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Af-Pak: Is Something Big Cooking?

October 17, 2012 4 comments

Will the first fifteen days of October go down in history as that which changed 21st century?

Between policy and propaganda; trying to link reality with 'spin'  |  Cartoon on Oct  15  2012  titled Unraveling  by Bob Gorrell; source & courtesy - cagle.com

Between policy and propaganda; trying to link reality with ‘spin’ | Cartoon on Oct 15 2012 titled Unraveling by Bob Gorrell; source & courtesy – cagle.com

The last 15 days  has seen some curious diplomacy that spilled over into the public domain.

First was China ratcheting up hostility with Japan over some silly islands – which had some value in the past. And supposedly some value in the future. For now, there is a chance of hostilities (not war) between Japan and China.

Question: Why did China decide to take on the Japan – when it could have more easily taken on Vietnam, Philippines? Maybe even India.

What we have finally after 25 years of American intervention in Afghanistan  |  Cartoon on Oct  14  2012  titled Triumph of Taliban  by Marian Kamensky; source & courtesy - cagle.com

What we have finally after 25 years of American intervention in Afghanistan | Cartoon on Oct 14 2012 titled Triumph of Taliban by Marian Kamensky; source & courtesy – cagle.com

Two. There was Putin’s non-visit to Pakistan for a quadrilateral summit (Oct 2-3) between Russia, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. This Pakistan visit was to be followed with an India visit by Anatoly Serdyukov, Russian Defence Minister, on October 4, 2012 – which too was postponed.

In the meantime, Pakistan’s Army Chief, Ashfaq Kayani landed in Moscow. Even as Kayani was in Moscow, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov was in Pakistan.

Three: In the rest of world, momentous things were happening. Venezuela, which today has bigger oil reserves than Saudi Arabia, has re-elected Hugo Chavez as its President. This will possibly deeply affect global oil equations. Meanwhile, the West continued with its Middle East war plans against Syria and Iran.

Could the answer to this puzzle be Afghanistan?

Why is Afghanistan so important? The Soviet Union spent billions on the Afghan invasion – and the US has spent trillions. The Afghan War is already the longest war the US has fought.

Three reasons why Afghanistan is important.

Why have peace, when you can have war?  |  Cartoon by Cameron Cardow  on Oct  11  2012  titled Opportunity; source & courtesy - cagle.com

Why have peace, when you can have war? | Cartoon by Cameron Cardow on Oct 11 2012 titled Opportunity; source & courtesy – cagle.com

Oil. Oil. Oil.

But Afghanistan has no oil.

The oil is in Central Asia and Russia.

While Asian oil consumption is increasing, Western oil consumption is expected to slightly decline. Shale oil in US, North Sea oil in Europe are likely to account for   increasing share of Western production and consumption. Brazil, Canada, Venezuela can’t ship more oil to US and Europe in the next twenty years. China, India, Japan and Korea are dependent on oil imports. Oil consumption in these markets is growing – unlike the West.

In which case, the Central Asian, Latin American and Russian oil exports will move towards Asia.

While Obama promised one thing, he did another. No different from other US President. |  Cartoon titled President Strangelove By RJ Matson, The St. Louis Post Dispatch - on 4/10/2012 12:00:00 AM; source & courtesy - cagle.com

While Obama promised one thing, he did another. No different from other US President. | Cartoon titled President Strangelove By RJ Matson, The St. Louis Post Dispatch – on 4/10/2012 12:00:00 AM; source & courtesy – cagle.com

India’s stakes are really high in Afghanistan, especially once the Western troops leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014. What are the likely scenarios that may develop in Afghanistan once the foreign troops leave that country?

With India getting closer to the US, and building on its historic ties with Russia, there are even more opportunities for India, US and Russia to collaborate in stabilising Afghanistan.

India should help Afghanistan become the gateway between South and Central Asia. India is already building close ties with the Central Asian countries, especially given the rising demand for oil and natural gas in India. The historic TAPI gas pipeline, when completed, will bring natural gas from Turkmenistan to India via Afghanistan and Pakistan, which could be a game-changer for the entire region.

via India’s options in the Afghanistan end-game | Russia & India Report.

From Reagan to Obama, from Iran to Afghanistan, how US interventions have handcrafted the Islamic monster  |  Cartoon on Oct  16  2012  titled Mind Over Monster  by Cal Grondahl; source & courtesy - cagle.com

From Reagan to Obama, from Iran to Afghanistan, how US interventions have handcrafted the Islamic monster | Cartoon on Oct 16 2012 titled Mind Over Monster by Cal Grondahl; source & courtesy – cagle.com

With the Middle East in a state of permanent state of instability, India would like to have greater diversity in supply sources. This where the Russian oil comes in.

India is an energy deficient country and Russia has an energy surplus and therefore, a mutual interest lies in this sector. India’s policy makers are trying to promote energy cooperation based on political understanding. The Indian side feels that there is a clear compatibility between India’s needs and Russia’s resources. The Indian side is adopting a policy to implement the experience of Sakhalin-1 to other oilfields in Russia.

The Indian side feels that though these two countries are not geographically contiguous it is not a hindrance for cooperation since the international oil and gas trade is not based on contiguity. India’s interest in the Russian energy sector has already been proved by the country’s investment in Sakhalin-1. While public sector energy companies from India have already made considerable investments in Russia, now India is also promoting its private sector companies for investments in downstream petroleum units in Russia in return for a stake in petroleum refineries there. India has proposed an exploration venture with Russian gas majors Gazprom and Rosneft and sought a stake in the Sakhalin-III oil and gas project in the Far East. The Indian side has proposed joint venture to work on gas liquefactions projects in Russian offshore fields for Shipment to India. Indian companies are being welcomed due to Indo-Russian strong strategic ties.

India is also looking for options for transporting Russian crude to India through a pipeline link from Xinjiang to India. But this depends on a joint agreement between Russia-Kazakhstan-China-India. The proposal is such, where crude from Russia could be transported via 1,240 kilometre-long pipeline from Atasu in northwest Kazakhstan to China’s Xinjiang province. Depending on the robustness of multilateral initiatives, a pipeline could be constructed to connect China’s Xinjiang province to India. This pipeline could enter the Xinjiang province in China at Altai, climb the Tian Shan Mountains and extend southward to the Kunlun Mountains in India.

India’s ONGC has proposed another energy highway to construct a Russia-China-India (RCI) pipeline. The RCI is supposed to stretch from Russia through Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, to Kashgar in Chinese Xinjiang. It will enter India via Laddakh, crossing the Siachen glaciers and the India-China Line of Control or alternatively through Himachal Pradesh to supply gas to Northern India. According to ONGC (India) officials, the economic and technical aspects of the proposal remain undetermined. The proposed pipeline would extend over an extremely long stretch of varied terrain (construction of the pipeline may cost somewhere up to $15 Billion, or slightly less if connected through already operating pipelines).

The Russia’s energy strategy towards Asia clearly mentions India as one of the important target countries along with Japan, China, and Korea. India is carefully taking note of Russia’s hydrocarbon vision, as now India wants to have a strong presence in Russia’s massive energy sector that can help ensure India’s vital energy security. All these indicate that both the nations can expand the cooperation in the energy sector too as they did in the defence sector. Amidst all these developments there is a hope that India-Russia energy cooperation will scale towards new heights.

via Energy cooperation between India and Russia: Policy and approach | Russia & India Report.

For too long, India has been dependent on a unstable Middle East for oil imports  |  Cartoon dated Sep  19  2012  titled Agitator  by Arend van Dam; source & courtesy - cagle.com

For too long, India has been dependent on a unstable Middle East for oil imports | Cartoon dated Sep 19 2012 titled Agitator by Arend van Dam; source & courtesy – cagle.com

In the meantime, Pakistan is seeing a conflict between US Army and Pakistani Army. Facing an unprecedented barrage of drone attacks from US, a ‘so-called’ ally, Pakistan’s civilian population is paying a heavy price.

Is the United States starting a low-intensity war against Pakistan? The signs look ominous. The relentless drone attacks through the recent months are destabilizing Pakistan’s tribal areas, especially the areas adjacent to the border with Afghanistan. The US’ excuse is that the drones are hunting down the militants belonging to the so-called Haqqani group. But they are causing a lot of civilian casualties so much so that the United Nations officials begin to wonder if these wanton killings would constitute ‘war crimes’.

Pakistan government keeps protesting to the US about the violation of its territorial integrity but the US ignores the demarches and continues with the drone attacks.

The US would know that the drone attacks do not provide the conducive setting for a normalization of the US-Pakistan relationship. Yet, it is not prepared to give up the drone attacks. There seems to a game plan to systematically destabilize the Waziristan area and to provoke the Pakistani military leadership.

Meanwhile, there has been a concerted attack by assorted militants of dubious backgrounds on Pakistani troops from across the border in Afghanistan. Exactly who they are or who are their mentors no one knows. In a cross-border strike on Monday, the militants used extremely brutal method to behead Pakistani soldiers. Evidently, they were making a point – showing their thumbs up at the Pakistani military leadership.

To add to the tensions, for the first time, the militants have publicly admitted that they do enjoy ‘safe haven’ on Afghan soil. This is something Pakistan has hinted at in recent period but it is now coming into the open. Again, they are taunting the Pakistani military leadership. The former US President George W. Bush would say, “Bring ‘em on!”

This is going to be a cat-and-mouse game. Pakistan is hunkering down and the US is losing patience. The decision in Washington seems to be to carry the war into Pakistani territory and incrementally inflict such unbearable losses that Pakistan finds it impossible to defy the US’ regional strategies.

Quite obviously, the US has concluded it has no alternatives but to step up the pressure and escalate tensions in a calibrated way. The US has been taken by surprise at Pakistan’s ‘strategic defiance’. The fact of the matter is that the present directions of Pakistani foreign policy hold the serious threat of undermining the US’ regional strategies with regard to permanent military presence in Central Asia, US’ containment strategy toward China (and Russia), projection of the NATO as a global security organization and of course the so-called New Silk Road Initiative.

The possibility that with Russian and/or Chinese participation, Pakistan might proceed with the Iran gas pipeline project infuriates the US to no end. Pakistan’s manifest enthusiasm for Russia’s participation in the TAPI [Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India] gas pipeline project rubbishes the US’ expectations that American companies could secure lucrative energy contracts via involvement in the project. The US apprehends that during the visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Pakistan in September, the two countries may begin a qualitatively new level of relationship with major projects in the energy sector.

If that happens, the US’ containment strategy toward Iran also begins to unravel.

In sum, the US’ patience is wearing thin. The common wisdom in the international community, historically speaking, has been that the Pakistani elites with their comprador mentality might say a few hot words now and then but would ultimately be loyal foot soldiers of the US agenda. The basis of this supposition is that ultimately the class interests of the Pakistani elites would prevail as the crucial determinant of statecraft. Of course, the US has had to pick up the tab for the services rendered by Pakistan but that was only to be expected.

The US establishment has been attuned to this paradigm characteristic of the cold-war era. That is why the US establishment is shocked to see that the Pakistani elites (military leadership, in particular) are no longer what they were supposed to be – Washington’s hirelings serving the US’ global agenda.

Washington’s wrath will only increase in the coming months. We are witnessing the commencement of a US-inspired low-intensity war against Pakistan being waged by obscure militant groups based in ‘safe havens’ inside Afghanistan. Call it by whatever name one likes, but the project aims at breaking Pakistan’s strategic autonomy.

To be sure, Pakistan comprehends what is going on. But what are its policy options?

via “Bring ’em on!” – US tells Pakistan | Russia & India Report.

And guess what?

Indian paparazzi, chatteratti, twitteratti, bloggeratti, not to forget the literati, glitterati, were busy with ‘corruption-scandals’!


All about Oil

At the root of US-Iran rivalry, is the question of who will supply oil and gas to India and China.

Big Oil has the eyes, ears, mind, actions of the world's ruling elite - also in India. (Cartoon by : David Horsey of Seattle Post-Intelligencer; Cartoon courtesy - usj.com. ). Click for larger image.

Big Oil has the eyes, ears, mind, actions of the world’s ruling elite – also in India. (Cartoon by : David Horsey of Seattle Post-Intelligencer; Cartoon courtesy – usj.com. ). Click for larger image.

Big oil

Significant part of global politics in the last 10-15 years has been dictated by three developments. One – Oil reserves in Central Asia and the Caspian Sea. Two – Stagnant oil consumption by the West. Three – Rising oil consumption by India and China. For instance US oil consumption between 1973-2010 has grown from 17 mpd to 19 mpd – with some consumption peaks and demand  collapses.

US-Iran clash

Iran is a rival to Big Oil companies of the US and West, as a supplier of oil and gas to India. Iran can easily and cheaply transport oil from its own oil fields – as well as Central Asian production. Iran can thus completely cut out US and its oil companies from the future of oil business with India and China. Hence, the US-Iran rivalry. The Oil-Dollar Tango on which the US Economy is based for the last 30-40 years, also supports Big Oil.

US would like overland oil from Central Asia to come to India and China through Pakistan and Afghanistan – which are US client states. With this the US can cut out Iran – completely. Pakistan and Afghanistan become key gateways for oil to India and China. Hence, the power struggle in Pakistan between Army, Taliban, and the Pakistani politicians.

China's rising oil imports is supporting high oil prices. (Graphic source and courtesy - bbc.co.uk). Click for larger image.

China’s rising oil imports is supporting high oil prices. (Graphic source and courtesy – bbc.co.uk). Click for larger image.

India-Pakistan story

What will be US role, if India and Pakistan were to sit down and resolve their issues. India-Pakistan troubles in the recent past, must be seen in this light, too.

India is negotiating with a Central Asian-US Big Oil Consortium to bring gas via Afghanistan and Pakistan to India – dubbed as the TAPI pipeline. It is also in discussion with Iran and Pakistan to bring gas from Iran to India via Pakistan – commonly known as IPI pipeline.

India’s choice between IPI-TAPI is crucial – and will take another 5-10 years to resolve. In the meantime, Iran’ has an interesting point of view.

The Iranian diplomat reposed faith in the “rationality” of the Indian leadership (and it) would take the “best decision” to meet the energy needs of (an) economy aspiring to be the world’s second largest. He drew attention to Iranian export options of China and Europe other than India.

“India has to decide how to meet its energy needs. Use of nuclear energy has become questionable after the earthquake in Japan. The demand for fossil energy is bound to increase with long term nuclear power projects on hold in Europe,” sources explained.

Security was a major Indian concern — besides pricing — in the talks on the pipeline that would have been laid across the lawless Balochistan where Islamabad’s writ is non-existent in vast stretches controlled by local tribes.

If (security was a major Indian concern) then how was New Delhi in talks on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, they asked. “The (security) concerns that exist about IPI exist with TAPI in which case the source of (gas) supply is also dubious,” they averred.

Bagheri attributed the spread of terrorism in the region to the presence of Nato and US troops. “Countries like US are at the root of terrorism in the region. They first created the terrorist groups and have come to the region now on the pretext of fighting them,” he said. “Terrorism has increased since their arrival.”

He cited UN figures to claim that narcotics production went up four times and was the maximum in areas under the control of British troops in Afghanistan. (via Iran gives up on India, pursues gas pipeline with Pak – Hindustan Times).

What is New Delhi’s strategy in all this. Partly, it is increasing oil production within India. Secondly, is increasing the share of nuclear energy. Third is imports.

As usual, tough choices ahead.

Oil reserves across the world. (Graphic source and courtesy - indiadaily.org). Click for larger image.

Oil reserves across the world. (Graphic source and courtesy – indiadaily.org). Click for larger image.


The IPI-TAPI Story

December 31, 2010 3 comments

Soon after 26/11, before David Headley-Tahawwur Rana revealation, a 2ndlook reader indicated US complicity in Mumbai attacks.

A Pakistani Cartoon.

A Pakistani Cartoon.

The Pakistani jihad in Kashmir

For many years India has been negotiating with Iran and Pakistan for a gas pipeline through Pakistan for conveying Iran gas – usually referred to as IPI gas pipeline – $7.4 billion (Rs. 33,374 crore) Iran-Pakistan-India 2,300km gas pipeline project. Iran and Pakistan threatened to go ahead with China instead. Seems like an empty threat.

Soon after 26/11, a reader of the 2ndlook pointed out that biggest beneficiaries of 26/11 was possibly China and the West. So would be the Central Asian oil producers. After 26/11, the IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline  was a dead duck. He speculated that the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India), a 1,044-mile pipeline, would be a clear winner. It seemed so outlandish at that time – but it has actually happened. By the way, India attended the first TAPI summit held at Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, in April 2008.

Some interesting parallels

The point man for the sponsors of the Mumbai 26/11 attack was David Coleman Headley – a CIA agent – the brains behind the 26/11 attack. After 26/11, the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) oil/gas pipeline was in jeopardy. Even before that as India and the USA were readying the world for a nuclear deal, the last meeting on the IPI pipeline between Iran, Pakistan and India happened in July 2007.

Instead, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Pipeline (TAPI) is being pushed by the Americans. Now all this would have been unremarkable – except that a 2ndlook reader predicted this turn of events 2 year ago.For many years India has been negotiating with Iran and Pakistan for a gas pipeline through Pakistan for conveying Iran gas – usually referred to as IPI gas pipeline. Who wins. Many think it is China.

Are we just getting some bedtime stories?

Are we just getting some bedtime stories?

With India fixated on Pakistan how much does our security apparatus think of the West being the conspirators behind this attack? Two years after the 26/11 attack, this rather curious post appeared in Times of India.


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