India succumbing to ‘extreme pressure,’ experts say

In the letter written by PM Khan to Modi, he had said that Pakistan was ready to discuss terrorism and that talks on “trade, people-to-people contacts, religious tourism and humanitarian issues were also important.” (AFP/File)
Updated 22 September 2018

India succumbing to ‘extreme pressure,’ experts say

  • Cite upcoming elections as reason for cancelation of high-levels talks with Pakistan
  • PM Khan blasts New Delhi for its “arrogant and negative” response 

KARACHI: Lamenting India’s failure to put derailed bilateral relations back on track, experts said New Delhi’s decision to call off high-level talks, as proposed by Islamabad, was a result of “extreme pressure” faced by Indian PM Narendra Modi’s government ahead of the 2019 general elections.
“Modi is under extreme pressure and maybe he will win the upcoming elections by appeasing the extremists but he has lost his credibility as a world leader by negatively responding to a very positive Pakistani call,” Tajammul Altaf, former Ambassador of Pakistan to China and UK, said.
Earlier on Saturday, Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his disappointment at India’s decision to cancel the meeting — between Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his Indian counterpart, Sushma Swaraj — which was scheduled to take place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York this week.
PM Khan had initiated the idea for the meeting in a letter addressed to PM Modi on September 14. India had agreed to the meeting on Thursday but canceled a day later.
Terming India’s response as “arrogant and negative,” PM Khan took to Twitter to post a strongly-worded comment, wherein he said: “All my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture,” he said.
Reasoning that PM Modi and his party used an anti-Pakistan agenda to strengthen their vote bank in the previous elections, Professor Tahir Malik, an academic and an analyst, blamed hard-liners and hawks within India for the talks being called off. “Modi and his party don’t want to lose their support base just months ahead of the general elections in India,” he said.
Malik said that while there is still a window of opportunity for bilateral talks to resume in the near future, any such proposal would be possible only after the upcoming elections.
Ruing that “this is not the first time that Modi has taken a U-turn,” Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, an Islamabad-based analyst and professor at the School of Politics and International Relations at Quaid-e-Azam University, said: “He made a surprise visit of Lahore in December 2015 but as soon as his plane landed in Delhi, his tone changed.”
Drawing attention to Modi’s failed campaign promises, ex-envoy Altaf said that he has nothing new to present to his voters. “The demonetization drive backfired badly and according to the RBI, 99.3% of the money is back,” Altaf said, adding that unemployment has also surged during Modi’s regime, leading to his extreme unpopularity at home.
In the letter written by PM Khan to Modi, he had said that Pakistan was ready to discuss terrorism and that talks on “trade, people-to-people contacts, religious tourism and humanitarian issues were also important.”
Jaspal, however, said he wasn’t very hopeful about the stalled dialogue resuming anytime soon. Reasoning that the cancelation of talks and the upcoming elections were just a cover for a bigger problem, he said that “our history with our neighbor shows that India has never wanted to see a stable Pakistan.”


‘Clear risks’ for stability in China’s Pacific lending, Australian think tank warns

Updated 34 min 50 sec ago

‘Clear risks’ for stability in China’s Pacific lending, Australian think tank warns

SYDNEY: China’s financial largesse in the Pacific carries “clear risks” for stability if left unchecked, a Sydney think tank warned, while saying allegations of “debt-trap” diplomacy are so far overblown.
In a study released Monday, the influential Lowy Institute warned that fragile Pacific nations risked borrowing too much and leaving themselves exposed to demands from Beijing.
China has repeatedly been accused of offering lucrative but unserviceable loans to gain leverage or snap up strategically vital assets like ports, airports, or electricity providers.
While Lowy said allegations that China was engaged in “debt-trap” diplomacy in the Pacific were overblown, the trend was not positive and countries like Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu were dangerously exposed.
Between 2011 and 2018, China committed loans to the region worth $6 billion — around 21 percent of regional GDP.
A majority of that money, $4.1 billion, was earmarked for Papua New Guinea.
Only a fraction, less than $1 billion, has so far been dispersed but China is still the single largest creditor in Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu.
“The sheer scale of Chinese lending and the lack of strong institutional mechanisms to protect the debt sustainability of borrowing countries mean a continuation of business as usual would pose clear risks,” the report said.
The South Pacific has become a forum for intense competition for influence between China, the United States, and Australia in recent years.
The island nations sit on a vital shipping crossroad, contain vast reserves of fish stocks, and provide a potential base for leading militaries to project power well beyond their borders.
Beijing has stepped up engagement in the region through a series of high profile visits and no-conditions lending via its Belt and Road Initiative.
The Solomon Islands and Kiribati recently announced they would switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing after a long courtship by the country’s Communist leaders.
Six Pacific governments are currently debtors to Beijing — the Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu.
Lowy said many of China’s loans carry a modest two percent annual interest rate.
But it warned that China would need to adopt formal lending rules if loans were to be made sustainable as natural disasters like earthquakes, cyclones and tsunamis can quickly upend countries’ ability to pay back loans.
“Three small Pacific economies — Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu — also appear to be among those most heavily indebted to China anywhere in the world,” it said.