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US is recalibrating the power dynamic in East Mediterranean. Can South Asia be far behind?

File Photo
BY M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | INDIAN PUNCHLINE | OCTOBER 2, 2022 

A mild flutter ensued after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s recent meeting with his Turkiye counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York on September 21 when it came to be known that Cyprus figured in their discussion. Jaishankar highlighted it in a tweet 

The Indian media instinctively related this to Turkish President Recep Erdogan making a one-line reference to the Kashmir issue earlier that day in his address to the UN GA. But Jaishankar being a scholar-diplomat, would know that Cyprus issue is in the news cycle and the new cold war conditions breathe fresh life into it, as tensions mount in the Turkish-Greek rivalry,  which often draws comparison with the India-Pakistan animosity, stemming from another historical “Partition” — under the Treaty of Lausanne (1923) that ended the Ottoman Empire. 

The beauty about peace treaties is that they have no ‘expiration date’ but the Treaty of Lausanne was signed for a period of a hundred years between Turkiye on one side and Britain, France, Italy, Greece, and their allies on the other. The approaching date heightens the existential predicament at the heart of Turkiye’s foreign policy. 

The stunning reality is that by 24th July 2023, Turkey’s modern borders become “obsolete”. The secret articles of the 1923 Treaty, signed by Turkish and British diplomats, provide for a chain of strange happenings — British troops will reoccupy the forts overlooking the Bosphorus; the Greek Orthodox Patriarch will resurrect a Byzantine mini state within Istanbul’s city walls; and Turkey will finally be able to tap the forbidden vast energy resources of the East Mediterranean (and, perhaps, regain Western Thrace, a province of Greece.) 

Of course, none of that can happen and they remain conspiracy theories. Nonetheless, the “end-of-Lausanne” syndrome remains a foundational myth and weaves neatly into the historical revisionism that Ataturk should have got a much better deal from the Western powers. 

All this goes to underline the magnitude of the current massively underestimated drama, of which Cyprus is at the epicentre. Suffice to say, Turkey’s geometrically growing rift with Greece and Cyprus over the offshore hydrocarbon reserves and naval borders must be properly understood in terms of the big picture.

Turkiye’s ruling elite believe that Turkey was forced to sign the Treaty of Sevres in 1920 and the “Treaty of Lausanne” in 1923 and thereby concede vast tracts of land under its domain. Erdogan rejects any understanding of history that takes 1919 as the start of the 1,000-year history of his great nation and civilisation. “Whoever leaves out our last 200 years, even 600 years together with its victories and defeats, and jumps directly from old Turkish history to the Republic, is an enemy of our nation and state,” he once stated. 

The international community has begun to pay attention as Turkiye celebrates its centenary next year, which also happens to be an election year for Erdogan. In a typical first shot, the US State Department announced on September 16 — just five days before Jaishankar met Cavusoglu — that Washington is lifting defence trade restrictions on the Greek Cypriot administration for the 2023 fiscal year. 

Spokesman Ned Price said, “Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken determined and certified to Congress that the Republic of Cyprus has met the necessary conditions under relevant legislation to allow the approval of exports, re-exports, and transfers of defence articles.” 

The US move comes against the backdrop of a spate of recent arms deals by Cyprus and Greece, including a deal to purchase attack helicopters from France and efforts to procure missile and long-range radar systems. Turkiye called on the US “to reconsider this decision and to pursue a balanced policy towards the two sides on the Island.” It has since announced a beefing up of its military presence in Northern Cyprus.  

To be sure, the unilateral US move also means indirect support for the maritime claims by Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, which Turkiye, with the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, rejects as excessive and violates its sovereign rights and that of Turkish Cypriots. 

Whether these developments figured in Jaishankar’s discussion with Cavusoglu is unclear, but curiously, India too is currently grappling with a similar US decision to offer a $450 million military package to Pakistan to upgrade its nuclear-capable F-16 aircraft. 

Indeed, the US-Turkey-Cyprus triangle has some striking similarities with the US-India-Pakistan triangle. In both cases, the Biden administration is dealing with friendly pro-US governments in Nicosia and Islamabad but is discernibly unhappy with the nationalist credo of the leaderships in Ankara and New Delhi. 

Washington is annoyed that the governments in Ankara and New Delhi preserve their strategic autonomy. Most important, the US’ attempt to isolate Russia weakening due to the refusal by Turkiye and India to impose sanctions against Moscow. 

The US is worried that India and Turkiye, two influential regional powers, pursue foreign policies promoting multipolarity in the international system, which undermines US’ global hegemony. Above all,  it is an eyesore for Washington that Erdogan and Prime Minister Modi enjoy warm trustful personal interaction with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

The photo beamed from Samarkand during the recent SCO summit showing Erdogan arm in arm with Putin must have infuriated President Biden. Modi too displayed a rare moment of surging emotions when he told Putin at Samarkand on September 16, 

“The relationship between India and Russia has deepened manifold. We also value this relationship because we have been such friends who have been with each other every moment for the last several decades and the whole world also knows how Russia’s relationship with India has been and how India’s relationship with Russia has been and therefore the world also knows that it is an unbreakable friendship. Personally speaking, in a way, the journey for both of us started at the same time. I first met you in 2001, when you were working as the head of the government and I had started working as head of the state government. Today, it has been 22 years, our friendship is constantly growing, we are constantly working together for the betterment of this region, for the well-being of the people. Today, at the SCO Summit, I am very grateful to you for all the feelings that you have expressed for India.” 

Amazingly, the western media censored this stirring passage in its reports on the Modi-Putin meeting! 

Notably, following the meeting between Modi and Erdogan in Samarkand on Sept. 16, a commentary by the state-owned TRT titled Turkiye-India ties have a bright future ahead signalled the Erdogan government’s interest to move forward in relations with India. 

India’s ties with Turkiye deserve to be prioritised, as that country is inching toward BRICS and the SCO and is destined to be a serious player in the emerging multipolar world order. Symptomatic of the shift in tectonic plates is the recent report that Russia might launch direct flights between Moscow and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a state supported and recognised only by Ankara. (Incidentally, one “pre-condition” set by the Biden administration to resume military aid to Cyprus was that Nicosia should roll back its relations with Moscow!)  

Without doubt, the US and the EU are recalibrating the power dynamics in the Eastern Mediterranean by building up the Cyprus-Greece axis and sending a warning to Turkiye to know its place. In geopolitical terms, this is another way of welcoming Cyprus into NATO. Thus, it becomes part of the new cold war. 

Can South Asia’s future be any different? Turkiye has so many advantages over India, having been a longstanding cold-war era ally of the US. It hosts Incirlik Air Base, one of the US’ major strategically located military bases. Kurecik Radar Station partners with the US Air Force and Navy in a mission related to missile interception and defence. Turkey is a NATO power which is irreplaceable in the alliance’s southern tier. Turkey controls the Bosphorus Straits under the Montreux Convention (1936).

Yet, the US is unwilling to have a relationship of mutual interest and mutual respect with Turkiye. Pentagon is openly aligned with the Kurdish separatists. The Obama administration made a failed coup attempt to overthrow Erdogan. 

October 2, 2022 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Russia Backs India’s Bid to Become Permanent Member of United Nations Security Council

Samizdat – 25.09.2022

Russia has come out in support of India’s bid to become one of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) – the all-powerful global body which is responsible for taking key decisions about maintaining peace and security in the world.

At present, it comprises the United States, France, Russia, China, and Great Britain.

During his speech at the UNGA, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov called for wider representation of Asian, African, and Latin American countries in the Security Council, making particular mention of New Delhi and Brazil.

“We see an opportunity to make the Security Council more democratic by having representation from African, Asian and Latin American countries. India and Brazil, in particular, are major international players and should be included as permanent members of the council,” Lavrov said in his address to the 77th United Nations General Assembly.

Earlier, in a joint statement, India and 31 other nations urged the UN to expand both the permanent and non-permanent membership of the UNSC.
Besides, New Delhi said that reforms in the UN were necessary to make it more effective and representative.

At another meeting in which foreign ministers from India, Japan, Germany, and Brazil took part, reforms of the Security Council were discussed at length.

The four nations together are known as the G4 and after the meeting they released a joint statement, saying that “today’s conflicts around the globe and the interconnected global challenges have brought to the fore the urgency to carry out reforms in the Security Council as well as expand the membership of other decision-making groups so that they are more representative of the interests of the developing nations.”

At present, India is a non-permanent member of the UNSC.

New Delhi’s two-year term on the Council ends on 31 December this year.

September 25, 2022 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 2 Comments

India’s gaffe at Samarkand

BY M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | INDIAN PUNCHLINE | SEPTEMBER 20, 2022 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at Samarkand on September 16 after the SCO Summit turned into a media scandal. The Western media zeroed in on six words culled out of context in the PM’s opening remarks — “today’s era is not of war”— to triumphantly proclaim that India is finally distancing itself from Russia on Ukraine issue, as the US and European leaders have been incessantly demanding.

Of course, this motivated interpretation lacks empirical evidence and is, therefore, malicious. Besides, Modi also spoke with a rare interplay of emotions by underscoring the quintessence of the Indian-Russian relationship, and his two decade-long association with Putin. 

The steamy part cooked up by the US media shows the desperation on the part of the “Collective West” to isolate Russia at a time when even western leaders have candidly admitted that the bulk of the non-western world does not identify with the western narrative on Ukraine and refuses to roll back their relationship with Russia. 

Many countries are, in fact, stepping up their cooperation with Russia —Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, for example. Curiously, even western companies are loathe to leave the highly attractive Russian market where business returns are high. A report in the Atlantic Council magazine on September 18 highlights that although something like 1,000 multinational corporations had announced that they would be leaving Russia in the wake of the western sanctions, “the unfortunate reality is that… three-quarters of the most profitable foreign multinationals remain in Russia.” Thus, statistically, while 106 western companies exited the Russian market, over 1,149 internationals still remain and simply keep silent about it. 

The giant Sakhalin-2 oil-and-natural-gas project in the Russian Far East is a celebrated case where two big energy Japanese investors Mitsui and Mitsublishi, with government support, simply refused to quit, as the Russian project supplies 9 percent of Japan’s energy needs. The G7 has no option but to exempt Japan from the purview of sanctions when it comes to Sakhalin-2! 

Again, the West continues to import fertiliser from Russia and to that end, lifts the restrictions on shipping, insurance, etc. But the restrictions continue against Russia’s exports of food grain and fertiliser to the non-Western world. Russia has now offered to distribute the fertiliser held up in European ports free of charge to the poorest countries in Africa if only the restrictions for exports are waived, but Europe would rather use it for their own needs. 

It has recently been exposed that the brouhaha about a “global food crisis” (which India too mouthed) was basically a cheap hoax perpetrated by the Biden Administration to get Russia to allow the sale of wheat held up in Ukrainian silos to the European market by American companies, who have apparently bought up Ukraine’s farm lands and control that country’s grain trade! Only a fraction of the grain shipments from Ukraine went to poor countries threatened by famine. Suffice to say, the US and the European Union pressure on India’s purchase of Russian oil was nothing but bullying.

That said, India should know that in a situation where Russia faces an existential threat to its security, it will not be deterred in firmly, decisively responding, no matter what anybody says. Will India be deterred if any foreign country gets agitated over state repression in Kashmir? Violence and bloodshed are abhorrent features of the contemporary world situation and is a painful reality all over the world. 

That is why, PM Modi’s awkward reference to war and peace in his initial remarks to Putin at Samarkand was way out of place in what turned out to be a “wonderful” meeting otherwise. There was simply no need to have characterised, at PM’s level, the Ukraine conflict as a “war”. It betrayed ignorance, since the whole world knows that what is going on is a proxy war between the US and Russia that had been simmering through the past quarter century ever since NATO began its eastward enlargement with an agenda to encircle Russia. Moscow seriously erred by tolerating the US interference in Ukraine so long until NATO finally appeared on its doorstep. It is doubtful if India would have shown such strategic patience. 

Against such a complex backdrop, the litmus test of India’s “neutrality” will, perhaps, lie in EAM Jaishankar at least speaking up on the NATO’s eastward expansion, the US stoking the fire of conflict by pumping tens of billions of dollars worth weaponry into Ukraine, and the Biden Administration’s diabolical role in undermining nascent peace moves between Moscow and Kiev. 

If Turkey’s Recep Erdogan and Hungary’s Viktor Orban can speak up, although NATO leaders, why can’t India’s EAM? But, never mind, there is no question of Jaishankar even remotely embarrassing Biden. 

From the Kremlin readout, Putin actually acknowledged right at the outset of the conversation with Modi that Russia and India are not on the same page on Ukraine. To be sure, Putin must be knowing that India’s behaviour is guided by its narrowly defined self-interests and conditioned by an itch to do cherrypicking. But Moscow has never been and will never be a demanding partner. Mutual interest and mutual respect are the hall marks of Russian diplomacy toward India. Despite own reservations over what India was doing by splitting Pakistan into two halves, when the crunch time came in 1971, Moscow not only stood by India but even despatched its warships and submarines to guard Indian waters from a potential US military intervention against India. It is, therefore, all the more reason for us to be discreet. 

Ironically, India must be one of the few countries that benefits out of the Ukraine conflict. Aside oil, coal and what not at low prices, paradoxically, even the rupee has taken baby steps to commence its indeterminate journey to become a “world currency.” No patriotic Indian will criticise the Modi government for such sophistry. However, confusion arises when morality is injected into all this with a contrived attitude of indignation, when there is really no need for it. 

The meeting in Samarkand took place in the context of the SCO’s annual summit. The summit was not about Ukraine but about the profound issues that have surfaced in its wake that will shape the contours of the world order. This SCO summit was special, as it took place amid large-scale geopolitical changes, triggering a rapid and irrevocable transformation of the entire complex of international ties, relations, policies, economy, when a new model based on the real multi-polarity and dialogue is being built. 

Everyone understands that the SCO, which represents half the world’s population, will help forge the new world order. Unlike the case with NATO, where all decisions are made in Washington and imposed on America’s “allies”, there is no Pied Piper in the SCO tent. Modi could easily have played a meaningful role at the summit instead of meandering his way aimlessly through the pandemic, supply chains, et al, at a juncture when such profound issues were being discussed by his peer group in Samarkand. 

The word “multipolarity,” which was on everyone’s mind in Samarkand, didn’t even figure in Modi’s speech at Samarkand. Whoever drafted the speech must have done it with an eye on Washington. Therefore, don’t blame the US media. They happened to notice all these aberrations and decided to cull out those six sharply-etched words to put India on the mat, mocking it for doublespeak and rank opportunism, and all that hand-wringing by the apologists of our government cannot wash away that stain. 

September 20, 2022 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | , , , | 1 Comment

India unlikely to be coerced by G7 to enforce price cap on Russian oil

Ursula von der Leyen says anti-Russia sanctions “are here to stay” despite European crisis

By Ahmed Adel | September 16, 2022

G7 countries are hoping to secure India’s support to enforce a price cap on Russian oil. Decisionmakers in New Delhi are unlikely to be coerced though as Moscow is willing to provide petroleum at even lower rates than before.

“In principle, the ask in return is that India should not support the G7 proposal. A decision on this issue will be taken later following talks with all the partners,” the The Business Standard quoted a foreign ministry official as saying.

Comprising of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US, the G7 excludes India despite the South Asian country now having the fifth largest economy, larger than the UK, France, Italy and Canada. The Western bloc, with the exception being Japan, are looking to choke Russia’s crude oil revenue streams, but countries like India are prioritising their economy and citizen wellbeing instead of serving Washington’s agenda.

India depends on imports to meet 85% of its petroleum needs, and with Russia offering good deals to friendly countries, it became the second-largest crude oil supplier to the country after Iraq. Although Russia’s share in India’s imports rose to only 1% in February, before the war in Ukraine began, it skyrocketed to 18% by June. 

Russian oil was $16 cheaper in May than the average barrel of crude oil ($110) imported to India. It is for this reason that India took advantage of many countries ending their trade with Russia. Russia has so far reduced $30 on every barrel of oil it sells to India, forcing Iraq to cut its rate to $9 lower than a Russian barrel of oil. At the same time, according to Business Standard, Russian crude oil in August cost $6 less than India’s average imported barrel.

The G7 is hoping to enforce price caps on Russian crude oil and refined petroleum products. While the one on crude oil comes into effect on December 5, the other will be enacted on February 5, 2023. This is when the European Union bans Russian oil products. Although India has said it will consider all aspects before making a decision, it is unlikely that New Delhi will decide on the same self-destructive policies as the European Union.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who spoke at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on September 14 and delivered her State of the Union address, said: “It is the Kremlin that has put Russia’s economy on the path to oblivion. This is the price for Putin’s trail of death and destruction. And I want to make it very clear, the sanctions are here to stay. This is the time for us to show resolve, not appeasement.”

However, it is the economies of European Union member states that are suffering much worse than Russia now. In fact, their economies will only continue to decline as winter approaches. Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on September 7 that he will stop oil and gas supply to countries that introduce price caps.

Putin told the Eastern Economic Forum that such a move “would be an absolutely stupid decision”.

“We will not supply anything at all if it is contrary to our interests, in this case economic (interests),” he said. “No gas, no oil, no coal, no fuel oil, nothing.”

Putin said that Russia would supply nothing outside of existing contracts.

The Munich-based Ifo think-tank warned that the recent surge in electricity and gas prices was “wreaking havoc” on the German economy and that the main cause was the expected “decline in private consumer spending” triggered by energy suppliers “markedly adjusting their electricity and gas prices in the light of high procurement costs, especially at the beginning of 2023.”

For their part, the Kiel Institute for the World Economy slashed its forecast for the German GDP next year by 4% points to minus 0.7%, warning: “With the high import prices for energy, an economic avalanche is rolling towards Germany.” Meanwhile, German deputy finance minister Florian Toncar warned of an “increasing risk of stagflation” in the country, telling the VVW insurance sector publication: “We are experiencing supply-chain problems, production bottlenecks and price increases the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades.”

Germany, as the industrial and economic centre of the European Union, will be experiencing a crisis that it has not seen since the end of World War II. The rest of the European Union will also end up in the same position, if not worse than Germany. As for India, it is this exact situation it wants to avoid, hence why it has increased its imports of Russian energy at good prices. For this reason, it is unlikely that New Delhi will be coerced by the G7 to implement a price cap on Russian oil.

Ahmed Adel is a Cairo-based geopolitics and political economy researcher.

September 16, 2022 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

Iran given roadmap for joining Russia and China in major bloc

Samizdat | September 15, 2022

Iran has signed a memorandum paving the way to transition from its current observer status to full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

The Middle-Eastern nation, which the US has long sought to undermine with diplomatic isolation and economic sanctions, made a formal step on Thursday to become the ninth member of the organization. Among the SCO’s heavyweights are Russia and China, two major powers that are on Washington’s list of geopolitical opponents.

The SCO was created in 2001 as an intragovernmental forum aimed at fostering trust and developing economic and humanitarian ties in Asia.

It currently has eight permanent members: China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The last is currently hosting the annual summit of the leaders of the member states in the city of Samarkand.

Iran has been an SCO observer since 2005. Its delegation to the summit is headed by President Ebrahim Raisi, who met with senior Uzbek officials on Wednesday.

The memorandum, which spells the commitments that Tehran will undertake to become an SCO member, was signed by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and SCO Secretary-General Zhang Ming, the host country’s foreign ministry reported.

Yury Ushakov, a foreign affairs advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin, said earlier this week that Iran could qualify for being upgraded to full membership before next year’s SCO summit in India.

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev touted this year’s event as a turning point for the organization. He cited the rapidly growing interest of nations in closer involvement with the SCO and said that it served as an example of how a “deep crisis of trust at the global level” can be overcome by parties willing to do so. He also stressed the scale of the group, which accounts for roughly half of the world’s population and a quarter of global GDP.

Belarus, also an SCO observer, is set to start the formal process for full membership this year. Egypt and Qatar formally joined the organization as dialogue partners on Wednesday. Saudi Arabia is scheduled to do the same, while Bahrain, Kuwait, the UAE, Myanmar, and the Maldives are expected to begin their respective paths to receiving the same status.

September 15, 2022 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Big picture of disengagement in Ladakh

BY M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | INDIAN PUNCHLINE | SEPTEMBER 10, 2022 

The Ministry of External Affairs has done the right thing by explaining its taciturn press release on Thursday in a single sentence regarding the disengagement of troops in the area of Gogra-Hotsprings along the LAC in the Western Sector of India-China border areas. 

The Official Spokesman Arindam Bagchi shared on Friday more details. Broadly, a consensus reached at the 16th round of India China Corps Commander Level Meeting on 17 July has since been fleshed out by the two sides, and the actual disengagement commenced on Thursday which will be completed on coming Monday. The following key elements draw attention: 

  • Both sides will “cease forward deployments in this area in a phased, coordinated and verified manner, resulting in the return of the troops of both sides to their respective areas.” 
  • All temporary structures and other allied infrastructure created in the area by both sides “will be dismantled and mutually verified.” 
  • “The landforms in the area will be restored to pre-stand-off period by both sides.”  
  • “The agreement ensures that the LAC in this area will be strictly observed and respected by both sides, and that there will be no unilateral change in status quo.” 
  • Going forward, the sides will “take the talks forward and resolve the remaining issues along LAC and restore peace and tranquility in India-China border areas.” 

The last two elements — prohibiting “unilateral change in status quo”  and the commitment to resolve the remaining issues — are inter-related. 

Simply put, there will be no attempts by either side to indulge in any “Mission Creep” to seize unilateral advantage of territory. This is hugely important, given the two vastly divergent narratives on what precipitated the standoff two years ago. How the “status quo” is to be understood is not yet in the public domain but presumably, it is to mutual satisfaction.

A judicious mix of firmness and realism made this agreement possible. Some Indian commentators have rushed to belittle its importance by linking it to a possible meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping next week at Samarkand.

That said, if there is going to be a meeting at Samarkand, this disengagement provides a setting for constructive discussion. Both governments have high stakes in maintaining peace and tranquility along the LAC in the present hugely transformative period in the world order. For China, issues of war and peace in the Taiwan Straits are a top priority. 

As for India, a crucial period of adjustment to new geopolitical conditions lies ahead which presents daunting challenges to its strategic autonomy and independent foreign policies, stemming from the West’s attempts to polarise the world community against Russia and China. 

Both India and China sense the high importance of pursuing their respective trajectories of economic growth and development optimally in a difficult and unfavourable climate internationally. Speaking of India, our analysts prefer — either due to ignorance or with deliberation — to sidestep the co-relation between a peaceful and tranquil border and the country’s overall economic situation. 

The Ukraine conflict is adding to global inflation by raising the cost of energy and other raw commodities while an increasingly hawkish US Fed is tightening its policies, and significantly reducing its balance sheet. There could be looming currency and foreign exchange worries. Time may have come to build up a clearing system among BRICS countries. India’s current foreign exchange reserves are at their lowest since October 2020. Persistent foreign outflows from India’s equity and debt markets have also weighed on the rupee.  

There is continuing Western interference in India-China relations and the fact that the government has sequestered the bilateral track with China is not going to be to the liking of the West. Fundamentally, the contradiction is that without India, there is no “Indo-Pacific Strategy” against China. 

In a recent interview with an Indian newspaper, the former Prime Minister of Australia and an acclaimed hawk on China, Kevin Rudd, posed the question that troubles the Western mind most: “What does India do ultimately, if China does unilaterally resolve the border, as Gorbachev did, with the Russian Federation within the Soviet Union in 1989?” 

Rudd repeated, “what would India then do in terms of China’s rise if the border was resolved, and India and China and Russia folded into one enormous market of mutual opportunity?” In such a scenario, Rudd could see only a binary choice for India: it should either “bandwagon” with China or “balance” China. 

Rudd must be a terribly disappointed man to see that there could be a Third Way. China is not really  expecting anyone to “bandwagon” with it. Its DNA is similar to India’s — pursuit of national interests while retaining strategic autonomy (even with regard to its partner Russia.) 

China takes satisfaction that India treasures its strategic autonomy. Its expectation is only that India should not align with the US to pursue  hostile policies. That is perfectly understandable, too. 

A consensus with China that neither party will try to gain territorial advantage is the maximum that can be expected today and the irreducible minimum required until such time as the Indian opinion  can accept a fair and just settlement of the boundary question in a spirit of compromise. 

Notably, Chinese commentators have appreciated EAM Jaishankar’s forceful remarks through March-April enunciating India’s oil purchases from Russia giving primacy to national interests. Conceivably, such assertion of India’s strategic autonomy created a favourable ambience in the ongoing talks at various levels with China, leading to the disengagement in Gogra-Hotsprings. 

China and India have many common interests in the emergent world order. Only two days ago, PM’s remarks at the Eastern Economic Forum plenary at Vladivostok signalled India’s interest to work with Russia in the Arctic (where China is also a participant) as also in the Northern Sea Route (where China too is a stakeholder).

By the way, the Russia-China Joint Statement on the International Relations Entering a New Era and the Global Sustainable Development (February 4, 2022)speaks about the two countries “consistently intensifying practical cooperation for the sustainable development of the Arctic” as well as the “development and use of Arctic routes.”

There is no empirical evidence to show that China has blocked India’s pathway in the Arctic or the Russian Far East, Southeast Asia, Central Asia or West Asia. The disengagement in Ladakh gives hope that the bilateral relations can be restored, especially in the economic sphere. There is no question that India should be vigilant about its defence and national security. But to be paranoid about it or getting  entrapped in xenophobic attitudes will be wasteful and ultimately debilitating. 

September 10, 2022 Posted by | Economics | , | 1 Comment

India, China Break Border Deadlock as They Begin Withdrawing Troops From Contested Ladakh

Samizdat – 08.09.2022

The last disengagement of troops on the loosely demarcated Line of Actual Control (LAC) took place a year ago. Delhi and Beijing have held more than half a dozen military and diplomatic talks following clashes on the border in 2020 that resulted in 20 Indian soldiers and four PLA troops being killed.

Indian and Chinese troops deployed at Gogra-Hotsprings (PP-15) in the eastern sector of the LAC have begun to disengage in a “coordinated and planned way,” the armies announced in a joint statement on Thursday afternoon.

The disengagement, halted for more than a year, began per the “consensus reached in the 16th round of India China Corps Commander Level Meeting” held on July 17.

The development is conducive to peace and tranquility in the border areas, the Indian Army added.

The news comes days ahead of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, which will be attended by world leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping.

The border stand-off between India and China broke out in April 2020 over infrastructure development works in the Pangong Tso region, escalating into violent clashes on June 15-16, in which 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers were killed.

Each side deployed tanks, fighter jets, and 60,000 troops in the areas behind the LAC.

Even as the two countries withdrew troops and tanks from Lake Pangong in February 2021, the process to separate their forces from other “friction areas” such as the Depsang Plains, Gogra, and Hotspring were stalled over a range of issues.

September 8, 2022 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Timely assertion of India’s strategic autonomy

BY M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | INDIAN PUNCHLINE | SEPTEMBER 8, 2022 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address at the plenary sessions of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) at Vladivostok has been a regular feature of the annual event since 2019. But this year’s address on Wednesday was invested with added significance as the PM was speaking for the first time on India-Russia relationship after Moscow’s special military operation in Ukraine began in February.  

The backdrop couldn’t have been more dramatic as Modi had Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Chairman of the National People’s Congress of China Li Zhanshu listening to him on the podium in Vladivostok. 

The Russian Far East is the world’s last frontier, endowed with vast mineral resources. In the prevailing geopolitical conditions, Moscow has prioritised Asian countries for partnership. India gets a fast track both by virtue of its “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership” with Russia as well as the warmth and cordiality in the personal equations between Modi and Putin. 

The PM was speaking hot on the heels of the G7 decision to endorse the Biden Administration’s latest project to weaken and “erase” Russia by imposing a price cap mechanism on its oil exports. The US hopes to derail Russia’s energy cooperation with China and India, the two big-time  players in the global oil market, given the size of their economies and the staggering scale of their future energy needs. China is refusing to play ball. So should India. That makes the G7 project a non-starter. 

The power dynamic works this way: Energy security is all about a country’s economic future and world strategy. Economic strength brings influence and respect in international politics and is a vital component of a country’s strategic autonomy and its capacity to pursue independent  foreign policies. This co-relation is well understood by everyone. 

That is why, the Biden Administration inserted a dagger deep into the heart of the thriving 50-year old energy cooperation between Moscow and Western Europe. What better way to reassert the US’ transatlantic leadership that had been on the wane in the recent decades since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991! 

The mediocre, pusillanimous leadership in Europe didn’t resist. Looking ahead, Europe’s subaltern role is useful for the US, which no longer has the capacity to force its will globally. 

The conflict in Ukraine is quintessentially a proxy war that the US has imposed on Russia to weaken Russia. The ploy has not worked, but in the process, paradoxically, Russia has turned it back on Europe and is courting  the non-western world for partnership. India sees seamless opportunities stemming out of this paradigm. 

Today, the Biden Administration is the single biggest impediment to peace talks between Kiev and Moscow. Two top “Russia hands” in previous US administrations who have authored books on Russia (and are well-known “hawks” on Russia) in the strategic community in North America — Fiona Hill and Angela Stent — recently penned an article in Foreign Affairs magazine where they wrote: 

“Russian and Ukrainian negotiators appeared to have tentatively agreed (in March) on the outlines of a negotiated interim settlement. Russia would withdraw to its position on February 23, when it controlled part of the Donbas region and all of Crimea, and in exchange, Ukraine would promise not to seek NATO membership and instead receive security guarantees from a number of countries.” 

Indeed, the Ukrainska Pravda, citing official sources in Kiev, reported at that time that “Following the arrival of former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Kyiv (on April 9), a possible meeting between Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin has become less likely… The Russian side was actually ready for the Zelenskyy-Putin meeting.” 

Johnson reportedly brought to Kiev a powerful message in two parts: first, that Putin is a war criminal who should be pressured, not negotiated with; and, second, even if Ukraine is ready to sign some agreements on guarantees with Putin, the western powers are not.

Unsurprisngly, the PM’s address at the EEF on Wednesday drew attention for its “messaging” amidst the US’ attempts to isolate, weaken and “erase” Russia. The resuscitation of India’s ties with Russia has been one of the finest legacies of Modi’s foreign policy. The PM made a pointed remark that “Since the beginning of the Ukraine conflict, we have stressed the need to take the path of diplomacy and dialogue. We support all peaceful efforts to end this conflict.” This is exactly the Russian position, too! 

The following are salients of the PM’s speech: 

India’s “Act Far-East policy… has become a key pillar of the “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership” of India and Russia.” 

The PM recalled that he pioneered the “Act Far-East policy”. With the rupture in Russia’s ties with the West and its pivot to Asia, vast opportunities are opening up for India to tap into the Far East’s fabulous resources. Beyond a matter of trade and investments, he also envisaged that “the talent and professionalism of Indians can bring about rapid development in the Russian Far East.” 

India is keen to strengthen its partnership with Russia on Arctic issues.” 

Modi’s above remark comes only ten days after the sensational statement by the NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on August 26 about Russia posing a threat in the Arctic, and his advocacy of the alliance stepping up its presence in the region to counter Russia. 

There is also immense potential for cooperation in the field of energy.” 

Ironically, the PM was speaking within the week of the G7 finance ministers’ decision towards disrupting Russia’s income from oil exports! Clearly, the vacation of Western companies from Russia’s energy sector opens up huge opportunities for Indian investment in Russia’s oil and gas fields both in upstream and downstream. 

“Along with energy, India has also made significant investments in the Russian Far East in the areas of pharma and diamonds.” 

Russia mines nearly a third of the world’s diamonds, according to the US Department of Treasury. As of 2021, Russia’s natural diamond reserves were estimated to be approximately 1.1 billion carats. Russian company Alrosa is the largest diamond mining company in the world and is responsible for 90 percent of Russia’s diamond mining capacity. Of course, India is the world’s largest cutting and polishing centre for diamonds and is rated amongst the fastest growing markets in the world. India’s diamond industry, based in Mumbai and Surat, has an estimated one million-strong work force. 

Russia can become an important partner for the Indian steel industry through the supply of coking coal.” 

India has huge need for coking coal (and coking coal mining and washing technology) which is critical for the self-reliance of its steel industry. Russia’s coal reserves rank second in the world and account for about 16% of the world’s total coal reserves, which means it has about 767 years of coal left (at current consumption levels and excluding unproven reserves).

By bringing in an inter alia reference to the Ukraine conflict at the end of his address, PM underscored that India’s determination to pursue the directions of the India-Russia “special comprehensive strategic partnership” is in no way hostage to the proxy war going on in Europe.

The PM touched on the impact of the Ukraine conflict on global supply chains. The fact of the matter is that recent UN-brokered deal to facilitate exports of food grains from Ukraine and Russia and fertilisers from Russia have run into trouble, as the EU and the US have gone back on their promise to remove the restrictions on Russian exports. Meanwhile, it emerges that the West prioritises European needs over Africa’s. 

Putin disclosed yesterday that out of the two million tonnes of food grain that left Ukrainian ports in 87 shipments, 97% headed for Europe for consumption in the EU countries and only 3% for the starving millions in the so-called Global South! To quote Putin, 

“What I am saying is, many European countries today continue to act as colonisers, exactly as they have been doing in previous decades and centuries. Developing countries have simply been cheated yet again and continue to be cheated.” 

A purposive signalling as regards India’s strategic autonomy and the government’s determination to expand and deepen the India-Russia “special comprehensive strategic partnership” regardless of the vicissitudes of international politics was overdue.

September 8, 2022 Posted by | Economics | , | 1 Comment

India May Dodge US-Led Coercive Oil Cartel as Part of ‘Strategic Triangle’ With Russia, China – Prof

By Rishikesh Kumar – Samizdat – 08.09.2022

The US hopes India and China will join a coalition seeking a cap on Russian oil prices to reduce their income. However, Delhi and Beijing have so far refused to bow to the pressure.

The US expectation that China and India would join a coalition of countries seeking to impose a price cap on Russian oil at a cheaper price sounds like an admission of failure to convince its close allies to stop buying Russian energy, an Indian expert says.

Swaran Singh, a professor at India’s Center for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament at the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said that the refusal to denounce the Russian military operation in Ukraine and increasing Russian commodity imports by India and China “only strengthen their strategic triangle where India is the only exception for keeping close ties with the US.”

On Tuesday, US Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo claimed that countries like China and India would take advantage of the price cap coalition. However, Singh believes the appeal of the US Treasury Secretary defies elementary logic, prompting him to wonder what makes Adeyemo think Beijing is going to do Washington’s bidding.

“While China has no possibilities of joining hands with the US in curbing prices of Russian oil, even India is least likely to join such a cartel. What is interesting is that there may be dissensions even within US alliance partners,” Singh told Sputnik.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed to increase energy ties with Russia. Modi also underlined India’s interests in the areas of pharma and diamonds.

Nirmala Sitharaman, the country’s finance minister, on September 8 lauded Modi’s decision to increase Russian crude imports even in the face of Western sanctions announced by the US and some of its allies in response to Moscow’s special op.

Highlighting the pace at which India ramped up crude oil purchases at a “discounted price,” the Indian finance minister said that Russian crude accounts for 12-13 percent of the total basket, up from below two percent in February. China is the biggest importer of Russian crude oil.

Professor Singh mentioned that China and India are already beneficiaries of Russia voluntarily offering “deep” discounts.

“Why would they (India, China) try coercion to obtain something they have already been getting?” Singh underlined.

He also highlighted that the US and EU countries are themselves struggling to make up for shortages of oil and gas.

“Russia accounts for over 40% of gas and 30% of oil imports of Europe. And as winter approaches, it is Russia that has the power to dictate rather than the other way around,” Singh stated.

Since June, several US officials have visited New Delhi to pressure India to stop buying discounted crude oil from Russia. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken termed India’s cheap oil purchase from Russia as support for Moscow. Despite this, Delhi has maintained that its crude purchases are meant to ensure the country’s national interests.

September 8, 2022 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

Importing Crude From Russia Part of India’s ‘Inflation Management’ Policy, Finance Minister Says

By Dhairya Maheshwari – Samizdat – 08.09.2022

Indian retail inflation in July was roughly 6.7 percent higher than in 2021 in the same month, largely due to volatility in global food and fuel prices triggered by Western sanctions against Russia over its military operation in Ukraine. India’s top bank, the RBI, aims to reduce the overall inflation to below 6 percent.

Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said that New Delhi’s decision to import crude from Russia despite warnings from Western nations is part of New Delhi’s overall efforts to manage retail inflation in the country.

“Whereas our overall crude imports had just 2 percent or less than two percent of [a] Russian component into our crude basket, it was ramped up to almost 12 to 13 percent. That’s talking about a couple of months,” Sitharaman stated during a speech at the event “Taming Inflation,” organized by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIEC).

The minister underlined that India’s overall crude imports from foreign countries was to the tune of 85 percent, with the remaining requirements met from domestic sources of energy.

Sitharaman revealed that the decision to import crude from Russia was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who chairs the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).
“At that stage, to take a very strong political decision. I respect the Prime Minister for his courage on this,” Sitharaman said.

“Get it from Russia because they are willing to give you oil at a discount,” she quoted the PM as saying.

She noted that the prime minister made the decision to boost Russian oil imports in spite of the threat of political implications arising from such a move from New Delhi’s Western partners. US President Joe Biden was among those who criticized New Delhi’s purchases of Russian crude back in April.

“And that’s where I give credit to the statesmanship of the prime minister, to make sure that we kept intact our other global relationships yet managed, till today, to get the Russian fuel,” Sitharaman stated.

She further noted that other US allies such as Japan and even EU nations like Italy were continuing to import Russian crude, which have been kept out of six rounds of Western economic sanctions leveled against Moscow by the G7+1 allies, which include US, Canada, Japan, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, as well as the European Union (EU).

During the G7 Leaders’ Summit held in Germany in June, where Prime Minister Modi was invited as the head of one of the “partner countries,” the Indian leader rebuffed the West’s criticism about India-Russia energy trade. At the time, Modi said that India would continue to “ensure its energy security.”

Global crude prices hit a record high of $120 a barrel in June, the highest since the global financial crisis (GFC) in 2008, amid worries over supply-side constraints in the wake of Moscow’s special military operation in Ukraine launched in February this year.

While the EU, traditionally the biggest importer of Russian energy, drew down its import of Russian oil, countries like India and China decided to significantly upgrade their energy ties with Moscow in view of the prevailing high global prices.

September 8, 2022 Posted by | Economics | | Leave a comment

India Declines to Commit to US-Proposed Price Cap on Russian Oil

Samizdat – 02.09.2022

US Deputy Secretary of Treasury Wally Adeyemo held wide-ranging talks with Indian officials, including Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, on August 26, trying to persuade India to join the move. The discussion on the price cap is likely to continue next week during the visit of India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal’s to the US.

India has not committed to the US’ proposal of capping Russian oil prices during the recent visit of US Deputy Secretary of Treasury Wally Adeyemo, three government officials in Delhi told Sputnik.

Last Friday, Adeyemo claimed that Delhi showed “great interest” in capping oil prices, a step Washington has been pushing for in a bid to curb Russia’s export revenues in response to Moscow’s special military operation in Ukraine.

“US sought our words on the proposal of oil capping. Why should we say anything about this? It is up to them to sort out [certain] issues before making any conclusion,” one official told Sputnik, indicating that energy trade dominated the recent discussions between the two strategic partners.

The official added that talks also included the issue of a consensus among OPEC countries and some other geopolitical issues, such as the ongoing talks on the revival of the 2015 Iran deal.

“Will Gulf countries agree on price capping [given that] the step will negatively impact the business interests of OPEC? Will the US remove sanctions on Iranian oil exports? And top among them is [the question of] how Russia [will] react to the proposal,” the official underlined.

Another government official approached by Sputnik said that India will continue to prioritize its national interests, which the Modi government has repeatedly underscored in response to western criticism of a massive jump in India’s purchases of Russian oil.

India imports 85 percent of its oil, and “discounted” Russian oil has helped Delhi provide relief to 1.3 billion people from double-digit inflation. India also needs lower oil imports bill to control its ballooning trade deficit.

“It is their words, not ours. We can’t guide anyone to speak in a particular manner,” a third official, who was involved in the delegation-level talk with the US, told Sputnik, indicating discussions about the price cap were held, but it was Washington who was behind the initiative.

Arindam Bagchi, an Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, replied to Sputnik on Thursday, saying that the discussion with the US was held on issues such as “G20 priorities, climate finance, terror financing, energy security, energy trade, and issues related to the IMF.”

On Friday, G7 finance ministers agreed to introduce price capping for international purchases of Russian oil.

The ministers also said that the G7 will develop “targeted mitigation mechanisms” to ensure that vulnerable countries will still have access to energy markets, including “from Russia.”

Earlier, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that the G7’s plans for a price cap “will substantially destabilize” oil markets. He said that Russia will supply oil to those countries that operate according to market conditions.

September 2, 2022 Posted by | Economics | | 1 Comment

Voting Rights For Non-Locals Unacceptable, Former Jammu and Kashmir State Chief Says

By Deexa Khanduri | Samizdat | August 24, 2022 

Until August 2019, the Indian Constitution’s Article 370 restricted voting rights in Jammu and Kashmir to its permanent residents who belong to the region by birth. The Election Commission of India (ECI) last week said Indian citizens temporarily living in Jammu and Kashmir are now eligible to cast their votes in the union territory.

Former chief of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir Farooq Abdullah has said that giving voting rights to non-locals is “totally unacceptable,” and if needed, local politicians will go to court against the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) decision.

He said this after presiding over a meeting of Kashmiri political parties held on Monday, which was attended by Congress, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Awami National Conference (ANC), Shiv Sena, CP, JDU, and Akali Dal.

Two regional parties that did not attend the meeting were the Apni Party led by Altaf Bukhari and the People’s Conference of Sajad Lone.

Lone on Monday said that it would stage a hunger strike in front of the parliament if there was a demographic intervention or the rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir were compromised.

The Election Commission of India last week said Indian citizens temporarily living in Jammu and Kashmir are now eligible to cast their votes in the union territory.

The ECI’s announcement is expected to add a significant number of voters to the existing ones.

“Tomorrow, it will be five million or ten million,” Abdullah said Monday, adding the move is a direct threat to the identity of Jammu and Kashmir natives — Dogras, Kashmiris, Sikhs, and other communities who are losing their identity.

A section of local parties saw the ECI’s announcement as an attempt to change the demography of the Muslim-dominated region.

August 25, 2022 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | Leave a comment