Thursday, June 8, 2017

One Belt, One Road has no basis in China’s history

China is seeking to legitimize One Belt, One Road by invoking the Silk Road, but the initiative more closely resembles European imperial engagement with Asia in the 19th century


Deepak Nayyar

One Belt, One Road is a stepping stone for China’s aspirations of global leadership by creating a rival to the transatlantic economic area with the US at its apex. Photo: Reuters

China celebrated its “One Belt, One Road” (Obor) initiative with a coming-out party in Beijing last month. The conference, with 68 participating countries, was attended by 28 heads of government, while the others were represented at ministerial or lower levels. European leaders were missing. The rich countries were largely absent. India stayed away in protest against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a component of Obor, which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, citing its sovereignty over the terrain.

Much of the writing on Obor has been project-specific or country-specific, but its whole is different from—indeed greater than—the sum of its parts. There is little analysis or evaluation from a wider perspective. It is time to discuss this elephant in the room.

President Xi Jinping announced the Obor initiative in 2013 to create a network of railways, roads, pipelines and grids that would link China to the world. The action plan was approved by the Chinese state council in 2015. The “Belt” seeks to create a land route from China to Europe. The “Road”, strangely enough, hopes to create a maritime route from China to the Mediterranean through the Indian Ocean.

It is, in effect, a portfolio of infrastructure projects—roads, railways, oil pipelines, power grids, information highways, ports, industrial corridors—to foster connectivity and support development. China plans to provide $150 billion per annum over the next decade. The Silk Road Fund, created in 2014, is just $40 billion. The financing is meant to come largely from the China Development Bank, the Export-Import Bank of China (its national development banks) and the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (multilateral institution established under China’s leadership) possibly supplemented by the New Development Bank (based in Shanghai established jointly by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). The stated rationale is to provide a framework for economic cooperation through trade, finance, policy coordination, collaboration and partnership between countries.

The Belt, which plans to connect east and west overland across the Eurasian landmass, envisions three routes: from China to Europe via Central Asia; from China to the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean via West Asia; and from China to South East Asia and South Asia. The Road, which plans to connect China with Asia, Africa and Europe through maritime routes by sea, also envisages three components: from China to South East Asia, on to South Asia, and through East Africa to the Mediterranean. This grand design, described by Xi as the “project of the century”, claims to be the modern equivalent of the historical networks of routes, now described as the “Silk Roads”. They were supposedly established by China in the Han period, around the turn of the Christian era 2,000 years ago, and named after its main export—silk—that shaped developments in the region for centuries. The real history was very different.

The movement of people across geographies is as old as humankind. For centuries, communication routes and trade paths, both land and sea, criss-crossed Eurasia, linking east and west. Such routes traded not just in silk but in a wide range of goods. The traders were Arabs, Armenians, Chinese, Georgians, Greeks, Indian, Persians, Romans, Sogdians and Syrians. Moreover, the vast networks were about far more than merchandise trade, as knowledge, ideas, cultures, beliefs, languages and religions traversed the same paths to influence each other in ways that sometimes changed history. These ancient routes had no names. In fact, it was only in the late 19th century that a German geologist, Ferdinand von Richthofen, named the network of routes Die Seidenstrasse (The Silk Roads). The term is an entirely colonial construct.

There were three historical routes connecting Asia and Europe: the southern land route via Central Asia; a route to its north along the southern edge of Mongolia used much less; and a maritime route across the Indian Ocean.

There was no single overland route that ran directly from China to the Mediterranean. It was made up of segments, each of which was a loop in a chain, which was also not a single named entity. To begin with, Han rulers exchanged gifts—silk and horses—with the nomads of central Asia. Large-scale commercial exchange came later. The Central Asians, as traders, took the silk west to the Oxus valley from where it went to India and Iran. It went from Iran to the eastern Mediterranean, through local traders, from where it went to Rome through their traders. Much else was traded besides silk from China. Silk, and other goods, moved from east to west, while Buddhism travelled from India through Central Asia to China and East Asia, with site after site of Buddhist shrines along the route. The routes were not subject to any centralized political control. Trade and commerce recognized that none had a monopoly on trade which flowed through many channels. It was only the Mongol empire in Central Asia during the 12th century that tried to weld these segments into a single route but this did not last long as the Ottoman Turkish empire closed down the route in the 15th century.

Asia and Europe were also connected by sea but the Chinese had no dominant role at any time on this route. There were three segments in this maritime route: the Red Sea to the coasts of India; the Bay of Bengal to South East Asia; and South East Asia to South China. It all began with trade in spices, and the demand for spices took Indians to South East Asia. Religions—Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam—also moved on these routes. It was Arabs and Indians who dominated the maritime trade in the first two segments, while the Chinese dominated the third segment.

Given this past, it is not clear why China seeks to legitimize Obor by invoking history. This is a new departure that resembles the European imperial engagement with Asia in the 19th century.

Obor is an entirely Chinese initiative. Its explicit, stated, objectives are creating an infrastructure and providing connectivity to foster economic cooperation as partners in development. Its implicit, unstated objectives, both economic and political, also deserve attention.

The Chinese economy is confronted with two sets of problems. The country saves more than it can invest, so that it runs large current account surpluses in its balance of payments leading to an accumulation of foreign exchange reserves, which are invested mostly in low-interest US government securities. The economic slowdown and persistent recession in the US and EU mean that China needs to shift from export-led growth to domestic consumption-led growth. This is easier said than done with an unequal income distribution. Any redistribution, even if feasible, will take time. Obor provides a potential solution to both problems. It could earn higher returns on surplus savings or capital exports, just as it could provide a new source of external demand. At the same time, it could use the excess capacities in railways, steel, metals and cement, to provide work for their construction companies, while using their experience of infrastructure projects.

China’s political interests are clearer. Obor is a means of extending political spheres of influence, mostly in Africa at present, to South East Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia. It is about buying regional leadership in the quest for hegemony. Above all, it is a stepping stone for China’s aspirations of global leadership by creating a rival to the transatlantic economic area with the US at its apex. This task might become easier in a vacant space if US President Donald Trump opens a void by progressively withdrawing the US from its global leadership role.

From the perspective of developing countries, which are Obor participants, there are both positives and negatives. The positives are it could help bridge their massive infrastructure deficits, exacerbated by scarce capital, by providing external finance without explicit conditions, together with technology, goods, services and workers to build and complete projects. The negatives are that the projects which are built might not be what host countries need, the costs might be much higher because the financing will be tied to procurement in China, and the linkages with the domestic economy might be sparse. On balance, the outcome would depend upon the distribution of gains, which could be skewed given the limited bargaining power of host countries vis-à-vis a strong and powerful China. Ultimately, trade must flow both ways for mutual benefits to accrue. But China’s past record of running large trade surpluses, and exporting manufactured goods in exchange for primary commodities, especially in Africa, is not promising.

From China’s perspective, the positives are clear and tangible. Obor creates avenues for using its surplus savings, exporting its domestic overproduction, utilizing its excess capacities, and sustaining rapid economic growth by creating new sources of external demand. In doing so, it would extend political spheres of influences while exporting its economic imbalances. But this quest might not be without problems. China is already finding it hard to identify profitable projects. There could be negatives too. Gestation lags on infrastructural investments are very long. Rates of return on such investments are rather low. Any problems on account of debt servicing by host countries could stress China’s already strained financial system. There could be a political backlash as well. Elected governments in Sri Lanka and Myanmar already want to repudiate or renegotiate projects approved by their predecessors.

Obor should make the world sit up and recognize the global aspirations of China, which was denied a seat at the high table and is now setting up its own kitchen. Pax Britannica began life in the mid-19th century. Pax Americana succeeded it in the mid-20th century. Is China working towards Pax Sinica in the mid-21st century to coincide with the centenary of the Communist Revolution in 2049?

Deepak Nayyar is emeritus professor of economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He served as chief economic adviser, government of India, from 1989-91, and as vice-chancellor, University of Delhi, from 2000

Pakistan: Other banned outfits on Facebook

The list below contains all banned outfits on Facebook aside from the big three - ASWJ, JSMM, SSP - that are available in the main story in the first tab above

Arranged in order of size of online presence

Baloch Student Organisation Azad (BSO-A)

Pages and groups: 54Pages with 500+ members: 7Groups with 100+ members: 3Users who ‘like’ org: 43

Founded by Allah Nazar Baloch in 2002, the organisation is known to indoctrinate the youth of Balochistan in a struggle for an independent Balochistan.

Proscribed on March 15, 2013 on the basis of spreading anti-state sentiment through strikes and processions, they remain active online and in student communities in Balochistan.

Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan (SMP)

Pages and groups: 45Pages with 500+ members: 2Groups with 100+ members: 6Users who ‘like’ org: 27

Although reports vary, it is believed that Maulana Mureed Abbas Yazdani founded SMP in 1993. Formed as a Shia outfit to counter the militancy of Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, their primary objective is to retaliate against aggressions from SSP and LeJ.

Proscribed on August 14, 2001 along with LeJ for suspected involvement in terrorist activities, the SMP is alleged to have carried out attacks against the leadership of banned Sunni extremist factions. Their operations were reported to have ceased after a rift amidst the leadership.

Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM)

Pages and groups: 34Groups with 100+ members: 2

Accused of fighting American troops alongside Osama Bin Laden, Masood Azhar formed JeM in 2000 after being released from an Indian prison in return for hostages of an Indian Airline plane. Notorious for attacks in India-held Kashmir (IHK), the militant outfit’s stated objective is to unite IHK with Pakistan. However, it also has close links with LeJ, and its members have carried out attacks against the minority communities.

Breaking into two factions, the militant organisation is still believed to be active in the region, despite being banned on January 14, 2002 for sending non-Kashmiris into IHK causing unrest in Kashmir and hampering diplomacy between Pakistan and India. They are known for an attack on the Indian parliament in 2001Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and two assassination attempts on former president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf.


Pages and groups: 16Pages with 500+ members: 3Groups with 100+ members: 1Users who ‘like’ org: 34

As a result of the failure of Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistani politics circa 1993, Naeem Siddiqui founded Tehreek-e-Islami in 1994 with a view to impose Shariah law and turn Pakistan into an Islamic state.

Even though the outfit was banned in January of 2002, along with several other militant organisations for anti-state sentiments, it continues to operate today.

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT)

Pages and groups: 9Groups using name: 7Users who ‘like’ org: 28

Since its formation in 1990 by the controversial Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, LeT has been credited with carrying out several attacks on Indian soil. At the time of their conception they aided Afghanistan in their fightagainst the Soviets.

Infamous for the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, LeT’s interests lie in liberating Occupied Kashmir from India and enforcing strict Salafi and Ahle-Hadith interpretations of Islam across the Indian subcontinent. Despite international attention and having been banned by the Pakistani state on January 14, 2002 for spreading terror locally and internationally, there is evidence that the outfit remains operational.

Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF)

Pages and groups: 8Pages with 500+ members: 3Groups with 100+ members: 1Users who ‘like’ org: 39

Founded in 1964 in Syria, the BLF is one of the oldest, active militant factions stemming out of Balochistan. Taking up arms against the Shah of Iran during the Iranian Revolution, they quickly turned their focus towards inciting an insurgency against the Pakistani state, demanding independence for Balochistan.

Along with other Baloch nationalist groups, they were banned in September 2010 for targeting state machinery. The proscription did little to deter their interests, highlighted by their largest known attack against the army affiliated Frontier Works Organisation, killing 20 labourers, on April 11, 2015, working on a government funded dam.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ)

Pages and groups: 8Groups with 100+ members: 1Users who ‘like’ org: 46

Founded in 1996, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was formed as a radical offshoot of Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, primarily aimed at targeting Shias. With the dreaded militant, Riaz Basra, as its founding leader, LeJ was named after SSP’s founding leader, Haq Nawaz Jhangvi. It’s also the first militant group to have publicly accepted responsibility for the killing members of Shia community, other religious minorities, and Iranian diplomats. Following Basra’s death in an encounter, LeJ split into more than one faction, but all factions continue to attack Shia communities, and remain active across the country. Of late it has become quite active in Balochistan.

LeJ was also notoriously implicated in the abduction and murder of Daniel Pearl. The founding member of LeJ, Malik Ishaq, was also involved in attack on the Sri Lankan cricket teamin Lahore.

Hizbut Tahrir

Pages and groups: 7Pages with 500+ members: 3Groups with 100+ members: 1Users who ‘like’ org: 59

Operating across the globe, the religio-political organisation is particularly active in Western countries. Founded in 1953, in Jerusalem, their stated objective is to unify the Muslim world as an Islamic state, and enforcing Shariah law.

Launching a Pakistani presence in late 2000, their activities increased after 9/11 with the opening of a publishing house. Their literature largely focuses on instigating internal rebellion within the armed forces.

Supported by extremist factions such as SSP, their aim to recreate the caliphate in Central Asia was dealt a setback when former President Pervez Musharraf banned the organisation on November 20, 2003.

Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA)

Pages and groups: 7Users who ‘like’ org: 75

With the aim to start an armed insurgency for the separation of Balochistan, the BLA was formed in 2000 and remains active till this day. Some analysts believe that the faction is a resurgence of the Independent Balochistan Movement of 1973 to 1977.

They have carried out sporadic attacks against non-natives and authorities in Balochistan, including one on a a paramilitary camp in Kohlu while then president Pervez Musharraf was visiting in December of 2005. Four months later, in April 2006, the government banned the BLA for attacks on state machinery and spreading anti-state sentiments in Balochistan.


Pages and groups: 7

Banned on December 30, 2016, the little-known militant outfit was proscribed by the Pakistani government for recruiting and smuggling militants to ISIS held territories to take part in the civil war in Iraq and Syria.

Lashkar-i-lslami (LeI)

Pages and groups: 6

Founded in 2004, the militant organisation is predominantly active in the Khyber Agency of Pakistan, despite being banned on June 30, 2008 for creating unrest in the northern regions.

On March 17, 2016 the faction took responsibility for an attack on a bus full of government employees en route to the Peshawar secretariat. They are notorious for fighting rival terrorist groups in the area.

Peoples' Aman Committee (Lyari)

Pages and groups: 6Pages with 500+ members: 2Groups with 100+ members: 1Users who ‘like’ org: 49

Banned on October 10, 2011 the Peoples' Aman Committee (PAC) is a militant outfit hailing from Lyari, Karachi. Founded in 2008 by the infamous Lyari gangster Rehman Dakait, PAC allegedly had ties to the Pakistan People’s Party. Mostly known for drug trafficking and extortion, the organisation was disbanded in March of 2011, seven months before their official proscription.

Even though defunct, it is believed their on-ground operation still functions in certain areas.

United Baloch Army (UBA)

Pages and groups: 6Users who ‘like’ org: 13

Like other separatist groups, Mehran Marri founded the UBA in 2000 under the objective to liberate Balochistan from Pakistan, after a rift in the leadership of the BLA. Operating as a splinter group from the BLA, their tactics and attacks have often been criticised by other separatist groups for needlessly targeting innocent civilians.

The outfit was proscribed on March 15, 2013 for sporadic attacks on civilians and security forces. They claimed responsibility for an attack on two buses in the Mastung district, killing 22 unarmed Pakhtuns on May 29, 2015.

Lashkar-e-Balochistan (LeB)

Pages and groups: 5Pages with 500+ members: 1Users who ‘like’ org: 25

Founded in 2009 by Javed Mengal, brother of former Chief Minister of Balochistan Akhtar Mengal, the group didn’t come to the forefront till 2012 after claiming responsibility for attacks in KarachiLahore and Quetta.

Even though the attacks took place two years after their proscription in September 2010, they have remained relatively inactive in their fight for an independent Baloch state.

313 Brigade

Pages and groups: 4

Considered Al Qaeda’s military arm in Pakistan, the organisation consists of fighters from various Jihadi groups such as LeT, LeJ and JeM, attempting to establish an Islamic state. Believed to have formed in 2008, the group has conducted high profile attacks and assassination attempts that predate their establishment.

They claimed an unsuccessful assassination attempt on former president Pervez Musharraf in 2003 and associated with an attack on the Karachi naval basein 2011. On March 15, 2013 the outfit was banned for carrying out terrorist activities in Pakistan. They are believed to still operate in Pakistan and conflict zones such as Syria.

Balochistan Republican Army (BRA)

Pages and groups: 3Pages with 500+ members: 1Users who ‘like’ org: 44

Proscribed on September 8, 2010 for aiding Baloch separatists, the outfit’s main objective is to achieve independence for the province of Balochistan from Pakistan.

Comprising of members from the Bugti tribe and young student activists, the group was founded in 2006, a result of growing resentment towards the Pakistani government’s increasing control over Baloch resources.

The faction remains active till this day, presumably under the leadership of Brahamdagh Bugti, grandson of Akbar Bugti. They are known for attacks on foreign workers and security personnel in the province, the largest of which was in April of 2011 on the military-run Frontier Works Organisation camp, killing 11 and wounding two.

Millat-e-Islamia Pakistan (Ex SSP)

Pages and groups: 3Groups using name: 2

SSP changed their name to Millat-e-Islamia Pakistan after the outfit was banned in 2002. The renamed outfit itself got banned a year later on November 15, 2003 for continuing the operations of SSP.

Muslim Students Organization (MSO) Gilgit

Pages and groups: 3

Proscribed on April 24, 2012 for creating conflict in Baltistan, the MSO is allegedly still active in Gilgit, Baltistan, owing to evidence of a criminal case registered against four of its members.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Swat (TTS)

Pages and groups: 3

A militant division of TTP operating primarily in the Swat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, TTS was banned on March 15, 2013 for aiding TTP in their objectives by spreading terror.

Tehrik-e-Jafria Pakistan (TJP)

Pages and groups: 2Groups with 100+ members: 1Users who ‘like’ org: 25

Originally known as Tehreek Nifaz Fiqah-e-Jafria (TNFJ), the organisation was forced to change its name to TJPfollowing a split in the organization. Reports vary as to when they were founded, but it is believed that the faction was a byproduct of the Iranian revolution, to safeguard the social, religious and political rights of Shias in Pakistan.

While it is unclear as to whether TJP has orchestrated, or were complicit in any terrorist activities, they were banned in January of 2002, along with other militant outfits.

Ansar-ul-lslam (AI)

Pages and groups: 2Users who ‘like’ org: 48

Founded in 2004 by Afghan Sufi Pir Saif-ur-Rehman, under a Sunni Barelwi ideology, the militant organisation based in North-West of Pakistan currently operates in the Khyber tribal region. Their primary goal is to counter the anti- Sufi, Deobandi version of Islam being spread by Lashkar-i-Islam.

Banned by Pakistan in June of 2008, the outfit focuses its efforts on fighting other extremist factions, most recently embroiled in battles with TTP across the North of Pakistan.

Al Haramain Foundation

Pages and groups: 2

Under the guise of a charity, the foundation is known to have provided financial and material assistance to Al-Qaeda and other notorious terrorist groups. Founded in Karachi circa 1988, with headquarters reportedly shifting to Riyadh, the foundation was disbanded on January 26, 2004 by the United Nations Security Council and eight years later by Pakistan, on March 6, 2012 for aiding and abetting terrorist groups.

From North America to Africa and the Middle East, the organisation established community service centers in an attempt to accomplish their objective of spreading a strict Wahabi version of Islam. During this time they funded groups such as the Chechen Mujahideen, under the pretense of humanitarian aid, for terrorist activities.


Pages and groups: 2

In 1993, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen reunited with Harakat-ul-Jihad Islami, after an initial split in 1991, under the name of Jamiat-ul-Ansar to turn their attention towards Kashmir. Their stated goal is to unite IHK with Pakistan, but also works closely with a number of sectarian outfits.

Having advocated for the use of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons against India and hampering diplomatic efforts, the outfit was banned on November 20, 2003. Listed as one of the militant groups involved in the abduction and murder of Daniel Pearl, they remain active despite proscription.

Tanzeem Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat, Gilgit

Pages and groups: 2

The faction was banned in June of 2012, two months after the supporters of the faction clashed with members of the Imamia Students Organisation.

Tanzeem Naujawana-i-Ahle Sunnat (TNA), Gilgit

Pages and groups: 2

Proscribed on October 10, 2011, TNA is among several banned groups from Gilgit.

Shia Tulaba Action Committee, Gilgit

Pages and groups: 1Groups with 100+ members: 1

The Gilgit-based Shia organisation was banned on October 10, 2011.

Al Qaeda

Pages and groups: 1

Founded by Osama Bin Laden in August of 1988, Al Qaeda has wreaked havoc across the globe through violent and infamous attacks. They perpetrated the attacks on September 11, 2001on the World Trade Centre in New York. In Pakistan, they were also held responsible for the attack on the Marriot hotel in Islamabad on September 20, 2008.

Aiming to destroy Israel and rid the Muslim world of Western influence, the terrorist organisation hopes to create an Islamic caliphate that adheres to strict Wahabi interpretations of Shariah law. Despite banning the extremist outfit on March 17, 2003 for terror activities, Al Qaeda continues to operate locally as Al-Qaeda in the Subcontinent or AQIS, and internationally.

Balochistan United Army

Pages and groups: 1

The organisation was banned on August 4, 2012.

Amar bil Maroof Wa Nahi Anil Munkir (Haji Namdaar Group)

Pages and groups: 1

An alternate name for Haji Namdaar group, and founded by Haji Namdaar himself, they are known to facilitate attacks in Peshawar by providing shelter to local and foreign militants. The outfit was banned in March of 2013 for enabling and assisting terrorist activities.

Balochistan Liberation United Front (BLUF)

Users who ‘like’ org: 91

The BLUF largely came to the forefront after kidnapping John Solecki, a UNHCR worker, from Quetta in February of 2009. Even though they released him two months later without their demands of the release of Baloch nationalist prisoners, they claimed responsibility for the target killing of the Balochistan education minister.

They were subsequently proscribed on September 8, 2010. Conducting several attacks since proscription, they reportedly remain active till this day, fighting for independence from the Pakistani state.

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)

Users who ‘like’ org: 64

Formed on December 13, 2007, the TTP is the largest and most violent terrorist group in Pakistan. They remain active despite being banned on August 25, 2008 for their involvement in several terrorist attacks.

With the aim to impose Shariah law, fight NATO in Afghanistan and regularly targeting the Pakistani Army and state, they have perpetrated attacks on a mass scale. The most brutal of these attacks was on the Army Public School, when seven armed men killed 144 people, 132 of whom were children.

Despite army operations targeting the TTP and its other terrorist factions, they remain active till this day.

Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)

Users who ‘like’ org: 43

IMU was formed in 1998 to overthrow the president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, and to create an Islamic state under Shariah law. Having established bases in Northern Afghanistan and Tajikistan to carry out attacks, after the American operations in Afghanistan many fighters fled to the Northern areas of Pakistan.

Subsequently, the IMU started targeting Pakistani forces in collaboration with the TTP, the most infamous being the attack on a prison in Bannu in April 2012 that resulted in the freeing of 400 prisoners. IMU was banned in March of 2013 after an attack on the Peshawar airport. Despite the ban, the outfit managed to carry out an assault on Karachi’s Jinnah airport.

Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammad (TNSM)

Users who ‘like’ org: 43

TNSM was formed in 1992 with the intention of enforcing Shariah law and hoping to transform Pakistan into a Wahabi-based Islamic state. They remain active despite being banned on January 14, 2002 for spreading terror in Pakistan and aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan with their fight against American forces.

In February of 2009, TNSM militants seized control of much of Swat, prompting the government and army to respond with an operation using airstrikes and 30,000 troops in May, leading to a truce two months later.

Islamic Jihad Union (IJU)

Users who ‘like’ org: 40

Based in FATA, fighters from IMU splintered away from the group and formed the IJU to continue their efforts in establishing an Islamic state in Uzbekistan. Largely using Pakistan as a base for foreign attacks, the militant outfit aids local terrorist organisations, such as the TTP, in battling Pakistani security forces.

Despite the faction being proscribed on March 15, 2013 for assisting local terror outfits, they are alleged to have a presence in Northern Pakistan, attempting to recruit and train new fighters.


Users who ‘like’ org: 38

Banned on July 15, 2015, the global terrorist organisation continues to operate in Pakistan as evidenced by ongoing attacks. One of the deadliest attacks claimed in Pakistan was on a Sufi shrine in Sehwan, killing over 80 civilians.

Gaining prominence as a rebranded “ISIS/ISIL/Daish/IS” in April of 2013, the militant outfit was banned shortly after aiming to establish a ‘Khorasan Province’, a historical region including Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Jamat Ul Ahrar (JuA)

Users who ‘like’ org: 33

Voicing support for ISIS, JuA was banned on November 11, 2016 after a spate of attacks dating from 2014 to 2016, with one of the largest being an attack on a Christian community celebrating Easter in March of 2016, killing over 70.

Splintering from the TTP in August of 2014, JuA remains active despite proscription, evidenced by the outfit claiming responsibility for an attack in Parachinar on March 31, 2017, killing 24 and injuring 68.

Islami Tehreek Pakistan (Ex TJP)

Users who ‘like’ org: 27

Banned on November 15, 2003, the organisation previously went by the name of Tehreek-e-Jafria Pakistan, which was banned a year earlier.

Khuddam-ul-lslam (Ex JeM)

Users who ‘like’ org: 23

In November 2003 the Musharraf government banned the outfit, originally known as Jaish-e-Muhammad, which was proscribed in 2002.

To learn more about how this investigation was carried out, click the tab below

Banned outfits in Pakistan operate openly on Facebook


Banned outfits in Pakistan operate openly on Facebook

Activity of 41 sectarian, terrorist, anti-state organisations is accessible to every user on the social network.

JAHANZAIB HAQUE | OMER BASHIRUpdated Jun 05, 2017 02:27pm




They exist in plain sight, just one search and one click away from any of Pakistan’s 25 million Facebook users.

An investigation carried out by Dawn across the month of April 2017 has revealed that 41 of Pakistan’s 64 banned outfits are present on Facebook in the form of hundreds of pages, groups and individual user profiles.

Their network, both interconnected and public, is a mix of Sunni and Shia sectarian or terror outfits, global terror organisations operating in Pakistan, and separatists in Balochistan and Sindh.

For the purpose of this investigation, the names of all banned outfits – including acronyms and small variations in spelling – were searched on Facebook to find pages, groups, and user profiles that publicly ‘liked’ a banned outfit.

The biggest outfits on the social network, in order of size, are Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) with 200 pages and groups, Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM) with 160, Sipah-i-Sahaba (SSP) with 148, Baloch Student Organisation Azad (BSO-A) with 54 and Sipah-e-Muhammad with 45.

Other banned outfits which exist on Facebook at a smaller scale include Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Tehreek-e-Taliban Swat, Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, Jamat-ul-Ahrar, 313 Brigade, multiple Shia outfits and a host of Baloch separatist organisations.

A closer look at activity

An examination of some user profiles linked to these banned outfits indicates open support of sectarian and extremist ideology. A few of these profiles have also publicly ‘liked’ pages and groups related to weapons use and training.

While some of the Facebook pages and groups claim to be ‘official’ representatives of the outfits, others appear to be managed by members and supporters in ideological agreement.

The content shared on their forums is varied. Although there are occasional posts in the form of text or status updates, the more common updates feature photos, videos and memes shared to explain and elaborate on the outfit’s ideology; provide updates on recent or ongoing events and on-ground activity; and encourage private contact and recruitment of motivated Facebook users.

In general, the Facebook updates are in Urdu or Roman Urdu rather than English, suggesting the content is primarily for local consumption. A very small number are in Sindhi or Balochi, also indicating a niche target audience.

Open spread of ideology

Invariably, most of the Facebook pages and groups glorify existing leaders or those killed in the past while some banned outfits also campaign for the release of their activists or leaders.

In their Facebook updates, all banned outfits place blame on the state, or, in the case of outfits focused on Kashmir, on India. In rare cases, pages and groups linked to these banned outfits share graphic content depicting acts of violence — including photos and videos of bodies.

The more organised outfits appear to have ‘official’ media cells sharing press releases and religious sermons or political speeches as both audio and video. Such pages and groups also share links from websites, blogs or Twitter accounts that appear to be run by members of these outfits. The content in general includes anti-state propaganda or hate speech directed at religious minorities and other members of society.

Local footprint

Of the pages, groups and users investigated for the purpose of this story, a majority appeared to be based in larger urban centers such as Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta. Those users that had publicly listed the educational institutions they had attended are mostly based in large, government-run universities, particularly in Sindh and Balochistan.

Many banned outfits have pages and groups with their names followed by district names, inviting users to join based on locality e.g. in the case of Baloch separatists, divisions include Gwadar, Kharan, Mastung, Panjgur etc.

Others, such as sectarian outfits, are organised down to localities e.g. North Nazimabad in Karachi, or even by-election constituency e.g. NA-68. Furthermore, others are organised using terms such as ‘student wing’ or ‘youth wing’.

Tip of the iceberg

At all times, members and supporters of these banned outfits operating on Facebook have the option to shift communication from public to private.

Any user linked to, or interested in a proscribed organisation can befriend and chat with like-minded users, message those operating the pages and groups or click the provided links to websites and blogs. To establish contact off Facebook, all they would need to do is use the publicly listed email addresses or local phone numbers provided by some outfits.

The findings of this investigation are just the tip of the iceberg however, as a far larger number of pages and groups could exist without publicly using the name of the banned organisation in order to operate in secret. Unlike the profiles examined, most Facebook users would also not leave their list of pages and groups public – unless they feel they can use the social network with impunity.

Facebook’s militancy problem

Delete, block or hand over information to authorities — these are Facebook’s primary responses in the event that the social network is used for terror or criminal activity.

Although the company has acknowledged working with Pakistan in multiple cases, due to a lack of real transparency the nature of the cases is unknown, as is the process by which the requests and exchange of information is made. It is entirely possible that these requests are related to politics, blasphemy, sexual harassment etc. rather than on investigating banned outfits.

Details of Pakistan’s requests to Facebook provided in its ‘Government Requests Reports’ from 2013 to 2016 show a sharp upward trend from 2015 onwards, reaching a high of 1,002 requests in July-December, 2016. The percentage to which Facebook complied with the requests to some extent has been between 64% to 68% since 2015.

As stated in its policies, Facebook “may access, preserve and share your information in response to a legal request (like a search warrant, court order or subpoena) if we have a good faith belief that the law requires us to do so.”

It also does not allow any organisations engaged in terrorist activity, or organised criminal activity to have a presence on Facebook.

More controversially, the company also removes user accounts and content “that expresses support for groups that are involved in the violent or criminal behavior mentioned above. Supporting or praising leaders of those same organisations, or condoning their violent activities, is not allowed.”

This specific policy led to many user accounts being blocked or deleted in 2016 for criticising India following the killing of Kashmir’s young ‘freedom fighter’ Burhan Wani and the resulting violent protests and crackdown by India’s security forces.

The Kashmir conflict is just one example of the quagmire Facebook faces as it tries to govern 1.9 billion users. Preventing the social network from being misused by militants and terrorists spread across all the continents, and also distinguishing those outfits from legitimate freedom movements is a task that Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg has admitted to being beyond the company’s capacity.

In a note shared on Facebook, Zuckerberg said, “In the last year, the complexity of the issues we've seen has outstripped our existing processes for governing the community...We've seen this in misclassifying hate speech in political debates in both directions — taking down accounts and content that should be left up and leaving up content that was hateful and should be taken down. Both the number of issues and their cultural importance has increased recently.”

Profiles: The big 3 on Facebook

Formerly known as the SSP, the ASWJ was banned 10 years after its predecessor, on February 15, 2012. They are known to spread anti-Shia sentiment across Pakistan, and often attack minority groups.

Despite the ban, the organisation remains active in spreading hatred and violence. They engage in local politics by holding rallies and gatherings, amassing a following in an attempt to legitimise the group.

Founded in 2000 by Shafi Burfat, the JSMM is a separatist group fighting for the seperation of Sindh from Pakistan. Proscribed on March 15, 2013 for alleged ties to Indian intelligence’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the JSMM is thought to have been involved in sabotage through the offshoot militant faction Sindhudesh Liberation Army.

Due to lack of incidents and reported activity after being proscribed, the organisation is believed to have refocused their efforts on recruiting students for protests.

Founded in September of 1985, SSP is acknowledged as one of the largest and oldest anti-Shia militant factions. They have targeted Shia mosques and leaders in the past.

Having changed their name twice after they were banned for terrorist activities in January of 2002, the faction is presently known and operates as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat.

Additional research by Amar Ayaz | Illustrations by Reem Khurshid

CPEC: There is no drinking water in #Gwader

There is no drinking water in #Gwader Pakistan Occupied Balochistan

Kurds going​ for independence referendum on, September 25, 2017

President Barzani Meets with Kurdistan Region's Political Parties to Set the Date for the Referendum |  |07/06/2017Salahadin, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, ( President Masoud Barzani held a meeting today with the representatives of the political parties across the Kurdistan Region. During the meeting, President Barzani and the attendees discussed several salient issues including the upcoming parliamentary elections, the current political and economic situations and the issue of the independence referendum. 

The President, along with the representatives of the political parties and slates decided that the date for the independence referendum shall be Monday, September 25, 2017. It will be on that day when the people of the Kurdistan Region, as well as those living in the disputed areas, will cast their votes on whether they accept independence for the Kurdistan.

The political parties also agreed to resolve some of the outstanding political and economic issues prior to the date of the referendum. They also agreed to establish a special council for the referendum which will be supervised by President Barzani and that council will be tasked to form a number of teams to supervise the details of the referendum.

Baloch Martyr

سرباز (ریپبلکن نیوز) مغربی بلوچستان میں فائرنگ کے واقع میں اہم گوریلا کمانڈر عابد زامرانی شہید تفصلات کے مطابق آج مغرب کے بعد مغربی بلوچستان کے شہر اشار سرباز میں عابد زامرانی پر اس وقت فائرنگ کیا گیا جب وہ اپنے بچے کے ہمراہ کسی دوست کے ہان افطاری کیلے جارہا تھا فائرنگ کے واقع میں پاکستانی قبضہ گیریت کے خلاف متحرک ایک مسلح تنظیم سے وابستہ عابد زامرانی موقع پر شہید ہوگئے۔ یاد رہے کہ مغربی بلوچستان میں گزشتہ سال بی آر پی کے رہنما شاہنواز زہری کو بھی آئی ایس آئی کے کارندوں نے فائرنگ کر کے شہید کردیا تھا جو وہاں پناہ گزین کی حثیت سے رہائش پزیر تھے۔

Will China fill the vacuum left by America?

Not as long as Chinese officials remain shy of the world stage

 Print edition | China

Jun 8th 2017

EVEN analysts who make a living predicting a great shift of wealth, power and global leadership from the United States to China never anticipated the speed with which Donald Trump appears to be marginalising his homeland. Last week Mr Trump announced he would pull America out of the Paris accord on climate change. At an annual China-EU summit under way at the time, the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, declared that China and Europe together would demonstrate “solidarity with future generations and responsibility for the whole planet”. Others have gone further: it will be to China that the world will now turn for leadership on the issues that matter.

China appears to have advanced on other fronts. The Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, an annual talkfest on security, exists in part to showcase America’s commitment to keeping the peace in Asia. Mr Trump’s defence secretary, James Mattis, did his best at this year’s event over the weekend to reassure Asian friends. Their chief concern is over the South China Sea, which China appears bent on turning into its own lake.

But though Mr Mattis’s promises to expand American engagement in Asia were welcome, they did not dispel the perception that America is taken up with North Korea’s nuclear threat (see Lexington), at the expense of the rest of the region. And America is run not by Mr Mattis but by an erratic man for whom “America First” may imply wrecking the world order that America itself built out of the ruins of the second world war. Amid doubts about America’s commitment to the region, South-East Asian officials proposed that their countries’ navies join China’s to patrol the South China Sea, in which China has greatly expanded its presence through the construction and military reinforcement of artificial islands. It smacked, to some, of rolling over in the face of Chinese power.

Elsewhere, Chinese leadership seems to move from strength to strength. As The Economist went to press, China’s own security grouping, the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO), which includes Russia and four Central Asian states, was preparing to welcome India and Pakistan as new members. Pakistan, an old ally of China’s, is a natural inclusion. But India is a rival, so its nod to Chinese might is notable. The SCO’s expansion reinforces China’s ambitions for its “belt and road” initiative of infrastructure spending that is intended to tie Asia to Europe, the Middle East and even Africa. Those who worry about Chinese power see the initiative as a gilded instrument of a new Chinese order.

This seeming tilt towards China owes little to its powers of attraction. It is more of a knee-jerk response to events in Washington: if that’s what you do, Mr Trump, say those who have prospered under an American-led order, it leaves us with no choice but to turn elsewhere. But admire China’s sense of timing. In January, even before Mr Trump’s inauguration, China’s president, Xi Jinping, speaking before the world’s elites in Davos, presented his country as a champion of globalism and open markets.

And yet: where China appears to be filling a leadership vacuum, there is often less than meets the eye. Climate change is one example. The world’s largest emitter has done much to cut back on its discharge of greenhouse gases, installing more renewable capacity than any other country. Yet its own transparency and accountability over pollution and emissions still falls far short of the openness a world leader on climate change would need to adopt. Meanwhile, common cause between Europe and China has severe limits. As James Kynge of the Financial Times says, China’s push to cut emissions is motivated by an environmental crisis at home, combined with hopes of conquering world markets for renewable energy. Europe wants to save the planet.

As for economic leadership, the EU-China relationship again reveals the limits. Mr Xi prises open markets, but many of China’s own remain closed—and where foreigners may operate, the fear is of technology being stolen. That has led to European frustrations. Anger is growing over China’s divide-and-rule tactics in separately wooing 16 poorer central and eastern European countries, using belt-and-road enticements.

With the addition of India and Pakistan, the share of the world’s population who are citizens of SCO members will balloon to nearly half: Chinese officials proudly point out that the group will embrace three-fifths of the Eurasian land mass. But managing the newcomers’ bickering could absorb China’s energies, reducing the forum to little more than a talking shop about terrorism and trade. As for the South China Sea, China has been strangely quiescent since an international tribunal a year ago lambasted its territorial claims in the sea. It has been at pains to get on with neighbours it has disputes with, especially the Philippines and Vietnam.

No such thing as a small matter

Since at least the days of Napoleon, the world has been gasping at the scale of China’s potential. China certainly knows how to play to that imagining. And the propaganda directed at its own people emphasises a return to historical importance every second of the day. Yet China is reluctant to push really hard on the outer boundaries of what it might hope to do. Just as it is browbeating neighbours over the South China Sea less than some had predicted, so, for all that it relishes being referred to as a leader in climate change, it is far from keen to take on a leader’s responsibilities. And at Shangri-La, China didn’t even send any senior leaders, merely what Washington wonks call “barbarian handlers”: lower-level functionaries whose job is merely to parrot their government’s line. Being a world leader involves being able to handle criticism on an international stage. China remains very unwilling to risk that. And the reason is simple: fear of how any slip-up might play at home. Waishi wu xiaoshi, goes the saying: there is no such thing as a small matter in external affairs

IS Attacks Show Iran's Vulnerability to Terror

June 07, 2017 5:15 PM

Mehdi Jedinia

Members of Iranian forces take cover during an attack on the Iranian parliament in central Tehran, Iran, June 7, 2017.


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Tehran has bragged for years that Islamic State could not deeply penetrate inside Iran, saying it kept a chokehold on any IS roots by arresting possible suspects and monitoring movements along its borders.

But Wednesday's attacks, claimed by IS, on Iran's parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that left at least 12 people dead, exposed Iran's vulnerability, analysts say. It shows, too, that IS will follow through on its threats to terrorize Iran, which it sees as a battlefield enemy and religious persecutor.

IS has long accused Shiite-led Iran of executing thousands of the Sunni minority in the country.

Iraq's Iran-backed Shiite paramilitary force has inflicted hundreds of casualties on IS and driven IS from land outside Mosul. In Syria, Iran has been a major military backer of the Syrian regime, first in its war with rebel groups across the country and later against IS.

FILE - A Shiite fighter clashes with members of the Free Syrian Army rebel group in the town of Hatita, in the countryside of Damascus, Syria.

Combat troops in Syria

About 10,000 Iranian combat troops are in Syria fighting alongside thousands of fighters from Hezbollah, Lebanon's Tehran-affiliated Shiite militia, and assorted Shiite militias made up of renegade Pakistanis, central Asians and other nationalities.

"With its direct involvement in fighting IS in Iraq and Syria, a retaliation from IS shouldn't be a surprise to authorities in Iran," said Alex Vatanka, a senior analyst at the Washington-based Middle East Institute.

Iran intelligence has boasted about layers of security applied by agents protecting the country from IS infiltrations. Several times in recent months, Iranian officials have spoken about breaking up IS-related terror cells and arresting IS-affiliated militants planning attacks inside Iran.

"We have built a complicated network of security nets from Karbala all the way to Tehran that allows us to trace every single move of Daesh [IS]," Hojatoleslam Toyserkani, representative of Iran's supreme leader to the Basij paramilitary forces, said last week.

Until Wednesday, the alleged security veneer seemed intact even though officials' claims of the public's protection from IS lacked many details, including when alleged incidents took place, the identity of most suspects, and concrete links to IS.

"Iranian authorities were good in preventing IS from conducting operations inside Iran, but this attack put a crack on the bubble of invincibility Tehran tried hard to project," analyst Vatanka said.

Wednesday's twin synchronized attacks on two of the most visible and secure sites in the capital were intended by IS to put Tehran on notice, analysts said.

Members of Iranian forces are seen during an attack on the Iranian parliament in central Tehran, Iran, June 7, 2017.

Video of attack

IS-affiliated Amaq social media released a video allegedly showing the attacker storming a parliament office, shooting at staff and shouting IS slogans in Arabic.

"IS wants to send a message that despite all security measures, they can conduct attacks and tarnish Iran's intelligence reputation," Karim Pourhamzavi, an extremism analyst at Macquarie University in Sydney, told VOA.

In March, IS issued a video threatening Iran and promising to conquer the country soon. The 36-minute Persian-language clip was narrated and hosted by several Persian speakers with heavy Baloch accents.

The speakers allege that more than 18,000 Iranian Sunnis have been executed since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. One of the speakers urges Sunnis to join the group "to defend their dignity and regain the pride taken away by Iranian Shia authorities."

But several opinion polls have shown little Sunni interest in joining IS.

Still, Wednesday's attack had people in Tehran wondering if IS has more support than Iran leaders let on. It marks the first time the Sunni Muslim group admitted it staged an attack in the majority Shiite Muslim country.

"The timing of the attack and good knowledge about the entrances of parliament are hints that may make us think that they had insiders or having access to some precise information before conducting the attack," said Mohammad Ghorbani, a Tehran-based reporter who covers terrorism issues.

FILE - Smoke raises behind an Islamic State flag in Iraq, Nov. 24, 2014.

Presence likely to grow

Still, in the long run, some analysts think it's doubtful IS will forge a deeper presence in Iran.

"IS have always conducted attacks inside countries using local agents and supporters," Emad Abshenasan, a Tehran-based extremism analyst, told VOA. "IS has no base in Iran, and even its minority Sunni population do not favor or support IS or its ideology."

But by getting more involved in conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Iraq, Tehran is exposing itself more to possible terror at home, analysts said.

"As Tehran deepens its engrossment in regional conflicts and into affairs of the Arab world, it makes itself more susceptible to these kinds of attacks partially, directly, or indirectly supported or directed by its contenders in the region," analyst Vatanka said


Thu, 8 Jun 2017-09:20pm , ANI

The Islamic State has reportedly killed two Chinese nationals held in Mastung district of Balochistan, Pakistan.

The SITE Intelligence Group said that the ISIS, through its Amaq news agency, has claimed that its fighters in Pakistan have killed two Chinese nationals held in Mastung.

The development comes days after Pakistani forces said that they have killed a number of key commanders of the Islamic State group in an operation carried out in the mountainous Mastung district after intelligence reports said the group was holding the Chinese nationals kidnapped on May 24 from Jinnah Town of the provincial capital Quetta.

Jinnah Town is one of the affluent residential areas where Chinese NGOs teach Mandarin.

The Chinese presence in Pakistan has increased in the past few years due to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor and the Pakistani government has deployed 15,000 military personnel to protect projects under the economic corridor.

Following the abduction, China had said it will spare no effort to rescue its kidnapped citizens while adding that it will also step up efforts to safeguard the security of Chinese citizens and agencies in Pakistan.

(This article has not been edited by DNA's editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed

Pakistan demands Baloch terror suspects in exchange for Mullah Baradar

By Hasan Khan

ISLAMABAD – The Pakistani government has demanded that Afghanistan hand over wanted Baloch terrorism (Baloch political Refuges in afganistan) suspects living in Afghanistan in return for Mullah Baradar and other Taliban leaders arrested in Pakistan. 

Highly reliable intelligence sources told Central Asia Online March 19 that Pakistan has asked Afghanistan to expel Brahamdagh Bugti, Durkhan Marri, Riaz Gul and Rahimo Bugti, all of whom are said to be in Afghanistan. 

They are all wanted in Pakistan on charges of committing acts of terror in Balochistan. 

Pakistan contends that the men have taken refuge in Afghanistan and are using the country as a base to launch terrorist attacks in Balochistan. 

Pakistan arrested Baradar — the Taliban’s No 2 man — in Karachi in February. It also captured other key Taliban members — including Mullah Amir Mohammad, Mullah Abdul Salaam, and reportedly Mullah Kabir. 

Soon after those arrests, the Afghan government demanded that Pakistan hand them over to Kabul for trial. 

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Interior Minister Hanif Atmar have since talked to top Pakistani political and military leaders about the extraditions. 

Pakistan initially expressed a willingness to extradite the detainees to Afghanistan; however, a Pakistani provincial court ordered the government to comply with legal and constitutional formalities before performing any extraditions. 

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, addressing a March 14 joint press conference with Karzai, said Islamabad would hand over the Taliban leaders to Kabul after fulfilling legal formalities.

Pictures of Baloch killed by Pakistani millitary

U.S. Warns of China's Cyber Strategies

file photo

By MarEx 2017-06-06 20:28:55

The U.S. Department of Defense has released its annual report, Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China, highlighting China's attempts to gain military advantage.

China is undergoing a military modernization program that is targeting capabilities with the potential to degrade core U.S. military-technological advantages, states the report. “To support this modernization, China uses a variety of methods to acquire foreign military and dual-use technologies, including cyber theft, targeted foreign direct investment and exploitation of the access of private Chinese nationals to such technologies. 

“Several cases emerged in 2016 of China using its intelligence services, and employing other illicit approaches that violate U.S. laws and export controls, to obtain national security and export-restricted technologies, controlled equipment and other materials.”

Last year, China identified cyberspace as a critical domain for national security and declared its intent to expedite the development of its cyber forces. The report states that its military may seek to use its cyber warfare capabilities to collect data for intelligence and cyber attack purposes and to constrain an adversary’s actions by targeting network-based logistics, communications and
commercial activities. 

Power Projection

China’s leaders remain focused on developing the capabilities to defeat adversaries and to counter third-party intervention, including by the United States, during a crisis or conflict. China’s officially-disclosed military budget grew at an average of 8.5 percent per year in inflation adjusted terms from 2007 through 2016, and Chinese leaders seem committed to increases in defense spending for the foreseeable future, even as China’s economic growth slows.

As China’s global footprint and international interests have grown, its military modernization program has become more focused on supporting missions beyond China’s periphery, including power projection, sea lane security, counter-piracy, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. 

In February 2016, China began construction of a military base in Djibouti that could be complete within the next year. China likely will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has longstanding, friendly relationships.

Leveraging Power

The Chinese Navy is the largest navy in Asia, with more than 300 surface ships, submarines, amphibious ships and patrol craft. It is also an increasingly technologically advanced and flexible force.

China has leveraged this growing power to assert its sovereignty claims over features in the East and South China Seas. China has used coercive tactics, such as the use of law enforcement vessels and its maritime militia, to enforce maritime claims and advance its interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict, states the report. 

In the East China Sea, China continued to use maritime law enforcement ships and aircraft to patrol near the Senkaku Islands to challenge Japan’s claim. In the South China Sea, China continued construction at its military outposts in the
Spratly Islands. 

Important milestones in 2016 included landing civilian aircraft on its airfields on Fiery Cross, Subi, and Mischief Reefs, as well as landing a military transport aircraft on Fiery Cross Reef. In July 2016, an arbitral tribunal constituted under the compulsory dispute settlement procedures in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, issued a ruling in favor of the Philippines with respect to issues involving the interpretation and application of the convention.

Among other things, the tribunal ruled that China’s “nine-dash line” cannot represent a lawful maritime claim to the extent that any of the claims it reflects would exceed the limits of China’s maritime entitlements under the Convention. China rejected the ruling. 

Relations between China and Taiwan cooled in 2016, after Tsai Ing-wen won the Taiwan presidential election in January, bringing the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) back to power for the first time since 2008. China has stressed that Taiwan must accept the so-called “1992 Consensus,” which holds that China and Taiwan are part of “one China” but allows for different interpretations, for there to be peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

Arms Supply

From 2011 to 2015, China was the world’s fourth largest arms supplier, with more than $20 billion in sales. Of this, $9 billion was to Asia-Pacific countries, primarily Pakistan. Sub-Saharan Africa was China’s second largest regional arms market. Last year, China signed an agreement with Pakistan for the sale of eight submarines. The first four will be built in China, with the remaining four in Pakistan. Other major Asia-Pacific customers of Chinese military equipment include Bangladesh and Burma.
The report is available here.

New Pentagon Report Finally Drags China’s Secret Sea Weapon Out Of The Shadows

 Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy recruits chant slogan during a parade to mark the end of a semester at a military base of the North Sea Fleet, in Qingdao, Shandong province December 5, 2013. REUTERS/China Daily∧


China/Asia Pacific Reporter

4:59 PM 06/07/2017

The Pentagon’s new report on China’s developing military capabilities exposes the fighting force on the front line of China’s quest to control the seas.

The Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM), a paramilitary force masquerading as a civilian fishing fleet, is a weapon for gray zone aggression that has operated in the shadow of plausible deniability for years. Supported by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) “grey hulls” and Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) “white hulls,” the CMM “blue hulls” constitute China’s third sea force.

The CMM engages in “low-intensity coercion in maritime disputes,” according to the Department of Defense report.

“China has used coercive tactics, such as the use of law enforcement vessels and its maritime militia, to enforce maritime claims and advance its interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict,” the report explains. For instance, after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague discredited China’s claims to the South China Sea last July, Beijing dispatched the CMM to the territories China aims to control.


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“China is building a state-owned fishing fleet for its maritime militia force in the South China Sea,” the Pentagon report introduced.

China presents the CMM as a civilian fishing fleet. “Make no mistake, these are state-organized, -developed, and -controlled forces operating under a direct military chain of command,” Dr. Andrew Erickson, a leading expert on Chinese naval affairs, explained during a House Committee on Armed Services hearing in September.

The maritime militia, according to the Pentagon, is a “subset of China’s national militia, an armed reserve force of civilians available for mobilization to perform basic support duties.” In the disputed South China Sea, “the CMM plays a major role in coercive activities to achieve China’s political goals without fighting, part of broader [People’s Republic of China] military doctrine that states that confrontational operations short of war can be an effective means of accomplishing political objectives.”

The Department of Defense recognizes that the CMM trains alongside the military and the coast guard. A 2016 China Daily article reveals that the maritime militia, a “less-noticed force,” is largely “made up of local fishermen.” The article shows the militia training in military garb and practicing with rifles and bayonets.

“The maritime militia is … a component of China’s ocean defense armed forces [that enjoys] low sensitivity and great leeway in maritime rights protection actions,” explained a Chinese garrison commander.

The CMM is not really a “secret” weapon, as it has made its presence known, yet throughout the Obama administration, government publications failed to acknowledge the existence of the maritime militia. “We have to make it clear that we are wise to Beijing’s game,” Erickson said in his congressional testimony.

The CMM harassed the USNS Impeccable in 2009, engaging in unsafe maneuvers and forcing the U.S. ship to take emergency action to avoid a collision. The maritime militia was also involved in the 2011 sabotage of two Vietnamese hydrographic vessels, 2012 seizure of Scarborough Shoal, 2014 repulsion of Vietnamese vessels near a Chinese oil rig in disputed waters, and 2015 shadowing of the USS Lassen during a freedom-of-navigation operation. China sent 230 fishing vessels, accompanied by several CCG vessels, into disputed waters in the East China Sea last year to advance China’s claims to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands administered by Japan.

Commissar of the Hainan Armed Forces Department Xing Jincheng said in January that the members of the Maritime Militia should serve as “mobile sovereignty markers.” He stated that this force is responsible for conducting “militia sovereignty operations” and defending China’s “ancestral seas,” territorial waters “belonging to China since ancient times.”

“I feel that the calm seas are not peaceful for us,” he said. “We have to strengthen our combat readiness.”

While the maritime militia has been mentioned by Navy officials, as well as congressional research and commission reports, the new Department of Defense report is the first high-level government publication to address the third sea force. “The fact is that it is there,” U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Scott Swift said in November, “Let’s acknowledge that it is there. Let’s acknowledge how it’s being command-and-controlled.”

Dragging the maritime militia into the light significantly limits its ability operate. “It is strongest—and most effective—when it can lurk in the shadows,” Erickson wrote in the National Interest.

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China, not US, is the lawbreaker in South China Sea

‘Freedom of navigation operations’ are crucial to curbing Beijing’s maritime claims


by: Aaron Connelly

The destroyer USS Dewey recently sailed within 12 nautical miles of a Chinese air base on Mischief Reef, in the South China Sea, in what the US called a “freedom of navigation operation”.

The Chinese foreign ministry said the incident on May 25 amounted to “trespassing” and “muscle-flexing” that was “not conducive to regional peace and stability”.

Yet there is nothing inherently provocative about such operations. They are conducted on a routine basis around the globe without incident, and usually without comment.

An examination of China’s claims helps to explain its sensitivity. The country has long made ambiguous claims to sovereign and economic rights within a U-shaped line covering nearly all of the South China Sea, an area extending 1,300km from the Chinese mainland. Other littoral states have also made claims to islands, reefs and rocks in the area, though their claims are clearer and generally grounded in principles of international law.

The disputes have consequences for the exploitation of the sea’s significant natural resources, and the estimated $5tn in shipping that crosses its waters every year. They are also a test of Beijing’s willingness to respect international law and solve disputes peacefully as its power grows. Thus far, it is a test that China has not passed.

Since 2014, the country has adopted an increasingly assertive strategy to secure control of the South China Sea. It has constructed seven artificial islands on former coral reefs in the Spratly Islands, three of them — like Mischief Reef — with barracks and runways long enough to land military jets.

The newly reclaimed area would cover New York’s Central Park several times over. China has built up its coast guard, too, and used state-subsidised fishing fleets to prevent other coastal states’ vessels from fishing or searching for natural resources at times. All of these activities are in violation of international law, as made clear in a landmark international tribunal decision handed down in The Hague last year.

American freedom of navigation operations are critical to preventing China from legitimising these claims. Under international law, physical assertions matter — the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea stipulates that the document’s interpretation can change if states’ practices change. In other words, freedom of navigation can be lost if not exercised regularly. As the world’s pre-eminent maritime power, the US has a special responsibility to sail wherever international law allows to protect those freedoms.

Among parties to the South China Sea disputes, the US has challenged claims by all the parties in each of the past five years. Despite some disagreements over the interpretation of maritime law, all but Beijing have offered statements supportive of the broader programme. In this critical waterway, the problem lies not with American patrols, but with Beijing’s unusually expansive claims and sensitivity to challenge.

The Trump administration’s decision to conduct an operation near Mischief Reef — after considerable delay that raised concerns the new president was accommodating China in the sea in exchange for concessions on other issues — is a sign of continuity with this longstanding policy. But it also raises two risks.

Related article

China acts like a ‘bully’ in Asia, says McCain

US senator urges Australia to join freedom of navigation operations in South China Sea

First, it is important that freedom of navigation operations do not come to be seen as a test of US resolve in the region, as they did under the Obama administration. The best way to avoid such a fate is to conduct regular missions, so that they again become as unremarkable as they are throughout the rest of the world.

Second, no one should mistake these operations for a strategy to prevent further Chinese gains in the South China Sea. They are an important assertion of maritime rights, but will not prompt Beijing to withdraw from bases such as those at Mischief or stop it from building others.

A broader strategy will require Donald Trump to continue his predecessor’s policy of rebalancing the US military presence in the region from north-east to Southeast Asia, and enhancing the ability of Southeast Asian countries to monitor and patrol their waters. Perhaps most importantly, Mr Trump must make clear to China that his administration recognises the stakes, and reassure south-east Asian leaders that he will not trade them away for concessions elsewhere.

The stakes — the sanctity of international law, the character of Chinese statecraft and freedom of navigation in one of the world’s most important waterways — are as high as they come.

The writer is a research fellow in the East Asia programme at the Lowy Institute

China is likely to set up military base in Pakistan: Pentagon

By PTI | Jun 07, 2017, 05.47 PM IST

"China most likely will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan," the report said.

WASHINGTON: China is likely to establish additional military bases in Pakistan and other countries with which it has longstanding friendly ties and similar strategic interests, a new Pentagon report said today as the world's largest army increasingly flexed its muscles. 

In its annual report to the Congress on China's military build-up, the US Department of Defence said China's construction of military base in the strategic location of Djibouti is just the first of what will likely be an ongoing expansion in friendly foreign ports around the world. 

China is expanding its access to foreign ports to pre- position the necessary logistics support to regularise and sustain deployments in the "far seas", waters as distant as the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. 

"China most likely will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries," the Pentagon said. 

The report cautioned, however, that China's efforts to build more bases "may be constrained by the willingness of countries to support" the presence of China's People's Liberation Army in one of their ports. 

Notably, China is developing the strategically located Gwadar port in Balochistan, which many experts in the US say is aimed towards having a military presence. 

"In February 2016, China began construction of a military base in Djibouti and probably will complete it within the next year," it said, adding China claims that this facility is designed to help the navy and army further participate in UN peacekeeping operations, carry out escort missions in the waters near Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, and provide humanitarian assistance. 

This initiative, along with regular naval vessel visits to foreign ports, both reflects and amplifies China's growing influence, extending the reach of its armed forces. 

Reacting sharply to the Pentagon report, China said the US Defence Department has made "irresponsible" remarks about the country's military. 

The annual report made "irresponsible remarks on China's national defense development and reasonable actions in defending our territorial sovereignty and security interests in disregard of the facts," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters in Beijing. 

"China is firmly opposed to that," she said, adding that Beijing was a force for safeguarding peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and the world. 

While Hua declined to comment on possible overseas bases of the PLA, she said China and Pakistan were close friends that conduct mutually beneficial cooperation in a number of areas. 

The Pentagon report said that China has cited anti-piracy patrolling as one of the reasons for developing what it calls a naval logistics center in Djibouti. 

China's expanding international economic interests are increasing demands for the PLA Navy to operate in more distant maritime environments to protect Chinese citizens, investments and critical sea lines of communication (SLOC), it said. 

China, the report said, uses PLA engagements with foreign militaries to enhance its presence and influence abroad, bolster its image and assuage other countries' concerns about its rise. 

"These engagements also assist PLA modernisation by facilitating the acquisition of advanced weapon systems and technologies, increasing its operational experience throughout and beyond Asia, and giving the PLA access to foreign military practices, operational doctrine, and training methods," it added. 

In 2016, China conducted counterpiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden by deploying its 24th naval escort task force to the area since 2008, it said. 

"China also continued to send submarines to the Indian Ocean, ostensibly in support of its counterpiracy patrols. In May 2016, a nuclear-powered attack submarine conducted a port call in Karachi, Pakistan, during a visit by the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Commander, marking China's first port call in South Asia by a nuclear submarine," the Pentagon said. 

"These submarine patrols demonstrate the PLAN's emerging capability both to protect China's SLOCs and to increase China's power projection into the Indian Ocean," the report said. 

According to the Pentagon, Pakistan is also China's largest buyer of arms. From 2011 to 2015, China was the world's fourth largest arms supplier with more than USD 20 billion in sales. 

"Of this, USD 9 billion was to Asia-Pacific countries, primarily Pakistan," it added. 

Sub-Saharan Africa was China's second largest regional arms market. 

"China's ability to remain among the world's top five global arms suppliers hinges largely on continued strong sales to Pakistan and demand for its armed UAVs. China is one of only a few global suppliers of such equipment and faces little competition for sales to the Middle East and North Africa. 

"This likely will result in the Middle East and North Africa surpassing Sub-Saharan Africa as China's second largest arms export market," it said. 

Last year, China signed an agreement with Pakistan for the sale of eight submarines, it said, adding that the first four will be built in China, with the remaining four in Pakistan. 

Other major Asia-Pacific customers of Chinese military equipment include Bangladesh and Burma, it said. 

China sold armed UAVs to several states in the Middle East and North Africa, including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, the Pentagon said. 

China spent USD 180 billion on the People's Liberation Army last year, the report said. But experts said that figure could not account for all spending due to poor accounting transparency. That estimate is significantly higher than China's official defence budget of about USD 140 billion