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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

Two Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists killed in the J&K encounter

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Ansar Ghazwatul Hind (AGH), an Al-Qaeda-linked terror outfit in Kashmir, has suffered a major setback. In an encounter on the outskirts of Srinagar, security forces killed two more AGH terrorists.

The AGH terrorists were apprehended after the army and police received specific information about their presence.

During the exchange of fire, forces killed two local Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists from AGH. Both terrorists are Pulwama residents who have been involved in a number of terrorist attacks.

According to police, the terrorists were also involved in an attack on a migrant worker in Pulwama.

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Defence

N. Korea enacts law on preventive nuclear strikes, France calls “threat to peace”

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France criticised North Korea’s adoption of a law announcing its preparedness to launch preventive nuclear strikes on Friday, calling it a “threat to international and regional peace and security.”

The announcement from the foreign ministry came after North Korean state media earlier on Friday reported that Pyongyang had enacted a law authorising preventative strikes, including in the event of conventional attacks.

“This new escalation on the part of the North Korean authorities represents a threat to international and regional peace and security,” said a ministry spokeswoman.

France “notes with great concern the increasingly aggressive declarations from North Korea,” she added.

The decision by Pyongyang practically puts an end to the possibility of denuclearization talks after leader Kim Jong Un said that the nation’s nuclear status is now “irreversible.”

The announcement comes at a time when the North and South are experiencing greater conflict.

In addition to conducting a record number of weapons tests this year, Pyongyang has blamed the COVID-19 outbreak in its territory on Seoul.

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Defence

China has successfully tested its first solar-powered drone capable of acting as a satellite

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A Chinese government official informed in a tweet that China has successfully tested its first fully solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), named Qimingxing-50, which can fly for months and can function even as a satellite if required.

What is the significance of this test flight?

The Qimingxing-50, with a wingspan of 50 m, is a high-altitude long-endurance drone that is capable of high-altitude aerial reconnaissance, assessing forest fire and can also be used for communications.

This technology will bolster Chinese defences in space and at sea. It can be used in the fields of renewable energy, new materials, and aeronautical engineering. The Chinese official also asserted that this test flight is an important step towards sustainable development.

Use of the UAV as a satellite:

The UAV, whose name translates as “Morning Star-50” in English, is claimed to be capable of functioning uninterrupted for months. This capability of having a long-endurance flight gives it a use case of operating as a satellite.

Like satellites, it is fully electric-driven, powered by solar energy and can operate at 20 km above the Earth’s surface for an extended period of time continuously. It is also referred to as a “High Altitude Platform Station” or a “pseudo-satellite.”

It can be used when there is unavailability or disruption in satellite services. The report says that compared to the cost and complexity of installing a satellite in orbit, this UAV is much more cost-effective and easy to operate.

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Defence

Strict security measures have been taken at the Central Vista ahead of the inauguration by PM Modi

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As Prime Minister Nrendra Modi is going to inaugurate the newly revamped Central Vista on Thursday, over 1,500 police personnel have been deployed for security over there.

A senior official of Delhi Police who is aware of the security arrangements said that the area has been divided into eight zones, which will be manned all day by eight deputy commissioners of police (DCPs) and additional deputy commissioners of police (ADCPs).

The officer, on condition of anonymity, said, “Besides 17 assistant commissioners of police (ACPs), 43 inspectors and nearly 1,200 upper and lower-rank staff of Delhi Police will be patrolling in the areas. While ten Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) companies will patrol the area during the day, two additional CAPF companies have been deployed for security arrangements during the evening shift.As many as five patrolling teams in 10 mobile patrolling vans (MPVs) will be keeping a constant watch on all the public movement in the area.” 

Another officer said that, “The Multi Zone Door Frame Metal Detectors (DFMD) have been installed at 90 points in 25 locations in the area. Apart from one anti-drone gun, one counter-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has also been installed in the area, to detect, track, and ultimately disrupt and destroy any suspicious aerial intrusion. While five teams of spotters will keep a strict vigil in the area, another five traffic decongestion teams have been deployed there to immediately remove any traffic bottlenecks in the area. As many as five SWAT teams have been deployed in the area to avert any emergency crisis.”

The official added that drones will not be permitted near Central Vista on Thursday.

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Defence

Pakistani rangers opened fire on BSF patrolling party in J&K

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BSF apprehends Pakistani intruder from ‘Tehreek-e-Labbaik’ at Rajasthan border

As per the reports, Pakistani rangers opened fire on a Border Security Force (BSF) patrolling party in Jammu and Kashmir’s Arnia sector on Tuesday morning, prompting the BSF to respond appropriately to the “unprovoked firing”.

“Today morning the alert BSF Jammu troops gave a befitting reply to the unprovoked firing by Pak rangers on BSF patrolling party in Arnia Sector. No loss (of lives) or injury (reported) to the BSF troops,” a statement issued by a BSF spokesperson said.

On February 24, 2021, India and Pakistan agreed to strictly adhere to all agreements and understandings concerning cross-border firing along the Line of Control (LoC) and International Border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir, among other sectors.

Other incidents of firing by Pakistani troops have occurred in the last year and a half, but Tuesday’s incident was “a major one” and occurred on a day when Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was in India for talks, an officer anonymously said.

According to a second officer, the Indian Army and BSF respond immediately and effectively to unprovoked firings and ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the LoC and IB.

Before the agreement in 2021, there were 5,133 ceasefire violations in 2020, 3,479 in 2019, and 2,140 in 2018. However, this number dropped to around 700 last year. Statistics for 2022 are not yet available.

The Indian government has maintained that it is Pakistan’s responsibility to create a conducive environment by taking credible, verifiable, and irreversible action to ensure that no territory under its control is used for cross-border terrorism against India in any way.

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India sends the body of Lashkar terror operative via LoC in Poonch

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Pakistan accepted the body of Tabarak Hussain, Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist operative via Chakan Da Bagh on the Line of Control in Poonch district on Monday.

“Officials of the Indian Army and civil administration took the body of slain terrorist in an ambulance to Chakan Da Bagh where it was handed over to Pakistani army officials,” said a senior official.

Tabarak Hussain, son of Mistri Malik of Sabzkote in PoK, was apprehended in an injured state by the army on August 21 in the Jhanger area of the Nowshera sector in Rajouri.

Tabarak was apprehended while allegedly infiltrating with a fidayeen terror group to attack Indian army posts along the LoC.

However, Indian army troops noticed the movement and opened fire on the intruding terror group, injuring Tabarak while other infiltrators fled to PoK.

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