News India Times – that’s all you need to know Biden Pivots To Asia As UkraineWar Rages On Imran Khan Is Pushing Pakistan To The Brink Dr. Sudhir M. Parikh Founder, Chairman & Publisher Ilayas Quraishi Chief Operating Officer Ela Dutt Editor T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman Washington D.C. Bureau Chief Archana Adalja Contributing Editor Arun Shah Ahmedabad Bureau Chief Peter Ferreira, Deval Parikh, Freelance Photographers Bhailal M. Patel Executive Vice President Chandrakant Koticha-Rajkot, India Executive Director Business Development Jim Gallentine Business Development Manager - U.S. Shahnaz Sheikh Senior Manager Advertising & Marketing Sonia Lalwani Advertising Manager Shailu Desai Advertising New York Muslima Shethwala Syed Sheeraz Mahmood Advertising Chicago Digant Sompura Consultant for Business Development Ahmedabad, India Hervender Singh Circulation Manager Main Office Editorial & Corporate Headquarters 1655 Oak Tree Toad, Suite 155 Edison, NJ 08820-2843 Tel. (212) 675-7515 Fax. 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Postmaster: Send address change to News India Times, 1655 Oak Tree Toad, Suite 155 Edison, NJ 08820-2843 Annual Subscription: United States: $28 Disclaimer: Parikh Worldwide Media assumes no liability for claims/ assumptions made in advertisements and advertorials. Opinion News India Times May 20, 2022 3 T he past couple of months marked a rallying moment for the geopo- litical West. The Russian invasion of Ukraine triggered a sweeping, united response from Europe and its allies across the Atlantic. It led to far-reaching, coordinated sanctions on Moscow. It pro- voked a new, steely approach frommany Europeans to diplomatically and militarily confront Russia. And it spurred the immi- nent expansion of NATO, an alliance cast by critics not long ago as an obsolete relic of the ColdWar. The United States and its E.U. partners are flooding Ukraine with weaponry and aid. By some accounts, the Biden adminis- tration alone has mustered more funding for Ukraine in recent weeks than it is com- mitting in the next fiscal year for fighting the planetary peril of climate change. Yet inWashington, there remains a large elephant in the room: China. New battles with the Kremlin have enervated the doyens of the city’s foreign policy establishment, many of whom cut their teeth during the ColdWar. But the Biden administration is trying to show that it hasn’t lost sight of its key 21st century “strategic competitor.” And it recognizes that its contest with China requires closer partnerships well outside Europe. A new push started this week. On Thursday evening, theWhite House hosted a dinner with eight leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a part of a major U.S.-led sum- mit with the regional bloc. On Friday, the Southeast Asian delegations are slated to continue discussions at the State De- partment before a plenary session with President Biden. Next week, Biden will embark on a five-day trip to South Korea and Japan, culminating in another meet- ing of the “Quad” grouping with Australia, Japan and India. U.S. officials recognize that a decade of talk about a strategic “pivot” to Asia has yet to yield concrete results. “Several administrations in succession in the United States have tried . . . to launch more fundamental efforts, policies, frame- works in Asia, East Asia, Indo-Pacific, and found themselves stymied or misdirected or directed toward other pursuits,” said Kurt Campbell, theWhite House’s lead official on Indo-Pacific policy, in a speech this week at the Center for Strategic and International Studies inWashington. “And that has been something that I think all of us are deeply aware of in the formulation and execution of policy.” The Biden administration aims to show that its heavy involvement in the Ukraine war is not a distraction from its priorities to the East. But it is climbing an uphill road with ASEAN countries, where many officials lament a lack of American engagement, especially during the years of the Trump administration. “The U.S. is missing in action, particu- larly in Southeast Asia,” Arsjad Rasjid, chair of the Indonesian Chamber of Com- merce and Industry and a member of the Indonesian delegation inWashington this week, told me. Rasjid stressed the need for the U.S. government and private sector to compete economically with China in the Southeast Asian market. Since 1999, China has been ASEAN’s biggest trade partner. In 2020, trade between China and the bloc reached to $685 billion, roughly double the figure of U.S. trade with Southeast Asia. (U.S. officials have announced agreements this week that add up to about $150 million in new investment.) “We always say we’re not closer to China [than the United States],” Rasjid By Ishaan Tharoor F ormer prime minister Imran Khan refuses to accept his fall from power. Earlier this year, before he lost office in an unprecedented parliamentary no-confidence vote, he effectively declared war on his opponents: “I wish to warn you: If I am ousted from the govern- ment, I will be more dangerous for you.” Now he is trying to make good on that threat by fueling fears of bloody civil con- flict if he isn’t restored to power within the next few months. In recent years, Khan has tried to ce- ment his hold on power through a popu- list strategy of polarization and division. Now, he is relying on the same playbook to reverse his defeat at the hands of Parliament — even if that means openly flouting constitutional ground rules. Most ominous of all, he has announced plans to bring 2 million members of his Pakistan Movement for Justice (PTI) to Islamabad in the last week of May to assert his claim to power and intimidate opponents. It’s rumored that his loyalists will try to surround Parliament and other public buildings to bring the functioning of the federal government — now under the control of a coalition led by Prime Minis- ter Shehbaz Sharif — to a standstill. Khan has fired up his supporters with misplaced patriotism aggravated by lies, and they’re already keen to confront the people they regard not just as political opponents but also as “traitors.” Khan clearly hopes that he can use his mob to push through his demand for fresh elections within two months. He is calling the campaign the “FreedomMarch.” Freedom from what, exactly? From for- eign interference, as Khan’s followers see it. That is the key to his plans for taking back power. He hopes to win a new elec- tion not on the basis of his performance in the government (which was dismal) but by pushing an anti-American conspiracy theory. In Khan’s telling, he was deposed from power by Pakistani politicians who were following orders from the Biden administration to punish him for defying its alleged dictates. His followers are using every disinfor- mation technique in the book to spread the message, fromTwitter sock puppets to elaborately crafted fake stories. Khan him- self recently shared a Fox News video clip showing a pro-Trump analyst, Rebecca Grant, saying that Pakistan must support Ukraine and end anti-U.S. policies. Yet Khan glossed over the fact that Grant was speaking in a personal capacity, not as a representative of the administration in Washington. Khan’s story was thoroughly debunked by Pakistani analysts. Recent opinion polls suggest that few Pakistanis seem willing to buy into Khan’s claims. The country’s top political and military leadership has unanimously rejected Khan’s version of events, but that hasn’t stopped him for a moment. Undeterred, he is raising funds from his supporters to resist what he calls the new “imported” government — funds that include donations from supporters in various foreign countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom. Khan and his supporters don’t seem both- ered by the obvious hypocrisy. His followers talk obsessively of threats against them. Their predictions that the current political standoff will lead to bloodshed could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. One PTI leader has accused the opposition of plotting Khan’s assassina- tion; another has claimed that he himself is being targeted for murder. By summon- ing the possibility of civil unrest, Khan’s supporters are, among other things, effectively asking the army to intervene in politics or face the consequences. Khan himself is indirectly challenging the leadership of the army. A few days ago he pointedly mentioned the name of an 18th-century Bengali military leader who collaborated with British colonial forces, making him one of the subcontinent’s most famous traitors. Everyone under- stood the message: Khan was implying that the army leaders are today’s trai- tors because they refuse to support him against his fictional foreign plotters. The army responded almost immediately, issuing a statement that warned against dragging the military into the “political discourse in the country.” (Khan has since tried to get out of the mess by claiming that he was accusing Sharif of treason, not the military.) Khan is playing a dangerous game. He has virtually declared war on Parliament, the judiciary and the Election Commis- sion; now he is confronting the military as well. By directly challenging the institu- tions of the state, he is pushing Pakistani society to the brink. There are many signs that those institu- tions are prepared to push back. The Elec- tion Commission could soon announce a verdict in the case it has been pursuing against Khan (over alleged foreign funding of campaigns) since 2014. Meanwhile, the government is investigating corruption allegations against Khan and his entou- rage. A senior minister recently told me that they have plenty of evidence to open a case, and said that Khan is demand- ing quick elections because he wants to preempt action against him. On May 9, Sharif gave a speech accus- ing Khan of undermining democracy by spewing “poison” against state institu- tions: “If this is not stopped through the law and the Constitution, then God forbid this country will become a hideous reflec- tion of Syria and Libya where cities pres- ent scenes of graveyards today.” The political climate in Pakistan could not be more tense. Let us hope that the forces of democracy can find a way out of the current crisis. -TheWashington Post By Hamid Mir - Continued On Page 4