Tag Archives: Pakistan

The China-Aligned Movement

PRESIDENT XI JINPING’S will be arriving in Indonesia for the 60th Anniversary of the Bandung Conference by way of Pakistan. There could be no more apt metaphor for how China’s place in the world has changed.

At Bandung in 1955, Zhou Enlai and India’s Jawaharlal Nehru bestrode the emerging movement of African and Asian leaders summoned by Indonesia’s President Suharto to come together in ‘non-aligned’ anti-colonial solidarity — a “meeting of the rejected” as the American author Richard Wright who attended the conference described it.

Six decades on, Xi arrives having just announced $46 billion in Chinese investment in Pakistan, partly for energy but also to construct transport, energy and communications links between the western Chinese city of Kashgar and the blue-water port of Gwadar.

It is just one leg in the southern corridor of a grand Chinese scheme to create a new network of land and sea routes between East Asia and Europe. This New Silk Belt and Maritime Economic Road is such a central part of Xi’s foreign-policy initiative that the Politburo has set up a leading team to oversee its implementation .

As this Bystander has noted before,

to Beijing, Pakistan looks a lot like a corridor from the high plateau of China’s western reaches to the blue water ports of the Arabian Sea and thus access to shipping routes to the Middle East, Africa and Europe. The distance is relatively short, less than 1,500 kilometers as the crow flies, but at the northern end the terrain is difficult, the weather harsh, borders unsettled and security uncertain.

Road and rail links are patchy, particularly north of Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, and frequently disrupted. Nor is there yet a motorway connecting the capital to the southern port city of Karachi, let alone to Gwadar on the Gulf of Oman close to the border with Iran and where China is developing a deep-water port and naval base.

Xi described his trip to Pakistan, his first, as being like visiting his brother’s home. The two countries don’t seem familial allies, even if they have been discussing turning Pakistan into an energy pipeline for China since at least 2006. Not that they couch it in such terms: Xi calls it an “all-weather strategic partnership of cooperation”.

In the meantime, Beijing has been dancing delicately with its regional rival, Delhi. Xi’s bounteous trip to Pakistan, though, will make Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China next month — a reciprocal visit for Xi’s trip to India last September — an uncomfortable one. It will be telling to see whether China is more a bestower or receiver of gifts on that occasion.

Modi has been taking a more assertive line with China than his predecessor, particularly in the Indian Ocean. He has also aligned India more closely with the U.S., signing a strategic agreement with Washington during President Barack Obama’s visit earlier this year.

Beijing blatantly cosying up to Pakistan will sit ill with India. Non-aligned no more — on either side. Bandung in 1955 seems not only a very different time, but a very different world.

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Dai The Diplomat

China’s top diplomat, Dai Bingguo, has been busy in troublesome places for China’s foreign policy just beyond the country’s outer marches, first visiting Myanmar, now Pakistan: two outlets for China’s overland energy routes to the oil of the Middle East, and forming a pincer around India.

The two countries provide mirror image challenges for Beijing’s foreign policy. In Myanmar’s case, a fast ally turning towards Washington; in Pakistan’s case, an ally of Washington, if never a fast one, falling out with its erstwhile friend and turning toward Beijing. In both places, there is unrest: ethnic minorities fighting for autonomy in northern Myanmar along the border with Yunnan; the overspill of the Afghanistan conflict in the other, along the border with Xinjiang, Beijing also believes that its own rebellious Uighurs take shelter in exile in northwestern Pakistan.

Beijing’s interest lies neither in turning allies nor picking sides, however. It is in stability, so it’s strategic commercial interests, such as CNPC’s new oil exploration deal in Afghanistan, can thrive and its hydropower stations, oil terminals, pipelines, and the coaling stations for its blue water fleet — its string of pearls around the Indian Ocean — can be constructed without disruption.

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China Conducts Third Round Of Mass Vaccinations Against Polio

China is conducting a third round of mass vaccinations in the wake of the fatal outbreak of polio in July in Hotan Prefecture in Xinjiang near the border with India and Pakistan, the source of the outbreak. The vaccinations started on Nov. 15 and will take a week. They are being given to 3.8 million children in Xinjiang–all under 15 years olds in the outbreak areas and all under fives in the other parts of the province, as well as to 4.5 million 15-39 years olds in southern Xinjiang. They are the same groups that received the second round of vaccinations in late September and early October.

Preventive programs are being conducted in all provinces across the country in an effort to again rid China of polio, which had previously seen its last case in 1999. Eighteen cases of polio have been confirmed in the latest outbreak in Xinjiang, 12 in Hotan prefecture, 5 in Kashgar prefecture and 1 in Bazhou prefecture. Nine cases are children under three years of age and nine young adults between 19 and 31 years old, according to the World Health Organization. One infant has died.

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China Expands Vaccination Campaign Following Deadly Polio Outbreak

China has expanded its mass vaccination program following a fatal outbreak of polio in Hotan Prefecture in Xinjiang near the border with India and Pakistan, the source of the outbreak. Immunizations of 4.5 million 15-39 year olds in the south of the province started today, following confirmation that four of the 10 known cases involved young adults. Earlier this month, 3.8 million children, everyone under 15 years old in the outbreak area and all under fives in the other parts of the province, were given a first vaccination, with health officials going house-to-house, kindergarten-to-kindergarten and school-to-school. A second round will take place in early October. Children are being marked behind their ears with indelible ink to track whether they have been vaccinated. The outbreak, the first in China for more than a decade, has already killed one infant.

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Polio Outbreak Spreads To China From Pakistan

A mass vaccination program is underway in Xinjiang following an outbreak of polio that has left at least one infant dead. The World Health Organization has confirmed seven cases of wild poliovirus type 1 in the province over the past two months. (Update: Chinese officials have now confirmed 10 cases.) It is the first outbreak of polio in China in more than a decade. The disease, which can cause irreversible paralysis, is said to have spread from Pakistan, one of the few countries in which polio is still endemic.

The first cases were detected in July, four young children aged between four months and two years from Hotan (sometimes written Khotan) Prefecture. The Chinese government notified the WHO at the beginning of this month. Hotan is a sparsely populated region of 1.8 million people, mostly Uighurs, in 250,000 square kilometers on the southern rim of the Taklamakan Desert. It borders Pakistan to the west, India to the south and includes the disputed Aksai Chin, part of Kashmir that China controls but India claims. The blocking of historic trade routes between Hotan and India because of the dispute has boosted Hotan’s links with Pakistan.

The vaccination program applies to 3.8 million children in Xinjiang, all under 15 years old in the outbreak areas and all under 5 in the other parts of the province. The first phase was completed earlier this month. A second phase will take place early next month. (Update: With four cases now reported in young adults, the vaccination program is being expanded to cover 4.5 million 15-39 years olds in southern Xinjiang.)

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More Grit In The China, Pakistan, U.S. Relationship

Chinese military engineers were allowed by Pakistan’s intelligence services to inspect part of the U.S.’s advanced ‘stealth’ helicopter that crashed during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, according to the Financial Times. The report says that the engineers were able to photograph the helicopter’s tail, which came down outside bin Laden’s compound and thus couldn’t be preemptively destroyed by the U.S. Navy Seals conducting the raid, and to take samples of the stealth paint that makes such aircraft invisible to radar. (China is developing a stealth fighter of its own.) This latest incident will only deepen the U.S. military establishment’s concern about China’s military modernization, its anger about the co-operation it believes Pakistan’s intelligence services give to the Taliban forces it is fighting in Afghanistan, and it’s frustration at a supposed ally that is trying to play off the support of Washington against that of Beijing, a balancing act that doesn’t sit particularly comfortably in Beijing, either.

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Port In A Storm

Quite what is going on with Gwadar, the Pakistani blue-water port and natural-gas terminal that China may or may not have been asked to run and develop as a naval base during Pakistan prime minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani’s recent visit to Beijing?

This Bystander noted last year that China is already developing a deep-water port and naval base at Gwadar, which is on the Gulf of Oman close to the border with Iran, along with other strategic transport and energy links in Pakistan, which, to Beijing’s eyes, looks a lot like a corridor from the high plateau of China’s western reaches to the shores of the Arabian Sea and thus shipping routes to the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

First, the Financial Times reported that Gilani had asked the Chinese to take over running the port (which at least everyone agrees the Chinese helped build and are now helping expand) when the Singapore Port Authority’s management contract expires (though that is not until at least 2027). He was also reported to have asked Beijing to build a naval base. Then, Pakistan’s Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar said China had agreed to take over running of the port. Now, the foreign ministry says the issue, as it understands, wasn’t touched upon during Gilani’s visit.

The foreign ministry’s understanding of China’s international affairs often does not run as broadly as is customary with other nation’s foreign ministries, especially in military and security matters. It could well be the case that there were conversations that it knew nothing about. It could also be the case that the ministry has no particular interest in China being seen to be nestling even closer to Pakistan and so complicate further its relations with the U.S. and India at a sensitive time. Confirmation of what would be China’s first overseas naval base wouldn’t do anything to reassure those in Washington, Delhi and Southeast Asia’s capitals who are nervous enough of Beijing’s growing abilities to project regional power. Hence foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu playing a straight bat of carefully worded plausible deniability.

To answer our own question, the expansion of the port’s deep-water facilities and development of a base for the Pakistan navy are to all intents and purposes the same project, which China is already working on and helping to pay for. Expanding the naval base to accommodate the PLA-Navy, which needs a base to support its anti-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa and generally to secure sea lanes from the Middle East used by oil tankers and Chinese-flagged merchant shipping, isn’t much of a stretch. There wouldn’t really be anything much to ask.

Footnote: There is stiff local opposition in Balochistan to the Pakistan government’s plans for Gwadar. Last week, construction work on a new international airport there had to be stopped because of what was described as a worsening security situation. A senior official from the Civil Aviation Authority told the defense committee of Pakistan’s Senate that “the law and order situation as well as continuous resistance by locals in the acquisition of land has halted work at the [airport]”. The airport is now unlikely to be completed by the end of this year as planned. As a historical aside, Gwadar was an Omani enclave that Pakistan bought in 1958. Some residents still harbor feelings of being “colonized” by Karachi. Might as well have two foreign navies there as one.

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