Stranded in the Land of the Free

Source: Time Magazine/Getty/Mashable

When people look up to America, they see a standard of freedom unparalleled anywhere in the world. This is still true. And there is only one reason for that. The liberal ideas that America has represented for more than 150 years as well as its Constitution. I was about to write law but the recently highlighted events, which may have gone on for a good number of years until DACA was put into action: Child separation from the detained migrants on the US-Mexico border. Thousands of little children from Central America and other parts of the world are stranded there among complete strangers, especially the ones who are brutal to them. The trauma is unimaginable. To many, the policy was escalated, if not initiated by the administration of President Trump by removing DACA, and worsened by the law enforcement headed by hardliner Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had the nerve to justify the policy with the Bible.

Only a day ago, President Trump has signed an executive order to end the separation policy, only to leave doubts about the possible indefinite detention of the migrant families. And especially about the status of families already separated by ICE. Why did Trump sign this executive order when he is playing to his base by toughening the immigration measures to a zero-tolerance policy? Just to make himself look good in front of the American people. Republican Senators like Lindsey Graham think that the administration did not think this policy through, which is most likely the case in reality, given the erratic track record of Trump’s administration.

Another idea that became a casualty of this administration is the idea of liberal free trade and globalization. President Trump’s refusal to sign the communique at the G7 Summit earlier this month, perhaps a victory for American Nationalism and isolationism in his eyes, was nothing short of a disaster for the liberal world. The President has already pulled out of Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The very ideas that the United States has championed since the fall of the Third Reich are being challenged in the most heartless manner, especially when it comes to migrants. Of course, there is no monopoly of ideas in a democracy and there is as much room for populism in public debate as there is for liberal globalization. However, the impact of such weakness among the ranks of liberal powers can be felt around the world, especially by the people who are striving and struggling to promote liberal ideas in their own backyards.

The rise of authoritarian conservative governments around the world is already a cause for concern. However, if you see a collapse of liberal ideas in a political entity such as the United States, then things seem even darker. While the Trump administration has also given a cause for optimism with the historic summit with North Korea, its unpredictable and hardline authoritarian and populist stances leave you more pessimistic about the future.

Let us just hope that the worst from the administration is not yet to come.

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Witnessing History in Korea

Source: AFP

Sometimes even a handshake is significant progress for peace.

Historic handshakes have a tendency to remain forever in the memories of people for many years to come. Today, such an event occurred with the historic handshake of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-In. Something that many of us never thought we would live to see.

Of course, in the case of any peace summit between two rival entities, the results are always unspectacular and underwhelming. That is because you can’t resolve decades, sometimes centuries, of problems overnight. The same skepticism surrounded the detente policies of Nixon and Kissinger, as well as Reagan-Gorbachov talks. The same pessimism cast a dark shadow on the Sadat-Begin hug, and the Rabin-Arafat handshake in the White House lawn in 1993. The same disappointments met all the fuss around the Pervez Musharraf and Manmohan Singh talks in India.

On this day, it is significant because the dictator described as the devil incarnate in the global media has made such a warm and peaceful gesture. The handshake was followed by a Summit declaring the end of the Korean War and the commencement of the peace regime. And as needed, the meeting will be followed up by President Moon Jae-In’s visit to North Korea later this year. This is a particularly interesting time as the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, is also a Korean.

Now there is a significant role of the United States and China behind this arrangement. Apparently, CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s talks with the North Korean leadership was about something. This will hopefully continue into the future and result in the ambitious denuclearization that it promises of the Korean peninsula. However, history suggests that the promises of denuclearization are seldom kept and dictators and democratic republicans alike will feel reluctant to let go of nuclear power. The Pandora’s Box has now been opened.

You cannot help but feel proud and optimistic at the state of the world at this moment. You feel optimistic about the future as the likelihood of conventional war becomes slimmer and slimmer with every passing day in such traditional conflict zones. Surely, this does not mean that all the remedies of the world will be resolved but at least some reduction in suffering is an improvement.

One way or the other, I believe that such symbolic gestures are very important, if only for the history books. Because moments such as these, the few that I have mentioned above, will serve to be living memories for the civilization to be inspired for peace. It will remain

This is why this handshake is more than an empty gesture.

 

The Brighter Side of President Trump’s First UN Speech

Source: CNBC/Getty Images

Of course, it is President Trump.

He is going to get under your skin and it is hard to ignore whatever he does. He is a foreign policy and public relations embarrassment and just referred to a country called “Nambia” in Africa. Of course, he clearly meant Namibia.

But forget his reckless personal style for a minute and let us focus if there was a brighter side to his speech, his first as the US President at the UN General Assembly.

With the recent trends in American politics, the victory of President Donald Trump itself being the greatest sign, as well as the gains of progressive Senator Bernie Sanders in the Presidential election, isolationism seems to be on the rise. This threatened the American world order globally and also became a point of concern for people who care about freedom and democracy all over the world.

Granted that Trump’s leadership is far from what the world needs in the face of some of the gravest authoritarian threats since the fall of the Soviet Union, still, it could have been a lot worse. Given his campaign rhetoric, it is even a relief that he was there to address the world in the UN General Assembly. Though what he wouldn’t do for some attention?

While he is complaining that the world is not doing enough to repay America for its international duties. he is acknowledging that the world’s problems are his problems. While he is troublingly emphasizing too much on nationalism and sovereignty as the guiding principles for nation states, he is still acknowledging the investment the United States is willing to put in for world peace and prosperity.

He recklessly ended up threatening North Korea with annihilation, something he was condemning them for. Now that is an extreme, but in all his speech, he made one thing clear. His condemnation of Cuba and restoring the embargo could be the most disappointing aspect of his foreign policy legacy, a great achievement of the Obama years.

His speech meant that America still has not lost its internationalism, albeit at a cost of significant influence. His speech meant that Trump is still very much onboard the idea of America caring about its allies around the world. He tried making it clear that it was not about establishing the American Empire of the Bush family, reminding of no territorial gains in recent wars and rejecting the notion of nation-building. Yet he was very much on track of the Republican liberal policy than not.

His position on the Iran Nuclear Deal is pretty much the official position of the Republican Party and the sort of stance that Israel wants to take the United States. Whether this approach will prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon or not is another matter but most certainly, this sends out a stern message to Iran that perhaps their diplomatic achievement was not one after all.

Iran might take a moral high ground after Trump’s speech but the fact remains that it continues to directly threaten b0th Israel and the United States. And Iran getting nuclear weapons will not only be an apocalyptic scenario for the Middle East but the greatest hurdle to regime change in the country, which is one of the most urgent need of the hour for the world and the Iranian people.

In the end, the noteworthy point was that Trump, guided by seasoned generals Mattis and Kelly in his cabinet, is pretty much an interventionist President.

Trump remains to be irresponsible on many global liberal fronts such as free trade and climate change, but perhaps he is not prepared to wash his hands off the world peace situation. If he does not ends up disturbing it himself, that is.

If he does not ends up disturbing it himself, that is.

The Chabahar Deal Reveals India’s Double Standards on State Terrorism

Source: indiatoday.in

Source: indiatoday.in

Mumbai attacks not only devastated India to its very core but has also shaken the conscience of the world, including many in Pakistan. The attacks were undoubtedly one of the most shocking since 9/11 anywhere around the world, but were significant due to India’s findings that the Pakistani state could have been involved.

Since then, India has maintained a principled stance of holding Pakistan accountable for letting Islamist militants, if not its citizens, use their territory to harm Indian people and state assets. While there is a long history of such attacks and allegations, including the attack on the Indian Parliament, the recent attacks on the Pathankot airbase have opened the old wounds that have destroyed relations between India and Pakistan.

However, India’s high standards of fighting state terrorism go down the toilet drain when it comes to its relations with Iran. The recent Chabahar Deal points to a partnership that goes far deeper than just bilateral trade. This does a little disservice to the great stance adopted in fighting the resistance from Pakistan to acknowledge its shortcomings, if not crimes.

Other than North Korea, Iran is the only country that openly calls for the death and condemnation of the Western civilization, as well as openly threatening the annihilation of Israel. Not to mention, a nuclear Iran could pose the sort of dangers for the Middle East that are unprecedented. Again, Israel being the focal point of all the threats.

Furthermore, Iran also has a dubious history of backing Shia militias all over the Middle East, orchestrating an attack on the Saudi ambassador to the United States and has grown tremendously in terms of influence following the fall of the Saddam regime. A recent report from the State Department finds Iran as the top sponsor of state terrorism in the world.

There is nothing about these findings that India is unaware of. India ignores the awful diplomatic stances of Iran, which has almost made the Islamic Republic a pariah in the international community.

There is no doubt that Pakistan has lost face with awful and unacceptable state policies such as allegedly sheltering Osama Ben Laden and backing certain factions of the Taliban and other anti-India militant groups. However, even Pakistan cannot even imagine to take the kind of disastrous and self-destructive diplomatic lines that Iran is known for.

It is shocking that most countries in the world would even remotely be comfortable with a state that openly intimidates more vulnerable targets such as Israel. What is even more shocking is the lack of protest over the Chabahar Deal from Israel, Gulf Arab states and other Western countries concerned about growing antisemitism around the world. However, that is just as baffling as Arab countries and Pakistan not standing behind Israel against the Iranian threat.

India has many strategic and political reasons to partner with Iran. For many, the discussion ends just there. Many are seeing Chabahar as Iran’s answer to Pakistan’s development of the Gwadar port, partnering with China, which is something India should invest in by all means. So while the pragmatist would immediately dismiss any moralist criticism on the Indian foreign policy, the viewpoint is not entirely irrelevant when it comes to Iran’s relations with several of India’s other friends.

While Pakistan and China sound like the perfect recipe of evil, Iran and India are as odd in terms of the moral perceptions of the states as fire and water. However, India has hardly ever explicitly condemned Iran’s irresponsible state stances and has turned a blind eye to several of its dubious activities in the region, including the support of Hamas and Hezbollah.

Probably no other state officially adopts violent rhetoric as a part of its foreign policy than Iran. North Korea is the only other that comes remotely close.

Of course, Iran’s diplomatic irresponsibility should not divorce it from the international community. The recent US-Iran nuclear deal is a part of the second chances being offered to the Islamic Republic. However, Iran needs to mend its own ways for its perception to improve. With the development of ballistic missiles, Iran’s threat to Israel is as real and dangerous as ever.

While India has the right to establish the sort of relations that it deems fit with any nation, ties such as those with Iran undermine its moral authority to lecture on state terrorism.

Not to mention an insult to the memory of the souls departed in the Mumbai attacks.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.