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BRI is 21st century neo-colonialism with ‘CCP characteristics

China’s Belt and Road Initiative essentially involves using CCP’s foreign reserves to provide
loans for projects, executed by firms nominated by Beijing.

Ashish Singh

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One peculiar feature which defines hegemonic powers is their tendency to view the world as a “zero-sum game”, through a single prism of confrontation. A recent piece in Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) mouthpiece Global Times titled “BRI shouldn’t be the geopolitical motivation behind India’s overseas plan” depicts this tendency, wherein cooperation between two sovereign countries is analysed in context of CCP’s schemes. However, this is not surprising given that President Xi Jinping has already declared his “Chinese dream”, where Beijing takes the “centre stage in the world”.

 In its desire to reshape the world around the “Middle Kingdom”, CCP has adopted BRI as the tool to achieve its geostrategic goals. The BRI’s importance in Xi’s foreign policy can be gauged by the fact that BRI has now been included into the Chinese Communist Party’s constitution. While Beijing projects BRI as a benign project with “shared interests” and “shared growth” through “discussion and collaboration”, a closer look at the financial aspects reveals its one-sided nature. In the footsteps of earlier colonial powers, the CCP has drawn a leaf from their playbook, and is using trade as the stepping stone for global domination. BRI essentially involves using CCP’s foreign reserves to provide loans for projects, executed by firms nominated by Beijing, utilising their over-capacities and cheap (and sometime criminal) labour.

 Further, the CCP issues loans at commercial interest rates—rather than Grant Aid—to finance these projects. RWR Advisory, a Washington-based consultancy, assesses that total lending under the BRI scheme towards transport and energy projects from the Horn of Africa to Central Asia since 2013 is a staggering $461 billion. These opaque loans, with inflated costs and questionable viability, have resulted in mostly half-finished projects, drowning the host countries with huge debts. With its high debt and minuscule foreign investment, Chinese investments do not make any economic sense and Sri Lanka has been one of the most prominent victims of this ‘debt trap’. Debt accrued from development of a deep-water port at Hambantota finally led to CCP getting ownership for 99 years. The CCP is also funding a high-speed rail line in Laos which costs nearly half the country’s GDP—a financial catastrophe for a country with an already high existing debt burden. 

Almost seven years after CPEC was established, less than one-third of announced projects have been completed, entrapped by challenges of security and financial viability. Through CPEC, the flagship project of BRI, Pakistan is also slowly but surely being transformed into a vassal state of Beijing. With debts piling up, further exacerbated by sale of sub-standard military equipment by Beijing, Pakistan finds itself stuck between the proverbial devil and the deep sea. Puppet PM Imran Khan is running pillar to post from IMF to the World Bank for additional loans just to fulfil existing interest payment obligations. John Dobson, a former British diplomat, has also famously described BRI as “Belt and Debt Initiative—the “Belt” is the constraint on sovereignty of the indebted country, while the “Road” leads them to a “Debt trap”. It is but evident that the CCP is using BRI as a tool to spread its sphere of influence through a form of 21st century “Neo-colonialism with Chinese characteristics”. While re-negotiating a BRI-funded $23 billion rail and pipeline deal in 2018, Malaysia’s ex-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed also warned that BRI had become a ‘new version of colonialism’. 

The CCP and its subsidiaries have already lent around $1.5 trillion to over 150 countries in the form of direct loans, making CCP the world’s biggest lender— bigger than even the World Bank or the IMF. There are also allegations of internal political interference by Beijing—in turn influencing the foreign policy of these countries. The opaque procedure through which loans have been taken and projects have been accorded clearly indicates undue haste and compromises. Today, most of these countries have the highest debt burdens in the world. The Centre for Global Development has also reported that eight BRI recipient countries, including Pakistan and Maldives, are at highest risk of debt distress and loss of sovereignty due to equity swap. 

Wuhan-originated Covid-19 with its associated economic woes has further exacerbated the problems associated with debt re-payment. As BRI debt countries with limited finances struggle to provide economic relief to their beleaguered citizens, there is significant public pushback against BRI projects. In May this year, Nigerian legislators voted to review all loans for BRI projects amid concerns that financing may have been agreed on extremely unfavourable terms. African leaders have called for emergency debtforgiveness from sovereign creditors including from the CCP-BRI projects are owed about $8billion this year in re-payments on $145 billion in loans to African countries.

 “As Chinese companies push deeper into emerging markets, inadequate enforcement and poor business practices are turning the BRI into a global trail of trouble,” writes Jonathan Hillman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, to underscore the BRI’s effect on Africa. A long list of CCP’s companies have also been debarred from the World Bank and other multilateral development banks for fraud and corruption, which covers everything from inflating costs to bribes. In February this year, Egypt indefinitely postponed BRI-funded construction of what was to be the world’s secondlargest coal-fired power plant, at Hamrawein. In March, Bangladesh cancelled a BRI-funded project for a coal plant at Gazaria. In April, Pakistan sought easier repayment terms on $30 billion worth of CPEC power projects, and the list goes on.

 India has been arguing for many years that the implications of BRI in general, and CPEC in particular are worrying, not just for India, but for the wider world. BRI is not a mechanism for globalisation, rather a feint for CCP’s agenda for global dominance, control, penetration and resource extraction. However, due to its lack of transparency and domestic oversight, BRI has now spread wide and thin— cracking and crumbling under its own huge debts. The world has also realised that economic seduction cannot be an alternative to sovereign freedom—the freedom to choose development and democracy over autocracy.

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Defence

‘ARMY CAN MEET ANY CHALLENGE TO SAFEGUARD COUNTRY’

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The Army is fully prepared to meet any challenge like the use of drones and social media by adversaries to safeguard the country, said Commandant of Chennai-based Officers Training Academy (OTA) Lieutenant General M K Das. Lt Gen Das, who is also the colonel of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) regiment, said the situation in J&K is getting better with the Army and other security agencies working together to stamp out terrorism. Speaking to media on the sidelines of the maiden attestation parade of 460 new recruits of the 126th batch after a successful 40-week training period at Dansal here, he said the Indian Army is aware of the challenges and prepared to give a befitting response to the enemies of the nation.

Talking about the need to introduce special training courses for soldiers in the aftermath of the developments in Afghanistan, he said, “Our training is very contemporary as it caters for all the contingencies and unforeseen situations. My young soldiers, who have taken the oath to defend the constitution and the country, will live up to all the challenges. One of the unique things of this regiment (JAKLI) is all our troops hail from J&K and Ladakh. They have ingrained quality to be security conscious much more than others.” Lt Gen Das said, “All the situations unfolding in the country or in our neighbourhood, the JAKLI regiment will continue to excel and be the lead agency in the fight against terrorism.” Asked about the challenges posed by the use of drones to hit targets and deliver weapons and narcotics from across the LoC and International Border, he said a capsule course on anti-drone measures has been introduced. “On Army Day on 15 January, our chief took the threat seriously and our soldiers are being prepared to deal with the challenge in a better way.” During recruitment training, Lt Gen Das said that besides the arms handing and exercises, thrust is also given on science and technology, cybersecurity and other new challenges. He said the misuse of social media by “anti-national” elements is a reality and the new recruits are being trained in cybersecurity during their basic and orientation courses.

On attempts by Pakistan to mislead the youth of J&K, Lt Gen Das said, “The youth of J&K is showing keenness to be a part of the regiment which is a message to those who think they can mislead our youth. Joining the regiment is the best way to serve the nation, the youth live like a family and there is complete communal harmony.” He said the regiment is increasing the number of local youth from Ladakh and would also go for recruitment in J&K to provide an opportunity to the local youth to become part of this regiment. Asked about his message to the misguided youth, he said, “J&K is the crown of India but if I focus as a soldier, I feel they (misguided youth) have not understood their country… the situation has not gone out of hand and the Army has kept its window open to allow them to surrender and join the national mainstream.”

He added, “We have a unit of 162 Infantry Territorial Army who are former militants but have become upright soldiers.” Lt Gen Das said the Army and other security agencies are working in close coordination and the situation in J&K is getting better and the “day is not far when this region will make our country proud.”

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Defence

SOUTHERN NAVAL COMMAND OBSERVES INTERNATIONAL COASTAL CLEAN-UP DAY IN KOCHI

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The Southern Naval Command observed International Coastal Clean-up Day on Saturday with a focus on mangrove plantation and clearance of plastic/non-biodegradable waste along with waterfront areas in and around Kochi, said a press release from the Ministry of Defence.

Pursuant to the global campaign of keeping coastlines clean, more than 600 Naval personnel and the families of Southern Naval Command undertook clearance of plastic and non-biodegradable waste at different locations spread across the city, coastal areas such as Fort Kochi beach, Thevara waterfront, Willingdon Island, Cherai beach, Bolgatty and around 2 km stretch of the Venduruthy channel while restoring around 1 lakh sqm of mangroves to the pristine condition. In addition, 80 mangrove saplings were also planted along the Venduruthy channel. Similar coastal cleanup drives and lectures/webinars/competitions emphasising protection of the coastal and marine environment were undertaken with the enthusiastic participation of the Naval community at other outstation Naval units located at Lonavala, Jamnagar, Chilka, Coimbatore, Goa, Ezhimala and Mumbai.

Being the Training Command of the Indian Navy, the Southern Naval Command has always been at the vanguard in promoting environmental conservation activities both at the Command Headquarters, Kochi as well as at Naval stations spread across the country.

Mandated to oversee naval training, the Southern Naval Command has conceptualised and implemented a variety of green initiatives. Keeping environmental preservation as one of the Key Result Areas, the Command has constantly endeavoured to motivate young officer and sailor trainees of the Indian Navy to imbibe the habit of protecting mother nature as part of their grooming efforts in preparing them to become responsible future Naval leaders and dependable citizens of India.

Particular attention has also been given to create more awareness among the families and more importantly the children.

During the last three years, the Command has adopted a multi-dimensional approach towards conservation of the environment and implementation of energy conservation methods.

To highlight a few, the personnel of the Command were actively involved in the rejuvenation of 4.5-km-long Venduruthy Channel near Kochi Naval base, creating awareness in and around Naval establishments.

Efforts were undertaken to enhance green cover by conducting mass plantation drives which included planting more than 75,000 trees, using the fast-growing Miyawaki forestation method. In addition, regular coastal clean-up drives, mangrove plantation drives, in-house handling and recycling of bio and non-biodegradable waste, adopting efficient energy and water-saving methods etc were also undertaken. The Command has also earnestly endeavoured to continue all the efforts for protecting and conserving the environment and natural resources. Towards achieving the same, the Command has implemented a Green Initiative and Environment Conservation Roadmap with a prime focus on Carbon footprint reduction.

With the personal involvement of Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command is committed to creating a clean, green and healthy environment in line with the visionary environment conservation policies of the Govt of India. On the occasion, Adv M Anilkumar, Mayor, Kochi Municipal Corporation and staff also participated in Kochi.

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Defence

IAF TO HOLD AIR SHOW OVER DAL LAKE IN SRINAGAR ON 26 SEPT

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An air show will be held here on 26 September where IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga and Suryakiran Aerobatic and Display Team and paramotor flying will manoeuvre the skies over the famous Dal Lake, officials informed on Saturday.

The air show will be organised by the Air Force Station Srinagar and the Jammu and Kashmir administration as part of the ongoing celebrations commemorating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, they said. The main aim of the exercise—under the theme ‘Give Wings to Your Dream’—is to motivate the youth of the valley to join the Indian Air Force (IAF) and to promote tourism in the region, the officials said.

The event will be flagged off Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) overlooking Dal Lake.

More than 3,000 college and school students are expected to participate in the programme to witness the impressive manoeuvres of the IAF, which will motivate them to dream about a career in the force and in the aviation sector, the officials said. “The show will also develop passion among the students to give wings to their dreams. Along with the students, 700 teachers will also be present at the venue,” they added.

During the demonstration, students will also be familiarised with the new technological advancements achieved and incorporated by the IAF while flying aircraft in the sky over the world-famous Dal Lake, the officials said. Stalls will be established at SKICC where students will be familiarised with the achievements of the Air Force, employment opportunities in the IAF, recruitment rules and eligibility criteria, they added.

Srinagar-based PRO Defence Col Emron Musavi said the display will include flypast by various aircraft of the IAF. The spectators would also get to witness paramotor flying and IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga in action. ‘Ambassadors of IAF’, Suryakiran Aerobatic Display Team, will be performing in the valley after a gap of 14 years, he said. Col Musavi said the symphony orchestra of the IAF would also be performing at the event. The event would also consist of a photo exhibition depicting the history of the

IAF, he said. 

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Defence

ARMY ORGANISES EXHIBITION IN JAIPUR TO COMMEMORATE INDIA’S VICTORY IN 1971 WAR

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JAIPUR : South Western Command of the Indian Army on Saturday organised an exhibition showcasing defence equipment at Chitrakoot Stadium in Jaipur to mark the 50th anniversary of India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.

Speaking to ANI, an Indian army official said, “We have displayed the defence equipment in this exhibition to make people aware of the Indian army achievements. We want to motivate the youth by showcasing these types of equipment.” “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these events had been started to make people aware of Indian Arm Forces. So, we are also continuing the move by organising these kinds of events,” he added.

Further, he said that India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war is memorable for all the Indians, so, every citizen should be aware of this war.  

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Defence

BRO makes history, appoints woman Army officer in-charge of road construction unit

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The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has appointed a woman Army officer for the first as the Officer Commanding of its 75 road construction company (RCC) in Uttarakhand, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.

The three platoon commanders under Major Aaina, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K became the first women RCC. The appointments were made on August 30.

BRO on Sunday recalled the list of women officers who were assigned higher leadership roles in the organisation in the current year.

According to a statement issued by the Defence Ministry, BRO has inducted a large number of women into its workforce over the years, right from officers to the level of commercial pilot license holders. “In this regard, a General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) officer EE (Civ) Vaishali S Hiwase took over the reins of 83 Road Construction Company on April 28, employed on an important Indo-China road connecting Munisairi-Bughdiar-Milam, in an area full of adversity and challenges. The lady officer has taken control and is leading the charge with meticulous execution of her tasks,” the statement said.

“The BRO created history again on 30 August when Major Aaina of Project Shivalik took charged as Officer Commanding, 75 Road Construction Companies (RCC) at Pipalkoti in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. She is the first Indian Army Engineer Officer to command a road construction company. Not only this, all three platoon commanders under her, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K are lady officers and they have together created a first-ever women RCC. The Border Roads plans to make four such all women-led RCCs, two each in North Eastern and Western Sectors.”

As India celebrates 75 Years of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, it also celebrates the ongoing efforts of our Nation towards women empowerment. Women today have started assuming their rightful, equal place as the frontrunners in nation-building and representatives of our strong national character, the statement read.

Over the last six decades, in a graduated and steady manner, the BRO has increased the number of women employed in various roles and duties of road construction. A consolidated effort is being made to empower them by giving them authority and responsibilities to undertake work independently. These women have become symbols of Nari Shakti in their respective areas.

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Defence

IN FIRST FOREIGN VISIT AFTER TAKING OVER AS CDS, GEN BIPIN RAWAT TO VISIT RUSSIA, US

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In his first visit abroad after taking over as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat will be visiting Russia and the US.

Rawat took over his new office as CDS on 31 December 2019, and since then has been declining foreign invitations for focusing on the new assignment of integrating the defence forces as a combined fighting force. “There is a conference of the CDS-rank officers of the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement member countries. China and Pakistan are also part of this grouping,” senior defence officials said.

The CDS conference would be focusing on addressing the regional security issues and Afghanistan is also likely to come up for discussion, they said.

The CDS would also witness the activities of the respective armed forces taking part in the SCO peace mission drills being held in Russia. Indian Army and Air Force are also taking part in the exercise there.

The visit will take place in the coming week and soon after return from Russia, Rawat would be leaving for the US for meeting his counterpart and other American military leadership at the Pentagon.

The two countries have been coming closer militarily in the last few years and have been holding multiple military exercises and hardware cooperation.

The Indian military saw a major change in senior-level structures under the Narendra Modi government as the focus is now on the theatrisation of the fighting forces and bringing in more capabilities and jointness among the three services. 

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