It is December 2017. In six months, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is about to leave office. After the Marihuana regularization revolution, started successfully by President Jose Mujica of Uruguay in 2013 and, out of public pressure in Montevideo, later implemented by Uruguayan President Tabaré Vazquez at the end of 2015.
The marihuana legalization revolution was followed by Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua throughout 2016 and 2017. The aforementioned countries gained an unexpected high amount of fiscal revenue out medical and non-medical marihuana. Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico, who were pressured by the American government, because of border proximity, decided not to implement the regularization of Marihuana.
Nicolas Maduro’s regime collapsed in early 2016, giving birth to what political analysts called ‘the new year’s eve coup of state’, which was influenced by the 2015 economic meltdown, and taken over by the American-accused drug lord, Lieutenant. (Ret.) Diosdado Cabello. But out of fear of been invaded, as was the case of Noriega’s Panama, Diosdado Cabello became an American ally. President Cabello imprisoned his ex-Chavistas comrades, exiled Maduro and Cilia Flores to Habana, and brought Caracas into Washington’s sphere of influence.
Nevertheless, in Mexico, after Calderon’s six-year term, the death toll was 120,000, while during the Peña Nieto six-year term administration, the death toll doubled to 240,000. The crime rates skyrocketed stemming from drug-related crimes alongside political kidnappings, making the Iguala case the first one of its kind; for it was followed by an unprecedented wave of massive kidnappings and killings of left-wing oriented political student movement in southern Mexico. These events gave birth to southern Mexico’s guerrilla, a.k.a. PLNM (Partido por la Liberacion Nacional de Mexico—Party for the National Liberation of Mexico), which was based in the mountainous regions of Guerrero, Chiapas, Oaxaca and Michoacán states. Their policy was bold: the PLNM was anti-Mexican private sector elite and anti-American.
After an imprisoned Julian Assange leaked governmental official documents, protests across Mexico erupted. The United States Government was secretly giving heavy weapons to both the cartels and the newly left-wing guerrilla forces, as part of a DEA-CIA coordinated cover task operation. The American intelligence wanted to uncover a human contraband structure of potential ISIS militants, hiding in Michoacán, Oaxaca, Chiapas and Guerrero, and who potentially be smuggled onto American soil by the PLNM armed forces, using the selling of heavy weaponry as a covert operation. The DEA-CIA led operation was a catastrophe. It was leaked. And now the increasingly frustrated Mexican population turned their anger not only against the Mexican government, for its complacency with the American government, but against all of the American consulates and tourists in Mexico, including the American embassy. Washington had never seen such massive and violent protests in Mexico against American interests. As an effect, in March 2018, everything was pointing toward the fact that the Mexican voters would choose an anti-American, PLNM candidate.
Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras continue to have the highest combined criminal rates per capita in the world. Because of high political corruption and lack of political commitment, Washington, has not implemented its 2015 North Triangle $ 1 billion plan at the frustration of Central American leaders; a dysfunctional Republican-controlled congress continues to have the plan blocked, until Guatemala city, San Salvador and Tegucigalpa, implement tougher strategies against illegal immigration, corruption and organized crime. Central American Presidents were increasingly resentful of Washington policies.
Colombia, despite a tumultuous year-long negotiation, at the end of 2015, President Juan Manuel Santos successfully signed the long-sought peace plan with the FARC and ELN left-wing guerrilla forces; however, a new cartel, funded by unhappy FARC and ELN guerilla commanders, alongside criminal gangs, such as the Rastrojos gang and unemployed ex-guerrilla fighters, gave birth to what would be Colombia’s newest cartel: The Magdalena Valley Cartel, which operates out of the Colombian Cordillera Occidental, ramping up the Magdalena river valley as their main corridor of narcotics and guns, while controlling the ports from Buenaventura to Barranquilla and everything standing west of the Cordillera Occidental. Because of its guerrilla command structure and training, the Magdalena Valley Cartel is powerful enough to combine both guerrilla and cartel textbook style of attacks on the Colombian armed forces.
Colombia, is regaining worldwide attention as it once had during Pablo Escobar and the Rodriguez Orejuela reign of fear. The European Union imposed entry visas in conjunction with many Latin American countries. Additionally, Colombian intelligence suspects there is a drug and weapons contraband structure between the Magdalena Valley Cartel and Mexico’s PLMN guerrilla forces. However, what has President Juan Manuel Santos worried, is that the Central American Northern Triangle governments, through their proxies—MS 13, MS18 and the Zacapa cartel—have facilitated both the Magdalena Valley Cartel and the PLNM their criminal business structure. In spite of this, President Santos, was tired to fight another war against another cartel.
To Washington’s surprise, President Santos, during June 2018, a month before the Mexican presidential elections scheduled on Sunday, July 1st, the Colombian President decided to travel to Mexico to meet the PLNM candidate Rodrigo Juarez Viloria. Surprisingly, Juarez Viloria had lessened his anti-private sector rhetoric, influenced by his Chinese advisors. President Santos learned how Juarez Viloria wanted a politically controlled Mexico, yet with Chinese-like capitalistic policies. But whose main difference from his counterparts was his fierce anti-American sentiment.
Candidate Juarez Viloria had a history of personal tragedy: he lost many of his family members, on the war against drugs, fueling his grief and blaming America, meanwhile, his politically left-oriented eldest son was kidnapped by the Nuevo Jalisco Cartel, bolstering his hatred against the Mexican private sector, who he suspected were behind the massive killing of socialist and communist-inclined students. Juarez Viloria, emboldened by the image and spirit of Pancho Villa, bowed revenge against the cartels, Mexican oligarchs and the United States for its stubbornness of not changing anything related to the war against drugs. Mexico had already surpassed Spain and Brazil as the economic leader of the Hispanic and Latin American world. And Juarez Viloria is keen to fill the leadership power vacuum left in the region with a massive popular support in Mexico and throughout Latin America.
Three weeks before the presidential election, American intelligence services, intercepted a conversation between Rodrigo Juarez Viloria and President Juan Manuel Santos: Should Colombia support him as a presidential candidate, and if elected, the Mexican PLMN candidate would dismantle the PLMN-Magdalena Valley Cartel narco-structure by legalizing not just Marihuana, but the whole drug trade, allowing free mobility of drugs across Mexican territory, and by imprisoning the leaders of the structure—even if it means to imprison members of his own party. Juarez Viloria wanted the Mexican Presidency badly; and Santos was voicing out his support. Washington was now extremely concern of a possible domino effect south of the border.
On the eve of Sunday, July 1st, post-presidential elections, the unthinkable for Washington has happened: Juarez Viloria is proclaimed winner of one of the most contested presidential elections in Mexican history. United States would have to share the border with an anti-American, and potential de-facto leader of Latin America.
It was December, 2018, Juarez Viloria, during his inaugural address, proclaimed a massive fervent, inspiring speech:
“It is on this day that I will bring the sovereign right of Mexico, and sign an executive order, by allowing and legalizing drugs within our territory,officially ending Mexico’s war against drugs. And because I know how Washington will react to this announcement, I hereby declare the DEA A-Sack and the American Ambassador persona non grata. And because, I know Washington will expulse our Ambassador, I recall him right now, telling our Ambassador, that Mexico, as in the times of our great heroes, Benito Juarez and Pancho Villa, will not leave a Mexican son to succumb and be humiliated, as the American Empire always had humiliated the Mexican people. And to this, I only have to say to my countrymen on the other side of the border: No! This time Latin America, and the new global leader, China, stands with Mexico. Come back to Mexico, because I will provide a better future for all of Mexico and for all Mexicans! And will not be humiliated, nor allow Mexico to be humiliated by the Empire, north of our border. Today, I declare our full independence!
The people erupted in joy. It was the first time Mexico stood up against its northern neighbor. And Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Colombia, inspired by his speech, followed the Mexican policy and legalized the free flow and regularization of drugs with presidential executive orders.
American intelligence failed to predict the outcome of Mexico, the Republicans were outraged and the Democrats were shocked: They knew Juarez Viloria was a radical, but for Mexico to go against the geographical and global realities was something Washington did not expected.
Weeks later, following the congressional-approved law, Juarez Viloria’s signed the regularization agreement. The American President held an emergency meeting with its top cabinet members, military Joint Chief of Staff, congress majority leaders, national security advisors, and South Com. General. Kelly.
The White House, with streamlined congressional approval, decides to take emergency prerogatives by signing the domino-effect détente act, implementing the immediate precautionary and preemptive security and economic actions:
- Reinforcement of the Mexican-American border, with options to militarily intervene Mexican border cities;
- The siege and check of the ports of Buenaventura, Barranquilla and Cartagena ports in Colombia;
- The securization of the Mexican-Guatemalan border;
- Blocking immigrant remittance exports to Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras;
- Sanctioning Mexican and Colombian banking, manufacturing and petroleum industries;
The American Intervention
With the analogy of the Afghan, Iraqi and Vietnamese foreign interventions, the American Federal Government decides to deploy 150,000 members of the National Guard to the American side of the border—from California to Texas—limiting a full blown invasion of Mexico. Also, the U.S. Navy dispatched three amphibian assault ships (USS America, USS Bataan, USS Boxer), one amphibious transport dock (USS Anchorage), and two destroyers (USS Bainbridge and USS Barry), with the purpose of showing force to the President Juarez Viloria to change his drug policy.
When the Norfolk-based destroyers and the San Diego-outbound amphibian assaults ships were stationed in the outskirts of the ports of Veracruz and Acapulco—nearest entryways into Mexico City—the American President decides to call President Juarez Viloria.
“President Juarez Viloria, good afternoon, this is the President of the United States of America. I congratulate you for a clean, democratic electoral victory. Unfortunately, the impulsive decision you have taken, can have dire consequences for the health of the American people. I had to take preemptive measures, Mr. President. This said, I encourage you to have a thorough and candid talk with our Secretary of State, and who is ready to board a plane towards Mexico City, to find a solution for your new policy. For the moment, our National Guard members have been deployed in our side of the border, enforcing maximum restraint, by not incurring into Mexican border cities, however, if we must incur, we will incur. The sake of the American people’s health is something I will not negotiate. Also, a small maritime force is stationed near Veracruz and Acapulco, holding their position as well. This can be called off, if you decide to repel this law that could affect America as a whole. The decision is on you, Mr. President.” The American President point out.
A furious Juarez Viloria responds:
“Mr. President, rather than holding an honest dialogue amongst neighbors, and respecting our sovereignty to enforce the free mobility and legalization of drugs, you indirectly threaten me with the use of military force, so let me tell you this, because I will only say It once: Mexico and Latin America are tired of putting the death. For you it is a matter of healthcare but for us it has been a matter of life and death. However, I can assure you that as long drugs are illegal in your country, I will hem the entry of such into your countr. And concerning our armed forces, should you incur on our side of the border, I can also assure you that our armed forces will have maximum restraint. I will not risk Mexican blood; yet, I can not assure the same from some members of my party who are part of the PLMN defense forces, and have their own ideas of business and governance; and needless to mention the cartels operating on our side of the which I lack control. At this moment, I think it would be counterproductive to engage in a dialogue with your Secretary of State, until you back off from your bullying.”
The American President, unwilling to drop his guard, makes a last remark to President Juarez Viloria.
“I Understand Mr. President. But, as a precautionary measure, I wanted to let you know that today, along members of congress, I have signed the domino-effect détente act, which will compel your government and policymakers, to drop such regulation which can hold an unprecedented healthcare crisis for our American citizens in our soil, and American citizens living in Mexico. 150,000 members of our National Guard, stand combat ready, should they intervene the principal border cities of Mexico in conjunction with army rangers and marine rapid deployment forces. Mr. President, I look forward to work with you and the Mexican people. Good evening, Adios…
Weeks later, following this brief yet striking conversation between the American and Mexican presidents, United States sends a combination of ground military forces to Tijuana, Mexicali, Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, Ciudad Acuña, Piedras Negras, Nuevo Laredo, Ciudad Miguel Aleman, Reynosa and Matamoros, with the excuse of containing a potentially massive influx of drugs on American soil. Additionally, vigilante militias organized by Sheriff Arpaio and John McCain, stand prepared to defend American soil from California to Texas. And shoot-to-kill any illegal immigrant, further severing ties between Mexico and United States.
Likewise, 10 C-130J Super Hercules land on Tapachula airport containing the drug flow from the Mexican-Guatemalan border, particularly Tapachula and La Mesilla borderlands. Nevertheless, La Mesilla border city was hard to secure since it was located in the heart of the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes Mountains, and whose mountains sheltered the PLNM armed forces. As a result, a contingent of US Navy Seals, Army Rangers and Green Berets were dispatched to this particular border city.
Furthermore, the Pentagon decides to send four amphibious cargo ships to the Colombian ports of Cartagena, Barranquilla and Buenaventura, inspecting Colombian shipping vessels.
And to finalize their securization operation, United States, with congressional approval, imposed sanctions on the manufacture, banking and petroleum industries of Mexico and Colombia as well as the flow of remittances to Colombia, Mexico and the Central American North Triangle.
South American governments, except for Caracas and Habana, were furious with United States that, as a sign of protests, recalled their ambassadors, as a protest, to empathize with Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Colombia.
Mexico Strikes Back
President Juarez Viloria was an avid reader of American military history, so thus he knew that one of the least comfortable military scenarios for the Americans was to fight against both urban and mountain guerrillas. Moreover, Rodrigo Juarez Viloria knew that a Pakistan-like scenario would irritate the American military forces, and if successful, he would push for negotiations with the American president. His strategy was clear: a complacent Mexican government with the American forces, but fierce guerrilla warfare, with whom the Mexican government had nothing to do with; Juarez Viloria would play a scenario similar to the one the Pakistani Pashtun tribes and Haqqani network fought the Americans in Afghanistan from Pakistan.
President Santos, in turn, complied with American military forces, up to the point that, the controversial regularization of drugs, was repelled, and the ports of Cartagena, Buenaventura and Barranquilla were liberated, followed by the lifting of sanctions. President Santos felt humiliated by the Americans, and protests through all of Colombia erupted against Santos.
The protests of remittance-dependent peasants was becoming so agonizing for Guatemala City, San Salvador and Tegucigalpa that a decision was made to drop the mobility and regularization of drugs within their territory. Washington lifted the blockage of remittances. However, though economically poor, Guatemala and El Salvador militarily had an average of 30 years of experience combined, in mountainous and jungle terrain. Politically and economically, Guatemala and El Salvador could not stand up to the Americans, not even within Guatemalan territory, but the Guatemalan Kaibil Special Forces and the renewed Atlacatl Salvadorian battalion, were how the Guatemalan and Salvadoran presidents would aide their Mexican counterpart. Honduras decided not to participate.
President Juarez Viloria, with the aide of top Guatemalan Kaibiles and the Salvadoran Atlacatl battalion, decided to give the order through his guerrilla proxies, to conduct small operations of attack on the American station post of La Mesilla and Tapachula, by making hit-and-run type of military operations, with the purpose to drag and fight American ground forces in La Sierra de los Cuchumatanes Mountains of Chiapas and Huehuetenango in Guatemala. A terrain that, in Vietnam and Afghanistan, resulted uncomfortable for American ground forces.
At 3:00 a.m., La Mesilla border post along with the Tapachula airport, which hosted American forces, were attacked by the PMLN death squads, resulting in a low-level casualty attack. American forces stationed in Tapachula and La Mesia would be forced to retaliate in the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes mountains. With a force of three Black Hawk helicopters and ten Humvees, decided to track down the PNLM forces. Because of landmines and IED, Army Rangers, Navy Seals and Green Berets were forced to fled their Humvees, consequently, engaging in a full-flown combat in the mountains; the Black Hawk helicopters, in spite of their shoot and destroy tactics, drastically failed to destroy important targets, finishing their ammo, forcing them back to Tapachula airport to reload, and living the thirty-men special forces squad to their luck in the Sierra. The result was fatal: 25 killed in combat and 5 captured and beheaded. President Juarez Viloria denied involvement, blaming a local drug cartel.
United States, furiously responded by bombing important infrastructure, in cities such as Monterrey, Guadalajara and Mexico City. Moreover, Chiapas villages in the mountains, where guerrilla forces were hiding, were unmercifully bombed. Also, after knowing the involvement of both Guatemalan and Salvadoran governments, United States sanctioned the Guatemalan and Salvadoran military chain of command, political elite, important private sector oligarchs, by removing their American tourist visas, freezing their assets and bank accounts on American soil. Sanctions would be lifted until Guatemala and El Salvador stopped supporting the Mexican PNLM guerrilla force.
After the bombings, President Juarez Viloria furiously summoned the American charge d’affaire to stop bombing Mexico and to remind him how the 1916 American incursion of Mexico ended badly for American military forces.
As a notable schemer, President Juarez Viloria, unwilling to repel his controversial drug law, organized massive protests held by Mexican immigrants, working in the construction and restaurant industries, and from the cash harvest to the vehicle maintenance industries, Rodrigo Juarez Viloria vigorously appealed to the patriotic sentiment of Mexico. In turn, the Guatemalan and Salvadoran governments addressed their own diasporas living in United States: If they were to stop working for a three months, then, as a result, they would show their true, patriotic character in the defense of their invaded and humiliated countries.
Out of surprise, massive protests took place in the cities of Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, San Francisco, Austin, Dallas, New York City, Miami, New Orleans, Houston and so forth. The protests by the Guatemalans, Salvadorans and Mexican diasporas, costed billions of dollars to the American economy.
A resentful Santos, convinced the members of UNASUR, to impose an unorthodox sanction, named, similar to the one OPEC had pressed United States during the 1970s, however, this time, using their own resources as economic weapons: A mineral, agricultural and livestock commodity, six month embargo by the members of UNASUR, Central American Isthmus and Mexico. Venezuela decided not participate, since it was still recovering from the 2015 economic meltdown. The goal was clear: To send Washington a clear message: We are all America and we are all intertwined.
This outcome had a dire affect for the American economy. Wal-Mart, Publix, Whole foods, Chipotle and especially Starbuck’s, , were amongst some of the most important corporations suffering greatly. The American economy suffered billions in losses and thousands of direct and indirect jobs as a result of the Latin American-led embargo. Oil prices were staggering and increasingly dependent upon the Middle East and Canada; Africa and South East Asia could not keep up in replacing both soft and hard commodities; Automobiles and clothing produced in Latin America, increased the prices for American retailers; and the American Chamber of Commerce, in addition with the support of 40 states—especially Colorado and Washington, were marihuana was legal and were looking forward to commerce with Latin America—were starting to feel the economic pressure and local protests of increasing prices. The Mexican economy was on its knees alongside most of the South American economies. Beijing had provided enormous bailouts to most of the Latin American economies.
Mexicans living in the borderlands were started to violently resist and push the American forces back, while the American ground forces started the use of force more violently. Washington was risking sending more troops to Mexico and, more importantly, could risk a full-blown war in northern and southern Mexico, between government, cartel and PNLM forces. A nightmare neither Mexico City nor Washington would of wanted.
Washington and Mexico City had to reach a deal to overcome this cold war.
The Mexican-American Deal
After a year and a half of the known Mexican-American cold war, UNASUR members were poise to end the war on drugs: They were ready to legalize the rest of the drug trade. Following Brazil’s lead, an emboldened Colombia and Central America, in the 2020, CELAC summit, officially legalized drugs.
Washington was completely overwhelmed that it would have to politically and economically declare war on the rest of Latin America. However, policymakers and the IRS chief decided that, perhaps, it was time for Washington legalize and regularize Marihuana.
In the summer of 2020, Habana and Caracas acted as mediators between Mexico City and Washington. As a result, in August of 2020, the Mexican minister of foreign affairs in coordination with the Secretary of State happily informed the press on the agreement both parties have reached.
The deal followed as:
- Mexico could only legally trade with American states that had legalized medical and non-medical Marihuana, if caught in the act of selling illegal drugs, sanctions would be imposed to the Mexican government and private corporations who sold it;
- The PLNM guerrilla forces commanders would face American extradition and justice and would be dismantled by the Mexican, Guatemalan and Salvadoran governments, while supervised by the U.N. Chiapas Mission;
- Mexico would comply to dismantle and/or fight the remaining drug cartels under the supervision and help of the DEA;
- United States would pay war reparations to the villagers that died during the drone strikes of Oaxaca, Chiapas, Michoacán and Guerrero;
- United States would provide aid to repair civilian infrastructure that was bombed during the short-lived conflict between Mexico and United States;
- Mexico and the rest of Latin America would pay economic damages to American corporations for violating in forced free trade agreements;
After this tumultuous epoch, Latin America and United States became closer than ever before. And now, President Juarez Viloria and the American President, were drinking tequila celebrating the new deal…
Quad foreign ministers meet in New York for the third time
Quad foreign ministers met in New York for the second time this year and the seventh time since 2019. The four-nation grouping’s ambit of cooperation has clearly expanded and diversified over the years. What were the key talking points this time? I analyse.
The foreign ministers of India, Japan, Australia and the United States – four key maritime democracies in the Indo-Pacific – met on the sidelines of the 78th annual session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on September 22. This was their seventh meeting since 2019 and the second of 2023. Notably, exactly four years ago, this four-nation Quad was raised to the foreign ministers’ level amid a UNGA session. Earlier in 2023, the ministers met in March on the sidelines of the G20 ministerial in New Delhi and in May, this year, the Quad leaders’ summit was hosted by Japan on the sidelines of the G7 summit. Having met twice in 2022 as well, the ministers congregated six times in person and virtually once so far.
The previous ministerial in New Delhi saw the four-nation grouping making a reference to an extra-regional geopolitical issue for the first time – Ukraine – and also the initiation of a new Working Group mechanism on counter-terrorism, a key agenda item for India and the United States, among other themes of discussion. Following the seventh meeting, India’s foreign minister Dr S. Jaishankar tweeted, “Always value our collective contribution to doing global good”, while U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken remarked that the grouping is “vital to our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific, and together we reaffirmed our commitment to uphold the purposes and principles of the UN Charter”.
Diversifying ambit of cooperation
The ministers have clearly doubled down on the commitments taken during their previous deliberations, particularly to improve capacity-building for regional players. The joint statement that followed the meeting read, “The Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness is supporting regional partners combat illicit maritime activities and respond to climate-related and humanitarian events.” Similarly, the Working Group on maritime security promised “practical and positive outcomes” for the region. Prior to the recent ministerial, the Working Group on counter-terrorism conducted a Consequence Management Exercise that “explored the capabilities and support Quad countries could offer regional partners in response to a terrorist attack”, the joint readout mentions.
Later this year, the U.S. island state of Hawaii will host the Counter-terrorism Working Group’s meeting and tabletop exercise, which will focus on countering the use of emerging technologies for terrorist activities, while the Working Group on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) will be convened in Australia’s Brisbane for its second tabletop exercise. Earlier in August, this year, all four Quad navies participated in Exercise Malabar for the fourth consecutive year, off Sydney, the first hosted by Australia. However, as in previous meetings, the ministers didn’t specifically mention Russia or China with regard to the situations in Ukraine and maritime east Asia respectively.
On the Ukraine question, the ministers expressed their “deep concern”, taking note of its “terrible and tragic humanitarian consequences” and called for “comprehensive, just, and lasting peace”. In a veiled reference to Russia, the ministers rebuffed the “use, or threat of use, of nuclear weapons”, underscoring the respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states, and called for the resumption of the UN-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allows for the export of food grains and fertilizers from Ukraine to world markets via a maritime humanitarian corridor, amid the ongoing conflict with Russia.
Similarly, in another veiled reference to continuing Chinese belligerence and lawfare in maritime east Asia, the ministers stressed upon the need to adhere to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and to maintain “freedom of navigation and overflight consistent with UNCLOS”, reiterating their “strong opposition to any unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo by force or coercion”, including with respect to maritime claims in the South and East China Seas. Going further ahead, the ministers expressed their concern on “the militarisation of disputed features, the dangerous use of coast guard and maritime militia vessels, and efforts to disrupt other countries’ offshore exploitation activities”. The joint readout also had mentions of North Korea and Myanmar.
The evident and the inferred
Today, almost all the areas of cooperation of Quad countries happen to be the areas of strategic competition with China, the rapid rise of which necessitated the coming together of the four nations, even though this is not openly acknowledged. In this new great game unfolding in the Indo-Pacific, the U.S.-led Quad is trying to balance China’s overwhelming initiatives to capture the support of smaller and middle powers in the region and around the world. Placid initiatives such as the Open Radio Access Network, the private sector-led Investors Network, Cybersecurity Partnership, Cable Connectivity Partnership and the Pandemic Preparedness Exercises should be read in this context.
With the rise of Quad in parallel with the rise of China and other minilateral groupings in the Indo-Pacific such as the AUKUS (a grouping of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States), the existing regional framework based on the slow-moving, consensus-based Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was put to test. However, allaying all doubts, Quad deliberations at both the ministerial and summit levels continued to extend their support to ASEAN’s centrality in the region and also for the ASEAN-led regional architecture that also includes the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum. Despite somewhat differing regional outlooks, the Quad likes to see itself as “complementary” to the ASEAN, rather than an “alternative” to its pan-regional influence.
India, the only non-ally of the U.S. in the Quad, will host the fourth in-person Quad leaders’ summit in 2024. The Asian giant is often dubbed as the weakest link in the grouping, owing to its friendly ties with Russia, but other members intent to keep India’s bilateral equations with other countries away from the interior dynamics of the grouping, signalling an acknowledgement of India’s growing geopolitical heft in the region and beyond. This seems to be subtly reflected in the stance taken by individual Quad members in the recent India-Canada diplomatic row, in which they made sure not to provoke New Delhi or to touch upon sensitive areas, even though a fellow Western partner is involved on the other side.
|Quad Foreign Ministers Meeting||Month & Year||Venue|
|First||September 2019||New York|
|Fifth||September 2022||New York|
|Sixth||March 2023||New Delhi|
|Seventh||September 2023||New York|
NB:- All three Quad ministerials in New York were held on the sidelines of the respective annual sessions of the UN General Assembly i.e., the first, the fifth, and the seventh meetings.
On the multilateral front, the four ministers reaffirmed their support for the UN, the need to uphold “mutually determined rules, norms, and standards, and to deepen Quad’s cooperation in the international system, and also batted for a comprehensive reform of the UN, including the expansion of permanent and non-permanent seats in the Security Council. While China and Russia, two powerful permanent members of the Security Council, continue to denounce the Quad as an “exclusionary bloc”, the Quad ministers and leaders tend to tone down any security role for the grouping.
However, a recent comment made by Vice Admiral Karl Thomas of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet during this year’s Exercise Malabar is noteworthy. He said the war games were “not pointed toward any one country”, rather it would improve the ability of the four forces to work with each other and “the deterrence that our four nations provide as we operate together as a Quad is a foundation for all the other nations operating in this region”. Even in the absence of a security treaty, in a way he hinted at the grouping’s desire to cherish its collective strength across all fronts and to check on hegemonic tendencies that may manifest in the region from time to time.
Dynamics of the Sikh Vote Cloud Canada’s Diplomatic Relations with India
Operating across British Columbia (BC), Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario, gangs made up of Indo-Canadian Punjabis – Brothers Keepers, Dhak-Duhre, Dhaliwal, Sanghera, Malli-Buttar, and several such, are involved in arms trafficking, racketeering, extortion, narco trafficking, money laundering, and not the least, assassinations. Formed in 2004 and mandated to disrupt and suppress organised crime in B.C. the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU-BC), has warned the public of the nexus of Punjabi-Canadians to violence.
In the murders of Punjabi singer Sidhu Moose Wala and Ripudaman Singh Malik, acquitted in the tragic 1985 Air India Kanishka terror-bombing case, the conspicuous involvement of these Indo-Canadian gangs with notorious criminals Goldy Brar and Lawrence Bishnoi at the helm, manifested itself.
On June 18 Sikh Hardeep Singh Nijjar, was gunned down as he left his gurdwara in Surrey, B.C., which has the highest proportions of Punjabi Canadians. Nijjar had entered Canada in 1995 on a fake passport and claimed asylum on arrest at Toronto. In B.C. he married a local who sponsored his immigration and he was subsequently awarded Canadian citizenship. Brazenly propounding anti-India separatist sentiments, Nijjar was even placed on Canada’s no-fly list and Interpol’s red corner notice. Alongwith gangsters Arshdeep Singh Dala, Maninder Singh Bual, and Mandeep Singh Dhaliwal his outfit Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) was involved in contract killings in Punjab. Gang-related killings account for a third of all homicides in Canada’s British Columbia.
Despite this disconcerting background of Nijjar’s ties to organised crime gangs in Canada, on September 18, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged the involvement of “agents of the Indian government” in the killing of Nijjar. A claim outrightly rejected by New Delhi as “absurd” and “motivated.” If Trudeau was looking to further impair an increasingly forbidding bilateral relationship, he succeeded. Canada and India have expelled a senior diplomat each and negotiations for a free trade agreement stand suspended.
There is a palpable perversity to Canada’s position on the Khalistan issue. In 1982, Trudeau’s father and then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
had rejected Late PM Indira Gandhi’s demands for extradition of Khalistani terrorist Talwinder Singh Parmar, who went on to execute the bombing of Air India Flight Kanishka, killing 329 people in 1985.
Alarmed by the presence of Sikh secessionists among the diaspora, former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh during his 2010 trip to attend the G20 summit in Toronto, asked Canada “to stop people from using religious places to promote extremism.” Canadian MP Sukh Dhaliwal, had introduced a motion in the Canadian parliament to declare the 1984 riots a “genocide”. Fast forward to 2023, G20 under PM Modi there was no attempt at all to put even a vaguely positive spin on the India-Canada equation.
The timing of Trudeau’s accusation just days after the G20 summit in New Delhi where he says he brought Khalistani extremism and “foreign interference” “directly to PM Modi in no uncertain terms” smacks of umbrage at being at the receiving end of a very hard-hitting message that the ‘extremist elements in Canada are “promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian.’
The Khalistan issue has got a fresh lease of life after the advent of the Justine Trudeau government. With just 32.2 percent of the popular vote, Liberal leader Trudeau has the least electoral support in Canadian history, and was backed by Jagmeet Singh’s New Democratic Party (NDP) which openly supports the Khalistan Referendum on Canadian soil.
Canada’s Conservative opposition leader, Pierre Poilievre, has urged Trudeau to show the evidence that the government has in hand. Notwithstanding this current posture the Conservative Party (CP) too, has in the past caved in to the Sikh vote bank. In 2018 when its condemnation of ‘glorification of terrorism’ was objected to by the World Sikh Organisation, the CP dropped its ‘anti-Khalistan’ motion in the House of Commons.
There is beyond sufficient evidence, to India’s contention that Canada, and other western nations including US, UK, and Australia have allowed cadres of separatist violent Khalistani groups to thrive. The UK recently set up a £95,000 fund to enhance its understanding of the threat posed by Khalistan extremism. While the amount set aside to tackle pro-Khalistan elements is not substantial, it acknowledges that a Sikh radicalisation problem exists in the west.
Sikh temples and organisations abroad orchestrate Remembrance Days for ‘Operation Blue Star’ on June 6 and ‘Sikh Massacre’ on November 5, that serve as cultural repertoires and focal points of advocating Khalistani extremism. This year at the remembrance day parade, Khalistan supporters in Ontario exhibited a female figure in a blood-stained white saree with turbaned men pointing guns at her, to celebrate the assassination of late PM Indira Gandhi. The poster behind the scene read “Revenge for the attack on Darbar Sahib.”
Reacting to this macabre tableau, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar said, “Frankly, we are at a loss to understand other than the requirements of vote bank politics why anybody would do this … I think there is a larger underlying issue about the space which is given to separatists, to extremists, to people who advocate violence. I think it is not good for relationships, not good for Canada.”
At multiple diplomatic and security talks, India has raised the issue of wanted terrorists and gangsters only to be defied by the Canadian government with non-committance and brazen support for extremist Sikhs. And yet Canada’s NATO allies and partners in the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence sharing agreement, the United States and Australia, have expressed “deep concerns” over the issue. Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said, “We are deeply concerned about the allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau.” Foreign Secretary of the UK, James Cleverly, posted UK’s reaction on platform X “We are in regular contact with our Canadian partners about serious allegations raised in the Canadian Parliament.” One wonders if this allegation of targeted killing by India is in retaliation to New Delhi’s steady favour of Russia, and has been levelled after reports of a brokered American deal with Pakistan for weapons transfer to Ukraine in lieu of an IMF bailout emerged.
Admonishing Canada on X, former Foreign Secretary Nirupama Menon Rao said, “Canada has an extremely spotty and very, very poor record on the whole issue of Khalistanis in Canada. The support these lawless elements have received under the cover of what is called freedom of expression and democratic rights of citizens…it must control such elements with a firm hand and cannot allow them to run free to foster terrorism and violence in our country.”
Amid the hectic media coverage there was speculation that ‘Trudeau’s allegations have put the White House in an especially tight spot.’ But this were swifty checked by Adrienne Watson in her X post, “reports that we rebuffed Canada in any way on this are flatly false. We are coordinating and consulting with Canada closely on this issue.”
The manner in which copious evidence on Khalistan separatists handed over to the Canadian side have gone unaddressed and yet Trudeau’s allegation invoked strong reactions from other western nations, implies that this has moved beyond our bilaterals with Ottawa. It will have ramifications on how India deals with its strong G7 allies, especially the US.
For India the existence of Khalistani extremists and their alignment with organised crime in Canada poses security exigencies. India must at this juncture refrain from a broad generalisation of Sikh diaspora as secessionist, an incrimination that was implied during the Sikh-dominated farmers’ movement.
Political parties must rise above partisan politics over separatist movements that are a threat to nation security. Voices from Punjab attest that Khalistan supporters remain ‘fringe’ and ‘on the margins.’ Even among expatriate Sikh community leaders have challenged the anti-India narrative laid out by Khalistanis and their supporters, despite the fact that they, and the community there, regularly face harassment and threats of violence from expatriate Khalistanis. Former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh states that Nijjar’s murder was the result of a factional feud within the management of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara situated at Surrey and that Trudeau had “walked into a trap owing to vote bank politics.”
New Delhi must ensure that overseas Sikh communities which have tried to counter pro-Khalistan disinformation shall not be left alone to defend themselves.
China and Venezuela Deepening Cooperation
In a significant development that underscores the changing dynamics of global politics and economics, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro recently signed several bilateral cooperation agreements in Beijing, highlighting the changing dynamics of world politics and economics. China’s determination to participate in partnerships that promote economic stability and prosperity demonstrates its unwavering commitment to global economic recovery.
The agreements signify a strengthening of their partnerships and span a variety of fields, including trade, the economy, and tourism. The cooperation has been upgraded to an “All-weather strategic partnership,” reflecting the continued dedication of both countries to the advancement and development of the other. The decision by China and Venezuela to strengthen their ties comes as the world is witnessing a transformation in international alliances and trade partnerships.
The economic collaboration between the two countries is one of the most significant aspects of this new era of partnership. The recent agreements are expected to further cement Venezuela’s ties with China, which has long been the country’s major trading partner.Investments in infrastructure development and oil and gas exploration and production are part of the cooperation in the energy industry.
During his visit to China, President Maduro expressed his optimism for the relationship’s future, stating it heralds the start of a “new era” for both nations. Venezuela, which has recently experienced economic difficulties, views China as a dependable ally that can aid in reviving its economy. China, on the other hand, sees Venezuela as a crucial friend in the region and a valuable supply of natural resources.
China and Venezuela’s energy cooperation has broad implications. As the globe grapples with concerns about energy security and climate change, this alliance might have a big impact on the global energy landscape. China’s investments in Venezuela’s oil sector can stabilize oil prices and provide a more consistent supply of crude oil to the global market.
Aside from the energy industry, both countries have pledged to deepen their collaboration in a variety of other economic areas. Venezuela can benefit from China’s expertise in agricultural technologies and infrastructural development in one area. Venezuela may enhance food production and reduce its reliance on imports by modernizing its agricultural sector with Chinese assistance, thereby increasing food security for its citizens.
Additionally, both countries have enormous potential in the tourism sector. Venezuela has incredible landscapes such as the famous Angel Falls and virgin Caribbean beaches, which may appeal to Chinese tourists looking for new travel experiences. Similarly, China’s rich history and culture have always captured the interest of visitors from all over the world, including Venezuelans. The tourist accords aim to make travel between the two countries easier, to foster cultural interaction, and to develop tourism-related enterprises.
Furthermore, the strengthened relationship extends beyond economic interests to include political and strategic considerations. Both countries have reaffirmed their commitment to mutual support in international forums and to no interference in the other’s internal affairs. This strategic partnership is consistent with China’s aim of establishing a multipolar world and strengthening cooperation across developing nations.
The collaboration between China and Venezuela should be seen in the larger Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) initiative. The BRI seeks to establish a network of economic and infrastructure partnerships across Asia, Europe, Africa, and Latin America. A deeper integration of Venezuela into China’s global economic vision through its participation in the BRI could create new trade and investment opportunities.
The potential for economic development in Venezuela is one of the most notable benefits of the China-Venezuela cooperation. In recent years, the South American country has suffered severe economic issues, including high inflation, financial sanctions, and political unrest. China’s investments and assistance can help stabilize Venezuela’s economy, generate jobs, and raise inhabitants’ living standards.
The China-Venezuela connection is a key milestone in the shifting global political and economic landscape. In a changing world order, this partnership has the potential to provide Venezuela with economic prosperity, stability, as well as greater autonomy.
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