Category Archives: Asia

India at BRICS Summit: Russia Hardly Isolated over Ukraine

As this blog has been pointing out–see posts noted at the bottom of this one–Bad Vlad is far from becoming an international pariah as a consequence of his invasion of Ukraine, despite what many in the West seem to believe. From Foreign Policy’s “Morning Brief”:

India’s BRICS Balancing Act

India has been pulled into the Quad (and now I2-U2), so can it continue playing nice with Russia and China, too?

By Colm Quinn, the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.

The BRICS Summit Begins

The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa meet virtually today for a summit of BRICS nations. As well as a chance to discuss economic strategies outside a Western-dominated system, the meeting once again shows that, although Russia is isolated from the West, for the rest of the world it is still very much open for business [emphasis added].

Russian President Vladimir Putin joins the gathering today at a time when his country has become China’s largest crude oil supplier—a position usually enjoyed by Saudi Arabia. He will hold talks with a group of leaders who have so far tempered any criticism of the war in Ukraine.

Indeed Xi Jinping, in his address to the BRICS Business forum on Wednesday, appeared to lay the blame on Ukraine for Russia’s invasion, calling it a “wake up call” and a reminder that “attempts to expand military alliances and seek one’s own security at the expense of others will only land oneself in a security dilemma.”

Addressing the same forum, Putin was bullish on the economic opportunities presented by the group, touting negotiations on opening Indian chain stores in Russia, increasing Chinese industrial imports and “reorienting trade flows” to BRICS nations. According to Putin, trade with the group increased by 38 percent in the first quarter of 2022.

He added that the BRICS group could soon go a step further by challenging the U.S. dollar, creating its own international reserve currency based on the “basket of currencies of our countries.”

India’s options. For India, also a member of the Quad—along with Australia, Japan, and the United States—it faces a challenge to keep up its balancing act between East and West [emphasis added].

“India lives in a rough neighborhood and has been able to stick by its non-aligned policy to ensure its strategic autonomy by essentially engaging with everybody, and they’ve done a pretty good job of that,” Derek Grossman, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation, told Foreign Policy [see this post: “Russia vs Ukraine: India’s Strategic Autonomy (tous azimuts) in Action“]. “But as great power competition continues to heat up, not just between the U.S. and China, but now the U.S. and Russia, it’s going to be increasingly difficult and delicate to maintain that balance.”

Indian officials aren’t naïve about their position, and are reportedly working to block any attempts to insert anti-U.S. messaging into the BRICS joint statement as well as slow any attempts to expand the grouping.

That the BRICS grouping is not known as a particularly effective combination may work in India’s favor. “I think that India can make a gamble, which I think is pretty safe, and it can essentially, pledge full support for everything BRICS is doing to show that it’s a loyal member of the group, while at the same time betting on the strong likelihood that BRICS won’t be able to move the needle forward on a lot of the issues and plans that are discussed,” said Michael Kugelman, an Asia expert at the Wilson Center and author of FP’s South Asia Brief. “That would then spare India from having to make awkward decisions about how far to go and pursue policies within BRICS that could put it at odds with the West.”

India is in high demand in a busy few weeks for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He travels to Germany over the weekend to attend the G-7 summit and in July he joins another new grouping (and acronym) I2-U2, with the leaders of Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States [emphasis added]

In its own way India still seems to be sitting fairly pretty.

A video on start of BRICS summit:

Those earlier posts:

Russia’s War on Ukraine, or, What Stinking “Free World”?

Russia Invading Ukraine: Countries Standing Aside, Africa Section

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Failed Organic Revolution Leading to Political One in Sri Lanka?

(Photo at top of the post from this article in Indian Business Today: “Fertiliser ban decimates Sri Lankan crops as Rajapaksa govt’s popularity dwindles: The dramatic fall in yields follows a decision last April by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to ban all chemical fertilisers in Sri Lanka.”)

The green roots of Sri Lanka’s political unrest and violence–excerpts from a opinion piece at the Globe and Mail:

The painful food truths exposed by Russia’s war in Ukraine

Bjorn Lomborg

Bjorn Lomborg is president of the Copenhagen Consensus and visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution [webpage here]. His latest book is False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet.

A global food crisis is looming because of Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine.

…organic farming cannot feed the world – and could even worsen future crises. Long fashionable among the world’s 1 per cent, environmental activists have increasingly peddled the beguiling idea that organic farming can solve hunger…

research has shown that organic farming produces less food than conventional farming per hectare. Moreover, organic farming requires farmers to rotate soil out of production for pasture, fallow or cover crops, reducing its effectiveness. In total, organic agriculture produces food between 29 to 44 per cent less productively than conventional, scientific-driven approaches.

This not only makes organic food more expensive, but it also means that organic farmers would need much more land to feed the same number of people as today – possibly almost twice the area. Given that agriculture uses about 37 per cent of the Earth’s land, switching to organics would mean destroying large swathes of nature for less effective production.

The catastrophe unfolding in Sri Lanka provides a sobering lesson. Last year, its government enforced a full transition to organic farming, banning chemical fertilizers and appointing organics gurus as agricultural advisers, including some who claimed dubious links between agricultural chemicals and health problems. Despite extravagant claims that organic methods could produce comparable yields to conventional farming, within months the policy has produced nothing but misery, including the quintupling of some food prices.

Sri Lanka had been self-sufficient in rice production for decades; tragically, it has now been forced to import US$450-million worth of rice. Tea, the country’s primary export crop and main source of foreign exchange, was devastated, with economic losses estimated at US$425-million [emphasis added]. Before the country spiralled toward brutal violence and political resignations, the government was forced to offer US$200-million in compensation to farmers and come up with US$149-million in subsidies [see tweets at end of the post for the violence etc.].

Sri Lanka’s organic experiment failed because of one fundamental fact: It does not have enough land to replace synthetic nitrogen fertilizer with animal manure. To shift to organics and keep production, it would need five to seven times more manure than its total manure today.

Synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, mostly made with natural gas, are a modern miracle, and are crucial for feeding the world. Largely thanks to this fertilizer, agricultural output tripled in the past half-century, as the human population doubled…

To sustainably feed the world and withstand future global shocks, we need to produce food in better and cheaper ways. History shows that the best way to achieve that is by improving seeds, including by using genetic modification, along with expanding fertilizer, pesticides and irrigation. This will allow us to produce more food, curb prices, alleviate hunger and save nature.

And a March piece at pretty progressive Foreign Policy:

In Sri Lanka, Organic Farming Went Catastrophically Wrong

A nationwide experiment is abandoned after producing only misery.

Those tweets:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

The Great Game, Lord Curzon and a Bucket List Book of Mine Read

(Image at top of the post is here.)

The book:

Russia in Central Asia in 1889 & the Anglo-Russian Question

At pp. 296-97 of the book:

…the power of menace, which the ability to take Herat [far western Afghanistan near Iranian border] involves, has passed from English [in India] to Russian hands; that the Russian seizure of Herat in now not so much of war as of time [never happened]; and that the Russians will thus, without an effort, win the first hand in the great game that is destined to be played for the empire of the East.

The British feared that the vast 19th century Russian advances in Central Asia threatened Afghanistan and, through it, an invasion of the British Indian Empire (paranoid though that may seem today given the distances and logistics involved–and then came the railway…).

From 1864-68 Tsarist Russia captured Tashkent and Samarkand in Central Asia; from 1873 to 1885 territory north of Persia from the Caspian Sea east coast towards Afghanistan was taken and called “Turkestan“. The Russian Transcaspian Railway, from the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea through Turkestan and the (nominally independent until 1920) Emirate of Bukhara to Samarkand, was completed in 1888. From November 1888 until January 1889 Curzon, with the assistance of Tsarist authorities, took the line to its then-terminus at Samarkand and went on to Tashkent by road (the line finally reached Tashkent in 1898). A succinct 1889 account of the railway is contained in this pamphlet by Lord Curzon.

When he made his rather remarkable trip for a man of his station (“eldest son of the 4th Baron Scarsdale”), Curzon (b. 1859) was a recently elected Tory MP.

Earlier, when at Oxford, he was the subject of a piece of poetic doggerel that lives on:

My name is George Nathaniel Curzon,

I am a most superior person,

My cheek is pink, my hair is sleek,

I dine at Blenheim once a week.

He went on to become notably involved with his great game as the youngest-ever viceroy of India (1899-1905) and as foreign secretary (1919-24).

Quite a great gamer, what?

Plus great gaming in action in 1918, a wonderful memoir by a British Indian Army colonel (and political officer) sent overland by the government of India, via Kashmir and Kashgar in Xinjiang, to spy on the Bolsheviks in Central Asia in 1918: “Mission to Tashkent“:

We’ll not see his like, nor Lord Curzon’s, again. Sadly, as far as I can determine, there is no longer a direct passenger rail service to Tashkent from the Caspian along the old route of the Transcaspian.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Russia vs Ukraine: ASEAN Not Following US Line Either

First a story at the Bangkok Post:

No mention of Russia in US-Asean statement

Washington satisfied that Asean leaders agreed on ‘respect for sovereignty’ even if Ukraine wasn’t mentioned [SURE]

Now three tweets on the Biden administration’s not-so-successful effort to get ASEAN members to act vs. Russia over its invasion of Ukraine:

UPDATE: The Diplomat puts things succinctly:

The American unipolar moment is definitely gone, however the war in Ukraine turns out. Related posts:

Russia vs Ukraine: India’s Strategic Autonomy (tous azimuts) in Action

Russia’s War on Ukraine, or, What Stinking “Free World”?

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Russia’s War on Ukraine, or, What Stinking “Free World”?

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in New Delhi, April 2022 Reuters”.)

Alternate title:” Russia vs Ukraine: That Important in the “Asian Century”?’

Further to this March 6 post,

Asia: Major Parts of the World Not Part of “International Community’s” Condemning Russia on Ukraine

a former Indian national security adviser reminds the “West”, the US in particular, that much of what too many self-deluding people call the “international community” has a very different appreciation of events that are currently taking place towards the western part of Eurasia–at Foreign Affairs:

The Fantasy of the Free World

Are Democracies Really United Against Russia?

By Shivshankar Menon

April 4, 2022

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has provoked outrage and unleashed a barrage of economic sanctions from many Western governments. Some, such as Germany, have boosted their military spending after years of riding on American coattails. In these actions, certain analysts have found a silver lining to the devastation of the war in Ukraine. Writing in Foreign Affairs in March, Michael Beckley and Hal Brands argued that the international reaction to the invasion would reverberate well beyond the current crisis. The concerted response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions could “consolidate a global alliance that unites democracies against Russia and China and thereby secures the free world for a generation to come.” In this view, Russia’s war in Ukraine might be a pivotal episode in a global contest between autocracy and democracy. Chastened by Putin’s gross violation of norms, democracies will band together in a muscular reaffirmation of the liberal international order.

That is wishful thinking. The war is no doubt a seismic event that will have profound consequences for Russia, its immediate neighbors, and the rest of Europe. But it will neither reshape the global order nor presage an ideological showdown of democracies against China and Russia. After all, many of the world’s biggest democracies, including India, have so far not joined the U.S.-led economic campaign against Russia or even explicitly condemned the invasion. Far from consolidating “the free world,” the war has underscored its fundamental incoherence [emphasis added]. In any case, the future of global order will be decided not by wars in Europe but by the contest in Asia, on which events in Ukraine have limited bearing.


Many countries have heaped opprobrium on Russia, but condemnation has not been universal. The varied responses to the war muddle any vision of U.S.-aligned democracies pitted against Russian-aligned autocracies. Several major democracies, notably India and South Africa, abstained from the UN General Assembly vote on March 2 that demanded that Russia withdraw from Ukraine. Big democracies in Latin America, including Brazil and Mexico, have refused to participate in sanctions [emphasis added, see post noted at the start of this one for the UNGA vote]. Close to half of all Asian and African countries abstained or voted against the resolution. And only three Asian countries—Japan, Singapore, and South Korea—have wholeheartedly joined U.S. and EU sanctions on Russia.

Countries in Asia were of course alarmed by the invasion. Stock markets throughout the region fell precipitously following the news of Putin’s gambit. But most commentary in Asian capitals has regarded the conflict as a war between Europeans over the European security order—not an epochal global conflagration [emphasis added]. Yes, the conflict has changed the European security calculus in fundamental ways. Western European countries have scrambled to strengthen their defenses, Germany has announced a process of rearmament, NATO is more unified than ever before, and the transatlantic alliance has been reinvigorated. The unprecedented stringency of the EU and U.S. economic sanctions on Russia is emblematic of this newfound Western unity.

But from an Asian perspective, the war in Ukraine doesn’t augur shifts to come so much as it underlines a shift that has already taken place. The fact that a war is being fought between Europeans on European soil is a reflection of how much global geopolitics has changed since the end of the Cold War [emphasis added]. Before then, when Europe was the central fault line in the superpower contest, no wars were fought in the region; borders stayed frozen, lest any change provoke conflict between two nuclear-armed superpowers. But after the Cold War, conflict in Europe—in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and today in Ukraine—became neither unthinkable nor fraught with the same risks of annihilation or escalation, despite some alarmist panic about these apocalyptic possibilities today. Europe is a sideshow to the main theater of geopolitical drama: Asia.

Today, the center of gravity of the world economy has moved from the Atlantic to east of the Urals. Geopolitical disputes and security dilemmas that could affect the global order are concentrated in maritime Asia [emphasis added]. And the world seeks a new equilibrium to account for China’s rise. The complex political dynamics in Asia don’t lend themselves easily to the kind of stark confrontation underway in Ukraine. Policymakers in Western countries shouldn’t think that their actions on the new frontlines in Europe will shape the contours of a wider struggle to come.


To be sure, the war in Ukraine will have significant second-order effects on countries in Asia—on their economic prospects when it comes to the supply of energy, precious and strategic metals, fertilizers, and grain. The slowdown in the global economy resulting from the spike in oil and gas prices will particularly affect countries in Asia which, by and large, account for almost 60 percent of crude oil imports in the global economy. The resulting rise in energy intensive fertilizer production costs will intensify the pain caused by the withdrawal from the market of Russian and Ukrainian wheat, which accounts for over 25 percent of wheat traded in the world [emphasis added].

China is probably the Asian economy with the greatest economic exposure to Russia, for food, energy, and other products and as a market for Chinese exports. It also counts Ukraine as its third-largest source of imported arms, after Russia and France. So far, China has chosen Russia over Ukraine in its public stances, but its relationship with Russia can in no way compare with or replace China’s economic dependence on the West. China will presumably want to avoid secondary sanctions and may therefore implement U.S. and EU sanctions on Russia where it cannot evade them.

The rest of Asia is considerably less exposed to trade with Russia, and there is little or no Russian investment in South, Southeast, and East Asia. Yes, these countries will experience some turbulence thanks to the war. All South Asian countries, for instance, are net oil importers and are vulnerable to price surges just when their economies are undergoing pandemic-induced inflation and shocks. Most South Asian countries have elections upcoming in the next two years, and their incumbent leaders are likely to make populist decisions in handling the volatility of commodity prices, choosing subsidies, price cuts, and elevated debt over steps that would be more economically sound over the long term.

But the war will not change the fundamental geopolitical dynamic in Asia, unless the United States becomes very distracted from its Indo-Pacific strategy. Many Asian countries, including U.S. allies, are economically bound to China yet rely on the United States for their security. India is one example. Its trade with China has set new records in the last two years despite frosty political relations and a military buildup and clashes along their shared border. At the same time, India’s security and intelligence ties with the United States have increased substantially. Russia, which accounted for 88 percent of Indian arms imports in 2002, saw its share decline to 35 percent by 2020, by when the United States and its allies accounted for 65 percent. India does retain large stocks of legacy Russian platforms, but the trend toward diversification in its arms imports is clear and steady.

This dynamic of multiple affiliations and partnerships is the norm in Asia, and it will complicate any Western framing of a larger confrontation with the autocracies of China and Russia [emphasis added]. India has received a good deal of criticism for its reluctance to speak out against the war in Ukraine. (It also abstained from the February UN Security Council vote condemning the invasion.) U.S. officials have also warned India not to agree to Russian proposals that might help the Kremlin evade the effects of sanctions.

For India, the war has posed a stark and unwelcome choice between the West and Russia, a choice that it has done everything possible to avoid making [emphasis added]. The United States is an essential and indispensable partner in India’s modernization, but Russia remains an important partner for geopolitical and military reasons. Whereas Russia is willing to codevelop and produce sensitive defense technologies such as the BrahMos missile and to share nuclear submarines with India, North America and Europe provide India with access to advanced technologies, markets, and financial and educational systems that Russia cannot match. The United States is an essential partner for India’s maritime security in the Indo-Pacific, including working together under the auspices of the so-called Quad, a partnership that also incorporates Australia and Japan. But India’s interests on the Eurasian continent require working with Russia and Iran now that the United States is no longer militarily present in Afghanistan [emphasis added, something one is sure the US did not figure into the consequences of its Afghan bug-out]. Indian diplomats have therefore chosen to stress the need to find a negotiated way out of war in Ukraine, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has encouraged Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to talk directly to each other to rapidly end the crisis.

India has subtly expressed its unhappiness with the invasion by reiterating its support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. If past experience is a guide, Indian officials will have made their displeasure clear to their Russian counterparts in private. Public opinion in India about the invasion remains divided, although many high-profile public figures have been stronger in their condemnation of the invasion than the government has been . But expecting New Delhi to take a more strident official position against Moscow is unrealistic, and Western criticism and pressure will probably rankle a postcolonial society like India’s [emphasis added–see two tweets at the end of this post by a retired Indian Army brigadier].

As shocked as Western policymakers profess to be by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, they might remember that such behavior is neither unprecedented nor representative of a real change in the norms of state behavior in Europe and the world. For one, such a violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity is something that Asia has seen and experienced in the past at the hands of major powers. The long list of outside interventions and invasions (including the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the Vietnam War), of ongoing proxy wars and “frozen” conflicts in which casualties mount daily, is proof that major powers are content to pay lip service to norms about sovereignty and territorial conflict even as those norms are repeatedly breached [emphasis added]. Besides, it is hard to think of any powerful state that has not been associated with such acts of commission or omission in living memory. That does not justify Russian actions in Ukraine. But it does suggest that analysts and policymakers should use greater delicacy in how they frame the contest and in the demands they make on Asian and African states.


No matter how long the war in Ukraine lasts, how the West isolates Russia, and how the war’s secondary market effects hit Asian economies, the balance of power in Asia is unlikely to be significantly affected. To be sure, the total collapse of the Russian state would have serious ramifications, but that outcome seems unlikely for now. In Asia, the war will not close the gap in military strength between, on the one hand, the United States and China and, on the other, the large number of middle and subregional powers in Asia. The latter will still have to negotiate between the sole superpower and China. Nor does it seem likely that a newly consolidated Western alliance, however invigorated, will find the energy to take an active or meaningful role in security dilemmas in Asia so long as it is preoccupied with containing Russia in Europe.

Instead of consolidation, the war in Ukraine seems likely to lead to greater fragmentation of the global order. It has reinforced the urge to build strategic autonomy in Europe as European countries begin to take a greater share in their own defense rather than rely to such an extent on the United States. It has also reinforced Asia’s sense of its own difference—its focus on stability, trade, and the bottom line that has served Asian countries so well in the last 40 years. The war will likely challenge economies that are already reeling from the pandemic and the retreat from globalization over the last decade. The combined economic and political effects of the war are likely to persuade Asian countries to embrace greater self-reliance, a trend already engendered by the pandemic.

But Russia’s invasion does not draw a line in the sand between the allies of the free world and its foes. A global Manichaean struggle is not in the offing [emphasis added]. Those observers hoping for a conflict of that scope to arise from the rubble of Mariupol and Kharkiv will be disappointed.

SHIVSHANKAR MENON is a former diplomat who served as National Security Adviser to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from 2010 to 2014. He is currently Visiting Professor of International Relations at Ashoka University.

More By Shivshankar Menon

The article by Mr Menon should be required reading in the foreign ministries and chanceries of the West. A very relevant recent post:

Russia vs Ukraine: India’s Strategic Autonomy (tous azimuts) in Action

And one from March 2014 just after Russia’s annexation of the Crimea:

How’s That “International Community” Cant Working Out, Obama, Harper et al.? Part 2

Now those tweets:



Plus a tweet by a retired Indian Navy commodore:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Asia: Major Parts of the World Not Part of “International Community’s” Condemning Russia on Ukraine

(Green in favour, red no, yellow abstain in image at top of the post showing UNGA vote condemning Russia over Ukraine)

Something very important that the US government and most media choose to sweep under the rug–it’s best to face reality, and not convince one’s self of delusions when formulating policy on important matters. Further to these tweets,

excerpts from a NY Times’ article that reminds people of significant realities, including the power of arms trade diplomacy:

Some minimal influence. That tweet on India’s long-standing reliance on Russia for many of its most important arms:

And the 2014 post on the General Assembly vote condemning Russia’s annexation of the Crimea:

How’s That “International Community” Cant Working Out, Obama, Harper et al.? Part 2

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

PRC and World Cup: Gratifying Headline of the Day

Story by the Globe and Mail’s James Griffiths who it seems may at last have got his visa to cover the PRC from Beijing (he has been in Hong Kong, see this post):

China crashes out of 2022 World Cup on eve of Winter Olympics

[Alternate headline: “China Gets the Boot“]

James Griffiths Asia correspondent Beijing

The opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Olympics is just days away, and China is geared up for what promises to be the country’s best-ever showing at the Winter Games. But when it comes to this year’s other global sporting event, China won’t even be in attendance: Its soccer team was knocked out of the World Cup after a humiliating 3-1 loss Tuesday to Vietnam in Hanoi.

The last and only time China qualified for the World Cup was in 2002…

Recall the bloody nose the PLA got from the People’s Army of Vietnam in 1979.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Indo-Pacific Military Cockpit: Japan/Australia, Japan/US (note Taiwan) Strengthen their Bilateral Parts of Quad–and India?

How odd man out will India be? See 3).

1) Japan/Australia, at Defense News Jan. 6:

Japan, Australia ink deal to make military drills run more smoothly

Australia and Japan have signed a reciprocal access agreement to make it easier for their respective militaries to visit each other’s countries for exercises.

The agreement was signed Thursday [Jan. 6] during a virtual conference between Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida, which took place in lieu of an official visit to Australia by the latter. That scheduled visit was was canceled due to a surge in COVID-19 cases in Australia.

This is the first such agreement Japan has signed with a country other than the United States [emphasis added]. The U.S. has a so-called status of forces agreement with Japan, which allows American forces to be stationed throughout the Asian nation’s territory.

The new bilateral agreement will “underpin greater and more complex practical engagement between the Australian Defence Force and the Japanese Self-Defence Forces,” according to a statement released by Morrison on Wednesday.

“This treaty will be a statement of our two nations’ commitment to work together in meeting the shared strategic security challenges we face and to contribute to a secure and stable Indo-Pacific,” the statement read…

Australian and Japanese forces in recent years have joined for joint and multilateral military exercises, such as the biennial Talisman Sabre drill in Australia, which began in 2015. Australian forces have also taken part in a military exercise in Japan, with Australian fighter jets deploying to the country for Bushido Guardian in 2019. The 2021 iteration was canceled due to the pandemic…

Australia and Japan already have deals in place governing defense equipment transfers and intelligence sharing, along with an acquisition and cross-servicing agreement to enable sharing of fuel and other supplies.

2) Japan/US, at Defense News Jan. 7:

US, Japan agree to two defense pacts amid China worries

The U.S. and Japan are close to signing a new five-year pact for Japan to support U.S. military forces in the country and a new agreement to research and develop new defense technologies, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday [Jan. 6].

Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met virtually with their Japanese counterparts — Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa and Defense Minister Kishi Nobuo — on Thursday amid rising tensions between the allies and China. Austin participated from home as he recovers from COVID-19.

“We’re launching a new research and development agreement that will make it easier for our scientists, for engineers and program managers, to collaborate on emerging defense-related issues: countering hypersonic threats, advancing space capabilities,” Blinken said ahead of the meeting. “When Japanese and American researchers bring their complementary strengths to bear, we can out-compete and out-innovate anyone.”

Austin reaffirmed the importance of the alliance and said the two countries are taking “bold steps” to strengthen its readiness and deterrent power. Thursday’s meeting was to set a framework for future action, he added.

“This framework will include: enhancing alliance capabilities across all domains; evolving our roles and missions to reflect Japan’s growing ability to contribute to regional peace and stability; and optimizing our alliance force posture to strengthen deterrence,” Austin said.

Under the terms of the hosting deal reached in principle two weeks ago, Japan will spend approximately $1.82 billion annually to support the U.S. military presence. The United States has about 55,000 troops in Japan, including a naval contingent, which makes it the largest forward-deployed U.S. force in the world [emphasis added].

Though it went unmentioned publicly on Thursday, the two sides have reportedly drafted plans for a joint operation amid fears China is gaining the ability to invade and hold Taiwan [emphasis added]. At the initial stage of a Taiwan emergency, the U.S. Marine Corps would set up temporary bases on the Nansei (or Ryukyu) island chain, which stretches southwest toward Taiwan.

Japan’s armed forces would reportedly provide logistical support in areas such as fuel and ammunition, according to the Kyodo news agency.

Japan is also reportedly deploying more than 500 Self-Defense Force personnel, as well as surface-to-ship and ground-to-air missile batteries, on one island in the Nansei chain, Ishigaki. The westernmost island, Yonaguni, hosts a radar and surveillance station, and is reportedly adding an electronic warfare unit by 2023.

The operational plans were expected to draw a backlash from China, which considers democratically-governed Taiwan part of Chinese territory…

Blinken also said the two countries militaries “are improving their capacity to conduct complex joint operations,” as evidenced by a November’s naval exercise in the Philippine Sea, which saw forces from Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and the U.S. conduct complex exercises with multiple aircraft carriers [see here, and here for participation of Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Winnipeg]

Amid stepped up tensions with China, Japan’s parliament has approved a record extra budget of nearly 36 trillion yen (U.S. $317 billion), with additional military spending to speed up deployment of missile defense systems and other military preparedness measures. Kishida said in November he was open to acquiring enemy-base strike capabilities [emphasis added].

With reporting by the Associated Press.

3) Meanwhile one Indian view, at The Print–keep in mind that many Indians believe the country must maintain its “strategic autonomy” (e.g. “Finding Strategic Autonomy in the Quad: India’s Trial by Fire”): 

Japan-Australia pact shows others can move on without India in Quad

India continues to harbour the illusion that more partners are better than deeper partnerships. This makes creating a regional balance against China more difficult.

Rajesh Rajagopalan

The newly signed Japan-Australia defence agreement should be welcome to New Delhi, but there also ought to be some concerns. On the one hand, it signals the growing coalescence of a regional counter-hegemonic balancing effort in the Indo-Pacific. This benefits India too because China’s power is as much a problem for India and any effort to counterbalance it should be welcome. On the other hand, there could also be a warning for New Delhi in these efforts, that others are stitching up formal, institutionalised security cooperation that leave India out. With two new security treaties now in the region in the space of just a few months—AUKUS being the other—and more potentially on their way, New Delhi needs to consider seriously whether its continuing scepticism of closer security cooperation with others best serves India’s interest.

The new treaty is a demonstration of how worried regional powers are about China’s behaviour. Japan has not signed such a treaty with any country other than the US. Until recently, Japan was unwilling to consider any military obligations beyond defence of its own territory. This has now changed, as Tokyo increasingly realises that it needs security cooperation to deal with potential regional developments beyond its territory. Just last month, Japan and the US agreed to a ‘draft’ joint plan for dealing with a Taiwan contingency. The Japan-Australia agreement is yet another indication that the attitude in Tokyo is changing.

Moreover, Japan is apparently also considering additional security cooperation arrangements with the UK and improving its relations with France. Though India and Japan have signed an agreement on ‘reciprocal provision of supplies and services’ between their military forces, it is far more limited when compared to the Japan-Australia agreement. The India-Japan agreement is primarily meant to facilitate military exercises rather than routinise deep military cooperation [emphasis added]. The change in Japanese attitude mirrors the change in Australia, which once saw China as an economic and trade partner but now sees it as a clear security threat, forcing Canberra to look for new security arrangements with both regional and external powers…

As satisfactory as it might be to see others balancing against China more vigorously, New Delhi should be careful not to give in to the temptation to free-ride on these efforts and assume that it can relax its own efforts to create a regional balance. While New Delhi is confronting Beijing in the Himalayas, that by itself is not sufficient to create the balance that India needs. Most importantly, while India may be able to hold its own along the LAC [Line of Actual Control] today, its situation is likely to worsen as time passes…

China’s naval expansion is proceeding at a pace that will soon make it a force to reckon with in India’s neighbourhood [emphasis added]. Unlike an on-ground confrontation, India simply cannot match China’s naval power, which is based on capital assets that India does not have the money to match. This is especially so when India needs to continue devoting the bulk of its military budget just to hold the line along the Himalayas. And of course, the less said about the continuing mess in India’s defence procurement process, the better [emphasis added, ditto too for Canadian procurement–matters not improved since this 2019 article].

India must shed its aversion to ties

…While India might not need direct help from partners in the Himalayas, it does need such help on the maritime front. But that help would be possible only when India overcomes its ambivalence to stronger and deeper security cooperation with its partners in the region that goes beyond simply holding military exercises.

This is why New Delhi should think seriously about the import of the new security arrangements like the Japan-Australia agreement. Even though these arrangements help India too, they also suggest that others in the region are moving on to deeper security cooperation without India. It is unlikely that New Delhi’s ambivalence is causing these developments but the depth of these arrangements cannot but invite comparisons to the Quad and specifically India’s stance. If India’s partners continue to build other agreements, it could reduce the importance of the Quad in their eyes.

…New Delhi continues to harbour the illusion that more partners are better than deeper partnerships. This makes creating a regional balance against China more difficult, to India’s own detriment.

The author is a professor in International Politics at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. He tweets @RRajagopalanJNU. Views are personal.

An earlier very relevant post:

The Challenge Facing India–Leaning even Closer to US to Balance PRC but at same time Keeping in with Russia (tous azimuts of a sort)

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Putin to the Rescue in Kazakhstan Crackown (note PRC UPDATE)

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “Troops are seen at the main square where hundreds of people were protesting against the government, following authorities’ decision to lift price caps on liquefied petroleum gas, in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Jan. 6, 2022. MARIYA GORDEYEVA/Reuters”.)

See UPDATE–PRC’s Xi giving support to Pres. Tokayev too, implicitly fingering US.

The Russian and the Kazakh presidents are using a little-known treaty organization for the first time–not exactly the Warsaw Pact invading Hungary in 1956 or Czechoslovakia in 1968, but still…a developing situation (see “Comments”). At the Globe and Mail by an excellent reporter (and note Canadian economic interests mentioned at tweets near end):

Thousands of Russian troops descend on Kazakhstan after deadly uprising

Mark MacKinnon Senior International Correspondent London

In scenes that recalled the crushing of the Prague Spring five decades ago, thousands of Russian soldiers were deployed into neighbouring Kazakhstan on Thursday [Jan 6.] to help prop up that country’s wobbling authoritarian regime.

Dozens of anti-government protesters, as well as at least 18 security officers, were killed in a second day of violent clashes across Kazakhstan, an oil-rich former Soviet republic that is the largest state in Central Asia. Videos posted to social media showed smoke rising over the centre of Almaty, the country’s largest city, amid the sound of automatic weapons fire that didn’t stop for minutes at a time.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the newly arrived Russian forces – formally described as “peacekeepers” – were involved in the violence. Their presence was expected to stabilize a kleptocratic and repressive regime that seemed to be on the brink of collapse Wednesday after protesters overran Almaty’s city hall and main airport.

What’s behind unrest rocking oil-rich Kazakhstan?

It was the Moscow-led Warsaw Pact alliance that sent troops into Czechoslovakia in 1968 to bring an end to a period of liberalization and mass protest in the then-Communist state. Thursday’s military intervention, which followed several days of swelling demonstrations, was carried out under the guise of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, or CSTO, a modern made-in-Moscow grouping that brings together six former republics of the USSR [emphasis added].

Russia made its intervention across the southern border into Kazakhstan as some 100,000 troops remain massed along the country’s western border with Ukraine, another former Soviet state that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been trying to pull back into Moscow’s orbit [note this post: “Those Exceptional Americans just don’t get that Exceptional Russian Mentalité–plus Bad Vlad on the History of Russians and Little Russians (er, Ukrainians)“].

According to Russian media, some 3,000 Russian paratroopers – supported by 500 troops from Belarus and smaller detachments from Tajikistan and Armenia – had either arrived in or were on their way to Kazakhstan. The deployment was made after Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev called on the alliance to intervene and save his country from what he called a foreign-funded “terrorist threat.” (It wasn’t clear whether Kyrgyzstan, the sixth member of the CSTO, had sent any soldiers.)

What Mr. Tokayev was actually threatened by was widespread unrest that began this week when residents in the western city of Zhanaozen blocked roads to protest against rising gas prices. Copycat demonstrations quickly erupted in cities and towns across the country. The outrage didn’t subside even after Mr. Tokayev dismissed his cabinet and ordered gas prices to be lowered…

On Wednesday, Mr. Tokayev also announced that he had accepted the resignation of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the chairman of the country’s security council, who had previously ruled the country as president from 1991 until 2019. Mr. Nazarbayev, a close ally of Mr. Putin, had maintained wide influence even after leaving the presidency. The 81-year-old was given the official title of “father of the nation,” and his family controls much of the economy.Though Mr. Nazarbayev hasn’t been seen or heard from since the protests began, he has been a focal point of the protesters’ anger…

Though the CSTO was founded in 1994, three years after the fall of the USSR, Thursday marked the first time a member had activated the alliance’s mutual defence clause [emphasis added]

In Ottawa, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said the government is monitoring the situation and called for restraint and de-escalation. “We urge that the situation in Kazakhstan be resolved quickly and through peaceful dialogue.”

My tweet on Ms. Joly’s statement is second one here:

More on major Canadian uranium mining company Cameco and Kazakhstan:

And from Foreign Policy:

The PRC’s reaction to Russia’s asserting itself in Kazakhstan will be interesting to observe as China has major economic interests in the country and involving it:

UPDATE: More on PRC:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Indian Nuke Ballistic Missiles–Canisterization and MIRVing: First Strike Implications vs Pakistan

Further to this post,

Indian Nuke Use vs Pakistan and the PRC–no first, or, Maybe first after all? Against which?

The whole matter of Indian nuclear weapons doctrine deserves quite a bit more attention in the West than it gets since:

1) the confrontation between India and fellow nuclear state Pakistan over Kashmir goes on endlessly as one the world’s most inherently scary powder kegs (to use the old-fashioned phrase, see post here) and;

2) direct military confrontation between India and PRC in the Himalayas now simmers in the background after coming close to a boil last summer (see articles here and here)…

now a piece at The Federation of American Scientist by two who know their nukes:

India’s Nuclear Arsenal Takes A Big Step Forward

By Matt Korda and Hans Kristensen • December 23, 2021

On 18 December 2021, India tested its new Agni-P medium-range ballistic missile from its Integrated Test Range on Abdul Kalam Island [photo at top of this post is from story here]. This was the second test of the missile, the first test having been conducted in June 2021.

Our friends at Planet Labs PBC managed to capture an image of the Agni-P launcher sitting on the launch pad the day before the test took place.

Following both launches of the Agni-P, the Indian Government referred to the missile as a “new generation” nuclear-capable ballistic missile. Back in 2016, when the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) first announced the development of the Agni-P (which was called the Agni-1P at the time), a senior DRDO official explained why this missile was so special:

“As our ballistic missiles grew in range, our technology grew in sophistication. Now the early, short-range missiles, which incorporate older technologies, will be replaced by missiles with more advanced technologies. Call it backward integration of technology.”

The Agni-P is India’s first shorter-range missile to incorporate technologies now found in the newer Agni-IV and -V ballistic missiles, including more advanced rocket motors, propellants, avionics, and navigation systems.

Most notably, the Agni-P also incorporates a new feature seen on India’s new Agni-V intermediate-range ballistic missiles that has the potential to impact strategic stability: canisterization. And the launcher used in the Agni-P launch appears to have increased mobility. There are also unconfirmed rumors that the Agni-P and Agni-V might have the capability to launch multiple warheads [emphasis added].


“Canisterizing” refers to storing missiles inside a sealed, climate-controlled tube to protect them from the outside elements during transportation. In this configuration, the warhead can be permanently mated with the missile instead of having to be installed prior to launch, which would significantly reduce the amount of time needed to launch nuclear weapons in a crisis [emphasis added]. This is a new feature of India’s Strategic Forces Command’s increased emphasis on readiness. In recent years, former senior civilian and military officials have reportedly suggested in interviews that “some portion of India’s nuclear force, particularly those weapons and capabilities designed for use against Pakistan, are now kept at a high state of readiness, capable of being operationalized and released within seconds or minutes in a crisis—not hours, as had been assumed.”

If Indian warheads are increasingly mated to their delivery systems, then it would be harder for an adversary to detect when a crisis is about to rise to the nuclear threshold. With separated warheads and delivery systems, the signals involved with mating the two would be more visible in a crisis, and the process itself would take longer. But widespread canisterization with fully armed missiles would shorten warning time. This would likely cause Pakistan to increase the readiness of its missiles as well and shorten its launch procedures––steps that could increase crisis instability and potentially raise the likelihood of nuclear use in a regional crisis [emphasis added]. As Vipin Narang and Christopher Clary noted in a 2019 article for International Security, this development “enables India to possibly release a full counterforce strike with few indications to Pakistan that it was coming (a necessary precondition for success). If Pakistan believed that India had a ‘comprehensive first strike’ strategy and with no indication of when a strike was coming, crisis instability would be amplified significantly.”

For years, it was evident that India’s new Agni-V intermediate-range missile (the Indian Ministry of Defense says Agni-V has a range of up to 5,000 kilometers; the US military says the range is over 5,000 kilometers but not ICBM range) would be canisterized; however, the introduction of the shorter-range, canisterized Agni-P suggests that India ultimately intends to incorporate canisterization technology across its suite of land-based nuclear delivery systems, encompassing both shorter- and longer-range missiles. While Agni-V is a new addition to India’s arsenal, Arni-P might be intended––once it becomes operational––to replace India’s older Agni-I and Agni-II systems.

MIRV technology

It appears that India is also developing technology to potentially deploy multiple warheads on each missile. There is still uncertainty about how advanced this technology is and whether it would enable independent targeting of each warhead (using multiple independently-targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs) or simply multiple payloads against the same target [emphasis added].

The Agni-P test in June 2021 was rumored to have used two maneuverable decoys to simulate a MIRVed payload, with unnamed Indian defense sources suggesting that a functional MIRV capability will take another two years to develop and flight-test. The Indian MOD press release did not mention payloads. It is unclear whether the December 2021 test utilized decoys in a similar manner.

In 2013, the director-general of DRDO noted in an interview that “Our design activity on the development and production of MIRV is at an advanced stage today. We are designing the MIRVs, we are integrating [them] with Agni IV and Agni V missiles.” In October 2021, the Indian Strategic Forces Command conducted its first user trial of the Agni-V in full operational configuration, which was rumored to have tested MIRV technology. The MOD press release did not mention MIRVs.

If India succeeds in developing an operational MIRV capability for its ballistic missiles, it would be able to strike more targets with fewer missiles, thus potentially exacerbating crisis instability with Pakistan. If either country believed that India could potentially conduct a decapitating or significant first strike against Pakistan, a serious crisis could potentially go nuclear with little advance warning [emphasis added]. Indian missiles with MIRVs would become more important targets for an adversary to destroy before they could be launched to reduce the damage India could inflict. Additionally, India’s MIRVs might prompt Indian decision-makers to try and preemptively disarm Pakistan in a crisis.

India’s other nuclear adversary, China, has already developed MIRV capability for some of its long-range missiles and is significantly increasing its nuclear arsenal, which might be a factor in India’s pursuit of MIRV technology. A MIRV race between the two countries would have significant implications for nuclear force levels and regional stability. For India, MIRV capability would allow it to more rapidly increase its nuclear stockpile in the future, if it so decided––especially if its plutonium production capability can make use of the unsafeguarded breeder reactors that are currently under construction.

Implications for India’s nuclear policy

India has long adhered to a nuclear no-first-use (NFU) policy and in 2020 India officially stated that there has been no change in its NFU policy. Moreover, the Agni-V test launch in October 2021 was accompanied by a reaffirmation of a “’credible minimum deterrence’ that underpins the commitment to ‘No First Use’.”

At the same time, however, the pledge to NFU has been caveated, watered-down, and called into question by government statements and recent scholarship. The increased readiness and pursuit of MIRV capability for India’s strategic forces could further complicate India’s adherence to its NFU policy and could potentially cause India’s nuclear adversaries to doubt its NFU policy altogether [emphasis added, note the post quoted at the start of this one].

Given that Indian security forces have repeatedly clashed with both Pakistani and Chinese troops during recent border disputes, potentially destabilizing developments in India’s nuclear arsenal should concern all those who want to keep regional tensions below boiling point.

Background Information:

*“Indian Nuclear Forces, 2020,” FAS Nuclear Notebook, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July/August 2020.

*Status of World Nuclear Forces, Federation of American Scientists

And a very relevant September post on the Pakistan situation:

Pakistan Continuing to Nuke Up

What with India also being a nuclear power, the endless Kashmir confrontation, and now the Pakistan-backed Taliban in charge in Afghanistan, one continues to believe the subcontinent may be the most dangerous place in the world (Taiwan aside perhaps [and now Ukraine getting up there]). One trusts the US has workable plans to take out Islamabad’s nukes if the country looks like going full Islamist itself…

A bit of historical background with a link to the Indian subcontinent:

Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds" | Know Your Meme

‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds’. The story of Oppenheimer’s infamous quote

The line, from the Hindu sacred text the Bhagavad-Gita, has come to define Robert Oppenheimer, but its meaning is more complex than many realise

The first detonation of a nuclear device conducted on July 16 1945 was a result of the Manhattan Project which...
The first detonation of a nuclear device, conducted on July 16, 1945 was a result of the Manhattan Project which Oppenheimer led Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

UPDATE: On the other hand about Oppenheimer and the Trinity test:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds