Pepe Escobar knows a very important of the world that most Americans know little about—Eurasia. From Escobar at consortiumnews.com:
The Indo-China border is a strategic chessboard and it’s gotten way more complex.
Valley near Kangan, Kashmir. (Kashmir Pictures, Flickr)
It was straight from an Orientalist romantic thriller set in the Himalayas: soldiers fighting each other with stones and iron bars in the dead of night on a mountain ridge over 4,000 meters high, some plunging to their deaths into a nearly frozen river and dying of hypothermia.
In November 1996, China and India had agreed not to use guns along their 3,800 km-long border, known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which sports an occasional tendency to derail into a Line Out of Control.
Yet this was not just another Himalayan scuffle. Of course there were echoes of the 1962 Sino-Indian war – which started pretty much the same way, leading Beijing to defeat New Delhi on the battlefield. But now the strategic chessboard is way more complex, part of the evolving 21st Century New Great Game.
The situation had to be defused. Top military commanders from China and India finally met face to face this past weekend. And on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister spokesman Zhao Lijian confirmed they “agreed to take necessary measures to promote a cooling of the situation.”
The Indian Army concurred: “There was mutual consensus to disengage (…) from all frictions areas in Eastern Ladakh.”
And you thought lockdowns were bad in the US. From Jayant Bhandari at lewrockwell.com:
While the world over people have grown myopic worrying about the real or imagined problem to do with corona-virus in their immediate surroundings, the world’s biggest prison has been erected. 1.38 billion people are in a complete house-arrest, with no possibility of leaving home. In scale, this is by far the first in human history.
I am not talking about China. When faced with the first wave of corona-virus, China focused mostly on Wuhan and other hotspots. It didn’t see a need to lockdown the whole country. Moreover, it didn’t think it could get away with that.
Any regime that contemplated locking down the whole country would have realized that not only would it create massive disruption, joblessness, poverty, and dislocation, but also that restarting the economy would be a gargantuan job. Farmers would have found themselves with no money to buy seeds and banks with no cash to lend out, and everyone in a vicious economic cycle.
India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, however, thought that he could enforce a draconian curfew without any legal backing in what is one of the world’s most undisciplined, chaotic, poverty-stricken and backward societies.
Trump visited India and it didn’t go so well. From Eric S. Margolis at lewrockwell.com:
President Donald Trump’s 36-hour whirlwind visit to India this past week was designed to show Americans just how adored abroad their president really is.
Unluckily for Trump, his campaign stop at this behemoth nation of 1.3 or 1.4 billion proved a fiasco.
First came the terrifying Chinese coronavirus that so far has killed less people than the weekly toll on China’s dangerous roads, but the whole world went into a panic. The US stock market, the underpinning of Trump’s popularity at home, took a crash dive even though the all-knowing president-physician assured Americans that the Wuhan virus was only a cold.
VP Mike Pence, who believes in Adam and Eve and Noah’s Ark, was put in charge of combating the new virus.
Biometric systems aren’t foolproof, and the danger they pose to civil liberties is obvious. From Jayoti Ghosh at project-syndicate.org:
As with so many other convenient technologies, the world is underestimating the risks associated with biometric identification systems. India has learned about those risks the hard way – and should serve as a cautionary tale to the governments and corporations seeking to expand the use of these technologies.
NEW DELHI – Around the world, governments are succumbing to the allure of biometric identification systems. To some extent, this may be inevitable, given the burden of demands and expectations placed on modern states. But no one should underestimate the risks these technologies pose.
Biometric identification systems use individuals’ unique intrinsic physical characteristics – fingerprints or handprints, facial patterns, voices, irises, vein maps, or even brain waves – to verify their identity. Governments have applied the technology to verify passports and visas, identify and track security threats, and, more recently, to ensure that public benefits are correctly distributed.
Private companies, too, have embraced biometric identification systems. Smartphones use fingerprints and facial recognition to determine when to “unlock.” Rather than entering different passwords for different services – including financial services – users simply place their finger on a button on their phone or gaze into its camera lens.
It is certainly convenient. And, at first glance, it might seem more secure: someone might be able to find out your password, but how could they replicate your essential biological features?
But, as with so many other convenient technologies, we tend to underestimate the risks associated with biometric identification systems. India has learned about them the hard way, as it has expanded its scheme to issue residents a “unique identification number,” or Aadhaar, linked to their biometrics.
Will India swallow Kashmir? From Danny Sjursen at antiwar.com:
It has long been called the most dangerous place in the world. Still, few Americans know anything about the place; nor could they point out the troubled region of Kashmir on a map. Yet for 62 years India and Pakistan have contested for control of the province. In fact, a long-running insurgency there has even been punctuated by at least three inter-state wars between the nuclear armed powers. Now, after India recently revoked Kashmir’s “special status” – essentially annexing the disputed (and Muslim-majority) territory – there might just be another war. Tens of thousands have already been killed over the years; how many more will now die is anyone’s guess.
It’s tempting to blame the British for the whole mess. After all, like so many ongoing world conflicts, the violent struggle in Kashmir has its roots in the dissolution of venal, exploitative British Empire in the decades after World War II. Before its independence in 1947, British India – known as the raj – consisted of a massive, ethnically diverse mega-state that included the modern countries of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Burma (Myanmar). When the Brits took off, ethnic and religious tensions boiled over into a state of civil war as the raj bloodily devolved into separate Hindu and Muslim majority countries. Perhaps a million people died and fifteen million others were displaced in a tragic population swap that set a gold standard for ethnic cleansing.
For an area that could be the site of a nuclear war, Kashmir, split between India and Pakistan, gets remarkably little publicity. There are probably more people who know the song Kashmir by Led Zeppelin than who could find it on a map. From Eric Margolis at lewrockwell.com:
Two of the world’s most important powers, India and Pakistan, are locked into an extremely dangerous confrontation over the bitterly disputed Himalayan mountain state of Kashmir. Both are nuclear armed.
Kashmir has been a flashpoint since Imperial Britain divided India in 1947. India and Pakistan have fought numerous wars and conflicts over majority Muslim Kashmir. China controls a big chunk of northern Kashmir known as Aksai Chin.
In 1949, the UN mandated a referendum to determine if Kashmiris wanted to join Pakistan or India. Not surprisingly, India refused to hold the vote. But there are some Kashmiris who want an independent state, though a majority seek to join Pakistan.
India claims that most of northern Pakistan is actually part of Kashmir, which it claims in full. India rules the largest part of Kashmir, formerly a princely state. Pakistan holds a smaller portion, known as Azad Kashmir. In my book on Kashmir, ‘War at the Top of the World,’ I called it ‘the globe’s most dangerous conflict.’ It remains so today.
Asia’s three biggest powers move closer together. From Pepe Escobar at asiatimes.com:
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) hug during their meeting before a session of the Heads of State Council of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Photo: AFP / Grigory Sysoev / Sputnik
India under Modi, an essential cog in US strategy, gets cozy with China and Russia
It all started with the Vladimir Putin–Xi Jinping summit in Moscow on June 5. Far from a mere bilateral, this meeting upgraded the Eurasian integration process to another level. The Russian and Chinese presidents discussed everything from the progressive interconnection of the New Silk Roads with the Eurasia Economic Union, especially in and around Central Asia, to their concerted strategy for the Korean Peninsula.
A particular theme stood out: They discussed how the connecting role of Persia in the Ancient Silk Road is about to be replicated by Iran in the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). And that is non-negotiable. Especially after the Russia-China strategic partnership, less than a month before the Moscow summit, offered explicit support for Tehran signaling that regime change simply won’t be accepted, diplomatic sources say.
Putin and Xi solidified the roadmap at the St Petersburg Economic Forum. And the Greater Eurasia interconnection continued to be woven immediately after at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek, with two essential interlocutors: India, a fellow BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and SCO member, and SCO observer Iran.
India under Narendra Modi looks like it’s on a roll. From Eric S. Margolis at lewrockwell.com:
How fleeting is glory! Back in 1998, the South Asian Journalists Association proclaimed me ‘Journalist of the Year’ for a newspaper article I had written about India.
But the next year the award was angrily rescinded after I wrote that India should compromise with Pakistan over the festering Kashmir conflict. Prickly Indians didn’t like being criticized, even by an old friend like myself.
This week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition won a landslide electoral victory, gaining 302 of the 542 seats in parliament. The venerable Congress opposition party, that long led India, was crushed.
We should pay attention. India is more or less the world’s largest democracy and is expected to be the third largest economic power by 2020. It’s also an important nuclear state with land and sea-launched ICBM’s that can strike the United States and Canada, Europe, and its rival, China.
The Kashmir region between Pakistan and India may be the world’s most flammable tinder box. From Dilip Hero at nationalinterest.org:
And where billions of people die.
Undoubtedly, for nearly two decades the most dangerous place on Earth has been the Indian-Pakistani border in Kashmir. It’s possible that a small spark from artillery and rocket exchanges across that border might — given the known military doctrines of the two nuclear-armed neighbors — lead inexorably to an all-out nuclear conflagration. In that case the result would be catastrophic. Besides causing the deaths of millions of Indians and Pakistanis, such a war might bring on “nuclear winter” on a planetary scale, leading to levels of suffering and death that would be beyond our comprehension.
Alarmingly, the nuclear competition between India and Pakistan has now entered a spine-chilling phase. That danger stems from Islamabad’s decision to deploy low-yield tactical nuclear arms at its forward operating military bases along its entire frontier with India to deter possible aggression by tank-led invading forces. Most ominously, the decision to fire such a nuclear-armed missile with a range of 35 to 60 miles is to rest with local commanders. This is a perilous departure from the universal practice of investing such authority in the highest official of the nation. Such a situation has no parallel in the Washington-Moscow nuclear arms race of the Cold War era.
When it comes to Pakistan’s strategic nuclear weapons, their parts are stored in different locations to be assembled only upon an order from the country’s leader. By contrast, tactical nukes are pre-assembled at a nuclear facility and shipped to a forward base for instant use. In addition to the perils inherent in this policy, such weapons would be vulnerable to misuse by a rogue base commander or theft by one of the many militant groups in the country.
Trump’s slithering away from full sanctions on Iran because the US can’t enforce them and it would disrupt the oil market the year before the 2020 election. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:
Sanctions on Iran have failed. The weakness of the U.S. position in the oil markets is now complete. Donald Trump’s Energy Dominance strategy has failed.
The announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R – The Eschaton) that no more sanctions waivers will be granted to importers of Iranian oil. Those that do so will face sanctions.
But let’s look at what is actually on the table. Waivers will be extended to a year from now during a ‘wind-down’ period. But, I thought these past six months were the ‘wind down’ period Don?
I told you these would get extended the minute they were granted. Because three of these countries — India, Turkey and China — are in open revolt over the policy.
And they have built plenty of infrastructure to get around these sanctions when or if they are ever implemented.
Three of the eight countries granted waivers — Italy, Greece and Taiwan — do not need waiver extensions as they’ve already cut their imports to zero.