September 01, 2018

Ethnic cleansing of Uyghur identity by China




The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the northwest province of the People's Republic of China, is where Beijing and the Muslim World cross paths. The region appears tremendously important for China from a geo-strategic perspective as it abuts the borders of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Mongolia, Russia and the Tibet Autonomous region, and connects the country with the regions of Central and South Asia, while also acting as a security and defence buffer zone. It further encompasses the disputed territory of Aksai Chin, part of the erstwhile princely State of Jammu & Kashmir, which is currently administered by China. In addition to that, the abundance of gas, oil reserves and mineral resources in the region is of vital significance for China for the alleviation of its energy security issues, alongside with the exploitation of the territory for nuclear testing. Yet, Xinjiang largely remains a troubled region and considered by many Chinese as a thorn in the eye. The main reason for that is the predominant Uyghur population, which is a Muslim community from Turkic origin, and which inherently is religiously, culturally, ideologically and politically different from the officially atheist Han Chinese-dominated population.

This paper will explore in-depth the history of the region, with a particular focus on the desire for ethno-political self-determination of the Uyghurs. It will shed light on the ongoing persecutions, human rights violations and religious suppressions on behalf of China upon the Uyghurs, and argue how they appear as instrumental policies for the containment of any sentiments considered by Beijing as undesirable. It will illuminate how the Chinese government often blurs the lines between ethno-religious movements for basic human rights and terrorism as an excuse of cracking down on these movements for political and social freedoms. This paper will establish a historical framework of the genesis of various domestic and international extremist groups, which align with the Uyghur cause and lure disenfranchised Uyghur individuals, and will provide a comprehensive overview of attacks. It will argue that any sort of nationalist movement, which is being so severely suppressed, experiences the likelihood of being hijacked by groups preaching extremist beliefs, which in return makes Uyghurs fall prey to terrorist propaganda.

It will further examine the building of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, which stretches from the Xinjiang city of Kashgar to Pakistan’s Arabian Sea port city of Gwadar, and it will discuss how this megalomaniac infrastructural project exacerbates many issues. This study paper will criticize Beijing’s policies of oppression and denial of freedom of expression and religion in Xinjiang, which in return trigger anti-state attitudes and act as a catalyst for the processes of religious indoctrination and radicalization. It will demonstrate that as long as China proceeds on treating local grievances as a symptom of radicalization, and thus responds harshly, violence in the region will continue to revolve in an endless cycle. Finally, the paper will call into question the inaction of the international community considering the gravity of the problems the region experiences, and will conclude with an assessment of the ramifications the situation of Xinjiang implies for South Asia.


Uyghur Identity

The Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic group, which reside in East and Central Asia, primarily in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. They speak a Turkic language, written in an Arabic script and are predominantly Muslim. The community embraced Islam in A.D. 934 during the Karahanid Kingdom, and Kashgar, the capital of the Kingdom, promptly became one of the epicentres of Islamic teachings. Similar to Tibetans, for Uyghurs, their religious identity is one of the major facets which differentiate them entirely from Chinese culture. Yet, in Xinjiang the severe suppression of any expression, no matter how lawful or peaceful, of their distinct identity, lies in their desire for basic human rights – it is not a religious struggle. This becomes clear when one looks at Beijing’s standpoint towards the Hui people. The latter are also a Muslim ethnic group, which experiences religious tolerance in regards to its worshiping traditions, since it is not endorsing any separatist sentiments. According to a 2013 Human Rights Watch report on the situation in China, “under the guise of counterterrorism and ‘anti-separatism’ efforts, the government maintains a pervasive system of ethnic discrimination against Uighurs…and sharply curbs religious and cultural expression”, while the People’s Party, which is enduringly obsessed with issues related to territorial integrity and ethnic unity, bears little enmity towards the Hui, as long as they do not challenge the status quo. As an article of The Diplomat argues, despite numerous claims that the Communist Party’s harsh repressive policies in Xinjiang attribute to a perceived Islamophobia, actually Beijing’s attitude towards the Uyghurs reflects "not a distaste for Islam as such, but it is an absolute neurosis towards the threat – serious or not – of territory loss, and with no small degree of xenophobia thrown in there as well".

Such distinction is manifested through the laws enforced on both ethnic groups. For instance, despite the fact that religious education for children is officially prohibited in China, the country allows Hui Muslims to have their children educated in Islam and attend mosques, while for Uyghurs that is forbidden. Huis are also allowed to fast during the holy month of Ramadan, Hui women are permitted to wear veils and Hui men keep their beards, while Uyghurs are banned from such practices. Uyghurs are also often forestalled from obtaining passports to travel abroad, especially to go on their pilgrimage to Mecca. Overall, as Jörg Friedrichs, an Associate Professor of Politics at the Oxford Department of International Development and Official Fellow at St. Cross College, Oxford, argues: “If Hui loyalty to China is sometimes questioned, Uyghur disloyalty is mostly taken for granted”, emphasising on the deep-rooted antagonism against the Uyghurs on behalf of the Chinese State.


Historical Background

The mountainous rugged territory of Xinjiang, only 9.7% of which is fit for human habitation, has been perpetually claimed and contended by a succession of people and empires throughout its 2,500-year documented history. The land area became part of the dominion of the Qing dynasty in the 18th century, which in 1912 after the Republican Revolution, was superseded by the government of the Republic of China. In 1921, the Soviet Union formally declared the Uyghurs as successors of the Turkic peoples as part of their nation building campaign in Central Asia. In the early 1930s, an ‘East Turkestan’ movement emerged among those Muslim communities, who sought separation from China, and on 12 November 1933, Uyghur separatists declared the short-lived and self-proclaimed East Turkestan Republic. Hence, the toponym ‘East Turkestan’became deeply entangled with the yearning for an independent State, emphasizing on the connection with other Turkic groups, especially since the official translation of the Chinese term ‘Xinjiang’ stands for "old territory returned to the motherland”, and it was renounced by the Uyghurs as it carried connotations of colonialism.  

The First East Turkestan Republic politicised the Uyghur struggle for self-determination and gave geographical dimensions to the term ‘East Turkestan’. Nevertheless, shortly after its establishment, the Chinese warlord Sheng Shicai quickly overpowered the newly created country and consolidated his control over Xinjiang for a decade with the support of the Soviet Union. However, the Soviets took advantage of the following transition of governments and set up the puppet State of the Second East Turkestan Republic (1944–1949) in order to exploit its mineral resources, later trying to justify it as a national liberation movement against the conservative Chinese regime. In 1949 the People's Liberation Army invaded Xinjiang, and the region was surrendered to them, making it officially part of the People's Republic of China. In October 1955, People’s Republic of China leader Mao Zedong declared Xinjiang an ‘Uyghur Autonomous Region’, which technically meant that Chinese authorities recognised the Uyghur identity and let the ethnic minority have certain autonomy, yet secession was strictly forbidden under any circumstances. Nevertheless, starting with that period a massive State-sponsored resettlement of Han people was observed in the region, with the purpose of social and political control of the territory by changing its demographics. The reinforced immigration and settlement of Han, Hui and other mainland Chinese ethnic groups intended to promote Chinese cultural unity and decrease the prevalence of the Uyghur population.

In 1953, the share of the Uyghur community in Xinjiang was standing at 74,7%, which by 2000 has been reduced to 45,21%, in comparison with the Han community, which was respectively 6,1% and increased to 40,6%. This demographic shift amplified the ethnic tensions, making Uyghurs feel increasingly (ethnically) marginalised, and in rivalry with the Han community for employment, especially considering the widespread discriminatory recruitment practices on behalf of Chinese authorities. On top of that, there have been endeavours to narrow down the Uyghur birth rate and boost the Han fertility rate in order to counteract Uyghur separatism.

The USSR, with disregard to the Uyghur’s just struggle and solely to serve its own national interests, started supporting certain separatists by disseminating anti-Chinese propaganda and encouraging them to emigrate to the Soviet Union and then launch attacks on Chinese territory. In return, China strengthened its Soviet border in Xinjiang with deploying more Han militia. After the break of the Sino-Soviet political relations in 1962, over 60,000 Uyghurs and Kazakhs deserted from Xinjiang to the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, as a result of Soviet false promises for an independent Xinjiang. The Soviets kept on harbouring Uyghur separatists, “praising”their liberation struggle, and it is estimated that in 1966, 5,000 separatists launched attacks on China via the Sino-Soviet border. In 1969, Chinese and Soviet forces entered a combat alongside the Xinjiang-Soviet border, with the Soviets directly training Uyghur guerrilla groups to fight against China.

Xinjiang's importance to China increased even more after the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which triggered Chinese fears of being encircled by the Soviets. Therefore, China perceived the Han resettlement in Xinjiang as an essential strategy for defending themselves from the Soviets. In addition to that, Beijing supported the Afghan Mujahideen and established camps in order to train them near Kashgar and Hotan, investing hundreds of millions of dollars in military infrastructure and weapons.  Uyghur ranks also played a role in the war against Soviet forces in Afghanistan. According to the reports of Dr. Ahmed Rashid, journalist and best-selling foreign policy author with an expertise on the AF-Pak and Central Asian regions, Uyghur Muslims were trained by Afghan and Pakistani terrorist groups in training centres and madrassas. Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islami and Tablighi Jamaat reportedly indoctrinated Uyghur Muslim youth with extremist beliefs in educational establishments across the country.


Incidents of Inter-ethnic Violence

The political reality of China is a one-party rule, where Han Chinese constitute the majority of the ruling elite; therefore, claims about ethnic harmony among its highly socio-economically asymmetric society, particularly in turbulent regions such as Xinjiang, remain simply bogus slogans of the Communist Party, which attempts to gloss over the eyes of the international community about the ongoing inter-ethnic conflicts. Almost two decades ago, Dru C. Gladney, President of the Pacific Basin Institute at Pomona College and an expert on ethnic and cultural nationalism in Asia, has argued that China confronts the risk of making Xinjiang its own West Bank if it does not address the issues arising from its violent attempts to assimilate the region and inhabit it with Han settlers. He claimed that, "If China does not explore other options besides repression, restriction and investment, millions of Uyghur Muslims might become disenfranchised, encouraging some to look to the intifada, the Taliban or al-Qaeda for inspiration”. And indeed, the following historical timeline in the section below makes it clear that Beijing’s major problem is not acknowledging that its iron fist policy of ‘repression, restriction and investment’ is actually what continuously reinforces the Uyghurs’ disaffection and malevolence against the Han Chinese.

With the increased restrictions and intrusions in Uyghur’s lifestyles on behalf of the Chinese State, the indigenous people adopted the stance that a solution to the ‘Xinjiang dilemma’could come only through two possible routes; peaceful protests or violent revolts. Beijing’s draconian measures of uniformly treating any expression of dissent as terrorism, and responding to peaceful demonstrations with a pattern of brute force, including political imprisonment, torture, and disappearance, led to alienation of the population to the point where labels such as ‘terrorist’ or ‘militant’were attached to every Uyghur.

In 1980, riots took place in the city of Aksu, where some local Uyghur separatists made attempts to drive away Han settlers. In June 1981, Uyghur militants attacked Han settlers and People’s Liberation Army base in Kashgar, after which the situation deteriorated even more when the Uyghur Provincial Committee rose up against the Chinese ruling majority, which led to the then Vice Chairman, Deng Xiaoping, to reorganize the Committee in order to strengthen the stability of the region.  

Several peaceful Uyghur student protests occurred in the years following; In 1985-1986, students manifested against the nuclear tests in the dried-up basin of the Lop Nur lake and the settlement of Han people in Xinjiang, while in May 1989, public demonstrations against the Chinese birth control policies took place, which were all subsequently harshly quenched by the Chinese Army. Nevertheless, despite events of those kind, the region remained relatively quiet and stable until the beginning of the 1990s. In April 1990, violent riots erupted in the Baren township in the Kashghar district of South Xinjiang. The then newly established East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), currently an internationally designated Islamic terrorist organization, with an assembly of 200 people was leading the protests, which soon spread across other cities in the region. Reportedly, the turbulent riots were triggered by the mass migration of Han Chinese into Xinjiang, the enforced abortions on Uyghur women and the Chinese authorities banning construction of a mosque. As a result, supporters of ETIM declared ‘Jihad’, preached the elimination of ‘infidels’ in Xinjiang and called upon the establishment of an independent Eastern Turkestan Islamic Republic. It has been argued that the Uyghur militants were equipped with weapons from the Afghan Mujahideen, which were delivered through Pakistan via the Karakoram Highway. This does not come as a surprise, since during the Soviet-Afghan War the Chinese government recruited and trained Uyghurs to fight alongside the Afghan Mujahideen. Hence, as Dr. Michael Clarke, an expert on the history of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, explains: “possibility therefore existed thatsome elements of this group had returned to Xinjiang to extend the jihad against Soviet ‘Marxism-Leninism’ to its Chinese variant”.

In addition to that, two Pakistani citizens, allegedly linked to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, were also arrested for fuelling the riots. The uprising continued several days with the Chinese government sending hundreds of heavy armed militia members to quench the riots. The counter-attack resulted in dozens of insurgents getting killed, including their commander Zahideen Yusuf. Immediately after the uprising, the Chinese government introduced its ruthless three No’s policy towards such separatist groups – No concessions, No compromises and No mercy.

The Baren riots clearly raised the spectre of political and religious violence in the region, and the following 1990-1997 years were further marked by numerous incidents. The fall of the Soviet Union, which resulted in the independence of Central Asian countries, and the rise of global Islamism and pan-Turkism additionally reinforced the separatist sentiments in the province, and triggered an outbreak of political violence. In February and March 1992, bombings took place across the cities of Urumqi, Bortala, Ili, Khotan, Kashghar, Korla and Kucha. In 1996, around 3,000 Uyghurs were arrested by the Chinese security forces as a result of the riots. On 5 and 6 February 1997, during the celebration of Ramadan, the so-called Ghulja incident took place, where 30 separatists were publicly executed. Up to 100 were injured and as many as 1,600 arrested, after holding demonstrations for basic human rights. Many of those detained suffered extremely severe frostbites after being purposefully held for six days in buildings with minus temperatures, as a result of which 50 protestors died. Shortly after, on 25 February, three bombs exploded on three different buses in the city of Ürümqi. Subsequently, on 7 March the same year, another bomb attack took place in Beijing, claimed by Turkish-based Organisation for East Turkistan Freedom established by Uyghurs in exile. During those times, the authorities continued to arrest and execute anyone alleged as a separatist or rioter, with no sign of due process; the targeting of perpetrators was based simply on ethnic profiling. For China, every Uyghur - man, woman or child - was a terrorist. In a report subsequently issued by Amnesty International, Beijing was accused of unlawfully executing political prisoners in Xinjiang, holding trials with ready-made verdicts and confessions derived through torture.

Following the invasion of Afghanistan by the United States, some Uyghurs also started joining other terrorist groups such as the Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, pursuing the goal of taking over Xinjiang and the region of Central Asia. The period of 2006-2015 was further stained with numerous incidents of violence and inter-ethnic clashes. In 2007, the Chinese government raided an alleged terrorist camp in western Xinjiang province, killing 18 suspects and arresting 17. The following year, an attempted suicide bombing on a China Southern Airlines flight was circumvented. On 4 August 2008, during the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing numerous attacks across the city took place, resulting in the death of 16 police officers. Yet, international media news channels remained sceptic to the Chinese governments statements of curbing down so many attacks, arguing it was a façade for justifying its excessive use of force against secession. During the night of 25 and 26 June 2009, the so-called Shaoguan incident took place between Uyghur and Han Chinese workers in a toy factory based on allegations of sexual assault. The violent civil disturbance, during which two Uyghurs were killed and 118 were injured, subsequently triggered the July 2009 Ürümqi riots, which has been considered the most dreadful interethnic conflict in China in decades. The riots, during which more than 200 people were killed and 1,600 were injured, took place at the 60th anniversary of communist rule in China and started as a demonstration where over 10,000 Uyghurs protested against the killing of the two Uyghurs in Shaoguan. Thousands of Hans responded by launching counter-protests to seek revenge for the killings of Han people. Following the incident, State authorities put the entire region on a lock-down for almost an year: 40,000 surveillance cameras were installed, Internet provision was shut down, international phone calls were blocked, barriers between Han and Uyghur neighbourhoods were built, Uyghurs mobility was limited, thousands of Uyghurs were arrested and an unaccounted number of Uyghurs – disappeared. These security measures further increased tensions between the two ethnic groups, which in return magnified the frequency and severity of violent incidents in the following years. 


China’s Oppressive Security Strategies in Xinjiang

In 2015, the National People’s Congress passed a counter-terrorism  legislation, which virtually criminalised any expression of dissent or religious belief on behalf of Uyghurs alongside with branding their cultural traditions as signs of radicalization and terrorism. The law further granted authorities extensive powers of surveillance, control and censorship, allowing them to police and monitor Uyghur private communications, religious practices, physical appearances, mobility and demeanour. In October 2016, the government declared that all Xinjiang residents need to submit their documents for review to the Public Security Bureau (PSB), with the intention of limiting their travel outside the country. As a result of that, many students who pursued education abroad were forcefully returned and disappeared upon arrival at the Chinese border since their loyalty to the People’s Party was questioned. In addition to that, throughout the province, smartphone owners found their phones inspected for suspicious content or undesirable social media applications, as a result of which many of them reportedly got installed bug- and tracking devices or spyware. Surveillance cameras were also updated with face recognition software, which facilitated the identification of individuals at crowded places. In South-eastern Xinjiang, authorities have ordered all vehicles to have compulsory GPS trackers installed, for what they call a ‘comprehensive supervision’. These and various other stringent security measures established the legislative foundation for the State’s repressive policies in the following years.

One of the latest strategies is the building of detention camps, which are being branded as “re-education centres”, and undeniably further deteriorate the situation by disenfranchising the local population. The epithet, “re-education camps” has been given to internment camps, which have been operating secretly and unlawfully since 2016. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Uyghur Muslims have been detained without a trial on the false pretext of preventing radicalization and terrorism. In 2016 and 2017, over 90,000 law enforcement personnel were recruited in the region and as many as 7300 heavily guarded check points were installed. Following that move, Xinjiang has come to be recognized as one of the most heavily controlled and monitored regions in the world.

Despite their name, those camps do not come even close to the concept of transformation through education; the ugly truth is that the government aims to vanquish the Uyghurs’ aspirations for basic human rights through suffocating and eradicating their culture, language, religion and identity. This is also visible from the sloppy “criteria”, which determines whether someone should be detained or not. As a local police officer reported to Radio Free Asia, “Five kinds of suspicious people have been detained and sent to education camps: people who throw away their mobile phone’s SIM card or did not use their mobile phone after registering it; former prisoners already released from prison; blacklisted people; “suspicious people” who have some fundamental religious sentiment; and the people who have relatives abroad.”

There is no official data on the number of detainees, yet estimates range from 100,000 through 500,000 to even 800,000. Nevertheless, many Uyghurs argue that at least one of their family members is being held in a concentration camp. The ultimate purpose of these facilities, which resemble military prisons, is to completely indoctrinate and brainwash the Uyghurs, to the point that they no longer associate with the Uyghur identity and condemn their own ethnic heritage. Those who do not obey the rules are subject to physical and mental torture, which include punishments such as waterboarding, being tied up or handcuffed for very long hours, or even being made to eat pork, which is forbidden by Islam, and thus is perceived as the ultimate form of humiliation and debasement. Former detainees also report being forced to study communist propaganda for hours, sing communist songs, learn Chinese and praise the president by chanting 'Long live Xi Jinping'.  

Dr. Adrian Zenz, an academic, whose research focus is on China’s ethnic policy and public recruitment in Tibetan regions and Xinjiang, describes how such establishment are analogous to concentration camps:

“Many bids mandate the installation of comprehensive security features that turn existing facilities into prison-like compounds: surrounding walls, security fences, pull wire mesh, barbwire, reinforced security doors and windows, surveillance systems, secure access systems, watchtowers, and guard rooms or facilities for armed police.”

He argues that these mass camps are indiscriminately subjecting Uyghur Muslims to extrajudicial inhumane, humiliating and brainwashing conditions, supposedly as an attempt of lecturing the detainees how to distinguish ‘legitimate’ from ‘illegitimate’ religious practices, traditions and behaviour.

Dr. Sean R. Roberts, Director of the International Development Studies Program at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs and expert on Central Asia and China, has characterised Beijing’s perception of the Uyghurs as a “biological threat to society, akin to a virus that must be eradicated, quarantined, or cleansed from those it infects”. He explains how such attitude generates an environment similar to Michael Foucault’s all-seeing Panopticon or George Orwell’s Surveillance Society, where every single move or word of the individual is being monitored, rendering a milieu where surveillance remains the norm, even if the person discontinues his/her actions.

As a Kashgar State official reportedly summarises the major objective of those camps: “you can’t uproot all the weeds hidden among the crops in the field one by one – you need to spray chemicals to kill them all; re-educating these people is like spraying chemicals on the crops… that is why it is a general re-education, not limited to a few people”.

China’s campaign of coercive social re-engineering, justified under the slogan of “war on terror”, clearly comes closer to “war on humankind”. Such violent repression inevitably appears counter-productive, since it evokes even more violent resistance on behalf of the Uyghurs, which eventually leads to more repressive security measures on behalf of Beijing. Therefore, such perpetual cycle of repression-violence-repression only contributes to the complete disintegration of relations between the Chinese and the Uyghurs, rendering their peaceful habitation practically impossible.


China Pakistan Economic Corridor

The current construction of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, the $62 billion infrastructural megaproject, part of the China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is further exacerbating the issue. According to Peter Hatcher, the Political and International Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, “the Chinese Communist Party has a history of using infrastructure as a Trojan Horse for domination”. Having said that, he explains how the BRI’s underlying strategic intentions are of making those countries and regions, which it passes through, unable to stand against Beijing.

As Qiao Liang, a retired Major General in the People's Liberation Army Air Force, military theorist, and author, puts it in a nutshell: “if you tell people, 'I come with political and ideological intentions', who will accept you?", exposing the hidden objectives of the project.

The Uyghurs in Xinjiang have already started witnessing the adverse effects of the building of the CPEC. 51,000 law enforcement personnel has been deployed additionally to the already existing militias, which attempt to contain any sentiments related to the distinct Uyghur identity among the Uyghur population. China’s economic investments in the region, might be improving its infrastructure and connectivity, yet they do not directly benefit the people, as the Uyghurs remain excluded from many sectors of the projects and the financial benefits flow into the hands of Han Chinese. For example, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, has currently employed around 2.7 million workers, yet Uyghurs constitute only 7% of the labour force despite the fact that they make up more than half of the population of the region. On top of that, the rapid extraction of mineral and fuel resources has already inflicted land degradation, desertification and serious environmental hazards, in a region, where the local population predominantly relies on agriculture to meet their ends.



The origins of the Uyghur’s movement for basic human rights are traceable to the Post-Cold War era, which witnessed the decline of the Soviet Union, the subsequent independence of Central Asian countries, the rise of global Islamism and pan-Turkism, alongside the pervasive ascent of Chinese chauvinism, which is characterised by a contempt for ethnic minority nationalism and oppression of those who express dissent. The Chinese heavy-handed approach towards haltering these movements is always meant to be counter-productive. The ‘terrorism’ label assigned on all Uyghurs indiscriminately and the ensuing cycle of repression-violence-repression creates an environment fraught with animosity, hostility and aggression, which only culminates in more bloodshed.

The Uyghur issue is generally seen as an internal Chinese security problem, whereas it should be viewed on a more global scale, especially since Western powers fuel China's economic growth and thereby exacerbate the conflict. Although few human rights organizations and researchers have expressed their fears about the aggravation of the Xinjiang issue, information about the region still remains limited and insufficient, which is certainly not a coincidence.

International players must put more pressure on China to open its borders and take responsibility for the human rights violations against the Uyghur population the country commits on a daily basis. An independent Xinjiang is an unlikely scenario, yet eliminating the socio-economic, religious, cultural and political discrimination against the Uyghur community, granting them the rights they are entitled to, ceasing to treat them as third-class citizens and allowing them to benefit from the resources of their own region, could conceive an environment where the Uyghurs, feeling they are served with the respect they deserve and are provided with equal opportunities for development, could decrease their feeling of enduring humiliation while the community would taste basic human rights.

Considering the ‘terrorism arch’ between extremist groups in Xinjiang, Afghanistan and Pakistan, a peaceful, secure and stable Xinjiang is an indispensable element of a successful counter-terrorism strategy for the countries of South Asia and vital ingredient for their positive regional cooperation and development. Yet, such strategic stability is becoming even more inconceivable with Xi Jinping’s ambitious ‘One Belt, One Road’initiative, which clearly delineates who the benefitting stakeholders are, and in return generates more (violent) resentment.

It is high time for China to stop crying wolf and acknowledge the fact that it is only China which is responsible for the impedance it long claims to have been enduring.

The Unending Game by Vikram Sood: The shadowy world of espionage

India Today

Vappala BalachandranNew DelhiAugust 31, 2018 UPDATED: August 31, 2018 17:17 IST

The Unending Game: A Former R&AW's Chief's Insight into Espionage by Vikram Sood | Penguin Viking, 304 pages, Rs 599

Writers on intelligence face two problems. First, intelligence is a low-profile job where there is no place for dabanggs. Stella Rimington, MI5's first woman chief, had famously said that "the best and most successful spies are the quiet, apparently boring and dull people". But readers expect them to reflect Ian Fleming's 'Bond' stories. Second, even retired intelligence officers resent it when such books do not highlight drama. Allen Dulles had said that the legendary British Second World War SOE (Special Operations Executives) "who set Europe ablaze" were agitated by the "staid and sober" official history by their military historian, whereas the media had glorified them.

The Unending Game by former R&AW chief Vikram Sood is a low-profile but solid contribution to the study of intelligence as a tool for formulating security policy in India and elsewhere. It is not a vainglorious memoir, as is often seen nowadays, but an enthralling book on the history and problems of intelligence collection, interpretation and follow-up. His prodigious collection of relevant facts has resulted in the book having elements of mystery and sensation. It would also incite the readers to think of the myriad future challenges in the realm of national security and intelligence in a complex "wired world".

Sood has eloquently explained the value of intelligence in the first chapter. As the security situation is deteriorating all over the world, armament manufacturers are enticing affected countries by introducing advanced warning systems and weaponry. But developing countries are unable to purchase such arsenals due to prohibitive costs.

In December 2017, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence had criticised the NDA government for poor allocations in the 2017-18 budget for military modernisation. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, while addressing R&AW officers in the 1980s, had anticipated such situations and called upon them to meet this challenge through timely advance intelligence on foreign threats, which would be much less expensive.

The third chapter is about the CIA-KGB battles. Sood says the KGB was able to outsmart western intelligence services by infiltrating the core western decision-makers, but suffered setbacks when the Soviet decisionmakers ignored intelligence. This is quite right. A 1997 Yale University study, which produced a book, Battleground Berlin, had said: "They won battle after battle but lost the war. Rarely did Stalin receive information that he might not like."

Sood describes the paranoia developing as a result of electronic eavesdropping by governments

Chapter 4 presents a comparison of intelligence agencies in 'Asian Playing Fields' where Sood has described the ISI's clout. Again, I am reminded of what Rajiv Gandhi had told us about his talk with Yasser Arafat, who conveyed to him after his Pakistan visit that they were more afraid of R&AW than the Indian Army! ISI chief Hamid Gul had frankly told R&AW chief A.K. Verma in the 1980s that Pakistan was supporting terrorism as a low-cost warfare since they were afraid of India's might.

Sood has done well in describing the paranoia that is developing all over the world as a result of the proliferation of social media and consequent electronic eavesdropping by governments, business leaders and private individuals. It has also created a new business model of 'outsourcing' intelligence collection to private bodies and retaliatory 'privatising' of terror tasks by certain countries like Pakistan.

In Chapter 11, the author has emphasised the importance of avoiding a revolving door culture in R&AW for manning key posts as "each rookiewill drift to greener pastures midstream, taking away with him years of experience".

The writer is former special secretary, cabinet secretariat

August 31, 2018

Russia’s Deadly Embrace of Pakistan

By Vinay KauraAugust 31, 2018

Vladimir Putin meets with former Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif via Office of the President of the Russian Federation

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 936, August 31, 2018

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: In a far-reaching development for India’s strategic interests, Russia signed an agreement with Pakistan for naval cooperation on July 31. The agreement comes on the heels of an accord between Moscow and Islamabad in April of this year to increase cooperation in the training of armed forces personnel in the naval field and the conduct of a wide range of joint military exercises.

Russia is building military, diplomatic, and economic ties with Pakistan that could upend historic alliances in the South Asian region.

Ties between India and Russia date back to the Cold War, but relations between Cold War adversaries Russia and Pakistan are now being developed on the basis of a convergence of interests. With Washington suspending or curtailing military aid to Pakistan, collaboration with Moscow is going to be pivotal for Islamabad.

Russia has long been India’s strategic ally, so New Delhi is concerned about Moscow’s developing relationship with Islamabad. It is particularly worried about their ties in the defense realm as most of India’s military equipment is of Russian origin.

The warming of Russia-Pakistan ties is a relatively recent phenomenon. A tilt in Russian foreign policy towards Pakistan has been visible for some time, with Moscow making concerted efforts to build strong ties with Islamabad. The primary focus of the nascent diplomatic ties has been Afghanistan. Russia has cultivated ties to the Afghan Taliban, who have historic links to Pakistan. Islamabad is recognized by the Kremlin as a vital ally in the peaceful settlement of the Afghan conflict.

Moscow’s embrace of Pakistan comes at a time when ties between Washington and Islamabad are unravelling over the war in Afghanistan. This is a remarkable turnaround from the time when Pakistan helped funnel weapons and spies across the Durand Line to aid mujahedeen who were battling Soviet troops. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan’s Islamization under President Zia-ul Haq, and military support to the Afghan jihad had widened the gap between Moscow and Islamabad. Moreover, the Pakistani regime of General Zia was labeled by the Reagan administration as the “front line” ally of the US in the fight against Communism.

Even after Moscow overcame its bitterness following the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, Russia’s ties with Pakistan remained low-key. After the disintegration of the USSR, Russian-Pakistani relations continued to be defined by Moscow’s traditionally close ties with New Delhi. However, Pakistan has emerged as the elephant in the room when it comes to India-Russia relations. Though the Russia-Pakistan rapprochement is in its formative stages, and it is China that is filling the growing void left by the US in Pakistan, a growing military cooperation promises to spark life into the newly formed relationship.

While Moscow’s relations with New Delhi are the product of a long evolution, its ties with Islamabad mark a sea change. The two countries never had much depth to their ties, barring some high-profile visits. However, Russia’s landmark decision in 2014 to lift its arms embargo against Pakistan changed all this. It was done to sell military helicopters to Pakistan, followed by other systems.

During the first visit of a Russian defense minister to Pakistan in November 2014, the countries signed a military cooperation agreement. In June 2015, Pakistan’s then army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, visited Russia and met top Russian leadership. A deal for the purchase of Mi-35M assault helicopters was signed in August 2015, and Pakistan received four helicopters in August 2017. The first Russia-Pakistan counter-narcotics exercise was held in October 2014, followed by a second in December 2015.

The first-ever Russia-Pakistan joint military exercise was held in the Pakistani province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in September 2016. India, whose troops were also participating in military exercises with Russia at the time, made its discomfort plain. Moreover, at a moment when New Delhi was spending huge diplomatic capital in trying to isolate Pakistan after the Uri terror attacks and coping with fresh jihadist violence inside Kashmir, Russia’s refusal to postpone its military exercise with Pakistan indicated a fundamental shift in Moscow’s approach to South Asia. (The special forces of Russia and Pakistan conducted a two-week joint counter-terrorism exercise in September-October 2017.)

Asserting that Russia’s “trust-based” relations with India would not be diluted by Moscow’s growing ties with Islamabad, President Vladimir Putin said in an interview in June 2017 that there is no country in the world other than India with which Russia has such deep cooperation in delicate areas including missile technology. But Putin sidestepped a question on Kashmir, saying it was up to India to assess whether Pakistan was fueling terrorism there. He praised Pakistan by asserting, “I believe Pakistan is taking immense steps to stabilize the situation in the country.”

Moscow’s overtures to Islamabad give nuclear-armed Pakistan a critical diplomatic lifeline as it faces growing friction with the US over links to Islamist terrorists. At the same time, Pakistan provides a potential market for Russian weapons. This is a huge incentive for Moscow, as the Russian economy is heavily dependent on arms exports. The amount of Russian military equipment supplied to Pakistan is still very small, and Islamabad does not have the financial wherewithal to make big-ticket purchases from Moscow. But given the obsessive anti-India strand in Pakistan’s strategic culture, Islamabad’s military establishment can be expected to indulge in economic adventurism. Pakistan has already expressed its desire to acquire T-90 tanks from Russia as part of a long-term deal.

Moscow argues that its ties and assistance to Islamabad are aimed at bolstering Pakistan’s counter-terrorism capabilities. Ironically, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global financial watchdog, recently put Pakistan back on its “grey list” for failing to curb anti-terror financing. There are no grounds to believe the Imran Khan regime will represent an improvement.

Russia and Pakistan continue to work closely in Afghanistan to challenge the US, and this effectively translates into supporting the Afghan Taliban with greater vigor. Both countries claim to be alarmed by the presence of Islamic State (IS) inside Afghanistan, with Moscow troubled by the fact that IS fighters could spread towards central Asia. The IS calls its Afghan branch the “Khorasan Province,” or ISKP, and routinely carries out suicide bombings in Afghanistan.

On July 11, the intelligence agencies of Russia, China, Iran, and Pakistan held an important meeting in Islamabad to formulate “coordinated steps to prevent the trickling of IS terrorists from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan, where from they would pose risks for neighboring countries.” But disturbingly, neither Afghanistan nor India was part of this discussion. Ideally, the meeting should have happened under the aegis of the Regional Anti-terrorism Structure (RATS) of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), as all affected countries are either its members or observers. The non-involvement of the SCO exposed its limits in countering terrorism. Clearly, Russia’s role in Afghanistan is increasingly in opposition with what India believes.

Longer-term perspectives, rationality, and diligence are required for policies to develop some direction and momentum as far as Indo-Russian ties are concerned. If Moscow feels that New Delhi should take steps to correct the contradictions and imbalances in their bilateral ties, it cannot avoid its own responsibility in breaking the impasse. Jeopardizing Indian interests by emboldening Pakistan’s recklessly ambitious military establishment is not the best way forward.

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Vinay Kaura is Assistant Professor of International Affairs and Security Studies and Coordinator of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at Sardar Patel University of Police, Security and Criminal Justice in Rajasthan, India.

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Aspen Ananta Center: Focus Neighborhood

Aspen Ananta Center

About Ananta Aspen Centre

Ananta Aspen Centre is an independent and not-for-profit organisation that seeks to foster positive change in society through dissemination of knowledge. The Centre facilitates discussions on issues of international significance, values-based leadership and cross-sector outreach by engaging the civil society, government, private sector, and other key stakeholders.


MoU Signed for €18.058m Socio-Economic Project to be Implemented Along Kabul River
Outlook Afghanistan | 30th August
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed for the implementation of a project for social, economic, and environmental development in the areas located along Kabul River. The Office of the President, ARG Palace, said the MoU was signed by acting Finance Minister Dr. Humayoun Qayoumi, acting Urban Develoment Minister Roshan Wolasmal, Charrge d’Affairs of the Embassy of Germany Christophe Pilix, and the head of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Ajmal Maiwandi. A statement by ARG Palace stated that the MoU was signed in the presence of President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani. The statement further added that the project would be funded by the government of Germany with an aim to develope the social and economic infrastructures of Kabul. The project value has been estimated at 18.058 million Euros and the work on the project is expected to kick off from August and will finish in December 2020.

UNSC Asks Taliban to Enter Peace Negotiations with Kabul
Outlook Afghanistan | 29th August
The United Nations Security Council has called for the Taliban to reciprocate without delay President Ashraf Ghani’s offer of a ceasefire. The UNSC members welcomed the announcement by the Afghan government of a second conditional ceasefire with the insurgent movement. In a statement, they reiterated their call upon the Taliban to engage in direct peace talks without any preconditions and without the threat of violence for an ultimate political settlement. The Security Council members renewed support for an inclusive Afghan-led peace process for the long-term prosperity and stability of Afghanistan and backed the government’s efforts to that end. They also emphasised the importance of holding peaceful, inclusive, credible and transparent parliamentary elections on October 20, 2018 and a presidential vote on April 20, 2019. In addition, they stressed the need to promote the full and safe participation in the elections of women, as well as members of minority groups, including ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, both as voters and candidates.

ISIS leader Yasir Khurasani killed with 5 comrades in Nangarhar drone strike
Khaama Press | 30th August
A leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Khurasan (ISIS-K) Yasir Khurasani was killed with his five comrades during an airstrike in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan. The 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan Military in the East said the U.S. forces carried out airstrikes using unmanned aerial vehicles targeting the ISIS hideouts in Wazir Tangi area of Khogyani district. The statement further added that the airstrikes left ISIS leader Yasir Khurasani and his comrades dead and a Dshk heavy machine gun was destroyed. The Afghan forces also discovered and defused two improvised explosive devices during the separate operations conducted in Mohmandara and Rodat districts, the 203rd Silab Corps added. The anti-government armed militant and terrorist groups including ISIS loyalists have not commented regarding the report so far.

Kabul Mayor Abdullah Habibzai resigns
Khaama Press | 29th August
The Mayor of capital Kabul Abdullah Habibzai says he has resigned from his position and that his resignation has been approved by President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani. Mr. Habibzai issued a statement online on Tuesday night and said his resignation has been approved by the President. He did not elaborate further regarding the circumstances surrounding his decision to step down as Kabul Mayor. However, he thanked his team and colleagues and said several projects have been implemented in Kabul while a number of others are still being implemented which would change the view of the city. In the meantime, unconfirmed reports indicate that the Kabul Mayor has been fired by President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani. The Office of the President, ARG Palace, yet to comment regarding the resignation of Mr. Habibzai.


Bangladesh PM proposes expansion of BIMSTEC cooperation
The Daily Star| 31st August
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stressed the need for expanding cooperation in BIMSTEC forum through creation of a free trade area, investment and energy collaboration. She called for stepping up cooperation in enhancing people-to-people contact and funding mechanism. Lauding the bilateral arrangement on the electricity grid connection among some Bimstec countries, she said it could be turned into Bimstec Electricity Grid with participation of other nations. To achieve an early dividend from the Bimstec grouping, the Prime Minister proposed categorising 14 sectors into several clusters to make them more focused and implementable.


Bhutan Japan holds 13th annual economic consultation
Kuensel | 30th August
The 13th annual consultation between Bhutan and Japan on Economic Cooperation was held in New Delhi, India on August 28. A press release from the Bhutan embassy in Delhi stated that the two sides discussed the achievements of the 11th Plan, integration of the SDGs into the 12th Plan and its objectives, status of Japanese assistance to Bhutan, Bilateral Development Assistance Needs Survey, and other areas of cooperation. The two sides reviewed the ongoing projects and deliberated on the prioritised projects submitted by the government. Instituted in 2006, the annual consultations between Bhutan and Japan on economic cooperation serves as a meaningful and purposeful platform for the two governments to review and exchange views on bilateral economic cooperation. Acting head of the department of bilateral affairs, Phuntsho Drukpa conveyed the Government’s deep appreciation to the Government of Japan for its steadfast support to Bhutan’s socio-economic development for many years and for its assurances of continued support in the years ahead.

GNHC seeks fund for climate change projects
Kuensel | 30th August
To reduce the indicative resource gap of about Nu 20 billion, the first national structured dialogue between Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC), and Green Climate Fund (GCF) began yesterday at Thimphu. The three-day dialogue will assist Bhutan to access GCF for the country’s climate change projects. GCF established in December 2010 is the main global financial mechanism to finance green initiatives promoting low emission and climate resilient development. It has its headquarters in South Korea. GNHC’s Director Rinchen Wangdi said the meeting is also an effort of GNHC to reduce the indicative resource gap. The commission will be holding a series of meeting to mobilise resource from various funding windows. Three pipeline funding proposals—supporting climate resilience and transformational change in the agriculture sector, Bhutan green transport programme, and simplified approval process (SAP) funding proposal on water flagship programme will also be presented to the delegates of GCF during the dialogue.


The bridge of the Maldivian hopes and dreams opened
Sun Online | 31st August 2018
The Sina-Male' Friendship Bridge representing the friendship between China and the Maldives and the hopes and dreams of the Maldivian people has been officially opened.  At a special ceremony held last night, the bridge was opened by the President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and the Chairman of the Chinese Development Corporation, Wang Xiaotao.  Completed in 3 years and 11 months, the Sina-Male' Bridge connects Hulhumale', Hulhule' and Male' City. It has been the biggest development project in the Maldives so far and it would bring major changes to the Maldivian economy.  


UMFCCI calls for government to stabilize exchange rate
Mizzima | 31st August
The Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) has submitted a plan to the government for stabilizing the rising exchange rate, Xinhua reported quoting state media. The four-point plan, submitted to State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi during a recent meeting with local business leaders in Nay Pyi Taw, was outlined as promoting export sector, investment, import substitution and reducing reliance on the U.S. dollar. Suggestions also included reviewing the entire export supply chain, applying demand-based agricultural policy, earliest implementation of banks' support services towards export, providing tax incentives to potential export products, public-private partnership towards effective development of export and earliest formation of National Export Promotion Council.

Rescuers struggle to reach stranded in Myanmar dam flooding
Mizzima | 31st August
Rescuers in boats negotiated muddy waters on Thursday to reach thousands stranded in central Myanmar after a dam overflowed, sending a torrent of water across farmland and villages. No casualties have yet been reported but state media said more than 63,000 people in Bago region were affected after the Swar Chaung dam overflowed early Wednesday morning. The dam's spillway, a structure that controls the release of more than 20,000 cubic metres of water held in Swar Chaung's levee, was broken by seasonal rainfall. Slabs of concrete where the spillway once stood were left in ruins as a steady stream of water drained out of the reservoir and spilled out into surrounding farmland.


4th BIMSTEC Summit kicks off in Kathmandu
The Kathmandu Post| 30th August
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Indian PM Narendra Modi, Thailand PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina Wazed, Myanmar’s President Win Myint, Chief Advisor to the Interim Government of Bhutan Gyalpo Tshering Wangchuk and Sri Lankan President Maitripala Sirisena are attending the summit. PM Oli is scheduled to address the summit for 22 minutes and the heads and representatives other member states will address for 15 minutes each after him.   

PM Oli, Thai PM hold bilateral meet
The Kathmandu Post| 31st August
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Friday held a bilateral meeting with Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on the sidelines of the 4th Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) summit. Similarly, the Prime Minister will also hold a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan President Maitripala Sirisena.

Micronutrients deficiency high: Report
The Kathmandu Post|31st August
Nearly 21 percent of the country’s children below the age of five suffer from zinc deficiency, a latest report by the Nepal National Micronutrient Status Survey (NNMSS) has revealed. The report released highlights a disturbing trend in the early growth of children between 6 and 59 months, with high chances of possible stunting and vulnerability to diseases such as diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting. Stunting is a physical condition in which children’s growth and development with age are affected, which health experts say can be mitigated with breastfeeding and regular intake of essential nutrients.


CPNE warns govt against introducing new media law
Dawn | 31st August
The Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) has called upon the government to consult editors, journalists, publishers and other stakeholders before carrying out legislation on any media law. On Wednesday, Federal Inform­ation Minister Fawad Chaudhry had hinted at formation of a ‘Pakistan media regulatory authority’ to replace the Pemra (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) and the press council. In a joint statement issued on Thursday, CPNE president Arif Nizami, senior vice president Imtinan Shahid and secretary general Dr Jabbar Khattak recalled that repeal of the Press Ordinance was the outcome of a long struggle by the CPNE, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, members of civil society and political activists.

Pakistan to go for arbitration if India ignores concerns
Dawn | 30th August
Pakistan on Wednesday urged India to entertain the objections it has raised over the construction of the 1,000MW Pakal Dul and 48MW Lower Kalnal hydropower projects on the River Chenab. It conveyed in categorical terms to the visiting Indian team that Islamabad would approach the international forums defined in the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) in case New Delhi failed to accept the requests as narrated in the detailed objections. “We have categorically made it clear that we will have no option but to use international forums — appointment of neutral experts, taking the case to international court of arbitration, etc — in case India failed to address our concerns that are absolutely genuine and can be resolved amicably,” one of the officials of the Pakistani side told Dawn after conclusion of the first round of the two-day dialogue which began here between the Pakistan-India delegations headed by the commissioners for Indus waters of the two countries.

Tough times ahead for Zardari, Musharraf
The Express Tribune | 30th August
After Nawaz Sharif, it appears the Supreme Court is set to give former presidents — Asif Ali Zardari and Pervez Musharraf — a tough time, as a three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, sought details of their local and foreign properties. The apex court also sought details of their bank accounts, which they owned since 2007 along with an affidavit. The bench also asked former attorney-general Malik Qayyum to furnish the same details on affidavit for the same period (2007-2018). It also directed Asif Ali Zardari, Pervez Musharraf and Malik Abdul Qayyam to file detailed statements of their assets and bank accounts operated by them and their spouses over the past 10 years.

NAB inquiries under way against 43 politicians
The Express Tribune | 28th August
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is currently holding inquiries and investigations against hundreds of people including 70 politicians, 121 businessmen and 210 government officers of grade-20 and above, the Senate was told on Tuesday. According to details shared by the Minister of Law Farogh Naseem in response to Senator Ateeq Khan’s query, NAB since 2008 has decided about 4,871 cases including about 3,046 inquiries, 581 investigations and 1,244 references. The written reply said 856 inquiries are under way against different people and organisations. Forty three (43) are initiated against politicians, 67 against businessmen, 136 against top civil servants of grade20-22 and 610 against other citizens.


Sri Lankan President meets Indian Prime Minister
Colombo Page | 30th August
The Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi said that he deeply appreciates the commitment made by the President Maithripala Sirisena to achieve reconciliation and sustainable peace while ensuring democracy and freedom in Sri Lanka. These remarks were made when President Maithripala Sirisena, who is in Nepal to attend the 4th Summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), met with Indian Prime Minister in Kathmandu, today (30).During the cordial discussion, the Indian Prime Minister extended birthday wishes to the President as his birthday falls on September 03rd. At the conclusion of the summit, the Chairmanship of BIMSTEC will be handed over to Sri Lanka by the current Chair, Nepal. Expressing his views regarding this the Indian Prime Minister said that India is ready to provide their fullest assistance for any task assigned to them by President Maithripala Sirisena as the new Chairperson of the BIMSTEC.

Sri Lanka President appeals to BIMSTEC leaders to take collective steps against drug menace 
Colombo Page | 30th August
Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena today called upon the leaders of the states in the Bay of Bengal Region to take collective steps against drug menace and drug traffickers using ocean routes for drug smuggling. Addressing the 4th Summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), the President drew the attention of the leaders to the drug menace which is a great obstacle for the progress of the world community. "It is the menace of drugs and narcotics, heroine, hashish, marijuana and other drugs that are smuggled into the country mainly by sea. This has largely affected our youth and the school children. Illicit drugs have become the most serious challenge and we require more advanced technology and training for our coast guard to fight drug smuggling at sea," he said.

Indian Housing Project extends to Kumarawatta Estate in Monaragala District
Colombo Page | 30th August 
Under the Indian Housing Project to construct 14,000 houses in the Central and Uva Provinces, 150 new houses will be constructed in the Kumarawatta Estate in Monaragala District of Uva Province. In a special ceremony held on August 30, 2018, at, High Commissioner of India Taranjit Singh Sandhu along with Minister of Public Administration, Management and Law & Order Ranjith Madduma Bandara, Minister of Hill country New Villages, Infrastructure and Community Development Palani Digambaram and State Minister of Education V.S. Radhakrishnan, laid foundation stone to construct 150 new houses.Government of India has committed a total of 14,000 houses in the Plantation areas including the 10,000 houses announced by Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi last year. Agreement between India and Sri Lanka for the 10,000 houses was signed on August 12, 2018 when the first lot of the more than 400 houses built in the plantation areas under the Indian Housing Project were handed over.

To Balance Chinese Influence, India Needs to Ensure Its Africa Gaze Is More Constant

Luke Patey

August 31, 7:00 am

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with IAFS delegations during the India Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi. Credit: PTI

As China’s top-level Africa forum is held in Beijing on September 3 and 4, and India is slated to hold its next triennial Africa summit in the near future, the foreign policy establishment in New Delhi will once again turn its geopolitical gaze west to the African continent.

India’s trade with Africa has grown in leaps and bounds over the last decade, but all too often, once official visits and large summits come to an end, the attention New Delhi places on Africa quickly fades.

This time, however, India should stay tuned. Africa can no longer be viewed as intermittent and peripheral interest. Instead, Africa must be appreciated as part and parcel of New Delhi’s challenge of recouping lost geostrategic ground from China’s expansionist endeavours on the Indian Ocean. Together, China’s Belt and Road Initiative, to drive trade and finance through Asia, Africa, and Europe, and its encroaching military activities, are serving to redefine India’s relationship with Africa.

India shares a long history of political cooperation with Africa, and has a deeply integrated diaspora on the continent. India’s founding fathers encouraged and supported Africa to break the bonds of colonialism and apartheid, and joined together with the continent against hegemonic powers during the Cold War under the non-aligned movement.

Fast forward decades later, commerce has empowered India’s modern ties with Africa. In 2002-03, two-way trade was a paltry $6.5 billion. But as India’s domestic economy gathered steam, shaking off strict policies of protectionism and isolation, and enjoying an over 50-year run of accelerated growth, trade with Africa rose to over $70 billion by 2012-2013. The increase has been so immersive that if China were not present, India would be Africa’s largest trading partner. At $63 billion in 2017-18, its trade easily surpassed the United States and Africa’s main European partners.

But China is in Africa, and in a big way. Chinese trade with Africa’s 54 countries stood at $172 billion in 2017, nearly three times India’s own. Facing down this lopsidedness, Indian leaders would argue that their country’s engagement stands out from China’s. That the private sector, instead of China’s state heavy engagement, drives India’s outreach. But India has actually reproduced some of the more negative economic impacts of China’s Africa relations.

India’s trade with Africa follows trends that have long defined the continent’s economic relations with the outside world. Mahatma Gandhi envisioned that ‘the commerce between India and Africa will be of ideas and services, not of manufactured goods against raw materials after the fashion of western exploiters’. But this has hardly been the case.

Owing to its rapidly growing energy needs, oil is India’s largest import from Africa, mostly from Nigeria. And along with gold and diamonds imports, which largely originate from South Africa, natural resources comprise the majority of India’s Africa trade. To add insult to injury, after African oil arrives at India’s western shore, and is processed at refineries in Mangalore and elsewhere, it is sent right back to Africa as value-added diesel and fuel, some of India’s largest exports to the continent.

And India’s broader economic relations with Africa are less impressive than many of its leaders care to admit. India’s investment in Africa amounted to only $14 billion by 2016, ranking between Singapore and Switzerland, and well behind its top investors: the US, UK, France and China. As Malancha Chakrabarty at the Observer Research Foundation has pointed out, investment levels to Africa are often misstated, since over $47 billion has round-tripped through the tax haven of Mauritius since 2008.

India’s loans to Africa, which received a $10 billion boost from Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 2015 India Africa Summit Forum, have not fared better. Indian finance pales in comparison with China’s provision of $124 billion in loans from 2000 to 2016. But similar to China, India places stringent economic conditions on its African partners to contract mainly Indian companies and supplies for projects covered by Indian finance.

On top of China’s economic influence, Beijing’s deepening military engagement in Africa should redefine and elevate the priority India affords to the continent. Beijing opened its first military base overseas last year in Djibouti on the Red Sea. The small country on the Horn of Africa sits on the western end of China’s long-feared ‘string of pearls’, a strategic containment policy that now seems to be becoming a reality for India as Sri Lanka, the Maldives and other countries in its neighbourhood have developed a growing economic dependency on Beijing.

What might India do in Africa to balance China’s expanding geopolitical presence in the Indian Ocean? Beating China at its own game seems neither achievable for India, nor advisable for the continent’s long-term developmental prospects. Instead, New Delhi should capitalise on its partnership with Japan to ensure there is genuine momentum and developmental spin-offs from its ‘Asia-Africa Growth Corridor’, not just token awards for Indian and Japanese corporations.

Unlike China, which is actively promoting its model of state-led capitalism and political authoritarianism to African and other developing countries, India can lead by example. Many African countries resemble the multi-ethnic democracy of India. And in midst of an American democratic breakdown, India’s fast-paced economy and large democracy can, as African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina said, offer ‘a developing beacon for the rest of the world’.

Finally, from Sudan to South Africa, India can advance its security agenda along Africa’s eastern coast. Resolving its qualms, and advancing its interests with the Quad, an evolving security alliance with the United States, Japan and Australia, can help deter Chinese navy dominance across the Indian Ocean. While Modi may hope that China and India can work together to build a better future in Asia, hedging against more tumultuous outcomes hardly seems ill advised.

India is often seen as a footnote in China’s Africa engagement; one of many emerging economies, from Turkey to Brazil, engaging the continent in new economic and political activities. Together these interactions have relegated the West to a spectator position, but until India improves its attention span to changes in Africa, China will increasingly dictate the geopolitical future across the Indian Ocean.

Luke Patey is a senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies and Lead Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. He is author of The New Kings of Crude: China, India, and the Global Struggle for Oil in South and South Sudan (Hurst/Harper Collins India, 2014). He is on Twitter at @LukePatey.

Chinese Influence Operations: Entities

Central Asia Digest: Ananta Aspen Centre

Ambassador Ashok Sajjanhar
Advisor, Central Asia, Ananta Aspen Centre
Former Ambassador of India to Kazakhstan, Sweden and Latvia

H I G H L I G H T S 
 Political Developments 

● Economic Developments

● India-Central Asia Relations 
Political Developments

The five littoral States of Caspian Sea – Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan - agreed in principle on 12th August, 2018 to share the potentially huge oil and gas resources of the sea, paving way for more energy exploration and pipeline projects. However, delimitation of the seabed - which has caused the most disputes - will require additional agreements between these countries. Alongside the Draft Convention on Legal Status of Caspian Sea, the countries established an extensive negotiating framework. Establishment of a reliable legal framework will expand cooperation between the five countries. The Convention bestows a special legal status to this body of water - it is neither a sea, nor a lake. The Agreement also reduces the possibility of NATO presence, as only these five countries will have a right to military presence in the Caspian.

The Caspian seabed contains 50 billion barrels of oil and 9 trillion cubic meters of gas in proven or probable reserves. This is worth several trillion dollars; with further exploration, it could turn out to be much more.

For more than 20 years these countries have argued how to divide the riches of theCaspian Sea. While some countries have pressed ahead with large offshore projects such as Kashagan oil field off Kazakhstan’s coast, disagreement over the sea’s legal status has prevented several other projects from being implemented. 15-mile-wide territorial waters have been established whose borders become state frontiers.

In negotiations with post-Soviet nations, Iran had insisted on either splitting the sea into five equal parts or jointly developing all of its resources. Other countries did not agree to these proposals. Iran is arguably the loser under such an arrangement, as it has shortest border on the Caspian (13%). That has seemingly led Tehran to resist any deal recognizing the Caspian as a sea.

Classifying it as a lake would mean that the resources should be divided equally among the five countries. The sea designation means the five countries should draw lines extending from their shores to the midway point with littoral neighbors. Key to resolving the dispute was whether the body of water should be considered a sea or a lake under international law.

Kazakhstan appears to be the biggest winner under the "sea" definition, since more than half of Caspian's hydrocarbon wealth is said to lie in Kazakhstan's sector.

Archeologists working in remote mountains in East Kazakhstan have discovered a ‘golden man’ mummy dating back to 8th-7th centuries B.C. Anthropologists say the mound is a burial place of a young man aged 17-18 years, 165-170 centimeters tall. All burial items are well-preserved making it possible to reconstruct his garments and appearance. The treasure, which features over 3,000 valuable objects, belonged to elite members of the Saka people.

A first-of-its-kind courtroom testimony in Kazakhstan corroborated allegations that China has built a network of internment camps in western China where Muslim minorities are held without charge for “reeducation.” An ethnic Kazakh Chinese national said she was forced to work at a camp where around 2,500 ethnic Kazakhs were being held for indoctrination. Public resentment against China has grown as more accounts emerge of Chinese-Kazakhs and Kazakh nationals being sent to “political re-education camps,” a euphemism for prisons in China’s Xinjiang region.

Tajik authorities say at least 1,200 people have gone to Syria and Iraq to join the extremist militant group Islamic State (IS) since 2014.

IS claimed the deadly July 29 attack on 7 Western cyclists in Tajikistan, 4 of whom were killed, although government has said that the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) was behind the assault. IRPT rejected the government's charge as "shameless and illogical." Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned Tajik Ambassador to protest accusations that Iran was partly responsible for the attack.

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are holding discussion on introducing SilkViza - a Central Asian Schengen zone. The idea was mooted by Dariga Nazarbayeva, Chairman of Kazakh Senate Committee on International Relations, Defense and Security in a meeting with deputies of Uzbek Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Economic Relations, Investments and Tourism.

Economic Developments

Temporary ban on import of gasoline by railway from Russia to Kazakhstan came into force on August 10, 2018. This is due to over-abundance of AI-92 gasoline in Kazakhstan after completion of modernization of oil refineries. Presently Kazakhstan has more than 300,000 tons reserves of gasoline which is almost a 30-day reserve.

China has expressed interest in joining the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, by building a link from Pakistan to China. This could act as alternative to Chinese plans to build a fourth China-to-Turkmenistan pipeline. China-to-Turkmenistan line has to cross several mountain ranges and it would be cheaper and easier for China to build a line from Pakistan across the Karakoram Range to its Western border.

Work on TAPI gas pipeline in Pakistan was scheduled to commence in May, 2018, but could not start due to change in government. Newly elected administration of Imran Khan is expected to start doing it soon. Targeted timeline for project completion was 2021, but, under an alternate plan, the project would be finished by 2020.

Kazkah President Nursultan Nazarbayev said it was investing in several transport hubs to benefit from the trillion-dollar Belt-Road Initiative (BRI) championed by Chinese leader Xi Jinping that aims to be modern version of ancient Silk Road trading routes.

Documents containing serious corruption charges against Chinese companies relating to Kyrgyzstan’s biggest infrastructure project, a 433km road linking capital Bishkek in the North with the country’s main city in the South, Osh, have appeared in Kyrgyz media. The project is funded by a US$850 million loan from the Exim Bank of China under BRI with China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) as the main implementing partner.

A US$1.8 billion dispute between Iran and Turkmenistan relating to quality and quantity of gas supplied to Iran by the latter is headed into arbitration. Both countries have agreed to abide by the decision.


India-Central Asia Relations 

The first state visit of Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to India is scheduled to take place in October, 2018.

External Affairs Minister (EAM) Sushma Swaraj visited Kazakhstan (2-3 August), Kyrgyzstan (3-4 August) and Uzbekistan (4-5 August) to hold discussions with the leadership of these countries to further strengthen and expand relations with this important region. In Kazakhstan she met her counterpart as well as the Kazakh Prime Minister. In Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, in addition to meeting her counterparts, she also held discussions with the presidents of those countries.

In Kazakhstan, EAM discussed cooperation between the two countries as well as regional and international issues with the Kazakh foreign minister.  They discussed implementation of agreements reached in 2017 during visit of Prime Minister Modi to Astana, as well as during his meeting with President Nazarbayev in June 2018 on SCO Summit sidelines in Qingdao. Kazakhstan is India’s largest trade and investment partner in Central Asia. Cumulative investments from India into Kazakhstan and from Kazakhstan to India from 2005 to 2016 amounted to US$244 million and US$83.09 million respectively. Bilateral trade and economic cooperation reached almost US$1 billion in 2017. Trade turnover during January- April 2018 totaled US$250.3 million, which is 31.2% higher than same period in 2017. Imports from Kazakhstan by India in this period increased by 37% and amounted to US$174.2 million. Exports to Kazakhstan from India increased by 19.8% and amounted to US$76.1 million. Potential of Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway line with access to the Indian Ocean was also discussed.

Discussions between the two foreign ministers on strengthening bilateral cooperation in energy, deepening cooperation in trade and investment, defence and security, Information and Communications Technology, pharmaceuticals, capacity building, culture, logistics, space, and tourism and film production were held. To enhance people-to-people contact and to promote tourism, India extended the e-visa facility to Kazakh people from February 2018.

The foreign ministers agreed to deepen bilateral military-technical, security and defence cooperation which has intensified over the last two years. This includes assistance by India in deployment of Kazakh peacekeeping contingent as part of the Indian battalion for the UNIFIL mission in Lebanon, and joint Kazakh-Indian military KAZHIND exercises planned for autumn 2018. A Kazakh Armed Forces Unit underwent training on peacekeeping operations in India and a mobile training team from Indian Army trained Kazakh personnel in Almaty. EAM emphasized improving connectivity with Central Asia through the International North-South Transport Corridor, India’s accession to the Ashgabat Agreement and TIR Convention.

EAM said that Kazakhstan's professionals and students attend courses on scholarships in India every year under ICCR and Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme in a wide range of disciplines.

Discussions with the Kazakh PM focused on expanding cooperation in trade, economy, defense industry, space, transport and logistics.

Indian business circles showed interest in managing Kazakhstan’s big airports, as well as in cooperation with Astana International Financial Centre, International Center for Green Technology and Investment, and Astana Hub – International Hub for IT Startups.

Reference was also made to the significance of on-going negotiations to establish aFree Trade Area Agreement with Eurasian Economic Union.

In Kyrgyzstan, discussions on expanding cooperation in areas like agricultural products, food processing, pharmaceuticals, energy and chemicals, defence, science and technology, and health were held. Several areas including political and parliamentary exchanges, defence and security, science and technology, economic, health and tourism to strengthen bilateral cooperation, as well as important regional issues were discussed. EAM also met senior officials from IT, health, tourism, energy and natural resources departments of Kyrgyz government to discuss possible areas of collaboration.

In meeting with her Uzbek counterpart, productive discussion in fields of trade and economy, defence and security, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, IT, agriculture and animal husbandry, tourism and culture were held. In her call on Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, substantive discussions to strengthen bilateral strategic partnership across all sectors were held.

EAM met and interacted with the Indian community in all the 3 countries that she visited. She said that no Prime Minister from Nehru to Manmohan Singh had reached out to Indian community settled abroad in the manner in which PM Modi’s government had done.

EAM made a transit halt in Turkmenistan enroute to Kazakhstan and held detailed discussions on a wide range of bilateral issues with Deputy Chairman of Cabinet of Ministers and Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov at Ashgabat airport.

Inaugurating the eleventh Uzbek-Indian intergovernmental commission, Uzbek Deputy PM said that Uzbekistan intends to expand supply of uranium concentrate to India in near future. Uzbekistan also expressed readiness to expand direct supplies of non-ferrous and rare-earth metals, cable and wire products, polyethylene and polypropylene, chemical products, mineral fertilizers, as well as fresh and processed fruit and vegetable products. High rates of import duties restrain supply of Uzbek fruits and vegetables to India. Uzbekistan may take part in International North South Transport Corridor project (India-Iran-Azerbaijan-Russia-Kazakhstan), which aims to increase transport and transit potential of the region. Discussions on opportunities in textiles and garments, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, food processing and engineering goods took place. Business delegations from FICCI and CII held talks with counterparts in pharmaceuticals, agriculture/agriculture machinery, food processing, engineering goods, garments & textile, leather, tobacco, plastic & chemical and petrochemical sectors.

Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu cut short his visit to Tashkent on account of the demise of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Indian and Pakistani forces, along with those from other members of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) countries, participated in Peace Mission – 2018 exercises which saw more than 3000 troops taking part in anti-terror drills. The exercises were held at Chebarkul training ground in Russia from 22nd-29th August. The objective of Peace Mission-2018 is to enhance cooperation between armed forces of SCO states. This includes joint anti-terrorist operations, increased combat preparedness of SCO nations to confront terrorism, extremism and separatism. The aim of this joint military drill is to develop and execute joint strategies in case of terrorists capturing a part of territory of one of the SCO nations. This anti-terrorist drill christened “Peace Mission” is held every two years.

(The views expressed are personal)

Curse or Blessing? The U.S. Dollar as the Global Currency Is the U.S. Dollar a Curse or a Blessing?

Curse or Blessing? The U.S. Dollar as the Global Currency
Is the U.S. Dollar a Curse or a Blessing?

18 August 2018


Over the last five years (2013 to 2017), the U.S. trade deficit has averaged $500 billionper year. That means on its own: in each of these five years, U.S. external debt increased by $500 billion. By the end of March 2018, the gross external debt of the U.S. had reached a value of more than $19 trillion – the world’s highest debt of an economy.

Learn in this post whether the U.S. Dollar is a curse or a blessing and why.

In two earlier blog posts, I wrote about the anatomy of the U.S. trade deficit and the role of the exchange rate of the dollar for this deficit. Now I’ll discuss the role of the dollar in the U.S.’s high and sustained external debt.

A U.S. trade deficit automatically means that the U.S. is in debt to the rest of the world: If U.S. exports are lower than imports, the U.S. takes in less money in foreign trade than it spends. Export revenues are not enough to pay for all imports. The shortfall between export revenue and import expenditure is borrowed from the rest of the world. Borrowing increases the debt of the U.S. to the rest of the world, i.e. the external debt of the U.S. The level of additional debt is broadly in line with the trade deficit.

Normally, high and permanently growing external debt results in a decline in the creditworthiness of the economy. International investors lose confidence in the creditworthiness of the country concerned. They are no longer sure whether the country can pay its debts and the interest due for them on a permanent basis. The consequence: lenders demand a risk premium. In concrete terms, this means that interest rates for credit increase in the highly indebted country .

Rising interest rates make borrowing more expensive. This makes it less attractive for private households, companies and the state to take out a loan. This also has an impact on the balance of trade: If the demand for goods financed by credit decreases, imports fall. If no credit is taken out abroad, the trade balance is balanced.

In other words, international credit markets normally limit a country’s debt to the rest of the world. However, the U.S. with its currency is not a normal country: the U.S. dollar is currently the only global currency. This is both a curse and a blessing.

The US Dollar as a Blessing

The American economy can borrow more or less indefinitely in dollars in the rest of the world, because the dollar is a currency needed worldwide. Most international commodity purchases are paid in dollars. Many countries with weak currencies accept the dollar as an unofficial parallel currency. And international investors see the U.S. dollar as a safe haven for their savings. This has two central consequences:

The U.S. can offer any amount of dollars on the international currency markets without fear that these dollars will be not taken from them. Even a strong expansion of the dollar supply will only lead to a slight depreciation of the dollar.International investors and banks have a high interest in American securities. This allows them to invest their money in the “safe haven” of the dollar and also collect interest. For American companies and the U.S. government this means: they can easily issue government bonds and borrow money in the rest of the world. This borrowing abroad is in turn a prerequisite for the U.S. to finance its trade deficit.

The US Dollar as a Curse

However, the fact that it is the only global currency is also a disadvantage for theAmerican economy. For the rest of the world to have enough dollars, the U.S. must make these dollars available to the rest of the world. As the volume of world trade has grown considerably in recent decades, the global demand for dollars has also increased.

The U.S. can only supply the rest of the world with the necessary quantities of dollars if it 1) permanently expands the quantity of dollars available and 2) ensures that these dollars also reach the rest of the world. The latter requires an American trade deficit:

If the rest of the world earns more dollars in trade with the U.S. than it spends, the rest of the world experiences an export surplus or trade balance surplus with the American economy. For example, if all the world’s economies sell $2,000 billion worth of goods to the U.S. and only import $1,500 billion worth of products from the U.S., the rest of the world earns $500 billion. These are then used to process other economic transactions.From the U.S. perspective, a trade deficit of $500 billion exists.

In short, therefore: The country that has the world currency of the globe must have a trade deficit in order to supply the rest of the world with the world currency. This statement is part of the so-called Triffin dilemma.

Economic policy consequences

As long as the U.S. remains the only nation whose currency is recognized as a world currency, a U.S. trade deficit is inevitable. Punitive tariffs to reduce imports will not change this. This situation is currently economically attractive for the U.S.:

U.S. citizens can consume more goods and services than they produce themselves. This high level of consumption increases material prosperity.The U.S. has to pay relatively low interest rates: because many international investors want the dollar as an investment, they are also satisfied with extremely low interest rates.

It only becomes problematic if the U.S. dollar is no longer the sole global currency:

If the euro or the yuan were also to reach the status of a globally accepted currency, the interest rates that the U.S. would have to pay for borrowing would rise.The U.S. will be limited in their borrowing ability. Instead, they would have to reduce the accumulated debt. This means that the U.S. would then need a trade balance surplus in order to repay the loans. In real economic terms, this means that U.S. consumers could no longer consume all goods and services produced domestically. They would then pay for any excess consumption by restricting consumption.

Whether and when this will happen is currently uncertain. Nevertheless, U.S. economic long-term policy planning should at least incorporate these macroeconomic interrelationships .