Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

US-Indian Relations: Trump Gets a Unique Partner for America First

By Melkulangara BHADRAKUMAR | Strategic Culture Foundation | 18.09.2018

The inaugural meeting of the foreign and defence ministers of India and the United States in a new “2+2” format on September 6 in New Delhi assumed added significance as an attempt by the Trump administration to translate its Indo-Pacific vision outlined in the National Security Strategy (NSS) of last December.

The NSS had explicitly singled out Russia and China as “revisionist” powers that “challenge American power, influence and interests.” Equally, it ascribed a pivotal role to India in the Indo-Pacific. The “2+2” deliberations fleshed out these two templates.

For the first time in the post-Cold War era, the US has inserted itself into the “time-tested” relationship between India and Russia. Demolition of Indian-Russian partnership has been a hidden agenda of the US’ regional policy since the 1990s but it surged in an overt and abrasive form last week.

This shift from an aspirational approach to intrusive approach can be seen in the backdrop of the deterioration of US-Russia relations and the probability that tensions are unlikely to dissipate in a foreseeable future. The US sanctions against Russian defence sectors have been enacted in the full knowledge that India would be an acutely affected party. The US sanctions laws against Russia are acting like the Damocles’ sword to wear down India’s resistance to rollback in ties with Russia.

A similar US assault on India-Russia energy cooperation can be expected soon, which is another promising area for US exports to India. Besides, the US is also threatening to sanction Russia’s financial sector. Clearly, what the US is seeking goes far beyond a reset or atrophy in the Indian-Russian relationship. It aims at nothing less than draining the contents of the “Special Privileged Strategic Partnership” between India and Russia and make it an empty shell. Yet, partnership with Russia has been historically an anchor sheet of India’s strategic autonomy.

Indeed, it becomes a sad reflection of the huge inroads the US has made through the recent decade since the signing of the 2008 US-Indian nuclear deal to breach India’s strategic autonomy. Put differently, weakening of the India-Russia relations is an imperative need for Washington to hustle India on the path of becoming its key ally in the Indo-Pacific. Such a profound shift in the US approach can only be understood in terms of the strategic importance and the sense of urgency that the NSS attaches to the Indo-Pacific region.

The NSS ranks the Indo-Pacific as a strategically more vital area than the Middle East (which has been the principal domain so far of the US’ strategic attention.) The NSS prioritizes the “Quad” (quadrilateral alliance of the US, Japan, Australia and India) more emphatically than even Washington’s transatlantic leadership as a platform of the US’ global strategies. Washington intends to checkmate China, which the NSS has portrayed as the US’ competitor who poses challenge to its world leadership and the international order.

Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy appeals to the Indian audience alongside the NSS’ grand designation of India as a “leading global power”. Delhi exulted over the NSS document: “We appreciate the importance given to India-United States relationship… the two responsible democracies…share the same objectives.” To be sure, the Trump administration has rekindled a decade-old Indian dream of being a “counterweight” to China.

An influential section of India’s foreign-policy elite remains wedded to the notion that fundamentally, the US helped China’s rise in the Cold War era and that India is similarly well positioned to garner American benevolence in the emergent New Cold War conditions. The “2+2” highlighted that the US has astutely tapped into the Indian elite’s “unipolar predicament”.

In the recent period since the NSS was announced, the Trump administration has declared India as a “Major Defence Partner”, opening the door for the sale of more advanced and sensitive military technologies by American vendors at par with the US’ closest allies and partners, and fostering convergence of interests with India on a range of issues like maritime security, domain awareness and so on.

Without doubt, this has been a “win-win” strategy for Washington. The signing of a Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) at the “2+2” testifies to it. The COMCASA is modeled on agreements Washington has with its most important NATO and treaty allies. It is a big leap forward in developing “inter-operability” between the militaries of the US, its allies, and India, which in turn transforms India into a front-line state in the US’ military-strategic offensive against China in the Indo-Pacific. Another such “foundational agreement”, Logistics Exchange Memorandum Agreement (signed in 2016 and operationalized last year), has already opened India’s air bases and naval ports to routine use by US warplanes and battleships for refueling and resupply.

The “2+2” joint statement announced that India and US will stage their first-ever joint exercise involving all three branches of India’s military next year, and that they are setting up “hotlines” between their respective foreign and defence ministries “to help maintain regular high-level communication on emerging developments.” It commits the two countries to increased bilateral, trilateral and quadrilateral military-security cooperation. On the other hand, COMCASA is expected to pave the way for a major boost in Indian purchases of US weaponry, which is likely to begin with India’s procurement of armed naval drones for anti-submarine warfare.

All this works splendidly for the US. In sum, by playing on India’s geopolitical apprehensions regarding China’s rise as a global power and playing astutely on India’s own great-power ambitions, US is promoting on the one hand its business interests in the Indian market while on the other hand also locking India into its Indo-Pacific alliance system against China as well as progressively undermining the India-Russia “time-tested” relationship.

It’s a “win-win” strategy all the way. The Trump White House has drawn encouragement from the “2+2” to push the idea of concluding a free-trade agreement with India. Informal conversations have already begun.

Trump appears bullish that when push comes to shove, the present Indian government will bend to Washington’s diktats. Indeed, the Trump administration can count on influential back channels, too. It is no secret that the upper caste Indian Diaspora in the US has close links with the Hindu nationalist groups that mentor Modi government.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that Trump sees Prime Minister Modi as a unique partner for his “America First” project. Trump will skip the East Asia Summit in Singapore in November but is signaling interest in Modi’s invitation to him to be the guest of honor at India’s National Day celebrations in January.

September 18, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

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

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

Why US’ sanctions “bill from hell” on Russia should worry India

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | August 3, 2018

A fortnight after the Helsinki summit on July 16, US-Russia relations are set to take a turn for the worse. In an unprecedented move, White House fielded a joint media briefing by America’s top national security team on Thursday to highlight that Russia is continuing to make pervasive attempts to interfere in the upcoming mid-term elections in the US in November.

One of the top security czars who gave the briefing, National Intelligence Agency director Dan Coats said starkly, “We acknowledge the threat, it is real, it is continuing, and we’re doing everything we can to have a legitimate election. It is pervasive, it is ongoing, with the intent to … drive a wedge and undermine our democratic values.” Importantly, Coats alleged that the Kremlin was involved in the meddling effort which reached into the Kremlin itself.

He said, “Russia has used numerous ways in which they want to influence, through media, social media, through bots, through actors that they hire, through proxies – all of the above, and potentially more. We also know the Russians tried to hack into and steal information from candidates and government officials alike.” (Transcript)

The briefing served three purposes: one, to reject the denials of meddling that Russian President Vladimir Putin maade to President Trump at Helsinki; two, to neutralize the public criticism in the US that Trump has not been unequivocal on the issue; and, three, to give warning to Moscow.

The briefing coincided with a ‘bipartisan’ legislation that was introduced into the US Congress on Thursday to impose stiff new sanctions on Russia and combat cyber crime. The bill includes restrictions on new Russian sovereign debt transactions, energy and oil projects and Russian uranium imports, and new sanctions on Russian political figures and oligarchs. Interestingly, the proposed legislation underscores strong support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and expressly forbids the Administration from taking the US out of the alliance without two-thirds of the US Senate voting in favor of any such effort.

The senators who tabled the legislation said in a statement that the proposed new sanctions would target “political figures, oligarchs, and family members and other persons that facilitate illicit and corrupt activities, directly or indirectly, on behalf of Vladimir Putin.” According to some reports, the bill would also require a report to be assembled on the personal net worth and assets of Putin. Quite obviously, Putin himself is in the crosshairs.

Putin’s spirited defence of Trump at their joint press conference in Helsinki on the Russia collusion inquiry has provoked this furious backlash from America’s political class. In such a backdrop, another summit between Trump and Putin in a near future seems highly improbable. A visit by Putin to the White House in the autumn is simply out of the question. The US-Russia ties will remain very tense, too.

On the other hand, in a deceptive show of flexibility that will be keenly noted in New Delhi, US Congress has approved a legislation empowering the president to waive penalties against countries that buy weapons from Russia – provided, of course, Washington is convinced that such countries are seeking closer ties with the US. The US Defence Secretary James Mattis had pleaded with the US Congress for such Russia-sanction-waiver authority that would help countries such as India, which had traditional defence relations with Russia but are now trying to “pull away from the Russian orbit,” (as he put it.)

Evidently, the legislation on waivers is a self-serving move, enabling US arms manufacturers to continue to expand business opportunities in the Indian market. Under the new legislation, the president must nonetheless certify that India is both reducing arms imports from Russia and is expanding defense cooperation with the US, thereby making itself eligible for the waiver from sanctions. In effect, it becomes a tool for Washington to insert itself into the India-Russia defence cooperation as an interested party and to incrementally leverage Indian decisions with a view to atrophy the longstanding cooperation.

Clearly, the US interference in the India-Russia relationship is poised to intensify in the period ahead. If the proposed new sanctions “bill from hell” (tabled on Thursday) gets passed by the US Congress, which is to be expected, energy cooperation between India and Russia will also come under the American scanner. There is a strong business dimension to these US moves insofar as arms exports and energy cooperation also happen to be two thrust areas of export to India. Simply put, Washington hopes to roll back India’s defence and energy cooperation with Russia and seize the resultant business opportunities to boost its own exports to the Indian market.

In strategic terms, the US intention is to undermine the so-called “special privileged strategic partnership” between Russia and India, which would in turn erode the latter’s strategic autonomy and incrementally draw India into the American orbit as an ally.

August 3, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

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

US tries to stop S-400 deal with India

By Frank Sellers | The Duran | June 27, 2018

In much the same manner as the US attempted to kill the S-400 deal with Turkey, they are now setting out to end India’s defense relationship with Russia, especially if they can manage to undermine this SAM deal. The idea is to utilize sanctions to get the job done. If the US can manage to dissuade India from buying their SAM systems from India over fear that they might contravene some sanction issued by Washington, then that’s what they aim to do, while simultaneously offering America’s THAAD system to New Delhi as a replacement.

The Economic Times reports:

NEW DELHI: The United States may try to persuade India to consider its ballistic missile defence options in an attempt to keep it from pressing ahead with the S-400 deal with Russia.

ET has learnt that the US could make ballistic missile defence an agenda point in the upcoming Indo-US 2+2 dialogue on July 6 for which external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman will be in Washington.

The likely option on the table would be the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. It is a sophisticated missile defence system which is believed to be particularly effective against long-range missiles.

The S-400 missile defence system is, however, said to be effective against a larger array of aerial attacks, particularly fighter aircraft such as the F-18s and F-35s.

The latest version of the Russian made S-400 has a longer range but the jury is out on whether it’s more effective than the THAAD against intermediate range and intercontinental ballistic missile systems. ET has gathered that India’s proposed S-400 purchase from Russia has prompted a reassessment within Trump administration on whether India would have gone ahead with the nearly Rs 39,000-crore deal with Russia had the US moved faster with the THAAD offer.

Now, the S-400 deal has become a politically sensitive issue with the US. The US Congress is debating a Bill to allow for sanctions against Russian defence entities which could cover entities in recipient nations as well.

Given India’s strong defence partnership with Russia, the Trump administration, through secretary of defence James Mattis, has pitched for a waiver for countries such as India on the condition that it progressively reduce its military dependency on Russia.

The Congress has still not provided satisfactory relief despite hectic lobbying within Washington. The problem is compounded by the fact that the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) covers the S-400 system in the category of technologically sophisticated equipment which must be specifically targeted for this purpose.

India has argued that its S-400 deal with Russia was in the works before the US started debating the subject. In any event, it will predate the CAATSA if and when it’s written into law.

Besides, people close to the negotiations told ET, it is unreasonable for US to expect India to decouple its defence relationship with Russia, which has been a proven reliable partner through several conflicts.

The US, senior government officials said, must appreciate that unlike many of the other countries which purchase defence equipment from Russia, India does not target Russian armament against American interests and will not do so in future.

India is likely to elaborate on these lines at the inaugural 2+2 dialogue between the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries, while the US might urge India to first exhaust options the American industry can offer.

With the deal to purchase Russia’s S-400 SAM system predating America’s CAATSA sanctions act, the US is short on its options for blocking the deal. But sanctions are still playing a role in complicating its consummation as sanctions against Russia are rendering it somewhat difficult to relay compensation to the Russians for equipment and services rendered, therefore forcing both parties to find a way to deal outside of the dollar and outside of financial systems with exposure to Western markets. This particular moment in time for relations between India and the US is marked by trade tensions, as India finds itself in a position to dodge not just sanctions on its trade partners Russia and Iran, but also Trump’s trade wars, which affect goods sold in the American market, where India is imposing reciprocal tariff measures against the United States.

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

Lawyers say arrests of activists used to silence dissent

By Saurav Datta | Asia Times | June 8, 2018

A collective of Indian lawyers has condemned the arrest of five prominent human rights activists by Maharashtra state police, calling it an attempt by the government to persecute and silence dissent.

The Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), a collective of human rights lawyers, have rubbished claims by the Maharashtra Police that the five allegedly conspired to carry out an assassination attempt and have links with Maoist insurgents.

Dalit-rights activist Sudhir Dhawale, senior lawyer Surendra Gadling, Dalit and tribal rights activists Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson and Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen were arrested on June 6 from Mumbai, Delhi, Pune and Nagpur.

They have been accused of inciting riots and communal disharmony and have also been booked under various provisions of the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), according to media reports.

Government-led persecution

At a press conference in Delhi on June 7, activist lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, the Vice-President of the IAPL, along with a host of other lawyers and activists, accused the government and police of arresting the five to shield Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, the leaders of a Hindutva outfit.

Bhide and Ekbote stand accused of instigating large-scale attacks on Dalits in Pune’s Bhima-Koregaon and adjoining areas on January 1 and 2 this year.

The IAPL’s press conference was followed by a rally at Jantar Mantar, where people gathered in large numbers to protest against the government and police actions. The five arrested activists were produced before a session court yesterday, which remanded them to police custody till June 14.

Bharadwaj termed their arrests, and especially the invocation of the UAPA, as measures meant to stifle dissent and send out a message that nobody should defend political prisoners or crusade for the rights of the marginalized. She added that Gadling’s arrest was only the latest in a string of incidents, which seems to be becoming a trend – the government persecuting human rights lawyers so there remains no one to defend people.

She gave the examples of Tamil Nadu activist lawyer A Murugan, Orissa’s Upendra Nayak and Chhattisgarh’s Satyendra Chaubey, all of whom have been falsely implicated on charges of aiding and abetting Maoist insurgents. This goes against the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, she said.

Illegal searches and arrests

Bharadwaj said that Bhide and Ekbote’s supporters filed a First Information Report (FIR) at Pune’s Vishrambaug Police Station on Jan. 8 and tried to blame others for the riots they incited. Gadling, Wilson, Sen and Raut’s names were not in the FIR and were added only in April. This was designed to bring in more activists into the police dragnet, she alleged.

According to the police, the five activists were part of a meeting held at Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31, 2017. Police are yet to find if speeches given at the meeting led to the violence in Koregaon Bhima on Jan. 1 during the 200th year celebration of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon by Dalits – lower caste and untouchables in Hinduism.

Wilson, Raut and Gadling were not even in Pune on the day the Bhima Koregaon program was held, and Sen, although present there, had not delivered a speech, Bharadwaj said.

IAPL press conference in New Delhi on June 8, 2018. Photo: Supplied

On April 17, 200 policemen raided and searched Gadling’s house in Nagpur, seizing documents, computers and personal electronic devices from his family. Bharadwaj said this was a clear case of persecution and intimidation, because, he added, for more than 25 years, Gadling defended political prisoners and Dalit and tribal rights activists accused of committing offenses against the state.

She added that a more sinister ploy was to slap charges under the UAPA only on the day of the arrest on June 6 and then not producing Gadling in open court during the day, where he could argue against his arrest. She claimed this was to ensure his prolonged detention in police custody – the UAPA allows an accused to be kept in jail for three months without bail.

Susan Abraham, who represented Gadling and others before the court of Judge Bhaisare in Pune, told Asia Times that Gadling was not produced in court because police claimed it was too dangerous for a high-profile accused. On June 7, the Magistrate was hurriedly called to the court and he sent Gadling to eight days’ police custody. She said Gadling had never met the lawyer who appeared on his behalf and never gave the lawyer permission to represent him.

According to Abraham, the police embarked on this course of action because they knew that if Gadling argued his case himself, being the seasoned litigator that he was, they would be left red-faced and their case would collapse.

Abraham told Asia Times that Senior Advocate Mihir Desai would argue Gadling’s habeas corpus petition against illegal arrest and detention before the Bombay High Court’s Nagpur Bench on Friday.

Alleging guilt by association

Noted criminal lawyer Nitya Ramakrishnan said Gadling and others were being hounded and implicated because they stand up against the state.

She said there was a provision in the now-repealed Terrorism And Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act under which lawyers who defended political prisoners used to be arrested and jailed. The same is being done now, she claimed – alleging guilt by association.

Speakers at the press conference criticized the media for running a parallel trial of the arrestees and distorting public opinion, as well as trying to influence judicial outcomes in the case.

June 8, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | Leave a comment

Not just the Elgin Marbles: Britain’s colonial legacy lives long in UK museums

Benin bronzes. © Global Look Press
RT | June 4, 2018

After Jeremy Corbyn promised to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece upon becoming PM on the basis that they were “looted” from the country, RT looks at other rare artifacts taken by colonial Britain that now reside in UK museums.

“As with anything stolen or taken from occupied or colonial possession – including artifacts looted from other countries in the past – we should be engaged in constructive talks with the Greek government about returning the sculptures,” Corbyn said in an interview with a Greek newspaper.

If Corbyn were to become PM, here are some of the other artifacts that might be returned to their country of origin.

Benin artefacts

The British Museum boasts the second-biggest collection of Benin’s art after the Ethnological Museum in Berlin.

The Kingdom of Benin – now part of Nigeria – was stripped of its bronzes during what became known as Britain’s “punitive expedition,” a mission conducted against the natives after they defied imperial rule by imposing customs duties.

BBC Civilizations presenter David Olusoga, originally from Nigeria, said the UK has a “moral imperative” to return the art.

On the Benin looting, he said: “It’s just such a stark case of theft.”

He added during the Hay Festival this year: “A friend of mine, a TV producer, once came up with a brilliant solution: he said we should have a special version of Supermarket Sweep, where every country is given a huge shopping trolley and two minutes in the British Museum. Maybe he’s right, maybe that’s the way forward.”

Ethiopian treasures

Dozens of institutions up and down the country, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, are home to hundreds of northeast Africa’s finest treasures.

Beautiful and equally important manuscripts and artifacts were plundered after the British capture of Maqdala in 1868, the mountain capital of what was then Abyssinia under Emperor Tewodros II.

In 2017, Ethiopia lodged a formal restitution complaint. The offer was refused, but ahead of the Maqdala exhibition at the V&A at the beginning of April, its director suggested the case could be settled by granting the treasures to the east-African country on a long-term loan.

Sultanganj Buddha

The Sultaganj Buddha is a metallic sculpture that was extracted from an abandoned Buddhist monastery in northern India in 1861 by E B Harris, a British Raj railway engineer. The 1,500-year-old bronze Buddha was then shipped to Birmingham after being secured for a mere £200 ($265).

The item – the largest known Indian metal sculpture, which is known in the UK as the ‘Birmingham Buddha’ – is at the top of the list of thousands of alleged ‘stolen treasures’ that Indian authorities are trying to get back.

The Koh-i-Noor diamond

The Koh-i-Noor diamond, one of the largest cut in the world, is currently part of the British crown jewels. It has been the subject of a bitter dispute between India and the UK ever since it was taken from the Punjab and presented to Queen Victoria in 1849.

The jewel, which belonged to the Punjab’s Sikh Empire, was handed by the East Indian Company to Queen Victoria after they emerged victorious in the 1840s Anglo-Sikh wars.

The diamond – known as the Mountain of Light – is thought to have been mined in the 1300s.

India has called for the stone to be returned ever since it gained independence in 1947, though the UK claims it has a legal basis for withholding it, as it was guaranteed under the Treaty of Lahore.

Former PM David Cameron commented on the dispute, stating: “If you say yes to one you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty. I think I’m afraid to say, to disappoint all your viewers, it’s going to have to say put.”

June 4, 2018 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

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

Modi’s homage to Herzl comes to haunt him

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | April 20, 2018

The Israelis are in a bloody mess. They don’t know how to handle it – Palestinians in their thousands taking a leaf out of Gandhi and protesting non-violently against their colonial masters ignoring their fearsome reputation for brutality. And, to boot, women are at the barricades leading the Great Return March. Bravo!

So far, 37 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli troops and more than 1,500 injured with live ammunition. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government has given advance instructions to the army to shoot to kill. Today, the Israeli troopers shot down two more Palestinians. Today’s has been the fourth weekly protest. The escalating showdown with Israel is to culminate in a mass march on May 15.

The marches are pressing for the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to what is now Israel. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were evicted from their homes and forced to leave their homeland in the 1948 atrocities by the Jewish extremists to pave the way for Israel’s creation. Palestinians mark May 15 (the anniversary Israel celebrates as its founding day) as their “nakba,” or catastrophe.

Ominously, that is also the date President Trump has chosen to shift the American embassy to Jerusalem. What crass insensitivity! But then, Trump needs Jewish money and Jewish media support in his campaign for re-election in 2020. Son-in-law Jared Kushner who is Trump’s point person on the Middle East also happens to be a Jew – some say, a closet rabbi.

Part of the reason for the protests is the crippling Israeli border blockade on Gaza since 2007. Evidently, the mass marches are also fueled by growing desperation among Gaza’s 2 million residents who are trapped in the tiny coastal territory amidst a gutted economy and deepened poverty. The Gaza residents typically get fewer than five hours of electricity per day, while unemployment has soared above 40 percent.

Despite Israel’s media manipulation to change the narrative and divert attention away from the Palestinian issue toward Iran, there is some uneasiness among American Jews as to where all this is heading and what damage all this is causing to Israel’s future in a medium term scenario. (Of course, America’s “exceptionalism” becomes a macabre joke.)

The White House envoy Jason Greenblatt, a member of President Donald Trump’s Mideast team, has admitted on social media that Palestinians in Gaza have a “right to protest their dire humanitarian circumstances.” He added that organizers “should focus on that message, not stoke the potential for more violence with firebombs and flaming kites, and must keep a safe distance from the border… the cost of these demonstrations is too high in loss of life and injuries.” Greenblatt is a devout and observant Jew himself – although he has opted not to wear a kippa while serving the Trump administration.

Another noted figure, actress Natalie Portman – also a Jewess – who is the recipient of an award, which is dubbed the “Jewish Nobel”, has pulled out of the June awards ceremony in Israel because of “extreme distress” over the brutal violence in that country. The Jerusalem-born Oscar winner intimated the Israeli organizers that she “does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel.”

To my mind, the silence of the Indian government on Israel’s premeditated killings is deafening. How hypocrtical that our current leadership keeps chanting “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (whole-world-is-one-single-family) as its foreign-policy motto! I  can only hope that Prime Minister Modi gets to know about all this at some point – and sincerely repents.

Actress Natalie Portman puts him to shame. Indeed, Modi’s visit to the marble tomb of Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, in Jerusalem last July stands out as a dark page in the chronicle of independent India’s current history.

I can understand Modi’s lack of erudition. But what I cannot understand why those fellows in his entourage who would have heard somewhere, sometime, someplace about the ideology of Zionism — and Gandhi’s visceral opposition to it — and didn’t alert their prime minister that he was making an appalling error of judgment. Probably, they chickened out.

Read a stirring dispatch from Gaza Strip by Al Jazeera, here, on Friday’s protests that have been labeled as the “Women’s March of Gaza.”

April 20, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

US expects India to engage Pakistan in Kashmir talks

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

The Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs in the US State Department Alice Wells is visiting India on April 3-6. This is strictly not a ‘bilateral event’, but Ambassador Wells’ discussions with senior Indian government officials are expected to cover “regional and global issues”, according to the US state department announcement. Presumably, Afghanistan will be on top of the agenda of discussion.

Ambassador Wells has emerged as the Trump administration’s key interlocutor on the Afghan problem. A career diplomat, low-key but very effective in the absence of turf rivalries, she is able to galvanize the search for a political process in Afghanistan in such a short period of time. Ambassador Wells has succeeded in building up a good rapport with the Pakistani officials who are in a position to make or mar her project. During her extraordinarily open-ended visit (for “several days”) to Pakistan last week, Ambassador Wells was received by army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Ambassador Wells’ consultations in Delhi come at a sensitive juncture. For, no matter what the Pentagon commanders might like, President Donald Trump wants the war to end before his campaign for a second term begins and Ambassador Wells’ task is cut out for her. Delhi must understand that this is not a routine visit she is undertaking for an exchange of views with think-tankers and officials on the sidelines of the US-India-Japan trilateral taking place today. In fact, the trilateral is the sideshow.

The Taliban is tiptoeing toward the negotiating table and Ambassador Wells’ persuasiveness and diplomatic skill has made all the difference. (For the uninitiated, let me introduce to them her masterly briefing on March 9 at the US Institute of Peace in Washington – Signs of Hope for Afghan Peace Talks.)

The traffic on the diplomatic track has become dense lately since the meeting in the White House in Washington between Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and the US Vice-President Mike Pence on March 17. The international conference in Tashkent on March 26-27 has served the purpose of generating a modicum of regional consensus. The Russian daily Kommersant reported quoting “sources” that although no formal invitation was extended to the Taliban to participate in the conference, “at the last minute, they expressed a desire to come to Tashkent.”

Be that as it may, Taliban was surely eavesdropping outside the conference hall and would have noticed from the Tashkent Declaration that there is not a single voice in the international community that disapproves of the Afghan government’s unconditional offer of peace talks. Ambassador Wells proceeded to Kabul after the Tashkent conference and then moved on to Islamabad last Thursday.

Interestingly, Pakistan handed over a “terror dossier” to Kabul last Thursday containing evidence of terrorist sanctuaries on Afghan soil. It is a veritable action plan for the Afghan side and their American mentors as to what Pakistan expected them to do by curbing the terrorist activities from bases within Afghanistan. And, four days later, The Pakistani Foreign Secretary Janjua, accompanied by the Director General Military Operations Maj Gen Shamshad Mirza and other senior officials travelled to Kabul for downstream talks. These talks are expected to prepare the ground for the visit by Prime Minister Abbasi’s visit to the Afghan capital on April 6. (Abbasi is proceeding from Kabul to China on a 3-day visit.)

We may expect Abbasi’s visit to Kabul on Friday to be a watershed event. It is entirely conceivable that in a not-too-distant future the Taliban may announce its formal response to the Afghan government offer for peace talks. The coming days and weeks, therefore, are of critical interest.

Meanwhile, the Afghan government announced on Sunday the dates for the long-delayed parliamentary elections and the first-ever local council elections – October 20. Of course, there is a big question mark about the feasibility of holding elections in Afghanistan in the prevailing circumstances with roughly half the country contested by insurgents.

On the other hand, it is the Taliban’s participation in these elections that can make a world of difference, giving them the legitimacy they badly need and providing the country’s democratic process the traction that it never could really acquire in the past decade or more. The US’ allies are extremely keen that the political legitimacy of the Afghan political system is enhanced. The speech made by the European Union foreign and security policy chief Federica Mogherini at the Tashkent conference was particularly notable for being a stirring call to the Taliban to rise to the momentous occasion in their country’s history.

Suffice to say, any Pakistani-Afghan consensus to put a moratorium on cross-border terrorism will be a major development. The US is actively promoting it. So is China. Pakistan can be expected to reciprocate. But we aren’t quite there, yet.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal told Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, the US government-funded media organ, that Islamabad and Washington are yet to find “common ground” on a range of issues. Faisal didn’t specify the problem areas, but it stands to reason that a principal one will be Pakistan’s tense relations with India.

Quite obviously, we should anticipate that the Trump administration hopes to bring India on board. Put differently, the Trump administration’s “regional approach” for Afghanistan demands that India-Pakistan tensions do not complicate the path of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

Ambassador Wells is likely to meet with the Foreign Secretary and NSA Ajit Doval while in Delhi. Significantly, on the eve of Ambassador Wells’ departure for India on Monday, the US state department amended its designation of Lashkar-e-Taiba, identifying Milli Muslim League and Tehreek-e-Azadi-e-Kashmir as LeT affiliates, making it impossible for them to register as political parties in Pakistan.

Clearly, the Trump administration hopes that Delhi will appreciate this as friendly gesture, underscoring that Washington is receptive towards India’s genuine concerns in regional security. It doesn’t need much ingenuity to figure out that Ambassador Wells would also have taken Pakistani officials into confidence that capping the political ambitions of Hafeez Saeed can be an important confidence-building measure at this point.

Now comes the big question: How does India respond to the totality of the emergent situation surrounding Afghanistan? Sadly, the explosive violence in Jammu & Kashmir just at this juncture will make things very difficult for Delhi to rise to the occasion and optimally align the Indian foreign policies with the broader trends leading toward peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

On the other hand, the bottom line is that India is a stakeholder. Clearly, a leap of faith is needed. The Modi government would chaff at the very idea of holding talks with Pakistan, facilitated by Washington and under close US monitoring, when the 2019 poll is sailing into view.

But in politics and diplomacy, there may be moments when drinking from the chalice of poison is necessary – to borrow the memorable words of Iran’s Spiritual Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in an analogous situation in his country’s contemporary history when he allowed himself to be persuaded to agree to a ceasefire against the Iraqi aggressor who had bled his country white in the 8-year war (1980-1988.)

Given the complete policy breakdown in Jammu & Kashmir, what is the alternative? And, the crisis in J&K is only deepening; the wounds are threatening to turn gangrene.

April 4, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 3 Comments

US Senate Warns Russia of Sanctions if S-400 Sold to Any Foreign Nations

Sputnik – 17.03.2018

WASHINGTON – A group of US lawmakers led by Senator Bob Menendez told the State Department in a letter that any sale of Russian S-400 air defense system should lead to new punitive measures as stipulated in the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

“We are writing today to specifically inquire about reported negotiations between Russia and certain countries over sales of the Russian government’s S-400 air defense system and whether these reported deals could trigger mandatory CAATSA sanctions,” the letter said on Friday. “Under any circumstance, a S-400 sale would be considered a ‘significant transaction’ and we expect that any sale would result in designations.”

The lawmakers also requested that the State Department provide detailed analysis on the current status of Russian S-400 talks with China, Turkey, India, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and any other country.

The senators based their letter on a report produced by the Congressional Research Service, which showed that Russia has been working on potential defense deals with different countries.

Menendez and co-signers demanded information on how the State Department is trying to prevent the sales of S-400 being finalized and reiterated Washington’s accusations of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and meddling in democratic process in foreign states.

The request comes just a day after the Treasury Department used the CAATSA legislation, along with an Executive Order that was amended by CAATSA, to impose sanctions on five entities and 19 individuals.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), Main Intelligence Directorate and six Russian individuals were sanctioned under the CAATSA legislation.

The US Congress passed CAATSA last summer in response to allegations that Russia sought to influence the 2016 US presidential election. Trump signed it into law on August 2.

Russia has repeatedly denied all allegations of interference in the US election, calling the accusations “absurd.”

March 16, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments