Role-reversal: Now Britain wants to hang on to India’s coattails!

How times change!

The East India Company, founded in 1600, continues to be a hated name across the Indian subcontinent which it owned for a century until the 1850s. It became a byword for aggression, oppression, humiliation, exploitation, and massacres. After the First War of Indian Independence in 1857, the British Crown disbanded the EIC after its soldiers rebelled against the Raj, and colonized the entire Indian subcontinent for accelerated exploitation with a clear conscience.

Then the tide turned. In just three decades (1920-1950), the British Empire built over three centuries, disappeared.

In 2005, Mumbai-born entrepreneur Sanjay Mehta bought the dormant EIC. In the next five years, he transmuted the bankrupt Company into a customer brand focused on luxury teas, coffees and food and opened its first store in London’s posh Mayfair area in 2010.

What an irony: an Indian businessman turning around India’s former master!

But a rising India is looking beyond the EIC. And, post-Brexit, a fatigued Britain is reaching out big way to its erstwhile Old Crown Jewel it now sees as a big new market, what with India’s march to become the world’s third largest economy by 2030.

There is reason for this renewed British interest in India.

For some three decades, a considerably weakened Britain remained merely a member of the European Union. It had lost all its grandeur in the World War II, despite being a victor, when its seven-seas-wide empire quickly collapsed.

To revivify itself, London saw in Brexit an opportunity to reclaim its lost glory by striking business deals independently of the EU. Many Brexiters even thought of yet another shot at reviving the British Empire and dominate, if not colonize, the world, again the way Turkey is now attempting to revive the Ottoman Empire which died a century ago.

London wants to build a ‘commanding’ new position in the world but the planet is no longer ready to accept its former colonial master. No one is ready to forget that British achieved dominance through trade in the 18th-20th century period.

The next best option, therefore, seems to be a shared glory!

During the British Empire, India was the Crown Jewel. In the 21st century, New Delhi, built by the British a century ago, is emerging as a new world market.

In the 17th century, the Indian spices attracted EIC. In the 21st, Indian software and other technology, besides markets, is attracting London.

That is why, post-Brexit, Britain is trying to forge an entire new relationship with India. After a trade deal with the EU, a fresh agreement with Japan and a continuation of EU-equivalent trading terms with Canada, Turkey and some other countries, Britain is set to offer a new trade deal with India.

Just before Brexit came into force on January 1, 2021, The Daily Express, a Brexit-supporting tabloid, wrote: “What a way to wave goodbye to Brussels! Boris nearing £100 BN trade deal with India’.

In the fast-changing kaleidoscopic world scenario, the two nations are considering trade worth “as high as £50-100 billion two way which is easily achievable,” according to recent media reports.

The two countries have begun discussions. Indian Commerce minister Piyush Goyal has also hinted about an early harvest deal between London and New Delhi. They are expected to begin with cutting duties on some goods as they work towards a larger free trade agreement. Their initial focus areas include the life sciences, information communications technology, chemicals, services, and food and drink.

Britain is also keen on selling to India its services like banking, insurance, accountancy, and law. India’s wish-list includes an easier visa regime for the movement of its professionals in services. Post-Brexit, however, Indian companies, particularly those in the IT sector, that had made Britain a launchpad to reach out to the Continent, may find it difficult to re-access the EU markets as they did before.

Merchant of Wuhan wears three albatrosses: COVID-19, CPEC, and India

Just when China was plotting to dislodge America to emerge as the world’s first supreme power and used different tactics in different countries to buy them off, it finds being weighed down by the three albatrosses of its own creations in 2020, now haunting it in 2021.

Despite denying role as the epicenter of the “China virus” and claiming success in ‘containing’ the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, the Dragon has only Pakistan and North Korea for ‘friends’. It has antagonized almost the entire world, reminiscent of the isolation of Nazi Germany in the early 1940s—like Beijing, Berlin also had only two friends in Rome and Tokyo. Each of China’s action or statement is now suspected and thoroughly scrutinized by the world. Beijing’s carefully built reputation lies in tatters.

Many importers from China, until 2019, mocked only its substandard products; in South Asia, including Pakistan and Bangladesh, China became a byword for everything fake. Now these countries mock Beijing as the manufacturer of its only genuine export: COVID-19!

The pandemic is still spreading across the world in newer variants and wreaking havoc in one country after another. It has already claimed 1.85 million lives and infected over 85.5 million others. China has been unable to convince the world about its claims on the pandemic. And this mistrust is now showing.

Suspicious countries now think multiple times before they import from China—goods, services, assurances or debt— lest Beijing start arm-twisting them like a barbarian Shylock in neo-Shakespearian Merchant of Wuhan. Many have cancelled new orders, or cancelled the old ones. Reports indicate that fresh contracts for supplies are steadily slowing down, leaving huge industrial capacities increasingly redundant in China. Each country is now discovering alternate supply chains, and rejecting Beijing as international business pariah.

After a year-long arrogance, and foolishly uniting its enemies, China now realizes its basic folly: even if it rules the world, how would it force the colonized, pauperized people to buy its products and protect “communism” in the People’s Republic of China (PRC)? It cannot force the world to import and keep communism in power at the same time.

Clearly, COVID-19 is the noose the Dragon is increasingly tightening around its own neck.

Another albatross is the ultra-ambitious, USD 65 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of the USD 200 billion Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI) conceived by President-for-Life Xi Jinping. It is proving a white elephant for China. A comatose investment.

The much-delayed CPEC’s most-challenging part passes through the Pakistan Army-controlled and terror-infested Baluchistan, Pakistan’s biggest and restive province. With rapidly changing geopolitical equations in the Muslim world, and divided opinion in Pakistan itself, Beijing is cautiously waiting-and-watching efficacy of the whole project afresh.

The progress on CPEC has, therefore, slowed down due to the economic downturn, and restrictions by the IMF’s bail-out programme on fresh borrowings, besides the pandemic, which have all forced Beijing to halt  or slowdown new projects on the CPEC.

The third albatross around China’s neck is India. In May 2020, Beijing tried to divert world attention from the pandemic to the Himalayas. In a quick military action aimed at quicker victory, it tried to redraw the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh and push the international border into Indian (and then Nepalese) territories.

But it found something it had not bargained for: it discovered a resistant and tough India delivering a befitting reply, and ended up its acolyte Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli announcing elections in mid-2021! China has also ‘successfully’ united India, the US, Australia, and Japan against Beijing—and more countries are set to join the Quadrilateral (Quad) group in the Indo-Pacific region, the first step towards an ‘Asian Nato’.

In 2021, China is set to reap the fruits of its ‘investments’ in 2020!

As China tries to colonize Pak, it slows down CPEC!

Even after subtly entangling Pakistan in a debt-trap, China may have realized the humungous cost of colonizing Islamabad, the global terror czar, and has begun slowing down on the USD 60 billion commitment to the ongoing Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)’s flagship project called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

But this does not mean Beijing will let slip Pakistan away from its vice-like grip: for all practical purposes, Islamabad is now China’s slave.

China has already arranged to take over two Pakistani islands off Karachi—Buddhoo and Bundal— presumably for its new military and naval bases in South Asia, and pressurised Islamabad to hand-over the indirect control of the CPEC to the Chinese officials through the direct control of Pakistan Army generals.

But, for now, Beijing has slowed down on making investments for the CPEC whose “future is not only clouded by China’s apparent new, more conservative lending policy but also Pakistan’s over borrowing, which is fast driving the country toward a debt crisis. Pakistan’s debt to GDP ratio is now at a high 107% of GDP,” analyst FM Shakil wrote in Asia Times last week.

Pakistan has slipped into a debt trap due to the government’s failure to bring reforms, and also weak fiscal management, he said.

According to the Boston University researchers, the overall lending by the state-backed China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China declined from a peak of USD 75 billion in 2016 to just USD 4 billion in 2019. Provisional 2020 figures show that the amount shrunk to around USD 3 billion in 2020, it said.

Several reasons are being attributed to China’s slow down on the CPEC projects. Firstly, the global epidemic of COVID-19 has overturned China’s many plans across the world. Beijing’s global prestige has nosedived and it is now seen as an international bully one would better keep at an arm’s length.

Secondly, the amount of investments in the CPEC is no longer commensurate with the profit it would likely begin paying back in the required time-frame due to plummeted demand and other market forces in the wake of the COVID-19.

Thirdly, the fast-changing geopolitical scenario, including a realignment of Arab versus non-Arab blocs in the Muslim world, led by Saudi Arabia and Turkey, respectively, have created uncertainty about the shape of things to come in terms of energy supply from the Middle East, for which the CPEC was being primarily developed.

With the CPEC becoming increasingly unviable at present, China is slowing down on the mammoth project.

Other reasons behind a rethink are Beijing’s trade war with the US and rampant corruption by the Chinese companies involved in the CPEC.

In other words, the much-trumpeted CPEC is now being seen by some as a white elephant both in China and Pakistan which may become a ticking dynamite for both the militarist and expansionst regimes.

A number of projects planned under the BRI are now stalled or are running behind schedule due to lack of financing. Of 122 announced CPEC projects, only 32 have been completed as of the third quarter of this fiscal year, the report said.

Under the CPEC, Beijing planned to build eight Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in four provinces of Pakistan. Of them, seven SEZs are either still in a pre-feasibility or post-feasibility stages with no tangible development seen on the ground.

Chinese activity is visible only in the Gwadar zone, the Allama Iqbal Industrial City in Punjab, and Rashakai Economic Zone in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Earlier, China was reluctant to invite non-Chinese companies to invest in the SEZs. But the situation has changed with finance drying up. In principle, Beijing has agreed to allow Pakistan to form a new joint venture mechanism with companies other than Chinese state-owned or private enterprises to stimulate the CPEC project progress, including on a multi-billion dollar railway upgrade, the report said.

That is why Pakistan Railways (PR) globally advertised for tender openings to modernize its rail system.

To overcome Beijing’s reluctance to fund it Pakistan recently introduced a bill in parliament to give the army to take near-total control of the CPEC.

China is also concerned about terror attacks being launched by rival factions sponsored by Islamabad but under no control of the Pakistan Army. The Baluchis have also intensified their attacks on the CPEC projects and Chinese nationals working on them, raising the security costs and political risks of the projects.

Shakil said the government’s move to give the military more control over the CPEC aims at mollifying China’s rising security concerns.

Initiated in 2013, the USD 1 trillion BRI is a gargantuan plan of President-for-Life Xi Jinping to connect Asia with Africa and Europe via land and maritime trade networks to create new routes for China’s strategically vulnerable fuel imports shipped by sea mostly from the Middle East..

But the BRI is not moving as planned and its carefully-drafted plans have gone haywire.

The other reasons for reduced investments by China on the CPEC projects are “structural weaknesses” including opacity, corruption, over-lending to poor countries which led to debt traps, and adverse social, political, economic and environmental impacts.

The much-trumpeted 1,682-km-long Main Line (ML-1) railway project between Karachi and Peshawar is moving at a snail’s pace due to China’s reluctance to fund it at a meagre 1 percent return on investment. Beijing is also unhappy with Islamabad’s decision to curtail the project cost from USD 8.2 billion to USD 6.2 billion due to its rising debt load, according to media reports.

According to media reports, Humayun Akthar Khan, a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader who runs the Institute of Policy Reforms (IPR), a Lahore-based think-tank, has revealed that “Pakistan has slipped into a debt trap due to the government’s failure to bring reforms and weak fiscal management.”

In a report, “Pakistan’s debt and debt servicing is the cause of concern…We are in a debt trap that is entirely of our own making. It is a risk to our national security. The government was borrowing to repay the maturing debt, which now seems to be a concern for all the political parties, businessmen and experts.”

Trump-plus-Biden on China: ‘May you live in interesting times’!

The Chinese are known to formulate timeless pearls of literature. For example, when they want to curse someone, they merely say: “May you live in interesting times!”

But they may actually be, as a nation, readying themselves to live in interesting times. Eleven days from now. As 2021 begins.

For, a number of countries have already come together to tame the Dragon, directly or indirectly.

And they are being pushed against a resurgent China by the United States. Irrespective of change of guards at the White House.

China has reason to be worried with what President-elect Joe Biden’s Administration, which will take office on January 20, 2021, is up to.

Last week, Biden signalled that he will follow Trump’s policy on China and Taiwan. His new National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, has called for the intensification of Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) against China in the South China Sea (SCS), marking a potential escalation of Trump’s policy to thwart Chinese expansionist designs in the region, according to Asia Times.

“We should be devoting more assets and resources to ensuring and reinforcing, and holding up alongside our partners, the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea,” said Sullivan.

Biden’s top advisors have already called for more China-taming freedom of navigation operations and strategic support for Taiwan.

China has long been trying to control the region by launching provocative military and diplomatic offensives in the disputed SCS waters. In the last few years, an expansionist and colonizing Beijing has also gone against several countries in Asia and Africa. Its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is currently engaged in a military standoff against the Indian Army in the Eastern Ladakh sector where skirmished left many dead in mid-2020 when China tried to change borders.

But the real theatre of power-game in the coming years will be the SCS. American warships are now passing through the 12 nautical mile radius of Beijing-occupied islands and land features across the SCS. The frequency of annual FONOPs has increased.

The US has also decided to support the maritime claims of China’s neighbours in the SCS and stepped up assistance to Taiwan.

The outgoing Trump Administration cleared up to USD 5 billion worth of arms sales to Taiwan this year. To counter Chinese expansionist design, America-led Quadrilateral Dialogue (Quad), including India, Australia and Japan, is emerging as the eastern version of NATO. Besides Japan, Britain, France and India have also started conducting FONOPs operations in the SCS and joint naval exercises.

Also, last week, Trump signed legislation to kick Chinese companies off U.S. stock exchanges unless American regulators can review their financial audits, a move likely to further escalate tensions between the two countries.

Trump’s parting kick could affect China’s corporate giants like Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, and Baidu Inc. Already, Trump has taken strong measures against many a Chinese company, potentially impacting their businesses to the tune of two to three trillion dollars, media reported.

The outgoing US President has for long condemned China’s “unfair trade practices”, and slapped tariffs on billions of dollars in imports. In particular, he dubbed the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 as a “Chinese virus”, something he could not handle properly and which became a major issue against his re-election.

But his last attempt to get many Chinese companies de-listed won bipartisan support in the House of Representatives in December, seven months after the U.S. Senate had cleared it in May. This means that the ‘alien’ Chinese companies will no longer be able to get listed in the US or draw dollars as capital for their growth.

Reacting to this law, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying claimed that “It will undermine global investors’ confidence in the U.S. capital markets, its global standing, and hurt U.S. interests.”

Trump’s new law capped steps against China, including limiting travel visas for 92 million Communist Party members. Their 10-year visas would now be reduced to one month.

Reforming Islam: France, China take steps to tighten screws

Two countries that are taking firm steps to detoxify and reform Islam are France and China. Last week, they both took decisive steps, in their own different ways, at a time when Turkey is trying to resurrect the ghost of the Ottoman Empire-cum-Caliphate and the Arabs are doing everything, including befriending Israel, to ward off Ankara from recolonizing them.

Last week, the French government, led by President Emmanuel Macron, finalized a draft law targeting radical Islamism, called a law to “reinforce Republican principles”. This Bill will go the National Assembly, or Lower House of Parliament, in January 2021.

Prime Minister Jean Castex asserted that the proposed law is “not a text against religion, nor against the Muslim religion”, but against radical Islamism, whose objective is “to divide French people from one another.”

France, which has the largest Muslim community in Europe, has been forced to take this step after a series of terror attacks in recent years, particularly after the October beheading of a schoolteacher, Samuel Paty.

The new proposed law envisages stern measures, including school education reforms, to ensure that Muslim children do not dropout. It seeks stricter controls on mosques and preachers, and firm rules against hate campaigns online.

The law, when passed, would ensure increased surveillance of French mosques, including their financing. The government would supervise the training of Islamic preachers (imams), and shutdown mosques receiving public subsidies if they go against “republican principles” such as gender equality. It would also protect moderate community leaders targeted by extremists.

The existing secular laws, or laïcité, which ban state employees from displaying religious symbols like the crucifix or hijab, would now be extended to any sub-contracted public services as well, media reported.

Besides, the government would not allow home-schooling for children over age three. Doctors who routinely issue “virginity certificates” to females would be prosecuted. Polygamous applicants would not be granted residency permits. Officials would separately interview couples before their wedding to ensure that they have not been forced into marriage. Online hate-mongers would be severely punished.

While the French Muslims’ reaction to the proposed laws has been rather muted, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called it an “open provocation”. Also, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Egypt’s top cleric, has called President Macron’s views “racist”.

But the President is unperturbed. “I will not allow anybody to claim that France, or its government, is fostering racism against Muslims.”

Apparently, he is sure of getting re-elected in 2022 as the French people, by and large, are happy with his strong measures. Terrorism has claimed more than 200 lives in France since 2012. A recent nationwide survey revealed that nearly 80 percent of respondents thought that “Islamism is at war with France”.

Another important step against ‘Islamism’ was taken by Beijing, which Islamabad considers its “all-weather friend”.

That the petro-dollars had financed Islamism in Pakistan and made it a global nursery of terrorism since the 1970s is well-known.  Due to its increasing proximity with Turkey and Iran, the Arabs are no longer as Pakistan-friendly as they once were. In fact, the Arabs are forcing Pakistan to repay their debt and taking other measures to tame Islamabad.

This has forced Islamabad to embrace its ‘atheist’ GodFather more tightly, giving Beijing yet another opportunity to squeeze Pakistan.

China will now immediately provide $1.5 billion financing line to Pakistan to help it repay the $2 billion Saudi debt. But this time, Beijing has not sanctioned the loan from its State Administration of Foreign Exchange, commonly known as SAFE deposits, nor has it extended a commercial loan.

Instead, Beijing is providing this loan by augmenting the size of 2011 bilateral Currency-Swap Agreement (CSA), by an additional 10 billion Chinese Yuan or around $1.5 billion, media reports said. This has increased the size of the overall trade facility to 20 billion Chinese Yuan or $4.5 billion.

In other words, China is now Pakistan’s largest creditor and Beijing has successfully trapped Islamabad into an ever-tightening debt-trap.

The trade facility, originally meant to promote bilateral trade in their respective local currencies, has been foolishly used by Pakistan for paying foreign debt.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had, since assuming office in 2018, visited Saudi Arabia twice to secure fresh loans for survival of Islamabad’s tottering economy. The Saudis agreed to provide $ 6.2 billion worth of financial package to Pakistan for three years. This included $ 3 billion in cash assistance and $ 3.2 billion worth of annual oil and gas supply on deferred payments.

The Saudi cash and oil facility was meant for one year, extendable for three years. But, when Pakistan, together with Turkey and Malaysia, tried to set up a non-Arab bloc within the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 2019, the angry Saudis claimed back their money ahead of the schedule and also suspended the oil facility.

This forced Pakistan to borrow from China in May this year to repay $ 1 billion out of the $3 billion to the Saudis.

A cash-strapped Islamabad has also been unable to get the suspended $ 6 billion IMF programme restored. Pakistan has been unable to get continued, uninterrupted, foreign inflows.

Lure of foreign money had trapped Pakistan into a vicious circle of terrorism; this same foreign money is set to dismantle the same terror-infrastructure down.

Pakistan will not realize it immediately. But China is sure to extract its pound of flesh by colonizing and deIslamizing Pakistan.

As commies fail, Nepal wants to restore Hindu monarchy

New Delhi: The utter failure of Nepalese Communists, as also other political parties, to deliver over the last few years has resurrected Hindu nationalism in the Himalayan nation where thousands of pro-monarchists joined a mass protest in the capital Kathmandu on December 5, demanding restoration of a constitutional monarchy and declaring the country as a Hindu nation.

Participants in the massive rally chanted slogans demanding the restoration of Nepal as a Hindu nation ruled by a constitutional monarchy for unity and well-being of the people.

“We want the restoration of our Hindu monarchy. We are not being driven by any impulsive feelings. The movement is being led by youths. We would fight for our objectives until we achieve our ends,” media reported, quoting  a demonstrator.

Saturday’s mass protest was the largest after a series of similar protests held in country over the last couple of months. The December 5 demonstration was held under the banner of Rashtriya Nagarik Andolan Samiti (National Civic Movement Committee).

On November 10, many people, under the banner that read “Nationalist Civic Society”, staged a demonstration in Jamal area of Kathmandu, shouting slogans for the restoration of constitutional monarchy and Nepal as a Hindu state.

On November 12 also, Nepal Scholars’ Council organized a demonstration in Biratnagar. A week later, on November 19, many people under the banner of “Independent Nationalist Citizens Far-West” demonstrated in Dhangadhi. It was followed by a protest in Pokhara on November 25 under the banners of “Western Nepali Citizens” and “Nepal Nationalist Group” in Janakpur of Nepal.

On November 29, a similar protest was held in Hetauda under the banner “Restoration of Constitution Movement” and yet another on November 30 in Kathmandu.

A similar protest was planned by Rastriya Prajatantra Party in Jhapa, hometown of incumbent Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.

Political observers in Kathmandu say these movements for the restoration of a constitutional monarchy and a Hindu state have arisen due to failure of  various political parties to deliver what they promised.

“When democratic forces don’t live up to expectations– both ruling and opposition parties– then it`s inevitable that some alternative force will try to take its place. That is how I see the revival of this protest,” Biswas Baral, current affairs commentator in Kathmandu, told a news agency.

“Many people are unhappy with the working of the current government. It failed to control the Covid-19 pandemic and prevailing corruption. It also failed to implement federalism. So, there is general disillusionment amongst people. This mass protest could be an expression of that,” he said.

An important symbol of the latest mass movement was an attempt to return to the roots. Protestors displayed placards carrying a photo of Prithivi Narayan Shah, the founding father of modern Nepal, along with national flags. They chanted slogans against the Federal Democratic Republican system that Nepal adopted in 2008 after the abolition of the 240-year-old Hindu monarchy.

Nepal transitioned into a federal democratic republic after the promulgation of a new constitution in 2015.

The first General Election of 2017 brought in the Communist factions to power. However, they not only failed to deliver but also pitted China against the country’s natural and traditional ally, India.

This year, under the incumbent PM Oli, Nepal has virtually become a vassal state of China and turned a Nelson’s eye to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)’s land grab on Nepalese territory along Nepal-China borders.

This has infuriated a large number of Hindu Nepalese.

Their demonstration against the Communists is only a beginning…

How to control a mosque Israel may gift to the Saudis?

It is an emotional issue for 100 million Jordanians–and, of course, the legitimacy of their King who traces his dynasty to none other than the Hashemite clan of Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam.

They have reasons to be worried.

For, in the 21st century, the Islamic world is witnessing unprecedented developments. The 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is splitting into Arab versus non-Arab Muslim nations, led by Saudi Arabia and Turkey, respectively; Turkey is making efforts to resurrect the Ottoman Empire, which died in the 1920s, and reintegrate the Sunni Arab nations once again; the Arabs are signing peace accords with their age-old enemy, Israel, to the chagrin of non-Arab Muslims.

Even Saudi Arabia, which is Custodian of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, is inching closer to Jerusalem: only last week, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin-Salman (MbS) had a not-so-secret meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saudi soil.

Now has come reports on how Jordan is trying to reaffirm its own custodianship of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. As soon as the Sunday night meeting between MbS and Netanyahu became known, Jordan became apprehensive that Jerusalem could ‘gift’ the al-Aqsa mosque as well to the Saudis as part of the peace deal.

Amman is mighty concerned about the fate of Islam’s third holiest sites which it thinks could be up for grabs in a normalisation deal between MbS and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The November 22 confabulations between MbS and the Israeli PM alarmed Jordanian leaders who were already unnerved by Riyadh’s regional posturing, particularly after the two Saudi acolytes—the UAE and Bahrain—signed the “Abraham Accords” with Jerusalem in September in the US where President Donald Trump was their host.

Now they fear al-Aqsa could be gifted away to the Saudis by Israel by the outgoing Trump Administration. So concerned is Jordan about this possible deal that its foreign ministry released a statement last Wednesday challenging any “attempts to alter the historical and legal status quo” of the al-Aqsa mosque. Its spokesman said: “The kingdom will continue its efforts to protect and care for the holy mosque, and preserve the rights of all Muslims to it in compliance with the Hashemite custodianship of Jerusalem’s Muslim and Christian holy sites.”

Apparently concerned about Trump digging the pitch for him in the Middle East, President-elect Joe Biden spoke with Jordan’s King Abdullah II. It was after this call that Amman’s foreign ministry released the statement reminding that Jordan continued to be custodian of the al-Aqsa mosque.

The Jordanian royal dynasty claims its origins to the Hashemite clan of Prophet Muhammad. The King has governed the Jerusalem sites, known as Haram al-Sharif, since 1924, the same year the Saud dynasty was given control of Mecca and Medina upon the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire.

The Muslim world believes in the legitimacy of the ruling Hashemite King due to his guardianship of the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock  for a century. In fact, this custodianship pre-dates the creation of Jordan and Israel who had agreed to continue this arrangement in their peace deal in their October 1994 peace treaty.

Jordan now apprehends that if Israel gifts away custodianship of the Haram al-Sharif to the Saudis as a quid pro quo for a peace deal, it could ‘delegitimize’ claims of the King being a descendant of the Prophet.

In other words, the deal could seal the Saudis’ leadership of the Muslim world, particularly the Sunnis who constitute nearly 80 percent of the Muslim population globally. This brilliant move could torpedo Turkey’s attempts to resurrect the Ottomans’ Empire as well as the Caliphate.

That is, the Saudis could then decide whom they considered “Muslims”, deny pilgrimage rights to the “non-Muslims” and even excommunicate the latter—as Riyadh would then have custodianship of all three holiest Islamic shrines!

There is also the Iran angle to the possible al-Aqsa deal. Tehran and Riyadh have often been at each other’s throats on many issues. If the peace deal goes through, the Saudis will be protected by the Israeli nuclear umbrella against any possible Iranian attack. In such an eventuality, the Saudis could excommunicate Iran and its friends from Islam.

The Hashemite dynasty of Jordan had controlled Mecca for centuries until it was conquered in 1924 by the House of Saud. Both Mecca and Medina became part of Saudi Arabia, while al-Aqsa remained under Hashemite control. Ever since, the two dynasties have been engaged in a struggle for influence, increasingly dominated by the Saudis.

The Dragon’s nemesis: The Ghost of Genghis Khan!

New Delhi: Nothing scares China more than the ghost of Changez (Genghis) Khan, nearly eight centuries after the death of the world’s greatest warlord and empire-builder.

How paranoid Beijing is about a possible reawakening of this ghost became clear in October when it forced a French museum to postpone an exhibit about Genghis Khan. The museum cited ‘interference’ by the Chinese government, which is trying to rewrite history.

The museum on history, Château des ducs de Bretagne, in the western French city of Nantes, said it was putting the show about the 13th-century warrior on hold for more than three years.

Ashamed of being vanquished by the dreaded Mongols in the 13th century, Beijing is attempting to wipe out the nightmarish memory of Genghis Khan’s great empire the present-day China was part of. In Inner Mongolia, China’s autonomous region, Beijing is trying to strip the natives of their identity by enforcing the Mandarin script, the way it has been doing in Tibet and Xinjiang.

China also dreads the moment the separatist Mongols, Tibetans, and the Uyghurs join hands with Hong Kong. It could become a ticking dynamite for the very existence and unity of the People’s Republic of China.

The Mongols and the Uyghur Muslims of Xinjiang share the same script. That is what unites them—against China.

But why is China so scared of Genghis Khan?

Born as Temujin Borjigin (1158-1227), he was believed to have been fathered by a Sun Ray. Better known by his title, Genghis Huangdi (Universal Lord), he was the founder and first Great Khan of the Mongol Empire. His realm continued to expand for 150 years even after his death and emerged as the largest contiguous empire across Asia and Europe in human history.

The Mongols destroyed the Abbasid Caliphate in 1258, thus splitting Islamic unity and hegemony; they also destroyed the Han hegemony in China, which the current President-for-Life Xi Jinping is trying to restore.

Genghis had come to power by uniting several nomadic tribes of Northeast Asia, conquered most of Eurasia, reaching as far west as Poland in Europe,  and the Levant in the Middle East. His military campaigns were often accompanied by large-scale massacres of the civilian populations in vanquished areas. Because of this savagery, which left millions dead, the Mongols became highly dreaded in human history.

By his death, the Mongol Empire occupied a vast area of Central Asia and China. Due to his exceptional military genius and successes, Genghis Khan has been seen as the greatest conqueror of all time. As per his wishes, his body was buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in Mongolia.

Genghis Khan had introduced the Uyghur script as his Empire’s writing system. He encouraged religious tolerance in the Empire. All the Mongols, therefore, regard him as the founding father of Mongolia, one who brought the Silk Road under one cohesive political framework.

Even now, his directives, like simple living and strict discipline, are respected like divine commands by the Mongols. That is why not a single Mongol has died of the Covid-19 pandemic; only 608 were infected and 337 recovered.

China’s political, military and economic power in the 21st century has largely been camouflaged by its inherent insecurity. That is why it resorts to boasts and suppression.

Despite an unprecedented global unpopularity of China, President Xi Jinping has further pushed his country to the precipice: recently, he directed his Terracotta Army, officially known as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), to “be prepared for war”. Sensing that the world is encircling China, he sought to put the PLA on alert.

How unpopular China has become was proved in October. Releasing a global poll, Pew Research Center said that unfavorable views of China across the world have climbed to historic highs in many countries, with the highest in Australia.

A majority of those polled in each of the 14 advanced economies had negative views of China. But in nine of them, China’s unpopularity was at the highest Pew had ever recorded since it started tracking it over a decade ago in Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands, Canada, Spain, Sweden, and South Korea, the report said.

Besides, at least 73 percent of those polled in these nine countries, as also in five others–Belgium, Japan, Italy, Denmark, and France–had unfavorable views of China.

Interestingly, many historians have concluded that, after Jesus Christ and Prophet Muhammad, Genghis Khan has been the greatest mover-and-shaker in the world in the last two millennia. In 2003, a research paper on genetics revealed that at least 16 million humans across many countries are direct descendants of Genghis Khan!

No wonder China so dreads the Great Khan!!

Frenemies: Trump, Jinping ‘join hands’ to damage the Chinese economy!

“Tis is strange but true; for truth is always strange!” George Gordon Byron once wrote in Don Juan.

Last week, US President Donald Trump, who is still digging in to stay in the White House for a second term, banned American individuals and companies from investing in Chinese firms for national security reasons.

Also his Chinese counterpart, President-for-Life Xi Jinping, ironically, prevented Alibaba founder Jack Ma from launching the world’s largest IPO, fearing the company could become larger than communism!

Both these steps, although unrelated, point in the same direction: spreading rot in the Chinese economy.

Not even in its wildest dreams would China have thought that Trump, in his last weeks in office, could take such stern steps against Chinese companies only two months before handing over the baton to his successor, Joe Biden.

On November 12, Trump signed an executive order banning Americans from investing in Chinese firms that are deemed to be supplying or supporting Beijing’s military and security apparatus.

The ban will be applicable on 31 major Chinese companies from January 11, 2021, at 9.30 AM—that is, just nine days before Biden takes oath as the 46th President. They include both government-owned and privately-promoted companies in China.

China was using them for “increasing exploitation” of US investment capital to fund military and intelligence services, including the development and deployment of weapons of mass destruction, the Trump order said.

The US-China relations had nosedived rapidly during Trump’s presidency from 2017. This was the latest in a series of executive orders and regulatory actions targeting China’s economic and military expansion.

Under his “America First” agenda, Trump portrayed China as the biggest threat to the USA and global democracy, pursued a trade war with it, harangued Chinese technology firms, and blamed Beijing for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thursday’s order prohibits US companies and individuals from owning shares in any of the listed companies, which include major telecommunications, construction and technology firms such as China Mobile, China Telecom, video surveillance firm Hikvision, and China Railway Construction Corp.

Current US investors in these companies will have to divest from the Beijing-linked companies within a year.

The Trump order’s reverberations were immediately felt on the Hong Kong stock market where share prices in state-owned China Telecom dropped more than nine percent, China Mobile fell six percent and China Railway Construction Corp lost more than five percent.

US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said the order will prevent Americans from unknowingly providing passive capital to Chinese companies — listed on exchanges around the world — that support the improvement of Beijing’s army and spy agencies.

He said the companies included on the list “routinely target American citizens and businesses through cyber operations,” as well as its economy and military.

O’Brien also lashed out at Beijing over its removal of four pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong this week, calling China’s claims of “One Country, Two Systems Governance” in respect of the former British colony a “fig-leaf” masking Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian grip on the financial hub.

Neither Biden nor his party or representative reacted to this fresh Trump order. Predictably, Trump has dug the pitch for Biden—the new President could soon find himself in a Catch-22 position!

Trump opponents dubbed this executive order as his desperation reflected in his attempts to inflate the Chinese danger for his own survival.

On his part, Xi Jinping also scored a self-goal for Chinese economy!

Apparently, he felt that Alibaba founder Jack Ma had become globally popular and, therefore, a threat to Beijing, its Communist Party, and even the PLA.

So, the President halted Ant Group’s mammoth USD 37 billion Initial Public Offering (IPO) after Jack Ma questioned government policies and criticised its leaders.

China halted the IPO just a week before the financial technology company was set to go for public listing. Ma’s ‘inflammable’ remarks infuriated the Jinping Establishment no end.

The record-breaking IPO would have made Alibaba register the largest public listing. However, China’s new lending rules threw a spanner in its works.

Even after opening the economy, the Chinese Communist Party does not like ascendance of private businesses beyond a limit as they could pose a potential challenge to the fossilized party’s authority. Beijing also controls state-owned companies tightly and their employees are treated not as humans but spare parts of the Machine.

Ma had quoted Xi as saying “success does not have to come from me” and said he wanted to use innovation to help solve China’s financial problems. Ma also criticized the regulators for enforcing a set of international banking rules as “an old people’s club.”

This was too much for Xi and his cohorts. On the President’s orders, the Chinese regulators investigated Ant’s offering, and the IPO was suspended for fears that global investors, including those from Hong Kong, could benefit from it more than Beijing.

The fintech had already secured over USD 3 billion from individual investors across its dual listings in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

The long-term impact of the separate American and Chinese governments’ orders will begin to unfold sooner than later…

“Islam in crisis”: Macron only exposed the emerging truth

New Delhi: On October 2, when French President Emmanuel Macron remarked that “Islam is a religion that is in crisis all over the world today, all hell broke loose in the Muslim world. Many condemned him. Some took to violence, beheaded three, and wounded many others in France. It appeared as if Macron was villain-of-the-piece, a global pariah, especially for the non-Arab Muslims and their rent-seeking liberal-democratic-secular cohorts.

However, at a subterranean level, Islam, as we know it, is indeed in a crisis from modernity. The message, howsoever ugly or obnoxious it may appear is clear: Islam must either reform or perish.

Consider this: an atheist China has destroyed 1,600 mosques in its restive Xinjiang Province in three years, banned Haj for the minority Uighur Muslims, scrapped Arabic/Persian architecture of a mosque to make it look like any Chinese shopping complex, and even rewriting a China-friendly Qur’an in Mandarin.

And this: the United Arab Republic (UAE), Saudi Arabia’s alter ego, has just relaxed several strict Islamic personal laws to move on with modern times—at a time when Islamic militants, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, are baying for the French blood for alleged blasphemy, etc.

This new development has come within a month of the UAE and Bahrain signing the “Abraham Accords” with Israel, their medieval enemy, to normalize relations with the Jewish state, to the chagrin of non-Arab Muslim countries like Turkey and Pakistan, among others. Saudi Arabia, is currently tasting waters; it may also follow suit in the face of the threat from Turkey’s attempts to revive the Ottoman Empire.

This only means that the Arab world is realizing futility of its archaic Islamic heritage and wants to move on with modern times and geopolitical realities—something the non-Arab Muslim nations are not yet prepared for.

Last week, the UAE announced a major overhaul of its Islamic personal laws, which now allow unmarried couples to live together, loosened restrictions on alcohol and criminalized the so-called “honour killings”. These have been implemented with immediate effect to keep pace with the changing Arab society.

In the last few decades, the UAE has emerged as a global financial hub, and destination for tourists, fortune-seekers, and businessmen. Earlier, its strict Islamic laws were embarrassing for many of these foreigners and their countries and were seen as obstacles in realizing the full potential of the seven Arab sheikhdoms comprising the UAE.

These historic and progressive reforms are expected to attract millions of foreign tourists to boost the UAE economy and make it less dependent on traditional sources of revenue business-friendly ambience, and oil.

Accordingly, there will now be no penalties for alcohol possession, sales and consumption. There will also be no ban on cohabitation of unmarried couples. The beneficiaries include Muslims as well. The Arab nation will also better protect women’s rights by getting rid of the tribal custom of ‘honour killings’.

The UAE’s strict Islamic laws were equally applicable to the Arab natives and the expatriates. The expatriates outnumber local citizens nearly nine to one. The amendments will now permit foreigners to avoid Islamic Shariah courts on issues like marriage, divorce and inheritance.

Clearly, the Arab world is in for far-reaching changes in the near future.

Another change in the Muslims’ world affairs has surfaced in China where President-for-Life Xi Jinping is the driving force against ‘Islamic heritage’.

But nobody in China’s “all-weather friend” Pakistan, or for that matter anywhere in the world, dare question Beijing for its ‘Islamophonia’, as they do in the case of India, France, and other democratic countries. China routinely hangs Islamic terrorists, has for long been keeping a million Uighur Muslims in ‘re-education’ camps, and even banned their pilgrimage to Mecca.

Few have noticed how China has been effecting far-reaching changes even in mosque architecture, imposing various restrictions, and also ‘Sinicizing’ The Qur’an by getting it rewritten in its own language, giving no room to anyone and making sure the militant Muslims remained in check.

The latest example came in a mosque whose traditional ‘Arab-style’ domes were demolished and the shrine was rebuilt like a Chinese mall.

A recent Australian study, using satellite imagery, had found that China has systematically destroyed nearly 1,600 mosques in Xinjiang province alone since 2017.

As part of its ongoing project to ‘Sinicize’ Islam in China, a large mosque has been completely reconstructed by the government, removing all signs of Islam.

The Nanguan Mosque in Yinchuan, capital of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, was the largest in the province. It has so completely been rebuilt that—with no minarets or domes–that it no longer looks like a mosque at all. The mosque was built during the late Ming dynasty (1368-1644), and restored in 1981.

It was entirely renovated and changed by the Communist Party government of President Jinping.

The region, inhabited by the largest community of Hui Muslims in China, became a major target of the ‘Sinicize Islam’ drive of the Chinese Communist Party. In the last two years, a large number of mosques have lost their distinguishing features.

Now, all the five bright green colored domes and the golden minarets have been removed. The golden Islamic style filigree, decorative arches, and the text in Arabic script on the mosque have all been scrapped. Even the signboards are in Chinese, according to media reports.

The bright golden and green colored mosque with onion-shaped domes and Islamic style curved windows have been changed into a grey-colored rectangular structure.

The latest images of the mosque were posted by Christina Scott, the United Kingdom’s deputy head of mission in China, on Twitter. She wrote, “TripAdvisor suggested the Nanguan Mosque in #Yinchuan well worth a visit. Only this is what it looks like now, after ‘renovations’.  Domes, minarets, all gone. No visitors allowed either, of course. So depressing.”

The transformation was expedited after a recent visit to the city by  President Xi Jinping, who scolded officials for the slow pace of ‘Sinicizing’ Islamic structures. He remarked that “Ningxia has made some achievements in religious reform, but it was not thorough enough.” It meant that the work should be intensified.

He also visited the region on June 6-8. The demolition activity picked up soon after that. By June 26, the five green domes and the minarets were gone, and the remaining work was completed soon.

The militant Muslims could not do anything, not even expressed their dissatisfaction for fear of the government.

According to reports, the Covid-19 pandemic has come in handy to the Chinese government by giving it the opportunity to expedite the process of Sinicizing mosques in the nation. Imposing restrictions in the name of the pandemic, the government closed down many mosques, accelerated demolitions, and renovations.