Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: This week the West Papuan Freedom Movement lodged ...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: This week the West Papuan Freedom Movement lodged ...: This week the West Papuan Freedom Movement lodged a petition signed by 2 million with the United Nations seeking a new plebiscit e to gr...

This week the West Papuan Freedom Movement lodged a petition signed by 2 million with the United Nations seeking a new plebiscite to grant them independence from Indonesia

This week the West Papuan Freedom Movement lodged a petition signed by 2 million with the United Nations seeking a new plebiscite to grant them independence from Indonesia. This could bring Australia and Indonesia again in conflict as it has in the past. Read the book “Rockefeller and the Demise of Ibu Pertiwi” which, incredibly, predicts these events. Available online both as eBook and print copy and also through Booktopia and Book Depository worldwide

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: The Uyghurs: Detained In Their Own Land

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: The Uyghurs: Detained In Their Own Land:   Imagine that you are living in a country where most of your family members are now detained in mass detention camps where they face...

The Uyghurs: Detained In Their Own Land


Imagine that you are living in a country where most of your family members are now detained in mass detention camps where they face inhuman torture including waterboarding! You ask – why? Well, according to the government, as an ethnic and religious minority your family members are perceived as potential threats to the law and order of the country. You ask – isn’t such a racist discriminatory practice against someone born into a family that is not part of the majority ethnic group? What happened to all those rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? What about the international laws prohibiting such crimes against a people? Isn’t our state a member of the United Nations?

Did not our government ratify such laws and are expected to live by such binding articles?

No, you won’t get any satisfactory answer from the Chinese (PRC or the People’s Republic of China) government on a plethora of such vital questions, if you are a Turkic-speaking Uyghur (also spelled Uighur). Uyghurs of today’s Xinjiang province (formerly East Turkestan) in far northwestern part of China are victims of a brutal government policy of forced subjugation or elimination. They are targeted for mass detention simply because of their ethnicity and religion that is different from those of the majority Han Chinese. Nearly a million of them are now caged in mass detention camps in their native land, which came under full control of the Chinese only in 1949 when Mao Zedong came to power. [Before the annexation of their native land the Uyghurs had a distinct and rich history of their own. Their major cities Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, and Kashgar (Kashi), an ancient center of trade on the historic Silk Road near the border between Russia and China, were famous trading cities in the medieval times.]

While, we may hesitate to use the term ‘genocide’ yet for what the Uyghurs are facing these days inside China, but the signs are all too evident to recognize early signs of an ethnic cleansing. It’s ugly and nothing to feel good about Xi Jinping’s China. The testimonies of detainees who have passed through these centers, that Amnesty International claims are being run like wartime concentration camps, are replete with reports of torture including waterboarding, electrocution and force-feeding. According to eyewitnesses, the situation is so horrific that some of the detainees have even committed suicide, which is forbidden in Islam. The Chinese government has incarcerated everyone from professors, journalists, comedians, editors and poets to nursing mothers, children, the elderly and even the terminally ill inside these detention centers.

Lately, the Xi’s government has announced a five-year plan aimed at “Sinicizing” Islam to make it “compatible with socialism”. Activists, however, warned that this campaign would gradually lead to a total eradication of Islam – with which some 23 million Chinese still identify in the country.

Thanks to the Chinese government propaganda, the Uyghurs are perceived as trouble makers by most Han Chinese and as such, are told that these ‘terrorists’ must be restrained and ‘reeducated’ or ‘reprogramed’ to accept the new reality in China that has no room for dissension, dialogue and debate. Not surprisingly, the frustrated Uyghurs who increasingly find themselves cornered against the wall and are denied the rights to their culture, plus the political and economic windfalls that have hitherto benefitted the Han settlers to their mineral-rich region have sometimes reacted violently by attacking Han settlers and the trigger-happy police with knives.

As we have seen elsewhere, ethnic riots do not occur in vacuum. If the young Uyghurs, a minority group comprising roughly half the population of Xinjiang province, had not lost trust in the state and its institutions it is difficult to accept that such riots could have occurred.

Mao’s successors have resorted to Sinicization (i.e., Hanification) of the region. They have changed the demography of the region by settling Han Chinese from other parts. They have curtailed the region’s millennium-plus-years old rich Muslim culture and are practicing widespread religious repression against the ethnic Uyghurs. Authorities have banned “abnormal beards,” religious names for children, fasting during Ramadan and restricted attending weddings and funerals. They have conducted forced abortion on Uyghur women. They have closed down Qur’anic and Uyghur language schools to cut down their Islamic and cultural ties with other Muslims. Because of the Mandarin-based educational policy of the state, the Uyghurs can’t pass and find jobs in their own land. Their intellectuals are imprisoned and anyone talking with visitors from outside, esp. foreign reporters and human rights group, are suspected of being disloyal, and often risk prison times. Police question them on the street, demanding to know where they’re going and why. Metal detectors, facial scanners and document checks are routine. Surveillance cameras are everywhere, even in some public restrooms. “In one Uighur mosque, I counted 40 of them,” writes Peter Martin for the who recently visited Xinjiang. During his entire stay, he could not hear a single call of prayer (adhan) from any mosque.

In essence, the once dynamic region in the Silk Road that woke up for centuries with the adhan heard from the minarets has been turned into a police state where Uyghurs are afraid to speak with anyone or even call adhan for believers to gather and pray together.

The communist party-state has institutionalized unfathomed discrimination based on Uyghur’s distinct religion, habitus, physiognomy, language culture and socioeconomic status. In so doing, they have only widened the gap between the Han settlers and the indigenous Uyghurs. It developed Xinjiang as a penal colony, as a nuclear testing ground and dumping ground for radioactive wastes (that is responsible for unusually high birth defects and mortality rate amongst the inhabitants) and as a buffer against invasion, and as a supplier of raw materials and living space for an overpopulated country.

Apparently, none of the strong-arm tactics and gross disregard of the frontier territory and its native people is working and thus, now Xi and his brutal regime is experimenting with its latest criminal policy of mass detention in “political training centers,” heavily fortified buildings that were likened to the reeducation camps of the Mao Zedong era. Associated Press has reported that Uighurs were forced to disavow their Islamic beliefs, praise the communist party and endure solitary confinement. Former detainees told Human Rights Watch they were jailed without hearings, shackled and beaten mercilessly. Observers have compared the camps to Soviet Gulags, and in a May 20, 2018 editorial, the Washington Post wrote: “All who believe in the principle of ‘never again’ after the horror of the Nazi extermination camps and Stalin’s gulag must speak up against China’s grotesque use of brainwashing, prisons and torture.”

In August 2018 the United Nations called upon China to end the detention, but government officials denied the existence of the camps. How long can the criminal regime of Xi Jinping deny what is so obvious and well-known?

While one can understand Xi’s loftiest goal of transforming China as one of the world’s great powers one cannot excuse his gross violations of human rights. Although Xinjiang represents just 1.5 percent of China’s population of 1.4 billion and 1.3 percent of its economy, the Alaska-sized Muslim-majority region borders eight countries and sits at the geographic heart of Xi’s signature Belt and Road Initiative and serves as a crossroads for a railway link to London and a route to the Arabian Sea through Pakistan, where China is financing a $62 billion port and transportation corridor called the CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor). It’s a trillion-dollar plan to finance new highways, ports and other modern infrastructure projects in developing countries that will connect them to China’s markets and put them in China’s debt for decades to come.

Xi’s authoritarian regime has spent vast sums of money to building up cities in Xinjiang to attract companies and fuel economic growth in the relatively poor region. Concerns about PRC’s diabolical crackdown policy of the Uyghurs and lawlessness in Xinjiang, however, don’t appear to be reassuring investors. Almost no foreign companies have located there, and the region’s economy slowed last year.

Although China sees that as a temporary setback, unless Xi changes his criminal – apparently the most intense – campaign of coercive social reengineering since the end of the Cultural Revolution and stops its ethnic cleansing crimes against the minority Uyghur Muslims, and instead focuses in nation-building through integration that benefits all (including minority Muslims and Christians) he will be forced to live with the failed Soviet and Balkan experience. Is that outcome a desirable one for the PRC and its president who has already been dubbed as the “world’s most dangerous opponent” of open societies?

It is also feared that this repugnant campaign of mass detention of Muslims is set to expand, as the regional governments within PRC with sizeable Muslim populations are dispatching officials to detention centers in Xinjiang with the explicit aim of learning to and adopting the same criminal measures.

It is important for the international community to condemn the Chinese ethnic cleansing crimes against the minority Uyghur and demand a release of all those detained immediately. If Xi’s authoritarian regime fails to comply then the international community should adopt a “Global Magnitsky Act” to sanction Chinese officials that are complicit in the human rights violations occurring in Xinjiang. The freezing of assets and exclusion from banking systems overseas are within the power of concerned governments.

It is equally important for all the developing and third world countries where China has invested heavily in recent years that they use such as a point of strategic leverage and encourage Beijing into compliance with international human-rights norms and stop its horrendous crimes against the Uyghur.

For China to be great again, it must earn the respect and trust of the world community by respecting the human rights of its minorities to live and prosper as equals. It simply cannot afford to behaving like a rogue state that arrogantly sees the Soviet Gulags and Nazi Concentration Camps as models to copy.

Set the Uyghurs free now, Mr. Xi. Otherwise, history will treat you the same way it has treated despots like Hitler and Mussolini, and many others that followed their inglorious trail.

Dr. Habib Siddiqui has a long history as a peaceful activist in an effort towards improving human rights and creating a just and equitable world. He has written extensively in the arena of humanity, global politics, social conscience and human rights since 1980, many of which have appeared in newspapers, magazines, journals and the Internet. He has tirelessly championed the cause of the disadvantaged, the poor and the forgotten here in Americas and abroad. Commenting on his articles, others have said, "His meticulously researched essays and articles combined with real human dimensions on the plight of the displaced peoples of Rohingya in Myanmar, Chechnya, Bosnia, Kosovo and Palestine, and American Muslims in the post-9/11 era have made him a singular important intellectual offering a sane voice with counterpoints to the shrill threats of the oppressors and the powerful. He offers a fresh and insightful perspective on a whole generation of a misunderstood and displaced people with little or no voice of their own." He has authored 11 books, five of which are now available through His latest book - Devotional Stories is published by A.S. Noordeen, Malaysia.


Monday, January 28, 2019

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Black Swans Haunt Eurasia’s Great Game

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Black Swans Haunt Eurasia’s Great Game:   The battle lines in the 21 st century’s Great Game aimed at shaping the creation of a new Eurasia-centred world, built on the like...

Black Swans Haunt Eurasia’s Great Game


The battle lines in the 21st century’s Great Game aimed at shaping the creation of a new Eurasia-centred world, built on the likely fusion of Europe and Asia into what former Portuguese Europe minister Bruno Macaes calls a “supercontinent,” are all but cast in cement.

For now, the Great Game pits China together with Russia, Turkey and Iran against the United States, India, Japan and Australia. The two camps compete for influence, if not dominance, in a swath of land that stretches from the China Sea to the Atlantic coast of Europe.

The flashpoints are multiple. They range from the China Sea to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Central European nations and, most recently, far beyond with Russia, China and Turkey supporting embattled Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro.

The rivalry resembles Risk, a popular game of diplomacy, conflict and conquest played on a board depicting a political map of the earth, divided into forty-two territories, which are grouped into six continents. Multiple players commanding armies that seek to capture territories engage in a complex dance as they strive for advantage and seek to compensate for weaknesses. Players form opportunistic alliances that could change at any moment. Potential black swans threaten to disrupt.

The black swans in the Great Game are multiple and far more numerous than those developed in a just published report by the Paris-based European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS). Nonetheless, the scenarios conceptualized in the report, ‘What If? Scanning the horizon: 12 scenarios for 2021,” are grounded in recent trends and could prove to be game changers that radically rejigger the Great Game’s current line-up.

The scenarios or grey swans in the report’s terminology, if they unfold in reality, suggest that alliances in Eurasia are opportunistic and transactional and like with Risk can turn players on their erstwhile allies as interests diverge and re-converge. Analysis of five of the scenarios suggests that fragility is greatest in the efforts of China, Russia, Turkey and Iran to rebalance global power in their favour.

They suggest that strains in the United States’ relations with Russia and Turkey are not immutable. Similarly, Russia’s effort to lock in former Soviet republics with its Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) that groups Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan Belarus, and Armenia could prove to be on shaky ground. Russia’s alliance with Turkey and China as well as Iran even if the report has not developed the latter possibility may be on thinner ice than meets the eye.

The same can be said for grey swans in the United States’ ties to its long-standing allies as is played out in the report’s scenario for a withdrawal of US troops from Europe as a result of President Donald J. Trump’s accentuation of diverging trans-Atlantic interests.

With a multi-polar world the likely outcome of the battle for Eurasia, the scenarios suggest that the perceived decline of the United States, despite Mr. Trump’s unilateralism, is not irreversible. Similarly, depending on how it plays its cards, Iran could emerge either as a winner or a loser.

The four scenarios involve a renewed round of popular protest in the Arab world following the reversal of successful revolts in 2011 in Egypt, Libya and Yemen and the embrace of brutal repression; political violence in the Caucasus that pits Turkey against Russia and could threaten key nodes along China’s Belt and Road; the dissolution of the Eurasian Economic Union in an approaching post-Vladimir Putin era; a rejiggering of the political map of south-eastern Europe and  a strengthening of European cohesion with the US troop withdrawal and resolution of tension between Serbia and Kosovo.

The notion of renewed popular Arab protests, including resistance to the influence of militias in Syria and Libya, that could rewrite the political map of the Middle East  is hardly far-fetched with mass anti-government demonstrations in Sudan persisting for more than a month; riots in Tunisia, the one relatively successful 2011 revolt; protests on the West Bank against a new social security law; and anti-government marches in Iraq.

If anything, the revolts highlight the risks that all players in the Great Game run by supporting autocratic regimes that have largely failed to sustainably deliver public goods and services and/or offer good governance and cater to the social, economic and political aspirations of young populations.

“Pressure for change across the Arab world is likely to continue to grow, keeping pace with the growth in populations, inequality and social injustice,” concluded journalist Simon Tisdall on the eighth anniversary of the uprising in Egypt that toppled president Hosni Mubarak but was ultimately defeated by a military coup two years later.

The European Union Institute’s report imagines a massive attack on the Baku Kars rail line, a vital node in the Belt and Road’s linking of China to Europe that rekindles dormant local animosities as well as competing Russian and Turkish economic and geostrategic interests, prompting both Moscow and Ankara to lobby Washington for US support.

Similarly, a scenario envisaging Kazakhstan and Belarus withdrawing from the Eurasian union because of its inability to live up to its ambition of furthering regional integration sparks fears in Moscow that the demise of the regional consortium could spark the collapse of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), a military alliance that groups the five Eurasian union members as well as Tajikistan and hosts Afghanistan and Serbia as observers. The dissolution of the two organizations would significantly undermine Russia’s regional standing.

Likewise, a swap of land between Serbia and Kosovo that purifies two countries whose inter-communal relations have been poisoned by historic prejudices and recent wars opens a Pandora’s Box across south-eastern Europe but eases their accession to the European Union while a US troop withdrawal would force EU members to focus on collective security.

It would only take one of these scenarios to unfold and potentially spark a revisiting of the current line-up in the Great Game. Any one of the scenarios is a realistic possibility.

Said European Union Institute deputy director Florence Gaub in her introduction to the report: “Grey Swans share with Black Swans a high level of strategic impact, but there is more evidence to support the idea that they are actually possible… The analogy with the 1985 film ‘Back to the Future’ is pure coincidence, of course – but just as in the film, we sometimes need to take a trip to the future to inform our decision-making today.”


Sunday, January 27, 2019

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Can The Bells’ Return Ring Back Philippine-US Ties...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Can The Bells’ Return Ring Back Philippine-US Ties...: The much-awaited homecoming of the three Balangiga church bells signify United States’ resolve to reset relations with its former col...

Can The Bells’ Return Ring Back Philippine-US Ties?

The much-awaited homecoming of the three Balangiga church bells signify United States’ resolve to reset relations with its former colony and longtime ally. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s tirades against the West and efforts to diminish the country’s over reliance on America by expanding ties with other major powers, including U.S. rivals China and Russia, unsettled bilateral relations since 2016. The U.S. obviously wants to check Philippines’ increasing tilt towards Beijing and the bells’ repatriation, albeit symbolic and long overdue, is a clear and solid step towards this. Nonetheless, while such a hallmark move is welcome, it may have marginal effect in countering the core of burgeoning Philippines-China ties which remain firmly grounded on economic convergence. Instead, the bells’ return will have greater utility as a platform to restore high-level political ties and cement U.S. position as Manila’s pre-eminent security partner, a position being challenged by Beijing’s foray into security goods provision.

Duterte asked for the bells’ return in high profile fashion in his 2017 State of the Nation Address. Philippine ambassador to the U.S. Jose Manuel Romualdez also said that Duterte requested the same from U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis back in October 2017 as the retired marine corps general attended the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM+) in the former U.S. airbase of Clark. Furthermore, as the strategic Southeast Asian maritime country shops for arms for its military modernization, even considering purchasing from Russia, Duterte said that any arms procurement from U.S. will be premised upon the bells’ return. Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. mentioned that Duterte will never visit the U.S. until the bells are returned. Hence, with the precondition satisfied, there is an expectation that Duterte will soon accept President Trump’s invitation to visit Washington. More importantly, if the bells’ homecoming can be considered a bellwether for the future of bilateral relations in a fast changing geopolitical landscape, there is cause for optimism.

Past Philippine leaders, including West Point graduate Fidel Ramos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a former classmate of Bill Clinton at Georgetown University  lobbied for the bells’ repatriation. But their efforts were in vain. Ironically, it took an uncouth former mayor who long harbored misgivings about the U.S. to trigger the bells’ eventual comeback. But the unassuming Duterte refrainedfrom claiming recognition. Instead, he accorded what he described as an act that restored Filipino dignity to the “generous act of the Americans”, adding that credit goes to the people of both countries. More than a century after being snatched, the bells returned in time for Christmas to call the faithful in the Eastern Samar town. For this historic event which will surely be remembered as a legacy of the Duterte administration, the U.S. not only earned the goodwill of the Filipino people; it also restarted bilateral relations on an elevated plane.

When Duterte set the bells’ repatriation as the floor for the restoration of high-level political ties, both sides’ diplomatic and security establishment set out to work. This contributed to a change in the President’s attitude towards a possible state visit. In July 2017, in response to threats from some U.S. solons who claimed they will block his visit, the former Davao mayor said he will never visit “lousy” America. A year later, he mellowed and remarked that such a visit is just a matter of scheduling.

The specter of protests from rights groups and some members of U.S. Congress opposed to his signature drug war continue to loom large during a possible Duterte visit. Sensitivity to criticisms about his war against drugs was actually one of the major reasons why the firebrand leader eschewed the invitation in the first place. But the bells’ return removed the impediment for such a visit. Besides, Duterte will not be the first controversial Southeast Asian leader to enter the White House. President Donald Trump previously hosted scandal-hit former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Thai junta leader Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha and undemocratic Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

Notwithstanding the efforts of veterans groups, the Catholic Church, and civil society, the official top level push was pivotal in putting to rest one of the long-running irritants in the two countries’ 72-year relations. U.S. officials, notably Secretary Mattis and U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, prevailed over those who opposed the bells’ rightful return. Former Philippine defense attache to U.S. and current Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also worked hard for the bells’ repatriation and maintenance of longstanding security ties. While Duterte already had his third Foreign Affairs Secretary amidst frequent Cabinet revamps midway into his term, Lorenzana remained a steady figure in the defense establishment. This suggests Duterte’s desire to keep the alliance despite his rhetorical bluster. With the echoes of the symbolic ringing of one Balangiga bell tattooed on his mind, the intensity of  verbal tirades against the US are also likely to subside. 

A few days before Christmas, former Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations and currently Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. met his American counterpart, State Secretary Mike Pompeo in Washington. The two chief diplomats discussed cooperation in addressing terrorism and regional flashpoints, notably the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea. Locsin also conveyed Duterte’s appreciation for the bells’ return.

Recent calls for the review of the 1951 Philippines-United States Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) may be seen as a further disruption in bilateral relations. However, that disruption may turn out well for both sides if provisions of the treaty, which serves as the bedrock of the two countries’ security ties, will be evaluated to keep up with the changing times. As the mother document for subsequent bilateral security arrangements, notably the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement and the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, the review will have far reaching implications for the security partnership. There is also expectation that a strengthened treaty will enhance the country’s deterrence and commit the U.S. more to evolving Philippine security requirements. Hence, the return of the bells may have just paved the way for a conducive climate to update the anchor of one of the world’s most enduring alliances.

This article was published at APPFI

Lucio Blanco Pitlo III is an Assistant Professorial Lecturer for International Studies at De La Salle University and Contributing Editor (Reviews) for Asian Politics & Policy. He is also a Project Consultant for Asia-Pacific Pathways for Progress Foundation Inc.

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: CIA Was Aiding Jihadists Before Soviets Invaded Af...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: CIA Was Aiding Jihadists Before Soviets Invaded Af...: Originally, there were four parties involved in the Afghan conflict which are mainly responsible for the debacle in the Af-Pak region...

CIA Was Aiding Jihadists Before Soviets Invaded Afghanistan – OpEd

Originally, there were four parties involved in the Afghan conflict which are mainly responsible for the debacle in the Af-Pak region. Firstly, the former Soviet Union which invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. Secondly, Pakistan’s security agencies which nurtured the Afghan so-called “mujahideen” (freedom fighters) on the behest of Washington.

Thirdly, Saudi Arabia and the rest of oil-rich Gulf states which generously funded the jihadists to promote their Wahhabi-Salafi ideology. And last but not the least, the Western capitals which funded, provided weapons and internationally legitimized the erstwhile ‘freedom fighters’ to use them against a competing ideology, global communism, which posed a threat to the Western corporate interests all over the world.

Regarding the objectives of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, the then American envoy to Kabul, Adolph “Spike” Dubs, was assassinated on 14 Feb 1979, the same day that Iranian revolutionaries stormed the US embassy in Tehran.

According to recently declassified documents [1] of the White House, CIA and State Department as reported by Tim Weiner for The Washington Post, the CIA was aiding Afghan jihadists before the Soviets invaded in 1979. The then American President Jimmy Carter signed the CIA directive to arm the Afghan jihadists in July 1979, whereas the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December the same year.

That the CIA was arming the Afghan jihadists six months before the Soviets invaded Afghanistan has been proven by the State Department’s declassified documents and admitted by The Washington Post, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon. The Washington Post has a history of working in close collaboration with the CIA as Bezos won a $600 million contract [2] in 2013 to host the CIA’s database on the Amazon’s web-hosting service.

Fact of the matter, however, is that the nexus between the CIA, Pakistan’s security agencies and the Gulf states to train and arm the Afghan jihadists against the former Soviet Union was formed several years earlier.

During the late 1970s, Pakistan’s then-Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto began aiding the Afghan Islamists against Sardar Daud’s government, who had toppled his first cousin King Zahir Shah in a palace coup in 1973 and had proclaimed himself the president of Afghanistan.

Sardar Daud was a Pashtun nationalist and laid claim to Pakistan’s northwestern Pashtun-majority province. Pakistan’s security establishment was wary of his irredentist claims and used Islamists to weaken his rule in Afghanistan. He was eventually assassinated in 1978 as a result of the Saur Revolution led by the Afghan communists.

Pakistan’s support to the Islamists with the Saudi petro-dollars and Washington’s blessings, however, kindled the fires of Islamic insurgencies in the entire region comprising Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Soviet Central Asian States.

The former Soviet Union was wary that its 40 million Muslims were susceptible to radicalism, because Islamic radicalism was infiltrating across the border into the Central Asian States from Afghanistan. Therefore, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979 in support of the Afghan communists to forestall the likelihood of Islamic insurgencies spreading to the Central Asian States bordering Afghanistan.

Even the American President Donald Trump recently admitted [3]: “The reason Russia invaded Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia; they were right to be there.” Incidentally, Trump also implied the reason why Soviet Union collapsed was due to the economic burden of the Soviet-Afghan War, as he was making a point about the withdrawal of American forces from Syria and Afghanistan.

Notwithstanding, in the Soviet-Afghan War between the global capitalist and global communist blocs, Saudi Arabia and the rest of Gulf’s petro-monarchies took the side of the global capitalist bloc because the former Soviet Union and Central Asian states produce more energy and consume less. Thus, the Soviet-led bloc was a net exporter of energy whereas the Western capitalist bloc was a net importer.

It suited the economic interests of the oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to maintain and strengthen a supplier-consumer relationship with the Western capitalist bloc. Now, the BRICS countries are equally hungry for the Middle East’s energy, but it’s a recent development. During the Cold War, an alliance with the industrialized Western nations suited the economic interests of the Gulf countries.

Why did Pakistan choose to join this unholy alliance against the global Left? In order to understand this, we need to take a cursory look at the history of Pakistan. During the British colonial rule before the independence of the subcontinent in 1947, Pakistan’s leadership used to have a patron-client relationship with the British imperialists.

The Indian leadership also used to have that relationship with the British imperialists, but in the case of Pakistan, there was an additional aggravating factor involved: the numerical weakness of the Indian Muslims and their consequent dependence on the British imperialists against the permanent numerical majority of the Hindus.

It’s not that the Hindu leaders were not afflicted with the colonial mentality, but in the case of Pakistani leaders, the myth of invincibility and infallibility of the West was cherished even more. That’s why Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan declined the request of a state visit from the former Soviet Union and went on a state visit to Washington instead.

It wasn’t just the colonial mentality of Pakistan’s leaders but certain geopolitical considerations also played into their thinking for forming a strategic alliance with the Western bloc. Immediately after the independence, India annexed the Muslim-majority state of Kashmir in violation of the agreed-upon Partition Principle that allocated the Muslim-majority provinces of the British India to Pakistan and the Hindu-majority regions to India.

Then in the 1950s, India took advantage of the Kashmiri territory, as the riverheads of Pakistani rivers are located in Kashmir, and diverted the waters of Pakistani rivers to irrigate India’s western provinces. The whole of Bahawalpur region in southern Punjab turned barren overnight and the agricultural economy of the nascent state of Pakistan suffered a tremendous blow.

With the involvement of the World Bank and the Tennessee Valley Authority of the US, Pakistan and India signed the Indus Waters Treaty in 1960, which allocated exclusive rights for the use of three eastern rivers to India, and some rights such as the right to build hydroelectric projects over the western Pakistani rivers, Jhelum and Chenab, as well.

All these incidents and Pakistan’s relative weakness vis-à-vis India made it even more dependent on the Western military and developmental aid. That’s why it joined the Washington-led, anti-communist SEATO and CENTO alliances in the region during the 1950s.

So much so that when an American U-2 spy plane was shot down in May 1960 by the Soviet Air Defense Forces while performing photographic aerial reconnaissance deep into Soviet territory, Pakistan’s then-President Ayub Khan openly acknowledged that the spy plane had flown from the American airbase in Pakistan’s northwestern metropolis, Peshawar.

When Pakistan had forged such a close alliance with Washington, it became impossible for it to stay neutral when the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Regarding the motives of the belligerents involved, the Americans wanted to take revenge for their defeat at the hands of communists in Vietnam, the Gulf countries had forged close economic ties with the Western bloc and Pakistan was dependent on the Western military aid, hence it didn’t have a choice but to toe Washington’s policy in Afghanistan.

In the end, the Soviet-Afghan War proved to be a “bear trap” and the former Soviet Union was eventually defeated and was subsequently dissolved in December 1991. It did not collapse because of the Afghan Jihad but that was an important factor contributing to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Regardless, more than twenty years before the declassification of the State Department documents as mentioned in the aforementioned Washington Post report, in the 1998 interview [4] to the alternative news outlet The Counter Punch Magazine, former National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, confessed that the president signed the directive to provide secret aid to the Afghan jihadists in July 1979, whereas the Soviet Army invaded Afghanistan six months later in December 1979.

Here is a poignant excerpt from the interview: The interviewer puts the question: “And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic jihadists, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?” Brzezinski replies: “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

Despite the crass insensitivity, one must give credit to Zbigniew Brzezinski that at least he had the courage to speak the unembellished truth. It’s worth noting, however, that the aforementioned interview was recorded in 1998. After the 9/11 terror attack, no Western policymaker can now dare to be as blunt and forthright as Brzezinski.

Nauman Sadiq is an Islamabad-based attorney, columnist and geopolitical analyst focused on the politics of Af-Pak and MENA regions, neocolonialism and Petroimperialism.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Consequences of The US-China Contest For Asia

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Consequences of The US-China Contest For Asia: The burgeoning US-China contest for the minds and hearts of Asian nations is stressing and straining some countries’ domestic politics a...

Consequences of The US-China Contest For Asia

The burgeoning US-China contest for the minds and hearts of Asian nations is stressing and straining some countries’ domestic politics and posing increasingly difficult choices for their leadership. 

How and why is this so and what are some of the consequences?

In the past, Asian countries were often prioritized by US analysts and policy makers as to their degree of pro American-ness.  But now they are increasingly being assessed as to the kind and degree of accommodation to China. The US cannot match China’s economic prowess and largesse and seems to hope that its political, social and economic systems and –more importantly– its values will be sufficient to keep much of Asia in its camp.  But this is increasingly proving to be a false hope.  So the U.S. is falling back on its tried and true advantage—dominant military power and the threat of its use.  But even in this sphere China is making rapid advances and the looming specter of its eventual domination of the region is progressively stimulating hedging and even forcing some Asian countries to consider choosing between the two.  

Indeed, China has made considerable advances in military to military relations with Southeast Asian countries, previously almost exclusively dominated by the U.S.  and  its allies. On 27-28 October 2018, China, Malaysia and Thailand implemented their first ever tri-lateral military exercise in the strategic Malacca Strait. From 22-28 October, China and ASEAN implemented the first China -ASEAN maritime exercises. The U.S. and Australia were not invited.  The participation of Southeast Asian nations implied their acknowledgement of China’s right to a military role in the region.  Chinese State Councilor and National Defense Minister Wei Fenghe hailed the exercise “as a milestone event that will showcase the resolve and determination of China and ASEAN to safeguard regional peace and stability.”

China is making advances on other politico-military fronts. China and ASEAN are making some progress in the negotiation of a Code of Conduct (COC) for the South China Sea.  China has proposed a clause stating that “the Parties shall not hold joint military exercises with countries from outside the region, unless the parties concerned are notified beforehand and express no objection”. Presumably it believes it can garner support for the proposal within ASEAN.

China has also stepped up its efforts to increase its political inroads in Asia. The Hoover Institution has published a report detailing how China has tried to influence domestic politics in many countries including in Asia. Some of China’s actions were deemed offensive and even illegal by the target countries.  Indeed, .  Australia has begun to take measures to restrain China’s influence on its domestic body politic.  But China is biting back and if it is going to reset the terms of its engagement with China, it will have to accept strains on the bilateral economic relationship.  The U.S. has historically engaged in similar practices– and worse –in many countries including in Asia – – and is probably still doing so. During the Cold War, some of the tools it used to influence countries included Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, covert operations, and support for assassinations and even coups in countries whose regimes it did not like, like South Vietnam and Indonesia.  That does not make what China is doing right – only that it has come somewhat late to this aspect of realpolitik and it is rather clumsy and insensitive in its approach.  

There is more stress and strain coming. The U.K.  has announced that it will establish a permanent naval base in Southeast Asia – perhaps in Singapore or Brunei. China likely sees this as a declaration by one of its former colonial masters to become part of the current US strategic cabal to confront, constrain and contain it.  Already, much to China’s chagrin, a British warship has challenged China’s claimed baselines around the Paracel Islands.

But it is not only China that would likely view such a development as neocolonialist. It would likely be opposed by nationalists in both the host of the base and the region. Moreover it would raise strong suspicions among neighbors as to the host’s long term intentions towards both themselves and China.  More specifically, the base and the host would immediately become a target for China in a conflict. At the least the host would have difficult political and economic relations with China for the foreseeable future.

The added stress on ASEAN could be fatal.  It is already riven by pro-China and pro-U.S. factions and increasing pressure to choose between the two. A new base in the region for a US ally could be the strategic straw that breaks the back of ASEAN unity.

The uncertainty created by the administration of US President Donald J. Trump is encouraging many nations to hedge their bets. A major question is whether or not the U.S. can develop a “strategic, nuanced, and long-term policy toward China that will effectively engage allies and partners ” rather than the current “America First” approach.

 An attempt is the US Congress’s Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA) signed into law by President Trump on December 31, 2018. The Act affirms and advances the US National Security strategy to “develop a long-term strategic vision and comprehensive, multifaceted and principled US policy for the Indo- Pacific region.”Among others, it seeks to improve the defense capacity and resiliency of partner nations to resist coercion and deter and defend against security threats, including foreign military financing; offers a mechanism to conduct bilateral and multilateral engagements, particularly with the United States’ most highly capable allies and partners, to meet strategic challenges, and increases maritime domain awareness programs _ _.”

However, the proof of this approach will be in the pudding.  Even this comprehensive response may be too little too late.

Mark J. Valencia, is an internationally known maritime policy analyst, political commentator and consultant focused on Asia. He is the author or editor of some 15 books and more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and Adjunct Senior Scholar, National Institute for South China Sea Studies, Haikou, China


Friday, January 25, 2019

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Russia’s Japan Policy on Wrong Side Of Geopolitica...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Russia’s Japan Policy on Wrong Side Of Geopolitica...:   Russia seems in 2019 to have got its geopolitical realties wrong going by the condescending and arrogant statements of Russian Fore...

Russia’s Japan Policy on Wrong Side Of Geopolitical Realities


Russia seems in 2019 to have got its geopolitical realties wrong going by the condescending and arrogant statements of Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov made at  an annual conference directed at Japan on the controversial issue of Japan’s claims on Russia to restore the Northern Islands which Russia had captured after Germany’s defeat in Europe in 1945 invoking Japan’s defeat subsequently.

Contemporaneous and potential geopolitical developments globally and specifically in Indo Pacific Region do not permit Russia to adopt condescending imperial postures towards Japan. Japan is today an Evolved Major Power in its own right and on its own geopolitical and economic strength. Russia drawing World War II equivalences as statements below w are flawed and out of place.

The insensitive statements made regarding Japan by Russian Foreign Minister coming days before Japanese P Abe’s Moscow visit sends out two signals. First, that Russia is not serious about transforming its relationship with Japan. Secondly, it could also be a ploy to put Japan under pressure before the Putin-Abe Summit for multiple reasons. Russia seems to be hoping that Japan is presently under pressure arising from US President Trump’s uncertain policy directions on Asia Pacific security and also under pressure of US trade policies could possibly lessen Japan’s fixation on the Northern Islands issue and lead it to compromises.

To get a full import of Russia’s underlying approaches towards Japan in 2019 it is necessary to quote verbatim some of the more significant but controversial statements made by Foreign Minister Lavrov recently. Russia seems to be complaining about Japan’s foreign policy directions by first asserting that “We are still far not only from  being partners in international relations but also in finding constructive ways to make our relations better.” Further, implying that Japan was virtually opposed to Russia in international relations but also in finding constructive ways to make our interests, Minister Lavrov complained that “Japan was not with us but against us in all Resolutions that interest Russia in the United Nations.”

The most insensitive remark by the Russian Foreign Minister was “Why Japan is the only country in the world that cannot accept the results of World War II in their entirety?”

Intriguingly for all foreign observers like this analyst the tone and tenor of Russian Foreign Minister on Japan’s policy attitudes is far from the truth. Japan has consistently striven for political reachout to Russia not only for better Russo-Japan relations but also in the hope that Russia would not add its weight to China’s strategic objectives against Japan over the Senkaku Islands dispute.

The Russian Foreign Minister then demanded that Japan should recognise Russian sovereignty over Kurile Islands for Russian talks to continue on ending World War II hostilities. It needs to be recalled that the Former Soviet Union had refused to sign the Peace Treaty with Japan at San Francisco along with other nations as it objected to the non-inclusion of a reference to Soviets sovereignty over the Northern Islands.

Contextual geopolitical realities have moved far ahead in 2019 where Russia has yet to emerge as an ‘Independent Power Centre’ globally aspired by Russian President and Japan is no longer the defeated nation of 1945 subjected to “Victors Justice” of war booty as the Northern Islands taken over by Russia falls into that category.

Japan along with India are the pillars of Asian security and respected in Asian capitals as responsible stakeholders in Asian security. In 2019 Japan and India are widely credited with being as ‘Emerged Powers’ in the global strategic calculus. Surely then, Russia cannot trifle around with Japan condescendingly as a defeated nation of 1945.

Russia in recent times has horribly gone wrong in adopting China-centric foreign policy formulations as part of the Russia-China Strategic Nexus rather than following balanced foreign policy postures which do not position Russia on the wrong side of geopolitical realities prevailing in the wider Indo Pacific Asia,. Perceptionaly, Russia is widely perceived as a mere camp-follower of China because of its China-centric priorities.

What is one witnessing in the Indo Pacific Region is Russia and China being geopolitically and strategically balanced existentially by the cooperative combined geopolitical weight of the United States, Japan, India and Australia. With China being increasingly viewed in Indo Pacific capitals as a ‘China Threat’ persistently attempting to churn up security and stability in Asia, resultantly, Russia is also being type-casted as complicit in China’s hegemonistic blueprint of the ‘Great China Dream’.

Russia’s over-dependence on China and aligning Russia with China’s geopolitical end-game is widely attributed not to any ideological affinities or convergent long-term strategic objectives but to short term politically expedient transactional gains. The longevity of the Russia-China Strategic Nexus can therefore be termed as not one of long duration.

Russia also has to squarely face the contingencies stated above which gets further accentuated by Russia’s misgivings on China’s unconcealed covetous eyes on Russian Far East Provinces. These areas have already witnessed large scale illegal Chinese immigrants flooding Russian territories with some alleging that this is taking place with the tacit concurrence of the Chinese Government.

Also undeniable is the fact that Russian and Chinese national ambitions have clashing trajectories presently papered over by Russia as Russia sees no hope of the United States resetting its policy formulations on Russia.

Adding all of the above to the historical facts that Russia and China have been involved in armed clashes on the erstwhile territorial disputes and China’s ‘Swing Strategy’ oscillating between Russia and the United States at various stages in the past makes China as an uncertain strategic partner of long standing.

Russia in light of the above brief analysis should be guided by strong imperatives to hedge its bets on China in preference for Japan. Russia would be unrealistic in expecting that Japan would give up its valued Alliance with the United States or dispense with US Forward Military Presence in Japan. While during the Cold War this was catering for Japanese security against the Soviet Threat currently in view of the more potent China Threat emerging in Western Pacific it is more than imperative for Japan to not only to maintain its security linkages with the United States but also to reinforce them.

Russia needs to appreciate that even within the framework of Japan’s security arrangements with the United States, it has been the constant visible effort of Japan to strive for better relations with Russia both diplomatically and economically. Russia seems to be oblivious to the reality that in long term perspectives, Japan could contribute more to economic development of the sluggish Russian economy.

Russia also needs to recognise that the existence of the Russo-China Strategic Nexus can be analytically said to be the main stimulus for not only the arms race in Indo Pacific Asia but also impelling Japan in beefing up its military profile and military preparedness.

One would go that far as to assert that should Russia persist in its China-centric strategic priorities at the cost of not fostering regional security and stability and not adopt confidence-building measures to induce confidence in Japan’s policy establishment that Russia would also act as a counterweight to China’s aggressive brinkmanship, dangers exist that Japan could be pushed towards acquisition of nuclear weapons, however distasteful the option may be for the Japanese public.

In 2019, there is another strong factor that should impel Russia to adopt reconciliatory approaches towards Japan as presently Japan is no longer alone in terms of meeting China’s disruptive challenges to Indo Pacific security and stability. Japan has evolved strong security ties with India as the other Evolved Major Power with both sharing strong strategic convergences on the potential China Threat faced enveloping Asia.

Russia today is geopolitically on the wrong side of not only Japan but also of India arising from its obsessive attachment to the Russia-China Strategic Nexus which distorts Russian policy perspectives both in the Pacific Ocean Region and also in the Indian Ocean Region, characterised by its tilt in South Asia towards Pakistan at the expense of India to please China.

Concluding, the foregoing analysis should amply illustrate that Russia’s policy approaches towards Japan are seriously flawed and on the wrong side of prevailing and potential Indo Pacific geopolitical realities. Russia is in no position to adopt imperial condescension towards Japan based on World War II outcomes. Russia must squarely face the serious question whether in 2019 and the decades to follow whether Japan needs Russia more or Russia needs Japan more?

By Dr Subhash Kapila

SAAG is the South Asia Analysis Group, a non-profit, non-commercial think tank. The objective of SAAG is to advance strategic analysis and contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Indian and International security and promote public understanding.