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China says Washington canceled military talks, not Beijing

Press TV – October 4, 2018

China has rejected an allegation by the United States that Beijing has canceled security talks with Washington planned for this month, saying that US officials have “distorted the facts.”

An unnamed US official had told Reuters on Sunday that China had canceled the security meeting between American Secretary of Defense James Mattis and his Chinese counterpart, alleging that China had been unable to make its defense secretary available for the scheduled talks.

On Wednesday, Beijing effectively said that that assertion was a lie.

“Such an argument completely distorts the fact with ulterior motives and is extremely irresponsible,” said China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying in a statement. “The Chinese side expresses strong dissatisfaction.”

Hua said Washington had recently told Beijing that it hoped to postpone the talks.

“The facts are that the United States a few days ago told China it hoped to postpone the second round of the China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue,” she said, adding, “We request [that] related parties stop this sort of behavior of making something out of nothing and spreading rumors.”

Earlier, on Tuesday, Hua said China and the US had previously agreed in principle to hold the dialogue in mid-October.

The security meeting’s first round was held in Washington last year, and its second round was scheduled to take place in Beijing.

Military tensions have surged between China and the US in recent weeks.

Washington often angers Beijing by sending warplanes and warships to territory claimed by China but disputed by other regional countries. The US says that with those deployments, it is practicing what it calls its right to freedom of navigation.

On Tuesday, China condemned that practice.

Additionally, the US has used its domestic laws to impose sanctions on China over Beijing’s decision to purchase military equipment from Russia, including advanced S-400 missile defense systems.

By applying its domestic laws to influence relations between China and Russia, the US is effectively in breach of their sovereignty.

The US has also initiated a trade war with China and has accused it of seeking to influence the US congressional mid-term elections, something that Beijing has strongly denied.

October 4, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , | 2 Comments

Declassified docs reveal how Pentagon aimed to nuke USSR and China into oblivion

RT | September 2, 2018

Plans for a nuclear war devised by the US Army in the 1960s considered decimating the Soviet Union and China by destroying their industrial potential and wiping out the bulk of their populations, newly declassified documents show.

A review of the US general nuclear war plan by the Joint Staff in 1964, which was recently published by George Washington University’s National Security Archive project, shows how the Pentagon studied options “to destroy the USSR and China as viable societies.”

The review, conducted two years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, devises the destruction of the Soviet Union “as a viable society” by annihilating 70 percent of its industrial floor space during pre-emptive and retaliatory nuclear strikes.

A similar goal is tweaked for China, given its more agrarian-based economy at the time. According to the plan, the US would wipe out 30 major Chinese cities, killing off 30 percent of the nation’s urban population and halving its industrial capabilities. The successful execution of the large-scale nuclear assault would ensure that China “would no longer be a viable nation,” the review reads.

The Joint Staff had proposed to use the “population loss as the primary yardstick for effectiveness in destroying the enemy society with only collateral attention to industrial damage.” This “alarming” idea meant that, as long as urban workers and managers were killed, the actual damage to industrial targets “might not be as important,” the George Washington University researchers said.

The 1964 plan doesn’t specify the anticipated enemy casualty levels, but – as the researchers note – an earlier estimate from 1961 projected that a US attack would kill 71 percent of the residents in major Soviet urban centers and 53 percent of residents in Chinese ones. Likewise, the 1962 estimate predicted the death of 70 million Soviet citizens during a “no-warning US strike” on military and urban-industrial targets.

The Pentagon continues to rely heavily on nuclear deterrence, and – just like in the 1960s – the US nuclear strategy still regards Russian and Chinese military capabilities as main “challenges” faced by Washington. The latest Nuclear Posture Review, adopted in February, outlined “an unprecedented range and mix of threats” emanating from Beijing and Moscow. The document, which mentions Russia 127 times, cites the modernization of the Russian nuclear arsenal as “troubling” for the US.

The existing nuclear strategy also allows the US to conduct nuclear strikes not only in response to enemies’ nuclear attacks, but also in response to “significant non-nuclear strategic attacks” on the US, its allies and partners.

The newest US Nuclear Posture Review was heavily criticized by Russia and China. Moscow denounced the strategy as “confrontational,” while Beijing described the Pentagon’s approach as an example of “Cold-War mentality.”

September 2, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

Russia, China nearing alliance conditions

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | August 10, 2018

The Chinese Communist Party Politburo member Yang Jiechi is visiting Moscow on August 14-17 at the invitation of the secretary of the Russian national security council, Nikolai Patrushev to participate in the 14th round of Russian-Chinese consultations on strategic stability. The forthcoming event in Moscow will be closely watched since the two countries are fast nearing a situation of confronting a common ‘enemy’. This is a new experience for both since the halcyon days of the Sino-Soviet alliance in the 1950s.

The mainstream opinion has been that the Sino-Russian comprehensive partnership and cooperation is more the stuff of geopolitical signaling than a strategic alliance. The Western opinion has also been notably skeptical whether such partnership between Russia and China will be sustainable over time due to the growing asymmetry in the two countries’ comprehensive national power. Both premises may be getting outdated by the sheer force of developments.

Curiously, another body of opinion is steadily forming lately whether Russia and China could be actually on the verge of reaching alliance conditions in the rapidly changing global situation characterized by growing tensions in their respective relations with the United States. An essay in the Financial Times this week titled ‘China and Russia’s dangerous liaison’ authored by the daily’s Asia editor (who used to be the Beijing bureau chief previously), Jamil Anderlini, forcefully makes this point.

The writer argues that it is an intelligence blunder of historic proportions that the West is making by “dismissing the anti-western, anti-US alliance that is now forming between Moscow and Beijing.” Anderlini writes:

  • This idea that Russia and China can never really be friends is just as wrong and dangerous as the cold war dogma that portrayed global communism as an unshakeable monolith… Their tightening embrace is as much about antipathy towards the US and the US-dominated global order as their rapidly growing common interests… Thanks to its continued rise and obvious ambition to supplant the US, China is a far bigger long-term challenge for America than Russia. No less a figure than Henry Kissinger – the architect of that reconciliation with China in 1972 – has reportedly counselled Donald Trump to pursue a “reverse Nixon-China strategy” by seeking to befriend Moscow and isolate Beijing.

However, the chances of a “reverse Nixon-China strategy” by the US are virtually zero. Even if President Trump is inclined in that direction, the ‘Deep State’ simply won’t allow him a free hand. It is after much effort that NATO has cast Russia in an ‘enemy’ image and anchored a whole new purposive agenda on that platform. Unshackling it can lead to the unraveling of the western alliance system itself. The New York Times today reported that the Washington establishment connived with the US’ NATO allies to present a fait accompli at the recent summit meeting of the alliance in Brussels.

In fact, the Trump administration has just announced plans to create a new Space Force as the sixth branch of its military to prepare for “the next battlefield” to counter Russia and China, which are “aggressively” working to develop anti-satellite capabilities. Announcing this at the Pentagon on August 9, US Vice-President Mike Pence said,

  • China and Russia have been conducting highly sophisticated on-orbit activities that could enable them to maneuver their satellites into close proximity of ours, posing unprecedented new dangers to our space systems… We must have American dominance in space, and so we will.

President Trump promptly tweeted, “Space Force all the way!” And this comes soon after the announcement by Washington that it would impose extensive new sanctions against Moscow by August 22, including bans on a wide range of exports, by the end of the month as punishment for the alleged nerve agent attack on former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Britain in March. The State Department has further threatened another wave of sanctions in 3 months’ time, including a lowering of the diplomatic relations with Russia. Without doubt, within a month of the Helsinki summit, US-Russia relations are in free fall once again.

Moscow has strongly reacted. PM Dmitry Medvedev warned on Friday that tightening up of economic sanctions against Russia may be treated as a declaration of economic war, to which Russia will respond with all economic, political and other means possible.

Similarly, China and the US are embroiled in an escalating trade war. On Wednesday, Beijing unveiled a list of US$16 billion worth of American goods it plans to hit with tariffs. This is response to Washington’s announcement the previous day that it would impose 25 per cent tariffs on an equivalent value of Chinese exports. An editorial in the government-owned China Daily on Thursday flagged that “the possibility that the two countries are heading for a prolonged trade conflict has to be faced.”

Clearly, a closer coordination between Russia and China in a concerted strategy to push back at the US will be a key topic at the consultations in Moscow next week. The point is, the quasi-alliance between Russia and China cannot be belittled as ‘geopolitical signaling’ anymore. Just short of a formal military alliance, the two countries are intensifying their cooperation and coordination. In an unusual gesture, Moscow announced well in advance that President Vladimir Putin will be receiving Yang, signaling the high importance that the Kremlin attaches to the strategic consultations with China.

The bottom line is, despite the attempts by American analysts to create dissension in the Sino-Russian relations – by propagating that China poses demographic threat to the Russian Far East; that China is conspiring to militarily seize the Siberian Lebensraum; that China is overshadowing Russia in the Central Asian region, etc. –the attraction of China is only increasing in Moscow’s strategic calculus, thanks to China’s formidable economic firepower (with its nominal GDP set to overtake the Eurozone’s by the end of this year) and China’s rapidly developing technological sophistication.

Of course, Moscow realizes that no significant improvement in the Russian-American relations can be expected either so long as Trump remains in power. To be sure, new directions of Russia-China cooperation will be identified at the talks in Moscow. Read a commentary, here, by a leading Chinese pundit who envisions the Northern Sea Route (which is a key template of Moscow’s Arctic strategies) as an “important component” of China’s Belt and Road initiative, and could be considered as “part of an ambitious strategy to change China’s land and sea connections to Europe and the world.”

August 11, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Russophobia | , , | 2 Comments

India’s ‘Tibet card’ is a bitter legacy

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | August 9, 2018

A sensational report on Tuesday by the Japanese publication Nikkei that Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed a Faustian deal on Tibet with Chinese President Xi Jinping stretches credulity. The report citing Indian sources claimed that Modi government is dumping the Tibetan issue in anticipation of the death of the Dalai Lama as quid pro quo by Beijing on a partial border settlement.

It is a curious report, to say the least. First, one would like to think that Modi being a staunch Hindu, will not negotiate over the death of someone who is still alive. Period. Second, Xi has a stated position, repeated ad nauseum, that China will never make concessions on its territories, and there is no reason to doubt the Chinese leader’s resolve. Third, even if such a diabolical exchange had taken place at Wuhan on an explosive topic (which had contributed to the 1962 conflict), it cannot possibly become bazaar gossip. India is not a banana republic.

So, why has such an attempt been made to scandalize Modi as someone raring to dump the ‘Tibetan cause’? One reason could be that the Japanese publication, which has a record of Sinophobia, simply vandalized the Wuhan summit in a continuing attempt to stall any improvement in India-China relations. Quite possibly, motivated Indians put the publication onto it.

For, it is no secret that Modi’s initiative to improve relations with China lacks acceptability within sections of our so-called ‘strategic community’ –  think tankers, media persons, ‘China experts’ and so on – who for reasons of their own appear to have convinced themselves that Sino-Indian geopolitical rivalry must inexorably run its course until such time as Delhi can negotiate with Beijing from a position of strength.

Having said that, the fact remains that there has been a flurry of media reports lately on Tibet. They have focused attention on the tumultuous life and times of the Karmapa Lama. In particular, following his recent remarks about returning to India after a yearlong sojourn in the United States, there is an animated discussion going on over this topic.

It appears that the Indian security establishment, which viewed him as a ‘Chinese spy’ and had kept him under close surveillance for almost two decades in a remote monastery in Dharamsala, has had a profound rethink in the most recent weeks and is now beseeching him to come back to India. It seems that the Indian agencies have made a seductive offer of prime land (5-acre sprawling estate) in Delhi to set up the Karmapa’s Hqs on a grand scale.

Many of these reports are so obviously based on ‘spin’ by intelligence operatives themselves. Now, spooks are creators perfectly capable of constructing a world that works on the same emotional basis as successful soap operas. So, what is the soap opera here about?

Put differently: How come the government has had a change of heart with regard to 32-year old Karmapa in the downstream of the Wuhan summit in end-April?

More to the point, Karmapa has been living in America for over a year and it is inconceivable that the CIA never got to know about his presence on a lavish 150-acre estate in the Wharton State Forest Area in New Jersey that has been ‘gifted’ to him — purportedly by a Taiwanese couple. In fact, his remarks about his intention to return to India were transmitted via Radio Free Asia, which is known to be a US intelligence outfit.

To be sure, the whole sordid soap opera stinks to the heavens. As the Nikkei report on Tuesday hints, there are all sorts of interest groups (within and outside India), who want the Trans-Himalayan gravy train to Lhasa to keep running. But isn’t it in India’s long-term interests that Tibet-related issues do not remain a point of discord in the Sino-Indian relationship?

It is Modi’s call, finally. After all, this is a bitter legacy which is not his creation and, therefore, he is best placed than any of his predecessors to put a full stop to the delusional belief that we are holding a ‘Tibet card’ with a unique potential to leverage Chinese policies toward India. Read the essay by Ambassador Stobdan, one of our best experts on the politics of Tibetan Buddhism – The Flight of the Karmapa is Further Proof That India Has No Tibet Card, here.

August 9, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

The knife in Iran’s back: Trump opens door to chaos

By Vijay Prashad | Asia Times | August 9, 2018

On Tuesday night, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani went on television to talk about the reinstatement of sanctions by the United States against his country. He prepared the country for more privations as a result of the sanctions. Responding to US President Donald Trump’s offer of a meeting, Rouhani said pointedly, “If you stab someone with a knife and then say you want to talk, the first thing you have to do is to remove the knife.”

It is clear to everyone outside the US government that Iran has honored its side of the 2015 nuclear deal that it made with the governments of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the US, the UK, France, China and Russia) as well as the European Union. In fact, quite starkly, EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini said, “We are encouraging small and medium enterprises in particular to increase business with and in Iran as part of something that for us is a security priority.”

In other words, Mogherini is asking companies to resist Trump’s policy direction. What she is saying, and what Rouhani said, is that it is the United States that has violated the nuclear deal, and so no one needs to honor the US sanctions that have been reinstated.

Mogherini pointed to “small and medium enterprises” because these would not be the kind of multinational corporations with interests in the United States. But it is more than small and medium-sized enterprises that are going to challenge the US sanctions. China, Russia and Turkey have already indicated that they will not buckle under US pressure.

China

“China’s lawful rights should be protected,” said the Chinese government. China has no incentive to follow the new US position.

First, China imports about US$15 billion worth of oil from Iran each year and expects to increase its purchases next year. State energy companies such as China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and Sinopec have invested billions of dollars in Iran.

CNPC and Sinopec also have shares in Iran’s major oil and gas fields – CNPC has a 30% stake in the South Pars gas field and has investments in the North Azadegan oilfield, while Sinopec has invested $2 billion in the Yadavan oilfield.

China’s Export-Import Bank, meanwhile, has financed many large projects in Iran, including the electrification of the Tehran-Mashhad railway. Other Chinese investment projects include the Tehran metro and the Tehran-Isfahan train. These projects are worth tens of billions of dollars.

Second, China is in the midst of a nasty trade war with the United States. In late August, Trump’s government slapped 25% tariffs on $16 billion worth of Chinese imports into the United States. China responded with its own tariffs, with its Commerce Ministry saying that the US was “once again putting domestic law over international law,” which is a “very unreasonable practice.”

The “once again” is important. China is seized by the unfairness of the reinstatement of sanctions on Iran, not only for its own economic reasons but also because it sees this as a violation of international agreements and a threat to Iranian sovereignty – two principles that China takes very seriously.

Sinopec, knee-deep in Iran’s oil sector, has now said that it would delay buying US oil for September. Iran has now been drawn into the US “trade war” (on which, read more here).

The Chinese have been quite strong in their position. The Global Times, a Chinese government paper, wrote in an editorial, “China is prepared for protracted war. In the future, the US economy will depend more on the Chinese market than the other way around.” This fortitude is going to spill over into China’s defense of Iran’s economy.

Russia

Russia and Iran do not share the kind of economic linkages that Iran has with China. After the 2015 sanctions deal, Iran did not turn to Russian oil and gas companies for investment. It went to France’s Total – which signed a $5 billion deal. Russia and Iran did sign various massive energy deals ($20 billion in 2014), but these did not seem to go anywhere.

Russia’s Gazprom and Lukoil have toyed with entry to Iran. In May, Lukoil directly said that it would be hesitant to enter Iran because of the proposed US reinstatement of sanctions. Lukoil’s hesitancy came alongside that of European companies such as Peugeot, Siemens and even Total, which decided to hold off on expansion or cut ties with Iran. Daimler has now officially halted any work in Iran.

It was a surprise this year when the Iranian Dana Energy company signed a deal with the Russian Zarubezhneft company to develop the Aban and West Paydar oilfields. The contract is for $740 million, which in the oil and gas business is significant but not eye-opening.

In July, senior Iranian politician Ali Akbar Velayati met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. He left the meeting saying, “Russia is ready to invest $50 billion Iran’s oil and gas sectors.” Velayati specifically mentioned Rosneft and Gazprom as potential investors – “up to $10 billion,” he said.

When Putin was in Tehran last November, Russian companies signed preliminary deals worth $30 billion. Whether these deals will go forward is not clear. But after Trump’s reinstatement of sanctions, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it would “take appropriate measures on a national level to protect trade and economic cooperation with Iran.” In other words, it would see that trade ties were not broken.

Turkey

Both Iran and Turkey face great economic challenges. Neither can afford to break ties. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said that his government will only honor international agreements, and that the US reinstatement of sanctions is not part of an international framework. Turkey, therefore, will continue to trade with Iran.

Iranian oil and gas are crucial for Turkey, whose refineries are calibrated to Iran’s oil and would not be able to adjust easily and cheaply to imports from Saudi Arabia. Almost half of Turkey’s oil comes from Iran.

Turkish-US relations are at a low. Conflict over the detention of an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, has led to the US sanctioning two Turkish cabinet ministers, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu. Gul is a leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), while Soylu came to the party at the personal invitation of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. These are not men to be intimidated by US pressure.

A US mission led by Marshall Billingslea, assistant secretary of the US Treasury, went to Turkey to persuade the government to join the US sanctions. Meanwhile, the US has begun to put pressure on Turkey’s Halkbank, one of whose senior officials was found guilty of violation of the US sanctions on Iran by a court in the United States this year. This kind of pressure is not sitting well with the Turkish government.

Inside Iran

Pressure is mounting inside Iran. Protests have begun across the country, a reflection of the distress felt by the population as the country’s currency, the rial, slides and as fears of inflation mount.

Last week, the Iranian government fired the head of the central bank, Valiollah Seif, and replaced him with Abdolnasser Hemati. It reversed the foreign-exchange rules, including the failed attempt to fix the value of the rial that was put in place in April.

Hemati had been the head of Iran’s state insurance firm and before that of Sina Bank and Bank Melli. He is highly trusted by the government, which had already appointed him as ambassador to China before hastily rescinding that offer and moving him to the central bank. Whether Hemati will be able to balance the stress inside the Iranian economy is yet to be seen. Faith in the currency will need to be strengthened.

As part of that, Iran’s government has cracked down harshly against financial fraud, particularly scandals over foreign exchange. The man who signed the 2015 nuclear deal, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, had to watch as his nephew Ahmad Araghchi, the central bank’s vice-governor in charge of foreign exchange, was arrested along with five other people as part of an inquiry over fraud. The message: No one, not even the Araghchi family, is immune from the long arm of the law.

Trump’s belligerence, the refusal of key countries to abide by Trump’s sanctions (including the European Union, but mainly Russia and China), as well as the internal pressure in Iran could very likely create the conditions for a military clash in the waters around Iran. This is a very dangerous situation. Sober minds need to push against the reinstatement of these sanctions – which the Iranians see as economic warfare – as well as escalation into military war.

This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

August 9, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Trump’s Art of the Deal and Iran sanctions

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | August 4, 2018

An amicable formula seems to be emerging between the Trump administration on the one hand and China and India on the other hand as regards the impending US sanctions on Iran’s oil exports. Below-the-radar consultations are going on between Washington and Beijing and New Delhi.

The Trump administration initially threatened collateral damage to countries such as China and India unless they fell in line with the US diktat to stop all oil imports from Iran to zero by November 4. Oil is at the core of Trump’s containment strategy against Iran, since oil exports are a major source for income for Tehran and the American game plan is all about hurting the Iranian economy until its leadership capitulates and begs him for a meeting.

It’s a hackneyed notion to bully Tehran to make it bend. It never worked in these 40 years – not even under Barack Obama who enjoyed vast political capital in the international community. But the good thing about Trump is that behind the fire and fury, he’s a realist. (By the way, Iranians know it, too, as this utterly fascinating tongue-in-cheek commentary yesterday implies.)

So, after some rounds of diplomacy in world capitals (to test the waters, basically) – Beijing, New Delhi, Ankara, in particular, which are big-time buyers of Iranian oil – Washington began signaling that sanctions can also provide for ‘waivers’ – that is, Trump administration will selectively exercise the great privilege of deciding not to punish countries that may still want to buy Iranian oil after the November 4 cutoff date.

Quite obviously, from the feedback received from American diplomats, Washington senses great reluctance to pay heed to the US demarche. In particular, China and India (which account for over half of Iranian oil exports) are heavily dependent on Iranian oil – and, for good reason too. At least in the case of India, Iran offers oil at a discounted price on deferred payment basis with substantial reduction in freight and insurance costs.

Now, the US cannot possibly sanction the oil industry in China or India because Big Oil is also hoping to do business with them. (For shale oil, Asian market is the preferred destination.) Some analysts predict that Russia, which like America is also an energy superpower, will be a net gainer. Russia can cash in on the needs of China and India for oil; Russia can buy Iranian oil and sell it through swap deals and so on (and make some money in the bargain); or, Russia may even move into the Iranian oil industry in a big way and make investments there. At any rate, it is foolhardy for the US to imagine that it can control the world energy market in terms of price elasticity of supply.

In view of the above factors, the Trump administration is finessing an understanding with China and India whereby the US sanctions policy against Iran does not become an acrimonious issue. The interests to be reconciled are: a) China and India have legitimate interests in sourcing Iranian oil and it is unrealistic and counterproductive to coerce them; and, b) the US too has an abiding interest not to sanction the oil companies of China and India, which are prospective buyers of US oil.

The Bloomberg report, here, says that China has point blank refused to cut Iranian oil imports but may agree to keep imports at the existing level as of November 4. Interestingly, the report cites US officials heaving a sigh of relief: “That would ease concerns that China would work to undermine U.S. efforts to isolate the Islamic Republic by purchasing excess oil.” Plainly put, Washington is relieved that Beijing will not take advantage of the US sanctions against Iran.

On the other hand, the Reuters report on India, here, assesses that Indian imports of Iranian crude oil are dramatically increasing in recent months. A 30% increase is reported in July with crude imports from Iran touching record level of 768,000 barrels per day. (This is a whopping 85% jump over the corresponding  period in July 2017, which was 415,000 bpd)!

Of course, if the US can allow China to keep its import of Iranian oil at the existing level as of November 4, it cannot deny a similar formula to India. And, therefore, doesn’t it make eminent sense that India keeps ramping up its oil imports from Iran to the maximum level possible by November 4?

Evidently, this is Trump’s Art of the Deal at work. By the way, for Iran too, this would provide some ‘sanctions relief’. Which in turn may even ‘incentivize’ Tehran to talk to Trump. If there is anything like a workable “win-win” in politics, this is it, this is it.

August 4, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Regional states muscle in to seek a bigger ‘say’ in Afghan conflict

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | July 19, 2018

A new strategic fault line appeared in the Afghan conflict last week when Islamabad hosted an unusual meeting of the heads of the intelligence agencies of Russia, China and Iran on July 11.

Moscow thoughtfully publicized the event both for its optics as well as to pre-empt misperceptions that some sort of zero-sum game might be afoot.

The focus was on joint measures to stop the terrorist group Islamic State Khorasan Province (IS-K) from threatening the territorial boundaries of the four regional states. In the Russian estimation, there could be up to 10,000 fighters in IS-K’s ranks already and the group is already active in nine of the 34 provinces in Afghanistan.

The four participating countries “reached understanding of the importance of coordinated steps to prevent the trickling of IS terrorists from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan, where from they would pose risks for neighboring countries.” But they also “stressed the need for a more active inclusion of regional powers in the efforts” to end the war in Afghanistan.

Clearly, the leitmotif is in the latter claim by the regional states seeking a greater say in Afghan peace-making. Three related developments over the weekend also signal the new churning. One, the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, General Mohammad Baqeri, started a three-day visit to Islamabad on July 15 at the invitation of Pakistani army chief General Qamar Bajwa.

This is the first time since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 that a chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces visited Pakistan. No doubt, the visit signals Tehran’s appreciation that Pakistan is no longer in the US orbit. General Bajwa visited Tehran in November.

According to the Pakistani readout, General Bajwa noted that Pakistan’s military cooperation with Iran would have a “positive impact on peace and security in the region.” Later, General Baqeri told the Iranian media that the US and its allies seek to weaken security in the region and Iran and Pakistan are “duty-bound to take actions” to safeguard regional peace and security.

There is a history of cross-border terrorism from across the porous Pakistani border in which Tehran suspected the hidden hand of hostile powers. Therefore, today, the Iranian calculus prioritizes the “return” of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to the Afghan chessboard recently, after a prolonged absence, given the geopolitical rivalries playing out in a diverse theatre across the Greater Middle East.

Curiously, although the newfound Saudi-Emirati pro-activism in Afghanistan is coinciding with the steady expansion of IS-K, the two Gulf states today are preoccupied with weakening the Taliban, whom they had mentored in an earlier era in the 1990s. The Kabul government approved on June 6 the deployment of UAE Special Forces to Afghanistan.

On July 11-12, Saudi Arabia hosted an Ulema conference in Jeddah and Mecca, which issued a ‘fatwa’ against the ‘jihad’ waged by the Afghan Taliban. Washington encouraged these parallel Saudi-Emirati moves, which implies a concerted attempt to weaken the Taliban whom the US military failed to defeat, with a view to force it to compromise.

However, on the contrary, a paradigm shift is under way in the regional perceptions regarding the Taliban. The special envoy of the Russian president on Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, disclosed on the weekend that Moscow proposes to invite the Taliban to the second round of the Russian regional initiative on Afghanistan, which is expected to be held sometime late in the summer.

Kabulov characterized the Taliban as a force that has “integrated” with the Afghan nation, and therefore, having a legitimacy, which in some respects even exceeds the Kabul government’s, and controlling more than half the territory of Afghanistan. Kabulov implicitly doubted the representative character of the present Afghan government.

Suffice to say that the Russian policy is incrementally redefining the battle lines in Afghanistan from ‘Taliban versus the Rest’ to ‘Afghanistan versus the IS-K.’ Conceivably, Iran, China and Pakistan are in harmony with the Russian thinking.

The heart of the matter is that while these regional states regard the Taliban as an Afghan movement indigenously rooted in traditional Islam and with a political agenda confined to their homeland, they abhor the IS-K as a brutal terrorist group weaned on Salafi-Wahhabist teaching which casts a seductive appeal to misguided Muslim youth worldwide.

However, in the final analysis, the above interplay needs to be juxtaposed with recent reports that President Trump may order a policy review of his one-year old Afghan strategy. In fact, the sudden visit of the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Kabul on July 9 only reinforced that impression in the region. Unsurprisingly, Pompeo maintained while in Kabul that the Trump administration’s “strategy is working.”

But then, instead of heaping praise on the US military, he instead stressed the urgency of a peace process with the Taliban. Pompeo offered that the US will “support, facilitate and participate in these peace discussions.” He then added meaningfully: “We expect that these peace talks will include a discussion of the role of international actors and forces.”

July 19, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

US Sanctions May Force India Out of Iran’s Chabahar Port With China More Than Able to Fill This Gap

By Adam Garrie | EurasiaFuture | June 27, 2018

Iran’s Chabahar Port on the Gulf of Oman represents the crowning achievement of Indo-Iranian cooperation in recent decades. The port itself represents the centre of the wider North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) which will link India to Russia and the wider north-western Eurasian space via Iran and Azerbaijan. While under Premier Narendra Modi, India has sought to sell NSTC as an alternative to China’s One Belt–One Road and in particular as rival to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which links China to the wider Indian Ocean space via the Arabian Sea port at Gwadar, Iranian officials who themselves are eager participants in One Belt–One Road, have wisely distanced themselves from India’s zero-sum narrative on Chabahar and NSTC more widely.

Likewise, as Iranian relations with Pakistan continue to improve, it also remains clear that Iranian leaders are carefully avoiding being sucked into south Asia’s manifold rivalries by maintaining healthy ties with China, India and increasingly Pakistan simultaneously.

As it stands, Gwadar is a more substantial port vis-a-vis Chabahar in terms of its capacity and the fact that unlike the Indian built port in Iran, the Chinese built Gwadar is a Panamax deep water port. In this sense, both Gwadar and Chabahar could function together on the win-win model which would see some of the supplies shipped from China to Pakistan via Gwadar being routed on to Chabahar depending on their ultimate destination. Here one could see One Belt–One Road and the North South Transport Corridor functioning as integrated rather than as rival logistics networks – something that Pakistani officials recently spoke about with optimism.

Now though, India’s very presence in Chabahar may be impacted negatively as the US moves to sanction countries that conduct business with Iran. The US CAATSA sanctions aimed at Iran are back in the spotlight after the US withdrawal from the JPCOA (aka Iran nuclear deal) caused Washington to threaten many of its longstanding allies against conducting further business with Iran under the threat of so-called second party sanctions. These threats have most notably been aimed at the European Union, in spite of the fact that the bloc remains rhetorically adamant that it will continue to preserve the JCPOA without US involvement.

India has also come under threat of sanctions due to its healthy relationship with the Islamic Republic. The US has stated that it will sanction Indian companies who do business with Iran and this week, the US issued an even more specific threat to its Indian partner, stating that New Delhi will face sanctions if it continues to purchase Iranian oil.

Last month it was reported that international investors in Chabahar were beginning to show signs of nervousness in light of the new sanctions threats from Washington. As India is already facing tariffs on its exports to the United States while simultaneously cutting itself off from a would-be win-win Chinese partnership, India is scarcely in a position to economically leverage the United States which under Donald Trump has taken a merciless approach to conducting trade wars with allies as well as threatening partners with sanctions if they do business with countries including Russia, Iran and the DPRK (although this might soon change in the case of the DPRK).

This could mean that as the primary investor and operator of the Chabahar Port, India could find itself cut off from its own investment under the cloud of sanctions. If it comes to this and India is forced to either partially or even entirely withdraw from the Chabahar project, it would mean that Iran would seek a new international partner for the port.

The only realistic partner to take over Chabahar would be China, a nation with experience in port building and management, a country that has shown itself to be able to transact deals with Iran in spite of the attitude of Washington and a country that because of America’s own dependence on Chinese goods – is largely sanction proof for all practical purposes.

Not only could China help to revive the economic fortunes of Chabahar if India becomes frightened off due to threats from the United States, but China could actually help Chabahar to grow both infrastructurally and commercially by linking it into a uniformed trade route centred on the larger Gwadar port and existing One Belt–One Road lines of connectivity in the region. This would ultimately be a win-win for China, Iran and Pakistan.

If India were to abandon the underlying prejudices behind its zero-sum approach to antagonising both China and Pakistan, India could actually remain active in Chabahar as key player in a wider Sino-Iranian partnership which would necessarily also include Pakistan via CPEC. This could help to not only reduce tensions with India’s largest neighbours, but it could demonstrate that the only way for India to effectively leverage US threats of further tariffs and sanctions is by keeping at least one foot in China’s already open door.

However, given the attitude of the current Indian government, such a win-win model looks increasingly distant however theoretically attractive it might sound when analysed objectively. Because of this, the more likely scenario for Chabahar will be a short-term waiting game where India will see just how far the US is willing to punish its newfound south Asian partner due to its dealings with Iran.

If India’s involvement in Chabahar does come under a US financial attack, it is all but certain that India will minimise its involvement in the flagship project – thus paving the way for China to take over where India left off.

The choice for India therefore is three fold: New Delhi can simply hope for the best while possibly sweetening the deal by making concessions to the US over existing tariffs, India can bow out of Chabahar in order to possibly attain better trading relations with the US in the future or India can work with China to leverage the US over its anti-Iranian position.

At a time when the US is embracing unilateralism in its economic relations with the rest of the world – India must look realistically at its options, even if this means dropping its Sinophobic prejudices.

June 27, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Real and Fake Threats to U.S. Vital Interests

By Philip Giraldi | American Herald tribune | June 18, 2018

There has been considerable chatter inside the Washington Beltway about the meaning of President Donald Trump’s recent forays into international trade at the G-7 meeting in Canada and his nuclear disarmament tete-a-tete with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore. Depending on where one sits on the ideological spectrum G-7 is being viewed either as a calculated and largely ignorant insult to America’s closest allies or as a long overdue accounting for trade and defense imbalances that have severely damaged the U.S. economy. The most vitriolic analysis came from Republicans like Senator John McCain who accused Trump of betraying America’s allies while also aiding its enemies. McCain was referring in part to the president’s eminently reasonable suggestions that Moscow be allowed to rejoin the G-7 and that it would be beneficial to get together personally with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The meeting with Jong-un likewise is being described as a giveaway to North Korea with nothing in exchange but White House spin or as a brilliant maneuver to break a diplomatic logjam that has prevailed for more than twenty years. Those who are particularly concerned over the issue of a possible nuclear exchange taking place are pleased that the two sides are talking, even if, as The Hill observes, it will now be up to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to “put meat on the bones” by initiating a series of confidence building steps that will lead to a program for finally ending the Korean War and denuclearizing the region.

In his analysis of what to expect from Singapore, former Foreign Service Officer Peter Van Buren quotes another FSO Asia hand William Johnson, who describes how diplomacy is a process which “… is often a series of failures, and in the best case, the failures become incrementally less bad, until the least spectacular failure is declared to be success. Diplomacy is a game where the goalposts are supposed to move, and often, to move erratically. Trump needs a plan, with specific goals, each laid out neatly in a set of talking points, not because he will attain those goals, but because he needs to figure out how short of them he can afford to fall or how far beyond them he can push his interlocutor.”

One would hope that in both the case of G-7 and Singapore wiser heads in the Administration will prevail and convince the White House to remain on target about protecting genuine American interests using diplomacy and whatever other tools are at hand.

Above all, a careful assessment of what the actual threats against the United States might be ten or twenty years down the road should be considered to frame appropriate responses. Was the presidential onslaught at G-7 justified in terms of protecting the national interest relating to unfair trade practices? Is a transnational defense strategy beneficial to the United States if it is required to bear most of the burden financially? And finally, what are the real military and political threats that confront the Washington?

The trade issue is perhaps the most complicated to deal with as most countries run surpluses with some trading partners and deficits with others, something called competitive advantage. The Donald Trump claim that that Canada runs a $100 billion surplus with the U.S. is incorrect. In reality, the U.S. has a small surplus in trading with Canada, last year amounting to $2.8 billion. So, is Canada a major source of trade imbalance? The answer would have to be “no,” even though it is demonstrably protectionist regarding food products. But there are other regions that have a large trade advantage vis-à-vis the U.S. The European Union runs a $100 billion surplus and China $375.

Europe aside, does China’s trade advantage have security implications? Yes, it does as China is the world’s most populous nation with the world’s largest economy. Economic power eventually translates into military power and if Beijing is closing its market to American products arbitrarily while selling its own goods in a relative open U.S. marketplace it becomes a vital national interest to correct that. And there are clear indications that Beijing deliberately distorts the marketplace by maintaining an undervalued Yuan and creating hurdles that foreign companies must negotiate to do business in China. China also owns 19% of Washington’s Treasury note issued debt, totaling $1.18 trillion, which it could unload at any time causing an economic crash in the U.S. The Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has described the U.S. national debt as the most-grave long-term security challenge facing the country.

Defense policy and military threats from competitors constitute together a single issue as one drives the other. It is ironic that the United States, which is relatively unthreatened by enemies, continues to believe that it must intervene overseas to be safe. The current conflicts with Iran as well as in Syria and in Afghanistan are not vital interests for the United States, instead being driven largely by feckless allies, defense contractors and a sensationalist media. Even North Korea, which is a serious issue, is hardly a major threat to Americans.

The alleged threat from Russia, demonized by both the political left and right, is largely a fiction created to sell newspapers and give aspiring politicians something to talk about. Even if Russia wanted to re-occupy Eastern Europe it does not have the resources to do so. Its army is relatively small and designed for defense, its economy is the same size as Spain’s. It is nuclear armed to be sure, but, unless one is suicidal, nuclear weapons are ultimately defensive rather than offensive, to serve as a deterrent guaranteeing national survival when attacked but hardly usable otherwise.

So realistically Trump should be looking at the over the horizon economic and political problems deriving from Chinese power if he wants to address a real vital national interest. And he should do what he can to keep talking to G-7 about trade imbalances while also doing whatever is possible to hasten the demise of NATO, which has outlived its usefulness both from a fiscal and security point of view. And by all means, he should keep talking to Kim Jong-un and arrange sooner rather than later to meet with Vladimir Putin.

June 18, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

China’s Investment Trap has Become a Major Concern in Central Asia

By Grete Mautner – New Eastern Outlook – May 26, 2018

Perhaps the most curious topic of today’s Central Asian agenda is the growing dependence of local states on Chinese loans, which would often be referred to in regional media sources as “means of neocolonialism.”

In recent years, China has visibly stepped up its involvement in the affairs of Central Asia states, taking advantage of both its loans and its soft power. However, Beijing is trying to pacify worried voices across the region terrified by the demographic and economic might of China. There’s no denying that Central Asia for China is among the most crucial regions, since it shares a common border with a number of regional countries that play a pivotal part in ensuring China’s security and supply of energy and resources.

Nobody is making a big secret today of the fact that China lends regional governments long-term loans with low annual interest rates that can get as low as 2%. Against the backdrop of those hard-to-get Western financial investments, there’s really no alternative to Beijing’s loans. However, those always come with strings attached, as China’s loans would often be provided to back up large infrastructure projects, with Beijing’s contractors demanded be involved, providing labor, logistics and technology.

This financial hegemony never seems to be after a swift return on investments, as it would be typically interested in getting the other state financially dependent. The debt that has grown with time can be restructured and paid through granting China access to raw materials or stakes in the national companies of those states that borrowed money from Beijing. But in what way does this differ from the classic colonial scheme when investments would often be repaid with natural resources and lands? It’s no wonder that the West is trying to do the same to Ukraine these days, demanding it to open the agricultural market to bring its fertile lands to the hammer.

Kazakhstan

There’s little doubt that Kazakhstan ranks first among regional states who’s national wealth relies on Chinese loans and direct investments. According to its national bank, Astana owed China the staggering 12.6 billion dollars at the beginning of this year.

Against the backdrop that China’s loans are granted on the condition of Beijing receiving access to this country’s raw materials along with stakes in a handful of national enterprises, the topic of Chinese loans remains by far the most uncomfortable for Kazakhstan to discuss publicly. The situation got even worse when in 2016 in local media sources announced that Kazakhstan was planning to put another 1.7 million hectares of land on sale, with spontaneous mass protests breaking out across the state, as no one believed that the land would not be sold to foreigners. These protests led to the adoption of moratorium on such sales until the end of 2021, but still such a possibility remains on the cards.

Kyrgyzstan

The American Center for Global Development published a report on China’s debtors last March, identifying a total of eight most financially vulnerable countries. Of the Central Asian countries, both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan made the top of the list, since the sheer amount of money they are bound to pay Beijing has surpassed 50% of their total foreign debt.

Last year, Bishkek‘s national debt reached the staggering rate of 65% of this Kyrgyz state GDP, with external debt making up to 90% of this total.

As it was announced at the meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Budget and Finance of Kyrgyzstan in April, the total debt of Kyrgyzstan to China has reached 1.7 billion dollars. The sole largest outside creditor of Bishkek is China’s own Export-Import Bank, that can demand local politicians to hand a total of 470,000 dollars back at any given moment. Sure, China’s involvement in Kyrgyzstan would be unthinkable without large infrastructural projects like roads, electric power infrastructure, along with local industries like the oil refinery of Kara-Balta and gold mines of Taldy-Bulak Levoberezhny.

The country will have to pay China back at least 320 million dollars in the next five years. At the same time, local elected representatives would repeatedly stress the fact that back in the day when an agreement with the Export-Import Bank of China was drafted, those negotiating it were not really taking Kyrgyz interests into consideration, so there’s a chance that when the above mentioned period is over, Bishkek won’t have the money to pay its largest creditor. In addition, the agreement implies that all legal disputes between Kyrgyzstan and China are to be settled in the the Hong Kong arbitration court, which doesn’t make things any more promising for the debtor. Moreover, in the next couple years additional 300 million are to be spent on the servicing of the external debt of Kyrgyzstan, and, according to the local ministry of finance, the Kyrgyz Republic will be theoretically capable to repay its debt to China in the next quarter century or so.

The matter of the massive Kyrgyz debt to China is kept out of the public discussion in the country, as it can trigger massive protests. But since Bishkek has an abundance of natural resources in the form of gold, iron, rare earth metals and other deposits, Beijing doesn’t look too worried about the prospects of its involvement in the affairs of this state.

Tajikistan

In the regional media, Tajikistan is often being referred to as the “ultimate hostage of Beijing” or even “the Chinese colony”, along with all sorts of equally humiliating comparisons.

Dushanbe’s national debt to the Republic to China at the beginning of the year reached 1209.6 million dollars, which amount to 50% of the total foreign debt of Tajikistan.

China is eagerly making investments into Tajik energy and road construction projects, along with a wide range of other sectors, including aluminum production, cellular communications, and gold mining.

As for the repayment for this massive debt, China’s TBEA has recently received exclusive rights to mine the Upper Kumarg gold mine. Earlier, this same company obtained access to the East Douba deposits. TBEA will be extracting gold from these sites until it returns the funds invested in the construction of a large power plant in Tajikistan. Earlier, TBEA received similar rights on the mining of coal in Tajikistan. But now it’s talking gold.

In addition to natural resources and shares in national enterprises, Tajikistan can grant China control over its transport routes and lands. For instance, back in 2011 Tajikistan surrendered to China 1% of its total territory, which amounts to more than 400 square miles of once disputed lands in the Eastern Pamirs. China is particularly interested in those areas that are rich in minerals (uranium, gold, bauxite, asbestos, rock crystal and much more). Therefore, it is possible that China is going to be more that willing to explore various scenarios of Dushanbe fulfilling its financial obligations to it in the future.

Turkmenistan

This republic is being known as a place where China has occupied a dominant position in a number of financial fields. The country has virtually no other revenues on top of those that it receives from exporting natural gas to China, however this country’s closed nature makes further analysis virtually impossible.

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan, perhaps, can be found in a list of less defendant states in the region when China’s loans are concerned. However, recently China has been trying to address this drawback, as Uzbekistan looks a much more promising market for investments than most its neighbors.

There’s no point in arguing that loans are an instrument of external pressure. And China is known for its way of never writing off debts, like Russia would often do. On top of this, Beijing has a large number of unresolved territorial disputes, like the ones with Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. And if we take into consideration the fact the return of China’s historic territories is part of Beijing’s foreign policy, one can not exclude the fact that land concessions in exchange for investments will remain among China’s most desirable aspect of its foreign policy in the Central Asia region.

Today, there are strong fears across the region that China, which has become one of the largest regional players and a principal partner can demand them to pay the whole sum, while  Beijing sees no reason to be finicky in its investments, but there’s those that don’t want to experience this.

May 26, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Guns vs. butter at Wuhan meeting

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | May 2, 2018

The anxiety syndrome in the American write-ups on the Wuhan summit is truly tragi-comic. An analyst at the Brookings Institution confidently predicted even before the summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping that the event was much ado about nothing. The US government-funded Voice of America in an analysis has now arrived at the same conclusion, after the summit. Why are these American analysts in such tearing hurry to debunk the Wuhan meeting?

It’s geopolitics, stupid! The prestigious Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released a report today which says amongst other things that India’s defence spending rose by 5.5 per cent to US$63.9 billion in 2017, overtaking that of France as one of the world’s top five military spenders. The report estimates that one of the main motivations behind India’s plans to expand, modernise and enhance the operational capability of its armed forces lies in its tense relations with China.

From the US perspective, the situation is ideal to advance the business interests of America’s vendors of weaponry. Last year, business deals worth $15 billion were chalked up. Any improvement in India-China relations will profoundly hurt American interests. Fueling India-China tensions is a major objective of the US’ regional strategy.

Alas, there are Indians too who are eagerly serving the US interests. A prominent Chinese expert on South Asia recently wrote (in the context of the Wuhan meeting), “Many strategic elites in India are financially backed by the West and hence speak for Western countries.” It is a national shame, but true.

Be that as it may, these guys are missing the plot. Prime Minister Modi’s recent decisions to improve India-China relations, adjust India’s neighborhood policies and to rebalance India’s ties with the major powers are linked to his political agenda. Of course, the good part is that this agenda is also in the national interests.

Take India-China relations. The Voice of America is stupid to assume that the Wuhan meeting was about border tensions. No doubt, it is important that peace and tranquility prevails on the border with China. The Doklam standoff was an eye-opener for the political leadership. Hence the “strategic guidance” to the military issued from Wuhan (which is actually an order from the civilian leadership to the generals) to defuse confrontations during patrols in accordance with existing protocols and mechanisms. The military people may not like it, but that’s how a democracy prioritizes butter over guns.

Clearly, Modi’s top priority is about Chinese investments in India. The drivers of the Indian economy in our establishment played a decisive role in bringing about the strategic shift in the thinking toward China – and in preparing for the Wuhan meeting.

The fact of the matter is that China is already positioning itself as among India’s top investors. In 2017, despite Doklam, China tripled its investment to $2 billion. Bilateral trade touched $84.44 billion in 2017, which is an increase of 18.63% over 2016. (By the way, Indian exports to China went up by 40%.) This year, bilateral trade in the first quarter already hit $22.1 billion, up 15.4% year on year. In April, the two countries signed over 100 trade agreements, worth $2.38 billion, when a Chinese trade delegation visited India.

According to a report in Forbes magazine recently, India is courting Chinese companies to bridge its infrastructure deficit. Last year, China’s Sany Heavy Industry planned an investment of $9.8 billion in India, while Pacific Construction, China Fortune Land Development and Dalian Wanda planned investments of more than $5 billion each. Earlier this year, the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank approved funding of $1 billion for projects in India.

Meanwhile, Chinese investors have been pouring money into sectors outside the remit of government agencies. In 2015, Alibaba invested $500 million in Snapdeal and $700 million in Paytm. In 2016, Tencent invested $150 million in Hike, a messaging app, and a consortium of Chinese investors paid $900 for media.netIn 2017, Alibaba and Tencent announced or closed deals valued close to $2 billion—Alibaba’s second tranche of $177 million in Paytm, $150 million in Zomato, $100 million in FirstCry and $200 million in Big Basket. Tencent’s investments included $400 million in Ola, $700 million in Flipkart and a second round of investment in Practo. Last year, China’s drug giant Fosun Pharma acquired a 74% controlling stake in India’s Gland Pharma for $1.1 billion. Chinese smartphone makers Xiaomi, Huawei and Oppo all are operating manufacturing plants in India, and have had great successes in Indian market, too.

These plain facts may not be significant enough for our ‘China hands’, but they are a compelling reality for the PMO and North Block. Let me quote from the report in the Forbes magazine:

  • Seemingly, there’s a shared belief in both countries (India and China)  that a position of hostility undermines their interests, and stabilizing relations at a time of global uncertainty will yield economic dividends. India’s competitive edge in information technology, software and medicines, and China’s strengths in manufacturing and infrastructure development make the two sides natural partners…

By the way, it is yet to sink in that the single most far-reaching outcome of the Wuhan meeting could be that India is sidestepping the CPEC controversy and is moving on to join hands with China in the construction of the so-called Five Nations Railway Corridor connecting Xinjiang with Iran. It is a prestigious flagship project of the so-called Silk Road Economic Belt, which was proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013. Conceivably, this could be the first step in a long journey. China has shown great interest in developing economic corridors to India across Nepal and Myanmar.

To be sure, Modi travelled to Wuhan with the “big picture”. Read a perspective on the Wuhan summit featured in the CNBC entitled China and India are trying to write a new page of the world economy, here.

May 3, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Missile attacks on Syria in breach of international law, China says

Press TV – April 16, 2018

China has strongly condemned the latest missile strikes by the United States along with its allies Britain and France on crisis-hit on Syria, stating the military aggression violates the basic principles and norms of international law.

Addressing reporters during a press conference in Beijing on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said any military action that bypasses the UN Security Council is in breach of international law, and only complicates the Syrian conflict.

“Under the UN Charter, there are clear statements about the circumstances in which the use of force is permissible. The military strikes launched by the United States, the UK and France violate the basic principles of international law to ban the use of force and violate the UN Charter.

“The use of force under the pretext of punishing and retaliating the use of chemical weapons also violates international law as present international law also bans the use of force in retaliation for illegitimate actions. Bypassing the United Nations Security Council, and under the pretext of adopting a unilateral humanitarian intervention also violate international law,” she said.

The senior Chinese official noted that her country believes a comprehensive, impartial and objective investigation should be carried out into the alleged chemical weapons attack against the city of Douma, located about 10 kilometers northeast of the Syrian capital Damascus.

“China’s stance on chemical weapons is clear. We oppose to the use of chemical weapons by any country, any organization or anyone for any purpose. China advocates a comprehensive, impartial and objective investigation into the suspected use of chemical weapons so as to reach a reliable conclusion that could withstand the test of time and facts,” Hua said.

“We support an on-site investigation to Syria by a group from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Before that, all the parties cannot make a pre-judgment,” she pointed out.

Hua further described a political settlement as the only realistic option to resolve the Syrian crisis.

“I want to stress that there is no way out for any military solution to the Syrian issue as a political solution is the only realistic choice. Any attempt to resort to the use of force can only intensify regional tensions and complicate the issue,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman noted.

Early on Saturday, the US, Britain and France carried out a string of airstrikes against Syria over a suspected chemical attack against Douma. Washington and its allies blamed Damascus for the suspected assault.

The Syrian government has strongly denied the allegation, calling on OPCW to send a fact-finding mission for investigations.

However, the US and is allies carried out the strike on the day the mission just arrived in Damascus.

Pentagon said in a statement that at least 58 missiles had struck Shayrat airbase in the western Syrian city of Homs. An unnamed US official said Tomahawk missiles were used in the strikes.

The United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force said four Tornado GR4s fighter jets joined the operation, while France said it had deployed Mirage and Rafale fighter jets.

Russian General Staff spokesman General Sergei Rudskoy, however, said Syrian air defense systems had intercepted at least 71 cruise missiles fired during the US-led aggression.

Speaking at a news conference in Moscow on Saturday, Rudskoy said at least 103 cruise missiles, including Tomahawks, had been fired into a number of targets in Syria.

“Russia has fully restored the air defense system of Syria, and it continues to improve it over the last six months,” he said.

April 16, 2018 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment