Recently, disturbing news emerged from the India-Pakistan border. From the Indian side there were reports of precision strikes on headquarters of terrorist groups in Kashmir, with Pakistan denouncing an invasion of its territory. Before that, on September 18, as a result of the attack of Jaish-e-Mohammed, 18 Indian soldiers were killed in Delhi controlled Jammu and Kashmir.
The ancient land of Kashmir became an apple of discord between Pakistan, India and also China, after independence from Britain in 1947. It was then that “The White Man’s Burden” laid a delayed action mine, or more precisely an entire minefield, where explosions occur time after time, two states having been created out of one colony – India for Hindus and Pakistan for Muslims.
Escalation of the conflict was predetermined by the very concept of two religiously-based communities. India has the largest Muslim diaspora in the world, but Kashmir is a different story. Most of its Muslim population perceives India as an occupier, and separatist paramilitary groups are strong. For India, Kashmir has great significance – the father of Indian independence, Jawaharlal Nehru, was born here. Two out of the three Indo-Pakistani wars involved the issue of Kashmir, but the conflict is not limited to the two sides.
In the geopolitical game around this strategic point there were always a lot of players. In the 1960s China occupied part of Kashmir and continues to control about 10% of its territory. India and Pakistan administer 60% and 30% of the ancient principality territory respectively.
Russia and the US have their own interests in Kashmir, their positions on the region depending significantly on the political conjuncture. In the 20th century, the United States was a Pakistan ally, while India gravitated toward the USSR.
Today India continues to cooperate with Russia, but we are not only members of the BRICS, we also have large contracts, mostly military, as China and the US try to expand their influence in the region. Leaders of China and India exchange visits and hold summits at the highest level. For the first time, a pro-Chinese party won the elections in Nepal, which has divided India and China since ancient times, playing an important role in infrastructure and economic relations in the region.
Concerning the US and Russia, instability around Kashmir and tensions between India and Pakistan are especially beneficial to the former. The US tries to engage India in military cooperation to beat Russian contracts. It opposes the India/China rapprochement by every means, considering it a threat to its interests. Pakistan, on the other hand, is interested in approaching China and Russia, the friendship with the US having ended when American drones attacked Pakistani border guards. Both India and Pakistan are involved in Russian projects for access to warm Southern oceans, in particular the”North-South” transport corridor and above-ground gas pipelines such as Karachi-Lahore.
The escalation of any conflict between these powers is extremely harmful to Russia. In September, in a historical first, Russia and Pakistan conducted military drills, although some believe ”Friendship-2016″ was a reaction to the US approaches to New Delhi. But Pakistan will also conduct joint exercises with India in December 2016.
In the event of a global escalation, the India-Pakistan conflict around Kashmir would become more dangerous, since both countries have significant stockpiles of nuclear weapons — 80 to 100 warheads ready for immediate use. Besides, existing production capacities and reserves of materials allow them to double these quantities in the near future. Right now, however, India and Pakistan are focusing on perfecting their means of delivery, the so called nuclear triad enabling launches from air, sea and ground carriers.
The South China Sea
Yet another smoldering conflict ready to explode in a global confrontation – concern the South China Sea.
The Pentagon’s RAND Corporation issued a report “War with China” in which, for the first time, it considers the possibility of war between China and the US. The hypothetical conflict would ignite in the South China Sea, where China is building manmade islands replete with military hardware. China considers those waters as its territory, reacting very sensitively to any foreign presence.
Only a year ago, Chinese Navy Commander Admiral, Wu Shengli said: “If the US continues such provocative and dangerous actions, it will lead to an extreme peace-threatening situation between the armed forces of the two countries, and possibly the use of weapons.” The reason for the statement was the presence of the American guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen in China’s 12-nautical mile zone of the Spratly Island archipelago.
More than 40% of world trade goes through the South China Sea, where the interests of international players collide. The main confrontation is between Vietnam and China but there are also Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Philippines with pretensions over the disputed territories of the Xisha (Paracel Islands), the Nansha (Spratly) Islands and Huangyan (the Scarborough Reef).
The RAND report reviews the possibility of aggressive “unilateral actions” by China against one of America’s partners, for example, the Philippines or Vietnam. The latter also has large contracts and projects with Russia (for example, Gazprom works in the South China Sea). But Pentagon analysts believe that neither Russia nor Japan would get involved in a direct conflict.
Among the US reasons for starting a large-scale conflict are “preventing China from taking control of the whole South China Sea”, “incidents over the sea such as the downing of an allied plane” and “unsanctioned military incursions into North Korea.”
Analysts believe China would lose a war, mainly because of its economic dependency on sea routes. An attack on the Chinese economy in the case of conflict with the US would result in the victory of the latter. They insist that their study is purely hypothetical, “thinking through the unthinkable”, but the very fact of such a hypothetical conceptualization in the current world environment is striking.
Not only Asia is restless. In Latin America, new hotbeds of instability constantly arise, the largest among them being Colombia. On October 3rd, Colombians failed to support a ceasefire between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The confrontation continued for more than 50 years and when finally there was a chance to stop the bloodshed, the aggressive position won. “Instead of going back to the negotiating table, we are returning to war”, said president Juan Manuel Santos, who recognized the results of the referendum despite the fact that nearly half of the country (especially regions destroyed by fighting) voted in favor of peace. (On September 27, following years of negotiations brokered by Cuba, a truce had been signed between the FARC and the Colombian government. Unfortunately, jubilation was short-lived.)
The referendum could rightfully have been called into question. It is difficult to talk about an entire nation’s will, when a significant part of the country is not under government control, but under the power of armed groups and drug cartels. In Colombia, these death squadrons are called “paramilitares”. For years the groups under CIA control were engaged in exterminating local populations, resulting in tens of thousands of missing persons and numerous secret mass graves.
The paramilitares and drug cartels advantage the US. The only stability beneficial to the United States in Latin America is that of arms shipments from transnational corporations and narcotraffickers.
Latin American countries showed what independence leads to: friendship with Russia, visa-free travel and free trade zones contributed to an unprecedented rapprochement between our countries. Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina have been confronting Washington so effectively that the region cannot stabilize, as chaos spreads across Latin America.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo
A bloody “Black Maidan” is unfolding in Africa. Mass riots with burning tires and clashes with the police, claiming hundreds of victims, engulf the long-suffering Democratic Republic of the Congo whose territory was engaged in a bloody conflict known as “The Great African War” from 1998-2002. The uprising was set off by the decision of the incumbent president Joseph Kabila to abolish elections when his term expired after 15 years.
The State Department ordered diplomats, staff and their families to leave the DRC, and government officials canceled all visits to the country.
Strangely, at the end of last year, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) called the Democratic Republic of the Congo a threat to the US. Clashes between different factions in the country continued, with mixed success, for several decades. The confrontation is unprecedentedly brutal, marred by massacres of infants and children, rape and cannibalism. Despite the fact that the world’s largest UN contingent of 22 thousand troops operates in Zaire, it cannot stabilize the situation in what is the second largest and fourth most populous African country.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the richest countries in terms of mineral resources, including rare items. Along with deposits of copper and tin, cobalt, zinc, uranium, silver, radium, molybdenum and nickel are mined, as well as the rare tungsten, beryllium, niobium and tantalum with DRC reserves ranked first in the world. Zaire is also rich in diamonds and gold. In the current environment, the main income from mining goes to gangs and illegal businesses
It is not known what the outcome of the “Black Maidan” will be, but there is every chance of another round of large-scale mayhem on the continent.
Original appeared at Tsargrad TV. Translated by Sergei Malygin