Archive for ‘nuclear weapons’

29/05/2019

China looks to Russia, Central Asia for support amid tensions with US

  • President Xi Jinping will meet Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin next month and address economic summit in St Petersburg
  • Diplomatic flurry will also include regional security forums in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
Xi Jinping has met Vladimir Putin more times than any other foreign leader since he took power in 2013. Photo: AFP
Xi Jinping has met Vladimir Putin more times than any other foreign leader since he took power in 2013. Photo: AFP
Beijing is stepping up efforts to seek support from regional and global players such as Russia and Central Asian nations as its geostrategic rivalry with Washington heats up.

President Xi Jinping is expected to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin next month, when he will also address the St Petersburg International Economic Summit,

Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov told state-run TASS news agency earlier.

The Chinese president will also visit the Kyrgyzstan capital Bishkek for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in June, as well as another regional security forum in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

Meanwhile, Vice-President Wang Qishan is visiting Pakistan before he heads to the Netherlands and Germany, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan meets Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan in Islamabad on Sunday. Photo: AFP
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan meets Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan in Islamabad on Sunday. Photo: AFP
The latest flurry of diplomatic activity comes as competition between China and the US intensifies on several fronts including trade and technology, the South China Sea and the Arctic, where Beijing’s partnership with Moscow –

funding and building ports, berths and icebreakers off Russia’s shores

– has drawn criticism from Washington.

It will be Xi’s second time at the St Petersburg forum, and observers expect the Chinese leader will reaffirm Beijing’s commitment to multilateralism and promote the nation as a champion of openness and cooperation.
China-Russia ties unrivalled, Beijing warns before Pompeo meets Putin
It will also be his second meeting with Putin in two months, after talks on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in late April, when the Russian president

offered his support

for the controversial China-led infrastructure and investment initiative.

With China and Russia edging closer, the latest meeting is likely to see efforts to coordinate their strategies on a range of issues – including Venezuela, North Korea, nuclear weapons and arms control, according to observers. Xi has met Putin more times than any other foreign leader since he took power in 2013.

“This time it is very likely that the latest anti-China moves by the US, such as new tariffs and the Huawei ban, will feature prominently in their conversations,” said Artyom Lukin, an associate professor at Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok.

Lukin said Russia’s stagnating economy and sanctions imposed by the West limited its role as a substitute for the foreign markets and technologies China could lose access to because of the US crusade. But he said Putin would “provide political and moral support to Xi”.

“That is also significant as Russia has been withstanding intense US-led sanctions pressure for more than five years already,” Lukin said, referring to sanctions imposed after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Xi and Putin are also expected to talk about Venezuela, where US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido is attempting to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro, who has the support of China and Russia.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has the backing of China and Russia. Photo: AP
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has the backing of China and Russia. Photo: AP

“Moscow and Beijing are not able to seriously hurt Washington by raising tariffs or denying access to high technology. However, there are plenty of areas where coordinated Sino-Russian policies can damage US interests in the short term or in the long run,” Lukin said. “For example, Moscow and Beijing could intensify their joint support for the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro, frustrating Washington’s efforts to dislodge him.”

China and Russia would also be seeking to boost economic ties. Bilateral trade, dominated by Chinese imports of gas and oil, reached US$108 billion last year – falling far short of the target set in 2011 by Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, of US$200 billion by 2020.

China and Russia to forge stronger Eurasian economic ties

Li Lifan, an associate research professor at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said bilateral trade was a sticking point. “This is one of the potential hindrances in China-Russia relations and Beijing is hoping to [address this] … in the face of a possible global economic slowdown,” Li said.

Given the escalating trade war with Washington, he said China would seek to diversify its investments and markets to other parts of the world, particularly Russia and Europe.

“China will step up its investment cooperation with Europe and Russia and focus more on multilateral investment,” Li said.

But Beijing was not expected to do anything to worsen tensions with Washington.

“China is currently taking a very cautious approach towards the US, trying to avoid heating up the confrontation and further aggravation of the situation,” said Danil Bochkov, a contributing author with the Russian International Affairs Council. “For China it is important to demonstrate that it has a reliable friend – Russia – but that should not be done in an openly provocative manner.”

Stephen Blank, a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, said Beijing and Moscow would also seek to contain US influence “as far as possible” from Central Asia, where China has increased its engagement through infrastructure building under the “Belt and Road Initiative”.

Leaders from the region will gather in Bishkek next month for the SCO summit, a security bloc set up in 2001 that now comprises China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan. Those members account for about 23 per cent of the world’s land mass, 45 per cent of its population, and 25 per cent of global GDP.

Newly re-elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could meet the Chinese president for talks in Bishkek next month. Photo: EPA-EFE
Newly re-elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could meet the Chinese president for talks in Bishkek next month. Photo: EPA-EFE

There is growing speculation that Xi will meet newly re-elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of that summit.

Independent analyst and author Namrata Goswami said India would be seeking a commitment to a WTO-led and rules-based multilateral trading system during the SCO talks.

“This is interesting and significant given the current US tendencies under President Donald Trump focused on ‘America first’ and the US-China trade war,” Goswami said.

Counterterrorism will again be a top priority at the SCO summit, amid concerns among member states about the rising number of Islamic State fighters returning from Syria and Iraq. Chinese scholars estimated last year that around 30,000 jihadists who had fought in Syria had gone back to their home countries, including China.

Alexander Bortnikov, chief of the main Russian intelligence agency FSB, said earlier that 5,000 fighters from a group affiliated with Isis had gathered in areas bordering former Soviet states in Central Asia, saying most of them had fought alongside Isis in Syria.

War-torn Afghanistan, which shares a border with four SCO member states – China, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – is also likely to be high on the agenda at the Bishkek summit.

“With the Trump administration drafting plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, the SCO will assess the security situation there and decide whether to provide training for Afghan troops,” Li said.

Eva Seiwert, a doctoral candidate at the Free University of Berlin, expected the security bloc would also discuss Iran after the US withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and ordered new sanctions against the country.

Iran, which has observer status with the SCO, was blocked from becoming a full member in 2008 because it was subject to UN sanctions at the time. But its membership application could again be up for discussion.

Iran presses China and Russia to save nuclear deal

“The Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 made it easy for China and Russia to present themselves as the proponents of peaceful settlement of conflicts,” Seiwert said. “Discussing the possibility of admitting Iran as a full member state would help the SCO members demonstrate their support of multilateral and peaceful cooperation.

“This would be a strong signal to the US and enhance the SCO’s standing in the international community,” she said.

Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov (right) meets Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Bishkek on Tuesday last week. Photo: Xinhua
Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov (right) meets Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Bishkek on Tuesday last week. Photo: Xinhua

As well as security, Xi’s visit to Central Asia is also likely to focus on economic ties. Meeting Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov in Bishkek last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing would continue to “provide support and help national development and construction in Kyrgyzstan”.

Li said China may increase investment in the Central Asian region, especially in greenfield projects.

“China will continue to buy agriculture products from Central Asia, such as cherries from Uzbekistan, and build hydropower projects to meet local energy demand,” Li said. “Investment in solar and wind energy projects is also expected to increase too.”

Source: SCMP

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01/02/2017

The Economist explains: What is India’s “Cold Start” military doctrine? | The Economist

LAST week India celebrated its 68th Republic Day, the highlight of which is an elaborate parade to show off India’s military might (pictured).

Soldiers goose-stepped and tanks rolled down Rajpath, New Delhi’s main ceremonial thoroughfare, as India’s president, Pranab Mukherjee, and this year’s guest of honour, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, looked on. Fighter jets screeched overhead. The annual display was particularly pointed this year, coming barely three weeks after Bipin Rawat, India’s new army chief, acknowledged in an interview the existence of the country’s “Cold Start” military doctrine. What is Cold Start and why did General Rawat, who took office on December 31st, mention it in public?

Cold Start is the name given to a limited-war strategy designed to seize Pakistani territory swiftly without, in theory, risking a nuclear conflict. It has its roots in an attack on India’s parliament in 2001, which was carried out by terrorist groups allegedly used as proxies by Pakistan’s powerful intelligence services (ISI). India’s response to the onslaught was a flop: by the time its lumbering Strike Corps were mobilised and positioned on the frontier, Pakistan had already bulked up its defences, raising both the costs of incursion and the risk that it would escalate into a nuclear conflict. Cold Start is an attempt to draw lessons from this: having nimbler, integrated units stationed closer to the border would allow India to inflict significant harm before international powers demanded a ceasefire; by pursuing narrow aims, it would also deny Pakistan a justification for triggering a nuclear strike. Yet India has refused to own up to the existence of the doctrine since it was first publicly discussed in 2004. Nor was its rumoured existence enough to stop Pakistani terrorists from launching devastating attacks in Mumbai in 2008, killing 164 people.

One reason for India to keep its cards close to its chest is that it may not be capable of acting on Cold Start. Indeed, India’s army chief admitted to civilian leaders after the 2008 attacks that his battalions were “not ready for war” with Pakistan. It probably did not help that India’s political leaders never signed off on it either, as a leaked diplomatic cable from 2010 suggested. Yet things have taken a different turn since an assault last September on the Indian garrison of Uri in Kashmir, which left 19 dead. In a departure from India’s traditionally defensive posture, the government responded by authorising “surgical strikes” along the frontier, targeted at “terrorist launchpads” and “those protecting them”. By acknowledging the doctrine, which would demand a more potent retaliation than these commando operations, the army seems keen to signal that it has a range of strategic options, introducing an element of unpredictability in the seriousness of its response. Political leaders may have also come closer to embracing it. The government of Narendra Modi has shown keen interest in national-security matters, moving India into the world’s top-five defence spenders, addressing servicemen’s grievances and mulling a wholesale revamp of the armed forces’ structure.

Whether the strategy will prove effective remains to be seen. By pursuing Cold Start, the army may have reaped “the worst of both worlds”, says Walter Ladwig, a scholar at King’s College London. Should it come after a terrorist attack prepared with the ISI’s knowledge, India’s response would lack the element of surprise. That makes Cold Start a dubious deterrent. And Mr Rawat’s recognition of the doctrine’s existence provides further reason for Pakistan to develop “tactical” nukes—tiny warheads that could easily end up in inexpert or malevolent hands. The risk of overreaction on Pakistan’s side is heightened by India’s continued obfuscation about what exactly the concept means, making the whole premise seem misguided. Indeed, Pakistani officials have already threatened to use nuclear weapons, should India put Cold Start into action. In conventional war, confusing an enemy can lead to victory; when two nuclear powers are involved it is a surer step towards a disastrous draw.

Source: The Economist explains: What is India’s “Cold Start” military doctrine? | The Economist

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10/11/2016

PM Modi heads to Japan to seal nuclear deal amid uncertainty over U.S. policy | Reuters

Prime Minister Narendra Modi headed to Japan on Thursday to seal a landmark nuclear energy pact and strengthen ties, as China’s regional influence grows and Donald Trump’s election throws U.S. policies across Asia into doubt.

India, Japan and the United States have been building security ties and holding three-way naval exercises, but Trump’s “America First” campaign promise has stirred concern about a reduced U.S. engagement in the region.

Such an approach by Washington could draw Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe even closer, said foreign policy commentator and former Indian ambassador M.K. Bhadrakumar.

Officials in New Delhi and Tokyo said a deal that will allow Japan to supply nuclear reactors, fuel and technology is ready for signing after six years of negotiations to find a way around Tokyo’s reservations about such an agreement with a country that has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

India says the NPT is discriminatory and it has concerns about nuclear-armed China as well as its long-time rival Pakistan.

Japan, the only country to have suffered a nuclear attack, has been seeking assurances from New Delhi that it would not conduct nuclear tests any more.

Indian foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said the two sides had reached a broad agreement on nuclear collaboration as early as last December and had since been trying to finalise the document.

A “legal, technical scrub” of the agreed text has now been done, he said, but added that he could not pre-judge the outcome of Modi’s summit talks with Abe over Friday and Saturday.

A Japanese ruling party lawmaker said the two sides will sign an agreement during Modi’s visit. A Japanese foreign ministry spokesman declined to comment.

JAPANESE AIRCRAFT ALSO DISCUSSED

The nuclear agreement with Japan follows a similar one with the United States in 2008 which gave India access to nuclear technology after decades of isolation.

That step was seen as the first big move to build India into a regional counterweight to China.

India hopes to lift ties with the United States to a new height, Modi said in a message to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday.

A final deal with Japan could also benefit U.S. firms.

India is in advanced negotiations with U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric, owned by Japan’s Toshiba, to build six nuclear reactors in southern India, part of New Delhi’s plan to ramp up nuclear capacity more than ten times by 2032.

“Japan is keen to put aside it’s staunch non-proliferation principles and engage with the lucrative Indian programme,” said Manpreet Sethi, nuclear affairs expert at the Centre for Air Power Studies, a New Delhi think-tank.

But the agreement will still have to be ratified by the Japanese parliament, she said.

Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper said the main accord will likely be accompanied by a separate document stipulating that Tokyo will suspend nuclear cooperation if India conducts a nuclear test. Initially, Japan wanted that inserted into the agreement itself, but India resisted, it said.India has declared a moratorium on such testing since its last explosions in 1998.

The two countries have also been trying to close a deal on the supply of amphibious rescue aircraft US-2 to the Indian navy, which would be one of Japan’s first sales of military equipment since Abe lifted a 50-year ban on arms exports.

India’s Defence Acquisitions Council met earlier this week to consider the purchase of 12 of the planes made by ShinMaywa Industries, but failed to reach a decision.

An Indian government source said opinion within the military was divided over whether to buy the aircraft when it was struggling to find resources to replace ageing and accident-prone submarines and address a shortage of helicopters.

A Japanese defence source said Japan was considering a cost reduction, which would mean a price cut for India as well as for the Japanese navy which it supplies. A US-2 currently costs about 13 billion yen ($123 million).

Source: PM Modi heads to Japan to seal nuclear deal amid uncertainty over U.S. policy | Reuters

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