India Continues to Face Backlash Over Anti-Muslim Comments

Protests broke out in different areas of India on Friday as crowds protested anti-Muslim remarks made earlier this month by officials of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The two officials were disciplined by the party, however, that has not quelled the anger brewing inside of India’s Muslim community. The remarks are seen as another example of the pressure being placed on them by the BJP party. Indian Muslims have complained about the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP restricting aspects of their lives from religious worship to the wearing of hijabs. On Friday, protests grew violent in the cities of Prayagraj and Ranchi. Over 100 protesters were arrested in clashes with riot police. The situations in both cities are now reportedly under control. In the Kashmir region protests and demonstrations were calm and peaceful for the most part.

India has faced backlash over the comments on the geopolitical front as well. A number of Gulf states criticized the weak response of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the offensive remarks made by members of his party. Earlier in June, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke against the decline of religious freedom in India. The Indian government called his comments ‘ill informed’ and suggested the United States get its own house in order.

The incident, as well as India’s handling of it, marks a shift of India’s strategy back to Cold War times as it attempts to maintain a closer relationship with Russia at the cost of its close ties with the US. India’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its continued purchase of Russian oil does not sit well with Washington. Indian government officials claim they are simply acting in their national interests with regards to Russia even though their long term strategic interests remain tied to the United States.

Geopolitics Fuel Unrest In The Solomon Islands

Violence and riots continued in the Solomon Islands for the third straight day despite the arrival of Australian peacekeepers and the end of a 36-hour lockdown imposed by the government. The first elements of what will eventually be a force of 120 Australian federal police officers are on the ground in the Solomon Islands. On Friday morning, however, there was no sign of the officers on the streets as the violence flared up. Later in the day, Australian peacekeepers did become visible in certain neighborhoods.

The violence started on Wednesday in the capital city of Honiara when hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the national parliament building and demanded the resignation of Manasseh Sogavare. The demonstration rapidly became a riot. Protesters torched a police station and many buildings in the Chinatown section of the city.

Geopolitical tension is the primary cause of the unrest in the Solomon Islands. In 2019, the islands shifted allegiance from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China. The move came at Sogavare’s direction and was very unpopular with many islanders. As time went on, frustration with the alignment with the People’s Republic came to head, resulting in this latest round of violence.

The drama playing out in the Solomons shows the growing influence of China in the South Pacific. This region has been traditionally set within the Australian and American spheres of influence for generations. China’s arrival on the scene, so to speak, is sparking tensions and fanning flames of unrest, which could help Beijing realize its long term designs for region.

Biden Administration Ignoring China’s Rising Geopolitical Power

President Biden’s remarks at a CNN town hall on Thursday that the US would come to Taiwan’s aid in the event of a Chinese attack it has caused confusion and anger around Washington, Beijing and the Western Pacific. The White House and administration have scrambled to either walk back or clarify Biden’s comments without much success. The Chinese government’s response was foreseeably stern. “When it comes to issues related to China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and other core interests, there is no room for China to compromise or make concessions, and no one should underestimate the strong determination, firm will and strong ability of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told the AP.

This is the second time in his short tenure as president that Biden has publicly said the United States will aid or defend Taiwan if China attacks. Given the current state of the US-China relationship, ill-considered comments are bound to have an effect on future decisions and action by both sides. At first glance, it doesn’t seem that Biden and his handlers really grasp the fact that the game has changed. China is no longer a nation-state hemmed in by adherence to the main components of international order. The PRC has reached the point where it feels confident enough to move in direct contrast to the rules and norms of the international community. China’s moves in the South China Sea and Hong Kong, along with Beijing’s response to investigations on the origins of COVID-19 are examples of China throwing caution to the wind, so to speak. Xi Jinping’s behavior and actions in the last eighteen months have made it apparent that Chinese foreign policy and economy are driven by expansionism. These drives are being fueled by China’s growing military capabilities in the Pacific region and beyond.

US policies, actions and rhetoric have yet to catch up. Even as members of his own party become more cognizant of these realities, Biden continues to regard China as an up-and-comer instead of as a threat to American security and interests.

Caribbean Crises Update: 15 July, 2021

Should the Biden administration decide against US military intervention in Haiti, such a decision runs the risk of setting a dangerous precedent. Moreover, it will serve as a signal to America’s allies and adversaries around the world. For allies such as Taiwan it poses a dangerous question: If the United States is reluctant to use its military power to aid a friendly nation in its own backyard, what does that say about the US commitment to come to Taiwan’s defense in the event of a Chinese attack? The Biden administration has promised to support Taiwan if China turns its sights on the island nation. A reluctance to answer Haiti’s request for military assistance leaves little margin for error when US actions do not measure up to US words and promises.

From the vantage point of an American adversary, the absence of a US intervention in Haiti could serve to entice it to increase its footprint and influence in the Western Hemisphere. Perhaps even to add fuel to the fire and bring about further instability that could be used to its advantage. Venezuela is a convenient base of operations for the usual lineup of suspects- China, Russia and even Iran, to orchestrate moves in the Western Hemisphere. Or Venezuela can initiate action on its own, albeit in limited fashion. Cuba has been a close friend and ally of the Maduro regime. If the situation in Cuba deteriorates, Venezuelan assistance will be fast in coming. Exactly what form the assistance would take is open to debate given Venezuela’s limited resources of course.

China has been moving beneath the radar in the Western Hemisphere for years. Its footprint has not yet been established firmly, yet inroads have been made in Venezuela and other places. Beijing has deepened ties with a number of nations in Latin America and the Caribbean. China is looking to develop and establish a permanent presence in the region. Right now, Panama seems to be the likely target, but in the event of an American slip up elsewhere in the region, the Chinese footprint could end up in the Caribbean.

The United States must weigh its moves in the Caribbean carefully and take into account the intentions and agendas of its global competitors. The Biden administration’s foreign policy team has not had smooth sailing so far this year. From butting heads with China, to the resurgence of the Taliban in the last days of the Afghan drawdown, the White House and State Department have been rocked back on their heels, so to speak. Still, that provides no justification to ignore the importance of the Caribbean to US policy. Friends and enemies alike are watching events in Haiti and Cuba closely.

In this era of strategic competition the Caribbean has regained significance. Washington needs to remember this.

Looking Ahead to the Post-Pandemic World

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Right now the world’s focus is centered on the COVID-19 pandemic. Media coverage is virtually 24/7 at this point and that does not appear likely to change in the near future. Coverage is also directed at how the pandemic is affecting a media organization’s home city, region, and nation. Pandemic coverage is largely ignoring international events except for reporting the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in nations around the world. The pandemic dominates global attention at the moment, and rightfully so. What is not being discussed at length right now is what the world might look like down the line when life finally returns to normal.

Despite the fact it has received little press coverage, how this pandemic is going to bring about some unpleasant, and surprising consequences for a number of supra-national bodies, relationships between certain countries, and the overall geopolitical realm. This is most evident in Europe at the moment where the European Union’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been two steps behind that of many of its member-states. Even more critical is the aftereffect the lack of EU leadership could have on Europe when all is said and done. Along with this, the pandemic is straining many relationships between European nations, especially in regard to the aid and responses to the pandemic’s explosion in Spain and Italy. Then there is China, and the Middle East where the pandemic is having a direct effect on energy production.

It is safe to assume the geopolitical order could be reshaped entirely by COVID-19.

These are topics we’re going to examine in the coming week and beyond as the Post-pandemic world starts to take shape and come into focus.