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In Myanmar, the US just tried to derail China’s peace plan, but actually ended up alienating India

The US made a deeply controversial statement that may trigger the law of unintended consequences.

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US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson just came out with one of the most strongly worded statements about the so-called Rohingya crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

Tillerson said there was an ethnic cleansing occurring in Rakhine, which on the day that Yugoslav/Republika Srpska veteran Ratko Mladić was unfairly sentenced to life in prison for committing a “genocide”, that was in reality, a battle in a war where Serbs were on the defensive, should be very troubling.

This is the most pointed statement made by the US about the Rohingya crisis and there is a clear reason for this: China just announced a pragmatic, fair and humane peace initiative.

Below is an except from a previous piece detailing the nature of the issues in Rakhine as well as the main aims of the Chinese peace proposals.

“The current crisis has its roots in the multi-ethnic, multi-confessional nature of Mayanmar, according to its present borders which themselves derive from the 19th century British colonial map of the region.

While many western actors and some Muslim majority states have tended to see the issue as a one sided repression of the Muslim communities in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, in reality, the conflict is a multifaceted phenomenon which itself is just one front in Myanmar’s Civil War that has raged on and off since 1948.

In reality, there are both armed Muslim militants and armed Buddhist militants in the region. Innocent civilians of all religious backgrounds have both died and been displaced due to the actions of armed groups. On top of this, government troops desperate to keep the peace, have entered a conflict in which the liens between civilian and militant are often blurred in the impoverished region. Far from being an aggressor, the government troops in the region are caught in an almost impossible position. Hence, a political process is needed to end a conflict which has no clear-cut, let alone ethical military solution.

Thus far, the most concrete proposals the United States has proffered have been to effectively sanction various military actors in Rakhine State, while contemplating military sanctions against the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military government.

Not only are such proposals universally counter-productive, but in the case of Myanmar, such things amount to sanctioning actors in  Rakhine State who are de-facto un-sanctionable….

…”

While the US has only alienated the leadership in Myanmar, China has proposed a far more realistic and respectful solution to the conflict, one which in keeping with China’s geo-political model, seeks to calm regional tensions through the incentives of prosperity. As Myanmar’s stability is essential for the development of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, it is in the interests of Myanmar, China and Bangladesh, which is housing many Rohingya refugees, to work cooperatively to calm tensions and pave the way for future economic cooperation whose benefits will be felt on all sides, but particularly among the poorer nations involved in such efforts.

Foreign Minister Wang described China’s three point peace plan as follows:

1. Insure the continuation and expansion of a regional ceasefire in Rakhine State

Wang Yi stated,

“The first phase is to effect a ceasefire on the ground, to return to stability and order, so the people can enjoy peace and no longer be forced to flee. With the hard work of all sides, at present, the first phase’s aim has already basically been achieved, and the key is to prevent a flare-up, especially that there is no rekindling the flames of war”.

2. Myanmar and Bangladesh must work cooperatively to settle refugee issue

Once violence continues to subside and conditions are prepared to make Rakhine State a safe and relatively stable state, Naypyidaw and Dhaka must work to facilitate an orderly return of refugees. Part of this process will likely include an attempt to determine which refugees are actually citizens of Myanmar versus which ones are technically Bangladeshi citizens who had been living in Myanmar. As many Rohingya are not actually citizens of Myanmar, such a repatriation process may require both Myanmar and Bangladesh to agree on the status of long-term displaced or de-facto stateless individuals.

Here, China will act as a mediator in the most difficult part of the peace process.

3. Engage in prosperity building initiatives for a long-term resolution

Wang Yi stated,

“The final phase should be to work toward a long-term solution based on poverty alleviation”.

This clearly indicates a commitment to engage in the completion and future development of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor as well as cultivating Bangladesh’s increasingly enthusiastic stance on participation in One Belt–One Road.

China’s proposals are clearly in-line with the “win-win” principles which President Xi Jinping often cites. The Chinese peace plan looks to take a situation which had to potential to worsen Myanmar-Bangladesh relations and turn it into a positive situation wherein both neighbours work to solve a common crisis for a mutually beneficial conclusion, thus paving the way for future peacetime cooperation.

Likewise, China has refrained from casting moral aspersions on any side in a multi-party conflict whose origins are considerable old. In doing so, China has maintained its relationship with the Tatmadaw while acknowledging the need for a regionally derived peace process to ensure peace for the civilians of Rakhine State, while not working to undermine internal security operations, let alone the dignity of Myanmar.

While the US and other western actors have been keen on destabilising Myanmar once it became clear that Myanmar stood to play a prominent role in One Belt–One Road, at this point, western sanctions on Myanmar’s government, will only push the Tatmadaw closer to China. As for sanctioning local actors in Rakhine State, this will have no effect as many of these individuals don’t even have any formal assets.

In this sense, by playing the slow and steady game, China has outplayed the US which itself appeared not fully certain in respect of having a precise game-plan for Myanmar.

The biggest reaming question mark is India. India has taken it upon itself to align fully with the government in Myanmar. Lacking the subtlety and multilateral nature of the Chinese proposals, India hoped to turn the situation into a zero-sum ‘charm offensive’ wherein after being wooed by India’s Premier Modi,  Naypyidaw would be drawn into an effectively binding relationship with India that if Modi got his way, would force Myanmar to give Indian economic initiatives a preferential position vis-a-vis One Belt–One Road.

In the end, China’s proposals are more realistic and since India like China, has good relations with Myanmar, there is no need for New Delhi to complete with China over Myanmar’s friendship and good will.  The problem is that, India under the ruling BJP led coalition tends to refuse seeing international relations as a matter of win-win mutuality and instead prefers to see such things as a mutually exclusive zero-sum game where India can only win if China and her traditional partners are on the losing end.

The choice for Myanmar ought to be an embrace of the Chinese proposals, while India should realise that the situation in Myanmar presents an opportunity to mend fences with China, rather than representing another front on which to engage in effectively meaningless competition with the undisputed economic powerhouse of the 21st century.

Statements from Beijing indicating that both Myanmar and Bangladesh have accepted the proposals as a basis for moving forward, is an objectively positive development”.

China proposes peace process for Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh

Because both Myanmar and Bangladesh have made commitments to the Chinese peace initiatives, the US clearly went into public relations overdrive and said the proverbial magic words “ethnic cleansing”, to describe a situation which has already de-escalated due to internal peace keeping measures by the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military government.

While the US at this time seems ill-prepared for another war in South East Asia, there is every possibility that the US could sanction Myanmar, even though this would score a US own goal, insofar as it would kill off any notions in Naypyidaw, that the west is a reliable economic partner.

Beyond this, the US could of course conduct deadly ‘humanitarian airstrikes’ on the sovereign territory on Myanmar. However, there is a big risk for the US in doing this, beyond the fact that it would be almost certainly vetoed by either China or Russia in the UN Security Council.

In respect of Myanmar and also Bangladesh, China has for the first time in the history of the People’s Republic, ventured to propose a geo-political peace initiative concerning countries not engaged in a conflict with Beijing.  As this comes just months after China opened up its first overseas Naval logistics base in the African nation of Djibouti, China is making it clear that as part of its 21st century rise to world-leadership, it will assert itself in security and peace keeping initiatives, in addition to more familiar economic initiatives such as One Belt–One Road.

In other words, China would heavily disapprove of any US military intervention, however limited, in its neighbour and partner.

But beyond having to consider this massive gamble, the US has already fallen victim to the law of unintended consequences. Whereas China’s peace proposal was genuinely multi-lateral in scope, sought to address real concerns on all sides of the long-burning crisis in Rakhine and did not prioritise the grievances of one side over another, including long-time Indian ally Bangladesh (which has recently expressed enthusiasm for participation in One Belt–One Road), India’s position has been one of total support for Myanmar.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently visited Myanmar and proceeded to fawn over Myanmar in a clear attempted to show that India is a more valuable ally to Myanmar than China. While Myanmar holds the potential to be a mutual partner that could help resolve lingering issues between India and China, instead, Modi invoked his zero-sum mentality and effectively attempted to sell Myanmar on the idea that India is more valuable than China, whereas China would be happy for both states to have respectful economic relations with Myanmar.

However, when it comes to large nations with a zero-sum mentality, Modi just met his match in the form of the United States, a country whose statements indicate that Washington is far more convinced by Myanmar’s partnerships with China than Myanmar’s relations with India.

While the US is doing everything it can to woo India into its sphere of influence, using mutual opposition to China as the bait, the US seems to have blindly overlooked the fact that the US just accused a country India has good relations with and seeks to expand upon those relations, of ethnic cleansing.

In officially putting itself on the opposite side vis-a-vis India, the US has shown that the policy being sold to New Delhi, that Washington will India’s side in every major issue from China and Pakistan, to One Belt–One Road and the war in Afghanistan, is at best, incomplete and being approached in a totally one sided manner.

The US clearly sees India not as a co-equal but as a geopolitical useful idiot, where by contrast, China would be happy to work with India on mutually beneficial economic projects, were India to meet China half way. When it comes to pouncing on a Chinese peace initiative, the US is willing to trample on the interests of its Indian “ally”, without apparently thinking twice. This ought to make red alarm bells go off in New Delhi, as this is a clear sign of how seriously the US takes its supposed allies.

The US for its part has been deeply upset at the fact that India continues to have strong relations with Iran, while Pakistan is building would could potentially be a game-changing partnership with Tehran. Unable to play India against Pakistan over Iran, as the US once could (using its influence in Riyadh), it seems that the US, far from trying to ‘win India over’ is instead showing disregard for its key ambition to pivot its geo-strategic interests towards South East Asia via Myanmar.

In calling the events in Myanmar an “ethnic cleansing”, the US has put China on alert and India in a position to think twice about its relationship with Washington. So much for the much vaunted Washington expression “Indo-Pacific”. Washington has just disregarded India on a key matter in South East Asia.

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Another witness named by Ford becomes third person to deny being at party

A woman believed to have been one of five people at a party 35 years ago where Ford claims she was assaulted by Kavanaugh is now the fourth person to deny being at any such party.

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Via The Washington Examiner


A witness, reportedly named by Christine Blasey Ford as one of the people at the high school party where Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh allegedly sexually assaulted her, told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Saturday she was not there.

The attorney for Leland Ingham Keyser told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Keyser does not remember being at the party Ford described as the location of the alleged assault.

“Ms. Keyser does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr. Ford,” Keyser said in the statement. CNN reported Keyser is a lifelong friend of Ford’s.

Keyser, whom the New York Times reported is one of the people Ford named as being in attendance at the party, is the third witness who has denied knowing about the alleged assault. Mark Judge and Patrick Smyth said earlier this week they did not remember the party in question.

Kavanaugh has denied Ford’s allegation.

The news comes after Ford, through her attorneys, tentatively agreed to testify on Thursday, after days of negotiations over the timing and conditions of her

Committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, had repeatedly extended deadlines set for Ford’s team on the decision, including three on Friday and one at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Grassley threatened to proceed with a committee vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination Monday if he did not hear from Ford.

“Five times now we [have] granted extension for Dr Ford to decide if she wants to proceed [with] her desire stated one [week] ago that she wants to tell senate her story,” Grassley tweeted Friday. “Dr Ford if u changed ur mind say so so we can move on I want to hear ur testimony. Come to us or we to u.”

The extended discussions have been labeled a delaying tactic by some Republicans.

Ford’s attorneys and Grassley’s aides will reportedly continue negotiations Sunday on the details of the conditions of Ford’s testimony, per the New York Times.

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Was NYT Story About Rosenstein ‘Coup Attempt’ A Setup?

The New York Times is reporting that Rod Rosenstein pushed a plan to record President Trump and invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.

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Via Zerohedge


Is the FBI trying to goad President Trump into firing the man in charge of supervising the Mueller probe? That’s what Sean Hannity and a handful of  Trump’s Congressional allies think.

According to a report in Politico, Republicans in Congress are approaching a story about Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein attempting to organize a palace coup with extreme caution, despite having twice nearly gathered the votes to remove him in the recent past.

On Friday, the NYT reported a bombshell story alleging that Rosenstein had tried to recruit administration officials to secretly tape conversations with the president in order to help justify removing Trump under the 25th amendment. Rosenstein vehemently denied the story, which was largely based on confidential memos written by former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe. And others who were reportedly in attendance at meeting between McCabe and Rosenstein said the Deputy AG was being “sarcastic” when he suggested that the president be taped.

Meanwhile, Trump allies including Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan and Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz are saying that the story should be treated with suspicion. Jordan and Freedom Caucus leader Mark Meadows once filed articles of impeachment against Rosenstein. But now, both Meadows and Jordan intend to proceed with caution, telling Politico that he would like to see the memos that the story was based on.

House Freedom Caucus leaders Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, who led a charge to impeach Rosenstein this summer, have said they want to hear from Rosenstein and see documents allegedly describing the comments before they decide what to do.That’s awarded Rosenstein a courtesy they’ve never given him in the past.

“I think Rod needs to come before Congress this week and explain under oath what exactly he said and didn’t say,” Meadows said at the Values Voters Summit Saturday.

The newfound hesitation to oust Rosenstein highlights a cautious approach Trump allies have adopted as the Republican party barrels toward a potential bloodbath in the midterms. Some Republicans fear Trump firing Rosenstein now would only further energize Democrats making the case to voters that the president is corrupt and needs to be reined in by a Democratic House.

[…]

In a Friday interview, Jordan, one of Rosenstein’s fiercest critics in Congress, sidestepped questions about whether the House should revisit Rosenstein’s impeachment or try to hold him in contempt of Congress. Rather, he said, a more focused push to obtain sensitive documents from the Justice Department — which Trump’s allies say would expose anti-Trump bias and corruption the FBI — is the most urgent priority.

“I want to see those memos and evaluate them,” said Jordan, who has clashed publicly with Rosenstein over access to documents and accused him of threatening House Intelligence Committee staffers, an allegation Rosenstein denied.

Politico cites two possible explanations for lawmakers’ hesitation: Republicans are running out of time before members devote themselves full-time to their reelection campaigns. Republicans are worried that the story could have been intentionally planted to provoke Rosenstein’s firing in order to improve Democrats’ chances of retaking the Senate AND the House (Trump actively moving to crush the Mueller probe would be quite the propaganda win for the Dems).

Sean Hannity took this latter theory a step further during his show on Friday evening, where he urged Trump not to fire Rosie and instead insisted that the story could have been a “trap”. He added that he had been told by “multiple sources” that the story was planted by unspecified “enemies of Trump.”

“I have a message for the president tonight,” Hannity said Friday night. “Under zero circumstances should the president fire anybody…the president needs to know it is all a setup.”

Still, a handful of conservative commentators, including Laura Ingraham, urged Trump to fire Rosenstein immediately. And for Trump’s part, he hinted at a rally Friday night in Missouri that he planned to “get rid” of the “lingering stench” at the DOJ, which many interpreted as a hint that his firing is imminent.

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Senator Richard Black: Trump’s historic opportunity to end the war in Syria (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 115.

Alex Christoforou

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Virginia State Senate and retired U.S. Marine and Army JAG officer Richard H. Black, and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss a dangerous week’s escalation in Syria, and US President Trump’s opportunity to break free of Deep State and neocon influence, and finally put an end to a war seeded by George W. Bush and started by Barack Obama.

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Via The New York Times

As Syria’s seven-year civil war enters a climactic phase, the Trump administration is grappling with how to address the emerging political dynamics. President Bashar al-Assad has retaken control of most of Syrian territory, and experts said there is almost no chance that rebel groups will topple him or change the course of the war.

But this week, Russia and Turkey proposed a demilitarized zone to stop a military offensive that Mr. Assad had planned against Idlib Province, the last major rebel enclave in Syria. Even a delay in the rampage would buy time for the United States to help draw up new strategies for dealing with Syria if it definitively falls under Mr. Assad’s rule.

At next week’s meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, heads of state and top diplomats are expected to discuss how to protect Idlib’s residents from Mr. Assad and, ultimately, end the civil war. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who has opposed Mr. Assad and deployed Turkish troops to Idlib, is scheduled to speak at the annual forum on Tuesday, as is President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, one of the Syrian government’s most loyal allies.

President Trump will also address the world body that day. He has repeatedly threatened to withdraw American troops from Syria, where they are fighting the Islamic State in the country’s east. But in April, Mr. Trump for the second time ordered airstrikes to punish Mr. Assad for using chemical weapons. The Trump administration is also clinging to a mostly stalled peace process that was begun under President Barack Obama.

“The reality on the ground in Syria has drastically changed, and the United States’ strategy for Syria should shift as a result,” foreign policy scholars wrote this month in an analysis for the Brookings Institution.

There are few easy answers for the United States as it weighs how to shape a potential end game in a war that has killed at least hundreds of thousands of Syrians, has displaced millions more and has shattered the country into competing areas of control. Here are some of the main questions.

The Brookings Institution is advising that the United States should initiate a 10-degree shift in it’s strategy towards Syria.

Neocon Washington think tanks cannot concede that Syria is a sovereign nation with a right to self determination, insisting instead on advising POTUS Trump to foster a “long game” regime change plan that keeps the “Syrian government” weak and off balance, while bolstering Al Qaeda “moderate rebel” controlled provinces, in cooperation with Turkey.

And American troops in Syria…they are advising Trump to keep them right where they are, illegally occupaying Syria.

Via The NYT

Will the U.S. maintain a military presence in Syria?

Yes, at least for the foreseeable future. This month, the American military flew 100 Marines to Tanf, a small outpost in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border. The small deployment of troops was intended to signal to the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian allies that the American military was digging in..

Tanf is more than 200 miles from Idlib. But the Russian military twice warned the Pentagon this month — on Sept. 1 and again on Sept. 6 — that it would attack what it said were Islamic State militants in the stretch of desert near the small outpost where American Special Operations forces have been training local militias.

At some point, Mr. Assad will undoubtedly have to address the American presence in northeastern Syria, where United States troops have built a constellation of bases and airfields.

In early September, a State Department envoy, James F. Jeffrey, told reporters in Washington that “the new policy is we’re no longer pulling out by the end of the year.”

He said he was “confident” that Mr. Trump was “on board” with the American military taking a more active role in Syria.

Here are the chief elements of the “shift” as proposed by the DC “foreign policy scholars” at Brookings:

  • Recognizing what is increasingly obvious: that President Bashar Assad will not be displaced or replaced through the current Geneva peace process. Instead, the United States should work over time to persuade his cronies and allies to convince him to step down in favor of a successor who is largely of his choosing. Other Syrian groups and the international community should have a say in the formation of additional elements of a new Syrian government, as a precondition for the provision of substantial reconstruction aid to and through the central government.
  • Threatening and, if necessary, conducting limited reprisal air strikes against Syrian aerial assets, in retaliation for any future regime barrel bombing, particularly around Idlib. Washington should adopt a similar strategy toward Iran should its proxies attempt attacks against the United States or its allies.
  • Promptly providing humanitarian and reconstruction aid to those parts of Syria not under government control, with U.S. forces remaining in roughly their current number and location to supervise the process and help train provisional local security forces (more like police than opposition forces bent on Assad’s removal). The aid should be provided more locally than regionally, in part to discourage the formation of a single, strong Kurdish zone that would exacerbate Turkish fears of secessionism.
  • Working with Turkey to weaken extremist elements in and around Idlib, including with limited military action if need be, and continuing U.S. military action against residual pockets of ISIS elements in the country’s east until the battlefield defeat of ISIS is complete.

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