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Is India Now a US Ally?

India aligns with the US against China and Russia.

Andrew Korybko

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India’s recent moves are putting India’s multipolar commitment in doubt and raise questions about whether India has defected to the US’s unipolar system.

India used to be universally acclaimed for being a multipolar pillar in the emerging world order.  The country played a pivotal role in BRICS and in the larger globally transformative processes that are currently underway.

Historically as one of the founder members of the Non-Aligned Movement India has been respected for its wise pragmatism and its ability to engage any partner on a win-win basis.

India now looks ready to abandon its geopolitical traditions.  It seems to be starting a new foreign policy trajectory openly siding with the US against China in the New Cold War.

Prime Minister Modi has made a series of moves over the past month which show that India’s strategic calculations have radically changed since US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter visited the subcontinent last month.

In this article I shall discuss the elements of India’s anti-Chinese pivot, with an emphasis on the “Logistic Service Agreement” and the consequences of the Azhar-Isa affair.

In a subsequent article I shall discuss the long-term consequences if India continues to abide by its new policies and how this will lead unavoidably to an intensified Chinese-Indian Cold War encompassing the ASEAN, Himalayan, and Central Asian theatres.

I will also look into the global stakes and how India by its realignment with the US may inadvertently be on the cusp of sabotaging the successes the emerging multipolar world order has managed to make up to this point.

India’s Anti-Chinese Pivot

In the course of only a single month, India has surprised the world by radically pivoting to an anti-Chinese policy that has Washington’s “Lead From Behind” fingerprints all over it.

The “Logistic Service Agreement”

US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter visited India in April.

Whilst this visit was presented as a “routine visit” by most media outlets, Ashton Carter’s comments about the emerging US-Indian Strategic Partnership, which he predicted “will define the 21st century”, attracted a lot of attention.

Underpinning the rhetoric is the so-called “Logistic Support Agreement” (LSA) the US and India are currently negotiating with each other.  This is essentially a blend of the “Host Mission Support Agreements” that NATO has concluded with Finland and Sweden and the transit agreement that NATO has recently agreed with Serbia.

Reuters quotes US military officials as saying that the LSA “would allow the two militaries to use each other’s land, air and naval bases for resupplies, repair and rest”.   

What that means in practice is that the US has effectively acquired the right to deploy full-spectrum rotational forces anywhere throughout India on a preplanned case-by-case basis in order to “contain China”.

Although not yet signed, Ashton Carter’s major achievement was that the two sides agreed “in principle” to conclude negotiations for the LSA in the near future.  It is believed that only the amount of financial compensation and other related technical details remain to be agreed before the deal enters into force presumably later this year.

Aircraft Carrier Cooperation

In parallel with the LSA, the US announced that it would assist New Delhi to build its first domestically built aircraft carrier.

Ashton Carter revealed during his visit that the US will share state-of-the-art technology with its Indian counterparts, thus substantially deepening the emerging alliance between them.

It is an open secret that India’s navy will be used to “contain” China in the Indian Ocean Region.  The unprecedented level of naval cooperation between the two sides therefore has to be seen through the geopolitical prism of this shared objective to “contain” China.

If symbolism has any meaning, it’s also important that the Indian Defense Minister invited Carter onto India’s premier aircraft carrier, the INS Vikramaditya.

Not only does this demonstrate India’s willingness to show the world just how good its relations with the US are right now, but it is also significant that this was originally a Russian-built ship making this a strong signal that India is diversifying its military-technical relations towards the West at the expense of its traditional Russian partner.

Raw data provides the proof.   Although Russia still provides the bulk of India’s weapons, the US has recently edged it out, becoming in recent years India’s largest vendor, indicating that Russia is gradually losing its strategic position in the Indian market.

Inviting Ashton Carter to step onto the deck of a Russian-built aircraft carrier rubs salt into the Russian defence industry’s wounds.

The Azhar-Isa Affair

I have previously discussed this event in detail in an article for the Moscow-based Katehon think tank.

Briefly, India extended a visa to Dolkun Isa, one of the most notorious “political” figures providing political cover for the Uighur terrorist movement. China had earlier accused this person of supporting terrorism and Interpol has a “red corner notice” on him. He was nonetheless invited by the Indian government to attend a broad gathering of anti-Chinese separatist and regime change groups hosted by the US-based “Initiatives For China/Citizen Power For China” – widely acknowledged to be CIA front organisation.

Just about all of the other anti-Chinese groups that were supposed to attend this conference – which included Tibetan, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolian, and “pro-democracy” groups – are also US-based and are equally hostile to the Chinese authorities.

The unavoidable conclusion is that India intentionally collaborated with the US to host US proxies in Dharamsala – a location provocatively close to the Chinese border.

The Indian media justified all this in articles heavy with nationalist rhetoric that argued that the visa was extended to Dolkun Isa because China had previously stonewalled India’s UN proposal to put accused Pakistani-based terrorist Masood Azhar on a UN terrorist list.

In my previous Katehon piece I pointed out that India – more so than any other country – knows China cannot interfere in a bilateral dispute between Pakistan and India and certainly cannot appear to side with India in a dispute of this sort.  I explained that New Delhi only brought up this issue in order to justify its decision to host a gathering of anti-Chinese separatist and terrorist groups in Dharamsala.

Though India eventually cancelled Dolkun Isa’s visa, since New Delhi still allowed the conference to take place this has the look of a classic bait-and-switch exercise.

The US-based “Initiatives For China/Citizen Power For China” umbrella group now favoured by India is also distinctly anti-Russian.  It previously organized a conference lobbying for the passage of the extra-judicial so-called “Global Magnitsky Bill”. It even prioritizes this Bill as its third most important project behind the “Tiananmen Massacre Memory of World Registrar” and “Finding 2 Tank Men” ahead of its “Hong Kong Occupy Central” movement.

By hosting this anti-Chinese organisation Indian Prime Minister Modi’s government was also hosting an anti-Russian organisation, making this look like a subtle anti-Moscow message as well as an open anti-Beijing one.

The Azhar-Isa affair exploded shortly after Ashton Carter’s visit.  Ashton Carter almost certainly discussed this affair in some way with his Indian hosts during his visit probably with a view to providing future ‘situational justification’ for the LSA and for the deployment of American air, sea, and land forces in India next to China’s Tibetan and Yunnan borders.

Hostility To The New Silk Road

India has been visibly upset ever since China announced last year that it would build the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) through Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

India’s media and academic community have issued mild condemnations of this over the course of the previous year.

New Delhi however has now stepped up its criticism after Ashton Carter’s visit with Colonel SD Goswami, a spokesman of India’s Udhampur-headquartered Northern Command, saying that “The government has conveyed its concerns to China…and asked them to cease such activities”.

This anti-New Silk Road rhetoric would not have been possible without behind-the-scenes encouragement from the US, which is clearly backing it as part of its global Hybrid War campaign to sabotage China’s Silk Road strategy.

China will not stop construction of this mega-project because of Indian complaints, no matter how strongly the US backs them.  India knows this.

It is therefore likely that the escalation of rhetoric around this project was initiated as part of a pre-planned information campaign to justify tightening the anti-Chinese US-Indian Strategic Partnership with the claim that India “has no choice” because “China just won’t listen”.

The US-Indian Naval Alliance

An important component of the larger US-Indian Strategic Partnership is the enhanced naval cooperation between the two countries, which – like every other part of their new alliance – is predicated on “containing China”.

Aside from the important aircraft carrier cooperation and other military-technical aspects that were discussed earlier, the two sides are reported to have discussed joint anti-submarine warfare strategies.

In addition India is expected to take part in US-led multilateral exercises in June, which will be held provocatively in the Philippine Sea.  Although not directly adjacent to the South China Sea, this location is adjacent to the East China Sea where Beijing and Tokyo are locked in a bitter dispute over contested island territories.

India’s participation in anti-submarine warfare exercises so close to a potential conflict zone in tandem with the US, Japan, and other anti-Chinese navies is a worrying sign that India is serious about confronting China both in the Indian Ocean Region and right on Beijing’s own East Asian doorstep.

Considering how important maritime trade routes are for the still-growing Chinese economy and its global One Belt One Road commercial network plans, the US-assisted rise of the Indian Navy as a trans-regional operating force between the Indian Ocean Region and the South China Sea/East China Sea could prove threatening to China in the coming years.

Not only is India doubling down on its strategic collaboration with the US, but it is also trying to “localise” its presence through multilateral cooperation with ASEAN’s maritime members under the ‘plausibly deniable’ aegis of promoting “freedom of navigation”.

India’s latest participation in ASEAN naval drills combined with its growing anti-Chinese strategic partnership with the US can be seen as signalling its intent to institutionalise its presence in the South China Sea.

Whilst China and Russia are also taking part in these exercises, Moscow obviously is not seeking to “contain” China, whilst Beijing’s role should be seen in the larger framework of its normal relations with countries which are its maritime neighbours.

By contrast India’s participation in naval exercises alongside Japan, the US, and Australia imply involvement in a prospective anti-Chinese naval alliance that will eventually involve Vietnam and the Philippines.

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What a sham? Cannot even differentiate between good and bad. Even as evil as US has demonstrated itself to be, there are still people lending support.

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Russia calls on US to put a leash on Petro Poroshenko

The West’s pass for Mr. Poroshenko may blow up in NATO’s and the US’s face if the Ukrainian President tries to start a war with Russia.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Russia called on Washington not to ignore the Poroshenko directives creating an active military buildup along the Ukrainian-Donbass frontier, this buildup consisting of Ukrainian forces and right-wing ultranationalists, lest it “trigger the implementation of a bloody scenario”, according to a Dec 11 report from TASS.

The [Russian] Embassy [to the US] urges the US State Department to recognize the presence of US instructors in the zone of combat actions, who are involved in a command and staff and field training of Ukraine’s assault airborne brigades. “We expect that the US will bring to reason its proteges. Their aggressive plans are not only doomed to failure but also run counter to the statements of the administration on its commitment to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine by political and diplomatic means,” the statement said.

This warning came after Eduard Basurin, the deputy defense minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic noted that the Ukrainian army was massing troops and materiel for a possible large-scale offensive at the Mariupol section of the contact line in Donbass. According to Basurin, this action is expected to take place on 14 December. TASS offered more details:

According to the DPR’s reconnaissance data, Ukrainian troops plan to seize the DPR’s Novoazovsky and Temanovsky districts and take control over the border section with Russia. The main attack force of over 12,000 servicemen has been deployed along the contact line near the settlements of Novotroitskoye, Shirokino, and Rovnopol. Moreover, more than 50 tanks, 40 multiple missile launcher systems, 180 artillery systems and mortars have been reportedly pulled to the area, Basurin added. Besides, 12 BM-30 Smerch heavy multiple rocket launchers have been sent near Volodarsky.

The DPR has warned about possible provocations plotted by Ukrainian troops several times. Thus, in early December, the DPR’s defense ministry cited reconnaissance data indicating that the Ukrainian military was planning to stage an offensive and deliver an airstrike. At a Contact Group meeting on December 5, DPR’s Foreign Minister Natalia Nikonorova raised the issue of Kiev’s possible use of chemical weapons in the conflict area.

This is a continuation of the reported buildup The Duran reported in this article linked here, and it is a continuation of the full-scale drama that started with the Kerch Strait incident, which itself appears to have been staged by Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko. Following that incident, the president was able to get about half of Ukraine placed under a 30-day period of martial law, citing “imminent Russian aggression.”

President Poroshenko is arguably a dangerous man. He appears to be desperate to maintain a hold on power, though his approval numbers and support is abysmally low in Ukraine. While he presents himself as a hero, agitating for armed conflict with Russia and simultaneously interfering in the affairs of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church, he is actually one of the most dangerous leaders the world has to contend with, precisely because he is unfit to lead.

Such men and women are dangerous because their desperation makes them short-sighted, only concerned about their power and standing.

An irony about this matter is that President Poroshenko appears to be exactly what the EuroMaidan was “supposed” to free Ukraine of; that is, a stooge puppet leader that marches to orders from a foreign power and does nothing for the improvement of the nation and its citizens.

The ouster of Viktor Yanukovich was seen as the sure ticket to “freedom from Russia” for Ukraine, and it may well have been that Mr. Yanukovich was an incompetent leader. However, his removal resulted in a tryannical regíme coming into power, that resulting in the secession of two Ukrainian regions into independent republics and a third secession of strategically super-important Crimea, who voted in a referendum to rejoin Russia.

While this activity was used by the West to try to bolster its own narrative that Russia remains the evil henchman in Europe, the reality of life in Ukraine doesn’t match this allegation at all. A nation that demonstrates such behavior shows that there are many problems, and the nature of these secessions points at a great deal of fear from Russian-speaking Ukrainian people about the government that is supposed to be their own.

President Poroshenko presents a face to the world that the West is apparently willing to support, but the in-country approval of this man as leader speaks volumes. The West’s blind support of him “against Russia” may be one of the most tragic errors yet in Western foreign policy.

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Second Canadian Citizen Disappears In China

According to the he Globe and Mail, the man was identified as Michael Spavor, a Canadian whose company Peaktu Cultural Exchange brings tourists and hockey players into North Korea.

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Via Zerohedge…


For a trade war that was supposed to be between the US and China, Canada has found itself increasingly in the middle of the crossfire. And so after the arrest of a former Canadian diplomat in Beijing in retaliation for the detention of the Huawei CFO in Vancouver, Canada said a second person has been questioned by Chinese authorities, further heightening tensions between the two countries.

The second person reached out to the Canadian government after being questioned by Chinese officials, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said, at which point Canada lost contact with him. His whereabouts are currently unknown and Global Affairs Canada said they are in contact with his family.

“We haven’t been able to make contact with him since he let us know about this,” Freeland told reporters Wednesday in Ottawa. “We are working very hard to ascertain his whereabouts and we have also raised this case with Chinese authorities.”

According to the he Globe and Mail, the man was identified as Michael Spavor, a Canadian whose company Peaktu Cultural Exchange brings tourists and hockey players into North Korea. He gained fame for helping arrange a visit to Pyongyang by former NBA player Dennis Rodman, and he met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on that trip, the newspaper reported. Attempts to reach Spavor on his contact number either in China, or North Korean went straight to voicemail.

Spavor’s personal Facebook page contains several images of him with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un including one of him with both Jong-un and former Dennis Rodman at an undisclosed location.

Michael P. Spavor, right, pictured here with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, second from right, and Dennis Rodman.

Another image shows the two sharing a drink on a boat.

The unexplained disappearance takes place after China’s spy agency detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig in Beijing on Monday, who was on leave from the foreign service. The arrest came nine days after Canada arrested Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou at the request of U.S. DOJ. While Canada has asked to see the former envoy after it was informed by fax of his arrest, Canada is unaware of Kovrig current whereabouts or the charges he faces.

“Michael did not engage in illegal activities nor did he do anything that endangered Chinese national security,” Rob Malley, chief executive officer of the ICG, said in a written statement. “He was doing what all Crisis Group analysts do: undertaking objective and impartial research.”

One possibility is that Kovrig may have been caught up in recent rule changes in China that affect non-governmental organizations, according to Bloomberg. The ICG wasn’t authorized to do work in China, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said during a regular press briefing in Beijing Wednesday.

“We welcome foreign travelers. But if they engage in activities that clearly violate Chinese laws and regulations, then it is totally another story,” he said, adding he had no information on Kovrig specifically.

As Bloomberg further notes, foreign non-governmental organizations are now required to register with the Chinese authorities under a 2017 law that subjects them to stringent reporting requirements. Under the law, organizations without a representative office in China must have a government sponsor and a local cooperative partner before conducting activities. ICG said this is the first time they’ve heard such an accusation from the Chinese authorities in a decade of working with the country. The company closed its Beijing operations in December 2016 because of the new Chinese law, according to a statement. Kovrig was working out of the Hong Kong office.

Meanwhile, realizing that it is increasingly bearing the brunt of China’s retaliatory anger, Trudeau’s government distanced itself from Meng’s case, saying it can’t interfere with the courts, but is closely involved in advocating on Kovrig’s behalf.

So far Canada has declined to speculate on whether there was a connection between the Kovrig and Meng cases, with neither Freeland nor Canadian Trade Minister Jim Carr saying Wednesday that there is any indication the cases are related. Then again, it is rather obvious they are. Indeed, Guy Saint-Jacques, who served as ambassador to China from 2012 to 2016 and worked with Kovrig, says the link is clear. “There’s no coincidence with China.”

“In this case, they couldn’t grab a Canadian diplomat because this would have created a major diplomatic incident,” he said. “Going after him I think was their way to send a message to the Canadian government and to put pressure.”

Even though Meng was granted bail late Tuesday, that did not placate China, whose foreign ministry spokesman said that “The Canadian side should correct its mistakes and release Ms. Meng Wanzhou immediately.”

The tension, according to Bloomberg,  may force Canadian companies to reconsider travel to China, and executives traveling to the Asian country will need to exercise extra caution, said Andy Chan, managing partner at Miller Thomson LLP in Vaughan, Ontario.

“Canadian business needs to look at and balance the reasons for the travel’’ between the business case and the “current political environment,’’ Chan said by email. Chinese officials subject business travelers to extra screening and in some case reject them from entering, he said.

Earlier in the day, SCMP reported that Chinese high-tech researchers were told “not to travel to the US unless it’s essential.”

And so, with Meng unlikely to be released from Canada any time soon, expect even more “Chinese (non) coincidences”, until eventually China does detain someone that the US does care about.

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Multipolar World Order in the Making: Qatar Dumps OPEC

Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The decision by Qatar to abandon OPEC threatens to redefine the global energy market, especially in light of Saudi Arabia’s growing difficulties and the growing influence of the Russian Federation in the OPEC+ mechanism.

In a surprising statement, Qatari energy minister Saad al-Kaabi warned OPEC on Monday December 3 that his country had sent all the necessary documentation to start the country’s withdrawal from the oil organization in January 2019. Al-Kaabi stressed that the decision had nothing to do with recent conflicts with Riyadh but was rather a strategic choice by Doha to focus on the production of LNG, which Qatar, together with the Russian Federation, is one of the largest global exporters of. Despite an annual oil extraction rate of only 1.8% of the total of OPEC countries (about 600,000 barrels a day), Qatar is one of the founding members of the organization and has always had a strong political influence on the governance of the organization. In a global context where international relations are entering a multipolar phase, things like cooperation and development become fundamental; so it should not surprise that Doha has decide to abandon OPEC. OPEC is one of the few unipolar organizations that no longer has a meaningful purpose in 2018, given the new realities governing international relations and the importance of the Russian Federation in the oil market.

Besides that, Saudi Arabia requires the organization to maintain a high level of oil production due to pressure coming from Washington to achieve a very low cost per barrel of oil. The US energy strategy targets Iranian and Russian revenue from oil exports, but it also aims to give the US a speedy economic boost. Trump often talks about the price of oil falling as his personal victory. The US imports about 10 million barrels of oil a day, which is why Trump wrongly believes that a decrease in the cost per barrel could favor a boost to the US economy. The economic reality shows a strong correlation between the price of oil and the financial growth of a country, with low prices of crude oil often synonymous of a slowing down in the economy.

It must be remembered that to keep oil prices low, OPEC countries are required to maintain a high rate of production, doubling the damage to themselves. Firstly, they take less income than expected and, secondly, they deplete their oil reserves to favor the strategy imposed by Saudi Arabia on OPEC to please the White House. It is clearly a strategy that for a country like Qatar (and perhaps Venezuela and Iran in the near future) makes little sense, given the diplomatic and commercial rupture with Riyadh stemming from tensions between the Gulf countries.

In contrast, the OPEC+ organization, which also includes other countries like the Russian Federation, Mexico and Kazakhstan, seems to now to determine oil and its cost per barrel. At the moment, OPEC and Russia have agreed to cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day, contradicting Trump’s desire for high oil output.

With this last choice Qatar sends a clear signal to the region and to traditional allies, moving to the side of OPEC+ and bringing its interests closer in line with those of the Russian Federation and its all-encompassing oil and gas strategy, two sectors in which Qatar and Russia dominate market share.

In addition, Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey (a future energy hub connecting east and west as well as north and south) and Venezuela. In this sense, the meeting between Maduro and Erdogan seems to be a prelude to further reorganization of OPEC and its members.

The declining leadership role of Saudi Arabia in the oil and financial market goes hand in hand with the increase of power that countries like Qatar and Russia in the energy sectors are enjoying. The realignment of energy and finance signals the evident decline of the Israel-US-Saudi Arabia partnership. Not a day goes by without corruption scandals in Israel, accusations against the Saudis over Khashoggi or Yemen, and Trump’s unsuccessful strategies in the commercial, financial or energy arenas. The path this doomed

trio is taking will only procure less influence and power, isolating them more and more from their opponents and even historical allies.

Moscow, Beijing and New Delhi, the Eurasian powerhouses, seem to have every intention, as seen at the trilateral summit in Buenos Aires, of developing the ideal multipolar frameworks to avoid continued US dominance of the oil market through shale revenues or submissive allies as Saudi Arabia, even though the latest spike in production is a clear signal from Riyadh to the USA. In this sense, Qatar’s decision to abandon OPEC and start a complex and historical discussion with Moscow on LNG in the format of an enlarged OPEC marks the definitive decline of Saudi Arabia as a global energy power, to be replaced by Moscow and Doha as the main players in the energy market.

Qatar’s decision is, officially speaking, unconnected to the feud triggered by Saudi Arabia against the small emirate. However, it is evident that a host of factors has led to this historic decision. The unsuccessful military campaign in Yemen has weakened Saudi Arabia on all fronts, especially militarily and economically. The self-inflicted fall in the price of oil is rapidly consuming Saudi currency reserves, now at a new low of less than 500 billion dollars. Events related to Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) have de-legitimized the role of Riyadh in the world as a reliable diplomatic interlocutor. The internal and external repression by the Kingdom has provoked NGOs and governments like Canada’s to issue public rebukes that have done little to help MBS’s precarious position.

In Syria, the victory of Damascus and her allies has consolidated the role of Moscow in the region, increased Iranian influence, and brought Turkey and Qatar to the multipolar side, with Tehran and Moscow now the main players in the Middle East. In terms of military dominance, there has been a clear regional shift from Washington to Moscow; and from an energy perspective, Doha and Moscow are turning out to be the winners, with Riyadh once again on the losing side.

As long as the Saudi royal family continues to please Donald Trump, who is prone to catering to Israeli interests in the region, the situation of the Kingdom will only get worse. The latest agreement on oil production between Moscow and Riyad signals that someone in the Saudi royal family has probably figured this out.

Countries like Turkey, India, China, Russia and Iran understand the advantages of belonging to a multipolar world, thereby providing a collective geopolitical ballast that is mutually beneficial. The energy alignment between Qatar and the Russian Federation seems to support this general direction, a sort of G2 of LNG gas that will only strengthen the position of Moscow on the global chessboard, while guaranteeing a formidable military umbrella for Doha in case of a further worsening of relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

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