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Daily Briefs


Photo : Dawn

25 May 2020, Monday, Vol 1, No.25

Disturbing the strategic stability matrix in South Asia can lead to dire consequences, warns Pakista



Army Chief's Eid Message, PIA-8303 Enquiry and a Media report on the CPEC

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

Editorial

Disturbing the strategic stability matrix in South Asia can lead to dire consequences, warns Pakistan's Army Chief

According to a press release from the ISPR, Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Bajwa, while visiting the Line of Control in Puna Sector to spend the Eid with his troops, offered prayers and lauded the professionalism, operational preparedness, befitting response to the Indian ceasefire violations. Also, the ISPR release mentions that the "Pakistan Army is observing Eid solemnly in solidarity with Kashmiris under Indian occupation particularly since 5 August 19 illegal, inhumane lockdown and ensuing atrocities."

An essential aspect of the press release is the reference to a "strategic stability matrix" in the region. According to the ISPR, "Kashmir is a disputed territory, and any attempt to challenge the disputed status including any political cum military thought related to aggression will be responded with full national resolve and military might. Disturbing the strategic stability matrix in South Asia can lead to dire consequences." The Army Chief, according to the release reiterated, "Pakistan Army is fully alive to the threat spectrum and will remain ever ready to perform its part in line with national aspirations." ("General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) visited Line of Control in Puna Sector and spent Eid with troops," No PR-84/2020-ISPR, 24 May 2020)

The above statement raises a few important questions. What is the "strategic stability matrix" in South Asia? And how is it getting disturbed? And what are the "national aspirations" in Pakistan that the COAS is referring to in this context?

A day earlier, writing in the Express Tribune, former Air Vice Marshal Shahzad Chaudhry commented that the region is "drifting" into another war. He wrote: "It is that slow, unobserved, passive slide which involuntarily thrusts you to an unintended consequence. If that consequence necessitates use of arms and weapons by two nuclear states, it makes for a disastrous collision." (Shahzad Chaudhry, "Is South Asia drifting into another war?The Express Tribune, 24 May 2020)

He concludes, "How real is the threat? With Modi one can't tell…Modi and his military make repeated claims over territories that lie in neighbouring states and rather than negotiate to resolve lingering counter-claims isn't loath to resort to military instrument in pursuit of misplaced idealism. There is continuous tension between India and all its neighbours. By infusing deliberate uncertainty with all it seems India relishes attention even if negative. That makes the entire strategic environment tenuous. What might further push the region over the edge would be an ill-timed nudge from someone like the US (Alice Wells) to India to assert against the growing Chinese influence."

Is this the "strategic stability matrix" that the Army Chief of Pakistan is also alluding to – that India, with support ("nudge" or otherwise) from the US, will pursue an expansionist path with its neighbours? What makes Pakistan to think so? The recent skirmishes along the border in Ladakh and Sikkim? The ongoing controversy over Kalapani between India and Nepal?

Image Source: Dawn

In Focus

PIA plane crash: PALPA concerned over the handling of the investigation 

Pakistan Airlines' Pilots Association (PALPA) has demanded a thorough technical investigation into the PIA aircraft crash by involving the association and international bodies. It also suggested an investigation to be done on the working conditions of the ground staff and flight crew. They demanded the involvement of the International Civil Aviation Organisation and International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations in the investigation. Further, expressing their concern over the inabilities and past role of the Special Investigation Board (SIB) because of its unimpressive record. ("Pilots' body demands probe into Karachi plane crash," Dawn, 23 May 2020)

The federal government ordered an independent and thorough investigation into the crash. A four-member investigation team was appointed, comprising of three officials from the Aircraft Accident Investigation Board, of which two were Air Force officers, and the fourth member has been appointed from Pakistan Air Force's safety board. However, no commercial pilot was included in the team. The Investigation Team was to furnish its report to the Aviation Division within the shortest possible time. Reservation on this "investigation team" were raised by both PALPA and the opposition party. Secretary of the PALPA stated concern over the unbalanced investigation team that was formed due to the lack of commercial pilots in the team. Further, highlighting that commercial pilots would be able to understand the accidents of this nature better. (Baqir Sajjad Syed "Question mark over probe body composition," Dawn, 24 May 2020) 

The PPP also raised their objections to the investigation team and called for the formation of a new panel to hold investigations in an unbiased manner. These objects hold valid for how can a civilian body be headed by the military. Demands made by PALPA to include representatives of international pilots' bodies, and an experienced pilot to be included in the team would help to pull out the facts and reach the right conclusion. (Amir Wasim, "PPP rejects team set up to investigate plane crash," Dawn, 24 May 2020)

PALPA has in many instances, raised the concern over the aircraft's landing gear and other technical lags to the PIA management. Unfortunately, these concerns have fallen on deaf ears and have always faced criticism for demanding safety procedures and the highest technical maintenance of aircraft and following international safety rules and regulations. Further, this issue from a larger perspective shows the misgovernment and bad governance of the PIA and the politicization that exists within the PIA.

Pakistan hopes CPEC will renew its plummeting economy: SCMP analysis 

An analysis in the South China Morning Post ("As coronavirus bites, Pakistan looks to China for belt and road economic boost," South China Morning Post, 24 May 2020) has a quick review of the CPEC, Imran's attempt to downsize first, and then the post-COVID expectations.

The report refers to the CPEC Authority Chairman Asim Saeed Bajwa saying that an agreement for the USD 2.5 billion Kohala hydropower project would soon be signed with the China Three Gorges Corp; construction work for the USD 230 million Gwadar airport had commenced, and work on the second motorway from Gwadar to China's Xinjiang via western Pakistan had accelerated. The report refers to Andrew Small’s statement wherein he says there was a Sino-Pak push to craft “a decent new package of projects” and accelerate ongoing ones as CPEC had been dragged into the Sino-US “information war” and a “narrative of success and progress” had become crucial.

Since 2018, the trimming of CPEC by Imran's government from USD 64billion to USD 50billion and switching of CPEC's focus from massive infrastructure projects to agriculture, manufacturing zones and social sector development had slowed down CPEC. During PM Khan's first year, Pakistan's economy dwindled to a 1.9 per cent GDP (from 5.8 per cent in the previous FY). Planning Commission has projected a 0.39 shrinkage in the current financial year due to the pandemic. The plummeting economy and desperation to generate employment for Pakistan's 25 million citizens who were rendered jobless due to the pandemic have made Khan reconsider his CPEC policy. Hence, PM Khan has prioritized the labor-intensive construction sector's revival; renewed momentum of infrastructure projects; introduced tax breaks for housing investments; and incentivized new investments in the manufacturing sector.

Recently, Pakistan army's commercial arm the Frontier Works Organization and Power China were awarded a USD 2.75 billion contract for the Diamer-Bhasha Dam's infrastructure and a reservoir. National security concerns had prevented the project from being a part of CPEC. Although executed as a Pakistan government project, Power China holds 70 per cent stakes and the terms lack transparency. A clear shift in the ruling PTI's CPEC policy.

With the world preparing for a recession worse than 2008's, China is assuming global leadership and slowly replacing the US. Pakistan, like many other states, doubts US' reliability as an economic partner due to US President Donald Trump's handling of the pandemic. Consequently, CPEC projects have garnered renewed importance in Pakistan. Islamabad hopes CPEC will revive Pakistan's moribund economy that will face recession for at least one year. 

In Brief

COVID-19
COVID Update: 1160 plus deaths so far

Pakistan reports 34 new deaths due to coronavirus in 24 hours, raising the death toll to 1167. While more than 17,000 recovered, the country has 56,349 active cases. Sindh province has the highest number of confirmed cases with 22,491 positive cases which are followed by Islamabad and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. World meter on coronavirus estimates that around 94 per cent of people have recovered from the pandemic in Pakistan and the fatality is 6 per cent so far.

PK-8303 CRASH
Of the 97 killed in the plane crash, 34 have been identified

Sindh Health Department has reported on the rescue of 97 casualties that includes 68 males, 26 females, and 3 children from the plane crash. It has collected 47 samples from family members for identification. So far 34 have been recognized and have been by their families. (“Plan tragedy overshadows Eid,” The Express Tribune, 24 May 2020)

PK-8303's engines scraped runway thrice: report
Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) experts have found three marks on the plane’s engine and on the runway. They have predicted the pilot’s attempt to land the plane might have caused friction and damaged the engine’s fuel pump. The report concludes that, as the engine failed to give the right amount of thrust and speed, hence the plane did not meet the required height and distance triggering a sudden crash. (“PIA plane crash: 3 warnings from Air Traffic Control to lower altitude were ignored by pilot,” The News International, 25 May 2020)
 

 

"Wishing a special Eid Mubarak to Kashmiris in IOJK, and admiration for their patience and courage during the inhumane lockdown and continuing oppression by Indian Occupation forces"

Imran Khan, in his tweet
(The Express Tribune)

 

In Focus and In Brief sections are prepared by Lakshmi V Menon, Abigail Miriam Fernandez, A Padmashree and P Harini Sha.

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