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If China won't play, is it time for India to step up and send troops to beat the Houthis?

The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), a gestating US-sponsored pan Pacific-Indian Ocean trade deal, is different things to different people.

To the Biden administration, it is a counter measure to whatever rival Donald Trump did or would do, as well as countering any deal China might have to snatch Indo-Pacific dominance from America.

What emerges as the geo-political fog lifts is the US does not have the skin in the game China, India and Europe does in the Western Pacific and the Red Sea. And perhaps it is time for these three to do the heavy lifting in dealing with the Houthi blockade of the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.

President Joe Biden finds it difficult in an election year to push trade deals. His progressive party's insistence on high labour standards and worker rights among trading partners will be favoured by the campus left, but not among global traders or producer nations because such terms increase costs and decrease a country's competitive advantage.

Given that reasoning, China makes deals under its don't-ask/don't tell policy. But while that is attractive in some economic areas, notably in bulk low-value commodities, China lacks the staggering richness of the US market in which the world hopes to sell its goods and services.

That's why countries like Vietnam, one of the early opportunists of the China decoupling trend, bought into the entire World Economic Forum's "Fourth Industrial Revolution" shtick.

Of the US-led IPEF, Hanoi's state-media Viet Nam News said: "IPEF’s four key pillars fit Viet Nam’s ambitions perfectly. Without adequate mitigation, Viet Nam could face significant economic losses due to climate change. By 2050, the country could experience an annual loss of 12-14.5 per cent of its GDP, while up to one million individuals could be exposed to extreme poverty by 2030.

"Besides, joining the IPEF will create a platform for deeper cooperation among the signatories, which means it will offer opportunities to Viet Nam as a manufacturing hub in the global supply chain," the article said.

Whatever impact these trade deals eventually have on the cross-border flow of goods and services in years to come, it appears a greater weight will be hefted by the western and southern areas of Asia, namely from Vietnam westward to Arabia and India, with the subcontinent replacing China in the value chain of the west.

To the cynic, there appears to be a western will to initiate wars here and there. With Russia of course, with nothing short of full surrender on Moscow's part to bring peace. Now war with Iran is being mooted for all the usual reasons, but now with the fresh reason of supporting and supplying the Houthis, who are firing missiles and killer drones on ships traversing the Red Sea, effectively shutting down the Suez Canal.

As the cynic sees it, all this is grist for the satanic mills of the military industrial complex. As each NATO country pours in more advanced weapons to Ukraine to be destroyed by Russian counter measures, prompting orders for replacement weapons that pour into to Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Oerlikon and the like. And although we do not like to see the Russians as defenders, and the Ukrainians as attackers, those are the roles they play with Ukrainian having to drive out Russians from Ukraine's eastern and southern regions.

And when one considers that attacker losses are classically three times higher than those of defenders in war zones worldwide, it doesn't take much of a mathematician to see which side in the Ukraine war will need more weapons to press home their attack.

Not long ago, one could be forgiven for hoping that China, India and Europe might well share the load of removing the Houthi scourge from blocking the Suez Canal's Red Sea access on which all three nations depend to buy and sell their goods to sustain their economies. But such Sino-Indian hopes were dashed when the Houthi forces, who have held the nation's capital Sanaa for a decade, gave Chinese ships free passage, that is, a safe conduct through the Red Sea, which amounts to a de facto monopoly on Suez Canal access.

Nearly as impotent, given their rules of engagement, the US Navy-led flotilla "Operation Prosperity Guardian" was moved to the Red Sea and has shot down a number of incoming missiles and drones.

Since 12 January, the US and the UK, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and New Zealand, have launched a series of cruise missile and airstrikes against the Houthis, supposedly "striking targets".

Said a US Defence Department press release: "The international group struck 36 Houthi targets across 13 locations in Yemen in response to the Houthis' attacks against international and commercial shipping, as well as naval vessels transiting the Red Sea."

The US-led coalition press releases speak of hitting targets without specifying what they are. Sometimes they appear to be missiles in flight, but mostly missile-drone launch sites. But because truck flatbeds and semi's trailers are the usual shoot-and-scoot missile launch sites, the targets they hit are just as likely to be tyre tracks in the sand from where missiles and drone's once were.

What should be appreciated in Red Sea-Suez crisis is that most affected, that is China, India and Europe probably have to launch a boots-on-the-ground operation against the Houthis. But it seems that elements of the Deep State wants a war with Iran so we can bring back that World War II-scale domestic social control like they had in the Covid scare. But that's not needed. One only needs to suppress the Houthis, which is a big enough operation. Remember what a fiasco Somalia was. Still, it's doable given the right force.

One might add the oil states of the Persian Gulf, but as long as there is a steady flow of oil, fortunes do not rise and fall on whether a tanker gets in on schedule, which is not the same for containerships, depending as they do, on Just-In-Time holiday season and back-to-school delivery. And what's more tankers have done this Cape route for nearly a decade after the '67 War closed the canal.

It would have been lovely if the Chinese and the Indian armies marched from the Port of Hudaydah (pop 740,000) the 150 miles inland to Houthi HQ, the Yemeni capital Sanaa (pop 2.5 million). The terrain separating the two is rough, as cozy as Afghanistan and there is but one road between the two and the enemy is tough and resilient and inured to decades of civil war.

But the Indians have mountain troops to do it, and their regiments have overseas traditions dating back to the British Raj. What's more they have top quality male troops in sufficient numbers. Perhaps the Brits would throw in a Gurkha battalion to make up for the tertiary role they were forced to play in the 1982 Falklands War.

That should get the job done. With US-UK air support and the arrival of the Indian army's crack regiments in massive numbers, they might even be enough to bring about a negotiated settlement and avoid bloodshed. But let's not count on it. Why disappoint the Gurkhas again?


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It's a pity China won't play in ending the Houthi threat to Red Sea-Suez shipping, but India might well do what needs to be done. Do you agree?

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