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Pompeo’s ‘Tokyo Kick’ Cannot Start the QUAD

By  Salman Rafi Sheikh | New Eastern Outlook | October 26, 2020

Mike Pompeo lashed out at China in his latest visit to Tokyo where he met his counterparts from India, Australia and Japan as part of his efforts to revive the QUAD, a US-centered anti-China alliance of the four countries. Speaking to his counterparts, Pompeo said that there was an urgent need to counter China, adding that “As partners in this Quad, it is more critical now than ever that we collaborate to protect our people and partners from the CCP’s exploitation, corruption, and coercion.” In an interview given to a Japanese news outlet, Pompeo also said that the grouping was a “fabric” that could “counter the challenge that the Chinese Communist Party presents to all of us.” “Once we’ve institutionalized what we’re doing – the four of us together – we can begin to build out a true security framework”, he added further. Mike Pompeo, who was clearly on a mission to persuade his allies to join the military alliance, was obviously trying to make US allies sell the same anti-China discourse that the Trump administration has used at home to start a ‘trade war’ with China. The US, now aiming to expand the war, is recruiting allies; hence, Pompeo’s high-pitched speeches against China.

While Pompeo said what he had to say, prospects of the QUAD’s rise as a powerful military alliance or an ‘Asian NATO’ remain bleak. Its most important reason is the fact that none of the countries—India, Japan and Australia—are interested in picking a military fight with China, while the US has no real allies against China.

While there is no gainsaying that all of these countries—India, Japan and Australia—have tense and uneasy relations with China, they appear not in the least interested in formalizing a US led anti-China military alliance, thus making PRC their official enemy.

It explains why these countries have so far chosen to manage their relations with China on their own and continue to shy away from exacerbating the fault lines by joining the US bandwagon of a ‘global anti-China coalition.’

Consider this: while Japan has its economic ties with China and there is no will in Tokyo to ‘de-couple’, following the US in its footsteps, it, with an eye on China, still is increasing its military strength. Whereas it is already converting two of its existing ships into aircraft carriers, it is going to make a record increase in its defense spending as well. Japan’s Defence Ministry has asked for an 8.3 per cent increase in the defense budget, which is by far the country’s largest rise in last two decades. Interestingly enough, one crucial reason why Japan has decided to increase the budget is the pressure that the Trump administration has been putting on the Japanese to manage their own national security. If Japan is anyway going to spend more and more on defense, increasing its military capability to position itself better in the region, not requiring extensive US military support, and it still wants to continue to have strong economic ties with China, there is no reason why it would want to permanently destabilize its relations with China by joining the ‘Asian NATO.’ Although this was prime minister Abe’s dream, his absence from the government will leave a further dampening impact on the alliance’s future prospects and Japan’s standing therein.

Australia’s government has announced a raft of legislation to curb foreign influence that is clearly (though unofficially) targeted at China. And India is actively engaged in a high-altitude, high-stakes game of chicken with China in the Himalayas—a hot-and-cold conflict in which India is no longer acting passively.

The fact that all of these countries have their specific problems with China and yet they have not been able to fully activate the QUAD shows there is no active and strong desire for a US-led military alliance. As such, the QUAD summit failed yet again to issue a joint statement or a communique.

Notwithstanding the US belligerence, the main focus of Japan, Australia and India remains a politically, economically and militarily balanced relationship with China.

This is the crucial reason that explains why, despite Pompeo’s hype and upbeat assessment of the ‘China threat’, none of the countries’ mentioned China directly in their statements issued after the meeting.

Unlike Pompeo, Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi notably did not mention China in his remarks, and the Japanese government was quick to clarify that the talks were not directed at any one country. Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar noted the fact that the meeting was happening at all, given the coronavirus pandemic, was “testimony to the importance” of the alliance. Accordingly, while India like Japan, did endorse the agenda of “free pacific region” and “rule-based system”, it did not mention China either. Certainly, Indian policy makers were not looking to further destabilize the situation in and around the Ladakh region. For Australian foreign minister, who also did not mention China, the essence of the QUAD was to “promote strategic balance” in the Indo-pacific (and not start an Indo-pacific military alliance).

Starting a military alliance against China does not make sense. If the US is these countries’ biggest military and security ally, China is by far one of the largest trading partners, which makes the summit more symbolic than substantive. Accordingly, while Pompeo was talking of creating a ‘security network’, Japanese officials confirmed to local media that the subject was not even raised in the meeting; for, such a venture is unlikely to gain traction in the wake of these countries’ main thrust for balanced ties with China.

In the absence of a clear will and desire for building up military pressure on China, the ‘Asian NATO’ will remain an engine-less rail car, one that even persistent kicks wouldn’t be able to ignite.

Salman Rafi Sheikh is a research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs.

October 26, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

India’s overture to Taliban comes too late

The Taliban delegation at the opening ceremony of intra-Afghan talks, Doha, Qatar, September 12, 2020
By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | September 15, 2020

The US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad was roundly criticised by Indian commentators when he last passed through Delhi in May and advised the officials he met with an earthy sense of realism and foreboding that it’s high time they got down from the high horse to try and begin a conversation with the Taliban.

The advice was well-meaning and pragmatic but the sense of urgency was lacking in Delhi which was rooted in the belief that the peace talks were aeons away. Indeed, the Afghan peace process was struggling to be born at that time but it was already clear that the US was determined to push for the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel of the forever war in time for President Trump to make some grand announcement on the eve of the November election.

Incidentally, a poll conducted by the New York-based Eurasia Group Foundation this week shows that two-thirds of Americans support Trump’s deal with the Taliban to extricate the US from the 19-year war in Afghanistan — and, only 10-15% favour continued military deployment.

Instead of rationally applying their mind, the Indian officials reportedly made a litany of pre-conditions to Khalilzad — the issue of terror emanating from Pakistan impacting peace in Afghanistan, “protection of rights of all sections of the Afghan society, including Afghan Hindus and Sikhs,” and so on.

The Indian readout said, “It was emphasised (to Khalilzad) that putting an end to terrorist safe havens and sanctuaries is necessary for enduring and sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan.” It added that India also expressed its deep “concern at the upsurge in violence” and extended support for a “call for an immediate ceasefire” and need to “assist the people of Afghanistan in dealing with coronavirus pandemic.”

Simply put, our chaps were hanging tough. Suffice to say, when Khalilzad arrives in Delhi later today for yet another stopover, he is sure to get a pleasant surprise. After much huffing and puffing, the Indian establishment has calmed down and is doing precisely what he told them to do in May.

On top of External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar addressing the Doha forum virtually on September 12, a senior officer from his ministry was rushed to Qatar to be in the conference hall for the opening ceremony of the intra-Afghan talks. A senior Indian official has since claimed, “There is no ambiguity on the Indian position vis-à-vis engagement with Afghan parties as Indian delegation sat on the same table as the Afghan government as well as the Taliban. The host nation Qatar could have only made this possible after talking to all principal stake-holders in the Afghan dialogue.”

The unconditional U-turn in India’s Taliban policy is so complete that the Indian establishment is overnight celebrating the retreat as a grand historic success of diplomacy. Oh, what an ecstatic moment — to be able to sit around a big table with the Taliban!

The high probability is that Indians will have to settle for the shade for quite a while. From this point onward, the advantage goes to the Taliban — and Pakistan. The Taliban has reestablished control over many Afghan districts and killed tens of thousands of US-backed Afghan forces. With dwindling American support, Afghan forces’ capacity to withstand Taliban attacks will be significantly reduced in the period ahead.

That means the Taliban is set to gain control of even more territories unless it agrees to an immediate ceasefire, which seems unlikely. Just look at today’s developments — a district governor in Logar province reported that the Taliban attacked his residence killing one of his brothers and a personal bodyguard, wounding another brother; an intelligence agency officer and three others were wounded in Jalalabad city when the vehicle of the spy agency was ambushed in broad daylight with an improvised explosive device.

The main problem for India is that it stands in abject isolation today apropos the Afghan situation. Its ability to influence the course of the intra-Afghan negotiations is nil. None of the demands that Indian officials made to Khalilzad in May have been fulfilled. The Taliban maintains a strategic ambivalence on where it stands on a host of contentious issues such as the form of future government, women’s rights, new constitution and so on.

Alas, the Modi government remained the pillion rider on the Harley-Davidson bike all the way through the past decade and a half, but the bike is about to speed away to the far horizon heading for North America. Paradoxically, India’s best option today might be to act as a “spoiler”, but then, with the protracted standoff with China in Ladakh and with the LOC and J&K in a state of tension, a military deployment to Afghanistan is simply beyond India’s reach.

This is where the recent reshuffle of the Taliban delegation at the Doha talks assumes significance. Much speculation surrounds the appointment of the hardline cleric Mawlawi Abdul Hakim Haqqani as the Taliban’s chief negotiator for peace talks.

So far, all we know is that the ultraconservative Mawlawi Haqqani who replaces the previous “moderate” leadership of Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai and Mullah Baradar is a close associate of the Taliban supremo Haibatullah Akhunzada, and his appointment could be an attempt by the core leadership to reassert its direct control over the upcoming negotiations in Qatar.

But the big question is about Mawlawi Haqqani’s standing with Pakistan. The cleric cannot be a stranger to the Pakistani security establishment, since he had spent years lying low in Quetta, where the Afghan Taliban leadership has been based since the US invasion in 2001, and until recently he ran a madrasah from where he led the Taliban’s judiciary and headed a powerful council of clerics that issued religious edicts to regulate the ideology of the Islamic Emirate.

The point is Mawlawi Haqqani, who is in his early 60s, has been propelled into the spotlight and appointed the Taliban’s chief negotiator for peace talks just when the last hurdle of exchange of prisoners was overcome and the stage was being set in Doha for the curtain to rise.

Who stands to gain? China is actively promoting the extension of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan. And Pakistan just tightened its grip on the peace talks. The crunch time has come. Pakistan holds a veto card and is determined to use it to marginalise India from the Afghan peace process. Given the Modi government’s hostility toward Pakistan and China, nothing else needs be expected.

The assassination attempt on First Vice-President Amrullah Saleh a week ago should be taken as a stark warning. India has lost the proxy war and this is how victorious Afghan groups have always entered the home stretch. At the very least, our pathway to the Taliban preferably should have run parallel with an overture to Pakistan. Khalilzad cannot do much to help us now.

September 15, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

An India-China reset is still possible

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar (L) and China’s State Councilor & Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) met in Moscow, Sept 10, 2020
By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | September 12, 2020

A joint statement wasn’t anticipated after the talks between the External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Moscow on September 10. In diplomatic terms, a joint statement signals that a “critical mass” developed through the 3-hour long discussion between the top diplomats.

Of course, much of the understanding reached will not be put in the public domain but it is apparent that an easing of tensions at the border and a disengagement of troops is on cards. The Chinese account assesses that the two foreign ministers have created “favourable conditions for a possible future meeting of the leaders of the two countries.”

Doesn’t this add up to a breakthrough? It does. That there isn’t going to be a war makes this a big breakthrough. So indeed, that deck is cleared for a summit meeting.

The joint statement outlined a 5-point consensus. First, the two countries reaffirmed the “series of consensus” reached by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at their meetings in Astana (June 2017), Wuhan (April 2018) and Chennai (October 2018), which had committed the two countries to a cooperative relationship.

Second, a “quick disengagement” of border troops is envisaged, so that the two militaries will maintain a “proper distance and ease tensions.” Third, the existing agreements and protocols in bilateral boundary affairs” shall be adhered to and the two militaries shall “maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas and avoid any action that could escalate matters.”

Fourth, the two special representatives will continue “dialogue and communication” on the boundary question and the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on China-India Border Affairs will hold meetings. Finally, once the tensions ease, new CBMs will be concluded to “maintain and enhance” peace and tranquility in the border areas.

Reading between the lines, the joint statement never once mentions the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Instead, the expression used is “border areas.” This suggests that there isn’t going to be any return to status quo ante as of early May, which has been an Indian demand.   

The Indian army reportedly occupied certain “dominating heights” through the past week. But nothing has been mentioned in the joint statement in this regard. Conceivably, Indian troops’ mortal enemy in those dominating heights will be not the PLA but the harsh winter that is approaching in another 6 weeks or so. Maintaining a military presence in such inhospitable terrain entails heavy costs in life and treasure and will put an intolerable strain on our resources.

Succinctly put, what emerges from the joint statement is a mutual desire not to escalate the conflict situation and a shared opinion that a de-escalation of tensions is in mutual interest. However, there is lingering uncertainty as regards the way forward. To my mind, the creation of a buffer zone ( a demilitarised zone) at this point will be the best way to ensure peace and tranquility on the border on a durable basis.

Paradoxically, the crisis today also is an eyeopener. We peered into the abyss and didn’t like what we saw.  Prime Minister Modi is a charismatic leader who can pitch high for a settlement of the boundary question. He is a strong leader who can take difficult decisions and cut the Gordian knot.

Clearly, India has shifted from the position that unless the PLA withdrew from “Indian territory”, the bilateral ties cannot be “business as usual.” In a huff, India began imposing sanctions against China. But the joint statement underscores that the two countries continue to uphold the “series of consensus” reached at the leadership level — where a key template is their common conviction that China and India are not competitive rivals or each other’s threats, but cooperation partners and each other’s developmental opportunities.

A Xinhua dispatch from Moscow giving a resume of the “full, in-depth discussion” between the two foreign ministers says, “Jaishankar said that the Indian side does not consider the development of India-China relations to be dependent on the settlement of the boundary question and India does not want to go backwards. The truth is, India-China relations have made steady progress over the years, and the Chinese and Indian leaders have met several times and reached a series of important consensus on the development of bilateral relations, he said.”

Clearly, sanctions must go. They have no place in the relationship. This rethink must be welcomed. But it is an abhorrent idea for sections of Indian opinion who are weaned on the belief that China has committed aggression by invading “Indian territory” and must be punished. The social media is full of venomous attacks on the Indian “sellout” at the Moscow talks, the “evisceration” of the LAC and so on.

However, that is primarily because the Indian narrative is seriously flawed. There is going to be a serious problem ahead for the government to “upgrade” the Indian narrative at this late stage. But the fact of the matter is that the Chinese had never accepted the LAC on the map or had delimited the LAC on the ground per the 1993 agreement.

They consistently held the view that the November 1959 claim line constituted the LAC. In the circumstances, how the disengagement and de-escalation can be worked out remains to be seen.

Looking back, the government’s move on August 5 last year to change the status of J&K and thereafter to include Aksai Chin as part of the Union Territory of Ladakh triggered a sequence of events culminating in the Chinese side changing the status quo on the ground and creating “new facts on the ground”.

India lacks the capability to challenge the Chinese action. But the country was led to believe otherwise. Per the Indian narrative, Indian armed forces have the capability to give a “bloody nose” to the PLA. So, there is bound to be a sense of disappointment today. India is paying a very high price for the strident nationalism and xenophobia that was whipped up by the ruling elite.   

The Indian narrative is divorced from realities. The nation is bogged down in a raging epidemic and a deepening economic crisis. A vaccine to contain the pandemic will not be available in the market before the second half of next year. Meanwhile, the epidemic will remain as the “new normal”. A war with China will set back the country’s development by a decade. It is unthinkable.

Suffice to say, Jaishankar was given a weak hand to negotiate. And he has made a good job of it. The biggest gain is that a war has been averted and a new phase of constructive engagement of China with a sense of realism becomes possible. This is a moment of truth to rethink the entire foreign policy trajectory the government followed in the recent years.

Equally, it must be borne in mind that a replay of the “forward policy” that in 1962 plunged the country in a ruinous war was best avoided. The Mission Creep in the name of “infrastructure development” in Ladakh inevitably met with Chinese rebuff. All sorts of jingoistic notions stemming from the militarisation of India’s foreign policies in the past decade or so precluded rational thinking. The criticality of Aksai Chin region for China’s national security needed no iteration. Yet, we chose to meddle.

Fundamentally, India needs to come to terms with China’s rise and should have the composure and maturity to regard it as an inexorable historical process. Our zero sum mindset has done colossal damage. We must jettison it and refocus on constructively engaging China so as to take advantage of its meteoric rise for our country’s development, which is the number one priority today.

September 11, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Modi uses Israel’s ‘settler’ tactics to change Kashmir

Press TV – August 29, 2020

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is changing Indian Kashmir’s residency laws for the first time since 1947, in a bid to snuff out any challenge to the disputed territory belonging to India.

Drawing comparisons with Israel’s “settler” tactics in the Palestinian Territories, Modi’s Hindu nationalist government aims to change the demographic makeup and identity of the Muslim-majority region, critics say.

AFP looks at the background, what the new rules are and their implications for the area’s 14 million population.

What has Modi done in Kashmir so far?

The Himalayan former princely state has been split between India and Pakistan since independence from Britain in 1947.

In the Indian-administered part a conflict between separatist rebels and government forces has killed tens of thousands since 1989, mostly civilians.

More than 65 percent of the population is Muslim. In the Kashmir Valley, the main center of the rebellion, it is close to 100 percent.

On August 5, 2019 Modi’s government revoked articles in the Indian constitution that guaranteed Kashmir’s partial autonomy and other rights including its own flag and constitution.

A huge accompanying security operation saw tens of thousands of extra troops — adding to 500,000 already there — enforce a siege-like curfew. Thousands were arrested and telecommunications were cut for months.

Jammu & Kashmir state was demoted to a union territory governed directly from New Delhi, while the Ladakh region was carved out into a separate administrative area.

Creating such new “facts on the ground” in Kashmir has long been advocated by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the hardline Hindu parent organisation to Modi’s BJP party.

The move sent a further shudder through India’s 200-million Muslim minority and defenders of its secular traditions, who fear Modi wants to create a Hindu nation — something he denies.

“What I see unfolding is a Hindu settler colonial project in the making,” Mona Bhan, associate professor of anthropology at Syracuse University who has long researched Kashmir, told AFP.

What happened to Kashmir’s special rules?

Modi’s government tore up Kashmir’s special residence rules dating back to 1927 which had ensured only permanent residents could own land and property, secure government jobs and university places and vote in local elections.

Now a raft of different categories of people from anywhere in India can apply for domicile certificates, giving them access to all the above.

These include those living in Kashmir for 15 years, who include around 28,000 refugees who fled Pakistan and as many as 1.75 million migrant laborers — most of whom are Hindus.

In addition, civil servants who have worked in Kashmir for seven years and their children, or students who have taken certain exams, also qualify for domicile status.

The changes are “the most drastic imposed since 1947,” Siddiq Wahid, a historian and political analyst, told AFP. “It was done with the intent to open the gates to demographic flooding.”

What do locals have to do?

Locals too now have to apply for the new “domicile certificates” in order to qualify for permanent resident rights.

To get this, they have to produce their Permanent Resident Certificates (PRC), cherished documents valid since 1927, which then become worthless.

Speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, an engineering graduate said young Kashmiris were in effect being forced to give their political loyalty to India in exchange for a livelihood.

“They say, you want a job, OK, get the domicile document first,” he said.

Is anybody happy?

A few people. Bahadur Lal Prajapati, born in Indian Kashmir to Hindu refugees who fled Pakistan during its first war with India over Kashmir seven decades ago, is finally an official resident and has “never been so happy”.

“We got the right to live in this part of India as citizens after 72 years of struggle,” Prajapati, 55, told AFP from his home in Jammu, the Hindu-dominated district of the region.

One of the first people to receive the new domicile certificate was Navin Kumar Choudhary, a top bureaucrat from the Indian state of Bihar who worked in Kashmir for many years.

Photos on social media of Choudhary proudly holding the certificate sparked huge anger among Kashmiris but delight among Modi’s supporters.

What happens if people complain?

Some 430,000 new domicile certificates have been issued — despite the coronavirus pandemic. It is unclear how many of them are to people from outside and how many to locals.

Many locals are refusing to swap their old documents, even though this makes life harder. Some do it in secret for fear of censure from their neighbors.

Wary of being labelled “anti-national” by the authorities many Kashmiris are also scared to speak out openly. Some are deleting their Twitter accounts.

“It’s a travesty that I have to compete with outsiders for citizenship rights in my own homeland,” said a student — who also wished also to remain anonymous out of fear of problems with the authorities.

August 29, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | Leave a comment

A high-flying US senator warns Modi against Putin

Russian Ka-226T helicopter to be produced under ‘Make in India’ is advantageous in high-altitude environments
By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | August 24, 2020

The Nikkei Asian Review, well-known for its anti-China reportage, featured an article over the weekend titled India should ignore Putin’s offer to broker accord with China. The author is none other than Marco Rubio, the high-flying Republican senator from Florida and the Acting Chairman of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, Co-Chair of the Congressional Executive Commission on China and a ranking member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Rubio is one of President Trump’s closest supporters today, apart from being an old ally of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, dating back to their days in Congress. Pompeo had endorsed Rubio against Trump during his run for president in 2016. Pompeo wrote at that time,

“When I think of the challenges facing our nation – whether it’s our broken healthcare system, runaway government spending, or job creation domestically, or threats from terror groups like ISIS, al-Qaeda, or the terror regime in Iran internationally – there is simply no candidate better to tackle them than Marco Rubio.”

The Rubio piece is dripping with Russophobia and reminds one of Pompeo’s trademark style. The leitmotif is Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Rubio demonises as someone who singularly aims ‘to shatter the current U.S.-led international system’ with tools he perfected in Russian domestic politics — ‘supporting thugs, undermining democracy, and stealing everything that isn’t nailed to the wall.’

Rubio draws illustrative examples from Putin’s ‘exploitative playbook’ in Venezuela, Syria, Turkey, Libya and Belarus. And he spotlights India for special attention. Rubio writes:

“Across the globe in the Himalayas, relations between India and China have remained tense since May following a clash of troops near the countries’ disputed border in Ladakh. The violent clashes, as well as domestic moves such as India’s decision to ban over a hundred Chinese electronic apps, has stoked fears of further escalatory action between the two nuclear-armed nations. Sensing an opportunity to prove itself as an important global power, Moscow has attempted to act as a mediator in the conflict.

“But even a cursory look at Moscow’s motivations makes clear that Putin’s interests are that of his own. Russia considers China to be its most important strategic partner. Having antagonized many nations to its west and finding itself diplomatically isolated as a result, Moscow has in recent years looked to a fellow authoritarian regime in Beijing to develop a rapport. This relationship has continued in the form of enhanced cooperation in digital infrastructure, military exercises, as well as growing trade relations.

“But Moscow is also amid a major effort to cultivate relations with New Delhi, as well. India is crucial for economic and geopolitical reasons, its government is a longtime purchaser of Russian military equipment. But India is a vibrant democracy and is moving decisively toward other liberal democracies to confront authoritarian states. Putin shouldn’t count on helicopter purchases to maintain friendly relations with India as he blatantly cozies up to China.”

Succinctly put, Rubio warns Prime Minister Modi to be wary of Putin and Russia, which is a friend of China, who is India’s enemy. It is a familiar theme lately that American think tankers have been plugging, ably supported by the US lobbyists in India.

Rubio must be standing in for Pompeo. The article alludes to India’s helicopter deal with Russia, which apparently annoys Washington. Reports say that India and Russia have agreed to resolve issues around the production of Ka-226T helicopters and fast track it. This was discussed during Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s visit to Moscow in June.

The project is on ‘Make in India’ mode. India will be able to receive some crucial helicopter technologies from Russia as well. This is known to be a project that Putin personally promoted with Modi. Rubio appears to sound a warning to Modi who is known to enjoy close personal rapport with Putin.

Indian PM Narendra Modi with Russian President Vladimir Putin at an informal summit in Sochi, Russia, 21 May 2018

Rubio writes, “Much like Putin’s foreign adventurism, the goal has simply been to enrich himself and his inner circle. Those considering relying on the Kremlin should realize that they will have no long-term stable partner in Russia while he remains in power.” Without doubt, this is Pompeo speaking even as New Delhi and Moscow are discussing high-level visits in a near future.

Rubio’s article appears even as India is opting for deployment of the indigenous Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) made by HAL Bengaluru, in Ladakh on the Chinese border, in preference to the new US-made AH-64E Apache. Compared to the LCH, the Apache is faster, has more engine power, and carries far more weapons, but LCH has a longer range. The Indian experts evaluate that the LCH has an edge over Apache due to its ability to perform at high altitudes in the upper reaches of the Himalayas.

The Trump administration has been hoping for some big helicopter deals and has been pulling strings in Delhi but to its dismay finds that Russia has stolen a march. The rancour shows in Rubio’s venomous attack on Putin.

From the geopolitical perspective, Rubio finds it unacceptable that a ‘Quad’ member country — “India is a vibrant democracy and is moving decisively toward other liberal democracies to confront authoritarian states” — should be having a dalliance with Russia at all. Of course, there is a body of opinion in India too that an alliance with the US is what the country should prioritise in the backdrop of its face-off with China in Ladakh. They blithely assume that the US is raring to go to wage a joint war against China.

Rubio’s piece should be an eyeopener for such people besotted with the superpower as to what in reality an alliance with the US entails — a demanding partnership that locks in India. Rubio wrote in anticipation of likely initiatives by Putin to ease India-China tensions. Putin is expected to visit India in October. And a spate of summit meetings can also be expected in the coming months under the rubric of BRICS, SCO, G20 that would bring together the Russian, Indian and Chinese leaderships.

The US is panicking that India might bolt away just as a window of opportunity opened to tether it to the Quad stable (thanks to the standoff in Ladakh), which has been a key objective of the US regional strategies against China in the Asia-Pacific. Rubio’s vituperative attack on Putin highlights the depth of anxiety in the American mind that the Kremlin leader may breathe fresh life into the Russia-India-China triangle.

Indeed, it is in Russia’s self-interests to tamp down Sino-Indian tensions. But what unnerves Washington most is that any easing of India-China tensions will knock the bottom out of its containment strategy against Beijing. With a likely transition in the Japanese leadership, and taking into account China’s close ties with ASEAN countries as well as the European allies’ disinterest in joining the US bandwagon against China, Washington is practically being left with a solitary ally in the Asia-Pacific — Australia.

Facing such stark isolation, the stakes have never been so high for the US to shackle India to its regional strategy in the Asia-Pacific. Washington senses that the anchor sheet of India’s strategic autonomy lies in its longstanding partnership with Russia, which remains firm and immutable despite the changes in world politics in the post-cold war era.

The partnership has gained in verve and swagger given the high importance Modi personally attaches to it. Hence this assault on the Russian-Indian strategic understanding. Thus, a huge propaganda campaign is under way portraying Russia as an ally of China whom India can longer trust. Rubio has lent his name to dignify the US propaganda and draw the attention of Indian policymakers.

August 24, 2020 Posted by | Russophobia | , , | 2 Comments

Despite threats, the U.S. will not sanction India over its relations with Russia

By Paul Antonopoulos | August 24, 2020

After Russia, the U.S. is the second largest arms exporter to India. As a major Washington defense partner, New Delhi signed two $3.5 billion arms purchase agreements earlier this year. However, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Clarke Cooper reiterated Washington’s supposed dismay over India’s military purchases from Russia. Issuing a warning, he said that significant purchases of Russian weapons, such as anti-aircraft systems or advanced fighter jets, “risk future opportunities that may be impeded by significant Russian defense articles.”

Although he said that Washington recognizes “the historic legacy sustainment line that New Delhi had with Moscow and that, to use a metaphor, it’s not a light switch to turn on or off,” and that they do not want “to put at risk India’s sovereignty or India’s national defense as there’s a maturation toward future modernization of their systems,” he said “there is a risk when significant Russian systems are brought forth that put at risk interoperability with not only the United States, but with other partners that India may be seeking to work with that are either of NATO status or NATO-aligned. And then there’s also the risk of potential exploitation of technology when we’re looking at significant Russian platforms.”

Despite U.S. threats, India last month approved the purchase of 21 MiG-29 and 12 Su-30MKI fighters for a total value of more than $2.5 billion from Russia, with Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh urging for the delivery of the S-400 anti-aircraft defense systems as soon as possible.

However, it is unlikely that Washington will choose to sanction India for purchasing Russian weapons. Former financial adviser to the Indian Ministry of Defense, Amit Cowshish highlights that imposing sanctions on New Delhi will only hurt Washington’s own interests since the South Asian country is one of the largest markets in the world. Cowshish stressed that if the Trump administration moves ahead with sanctions, India will say it cannot buy U.S. equipment, which will hurt its own military industry as it loses a major market.

According to a Stimson Center working paper by Sameer Lalwani, India’s defense equipment is overwhelmingly Russian – 90% of the Army, 41% of the Navy and two-thirds of the Air Force.

“India’s share of Russian systems has grown, not decreased, because of Indian Army acquisitions. While India’s naval and air forces are decreasing their quantitative reliance on Russian arms, their most advanced or offensive capabilities still originate from Russia,” Lalwani wrote. “While the United States treats Russia as an equally revisionist threat to the global order as China, India sees Russia as a partner to ensure a multipolar balance of power, and a hedge against a potential Sino-Russian bloc.”

As India is the key player in the Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS), it is unlikely Washington is willing to antagonize New Delhi so quickly. The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled the IPS report in June 2019. It demanded that India, Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines and Thailand serve Washington’s interests in Asia-Pacific because “these alliances are indispensable to peace and security in the region and our investments in them will continue to pay dividends for the United States and the world, far into the future.” Effectively, the IPS is the U.S.’ strategy to attempt to maintain its unilateral hegemony in Asia-Pacific, and India has a key role in this vision.

The IPS is directly aimed against China, and not Russia, and it is for this reason that although New Delhi may be willing to oppose Beijing within limits, it is highly unlikely that India will want to sever its long relationship with Moscow on Washington’s demand. It is likely that the comments by Cooper, despite being a high official, do not reflect on Washington’s real demands and expectations of New Delhi. Although Washington would want India to stop its relations with Moscow, the Americans know this is not possible and recognize that for now Russia has very limited influence in the Indo-Pacific region. It is for this reason that New Delhi’s relations with Moscow can for now be tolerated by Washington so long as they remain in opposition to China. It is also for this reason that it is unlikely Washington will sanction India over its procurement of Russian-made weapons.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst.

August 24, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , | Leave a comment

Iraq to begin construction work on railway link to Iran: Iraqi official

Press TV – July 23, 2020

A senior Iraqi official says that work for a key rail link connecting the country to the neighboring Iran will begin in the very near future.

“The railway between Iran and Iraq through the Shalamcheh link will get going soon,” said Qasim al-Araji, a national security adviser to the Iraqi government, in a tweet posted on Thursday.

The announcement comes just days after a high-ranking Iraqi delegation travelled to Iran to discuss key issues with officials in Tehran.

The announcement by Araji, a former interior minister of Iraq, could be a sign that Iran and Iraq have reached fresh arrangements on how they can finish a project that that has stalled on the Iraqi side of the border for almost eight years.

Iran’s Mostazafan Foundation (MFJ), a semi-governmental charity with years of experience in construction activities, is responsible for funding and execution of the entire project in Iran and Iraq.

Iran has finished its side of the railway, a 17-koilometer link between the cities of Khoramshahr and Shalamcheh. However, MFJ plans for continuing the project into Iraq hit a snag in 2014 when the Arab country became involved in an extensive war on terror.

The $150-million project, which spans 47 kilometers through the two territories to reach the Iraqi city of Basra, has also faced issues like mine clearance inside Iraq.

Once finished, the railway could have major economic and geopolitical implications for Iraq.

It will serve as a major link on Iraq’s transit access through Iran to landlocked countries as of Central Asia and further to India and East Asia.

China also views the link as a major component of its new Silk Road scheme which runs through various territories to reach gateways of Europe, including through Iran, Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean.

July 23, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

Iran to launch special trade office in China: Businessman

Press TV – July 21, 2020

Iran is to set up a special office in China to streamline trade activities with the East Asian country.

A senior businessman says major Iranian companies are teaming up to create a trade office in China amid growing economic relations between the two countries.

Gholamhossein Jamili, a board member at Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (ICCIMA), said on Tuesday that the trade office in China would play a major role in protecting Iranian businesses and firms working in the East Asian country against growing restrictions caused by US sanctions.

“We are working to launch this office before the end of the current Christian calendar year,” Jamili was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

The announcement comes amid reports of booming economic relations between Iran and China as the two countries move to finalize a 25-year comprehensive partnership agreement that would massively boost bilateral cooperation in areas like energy, infrastructure, tourism and trade.

China was the top buyer of Iranian oil before the United States introduced its unilateral sanctions on Iran two years ago. However, Beijing is still a top economic partner for Iran and the balance of trade between the two countries hit $20 billion in the year ending March, according to Iranian government data.

Other senior Iranian figures involved in trade with China said that the planned trade office would seek to resolve problems facing Iranian businesses and companies in China.

Majid Hariri, who chairs the Iran-China Joint Chamber of Commerce, said that the office in Beijing would serve as Iran’s economic embassy in the East Asian country.

The official IRNA news agency said the ICCIMA plans similar offices in India, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Iraq, adding that two such offices are being set up in Russia’s Astrakhan and Syria’s Damascus.

July 21, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

On Australia’s Potential Participation in the Malabar Exercise

By Vladimir Terehov – New Eastern Outlook – 20.07.2020

On July 10, a number of news agencies reported that India’s leadership is considering inviting Australia to participate in the international naval exercise Malabar, scheduled later this year. The report is noteworthy for a number of reasons, mainly from the perspective of assessing the state of affairs in the Indo-Pacific region. The changes that have taken place in this region are directly linked to the history of the Malabar exercises.

This was the name given to the first joint Indian-US Navy exercise to be conducted in decades, which took place in the Gulf of Bengal in 1992. This was a notable sign of the burgeoning transformation of the entire geopolitical map after the end Cold War. India, for one, was in a state of strategic solitude (because of the disappearance of its former ally, the USSR) in the face of the same foreign policy challenges from China and Pakistan.

Naturally, India’s leadership began to seek a new external “balancing force,” and Washington was willing to fill this role. The very fact that the Malabar 1992 exercise had taken place marked the start of a US-India rapprochement—something that had seemed unbelievable just a few years before. This process has been neither smooth nor easy and continues to this day.

The first sticking point on this path was India testing its own nuclear weapons in 1998. The termination of the Malabar exercise was just one amongst other “sanctions” against Delhi.

However, compared to the Cold War, Washington stayed displeased with India for quite a long time. The prospect of a new geopolitical opponent in the face of China, which was already obvious then, forced Washington to turn a blind eye to Delhi’s recent “nuclear debacles” and to resume developing relations with India. Since then, India itself sees the US as the potential balancing force for the rapidly developing China.

The starting point of the process was President Bill Clinton’s visit to India in March 2000. A year later, Washington made it clear that it was willing to recognize India as a de facto nuclear power and generally cooperate in the field of peaceful nuclear energy. This led to the US-India nuclear deal, signed in 2006 by President George W. Bush. In 2002, the annual Malabar exercise was resumed.

At the same time the idea of forming an “Asian NATO” (evidently based on anti-Chinese sentiments) was put on the table in Washington’s political circles. The core of the new NATO was to consist of the US, India, Japan and Australia. In 2007, at the ASEAN Regional Forum, US Defense Secretary R. Gates formulated a concept to create a so-called Quad comprising the above-mentioned countries.

The evidence of the potential participants of the proposed project taking this seriously was the participation of Japan and Australia (joined by Singapore) in the Malabar exercise held that year.

This was, however, the first and, for many years to come, the last of these exercises to be conducted in a quadrilateral format. However, the very idea of the Quad seemed to have been forgotten. Among other reasons, we note the internal unrest that struck Japan at that time, as well as a sharp change in the domestic political situation in Australia.

As for Japan, with the early (and rather scandalous) end of Shinzo Abe’s first term as prime minister in 2007, the country entered a period of annual changes of government. At such times, it is difficult to conduct any significant foreign policy actions. Japan’s partners (including the US) also had doubts about doing serious business with a country whose leaders were replacing each other so quickly.

The domestic political situation in Japan only stabilized after Abe’s triumphant return to the Prime Minister’s seat at the end of 2012. This dramatically boosted the country’s foreign policy activity. In the summer of 2014, the Japanese Navy took part in another Malabar exercise after a seven-year hiatus. For the first time, it was held not in the Bay of Bengal, but on the eastern coast of Japan.

Since then, the exercise has adopted a trilateral format, and Japanese ships head to the Indian Ocean to participate in it. However, this wasn’t the only occasion for the Japanese Navy to frequent the Indian Ocean.

Australia paused its participation in the Malabar exercise due to a bloc of left-centrist parties coming to power in 2007. Their foreign policy (along with certain ideological considerations) considered economic wellbeing its main priority. China had already begun to occupy the position of Australia’s leading trade and economic partner, and it seemed absolutely unnecessary for the latter to spoil relations with it because of some “solidarity with the democratic countries of the region.”

Its foreign policy preferences underwent dramatic changes again in 2013 with the return of the bloc of center-right parties, who then won again twice (in 2016 and 2019) in the parliamentary elections. For the center-right government, the aforementioned factor of solidarity, which Canberra still tires to demonstrate on various occasions, was quite significant. One of the examples of this solidarity, recently discussed in the New Eastern Outlook, was the question of the “culprit” of the SARS COV-2 pandemic, as well as Australia joining a Western propaganda campaign connected to events in Hong Kong.

From the moment it came to power, the center-right government renewed its interest in the Malabar exercise and repeatedly asked the Indian leadership to allow Australia’s participation. The latest such request took place in late April 2018. For quite understandable reasons, Delhi refused every time.

A positive answer would obviously indicate the Indian leadership’s departure from the strategy of keeping the country in a neutral position (which over time grows more and more relative) in the aggravating confrontation between the two leading world powers.

Despite all the difficulties in China-India relations, the leaders of both countries, Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi, have made efforts to keep their development in a positive and constructive direction in recent years. Two informal meetings between them were of particular importance in this regard. The first took place in Wuhan at the end of April 2018, and the second in the Indian resort town of Mamallapuram a year and a half later.

Something negative had to happen recently between China and India in order for the latter to start considering the possibility of Australia joining the Malabar exercise in Delhi, which is tied to the prospect of forming an anti-Chinese Quad. And there is no doubt about what this “something” was. It is connected with another escalation of the situation on one of the China-India (quasi) borders in the highlands of Ladakh. This happened on the night of June 16 and resulted in the largest collision between the border patrol units of both countries over the past 40 years.

There was another noteworthy event taking place between early May and June 16, namely the Australian-Indian virtual summit, attended by Prime Ministers Scott Morrison and Narendra Modi. The parties focused on cooperation defense and security in general.

Perhaps the June 16 incident in Ladakh was intended to serve as a warning to India in response to the outcome of this summit. This summit, in turn, could also be seen as a response to the aggravation of the situation in Ladakh that began back in May. Thus, a possible invitation extended to Australia to join the upcoming Malabar exercise could well be an answer to the “response” of June 16.

This raises the question of how far the spiral of mutual “responses” can reach. The fact that this question has been raised at all leads to some upsetting conclusions.

Hopefully, however, the “spirit of Wuhan” has not yet been completely eroded from the relationship between the two Asian powers, and even with the (possible) quadrilateral Malabar exercise, the idea of building an “Asian NATO” with India’s participation won’t develop further.

July 20, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Faulty Forecasts and False Climate Narrative Hold Nations Hostage

By Vijay Jayaraj | Watts Up With That? | July 15, 2020

The United States is the only major Western country that is not part of the Paris climate agreement, which seeks to restrict and reduce fossil fuel consumption across the world. But the country is not immune from the impacts of the restrictive energy policies the agreement imposes on its trade partners. One of those is my own country, India.

India imports large amounts of coal, oil, and natural gas from the U.S., mostly to generate affordable power for its electric grid. That grid must grow rapidly to meet the needs of over 1.3 billion people. Over 300 million of them—comparable to the whole U.S. population—currently have no electricity. But they need it desperately for their health and their escape from severe poverty.

The justification for reducing fossil fuel use is the claim that climate change will create havoc in the future unless we reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But this claim is not as black and white as the mainstream media and politicians make it out to be.

In fact, data on temperature suggest that the claim is exaggerated and tends be informed by incorrect interpretations from faulty models.

The Never-Ending Problem with Models

The Paris climate agreement and other major climate recommendations from the United Nations are strictly based on the guidelines provided by Assessment reports produced by a climate wing known as the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPCC uses forecast data processed by a large set of computer climate models to arrive at the policy recommendations in its assessment reports.

Among them are forecasts from the Coupled Model Inter-comparison Project (CMIP). CMIP consists of 100 distinct climate models, run by leading modelling groups across the world. Their predictions drive the IPCC’s reports. In 2013, the IPCC fifth assessment report (AR5) featured climate models from CMIP5 (fifth generation).

But the forecasts from these models proved wrong. They exaggerated the temperature trend and differed markedly from temperature data derived from ground-based thermometers; sensors on weather balloons aircraft, ships, and buoys; satellite remote sensing; and “reanalyses”—the latter integrating the input of many different data sources.

Yet, political appointees in charge of determining climate and energy policy around the world used these forecasts to justify international climate agreements like the Paris agreement. And they do no stop with that.

The upcoming IPCC sixth assessment report (AR6), forecast for release in 2021, features forecasts from CMIP6. But the CMIP6 models are turning out to be no better than CMIP5 models. In fact, CMIP6 they’re worse!

Senior climatologist Dr. Roy Spencer has observed that the “CMIP6 models are showing 50 percent more net surface warming from 1979 up to April 2020 (+1.08 degree Celsius) than actual observations from the ground (+0.72 degree Celsius).”

Beyond doubt, comparing both CMIP5 and CMIP6 forecasts to official HadCRUT temperature data sets reveals a very old story: models are always way off the mark, and—suspiciously—always in the same direction, namely, upward, in predicting real-world temperatures.

So, not only were we lied to about the climate, we are going to be misled again by the next IPCC assessment report. And with more extreme false forecasts, there will be calls for more restrictive energy policies.

It is quite astonishing how the unelected politicians at the UN can convince and persuade global leaders to adopt climate policies that are based on unscientific conclusions from faulty models.

The mainstream media have also played their part. Public perception on climate change has been heavily influenced by biased coverage on the climate issue, with no major attention to the huge discrepancies between the model forecasts and real-world observations.

It is not clear how much faultier the projections will become by the time the new assessment report is finally released. But one thing is clear: energy sectors across the globe are being held hostage by pseudo-scientific interpretations from the United Nations’ flagship climate wing.

Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), is a Research Contributor for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation living in New Delhi, India.

July 18, 2020 Posted by | Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , | Leave a comment

India fully removed from Iranian railway project: Report

Press TV – July 14, 2020

A report says Iran has dropped India from a key railway project located southeast of the country.

An Indian newspaper says Iran has decided to remove India from a partnership on a key railway project that is being constructed southeast of Iran along the border with Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Hindu said in a Tuesday report that Iran is now going on with the construction of the Chabahar-Zahedan railway on its own, despite the fact that the project was supposed to benefit from India’s supply of investment and equipment.

The report said recurrent delays by India in bringing in the required investment and the equipment needed to build the rail line finally caused Iran to drop the partnership.

Iran began track-laying for the 610-kilometer railway last week after authorities said they have the finances required to finish the project until the end of the current fiscal year in Iran in March 2021.

Iran has tapped into its sovereign wealth fund to draw more than 300 million euros for the project, according to statements by Iranian officials in the past.

India has been a major contributor to the plans to develop Chabahar, Iran’s sole ocean port on the Sea of Oman and where India seeks to build terminals and port installations to ease its trade access to Afghanistan and other landlocked countries in the Central Asia region.

New Delhi has been hesitant to become actively involved in the Chabahar-Zahedan project mainly because of the threat of the American sanctions.

The report by The Hindu reiterated that India has obtained the required waivers from the US sanctions to contribute to the construction of the rail line.

However, it said that Indian Railways Construction Ltd (IRCON) has failed to find equipment suppliers and partners who are not fearful of being targeted by US sanctions four years after it signed an agreement with Iran to become involved in the project.

July 15, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , | 1 Comment

India Crafts Fossil Pathway to Secure its Future

By Vijay Jayaraj – GWPF – 13/07/20

India is on the way to become a fossil fuel-based energy powerhouse of the 21st century.

India’s developmental goals for the future are quite ambitious. They ought to be: From tackling the surging poverty rates to providing affordable utilities, the country faces a steep challenge. The key to achieving any of its developmental goals is a strong energy sector. India is the third largest energy consuming nation and is following the fossil fuel pathway (like the West did during the 20th century) to achieve energy independence in the near future.

Relationship to Paris Agreement

The transformation of the energy sector in 21st century India is a remarkable story and it can be singularly credited to fossil fuels, especially coal and oil. The predominantly fossil-based energy sector has grown by leaps and bounds in recent decades. But ever since the country’s membership in the Paris agreement, and its decision to pursue billions of dollars’ worth Renewable projects (like the Asia’s largest Solar Plant that was inaugurated this week), there were doubts and uncertainty surrounding how the country would move ahead with its fossil fuel sector. Green crusaders believed that India’s inclusion in the agreement and their proclivity to large renewable projects would make them a major player in the global effort to offset fossil fuel dependency.

However, that has not been the case. Anti-fossil fuel lobbyists and international bodies like the UN have had zero success in limiting India’s coal use. This is because the country’s “Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC)”—a set of promises that were pledged as a part of Paris agreement—clearly states that the country has sovereign rights to excavate, import, export, and use fossil fuels, and that it will not be determined by non-binding treaties made with UN or other developed countries.

No Holds Barred

India’s recent approach towards fossil utilization can be summed up in three words, “No Holds Barred”. The country has been unapologetic in its pursuit of fossil fuels, especially coal. This attitude was more evident than ever during the recent global COVID-19 lockdown. Despite staring at a big slump in GDP for the foreseeable future, the government allocated a significant sum of its COVID-19 stimulus package to enhancing coal productivity in the country. In May 2020, the country’s Finance Minister Mrs. Nirmala Seetharaman announced a massive stimulus package for coal infrastructure. The Rupees 500 Billion plan (USD 6.7 billion) was directed at improving evacuation of the mined coal at India’s coal mining blocks.

The country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been unequivocal in his support for coal and oil. In the recent move to enhance coal production and make the sector more competitive, the government decided to auction 41 coal mining blocks to private miners. During the inauguration of the auction process, PM Modi commented, “Allowing private sector in commercial coal mining is unlocking resources of a nation with the world’s fourth-largest reserves.”

India’s Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi said that these measures are unprecedented and will give a boost to the country’s coal sector: “Allowing commercial mining in the coal sector, the Govt has completely opened it up for investments. Several restrictions have also been removed, promoting free trade of coal. These are some of the biggest-ever reforms in the coal sector to boost Ease of Doing Business.” As of July 5, 2020, there were 1140 bidders, including 60 international companies. The mines are expected to make up 15% (225 Million Tonnes) of the country’s total coal production in 2025 and generate 280,000 jobs.

Last year alone, India imported 235 million tonnes of coal to meet demand-supply gap, costing the country USD 23 billion. Despite the COVID-19 lockdown and the subsequent drop in energy demand, Coal India Limited’s production dropped just by 11% in April and May 2020. GlobalData has predicted that India’s increased coal production in 2020 (forecasted to be 8.3% higher than previous year) will offset the slight global pause in coal production due to the lockdown, resulting in an overall global coal production of 8.1 billion tonnes by the end of this year. In order to meet the growing demand, India has set a target to produce 1 billion tonnes of coal by 2023-24.

Oil and Gas

The import and production of oil and natural gas have skyrocketed too. Gas accounts for 6% of the total energy demand in India and will more than double in the coming decade. To meet growing demand, India has increased its oil and gas imports from the U.S. significantly and also announced a string of measures to increase production. . Last week, India announced that it will pump USD 140 Billion of new direct investments in gas over the next eight years. Gas production is predicted to reach 90 billion cubic metres in 2040.

The ministry of petroleum and gas has reported that 859 oil and gas related domestic projects, valued at approximately Rupees 3.57 Trillion (USD 48 Billion), are currently being pursued to improve the oil and gas accessibility in the country. The Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan said that, “India plans to almost double its oil refining capacity to 450-500 million tonnes in the next 10 years to meet the rising domestic fuel demand as well as cater to the export market.” The current refining capacity stands around 250 million tonnes and exceeds the domestic fuel demands.

Beyond Imports

Besides increasing imports, the country has also earned global recognition as a fossil fuel destination. Despite sacking employees from the COVID-19 fallout, the European Oil and Gas giant British Petroleum (BP) is set to hire 2000 workers for its upcoming new global business service center in India. Earlier this year, Royal Dutch Shell’s Indian arm entered into partnership with an Indian firm to provide door-step delivery of Natural gas to customers who do not have access. Saudi Aramco, the oil company with the highest revenue in the world, has entered into a USD 60 Billion deal with India to build an oil refinery. The refinery will be based in the coastal state of Maharashtra and will produce 1.2 million barrels per day.

India, like its neighbour China, is aware that energy independence and rapid poverty alleviation can happen only with the complete utilization of fossil fuels available in the country. In order to rescue its dependency on imports, India is also opening up more coal mines, oil refineries and hydrocarbon wells. With a strong fiscal support from its government and continued investments from major fossil fuel enterprises, India is truly on the way to become a fossil fuel-based energy powerhouse of the 21st century.

July 13, 2020 Posted by | Economics | | 2 Comments