A Strategic Seaport – Is Pakistan Key to China’s Energy Supremacy?

By Syed Fazl-e-Haider

A seaport in southwest Pakistan may hold the key to China’s energy supremacy. At least, that’s what China hopes. The Gwadar port, which China has built and will operate in the province of Balochistan, is situated near the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil-shipping lane that can serve as an energy corridor from western China through Pakistan to the Persian Gulf.

Beijing’s pivot to Pakistan is a substantial one. The story goes back to 2008, when Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf proposed a railroad and an oil pipeline to link Gwadar to the Kashi port in Xinjiang—allowing China to take advantage of the shortest possible route to the Middle East. In exchange, Pakistan would get an influx of Chinese investment. Indeed, in 2014, the Chinese government committed to spending $45.6 billion over the next six years to build the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor, which will include the construction of highways, railways, and natural gas and oil pipelines connecting China to the Middle East. China’s stake in Gwadar will also allow it to expand its influence in the Indian Ocean, a vital route for oil transportation between the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Another advantage to China is that it will be able to bypass the Strait of Malacca. As of now, 60 percent of China’s imported oil comes from the Middle East, and 80 percent of that is transported to China through this strait, the dangerous, piracy-rife maritime route through the South China, East China, and Yellow Seas.

The United States fears that China will come out of its dealings with Pakistan with more power. But it need not be worried: China’s involvement in Balochistan, a restive area prone to insurgencies, will not end well. Many believe Quetta, Balochistan’s capital, is hiding wanted leaders from the Afghan Taliban. Meanwhile, small towns in Balochistan are the breeding grounds for a decades-old separatist movement targeting federal agencies. Increasingly, China has been caught up in the violence. In 2004, three Chinese engineers were killed and nine wounded when separatists attacked their van in Gwadar. In 2009, China shelved its $12 billion plans to build an oil refinery and an oil city in Gwadar due to security concerns.

China’s involvement in the region’s politics can only be bad news. In 2012, U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher introduced a resolution that asked the United States to support Baloch separatists as freedom fighters. The resolution was tabled, but if the United States ever does decide to involve itself in the conflict, China’s strategic interests will be at risk.

Read more » Foreign Affairs
See more » http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/143227/syed-fazl-e-haider/a-strategic-seaport

Russia’s ‘Dark’ Warplanes Are Spooking Europe

Russian military aircraft with their transponders turned off have had several close calls with civilian planes

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Two Russian bombers, flying with their transponders turned off to avoid detection, swooped so close to the Irish coast that Dublin’s control tower delayed the takeoff of one passenger plane and ordered another to alter its route to steer clear of the bombers. The Feb. 18 incident, disclosed last week by the Irish government, was only the latest in an alarming series of close calls with Russian warplanes in the skies over Europe.

In December, a Russian military intelligence plane nearly collided with an SAS passenger jet over southern Sweden, according to the Swedish air force chief. Earlier in the year, a Russian plane flew close to another SAS jet that had just taken off from Copenhagen. Russia has denied that its aircraft were dangerously close to either plane.

Over the past year, Russian military aircraft have probed and sometimes violated the borders of European nations’ airspace more than 100 times, according to NATO. In most of these instances the Russians have turned off their transponders, electronic devices that commercial jets are required to use to make it easy to track them. Operating without the devices, known as “flying dark,” poses a serious risk to civilian air traffic, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a press conference in December.

Read more » Bloomberg
See more » http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-09/russia-s-dark-warplanes-are-spooking-europe?hootPostID=376535ce1bcfd0c34becbd39be56022d

Corporations are destroying human society, global culture and the environment. – Howard Zinn

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Global banks: A world of pain – The giants of global finance are in trouble

New York: ONLY pop music and pornography embraced globalisation more keenly than banks did. Since the 1990s three kinds of international firm have emerged. Investment banks such as Goldman Sachs deal in securities and cater to the rich from a handful of financial hubs such as Hong Kong and Singapore. A few banks, such as Spain’s Santander, have “gone native”, establishing a deep retail-banking presence in multiple countries. But the most popular approach is the “global network bank”: a jack of all trades, lending to and shifting money for multinationals in scores of countries, and in some places acting like a universal bank doing everything from bond-trading to car loans. The names of the biggest half-dozen such firms adorn skyscrapers all over the world.

This model of the global bank had a reasonable crisis in 2008-09: only Citigroup required a full-scale bail out. Yet it is now in deep trouble. In recent weeks Jamie Dimon, the boss of JPMorgan Chase, has been forced to field questions about breaking up his bank. Stuart Gulliver, the head of HSBC, has abandoned the financial targets that he set upon taking the job in 2011. Citigroup is awaiting the results of its annual exam from the Federal Reserve. If it fails, calls for a mercy killing will be deafening (see next story). Deutsche Bank is likely to shrink further. Standard Chartered, which operates in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, is parting company with its longstanding boss, Peter Sands.

Read more » The Economist
See more » http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21645807-giants-global-finance-are-trouble-world-pain