BRICS

India & Russia seek trade in gold

Sberbank, Russia’s largest state-owned bank, is looking to finance the direct import of gold to India.

Aleksei Kechko, managing director of the bank’s Indian subsidiary, has made an announcement to this effect which is no surprise to those who have followed the gold-buying spree of BRICS nations, especially China and Russia.

India imports a lot of gold. Indeed, it’s the second largest importer of gold in the world. India imported $35 billion worth of gold in 2015. The direct gold trade between India and Russia would help both nations.

“We hope to sign the transaction by September or October this year,” said Kechko “We are also exploring the possibility of entering the gold loans sector as well.”

Russia has been keen of late to conduct business with BRICS nations in gold. Russia now has a yuan-clearing bank in Moscow and it’s Central Bank has opened a branch in Beijing to make for better communication between the financial authorities of the two countries.

The effort by BRICS nations is to work towards bypassing the dollar while also using gold for transaction commodity between member nations.

BRICS nations actively are moving towards creating a new financial architecture to tackle the dominance of the US dollar in global finance.

The initiative was taken in the eighth summit of BRICS in India last year. The new institutions set up by the BRICS include the New Development Bank (NDB), the BRICS-led Contingency Reserve Fund (CBF) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Russia is world’s third largest gold producer behind China and Australia, as per the 2016 data. Still, it has been on a massive gold-buying spree in recent years. Hit by economic sanctions by West, Russia’s ruble is the most gold-backed currency in the world. Moscow sees it as a safeguard against western attempts to destabilize Russia’s economy.

The same is the case with China who wants to be ready for economic warfare by the West. Both China and Russia have added almost 50 million ounces of gold to their central banks while selling off more than $267 billion of treasuries.

As for India, it simply loves gold leading to its constant demand. Be it newly-wed brides or trinklets with peasants in countryside, Indians simply love gold.

However, importing gold is relatively a new phenomenon. Until 1990, gold imports were virtually banned. Bullion was smuggled and cost 50 per cent more at home than abroad. However, deregulation set off an explosion. Now most gold legally comes to India through banks.

 

 

Who’s doing the PR for Dolkun Isa?

Be ready to see from tomorrow our newspapers painted red with India’s “freedom” brigade outraged at the denial of visa to Dolkun Isa.

The first stone will be cast in the Indian Parliament–having just begun its session–where the issues of drought and natural disasters, jobs and economy will be cast aside as our elected representatives will fall over each other at the terrible “intolerance” of Modi government on Isa affair.

A few predictions: Barack Obama or Melinda Gates would express concern; British parliamentarians would plan to send a delegation on human rights to India; and European Union would worry over what has come over Gandhi’s land.  You already know who would “condemn,” “criticize” and “allege” against Modi in screaming headlines on front pages tomorrow on.

No one would bother to check a few basic points: (a) Isa has an Interpol alert against him; (b) his visa application had flouted the norms and (c) India could have been seen as supporting terrorism.

There’s no reason to bait China who has never pricked India with conferences of Maoists, Naxalites and northeast rebels in its cities.

And what’s such a big deal about blocking “Azhar” being termed a terrorist at the UN forum? UN has blacklisted many terrorist organizations but neither their funding nor recruitment has been affected.

More than symbolic gestures, it’s important to understand the geopolitical reality. China desperately needs Pakistan and its Gawadar port for secure supply of its energy resources from the Middle East. It has a legitimate ground on the Dalai Lama issue, if not the NorthEast border disputes. It hasn’t hosted our “rebels” or “Hurriyat” leaders.

There’s a lot to gain if India and China build bridges and align themselves on major issues to save Asia from imperialist designs which comes in the form of “free trade” these days. That China and India agree on the point of Isa is unacceptable to Western powers and its captive, servile media.

Want an evidence? Just google search on “Isa and denied Indian visa.” You would squirm with unease on lengthy stories in New York Times and big digital outposts such as The Wire. Most media “heavyweights” have not only written thousands of words on the matter but have also been able to dial Isa for his reactions.

Most media outlets, including Indian media, have been able to phone Isa and get his reaction. A great PR agency has clearly been working round the clock on behalf of Isa to international press. Who’s behind such well-oiled publicity machine is easy to guess.

That alone ought to tell you the jitters in the West at the slightest hint of India and China drawing closer to each other. The forums of BRICS and SCO is simply unpalatable to them. A great game is being played in Asia and at stake is the hegemony of the world’s superpower.

Silly me to have presumed that you already know about Dolkun Isa issue. Mr Isa, 48, is a leader of the World Uyghur Congress, a Munich-based group that wants independence for Xinjiang, a region of western China, home to a large population of Uyghurs, mostly Muslim ethnic minority. He now lives in Germany.  Isa feld China in 1994.

And here’s the punch: In all this chest-thumping and anguish on Isa, no newspaper has bothered to inform us about the exact nature of conference in Dharamshala. Well, here it is: it’s being organized by a Washington-based (sigh) NGO, “Initiatives for China,” which is run by Yang Jianli, Harvard mathematician and a prominent Chinese pro-democracy leader.

Do you see the connection? If not yet then start writing down the names of all those who hit out against the Modi government and whom you read from tomorrow on in our newspapers. These would be the politicians, academicians and journalists who are paid in cash or kind to subvert the nation.

Russia need be a India-China mediator

The Russia-India-China (RIC) meet of its foreign ministers in Moscow is unlikely to have thawed the freezing relations between two Asian giants, China and India.

 

The same is true of the simultaneous visit of India’s defence minister Manohar Parrikar to China where he met his Chinese counterpart Gen. Chang Wanguan and stated India attaches highest priority to its relationship with China.

 

Both China and India suffer from a trust deficit though the niggling issue is simple enough: Both China and India need to look at each other’s territorial claims on Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin plateau in a spirit of cooperation and resolve the long-standing dispute.

 

As a nation which stands to gain the most through India-China alliance, Russia could offer its own example: the Russian-Chinese borders were formalized in 2004 after 40 years of bad blood between the two nations.

 

The last fortnight has been particularly frosty: China blocked India’s move in United Nations to have Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief and allegedly Pathankot terror attack mastermind, Masood Azhar be designated as terrorist,

 

India, on their part, went ahead a signed an agreement with the United States on sharing military logistics in Indian Ocean, the area which is strategically and economically lifeline to Beijing.

 

But the RIC meet is unlikely to have much influence. Despite it being a foreign ministers’ conclave, it largely deals with the economic, and not security, issues.

 

The economic prospects of trade between India and China are mammoth. It’s already worth $100 billion and given their market and areas of strength, it holds immense possibility.

 

India could offer its Information Services strength and avail China’s expertise to build high-speed rail network in India. China’s excess production could also be easily absorbed within India.

 

India is extremely touch on matters of terrorism and finds itself regularly frustrated by China on international forums. Last year, China had blocked India’s bid to question Pakistan over the release of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, a commander in Lashkar-e-Taiba, which had carried out the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks that claimed 160 lives.

 

A leaked cable of US State Department in 2010 had revealed that China had in the past blocked UN sanctions against Lashkar-e-Taiba and the al-Akhtar Trust (a charity front for Jaish-e-Mohammad). It had also blocked India’s request to list Syed Salahuddin, a terrorist wanted in relation to numerous Hizbul Mujahideen attacks.

 

Though China’s moves were procedural within the UN sanctions committee, it was in opposition to the stands of US, UK, France and Russia all of whom were willing to back India on the issue.

 

China has a history of shielding Pakistan-based terror groups from sanctions under resolution 1267 even though it hardly ever uses a veto—exercising it only 10 times in its 70-year history of UNSC. It parrots the same line in defence that Pakistan does: “Pakistan is a terrible victim of terrorism itself.”

Such acts hardly endear China to India. It also reveals the closeness between Pakistan and China in modern context. India feels hemmed in between its two nuclear-armed northern neighbours. All it is doing is to drive India into US’ arms which dread the prospects of close India-China relations.

It still is encouraging that RIC has shown its concern on terrorism and a willingness to use international forums, such as BRICS, SCO, East Asian summits and Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) to get the three nations closer.

Russia is keen to play a mediator’s role between China and India. It won’t be Asia’s century unless India and China draw closer to each other. Joint enterprises, preferential trade system and a common trade currency offer a huge opportunity.

China’s Great Silk Road project involves a huge territory—from Southeast Asia to the Caucasus. Russia, like India, isn’t yet a part of it even though a cooperation between the Silk Road and Russia-inspired Eurasian Eonomic Union exists.

There is a need to cool down the tempers from both sides. Says NewsBred columnist Shen Dingli: “China actually has many ways to hurt India. China could send an aircraft carrier to the Gwadar port in Pakistan. China had turned down the Pakistan offer to have military stationed in the country. If India forces China to do that,” there could be a threatening navy at India’s doorstep.

India-China Cold War is bad news for BRICS

The Indo-US agreement on sharing military logistics to counter China’s assertiveness in Indian Ocean could have wider ramifications.  The two can use each other’s land, air and naval bases for supplies and repair. A piece on the essentials of this conflict:

India and China have been engaged in a Cold War since the beginning of 2015.

New Delhi feels a certain hegemony over Indian Ocean. China, which views it as vital to its survival as a trade route, won’t let it happen. The trade deficit between the two doesn’t help the cause.  Both are wary of each other. It’s a real bad news for the future of BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)—much to the delight of western powers.

India has made a few moves in recent past which shows its anxiety. Modi visited Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka in March last year but ignored China-friendly Maldives as an apparent snub. Also a conference of “Indian Ocean: Renewing the Maritime Trade and Civilisational Linkages” was held in Bhubaneswar.  India wants its own Cotton Route to challenge China’s New Silk Road.  The Grand Prize of East Africa doesn’t lessen their friction.

China has its own “String of Pearls” strategy. The Gwadar port in Pakistan; naval bases in Myanmar, intelligence facility in Bay of Bengal, a canal-in-construct across the Kra Isthmus in Thailand, a military tie-up with Cambodia and building military bases in the South China Sea. The “String of Pearls” is meant to secure the sea lanes from the Middle East to the South China Sea for its energy and security concerns.

With the Strait of Malacca enabling almost 80 percent of passage to China’s energy needs, it has looked to build its naval power at choke points along the sea routes from the Persian Gulf to the South China Sea.

A look at the two Asian powers’ position vis-à-vis critical nations/islands strewn across the Indian Ocean:

Myanmar

This Southeast Asian state was close to China for two decades. But in 2012, it began a “pro-democratization” process—most likely under US pressure—and is now seen close to India. The two together plan to extend Myanmar-Thailand Highway into a trilateral deal.

India’s “Cotton Road” strategy is meant to counter China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) plan. India wishes to integrate with its ASEAN counterparts and block china from dominating these states.

Sri Lanka

In a surprise result last year, the pro-China leadership in Sri Lanka, under Rajapksa was ousted and pro-India Sirisena came to power. The first thing Sirisena did was to suspend China’s $1.4 billion investment in port infrastructure.

With Sri Lanka back under India’s influence, for the moment, the link between Maldives and Myanmar for China has been “cut,” so to speak.

Pakistan

Pakistan has decisively moved into China’s arms and there’s no going back on it. The $46 billion Pakistan-China Economic Corridor is well and truly underway. From an Indian perspective, it’s a bad news.

Bangladesh

In order to counter China-Pakistan alliance, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi went to Bangladesh and paved way for resolving the 40-year old border disagreement. It can also have a vital impact on India’s control of its northeast region.  India can also now directly use Bangladesh’s ports, instead of relying on vulnerable Siliguri Corridor. Till Modi visited Bangladesh, the latter had been cuddling up to China.

Nepal

Nepal has been a clear loss to India.  New Delhi reacted badly to Nepal’s new federative constitution, as did the pro-India Madhesi ethnic group that occupies the Terai border. Subsequent riots and Indian trucks refusing to cross the border into Nepal worsened the situation. Kathmandu sees the hand of New Delhi in this unrest.

China moved in swiftly, providing 1.3 million litres of petrol and signing a deal to fill in Nepal’s demand in the face of India’s monopoly. In one swift action, Nepal has pivoted itself on China’s axis. China surely eyes the control of strategic Karnali and Koshi rivers that sustains 200 million Indians who live at the southern border.

Maldives

The ouster of former head Nauseed and his Maldivian Democratic Party is a big blow to India’s plans for this little island nation. The current president Yameen is well-disposed towards China which gives it a proxy control on this island chain. There have been multiple attempts on Yameen’s life and India has found itself drawn into the scandal.

Panama Papers: have a great laugh about it

Indian Express is preening that alongside International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) it poured over 11.5 million leaked documents of 214,000 shell companies and 14,000 Mossak Fonseca clients, between 1977 and 2015, and found over 500 Indian individuals using the tax haven.

The leak first appeared in NATO-friendly Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper in Munich and then shared by the ICIJ with selected mainstream media partners, including Indian Express.

A few of the smeared names you already know: Amitabh Bachchan, Harish Salve, Aishwarya Rai, KP Singh and Vinod Adani, elder brother of industrialist Gautam Adani.

Now a few things which you don’t know and must be told about:

The ICIJ is funded by Washington-based Center for Public Integrity which in turn gets its source income from the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment, the Rockfeller Family Fund, the Kellogg Foundation and the George Soros-owned Open Society.

Another of ICIJ patron is Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) which is financed by the US government through USAID.

And yes, about Panama: a well-known US vassal state. As famous analyst Pepe Escobar says: “Absolutely nothing in real substance happens in Panama without a green light by the United States government. Or as an international tax lawyer told me, “you have to be an idiot to stash money in Panama. You cannot flush a toilet there without the Americans knowing about it.”

So in this selective leak, there is no US senator, European Union politicians, no big Wall Street banks and hedge funds hiding in Panama. Apple, Google, Starbucks—a few of the biggest tax evaders using offshore schemes—have miraculously evaded the scrutiny.”

As former UK ambassador Craig Murray writes: “The filtering of this…information by the corporate media follows a direct western government agenda….The Guardian is quick to reassure that much of the leaked material will remain private.”

This “leak” is essentially to cause domestic rows and embarrassment to BRICS nations, Russia, China and India alongside Bashar-al-Asad of Syria. Certain leaks are held back to potentially blackmail those in times of need. The other persons named are relatively minor players in the big game which West, embarrassed by Russia-inspired victory in Palmyra, has chosen to sacrifice.

So you have the names of demented king of Saudi Arabia; Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister; Avad Allawi, ex-interimt PM of Iraq; Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine; Alaa Mubarak, son of Egypt’s former president; Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson of Iceland; Argentina President Mauricio Macri; Dov Weisglass, the butcher of Gaza, already convicted of corruption. These are all disposable individuals.

And then comes the sucker-punch: Western corporate media I shouting from rooftops that Russian president Vladimir Putin has stashed US $2 billion offshore. The fact is: he hasn’t. He is guilty by association to Arkady and Boris Rotenberg’s alleged ties to money laundering. The same method in hauling over the coals Adani, for the acts of his brother; and Bachchan who was seen as ruling party’s candidate to be India’s president.

As for China, unnamed eight Chinese Communist Party current and former officials and brother-in-law of Chinese president Xi Jinping has been named.

Syria was always going to be a target. Most of Western media has put its focus on Rami Makhlouf, “Assad’s fixer.” He is already under US sanctions since February 2008. Nobody bothers to ask how this “poster boy” of corruption was sheltered by HSBC.

The “leak” is of selected nature, likely obtained by US secret service, meant to serve two purpose:

  • To smear BRICS and enemies of empire
  • To hold details for blackmailing in future and keep those targets fall in line

The leak essentially is of several dozen firms and individuals who are already blacklisted by the US sanctions. If ICIJ and its partners are really serious, they ought to go after Cayman Papers or the Virgin Island Papers. That’s where the biggies are.

Says Escobar: “The so-called international banking/financial system is a demented casino. It’s not only 8 percent; Hong Kong players tell me as much as 50 percent of global wealth may currently be parked, undisturbed, in non-taxable offshore havens. If a fraction of these astonishing funds would be taxed, governments right and left would be paying their debts, investing in infrastructure, launching round after round of sustainable growth, and a productive spiral would be in motion.”

Three months ago, Andrew Penney, managing director of Rothschild and Co, in a Bloomberg piece, essentially stated that US “is effectively the biggest tax haven in the world.”

So, essentially, we now know a little more about Indian Express and its association with US-backed dubious bodies of investigative journalists.