Archive for ‘Saudi Arabia’

17/06/2019

Oil tanker attacks: did Iran’s ties with China just go up in smoke?

  • Washington has blamed Tehran for an attack on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, putting pressure on Iran’s allies like China
  • Beijing usually backs its trade partner – but experts say the trade war with the US and problems with Huawei may have changed the equation
A tanker burns in the Gulf of Oman after a mystery attack that the United States has blamed on Iran. Photo: AFP
A tanker burns in the Gulf of Oman after a mystery attack that the United States has blamed on Iran. Photo: AFP
When 
Shinzo Abe

headed to Tehran this week for the first visit by a sitting Japanese prime minister in four decades, some in the diplomatic world imagined he could be the man to bring

Iran

back to the negotiating table with the

United States

.

Those hopes were torpedoed on Thursday when, on the same day Abe was meeting Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, explosions ripped through two oil tankers, one Japanese and one Norwegian, near the Strait of Hormuz, a strategically significant shipping lane.
The attack immediately overshadowed an earlier success for Abe, who had met President Hassan Rowhani a day before and was assured Iran would stick to the terms of a 2015 agreement limiting its nuclear activities.
Washington accused Iran of being behind the attack on the tankers, releasing a video on Friday that it said showed Iran’s revolutionary guard removing an unexploded mine from one of the ships, and warning that it would “defend its interests”.
Iranian President Hassan Rowhani and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meet Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran. Photo: Reuters
Iranian President Hassan Rowhani and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meet Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran. Photo: Reuters

Tehran, for its part, claimed to have been set up, with its foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif saying “suspicious doesn’t begin to describe” the incident. So much, then, for hopes of mediation.

US President

Donald Trump

, who had encouraged the Japanese leader’s visit, admitted on Twitter soon afterwards that when it came to negotiating, “they are not ready, and neither are we!”

Still, the incident exposed more than just the naivety of those hoping for an Abe-led breakthrough. In raising the stakes in Washington’s confrontation with Tehran, it also threw the spotlight on Iran’s dwindling number of allies – and perhaps most significantly on its largest trading partner, China – which face mounting pressure to rethink the relationship.

Tanker attacks: world divided over Iran role as Saudi prince breaks silence
The day after the attack, China’s President

Xi Jinping

said Beijing would promote its ties with Iran “however the situation changes” – a comment made during a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rowhani on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Kyrgyzstan – but diplomatic observers question just how far China can go in accommodating its controversial trading partner.

BEST FRIENDS FOREVER?

Iran has long been able to count on support from China, which accounts for 30 per cent of the Islamic republic’s exports and imports, and its willingness to defy US pressure is a gamble at least partly based on an assumption it can continue to count on Beijing’s support.

As Iran’s largest economic partner – Chinese direct investment in Iran hit a record high of nearly US$4 billion last year, according to data analysis project ChinaMed – Beijing already plays a key role in relieving US pressure on Iran, said Mohsen Shariatinia, assistant professor of regional studies at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran.

But experts warn that reliance will come into question as China becomes increasingly hamstrung by its own problems.

China has enough problems of its own, starting with US pressure on Huawei. Photo: EPA
China has enough problems of its own, starting with US pressure on Huawei. Photo: EPA
Chief among Beijing’s headaches are its

trade war

with Washington and the related assault on its

5G

giant

Huawei

– which, as analysts point out, originally ignited over allegations it was defying US sanctions on Iran. Beijing will also be well aware of the need to keep

Saudi Arabia

, its second-biggest oil supplier and Tehran’s critic-in-chief, happy.

On the other hand, analysts say, China will be wary of being seen to abandon its old friend, as doing so would send a message to other nations at odds with Washington that they could no longer look to China as a diversification strategy.
“This could mean Chinese investment is vulnerable to US interference,” said Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, founder of Bourse Bazaar, a media company that supports business diplomacy between Europe and Iran.
Sanctions drive Iranian students away from US towards Asia
Doing so, Batmanghelidj said, would put a question mark over one of China’s most significant foreign policies of recent years – President Xi’s signature

Belt and Road Initiative

to fund infrastructure across Eurasia.

THE BELT AND ROAD QUESTION
Tensions between Iran and the US have reached boiling point in recent weeks, after the Trump administration last month ended waivers on sanctions for nations importing Iranian oil – a move the US says is aimed at making the republic “radioactive to the international community” and which Rowhani has described as an “economic war against Iran”.
So far, China has largely stuck by the Islamic Republic, continuing to buy fuel from it despite the latest wave of US sanctions on Iranian oil that followed Trump’s decision last year to withdraw the US from the landmark 2015 agreement curbing Tehran’s nuclear development.
The deal had been widely lauded as a triumph of multilateralism and the dawning of a new economic era for Iran.
US releases video of ‘Iranian forces removing unexploded mine’ from ship
Part of its eagerness to support Iran has stemmed from the Islamic Republic’s key position in the Belt and Road plan. In 2017 alone, China signed deals for more than US$15 billion in Iranian infrastructure investment, according to the

Chinese Communist Party

mouthpiece China Daily.

Planned projects include high-speed rail lines, upgrades to the nation’s electrical grid, and natural gas pipelines. The two nations have also vowed to boost bilateral trade to US$600 billion in the next seven years.
“China sees Iran as its Western gateway, where not only is it a big market in itself, but it will also be the gateway to the rest of the 
Middle East

and ultimately to Europe for China,” said Anoush Ehteshami, professor of international relations at Durham University in Britain.

Nisha Mary Mathew, at the Middle East Institute in Singapore, said that China’s relationship with Iran was not just economic – but primarily strategic, with both nations envisioning an international order that was no longer dominated by the US and its Western allies.
DEFIANCE, FOR NOW
If the belt and road gives China good reason to stick with Iran, there are plenty of voices urging just that action. As Andrea Ghiselli at Shanghai’s Fudan University pointed out, US sanctions until now have only strengthened the hardline factions in Iran’s government.
The combination of the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal – which had the support of the international community – along with Europe’s tepid efforts to rescue it, may have emboldened those favouring resistance over negotiation.
Xi’s supportive comments in Kyrgyzstan were only the latest in a string of remarks from China that could encourage such factions.
If Trump kills off Huawei, do Asia’s 5G dreams die?
After China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Beijing last month, the ministry’s spokesman Lu Kang said China’s economic relationship with Iran was “reasonable and lawful”.
Two months prior to that, China’s Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan, while hosting his Iranian counterpart Farhad Dejpasand, had claimed China’s “determination to maintain and develop the China-Iran comprehensive strategic partnership is unshakeable”.
Chinese President Xi Jinping with Iranian President Hassan Rowhani. Photo: AFP
Chinese President Xi Jinping with Iranian President Hassan Rowhani. Photo: AFP

Even so, the pressure is getting to some. In February, Foreign Minister Zarif temporarily resigned, in what Andrea Ghiselli at Fudan University in Shanghai called a clear sign of the “changing and precarious power balance with Iran’s foreign policy establishment”.

And nowhere is the pressure felt more keenly than the economy and China’s ability to serve as a lifeline.

“The real anxiety in Iran right now is about market share,” said Bourse and Bazaar’s Batmanghelidj. “If you’re exporting zero oil and your customers are buying oil elsewhere, you lose market share.

“The government wants to know if it agreed to go back to the negotiating table and the US promised sanctions relief, that there are people who are going to buy in significant volume.”

TURNING POINT: HUAWEI

For many analysts, the event most likely to have changed the equation in Beijing’s eyes is the arrest by the Canadian authorities of 

Meng Wanzhou

, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei.

Meng’s arrest came at the request of the US government, which claimed her company had violated sanctions by selling equipment to Iran.
Many observers saw the action as Washington’s way of signalling to Chinese companies that they would face repercussions if they eased the pressure on Iran by continuing to trade.
Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou. Photo: Reuters
Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou. Photo: Reuters

“Going after Huawei was about going after Chinese enterprises – signalling that they can no longer trade with Iran with impunity,” Batmanghelidj said.

Since then, Chinese firms have shown increased skittishness towards trading with Iran. According to China’s General Customs Administration, Chinese exports to Iran declined by more than half between October 2018 and February 2019, from over US$1 billion to just under US$500 million.

Mohammad Ali Shabani, a researcher at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, said other countries in the region were now watching to see if China would blink in the face of US pressure. “This could have dire consequences for China’s image as a reliable partner,” he said.

NOT JUST ABOUT AMERICA

There are reasons beyond US pressure that may factor into Beijing’s thinking. It has long stated its opposition to Iranian nuclear weapons development, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said that China is “ready” to take on “its due responsibilities and make a greater contribution to world peace and common development”.

Trade war: here are Beijing’s options – and none look any good

Zhao Hong, at the Research School of Southeast Asian Studies at Xiamen University, said that in stepping up as a responsible world power Beijing faced a dilemma over its approach to Iran.
“Chinese leaders have to painfully balance an impulse towards economic cooperation with Iran against other vital interests, including convincing Washington that China is a responsible stakeholder,” he wrote in the Journal of Contemporary China.
Saudi Aramco's Ras Tanura oil refinery. The country is China’s second-largest oil supplier after Russia. Photo: Reuters
Saudi Aramco’s Ras Tanura oil refinery. The country is China’s second-largest oil supplier after Russia. Photo: Reuters

Then there is China’s relationship with Iran’s chief adversary, Saudi Arabia, to consider. Riyadh is China’s second-largest oil supplier, behind Russia, and it plays a central role in Beijing’s energy strategy.

According to International Trade Centre data, more than 12 per cent of China’s imported oil came from Saudi Arabia last year, compared with just 6 per cent from Iran. Last year, Saudi Arabia shipped 56.73 million tonnes of oil to China, or 1.135 million barrels per day.

Why would Kim Jong-un trust Trump, now that he’s ripped up Iran’s nuclear deal?

This April, China imported 6.3 million tonnes of oil from Saudi Arabia, nearly twice the 3.24 million tonnes it imported from Iran, according to China’s General Administration of Customs.

Iran’s comparatively small share of China’s oil imports market and its heavy reliance on China as a trading partner add up to a deeply uneven relationship, experts say, and it is this imbalance that will encourage the US that China may be open to rethinking its ties.

As Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East programme at Washington DC think tank the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, pointed out, while China was Iran’s largest trading partner, Iran represented less than 1 per cent of China’s international trade.

“Iran needs China,” Alterman said. “But to China, Iran is expendable.”

Source: SCMP

Advertisements
22/05/2019

In an Indian village, Muslims talk of leaving as divide with Hindus widens

NAYABANS, India (Reuters) – Muslims in Nayabans, an unremarkable village in northern India, say they remember a time when their children played with Hindu youths, and people from either faith chatted when they frequented each other’s shops and went to festivals together.

Such interactions no longer happen, many say, because of how polarized the two communities have become in the past two years, and some are frightened and thinking of moving away – if they can afford it.

Muslim residents who spoke to Reuters said they thought tensions would only worsen if Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wins a second term in the current general election, as exit polls released on Sunday indicate is likely. Votes will be counted Thursday.

“Things were very good earlier. Muslims and Hindus were together in good and bad times, weddings to deaths. Now we live our separate ways despite living in the same village,” said Gulfam Ali, who runs a small shop selling bread and tobacco.

Modi came to power in 2014 and the BJP took control of Uttar Pradesh state, which includes Nayabans, in 2017, partly on the back of a Hindu-first message. The state’s chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, is a hardline Hindu priest and senior BJP figure.

“Modi and Yogi have messed it up,” said Ali. “Dividing Hindus and Muslims is their main agenda, only agenda. It was never like this earlier. We want to leave this place but can’t really do that.”

He says about a dozen Muslim families have left in the past two years, including his uncle.

The BJP denies its policies have stoked community divisions.

COW KILLING

At the end of last year, Nayabans, a village of wheatfields, narrow cemented streets, bullock carts and loitering cows, became a symbol of India’s deepening divide as some Hindu men from the area complained they had seen a group of Muslims slaughtering cows, which Hindus regard as sacred.

Angry Hindus accused police of failing to stop an illegal practice, and a Hindu mob blocked a highway, threw stones and burned vehicles. Two people were shot and killed – including a police officer.

Five months later many Muslims, who only number about 400 of the village’s population of more than 4,000, say the wounds haven’t healed.

And in a country where 14 percent of the population are Muslim and 80 percent Hindu, Nayabans reflects wider tensions in places where Muslim residents are heavily outnumbered by Hindu neighbours.

The BJP denies it is seeking to make Muslims second-class citizens or is anti-Muslim.

“There have been no riots in the country under this government. It’s wrong to label criminal incidents, which we denounce, as Hindu-Muslim issues,” BJP spokesman Gopal Krishna Agarwal said.

“The opposition has been playing communal politics but we believe in neutrality of governance. Neither appeasement of any, nor denouncement of any. Some people may be finding that they are not being appeased anymore.”

CALL TO PRAYER

To be sure, villagers say Nayabans was not free of conflict in the past – attempts to build a mosque in 1977 led to communal riots in which two people were killed. But for the 40 years after that there had been relative harmony, villagers say.

Some Muslim residents said Hindu hardliners started asserting themselves more in the village after Yogi took office in March 2017.

The atmosphere worsened around the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in 2017 – Hindu activists demanded Muslims stop using a microphone in their madrasa, which also acts as a mosque, to call people to prayer, arguing it disturbed the whole community.

The Muslims reluctantly agreed to stop using the mike and speaker – even though they say it had been operating for many years – to keep the peace, but the move created deep resentment.

Some Hindus were unsympathetic.

“God knows what they are moaning about,” said Hindu elder Om Prakash, a 63-year-old tailor. “There’s peace here but we won’t tolerate any mike there. That’s a madrasa, not a mosque.”

Islam requires the faithful to pray five times a day. Without the reminder of hearing the call, some Muslim residents say they risk missing prayer times.

“We can’t express our religion in any way here, but they are free to do whatever they want,” said Muslim law student Aisha, 21.

She said that Hindu men from the village often shouted anti-Muslim slogans during festival processions. At least a dozen Hindus in the village denied that was the case.

Aisha remembers when relations were better.

“Earlier they would speak very nicely to us, but now they don’t,” said Aisha. “If there was any problem at all, or someone was sick in the family, all the neighbours would come over and help – whether Hindus or Muslims. Now that doesn’t happen.”

“EMPTY OUT”

Sharfuddin Saifi, 38, who runs a cloth shop at a nearby market, was named in a complaint filed with the police by local Hindus over the cow incident last year.

After 16 days in jail, he was released as the police found he had nothing to do with the suspected slaughter, but said he found much had changed.

Hindus now shun his business. The money he spent on lawyers meant he had to stop going to Delhi to buy stock for the shop, which is largely empty. And he withdrew his 13-year-old son from a private school because he could no longer afford it.

“For someone who had never seen the inside of a police station or even dreamt of committing a crime, it’s a big thing,” he said of the trauma of his detention.

He often thinks about leaving the village, he says, but tells himself: “I have not done anything wrong, why should I leave?”

Carpenter Jabbar Ali, 55, moved to a Muslim-dominated area in Masuri, closer to Delhi, buying a house with money he saved from working in Saudi Arabia.

“If Hindus could kill a Hindu police inspector, in front of a police outpost, with armed guards alongside him, then who are we Muslims?” Ali said, recalling the December incident.

He still keeps his house in Nayabans and visits occasionally but said he feels much safer in his new home, where all his immediate neighbours are Muslims.

“I’m fearful here,” he said. “Muslims may have to empty out this place if Modi gets another term, and Yogi continues here.”

Junaid, a round-faced 22-year-old with a goatee, comes from one of the most affluent Muslim families in the village. His father runs a gold shop in a town nearby.

Seated outside his home, he recalled playing sport together with Hindus.

“When we were young all the Hindus and Muslims used to play together, especially cricket – I played it a lot,” he said. “Now we haven’t played in at least a year.”

He said he wanted to move to New Delhi soon to study at a university there. “Things are not good here,” he said.

Some Muslims, however, say they are committed to remaining. Aas Mohammed, 42, the owner of a flourishing tiles and bathroom fixtures business in a nearby town, has decided to stay in the village, though he has a house on Delhi’s outskirts.
Mohammed helped arrange a lawyer for Saifi after his arrest over the cow incident. He is now lobbying to have the microphone brought back and fighting a legal battle to get a new mosque built.
“I will fight on,” he said. “I am not scared, but another term for Modi will make it very difficult for many other people to live here.”
Source: Reuters
09/05/2019

Chinese president, Saudi king talk over phone on bilateral ties

BEIJING, May 8 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Xi Jinping held a telephone conversation with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on Wednesday.

Xi said that China attaches great importance to developing the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries and regards Saudi Arabia as an important cooperation partner in promoting the joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Xi said that he and King Salman have in recent years successfully exchanged visits to each other’s nation, which has guided the all-round and fast growth of China-Saudi Arabia ties.

In February, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud visited China and attended the third meeting of the China-Saudi Arabia High-level Joint Committee, which yielded fruitful results and injected new impetus into bilateral exchanges and cooperation in various fields, Xi said.

China appreciates Saudi Arabia’s objective and fair stance on issues concerning China’s core interests and major concerns. China firmly supports Saudi efforts to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and stability, and supports Saudi Arabia in promoting its economic transformation and achieving greater development, Xi said.

Xi said that China is ready to work with Saudi Arabia to strengthen the synergy between the BRI and the Saudi Vision 2030, and enhance bilateral practical cooperation in energy and other fields. China appreciates the positive efforts made by Saudi Arabia to promote relations between China and Arab countries as well as Islamic countries.

China welcomes and actively supports Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the Group of 20 (G20) summit in 2020, Xi said, noting that China is ready to strengthen coordination and cooperation with Saudi Arabia and jointly help the G20 make greater contribution to upholding multilateralism, building an open world economy and improving global economic governance.

For his part, Salman congratulated China for successfully holding the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, and said he believes that it will play an important role in promoting international development and cooperation.

The two countries are committed to national development and world peace and stability. Saudi Arabia attaches great importance to deepening the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries and wishes China greater achievements in its development, Salman said.

The Saudi king also said that Saudi Arabia is willing to strengthen exchanges with China at all levels and promote cooperation in various fields in a bid to better serve the two countries and peoples, and boost cooperation between East and West Asia.

He said that Saudi Arabia is willing to continue to help improve the friendly and cooperative relations between China and Arab countries as well as the Islamic world.

Source: Xinhua

23/04/2019

China lodges representations with U.S. over end to Iran sanction waivers

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday it has lodged representations with the United States over its decision to end waivers on sanctions on Iranian oil imports.

China is Iran’s largest crude oil customer, with total imports last year of 29.27 million tonnes, or about 585,400 barrels a day, roughly 6 percent of China’s total oil imports, according to customs data.

“The decision from the U.S. will contribute to volatility in the Middle East and in the international energy market,” Geng Shuang, a ministry spokesman, told a news briefing.

Washington has announced that all Iran sanction waivers will end by May, causing crude oil prices to rise and pressuring importers to cut their Iranian imports to zero.

China was one of eight global buyers that won exemptions to import crude oil last November.

Some of China’s key refineries are configured to process the Iranian crude and refinery officials say Iranian oil typically yields better margins compared similar grades from rival suppliers such as Saudi Arabia.

State-owned Sinopec Group and China National Petroleum Corp both produce oil in Iran, having spent billions of dollars on oil fields such as Yadavaran and North Azadegan. They have been sending the oil from the fields to China.

Source: Reuters

12/03/2019

PM Modi speaks to leaders of key Islamic nations; calls for ‘irreversible action’ against terror

t was agreed that Saudi Arabia and India should work together for irreversible, verifiable and credible steps against all terrorists without any discrimination.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi | 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday held discussions with leaders of three key Islamic nations ~ Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Turkey ~ and, without directly naming Pakistan, impressed on them the importance of immediate, demonstrable and irreversible action against terrorism by all countries.
Visiting Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al Jubeir had a meeting with Modi in New Delhi on Monday evening while the Indian leader had telephonic conversations with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Saudi Arabia, UAE and Turkey are key allies of Pakistan and are said to have played a significant role in reducing tension between India and Pakistan in the wake of the Pulwama attack.
During his meeting with the Saudi minister, PM Modi thanked the leadership of Saudi Arabia for expressing full solidarity with India in the fight against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
It was agreed that Saudi Arabia and India should work together for irreversible, verifiable and credible steps against all terrorists without any discrimination, the External Affairs Ministry said.
During his four-hour visit to the Indian capital, the Saudi minister also met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. The Indian minister reiterated that an immediate, irreversible and verifiable action to dismantle terror infrastructure was essential to fight the menace of terror.
The Turkish President conveyed to PM Modi his condolences for the victims of the recent terror attacks in India and wished a speedy recovery to those injured in these attacks.

PM Modi told him that terrorism remained one of the gravest threats to global peace and security. He underscored the importance of demonstrable and irreversible action against all terror groups.

Source: The Statesman

25/02/2019

‘Give peace a chance’: After PM Modi’s ‘Pathan’ dare, Imran Khan says he ‘stands by’ his words on Pulwama

PM Modi said that he told him ‘let us fight against poverty and illiteracy’ and Khan gave his word saying he is a Pathan’s son, ‘but went back on it’.

SNS Web | New Delhi | 

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday asked his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to “give peace a chance” and assured him that he “stands by” his words and will “immediately act” if New Delhi provides Islamabad with “actionable intelligence” on the Pulwama attack.

 

Khan’s remarks came a day after PM Modi in a rally in Rajasthan, recalled his conversation with the Pakistan PM during a congratulatory call after he became the country’s premier.

PM Modi had told him “let us fight against poverty and illiteracy” and Khan gave his word saying he is a Pathan’s son “but went back on it”.

“There is consensus in the entire world against terrorism. We are moving ahead with strength to punish the perpetrators of terrorism…The scores will be settled this time, settled for good…This is a changed India, this pain will not be tolerated…We know how to crush terrorism,” PM Modi further said.

A statement released by the Pakistan Prime Minister’s Office said, “PM Imran Khan stand by his words that if India gives us actionable intelligence, we will immediately act.”

PM Modi should “give peace a chance”, Khan said in the statement.

In his first statement issued since the February 14 attack, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan had on Tuesday accused India of blaming his country “without evidence” and warned of retaliation against any military action by India.

However, he assured India that he would act against the perpetrators of the deadly Pulwama terror attack, carried out by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terror group and said that the issue between the two countries can be solved through dialogue.

India had called Khan’s offer to investigate the attack if provided proof as a “lame excuse”.

The already sour relations between India and Pakistan have worsened over the past few weeks as New Delhi accused Islamabad of the Pulwama attack.

India has accused Islamabad’s spy agency ISI of being involved in the attack and has maintained that the terror group JeM is a “child of the Pakistan Army”.

Following the attack, India immediately withdrew the ‘Most Favoured Nation’ status granted to Pakistan and initiated steps to isolate the neighbouring country from the international community.

Earlier, India had also announced its decision to stop the flow of its share of water from the Beas, Ravi and Sutlej to Pakistan.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in many of his public speeches after the attack, said that the security forces have been given full freedom to decide the future course of action regarding the terrorist attack in Pulwama.

India’s neighbours, including Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Bhutan—and other countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran, Russia, Germany, Canada, UK, Australia and Canada came out in strong support of New Delhi following the terror attack.

Over 44 CRPF personnel were killed and many injured on February 14 in one of the deadliest terror strikes in Jammu-Kashmir when a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) suicide bomber blew up an explosive-laden vehicle near their bus in Pulwama district.

The bus was part of a convoy of 78 vehicles carrying around 2500 CRPF personnel from Jammu to Srinagar.

Source: The Statesman
22/02/2019

Saudi Arabia strikes $10 billion China deal, talks de-radicalisation with Xi

BEIJING (Reuters) – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman cemented a $10 billion (7.7 billion pounds) deal for a refining and petrochemical complex in China on Friday, meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping who urged joint efforts to counter extremism and terror.

The Saudi delegation, including top executives from state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco, arrived on Thursday on an Asia tour that has already seen the kingdom pledge investment of $20 billion in Pakistan and seek to make additional investments in India’s refining industry.

Saudi Arabia signed 35 economic cooperation agreements with China worth a total of $28 billion at a joint investment forum during the visit, Saudi state news agency SPA said.

“China is a good friend and partner to Saudi Arabia,” President Xi Jinping told the crown prince in front of reporters.

“The special nature of our bilateral relationship reflects the efforts you have made,” added Xi, who has made stepping up China’s presence in the Middle East a key foreign policy objective, despite its traditional low-key role there.

The crown prince said Saudi Arabia’s relations with China dated back “a very long time in the past”.

“In the hundreds, even thousands, of years, the interactions between the sides have been friendly. Over such a long period of exchanges with China, we have never experienced any problems with China,” he said.

Crown Prince Mohammed, who has come under fire in the West following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate in October, said Saudi Arabia saw great opportunities with China.

“The Silk Road initiative and China’s strategic orientation are very much in line with the kingdom’s Vision 2030,” he said according to SPA, referring to Saudi Arabia’s sweeping economic reform programme.

 

Trade between the countries increased by 32 percent last year, he said.

China has had to step carefully in relations with Riyadh, since Beijing also has close ties with Saudi Arabia’s regional foe, Iran.

China is also wary of criticism from Muslim countries about its camps in the heavily Muslim far western region of Xinjiang, which the government says are for de-radicalisation purposes and rights groups call internment camps.

Xi told the crown prince the two countries must strengthen international cooperation on de-radicalisation to “prevent the infiltration and spread of extremist thinking”, Chinese state television said.

Saudi Arabia respected and supported China’s right to protect its own security and take counter-terror and de-radicalisation steps, the crown prince told Xi, according to the same report, and was willing to increase cooperation.

Meeting the crown prince earlier on Friday, Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng said the two countries should enhance exchanges on their experiences in de-radicalisation, China’s official Xinhua news agency said in a separate report.

Chinese state media made no direct mention of Xinjiang in their stories on the crown prince’s meetings.

DEALS SIGNED

Aramco agreed to form a joint venture with Chinese defence conglomerate Norinco to develop a refining and petrochemical complex in the northeastern Chinese city of Panjin, saying the project was worth more than $10 billion.

The partners would form a company called Huajin Aramco Petrochemical Co as part of a project that would include a 300,000-barrels per day (bpd) refinery with a 1.5-million-metric tonnes per year ethylene cracker, Aramco said.

Aramco will supply up to 70 percent of the crude feedstock for the complex, which is expected to start operations in 2024.

The investments could help Saudi Arabia regain its place as the top oil exporter to China, a position Russia has held for the last three years. Saudi Aramco is set to boost market share by signing supply deals with non-state Chinese refiners.

Aramco also signed an agreement to buy a 9 percent stake in Zhejiang Petrochemical, Saudi state news agency SPA said. This formalised a previously announced plan to gain a stake in a 400,000-bpd refinery and petrochemicals complex in Zhoushan, south of Shanghai.

China sees “enormous potential” in Saudi Arabia’s economy and wants more high-tech cooperation, State Councillor Wang Yi, the Chinese government’s top diplomat, said on Thursday.

But China was not seeking to play politics in the Middle East, the widely read state-run tabloid, the Global Times, said in an editorial.

“China won’t be a geopolitical player in the Middle East. It has no enemies and can cooperate with all countries in the region,” said the paper, published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily.

“China’s increasing influence in the Middle East comes from pure friendly cooperation. Such a partnership will be welcomed by more countries in the Middle East.”

Source: Reuters

17/02/2019

Saudi crown prince heads for Pakistan amid India tensions

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is due to arrive in Pakistan on Sunday at the start of his tour of South Asia and China, but the visit risks being overshadowed by escalating tensions between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan.

The trip comes days after a suicide bomber killed 44 Indian paramilitary police in the disputed Kashmir region. New Delhi has accused Pakistan of having a hand in the bombing and vowed to punish Islamabad, which denies involvement.

Prince Mohammed had also planned to visit Indonesia and Malaysia during the Asian tour, but those trips have been postponed, according to Malaysian and Indonesian officials. No reasons for the postponements or alternative tour dates were given.

Cash-strapped and in need of friends, Pakistan is welcoming the crown prince with open arms for a visit during which he is expected to sign investment agreements worth more than $10 billion.

Saudi Arabia has in recent months helped keep Pakistan’s economy afloat by propping up its rapidly dwindling foreign exchange reserves with a $6 billion loan, giving Islamabad breathing room as it negotiates a bailout with the International Monetary Fund.

The visit marks a deepening in ties between allies whose relationship has in the past centred on oil-rich Saudi Arabia backing Pakistan’s economy during difficult periods, and in return Pakistan’s powerful army lending support to Saudi Arabia and its royal family.
As the guardians of most holy sites in the birthplace of Islam, the Saudi royal family carries vast religious clout in Pakistan, a staunchly conservative and mainly-Muslim nation of 208 million people.
“What is happening in this relationship is a renewal of Pakistan’s commitment to help protect the royal family and the order as it exists in Saudi Arabia,” said Mosharraf Zaidi, Senior Fellow at Tabadlab, a Pakistani think tank focussed on global and local public policy.
“On the flip side, there is reassurance that Saudi Arabia will not only continue to serve as a strategic friend who will help shore up Pakistan’s finances when needed, but it’s also going to become a participant in the wider investment in Pakistan.”
Pakistan is shutting down its airspace and has stepped up security in Islamabad for the crown prince, who is set to become the first guest to stay at the Prime Minister’s House. Pakistan’s new populist premier, Imran Khan, has refused to use the residence in a bid to save taxpayers’ money.
Pakistani hopes for further investment opportunities from Saudi Arabia were dealt a blow on Saturday when the government announced that the Pak-Saudi Business Conference had been “postponed”.
Pakistani officials have already flagged up that Saudi Arabia will announce eight investment agreements, including a $10 billion refinery and petrochemicals complex in the coastal city of Gwadar, where China is building a port.
But the crown prince’s arrival comes amid a vow by India to isolate Pakistan internationally following the deadliest attack in Kashmir in decades.
New Delhi is demanding Islamabad act against the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant group, which it says has the backing of the Pakistani state, over the bombing. Islamabad denies playing a role and has called for an investigation.
In Islamabad, the crown prince is expected to meet Khan and Pakistan’s army chief, Qamar Javed Bajwa.
44 killed in worst Kashmir attack in decades
He is also set to meet representatives of the Afghan Taliban militant group to discuss peace negotiations to end the 17-year civil war in Afghanistan, Pakistani government and Taliban sources say.
“We arrived in Islamabad today Sunday and others are on their way,” one senior Afghan Taliban figure told Reuters. “As per the plan we know so far, we are going to meet Mohammed bin Salman and his delegation members today at night and then on Monday.”
Source: reuters
Law of Unintended Consequences

continuously updated blog about China & India

ChiaHou's Book Reviews

continuously updated blog about China & India

What's wrong with the world; and its economy

continuously updated blog about China & India