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State terrorism: Kashmir erupts naturally: India needs to consider Indexit

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After being a freedom fighting colony for centuries, India, since 1947, has assumed the role of a colonialist nation by annexing and occupying neighboring Jammu Kashmir. India has killed more Kashmiris in a few decades than what it may have lost under British rule for centuries. Over year of misrule in Jammu Kashmir, India have burnt its terror fingers in occupied Kashmir, once again, by targeting a n important freedom fighter leader whom Kashmiris respect as their own.

India’s terror strategy is facing serious blow in Kashmir as people stand together to oppose Indian yoke on their soil.  Indian state terrorism has reached the climax point. The stage seems to be set for Indian regime to speedily consider surrendering sovereignty to Kashmiris. India should exit from Kashmir – Indexit.

Rising Kashmiri movement

Like many problems in South Asia, the roots of the Kashmir issue stretch back to the partition of British India in 1947. After an aborted attempt at remaining independent during the finals ears of British rule in the region, what was once the princely state of Jammu Kashmir was divided between the two new countries of India and Pakistan, with a de facto border known as the Line of Control. Later Pakistan gave a part of Azad Kashmir to China in exchange for the latter’s economic and military assistance.

Civilian uprisings are not uncommon in Kashmir as military imposes its iron will on the civilians.

In ruthless killing, India has overdone it, again, as its military occupying neighboring Jammu Kashmir has accelerated its attack spree, killing young people as freely as jungle beats do. In doing so, New Delhi has time and again expressed its hatred for Kashmiri Muslims, forcing now the Kashmiris demonstrating in streets protesting against the military killing of a young freedom fighting Muslim.

As India clamps down on Kashmir with an iron grip, it risks permanently losing the hearts and minds of the people. A popular civilian uprising is underway in Kashmir as India’s rule grows weak again.

Indian forces enjoy unprecedented freedom now to kill any Muslim of their choice and governor who represents central government and state government supporting Indian agenda in Kashmir over see the genocides of Kashmiri Muslims with secret orders for the same.

In three decades of armed oppression against the civilian population, supposedly a bid to win back trust in Kashmir, many women and girls have been raped and molested by Indian occupation soldiers. Sexual violence has been used as a channel to impose authority and fear upon the female population, while torture and killings are used to suppress their male counterparts.

While Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was on a tour to Africa, Indian troops back in Kashmir were shooting at peaceful demonstrators who were out on streets after the killing of a popular rebel commander. In five days, 36 civilians have been killed by Indian forces and more than 1,500 injured, including 100 with eye injuries. A medical emergency has been declared while the Kashmir Valley remains under curfew.

Six years after he chose to take up arms against the state, Burhan Muzaffar Wani, 22, was shot dead by a joint party of Indian army and police in a brief gunfight in South Kashmir. Wani was a militant commander of Hizbul Mujahideen – an indigenous rebel outfit fighting for an independent Kashmir

Indian military knows Indian government and its corporate lords in the parliament and state assemblies, and their “trusted” media would shield, as their major responsibility, all its crimes against humanity perpetrated in Kashmir or India. So, Indian solders do not hesitate to kill any Muslims in Kashmir on false pretexts.

Last April, five Kashmiris were shot dead by Indian soldiers in India-controlled Kashmir, shortly after protests broke out in the aftermath of the molestation of a young girl by Indian occupation soldiers in Handwara near the capital city of Srinagar. The attempted sexual harassment, as usual, had gone largely unnoticed until the victim spoke to the media, but it was not the first time that a similar incident had occurred in the heavily militarized region.

People support freedom movement

At the outset one matter needs to be explained. Whosoever Indian government and media lords call terrorists are indeed Kashmir freedom fighters who seek sovereignty back from the occupiers. India might call the freedom fighting groups in Kashmir as terrorist outfits and ask USA and EU to kindly add them in their own terrorist lists and never support them. By doing so, India thinks the Kashmir issue is settled once for all in its favor. It might even consider stopping huge cash transfer to USA regularly for their support against Kashmir sovereignty.

It would be worthwhile right here to rewind the Indian freedom struggle when Nehru, Gandhi, others led the movement but for the British rulers they were terrorists punishable under law..  

The government’s hold over the territory had strengthened not with positive attitude towards Kashmiris but with the help of mass killings in the early 1990s, and later, with the regional elections held in 1996. In the early 1990s, when India’s grip was weak and the rebels in 1993 had “achieved successes previously unimaginable” and “for the first time established liberated zones,” a government militia was instrumental in crushing popular dissent, leading to the fall of most rebel groups.

Currently, there is one group that is still fighting in Kashmir and continues to gain power: the indigenous Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, also known as the Hizb. In the last few years, the Hizb has managed to climb to the top in terms of popularity, and continues to successfully gain new recruits, who are being celebrated as righteous warriors by the general public.

State crimes and impunity for insane “soldiers”

The armed rebellion against Indian arrogance and misrule in Kashmir started in the late 1980s. In these years of violence, around half a million soldiers in the region used extreme torture and targeted killings against civilians, with hundreds killed in some incidents. Estimates of the number of people killed in Kashmir range from 95,000 to 100,000. And number keeps rising as India continues targeting Kashmiris in fake encounters.

Force was again used in 2008 trying to silence the freedom movement of Kashmiris, when the political narrative in Kashmir took a different shape as youths took over the reins of public dissent and rebellion. Two mass uprisings in 2008 and 2010 showed the brutal face of Indian state machinery to those born during the 1990s, who had not seen such mass violence spearheaded by the state before. Robust military action attacking Kashmiri Muslims further strengthened the younger generation’s anti-India sentiments and brought about a fresh wave of dissent.

India’s draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which provides impunity to Indian soldiers for basically any action, and the Public Safety Act (PSA), which is used to imprison people without due process have been instrumental in crushing the recent popular dissent in the Valley but the résistance has only grown stronger many times.

The lack of political will to account for past and present actions of the security forces, including the state police, is fortified by legislation and aggravated by other obstacles to justice Change of government at the centre, if effected to end the present crisis in Kashmir, would not indeed solve the problem because the trouble India invited has reached the end point and not even Israeli terror goods could bring peace to strategic terror specialists in New Delhi. Amnesty International has been campaigning for the revocation of s the AFSPA and PSA – lawless laws meant for jungle regimes.

The criminal mindset of Indian government gets fully exposed when common people are shot dead by’ soldiers’ in Handwara, for example, and the state government expresses no regret over the killings, and also refuses order an investigation, while the federal government in New Delhi continues to maintain graveyard silence about state terrorism but blaming pro-freedom leaders for instigating the violence. At the core of weeks of violence was an underage girl, who was subjected to attempted sexual harassment and was also forced to refrain from speaking to the media while she was kept under police detention. Activists accused the police of a forced detention to protect the Indian “soldier” who had committed the act; there was no clear response from New Delhi. Government does not open its democratic mouth. The girl was released later. She demanded that an FIR must be filed against the accused soldiers and action be taken against the police officers involved in her detention.

Incidents like the one in Handwara are not the first of their kind such crimes are happening state wide. Men murders and women sexual violence conducted by the Indian forces have long been a mainstay tactic, with no one prosecuted to date. New Delhi and India media lords just shut their dirty mouths and cunning eyes.

On February 23, 1991, Indian soldiers had gone to the two villages for a cordon and search operation. As per various accounts, the soldiers tortured the men and raped the women. The 20-year-old injustice came to light again amidst the swelling public discontent of the last few years. In 2013, a group of women came together to file a public lawsuit that called for further investigations regarding the case. Months have passed since a local court ordered further investigations, but the police have taken no action.

Many of crimes committed in Kashmir by Indian forces come out only 25 years later and secret grave years reveal the death of Indian democracy and law.

Weakening of Indian terror hold

India has pooled all resources in Kashmir to contain and cripple the freedom movement and promote the military and Hindu interests in the valley.

The anti-India rebellion grows in Kashmir in a big organized way as an indigenous movement. Rebel, India says, have been using this strategy for the last few years, taking service rifles and other weapons from the police or paramilitary troops and using them. It also shows the rebels are mainly focusing on their particular areas, mostly in the south of the Kashmir Valley. But lately some attacks and rebel activities have happened in North Kashmir and Central Kashmir also. In the absence of any political solution in the form of sovereignty, the youth have become restless and their anger has intensified.

Today the world believes that the ongoing freedom struggle in the Kashmir Valley is a populist movement. The Indian Army has also started acknowledging the change in the Kashmiri situation. One of the senior military commanders in Northern India, Lt. Gen. D.S. Hooda admitted that Indian soldiers occupying Kashmir have little hope of competing against the rebels for public sympathy and Indian forces finds the situation a big problem, a challenge for conducting anti-militant operations now. “Militarily, there’s not much more to do than we already have done … We’re losing the battle for a narrative.”

Growing anti-India sentiments and rapidly rising support for Pakistan among people in India-controlled Kashmir has badly damaged Indian claims and status.

The chief cleric of South Kashmir’s Ummat-i-Islami, Mirwaiz Qazi Yasir said: “symbols are more important and the new rebellion is a symbol,” he says. “Even if there are no resources with them , but still this is a symbol.” However, he acknowledges that “a long-term rebellion” will find it “hard to survive without resources.” India would count on this aspect but both China and Pakistan could help them with resources. .

Pakistan has always tried to show it as an indigenous movement and it is an indigenous to a large extent. “If Pakistan wants to help the movement here, they will have their own interests also. Some observers also believe that Pakistan has changed its approach too, from involving itself on the ground to becoming the political backbone for the Kashmir issue globally.

This endeavor to advocate on behalf of the Kashmiri people was evident at recent United Nations meetings, where Pakistan continuously raised the Kashmir issue, as well as in bilateral talks with India. As a result, India has declared that Pakistan is “needlessly” internationalizing the Kashmir issue. Recently,   Indian strategic people ask the Modi government to invade and annex Pakistan’s Azad Kashmir for which Israel would readily extend military support. Now USA won’t support either Pakistan or Kashmir but has to side with Indian narrative, though might not offer military support.

The situation in Kashmir may look better compared now to the peaks of violence in the past, in the heart of the Valley, the rise of anti-India sentiment has weakened India’s control.

JK is being ruled by a coalition of People’s Democratic Party and the Hindutva Bharatiya Janata Party with PDP CM and BJP deputy CM. BJP is pushing for its Hindutva agenda in the valley especially by promoting all Hindutva promotional activities. In order to rule the state, the PDP supports whatever the BJP wants to do in t Kashmir. The rich in PDP,   National Conference, Congress and BJP are sharing the resource loot behind the coalition government. .

Further, anti-India forces are hugely motivated by the extreme force used against dissenting voices by the newly formed regional government. The new head of the region’s government, Mehbooba Mufti, recently said that there are only four bunkers of Indian forces in the Valley – a statement that highly angered the people, who have to face soldiers and police regularly in their daily lives. The regional government’s anti-dissent tactics combined with the disappearance of opportunities to construct a solid political solution to provide respite to the ordinary people in Kashmir has only made things worse.

Insane Indian oppression and Angry Kashmiris

Even mourning a so-called terrorist’s murder by military is seen as a major political statement in contemporary Kashmir, as thousands of people join funeral processions for fighting terror of Indian soldiers.

Meanwhile, while Indian core media continue target Kashmiri Muslims as terrorists, social media remain, controlled by Indian agencies also abuzz with people who idolize rebel commanders, like Burhan Muzaffar Wani, a 23-year-old Hizb commander in South Kashmir who has become the face of the new rebellion for sovereignty for Kashmir. The people’s acceptance of this rebellion has grown with the decline of any political process that can hope to empower them. Wani’s brother Khalid was among those killed by the soldiers, and this year, a cricket tournament was organized to remember him, with team titles dedicated to various rebels.

The change in Kashmiri mood against Indian occupational terror tactics to silence the freedom fighting Kashmiris, has its roots in the 2008 and 2010 mass uprisings in Kashmir, during which Indian troops and police, on instructions of Indian government (Home ministry) and JK governor mercilessly shot more than 200 teenagers dead on the streets. This has gradually led to major protests on a permanent basis, drawing in the younger generation, with people from all walks of life vehemently rejecting India’s continued rule in Kashmir.

From the army to the local government, the alarm bells are ringing, but no one in New Delhi is ready for a political solution to solve the long-standing issue. They don’t want to listen to anything anymore as enough is enough and they want all Indian boots are cleared of Kashmir valley forthwith and soverign handed over to Kashmiris. It is no more any formality from common Kashmiris but they are serious about protesting and can go to any extent to achieve their goals

The Modi government is now fully aware of the fact that informally told me that the new generation is angry.

Freedom leaders to fight till sovereignty

Resistance leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik has appealed to the Imams of the Mosques to lead Nimaz-e-Jinaza in absentia to the 40 young brave hearts who were snatched from us by the cruel and inhuman Indian forces and local police in the last week after the martyrdom of Hizb Commander Burhan Wani and his associates. They also appealed them to lead the protests against the brutalities of Indians in uniform. Leaders have condemned the use of brutal force against the protesters and compelling the traders and transporters not to support the ongoing struggle.

Leaders have affirmed their resolve to lead this movement to its logical end no matter how brutal and cruel Indian aggression may be. People have been assured not to panic but show steadfastness, dedication and discipline so that any of the ill intentions of the enemy are not allowed to derail our struggle for the goal of self-determination.

Leaders have assured the nation that they have been fighting the Indian aggression and brutalism for decades and now we are facing do or die situation which demands utmost discipline and determination. They further said that we will never succumb to any pressure as we believe ours is the just cause and we will fight to achieve it till our last breath. Commenting on the more troops from Delhi leaders said that not only three battalions even if India sends whole of its army to Kashmir we will fight them tooth and nail and like always this time also they will be defeated. Leaders further said it is a long and continuous struggle and we need to be prepared for a prolonged but definite phase now. They have appealed people not to fall prey to the nefarious designs of the Indian imperialism or their local stooges and follow the combined programme in letter and spirit.

A word

Insane oppression of Kashmiri Muslims, both men and women, old and youth, by Indian occupation forces merit the urgent attention of UN, ICJ and OICC.

Yes, India is fast long Kashmir as Kashmiris, after the ghastly murder of their leader by the military, see Indian government as their enemy and they continue to seek the support of Pakistan. Unless India changes tactics — big brother India never changes its policies or tactics as it is aggressively arrogant – Kashmir will continue to slip away.

Time is ripe for Kashmiris to gain full and complete independence from India and establish a soverign Kashmir. India may let its military and police stay on in Kashmir until the soverign Kashmir government makes alternative security arrangement.

State terrorism tactics of India have worked devastatingly making the peace loving: Kashmiris to erupt naturally and violently protest against India’s prolonged Zionist occupation of Kashmir: India needs to consider Indexit!

World leader USA and other veto states must help the Kashmiris get speedy justice in the form of soverign Kashmir. They should advice their “anti-terror” companion India to leave Kashmir by opting for Indexit at long last, at least sympathetically.

Indian occupation forces have killed enough Kashmiri Muslims.

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South Asia

Whether Pakistan’s membership in the IAEA Board of Governors is a major diplomatic achievement?

Sonia Naz

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Pakistan has once again been elected a member of the IAEA Board of Governors (BoG) for the next two years on September 20, 2018. The Board of Governors of the IAEA is one of its policy making organs. The BoG not only examines the financial statements, it also makes recommendations for the IAEA budget. It finalizes the membership applications, accepts safeguard agreements and contributes in the safety standard publications. The approval of Director General of the IAEA with the approval of General Conference is also the responsibility of the Board. Pakistan has been chosen 19 times to the Board in the past and has played an important role in the formulation of the agency’s policies and programmes. It also has the honor of chairing the Board thrice in 1962, 1986 and 2010.

A prominent Pakistani nuclear expert Dr. Naeem Salikin his book “Nuclear Pakistan Seeking Security and Stability” writes that Pakistan’s cooperation with the agency has been reciprocal. In other words it not only benefitted from the agency but also Pakistan’s nuclear expertise and its human resources proved to be invaluable contribution to the agency. Pakistani scientists and engineers have contributed to the IAEA work in numerous fields including in the area of nuclear safety and security. It also hosted nuclear safety and security workshops with the cooperation of IAEA on the regional level. Pakistan has been beneficiary of the IAEA assistance and its nuclear establishment is fully committed to increasing this cooperation in various fields ranging from nuclear power development to that of agriculture, medicine and livestock. Pakistan’s Country Program Framework (CPF) 2014-2019 provides assistance in the wide range of areas as nuclear safety and security, nuclear power development, industrial application, human health under the technical cooperation program of the IAEA.

Since the inception of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons it has faced allegations and hostilities which have not been faced by any other nuclear state in the world. Although, the formation of the NSG in 1974 was the result of Indian violation of peaceful use of nuclear material for military purposes but the irony is that now the founders of NSG are advocating India for the membership of NSG. China is the only state which understands that India is not the only country but Pakistan is also capable of producing highly enriched uranium and plutonium for civil and military purposes and it can easily assist developing states in advancing their nuclear infrastructures and technology. All nuclear power plants of Pakistan are under the IAEA safeguards while the US is extending exceptional treatment to India by letting it keep its eight reactors out of IAEA safeguards that are producing fissile material in large quantities, and intentionally ignoring this.

In this regard, Pakistan advocates a non-discriminatory approach towards the non-NPT nuclear weapons states for their entry into the NSG. Nevertheless, it is the prime time for Pakistan to fight its case through the IAEA as it is going to formulate policies of IAEA for future. It should also try to introduce the policies which treat all nuclear states equally because discriminatory behaviors and policies undermine the credibility of the non-proliferation regimes.

In a nutshell, Pakistan has been facing enormous amount of propaganda regarding its nuclear safety and security and the amount of literature projecting Pakistan’s perspective is inadequate and small. Therefore, it’s imperative that Pakistan projects its perspective concerning its nuclear safety and security. Pakistan has been in full compliance with the agency regime for over fifty years now. Pakistan’s cooperative and positive behavior towards the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear technology and non-proliferation regimes requires equal treatment. Keeping in view the stringent nuclear safety and security record of Pakistan and its advanced nuclear fuel cycle capability, it should be considered eligible to be provided the nuclear fuel cycle services under the IAEA safeguards. Pakistan can make its membership in BOG a major diplomatic achievement by advocating its perspective with full determination.

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Can India Balance Between Beijing and Washington?

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On October 10, 2018, a Senior Chinese Diplomat in India underscored the need for New Delhi and Beijing to work jointly, in order to counter the policy of trade protectionism, being promoted by US President, Donald Trump.

It would be pertinent to point out, that US  had imposed tariffs estimated at 200 Billion USD in September 2018, Beijing imposed tariffs on 60 Billion USD of US imports as a retaliatory measure, and US threatened to impose further tariffs. Interestingly, US trade deficit vis-à-vis China reached 34.1 Billion USD for the month of September (in August 2018, it was 31 Billion USD). Critics of Trump point to this increasing trade deficit vis-à-vis China as a reiteration of the fact, that Trump’s economic policies are not working.

Ji Rong, Spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in India said that tariffs will be detrimental for both India and China and given the fact that both are engines of economic growth it is important for both to work together.

The Chinese diplomat’s statement came at an interesting time. US President, Donald Trump on October 2, also referred to India as ‘tariff king’. Even though the India-US strategic relationship has witnessed a significant upswing, yet the US President has repeatedly referred to India imposing high tariffs on US exports to India (specifically Harley Davidson motorcyles).

It also came days after, after India signed a deal with Russia (October 5, 2018) for the purchase of 5 S-400 Air Defence system, during the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Chinese envoy’s statement also came days before India attended the China dominated Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Significantly, India and China also began a joint training programme for Afghan Diplomats on October 15, 2018 (which would last till October 26, 2018).

Trilateral cooperation between India, China and Afghanistan was one of the main thrust areas of the Wuhan Summit, between Chinese President, Xi Jinping, and Indian PM, Narendra Modi, and this is one of the key initiatives in this direction.

There are a number of factors, which have resulted in New Delhi and Beijing seeking to reset their relationship. The first is difference between New Delhi and Washington on economic ties between the former and Iran and Russia. Washington has given mixed signals with regard to granting India exemptions from Countering America Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

US ambiguity on providing waivers to India

While sections of the US establishment, especially Jim Mattis, Defence Secretary and Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo have been fervently backing a waiver to India, there are those who oppose any sort of waiver even to India. NSA John Bolton has been warning US allies like India, that there will be no exemption or waiver from US sanctions targeting Iran’s oil sector. On October 4th, Bolton while briefing the press said:

“This is not the Obama administration … is my message to them (the importers),

Trump himself has not been clear on providing India a waiver, when asked about this issue, he said India would  know soon about the US decision (Trump has the authority to provide a Presidential waiver to India from the deal with Russia). A State Department Spokesperson also stated, that the US was carefully watching S-400 agreement with Russia, as well as India’s decision to import oil from Iran, and such steps were ‘not helpful’. With the US President being excessively transactionalist, it is tough to predict his final decision, and with growing differences between him and Mattis, one of the ardent advocates of waivers for India, it remains to be seen as to which camp will prevail.

US protectionism and New Delhi’s discomfort

Differences between Washington and New Delhi don’t end on the latter’s economic ties with Tehran and Moscow. India has on numerous occasions stated, that while strengthening strategic ties with the US, it was concerned about the Trump administration’s economic policies. This was clearly evident from the Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s speech at the SCO Meet (October 12, 2018) held at Dushanbe, Tajikistan where she pitched for an open global trading order. Said Swaraj:

“We have all benefited from globalization. We must further develop our trade and investment cooperation. We support an open, stable international trade regime based on centrality of the World Trade Organization,”

Even if one to look beyond Trump’s unpredictability, there is scope for synergies between New Delhi and Beijing in terms of economic sphere and some crucial connectivity projects.

Economic Opportunities

For long, trade has been skewed in favour of China, and this is a growing concern for India. Trade deficit between India and China has risen from 51.1 Billion USD in 2016-2017 to 62.9 Billion in 2017-2018 (a rise of over 20 percent).

The imposition of US tariffs has opened up opportunities for China importing certain commodities from India. This includes commodities like soybeans and rapeseed meal. In a seminar held at the Indian embassy in Beijing in September 2018, this issue was discussed and one on one meetings between potential importers (China) and sellers (India) was held. India urged China to remove the ban which had imposed on the import of rape meal seeds in 2011.

Connectivity and Afghanistan

Another area where there is immense scope for cooperation between India and China is big ticket connectivity projects. During his India visit, Uzbekistan President, Shavkat Mirziyoyev invited India to participate in a rail project connecting Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has welcomed this proposal, saying that this would strengthen cooperation between China and India in Afghanistan. India-China cooperation on this project is very much in sync with the China-India Plus Model proposed by China at the BRICS Summit in July 2018.

India and China can also work jointly for capacity building in Afghanistan. New Delhi has already been involved in providing assistance to Afghanistan in institution building and disaster management, and if Beijing and New Delhi join hands this could make for a fruitful partnership. The India-China joint training program for Afghan diplomats is a significant move in this direction. India and China can also look at joint scholarships to Afghan students where they can spend part of their time in China and the remaining time in India.

Both India and New Delhi for any meaningful cooperation in Afghanistan can not be risk averse, and will have to shed their hesitation. Beijing for instance has opted for a very limited ‘capacity building’ , where it will work with India in Afghanistan. While Kabul had expected that both sides will invest in a significant infrastructure project, Beijing with an eye on its ally Islamabad’s sensitivities opted for a low profile project.

Conclusion

New Delhi should not be too predictable in it’s dealings with Washington DC, and has to do a fine balancing act between Beijing and Washington DC. While on certain strategic issues are synergies between India and the US, on crucial economic and geo-political issues, there are serious differences, and India’s ties with Beijing are crucial in this context. New Delhi and Beijing should seek to expand economic ties, and the latter should give more market access to Indian goods. Apart from this, both countries should work closely on connectivity projects. If both sides build trust, the sky is the limit but it will require pragmatism from both sides. Beijing should not allow the Pakistani deep state to dictate it’s links with India (especially in the context of cooperation in Afghanistan). New Delhi on its part, should not make any one issue a sticking point in its complex but very important relationship with Beijing.

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The “Neo-Cold War” in the Indian Ocean Region

Kagusthan Ariaratnam

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Addressing an event last week at London’s Oxford University, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said some people are seeing “imaginary Chinese Naval bases in Sri Lanka. Whereas the Hambantota Port (in southern Sri Lanka) is a commercial joint venture between our Ports Authority and China Merchants – a company listed in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.”

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has denied US’ claims that China might build a “forward military base” at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port which has been leased out to Beijing by Colombo. Sri Lanka failed to pay a Chinese loan of $1.4 billion and had to lease the China-developed port to Beijing for 99 years. Both New Delhi and Washington had in the past expressed concerns that Beijing could use the harbor for military purposes.

Image courtesy of Google

The USA, China, and India are the major powers playing their key role in the “Neo-Cold War” in Central Asian landmass and the strategic sea lanes of the world in the Indian Ocean where 90% of the world trade is being transported everyday including oil. It is this extension of the shadowy Cold War race that can be viewed as the reason for the recent comment made by the US Vice President Mike Pence that China is using “debt diplomacy” to expand its global footprint and Hambantota “may soon become a forward military base for China’s expanding navy”.

According to some analysts, the deep-water port, which is near a main shipping route between Asia and Europe, is likely to play a major role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

In his book “Monsoon” Robert D. Kaplan (2010), a senior fellow at the Centre for a New American Security notes the following:

[…] the Indian Ocean will turn into the heart of a new geopolitical map, shifting from a unilateral world power to multilateral power cooperation. This transition is caused by the changing economic and military conditions of the USA, China and India. The Indian Ocean will play a big role in the 21st century’s confrontation for geopolitical power. The greater Indian Ocean region covers an arc of Islam, from the Sahara Desert to the Indonesian archipelago. Its western reaches include Somalia, Yemen, Iran, and Pakistan — constituting a network of dynamic trade as well as a network of global terrorism, piracy, and drug trafficking […]

Two third of the global maritime trade passes through a handful of relatively narrow shipping lanes, among which five geographic “chokepoints” or narrow channels that are gateway to and from Indian ocean: (1) Strait of Hormuz (2) Bab el-Mandab Passage (3) Palk Strait (4) Malacca and Singapore Straits and (5) Sunda Strait.

While Lutz Kleveman (2003), argues that the Central Asia is increasingly becoming the most important geostrategic region for the future commodities, Michael Richardson (2004) on the other hand explains that the global economy depends on the free flow of shipping through the strategic international straits, waterways, and canals in the Indian Ocean.

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA)  report published in 2017, “world chokepoints for maritime transit of oil are a critical part of global energy security. About 63% of the world’s oil production moves on maritime routes. The Strait of Hormuz and the Strait of Malacca are the world’s most important strategic chokepoints by volume of oil transit” (p.1). These channels are critically important to the world trade because so much of it passes through them. For instance, half of the world’s oil production is moved by tankers through these maritime routes. The blockage of a chokepoint, even for a day, can lead to substantial increases in total energy costs and thus these chokepoints are critical part of global energy security.  Hence, whoever control these chockpoints, waterways, and sea routes in the Indian Ocean maritime domain will reshape the region as an emerging global power.

In a recent analysis of globalization and its impact on Central Asia and Indian Ocean region, researcher Daniel Alphonsus (2015), notes that the twists and turns of political, economic and military turbulence were significant to all great players’ grand strategies:

(1) the One Belt, One Road (OBOR), China’s anticipated strategy to increase connectivity and trade between Eurasian nations, a part of which is the future Maritime Silk Road (MSR), aimed at furthering collaboration between south east Asia, Oceania and East Africa; (2) Project Mausam, India’s struggle to reconnect with its ancient trading partners along the Indian Ocean, broadly viewed as its answer to the MSR; and (3) the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor, the USA’s effort to better connect south and south east Asian nations. (p.3)

India the superpower of the subcontinent, has long feared China’s role in building outposts around its periphery. In a recent essay, an Indian commentator Brahma Chellaney wrote that the fusion of China’s economic and military interests “risk turning Sri Lanka into India’s Cuba” – a reference to how the Soviet Union courted Fidel Castro’s Cuba right on the United States’ doorstep. Located at the Indian Ocean’s crossroads gives Sri Lanka the strategic and economic weight in both MSR and Project Mausam plans. MSR highlights Sri Lanka’s position on the east-west sea route, while Project Mausam’s aim to create an “Indian Ocean World” places Sri Lanka at the center of the twenty-first century’s defining economic, strategic and institutional frameworks. Furthermore, alongside the MSR, China is building an energy pipeline through Pakistan to secure Arabian petroleum, which is a measure intended to bypass the Indian Ocean and the Strait of Malacca altogether.

A recent study done by a panel of experts and reported by the New York Times reveal that how the power has increasingly shifted towards China from the traditional US led world order in the past five years among small nation states in the region. The critical role played by the strategic sea ports China has been building in the rims of Indian Ocean including Port of Gwadar in Pakistan, Port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Port of Kyaukpyu in Myanmar and Port of Chittagong in Bangladesh clearly validates the argument that how these small states are being used as proxies in this power projection.

This ongoing political, economic and military rivalry between these global powers who are seeking sphere of influence in one of the world’s most important geostrategic regions is the beginning of a “Neo-Cold War” that Joseph Troupe refers as the post-Soviet era geopolitical conflict resulting from the multipolar New world order.

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