Chinese and Russian Navies Practice “Island Seizing” In Ongoing S. China Sea Exercise

[To include simulated “Island Seizing”]

Chinese, Russian navies hold joint war games in South China Sea


Associated Press

BEIJING — The Chinese and Russian navies launched eight days of war games in the South China Sea on Monday, in a sign of growing cooperation between their armed forces against the backdrop of regional territorial disputes.

The “Joint Sea-2016″ maneuvers include surface ships, submarines, ship-borne helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, along with marines and amphibious armored vehicles who will conduct live-firing exercises, according to a Defense Ministry statement issued Sunday.

Tasks will include defensive and rescue drills, anti-submarine exercises and the simulated seizure of an enemy island by marines from both sides.

The exercise is part of an annual program, which “aims to consolidate and advance the Sino-Russian comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination, and deepen friendly and practical cooperation between the two militaries,” Chinese navy spokesman Liang Yang was quoted as saying.

“It will also improve coordination between the two navies on joint defense operations at sea,” Liang said.

The ministry didn’t say exactly where the drills would be held in the South China Sea, home to heated territorial disputes between China and its Southeast Asian neighbors.

Joint Chinese-Russian drills have grown increasingly common in recent years — this week’s exercises are the fifth between the two navies since 2012 — with the countries joined in their mutual suspicion of the U.S. and its allies.

Russia has been the only major country to speak out on China’s behalf in its demand that the U.S. and other countries stay out of such arguments. That came as an arbitration panel in the Hague, Netherlands, issued a ruling invalidating China’s claims to virtually the entire South China Sea, a result that Beijing angrily rejected as null and void.

Following the ruling, China vowed to continue developing man-made islands in the disputed Spratly island group and said it would conduct regular aerial patrols over the strategically vital sea through which passes an estimated $5 trillion in trade each year.

While China says the drills do not envision specific enemies or target any third parties, their location in the tense South China Sea has drawn criticism.

During a visit to China last month, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet Adm. Scott Swift said: “There are other places those exercises could have been conducted.” He described them as part of a series of actions “that are not increasing the stability within the region.”

Russian news outlets said 18 ships, 21 aircraft and more than 250 marines from both sides would take part in the drills. The ships include destroyers, cruisers, a Russian battleship, amphibious warfare ships and supply vessels./rga


Pak-Russian Special Forces To Train Together In Pak Mountains

[Counterterror Cooperation Very High on Pakistan-Russia Agenda ]

Russian Mi-24 helicoptersRussia’s New Silk Road Strategy: Connecting to Pakistan

Published date: 8th October 2012

Even though much awaited President Putin’s visit to Pakistan in the first week of October has been shelved, causing disappointment among the Pakistani establishment, the doors for finding a new understanding between the two on Afghanistan and regional issues remain wide open. Putin was to pay a bilateral visit to Pakistan before the quadrilateral summit that was scheduled for 2-3 October in Islamabad. Pakistan had become part of the quadrilateral of Russia, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan in July 2009 when the forum’s first summit was held in Dushanbe. The main goals of the quartet are to promote regional trade and undertake joint projects in energy, transport, communications, agriculture and infrastructure. Combating terrorism, extremism, illegal trafficking of drugs and trans-national organized crimes, supporting peace and stability in Afghanistan and in the region are the other major objectives. These are usually the objectives of any number of multi-lateral structures and organizations that exist in this troubled region, for instance the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

Finding a regional solution to many of the problems being faced by the region especially that of instability, insecurity in Afghanistan and improving the socio-economic environment have driven the major players like the U.S., China and Russia to advance their own formulations and structures. However, the competing strategies of the main players in the arena have only added to the complexity of the regional issues.

At a time when Pakistan’s stock is running at all time low with the U.S. and its coalition partners in Afghanistan, Islamabad has been working to find a new strategic equation in the post-2014 Afghanistan scenario. Russians believe that Pakistan remains central to the Afghan imbroglio and has an important role to play in the unfolding scenario. Pakistan hopes to obtain a favourable outcome in the Afghan end game with Russia on its side. Moscow has also not been much enamoured by the so called ‘reset’ in its relations with the U.S., as promised by Obama administration. American policies on BMD, eastwards expansion of NATO and contesting Russia’s ‘privileged status’ in Central Asian region has soured the U.S-Russian relationship. Even though Russia is providing logistics routes through its territory for ISAF troops in Afghanistan it continues to oppose American bases and transit facilities being provided by Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Further, in the long run both Russia and Pakistan would like to see the back of the American troops in Afghanistan. They are against the long term presence of the American bases in Afghanistan as these have adverse strategic connotations for both Russia and nuclear Pakistan.

There is also a wide-spread belief that in its approach to Afghanistan, China is becoming wary of putting all its eggs in the Pakistani basket and has embarked on establishing a direct relationship with the Kabul regime. On the sidelines of the SCO Summit in June this year, China and Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership agreement. At the summit, Afghanistan was admitted to SCO as on observer. Further in September Zhou Yongkang – member of the powerful Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party – visited Afghanistan and signed a number of agreements on assisting Afghanistan in its security sector development programmes. He committed to training 300 Afghan national police officers which in effect could help the ISAF/NATO efforts of training the Afghan National Security Forces.

Thus, Pakistan has been aiming at finding new partners in the power play taking place in the region. As part of Pakistan’s desire to forge a cozy relationship with Russia Gen. Kayani has also traveled to Moscow in the first week of October. In fact, as a military head and one who is the final arbiter of Pakistan’s security and foreign policies, his visit would give an opportunity to Russian leaders to obtain insights into Pakistan’s fresh thinking, if any, on Afghanistan and regional security issues. While Kayani was in Moscow, the Russian Foreign Minister was in Islamabad for parleys with his Pakistani counterpart to explain the absence of Putin and identify with Pakistan’s role in the region. Sergei Lavrov supported Pakistan’s stance on the U.S. Drone strikes and denounced these attacks as violations of Pakistani sovereign territory.

Russia and Pakistan are looking for many benefits from mutual cooperation. The Russian gas company Gazprom has been looking forward to being awarded a contract for building the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline without many of the processes associated with the laid down procedures. Russia has agreed to modernise, reconstruct and expand the Pakistan Steel Mills that has been running far below its capacity. Russia would also be supporting Pakistan Railways by undertaking a joint venture for developing a carriages workshop and may even supply Russian rail carriages. The Russians are also converting two Pakistani thermal power plants from furnace oil to coal.

Gaining access to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean has been a long cherished Russian desire since the days of Tsarist Russia and a route through Pakistan could be one useful option. Writing recently in Pravda, an analyst Lyuba Lulko suggests that “establishing close cooperation with Pakistan will give Russia a real chance to gain a foothold in Central and South Asia. In addition, Russia will be able to access the Indian Ocean, and make the U.S. troops in Afghanistan directly dependent on its logistics.”

The proposed multimodal transport links, another version of the old Silk Road are expected to provide benefits to all the four countries involved. Pakistan will gain access to Central Asian markets while Tajikistan and Russia would gain access to Pakistani ports. Commenting on last year’s Quadrilateral Summit at Sochi, Chairman of the Russian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev, observed that “Russia may become a donor of economic, social and military-political security for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan.”

Russia has also offered to revive all the Soviet era industrial and infrastructure projects (numbering about 140) in Afghanistan. Russia is also willing to help Tajikistan in the hydro-power sector. The Central Asia South Asia 1000 (CASA-1000) power transmission project of exporting electricity from hydro-power rich Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan is a much touted project. However, it is difficult to be realized because of objections to hydro-power projects by the down stream Central Asian countries like Uzbekistan. Another project is of building a road from Tajikistan across the Wakhan corridor to Pakistan in order to enhance regional connectivity. If Russia is able to support such projects and find the finances for the same then it would also gain a degree of control and enhance its influence in the region.

However, Pakistan and Russia would certainly have competing objectives in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Unlike Pakistan, Russia would be apprehensive of a radical Taliban regime in Kabul that may have the agenda of spreading its ideology to the Central Asian republics and beyond to Chechnya. Pakistan has not been able to control its own radical jihadis and it is unlikely that it would be able to have a degree of control over a resurgent Taliban regime in Kabul.

So far as India is concerned, the pipeline projects like Iran-Pakistan-India or TAPI gas pipeline project or for that any other multi-modal transport corridors can become economically viable only when India is included in them. A limited grouping like Russia-Afghanistan-Tajikistan-Pakistan may only produce a limited benefit. Pakistan’s obtuse policies of denying overland transit to Indian goods to Afghanistan and beyond deprive Pakistan and other regional countries the benefits of revenue and beneficial economic engagement and trade. Equally, its sponsorship of terrorism, and proclivity to use transit for political purposes, as shown most recently by its shutting down the NATO supply lines to Afghanistan, ensure that India remains wary of any such projects.

Connecting South Asia to Central Asia, especially through Pakistan (the shortest overland route) could be a win-win situation for all countries in the region with Afghanistan emerging as an important hub of communications in all directions. This would have positive effect on security, stability and economy of Afghanistan. But Pakistan will have to undertake a root-and-branch transformation of its security outlook for that to happen.


9/11 patriotism hard to find


9/11 patriotism hard to find

chieftain editorial

Fifteen years ago today, America was shocked by terrorist attacks primarily in New York and at the Pentagon that took nearly 3,000 lives.

First, we felt disbelief. Then we were stunned. Then came anger and rage; demands for revenge.

But something else happened, something that we have lost in the intervening 15 years: Unity.

In 2001, we came together as a nation. It was common in the days and weeks after 9/11 to see people with flags waving from their cars and motorcycles. Healing concerts were held by numerous top-flight entertainers to raise money for the victims’ families. For a brief moment, we were one as U.S. citizens, united in our love for our country.

Today, we are far from united. In fact, we are polarized. We have learned, especially in this election cycle, that we are Americans last in the categorization of citizens. No. We are classified as Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, racists and elitists, rich and poor, black and brown and white.

We don’t listen to each other nor do we consider each other’s points of views. We don’t want to be bothered by the facts. We are close-minded, and those who disagree with us are enemies.

We yell, we scream. Even at an event as festive and fun as the Fiesta Day Parade on Northern Avenue during the State Fair, protesters yelled obscenities and spat at those who supported a candidate that they oppose.

We see Colin Kaepernick, an NFL quarterback, sit during the national anthem in protest of racism and mistreatment of minorities in the U.S. We support his right to do that, but frankly, what is his body of work to try to improve race relations?

Has he spent countless hours in the slums of our inner cities, where his celebrity would give him access to talk to gang members, drug dealers and others?

Has he spent his life protesting inequality and injustice, like, say, NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? Has he sacrificed his career and his livelihood, as did Muhammad Ali, to take a stand? Has he spent his own money, as has NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, to open businesses in crime-riddled neighborhoods?

He can go ahead and sit if he feels he’s making a difference. But there comes a time when actions must be real and not symbolic. Sit if you must, Kaepernick, during the national anthem. But then rise and make a real difference.

And then we have the presidential race, in which one very intelligent candidate calls people names (Little Marco, Lyin’ Ted, Crooked Hillary) like he’s in elementary school. And the other candidate, likewise very intelligent, lacks the common sense to protect sensitive government emails.

Sadly and unnervingly, this race also has unearthed a great deal of ugliness in this nation. Watch the rallies and press conferences. People are nearly frothing in their hate and disrespect for their candidate’s opponent.

We are demonizing the two candidates for president. While we likewise are in dismay that this is the best we can come up with, we still want to hear what they have to say and consider their positions.

But most of the nation does not. Too many people just want to yell and scream and spit and hate.

Fifteen years since our nation’s greatest domestic tragedy. Fifteen years since we came together as a nation.

And today? We seem further apart than ever.

On this sacred day, let’s take a moment to reflect on how fortunate we are to be Americans, to live in freedom in the greatest nation in the history of the world.

Let’s disagree, but let’s do it with class and consideration for those with whom we don’t agree.

Let’s look to the example of our Founding Fathers as they debated and argued before producing the remarkable Constitution. They found a way to work through their considerable differences.

That is what we must do, whether it’s in Congress or at a gathering of senior citizens in a doughnut shop. We must be willing to listen, to compromise and consider all points of view.

We shouldn’t need a national tragedy such as 9/11 to bring us closer together. And as we remember those who died in 9/11, let us ponder the wisdom of Maya Angelou, who wrote in her beautiful poem, “The Human Family”:

“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”

Fellow citizens, just because we have lost sight of that doesn’t mean we cannot regain it.

Let each of us rededicate ourselves to being true Americans. To respect each other, to listen to each other, to be willing to change our positions and beliefs if persuaded by the facts.

“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”