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South Asia

India Gives Nod to Build More Conventional Submarines Amid Power Battle With China in Indian Ocean | Source: Sputnik

The Indian Defence Ministry has revised its plans of submarine construction in light of the increasing presence of the Chinese Navy in the Indian Ocean Region. The Indian Navy has assessed a requirement of at least 24 submarines to maintain its superiority over Bangladesh and Pakistan, who are poised to deploy additional submarines sourced from China soon.

Source: Sputnik


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South Asia

China building villages all along Tibet border, disputed with India, Bhutan | SOURCE: HINDUSTAN TIMES

In this file photo, Buddhist nuns walk past a poster showing Chinese President Xi Jinping and former Chinese leaders Jiang Zemin, Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Hu Jintao in Potala Palace square in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, China. (REUTERS)

China is building new villages along the Tibet border with India to bolster its contested territorial claims, according to a new policy paper on Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). China has land boundary disputes with India and Bhutan, which have not been resolved despite protracted negotiations carried on over decades.

SOURCE: HINDUSTAN TIMES


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Expert Analysis

The Strategic Consequences Of A Possible French Military Intervention In Mozambique

19 MAY 2021

The Strategic Consequences Of A Possible French Military Intervention In Mozambique

A publicly available expert-level newsletter on Mozambique news reports and clippings from the middle of May predicts that France might launch a limited military intervention in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado Province in order to protect the offshore energy deposits of its national champion Total, which necessitates an analysis of such a move’s strategic consequences if it does indeed come to pass.

A Must-Read Report About Mozambique

The 16 May edition of the “Mozambique News Reports & Clippings” expert-level newsletter predicts that France might launch a limited military intervention in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado Province in order to protect the offshore energy deposits of its national champion Total that are threatened by a newfound insurgency that some have linked to ISIS. Editor Joseph Hanlon does an excellent job educating his audience about this scenario and it’s highly recommended that all interested readers review his work in full. What follows are some of the main points that he put forth in his newsletter in the order that they’re introduced:

* There’s a growing debate behind the scenes in Europe over whether France should receive an exclusive security corridor in northern Mozambique or if a Portuguese-led EU force should take the lead instead

* Whatever is ultimately decided upon, it’ll probably take at least two years before any visible progress is made on the ground against the insurgents/terrorists

* ISIS is likely to exploit the optics of a foreign military intervention in order to increase both its reported role in the combat as well as its international recruitment efforts

* Domestic political infighting in Mozambique and subsequent politicization of the conflict suggests that there won’t be any clear consensus on it until after the next presidential elections in 2025

* Influential international associations regard the offshore region of northern Mozambique as a conflict zone at risk of piracy and other threats, thereby raising insurance costs for ships operating in those waters

* Maritime security can either be achieved unilaterally by France or jointly through it, South Africa, India (which has a base in nearby Mauritius), and Mozambique carrying out patrols there

* France might replicate the Baghdad Green Zone model to protect energy-relevant localities in the northern Mozambican mainland through walls, barbed wire, drone surveillance of the area, and other such measures

* There’s talk that France might even take control of the nearby vacation resort island of Vamizi in order to base helicopters, attack and surveillance boats, and drone control systems there

* The other foreign military players to keep an eye on are Portugal, the US, Rwanda, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), EU, and private military contractors (PMCs, which France might also employ)

* Nevertheless, military intervention might not address the possible socio-economic and political roots of the conflict but only combat its terrorist manifestations, potentially creating another Mali, Somalia, or Libya

Hanlon’s points are all very important and should be deeply reflected upon by all interested readers. Building upon his implied prediction that France is the most likely party to take the lead in this growing conflict, it therefore follows that one should conduct an analysis of the strategic consequences of such a move if it indeed comes to pass. France is regarded as Africa’s military hegemon despite being located in Europe due to the commanding influence that it wields in its former colonies that are commonly referred to as “Françafrique”. Mozambique, however, lays outside of France’s traditional “sphere of influence” in Africa.

Energy Geopolitics

Paris’ interest in the country stems from its vast offshore energy reserves that national champion Total planned to develop before the conflict erupted a few years back. These resources were initially expected to be a game-changer for the Mozambican people who remain among the world’s poorest. Regrettably, large-scale international corruption scandals in recent years ruined the ruling Frelimo party’s reputation and it’s now widely feared that these hydrocarbon riches probably won’t end up making much of a difference for the average Mozambican at the end of the day.

Even so, they’re significant enough of a find to have a powerful impact on the industry upon their future development, which adds a conspiratorial dimension of sorts to the conflict since some have speculated that foreign forces might be backing the insurgency/terrorism so as to delay those projects’ completion. In any case, it doesn’t seem like they’ll come online anytime soon considering the worsening intensity of the violence there, hence the reason why Paris is contemplating a military intervention in order to save its national champion’s investment.

Indian Ocean Region Conflicts

Observers should take note of Mozambique’s geostrategic location astride the southwestern reaches of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) that’s nowadays considered to be the world’s most important body of water as all 21st-century processes increasingly converge there. Although Mozambique isn’t located near any European-Asian trade routes, it still sits near the French islands of Mayotte and Réunion. This convenience could facilitate any prospective French military intervention, which in that scenario would mark the country’s participation in its first IOR conflict.

At the moment, the IOR is the scene of four armed conflicts – northern Mozambique, Somalia, Yemen, and Myanmar. The first two are closer in essence than the others, ergo Hanlon’s earlier mentioned fear of the former transforming into a variation of the latter with time. Both also count ISIS among the warring parties, albeit to questionable extents in each. For this reason, any French military intervention would be an energy-driven spiritual expansion of its ongoing Operation Barkhane mission in the Sahel that’s been launched on an anti-terrorist basis despite having ulterior interests as well such as stopping large-scale immigration to the EU.

The Franco-Indian Strategic Partnership

Seeing as how India considers the entire IOR to lay within its envisioned “sphere of influence” despite presently lacking the military capabilities to exert hard power all throughout this domain, it’s possible that New Delhi might consider playing a minimal role in the conflict even if only for prestige’s sake. This explains why Hanlon brought up the country’s naval base in Mauritius’ North Agalega island. Most realistically, India could carry out highly publicized joint anti-piracy missions, perhaps even emphasizing any partnered role with nearby South Africa so as to portray it a a partial BRICS operation in order to deflect criticism of following France’s lead.

On the topic of Franco-Indian relations, the two Great Powers signed a military logistics pact in 2018 which enables them to use one another’s bases. Many at the time thought that this might see India expanding its naval presence in the Horn of Africa via France’s outpost in its former colony of Djibouti or perhaps paying more frequent visits to the French islands of the South Pacific to support Australia’s reassertion of traditional influence there against China. It now appears possible that the Southeast African country of Mozambique might be where the French-Indian military partnership first “cuts its teeth” so to speak.

Mission Creep”?

From the French perspective, the primary mission is to secure Total’s investments. All other objectives are secondary and perhaps even beyond its intentions to tackle. This means that France might easily succeed with its actual mission but fail in the soft power realm if it isn’t as forthcoming with its true intentions and instead clothes its intervention in anti-terrorist rhetoric similar to its Sahel mission. In other words, even if France “wins” what it wants, it might still “lose” in the eyes of the world unless it engages in the dangerous trend of “mission creep” to expand its military “sphere of influence” there to ultimately stop the insurgency/terrorism.

France probably wouldn’t take that step unilaterally, which is why it’s more likely to expect that it’ll lead a multinational force whether on its own or perhaps in joint partnership with fellow EU-member and Mozambique’s former colonizer Portugal together with a formidable army of PMCs. Even so, since neither of them have the primary mission of stopping the insurgency/terrorism, they might not make much progress right away, instead relying more on PMCs and the Mozambican military to do such “dirty” and highly dangerous work for them though of course under their supervision.

Perception Management

With this in mind, one needs to consider how this mission would be sold to the rest of the world. The anti-terrorist angle is the most obvious one, but as mentioned, France’s interests in this respect aren’t all that sincere, nor for that matter are Portugal’s, since their involvement is really all about energy geopolitics, as is every foreign party’s as well. Presenting it in such a way also leads to high expectations for visible progress on the ground, which likely won’t be forthcoming anytime soon especially considering that it’s heavily forested terrain and France can’t even succeed in stopping insurgency/terrorism in the barren Sahel.

It might therefore end up being that they hype up their intent to “contain” the military threat instead of outright stop it. This would lead to more realistic expectations than talking about completely wiping out the insurgents/terrorists and appear as less selfish than being transparent about the true energy motivations. It would also engender wider support, perhaps even among domestic critics in those two EU countries and more broadly in the West since it’s veritably a virtuous mission (at least on the surface) to want to stop the spread of such threats into Tanzania and elsewhere.

Concluding Thoughts

To wrap it all up, France doesn’t appear to have many expected costs associated with its possible military intervention in northern Mozambique while standing to gain quite a lot in terms of energy interests and Great Power prestige, especially if it leads a multinational force in this conflict. Presenting its mission in terms of “containing” insurgency/terrorist threats instead of intending to completely wipe them out (at least right away) would also temper expectations and increase international appeal, including among India and South Africa who might participate in joint anti-piracy missions. For these reasons, Hanlon’s general prediction is very credible.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: France, Mozambique, ISIS, EU, Portugal, US, South Africa, SADC, India, Terrorism, Energy Geopolitics.


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Middle East

India loses Farzad-B gas field in Iran | SOURCE: NEW INDIAN EXPRESS

ONGC Videsh headquarters in Delhi. (Photo | Facebook\ ONGCVideshLtd)

India lost the ONGC Videsh Ltd-discovered Farzad-B gas field in the Persian Gulf after Iran awarded a contract for developing the giant gas field to a local company.

SOURCE: NEW INDIAN EXPRESS


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Geopolitics

China Warns of ‘substantial Damage’ to Relations if Bangladesh Joins US-led Quad Alliance | SOURCE: NEWS 18

Bangladesh flag: For Representation

China has warned Bangladesh against joining the US-led Quad alliance, saying that Dhaka’s participation in the anti-Beijing ”club” would result in ”substantial damage” to bilateral relations. The Quad is an informal grouping of India, the US, Australia and Japan, working against China.

SOURCE: NEWS 18


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connectivity

China’s Belt and Road projects at risk | SOURCE: NIKKEI ASIA

Prime Minister Imran Khan, left, and Afghan Taliban fighters, shown celebrating the peace deal between the U.S. and Taliban in March 2020. (Source photos by Getty Images)

Pakistan fears that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan — in line with the American-Taliban peace deal signed last year — will cause more security threats putting China’s Belt and Road projects at risk.

Analysts feel the uncertainty in Afghanistan has provided Tehreek e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) with a window to attack interests in Pakistan, including the projects of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC — the $50 billion Pakistan component of the Belt and Road initiative.

CPEC has not traditionally been a top target of TTP in Pakistan. But in recent months, anti-China rhetoric has [surfaced] in TTP propaganda, especially because of China’s oppression of Uyghur Muslims.

Pakistan already joined the U.S., Russia and China to call on the Afghan government and Taliban to ensure that Afghan soil is not used for cross-border attacks.

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connectivity

China´s interest in Sri Lanka | SOURCE: JAMESTOWN ORG

Image: An aerial photo taken on September 23, 2020 shows the construction of a park in Colombo Port City by China Harbor. (Source: CHEC via Xinhua)

Located at the crossroads of global shipping lanes, Sri Lanka has become a significant recipient of Chinese economic and military influence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

Chinese investments in port capacity have enabled Sri Lanka to enhance its strategic position in the Indian Ocean and become a regional trading hub, with future plans to develop its ability to become a financial center as well.

Access to the Indian Ocean’s sea routes is critical to Beijing, as today China is the world’s top oil importer, principally coming from the Middle East, passing through the Indian Ocean on its way to China.

Sri Lanka has been a critical partner in China’s expansive foreign policy and infrastructure-focused Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The situation further highlights Sri Lanka’s delicate balancing act between China and India. Colombo Port in Sri Lanka is particularly significant for India, as it handles roughly 40 percent  of transshipped container cargo bound for the Indian market.

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connectivity

India, EU announce Connectivity Partnership to checkmate China | SOURCE: THE ECONOMIC TIMES

India-EU summit: FTA negotiations to resume after 8 yrs; European leaders extend solidarity on COVID-19

India and EU announced a comprehensive Connectivity Partnership on supporting resilient and sustainable connectivity both in India and in third countries and regions, including Africa, Central Asia and the Indo-Pacific that will provide an alternative to China’s mega Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The EU-India Connectivity Partnership covers cooperation in the digital, energy, transport, and people-to-people sector. Is the second such partnership for Europe, after the one between EU and Japan in September 2019.

The India-EU initiative is comprehensive compared to the Blue Dot network formed by USA-Japan-Australia to provide assessment and certification of infrastructure development projects worldwide.

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Geoeconomics

EU, India to Combat China Belt and Road Initiative | SOURCE: NTD

The European Union and India are talking about a global infrastructure agreement. The move is seen as a competition to Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.

SOURCE: NTD


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what is happening in geopolitics?

WHAT IS HAPPENING IN GEOPOLITICS? (APRIL 2021)

ASIA PACIFIC:

  • The Chinese air force sent a fleet of aircraft close to Taiwan in the latest sign of military intimidation against the separately ruled island.

SOURCE: HINDUSTAN TIMES

  • South Korea and the United States signed a deal marking what some say is a return to a stronger U.S.-ROK alliance.

SOURCE: NK NEWS

  • Vietnam and China agreed to strengthen military cooperation.

SOURCE: CHINA ORG

  • China cautioned Australia to abide by its ‘One China’ policy after a senior Australian warned of a potential conflict over Taiwanese independence.

SOURCE: VOA NEWS

  • Australia will upgrade four military bases in its north and expand war games with the United States.

SOURCE: NEWS 18

  • Japan will hold a joint military drill with US and French troops in the country’s southwest. It comes as Tokyo seeks to deepen defense cooperation beyond its key US ally to counter Beijing’s growing assertiveness in the East and South China seas.

SOURCE: THE DEFENSE POST

  • Hong Kong’s electoral reform bill has been introduced in the city’s legislature, setting in motion changes that will give Beijing greater control over the process while reducing the number of directly elected representatives.

SOURCE: IRISH EXAMINER

  • The European Union is preparing to impose new collective sanctions on the Myanmar military targeting its business interests.

SOURCE: STRAIT TIMES

  • Russia and China are blocking efforts at the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo to Myanmar.

SOURCE: HUNDUSTAN TIMES

  • Russia is increasing arms sales to Myanmar’s military and steadfastly standing by Myanmar’s coup leader, General Min Aung Hlaing.

SOURCE: VOA NEWS

  • The leaders of Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Brunei met in Jakarta to discuss the political crisis in Myanmar.

SOURCE: THE DIPLOMAT


EURASIA:

  • Japan held consultations with the European Union on security following joint naval exercises in the Gulf of Aden and in the Arabian Sea, as well as a joint port call on Djibouti. They aim to extend their cooperation to other partners in the Indo-Pacific region.

SOURCE: EEAS

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that he was against the idea of establishing NATO alliances in the Middle East and Asia, commenting on recent calls for establishing similar bodies in both regions.

SOURCE: MIDDLE EAST MONITOR


SOUTH ASIA:

  • President Biden will withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan over the coming months, completing the military exit by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001.

SOURCE: WASHINGTON POST

  • India is concerned about a vacuum developing in Afghanistan following the proposed withdrawal of United States from the country. India’s big worry is that instability could spill over into its Muslim-majority territory of Kashmir.

SOURCE: REUTERS

  • Afghan and Pakistani troops opened fire at each other at a crossing point in Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province in the south.

SOURCE: AFGHANISTAN TIMES

  • A car bomb blast ripped through a luxury hotel’s parking area in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, where China’s ambassador to Pakistan was staying. Chinese nationals and their interests in the region have been attacked before by Taliban militants.

SOURCE: REUTERS

  • Russia – which is helping to construct a gas pipeline between Pakistan’s port city of Karachi and eastern Lahore- will provide unspecified military equipment to Pakistan to fight terrorism.

SOURCE: RFE/RL ORG

  • India held a new round of talks with China to iron out differences over the next phase of disengagement in Eastern Ladakh.

SOURCE: THE DAILY STAR

  • India protested to the United States for a navy vessel conducting a transit through its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) without consent, in a rare row between the friendly navies of the two countries.

SOURCE: REUTERS


MIDDLE EAST:

  • Iran’s foreign ministry has said the country is open to direct talks with Saudi Arabia. The two countries have not had formal diplomatic ties since January 2016.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA

  • Iran began enriching uranium to its highest level ever to pressure talks in Vienna aimed at restoring its nuclear deal with world powers.

SOURCE: AP NEWS

  • Iran has blamed regional arch-foe Israel for a sabotage incident at its key Natanz nuclear site and threatened to exact revenge, in what appeared to be latest episode in a long-running covert war.

SOURCE: THE ARAB WEEKLY

  • U.S. Secretary of Defense will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The visit will ‘reaffirm the enduring U.S. commitment to the U.S.-Israel strategic partnership.

SOURCE: HAARETZ

  • The US and Iraq reiterated their mutual intention to continue bilateral security cooperation.

SOURCE: ASHARK AL-AWSAT


EUROPE:

  • Russia ordered a total of seven diplomats from three Baltic nations and Slovakia to leave in a quid pro quo response to the countries’ expulsion of Russian Embassy workers.

SOURCE: AP NEWS

  • Russian troops began pulling back to their permanent bases after a massive buildup that caused Ukrainian and Western concerns.

SOURCE: AP NEWS

  • The United States imposed a broad array of sanctions on Russia to punish it for bullying Ukraine (and interfering in last year’s U.S. election, cyber hacking, and other alleged malign actions).

SOURCES: REUTERS – YENISAFAK

  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has threatened Turkey a gainst any more purchases of Russian weapons.

SOURCE: SPUTNIK

  • Greek and Turkish Cypriots have not found enough common ground in order to restart peace negotiations on a formal level after a three-day summit.

SOURCE: RT


AFRICA:

  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has pressed for an easing of tensions between Sudan and Ethiopia as fears grow of a spillover from the bloody Tigray conflict.

SOURCE: THE ARAB WEEKLY


LATIN AMERICA:

  • Venezuela announced that it is to deploy more troops to the border with Colombia, which has seen heavy clashes between the army and Colombian irregular armed groups.

SOURCE: MEHR NEWS


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 By Bernardo Foster/

 International Relations Analyst


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