‘New beginning’: Khan brings hope of stronger ties with India

India has expressed cautious optimism about an improvement in the country’s relationship with Pakistan following Imran Khan’s rise to power. (AP/photo)
Updated 19 August 2018

‘New beginning’: Khan brings hope of stronger ties with India

  • Cautious optimism in India as Imran Khan becomes PM in Pakistan
  • Indian experts say stable government in Pakistan will determine the course of India-Pakistan relations

NEW DELHI: Indian foreign policy experts have expressed cautious optimism about an improvement in the country’s relationship with Pakistan following Imran Khan’s rise to power.

Former India ambassador to Pakistan TCA Raghavan said that if Pakistan’s new prime minister was able to provide stable government internally and address the nation’s numerous domestic issues, it “will create the basis for better relations with India.”

Raghavan, author of “The People Next Door: The Curious History of India-Pakistan Relations,” said: “It’s difficult to make predictions about India-Pakistan relations at any time. But in my view the internal situation in Pakistan has a great role to play in determining the course of the relationship.”

Sudheendra Kulkarni, a peace activist and adviser to the former prime minister Atal Behari Vajppayee, described Khan’s leadership as a “new beginning for Pakistan and the Indian subcontinent.”

“The past four years have been a wasted opportunity in taking the India-Pakistan relationship forward,” he said. “Nawaz Sharif was a leader with a thorough commitment to a better relationship with New Delhi, but the Narendra Modi regime could not sustain the initial hopes when it invited the leader of the Islamic republic to a swearing in ceremony in 2014.”

However, Kulkarni cautioned that “we should not expect marked improvement in relations in the next eight to nine months as India is going to have elections early next year.”

Professor Happymon Jacob, of the Center for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, said: “I am positive about Imran Khan. If the Pakistan army and the political establishment are on board, and there is no difference between the two elites, then it becomes easier for India to navigate.

“Under Nawaz Sharif, both the elites were not on the same page regarding India. The present regime in Delhi will not reach out to Pakistan when elections in India are around the corner. If anything wrong goes so far as peace process is concerned, then it will have electoral ramifications. Any revival of peace talks will happen only after the elections.”

India’s leadership reached out to Khan after his election victory with the Ministry of External Affairs saying: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi expresses hope that democracy will take deeper roots in Pakistan and reiterates his vision of peace and development in the entire neighborhood.”

In his victory speech, Khan also said that “Pakistan is ready to improve its ties with India.”

He said that his government hoped the leaders of the two nations can resolve all disputes, including the core issue of Kashmir, through talks.

“If they take one step toward us, we will take two,” he said.

Meanwhile, India cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, a guest at Khan’s swearing in on Saturday, has called for peace on the subcontinent.

“It’s in the interest of both countries that peace prevails. I have come to Pakistan despite all the criticism back home with a message of peace and friendship. We have the same culture, the same way of thinking and, therefore, it is important that we should have a strong bond.” 

Smugglers pave path for migrants from Africa to Europe

Migrants attempt to open the rear door of a truck at the Brittany ferry port in Ouistreham, northwestern France, on September 18, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 55 min 50 sec ago

Smugglers pave path for migrants from Africa to Europe

  • Migrants gather in Morocco because “it's the best place to wait for the right moment to cross” over borders with Africa
  • Europol estimates migrants pay on average €3,000-5,000 for a complete trip to Europe

MADRID: They scale barbed-wire topped fences and cross the sea in inflatable boats or jet skis — more than 36,000 migrants entered Spain this year seeking a better life in Europe. Almost all of them relied on smugglers to make the crossing. Ousman Umar, who made a five-year journey from Ghana to Spain, said it was “impossible” to travel thousands of kilometres from sub-Saharan Africa through deserts and other inhospitable areas without the aid of gangs.
“There is almost no chance of reaching Europe illegally” without paying traffickers, Robert Crepinko, the head of the human smuggling unit at Europol, the European Union's policing arm, told AFP. Ninety percent of migrants who enter Europe are helped by human traffickers, he added, citing a 2015 study.
Spain has become the main entry point for migrants arriving this year, after Italy and Greece. “The journey can last one year, two years, depending on the ring and the funds you have, because the trafficking networks will take you as far as you can pay,” Jose Nieto Barroso of the national police's human smuggling unit UCRIF told AFP.
Migrants gather in Morocco because “it's the best place to wait for the right moment to cross” over to Spain, said Nieto Barroso.
The vast majority pay for a spot on an inflatable dinghy or to take part in a mass run on the heavily fortified border fences that surround Ceuta and Melilla, two tiny Spanish territories in North Africa that share the EU's only land borders with Africa. Human traffickers charge 18 euros ($21) to try to scale the border fences, 200-700 euros to join a packed boat to cross the narrow Strait of Gibraltar separating Spain from Morocco by just 15 kilometers (9 miles) at its narrowest point, or up to 5,000 euros to make the trip by jet ski, according to Spanish police. Europol estimates migrants pay on average €3,000-5,000 for a complete trip to Europe. Once in Spain, many want to move on to wealthier northern European countries like Britain, France and Germany where they believe they will have better opportunities, or because they already have family there. Once again, human traffickers play a role in getting them there. The smugglers promise migrants they will be rescued at sea by the Spanish coast guard and then taken to migrant reception centers where “in three or four days members of the network will be in the area and get you out,” Nieto Barroso said. The gang will then take the migrants to another country or, in worst-case scenarios, pass them on to other gangs that exploit them. Women are sometimes forced into prostitution while men are used as slave labor in agriculture or made to beg in the streets. The rings “supply people. They say: 'I have 8, 12, 15 people from the sub-Sahara who can be put to work',” said Nieto Barroso.
Gangs take advantage of the “brutal collapse” of overcrowded migrant reception centers, and gain access to migrants through nonprofit organizations which work with the newcomers, he added. Paloma Favieres of the Spanish Committee for Refugee Aid (CEAR) denounced the reception Spain gives migrants as “chaotic.”
She said she notifies police whenever she believes a migrant is at risk of falling prey to human traffickers but stressed it was up to police “to fight against crime.”
“I don't get any help from the police,” she told AFP.
With migrant arrivals to Spain's southern shores on the rise, more of them are heading north to the border town of Irun, some sleeping rough as they wait to cross into neighbouring France, or to Santander, where police in August arrested two people for hiding migrants in their vehicle which was going to board a ferry bound for Britain.
Police smashed 25 human trafficking rings in Spain last year but many more remain active in Africa, recruiting more migrants.