• Nawaz quoted in NPR on deadly attack in Kashmir region

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  • Nuclear Threats and Opportunity

    Even in this eventful week, nothing came close to matching the perilous significance of the unprecedented airstrikes between Pakistan and India, escalating the risk of war between two nuclear powers.

    Headlines in the United States focused more on President Donald Trump's former lawyer turning on him before Congress and on the president's fruitless Vietnam meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Though that made for one of the Trump administration's more difficult weeks, it is the South Asian nail-biter that deserves our urgent attention.

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  • India and Pakistan on a Steep Escalatory Ladder to War

    The Indian Air Force strike on what India claims was a terrorist camp in Balakot, Pakistan, on February 26 followed by the Pakistani air strike on targets in India-administered Kashmir have placed both countries on a perilous path to war. The escalation ladder on any such military actions between these two nuclear-armed neighbors remains very steep. Each is equipped with standoff weapons that can be launched from air platforms without sending troops across their border, and increasingly have been talking of the use of miniaturized nuclear weapons euphemistically labeled “tactical.” Once they reach that level, a full-scale war, involving dozens of nuclear weapons could engulf the subcontinent with grave consequences for the whole region and the world. Nuclear Winter, the shutting off sunlight from the Northern Hemisphere of the globe, would mean no light or food for the world. This is not science fiction but reality. Hence, it is critical that leaders in India and Pakistan defuse the current situation before it becomes impossible to retrieve.
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  • Is Saudi Arabia Pulling Pakistan Into War With Iran?

    For years, the Pakistani government has avoided taking sides between rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia, but now it may be forced to choose. Pakistan is in dire need of financial support and the Saudis have the means to help. Will Pakistan accept the strings attached to Saudi generosity?

    Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has viewed Asia as part of “Saudi Arabia’s visionfor the future.” His trip across Asia this month had a short-term goal as well: repairing a public image badly damaged by the Yemen war and the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

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  • With an Eye on IMF Loan, Pakistan Proposes Tax Reforms

    A new set of tax reforms announced by Pakistani Finance Minister Asad Umar on January 23 follows pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from which Islamabad is looking to secure another loan. The bill, which seeks to boost foreign and domestic investment, comes as Pakistan faces a balance-of-payments crisis on its foreign loans intensified by currency devaluations and rising energy imports.

    The tax measures would be Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s second set of fiscal reforms since taking power in July 2018. 

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  • Chinese Infrastructure Project Drives Pakistan Further into Debt

    Islamabad seeks yet another IMF bailout

    Pakistan, faced with a mounting debt in part due to a multibillion-dollar infrastructure project with China, has turned to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for yet another bailout. The IMF, however, has made clear that a loan would be contingent on Pakistan being completely transparent about its debts to China; the United States—one of the largest stakeholders in the IMF—has said that Pakistan must not use the loan to repay China.

    The $60-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a series of extravagant infrastructure projects intended to increase regional connectivity. CPEC is part of China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

    Previous Pakistani administrations overestimated the role of largescale infrastructure projects as drivers of economic growth and underestimated the costs. While CPEC has the potential to bring much-needed economic development to Pakistan, its price tag threatens to plunge the country further toward fiscal instability.

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  • Regional Rivalries Threaten Iran-Pakistan Relations

    A recent abduction of border security forces along the Iran-Pakistan border in southeastern Sistan and Baluchistan province is testing Iran-Pakistan relations.

    Iran has suggested that Saudi Arabia was behind the abduction, which it believes was aimed at sabotaging its relationship with Islamabad. Pakistan needs Saudi money more than ever as it struggles economically. So just how resilient are Iran-Pakistan ties?

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  • Deciphering the Afghan Riddle

    US troops have now been present in Afghanistan for the past seventeen years. Initially, the US-led offensive that came in response to al Qaeda’s attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, was mainly an air campaign, supported by indigenous anti-Taliban forces on the ground. This approach proved highly effective. Al Qaeda and Taliban command-and-control centers across Afghanistan were dismantled within days. Most of their commanders were forced to flee to safe havens in Pakistan.

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  • Can Peace Be Won in Afghanistan?

    At a time when the Taliban are gaining ground in Afghanistan, Afghan government losses are mounting, and regional partners’ views on the conflict are shifting, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis has not given in to pessimism. On a September 7 visit to Kabul, Mattis expressed optimism about the existence of “a framework” and “open lines of communications” between US diplomats and Qatar-based Taliban representatives that he believes might lead to an intra-Afghan reconciliation process that would end nearly two decades of war. He also reassured Kabul’s leadership that the United States will stand by the Afghans until there is lasting peace and stability.

    What remains uncertain at this point, however, are the answers to two overarching questions: How will key regional stakeholders—Pakistan, Russia, Iran, China, and India—manage shifting interests and threat perceptions at a time when the United States is pushing for a peace deal, and is there a contingency plan if talks fail?

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  • Trump Picks Zalmay Khalilzad, Atlantic Council Board Director, as Special Representative on Afghanistan

    Appointment signals administration’s intent to wind down war, get tough with Pakistan

    The appointment of Zalmay Khalilzad as US President Donald J. Trump’s special representative on Afghanistan sends a clear signal that the US administration is serious about winding down its involvement in the war in Afghanistan. By putting a longtime critic of Pakistan in charge of the peace process, the Trump administration has also put Islamabad on notice that it has little patience for its support for terrorists in Afghanistan.

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