The Sea of China…. The problematic of the new world system بحر الصين… إشكالية النظام العالمي الجديد

The Sea of China…. The problematic of the new world system

Written by Nasser Kandil,

سبتمبر 20, 2017

Any reader cannot comment on this title and why we concern about the Sea of China, knowing that what we have is enough to concern about. The major country which leads the wars against us is the United States, and it is normal to care about confronting it with at least three things, its opponents, their suitability to be taken as allies, its plans, and its priorities in order to know the effectiveness of our confrontations and victories in the field in producing stable political equations, and how to change the world system and its new balances by all the surrounding variables. In the three points we will see China in front of us, it is the first opponent of the American hegemony, an active partner in any new or old world system, and today it is the priority of America, so how to pay attention that the politics in its different aspects is an outcome of economy which China is preceding to occupy the first global world ranking, as a consumer of the energy which forms one of the most important resources of our region,  as a producer of the goods which our countries form a vital market for them, and as an inspiring to enter the old world in which our geography locates.

The Sea of China forms the confused geographical area which seems the first appropriate region for the solutions instead of our region which is full of disputes and the conflicts. On its shores a high tense confrontation is taking place in which the American wants to have control on it and wants to prevent China from making it a regional lake, which its balances will be determined by equations of the forces which surround it. The Americans locate on the shores of this sea from the South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, and Vietnam, they bet on hindering the Chinese project which based originally on the concept of the regional lake which is directed by the partners that share the same geography, through internationalizing the Sea of China and its crises. This requires igniting the crises between the neighborhoods and raising the tension towards justifying the military internationalization of these crises. Burma’s problem which bothers China does not stem from the fact that it is the concerned country of persecuting the Muslims there, but because China is aware that the American provocation of the issue stems from the attempt of internationalizing in order to deploy foreign troops on the borders of China, under the framework of Chinese-American conflict between the regions and the internationalization as the Korean cause, and as the Chinese industrial islands in the Sea of China. So the deployment of the US missile systems which threaten the Chinese security as the modern Thad system becomes a justification that has a cover made by the countries which the Americans try to put it under the threat of China and its allies in order to seek for the US protection, exactly as how America does in the Gulf by spreading panic from Iran.

China is the partner of the Arabs, the Muslims, and the other nations of the region in confronting the projects of the American hegemony, and the rising power in the world economically. In Asia which constitutes two-thirds of population and distance, China constitutes one third of its population, while Russia constitutes one third of its area. As the understanding with Russia has led to an equation that started changing the world, the completion of the birth of new world system is waiting for the future of the balances in the Sea of China to become clear. What should be concerned regarding the issues of the freedom and independence in our country is not to take one of the two extreme positions towards the issue of the Muslims of Burma whether through ignoring the issue, denying its existence and considering it mere US fabrication or ISIS movement as what was repeated by some people thinking that they serve China by repeating what is being spread on its media, or through participating in arousing the issue, because America can invest it in order to internationalize its security and to be positioned under this pretext on the borders of China. Iran seems the first concerned to have a dialogue with China and to reach to an understanding for a regional solution sponsored by the neighboring countries of Burma as China, India, Bangladesh, and Thailand  that ensures its security and the security of the Muslims in it , and stops the malicious game of America under its pretext.

North Korea’s missiles remain the indispensable deterrence till the Americans recognize the choice of negotiation for a political solution and till Japan and South Korea understand that the solution must be regional or there is no solution.

Translated by Lina Shehadeh,

بحر الصين… إشكالية النظام العالمي الجديد

ناصر قنديل

سبتمبر 16, 2017

– لا يستطيع عاقل أن يعلق على العنوان وما علاقتنا ببحر الصين، فما عندنا كافٍ ليشغل اهتمامنا وأكثر، فالدولة العظمى التي تقود الحروب علينا هي أميركا، والطبيعي أن نهتمّ لمواجهتنا معها بثلاثة أشياء على الأقلّ، خصومها ومدى صلاحيتهم كحلفاء لنا، وخططها ونسبة الأولويات فيها لإدراك مدى فعالية مواجهتنا وانتصاراتنا في الميدان في إنتاج معادلات سياسية مستقرة، وكيفية تغيّر النظام العالمي وتوازناته الجديدة بفعل كلّ المتغيّرات المحيطة به. وفي الثلاثة سنجد الصين أمامنا، فهي خصم أول للهيمنة الأميركية وشريك فاعل في أيّ نظام عالمي قديم وجديد، وهي اليوم أولوية أميركا، فكيف إنْ كان لعقلنا أن ينتبه أنّ السياسة في كثير من وجوهها مولود للاقتصاد، الذي تتقدّم الصين لاحتلال مرتبة عالمية أولى فيه، كمستهلك للطاقة التي تشكل أحد أهمّ موارد منطقتنا، وكمنتج للسلع التي تشكل بلادنا سوقاً حيوية لها، وكطامح لدخول العالم القديم الذي تتوضّع جغرافيتنا في قلبه؟

– يشكل بحر الصين المنطقة الجغرافية المضطربة التي تبدو المرشح الأول للحلول مكان منطقتنا في تصدّر الأحداث والنزاعات، فعلى شواطئه تدور مواجهة عالية التوتر، يريد الأميركي عبرها الإمساك بمفاتيحه، ومنع الصين من جعله بحيرة إقليمية، تقرّر توازناتها معادلات القوى المتشاطئة عليه، والأميركيون موجودون على ضفاف هذا البحر من كوريا الجنوبية واليابان، وأندونيسيا والفيلبين، وفيتنام، ويراهنون على عرقلة المشروع الصيني القائم أصلاً على مفهوم البحيرة الإقليمية التي يديرها الشركاء الطبيعيون جغرافياً، بتدويل بحر الصين وأزماته. وهذا يستدعي تصعيد الأزمات بين الجيران ورفع منسوب التوتر وصولاً لتبرير التدويل العسكري لهذه الأزمات. ومشكلة بورما التي تزعج الصين، ليس لأنها هي الطرف المعني باضطهاد المسلمين هناك، بل لأنها تدرك أنّ الإثارة الأميركية للقضية نابعة من مسعى للتدويل وزرع قوات أجنبية على حدود الصين، تندرج في إطار الصراع الصيني الأميركي بين الأقلمة والتدويل، ومثلها القضية الكورية، ومثلهما الجزر الصناعية الصينية في بحر الصين، ليصير نشر المنظومات الصاروخية الأميركية التي تهدّد الأمن الصيني، كمنظومة ثاد الحديثة، مبرّراً ويملك غطاء تصنعه مخاوف وهواجس دول يشتغل الأميركيون على جعلها تحت تهديد الصين وحلفائها، لتطلب الحماية الأميركية، تماماً كما هو حال التعامل الأميركي في الخليج بقوة إنتاج الذعر من إيران.

– الصين شريك العرب والمسلمين وسائر شعوب المنطقة في مواجهة مشاريع الهمينة الأميركية، وقائدة العالم الصاعدة اقتصادياً، وفي آسيا التي تشكل ثلثي العالم سكاناً ومساحة تشكل الصين ثلث سكانها، وتشكل روسيا ثلث مساحتها، ومثلما أنتج التفاهم مع روسيا معادلة بدأت تغيّر العالم، فإنّ اكتمال ولادة نظام عالمي جديد ينتظر تبلور مستقبل التوازنات في بحر الصين، وما يجب أن يهتمّ به المعنيون بقضايا الحرية والاستقلال في بلادنا، هو أن لا يتخذوا أحد الموقفين المتطرفين من قضية مسلمي بورما، فيصبّون الماء في الطاحونة الأميركية، إما بتجاهل القضية وإنكار وجودها، واعتبارها مجرد فبركة أميركية، أو حركة داعشية، كما يتحدّث البعض ظناً منهم أنهم يخدمون الصين بتكرار ما تقوله وسائل إعلامها، أو بالمشاركة في إثارة صاخبة للقضية ينجح الأميركي بتوظيفها لتدويل أمنها والتموضع بذريعتها على حدود الصين، إن إيران تبدو المعني الأول بحوار مع الصين يخرج بتفاهم على الدعوة لحلّ إقليمي ترعاه دول الجوار لبورما، وهي الصين والهند وبنغلادش وتايلاند، يضمن أمنها ومن ضمنه أمن المسلمين فيها، ويقطع الطريق على اللعبة الأميركية الخبيثة بذريعتها.

– تبقى صواريخ كوريا الشمالية رادع لا غنى عنه، حتى يستسلم الأميركيون لخيار التفاوض لحلّ سياسي، ويفهم اليابان وكوريا الجنوبية أنّ الحلّ يكون إقليمياً أو لا يكون.

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CHINA’S MARITIME STRATEGIC REALIGNMENT

Written and produced by SF Team: Brian Kalman, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson

China has begun construction of the first Type 075 Class Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD). Construction most likely started in January or February of this year, with some satellite imagery and digital photos appearing online of at least one pre-fabricated hull cell. The Type 075 will be the largest amphibious warfare vessel in the Peoples’ Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), with similar displacement and dimensions as the U.S. Navy Wasp Class LHD. The PLA has also made it known that the force plans to expand the current PLA Marine Corps from 20,000 personnel to 100,000.

As China completes preparations for its new military base in Djibouti, located in the strategic Horn of Africa, it has also continued its substantial investment in developing the port of Gwadar, Pakistan. Not only will Gwadar become a key logistics hub as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the “One Belt, One Road” trade initiative, but will also be a key naval base in providing security for China’s maritime trade in the region.  When these developments are viewed in conjunction with the decision to reduce the size of the army by 300,000 personnel, it is obvious that China has reassessed the strategic focus of the nation’s armed forces.

The PLAN’s intends to expand the current force structure of the PLA Marine Corps fivefold, from two brigades to ten brigades. At the same time, the PLAN will be increased in size and capabilities, with many new, large displacement warships of varying types added to the fleet. Of particular interest, are the addition of at least two Type 055 destroyers, an indigenously designed and built aircraft carrier of a new class, two more Type 071 LPDs, and the first Type 075 LHD.

China is rapidly gaining the ability to project power and naval presence at increasing distances from its shores. Not only is the PLAN expanding in tonnage, but its new vessels are considerably more capable. The PLAN will be striving to add and train an additional 25% more personnel over the next half a decade, in an effort to add the skilled crews, pilots, and support personnel that will facilitate such an ambitious expansion.

The Chinese military leadership previously decided to double the number of AMIDs starting in 2014. A 100% increase in the PLA AMIDs and a 500% increase in the PLAMC denotes a major strategic shift in the defense strategy of the Chinese state. With the successful growth of the Silk Road Economic Belt/Maritime Silk Road Initiative, it becomes readily apparent that China must focus on securing and defending this global economic highway. China has made a massive investment, in partnership with many nations, in ensuring the success of a massive system of economic arteries that will span half of the globe. Many of these logistics arteries will transit strategic international maritime territories. In light of these developments, a military shift in focus away from fighting a ground war in China, to a greater maritime presence and power projection capability are quite logical.

China began construction of a maritime support facility in Djibouti in 2016, to protect its interests in Africa, facilitate joint anti-piracy operations in the region, and to provide a naval base to support long range and extended deployments of PLAN assets to protect the shipping lanes transiting the Strait of Aden. In addition, China invested approximately $46 billion USD in developing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, including major investment in the infrastructure of the port of Gwadar. The governments of both nations desire the stationing of a flotilla of PLAN warships in the port, and possibly a rapid reaction force of PLA Marines. Gwadar is well positioned to not only protect China’s economic interests in Pakistan, but also to react to any crisis threatening the free passage of maritime traffic through the Strait of Hormuz. The forward positioning of naval forces will allow the PLAN to protect the vital crude oil and natural gas imports transiting the Suez Canal, the Gulf of Aden and into the Indian Ocean from routes west of the Horn of Africa. In light of the fact that 6% of natural gas imports and 34% of crude oil imports by sea to China transit this region, the desire to secure these waterways becomes readily apparent. Not only would the presence of PLAN warships and marines help to secure China’s vital interests in Pakistan and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in particular, but would also afford the PLAN a base of operations close to the Strait of Hormuz. Approximately 51% of all Chinese crude oil imports by sea transit the strait, as well as 24% of seaborne natural gas imports. Any closure of the Strait of Hormuz due to a theoretical military conflict or an act of terrorism or piracy would have a huge impact on the Chinese economy.

Although the maritime trade routes transiting the Indian Ocean are of vital importance to keeping the manufacturing engine of China running uninterrupted, the South China Sea is of even greater importance. Not only does the region facilitate the passage of $5 trillion USD in global trade annually, but much of this trade is comprised of Chinese energy imports and exports of all categories. The geographic bottle neck of the Strait of Malacca, to the southwest of the South China Sea, affords the transit of 84% of all waterborne crude oil and 30% of natural gas imports to China. The closure of the strait, or a significant disruption of maritime traffic in the South China Sea, would have a devastating impact on the Chinese state. It is in the vital national interest of China to secure the region based on this fact alone. In addition, establishing a series of strategically located island outposts, covering the approaches to the South China Sea, affords China a greater ability to secure the entire region, establish Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) and defend the southern approaches to the Chinese mainland, while enforcing the nation’s claims to valuable energy and renewable resources in the region.

China continues to expand and reinforce its island holdings in both the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos. The massive construction on Mischief Reef, Fiery Cross Reef and Subi Reef will likely be completed later this year. These three islands, in conjunction with the surveillance stations, port facilities and helicopter bases located on a number of key smaller atolls, afford China the capability to project power and presence in the region at a level that no other regional or global power can match.

As China moves forward in expanding the PLAMC and the amphibious divisions of the PLA, it has maintained a swift schedule in shipbuilding which aims to provide a balanced and flexible amphibious sealift capability. China intends to tailor a modern and sizable amphibious warfare fleet that is capable of defending the growing maritime interests of the nation, and which can provide a significant power projection capability that can be employed across the full breadth of the Maritime Silk Road.

The first two classes of amphibious vessels that were seen as essential to design, construct and supply to the PLAN were the Type 072A class Landing Ship Tank (LST) and the Type 071 class Landing Platform Dock (LPD). There are a total of six Type 071 LPDs planned, with four currently in service and the fifth vessel reaching completion this year.

Plans to build a large LHD began in 2012, with a number of different designs contemplated. The class was known in intervening years as the Type 075 or Type 081. The Type 075 design was finalized and plans were made to begin construction in 2016. Although many analysts believe that the PLAN intends to build two such vessels, there will most likely be a need for one or two additional vessels of this class to meet the growing maritime security and power projection requirements of the nation. All signs point to the PLAN’s intentions of establishing two to three Amphibious Ready Groups (ARGs), as they have slowly and methodically developed a modern amphibious warfare skillset over the past two decades. They have taken a similar approach to establishing a modern carrier-based naval aviation arm.

From what is known, the Type 075 will displace 40,000 tons, have an LOA of 250 meters, and a beam of 30 meter. The Type 075 will be fitted with a large well deck, allowing for amphibious operations by LCACs, AAVs, and conventional landing craft. Each LHD could theoretically carry approximately 1,500 to 2,000 marines, a full complement of MBTs and AAVs (approximately 25-40 armored vehicles), 60 to 80 light vehicles, and ample cargo stowage space. The helicopter compliment will most likely consist of approximately 20 Z-8 transport helicopters, two Z-18F ASW helicopters, one or two Ka-31 AEW helicopters, four Z-9 utility helicopters, and possibly 6 to 8 naval versions of the Z-10 attack helicopter. With no VSTOL fixed wing attack aircraft in service, the PLAN would most likely opt for using a rotary wing attack element for the LHDs.

China has been slowly and methodically building the foundations of economic and military security and is offering those nations that cooperate as part of the New Silk Road/Maritime Silk Road a seat at the table. In order to create a mutually beneficial trade and transportation network, one that may soon supersede or compete against others, China must secure its vital interests, backed up by military force, and build a viable and sustainable naval presence in key maritime regions.

China has clearly signaled that its defense strategy is changing. The Chinese leadership feels that the sovereignty of mainland China is secure and is shifting focus to securing the vital maritime trade lifeline that not only ensures the security of the nation, but will allow China to increase its economic prosperity and trade partnerships with a multitude of nations.

Whether the United States decides to stand in the way of China’s growth or chooses to participate more constructively in a mutually beneficial relationship is yet to be determined. Without a doubt, China has set its course and will not deviate from this course unless some overwhelming force is brought to bear.

HISTORIC SHIFT IN GEOPOLITICAL ALIGNMENTS: INDIA AND PAKISTAN JOIN SHANGHAI COOPERATION ORGANIZATION (SCO)

South Front

03.08.2017

Written by Prof Michel Chossudovsky; Originally appeared at GlobalResearch

On June 9, both India and Pakistan became simultaneously members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a Eurasian economic, political and mutual security organization largely dominated by China and Russia. 

While the SCO with headquarters in Beijing is not officially a “military alliance”, it nonetheless serves as a geopolitical and strategic “counterweight” to US-NATO and its allies. It also plays a significant role in the development of  Eurasian trade, e.g. in support of China’s Belt and Road initiative, oil and gas pipeline corridors linking SCO member states, etc. 

In the course of the last few years, the SCO has extended its cooperation in military affairs and intelligence. War games were held under the auspices of the SCO. 

The members of  the SCO include China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Pakistan and India are now full members since June 9, 2017. Iran is an Observer Member slated to shortly become a full member.

The SCO now encompasses an extensive region which now comprises approximately half of the World’s population.

Historic Shift in Geopolitical Alignments: India and Pakistan Join Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

SCO Enlargement

While the Western media casually acknowledged that India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif had met in Astana, Kazakhstan, ahead of the SCO summit (June 9), the geopolitical implications of India and Pakistan’s full membership of the SCO was barely  addressed.

With both countries now full members of the SCO, conditions have emerged which favor the normalization of relations between Delhi and Islamabad. In the words of Pakistan’s PM Nawaz Sharif, who congratulated his Indian counterpart:

“As leaders, we should leave a legacy of peace and amity for our future generations, not a toxic harvest of conflict and animosity. Instead of talking about counter-weights and containment, let us create shared spaces for all,”

Sharif also endorsed the proposal of China’s President Xi Jinping to establish “a five-year treaty for good neighbourliness among SCO members”.

Historic Shift in Geopolitical Alignments: India and Pakistan Join Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

Historic Shift in Geopolitical Alignments

The simultaneous instatement of both countries as full members of the SCO is not only symbolic, it marks a historic shift in geopolitical alignments, which has a de facto bearing on the structure of economic and military agreements. Moreover, it has also a bearing on the inner-conflict between India and Pakistan which dates back to the countries’ Independence.

Inevitably, this historic shift constitutes a blow against Washington, which has defense and trade agreements with both Pakistan and India.

While India remains firmly aligned with Washington, America’s political stranglehold on Pakistan (through military and intelligence agreements) has been weakened as a result of Pakistan’s trade and investment deals with China, not to mention the accession of both India and Pakistan to the SCO, which favors bilateral relations between both countries as well as cooperation with Russia, China and Central Asia at the expense of  their historical links with US.

In other words, this enlargement of the SCO weakens America’s hegemonic ambitions in both South Asia and the broader Eurasian region. It has a bearing on energy pipeline routes, transport corridors, borders and mutual security, maritime rights.

US-Pakistan Relations

This ongoing Pak-India conflict has been carefully nurtured by Washington since the Cold War era. Moreover, Washington had envisaged a scenario of political disintegration in Pakistan for more than ten years. According to a 2005 report by the US National Intelligence Council and the CIA, Pakistan was slated to become a “failed state” by 2015.

The US –with the support of Britain had favored the geographical and political fracture of Pakistan. The separatist movement in Baluchistan had been supported covertly by British intelligence. (For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, The Destabilization of Pakistan, Global Research, December 2007).

Military scholar Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters writing in the June 2006 issue of The Armed Forces Journal, suggests, in no uncertain terms that Pakistan should be broken up, leading to the formation of  a separate country: “Greater Balochistan” or “Free Balochistan” (see Map below). The latter would incorporate the Pakistani and Iranian Baloch  provinces into a single political entity.

In turn, according to Peters, Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP) should be incorporated into Afghanistan “because of its linguistic and ethnic affinity”. This proposed fragmentation, which broadly reflects US foreign policy, would reduce Pakistani territory to approximately 50 percent of its present land area. (See map). Pakistan would also loose a large part of its coastline on the Arabian Sea.

Although the map does not officially reflect Pentagon doctrine, it has been used in a training program at NATO’s Defense College for senior military officers. This map, as well as other similar maps, have  most probably been used at the National War Academy as well as in military planning circles. Michel Chossudovsky, The Destabilization of Pakistan,Global Research, December 2007)

Historic Shift in Geopolitical Alignments: India and Pakistan Join Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

Ralph Peters Map: The Project for the New Middle East

With the development of Pakistan’s bilateral relations with China, since 2007, the US clutch on Pakistan politics — which largely relied on America’s military presence as well as Washington’s links to Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment– has indelibly been weakened.

Pakistan’s full membership of the SCO, its links with China and Iran should contribute to weakening secessionist movements, while reinforcing the powers of the Islamabad government.

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)

Pakistan and China have implemented a so-called “Economic Corridor” which is part of Beijing’s Eurasian Belt and Road trade and investment project. In many regards, the CPEC is a slap in the face for Washington and its failed Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, which sought to integrate Asia and the Pacific into a hegemonic economic project.

The CPEC is a 2400km, economic corridor (including an extensive railway system) from Kashgarin the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of western China to the Pakistani port of Gwadar on the Arabian sea. The infrastructure of the Gwadar port was largely funded by China.

The CEPEC is part and parcel of China’s Belt and Road initiative. The CPEC was originally valued at $46 billion, it is estimated in 2017 at $62 billion. ​

Historic Shift in Geopolitical Alignments: India and Pakistan Join Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

Source: Interfax

The accession of  both Pakistan and India to full SCO membership is intended to reinforce the CPEC as well as, from Beijing’s standpoint, include India in a broader corridor which will ultimately favor trade and cooperation between Pakistan and India, leading also to the negotaiation of integrated economic corridors from Iran, through Pakistan and India onto China and Central Asia.

India

With regard to India, its historical links with Russia –which prevailed during the Cold War, were undermined in the early 1990s with the assassination of Prime minister Radjiv Gandhi in 1991.

A  Congress government largely committed to neoliberal economic reforms and the “Washington consensus” was installed in 1991 (with Manmohan Singh, a former World Bank official as Finance Minister who later became Prime Minister). In recent developments, Washington has developed a comprehensive military cooperation agreement with India.

The question is how will Indian politics evolve in relation to Washington and the West, now that India is a full member of the SCO. How will the conflict between India and Pakistan evolve now that both countries are full members of the SCO.

India-Iran

At present, India’s trade corridors with with Iran avoid transit through Pakistan. They are governed by an “India, Iran, Afghanistan” tripartite agreement which bypasses Pakistan, which links the  Iranian port of Chabahar on the Arabian into a “transit hub”, which bypasses Pakistan.

In turn the underwater gas pipeline project linking the Iranian port of Chabahar to Mumbai, which was the result of bilateral negotiations between Tehran and Delhi in March 2016:

In a decision of far-reaching strategic implications, India is all set to ink a deal to have a direct undersea gas pipeline from Iran, by circumventing Pakistan. Not only this, New Delhi has approved a three-pronged push towards Iran and Central Asia.

It will fund a rail link between the Iranian port city of Chabahar and city of Zahedan, located on the tri-junction of Iran-Afghanistan-Pakistan. The rail link, when concluded, will join Chabahar port with International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) to provide direct access to Central Asia. (Tribune India, March 14, 2016, emphasis added)

The question is whether this bilateral project circumventing Pakistan will go through, now that both India and Pakistan are full SCO members, involved in partner relations with China, Iran and Russia.

Historic Shift in Geopolitical Alignments: India and Pakistan Join Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

Will that tripartite agreement signed in May 2016 prevail unchanged now that both India and Pakistan are full members of the SCO? (and Iran and Afghanistan are Observer Members of the SCO).

Historic Shift in Geopolitical Alignments: India and Pakistan Join Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

Screenshot Al Jazeera, May 5, 2016

Regime Change in Pakistan?  The Political Demise of Nawaz Sharif ?

Barely two months following the SCO summit in Astana on July 28, 2017, Pakistan is experiencing a deep-seated political crisis.

PM Nawaz Sharif, who had negotiated his country’s membership in the SCO was obliged to step down as prime minister following a ruling by Pakistan’s Supreme Court on corruption allegations.

Coming with less than a year to go in his term, his ouster adds to a grim and long list of civilian governments cut short in Pakistan — including two of his own previous terms as prime minister. And it will further roil the country’s tumultuous political balance, as his rivals vie to exploit his fall.

When Mr. Sharif returned to office in 2013, it was as a widely popular party leader with a deep grudge against the country’s powerful military establishment. He moved quickly to try to establish civilian authority in areas that had long been dominated by generals, especially foreign policy.

The latest reports from Pakistan confirms that parliament will elect a new interim prime minister on August 1, “Shahid Khaqan Abbasi expected to become interim leader until Sharif’s own brother is eligible.” (Independent, July 30, 2017).

What are the broad implications of this political crisis in Pakistan? What are its impacts on the SCO?

The New Silk Road Will Go Through Syria

China and Syria have already begun discussing post-war infrastructure investment; with a ‘Matchmaking Fair for Syria Reconstruction’ held in Beijing

By Pepe Escobar

July 14, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – Amid the proverbial doom and gloom pervading all things Syria, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune sometimes yield, well, good fortune.

Take what happened this past Sunday in Beijing. The China-Arab Exchange Association and the Syrian Embassy organized a Syria Day Expo crammed with hundreds of Chinese specialists in infrastructure investment. It was a sort of mini-gathering of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), billed as “The First Project Matchmaking Fair for Syria Reconstruction”.

And there will be serious follow-ups: a Syria Reconstruction Expo; the 59th Damascus International Fair next month, where around 30 Arab and foreign nations will be represented; and the China-Arab States Expo in Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui province, in September.

Qin Yong, deputy chairman of the China-Arab Exchange Association, announced that Beijing plans to invest $2 billion in an industrial park in Syria for 150 Chinese companies.

Nothing would make more sense. Before the tragic Syrian proxy war, Syrian merchants were already incredibly active in the small-goods Silk Road between Yiwu and the Levant. The Chinese don’t forget that Syria controlled overland access to both Europe and Africa in ancient Silk Road times when, after the desert crossing via Palmyra, goods reached the Mediterranean on their way to Rome. After the demise of Palmyra, a secondary road followed the Euphrates upstream and then through Aleppo and Antioch.

Beijing always plans years ahead. And the government in Damascus is implicated at the highest levels. So, it’s not an accident that Syrian Ambassador to China Imad Moustapha had to come up with the clincher: China, Russia and Iran will have priority over anyone else for all infrastructure investment and reconstruction projects when the war is over.

The New Silk Roads, or One Belt, One Road Initiative (Obor), will inevitably feature a Syrian hub – complete with the requisite legal support for Chinese companies involved in investment, construction and banking via a special commission created by the Syrian embassy, the China-Arab Exchange Association and the Beijing-based Shijing law firm.

Get me on that Shanghai-Latakia cargo

Few remember that before the war China had already invested tens of billions of US dollars in Syria’s oil and gas industry. Naturally the priority for Damascus, once the war is over, will be massive reconstruction of widely destroyed infrastructure. China could be part of that via the AIIB. Then comes investment in agriculture, industry and connectivity – transportation corridors in the Levant and connecting Syria to Iraq and Iran (other two Obor hubs).

What matters most of all is that Beijing has already taken the crucial step of being directly involved in the final settlement of the Syrian war – geopolitically and geo-economically. Beijing has had a special representative for Syria since last year – and has already been providing humanitarian aid.

Needless to add, all those elaborate plans depend on no more war. And there’s the rub.

With the demise of Daesh (ISIS), or at least its imminent loss of any significant urban center, no one knows in what manner a fragmented, phony Caliphate “Sunnistan” might be manipulated into cutting Syria from its New Silk Road future.

Qatar has already provided a game-changer; Doha has gotten closer to Tehran (common interests in South Pars/North Dome gas-field oblige), as well as Damascus – much to the despair of the House of Saud. So, unlike the recent past, Qatar is not engaged in regime change anymore. But still there are the diverging interests of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and, of course, Washington, to accommodate.

A possible scenario out of what Putin and Trump negotiated in Hamburg – that was not relayed by either Lavrov or Tillerson – is that the ceasefire in southwestern Syria, assuming it holds, could mean US peacekeeping forces in effect sanctioning the creation of a demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the Syrian Golan and the rest of the country.

Translation: the Golan de facto annexed by Israel. And the “carrot” for Moscow would be Washington accepting Crimea de facto re-incorporated into the Russian Federation.

That may sound less far-fetched than it seems. The next few months will tell if this is indeed a plausible scenario.

The other big sticking point is Ankara against the YPG Kurds. Contrary to the ominous and quite possible Balkanization scenario, Washington and Moscow might well decide, in tandem, to let them sort things out by themselves. Then we will inevitably have the Turkish army occupying al-Bab for the foreseeable future.

The bottom line: that Saudi Arabia gets nothing. And Israel and Turkey get political/military “wins”. It’s hard to imagine how Moscow could possibly sell this arrangement to Iran as a victory. Still, Tehran may not have a free flow Iran-Iraq-Syria-Hezbollah route totally back in action, but it will maintain close relations with Damascus and be engaged in the expansion of the New Silk Roads.

The key question from now on seems to be whether Washington will follow the deep state “Syraq” policy – as in “Assad must go” mixed with support or weaponizing of non-existent “moderate rebels”; or whether Trump’s priority – to eliminate Daesh/ISIS for good – will prevail.

Beijing, anyway, has made up its mind. It will work non-stop for the Iran-Iraq-Syria triumvirate to become a key hub in Obor. Any bets against a future, booming Shanghai-Latakia container route?

Pepe Escobar is correspondent-at-large at Asia Times.

See also – ‘The Media Coverage on Syria is the Biggest Media Lie of our Time’ — Interview with Flemish Priest in Syria

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

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