Posts tagged ‘middle-east’

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

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16/02/2016

First train from China to Iran stimulates Silk Road revival – Xinhua | English.news.cn

First cargo train from China to Iran arrived in Tehran on Monday, indicating a milestone in reviving the “Silk Road,” which has opened a new chapter of win-win cooperation between China and Iran.

English: the Silk Road in Central Asia

English: the Silk Road in Central Asia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

silk road

The train, also referred to as Silk Road train, has passed through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to Iran, travelling a distance of 10,399 kilometers. It had left Yiwu city in east China’s Zhejiang Province on January 28.

This train was carrying dozens of cargo containers, according to the deputy of Iran’s Road and Urbanism Minister, Mohsen Pour-Aqaei, who made a welcome speech after the arrival of the cargo train at Tehran Train Station on Monday.

As known to all, ancient Silk Road trade route had served as an important bridge for East-West trade and brought a close link between the Chinese and Persian civilizations.

The “Belt and Road” initiative was raised by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, which refers to the New Silk Road Economic Belt, linking China with Europe through Central and Western Asia, and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, connecting China with Southeast Asian countries, Africa and Europe.

“To revive the Silk Road Economic Belt, the launch of the train is an important move, since about 700 kilometers of trip has been done per day,” said Pour-Aqaei, who was present at the welcome ceremony of the train in Tehran’s Railway Station.

“Compared to the sea voyage of the cargo ships from China’s Shanghai city to Iran’s Bandar Abbas port city, the travel time of the train was 30 days shorter,” he said.

Pour-Aqaei, also the Managing Director of Iran’s Railway Company, added that according to the plan, there would be one such a trip from China to Iran every month.

The travel of cargo train from China to Iran is part of a Chinese initiative to revive the ancient Silk Road used by the traders to commute between Europe and East Asia.

Tehran will not be the final destination of these kinds of trains from China, the Iranian deputy minister said, adding that in the future, the train will reach Europe.

This will benefit Iran as the transit course for the cargo trains from the east Asia to Europe, he said.

Chinese ambassador to Iran Pang Sen told Xinhua that as one of the cooperation projects after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Iran, the cargo train is playing a important role to promote construction of the “Belt and Road” initiative.

Meanwhile, the railway line from Yiwu to Tehran provides the two countries an express and efficient cargo trade transportation method, Pang said, adding that the countries along the railway line will furthur upgrade rail technology with the aim to make its transportation ability faster and better.

Source: First train from China to Iran stimulates Silk Road revival – Xinhua | English.news.cn

14/12/2015

Japan, India agree on rail, nuclear deal | The Japan Times

Tokyo and New Delhi agreed to major deals Saturday, including the introduction of Japan’s bullet train technology to India and an agreement on nuclear cooperation.

The bilateral accord was reached during talks in New Delhi between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi. “This enterprise will launch a revolution in Indian railways and speed up India’s journey into the future. It will become an engine of economic transformation in India,” Modi said after the talks, referring to the introduction of Japanese shinkansen technology in building a high-speed railway in India. “This project befits the start of a new era for (ties between) Japan and India,” Abe said.

The two countries also agreed on a civil nuclear cooperation pact. Sensitive negotiations had continued for five years on exporting Japan’s nuclear power plant technology to India, with one of the sticking points being whether Japan could ensure that its nuclear technology would not be diverted for military use. India, despite being a de facto nuclear weapons state, has not joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. “Japan is promoting (nuclear) nonproliferation, given the history of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, while India is outside the NPT framework but wants to cooperate on nuclear power generation,” one Japanese official said while noting Japan is the only country to have suffered atomic bombings.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda, who accompanied Abe on the visit, told reporters after the talks that Japan’s cooperation under the bilateral civil nuclear pact will stop if India conducts a nuclear test. The two projects were the main points of focus of Abe’s three-day visit to India, which began Friday. Japan is keen to tap into India, with its 1.2 billion population, and forge closer ties in light of China’s growing political and economic clout in the region. Under a policy to elevate bilateral ties to what they now call a “Special Strategic and Global Partnership,”

Abe and Modi plan to boost security cooperation between the two nations and exchange views on regional issues such as the situation in the South China Sea, Japanese officials said. While Japan and India are not directly involved in the tensions in the South China sea, a key shipping route for oil and other imports, they are both concerned over the freedom of navigation in international waters. China claims almost the entire South China Sea and has competing territorial claims with Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan. Beijing’s fast-paced and massive land reclamation work has made the smaller Asian claimants uneasy. Seeing India’s potential value to Japan, both on the economic and political fronts, Abe has touted the importance of strengthening bilateral ties to help maintain peace and stability in Asia. Abe’s latest trip to India is his third visit as prime minister. The shinkansen technology will be applied to a planned 500-km-long high-speed railway that will link Mumbai and Ahmedabad in western India and take roughly two hours.

Japan, which is seeking to spur its economy through infrastructure exports to Asia, is looking to play catch-up after losing out to China in its bid to secure a key high-speed railway contract in Indonesia in October. Construction of the Indian railway project, which is estimated to cost 980 billion rupees ($14.6 billion), will begin in 2017, with the aim of starting operations in 2023. Japan has sounded out India about a plan for Tokyo to provide yen loans on the premise that the railway contract will be given to a consortium of Japanese firms, a Japanese government source said.

The two leaders also signed others pacts, including one that allows the transfer of defense equipment to India and another on data protection, which allows the exchange of defense-related information. The moves reflect Tokyo’s desire to forge closer ties with New Delhi due to China’s muscle-flexing.

When Modi visited Japan last year, Abe vowed to extend ¥3.5 trillion in public and private investment and financing to India over five years for development. Japan also pledged a ¥50 billion loan to India for a public-private partnership infrastructure project.

Source: Japan, India agree on rail, nuclear deal | The Japan Times

03/03/2015

Marks & Spencer to close five Shanghai stores, Asia head quits | Reuters

British retailer Marks & Spencer (MKS.L) has decided to close five stores in the greater Shanghai region following a review of its plans for China that will nevertheless see it stick to a commitment to expand into the country’s other large cities.

Clothes are displayed on hangers in an M&S shop in northwest London July 8, 2014. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

M&S also said on Monday that Bruce Findlay, its regional director for Asia, was quitting the firm after less than two years in the role to take up a position with another retailer.

The company entered China in 2008 with a store in Shanghai, and it now has 15 in the greater Shanghai region. But it has struggled to make a major impact in a country that it said on Monday remains one of its priority international markets along with India, Russia and the Middle East.

For the long term the group is in the process of evaluating potential local partners to expand in China, a path taken by other British retailers such as supermarkets group Tesco (TSCO.L) and home improvements firm Kingfisher (KGF.L).

Updating on its plans for the country following a review announced last April, M&S said it would continue to invest in its existing flagship store portfolio with the complete modernisation of its West Nanjing Road store in Shanghai in the autumn.

However, five of its supporting stores in the greater Shanghai region will close by August. Some 60 jobs will be effected. M&S also plans to reduce the size of its Shanghai head office.

M&S said it has a firm intent to enter other cities such as Beijing and Guangzhou over the next year, while further expansion online would enhance its brand across China.

via Marks & Spencer to close five Shanghai stores, Asia head quits | Reuters.

28/01/2015

BBC News – The village that just got its first fridge

Three-quarters of the world’s homes have a fridge – an appliance that can revolutionise a family’s life. A tailor in one Indian village has just become the first person in his community to own one – something he has dreamed of for 10 years.

Santosh choosing a fridge

Santosh Chowdhury is pacing up and down speaking into his mobile phone.

“How much longer? It’s left past the auto-rickshaw stand, yes that’s right,” he shouts, and then continues his nervous pacing.

It’s a big day for him and indeed for the village of Rameshwarpur, just outside Calcutta in north-east India.

Santosh has bought a new fridge – not just his first but also the first in the entire community of 200 people. “Owning a fridge is quite rare in a village like ours,” he says.

The lack of fridges in Rameshwarpur reflects the situation across the whole of India. Only one in four of the country’s homes has one. That compares to an average of 99% of households in developed countries.

But change can be rapid when linked to an emerging middle class. In 2004, 24% of households in China owned a fridge. Ten years later this had shot up to 88%.

“Ours is the first generation to own a fridge in my family,” says Santosh. “No one in my father’s and grandfather’s time had ever seen one.”

Rameshwarpur has a distinctly rural feel. People bathe in a pond in the middle of the village, children fly kites in the dusty lanes. The homes are little more than simple huts, made of mud and brick. But the village has electricity and many houses have televisions.

Santosh works as a tailor. He lives in a modest, two-room hut which doubles as his home and workplace. “I don’t have a regular job as such,” he says. “Sometimes I also work part-time in a factory. I make about three to four dollars a day.”

Life is quite hard, especially for his wife Sushoma.

She cooks lunch, stirring a pot of rice on a wood fire outside their hut. It’s something she does every day because they have no way of storing leftovers. So Santosh has to go the market early each morning to shop for groceries.

He’s always wanted to make life easier for his wife and has been dreaming of buying a fridge for 10 years. “Owning one will be so convenient,” he says. “You don’t have to buy vegetables every day, you can store food – especially in the summer.”

So he’s been saving hard, putting away a bit of money every month for a purchase that costs more than a month’s salary. “I don’t make that much money, that’s why it’s taken me so long. But now I have enough,” he says, smiling.

At one of Calcutta’s high street stores, about 15km from his home, Santosh had several models to choose from. Peering inside, he ran his fingers along the side of a bright red model.

“It was quite confusing. It was my first time you know. I couldn’t figure out which one to get,” he says shyly. “My wife wanted a red one. I wanted one that will consume the least power. We need to keep our bills down.”

Finally, the deal was struck. Santosh got a discount because it was the final week of the winter sales. The price was 11,000 rupees (£120) – but more importantly, he was able to pay in instalments, having paid just under half the money up front.

“No one pays cash any more like they used to,” says store manager Pintoo Mazumdar. “Everyone can get a loan from the bank or the store – all you need is a bank statement and ID. That’s why so many lower income people can afford to buy a fridge these days.”

 

FRIDGEONOMICS

Fridge ownership around the world

76% Global average

65% Asia Pacific

99% Europe and North America

87% Latin America

63% Middle East and Africa

Source: Euromonitor

 

Santosh’s fridge finally arrives on the back of a cycle rickshaw. He walks along next to it with a broad smile. Many of the villagers come out on to the lane as well, craning their necks to get a better look.

“Careful, careful,” he cries out as a couple of them help carry the fridge into his house.

Then it’s time for a religious ceremony.

His wife applies a dab of vermillion to the fridge, to keep away evil spirits, and then blows on a conch shell to seek divine blessings and welcome the fridge into their home. The fridge has pride of place – next to Santosh’s sewing machine and their tiny television set.

They simply cannot stop smiling.

“We’ve dreamt of this moment for so long,” says his wife Sushoma. “Some of our neighbours have already asked us if they, too, can store some food in our fridge. “And I can’t wait to drink cold water in the summer.”

As Santosh shows off his fridge everyone crowds around, excited. “Imagine, they won’t have to shop for fresh vegetables every day,” says one woman. “I’m thinking of getting one too,” another man says.

It’s a special moment for the Chowdhurys. This acquisition could potentially transform their lives. “I can focus on finding more work and not worry about buying food for the family,” Santosh says. “My wife will get more free time and perhaps she can give me a hand as well.”

With those words, he opens his fridge and places the first contents inside – tomatoes, an aubergine, eggs and some milk.

via BBC News – The village that just got its first fridge.

15/12/2014

About 300 Chinese said fighting alongside Islamic State in Middle East | Reuters

About 300 Chinese people are fighting alongside the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a Chinese state-run newspaper said on Monday, a rare tally that is likely to fuel worry in China that militants pose a threat to security.

China has expressed concern about the rise of Islamic State in the Middle East, nervous about the effect it could have on its Xinjiang region. But it has also shown no sign of wanting to join U.S. efforts to use military force against the group.

Chinese members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) are traveling to Syria via Turkey to join the Islamic State, also known as IS, the Global Times, a tabloid run by China’s ruling Communist Party’s official newspaper, the People’s Daily, said.

“According to information from various sources, including security officers from Iraq’s Kurdish region, Syria and Lebanon, around 300 Chinese extremists are fighting with IS in Iraq and Syria,” the Global Times reported.

via About 300 Chinese said fighting alongside Islamic State in Middle East | Reuters.

17/04/2014

Non Residents Are Stakeholders in India’s Future Too – India Real Time – WSJ

Conversations in Mumbai are usually about the elections these days – be it at roadside food stalls or in the boardrooms of India’s financial capital.

The stakes, after all, are high: following a period of robust growth, the country’s economy has slowed considerably in the past few years – largely because of (depending on who you talk to) the global crisis, policy paralysis, corruption and such. Inflation too is a massive concern.

The need of the hour, most agree, is a secular, stable and investment-friendly government that helps create prosperity for India’s multitude, and not just for a few seen close to the powerful.

That in essence is also the main topic of discussion some 2000kms to the west of the city – for non-resident Indians in Dubai, a fast growing regional financial hub.

Back in the 70s and 80s, hordes of Indians left the country in search of better opportunities – many of whom came to the oil-producing Middle East countries. The tech boom of the 90s provided them another global opening, though by then economic reforms at home were also taking effect – helping drive growth and creating more and better-paying jobs in the next decade.

Many Indians still look abroad for livelihood, but have increasingly channelled a big chunk of their earnings back home in search of returns. And why not? Even global investors are happily betting on the country’s future.

India topped the global list for remittances in 2013 – receiving some $70 billion, according to a World Bank report last week, underscoring its importance as an important source of foreign exchange. To be sure, remittances last year were “more than the $65 billion earned from the country’s flagship software services exports,” the World Bank noted.

That the country has been among the leading recipients of remittances over the past few years is not surprising, given that some 25 million Indians (variously classified) live abroad and, in several cases, continue to have strong familial ties back home.

The importance of Indians living overseas and their contribution to the country has been recognised on various platforms – such as the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, which has been held every year since 2003 to “mark the contribution of Overseas Indian community in the development of India,” according to the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs.

The ministry says these conventions facilitate the overseas Indian community to engage with the government and people for “mutually beneficial activities”. Simply put, Indians living overseas are increasingly participating more actively back home.

But they – the millions of NRIs – still can’t vote from foreign locations and choose a government of their liking in the country’s general elections.

via Non Residents Are Stakeholders in India’s Future Too – India Real Time – WSJ.

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26/03/2014

Putin’s Shame: Russia Is Becoming China’s Junior Partner – Businessweek

Russian President Vladimir Putin professes not to care about being ejected—temporarily, at least—from the Group of Eight community over his country’s seizure of Crimea. He says Russia has plenty of other friends in the world. One of them is China, the world’s emerging Communist superpower. Diplomatic and trade relations between Russia and China have strengthened notably over the last couple of decades. Bloomberg News reports today that the “Crimean crisis is poised to reshape the politics of oil by accelerating Russia’s drive to send more barrels to China, leaving Europe with pricier imports and boosting U.S. dependence on fuel from the Middle East.”

From left: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and South African President Jacob Zuma at the G-20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Sept. 5, 2013

Notice, though, that what Russia is selling to China is oil—not, say, high-tech machinery. In what must be a source of great embarrassment to Putin, Russia has gone from being China’s tutor and guide to being a junior partner whose main value is as a source for raw materials. Look at these two charts, which I put together today using data from the United Nations’ Comtrade database.

The first shows Russian exports to China in 2000. Exports of what the UN calls mineral fuels, oils, distillation products, etc.—mainly oil—constituted 7 percent of total Chinese exports to Russia.

via Putin’s Shame: Russia Is Becoming China’s Junior Partner – Businessweek.

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18/02/2014

* China to spend $330 billion to fight water pollution -paper | Reuters

China has a fifth of the world’s population but just 7 percent of its water resources, and the situation is especially precarious in its parched north, where some regions have less water per capita than the Middle East.

A man walks by a pipe discharging waste water into the Yangtze River from a paper mill in Anqing, Anhui province, December 4, 2013. REUTERS/William Hong

The plan is still being finalized but the budget has been set, exceeding the 1.7 trillion yuan ($277 billion) China plans to spend battling its more-publicized air pollution crisis, the China Securities Journal reported, citing the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

It will aim to improve the quality of China’s water by 30 to 50 percent, the paper said, through investments in technologies such as waste water treatment, recycling and membrane technology.

The paper did not say how the funds would be raised, when the plan would take effect, or what timeframe was visualized, however.

Groundwater resources are heavily polluted, threatening access to drinking water, Environment Minister Zhai Qing told a news conference in the capital, Beijing, last week.

According to government data, a 2012 survey of 5,000 groundwater check points found 57.3 percent of samples to be heavily polluted.

China emits around 24 million tons of COD, or chemical oxygen demand, a measure of organic matter in waste water, and 2.45 million tons of ammonia nitrogen, into its water each year, Zhai said.

Over the next five years, China has previously estimated it will need to spend a total of 60 billion yuan to set up sludge treatment facilities, and a further 10 billion yuan for annual operation, the environment ministry says.

China is short on water to begin with but its water problems are made worse by its reliance on coal – which uses massive amounts of water to suppress dust and clean the fuel before it is burnt – to generate nearly 70 percent of its electricity while self-sufficiency in food remains a key political priority.

via China to spend $330 billion to fight water pollution -paper | Reuters.

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13/02/2014

* Rice Exports From India Climbing to Record on Mideast Demand – Businessweek

Rice shipments from India, the world’s largest producer after China, will probably expand to a record as buyers from Iran to Saudi Arabia boost purchases of aromatic basmati grain used in biryani and pilaf dishes.

Exports are set to increase 7.8 percent to 11 million metric tons in the 12 months through March from a year earlier, said M.P. Jindal, president of the All India Rice Exporters Association. Sales of basmati may jump 14 percent to 4 million tons as cargoes of non-basmati varieties advance 4 percent to 7 million tons, he said in a phone interview.

Shipments are increasing from India as Thailand, once the world’s biggest supplier, is also set to boost exports. The Southeast Asian country has built record stockpiles big enough to meet about a third of global import demand under a buying program that started in 2011. Farmers are demanding the government sell the reserves to pay for their crop.

via Rice Exports From India Climbing to Record on Mideast Demand – Businessweek.

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