Archive for ‘GeoPolitics’

20/02/2015

Sri Lanka reviews land transfer to China as port deal draws scrutiny | Reuters

Sri Lanka is reconsidering the outright transfer of a parcel of land to China under a $1.5 billion port city deal signed by a previous government, the energy minister said, amid concerns it could be used for Chinese naval activity.

China’s port and other infrastructure investments in Sri Lanka are under the scanner ever since former president Mahinda Rajapaksa lost power in an election last month. He had pursued close ties with Beijing, drawing neighboring India’s ire.

Under the plan, 108 hectares of land next to the main commercial port of Colombo would be taken over by China Communications Construction Co Ltd, including 20 hectares on an outright basis and the rest on a 99-year lease.

The development would include shopping malls, water sports, golf, hotels, apartments and marinas.

“There is a new suggestion not to give freehold land and that land should be controlled and subjected to the Sri Lankan law,” Power and Energy Minister Champika Ranawaka told a Foreign Correspondents Association Forum.

India, which lost out to China in infrastructure development on the Indian Ocean island, was in particular worried about the security threat posed by Chinese ownership of land, aggravated by the docking of submarines in Colombo last year.

via Sri Lanka reviews land transfer to China as port deal draws scrutiny | Reuters.

18/02/2015

China maps out vision of future prosperity along a New Silk Road | The Times

About half an hour west of Kashgar, China’s westernmost city, a chic estate agent bristling with pamphlets presents a vision of the future. Buy a place here — a short hop from the Uzbek border — and soon the global economy will pivot around you.

Her pitch boasts an artist’s impression of the villa complex a buyer might expect: miniature European palaces nestled between crystal lakes, arcades of high-end boutiques and a pine forest.

It takes (to put it mildly) an imaginative leap to square this idyll with the blistering desert and sheer, barren mountain range just outside the showroom, not to mention stories of ethnic bloodshed in the villages near by.

Yet the large image on the wall is a show-stopper. Kashgar, normally shown on the far left-hand side of Chinese maps, is a red dot at the centre of the world. Around and through it, planned road and rail lines on an epic scale twine and lunge towards Calais and Rotterdam at one end and Guangzhou and Shanghai at the other. Spurs dart off to Karachi, Tashkent, Helsinki, Moscow and Tehran. Australia and Turkey are mentioned as eventual waypoints. This Kashgar villa project, the saleswoman says, will sit at nothing less than the heart of the New Silk Road, a project viewed by some as the most important piece of geo-economic engineering we will see in our lifetimes.

Cheerleaders of the New Silk Road story have plenty to back their optimism, not least the fact that the vision is the unambiguous focus of President Xi. Talk about the Silk Road will ride high on China’s domestic political agenda this year; the global trade implications will start to reverberate soon afterwards. In 2013, when Mr Xi first laid out his ambition of building a Silk Road economic belt and a maritime Silk Road to run in parallel, he did so with the glint of a nation that is getting better and better at turning expansive blueprints into reality.

Mr Xi’s rhetoric doesn’t feel empty. China has buckets of cash to invest and a rising sense that it is deploying those funds at an historically perfect juncture: Europe is light on leadership, Putin’s Russia is not a natural builder of partnership and American domestic politics are a long-term drag on Washington’s capacity to build cohesive global visions. All around it, Beijing sees countries that may be wary of China’s ambition but, at the very least, are underwhelmed by the alternatives.

Yesterday, China’s central bank officially opened its new Silk Road fund, a $40 billion wedge of cash that supposedly will be run like a private equity investor and will drive the construction of the rail and road infrastructure on which all of President Xi’s strategic vision depends.

The blossoming of the Silk Road vision marks an even greater inflection-point in China’s economic advance — the moment when its outward direct investments, as a percentage of global investment flow, outpace inflows. Its investments abroad rose from $45 billion to more than $600 billion between 2004 and 2013. Since 2010, its two largest state-owned development banks have annually lent more to developing countries than the World Bank and China is the predominant funder of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Brics Development Bank.

This all needs to be built into the way European leaders see the world, because at the moment, Mr Xi has a vision that could be internationalised or forever belong to China. While the initial stages of the Silk Road expansion will involve dreary-looking handshakes between China’s leaders and their various central Asian counterparts, the moment is fast arriving when the European economies have to work out the extent of their buy-in to Mr Xi’s dream.

via China maps out vision of future prosperity along a New Silk Road | The Times.

06/02/2015

Thailand boosts military ties with China amid U.S. spat | Reuters

China and Thailand agreed on Friday to boost military ties over the next five years, from increasing intelligence sharing to fighting transnational crime, as the ruling junta seeks to counterbalance the country’s alliance with Washington.

China's Defence Minister Chang Wanquan, accompanied by Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan (L), reviews a guard of honour during his visit to Thailand, at the Defence Ministry in Bangkok February 6, 2015. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

The agreement came during a two-day visit by China’s Defence Minister Chang Wanquan to Bangkok, and as Thailand’s military government looks to cultivate Beijing’s support amid Western unease over a delayed return to democracy.

“China has agreed to help Thailand increase protection of its own country and advise on technology to increase Thailand’s national security,” Thai Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters.

“China will not intervene in Thailand’s politics but will give political support and help maintain relationships at all levels. This is China’s policy.”

via Thailand boosts military ties with China amid U.S. spat | Reuters.

27/01/2015

Obama ends day of Indian pageantry with $4 billion pledge | Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama ended a landmark day in India on Monday with a pledge of $4 billion in investments and loans, seeking to release what he called the “untapped potential” of a business and strategic partnership between the world’s largest democracies.

Honeywell CEO Dave Cote (L) and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) laugh at a remark by U.S. President Barack Obama (R) during a CEO Roundtable and Forum at the India U.S. Business Summit in New Delhi January 26, 2015. REUTERS-Jim Bourg

Earlier in the day, at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Obama was the first U.S. president to attend India’s annual Republic Day parade, a show of military might that has been associated with Cold War anti-Americanism.

It rained as troops, tanks and cultural floats filed through the heart of New Delhi, but excitement nevertheless ran high over Obama’s visit, which began on Sunday with a clutch of deals to unlock billions of dollars in nuclear trade and to deepen defence ties.

Both sides hope to build enough momentum to forge a relationship that will help balance China’s rise by catapulting democratic India into the league of major world powers.

The leaders talked on first name terms, recorded a radio programme together and spent hours speaking at different events, but despite the bonhomie, Obama and Modi reminded business leaders, including the head of PepsiCo, that trade ties were still fragile.

India accounts for only 2 percent of U.S. imports and one percent of its exports, Obama said. While annual bilateral trade had reached $100 billion, that is less than a fifth of U.S. trade with China.

via Obama ends day of Indian pageantry with $4 billion pledge | Reuters.

26/01/2015

Narendra Modi’s Suit and Its Message to Obama – India Real Time – WSJ

Even the pinstripes on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s suit cannot escape scrutiny.

The yellow, almost-gold, stripes that appear against the navy blue wool fitted Indian jacket and pants he wore on Sunday were not simple stitching. They were Mr. Modi’s name embroidered into the fabric, said a person familiar with Mr. Modi’s wardrobe.

Over and over again the lines repeated the words: “Narendra Damodardas Modi.” His middle name is his father’s first name: Damodardas Mulchand, a tea seller.

Mr. Modi, wore the pinstriped suit to receive U.S. President Barack Obama at the Indian presidential palace on Sunday. Mr. Obama is on an official three-day visit to India.

He landed in the capital New Delhi on Sunday morning where he was greeted by Mr. Modi in a break with protocol. The pair also hugged.

Mr. Modi, who changed his outfit three times on Sunday, started with a cream colored shirt paired with a saffron shawl for the airport visit. He then changed into that pinstriped fitted Indian jacket with his name all over it for a luncheon he hosted in Mr. Obama’s honor at Hyderabad house. After lunch the pair walked in the garden and were photographed drinking tea together.

Later that evening, Mr. Modi donned a dove-grey fitted Indian jacket for a state banquet at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the president’s palace.

For the Republic Day parade on Monday Mr. Modi paired a black fitted jacket with an elaborate turban, a nod to his Gujarati heritage. The red, green and orange hand-tied turban, speckled with white dots, is a a tie-dye technique called Bandhani that is practiced mostly in the western Indian states of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Mr. Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat for more than a decade.

But the Obama visit’s wardrobe will probably be best-remembered for those stripes on Mr. Modi’s second outfit. They started a social media outrage especially on Twitter where some users described Mr. Modi as a narcissist for choosing to wear his name all over his jacket.

via Narendra Modi’s Suit and Its Message to Obama – India Real Time – WSJ.

26/01/2015

Rain on India’s parade, but Obama visit keeps spirits high | Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama watched a dazzling parade of India’s military might and cultural diversity on Monday, the second day of a visit trumpeted as a chance to establish a robust strategic partnership between the world’s two largest democracies.

Photo

It rained on the parade through the heart of New Delhi, but excitement nevertheless ran high over Obama’s landmark visit, which began on Sunday with a clutch of deals and ‘bromance’ bonding with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The two leaders announced plans to unlock billions of dollars in nuclear trade and to deepen defence ties.

Most significant was an agreement on two issues that, despite a groundbreaking 2006 pact, had stopped U.S. companies from setting up nuclear reactors in India and had become one of the major irritants in bilateral relations.

“Mobama breaks N-deadlock,” the Mail Today newspaper said on its front page, which carried a photograph of Modi and Obama hugging each other warmly.

The bonhomie was a remarkable spectacle, given that a year ago Modi was persona non grata in Washington and was banned from visiting the United States for nearly a decade after deadly Hindu-Muslim riots in a state he governed.

Obama is the first U.S. president to attend India’s Republic Day parade, an annual show of military prowess that was long associated with the anti-Americanism of the Cold War.

via Rain on India’s parade, but Obama visit keeps spirits high | Reuters.

21/01/2015

As Obama visits, signs that India is pushing back against China | Reuters

When Sri Lanka unexpectedly turfed out President Mahinda Rajapaksa in an election this month, it was the biggest setback in decades for China’s expansion into South Asia – and a remarkable diplomatic victory for India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a campaign rally ahead of state assembly elections, at Ramlila ground in New Delhi January 10, 2015. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee

Despite New Delhi’s protestations, diplomats and politicians in the region say India played a role in organizing the opposition against pro-China Rajapaksa.

His successor, President Maithripala Sirisena, has said India is the “first, main concern” of his foreign policy and that he will review all projects awarded to Chinese firms, including a sea reclamation development in Colombo that would give Beijing a strategic toehold on India’s doorstep.

India has pushed back against China elsewhere in the region since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in May, improving ties with Japan and Vietnam, both locked in territorial disputes with Beijing, and contesting a port project in Bangladesh that could otherwise have been a cakewalk for China.

The new robust diplomacy, which Modi calls “Act East”, has delighted Washington, which has been nudging India for years to dovetail with the U.S. strategic pivot toward the region.

When President Barack Obama makes a landmark visit to India starting Sunday, he will be the chief guest at New Delhi’s showpiece Republic Day military parade, and rarely for a presidential trip, is not scheduled to visit any other country before returning to Washington.

“What is appealing to me and my colleagues is the fact that Prime Minister Modi has undertaken to build from what has been a ‘Look East’ policy to an ‘Act East’ policy,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific Daniel Russel said in Washington last month.

“He has shown in word and deed his interest in involving India in the thinking and the affairs of the broader region. That’s very much to be welcomed.”

Washington made no bones about its distaste for Rajapaksa, who critics accuse of war crimes, corrruption and nepotism. But until last year India was indecisive, perhaps afraid of pushing the hero of the war against Tamil separatists even closer to China.

That changed in September, when Rajapaksa allowed a Chinese submarine to dock in Colombo, without informing India, as it was bound to under an existing agreement.

“That was the last straw,” a senior Indian diplomat told Reuters.

“He told Modi: “the next time I will keep you informed,”” the diplomat said, a promise that was broken when the submarine visited again in November.

In the build up to the Jan 8 election, India played a role in uniting Sri Lanka’s usually fractious opposition, for which the station chief of India’s spy agency was expelled, diplomatic and political sources say.

“At least that was the perception of Mahinda Rajapkasa,” said M.A. Sumanthiran, a prominent member of the Tamil National Alliance, a coalition of parties close to India. “He managed to get one of their top diplomats recalled.”

The Indian government denies any of its officers was expelled. But Sumanthiran said Modi had in a meeting encouraged the Tamil alliance to join forces with others in politics.

“The Indians realized that you can’t do business with this man and they were hoping for a change,” he said.

“FAMILY MATTER”

On Friday, Sri Lanka said it would review a $1.5 billion deal with China Communication Construction Co Ltd to build a 233 hectare patch of real estate on redeveloped land overlooking Colombo’s South Port.

In return, China was to get land on a freehold basis in the development. This is of particular concern for India, the destination for the majority of the trans shipment cargo through Colombo.

“The message is clear, that you do not ignore Indian security concerns,” said the Indian diplomatic source.

Modi is looking for similar good news elsewhere in South Asia. He has already visited Nepal twice, becoming the first Indian prime minister to travel to the Himalayan buffer state with China in 17 years, and signing long delayed power projects.

India has muscled into an $8 billion deep water port project that Bangladesh wants to develop in Sonadia in the Bay of Bengal, with the Adani Group, a company close to Modi, submitting a proposal in October. China Harbour Engineering Company, an early bidder, was previously the front-runner.

“Modi is willing to engage on long-term issues that stretch beyond India’s border, including maritime security in the South China Sea, as well as North Korea and Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria,” said Richard Rossow at policy think tank CSIS.

“That’s when we start to think about India as a regional global provider – or as a global provider of security.”

However, the bonhomie has limits – India and the United States do not see eye-to-eye on Pakistan, New Delhi’s traditional foe that enjoys substantial funding from Washington.

Tricky conflicts over trade and intellectual property hold back business, and India has limits to its ability to project force outside its immediate neighborhood.

But Modi’s policies mark a departure from India’s traditional non-aligned approach to foreign power blocs.

“Having the U.S. president at the Republic Day celebration is a good thing, he is blessing Modi,” said Mohan Guruswamy, of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, a think-tank.

“And that is a lesson to the Chinese that you have to mend your fences with us.”

via As Obama visits, signs that India is pushing back against China | Reuters.

20/01/2015

Obama’s Seven Habits for a Highly Successful India Visit – India Real Time – WSJ

U.S. President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to India won’t be his first trip to the country.

Mr. Obama and the First Lady last swept through Delhi and Mumbai in November 2010 in a carefully- choreographed charm offensive, addressing sensitive issues such as Pakistan and the U.N. Security Council, while finding time to dance at a high school and speak a bit of Hindi.

Much has changed in India since Mr. Obama last arrived on its shores: the government, the prime minister, the number of international coffee and burger chains. Many things haven’t altered however and by the time he leaves next week, the president will be something of an old hand in the world’s largest democracy. By visiting a second time, he becomes the only serving U.S. president to have made two official trips to India.

1. Back a Bid

India has for years coveted a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. In Mr. Obama’s 2010 visit, he used a speech to the Indian Parliament  to back the country’s inclusion “in the years to come” as a permanent member of the council with power of veto.

2. Tread Carefully on Pakistan

Any world leader visiting India must choose their words on the country’s rival Pakistan carefully.  In the same speech to the Indian Parliament, Mr Obama said the U.S. insisted Pakistan limit terrorist-safe havens within its borders, adding: “We must also recognize that all of us have an interest in both an Afghanistan and a Pakistan that is stable, prosperous and democratic—and none more so than India.”

3. Make a Trade Announcement…

Mr. Obama was in Mumbai when he announced a loosening of restrictions on U.S. exports to India. The move was aimed at making it easier for U.S. companies to export technology for military and non-military use after the U.S. imposed controls on trade with India in dual-use technologies — items that have both military and peaceful purposes – after India’s nuclear-weapons tests in 1998.

The president said: “We’re taking the necessary steps to strengthen this relationship.”

4. …And Ask for Something Back

Mr. Obama asked India to reduce barriers in sectors such as agriculture, retail and telecommunications to promote trade. “In a global economy, new growth and jobs flow to countries that lower barriers to trade and investment,” he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, embrace following a joint statement and press conference at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2010. Associated Press

5. Work on Chemistry

Ahead of the 2010 meeting, both Mr. Obama and then-Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh echoed each other’s language on the relationship between their two countries. “I think the India-United States relationship has entered a new phase,” Mr. Singh said before Mr. Obama’s visit.

6. Pick Your Battles

There was much speculation that Mr. Obama would touch on the issue of the outsourcing of U.S. jobs to India during his 2010 visit. In the end, he deftly sidestepped the issue in the name of healthy competition:

“There are many Americans whose only experience with trade and globalization has been a shuttered factory or a job that was shipped overseas,” he said, adding that many Americans still had a “caricature” of India as a place with call centers where U.S. jobs have been outsourced.

On another touchy subject, Kashmir, Mr. Obama let Mr. Singh do the talking. Mr. Singh said he wanted to reduce tensions with Pakistan, including over Kashmir, but could not do so unless Islamabad cracked down on terrorism.

U.S. President Barack Obama bows as he arrives to deliver a speech at Parliament House in New Delhi Nov. 8, 2010. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

7. Visit the Right Places, Wear the Right Things, Use the Local Lingo

Photogenic India provided Mr. and Mrs. Obama with ample visual material. Mrs. Obama gamely joined children dancing at a high school in Mumbai, eventually persuading the president to join her. She also took part in a game of hopscotch and urged students at a college in Mumbai to “keep dreaming big huge, gigantic dreams–for your community and for your world.”

Perhaps the most arduous part of the visit of any dignitary to another country is avoiding any faux pas, embarrassing photographs or poor sartorial choices.

Mr. Obama’s staff carefully chose Humayun’s tomb in New Delhi as an appropriate tourist destination for the president.

Meanwhile, Michelle Obama’s outfits were carefully scrutinized for any embarrassing mistakes – which she seemed to avoid.

Mr. Obama rounded off the whirlwind tour with the crowd-pleasing cry in Hindi of ‘jai hind!’, or ‘hail India!’ at the end of his speech to the Indian Parliament.

via Obama’s Seven Habits for a Highly Successful India Visit – India Real Time – WSJ.

17/01/2015

China Telecom plans bid to build Mexico broadband network – sources | Reuters

China’s third-largest carrier China Telecom is preparing a possible bid for a contract to build and run a new mobile broadband network in Mexico and is seeking local partners to join it in a consortium, three people with knowledge of the matter said.

It has already secured up to several billion dollars of financing from Chinese state-controlled banks, including the China Development Bank, for the project, which Mexico estimates will cost $10 billion over 10 years, one of the people said.

The proposed network is part of a sweeping reform designed to break billionaire Carlos Slim‘s hold on the Mexican telecoms business, but the Chinese involvement could prove controversial and trigger concerns from the U.S., some Mexican officials say.

Mexico’s government is trying to ease its economic dependence on the United States and ramp up Chinese investment. A Chinese-led consortium looks poised to win a $3.75 billion contract to build a high-speed train system, sources with knowledge of the plan say. This is despite the group’s previous winning bid being revoked late last year amid a political scandal.

via Exclusive: China Telecom plans bid to build Mexico broadband network – sources | Reuters.

13/01/2015

Japan, China hold maritime crisis talks in Tokyo – Xinhua | English.news.cn

Japan and China hold the fourth round of talks in Tokyo on maritime crisis management mechanism Monday, with both countries agreeing to launch it as soon as possible once a broad agreement is reached.

The working-level talks, participated by officials from Japan’ s Defense Ministry and the Maritime Self-Defense Force and China’ s Defense Ministry, firstly reaffirmed basic agreements they have made so far.

The two sides also discussed some specifics of the mechanism, including technical problems, and agreed to trigger it as soon as possible after some necessary adjustments based on Monday’s talks, Chinese officials said.

The mechanism of high-level consultations on maritime affairs between the two countries was launched in 2012. After three rounds of successful talks, the talks were suspended after the Japanese government‘s so-called”nationalization”of China’s Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea in September 2012.

via Japan, China hold maritime crisis talks in Tokyo – Xinhua | English.news.cn.

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