As we finalise the pages of the May 2021 issue, our country is in the third wave of the pandemic. According to WHO, from January 3, 2020 to 30 April 2021, there have been 815,711 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 17,680 deaths in Pakistan. And as of April 25, 2021, a total of 1,735,515 vaccine doses have been administered. With Eid-ul-Fitr right around the corner, we hope and pray that our fellow citizens will practice social distancing, wear masks and avoid crowds. We have to be smart to fight this virus.
The issue at hand brings forth expert opinions on the latest developments that impact Pakistan and our region. When states cannot achieve a complete consensus on a crisis, a modus vivendi may be attained through a temporary arrangement as a provisional measure pending conflict resolution. The ‘interim agreement’ or ‘arrangement’ is a tool for reaching a modus vivendi or quick remedy. The restoration of the ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) has been described as many things, including — a ‘thaw,’ an interesting term to use in the middle of summer, but not a modus vivendi. There could be various reasons for this, including who has the diplomatic remit of a nation-state, but not necessary for our discussion.
In the current issue of Narratives, our esteemed contributors challenge the wisdom of the decision to join the back channel diplomacy currently underway. They argue that it weakens the position of Kashmiris under siege in their valley by the alien Modi regime. We know very little about the agenda of the meeting or the next step. And a lack of transparency opens the leadership to criticism.
Concurrence on the necessity for negotiations is always a sensitive and challenging issue. In many cases it is more complicated, time-consuming, and complex than reaching an agreement once negotiations have begun. But the history of the India-Pakistan dialogue is filled with several short-lived ‘thaws,’ leading to dark, freezing nights for the people of Occupied Kashmir. Why would it be different this time around?
Pakistan’s stated pre-condition for the resumption of dialogue with India: Delhi must restore the special status granted under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir. The risks and rewards of the back channel diplomacy via a Middle Eastern state is debatable and depends on peoples’ self-crafted “reality.” But a distinct pattern has emerged from previous attempts. We get excited — lots of photos opportunities, natak and mushairahs — and all of a sudden, a bomb blast, an attack on the Indian occupation forces and New Delhi starts to sing the same old song. Unsubstantiated accusations derail the peace train, and Pakistan becomes a laughing stock for the world yet again.
In another development, America finally decided to conclude its failed occupation of Afghanistan. But the retreat doesn’t seem substantial enough to end US involvement in all wars. The US is entering a new era of military competition with Russia and China that could easily result in short but very intense and destructive conflicts. The New Yorker Weekly dubs these “hypersonic wars.”
As Biden was announcing the impending US pullout from Afghanistan, the Pentagon rescinded the Trump administration’s plans to reduce US troop levels in Germany, and decided instead to send an additional 500 troops there, members of elite high-tech combat units. To fully appreciate the significance of this shift, we need to know more about those 500 specialists going to Europe and the sort of high-tech warfare they are trained to fight. According to Pentagon sources cited by military sites such as Military Times and Breaking Defence, the additional troops will be assigned to two new units being created to experiment with new tactics and technologies: the Multi-Domain Task Force-Europe (MDTF-E) and the Army’s first Theatre Fires Command.