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A geopolitical tsunami has hit Middle East: It’s music to Modi’s India

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

A geopolitical tsunami has hit Middle East and it has the potential to change the contours and politics of the region for decades.

Israel and United Arab Emirates signed a peace deal in early hours of Friday (Indian Standard Time) which would split open the Middle East into camps of “future” and “past.”

“Future” belongs to those Islamic states who are bound to follow the example of UAE and drop the cloak of hostility of decades against the Jewish state. “Past” is those regressive actors of the region who prefer bloodshed to keep nurturing the blood-soaked tree of hatred and enmity.

First the bare facts. The United States president Donald Trump has announced that Israel and the UAE have reached a diplomatic agreement. In exchange, Israel would suspend the annexation of occupied West Bank territory.

Israel’s embattled prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, assailed by corruption charges, had announced that he would annex 30 percent of West Bank which has Jewish settlers and leave the remaining 70% in the hands of the Palestinian authority.

This was an improvement on the previous plan drawn by Jared Kushner, a senior advisor to his father-in-law Trump, which had outlined a negotiated settlement between the two: West Bank being divided between Israel (30% annexation) and Palestinian Authority (70%) who could set up an independent state. Palestinians lost little time in rejecting the plan.

A peeved Netanyahu then announced that he would annex the 30 percent of West Bank he had in mind for the Jewish state anyway by July 1. It set off a storm of words and finger-wagging. Egypt, Jordan and a host of other Arab states warned of consequences. The Jewish settlers in West Bank were unhappy too.

What happened next was a masterstroke. Israel turned this non-starter into something magical. Netanyahu somehow convinced Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of the UAE, nudged of course by Donald Trump, to shake hands and announce a formal deal of peace and prosperity between two sworn enemies. In return, Israel suspended its plan to annex part of West Bank.

Netanyahu could thus show his people that if he hasn’t fulfilled his plans in West Bank, he has been able to strike a historic deal with a traditional enemy. Zayed could tell his people that he was able to stop the annexation of West Bank.

It’s not just a win-win situation for both these nations. Other Gulf sheikhdoms like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman would lose little time in making open what they have been doing secretly with Israel behind public glare. They would hate for the UAE to offer its financial paradise in exchange for Israel’s technological prowess—be it in agriculture, health care or in cyberspace.

The losers of course would be Iran, Turkey, Yemen, Syria and all their proxies like Hezbollah, Hamas, Houthis etc who could find themselves out in cold. The Palestinian Authority has also been dealt a body blow. It’s all Arab and Gulf allies would no longer be by its side. It is in this background that one has to view the deadly Israeli cyberattack on Iran in recent months, undeniably bolstered by its growing footprints in the enemy’s camps.

Certain expected reactions are already flowing in. The Palestinian ambassador to the UAE is being recalled over. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has described the deal as “treason.” Hamas has called it “stabbing in the back of our people.”

Netanyahu meanwhile has announced his commitment to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. This is only for the consumption of his domestic audience. It won’t happen soon. Netanyahu would hope this deal with UAE would secure his place in history, like it did for Richard Nixon, battling Watergate, by opening the doors of China for the world.

It’s a marvellous news for Indian ears. India has grown astonishingly close to Saudi Arabia and UAE during Modi government’s two tenure at the helm. It had been concerned about its deteriorating ties with Iran and has watched it with alarm that the latter has fallen into the lap of China. India has also been upset by Turkey’s hostility, its president Recep Tayyip Erdogan using his acerbic tongue like a Wild West desperado does by shooting from its hips.

Better still, this deal will hurt Pakistan big time. It would force them to come out in open, in support or against the deal. It’s given it won’t support the Israel-UAE deal. It would thus only push them into more regressive elements of Islamic world. A Sunni Pakistan in bed with a Shia Iran is a delicious prospect we shall await.

Could India be attacked both by China and Pakistan together?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

If India is attacked, it would have not just China but Pakistan also to take care of on multiple fronts.

The two enemy allies would bear down on India together, not just from the west and north but also on the north-eastern theatre encompassing Arunachal Pradesh.

There is no denying the threat as multiple talks between India and China, even involving our foreign minister and national security adviser, isn’t making Beijing see reason in Ladakh. As for Pakistan, this year alone it has made 800 ceasefire violations in Jammu and Kashmir.

Indians are acutely aware of the situation. In January itself, army chief General MM Naravane had admitted of a collusion between China and Pakistan which would push India into a two-front war. The general had pinpointed Siachen and Shaksgam Valley (see image below) where the “threat of collusion is maximum.”

India can’t wait till July 29 when it would receive the first set of five Rafale jets from France and in all likelihood would deploy them on the Ladakh theatre without much delay.

The first Rafale set would land into the 17 Squadron “Golden Arrows” in Ambala next week, taking off from Istres in France, touch the French airbase in Al Dhafra near Abu Dhabi in the UAE and after a night’s halt, Indian pilots would bring them home with at least two rounds of mid-air refuelling during its entire journey. (Midair-fuelling in itself is a spectacle you mustn’t miss watching).

Rafale, a 4.5-generation fighter jet, with its Meteor missiles could end China’s presence in Ladakh in minutes. China admittedly have 600 fourth and fourth-generation-plus jets yet Rafale is said to be a league apart than both the F-16s and JF-17s in terms of range, armaments and electronic warfare capability. Most jets in Pakistan’s inventory are US-made F-16s besides JF-17s which are China-made.

But India is hampered by a lack of central command and after decommissioning of the MiG-21 Bison, it’s down to just over 30 squadrons, far less than at least 42 required to take on China and Pakistan in air in a two-front war.

India has rushed Rafale-maker Dassault co. to make several India-specific changes in the jets which were not part of the initial agreement.

India-specific enhancements include cold-engine start in high-altitude bases; radar-warning receivers, low-band jammers, infra-red search etc but the clincher is air-to-air missile Meteor and 5.1-meter-long cruise missile SCALP which could hit targets with precision as far as 120km and 600km. India, literally, won’t have to leave its airspace to hit the target it wants to smoke out across the border.

Manufactured by European firm MBDA, the Meteor leaves no escape zone once the pilot looks at his radar and pulls the kill switch. The analysts believe there is no air missile presently which is better than Meteor.

The unthinkable Nuclear slide

Rafale jets, critically, could also deliver nuclear weapons. While India hasn’t bought a nuclear warhead delivery missile along with the jets, it could do so at a short notice. The Mirages, presently, are the aircraft for nuclear weapons with India.

Sure, we are not walking down the nuclear-war path yet. It would pop humanity out of existence. There is no point in discussing who has more nuclear weapons as Pakistan and China, put together, are way above India’s N-stockpiles. Analysts expect a conventional war, if god forbids it indeed breaks out, as a nuclear war would leave no winners.

Sure, India is pulling out all the stops. Its defence allocation for the 2020-21 fiscal year stood at Rs 471,378 crores (US$65.86 billion). The latest we hear is that defence ministry has approved the purchase of 21 Russian MiG-29 and 12 Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter aircraft, costing $2.43 billion. In the pipeline is incomparable S400 missiles, a $5.2 billion deal with Russia. And then there of course is Rafale jets, a deal worth Rs 59,000 crore (US$7.9 billion).

While on Rafale, how do they perform in real situation? Well, in 2011, Rafale operated over Benghazi and Tripoli in Libya and carried out a flawless mission. It has also taken part in operations in Mali and destroyed the enemy infrastructure without a fuss. Then it was Chad in Africa where four Rafale jets hit 21 targets after remaining airborne for nearly 10 hours, starting from their base in Saint-Dizier in eastern France.  India would be the third country, besides Egypt and Qatar, to induct Rafale in its squadrons.

All this spend is to improve India’s deterrence which of course act to reduce the threat of conflicts. It hasn’t stopped Indian prime minister Narendra Modi from declaring that India could take care of Pakistan in 7-10 days. His time frame is not too off the mark: The 1971 War lasted a mere 13 days. The one against China, which we lost, all put together was a fortnight’s affair.

As for China, gone are the days when bigger countries could gulp down another nation like you would do a spoonful of honey. Saudi Arabia hasn’t been able to bring Yemen to its knees yet; Americans failed in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Soviet Union couldn’t keep Afghanistan in its palm and instead it hastened the demise of the Communist regime.  India won’t be a cakewalk too if China and Pakistan were to mire it down on multiple fronts. It could only be a Looneys’ mission. But then who would’ve thought before June 15 that things would come to such a sorry pass between India and China?