World View: Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China Sign Economic and Military Agreements

BEIJING, CHINA - AUGUST 31: Saudi Arabia Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shake hands during a meeting at the Diaoyutai State guest house on August 31, 2016 in Beijing, China. The deputy prince is meeting Chinese officials during his visit to boost …
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This morning’s key headlines from

  • Fault lines: Saudi Arabia-China-Pakistan and India-U.S. continue to harden
  • Saudi Arabia and China sign economic and military agreements
  • Saudi Arabia and Pakistan discuss economic and military ties
  • U.S. and India sign a landmark defense agreement

Fault lines: Saudi Arabia-China-Pakistan and India-U.S. continue to harden

Saudi Arabia and China sign economic and military agreements (al-Arabiya)
Saudi Arabia and China sign economic and military agreements (al-Arabiya)

For ten years, I’ve been predicting, based on Generational Dynamics analyses, that in the coming Clash of Civilizations world war, the “allies” will be the United States, India, Russia and Iran, while the “axis” will be China, Pakistan, and the Sunni Muslim countries. Ten years ago, this alignment seemed almost preposterous, but in the last few years, the trends have moved more and more rapidly in the direction of that alignment. Major global events, including the Arab Spring, the Syria war, the Yemen war, the US-Iran nuclear agreement, and China’s policy in the East and South China Seas, have all advanced global geopolitics along this trend line.

These alignments are not shallow political policies for domestic consumption. These alignments are deep in the DNA of the countries, based on experiences of multiple generations over centuries.

Many people refuse to believe these alignments. They point to some ephemeral agreement between Russia and China, or to a speech by Iran’s Supreme Leader, as “proof” that something else will happen, typically that Russia, China and Iran will gang up on the United States, which is absolute nonsense. Unfortunately, many government and commercial policies are also made on erroneous assumptions, as I’ve pointed out many times, and the generational theory analysis has always been right.

In today’s World View column, we’re reporting on a series of agreements made by China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, India and the United States that once again move those countries along the trend line to the predicted alignment. For any readers who are in policy positions, either governmental or commercial, you really ought to pay attention what’s going on in the world, which is what Generational Dynamics explains.

Saudi Arabia and China sign economic and military agreements

In the last week, China, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia have signed new economic and military agreements linking the three countries together.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman began a three-day visit to Beijing, meeting with top Chinese leaders. Fourteen memoranda of understanding are being signed by the two countries. The agreements were related to security, national defense, exchange of data information, energy, technology, services, cultural exchange, and human resources development.

In the past, China has sold hundreds of millions of dollars of arms sales to the Saudis, but that’s by $33 billion in US arms sales in 2011 alone.

This is only the latest in a series of visits and agreements that only began in 1990, when Saudi Arabia became the last Arab country to officially recognize the People’s Republic of China. Saudi Arabia was firmly anti-communist during the Cold War, and a close ally of the United States. However, a series of decisions by the Obama administration have caused the Saudis to reevaluate their relationship with both the US and the Chinese. The major decisions were:

  • Obama’s failure to support Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak during the Arab Spring;
  • Obama’s reversal of his “red line” decision to strike Bashar al-Assad, after the latter used Sarin gas on his own people, and continues to use chlorine gas on his own people with impunity; and
  • The lifting of sanctions on Iran in conjunction with the nuclear deal.

Over time, these decisions convinced the Saudis that they have become overly dependent on the United States.

However, there are also issues about China that concern the Saudis:

  • China is improving ties with Iran as well as with Saudi Arabia.
  • China and Saudi Arabia do not see eye to eye on the war in Syria, with China largely siding with Russia and Bashar al-Assad.
  • Most important, China has shown neither the willingness nor the capability to take over the role the US has played in the region, though that could change if the next US president continues the policy adopted by President Obama of withdrawing from the Mideast.

On the other hand, China has become increasingly dependent on Middle Eastern oil. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia is an important link in China’s proposal for the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. So it’s not surprising that security cooperation between Saudi Arabia and China is improving. Saudi Gazette and Global Times (Beijing) and Al Arabiya

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan discuss economic and military ties

Saudi Arabia’s Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman stopped briefly in Pakistan on the way to his visit in China. It is not clear whether any agreements were reached, but the subject of Yemen surely came up.

Relations between Saudi and Pakistan have been difficult for almost two years, since the beginning of the Yemen war. Saudi Arabia has led a multi-nation coalition to fight the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, but the Saudis are bogged down in a quagmire and may actually be losing. Pakistan has refused from the beginning to join the coalition, because it wants to continue having good relations with Iran.

The statement issued after the meeting was non-committal. “[Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz] Sharif and the Saudi defense minister pledged to further enhance the bilateral ties between the two brotherly countries and strengthen their cooperation in diverse fields.”

Nonetheless, Pakistan is closely tied to Saudi Arabia, and is even heavily dependent on the Saudis. Possibly the greatest symbol of this dependence is that already over 100,000 Pakistanis have traveled to Saudi Arabia to perform the yearly pilgrimage of the Hajj, which will be held in Mecca on September 9-14.

There are also 1.5-2 million Pakistanis living and working in Saudi Arabia, sending remittances back to their families in Pakistan. And Pakistan’s need for Saudi energy is critical and longstanding. One reason for China’s close relationship with Pakistan is that it opens up access to the Gulf and Saudi oil. However, Pakistan’s relationship with China goes well beyond that, because of their shared hatred of India. As we’ve reported in the past, they describe their relationship as “all-weather friends,” “deeper than the deepest ocean,” “sweeter than honey” and “dearer than eyesight.”

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has paid four visits to Saudi Arabia since January this year. President Mamnoon Hussain also visited Saudi Arabia last month.

Because of Pakistan’s dependence on the Saudis, some analysts believe that Pakistan is secretly aiding the Saudis in Yemen, and may even have boots on the ground. According to one analyst, “Pakistan remains solidly allied with Saudi Arabia, regardless of how intense the outreach may be from Tehran. There are decades of close military cooperation that are not about to undone.” Deutsche Welle and Al Arabiya and The News (Pakistan)

U.S. and India sign a landmark defense agreement

During a visit to Washington by India’s Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar, the US and India signed a landmark defense agreement Tuesday that will increase the military cooperation between the two countries.

India has resisted this agreement in the last decade for fear that the agreement would aggravate China, and would lock India into a formal and irreversible military alliance and push New Delhi into supporting U.S. conflicts. However, in recent years India has become increasingly nationalistic, leading to the election of a nationalistic prime minister, Narendra Modi, making this defense agreement with the US possible.

Still, the agreement signed on Tuesday is extremely limited, in order allay Indian concerns. The agreement authorizes port visits, joint exercises, joint training, humanitarian assistance and disaster-relief efforts, and it streamlines relations between the two militaries. However, the agreement “does not create any obligations on either party to carry out any joint activity. It does not provide for the establishment of any bases or basing arrangements,” according to India.

According to one military analyst:

For the US, this is one part of the much larger pivot to Asia intended by President Obama to meet a rising China. The US Navy plans to deploy 60 percent of its surface ships in the Indo-Pacific in the near future. Instead of having to build facilities virtually from the ground up, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US has the benefit of simple arrangements for the tremendous Indian facilities.

For both the US and India, [the agreement] responds to the powerful challenge of Xi Jinping’s artificial islands – with air bases — in the South China Sea. It may also matter against the common enemy of the US and India in radical jihadists.

Earlier this year, U.S. Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. said at an event in New Delhi that soon the naval vessels of the two nations steaming together “will become a common and welcome sight throughout Indo-Asia-Pacific waters.” The statement was aimed at countering China’s expanding military footprint in the region and echoed Washington’s expectation that India will play the role of a net security provider in Asia. Washington Post and Times of India

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Saudi Arabia, China, Pakistan, India, Iran, Syria, Yemen, South China Sea, Russia, Mohammad bin Salman, Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, Bashar al-Assad, Silk Road Economic Belt, 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, Nawaz Sharif, Mamnoon Hussain, Manohar Parrikar, Narendra Modi, Harry B. Harris Jr.
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