From Océane Guillaume and Cédric Romain, in Maastricht, Belgium
Main Article: 1335 words
20 minutes’ reading
Southern News & Feature Service Exclusive
A reorganised power-bloc polarisation of the world is emerging. The bitter European winter is heralding the restart of the cold war. That development could render other parts of the globe red hot. India is at the centre of this developing geopolitical tornado that begins blowing from Washington, District of Columbia [DC] when Donald Trump enters the White House as the next President of United States of America.
The fly in the ointment for the USA seeking closer ties with Russia is India. Washington needs to keep using India to keep China on tenterhooks. This has landed land New Delhi in a piquant situation. New Delhi is yet to figure out on which side it would be.
India has to watch out and be extremely careful in its geopolitical reactions. It is a founder member of the BRICS grouping which may admit newer European members. India wishes a permanent membership of the United Nation’s Security Council [UNSC]. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has initiated a new dialogue named after India’s National Capital Region’s left ventricle Raisina Hill.
The three day dialogue will also features former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, former Canadian and Australian PMs Stephen Harper & Kevin Rudd, Nepalese PM besides host of senior Ministers and officials from India and abroad.
The talk fest, sponsored by one of India’s richest business houses headed by Mukesh Ambani, is in direct competition with the West dominated cosy fireside chats in Davos, Switzerland, under the auspices of World Economic Forum, also underway. It is being attended by China’s boss Li Jinping – with Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif and the Islamic nation’s newest military advisor and former Pak General – Raheel Sharif .
New Delhi has serious unresolved border disputes with China. Beijing keeps stymieing India on vital issues of terrorism with special emphasis on Pakistan openly illegal claim on the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor passing through the Kashmir area held by Pakistan is a clear signal against India’s vital interest in that region. Further, upon completion, Pakistan the global origin of terrorism would also be the conduit route for crude oil from the Islamic Middle-East and open the floodgates to pillage another emergent nation that depends on India for important issues of security – Afghanistan, whose fabled riches buried underground are estimated at US$ 30 trillion.
The dragon nation dumps products superior to those made in India at bargain basement prices and on easy credit – a well identified ruse used to bankrupt western nations in the past. This financial warfare succeeds in keeping India poor.
India, a vibrant democracy, western analysts here said, has plenty of matters of common interests with the West and nothing at all as a common political denominator with Russia, which is nothing but a newer incarnation of the erstwhile USSR.
The danger, however, is from a “tacit understanding” between Russian boss Putin and US President-elect – Donald Trump.
Should Washington under Trump begin a cosy tie-up with Moscow, Sino-business interests’ calls for vigorous globalisation may bankrupt the US of A. The pointers are ominous.
Trump indicated he would clamp anti-dumping taxes on Chinese imports – which could hurt China financially.
If Putin is to come closer to the USA under Trump, that deal would fail – leaving Russia cash-strapped.
The alternative for Russia is to somehow ensure larger markets in NATO region’s western European end and hope to jettison China when it suits Putin.
With China buying the bulk of Middle-East oil - with Pakistan playing the dishonest broker – a new axis headed by Beijing and comprising dictatorial Arab and African nations could firm up.
The EU with Germany as the head followed by most NATO member-nations sans the United States of America could be one of the two newest alliances.
Europe’s strongwoman Angela Merkel is wise to such plans and hopes to hammer a new NATO group sans the USA.
An ‘independent’ Europe at war with Russia
Russia reviving Warsaw Pact group have unsettled many calculations.
Germany’s somewhat beleaguered political boss Angela Merkel expressed ire against US President elect Donald Trump even as the global financial tète-tète under the auspices of World Economic Forum at Davos was underway.
Russia’s love for Trump and the West’s worst suspicions were confirmed by the harangue of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
“Indeed NATO is a vestige [of the past]. [The organization] is focused on confrontation. Hence, it is hardly a modern structure meeting the ideas of stability, sustainable development and security,” Peskov told reporters.
The reactions came following US Presidential elect Donald Trump terming the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation “obsolete” in a media interaction.
“NATO isn’t fair to the US as [the countries within the 28-nation-group isn’t] paying its fair share [of the costs] of the protection [cost]. It isn’t taking care of terror,” Trump was quoted as saying in The Times.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed “amazement” after Trump linked Nazism with modern-day Germany.
German Vice-Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel underplayed his anger and said, “Trump says we are spending too little to finance NATO. We are making gigantic financial contributions to refugee shelters in the region, and these are also the results of US interventionist policy.”
Election handicap in 3 EU nations with a Russian twist
Presidential elections in France plus general elections in Germany and the Netherlands in 2017 have necessitated an alert vigil on the intentions of Russia, opined Richard Youngs, an expert on democracy and EU foreign policy at Carnegie Europe. He laid special emphasis on computer hacking.
“Illiberal ideas against liberal ideas are structural political problems. An analytical strategy to defend core liberal values in Europe from outside are the needs of the hour,” Youngs said on the eve of Trump being sworn in.
Atlantic Council expert Alina Polyakova was particularly severe on EU’s reaction to disinformation.
Western democracies have long ignored, overlooked, or denied the existence of Kremlin “influence operations” – the very centre off Russian military designs to destabilise EU through the manipulation of media, society, and politics, Polyakova observed slamming the efforts as acts comparable to Trojan Horses, Polyakova said.
“European policymakers can and should take common action to expose, limit, and counter Russia's attempt to use economic leverage and seemingly benign civil society activities to manipulate policy and discourse in open societies, through the Trojan horse syndrome,” Polyakova's report, released in November 2016 averred.
European intelligence agencies in UK, Germany and France should be given clear mandates to investigate foreign funding of political parties, is the operative sentence of her report.
This led to the European Parliament calling for the beefing up an EU task force to tackle Russia’s disinformation tactics.
David Lidington, the Conservative Party leader of Britain's House of Commons, says Russia has been employing "multiple, well-honed tactics of disinformation" for years.
“Kremlin has created 'new aggressive [television] channels to confuse and disorient the international public,” Lidington argued.
“Western democracies must counter this disinformation campaign, not with propaganda but with the truth,” Lidington added.
On December 16 outgoing President Obama warned of the danger being faced by “vulnerable open societies”.
“We can't tell people what to do,” Obama said. “What he can do is inform them and get best practices. What we also can do is warn other countries against these kinds of attacks.”
The Trump factor
The U.S. intelligence community accuses Russia of meddling in the recent election.
U.S. top envoy at the United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power, without naming Donald Trump, chastised the president-elect for casting “doubt on a unanimous, well-documented assessment of our intelligence community that a foreign government is seeking to harm our country.”
She addressed the Atlantic Council within a few hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin denied a Kremlin hand in Trump’s elevation to the White House.
“Leaders [like Putin] commonly deny their hands have been dirtied. Not acknowledging the obvious are in such nations’ interests. Those are the rules of the game. We do not expect anything different [from Putin],” Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said.
Additional reporting by TSV Hari in India
From India’s immediate neighbourhood, apart from China, other attendees are Pakistan President Nawaz Sharif, Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Former Pakistani Army Chief Raheel Sharif is another attendee. His costs are being met by Saudi Arabia. Raheel heads an international force to tackle ‘Islamic terrorism’ funded by the House of Saud and 36 other Islamic nations most of which clandestinely support ISIS.
China’s daily crude imports this year are touching 7.4 million barrels according to an analyst with S&P Global Platts, Song Yen Ling. It is up 10% from last year’s 6.7 million. China’s growing oil thirst, the Wall Street Journal reports, is a serious cause for Beijing’s concern.
China’s largest African suppliers of oil are: Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, the Republic of Congo, and Sudan. Smaller exporters include Algeria, Chad, Gabon, Kenya, Liberia, and Libya.
China has also recently cut major energy deals with Russia, as Moscow and Beijing unfreeze decades of mutual suspicion and mistrust in a growing geopolitical alliance also aimed at reducing U.S. regional and global hegemony. Middle Eastern oil still represents over 50% of China’s oil needs.
Most of this oil passes through – the Straits of Hormuz.Roughly, 20% of the world’s petroleum (about 35% of the petroleum traded by sea) passes through the strait, making it a highly important strategic location for international trade, says the relevant Wikipedia dossier.
China spends roughly US$1.6 billion per month to transport its oil from various parts of the globe to its ports. Its oil import growth rate is pegged at 16% per annum and hence – its costs could escalate beyond manageable proportions. Its oil buys are another story – accruing to US$11.5 billion a month including transportation costs.
Chinese eyes are rooted to another spot in the area that has stuff worth roughly US$ 30 trillion – in its immediate neighbourhood – Afghanistan!
According to Wikipedia, there are over 1400 mineral fields in Afghanistan. They contain barite, chromite, coal, copper, gold, iron ore, lead, natural gas, petroleum, sulphur, talc and zinc. The precious stones in the nation’s underbelly include emeralds, lapis lazuli, red garnets, and rubies.
China has a land border with Afghanistan that snakes through a chicken-neck pass called Vakhjir Pass. It passes through the Hindu Kush or Pamirs at the eastern end of the Wakhan Corridor, the only pass between Afghanistan and China. It links Wakhan in Afghanistan with the Tashkurgan Tajik Autonomous County in Xinjiang, China, at an altitude of 4,923 metres (16,152 ft) above mean-sea-level [MSL]. The pass, not an official border crossing point, has the sharpest official change of clocks of any international frontier (UTC+4:30 in Afghanistan to UTC+8, China Standard Time, in China).
Despite the common border cited above, China needs a circuitous route to enter Afghanistan – which can only be through PoK and Baluchistan. In a word, that sums up the theme behind the CPEC.
On the Chinese side, the region is home to the Uighur people and part of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region [XUAR]. It is the largest Chinese administrative division, the 8th largest country subdivision in the world, spanning over 1.6 million km2 (0.64 million square miles) It contains the disputed territory of Aksai Chin administered by China. Xinjiang borders the countries of Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Xinjiang also borders Tibet Autonomous Region and the provinces of Gansu and Qinghai. Xinjiang is divided into the Dzungarian Basin in the north and the Tarim Basin in the south by a mountain range. Only about 4.3% of Xinjiang’s land area is fit for human habitation. The Xinjiang autonomous region in China’s far west has had a long history of discord between the authorities and the indigenous ethnic Uighur population, said a BBC report.
The Xinjiang conflict is an ongoing separatist conflict in China‘s far-west province of Xinjiang, whose northern region is known as Dzungaria and whose southern region (the Tarim Basin) is known as East Turkestan. Uyghur separatists and independence movements claim that the region is not a part of China. The Second East Turkestan Republic was, it is alleged, illegally incorporated by the PRC in 1949 and has since been under Chinese occupation. The East Turkestan Independence Movement [ETIM] is led by Turkic Islamist militant organisations, most notably the Turkistan Islamic Party (formerly the East Turkestan Islamic Movement), against the government in Beijing.
In 2012, Chinese authorities asked Pakistan to hand over members of the extremist East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) believed to be operating out of the latter nation. Beijing named six terror suspects and described the group as the “most direct and real safety threat that China faces”.
In 2015, a Reuters report said that almost all members of the Uighur militant group the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) have been eliminated from Pakistan. The source was Pak President Mamnoon Hussain, who had visited Beijing. China blames violent unrest in its far western region of Xinjiang on separatist groups like ETIM, who it says want to set up an independent state called East Turkestan and have bases in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan. Many foreign experts, however, have questioned whether ETIM exists as the coherent group China claims it is.
Xinjiang has another controversial border – with the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) or Xizang Autonomous Region. It is also called Tibet or Xizang. It was created in 1965 on the basis of Tibet’s incorporation by the PRC in 1951.
Within China, Tibet is identified as an Autonomous Region. The current borders of Tibet were generally established in the 18th century and include about half of ethno-cultural Tibet. The Tibet Autonomous Region is the second-largest province-level division of China by area, spanning over 1,200,000 square kilometres (460,000 sq mi), after Xinjiang, and mostly due to its harsh and rugged terrain, is the least densely populated provincial-level division of the PRC.
If the CPEC is disrupted, China would lose its US$46 billion investment to link its Kashghar region to the Arabian Sea. The CPEC is aimed at cutting costs of importing oil, paving the way to export PRC goods through the Arabian Sea and simultaneously pose a threat to the first world’s already garbled Middle-East policy.
Thirsty for the Middle-East’s oil, China aims to cut down costs of ferrying the crude by some 1600 km as tankers have to traverse the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and the Straits of Malacca before reaching the Chinese ports. Peoples’ Republic of China is the largest importer of crude in the world at the present.
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