Vladimir Putin

Modi-Imran in SCO: Be ready for some tough pictures

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

It would be a hectic two days for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (June 13-14). The flight detour through Oman and Iran too wouldn’t have helped. Then there is this little matter of bilateral talks with at least five heads of states:  Xi Jinping (China), Vladimir Putin (Russia), Hassan Rouhani (Iran), Ashraf Ghani (Afghanistan) and Sooronbay Jeenbekov (Kyrgyzstan) besides the actual SCO Summit.

Modi’s diplomacy in Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) isn’t just about his time. It’s also about the long shadow of United States which would follow his every move and not just with China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran—all in US crosshair for one reason or the other.  Modi has the image of a tough leader, engaging the world but never aligned to any particular bloc. Much of it would be tested by Friday.

Modi, of course, can’t overlook the probing audience of a billion and a half people in India and Pakistan. There would be photo-ops with Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan. Every nuance of arched eyebrows, warm or cold smile, firm or limp handshake, would be dissected in reams of papers. A hug though is as good as ruled out.

In many ways SCO would be about optics. Its’ stated goal is to fight against the three evils of terrorism, separatism and extremism. But Pakistan would be spared this embarrassment. Our troublesome neighbour is making its debut in SCO since its formal induction in 2017—as is the case with India. This  powerful  Group of the East has had always China behind the wheels. Modi can enjoy the ride but can’t change the course.  China is friends with Pakistan for nothing.

Meanwhile, India and Pakistan have chosen to embarrass each other on the eve of the 19th SCO Summit. India first sought a free airspace for Modi’s passage to Bishkek. However once it was granted, wisdom prevailed and Modi opted to decline the offer. Pakistan, or its propped-up separatists in Jammu & Kashmir, then killed 5 CRPF jawans in Anantnag on Wednesday. Be ready for some tough pictures from Bishkek.

It isn’t to say that SCO is without merit for India. US needs India for its Asia strategy and by appearing shoulder-to-shoulder with Putin and Xi, Modi would keep Donald Trump sober when the two meet in a fortnight’s time in Osaka for G20 Summit (June 28-29).  Modi’s bilateral with Rouhani in Bishkek would further force Trump’s hands. That the host in Osaka would be Japan’s Shinzo Abe, who is outreaching to Iran later this week, is no little matter.

India also needs to have the right thermostat to keep matters with China from running too hot or too cold. Modi’s recent visit to Maldives must have prodded the wounds of China. Bishkek would be a good place to straighten out the ruffled feathers since the two leaders, Modi and XI, are slated for a summit in October, a la Wuhan style.

There is no gain denying India sees a friend in Russia. It was Russia which facilitated the entry of India into SCO which, to begin with, was primarily a Central Asia lobby that needed an axis after Soviet Union exploded in 1991. Modi and Putin aren’t taking any steps back on S400 missiles or their growing defence cooperation and Bishkek would afford the two leaders a moment to align themselves against the evil eye of US.

SCO is as good a moment as any to keep Afghanistan in India’s good books. The mountainous country could be fuming for having been not invited for Modi’s oath ceremony last month.  Kabul is insecure for more than one reason—Taliban, fostered by Pakistan, is gaining international currency; and US is vowing a retreat of its armed forces. India has always been an all-weather friend and Bishkek couldn’t have come at a better time.

India also needs access to information and intelligence from the Tashkent-based RATS (Regional Anti Terror Structure). China’s push for Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) also can’t be allowed a free goal. India also  can’t afford to be hemmed in by Pakistan and China on its two flanks. A global economy can’t be known as only a South Asian behemoth. India needs physical access over and above its northern borders into Eurasia and SCO affords an excellent opportunity.  A rising India is critical to all big powers and it must keep all its suitors on tenterhooks. A stronger and more empowered Modi by his people would only help.

 

Panama Papers: have a great laugh about it

Indian Express is preening that alongside International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) it poured over 11.5 million leaked documents of 214,000 shell companies and 14,000 Mossak Fonseca clients, between 1977 and 2015, and found over 500 Indian individuals using the tax haven.

The leak first appeared in NATO-friendly Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper in Munich and then shared by the ICIJ with selected mainstream media partners, including Indian Express.

A few of the smeared names you already know: Amitabh Bachchan, Harish Salve, Aishwarya Rai, KP Singh and Vinod Adani, elder brother of industrialist Gautam Adani.

Now a few things which you don’t know and must be told about:

The ICIJ is funded by Washington-based Center for Public Integrity which in turn gets its source income from the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment, the Rockfeller Family Fund, the Kellogg Foundation and the George Soros-owned Open Society.

Another of ICIJ patron is Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) which is financed by the US government through USAID.

And yes, about Panama: a well-known US vassal state. As famous analyst Pepe Escobar says: “Absolutely nothing in real substance happens in Panama without a green light by the United States government. Or as an international tax lawyer told me, “you have to be an idiot to stash money in Panama. You cannot flush a toilet there without the Americans knowing about it.”

So in this selective leak, there is no US senator, European Union politicians, no big Wall Street banks and hedge funds hiding in Panama. Apple, Google, Starbucks—a few of the biggest tax evaders using offshore schemes—have miraculously evaded the scrutiny.”

As former UK ambassador Craig Murray writes: “The filtering of this…information by the corporate media follows a direct western government agenda….The Guardian is quick to reassure that much of the leaked material will remain private.”

This “leak” is essentially to cause domestic rows and embarrassment to BRICS nations, Russia, China and India alongside Bashar-al-Asad of Syria. Certain leaks are held back to potentially blackmail those in times of need. The other persons named are relatively minor players in the big game which West, embarrassed by Russia-inspired victory in Palmyra, has chosen to sacrifice.

So you have the names of demented king of Saudi Arabia; Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister; Avad Allawi, ex-interimt PM of Iraq; Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine; Alaa Mubarak, son of Egypt’s former president; Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson of Iceland; Argentina President Mauricio Macri; Dov Weisglass, the butcher of Gaza, already convicted of corruption. These are all disposable individuals.

And then comes the sucker-punch: Western corporate media I shouting from rooftops that Russian president Vladimir Putin has stashed US $2 billion offshore. The fact is: he hasn’t. He is guilty by association to Arkady and Boris Rotenberg’s alleged ties to money laundering. The same method in hauling over the coals Adani, for the acts of his brother; and Bachchan who was seen as ruling party’s candidate to be India’s president.

As for China, unnamed eight Chinese Communist Party current and former officials and brother-in-law of Chinese president Xi Jinping has been named.

Syria was always going to be a target. Most of Western media has put its focus on Rami Makhlouf, “Assad’s fixer.” He is already under US sanctions since February 2008. Nobody bothers to ask how this “poster boy” of corruption was sheltered by HSBC.

The “leak” is of selected nature, likely obtained by US secret service, meant to serve two purpose:

  • To smear BRICS and enemies of empire
  • To hold details for blackmailing in future and keep those targets fall in line

The leak essentially is of several dozen firms and individuals who are already blacklisted by the US sanctions. If ICIJ and its partners are really serious, they ought to go after Cayman Papers or the Virgin Island Papers. That’s where the biggies are.

Says Escobar: “The so-called international banking/financial system is a demented casino. It’s not only 8 percent; Hong Kong players tell me as much as 50 percent of global wealth may currently be parked, undisturbed, in non-taxable offshore havens. If a fraction of these astonishing funds would be taxed, governments right and left would be paying their debts, investing in infrastructure, launching round after round of sustainable growth, and a productive spiral would be in motion.”

Three months ago, Andrew Penney, managing director of Rothschild and Co, in a Bloomberg piece, essentially stated that US “is effectively the biggest tax haven in the world.”

So, essentially, we now know a little more about Indian Express and its association with US-backed dubious bodies of investigative journalists.