Archive for ‘GeoPolitics’

25/08/2016

China’s logistic hub in Djibouti to stabilize region, protect interests – Global Times

About 7,700 kilometers away from Beijing, in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, China’s first overseas installation for naval vessels is under construction.

Scheduled to be completed in 2017, the base is set to resupply Chinese warships, according to government statements.

But despite Beijing’s insistence that the facility will simply help with escort missions, peacekeeping and humanitarian rescues in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia, many have argued this move represents Chinese “military expansion” beyond the Asia-Pacific region.

“Through exaggerating or distorting, they attempt to hype the ‘threat of China’ and tarnish China’s image, so as to suppress China’s efforts to build maritime power,” Li Jie, a Beijing-based maritime expert, told the Global Times.

“The base is far less than a military base in its scale and function,” said Zhang Junshe, a researcher from PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute. “The base will be a logistic hub for Chinese vessels to get replenishment and temporary rest. It differs from US-style military bases, which have become bridgeheads for the country to easily and quickly wield military deterrence or intervention to other territories,” Li noted. The Republic of Djibouti, located in a strategically important position between the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea, hosts the military facilities of several countries, including the US, Japan and France, the country’s former colonial ruler. Italy and Spain also have permanent military installations in the country, according to a recent report by Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV.

These countries have stationed a variety of assets in these bases, including personnel, ships, UAVs and surveillance aircraft which are used for anti-terror and anti-piracy operations in Africa and the Middle East.

International obligations

The news that China will build a “military base” in Djibouti was first revealed in May last year, when Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh told AFP that “discussions are ongoing,” and China’s presence would be “welcome.

“Since then, it has aroused wide attention and concern. The US even reportedly protested against it. “Washington protested against the China-Djibouti pact and expressed concern over China’s plans to build a military base in the Obock region, but to no avail,” according to an article published in April on foreignaffairs.com, a US-based international affairs news portal.

At a regular press briefing on November 26, 2015, China’s foreign ministry first confirmed that China was negotiating with Djibouti over the construction of a “logistics facility.” Spokesman Hong Lei citied the need to resolve resupply difficulties for Chinese escort vessels, adding “[The facility] will be significant for Chinese army to fulfill its international obligations and safeguard global and regional peace and stability.”

Three months later at a press briefing by Chinese defense ministry on February 25, spokesman Wu Qian told media that China had reached an agreement with Djibouti to build a facility and construction had already begun. According to official figures, China has deployed more than 30,000 personnel on peacekeeping missions, the most of any of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.Since 2008, China has sent 22 escort fleets, a total of more than 60 vessels, to the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters, escorting more than 6,000 ships from home and abroad.

In March last year, hundreds of Chinese nationals threatened by escalating violence in Yemen were evacuated to Djibouti by their government.

But currently, these fleets need to dock in the ports of other countries to get rest and food supplies. “They need to organize people to purchase food locally. Besides, due to different types of fuels, refueling is also a problem,” Zhang said.

The new base will help China save money. Yang Huawen, a captain from China’s Northern Theater Command who joined a 10-month peacekeeping operation in Mali in 2014, is happy this facility is being built.

“In those tropical areas, the food goes bad quickly. The cost of mending equipment and maintenance is high,” Yang told the Global Times. “Building a logistic hub in the region can provide stable supplies efficiently and economically.”

Djibouti, with a landmass of 23,200 square kilometers of which 90 percent is volcanic desert, is poor in natural resources. Its ability to produce fruits, vegetables, and seafood is limited, according to a Chinese national who has spent time in the country. “Most of its vegetables are imported from its neighbor Ethiopia. Vegetables sell for there as much as five to 10 times what they do on the domestic market in China,” said the person.

Zhang also cited another advantage of the new facility – the Chinese government needn’t conduct diplomatic negotiations with the host country each time its vessels dock in their port.

 

Source: China’s logistic hub in Djibouti to stabilize region, protect interests – Global Times

25/08/2016

Iran keen to join China in rival to Panama Canal | Business | The Times & The Sunday Times

Iran has expressed interest in joining forces with a Chinese company that plans to build a $50 billion canal across Nicaragua that links the Atlantic and Pacific and rivals the Panama Canal.Mohammed Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, said that business leaders who went with him to the Central American state this week had discussed teaming up with HKND, a private Hong Kong company that has broken ground on the project but made little progress in the past two years.

Iranian involvement in a Chinese-run strategic waterway may raise concerns in the United States, which was instrumental in building the Panama Canal a century ago.

Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua’s left-wing president, shares Iran’s antipathy towards the US and is favoured for re-election in polls this November.

The project to build the 172-mile waterway has caused controversy at home, where environmentalists say that the route would take supertankers across Lake Nicaragua, bulldoze fragile ecosystems and involve the biggest earth-moving operation in history.

With an estimated 30,000 people likely to be displaced by construction, there have been protests against the canal, although the government insists that more than 80 per cent of the population of the country backs it. Amnesty International has denounced what it called Nicaragua’s “reckless handling” of the project.

There have been doubts about the financial health of Wang Jing, the Hong Kong tycoon behind the canal, and whether he might be backed by the Chinese government, which has massively invested across Latin America and Africa in the past decade.

Mr Wang is understood to have lost more than 80 per cent of his $10 billion fortune as a result of the volatility in the Chinese stock market. The project managers say that it is an international initiative not dependent on the vagaries of the Chinese share prices. After the groundbreaking ceremony in December 2014, the project appeared to have been put on hold, prompting speculation that it had run out of steam.

However, Mr Wang’s HKND group said this year that work on the Pacific terminal and wharf would begin this month, with work on the canal scheduled to start at the end of the year.

Mr Zarif, whose country recently had years of crippling US sanctions lifted, is on a tour of Latin America that began on Monday in Cuba, which has renewed diplomatic ties with the US but has yet to have its own half-century of sanctions lifted.Nicaragua was Mr Zarif’s second stop with an entourage of 120 Iranian business leaders and state economists, and he was scheduled to head on to Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia and Chile.

Source: Iran keen to join China in rival to Panama Canal | Business | The Times & The Sunday Times

29/07/2016

Why India Is Spending $1 Billion on Boeing Jets – The Short Answer – WSJ

India is beefing up its maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare capabilities with an order for four Boeing Co.-made P-8I aircraft.

The order is the latest evidence of booming defense ties between India and the U.S. The South Asian nation’s arms imports from the U.S. in the five years through 2015 were 11 times the amount in the previous five years, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

India imported 14% of its weapons from the U.S. in the same period, although its longstanding supplier Russia continued to dominate its defense market with a 70% share, according to the think tank.

India spent how much?

India will pay about $1 billion for the four P-8I planes. That is about half the amount the country spent in 2009 for eight of the aircraft. That order had an option for India to acquire four more jets at the 2009 price, something it is exercising now.

What can the planes do?

The P-8I—a military variant of Boeing 737-800 commercial jetliner—is fitted with state-of-the-art sensors and radars for maritime surveillance and reconnaissance, and to snoop on submarines. It can also be fitted with the Harpoon all-weather anti-ship missiles made by Boeing.

The aircraft–a variant of the U.S. navy’s P-8A Poseidon plane–can also be used for anti-piracy and other intelligence operations. It was deployed in 2014 when India joined the multinational search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. It is currently being used in the search for an Indian air force AN-32 aircraft that went missing on Friday over the Bay of Bengal.

Why does India want the jets?

The latest acquisition of the P-8I is a milestone in India’s strategy to replace its aging equipment, much of which was bought from Russia during the Soviet era. The twin-engine jet has a range of about 2,222 kilometers, or more than 1,200 nautical miles, which allows the Indian navy to monitor the country’s vast coastline.

Has this got anything to do with China?

India’s expansion of the P-8I fleet comes as China increases its naval presence in the Indian Ocean, alarming New Delhi.

In recent years, China has been improving its submarine power with a nuclear-powered sub travelling all the way to the Persian Gulf via Sri Lanka. China and India are also locked in a long-running land-border dispute.

The new planes will bolster India’s capabilities to keep an eye on movement on Chinese warships and submarines in the region.

What else is on the shopping list?

India’s government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has promised to upgrade the country’s military capabilities. But a long-delayed deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from Dassault Aviation S.A. of France is still being negotiated–more than a year after it was announced.

India also has plans to buy howitzers, warships, submarines, as well as to acquire fighter jets.

Source: Why India Is Spending $1 Billion on Boeing Jets – The Short Answer – WSJ

27/07/2016

India orders 4 more maritime spy planes from Boeing worth $1 billion | Reuters

India has signed a pact with Boeing Co for purchasing four maritime spy planes at an estimated $1 billion, defence and industry sources said, aiming to bolster the navy as it tries to check China’s presence in the Indian Ocean.

India has already deployed eight of these long-range P-8I aircraft to track submarine movements in the Indian Ocean and on Wednesday exercised an option for more planes, a defence ministry source said.

“It has been signed,” the source familiar with the matter told Reuters. An industry source confirmed the contract, saying it was a follow-on order signed in New Delhi early on Wednesday.

Source: India orders 4 more maritime spy planes from Boeing worth $1 billion | Reuters

01/07/2016

Our bulldozers, our rules | The Economist

THE first revival of the Silk Road—a vast and ancient network of trade routes linking China’s merchants with those of Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe—took place in the seventh century, after war had made it unusable for hundreds of years. Xi Jinping, China’s president, looks back on that era as a golden age, a time of Pax Sinica, when Chinese luxuries were coveted across the globe and the Silk Road was a conduit for diplomacy and economic expansion. The term itself was coined by a German geographer in the 19th century, but China has adopted it with relish. Mr Xi wants a revival of the Silk Road and the glory that went with it.

This time cranes and construction crews are replacing caravans and camels. In April a Chinese shipping company, Cosco, took a 67% stake in Greece’s second-largest port, Piraeus, from which Chinese firms are building a high-speed rail network linking the city to Hungary and eventually Germany. In July work is due to start on the third stage of a Chinese-designed nuclear reactor in Pakistan, where China recently announced it would finance a big new highway and put $2 billion into a coal mine in the Thar desert. In the first five months of this year, more than half of China’s contracts overseas were signed with nations along the Silk Road—a first in the country’s modern history.

Politicians have been almost as busy in the builders’ wake. In June Mr Xi visited Serbia and Poland, scattering projects along the way, before heading to Uzbekistan. Last week Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, made a brief visit to Beijing; he, Mr Xi and Mongolia’s leader promised to link their infrastructure plans with the new Silk Road. At the time, finance ministers from almost 60 countries were holding the first annual meeting in Beijing of an institution set up to finance some of these projects, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Like a steam train pulling noisily out of a station, China’s biggest foreign-economic policy is slowly gathering speed.

Chinese officials call that policy “One Belt, One Road”, though they often eviscerate its exotic appeal to foreigners by using the unlovely acronym OBOR. Confusingly, the road refers to ancient maritime routes between China and Europe, while the belt describes the Silk Road’s better-known trails overland (see map).

OBOR puzzles many Western policymakers because it is amorphous—it has no official list of member countries, though the rough count is 60—and because most of the projects that sport the label would probably have been built anyway. But OBOR matters for three big reasons.

First, the projects are vast. Official figures say there are 900 deals under way, worth $890 billion, such as a gas pipeline from the Bay of Bengal through Myanmar to south-west China and a rail link between Beijing and Duisburg, a transport hub in Germany. China says it will invest a cumulative $4 trillion in OBOR countries, though it does not say by when. Its officials tetchily reject comparison with the Marshall Plan which, they say, was a means of rewarding America’s friends and excluding its enemies after the second world war. OBOR, they boast, is open to all. But, for what it is worth, the Marshall Plan amounted to $130 billion in current dollars.

Next, OBOR matters because it is important to Mr Xi. In 2014 the foreign minister, Wang Yi, singled out OBOR as the most important feature of the president’s foreign policy. Mr Xi’s chief foreign adviser, Yang Jiechi, has tied OBOR to China’s much-touted aims of becoming a “moderately well-off society” by 2020 and a “strong, prosperous” one by mid-century.

Mr Xi seems to see the new Silk Road as a way of extending China’s commercial tentacles and soft power. It also plays a role in his broader foreign-policy thinking. The president has endorsed his predecessors’ view that China faces a “period of strategic opportunity” up to 2020, meaning it can take advantage of a mostly benign security environment to achieve its aim of strengthening its global power without causing conflict. OBOR, officials believe, is a good way of packaging such a strategy. It also fits with Mr Xi’s “Chinese dream” of recreating a great past. It is not too much to say that he expects to be judged as a leader partly on how well he fulfils OBOR’s goals.

Third, OBOR matters because it is a challenge to the United States and its traditional way of thinking about world trade. In that view, there are two main trading blocs, the trans-Atlantic one and the trans-Pacific one, with Europe in the first, Asia in the second and America the focal point of each. Two proposed regional trade deals, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, embody this approach. But OBOR treats Asia and Europe as a single space, and China, not the United States, is its focal point.

Source: Our bulldozers, our rules | The Economist

24/06/2016

China rejects bending rule for India to join nuclear club | Reuters

China maintains its opposition to India joining a group of nations seeking to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons by controlling access to sensitive technology, said the head of the arms control department in China’s Foreign Ministry.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) met this week in Seoul, but China said it would not bend the rules and allow India membership as it had not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the main global arms control pact.

“Applicant countries must be signatories of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of nuclear weapons (NPT),” Wang Qun, the head of arms control department in China’s Foreign Ministry, was quoted as saying in Seoul on Thursday night.

“This is a pillar, not something that China set. It is universally recognized by the international community,” Wang said according to a statement released by the Chinese foreign ministry on Friday.China is leading opposition to a push by the United States to bring India into the NSG which aims to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation by stopping the sale of items that can be used to make nuclear arms.

The issue of India’s membership was not formally discussed at the NSG meeting this week, Wang said on Friday.

The United States, which has a nuclear cooperation deal with India, considers it a nuclear power that plays by the rules and is not a proliferator, and wants to bring Asia’s third largest economy into the 48-member group.

India already enjoys most of the benefits of membership under a 2008 exemption to NSG rules granted to support its nuclear cooperation deal with Washington.

On Friday, on the sidelines of the plenary meeting of the NSG, Wang stressed China considered it important to handle new memberships under a consensus and that there was no move yet to allow a non-NPT state to join.

“International rules will have to be respected, big or small,” Wang told Reuters. “Big like NPT. Small like the rules and procedures of this group.”   “The important question of which we are concerned, is how to deal with the question of participation of countries within the group of non-NPT states. It’s a formidable task.”Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the issue on Thursday at a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a regional summit in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, but there was no breakthrough.

One diplomat at the NSG plenary in Seoul said the group’s outgoing chairman, Argentinian diplomat Rafael Grossi, would act as a “facilitator” to continue to search for an accession deal.

Opponents argue that granting India membership would further undermine efforts to prevent proliferation. It would also infuriate India’s rival Pakistan, an ally of China’s, which has responded to India’s membership bid with one of its own.Pakistan joining would be unacceptable to many, given its track record. The father of its nuclear weapons program ran an illicit network for years that sold nuclear secrets to countries including North Korea and Iran.

Source: China rejects bending rule for India to join nuclear club | Reuters

22/06/2016

India’s Space Agency Sends 20 Satellites Into Orbit – India Real Time – WSJ

India on Wednesday put 20 satellites into the Earth’s orbit, including 17 from foreign countries, a record number for its space agency as it seeks to become a low-cost and reliable choice for launches.

The successful mission by the Indian Space Research Organisation puts it right after Russia and the U.S. for the number of satellites launched from a single rocket so far, said an ISRO official. In 2014, a single Russian space launch vehicle deployed 33 satellites. A National Aeronautics and Space Administration rocket carried 29 satellites in 2013.

ISRO’s rocket, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, carried its own Cartosat-2 series satellite for earth observation along with 13 satellites from the U.S., two from Canada, one each from Germany and Indonesia and two from Indian academic institutions.

“ISRO continues to break new barriers,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on his Twitter account. He said the country’s space program “has time and again shown the transformative potential of science and technology in people’s lives.”

The launch comes as global space agencies face competition from private companies who are aiming to bring down the cost and time for manufacturing and launching satellites by automating their production and using unmanned reusable rockets.

U.S. businessman Greg Wyler has joined hands with Airbus Group SE to build an automated manufacturing facility in Florida that can churn out hundreds of satellites each year. Traditional satellites are built using touch labor. SpaceX, an aerospace startup founded by Elon Musk, successfully landed a rocket on an ocean platform in early May after launching a communications satellite.

India has been fast achieving recognition as a budget option for launching satellites. In 2014, ISRO put a satellite into the orbit of Mars, becoming the first Asian country to reach the red planet, and at fraction of the cost of a similar launch in U.S. and Europe.

In May ISRO launched the test model of its planned reusable space shuttle.  In April, it launched the seventh satellite needed to create its own navigation system, joining a small group of nations with their own versions of GPS.

The global space industry was estimated to be worth $330 billion in 2014, the latest year for which data are available, according to the Space Foundation, a U.S.-based research group. Commercial space activities comprised as much as 76% of the industry, it said.

There were 92 rocket launches in 2014, and Russia continues to hold its leadership in this area with 32 rocket launches, followed by U.S. with 32 and 11 by Europe, the Space Foundation said. It didn’t provide figures for India.Ajay Lele, a senior fellow at New Delhi-based Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses estimates the U.S. has about a 40% share of the global satellite-launching market, while Europe has 25% and Russia 20%. Countries such as China and India have a much smaller share of the market of about 3% percent or less, Mr. Lele said.

ISRO officials said after the launch they want to accelerate the pace of sending satellites into space by extending partnerships with private Indian companies. The space organization has launched more than 57 satellites from about 20 countries on board the PSLV over about two decades.

Source: India’s Space Agency Sends 20 Satellites Into Orbit – India Real Time – WSJ

16/06/2016

U.S., India and Japan Begin to Shape a New Order on Asia’s High Seas – India Real Time – WSJ

From the waters of the Philippine Sea this week emerged a partial outline of Washington’s vision for a new Asian maritime-security order that unites democratic powers to contend with a more-assertive and well-armed China.

A U.S. Navy aircraft-carrier strike group along with warships from India and Japan jointly practiced anti-submarine warfare and air-defense and search-and-rescue drills in one of the largest and most complex exercises held by the three countries.

The maneuvers were being tracked by a Chinese surveillance vessel, a U.S. Navy officer aboard the carrier USS John C. Stennis said on Wednesday. Last week, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Beijing hoped the training “will be conducive to regional peace, security and stability.

”Washington and Tokyo have long cooperated closely on defense. And the U.S. has been working to deepen strategic ties with India and to encourage New Delhi to play a more active role, not just in the Indian Ocean but also in the Pacific, as China’s rise shifts the regional balance of power.

Americans are looking for those who can share the burden,” said C. Raja Mohan, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s India center. A strengthened three-way partnership among the U.S., Japan and India is “an important strategic shift.”

Source: U.S., India and Japan Begin to Shape a New Order on Asia’s High Seas – India Real Time – WSJ

10/06/2016

Is China Rattled By the India-U.S. Love-In? – India Real Time – WSJ

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made strengthening ties with the U.S. one of his key foreign-policy objectives, as the two countries seek to counterbalance China’s growing footprint in Asia.

In a speech to a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress Wednesday, the conclusion of a three-day trip to the country, Mr. Modi didn’t directly mention China, but said: “In Asia, the absence of an agreed security architecture creates uncertainty.

”A strong India-U.S. partnership can “help ensure security of the sea lanes of commerce and freedom of navigation on seas,” he added.

So is the beefed-up alliance between the two countries making Beijing uncomfortable? The country’s press provides some clues.

Source: Is China Rattled By the India-U.S. Love-In? – India Real Time – WSJ

08/06/2016

U.S. Firm to Build Six Nuclear Reactors in India – India Real Time – WSJ

The U.S. and India agreed to move ahead with the construction of six nuclear reactors in India by an American company, the first such move since the countries signed a landmark civil nuclear deal in 2008.

The breakthrough capped a wide-ranging White House meeting on Tuesday between President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who are seeking closer cooperation as Washington wants to boost New Delhi’s role in counterbalancing China.

The meeting, which included lunch at the White House, will be followed on Wednesday by a speech by Mr. Modi to Congress, wrapping up the Indian leader’s fourth visit to the U.S. as part of an increasingly close relationship that has been sought by both governments.

The warming Indian relationship is backed by the lure of accelerating growth in that country, signs of improvement in the business climate, shared democratic values and some overlapping strategic goals.

By contrast, recent U.S. interactions with China, a far bigger Asian economy and U.S. trading partner whose growth appears to be slowing down, have been marked by strains and warnings over economic and security issues.

Source: U.S. Firm to Build Six Nuclear Reactors in India – India Real Time – WSJ

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