PEEVED AT TRUMP’S PRO INDIA BENT, CHINESE MEDIA DEFENDS PAKISTAN AND BATS FOR A GREATER CHINESE ROLE IN AFGHANISTAN

Will the US turn Afghanistan into a geopolitical bridgehead in Central Asia or work with China to build peace there?

That is a question posed by an editorial in China’s state-run publication Global Times. The editorial believes that the Afghanistan policy revamp by US President Donald Trump is a step in wrong direction.

Presenting the case for greater Chinese involvement in Afghanistan and defending Pakistan whom Trump again called a safe haven for terrorists and a duplicitous nation, the editorial says that “the US needs to enhance cooperation with China and improve ties with Pakistan to stabilize the Afghanistan situation.”

Reeking of the usual arrogance of Chinese media that threatens India with war every other day in the ongoing Doklam standoff, the editorial argues that it will be stupid on the part of the US “to abandon Pakistan and particularly short-sighted to get too close to India and drift away from Pakistan.” Pushing the Pakistani case further, it says that the US needs to respect and consider Pakistan’s interests and difficulties, and not push the latter too hard on anti-terrorism issues.

Under his government’s Afghanistan Policy, Trump has announced several departures from his established stand to withdraw the US from the war-torn South Asian nation. His emphasis is on increasing the number of US troops in Afghanistan and giving the forces free hand to handle insurgents and not micro-managing then from the Washington. And he clearly said that developing a strategic partnership with India was a critical part of US’ strategy for South Asia.

At the same time, he came down heavily on Pakistan and warned that the US would no longer be silent about Pakistan’s double-dealings and pressed that it had to change immediately. How frustrated the US is with Pakistan becomes clear with Trump’s remarks that “the US has been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that US is fighting.”

Now China is batting for that Pakistan and it tells how hollow these Chinese claims are, either in this boastful editorial about Chinese importance in Afghanistan when it has almost negligible presence there or the response of the China’s Foreign Ministry earlier which defended Pakistan saying the international community should recognize Pakistan’s efforts against terrorism.

Continuing its verbal tirade against the US, which banned some Chinese companies and individuals yesterday for their North Koreans links, the editorial says that there is nothing new in Trump’s Afghanistan policy and it ignores the complicated situation in Pakistan which cannot be handled by a single power.

The editorial accepts that the US doesn’t trust China enough but goes on to say that the US and China share common interests in Afghanistan and proposes that “Afghanistan could become a bridge for the two to expand their cooperation.” While the new US policy sees a clear strategic shift towards India, Afghanistan’s trusted partner in its reconstruction, Global Times finds no initiative on international cooperation and new thinking in Trump’s vision which it believes dangles between the approaches taken by Barack Obama and George W Bush and is aimed at maintaining the status quo.

That line of argument is in stark contrast to what Trump thinks. While detailing the policy in an address to the nation, Trump said, “One way or another, these problems will be solved – I’m a problem solver – and, in the end, we will win.” According to Trump and his aides, lengthy deliberations went into formulating the strategy after which Trump reached to a conclusion that the US could not leave Afghanistan in a state that would make it a breeding ground for terror outfits quoting the example of Iraq where a US withdrawal saw emergence of the Islamic State.

Now if the editorial calls that Afghan policy of the US aimless, it is nothing but driven by its vested interests and anti-India streak. China doesn’t want a US military base in Afghanistan. And China doesn’t want an increased strategic presence of India in Afghanistan that can provide it a vital base overlooking China and deeper access to energy rich Central Asia and Iran.

©SantoshChaubey

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WHERE WAS CHINESE STATE MEDIA’S FUSS THIS WEEKEND?

The weekend passed without any fuss this time. The Chinese state media didn’t come with any editorial warning India of war or disastrous consequences, be it People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of China’s ruling Communist Party (CPC), or its hawkish tabloid Global Times or China’s state-run news agency Xinhua.

Let’s begin with Global Times, the sister publication of People’s Daily that has been the front of the Chinese state media pushing for an India-China war (scenario?) ever since the border standoff between the two countries on the Doklam Plateau began around mid-June.

The only editorial with harsh war rhetoric available on the opinion section of its website is from August 7. Titled ‘India misjudges China’s hope for peace’, it mocks India for miscalculated assessment of Chinese ‘silence’ and then throws the routine, i.e., ‘countermeasures from China will be unavoidable’.

The pattern of all other editorials, especially during the weekend, have been back to viewpoints like the developments around the South China Sea dispute, or the Sino-US trade row or even the Sino-India trade war but the hawkish tone of military war has taken a leave it seems. Now whether it is temporary or the Chinese propaganda machinery will be back to its virtual war with India only time will tell.

To continue..

©SantoshChaubey

CHINESE MEDIA NOW PATRONISES BHUTAN, WARNS INDIA OF DISASTROUS CONSEQUENCES YET AGAIN

The article originally appeared on India Today on 9 August.

In a clear attempt to patronize Bhutan, an editorial by China’s official news agency, Xinhua now has blamed India to turn Bhutan into its protectorate. Saying that if there is any dispute, it is between China and Bhutan and “it has nothing to do with India.”

Terming Bhutan a weak country, the editorial says India is recklessly invading its neighbour based on “childish assumptions and foolhardy speculations.” “The bottom line in international justice is that no country may pursue its security at the cost of another’s sovereignty,” the editorial further writes in attempts to provoke Bhutan.

The editorial’s line that “China respects Bhutan as an independent sovereign state and resents India’s attempt to turn it into a de facto protectorate,” may be a new Chinese ploy to mould or pressure Bhutan after India has refused to budge from its position in spite of incessant Chinese threats of military action.

Extending the routine of aggrandizing China’s military prowess, it warns that “India should underestimate neither China’s determination nor its capacity to defend its sovereignty and national interests and must dispel all illusions and avoid disastrous consequences.”

Terming India’s thinking that China will back down a wishful thinking, it further says that India, so far, has done nothing to diffuse the border crisis in Doklam and instead is making eccentric demands even if China is known as an expansionist country involved in territorial disputes with around 20 countries.

China has been ratcheting up its anti-India rhetoric through statements of its foreign ministry, defence ministry, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and its state run media, infusing it with war threats, saying it is now up to India to deescalate the border tension and withdraw its troops from an area that it claims as its own.

The editor of the Global Times, a state owned hawkish tabloid, today came up with his second video warning India of war if it doesn’t withdraw its troops from Doklam unilaterally. In his first video message last week, he was seen aggrandizing China’s military strength vis-a-vis India, drawing parallels like ‘if China and India engage in military conflict, the PLA has an overwhelming advantage”. The hawkish newspaper, a sister publication the People’s Daily, Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper, has run a number of anti-India editorials laden with rhetoric ever since soldiers from the Indian Army and the PLA first faced off on the Doklam plataue last month.

Doklam that China considers a part of its Donglang region has been a long running territorial dispute between Bhutan and China and Bhutan even issued a demarche to China on construction of road in the area by the PLA. Indian troops entered the area to prevent the road construction with India informing China that it was against the agreement of maintaining the status quo in the area as agreed in the past.

But an autocratic and expansionist China refused to budge, and in fact, unleashed an intense propaganda war against India aimed to dislodge the legally valid Indian claims and employed every possible propaganda tool in its arsenal, be it the high pitched ‘war possibility’ threat or arrogant responses delivered by its higher level officials including daily briefings of its foreign ministry or indiscriminate verbal firing rounds by its official publications.

©SantoshChaubey

DOKLAM STANDOFF: INDIA CHINA DID TRY DIPLOMACY BUT IT HAS HIT A ROADBLOCK

A Reuters report has said that the efforts to diffuse the Doklam border standoff between China and India at diplomatic levels have hit a roadblock. The report quoting people who have been briefed on the talks, said that “India’s diplomatic efforts to end a seven-week military standoff with China have hit a roadblock “as there has been no further development “on the low-key diplomatic manoeuvres that took place outside the public eye.”

Last week, while speaking on the Doklam standoff in the Parliament, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had said that war was not a solution and diplomatic efforts were needed to resolve the crisis. But, according to Reuters, “China did not respond to India’s suggestion in the talks that it move its troops back 250 metres in return if India has to withdraw its troops from Doklam,” quoting a source with deep access to the Modi government.

“The Chinese countered with an offer to move back 100 metres, so long as they received clearance from top government officials”, the Reuters report further said but there has no further headway after it, as clear from increasing war rhetoric from China. “It is a logjam, there is no movement at all now,” the report said quoting another source.

Meanwhile China has continued ratcheting up its anti-India rhetoric through statements of its foreign ministry, defence ministry, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and its state run media, infusing it with war threats, saying it is now up to India to deescalate the border tension and withdraw its troops from an area that it claims as its own.

The editor of the Global Times, a state owned hawkish tabloid, today came up with his second video warning India of war if it doesn’t withdraw its troops from Doklam unilaterally. In his first video message last week, he was seen aggrandizing China’s military strength vis-a-vis India, drawing parallels like ‘if China and India engage in military conflict, the PLA has an overwhelming advantage’’. The hawkish newspaper, a sister publication the People’s Daily, Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper, has run a number of anti-India editorials laden with rhetoric ever since soldiers from the Indian Army and the PLA first faced off on the Doklam plataue last month.

Doklam that China considers a part of its Donglang region has been a long running territorial dispute between Bhutan and China and Bhutan even issued a demarche to China on construction of road in the area by the PLA. Indian troops entered the area to prevent the road construction with India informing China that it was against the agreement of maintaining the status quo in the area as agreed in the past.

But an autocratic and expansionist China refused to budge, and in fact, unleashed an intense propaganda war against India aimed to dislodge the legally valid Indian claims and employed every possible propaganda tool in its arsenal, be it the high pitched ‘war possibility’ threat or arrogant responses delivered by its higher level officials including daily briefings of its foreign ministry or indiscriminate verbal firing rounds by its official publications.

©SantoshChaubey

CHINA HAS OVERWHELMING ADVANTAGE OVER INDIA IN CASE OF MILITARY CONFLICT: GLOBAL TIMES CHIEF EDITOR

The article originally appeared on India Today.

China has an edge over the United States’s military presence in the South China Sea and anywhere near China’s coastal waters, and is far more powerful than the India’s overall military strength that is restrained by limited resources, an editorial in Global Times, a hawkish state-run newspaper in China, says.

China also has an ability to upgrade its military capabilities that is unparalleled among other countries, the Global Times editorial goes on to say. China has worked on its core strategic areas in such a streamlined fashion that it can augment the country’s comprehensive military capability faster than others, in fact every few years, the editorial points out.

The editorial comes as China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the world’s largest military force with a strength of around 2.3 million troops, celebrates its 90th anniversary and as the India-China standoff at the Doklam plateau enters its second month.

The article is the latest in a string of India-baiting editorial that have been published by the Global Times, which sometimes is known to take extreme positions not always held by Beijing. The hawkish newspaper has run a number of anti-India editorials laden with rhetoric ever since soldiers from the Indian Army and the PLA first faced off on the Doklam plataue last month.

This time, however, the Global Times seems to have brought out the big guns. The newspaper’s Twitter handle today posted a video in which its editor-in-chief Hu Xijin, a former war correspondent, can be seen aggrandizing China’s military strength vis-a-vis India, drawing parallels like ‘if China and India engage in military conflict, the PLA has an overwhelming advantage’ and ‘if China and the US have a standoff in the nearby waters, the PLA will not lose’.

The editorial runs on similar lines, saying that ‘underestimating the PLA’s strength could lead to a major mistake’. The editorial also boasts of PLA’s ‘all around development’ built on high-tech research and development in military hardware including submarines, aircraft carriers and navigation systems and highlights China’s defence budget of $151.4 billion, three times of India’s $52 billion allocation for its defence sector.

China is rapidly enhancing its strategic capabilities and in fact, has created an advanced weapons research agency, the Scientific Research Steering Committee, modelled on the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, the mother of most innovative defence research in the world giving us technologies like internet, GPS, stealth fighters, precision weapons and electromagnetic cannons.

In March this year, China inducted J-20, its first stealth fighter jet, into active service. The same month, it announced to develop a breakthrough, an electric propulsion technology, that it claimed would make its submarines quieter than US submarines. In April, the country launched its first home-built aircraft carrier in open waters. In June, it launched its home-built guided missile destroyer that it claimed was most advanced in Asia and the world second most powerful.

And as it is the season of army parades in China, the Global Times editorial takes the liberty of issuing warning even to the world on PLA’s behalf it seems. It says as “China’s national interests expand, the PLA will take on greater responsibilities. Other countries need to get used to the presence of Chinese forces outside China’s coastal waters, whether they like it or not.”

Last month, China sent its troops to Djibouti, its first overseas military base. China has entered into an agreement with Djibouti which allows it to station its 10,000 troops in the country till 2026, much higher than 4000 US soldiers stationed at Camp Lemonnier, also in Djibouti, America’s largest permanent base in Africa. And experts say its second overseas naval base is going to come up in India’s backyard, at Pakistan’s Gwadar Port in the Arabian Sea.

©SantoshChaubey

CHINESE MEDIA: B&R IS NOT A CHARITY PROGRAMME, CHINA SHOULD GIVE LOANS AT HIGHER INTEREST RATES

The article originally appeared on India Today.

Though China terms baseless India’s worries that it is trying to establish foothold in India’s neighbourhood by trapping countries in a debt trap, its steps say otherwise.

India’s neighbourhood countries that China is eyeing are Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Myanmar. Having a strong Chinese presence in these countries would give China strategic advantage over India. So, China, in the name of building economic corridors linking Asia, Africa and Europe, offers these countries huge loans for infrastructural projects at higher interest rates and when these economically poor countries are not able to repay the loans, China acquires controlling stakes in them, as high as 85 per cent.

China rubbishes all such claims and says in its One Belt One Road or Belt & Road (OBOR or B&R) is a venture aimed at mutual benefit for all in the region. But an editorial in Global Times, one of the official publications of China, has clearly stated that “it should be made clear that the B&R is not a charity program, and most projects under the initiative are reciprocal, rather than aid.”

Though the editorial is written in context of an Indian publication’s report that claims that China is trying to convert its soft loans to Bangladesh to commercial credit, it gives a hint of what the Chinese designs are going to be, especially in countries where China is investing heavily in projects under its One OBOR or B&R initiative.

Pakistan is the classic case here where China is establishing China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with an estimated investment of $50 billion that could go up to $75 billion. Though Pakistan’s power elite sound bullish with CPEC as if it will miraculously transform Pakistan, protesters and activists in Pakistan rue that the mammoth infrastructural exercise, that passes through the disputed territory that India considers its own, will convert Pakistan into a Chinese colony.

China is already acquiring controlling stakes in projects in Myanmar and Sri Lanka. According to a Reuters report, China has demanded 70-85 per cent stakes in the projects funded by China in Myanmar including Kyauk Pyu, a strategic deep sea strategic on the Bay of Bengal. In Sri Lanka, China funded projects Hambantota Port and Mattala Airport, both strategically important, especially for India, have gone into China’s control. With Bangladesh, China signed projects worth $25 billion during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Bangladesh visit in October 2016. Earlier this month, Nepal signed a $ 2.5 billion deal with China to build the country’s largest hydroelectric dam. In May, Nepal and China signed a MoU on OBOR.

China, known for territorial expansionism and autocratic rule, is also an economic powerhouse now. It is now financially big enough to first pump its money in small, poor nations and then acquire controlling stakes in organizations as the nations fail to repay, be it the poor or financially weaker nations of Asia or Africa and the editorial narrative that “China needs to take a more sophisticated approach in clarifying its loan arrangements in overseas cooperation and should maintain its bottom line by avoiding interest rate competition in loan offerings” fits in the expansionist mindset of its one-party regime.

Soft loans come with symbolic interest rates of around 1 per cent or even less or in some cases with no interest rates and are given to the borrowers for development projects while commercial credit is given at much higher interest rates. The editorial argues that “there is no need for China to compete with other countries in offering competitive interest rates just to please partners or win contracts, to the detriment of its own interests” referring to India’s $7.5 billion line of credit to Bangladesh at a nominal interest rate.

Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, all these countries are in India’s neighbourhood. China is either funding huge projects there or has signed deals worth multiple billions of dollars. And as it intends to charge a much higher interest rate for its loans, something that may result in countries defaulting on Chinese loans and thus ceding the projects’ control to China, India has a valid reason to get worried, especially after the historically hostile attitude that China has harboured against India. China has always tried to encircle India by increasing its presence in the South Asian countries.

©SantoshChaubey

IS CHINA BLACKMAILING MYANMAR, LIKE IT DID WITH SRI LANKA?

The article originally appeared on India Today.

China is known for territorial expansionism and autocratic rule but its increasing economic prowess has added another dimension to its clout – the economic imperialism. Now China is financially big enough to first pump its money in small, poor nations and then acquire controlling stakes in organizations as the nations fail to repay, be it the poor or financially weaker nations of Asia or Africa.

That is a deepening line of analysis by the experts. Confirming similar developments, an exclusive Reuters report has claimed that China is expected to take controlling stakes, as high as 85 per cent, in Myanmar’s China funded projects, even if the initial agreement for some of them was on a 50/50 basis. According to the report, China has asked for a 70-85 per cent stake in a strategic deep sea strategic on the Bay of Bengal, Kyauk Pyu, and is expected to get it due to the financial constraints of Myanmar. The $7.3 billion project is China funded.

The deep sea port fits in the Chinese narrative of its ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative under which it is pumping huge sums of money in financially weaker countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, or Myanmar, albeit, at much higher interest rates. If the international line of credit by different organizations or countries for soft loans ranges from 0.1 per cent to 3 per cent, the Chinese lenders charge anything above 6 per cent. In 2015, Japan sanctioned a loan amount of $50 billion with interest rate of 0.1 per cent and a repayment period of 50 years for India’s Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train corridor.

In case of Myanmar, the Myitsone dam project is a classic example to see China’s hegemonic designs through economic imperialism. The $3.6 billion dam project was financed by China. Built on the Irrawaddy River, the project was doomed from the beginning. After being in making for years, the project was suspended in September 2011 amid democratic reforms as the Burmese Junta government had taken a unilateral decision to allow the controversial project that was expected to bring cultural, environmental and sociological disaster for Myanmar and its people. The ethnic Burman majority of Myanmar is against any dam on the Irrawaddy River as it traces its roots of civilization there.

Add to it the cunning Chinese business model. The project was sold saying the electricity it would produce, 90 per cent of it would be sold to China while 10 per cent was to be given free to Myanmar. Being a power starved country, protests were held against it in Myanmar. Under pressure, China later said Myanmar was the primary market and rest was to be exported. That was when Myanmar is among the countries with lowest electrification rate and no grid structure to connect its cities and town. A World Bank report says only 33 per cent of the country’s population has an electricity connection.

Now China is using this junked project that has displaced thousands of people to leverage its position in Myanmar or we can say, to blackmail the Myanmarese government. If Myanmar finally cancels this project, it would have to return China $800 million that would hit it badly.

Or the way China wants it, i.e., “concessions on other strategic opportunities in Myanmar – including the Bay of Bengal port Kyauk Pyu”, as the Reuters report says.

Another large scale project in Myanmar that is on the radar of China’s hegemonic designs is Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone in one of its poorest regions, Rakhine. This $10 billion project is also China backed. China has also taken a controlling stake in another industrial park. China even owned 80 per cent of Myitsone dam project with Myanmar’s share just at 15 per cent. China has a bad reputation in Myanmar, especially about its hegemonic designs and exploitative nature, and large scale protest have been held against it.

Earlier this week, an Indian publication, The Economic Times, had come up with a report that “how China was putting some South Asian countries on the road to debt trap under its One Belt One Road initiative”. The report was focused on Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The report showed that how Chinese firms are pumping up money in these countries at unusually higher interest rates. When countries see that they are not able to repay, they convert their debt into equity and that literally translates into the ownership of the lender, i.e., China here.

This is already happening in Sri Lanka where Hambantota Port and Mattala Airport, both strategically important, especially for India, have gone into China’s control. Sri Lanka took Chinese loans for these projects and could not repay. Like Myanmar, even in Sri Lanka, violent protests were held when Hambantota went to China.

And experts say Pakistan is going to meet the same fate. Everyone in Pakistan nowadays talks of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) like a panacea for Pakistan’s every misery. China has promised a $50 billion line of credit for the CPEC that is expected to bring economic miracle in China. But the truth is, as per the experts, Pakistan is borrowing heavily from China and at much higher interest rates. Anyone can expects the future if the CPEC fails.

And all these countries are in India’s neighbourhood. So, India has a valid reason to get worried, especially after the historically hostile attitude that China has harboured against India. China has always tried to encircle India by increasing its presence in the South Asian countries. India has vocally opposed the CPEC and has been apathetic toward the One Belt One Road initiative. And now even Bangladesh and Nepal are realizing the Chinese designs. Bangladesh has backed out from an international summit that China is holding on the One Belt One Road initiative while Nepal has decided to send its deputy prime minister in place of its president.

©SantoshChaubey