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Pakistan enters the New Silk Road by Pepe Escobar

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Pakistan enters the New Silk Road

April 24, 2015
By Pepe Escobar

Now how do you top this as a geopolitical entrance? Eight JF-17 Thunder fighter jets escorting Chinese President Xi Jinping on BOARD an Air China Boeing as he enters Pakistani air space. And these JF-17s are built as a China-Pakistan joint project.
Silk Road? Better yet; silk skyway.
Just to drive the point home – and into everyone’s homes – a LITTLE further, Xi penned a column widely distributed to Pakistani media before his first overseas trip in 2015.
He stressed, “We need to form a ‘1+4′ cooperation structure with the Economic Corridor at the CENTER and the Gwadar Port, energy, infrastructure and industrial cooperation being the four key areas to drive development across Pakistan and deliver tangible benefits to its people.”
Quick translation: China is bringing Pakistan into the massive New Silk Road(s) project with a bang.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry, also on cue, stressed that Pakistan would be in the frontline to benefit from the $40 billion Silk Road Fund, which will help to finance the Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk Road projects; or, in Chinese jargon, “One Belt, One Road”, that maze of roads, high-speed rail, ports, pipelines and fiber optics networks bound to turbo-charge China’s LINKS to Europe through Russia, Central Asia and the Indian Ocean.
The Silk Road Fund will disburse funds in parallel with the new Asian Infrastructure INVESTMENT BANK (AIIB), which has already enticed no less than 57 countries. China’s assistant foreign minister, Liu Jianchao, has not delved into detailed numbers, but he assures China “stands ready to provide financing.”
So no wonder Pakistani media was elated. A consensus is also fast emerging that China is becoming “Pakistan’s most important ally” from either West or East.
Beijing’s CAREFULLY calibrated commercial offensive mixing Chinese leadership concepts such as harmonious society and Chinese dream with a “win-win” neighborhood policy seduces by the numbers alone: $46 billion in investment in Pakistan ($11 billion in infrastructure, $35 billion in energy), compared to a U.S. Congress’s $7.5 billion program that’s been in place since 2008.
The meat of the matter is that Washington’s “help” to Islamabad is enveloped in outdated weapons systems, while Beijing is investing in stuff that actually benefits people in Pakistan; think of $15.5 billion in coal, wind, solar and hydro energy projects bound to come ONLINE by 2017, or a $44 million optical fiber cable linking China and Pakistan.
According to the Center for Global Development, between 2002 and 2009 no less than 70% of U.S. aid was about “security” – related to the never-ending GWOT (global war on terror). As a Pakistani analyst wrote me, “just compare Xi’s vision for his neighbors and the history of AMERICA in Latin America. It is like the difference between heaven and hell.”
That “X” factor
At the heart of the action is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), whose embryo had already been discussed when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Beijing in the summer of 2013. The economic corridor, across 3,000 km, will LINK the port of Gwadar, in the Arabian Sea, not far from the Iranian border, with China’s Xinjiang.
China is already in Gwadar; China Overseas Port Holding Company is operating it for two years now, after helping to build the first phase. Gwadar formally opens before the end of the month, but a first-class highway and railway linking it to the rest of Pakistan still need to be built (mostly by Chinese companies), not to mention an international airport, SCHEDULED to open by 2017.
All this action implies a frenzy of Chinese workers building roads, railways – and power plants. Their security must be assured. And that means solving the “X” factor; “X” as in Xinjiang, China’s vast far west, home to only 22 million people including plenty of disgruntled Uyghurs.
Beijing-based analyst Gabriele Battaglia has detailed how Xinjiang has been addressed according to the new guiding principle of President Xi’s ethnic policy. The key idea, says Battaglia, is to manage the ethnic conflict between Han Chinese and Uyghurs by applying the so-called three “J”: jiaowang, jiaoliu, jiaorong, that is, “inter-ethnic contact”, “exchange” and “mixage”.
Yet what is essentially a push towards assimilation coupled with some economic incentives is far from assured success; after all the bulk of Xinjiang’s day-to-day policy is conducted by unprepared Han cadres who tend to view most Uyghurs as “terrorists”.
Many of these cadres identify any separatist stirring in Xinjiang as CIA-provoked, which is not totally true. There is an extreme Uyghur minority which actually entered Wahhabi-driven jihadism (I met some of them in Masoud’s prisons in the Panjshir valley before 9/11) and has gone to fight everywhere from Chechnya to Syria. But what the overwhelming majority really wants is an economic shot at the Chinese dream.
The Pakistani counterpart to Xinjiang is Balochistan, inhabited by a little over 6 million people. There have been at least three different separatist factions/movements in Balochistan fighting Islamabad and what they call “Punjabis” with a vengeance. Former provincial minister Jaffar Khan Mandokhel, for instance, is already warning there will be a “strong reaction” across Balochistan to changes in the corridor’s routes, which, he says, “are meant to give maximum benefit to Punjab, which is already considered the privileged province.” Islamabad denies any changes.
The corridor is also bound to bypass most of the key, northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Opposition political star Imran Khan – whose party is on top in Khyber – has already condemned it as an injustice.
Beijing, for its part, has been very explicit to Islamabad; the Pakistani Taliban must be defeated, or at least appeased. That explains why since June 2014 the Pakistani army has been involved in a huge aerial bombing campaign – Zarb-e Azb – againt the Haqqani network and other hardcore tribals. The Pakistani army has already set up a special division to take care of the corridor, including nine battalions and the proverbial paramilitary forces. None of this though is a guarantee of success.
Karakoram or bust
It will be absolutely fascinating to watch how China and Pakistan, simultaneously, may be able to keep the peace in both Xinjiang and Balochistan to assure booming trade along the corridor. Geographicaly though, this all makes perfect sense.
Xinjiang is closer to the Arabian Sea than Shanghai. Shanghai is twice more distant from Urumqi than Karachi. So no wonder Beijing thinks of Pakistan as a sort of Hong Kong West, as I examined in some detail here.
This is also a microcosm of East and South Asia integration, and even Greater Asia integration, if we include China, Iran, Afghanistan, and even Myanmar.
The spectacular Karakoram highway, from Kashgar to Islamabad, a feat of engineering completed by the Chinese working alongside the Pakistan Army Corps of engineers, will be upgraded, and extended all the way to Gwadar. A railway will also be built. And in the near future, yet another key Pipelineistan stretch.
Pipelineistan is linked to the corridor also in the form of the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline, which Beijing will help Islamabad to finish to the tune of $2 billion, after successive U.S. administrations relentlessly tried to derail it. The geopolitical dividends of China blessing a steel umbilical cord between Iran and Pakistan are of course priceless.
The end result is that early in the 2020s China will be connected in multiple ways practically with the mouth of the Persian Gulf. Large swathes of massive China-Europe trade will be able to avoid the Strait of Malacca. China will be turbo-charging trade with the Middle East and Africa. China-bound Middle East oil will be offloaded at Gwadar and transported to Xinjiang via Balochistan – before a pipeline is finished. And Pakistan will profit from more energy, infrastructure and transit trade.
Talk about a “win-win”. And that’s not even accounting for China’s thirst for gold. Balochistan is awash with gold, and there have been new discoveries in Punjab.
New Silk Road action is nothing short than frantic. The Bank of China is already channeling $62 billion of its immense foreign exchange reserves to three policy banks supporting New Silk Road(s) projects; $32 billion to China Development Bank (CDB) and $30 billion to Export-Import Bank of China (EXIM). The Agricultural Development Bank of China (ADBC) will also get its share.
And it’s not only Pakistan; the five Central Asian “stans” – rich in oil, gas, coal, agricultural land, gold, copper, uranium – are also targeted.
There’s a new highway from Kashgar to Osh, in Kyrgyzstan, and a new railway between Urumqi and Almaty, in Kazakhstan. We may be a long way away from the new high-speed Silk Rail, but trade between, for instance, the megacities of Chongqing or Chengdu in Sichuan with Germany now moves in only 20 days; that’s 15 days less than the sea route.
So it’s no wonder a “special leading group” was set up by Beijing to oversee everything going on in the One Road, One Belt galaxy. The crucial action plan is here. Those who’re about to go silk, we salute you.

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Indo-US encirclement plans By Asif Haroon Raja

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Indo-US encirclement plans

 

Asif Haroon Raja

 

This US agenda for Pakistan prepared by the neo-cons after 9/11 was similar to that applied throughout the broader Middle East Central Asian region. US strategy, supported by covert intelligence operations, consisted in triggering ethnic and religious strife, abetting and financing secessionist movements while also weakening the institutions of the central government. The broader objective was to fracture the Nation State and redraw the borders of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

 

Pakistan under Gen Musharraf was induced in September 2001 to become coalition partner and frontline State to fight the US dictated Global War on Terror. By the time Musharraf was deposed, Pakistan had been sufficiently bled in the war and the TTP under Baitullah Mehsud had captured 18 administrative units in the northwest. His successor Gen Ashfaq Kayani managed to recapture 17 units in 2009 and 2010. It resulted in overstretching of 150,000 troops employed in Swat, Malakand and FATA, besides battle fatigue and wear and tear of equipment. He considered it prudent to let alone the last bastion of the militants in North Waziristan (NW) since it housed friendly groups of Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Haqqani network.

 

While he kept pending the operation, the US and its strategic allies kept applying pressure by holding back aid, intensifying drone strikes and the covert war. Inflow of funds and arms from Afghanistan to the militants and hesitancy on Pakistan’s part allowed disarrayed TTP and its affiliates to regroup in NW, marry up with additional groups including foreign groups, and spread its terror tentacles all over Pakistan. Hafiz Gul Bahadur could do nothing to restrain Hakimullah Mehsud and later Fazlullah operating from Kunar.

 

Change of government in May 2013 opened vistas for peace talks with militants but acts of terrorism continued. Gen Kayani handed over the baton to Gen Raheel Sharif in November at a time when peace talks had run into difficulties. Incident of beheading of 23 captive FC soldiers by the men of Umar Khalid Khurasani in Mohmand Agency on February 18, 2014 and airing the video distressed him. It became difficult for Gen Raheel to see his men dying in acts of terror and the government insisting to give peace a chance without reciprocity from militants. He was constrained to hit back by launching selective surgical airstrikes against known hideouts. These strikes helped in dividing TTP in South Waziristan (SW) where Khalid Mehsud alias Sajna group rebelled and clashed with Sheharyar Mehsud group. Infighting weakened TTP and created better situation for striking it. Peace talks made no headway because the TTP refused to honor ceasefire, continued hitting military targets and made unreasonable demands of asking the Army to vacate SW and free militants before holding direct talks.

 

Matters came to a pass when the militants struck Jinnah airport in Karachi on June 8 and threatened to carryout similar attacks. The government and military leadership backed by all political parties and religious groups agreed to launch the much delayed operation in NW. Operation Zarb-e-Azb launched on June 15 preceded by airstrikes is delivering decisive results and is aimed at ridding the country of terror forever. Major towns of Miranshah and Mir Ali and 90% of territory have been cleared. Over 1000 terrorists have been killed, suicide jackets and IED making factories, ammunition and explosive dumps and hideouts destroyed and command & control centre dismantled. Many have surrendered. In anticipation to the much feared blowback in urban centres, the Army teams carried out hundreds of intelligence based raids against known hideouts in other parts of FATA and also nabbed terrorists in cities, thus preventing many attacks. Apart from dealing with terrorists, the Army is mindful of one million IDPs and is doing all it can take to make their stay in camps easy and to keep them motivated.

 

In spite of the fact that the ISAF-ANA combine has lost all battles against Taliban in Afghanistan and Pak Army has won all against array of militant groups supported by foreign powers, the US is still not satisfied and wants it to do more. On its part, it has taken no step to dismantle Fazlullah’s safe havens in Kunar and Nuristan from where his men are carrying out cross border terrorism. While deeply concerned over the threat posed by the IS in Syria-Iraq, it is still instigating India to deal with terror groups in Pakistan. Encouraged by Obama-Modi’s Pakistan focussed joint statement in Washington last month; Indian leaders are hurling threatening statements to vitiate the atmosphere.

 

Indian military calculatedly heated up the LoC in Kashmir and Working boundary in Sialkot sector on October 1 and has been resorting to unprovoked and indiscriminate firing/shelling, killing/injuring dozens of civilians and forcing large numbers to migrate to safer areas. Pak Army is responding to the aggression befittingly. Gen Raheel stated on 18th October that “let there be no doubt that any aggression against our beloved country will get a befitting response and no sacrifice will be too great in this sacred cause.” He added that lasting peace in the region could only come through with a fair and just resolution in accordance with the will of Kashmiri people as enshrined in UN Resolutions.  

 

Indian bouts of belligerence in various forms are a routine matter and are designed to keep Pakistan overawed and its attention deflected from Kashmir. Rather than resolving the core issue of Kashmir which is the main bone of contention between the two archrivals, India keeps harping upon terrorism. Composite dialogue is a farce to keep Kashmir issue on the back burner for good. Nothing good can be expected from bigoted and Hindutva loving Modi regime. India’s mindset can be gauged from the recent article written by Dr. Amarjit Singh in Indian Defence Review, June 2014 Edition. In his view, Pakistan has no right to exist and is a thorn in the flesh of India. In his desire to obliterate Pakistan, he suggests fragmenting it by absorbing whole of Kashmir into Indian Union, making Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab independent but under Indian control; Khyber Pakhtunkhwa-FATA merged with southern/eastern Afghanistan and formed into Pakhtunistan, and northern Afghanistan comprising non-Pashtuns to shape into a separate country.

 

He is confident that the West will not shed tears on the demise of troublesome Pakistan. Finding the environment conducive, he forcefully urges the Indian leadership to knock out Pakistan when it is dizzy and imbalanced. His map and thoughts are similar to Lt Col Ralph Peters. Self-opinionated Amarjit doesn’t have the moral courage to say that it is India which has given tens of thousands of cuts to Pakistan from 1947 onwards and made it bleed profusely and that it is Pakistan which is the biggest victim of terrorism and India is an old hand in promoting terrorism in the region. But he is not the only one entertaining such devious thoughts.

 

The entire lot of Brahmin elite (2.8%) yearns to dismember Pakistan and for this purpose RAW has been employed in Balochistan, FATA and Karachi to do the needful as it had done in 1971. MI-6, CIA, Mossad and Afghan agencies are providing full assistance for the achievement of common objectives of destabilizing, denuclearizing, secularizing, balkanizing Pakistan and making it a Satellite State of India. Efforts are in hand to isolate Pakistan by spoiling Pak-Afghan and Pak-Iran relations and also delinking it from China. A subtle propaganda has been unleashed to depict China’s investment in Pakistan as harmful. Pak-China planned joint venture of constructing ‘Economic Corridor’ and development of Gawadar are giving night mares to the US and India and schemes are being hatched  how to stop these projects. Unstable political conditions and establishment of interim government of technocrats or national government as suggested by some suit the conspirators to accomplish their nefarious objectives. Unproductive sit-ins without a roadmap are slowing down development works and foreign investments.

 

While India is continuously building up its naval power in the Indian Ocean, the US is trying to contain China by roping in Indian Ocean Littoral States within an ‘Indo-Pacific’ framework. Besides boosting economy, science and technology, China must step up its efforts to protect its energy security interests by securing Sea Lines of Communications in Indian Ocean by deploying bigger naval force and developing Gawadar into a deep seaport and a strong naval base. Only then it can hope to make profitable use of the planned ‘Energy Corridor’ linking Kashgar with Gawadar. Development of Gawadar seaport must be expedited to allow Chinese exporters to export goods to the markets in Africa. At the same time, greater understanding between Pak-China economic managers, foreign policy handlers, military and intelligence officials should be developed to accrue mutually beneficial gains in all the fields. Further fortification of Pak-China strategic relationship will help in thwarting Indo-US policy of encirclement.   

 

Internally what is urgently required in these critical times to frustrate the designs of enemies of Pakistan is political stability, unity between all political/religious parties/groups, harmonious civil-military relations and cooperation between State institutions.

The writer is a retired Brig, war veteran/defence analyst/columnist/author of five books and Director Measac Research Centre. asifharoonraja@gmail.com 

                  

 

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Ma Xiaotian meets with first deputy chief of airstaff of PAF

Ma Xiaotian meets with first deputy chief of airstaff of PAF

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BEIJING, May 25, (ChinaMil) — Ma Xiaotian, member of the Central MilitaryCommission (CMC) and commander of the Air Force of the Chinese People’sLiberation Army (PLA), met with Hussain, the visiting first deputy chief of air staff of thePakistan Air Force (PAF) on the afternoon of May 24.

Ma Xiaotian said that China and Pakistan are close and friendly neighboring countries.Regardless of how the international and regional situations change, China willunswervingly consolidate and develop the friendly relations between China andPakistan. The militaries of both counties have maintained close exchange andcooperation, kept frequent high-level military reciprocal visits, and established aneffective cooperation mechanism. The Air Forces of both countries have maintainedclose cooperation and achieved fruitful results in multiple fields.

images-10Hussain expressed that the PAF is willing to continue to strengthen the mutuallybeneficial and friendly cooperation with the Air Force of the Chinese PLA, expandexchanges and push forward the progressive development of the friendly cooperativerelations between the two countries, the two militaries and the two air forces inparticular.

(China Military Online)

08:40, May 28, 2013   

 

 

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