Six-storey high banner in Islamabad dedicated to Xi Jinping's visit to Pakistan. Photo by Faisal Mahmood/Reuters
China made an ambitious bid on its concept of the New Great Silk Road, and it cannot lose this bid without losing face
In the previous part of our investigation, we established that members of the Pakistani parliament refused the request by Saudi Arabia to join the anti-Houthi (in other words, anti-Shiite) “Operation Decisive Storm” in Yemen. One of the publicly stated reasons for the refusal were references to internal conflicts between Sunnis and Shiites in Pakistan itself.
Indeed, even though the overwhelming majority of Pakistani Muslims belong to different Sunni branches, Shiites account for more than 10% of the population. Moreover, for these tense Sunni-Shiite relations to explode into bloody unrest is not a rare situation.
However, this was apparently not the only reason to refuse the Saudis, and not even the most important one. Until recently, Saudi Arabia was not only the key “economic donor” for the relatively weak Pakistani economy, but also a very important participant of a rather peculiar alliance of intelligence agencies. US and Pakistani intelligence agencies were in constant need of dialog with Saudi intelligence. This made the alliance between Saudi and Pakistani intelligence especially strong.
The system of economic, as well as military and intelligence relations between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan began to take shape in the context of military and political confrontation between Islamabad and Delhi. Pakistan had an acute need of monetary aid from Saudi Arabia, which allowed it to create its own atomic bomb. Without creating this bomb, Pakistan would have lost to India.
Apart from providing financial support for the Pakistani nuclear project in that period, Saudi Arabia assisted Pakistan in creating an effective secret service and in strengthening other components of its national security potential.
Already being robust thanks to the above-named reasons, the system of relations between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan was further strengthened after the deployment of Soviet forces to Afghanistan. Only the joint actions of the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan could at that time guarantee training the Mujaheddin who fought against Soviet forces in Afghanistan, as well as arming them and controlling their actions.
How can this same system of relations be characterized during the period following the end of the war in Afghanistan, the collapse of the USSR, and the beginning of the conflict of the US and its previous allies, the Taliban? We are first and foremost interested, as previously mentioned, in the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
Probably, an accurate characterization of these relations in the given period of time would be to recognize them as being contradictory but stable. Yes, the contradictions have been accumulating between yesterday’s allies in opposing Soviet actions in Afghanistan. But, until recently, this accumulation of contradictions did not interfere with the stability of these relations.
Of course, Pakistan had a serious falling out with the USA after it’s “unauthorized” operation in 2011 to kill Osama Bin Laden in Pakistani Abbottabad, as well as after repeated American drone attacks on the Taliban in North Waziristan, resulting in hundreds of civilian deaths and an increase of internal tensions.
This, however, did not stop Islamabad from maintaining a very close alliance with Saudi Arabia. Up until recently, Islamabad has never cast even a shadow of a doubt on these relations.
Then what changed?
First of all, as we already discussed in this investigation, by building the Gwadar port and announcing its investment plans to build the Pakistani-Chines
Secondly, China promises to solve the vitally important problems of providing Pakistan with a stable natural gas supply and developing it infrastructure, and it promises to do so quickly! Islamabad understands very well that without solving these problems neither large-scale electrification (needed first and foremost in its most impoverished and politically unstable regions), nor a new industrializatio
Third, the Chinese project of supplying gas through the future Peace Pipeline will allow Pakistan to solve not only economic, but also important political problems.
Shipments of Iranian pipeline gas will surely be not only cheaper; but most importantly, they will be more stable than the current LNG imports from Qatar, conditions on which vary depending on demand in various regions of the world. China and Iran’s interest in the Peace Pipeline project gives Pakistan a certain guarantee that shipment will not stop because of political instability in the country’s southwest, in those regions where ethnic Balochis make up the majority of the population, and where large-scale separatist incidents have taken place many times before.
Here, we must return to Lt. Col. Peters’ article “Blood Borders”, published in the Pentagon’s specialized Armed Forces Journal in 2006, which we previously discussed in this investigation. The article includes a map of proposed changes to Middle Eastern borders, which would be desirable for the United States. On this map, the territories of southeastern Iran and southwestern Pakistan, through the Peace Pipeline and the CPEC corridor would pass, become the newly-formed state of “Free Baluchistan”. Islamabad is convinced that only the coordinated and active resistance of Iran, Pakistan, and China can act as a serious guarantee against attempts by the US to realize yet another “color revolution”, this time in the tribal region of the Balochis.
For all of the above-mentioned reasons, Islamabad does not wish to become involved in the Saudi-led war in Yemen. This is what led the Pakistani parliament to refuse sending the country’s ground and air forces to join “Operation Decisive Storm”.
Furthermore, PRC Chairman Xi Jinping’s visit to Islamabad on April 20-21, 2015, served as a very important political backdrop for this operation. The visit was preceded by two key Pakistani newspapers, “Jang” (Fight) and “Daily News” publishing Xi Jinping’s article “Long Live the China-Pakistan Friendship”. In this article, the Chairman of the PRC touched on the history of the two countries’ relations, the principal aspects of their modern cooperation in various areas, as well as their prospects. And, let us draw attention to the unprecedented language used: he referred to Pakistan as “the home of my own brother”. The article was, moreover, preceded by a very fraternal poem in Pakistan’s state language, Urdu.
All this together could not illicit anything short of a massive and resounding positive response. The fact that the PRC leader’s visit focused on specific discussion of such topics of vital importance to Pakistan as the funding and realization of the CPEC corridor, the Peace Pipeline, and military-technic
With the conclusion of the negotiations, the sides stated that they, “reaffirm the solemn commitment… To safeguard the victory of World War II and the contemporary world order and international system based on the Charter of the United Nations… And jointly build a new type of international relationship featuring win-win cooperation.” As a result, Pakistani and Chinese press reported on a “new, deeper strategic level of friendship between the two countries.”
However, Pakistan has not decided in the current situation (and, apparently, not without reason) to place all its eggs in one Chinese “strategic basket”. Immediately after Xi Jinping’s departure, a representative Pakistani delegation consisting of prime minister Nawaz Sharif, defense minister Khawaja Asif, and chief of army staff Raheel Sharif left for Riyadh to discuss the situation in Yemen. At that time, Nawaz Sharif personally assured King Salman of “solidarity with Saudi Arabia and readiness to take measures to defend the territorial integrity of the kingdom.”
In other words, Islamabad understands that the problem of lifting sanctions from Iran is far from resolution, and that Pakistan (unlike China, which with its economic, political and military power can let itself not pay any particular attention to western sanctions) lacks sufficient potential to go “against the flow” of the West as a whole if sanctions against Iran continue.
Will China be successful in overcoming Pakistan’s doubts about whom to build strategic relations with in the future? Everything here depends on how badly China needs Pakistan, and what importance China assigns to using Iranian petroleum resources, gaining access to the Indian Ocean via the “Pakistani corridor”, and so on.
It seems that China has very heavily invested itself in what is listed above, and the matter is not just in the importance of the infrastructure and energy projects being discussed. The issue is also in the fact that China made an ambitious bid on its concept of the New Great Silk Road, and it cannot lose this bid without losing face. At this time, China has found itself on the brink of failure on one of the directions of the “New Silk Road”. The “Silk Road” direction in question is the stretch from the southern Chinese province of Yunnan through Myanmar (former Burma) to the Bay of Bengal.
The plan for this branch includes laying down natural gas and oil pipelines from the eastern coast of the Bay of Bengal to Yunnan, building a railroad through Myanmar to the city of Ruili in Yunnan, the creation of a deep seaport and an oil-loading terminal in Kyaukpyu on the Bengali coast, as well as the construction of a hydroelectric power plant in Myanmar to supply the project with energy. The project’s railroad and pipeline system was supposed to cross into the Yunnan province from Myanmar on the border between the Kachin State and the Kokang autonomous territory of the Shan State.
China signed the necessary international agreements with Myanmar back during the previous decade, and it began construction of the hydroelectric power plant and laying down the pipeline Yunnan from the the Shwe gas field Bengali shelf in 2010. However, in 2012, mass anti-government protests began in Kachin State. The local population was “rebelling” against seizing parts of their ancestral lands for the Chinese hydroelectric power plant.
Nevertheless, Myanmar’s government and army were able to manage the unrest and to negotiate a ceasefire with the Kachin, and construction continued. In October 2013, the Chinese state corporation CNPC launched the pipeline from the Bay of Bengal to Yunnan, with a capacity of 12 bcm of gas per year. Construction of the oil pipeline with a planned capacity of 22 million tons of oil per year continued along the same route.
But, at the end of 2014, during the finishing stages of oil pipeline construction, mass anti-government protests once again began in Kachin State. The protests soon engulfed the neighboring Kokang, where ethnic Chinese make up the majority of the population. On February 9, 2015, the rebels of Kokang suddenly broke the ceasefire with the central government in Yangon, which had been in place and functioning (for the most part) for many years, and began military action on the territory.
To be continued.
Source (for copy): http://eu.eot.su/?p=9007
This is the translation of the eleventh article (first published in “Essence of Time” newspaper issue 125 on April 29, 2015) by Yury Byaly of a series on the new round of global economic warfare. The ultimate goal of this war, of which gas wars is a part, is the weakening and dissolution of Russia. But disruption of Russian supply of gas will lead to lack of gas and rise of prices and some European economies might just not handle this. Since all of the global economy is intertwined, those who started this war want to make not just Russia, but many other countries become weaker in the end.