Thursday, June 15, 2017

China-led AIIB approves $324 mln in infrastructure investment

The China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) said on Thursday it has approved two loans and one equity investment worth $324 million across Georgia, Tajikistan and India.

The bank's first ever equity investment of $150 million aims to help attract private capital for infrastructure projects in India, the AIIB said in an emailed statement.

"Approving our first equity investment is another milestone for the Bank and will enhance our potential to source and fund high quality, private sector projects," said D.J. Pandian, AIIB Vice President, in the statement.

"These three projects demonstrate a growing sophistication in our ability to support our member countries across different regions and sectors."

The Beijing-based AIIB, formed in January 2016, aims to provide infrastructure financing in the Asia-Pacific region. The multilateral development bank has been viewed as a rival to the Western-dominated World Bank and Asian Development Bank.


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The equity investment goes towards the India Infrastructure Investment Fund which focuses on investing in mid-cap infrastructure companies in India in sectors including energy and utilities, transportation and logistics and telecommunications, according to a project summary on the AIIB's website.

A $114 million loan will help fund the Georgia Batumi Bypass Road Project and a $60 million loan will go towards the first phase of the Tajikistan Nurek Hydropower Rehabilitation Project, according to the emailed statement.

The 2017 AIIB annual meeting will be held from Friday to Sunday this week on Jeju Island in South Korea.

(Reporting by Sue-Lin Wong; Editing by Shri Navaratnam

China and Japan Holding Maritime Talks to Prevent Maritime Clashes

Japan wants a “hotline” but China unlikely to moderate its behavior.

By Steven Stashwick

June 15, 2017


Chinese and Japanese officials are expected to meet for high-level talks on maritime issues in July like establishing a “hotline” between the two countries to diffuse potential unintended clashes. The new talks are a positive development between countries that regularly face off in the East China Sea, and as Japan increasingly expands its operations in the South China Sea. However, the history of similar maritime dialogues between China and the United States should caution against expectations that they will lead to meaningful diplomatic breakthroughs, or even a moderation of risky Chinese military behavior.

China disputes Japan’s administration over the Senkaku islands in the South China Sea, which it calls the Diaoyus. Since the Japanese government took over the Senkakus from private Japanese owners in 2012, China has regularly challenged Japan’s administration over them by sending hundreds of fishing and coast guard vessels to make incursions in the waters around the islands. Nor are China’s incursions limited to the seas. The Japanese Air Self Defense Force has scrambled fighters to intercept approaching Chinese jets over 1000 times in the past 12 months.

Potential for a serious incident between the two countries is not theoretical. The 2001 collision between a U.S. Navy surveillance plane and an intercepting Chinese fighter demonstrated the risk of jockeying warplanes. In 2010 a Chinese fishing trawler repeatedly and intentionally rammed two Japanese Coast Guard cutters near the Senkakus and the Chinese captain’s subsequent arrest sparked an intense diplomatic rowFootage of a 2012 incident between the Japanese Coast Guard and Chinese activists trying to land on one of the Senkaku islands shows the Japanese ships trying to divert the Chinese boat with firehoses and eventually physically shouldering it away.

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The Chinese ships in these incidents were unarmed, but similar faceoffs with the Chinese Coast Guard or Maritime Militia vessels that regularly loiter in the waters around the Senkakus could escalate with greater levels of force (though far less than an incident between warships).

Recognizing this potential, China and Japan began what was intended to be a series of dialogues on maritime issues in 2012, but China called them off in protest of Japan’s nationalization of the Senkaku islands later that year. The talks resumed in 2014 and last September Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to pursue discussions on a hotline between the governments, though Japan had pushed to institute a communication mechanism as early as possible.

China’s decision to cancel the talks for two-years as a diplomatic protest and Japan’s comparatively greater eagerness to establish the hotline mirrors the United States’ experience pursuing bilateral maritime talks with China and attempts to establish rules of behavior for their armed forces.

The United States and China concluded the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement (MMCA) in 1997 as a mechanism to discuss maritime and aviation safety in annual plenary meetings. However, the agreement established neither emergency communication protocols nor rules of professional conduct to prevent dangerous incidents like the Cold War INCSEA agreement between the United States and Soviet Union did. As a result, critics dismissed the agreement as merely a resolution to “talk about talking.”

Despite the low stakes of the annual MMCA meetings, China declined to hold plenary meetings for several years in protest of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. But following several serious incidents like the harassment of U.S. surveillance vessels in 2009, the meetings were reestablished and the two sides made progress towards standards of conduct and communications protocols for their ships and aircraft to prevent dangerous incidents. The resulting memorandums of understanding (MOUs) between the U.S. and Chinese militaries were signed in 2014 and expanded in 2015.

Like the Cold War INCSEA agreement with the Soviet Union, the MOUs seemed to bind the two countries to safe practices that would prevent the possibility of a serious accident or incident between their ships or aircraft. However, unlike INCSEA, whose standards were written with obligatory language like “shall,” the MOUs the United States signed with China are written with voluntary language like “should,” preserving the option not to follow it. In the two years since the aviation protocols were finalized, Chinese planes have repeatedly engaged in unsafe maneuvers supposedly banned by the MOUs around U.S. aircraft, including two dangerous intercepts just last month.

Given this history, as well as China’s successful blocking of a multinational agreement for the safe conduct of warships and aircraft that encounter each other until its language was made explicitly voluntary and non-legally binding, Japan should temper its expectations for how much bilateral talks with China will prevent future maritime incidents or crises

Ukraine aims to become 'strong chain' in modern Silk Road

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-06-16 10:27

KIEV - Ukraine targets to become a "strong chain" in the China-proposed modern Silk Road through building economic and logistic links between Asia and Europe, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Gennady Zubko said on Thursday.

"We are striving to ensure that the Ukrainian presence on the New Silk Road is becoming more and more important," Zubko was quoted by the government press service as saying during the World Expo-2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Ukraine has good infrastructure network to connect Asia and Europe, he said, adding that the East European country is also willing to participate in the project as an exporter of goods.

The Belt and Road Initiative opens up new opportunities for Ukraine to boost its metallurgical, agriculture and chemical exports, Zubko noted.

Besides, he pointed that Ukraine has good prospects to cooperate with other countries along the Silk Road in aviation and shipbuilding industries.

The Belt and Road Initiative aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road routes.

Ukraine has formally joined the Silk Road project in 2015, launching a train to China via the sea-rail Trans-Caspian International Transport Route through Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan

Balochistan sets aside Rs86bn for development programme

The Newspaper's Staff CorrespondentPublished about 2 hours ago

QUETTA: Adviser to the Balochistan Chief Minister on Finance Sardar Muhammad Aslam Bizenjo presents the budget for the 2017-18 financial year in the provincial assembly on Thursday.—APP

QUETTA: Balochistan on Thursday announced a Public Sector Development Programme of Rs86 billion, which allocates greater resources for transport, road development and social sector.

The development budget for the next financial year is almost 21 per cent higher than the original estimate of Rs71.1bn for the outgoing year. The budget has allocated almost 20pc for road and transport, 11pc for education, 15pc for health and public health engineering and 14pc for irrigation and agriculture.

The development outlay includes foreign assistant of Rs6bn which would be spent on 1,211 ongoing and 1,549 new projects.

In his budget speech, Adviser to the Chief Minister on Finance Sardar Muhammad Aslam Bizenjo said the government had curtailed its non-development expenditures, diverted more resources to boost development and investment in priority areas, including education, health, transport and road development.


He said besides taking austerity measures, the coalition government was reforming its expenditures and enforcing strict financial discipline. Additionally, the government had undertaken tax reforms to raise its revenues.

He said the formation of the Balochistan Revenue Authority had helped increase collection of GST on services to almost Rs3bn in a short span of time.

He said the government was introducing transparency in its operations through computerisation of government process.

Sardar Bizenjo said the development budget focused on early completion of projects related to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

In view of the importance of CPEC for the economy, the government would spend a hefty amount on electricity generation, hospitals, international airport and drinking water plant in Gwadar during the next financial year.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2017

Nearly 29 districts of Balochistan deprived of Sui gas: Fehmida Jamali

DW Focus


ISLAMABAD: Balochistan’s Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI) Women Wing President Fehmida Jamali said that Balochistan is the least developed province of Pakistan as the province had even been deprived of basic infrastructure for a long time now.

She said that the 1200 kilometres long Mekran Coast remained unexplored while it could have been a gold mine for Pakistan and it could have earned billions of dollars a year for being a port of transit for the landlocked countries of Central Asia, including Afghanistan.

Jamali, while talking to newsmen on Thursday, said that more than 29 districts of the province are denied natural gas as the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) had itself announced that it has been providing natural gas facility to only 14 villages of the province.

It is a matter of concern for the government that second and third biggest cities of Khuzdar and Turbat are denied the gas facilities for the past six decades. There is no plan in the knowledge of the people or the local media that when the major cities of Balochistan will get natural gas facilities, she said.

Jamali said that the people demanded that the gas pipeline should be extended from Quetta to Khuzdar and should cover the entire Central Balochistan which will be future hub of brisk economic activities in the whole region.

Jamali also criticised the government for non-provision of electricity and said that the available infrastructure of the transmission line can take a load of 600 MG to the maximum while Balochistan is being provided only 400 MG to this date imposing a massive load shedding in major parts of the province.

Fehmida Jamali also issued an advisory emphasising on the provincial government to spend budgetary provisions on economic-related projects, human resource development and laying the foundation for the future economic development of Balochistan.

While the increase in provincial revenue has since helped the province significantly spike its development investment from its own resources, it has not done much to stimulate economic growth.

She further said the investment scenario in Balochistan is now bright because of foreign investors’ interest in economic development of abundant resources in mineral, fisheries, agriculture and livestock sectors, and the province could develop into a major trading and business hub, as the potential of Balochistan is now widely understood.

Active and aggressive private sector development is important for Balochistan, particularly for accomplishing economic development in the province so the provincial government should take appropriate steps on a priority basis for the exploitation of natural resources.

Balochistan should take the opportunity and encourage the private sector, and should invite foreign investors in different sectors, she added