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.