Monday, May 29, 2017

Strong defence, robust economy

http://nation.com.pk/columns/29-May-2017/strong-defence-robust-economy


May 29, 2017/ 1 Comment

Pakistan is a strong democratic nation this is evident from the fact that the economy has been improving by leaps and bounds and a lot of this is because the security concerns are being addressed meticulously. Both the civilian government and the armed forces are committed wholeheartedly to the defence of the nation; for only when the defence of a nation is strong does that nation then progress. The people of Pakistan are forging ahead with great verve and rapidity as after many years economic indicators are strong and internal strife is under control.

Pakistan once again celebrated “Youm-e-Takbeer” which is a most auspicious day as on this day Pakistan became a nuclear power. On May 28 1998 Pakistan became first Islamic and world’s 7th nuclear power; and because we are a nuclear power we have been able to sustain ourselves without any threat of war, have been able to maintain the balance of power in the region and have emerged as a leader in the comity of nations.

Pakistan has been fighting war against terror for many years now and has made its commitment to this war clear, as recent operations like Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fassad have proved. In this scenario the fact that the economy of Pakistan has actually improved is a testament to the determination of PML-N led government and their major success the CPEC. Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif recently attended One Belt One Road Forum (OBOR) in China where he assured Chinese President Xi Jinping that extensive efforts were being made for the implementation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. The May 14-15 forum was attended by 29 heads of state and government, besides delegates from around 130 countries and was an opportunity for Pakistan to display its regional clout.

The OBOR forum was important for China to further their goals for global expansion and for this they turned to Pakistan for support. Pakistan and China signed six accords of cooperation in diverse fields. The worth of the accords is about $500 million. The MoUs add to $57 billion already pledged for the CPEC and further cement Pak-China relationship. The groundbreaking and signing of financial agreements has demonstrated that there is a strong will on both sides to implement the portfolio agreed upon under the CPEC framework as early as possible to help Pakistan meet its energy needs.

Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif while speaking at the OBOR forum rightly said that peace and development went hand in hand, and nothing could pave the path to peace and security more than economic development achieved through regional collaboration. “It is time we transcend our differences, resolve conflicts through dialogue and diplomacy and leave a legacy of peace for future generations,” he said. This view of the Prime Minister is absolutely correct as development and defence of a nation are interrelated. The PML-N led government has focused on the development of the country not just in terms of economy but also in terms of infrastructure, security and communally.

If we look at the latest position the federal government has unveiled a Rs4.75 trillion budget outlay for 2017-18 of which Rs1.001 trillion allocation (federal) is for its Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) which is markedly higher than previous budget so it shows the seriousness of the government. The infrastructure sector will get 67 percent of the PSDP budget. Rs411 billion will be allocated for transportation and communication, of which Rs320 billion will be allocated to national highways, Rs43 billion for railways, and Rs44 billion for other projects. The PML-N government wants Pakistan on the fast track to progress and for this purpose developmental work is necessary.

The business climate is considered positive and robust because of the rapidly expanding quality infrastructure and marked reduction in energy shortages. The successful closure of IMF’s program is a testament that Pakistan has done well on macroeconomic stability. This is further proved by The Economist terming Pakistan the fastest-growing Muslim economy. Another positive has been the announcement of Pakistan’s inclusion in Morgan Stanley’s Emerging Market Index from May 2017.

The newly released Economic Survey of Pakistan reconfirms that despite several internal and external challenges, the country’s GDP recorded decade’s highest growth of 5.3 percent during the fiscal year 2016-17. “The growth rate was just 3 percent in 2013, which has now risen to 5.3 percent and this growth is also being acknowledged at the world level,” Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar said while launching Pakistan Economic Survey for the outgoing fiscal year 2016-17. He is positively correct for World Bank had forecast Pakistan´s GDP growth in fiscal year 2017 to climb to 5.2 percent, the highest expansion rate in nine years, boosted

by consumer confidence and fiscal reforms. Asian Development Bank also recently endorsed the growth projections for 2017 to 5.2 per cent. Next target set by the government is 6 percent GDP growth and hopefully we will achieve that too.

The government is committed to sustainable growth and ensuring development work continues apace. Poverty reduction, job creation and monetary empowerment for the people are on its agenda. The government knows that for a better economy, development and security must go hand in hand and to bring about such an outcome it is working on many avenues simultaneously; hopefully by next year we will see even greater prosperity and success

Boycotting China's OBOR might just be the best thing Modi has done in 3 years

http://www.dailyo.in/voices/obor-india-china-pakistan-cpec-kashmir/story/1/17484.html


CPEC reflects China's hidden agenda of splitting PoK from India in its mission to achieve global leadership status.

VOICES

 |  5-minute read |   29-05-2017

DIPIN DAMODHARAN

 @dipinbharath

It's becoming more evident now. India is taking on China by all means. Leaving the so-called liberal critics like Mani Shankar Aiyar and Sudheendra Kulkarni in their own way, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did the right thing in not teaming up with the 29 countries in the One Belt, One Road forum initiated by communist China.

Modi's decision on this crucial issue seems sensible and bold, from a strategic point of view. It makes India's stand clear in dealing with China, and indeed, Pakistan.

×

It's not about just marking India's presence in the One Belt, One Roadforum or strengthening trade ties with China, it's about India's identity, integrity, and existence.

As long as India has little doubts on the Kashmir issue, there's no point in discussing India's participation in any development project passing through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir.

The One Belt, One Road project, often dubbed as the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road, has an ambitious vision to amplify China's influence in the Asia Pacific area and Central and Eastern Europe. With this kind of infrastructure projects, China is trying to emphasise its global leadership status as US president Donald Trump is turning his nation more inward with his disastrous anti-globalisation crusade.

The Belt and Road Initiative, which was previously known as One Belt, One Road project, is Chinese president Xi Jinping's dream yet crucial project in the process to make the dragon the new imperialist power. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC is the crux of the project, and it is passing through PoK.  This alone can explain why India is unwilling to participate in China's new version of the Silk Road.

The Dragon's intention is clear, leaving no doubts for anyone, even though the CPEC has become the new bone of contention between India and China. India's logic is also simple - if we join the initiative, it would be nothing but diluting the country's stand on the Kashmir issue. So, everything is clear here. The only thing that doesn't make any sense here is the commentaries from Indian intellectuals.

Sudheendra Kulkarni, former strategist of senior BJP leader LK Advani, termed India's boycott of the Belt Road forum a self-goal.

"Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs better advice on China. Look at the self-goal India has scored by boycotting the Belt and Road Forum summit, convened by Chinese president Xi Jinping on May 14 and 15," he laments in an article written for NDTV website. According to Kulkarni, India was the proverbial "elephant in the room" - conspicuous by its absence.

Thinkers like Kulkarni and Aiyar point out the presence of countries like the US and Japan in the forum despite their political differences with China.

I am asking a simple question to these so-called liberal thinkers - are they considering India's Kashmir issue with Pakistan similar to that of Japan's problems with China?

More than the trade benefits, China is thinking of the geo-strategic edge of the Belt and Road initiative. That's why they haven't shown this degree of enthusiasm in supporting India’s long-standing bid to get into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

We have seen what the communist-imperialist nation did in the case of Jaish-e-Mohammed leader Masood Azhar. In a tricky measure to keep their ally Pakistan happy, China blocked India's attempts to declare Azhar a UN-designated terrorist.

Despite Modi's overzealousness in taking China on board, Beijing has been incessantly trying to make India-China relations more beneficial to them, ignoring India's concerns on sensitive issues.

China pushed India hard to join the Belt and Road venture because of some ulterior motives. CPEC, the flagship project of the initiative, is passing through PoK and Balochistan. The $50-billion project offers a mere share of 0.5 per cent to the impoverished Balochistan, and the people in this immensely rich land of natural resources have been fighting against the inhuman rule of Pakistan for years.

China is skeptical about the reaction of Baloch insurgents to the CPEC project, fearing that the insurgency is posing some kind of security threat to their dream project. This should be viewed through the prism of India's sympathetic approach towards the Baloch cause.

China thinks that the presence of India in the Belt and Road initiative helps ease the situation. And, then comes the more serious factor, which is regarding the PoK region.

China has conceived the Belt and Road initiative as a geo-economic and geo-political strategy, and CPEC reflects its hidden agenda of splitting PoK from India in its mission to achieve global leadership status.

They're just making use of Pakistan for this long-term goal. Once India joined the project, it's better for us to forget the PoK issue as the action is grand enough to provide legitimacy to Pakistan's aggression in Kashmir. 

Keeping this in mind, Xi had put tremendous pressure on India. But the Modi government didn't yield to it. India's measure was meant to send a clear message: Modi isn't going to do things the way his predecessors did on the Kashmir issue.

His approach may be unconventional in dealing with China. But, undoubtedly, boycotting the Belt and Road forum is the best thing he has done in his three years of rule.

Also read: India's absence from OBOR forum is testimony of Modi's failed foreign policy

#Kashmir crisis#CPEC#India-China Ties#OBOR

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DailyO.in or the India Today Group. The writers are solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.

Writer

DIPIN DAMODHARAN @dipinbharath

The writer is co-founder of EduQuest and Ex-Editorial Head, DC Media, DC Books


CPEC: ‘Third Party’ Dilemma And Cracks In The Corridor – Analysis

http://www.eurasiareview.com/02022017-cpec-third-party-dilemma-and-cracks-in-the-corridor-analysis/





By IPCS

By Amit Kumar*

Public opinion in China rarely witnesses apprehensions regarding key projects launched by the central leadership. However, over the past few months, Chinese experts – including academics and former diplomats – have expressed concerns regarding the slow progress and challenges faced by the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Some have even questioned the very rationale of implementing the CPEC. Meanwhile, curiously, Pakistan’s Lt General Aamir Riaz called on India to join the CPEC, in December 2016.

What are the various concerns that have found a voice in Chinese public opinion? What do they indicate?

Third Party Dilemma

The CPEC, billed as the flagship project of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), has been at the core of Beijing-Islamabad relations since its 2015 launch.

On 21 December 2016, Lt General Aamir Riaz, Corps Commander, Southern Command, Pakistan Army, made a ‘surprising’ statement, calling on India to “shun enmity” and join the CPEC. Lt Gen Riaz invited India to “share the fruits of future development by shelving the anti-Pakistan activities and subversion.” The statement is significant because it comes from the person in charge of security in Balochistan, where, Pakistan alleges, India aids subversive activities to support Baloch separatists.

Beijing’s response to Lt Gen Riaz’s statement was calculated. On 23 December 2016, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying, in her regular press conference, said “I have seen these reports. I wonder whether the Indian side takes this offer made by the Pakistani general as a goodwill gesture….China would like to discuss the possibility of introducing a third party on the basis of consensus with the Pakistani side through consultation.”

Hua’s comments have two aspects that warrant attention: First, it extends support to Pakistan’s offer to India as a “goodwill gesture.” Second, it lays emphasis on reaching consensus through consultation with regard to the inclusion of “third parties.” This indicates that that even China was taken by surprise: her statement shows that China prefers to introduce a third party on the basis of consensus and not unilateral action. It also appears that Lt Gen Riaz’s ‘invitation’ had not been discussed with China.

As expected, media in both countries focused on the ‘support’ aspect. However, one report stood out in its interpretation of Lt Gen Riaz’s statement: an op ed, published on 22 December 2016 in China’s state-run Global Times, titled ‘Pakistan’s CPEC proposal to India sends an important gesture’, written by Liu Zongyi, senior fellow at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies. It appears to tone down the ‘invitation’ by arguing that “the invitation which came as a surprise to New Delhi, was mainly intended as a gesture.” Liu highlights the conditionality laid on India and says that “Pakistanis themselves do not want India to be part of the CPEC, or they believe, if India hopes to join, it must try to improve bilateral ties first. China believes that India should be part of the project and actively persuade Pakistan to accept it.” Liu further argues that “the CPEC runs through Pakistan-controlled Kashmir which is also claimed by India as its territory. It is almost suicidal for Indian politicians to make concessions over the issue. However, this is only an excuse. The fundamental reason why India is against the project is that it fears China could get access to the gate of the Indian Ocean through the corridor and Pakistan’s strength will be enhanced.”

CPEC: Cracks in the Corridor

Key challenges still exist vis-à-vis the CPEC’s implementation in Pakistan.

I

It would be natural to assume that before inviting a bid from a third party – one who is mutually perceived to be a challenger to their rise – China and Pakistan would make efforts to cement the cracks that are appearing in the corridor even before its completion.

As the CPEC enters the implementation phase, voices of concern in Chinese public opinion regarding its feasibility, pace of progress, and security can be observed. On 20 December 2016, the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies of People’s (Renmin) University of China and Caijing Magazine released a ‘Joint Research Report on CPEC’. According to accounts published in the Chinese media, the report, which was compiled after two weeks of field research:

Concedes that despite successes, the work of building the CPEC has also been plagued with difficultiesArgues that Chinese investment has become something to be squabbled over among different parties and region-based factions in PakistanStates that neither China nor Pakistan can afford a failed CPEC and that if the chaos continues, the flagship project will be delayed, and the CPEC will become China’s burden, with potential for immense negative impact on Beijing’s BRIRecommends Chinese companies to seek help from domestic (Chinese) security companies to cope with the security situation in Pakistan.

II

Mao Siwei, China’s former consul-general in Kolkata and a South Asia expert – who had recently ruffled the Chinese establishment’s feathers by arguing in his blog for a course correction by China on the Masood Azhar issue – even crossed the so-called line by questioning the fundamental objectives of implementing the CPEC.

In his blog, titled ‘Three Misgivings on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor’, published on 10 December 2016, Mao discusses what he characterises as China’s three main ‘misgivings’ regarding the CPEC, and argues that:

The so called “Malacca dilemma” is a false proposition, stating that only the US has the ability to block China’s sea route. He says that in an event of a conflict, if the US chooses to block the Malacca Strait, it would be easier for the US to block Gwadar. In the event of a more serious situation, Chinese tankers can still navigate from a longer route by passing further south of Sumatra.Regarding access to the Indian Ocean and cross-border connectivity, he points out that although the cargo trial from Kashgar to Gwadar had been completed successfully, the route will take time to become a sustainable business channel. He adds that this route passes through Pakistan’s Balochistan Province, which is currently experiencing severe ethnic separatism, and frequent incidents of religious violence, due to which the security of this route cannot be guaranteed over an extended period of time.More importantly, on the issue of Gwadar Port defending China’s legitimate rights in the Indian Ocean, Mao argues that maintaining a certain degree of military presence in the Indian Ocean is necessary, reasonable, and legitimate, but that since the shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean run very close to the Indian coastline, it is essential to maintain friendly relations with India. He argues that if China builds a naval base in Gwadar, it has to come in the form of a treaty or a security alliance, which would indicate that in the event of a conflict between India and Pakistan, China would be bound to stand by Pakistan. However, for decades, Chinese oil tankers and merchant shipping routes in the Indian Ocean have not encountered any security problems, and if China and Pakistan form a military alliance in the Indian Ocean, it will unnecessarily complicate the security of these sea routes.

III

Looking Ahead

China, Pakistan, and the CPEC

Challenges faced by Chinese enterprises engaged in the development of the CPEC in Pakistan are increasing. There are concerns regarding the slow progress on various projects even as Pakistan pushes to pick the “early harvest” (fast-tracked projects on energy and infrastructure). Most projects under the CPEC are commercial in nature, and there are already instances of disputes in contracts and technical specifications. Chinese scholars are increasingly vocal in cautioning Chinese enterprises that the CPEC should not be treated as a political task or be hurried.

CPEC and India

Chinese scholars, including Liu, may be aware that India has repeatedly told China to be “sensitive” to Indian strategic concern that the corridor runs via Gilgit-Baltistan, which is originally a part of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. What they often fail to highlight is the flaw in making India’s entry into the CPEC conditional. It is illogical to ask India for a compromise that would make it eligible to join a corridor that New Delhi is not even keen on. India is unlikely to consider the proposition to join the CPEC unless its interests are addressed, which remains unlikely at the moment.

Moreover, would Islamabad and Beijing be ready to accommodate India’s participation in this corridor, which connects Xinjiang and Balochistan, two restive regions in China and Pakistan, respectively? Even if the ‘invitation’ was a “goodwill gesture,” as Hua termed it, it remains to be seen how accommodating China and Pakistan would be vis-à-vis India becoming a stakeholder in infrastructure projects along the corridor.

Or, was Lt Gen Riaz’s invitation only a wild attempt to gain legitimacy by linking a few roads from western India to Lahore?

* Amit Kumar
Senior Fellow, China Research Programme, IPCS
E-mail: amit.kumar@ipcs.org

Chinese university report on Pakistan economic corridor warns of India ‘creating trouble’

http://m.hindustantimes.com/world-news/chinese-report-on-pakistan-corridor-warns-of-india-creating-trouble/story-dfN15WTCT3JAUxmXBKtntL.html


India’s strategic closeness with Afghanistan too is “destabilising” the border areas of Pakistan and creating problems for CPEC, the report contended.

 

    

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at a ceremony related to the CPEC project in Gwadar port.(AFP File)

Updated: May 29, 2017 18:09 IST

By Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, Beijing

India’s alleged support to separatist forces in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, its diplomatic offensive against Islamabad and involvement in Chabahar port of Iran are factors that could impact the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a report by a top Chinese university has warned.

India’s strategic closeness with Afghanistan too is “destabilising” the border areas of Pakistan and creating problems for CPEC, the report contended.

The CPEC, which is expected to connect Kashgar in China with Gwadar port southwestern Pakistan through a network of roads, railway lines, oil and gas pipelines and fibre-optic cables, is the flagship project under President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative.

India has repeatedly raised its concerns about the project with China because the corridor passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Referring to the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian national who Pakistan says was apprehended in Baloshistan province, the government-sanctioned report compiled by scholars from Renmin University said: “Apart from formally pressurising (Pakistan), India with friends and in secret supported the Balochistan separatist movement in an attempt to divert the limited military strength of Pakistan towards the western side.”

It added, “Kulbhushan Jadhav’s code name was monkey. The target of his activities are: Penetrate Balochistan National Party, deliberately increase the dispute within Pakistan on CPEC, being in contact with Balochistan separatist group and terrorist groups, aiding terror activities and providing combat training to traitor groups.”

Scholars from Renmin University’s Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies and Caijing magazine put together the report after a two-week field trip to CPEC sites, including Gwadar port and Bin Qasim coal-fired power plant.

“India is most anxious about the construction of the CPEC and the opening and operation of the Gwadar port by China,” the report said.

🔴 “India thinks the CPEC and a strong Pakistan are huge threat to the security of India. Not only will the Chinese military forces come up on the north, east and west of India but also that Pakistan may completely cut off India from the channels to get oil and natural gas from the Persian Gulf and central Asia,” the report in Chinese argued.

It claimed India was “buying” poor refugees from Afghanistan with money and training them in terror activities. “They are a huge threat to the internal stability of Pakistan,” it added.

The report also contended that India’s cooperation with Iran to develop Chabahar port was aimed at countering the CPEC.

“India’s policy in dealing with Pakistan is not just limited to being destructive on the face. At the end of May (last year), Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Iran and it had an important outcome. India will undertake constructions worth $50 billion in the Chabahar port of Sistan-Balochistan province in southeast Iran,” it said.

The report argued that compared to Chabahar port, Gwadar would evolve into a better port as bigger ships will be able to dock there and because of natural mountainous protection from hurricanes.

“But Chabahar port is not without any merit. The infrastructure within Iran is far better than in Pakistan. It can easily connect to the water and electricity network of the country. It only needs investment and construction; then it can be easily connected to the transport network within Iran,” it said

Bangladesh: Capt Bashar's anniversary of martyrdom today

http://www.thedailystar.net/city/capt-bashars-anniversary-martyrdom-today-1412362





City Desk

Today is the martyrdom anniversary of Captain RAM Khairul Bashar, ASC. On this day in 1971, Captain Bashar, former officer commanding of Station Supply Depot (SSD), Chittagong Cantonment was bayoneted to death by a crack force of Pakistan army led by one Major Sarfaraz at a torture cell at Dhaka Cantonment.

According to a press statment, Pakistanis proposed him to become a state witness against Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who was then facing treason charge at a Pakistani jail in the then West Pakistan. As he straightaway rejected the Pakistani proposal, the crack force tortured him for two months before killing him on May 29, 1971.

In March, 1971, the forces of Baluch Regiment attacked the SSD led by Bengali Captain Bashar to capture it from his command. But Captain Bashar and his soldiers successfully repulsed the attack and drove them out from the SSD area, the statement added. It said he also hoisted the flag of independent Bangladesh, with the map of the country,  atop the perambulator of his one-year-old daughter and pushed it around Chittagong Cantonment. With the help of local youths and students, Bashar obstructed the members of Pakistan army to release arms and weapon from Pakistani ship 'Swat' at Chittagong port. From then on Captain Bashar became the arch rival of the occupation Pakistan army. 

During non-cooperation movement in March 1971, Bashar was an inspiration for the Bengali army officers in Chittagong Cantonment.

After the crackdown of Pakistan army, he, along with his pregnant wife and daughter came out of his cantonment house to join the Liberation War. He shot down a helicopter of Pakistan army at Halishahar, Chittagong. When Pakistani military junta was disarming the senior Bengali army officers, he along with the young Bengali officers led the revolt at Chittagong. Bashar was 28 when he was killed by the Pakistani military junta

Three killed in separate incidents in Balochistan

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1421650/three-killed-separate-incidents-balochistan/



By Mohammad Zafar

Published: May 29, 2017

PHOTO: EXPRESS

QUETTAThree people were killed while another was injured in separate incidents in Mastung, Bolan, Kalat and Awaran districts of Balochistan on Sunday.

According to details, unknown armed men broke into a shoe shop on old Kalat road in Mastung and opened fire. As a result, the owner of the shop Jalil Ahmed died on the spot. He had received two bullet wounds in the head. The assailants managed to escape soon after.

The cause of the killing, however, could not be ascertained.

Gwadar will change face of Balochistan: PM

Meanwhile, unknown armed men opened fire and killed a person identified as Naseer Ahmed in Bolan and fled the scene. Separately, a man identified as Abdul Khaliq sustained bullet wounds by the firing of unidentified armed men in Kalat.

In another incident, a man was killed in an explosion in Awaran while a subversive act was foiled in Dera Bugti on Sunday.

According to details, a banned outfit had placed its flag in a school in Nokuju area of Awaran. A local shopkeeper tried to remove the flag when a bomb, planted nearby, went off. As a result, the shopkeeper lost his life instantly

Pakistan draws redlines for joining Saudi alliance

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1421638/pakistan-draws-redlines-joining-saudi-alliance/


By Kamran Yousaf

Published: May 29, 2017

PM Nawaz Sharif with His Majesty King Salman of KSA. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABADPakistan has decided to draw certain ‘redlines’ for becoming part of the Saudi-led Islamic Military Alliance against Terrorism (IMAT) in an effort to avoid the negative fallout of its participation in the initiative that has potential to undermine ties with neighbouring Iran.

It was thought that the government had already joined the alliance when in April it granted permission to former army chief General (retd) Raheel Sharif to lead the 41-nation counter-terrorism alliance.

Officials, however, clarified that the final decision had not yet been taken.

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What compelled Pakistan to have a second thought was the recent Arab Islamic-US summit in Riyadh where statements from Saudi authorities suggested that the alliance was meant to counter Iran as well as fighting terrorism.

US-Arab-Islamic Summit: Trump urges Muslim leaders to confront extremism

The government in principle agreed to be part of the Saudi initiative if its sole purpose was to fight terrorism and extremism, officials insisted. The final decision, however, will be taken once the terms of reference (ToRs) of the alliance are finalised, officials added.

The ToRs would be finalised during the meeting of defence ministers of the participating countries.

A senior official familiar with the development told The Express Tribune that Pakistan would present its set of proposals during the defence ministers meeting scheduled to be held in Saudi Arabia in coming weeks.

Pakistan, according to the official, would recommend that the alliance should have clear objective that is to fight terrorism. Any deviation from this goal will not only undermine the alliance but also lead to more divisions in the Muslim world.

“We are very clear that we will join this alliance only to fight terrorism,” the official emphasised, adding that the government would stick to its stance.

Foreign office spokesperson Nafees Zakria also indicated that Pakistan had yet to take a final decision on the Saudi alliance.

“What we need to understand is that the Terms of Reference (TORs) of the alliance are yet to be finalised. The defence ministers of the participating countries will meet and discuss the modalities of the coalition. We must wait until we have all the information to comment on its outcome. We shouldn’t indulge in speculations,” Zakria clarified at the last weekly briefing.

The government already gave a public commitment that it would not become part of any initiative whose aim is to target any other Islamic country, including Iran.

Pakistan left with limited options in Saudi-led Islamic military alliance

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on the floor of National Assembly assured that Pakistan would withdraw if the Saudi alliance turns out to be sectarian in nature.

Even Gen (Retd) Raheel before accepting the foreign job reportedly told Saudis that he would lead the grouping only if its main purpose was to fight terrorism and not aimed at any other Islamic country.

In order to avoid any strain with Iran, Pakistan pushed for mediation between Tehran and Riyadh. Islamabad even mooted the idea of inclusion of Iran in the alliance.

However, all those efforts could not succeed since Saudi Arabia and Iran have serious differences on regional disputes particularly the current hotspots in Middle East.

Main opposition parties—Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Peoples Party—have been calling for maintaining ‘neutrality’ in Arab-Iran rivalry.

But given longstanding strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan is unlikely to completely withdraw from the alliance.  Nevertheless, its participation would only remain confined to counter-terrorism efforts, officials stressed

A GEOGRAPHICAL CASE FOR THE “ONE BELT, ONE ROAD” AND THE EURASIAN ECONOMIC UNION

http://valdaiclub.com/a/highlights/a-geographical-case-for-the-one-belt-one-road/


29.05.2017

© Sputnik/Vladimir Smirnov

Yaroslav Lissovolik

In the discussions held at the “One Belt – One Road” (OBOR) Forum in Beijing, a great deal of attention has been devoted to the significance of this mega-project for development and the connectivity across national boundaries in Eurasia. The OBOR project was pronounced as a “win-win” option for countries participating in this mega-effort, whose important features apart from building connectivity include openness and non-discrimination. But while the importance of connectivity is well recognized by now as an essential feature of the OBOR project, its true significance for Eurasia is yet to be fully understood and evaluated from the point of view of the idiosyncratic features of the continent’s geography.   

This unique nature of Eurasia’s geography has to do with the unprecedented distance of Eurasia’s Hinterland (inward) regions from the sea coast and accordingly from international markets. This problem is particularly acute for landlocked economies without access to the sea – Eurasia harbours 26 out of 44 (59%) of all of the world’s landlocked countries. Moreover, the scale of “inwardness” of some of the regions of Eurasia in terms of geographical location is truly unique:

-         Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world

-         Belarus is the largest landlocked country in Europe

-         Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan apart from being landlocked are among the countries with one of the highest levels of elevation above sea level in the world

-         Uzbekistan is one of two countries in the world that is separated from the coast by more than 1 country

-         Moscow is the farthest capital city from the sea coast in Europe, while Bishkek is the farthest capital city from the coast in the world (all top-5 of the most distant capitals from the sea coast in the world are in Asia, primarily Central Asia)

Another way to appreciate the uniqueness of Eurasia’s inwardness is to look the so-called continental “pole of inaccessibility”, which denotes the part of land that is farthest in the world from the coastline. It turns out that this pole is in Northern China (not far from the intersection of the borders of two landlocked countries (Kazakhstan and Mongolia) as well as China and Russia) close to the city of Ürümqi, making it the most distant city from the coastline in the world. Perhaps it is no coincidence that it was one of the focal points in the Silk road for centuries as well as in the current trajectories of the OBOR.

The main negative factor for continental countries as compared to coastal regions is their higher transportation costs, as land transportation turns out to be much costlier than maritime transport. After comparing country statistics of foreign trade on CIF and FOB terms, Radelet and Sachs (1998) established that land-locked countries’ transportation costs exceed those of coastal economies by 50%. Other estimates indicate that the share of transportation costs in total imports may reach 10–20% for countries without access to a seacoast, while for developed countries and the US this figure is 4.7% and 2.2%, respectively (Arvis, 2010).

In view of the higher transportation costs faced by landlocked economies, their competitiveness takes a double hit as imports become more expensive, while exports turn out to be less competitive in international markets – as a result according to the research undertaken by the World Bank:        

-         land-locked countries have on average 30% lower trade turnover than countries with access to the sea;

-         continentality reduces a country’s growth rate by 1.5% as compared to coastal countries;

According to UNCTAD, “the lack of territorial access to the sea poses persistent challenges to growth and development of these countries and has been the main factor hindering their ability to better integrate in the global trading system. The transit of export and import goods through the territory of at least one neighboring State and the frequent change of mode of transport result in high transaction costs and reduced international competitiveness” [1].

In recognition of the importance of the limitations in geography, most notably the landlocked status of developing countries, the United Nations launched several programmes, the first such effort being the Almaty Declaration and Programme of Action (2003-2004) that seeks “to establish a new global framework for developing efficient transit transport systems in landlocked and transit developing countries, taking into account the interests of both landlocked and transit developing countries. The Programme aims to (a) secure access to and from the sea by all means of transport; (b) reduce costs and improve services so as to increase the competitiveness of their exports; (c) reduce the delivered costs of imports; (d) address problems of delays and uncertainties in trade routes; (e) develop adequate national networks; (f) reduce loss, damage and deterioration enroute; (g) open the way for export expansion; and (h) improve the safety of road transport and the security of people along the corridors” [2].

Infographics: Capacity of Rail and Auto Routes from and to China

In 2014 during the Second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries the UN adopted the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014-2024, which advanced the following priorities for landlocked developing nations [3]: (a) To significantly increase the quality of roads, including increasing the share of paved roads, by nationally appropriate standards; (b) To expand and upgrade the railway infrastructure in landlocked developing countries, where applicable; (c) To complete missing links in the regional road and railway transit transport networks. 

In sum, the importance of connectivity in Eurasia is due to the significant limitations of the region’s landlocked economies in gaining access to international markets due to high transportation costs. In this regard OBOR serves to assist such economies in surmounting transportation and logistical bottlenecks and improves their export capacity, all of which creates the conditions for attaining the UN development goals for the region’s economies. In other words, the OBOR project through providing connectivity to the countries that most need it goes a long way to rendering economic integration more equal and inclusive. 

In a similar vein, the Eurasian Economic Union performs a crucial role of improving the access of its members – 4 out of 5 of which are landlocked – to international markets. It serves to address the issues of connectivity for landlocked economies via reducing customs duties and non-tariff barriers, while also advancing connectivity in transportation via the formation of a Unified transportation space, which is to create 100,000 new jobs, raise labour mobility by 30%, increase the speed of freight transportation by 10-15%, with the respective rise in speed for international corridors reaching 25%. 

The important point is that in dealing with the challenges faced by landlocked economies in Eurasia, the OBOR and the Eurasian Economic Union projects complement and reinforce each other – a stronger Eurasian Union becomes more competitive as the main connecting line between Europe and Asia, while on the other hand the advancement of the OBOR project reinforces the connectivity and integration amongst the member countries of the Eurasian Economic Union. In the end, it is through regional economic integration that developing landlocked countries in Eurasia can transform geography from what is perceived as a handicap into strength as greater integration allows Eurasian countries to be more competitive in intermediating the flow of investment and trade between the East and the West in such integration projects as the One belt-One road project or the Eurasian Economic Union. 

[1]http://unctad.org/en/Pages/ALDC/Landlocked%20Developing%20Countries/UN-recognition-of-the-problems-o...

[2] http://unohrlls.org/almaty-declaration-and-programme-of-action/

[3]http://www.lldc2conference.org/custom-content/uploads/2014/11/Vienna-Programme-of-Action1.pdf

China Expands 'Silk Road,' But Faces Questions About Trade Policies

http://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/china-expands-worldwide-faces-questions-about-trade-policies/3871284.html

May 28, 2017

China Expands Globally Amid Concerns Over its Mercantilist Policies

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China Expands 'Silk Road,' But Faces Questions About its Trade Policies

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China recently launched a diplomatic and economic development campaign called ‘One Belt, One Road.’

The name comes from the ‘Silk Road’ - the ancient system of roads that linked China with Central Asia and other areas. Traders used those paths centuries ago to transport Chinese silk, spices and other goods to the west. In exchange, China received gold, ivory, glass and other products from as far away as Europe.

Chinese President Xi Jinping says the One Belt, One Road program is aimed at strengthening international cooperation. But former American officials and some business leaders have expressed concern. They say China is not as interested in opening up to foreigners as it claims.

China's plan is to build ports, railroad links, roads and other infrastructure across Asia, Africa and Europe. The Reuters news agency reports the project is depending heavily on two lenders, the China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China. It says they have already provided $200 billion in loans to countries throughout Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

At a recent conference in Beijing, President Xi described the effort as a win-win situation for the countries and companies involved in the project.

But some Americans are questioning China's true goals. Charlene Barshevsky served as U.S. Trade Representative when Bill Clinton was president.

“China has stopped the process of economic reform and opening, and instead has put in place a spate of measures that are zero-sum, highly mercantilist, and discriminate against U.S. and foreign companies.”

Because of the business climate in China, the country is no longer considered a top investment choice for a growing number of foreign companies. This was the finding of a study done by The American Chamber of Commerce in China.

William Zarit is head of the trade group.

“…some companies are looking back to North America where especially energy costs are much lower, and perhaps labor is not that great a factor in their manufacturing product, and rule of law and transparency are the name of the game.”

Observers note that China no longer depends on foreign technology and investments as it once did. For that reason, they say, Chinese officials are less concerned about companies leaving the country. But some critics say China still may pay a price for shrinking investment because of the government’s policies.

Ted Moran studies economic issues for the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

“China is already such a huge presence on the world economic stage, so I’m not predicting any kind of disaster, I just think that there will be much slower growth and much less robust growth over the next decade.”

While China’s president spoke about inclusiveness at the recent conference, some American companies remain concerned that it may be more talk than substance.

I’m Caty Weaver.

Natalie Liu wrote this story for VOANews.com. George Grow adapted her report for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor