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A Pound of Flesh: Why is India trying to sabotage the Silk Road Initiative?

Ongoing conflicts between India and China are firmly rooted in Nahrendra Modi’s inability to compromise on the Silk Road Initiative. Read to find out why.

Haneul Na'avi

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Tarry a little, there is something else.
This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood;
The words expressly are “a pound of flesh.”

—Portia, The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene II

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has turned on his former One Belt, One Road (OBOR) allies, arrogantly demanding a pound of flesh from the People’s Republic of China.

As of late, Sino-Indian tensions have become inexplicably enflamed to pre-1962 levels, with border clashes erupting shortly after China began constructing an innocuous road through Bhutan.

“Diplomatic observers […] said they were surprised that China’s [project] in the Donglang area […] so quickly turned into the biggest military stand-off between the two armies in years,” SCMP noted.

The Washington Post also referenced the skirmishes as a pretext for rubber stamping ties with President Donald Trump, with Modi citing security fears to garner lucrative defence contracts.

“Beyond [defence] sales, however, the conversational landscape is bleak,” WP chided.

Following his US visit, Modi achieved historic lows as the first Indian PM to visit Israel, striking a 500 million USD arms deal with his counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu.

The two have been deepening cooperation between since Modi assumed office in 2014, and have been ramping up their effeminate bromance to epic proportions.

“According to Israeli media, the value of military exchanges between New Delhi and Tel Aviv amounts to one billion dollars each year,” PressTV mentioned.

Furthermore, in May 2017, Modi sloppily pieced together a One Belt, One Road ‘alternative’ with Japanese President Shinzo Abe after recoiling in indignation from the Chinese-led initiative.

“[…] it is still in the drafting stage and at least a year away from being committed to [and], there is no mention of any level of investment that would follow through,” Business Standard highlights.

Fortunately, these conflicts did not occur in a vacuum, and in order to fully understand India’s double-dealing, one must revisit events surrounding the May 15 Belt and Road Summit in Beijing.

29 countries attended, including delegates from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the United Nations; even the US. However India, the OBOR Initiative’s second-largest investor, boycotted the event.

His absence was a mum protest against People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping’s shrewd decision to deepen ties with Pakistani President Nawaz Sharif on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC); a vital trade route into the Middle East for the OBOR.

Reuters elaborates:

Among the 3.4 billion yuan ($492.95 million) [agreements] signed on Saturday were [two] worth 2.3 billion yuan for an airport in the southwestern town of Gwadar, [the] establishment of the Havelian Dry Port in Pakistan [and] economic and technical cooperation worth 1.1 billion yuan for the East Bay Expressway linking Gwadar to Pakistan’s existing highway system.

Despite India’s snub, Sharif voiced his appreciation to China. ”Such a broad sweep and scale of interlocking economic partnerships and investments is unprecedented in history,” he stated.

Modi’s presence, however, was felt amongst pro-independence demonstrations that erupted across Pakistan’s semi-autonomous Gilgit-Baltistan region in protest of the summit, reminiscent of the Umbrella Revolution of Hong Kong and others, whom attempt to undermine and balkanise China.

The Times of India reported:

Various students and political organisations including Karakoram Students Organisation, Balawaristan National Students Organisation, Gilgit Baltistan United Movement and Balawaristan National Front […] described the project as an illegal attempt to grab Gilgit and see it as a “Road of Gulami or Slavery for Gilgit-Baltistan” [for] China to take over their territory.

Their accusations and timing are questionable, if not subversive. Gilgit-Baltistan has sought to integrate into Pakistani territory since 1947, implying the ‘movements’ as unrepresentative of the region. In contrast, their actions directly correlate to recent events on the CPEC.

On 15 March, Pakistan’s Minister for Interprovincial Coordination Riaz Hussain Pirzada revealed that his government “recommended that Gilgit-Baltistan should be made a province of Pakistan”.

He also noted that “a constitutional amendment would be made to change the status of the region, through which the USD 46 billion [CPEC] passes,” the Hindustan Times reported.

To date, Pakistan had shelved development projects in Gilgit-Baltistan for decades to abide by UN Resolution 47 and its settlement with India over the Jammu and Kashmir conflict.

However, that changed after Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf assumed office in 2001. Chirayu Thakkar of South Asian Voices explains further:

With the manifestation of Gwadar Port, conceived through substantial Chinese investment in 2001, and subsequent rumination upon the [CPEC], it became increasingly inevitable for Pakistan to stabilize the region […] Pakistan’s waning enchantment with the United States and […] hostile neighbor like India makes it geo-strategically imperative for Pakistan to scale up its partnership with China by ensuring the smooth execution of CPEC.

Intimidated by this, India has fought to derail Sino-Pakistani ties, with tensions finally peaking at the May OBOR summit after Beijing and Lahore materialised groundbreaking deals.

Additionally, in order to antagonise Gilgit-Baltistan, the Modi government would need to crack down on Jammu and Kashmir—a region long opposed Indian imperialism. India’s anxiety at the OBOR summit is inextricably tied to its frustration to suppress Kashmiri independence.

A PressTV article palpably illustrates how India routinely jeopardises security in Jammu-Kashmir:

Tensions between Kashmiri students and government forces have intensified since April 15, when Indian forces raided a college in Pulwama […] to scare anti-India activists.

It continues:

The Muslim-majority region has witnessed an increase in mass protests and violent attacks since early July 2016, when Burhan Wani, a top figure in a pro-independence group, was killed in a shootout with Indian troops.

This is not the first time Pakistan has raised concerns about Indian-backed insurgents in Balochistan; Pakistan’s largest and westernmost province.

Pakistani Ambassador to the Republic of Korea Zahid Nasrullah Khan expressed this in a passionate rebuttal to the Korea Times:

Balochistan has been victim of subversive activities by India. On 3rd March 2016 Commander Kulbushan Yadav the RAW operative (Indian intelligence agency) was apprehended by our authorities when he was trying to enter in Pakistan illegally [whose] objective was to instigate Baloch insurgents and finance [the] Baloch Liberation Movement in order for them to carry out subversive activities in Balochistan resulting in the killing of Pakistani citizens.

In addition to causing security headaches, Modi also selfishly declined invitations to join the CPEC, after Pakistani Lieutenant General Aamir Riaz offered to deepen cooperation between them.

“India should ‘shun enmity’ with Pakistan and join the USD 46-billion CPEC along with Iran, Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries and enjoy its benefits,” he continued.

Following the summit, Ding Gang of the People’s Daily stated the following:

If New Delhi joins […] this will help alleviate tensions and confrontations between India and Pakistan. More importantly, the initiative can enhance local people’s living standards […] Civilians in the Kashmiri area have suffered from poverty and armed conflicts for decades. A responsible government has no reason to keep these innocent civilians enduring such ordeals.

Furthermore, India arrogantly chastised the OBOR over potential debt burdens, citing the mantra of “Chinese debt slavery” in Sri Lanka; however, two discrepancies emerge.

Firstly, Sri Lanka still attended the May OBOR summit, along with Nepal and Pakistan. Additionally, China’s “debt burden” hasn’t deterred others from submitting their applications to join the bank.

The bank, which began with 57 ratifiers, has increased its membership to 77 countries, spanning from Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and East Asia’s most powerful and influential economies.

“More and more countries are signing up to be members of AIIB because they see how internationalism can promote development in Asia, with far reaching benefits for the global economy.” AIIB President Jin Liqun highlighted.

Modi even received the AIIB’s first loan approval to begin the Andhra Pradesh – 24×7 Power for All project, was launched in 2014 to provide electricity to all participatory states on the subcontinent. This was, of course, done with Chinese approval and co-financed by the World Bank.

“I am delighted that AIIB is working closely with India, who is our second largest shareholder, in energy and other infrastructure sectors, and we expect the [project] to be the first of many projects AIIB invests in India,” President Jin expressed.

The project was approved on 2 May, 2017 by the AIIB Board of Governors— two weeks before India’s diplomatic gaffe.

Thankfully, India still has six proposed projects waiting in the approval queue, ranging from the Madhya Pradesh Rural Connectivity Project, Mumbai Metro Line 4 and India Infrastructure Fund, which will become subject to the very people Modi has snubbed.

Consequently, China can simply summon all shareholders to vote on downgrading India’s 8.36 bln USD in contributions and 8% voting power, and recapitalise with several countries—Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and later Turkey—all whom are infinitely more conducive, necessary, and enthusiastic to complete the Silk Road pathway into Europe, rendering India obsolete.

Re-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, eager to initiate the Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline, extended his hand in friendship to his regional ally.

“We hope that the Pakistani side would also more seriously pursue the necessary measures to complete the project,” Rouhani asserted in a Geo TV article.

[Speaker of the National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq] assured Rouhani that Pakistan would never take any step that could go against the interests of the brotherly country of Iran,” it continued.

By entrusting Iran and Pakistan, the AIIB gains more pragmatic members who can secure future investments for all shareholders.

Furthermore, these shareholders could also cite Article 31 of the AIIB Banking Charter, which reiterates the organisation’s international character:

The Bank, its President, officers and staff shall not interfere in the political affairs of any member, nor shall they be influenced in their decisions by the political character of the member concerned. Only economic considerations shall be relevant to their decisions. Such considerations shall be weighed impartially in order to achieve and carry out the purpose and functions of the Bank.

As Modi’s political affairs jeopardise the ‘international character’ of the Bank, President Jin and AIIB shareholders can vote to limit or exclude India from future projects—including pending ones.

Outlined in the AIIB 2017 Business Plan and Budget Summary, one institutional goal—Continuing Institution Building—was noted as follows:

[In] its second year of operation, the Bank will continue to refine, deepen and enhance its institutional and policy frameworks and ensure their effective implementation […] A key priority will be preparing a mechanism for independent investigation of complaints regarding AIIB non-compliance with its policies [and] institutional arrangements to give effect to the newly enhanced Policy on Prohibited Practices (PPP), helping to keep its operations corruption free.

Finally, assuming that India follows through with its promise to develop itself outside the context of the OBOR initiative, it would need to overcome critical shortcomings to do so.

Manoj Joshi of the New Delhi Observer Research Foundation explains why:

New Delhi has two problems — first, India’s own hopeless internal infrastructure [and second] it lacks the structure of capable state-owned enterprises which can execute projects in quick time. The 19.2-km Kamchiq tunnel in Uzbekistan built by the China Railway Tunnel Group was completed in 2016 in exactly three years, the 756-km Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway in five years by the China Railway Group […] random examples of the accomplishments of Chinese companies.

India’s chauvinist aspirations in Jammu and Kashmir, as well as Gilgit-Baltistan, have no place in the AIIB and will endanger its future operations and Modi’s refusal to accept the CPEC corridor will turn his country into a regional pariah as Pakistan paves the way to the Middle East.

Modi will suffer a vague geopolitical mire that nationalist sentiments cannot remedy. As the world around India builds with China, 1.4 billion Indian onlookers will face an uncertain future.

India cannot hide behind its 7.1% GDP growth with a falling business efficacy rating. By sabotaging its future in the OBOR, Modi’s demands for China’s pound of flesh will come at a terrible cost.

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Photos of swastika on Ukrainian mall stairway creates a stir [Video]

Ukrainian nationalist press in damage-control mode to explain away the Nazi sign, but they forgot the name of the street the mall is on.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the aspects of news about Ukraine that does not make it past the gatekeepers of the American and Western news media is how a significant contingent of Ukrainian nationalists have espoused a sense of reverence for Nazis. The idea that this could even happen anywhere in the world in an open manner makes the claim seem too absurd to be taken seriously. Gone are the days when the Nazi swastika adorned streets and buildings in Europe. Right?

Well, maybe, wrong.

This was seen in Kyiv’s Gorodok (or Horodok, if you insist) Gallery, a shopping center in that city, located on Bandera Avenue.

The pro-nationalist news service UNIAN wasted no time going to press with their explanation of this incident, which admittedly may be accurate:

Children and teenagers who participated in the All-Ukrainian break dance festival held in the Kyiv-based Gorodok Gallery shopping mall were shocked to see a swastika image projected onto an LED staircase.

The mall administration apologized to visitors, explaining saying that their computer system had apparently been hacked.

“The administration and staff have no relation to whatever was projected onto the LED-staircase, and in no way does it support such [an] act. Now we are actively searching for those involved in the attack,” it said in a statement.

According to Gorodok Gallery’s administrative office, it was not the first time a cyber breach took place.

As reported earlier, Ukraine is believed to be a testing ground for cyberattacks, many of which are launched from Russia. Hackers have earlier targeted critical energy infrastructure, state institutions, banks, and large businesses.

This time, it appears, hackers aimed to feed the Kremlin’s narrative of “Nazis in power in Ukraine” and create a relevant hype-driving viral story for Russian media to spread it worldwide.

The Gorodok Gallery also apologized on its Facebook page and said that this was a result of hacking.

But what about the street that the mall is on? From the self-same Facebook page, this is what we see:


To translate, for those who do not read Ukrainian or Russian, the address says the following:

23 Steven Bandera Prospekt, Kyiv, Ukraine 04073

This street was formerly called “Moscow Avenue.” Big change, as we shall see.

Steven Bandera got his birthday designated as a national holiday in Ukraine last December. He is known in Ukraine’s history for one thing. According to the Jerusalem Post:

The street where the shopping mall is located is named for Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist who briefly collaborated with Nazi Germany in its fight against Russia.

His troops are believed to have killed thousands of Jews.

Several Israeli papers picked this bit of news up, and of course, the reasons are understandable. However, for the West, it appears possible that this news event will largely go unnoticed, even by that great nation that is often called “Israel’s proxy”, the United States.

This is probably because for certain people in the US, there is a sense of desperation to mask the nature of events that are happening in Ukraine.

The usual fare of mainstream news for the West probably consists of things like “Putin’s military seizes innocent Ukrainian sailors in Kerch incident” or, “Ukraine’s Orthodox Church declared fully independent by Patriarch of Constantinople” (not that too many Americans know what a Constantinople even is, anyway), but the overriding narrative for the American people about this country is “Ukraine are the good guys, and Russia are the bad guys,” and this will not be pushed aside, even to accommodate the logical grievance of Israel to this incident.

If this article gets to Western papers at all, it will be the UNIAN line they adhere to, that evil pro-Russia hackers caused this stairway to have a swastika to provoke the idea that Ukraine somehow supports Naziism.

But UNIAN neglected to mention that the street name was recently changed to Stephan Bandera (in 2016), and no one appears to have hacked this. Nor does UNIAN talk about the Azov fighters that openly espoused much of the Nazi ideology. For nationalist Ukrainians, this is all for the greater good of getting rid of all things Russia.

A further sad fact about this is the near impossibility of getting assuredly honest and neutral information about this and other similar happenings. Both Ukrainian nationalists and Russian media agencies have dogs in the race, so to speak. They are both personally connected to these events. However, the Russian media cannot be discounted here, because they do offer a witness and perspective, probably the closest to any objective look at what is going on in Ukraine. We include a video of a “torchlight march” that took place in 2017 that featured such hypernationalist activity, which is not reported in the West.

More such reports are available, but this one seemed the best one to summarize the character of what is going on in the country.

While we do not know the motive and identities of whoever programmed the swastika, it cannot really be stated that this was just a random publicity stunt in a country that has no relationship with Nazi veneration.

The street the mall is on bears witness to that.

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It’s Back to the Iran-Contra Days Under Trump

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela.

Strategic Culture Foundation

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Authored by Wayne Madsen, via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Showing that he is adopting the neoconservative playbook every day he remains in office, Donald Trump handed the neocons a major win when he appointed Iran-contra scandal felon Elliott Abrams as his special envoy on Venezuela. Abrams pleaded guilty in 1991 to two counts of withholding information on the secret sale of US weapons for cash to help illegally supply weapons to the Nicaraguan right-wing contras, who were battling against the government of President Daniel Ortega. Abrams would have headed to a federal prison, but President George H. W. Bush, an unindicted co-conspirator in the scandal, issued pardons to Abrams and his five fellow conspirators – former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, and former Central Intelligence Agency officials Alan Fiers, Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, and Clair George – on Christmas Eve 1991, during the final weeks of Bush’s lame duck administration.

Abrams escaped being charged with more serious crimes by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh because he cut a last-minute deal with federal prosecutors. Trump, who has made no secret of his disdain for cooperating federal witnesses, would have normally called Abrams a “rat,” a gangster term meaning informant. The man who helped engineer the pardons for Abrams and his five convicted friends was none other than Bush’s Attorney General, William Barr, who has just been sworn in as Trump’s Attorney General. Trump, who is always decrying the presence of the “deep state” that thwarts his very move, has become the chief guardian of that entity.

During a recent hearing of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, newly-minted congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, reminded her colleagues and the world about the sordid background of Abrams.

Omar zeroed in on Abrams’s criminal history:

“Mr. Abrams, in 1991 you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony you give today to be truthful.”

Abrams, as is the nature of neocons, refused to respond to Omar and cited her comments as “personal attacks.”

Abrams’s and his fellow criminals’ use of mercenaries and “death squads” to conduct secret wars in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala during the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s has made a re-entrance under Trump. Abrams was brought on board by neocons like National Security Adviser John Bolton, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to oversee a US military build-up in Colombia, said to be 5000 US troops, to support Venezuelan paramilitary and military efforts to topple President Nicolas Maduro. Abrams and Bolton are also believed to have retained the services of another unindicted conspirator in the Iran-contra affair, Michael Ledeen, a colleague of the disgraced and convicted former Trump National Security Adviser, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. Ledeen and Flynn co-authored a book titled, “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and its Allies.” The book contains nothing more than the standard neocon tripe one might expect from the likes of Ledeen.

An official investigation of the Iran-contra scandal by the late Republican Senator John Tower of Texas concluded that Abrams’s and Ledeen’s friend, Iranian-Jewish middleman Manucher Ghorbanifar, a long-time Mossad asset and well-known prevaricator, was extremely instrumental in establishing the back-channel arms deals with Iran. Ghorbanifar has long been on the CIA “burn list” as an untrustworthy charlatan, along with others in the Middle East of similar sketchy credentials, including the Iraq’s Ahmad Chalabi, Syria’s Farid “Frank” Ghadry, and Lebanon’s Samir “Sami” Geagea. These individuals, however, were warmly embraced by neocons like Abrams and his associates.

Abrams, whose links with Israeli intelligence has always been a point of consternation with US counter-intelligence officials, is part of an old cabal of right-wing anti-Soviet Democrats who coalesced around Senator Henry Jackson in the 1970s. Along with Abrams, this group of war hawks included Richard Perle, Frank Gaffney, William Kristol, Douglas Feith, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Abram Shulsky, and Paul Wolfowitz. Later, this group would have its fingerprints on major US foreign policy debacles, ranging from Nicaragua and Grenada to Lebanon, Iraq, and Libya. Later, in December 2000, these neocons managed to convince president-elect George W. Bush of the need to “democratize” the Middle East. That policy would later bring not democracy but disaster to the Arab Middle East and North Africa.

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela. They have old scores to settle with Nicaraguan President Ortega. The initiation of “regime change” operations in Nicaragua, supported by the CIA and the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in Miami, have been ongoing for more than a year.

The Trump administration has already achieved a regime change victory of sorts in El Salvador. Nayib Bukele, the former mayor of San Salvador, who was expelled from the formerly-ruling left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation (FMLN) party and joined the right-wing GANA party, was recently elected president of El Salvador. Bukele has quickly re-aligned his country’s policies with those of the Trump administration. Bukele has referred to President Maduro of Venezuela as a “dictator.” He has also criticized the former FMLN government’s recognition of China and severance of diplomatic ties with Taiwan. It will be interesting to see how a sycophant like Bukele will politically survive as Trump continues to call hapless asylum-seeking migrants from his country, who seek residency in the United States, “rapists, gang monsters, murderers, and drug smugglers.”

Another country heading for a US-installed “banana republic” dictator is Haiti. President Jovenal Moise has seen rioting in the streets of Port-au-Prince as the US State Department removed all “non-essential” personnel from the country. Moise, whose country has received $2 billion in oil relief from Venezuela, to help offset rising fuel prices, has continued to support the Maduro government. However, at the US-run and neo-colonial artifice, the Organization of American States (OAS), Moise’s envoys have been under tremendous pressure to cut ties with Venezuela and recognize the US puppet Juan Guaido as Venezuelan president. Moise’s refusal to do so resulted in armed gangs hitting the streets of Port-au-Prince demanding Moise’s resignation. It is the same neocon “regime change” playbook being used in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

There will be similar attempts to replace pro-Maduro governments in his remaining allies in the region. These include Suriname, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Abrams was also brought in as an adviser on Middle East policy in the George W. Bush administration. The carnage of Iraq is a stark testament to his record. In 2005, it was reported that two key Bush White House officials – Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliot Abrams – gave a “wink and a nod” for the assassinations by Israeli-paid operatives of three key Lebanese political figures seeking a rapprochement with Syria and Lebanese Hezbollah – Member of Parliament Elie Hobeika, former Lebanese Communist Party chief George Hawi, and former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

In 2008, a United Nations panel headed by former Canadian prosecutor Daniel Bellemare later concluded Hariri was assassinated by a “criminal network” and not by either Syrian and Lebanese intelligence or Lebanese Hezbollah as proffered by Abrams and his friends in Washington.

Representative Omar was spot on in questioning why Abrams, whose name is as disgraced as his two fellow conspirators – Oliver North and John Poindexter – whose criminal convictions were overturned on appeal, is working for the Trump administration on Venezuela. The answer is that the neocons, who can sense, like raptors, Trump’s political weakness, have filled the vacuum left by top-level vacancies in the administration.

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Putin: If mid-range missiles deployed in Europe, Russia will station arms to strike decision centers

Putin: If US deploys mid-range missiles in Europe, Russia will be forced to respond.

RT

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Via RT…


If the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Moscow will respond by stationing weapons aimed not only against missiles themselves, but also at command and control centers, from which a launch order would come.

The warning came from President Vladimir Putin, who announced Russia’s planned actions after the US withdraws from the INF Treaty – a Cold War-era agreement between Washington and Moscow which banned both sides form having ground-based cruise and ballistic missiles and developing relevant technology.

The US is set to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty in six months, which opens the possibility of once again deploying these missiles in Europe. Russia would see that as a major threat and respond with its own deployments, Putin said.

Intermediate-range missiles were banned and removed from Europe because they would leave a very short window of opportunity for the other side to decide whether to fire in retaliation after detecting a launch – mere minutes. This poses the threat of an accidental nuclear exchange triggered by a false launch warning, with the officer in charge having no time to double check.

“Russia will be forced to create and deploy weapon systems, which can be used not only against the territories from which this direct threat would be projected, but also against those territories where decision centers are located, from which an order to use those weapons against us may come.” The Russian president, who was delivering a keynote address to the Russian parliament on Wednesday, did not elaborate on whether any counter-deployment would only target US command-and-control sites in Europe or would also include targets on American soil.

He did say the Russian weapon system in terms of flight times and other specifications would “correspond” to those targeting Russia.

“We know how to do it and we will implement those plans without a delay once the relevant threats against us materialize,”he said.

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