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WHO Estimates of India’s Covid Deaths Are Highly Suspect

By Ramesh Thakur | The Daily Sceptic | May 8, 2022

On May 5th, the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a new report estimating global excess deaths at 14.9m for two years of the pandemic 2020-21 as the true COVID-19 mortality toll, nearly triple the official toll of 5.44m. “Excess mortality” is the difference between the number of deaths that would be expected in any time period based on data from earlier years and the number of deaths that have occurred. For countries with robust data surveillance, reporting and recording systems, this poses no real difficulty. Unfortunately, these conditions are not met in many countries. Therefore their excess mortality can only be estimated and the accuracy is a function of the reliability of the methodology and modelling used in the exercise. Given the overwhelming evidence about the flaws and deficiencies of Covid-related modelling over the last two years, and the damage caused by governments trusting modelling projections over real-world data, this should immediately throw up a forest of red flags about the WHO report.

A second reason to be sceptical is the less than stellar role of the WHO in its well-known Covid-related deference to China, the abandonment of its own summary of the state of the art science on managing pandemics from October 2019, its willingness to manipulate definitions of ‘herd immunity’ in relation to vaccines and natural immunity in order to fit with the experimental pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) that came to dominate Covid policy around the world, and its self-interest in expanding its budget, authority and role in steering global health policies and management by means of a new international treaty.

A third ground for scepticism is they ascribe the total death count to the direct effects of Covid “due to the disease” and indirect effects “due to the pandemic’s impact on health systems and society”. The first part is questionable because it fails to distinguish between deaths with and from Covid. The second is disingenuous because the indirect toll of the NPIs (lockdowns, masks, induced fear, lost schooling, lost jobs, cancelled screenings and operations, aborted immunisation programs, disruptions to global food production and distribution, etc.) and vaccine-related adverse events will prove to be significantly higher than the indirect effects of the disease per se. Any study that fails to disaggregate deaths caused by the disease and by policy interventions to mitigate it lacks credibility.

Figure 1: India’s COVID-19 Deaths, Jan. 1st 2020-Mar. 27th 2022. Source: World Life Expectancy, May 8th 2022

Like many others including Will Jones on this site, I was especially struck by the new figures for India. The report pushes India up to the very top of the Covid mortality toll with 4.74m deaths, nearly 10 times more than the count of 481,486 (as of December 31st 2021), almost one-third of the world total. Sorry, but that is simply not credible.

India’s geographic diversity, population size and economic conditions make data collection especially challenging. In public lectures in Australia and Canada, to drive home the point about the scale, I usually comment that the entire Australian population is a rounding error in 1.3bn-strong India. It suffers from persistent and widespread mass poverty – India is a country of a few mega-billionaires amidst the world’s biggest pool of poor, illiterate and sick people bar none. It might be nuclear-armed, but state capacity when it comes to administration and public and social services is easily the worst of all major economies. The public sector scores high on petty corruption but low on efficiency. The public health service is risible and high quality healthcare is neither accessible nor affordable for ordinary Indians. The best doctors work in the public sector, in medium to large clinics and hospitals in metropolitan centres and as individual practitioners in most towns and villages. Consequently, health statistics are not all that reliable. But this is a general pathology, not one unique to COVID-19.

From everything I know about India, the WHO estimate does not align with overall death data, historical trends and Covid death compensation claims on the Indian Government from states. Indian experts believe that official statistics capture over 90% of all deaths. But this also means that about 10% of deaths would have been missed in previous years, yet the WHO’s ‘excess deaths’ count uses the official numbers as the baseline against which to estimate the impact of Covid. In a related vein, why would under-reporting be limited to Covid-related deaths and not, say, to suicides with its heavy social stigma and traffic accidents where the operators of overloaded buses and vans would try to drastically reduce actual numbers in order to hide the illegal loads (Figure 2)? The WHO estimates are flawed also in relying on 2019 deaths instead of using a five year average 2015-19 to wrinkle out anomalies in any given year.

Figure 2: India’s Top Dozen Killer Diseases (March 1st 2020-May 7th 2022). Top six cancers in order: oral, lung, breast, cervical, stomach, colon. Source: Chart constructed by author drawing on data from World Life Expectancy, May 8th 2022

Estimates of India’s total annual death rate range from 738 per 100,000 people by the World Bank to 1,030 per 100,000 people by World Life Expectancy. The total annual death toll therefore would be somewhere in the 10-13 million range: a very wide range. The WHO estimate of the death rate for 2021 is within the higher range from World Life Expectancy. Simply put, the WHO estimate of all-cause deaths is within any realistic estimate of the margin of error in India’s unique circumstances of scale and state capacity.

The caveats to official data notwithstanding, the WHO estimate would mean almost one-quarter additional deaths than normal. In fact it’s worse. Looking at the detailed tables, the 4.74m excess deaths is calculated from a combined excess death rate for 2020–21 of 171 per 100,00 people. This is disaggregated into 60 and 280 per 100,000 people for 2020 and 2021, respectively. That would imply a 38% jump in all cause deaths in 2021. Despite all the horror scenes we saw on TV of corpses lying in the streets and washed ashore on riverbanks, that’s just not possible. Perhaps the clue to the error lies in the title of the actual document: “Global excess deaths associated with COVID-19 (modelled estimates)” (emphasis added).

Some Daily Sceptic readers had fun with this aspect of the WHO announcement. My favourite exchange was this:

India’s own estimates of excess deaths for 2020 compared to 2019 is 480,000, of which Covid-related deaths were just under 150,000. So over 300,000 excess deaths were due to non-Covid causes, which in itself is far more believable because of the impact of the lockdown measures on exacerbating most of the conditions underlying India’s leading causes of deaths. By contrast, in 2021 the Covid-related death toll was much higher at 332,492.

Much as I have been critical in the past of official dismissals of international reports on India including weakening democratic practices, in this instance the Government is right to reject the WHO methodology of mathematical modelling based on data on 17 Indian states collected from websites and media reports: “This reflects a statistically unsound and scientifically questionable methodology of data collection for making excess mortality projections in the case of India.” As well as defective data collection methodology, the report is marred also by three critically flawed assumptions: that uncounted excess deaths occurred only in 2020-21 and not before; they occurred only for COVID-19 and not other diseases; and Covid-related deaths were due solely to the disease and not caused by policy interventions to control and eradicate it.

Ramesh Thakur is Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University’s Crawford School of Public Policy and a former UN Assistant Secretary-General.

May 8, 2022 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science | , , | Leave a comment

‘Don’t patronize us’ over Ukraine, India tells Netherlands

Samizdat | May 6, 2022

India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, TS Tirumurti, has accused the Netherlands of “patronizing” his country after the Dutch ambassador to the UK publicly scolded New Delhi for abstaining on UN General Assembly resolutions on the war in Ukraine.

“Kindly don’t patronise us, Ambassador. We know what to do,” Tirumurti wrote in a tweet to Dutch envoy Karel van Oosterom on Thursday.

Tirumurti’s tweet came in response to van Oosterom’s (now-deleted) warning that India “should not have abstained” from votes pertaining to Russia and the war in Ukraine and that it should “respect the UN Charter.”

Despite repeated calls and pressure to join the West in isolating Russia over the Ukraine war, New Delhi has been reluctant to cut ties with Moscow.

India has abstained on multiple votes and resolutions at the UN General Assembly this year, including a vote moved by the US in April to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council over accusations of the killing of civilians.

India also abstained from a vote brought by Ukraine and its backers in March, condemning Russia over the humanitarian situation in the country, saying then that the focus should be on the cessation of hostilities.

In a statement delivered Wednesday at the UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine, Tirumurti reiterated India’s position that “pursuing the path of dialogue and diplomacy” is the “only way out” of the crisis.

“India remains on the side of peace and therefore believes that there will be no winning side in this conflict and, while those impacted by this conflict will continue to suffer, diplomacy will be a lasting casualty,” he said.

The South Asian nation has a strong trading relationship with Russia, receiving arms from Moscow in previous agreements between the two sides. It even deemed the current situation an opportunity to broaden cooperation. The country boosted oil purchases from Russia recently, despite pressure from Washington.

May 6, 2022 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

India, Germany cogitate on Ukraine

Germany to send fifty Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine to fight Russia
BY M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | INDIAN PUNCHLINE | MAY 3, 2022

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s short visit to Germany pegged on the Indian-German Intergovernmental Commission meeting in Berlin on Monday inevitably came to focus on the Ukraine crisis. The western media would have loved to grill Modi on India’s reluctance to criticise Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine. But German hosts thoughtfully skipped the customary Q&A after the joint appearance of Modi and Chancellor Olaf Scholz before the press. 

India’s prudence is self-evident as much as Germany’s zealousness to flaunt its condemnation of Russia. Modi and Scholz are sailing in different boats. Modi draws flak for being a “strongman” who views the Ukraine crisis through the prism of India’s interests, while also taking a principled stance, whereas, Scholz carries the burden of vacuous moralising.

Scholz must prove constantly that he is indeed a loyal ally of President Biden and is by no means a “pacifist.” (To get a hang of Scholz’s predicament, read Spiegel’s maddening interview with him, here — alternatively annoying, infuriating, taunting, affronting and goading.)    

Modi can afford to be nonchalant because he is clearheaded about where Indian interests lie — its strategic autonomy in a highly unpredictable international environment. But Scholz is nervous as a mouse because German interests are caught up betwixt the crosscurrents of European politics and the NATO’s epochal struggle to bring Russia down on its knees. 

Modi is well ensconced in power while Scholz heads a precarious coalition of disparate partners. Modi could witness Scholz and his foreign minister Annalena Baerbock speaking in two different voices on Russia. Baerbock insisted that Russian forces should vacate Ukrainian soil before Western sanctions can be lifted, but Scholz toned down saying that the lifting of Western sanctions is linked to Russia and Ukraine reaching an agreement. 

Germany is a divided house when it comes to Russia ties. On the contrary, aside the clutch of noisy American lobbyists operating in India, the Indian public at large recognises the centrality of India’s friendly relations with Russia. 

India gets the space to manoeuvre, as Russia is excessively indulgent towards Delhi’ stance, which is, quintessentially, neither to support nor to oppose Moscow’s intervention — something  like Professor Godbole in the EM Forster novel A Passage to India, a Brahman Hindu who is very spiritual and reluctant to become involved in human affairs. 

Scholz who is new to international diplomacy could have learnt a thing or two from UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s recent visit to India. Johnson put Ukraine on the back burner and focused on the agenda of “Global Britain” to create his country’s post-Brexit pathway in India’s vast market. 

That said, Scholz has done remarkably well in getting the US off his back over sanctions against gas supplies from Russia. Germany’s dependence on Russian supplies of oil and gas (and coal) has been heavy and the Americans accept it as a reality. The point is, Germany and Russia have had a dense relationship and the Ukraine crisis comes in handy for Washington to try to redefine the parameters within which German-Russian relations will work in future. 

In India’s case, if Washington dared to bully the Modi government, it was largely because in the post-Cold War era, under successive Congress governments, India’s relations with Russia got atrophied to such an extent that Americans convinced themselves that it was a conscious Indian policy direction dictated by the compulsions of the “Washington Consensus,” which has been a beacon light for India’s past leaderships. Unsurprisingly, the Biden Administration misjudged that Modi too must be fair game.

But the core difference between the German and Indian predicament is that while German industry is a stakeholder in the relationship with Russia, India’s corporate houses, for reasons best known to them, sidestep the Russian turf in deference to the US wish. Thus, Washington has powerful Indian lobbyists and, therefore, the Modi government’s audacity to pursue an independent policy toward Russia becomes commendable. 

The chances are that Germany may pick up the threads of its relationship with Russia once the Ukraine conflict ends. In the chronicle of the “German Question” in European history, Russia had the role of a balancer, mostly. But there is a deep economic and political crisis waiting to erupt in Germany and how it pans out is crucial.

The rising inflation and the dramatic fall in living standards is souring the German mood, as the debris from Ukraine falls on it. So far, an estimated 5 million Ukrainian refugees have entered Europe. This figure is expected to double in a near future.

Meanwhile, the looming food crisis will also put tens of millions of people in Africa or the Middle East on the verge of starvation fuelling in turn large scale migration to Europe. Such migration will inevitably bring the dregs of Ukrainian society into Germany, which means that organised crime, human trafficking, illegal drug distribution and transnational crime, etc. will increase. Make no mistake that the Ukrainian mafia will introduce a new vicious culture of crime as it begins to dominate the European streets.

All in all, a fine balance has been struck during Modi’s visit. The joint statement conceded the host country’s prerogative to reiterate its “strong condemnation of the unlawful and unprovoked aggression against Ukraine by Russian Forces.” But it formed a “stand alone” statement of a solitary sentence, which helps signal India’s distancing from it. Germany joined India’s call for an “immediate cessation of hostilities,” although Berlin just announced a major transfer of offensive weaponry to Ukraine as part of the US-led “coalition of the willing” and implicitly acquiesces with the Biden administration’s aggressive agenda of “weakening Russia” militarily.

Significantly, the sombre mood in Germany got reflected in the joint statement. The Indo-German economic relations are far below potential and will remain so. CNN carried a grim report in the weekend that not only is German economy heading into a recession but it may suffer “structural damage” that will make recovery a drawn-out process. 

Clearly, behind the German rhetoric today, the fact remains that Berlin’s intelligence apparatus played a dubious role in Ukraine by navigating the ascendancy of the neo-Nazi forces to usurp power in Kiev in the coup in February 2014. This controversial past is now further complicated by Berlin fuelling the conflict by despatching tanks into Ukraine, which was after all the invasion route of Nazi Germany. 

When it comes to Ukraine, Germany doesn’t make good company for India. We have a transparent record and with great honesty and integrity, Modi could forewarn , with Scholz listening, that “there will be no winning party in this war, everyone will suffer.”    

May 3, 2022 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 2 Comments

India looks to scoop up offloaded Western assets in Russia

Samizdat | April 28, 2022

India has asked state-run energy companies to evaluate the possibility of acquiring oil major BP’s stake in sanctions-hit Russian firm Rosneft, sources told Reuters on Thursday. BP had earlier announced it was abandoning its 19.75% stake in the Russian company.

Sources familiar with the matter said that the Indian oil ministry last week conveyed its intent to ONGC Videsh (OVL), Indian Oil, Bharat Petro Resources, Hindustan Petroleum’s subsidiary Prize Petroleum, Oil India and GAIL (India).

The ministry also asked OVL, the overseas investment arm of Oil and Natural Gas, to consider buying a 30% stake held by US supermajor ExxonMobil in the Sakhalin 1 project in Russia’s Far East. OVL already holds a 20% stake in the project.

One of the sources said Indian companies hope to get stakes in Russian assets at discounted rates, given the risk involved.

“Our effort has been to see how we can stabilize economic transactions, economic engagements with Russia in the current context … There are of course constraints, there are sanctions by some countries, and we will have to kind of work through that,” India’s foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, according to media reports.

April 28, 2022 Posted by | Economics | , | Leave a comment

INDIA TODAY INTERVIEWS SERGEY LAVROV IN MOSCOW

April 19, 2022

Interview by Geeta Mohan of India Today.

April 21, 2022 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Video | , , | Leave a comment

India set to boost Russian energy imports

Samizdat – April 19, 2022

Indian importers plan to increase purchases of Russian crude oil and coal at discounted prices, media reports have stated.

According to The Economic Times, India’s state-owned oil refiners plan to boost Russian imports, shifting their purchasing strategy from tenders to negotiated deals in order to get larger discounts.

“In the coming weeks, Indian importers expect an increase in oil purchases from Russia. Due to the events in Ukraine and the outbreak of Covid-19 in China, India can get more oil at a more attractive price than before,” the publication stated, citing market sources. India has already increased purchases of Russian oil, having bought 15 million barrels of it since late February at a 25% discount. The discounts were offered by Moscow to secure trade contracts, amid the sanctions, placed on Russia by the US and its allies in response to its military operation in Ukraine. India has declined to join the sanctions campaign.

Separately, S&P reported that India is looking to raise imports of Russian coal amid stockpile shortages, as Moscow’s discounted prices are much lower than those on Australian and South African coal. Also, new purchase offers are expected soon, as, according to data from India’s Central Electricity Authority, stockpiles at Indian power plants as of April 13 were enough for little over eight days of coal burn. India imported 1.76 million metric tons of coal from Russia in 2021, according to data from Iman Resources. Market sources say that the only obstacle to buying Russian oil and coal for Indian importers is the difficulty in finding a payment method.

Western countries have cut off Russian banks from using the SWIFT financial messaging network, which facilitates interbank payments, and have limited their ability to conduct business using the US dollar and the euro.

However, at the end of March reports emerged that Russia and India were working to create a new transaction mechanism for bilateral trade, which would allow for settlements in national currencies, rubles and rupees. Reports say the countries may opt for adopting the Russian Financial Message Transfer System (SPFS) for bilateral trade, which is an analog of SWIFT.

According to analysts, a rupee-ruble trade mechanism is key to continued trade growth between the two countries, as India’s economy needs Russian energy and commodities to grow and Russia needs the huge Indian market to offset the impact of Western sanctions.

April 19, 2022 Posted by | Economics | , | 1 Comment

India defies Western pressure to stop Russia trade

Samizdat | April 14, 2022

Weeks after snapping up discounted Russian crude, India is setting for a major increase in its purchases of coal from the sanctioned country. The world’s sixth biggest economy is focused on its energy security, disregarding attempts by the US and its allies to isolate Moscow.

In March, India’s coal imports from Russia reportedly surged to a two-year high. The Asian country purchased 1.04 million tons of Russian coal, the highest amount since January 2020, according to Matthew Boyle, lead dry bulk analyst at commodity intelligence firm Kpler, as cited by CNBC.

Last week, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order banning the import of Russian coal along with crude oil, gasoline, petroleum products, oils and liquefied gas as part of a new batch of penalties against Moscow over its military operation in Ukraine. Later, the European Commission proposed banning Russian energy imports, including coal. However, the bloc’s policy-makers have failed to agree on a new package of sanctions.

“Markets suspect that India and China may boost coal imports from Russia, offsetting some of the impact of a formalized EU ban on Russian coal imports,” Vivek Dhar, director of mining and energy commodities research at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia told media.

Last week, India’s steel minister Ramchandra Prasad Singh said that the country is looking to double imports of Russian coking coal, a vital ingredient for steel-making. Singh added that India had imported 4.5 million tons but did not indicate the period he was referring to.

Coal accounts for nearly 70% of India’s electricity generation, according to the International Energy Agency’s 2021 outlook. The nation is ranked as the world’s second-biggest consumer and importer of coal, after China. Last year, India was hit by a coal shortage amid soaring post-pandemic power demand.

Russia is the world’s sixth-largest coal producer. In 2020, 54% of the nation’s coal exports reportedly went to Asia, while about 31% went to Europe.

“Despite warnings from the West, India continues to lean into their supply-chain relationship with Russia for natural resources like oil and coal,” Samir N. Kapadia, head of trade at government relations consulting firm Vogel Group explained.

According to the analyst, a currency swap agreement would help the partners “to bypass some of the financing challenges in the market.”

April 14, 2022 Posted by | Economics | , | Leave a comment

India key to alternative payment mechanism for Russia

By Paul Antonopoulos | April 13, 2022

The war in Ukraine has focussed attention on Russia’s global exports as sanctions on the country have led to sharp rises in various commodity prices. As Russia is a key supplier of not just oil and gas, but also wheat, metals and fertilizers, the problem is further aggravated due to Russia’s exclusion from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) mechanism, which means that payments for trade with Russia are not permissible in dollars.

Indian exporters have payments of around $400-500 million pending in Russia due to the war in Ukraine and the subsequent economic ban on the country and its exclusion from the SWIFT mechanism by the western powers. In 10 months of FY22, India’s exports to Russia totalled $2.85 billion against $7.90 billion of imports, according to Bank of Baroda Economic Research data.

Discussions on a Rupee-Ruble trade mechanism is an inevitability after Russia’s exclusion from SWIFT. As economic sanctions against Russia are used as a weapon of war by the western powers, the countries trading with the Eurasian Giant need to have an alternative mechanism for payments. Some experts have suggested to identify an Indian bank in which Russia would deposit rubles, while India will deposit rupees. Russia would use all the rupees it gets from Indian importers to buy goods; Indian exporters would use the rubles to pay for imports from Russia.

This is especially crucial for India as sanctions on Russia have adverse effects on Indo-Russian trade. Amidst the uncertainties, there has been a substantial depreciation in the Rupee (Rs. 77/Dollar), making Indian imports more expensive. However, India’s non-weapon non-oil trade with Russia is miniscule, and so the effect would be minimal.

None-the-less, the exclusion of Russia from SWIFT as part of sanctions meant that millions of dollars in payments for Indian tea, steel, chemicals and pharmaceuticals have been held up. Tea exporters say that the necessity of rupee payment has come if the dollar payment has become impossible. This is significant when considering that India is the largest exporter of tea to Russia, amounting to 43-45 million kilograms.

The rupee-ruble trade mechanism will likely open an alternative channel for the Global South to continue trading with Russia. This would be possible because many Russian banks are already present in India. Large Russian banks with a presence in India include VTB, Sberbank and Gazprombank. Russia’s state-owned development bank VEB is also engaged in such trade.

VEB and the Reserve Bank of India are in the process of finalising an alternative transaction platform to facilitate bilateral trade. Apart from facilitating India-Russia bilateral trade, the Rupee-Ruble platform might facilitate the Global South’s alternative financial transactions with Russia.

Increasing economic sanctions have created problems in other currency zones as well, particularly Iran, demonstrating why many countries are entering into currency swap deals to continue trading without depending on the dollar.

The post-World War western dominated financial architecture is a skewed global financial system. In view of this, the Rupee-Ruble mechanism may open an era of trade without dollars. The global financial system should not be leveraged as a weapon of war by any group of countries, otherwise it would lose trust.

The biggest problem for developing countries arises from the fact that Russia exports significant quantities of grains and has imposed a halt on grain shipments to its neighbours in the Eurasian Economic Union until the end of August. This is to “maintain stability on the Russian market”. The two largest buyers of wheat from Russia, Egypt and Turkey, have seen disruptions in supply due to closure of Black Sea ports as the war in Ukraine rages on. As Russia and Ukraine supply one-third of the total global supplies of wheat, the disruption in supply has pushed prices up.

What the West has not considered though is that the problem might be complicated further due to Russia’s exclusion from the SWIFT mechanism. In such cases, Rupee-Ruble trade will be another step towards the de-dollarization of the global economy as countries seek safety from potential sanctions and economic attacks from the West. As the Global South suffers from a war being waged in far off eastern Europe, it is inevitable that they will explore an alternative payment system as they do not want to lose their economic relations with Russia and will use the Indian model as a guiding principle.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst.

April 13, 2022 Posted by | Economics | , | 1 Comment

Pentagon warns India of China threat

Samizdat | April 12, 2022

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin hosted his Indian counterpart, Rajnath Singh, on Monday, calling for closer military ties between the countries and warning of security threats posed by China and Russia.

“We’re meeting at a critical moment in the US-India defense partnership,” Austin told Singh as Monday’s talks began. He added that Washington and New Delhi both believe in a “free and open Indo-Pacific” underpinned by respect for national sovereignty and the rule of law, but “we’re facing urgent and mounting challenges to this shared vision.”

Beijing is undermining security in the region by building “dual-use infrastructure” along its border with India and making unlawful territorial claims in the South China Sea, Austin said. “The United States stands with India in defending their sovereign interests,” he pledged.

Austin argued that like China, Russia is trying to “change the status quo by force,” adding, “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the humanitarian devastation that it has created are blatant attempts to undermine the international order that is grounded in the rules and the principles that we share.”

The US defense chief said that as the world’s largest democracy, India is “central to this rules-based order,” and he called for collaboration with “like-minded partners.” Those ties may include co-development of weapons.

Austin and Singh followed their talks by holding a so-called 2+2 meeting with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. “This is a momentous moment in global affairs, and I think as a result, this partnership is even more consequential and more vital,” Blinken said.

However, the partnership has been strained in recent weeks amid efforts by the US and its Western allies to punish and isolate Russia over the Ukraine conflict. Late last month, a top US national security official warned India that there will be “consequences” for countries that try to “circumvent” Washington’s sanctions campaign against Moscow.

“We are keen for all countries, especially our allies and partners, not to create mechanisms that prop up the ruble and that attempt to undermine the dollar-based financial system,” deputy national security advisor Daleep Singh told reporters during his visit to New Delhi on March 31.

President Joe Biden’s top economic advisor, Brian Deese, reiterated those concerns last week, saying Washington had warned India that it would face significant and long-term costs if it aligned strategically with Russia. “There are certainly areas where we have been disappointed by both China and India’s decisions, in the context of the invasion,” he said.

India has declined to impose sanctions against Russia and has ramped up purchases of Russian oil. Indian and Russian officials also have discussed a ruble-rupee payment mechanism for trade between the countries, bypassing the dollar and the euro.

Another source of tension between Washington and New Delhi is India’s historic reliance on Russian-made weapons. India has ordered five S-400 anti-aircraft systems from Russia – in defiance of a warning from the US against the $5.5 billion deal – and it reportedly has an option to purchase more of the surface-to-air missiles.

Austin told US lawmakers last week that it’s not in India’s best interests to continue buying Russian weaponry, and the Pentagon is working with New Delhi to reduce its reliance on Moscow.

April 12, 2022 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

Asian fault lines of Biden’s war on Russia

BY M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | INDIAN PUNCHLINE | APRIL 11, 2022 

The tremors of the United States’ tensions with Russia playing out in Europe are being felt in different ways already in Asia. The hypothesis of Ukraine being in Europe and the conflict being all about European security is delusional.

From Kazakhstan to Myanmar, from Solomon Islands to the Kuril Islands, from North Korea to Cambodia, from China to India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the fault lines are appearing.

To be sure, extra-regional powers had a hand in the failed colour revolution recently to overthrow the established government in Kazakhstan, a hotly contested geopolitical landmass two-thirds the size of India, bordering both China and Russia, Washington’s sworn adversaries. Thanks to swift Russian intervention, supported by China, a regime change was averted. 

Equally, the Anglo-American project to embroil Myanmar, bordering China, in an armed insurgency has floundered for want of a sanctuary in India’s northeastern region and due to the perceived congruence of interests among the surrounding countries in Myanmar’s stability. 

In comparison, the North Korean fault line has aggravated. North Korea moves on its own timetable and has probably decided that the Ukraine crisis offers useful cover while it ramps up its testing program. Pyongyang explicitly supports Russia’s special operation in Ukraine, commenting that “the basic cause of the Ukraine incident lies in the high-handedness and arbitrariness of the United States, which has ignored Russia’s legitimate calls for security guarantees and only sought a global hegemony and military dominance while clinging to its sanctions campaigns.” 

North Korea’s objective is to enhance its security and leverage by increasing the quality and quantity of its deterrent capabilities and strengthening its bargaining position.  

On another plane, the Ukraine crisis injected a new urgency into the US efforts to cultivate new Asian partners. But Washington has run into headwinds and had to indefinitely postpone a special summit with the ten member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that was initially scheduled for end-March. No new date has been proposed, although the US had hyped up the summit as “a top priority.” 

Showing some ire, Washington has since sanctioned Cambodia, currently the ASEAN Chair. Clearly, the southeast Asian countries are chary of taking sides between the US and China or of voicing criticism against Russia.

Perhaps, the most direct fallout of the Ukraine crisis in Asia so far is the sharp deterioration in Japan’s ties with Russia. It is an unwarranted development insofar as Tokyo simply did a cut and paste job, copying all the US sanctions against Russia (including against President Putin). Prime Minister Kishida wantonly destroyed what his predecessor Shinzo Abe had carefully cultivated as a cordial, friendly relationship. 

Japan now openly refers to Russian “occupation” of the Kuril Islands — something it hasn’t been doing in the past. Moscow retaliated by designating Japan as an “unfriendly” country. Yet, analysts were estimating until recently that Russia and Japan had congruent interests in blocking China’s Arctic ambitions and were, therefore, moving toward solving their dispute over the Kurils.

Suffice to say, Kishida’s motivations in an abrupt turnaround to make Kurils a potential flashpoint in relations with Russia are, to say the least, to be traced to the broader US strategy to isolate Russia.

Meanwhile, a contrarian development has also appeared in China’s challenge to the US’ Island Chain strategy in the Western Pacific by negotiating a new security deal with Solomon Islands. This game-changing development may have extensive consequences and is dangerously interwoven with the Taiwan issue. Biden is reportedly dispatching a top White House official to Solomon Islands to scuttle the deal with China. 

The Biden administration is now doubling down on India to roll back its ties with Russia as well. That becomes a fault line in the US-Indian strategic partnership. What must be particularly galling for Washington is the likelihood of India pursuing its trade and economic cooperation with Russia in local currencies. Indeed, China and India have taken a somewhat similar stance on the Ukraine crisis.  

Given the size of the Chinese economy and the high potential of growth for the Indian economy, their inclination to bypass the dollar would be a trend-setter for other countries. Russia, hit by Western sanctions, has called on the BRICS group of emerging economies to extend the use of national currencies and integrate payment systems.

Suffice to say, the “weaponised dollar” and the West’s abrasive move to freeze Russia’s reserves sends a chill down the spine of most developing countries. Nepal caved in to ratify the Millennium Challenge Corporation agreement following threat by a middle ranking US official! 

There is no conceivable reason why the NATO should become the provider of security for the Asian region. That is why Afghanistan’s future is of crucial importance. Without doubt, the regime change in Pakistan is partly at least related to Afghanistan. The Russian Foreign Ministry has disclosed certain details of the US interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs and its pressure on former Prime Minister Imran Khan. 

But time will show how realistic are Washington’s  expectations of inducting Pakistan into the US orbit and making it a surrogate to leverage the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Russia and China are making sure that the door remains closed to NATO’s return to Afghanistan. They have undercut Washington’s recent efforts to co-opt the Taliban leadership in Kabul. (See my blog US pips regional states at race for Kabul.) 

The message out of the recent Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on the Afghan Issue Among the Neighbouring Countries of Afghanistan in Tunxi, China, is that in that country’s transition from chaos to order, the regional states hope to undertake a lead role. Thus, the regional states have incrementally marked their distance from the West’s exceptionalism and are instead adopting a persuasive track through constructive engagement. The joint statement issued at Tunxi reflects this new thinking. 

The developments over Afghanistan provide a signpost that any attempt at imposing Western dominance over Asia will be resisted by the regional states. Most Asian countries have had bitter experiences with colonialism in their history. (See my blog India’s dilemma over West vs. Russia

Although the American analysts underplay it, the fact remains that the conflict in Ukraine is bound to impact the “Asian Century” very significantly. The US is determined to transform NATO as the global security organisation that will act beyond the purview of the United Nations to enforce the West’s “rules-based order.” 

The West’s desperate push to weaken Russia and tilt the global strategic balance in the US’ favour aims to clear the pathway leading to a unipolar world order in the 21st century. In a recent interview, Hal Brands, Henry Kissinger distinguished professor of global affairs at Johns Hopkins, put across the US strategy behind the war in Ukraine as very logical: 

“Well, there’s long been a debate in the United States over whether we should prioritise competing with Russia or China or treat them as co-equals. And that debate has flared up again in the context of this war. I think what the war indicates, though, is that the best way of putting pressure on China, which is the more dangerous and the more powerful of the two rivals, is actually to ensure that Russia is defeated, that it does not achieve its objectives in this war, because that will result in a weaker Russia, one that is less capable of putting pressure on the United States and its allies in Europe and thus less useful as a strategic partner for Beijing.

“The United States simply can’t avoid the reality that it has to contain both Russia and China simultaneously.” 

April 11, 2022 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Unheeded US warning toward India highlights antipathy of non-Western countries

Global Times | April 7, 2022

The US warned India once again. White House top economic adviser Brian Deese claimed on Wednesday that the consequences of New Delhi’s “more explicit strategic alignment” with Moscow would be “significant and long-term.”

What a bullying manner! This is an open threat by the US toward India on the latter’s own business. When it comes to the Ukraine crisis, the US is blatantly displaying its hegemonic mentality – either you are with the US, or against the US. This echoes exactly the same slogan of George W. Bush, made in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, said Zhao Gancheng, a research fellow at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies.

The US is again telling the world: As a superpower, it has the right to define who you are.

Even if India has not “aligned” with Russia, and has kept a relatively balanced position during the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the US does not buy it.

“Remaining neutral makes no sense to the US. What Washington wants from New Delhi is completely standing by the side of the US,” Zhao said.

The US is afraid that ties among China, Russia and India may further develop due to the Ukraine crisis, although systematic cooperation of the three countries is not rare.

Moreover, the US expects that everything goes well in terms of the Quad summit, which is schedule to be held in Japan, tentatively by the end of June. Yet, if India does not make a statement in line with the US expectation, the summit may hardly take place. Constant warnings over “consequences” against India emerged from the US, revealing Washington’s anxiety.

Before Deese’s remarks, the US has already warned India more than once against constructing alternate payment mechanisms with Russia or buying more oil from Russia. Yet the threats turned out to be in vain, as India benefits from its ties with Russia, which can’t be substituted by the US.

Also, India’s response mirrors an increasingly obvious trend – the US has underestimated the antipathy the rest of the world holds for it. Not only India, but the majority of the general public in China and Latin American countries and other developing world have not taken sides with the US in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, even if the US believes it is standing on the moral high ground. They do not support sanctioning Russia. As Gérard Araud, former French ambassador to the US, put it, even if they don’t particularly like Russia, a lot of non-Westerners are supporting it only because they are confronting with the West.

Quite a few countries have long been bullied by the US. They have long developed a rebellious psychology. This time, the more sanctions Washington imposes on Russia due to the conflict, the more aversion the US will have to face.

The US has long believed it masters superior strength, values, and civilization, which in turn has given birth to its overbearing arrogance. As a result, when interacting with non-Western countries, the US either coerces them or issues warnings to them. Since Washington is accustomed to dealing with others from a position of strength, its relations with other countries have never been on an equal footing, Li Haidong, a professor from the China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, told the Global Times.

That’s why the world has been witnessing the US talking about the so-called democracy while it makes dictatorial orders toward other countries.

The resentment from non-Western countries toward such hegemonic arrogance has long been lurking. It is now surfacing during the ongoing Ukraine crisis, along with the real status of the US in international society – It has imposed sanctions on Russia yet has failed to reach expected effects; It claims to be on the justified side, but most countries believe it is the US-led NATO that has turned Ukraine into a pawn, threw it under the bus, and worse, attempted to prolong the war; It pushed India, one of its closest partners, to take sides, but only gained India’s cold shoulder.

Since the outbreak of the conflict, Indian people seem to have been fed up with the US putting pressure on or threatening India. Many of them asked: What kind of a partner is this? New Delhi’s current balanced diplomacy is thus warmly welcomed by the Indian public. This is a sign of their repugnance toward Washington.

Today, the US would be self-defeating if it stubbornly believes that whoever it cozies up to would feel honored and dance to its tune. Gone is the time when US warnings work.

April 9, 2022 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

Interpreting The US’ Threat Of “Significant & Long-Term Consequences” For India

By Andrew Korybko | One World Press | April 7, 2022

Director of the White House National Economic Council Brian Deese told reporters on Wednesday that there will be “significant and long-term consequences” if his country assesses that India has engaged in a so-called “more explicit strategic alignment” with Russia. New Delhi has thus far impressively practiced a policy of principled neutrality towards Moscow’s ongoing special military operation in Ukraine and the New Cold War more broadly between the US on one hand and Russia and China on the other. This South Asian state is the world’s largest and most important non-aligned country that’s setting a proud example for the rest of its Global South peers. The US is afraid that countless more countries will follow India’s lead by continuing to bravely defy Washington’s unilateral hegemonic pressure to sanction Russia.

Deese’s remarks represent the most ominous American threat to India yet since ties between these two Great Powers became complicated from summer 2020 onwards into the present day. Considering the context of the rolling “South Asian Spring” regime change scenario that the US simultaneously activated against Pakistan and Sri Lanka over the weekend, his statement adds credence to suspicions that India is actually the ultimate target of this campaign. It’s unclear what “significant and long-term consequences” will befall Indian-American relations, but it certainly seems like their ties will at the very least continue deteriorating if the US continues aggressively pressuring India to sacrifice its objective national interests for its supposed partner’s sake.

The sudden onset of regional stability along India’s periphery is intended to destabilize that country itself, both immediately and over time. In the event that the Pakistan and/or Sri Lanka’s multipolar governments are replaced by American puppets, then US bases might pop up in those neighboring countries. The so-called “anti-Indian hawks” in Islamabad’s “establishment” might become emboldened to violate the year-long ceasefire with New Delhi in order to punish that country by proxy at Washington’s behest for its policy of principled neutrality. With respect to Colombo, a US naval base could threaten India’s Sea Lines Of Communication (SLOC). Washington might even use the island as a base to encourage separatist movements in Southern India.

To be absolutely clear, India is not engaging in a so-called “explicit strategic alignment” with Russia, it’s simply advancing its objective national interests by remaining neutral in the Ukrainian Conflict and refusing to sacrifice its own for America’s sake. By default, however, the zero-sum unipolar hegemonic perspective embraced by US strategists influences them to regard this balanced policy as supposedly “taking Russia’s side” in the New Cold War. This false assessment is then in turn incorporated into its policy formulation towards that country, thus resulting in Deese’s ominous threat. Given the US’ decades-long track record of betraying former partners in the worst ways possible by orchestrating regime changes and even waging Hybrid Wars against them, India should be very concerned by what he just said.

America seems to be preparing for a fundamental change in its relationship with India, which will certainly affect the balance of interests in Eurasia. Thus far, New Delhi has been doing its utmost to retain that balance between itself, Russia, and China, ergo its policy of principled neutrality in order to ensure that Moscow doesn’t become disproportionately dependent on Beijing in response to the US-led West’s unprecedented pressure campaign. Nevertheless, India also hoped to retain excellent relations with the US at the same time in order to further synchronize the geo-economic aspects of their respective Indo-Pacific strategies. This grand strategic balancing act is now at risk of becoming unbalanced if the US unilaterally decides to worsen relations with India.

The form that this could take remains unclear, but the reader should remember that an intensification of information warfare against India as well as potential economic warfare and possibly even other more dangerous forms of Hybrid Warfare can’t be discounted due to the US’ track record. Security threats will spike in the event that the Pakistani and/or Sri Lankan governments are overthrown throughout the course of the ongoing “South Asian Spring” regime change campaign that the US has unleashed throughout the region. With these forecasts in mind, it’s of the highest importance that the South Asian states seriously consider reviving the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in order to advance “regional solutions for regional problems” and thus thwart the US’ plots.

Andrew Korybko is an American political analyst.

April 7, 2022 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | 6 Comments