Iran nuclear deal
ONE of the more ominous developments in the aftermath of Gen Qassem Soleimani’s killing in Baghdad last week has been Iran’s announcement on Sunday that it will no longer abide by the restrictions placed on it by the 2015 nuclear deal.
President Donald Trump had all but sealed the fate of the deal after unilaterally withdrawing the US from the multilateral agreement in 2018. Now, with Tehran’s latest announcement, clearly in reaction to Soleimani’s assassination, the deal is practically dead.
Iran was already not getting any major economic benefits from the historic accord, hailed as a triumph of international diplomacy when it was reached between Iran and the P5+1 — the five permanent UNSC members plus Germany.
The main reason for this was that global firms were afraid to trade with Iran fearing other US sanctions. Sure enough, with the arrival of Mr Trump in the White House in 2017, the future of the Obama-era deal seemed murky, as the incumbent president had promised to withdraw from it in the run-up to the presidential campaign.
Subsequently, America’s exit led to a crippling regime of sanctions that has done major damage to Iran’s economy. Now, as the Washington-Tehran confrontation enters extremely dangerous territory, Iran’s decision to end its commitments may give the Trump administration an excuse to up the ante against the Islamic Republic even more.
In such dangerous times Iran must act with prudence and foresight. There is indeed great anger and sorrow in the country over Gen Soleimani’s assassination. This can be gauged by the massive crowds that have taken to the streets to pay their last respects to the Quds Force commander.
In pictures: Iraqis, Palestinians join Iran in honouring Soleimani, others killed in US air strike
However, Iran’s reaction to the provocation must be mature and keep the interests of its people in mind. In case of a full-blown war, the Islamic Republic will have to face even greater hardships, something it cannot afford with an already enfeebled economy. Tehran has a right to respond and defend itself, but its actions must be proportionate and keep ground realities in mind.
While Iran needs to reconsider its departure from the nuclear deal, the world community must do more to censure Mr Trump’s reckless comments. For example, his brash threat to target “52 Iranian sites […] important to Iran & the Iranian culture” is beyond the pale. Does the US leader intend to target religious or historical sites in Iran? If this is the case then — as Human Rights Watch and other observers have noted — it may constitute a war crime.
This deeply disturbing notion is a far cry from what Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s former president, once advocated in the form of the ‘dialogue among civilisations’. Instead of dialogue, warmongers in Washington are preparing a casus belli against Iran based on very shaky foundations. Iran must resist this dangerous provocation and act with prudence.
Violence under Modi
INDIA continues to slide into chaos. On Sunday, a group of masked men stormed the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi and unleashed violence on the students and teachers there. Armed with sticks and iron rods, the assailants broke into dormitories, viciously beat up people, damaged property and walked away without being challenged by the police. They have been identified as belonging to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the ruling BJP. The attack on JNU comes in the wake of earlier attacks on educational institutions in which many students were injured. Incidents of violence are spreading across India ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing government passed controversial citizenship laws that are seen as challenging the secular credentials of the country. India’s lurch towards intolerance, extremism and state-sponsored violence has led to scores of fatalities and triggered a political crisis that has pit the central government against many states and sections of the majority Hindu population against minorities.
An unstable India swirling in a whirlpool of fanatical beliefs is a danger to all its neighbours, and specifically to Pakistan. Unhinged from its secular moorings, the republic is swaying perilously in the storm generated by an aggressive Hindutva policy. With the state under Mr Modi actively promoting and propagating an exclusionary political and social agenda, the prospects of Indian society rupturing even further are increasing by the day. As Nehruvian India unravels, it may be critical for Pakistan and the rest of the world to try and contain the toxic fallout of this self-propelled crisis. The fires of hate, bigotry and racism burning in the BJP’s India must not be allowed to spread uncontrolled across that country and outside its borders. There is a considerable risk that the Indian prime minister could ignite a conflict with Pakistan to distract attention from his country’s rapid slide into totalitarianism. With the region already on tenterhooks after America’s assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, the last thing we need is India drifting into further disarray and lashing out against Pakistan. An unstable and violence-plagued India does not suit Pakistan. Islamabad should stay alert against any misadventure by New Delhi but at the same time join hands with the international community to ensure that minorities in India are secured against state violence and persecution. India’s regression as a functional state should worry everyone, most of all Indians themselves.
THE establishment of an antisera plant by the National Institute of Health enabling Pakistan to become self-sufficient in the production of anti-rabies and anti-venom serums, along with anti-tetanus and anti-diphtheria serums, is welcome news. The plant is expected to begin production in mid-February and would help overcome the acute shortage of vaccines across the country. The past year was marred by frequent reports of painful deaths caused by dog bites due to the shortage of anti-rabies serums in public hospitals in Punjab and Sindh. Cases of dog bite are very common in many parts of the country, especially in the provinces mentioned. Their prevalence can be gauged from the fact that between January 2019 and August 2019, more than 11,000 people were bitten by dogs in Sindh alone, leading to at least 25 deaths in the province last year. Similarly, according to some estimates, incidents of snakebites across the country cause up to 50,000 deaths a year.
According to NIH officials, the country requires up to 90,000 vials of the anti-venom serum, about 50,000 vials of the anti-rabies serum and some 30,000 vials each of the anti-tetanus and anti-diphtheria serums. Up till now, the NIH has only been able to produce around one-third of the country’s requirements. However, with the establishment of this plant, it is now expected that by June, Pakistan will not only become self-sufficient in antidotes for these four dangerous maladies but surplus production will also enable it to export lifesaving vaccines to other countries. Hopefully, the production process of these vaccines will not be delayed like the establishment of the production plant itself — the idea of establishing such a plant was first conceived in the early 2000s. That said, this commendable effort might also benefit from a mechanism for tracking the supply, use and expiration of vaccines. The loopholes in Pakistan’s dilapidated healthcare system are there for all to see. It would be wise to not let this achievement fall prey to rampant mismanagement and incompetence.