India looks west….

To start with, India’s maritime strategic orientation is toward the rimlands of Eurasia, which is reflected in it giving greater strategic importance to the littoral areas in the greater Indo-Pacific region (such as the Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea, and South China Sea). Therefore, the region of the Pacific Islands in Oceania had long been neglected in India’s maritime strategic thinking.

 

However, this is about to change. India’s maritime disposition seems to envisage having command of the sea in the Indo-Pacific, apart from securing its interests in the coastal areas.

 

Geostrategically, the Pacific Islands are getting increased attention from India as it connects Australasia to the Latin American subcontinent. Further, the region will face increased maritime traffic once the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is finalized.

Here is another piece.

As China is contemplating a naval base in Vanuatu, India’s maritime presence in the Pacific Islands may be welcomed by countries such as Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Indonesia, and even France.

Most of the article is speculation, but it is expected considering the behavior of China post financial crisis.

The details of this expansion can be read at the Diplomat, here.

How does OBOR threaten American strategy in Eurasia?

First, its naval dimension works in synergy with overland projects that span regions of critical geostrategic value, taking advantage of China’s central position along the Eurasian rimland. While U.S. leaders have focused on Beijing’s maritime buildup in East Asia, and while most analyses have derided its massive investments in poor and unstable parts of continental Eurasia, those initiatives are mutually reinforcing, part of the same grand design, which is to push the U.S. toward the periphery of the Eurasian rimland, thereby marginalizing its geostrategic influence.

 

Second, Beijing seeks to offset the United States’ military primacy. Its buildup in maritime East Asia and the South China sea is worthy of attention but it is also designed in response to the U.S. naval presence and to the alliances that American leaders have nurtured along China’s southern flank since the early years of the Cold War. Regardless, this specific challenge should not absorb the bulk of the United States’ resources. For all of its military initiatives, Beijing’s key priority is to make strategic gains by leveraging its superior geoeconomic assets: vast and fast-growing market, full state control over the economy, and massive financial reserves.

 

Third, to advance its interests, China exploits the cracks in U.S. post-Cold War hegemony. Washington’s interferences in Russia and Iran’s respective spheres of influence, and its military interventionism in the Middle East, triggered a nationalist and Islamist backlash that significantly diminished its resources and credibility. The unending global war on terror and misguided attempts at forceful democracy promotion only compounded this strategic overreach, while the militarization of Washington’s national security apparatus reduced its ability to tackle the deeper roots of those multi-dimensional challenges.

The title of the work is “What Does China’s Belt and Road Initiative Mean for US Grand Strategy?” and other interesting points made throughout.

The author Thomas P. Cavanna is and the rest can be read here.

Duterte will go to war with China….

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said that China trying to extract oil and gas from the South China Sea was one of several actions Duterte forbade.”

 

This is clearly bluster but such a thing only happens while under the U.S. security blanket.

The rest can be read here.

Deciphering Kim Jong Un’s Motives

Trump should take a cue from President Richard Nixon. In preparing for his historic meeting with the Chinese leader Mao Zedong in 1972, Nixon made sure he understood how to play the game by thinking about his opponent’s aims. On a piece of paper, he outlined what Mao wanted, laid them out against the goals of the United States, and then mapped out areas of potential agreement. Trump should do the same, thinking strategically about the motivations of all the summit’s key players: North Korea, China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia. So what is it, then, that they really want?

the author then notes..

The other key item on Kim’s agenda is a relaxation of economic pressure. The Trump administration’s sweeping sanctions played a role in bringing the North Korean leader to the table, but it is also likely that Kim knew he would be sanctioned after he threatened the United States with his Hwasong-15 ICBM test last December. Although North Korea’s ultimate goal is for the United States to end its unilateral sanctions, it’s not an absolute necessity since China is likely to soften its own pressure once the negotiation process is under way—no small gain for Kim given that China accounts for 90 percent of North Korean external trade. Tactically, Kim will look for dramatic gestures and a slow-rolling “action-for-action” approach to negotiations that will drag things out until he is ready to escalate again (a well-established pattern that senior regime defectors like Hwang Jang Yop once predicted will continue into the future).

This will be very interesting to see how this drama unfolds. I don’t read too much into the recent threat of NK threatening to cancel the summit. Trump is, after all, just as erratic in the foreign policy realm. Just ask Tillerson.

Frankly, I can’t ever imagine that NK will denuclearize. I assume this most likely an attempt to weaken the economic coalition (mostly China and South Korea) which is clearly starting to bite into the North’s economy.

The author is  and you can read the rest here.

Growing Persecution in India

Bishop D’Souza notes authorities are turning a blind eye. “Our Constitution gives us religious freedom,” he says. “These radicals may know religious freedom means you can worship any god you want and eat any food you want. But the fact that a Christian, Dalit or Muslim may eat beef, it’s enough for them to attack us.”

and this…

Baskaran also raises questions about an emerging issue — the Aadhaar digital identity system established by the Indian government. Indian residents provide their fingerprints, iris scan and other information to receive an Aadhaar number. This secure government system is then linked to a person’s bank account, cell phone signal, travel and other data.

India has been the worlds largest democracy for the past 75 years and it is still home to the “Hindu Taliban.”

Dictatorships, ironically, can be more tolerant of minorities, Egypt being a good example.

You can read the rest of the article here.

The Lowy Institute Asia Power Index

Can be found here.

It’s an interactive map with lots of interesting power comparisons.

Here are their top 8 CURRENT overall powers.

  1. United States
  2. China
  3. Japan
  4. India
  5. Russia
  6. Australia
  7. South Korea
  8. Singapore
  9. Malaysia
  10. Indonesia
  11. Thailand
  12. New Zealand
  13. Vietnam
  14. Pakistan
  15. Taiwan
  16. Philippines
  17. North Korea
  18. Bangladesh
  19. Brunei
  20. Sri Lanka
  21. Myanmar
  22. Cambodia
  23. Mongolia
  24. Laos
  25. Nepal

Here is the projected distribution for 2030.

  1. China
  2. United States
  3. India
  4. Indonesia
  5. Russia
  6. Japan
  7. Pakistan
  8. South Korea
  9. Bangledesh
  10. Philippines
  11. Vietnam
  12. Thailand
  13. Australia
  14. Taiwan
  15. Malaysia
  16. Myanmar
  17. Singapore
  18. Sri Lanka
  19. Nepal
  20. North Korea
  21. Cambodia
  22. New Zealand
  23. Laos
  24. Mongolia and Brunei (tie)
  25. Brunei

 

Is North Korea balancing against China?

HONG KONG — The immediate causes of the recent diplomatic breakthrough on the Korean Peninsula are well known: stronger international sanctions against North Korea, approved by even China and Russia, and President Trump’s bellicose response to the recent intensification of nuclear and missile tests under Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader since 2011.

 

But a more fundamental driver is being overlooked: China’s growing ambition to dominate East Asia. Mr. Kim’s apparent move to reconcile with his South Korean counterpart, President Moon Jae-in, is above all a gambit to get closer to America to keep China in check. He hopes to reduce North Korea’s overarching economic dependence on China and curb Beijing’s aspirations to control the future of the Korean Peninsula. After another surprise meeting between Mr. Kim and President Xi Jinping of China on Tuesday, the second in two months, the Trump administration announced on Wednesday that North Korea would release three American prisoners.

Could this be a new aspect of the pivot?

The author is Jean-Pierre Cabestan and you can read the rest here.

Why Trump supports diplomacy with North Korea but not Iran.

In the case of North Korea, the hurdles preventing the United States from pursuing its own best national interests and engaging with Iran do not pop up. There is no equivalent of MEK or AIPAC lobbying the White House on behalf of North Korea; there is no North Korean version of Sheldon Adelson to obstruct a push for peace with Pyongyang. North Korea presents President Trump with the opportunity to achieve success where his predecessors could not; a possible motivating factor for the president. When discussing North Korea, the president often throws the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations under the bus by voicing that the issue should have been handled long ago. Unlike Iran, the issue of North Korea has not galvanized a large and well-funded institutionalized policy sector devoted to curtailing engagement with Pyongyang. This provides room for US policy on North Korea to more accurately reflect US interests. For the Trump administration, this means that beyond the president’s showmanship and impulse to meet with Kim Jong-un, diplomacy can be given a chance with the hermit kingdom.

I do not understand the argument here.

  1. Trump is trying diplomacy with both Iran and NK. Pulling out of the Iran deal is still a form of diplomacy, albeit not smart in my opinion.
  2. These groups usually lobby congress, not the President.
  3. Why is their anti-Iran lobbying effective post 2016 but not prior?

The obvious reason Trump doesn’t like the deal is because it’s flawed and it was not negotiated by Trump but inherited. If we had an Asian JCPOA I suspect that he would be doing the same thing.

If the author is convinced that it is local politics and interest groups which explain Iran and not Korea, the more interesting question would be why there is no significant South Korean interest groups lobbying for/against a deal.

You can read the article in its entirety here.

Is China a Colonial Power?

That is the title of a NYT opinion piece.

Here is one bit.

But the historical echoes are worrisome. Already, Sri Lanka, unable to pay back the $8 billion it owes Chinese state-owned enterprises for building major infrastructure on its territory, has agreed to lease its port in Hambantota to China for 99 years. That is precisely the term for which another strategic port, Hong Kong, was leased by the Qing to the British in circumstances that epitomize colonialism.

 

So one wonders: Is China presenting a new model of development to a world that could use one, or is One Belt, One Road itself the new colonialism?

 

Because these rail and other projects require security, they extend the Chinese government’s political reach into Central Asia, Pakistan and the Middle East. And as Beijing turns the South China Sea into a vast game of Go, its new ports in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and, potentially, the Maldives start to look like still more playing tokens.

The author is James A. Millward, a professor of history at Georgetown University, and you can read the rest of the article here.

Balancing in the Pacific

The NYT has a piece titled “How China is Challenging American Dominance in Asia” which discusses the current state of Pacific politics.

You can’t really pull from it so I’ll just provide the link. Highly recommended.