Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific


How ‘smart’ is Pakistan’s COVID-19 lockdown?

Rescue workers spray disinfectant while sanitising a mosque amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Peshawar, Pakistan, 21 May 2020 (Photo: REUTERS/Fayaz Aziz).

Authors: Farooq Yousaf, University of Newcastle and Imtiaz Gul, CRSS

COVID-19 has multiplied the economic woes of Pakistan, a country already embattled both politically and financially. Just as Prime Minister Imran Khan was about to begin implementing his ‘economic revival’ strategy, the virus hit — the first case was detected on 26 February. Yet, to the world’s surprise and before the post-Ramadan Eid holidays (May 22–27), the infection and fatality rates in Pakistan were still far below the projections. However, since Pakistan decided to ease the lockdown from the final week of May, the COVID-19 infections have surged to new levels.

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CPEC and the future of China–Pakistan ties

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan talks to China's President Xi Jinping during their meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, 9 October 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Parker Song).

Author: Siegfried O Wolf, South Asia Democratic Forum

China–Pakistan bilateral interactions have reached an unprecedented peak with the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). But China’s rapidly expanding leverage across all spheres of Pakistan’s state and society has raised questions of whether Pakistan is still the ‘master in their own house’. The increasing number of occasions where Islamabad and Beijing are obviously not on the same page justifies asking whether China is master or friend of Pakistan despite the shared official rhetoric of an ‘all-weather friendship between iron brothers’. Read more…

Pakistan’s hybrid ‘civilian–military’ government weakens democracy

Paramilitary soldiers stand guard outside the Supreme Court building in Islamabad, Pakistan, 29 January 2019 (Photo: REUTERS/Saiyna Bashir).

Author: Ayesha Siddiqa, SOAS

Pakistan enters 2020 slouched under the burden of a weak democracy with a strong military, a tense neighbourhood and a geopolitical environment under pressure from US–China great power rivalry. With political instability and a plummeting economy weakening, the civilian government’s dependence on the military has grown. Pakistan also faces deteriorating relations with India and amid growing concerns regarding US hostilities with neighbouring Iran blowing into its territory

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Another tough year for Pakistan’s economy

Supporters of religious and political party Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) chant slogans as they ride on a bike with flags of the party and Azad Kashmir, during the so called Azadi March (Freedom March), called by the opposition to protest against the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad, Pakistan 11 November 2019. (Photo:Reuters/Akhtar Soomro).

Author: Michael Kugelman, Wilson Center

Pakistan’s main economic storyline in 2019 was austerity. Islamabad implemented belt-tightening measures to ease a balance of payments crisis that hit a peak in October 2018, when Prime Minister Imran Khan, just several months into his term, admitted his country was ‘desperate’ for loans. Read more…

China remains Pakistan’s key partner

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang shake hands during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 8 October 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Yukie Nishizawa).

Author: Ghulam Ali, Sichuan University of Science & Engineering

While meeting with a visiting Chinese military delegation led by General Xu Qiliang, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan termed ties with China an ‘anchor for regional stability’. The visit of the military delegation came amidst rising India–Pakistan tensions over India’s unilateral revocation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, stripping Indian-controlled Kashmir of its autonomy. The action led to a series of measures by China and Pakistan, again proving China to be Pakistan’s irreplaceable ally.

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India’s new Kashmir policy challenges Pakistan and China

People carry an Azad Kashmir's flag as they listen to the speeches of the local political activists from Jammu and Kashmir Youth Forum, over India's decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, during a protest in Karachi, Pakistan 18 August 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Akhtar Soomro).

Author: P S Suryanarayana, RSIS

The reinvention of Jammu and Kashmir as a fully integral part of the Indian Union has received decisive parliamentary support at home but displeased factions within India and Pakistan, placing the future of India’s relations with neighbours China and Pakistan at stake. Read more…

Three’s a crowd? China, Pakistan and the IMF

A soldier stands guard beside the Cosco Wellington, the first container ship to depart after the inauguration of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor port in Gwadar, Pakistan November 13, 2016. (Photo: Reuters/Caren Firouz)

Authors: Naved Hamid, Lahore School of Economics and Hasaan Khawar, CDPR

China–Pakistan relations, while close, were primarily restricted to political and military spheres until the signing of their FTA in 2006. Economic relations received a further boost in 2013, when Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), including the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a flagship project. Although CPEC has seven areas of cooperation, four in particular — Gwadar, energy, transport infrastructure and industrial cooperation — were assigned special priority.

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Terror and talks don’t mix between Pakistan and India

A Pakistani ranger stands during a daily parade at the Pakistan–India joint check post at Wagah border, on the outskirts of Lahore, Pakistan, 26 February 2010 (Photo: Reuters/Mohsin Raza).

Author: Raghuveer Nidumolu, Carnegie India

In the aftermath of the military crisis between India and Pakistan this year, news of a Pakistani crackdown on anti-India terrorists has come out. There were reports which mentioned that India may ‘give Pakistan its due for action against terror groups’. Most recently, diplomatic relations between both countries deteriorated after the Indian government’s scrapping of special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. On the whole, a certain ‘ad hoc-ism’ seems to guide India’s policy towards Pakistan.

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Imran Khan and Donald Trump search for common ground

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan delivers a speech at the opening ceremony for the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China, 26 April 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Florence Lo).

Author: Harrison Akins, University of Tennessee

The White House recently announced that Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is making his first visit to the United States for meetings with President Donald Trump on 22 July. The United States and Pakistan have come a long way since Trump complained of Pakistan’s ‘lies and deceit’ last year due to its lack of cooperation on counterterrorism, subsequently suspending security assistance to its South Asian ally. Read more…

What neighbours can expect from Modi’s second term

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives with Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena during his welcome ceremony at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 9 June 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/ Dinuka Liyanawatte)

Authors: Arun Upadhyaya and Carter Chapwanya, Shandong University

After inviting heads of BIMSTEC governments to his swearing in ceremony, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited both the Maldives and Sri Lanka within the following 10 days — suggesting that his ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy will be the anchor of his foreign policy for his second term. Read more…

A bitter pill to swallow for Imran Khan

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan attends a meeting, 28 April 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Madoka Ikegami).

Author: Michael Kugelman, Wilson Center

Last month, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced a staff-level agreement for a new three-year, US$6 billion bailout package for Pakistan. If the deal is finalised as expected, this will be the 13th time in the last 30 years that Pakistan has received an IMF assistance package. Read more…

Pakistan submits to the IMF again

Imran Khan looks on during a campaign meeting ahead of general elections in Islamabad, Pakistan, 21 July 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha).

Author: S Akbar Zaidi, Karachi

Ten months after coming into power, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan finally agreed to a debilitating and austere stabilisation programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on 12 May 2019. Khan had previously claimed that he would rather commit suicide than go to the IMF. Read more…

Building a better Belt and Road

A map illustrating China's silk road economic belt and the 21st century maritime silk road, or the so-called "One Belt, One Road" megaproject, is displayed at the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong, China 18 January 2016. (Photo: REUTERS/Bobby Yip)

Author: Prabir De, RIS New Delhi

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was originally unveiled in 2013 as ‘One Belt, One Road’. To date, 93 countries have formally endorsed the initiative, making up 65 per cent of the global population.

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Disputed narratives escalate tensions in Kashmir

Supporters of Kashmir's National Conference (NC) party shout slogans during an election campaign rally in Srinagar, 15 April 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Danish Ismail)

Author: Feroz Hassan Khan, Naval Postgraduate School

Former US president Bill Clinton famously called the Line of Control in Kashmir the ‘most dangerous place on earth’. Clinton was referring to the violent, recurring and uncompromising nature of the India–Pakistan conflict in Kashmir where the addition of nuclear weapons could have perilous consequences. Read more…

Pakistan’s balancing act between Iran and Saudi Arabia teeters as tensions simmer

Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan and Saudi Arabia Minister of State Ibrahim Abdulaziz Al-Assaf attend the investment conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 23 October 2018 (Reuters/Faisal Al Nasser).

Author: Micha’el Tanchum, Hebrew University

Iran’s Major General Qasem Soleimani, commander of the elite Quds Force, and other Iranian military chiefs are sending stern warnings to Pakistan. This follows the 13 February 2019 attack on their forces by Iranian Baluch militants in the country’s restive Sistan and Baluchestan Province bordering Pakistan. Read more…