Saturday 29 October 2022

Ukraine war spreads suffering across the globe (The Sunday Guardian)


If UK, EU, US are suffering, so must Asia, Africa, South America through no fault of their own.

That the majority of Conservative Members of Parliament opted for Rishi Sunak as the new Prime Minister of the UK is a sign that the party has changed, much as the Democratic Party in the US changed in the 1960s. During that decade, the baby steps towards ensuring progress in social justice to the African American community that were taken by President John F. Kennedy were accelerated by his successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson. Few had expected the Texan to emerge as a transformative President of the US in his domestic policy. And yet, it was only with the passage of the Great Society legislation by the US Congress under his prodding that brought US society into the 20th century from the 18th. Unfortunately for Johnson, he allowed a group of intellectual zealots led by Defence Secretary Robert Strange McNamara to bully him into expanding the war against Vietnamese insurgents that Washington had inherited from Paris. The Vietnam Papers show how an Ivy League education may build a perception of infallibility and an inability to even examine opposing points of view. McNamara and the other “war hawks” encircling him were convinced that the metric of overwhelming US preponderance in weapons and resources would rapidly and inevitably prevail over Ho Chi Minh’s peasant army. Despite Johnson’s successor Richard Milhous Nixon together with Nobel Peace Prize winner Henry Kissinger converting large areas of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia into a wasteland, the US military had to leave Vietnam a defeated and demoralised force in March 1973. Much later, although the US together with its Afghan allies had not lost the war, President Biden ordered a withdrawal of not just US forces but logistical teams assisting the Afghan military by August 2021. From that time onwards, the credibility of the US as a reliable security partner plummeted where Asia was concerned. The Biden Withdrawal from Afghanistan and the handing over of that country to the Taliban gave a dose of steroids to the Sino-Wahhabi alliance that has not been helpful to global stability nor US security. An even greater blunder committed by Joe Biden is his unlimited support for the regime in Kiev, despite its oft-stated objective (a constant since 2014) of “recovering all the lost territories” has made a peace settlement impossible. UK Prime Minister Sunak has made the first mistake in what he hopes will be a long stay at 10 Downing Street by retaining Ben Wallace as Defence Secretary. Much in the manner of President Biden, Wallace is impervious to accommodating any view other than those expressed by Zelenskyy. Much of Asia, Africa and South America believes that it is because Ukrainians are “white” that Biden and the rest of NATO are ready to sacrifice the welfare of their own people for the sake of the Zelenskyy regime. A more logical reason may be the longstanding effort by strategists of the Atlantic Alliance to seek the break up and descent into chaos in the Russian Federation in the way that took place in what until then was the Soviet Union.
So hypercharged is the media-driven frenzy within the Atlantic Alliance to in effect destroy themselves to “save Ukraine” that even feeble efforts at restoring sanity to policy such as Progressive Caucus Chairperson Pramila Jayapal’s letter asking for a negotiated peace in the conflict was retracted after the White House intervened. President Biden and his UK and EU counterparts seem unaware or uncaring of the travails that their sanctions are causing, toxic measures that in no way have held back Vladimir Putin from continuing with the Ukraine campaign. Rishi Sunak must know how deadly the impact of draining UK resources to feed the insatiable appetite of the Ukrainian militias fighting Russia is, and yet (as shown by the re-appointment of Ben Wallace) he seems unable to prevent the train wreck that Ukraine is proving to be for the Atlantic Alliance. From the start of the conflict in February, this analyst was clear that CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping would seek to prolong it, and this he is doing by keeping the Russian military machine afloat through the cash and goods given in exchange for Russian resources at discounted prices. Compared with China’s, the Indian contribution to the Kremlin’s coffers is tiny, and yet is the cause of much hand wringing by Atlanticist politicians and media. In that estimation, Xi would like the proxy war being fought by NATO with Russia in Ukraine to continue at least until the initial months of 2023. Meanwhile, the trans-Atlantic formation seems motivated by an insistence on the rest of the world (except of course China) enduring an even higher level of privation as a consequence of policies formulated entirely in Whitehall, the White House and Brussels. If the UK, EU and the US are suffering, so must Asia, Africa and South America through no fault of their own. Charming.

Xi relying on ‘Chissia’ to power PRC expansion (The Sunday Guardian)


Xi is banking on a combination of cheap Russian energy and Chinese manufacturing to turbocharge the PRC’s geopolitical challenge to the democracies, at a time when the West is scoring self-goal after self-goal.

New Delhi: Within policymaking bodies in the Lutyens Zone, fragments of Chindia (the assumed synergistic fusion between India and China) still litter some minds. Deng Xiaoping began his wooing of India with the 1981 opening of a route from India to Kailas Mansarovar. Since then, trade between India and China has ballooned, and is presently witnessing a surplus of trade in that country’s favour that has crossed US$80 billion. Although Deng kept the PLA on a leash, the military was set free under Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. Salami-sliced expansion further into India of the Line of Actual Control (which remains unrecognized by Beijing) co-existed with honeyed language from PRC diplomats and interlocuters. Until the always visibly assertive, often aggressive Xi Jinping took charge as CCP General Secretary in 2012, the promise of Chindia was kept alive even though Beijing refused to backtrack on border issues, all the while deepening its cooperation with GHQ Rawalpindi, including through providing logistical and other support in operations directed at India. While Aksai Chin has from the 1950s been occupied by China, after Xi’s ascent to the highest office in his country, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir too has entered on a path of becoming a protectorate of the PRC, with the eager consent of the Pakistan Army. Since the second 5-year term of Xi began, hardly any attention has been given to the concept of the Russia-India-China axis, while intense effort has gone into strengthening the bilateral relationship between Beijing and Moscow. It is no secret that the CCP considers large chunks of Siberian land as having been taken from China by Russia in the past. Nor that Xi’s desire is to dominate the European part of Eurasia once he manages to establish not just ascendancy but control over the Asian part. In such a schema, Moscow will need to be content to serve as a junior partner to Beijing, a status that Moscow appears to have silently accepted.

Despite their historical differences, once the Sino-Russian boundary was officially demarcated by mutual agreement, a kinetic conflict between the two countries comprising “Chissia” has become very unlikely. In contrast, China has refused to enter into a boundary

settlement with India, thereby reserving the right to launch another border conflict in the future. A warning bell was the distribution by the PRC delegation of maps of the SCO countries during the 15-16 September Samarkand summit. These maps show Arunachal and Ladakh as part of China, and Kashmir as part of Pakistan. There was no bilateral between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping in the SCO summit, unlike in the past. Since 2016, India has been moving from chasing the illusion of Chindia into factoring in the reality of Chissia. Unlike his predecessors, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, from the start of his coming to power in 2014, was clear-eyed about the objectives of the CCP leadership core, and has strengthened military defences on the boundary with China in a way not seen earlier. Now that Xi has secured a third term, he needs to deliver on his promise of expanding the territorial boundaries of the PRC before seeking his fourth (and possibly final) 5-year term in 2027. Given that the ASEAN Sea (otherwise known as the South China Sea) has substantially come under Chinese occupation, that leaves Taiwan and lands south of the Himalayas as obvious targets for attempts at takeover through the PLA.

While NATO capitals have from the start of the 24 February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine believed that Xi could be persuaded to reel back Vladimir Putin from his adventure, the reality is that the CCP leadership core prefers that the ongoing proxy conflict between NATO and the Russian Federation continues well into 2023. As a consequence, the bulk of the financial and other resources needed by Moscow to prosecute the war have their origin in China. Since the start of the year, Xi has studied the sanctions imposed on Russia and begun taking preventive steps designed to reduce to a minimum damage done to China in the event of similar sanctions being imposed on the PRC by NATO member states together with Japan, Australia and South Korea. Chinese dollar (as well as euro, Swiss franc and Japanese yen) reserves are in the process of being replaced, including with additions to the official gold stock. If the silent effort at depreciating the RMB yuan to 8 per dollar is judged insufficient to boost exports in a depressed global market, the level of 10 RMB to a dollar would be the next step, followed by the Hong Kong dollar (HKD) snapping its peg to the US dollar. That peg has tied Hong Kong to the policies of the US Federal Reserve, which seems to be set on a course that would make the US a more and more expensive location to invest in, and to produce and sell from. A higher USD would raise the debt burden on countries that have been given Belt & Road Initiative loans, all of which have been dollar denominated. As a consequence, physical assets worth inflated sums of money would come into the ownership of China from countries unable to repay BRI debt on the lines already witnessed in some countries. The risks to China from Taiwan-related sanctions by western countries that have been hyperactive in sanctioning Russia are being sought to be minimised through an increasing volume of commodity trade being settled in currencies other than USD. This would be helpful in the worst case scenario of the US Federal Reserve seeking to confiscate or starve China of access to USD. Under Prime Minister Modi, countermoves in the event of kinetic scenarios involving the PLA are being worked out. Similar is the case in Taiwan, where the central government has been active in dealing with the risks inherent in Xi’s penchant for expansionism. If further proof of Xi’s intentions towards India are needed, unlike in the case with Russia, the PRC has insisted that the surplus secured through Chinese exports to India should be paid in USD and not through a rupee-yuan arrangement, with predictable consequences for the dollar-rupee ratio.

Given the economic and social carnage wreaked as a consequence of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic caused by a lab leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the manner in which boomeranging sanctions were imposed by NATO members has created choppy waters for the global economy. In a panic reaction to the pandemic in 2020, unprecedented lockdowns were implemented by numerous governments that had severe effects on the economies of the countries enforcing them. In attempts to mitigate the pain caused by the lockdowns, the US Federal Reserve and some other central banks unleashed Quantitative Easing (QE) directly into fiscal injections of liquidity. Such boosts in money supply led to price rises when conjoined with supply disruptions caused by the pandemic. QE was followed by the US Federal Reserve Board raising interest rates repeatedly since 2021 to “curb inflation”. Such moves are a throwback to monetary policy in the 1930s, that helped cause the Great Depression, and has had little effect on slowing down inflation, given that much of the price rise was caused by the supply and other disruptions caused by western sanctions imposed on Russia since its invasion of Ukraine. While the USD has shot up in value, this has had a devastating effect on the currencies of several US partners and allies, including in Europe. The debt to GDP ratio in the US has crossed World War II levels together with high inflation and the risk of stagflation to a level last seen in the 1970s. That crisis caused the current monetary system to be born. Another may result in a fresh transformational change that, in the expectation of the Sino-Russian alliance, could see the demise of the USD as the global reserve currency of choice.

Given the buffeting since 2020 of the Covid-19 and the Ukraine shock, major systemic cracks have started to appear in the US Treasury, which till now has been the anchor asset of global financial system. Treasuries should not be equated with the USD, which remains the global reserve currency, but which has steadily lost ground in the 21st century. Among the reasons why Liz Truss had to make way for Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street was fear of a UK pension crisis. Should the Ukraine war and western sanctions on Russia continue, most Western countries may face a similar situation. Democracies such as those in Europe as well as Japan and Korea may be pushed into a structural trade deficit. At the same time, Chissia has enabled President Putin to resist sanctions by the West. The ruble is among the few currencies that have strengthened against the USD, despite foreign reserve and individual asset confiscations by western countries, measures that have lowered confidence in the safety associated with parking reserves and property in western financial institutions. Western currencies have in 2022 begun to be perceived as less than a safe reserve, given the shifting geopolitical currents and consequent arbitrary actions taken in countries that prided themselves on the Rule of Law and due process. This may tip several western financial institutions into the danger zone, a point already reached by some such as Credit Suisse. The ban has been harmed as a consequence of Switzerland abandoning its neutrality in the proxy war between the Sino-Russian alliance and NATO. Given that the PRC is the main challenger to the primacy of the West, the dire situation of that grouping has been cause not for alarm but for jubilation in Moscow and Beijing.

Among the scenarios likely to be followed given the context of recent events, the probable game plan of the CCP core appears to be as follows:
Xi depreciates RMB to 8 per US dollar, then subsequently to 10, which may trigger a repeat of the cause of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, resembling in its effects the 2008 global financial crisis in scale due to excessive system leverage and diminishing firepower by both fiscal and monetary authorities.
This may coincide with (1) Xi repegging the RMB to gold at a much higher gold price, so to create an arbitrage drain of the already low western physical gold stockpile, and (2) nationwide rollout by China of its digital currency to boost the global credibility of RMB, followed by (3) de-pegging of the HKD to USD and re-pegging of the HKD to RMB. The CCP leadership core anticipates that its covert economic war on overly leveraged economies (such as those of the US and its NATO allies) due to the combined effects of Asia Financial Crisis 2.0 plus physical gold drain could elevate RMB’s international status, including via a repurposed HKD. Given the massive increases in the funds made available to the PLA, Xi believes that China is strong enough to seize BRI hard assets and projects into its own control under current contract terms. The snail’s pace of the development of Quad into a full-fledged defence and security alliance is also creating a window for economic and diplomatic power play backed by PLA muscle. When the Quad will be willing and able to offer reassurance to countries at risk of losing control of assets as a consequence of dollar-denominated BRI debt remains an open question.

The democracies, though, are not without defences. Rather than lapse into a growth-destructive, inflation-fuelling mode, the US Federal Reserve could be used to promote global growth in democracies, as overall it remains potentially among the most destructive weapon against the enemies of democracy. Despite being infiltrated by the CCP based on recent Congressional reports, the Fed has the capacity to weaponize in defence of US allies. This was evident during the 2020 Covid pandemic via the “FIMA” facility of emergency lending of hard USD to allied countries, but not to China. The US, India and other major democracies have many cards under their sleeve. Their outcomes would of course depend on strategic awareness (including grey zone warfare initiatives) and the speed of recognition of threats and implementation of counter measures to disruptive actions carried out by the Sino-Russian alliance (Chissia). The developing situation is causing a realignment within the global community of the traditional three axes of power. These are (1) energy/commodities such as OPEC, (2) labour/production where China is the present and the future is India, as well as (3) capital, including GCC. The severing of the collaborating links among the three caused by the twin shocks of Covid-19 and the Ukraine war marked the end of structurally low inflation, low interest rates and low geopolitical risks. Xi is banking on a combination of cheap Russian energy and Chinese manufacturing so as to turbocharge the PRC’s geopolitical challenge to the democracies, at a time when the West is scoring self-goal after self-goal. India does not have the luxury of remaining on the sidelines, but needs to position itself in the ongoing contest between the democracies and the countries that regard such a system as anathema. Calculations as to what is the best way of doing this would be going on in the Prime Minister’s Office at South Block on an almost daily basis.

Xi relying on ‘Chissia’ to power PRC expansion


Saturday 22 October 2022

‘Fight the enemy’ has become Xi’s motto (The Sunday Guardian)


In Xi’s speech to the 20th Party Congress, the word that was prominently used was ‘fight’, of course in its Chinese equivalent.

The General Secretary of the Communist Party of China has from the start of his getting that job portrayed himself in Napoleonic colours. Whether it be the many visuals of Xi Jinping striding in the middle of lines of immobile soldiers, or riding a jeep in the process of inspecting an army unit, the image that has been cultivated is that of Xi the Warlord. Of course, warlords have been plentiful in earlier periods of Chinese history, and seldom in a way that would evoke admiration, which is probably why neither of his two immediate predecessors (Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao) sought to clothe themselves in outfits resembling military fatigues. Xi’s wife, Peng Liyuan, is not just a popular folk singer but had until recently a high rank in the PLA. Indeed, through her contacts, across the decades Xi Jinping cultivated almost as many contacts in the military as he did amongst party officials who were civilians. As a consequence, he began favouring policy options (especially in international issues) through a military lens. As the unfortunate consequences of rule over Japan of General Hideki Tojo and his key senior military commanders, that country embarked on a series of steps beginning with the takeover of Manchuria and the invasion of China. Eventually, it was a civilian, Foreign Minister Shigemitsu, who was the first to sign the surrender document on September 2, 1945, bringing to a close World War II. Given the trajectory of the path taken by the CPC, it was inevitable that there would be Cold War 2.0. What Xi has done is to ensure through his actions and speeches that this fact can no longer be passed off as simply the imagination of a practitioner of geopolitics. Whether it be the largely successful cover-up of the origins of Covid-19 or the unchallenged takeover of more that 80% of the ASEAN Sea ( named in most maps as the South China Sea), Xi has had his successes. The problem facing him and the country he leads is that each success, the scale of which and the method used cause anger in much of the international community, sparks off a reactive process that may ultimately lead to a kinetic conflict involving the PLA and other powers. The takeover of the water spaces of the ASEAN Sea could be reversed, were the Quad to get over the influence of pacifists within it and fashion itself into a full-fledged defense and security alliance. As yet, such a progression in the trajectory of the Quad has yet to take place. Even otherwise, it seems unlikely that an attack by the PLA in Ladakh or Arunachal or both, together with an effort by GHQ Rawalpindi to accomplish what Field Marshal Ayub Khan tried and failed to do in 1965 with his thrust into Chhamb, would succeed in its objective. Which would be to cut off Kashmir from the rest of India in conjunction with a PLA effort to cut off the rest of India from Assam and the Northeast by occupying the Siliguri Corridor, otherwise known as the Chicken’s Neck. Were a security alliance involving the Quad members to be formed, an attack by the PLA would very quickly move to a contestation of the control of the Tibetan plateau, while moves against India by GHQ Rawalpindi would get repulsed with ease. What India would expect from its security partners would not be troops but weapons and intelligence, as well as coordination of the navies and air forces of the four powers to deny the PLA underwater and surface platforms access into the Indian Ocean Rim.
In Xi’s speech to the 20th Party Congress, the word that was prominently used was “fight”, of course in its Chinese equivalent. Since 2015, Xi has spoken of hostile countries seeking to throttle the PRC and once again subject the Chinese people to bondage. Unlike his predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, Xi was explicit in promising to annex Taiwan during his period in office. Given that he would need to build up support for a fourth term almost as soon as he enters on his third, Xi may regard the conquest of Taiwan as being necessary to make the CCP ignore the economic headwinds caused by his policies, and focus instead on the achievement of what has long been proclaimed as a key objective of Communist Chinese policy. Should the proxy war between Russia and NATO being played out in Ukraine continue in 2023, Xi may gamble that the adverse impact on their own economies of US-UK-EU sanctions on Russia would reduce to almost a nullity any chance of similar sanctions being imposed on China by the countries that have been sanctioning Russia since 2008. And if NATO is unwilling to directly intervene in a conflict involving a European power that has linked itself to the countries forming that alliance since 2014, would it intervene directly in a conflict involving an Asian power, given the legacy of Vietnam and Afghanistan? CCP planners may see that outcome as wholly improbable. Since Xi took charge in 2012, and not entirely by coincidence, the PLA has been building up its capabilities in the East China and South China ( or ASEAN) Sea, and its planners believe that it has the capacity to block any shipment of weapons from NATO to Taiwan in a manner that Russia has been unable to do in Ukraine. And that without such supplies flowing in a plentiful fashion, the Taiwanese military would be unable to hold back the PLA for very long. As of now, those voices opposing a policy of accelerated decoupling of industrial units of the democracies from China still seem ascendant, if trade volumes are any guide. However, public opinion in the democracies is hardening against the PRC, now that it is led by Xi, and this is influencing even politicians who in the past were regarded as pro-PRC into changing their views. An example is the technology ban imposed by President Biden, which is way more destructive of Chinese capabilities than anything done under President Trump. The third term of President Xi may turn out to be the most consequential in terms of outcomes. Xi is riding the tiger of hyper-nationalism, and if he dismounts, he will suffer the same or a worse fate than CPSU General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev when he blinked in the 1962 Cuban standoff with President Kennedy. From that time onwards, Khrushchev was doomed politically, and finally had to leave an otherwise impregnable office in disgrace in 1964. A warning from history that would not be lost on Xi Jinping.

Saturday 15 October 2022

Danger signal from Russia on Xi Jinping (The Sunday Guardian)


Russian analysts have begun changing the nomenclature of Ladakh and Arunachal into the Mandarin substitutes now promoted in maps by the PRC. Such cartographic shifts have in the past preceded acts of aggression by the PRC.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto’s Two Nation Theory-centred views on Kashmir seem to be an Indiaphobic outlook accepted almost wholly by the Foreign Ministers of Germany and its biggest trading partner, China. The ideology of the Green Party is not usually associated with measures that promote conflict, but Minister Annalena Baerbock seems not to be concerned about the past. She is as set on flooding Ukraine with weapons and prolonging the war between that country and the Russian Federation as the most hawkish in NATO are. GHQ Rawalpindi is eager to present the facade of being a partner of NATO even while (since the Musharraf era) serving the interests of the PLA. Which is why Imran Khan, who in the past had (and still has) several admirers in the UK and India in particular, was anointed the Prime Minister of Pakistan by the army. Imran proved ineffective as a cover-up artist, which is why the Pakistan Chief of Army Staff replaced him as PM with Shehbaz Sharif, who in his endearing way seeks to seem all things to all men. As a backstop where charming the Atlantic Alliance is concerned, in an inspired choice, Bilawal Bhutto was made Foreign Minister, just as his executed grandfather had been. Since 1945, Germans have embraced the concept of being not just Germans but Europeans First to Last. Bilawal, in common with some other South Asian politicians, is European in every way except (at least publicly) in citizenship. Hence Annalena Baerbock ought not to be blamed too harshly for so visibly falling for the lie—sorry, line—that he spun to her on the prompting of the very military that for years assisted the Taliban to kill German soldiers. Nor is Baerbock an outlier in her public disdain for the sovereignty of India, admittedly a country that is not European.
In recent weeks, there has been a spurt in actions directed against India by some of the most consequential members of NATO, especially the UK and the US. UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman was candid about her contempt for Indians, however poisoned such an attitude may have made UK-India relations in the Liz Truss era. It is difficult to believe that actions such as the getting of a Canadian, US or indeed many European visas has become close to impossible for citizens of India are unrelated to the refusal by the Government of India to join NATO in once again shifting focus to Russia in the way that counterparts in Canberra, Seoul or Tokyo have. Indeed, NATO as an alliance is clearly suffering from a genetic birth defect, which is that it is inflexibly focused on Russia as the primary threat to humanity. Although mouthing and even committing to the record ritualistic statements about the China threat, its heart is not in anything other than continuing to fixate on Russia. NATO does indeed seek to intrude into the Indo-Pacific, but by its actions on ground, sea and air, it is clear that the predominant motive for this is to try and strangle those trade routes within Asia that are frequented by Russia. Of course, such attention to Russia coexists with China being given a pass on whatever it does, barring verbal protestations and symbolic posturing indicating unease and opposition.
Atlanticist powers claim that among the primary reasons for the sanctions imposed by them on Russia since 2014 and exponentially increased this year was to warn China of what it would face were it to attempt an invasion of Taiwan. Cynics argue that when viewed against the backdrop of zero sanctions being placed on PRC entities and personnel even after serial infringements on sea and air of Taiwanese (and Vietnamese, Filipino or Indian) sovereignty, such words fail to convince. They point to the stark difference in the quantity, quality and financial terms of the armaments showered on Kiev as compared to those sold—repeat, sold—to Taipei. Unlike what has being seen in connection to Ukraine, thus far, the US, France and the UK have yet to convene a UNSC meeting to discuss PRC encroachments on sea and land across its lawful borders. Sanctions against Russia are on course to generate civil unrest across much of Europe within months, although in the US the Democratic Party is hoping to be rescued in the midterm elections from Biden’s unpopularity by the Republican-controlled US Supreme Court and the candidature of Forever Trumpers. Control of the legislative process at the federal level would ensure implementation of the social legislation favoured by Biden’s party until the present Supreme Court overturns them. Beijing’s policymakers believe that there would be scant public support within the Atlanticist alliance for a fresh raft of sanctions, this time against China, when the boomerang effect of the sanctions on Russia has become impossible to explain away as just the “fault of Putin”. Voices within Russia are these days claiming that Strongman Putin is acting like a wimp in not defeating Ukraine this far. This may result in the Kremlin adopting the Shock and Awe tactics that were employed by George W. Bush against Saddam Hussein in 2003. As for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, he seems less than eager to get “off the ramp” and press for peace, perhaps because he has a comfortable future awaiting him in the Atlanticist world, even if in the process his country gets still more devastated. Given the Kissinger and Obama precedent, Zelenskyy may even get the Nobel Peace Prize.
The 2022 sanctions blitzkrieg against Russia led by President Biden, and encouraged by cheerleaders such as Jens Stoltenberg or Ursula von der Leyen, plus the consequences on the PRC economy of Xi Jinping Thought, are causing waves of pain in the rest of the world. While sanctions that are more than symbolic would be inevitable were Xi to intensify his kinetic moves against Taiwan, it is considered by the CCP leadership to be extremely unlikely that the US, the UK and other NATO member states would impose substantive sanctions on China in the event of another PLA foray into Indian territory. The Russians have flashed a warning sign to the Indian side of the danger posed by such a view in Beijing. This they have indicated by its analysts beginning to change the nomenclature of Ladakh and Arunachal into the Mandarin substitutes given in the latest maps that are now being shown by the CCP. Such cartographic shifts have in the past preceded acts of aggression by the PLA. Maps showing Ladakh and Arunachal as Chinese territory and Kashmir as Pakistani were distributed by some in the Chinese delegation to the September meeting of the SCO at Samarkand. Those in the Lutyens Zone who believe that there is no way that the PLA would initiate a kinetic showdown across the Himalayas at least until the close of the decade may be proved wrong. The tossing of a sweetener to the Atlanticist powers through Indian support of their resolution on Xinjiang against China at the UNHRC may have been a better option than abstaining from voting, rather than in joining countries who backed an investigation into the situation in Xinjiang.

Saturday 8 October 2022

Mr Biden, you are President of the US, not of Europe (The Sunday Guardian)


The perception is growing in Asia, South America and Africa that the only continent (besides his own) that President Biden cares about is Europe.

President Joe Biden is justifiably proud of his Irish roots. This columnist has long been partial in his regard for the Irish. His favourite uncle, Dr N. Mohandas, studied medicine and for a while worked in Ireland. He loved the place and its people, and used to describe both to his nephew in adoring terms. In another cameo, on a visit to Germany and after having a pot of tea and a bit of cake at a restaurant in Munich, this columnist discovered that he had left his wallet at the hotel. What came next? A visit to the police station, or washing the dishes in reparation? The waitress, who volunteered that she was Irish (which explained her flawless English) smiled at the dilemma and waived off charges, saying that “like you in India, we in Ireland too were oppressed by the English”. Not to forget that among the most biting satirists ever was another uncle, Aubrey Menen, whose mother was an Irish beauty who fell in love with and married a taciturn Indian doctor then practising in the UK, my great-uncle. Aubrey’s mother was warm and loving to her Indian relatives, a quality that was reciprocated by all who met her, according to family lore. How is it possible, then, not to love the Irish, despite the challenges faced in retaining such emotions while contemplating some of the ways in which Biden has been navigating through his Presidency of the US? In a world where Asia has replaced Europe as the centrepoint of geopolitical salience, and where the Peoples Republic of China has replaced the long deceased Soviet Union as the primary threat to the US and to its allies and partners, President Biden acts as though unaware of such a shift. In those countries and continents that are not members of the NATO alliance, the perception is growing that all President Biden cares for are the members of NATO, and not any other country or its people. How else to explain why the US embassy in the world’s other huge democracy, India, has functioned for two years and counting without an Ambassador? Or why a citizen of the PRC can get a visa for travel to the US in two days, while for a citizen of India, that process may take more than eight hundred days? If Secretary of State Antony Blinken were to be taken at his word that such a difference has been caused by Covid-19 disruptions, he needs to be informed that the situation regarding that population control mechanism discovered by the Wuhan Institute of Virology is (judging by Xi’s responses) rampaging across China in a much worse way than is the case in India.
Some in the Washington Beltway claim that the 46th President of the US consults with Bill Clinton far more often than he does with Barack Obama, although the latter made him his Vice-President and Clinton while in the White House has left no record of ever having offered Senator Biden any post in the Executive Branch. The Europeanist bias of the Clintons has rubbed off on Biden, who has returned US policy to the Soviet era. It may be mentioned that the explanation given by Bill Clinton for his refusal in the 1990s to agree to Moscow’s entreaties to make it part of NATO and the EU was that he could not forget the Russia of Ivan the Terrible and the other cruel despots who had ruled that land. A long memory indeed. Fortunately, Clinton does not view his own country through the lens of the period when slavery was rampant, or an earlier period when the American Indian population was not just decimated (with one in every ten being killed) but almost completely massacred. Besides honeyed words, President Clinton’s “gift” to the African-American community was to change the criminal laws in a manner that multiplied the number of them who entered prison, while President Biden is spending tens of billions of taxpayer dollars on sending armaments to Ukraine rather than on the African-Americans who en bloc voted for him in 2020. Soon after taking up residence in the White House, Biden vowed that he “would have the back” of the African-American community. Instead, with his obsessive focus on kneecapping Russia in Ukraine, he appears to many US voters to have shown them his own back. And not just to US citizens who en bloc had voted for Biden in 2020. The perception is growing in Asia, South America and Africa that the only continent (besides his own) that President Biden cares about is Europe. Small wonder that the influence of Washington on these continents is shrinking even faster than Biden’s popularity among African-Americans, which has been plunging since the initial months of his Ukrainian adventure. In South America, more and more countries have elected Heads of State who are immune to obedience to US dictates, the latest almost certainly being Brazil under a Lula Presidency. The GCC and OPEC toss the commands of the White House into the wastebasket. Given his Ukrainian obsession in lockstep with EU partners, those across the world who are not of European descent perhaps unfairly regard Biden as having the same ethnic bias as Trump, the difference being that Trump exhibited that bias within his country, while Biden is seen to be demonstrating it internationally and not internally. Trump was, love him or not, all-American. Joe Biden, in common with many of his top picks, still acts as though he considers himself less an American than a European relocated across the pond.
Somalia is being talked about as an illustration of Biden’s Eurobias. The people of that country are in agony, and yet not just Biden but even the usually voluble Ilhan Omar seems hardly to have noticed. Contrast such inattention and lack of any substantive response to the way in which taxpayer dollars and diplomatic and military attention are being paid to Ukraine to weaken Russia. Contrast this with the relatively anaemic logistical response to the threat faced by Taiwan, in comparison to the assistance given to Ukraine. Or indeed, the repeated incursions into and occupation of sovereign Indian territory by China and Pakistan over the decades. Such an illegal occupation is seen to merit a robust response from the White House only when a European population is involved, not citizens of the world’s other huge democracy. Indeed, the US Representative to the UN has explicitly repudiated Obama’s promise that the US would back India’s entry into the UNSC as a permanent member. Clearly, Biden now has the edge over Trump in losing friends and putting off people.

Saturday 1 October 2022

Victoria Nuland’s Stealth Sanctions against India (The Sunday Guardian)


The visa denial to Indians policy has become a form of collective punishment imposed in retaliation for India not following the Victoria Nuland way on S-400 or Ukraine, a path that is leading to trade disruptions, famine, unrest and a looming repeat of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

As a Senator, Joe Biden had always been a team player, which means that he ultimately followed the instructions given by the top leadership of the Democratic Party. For eight years (1993-2001) this was President Bill Clinton, and from that time onwards, Biden had been content to defer to Hillary and Bill on most matters of policy. The Clintons could not be described as admirers of Barack Obama before, during and after a Presidency in which Vice-President Biden was second in protocol rank across his country. It was welcomed by Biden when President Obama  adopted a Clinton Lite model in his first term, filling his administration less with his own supporters than with favourites of Hillary and Bill. In 2016, although he was the obvious choice for nomination as his party’s candidate for the Presidency after Obama, loyalty to the Clintons made him disregard the deathbed wish of his brilliant, idealistic son Beau, who wanted him to stand for election as President. Had it been Smiley Joe rather than Scowly Hillary as the Democratic Party candidate for the White House, it is close to certain that Biden would by now have been in the final stretch not of his first term but his second. Hillary Clinton was a gift to the Republican side, just as Biden would be to the Republican side, were he to stand again in 2024. Given his fealty to the Clintons, it comes as no surprise that Joe Biden, the Champion of Democracy vs Autocracy, has yet to visit India as the US President, or that he was instrumental in clearing the transfer of spares worth nearly $500 million to the Pakistan military, which is visibly making preparations for joining the PLA in a joint offensive against India. However, what has been an even deadlier blow, this time less to the government or military of India than to the people, has been the fact that it has become next to impossible for a citizen of India to get a visa to travel to the US, although such a situation remains not at all reciprocal.
A Communist Chinese citizen can get a visa for travel to the US in two or three days, but a citizen of India has to wait two or three years for the privilege. This has been explained away by Secretary of State Antony Blinken as being the consequence of staffing cuts caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. It may be that Blinken actually believes the flimsy lie that he has been fed by those lower down the food chain in the US administration. Those in the know of activities in Foggy Bottom  claim that the policy of visa denial to citizens of India was put on steroids by Under-Secretary of State Victoria Nuland after her Delhi visit that took place early in the year. Not used to having countries outside the Atlanticist group turn down her commands, Nuland inwardly fumed when South Block refused to scrap the S-400 deal and join the crusade against Russia that she has long been a champion of. If Blinken were to look into the mail and voice trail of the origins of his department’s Visa Denial to Indians policy, he would easily be able to track the individuals who are succeeding in punishing several in this country who are empathetic to the US. Just as China was delighted by Biden’s 2022 pivot from China to Russia and from Asia to Europe, Beijing must be gloating over the fact that business to business linkages between India and the US are going for a toss simply because travel from India to that country is practically becoming impossible for citizens of the world’s most populous democracy. But for the chokehold suggested, according to insiders, by Under-Secretary Nuland on the giving of US visas to Indian citizens, trade and investment between the two countries would have expanded by much more than they nevertheless have. The Visa Denial for Indians policy has become a form of collective punishment imposed in retaliation for India not following the Nuland way on S-400 or on Ukraine, a path that is leading to trade disruptions, famine, unrest and a looming repeat of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Friends and relatives seeking to participate in the marriage of their friends are unable to do so, tourists wanting to see the US are blocked in that desire. In multiple ways, people to people contact between the two largest democracies on the globe is being nuked, even while US visas are available as easily as buying an ice cream cone in Beijing or Shanghai.
Seeking to fool the people of India through lavish dollops of “utterly butterly” praise has long been a diplomatic staple in the global circuit. That same technique was used days ago by Antony Blinken to mask the reality of his department’s vicious visa policy towards India, a policy designed to punish the people of India for the refusal of their government to join Japan and South Korea in reflexively obeying Nuland’s diktat in the manner expected of non-Atlanticist countries. As a consequence, loved ones have fallen ill and died in the US without being able to meet for the last time friends and family from India. Earlier, both Presidents Clinton and Bush imposed an inhuman policy of sanctions on the people of Iraq for their “crime” in not rising up suicidally against the murderous Saddam Hussein Tikriti. What is being implemented by Secretary of State Blinken appears to be a deliberate policy of Sanctions by Stealth. Those in the US Congress and elsewhere who are genuinely seeking a US-India security and defense partnership that would keep the Indo-Pacific free of attempted hegemony need to make themselves heard, before the closet foes of the India-US partnership still being indulged in the Biden White House do further damage to India-US relations. Of course, it must be admitted that such a course by Washington delights not just Beijing but Moscow as well.