Sunday, June 14, 2015

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China confirms test of new hypersonic strike vehicle 'Wu-14'

The Chinese Defense Ministry confirmed the fourth test of a hypersonic nuclear delivery vehicle, which the US called an “extreme maneuver,” amid rising tensions between the two powers in the South China Sea.
The test of the hypersonic glide vehicle, which the US has dubbed the “WU-14”, was carried out on June 7 and is the missile’s fourth test in 18 months.
"The scheduled scientific research and experiments in our territory is normal, and those tests are not targeted at any country and specific goals," the ministry said in response to a report published on Thursday by the Free Beacon.
The strategic strike weapon is extremely advanced and can travel at 10 times the speed of sound, or 12,231.01kph.
US missile defenses can only counter ballistic missiles and warheads that have predictable trajectories. The Wu-14 is capable of maneuvering during flight while travelling at the edge of space, and so is extremely difficult to shoot down.
US intelligence officials have called the tests“extreme maneuvers,” but experts say the timing of the test launch was designed to coincide with a visit to Washington by Fan Changlong, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission.
Fan will visit the US for a week and the launch was timed to increase his “bargaining power [at] the negotiating table when he deals with his US counterpart,” Macau-based military observer Antony Wong told the South China Post.
Fan held talks with US Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Friday. The disputed islands in the South China Sea were top of their agenda, according to Chinese state media.
The US thinks China is acting aggressively in the South China Sea and Carter “called on China and all claimants to implement a lasting halt on land reclamation, cease further militarization, and pursue a peaceful resolution of territorial disputes in accordance with international law,” the Pentagon said in a statement on the meeting.
China maintains most of the South China Sea is its own, but there are overlapping claims with the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.
China recently built artificial islands in areas over which the Philippines and other countries also have claims. Both the Philippines and Japan have opposed China’s attempts to reclaim land in the South China Sea.
Hawks in Congress said Fan’s visit to the US should have been canceled, because of recent reports of US government computer networks being hacked by the Chinese military.
The WU-14’s test flight was also interpreted by some military analysts in China as a response to a flight over the South China Sea by a US spy plane last month.
But the analysts also stressed the WU-14 is primarily a defensive and not an offensive weapon, although it is capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
“The Wu-14 … is designed to penetrate US missile defense systems, meaning the PLA is capable of defending China’s territorial sovereignty. But such a test is only a nuclear deterrent. Neither China nor the US wants to declare war over the South China Sea issues,” said Professor He Qisong, a defense policy specialist at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.

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Pakistan - Agricultural Downfall

At a recently held meeting the World Food Programme (WFP) Director informed Pakistan’s Ministry of Climate Change that rapidly changing weather patterns are posing serious threats to the farmer’s ability to grow more crops. With a promise to conduct a study that assesses climatic risks and food security, the meeting ended with the head of the ministry, Senator Mushahidullah Khan, recognising that the agricultural sector is under threat. With the majority of farmers already abandoning their profession, and shifting with much struggle to other sources of livelihood, the question that one must ask is if this occupation is one, that has been essential in making up the backbone of the economy, why isn’t the government being more persistent about catering to their needs?

In a country where the principle natural resources are land and water and where 21% of the GDP and 43% of the work force is directly or indirectly associated with agriculture, it is absurd to be taking this lightly. 67 percent of Pakistan’s population lives in rural areas and depends mainly on agriculture, and about 32 percent of the population lives below the poverty level. What is additionally alarming is that even with the depleting figures, where yield productions are substantially lower than the world average, the consumption of fertiliser per hectare in Pakistan, is higher. It is said that to bring about a one percent increase in crop productivity across Pakistan, an additional 0.47 billion cubic metre of water is required. Under the current problems that Pakistan is suffering through, including soil degradation, depletion of water resources, mismanagement of irrigation systems, the distribution of the land holdings and poor farming practices, it is highly unlikely that we as country will have an good future where agriculture is concerned. It is high time that the government, other than manifesting an image of their success through metro buses and laptops, fund projects that can aid irrigation systems, electricity supply and early warning systems for climate change.

China, Pakistan CPEC Agreement Complicates Geopolitics

By: Christopher Morris 

As the diplomatic relationship between China and the United States continues to evolve, the East Asian nation also has reason to cosy up to Pakistan. In recent months, the government of Pakistan have made certain decisions which have inevitably led to the country being drawn further into China's geopolitical attention.

China-Pakistan CPEC Agreement

Traditionally, China and Pakistan have had a relatively profitable relationship. For over half a century, diplomatic relations between the two countries were pretty warm and friendly. However, the recent unveiling of the 2,900 km China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) during a visit to Pakistan by Chinese President Xi Jinping has had a significantly positive influence over the relationship.
The project in question is worth $46 billion, and involved as part of its remit is the construction of roads, railroads and power plants. This is an extremely broad-based infrastructure project, which will take 15 years to complete. Although this was a particularly significant landmark in Pakistan-China relations, it can also be seen in the wider context of numerous other agreements in the fields of military, energy and infrastructure in particular.
CPEC is one of numerous bilateral agreements being initiated in the world at the moment which is of geostrategic importance. CPEC is also buttressed by some earlier agreements between the two nations, ensuring that its qualitative importance is increased. In April of this year, China was granted operation rights to the port of Gwadar on the Indian Ocean, in a strategically important location of the heart of the Persian Gulf. In exchange for this privilege, Beijing is later expected by analysts to invest over $1.5 billion in the region.

CPEC to offer China economic benefits

Gwadar will be the point at which the CPEC project begins, and winds its way down to Kashgar in Western China. This will be extremely beneficial for the oil requirements of China, as once the CPEC project is operational and the port comes into the auspices of the East Asian country, it will be able to transport a significant amount of oil through the port. Naturally this will help meet the energy requirements of the world's most populous nation, but it will also serve the vital purpose of saving billions of dollars, not to mention precious time and manpower. It has also been noted by observers of the region that China will now be able to circumnavigate the potentially vulnerable Malacca Strait.
In short, Gwadar will rapidly play an extremely important role in China's land and maritime operation, with the East Asian nation also expected to utilize it for silk exportation and importation. This new network will link China to central Asia and beyond, and will become of critical economic importance to the rapidly industrializing nation.
Another vital aspect of the CPEC project to note is that although Gwadar is being constructed as a commercial port, in the future it could be possible to develop it into a naval facility. This would unquestionably lead to maritime competition in the Indian Ocean.

CPEC complicates China-India relations

Although China has been an obvious beneficiary of this agreement, it is pretty obvious that Pakistan would not enter into it without gaining something in return. Thus, another rather less publicized aspect of this CPEC arrangement has been the Asian subcontinental nation’s purchase of eight diesel-powered attack submarines. Although this conjures up images of nuclear weapons, it is important to emphasize that these are conventionally harmed, but it nonetheless represents Pakistan upping the ante of its military provisions.
Once Pakistan has purchased these submarines, then serious complications would result in any attempt of India to blockade Karachi or Gwadar. The sale would further cement China as Pakistan’s principal arms provider, and complicate its relationship with the Asian subcontinent.
The immediate economic benefits for China are obvious; Pakistan is already the destination of 60 percent of Chinese arms sales. But the obvious tension between India and Pakistan, and the fact that China had previously forged a favorable relationship with China, will complicate the diplomatic position of this nation of over one-billion people.
China has been happy to welcome India into the BRICS grouping of nations, but it may be increasingly indifferent about the prospects of India considering its recent economic malaise. China quite obviously benefits from a close and bilateral relationship with Russia, but with India desperately struggling against its huge economic, demographic and infrastructure issues, it could be that China now views this relationship as less beneficial than it once was.

The geopolitical implications of CPEC

Meanwhile, China's interest in deepening involvement with Pakistan is neither new nor particularly difficult to understand. With the United States having ended official military operations in Afghanistan in 2015, its interest in the region has declined somewhat, and China has effectively stepped into the vacuum created by America's diminishing interest in Pakistan and the Asian subcontinent.
Thus, the East Asian nation has increased its long-term economic and strategic interest in Pakistan with the aim of strengthening its position in the world. In accordance with this overall strategy, China's political leaders have been prepared to invest in Pakistani infrastructure, a decision which has obviously met with approval in the country that has struggled with economic and terrorism-related issues in recent years. The question which would obviously arise for policymakers in Washington is how this project will affect American interests in the region.
The completion of this CPEC project would also enable China to link up with its significant economic and oil interests in neighboring Afghanistan. It is thus of interest that the former Afghanistan president, Hamid Karzai, has recently explicitly warned China and Russia of dangers emanating from ISIS involvement in Afghanistan. It could be that China is moving to cement its interest in the region at the moment with the CPEC project, while one can also see Afghanistan being a significant theater of conflict in the future between the Anglo-American old word order and the new BRIC-based superpowers.
Thus, the CPEC project may not be particularly common knowledge in the Western world at the moment, but it will almost inevitably play a role in a wide variety of geopolitical issues that will play out on the world stage in the coming years.

Pakistan suspends move to shut down foreign charity, says leaked letter

Pakistan's government has suspended an order to shut down the offices of Save the Children, a government letter leaked on Sunday said, after international donors raised concerns over the interior minister's pledge to clamp down on aid organisations.
Pakistani police padlocked the offices of international aid group Save the Children on Thursday evening. The following day, the interior minister accused some charities of breaking Pakistani laws and said they would be shut down.
He did not specify which groups or laws he was referring to.
The promised crackdown led to a rare public rebuke to Pakistan by the U.S. State Department and underlined the difficulties many foreigners face while working in Pakistan, a nation of 180 million people plagued by poverty and militancy.
Diplomats and foreign aid workers face severe restrictions on movement and are sometimes accused of using their work as a cover for espionage.
Save the Children said it had received no official communication over the decision to shut the charity's offices or whether the decision was subsequently reversed.
"Save the Children is not officially aware of any such communication (regarding) re-opening of its offices in Pakistan," a spokesman in Pakistan said in a statement Sunday.
The government letter, seen by Reuters, dated June 12 and marked "confidential", offered scant detail.
"The action on above letter may be held in abeyance until further orders," it read, referring to a previous letter saying Save the Children's offices should be shut.
Save the Children has worked in Pakistan for over 35 years. In 2011, it was linked to a Pakistani doctor recruited by the CIA to help in the hunt that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.
Save the Children's foreign staff were expelled from
Pakistan soon after the accusations surfaced, but more than
1,000 local staff continued to operate. The charity has always denied any link to the doctor or the CIA.

Pakistan reverses decision to close Save the Children charity

Pakistan has suspended moves to close the national branch of the charity Save the Children.
The move by the interior ministry comes days after the charity's main office in the capital Islamabad was shut down by police.
No formal reason was given for the action and there has been no official comment on the reversal.
Officials have previously accused the charity of involvement in "anti-state activities".
Pakistan had linked the charity to a fake vaccination programme used by the CIA to track down Osama Bin Laden.
Save the Children has always denied being involved with the CIA or Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi, who carried out the programme.

'Foreign funding'

A Save the Children spokesperson told the BBC on Sunday that the charity welcomed the government's decision.
About 1,200 Pakistanis work for Save the Children, but no foreign staff have been in the country for the past 18 months.
Speaking after the charity's offices were shut last Thursday, Pakistan Interior Minister Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan said NGOs were operating beyond their remit with backing from US, Israel and India.
He said local NGOs that used foreign funding to implement a foreign agenda in Pakistan "should be scared".
Save the Children said at the time it "strongly objected" to the closure and it was "raising serious concerns at the highest levels".
The US State Department also expressed concern over the closure.