July 22, 2017

Sikkim standoff: Pentagon steps in

http://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/sikkim-standoff-as-china-gets-aggressive-in-face-off-against-india-doklam-standoff-pentagon-steps-in-5-must-know-points/774620/

“We encourage India and China to engage in direct dialogue aimed at reducing tensions and free of any coercive aspects,” Gary Ross, a defence department spokesman said.Amidst the continuing standoff between Indian and Chinese forces in Doklam region, the Pentagon has expressed concern over the issue and asked both the countries to engage in a direct dialogue free of any “coercive aspects”. The military standoff in Bhutan is still going on even after a month it began. The tensions have escalated after Chinese troops were prohibited by Indian soldiers from building a road in the disputed area. Meanwhile, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has said in the Parliament, “We are willing to talk, but both sides have to first take back their armies” but China has said that diplomatic channels with India remained “unimpeded” to discuss the military standoff in Sikkim sector and reiterated that the withdrawal of the Indian troops is a “precondition” for any meaningful dialogue. The three-nation Malabar Naval Exercise involving India, Japan and the United States maritime forces, has also reportedly worried China as the exercise is being held in the backdrop of border tension with China. National security advisor Ajit Doval will head to Beijing on July 27-28 for attending a meeting of BRICS later this month. Here are the five things to know what US has said:

1. “We encourage India and China to engage in direct dialogue aimed at reducing tensions and free of any coercive aspects,” Gary Ross, a defence department spokesman told PTI.

2. US state department, over the past week, too have been making similar statements, but this time Pentagon has sought direct dialogue between India and China on reducing tension “free of any coercive aspects.”

3. Interestingly, Pentagon has refused to take sides on the issue. “We refer you (media persons) to the governments of India and China for further information. We encourage India and China to engage in direct dialogue aimed at reducing tensions. We are not going to speculate on such matters,” Ross said.

4. A top Pentagon commander, a week earlier, had told lawmakers that China is exploiting its economic leverage as a way to its regional political objectives. “As China’s military modernisation continues, the United States and its allies and partners will continue to be challenged to balance China’s influence,” General Paul Selva, USAF, has said.

5. Selva added deterring war is an exercise in influencing China’s decision calculus, making diplomacy preferable to conflict and managing crises in such a manner that they do not unintentionally escalate

July 21, 2017

Meet the Mullahs: Pakistan’s Neighborhood Islamist Evangelists


http://dailycaller.com/2017/07/21/meet-the-mullahs-pakistans-neighborhood-islamist-evangelists/

LAWRENCE SELLIN

Retired Colonel, U.S. Army Reserve

11:01 PM 07/21/2017

Few appreciate the depth and destructive consequences of Pakistan’s decades-long program to “Islamize” every aspect of the society in every remote corner of the country.

Pakistan’s “Islamization” program was initiated by President Zia-ul-Haq (1977-1988), which involved the proliferation of Islamic schools “madrasas” and the promotion of Islamic law “Sharia,” was specifically designed create unity by suppressing ethnic separatism and make Pakistan the global Sunni leader, an effort that eventually led to the proliferation of Islamic terrorist groups within its borders.

Even in the tiny isolated enclave of Pidarek in Balochistan’s western Kech District, Pakistan acquiesces if not actively supports a network that, quite literally, wields radical Islam like a weapon to suppress Baloch nationalism, to conduct ethnic cleansing and to recruit jihadis for Pakistan’s proxy war against Afghanistan.

Lashkar-e-Khorasan (LeK), now an acknowledged affiliate of the Islamic State (ISIS) led by Turbat-resident Mufti Shahmir Aziz Bizenjo, is, according to on-the-ground sources, a long-established group of religiously-motivated individuals and common criminals, who, for many years, have been working with the Taliban and acting as an extrajudicial militia for the Pakistani military. Painting the walls in Turbat with pro-Islamic State slogans, LeK, a Sunni supremacist group, has conducted Islamic “purification” by targeting ethnic minorities like the Shia Hazaras and on August 28, 2014 brutally killed six Zikris. The LeK has dispatched boys as young as ten years old for jihadi training.

The international community has long regarded Pakistan as a transit point for narcotics trafficking. The role of the Pakistan government in narcotics trade was admitted by none other than the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who claimed members of the Pakistan military and intelligence agency, the ISI, needed more money for covert foreign operations and wanted to raise it through large-scale drug deals.

Mufti Shahmir Aziz Bizenjo, who has his own security detail, is the son of Aziz Bizenjo, whose cousin is National Party President and Senator Hasil Bizenjo, currently Pakistan’s Minister for Ports and Shipping.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Imam Bizenjo aka Imam Bheel, one of the drug world’s most notorious opium traffickers and National Party financier, whose son, Yaqoob Bizenjo, served as a member of the Pakistan National Assembly until 2013, is alleged kingpin of this major transit point for opium originating in Afghanistan reaching Gwadar and other ports on the Makran coast for worldwide distribution.

According the local sources, Mufti Shahmir Aziz Bizenjo receives support from the Pakistani intelligence, military assistance from the Pakistani Army Frontier Corps and financial support from the drug mafia.

Within the same local network are the jihadi educators and Taliban recruiters.

Khatib Mohammad Ilyas, according to local sources, gives sermons during Friday “Jumu’ah” prayers at Turbat’s main mosque and operates a very old and large madrasa in Malik Abad, Tehsil Tump, Kech District. He is a member of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F (JUI-F), a Sunni Deobandi political party that promotes the implementation of Sharia, has opposed changes in blasphemy laws and blocked the passage of a bill aimed at preventing domestic violence, because it would “promote Western culture in the Islamic state.” Khatib Mohammad Ilyas, whose son died as a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, is reportedly a main regional recruiter for the Taliban.

Again according to local sources, Mulla Ghulam Ullah is the Imam of a Mosque in Shahi Tump, Turbat. He is the son-in-law of Khatib Mohammad Ilyas and leader of JUI-F in Kech district. Ghulam Ullah, who also has his own security detail, is the chief Islamist indoctrinator of young boys and principal jihadi recruiter for Shahi Tump, Koshkalat and surrounding areas in Kech district. He is leader of the LeK in the Buleda Tehsil area. The Pakistani Army Frontier Corps and such Wahhabi groups are reported to be operating jointly in the Dasht, Buleda and Pidarek regions of Balochistan.

Balochistan is now beginning to resemble Taliban-controlled Afghanistan of the 1990s, a jihadi training hub and a magnet for international terrorism.

Pakistan has successfully used Islamic terrorist groups both to suppress ethnic and nationalist aspirations within its borders and as an instrument of its foreign policy.

Apparently, no amount of reassurance or incentives will divert Pakistan from its present course and permit U.S. and NATO to achieve their objectives in Afghanistan as long as the regional strategic environment remains the same.

An independent, secular Balochistan, free of religious militancy may be the solution.

Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired US Army Reserve colonel, an IT command and control subject matter expert, trained in Arabic and Kurdish, and a veteran of Afghanistan, northern Iraq and a humanitarian mission to West Africa. He receives email at lawrence.sellin@gmail.com.

Making Sense of China’s Caribbean Policy

https://jamestown.org/program/making-sense-of-chinas-caribbean-policy/


By: Jared Ward

July 21, 2017 05:02 PM Age: 7 hours

China is connecting its trans-Eurasia/Africa Belt and Road Project to the shores of Panama

While the world’s attention focuses on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) connecting China with Eurasia and Africa, China is also making major investments in the Caribbean. In September 2016 the China Harbor Engineering Company (中国港湾工程有限责任公司) agreed to build a mega-port in Jamaica that would make the small island-nation a hub for mammoth Chinese ships soon crossing through an expanded Panama Canal (Jamaica Gleaner, September 24, 2016). Valued at $1.5 billion, the port will become China’s largest in a region that has become a growing target for Chinese aid and diplomatic overtures. Barbados, a small island in the Lesser Antilles, has received millions from Chinese companies to restore historical landmarks and provide free medical care. In March of this year, a visa waiver program was created, aimed at opening the Caribbean paradise to an untapped market of 20-million Chinese tourists. Chinese funds have restored the Baha Mar luxury resort in the Bahamas. In Guyana, Chinese companies have developed the timber, oil, and gold industries.

China’s short and long-term interests in the region appear to be not only motivated by economics but also aimed at connecting nations in America’s backyard to a Maritime Silk Road under Chinese influence. Recent developments in Sino-American relations have magnified the importance of border seas and the Caribbean, like the South China Sea, is likely to become a stage for clashing Chinese and American visions of global politics.

Chinese promises of aid to the Caribbean are consistent with a pattern elsewhere in the developing world. Beijing touts its own success as a developing nation; a rags to riches story of a non-Western power rising to global prominence. Caribbean officials generally view China’s checkbook diplomacy in a positive light. Generous loan terms and willingness to undertake badly needed infrastructure projects have helped offset drying up funds from Western institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. The influx of capital and projects bring promises of badly needed jobs for locals and training programs to teach transferable skills that last. However, on the ground, these promises are much more complicated, leaving locals wondering, as one Jamaican official did: “What does China want from us? That’s the big question that everyone has about this: Why?” (Global Post, April 22, 2011).

China’s Increased Caribbean Footprint

In late 2016, the PRC released its first White Paper on Latin America and the Caribbean, laying out guidelines for China’s engagement in the region (FMPRC, November 24, 2016). Xi Jinping’s 2014 visit to Trinidad and Tobago elevated interest in the region. The White Paper lays out broad principles such as noninterference in political affairs (不干涉内政的原则), mutually beneficial relationships (平等互利), and infrastructure and turnkey projects aimed at creating immediate improvements in the local economies. According to Beijing, this focus on addressing local problems is what makes their worldview different from America in the Caribbean. These lofty policy goals and carefully worded political statements are left to Chinese State Owned Enterprises (SOE) and lending banks to be put into practice.

China’s main arms in the Caribbean are a combination of lending banks, individual Chinese investors, and State Owned Enterprises. Chinese financial institutes such as the Chinese Export-Import Bank (中国进出口银行) make funds available to lend to SOE’s that bid on contracts to complete projects. The massive Baha Mar Bahama resort, valued at $2.4 billion, was built by the China Communications Construction Company (中国家桶建设股份在限公司). Chinese officials have also made clear that funds made available for nations involved in the BRI will also include Caribbean nations. Zhu Qingqao (祝青桥), head of the Latin American and Caribbean Affairs Department (拉丁美洲和加勒比司) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) made clear it clear that the Caribbean is part of Maritime Silk Road. In an interview in June with Cuban newspaper Granma, Zhu said that China put investments in Caribbean nations on par with projects receiving more focus in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East (Granma, June 2). Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness expressed his country’s interest in formally joining BRI; calling it a “noble expression,” that promoted cooperation and inclusiveness across the developing world (Jamaica Gleaner, June 22).

While China’s invitation for Caribbean nations to join BRI is tempting, Chinese SOE’s in the Caribbean have become embroiled in controversy and unveil a much more complicated reality where Chinese visions of development have mixed results and receptions. Accusations against Chinese companies range from flouting local labor laws to providing job and contracts exclusively to Chinese nationals, to an exploitation of natural resources (NACLA, June 26, 2013). This double-edged sword of Chinese aid to the Caribbean is on display in Guyana, China’s oldest CARICOM ally from the English-speaking Caribbean. Guyanese politicians continue to praise China as an invaluable partner and a potential model to follow to their own successful rise from poverty. In practice, Chinese promises of jobs, housing, and electricity have a mixed legacy that is often more gilded than gold.

Sino-Guyanese Relations: A Case Study in China’s Caribbean Policy

Guyana reluctantly embraces a paradox common to many developing states: rich in natural resources with poor economies. Besides its vast tracts of rain forest rich in lumber harvest, the discovery of an offshore oil and gas field earlier this year may make the small nation a major oil producer in the region (NYTimes, January 13). While China has shown a recent interest in these natural resources, Sino-Guyanese relations trace back to Guyana’s first Prime Minister Forbes Burnham. In 1972, Guyana went against Cold War currents and became the first former colony of former British West Indies to grant Beijing, not Taipei, diplomatic recognition. In the early years of the relationship, China would use Guyana as a laboratory of sorts and the site of its first foreign aid project in the Western Hemisphere—the Bel Lu Clay Brick Factory. The brick factory promised to make 10-million bricks a year; however, due to mismanagement and a lack of Chinese enthusiasm to step back in, the factory closed in the early 1990s and is now overgrown. Guyana has remained one of China’s most consistent CARICOM partners and in recent years has received millions in medical, military, and technical assistance. Other projects have improved telecommunications and built infrastructure aimed at making Guyana’s natural resources more accessible and further integrating its economy with its neighbors.

However, China has also been the target of criticisms common to its efforts elsewhere in the developing world. Local companies are often shut out of projects; all contracts are awarded to Chinese companies through a secretive bidding process. Furthermore, Chinese job creation promises often fall short and rely primarily on Chinese nationals. Baishanlin (白山林), a recent acquisition of Long Jian Forest Industries, a state-owned enterprise (SOE), has been at the center of a growing controversy and an example of how China’s development program can potentially sour bilateral relations.

Baishanlin arrived in Guyana over a decade ago and made promises familiar to many Caribbean nations. It would be given access to millions of acres of timber reserves in exchange for creating 10,000 local jobs and leaving behind a wood processing plant for the development of Guyana’s forest industry. Job creation has fallen short and those who do work for the SOE have filed grievances over inadequate pay, long hours, and exploitation of natural resources (Stabroek News, July 26, 2016). Additionally, Baishanlin’s promise to build a wood processing plant, a requirement for it to receive tax breaks has not been met, leading the Guyana Forest Commission to seize Chinese owned logging equipment and other assets (Demerara Waves, September 7, 2016). Most recently, the Chinese Development Bank has asked the Guyana government to hold off reallocating Baishanlin owned lands while it gathers the capital to recapitalize the loans owned by the company. (Demerarawaves, April, 19). As for now, the failed promises of Baishanlin remains a grim reminder for those in the region debating whether to widen their relations with Beijing.

Sympathetic Partner or Neo-Colonialist? Making Sense of China’s Caribbean Policy:

Guyana shows the double-edged sword of Chinese investment but also provides insights into China’s foreign policy toward the region as a whole. The entire Caribbean region has only 41-million people and there is little indication Chinese tourists are willing to make the around-the-world trip for vacation. What then is China’s interest in pouring billions of dollars into a region that can promise little in return? One possibility is that China’s policy is directed at Taiwan. The Caribbean is one of the last bastions for Taipei’s dwindling diplomatic alliances. The Dominican Republic, Belize, Haiti, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Vincent still recognize Taipei—not Beijing. This frames China’s checkbook diplomacy as a carrot to draw away Taiwan’s allies and isolate Taipei further politically. While the “One-China” policy does remain significant in all of China’s relations, this only explains a charm offensive toward nations like Panama, which until recently retained relations with Taiwan. China’s largest partners in the region—Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad, and Barbados—have recognized Beijing exclusively since the 1970s.

China’s push for closer relations with these Caribbean nations was part of a pivot toward the ‘Third World’ in the waning years of the Mao Zedong Era (1949–1976). In the early 1970s, nations like Guyana and Jamaica became part of a Third World bloc that helped push the PRC’s final bid for UN membership. China’s initial interest in the Caribbean coincided with the beginning stages of Sino-American rapprochement when security anxieties about growing Sino-Soviet hostilities brought China from the recluses of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). The Caribbean became part a vast Third World that included Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America in which Mao envisioned China more fit to lead than the industrialized, white, Soviet Union or America. The Caribbean has always been unable to offer Beijing the same natural resources or strategic military alliances with countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. However, geopolitically the region provides economic and symbolic incentives for China’s investments. Many of China’s largest infrastructure projects, like ports in the Bahamas and Jamaica, will be used to accommodate larger volumes of cargo coming from China for transshipment throughout the Western Hemisphere. According to a proposal presented by Baishanlin, the driving force for the China National Development Bank Program’s investment in Guyana is its access to 277-million consumers, a $130-billion export market, and over $2-trillion in buying power. [2]Furthermore, in small Caribbean nations, China’s aid can make a greater impact for less investment; setting Beijing up to better compete with Western companies.

Conclusion

Beyond market access, China’s increased presence in Caribbean affairs can be understood as a subtle jab at American Western Hemisphere dominance at a time when Washington is pushing Beijing in the South China Sea. Xi Jinping, when he was still Vice President of China, visited Jamaica in 2009 and 2013 (Xinhua, February 14, 2009). Xi’s 2013 visit to Trinidad was one of his earliest trips abroad. In an interview before the trip Xi lauded Trinidad and China’s long cultural ties and common paths of development. In both 2009 as VP and later as President he described Sino-Caribbean relations according to an old Chinese saying which says “close friends stay close at heart though thousands of miles apart.” At a time when Washington is accusing China of bullying smaller countries in the South China Sea, Beijing has repeatedly held the Caribbean up as an of America’s history of big-power chauvinism. A Global Times editorial that lashed out against ramped up tensions caused by the US and reminding Washington “The South China Sea is not the Caribbean. It is not a place for the US to behave recklessly.” (Global Times,February 23). Just as China views the South China Sea as a core national interest, Washington views the Caribbean as naturally within its sphere of influence. Success in connecting America’s backyard to the Belt and Road Initiative presents a way for Xi to position China to challenge America in its own hemisphere.

Jared Ward is a Ph.D. Candidate and Associate Lecturer at the University of Akron in the Department of History. His dissertation and research focuses on China’s foreign relations with the Caribbean during the Cold War.

Notes

Peter J. Meyer “US Foreign Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean: FY 2016. https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R44113.pdf. January 7, 2016, Congressional Budget OfficeAuthor’s Private Collection

Huge investments go into building Malaysian ports

Melaka Gateway: The deep sea port is reportedly targeted to be a liquid cargo terminal with storage facilities that will benefit oil trading in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

 

EVER since China rolled out its Belt and Road initiative, many countries have received billions of dollars towards infrastructure development to boost trade and investment along the old Silk Road that connects China and many other countries.

For the developing nations along the Silk Road, receiving huge sums of money has boosted economic growth as China aims to intensify linkages with countries.

President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative, which originally aimed at building economic connectivity with 64 countries via infrastructure investments along the old Silk Road and maritime routes, is making positive impact on many countries and Malaysia is a big beneficiary of that.

What is clear is the impact on investment in Malaysia. One of the largest investments inked has been through the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL).

The first phase of the ECRL will connect Wakaf Baru in Kelantan to ITT Gombak at a cost of RM46bil. The second phase will join the Integrated Transport Terminal Gombak to Port Klang, a distance of 88km, at a cost of RM9bil.

The rail connection between the west and east coasts of Peninsular Malaysia will be a catalyst to not only growth and businesses between the corridors but also create jobs and open up the hinterland of the peninsula to many more business opportunities.

The ECRL linking Port Klang and Kuantan Port will slash 30 hours of travel time for cargo shipping through the Port of Singapore but at a slightly higher cost.

At a recent forum, Universiti Malaya’s Institute of China Studies research fellow Dr Zhang Miao said that the ECRL could alter the traditional trade routes that go through Singapore, since China’s uncertain diplomatic relation with the island republic forces it to explore other alternatives.

China has invested over US$50bil (RM217bil) in countries along the Belt and Road between 2014 and 2016, with total trade exceeding US$3 trillion (RM13 trillion).

But the one big area in China’s investment has been in ports, and Malaysia has been a huge recipient of those investments.

It was reported that Chinese companies will be investing US$7.2bil in the Melaka Gateway, US$2.8bil in the Kuala Linggi Port, US$1.4bil in Penang Port and US$177mil in the Kuantan port projects.

The deep sea port in Melaka is reportedly targeted to be a liquid cargo terminal with storage facilities that will benefit oil trading in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

There will also be a container terminal, break-bulk and dry bulk terminal, shipbuilding and repair services, maritime industrial park and port logistics services at the new port in Melaka.

The Kuala Linggi International Port is reportedly being built near Melaka to handle oil tankers with reports saying the port will target the bunkering business

Read more at http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2017/07/22/huge-investments-go-into-building-malaysian-ports/#zWgSP0mxg4CUwYrv.99