REGIONAL AND GLOBAL GEOPOLITICAL SCENARIO
Tensions continue to escalate between China and Taiwan, stoked by the United States provocative maneuvers in the region. Tensions also escalate between China and the US over South China Sea issues, while countries in the region are being pressured by the US to pick sides.
India and Japan, two major swing powers in the Asia-Pacific, signed an agreement that shows their strategic convergence in their geopolitical interests in the Indo-Pacific region, with growing concerns about China.
Russia started to increase his homeland’s military presence in the Far East along the border with China and the wider Asia-Pacific, to make contingencies through sufficient military capabilities in a region which could be severely affected because of a potential conflict, mainly due to brewing tensions between the navies of the US and China.
For its part, Germany announced a set of Indo-Pacific policy guidelines, after recognize that the growing strategic uncertainty in the region is likely to have direct impact on Germany’s future security.
With regard to the China´s Belt and Road Initiative in Asia Pacific, Thailand announced in September it will cancel the Kra Canal, that would provided a strategic avenue for the Chinese Navy to dominate the Indian Ocean Region, and cut short oil supply by sea to China, avoiding the crowded Straits of Malacca. The decision is not only a major set-back for China, but a strategic gain for India.
Regarding anti-government protests in Asia Pacific, Thailand and the Special Administrative Region of China -Hong Kong- were affected during September by massive protests. In Hong Kong, protesters took the streets to protest against the government, accused of stalling to avoid the defeat of establishment candidates, and to show their anger at a draconian security law imposed by Beijing that is silencing dissent.
In Thailand, tens of thousands gathered in Bangkok for a major rally demanding the resignation of Thailand’s prime minister and reforms to the monarchy.
During September new clashes broke out between Indian and Chinese troops on their flashpoint Himalayan border in a further escalation of military tension between the nuclear-armed Asian rivals, despite peace talks between China and Indian External Affairs Ministers.
Also in September, Pakistan announced its plans to “provisionally” make the Gilgit-Baltistan region of disputed Kashmir part of the country, feeding Indian apprehensions that it might have to fight a two-front war against both China and Pakistan.
Almost at the same time, India woos Iran to keep China away from Chabahar (which connects India to Afghanistan, where India’s presence is linked to its rivalry with neighboring Pakistan). India has been worried about China gaining foothold in Chabahar, after Iran dropped New Delhi from infrastructure projects and started negotiating a long-term deal with Beijing.
China, for its part, announced that is willing to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan (almost at the same time Afghanistan reaffirmed their need for a new era of bilateral relations with Pakistan, which have often gone through periods of deep mistrust).
The CPEC -$62 billion BRI project aimed to connect China’s Xinjiang region to Pakistan’s Gawadar Port- could be affected by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, a strong ally of al-Qaeda), after the terrorist organization pose threats to projects linked to China’s BRI in northwestern Pakistan, according what some sources informed in September.
China is also concerned about Taliban coming to power in Afghanistan. It will mean a “fundamentalist Islamist theocracy” in control over a strategic territory.
Regarding anti-government protests in countries of South Asia, Pakistan was affected during September by rallies against Prime Minister Imran Khan, calling for Khan’s resignation.
In the South Caucasus, Armenian and Azeri forces exchanged fire over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, rekindling concern over stability in the region, which houses a corridor for pipelines carrying oil and gas to world markets, and has a strategic importance for Azerbaijan and Europe (as it provides energy and transport links to Georgia, Turkey and other countries of Europe for the Azerbaijani oil and gas). The region also maintains the pro-Moscow geostrategic balance in the Southern Caucasus region that straddles Eastern Europe and Middle East. Russia (pro-Armenian) has clashed with Turkey (pro-Azerbaijan) regarding Syria and Libya, but another direct confrontation because of Nagorno-Karabakh seems out of sight, according to several analysts.
UAE and Bahrain sign in September the normalization deal with Israel, sharing an interest in opposing Iran’s influence in the region and, on the other hand, the construction of a land pipeline for oil for shipping from the Mediterranean coast onto Europe and North America, that would be cheaper and safer by bypassing the dangerous and costly Straits of Hormuz and Suez Canal shipping routes. Iran and Turkey are already trying to take a unified stance against the deal. Fractured Palestinian political factions are working diligently in multilateral talks to restore unity.
As for Syria, Russia and the US have strengthened during September their forces in the northeastern, while the Islamic State operations have intensified in the region. Eastern Syria is a strategic region, as it is close to Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and the Mediterranean, in addition to the presence of oil fields.
On the contrary, the United States has decided to reduce troops in Iraq during September. They believed that Iraq local forces alone can prevent the Islamic State from returning. President Trump is also set to announce further troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, in accordance with a bilateral agreement signed with the Taliban.
Further, as usual, the United States announced during September fresh sanctions against Iran.
Regarding anti-government protests in countries of the Middle East, in Israel thousands of demonstrators took to the streets several times demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has been indicted for corruption.
During September escalating tensions continue between Turkey and its coastal neighbors Greece and Cyprus over rights to search for energy resources in the region, while announcing the possibility that Russia will hold live-fire naval exercises in the eastern Mediterranean as a message from Moscow that it remains a major regional player in the disputed region. The Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (Egypt, Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Jordan and Israel) conformed a regional organisation -with France and United States support- that aims to counter Turkish harassment.
Other conflict that continued to plague Europe during September is the one caused by the events in Belarus. The United States and Europe announced they don´t consider Lukashenko the legitimately elected leader of Belarus, and considered sanctions against the country.
Russia issued strong support for beleaguered Belarusian President Lukashenko following weeks of opposition protests. Chinese leaders announced they will seek to protect their country’s BRI investments in Belarus, regardless of how the crisis evolves in that country.
Tags: geopolitical interest, escalation, uncertainty ,security , military tension, strategic regions, balance of power, power balancing, strategic convergence, potential conflicts.
- TAIWAN: The U.S. State Department approved $1.8 billion in new arms for Taiwan in a move aimed at improving the island’s self-defense capabilities against a long-threatened invasion by China. China criticized that sale as “severe interference in China’s internal affairs”, and vowed retaliation including sanctions against the U.S. companies involved.
SOURCE: JAPAN TIMES
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- INDIA-CHINA: India is closing in on an agreement with the United States that will give it access to satellite data for better accuracy of missiles and drones, as it tries to narrow the gap with the powerful Chinese military.
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How far will US and US-Allies containment actions against China go in the Indo-Pacific?
September news analyzed by GGN revealed that actions by the United States and its closest Asian allies to contain China’s expansionism in the Indo-Pacific region continue.
1) India and Japan concluded their Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA), agreement that shows strategic convergence between two major swing powers in the Indo Pacific region, with growing concerns about China.
2) India announced that project to support infrastructures plans in Maldives to compete with the China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
3) India and Vietnam signed an agreement to strengthen their strategic partnership.
4) Japan announced that plan to shore up relations with Vietnam and Indonesia, two key Southeast Asian partners with important positions in ASEAN.
5) Five Eyes alliance -US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand- make public their plan to include Japan as a member.
6) United States and Europe made known their plan to create an ‘Asian NATO’ of regional powers.
7) It was disclosed a plan to install a military base of United States in the Pacific nation of Palau.
8) United States signed a defense agreement (in consultation with India) with the Indian Ocean islands of the Maldives.
9) United States attempted to rally support from Washington’s closest allies in Asia -Japan, India and Australia– to strength their infrastructural initiatives as a countervailing measure against China’s Belt and Road Initiative influence.
10) There were attempts by United States to make top diplomats from Southeast Asia to cut ties with Chinese companies helping build islands in the South China Sea.
The results of United States and its closest allies in Asia efforts to contain China in the Indo Pacific region showed by September news are yet to be known.
The concrete thing is that the Indo-Pacific has become a new focal point of the US-China rivalry that will re-shape the strategic dynamics in the region.
Unlike United States, their closest allies does not view relations with China as a zero-sum game and, while allied with USA in countering China in security, would try to find ways to coexist with China in the economic sphere, even participating in the Belt and Road Initiative. China is the main economic partner for almost all Asian American allies, so is unlikely that they would break economic ties with it.
On the other hand, it is not clear how far the United States is ready to offer to its closest allies in Asia real alternatives that could compete with what China offers, especially with the BRI.
What is the strategic importance of the Indo-Pacific?
Indo-Pacific is at the centre of gravity of economic growth in the world. The three largest economies, the United States, China, and Japan are all located in the Indo-Pacific.
The Indo-Pacific has emerged as the hub of global trade and energy supply.
The two-third container trade of the world passes through this region. Around one third of global shipping passes through the South China Sea alone.
The two rising economies- India and China and Japan are dependent on Indo-Pacific sea routes for their trade and energy supply.
Two important maritime choke points- Bal al Mandeb and the Malacca Strait are located on the either side of the Indo-Pacific.
The region is also the home of more than 50 percent of the global population and rich in mineral and marine resources.
The Indo-Pacific includes the world’s most populous state (China), the most populous democracy (India) and the most populous Muslim-majority state (Indonesia).
Militarily, the Indo-Pacific is full of flashpoints that serve as potential sources of armed conflict: North Korea of Kim Jong; Taiwan’s pro-independent intentions; territorial and maritime disputes in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.
Seven of the ten largest standing armies in the world can be found in the Indo-Pacific.
International Relations Analyst/
Master in International Relations
- The United States and European officials are mulling to create an ‘Asian NATO’ of regional powers to contain communist China’s expansionist ambitions. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said China’s emergence as a rising superpower is “fundamentally shifting the global balance of power” in ways should motivate NATO itself to “become more global.”
SOURCE: BUSINESS WORLD
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Global Geopolitical Conflicts News Analysis:
PERSPECTIVES AND TRENDS:
The August news on geopolitics analyzed by GGN revealed three main trends:
- Actions to contain China’s expansion in strategic geopolitical areas of Asia Pacific and South Asia were increased.
- Tension grew between the countries that have geopolitical interests in the Mediterranean.
- More tension in the Middle East, after Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed an agreement that could modify the balance of power of the region.
Regarding the actions taken during August to contain China’s expansion in Asia Pacific and South Asia, are mentioned: 1) The Five Eyes alliance –US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand– plan to include Japan as a member. 2) India and Japan plan to sign an important military logistics agreement. 3) India and Vietnam agreement to strengthen their strategic partnership. 4) India´s project to support infrastructures plans in Maldives (Maldives has become a focal point for India and China, particularly in the wake of China’s Belt and Road Initiative). 5) Moreover, US sent in August a high level official mission to Taiwan to show them it´s effectively recognition as a sovereign nation.
The results of these countries efforts to contain China are yet to be known.
As for the Mediterranean region, tension grows after various maneuvers carried out by Turkey with the intention of exploiting natural gas in the region. Turkey conducted in August exercises with a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Eastern Mediterranean. In response, Greece launched military exercises jointly with France, Italy and Cyprus in the same zone.
Turkey is planning to create a three-seas link (the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, and the Caspian Sea, named Turkish Silk Road), that could be supported by India, the European Union, and the United States, with anti-Chinese connotations, adding more tension in the region.
Regarding the Middle East, the new deal may radicalize the opposition between the Gulf-Egypt-Israel axis and Iran, as well as between the same axis and Turkey and Qatar. Iran, Qatar, Turkey, and all Palestinian factions already denounced the agreement, declaring that represents a victory for Israel and its ally United States.
The situation in Middle East could get more complicated if Israel and the United States achieve more Arab countries to follow the UAE’s path, as they are already trying to do.