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Pakistan

Is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Failing?

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC, is a massive infrastructural project announced for the first  time in 2013. It is part of the broader “One Belt, One Road” initiative, launched in the same year and also called OBOR. However, the CPEC has recently received several setbacks that are raising doubts over its completion. So, what is the future of the project?

Why the CPEC?

The CPEC is one of the six “Economic Corridors” that China is creating in cooperation with other countries in the context of the OBOR initiative to improve transportation, intensify trade and boost the respective economies with the broader aim of extending China’s economic and political presence across the globe and ultimately reaching the vast European market. The CPEC should pass through Pakistan to connect China’s landlocked Xinjiang province with the Arabian Sea; and it pursues multiple objectives.

First, Xinjiang hosts significant natural resources but is economically poor and affected by discontent among the local Uighur population. With the CPEC and other region-focused projects, China wants to develop the area so to improve its living conditions, exploit its economic assets and make of it a crossroad for East-West trade.

Second, the PRC wants to open an alternative access to the ocean. Today, cargos sailing to and from Europe as well as oil tankers from the Middle East need to pass through Malacca and other straits, which are extremely vulnerable chokepoints that could easily be blocked by the US Navy in case of war. This would be catastrophic for the PRC, which consequently wants to have an access to the sea that avoids these exposed passages.

Third, the CPEC will foster relations with Pakistan. The two countries are already primary partners, and the project will create closer ties by increasing economic interdependency and by improving the living conditions of locals. A solid bilateral partnership is also mutually beneficial considering their relations with India. Especially for Pakistan, having China as an ally is extremely useful to keep India at bay; but the contrary it is also true, even though Beijing tries to downplay the existing problems with New Delhi.

The CPEC in practice

To reach these strategic objectives, China plans to build a series of infrastructures in Pakistan. By now, it has already invested at least 60 billion US dollars in the initiative; which includes motorways, railways, ports, electric power plants, pipelines and more. Several Special Economic Zones will also be established. All these projects will be connected one with the other to some degree, with the aim to create economic prosperity and link Xinjiang with Pakistan’s southern shores.

A particular relevance has been given to Gwadar, located in south-western Pakistan along the coast next to Iran. It will be the endpoint of the CPEC, and one of its main centres. In particular, Gwadar’s harbour is being expanded and upgraded: it will be transformed into a “smart port” surrounded by a Special Economic Zone that will host a large industrial area. It will be served by a new international airport, several facilities to improve the local living conditions, and it will be linked with the rest of the country and with China by road and train. The port became partially operational in November 2016, when a joint Sino-Pakistani truck convoy successfully travelled from north to south across Pakistan and reached Gwadar where the containers were shipped to overseas destinations. Yet, the remaining projects are still under construction.

As far as other components are concerned, nine of them are already operational. These include a coal-powered electricity generation plant in Karachi and a similar one in the Punjab region, several windfarms and the Quaid-e-Azam solar park, one of the largest in the world. Other thirteen facilities are being completed and are scheduled to become soon operational.

Yet, there have been some setbacks as well. Combined with Pakistan’s shaky financial condition, this has raised doubts over the general tenure of the CPEC project.

The problems of CPEC

The first aspect to consider is that Pakistan’s political and financial situation is not very promising for the future of the CPEC.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was a supporter of the project, but in August 2018 he was substituted by Mr. Imran Khan, who on the contrary has criticized the initiative out of concerns over corruption and lack of transparency. He also complained that the billions of dollars that China is investing in the country bring little benefit to Pakistani workers, as the facilities are almost entirely build by Chinese nationals. This does not mean that he has rejected the CPEC, but he is certainly less enthusiast than his predecessor. In addition, Pakistan is crossing troubled waters in financial terms. According to The Express Tribune, a Pakistani newspaper, the country’s owes 40 billion to China. This has raised the alarm over a “debt trap”; meaning that China may exploit its financial leverage on Pakistan to exert political influence. In this regard, it is true that Pakistan’s net public debt is estimated at 67.6% of the GDP, that its external debt amounted to 82 billion dollars at the end of 2017, and that the federal government must face a chronic penury of foreign currency; which is a problem when having to repay external debts.

Therefore, there are doubts about Pakistan’s financial tenure in the immediate future. The country received various loans from the IMF in the past, but it has rejected the latest 8-billion-dollar bailout plan. Instead, Mr. Khan’s government preferred to demand financial aid to a few “friendly countries”, notably Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and China. This has already brought some fruits. An agreement has been reached between Islamabad and Abu Dhabi for a support package worth 6.2 billion dollars, with 3 billion scheduled to be sent shortly. Similarly, Saudi Arabia’s Prince bin Salman will soon sign a deal for building a 10-billion-dollar oil refinery in Gwadar, thus adding further significance to the port city. Cooperation in other sector will also be discussed.

In regard to China, the situation is more complex. Bilateral relations remain good, but there are growing concerns about the completion of the CPEC; at least in all of its parts. In the context of its troubled financial situation, Pakistan has recently announced its withdrawal from the Rahim Yar Khan power station, on the basis that electricity production capability is already sufficient and that consequently the project would not be economically viable. Yet, this may be a political excuse to hide the real problem, namely that there are not the funds for it. In addition, there are delays in the construction of the smart port in Gwadar. In this regard, Chinese companies have allegedly warned that Pakistan will need to pay to cover the additional costs caused by this postponement.

These events have created much speculation about the completion of the CPEC as a whole, especially in India, where major newspapers like the Times of India have reported such news. As a matter of fact, there is a sensible degree of strategic rivalry between Beijing and New Delhi, who perceives its northern neighbour and its close ties with Islamabad as a potential threat. On its part, China has responded to the recent events along a double line. State-sponsored media like the Global Times have soon published articles where they reassure about the solidity of the Sino-Pakistani partnership and about the determination of both sides to end the works on the CPEC. At the same time, they have accused other countries of being “jealous” and of having “aggressive intentions”. It is clear that the message was a response to the news about the recent setbacks of the CPEC project reported by Indian media. By explicitly addressing the recent reports by Indian news channels, the Global Times has also downplayed the entity of Pakistan’s China-owned debt and have suggested third parties not to meddle in the issue; all while affirming that India will also benefit from the CPEC. According to such Chinese articles, which cite the PRC’s embassy in Pakistan as a source for the figures, Islamabad does not owe 40 billion dollars to Beijing. Instead, they claim the debt only amounts to 6 just over billion, including interests.

Apart from this, the security aspect should also be mentioned. The CPEC crosses territories where terrorist and separatist groups are present. Some of them do not see China favourably, and this represents a non-negligible threat to the project. In fact, some attacks have already taken place against Chinese objectives. In August 2018, a suicide bombing injured some Chinese engineers. In November, a secessionist movement called Balochistan Liberation Army targeted the Chinese consulate in Karachi. By now, none of these events has seriously hampered the CPEC, but this may be the beginning of a trend that could hamper the project in the long term.

Conclusion: what about the future?

With such contradictory reports, it is difficult to assess the future of the CPEC and the real entity of the China-laid “debt trap” looming over Pakistan. What is sure is that Islamabad has indeed some financial problems, and that this may negatively impact the project. The recent cancellation of the Rahim Yar Khan power plant and the delays over Gwadar’s smart port suggest that there may already be complications in this sense. Yet, unless Pakistan enters in a serious financial crisis or faces a collapse of the state, it seems that the project will be competed at least in part. That said, the other certain thing is that the CPEC and China’s presence in Pakistan is not viewed positively by India, and in geopolitical terms this is probably the most relevant aspect.

Modern Nations – Rise of Muslims Episode 7

Based entirely on the book by Ali Mahmood titled “Muslims” –

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In this episode, Author Ali Mahmood, looks at the emergence of Muslim nation states following the collapse of the Ottoman empire. He looks at the birth of modern Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.

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What are China’s Interests in Afghanistan?

The inexorable economic rise of China is producing political and strategic repercussions in all directions. One of the more interesting cases is China’s growing interest in Afghanistan, a country wracked by multiple conflicts and intermittently occupied by foreign powers for nearly forty years.

China and Afghanistan are immediate neighbours as they share a short 76 km border. The border point is distant from urban centres on both sides as it interfaces with the extremity of the Wakhan corridor on the Afghan side, and the outer edge of the Chalachigu Valley on the Chinese side.

The immediacy of Afghanistan’s geographic proximity to China makes the country hard to ignore. But in view of Afghanistan’s profile as an essentially failed state which has been in political and military turmoil for four decades, China can hardly afford to take its eyes of the place.

Add to that the fact that global powers, notably two superpowers in the form of the former Soviet Union and the United States, have maximally intervened in Afghan affairs (notably by occupying the country), then we can legitimately wonder as to why China hasn’t also forcefully intervened in Afghan affairs. Not yet anyway.

Welcome to KJ Vids. In this video we will examine the reasons behind China’s growing involvement in Afghanistan.

What is the full extent of Chinese involvement in Afghanistan?

China is reportedly building its first military base in Afghanistan. It is important to note that the Chinese government denies these claims and only admits to building a training camp in the Wakhan corridor to train Afghan forces. According to Chinese military sources, Beijing is helping Afghanistan set up a mountain brigade in the remote north-eastern corner of the country.

But even if we take these Chinese denials at face value, the fact that China admits to training Afghan forces is in and of itself of great political and strategic import. It speaks to growing Chinese influence in Kabul and signals that China wants to get involved in the military affairs of its volatile western neighbour.

Despite its massive economic clout, and projections that it will displace America as the world’s biggest economy as early as 2032, China hasn’t invested in a big political presence overseas. It may surprise many viewers that China has only one avowed military base overseas and that’s situated in Djibouti.

The newly opened base in Djibouti is designed to serve multiple military and economic functions but above all it is going to provide China with vital experience in how to exercise and manage power projection well beyond its borders. It is perhaps China’s first step toward projecting hard power at a global level, akin to how Western powers flex their muscles on the world stage.

The training camp in the Wakhan corridor (with or without Chinese troops) is clearly not about power projection on the world stage. For a start it borders china and is in close proximity to the restive Chinese region of Xinjiang. China faces serious unrest in this region as a result of continually repressing the region’s indigenous Muslim community known as the Uyghurs. In that context, the base in the remote north-eastern corner of Afghanistan is focussed on counter-terrorism operations and to that end it is potentially more concerned with Chinese security than Afghanistan’s. More on this later.

But beyond latest reports of Sino-Afghan military cooperation, just how involved is Beijing in Afghanistan? Well, for a start China maintains a relatively large embassy in Kabul, a reflection of the scope of its operations across the country. China has an abiding economic interest in Afghanistan, primarily not because the country is attractive economically, but because Afghanistan is central to two of China’s core regional economic ambitions.

These are the Belt and Road Initiative and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. China needs a measure of stability and security in Afghanistan in order to safeguard its massive regional investments, stretching from Pakistan to Central Asia. To that end, China began to step up its activities in Afghanistan from 2014 onwards.

At the economic level, Beijing is involved in the Afghan economy in multiple ways. First, China gives Afghanistan direct financial aid. Statistics vary but according to conservative estimates Beijing has given Kabul at least $410 million in direct aid since 2014.

Second, China has emerged as Afghanistan’s biggest foreign investor, focussing mostly on minerals and other natural resource extraction. China was also the first country to begin extracting oil from the Amu Darya basin in northern Afghanistan.

But not all Chinese investment projects have progressed according to plan, in part because of lack of security but equally because of the nature of Chinese overseas economic and commercial enterprise. Concerns about contractual issues and the general aggressive and single-minded approach of Chinese firms – often to the detriment of local workers’ rights – have ground some projects to a halt. The best example is the Mes Aynak concession (concerned with copper ore extraction) which was awarded to Chinese firms more than ten years ago but which has so far failed to even get off the ground.

At the political level, China stepped up its involvement in Afghanistan in late 2014 by trying to set up a “forum” to revive peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. This was followed by other initiatives, notably in partnership with Pakistan. But China’s attempt at peace-making has been largely unsuccessful, reflecting two inescapable facts. Foremost, China lacks experience in foreign conflict resolution. Second, as an ally of Pakistan, China is not seen as an honest broker by the Afghan government.

But to fully understand the drivers of China’s involvement in Afghanistan and Beijing’s desired outcomes we must take account of geopolitics and specifically China’s competition with major global and regional powers in this arena. Let’s start with India.

Undermining India in Afghanistan

Despite its substantial investments in Afghanistan – and notwithstanding its role as a major donor to the Afghan government – it is important to note that China is not in the first tier of active states in the Afghan arena. That distinction goes to three countries, namely the United States, Pakistan and Iran.

China belongs to a second-tier group of countries that are vying for influence in Afghanistan. The other member states of this tier are India and Russia. Similar to China, the Indians have also stepped up their activities in Afghanistan, although not in the sharp manner as Beijing post-2014. By contrast, New Delhi has incrementally increased its activities in Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taliban in late 2001.

India has to tread carefully in Afghanistan so as not to draw Pakistan’s wrath. The latter remains the single most influential player in Afghanistan and in view of broader Indo-Pakistan hostilities, any significant movement by New Delhi inside Afghanistan is likely to draw a fierce reaction from Islamabad.

The Indian embassy in Kabul was bombed twice, in 2008 and 2009 respectively, causing dozens of fatalities. The 2008 attack – which killed 58 people including an Indian brigadier general – was attributed to Pakistan’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence agency by US intelligence officials.

Unlike Pakistan, China is not interested in taking “kinetic” action against Indian interests in Afghanistan. In fact, the two powers are known to cooprate on joint projects in Afghanistan, notably developing the new Afghan diplomatic corps.

Limited cooperation notwithstanding, China is clearly interested at containing Indian influence in Afghanistan as any increase of influence there positively impacts India’s standing in the broader Central Asia region. India is fast making inroads in Central Asia – and although it cannot displace the two biggest actors in that arena, namely China and Turkey – nevertheless Beijing is fearful of the potential political impact of New Delhi’s outreach to Central Asian states.

Keeping America in check

As we have seen in relation to India, the strategic impact of China’s involvement in Afghanistan primarily serves to augment the role and standing of a Chinese ally, notably Pakistan.

The same pattern can be observed in relation to China’s view of and approach towards the US presence in Afghanistan. In hard power terms – specifically in terms of the deployment of military forces and centrality to the counter-insurgency campaign against the Taliban and its allies – the US is the dominant foreign power in Afghanistan.

But a more nuanced appraisal of power and influence projection in Afghanistan cannot fail but to identify Pakistan and Iran as the true dominant foreign powers not least because they are Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours and will continue to compete for dominance long after the US has departed the arena.

In view of its broader rivalry with the US, notably in the South China Sea, the People’s Republic does not the want the US to succeed in any conflict arena, let alone not one with massive geopolitical importance, as demonstrated by the longstanding and multi-faceted Afghan conflict.

To that end, China’s strategic posture in Afghanistan complements the role and standing of another one of its allies, notably the Islamic Republic of Iran. But whilst Iran takes active measures against US and broader Western interests in Afghanistan – by for instance allegedly directly supporting the Taliban in military operations – China is content to limit its containment strategy to the political and diplomatic levels.

The domestic dimension

Finally, in assessing China’s role and influence in Afghanistan, it is important to take full stock of the domestic considerations informing Chinese strategy. As stated earlier, China has a counter-terrorism stake in the conflict as it fears infiltration by Uyghur and other militants from Afghanistan into China’s restive Xinjiang region.

Furthermore, the Islamic State group is active in Afghanistan and by definition this jihadist group is deeply opposed to the Chinese presence that country. More broadly, the Islamic State (or Daesh as its detractors call it) is incensed by China’s massive repression of Uyghurs and other Chinese Muslims, specifically in Xinjiang but also across China as a whole. China fears that the Islamic State group may try to conduct operations inside China and the Wakhan corridor would be the preferred infiltration point. This explains China’s military interest in the corridor.

But beyond jihadist groups, all the authentic Islamic currents in Afghanistan are appalled by China’s treatment of the Uyghurs. The Chinese have reportedly imprisoned up to one million Uyghur Muslims in so-called “counter-extremism centres” which amount to concentration camps.

If China wants to be successful in Afghanistan, and ultimately to play a stabilising role by reconciling the Afghan government with its opponents, then it must also properly address concerns about its treatment of Chinese Muslim minorities.             

 

Can India become a global power?

India is a country that is expected to play a central role in the 21st century. Having a large and fast-growing economy, it is also strengthening its military and is well positioned to dominate South Asia and extend its influence beyond it. But it must also face notable challenges, both domestically and geopolitically.

THE GEOGRAPHICAL BASES OF INDIA’S POWER

To understand India’s current international role and to anticipate the one it will have in the coming decades, it is necessary to analyse the geographic fundamentals of its power.

The first thing to consider is its dimension. India is a vast state and this has several positive and negative implications. On the one hand, this means that India can benefit from a notable strategic depth, but on the other it also means that connecting all the parts of its territory is a difficult endeavour.

This must be considered along with India’s configuration. Its territory presents a wide range of environments and climatic areas. Far to the north there are the towering mountains of Himalaya, a formidable geographic barrier that separates it from China. This is important, considering the complicated relations between the two powers.

Then, there are the fertile valleys of the Ganges and other rivers, which are vital sources of water and useful communication lanes that have favoured agriculture, industrialization and energy production.

The Deccan Plateau that occupies the southern part of the Peninsula is another notable geographic feature, also because of its mineral resources.

India holds quite abundant ore deposits that have helped its industrialization. In terms of energy, while it has its own production of oil and other fossil fuels, this is not sufficient to meet the country’s large and expanding needs.

Other areas include jungles, arid deserts and tropical shores; which all present both advantages and challenges: for instance, the Thar desert between India and Pakistan is a useful buffer zone, but is also a problem for economic development.

Finally, in terms of position India occupies most of South Asia, and its location favours both defence and power projection. As seen before, it benefits from good natural barriers to the north, but at the same time its neighbours are not friendly.

To the north-east, China is getting everyday more powerful and its geopolitical ambitions are a matter of concern for India.

To the north-west lays Pakistan, which apart from being India’s arch-nemesis since the 1947 partition has also built close ties with the PRC. But while the situation to the north is very challenging for India, its southern borders are very favourable.

There, the coast extends for thousands of kilometres on the open Ocean. This means three things: first, that there are no hostile powers at the border that threaten India’s security; even though it does not see positively China’s activities in that maritime area.

Second, this grants India an easy access to offshore resources and most importantly to sea trade. This is also favoured by the fact that India is located mid-way between East Asia and Europe, two of the world’s richest economic areas, plus to the Middle East and its energy resources. Third, this enables India to project its power with little effort, notably through its Navy.

Yet, there are also challenges deriving from India’s position, notably linked to climate change. Having a typical monsoon climate characterized by cycles of abundant rainfalls and dry periods, South Asia is extremely exposed to its effects, as demonstrated by the seriousness and frequency of recent phenomena like drought, floods, and violent storms. Moreover, this also favours the spread of pests and disease. All such factors bear enormous costs both in the form of direct damage and of prevention efforts, and is a notable obstacle to India’s development.

India’s economic and military power

The rise of India as a major power largely lays on its economic development. In 2017, its GDP rose by 6.7% and today it is the world’s fourth in terms of Purchasing Power Parity. Its economy is diversified and several Indian firms have become major players in global business. Financially, India is generally stable, even though it experienced some troubles in recent years.

But the country is not yet fully developed. Infrastructures remain insufficient, and inefficiency exist in various sectors. While unemployment is low (less than 9% in 2017), larger shares of the population continue to live below the poverty line, and traditional agriculture still absorbs a considerable portion of the workforce. Income inequality remains strong, with large differences in wealth distribution between upper and lower classes and between different regions.

In the demographic dimension, India has a population of around 1.28 billion people, making it the second largest in the world just behind China, and it is expected to surpass it in the coming years. Most Indians are young, which is positive for its economic development. But at the same time having a big population also brings several challenges: achieving food and energy security becomes more difficult, as well as providing public services such as a healthcare.  Moreover, this raises the problem of overcrowding and pollution, especially in large cities. Finally, the differences in wealth distribution can result in to social tensions: most of the population lives in the north, where a considerable Muslim minority is also present, but these areas are poorer than the southern parts of the country. In this regard, it should be noted that India has been fighting for decades against the insurgency of a Maoist group called the Naxalites.

Nevertheless, India continues its rise, also in military terms. It can field a large force that regularly participates to international exercises, and over the past few years it has been spending around 2.5% off its GDP in defence expenditures to modernize its armed forces. The Navy holds a particular importance, as it represents the mean to project its power across the Indian Ocean. As of today, the Indian Navy operates a large fleet that includes an aircraft carrier, a nuclear-powered attack submarine and several other units. In cooperation with Russia, India is also developing the BrahMos hypersonic cruise missile. Finally, it must not be forgotten that India is a nuclear power with an estimated stockpile of more than 100 warheads.

India’s geopolitics and foreign policy

For decades, India has maintained a nonaligned policy, of which it has been one of the leaders. But non-alignment does not mean neutrality.  As a matter of fact, India has pursued its own national interests and has been involved in several conflicts.

Its oldest rival is of course Pakistan. Immediately after the partition in 1947, the two fought a major war, followed by another two in 1965 and 1971, plus series of skirmishes. Today, the relations remain tense, but the conflict remains frozen because both states have developed a nuclear strike capacity.

The main point of the divergence is Kashmir, which remains divided between India, Pakistan and China (who controls the Aksai Chin since the 1962 war with India). Apart from having become a symbol of the Indo-Pakistani rivalry, Kashmir also has a strategic importance for these powers.

Ruling it allows to control the flow of water along the Indus valley, with all the consequences for human and economic development. For India, Kashmir is the gateway towards Central Asia as well as a region to control in order to prevent Pakistan from cooperating with its powerful Chinese ally.

On the other hand, for Pakistan dominating it is necessary to have more strategic depth and to preserve its connection with China, especially now that they are working together to develop the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an ambitious infrastructure project to connect the two countries and that Islamabad considers fundamental to boost its economy, even though there are concerns over the debts its completion will bring.

This makes it clear that Pakistan is not India’s only strategic problem, and not even the main one. In recent years, China has become the prominent national security concern for India. One reason is the former’s close ties with Pakistan, but there also direct disputes between Beijing and New Delhi, namely over the aforementioned Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh. The latter belongs to India, but is claimed by the PRC, and it represents a unique strategic challenge for New Delhi. As a matter of fact, it is connected to the rest of India only via a narrow passage chocked between China and Bangladesh and known as the “chicken neck”.  India fears that in case of a conflict the Chinese will rapidly overtake the Arunachal Pradesh by attacking this passage and cutting it from the rest of its territory.

In addition, Beijing and New Delhi are engaged in a geopolitical competition in South Asia. In 2017, the two powers faced each other in a military standoff over the Doklam Plateau, a strategic territory belonging to Bhutan (traditionally close to India) but claimed by the PRC; and since then they have been building up their military forces along the border.

China is also establishing ties with Nepal, raising concerns that the country me fall under its control, which would allow it to directly threaten Northern India. New Delhi has similar concerns over Bangladesh, because if it were to adopt a pro Chinese stance, the “chicken neck” would become even more vulnerable.

But the Sino-Indian rivalry is not limited to South Asia. The two are also competing in Indochina, where each of them is promoting its own economic and political projects. New Delhi is doing so on the basis of its “Look East Policy” launched in the 90s, whereas the latter considers this region an important element of its broader “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) strategy. In this regard, it is notable that India has refused to cooperate with China in this ambitious project.

Another country where their interest collide is Iran. India considers it a potentially precious ally, because it would allow to take Pakistan between two fires. Moreover, it is also a source of oil. But for these very same result and to counter the U.S., China is also interested in building a partnership with Iran.

Last but not least, there is the maritime dimension. Beijing is fostering its ties and establishing a greater presence in the Indian Ocean, in the optic of developing its Maritime Silk Road to connect its territory with Europe and the Middle East and by sea. But New Delhi considers this as “its own” Ocean and as an essential area for its plans to extend its influence on a global scale. Therefore, it is concerned by Beijing’s initiatives; notably in countries like Sri Lanka and the Maldives. In regard to the letter, the political turmoil that has affected the archipelago was largely to be interpreted in the optic of the Sino-Indian rivalry; and the recent electoral victory of Mohamed Solih seems to have marked a point in favour of India.

As a consequence of its rivalry with Beijing, New Delhi is also developing closer ties with other capitals that share similar security interests. The most notable trend is the gradual rapprochement with Washington. Even though it was never openly opposed to the US, during much of the Cold War India sympathized with the USSR and its relations with America were rather cold. But now that both are concerned over China’s rise, they are gradually establishing more cooperation, notably in security terms. India is following a similar policy with Japan and Australia, two other powers that are worried over the initiatives of the PRC. Together, these four states form the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, an informal framework to ensure stability in the Indo-Pacific.

Two other noteworthy partners for India are Israel and the EU. The relations with the former are complicated by India’s tilts towards Iran, but the Jewish State remains an important partner as an arms supplier and for technological cooperation. On its part, the EU has a central role for India’s trade. Lastly, it should also be mentioned that New Delhi is increasing its economic cooperation with Africa as well.

Conclusion: India at the crossroad

This overview allows to draw some conclusion on India’s current and future role. The country finds itself at a crossroad. It has all the potential to emerge as a major world power, but to achieve this objective it must successfully solve the multiple challenges it is facing. Only time will tell to what extent it will manage to, but what is sure is that India is a power to monitor, and that in any case it will have a considerable impact in world affairs in the coming years.

This article was originally commissioned and first published by KJ Vids. It was written by Alessandro Gagaridis. You can visit his website at www.strategikos.it. Please request permission to info@kjvids.co.uk before re-posting.

Will IMRAN KHAN face a ROCKY ROAD with IRAN? – KJ Vids

Will IMRAN KHAN face a ROCKY ROAD with IRAN?

Pakistan’s political and strategic significance for Iran began with Pakistan’s emergence as an independent state following the Partition of India in 1947. The Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was the first head of state to pay a State visit to Pakistan in March 1950 and in the same month, a Treaty of Friendship was signed.

But conflicting national security interests and the influence of wider competing powers have always played an important factor in shaping the Iran-Pakistan relationship, especially after the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. I’m Kasim, this is KJ Vids and in this video, we will look into the relationship between Iran and Pakistan.

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IMRAN KHAN and the MILITARY of PAKISTAN | KJ VIDS

Imran Khan and the Military of Pakistan

Imran Khan has given hope to millions of Pakistani people around the world with promises of a new Pakistan. He has promised to end corruption and improve education, health and the environment. The charismatic former cricket captain began his political campaign 20 years ago to end the endemic corruption in Pakistan. With Nawaz Sharif and some members of his family jailed on corruption charges and the Bhutto family hardly anywhere to be seen, the victory of Imran Khan has broken the traditional clan loyalty and family politics – well for the time-being at least.

But many analysts have argued that his political fortunes only arose as he warmed towards the military which is widely said to be in control of the main levers of power in Pakistan and has dominated foreign and security policies for decades. I’m Kasim, this is KJ Vids and in this video, we will examine the role of the military in Pakistan’s politics.

The Pakistani military has always played an important role in Pakistani politics. For nearly 70 years, the army has defined the country’s national security priorities, sometimes from the seat of government itself, and many commanders have been placed in prominent economic and political positions.

The army has actually been in charge for a combined 33 years of Pakistan’s 68-year history. In this video we examine the role of Pakistan’s Military on Imran Khan’s victory.

Research References;

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/27/imran-khan-won-pakistan-power-army-military-election
  2. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/26/world/asia/imran-khan-pakistan-election.html
  3. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/imran-khan-military-allies-today-foes-tomorrow-180807142326489.html
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/27/imran-khan-won-pakistan-power-army-military-election
  5. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/imran-khan-pakistani-military-favourite-son-180723044709061.html
  6. https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/pakistans-elections-wont-dilute-militarys-influence
  7. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/06/world/asia/imran-khan-pakistan-military.html
  8. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/24/imran-khan-pakistan-election-candidates-military
  9. https://worldview.stratfor.com/themes/pakistan-military-country
  10. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/07/26/imran-khan-has-shown-can-win-backing-pakistans-powerful-military/
  11. https://www.firstpost.com/world/raheel-sharifs-fate-rests-on-imran-khan-as-pakistan-sc-asks-govt-to-vet-ex-army-chiefs-appointment-to-islamic-military-alliance-4917781.html
  12. https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/pakistans-elections-wont-dilute-militarys-influence
  13. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/27/imran-khan-won-pakistan-power-army-military-election
  14. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/pakistan/2018-07-27/pakistans-sham-election

Top 5 Facts About Pakistan Loans from the IMF

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Pakistan is reportedly preparing to seek up to $12bn (£9bn) from the International Monetary Fund after Imran Khan takes office, in a bailout that could curb his public spending pledges.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_toggle title=”Fact 1: Pakistan has had 12 IMF programmes since 1988, more than all the other countries of the region combined.”]South Asia’s second-largest economy has received 12 IMF bailouts since the late 1980s and completed its last loan program just two years ago. It has had more IMF loans than the region combined. India signed one facility with the IMF in 1991, Bangladesh has had three facilities since 1990, Sri Lanka has had two while Nepal has had three.

Most recently, in 2013, the government of Nawaz Sharif agreed to terms for an IMF loan of $6.6 billion disbursed over 36 months. During that time, the government mostly fell short of broadening the tax base or privatizing money-losing state-owned companies, as the IMF had hoped.[/vc_toggle][vc_toggle title=”Fact 2: The next IMF loan would be Pakistan’s largest-ever bailout.”]Pakistan has gone to the IMF repeatedly since the late 1980s. The last time was in 2013, when Islamabad got a $6.6-billion loan to tackle a similar crisis.

Today, the country “needs at least $12 billion”, says Zeeshan Afzal, the director of Insight Securities, a Karachi-based consulting firm.

The Financial Times reported last week that senior Pakistani finance officials were drawing up options for Khan to seek an IMF bailout of up to $12 billion.

This figure is double the $6.7 billion three-year loan program in 2013.

This bailout would also be the 13th IMF bailout for Pakistan.

Analysts also say that a return to the IMF is inevitable and it will damage Mr Khan’s reputation.

Charlie Robertson, global chief economist at Renaissance Capital, said: “This is the first time Imran Khan gets his hands on power and he is going to have to make some very tough decisions.

The new government may seek $10 billion to $15 billion, according to Karachi-based brokerage Insight Securities. That would be higher than the biggest IMF package extended to Pakistan until now, a $7.6 billion loan in 2008.

The IMF typically provides three-year loan programs under its Extended Fund Facility to help countries facing balance-of-payments crises. The loans are often tied to economic targets the government has to meet, for example curbing fiscal or current-account deficits, trimming inflation or allowing more flexibility in currency policy.

[/vc_toggle][vc_toggle title=”Fact 3: Pakistan paid over 1BN Rupees of interest in the 2017-2018 fiscal year”]Pakistan will pay Rs1,620 billion in interest payments for the next fiscal year 2018-19 against the estimates of borrowing loans from external and internal sources.

Documents show that Pakistan will pay Rs1,391 billion as interest to domestic banks and Rs229 billion to foreign institutions in 2018-19.

The government has paid Rs1,526 billion as the interest payment to both domestic and foreign lenders during the ongoing year 2017-18. An amount of Rs1,332 billion paid in servicing of domestic and Rs194 billion of foreign debt.

In addition to this, Pakistan has to repay an amount of Rs21,905 billion to domestic and foreign lenders in the upcoming year.

Full Article Here

[/vc_toggle][vc_toggle title=”Fact 4: Pakistan’s external debt to climb to $103b by June 2019″]Published in The Express Tribune, March 16th, 2018.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has assessed Pakistan’s gross external financing needs at a record $27 billion for the next fiscal year, but warned that arranging the financing at favourable rates will now be a challenge due to risks to the country’s debt sustainability.

In its post-programme monitoring report, the IMF also forecast that due to additional borrowings, Pakistan’s external debt would jump to $103.4 billion by June 2019, up from this June’s projected level of $93.3 billion.

Despite changing goalposts twice, Pakistan’s public debt would remain higher than the limit prescribed in the revised Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act, showed the IMF report.

Certain tables in the report, which the IMF withheld in the past, show the adverse implications of the PML-N government’s borrowing spree over the past four and a half years. The policy of building foreign currency reserves through expensive loans and ignoring the export performance has come to haunt the policymakers.

The IMF said the elevated current account deficit and rising external debt servicing, in part driven by China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)-related outflows, were expected to lead to higher external financing needs.

External financing would surge to $24.5 billion by June this year, the IMF said, adding the country’s needs were expected to rise to around $27 billion by the end of fiscal year 2018-19 (FY19) and would go up to $45 billion by FY23.

At that time, Pakistan’s external financing needs will be equal to 10% of the national output, which is a dangerous level.

“Risks to public debt sustainability have increased since the completion of the EFF (Extended Fund Facility) programme. Public and publicly-guaranteed debt is expected to remain elevated at 68% of GDP by FY23,” the IMF said.

Gross fiscal financing needs will likely exceed 30% of GDP from 2018-19 onwards, in part reflecting increased debt service obligations, it added.

However, the more alarming part is the growing challenges to arranging foreign loans. It said Pakistan had so far remained successful in contracting external borrowing that softened the impact of rising external imbalances on foreign exchange reserves.

“While the level of external debt has remained moderate, continued mobilisation of external financing at favourable rates could become more challenging in the period ahead against the background of rising international interest rates and increasing financing needs,” said the IMF.

It said continued scaling up of CPEC investments could accelerate the build-up of related external payment obligations, adding Pakistan’s capacity to repay could deteriorate at a faster pace, with faster depletion of foreign exchange reserves having adverse effects on economic growth.

Debt levels are higher than envisaged during the 2017 Article IV consultation, largely reflecting a significantly higher fiscal deficit.

The IMF’s projections show a bleak path for the next five years. Public and publicly-guaranteed debt is projected to remain close to 70% of GDP by 2023 under the baseline scenario.

“In the absence of strong consolidation measures, the fiscal deficit is expected to remain close to 6% of GDP in the medium term, resulting in elevated debt levels,” it added.

Adverse shocks, notably to economic growth and the primary balance, could lead to public debt ratios rising well above 70%, said the IMF.

Contingent liabilities from restructuring of loss-making public sector enterprises represent additional fiscal risks. High gross financing needs may also pose potential rollover risks.

The IMF said high levels of public debt and gross financing needs presented significant fiscal risks and needed to be addressed in a timely fashion through fiscal tightening to improve debt sustainability.

“In the absence of significant policy effort, the projected public debt trajectory sits higher than that stipulated in the revised FRDL Act with a limit of 60% of GDP on net general government debt until FY18 and a gradual transition towards 50% of GDP over a 15-year period,” said the IMF.

“While the depreciation allowed in December was a step in the right direction, further steps to phase out foreign exchange interventions and allowing greater exchange rate flexibility on a more permanent basis will be critical to contain the external pressures.”

Published in The Express Tribune, March 16th, 2018.

[/vc_toggle][vc_toggle title=”Fact 5: The State Bank of Pakistan has just $9bn in reserves”]The Financial Times reported that Pakistan’s foreign currency reserves have declined rapidly in recent months, as higher oil prices have pushed up the costs of imports, while exports continue to lag.

According to the latest published figures on July 20, the State Bank of Pakistan had just $9bn in reserves — not even enough to cover two months’ worth of imports.

So far, Islamabad has kept going with the help of loans from Beijing — it borrowed at least $5bn from Chinese commercial banks in the past financial year — and by allowing the Pakistani rupee to depreciate 20 per cent against the dollar. Western economists say they believe the currency is still overvalued and think it could fall at least another 10 per cent.

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The Geopolitics of Kashmir

China, India and Pakistan, all three of which are nuclear states, have vital strategic interests in Kashmir.

Kashmir shares borders with Afghanistan, a country where South Asia meets Central Asia.

Central Asia is a geographic bridge between Europe and other parts of Asia.

Kashmir is a vital geographic component to China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor (CPEC).

Besides the benefits of connecting to Europe and elsewhere, there are other advantages in access to Central Asia.

The region is home to huge natural resources, hydrocarbons and minerals, which both China and India are craving.

Furthermore, the landlocked region’s consumer markets – a population of 70 million – are open for exploitation.

Kashmir’s geographic accessibility to Central Asia – via Afghanistan – makes the position of Kashmir, very significant.

Pakistan intends to use infrastructure built under the CPEC initiative to connect ‘directly by-land’ to both China and Central Asia.

For its part, China wants to secure access to the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean via CPEC to avoid naval blockades.

China’s access to the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean would ensure a Chinese naval presence close to India’s waters.

India also wants to create a trade route linking Afghanistan, Central Asia, Russia and Europe.

Currently, India have to sail through the Arabian Sea to reach Iranian ports from which freight then proceeds over land.

But India’s regional connectivity plans known as the “International North-South Corridor” are time-consuming and costly.

If it wasn’t for Pakistan-Kashmir which stands between India-administered Kashmir and Afghanistan, India would have had a ‘direct by-land’ route access to Afghanistan, Central Asia, Russia, and Europe.

As well as trade routes, the glacial waters that flow via Kashmir provide water and electricity to a billion people in India.

Pakistan also relies heavily on glacial waters flowing from the region to prop up its agricultural sector.

With an increased need for electricity, India has looked to the region to develop more hydro facilities.

Pakistan fears that India may divert water necessary for irrigation, and use water as a weapon against Pakistan.

Kashmir is thus a major national security issue for both nations, the control of which could pose an existential threat to the other.

Kashmir will remain a major national security for both India and Pakistan, as well as play a critical role for China.

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Top 5 Facts About Pakistan’s Military

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The military of Pakistan has played a critical role since its inception in 1947. Amidst the 2018 General Elections, the Pakistani military is very much part of the debate due to its historical influence in shaping governance in Pakistan. Here are five top facts about the Pakistani military you need to know.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_toggle title=”Fact 1: Pakistan has the 6th largest available manpower in the world”]According to global fire power, the Pakistani military is one of the largest forces in the world, in terms of active personnel.

[/vc_toggle][vc_toggle title=”Fact 2: Pakistan is the third largest contributor to United Nations “peacekeeping missions.“”]Pakistan is the third largest contributor to United Nations’ peacekeeping missions the world over, officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Senate.

Officials said that as many as 7,123 Pakistani peacekeepers – including 6,703 personnel of armed forces, 74 military experts, 66 staff officers and 280 police officials – were currently deployed for seven different UN peacekeeping missions in Congo, Darfur, Haiti, Liberia, West Sahara, Central African Republic and Sudan.

[/vc_toggle][vc_toggle title=”Fact 3: Pakistan will deploy the largest number of troops on polling day of the 2018 General Elections in its history”]Over 370,000 troops have been deployed for Pakistan’s General Elections 2018. This is the largest military deployment on a polling day in the nation’s history. The army said it would deploy 371,388 troops at 85,000 polling stations.

The military said in a statement that the troops along with local security agencies will provide a “safe and secure environment” for voting amid concerns over terror attacks.

[/vc_toggle][vc_toggle title=”Fact 4: Pakistan’s Military has ruled Pakistan for nearly half the country’s history”]The military has ruled Pakistan, a nuclear-armed country, through various coups for nearly half the country’s history since it gained independence in 1947. Even during civilian rule, the country’s generals have wielded enormous power, setting the agenda for the country’s foreign and security policies.

Muhammed Ayub Khan rose to power in 1958. He suspended the constitution which had been adopted two years earlier and ensured that the new one gave him ample powers.

In 1977, Muhamed Zia-ul-Haq grabbed power in a coup. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the ousted prime minister, was sentenced to death and executed in 1979.

Pervez Musharraf toppled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999 just when Sharif had decided to fire him as top army leader after a failed military campaign in the Kargil region of Kashmir. Musharraf held onto power until 2008.

(FILES) In this photograph taken on November 28, 2007, then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf (L) salutes as he arrives with then newly appointed army chief General Ashfaq Kiyani during the change of command ceremony in Rawalpindi. A Pakistani court on April 18, 2013, has ordered the arrest of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf for his controversial decision to dismiss judges when he imposed emergency rule in 2007, officials said. It was not immediately clear if or when the retired general would be arrested. Musharraf swept out of the Islamabad court, facing no resistance from a heavy security contingent and driving away in a jeep escorted by his bodyguards. AFP PHOTO/Aamir QURESHI/FILES

 

https://youtu.be/Ovkld1wiFVw

[/vc_toggle][vc_toggle title=”Fact 5: Pakistan was the first country in South Asia to test the “Ultimate Nuclear Missile””]

Pakistan tested a ballistic missile with a multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV), the United States confirmed.

During testimony to Congress outlining worldwide threats on March 6, Robert Ashley, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), stated : “In January 2017, Pakistan conducted the first test launch of its nuclear-capable Ababeel ballistic missile, demonstrating South Asia’s first MIRV payload.”

It appeared to be the first time a U.S. official publicly confirmed that Islamabad tested a MIRVed missile; however, in a report last year on missile threats around the world, the Defense Intelligence Ballistic Missile Analysis Committee noted, “In January 2017, [Pakistan] began testing the MIRVed Ababeel MRBM.”

Pakistani military personnel stand beside long-range ballistic Shaheen II missiles during the Pakistan Day military parade in Islamabad on March 23, 2015. Pakistan held its first national day military parade for seven years, a display of pageantry aimed at showing the country has the upper hand in the fight against the Taliban. Mobile phone networks in the capital were disabled to thwart potential bomb attacks, some roads were closed to the public and much of the city was under heavy guard for the event. AFP PHOTO/ Aamir QURESHI

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Top 5 Facts About Shehbaz Sharif

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_toggle title=”Fact 1: Shehbaz is the longest serving minister in the history of Punjab spanning over 11 years of rule”]His tenures involved the 1997 Nawaz Government, 2008 Pakistan Peoples Party’s regime and 2013 PML-N’s rule. He is known for launching “mega-projects” in the public sector including infrastructure development, transit projects and power plants and is criticised over a lack of priorities, spending development funds mostly in Lahore and large cities, nepotism, conflict of interests and misuse of authority by opposition parties.

One of his projects known as the “Sasti Roti scheme” was scrapped after the Rs7.85 billion loan debt accrued from commercial banks was left unpaid by the food department owing to non-provision of funds earmarked in the financial years 2009-10 and 2010-11, according to the Express Tribune.[/vc_toggle][vc_toggle title=”Fact 2: Sharif spent years of self-exile in Saudi Arabia”]

After a coup in 1999, Shehbaz Sharif spent years of self-exile in Saudi Arabia, returning to Pakistan in 2007. Shehbaz was appointed as a CM for a second term after the PML-N’s victory in the province in the 2008 general elections.

While in exile in Saudi Arabia, Shehbaz was elected as the president of PML-N in August 2002 and moved to the United Kingdom in mid-2003 for medical treatment.

He was re-elected as the president of PML-N for a second term in August 2006 and returned to Pakistan along with Nawaz Sharif in November 2007.

[/vc_toggle][vc_toggle title=”Fact 3: Shebaz has married five times and currently has two wives “]

Sharif has married with 5 women so far. He first married his cousin Begum Nusrat Shahbaz in the year 1973, who was a mother of 5 of his children including Hamza Sharif, Salman Sharif and three daughters. Nusrat Shahbaz died in the year 1993.

His second marriage was with the sister of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officer Tariq Khosa in the same year of his first wife’s death. The name of his second wife is Nargis Khosa.

Aaliya Honey became the third wife of the veteran politician whom he married secretly. But during his exile in Saudi Arabia, Shahbaz Sharif later divorced her.

In the year 2003, Shahbaz Sharif got married with the ex-wife of former governor Punjab Ghulam Mustafa Khar, Tehmina Durrani.

The 63-years old politician had his 5th marriage with Kalsoom Hay who was a wife of former DPO Okara Tariq Qureshi with whom he has three children.

Sharif’s two wives’ — Nusrat and Tehmina Durrani — have cumulative assets valued at Rs389 million, according to their asset details shared with the Election Commission of Pakistan.

[/vc_toggle][vc_toggle title=”Fact 4: Shehbaz was once issued an issued an arrest warrant by an anti-terrorism court”]

In 2003, an anti-terrorism court issued an arrest warrant for Sharif in a 1998 extrajudicial killings case. Sharif was accused for ordering extrajudicial killings of five people in a fake police encounter in 1998 during his first tenure as Chief Minister of Punjab.

Sharif attempted to return to Pakistan in 2004 to appear before the court, but was forcibly deported back to Saudi Arabia. In August 2007, the Supreme Court of Pakistan gave its verdict which allowed Sharif to return to Pakistan.

In September 2007, a court in Pakistan ordered police to arrest Sharif “at whichever airport he lands at” on a 2003 arrest warrant. Sharif denied ordering the alleged killings and said the charges against him were politically motivated.

[/vc_toggle][vc_toggle title=”Fact 5: Shebaz is a multi-millionaire”]

Shehbaz Sharif has total assets worth Rs159,010,066 according to documents obtained by DawnNewsTV.

  • Owns non-agricultural property worth Rs14.8m in Lahore and Murree
  • Owns 670 kanals of agricultural land worth Rs35,000, since most of it is stated to be a gift from his mother
  • Owns two flats in London worth £241,281 and £677,014
  • Has shares in several mills including Hudaibiya Paper Mills worth Rs273,000 (all inherited from father)
  • Owns a “partially gifted” Toyota Land Cruiser (2006 model) worth Rs6.3m
  • Has Rs11.4m in bank balance and cash/prize bonds
  • His wife Nusrat Shahbaz owns two houses worth a total of Rs186.6m
  • His other wife Tehmina Durrani has net assets worth Rs5.8m

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