The Nijjar killing, the Gaza War and China’s Designs.
An entire narrative is emerging that shows a determined effort to derail the gains from G20, the important going forward of the IMEEC corridor, as an effective alternative to the Chinese BRI plans. The new alignments in the Middle East, the new found acceptance of Israel as an ally of key Arab countries – all these have been put into cold storage, for the time being. Hamas attacks are now near forgotten, the plight of the Gaza residents has come into focus, igniting Muslim passions globally.
In my article The ‘5 Eyes and More! The Plot Thickens as Multiple Motives Emerge’ which was posted on 2 October 2023 on diconversations.com I had argued that the killing of pro-Khalistan activist Harjit Singh Nijjar in Surrey, British Columbia on 18 June 2023 was a most likely False Flag operation jointly conducted by China’s MSS and Pakistan’s ISI. The objective of this op was to derail G20 and with it the proposed G20 India-Mid East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEEC) championed by US President Joe Biden as the alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The collateral motive was to destroy India’s ties with the West.
While this False Flag operation failed in derailing G20, it pretty much succeeded in denting India’s ties with the West assisted in no small measure by misguided and naive anchors and “journalists” from the mainstream print and television media in this country.
On 9 October, exactly a week after my article mentioned above was uploaded on the net, a Chinese born and now US based independent blogger called Jennifer Zeng announced in her video blog that according to a Canadian based Chinese writer and U Tuber named Lao Deng, the MSS or Chinese intelligence orchestrated the hit on Nijjar. The go-ahead for the operation was supposedly given to MSS field agents in Seattle, USA under instructions from Mr. Chen Yixin, China’s Minister of State Security (MSS). However, no motive was disclosed.
Meanwhile, around the same time information was being circulated on the internet that two deep cover ISI agents based in Surrey namely Tariq Kiyani and Rahat Rao were the local handlers of the Nijjar execution. Such reports indicate that both individuals were interrogated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Clearly, where there is smoke, there must be fire.
Was the objective to derail the potential of the IMEEC?
However, this False Flag operation failed in derailing G20 due to the pragmatic and conciliatory leadership of US President Joe Biden. He succeeded in shepherding the leaders of India, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Italy, France, Germany, and the European Commission to collectively announce their consensus in creating the IMEEC. The corridor would have an Indian starting point from either Mumbai or the Adani Port in Mundhra. Goods would be shipped from either of these two destinations to Jebel Ali or Al Fujairah ports in the UAE. Jebel Ali is one of the world’s largest and most efficient ports and trans-shipment hubs. It is also the base of a famous Emirati logistics company called DP World, which operates container terminals on India’s west coast at the ports of Mundra, Mumbai and Kochi. Almost 25% of India’s container traffic is carried by DP World.
From Jebel Ali and Fujairah, the IMEEC land route would see containers moving by rail from Fujairah to Israel’s Haifa port on the shores of the eastern Mediterranean coast. The Adani group has purchased a container terminal here at Haifa for $1.2 billion.
End to end from Al Fujairah to Haifa the distance by rail is 2547 kms. Out of this, 2067 kms of railway is already operational. A 250km stretch from the Saudi-UAE border to Haradh is under construction and the remaining 1,392km long railway line from Haradh to Al Haditha border post with Jordan is already in place. What remains to be laid is about only 230kms of track from Al Haditha to Beit Shean on the Jordan-Israel border. The final 70km stretch from Beit Shean to Haifa is already in place. Coincidentally, it traverses along a small part of the 1,300km long narrow-gauge Hejaz Railway line built by the Turks in the early part of the 20th-century to link Damascus with Madinah.
From Haifa, the containers would then be loaded back onto ships that would take them to either Kavala or Volos in Greece, Gioia Tauro in southern Italy or Marseilles in France to get on the European rail networks for their final destinations in Germany or beyond. And the same would happen on the reverse journey from Europe to India via West Asia.
IMEEC and the Abraham Accords: Both important Indo-US interests
Just days before the commencement of the G20 summit in New Delhi on 8 September, Prime Minister Modi visited Greece on 25 August. According to an English language Greek news portal called ‘Greek City Times’ during talks between Modi and Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis, the former expressed India’s interest in acquiring Greek ports. This interest was in acquiring one or more of the ports of Kavala or Volos or Alexandroupolis. While Piraeus would have been the best Greek port for this purpose, it could not be considered because it is 60% owned by a famous Chinese company called COSCO. Clearly the Adani Group was/is integral to the success of IMEEC, since IMEEC can only be a reality with both Haifa and either one of the three Greek ports as trans-shipment hubs.
What added fuel to the fire of China’s ire against this emerging IMEEC was Italy’s formal withdrawal from the BRI almost simultaneously with its endorsement of IMEEC. Furthermore, the next meeting of all the IMEEC signatories was scheduled for November this year. The genesis of this ambitious plan of creating the IMEEC unquestionably lies in the Abraham Accords. This was one of the few foreign policy achievements of the Trump administration that has bipartisan consensus in the US and was adopted by the Biden administration.
The Abraham Accords not only established the basis for ties between Israel and UAE but also gave birth to the I2U2 grouping that brought India into the fold along with Israel, the US and UAE. Statements issued after the first I2U2 foreign ministers’ meeting in October 2021 and the virtual summit in July 2022, clearly included joint investments in transport as one of the group’s priority areas. The meeting of the NSAs of India, the US, UAE, and Saudi Arabia in Riyadh in May 2023 realistically shaped this hitherto nebulous concept.
While Israel was not represented in Riyadh, her Prime Minister, Netanyahu has been an early and enthusiastic supporter of the proposal. In fact, Israeli energy minister Yisrael Katz claims to have persuaded Netanyahu to push for its inclusion in the I2U2 framework and was confident that it could not only foster peace but also turn Haifa into a regional transport hub.
However, watching on the sidelines of these developments were China, Türkiye, and Iran. They collectively stood to lose greatly by IMEEC.
On 17 October as the crisis in Gaza accelerated, Xi Jinping was master of ceremonies in Beijing to celebrate ten years of its Belt and Road initiative. The galaxy of guests invited ranged from Vladimir Putin and Hungary’s Viktor Orban to the Taliban. The Putin inspired Russian media has been quick to contrast Xi and Putin’s multipolar vision of the world epitomised by BRI with the Biden midwifed IMEEC. Both Beijing and Moscow are working to immediately energise the two-state (Israel-Palestine) formula as a fundamental solution to the long crisis presently manifested in Gaza.
Much to Lose for other Countries such as China, Turkey, and Iran?
For China, while the BRI is overtly focussed on trade, IMEEC, by its very definition, goes beyond the somewhat narrow scope of trade in physical products. It builds on dialogues within the Quad, NATO and AUKUS during the past few years about the imperative of cyber security and the need to build secure and trusted communication and logistics networks. Also, the emergence of IMEEC would devalue China’s equity in the Greek port of Piraeus.
For Türkiye, President Erdogan himself took the lead in opposing IMEEC. “We say there is no corridor without Türkiye,” he has said. “We are an important production and trade centre. The most convenient route for traffic from East to West must go through Türkiye.” The sea route for IMEEC between Haifa and Kavala or Volos or Alexandroupolis passes through disputed waters. The Greek and Turkish navies frequently clash in these waters as they are yet to demarcate the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) and maritime boundaries. Erdogan feels that India had raised similar concerns about the (BRI), which passes through foreign occupied land in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which Türkiye and Greece signed after a four-year war, did not specify maritime boundaries and the status of islands in the Aegean Sea. If Greece maps its maritime borders from the islands it occupies, then 71.5 per cent of the Aegean Sea would be under Greek sovereignty and only 8.7 per cent under Türkiye.
For Iran, IMEEC will perhaps spell the end of the proposed 7,200-km International North-South Transport Corridor between India, Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia, and Europe. That corridor relied on the Iranian port of Chabahar.
The dynamics of global intrigue
Therefore, one can argue that China, Iran, and Türkiye had to act fast to destroy IMEEC before November 2023. Could there be a better way than to instigate and underwrite the Hamas action against Israel that started on 7 October 2023? Even though Iran is Shia and not an Arab state, her Hamas proxy is Sunni. Notwithstanding all his bold and culturally western actions, Prince Salman of Saudi Arabia cannot ignore the retaliatory killings of Sunni Palestinians in Gaza. The Israeli blockade of Gaza has resulted in driving a wedge between Saudi Arabia and Israel and Saudi Arabia and the US. Further, it is beginning to unite all the diverse factions of global Islam.
The route taken by IMMEC from Al Fujairah to Haifa traverses through an area in Israel that Iran and Islamists call waqf (endowment) land, temporarily lost to kafirs (infidels) and requiring reconquest. Following the US withdrawal from the Middle East, Iran has spent several years surrounding Israel with client Islamist paramilitary groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. The aim is to decimate and eradicate Israel so that Iran dominates the Middle East. In this regard, Iran encouraged Hamas to make powerful regional friends like Qatar and Turkey. However, weapons know-how, tactical skills and hardware that made 7 October possible are only provided by Iran.
Hamas has staked the lives of civilian Palestinians to engage in this heinous act of terror on innocent civilian Israelis. Perhaps Netanyahu’s persecution of the Gaza strip to render it an unviable enclave within the ambit of the Palestinian state has contributed to the emerging apocalyptic outcome. Hamas had nothing to lose. It was being pushed to the wall. Israel however has its work cut out as Hamas is not merely an organisation but a movement. How Israel will succeed in obliterating this movement remains to be seen. If Israel fails in snuffing out Hamas, it will lose its aura of invincibility in the Middle-east prompting others to take a chance against it. The Former Prime Minister of Palestine and the head of the Hamas Political Bureau Ismail Haniyeh, has called on the global Islamic Ummah to stage anti-Israel protests. These have started in a swathe from Beirut to Melbourne. All Democracies with significant Muslim minority populations can expect such demonstrations to ignite their cities in the days to come. Why did Sunak and Scholz visit Tel-Aviv to be shortly followed by Macron?
On 17 October an explosion at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza created an uproar with Hamas falsely blaming Israeli airstrikes. Israel however displayed evidence that the deadly blast in the parking lot of the facility was caused by a misfired rocket launched by Palestinian terrorists. The blast coincidently occurred on the eve of President Biden’s trip to Israel the next day on 18 October. Biden came to reinforce Israel’s fight against Hamas and to offer aid to Palestinians suffering under an Israeli retaliation. However, circumstances pushed Biden to inextricably link himself to Israel in any fight to come.
The hospital blast prompted the cancellation of the critical next leg of Biden’s visit to Amman, Jordan where he had been due to meet Jordan’s King Abdullah II, the Egyptian president, and the leader of the Palestinian Authority. Rather than host a presidential summit, Amman on Wednesday was rocked by a second night of huge protests that crystalized anger in Arab nations over the Israeli pounding of Gaza. Demonstrations also erupted in Tunisia, Iraq, Iran, in the occupied West Bank and Lebanon.
Further, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak landed in Israel at on Thursday 19 October 2023 for meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog. Will Sunak be the 21st century’s Neville Chamberlain?
The situation in Gaza also appeared to inextricably harden the attitudes of key regional powers like Turkish President Erdogan.
The Arab allies of the US appear to have moved back many steps from their embrace with the US.
Meanwhile, the Chinese and their guests and allies celebrating the 10th anniversary of BRI are probably laughing behind the high walls of Zhongnanhai and toasting their first significant victory, against the Quad and its fellow travellers.
But this is where we stand at present, with much more action to roll! How it pans out remains of huge interest, given the non-stop coverage of the Israel-Hamas confrontation on our national television. Given this possible scenario, India’s best interests are to ensure the IMEEC remains on track, recent alignments which India has achieved do not get derailed from their original intentions. That we remain adequately committed to our multipolar diplomacy, keep our defences up, our feet and ears to the ground.