US

It’s in China’s interest to keep India in good humour and here’s why

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

We could all look at clues emanating from a two-hour meeting between India’s foreign minister S. Jaishankar with Wang Yi, his Chinese counterpart, in Moscow on Thursday. Or trust the redoubtable Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to have hefted his weight in making them shake hands. But frankly, it’s in China’s interests to keep India in good humour.

As the two troops square up within a punch’s distance in Ladakh, where even a guttural breath could spark off World War III, analysts have a meltdown that India could be facing a multi-pronged war on its borders, none more so than on its eastern, northern and western ones from two heavily nuclear-armed enemies—China and Pakistan. Most are failing to connect the dots that it’s China which presently is more encircled and it’s India which is the centrepiece in the coordinated move.

Agreed, India hosting the QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) later this year doesn’t sound menacing at first glance. But the enormity of the moment won’t be lost on pros who know that India now has military logistical agreement with all three other members of the grouping: the United States, Australia and Japan. The one with the US (LEMOA) has been operational since 2016. The one with Australia was signed in June. Now, on Thursday, India and Japan, riding on the visible warmth between Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and his outgoing Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, have inked a similar military logistical deal. Who said nothing moved during the Corona?

Even as I write this, French defence minister Florence Parly would’ve left Indian shores after overseeing the official induction of 5 Rafale jets in the Indian Air Force in Ambala on Thursday. Don’t go by the innocent press releases marking the moment. In geopolitical and military sense, it carried a grave message for Beijing.

Quietly in the background, India and France have grown akin to blood brothers. It hasn’t happened overnight. As soon as the Cold War ended last century, India and France had signed a “strategic partnership.” Everyone talks of 36 Rafale jets but it isn’t much in public domain that Indian navy has already commissioned 2 of 6 Scorpene submarines being build in our own Malegaon dockyards. The third one is undergoing sea trials. India had signed a military logistics pact with France in 2018 itself. France was one of the few countries which had backed India’s decision to nuclear-test in 1998.

And this is all because like other members of QUAD, France too needs India badly for its considerable stakes in the Indian Ocean. The two countries could sign a secure communications agreement too which would allow the two navies to share maritime domain awareness. Even before Parly arrived in India, the two countries, along with Australia, had held their a trilateral foreign-secretary level dialogue on Wednesday. Surely, India-France are welcoming the likeminded in fold.

The domino effect of this all must not be lost on observers. LEMOA with the US has extended Indian navy’s reach in southwestern Indian Ocean due to French bases in Reunion island near Madagascar and Djibouti on the Horn of Africa. The logistical arrangement with Australia has bolstered Indian warships in southern Indian Ocean and the western Pacific.

There are two other logistical pacts—besides the US, Australia, Japan and France—which India has firmly secured under its belt. One is with South Korea, the other one is with Singapore. Now Indian officials are openly touting two more in near future—with the UK and Russia, the latter one possibly by the end of this year itself. Yes, Russia—you have heard it right.

And now comes something which completely has rattled the command of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). India, Japan and Australia have launched a “Resilient Supply Chain Initiative” amongst themselves. In simpler terms, it means the three countries are looking for alternatives to China in terms of relocating industries and supply chains in Indo-Pacific.

Japan, which has considerable industrial presence in China, unlike India or Australia, is even incentivizing its companies to relocate to, say India and Bangladesh. It has taken badly the recent moves by China to intensify dispute in East China Sea. Australia is badly stung by the trade spats with China. The repatriation of Australian journalists by Beijing hasn’t helped matters. India of course has a war at door.

In essence, there is an attempt to disengage supply chains in strategic areas such as telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, semiconductors etc from China. This has potential to fundamentally alter the geographical shape of cross-border industrial network in the region. It would hurt China where it hurts most.

India and China could point fingers at each other, and not just Finger 3 or 4, for the downturn of ties between two of world’s most populous nations. China could claim that it has had enough of India’s “running with the hare and hunting with the hound” attitude. India could do likewise. After all, China backs Pakistan both on its terrorism and hostility in Kashmir. But these are no better than academic discourse. The truth is India has moved firmly on its Act East Policy. And China has to look after its back. Like Doklam, this face-off ftoo is likely to end with a loss of face for the Dragon.

 

 

 

India is now poking China openly; pay close attention to its message

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

India has been rather loose with its pronouncements on “fishing” in China’s troubled waters and gain by having world shift its manufacturing epicenter to our land.

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a call to states to utilize the opportunity in post-Covid world, Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Electronics and IT minister, rather shockingly has asked the states to be “proactive” when the “anger against China” spills over.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath has followed it up by laying the doors of his state open and held conference calls with Lockheed, Cisco, Adobe, FedEx and UPS (United Parcel Service) to showcase its potential. Among others are medical device makers and pharma multinationals.

The trouble is India is far from replacing China as world’s global manufacturing hub. Even if India wants to take a hearty slice out of the pie, it needs drastic action on accompanying factors which are easy to manage in a totalitarian system like China’s than in its own federal structure.

China accounted for 28 per cent of world’s global manufacturing output compared to India’s 3.0 in 2018. This has come about not because China offers just cheap labour. A lot of countries could do it. It’s because China hefts up its muscles by additional factors of (a) networked suppliers and distributors; (b) component manufacturers; (c) loose regulatory atmosphere; (d) artificially depressing its currency for its goods to become cheaper than compared to the world. And it has been doing so for 30 years.

India, in comparison, has a gap in its intent from reality. Would it be able to ignore health, safety, environment and employment regulations which China does without a care in the world? Could it deliberately undervalue its rupee by say, buying more dollars? Could it rebate and exempt its export and import taxes? Would India be able to deploy child labour, have long working hours and provide compensation insurance like China does? Does it have a similar integrated industrial system?

If India has in mind to be a hub for mobile phone giants like Apple, the chances are slim. Rare Earth elements are key in mobile-manufacturing and China controls 97% of it. From batteries to headphones, Rare Earth is lifeline to mobiles. Besides, Rare Earth is also needed for electric cars, wind turbines, solar cells etc. (Rare Earth, in layman’s terms, are a few elements which occur in the same ore deposits and exhibit similar chemical properties yet different electronic and magnetic elements).

There is no harm in India coveting world’s top manufacturing giants. But “assembling” isn’t the same thing as “manufacturing.” A separation between the two is possible, say, with delivery-giants like FedEx and UPS. But on matters of manufacturing products, just providing “assembling” is not good enough. India needs a giant churn in manufacturing in a limited time window. China would already be at work to woo the big money with more incentives.

The larger point is geopolitical realignment. For a while now, India had been sliding in the West’s camp, led by the United States. If there was a veil of diplomacy, it’s now gone to winds. India, Israel, US, West, Saudi Arabia, Japan etc now look firmly on one side. India is now open about its bad vibes against China. A large part of it is justified given how China rails against India in international forums, blocks its entry into Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), and sings Pakistan’s tune on Kashmir and terrorism. But the likes of BRICS, SCO etc gave it a semblance of balancing. Now that optics is gone. And what happens to our deep defence reliance on Russia which is firmly embedded into China’s camp? Does it mean we also have “lost” Iran for good?

First was India’s move to scrutinize FDIs (Foreign Direct Investment) which China is vehemently protesting against. Now is this “open” intent to woo world’s biggest manufacturers. There is nothing wrong in sensing an opportunity. But why say “at the expense of China”? Unless you want to signal the West and remove the ambiguity on your neutrality.

India has just done so. It comes with collateral damage though. China enjoys tens of billions of dollars trade advantage against India. They surely would now resort to arm-twisting India. It would be messy but one hopes India has taken into account the Dragon’s next moves. Events would now happen rapidly. Watch the space.

 

Who is Donald Trump fooling on Iran?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

I am not a stockbroker but if I was I would bet big against Donald Trump unleashing a war against Iran.

I mean he heads a country which needed half a million of its servicemen to tame a small Kuwait and prepared six months to arrange for its logistics. How would do you do against a large territory like Iran?

His country United States can’t fight two medium-sized wars and can it really afford to free up Far East and China who would strangulate Taiwan the moment it’s off-radar?

And please don’t give me this Nuclear-muscle nonsense. It works best before you use it.  You can nuke a Hiroshima or Nagasaki but you can’t nuke the whole of Iran.

It’s also as if Trump doesn’t know that Pentagon would give a damn to his command for war. US can only declare war if its army wants so—as was the case with Vietnam and Iraq. The military generals of the US have already rejected the notion of abiding with the President’s order for an illegal war.

We know the US, the adolescent that it is of only 200-odd years, makes some silly mistakes (Remember the hostage crisis of the 70s: Jimmy Carter’s helicopters couldn’t fly over Iran at a low height because its filters got clogged with sand). But a war with Iran would be worth an Oscar of the Absurd.

For one, if you don’t allow oil out of Iran to the world; Iran would stop any oil to go out of the Middle East (see picture). Shias are everywhere:  60% of Iraq is Shia; 80% of Bahrain is Shia; the majority in Kuwait is Shia; the oil in Saudi Arabia is controlled by Shia. Iran would damage tankers and make sure the blame doesn’t come its’ way. In the last one month itself, four tankers anchored near Fujairah in UAE were damaged. Two tankers with petrochemical products were attacked in Gulf of Oman this week. No traces were left. It would become a routine. Saudi refineries could go up in smoke. Iran has strategic partners in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and even Afghanistan.

We also know that the US’ Iran policy is based on a single agenda: Change of Islamic revolutionary regime in Iran. This agenda is unfulfilled even after 40 years. This is a country which unlike a France or England could survive on half a bread. Threat of a war, doesn’t open up the factional feuds in the country. Instead it draws them together—as Western-oriented parties and hardliners are hugging each other at the moment.

It’s also as if the US doesn’t know that its’ tough stance would probably make Iran a nuclear-powered regime in six months. Iran announced on June 17 that it would start withdrawing from compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement. But if the US pulls out of the deal unilaterally and the other signatories of the pact—China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany—hold their silence, what options Iran is really left with but to press on the raw nerve which inked the pact in the first place?

In this week itself, Iran would exceed the limit on enriched uranium which the 2015 deal had stipulated—only 300kg of uranium hexafluoride enriched to 3.67 per cent, or it’s equivalent, for 15 years.  If Iran adds a few thousand extras of centrifuges, it would reduce the time Iran needs to arm itself with a nuclear weapon.

And how do you think Iran’s opponents would face up to the Persians? Saudi Arabia is so pathetic it can’t even bring tiny Yemen to submission. They can’t do anything to Houthi. A war would only make Turkey stronger. Iran is already being wooed by Russia and China. A common bank is being set up by Syria, Iraq and Iran to facilitate trade between these countries.

If anything a war would break up the United States. By mid-2020, oil prices would hit the roof. Insurance premiums on tankers would be prohibitive. Consumer prices of oil products would multiply. If oil prices exceed $100 per barrel, it would hit China, Europe and the US. If the oil prices are doubled, the US would be in ruins. It is the biggest consumer of electric power.  It doesn’t matter where it gets its energy from, be it Texas, Siberia or Saudi Arabia: if it’s 150% per barrel, US is destroyed.

Then why the hell is the US tightening its screws on Iran? And Donald Trump is increasingly sounding like John Wayne with holster unbuckled?

The short and sweet answer is: Trump wants to stoke up fears in the Middle East so that it could sell its military hardware to Iran’s opponents and fatten up its GDP. It never wanted a war, it never would. If the US wanted a war, it wouldn’t be looking the other way as Iran continues to sell 300 million cubic feet of gas to Iraq. Iran’s sale of oil in the region could go up to two million barrels of oil daily.  

The trouble is, Iran knows the game and is upping the ante: It has given an ultimatum to remaining signatories of the 2015 Pact either fall in line by July 7 and help preserve the nuclear deal or face the music. It’s a classic case of the hunter becoming the hunted. Trump has climbed up a tree but doesn’t know how to get down.

Fun, I say.

Russia brings Taliban on table as India observes

Russia secured a huge diplomatic victory when it got Taliban to turn up at a meeting on Afghanistan, attended by no less than a dozen countries, in Moscow last Friday.

This was the first time Taliban were face to face with the other side, the government-appointed Afghanistan High Peace Council, in the “Moscow Format” multilateral meeting which lasted less than three hours and was only aimed at kick-starting peace talks.

This was an acknowledgment that Taliban are stronger now than at anytime since 2001 when they faced the wrath of United States who took out the revenge on them for hosting Al Qaeda, the group blamed for 9/11 attacks.

Taliban, who were in power in Afghanistan between 1996-2001, have clawed back to the extent that they now control almost half of Afghanistan and deadly attacks on the Kabul government in recent times—whom they consider to be a US puppet—are at an unprecedented level now.

The Kabul government is in control in only 55% of 407 districts while the rest is largely under Taliban control or influence. Taliban is in no mood to hold direct talks with the Kabul government and stressed they would only hold talks with the US till an agreement on withdrawal of foreign military presence is decided.

The Taliban and US have met twice in July and October this year in order to break through the impasse. In the “Moscow Format” meeting, US turned up as an observer after skipping its first edition last year.

No less than 28,529 Afghan soldiers have been killed since 2015 alone and Taliban’s growing might have forced United States to hold meetings with them in Qatar this year.

Despite over a decade of presence in Afghanistan, United States has achieved little and citizens, caught in the crossfire between Afghan government and Taliban, with US raining bombs and missiles from the sky, have nowhere to go, resigning themselves and their next generation to death any moment.

It’s a horrific situation and a threat to world stability, as Russia perceives Afghanistan could turn out to be a breeding ground for Islamic State (IS) terrorists, planted at the behest of United States, which could wreak havoc in Central Asia and threaten its own backyard.

Russia, historically a foe of Taliban, has tactically succeeded brilliantly in having countries as diverse as Pakistan to India to China to attend the “Moscow Format” meeting.

The Chinese delegate found the Taliban’s demand for withdrawal of troops as reasonable. The Pakistani delegation, seated next to Taliban officials whom they promote openly, stressed the road to peace was a long one. India had sent two non-officials who only observed and didn’t make any statements.

India has close ties with the Afghan government while Pakistan, as said, doesn’t hold itself back in promoting Taliban.

Iran and Russia declared the need for American troops to leave Afghanistan.

Afghan and Taliban delegations were amiable during lunch and tea breaks and acknowledged each other at the table.

Taliban’s resurgence of recent years is a new phase of Afghanistan conundrum. On one hand, it highlights the failure of United States on all fronts—diplomatic, political and militarily, not to speak of turning the country into a heroin/opium/drug supplying outpost to the world which, according to estimates, is now the third biggest of all trades, barring oil and gas, albeit an illegal one.

The newly-appointed American general in charge of US and NATO operations, Gen. Austin Scott Miller recently conceded to NBC News that Afghan war can not be won militarily. “This is not going to be won militarily,” Gen. Miller said, “This is going to be a political situation.”

 

 

 

Sharia Courts in all districts is recipe for another Pakistan

The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has plans to introduce Sharia Courts (Darul-Qaza) in all 640 districts of India.

Even though Sharia Courts have no locus standi in the precincts of India’s courts, and that individuals and not a religious group is an entity in the eyes of a “secular” state, the AIMPLB recommends itself to solve the personal conflicts of Muslims in this country, citing the inordinate time a case takes in legal courts and claiming the guardianship of interpreting “Quran” the holy book for its adherents.

It’s a dangerous, calculated ploy by the AIMPLB to present itself as the upholder of “Quran” and thus obtain a complete subservience from the Muslim population of India, preparing a ground of conflict with India’s legal system which has recently made a move on the “triple talaq” issue and which is at the cusp of making a “Ram Janmabhoomi” verdict.. It’s preparing a ground for “two-nation” theory and has seeds of another Partition, another Pakistan in it.

The threat is real due to the weak nature of Indian judiciary which, in the past, passed a Shah Bano judgement couched as its “interpretation” of Sharia laws. India’s rule of government is no better in cracking a whip on a body about whom 95.5% percent of Muslim women have not even heard of.

Prof. Mohammad Tahir, an international expert on Muslim law, and a former chairman of Minorities Commisson, has no doubt that the Muslim law board manipulates Quran to perpetuate regressive laws and that it needs to be abolished. A few of the instances he cites,are worth quoting: “There are two verses in Quran on talaq. One verse says, `Divorce is only twice.’ The other Quranic verse says a person can’t divorce his wife unless there is an arbitration or reconciliation process from both sides. The Maulvis prefer to choose the first verse as law and the second as a mere morality.

“Similarly there is no Quaranic sanction for a Muslim law which treats two female witnesses as equal to one male witness… Every sensible Hadith is declared false, every sensible verse of the Quran has been abrogated.”

“Frankly I want (Muslim law) board to be abolished. It’s members are paranoid and they speak rubbish. Everytime the Supreme Court delivers a judgement, the Board says it is interfering with the Shariat.”

We have the instances of Muslim women denied fair marriage, divorce, adoption and property rights.  No women-in -dargahs; polygamy etc is practiced. Prohibition on child marriage is opposed by AIMPLB. Free voices, like Salman Rushdie, would continue to be muzzled.

The fall-out and damage to India’s social fabric consequently has been massive.  It has led to Muslims retreating themselves into “ghettos” and “no-go zones.” There is no assimilation and thus regressive mindset kicks in which fuels similar destructive forces of other minorities. In the name of “secularism”, the majority in India allows such self-appointed bodies to hijack and set the agenda for the minorities to the detriment of the nation.

Thus a “nation-within-nation” takes shape. It’s funded by forces which wants jihad for Muslim sovereignty across the globe. From US to Philippines, every society today is facing this challenge. First, an exclusive area is forged; it then develops into a zone which police has problem in accessing. Lawlessness emerges. Politicians fish in troubled waters. It’s not long before government loses control of such areas. Terrorism and drugs thus come to hold sway. Soon there is a call to declare them “Islamic zones.” Several European cities today are victims of such phenomenon.  For example, a radical group in UK wants 12 British cities, including London, to turn into independent Islamic states.

Look at Bengal. It has hundreds and thousands of illegal infiltrators from Bangladesh, duly aided by ISI-modules. Consequently, there are 100s of villages in Bengal where police has no say, abetted of course by politicians. When fundamentalist Mullahs make a call for no-entry to the likes of Taslima Nasreen, neither police nor politicians are of any help.

Initially, the British judges in India were assisted by Muftis and Qazis. The Qazis Act of 1880 deprived the Qazis of their judicial powers. The British courts thereafter made judgment on Muslim Personal Law. There was a persistent demand in the first quarter of 20th century to have Sharia Courts. Muslims followed the Hindu Act till 1937 when the Muslim Personal Law Application Act was passed. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board came into being during Indira Gandhi’s rule in 1973.

The life around us could soon descend into chaos, anarchy, riots and who knows, civil war.  That’s what happens in completely communally polarized societies with weak judiciary and appeasement politics. Similar was the situation during the final years of Raj when bigoted forces managed to vivisect India, slicing off its Eastern and Western arms. Appeasement lay at the root of it. History seems set to repeat itself and it would, unless it’s dealt with firmly and decisively. As citizens, we would be no less responsible for our indifference.