29 May 2022

Can IPEF Reduce India’s Economic Dependence on China?

Niranjan Marjani

India has joined the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) launched by the United States on the side lines of the Quad Summit in Tokyo on May 23-24. This initiative has 13 members: Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam. IPEF is based on four pillars: supply chain resilience; clean energy, decarbonization, and infrastructure; taxation and anti-corruption; and fair and resilient trade.

This grouping is intended to counter China’s economic dominance in the Indo-Pacific region. A White House briefing mentions IPEF as not being a traditional free trade agreement. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi described IPEF as a “declaration of our collective will to make the region an engine of global economic growth.” He further stated that trust, transparency and timeliness are essential for building resilient supply chains.

Imran Khan Pauses Long March to Islamabad

Umair Jamal

Clashes between police and supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan erupted across several cities of Pakistan on Wednesday after the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) began its much-awaited long march to Islamabad. Across the country, police resorted to firing tear gas shells to disperse the protesters. In response to the police’s violence, PTI workers set fire to trees and police vehicles in the capital, forcing the government to call the military to protect the capital’s Red Zone, which houses important government buildings.

The political situation in Pakistan has gone from bad to worse as deadlock persists between the ruling coalition and the PTI over the issue of fresh elections. Khan, who is chairman of the PTI, has claimed that his government was removed from office as part of a conspiracy. After entering Islamabad on Thursday morning, Khan abruptly announced that he was ending his protest, saying that the government was taking the nation toward anarchy with its crackdown.

He issued the government an ultimatum. He would return to Islamabad with millions of people in in six days if fresh elections are not announced, Khan said.

Quad Summit Indicates Growing Strength

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

The leaders of the Quad just completed their fourth meeting, and the second in-person gathering, in Tokyo. That the Quad leaders have managed to hold four summits in the last year speaks clearly to the strong commitment shown by the four countries to the grouping. Remarkably, new Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had barely taken his oath of office before traveling to Japan for the Quad Summit, demonstrating the continued Australian commitment to the Quad despite the Labor Party coming to power in Canberra after nearly a decade of Coalition rule.

The resulting joint statement after the meeting highlighted the importance of the Quad as a “force for good,” with a positive agenda to make the Indo-Pacific region more resilient in the face of myriad challenges.

The Ukraine conflict figured prominently in the Quad leaders’ discussions despite the fact that India stands out among them in not calling out Russia by name or joining the Quad countries in sanctioning Moscow. Nevertheless, the joint statement emphasized the importance of rule of law, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; peaceful settlement of disputes without threat or use of force; and freedom of navigation and overflight. The leaders reaffirmed their determination to “uphold the international rules-based order where countries are free from all forms of military, economic and political coercion,” which is particularly applicable in the Indo-Pacific. The leaders also noted that what happened in Ukraine should not be allowed to happen in the Indo-Pacific. Thus, indirectly at least, New Delhi did demonstrate its unhappiness with Moscow’s war.

Chaos on Tajik-Afghan Border Could Make Russian Intervention More Likely

Paul Goble

Dushanbe has never exercised complete control over Tajikistan’s restive Gorno-Badakhshan, a remote region dominated by the Pamir Mountains that occupies a third of the country (even though it has only 3 percent of its population) and adjoins Afghanistan. But in recent weeks, the situation has deteriorated to the point that ever more people in Dushanbe and Moscow are openly talking about the risk that conditions there may soon trigger a full-scale civil war. That possibility has led the Tajikistani leadership to launch yet another and apparently far more massive “counter-terrorist” action in Gorno-Badakhshan—so far with limited success (Fergana.agency, May 18; IA-Centr.ru, EurasiaNet, Sputnik News, May 19).

Perhaps more significantly, Dushanbe’s problems have compelled it to publicly ask Moscow to be ready to send forces into the region, just as it did in Kazakhstan last January. Several days ago, an obviously worried Tajikistani President Emomali Rahmon told a summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Moscow that Russia must be ready to do so on the model of its intervention in Kazakhstan (Stanradar.com, May 20). Other Tajikistani leaders have since made the same case. And at least in part because of this trend, ever more Russian commentators are now suggesting the Kremlin may have to agree, despite being hard-pressed by its war in Ukraine. As they contend, the problems in Tajikistan threaten not only that country and Central Asia but Russian national security as well (Izvestia, May 22).

Russia’s Space Satellite Problems and the War in Ukraine

Pavel Luzin

Three months into Russia’s full-scale war of aggression against Ukraine, the role of Russian military reconnaissance and communications satellites remains noticeably underdeveloped. Although Moscow has 102 military satellites in orbit, the efficiency of its battlefield reconnaissance, surveillance, targeting, and command-and-control systems still seems to be lower than one would have expected for a country with a space program and military-industrial complex ostensibly as advanced as Russia’s. Its forces have been unable to destroy Ukraine’s military infrastructure or eliminate Ukrainian aviation and air/missile-defense systems. When it comes to inadequate reconnaissance and targeting, Russian troubles apparently hinge on a shortage of open optical and synthetic aperture radar satellites. Whereas, its deficient command, control and communications (C3) systems are the result of having too few satellite communication channels and terminals.

Only two Russian military satellites—Persona No. 2 (Cosmos 2486), launched in 2013, and Persona No. 3 (Cosmos 2506) put into orbit two years later—are optical intelligence spacecraft; they follow sun-synchronous orbits 700 kilometers above the surface of the Earth. Three Russian Bars-M satellites also travel along sun-synchronous orbits but below 600 kilometers: Cosmos 2503 (launched in 2015), Cosmos 2515 (2016) and Cosmos 2556 (2022). The Bars-Ms mostly carry out topography and mapping missions (Rossiyskaya Gazeta, February 1). The first experimental, next-generation optical-intelligence satellite, designed to replace the Persona assets, was the EMKA No. 1 (Cosmos 2525) (Kommersant, July 28, 2016). It was launched in 2018 but burned up in the atmosphere in April 2021. Another two satellites of this new generation, Cosmos 2551 and Cosmos 2555, were lost during failed launch attempts, in September 2021 and April 2022, respectively.

Inter-Ethnic Animosity Saps Effectiveness of Russia’s Army in Ukraine

Aslan Doukaev

Russia’s 2022 re-invasion of Ukraine has damaged not only bilateral relations between the two majority–Eastern Slavic neighbors but also—perhaps inadvertently—destabilized ties, links, goodwill, and mutual trust between the Russian periphery and the center, on the one hand, and between certain ethnic groups within the Russian Federation, on the other.

Witness the recent conflict between Buryats and Chechens in the invading force. At the end of April, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) released a statement about a gun battle between Russian troops from the Siberian republic of Buryatia and Chechen fighters loyal to Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov. Upwards of 100 soldiers were reportedly drawn into the exchange of fire in the village of Kyselivka, in occupied Kherson Oblast. “The causes of the inter-ethnic conflict are the reluctance of the Buryats to go on the offensive and the ‘inequality’ of their circumstances compared to those of the Chechens,” the GUR statement read. The latter never fight on the front line, always remaining in the rear as “barrier squads,” the spy agency said. “Their [Chechen fighters’] task is to force the occupier’s units to press forward. That is, to open fire on those who are attempting to retreat” (Gur.gov.ua, April 29; see EDM, April 26). Although the GUR report is sparse on details, the Buryats appear to resent the Chechen troops appropriating most of the loot they had plundered from Ukrainian homes. Little wonder the Siberian service members rebelled against Kadyrov’s forces; but there is arguably more to the story than meets the eye.

Moscow to Expand Use of Russia’s Commercial Fleet for Military Purposes

Paul Goble

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov announced, on May 20, that Moscow is revising its naval doctrine and will be calling for a dramatic expansion in the use of the country’s civilian fleet to support Russian military actions abroad in wartime situations (Interfax, Profil, May 20). Like other states, Russia has long planned to use commercial vessels for military purposes, but Borisov’s announcement suggests Russian military planners have concluded that the only way to overcome current problems in the navy—the Military-Maritime Fleet (Voyenno-Morskoy Flot—VMF)—is to ensure that all Russian-flagged vessels, regardless of their ostensible purposes, are available for military tasks in the event of war. Clearly, this decision stems from the Russian VMF’s long-running difficulties in supporting the Kremlin’s aggression against Ukraine (see EDM, April 25, 2019)

Speaking during a session of the Naval Collegium at the Admiralty last Friday, Borisov argued that the existing Russian naval doctrine, adopted in July 2017, must be corrected on the basis of the country’s experiences during “the special military operation” in Ukraine. He said that the conflict had shown the need for changes so that the VMF will remain capable of defending national interests. He further specified that the changes would focus, in the first instance, on ensuring that all commercial ships under a Russian flag be constructed or rebuilt so that they will be dual-use vessels, capable of civilian trade when possible yet be of military utility when necessary (Vzglyad, May 20).

Missiles and Escorts: Unblocking Ukraine’s Ports on the Black Sea

Andrii Ryzhenko

From the beginning of the 2022 Russo-Ukrainian war, the Russian Black Sea Fleet moved in to block or occupy all of Ukraine’s ports on the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov (see EDM, April 6). In the first days of the massive re-invasion, Russian warships attacked several international civilian vessels entering or exiting Ukrainian seaports. On February 24, the opening day of the Kremlin’s so-called “special military operation” against Ukraine, a vessel belonging to the Turkish company YA-SA Shipping was bombed by Russian aircraft on its way from Odesa, 50 miles from the coast. The following day, Namura Queen, a ship operating under the Panamanian flag, was attacked by a Russian anti-ship missile on its approach to the port of Pivdenniy, where it was going to be loaded up with Ukrainian grain for export. Around the same time and nearby, the Moldovan-flagged Millennial Spirit was also hit and damaged, and several sailors onboard suffered injuries (Izbirkom.org.ua, February 25).