How Russia-China are stage-managing the Taliban

August 18, 2021

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By Pepe Escobar: The Saker Blog and cross-posted at the Unz Review.

The first Taliban press conference after this weekend’s Saigon moment geopolitical earthquake, conducted by spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, was in itself a game-changer.

The contrast could not be starker with those rambling pressers at the Taliban embassy in Islamabad after 9/11 and before the start of the American bombing – proving this is an entirely new political animal.

Yet some things never change. English translations remain atrocious.

Here is a good summary of the key Taliban statements, and

here (in Russian) is a very detailed roundup.

These are the key takeaways.

– No problem for women to get education all the way to college, and to continue to work. They just need to wear the hijab (like in Qatar or Iran). No need to wear a burqa. The Taliban insists, “all women’s rights will be guaranteed within the limits of Islamic law.”

– The Islamic Emirate “does not threaten anyone” and will not treat anyone as enemies. Crucially, revenge – an essential plank of the Pashtunwali code – will be abandoned, and that’s unprecedented. There will be a general amnesty – including people who worked for the former NATO-aligned system. Translators, for instance, won’t be harassed, and don’t need to leave the country.

– Security of foreign embassies and international organizations “is a priority.” Taliban special security forces will protect both those leaving Afghanistan and those who remain.

– A strong inclusive Islamic government will be formed. “Inclusive” is code for the participation of women and Shi’ites.

– Foreign media will continue to work undisturbed. The Taliban government will allow public criticism and debate. But “freedom of speech in Afghanistan must be in line with Islamic values.”

– The Islamic Emirate of Taliban wants recognition from the “international community” – code for NATO. The overwhelming majority of Eurasia and the Global South will recognize it anyway. It’s essential to note, for example, the closer integration of the expanding SCO – Iran is about to become a full member, Afghanistan is an observer – with ASEAN: the absolute majority of Asia will not shun the Taliban.

For the record, they also stated that the Taliban took all of Afghanistan in only 11 days: that’s pretty accurate. They stressed “very good relations with Pakistan, Russia and China.” Yet the Taliban don’t have formal allies and are not part of any military-political bloc. They definitely “won’t allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for international terrorists”. That’s code for ISIS/Daesh.

On the key issue of opium/heroin: the Taliban will ban their production. So, for all practical purposes, the CIA heroin rat line is dead.

As eyebrow raising as these statements may be, the Taliban did not even get into detail on economic/infrastructure development deals – as they will need a lot of new industries, new jobs and improved Eurasian-wide trade relations. That will be announced later.

The go-to Russian guy

Sharp US observers are remarking, half in jest, that the Taliban in only one sitting answered more real questions from US media than POTUS since January.

What this first press conference reveals is how the Taliban are fast absorbing essential P.R. and media lessons from Moscow and Beijing, emphasizing ethnic harmony, the role of women, the role of diplomacy, and deftly defusing in a single move all the hysteria raging across NATOstan.

The next bombshell step in the P.R. wars will be to cut off the lethal, evidence-free Taliban-9/11 connection; afterwards the “terrorist organization” label will disappear, and the Taliban as a political movement will be fully legitimized.

Moscow and Beijing are meticulously stage-managing the Taliban reinsertion in regional and global geopolitics. This means that ultimately the SCO is stage-managing the whole process, applying a consensus reached after a series of ministerial and leaders meetings, leading to a very important summit next month in Dushanbe.

The key player the Taliban are talking to is Zamir Kabulov, Russia’s special presidential envoy for Afghanistan. In yet another debunking of NATOstan narrative, Kabulov confirmed, for instance, “we see no direct threat to our allies in Central Asia. There are no facts proving otherwise.”

The Beltway will be stunned to learn that Zabulov has also revealed, “we have long been in talks with the Taliban on the prospects for development after their capture of power and they have repeatedly confirmed that they have no extraterritorial ambition, they learned the lessons of 2000.” These contacts were established “over the past 7 years.”

Zabulov reveals plenty of nuggets when it comes to Taliban diplomacy: “If we compare the negotiability of colleagues and partners, the Taliban have long seemed to me much more negotiable than the puppet Kabul government. We proceed from the premise that the agreements must be implemented. So far, with regard to the security of the embassy and the security of our allies in Central Asia, the Taliban have respected the agreements.”

Faithful to its adherence to international law, and not the “rules-based international order”, Moscow is always keen to emphasize the responsibility of the UN Security Council: “We must make sure that the new government is ready to behave conditionally, as we say, in a civilized manner. That’s when this point of view becomes common to all, then the procedure [of removing the qualification of the Taliban as a terrorist organization] will begin.”

So while the US/EU/NATO flee Kabul in spasms of self-inflicted panic, Moscow practices – what else – diplomacy. Zabulov: “That we have prepared the ground for a conversation with the new government in Afghanistan in advance is an asset of Russian foreign policy.”

Dmitry Zhirnov, Russia’s ambassador to Afghanistan, is working overtime with the Taliban. He met a senior Taliban security official yesterday. The meeting was “positive, constructive…The Taliban movement has the most friendly; the best policy towards Russia… He arrived alone in one vehicle, with no guards.”

Both Moscow and Beijing have no illusions that the West is already deploying Hybrid War tactics to discredit and destabilize a government that isn’t even formed and hasn’t even started working. No wonder Chinese media is describing Washington as a “strategic rogue.”

What matters is that Russia-China are way ahead of the curve, cultivating parallel inside tracks of diplomatic dialogue with the Taliban. It’s always crucial to remember that Russia harbors 20 million Muslims, and China at least 35 million. These will be called to support the immense project of Afghan reconstruction – and full Eurasia reintegration.

The Chinese saw it coming

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi saw it coming weeks ago. And that explains the meeting in Tianjin in late July, when he hosted a high-level Taliban delegation, led by Mullah Baradar, de facto conferring them total political legitimacy. Beijing already knew the Saigon moment was inevitable. Thus the statement stressing China expected to “play an important role in the process of peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan”.

What this means in practice is China will be a partner of Afghanistan on infrastructure investment, via Pakistan, incorporating it into an expanded China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) bound to diversify connectivity channels with Central Asia. The New Silk Road corridor from Xinjiang to the port of Gwadar in the Arabian Sea will branch out: the first graphic illustration is Chinese construction of the ultra-strategic Peshawar-Kabul highway.

The Chinese are also building a major road across the geologically spectacular, deserted Wakhan corridor from western Xinjiang all the way to Badakhshan province, which incidentally, is now under total Taliban control.

The trade off is quite straightforward: the Taliban should allow no safe haven for the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), and no interference in Xinjiang.

The overall trade/security combo looks like a certified win-win. And we’re not even talking about future deals allowing China to exploit Afghanistan’s immense mineral wealth.

Once again, the Big Picture reads like the Russia-China double helix, connected to all the “stans” as well as Pakistan, drawing a comprehensive game plan/road map for Afghanistan. In their multiple contacts with both Russians and Chinese, the Taliban seem to have totally understood how to profit from their role in the New Great Game.

The extended New Axis of Evil

Imperial Hybrid War tactics to counteract the scenario are inevitable. Take the first proclamation of a Northern Alliance “resistance”, in theory led by Ahmad Masoud, the son of the legendary Lion of the Panjshir killed by al-Qaeda two days before 9/11.

I met Masoud father – an icon. Afghan insider info on Masoud son is not exactly flattering. Yet he’s already a darling of woke Europeans, complete with a glamour pose for AFP, an impromptu visit in the Panjshir by professional philosopher swindler Bernard-Henri Levy, and the release of a manifesto of sorts published in several European newspapers, exhibiting all the catchphrases: “tyranny”, “slavery”, “vendetta”, “martyred nation”, “Kabul screams”, “nation in chains”, etc.

The whole set up smells like a “son of Shah” [of Iran] gambit. Masoud son and his mini-militia are completely surrounded in the Panjshir mountains and can’t be de facto effective even when it comes to regimenting the under 25s, two-thirds of the Afghan population, whose main worry is to find real jobs in a nascent real economy.

Woke NATOstan “analyses” of Taliban Afghanistan don’t even qualify as irrelevant, insisting that Afghanistan is not strategic and even lost its tactical importance for NATO. It’s a sorry spectacle illustrating how Europe is hopelessly behind the curve, drenched in trademark neo-colonialism of the White Man’s Burden variety as it dismisses a land dominated by clans and tribes.

Expect China to be one of the first powers to formally recognize the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, alongside Turkey and, later on, Russia. I have already alluded to the coming of a New Axis of Evil: Pakistan-Taliban-China. The axis will inevitably be extended to Russia-Iran. So what? Ask Mullah Baradar: he couldn’t care less.

All roads lead to the Battle for Kabul

August 10, 2021

All roads lead to the Battle for Kabul

City after city have fallen from government to Taliban control but Afghanistan’s end-game is still unclear

by Pepe Escobar, posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

The ever-elusive Afghan “peace” process negotiations re-start this Wednesday in Doha via the extended troika – the US, Russia, China and Pakistan. The contrast with the accumulated facts on the ground could not be starker.

In a coordinated blitzkrieg, the Taliban have subdued no less than six Afghan provincial capitals in only four days. The central administration in Kabul will have a hard time defending its stability in Doha.

It gets worse. Ominously, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has all but buried the Doha process. He’s already betting on civil war – from the weaponization of civilians in the main cities to widespread bribing of regional warlords, with the intent of building a “coalition of the willing” to fight the Taliban.

The capture of Zaranj, the capital of Nimruz province, was a major Taliban coup. Zaranj is the gateway for India’s access to Afghanistan and further on to Central Asia via the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC).

India paid for the construction of the highway linking the port of Chabahar in Iran – the key hub of India’s faltering version of the New Silk Roads – to Zaranj.

At stake here is a vital Iran-Afghanistan border crossing cum Southwest/Central Asia transportation corridor. Yet now the Taliban control trade on the Afghan side. And Tehran has just closed the Iranian side. No one knows what happens next.

The Taliban are meticulously implementing a strategic master plan. There’s no smoking gun, yet – but highly informed outside help – Pakistani ISI intel? – is plausible.

First, they conquer the countryside – a virtually done deal in at least 85% of the territory. Then they control the key border checkpoints, as with Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Spin Boldak with Balochistan in Pakistan. Finally, it’s all about encircling and methodically taking provincial capitals – that’s where we are now.

Taliban posing with military garb stolen from Dostum’s palace in Sheberghan. Photo: Supplied

The final act will be the Battle for Kabul. This may plausibly happen as early as September, in a warped “celebration” of the 20 years of 9/11 and the American bombing of 1996-2001 Talibanistan.

That strategic blitzkrieg

What’s going on across the north is even more astonishing than in the southwest.

The Taliban have conquered Sheberghan, a heavily Uzbek-influenced area, and took no time to spread images of fighters in stolen garb posing in front of the now-occupied Dostum Palace. Notoriously vicious warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum happens to be the current Afghan vice-president.

The Taliban’s big splash was to enter Kunduz, which is still not completely subdued. Kunduz is very important strategically. With 370,000 people and quite close to the Tajik border, it’s the main hub of northeast Afghanistan.

Kabul government forces have simply fled. All prisoners were released from local jails. Roads are blocked. That’s significant because Kunduz is at the crossroads of two important corridors – to Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif. And crucially, it’s also a crossroads of corridors used to export opium and heroin.

The Bundeswehr used to occupy a military base near Kunduz airport, now housing the 217th Afghan Army corps. That’s where the few remaining Afghan government forces have retreated.

The Taliban are now bent on besieging the historically legendary Mazar-i-Sharif, the big northern city, even more important than Kunduz. Mazar-i-Sharif is the capital of Balkh province. The top local warlord, for decades, has been Atta Mohammad Noor, who I met 20 years ago.

He’s now vowing to defend “his” city “until the last drop of my blood.” That, in itself, spells out a major civil war scenario.

The Taliban endgame here is to establish a west-east axis from Sheberghan to Kunduz and the also captured Taloqan, the capital of Takhar province, via Mazar-i-Sharif in Balkh province, and parallel to the northern borders with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

If that happens, we’re talking about an irreversible, logistical game-changer, with virtually the whole north escaping from the control of Kabul. No way the Taliban will “negotiate” this win – in Doha or anywhere else.

An extra astonishing fact is that all these areas do not feature a Pashtun majority, unlike Kandahar in the south and Lashkar Gah in the southwest, where the Taliban are still fighting to establish complete control.

The Taliban’s control over almost all international border crossings yielding customs revenue leads to serious questions about what happens next to the drug business.

Will the Taliban again interdict opium production – like the late Mullah Omar did in the early 2000s? A strong possibility is that distribution will not be allowed inside Afghanistan.

After all, export profits can only benefit Taliban weaponization – against future American and NATO “interference.” And Afghan farmers may earn much more with opium poppy cultivation than with other crops.

NATO’s abject failure in Afghanistan is visible in every aspect. In the past, Americans used military bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The Bundeswehr used the base in Termez, Uzbekistan, for years.

Termez is now used for Russian and Uzbek joint maneuvers. And the Russians left their base in Kyrgzstan to conduct joint maneuvers in Tajikistan. The whole security apparatus in the neighboring Central Asian “stans” is being coordinated by Russia.

China’s main security priority, meanwhile, is to prevent future jihadi incursions in Xinjiang, which involve extremely hard mountain crossings from Afghanistan to Tajikistan and then to a no man’s land in the Wakhan corridor. Beijing’s electronic surveillance is tracking anything that moves in this part of the roof of the world.

This Chinese think tank analysis shows how the moving chessboard is being tracked. The Chinese are perfectly aware of the “military pressure on Kabul” running in parallel to the Taliban diplomatic offensive, but prefer to stress their “posing as an aggressive force ready to take over the regime.”

Chinese realpolitik also recognizes that “the United States and other countries will not easily give up the operation in Afghanistan for many years, and will not be willing to let Afghanistan become the sphere of influence of other countries.”

This leads to characteristic Chinese foreign policy caution, with practically an advice for the Taliban not to “be too big,” and try “to replace the Ghani government in one fell swoop.”

How to prevent a civil war

So is Doha DOA? Extended troika players are doing what they can to salvage it. There are rumors of feverish “consultations” with the members of the Taliban political office based in Qatar and with the Kabul negotiators.

The starter will be a meeting this Tuesday of the US, Russia, Afghanistan’s neighbors and the UN. Yet even before that, the Taliban political office spokesman, Naeem Wardak, has accused Washington of interfering in internal Afghan affairs.

Pakistan is part of the extended troika. Pakistani media is all-out involved in stressing how Islamabad’s leverage over the Taliban “is now limited.” An example is made of how the Taliban shut the key border crossing in Spin Boldak – actually a smuggling haven – demanding Pakistan ease visa restrictions for Afghans.

Now that is a real nest of vipers issue. Most old school Taliban leaders are based in Pakistan’s Balochistan and supervise what goes in and out of the border from a safe distance, in Quetta.

Extra trouble for the extended troika is the absence of Iran and India at the negotiating table. Both have key interests in Afghanistan, especially when it comes to its hopefully new peaceful role as a transit hub for Central-South Asia connectivity.

Moscow from the start wanted Tehran and New Delhi to be part of the extended troika. Impossible. Iran never sits on the same table with the US, and vice-versa. That’s the case now in Vienna, during the JCPOA negotiations, where they “communicate” via the Europeans.

New Delhi for its part refuses to sit on the same table with the Taliban, which it sees as a terrorist Pakistani proxy.

There’s a possibility that Iran and India may be getting their act together, and that would include even a closely connected position on the Afghan drama.

When Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar attended President Ebrahim Raisi’s inauguration last week in Tehran, they insisted on “close cooperation and coordination” also on Afghanistan.

What this would imply in the near future is increased Indian investment in the INSTC and the India-Iran-Afghanistan New Silk Road corridor. Yet that’s not going to happen with the Taliban controlling Zaranj.

Beijing for its part is focused on increasing its connectivity with Iran via what could be described as a Persian-colored corridor incorporating Tajikistan and Afghanistan. That will depend, once again, on the degree of Taliban control.

But Beijing can count on an embarrassment of riches: Plan A, after all, is an extended China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), with Afghanistan annexed, whoever is in power in Kabul.

What’s clear is that the extended troika will not be shaping the most intricate details of the future of Eurasia integration. That will be up to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which includes Russia, China, Pakistan, India, the Central Asian “stans” and Iran and Afghanistan as current observers and future full-members.

So the time has come for the SCO’s ultimate test: how to pull off a near-impossible power-sharing deal in Kabul and prevent a devastating civil war, complete with imperial B-52 bombing.

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A Saigon moment in the Hindu Kush

A Saigon moment in the Hindu Kush

July 07, 2021

By Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at Asia Times

And it’s all over

For the unknown soldier

It’s all over

For the unknown soldier

The Doors, The Unknown Soldier

Let’s start with some stunning facts on the ground.

The Taliban are on a roll. Earlier this week their P.R. arm was claiming they hold 218 Afghan districts out of 421 – capturing new ones every day. Tens of districts are contested. Entire Afghan provinces are basically lost to the government in Kabul – de facto reduced to administer a few scattered cities under siege.

Afghanistan in Badakhshan province, seen from the Pamir highway in Tajikistan during my November 2019 Central Asian loop. This district, not far from Ishkashim, is now under Taliban control. Photo: Pepe Escobar

Already on July 1st the Taliban announced they controlled 80% of Afghan territory. That’s close to the situation 20 years ago, only a few weeks before 9/11, when Commander Masoud told me in the Panjshir valley , as he prepared a counter-offensive, that the Taliban were 85% dominant.

Their new tactical approach works like a dream. First there’s a direct appeal to soldiers of the Afghan National Army (ANA) to surrender. Negotiations are smooth – and deals fulfilled. Soldiers in the low thousands have already joined the Taliban without a single shot fired.

Mapmakers cannot upload updates fast enough. This is fast becoming a textbook case on the collapse of a 21st century central government.

The Taliban are fast advancing in western Vardak, easily capturing ANA bases. That is the prequel for an assault on Maidan Shar, the provincial capital. If they get control of Vardak they will be literally at the gates of Kabul.

After capturing Panjwaj district, the Taliban are also a stone’s throw away from Kandahar, founded by Alexander The Great in 330 B.C. and the city where a certain mullah Omar – with a little help from his Pakistani ISI friends – started the Taliban adventure in 1994, leading to their Kabul power takeover in 1996.

The overwhelming majority of Badakhshan province – Tajik majority, not Pashtun – fell after only 4 days of negotiations, with a few skirmishes thrown in. The Taliban even captured a hilltop outpost very close to Faizabad, Badakhshan’s capital.

I tracked the Tajik-Afghan border in detail when I traveled the Pamir highway in late 2019. The Taliban, following mountain tracks on the Afghan side, could soon reach the legendary, desolate border with Xinjiang in the Wakhan corridor.

The Taliban are also about to make a move on Hairaton, in Balkh province. Hairaton is at the Afghan-Uzbek border, the site of the historically important Friendship Bridge over the Amu Darya, through which the Red Army departed Afghanistan in 1989.

ANA commanders swear the city is now protected from all sides by a five-kilometer security zone. Hairaton has already attracted tens of thousands of refugees. Tashkent does not want them to cross the border.

And it’s not only Central Asia; the Taliban have already advanced to the city limits of Islam Qilla, which borders Iran, in Herat province, and is the key checkpoint in the busy Mashhad to Herat corridor.

The Tajik puzzle

The extremely porous, geologically stunning Tajik-Afghan mountain borders remain the most sensitive case. Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, after a serious phone call with Vladimir Putin, ordered the mobilization of 20,000 reservists and sent them to the border. Rahmon also promised humanitarian and financial support to the Kabul government.

The Taliban, for their part, officially declared that the border is safe and they have no intention of invading Tajik territory. Earlier this week even the Kremlin cryptically announced that Moscow does not plan to send troops to Afghanistan.

A cliffhanger is set for the end of July, as the Taliban announced they will submit a written peace proposal to Kabul. A strong possibility is that it may amount to an intimation for Kabul to surrender – and transfer full control of the country.

The Taliban seem to be riding an irresistible momentum – especially when Afghans themselves were stunned to see how the imperial “protector”, after nearly two decades of de facto occupation,

left Bagram air base in the middle of the night , scurrying away like rats.

Compare it to the evaluation of serious analysts such as Lester Grau, explaining the Soviet departure over three decades ago:

When the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989, they did so in a coordinated, deliberate, professional manner, leaving behind a functioning government, an improved military and an advisory and economic effort insuring the continued viability of the government. The withdrawal was based on a coordinated diplomatic, economic and military plan permitting Soviet forces to withdraw in good order and the Afghan government to survive. The Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) managed to hold on despite the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Only then, with the loss of Soviet support and the increased efforts by the Mujahideen (holy warriors) and Pakistan, did the DRA slide toward defeat in April 1992. The Soviet effort to withdraw in good order was well executed and can serve as a model for other disengagements from similar nations.

When it comes to the American empire, Tacitus once again applies: “They have plundered the world, stripping naked the land in their hunger… they are driven by greed, if their enemy be rich; by ambition, if poor… They ravage, they slaughter, they seize by false pretenses, and all of this they hail as the construction of empire. And when in their wake nothing remains but a desert, they call that peace.”

In the wake of the Hegemon, deserts called peace, in varying degrees, include Iraq, Libya, Syria – which happen to, geologically, harbor deserts – as well as the deserts and mountains of Afghanistan.

That Afghan heroin rat line

It looks like Think Tank Row in D.C., between Dupont and Thomas Circle alongside Massachussets Avenue, have not really done their homework on pashtunwali – the Pashtun honor code – or the ignominious British empire retreat from Kabul.

Still, it’s too early to tell whether what is being spun as the US “retreat” from Afghanistan reflects the definitive unraveling of the Empire of Chaos. Especially because this is not a “retreat” at all: it’s a repositioning – with added elements of privatization.

At least 650 “U.S. forces” will be protecting the sprawling embassy in Kabul. Add to it possibly 500 Turkish troops – which means NATO – to protect the airport, plus an undeclared number of “contractors” a.k.a mercenaries, and an unspecified number of Special Forces.

Pentagon head Lloyd Austin has come up with the new deal. The militarized embassy is referred to as Forces Afghanistan-Forward. These forces will be “supported” by a new, special Afghan office in Qatar.

The key provision is that the special privilege to bomb Afghanistan whenever the Hegemon feels like it remains intact. The difference is in the chain of command. Instead of Gen. Scott Miller, so far the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, the Bomber-in-Chief will be Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of CENTCOM.

So future bombing will come essentially from the Persian Gulf – what the Pentagon lovingly describes as “over the horizon capability”. Crucially, Pakistan has officially refused to be part of it, although in the case of drone attacks, they will have to overfly Pakistani territory in Balochistan. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan also refused to host American bases.

The Taliban, for their part, are unfazed. Spokesman Suhail Shaheen was adamant that any foreign troops that are not out by the 9/11 deadline will be regarded as – what else – occupiers.

Whether the Taliban will be able to establish dominance is not an issue; it’s just a matter of when. And that leads us to the two really important questions:

1.  Will the CIA be able to maintain what Seymour Hersh initially, and later myself, described as the Afghan heroin rat line that finances their black ops?

2.  And if the CIA cannot continue to supervise opium poppy field production in Afghanistan as well as coordinate the subsequent stages of the heroin business, where will it move to?

Every thinking mind across Central/South Asia knows that the Empire of Chaos, for two long decades, was never interested in defeating the Taliban or fighting for “the freedom of the Afghan people”.

The key motives were to keep a crucial, strategic forward base in the underbelly of “existential threats” China and Russia as well as intractable Iran – all part of the New Great Game; to be conveniently positioned to later exploit Afghanistan’s enormous mineral wealth; and to process opium into heroin to fund CIA ops. Opium was a major factor in the rise of the British empire, and heroin remains one of the world’s top dirty businesses funding shady intel ops.

What China and the SCO want

Now compare all of the above with the Chinese approach.

Unlike Think Tank Row in D.C., Chinese counterparts seem to have done their homework. They understood that the USSR did not invade Afghanistan in 1979 to impose “popular democracy” – the jargon then – but was in fact invited by the quite progressive UN-recognized Kabul government at the time, which essentially wanted roads, electricity, medical care, telecommunications, education.

As these staples of modernity would not be provided by Western institutions, the solution would have to come from Soviet socialism. That would imply a social revolution – a convoluted affair in a deeply pious Islamic nation – and, crucially, the end of feudalism.

“Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski’s imperial counterpunch worked because it manipulated Afghan feudal lords and their regimentation capacity – bolstered by immense funds (CIA, Saudis, Pakistani intel) – to give the USSR its Vietnam. None of these feudal lords were interested in the abolition of poverty and economic development in Afghanistan.

China is now picking up where the USSR left. Beijing, in close contact with the Taliban since early 2020, essentially wants to extend the $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – one of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) flagship projects – to Afghanistan.

The first, crucial step will be the construction of the Kabul-Peshawar motorway – through the Khyber pass and the current border at Torkham. That will mean Afghanistan de facto becoming part of CPEC.

It’s all about regional integration at work. Kabul-Peshawar will be one extra CPEC node that already includes the construction of the ultra-strategic Tashkurgan airport in the Karakoram highway in Xinjiang, only 50 km away from the Pakistani border and also close to Afghanistan, as well as Gwadar harbor in Balochistan.

In early June, a trilateral China-Afghanistan-Pakistan meeting led the Chinese Foreign Ministry to unmistakably bet on the “peaceful recovery of Afghanistan”, with the joint statement welcoming “the early return of the Taliban to the political life of Afghanistan” and a pledge to “expand economic and trade ties”.

So there’s no way a dominant Taliban will refuse the Chinese drive to build infrastructure and energy projects geared towards regional economic integration, as long as they keep the country pacified and not subject to jihadi turbulence of the ISIS-Khorasan variety – capable of spilling over to Xinjiang.

The Chinese game play is clear: the Americans should not be able to exert influence over the new Kabul arrangement. It’s all about the strategic Afghan importance for BRI – and that is intertwined with discussions inside the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), incidentally founded 20 years ago, and which for years has advocated for an “Asian solution” for the Afghan drama.

The discussions inside the SCO regard the NATO projection of the new Afghanistan as a jihadi paradise controlled by Islamabad as not more than wishful thinking nonsense.

It will be fascinating to watch how China, Pakistan, Iran, Russia and even India will fill the vacuum in the post-Forever Wars era in Afghanistan. It’s very important to remember that all these actors, plus the Central Asians, are full SCO members (or observers, in the case of Iran).

Tehran plausibly might interfere with potential imperial plans to bomb Afghanistan from the outside – whatever the motive. On another front, it’s unclear whether Islamabad or Moscow, for instance, would help the Taliban to take Bagram air base. What’s certain is that Russia will take the Taliban off its list of terrorist outfits.

Considering that the empire and NATO – via Turkey – will not be really leaving, a distinct future possibility is a SCO push, allied with the Taliban (Afghanistan is also a SCO observer) to secure the nation in their terms and concentrate on CPEC development projects. But the first step seems to be the hardest: how to form a real, solid, national coalition government in Kabul.

History may rule that Washington wanted Afghanistan to be the USSR’s Vietnam; decades later, it ended up getting its own second Vietnam, repeated as – what else – farce. A remixed Saigon moment is fast approaching. Yet another stage of the New Great Game in Eurasia is at hand.

The Current Status of Economy in Pakistan

The Current Status of Economy in Pakistan

June 03, 2021

By Zamir Awan for the Saker Blog

Official data released by the Government of Pakistan is encouraging very much. It shows an increase in foreign remittances, an increase in agri-produce, especially wheat, which is a staple food in Pakistan, and the GDP growth is projected at 3.9 percent, etc. All economic indicators seem satisfactory. If the data is accurate, we must congratulate the government and rank high achiever under COVID-19 era, whereas the global economy is in severe crisis.

However, public opinion is much different, and one can witness it when going to markets. The consumer products have a sharp rise in most commodities, especially the food and eatables prices have gone up. The items of daily use are also getting higher prices. Whereas the salaries are stagnant, there was no increase in wages since the PTI government came into power. Even the regular routine increments are halted. In the private sector, due to lockdowns, economic activities are also facing restrictions. There might be very few exceptions, but most people in Pakistan face low income or no increase in revenue. With limited and stagnant pay, meeting the sharp increase in inflation is not an easy task. People are tense and nervous.

The job market is almost halted; there are no new jobs in the Government sector, and the private sector is also not hiring because of limited business activities under COVID-19. However, the PTI government has made promises to create enormous new jobs but failed to meet its commitments. The creation of employment is directly related to GDP growth. With a population growth of 2 percent approximately, Pakistan can not afford new jobs with the meager GDP. However, Pakistani Universities are producing almost one and half million graduates every year, looking for jobs. The situation is rather vulnerable.

Internal and external debt is increasing, putting the nation in a much awkward situation. However, the exchange rate is stable for quite some time, which is appreciated.

Whatsoever is the official version, but the economic challenges are enormous multi-dimensional, including slower economic growth, rising unemployment, and poverty, massive fiscal deficit, growing public and external debts. However, these problems were inherited from previous few Governments like PP-Government from 2008-2013 and MPL-N Government from 2013-2018. But the current Government of PTI has not only failed to rectify but has aggregated to some extent.

PTI Government failed to improve the economic problems faced by the nation due to the incompetency of the economic team. The Finance Minister has been kept on changing on and off, which has damaged the political goodwill of PTI and may have lost public popularity already.

IMF has also played its role in worsening the situation. As a matter of fact, despite high claims by IMF, but failed all over the world to revive the economy globally. Most of the nation has suffered a bitter experience with IMF. Pakistan is no exception and believes that IMF has aggregated the problems instead of solving them.

Pakistan is a country blessed with abundant natural resources, mining and minerals are rich, and agriculture is one of our strengths. The population is around 220 million, with 70% of the population young under the age of 40. The huge, dynamic, diligent workforce is considered one of our strengths. A nuclear state, yet, so miserable economy, is beyond understanding. I believe it is mismanagement only; the real potential of Pakistan has not been exploited yet.

Pakistan has economists of international repute, trained by Nobel Laurents, like Dr. Ashfaq Hassan Khan. He has given a few recommendations to the Government of Pakistan recently published in the Business recorder:-

The IMF program had got suspended in Pakistan after the onslaught of Coronavirus in late February 2020. With the suspension of the IMF program came the suspension of hara-kiri attached with the program in raising electricity and gas prices, interest rate, and devaluation of the rupee. The interest rate was brought down from 13.25 percent to 7.0 percent in a few months; the exchange rate exhibited a modicum of stability and appreciated after the suspension of the IMF program; gas and electricity tariffs remained unchanged during the suspension. Such a suspension of the IMF program on account of Covid-19 brought tremendous positivity to Pakistan’s economy. It boosted the private sector’s confidence as they knew that utilities’ prices would remain unchanged, interest rates started declining. The government came forward to support businesses/industries and the poor segments of the country lavishly.

All these measures restored the confidence of the market and the private sector; the air of uncertainty was removed. The private sector moved forward, the credit off-take started rising, industrial activity was on the move, exports began gaining momentum, and the overall economy gained traction. All these were happening because of the suspension of the IMF program.

At the back of these developments, Pakistan has witnessed a surge in Covid-19 cases for the last two months. Business activities are being affected. The first thing that the government can do is to request the IMF for further suspension of the IMF program for a year and take this as an opportunity to revive the economy. Alternatively, Pakistan should renegotiate with the IMF and insist that there will be no more hike in the tariffs of electricity and gas, and the tax target for the FBR will be based on the ground realities of the economy. Pakistan should concentrate on wide-ranging reforms in the power sector (raising electricity prices is no reform; it is equivalent to maintain the status quo), tax system and tax administration reform, and reform in agriculture and industries. Reforms in the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) law in the name of giving more autonomy as proposed by the IMF is like creating a state within the state, and therefore, must not be accepted. Unfortunately, IMF has been used to coerce other nations, and Pakistan is one such victim.

Secondly, the government must hold the hands of businesses at all levels—small, medium, and large. It is not the time to increase the cost of doing business by raising utility prices, interest rates and devaluing the currency. Furthermore, the SBP must consider reducing the policy rate to 5 percent from the current level of 7.0 percent in two/three monetary policy meetings, that is, by December 2021. It is abundantly clear that by raising the discount rate, we cannot reduce inflation in Pakistan.

Thirdly, agriculture has remained neglected by successive governments for nearly 13 years. Pakistan used to produce cotton in the range of 13-14 million bales until 2014-15. The production of cotton has nosedived to 6-7 million bales now. What went wrong in cotton production? The government must find the answer and take necessary corrective measures during the next fiscal year (2021-22).

Fourthly, wheat production in Pakistan had stagnated at 25 million tons from 2010-11 until this year (according to the government, the country has witnessed a record production of 27.3 million tons this year). Still, its population has been growing each year. Resultantly, the per capita availability of wheat per annum has declined from 145 kg to 120kg in 2019-20. The country’s wheat production has failed to maintain the pace of its population growth rate. Pakistan is fast heading towards acquiring a permanent wheat importing country and accordingly creating a food security issue for itself. Pakistan has entered into the second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), in which agriculture is a priority area. Pakistan must learn to enhance wheat and cotton production from China under the CPEC.

Fifthly, the small and medium enterprises (SMEs), construction, tourism, and IT sectors have strong potential to revive the economy and create enormous job opportunities because all these sectors are highly labor-intensive with high employment elasticity. These sectors are severely credit-constrained. These sectors should be provided credit directly through banking channels or the well-reputed NGOs. The government, on its part, must improve its physical infrastructure, for which budgetary allocation must be ensured.

Sixthly, the livestock and dairy sector accounts for 60.5 percent of agriculture and contributes 11.7 percent to GDP. This sector is almost equal to the large-scale manufacturing sector. Pakistan produces nearly 62 million tons of milk in a year. More than 8 million rural population derive their livelihoods from this sector. It is a highly labor-intensive sector and has enormous potential for creating jobs. The road to poverty alleviation in the rural area passes through the livestock and dairy sector, but it has remained neglected in Pakistan. The government may involve the private sector in the development of this sector to produce milk and dairy products to meet growing domestic and foreign demand.

Seventhly, in the second phase of the CPEC, besides agriculture, industrialization through the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) is yet another priority area where progress is much desired. The government must use CPEC as a vehicle for reviving economic activity to achieve 6 to 7 percent growth in the next four to five years. Let us resolve that during the fiscal year 2021-22, at least one SEZ will become functional.

Eighthly, Karachi being the growth and revenue engine of Pakistan, will play a pivotal role in reviving economic activity in the country and sustaining 5-7 percent growth on a sustained basis. “Give me peace and stability in Karachi, and I will give you the revenue,” this is a historic quote of a former Chairman of the FBR to a former Prime Minister of Pakistan in the mid-1990s. Peace and stability in Karachi and improved infrastructure and cleanliness of the city will go a long way in sustaining higher economic growth. The political situation in Karachi must be handled with political foresight inclusiveness, equal opportunities, and local government empowerment.

Summing UP: To revive economic activity and to achieve a growth rate of 5-6 or even 7 percent in the next four to five years on a sustained basis, Pakistan needs to do the following: i) either suspend the IMF program for a year or renegotiate the cruelest program ever given to Pakistan; ii) no more hike in utility prices (gas and electricity) there is a need to reduce the price of electricity as Pakistan has excess capacity; iii) use both fiscal and monetary policy to revive economic activity; iv) reduce the discount rate or policy rate to 5 percent in the next 2/3 monetary policy meetings; v) primary emphasis be given to agriculture and seeking Chinese assistance under the second phase of the CPEC; vii) SMEs, livestock and dairy sector, construction, tourism, and IT sectors should form the priority areas along with agriculture; viii) undertake wide-ranging reforms in agriculture, industry, energy, taxation, and governance; and ix) peace and stability and better infrastructure in Karachi are vital for economic recovery.

Author: Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Editor, Analyst, Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan. (E-mail: awanzamir@yahoo.com).

Xi and Putin make the case for win-win vs. zero-sum

Xi and Putin make the case for win-win vs. zero-sum

February 02, 2021

By Pepe Escobar, posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

So the Davos Agenda has come and gone.

That was the virtual Great Reset preview, hosted by Kissinger acolyte cum World Economic Forum (WEF) oracle Herr Klaus Schwab.

Still, corporate/political so-called “leaders” will continue to wax lyrical about the Fourth Industrial Revolution – or its mild spin-offs such as Build Back Better, the favorite slogan of the new White House tenants.

The WEF co-sponsors – from the UN and the IMF to BlackRock, Blackstone and the Carlyle Group – will continue to expand their synchronicity with Lynn Forester de Rothschild and her corporate-heavy Council for Inclusive Capitalism with the Vatican – pop Pope Francis at the helm.

And yes, they accept Visa.

Predictably, the two really crucial events at Davos received minimal or non-existent coverage across the wobbly West: the speeches by President Xi and President Putin.

We have already highlighted Xi’s essentials. Aside from arguing a powerful case for multilateralism as the only possible road map to deal with global challenges, Xi stressed nothing substantial may be achieved if the inequality gap between North and South is not reduced.

The best in-depth analysis of Putin’s extraordinary speech , hands down, was provided by Rostislav Ishchenko, whom I had the pleasure to meet in Moscow in 2018.

Ishchenko stresses how, “in terms of scale and impact on historical processes, this is steeper than the Battles of Stalingrad and Kursk combined.” The speech, he adds, was totally unexpected, as much as Putin’s stunning intervention at the Munich Security Conference in 2007, “the crushing defeat” imposed on Georgia in 2008, and the return of Crimea in 2014.

Ishchenko also reveals something that will never be acknowledged in the West: “80 people from among the most influential on the planet did not laugh in Putin’s face, as it was in 2007 in Munich, and without noise immediately after his open speech signed up for a closed conference with him.”

Putin’s very important reference to the ominous 1930s – “the inability and unwillingness to find substantive solutions to problems like this in the 20th century led to World War 2 catastrophe” – was juxtaposed with a common sense warning: the necessity of preventing the takeover of global policy by Big Tech , which “are de facto competing with states”.

Xi and Putin’s speeches were de facto complementary – emphasizing sustainable, win-win economic development for all actors, especially across the Global South, coupled with the necessity of a new socio-political contract in international relations.

This drive should be based on two pillars: sovereignty – that is, the good old Westphalian model (and not Great Reset, hyper-concentrated, one world “governance”) and sustainable development propelled by techno-scientific progress (and not techno-feudalism).

So what Putin-Xi proposed, in fact, was a concerted effort to expand the basic foundations of the Russia-China strategic partnership to the whole Global South: the crucial choice ahead is between win-win and the Exceptionalist zero-sum game.

Regime-change that commie!

The Xi-Putin road map is already being examined in excruciating detail by Michael Hudson, for instance in this essay based on the first chapter of his upcoming book Cold War 2.0: The Geopolitical Economics of Finance Capitalism vs. Industrial Capitalism. Many of these themes have been elaborated in a recent conversation/interview between Michael and myself.

The whole Global South is figuring out how the contrast could not be starker between the American model – neoliberalism redux, in the form of turbo-financialization – and East Asia’s productive investment in industrial capitalism.

Alastair Crooke has outlined the dubious “appeal” of the American model, including “asset markets…severed from any connection to economic returns”; markets that “are not free, but Treasury managed”; and “enterprise capitalism…morphed into monopolistic oligarchism”.

The glaring counterpoint to Xi-Putin at Davos has been a so-called “strategy paper” released by NATO think tank The Atlantic Council, pompously titled The Longer Telegram, as if this was as relevant as George Kennan’s 1946 Long Telegram that designed the containment of the USSR.

Well, the least one can say to the anonymous “former senior government official with deep expertise” on China is, “Mr. Anonymous, You’re No George Kennan”. At best, we’re dealing with a sub-Mike Pompeo with a massive hangover.

Amidst a tsunami of platitudes, we learn that China is a “revisionist power” that “presents a serious problem for the whole of the democratic world”; and that the Chinese leadership better get its act together and operate “within the US-led liberal international order rather than building a rival order”.

The usual toxic mix of arrogance and condescension totally gives away the game, which boils down to “deterring and preventing China from crossing US red lines”, and applying good, old Kissingerian Divide and Rule between Russia and China.

Oh, and don’t forget regime change: if the “strategy” works, “Xi will in time be replaced by the more traditional form of Communist Party leadership.”

If this is what passes for intellectual firepower in Atlanticist circles, Beijing and Moscow don’t even need enemies.

The Asian center of gravity

Martin Jacques, now a visiting professor at Tsinghua University and a senior fellow at the China Institute of Fudan University, is one of the very few Westerners who actually has real “expertise” on China.

He’s now focusing on the main battlefield in the evolving US-China clash: Europe. Jacques notes that, “the trend toward a growing distance between Europe and the US will be slow, tortuous, conflict-riddled, and painful.” We are now “in new territory. American decline means that it has increasingly less to offer Europe.”

As an example, let’s jump cut to a distinct feature of the BRI/New Silk Roads and one of its key hubs, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC): the Digital Silk Road .

In partnership with Huawei, fiber optic cable is being laid out all across Pakistan – as I saw for myself when I traveled the Karakoram Highway, the northern part of CPEC. This fiber optic cable all the way from the Karakoram to Balochistan will link with the Pakistan-East Africa Connecting Europe (PEACE) submarine cable in the Arabian Sea.

The end result will be high-end connectivity between a host of BRI-participating nations and Europe – as the Mediterranean section is already being laid, running from Egypt to France. Before the end of 2021, the whole 15,000 km-long fiber optic cable will be online.

This shows that BRI is not as much about building roads, dams and high-speed rail networks but especially the Digital Silk Road, intimately connected with state of the art Chinese cyber-tech.

It’s no wonder Jacques fully understands how “the gravitational pull of China, and Asia more generally, is drawing Europe eastward. Nothing illustrates this phenomenon better than the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.”

In ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age, an extraordinary book published way back in 1998, the late, great Andre Gunder Frank exhaustively smashed Eurocentrism, demonstrating how the rise of the West was a mere historical blip, and a consequence of the decline of the East around 1800.

Now, only two centuries later, the planet’s center of gravity is back in Asia, as it’s been for most of recorded history. The fate of those blind to the evidence and unable to adapt is to telegram themselves to utter irrelevance.

How West, Central and South Asia are interconnecting

How West, Central and South Asia are interconnecting

January 02, 2021

By Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted on Asia Times

It’s one of those quintessential journeys that make people dream: Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad by train. Let’s call it ITI.

Soon, in early 2021, ITI will become a reality. But, initially, just as a freight train. The deal was recently sealed at the 10th meeting of the transport and communication ministers of ECO (Economic Cooperation Organization) in Istanbul.

ITI’s official name is actually the ECO Container Train. Trial runs started in 2019. The 6,500 km overland journey should now take 11 days – compared to the roughly 45 days across sealanes for trade between Western Europe and Pakistan.

ECO is a very interesting – and strategic – organization, virtually unknown outside of Asia, uniting Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, the five Central Asian “stans”, Azerbaijan and Afghanistan.

Some of these players are also members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); some are part of the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU); and almost all of them are partners to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

They have come up with a ECO Vision 2025 that emphasizes connectivity as a springboard to “social and economic development”, privileging trade, transportation, energy and tourism. ECO seeks to de facto integrate West, Central and South Asia plus the Caucasus. For all practical purposes, ECO straddles most of the New Silk Roads developing across a large part of Eurasia.

That pesky Sultan, again

The ITI/ECO Container Train will be yet another layer of connectivity running in parallel to the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway, centered on the Caucasus, and as we have seen in a previous Turkey/New Great Game column, a key plank of Ankara’s trade strategy.

Soon, ITI/ECO will also link with the European rail networks via that 76-km long engineering marvel – the undersea Marmaray railway tunnel in Istanbul. Of course opportunities abound for branching out to parts of the Middle East. By the end of the decade, ITI/ECO may well go high-speed rail – think Chinese investment.

The fascinating counterpoint to the Marmaray undersea tunnel is the Trans-Caspian: the actual connection between the BTK in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

As you can see here , the strategically designed layout of the ports allows instant roll on-roll off from the cargo trains to huge freight ferries.

Iran, for instance, is building a roll on-roll off shipping port in Bandar-e Anzalī on the Caspian Sea – which will be used to export merchandise but also oil and gas transiting via Russia or Kazakhstan, both Caspian nations, and thus bypassing any further blockade imposed by the US.

The interlink of ITI/ECO with BTK will solidify yet another important East-West trade corridor. Apart from the northern corridors linking with the Trans-Siberian, every East-West trade corridor across Eurasia goes through Turkey. That gives President Erdogan a wealth of options – as Beijing knows too well. The Xian-Istanbul corridor is as important as the Xian-Kazakhstan-Russia corridor.

Our previous Turkey/New Great Game column provoked serious debate in Istanbul. Political analyst Ceyda Karan remarked Erdogan “has only one card: Turkish geopolitics. He doesn’t care how many soldiers will die in Libya or Syria. He doesn’t care about the Turkish people”.

Esteemed Professor Korkut Boratav, now a nonagenarian eminence in macroeconomics, wondered how I could “ascribe those important roles to our chief”, referencing Erdogan.

Well, it’s all about playing geoeconomics. Erdogan certainly has leveraged his Rolodex across Eurasia, in terms of foreign policy, going no holds barred in the manipulation of all sorts of proxy gangs practicing all manner of extremisms. But ultimately what The Sultan really needs is trade and foreign investment in his battered economy.

So trade connectivity is essential. But the problem always remains his own strategy. Supporting, feeding and weaponizing an army of ISIS/Daesh, Jabhat al-Nusra, and Uighur/Caucasian jihadi proxies is not exactly a sound business strategy.

Erdogan seems to be everywhere – Libya, Azerbaijan, the Turkish-northwest Syrian border. Strategists in Beijing, Moscow, Tehran and Islamabad of course are asking questions: what for, exactly?

There’s no realistic geoeconomic scenario for him to bypass Russia. He may use Azerbaijan as a sort of de luxe messenger between Turkey and Israel – and perhaps, subsequently, profit from Israel’s courtship of Persian Gulf monarchies. After all, as far as allies in the Arab world are concerned, the only player he can really count on is Qatar. Follow the money: Doha by itself won’t finance an economic boom in Turkey.

Let a million trade corridors bloom

Silly rumors about the demise of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) are greatly exaggerated – considering they are a sub-section of American propaganda. CPEC is a complex, very long-term project whose implementation, according to the Chinese timetable, has not even started.

What Islamabad must be aware of is how much sexier, in comparison, is Tehran, when seen with Beijing’s eyes. Pakistan counts mostly on Imran Khan’s efforts. Iran has a wealth of oil, gas, gold and an array of crucial minerals. As India famously shot itself in the back – once again – by de facto abdicating from investing in Chabahar port in Iran, China stepped in. The $400 billion China-Iran deal is way more comprehensive than CPEC, at roughly $64 billion.

Back on the road, the good news is Iran-Pakistan seem to be focused on increasing connectivity. It boggles the mind that until recently there was only one crossing along their 900 km border. Finally they decided to open two more border gateways.

This is hugely important, because the first gateway is in ultra-sensitive Sistan-Balochistan province – constantly susceptible to Salafi-jihadi infiltrators – and only 70 km away from strategic Gwadar port.

As far as tourism goes – what the Chinese describe as “people to people exchange” – that’s an extra dimension, because Pakistanis can now easily cross the border, reach Chabahar, and then go by train to Iran’s holy sites Najaf and Karbala.

Finally, there’s the all-important Russian factor – which always commands Erdogan’s undivided attention.

Arguably Moscow’s top strategic priority is to decouple the EU from any US/NATO-imposed Dr. Strangelove impulses. So a EU trade alliance with Beijing – now in progress, via their investment treaty – cannot but be a win-win, as it spells out closer European integration with the Eurasian century, driven by China but with Russia, crucially, positioned as the premier security provider.

And as President Putin once again made it clear in his year end’s vows, BRI and the EAEU are increasingly merging.

Quite a few readers have noted that Russia has now achieved the tripartite capacity that Kissinger once declared essential for US strategic leadership: mastery of weapons exports; control of energy flows; and agriculture exports. Not to mention diplomatic finesse – widely respected all across Eurasia and the Global South.

Meanwhile, Eurasia goes with the flow: let a million trade corridors – Trans-Siberian, BTK, ITI/ECO – bloom.

Syria’s International Conference On Refugees Is A Masterclass In Balancing

12 NOVEMBER 2020

By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Syria

The kinetic phase of the Hybrid War of Terror on Syria has mostly drawn to a close, as evidenced by the milestone event of the country hosting an international conference on the return of refugees, which resulted in several significant outcomes that speak to the masterful execution of its “balancing” strategy and raise hope that the Arab Republic will eventually transform into the Eastern Mediterranean terminal point of China’s visionary W-CPEC+ corridor across Eurasia.

Strategically Disarming “Weapons Of Mass Migration”

Syria’s international conference on the return of refugees is a milestone event for the country’s war which shows that the kinetic phase of the Hybrid War of Terror against it has mostly drawn to a close. President Assad’s keynote speech saw the Syrian leader thanking his Russian and Iranian wartime allies for their help getting to this point and encouraging his compatriots abroad to finally return home. He claimed that some of their host countries are exploiting them for financial and other reasons, strongly hinting that they’re being used against their will as “Weapons of Mass Migration” like Ivy League scholar Kelly M. Greenhill earlier described such a phenomenon. In connection with that, President Assad condemned those states which continue to impose illegal sanctions against the Arab Republic, which has disincentivized some refugees from returning home and thus results in artificially perpetuating this historic humanitarian crisis that was initially sparked by their external war of regime change aggression against his people through terrorist means.

Syria’s “Balancing” Act

Thankfully, Syria can count on its Russian and Iranian wartime allies to help reconstruct the ruined country and thus facilitate the return of millions of refugees to their homeland. To this end, Russia promised to allocate $1 billion as well as open up a trade mission in Damascus while Iran suggested setting up an international fund for this purpose. Both countries seem poised to enter into a “friendly competition” with one another for reconstruction contracts and market space which can only work out to Syria’s ultimate benefit. The Arab Republic is therefore expected to retain its carefully calibrated “balancing” act between them, wisely doing its utmost to prevent the emergence of any complete dependence on either of them in the future. This strategy is consistent with what it’s always pursued over the decades and represents its masterful execution which too many other small- and medium-sized states previously attempted but to no avail. Even worse, many of Syria’s peers saw this strategy backfire on them, thus leading to either their ruin or full dependence on one partner.

Full credit goes to Syria’s world-class diplomats for being able to manage such a difficult policy with such success. Not only are they “balancing” between Russia and Iran, but they also managed to attract the important participation of other countries in their international refugee conference, most curious of which for some observers is Pakistan. Those who only casually follow Syrian affairs might have missed it, but Islamabad recently dispatched massive medical aid to the Arab Republic. This and its participation in the international conference show that the “global pivot state” (which the author previously referred to it as) is capable of bold foreign policy moves independent of its close American, Saudi, and Turkish partners. Pakistan, just like Syria, is also practicing its own “balancing” act between its aforementioned three traditional partners and its three newest ones of Russia, China, and Iran. In fact, it can be argued that Pakistan and Syria are in the process of synergizing their respective “balancing” strategies for the betterment of Eurasia.

Pakistan’s Serendipitous Chance In Syria”

To explain, not only is Syria “balancing” between Russia and Iran, but also between India and Pakistan too. Although Damascus and Delhi have a long history of close relations, Presidential Advisor Bouthaina Shabaan told the Hindustan Times in August 2017 that her country is becoming hesitant about India’s role in its reconstruction after Prime Minister Modi’s highly publicized trip to “Israel” where he did everything from sign intergovernmental deals solidifying their de-facto alliance to even walking barefoot with Netanyahu along the beach. The author realized at the time that this is “Pakistan’s Serendipitous Chance In Syria” whereby Islamabad could flex its anti-Zionist credentials to present itself as a much more credible partner than pro-Zionist Delhi in pursuit of strengthening the two state’s historic relations that reached their high point in 1974 after a Pakistani pilot flying a Syrian jet shot down an “Israeli” fighter flying over the occupied Golan Heights. Syria’s diplomats were evidently receptive to Pakistan’s outreaches, hence the steady improvement of ties.

The Winding Road To W-CPEC+

It’s not just nostalgia for their Old Cold War-era ties nor their shared hatred of “Israel” that’s bringing them closer together nowadays, but pro-Chinese Silk Road pragmatism. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the flagship project of China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), and its western branch corridor (W-CPEC+) through Iran has the chance of not only reaching Russia by running parallel with the stalled North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) across Azerbaijan but can also extend as far as Syria via Iraq. China is the little-discussed third economic force apart from Russia and Iran which is engaged in a “friendly competition” with its partners to develop Syria, and the improvement of Syrian-Pakistani relations as is presently happening could result in W-CPEC+ extending from the Pacific Ocean to the Eastern Mediterranean through Iran, Iraq, and Syria, all of which are allied with one another. It’ll of course take a lot of political will from all sides — not least of all Pakistan — to see this ambitious vision through, but if successful, then it could revolutionize Mideast geopolitics.

All five countries — China, Pakistan, Iran, Russia, and Syria — would benefit from this outcome. The People’s Republic is the world’s second-largest economy and actively eyeing more positions in the Eastern Mediterranean to complement its prospective ones in “Israel”, albeit via more geopolitically reliable mainland routes than the maritime ones connecting it to the self-professed “Jewish State”. Pakistan has an interest in bolstering its credential as the “global pivot state” by having CPEC serve as the platform for integrating Eurasia more closely together. Iran, which is desperately seeking all manner of sanctions relief, is reportedly negotiating a gargantuan economic agreement with China and would certainly benefit by facilitating more East-West trade through its territory. As for Russia, its recent control over Tartus means that it could profit from any Syrian export of Chinese products through that port. As for the Arab Republic itself, its expected benefit is that this vision would accelerate its reconstruction and allow it to finally actualize its pre-war “Five Seas Strategy”.

Concluding Thoughts

All told, Syria’s international conference on the return of refugees was about much more than just its titular topic. Reading between the lines of the details that have since been revealed about this milestone event, it was actually a masterclass in Syria’s “balancing” strategy. The Arab Republic proved that its diplomats are among the most highly skilled in the world after successfully “balancing” between Russia and Iran, as well as India and Pakistan, all with the aim of fulfilling its visionary “Five Seas Strategy” which some argue was partially responsible for provoking the Hybrid War of Terror that’s been viciously waged against it for almost an entire decade already. In the best-case scenario, Syria will eventually serve as the Eastern Mediterranean terminal point of the W-CPEC+ corridor connecting that strategic body of water with the Pacific Ocean via a several-country-long mainland commercial corridor. The successful fulfillment of this vision would revolutionize not only Mideast geopolitics, but also Eurasian geopolitics as a whole, which thus makes it an urgent priority for all.

Syria’s International Conference On Refugees Is A Masterclass In Balancing

By Andrew Korybko

Source

The kinetic phase of the Hybrid War of Terror on Syria has mostly drawn to a close, as evidenced by the milestone event of the country hosting an international conference on the return of refugees, which resulted in several significant outcomes that speak to the masterful execution of its “balancing” strategy and raise hope that the Arab Republic will eventually transform into the Eastern Mediterranean terminal point of China’s visionary W-CPEC+ corridor across Eurasia.

Strategically Disarming “Weapons Of Mass Migration”

Syria’s international conference on the return of refugees is a milestone event for the country’s war which shows that the kinetic phase of the Hybrid War of Terror against it has mostly drawn to a close. President Assad’s keynote speech saw the Syrian leader thanking his Russian and Iranian wartime allies for their help getting to this point and encouraging his compatriots abroad to finally return home. He claimed that some of their host countries are exploiting them for financial and other reasons, strongly hinting that they’re being used against their will as “Weapons of Mass Migration” like Ivy League scholar Kelly M. Greenhill earlier described such a phenomenon. In connection with that, President Assad condemned those states which continue to impose illegal sanctions against the Arab Republic, which has disincentivized some refugees from returning home and thus results in artificially perpetuating this historic humanitarian crisis that was initially sparked by their external war of regime change aggression against his people through terrorist means.

Syria’s “Balancing” Act

Thankfully, Syria can count on its Russian and Iranian wartime allies to help reconstruct the ruined country and thus facilitate the return of millions of refugees to their homeland. To this end, Russia promised to allocate $1 billion as well as open up a trade mission in Damascus while Iran suggested setting up an international fund for this purpose. Both countries seem poised to enter into a “friendly competition” with one another for reconstruction contracts and market space which can only work out to Syria’s ultimate benefit. The Arab Republic is therefore expected to retain its carefully calibrated “balancing” act between them, wisely doing its utmost to prevent the emergence of any complete dependence on either of them in the future. This strategy is consistent with what it’s always pursued over the decades and represents its masterful execution which too many other small- and medium-sized states previously attempted but to no avail. Even worse, many of Syria’s peers saw this strategy backfire on them, thus leading to either their ruin or full dependence on one partner.

Full credit goes to Syria’s world-class diplomats for being able to manage such a difficult policy with such success. Not only are they “balancing” between Russia and Iran, but they also managed to attract the important participation of other countries in their international refugee conference, most curious of which for some observers is Pakistan. Those who only casually follow Syrian affairs might have missed it, but Islamabad recently dispatched massive medical aid to the Arab Republic. This and its participation in the international conference show that the “global pivot state” (which the author previously referred to it as) is capable of bold foreign policy moves independent of its close American, Saudi, and Turkish partners. Pakistan, just like Syria, is also practicing its own “balancing” act between its aforementioned three traditional partners and its three newest ones of Russia, China, and Iran. In fact, it can be argued that Pakistan and Syria are in the process of synergizing their respective “balancing” strategies for the betterment of Eurasia.

Pakistan’s Serendipitous Chance In Syria”

To explain, not only is Syria “balancing” between Russia and Iran, but also between India and Pakistan too. Although Damascus and Delhi have a long history of close relations, Presidential Advisor Bouthaina Shabaan told the Hindustan Times in August 2017 that her country is becoming hesitant about India’s role in its reconstruction after Prime Minister Modi’s highly publicized trip to “Israel” where he did everything from sign intergovernmental deals solidifying their de-facto alliance to even walking barefoot with Netanyahu along the beach. The author realized at the time that this is “Pakistan’s Serendipitous Chance In Syria” whereby Islamabad could flex its anti-Zionist credentials to present itself as a much more credible partner than pro-Zionist Delhi in pursuit of strengthening the two state’s historic relations that reached their high point in 1974 after a Pakistani pilot flying a Syrian jet shot down an “Israeli” fighter flying over the occupied Golan Heights. Syria’s diplomats were evidently receptive to Pakistan’s outreaches, hence the steady improvement of ties.

The Winding Road To W-CPEC+

It’s not just nostalgia for their Old Cold War-era ties nor their shared hatred of “Israel” that’s bringing them closer together nowadays, but pro-Chinese Silk Road pragmatism. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the flagship project of China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), and its western branch corridor (W-CPEC+) through Iran has the chance of not only reaching Russia by running parallel with the stalled North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) across Azerbaijan but can also extend as far as Syria via Iraq. China is the little-discussed third economic force apart from Russia and Iran which is engaged in a “friendly competition” with its partners to develop Syria, and the improvement of Syrian-Pakistani relations as is presently happening could result in W-CPEC+ extending from the Pacific Ocean to the Eastern Mediterranean through Iran, Iraq, and Syria, all of which are allied with one another. It’ll of course take a lot of political will from all sides — not least of all Pakistan — to see this ambitious vision through, but if successful, then it could revolutionize Mideast geopolitics.

All five countries — China, Pakistan, Iran, Russia, and Syria — would benefit from this outcome. The People’s Republic is the world’s second-largest economy and actively eyeing more positions in the Eastern Mediterranean to complement its prospective ones in “Israel”, albeit via more geopolitically reliable mainland routes than the maritime ones connecting it to the self-professed “Jewish State”. Pakistan has an interest in bolstering its credential as the “global pivot state” by having CPEC serve as the platform for integrating Eurasia more closely together. Iran, which is desperately seeking all manner of sanctions relief, is reportedly negotiating a gargantuan economic agreement with China and would certainly benefit by facilitating more East-West trade through its territory. As for Russia, its recent control over Tartus means that it could profit from any Syrian export of Chinese products through that port. As for the Arab Republic itself, its expected benefit is that this vision would accelerate its reconstruction and allow it to finally actualize its pre-war “Five Seas Strategy”.

Concluding Thoughts

All told, Syria’s international conference on the return of refugees was about much more than just its titular topic. Reading between the lines of the details that have since been revealed about this milestone event, it was actually a masterclass in Syria’s “balancing” strategy. The Arab Republic proved that its diplomats are among the most highly skilled in the world after successfully “balancing” between Russia and Iran, as well as India and Pakistan, all with the aim of fulfilling its visionary “Five Seas Strategy” which some argue was partially responsible for provoking the Hybrid War of Terror that’s been viciously waged against it for almost an entire decade already. In the best-case scenario, Syria will eventually serve as the Eastern Mediterranean terminal point of the W-CPEC+ corridor connecting that strategic body of water with the Pacific Ocean via a several-country-long mainland commercial corridor. The successful fulfillment of this vision would revolutionize not only Mideast geopolitics, but also Eurasian geopolitics as a whole, which thus makes it an urgent priority for all.

Pakistan Made A Compelling Case That India Is A State Sponsor Of Terrorism

By Andrew Korybko

Source

Pakistan released a detailed dossier during a press conference on Saturday strongly making the case that India is a state sponsor of terrorism whose intelligence services have weaponized this phenomenon as part of the proxy war that they’re fighting with respect to the UNSC-recognized international Kashmir dispute and against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), with it now being the responsibility of the international community to investigate these scandalous claims in order to decide whether India deserves to be sanctioned by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and other related bodies for its rogue behavior.

This year’s Diwali celebration got off to a very symbolic start after Pakistan shined some light on the dark activities that it accused India of carrying out in the region. Islamabad released a detailed dossier during a press conference on Saturday strongly making the case that India is a state sponsor of terrorism whose intelligence services have weaponized this phenomenon as part of the proxy war that they’re fighting with respect to the UNSC-recognized international Kashmir dispute and against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of Beijing’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). These claims aren’t anything new, but what’s novel is the amount of detail devoted to proving them this time around.

According to Pakistan, Indian diplomatic facilities in Afghanistan are being used to coordinate the training of various terrorist groups on that landlocked country’s territory, including efforts to unite relevant Baloch and Pashtun ones as well as create a new ISIS branch dedicated to attacking Pakistan. Islamabad mentioned names, dates, bank accounts, phone numbers, and other identifying information such as exposing the Indian mastermind of these regionally destabilizing activities to make its case that India is a rogue state whose behavior should be investigated by the international community, which might find it fitting to sanction the country through the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and other related bodies.

Pakistan’s diplomatic masterstroke puts India in a very uncomfortable position because it had hitherto been the latter making such claims about the former and not the reverse. The comparatively muted reaction from the international community in the 24 hours since the dossier was revealed suggests that they feel uncomfortable about the accusations and aren’t too sure how to respond. India is a close military and economic partner of a growing number of influential players such as the US and “Israel” who might now be embarrassed for so closely associating with a country that’s been convincingly accused of such rogue behavior. At the same time, however, “birds of a feather flock together”, as they say.

For reasons of self-interest, it might turn out that the international community as a whole doesn’t react the same way to Pakistan’s accusations as they’ve done in the past whenever India made similar but much less detailed ones. Nevertheless, what’s most important to pay attention to is how these revelations might shape Chinese-Indian relations considering their clashes along the Line of Actual Control this summer and ongoing state of ever-intensifying cold war. The grand strategic interests of the People’s Republic are directly threatened by India’s Hybrid War of Terror on Pakistan, which aims to destabilize CPEC’s northern and southern access points in Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan respectively.

In fact, the timing of this dossier’s release might have been connected to those two countries’ rivalry. To explain, India was handily defeated by China during their clashes over the summer, which might be why it’s doubling down on its proxy war of terrorism against Pakistan in response. After all, Islamabad warned that New Delhi would soon seek to intensify its terrorist efforts in the coming future, so the dossier might have been intended to preemptively thwart that by exposing these plans in order to put pressure on India to reconsider its actions. Of course, it also took plenty of time to assemble all the details that were disclosed, but the timing was at least very convenient from the Pakistani perspective even if it was ultimately coincidental.

All told, the dossier heralds the advent of a new phase of Pakistani diplomacy where Islamabad confidently exposes India’s Hybrid War of Terror on the world stage. Since it can be assumed that China considers these claims credible considering the fact that its interests are directly threatened irrespective of the country’s public reaction (or potential lack thereof in line with its diplomatic traditions), the conclusion can thus far be made that this report already had a significant impact. It might very well end up being the case that Chinese-Indian relations will never return to their former friendliness, especially if Beijing begins to wonder whether Washington might be tacitly supporting New Delhi’s proxy war on CPEC.

China Newsbrief and Sitrep

China Newsbrief and Sitrep

November 10, 2020

Source

By Godfree Roberts – selected from his extensive weekly newsletter : Here Comes China

Infrastructure

The Three Gorges passed all its tests. Flood control, power generation, navigation and water resources utilization are running smoothly. The river dam, flood discharge, energy dissipation, water diversion and power generation, navigation facilities, protective buildings, mechanical and electrical systems are operating normally and stably. The reservoir accumulated 180 billion cubic meters of floodwater, reduced the flood peak by 40 percent, and the lowered flood control pressures in the the Yangtze River. Read full article →

Agriculture

A new record means a one mu (0.067 hectare) rice field can feed five people for a year. Scientists achieved record-breaking yields of 1,500 kg per mu, or 22.5 tonnes per hectare. The strain, named “Sanyou #1”, is known for its high yield and resilience to unfavorable weather conditions. The late-season hybrid rice yield measured on Monday reached 911.7 kg per mu – each mu measures about 0.07 hectares.  Read full article →

Aerospace

China has launched more satellites than any other country this year as of Sept. 30, putting it on track to win the space launch-rate race three years in a row. Through the third quarter of 2020, China has launched a total of 29 satellites. The US by contrast has launched 27 total, launching 10 this quarter. Only SpaceX keeps the US close to China. Read full article →

Useless Idiots?

What really happened at the US Consulate General in Hong Kong when those four young anti-China activists turned up seeking asylum? They were rejected because, as much as they would like to believe they fought the good fight against “tyranny” and merit “protection” for all the sacrifices they made, they are in fact nobodies in the eyes of the unscrupulous and manipulative officials and politicians in Washington who cheered them on and lulled them into a false sense of security that America had their backs. Read full article →

The four Hong Kong activists who sought protection at the US consulate last week had discussed their intentions with consular staff, who gave them the green light to enter the compound before firmly asking them to leave. Three were seeking asylum, while the fourth, who claims to be a US citizen, is accusing the consulate of neglecting its duty to help him.  Read full article →

Long Read: Investing in the Belt and Road

(This article selection is specifically for the explanation on Islamic Finance)

Pakistan BRI Projects

China’s Belt & Road Initiative officially kicked off in 2013, some seven years ago, under the initial title of ‘One Belt One Road’. That was later dropped as it became apparent that the scale of demand for projects would be rather more than single Eurasian and Maritime routes. While there has been some controversy over China’s financing and the exporting of its construction SOEs to build these projects, closer examination of the so-called ‘debt trap’ issue by US Universities such as John Hopkins and William & Mary have revealed this not to be the case; their studies failing to produce any evidence of debt trap problems created by Chinese loans. It is however encouraging that such finance is being monitored and it will help keep Beijing straight. This is good news for Pakistan, as it has been a significant recipient of Chinese infrastructure funding, with US$62 billion being spent on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) alone.

The China–Pakistan Economic Corridor 

The CPEC is a collection of infrastructure projects that are under construction throughout the country. CPEC is intended to rapidly upgrade Pakistan’s required infrastructure and strengthen its economy by the construction of modern transportation networks, numerous energy projects, and special economic zones. CPEC became partly operational in late 2016 when Chinese cargo was transported overland to Gwadar Port for onward maritime shipment to Africa and West Asia, while certain nationally important power projects came onstream in late 2017.

A vast network of highways and railways are currently being constructed as part of CPEC that will span the length and breadth of Pakistan. Inefficiencies stemming from Pakistan’s current, mostly dilapidated transportation network are estimated by the government to cause a loss of 3.55% of the country’s annual GDP with little investment having been made since the days of the British Raj.

Modern transportation networks built under CPEC will link seaports in Gwadar and Karachi on Pakistan’s southern coast with northern Pakistan, as well as to routes and cities further north in Western China’s Xinjiang Province and onto Central Asia. This includes a 1,100 km motorway being built between Karachi and Lahore, while the Karachi-Peshawar main rail route is being upgraded to allow for high speed train travel.

To the north the Karakoram Highway from Gilgit to Taxkorgan and Kashgar is being completely overhauled while Pakistan’s railway network will also be extended to eventually connect to China’s Southern Xinjiang railway in Kashgar and from there onto China’s national rail system and its majority Muslim Provinces of Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai and Ningxia – all of which lie in a West-East axis, following the ancient overland trade routes of the ancient silk road. China’s Muslim population is about 80 million with significant hubs in cities such as Xián and Beijing.

To the West from Xinjiang, China is connected to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, all Muslim countries. Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjang, is a major Central Asian hub and reaches out via road, rail and air to many Central Asian destinations.

Pakistan’s Export Manufacturing Potential  

What this means for Pakistan – world renowned traders extraordinaire – is that the Belt and Road build in their own country can be used to service the business and human footfall needs now being created in hubs across the country, as well as vastly improved trade interconnectivity with similar cultures and values throughout China and Central Asia.

Pakistan’s south coast Ports also offer shipping access and trade to Southeast Asia including the Muslim countries of Malaysia and Indonesia – offering a combined market of 300 million people. Then there are India’s Muslims – another 172 million. The opportunities for Pakistan’s business export sector to grow and develop are immense.

This is important as Pakistan currently has a growing current account deficit. This is driven by a widening trade gap as import growth outstrips export expansion and could draw down reserves and dampen GDP growth in the medium term. That said, Pakistan is currently undergoing a process of economic liberalization including privatization of all government corporations, being aimed to attract FDI and decrease the budget deficit. Pakistan is generally regarded as one of the ten emerging global economies with a particular focus on its manufacturing hub.

The economy of Pakistan is the 23rd largest in the world in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP), while the country has a significant population of 220 million, and is expected, along with the BRICS nations to be among the world’s largest economies in the 21st century. Clearly, China has been investing in a friendly, emerging and significant economy. So too notably have expatriate Pakistani’s based in the UK and United States, as well as investments coming in from the UAE and Turkey. Investments from the West and mature Asian economies have tended to be big-ticket and restricted to MNC’s – while the CPEC builds, when completed, offer more opportunities for SME’s and medium sized investors as well as the big players.

Islamic Financing

Asian regional hubs have seen what is happening and have begun offering Islamic finance services as part of their portfolio. Hong Kong has been placing Sukuk (Islamic bonds) to raise capital for several years now, some into the billions of dollars. HSBS and Standard Chartered are often utilized as global advisers, with banks such as Malaysia’s CIMB and Abu Dhabi’s National Bank involved in Islamic countries. Singapore has had less success, with DBS closing its Islamic Bank of Asia in 2015 and folding Islamic finance facilities into core operations. Nonetheless, facilities are available in Hong Kong and the regional Muslim economies in Asia.

The major projects China has helped finance and build in Pakistan that would be of interest to Islamic and global financiers and businessmen are as follows:

Pakistan’s Gwadar Port (گوادر بندرگاه) is the deepest sea port in the world, and is under the administrative control of the Maritime Secretary of Pakistan and the operational control of the China Overseas Port Holding Company.  The port is a link between the Belt & Road Initiative and the Maritime Silk Road.

It includes the Gwadar Special Economic Zone currently being built on a 2,292 acre site adjacent to the Port.

The Gwadar SEZ will include manufacturing zones, logistics hubs, warehouses, and display centres and is modelled on the successful Chinese SEZ model which launched cities such as Shenzhen into global recognizance and shipping importance. Business established in the special economic zone will be exempt from Pakistani income, sales, and federal excise taxes for 23 years, while a 40-year tax holiday will be granted for imports of equipment, materials, plants, machinery, appliances and accessories that are to be for construction of Gwadar Port and SEZ.

The SEZ is being completed in three phases. Manufacturing and processing industries should start to be operational by 2025, while further expansion of the zone is intended to be complete by 2030. While the Chinese are building the Gwadar infrastructure, it should be noted that opportunities exist both for foreign investors within the SEZ and especially those who wish to target either the Pakistani domestic market or for reexport manufacturing to take advantage of the lower operational costs.

The good news for manufacturing in Gwadar to sell onto the domestic market are the tax incentives and low worker costs, coupled by the growth of the Pakistani consumer market, which although volatile, and has been impacted by Covid-19, has also been on an upwards trend. Estimates now suggest that Pakistan’s middle class has reached about 16 million. That may be small beer to many, but it is expected to grow, and now would be a good time to develop brands in a total market size of 220 million.

Gwadar SEZ is useful and extremely valuable to investors as component parts will be able to enter the zone duty free, with import duty not payable unless goods enter the domestic market. VAT breaks and refunds are also available to businesses setting up shop there. The fact that English, that global language of commerce, is widely spoken is another ”ease of doing business” advantage. That has been noted, the World Bank stating earlier this year that ‘‘due to a concerted improvement in business regulation, Pakistan climbed 28 places and rose to a rank of 108 in the global ease of doing business rankings in 2020″.

The same economic drivers suggest Gwadar will become an important Asian SEZ and ideal for export manufacturers. Under Chinese and Pakistani management, security will be tight, and the incentives make it attractive.

The other aspect to Gwadar that local Pakistani and their overseas counterparts overseas can make an investment case for are the facilities outside the SEZ and Port. These include business and human services to support these facilities, as well as property investments – they can be expected to significantly increase in the immediate Gwadar area. That is exactly what has happened in Sri Lanka’s Colombo Port City – another BRI project whose time has come. Investors both local and international are putting money into the surrounding area. Profits are being made, and the same will happen at Gwadar.

Gilgit SEZ – Access To China & Central Asia  

The Moqpondass Gilgit SEZ is a priority development under CPEC in Gilgit in Pakistan’s northern Baltistan Province. It borders Afghanistan to the north, China to the northeast, and the Pakistani administrated state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) to the south. It covers an area of about 750 acres. Construction work has begun.

The area is naturally rich in precious stones, ore and fruits. The proposed SEZ would be connected with Gilgit Airport, about 30km distant and also scheduled for upgrades as well as being on the route to Sost, the last Pakistani border town to China. It is also connected to the important trade and supply route through to Skardu to the east, itself a Gateway to the Karakorum Mountain range. The town is located on the Indus river, which separates the Karakoram Range from the Himalayas.

The SEZ is being designed for processing marble and granite, iron ore, steel, (to be used in later regional construction projects) other minerals as well as fruit processing and added value such as packaging and so on.

The SEZ is significant as Gilgit has suffered from Taliban attacks in the past and was heavily infested with weapons as a result. There has been a mass cleanup, while the SEZ is intended to give inhabitants the ability to turn their time back towards trade and production and towards relative wealth in what is a naturally productive region. With the China border so close, it is an excellent opportunity. China also wishes to secure the region as train routes and major highways can then pass through to Xinjiang Province.

Securing regional trade and developing wealth creation opportunities in Central Asia and Northern Pakistan is important for Beijing as it, like Pakistan, seeks to deal with the worst aspects of Islamic fundamentalism.

Additional incentives may also come to the region as the Pakistan Government is considering declaring Gilgit-Baltistan as a Province, giving it more funding and a greater status within the country. That would upset India, pre-occupied with a military standoff with China in nearby Ladakh. That said, despite complaints, India is unlikely to interfere. However it would be good news for Gilgit and help advance regional trade, commerce and security. The opening of the Gilgit SEZ would probably coincide with news confirming Provincial status, expected to be ‘soon’. State funds can then be expected to be freed up to further develop the area. Investors can take advantage, as always occurs when following State encouraged funding.

The Karachi to Peshawar Railway

The Karachi–Peshawar Railway Line (کراچی–پشاور مرکزی ریل راستہ) is one of four main railway lines in Pakistan, being operated and maintained by Pakistan Railways. The line begins from Karachi City Station and ends at Peshawar Cantonment Station, with a total length of 1,687 km. It passes 184 railway stations and serves as the main passenger and freight line of the country. 75% of the country’s cargo and passenger traffic uses this route. It is currently undergoing a US$5.4 billion upgrade and renovation as part of CPEC with average rail speeds expected be doubled to 160 kilometers per hour upon completion.

Greater Peshawar Mass Transit System 

The Peshawar Circular Railway (پشاور مداری ریلوے ) Project is an inter-regional commuter rail system for the Greater Peshawar metropolitan area which will connect several industrial and commercial districts within Peshawar to the outlying suburbs and cities of Jamrud, Charsadda, Mardan, Nowshera and later, to Swabi. In August 2016, the regional Government agreed to a US$1.6 billion MoU with the China Communications and Construction Company (CCCC). This railway is expected to resolve transportation problems in the Peshawar region and generate jobs leading to the overall economic revival of the province. It will impact 11 million people in the Peshawar Valley. To the West lies the Khyber Pass to Afghanistan, it is hoped that the proximity will further settle tribal areas and better influence regional trade on a broader scale.

The Karachi-Peshawar Motorway 

The Karachi – Peshawar Motorway is a construction and development of a six lane, access controlled highway of 1,100 km. It is a tolled facility, and originates in Karachi through Motorway M-9 (136 km) to Hyderabad. From Hyderabad onwards, it comprises new build for 345 km to Sukkur, then from Sukkur to Multan follows the left bank of the River Indus for 392 km.

It opened at the end of last year, and is intended to allow speeds of up to 120 kmh. It is Pakistan’s first bi-directional six-lane motorway with an intelligent (smart) transportation function. It cost US$2.9 billion to build and took 36 months. There are 100 bridges, 468 underpasses, 991 culverts, 11 interchanges, six pairs of service areas, five pairs of rest areas, and 24 toll stations. The motorway was divided into seven sections for simultaneous construction. The project was undertaken by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC).

Multan and Sukkur are important cities in Pakistan, and they are now connected by the motorway. Multan is a major area for producing mangoes, dates and other crops, while Sukkur is an important transport hub. The motorway reduces the commuter time between the two cities from 11 hours to less than four hours, thus expediting travel between China and Pakistan.

These are just a handful of the Belt & Road projects that China has invested in Pakistan that are about to come to fruition; there are many more in terms of Special Economic Zones, road, rail and other infrastructure facilities that are being built and that will project Pakistan into an Asian manufacturing hub during this decade. This is further enhanced with China in particular as Pakistan has a Free Trade Agreement with China. Pakistan is also a member of SAFTA, a free trade bloc that also includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka.   All countries completed the respective Trade Liberalization Program (TLP) under the Phase I and II of SAFTA, meaning that tariffs fell to 0-5 percent on all traded products other than those in the respective ”sensitive” lists. Although there has been some horseplay over what are and are not legitimate ‘sensitive’ products, a further 100 items are due to be exempted from tariffs in 2020. Read full article →

(We regularly include Chris Devonshire-Ellis’ articles partly because he lives in the port of Hambantota–and because he regularly visits Eurasia’s flyover countries.)

Analysis: Political Consciousness – Frans Vandenbosch 方腾波 18.10.2020

Consciousness is defined as the quality or state of being aware, especially of something within oneself. Political consciousness is then the personal awareness or concern for some social or political cause. For certain philosophers, all consciousness is political because in their view, it always is the outcome of politic-economic circumstances, a product of ideological influences. That looks close to the reality, but it is far from complete. Today in 2020 the picture is much more complex.

Four steps to full political consciousness

Without any doubt, most people either straightforward deny or are unaware of the entire economic, political, media and internet influence. With a lot of effort and a strong analytic mind it is nevertheless possible to escape that external influence. Not right away; that process takes time and effort. These are the four steps in the process. Everyone, whether they like it or not, has to go through these four stages:

The honeymoon

This is even for well educated people raised in a political active family, the first step. It is an inevitable stepping stone to a more correct political consciousness. Because of the heavy social pressure and the daily brainwashing by the mainstream media, many, if not most people never escape this first stage.

Ambiguity and doubt; the second step.

After being confronted with the contradictions between the mainstream media story and reality, a form of uncertainty slowly arises. Last week, a friend wrote me in an email: “I can’t believe they’re all lying”. Indeed, they’re all lying. I have not taken the effort to explain him the details; he wouldn’t accept my explanation anyway. Much, if not all what people read in the western mainstream media is pure propaganda. It is meeting all of the 10 features of propaganda as defined by Edward Bernays and his followers.

Awareness, apprehension; the third stage. 

Cracks appear in the image. People are getting aware that most mainstream media do not present real news but only a pre-made fairy-tale. They despise some or all of the western mainstream media and look for alternative media. They scold the media and politicians but are not yet ready to look for the root causes of the decline of democracy, the economy and freedom of speech.

Full political consciousness; the final stage. 

The nirvana of political consciousness. People no longer consume western mainstream media. They have strong indications of the root causes of the decline of their freedom. But they’re also fully aware of Confucius’ “Real wisdom is to know that one can’t know everything”.

Global political consciousness 

It is, as Mark Twain so vividly put it, not just useful but of the utmost importance to travel to other countries. To speak with the local people in their own native language:

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.

One of the reasons for the bias within the Anglo-Saxon population is the lingua franca status of their language. They do not feel the same incentive as others to try to speak the native language of their interlocutor. It is only with a deep understanding of the social and economic situation in other countries that political consciousness has a fertile soil to grow.

In this regard, it is remarkable that most Chinese people have a higher political consciousness than Westerners.  There are four main causes for the stronger Chinese awareness. In brief: the Chinese 10 points higher IQ, the Chinese education system based on STEM directions and analytical thinking, the harsh meritocratic selection process and the Western degrading but Chinese increasing Flynn effect.

And even more remarkable is that in general, sociologists are less politically aware than STEM graduates. At first sight this may seem contradictory, but on closer inspection it is very logical. Sociologists are believers, they absorb a way of thinking and pass it on to their audience in a convincing way. STEM graduates, on the other hand, look at things in an analytical way, measure and test, and don’t make a decision until they’ve reviewed enough parameters.

Aldous Huxley, fully aware of Bernays’ work two decennia before him, wrote on 21.10.1949 in a letter to his former student George Orwell, author of ‘1984’: “Within the next generation I believe that the world’s leaders will discover that infant conditioning and narcohypnotic are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging them and kicking them into obedience”

Frans Vandenbosch, Chinese name 方腾波, is a Fleming who lived in China for years where he supported companies in the automotive, medical, electronics and plastics processing sectors. He is cofounder and senior consultant at the International Institute on Governance and Strategy (IIGS) in Beijing and the author of Statecraft and Society in China about grassroots politics in China.


This represents but a fraction of what is included in the Here Comes China newsletter.  If you want to learn about the Chinese world, get Godfree’s newsletter here

BRI-LED REGIONALIZATION ROLLS ON AS GWADAR PORT OPENS AFGHAN TRADE TO THE WORLD

By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

29 APRIL 2020

The successful opening of Gwadar Port to Afghanistan lays the basis for expanding this trade network to Central Asia and Russia via N-CPEC+, which sets a positive example for how BRI-led regionalization can rejuvenate globalization after the coronavirus is finally defeated.

The speculative talk about the coronavirus supposedly signaling the impending end of globalization was thrown into doubt last week after Gwadar Port was opened to Afghanistan. That facility is the terminal point of the Belt & Road Initiative’s (BRI) flagship project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and will be used to facilitate trade with the South Asian state’s landlocked neighbor, according to the announcement by Abdul Razak Dawood, the adviser for commerce and investment to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

He also said that “16,000 MT of diamonium phosphate and World Food Programme cargo of 500,000 MT of wheat for Afghanistan will arrive next month” and that “Ships from China will also offload at Gwadar.” This development is remarkable in more ways than one and thus deserves to be analyzed a bit more in depth in order for the reader to better understand its grand strategic significance in the context of contemporary geopolitics.

First off, it’s especially important that war-torn Afghanistan will receive much-needed aid through this port. Those supplies will help its people better survive the hardships that they’ve been experiencing for decades already, and they come at a crucial time when the country is struggling to counter COVID-19. Not only could Gwadar become a humanitarian lifeline for Afghanistan, but also an economic one too since it opens up its trade to the rest of the world and can therefore help it rebuild after the war finally ends.

The very fact that CPEC is expanding along the northern vector suggests that a branch corridor prospectively called N-CPEC+ could enter into fruition in the future if the project expands into the Central Asian Republics and even further afield to Russia, thus creating a new North-South connectivity corridor in the Eurasian Heartland. Even in the event that the aforementioned scenario doesn’t unfold right way, it’s still noteworthy that BRI’s flagship project is strengthening regionalization between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

This objective observation powerfully refutes the rumors that globalization is destined to die due to the consequences of the world’s uncoordinated lockdowns in response to COVID-19. There will always be a need for countries to import whatever they can’t make at home and export the wares that they produce abroad, which in the Afghan context refers to agricultural imports and prospective mineral exports via CPEC. The present lockdowns will inevitably end, after which globalization will resume, bolstered by regionalization.

Regionalization and globalization are two sides of the same coin since they both involve international trade, albeit to differing geographic extents made obvious by their names. There’s some credence to the claims that regionalization will benefit more in the short term than globalization, though the success of regionalization would strengthen globalization through the creation of more consolidated economic spaces. In the present example, CPEC brings China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan closer together, thus boosting trade between all three.

The successful opening of Gwadar Port to Afghanistan lays the basis for expanding this trade network to Central Asia and Russia via N-CPEC+, as was earlier explained, which sets a positive example for how BRI-led regionalization can rejuvenate globalization after the coronavirus is finally defeated. Both interconnected trends are pivotal to the world’s economic recovery, and seeing as how they’re being championed by China, it can be said that the People’s Republic is taking the leading role in helping humanity return back to normal.

With all of this in mind, while casual observers might have dismissed the opening of Gwadar Port to Afghanistan as an unimportant event compared to everything else going on in the world nowadays (if they were even aware of it in the first place, that is), it’s actually one of the most significant non-health-related developments of the year. China showed that its desire to create a Community of Common Destiny through BRI hasn’t slowed down as a result of the virus, which speaks to its commitment to carry through with this noble vision no matter what.

The Western Alliance Is Falling Apart

Global Research, August 02, 2019

Ever since Imran Khan became the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan in August 2018, the winds have changed. While his predecessors, though generally leaning eastwards, have often wavered between the US and the China orbit, Khan is in the process of clearly defining his alliances with the east, in particular China. This is for the good of his country, for the good of the Middle East, and eventually for the good of the world.

A few days ago, RT reported that China, in addition to the expansion of the new port in Gwadar, Balochistan, has entered agreements with Pakistan to build a military/air base in Pakistan, a new Chinese city for some half a million people, as well as several road and railway improvement projects, including a highway connecting the cities of Karachi and Lahore, reconstruction of the Karakoram Highway, linking Hasan Abdal to the Chinese border, as well as upgrading the Karachi-Peshwar main railway to be completed by the end of 2019, for trains to travel up to 160km / hour.

This rehabilitation of dilapidated Pakistani transportation infrastructure is not only expected to contribute between 2% and 3% of Pakistan’s future GDP, but it offers also another outlet for Iranian gas / hydrocarbons, other than through the Strait of Hurmuz – for example, by rail to the new port of Gwadar which, by the way, is also a new Chinese naval base. From Gwadar Iranian hydrocarbon cargos can be shipped everywhere, including to China, Africa and India. With the new China-built transportation infrastructure Iranian gas can also be shipped overland to China.

In fact, these infrastructure developments, plus several electric power production projects, still mostly fed by fossil fuel, to resolve Pakistani’s chronic energy shortage, are part of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also, called the New Silk Road. They are a central part of the new so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which was first designed in 2015 during a visit by China’s President Xi Jinping, when some 51 Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) worth then some US$ 46 billion were signed. Pakistan is definitely out of the US orbit.

Today, in the CPEC implementation phase, the projects planned or under construction are estimated at over US$ 60 billion. An estimated 80% are direct investments with considerable Pakistani participation and 20% Chinese concessionary debt. Clearly, Pakistan has become a staunch ally of China – and this to the detriment of the US role in the Middle East.

Washington’s wannabe hegemony over the Middle East is fading rapidly. See also Michel Chossudovsky’s detailed analysis “US Foreign Policy in Shambles: NATO and the Middle East. How Do You Wage War Without Allies?”.

A few days ago, Germany has refused Washington’s request to take part in a US-led maritime mission in the Strait of Hormuz, under the pretext to secure hydrocarbon shipments through this Iran-controlled narrow water way. In reality it is more like a new weaponizing of waterways, by controlling who ships what to whom – and applying “sanctions” by blocking or outright pirating of tankers destined for western ‘enemy’ territories.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced last Wednesday in Warsaw, Poland, that there “cannot be a military solution” to the current crisis in the Persian Gulf and that Berlin will turn down Washington’s request to join the US, British and French operation “aimed at protecting sea traffic in the Strait of Hormuz, and combating so-called “Iranian aggression.”

This idea of the Washington war hawks was conceived after Iran’s totally legal seizure of the British-flagged Stena Impero oil tanker, after it rammed an Iranian fishing boat a couple of weeks ago. However, nothing is said about the totally illegal and US-ordered British piracy of the Iranian super tanker Grace I off the coast of Gibraltar in Spanish waters (another infraction of international law), weeks earlier. While Grace I’s crew in the meantime has been released, the tanker is still under British capture, but western media remain silent about it, but lambast Iran for seizing a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.

Germany remains committed to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – JCPOA (the Iran nuclear deal), from which the United States unilaterally withdrew a year ago, and Germany will therefore not intervene on behalf of the US.

Add to this Turkey – a key NATO member both for her strategic location and NATO’s actual military might established in Turkey – moving ever closer to the east, and becoming a solid ally of Russia, after having ignored Washington’s warnings against Turkey’s purchasing of Russian S-400 cutting-edge air defense systems. For “sleeping with the enemy” – i.e. moving ever closer to Russia, the US has already punished Turkey’s economy by manipulating her currency to fall by about 40% since the beginning of 2018. Turkey is also a candidate to become a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and so is Iran.

Turkey has become a de facto lame duck as a NATO member and may soon officially exit NATO which would be a tremendous blow to the North Atlantic Alliance – and may tempt other European NATO nations to do likewise. Probably not overnight, but the idea of an ever more defunct NATO is planted.

All indications are that the future, economically and security wise – is in the East. Even Europe may eventually ‘dare’ making the jump towards better relations with primarily Russia and Central Asia and eventually with China.

And that especially if and when Brexit happens – which is by no means a sure thing. Just in case, the UK has already prepared bilateral trade relations with China, ready to be signed – if and when – the UK exits the EU.

Will the UK, another staunch US ally, jump ship? – Unlikely. But dancing on two weddings simultaneously is a customary Anglo-Saxon game plan. The Brits must have learned it from their masters in Washington, who in turn took the lessons from the Brits as colonial power for centuries, across the Atlantic.

Western, US-led war on Iran is therefore unlikely. There is too much at stake, and especially, there are no longer any reliable allies in the region. Remember, allies – shall we call them puppets or peons, are normally doing the dirty work for Washington.
So, threatening, warning and annoying provocations by the US with some of its lasting western allies may continue for a while. It makes for good propaganda. After all, packing up and going home is not exactly Uncle Sam’s forte. The western alliance is no longer what it used to be. In fact, it is in shambles. And Iran knows it.

*

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Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a water resources and environmental specialist. He worked for over 30 years with the World Bank and the World Health Organization around the world in the fields of environment and water. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research; ICH; RT; Sputnik; PressTV; The 21st Century; TeleSUR; The Saker Blog, the New Eastern Outlook (NEO); and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

Featured image is from The Freedom Articles


Towards a World War III Scenario: The Dangers of Nuclear War” 

by Michel Chossudovsky

Available to order from Global Research! 

ISBN Number: 978-0-9737147-5-3
Year: 2012
Pages: 102
Print Edition: $10.25 (+ shipping and handling)
PDF Edition:  $6.50 (sent directly to your email account!)

Michel Chossudovsky is Professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa and Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), which hosts the critically acclaimed website www.globalresearch.ca . He is a contributor to the Encyclopedia Britannica. His writings have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Reviews

“This book is a ‘must’ resource – a richly documented and systematic diagnosis of the supremely pathological geo-strategic planning of US wars since ‘9-11’ against non-nuclear countries to seize their oil fields and resources under cover of ‘freedom and democracy’.”
John McMurtry, Professor of Philosophy, Guelph University

“In a world where engineered, pre-emptive, or more fashionably “humanitarian” wars of aggression have become the norm, this challenging book may be our final wake-up call.”
-Denis Halliday, Former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations

Michel Chossudovsky exposes the insanity of our privatized war machine. Iran is being targeted with nuclear weapons as part of a war agenda built on distortions and lies for the purpose of private profit. The real aims are oil, financial hegemony and global control. The price could be nuclear holocaust. When weapons become the hottest export of the world’s only superpower, and diplomats work as salesmen for the defense industry, the whole world is recklessly endangered. If we must have a military, it belongs entirely in the public sector. No one should profit from mass death and destruction.
Ellen Brown, author of ‘Web of Debt’ and president of the Public Banking Institute   

WWIII Scenario

A two part Pepe Escobar report on the China, Pakistan and the new Great Game

December 30, 2018

A two part Pepe Escobar report on the China, Pakistan and the new Great Game

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with The Asia Times – here and here – by special agreement with the author)

The new Great Game on the Roof of the World

On top of the graceful Baltit Fort, overlooking the Hunza Valley’s Shangri-La-style splendor, it’s impossible not to feel dizzy at the view: an overwhelming collision of millennia of geology and centuries of history.

We are at the heart of Gilgit-Baltistan, in Pakistan’s Northern Areas, or – as legend rules, the Roof of the World. This is an area about 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles) crammed with spectacular mountain ranges and amidst them, secluded pristine valleys and the largest glaciers outside of the Polar region.

The location feels like vertigo. To the north, beyond the Batura Glacier, is the tiny northeast arm of Afghanistan, the legendary Wakhan corridor. A crest of the Hindu Kush separates Wakhan from the regional capital Gilgit. Xinjiang starts on Wakhan’s uppermost tip. Via the upgraded Karakoram highway, it’s only 240 km from Gilgit to the Khunjerab Pass, 4,934 meters high on the official China-Pakistan border.

What used to be called the Russian Pamir, now in Tajikistan, can be seen with naked eyes from one of the peaks of the Karakoram. To the east, past Skardu and an arduous trek that may last almost a month, lies K2, the second highest peak in the world, among a mighty group north of the Batura Glacier (also known as Baltoro), which is 63km long.

Receding Hopper Glacier

The receding Hopper Glacier in northern Pakistan. Photo: Asia Times

To the south lies Azad (“Free”) Kashmir and slightly to the southeast what locals define as Indian-occupied Kashmir. The former King of Kashmir agreed to be part of India after Partition in 1947 but troops were airlifted to the northern state and after a year of fighting, India went to the UN. A temporary ceasefire line was established in 1948 and runs down from the Karakoram towards the Nanga Parbat – the killer mountain, dividing Kashmir into two virtually sealed halves.

Massive mountain ranges

Driving across the Karakoram Highway (see part 2 of this report) we were face to face with three massive mountain ranges running in different directions. The Karakoram roughly starts where the Hindu Kush ends and then sweeps eastward – a watershed between Central Asian drainage and streams flowing into the Indian Ocean.

original Silk Road, parallel to K’koram hwy

The ancient Silk Road is seen above the Karakoram Highway. Photo: Asia Times

Driving across the Karakoram Highway (see part 2 of this report) we were face to face with three massive mountain ranges running in different directions. The Karakoram roughly starts where the Hindu Kush ends and then sweeps eastward – a watershed between Central Asian drainage and streams flowing into the Indian Ocean.

The Himalayas start in Gilgit and then run southeast through a cluster of high peaks, including the Nanga Parbat, directly on the Islamabad-Gilgit air route (flights by turboprop only take off if weather around the Nanga Parbat allows).

Strategically, this is one of the top spots on the planet, a protagonist of the original Great Game between imperial Britain and Russia. So it’s more than appropriate that here is exactly where a protagonist of the New Great Game, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), actually starts, linking western China’s Xinjiang to the Northern Areas across the Khunjerab Pass.

Karakoram politics

CPEC is the supreme jewel in the Belt and Road crown, the largest foreign development or investment program in modern China’s history, loaded with way more funds than years of US military aid to Islamabad.

And we are indeed in Ancient Silk Road territory. Looking at the millenary trail parallel to the Karakoram, lovingly restored by the Aga Khan Development Foundation, it’s easy to picture the great Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang traversing these heights in the 7th Century, and naming them Polo-le. The Tang dynasty called it Great Polu. When Marco Polo trekked in the 14th Century, he called it Bolor.

Early last month, I was privileged to drive on the upgraded Karakoram Highway along CPEC all the way from Gilgit to the Khunjerab, and back, with multiple incursions to valleys such as lush, pine-forested Naltar, Shimshal (manufacturers of sublime yak wool shawls), Kutwal and receding glaciers, such as Hopper and Bualtar.

The Karakoram Highway was originally conceived in the 1970s as an ambitious political-strategic project able to influence the geopolitical balance in the subcontinent, by expanding Islamabad’s reach into previously inaccessible frontiers.

Now it’s at the heart of a trade and energy corridor from the China-Pak border all the way south to Gwadar, the port in Balochistan in the Arabian Sea a stone’s throw from the Persian Gulf. Gwadar looks likely to be a crucial springboard to China becoming a naval power – active from the Indian Ocean to the Persian Gulf and on to the Mediterranean, while CPEC, slowly but surely, aims to change the social and economic structure of Pakistan.

Previous Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the controversial “Lion of the Punjab”, was an avid CPEC supporter after he won the 2013 elections. At the time current Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, winner of elections held in July, had already polled second nationwide and rose to power in the strategic Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province – straddling the area between Islamabad and the tribal belt.

Sharif, in June 2013, when he was about to enter negotiations with the Chinese, was lauding what would become CPEC as an infrastructure scheme that “will change the fate of Pakistan”. So far that has translated mostly into new hydroelectric dams, coal-fired power stations, and civil-nuclear power. The China National Nuclear Corporation is building two 1,100 MW reactors near Karachi for nearly $10 billion, 65% financed by Chinese loans. This is the first time that the Chinese nuclear industry has built something of this scale outside of their country.

More than a dozen CPEC projects involve power generation – Pakistan is no longer woefully energy-deprived. These projects may not be as sexy as high-speed rail and pipelines, which could arrive much later; after all CPEC in its planned entirety runs to 2030.

Of course, monumental business decisions will have to be addressed; the staggering cost – and state of the art engineering – involved in building a railway parallel to the Karakoram; and the fact that oil pumped via a pipeline from Gwadar to Xinjiang might cost five times more than via the usual sea lanes all the way to Shanghai.

A map shows the route of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Wanishahrukh

A map shows the route of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Wanishahrukh

What Imran wants

Imran Khan is way more cautious than Sharif, who had a “China cell” inside his office and commanded the Pakistani Army to set up a 10,000-strong security force to protect China’s CPEC investments.

But Khan knows well about the firepower behind CPEC: the Silk Road Fund, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), CITIC, Bank of China, EXIM, China Development Bank. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) projects that BRI could mobilize as much as $6 trillion in the next few years. What Khan wants is to negotiate better terms for Pakistan.

China’s ambassador to Pakistan, Yao Jing, never tires to stress that Pakistan’s serious debt problem relates to the initial phase of CPEC, due to the massive import of heavy machinery, industrial raw materials and services.

As I learned in Islamabad in various discussions with Pakistani analysts, Khan actually wants to expand CPEC and prevent it from leading Islamabad towards an unsustainable debt trap. That would mean tweaking CPEC’s focus away from too much infrastructure development to technology transfer and market access for Pakistani products. Financing for agriculture projects, for instance, could come via CPEC’s Long Term Plan, which unlike the so-called Early Harvest Plan does not come with a price tag attached and can be negotiated freely between Islamabad and Beijing.

According to a 2016 IMF report, $28 billion in projects included in Early Harvest will be completed by 2020: $10 billion to develop road, rail and port infrastructure, and $18 billion in energy projects via Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), with Chinese firms using commercial loans borrowing from Chinese banks.

CPEC though is an extremely long-term endeavor. Other CPEC investments in energy and transportation infrastructure financed by China will be finished only by 2030.

A new CPEC emphasis on industrialization via technology transfer would allow Pakistan to produce some of what China imports. That would imply reneg otiating the Pakistan-China Free-Trade Agreement (FTA), getting to the level of preferential treatment that China offers to ASEAN. Essentially, this is what Imran Khan is aiming at.

Hail the Ismailis

Gilgit-Baltistan is the safest place in the whole of Pakistan. Here, there’s no “terror threat” by the Pakistani Taliban or dodgy al-Qaeda or ISIS spin-offs. Major spoken languages are Shina and Burushaski, not Urdu. The population is overwhelmingly composed of Ismaili Shi’ites – like Karim Shah, an encyclopedia of Central and South Asian history and culture reigning over a cave of wonders in Gilgit where anything from authentic heads of Gandhara Bodhisattvas to 18th Century silk Qom carpets from a Persian royal family can be found.

Karim Shah and his cave of wonders in Gilgit. Photo: Asia Times

Karim Shah and his cave of wonders in Gilgit. Photo: Asia Times

We spent hours talking about Khorasan, the original Kipling-esque Great Game, Col. Durand (who drew the Durand Line separating Pashtuns on both sides of an artificial border), the Kashmir question, the astonishingly complex geo-eco-historical system of the Northern Areas, and of course, China.

Shah imparted the impression – confirmed by other traders – that the local population may see some tangible CPEC-related benefits, but does not know exactly what Beijing wants. Chinese visitors – engineers, bureaucrats – are remote; tourism has not picked up yet, as in the case of the Japanese, who have been Northern Areas enthusiasts for decades. Thus, an improvement in Xi Jinping’s “people-to-people exchange”, a key component of BRI, seems to be in order.

Legend rules that Hunzakuts, the inhabitants of the glorious Hunza Valley, are descendants of three soldiers of Alexander the Great who married beautiful Persian women of high aristocracy. While Alexander campaigned along the Oxus, the three couples traveled across the Wakhan corridor, discovered the marvelous valley, and settled down.

The tolerant Islam they came to practice centuries later is impervious to Gulf proselytizing. When I crossed an austere village by the Karakoram, visibly out of place, my Ismaili driver Akbar noted that these were “Sunni Wahhabis”.

Finding Gandhara art in Gilgit made perfect sense. Gandhara historically formed a sort of fertile and irrigated triangle between the Iranian plateau, the Hindu Kush and the first peaks of the Himalayas. Between the 6th Century BC and the Islamic invasions, it was the crossroads of three cultures: India, China and Iran. And it was here that an extremely original Greco-Buddhist art and culture flourished, way after Greek power had waned.

Gandhara Bodhisattva head, Gilgit cave of wonders

A Gandhara Bodhisattva head in Karim’s shop in Gilgit. Photo: Asia Times

The Kashmir question

As a new 21st Century crossroads, CPEC faces stern challenges – from geology (constant landslides and floods in Gilgit-Baltistan) to wobbly security in Balochistan, threatened by a combination of separatist and religiously or politically manipulated movements. I was not able to visit Gwadar and the south of CPEC even though contacts in Islamabad supplied military sources with an application for a NOC (No Object Certificate, as it is known on Pakistan) weeks in advance. The military response: too “sensitive”, as in dangerous, for a lone Western journalist, especially in the aftermath of the Aasia Bibi case.

China will need to find a way – perhaps via negotiations inside the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – to mollify India on CPEC’s route straddling Kashmir.

In 1936 the British made a deal with the Maharaja of Kashmir, getting Gilgit on lease for 60 years. But then came Partition. At the time the Kuomintang – in power in China, before Mao’s victory – was engaged in secret negotiations to restore Hunza’s fabled independence as a new state allied with China. But the Mir of Hunza finally decided to join the newborn Pakistani nation.

Few may remember that, during the 1950s, way before the India-China border war in 1962, there was trouble on the China-Pakistan border, when Beijing seized 3,400 square miles of Kashmir, including parts of old Hunza, whose Mirs always recognized Chinese suzerainty. When the British had first seized Hunza in 1891, the Mir actually fled to China.

Zhou EnLai visits Baltit Fort in early 60s

This puts into perspective some fabulous documents preserved at Baltit Fort, like China-Baltistan trade agreements and a picture of Zhou EnLai visiting the fort in the early 1960s.

It’s also fascinating to remember that at the time Zhou Enlai already thought about Karachi – no Gwadar at that time – connecting to an “ancient trade route, lost to modern times, not only for trade but for strategic purposes as well”. Xi Jinping has definitely read his Zhou EnLai thoroughly.

China Baltistan trade agreements

Historic trade agreements between China and Baltistan. Photo: Asia Times

Nowadays, the President of Azad (Free) Jammu and Kashmir, Sardar Masood Khan, always stresses that “unlike Indian propaganda”, the Pakistani side is “thriving politically and economically”, and CPEC could also be beneficial for Indian Kashmir. As it stands, this remains a red line for New Delhi.

Once in a lifetime chance

At the National Defense University in Islamabad, I was shown a paper by Li Xiaolu, from the Institute of Strategic Studies at the National Defense University of the PLA detailing how Beijing hopes that “by opening China’s west to Central and South Asia, building better transportation infrastructure, and by encouraging trade with South and Central Asian countries, the development of manufacturing, processing and industrial capacities in Western China can be promoted”.

Now compare it with road and rail infrastructure improved across Pakistan being able to turn the whole nation into an actual trade corridor, while the Pakistani Navy improves its defense in deep-sea waters with Gwadar positioned as a third naval base and offering support for Chinese ships across sea lanes close to the Middle East and Northern Africa.

No wonder Chinese analysts share a virtual consensus about traditional Chinese wisdom favoring unity for prosperity – a key plank of CPEC and BRI – and prevailing over containment and confrontation.

For CPEC to work, Beijing needs three things: a political solution for Afghanistan, which is already being worked out inside the SCO, with China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Iran (as an observer) directly involved; stable relations between India and Pakistan; and certified security across Pakistan.

Beijing is actively encouraging closer connectivity between Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the Quetta-Kandahar railway and the Kabul-Peshawar highway. CPEC is actually expanding from the Karakoram to the Khyber Pass, trespassing the artificial Durand line along the way.

In contrast, multiple factions in Washington continue to twist all possible faultlines to thwart these projects, with a propaganda campaign designed to portray BRI as a swamp of corruption, incompetence, a “debt trap” and “malign” Chinese behavior.

Yet among all BRI corridors, material progress across CPEC is more than self-evident. I saw every village in the Northern Areas with electricity and most of them linked by fiber optics, a stark contrast to when I traveled a severely dilapidated Karakoram, twice, two decades ago.

Pakistan now has a once in a lifetime chance to harness its geographical location – with borders intertwining centuries of history and culture with Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Middle East – to set itself up as a key bridge between the Middle East and both the Mediterranean and Western China.

Rumors abounded in Islamabad that Imran Khan is aiming for an international standard university in the capital, positioned as a center of study and research tracking the new mosaic of an emerging multipolar world. Young people power will be more than available, like Jamila Shah, currently at the National Defense University, doing a masters in Peace and Conflict Studies, and working with an NGO, the International Rescue Committee. Jamila, from Hunza, in Gilgit-Baltistan, is the face of Pakistan’s future.

Jamila Shah

Jamila Shah. Photo: Asia Times

Still hostage to a corrupt oligarchy, cartelized industries, falling exports (60% of which are textiles), and with almost half of their youths aged from five to 16 out of school, Pakistan faces a Sisyphean task.

Economist Ishrat Husain has correctly noted that Pakistan’s model of “elitist growth” must be replaced by “shared growth”. Enter a modified CPEC opening the path ahead, hopefully like those cargo trucks defying the slippery, snowy Khunjerab full blast.

CPEC trade Pak style

Trade on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. Photo: Asia Times

Up next: On the road in the Karakoram 

On the road in the Karakoram

On the Pakistani side, a wooden house serves as a small customs office fronted by “the highest ATM in the world” – though you try a foreign credit card at your peril. The Chinese side boasts an intimidating, metal-plated James Bond-esque structure with no humans in sight.

This is ground zero of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the point where the revamped, upgraded Karakoram Highway – “the eighth wonder of the world” – snakes away from China’s Xinjiang all the way to Pakistan’s Northern Areas and further south to Islamabad and Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea.

From here it’s 420 kilometers to Kashgar and a hefty 1,890 km to Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. But going south is where the fun really begins.

highest ATM in the world

World’s highest ATM. Photo: Asia Times

Traveling the Karakoram from Gilgit, the capital of the Northern Areas, to the Khunjerab and back is an exhilarating road trip along CPEC and its spin-offs. And it’s a crazy carousel.

Psychedelic Pakistani trucks, Chinese container road warriors – some trying to subdue the Khunjerab without chains on their tires – packed minivans plying the Hunza-Xinjiang route, Silk Road motels, the smell of curry interfacing with the best apricot juice in the world, roadside butchers, shacks advertising themselves as “Silk Road Investment & Credit Society Ltd,” many a Pak China Gateway Hotel, checkpoints consisting of a roadside table and a bunch of papers kept from flying away by pebbles, stashes of yuan crisscrossing rupees and dollars and messy, multi-level “people to people exchanges.”

Chinese container truck up the Khunjerab with no chains on tires

A Chinese container truck ploughs over the snow without chains on its tires. Photo: Asia Times

It’s one of the greatest road trips on earth. And in geopolitical terms, it may be the greatest.

Mind the yaks

Karakoram North starts at the environmentally protected Khunjerab National Park, where yaks roam freely on the road and ibex and marmots are easily spotted nearby. But there are no Marco Polo sheep, much less snow leopards. (Though local Ismailis insist a few dozen reside in the park.)

The Yak and Sheep Highway

Yak and sheep roam the highway. Photo: Asia Times

The first serious pit-stop in the Karakoram is Sost, which used to be the Pakistani border in the old days – as when I traveled the road, twice, 20 years ago by jeep from Kashgar. Now, the bustling trade entrepot is the HQ of the Silk Road Dry Port Sost. Chinese lorries unload their cargo and Pakistani trucks take up the relay to transport the merchandise all across the nation. It appears modern and well-organized. Everything proceeds smoothly.

entrance to the dry port at Sost

Entrance to the dry port at Sost. Photo: Asia Times

Snaking south, we pass right under the spectacularly receding Passu Glacier. In a nearby village, a funeral is in progress, with the crowd taking over the road alongside yaks and buffalos and interrupting traffic at will.

The receding Passu glacier by the Karakoram

The receding Passu Glacier by the Karakoram. Photo: Asia Times

The upgraded Karakoram is an apotheosis of Pak-China Friendship Tunnels – all exhibiting the obligatory commemorative billboard extolling a geopolitical friendship soaring “higher than the highest mountain.”

One of many Pak-China tunnels

One of the many Pak-China tunnels. Photo: Asia Times

This is CPEC in effect. It is astonishing when compared to the recent past. Between the Hunza and Gilgit rivers flowing parallel to impeccable asphalt worthy of an autobahn, a fiber optic cable runs all across the Northern Areas.

Chinese engineering has performed miracles. Around 160km south of the Khunjerab we drive around Attabad Lake, which totally submerged the road after a landslide in January 2010. For over five years there was simply no China-Pakistan overland trade, although some went via Kashgar-Gilgit flights. The solution by the China Road and Bridge Corporation had to be a tunnel – completed in 2015.

Attabad lake, now negotiated via a tunnel

Attabad Lake, now negotiated via tunnel. Photo: Asia Times

Trade along the Karakoram is bound to pick up – after years at less than 10% of total China-Pak trade, which tends to flow especially from Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces, not Xinjiang. Some stretches of the highway remain prone to constant landslides, rockslides or floods, which require a number of 24/7 rescue and maintenance teams. These are Pakistani, while the SUVs of the police in the Northern Areas have been supplied by China.

The heart of the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure projects are road and railway lines. These do not cost a fortune per se; the expense is in the construction costs for bridges and tunnels. Russia spent over $4 billion on its Kerch Strait bridge to the Crimea. New Silk Road costs will be exponentially higher. Tunnels can be way more expensive than bridges.

Where the Himalayas rise

From the Karakoram it’s sometimes possible to catch a glimpse of the formidable Nanga Parbat – Kashmiri for “Naked Mountain,” later nicknamed the “Killer Mountain.” It has never been climbed in winter, and is actually a series of ridges which anchors the western Himalaya range, culminating in an ice crest at 8,126 meters above sea level. That is the ninth highest peak in the world and the second in Pakistan after K2.

Glimpse of the mighty Nanga Parbat

Heading into the mighty Nanga Parbat (on the right). Photo: Asia Times

As we approach Gilgit, the road signs – in English, Mandarin and Russian – say 468 km to Abbottabad (site of the Osama bin Laden endgame) and 583 km to Islamabad. Way down south, in less mountainous terrain, I’m told the odd rockslide gives way to occasional floods.

South of Gilgit, the Chinese once again are in frantic building mode, attacking the road starting from the Karakoram to the strategic Mecca Skardu. The road, according to local Ismailis, should be ready before 2020.

meeting of the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush and Himalayas

Where the Karakoram, Hindu Kush and Himalayas meet. Photo: Asia Times

And then, on a bend of the revamped highway, the intersection of the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush and the Himalayan mountain ranges – bordering the confluence of the Gilgit River with the Indus, now flowing south all the way to the Arabian Sea – spreads before us. Nearly 85% of the Indus discharge happens between May and September, out of snow and glacial melt, propelling the monsoons. Abdul, the painter of the Karakoram, is applying the finishing touches to a white-clad viewing point.

Abdul, painter of the Karakoram

Abdul: Painter of the Karakoram Highway. Photo: Asia Times

The China-Pak embrace

The building of the original Karakoram – an engineering tour de force – took no less than 27 years and claimed the lives of over 1,000 Chinese and Pakistani workers.

The Karakoram Highway is much more than a road; it’s a rolling, graphic emblem of the China-Pakistan geopolitical embrace, surmounting all manner of economic, cultural, geological and security barriers over decades to the benefit of a strategic objective. And the strategic objective now is CPEC as the flagship BRI project.

At the recent opening ceremony of the China International Import Expo in Shanghai, where he was guest of honor, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan described CPEC, including the Karakoram highway, as a “vital link” for China and Pakistan with the Middle East and Central Asia. “CPEC is a mechanism to connect China, the Middle East and Central Asia that also opens ways for fresh investment and paves the way for new markets,” he said.

Khan also reassured his hosts – as well as domestic public opinion – that his new government is engaged in deep, meaningful reforms to ensure transparency and accountability; virtual ghosts as far as Pakistani business is usually concerned.

“Pakistan has an array of resources, minerals and renewables amidst the most diverse landscape,” Khan said, adding that his country is a leading exporter of sports goods, medical instruments and IT products, and has promising, 100 million-strong human resources under the age of 35. So, the potential is immense.

Islamabad is all in on completing CPEC up to 2030, with projections of up to 3% added to annual GDP growth, as industrial output is bound to rise with more electricity courtesy of CPEC investments and more production coming from Chinese-style Special Economic Zones.

CPEC’s Long-Term Plan (2017-2030), released one year ago, defines four priorities in Pakistan: Gwadar Port; energy projects; transport infrastructure (as in upgrading of the Karakoram); and industrial cooperation. Imran Khan’s government (see Part 1 of this report) is aiming for Pakistan to position itself, via CPEC, as the key hub uniting the overland Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road.

The big plan

This implies, geopolitically and economically, an even stronger, trans-regional, China-Pakistan alliance in contraposition to India and Washington. The US reaction to BRI in 2018 was to unleash a whispering campaign to try to discredit it. Beijing, for its part, expects India and Pakistan to at least discuss their political differences inside the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

From now on, China’s far west and south – Xinjiang and Yunnan – have to become the top drivers of the Chinese economy. Upgrading their road, rail and energy infrastructure and closely linking them to South Asia and Southeast Asia is essential for China to keep growing – all that boosted by crucial energy connectivity via a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan, an oil pipeline from the Caspian in Kazakhstan, further massive gas shipments from Siberia, and, further down the road, a possible gas pipeline from Gwadar port to Xinjiang parallel to the Karakoram.

Will it work? The Karakoram, Hindu Kush and Himalayas have seen it all come and all go over multiple millennia. So why not? The upgrading of the greatest geological and geopolitical road trip on earth is a start.

Karakoram checkpoint

Karakoram Highway checkpoint. Photo: Asia Times.

CPEC and The New Great Game on the Roof of the World — Astute News

On top of the graceful Baltit Fort, overlooking the Hunza Valley’s Shangri-La-style splendor, it’s impossible not to feel dizzy at the view: an overwhelming collision of millennia of geology and centuries of history. We are at the heart of Gilgit-Baltistan, in Pakistan’s Northern Areas, or – as legend rules, the Roof of the World. This […]

via CPEC and The New Great Game on the Roof of the World — Astute News

This is What Can be Accomplished During Imran Khan’s Visit to China

By Adam Garrie
Source

Later this week, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan will take his first official visit to China. As Pakistan’s neighbour and most important all-weather ally, the visit is of incomparable importance as Pakistan stands on the verge of fulfilling the next stages of inspiring new projects throughout the country, many of which have been jointly initiated with China. Furthermore, international pressures as well as domestic challenges that have arisen over the last year mean that China is well placed to offer Pakistan the kind of sustainable economic assistance required to rectify problems that previous Pakistani governments failed to address. With this in mind, here are the goals that can be achieved during Imran’s inaugural visit to China:

Securing a loan 

Last week Saudi Arabia gave Pakistan a one year loan of $3 billion with an addition $3 billion offered in the form of deferred payments for oil. The agreement was made on the same day that Imran Khan attended the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh. This itself is demonstrative of the no nonsense approach that Imran takes when dealing with important multilateral issues. Imran Khan’s positive meetings with the Saudi leadership along with his statement that Pakistan is willing to play a role as a mediator in regional conflicts including the war in Yemen, indicates that far from Saudi offering a “sympathy loan” to Islamabad, rapidly emerging geopolitical trends and Pakistan’s own economic development makes Pakistan a crucial partner for Riyadh.

The $10 billion that Saudi Arabia has invested for the purposes of building an oil refinery in the Pakistani port city of Gwadar makes it clear that not only is Gwadar fast becoming one of the most important hubs for global trade but that in integrating Saudi investment into the city that represents the southern terminus of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Saudi Arabia is attempting to utilise the decades of good will between itself and Pakistan in order to become more immersed in the win-win relationship stemming from direct participation in the Belt and Road Initiative.

The IMF has already made it clear that as expected, all of Pakistan’s current internal and bilateral projects will be scrutinised from the overtly American perspective of the IMF’s top officials. As such, Chinese officials are well aware that Washington could use its influence on the IMF to meddle in the progress of multiple CPEC related and other regional Sino-Pakistani projects. This gives China a clear incentive to help its neighbour whose current account deficit has widened due to the economic mismanagement of previous Pakistani governments.

Beyond this, a Chinese investment in Pakistan in the form of a loan should also be described as an investment in China. As China and Pakistan have shared interests in seeing that the full extent of neighbourly cooperation bears the sweetest possible fruits, China requires an economically stable Pakistan in order to realise this win-win goal. Imran Khan’s optimistic spirit and his domestic war on corruption itself mirrors that which Xi Jinping has engaged in for the benefit of the Chinese people. While no nation wants to throw money away, China knows that Pakistan has the potential to be a great economic power and that as such, a loan to Pakistan would represent an effort to help Imran Khan bring his nation back to economic solvency while the unwise practices of his predecessors that were ultimately bad for Pakistan and its partners are now a thing of the past and as such encouraged investor confidence from many quarters. Thus, a Chinese loan to Pakistan should be viewed as an important investment in a mutually sustainable future based on transparency and a neighbourly opposition to all forms of degrading corruption.

Taken in totality, there remains an opportunity for Imran to secure a loan from China which when combined with the existing Saudi loan could help Pakistan to avoid the IMF all together.

Fight fake news about Belt and Road/CPEC together 

Those with an interest in retarding the progress of Belt and Road and CPEC specifically have launched an all out disinformation war about the current healthy state of China-Pakistan relations. This disinfo war itself is part of a wider drive among certain malicious actors to drive a wedge between China and its partners in the Ummah (global Islamic community). It also serves as an outgrowth of America’s zero-sum attitude to Belt and Road that is expressed in non-factual media reports across several journalistic markets.

When Pakistan’s Foreign Minister addressed the United Nations last month, he presented Pakistan as a champion of the multi-national Belt and Road initiative that is sometimes described as merely a Chinese rather than multilateral initiative. In standing beside Xi Jinping, Imran Khan has the opportunity to not just expose the lies but attack the sources of the lies regarding malicious anti-CPEC stories while showing the world that Pakistan and China remain positively jointly committed to win-win relationships that will transform not just Pakistan but multiple Asian and African nations through enhanced connectivity and economic modernisation in the wider Afro-Eurasian space.

A rounded perspective on Xinjiang

Unlike some of Imran Khan’s predecessors, Imran Khan has shown himself to be deeply in touch with the charitable, austere and compassionate roots of Islam. As such, Imran Khan has vowed to revitalise the dream of national father Muhammad Ali Jinnah to transform Pakistan into an Islamic welfare state.

While mostly non-Muslims and non-Chinese continue to write absurd stories about life in the Chinese province of Xinjiang, particularly where the welfare of Muslims residents are concerned, Imran Khan is well placed to dispel this rumour by publicly relating how Chinese and Islamic values are neither incompatible nor mutually exclusive in practical terms.

As Xinjiang province borders Pakistan, there is all the more reason for Imran Khan to express feelings of unity as a means of dispelling attempts to divide the Ummah from its natural Chinese friend and partner.

New economic initiatives

The spirit of Naya Pakistan (new Pakistan) has been felt not only by Pakistanis but by much of the wider world. Chinese officials have already expressed how it is Beijing’s desire to tap into this spirit of forward thinking to work on new mutual projects that will transform the lives of multiple people in both nations, thus offering the Pakistani and Chinese people a future based on sustainable development through deeper and wider cooperative efforts.

While many Pakistanis are squarely focused on the loan that they hope to secure from a partner like China, Imran Khan has been wise in reminding Pakistanis not to be consumed by the negative legacies of the past. While the mistakes of the past must be dealt with, Imran Khan has also encouraged Pakistani’s to dream positive and healthy dreams for themselves and their country. This attitude is similar to the Chinese Dream that is encouraged through the people-centred initiatives detailed in Xi Jinping Thought. Because of this, it is clear that the only thing more constructive than two neighbours dreaming big is dreaming big together.

More cultural exchange 

Prioritising visits by Chinese tourists to Pakistan and Pakistani tourists to China is a vital way to secure the best possible future relations. Additionally, musicians, artists, sportspeople and great minds from both countries ought to present their talents to those on the other side of the border in order to demonstrate that the benefits of a modern win-win partnership have the ability to foster enlightened human development as well as economic and infrastructural development.

A commitment to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation 

Pakistan’s membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation gives the country a seat in an important organisation that can help bring further peace to Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, help to foster peace within Afghanistan and work to fight terrorism across multiple states. Iman Khan’s own views that extremism must be fought through a combination of proactive security measures and the draining of the swamp of economic destitution in which extremism foments is itself not dissimilar from the methods China has used to rid Xinjiang of extremism.

Furthermore, the regional government that PTI first formed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2013 helped to pioneer education and social welfare as means of lifting people out of both poverty and the related trap of extremism simultaneously. As China continues to do the same in Xinjiang in accordance with Chinese characteristics, both countries can share and pool their experiences in fighting extremist threats that continue to dominate issues at the level of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Such an exchange of methodology can help the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation to become a more potent force for security in the region.

Conclusion 

Iman Khan’s visit to China will be an important moment where a dignified and forward looking Pakistani leader will be able to make the most out of a decades long all-weather friendship with the most important economic superpower in today’s world. So long as the meeting is guided by the optimistic spirit of Naya Pakistan, both countries will be able to achieve much on a win-win basis.

The Dangerous and Duplicitous Infowar Against Imran Khan

Among the many reasons why Imran Khan’s PTI party swept Pakistan’s recent general elections while making major inroads in provincial elections was his party’s commitment to ending a systematic culture of corruption that existed among both of the national legacy parties as well as among regionally strong and fringe parties. As a result, PTI not only won at a national level but in so doing, helped to sweep away the power of the MQM in Karachi, erode the iron grip of PML-N over Punjab, as well as reduce the share of votes received by radical religious parties whose agitation politics has had a negative impact on Pakistan’s civil society for decades.

While Imran Khan’s foreign policy position of neutrality as a whole, scepticism combined with realism in respect of the US, robust clarity combined with an olive branch to India and steadfast fraternal relations with China has never been ambiguous, multiple media outlets are attempting to so discord over PTI’s foreign policy by taking simple statements out of context and in some cases by penning utter fiction as a means of discrediting Imran Khan.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in multiple stories, primarily from western outlets and occasionally from Indian outlets (later picked up by Pakistani outlets) implying that somehow the future of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is anything other than mutually assured from the perspective of both Beijing and Islamabad.

To understand this concept, one can learn much by studying the new Malaysian government led by the veteran politician Mahathir Mohamad. Like Imran Khan, Mahathir Mohamad is and always was an advocate of progressive nationalism with modern Islamic characteristics. While the multi-racial dynamic in Malaysia is different than the provincial/ethnic identities present in Pakistan, Mahathir’s approach to foreign policy was and remains similar to the course which Imran has promised to follow. Mahathir never hesitates to criticise the United States nor its allies (including Israel) while his relationship with China was and remains based on mutual respect tempered with a strong sense of Malaysian national pride.

Mahathir’s return to power this year at the age of 93 was in many ways a result of the same anti-corruption battle that characterised Imran’s campaign. Mahathir openly criticised his notoriously corrupt predecessor Najib Razak who is currently being investigated by the authorities for gross acts of corruption involving the abuse of power. Likewise, Imran’s effective predecessor and political rival Nawaz Sharif while presently out of prison is also being investigated for acts of corruption in respect of his ownership of multi-million dollar properties in London.

While the relations of both Pakistan and Malaysia with the Chinese superpower continued to progress along positive lines during the respective Premierships of Nawaz and Najib, it would be naive to suggest that two corrupt individuals somehow engaged in 100% ethical business deals with their Chinese partner. In other words, if corruption was the word of the day for both Nawaz and Najib, why should their joint projects with Chins be any different? This is not to say that China in any way bears responsibility for the actions of Nawaz and Najib. As a country that expects its international partners to exercise responsibility over their share in any and all joint projects, China does not exist to meddle in the internal affairs of foreign nations, whether such nations are run by men like Imran and Mahathir or whether they are run by men like Nawaz and Najib.

Because of this, China is not worried about the fact that some of the vanity projects of both Nawaz and Najib are now being reviewed by the new governments who were elected to do just that – review matters signed off for by predecessors whose domestic legacies had been rejected by the voters in a democratic election. China is in fact engaging in dialogue with both partners in order to reach a new understanding over projects that will be to the win-win benefit of all parties.

Thus while both Iman and Mahathir have both gone out of their way to clarify that their revision of various projects has everything to do with internal matters and nothing to do with negative views of Beijing, the Sinophobic media of the west and India continues to say otherwise in a clear attempt to manufacture a false narrative.

Far more than Malaysia, Pakistan’s economic future is dependant on healthy relations with its all-weather Chinese neighbour and not a single genuine statement from any PTI official has indicated otherwise. In fact, the high level contacts between the new government and Chinese officials demonstrates that if anything, PTI wants to make the most of Pakistan’s friendship with China and in so doing, making the most of opportunities often squandered by previous governments.

However, it is now clear that Pakistan must do as much as possible to fight the Sinophobic infowar which threatens to spread misinformation among Pakistanis at a fanatic pace. Take for example the scandalous article recently published in the London based Financial Times called “Pakistan rethinks its role in Xi’s Belt and Road plan“, insinuated that Pakistan is about to cancel important bilateral projects related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) under the new PTI led government of Imran Khan. The report was based on statements from Pakistan’s Adviser for Commerce, Textile, Industry and Production, and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood whose Ministry has now fully rejected the article while claiming that the Financial Times took his words completely and intentionally out of context.

According to Pakistan’s Ministry of Commerce and Textile, “The statements attributed to Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Textile have been taken out of context and distorted“. The Ministry further said that Pakistan rejects the article entirely “especially the title” while going on to call CPEC a “national priority”.

China likewise refuted the content of the article, describing the FT piece in the following way,

“Such ill-intentioned reports based on distorted and misquoted information only demonstrate that the report contributor has total ignorance and neglect of the CPEC or China-Pakistan traditional partnership”.

t is the latter part of the statement which is the most important in the context of the Financial Times article that is clearly part of the wider Sinophobic campaign in western and Indian media which has recently focused on China’s growing partnerships with the developing nations of Africa. But unlike China’s relations with multiple African states, some of whom had few profound contacts with Beijing in the 20th century, China’s relationship with Pakistan is among the most consistent of any neighbourly partnership in the world. Indeed, long before China became a global economic superpower, Beijing and Islamabad had incredibly close relations. The fact that since 1978 China has gone from a nation of overwhelming poverty to a nation about to dethrone the United States as the world’s largest overall economy, yet is still as close with Pakistan as it ever was, is a testament to the fact that the good neighbourly relationship in question has not shifted as so many Cold War era partnerships have radically done and continue to do in the 21st century.

China’s contemporary partnership with Pakistan has grown and developed as both countries have internally grown and developed. While Pakistan’s economic development is at a different stage than China’s, both countries look to pursue the path to a moderately prosperous society with national characteristics. The One Belt–One Road initiative has been a crucial mechanism through which both nations can build upon their traditional partnership to help achieve substantial economic growth on a cooperative win-win basis.

Because of this close and growing partnership, the fact that the Financial Times would attack such a partnership as opposed to the straw man targets that include Sino-Sri Lankan or Sino-Pan African relations,  is indicative of a new level of intensity in the hybrid infowar against China. If one were to compare the anti-Chinese infowar to a traditional military battle, it could be said that the enemy has pivoted away from targeting the nation’s hinterlands and has dropped bombs on the nation’s capital. Because the Sino-Pakistan relationship has led to the development and growth of CPEC and because CPEC is the central artery of One Belt–One Road, a fake news story indicating that CPEC may be stalled is nothing less than an outright provocation designed to sow discord between two of the world’s longest standing allies.

The ultimate aim of such provocateurs is to isolate China from major east-west trade routes as a “death” of CPEC would mean that with Myanmar in the midst of western provoked conflict and the Strait of Malacca being a de-facto US controlled shipping route – China would effectively be boxed into its own national seas without having an easy route into the Afro-Bengal Ocean.

For Pakistan, the aim of the provocation is to completely isolate the country by cutting off from its economic lifeline to north-east Asia, thus leaving the country surrounded by hostile forces in India and Afghanistan along with a temporarily economically crippled Iran.

The fact that the provocation was placed in a once “respectable” newspaper combined with the fact that the attack on Sino-Pakistan relations is as brazen as it is based on falsehoods is likewise instructive as it indicates that there are no depths to which the western liberal media will not sink in order to attempt and sabotage CPEC. In many ways the Financial Times article in question is even more scandalous than the kinds of things written in Indian media because the staff at the Financial Times would be well aware that due to an unfortunate lingering colonial mentality in south Asia, many Pakistanis would more readily believe a western source than an Indian source even though in the year 2018 they both have near identical agendas.

The conclusion for Pakistanis to reach is that they must be on guard against a perfect storm of anti-Chinese fake news deriving from stories planted by India in Pakistan’s own liberal media as well as stories from western outlets that many Pakistanis still respect. The aim is to isolate Pakistan totally from all of its neighbours and in so doing, leaving the country economically barren and depressed unless Islamabad comes crawling back to a scoffing US on its hands and knees. While Pakistan’s state institutions are well aware of this strategy, the people themselves must be aware of it, as it is the people who are being directly targeted with misinformation which if believed could destroy Pakistan’s best chance of achieving its developmental goals.

By Adam Garrie
Source

PM Khan’s Visit To Saudi Arabia Has Symbolic And CPEC Purposes

The first-ever official overseas trip of Pakistan’s new Prime Minister is to Saudi Arabia, where the South Asian leader plans to reinforce the important message of Islamic solidarity while shrewdly positioning his country to potentially get a better series of financial deals from China.

The Significance Of Saudi Arabia

Prime Minister Khan is in Saudi Arabia during his first-ever official overseas trip, and the media is speculating about the reason why he chose that country over all others to visit first. For starters, these two countries have a long legacy of historical ties with one another, and Pakistan still provides military training to the Arab Kingdom’s military. In fact, its former Chief Of Army Staff Raheel Sharif is the Command-In-Chief of the Saudis’ “Islamic Military Alliance”, a geographically far-reaching platform that’s theoretically supposed to bring together a multitude of countries under Saudi leadership but has in practice failed to fulfil this ambitious goal for a variety of reasons outside of the scope of this analysis. Even so, the point in bringing this up is to draw attention to the influence that Pakistan has within the Kingdom, which also aided by the fact that Saudi Arabia is the largest destination for Overseas Pakistanis (roughly 1,5 million) who are mostly there as guest workers.

There are also other symbolic reasons why Prime Minister Khan travelled to Saudi Arabia, and those have to do with the more obvious ones of religious solidarity when considering that the King is officially regarded as the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Pakistan’s leader has become very pious at this stage of his life and wants to project the image that he, his new administration, and his country at large follow Islamic principles (ergo why Pakistan is officially an Islamic Republic), so it’s important to reinforce Islamabad’s historic friendship with Riyadh to draw attention to this within the larger international Islamic community (Ummah). Moreover, Pakistan under Prime Minister Khan perceives of itself as one of the Ummah’s current military and future economic leaders. The first-mentioned role is by virtue of its status as the only nuclear-armed Muslim country and global distinction in having the only military that ever defeated Daesh-like terrorism on its own without outside help, while the latter relates to CPEC.

The flagship project of China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) global vision of New Silk Road connectivity is expected to make Pakistan the Zipper of Eurasia and the Convergence of Civilizations, which could in turn transform it into the center of 21st-century geopolitics and the primary engine for realizing the Golden Ring of multipolar Great Powers. So promising are these prospects that Saudi Arabia recently decided to participate in this initiative by making its terminal port of Gwadar an “oil city”, which accordingly makes the Kingdom a stakeholder in the South Asian state’s overall success as well.  This is very important in the current context because Pakistan is facing a looming financial crisis with its balance of payments and is in need of international support to avert a possible crisis. Saudi Arabia’s CPEC-related investments in Gwadar and elsewhere, as well as any loan that the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank could provide, would be especially helpful at this moment in time.

CPEC Won’t Be Reconsidered, But It Could Be Reviewed

With this backdrop in mind, it’s actually quite prudent for Prime Minister Khan to visit Saudi Arabia before any other country because he could ideally obtain financial support or promises thereof which could consequently make his presumable future negotiations with Pakistan’s Chinese strategic partners all the easier. To explain, China will predictably also chip in to help its ally because it has obvious interests in retaining financial stability in its irreplaceable Silk Road partner, but Pakistan would understandably want to ensure that it gets the best deal possible, which is why shoring up support from other sources beforehand is crucial before going to Beijing to negotiate the terms of any forthcoming assistance. Relatedly, Prime Minister Khan’s government might also seek to renegotiate the terms (e.g. repayment period, interest rates) of existing Silk Road deals if a possible review uncovers that his predecessor’s administration agreed to unfavorable ones for corrupt reasons.

To be clear, nothing of the sort has been discovered thus far and Abdul Razzak Dawood, Prime Minister Khan’s advisor on commerce, clarified earlier remarks that were attributed to him by the Financial Times which reported that he wanted to halt the implementation of CPEC projects for one year prior to reviewing and possibly renegotiating them. He said that his statements were taken out of context but didn’t exactly refute the essence of what he supposedly conveyed, which is that a review and renegotiation process could possibly commence but that it wouldn’t involve halting the implementation of CPEC projects or outright scrapping them like the newly (re-)elected government of Malaysia’s Mahathir has already done. What this means in practice is that Pakistan could try to get better terms for the deals that it already signed in order to advance it and China’s collective interests.

China’s Self-Interests In Restructuring The Silk Road

To explain, China isn’t the “greedy neo-colonial land-grabber” that it’s maliciously framed to be through weaponized infowar narratives but instead wants to build a sustainable economic ecosystem along the New Silk Roads in order to function as reliable markets for its overproduced goods, which in turn can allow the People’s Republic to indefinitely continue growing without having to risk the political consequences that might come from an economic slowdown. That’s why China is working to improve the capacity of its partners through infrastructure and commercial investments, free trade deals, and general loans in order to improve their development prospects and correspondingly make them the sort of partner that the country needs. The cumulative effect of these dynamics is supposed to be mutually beneficial for both parties, but in the unexpected event that the Silk Road host and loan recipient has difficulty repaying the assistance that it’s received, then China has every interest in modifying the terms.

China understands that many of its Silk Road projects have very long-term “return on investments” (ROI) that make them the easy target of domestic demagogues (notwithstanding any possible corruption that the host government, whether current or previous, might have been engaged in when agreeing to their terms), so it’s wisest for Beijing to agree to extend their (already sometimes lengthy) loan repayment periods upon request in order to make them easier to service and assist the authorities with deflecting unwarranted criticism. This is especially the case with physical connectivity projects whose benefit consists in qualitatively enhancing the effects of the economy but can’t be immediately seen solely in the context of any single initiative. China already expects that it will take a while for it to recoup the original principal of its loans, so pushing it further back a comfortable period of time like what it’s in the process of doingin Ethiopia isn’t going to radically upset its grand strategy.

In addition, and referring back to the invisible qualitative enhancements that many Silk Road projects have, China invested in many of them not to “make a quick buck” but to lay the basis for an entirely new international economic order that would eventually lead to political changes in the global system by facilitating the transition from unipolarity to multipolarity, so while the profit that could be reaped from interest payments is obviously significant, it’s not a be-all and end-all in itself to stand in the way of China’s grand strategy. If a country has difficulty repaying its loans, it’s better for China to consider providing debt relief in the form of lowering interest rates in order to ensure that its partner retains its macroeconomic stability and pays back at least the principal of what was lent. It could also consider decreasing it beyond that level in exceptional cases in order to retroactively make part of the original loan a grant if circumstances necessitate doing so.

Concluding Thoughts

To return back to Prime Minister Khan choosing Saudi Arabia as his first-ever official overseas trip, the grand Silk Road significance is that it could potentially provide Pakistan with leverage to negotiate more advantageous terms for a forthcoming Chinese loan that would aim to avert its impending balance of payments crisis. Furthermore, the successful clinching of such an agreement through these means could lead to Pakistan possibly renegotiating the terms of existing CPEC deals – but importantly, not halting their implementation or pulling out of them – in order to reach a better win-win arrangement with China in light of the country’s newfound financial circumstances that could make servicing its debts much more difficult than before. China has self-interested reasons pertaining to Pakistan’s irreplaceable geostrategic connectivity role in the New Silk Road that compel it to be flexible in the face of positively responding to Islamabad’s reasonable requests to reconsider some of the terms of its CPEC deals in order to ensure that their repayment isn’t painful.

China didn’t initiate OBOR in order to “conquer territory” and turn its partners into “neo-colonial vassals”, but to simply ensure its own viability as a rising Great Power given the particularity of its export-dependent macroeconomic structure that necessitates securing reliable access to international markets, hence its interest in loaning billions upon billions of dollars in building them up in the first place. Bearing this in mind, the country has every interest in making sure that this end is reached, even if the original means in attempting to do so end up being modified in response to the changed financial conditions in certain Silk Road host countries, which could foreseeably see some of Pakistan’s and other states’ loans restructured as a result. So long as the reasons for doing so are verifiable, as they are in Pakistan’s case (even without any speculative review uncovering evidence of the previous government’s possibly corrupt motives when clinching earlier deals), then there are no rational grounds for China to reject this request.

By Adam Garrie
Source

 

The U.S. Is Scapegoating Pakistan Prior to Possible Anti-CPEC Sanctions

The US military suspended $300 million in aid to Pakistan.

Technically speaking, the US didn’t cut off actual “military aid” in the physical sense that it’s widely perceived to have done but blocked money that “was part of reimbursement for the loss of lives and financial losses that Pakistan suffered while leading the fight against terrorism”, according to a clarification by Pakistan’s new Foreign Minister. In any case, this hostile move is being done in order to advance several interconnected American objectives, the most public being to scapegoat Pakistan for the US’ failures in Afghanistan while the highest-level strategic one is to continue the US’ policy recalibration towards India as its preferred partner in South Asia.

The supposed pretext of Pakistan not doing enough to crack down on terrorist groups is disingenuous because the country doesn’t harbor such forces and has actually been victimized by them over the decades to the tune of over 60,000 martyrs. Nevertheless, the US attempts to weave a semi-“believable” narrative in this regard by pointing to the active cross-border Pashtun community on both sides of the Durand Line, implying that Taliban members simply cross over into Pakistan from Afghanistan in order to seek reprieve from American airstrikes. That’s also not necessarily the case either, and the situation is more complex than such a simplistic storyline would suggest.

No armed militants enter Pakistan through official border crossings, which are among the most secure in the world, though Islamabad can’t realistically screen each and every unarmed person arriving from Afghanistan for Taliban sympathies. As for those that might try to sneak into the country illegally, they’ve found that to be pretty difficult in recent years and it’ll eventually become impossible once the border fence with Afghanistan is completed. Therefore, the whole case that the US is trying to make about Pakistan supposedly “harboring terrorist groups” and “actively aiding” them is false from the get-go and designed to damage the country’s international reputation.

It’s not just for the sake of trying to harm Pakistan’s standing in the world and “virtue signaling” to its new Indian strategic partner that Washington is nastily disengaging from its erstwhile close relationship with Islamabad, but also because it may be preparing the narrative ground for sanctioning its former South Asian ally on supposed “terrorist” grounds that really have everything to do with obstructing CPEC. The US is building the perception that Pakistan is a “terrorist-infested” country in order to “legitimize” what might be a forthcoming comprehensive sanctions campaign against it similar to the one that it’s currently waging against Iran and which it recently began against Turkey.

Expanding the US’ existing economic warfare battlefield in the region to Pakistan would encompass the South Eurasian Rimland portion of the so-called “Greater Middle East” that forms the southern half of the Golden Ring of multipolar Great Powers, which would put severe pressure on this very promising 21st-century geopolitical construction, particularly as it relates to the possibility of imposing “secondary sanctions” against companies that use the Pakistani-transiting CPEC. The whole point is to decrease the economic appeal of this game-changing Silk Road corridor as part of the US’ “containment” strategy against Pakistan and China, though it might unintentionally catalyze the same transregional integrational processes that it’s trying to sabotage.

By Andrew Korybko
Source: Oriental Review

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