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The Strait of Malacca: The Meeting Point of Giants

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Strait of Malacca




















Written by Andreea Cristina Brinza, Geopolitics.ro

The Strait of Malacca is a gateway between Asia and the West and one of the most important world energy valves, hosting about 40% of world trade.

While the Silk Route was, in the past, the glue connecting land route between Asia and Europe, the Strait of Malacca and the South China Sea represent today the maritime communication route of East Asia with the energy markets of the states that form the so-called ‘Energy Heartland'[1] of the world (the region between the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf).
Linking Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, Malacca is the most important strait in the world, the place where 12 million barrels of oil flow daily, towards the most dynamic economies of the moment: China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan.
Controlled by Americans under the pretext of stability in region, the Strait has become the convergence point of three major powers: USA, China and India.
If on world level China leads a policy antagonistic towards U.S., on a regional level the main rival of China is India. “For China, India is the Asian enemy par excellence,” said Laurent Murawiec and he also explains why: “India is the demographic, geopolitical and political-intellectual counterpart of China” [2]. In other words, India is the mirror image of China, whose main strength is the “demographic pliers”, that the Chinese fear it will break their economy in the future.
In the Malacca region, China is trying to restrict India from establishing itself as a hegemony in South Asia and to eliminate the U.S., or at least to change the power pole in its favor. The “String of pearls” which China is building on the coastline of the Indian Ocean – in Burmese, Cambodia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, is only a strategy to limit India’s and U.S.’s access in South-East Asia, in general, and in the Strait of Malacca, in particular, by controlling the naval nodes in these countries.
A new Great Game is thus on the geopolitical map, fueled by the control over the Malacca Strait – a key objective of the political strategy of the three countries in the region. Full access to the strait allows control over sea routes connecting East Asia to Eurasia and Africa, dominating the economic and commercial life of Asia. If the U.S. is the world’s only superpower and China is an aspiring super-economy, India is just a regional power.
China faces a real dilemma on Malacca Strait – the maritime route that mediates approximately 80% of Chinese imports and which turned into the state’s energy jugular. As China’s economy is growing, requiring ever more natural resources, having only one transportation route which is controlled by other states, is a real Achilles heel of China. This is why the Chinese strategy relies on getting control over Malacca Strait and on developing, in parallel, many new terrestrial energy routes, to reduce China’s vulnerability to accessing scarce resources.
India is also having an important economical development, aspiring to the hegemonic rule of the Asian region, and the control of the Malacca Strait would only strengthen its status in the region and help it develop trade links with countries in East Asia. Considering India is a true software center and that the states from the South China sea are the leading IT manufacturers, a good connection with the East Asian region would only bring benefits.
In this battle for the supremacy in the South Asian region, U.S. goes on the principle that whoever controls the Strait of Malacca has control over the most important energy routes in the world and hence over the Chinese economy – an economy that, in recent years, has eclipsed increasingly U.S.’s. America’s strategy in the region is to control the Strait and to keep under control China’s economic development. But as the U.S. is not a regional power in the area, it has developed partnerships with countries in the near vicinity of the Strait, while also supporting India in the fight with China.
The meeting of the three giants in South Asia brings into question Alfred T. Mahan’s theory, which states that the twenty-first century will be decided in the Indian Ocean, going on the idea that “who controls the Indian Ocean will control Asia” [4]. Even if the U.S. seems a secondary player in the battle for the Strait of Malacca, its help is important and can decisively change the balance of power in the region.
The control over the shortest route between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean brings, as mentioned above, face to face two aspiring powers to the hegemony status in Asia: China and India, who adopt different strategies of containment or mutual annihilation. If China uses the politics of the “string of pearls”, India has used the “iron curtain” or the so-called “iron chain”, policies that are based on the same idea: controlling as many ports surrounding Malacca Strait, to enable the restriction of its opponent. This control can only be done by attracting surrounding countries as partners, but it is this exact attraction that lead to a real investment race on the shores of the Indian Ocean, between China and India.
The strategies of the two countries also follow the principle of “the neighbor of my enemy, my friend”. This policy has its roots in the teachings of Sun Tzu of surrounding your enemy through its neighboring countries. This is Vietnam’s case, who is revolving around India and Pakistan, who is China’s ally.
While China is building its “string of pearls” by massive investments in the key ports on the Indian Ocean coastline: Gwadar (Pakistan), Hambantota (Sri Lanka), Sittwe (Mzanmar), Chittagong (Bangladesh), India is building its “iron chain” by the control it exercises over the Andaman Islands, Seychelles and Nicobar Archipelago. India’s efforts to maintain control over the Indian Ocean are supported in the background by Japan, Australia and the U.S., which form together with India the so-called “Square” [5].
Malacca Strait is a real energy artery of Asia, as well as one of the hottest and most disputed naval points, which mediates the meeting point of three major forces: China, India and USA.

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References:
1. Khanna Parag (2008) – Lumea a doua, Iaşi, Editura Polirom;


2. Apud Laurent Murawiec în Dobrescu Paul (2008) – Geopolitica , ed a IIa, Editura Comunicare.ro, Bucureşti, p.231;

3. Iskander Rehman – China’s String of Pearls and India’s Enduring Tactical Advantage, Institute for defence studies and analyses, iunie 2010;

4. Aman Ullah – India and China competing for Malacca Strait in Burma, SouthAsiaSpeaks, iunie 2009; 

5. Ranjit B. Rai – China’s string of pearls vs India’s iron curtain in the indian ocean, it is a C3IC issue, Frontier India, octombrie 2010;

Translated in English from Romanian language, Original Article appeared on our Partner Website Geopolitics.ro
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Editor | The World Reporter. An economist, IT specialist and a post graduate student from Romania.

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World

What Can Other Countries Learn from Kuwait’s Welfare System?

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As an oil-rich nation in one of the most oil-rich areas of the world, Kuwait has always been a nation capable of generating a huge amount of money relative to its size. As a result of the money the central government makes from oil sales, it has instituted one of the most comprehensive and generous welfare systems in the world.

The country’s welfare system is built upon the principle that the nation’s wealth should be shared among the people. In addition to oil, there are a few other valuable natural resources that Kuwait profits from. The money that the state generates from all of these commodities more or less guarantees that every citizen is able to live a comfortable life.

What Makes Kuwait Special?

The government of Kuwait subsidises basic services such as telephone lines, water, electricity, etc. Meanwhile, local cooperatives are able to provide food to other citizens at a greatly reduced price. Medical care and education are both free. Kuwait is also one of the few countries that consider a job and a home to be a basic constitutional right.

Middle Class

Because of this generous welfare system, as many as 90% of Kuwaitis are considered to be middle class. The country’s constitution, democratic institutions, and its relatively small population, all allow its citizens to profit from the nation’s oil reserves. As Fahad Al Rajaan, the director general of the Public Institution for Social Security puts it, “if you look at these… elements, it is evident that we are in a much better position than many countries in the world.”

Pensions

Kuwait’s social pension system features three unique characteristics, which set it apart from most. First of all, there is the way that it is financed. Contributors and employers contribute 60% to the total, while the government covers the remaining 40%. Many analysts, including Al-Rajaan, consider this to be the primary reason why the Kuwaiti pension scheme is one of the best in the world.

The second important feature of the Kuwaiti pension scheme is that it is fully funded. This means that the scheme is kept sustainable and solvent. In many other countries, state pension funds are paying out money as fast as they can get it in, creating uncertainty for the future.

Finally, there is the fact that the Kuwaiti pension fund pays out very generously. Once citizens reach the age of 30, the coverage increases to 95% of salary. This is much higher than the rates available in many other countries. Kuwait also has a generous retirement age of 50.

The Kuwaiti welfare system is a prime example of the potential power of redistribution of wealth. The Kuwaiti welfare system is based on a simple principle, that the fruits and assets of a nation should be shared equally among its citizens.

Many people argue against more generous welfare systems on the basis that they represent a drain on resources, to benefit the few at the cost of the many. The Kuwaiti system stands as evidence that it is possible to institute a very generous welfare program, while still encouraging economic growth and prosperity.

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Environment

Day Zero: A Desperate Warning from Cape Town to the World

Manak Suri

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The unpreparedness of the human race has slowly but steadily come to the surface over the previous decade when it comes to ensuring our own survival and more importantly, that of the following generations. Before we even attempt to realize the impacts of climate change that are thrown into the faces of some community who then serve as the unfortunate examples of what’s going to happen, another repercussion pops up into the frame at the cost of another unsuspecting community, a country, or even a city. The city of Cape Town in South Africa serves as the most recent of those examples, and the crisis in the city bodes an ultimatum like never before to other thriving cities on the planet: mend your ways or follow suit.

“Day Zero”: as dire as it sounds

The event currently underway in Cape Town could be aptly described as probably its worst drought in nearly a century, one that has seen its people and authorities struggle to obtain water in the wake of depleting natural sources in order to sustain even their daily hygiene rituals. The city is quickly closing in on what has been dubbed as “Day Zero“: the day when the city will run out of its water. When that happens, it would be the first occurrence of such an event for a major global city. “Day Zero”, originally estimated to occur on April 22, was more recently moved up to April 12 with Cape Town’s 4 million strong population finding it difficult to adjust to the demands of reduced consumption.

A point of no return, is it?

The authorities, including city mayor Patricia de Lille have urged citizens to restrict their usage to 50 litres per person a day with effect from February 1 to accommodate the shortage and help prevent the situation take a turn for the worse. However, most citizens have been ignorant of these warnings in the past month and have irresponsibly consumed more than 87 litres per day, the restricted amount in place till the end of January. “It is quite unbelievable that a majority of people do not seem to care and are sending all of us headlong towards Day Zero” she said, adding, “We have reached a point of no return.”

Despite the comments of the mayor, it can be safely mentioned that many people of the city are realizing the weight of the crisis, and have begun to get creative with the different ways in which they can collect and reuse water in order to restrict their consumption to the stipulated limit and escape hefty fines. Long queues to purchase bottled water for household consumption in supermarkets has also become a common sight over the weeks.

Former mayor Helen Zille, who will also direct the disaster management response on the arrival of Day Zero has sounded hopeful, going so far as to say that Day Zero can be avoided should everyone realize the implications and make a concerted effort towards conserving water. “That is not difficult if we all put our minds to it in our homes and in our workplaces,” she said of the situation. Ms. Zille, along with other officials have provided tips to the people for saving water and getting the maximum use out of the water that they use: turning off the taps of toilet cisterns and using the grey water from washing in the toilets instead and showering less often. “No one should be showering more than twice a week at this stage. You need to save water as if your life depends on it because it does” were her words.

Not a crisis out of thin air

The crisis that the people in Cape Town are facing is not sudden by any standards. In fact, first warnings against the occurring were given out in the 1990s which were largely ignored. One main factor identified behind the crisis and its scale is the city’s population of about 4 million individuals, which has seen a high rate of growth over the years and is still growing strongly. Coupled with the drought that the population is currently facing, the strain on the resources for water has increased. South Africa hasn’t received sufficient rainfall for three years now. The drought in turn arises from climate change and the El Nino effect. There are six dams that supply water to the city and are currently 25.8 per cent full. The figure stood at 85% in 2014 and 38.4% a year ago.

What the dawn of Day Zero would mean for the people of Cape Town

On the dawn of Day Zero, Capetonians would be allowed just 25 litres of water per person a day, or roughly 7 gallons. To put that into perspective, you can take the average amount of water that Americans use: 80 to 100 gallons. A single flush of a toilet amounts to 2 gallons, and a 90 second shower could use up 4 gallons. To keep the restrictions in check,  most taps in the city would be switched off and residents will have to get their daily share of water from any one of 200 allocated points in the city. Plans are also being made to store emergency water in military installations. The sooner the city head towards Day Zero, the sooner Capetonians will need to prepare for a new lifestyle, one that is significantly astray from that of entitlement that we all are living in right now. The crisis in Cape Town is a crystal clear warning to us, and one that will likely be not be given the consideration it is due.

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Opinion

How Mafia-States Get Away with Criminality

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In theory, all 195 states adhere to the Charter of the United Nations and therefore pledge “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained”. In other words, to play the game and adhere to basic governmental principles. That’s in theory: in practice, a handful of states in the world behave like mafias, and get away with it.

President George W. Bush first used the terms “failed states” or “rogue states”, during his office. Rogue states seem more adapted because, if they are failed states in the sense that they do not carry out their mission, they are not failed for everyone. Afghanistan is, still today, one of the most prominent examples of how to get personally rich by pretending to represent people. In the wake of the NATO intervention in Afghanistan, billions of dollars were poured into the country in reconstruction efforts, based on the belief that if the population was schooled and busy at work, they would be less likely to join rebel ranks. The idea was good, but most of the massive funds were sidetracked to line officials’ pockets and Afghanistan is pretty much in the same shape as it was before the program, if not worse. Business Insider covered the subject (1): “All districts receive central government budget to cover salaries of front-line forces,” reporter Jessica Purkiss wrote for the Bureau. “In many areas in Afghanistan, some of this budget disappears and the actual number of officers tasked with holding back the Taliban is much lower than the number actually allotted.”

And such rogue states also exist close to the Western sphere of Europe and the US. Almost every single State in Central and South America is at the warning level on the Fragile State Index (2) (the term was brushed up to sound less definitively damning than President Bush’s wording). Hungary was bashed this year, along with the rest of EU low-performers, for dropping sharply in the EU’s good governance ranking, as reported by Nicolaj Nielsen, for the EU observer (3): “Bulgaria scored the worst among EU states with 41, followed by Greece (44), Italy (47), Romania (48), Hungary (48), and Croatia (49). Dolan faulted the crackdown on civil society and other independent institutions in Croatia and Hungary for their worsening performance. Both governments were also embroiled in scandals last year. In one case, Hungary’s government allegedly funneled money from the Central Bank to friends and family.” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán learned from the report (4) that “Hungary loses 200 billion forints every year due to the corruption that exists in public procurement cases.”

Not to forget that States are not all mutually recognized and accepted, some of them are self-proclaimed. While some do indeed strive to carry out their stated mission and serve the people they claim to represent, some other are merely mafia groups with a political cover, which deal in various traffics and racketeering. Bordering Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania, lies Western Sahara, where a group named the Polisario Front announced to the world that it was the shield of the Sahrawi people, who originate from the arid strip of land, with the stated intent of creating a sovereign state. But that must be put into perspective with the endless list of allegations and accusations carried against it, regarding the Polisario’s management of refugee camps in Algeria for example. The self-proclaimed government of the Sahrawi – namely the SADR (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic) – is known for keeping the refugees captive in the camps, or keeping family members as hostage to guarantee men’s returns, maintaining a general state of violence and lawlessness within the compound. In addition, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has serious doubts (5) as to what becomes of the humanitarian aid it sends. It suspects not only the food to be sidetracked and sold on the black market, but also to be requested in excessive numbers – the Polisario front claims it holds up to 200 000 refugees but has systematically refused census, leading humanitarian donors to believe the figures are doubtful.

Can this be avoided? Hardly, at the general level. Pablo Escobar coined the phrase which underlies the entire system : Plata o plomo (silver or lead). Officials could be paid off to keep silent and play along, or be shot. Therefore, it is in the nature of corruption systems to maintain themselves because, should a “pure” official arise, he will be removed and replaced by a more complacent one.

Mafia states use the cover of darkness or, better still, a politically activist stance. The Colombian FARCs – Polisario’s allies, incidentally… – and the Medellin Cartel, run by Pablo Escobar, had an intense PR activity with many “social and humanitarian” poses, to help improve their public image and stymie political push-backs. The Polisario Front has moved much of its assaults to the judicial level, in a new form of “civilized” piracy, including with the surprise attempt to seize a Moroccan shipload earlier this year in South Africa. “The conclusion of this case will actually tell us whether it is now conceivable, on the judiciary level, that international shipping industry – which carries 90% of global trade – become hostage to some form of unprecedented and increasingly vicious political piracy,” wrote Philippe Delebecque (6), a French judge specializing in maritime affairs.

Mafia states are here to stay, because the mafia creates the state, and not the other way around. Once the mafia has developed its tentacles and political power enough, it will make kings and topple uncooperative administrators. Other states in the world are fully aware of this fact, and that if they bust a mafia-state, another will replace it within weeks. So, in the best cases, neighboring countries let it be; in the worst cases, they get involved in the graft.

1) http://uk.businessinsider.com/afghan-national-security-forces-us-assistance-70-billion-2017-9
2) http://fundforpeace.org/fsi/
3) https://euobserver.com/political/136664
4) http://hungarianspectrum.org/2017/01/26/hungary-has-been-steadily-becoming-more-corrupt/
5) http://www.eubulletin.com/4018-exclusive-olaf-report-reveals-diversions-of-eu-aids-to-western-sahara.html
6)https://seapiracy.einnews.com/article/406654813/_j2VsuC3itgcmo3C?lcf=YCp5Ip9ztVBQmLVnDO55vXzEICMe6RFJuBE3DVQzur8%3D

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