A long way to go
Maxwell Downman’s reasons as to why the world’s Nuclear Weapon States should ratify the protocols of the Treaty of Bangkok (‘Low-hanging fruit’, March issue) are persuasive enough but offset by realistic expectations about the likelihood of ‘sweeping progress towards disarmament in the near future’. I would go one step further since I believe we are still a long way from a nuclear‑weapon‑free world. What is needed is the creation of more nuclear‑weapons‑free zones, most notably in the Middle East – difficult to conceive of when one considers the political complexity of the region and the level of distrust between the Arab states and Israel.
The article ‘Exit Wounds’ in your February issue cuts to the core of the anxieties arising from the Trump administration’s planned withdrawal from Afghanistan.Years of American occupation have failed to bring any kind of normalcy to this strife-torn country and now the US, weary of its engagement there, is working towards a‘peace’ deal with the agent provocateur, the Taliban.Have they no shame? With even failed occupation comes responsibility and the US is duty-bound to help streamline Afghanistan’s civil and political life before exiting. Until it fulfils this basic obligation, it cannot think of leaving the country.
Beware Saudis bearing gifts
Babar Ayaz’s sardonic coda that rounds off his ‘Quid Pro Quo’ piece in the March issue of Asian Affairs says all we need to know about the nature of Saudi Arabia’s insidious power on the world stage, and his article as a whole is a reminder of the price Pakistan might have to pay for accepting Saudi largesse.
Of course, given Pakistan’s present economic crisis, the Kingdom’s multi-billion dollar aid and investment packages must be sorely tempting and Imran Khan has admitted that his country cannot afford to turn them down, so desperate is it for money. But he should beware; as Mr Ayaz suggests, there are likely to be strings attached. Saudi Arabia has strategic interests in Pakistan on account of its proximity to Iran and, in exchange for its generosity,will no doubt expect Islamabad’s loyalty when it come to overlooking the rise in Pakistan of anti-Shia ideology, the persecution of Shia Muslims,and cross-border attacks in Iran such as the recent Jaish al-Adl suicide bombing that killed 27 members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Pakistan can create wealth for itself over time – it has extensive natural resources and a talented populace but it needs to address a host of problems, including endemic tax avoidance and the trade deficit. What it must not do is let economic aid come at too high a price: unquestioning loyalty to a dubious regime, and risks to its own and neighouring countries’ political stability.
Cash for kids?
I found Yuwen Wu’s March cover story (‘Growing pains’) very interesting, specially the part about suggestions that the Chinese government offers cash incentives to women/couples to have more children as the population declines in wake of the one-child policy. Countries such as Japan, Russia and Germany are also facing falling populations and the problems that accompany this, even though in these cases the state never limited how many children women could have. They are now offering cash incentives and better parental leave to encourage the birth of more babies. If China wants to undo the problems created by its one-child policy, it must do the same.