Construction works on the Pakistan Stream gas pipeline project are expected to start in the near future after several rounds of consultations. In late May, the two countries signed a deal on building a major gas pipeline linking the Pakistani southern port of Karachi and another port city, Gwadar, to power plants and industrial hubs in Pakistan’s northern region of Punjab. The project is expected to become the largest infrastructure deal between the two nations since the early 1970s, when the Soviet Union built the Pakistan Steel Mills industrial complex, at Port Qasim near Karachi.
CHINA has expressed hope to extend its multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) into Afghanistan. With the Taliban in control of Afghanistan and the complete withdrawal of the US troops, China appears to be chalking out plans to extend its BRI to Afghanistan besides investments to exploit the rich minerals and highly lucrative rare-earth mines in Afghanistan. Rare-earth metals, which are key components for a host of advanced technologies like iPhones and hi-tech missile guidance systems, were estimated to be worth anywhere between $1 trillion (£720 bn) and $3 trillion (£ 2.1 trillion) in 2020 in Afghanistan.
Robust Russian-Indian Defense Ties Prove That New Delhi Still Values Moscow
3 SEPTEMBER 2021
Russia and India’s “military diplomacy” with one another and jointly with others has strengthened their strategic partnership.
The recalibration of Indian grand strategy over the past decade away from its prior model of non-alignment towards the de facto pro-Western pivot that it describes as multi-alignment raised concerns about the future of Russian-Indian relations. This trend was commenced in response to the Indian leadership beginning to view neighboring China’s rise as a threat. The US aims to contain the People’s Republic, which is why India found a commonality of grand strategic interest with it and decided to prioritize the comprehensive improvement of their relations. By contrast, Russian-Chinese ties have only strengthened during this time, which is why some Indians began to regard the Eurasian Great Power as unreliable when it comes to their anti-Chinese goals.
Russia will never do anything to harm its Chinese and Indian strategic partners’ interests, unlike the US which seeks to play India off against China in order to divide and rule Asia. Moscow’s military cooperation with both Great Powers is motivated by the desire to retain a balance of force between them whereas Washington wants to tilt the balance in New Delhi’s favor at Beijing’s expense. Even so, India realized that it cannot completely rely on the US to meet its military needs after being threatened with CAATSA sanctions for its planned purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense systems. That deal also importantly signified the start of India once again recalibrating its military relations between both Great Powers and moving closer to Russia as a result.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released a report in March 2021 comparing trends in international arms transfers between the periods 2011-15 and 2016-20. it found that there was a whopping 53% fall in relevant Russian exports to India during that time. Even so, Head of International Cooperation and Regional Policy of Rostec state corporation Victor N. Kladov told The Hindu during late August’s Army 2021 exhibition in his country that their defense trade was worth $15 billion over the past three years. The outlet reported that the bulk of this was attributable to some big ticket deals such as the S-400s, which Mr. Kladov praised India for remaining committed to despite US sanctions threats.
I concluded in January of this year that “The Future Of US-Indian Relations Depends On New Delhi’s S-400 Decision” since it’ll show whether the South Asian state truly defends its national interests like Mr. Kladov believes or if it’ll submit to American pressure into becoming its new ally’s junior partner against China. As it presently stands, India has no such intentions of playing second fiddle to anyone as proven by its commitment to the Russian air defense deal. Military-technical cooperation has always remained the mainstay of the special and privileged Russian-Indian strategic partnership, and despite the negative trend that SIPRI recently reported, India evidently doesn’t feel comfortable sacrificing this and instead relies on it to retain balance with the US.
Had India compromised on its national interests by pulling out of the deal under American pressure, then it would have inevitably led to the irreversible deterioration of relations with Russia that would have seriously reduced its defense capabilities since it’s unable to realistically diversify away from its historical supplier anytime soon. Remaining committed to that deal complicates its ties with the US, though, but India believes that this is an acceptable cost for retaining its strategic sovereignty and still hopes that America might eventually grant it a sanctions waiver. Even if it doesn’t, India wouldn’t have lost out on all that much since its military-technical industry still remains dependent on Russia, not the US.
In fact, India seems to have once again begun to appreciate the reliability of its Russian partner after clinching so many big ticket deals over the past three years. The two sides are also looking to expand their military cooperation as well. The latest reports indicate that they’re negotiating an upgrade to the T-90S Bishma MBTs and Russia’s potential modernization of the Talwar-class guided missile frigates. They also just inked a deal for 70,000 AK assault rifles. Furthermore, they plan to export their jointly produced BrahMos supersonic cruise missile to countries in Southeast and West Asia, including the Philippines and potentially also Vietnam, both of which are embroiled in tense territorial conflicts with China in the South China Sea.
This last-mentioned observation shows that Russia isn’t afraid to cooperate with India in order to retain third countries’ military balances with China despite Moscow’s close ties with Beijing. Once again, it must be pointed out that Russia doesn’t seek to give anyone an edge over the other – neither China nor its other arms partners in Southeast Asia such as Vietnam – but to help each match the other’s growing capabilities with the hope that this would reduce the likelihood of a military clash between them and therefore improve the odds of a political solution to their disputes. The US, by contrast, hopes to give the Philippines, Vietnam, India, and others an edge over China in order to encourage them to provoke the same clashes that Russia hopes to avoid.
Russia’s and India’s planned BrahMos exports to third countries, especially those in the South China Sea, serve to positively reshape Indian perceptions about Russian reliability by showing that Moscow isn’t under Beijing’s influence like some in New Delhi fear. The Eurasian Great Power, just like its South Asian counterpart, doesn’t want to play second fiddle to anyone and is thus confidently showing the world that it’ll help others militarily balance China with Indian support the same as it helps China balance others such as India. Russia will never go as far as the US does by infringing on China’s interests, whether directly in the South China Sea or indirectly through the types of military equipment that it exports to its partners, but it’s still highly appreciated by India.
The BrahMos missiles can therefore be said to have been a game-changer in Russian-Indian military cooperation. Not only are they impressive in and of themselves, but their planned export to third countries embroiled in territorial disputes with China showed India that some of its experts were wrong about Russian intentions. This reassurance helped them to realize that they don’t need to put all their eggs in the American military basket, especially at the potential loss of their strategic sovereignty with time, which convinced them to remain committed to the S-400 deal despite the US’ sanctions threats. The end result is that Russia and India’s “military diplomacy” with one another and jointly with others has strengthened their strategic partnership.
The coronavirus pandemic has confirmed that Russia and India have reliable cooperation, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said. According to the Indian prime minister, “energy is another major pillar of our strategic partnership”.
Chinese-Russian Cooperation Is The Key To Afghan Peace
2 SEPTEMBER 2021
These major countries have pivotal roles to play through the Extended Troika, the SCO, the non-Western alternative financial institutions that they participate in, bilaterally with Afghanistan, and jointly with one another and that war-torn country. China and Russia can help Afghanistan politically, in terms of security, and financially.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed last week to cooperate more closely on Afghanistan after the Taliban’s rapid takeover of the country. Both leaders hope to promote a peaceful resolution of its crisis in accordance with UNSC Resolution 2513 from March 2020 which authorizes them to engage with the Taliban in the interests of peace despite that group still officially being designated as terrorists. Most immediately, they can organize another meeting of the Extended Troika between themselves, Pakistan, and the US, but there’s more that they can do too.
Before describing the other policy options available, it’s important to remind the reader of the aforementioned one’s importance. The Extended Troika brings together the top foreign stakeholders in the Afghan Civil War. It functions as the most efficient platform for exchanging views between the warring sides and facilitating a political solution to the conflict. Now that the US-backed Afghan government in Kabul has collapsed, however, that country’s participants could be a mix of the Taliban and some of the other groups that want to participate in their de facto leaders’ promised inclusive government.
The Taliban might be able to organize a government on their own without any foreign support like they’re reportedly in the process of doing, which could then change the purpose of the Extended Troika. Instead of facilitating a peaceful resolution to the crisis, they could focus more on pressing matters of mutual security such as the threat of ISIS-K and other international terrorist groups that are active in Afghanistan. The US will have much less influence there following its planned withdrawal by the end of the month so relevant responsibilities would fall more on China, Pakistan, and Russia’s shoulders.
These three countries are all part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) where Afghanistan is also an observer. It might very well turn out that the Extended Troika becomes redundant in the event that the Taliban succeeds in forming an inclusive government on its own like it’s promised so it would be more sensible in that case for the SCO to play a greater role instead due to its members’ opposition to the shared threats of terrorism, separatism, and extremism. Since China and Russia jointly founded the SCO, they’d accordingly have the most responsibilities when it comes to this issue alongside neighboring Pakistan of course.
Security and development go hand in hand, however, so it would then be equally important to ensure Afghanistan’s sustainable reconstruction in the coming future. The US already froze the Afghan Central Bank’s $9.5 billion assets, the IMF suspended Afghanistan’s access to funds, and the World Bank just halted its aid so alternative financial structures would have to replace those Western ones’ role if requested to do so by Afghanistan’s de facto Taliban-led government. China and Russia would of course first have to officially recognize that government, but such formal acknowledgment might soon follow the conclusion of that process.
China and Russia can extend their own forms of bilateral financial support to Afghanistan once that happens and/or the financial organizations that they founded could potentially do the same. These are mostly the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank and the Eurasian Development Bank, but all members might have to first recognize the Taliban-led government. That’s why bilateral mechanisms or perhaps even a newly established joint one between China and Russia would most likely suffice since it’s unclear who else might recognize those authorities, when they’d feel comfortable doing that, and under what conditions.
Regardless of the exact scenarios, it’s clear that China and Russia hold the keys to Afghan peace one way or the other. These major countries have pivotal roles to play through the Extended Troika, the SCO, the non-Western alternative financial institutions that they participate in, bilaterally with Afghanistan, and jointly with one another and that war-torn country. China and Russia can help Afghanistan politically, in terms of security, and financially. This observation speaks to their irreplaceable importance in the emerging Multipolar World Order and the increased responsibilities that they’re shouldering commensurate with their rising global roles.
The US needs to closely watch China as it might try to take over the Bagram air force base in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover of the war-torn country and use Pakistan to get stronger to go against India, a former senior American diplomat has warned. In July, the US military left Bagram Airfield – its key base in Afghanistan – after nearly 20 years.
After months of soaring stock markets in China, the historic fall of lithium shares on A-shares markets this Wednesday sent a mixed message to the industry about the potential change in the world supply chain make-up after Afghanistan, where the world’s largest lithium deposits are located, appeared to flag potential international cooperation after 20 years of instability and stagnation. If the situation in Afghanistan can be stabilized, the country’s vast lithium reserves will become commercialized, which would help to ease the current tightened lithium supplies, experts said.