Posts tagged ‘Central Asia’

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

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29/07/2015

GIFT, the Indian Smart City That Would Cost $23,500 a Person – India Real Time – WSJ

Two 29-story steel-and-glass office buildings rise above a dusty wasteland in the Indian state of Gujarat, the most conspicuous sign of progress on an ambitious project conceived by the man who is now India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi.

More than seven years ago, Mr. Modi, at the time the state’s top elected official, decided to push the construction of an entirely new city—dubbed the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City, or GIFT—about a 40-minute drive from Ahmedabad, the historic commercial hub here.

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Is India Ready for Narendra Modi’s ‘Smart Cities’?

The if-you-build-it-they-will-come idea was to create a magnet for banks, securities firms and information-technology companies akin to Canary Wharf in London or La Defense outside Paris. But construction work has moved slowly and few private enterprises have signed up. Of the two office towers, the first is about 50% occupied and the second one is empty.

Critics say the undertaking’s halting progress is a cautionary tale as Mr. Modi’s federal administration moves ahead with plans for 100 “smart cities,” which, among other things, would use technology to improve public services such as waste disposal and save energy.

Ramakant Jha, managing director of the company building the city, says that offices and retail stores and other businesses at GIFT will help create one million direct and indirect jobs. The city will also have homes, allowing employees to walk to work, and social infrastructure like a school, hospital and malls.

With central air-conditioning in all buildings, filtered tap water and municipal waste collection (a rarity in urban India), GIFT, as planners envision it, would be far more advanced than existing Indian cities.

But all this comes at a cost. If 100,000 people live in a city, the cost of building the city’s infrastructure comes to around $23,500 per person. In comparison, India’s gross national income per capita is around $1,600, according to the World Bank.

via GIFT, the Indian Smart City That Would Cost $23,500 a Person – India Real Time – WSJ.

06/07/2015

Narendra Modi’s Visit to Central Asia: What to Know – India Real Time – WSJ

India is starting to latch onto the need to forge diplomatic relationships with other countries beyond simple exchange of embassies. However, in the two months of rest between PM Modi’s globe trotting, China formed or reinforced relationship with 28 countries:

  • May:  E U; Japan; Belarus; India; Ireland; Vietnam; Brazil; Colombia, Peru, Chile.
  • June:  Pakistan, Senegal; French Polynesia;  Angola; Sri Lanka; Georgia; Myanmar, Maldives; Uzbekistan; Australia; Czech Republic; Poland; Belgium; USA; Brazil; France.

Some of these were when senior foreign politicians visited China, others when senior Chinese politicians visits abroad.

In 2014, China wooed 167 nations – https://chindia-alert.org/2014/12/31/chinese-diplomacy-2014/ and over 100 in 2013 – https://chindia-alert.org/2013/12/31/who-did-china-woo-in-2013/.  So far 62 in 2015.  Someone in the higher eschelons of Chnese government must have read and espouse Dale Carnegie’s book!

“Less than two months after returning from a journey that took him to China, South Korea and Mongolia, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi begins another whirlwind overseas tour on Monday in which he is slated to visit five Central Asian countries, attend two multilateral summits in Russia and talk about issues ranging from trade to yoga to terrorism.

In a series of short trips, Mr. Modi will touch down in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, covering a cluster of strategically-positioned, resource-rich nations not far from India’s borders where China has established robust trade and investment ties. In between, he’ll visit Russia for the annual Brics summit.

Mr. Modi’s main focus is going to be energy: Turkmenistan’s natural gas reserves, for instance, and Kazakhstan’s oil and uranium. In recent years, India’s plans to invest in Kazakhstan’s oil projects have been waylaid by proposals from China, which has a major presence in the country’s oil and gas production.

Efforts to ramp-up the flow of these resources to India have also been complicated by the region’s security risks and geopolitics. A long-pending project with Turkmenistan, for instance, involves constructing a gas pipeline from that country over Taliban-hit Afghanistan and across India’s rival neighbor Pakistan, to India.

The Indian government is looking to kickstart work on the pipeline. In April, during a visit by India’s foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, Turkmenistan pledged to begin construction of it this year, India said. Ahead of Mr. Modi’s departure, Navtej Sarna, an Indian official, said on Friday that the government “will have to explore how we can move this project forward very quickly,” though he didn’t elaborate on how much progress Mr. Modi and his team were expected to make.

It’s not just the pipeline. Mr. Modi is hoping to push other infrastructure projects too that would connect Central Asia to India – regions that are not far apart on the map but have remained inadequately linked by roads, railways and ports, diminishing opportunities for trade and investment.

A North-South transport corridor that would help move cargo through a more straightforward and cheaper route between Russia and Central Asia on the one hand and India on the other has been in the offing for years. While some infrastructure has been built, big gaps remain. Mr. Modi is hoping to recruit more partners to help fill them.

One crucial link country in this plan is Iran, which has been off limits because of Western sanctions aimed at driving Tehran to end its nuclear program. As Iran and its U.S.-led opponents moved toward a deal this year that would end the deadlock, India in May sought to reinvigorate a port project in Iran’s eastern Chabahar region. Once completed, the port would become a central part of the planned corridor.

These questions of connectivity are important for India’s trade prospects, but they also have a geopolitical  significance. China has in recent months stepped up its diplomatic outreach for its new “Silk Road” belt connecting it to Central Asia and Europe. On a visit to Islamabad in April, Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled a $46 billion economic corridor that would cut across Pakistan and a disputed territory governed by Pakistan that India also claims. Indian officials have objected to the initiative, both publicly and in meetings with Chinese officials.

At the same time, Mr. Modi is looking to forge closer economic ties with China. This week, he will meet Chinese leaders during the Brics summit in the Russian city of Ufa, where the leaders will discuss, among other regional and global issues, their recently-formed bank. The New Development Bank as it is called is headquartered in Shanghai and will have an Indian banker as its first head. Mr. Modi will also participate in a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security grouping led by China and Russia, which India is likely to join shortly as a full member.”

via Narendra Modi’s Visit to Central Asia: What to Know – India Real Time – WSJ.

18/05/2015

India beats own target to contain fiscal and revenue deficits | Reuters

The government said on Sunday it managed to better its target for containing the fiscal and revenue deficits in the last financial year.

A money lender counts rupee currency notes at his shop in Ahmedabad, May 6, 2015. REUTERS/Amit Dave/Files

The fiscal target was 4 percent of gross domestic product for the year ending March 31, compared with a goal of 4.1 percent, the government said in a statement. The revenue target was 2.8 percent, compared with the aim of 2.9 percent.

Over the past year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken a slew of measures to stabilize the economy and attract investment. But while inflation has cooled, in large measure due to the dramatic fall in global oil prices, recovery in India’s domestic demand-driven economy remains sluggish.

via India beats own target to contain fiscal and revenue deficits | Reuters.

19/11/2014

Putin Loses His Grip on Central Asia as China Moves In – Businessweek

As President Vladimir Putin strains to keep Ukraine within Russia’s grasp, he may be losing his grip on another part of his would-be empire: the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, which are increasingly turning toward China for investment and trade.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon meet on the sidelines of an informal summit of the regional security group in 2013

In the latest sign of its growing economic ties with the region, China is planning a $16.3 billion fund to finance railways, roads, and pipelines across Central Asia, reviving the centuries-old Silk Road trade route between China and Europe. President Xi Jinping first proposed the idea last year during a visit to Kazakhstan, the region’s wealthiest country.

Beijing has plenty of reasons to spend big in Central Asia. Improved infrastructure would help link China to European markets and give China increased access to the region’s rich natural resources. Kazakhstan is a major oil producer, while neighboring Kyrgyzstan has large mineral deposits and Turkmenistan produces natural gas.

At the same time, the planned construction would give an economic boost to adjoining areas of western China where Beijing is trying to quell a separatist insurgency, says Sarah Lain, a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute in London. As it has in Africa, China is likely to bring Chinese workers into Central Asia to do much of the construction.

During much of the 19th century, the Russian and British empires vied for control of Central Asia, a rivalry dubbed the “Great Game.” But the predominantly Muslim region, which also includes the countries of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, was annexed by the Soviet Union after the Bolshevik revolution and has remained close to Moscow in the post-Soviet era.

Putin has sought to maintain those ties—for example, by inviting Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to join a customs union with Moscow. But with the Russian economy in a deep slump, he can’t match the big money that China is offering. Indeed, Russia’s economic malaise is clobbering some Central Asian economies, spurring them to seek help from China.

via Putin Loses His Grip on Central Asia as China Moves In – Businessweek.

17/09/2014

Project Mausam, India’s answer to China’s maritime might: Explained – News Oneindia

In a significant move, the Narendra Modi Government will soon launch ‘Project Mausam’ for countering Beijing’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean region. This transnational program is aimed at restoring India’s ancient maritime routes and cultural links with republics in the region.

'Mausam' to check China’s maritime might

Project Mausam: India’s answer to China’s ‘Maritime Silk Road

It is Narendra Modi Government’s most significant foreign policy initiative to counter-balance the maritime silk route of China.

The project emphasises on the natural wind phenomenon, mainly the monsoon winds used by Indian sailors in ancient times for maritime trade.

This initiative will enable India re-connect and re-establish communications with its ancient friends in the Indian Ocean region.

It would lead to an enhanced understanding of cultural values and concerns.

The project purposes to determine the Indian Ocean “world” – expanding from East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, the Indian subcontinent and Sri Lanka to the Southeast Asian archipelago.

What is China’s maritime silk route?

It an initiative to develop regions along an ancient route connecting Western China with South and Central Asia.

The aim of this initiative is to strengthen China’s economic ties with various nations, including those within Asia and Europe.

It proposes China to work with partners to develop maritime infrastructure, especially ports.

Originally, the “maritime silk road” was proposed to foster cooperation and goodwill between China and the ASEAN countries.

The “maritime silk road” is parallel to the land-based “new silk road,” which runs westward from China through the Central Asian states.

The route is likely to see China further intensify its naval activities in the region.

It extends from its naval base in Hainan Island (South China Sea) to Bagamayo in Tanzania, Africa, with several of the ports encircling mainland India.

Hambantota (Sri Lanka), Gwadar (Pakistan), Chittagong (Bangladesh) and Marao Atoll (Maldives) are the ports being built by China as per the initiative.

What is Silk Route?

It is a series of trade and cultural transmission routes.

It connected the West and East by linking traders, merchants and other persons from China to the Mediterranean Sea.

It derives its name from lucrative Chinese silk trade, a major reason for the connection of trade routes into an extensive transcontinental network.

via Project Mausam, India’s answer to China’s maritime might: Explained – News Oneindia.

01/11/2013

Tiananmen crash ‘incited by Islamists’ – BBC News

China\’s top security official says a deadly crash in Beijing\’s Tiananmen Square was incited by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.

The crash occurred on Monday when a car ploughed into a crowd then burst into flames, killing three people inside the vehicle and two tourists.

Police have arrested five suspects, all from the western region of Xinjiang, home to minority Uighur Muslims.

Security has also been tightened in Xinjiang, which borders Central Asia.

China often blames the ETIM group for incidents in Xinjiang. But the BBC correspondent in Beijing says few believe that the group has any capacity to carry out any serious acts of terror in China.

Uighur groups claim China uses ETIM as an excuse to justify repressive security in Xinjiang.

via BBC News – Tiananmen crash ‘incited by Islamists’.

16/09/2013

China in Central Asia: Rising China, sinking Russia

The Economist: “In a vast region, China’s economic clout is more than a match for Russia’s

LESS than a decade ago little doubt hung over where the newly independent states of Central Asia had to pump their huge supplies of oil and gas: Russia, their former imperial overlord, dominated their energy infrastructure and markets. Yet today, when a new field comes on stream, the pipelines head east, to China. As if to underline the point, this week China’s president, Xi Jinping, swept through Central Asia, gobbling up energy deals and promising billions in investment. His tour left no doubts as to the region’s new economic superpower.

In Turkmenistan, already China’s largest foreign supplier of natural gas, Mr Xi inaugurated production at the world’s second-biggest gasfield, Galkynysh. It will help triple Chinese imports from the country. In Kazakhstan $30 billion of announced deals included a stake in Kashagan, the world’s largest oil discovery in recent decades. In Uzbekistan Mr Xi and his host, President Islam Karimov, unveiled $15 billion in oil, gas and uranium deals, though details in this opaque country were few.

China is the biggest trading partner of four of the region’s five countries (the exception being Uzbekistan). During Mr Xi’s trip, Chinese state media reported that trade volumes with Central Asia topped $46 billion last year, up 100-fold since the countries’ independence from the Soviet Union two decades ago. Though neither side puts it like this, China’s growing presence clearly comes at Russia’s expense. Russia still controls the majority of Central Asia’s energy exports, but its relative economic clout in the region is slipping—other than as a destination for millions of migrant labourers. For years Russia has treated the region as its exclusive province, insisting on buying oil and gas at below-market rates through Soviet-era pipelines, while re-exporting it at a markup. The practice helped drive Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, both with huge energy reserves, into China’s arms.

Yet Russia and China have much riding on their bilateral relationship. The government in Moscow is eager to benefit from its eastern neighbour’s economic might, while in Beijing policymakers view Russia as a critical ally on the world stage. (Knowing the premium China places on protocol, it was no accident that Mr Xi’s very first official visit as president was to Moscow; and that he went to St Petersburg for the G20 summit in the middle of his Central Asian tour.) All this suggests the two giants will aim to co-operate as much as compete, at least for the moment. As for Central Asians, says Vasily Kashin, a Moscow-based China expert, Russia has accepted that “they will try to get the best deals out of this rivalry.”

When it comes to security issues in Central Asia, in public China still defers to Russia. Both look warily on as NATO withdraws from Afghanistan. China’s chief concern is the threat posed by Uighur separatists and their sympathisers in Central Asia. And so, in security matters too, China’s influence is growing. As The Economist went to press, Mr Xi was expected in Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, to attend the annual summit of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, a block which China was instrumental in founding. A chief aim is to counter the “three evil forces” of terrorism, extremism and separatism.

Arguably, Chinese investment in Central Asia promotes that goal, by improving living standards and thus stability in a region that shares a 2,800km (1,750-mile) border with Xinjiang, China’s westernmost province and Uighur homeland. Yet China’s soft power is undermined by a beast it is not good at fighting: resentment. Chinese contractors are flooding into Central Asia, building roads and pipelines and even, in Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, the government buildings. The cruel irony is not lost on the millions of unemployed men leaving for Russia to look for jobs. But it is lost, says Deirdre Tynan of the International Crisis Group, a think-tank, on policymakers. “Central Asia’s governments see China as a wealthy and willing partner, but on the ground little is being done to ease tensions between Chinese workers and their host communities,” she warns.”

via China in Central Asia: Rising China, sinking Russia | The Economist.

See also: https://chindia-alert.org/political-factors/geopolitics-chinese/

21/07/2013

Hauling New Treasure Along the Silk Road

NY Times: “AZAMAT KULYENOV, a 26-year-old train driver, slid the black-knobbed throttle forward, and the 1,800-ton express freight train, nearly a half-mile long, began rolling west across the vast, deserted grasslands of eastern Kazakhstan, leaving the Chinese border behind.

Dispatchers in the Kazakh border town of Dostyk gave this train priority over all other traffic, including passenger trains. Specially trained guards rode on board. Later in the trip, as the train traveled across desolate Eurasian steppes, guards toting AK-47 military assault rifles boarded the locomotive to keep watch for bandits who might try to drive alongside and rob the train. Sometimes, the guards would even sit on top of the steel shipping containers.

The train roughly follows the fabled Silk Road, the ancient route linking China and Europe that was used to transport spices, gems and, of course, silks before falling into disuse six centuries ago. Now the overland route is being resurrected for a new precious cargo: several million laptop computers and accessories made each year in China and bound for customers in European cities like London, Paris, Berlin and Rome.

Hewlett-Packard, the Silicon Valley electronics company, has pioneered the revival of a route famous in the West since the Roman Empire. For the last two years, the company has shipped laptops and accessories to stores in Europe with increasing frequency aboard express trains that cross Central Asia at a clip of 50 miles an hour. Initially an experiment run in summer months, H.P. is now dispatching trains on the nearly 7,000-mile route at least once a week, and up to three times a week when demand warrants. H.P. plans to ship by rail throughout the coming winter, having taken elaborate measures to protect the cargo from temperatures that can drop to 40 degrees below zero.

Though the route still accounts for just a small fraction of manufacturers’ overall shipments from China to Europe, other companies are starting to follow H.P.’s example. Chinese authorities announced on Wednesday the first of six long freight trains this year from Zhengzhou, a manufacturing center in central China, to Hamburg, Germany, following much the same route across western China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland as the H.P. trains. The authorities said they planned 50 trains on the route next year, hauling $1 billion worth of goods; the first train this month is carrying $1.5 million worth of tires, shoes and clothes, while the trains are to bring back German electronics, construction machinery, vehicles, auto parts and medical equipment.

DHL announced on June 20 that it had begun weekly express freight train service from Chengdu in western China across Kazakhstan and ultimately to Poland. Some of H.P.’s rivals in the electronics industry are in various stages of starting to use the route for exports from China, freight executives said.

The Silk Road was never a single route, but a web of paths taken by caravans of camels and horses that began around 120 B.C., when Xi’an in west-central China — best known for its terra cotta warriors — was China’s capital. The caravans started across the deserts of western China, traveled through the mountain ranges along China’s western borders with what are now Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and then journeyed across the sparsely populated steppes of Central Asia to the Caspian Sea and beyond.

These routes flourished through the Dark Ages and the early medieval period in Europe. But as maritime navigation expanded in the 1300s and 1400s, and as China’s political center shifted east to Beijing, China’s economic activity also moved toward the coast.

Today, the economic geography is changing again. Labor costs in China’s eastern cities have surged in the last decade, so manufacturers are trying to reduce costs by moving production west to the nation’s interior. Trucking products from the new inland factories to coastal ports is costly and slow. High oil prices have made airfreight exorbitantly expensive and prompted the world’s container shipping lines to reduce sharply the speed of their vessels.

Slow steaming cuts oil consumption, but the resulting delays have infuriated shippers of high-value electronics goods like H.P’s. Such delays drive up their costs and make it harder to respond quickly to changes in consumer demand in distant markets.”

via Hauling New Treasure Along the Silk Road – NYTimes.com.

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29/05/2013

Settlers in Xinjiang: Circling the wagons

The Economist: “In a region plagued by ethnic strife, the growth of immigrant-dominated settlements is adding to the tension

MANY hours’ drive along what was once the southern Silk Road, through a featureless desert landscape punctuated by swirling dust-devils and occasional gnarled trees, a curious sight eventually confronts the traveller: row upon row of apartment blocks with vivid red roofs, as if a piece of Shanghai suburbia has been planted in the wilderness (see picture). Following the military-style nomenclature of immigrant settlements in China’s far west, it calls itself 38th Regiment. It is home to thousands of people, in a spot where just a few years ago there was nothing but sand.

The town is the latest addition to a vast network of such communities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China’s biggest province by land area and also its most ethnically troubled. Neighbouring Tibet has long been roiled by ethnic tension, too, but rarely has it witnessed the kind of violence that has troubled Xinjiang: a low-level insurgency involving ethnic Uighurs whose Muslim faith and Central Asian culture and language set them apart from the Han Chinese who dominate places like 38th Regiment. On April 23rd, 21 people were killed near Kashgar during an encounter between police and alleged separatists. An explosion of inter-ethnic violence in 2009 in the regional capital, Urumqi, that left nearly 200 dead, by official reckoning, exacerbated the divide. The expansion of the settlement network is deepening it further.

To use its full name, the 38th Regiment of the 2nd Agricultural Division is part of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. This state-run organisation, usually referred to as the bingtuan (Chinese for a military corps) controls an area twice the size of Taiwan, broken into numerous parts scattered around the province (see map). A few bits are city-sized. Most are more like towns or villages. Of their total population of more than 2.6m people, 86% are ethnically Han Chinese. In Xinjiang as a whole, in contrast, Han officially make up just over 40% of the 22m inhabitants. The rest are Uighurs and a few other ethnic groups.”

via Settlers in Xinjiang: Circling the wagons | The Economist.

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