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Russo-Indian tensions over India allowing USA examine Russian submarine

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Indo-Russian relations are deep rooted with huge transfer of Russian technology for its economic development in earlier stages of development, leading strong economic and diplomatic relations since the onset of Cold War and after that. The economic growth and financial clout India has achieved owes much to Soviet assistance in state sector. Now Indian search for western nations for the purchase of technology and terror equipments has upset Moscow which has long stopped free support and arms to third world of which India benefited the most.

Currently, Russian sells costly Nuclear plants and military equipments including nuclear submarines and more orders have been placed by New Delhi for further purchases.

An unprecedented scandal broke out between Russia and India with Moscow suspecting that New Delhi granted US Navy representatives access to the Russian nuclear submarine of Project 971i, operated by the Indian Navy since 2011. According to reports, the incident threatens to seriously complicate negotiations both on the lease of the second nuclear submarine, and on other projects in the field of military-technical cooperation between the two countries.

In pursuing its own national interest and being under the severe economic sanctions by the Western powers for its retaking of Crimea form Ukriane,  Russia does not take a stand on Indo-China tensions. After the military standoff between Chinese and Indian troops began near the Doklam plateau in June, Russia had been silent on the matter. Granted, Moscow had made few public comments about the border tensions. But so, too, had America and the EU, both of which knew that siding with one party would anger the other. However, Moscow felt that the dispute is rather balanced between China and India’s interests. The standoff eventually dissipated in August when the two nations agreed to withdraw their troops.

The Russian government, under tremendous pressure from New Delhi had tried to bring together the Indian and Chinese defense ministers for a meeting in Moscow. Beijing, however, reportedly did not show any interest in the matter. This was because India had angered China by hosting the Dalai Lama in Arunachal Pradesh, an Indian state that borders China’s “autonomous” region of Tibet. Maybe, it was an indication of Beijing’s distrust of Moscow’s real motives.

Like USA with its Asia pivot, Moscow also wants a more assertive India to counterbalance China’s growing hegemony in Asia.

India is keen to enlist the support of both USA and Russia for its efforts for ascension to having a permanent seat in a “reformed” UN Security Council, but India could not succeed as China officially opposed it. Similarly, India’s bid to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a coalition of 48 nuclear supplier countries that control the export of nuclear equipment and technology, also failed as China raised serious objections as India refuses to sign the  relevant treaty in force, not yet a signatory to the Non-Nuclear-Proliferation Treaty.

Russia sponsored India “mainly to constrain China’s growing influence in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a Eurasian security and economic bloc. Russia is concerned the post-Soviet SCO members like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan “are drifting too far into China’s geostrategic orbit.

There have been serious concerns within Moscow and New Delhi that the other party is gravitating towards their adversaries. Russia knows India wants to form closer ties to the USA and European nations. India took part in talks with Japan, America and Australia over reforming the disbanded Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, an ostensible counter-China pact that seeks to curb Beijing’s expansionism in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean.

In June, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Moscow where Putin decorated him with the Order of St Andrew, Russia’s highest state award. Xi has visited Moscow more often than any other capital since coming to power in 2012,  China’s warships engaged in the first-ever joint war games with the Russian fleet in the Baltic Sea. Russia and China “wanted to send a message to America and to audiences at home: we are united in opposing the West’s domination, and we are not afraid to show off our muscle in NATO’s backyard.”

Though it made some success in coercing USA to criticize Islamabad as the key sponsor of terrorism, New Delhi is indeed concerned about Russia’s relations with Pakistan, India’s long-time foe, which have been improving since the early 2000s. India is keen on strengthening the trilateral annual Russia-India-China (RIC) meetings to influence both the economic and technological powers but others are not much interested.

Russia, under Putin, has tried to defy a supposed unipolar global order led by America and, today, a united Europe overseen by the EU. Now, it appears, Russia is balking against a possible uni-polar Asia and Eurasia dominated by China. Supporting India, then, becomes a way for Russia to achieve this. But Western sanctions on Russia have meant it has had to move closer to China, further complicating its role as an intermediary between India and China.

Several sources in Russian state structures have confirmed that with the newspaper saying that the Indian partners have recently committed several “unfriendly acts towards Russia.” First, according to them, the US Navy delegation visited the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya (property of the Indian Navy) and Russian officials were forced to issue a note of protest. After some time, according to a high-ranking military source, the American delegation was already on board the Chakra.

The Kommersant’s source working in the military technical cooperation system, called the fact that the US Navy appeared on a Russian submarine (located on the base near Vishakhapatnam, pending repairs) outrageous. “There were well-trained technical specialists, though unlikely to get any real information,” the source said.

According to the newspaper, this whole string of incidents can have a very adverse impact on defense cooperation between the two countries, which has been successfully developing over the past five years. According to several sources, specialized Russian structures are preparing retaliatory measures against their Indian partners. “Very difficult conversations are on the horizon, we have a lot of questions,” a source said. Some who spoke to Kommersant believe that, in particular, the negotiations on leasing the second nuclear submarine, which the Indian Navy planned to obtain from Russia, will be seriously complicated.

According to Kommersant, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who intends to come to India in December with one of the largest deals on Russian arms, will have to iron out the problems that have accumulated. In addition to the Chakra issue, he must negotiate the creation of a fifth-generation fighter under an agreement which was signed back in 2007, but neither the airplane’s conception nor its financial parameters have been determined yet.

 Perspectives of Indo-Russian relations

During the Cold War, India and the Soviet Union (USSR) enjoyed a strong strategic, military, economic and diplomatic relationship. After the collapse of the USSR, Russia inherited the close relationship with India, even as India improved its relations with the West after the end of the Cold War.

Traditionally, the Indo-Russian strategic partnership has been built on five major components: politics, defence, civil nuclear energy, anti-terrorism co-operation and space. These five major components were highlighted in a speech given by former Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai in Russia. However, in recent years a sixth component, economic, has grown in importance with both countries setting a target for US$30 billion in bilateral trade by 2025. In order to facilitate this target both countries are looking to develop a free trade agreement. Bilateral trade between both countries in 2012 grew by over 24%.

The powerful IRIGC is the main body that conducts affairs at the governmental level between both countries.[7] Both countries are members of many international bodies where they jointly collaborate closely on matters of shared national interest. Important examples include the UN, BRICS, G20 and SCO Russia has stated publicly that it supports India receiving a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.[9] In addition, Russia has expressed interest in joining SAARC with observer status in which India is a founding member.

India is the second largest market for the Russian defence industry. In 2004, more than 70% of the Indian Military’s hardware came from Russia, making Russia the chief supplier of defence equipment.[12] India has an embassy in Moscow and two consulates-general (in Saint Petersburg and Vladivostok). Russia has an embassy in New Delhi and four consulates-general (in Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai).

According to a 2014 BBC World Service Poll, 45% of Russians view India positively, with only 9% expressing a negative view

A cordial relationship with India that began in the 1950s represented the most successful of the Soviet attempts to foster closer relations with Third World countries. The relationship began with a visit by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to the Soviet Union in June 1955 and Khrushchev’s return trip to India in the fall of 1955. While in India, Khrushchev announced that the Soviet Union supported Indian sovereignty over the disputed territory of the Kashmir region and over Portuguese coastal enclaves such as Goa

The Soviet Union gave India substantial economic and military assistance during the Khrushchev period, and by 1960 India had received more Soviet assistance than China had.[14] This disparity became another point of contention in Sino-Soviet relations. In 1962 the Soviet Union agreed to transfer technology to co-produce the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 jet fighter in India, which the Soviet Union had earlier denied to China

In 1965 the Soviet Union served successfully as peace broker between India and Pakistan after an Indian-Pakistani border war. In 1971 the former East Pakistan region initiated an effort to secede from its political union with West Pakistan. India supported the secession and, as a guarantee against possible Chinese entrance into the conflict on the side of West Pakistan, it signed with the Soviet Union the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in August 1971. In December, India entered the conflict and ensured the victory of the secessionists and the establishment of the new state of Bangladesh.

Relations between the Soviet Union and India did not suffer much during the rightist Janata Party’s coalition government in the late 1970s, although India did move to establish better economic and military relations with Western countries. To counter these efforts by India to diversify its relations, the Soviet Union proffered additional weaponry and economic assistance.

The first major political initiative, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, between India and Russia began with the Strategic Partnership signed between the two countries in 2000.

Both countries closely collaborate on matters of shared national interest these include at the UN, BRICS, G20 and SCO where India has observer status and has been asked by Russia to become a full member. Russia also strongly supports India receiving a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. In addition, Russia has vocally backed India joining the NSG and APEC. Moreover, it has also expressed interest in joining SAARC with observer status in which India is a founding member.

Russia currently is one of only two countries in the world (the other being Japan) that has a mechanism for annual ministerial-level defence reviews with India.

The Soviet Union has been an important supplier of defence equipment for several decades. Russia 68%, USA 14% and Israel 7.2% are the major arms suppliers to India (2012-2016), and India and Russia have deepened their Make in India defence manufacturing cooperation by signing agreements for the construction of naval frigates, KA-226T twin-engine utility helicopters (joint venture (JV) to make 60 in Russia and 140 in India), Brahmos cruise missile (JV with 50.5% India and 49.5% Russia) (Dec 2017 update). In December 1988, an India–Russia co-operation agreement was signed, which resulted in the sale of a multitude of defence equipment to India Now,

The co-operation is not limited to a buyer-seller relationship but includes joint research and development, training, service to service contacts, including joint exercises. In 2012, both countries signed a defence deal worth $2.9 billion during President Putin’s visit to India for the 42 new Sukhois to be produced under licence by defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics, which will add to the 230 Sukhois earlier contracted from Russia. Overall, the price tag for the 272 Sukhois – three of the over 170 inducted till now have crashed – stands at over $12 billion.

Bilateral trade between both countries is concentrated in key value chain sectors. These sectors include highly diversified segments such as machinery, electronics, aerospace, automobile, commercial shipping, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, fertilisers, apparels, precious stones, industrial metals, petroleum products, coal, high-end tea and coffee products. Bilateral trade in 2002 stood at $1.5 billion and increased by over 7 times to $11 billion in 2012 and with both governments setting a bilateral trade target of $30 billion by 2025.

Russia has stated it will co-operate with India on its “Make in India” initiative by engagement in the development of “Smart Cites”, the DMIC, the aerospace sector, the commercial nuclear sector and enhancement in manufacturing of Russian military products through co-development and co-production over $100 billion

On 7 November 2009, India signed a new nuclear deal with Russia apart from the deals that were agreed upon by the two countries earlier.[98]India and Russia are in discussion for construction of two more nuclear power units at Kudankulam. Russia has agreed to build more than 20 nuclear reactors over the next 20 years. Running until 2030, sixteen to eighteen new reactors will be constructed, with installed capacity of 1,000 MWeach. A 1,000 MW reactor costs around $2.5 billion so the deal may touch $45 billion in worth

India is currently the world’s largest cutting & polishing centre for diamonds. Both countries have agreed to streamline their bilateral trade in diamonds through reductions in regulations and tariffs. Indian oil companies have invested in the Russia’s oil sector a notable example is ONGC-Videsh which has invested over $8 billion with major stakes in oil fields such Sakhalin-1.. Both countries have discussed how to increase co-operation between their countries respective IT industries. Historically, there has been a long history of cooperation between the Soviet Union and India in space. Examples include Aryabhata it was India’s first satellite, named after an Indian astronomer of the same name.[66] It was launched by the Soviet Union on 19 April 1975.

The ongoing collaboration in the field of science & technology, under the Integrated Long-Term Programme of Co-operation (ILTP) is the largest co-operation programme in this sphere for both India and Russia.. The North–South Transport Corridor is the ship, rail, and road route for moving freight between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia. The route primarily involves moving freight from India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia via ship, rail and road. The objective of the corridor is to increase trade connectivity between major cities such  as Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku, Bandar Abbas, Astrakhan, Bandar Anzali etc.

On international terrorism, India and Russia agree that there is no justification for terrorism- both state and non-state ones. Russia and India are going to hold a joint war game in October in Russia’s far east, close to China. Russia and India have held annual Indra exercises since 2003, but what is different this time is that it’s the first ever combined force drill. As the standoff between China and India goes on in the Doklam area and neither country shows intention to back down, Russia seems to not only hedge its bets on both sides, but also benefit from the tensions. Russia has been constantly enhancing diplomatic relations and military cooperation with China recently. In early May, during the Belt and Road Forum held in Beijing, China and Russia agreed to maintain a high level comprehensive strategic partnership and to reinforce all-round cooperation.

Other than the mega military exercises, India is going to purchase Russian weapons worth $10 billion and the negotiation has come to the final stage after the meeting mentioned above. The weapons projects include the purchase of S-400 air defense systems, the acquisition of four Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates and the acquisition of 200 Kamov 226T light utility helicopters, or LUH

Officials from both countries have discussed how to increase co-operation between their countries respective IT industries with possible joint projects in the field and closer contacts between Russian and Indian companies. The development of IT products and software has traditionally been a strong point of India. We welcome

Due to India simplifying recent visa rule changes for Russians travelling to India, the number of tourists increased by over 22%.In 2011 the Indian consulates in Moscow, Vladivostok and St. Petersburg issued 160,000 visas, an increase of over 50% compared to 2010.

Russian imports from India amounted to $3.1 billion or 1% of its overall imports, and 0.7% of India’s overall exports in 2014. The 10 major commodities exported from India to Russia were:

Due to India simplifying recent visa rule changes for Russians travelling to India, the number of tourists increased by over 22%.In 2011 the Indian consulates in Moscow, Vladivostok and St. Petersburg issued 160,000 visas, an increase of over 50% compared to 2010.

Russian imports from India amounted to $3.1 billion or 1% of its overall imports, and 0.7% of India’s overall exports in 2014. The 10 major commodities exported from India to Russia were

Both governments have long viewed their bilateral trade well below its optimal potential, with the only long term way of rectifying this through having a Free trade agreement (FTA).  It is predicted once an FTA is in place bilateral trade will increase manifold, thereby significantly increasing the importance of economics in bilateral ties.

“…India-Russia relationship is one of deep friendship and mutual confidence that would not be affected by transient political trends. Russia has been a pillar of strength at difficult moments in India’s history. India will always reciprocate this support. Russia is and will remain our most important defense partner and a key partner for our energy security, both on nuclear energy and hydrocarbons.” -— Former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, about relations with Russia.

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South Asia

What Can the Afghan Government and Taliban Learn from Colombia’s Peace Deal with FARC?

Hamidullah Bamik

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The experience of Colombia’s peace with FARC has always been the subject of Western experts working on the war in Afghanistan due to the characteristics of Afghanistan’s war akin to Colombia’s war.

It is argued that the insurgent movement with a political rivalry to mobilize dissenters to enter the community is a substitute order that rebels attempt to fundamentally change the infrastructure of society. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Afghan Taliban insurgents can be put into such socio-political context.

The FARC, with the full name of Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (in Spanish was formed in the 1960s as the armed wing of the Communist Party of Colombia. The FARC officially separated from the Communist Party of Colombia in 1980 but continued its guerrilla war against the Colombian government. The war between FARC and the Government of the Republic of Colombia lasted 55 years and left dead approximately 250,000 people.

Colombia’s Peace Process

The Government of the Republic of Colombia has made three major and important attempts to build peace in the last thirty years, especially in the mid-1980s and late 1990s, but all failed. But peace efforts that began in Havana, the capital of Cuba in 2012, came to fruition five years later. Ultimately, these efforts effectuated in to the signing of a peace agreement between the Colombian government and FARC on November 24, 2016.

The Colombia’s peace agreement with FARC was rejected by less than one percent in a referendum on October 2, 2016. The results of the referendum showed that 50.2 percent of voters opposed the agreement. But later, many Colombians who were anti-FARC rebels became their supporters. To strengthen further the peace and stability in Colombia, the Colombian government allocated 10 seats to FARC in 2018 and 2022 in the Colombia’s Congress elections.

The success of the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of Colombia and FARC is derived from their mutual agreement on key issues. First, they reached a reciprocal agreement on development of rural areas, especially those areas that were damaged more than other areas during the conflict. Second, they talked about the elimination of drugs and reducing high poverty rates in the peace process and agreed mutually. Third, the Government of the Republic of Colombia concurred with political participation of FARC members in the political process. Hence, they could successfully end their chronic conflicts that took many Colombians’ lives.

Afghanistan’s Peace Process

In November 2001, the Taliban regime was overthrown entirely by the United Nation forces led by the US. Subsequently, the Afghan government and the international community stepped up their efforts to support various plans to undermine the expansion of insurgents and ultimately bring them to the peace process. These efforts include programs such as Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR 2003-2006), United Nation supported Afghanistan New Beginning Programs (ANBP) and its successor the Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG 2005.

When US President Barack Hussein Obama put forward the idea of looking for moderate elements among the insurgent groups in March 2009, the official peace talks in Afghanistan became more important. Unfortunately, all the above peace efforts have not been effective in stabilizing Afghanistan and failed to pursue a meaningful engagement of the involved countries in Afghanistan’s war in the peace process.

Recently, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan declared two truces with the Taliban to encourage them to join the peace process. But unluckily, the Taliban groups not only did not welcome the Afghan government’s ceasefire, except the first truce but also responded with atrocity and intensifying their insurgency. Political experts are inclined to argue that the experiences of the Colombian government’s peace deal with FARC insurgents can aid Afghanistan in reaching a permanent peace deal with the Taliban groups.

The Similarities of Afghanistan’s and Colombia’s War

According to Foreign Policy, the current Afghan war is reminiscent of the Drug War in Colombia and requires a Colombian plan for its termination. The insurgency in Afghanistan is nurtured by an ideological war that is being conducted to bring Afghans under the banner of religion. Conversely, in Colombia, FACR fought with the central government for lucrative sources of money and ways to smuggle drugs. However, it is argued that despite having ideological roots, narcotics is the main financial source of Afghanistan’s insurgent groups.

In 2016, the Global Witness reported that the warlords and Taliban’s earnings from a small Badakhshan region are equal to the total income of the Afghan government’s natural resources sector. The report adds that in 2014, armed groups from two mining areas of Deodarra in Kuran and Munjan districts in Badakhshan province earned about $20 million. It echoes that the ongoing war between the Taliban and the Afghan government is also a war on controlling natural sources like the war between FARC and the Colombian government. Thus, the experiences of the Government of the Republic of Colombia in its peace talks with FARC can help the Afghan government in its peace talks with the Taliban.

The Afghan Taliban groups like the FARC in Colombia, are dwindling in Afghanistan. They still have their local supporters in Afghanistan. Theo Farrell, the professor and executive dean of law, humanities, and the arts at the University of Wollongong, Australia argues that the availability of social resources and the elements that drive and enable military adaptation were the main reasons of Taliban’s successful resurgence after 2001. It projects that still, Taliban groups have a large number of adherents among the Afghan communities. Undoubtedly, they will support the Taliban if the group joins in peace talks with the Afghan government and forms its political faction as did the FARC in Colombia.

The FARC opened negotiations with the Colombian government after decades of armed conflicts. Many of FARC insurgents like the Taliban groups did not believe in the usefulness of the talkswith the Colombian government at the beginning. But they tested their trust and succeeded in this regard. Likewise, the best option for the Afghan Taliban to put into practice their demands is joining the negotiating table with the Afghan government.

The Colombia’s Peace Process Takeaways for Afghanistan’s Peace Process

Perhaps the most important innovation to come out of Colombia’s peace process has been the inclusion of victims. Delegations of victims from both sides of the conflict were invited to come to Havana to recount their experiences. In other words, the Colombian peace process was the first in the world that included a formal role for victims of the conflict—they got to interact directly with the negotiators. The inclusion of victims gave the Colombian government’s peace process its best chance of success. Likewise, Afghanistan’s government can emulate a similar way to succeeding in the peace process with the Taliban. The Afghan government should invite the representatives of the victims of war to the negotiating table so that they can share their stories and gain confidence that their voices are heard in the peace process. 

Ultimately, the need for a comprehensive and lasting peace in Afghanistan requires creating a national and international consensus on the peace process with the Taliban. This is what Colombian President; Juan Manuel Santos did about peace with the FARC rebels. Initially, a national consensus regarding the peace deal was created inside Colombia. Then the Colombian government reached an international consensus for peace with the neighboring countries, the regional and international powers. Similarly, the Afghan government should reach a unanimous agreement on peace talks with the Taliban inside Afghanistan, then with Afghanistan’s neighboring countries, regional and international powers. Doing so, the Afghan government might be able to close the war and insurgency chapter of Afghanistan’s modern history.

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Geopolitics, the black swan in Saudi-Indian relations

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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When Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi next week, the elephant in the room is likely to be what weighs more: the issues the two men agree on or the ones that divide them.

As a matter of principle, Prince Mohammed and Mr. Modi are likely to take their strategic partnership to a new level as a result of changing energy markets, a decline in American power, the rise of China and the transnational threat of political violence.

Discussions with the crown prince and his delegation of Saudi businessmen on energy and investment will prove to be the easy part. Saudi Arabia is investing US$44 million in a refinery in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri and supplies 20 percent of India’s crude oil. India, moreover, expects the Saudis to invest in ports and roads while Saudi Arabia is interested in Indian agriculture that would export products to the kingdom.

At first glance, security issues should be a no-brainer. The two countries hold joint military exercises, share intelligence and cooperate on counterterrorism. They are also working to counter money laundering and funding of political violence. Things get complicated, however, when geopolitics kicks in. Prince Mohammed arrives in Delhi on the back of a visit to Pakistan, where he is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding on a framework for $10 billion of investments, primarily in oil refining, petrochemicals, renewable energy and mining.

The memo follows significant Saudi aid to help Pakistan evade a financial crisis that included a $3-billion deposit in Pakistan’s central bank to support the country’s balance of payments and another $3 billion in deferred payments for oil imports.

The tricky part are the investments in the memorandum that include a plan by the Saudi national oil company Aramco to build a refinery at the Chinese-backed port of Gwadar, close to Pakistan’s border with Iran and the Indian-backed Iranian port of Chabahar. Both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are closely monitoring Chabahar’s progress.

A potential Saudi investment in the troubled Pakistani province of Balochistan’s Reko Diq copper and gold mine would strengthen the kingdom’s hold in the strategic province that both Prince Mohammed and US president Donald J Trump’s hardline national security adviser John Bolton see as a potential launching pad for efforts to destabilise Iran. Taken together, the refinery, an oil reserve in Gwadar and the mine would also help Saudi Arabia in efforts to prevent Chabahar from emerging as a powerful Arabian Sea hub.

Saudi funds are flowing into ultra-conservative anti-Shiite, anti-Iranian Sunni madrassas in Balochistan. It remains unclear whether the money originates with the Saudi government, Saudi nationals of Baloch descent or the two million-strong Pakistani diaspora in the kingdom.

The money helps put in place building blocks for possible covert action should the kingdom or the US — or both — decide to act on proposals to support irredentist action.

Such covert action could jeopardise Indian hopes to use Chabahar to bypass Pakistan, enhance its trade with Afghanistan and Central Asia and create an antidote to Gwadar, a crown jewel in China’s Belt and Road initiative.

Pakistani analysts expect around $5 billion in Afghan trade to flow through Chabahar after India in December started handling the port operations. It could also further strain ties with Pakistan that accuses India of fomenting nationalist unrest in Balochistan.

The funds take on added significance in the face of Saudi concerns about Chabahar and India’s support for the port. The money continues to flow even though the crown prince has significantly cut back on the kingdom’s global funding of ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim groups to bolster his assertion that the kingdom is embracing a more moderate, albeit as yet undefined, form of Islam.
The money started coming in at about the time the Riyadh-based International Institute for Iranian Studies published a study that said Chabahar posed a “direct threat to the Arab Gulf states” that called for “immediate countermeasures”.

Written by Mohammed Hassan Husseinbor, a Washington-based Iranian Baloch lawyer and activist, the study warned that Chabahar would allow Iran to step up oil exports to India at the expense of Saudi Arabia, raise foreign investment in the Islamic Republic, increase government revenues and allow Tehran some muscle-flexing in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean. Noting the expanse of Iran’s Sistan and Balouchestan province, Mr. Husseinbor said “it would be a formidable challenge, if not impossible, for the Iranian government to protect such long distances and secure Chabahar in the face of widespread Baluch opposition, particularly if this opposition is supported by Iran’s regional adversaries and world powers”.

Published in a country that tightly controls the media as well as the output of think tanks, the study stroked with a memorandum drafted a year later by Bolton before he assumed office. The memo envisioned US support “for the democratic Iranian opposition”, including in Balochistan and Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province.

Iranian officials believe that Saudi Arabia and the US have a hand in a string of recent attacks by Baloch, Kurdish and Iranian Arab nationalists but have so far refrained from producing anything beyond allegations. Most recently, they point to a rare suicide bombing in Chabahar in December that targeted a Revolutionary Guards headquarters, killing two people and wounding 40.

Writing in the Pakistan Security Report 2018, journalist Muhammad Akbar Notezai said, “to many in Pakistan” concerns about Indian support for the Baloch “were materialized with the arrest of Kulbushan Jadhav, an Indian spy in Balochistan who had come through Iran. Ever since, Pakistani intelligence agencies have been on extra-alert on its border with Iran”.

The journalist warned that “the more Pakistan slips into the Saudi orbit, the more its relations with Iran will worsen… If their borders remain troubled, anyone can fish in the troubled water”.

Mr. Notezai implicitly put his finger on the pitfalls Prince Mohammed and Mr. Modi will have to negotiate to ensure that their ever closer economic, energy and security relations can withstand the challenges posed by the escalating and intertwined rivalries that link West and South Asia.

Author’s note: This article appeared in Firstpost

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Tapping potential of connectivity through BCIM-EC

Sultana Yesmin

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The Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor (BCIM-EC) is a sub-regional initiative, earlier known as “Kunming Initiative”, or BCIM Regional Economic Cooperation, was established in August 1999 in Kunming, capital of China’s south-western Yunnan Province by the scholars from China, India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang proposed the BCIM-EC initiative during his visit to India in May, 2013. The Joint Statement between China and India officially proposed the establishment of the BCIM-EC, while later Bangladesh and Myanmar offered strong and positive responses towards the development of economic corridor across the sub-region.

The proposed BCIM economic corridor aims to construct a 2,800-km economic corridor connecting 20 major cities and towns of the BCIM countries. Starting from Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, the corridor is planned to end in Kunming, capital of China’s Yunnan Province via Bangladesh’s Jessore, Dhaka, and Sylhet; Imphal of Manipur and Silchar of Assam in North Eastern part of India, and Myanmar’s Ka Lay, Monywa, Mandalay, Lashio and Muse.

The BCIM Forum was primarily initiated with the aim of building regional cooperation among the four participating countries as well as integrating the BCIM economies through building overland economic corridor along the routes connecting the sub-region of South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Asia.

The overland connectivity aside, over the years, the objectives of the BCIM-EC expanded in the areas of poverty alleviation, people-to-people connectivity, cross-border energy trade, tourism, human resource development, sustainable development as well as trans-border security.

Significant progresses have already been witnessed towards the achievement of these objectives. As for example, starting from 1999 to 2015, total 12th BCIM Forums have been arranged by the BCIM countries. The idea of the construction of Kunming-Mandalay-Dhaka-Kolkata (K2K) economic corridor was first proposed in the 9th BCIM Forum held in Kunming, China from January 18 to 19, 2011, which marked significant milestone in the development of the economic corridor across the BCIM sub-region.

The 10th BCIM Forum held in Kolkata, India from February 18-19, 2012 was also crucial for taking the decision about the Kolkata to Kunming (K2K) Car Rally along the BCIM routes. As per the consensus, the historical Kolkata to Kunming (K2K) Car Rally in February 2013 was warmly received in four countries that underscored the construction of BCIM economic corridor across the sub-region.

Subsequent to these developments, strengthening the working relationship between Track II and Track I and the initiation of Track I diplomacy through the consensus in 9th Forum and the 11th BCIM Forum respectively injected noteworthy impetus into the development of multimodal connectivity across the BCIM sub-region.

So far, three Joint Study Group (JSG) meetings have been conducted among the representatives of the four countries to foster physical connectivity, facilitate trade in goods, services, and investment; promote economic integration; and also to enhance people-to-people contacts among the BCIM countries.

The 1st JSG was held in Kunming, China from December 18-19, 2013, while the initiative was undertaken for the official launch of intergovernmental process of BCIM-EC. The 2nd JSG held in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar from December 17-18, 2014 gained momentum after the consensus of the four countries to prepare separate country reports on the concept, scope and elements; principles and modalities of cooperation; and framework of cooperation. And, during the 3rd JSG meeting which held on 24- 25 April 2017, in Kolkata, the four countries agreed on upgrading of the talks on BCIM-EC to the intergovernmental level.

The significance of the BCIM-EC is enormous. Geo-strategically, the economic corridor is the gateway to three sub-regions, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Asia. It is also the hub of blue economy and international maritime trade with the endowment of the Bay of Bengal and its adjacent areas, Indian Ocean, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The geo-economic significance of the BCIM-EC is also immense. The BCIM sub-region with the enhanced transport connectivity can be a zone for international trade and business. The free flow of goods and services as well as cross-border trade and investment through the seamless connectivity will facilitate equitable sharing of benefits among the BCIM countries.

The proposed BCIM-EC attempts to build multimodal connectivity in order to accelerate all round development across the sub-region, goodwill, peace, and the stability in the sub-region based on the principles of mutual interest, trust and respect, and equitable sharing of benefits.

Though there is a prevalence of some security, economic, and political factors remaining as key challenges, the countries need to come up with concrete measures to fully tap the immense potentials of connectivity through the successful establishment of the BCIM-EC across the sub-region.

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Terrorism2 hours ago

Pulwama Attacks: Pakistan takes on India again

The attacks by Jaish-e-Muhammed on Indian security forces has come at a tricky time; Modi led government’s reaction to the...

EU Politics4 hours ago

Disaster management: Boosting the EU’s emergency response

MEPs have approved plans to improve disaster response by updating the EU’s civil defence mechanism and creating additional reserve capacity....

Reports6 hours ago

Portugal can use its economic recovery to build up resilience

Portugal’s economic recovery is now well established, with GDP back to pre-crisis levels, a substantially lower unemployment rate and renewed...

Urban Development8 hours ago

RASAI: The car-sharing tool seeking to breathe life into Pakistan’s congested cities

When Hassam Ud-din started studying in Islamabad in Pakistan, he had a three-hour round-trip commute from his home in Rawalpindi....

Terrorism10 hours ago

ISIS Smuggler: Sleeper Cells and ‘Undead’ Suicide Bombers Have Infiltrated Europe

Authors: Anne Speckhard, Ardian Shajkovci & Hamid Sebaly Europe is bracing for a new wave of jihadist attacks by terrorists...

South Asia12 hours ago

What Can the Afghan Government and Taliban Learn from Colombia’s Peace Deal with FARC?

The experience of Colombia’s peace with FARC has always been the subject of Western experts working on the war in...

Middle East14 hours ago

Iran: How to Avoid a War

Upon closer inspection, it appears that the Islamic Republic of Iran has a relative near dearth of human rights organizations...

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