Nakshatra Jagannath
Dr. A Adityanjee

Nakshatra Jagannath, CSA Training Fellow, Kolkata, India.

Dr. A Adityanjee, CSA President, Cleveland, OH, USA.

Bangladesh- A Smoldering Cauldron of Islamist Resurgencenter

February 2024

Introduction

Successful conclusion of democratic national elections and return of the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for the fifth time has focused international attention and spotlight on the Islamic Republic of Bangladesh. Western Governments including the US raised concerns that the recent elections conducted on January 7th, 2024, were not free and fair. Bangladesh was generally considered a moderate Muslim democracy in contrast to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan which is the fountainhead of Jihadi terrorism. In the recent past, Bangladesh has witnessed a systematic growth in religious fanaticism and Jihadi extremism and an upswing in anti-India sentiments. This trend has been supported by non-state actors and agencies of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. 

A large section of Bangladeshi population has been radicalized by the fugitive Indian Islamist hardliner Dr. Zakir Naik who is currently living in Malaysia. Zakir Naik’s Peace TV had a large following in Bangladesh before it was banned by the Bangladeshi government. The growing resurgence of fanatic elements and Jihadist groups in Bangladesh along with systematically organized mob attacks on Hindu temples, processions, and establishments is very worrisome, indeed. The fears of the religious and ethnic minority communities in Bangladesh (Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Chakma Tribals, Free Thinkers and Atheists) are not necessarily exaggerated. A famous epitome of the Islamic fanaticism is the expulsion of the internationally acclaimed author Taslima Nasrin who continues to face death threats from Bangladeshi Jihadi elements while living abroad. Several free-thinkers and secular authors have been killed in Bangladesh by Islamist terrorists. This growing Islamist sentiment and resurgence of Jihadi violence in Bangladesh and reaction in neighboring India in the form of protests and calling for international intervention has naturally led to further complications. Per several credible reports, Jihadi elements from Bangladesh have travelled to West Asia and joined the ISIS, Al Qaeda, Al Shabab and their terrorist operations. Bangladesh is certainly not immune from the global epidemic of Jihadi and Islamist terrorism. The US State Department, from time to time, has expressed concerns about the same and in 2023 did not invite Bangladesh for the White Houe summit of democracies!

 History of Islamization of Bangladesh:

After liberation from Pakistan, Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rahman, the liberation hero, created a secular republic in Bangladesh. After his assassination in a military coup, the military dictator General Zia-Ur-Rahman encouraged process of Islamization. General Zia was the founder of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and served as the President of Bangladesh from 1977 till May 1981 when he himself was assassinated. His widow Khalida Zia inherited the mantle and the Chairmanship of the BNP from him. The BNP has long battled against the existing Awami League regime, led by Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Sheikh Mujib. The BNP has called for the establishment of Sharia Law in conjunction and collaboration with the Islamist parties. Bangladesh, per original constitution, was established as a secular republic. Under military junta rule and subsequent democratic governments led by military strongmen and their families, the name of the country was changed to Islamic Republic of Bangladesh. Last year, before the scheduled General Elections, the BNP had announced a boycott of the 2024 elections. Even in the past, the BNP had boycotted the elections due to their reservations about the elections being unfair and partial. The BNP and its allied Islamist parties claim that elections are systematically rigged by the Awami league. Their demand for a caretaker government was rejected by the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as per Bangladesh Supreme court judgement in 2012 such practice was not constitutional. The Jamaat in Bangladesh which supposedly calls for the revival of the local majoritarian Islamic society has time and again publicly undermined democracy in Bangladesh and has publicly announced that humans are unfit for sovereignty. The landmark court verdict nullifying any hopes for the Jamaat to contest elections was a nip in the bud to the larger aspirations of the Jamaat. It was a step that re-assured some if not many about democracy still retaining the top-most face value if not real value in Bangladesh. Despite sharp international reactions, the return of the Awami League with the massive majority for the fifth time under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina is certainly welcomed by India.

Bangladeshi Illegal Emigration:

Bangladesh is demographically very dense and challenged for land. Illegal Bangladeshi immigrants are ubiquitous in their attempts to find better economic opportunities in other countries including India, ASEAN countries and the US. They are known to indulge in criminal activities including drug and human trafficking and collaborating with Islamist terror modules. So-called Rohingyas are essentially Bangladeshis who migrated to Myanmar and committed atrocities on Buddhists and Hindu groups in that country.  Their expulsion from Myanmar by the military Junta has been condemned by the West without understanding the root cause of the problems. Bangladeshis, like their Pakistani counterparts are no longer welcome in moderate Arab countries because of radicalization and involvement in crime. Scores of Bangladeshis have been arrested and indicted in the US Justic department for human trafficking across Mexico. There has been illegal migration flow of more than 3000 Bangladeshis in the US since 2017. This poses a national security risk to the US also because Bangladesh teems with ISIS and Al Qaeda agents.   Followers of a radical Jamaat are now out of power in Bangladesh. These homegrown jihadists who migrated to Syria are now returning from Syria with combat experience. These battle-hardened terrorists may surreptitiously infiltrate into India, US, or other countries.

Bilateral Bharat Bangladesh Relationship:

Despite moral and military assistance from India during liberation from Pakistan and subsequent diplomatic developments and strategic partnership between the two governments, the relationship between India and Bangladesh deserves a closer look. There were systematic attempts to fan the religious fire in Bangladesh during Begum Khalida Zia’s rule. Diplomatically speaking, Bharat and Bangladesh have had an excellent bilateral government-to-government relationship under Sheikh Hasina’s tenure. The partnership under the leadership of incumbent Sheikh Hasina in Bangladesh and Modi Governments in India respectively has blossomed despite visible fissures in the two societies. Bangladesh Government has tried to deal with the extremist elements to some extent despite seemingly hardcore sentiments in the Bangladeshi population.

However, this current bonhomie does not overshadow the fact that growing fanaticism in Bangladesh not only poses a severe threat to minorities in Bangladesh but is a major strategic threat to India. Bangladesh is one of the very few friendly neighbors of India and shares land borders with India. There has been continuous illegal infiltration into India from the porous border. Bnagladesh harbors fanatic organizations that call for a revival of majoritarian Islamist society and establishment of a religious code of law (sharia). Therefore, it serves as a perfect launchpad for extremist attacks on India. Moreover, the illegal migrants in India from Bangladesh are a serious security issue. This migrant population can be controlled but not fully checked. This is a threat that can never go off the radar for India. There are systematic schemes of Jihadist and Pro-Jihadist organizations to infiltrate India and plan unscrupulous activities causing loss of life and collateral damage on the Indian soil. The presence of thousands of radicalized illegal immigrants in India, and some of them acting as sleeper cells on the Indian soil and receiving orders from fanatic outfits across the border is a fear that cannot go off the radar. It is imperative to identify and deport these illegal migrants who pose a serious threat to the national integrity and sovereignty of India apart from the secular fabric of the Indian society. This process is not only legally cumbersome but with the easy availability of fake travel and identity documents, it becomes nearly impossible. Also, a section of illegal migrants is generally shielded by local religious and regional political power outfits to consolidate power and vote banks in an illegal manner. This antinational practice is a very real issue on Indian soil which undermines the democratic fabric of the Indian nation meticulously woven by freedom fighters over the past.

What should Bharat do:

Moreover, the growing anti-India sentiment and revival of fanatic outfits in Bangladeshi society opens an additional front on the eastern flank that Bharat needs to counter. However, the strategic response must be more vehement and cautious so as not to spoil long-standing positive ties and bilateral relations with the current regime. Bharat needs to understand that the Bangladesh problem is very different from the Pakistan problem. In Pakistan, the regimes have themselves been anti-India at the very core; and Bharat has openly countered the Pakistani government and their backing of terror outfits operating on Pakistan soil against India and Indian interests. But in Bangladesh, the current regime for quite some time, has been perceived as pro-Bharat and has made efforts towards bilateral economic cooperation and overall development in a positive light with Indian authorities. Here the problem lies with religious outfits and radicalized sections that appear to be part of civil society. These elements have turned anti-India and with the upswing of religious fanaticism have started undermining the democratic fabric of both the countries. These groups have resorted to daylight violence against minorities on their home-soil too. There were attacks on over a dozen Hindu temples in Bangladesh in early 2023. Attacks on an ISKCON temple during Durga Puja led to the unfortunate killing of innocent and devout Hindus. Presence of India’s most wanted criminals on Bangladesh soil as evident from the arrest of Ikramul Haque. The recent arrest of 5 Bangladeshi citizens in Pune, India on charges of forgery and harboring members of a banned terror group is a living testimony to two things: 1) Danger posed to Hindu minority in Bangladesh, 2) Danger posed to Bharat, and Bharatiya interests due to growing fanaticism in Bangladesh.

Moving ahead, Bharat must do the following things to counter the issue at hand: Counter the growing anti-India sentiment among Bangladeshi youth by sending warm signals of brotherhood, and friendship between the two nations, urge the Bangladeshi government to promote religious harmony, and effectively counter the growing attacks on minorities in Bangladesh and cooperate with Indian agencies in cases of illegal migrants involved in terror activities on Indian soil. Apart from this, Bharat also needs to have a robust system in place to counter the incessant flow of illegal migrants in Bharat, thereby nullifying unscrupulous plans on Indian soil. Bharat must also plan for a post-Hasina scenario in Bangladesh as with her elimination from the scene by an act of God or terrorist act will portend ominous consequences. There must be institutional arrangements safeguarding Indian interests instead of undue reliance on one political personality.


Conclusions

However, To conclude, Bharat and Bangladesh share a common history and heritage which needs to be well-preserved. Before 1947, the modern state of Bangladesh was part of a united British India. The proud Bhartiya and the proud Bangladeshi society must walk hand in hand, contribute to each other’s development and live up to the dreams of nation builders Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, among many others. Interestingly the national anthems of both countries Jana Gana Mana, and Amar Sonar Bangla. were written by one person Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. Although Finland itself has been de-Finlandized, Bharat may have to resort to Finlandization of Bangladesh to eliminate the long-term strategic threats emanating from that country.

Dragon’s Lust for the Pearl of the Orient: China’s Maritime Hegemony & The South Champa Sea Conundrum

January 2024

Background

Since the 2012 Scarborough Shoal naval standoff has continued. It was followed by the illegal Chinese occupation and illegal blocking of Filipino ships by Chinese naval assets in the West Philippine Sea. The encroachment of the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) by Communist China has further contributed to worsening in the relations between the two countries. The irrational but expansionist Chinese claim of the so-called Nine-Dash line which claims about 90 percent of the South Champa Sea (South China Sea) has been a major bone of contention for years between China and the Philippines and other ASEAN countries. The claim is not only illegal according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) but also leads to forcible gaining control of excessive maritime areas, and subsequent militarization of the region by building artificial structures, naval blockades, and naval exercises among others. China is a signatory to the UNCLOS and routinely does repeatedly agree to the same. This militarization not only violates international maritime laws and undermines the sovereignty of smaller nations but also breeds instability in the Indo-Pacific region. Unfortunately, the US under Obama administration did not show the spine to China when this hegemonic behavior started. . 

Introduction to Maritime Conundrum

Maritime disputes in the South China Sea (aka South Champa Sea) have time and again been made to the international headlines and have drawn sharp reactions from across the globe, especially the Western world. In most of these maritime disputes, one party invariably is the People’s Republic of China. One such dispute is between The Philippines and communist China. This dispute has aggravated over the years despite bilateral agreements, diplomatic dialogues, and ASEAN maritime arrangements in the past. For more than two decades, a hegemonic Communist China has refused to negotiate a peaceful Code of Conduct (CoC) with the ASEAN. China’s preferred tactic is to bully smaller nations in bilateral settings. Chinese wolf warrior diplomat Yang Jiechi once famously stated in 2014 in the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore that China is a big country and other ASEAN nations need to understand this fact.

The reasons and initiated events that shaped the dialogue

China Filipino Maritime Conflict: In the most recent standoff, the Chinese Coast Guard used water cannons and disabled a Philippines’ boat in the waters near the Second Thomas Shoal. China claims it to be an integral part of its territory in contravention to the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague. On these disputed waters, the Philippines mans an outpost using a grounded World War II ship- The Sierra Madre, this deteriorating ship requires regular repairs for which basic supplies to sustain are provided by Philippines’ boats. In the recent past, when a Philippines’ boat was on its way to supply to the deteriorating warship, the Chinese Coast Guard went all offensive and deployed a water cannon against Philippine supply vessels to block the vessel from supplying to Sierra Madre. This hostile act caused severe damage to the engine, thereby disabling the vessel, and severely endangering the lives of the Philippines’ naval officials onboard. No injuries or casualties were reported after this incident; however, this could have led to massive collateral damage thereby escalating the conflict in the region to brew pan Indo-Pacific instability.  The Chinese expansionist approach and illegal attempts to occupy the South Champa Sea (aka South China Sea) is a serious threat to regional stability and prosperity. China is the largest trading partner of the Philippines and economic inter-dependency is quite visible. However, further escalation in this conflict could lead to adverse effects not only on trade and commerce but also on international peace and security. The Philippines’ understanding of communist China has changed drastically since the administration of the new President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. who decided to take a harder and more nationalistic approach against Chinese expansionist and aggressive actions. He is attempting to strengthen ties with the US as opposed to the regime of Ex-President Duterte who worked tirelessly to rebuild ties with the Beijing. The Manila of today has repeatedly proclaimed that it shall stand up to what they term is the Chinese act of bullying. On the other hand, the Chinese regime routinely claims without any evidence that Manila is violating China’s maritime sovereignty. Not surprisingly, one Chinese news anchor even claimed incredulously that China had sovereignty over the entire nation of the Philippines.

US Treaty Obligations: After this incident, all eyes were focused on the United States of America as the Philippines and the US have a mutual defense treaty in place since 1951. The clause 4 of the same treaty categorically extends to armed attacks on Philippines’ establishments, vessels, or people anywhere in the South China Sea aka South Champa Sea. Further escalation of conflict could trigger this clause and the US could vigorously and actively involve itself in the Philippines-China conflict and surrounding maritime boundaries and territories. The US State Department, immediately after this standoff, stated that it shall seek to protect the interests of its ally. The US and China for far too long have been in what one would term a cold war 2.0 to establish global supremacy and hegemony. China uses its expansionist policy in the South Champa Sea (South China Sea) to dominate the Indo-Pacific region where the US has notable allies. The US on the other hand through its allies and partners seeks to counterbalance the dominance of the dragon by warning to trigger clauses of mutual defense and allied treaties that it shares with nations, e.g. the Philippines in the Indo-Pacific region. The US views the attempts to dominate and the growing influence of the dragon in the region as a threat to regional stability and the US hold in the region. Therefore, the Biden administration should ideally leave no stone unturned to check China’s growing belligerence. Japan, for instance, faces similar problems with the Chinese expansionist policy in the Japan Sea about Senkaku islands. The Biden administration apart from giving out strong-worded statements, shortly, should consider conducting joint exercises with Manila to safeguard the Filipino interests and actively deter the dragon from undertaking any unscrupulous means to succeed in its illegal claim over most of the South Champa Sea (South China Sea).

Xi Jinping’s Wet and Watery Dreams: Communist China wants to control the maritime domain of the entire Indo-Pacific starting with islands in the first island chain. China is showing hostility and belligerence towards Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines in pursuit of its hegemonic ambitions. During bilateral summit with Joe Biden on the sidelines of the APEC summit in November 2023, Xi Jinping reportedly told Biden that it is a matter of time that China and Taiwan will reunify, and no one will be able to stop it.

From the current scenario, Beijing is testing the patience of the White House while avoiding any major confrontation with the US. The use of water cannons by the Chinese coastguards and ramming Filipino naval vessels is part of its grey zone tactics. China’s avoidance of armed conflict with the US FONOPS (Freedom of Navigation Operations) is a testament to the same. Moreover, the Chinese statement accused interference by outside powers like the US in the region and in the so-called internal matters of the People’s Republic of China.


Conclusion

However, To conclude, The Philippines must exercise caution and restraint from drawing a blank cheque support from the Biden administration. The US has tendency to leave its allies high and dry amongst thick of conflicts in the past when it no longer suited the US geopolitical interests. If the US of today is to be involved in the conflict, it will be for strengthening US position and safeguarding its own influence over the Indo-Pacific rather than securing the interests of the Philippines. On the other hand, the dragon will tread carefully without compromising on its illegal thirst for expansion of maritime and land territories and global supremacy. China deliberately continues to question the authority, jurisdiction and the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague regarding this conflict with the Philippines. The dragon will also continue to test the patience of what it considers as a weak White House under the Biden regime. The US inaction and mere agreeing behaviour are evidence that the US is consolidating its US-centric and Euro-centric approach. Its rhetoric does not match the actual behavior. Fortress America does not care about any other nation. Its behavior belies the US promise of making free and open Indo-Pacific as a region of grave priority.

West Asian Mirage – The Two State Solution Debated (Israel, Hamas and The Arabs)

December 2023

Introduction

In the history of the world, there was never a geo-political entity or a state or a nation called Palestine. The concerned region in West Asia which has been under continuous manufactured turmoil for decades has always been a part of other empires or states. After the break-up of the Ottoman Empire, this region was given by the League of Nations in 1922 to the British Empire to administer as a British mandate. The Israel-Palestine issue, for far too long, has been a burning topic of discussion and debate in diplomatic circles, in the media, and in intellectual lobbies. However, this enormous scale of discussions even in the higher echelons of diplomacy has been in vain over the past. The dichotomy between the aspirations of Israel and Arabs of Palestine is ever growing, and a workable solution cannot be framed by diplomats and lobbies of intellectuals who claim to be guardians of peace. Unfortunately, concerned country people have never cared to read between the lines of the ongoing conflict or tried to gain an on ground situational analysis. 

Introduction to One State or Two State Dialogue Models were modeled as 

The debate whether one-state or two-state solution is the way forward has been stretched beyond without constructive contribution to on ground action plans. To understand this further we need to critically discuss briefly the two concepts namely One-State Solution and Two-State Solution

One State, and Two Occupied Territories

The reality of West Asia from 1948 onwards is very different. We have seen variations of “One State, Two Occupied Territories” scenario from 1948 onwards.

During 1948-1967, Gaza strip was occupied by Egypt and the West Bank was occupied by Jordan. During this time, there was no call for vacating the occupation of these two occupied territories by Arabs while they still wanted to destroy Israel.

Situation changed drastically in 1967 when 13 Arab countries attacked Israel simultaneously and a seven days’ war ensued. After the defeat of Arab countries in 1967 war, these two territories were captured and occupied by Israel along with Golan Heights in Syria. The Yom Kippur war of 1973 did not change the ground situation in any way despite Israel getting a bloody nose in the surprise attack. It continued till 2005 when Israel vacated the Gaza strip in a geo-political experiment to allow the residents of that area local autonomy.

One State, One Occupied Territory, One Autonomous Territory

Since year 2005 onwards, we witnessed One State (Israel), One Occupied Territory (West Bak) and one autonomous territory (Gaza) situation. Israel not only vacated Gaza unilaterally, but also removed its armed forces, military bases, and dismantled all the Jewish settlements by force. Even the Jewish cemeteries were dismantled, and Jewish dead bodies were relocated from Gaza. More than 120,000 Gazans were given work-permits to work in Israel. However, this geo-political experiment seems to have failed because of Hamas’ control of Gaza and its preference for war mongering instead of state building. Hamas used the time and international fiscal and humanitarian aid from 2006 onwards for preparation of a major war in a deceptive manner. It appears that UN agencies colluded with Hamas in maintaining this deception while they knew that Hamas was misappropriating financial aid and digging tunnels for war.

One State, Two Protectorates Territories

Any future peaceable solution must be predicated on the need for security for the state of Israel and containment of the Arab terrorist gangs that call for genocide of the Jews and annihilation of the state of Israel. Israel will continue to exist as a modern pluralistic, democratic state. Its security can not be jeopardized with establishment of a militarily jingoistic racist Arab state that will be sworn to the destruction of Israel. The Arabs living in the region can be granted two self-governing, autonomous mini statelets without security and military capabilities that could become UN protectorates. Israel should be willing to vacate the occupation of West Bank. Such two UN protectorates can be allowed to run their own civil affairs but must not be allowed to militarize in any way. An Arab multilateral peacekeeping force will be needed under the UN auspices. Perhaps, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan can provide such a peacekeeping force to maintain law and order in these two UN protectorates while ensuring that no future terrorist organization takes birth in these two territories. Such an option would be vehemently opposed by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its regional acolytes including the Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. This might be the only peaceable solution that takes care of the interests of both people without causing further wars.

Dialogue Models were modeled as One State or Two State Solution

The future is analyzed in normalizing of ties to a minimum agreeable point by both the sides. This is not an era for perpetual warfare; Nor for terrorist organizations being allowed to control a state and commit genocide as Hamas is continuing to do with each passing day so with evolving dialogue models have led to defined conceptualized solutions. Let us discuss those solutions further

One State Solution: One-state solution is the preferred option of the Arabs and Muslims living in this region. They wish to wipe out the state of Israel by their clarion call of “From the River to Sea; Palestine Would be Free”. Unfortunately, for them, the state of Israel will not write its own obituary, ever.

One-State Solution implies de facto merging the current state of Israel, West Bank, and Gaza into one single political unit to be administered by a legitimate government. The Arab Population in this conceptualized single state will far overrun the Jewish population thereby leading to an end of the Jewish state as we know it. While others argue that Israel will or rather would have played along the voting rights of Arabs, thereby granting them only to the Jews at the cost of the democratic fabric being compromised. This solution will create second class citizens of Arabs in a one-state solution controlled by the Jews. Currently, Israel has 20% of its population who are Arabs and have voting rights and are not second-class citizens. At the end of the day, it is people who make a state succeed or fail and not the borders or the system of governance. We need to understand, acknowledge, and reflect upon the fact that the post October 7th, 2023, ground situation is very different. A single unified state becomes totally untenable with the current war between Hamas and Israel and lack of trust between Jews and Arabs.

Two States Solution: The Two State Solution on the other hand promotes the idea of two distinct and sovereign states co-existing peacefully devoid of any bloodshed. Various lobbies have echoed and supported this solution with the US leading the list. But the workability of this plan is under serious doubt. Two state solution has been offered at least five times to the Arabs living in the region. Every time it was rejected without serious consideration. The first time it was offered as part of the Belfour Declaration of 1917. During the period of 1917 to 1948, the Zionist organizations were purchasing land in the region and its was resisted by the Arabs violently. In 1948, the UN plan to partition the region into two states was neither accepted by the local Arabs nor by the neighboring Arab countries. Oslo accords that were signed in Norway between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin were pooh-poohed later by Yasser Arafat as akin to the treaty of Hudaybiyyah indicating that he had no intention to carry the peace process to the final step. In year 2000, during the Camp David Talks, then US President Bill Clinton offered Yasser Arafat a two-state solution with a Palestinian state comprising of the Gaza Strip, 94% of the West bank and capital as East Jerusalem. Still, Yasser Arafat did not budge from his refusal despite staying in Camp David for negotiations for a period of 14 days. In 2008 again, a two-state solution was offered to President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmood Abbas aka Abu Mazin and the option was refused again.

The presence of gory terrorist organizations like Hamas, the Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the region is one of the biggest impediments to the solution, or even further negotiations over the same. Moreover, the constant swing of various administrations in Israel from lending a listening ear to the two-state solution to out-rightly rejecting the idea of a Palestinian state is another impediment. Israel has seen a series of unstable democratic governments, fractured democratic mandates and internal civil turmoil in the country with the current Prime Minister facing legal troubles. Redrawing of borders, control over Jerusalem, and settlements in West Bank, and professed right to return have posed serious problems in the negotiations for decades.

Other important actors in this regard are the Organization of Islamic countries (OIC), Arab League and the Islamic Republic of Iran that have prevented solutions in the past. Islamic Republic of Iran has nurtured proxy non-state actors that have carried out terror attacks in the region. Saudi Arabia, that is virtually the dominant power in the region, along with Jordan and Egypt are concerned about the refugee crisis. When we delve deeper into Israel-Middle East relations, we understand how far Israel has come along to improve relations with countries in the region, with the support of the United States. But we need to understand any amount of goodwill in this regard will naturally dissipate and have a negative irreversible reaction if Israel continues its hostility towards a future Palestinian entity. This is evident from the temporary break in Israel-Saudi Arabia cooperation talks and eventual rapprochement. Once the talks are resumed, naturally the Palestine issue will resurface on the table for perusal by both sides. Saudi Arabia has maintained that Palestine must become an independent sovereign state. And for any future cooperation with them, Israel will have to accept this demand in the long run to maintain relations with Saudi Arabia. Israel hopes that the road for peace with other countries in the region passes through Saudi Arabia. All those who were once hostile towards Israel and wanted it to be removed from the face of the world may change their attitude if Saudi Arabia signs a peace treaty with Israel.

A two-state solution will guarantee and re-assure Jordan and Egypt that they will not be burdened with influx of refugees from Gaza and West Bank majorly. Refugee influx remains a possibility and is still not off the charts. With Hamas showing its true fangs and indulging in a ruthless mass murder, committing a genocide of civilians and sexual atrocities on women and children in parts of Israel, the moral support for a two-state solution seems to be diminishing. It appears that Arabs living in this region are not serious in solving the problem with a two-state solution and have consistently put roadblocks instead. They have destroyed the pathway for such a peaceful solution of co-existence of two nations from emerging.


Conclusion

However, To conclude, It is an open fact that diplomacy has failed to reach a mutually agreeable solution over the last few decades. However, such a novel proposition can form the cornerstone of future peace instead of disbanding diplomatic channels and turning a blind eye to violence of enormous magnitude daily

The first step should be demilitarization of Gaza strip and allied areas including the West Bank, and strictest measures towards disarming, and weakening Hamas if not eradicating it in the region. Terrorist organizations like Hamas should not be given a space on the table in decision-making process, The second step should be bringing on board leaders especially in the West Bank who can think along the lines of resolution of conflict and not otherwise. Only after actuation of these two steps, can one remotely think of negotiations to change the status-quo and reach the long wished-for peaceful solution for co-existence. The cherished two-state solution in some scholarly views has died in practice, and only remains in theory. There is no point flogging a dead horse. But, to change the blood-stained status-quo, it is imperative to take a gamble on this new theoretical idea of one state and two UN protectorates.

The entire global community looks at the region anxiously but with hopes of a better future devoid of terror groups like Hamas. The status quo just cannot remain forever. Israel and various Palestinian factions must take every possible step to bring back basic peace in the region and safeguard the lives of millions of innocent men, women, and children.

Agreeable conclusion is predicted as an era of ideas, innovations, and progress with an open question to resolve ” Can Peaceful process and effective diplomacy alone can really solve the ensuing crisis in the region? “.

International Diplomatic Affairs – Surveillance of Diplomats with Canadian Characteristics

November 2023

Background

A very radical blood-stained secessionist movement fostered, sponsored by Pakistan’s inter-service intelligence agency (ISI) and General Headquarters (GHQ) had paralyzed the agricultural bowl of India – Punjab in the 1970s and 1980s. Canadian government despite intelligence report was unable to prevent use of its sovereign territory by international Sikh terrorists despite repeated warnings by the Government of India in 1980s. Pierre Trudeau, the then Prime Minister refused to extradite a terrorist Talwinder Singh Parmar in early 1980s on a very specious argument that the British Queen was not India’s monarch and hence he would not extradite this terrorist to India. Such a lackadaisical attitude led finally to bombing and mid-Atlantic crashing of Air India’s Flight 182 airplane Kanishka in 1984 by a Sikh terrorist group Babbar Khalsa leading to loss of lives of 329 innocent passengers, including 289 Canadian citizens, 27 British citizens and 24 Indian citizens. Canada also dropped the ball in bringing the perpetrators to justice in a timely manner. All that sordid saga is art of the history that India just cannot forget and forgive. 

Introduction to International Diplomatic Affairs 

International Diplomacy is an art and the canvas of international relations is a fragile which should be dealt with cautious dialogue.  Recent adoption of wolf warrior diplomacy is China is not being appreciated by anyone in the world so to say The era of gunboat diplomacy is over. Threats and attempts to bully nations in clear words and acts not in line with the international law and diplomatic conventions are no longer acceptable.

Such tactics and actions leave an imprint and distort this beautiful and vital canvas which forms a key part in the world of international relations. One such undiplomatic incident in the recent past has left the world to ponder whether international law and conventions are just theoretical meant only for scholars in universities, students in libraries, and key-board warriors, or whether they still hold true value and real meaning when it comes to the practical world that we all inhabit.

Analyzing further the background, Canadian Diplomatic Upheaval

Naturalized Canadian citizen and a wanted terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June 2023 caused an upheaval in diplomatic relations between Ottawa and New Delhi. To give a backdrop of affairs, Hardeep Singh Nijjar was a proclaimed offender in India and leader of the Khalistan Tiger Force – a banned extremist organization that operates from overseas towards the nefarious mission of creating a separate ethno-religious sovereign state in the northern region of India. He had traveled to Canada in 1997 on a forged passport under an assumed name Ravi Sharma and his application for political asylum was initially rejected as fraudulent by Canadian immigration authorities. He applied again for legal status in Canada by entering into a fraudulent marriage and the application was rejected for the second time. Somehow the powers that be in Canada subsequently granted him legal status in Canada very quietly.

Having acquired Canadian citizenship in 2007, Nijjar had forcefully become the President of a local religious Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia. He ran violent campaigns, entered local politics and initiated multiple fundraisers to plan terror attacks in India. He was also involved in drug related gang warfare. The Interpol, in 2014, had issued a red corner notice against Nijjar, and subsequently in 2020, the Indian authorities announced Nijjar to be a fugitive terrorist. In 2022, Government of India opened diplomatic channels with the concerned authorities in Ottawa to extradite him to India through the 1987 bilateral treaty with Canada. However, the Canadian government yet once again ignored this plea. Ostensibly, they put him on the no-fly list and seemingly sheltered a proclaimed terrorist who by now had raised a gang of radical fanatics in Surrey, BC. This was followed by the alleged murder of Nijjar in Canada in June 2023 perhaps in a criminal gang warfare per local journalists. Following Nijjar’s murder, Canada based Sikh terrorist organizations and Trudeau administration leveled baseless allegations and accused India of conspiring to eliminate Nijjar- a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil.

Diplomatic Dance Drama
Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly doubled down on the allegations but renewable refused to share any concrete evidence. She wanted quiet diplomacy to work bilaterally but forgot her Prime Minister’s loudmouth actions and utterances in Canadian parliament which was anything but quiet diplomacy. This became a bone of contention between the two countries. India retaliated by suspending visa operations in Canada. Furthermore, in a spirit of reciprocity India asked Canada to downsize its diplomatic contingent in India to the number of Indian diplomats stationed in Canada. Canadian diplomats were consistently interfering in India’s internal affairs during the farmer’s agitation and the CAA protests. Justin Trudeau regime invoked The Vienna convention as a fig leaf to attack India. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relation 1961 allows for reciprocity in the number of consulates and number of diplomats by the host country. Initially Canada refused to heed to Indian advice.

Later, they were forced to withdraw 41 Canadian diplomats from Indian soil as they would have lost their diplomatic privileges. In Clarity, international laws, diplomatic conventions, privacy, and individual freedom were compromised on one hand and the grave plausible act of state-sponsored snooping on Indian diplomats stationed in Ottawa according to reports angered Indian government.

Were Indian diplomats under constant surveillance in Canada? If this were true, it violates the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relation 1961 and further complicates the perplexed scenario. Such illegal surveillance of Indian diplomats will severely hurt the Indo-Canadian relations. More so, these developments have opened fresh debates as to what could be the nature of this plausible state sponsored surveillance. While some suggest it to be snooping over informal conversations between diplomats, and employees in the Indian High Commission in Canada, others suggest it could be a rampant surveillance project encompassing tapping of mobile phones, illegal scrutiny of documents, and monitoring movements of the diplomats.

Whatever the case turns out to be, this grossly illegal, and bizarre act of seemingly state sponsored surveillance of Indian diplomats in Canada has compelled many to rethink and reconsider the safety, dignity and freedom of operation of foreign diplomats in host countries. If the basic boundaries of mutual respect and dignity can be overstepped and trampled upon by host countries, the diplomatic missions will be rendered without any tooth and nail. A fresh angle emerged in the Ottawa story soon after Nijjar’s son revealed to the press that “his father met regularly with officials of the Canadian Intelligence agencies.” If this is verified to be true, it hints to a unfortunate and disastrous possibility of Canadian Intelligence agencies cooperating and sharing intelligence with a wanted terrorist. Canada seemingly harbored an international terrorist thereby not only providing him with a safe haven but also possibly cooperating with him by providing intelligence information and through that encouraging him in carrying out his terror activities.

In any case, snooping over diplomats and putting them under illegal surveillance on foreign soil not only violates the Vienna convention, but also sets a dangerously alarming precedent and a foul trend. If diplomats do not enjoy privacy, protection, and freedom, then what is the purpose of setting up elaborate arrangements for diplomatic missions? The entire meaning, and purpose of diplomacy falls out, and loses its value and the world moving ahead can depend on unscrupulous means, tactics, and illegal surveillance to resolve issues, and develop thereby. The secrecy and privacy of diplomatic missions and diplomats in host countries are of paramount importance. If violated, neglected and misused, such practice could have serious repercussions on diplomatic relations, as it did in the case of India and Canada. No amount of explanation and caveats can justify this grave questionable act which not only defeats the purpose of diplomacy but also jeopardizes the safety of diplomats abroad.


Conclusion

However, To conclude, Canada must come forward, and reveal the signal and human intelligence input if any thereby expecting cooperation. Two months have passed since Justin Trudeau’s original statement in Canadian parliament on September 19th, he is still harping on the ‘credible allegations” without sharing any concrete evidence. India is a responsible nation and Canadian government must cooperate and untangle the complicated ties for their own good. It would be absolutely in Canada’s interest to open healthy channels of diplomatic dialogue to resolve the issue at hand and cooperate further in the extradition process of many other terrorists that are in hiding on Canadian soil with connivance and support from Canadian government. This act of sheltering terrorists not only jeopardizes India’s national security but also jeopardizes that of Canada. Canada has become a de facto fountainhead of terrorism analogous to Pakistan. The Trudeau administration must do course correction, apologize for grave diplomatic errors and initiate normalization of bilateral ties. To save the canvas of diplomatic relations from any further distortion, this move must come immediately.

An unconditional apology by Canada will eliminate any room for further speculation and publishing of conflicting and possibly motivated reports from both the sides. Moving ahead, the “Five Eye” countries must respect basic boundaries when it comes to hosting diplomatic missions. This mutual respect forms the cornerstone of international relations.

Enter the African Union – AU

October 2023

Background

The G-20 is an influential intergovernmental forum comprising 19 different countries and the European Union. And now with the African Union as the 21st member, a reformed G-21 comprises of some of the World’s leading economic giants. This forum addresses global economic issues such as international financial stability, sustainable development and issues relating to climate change mitigation. Earlier, the G-20 forum had only one African Country-South Africa. This move reflects a just, fair, and more inclusive and representative global economic architecture and governance. The AU is home to over 3 dozen of the world’s least developed and most backward countries and is plagued by poverty, issues relating to climate change, healthcare crisis, and allied problems. These challenges need to be countered with viable and swift solutions in an efficient and effective manner. Being a permanent member of such a diverse, strengthened, and influential economic and developmental forum is going to prove to be in African Union’s favor in every respect. The African Union will now have the backing of the influential G-20 which will support it economically, technologically, and otherwise help mitigate problems of Africa. The reinvigorated forum will provide each and every viable and genuine impetus required to counter problems in the African region and propel prosperity.


Introduction to Strategic Partnership 

The G-20 under Bharat’s presidency has seen remarkable success. One such landmark feat was the admission of the African Union (AU) as a permanent member of the G-20. It is now set to officially become G-21. This move is lauded for amplifying the voice of the global south and practicing inclusivity in the right manner thereby setting an international precedent. Under Bharat’s G-20 presidency, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made this historic announcement and welcomed the African Union into the G-20 as a permanent member- a status, the African Union was struggling hard to achieve over the last several years. The AU had been invited as a guest to the G-20 for the last several years while the European Union, a group of 27 developed European countries, had been a permanent member of the G-20 since beginning. This inclusion is set to have global impact and will amplify the needs and the voice of the global south. The African Union brings to the table the voice of 1.4 billion people and represents 3 trillion USD economy of the fastest growing region with a projected 4 percent growth rate. This membership will also play a pivotal role in Africa’s work towards implementing agenda 2030 and 2063, mobilizing technology transfer, climate finance, and seeking reforms at its financial institutions. It will also help to actuate the operationalization of the African Continental Free Trade Area. Welcoming this milestone in the UN general assembly’s 78th session on September 26th, 2023, the Minister for External Affairs, Dr. S Jaishankar reiterated the need for making the UN Security Council permanent membership more contemporary.

On the other side of the Handshake the African Union being a continental group of 55 countries has always been guided by its vision. To quote – 

An Integrated, Prosperous and Peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.”

This permanent membership at the G-20 will take the AU miles towards achieving its vision in true sense and provide a key forum for presenting the needs and aspirations of the African countries and people. After the inclusion of the AU, the refurbished G-20 (or the G-21) is now a forum that accounts for 80 percent of the world’s population, 97 of 193 members of the United Nations, representing 88 percent of global GDP, and nearly 80 percent of trade share.

The inclusion of the AU strikes a balance and turns off the prevailing euro-centric narrative. Shifting the traditional focus of the G-20 from Europe and European problems being projected as the world’s problems propels the Indian narrative of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” or the “one world, one family, one future”. No one forgets the objections China raised in the preparatory work before the New Delhi summit in opposing this motto for the G-20 meeting.

View Points and Implications

To understand the relevance of this move from Bharat’s perspective, we need to understand and highlight the fact that China has had a major head-start in the region owing to decade old BRI. China has a vast African footprint in terms of projects, investments, and bilateral engagement. Bharat was able to checkmate Chinese designs to adopt delaying tactics and put roadblocks. China wanted to delay the final decision to 2024 during Brazil’s presidency of the G-20. China wished to deny Bharat the ultimate honor of welcoming the AU into the reformed G-20 platform. However, Bharat has now emerged as the leader of the developing and the underdeveloped countries and is de facto the new voice of the global south. Bharat has countered China and its influence in the African region wisely by taking a step towards wooing the 55 countries of the African Union.

For Africa, this is a dream come true. It has now finally got what it lobbied and requested for the last many years. It is now a rightful and an equal member at the global high table of discussions, debate, and developments. A voice that is now much stronger and backed by the world than prior to this landmark announcement. Moreover, analogous to Bharat, Africa is key in achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs). African continent is one of the richest continents with tremendous natural resources like land, minerals, and a sizeable young population, full of potential.

The African Union must now utilize and capitalize on this new global positioning and forge a better positioning with global financial institutions like the World Bank. It should seek technology transfer and climate financing and support in debt reduction from the G20 and other institutions including BRI. The African Union must also re-calibrate some of its goals and its vision in line with that of the G20.

Backing from the AU shall also play a pivotal role in garnering consensus and votes as Bharat skillfully lobbies and tactfully battles for a permanent membership at the United Nations Security Council. Earlier, Bharat’s quest for a permanent membership was Bharat’s national project; it shall now be viewed to be in the interest of the global south too. Bharat will also strengthen its economic, diplomatic, political, and bilateral engagement with Africa in a strategic manner after this achievement. Bharat shall seek to counter the footprint of the dragon in the region and contribute to off-setting process effectively and efficiently. This milestone is also a vital component of Bharat’s Africa reach-out initiative. Bharat has had multiple ministerial level visits to the countries of the AU and the Prime Minister Modi has visited at-least 10 of the 55 African countries in the last 9 years. All this hard work meticulously gave shape to Bharat’s international positioning and strengthening it year after year, one step at a time.

Bharat now has the sold support of 55 African countries which shall prove pivotal in various international forums, summits, meetings, and blocs. Bharat historically has a record of sealing the best of partnerships and building the best of allies into trusted partners by patiently cultivating them without economic exploitation.

A closer look at Prime Minister Modi’s speech at the G20 also sheds light on his skillful assessment of the global situation. Bharat’s standing on the continuation of the war in Ukraine is much better understood. It highlights the need to combat multifold growth in trust-deficit which can be overcome analogous to the Covid-19 pandemic. Modi also reiterated the imperative need to work together for a better future and the need of the hour- ‘human centric development’. This and the historic AU milestone, have resulted in Bharat rightfully becoming a global leader by bringing the world together, voice of the global south by amplifying the voice of developing, and the underdeveloped nations, emerging as a champion for their cause and the creator of a new world order in the 21st century.


Conclusion

To point the next channel of partnerships, Bharat must continue to further build upon trade and strategic partnership with Africa and garner support at world forums such as the United Nations. Bharat also must continue to strive as the leader of the global south and champion of the cause of the under-developed and the developing nations and shape the creation of a new world order devoid of colonial mindset.

To conclude, Bharat and Africa share historic and cultural ties, this move has indeed made history, and will journal the annals of history thereby strengthening the partnership, and bond between the two civilizations.  

Games Putin Plays: Psychology of Kremlin’s Patriarchy

July 2023

Background

Russia has seen turmoil in the last two months when it comes to its internal situation and ostensible challenge to the leadership structure. The source of Schadenfreude for the West and NATO is the Wagner Group, infamously called Putin’s private army – a prominent private militia. 

It all started back in 2014, when the notorious and reportedly corrupt businessman with a previous criminal record- Yevgeny Prigozhin, established a private mercenary group. Prigozhin was successfully leading his catering business – ‘Concord’ that served the Kremlin. Prigozhin won lucrative army and state schools led catering contracts that earned him the title of ‘Putin’s Chef’. The legal basis for the private military company was shaky owing to a law in Russia categorically banning all types of mercenary activities. But in the Russian Federation, the laws are what Putin approves, condones, and tolerates. This private militia was initially a group of a few thousand retired army veterans and veterans from the elite and special forces. The group was established to fight alongside the government forces and to promote pro-Russia sentiment and nationalistic ideology. The idea was to help Russian forces combat its enemies- both in Russia’s near abroad region like Ukraine, and in the far-flung areas- e.g., to combat the French influence in Mali or Islamist terror groups in Syria alongside the pro-Syrian Government Forces.

The Wagner group was primarily instrumental in the 2014 invasion of Ukraine and played a key role in the annexation of Crimea. After this initial success, the group also extended its operations in regions like the Central African Region (CAR) to curtail the French influence and in Syria to combat Islamist terror groups., The Wagner group was vital in propping up of the Bashar-Al-Assad regime in Syria by backing his government and successfully fighting enemy forces including the ISIS alongside government forces.

In Recent Years from 2022 and into 2023 

The mercenary group rose to prominence during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 in the Donbas region and beyond. The private militia group may be considered as an ad-hoc arm of the Russian state providing support and aid to the Russian government forces in its operations and missions in the immediate neighborhood and beyond.

The tensions between the Wagner group and the Kremlin apparently began early this year. There were serious disagreements between Wagner group and the Russian Ministry of Defense. Prigozhin in his television address made shocking allegations against the Russian Ministry of Defense, the chief one being the paucity of ammunition provided to the Wagner group due to lopsided supply chain controlled by the Russian government. Another shocking allegation made was the gross negligence and neglect of the members of the Wagner group resulting in shelling and friendly fire attacks on Wagner fighters by the Russian Army. He also raised questions on the competence of the top military leadership in Russia and the lack of justice in the Russian armed forces. It is important to recall that the Wagner group was instrumental in Russia’s operation in Bakhmut. It was this very mercenary group that played a key role in capturing and overpowering the region. Soon after, the situation became murkier when Prigozhin threatened to leave the region, if his demands for more ammunition remained unfulfilled. Even back in May 2023, disagreements and disapproval could be sensed. But what was yet to come- the mutiny and the Justice March, remained behind the dark curtains of uncertainty.

By June 2023, tensions between the dissatisfied and the disenchanted group and the Russian leadership widened. Finally on June 24th, the Wagner group crossed over from Ukraine to Russia and seized the southern city of Rostov-on-Don and started taking over all military establishments in the city including the military headquarters. This was reportedly done with mass support of the civilian population and with zero firing. This certainly reflects cracks within the Russian leadership and the growing tendency of even the local citizens siding with elite militia groups. This was a massive blow to Putin’s supremacy and claim of rule with an iron fist. To the naïve, it was a live example of him losing grip over powerful commanders and even local masses. In the chaotic era of external warfare and international sanctions, an armed internal rebellion led by former loyalists and close confidants was the last thing Putin administration would be expecting.

The same day, a proud Prigozhin led his private army and marched towards Moscow. He christened this as the ‘Justice March’. The Putin regime soon began its damage control exercise. An official statement was issued by the Ministry of Defense claiming Wagner fighters had decided to abandon Prigozhin as he had dragged them into a criminal adventure. This was soon followed by a petulant Putin’s television address where he called the armed rebellion a stab and promised to crush the short-lived insurrection and punish the perpetrators (traitors) in a speedy manner. But by then the Wagner affiliated fighters were on their way towards Moscow, advancing at a lightning speed and capturing Rostov-on-Don overnight without firing a single shot. The Russian military helicopters started their offensive operations against the Wagner fighters and positioned machine guns near Moscow. Meanwhile, reportedly, Prigozhin was offered amnesty if he and his entire group laid down their weapons. Soon, Prigozhin announced retracting from his justice march towards Moscow ending the rebellion.

Just then, the Belarusian President- Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President- Vladimir Putin, officially announced his role in brokering an amicable peace deal between the Russian state authorities and the Wagner group. According to this deal, Wagner chief Prigozhin would be allowed to migrate to Belarus and all charges against him will be dropped. Meanwhile, Wagner fighters that did not participate in the justice march would be awarded military contracts. Though, the Russian propaganda machinery would twist this story and pinpoint the blame on NATO, Ukraine and other enemies of Russia while lauding the Putin administration for making peace with the Wagner group without massive bloodshed and collateral damage. Insinuations of bribes paid by the CIA to the Wagner group were bandied around. Headlines screamed that Pentagon’s accounting error means an extra $6.2 billion in aid for Ukraine. But the truth remains crystal clear. An anti-Putin sentiment was brewing and this time it was heavily led by powerful commanders and former loyalists who might be planning a coup. Though we cannot undermine Putin’s leadership and capability to rule and effectively and efficiently counter any chances of a coup, this incident surely must be a red flag and a warning signal for him. If genuine, it would make an already perennially paranoid Putin more paranoid and will give him a chance to bring back loyalists under his iron-fist and restrict their autonomy or else another Prigozhin might pop up.

What lies ahead is yet to be seen. It is sure that there is going to be a long period of ensuing deception, confusion, and chaos in the regions where the Wagner forces are still present outside of Russia like CAR and Syria. It is yet unknown in whose interest would they work for now despite their chief fleeing into the territorial boundaries of Belarus. The current situation, post the failed mutiny might also force China- a close ally and partner of Putin in countering US to rethink its position. It will increase Chinese support and faith in the Putin administration that appears to be struggling with internal fragile framework. Meanwhile Poland is strengthening its borders in midst of the Wagner challenge! The USA backed reports are propagating the idea that Putin has been seriously weakened and is buying time to strike revenge against the mutiny chief.

Though the mutiny ostensibly failed, it did cast a huge shadow over Putin’s authority and hold over the Russian state. It has also brought back NATO and other like-minded nations to the discussion table. Ukraine on the other hand, seemed extremely elated to see such a turn of events and more importantly at the show of defiance by former loyalists of Putin. The swift reversal by all the players involved in psychodrama does suggest a stage-managed show for the benefit of the West and Ukraine. It cannot be ruled out as part of devious psychological warfare. Meanwhile, the Wiley Putin has essentially managed to transfer his private militia into Belarus along with his tactical nuclear missiles!

One must remember that over the last two decades, Putin’s rule has not been so weak that a mere threatened mutiny led by a private militia group can be a major threat. It is totally inconceivable that the Wagner group could successfully actuate a coup against Putin.


Conclusion

However, the warning bells are still ringing. The Kremlin must reflect upon as to what went wrong if at all. Appropriate necessary action must be initiated by Russian authorities to bring back their house of horror in order and avoid possibility of a civil war. And most importantly for the Kremlin is the herculean task of thwarting the US and NATO from taking advantage of this precarious domestic situation. If indeed Pentagon’s unaccounted $6.2 billion went to Prigozhin as bribe, both Putin and Prigozhin must be having the last laugh at the expense of Pentagon! Did the Pentagon really rob Peter (US taxpayer) to pay Paul (Prigozhin)? Only Putin and Prigozhin can pontificate on this problem!

NATO Plus-Six offer to India: Much Do About Nothing

June 2023

Background

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s formal state visit to the United States, a US Congressional Committee on China has recommended inclusion of India in the NATO Plus-five mechanism. This move hopes to transform the mechanism into NATO plus-six if India were to accept a formal offer. The objective is to further strengthen the US-led military alliance in a strong bid to contain China especially with a war over Taiwan looming over the horizon. This development has been touted as a measure of personal influence and achievement by some loquacious Indian American groups that claim to influence the US policy on India. Somehow, the recommendation instantly started being vigorously echoed in geopolitical and other echo-chambers. The putative offer also comes at a time when the world is in a geo-political crisis that can be best termed as a burgeoning global disorder

Before delving deep into analyzing the rationality of the offer, a brief background of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) is imperative for better clarity and enhanced understanding. NATO as a military alliance was formed in 1949. There were only 12 founding member states that are primarily located in the North Atlantic Region. There has been aggressive eastward expansion of NATO since the fall of the Soviet Union despite numerous assurances to the contrary. This did cause extreme consternation in Russia when Ukraine became a candidate for NATO membership. It now comprises of 31 members: the latest entrants being Finland and Sweden. Ukraine is still waiting to be admitted to NATO.

The original purpose of the alliance was to protect its European members against military threats collectively from the erstwhile Soviet Union, promote peace, and cooperation in Europe. Lord Hastings Ismay, NATO’s first Secretary General, said NATO’s purpose was “to keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down”. NATO also committed the member states to ‘collective defense’ which under Article 5 of the treaty, explicitly states that if any member state is under armed attack, every other member state will consider it as an armed attack against all members, thereby initiating collective military action against the aggressor. In recent years, NATO has exceeded its original brief and has undertaken activities outside Europe, mainly in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria beyond its charter.

The NATO plus five mechanism, started in 2000, collaborates with 5 other partner states, namely: Australia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea that are not formal NATO treaty allies. This mechanism does not legally bind the partners to article 5 of the NATO treaty as these are not NATO members. There is no mutual defense guarantee or commitment but collaboration on security, intelligence sharing and other issues. However, all these five states have either bilateral or multilateral security guarantees from the US. All five of them benefit from the extended deterrence under the US nuclear umbrella.

US Perspective

NATO now seeks to extend its influence, by offering a NATO plus-six mechanism to India, ostensibly to deal with the China threat in the Indo-Pacific region but primarily affecting Taiwan. Besides containing China, the American perspective is to further strengthen the strategic relationship between US and India. If India were to become US strategic ally, it will neutralize India’s long standing strategic relationship with Russia. It is important to note that the offer was not officially made, it was a mere congressional committee recommendation. US would like India to be a military ally which India so far has steadfastly refused. Despite obvious differences with India on Russia during the Russia-Ukraine War, the US wants to leave no stone unturned to make India follow the US policy of backing up Ukraine and supporting sanctions on Russia. However, US establishment fails to realize that India has historically followed an independent foreign policy.

The Indian Perspective

India- is emerging as a regional power, and a net security provider in the Indian ocean region. Unlike China, India is not chasing the superpower dream despite talk about being a Vishwa Guru. Everybody wants India in their camp, the US being no exception. India places her national interests first and accords them with paramount importance. This was again reiterated by the External Affairs Minister of India – Dr. S. Jaishankar when posed with a question regarding oil purchases from Russia to meet energy demands in India in the midst of sanctions on Russia and backlash emanating from Washington, DC. However, when it comes to foreign policy, one must always be flexible and pragmatic, for the global order is under constant change.

Therefore, both the advantages and disadvantages of NATO plus offer must be evaluated. If India is to accept the offer, it will result in seamless access to latest American and NATO defense technology and equipment. India will also be able to share top-secret US intelligence just like other NATO plus five partners. India may also get NATO military support in case of a future war with China if India were US partner.

There are more disadvantages that will hobble India the moment she accepts the so-called offer. It will spell doom for the historic strategic ties with Russia. That country also happens to be India’s largest defense supplier even now despite attempts by India to diversify procurement of weapons. Approximately 70% of Indian armament is of Russian origin and cannot be replaced immediately. Geographically speaking, India is nowhere close to the North Atlantic Region. India has Communist China to deal with on her northern land border. India joining NATO plus-six mechanism will certainly rattle China and will create more instability on the line of control, Therefore, the proposed partnership does not suit Indian interests in geographic sense too. India is capable of handling and combating the threat from China, independently.

Even if India were to accept the NATO plus-six mechanism, it will undermine India’s strategic independence. Unlike Pakistan, India had refused to join US led military blocks in Asia viz. CENTO and SEATO after independence. In the recent times India has already moved away from the utopian concept of non-alignment to ‘multi alignment’ which refers to maintaining good diplomatic relations with multiple states across the globe. India firmly believes that international relations are not zero-sum game. A recent example is India’s neutral stand on the Russia-Ukraine war. India has placed national interests as a priority without bowing down to western policies and pressure despite having good relations with the US.

With India accepting this NATO plus offer, India’s membership in BRICS, SCO, RIC and other forums will be untenable. There is also a possibility of India getting sucked into newer European conflicts. India will not be treaty ally under the article five, but the expectation would be to support future NATO missions with Indian troops and military equipment just like Australia does. Joining the NATO plus-six mechanism will be a constant hindrance to India’s own strategic priorities. Moreover, Indian soil, will have to welcome the establishment of US or NATO military bases which will aim to counter China. Such a move will severely undermine Indian sovereignty and may lead to a phenomenon that India has never witnessed before- hosting foreign military bases on its soil. India may be forced to kowtow to the US, EU, and NATO pressure on joining the NPT and the CTBT both of which India finds discriminatory.

Conclusion

The disadvantages to India clearly outweigh the advantages of the NATO plus-six offer. It is apparent that India joining the NATO plus-six mechanism is more in the US’s security interests. It also helps political interest of some Indian American political hacks, arm sellers and their lobbyists. The so-called offer has very little strategic relevance to India and her security concerns, at least for now. That is why it was summarily rejected by the Indian External Affairs Minister. As opposed to what is being shouted in the echo-chambers, this rejection of the offer, will not have any detrimental effect on India-US bilateral relationship which is more mature now. The US government has realized that India is committed to an independent and national-interest centric foreign policy. Kurt Campbell, the White House Indo-pacific coordinator has already acknowledged that India will not be a US ally but will be a great power. India must continue her independent foreign policy, maintain strategic independence and use her soft power, hard power and the smart power- as she deems necessary.