Deciphering the Motives Behind Modi’s ‘Extended Dialogue’ for South Asia


India has done more for Sri Lanka than the IMF S. Jaishankar, Union Minister for External Affairs–Indian Express.

China will stand for Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, economic development — Visiting Chinese Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Sun Weidong, when he called on Sri Lankan Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena last week.

These two statements by representatives of the two Asian giants taken at face value–prima facie as lawyers say — should make our people joyful and relaxed but in terms of realpolitik, should it be so?

The statement of Jaishankar was followed by the Indian High Commission the next day that following a request by Sri Lanka, the State Bank of India had extended the tenure of USD 1 billion credit facility till next year.

Lankans should indeed thank India for their continuing support but a significant difference between the statements of the two powers we noticed was the Chinese government giving priority in their statement for support of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty,

Jaishankar’s statement as reported said: The Modi government is working on developing an extended neighbourhood that involves the islands in the Indian Ocean, Gulf countries, and nations in South-East Asia.

“What we are trying to do is for a bigger, influential and ambitious India. We are trying to expand what should be our neighbourhood. We look at what this extended neighbourhood should be. It could be islands in the Indian Ocean, nations in South East Asia and Central Asia or Gulf countries. The relationship with the UAE and Saudi Arabia has undergone an enormous transformation.”

From traditionally a much more constricted view of our neighbourhood, we have undertaken something much more ambitious, he had said in his speech at Anant’s National University in Delhi.

“If you are the biggest in the neighbourhood, then it is in our interest that our other neighbours have a share in our prosperity, happiness and are linked to us, he had declared in a burst of Indian altruism, not ever witnessed before Lanka’s financial debacle and “gone forward in a way, we ourselves have never done for Sri Lanka” and added that it “is bigger than what the IMF has done for Sri Lanka”.

Jaishankar is indeed correct. Although friendship with its neighbours was supposed to be the cornerstone of Indian foreign policy, commencing with Congress governments, despite Lanka faithfully following the tilted Non-Aligned policy of the Gandhis towards the Soviet Union, massive assistance on the scale given by the Modi government — or any significant assistance — did not come Lanka’s way.

Rajiv Gandhi’s intervention in Lanka and the Indo-Lanka Agreement which the then president J.R. Jayewardene had no option but to accept (Remember his plea: ‘What could I do with no foreign power lifting a finger to help me’) and with the Modi government still calling for its full implementation, any reference by New Delhi to Sri Lankan sovereignty will sound hollow.

Narendra Modi has visions of making India a world power and becoming a world leader and in these endeavours he is bound to suffer setbacks such as in the diplomatic rapprochement brought about recently between Saudi Arabia and Iran by Chinese diplomacy, which is what Jaishankar is talking about when he refers to the relationship with the “UAE having undergone an enormous transformation”.

But we in Lanka are not concerned with all that but only about the Modi government working on “developing an extended neighbourhood” that involves islands in the Indian Ocean, Gulf countries and nations in South-East Asia. How would this “extended neighbourhood” apply to South Asian countries like Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan and the Maldives which have had long-standing contentious relationships with their giant neighbour resulting in the paralysis of SAARC?

Sri Lankans while appreciating the munificence of the Modi government have noticed that some massive Indian investment projects involve Lanka’s national security concerns. They include the construction of seaports, the Trinco Oil Tank Farm, the use of the Trinco port itself, and energy projects in projects in the Palk Strait. Many agreements have been signed with India by the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government when Basil Rajapaksa was the Finance Minister and also after the Ranil-Rajapaksa regime took office. These agreements have not been presented to parliament for ratification making some doubt, especially the trade unions, whether national security has been bartered away for loans which have to be repaid.

Narendra Modi is in an ebullient mood having won two consecutive general elections and going for a third term driving his juggernaut of Hindutva through the Indian electorate, singling out minorities particularly India’s Muslims, the second largest Muslim population in the world. Most Indian opposition parties despite their myriad differences in religion, race, and caste are attempting to form a united opposition to defeat him at the next parliamentary elections. He is defying democratic practices, traditions and even constitutional provisions at the cost to his fellow Indians and for fair and democratic judgments to be expected in his proposed “Extended neighbourhood” would be the height of optimism.

At a ceremony in New Delhi, on Sunday, Modi inaugurated a new parliament complex built at an estimated cost of $ 120 million and called it the ‘cradle of empowerment’ but the ceremony was boycotted by most opposition parties. He sidelined President Droupaadi Murmu who is the head of state and the highest constitutional authority and inaugurated the building himself.

It is an attempt to revamp the British colonial architecture including the former parliament building although some were of the view that the old parliament is more Indian than Modi’s creation.

Rahul Gandhi, the Indian Congress party leader was in the United States last week meeting Indian expatriates and American legislators accusing Modi’s BJP and RSS of attacking the constitution and attempting to divide the country on caste and religious lines ahead of Prime Minister Modi’s visit at the invitation of President Joe Biden.

What is so attractive about Narendra Modi to Western leaders like Joe Biden? Modi’s human rights record as the Chief Minister of Gujarat was condemned by the Western world. Is this real politics at play — Modi and the BJP being the biggest and the only countervailing force against the superpower, China?

China takes leadership role in Central Asia


One of the pleasures of the post-Cold War strategic discourses is that geopolitics is back with a bang. Earlier, the former Soviet Union and Communist China used to be in denial mode, as geopolitics didn’t fit into their Marxist-Leninist lens — although, arguably, Marx might have adapted himself a long time ago already. 

The China-Central Asia Summit, which took place recently in Xi’an on May 18-19 was every bit a geopolitical event as much as the G7 summit in Hiroshima that it overlapped. The symbolism was profound. China and Russia were the elephants in the room for both summits but the Xi’an summit distinguished itself as an inclusive affair, whereas, the G7 event was, regrettably, an exclusive gathering of wealthy countries of the western world dripping with cold war-era animosities, and it didn’t hide its intentions even in its choice of “special invitees” — one ASEAN country; two BRICS countries; one tiny African state; a Pacific island etc. — borne out of the old colonial mindset of “divide and rule.” 

The biggest difference was that the Xi’an summit was substantive and focused on a positive agenda that is quantifiable, while the Hiroshima summit was largely prescriptive and partly declarative and only marginally tangible. This was because the China-Central Asia summit took place on native soil while the G7 has no habitation and name in Asia except that one of the seven member countries is of Asian origin and the summit itself was a thinly-veiled attempt to insert the alien Western agenda into the Asian setting. In fact, the criterion for selecting the special invitees was itself based on the credentials of those chosen few to perform potentially as a fifth column for western interests in an Asian Century.    

The China-Central Asia Summit was motivated by the growing realisation that the countries of the Eurasian region must play a proactive role in the common task of pushing back the United States, the driving force of the G7, which they perceive to be attempting to destabilise the common neighbourhood of Russia and China in Central Asia. Simply put, the Xi’an summit tacitly signalled that Russia and China are unitedly circling the wagons for a common purpose — to borrow an idiom which was employed by the Americans in the 19th century to describe a defensive manoeuvre. 

From a historical perspective, it is for the first time ever that Russia and China are explicitly joining hands to stabilise the Central Asian region — a momentous happening by itself — with Beijing assuming a leadership role, given Russia’s preoccupations in Ukraine. This paradigm shift belies the western propaganda that Russian and Chinese interests collide in the Central Asian region. There is a strategic convergence between Moscow and Beijing that stability in Central Asian region, which is vital for both capitals in their own interests, is best achieved through ensuring security, boosting economic development or international political backing. 

A well-known Russian think tanker at the Kremlin-funded Valdai Club in Moscow, Timofei Bordachev wrote in Global Times in the run-up to the Xi’an summit: “China and Russia are equally interested in the stability of Central Asia simply because they are directly neighbouring most of the states located in this part of Eurasia. It is as simple as the fact that you would not put on fire your neighbor’s house in order to hurt another neighbor. But if a certain power is located thousands of miles away from the common neighbourhood of Russia and China in Central Asia, it may well be betting on destabilising that region.

“The common task of China and Russia is to prevent this and make their friends and neighbours in Central Asia stable and relatively prosperous in today’s turbulent times… Whoever says that China’s and Russia’s interests in Central Asia may conflict with each other is not a friend of China, Russia or the countries of the region themselves.”

Equally, there is a consensus among the five Central Asian states to work together in a “5+1” format, which means that all crucial decisions and initiatives will be coordinated with all Central Asian states at the same time. On their part, the Central Asian partners recognise that the overall economic development of their region could get better if they strengthen their cooperation with China. Russia has played a key role here to encourage the Central Asian states to move in such a direction and play a proactive role. This itself is a marked departure as the five “Stans” have not always been able to work together, opting instead to engage with the biggest global players individually. 

The participants of the Xi’an summit, which Chinese President Xi Jinping who hosted the event called a “new era” in his country’s relations with the region, agreed to create a mechanism for communication between the heads of post-Soviet states of Central Asia and China. The meetings will be held alternately every two years in the format of Central Asia – China. The next meeting of the six leaders is scheduled for 2025 in Kazakhstan. The Xi’an Declaration released after the summit includes 15 points, divided into several blocks of issues: security, logistics, trade and economic cooperation, humanitarian cooperation and ecology. 

What emerges is that Beijing’s interest lies primarily in security considerations against the backdrop of the activities of extremist groups such as the Islamic State (which continues to get covert support from the US) that are operating out of Afghanistan. China’s thesis is that security is best strengthened through economic development and for that reason, therefore, the region is important from the point of view of economic cooperation and regional development — although in aggregate terms, Central Asian economic resources are nowhere near sufficient for meeting China’s needs. 

Suffice to say, terrorist threats emanating from the region, posing threat to Xinjiang, are China’s main concern and Beijing is willing to openly invest its resources in the security of the region and take part in the training of the anti–terrorist forces of the Central Asian states. Geographically, three out of the five Central Asian countries, namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, share borders with China. As for Russia, it has long regarded the region as its traditional sphere of influence and a strategic buffer zone, and thus prioritised the security of its southern border. Therefore, a safe and secure Central Asia aligns with China and Russia’s respective national interests. 

In the context of the Ukraine crisis, Central Asia has emerged as a frontline for the US strategy to contain and weaken Russia. However, although Central Asian countries have adopted a neutral stance on the Ukraine situation, Russia’s influence in the region remains strong and is unlikely to be largely disrupted. Three key factors are at work here. First, Russia is seen as the provider of security and Russia’s defence capabilities continue to play a crucial role in maintaining stability in the region. Second, Central Asian states heavily depend on Russia in regard of labor migration, market access, transportation, and energy resources, and no other outside power foots the bill. Third, do not underestimate that the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union continues to systematically build up regional economic integration. 

The Xi’an Declaration talks about resisting religious extremism and attempts by external forces to impose their own rules on the region. President Xi said at the summit that Beijing is ready to help strengthen the capacity of law enforcement agencies and armed forces of the regional states, and promised to “support their independent efforts to ensure regional security and fight terrorism, as well as work with them to strengthen cybersecurity.” In addition, he said Beijing is working on the creation of a regional anti-terrorist centre in China to train the security forces of the Central Asian republics. 

To be continued

Redefining Modernization: China’s Vision

China has achieved success on multiple fronts of national development, providing the world with a new path to modernization, a prominent Turkish scholar on international relations has said.

China is making progress “not only in the field of technology or of social development but in almost all fields,” Huseyin Bagci, an academic with the Ankara-based Middle East Technical University and president of the Turkish Foreign Policy Institute, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Significant progress has been achieved in human rights, poverty alleviation, education, social security, health, and national unity, Bagci said, highlighting China’s outstanding achievements in promoting human rights by eradicating absolute poverty, protecting people’s rights, and expanding education and health services.

Bagci believes China is providing the world with an alternative path to modernization that differs from that of the Western world, which is unprecedented in world history.

The scholar also saluted China’s outstanding contributions to developing countries’ modernization by providing ample funding and credits.

“Many countries, of course, in Africa, Asia and Latin America, they look to China as a dynamic, external factor for modernization, because China provides a lot of credits, infrastructural help,” Bagci said, citing various fields ranging from education to health and agriculture as core areas of cooperation between China and other developing countries.

Taiwan’s Quest to Upgrade Its Battle Readiness Continues to Evolve

In early May 2023, a U.S. delegation consisting of 25 defense contractors arrived in Taiwan for a security summit, aimed to increase interoperability between the U.S. and Taiwanese militaries. It marks the latest step toward Taiwan’s years-long efforts to strengthen its defense capabilities and pose credible deterrence to the Chinese military.

The military relationship between Taiwan and the U.S. expanded significantly during the Trump administration. Washington approved major arms sales, increased cooperation with the Taiwanese military, and conducted more naval patrols in the Taiwan Strait to emphasize the U.S. position on Taiwan. During the Biden administration, it was revealed that dozens of U.S. military personnel were training Taiwanese forces on the island since at least 2020, numbers which have increased since.

And while conscription was previously considered an outdated military policy characteristic of the Cold War, the war in Ukraine has reversed this notion. Taiwan’s attempted transition to Western-style volunteer force in previous years now appears far less credible in being able to realistically oppose the Chinese military, and Taiwan’s government has since reverted to upholding its military reserve system.

But though Taiwan’s 1.7 million reservists appear to form a formidable challenge to China’s roughly 2 million active military personnel, Taiwan’s forces largely exist only on paper. Its military currently only has 169,000 active military members and an estimated 300,000 combat-ready reservists, according to Wang Ting-yu of Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

The Taiwanese government was therefore quick to explore increasing training times for reservists after the outbreak of war in Ukraine, and in December 2022 lengthened conscription from four months to one year, bringing praise from the U.S. By boosting pay and training, the Taiwanese government hopes to bolster its forces and bring it closer to South Korea’s 18-month compulsory military service.

But China’s population of 1.4 billion dwarfs Taiwan’s mere 23 million, meaning additional Taiwanese conscription initiatives are futile if China resorts to additional conscription as well. Taiwan’s $19 billion defense budget also pales in comparison to the $230 billion spent by Beijing.

Washington’s hypothetical efforts to resupply the relatively isolated island of Taiwan during a conflict would meanwhile prove far more difficult than the ongoing Western effort to assist Ukraine. While stockpiling weapons could partially negate this issue, a prolonged conflict or blockade of Taiwan by China would steadily diminish Taiwan’s ability to continue fighting.

With the inherent disadvantages of the Taiwanese armed forces and the unwillingness of even the U.S. to officially commit to the island’s defense, Taiwan’s government has explored increasing engagement with the private sphere to ensure its security. The May 2023 U.S. contractors’ visit was just part of Taiwan’s recent efforts to increase engagement with both domestic and foreign private military firms.

Before the breakout of conflict in Ukraine in 2022, Taiwan had taken incremental steps toward greater privatization in its defense sector, such as privatizing the state aircraft manufacturer Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation in 2014.

However, the war in Ukraine completely altered the Taiwanese government’s view of private war. Russian private military and security companies (PMSCs) have been active in Ukraine since 2014, while the Russian PMSC known as Wagner has played an essential part in the war and in Russian propagandaVarious Western and Russian PMSCs are also fighting in Ukraine, while Chinese civilian drones have been used to great effect by both sides.

The Taiwanese government has since taken significant steps in engaging with Taiwan’s private sector to increase drone production. But more notable are the proposed changes to the Private Security Services Act, which regulates PMSCs operating in Taiwan, early into the war. Taipei has various types of private services to consider, such as those providing security, consulting, and training services, intelligence gathering, logistics support, and cyber and maritime security.

Enoch Wu, a politician from Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party and a former special operations soldier, founded the security and civilian defense organization Forward Alliance in 2020. Alongside programs to treat injuries and respond to crises, Forward Alliance’s combat training programs expanded significantly following the outbreak of war in Ukraine. The number of Taiwanese private programs run by various companies “specializing in urban warfare and firearms training” has also increased since the start of the war, according to Voice of America.

In September 2022, Taiwanese entrepreneur Robert Tsao pledged to spend $100 million training 3 million soldiers over three years in the Kuma Academy (also known as the Black Bear Academy). While his claims are ambitious, Russian billionaire Yevgeny Prigozhin’s financing of Wagner has already played an integral role in the war in Ukraine, at the same time drastically increasing his stature in Russia and notoriety abroad.

Due to its own limited industry, any Taiwanese effort to promote greater military cooperation with the private sphere would require Western assistance. The U.S. scrapped its mutual defense treaty with Taiwan in 1979 to normalize relations with China but the Taiwan Relations Act enables the U.S. to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, and privatization could make it easier for the West to support the Taiwanese military. Alongside weapons deals, Western PMSCs like G4S have been active in Taiwan for more than two decades and could quickly expand their operations on the island.

Greater cooperation with Western PMSCs may not be able to help Taiwan repel a Chinese assault. But they could complement Taiwanese military efforts to create a volunteer force modeled on Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Force and advocated by former Taiwanese defense chief Admiral Lee Hsi-min. The U.S. has explored developing guerilla forces in the Baltic States to harass Russian forces if they were to invade, and growing the multiple private initiatives already underway in Taiwan could form a powerful guerilla network that could remain active even if Taiwan’s military is forced to stand down.

But committing to privatization has its own consequences for Taiwan. The role of Chinese PMSCs abroad has grown significantly over the last few years, with an estimated 20 to 40 Chinese active largely to guard Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure projects. However, China’s 7,000-plus PSMCs operating domestically “suggests ample opportunity for the future growth of internationally active” Chinese firms according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. And, while Chinese law prohibits them from using force abroad except for defense, Beijing’s assertion that Taiwan is part of China’s territory could erode legal and political barriers to using them.

In recent years, China has also deputized maritime militias of fishing boats to swarm parts of the South China Sea and establish control over certain areas. By collaborating with Chinese PMSCs, these militias could even avoid Taiwan and surround the Kinmen, Matsu, or uninhabited Pratas islands. Although these islands are claimed by Taiwan, they are geographically closer to China. This could be justified on the grounds of economic interests or security concerns. The use of these fishing militias to harass Taiwan could make up for significant underdevelopment in Chinese PMSC capabilities and help China to avoid using its official military forces.

The scale of cooperation between the Taiwanese government and private military actors is so far limited. But Taiwan’s manpower shortages and lack of official military and diplomatic ties have made the prospect of private military assistance far more attractive. The lack of international regulations sustaining Taiwan’s recent increased engagement with the private military sphere, however, will further encourage China to respond in kind.

Ukrainian oligarchs had turned to PMSCs to protect their assets in Ukraine after 2014, while Ukraine has come to heavily lean on foreign PMSCs to supplement the war effort. Wagner and other Russian PMSCs have meanwhile grown in importance to Russian military efforts in Ukraine as well. The growing power of PMSCs in Ukraine, as well as worldwide, suggests further military privatization of the dispute over Taiwan may be inevitable.

Biden can be charming. But Beijing should be wary of sequels

President Vladimir Zelensky’s tour of Rome, Berlin and Paris has been a success, securing for Ukraine significant additional quantities of weaponry for the upcoming offensive against Russian forces. The high water mark was Germany’s announcement of a new package of military aid worth an estimated €2.7 billion, which will be the country’s largest delivery of arms to Ukraine. 

The German package includes 30 Leopard-1 A5 main battle tanks, four new IRIS-T SLM anti-aircraft rocket launchers, dozens of armoured personnel carriers and other combat vehicles, 18 self-propelled Howitzers and hundreds of unarmed recon drones. 

Zelensky said important decisions on “defending Ukrainian skies” were reached during talks in Italy on Saturday. In sum, Old Europe conveyed solidarity with Zelensky at a crucial juncture when all eyes are on the so-called Ukrainian offensive being the last throw of dice. 

Last week, Newsweek quoted Henry Kissinger predicting that he believes the Ukraine war is coming to a turning point and expects negotiations by the end of the year, thanks to recent efforts made by China. Kissinger said, “Now that China has entered the negotiation, it will come to a head, I think, by the end of the year. We will be talking about negotiating processes and even actual negotiations.”

Indeed, from all appearance, China has comprehensively outmanoeuvred the US over the Ukraine crisis. Last Friday, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson in Beijing announced that China’s special representative on Eurasian affairs, Li Hui, will visit Ukraine, Russia, Poland, France and Germany starting May 15 aimed at discussing a “political settlement” to the Ukraine crisis. Washington was not mentioned as part of Li’s itinerary, but Beijing instead prioritised the European capitals that have urged China to play a more active role in the Ukraine situation.

Meanwhile, by extending a warm welcome to Zelensky, Rome, Berlin and Paris have completely ignored the Top Secret US intelligence documents that have been recently leaked, which smeared the Ukrainian president as a maverick who says one thing publicly and an entirely different thing privately, who poses as moderate but in reality is an inveterate hawk escalating the war right into Russian territory, and so on. Apparently, European countries do not seem to go along with  Washington’s pressure tactic against Zelensky to escalate the war despite his grave reservations regarding Ukraine’s military preparedness.        

However, on a parallel track, there are also signs of Washington also reviewing its earlier rejection of Chinese mediation. David Ignatius at the Washington Post who has been plotting the shift, exudes optimism in his latest column  that the 10-hour long “intense meetings” spread over May 10-11 in Vienna between the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and China’s Politburo member Wang Yi “actually seemed to be creating a framework for constructive engagement.”

Ignatius estimates that “some shared space seems to have emerged during the long, detailed discussions between Sullivan and Wang… They appear to have found a language for superpower discussion, like what once existed between the United States and both Russia and China but has been lost.” 

On the other hand, Beijing has been betting that Germany, France and Italy who prioritise the recovery and growth prospects of their economies, hope to strengthen economic relations with China to bolster their economies — and are, therefore, inclined to pursue foreign policies that are different from the comparatively extreme policies of the US.

Indeed, French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Friday that Chinese group XTC New Energy Materials will set up a joint venture with France’s Orano in the battery sector in the northern French port city of Dunkirk for an expected investment of $1.63 billion. The venture is expected to create around 1,700 jobs.

That said, Ignatius is an influential columnist with a long record of transmitting the US establishment’s diplomatic signalling. At its most obvious level, his column today highlights a high level of keenness on the part of the Biden administration to engage with China regarding Ukraine, which could have fallouts for the US-China relationship.  

Also, the Biden Administration seems to be pinning hopes that by engaging with China, it can create differences between Beijing and Moscow and drive a wedge into the Sino-Russian alliance. Ignatius claims that Moscow viewed with “dread” the Sullivan-Wang cogitations in Vienna. 

The Biden Administration’s revised hypothesis is that China’s objectives and priorities in the Ukraine situation are basically at variance with the Kremlin’s and, therefore,  the smart thing to do is to abandon Washington’s outright rejection of Xi Jinping’s peace initiative on Ukraine or berate China’s support to Russia but instead position the US as a cooperative interlocutor on peacemaking and nudge Beijing to put pressure on Moscow to compromise.

Fundamentally, the assumption here is that Russia can still be isolated on the geopolitical chessboard. 

But the big question remains: Is the Biden Administration in a position to overcome the influential body of opinion in the US who also happen to be in alliance with top officials in Ukraine’s corridors of power?

Ivo Daalder, former US ambassador to NATO (in the Obama administration) and currently the president of the influential Chicago Council on Global Affairs, wrote a hard-hitting opinion piece today in Politico after a visit to Kiev that “Putin’s strategic failure will only be complete if Moscow comes to understand that Ukraine is permanently lost — lost physically, economically, politically and strategically. And ensuring that failure should be the ultimate objective — not just for Ukraine but for the West too.”

His thesis is that the strategic case for including Ukraine in the West goes to the core of the current conflict and any alternative would only prolong the conflict and pose new security challenges for the western alliance system. Now, how is such an integration to be achieved?

Daalder proposes: “Even without a formal end to the war, let alone real peace, the US and other NATO countries need to make clear that they’re committed to Ukraine’s security and that they will explore interim arrangements — just as they did for Finland and Sweden — until it becomes a full member.” 

While the media attention is on the commencement of the so-called counteroffensive by Kiev, the locus of the Ukraine conflict is shifting to the NATO Summit on July 11-12 in Vilnius, Lithuania,  which is less than two months from now, to which Zelensky has been invited.

Zelensky’s current European tour — he has been to Finland and the Netherlands also in recent weeks — can be seen as the run-up to the Vilnius summit. Simply put, the foreplay has begun. It is not the Ukrainian counteroffensive, stupid! Russia — and China — should expect some nasty surprises. 

A global balance needs China’s presence


by Refaat Badawi, from Lebanon for Xinhua

The visit of the Chinese envoy to Lebanon and Syria on April 28 is more than a diplomatic one. It seems that China has decided to get out of the position of an observer and engage in settling the region’s crises, with high confidence, after its historical achievement represented by the Tehran-Riyadh agreement and the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The deal, guaranteed by Beijing, constituted an essential breakthrough in the region, which was considered a monopoly of American influence for decades.

China, with its fair and balanced approach to ending the Iranian-Saudi dispute, its remarkable initiative to resolve the Ukraine crisis based on respect for the sovereignty of states under Security Council resolutions, and its intention to build the Belt and Road projects to link countries and work on the sustainable development of peoples, has proven that it is a balanced country that does not seek to dislodge America from its position and offend it. However, China wants concrete political, economic, and developmental participation, with various countries adopting a new multipolar world order rather than the unilateral, brutal American system based on monopoly, arrogance, imposing wills, and depriving peoples of benefiting from their wealth.

Here, the increasing Chinese role in a calm and balanced manner represented the most significant positive change in the world. With this renewed role, China and its balanced approach presented a new and reliable model in politics, economics, development, and culture, mainly since the declared Chinese principle relies on achieving security, stability, and growth on a win-win basis.

For example, America continues to impose unfair sanctions on Syria, which have deprived the Syrian people of the most basic life and noble human rights, after America intended to plunder the wealth of Syria and starve its people, as it did and still does in Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia and Venezuela, which claimed the lives of millions of the people of those countries.

As for China, it extended a helping hand to Syria when the latter faced the tragedy of the devastating earthquake. Furthermore, China has been championing respect for the sovereignty of every state, in addition to its continuous endeavor to solve the Palestinian issue and care for the rights of the Palestinian people following Security Council resolutions, compared to U.S. intransigence and arrogance.

The American policy of economic sanctions on countries that reject its dictates has made any U.S. administration a source of a permanent threat to the security, economy, and development of societies for most countries in the Middle East.

China did not threaten security in our country and did not draw up plans to divide Arab countries. China did not contribute to fueling sectarian strife and did not force some Gulf countries to finance terrorist organizations that were specially brought in to fragment our countries and our societies. China did not seek to destroy and obliterate the culture, civilization, and history of our Arab countries. It did not try to impose a culture of corruption and promote same-sex marriage in our country under the pretext of preserving human rights. China did not impose its blockade on Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, and Syria. It did not launch a blatant war on Afghanistan or declare war on Iraq for flimsy reasons that proved to the world that false allegations could have killed millions.

China did not occupy areas in northern Syria and did not contribute to the displacement of millions of Syrians and Iraqis. China did not sow chaos, corruption, hunger, and bankruptcy in Lebanon. It also never tried to obliterate the Palestinian cause and prevent the Palestinians from obtaining their legitimate rights. Finally, China did not seize wealth of our countries and others in Africa, like Libya, Sudan, and Somalia. Instead, America has done all of the above brutalities against humanity, outside the scope of norms, morals, and principles, and in flagrant violation of international law.

There is no doubt that the phone call between the Chinese and Ukrainian presidents was intended for China to search for effective exits to quell the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Yet, at the same time, America seeks with all its effort to fan the flames of the ongoing crisis without caring about the interests of Ukraine and the economic interests of its allies in European countries.

Today’s global confrontation has always been primarily economic, so liberation from dealing with the U.S. dollar has become necessary, and China and its active role with the BRICS countries can play a leading role in this field, in addition to the option of adopting the Chinese currency yuan in commercial transactions between countries.

Freedom, democracy, and human rights are no longer glamorous and believable American titles because, under those titles, America waged destructive wars and fragmented countries such as the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. It has been proven that America’s intentions are detrimental to our identity and Arab culture and civilization. America is a blatant example of misleading, lying, tyranny, and oppression of people. As for China, we can look at it with confidence as a fair and reliable partner politically and economically.

It is no exaggeration to say that the whole world today is in dire need of China’s positive presence, politically and economically, to restore the global balance which was disturbed as a result of the wrong policies of the United States of America and the loss of confidence in its reckless behavior, especially as China is gaining the trust of the people, who have always suffered from the tyranny and rule of the United States.

Editor’s note: Refaat Badawi is a political analyst and adviser to former Lebanese Prime Minister Salim al-Hoss.

Pakistan: CPEC’s Potential and Challenges for Baluchistan


The potential of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the rise of Gwadar Port are boons for Baluchistan’s economy. The residents of Gwadar are the primary stakeholders in this port city, and the establishment of the Gwadar Free Zones (North and South) is intended to transform Pakistan into an export-driven country. Beginning with trading metals such as copper and gold from Reko Diq, the export effort out of Gwadar Port is projected to strengthen Baluchistan’s socioeconomic situation significantly. I hope this will provide Baluchistan with a solid economic basis for future generations to build growth and prosperity.

The recent implementation of the e-Custom System is expected to transform Gwadar Port into a technically advanced, high-functioning port with cutting-edge facilities. Web-based One Custom (WeBOC) integration will facilitate commercial activity at the port, speeding up industrialization and logistical services. The introduction of vocational training programs in various engineering disciplines seeks to develop technical expertise in precision mechanics, instrument technology, and die and shape methods, thereby enhancing the trade’s technical side. As Gwadar evolves into an international metropolis, it will house several communities demanding laws to protect citizens’ political rights. These new initiatives will help Gwadar Port become an even more significant economic hub for the region’s economy.

The export of gold and copper from Reko Diq through the Gwadar Port has been a long-awaited development that promises to stimulate Pakistan’s economy. However, Barrick Gold Company’s engagement in the project raises questions about possible exploitation and profit-making at the expense of residents and the environment. With $7 billion to be invested in the mine over the next decade, the company’s proposal to invest $4 billion in the first four years and $3 billion in the subsequent six years appears optimistic. The Pakistani government is responsible for ensuring that the development is safe for the environment and that locals benefit pretty from it. Failure to do so could lead to further exploitation of the region, benefiting investors and harming the Baluchistan people.

Establishing Gwadar Free Zones was a crucial step in transforming Pakistan into an export-oriented country and enabling it to compete in international trade. To encourage economic development and attract international investment, free zones provide a duty-free setting where businesses may produce and export commodities. It should be noted, however, that the free zones provide the local markets with trade commodities and manufactured goods and function as a hub for exporting goods.

Therefore, the government must ensure the free zones’ economic advantages spread to the surrounding areas. Monitoring how manufacturing in the free zones affects the local environment is also essential. Gwadar’s free zones can boost economic growth and prosperity for the country, positioning it as a competitive competitor in global trade if properly administered.

The federal government’s efforts to provide Baluchistan’s youth with improved opportunities through the CPEC initiative are commendable. Investing in cutting-edge education and technological know-how is essential to the area’s growth. However, the government must ensure these initiatives are open to Gwadar and other areas in Baluchistan. While it is encouraging that resources have been set aside to establish technical training centers in Gwadar for precision mechanics and instrument technology, there must be ongoing work to keep these centers up-to-date and relevant. The government is also responsible for guaranteeing that people from all walks of life and of all genders have equal access to the centers’ educational and vocational programs. Baluchistan benefits significantly from these ongoing initiatives if they are carried out efficiently and successfully.

There appears to be agreement regarding the significance of CPEC for Pakistan’s economic development and its potential to advance regional connectivity. However, obstacles such as slow project completion, poor infrastructure, and political instability, among others, constitute an imminent risk to the initiative’s viability. Stresses the need to address environmental issues and ensure sustainable growth. Despite these difficulties, Pakistan dramatically benefits from the initiatives now underway, such as expanding the Gwadar Port and Free Zone, building the Gwadar International Airport, and creating special economic zones. Foreign investment, increased commerce, and new job creation are all possible outcomes of these endeavors. To take advantage of these chances, however, the government must take decisive action to counteract the region’s most pressing risks and safeguard the area’s long-term prosperity.

Navigating the Triangular Ties: India, China, and the United States


Despite the best efforts by the US to influence India to bring the country within its orbit of influence, it is unlikely that India will forsake its deep-rooted friendship with Russia. India is unlikely to forget repeated vetoes by the Soviet Union during the Bangladesh liberation war. The History of Indo-Russian Friendship is deep and spans many decades. Besides the basis of the relationship suits the strategic needs of both.


In a recent article in the Foreign Affairs magazine, Ashley Tellis( May 1 2023) pointed out that during the Bush and Obama administrations, U.S. ambitions centered largely on helping build India’s power in order to prevent China from dominating Asia. As U.S.-China relations steadily deteriorated during the Trump administration—when Sino-Indian relations hit rock bottom as well—Washington began to entertain the more expansive notion that its support for New Delhi would gradually induce India to play a greater military role in containing China’s growing power. There are reasons to believe it will not. One must also remember that during the UN-sponsored vote to criticize the Russian invasion of Ukraine India was one of the countries that abstained to criticize the Russian invasion. India took the position that the issue should be settled without further spilling of bloodshed.


BBC in its report of 3rd March 2022 stated that India had to walk a diplomatic tightrope over Ukraine as it tried to balance its ties with Moscow and the West. Delhi’s first statement in the UN Security Council (UNSC) did not name any country directly but it said it regretted that calls from the international community to give diplomacy and dialogue a chance had not been heeded.It, however, stopped short of criticizing Russia. And before the UNSC voted on a draft UN resolution to condemn the invasion, Delhi faced calls from Russia, the US, and Ukraine “to do the right thing”. Ukraine and Russia even issued public appeals for Delhi to take a clear stand. India chose to abstain from the vote but a careful reading of its statement suggests that it did go a step further and indirectly asked Moscow to respect international law. India talked about the importance of “the UN Charter, international law, and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states”, adding that “all member states need to honor these principles in finding a constructive way forward”. Reuter’s on September 28 2022 reported that India was articulating its position against the Ukraine war more robustly to counter criticism that it is soft on Russia, but it still has not held Moscow responsible for the invasion and will not alter its policy on importing cheap Russian oil and coal.

In their first in-person meeting since the Feb. 24 invasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told President Vladimir Putin that “today’s era is not an era of war ” – the clearest position New Delhi has taken on the conflict. India’s foreign minister followed up at the U.N. Security Council, describing the trajectory of the Ukraine war as “very concerning” and the risk of a nuclear escalation as of “particular anxiety”.New Delhi’s shift, even though nuanced, reflected concern about the growing economic costs of the conflict and how it would affect India. Russia’s first mobilization of troops since World War Two marks a major escalation of the conflict that has thrown markets into turmoil and threatens a global recession. Moreover, India is worried the war is pushing Russia closer to China, which has fraught relations with New Delhi.   India also hopes its more robust approach would help it meet criticism by Western allies that it is too close to Moscow.

US National Security Advisor and European Commission On Trade Relations With China 

Washington Post(05-01-23)  reported that the US National Security Advisor Jack Sullivan acknowledged the fact that, despite the growing tensions and confrontation with China, trade between the two countries remains robust and reached record levels last year. And he echoed the rhetoric of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who has spoken of “de-risking” Europe’s supply chains from overexposure to China rather than fully “decoupling” from what, by some indicators, is already the world’s largest economy. The United States’ moves to curb trade with China in goods that could boost Beijing’s artificial intelligence and tech prowess are, in Sullivan’s framing, an exception rather than the norm. The world has to be aware of the Sino-Russian entente versus democracy practised mostly by the Western powers and also by emerging powers like India. The Sino-Russian compact would like to demonstrate that an illiberal system can deliver essential goods to the needy far more quickly than liberal democracies can. China has attracted many developing countries through its Road and Bridge Initiative.

Xi-Jinping and The Belt & Road Initiative Of China

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, known within China as the One Belt One Road or OBOR for short)is a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013 to invest in more than 150 countries and international organizations. It is considered a centerpiece of the Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s foreign policy.  The BRI forms a central component of Xi’s “Major Country Diplomacy” strategy, which calls for China to assume a greater leadership role in global affairs in accordance with its rising power and status. It has been compared to the American Marshall Plan. As of January 2023, 151 countries were listed as having signed up to the BRI. The participating countries include almost 75% of the world’s population and account for more than half of the world’s GDP. The Chinese government calls the initiative “a bid to enhance regional connectivity and embrace a brighter future.”The project has a target completion date of 2049, which will coincide with the centennial of the People’s Republic of China (PRC)’s founding. According to British consultants,  BRI is likely to increase the world GDP by $7.1 trillion per annum by 2040, and that benefits will be “widespread” as improved infrastructure reduces “frictions that hold back world trade”.

Supporters praise the BRI for its potential to boost the global GDP, particularly in developing countries. However, there has also been criticism over human rights violations and environmental impact, as well as concerns about debt-trap diplomacy. The Belt and Road Initiative addresses an “infrastructure gap” and thus has the potential to accelerate economic growth across the Asia Pacific, Africa, and Central and Eastern Europe. A report from the World Pension Council estimates that Asia, excluding China, requires up to US$900 billion of infrastructure investments per year over the next decade, mostly in debt instruments, 50% above current infrastructure spending rates. 

The gaping need for long-term capital explains why many Asian and Eastern European heads of state “gladly expressed their interest to join this new international financial institution focusing solely on ‘real assets’ and infrastructure-driven economic growth”.(WIKIPEDIA).  Already, some estimates list the Belt and Road Initiative as one of the largest infrastructures and investment projects in history, covering more than 68 countries, including 65% of the world’s population and 40% of the global gross domestic product as of 2017.  Development of the Renminbi as a currency of international transactions, development of the infrastructures of Asian countries, strengthening diplomatic relations whilst reducing dependency on the US and creating new markets for Chinese products, exporting surplus industrial capacity, and integrating commodities-rich countries more closely into the Chinese economy are all objectives of the BRI.While some countries, especially the United States, view the project critically because of possible Chinese influence, others point to the creation of a new global growth engine by connecting and moving Asia, Europe, and Africa closer together.

In the maritime silk road, which is already the route for more than half of all containers in the world, Deepwater ports are being expanded, logistical hubs are being built and new traffic routes are being created in the hinterland. The maritime silk road runs with its connections from the Chinese coast to the south, linking Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Jakarta.  All in all, the ship connections for container transports between Asia and Europe will be reorganized. Experts have compared the initiative to the post-World War II Marshall Plan.

Despite the apprehension expressed by e.g. Donald Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence warning developing countries of the debt trap by China many of these countries have embraced Chinese offer mainly because they lack funds for infrastructural development which they need badly. In short, the fear of a debt trap or not many developing countries are expected to sign up with China for the immediate gain they will receive through this alliance. 

China and Myanmar Strengthen Ties Through Increased Cooperation Across Multiple Industries


China and Myanmar have agreed to deepen cooperation in various fields so as to promote the continuous development of the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries.

At a meeting with Myanmar’s Union Minister for Foreign Affairs Than Swe here on Tuesday, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang said viewing its good-neighborly relations with Myanmar from a strategic perspective, China is willing to work with Myanmar to implement the important achievements during the Chinese leader’s visit to Myanmar.

China respects Myanmar’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and firmly supports Myanmar in maintaining independence and political stability and achieving sustainable development, said the Chinese foreign minister.

China also supports Myanmar in exploring a development path with Myanmar characteristics that suits its national conditions and steadily advancing its political transition process, he said.

Qin said China is willing to strengthen communication with ministries and localities of Myanmar, and expand cooperation in agriculture, border trade and other fields, while strengthening support for Myanmar’s economic development by focusing on the construction of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor.

In addition, the Chinese side will implement its aid projects in Myanmar to support the Myanmar side in improving people’s livelihood, and both sides should enhance people-to-people exchanges and deepen cultural heritage protection and religious exchanges, he said.

China is also willing to work with Myanmar and Bangladesh to promote the construction of the China-Myanmar-Bangladesh economic corridor, he added.

For his part, Than Swe said Myanmar firmly adheres to the one-China policy, supports China’s Global Development Initiative, Global Security Initiative and Global Civilization Initiative, and strongly supports China on issues concerning its core interests.

Myanmar is looking forward to working with China to deepen cooperation in such areas as agriculture, transportation, energy and connectivity, actively push forward landmark projects of the Myanmar-China Economic Corridor and implement more livelihood projects to benefit the two peoples, he said.

Myanmar is ready to work with China to safeguard security and stability in the border areas, and to promote the China-Myanmar-Bangladesh economic corridor with China and Bangladesh, he added.

Understanding the Controversy and Legality of ‘Overseas Police Stations’


The apprehension of two men in New York on April 16, 2023, marked the first known U.S. arrests in connection with Chinese overseas police stations. Both men were working in a building in Manhattan’s Chinatown rented by the America ChangLe Association, a charity that had its tax-exempt status revoked in May 2022. More Chinese police stations are believed to be operating across the U.S.—though, like in other countries, not all their locations are known.

While foreign intelligence agencies conduct extensive espionage operations in other countries, domestic law enforcement agencies are also occasionally active abroad. The FBI trained many Latin American police units throughout the Cold War and has been covertly active in the region for decades. In 2020, Russia also offered to send a police force to Belarus during mass protests against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who blamed the West for trying to foment a color revolution.

However, the scale of China’s international program and the scope of its responsibilities is notable. Run primarily by ethnic Chinese residents, the main concern of these stations appears to be managing the more than 10.5 million Chinese citizens living overseas, and to a lesser extent the 35 to 60 million people in the Chinese diaspora. The considerable size of Chinese overseas communities has allowed Beijing to field an extensive global presence through these stations.

China’s first known use of these stations occurred in 2004 with the establishment of the Community and Police Cooperation Center in Johannesburg, following several attacks on Chinese citizens and businesses. The center opened with the blessing of the South African government, and more than a dozen have since opened in the country. As in other countries, they help Chinese citizens obtain documents, assist in criminal matters, integrate into the country, as well as offer “security, fire, and ambulance teams.” The Chinese government maintains that they are not police stations but instead function as “service centers.”

Two reports, released in September and December 2022 by the human rights organization Safeguard Defenders, indicated that there are now more than 100 overseas Chinese stations active in more than 50 countries. Managed by China’s Ministry of Public Security, the stations are operated by police agencies from three Chinese provinces (Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Fujian) and are divided into centers, which are greater in scale, and liaisons, which have a lower profile but are more numerous.

Though the stations had previously drawn little attention, the reports have made Western countries far more wary of them in the context of intensifying geopolitical tensions with China over the last few years. There are also fears that the stations act as part of China’s United Front system to build political, economic, and cultural connections to influence other countries.

The stations have also brought increased Western attention due to their role in convincing Chinese citizens to return to China to face legal charges. Now known as Operation Fox Hunt, Safeguard Defenders estimates that from April 2021 to July 2022, 230,000 Chinese citizens were persuaded or coerced into returning to China, with China’s Ministry of Public Security itself stating that 210,000 citizens returned in 2021. Western officials had already criticized China for abusing Interpol’s Red Notice system to arrest and extradite citizens abroad for political purposes, while Operation Fox Hunt has allowed Chinese officials to bypass Interpol and deal directly with its own citizens.

Interrupting the ability of China to carry out this program is increasingly becoming a domestic security priority for the U.S. But the two men who were arrested in New York appear to be both U.S. and Chinese citizens, and the incident has become the latest attempt by Chinese and Western authorities to exert authority over each other’s citizens, as well as dual citizens.

Several dual Chinese/U.S. citizens were prevented from leaving China in 2017 and 2018 in an apparent effort to convince their family members living in the U.S. to return to China. Meanwhile in 2018, Meng Wanzhou, a Chinese national and CFO of Huawei, was placed under house arrest in Canada to await extradition to the U.S. for fraud. In response, two Canadian businessmen in China were also detained and prevented from leaving, based on espionage allegations. All were released in 2021, with Chinese and U.S. authorities denying any connection between them.

The U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with China, while the few European countries that do have taken steps to reduce China’s ability to enforce it in recent months. While Chinese officials have demonstrated their willingness to detain dual citizens in China, the overseas stations allow Chinese officers to locate and contact citizens living abroad directly. Through harassment, intimidation, and coercion, Beijing has bypassed formal extradition methods and quietly convinced hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens to return home.

Beijing’s approach to dealing with wanted citizens abroad contrasts with techniques employed by other countries. Many, including the U.S.Russia, and Iran, have used military, intelligence, or organized crime assets to assassinate citizens opposed to the governments. Iran is also known to have resorted to kidnapping to bring citizens back to the country, though this has also generated significant attention.

The role of these stations in advancing Chinese interests and extraditing Chinese citizens has naturally caused concern in the West. Yet until the 2022 Safeguard Defenders reports, the Western response had been somewhat slow. Only after the scale of the stations became public knowledge did Western officials take substantial steps to clamp down on them. FBI director Christopher Wray stated in September 2022 that he was “looking into the legal parameters” of the stations, and the Manhattan station was raided by the agency in October.

More than a dozen other countries have also launched probes against the stations in recent months, and other countries have significantly scaled back their cooperation with them. The growth in the number of Chinese tourists traveling abroad previously incentivized many governments to facilitate cooperation with Chinese police forces, for example, and Chinese police officers were formerly permitted to assist Chinese tourists visiting Italian cities. But this decision was reversed in December 2022, while Croatia is under similar pressure to restrict Chinese tourist assistance police patrols in its cities. Other restrictive measures in the U.S. and Europe are likely to be introduced.

Western officials, however, have so far refrained from bringing too much attention to the centers. Allegations of McCarthyism and racial profiling could cause social unrest and provide Beijing with evidence of hostile Western intent toward overseas Chinese communities. Additionally, acknowledging the existence of covert Chinese officials operating across the West would publicly undermine the sanctity of Western sovereignty and reinforce perceptions of China’s growing power in international affairs.

The stations, nonetheless, are destined to remain a sticking point in the Western-Chinese relationship. Operation Fox Hunt reveals that not even the U.S. has been able to protect dual citizens or those seeking asylum on its own soil. Though Chinese officials will likely have to act even more discreetly for some of their overseas operations, U.S. officials have yet to locate where all these stations are. And even if they are found, the Chinese government has traditionally cultivated close ties with overseas Chinese communities and has additional avenues to project influence.

Despite Western countries’ increasing concern with the stations, other countries which host them appear unperturbed and will continue to cooperate with China for a variety of reasons. In 2019, Chinese police officers began patrolling several Serbian cities alongside Serbian police forces to assist Chinese tourists. Additionally, Chinese police officers have worked out of an office in Cambodia’s national police headquarters since 2019 to manage Chinese citizens suspected of being involved in crime. Chinese police and security forces have also drastically increased their cooperation with their Latin American counterparts over the last decade to “speed up the signing process of treaties concerning judicial assistance in criminal matters, and expand cooperation in such areas as fighting crimes, fugitive repatriation and asset recovery,” according to the Chinese government.

In February 2023, China also unveiled its Global Security Initiative to enhance training and cooperation with developing countries’ security forces. And because Chinese stations do act as legitimate centers aimed to help Chinese citizens abroad, countries with good relations with China and existing and growing Chinese immigrant and worker communities will likely allow further expansion for Chinese overseas stations.

The stations will continue to evolve to suit the environment of their host countries. Their ongoing operations show the increasingly sophisticated ways China aims to aid its citizens abroad, convince others to return home, and extend its cooperation agreements and influence activities around the world.

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