Trouble in paradise: Maldives crisis locks China & India in tug-of-war

The Maldives has been divided by a political crisis, with each of the two sides calling on one of their big neighbors for help. Both India and China have a vested strategic interest in the archipelago.

Early in February, the Maldives Supreme Court dropped charges against opposition leader and pro-Indian former President Mohammed Nasheed, and ordered that 12 opposition parliamentarians who had been stripped of their seats be reinstated. The current president, pro-Chinese Abdulla Yameen, overruled the court’s decision and declared a state of emergency. Two Supreme Court judges and another former pro-Indian president, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, were arrested on charges of attempting to overthrow the government.

In the chaos that ensued, both Yameen and Nasheed appealed to regional powerhouses for their support. Yameen sent envoys to China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in a bid to strengthen his position. Nasheed, who is currently outside the Maldives, took to Twitter to request a military-backed envoy from India and financial steps from the US.

Powers from farther away also took interest in the turmoil. A delegation from the EU was flown to the archipelago and held a meeting with the opposition, but was denied talks with the ruling government, which it accused of cracking down on democracy.

India has so far been reserved in its reactions. Statements from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other top officials boil down to calls for “respect for democratic institutions” and “playing a constructive role in the Maldives.” A number of Indian media outlets, however, ran opinion pieces calling for action against Chinese influence in New Delhi’s“backyard”.

China appears poised for action, closely monitoring any potential Indian move. An editorial in the state-run Global Times, effectively a mouthpiece for Beijing, warns against any military power play in the archipelago.

“India should exercise restraint,” it reads. “China will not interfere in the internal affairs of the Maldives, but that does not mean that Beijing will sit idly by as New Delhi breaks the principle. If India one-sidedly sends troops to the Maldives, China will take action to stop New Delhi.”

A report followed, saying China had dispatched a small fleet to the East Indian Ocean this month. It was quickly picked up by several media outlets, and some didn’t wait for confirmation before ruling that China was “muscling out” regional competition. There’s been no official statement from Beijing, but soon unnamed Indian sources refuted the rumor: apparently, there five ships, not 11 as reported initially, they were on a routine patrol mission and never came close to the Maldives, moving near Indonesia, thousands of miles to the east.

What puts the tiny atoll paradise at the center of a generations-long superpower rivalry, how many more nations will it pull in, and what are the chances it will end in bloodshed?

What has India worried is the rapid advance of Chinese influence in the Maldives in the past decade, says Sreeram Chaulia, professor and dean at the Jindal School of International Affairs of O.P. Jindal Global University. This is evidenced by president Yameen’s support of the Belt and Road initiative, a net of Chinese trade routes aiming to span most of the Eurasian continent by both sea and land.

Apart from maritime trade deals, President Yameen has permitted Chinese warships to dock in the Maldives. This does not sit well with India, which has always seen these waters as its own area of influence, professor Chaulia says. 

Chinese expansion in terms of economic agreements, for example, the ‘One Belt One Road,’ in terms of its navy being able to send submarines and battleships all the way across the Indian Ocean and up to the Gulf of Aden. These moves have been perceived as competition with India…

Prof. Sreeram Chaulia, analyst

The situation slipping into actual military action, though, is unlikely “at the current juncture,” the professor believes. Things can still escalate if the political crisis deepens.

“If the incumbent president, Abdullah Yameen, tries to rig the elections that are due this year, or delay the elections, which could prolong the crisis, then you can expect a stronger reaction from India,” professor Chaulia told RT.

India has a history of taking military action in the Maldives to preserve a ruler that favors ties with New Delhi. In 1988, its troops came to the rescue of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, one of the two recently arrested ex-presidents, as he was facing a coup. This time, the situation is too complicated for that kind of incursion.

“The Maldives is a divided society,” professor Chaulia explained. “Unfortunately, it is a bit like the Syria war between two factions that have roughly equal support. Half of the population of the Maldives still support the incumbent president. India views it as an internal social crisis and does not believe that it can use its military to solve the problem because military intervention cannot rectify domestic discord and social polarization.” 

It would take an “extraordinary” slip on part of the Maldives’ president for India to intervene militarily, believes Aleksey Kupriyanov, senior research fellow at Institute of World Economy and International Relations.

If President Abdulla Yameen were to suddenly agree to host a Chinese military base, or, say, disperse the parliament, or declare himself a dictator, then of course, the Indians will deploy troops.

Aleksey Kupriyanov, analyst

Should all sides play it cool, though, the crisis should be deescalated.

“Neither China nor India want it,” Kupriyanov said. “The two countries are in a period of détente… As you know India and China have a territorial dispute, where China claims a part of Indian territory and India says Beijing has occupied it,” the academic added, referring to the tensions over Doklam, a territory that is claimed by both China as well as India’s ally Bhutan. On August 28, India and China announced that they had withdrawn all their troops from the area.

Should push come to shove, the Maldives’ tiny military wouldn’t last a few days against India. “The Maldives’ army is not combat-worthy, compared to the Indians. Should India deploy its troops, the matter would be decided within several days, or even one day. Most [Maldivians] would lay down arms and the rest would switch over to the Indians.”

There are numerous peaceful options to resolve the crisis. The difficult part is to balance them against the major player’s agendas.

“If the current status quo is preserved, then of course India’s image as a major country, as a potential superpower, will take considerable damage,” Kupriyanov said. “Should India and China, and President Yameen, agree to roll the situation back to what it was before the state of emergency was declared, then India will be the bigger winner.”

The upcoming presidential election is an opportunity that both big powers seek to exploit.

“In the period between August and October, the Maldives are having presidential elections. India at this point would benefit the most if the opposition was to have the maximum possible access to the vote, its leaders were not in jail and had no problem taking part in the election,” Kupriyanov said. “China would benefit the most if Yameen were to stay in power, because he’s very pro-China. Or if that doesn’t work, it could secure its political and economic interests in the Maldives, perhaps with an agreement with India, in case a pro-Indian candidate wins.”

For now, the world’s two most populous nations are warily watching, each waiting for the other to pounce on a country of 1,200 tiny islands, barely visible on the map next to them.

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Admiral Harris Issues Disturbing Warning About China’s Military Intentions

The esteemed Admiral Harry Harris, recently nominated for the ambassador’s position in Australia, has issued a strong warning about Chinese military intentions. This is the stuff that World War III is based upon.

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Pakistan’s reliance on US military imports is over with 70% now coming from China and Russia

pakistan army

    

Because of their often problematic relations, it is natural for India and Pakistan to seek divergent allies. In the Cold War era, their choices were apparent and easy. Pakistan joined two regional defense pacts patronized by the United States to contain communism.

India followed a non-aligned policy to begin with, but signed a Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation with the Soviet Union in 1971. Indo-US relations witnessed a brief period of warmth after the Sino-Indian War of 1962, but Jawaharlal Nehru’s India did not want to be tagged to any superpower.

International relations are often dictated by the cold logic of national interests and the balance of power. While Pakistan opted for allies in the West, India chose the Soviet Union to balance the power of China . All that started changing after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the rise of India as a regional power.

In 2008, India and the United States finalized a civil nuclear cooperation deal and the superpower has since worked assiduously to get India coveted membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). This move has been successfully countered by China thus far on the basis that Pakistan has identical credentials and should be similarly treated by the NSG.

The year 2014 was seminal, as it was when these evolving equations came to assume definitive shapes. It was in this year that the US replaced Russia as India’s top arms supplier.

The same year, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu visited Pakistan and signed a defense cooperation deal. This was the first such visit from Moscow to Islamabad in 45 years. Both nations held military exercises in 2016 and 2017, while Russia is currently building a 1,100 kilometer-long gas pipeline between Karachi and Lahore.

Pakistan’s relationship with China is flourishing but Islamabad does not want to keep all its eggs in Beijing’s basket, while Sino-Indian competition is likely to evolve into rivalry in the not too distant future.

Some 63 percent of the total military hardware imported by Pakistan today comes from China and only 19 percent from the US .

China has also helped Pakistan in the field of nuclear energy and was the first country to agree to co-produce advanced military aircraft and other weapons systems with Pakistan. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is the flagship project of China’s major investments in many countries under its One Belt One Road Initiative.

Tensions in the South China Sea have increased CPEC’s importance for the Chinese and this $50 billion-plus investment in Pakistan stands out, as US annual assistance has shrunk to a couple of billion dollars. US President Donald Trump’s recent decision to suspend military assistance to Pakistan has, therefore, not created too many ripples in Islamabad

This tough stance by the US due to the precarious security situation in Afghanistan may push Pakistan further toward China and Russia. All recent US presidents, including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, were India-friendly, but they made it a point not to push Pakistan too hard.

That sanguine policy has unfortunately been abandoned by Trump. The Pakistani leadership does not want to keep all its eggs in the Chinese basket, but the US administration has failed to read that nuance of Pakistani thinking.

There can be no lasting peace in Afghanistan without Pakistan’s co-operation; therefore any further deterioration of Pak-US ties will impact negatively on regional peace. Both Russia and China realize India’s importance and want to keep it in good humor as much as possible.

The Kremlin played a key role in facilitating India’s entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Similarly, China , India’s major trading partner, did not block a resolution in a BRICS meeting that condemned proscribed extremist groups in Pakistan. Beijing does not want to push India further under America’s wing.

Source Article from https://www.sott.net/article/377698-Pakistans-reliance-on-US-military-imports-is-over-with-70-now-coming-from-China-and-Russia

China and Russia ‘preparing for war with West’

Source Article from http://www.theweek.co.uk/91651/china-and-russia-preparing-for-war-with-west

China Prepares To Launch Its Gold Convertible Petro-Yuan March 26, 2018: Five ‘Test Runs’ Have Successfully Completed.

China Reset

The petroyuan is seen as Beijing’s challenge to the US dollar, the dominant global currency in oil contract settlements.

The contract could reportedly be launched on March 26 on the Shanghai International Energy Exchange (INE). The exchange has recently received the approval from China’s State Council.

In December, the INE announced a successful completion of the fifth dry run in yuan-backed oil futures contract trading. It said that 149 of its members traded 647,930 lots in the rehearsal with a total value of 268.2 billion yuan. The exchange said the system met the listing requirements of crude futures after the exercise.

The Chinese government announced plans last year to start a crude oil futures contract priced in yuan and convertible into gold. The contract will enable the country’s trading partners to pay with gold or to convert yuan into gold without the necessity to keep money in Chinese assets or turn it into US dollars.

China Dumping U.S. Paper Currency For Gold

Since the 1970s, the global oil trade has almost entirely been conducted in US dollars. The largest energy consumer, China, is interested in having oil contracts in its own currency. Beijing wants to create an Asian crude oil benchmark that would better reflect pricing for the oil imported and consumed in the world’s top importing region Asia. It expects the new benchmark to rival North Sea Brent and US West Texas Intermediate.

Analysts say the success of the yuan oil futures contract depends on the Chinese regulation of the market, which could divert international investors from bringing huge volumes into the contract.

Russia Today

Russia

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Source Article from https://politicalvelcraft.org/2018/02/16/china-prepares-to-launch-its-gold-convertible-petro-yuan-march-26-2018-five-test-runs-have-successfully-completed/

‘US govt faction sees nukes as tool for increasing pressure on Russia, China’ – watchdog chief

Last week, Defense Secretary James Mattis tried to illustrate a deficiency in America’s nuclear arsenal to Congress using a chart to argue for increased investment in America’s defense budget. But some analysts say it might be worthy of a fact-check because it made it look like the US has a quite a modest arsenal.

The chart didn’t show some of the missiles that Washington has under development or upgrades to its existing stockpile. Plus, it put countries on the same scale, despite key differences in the weapons they hold.

The head of the nuclear watchdog Los Alamos Study Group told RT that some US politicians consider nuclear weapons a political tool to be used against Russia and China.

RT:Why would you think the Pentagon is trying to show a picture of the US military lacking in nuclear weaponry?

Greg Mello: They want to shake money loose for new weapons systems and they want to break the taboo against new weapons systems that have gradually built up.  To do that, they have to paint an essentially false and alarming picture about US capabilities with respect to other countries. It was an embarrassment. But it happened.

RT: Do you think the committee will still buy this information presented by Mattis even after revelations made by some media?

GM: In general, they will accept what General Mattis said at face value because of the high degree of Russophobia which exists in Congress. However, there will be skeptics and some of the skepticism will be about the need for these new weapons and their cost. There will also be the idea that getting submarine-launched cruise missiles would somehow lead to a positive change in Russian behavior. General Mattis said it at the hearing. I think that a lot of people will question that also. They will instead say that this will lead to a new arms race.

… There are those in the US government who would like to increase the nuclear military capability of the US. Now, some of that is just posturing on their part. And I wouldn’t say that this is necessarily a majority view. The actual military is not, for the most part, that interested in nuclear weapons but there is a faction which is at the moment very powerful that thinks nuclear weapons are an important symbolic tool for increasing pressure vis-à-vis Russia and China.    

RT: The international community is working on banning or at least eliminating nuclear weapons. But, as we can see, the new US secretary has a different opinion on it. In your opinion, is it supported by fellow Americans?

GM: I think for the most part, most Americans are not at all interested in conflict with Russia and they are far more interested in harmony and in building up their country and in dealing with the social problems that we have here in the US. There is again a relatively small number of people who have insinuated themselves into the top of the US government, who are having a disproportionate influence at this time and in this administration.

Source Article from https://www.rt.com/usa/418761-us-nuclear-military-budget/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Time to Pay Attention: The US is Sending 1,000s of Marines—To CHINA

chinachina

China — (RT) The Pentagon reportedly plans a “major muscle movement” from the Middle East to East China, with thousands of extra Marines to be deployed. The goal is to “persuade Pacific nations to stand with the US” and not China.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, the US plans to boost its military presence in the East Pacific with rotating deployment of Marine Expeditionary Units, or MEUs. An MEU is a group of about 2,200 Marines who operate from amphibious assault ships and have their own aircraft, tanks, heavy weapons, and other resources. A typical deployment lasts for seven months and may involve missions on the shore like patrols or military-to-military training.

The report, citing military officials, does not say how many MEUs will be sent to the region. The US already has about 50,000 service members in Japan, almost 30,000 in South Korea, and 7,000 more in Guam.

In a related move, the Pentagon will expand the number of Marines deployed in Darwin, Australia. At the moment, 1,250 troops are stationed there in rotating training assignments lasting six months each year. The WSJ said it was not yet clear how large the number of additional troops in Australia will be.

The deployments will be made at the expense of the US military presence in the Middle East, and are in line with the new National Defense Strategy published earlier by the Trump administration, which sets countering Russia and China as a priority for the military. According to the report, the MEUs in East Asia will help the US “persuade Pacific nations to stand with the US.”

“I believe the [National Defense Strategy] and other guidance requires us to adopt a more global posture and this will shape our future naval presence, especially in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps.

“We have to be present and engaged to compete,” he said. The new defense strategy “will shape our future naval presence, especially in the Indo-Pacific region.”

The WSJ says the Pentagon sees the redeployment as aiming at “a global resetting of forces” rather than a “buildup for war.” The MEUs will be involved in patrols and training and be prepared to intervene “if a conflict were to break out.”

The US military build-up in Asia comes as Pyongyang and Seoul are making progress towards engaging in dialogue over North Korea’s controversial nuclear and rocket programs. The two nations agreed to have a united delegation at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang in a symbolic gesture. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has also invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in to Pyongyang for what may become the first high-level summit between the two nations since 2007.

The rapprochement was made possible by Seoul’s decision to pause joint military exercises with the US, which Pyongyang perceives as preparation for invasion and a justification for developing a nuclear deterrent.

Source Article from http://thefreethoughtproject.com/pentagon-sending-marines-china/

US to send thousands of troops to Asia to counter China



 


The Pentagon reportedly plans a “major muscle movement” from the Middle East to East China, with thousands of extra Marines to be deployed. The goal is to “persuade Pacific nations to stand with the US” and not China.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, the US plans to boost its military presence in the East Pacific with rotating deployment of Marine Expeditionary Units, or MEUs. An MEU is a group of about 2,200 Marines who operate from amphibious assault ships and have their own aircraft, tanks, heavy weapons, and other resources. A typical deployment lasts for seven months and may involve missions on the shore like patrols or military-to-military training.

The report, citing military officials, does not say how many MEUs will be sent to the region. The US already has about 50,000 service members in Japan, almost 30,000 in South Korea, and 7,000 more in Guam.

In a related move, the Pentagon will expand the number of Marines deployed in Darwin, Australia. At the moment, 1,250 troops are stationed there in rotating training assignments lasting six months each year. The WSJ said it was not yet clear how large the number of additional troops in Australia will be.

The deployments will be made at the expense of the US military presence in the Middle East, and are in line with the new National Defense Strategy published earlier by the Trump administration, which sets countering Russia and China as a priority for the military. According to the report, the MEUs in East Asia will help the US “persuade Pacific nations to stand with the US.”

“I believe the [National Defense Strategy] and other guidance requires us to adopt a more global posture and this will shape our future naval presence, especially in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps.

“We have to be present and engaged to compete,” he said. The new defense strategy “will shape our future naval presence, especially in the Indo-Pacific region.”

The WSJ says the Pentagon sees the redeployment as aiming at “a global resetting of forces” rather than a “buildup for war.” The MEUs will be involved in patrols and training and be prepared to intervene “if a conflict were to break out.”

The US military build-up in Asia comes as Pyongyang and Seoul are making progress towards engaging in dialogue over North Korea’s controversial nuclear and rocket programs. The two nations agreed to have a united delegation at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang in a symbolic gesture. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has also invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in to Pyongyang for what may become the first high-level summit between the two nations since 2007.

The rapprochement was made possible by Seoul’s decision to pause joint military exercises with the US, which Pyongyang perceives as preparation for invasion and a justification for developing a nuclear deterrent.

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China Is Re-assigning 60,000 Troops — To Plant Trees


By  Amanda Froelich Truth Theory

Good news — China is about to get a whole lot greener. According to a source in the Central Military Commission, a large regiment of the People’s liberation Army, in addition to the nation’s armed police force, have been withdrawn from protecting the northern border. Their new task? To plant trees.

The new forests will cover an area approximately 84,000 square kilometers in size — roughly the size of Ireland — in 2018. The goal is to increase forest coverage to 23 percent of total landmass by 2020. The current forested area stands at 21 percent, according to China Daily.

Asia Times reports:

“The armed police force has a specially designated forestry branch to patrol and exercise jurisdiction in forested areas such as the northeastern Greater Khingan mountain range – dubbed ‘China’s green lungs’ – in Heilongjiang and Inner Mongolia provinces.”

In a meeting last week, Zhang Jianlong, head of the State Forestry Administration, said that China aims to grow at least 6.66 million hectares of new forest this year alone. Around 208 million hectares are now forested in China; 33.8 million hectares have been added in the past five years.

To benefit citizens who are plagued by air pollution in Beijing, the Hebei province will increase its total forest coverage to 35 percent by the end of 2020. The bulk of the province’s troops will also be pulled back from the frontlines to assist in reforestation efforts.

Much of the smog that blankets northern China in cold seasons is sourced from Beijing. Three years ago, the Chinese city announced a plan to lay off 300,000 soldiers and PLA personnel. They have since been re-assigned to non-military positions, which include planting trees and “revving up key state-level infrastructure projects,” reports the Asia Times.

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Source: Asia Times

Image Credit: China Daily

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Source Article from https://truththeory.com/2018/02/09/china-re-assigning-60000-troops-plant-trees/

Taiwan Rejects China’s Offer to Help With Quake Rescue Mission



 


Taiwanese authorities turned down Beijing’s offer to help with the search for missing people after the recent deadly earthquake, having rejected the move due to own high capabilities, the deputy minister of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said Thursday.

“At the moment, we have adequate manpower and facilities in support of the rescue operation… We deeply appreciate their offer, but so far we are not in need of their help,” Chiu Chui-cheng said, as cited by the South China Morning Post newspaper.

The official said that response to the natural disaster should not be used for mending ties between Taipei and Beijing in political area.

On Tuesday, a 6.5-magnitude earthquake occurred about 22 kilometers (14 miles) northeast of Taiwan’s Hualien City. Shortly afterward, a set of aftershocks was registered. According to the recent figures released by the emergency operations center, the natural disaster claimed lives of at least nine people and resulted in injuries of 266 others. Following the tremor, Beijing offered to send a rescue team to the island to assist Taipei.

Taiwan, whose official name is the Republic of China, and the People’s Republic of China are one country. Taipei considers the mainland to be wayward provinces while Beijing views the island as a renegade territory. An independence movement consisting of mostly left-wing political parties has sought to declare Taiwan a de jure sovereign state.

After Chinese Nationalist forces were defeated by Mao Zedong’s Communists, the Nationalist government moved to Taiwan in 1949. Since then, Beijing has viewed the self-ruled, democratic island as a breakaway province. Certain contacts between Beijing and Taipei were restored in late 1980s.

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