsar in December 2016, in a year that India had suffered Pathankot, Nagrota and Uri and hit back with the surgical strikes across the LoC. Whether or not Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto attends the May meeting is likely to be a point of interest.

That question assumes greater significance in light of Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif’s statement that his country had learnt its lessons from three wars with India and that he and PM Modi should meet and discuss all “burning issues”, even though it was hemmed in by the caveat on Kashmir. Moreover, Pakistan’s foreign minister has been intemperate in his rhetoric. And Deputy Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said in Davos that she does “not see a partner currently in the Prime Minister of India to take this project [of peace-building] forward”. An election is upcoming in Pakistan, and having committed themselves to a position, both Bhutto and Khar would be mindful that their actions must match their words, while also considering how they might be received in Delhi. But despite this, if there is an opportunity for a thaw, India must not be the one to miss it.

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 25, 2023 at 6:16pm

India has invited Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Atta Bandial and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to attend meetings of a key regional forum that also includes Russia and China.

https://tribune.com.pk/story/2397403/india-invites-cj-fm-for-sco-me...

India currently holds the presidency of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) which comprises Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Iran and Central Asian States. As president of the SCO, New Delhi is set to host a series of events, including a conference of the chief justices of member states, meeting of the foreign ministers and a summit in 2023.

The meeting of chief justices of the SCO is scheduled for March while the foreign ministers will meet in May.

Official sources confirmed to The Express Tribune on Monday that India shared the invitations with Pakistan for Chief Justice Umar Atta Bandial and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

It is, however, not clear whether the chief justice and the foreign minister will attend both the events or depute someone to represent Pakistan. Pakistan hasn’t yet responded to the Indian invite, according to sources.

Given the SCO is an important forum because of the presence of China and Russia, Pakistan is unlikely to stay out of the events.

Both Pakistan and India were accepted as full members of the influential organisation a few years back after they committed not to undermine the SCO work because of their bilateral disputes.

The meeting of the SCO foreign ministers is due to take place in Goa, a tourist destination in South India.

If the chief justice and the foreign minister travel to India for both the events, that would be seen as significant and would be first high-profile visits from Pakistan in many years.

The likely visit may not lead to any tangible outcome for the bilateral ties between the arch rivals, but will be considered as an ice-breaker.

India will also host the SCO summit meeting in June and is almost certain that Pakistan will be invited.

Nevertheless, the visits, if they take place, may lay the ground for some kind of engagement between the two countries. Soon after the SCO summit, India is set to host the One Day International Cricket World in October-November. The successful visits of Pakistani high-ups for the SCO summit will help Islamabad send men in green to the neighboring country for the world cup.

Relations between Pakistan and India have remained tense for many years now. There were some hopes of thaw in February 2021 when the two countries unexpectedly agreed to renew the ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC).

New details recently surfaced claiming that in early 2021 Pakistan and India were discussing the possibility of a summit meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan.

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