Biden casts a spell on Arabia’s shifting sands

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman (L), called Turkish President Recep Erdoğan (R) on Nov. 20, 2020 to discuss reset of relations. The controversial meeting between Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (commonly known as MbS) in Neom, the mega-city under development on the Red Sea coast, on November 22 drew world … Continue reading “Biden casts a spell on Arabia’s shifting sands”

France challenges Russian peacekeeping in Caucasus

A Russian peacekeeper patrols at checkpoint outside Askeran, Nagorno-Karabakh, November 19, 2020. (AFP Photo) The trilateral agreement on November 10 between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia over Nagorno-Karabakh is leading to a geopolitical struggle in the Caucasus. So long as Armenia and Azerbaijan were ferociously fighting, the great game lurked in the shade.  But no sooner … Continue reading “France challenges Russian peacekeeping in Caucasus”

Biden will reset US’ China policies

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) being received by then US Vice-President Joe Biden (R), Washington, DC, September 24, 2015  In geopolitics, misperceptions tend to become conventional wisdom over time. A narrative has gained ground over the past 2-3 years that there is a “consensus of opinion” in the United States as regards its China policies. … Continue reading “Biden will reset US’ China policies”

Historical undercurrents in Nagorno-Karabakh

Armenian cemetery (1579) in Surat, India. 16th century onwards, Armenians from Iran formed an important trading community in Surat port city which had sea borne trade with Bandar Abbas. The analysts focusing on the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis through the prism of regional politics fail to factor in that the Caucasus comprises ancient peoples. The Russian President Vladimir Putin … Continue reading “Historical undercurrents in Nagorno-Karabakh”

Trump’s Afghan drawdown doesn’t mean war is ending

Then Vice-President Joe Biden (L) talks with Gen. David Petraeus (R), then Commander of the ISAF and US Forces in Afghanistan, aboard a Chinook helicopter over Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 11, 2011 As the US President Donald Trump chalks up his measly legacy in the White House, he is bound to scrap the bottom of the barrel. … Continue reading “Trump’s Afghan drawdown doesn’t mean war is ending”

Biden’s “normalcy” means return of “ancien régime”

There has been a spate of reports in the American media that the US president-elect Joe Biden is assembling his cabinet of ministers. Most reports mention that Biden’s secretary of state will be Susan Rice, former US ambassador to the United Nations and National Security Advisor in the Barack Obama administration. Reportedly, Biden’s choice for … Continue reading “Biden’s “normalcy” means return of “ancien régime””

Russia, China reinvent their moorings in Central Asia

Soldiers from US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division line up in a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III to parachute into a drop zone in Central Asia in a spectacular display of the longest distance airborne operation in military history, Chimkent, Kazakhstan, Sept. 15, 1997. The United States, which was de facto assuming the historical role … Continue reading “Russia, China reinvent their moorings in Central Asia”

Return of Great Game in Post-Soviet Central Asia

The Wakhan Corridor: A narrow strip of land in Eastern Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province, 295 km long and 15 to 57 km wide, connecting Afghanistan with China and passing through the territory of Tajikistan, historically a buffer between Russian Central Asia and British India.  The recent Issue Brief by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission … Continue reading “Return of Great Game in Post-Soviet Central Asia”

India’s farewell to ASEAN as it boards RCEP train

A container ship at Shenzhen Port, China (File photo) Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks at the 17th ASEAN-India Summit on November 12 makes sad reading. It comes in the specific context of the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership [RCEP] on Sunday — the mega free trade agreement centred on the ASEAN plus China, … Continue reading “India’s farewell to ASEAN as it boards RCEP train”

Putin creates conditions for ending bloodshed in Caucasus

The trilateral Russia-Armenia-Azerbaijan statement of November 10 on Nagorno-Karabakh is a very major development in regional and international security. It is very seldom that a quintessentially ethnic conflict with political and strategic overtones is tamped down by a redrawing of territorial boundaries. The agreement bears every bit the imprimatur of President Vladimir Putin. Putin’s separate … Continue reading “Putin creates conditions for ending bloodshed in Caucasus”

Trump retrofits history, takes Pinochet route

A Renaissance like photograph with a hint of Caravaggio: General Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte surrounded by his military staff after the US-backed coup of 11th September 1973 , Santiago   The instances cabinet officials being fired by President Trump have become such a whimsical affair. However, in the dismissal of defence secretary Mark Esper … Continue reading “Trump retrofits history, takes Pinochet route”

Russia has mixed feelings about Biden

Vladimir Putin (R), then Russian prime minister, met with US Vice President Joe Biden (L) in Moscow, March 10, 2011. The conspicuous reticence on Moscow’s part to congratulate Joe Biden on his spectacular victory in the US elections was bound to get noticed internationally. That prompted Moscow to explain its stance.  The Kremlin explanation is … Continue reading “Russia has mixed feelings about Biden”

Does India truly belong to the SCO?

Russia will be hosting the 20th summit meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in virtual format on November 10, 2020 The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s summit meeting on November 30 has a surreal setting. Being a ‘virtual’ meeting, the event spares the  eight SCO statesmen of the embarrassment of having to accost each other or exchange … Continue reading “Does India truly belong to the SCO?”

Spectre of Biden presidency haunts India

Prime Minister Modi (L) invested on eight years of US President Trump (R) in the White House but expectations fall short. (File photo) From the Indian perspective, the prospect of a Joe Biden presidency becomes a moment of ‘memory mixing with desire’, to borrow from TS Eliot’s famous words from The Waste Land. Prima facie, … Continue reading “Spectre of Biden presidency haunts India”

Adieu, Trump, if leave you must!

President Donald Trump walks toward sunset at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Charlotte, North Carolina, Nov 1, 2020. Into the final stretch of the US elections, a Joe Biden presidency is lurking on the horizon. Votes are still being counted in Pennsylvania, Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia and Nevada. The races are too close to call.  However, as … Continue reading “Adieu, Trump, if leave you must!”

Iran has a plan for Nagorno-Karabakh

Armenian shelling on Ganja, Azerbaijan, near Iran’s border   Iran has unveiled a regional initiative to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi returned to Tehran in the weekend after a regional tour to Azerbaijan, Russia, Armenia and Turkey to discuss the peace plan. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has since explained Tehran’s thinking.  … Continue reading “Iran has a plan for Nagorno-Karabakh”

Deconstructing France’s Emmanuel Macron

The Modi government has earned the distinction as the “first non-western” voice to come out in support of French President Emmanuel Macron over the recent horrific killings in that country. This distinction apparently presents itself as too good to miss. The Rajya Sabha TV slotted a programme to castigate “Islamist terrorism” in France.  Religious fundamentalism … Continue reading “Deconstructing France’s Emmanuel Macron”

India’s dementia and Lankan dreams

Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (R) received US Secretary of State  Mike Pompeo (L), Colombo, October 28, 2020 Third-country cooperation is highly complex, unpredictable phenomenon. Not even the closest allies can pull it off easily. Lord Curzon, the British Foreign Secretary, denied that oil interests influenced policy in Iraq, but archives show that the British … Continue reading “India’s dementia and Lankan dreams”

Indonesia spells out terms of engagement with US

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (R) received US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L), Jakarta, October 29, 2020 On the eve of the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s arrival in Jakarta on October 28, the senior editor of the leading Indonesian daily Jakarta Post Kornelius Purba wrote a taunting op-ed dwelling on what the heavyweight … Continue reading “Indonesia spells out terms of engagement with US”

India’s remains of the day in Ladakh

India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh (R) and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) at media briefing, New Delhi, October 27, 2020  The ‘2+2’ Ministerial Dialogue with the United States has ended leaving a trail of uncertainties. In substantive terms, there has been no real outcome. Words, words — that’s all we have, words that … Continue reading “India’s remains of the day in Ladakh”

A Sixth Eye to spy on Tibet, Xinjiang

Road to the disputed India-China border, Ladakh (File photo) According to media reports, India and the United States are set to sign an intelligence-sharing agreement during the ‘2+2’ security dialogue between their foreign and defence ministers in New Delhi later today on October 27. The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement [BECA] is expected to provide India … Continue reading “A Sixth Eye to spy on Tibet, Xinjiang”

The endgame in Belarus is in view

Massive protests in Minsk after lull of few weeks, Oct 25, 2020 After a lull of the past 3-4 weekends, the anti-government protests in Minsk, Belarus, roared back to life today. This comes in the wake of three things.  One, there are some incipient signs that Moscow feels frustrated with the Belarus strongman President Alexander … Continue reading “The endgame in Belarus is in view”

Why Israel is allowing F-35 sale to UAE

Israel has decided it won’t be the dog in the manger if US President Donald Trump is so keen to sell F-35 stealth jets to the UAE. An understanding has been reached that the US will, as quid pro quo, “significantly upgrade Israel’s military capability” and ensure Israel retains its “qualitative military edge” over Arab … Continue reading “Why Israel is allowing F-35 sale to UAE”

Emerging contours of the US-Indian military alliance

The mystery about the awkward timing of the so-called 2+2 US-Indian security dialogue due in New Delhi on October 27 is largely because there is a chicken and egg situation about it.  It is impossible to decide which of two things caused the other one — the mushrooming US-Indian military alliance or the continuing downhill … Continue reading “Emerging contours of the US-Indian military alliance”

China draws the analogy of Korean war to warn US

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (R) placing wreath at monument to martyrs of Chinese People’s Volunteer Army who fought in Korean War. Kim separately placed a floral basket at the tomb of Mao Anying, eldest son of China’s Mao Zedong, Hoechang County, DPRK, Oct 22, 2020. The ceremony at the Great Hall of the … Continue reading “China draws the analogy of Korean war to warn US”

New START: Putin’s “win-win” with Trump

Launch of a Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile from Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov during a test in the White Sea, Oct 7, 2020. The Russian proposal of October 20 for a simple one-year extension beyond February when the New START treaty expires, has received a curt reply from Washington within hours.  Something is still better than … Continue reading “New START: Putin’s “win-win” with Trump”

India’s loss of Farzad-B is only the beginning

Petrochemical complexes in Asaluyeh, Iran (File photo) The PTI news agency has quoted ‘sources’ in New Delhi to the effect that the Farzad-B gas field project in Iran is slipping out of India’s hands. The curtain seems to have come down on the negotiations between the ONGC Videsh and Iran’s National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC).  … Continue reading “India’s loss of Farzad-B is only the beginning”

Nagorno-Karabakh needs a regional solution

Turkish President Recep Erdogan (L) with Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) File photo The demonisation of Turkey and President Recep Erdogan has been carried too far in the most recent years in the western media. Turkey appears to be mired in controversies all across its neighbourhood — maritime boundary disputes with Greece and Cyprus; occupation … Continue reading “Nagorno-Karabakh needs a regional solution”

Arc of instability on Russia’s periphery

An arc of instability has appeared on Russia’s peripheral regions to the west and southwest — Belarus, Nagorno-Karabakh and Kyrgyzstan. These regions are vital to Russia’s national security and weakens its capacity to be a resurgent power on the world stage.   Belarus is a de facto buffer zone for Russia vis-a-vis the West. Russia … Continue reading “Arc of instability on Russia’s periphery”

Ladakh standoff: Breakthrough in sight?

Indian Army convoy ferrying supplies to troops in Ladakh The remarks by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in New Delhi on October 15 on the negotiations to resolve the military standoff in eastern Ladakh signal a cautiously optimistic estimation that there are serious proposals on the table and a breakthrough cannot be ruled out.  Jaishankar … Continue reading “Ladakh standoff: Breakthrough in sight?”

Quad won’t fly. This is why.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar (L) in conversation with Australian counterpart Marise Payne at Quad ministerial, Tokyo, October 6, 2020 The expectations were that the visiting US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun would expand from a public platform in Delhi on October 12 on a theme he had audaciously expounded some six weeks ago … Continue reading “Quad won’t fly. This is why.”

Quad is East, Kabul is West, Never the Twain Shall Meet

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar (R) met the leader of erstwhile Afghan Northern Alliance Rashid Dostum (L), New Delhi, Sept 25, 2020  The first part of this analysis is here.  The policy planning with respect to Afghanistan has become an excruciatingly difficult exercise for in New Delhi. Even a veteran great game strategist like National … Continue reading “Quad is East, Kabul is West, Never the Twain Shall Meet”

India wary as Afghans discuss interim govt – Part 1

India’s NSA Ajit Doval (L) met chairman of Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah (R), New Delhi, October 5, 2020 The visit to New Delhi by Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation in Afghanistan, becomes an event of major importance for a variety of reasons, the most significant being its … Continue reading “India wary as Afghans discuss interim govt – Part 1”

Oman-Syria ties impact regional politics

Walid al-Muallem, Syria’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister (L) receives the credentials of Oman’s Ambassador Turki bin Mahmood al-Busaidy, Damascus, October 5, 2020  The presentation of the Letter of Credence in Damascus on October 5 by the newly appointed envoy of Oman marks a defining moment in the Syrian conflict. The regional states recognise … Continue reading “Oman-Syria ties impact regional politics”

Gulf Sheikhs resent subaltern role

US-Israel joint training exercise ‘Enduring Lightning’ involving F-35 ‘stealth’ aircraft, Southern Israel, March 2020 The tabling of a “bipartisan” legislation in the US Congress on October 1 reiterating American commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME) creates an extraordinary dimension to the geopolitics and military balance in the Middle East region in the downstream of … Continue reading “Gulf Sheikhs resent subaltern role”

Once upon a time, Kuwait was a key partner for India

The Kuwaiti oil fields set on fire by the retreating Iraqi occupation forces during the First Gulf War, 1991 (File photo)  The political transition in Kuwait with the departure of Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Sabah is a timely reminder that the Gulf Cooperation Council region is a complex mosaic not only in geography, but in politics … Continue reading “Once upon a time, Kuwait was a key partner for India”

The Time of Troubles in Transcaucasia — Part 3

Women and children read books in a bomb shelter seeking refuge from shelling, Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh, Oct 1, 2020 This is the concluding part of a 3-part essay. The first part is here; the second part here.       Caucasian chalk circle  The United States and Russia are increasingly in each other’s crosshairs on the global … Continue reading “The Time of Troubles in Transcaucasia — Part 3”

The Time of Troubles in Transcaucasia – Part 2

The desperate Battle of Shipka Pass in Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878 between Ottoman Empire & Eastern Orthodox coalition led by Russian Empire, fought in the Balkans and the Caucasus which the Turks lost to be pushed back all the way to the gates of Constantinople. Part-1 of the three-part essay is here.  The German Chancellor Angela Merkel … Continue reading “The Time of Troubles in Transcaucasia – Part 2”

Europe marks distance from Indo-Pacific strategy

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for the special meeting of the European Council, Brussels, October 1, 2020 The European Council special meeting in Brussels on 1st October had Turkey, Belarus, Russia and China on its agenda. The foreign-policy decisions of the summit — comprising the heads of state or government of all EU countries, the … Continue reading “Europe marks distance from Indo-Pacific strategy”

The Time of Troubles in Transcaucasia – Part 1

Transcaucasian Trail: Ancient lands & new frontiers in great game Three days into the renewed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh in the Transcaucasian region — also known as South Caucasus — it is becoming clear that the binary narrative dished out by western commentators of this being a Turkish-Russian clash of wills and strategies is either simply … Continue reading “The Time of Troubles in Transcaucasia – Part 1”

Geopolitics of Sri Lankan Tamil Problem

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa (L) held a virtual summit on September 26, 2020 The virtual summit between the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa turned out to be somewhat surreal. The summit was the first of its kind Modi has had … Continue reading “Geopolitics of Sri Lankan Tamil Problem”

Russia has key role to play in Iran issue

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and delegation (L) with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Moscow, Sept 24, 2020 In what must be one of his sharpest rhetorical outbursts against the Trump administration, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani accused the United States on Saturday of “savagery” for inflicting $150 billion of damage on Iran due to sanctions.  … Continue reading “Russia has key role to play in Iran issue”

Joe Biden speaks on India. It’s good on the whole.

US presidential candidate Joe Biden & running mate Kamala Harris. (File photo) The Democratic Candidate Joe Biden’s remarks Wednesday on the US-Indian relationship have elements of the good, bad and the ugly. Biden, a consummate politician, poses an intellectual challenge to foreign observers. The momentous US election on 3rd November brings out his vast experience … Continue reading “Joe Biden speaks on India. It’s good on the whole.”

How’ll Covid-19 end? With a bang or a whimper?

A Sicilian fresco from 1445 on the Black Death that killed a third of Europe’s population in the previous century.  The number of people who have died of coronavirus in the United States has crossed 200,000, by far the highest figure for any country in the world. One way of looking at the figure is that … Continue reading “How’ll Covid-19 end? With a bang or a whimper?”

The Sino-Russian Alliance Comes of Age — Part 3

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) signed the statements on the “comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era” and on “strengthening contemporary global strategic stability”, Moscow, June 5, 2019 The first part of the three-part essay is here. The second part is here.  Discourse of shared legacies  The … Continue reading “The Sino-Russian Alliance Comes of Age — Part 3”

TikTok, Sing a Song of Sixpence, A pocket Full of Rye, Four and Twenty Blackbirds Baked in an American Pie

TikTok logo on display, Culver City, California, Aug 27, 2020   The US president Donald Trump told reporters at the White House on Saturday that he backs the deal between TikTok owner China’s ByteDance, Oracle Corp, and Walmart to create a new company known as TikTok Global.  It conflicts with Trump’s own earlier order for … Continue reading “TikTok, Sing a Song of Sixpence, A pocket Full of Rye, Four and Twenty Blackbirds Baked in an American Pie”

Pompeo threatens to light the fuse in Persian Gulf

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz transits the Strait of Hormuz as the flagship of US Carrier Strike Group, Sept 18, 2020 (US Navy photo)  The US Fifth Fleet announced on September 18 that a Carrier Strike Group comprising USS Nimitz passed through the Strait of Hormuz with the guided-missile cruisers USS Princeton and USS Philippine … Continue reading “Pompeo threatens to light the fuse in Persian Gulf”

India’s Quad Dilemma in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (R) greeting the newly-elected Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa (L) at the swearing-in ceremony at Kelaniya Buddhist temple in Colombo, Aug 9, 2020 There are three categories of statesmen: those addicted to Twitter (Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Javad Zarif, et al); those who shun it (Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, Xi Jinping, … Continue reading “India’s Quad Dilemma in Sri Lanka”

The Sino-Russian Alliance Comes of Age — Part 2

Signing ceremony of The Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany: Foreign Ministers of USA, UK, USSR, France, GDR, FRG (from left to right) ; Moscow, September 12, 1990 “I look for the land of the Poles that is lost to the Germans, for the moment at least. Nowadays the Germans have started … Continue reading “The Sino-Russian Alliance Comes of Age — Part 2”

India’s overture to Taliban comes too late

The Taliban delegation at the opening ceremony of intra-Afghan talks, Doha, Qatar, September 12, 2020 The US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad was roundly criticised by Indian commentators when he last passed through Delhi in May and advised the officials he met with an earthy sense of realism and foreboding that it’s high … Continue reading “India’s overture to Taliban comes too late”