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CPEC heading north to Hindu Kush

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | December 26, 2017

From the Indian perspective, today’s announcement by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that Beijing and Islamabad are open to extending the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan dramatically changes the power dynamic in the region. Wang was speaking at a press conference following the first meeting in Beijing today of the newly created China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Dialogue format at foreign minister level, which has been a Chinese initiative. (Xinhua )

Some early deductions are possible. First, for the first time in the region, China is deploying the Belt and Road Initiative to leverage regional security and stability in South Asia. Of course, the economic aspects are there in terms of connectivity, infrastructure development, expansion of trade and investment and so on, but if Kabul becomes a CPEC partner, something fundamentally changes in the 3-way Afghan-Indian-Pakistani equation. That this would be happening under China’s mentorship is important.

Second, India is getting surrounded by BRI projects – north, east, south and west. It lacks the energy and resources to project and sustain a counter-strategy. All we are left with is our vacuous negative propaganda to malign the BRI for which there are no takers abroad. By implication, Afghanistan is rejecting India’s notions of “territorial sovereignty”, et al. At the same time, China’s interest in Indian participation in the BRI is self-evident. Time is running out for India. New thinking is needed urgently.

Third, Wang’s statement in Beijing on Monday during a media briefing on the agenda for Chinese diplomacy in the coming year singled out North Korea and Afghanistan as two regional problems where China intends to push for peacemaking. Today’s disclosure fits in with that. The trilateral format may eventually provide the platform for a regional initiative. The joint press release issued after today’s meeting called on the Taliban “to join the peace process at an early date.”

Fourth, China is displeased that the US is seeking a military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. The Trump administration is pursuing a dangerous strategy that can destabilize the entire region surrounding Afghanistan. But China will not confront the US, either. Instead, China is introducing a counter-narrative. The US will increasingly find itself in a false position by threatening Pakistan even as Afghanistan is edging toward the CPEC to “conduct win-win trilateral economic cooperation”.

Fifth, the geopolitical implications are profound. Wang today outlined that the CPEC will eventually extend northward to link with the China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor (CCWAEC), which connects China with the Arabian Peninsula. The CCWAEC starts from China’s Xinjiang and traverses Central Asia before reaching the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean Sea and the Arabian Peninsula. It crosses the five Central Asian countries and 17 countries and regions in West Asia (including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey). It is a vast landmass, which is rich in resources but backward in infrastructure.

Finally, there is a high degree of foreign-policy coordination between Beijing and Moscow. We must anticipate that it is a matter of time before Russia evinces interest in the CPEC in one form or another. President Vladimir Putin disclosed on Monday that during a phone conversation with his Turkmenistan counterpart, the subject of the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline project came up. “He invites us to participate. Generally, certain projects are indeed implemented there, and quite successfully, including by Turkmenistan. But we must take a look, of course, at how feasible projects of this kind will be,” Putin has been quoted as saying.

Indeed, the bottom line is that the tense relations with Pakistan — and the downhill slide in the relations with China — through the past 3-year period virtually shut India out of the power dynamic in the region and reduces it to a lone bystander. The scenario looks pretty bleak.

December 26, 2017 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | 1 Comment

India is on the right side of history over Palestine

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | December 23, 2017

It is reasonable to surmise that the Indian decision to vote in the UN General Assembly on Thursday against the US president Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would only have been taken at the level of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India has been largely harmonizing its foreign policies with Washington through the past decade. And, to boot it, the Trump administration has openly threatened to punish any country that voted against it. Generally speaking, bureaucrats in the South Block wouldn’t jeopardize their career – or their post-retirement assignments by annoying the Americans. (Read WikiLeaks and you’ll learn more about it.) Conceivably, therefore, they would have passed the Jerusalem buck to the PMO where it was lying until the PM got back from the Gujarat campaign.

Then, there is the personal bonding between Modi and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu (who is expected to pay a week-long visit to India in January.) Won’t ‘Bibi’ take it amiss? Frankly, that is a non-issue. The arms sales to India constitute a significant source of budgetary support for Israel. Israelis are a very pragmatic lot. The Haaretz newspaper recently featured a lengthy article highlighting the RSS and affiliated Hindu nationalists as an exotic breed who adore Adolf Hitler and subscribe to the Nazi ideology. But has that prevented Israel from doing business with the Modi government? Of course not.

A third aspect is about the ideological affinities devolving upon Islamophobia between the present Indian ruling elite and their Israeli counterparts. Thus, all in all, Modi took a bold decision. Neither academics who claim expertise in West Asian studies nor diplomats who extensively served in the region – or, even ministers in Modi’s cabinet – probably expected him to take such a bold decision.

No doubt, Modi took a wise decision. India has a relationship with West Asia that goes far beyond the regimes in those countries. The West Asian region is in transition, in a historical sense, and India is doing the right thing by taking into account the groundswell of popular opinion over the Jerusalem question. This is one of those rare opportunities available for India to position itself in terms of time past, time present and time future. As a shrewd political mind, Modi senses it.

Diplomacy is far from a cynical process. The importance of principles cannot but be stressed if foreign policy is to be durable and sustainable. Good diplomacy is about maneuvering and negotiating to safeguard interests, but without jettisoning principles. In such a sense, India has had a principled stance on the Palestine issue, which it has maintained even while developing a pragmatic ‘win-win’ relationship with Israel through the past quarter century. India cannot and should not identify with Zionism. Ironically, there is a very significant body of opinion even amongst Jews who find Zionism to be repugnant as an ideology.

Finally, although Trump’s decision on Jerusalem was largely prompted by considerations of US domestic politics, there is undeniably a foreign-policy dimension to it. A former Turkish diplomat and area specialist Faruk Logoglu (who used to be Foreign Secretary when I served as ambassador in Ankara and whom I highly respect at a personal level) told the Tehran Times in an interview this week,

Trump probably calculated that the reactions from the region, especially from Saudi Arabia and Egypt would be meek and he was actually right.  The US President aims to isolate Iran by forming a Saudi-led Sunni alliance in the region with the addition of Israel. Trump’s ultimate target is Iran.  The issue of Jerusalem is just a way-station in Trump’s strategy against Iran. (Tehran Times )

Evidently, Trump is putting immense pressure on Saudi Arabia. Trump telephoned Saudi King Salman on Wednesday to rev up the anti-Iran campaign, again. But, interestingly, on the very next day, Salman phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Kremlin readout) Saudi Arabia is doing a delicate balancing act. It cannot afford to displease Trump, given the stark realities of the petrodollar. But it increasingly feels he’s a blood sucker and wants to put some space in between. One gets the impression that Saudis want to focus on their own transition and the much-needed internal restructuring. They hope to get a helping hand from Putin to work out an exit strategy in Yemen.

Israel, on the other hand, is spreading exaggerated reports at regular intervals – largely through sly remarks and innuendos –that it is having a quiet affair with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince. It is a disinformation game that Israelis are good at playing. And they have nothing to lose anyway.

Suffice to say, Jerusalem is the tip of an iceberg. But looking ahead, Trump’s Iran project is doomed to fail. Unless Israel fundamentally reorients its own strategies (which seems unlikely under Bibi), its own future may become uncertain. Iran and Turkey (plus Egypt, if it can get its act together) are the only two authentic regional powers in the Middle East. This geopolitical reality will manifest – if not already – as time passes. Therefore, keeping the relations with Israel at a transactional level without harboring romantic notions about it is the prudent thing to do.

December 22, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Islamophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pentagon weighs regional players in Afghanistan

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | December 18, 2017

The Pentagon’s latest 6-monthly report on the Afghan situation to the US Congress conveys the picture of ‘work in progress’ in regard of President Trump’s new strategy. It exudes an air of optimism. The 100-page report reiterates that the US is determined to bludgeon the Taliban into submission and make them crawl to the negotiating table.

The Pentagon’s assessment of the role of various regional powers, although the unclassified portions, provides food for thought. For a start, the report refrains from any overt criticism of Pakistan’s role. There are references to Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan but no allegation that the insurgents are getting Pakistani support. An indirect reference appears where the report takes note that “certain extremist groups—such as the Taliban and the Haqqani Network—retain freedom of movement in Pakistan.” On the other hand, the report also acknowledges that Pakistani military operations have “disrupted some militant sanctuaries.”

Secondly, the Pentagon underscores that the military-to-military leadership with Pakistan “remains critical to the success of our mutual interests in the region.” But to move forward in regional cooperation, “we must see fundamental changes in the way Pakistan deals with terrorist safe-havens.” The US intends to deploy “a range of tools to expand cooperation with Pakistan in areas where our interests converge and to take unilateral steps in areas of divergence.” Curiously, the latter part regarding “unilateral steps” has been left unexplained.

Interestingly, the report acknowledges that there are sanctuaries on Afghan soil for terrorist groups that create violence in Pakistan and walks a fine line as regards the “mutual security interests” of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It scrupulously refrains from apportioning blame. This is difficult to understand. Does the Pentagon mean that the Afghan government pursues certain policies over which the US has no control? Or, is it that there are rogue elements within the Afghan state structure?

Among regional actors, Pentagon comes down heavily on Russia’s role. Moscow’s intentions have been shown to be hostile, aimed at undermining the US’ influence in the region by “engaging with the Taliban and putting pressure on Central Asian neighbors to deny support to US and NATO efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.” But there is no allegation in the report that Russia is helping the Taliban with arms supplies.

Indeed, the chances are very remote that US and Russia would cooperate in the war effort in Afghanistan. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov disclosed last week that the US is forcing Afghan army to get rid of Kalashnikov rifles, which the military is trained to handle, with a view to eliminate Russia as a partner in any significant way. The Pentagon report claims that Afghan-Russian relations are under strain due to Moscow’s “acknowledgment of communication with the Taliban and support of the Taliban’s call” for US and NATO’s withdrawal.

In comparison, when it comes to China, the Pentagon wears kid gloves. Amazingly, the report says, “China’s low, but increasing levels of military, economic and political engagement in Afghanistan are driven by domestic security concerns… and China’s increasing desire to protect its regional economic investments.” China is seen as a benign presence. China’s involvement with the Quadrilateral Consultative Group is singled out and there is a hint at China’s potential to influence Pakistani policies.

Evidently, the US keeps in view that a need might arise for the Northern Distribution Network to be activated via the Central Asian region if push comes to shove in the relations with Pakistan.

The portion on Iran is highly nuanced. The report says in as many words that “Iran and the United States share certain interests” in Afghanistan and although Tehran on the whole seeks to “limit US influence and presence” in Afghanistan, particularly in western Afghanistan, it “could explore ways to leverage Iran’s interests in support of US and Afghan objectives in the areas of counternarcotics, economic development and counterterrorism.” The report shows understanding that “Iran’s ultimate goal is a stable Afghanistan where Shi’a communities are safe, economic interests are protected and the US military presence is reduced.”

This is a surprisingly positive assessment at a juncture when Trump is ratcheting up anti-Iran rhetoric and Nikki Haley is firing away. Clearly, the rhetoric is meant to appease Israel and Saudi Arabia, while the Pentagon, which is steering the actual policies on the ground, just stops short of acknowledging that Iran could be a factor of stability in Afghanistan.

The most interesting thing about India, of course, is that the US appeals to Delhi to provide more assistance to Afghanistan, but limited to “economic, medical and civic support”. No surprises here.

December 18, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Their Jerusalem is our Ayodhya

Babri Masjid
By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | December 7, 2017

The cat is out of the bag – the Modi government will not condemn the US President Donald Trump’s announcement recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The European Union, Russia, China and the entire Muslim world are aghast. But India ducks by claiming it has “independent and consistent… views and interests” that are “not determined by any third country.” (here)

Why such cowardly prevarication? Either the Modi government should show the courage to acknowledge that India has a pro-Zionist West Asian policy or join the vehement international opinion. There’s nothing to hide, really. PM Modi after all went and paid homage at the tomb of the founder of Zionism in broad daylight when he visited Israel, accompanied by PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

Zionism and India’s freedom struggle are antithetical to each other. Period. There is no other way to frame the moral dilemma. But, inevitably, for the Modi government, political expediency trumps morality. It simply cannot bring itself to annoy Trump. Also, Netanyahu expects Modi to stand by – after all, Israeli and Indian companies are entering into co-production of advanced drone aircraft, finally.

But then, there is more to this than an intense family affair. The Modi government has high stakes in Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem. The point is, the Modi government is also preparing for its Jerusalem announcement – construction of a Hindu temple in Ayodhya. (Both are, ironically, “campaign pledges”.)

Circumstances may vary, but the powerful symbolism is quintessentially the same – bludgeoning the “other” party into submission by creating a fait accompli. Both Jerusalem and Ayodhya are explosive issues. In a world, which is barely coping with tensions and challenges of various kinds, it is illogical to inject more poison. The toxic act is unwarranted and risky unless based on consensus within a broader framework of reconciliation.

But, on the other hand, it has become necessary to placate the ‘core constituency’ at home as well as to address compulsions that exist or are expected shortly. Certainly, Trump must shore up his Christian support base and counts on the Jewish lobby to rescue him if the Congress attempts to impeach him – that is, if Michael Flynn implicates Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner (a Jew, ironically) by telling FBI special prosecutor Mueller’s team that he had contacted the Russians during the campaign itself while acting on Trump’s instructions.

In India, too, the “core constituency” of the ruling elite is no longer euphoric. Dawood Ibrahim is still in Pakistan; Article 370 remains in the book. Equally, Make in India isn’t taking off. The best option is to follow Trump’s footfalls to shore up the support base and distract public opinion. By a strange coincidence, Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem and the 25th anniversary of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya overlapped on November 6. (Indian Express )

Of course, Trump is going to be pilloried by the international opinion and the US’ Middle East policies will run into headwinds. Hopefully, Trump will reciprocate India’s support. Two is company, as they say.

The bottom line is, China is the winner. Beijing probably anticipates it. This is what the foreign ministry spokesman said in Beijing on November 6 even before Trump made the announcement:

  • We have noted the report and are paying close attention to the relevant development. What we worry about is any potential flare-up of regional tensions. The status of Jerusalem is a complicated and sensitive issue. All parties shall bear in mind regional peace and tranquility, proceed with caution, and avoid impacting on the long-standing basis for the settlement of the Palestinian issue or triggering new rivalry in the region.
  • China firmly supports and advances the Middle East peace process. We support the just cause of the Palestinian people to restore their legitimate national rights and stand behind Palestine in building an independent, full sovereignty state along the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. We call on all parties to remain committed to resolving disputes through negotiations and promoting regional peace and stability in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions.

There is no daylight possible between China and the Muslim world. Whereas, from now onward, there is not only daylight but also moonlight possible between India and the Muslim world.

December 7, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

India to send first cargo to Russia through INSTC

The International North South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) connects India’s Mumbai to Russia’s St Petersburg and beyond
Press TV – December 6, 2017

India says it is preparing to send a consignment to Russia through a much-awaited new intercontinental multi-modal corridor that connects its port city of Mumbai to Russia’s St Petersburg.

The consignment would depart for Iran’s Persian Gulf port of Bandar Abbas in mid-January and would be thereon taken through the Iranian territory to Azerbaijan’s Baku through road and rail. It would be then taken to Russia by train.

India’s media reported that this would formally launch the International North South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) that had been in the making for 17 years. Nevertheless, the INSTC would technically function fully in a few months thereafter, reported the Economic Times.

The report added that hectic preparations were already underway to firm up all elements of the corridor in all key stakeholder states and that a Russian railway operator was expected to play key role in the INSTC.

The ship, road and rail route connects India’s Mumbai to the Iranian port of Bander Abbas and further to Baku in Azerbaijan as well as Astrakhan, Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia before stretching to northern Europe and Scandinavia.

Currently, a cargo from India to Russia is carried on freight ships via the Red Sea, Suez Canal, Mediterranean Sea, the English Channel and then the Baltic Sea.

The INSTC – which has an estimated cargo capacity of 20-30 million tonnes of goods per year – is expected to provide faster and more efficient trade connectivity between Europe and Southeast Asia.

Dry runs of the route were conducted in 2014, from Mumbai to Baku and Astrakhan via Bandar Abbas. Results showed transport costs will be 30 percent cheaper and transportation period will be 40 percent shorter than the existing routes.

The INSTC will be India’s second corridor after the Chabahar Port to access resource rich Central Asia and its market, the Economic Times wrote.

The launch of Chabahar Port – whose Phase 1 was inaugurated on Sunday – coupled with INSTC will be a game changer for India’s strategic and economic goals in the Eurasian region, added the report.

INSTC could get linked to the Chabahar Port besides Iran’s Bandar Abbas port, the daily quoted an unnamed official as saying.

India also hopes that INSTC would be connected with various other connectivity projects that the five Central Asian and other Eurasian countries have undertaken among themselves, the official said.

December 6, 2017 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

Why Belt and Road rules need makeover

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | December 6, 2017

Over the past 24 hours, the narrative by India’s self-styled “China watchers” regarding the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been shown to be quixotic. The Pakistani media has carried speculative reports that China is holding up the funding for certain road projects coming within the orbit of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) due to a revision of financial rules.

So, the BRI, after all, is not a devious geopolitical strategy but is also about money. And money doesn’t grow on trees – even yuan. Clearly, BRI is expected to be cost-effective and self-financing. And it is not about investing in unsustainable projects in basket economies with an ulterior agenda to surreptitiously acquire ‘equity’ or to entice those moth-eaten countries into a “debt trap” that eventually forces them to pawn their national sovereignty to the pawn broker in Beijing – which is what our China watchers have been propagating.

Indeed, trust the Chinese to put money only where the mouth is. The BRI is, after all, far more profound than a theatrical imperialist adventure in foreign lands. It’s about money, creation of wealth, primarily. Read up China’s current history to understand that China’s priority has never been any different.

For sure, China has excess industrial capacity and needs to export. But as with any complex architecture, it is impossible to distinguish one thread in the BRI matrix as pre-eminent. If at al, the core element of BRI is about galvanizing the “backward” regions of China. It doesn’t need explanation that China’s economic miracle has created regional imbalances in development.

In a bold statement at the party congress, Xi Jinping pledged to remove poverty from the face of China by 2020, which means lifting 70 million people above poverty line. The CPEC focuses on the development of Xinjiang (spanning a mind-boggling landmass of 1.6 million square kilometers endowed with vast mineral resources but sparsely populated.) China has been encouraging foreign investment in that region. With greater connectivity and market access, Xinjiang can be yet another locomotive of growth for the Chinese economy. Equally, the CPEC is also about creating an access route to the world market that is far more economical than the sea route.

Meanwhile, the CPEC’s second phase is about to begin, which concerns the setting up of special economic zones along the newly-laid infrastructural grid. Again, trust the Chinese to make investments that guarantee returns. That is one thing. China is open to inviting partners from third countries. Pakistan is also an increasingly attractive investment destination for western countries. General Electric is showing interest in power projects in the CPEC.

Make no mistake that Pakistan too is eager to attract US investments. During an animated discussion yesterday at the Carnegie in Washington, Pakistan’s ambassador Aitzaz Ahmad Chaudhry highlighted this aspect. He said:

  • Pakistan’s relationship with China is not at the expense of its relations with the US.
  • The US still remains Pakistan’s single most important country. It stood by Pakistan for 6 decades and is perceived as a highly benevolent country.
  • The US involvement in CPEC not only brings in technology but will also “balance out” Pakistan’s relations with China.

On the other hand, China too hopes to make the BRI a template of its relations with western countries. The Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang held a brain storming session with 250 top Japanese business executives two weeks ago in Beijing to flesh out ideas. Japan anticipates the Chinese motivations, which explains the plan it has drawn up to support participation by Japanese companies and funding for BRI projects.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made a dramatic announcement on this in Tokyo on Monday at a 2-day gathering of Japanese and Chinese business executives. “Meeting robust infrastructure demand in Asia through cooperation between Japan and China will contribute greatly to the prosperity of Asian people, in addition to the economic development of the two countries,” Abe said. He added that he hoped that Xi will visit Japan “as early as possible.” (Straits Times, South China Morning Post )

Clearly, time is not far off when China becomes the “co-investor” – rather than sole investor – in BRI projects. Therefore, China will continuously upgrade the BRI concept and its rules and regulations with a view to ensure conformity with high western standards. If the Pakistani reports are accurate, a major revision of the financial rules of CPEC projects is already going on.

China takes immense pride in the BRI. It is enshrined in China’s constitution now. The bottom line is that BRI enhances China’ stature as the flag-carrier of globalization. China hopes to create a new supply chain where its standards get global acceptability. Which means that the BRI needs to be transparent and accountable and is on par with (or even excel) western financial and banking norms and business practices.

Time is running out for our pundits who spite the BRI out of Sinophobia and keep making apocalyptic predictions. But the tragedy is that they have done immense damage to India’s interests already by propagating falsehoods and prejudices. The BRI could have been — and should have been — a template of PM Modi’s development agenda. The residual hope now will be: “When Abe goes, can Modi be far behind?”

December 6, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

India Scraps $500M Military Deal With Israel Amid Rising Popular Concern About India’s Complicity in Israeli Crimes

BDS | November 21, 2017

Yesterday, media reported that the Indian Ministry of Defense scrapped the $500M deal with Israeli arms manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems for its missile systems. Years in the making, the deal had been celebrated in international media and was finalized after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel in July. In August, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and its Indian partner Kalyani Strategic Systems opened a facility in Hyderabad to manufacture the missile systems.

The deal was cancelled after India’s state-run Defense Research Development Organisation asserted that India should not import this Israeli technology.

Jamal Juma’, coordinator of the Palestinian Stop the Wall Campaign and BNC secretariat member said:

India’s decision to scrap this massive arms deal with Israel is a huge blow to the Israeli weapons industry. This $500 million deal would have fueled Israel’s military industry, which is deeply implicated in war crimes against the Palestinian people.

It is also a major setback for Israel’s propaganda hubris that its technology is indispensable for India’s development and modernization. As many Indians are recognizing, Israel is marketing military and agricultural technologies in India and trying to cement Indian dependence on Israel.

Israel seeks a flow of Indian cash for it’s own profit and to help finance its criminal wars and apartheid regime.

India is by far the globe’s biggest importer of Israeli weapons, and Israel is enjoying almost unparalleled influence in the Indian military system. Israel is equipping the Indian army with Israeli guns, the Indian airforce and navy with Israeli airplanes and missiles, and is also providing communication systems and technology in all levels of the Indian military.

Over the last two decades, Indo-Israeli military relations have continuously increased despite various corruption scandals and technical failures.

Similar patterns have started to surface in other sectors as well. India’s 16 million-strong farmer’s union AIKS has endorsed the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) “in order to stand for the rights of the Palestinian people and to resist the corporate takeover of Indian agriculture sector by Israeli companies.”

Members of Telengana’s state assembly last week denounced state-sponsored trips of Indian farmers to Israel as “a wastage of money.”

Omar Barghouti, co-founder of  the BNC said:

We hope this is the beginning of the end of Indian complicity in Israel’s egregious violation of international law and Palestinian human rights. As Palestinians we ask the Indian people to maintain their proud legacy of commitment to independence,  to growing local knowledge and to respecting other people’s struggles for self-determination.

Israel’s regime of oppression can never be a model for the great Indian nation that once led the non-aligned movement and upheld the right of all nations to self determination and freedom. Israel exports to India what it knows best — technology that represses, militarizes and dispossesses people of their land and water rights. India is better off without that.

Last week it was announced that Indian Oil and Natural Gas Corporations are bidding for drilling rights in gas fields claimed by Israel, despite the many controversies linked to territorial disputes in such fields.  In August, India’s Adventz group signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop Israel’s Jerusalem Light Rail, which serves Israel’s settlements in and around occupied East Jerusalem in violation of international law.

Omar Barghouti said:

As large multinationals increasingly abandon their illegal projects in Israel due to effective BDS pressure, Israel has started dragging India into deals fraught with legal and political problems. Indian companies would be well advised to avoid getting sucked into Israel’s human rights violations as more and more international corporations refuse to get involved in such complicity.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) is the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society. It leads and supports the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for Palestinian rights. 

November 21, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 2 Comments

India takes part in first ever military drill with Israel

MEMO | November 14, 2017

Indian troops took part in the first ever joint military exercise with their Israeli counterparts yesterday.

Elite Indian pilots and rescue soldiers from the Garud Unit, which is said to be the equivalent of Israel’s 669 Unit, took part in the biannual Blue Flag drill at the Palmachim air base in central Israel. Over 70 aircraft from seven countries took part, including India for the first time in its history.

The military drill, which included over 1,000 personnel, was billed as having a “profound strategic meaning” said Col Itamar, commander of the Ovda base in Israel.  Holding the exercise in Israel, according to Ovada was a major diplomatic achievement.

India’s decision to take part in the drill is another sign of New Delhi’s blossoming ties with Israel under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Earlier in the year Modi visited Israel, making a historic break from its support for the Palestinians. Previous Indian Prime Ministers, including the country’s founder and revered leader Mahatma Gandhi, had opposed the Zionist state, believing it to be a colonial enterprise. The leader of the Indian independence movement against the British was strongly opposed to the idea of a Jewish national home in Palestine.

Gandhi’s opposition to the idea of an ethno-religious nation state was widely known. His towering presence directed India’s tradition of supporting Palestinian self-determination, which continued late into the 20th century where New Delhi could be seen voting against Israel frequently at the UN.

Under Modi, however, India has taken a different course. The right wing Hindu nationalist, alleged to have been the mastermind behind the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat while serving as the chief minister of the state, has cemented a deep alliance between Tel Aviv and New Delhi. His bond with Netanyahu is described by critics as a political marriage between two men who harbour virulent nationalism tinged with racism and bigotry.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Narendra Modi hold a joint press conference following their meeting in Jerusalem on 5 July 2017 [Haim Zach/GPO / Handout /Anadolu Agency]

Israel’s ability to forge such relationships also highlights its status as being the global leader in the military industry. Israel’s culture of deep militarism and years of experience supressing the political rights of the Palestinians has enabled it to export its technology of control and domination to others. Its unique experiences have also made the country an invaluable asset to governments around the world that too are confronted with new security challenges.

Despite its status as a relatively small arms dealer compared to the likes of the USA and Russia, Israel’s security exports are unmatched in terms of quality. Israel has managed to carve out a niche in the security industry, selling its experience and expertise in policing, urban warfare, surveillance, intelligence. Analysts describe this as “full spectrum domination”.

Israel’s unique role in security – what some would call suppression – can be seen from the Contras in Latin America, to the riots in Ferguson, North America;  from the massacres in Bosnia and Rwanda to the killings of Rohinga Muslims in Burma. There are numerous instances in which Israel and Israeli security companies have led the way in the pacification of the people through the export of arms, surveillance technology, intelligence and security advice.

 

November 14, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Trust is crucial to India-Russia defence ties

By M K Bhadrakumar  | Indian Punchline | November 9, 2017

The influential Russian daily Kommersant reported today on an intriguing development with ominous overtones for long-term India-Russia defence cooperation. It seems that Indian authorities gave access to a US Navy delegation of “well-trained technical specialists” to enter the top secret Russian nuclear submarine under the rubric “Project 9711″, which is on lease to Indian Navy within the framework of the so-called “special and privileged strategic partnership” between the two countries.

Apparently, the incident took place when the submarine was docked at the naval base at Vishakhapatanam while undergoing repairs. (The Indian Navy has christened the super secret Russian nuclear submarine as ‘Chakra’.) The Russian daily reported that this has been the second such serious breach of confidentiality that traditionally existed between Russia and India in defence cooperation with regard to the sharing of military technology with third parties.

In an earlier incident, a US Navy team was apparently allowed to visit the Russian-built aircraft carrier with the Indian Navy, Vikramaditya. Upon knowing about the security breach, the Russian side lodged a protest with the Indians. Obviously, that had no effect, as the latest incident involving the nuclear submarine suggests.

Unnamed Russian officials have described the Indian behavior as “outrageous.” According to Kommersant, the incident threatens to “seriously complicate negotiations both on the lease of the second nuclear submarine, and on other projects” in the field of military-technical cooperation between the two countries.

Given the high likelihood – nay, virtual certainty – that the Kommersant report is based on official Russian briefing, this must be taken as a warning from Moscow. Without going into details, Kommersant quoted Russian officials as pointing out that the incident involving the nuclear submarine is of a piece with several recent “unfriendly acts towards Russia” by the concerned Indian authorities.

It is unclear whether the paper was insinuating that such Indian behavior may be taking place without the knowledge of the political leadership in Delhi. If so, the Russian media leak could be intended to draw the attention of the Defence Ministry and the PMO. Of course, the officer corps of the Indian armed forces would have a fair share of lobbyists for American arms manufacturers. It is well-known that retired military officials have been retreading themselves at times as dalals of foreign vendors of weaponry eyeing the Indian market.

The Russian daily underscored that this whole string of incidents could have a very adverse impact on defense cooperation between the two countries, which has been successfully developing over the past five years. Interestingly, it disclosed that “specialized Russian structures are preparing retaliatory measures against their Indian partners. “Very difficult conversations are on the horizon, we have a lot of questions,” a source said. Some who spoke to Kommersant believe that, in particular, the negotiations on leasing the second nuclear submarine, which the Indian Navy planned to obtain from Russia, will be seriously complicated.”

The big question is whether the two governments are at the parting of ways as regards the sharing of cutting edge Russian military technology. At the level of the Indian political leadership, this is most certainly not the thinking. Prime Minister Modi himself is known to be a staunch believer in the raison d’etre of India-Russia strategic ties. It will be interesting to see how far India’s “natural partner” Donald Trump steps in to follow up on the US Navy team’s visit to INS Chakra. Will the Pentagon agree to lease to the Indian Navy a nuclear submarine?

There is already a cloud hanging low over the much-touted futuristic Russian-Indian collaboration to create a fifth-generation fighter aircraft. A concerted campaign has been appearing in India from time to time deliberately running down the project. (here and here.) Even foreign publications began floating the rumor that India wants to get out of the Russian deal. (National Interest, Diplomat ). The preference of lobbyists in Delhi seems to be for the American prototypes. But then, for backing out of the ‘Make in India’ venture, they must find some credible argument. Even with the best Indian ingenuity, this has not been possible so far. Funnily enough, TASS felt obliged to carry a report a few days ago (here) simply to set the record straight.

To be sure, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin’s expected visit to Delhi next month is invested with much importance. India-Russia defence cooperation has been traditionally based on great mutual trust and confidence. Therefore, the recent trends are disturbing. The Indian think-tankers and media analysts keep whining and complaining about Russian weapons going to China and Pakistan. On the other hand, some of them also happen to be lobbyists for the US interests. Testing times are ahead, for sure, as the US-Russian rivalry may also surface on the Indian strategic landscape. (See may earlier blog US strikes at India-Russia defence ties.)

November 9, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , | Leave a comment

International Community Starts Call for US to Ban All Nuclear Explosions

Sputnik – 21.10.2017

For over 20 years, the US has been signatory but not party to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), a 1996 UN ban on all nuclear explosions, for any purpose. With nuclear weapons back in the international spotlight, nonproliferation advocates have called on the US Senate to at last ratify the treaty.

Six of the nine nuclear states have not passed the CTBT: China, India, Israel (although Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons), North Korea, Pakistan and the United States. France, Russia and the United Kingdom are the only nuclear states to have signed and ratified the treaty — but the treaty can only go into effect when all 44 Annex 2 countries, nations that had or were researching nuclear power, ratify the treaty. In addition to the six nuclear state holdouts, Egypt and Iran are also Annex 2 states that have not ratified. The other 36 have done so.

Hans Blix, who once headed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), expressed skepticism that the US would ever pass the treaty, because Washington wished to keep “freedom of action for the United States.” He pushed for the US Senate to ratify the treaty, as it was signed by President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. Bans of nuclear tests “should be the least difficult of all arms control issues,” Blix said to the press on Wednesday.

​On Sputnik Radio’s Loud and Clear, hosts Brian Becker and Walter Smolarek spoke to two prominent figures in the nonproliferation movement: Greg Mello, the executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group, a nuclear disarmament advocacy organization; and Kevin Kamps, a radioactive waste watchdog with anti-nuclear power and nuclear weapon organization Beyond Nuclear.

Kamps chastised former US President Barack Obama and the Democrat-dominated Congress of 2009-2010 for not ratifying the treaty. “It’s not so easy to ratify a treaty,” said Mello. “You need two thirds, in other words, you need 67 [US Senate votes]. Complicating it is that there are some Democrats that are part of the ‘war party.’ Whenever an arms control treaty comes into the Senate, there the war party — in both political parties — wants to attach conditions: benefits to the arms contractors and to the nuclear weapons labs. They demand a very high ransom for ratifying any treaty, and so the ransom required for the CTBT signing was the resuscitation of the nuclear weapons establishment after its bad years after the end of the Cold War.”

Mello also discussed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) signed by the two largest nuclear powers, Russia and the US, in 2010. The treaty was meant to limit nuclear missiles, bombers and launchers. To pass it through the US Senate, Mello said, “the ransom required was basically the modernization and renewal of every single warhead and every single delivery system in the US stockpile, along with the factories.”

“So in other words, the Republicans, which held New START hostage, got everything they possibly could have gotten. To get that thing ratified, the cost ended up being so high that it can completely obviate the original purpose of the treaty, which was thought to be a step by some toward nuclear disarmament. But if you’re adding nuclear armament to get the treaty signed, then you can end up going one step forward, two steps back.”

“There’s a war party,” Kamps agreed. “It has its clutches in the United States Senate and it certainly has its clutches in the Pentagon. There are elements of our government, elements of our military that really like to have that option of nuclear weapons.”

They like it enough, Kamps goes on to say, to openly lie to the American people. “You know, from the early 60s until the early 90s, it turns out — we just found out from the National Security Archives a few years ago — that a lot of those underground [nuclear] tests leaked into the environment. Something like a third of the tests in the United States, a third of the tests in the Soviet Union, a third of the tests perhaps even in a place like China, were leaking through cracks and fissures — and sometimes even intentional venting of the radioactive contamination.”

“All the countries helped the others keep it secret for fear that their domestic populations would then start asking questions about their own nuclear weapons testing. The CIA, for example, helped to keep the Soviet and Russian underground test leaks quiet so that Americans would not ask any questions here about our own.”

Although the heyday of nuclear testing has ended, Mello claims that the tests continue in the form of subcritical tests. These are tests that use a very small amount of fissile material, such as uranium or plutonium, that cannot sustain a chain reaction. These “nuclear tests which don’t involve the significant fission yield are nonetheless nuclear tests just the same,” said Mello, “and they’re taking place in Nevada and also Novaya Zemlya [in Russia] and in the laboratories. With combining the data from these [subcritical] tests with computer models and very fast computers that are available to both countries, fast enough in Russia and plenty fast here, too, it is possible to get a lot of data and do a lot of nuclear weapon design.”

In other words, the superpowers stopped test-detonating monstrous bombs because advances in computer technology meant they no longer needed to. The US and Russia can keep their arsenals cutting-edge without exploding megaton-yield devices as they once did.

Kamps adds that there is a “trillion dollar nuclear modernization plan, under first Obama and now under Trump. They’re dabbling with new designs: new military applications, new military uses. It’s very dangerous, very problematic… we’re really in a race against time to try to abolish these weapons before they abolish us.”

October 21, 2017 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Red star over Nepal

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | October 8, 2017

The Communist Party of Nepal-UML led by KP Oli, Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) led by Prachanda and the breakaway Naya Shakti Nepal led by Baburam Bhattarai have announced on October 3 the formation of a grand leftist alliance for the forthcoming provincial and federal elections in Nepal on November 26 and December 7 under the new constitution. The polarization of Nepal’s fragmented political spectrum on ideological lines makes the forthcoming elections a watershed event.

In reaction to the unexpected development, the Nepali Congress is reportedly planning to assemble a motley coalition of right-wing forces with some smaller parties to counter the grand leftist alliance. Interestingly, the constituents of the right-wing alliance may include the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal, which was formed in April with the merger of six “pro-India” Madhesi parties on the advice of their mentors in India. Even more interesting is the prospect of the Hindu right-wing, cultural conservative and royalist Rastriya Prajatantra Party Democratic – a veritable clone of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party – joining the Nepali Congress-led alliance.

It doesn’t require much ingenuity to figure out that the leitmotif of the polarization into two grand alliances lies in their respective disposition toward India. The announcement of the formation of the leftist alliance on October 3 seems to have taken not only the Nepali Congress but Delhi also by surprise. The Nepali Congress is scrambling to come up with a credible contestation – conceivably, with some encouragement from Delhi.

The polarization in Nepali politics is a good thing to happen since it presents a clear-cut choice to the electorate. The blurring of the ideological divide through the period of democratization in Nepal had been a major factor breeding the politics of expediency resulting in instability in the past. The big question is whether political stability as such guarantees good governance and can deliver on growth and development. India’s current experience speaks otherwise.

To be sure, the Leftist alliance is ideologically motivated and can be trusted to be far more cohesive and capable of offering a stable government. It will be campaigning on the plank of social justice, egalitarianism and Nepali nationalism. The alliance hopes to secure a two-thirds majority in the new Parliament which will strengthen their hands to steer future amendments to the Constitution smoothly, unlike in the past. During the general election, 165 members of the National Parliament will be elected by simple vote, while another 110 will be appointed through a system of proportional representation.

Based on the performance of the two main communist parties in the elections for the constituent assembly in 2013 and this year’s local polls, the leftist alliance has a distinct chance of winning a majority in the forthcoming elections. (The communists also have a strong party machinery all over the country.) If so, Nepal will be coming under communist rule – an unprecedented political feat not only for Nepal’s fledgling democracy but for the South Asian region as a whole. Importantly, based on the leftist alliance’s performance in the November elections, they intend to form a united Nepal Communist Party. It will be a big rebuff to the Indian establishment, which succeeded so far in splintering the Left in Nepal by fuelling internecine feuds and personality clashes.

These are early days but a communist government in Nepal will profoundly impact the geopolitics of South Asia. It is useful to factor in that Nepal took a neutral stance on the India-China standoff in Doklam. India’s capacity to influence Nepal’s foreign policies under a communist government will be even more limited. Equally, it remains to be seen how Nepal’s ‘defection’ from the Indian orbit might have a domino effect on Bhutan.

A ‘tilt’ toward China may well ensue under a communist government in Nepal.  The country may embrace China’s Belt and Road Initiative unequivocally. Chinese investments can phenomenally transform Nepal. And comparisons will be inevitably drawn with the neighboring impoverished regions of Bihar and UP, which are run by India’s ruling party.

The forthcoming elections in Nepal assume great importance for India’s neighbourhood policies under the Modi government. The right-wing Hindu nationalist forces mentoring the Modi government will have a hard time in accepting the prospect of a communist government ruling the abode of the god Shiva. Will they attempt to interfere in the elections? Any overt Indian interference risks  a furious backlash, given the pervasive anti-India sentiments in the country.

On the other hand, while the BJP is unable to tolerate a communist government even in the tiny southern state of Kerala, ironically, the Modi government may have to drink from the chalice of poison by doing business with a sovereign communist government in next-door Nepal. Read, here, an interview by Baburam Bhattarai, the well-known Marxist ideologue of Nepal, on the dramatic political developments in the country.

October 8, 2017 Posted by | Economics | , , | Leave a comment

Iran, India seem to be parting ways on long coveted giant gas field

Indian PM Narendra Modi
Press TV – September 5, 2017

Iran’s Ministry of Petroleum says it has started preliminary talks with Russians to develop Farzad B but negotiations also continue with the Indians who have long coveted the giant gas field.

“For the development of the Farzad B field, we are pursuing three separate paths in parallel, but none of the options is definite yet,” director of the integrated planning at the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) Karim Zobeidi said on Monday.

The third path is the implementation of a development study plan in cooperation with a foreign consultant and Iran’s Petropars company, the official explained.

Zobeidi said negotiations with the Indians have not achieved satisfactory results but they have not stopped either and that Iran was pursuing preliminary talks with a Russian company as the second path.

“Along these two routes, the study of the development of Farzad A and B and the feasibility of the injection of gas from these fields into Aghajari (oil field) in cooperation with a foreign consultant and Petropars company is in progress,” he added.

Indian companies discovered the Farzad B gas field in Iran in 2008 and have bid several times for the development rights.

The Indians were supposed to develop the field after its exploration, but they stopped their activities after the West intensified sanctions on the Islamic Republic in 2012.

With the lifting of the sanctions, India once again called for the development of Farzad B by ONGC Videsh which is the overseas investment arm of the country’s biggest energy exploration firm.

According to an agreement, the Indians were first to submit a technical plan and then a financial proposal for the development of the field, but Iran did not agree with the other side’s financial proposals.

In the absence of an agreement between Iran and India, the development plan for Farzad B will be put to international tender.

In May, Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh announced that Iran had signed a basic agreement with Russia’s energy giant Gazprom over the development of Farzad B.

Indians shift attention to Israel

On Monday, Reuters cited India’s Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan as saying that state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp planned to bid for disputed Israeli offshore oil-and-gas exploration blocks.

A high-ranking Indian delegation visited Israel last month to discuss taking part in the tender for blocks in the Mediterranean Sea, the news agency reported.

“We will definitely bid for Israel’s oil-and-gas blocks,” Reuters quoted Pradhan as saying.

New Delhi has deep military ties with Tel Aviv but they reportedly seek to expand their relationship to other sectors such as energy and technology following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel in July.

According to Reuters, Israeli officials were pleased with the visit by the Indian economic team, while many oil majors have been hesitant to enter the Israeli market, fearing a backlash from oil-rich Arab states.

Lebanon has a long-standing dispute with Israel which stands accused of stealing Arab resources.

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has said Israel was overtly stealing Lebanon’s underwater oil and gas reserves off the coast of south Lebanon. Hezbollah has warned that it would use force to protect Lebanon’s resources.

The gas discoveries have created a new source of friction between Lebanon and Israel, which have clashed repeatedly.

Lacking in natural resources, Israel has said it had discovered two fields thought to contain about 24 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, enough to make it energy self-sufficient for decades. Lebanese leaders have said the reserves were a “golden opportunity” for Lebanon to service its huge debt and rebuild its economy.

September 5, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , | 2 Comments