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Kashmir: Pakistan and India mutually expel diplomats

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As it is known, Kashmir is the chief cause of tensions between heavily armed and nuclearized South Asian nations India and Pakistan, joint occupiers, along with veto power China, of Jammu Kashmir.

China has taken a part of Azad Kashmir from Pakistani possession most probably on payment basis and does not ask for more lands from India which is eager to mend ways with Asian superpower so that Pakistan stands isolated internationally without any big supporter to question Indian action against Pakistan.

Since the world powers and UNSC have refused to end genocides in Kashmir perpetrated by Indian forces that enjoy special military powers gifted by the fanatic regime, Kashmir Muslim continue to die, falling victim to modern colonialism religiously promoted by India with blessing form USA and Russia. That is indeed Himalayan shame.

It looks the South Asian nuclear giants are bent upon showcasing their prowess by engaging themselves in regular mutual clashes in order only to terrorize the Kashmiris besieged between them and find vital space in international media and forums. They have been successful.

Interestingly, both sides typically refute the other’s version of events. New Delhi protested against the alleged mutilation of the body of an Indian soldier by an attacker who escaped across the Line of Control after “committing this heinous crime”. The press wing of the Pakistani military said India had committed 178 cease-fire violations this year, killing 19 civilians and injuring 80 more.

India and Pakistan have been at loggerheads since a group of gunmen killed 19 Indian soldiers in September at an army camp in Kashmir, an attack India blamed on Pakistan-based militants. India said it had sent special commandos into Pakistan-controlled Kashmir to kill militants in a retaliatory operation that sharply soured relations between the neighbors. Pakistan says the operation never happened and accuses India of inventing it to distract attention from its crackdown on protests in the part of Kashmir it controls.

Cross fires, meant to make Kashmiris feel vulnerable, followed by cease-fire violations have been dominating the bilateral relations for years now with very little cross border trade taking place between them.

The countries’ heavily militarized frontier has been tense since, as their armed forces have frequently exchanged cross-border fire. Artillery duels and skirmishing along the disputed frontier that runs through Kashmir have escalated in recent days, leading India to summon the Pakistani deputy high commissioner to express its “grave concern and strong protest”. In a statement, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs accused Pakistan of violations of a 2003 ceasefire that have caused several fatalities and injuries among its civilians and security forces.

After initial overtures between the two prime ministers, Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan and Narendra Modi of India, relations continued to sour as ceasefire violations along the Kashmir border increased. But the two nuclear-armed neighbours have a long history of diplomatic spats but rarely have they publicly disclosed the identity of each other’s mission officials in the past.

India called off normalization talks with Pakistan in August 2014 just because the Pakistani high commissioner in Delhi feted pro-Pakistan freedom leaders from India occupied Jammu Kashmir. A year later, Pakistan called off a meeting of the two national security advisers in Delhi as war of words broke out between them. Soon afterwards, Pakistan replaced its civilian national security adviser with a retired army officer.

Diplomatic and military relations between India and Pakistan have deteriorated for weeks after a militant attack on an Indian army base in September that New Delhi blamed on Islamabad. In response to last month’s assault on an army base, in which 19 Indian soldiers were killed, the Indian army launched what it called surgical strikes on militants in territory controlled by Pakistan. Islamabad rejected India’s claims, saying Indian troops didn’t cross over to its side. India said it had carried out “surgical strikes” inside Pakistan as retribution, but Islamabad denied they even took place and accused New Delhi of fabrication to distract attention from its crackdown on the protests in the part of Kashmir it controls.

Diplomatic personnel and ambassadors have immunity to do whatever they want in foreign countries as their “right and privilege” but occasionally when one country wants to showcase its “specialty” to the world, it expels some diplomats on the famous espionage charges as if they are not supposed to do them.

Occasionally mutual expulsion of diplomats characterizes the level of their anger at a given point. Recently India and Pakistan announced they would each expel one of the other’s diplomats amid growing tension between the nuclear-armed arch-foes over the disputed region of Kashmir.

India expelled a Pakistani diplomat based in New Delhi who allegedly ran a spy ring that collected sensitive information about Indian security operations along its border. Soon Pakistan’s foreign ministry said it had declared an Indian diplomat, Surjeet Singh, persona non grata and given him 48 hours to leave the country. That is in response to Indian action insulting its Pakistani “guests”. Police in New Delhi said the Pakistani diplomat was detained on Wednesday outside the gates to Delhi Zoo, where he had met two Indian associates whom police believe he had recruited to spy for him. That is well written usual story. Police accused the Pakistani official, Mahmood Akhtar, of illegally collecting information about India’s security operations on the countries’ tense border.

India accused a Pakistani diplomat of spying and ordered him to leave the country, prompting Islamabad to expel an Indian official in retaliation, as relations between the nuclear-armed neighbors continued to sour. Police in New Delhi accused the Pakistani official, Mahmood Akhtar, of illegally collecting information about India’s security operations on the countries’ tense border. He was declared persona non grata for alleged “espionage activities,” India’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said Akhtar must leave India by next day, authorities said. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said the allegations were “false and unsubstantiated” and condemned what it called “the detention and manhandling” of the official.

Later as expected, Pakistan’s foreign ministry announced it had declared Singh persona non grata and informed the Indian High Commission he had until Saturday to leave the country. The statement said Singh was accused of activities “that were in violation of the Vienna Convention and the established diplomatic norms” but did not elaborate.

An aide to India’s prime minister in New Delhi said the government was looking into the matter. India’s external affairs ministry spokesman was not immediately available for comment. Pakistan’s High Commission in New Delhi rejected the allegations, saying in a statement it “never engages in any activity that is incompatible with its diplomatic status”. Its Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Surjeet Singh was involved in activities that violated diplomatic norms, but didn’t provide any further details of his alleged missteps.

In an apparent tit-for-tat move, Pakistan announced the expulsion of an official at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad. Its Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Surjeet Singh was involved in activities that violated diplomatic norms, but didn’t provide any further details of his alleged missteps. Indian police said that Akhtar, who worked as an assistant to Pakistan’s trade counselor in the embassy in New Delhi, had been recruiting Indian informants for 18 months and obtained from them details about the deployment of security forces on the border, including maps and staffing lists.

As planned, Akhtar was detained on October 26 at a New Delhi zoo where he was collecting sensitive documents pertaining to national security from two of his Indian associates, said India’s Foreign Ministry. Akhtar—a former Pakistani soldier who reported to the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, police said—was taken to a police station for questioning and later released after he invoked diplomatic immunity. Police said they arrested the two Indian men, who they claimed were part of Akhtar’s network. One is a teacher in the border state of Rajasthan and the other is a businessman, said a senior Indian police official, who declined to provide details on how these men allegedly obtained sensitive documents and information.

The latest diplomatic incident has further strained ties that have grown increasingly fraught over national-security issues. India accuses Pakistan of providing training and logistical support to militants who cross the border into India to carry out attacks. Islamabad denies the allegations.

When Pakistan decided to expel two alleged Indian RAW agents from the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, in the guise of diplomats are running a terror unit in Pakistan. They include Rajesh Kumar Agnihotri and Baleer Singh. They are working as Commercial Counselor and Press Information Secretary respectively. The diplomats have been found to be involved in activities to destabilize Pakistan by facilitating and funding terrorism,” sources revealed to the media outlet. According to sources, Indian diplomatic official Surjeet Singh who was recently expelled by Pakistan was also part of the network.

In response to last month’s assault on an army base in Uri in occupied Kashmir, in which 19 Indian soldiers were killed, the Indian army launched what it called surgical strikes on militants in Kashmir territory controlled by Pakistan. Islamabad rejected India’s claims, saying Indian troops didn’t cross over to its side. The countries’ heavily militarized frontier has been tense since, as their armed forces have frequently exchanged cross-border fire.

Akhtar—a former Pakistani soldier who reported to the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, police said—was taken to a police station for questioning and later released after he invoked diplomatic immunity. Indian police said that Akhtar, who worked as an assistant to Pakistan’s trade counselor in the embassy in New Delhi, had been recruiting Indian informants for 18 months and obtained from them details about the deployment of security forces on the border, including maps and staffing lists.

Police said they arrested the two Indians, who they claimed were part of Akhtar’s network. One is a teacher in a mosque in the border state of Rajasthan and the other is a struggling businessman, said a senior Indian police official, who declined to provide details on how these men allegedly obtained sensitive documents and information.

The expulsion of Akhtar takes place as New Delhi seeks consular access to an Indian man, Kulbhushan Yadav, whom Pakistan arrested seven months ago, claiming he is an Indian naval officer and a spy trying to destabilize parts of the country. New Delhi has denied that Yadav was working for the Indian government. India’s Foreign Ministry said he had retired from the Navy and ran a business in Iran, from where he may have been abducted. Pakistan has denied Indian requests for consular access to Yadav, who hasn’t been charged.

Without questioning the logic of allowing special immunity guarantees to foreign embassy personnel, India just accused a Pakistani diplomat of spying and ordered him to leave the country, prompting Islamabad to expel an Indian official in retaliation, as relations between the nuclear-armed neighbors continued to sour. Also without criticizing the rule of immunity harming national interests, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said the allegations were “false and unsubstantiated” and condemned what it called “the detention and manhandling” of the official. In an apparent tit-for-tat move, Pakistan announced the expulsion of an official at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.

India accuses Pakistan of providing training and logistical support to militants who cross the border into India to carry out attacks. Islamabad denies the allegations. India says that there was high probability that the information passed on by these “anti-national elements” to PIO (Pakistan intelligence operative) is being used against the national interests and could be highly detrimental for national security, adding they had been trying to break the spy ring for six months.

Observation and solution

One is not sure Indian action followed refusal by the Pakistani official to give visa to any anti-Pakistani persons. That action would have offended New Delhi had its agents were denied Pakistani visa. The Pakistani diplomat, who reportedly worked in Pakistan High Commission’s visa section, and his alleged Indian accomplices were found with forged documents, defense-related maps, deployment charts and lists of officers working along India’s border with Pakistan, Indian police said in a statement.

One is not sure Indian action followed refusal by the Pakistani official to give visa to any ant–Pakistani persons. That action would have offended New Delhi had its agents were denied Pakistani visa. The Pakistani diplomat, who reportedly worked in Pakistan High Commission’s visa section, and his alleged Indian accomplices were found with forged documents, defense-related maps, deployment charts and lists of officers working along India’s border with Pakistan, Indian police said in a statement.

In response to last month’s assault on an army base, in which 19 Indian soldiers were killed, the Indian army launched what it called surgical strikes on militants in territory controlled by Pakistan. Islamabad rejected India’s claims, saying Indian troops didn’t cross over to its side. The countries’ heavily militarized frontier has been tense since, as their armed forces have frequently exchanged cross-border fire.

The diplomatic spat over suspicion of espionage comes after months of sharply deteriorating relations that began with civil unrest in Indian-controlled Kashmir and Pakistan’s global lobbying against New Delhi’s crackdown on the Kashmiri activists.

Indian and Pakistani troops face off against each other along the de facto border in divided Kashmir – a region they both claim in full but control in part – and have exchanged fire several times this week in cross-border shelling. Vikas Swarup, spokesman of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, said six Pakistani diplomats have already left the Indian capital but said they had not been expelled. Pakistan declined to comment on the matter ahead of a planned news conference, while India said the identity of eight of its diplomats had been revealed by Pakistani media. Pakistan has expelled six Indian diplomats for espionage and has revealed their names, local media said on Wednesday, a move sure to exacerbate a rift between the nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours that has been widening for months.

As a usual profitable strategy, India accuses Pakistan of providing training and logistical support to militants who cross the border into India to carry out attacks. Islamabad denies the allegations. India accused a Pakistani diplomat of spying and ordered him to leave the country, prompting Islamabad to expel an Indian official in retaliation, as relations between the nuclear-armed neighbors continued to sour. The latest diplomatic incident has further strained ties that have grown increasingly fraught over national-security issues.

Obviously, the special privileges like immunity have been exploited by countries through their respective embassies to conduct espionage and divisive operations against the host country. Though such activities re immoral and illegal, the immunity the personnel possess enable them to undertake such heinous acts of treason. Counties like USA, UK and Russia do this more than the rest but their veto on UN saves them from any punitive measures by the affected nations that are helpless and vulnerable. Therefore, if countries wish to have genuine diplomatic work in other countries must seek to do away with immunity right and push for ending the veto status for some countries against the weak one.

Otherwise there is no point in complaining and expelling diplomatic personnel for doing what they are expected by their governments to do abroad, expecting retaliatory explosion from the affected ones. India and Pakistan also must join hands to do away with immunity and veto system on UN.

It is a fact, that Pakistani sad preachment has been caused directly by its neighbor India wanting a free say in controlling Jammu Kashmir, committing genocides as freely as jungle beasts. In fact, Pakistan got panic when India manufactured nukes with Russian help and would certainly bullied Islamabad posing itself as the boss of the region, even if would not have used them against Pakistan. As Pakistani regime spent most of its resources for military apparatus in order to defend itself from any possible Indian attacks it has little resources left for spending on poor and sports. That is exactly what Indian stalwarts wanted so that India could advance it interest, both legal and illegal, to make itself strong. It has achieved that while Pakistan has become an empty nation, bullied by every third rate nation – eventually getting nuclear facility to equate Indian threat. Indian fanatics keep pushing the government to attack Pakistani and force it to sub-serve Indian interests. Anti-Islamic forces, led by USA and India, conspired to destabilize Pakistan in order to promote Indian interests.

Nukes are as good as dead as they could only be the deterrents and cannot be eaten or used but most of its resources Pakistan has wasted on them. Apart from nukes Pakistan has developed very little. Now China is developing parts of Pakistan as part of One Road, One belt theme to showcase its economic military power. USA and China alternatively exploit Pakistan.

Now Pakistan must forget about paper tiger called India and begin planning for the overall development of the nation as a truly Islamic country to make the youth strong enough to face the challenges of the modern world in all domains, including sports- forget about the bogus sport known as cricket which does not let Pakistan focus n real sports and economy. In sports Pakistani players must shed the usual hesitation, unwillingness and fear and face the opponents with focus as Indians face Muslims in any sport but also dedication.

In view of the crude fact that UN is impotent, the best solution to the mutual hatred and tensions between these neighbors is to surrender Jammu Kashmir to Kashmiris and pay for the loss of lives and destruction of property in Kashmir.

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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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