Racism in America; Coronavirus in Pakistan; China in Ladakh

Is the killing of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis Police Officer symptomatic of a deeper problem in American society? Is the Trump phenomenon the result of ingrained racism in America? Is racism rooted in America's original sin of slavery?  Is it time to openly acknowledge and address it? Is it time for greater social change beyond the emancipation proclamation of 1860s and the civil rights legislation of 1960s? Is wide participation of white American protesters in recent marches a clear call for action by top leadership in the White House and the US Congress?

George Floyd Memorialized By Pakistani Truck Artist Haider Ali

What is the status and the trajectory of coronavirus pandemic in Pakistan? How widespread are the infections? What does COVID19 and antibodies testing tell us? Is easing of lockdown justified? How long a lockdown can Pakistan's poor afford? What is the alternative? Can mandatory face mask slow down the spread? Is there a right balance between lives and livelihoods?

Why is India so isolated? Have Modi's actions contributed to Chinese aggressive response in Ladakh? Did revocation of article 370 provoke China? Where does America stand on the situation in Ladakh? Will Trump before his offer to mediate between India and China? Is the current China-India standoff an opportunity for Pakistan like the one in 1962 when the Indian military was on the run? Can Pakistan take advantage of it?

Despardes with Faraz Darvesh host discusses these questions with Raza Rumi, Misbah Azam and Riaz Haq.


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Comment by Riaz Haq on June 14, 2020 at 10:26pm

#Texas A&M Study: Face #Masks Critical In Preventing Spread Of #COVID19. Researchers estimate that the measure prevented more than 66,000 infections in New York City #NYC in less than a month. #coronavirus https://today.tamu.edu/2020/06/12/texas-am-study-face-masks-critica...

A study by a team of researchers led by a Texas A&M University professor has found that not wearing a face mask dramatically increases a person’s chances of being infected by the COVID-19 virus.

Renyi Zhang, Texas A&M Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and the Harold J. Haynes Chair in the College of Geosciences, and colleagues from the University of Texas, the University of California-San Diego and the California Institute of Technology have had their work published in the current issue of PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

The team examined the chances of COVID-19 infection and how the virus is easily passed from person to person. Comparing trends and mitigation procedures in China, Italy and New York City, the researchers found that using a face mask reduced the number of infections by more than 78,000 in Italy from April 6-May 9 and by over 66,000 in New York City from April 17-May 9.

“Our results clearly show that airborne transmission via respiratory aerosols represents the dominant route for the spread of COVID-19,” Zhang said. “By analyzing the pandemic trends without face-covering using the statistical method and by projecting the trend, we calculated that over 66,000 infections were prevented by using a face mask in little over a month in New York City. We conclude that wearing a face mask in public corresponds to the most effective means to prevent inter-human transmission.

“This inexpensive practice, in conjunction with social distancing and other procedures, is the most likely opportunity to stop the COVID-19 pandemic. Our work also highlights that sound science is essential in decision-making for the current and future public health pandemics.”

One of the paper’s co-authors, Mario Molina, is a professor at the University of California-San Diego and a co-recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his role in understanding the threat to the Earth’s ozone layer of man-made halocarbon gases.

“Our study establishes very clearly that using a face mask is not only useful to prevent infected coughing droplets from reaching uninfected persons, but is also crucial for these uninfected persons to avoid breathing the minute atmospheric particles (aerosols) that infected people emit when talking and that can remain in the atmosphere tens of minutes and can travel tens of feet,” Molina said.

Zhang said that many people in China have worn face masks for years, mainly because of the bad air quality of the country.

“So people there are sort of used to this,” he said. “Mandated face-covering helped China in containing the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Zhang said the results should send a clear message to people worldwide – wearing a face mask is essential in fighting the virus.

“Our work suggests that the failure in containing the propagation of COVID-19 pandemic worldwide is largely attributed to the unrecognized importance of airborne virus transmission,” he said. “Social-distancing and washing our hands must continue, but that’s not sufficient enough protection. Wearing a face mask as well as practicing good hand hygiene and social distancing will greatly reduce the chances of anyone contracting the COVID-19 virus.”

The study was funded by the Robert A. Welch Foundation.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 16, 2020 at 10:14am

Wrong to "link Beijing’s moves along the LAC to a broader policy of Chinese aggression. In fact, there are indications that China is responding in part to U.S.-backed Indian unilateral measures made last year" #Kashmir #Ladakh #India #China #US #Pakistan https://nationalinterest.org/feature/crisis-brewing-between-india-a...

Last August, the Indian government revoked the nominal autonomy of the broader Jammu and Kashmir region, annexing the disputed region which had the status of a state according to the Indian constitution. New Delhi then divided the former “state” into two separate territories: “Jammu and Kashmir” and “Ladakh,” the latter being both the location of recent Chinese ingresses and home to territory claimed by Beijing. Earlier this month, Chinese scholar Wang Shida, writing on the state-run China Economic Net website, seemed to tie India’s annexation of Kashmir to the recent LAC activity, arguing that New Delhi “forced China into the Kashmir dispute” and “dramatically increased the difficulty in resolving the border issue between China and India.” As Wang notes, Beijing’s official response to New Delhi’s Kashmir moves was indeed quite strong—though many observers seemed to interpret them as merely symbolic measures to placate ally Islamabad.

Indeed, it appears that both New Delhi and Washington have severely miscalculated how Beijing would respond to the annexation of Kashmir last year. While many U.S. analysts viewed New Delhi’s moves as an attempt to formalize the status quo, they ignored statements by Indian officials, including Interior Minister Amit Shah, suggesting that India would extend its writ to portions of Kashmir under the control of China and Pakistan. Additionally, the United States, and the State Department, in particular, offered its tacit endorsement of India’s annexation of Kashmir, suggesting that the move could promote economic prosperity in the area and deflecting congressional scrutiny over the draconian lockdown imposed by India over the region. And while President Donald Trump offered on several occasions to mediate between India and Pakistan on Kashmir, the bureaucracy, including the then-top U.S. diplomat for South Asia, Alice Wells, consistently sought to water down that offer.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 18, 2020 at 11:36am

Why #India-#China Border Conflict Is Music to #Pakistan’s Ears. Alarming because these 3 are heavily-armed #nuclear countries with the ability to inflict great damage to one another if their border differences are not managed properly. #Ladakh #Kashmir https://www.thequint.com/voices/opinion/india-china-border-conflict...

As I see it, there were two triggers for China’s recent move in Ladakh – a) local and b) geo-political. And both of these have ramifications for Pakistan.

While one of the reasons for Chinese military moves in Ladakh is a local issue, that is, India’s decision to build a feeder branch of the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi (DSDBO) road, the potential geo-strategic ramifications of the outcome of this clash have wide regional implications.

But if China is able to retain control of Patrol Point 14 (PP14), which dominates the heights overlooking the DSDBO road, then it would have a massive strategic and operational advantage over India. Having the military upper hand, it wouldn’t take much for China to cut-off the DSDBO road at a time of its choosing.


One shouldn’t forget that although the Sino-Indian armed clashes in the last few weeks have been quasi-medieval in their style, India has suffered its greatest losses since Kargil in 1999.

Not only will these necessary military reinforcements cost India heavily in personnel and treasure, but it also means that the diversion of these military assets will reduce India’s force capability to make any military move – were it so inclined – into Pakistan’s ‘Azad Kashmir’ and Gilgit-Baltistan. That would be good news for Pakistan.
As far as China (and Pakistan) is concerned, J&K remains ‘disputed territory’. And China has a particular interest in Ladakh given that it has historical claims over parts of it.

But what must have really irritated President Xi Jinping is Indian Home Minister Amit Shah’s ‘vow to take back Aksai Chin’, territory that India lost to China in their brief but very bloody 1962 war.

So China’s move on Ladakh has put on ice Prime Minister Modi’s plan to integrate J&K into the Indian union. By annexing J&K – a disputed territory as reaffirmed in numerous UN Security Council resolutions – PM Modi has put Kashmir back on the international radar, and has brought China into the picture. These are two outcomes that Pakistan would welcome heartily.

PM Modi Must Strike Balance Between De-Escalating & Not Appearing to Kowtow to the Enemy
Prime Minister Modi will be under massive pressure to do something, or at least to be seen to be doing something, to respond to China’s belligerence – particularly after he stated that the “… the sacrifice of our jawans will not be in vain.”

Having said that, there’s no appetite for either side to escalate what is still a low-level clash.

The fact that the foreign ministers of India and China have talked over the phone is proof of that. PM Modi also knows that in any military confrontation with China, India would not do well at all. So he needs to get the right balance between de-escalating and not looking like he’s backed down in front of the enemy.

‘Protection’ For CPEC & BRI
So all in all, there’s absolutely no doubt that the big winner of this Sino-Indian clash is Pakistan.

Whether Pakistan had foreknowledge that China was going to make this move is really a moot point now.

China’s military move in Ladakh provides potential protection for its China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) assets that run through Gilgit-Baltistan, and it neutralises India’s opposition to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) going through Gilgit-Baltistan.

In other words, as far as Beijing is concerned, New Delhi’s opposition to CPEC going through Pakistan-administered-Kashmir is now merely academic. This would all be welcome news for Pakistan and the top brass in Rawalpindi.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 19, 2020 at 7:11pm

Most of #India’s #startups rely on #Chinese #vc money. What will happen to them if #BoycottChina succeeds??? #Modi #BJP #Ladakh #Galvan


Comment by Riaz Haq on June 20, 2020 at 5:21pm

China: leading trade partner; contribute to 18 percent of India’s imports


(India's) Import dependency on China for a range of raw materials (APIs, basic chemicals, agro-intermediates) and critical components (Auto, Durables, Capital goods) is skewed. To give a flavour, out of the respective imports, 20 percent of the auto components and 70 percent of electronic components come from China. Similarly, 45 percent of consumer durables, 70 percent of APIs and 40 percent of leather goods imported are from China.


Trade figures suggest that India is the biggest importer of Chinese consumer goods. India imports almost seven times more from China than it exports to it. India has huge trade deficit with China – its largest with any country. In 2018-19, India’s exports to China were mere $16.7 billion, while imports were $70.3 billion, leaving a trade deficit of $53.6 billion.

It needs to be acknowledged that China’s exports to India account for only 2% of its total exports, so even if Indians boycott all the goods imported from China, it will not make as big an impact on China. Data also suggests that China is India’s largest trading partner, but the trade is heavily skewed in favour of China. Thus initiating a trade war when Indian manufacturing ability is limited is not going to favour India.


Comment by Riaz Haq on June 24, 2020 at 5:07pm

Has #Coronavirus peaked in #Pakistan? Cases fall for 5th straight day from peak of 6,895 last week to 3,892 in last 24 hours. Fatalities have also decreased significantly over recent days, falling to 60 on Wednesday from the record high of 153 on June 19. http://v.aa.com.tr/1888337

New coronavirus cases in Pakistan continued to decline for a fifth consecutive day on Wednesday, official data showed.

According to the Health Ministry, 3,892 cases were confirmed across the country over the past 24 hours, raising the overall count to 188,926.

The figure marked a fall of almost 3,000 from the record high of 6,895 reached slightly over a week ago on June 13.

It was also the fifth day of declining cases -- 6,604 on June 19, 4,951 on June 20, 4,471 on June 21, and 3,946 on June 22.

Fatalities have also decreased significantly over recent days, falling to 60 on Wednesday from the record high of 153 on June 19.

The death toll in the country now stands at 3,755, while recoveries increased by 4,283 to 77,75, raising the overall recovery ratio from 37% to 41.2%, according to the ministry's data.

Health experts also confirmed the improving numbers in the South Asian country of over 220 million, which has conducted over 1.15 million tests so far.

"Despite increased testing capacity, the numbers are slowly reducing and we at Khyber Medical University have also observed the declining trend," Arshad Javaid, the university's vice chancellor, told Anadolu Agency.

Asad Umar, a federal minister leading Pakistan's COVID-19 response, last week warned that infections could exceed one million by the end of July, if daily numbers continued to rise at the same rate.

However, on June 15, authorities identified hotspots in 20 big cities and enforced locality-based lockdowns -- which the government has dubbed "smart lockdowns" -- in the high-risk areas.

"The smart lockdown, apparently, has helped stem the spread of the virus to other areas," Dr. Mohammad Akram, a pulmonologist based in the capital Islamabad, said.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization advised Pakistan to impose a two-week strict lockdown, declaring the country the second-most vulnerable to the pandemic after neighboring Afghanistan.

The recommendation came as infections skyrocketed when the government lifted its lockdown restrictions of varying strictness in late May, ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, however, rejected the UN body's suggestion, saying "smart lockdowns" were the only possible option for Pakistan because it "is a poor country … [with] no choice but to reopen."

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 27, 2020 at 9:45am

“In the long term, China’s upper hand militarily in the Ladakh region will make it easier for it to protect its CPEC assets in Pakistan-administered Kashmir if India ever decides to make a military incursion into that area" #China #India #Pakistan #CPEC https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3090758/why-pakis...

For China, there are big economic interests at stake.
Pakistan-administered Kashmir is the site of key elements of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a series of infrastructure projects in Pakistan funded by Chinese bank loans. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has called the CPEC a “flagship project” of China’s broader Belt and Road Initiative.
India has been vocal about its opposition to the CPEC, with Modi using bilateral meetings at forums like the G20 and official state visits to China to tell Xi that the CPEC’s inclusion of Kashmir is a threat to India’s national sovereignty.
Rakisits said that protecting CPEC was a top priority for China.
“In the long term, China’s upper hand militarily in the Ladakh region will make it easier for it to protect its CPEC assets in Pakistan-administered Kashmir if India ever decides to make a military incursion into that area,” he said.
And that has not gone unnoticed in India.
“Indian forces responsible for manning the Line of Control with Pakistan have already been diverted to reinforce India’s border with China,” said Rajesh Rajagopalan, a professor of international politics at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
Rajagopalan said that with Pakistan and China flanking India-ruled Kashmir on either side, India had long been worried about the threat of a coordinated strategy between its two neighbours.
“The Indian military has long had concerns about a Sino-Pakistan axis and the possibility of having to fight a two-front war,” he said.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 30, 2020 at 12:24pm

After #India’s Skirmish With #China, Is #Pakistan Next? Looking to reinvigorate support at home, #Modi could pick a fight with his country’s traditional enemy. #Kashmir #Ladakh #GalwanValley #kargil #Siachen #LAC #LOC https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/06/29/india-skirmish-china-modi-pick...

So what exactly does the dust-up with China have to do with Pakistan’s relationship with India? In short, there are five reasons why this month’s Himalayan standoff increases the likelihood of a fresh India-Pakistan crisis.

First: India’s muted response to China in the aftermath of the Galwan Valley skirmish has raised difficult logistical questions and reputational concerns about New Delhi’s much-touted role as counterweight to ----

Yet hostile encounters with China in both 2017 and again this year have underscored for Indian policymakers the need to get along with Beijing if only to sustain a mutually feasible cohabitation; informal summits such as those in 2018 and 2019 were driven by this strategic necessity. In the aftermath of the most recent crisis, corps commander-level talks and diplomatic negotiations between Beijing and New Delhi mean India is likely to prioritize a minimum-working engagement with China over an unambiguous geopolitical rivalry that would come with fully partnering with the United States. Meanwhile, the political compulsion to demonstrate military capability—especially in the face of a conventional balance of forces that has shifted in China’s favor—may impel India to look elsewhere to offset suggestions of strategic impotency. If military capabilities drive policy choices, then the theater with Pakistan is a suitable foil for perceived Indian weaknesses compared to China.

Second, since coming to power in 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has demonstrated both a willingness and a capability to deliver on nationalistic pledges at home, especially when his government’s ability to deliver on the economic front has hit snags. Although India has seen its GDP growth fall to its lowest rate in the last 11 years, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has sought to consolidate its political base by doubling down on its nationalistic pledges—from revoking the special status for Jammu and Kashmir (disputed between India and Pakistan since 1947) to building a Hindu temple to the god Ram on a disputed holy site where the Babri Masjid once stood.

Research shows that leaders looking to divert attention tend to target traditional enemies and enduring rivals (as conflict against such persistent adversaries is most likely to promote in-group solidarity), and diversionary conflicts are particularly likely to take the form of territorial disputes. Since the controversial measures in Kashmir last year, India’s politicians have systematically upped the bilateral ante with Pakistan by declaring intent to “secure” the Pakistani administrative areas of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. ----

Ordinarily, such statements might be put down to cheap talk—except, in this case, the BJP’s own track record of follow-through suggests these threats should be taken seriously. Operationally, the Indian Army has begun to set up artillery strikes deep into Kashmiri villages to launch long-distance fire into Pakistan-administered territory. In May, after months of deliberation, the India Meteorological Department began to list several areas on the Pakistani side of the border, in its own internal weather reports—an unprecedented development.

Third, while tempers and temperatures arguably cool on the Sino-Indian front, memories of a short but tense air duel between India and Pakistan last February are still fresh in both Islamabad and New Delhi. While Pakistan shot down an aging, Soviet-era Indian MiG-21 Bison and captured and returned an Indian pilot in the dogfight, India claimed it had downed a Pakistani F-16. The air duel over Kashmir quickly escalated into a war of narratives: Pakistan rejected India’s allegations and asserted it had lost no jets.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 30, 2020 at 10:27pm

#Pakistan is part of #China's strategic move. #Modi's policy became hostage to domestic #electoral considerations in #India soon after the new government took over in 2014 without realizing that peace in #Kashmir was in #Indian interest http://www.ecoti.in/asgUeY72 via @economictimes

As Sino-Indian relations nosedive and head for a possible confrontation, Pakistan is deriving vicarious pleasure at the way China has applied a chokehold in Ladakh by occupying the Galwan Valley.


How will Pakistan help China in stepping up military pressure on India without getting directly involved? Is it not an opportune moment for Pakistan to avenge its dismemberment in 1971? The answers are simple.

Pakistan will synchronize its actions with that of China, on the border and within Jammu and Kashmir, to engage as many Indian troops as possible.

Pakistan will keep the Line of Control (LoC) alive by continued shelling and by stepping up infiltration. This will leave little scope for any possibility of thinning of troops from the border and from the anti-infiltration grid.

Unfortunately, relations with Pakistan became hostage to domestic electoral considerations in India soon after the new government took over in 2014. We did not realise that peace on the LoC was in our interest - which helped our troops lay effective ambushes on known infiltration routes without having to duck from cross-border shelling.

At the same time, Pakistan would like to keep the pot boiling within Jammu & Kashmir.In its assessment of the post-August 5, 2019 scenario in Kashmir, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) went awfully wrong on this count.

Pakistan PM Imran Khan claimed at the UN General Assembly on September 27, 2019, that Kashmiris will be “massacred” by Indian troops once restrictions are removed. Now, making a course correction, ISI has decided to take direct control of militancy and the separatist movement rather than operating through proxies.

Pakistan floated an umbrella terrorist organisation, ‘The Resistance Front’, and ensured that all major terror groups based on its soil, including Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, joined hands and operated under its command. It is being presented as a home-grown outfit resenting Indian “occupation” of Kashmir and the changes that took place on August 5 last year. Pakistan believes that it will help in better control of violence with complete deniability.

Pakistan is also deeply disappointed by the failure of separatists in bringing people out on the streets for violent protests. Pakistan realised that all three leaders of the “Joint Resistance Leadership” are handicapped in doing so for different reasons. SAS Geelani, its best proxy in the Valley, is in extremely poor health. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is under house arrest and not strong enough to confront the government. Yasin Malik faces serious charges and is unlikely to be out early.

So, there is an urgent need to take control of the separatist movement even if it means ditching Geelani.

Geelani was outraged at the appointment of Mohammad Hussain Khatib, a low-level operative from Doda district of Jammu region, as convener of the PoK chapter of Hurriyat Conference. On June 28, he dissociated himself from the organisation and criticised Pakistan for turning this “freedom struggle” into a movement for its own benefit. He accused Pakistan of converting Kashmir into graveyard and Kashmiris in PoK as drug addicts/peddlers.

In the 1962 conflict with China, US president John F Kennedy not only supplied crucial military hardware to India, but also personally wrote to Pakistan president Ayub Khan to keep the border calm so that India can concentrate on China. Kennedy further pressed Ayub to send a personal message to Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that Pakistan would not make any moves on the ground.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 26, 2020 at 7:36am

Time for #China to toughen up on insincere #India. Will India fire the first shot? The Indian military, or some of its forces, are influenced by right-wing #Hindu nationalist organization RSS, which pervade all facets of Indian society. - Global Times https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1202139.shtml#.X29QeAkYz1o.twitter

Only three days after the sixth round of the China-India military commander-level meeting on Monday with consensus reached by the two sides to cool rising border tensions, The Hindu quoted a "senior [Indian] government official" and suggested "If PLA (People's Liberation Army) comes close, Indian troops can fire." Such hype only embodies India is being a coward in a lion's skin.

The two countries agreed to stop sending more troops to the frontline in their latest talks. This is relatively in favor of India, because New Delhi has deployed far more troops to border areas than Beijing. In the latest conflict near the Pangong Tso Lake, Indian troops illegally crossed the border, and initially occupied some highlands. India is hoping it could maintain such an "advantage," and therefore wishes the PLA will not "come close."

Will India fire the first shot? The possibility cannot be ruled out. The Indian military, or some of its forces, are influenced by nationalist sentiment and the right-wing Hindu nationalist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which pervade all facets of Indian society. It may be true that some people want to provoke a war.

India has always been calculating on its rhetoric. If the situation is favorable to India, it would advocate that disputes could be resolved by negotiations. This is what happened in early May. But after the skirmish on June 15, when India believed it suffered a loss, the country started to clamor for war. After India's aggression near the Pangong Tso Lake at the end of August, it wanted to talk to China again.

When India tends to believe it has some advantages, it would hope to negotiate with China and try to make China concede in talks. This is what is going on for the moment. New Delhi is playing the tactic - using its small leverage to maximize returns, wishing Beijing to make a compromise in the entire region of confrontation.

The attempt to occupy more strategic heights in border areas has been India's consistent goal, a tactic through which India tries to nibble into more border areas.

However, India has difficulties to confront. Its domestic epidemic crisis is rising. Although it has deployed large-scale troops in border areas, the country's logistics sector is facing huge challenges, especially as winter approaches.

Logistics supplies play a decisive role in modern warfare. China's ability to send troops, weapons and ammunition, as well as supplies to the border far outweighs that of India. If India dares to fire the first shot, it will have no chance to fire a second one.

China wants no war and used to see India as a "brother" in developing countries. China has been proactively promoting cooperation with India, both on the bilateral level and in multinational platforms. There was a time when China hoped it could jointly rise with India, in an attempt to realize the rejuvenation of the two ancient civilizations, even the rejuvenation of Asia.

But India does not think so. It is trying to shape a new global industrial chain without China. It wants to stand with the US against the rise of China, and has been observing China's emergence from a geopolitical lens, fearing China could one day become the dominant power in Asia.


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