Pakistani Stream: Russia Goes South – Just Beginning

Sergey Savchuk

The foreign press reports that Russia continues to work to build up its strategic presence in key points on the world map. In this case, we are not talking about the army and the navy. It is about energy and specifically about the “Pakistani Stream”.The other day in Islamabad, a bilateral meeting ended, at which groups of technical specialists from both countries confirmed their readiness to implement the project, for which the development and coordination of technical issues and documentation will continue. The main difference from the memorandums of previous meetings is that geological exploration will begin along the route of the potential gas pipeline. That is, the future pipe makes its first step from paper to the ground.

Initially, the idea of ​​the project arose at a difficult time. In 2015, an intergovernmental agreement was signed on the development and construction of the North-South gas pipeline. With a length of almost 1,100 kilometers and a cost of about $ 2 billion. The implication was that Russian contractors would build a transit line from the port of Karachi to the city of Lahore. The peculiarity of the technical idea was that it was necessary to additionally build a regasification terminal in the port. There LNG would be delivered using sea LNG carriers. After being transferred back to a volatile state, it would go strictly north to the Punjab province.

For the next two years, the project moved very slowly. The parties could not agree on the size of tariffs for pumping gas. It is noteworthy that Russia demanded an increase in cost, otherwise the project was economically unprofitable. Then the next US sanctions were imposed on the Rostec corporation, the key executor on the part of Russia. That further impeded the implementation. 

Renaming the project – Pakistani Stream

Last fall, the parties revised the terms of the agreement again. This time exclusively at the request of Islamabad. The share of Pakistan’s participation in the project has grown from 51 to 74 percent. The condition of attracting and using only Russian materials, components and equipment is strictly stipulated. It was decided that Russia’s investment will not exceed 25 percent. Pakistan will cover all other costs. In the spring of this year, the project was renamed “Pakistani Stream”. The energy ministers of both countries announced their readiness to start construction in the very near future.

Pakistan is a country with a population of over 220 million. If you mark on tracing paper the location of all Pakistan’s power plants, and then superimpose this tracing paper on a physical map of the country, a critical imbalance will be visible to the naked eye. 20 stations operating on oil products. 22 thermal power plants operating on natural gas. Nine coal and three nuclear power plants. Pakistan needs light in the homes of its citizens and reliable sources of energy.

The implementation of the “Pakistani Stream” with a capacity of 12.4 billion cubic meters of gas per year will provide fuel for new power plants. That, in turn, will feed industrial enterprises concentrated in Punjab, on the border with India. If the project turns out to be successful, nothing prevents the gas pipeline from being extended to the capital. The transport shoulder from the city of Multan to Islamabad is just over four hundred kilometers.

Possible avalanche of global transformation

There is not the slightest doubt that the revitalization of the region is connected both with the political changes in Afghanistan and with the completion of the construction of Nord Stream 2. Russia has clearly shown that it is capable of completing any projects, even under the pressure of massive sanctions. India is striving to become the main metallurgical power in the world It simultaneously needs the iron ore of Afghanistan, coking coal and blue fuel from Russia. Pakistan wants to reach a new level of industrial development. This again requires natural gas, and all neighboring countries themselves are experiencing a deficit in it and clearly do not intend to share it with Islamabad. 

Afghanistan, in principle, is ready to absorb any amount of resources, since the electrification of the country, thanks to the incessant war, is at a medieval level.The American withdrawal from Afghanistan was the stone that moved an avalanche of global transformation. If the Taliban manage to keep the country from another all-out war of all against all, then in the very near future we will witness a battle for new energy, trade and industrial markets.

Russia & Pakistan agree to build gas pipeline from Karachi to Lahore

Russia has signed a deal with Pakistan to build a major gas pipeline linking the nation’s southern port of Karachi to industrial hubs in the north. The deal is set to be the biggest between Moscow and Islamabad since the 1970s.

Russia’s Energy Minister Nikolay Shulginov and the Pakistani Ambassador, Shafqat Ali Khan, signed a revised agreement on the project in Moscow on Friday, opening the way for the start of construction in the near future.

Spanning more than 1,100 kilometers, the pipeline dubbed the ‘Pakistan Stream’ is expected to have a discharge capacity of up to 12.3 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year, according to the Energy Ministry’s statement.

The pipeline would connect liquefied natural gas terminals in Karachi and another port city, Gwadar, with power plants and industrial hubs in Pakistan’s northern region of Punjab, which includes the city of Lahore.

Both nations “put a major effort” in preparing the amendments to the deal. The signing of the agreement would allow them to begin construction “as soon as possible.” The deal would “help Pakistan strengthen its energy security and increase its reliance on natural gas as an eco-friendly energy source.” 

Last year, a Pakistan official told Bloomberg that the construction could start as early as June. However, officials in Russia have not confirmed this information yet. The project, which has an estimated cost of $2.25 billion according to the Pakistani media, would involve the establishment of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) company operated jointly by Pakistan’s Inter State Gas Systems and several Russian firms, including the TMK – a company that is one of the world’s leading steel pipe suppliers for the oil and gas industry, doing business in Russia, the US and Canada, among other nations.

Under the agreement, Pakistan would reportedly own 74% of the stakes in the pipeline operator while Russia would have the remaining 26%. The initial agreement on the pipeline construction was signed back in 2015 but it was then reviewed.

The project is set to become the biggest infrastructure deal between Pakistan and Russia since at least the early 1970s, when the Soviet Union built the Pakistan Steel Mills industrial complex at Port Qasim, near Karachi.

“The Pakistan Stream remains a flagship project in bilateral cooperation between Russia and Pakistan and both nations give priority to this issue,” Shulginov said.

Oil tankers park in a terminal at a port in the Pakistani city of Karachi

Europeans froze the largest trade deal with China

Brussels is looking for an alternative in the USA and India

Dmitry Migunov

The European Parliament on May 20 froze the ratification of the investment agreement between the EU and China. The reason was foreign policy friction between Brussels and Beijing. It is not yet clear whether the document will be returned to the vote. A split in relations between two of the three largest economies in the world may prompt the EU to seek other alliances, or perhaps to rely primarily on its own forces and active protectionism. Details – in the material “Izvestia”.

China-EU relations in recent years have been an almost equal combination of love and hate. For the European Union, China was the second most important export market (about € 250 billion a year). Especially for critical industries like mechanical engineering. In turn, the importance of the European market for China was no less important. Although it was inferior to the American one in terms of supply, it grew faster and more stable.

At the same time, Europe has become the most important target for the export of capital from China. Accumulated Chinese investment reached $ 350 billion by the end of 2019, again second only to the United States. Investments in European countries fit perfectly into the Belt and Road project, whose main task was to create in Eurasia a reliable alternative to the United States as a destination for Chinese exports. 

Within this framework, Chinese companies have actively invested in enterprises in Germany, Italy, France, Hungary and other countries. Manufacturers of car tires, household appliances, oil and gas companies, airports and football clubs – it will be difficult to name a field of activity in Europe, wherever a Chinese investor has penetrated, both private firms and corporations with state capital. 

Mutual rhetoric sometimes blunt

Despite this flourishing relationship, mutual rhetoric was sometimes blunt. In March 2019, the European Commission named China as its “systemic competitor.” Given that this happened in the midst of Donald Trump’s declared trade war, this was not good news for China. Later, the conflict was mitigated, among other things, due to the fact that Trump’s anger fell on Europe itself. Americans began to impose trade duties against European countries, threatening retaliation for the introduction of a “digital tax” and other actions in the economy that the previous US administration took as unfriendly.

In December last year, the EU and China signed the largest investment agreement in European history. Its essence boils down to facilitating the access of European companies to the Chinese market, which was able to withstand even the blow of the pandemic (the only large economy that avoided contraction in 2020). Companies that supply high-tech goods to the PRC have received especially favorable working conditions. China, in turn, received guarantees for its investments in the EU, as well as access to the renewable energy market, where the two sides are simultaneously the two largest players and strategic partners by a wide margin.

However, the signed treaty had to go through a difficult and lengthy ratification process. And something went wrong here. First of all, the power has changed in the United States. The new government, at least at the level of rhetoric (and in some places in fact, for example, on the issue of Nord Stream 2), made concessions to the European states. The transatlantic relationship again came to the fore, and China was no longer vital partner.

The diplomatic conflict turned into a reciprocal exchange of strikes when the sanctions imposed on China (not too significant) were followed by a similar targeted response from an Asian country. This is most often the end of the conflicts. This time everything went much further. The European parliamentarians with an overwhelming advantage – with 599 votes out of 687 possible – voted to freeze the ratification of the agreement.

This is not final decision though

Note that this vote is not a final decision and, in fact, has no legal force as such. But the ratification process may be slowed down for a long time. During this time, foreign policy and economic circumstances may well change. And the attitude of individual countries to the agreements.

I must say that the Europeans did not sit idly by all these months. In the course of the trade conflict with the United States, it seemed that the EU and China would inevitably move closer. Brussels is now considering other options for economic integration. The most obvious option is trade agreements with the United States. In early May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for the same deal with America that was agreed with Canada last year.… This agreement was already in the air in the middle of the last decade. The parties had already begun negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade Partnership, but in early 2017, the United States canceled a similar trade alliance with the countries of East Asia and Latin America. The last agreement was “killed” at the stage of full readiness. On both sides of the Atlantic they decided that the treaty had no chance at all.

In all fairness, Merkel’s approach is not shared everywhere on the continent. French President Emmanuel Macron has repeatedly stated that Europe should not rely on other superpowers and should show more independence. Questions can also arise overseas, where, despite all the rhetoric of multilateralism and free trade, slogans like “buy American” are gaining momentum. And the full employment promised by the new American administration is unlikely to be achieved if we give even more privileges to foreign manufacturers in their market.

Protectionism is gaining strength

It is possible that the EU will turn in a different direction. In April, it became known that Brussels is negotiating with India on a global infrastructure plan. That should become a competitor to the Belt and Road. It should include cooperation in third countries, the exchange of scientific and innovative ideas and the drafting of uniform standards, especially in the field of financial sustainability. All this should tie the third largest economy in Asia (and the second in terms of purchasing power parity) more closely to the European Union.

India is not yet a player capable of replacing China and the United States as an economic partner. Rather, an agreement with it could become a demonstration of a course that presupposes self-reliance in Europe. Such a line in the economy is becoming more and more popular, given that protectionism is gaining strength in all regions – and the European Union can in no way be an exception .

Turkey becomes the center of the region’s railway communication

The railway will go directly to Baku, Tehran and Islamabad

The ambitious project of the Turkish authorities can revive business activity in almost the entire Turkic region.

It is not the first time that Turkey has been demonstrating its intentions to seize absolute leadership in its region. After the end of the Karabakh conflict in favor of Azerbaijan, the integration of economies may become even closer.

One of the points of the peace agreement assumes that Armenia will allocate a strip of its territory in the south for the construction of a railway line between Nakhichevan (an Azerbaijani exclave in Armenia) and the main territory of Azerbaijan. For Turkey, this may be a chance to establish direct rail links with Azerbaijan. In particular, with the capital of the republic, Baku.

Turkey is now connected by rail with Azerbaijan – but it passes through Georgia 

The fact is that back in 1993 the direct road through Armenia was closed. The new Baku-Tbilisi-Kars branch was completed in 2017. In fact, a section of about 100 kilometers was completed. It was planned to run passenger trains on it in 2020.

Now Kars can be connected to Baku via a new branch – Turkey directly borders on Nakhichevan (the border is about 11 kilometers). The construction of the 230-kilometer road Kars – Igdir – Nakhichevan will begin this year. It will cost 2 billion Turkish lira. In fact, Turkey will receive a faster railway route with Azerbaijan, and without entering the territory of other countries (as in the case of a branch through Tbilisi). For this, Azerbaijan must build a road from Nakhichevan to its main territory.

The Turkish authorities are already close to launching a larger railway route. Trains are expected to start soon from Istanbul via Tehran to Islamabad. It is planned to connect the capital of Turkey with the “rising star of Asia” Pakistan via a 6443-kilometer railway. Of these, 1,850 kilometers will pass through the territory of Turkey, 2,603 ​​kilometers through Iran and 1,900 kilometers through Pakistan.

Due to the fact that in Iranian Zahedan it will be necessary to reload cargo (change of track gauge), the whole journey will take about 14 days. However, this is much faster than the existing sea route from Istanbul to Islamabad. That takes an average of 21 days. The acceleration of the route by a week will increase the volume of trade between the countries. Road connection with Nakhichevan will contribute to the economic growth of the republic.


ITI Corridor

The Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad, or ITI corridor, was launched in 2009 within the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) framework, an Asian political and economic intergovernmental organisation. Various test journeys were carried out, but it has not become a stable regular service since then. A year ago, rumours concerning the service’s re-operation made the news, but they remained a theory.

Earlier this year, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan initiated discussions aiming to start anew and finally launch the long-awaited service. The three countries did not specify the time frame for the outset of operations, and they implied that this would happen at some point during 2021. However, it seems that approximately a month later, the trilateral coalition is ready to realise what it has been visioning for ten years now.

Part of the New Silk Road

Pakistan wants to connect the ITI corridor with China’s Belt and Road network through its ML-1 railway line. It is the largest component of the China-Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC). Despite the potential, the realisation of this project still faces some infrastructural and financial hurdles.

The ML-1 railway project was still unfinished when discussions concerning the route restarted. Without it, running trains through the Balochistan Province in Pakistan is impossible. Infrastructure in this region cannot handle the same trains as in Turkey and Iran. Tracks are over a century old, and natural conditions do not make the situation easier since sand dunes cover them in many parts. The finalisation of the ML-1 project was critical to connect ITI with BRI since it seemed to be the prerequisite for the re-opening of the line.

India’s China fears put to rest in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka hands India major port development deal that will tie the two neighbors together for decades to come

By MK BHADRAKUMAR

In a stunning coincidence, a mere two weeks ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s planned visit to neighboring Bangladesh, the Sri Lankan government on Monday issued a Letter of Intent to India’s Adani Ports and Special Economic Zones Ltd (APSEZ) to develop and operate the West Container Terminal (WCT) in Colombo. 

Sri Lanka’s Rajapaksa clan-led government took a calculated risk. If New Delhi were in Colombo’s shoes, it probably would have waited for another week. To make up its mind before formalizing the audacious decision to invite a big Indian presence. Right at the epicenter of the Sri Lankan dream to be “another Singapore.” 

For, in another week, Colombo would know which way the Indians actually voted in Geneva when the crunch time came on the US-sponsored resolution at the UN Human Rights Council regarding the alleged war crimes committed during the last brutally violent phase of the struggle to vanquish the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). 

Colombo has drawn New Delhi into a ring of long-term engagement that will be difficult to shake off easily. Indian high commissioner to Colombo has reportedly been touring the eastern and northern provinces of Sri Lanka to explain to the Tamil parties what is on the anvil in Geneva. 

What brilliant geopolitical “outsourcing!” Colombo expects that New Delhi will discourage Washington from undermining the stability of the island nation’s government. And to stop threatening to dispatch President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to The Hague. To meet the same tragic fate as Slobodan Milošević, the last president of the former Yugoslavia. Before it was carved up by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) like a turkey on Thanksgiving Day.

Public Private Partnership

The WCT project envisages that APSEZ will partner with John Keells Holdings PLC. It is Sri Lanka’s largest diversified conglomerate, and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority as a part of the consortium with a 51% majority shareholding. It will be developed on a build, operate and transfer (BOT) basis for a period of 35 years as a public-private partnership. 

India’s biggest investment

The WCT will have a quay length of 1,400 meters and alongside depth of 20 meters. Thereby making it a prime transshipment cargo destination to handle ultra-large container ships. The project cost is estimated at US$750 million as of now, which may rise.

The WCT will become the single biggest economic project ever executed by an Indian company in the country’s immediate neighborhood. 

The huge significance of the WCT for the region’s economy cannot be minimized. An APSEZ statement highlighted that the project is expected to boost the WCT’s container handling capacity. And to further consolidate Sri Lanka’s locational advantage as one of the world’s top strategic nodes along the busiest global transshipment route.

The Port of Colombo is already the most preferred regional hub for transshipment of Indian containers and mainline ship operators. 45% of Colombo’s transshipment volumes is either originating from or destined to an Adani-run port terminal in India. 

Simply put, the Sri Lankan government is intertwining its economic prosperity with India’s massive market in an inseparable way. This takes the breath away. Particularly considering that it was only five years ago that New Delhi allegedly became messed up with an Anglo-American project to overthrow the established government in Colombo. It was, ironically, headed by the same leadership as today. 

India had teamed up with its Quad partner Japan originally to bid (unsuccessfully) for the East Container Terminal project at Colombo Port. There was much-suppressed fury when the Sri Lankan government spurned the offer. Indian strategic analysts thereupon went overboard with the stupid hypothesis that Colombo had buckled under “Chinese pressure.” 

Political stability

But now, the WCT, a much bigger BOT project, has been offered to India on a platter with no strings attached. Colombo seems to prefer that the Indians shake off their Quad ally and undertake the WCT on its own steam.

India is de facto becoming a stakeholder in the political stability of Sri Lanka. The bittersweet lesson of 2015 is that securing an easier, cost-effective, risk-free, predictable and durable outcome is possible with a pragmatic outlook and strategic patience.

No one in Delhi talks any more about the “China factor.” The paradox is that the WCT project will be adjacent to the massive Colombo Port project that Chinese companies are funding and executing.

Yet, apparently, there is no heartburn in Beijing either that the Adani Group is moving in as next-door neighbor.

Arguably, Beijing knew about the WCT project, which has been under discussion for a while. But in its ingenuity and wisdom, Beijing assessed that it is just as well if India’s paranoia about China’s presence in Sri Lanka is set at rest.

The WCT saga is unfolding just before Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Bangladesh planned for March 26-27. Bangladesh is another example where it emerges that India doesn’t need to carry a Quad visiting card to build a partnership. The Sri Lankan experience nonetheless has great relevance to Bangladesh.

World Bank Report

According to a new World Bank report titled “Connecting to Thrive: Challenges and Opportunities of Transport Integration in Eastern South Asia,” seamless transport connectivity between India and Bangladesh has the potential to increase national income by as much as 17% in Bangladesh and 8% in India.

The report says a 297% increase in Bangladesh’s exports to India and a 172% increase in India’s exports to Bangladesh. It could be within reach if only transport connectivity improves between the two countries and they were to sign a free-trade agreement.

Nobody’s puppets

From the perspective of diplomacy and foreign policy, the bottom line is that the Indian strategic community should remain self-assured that the political elites in the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) capitals surrounding India are not only nobody’s puppets but have always regarded New Delhi as their most important partner.

That, in turn, puts the onus on India to act with maturity and a sense of responsibility and decorum. 

Only with such a comfort level can India eschew its paranoia about the Chinese presence. It can instead focus single-mindedly on the pursuit of its business interests optimally in regional capitals. Ideally, leave it to the Adani Group to reset the India-Sri Lanka relationship and put it on a realistic, pragmatic footing.

As for the strategists and think-tankers in Delhi, do not suspend rational thinking after reading the garbage disseminated by US propaganda outfits from time to time expanding on the Central Intelligence Agency’s decade-old hypothesis about a Chinese “string of pearls” around India’s delicate neck. 

This article was produced in partnership by Indian Punchline and Globetrotter.

M K Bhadrakumar is a former Indian diplomat.

China’s latest move in the graveyard of empires

Beijing’s strategic priority is to prevent ETIM fighters exiled in Afghanistan crossing the Wakhan Corridor to carry out operations in Xinjiang

The latest plot twist in the endless historical saga of Afghanistan as a graveyard of empires has thrown up an intriguing new chapter. For the past two months, Beijing and Kabul have been discussing the possibility of setting up a military base alongside Afghanistan’s border with China.

“We are going to build it [the base] and the Chinese government has committed to help financially, provide equipment and train Afghan soldiers,” Mohammad Radmanesh, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, admitted to the AFP.

“We are going to build it [the base] and the Chinese government has committed to help the division financially, provide equipment and train the Afghan soldiers,” he added.

On the record, the Chinese Foreign Ministry only admitted that Beijing was involved in “capacity-building” in Afghanistan, while NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, led by the United States, basically issued a “no comment.”

The military base will eventually be built in the mountainous Wakhan Corridor, a narrow strip of territory in northeastern Afghanistan that extends to China and separates Tajikistan from Pakistan.

It is one of the most spectacular, barren and remote stretches of Central Asia and according to local Kyrgyz nomads, joint Afghan-Chinese patrols are already active there. True to Sydney Wignall’s fabled Spy on the Roof of the World ethos, a great deal of shadow play is in effect. Apparently, this is basically about China’s own war on terror.

Strategic priority

Beijing’s strategic priority is to prevent Uyghur fighters of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), who have been exiled in Afghanistan, crossing the Wakhan Corridor to carry out operations across Xinjiang, an autonomous territory in northwest China. There is also the fear that ISIS or Daesh jihadis from Syria and Iraq may also use Afghanistan as a springboard to reach the country.

Even though the jihad galaxy may be split, Beijing is concerned about ETIM. As early as September 2013, the capo of historic al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, supported jihad against China in Xinjiang.

Later, in July 2014, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of Daesh said: “Muslim rights [should be] forcibly seized in China, India and Palestine.” Then, on March 1, 2017, Daesh released a video announcing its presence in Afghanistan, with the terror group’s Uyghur jihadis vowing, on the record, to “shed blood like rivers” in Xinjiang.

At the heart of the matter is China’s Belt and Road Initiative, or the New Silk Road, which will connect China with Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

For Beijing, the stability of one of its links, the $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), is seriously compromised if terror threats abound in Central and South Asia. It could also affect China’s sizable investments in Afghanistan’s mineral mining industry. 

The Chinese and Russian strategies are similar. After all, they have been discussed at every meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), of which Afghanistan is an observer and future full member. For the Russia-China partnership, the future of a peaceful Afghanistan must be decided in Asia, by Asians, and at the SCO. 

In December,  Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told diplomats from fellow BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) member India that Moscow favors talking to the Taliban. He said this was the only way to reduce the risk of terror operations emanating from Afghanistan to Central Asia.

The question is which Taliban to talk to. There are roughly two main factions. The moderates favor a peace process and are against jihadism, while the radicals, who have been fighting the US and NATO-supported government in Kabul. 

Moscow’s strategy is pragmatic. Russia, Iran, India, Afghanistan and the Central Asian “stans” have reportedly held meetings to map out possible solutions. China, meanwhile, remains an active member of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) promoting a peace deal and reconciliation process which will include the Kabul and the Taliban.

Beijing’s multi-pronged strategy is now clear. Ultimately, Afghanistan must become integrated with CPEC. In parallel, Beijing is counting on using its “special relationship” with Pakistan to maneuver the Taliban into a sustainable peace process.

The appointment of Liu Jinsong as the new Chinese ambassador to Kabul is significant. Liu was raised in Xinjiang and was a director of the Belt and Road Initiative’s $15 billion Silk Road Fund from 2012 to 2015. He knows the intricacies of the region.

Six projects

Even before Liu’s arrival, the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, had announced that Beijing and Islamabad would extend CPEC to Kabul with six projects selected as priorities. They included a revamped Peshawar-Kabul highway and a trans-Afghan highway linking Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Of course, that would neatly fall into place with a possible Chinese military base in Gwadar port in Pakistan, the Arabian Sea terminal of CPEC, and one in the Wakhan corridor. 

Now, compare the Russia-China approach with Washington’s strategy. President Donald Trump’s foreign policy involves defeating the Taliban on the ground before forcing them to negotiate with Kabul. With the Taliban able to control key areas of Afghan territory, the Trump administration has opted for a mini-surge.

That may be as “successful” as President Obama’s much-touted 2009 surge. The US government has never made public any projection for the total cost of the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.

But according to the Dec. 8, 2014 version of a Congressional Research Service document – the latest to be made public – it had spent up until then, $1.6 trillion on the invasion and military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Which brings us to the question: Why does the US remain in Afghanistan?

After more than a trillion dollars lost and nothing really to show for it, no wonder all eyes are now on Beijing to see if China can come up with a ‘win-win’ situation.

Source: http://www.atimes.com/article/chinas-latest-move-graveyard-empires/?utm_source=The+Daily+Report&utm_campaign=cf93e2d669-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_02_09&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1f8bca137f-cf93e2d669-21552319

Karzai warns Afghans and neighbors to resist ‘US agenda’

Karzai is confident that Afghans and regional stakeholders support his crusade against the “American agenda” in Afghanistan, which he describes as an attempt to create disharmony among nations

 

Three years since he left office, the presence of former president Hamid Karzai still lingers in the corridors of Afghan politics. The fact that he continues to live on the same street as the presidential palace also ensures that he remains keenly involved in matters of a nation at war.

It is at this humble but traditional home in Kabul that Karzai extends the courtesy of his hospitality to scores of Afghan leaders, ministers, tribal elders and international diplomats, on a daily basis. He meets with hundreds of local and international stakeholders, making peace and relationships that can influence the turn of regional events in Afghanistan’s favor, a country that he helped put back together with the help of US allies after the fall of the extremist Taliban regime in 2001.

However, today, Karzai is among the few prominent Afghan voices against the occupying US forces. He has strongly condemned the new Afghan strategy put forth by US President Donald Trump in late August. “The neighborhood is no longer an ally of the US in their war against terror,” he told us on a warm September afternoon at his residence in the capital.

Karzai is confident that not only Afghans but also regional stakeholders support his crusade against the “American agenda” in Afghanistan, which he describes as an attempt to create disharmony among nations in the region, such as India, Pakistan, Iran and China.

“If they genuinely want to fight extremism and terrorism, they cannot do it by creating rivalry here in this region. They cannot take one ally and create rivalries — that’s adding to the conflicts in Afghanistan,” he said, referring to Trump’s statement calling out Pakistan for harboring insurgents, while encouraging India to play a bigger role in Afghanistan.

However, this is not to say that Karzai doesn’t value international powers trying to foster peace in his country. On September 4, leaders of the five BRICS nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — called on Pakistan to end terrorism in Afghanistan and the region following Trump’s statement. 

Move to name terror groups was ‘important’

“BRICS was an important development,” Karzai said, hailing the statement by BRICS nations on terrorism emanating from Pakistan as a “significant development.”

“Naming terrorist organizations at BRICS was important for the countries that are really affected, like India, China and Russia. This is what we need — cooperating in this region against extremism and terrorism. Not the imaginations of the US played out in our region.”

Karzai dismissed Pakistan’s defensive reaction to the BRICS statement, saying that Islamabad lays some of the blame on Kabul. “Nobody believes Pakistan’s [excuse] blaming Afghanistan for providing terrorist sanctuaries,” he said.

“They know Afghanistan is not involved in that or has the capacity to do things like that. They must deal with this and not us,” he added, urging Pakistan to give up extremism. “We want Pakistan to recognize that playing with extremism is never going to help them.”

While Karzai remains critical of Pakistan’s role in regional security, he is also suspicious of Washington’s intention in condemning Pakistan. “President Trump’s strategy makes it look like [there are proxy wars in Afghanistan] and we don’t want that. We don’t want Afghanistan to become a battleground for rivalries, or a place where proxies fight,” he explained.

As the conversation moved more towards regional politics, Karzai expressed appreciation of India’s role in the development of Afghanistan. Karzai’s relationship with India goes a long way back – to his days as a student in Himachal Pradesh, evidence of which can be seen in his library, which boasts of a copy of the Indian constitution, which he has read and referred to several times during his years as leader of a new nation.

Karzai urged India to not be swayed by Trump’s policies. “My advice to India is that it should have its independent policy towards Afghanistan and not be influenced by Americans,” he said. “India should not ally itself with America’s objectives in Afghanistan because those objectives are not good for this region. They are surely not going to be good for India eventually.”

Having presided over the new Afghanistan for more than a decade, Karzai is no stranger to the consequences of proxy wars. “These rivalries will be played out in Afghanistan. Why should we be the ground where larger powers with their own interests create a war in which we die?” he said, noting the drastic increase in civilian casualties over the last two years.

‘India never interfered in our ties with Pakistan’

The former leader also dismissed talk of an India-Pakistan proxy war being played out in his homeland.

“During my government, India never interfered with our relationship with Pakistan,” he revealed, adding that Indian leaders Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi had both been considerate about Afghanistan’s sensitive position in the region.

“We spoke about these issues with India and at one point they even refrained from helping Afghanistan militarily because they said Pakistan may get irritated,” he recalled. “They were trying to avoid too much irritation for Pakistan; that’s what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told me.”

Despite this, Pakistan still appears to be concerned about Afghanistan’s growing affinity to India. “Pakistan, of course, constantly kept talking about India, [and it] especially has issues with the number of Indian consulates in Afghanistan,” he revealed.

As Karzai bid us farewell, he repeated his warning. “Tell India to not fall for the strategic games that the US is playing in this region. We want an Afghanistan-India relationship that is not impacted by the strategic interests of another power [that is well] away from us.”

Source: http://www.atimes.com/article/karzai-warns-afghans-neighbors-resist-us-agenda/?utm_source=The+Daily+Brief&utm_campaign=da61e3311e-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_10_12&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1f8bca137f-da61e3311e-21552319