China will not fall into the ‘Thucydides Trap’ with India

President Xi Jinping projects China as a ‘benevolent power’ but at the Raisina Dialogue in Delhi the ‘Quad’ nations lined up against him

The West’s notions of history and geography between Europe and Asia, are drenched in myriad cultural implications and can be traced back to ‘The Romance of Alexander’.

This is a collection of essays mixing truth, epic drama and mythology, composed between the death of Alexander The Great in 323 B.C., and the fourth century A.D, and attributed either to Callisthenes, Aristotle’s nephew or to Alexander’s tutor.

During a 10-year period, Alexander forged an empire encompassing Asia Minor and what the West later defined as the Middle East, annexing the current lands of Turkey, Syria, Israel and Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, a slice of Pakistan and northwest India.

For more than two millennia, Alexander best embodied in the West the clash of these two lofty paradigms: East and West. Alexander’s conquests also helped India to enter the Western frame of mind in terms of geography and civilization.

We eventually learned that India was actually close to the Arab world – overland via Iran, and in naval terms via its direct connection to the Persian Gulf.

The exchange of goods, traditions and culture was always inbuilt in the Big Picture. Overland or seaborne, the ancient Silk Road – before arriving in China – went through India. Rome was already trading with India before learning about the Middle Kingdom, and vice-versa as the Chinese barely knew the Mediterranean existed.

Closer to the West

So, India was always closer to the Western mind than China.

In parallel, when Vasco da Gama reached southwest India in 1498, those ports for more than a millennium had been trading with China, Southeast Asia, the Arab world and the Mediterranean.

The historical case can be made that India’s royals, after trading for so long with Arab, Jewish and Chinese merchants, were fooled by the “peaceful” intention of the first European incursions, which eventually led to British domination of the subcontinent.

This background should be taken into account when we look at what happened during the latest international Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi. This was sponsored by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), an Indian think tank.

The theme of the Raisina Dialogue was “Managing Disruptive Transitions.” And the number one “disruptive transition” was identified as no less than China’s New Silk Road, otherwise known as the Belt and Road Initiative.

More than 200 million Indians are Muslims, which makes it the third largest Muslim nation in the world after Indonesia and Pakistan. So, it is no wonder that Premier Narendra Modi’s right-wing pro-Hindu BJP acts as the self-proclaimed defender of a multi-millennium civilization.

But when we dig deeper we find that modern Hindu nationalism – instead of worrying about the destiny of the Mahabharata – was actually born in the 1920s, infused with the theories of Mazzini, d’Annunzio and even one Benito Mussolini. Still, that was all about fear of the Hindu identity being swamped by Islam and Christendom.

Now, it is all about fear of China.

Belt and Road versus ‘Quad’

NATO was in full voice at the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi via Admiral Harry Harris, commander of US Pacific Command and named recently as US Ambassador to Australia. According to Harris, “the reality is that China is a disruptive transitional force in the Indo-Pacific, they are the owner of the trust deficit in the region.”

Significantly, the navy chiefs from the Quad nations – US, India, Japan, Australia – all agree on it. So does retired General David Petraeus, the former CIA director and mastermind of the surges in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Neocon ideologue Zalmay Khalilzad, a former US Ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan, also attended, and duly agreed that by trying to connect all of Eurasia via the Belt and Road, China would “change the international order.”

The Raisina Dialogue fully illustrated the scope of Washington’s terminological pivot from “Asia-Pacific” to “Indo-Pacific”, while detailing the prescription inbuilt in the new Pentagon Defense Strategy.

China – along with Russia – are “revisionist powers” bent on undermining the “international, rules-based order”, especially China with its “predatory economics” which will be fully developed through the Belt and Road program.

So, it was up to Quad to implement a new China containment strategy.

Geopolitically, in Beijing, China-India relations are regarded very seriously, second only in importance to China’s relations with the US. Lately, China-Russia relations have been in the ascendant – mutually exhorted as a “strategic partnership”.

China-Japan relations, meanwhile, may qualify as a distant fourth although vast swathes of the Chinese public appear to consider it the second biggest threat to President Xi Jinping’s “Chinese Dream”.

Yet once Beijing consolidates its influence over key maritime trade routes across East Asia, Japan will cease to be a problem. The real problem is if India ever decides to try to cut or at least interfere with China’s Belt and Road Initiative naval routes – and complex supply lines – across the Indian Ocean.

The key geopolitical question of the 21st century is how the ascension of China will “disrupt” American hegemony and arguably enable a Chinese – actually Eurasian – century.

China and India would have all it takes to be complementary. Both are members of BRICS, the group also comprising Brazil, Russia and South Africa. They are also part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), as well as top nations in the G-20. And yet New Delhi persists on treating Beijing not as a partner but as a threat.

Fear of the rising power

Xi Jinping, for his part, seems to take the Thucydides Trap seriously: when a rising power causes fear in an established power which escalates toward war. Xi has referred to it many times in his speeches.

So, closing the historical circle that started with Alexander, we now have an informed reader from the Middle Kingdom showing respect toward the most eminent historian of Ancient Greece

Xi is, in fact, warning the US, and by proxy, India, not to fall into the mistake that generated the Peloponnesian War, where every player lost.

The fear instilled in Sparta by the ascent of Athens rendered the war inevitable (replace Sparta by Washington/Delhi and Athens by Beijing). Athens was defeated as well as its model of democracy. In fact, the whole of Greece was defeated, its decline acting as a prelude for being conquered by Philip of Macedonia.

Inspired by the maritime expeditions of Admiral Zheng He, Xi’s point is that China is a benevolent power, with the New Silk Road – a massive trade route and a potential multiplier of wealth – developed as the archetypal globalization 2.0 “win-win”.

But, don’t count on India and the Quad to play along.

Source: http://www.atimes.com/article/china-will-not-fall-thucydides-trap-india/?utm_source=The+Daily+Report&utm_campaign=ec0ab36231-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_02_12&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1f8bca137f-ec0ab36231-21552319

China’s latest move in the graveyard of empires

Beijing’s strategic priority is to prevent ETIM fighters exiled in Afghanistan crossing the Wakhan Corridor to carry out operations in Xinjiang

The latest plot twist in the endless historical saga of Afghanistan as a graveyard of empires has thrown up an intriguing new chapter. For the past two months, Beijing and Kabul have been discussing the possibility of setting up a military base alongside Afghanistan’s border with China.

“We are going to build it [the base] and the Chinese government has committed to help financially, provide equipment and train Afghan soldiers,” Mohammad Radmanesh, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, admitted to the AFP.

“We are going to build it [the base] and the Chinese government has committed to help the division financially, provide equipment and train the Afghan soldiers,” he added.

On the record, the Chinese Foreign Ministry only admitted that Beijing was involved in “capacity-building” in Afghanistan, while NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, led by the United States, basically issued a “no comment.”

The military base will eventually be built in the mountainous Wakhan Corridor, a narrow strip of territory in northeastern Afghanistan that extends to China and separates Tajikistan from Pakistan.

It is one of the most spectacular, barren and remote stretches of Central Asia and according to local Kyrgyz nomads, joint Afghan-Chinese patrols are already active there. True to Sydney Wignall’s fabled Spy on the Roof of the World ethos, a great deal of shadow play is in effect. Apparently, this is basically about China’s own war on terror.

Strategic priority

Beijing’s strategic priority is to prevent Uyghur fighters of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), who have been exiled in Afghanistan, crossing the Wakhan Corridor to carry out operations across Xinjiang, an autonomous territory in northwest China. There is also the fear that ISIS or Daesh jihadis from Syria and Iraq may also use Afghanistan as a springboard to reach the country.

Even though the jihad galaxy may be split, Beijing is concerned about ETIM. As early as September 2013, the capo of historic al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, supported jihad against China in Xinjiang.

Later, in July 2014, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of Daesh said: “Muslim rights [should be] forcibly seized in China, India and Palestine.” Then, on March 1, 2017, Daesh released a video announcing its presence in Afghanistan, with the terror group’s Uyghur jihadis vowing, on the record, to “shed blood like rivers” in Xinjiang.

At the heart of the matter is China’s Belt and Road Initiative, or the New Silk Road, which will connect China with Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

For Beijing, the stability of one of its links, the $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), is seriously compromised if terror threats abound in Central and South Asia. It could also affect China’s sizable investments in Afghanistan’s mineral mining industry. 

The Chinese and Russian strategies are similar. After all, they have been discussed at every meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), of which Afghanistan is an observer and future full member. For the Russia-China partnership, the future of a peaceful Afghanistan must be decided in Asia, by Asians, and at the SCO. 

In December,  Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told diplomats from fellow BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) member India that Moscow favors talking to the Taliban. He said this was the only way to reduce the risk of terror operations emanating from Afghanistan to Central Asia.

The question is which Taliban to talk to. There are roughly two main factions. The moderates favor a peace process and are against jihadism, while the radicals, who have been fighting the US and NATO-supported government in Kabul. 

Moscow’s strategy is pragmatic. Russia, Iran, India, Afghanistan and the Central Asian “stans” have reportedly held meetings to map out possible solutions. China, meanwhile, remains an active member of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) promoting a peace deal and reconciliation process which will include the Kabul and the Taliban.

Beijing’s multi-pronged strategy is now clear. Ultimately, Afghanistan must become integrated with CPEC. In parallel, Beijing is counting on using its “special relationship” with Pakistan to maneuver the Taliban into a sustainable peace process.

The appointment of Liu Jinsong as the new Chinese ambassador to Kabul is significant. Liu was raised in Xinjiang and was a director of the Belt and Road Initiative’s $15 billion Silk Road Fund from 2012 to 2015. He knows the intricacies of the region.

Six projects

Even before Liu’s arrival, the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, had announced that Beijing and Islamabad would extend CPEC to Kabul with six projects selected as priorities. They included a revamped Peshawar-Kabul highway and a trans-Afghan highway linking Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Of course, that would neatly fall into place with a possible Chinese military base in Gwadar port in Pakistan, the Arabian Sea terminal of CPEC, and one in the Wakhan corridor. 

Now, compare the Russia-China approach with Washington’s strategy. President Donald Trump’s foreign policy involves defeating the Taliban on the ground before forcing them to negotiate with Kabul. With the Taliban able to control key areas of Afghan territory, the Trump administration has opted for a mini-surge.

That may be as “successful” as President Obama’s much-touted 2009 surge. The US government has never made public any projection for the total cost of the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.

But according to the Dec. 8, 2014 version of a Congressional Research Service document – the latest to be made public – it had spent up until then, $1.6 trillion on the invasion and military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Which brings us to the question: Why does the US remain in Afghanistan?

After more than a trillion dollars lost and nothing really to show for it, no wonder all eyes are now on Beijing to see if China can come up with a ‘win-win’ situation.

Source: http://www.atimes.com/article/chinas-latest-move-graveyard-empires/?utm_source=The+Daily+Report&utm_campaign=cf93e2d669-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_02_09&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1f8bca137f-cf93e2d669-21552319

RUMBLE Program: Russia, EU Team Up to Create Supersonic Aviation of the Future

Political tensions haven’t been able to stop Russian-European cooperation in advanced aeronautics via the RUMBLE program. What’s at stake is the creation of new guidelines for the return of supersonic civil aviation in Europe through the elimination of a key obstacle: excessive noise levels caused by aircraft as they break the sound barrier.

The joint Russian-EU RUMBLE (Regulation and Norm for Low Supersonic Boom Levels) project was launched in Paris last week, effectively tasked with determining the future of supersonic commercial aviation in Europe. The project’s strategic goals include finding a solution to the issue of the supersonic boom generated by aircraft, and to create standards for global commercial supersonic aviation.

Financing for RUMBLE is split down the middle between the Russian Ministry of Industry & Trade and the European Commission.

Sputnik France got in touchwith Sergei Chernyshev, director-general of the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI), a key player from the Russian side in the RUMBLE project, to get a better sense of what European companies and governments hope to accomplish.

Offering a bit of background on the issue, Chernyshev explained that one of the key reasons behind the commercial failure of Europe’s Concorde and the Soviet Union’s Tu-144 supersonic airliner was the sonic boom generated by the planes as they hit supersonic speed. The noise issue has led many countries, including the United States, to completely ban the flight of commercial supersonic aircraft over residential areas, effectively depriving airlines of most of their most promising routes.

“The noise caused by a supersonic aircraft as it flies past is virtually indistinguishable from that of an explosion. While it lasts only one or two tenths of a second, this is a very unpleasant phenomenon,” the senior engineer said.

However, the development of new technologies in the area of supersonic aviation may radically alter the situation in the near future, Chernyshev added.

“Aeronautics technologies have advanced and humanity – the US, Europe, Russia, Japan and China, have begun contemplating whether it’s possible to create a plane that’s able to fly at supersonic speeds over residential areas without producing such a loud noise. It’s clear that the plane will still produce some noise – that is just physics. However, what’s necessary is to make this noise so small so as to make it acceptable to people, similarly to how we are all accustomed to the noise of a big city.”

Commenting on the ambitious ideas behind RUMBLE and its efforts to create new standards on noise pollution, TsAGI’s director emphasized that what is at stake is effectively the creation a new generation of aircraft, one which will change human perceptions when it comes to long-distance travel.

The RUMBLE project required almost six years of careful negotiations to get off the ground, the decision on cooperation made in part based on Europe’s desire to catch up with US developments in the field of supersonic aviation. In the US, research in the area is driven mostly by NASA, with private companies including Gulfstream Aerospace (a direct competitor to France’s Dassault Aviation) engaged in their own efforts. The fact that a Dassault Aviation representative is serving as RUMBLE’s technical director is an indication of the company’s engagement in the project.

According to Chernyshev, Russian and French companies played a key role in establishing the cooperative effort. “Before drafting the specifications for this project, we took a very careful look at what had been done in the US, and attempted to find a niche – something that would allow us to add knowledge to this common international issue,” the engineer said.

In other words, Chernyshev noted, RUMBLE’s work will complement that of NASA and that of other US agencies and companies. “The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has also funded research in this area, and has accumulated a lot of data which can help form the basis of new standards. RUMBLE will do its part in terms of the methodology used to evaluate noise levels caused by supersonic booms…[including differing perceptions] among people depending on whether it’s day or night.”

From Joint Standards to Joint Development?

The senior engineer did not rule out that in the future, this project, currently tasked with dealing with academic and administrative issues, cannot grow into practical cooperation – i.e. into the joint Russian-European development of a new supersonic commercial jet.

According to Sputnik France, it’s probably no accident that European aviation giant Airbus, rather than governments, is coordinating the project. From the Russian side, the participation of Mikhail Pogosyan, rector of the Moscow Aviation Institute and principal creator of the Sukhoi SuperJet 100, is seen as evidence of RUMBLE’s commercial potential.

“It is difficult for us to compete with the Americans in terms of financing. Therefore, in our opinion, it would only be logical for Europe [including Russia] to launch a joint project, thus sharing the funding and the risks involved,” Chernyshev said. “Will our research lead to a new project? We certainly hope so.”

Effectively, Chernyshev noted, what’s at stake is the creation of the supersonic aircraft of the future, one which can fill the niche of high-speed business travel in the 21st century. “I cannot rule out joint efforts for a more detailed design at the concept level, and potential prototypes for such an aircraft,” he said.

TsAGI’s director has some pretty clear ideas on how this potential future aircraft may look. First of all, he said, the design will likely include a single person crew, supported by an advanced flight control system. In terms of design characteristics, the plane will be a “fundamentally new design,” dissimilar to conventional commercial aircraft, something that will demand highly innovative development work by the Russian aviation industry. The planes will be built from composite materials, making them lighter, and of course, will feature a new engine.

“As far as the engine is concerned, one option is to refine an existing one (although for the moment none of them are entirely suitable). The other is a breakthrough in engine construction and the creation of engines with a variable cycle – i.e. engines which can change their cycle during flight, depending on speed,” Chernyshev explained.

The new planes will probably be small, with seating for between 8 and 20 people, he said. “We believe that a small aircraft of about 60 tons with a capacity for between 12-14 people would be a good start as a business jet, costing 1.5 times that of a conventional subsonic business jet.”

In any case, Chernyshev emphasized Russia-European cooperation on commercial supersonic aviation does not seem affected by any political disputes between Moscow, Brussels, or Europe’s national governments. In fact, cooperation has only increased in spite of tensions and sanctions. “Such projects are the bridge which will help maintain working relations in a difficult political period and restore them once sanctions are lifted,” the official concluded.

Source: https://sputniknews.com/science/201712211060201726-europe-russia-cooperation-supersonic-passenger-plane/

A man, a plan, a canal…Thailand?

Ex-top brass appeal to new King Vajiralongkorn to bless building the long-envisioned Kra canal; China is keen to start digging

General Saiyud Kerdphol, the military engineer of Thailand’s winning Cold War-era anticommunism campaign, believes now is the time to build the Kra canal – a long-envisioned channel through the country’s southern isthmus that would connect the Indian and Pacific Oceans and dramatically shorten East-West shipping routes.

And for the massive infrastructure undertaking to finally break ground after centuries of pondering, the nonagenarian former supreme commander believes the monumental decision cannot be taken by any government and thus must be conceived and graced as “the king’s canal.”

“This cannot be done if it’s not the king’s project,” says Saiyud, who in an interview with Asia Times recalls meeting with the previous monarch in the 1980s when British motor company Rolls-Royce briefly had interest in the canal. “The government will never be firm enough to make a decision because they know they can’t control corruption.”

To be sure, Thailand is no closer to digging the Kra canal today than when it was first considered by King Narai in 1677. The scheme has been resurrected in various forms several times since, only to founder on political rocks and security concerns, including existential trepidation of physically dividing the nation in two.

The incumbent ruling junta, while grasping for new economic transformation strategies, has shown no interest in the canal. That’s due to perceived security risks in sight of a raging separatist Muslim insurgency in the kingdom’s southern reaches and the likely criticism that would arise from taking such a big decision as an unelected government.

But with the recent transition from deceased King Bhumibol Adulyadej to King Maha Vajiralongkorn, now known as Rama X, the canal’s ex-top brass backers hope the new monarch with a military background will give the scheme royal consideration, in the name of national peace and development.

Saiyud suggests the canal could herald “a new era of civilization” during Vajiralongkorn’s reign and bring peace through hearts-and-minds development to the conflict-ridden Deep South. The new king has taken special interest in the Muslim majority region, leading some to wonder if he may prioritize achieving peace in the region as part of his legacy.

It’s not altogether clear if the previous king shared concerns about physically dividing the kingdom, though staunch royalists note the canal would necessarily be wider than the Chao Phraya River, the nation’s main north-south waterway that travels through Bangkok and by the royal Grand Palace, viewed by many as the spiritual heart of the nation.

The Thai Canal Association (TCA), a group of influential former top brass soldiers advocating for the project, recently rechristened the canal from “Kra” to “Thai” to indicate it would be built for all Thais, in line with Bhumibol’s view that the decision should be made by the people.

TCA points to a recent local Songkhla University poll that apparently showed 74% of residents in 14 southern provinces agreed with building the canal.

The project’s skeptics, on the other hand, believe the latest drive-to-build aims ultimately to win rich feasibility study contracts “for the boys”, with scant prospects of actually implementing any proposed grand plan. The canal would cost anywhere between US$20-US$30 billion depending on the chosen route, and likely take a decade to dig.

While it’s unclear if any formal representations have been made to the monarch, the canal does have one rich and powerful new backer: China.

Beijing’s newly appointed ambassador to Bangkok, Lyu Jian, has said in recent high-level meetings that China envisions the Thai canal as part of its US$1 trillion ‘One Belt One Road’ (Obor) global infrastructure initiative, according to Thai government officials and advisors briefed on the discussions.

While China aims to link the initiative with the junta’s Eastern Economic Corridor industrial, logistical and real estate development plan, including via a long-stalled high-speed rail line connecting the two nations via Laos that broke symbolic ground in December, it is apparently the first-time Beijing has actively promoted the canal as part of the Obor program.

Until now, Beijing has publicly distanced itself from private Chinese companies which have engaged Thai trade groups to probe the project’s potential. That includes a memorandum of understanding entered by the China-Thailand Kra Infrastructure and Development Company and Asia Union Group to study the canal signed in Guangzhou in May 2015.

China’s Embassy in Bangkok did not respond to Asia Times’ written request for its current official position on the canal.

If China is involved, past financial and engineering obstacles – a previous consortium toyed with the notion of using nuclear explosions to excavate the channel – are likely no longer stumbling blocks, according to Pakdee Tanapura, a long-time advocate for building the canal and ranking TCA member.

Pakdee said Longhao Co Ltd, a Chinese construction company involved in recent land reclamation and island-building in the South China Sea, has expressed interest in the canal. Its plan would entail the construction of two man-made islands for facilities on either side of the canal’s entry points at the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea, according to Pakdee.

Other Hong Kong and Macau-based construction firms have also expressed interest in meetings with known palace emissaries, according to a diplomat monitoring the security dimensions of the canal. Beijing has put Hong Kong and Macau companies forward due to their global experience and comparatively polished executives, the envoy says.

The canal would save approximately 1,200 kilometers from current East-West shipping routes that currently must travel through the congested Malacca Strait, the world’s busiest maritime area where an estimated 84,000 ships and around 30% of global trade currently passes each year.

The World Bank has projected that volume could increase to over 140,000 per year in the next decade, while the narrow strait currently has the capacity to handle 122,000 ships. Much of that transport passes by or stops over for supplies and fuel in Singapore, the wealthy city-state that would seemingly have the most to lose from an alternative East-West shipping route.

Jinsong Zhao, a maritime expert at state-led Shanghai Jiao Tong University, suggests the canal could put Thailand at the center of a “third revolution” of fast-transport global trade, where e-commerce driven sales require ever quicker door-to-door delivery of goods that is limited in the region due to the long shipping route through the Malacca Strait.

“To my Thai friends: Don’t waste your time, don’t delay this project,” Jinsong implored at a conference on the canal held last September in Bangkok. “We have technology, we have capacity, we have money, we are happy to help. It’s good for Thailand, Asia and the whole world.” He said if Thailand waited another 20 years, it would be “fatal” to winning China’s support.

That may or may not be true. As much as 80% of China’s fuel imports currently pass through the Malacca Strait, a maritime bottleneck running between Malaysia and Indonesia that strategic analysts say the US Navy could readily block in any conflict scenario by leveraging its strategic access to nearby Singapore.

Beijing’s interest in a Thai canal comes amid uncertainty at Obor-invested ports envisioned – at least in part – as strategic hedges to its Malacca vulnerability, including facilities in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Myanmar’s now violence-wracked western Rakhine state, through which China has built oil and gas pipelines to fuel its landlocked southern hinterlands.

If built, the Thai canal would necessarily shift Asia’s maritime strategic dynamics by bypassing Malacca, one of the US’ chief strategic advantages vis-à-vis China at sea. One US official who communicated with Asia Times was skeptical the canal would be built any time soon, even with China’s apparent interest and potential financial support.

Another independent analyst with a US military background in the region and aware of the Pentagon’s recent strategic thinking said that even if the Thai canal was built, it would merely mean that the US Navy would have two strategic chokepoints, rather than just one, to block in a potential conflict with China.

Saiyud says he believes the US, which showed interest in the canal in an era when China was a minor maritime player, could ultimately support the canal for the logistical benefits to regional trade and as a long-time ally committed to Thailand’s economic development and prosperity. Thai-US bilateral relations have waned, however, under junta rule.

While fully engaged with Beijing, the canal’s Thai advocates are also keen to build a multinational coalition of backers and funders to prevent any one country, namely China, from having inordinate leverage over the channel and its related port facilities. “It must be a Thai company to lead and not look too Chinese,” says military statesman Saiyud.

Other advocates point to the recent multilateral funding for expansion of the Panama Canal, with support from Germany, Spain, South Korea, US, Argentina and Mexico, among others, as a financial model. They note the project would require new airports, communication networks and other modern infrastructure that would allow several nations to participate.

That’s sparked certain multinational interest. Last September’s TCA-organized conference held in Bangkok was supported by the European Association for Business and Commerce and sponsored by Hong Kong construction company Grand Dragon. A follow-up event on February 1 in Phuket will be staged in collaboration with the Thailand chambers of commerce of Australia, France, Germany, Netherlands and US.

Finance Minister Somkid Jatusripitak was scheduled to make opening remarks at last September’s canal event, but was held back at the last minute by the Prime Minister. As the junta’s political troubles mount and with an uncertain democratic transition on the horizon, such a monumental undertaking isn’t likely to win government support any time soon.

“We’re no closer today [to building the canal] than we were 340 years ago,” said General Pongthep Thesprateep, TCA’s chairman and secretary general of top royal advisor Prem Tinsulanonda’s Statesman Foundation, in an interview with Asia Times. “But for the people and the country, it’s a good time to start.”

Source: http://www.atimes.com/article/man-plan-canal-thailand/?utm_source=The+Daily+Report&utm_campaign=986de26588-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_01_25&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1f8bca137f-986de26588-21552319

Quasi-State: Kosovo is Europe’s Blind Zone – Economist

German economist, Martin Heipertz, spent several years in Kosovo as deputy head of the industrial and financial sector of the International Civilian Office, which later evolved into an EU mission in the region (EULEX).

After his time in Kosovo, Heipertz wrote a book called “Macchiato diplomacy — Kosovo — the blind zone of Europe”, he spoke about it to Sputnik Serbia.

Sputnik: Why coffee?

Martin Heipertz: Coffee has always been a symbol of friendly chatter and rest. Sipping coffee, they say something about everything. And we never spoke about serious political issues while drinking coffe. In Henry Kissinger’s epic book, “Diplomacy”, he develops the concept of strategic policy, and my book is a reverse story, which shows that all diplomacy in this case was reduced to talking over a cup of coffee.

Sputnik: What does it mean — the blind zone of Europe? 

Martin Heipertz: I think as a motorist. You don’t see what’s happening in the blind zone. This applies to Kosovo — that’s how in Western and Central Europe the issue of Kosovo is perceived. The matter is sometimes raised before society, and then again forgotten, and no one talks about it. And it’s necessary to talk about Kosovo constantly, it shouldn’t be in the blind zone.

READ MORE: US Pulling the Strings of Power in Kosovo — Expert

Sputnik: Does this mean that Kosovo as a state is a failed project? 

Martin Heipertz: Kosovo is an inefficient project that shows us an example of how a quasi-state looks.

putnik: So Europe made a mistake recognizing the independence of Kosovo?

Martin Heipertz: Everyone should answer this question based on their own interests. If we think that it was possible to find a better solution, then we are mistaken.

Sputnik: There wasn’t one?

Martin Heipertz: When I arrived in Kosovo, the decision (on recognition of independence) had already been made, so I do not know if there was an alternative. But if someone asked me, I would say that the best solution for Kosovo would be the Tyrol model, an autonomy. Kosovo’s autonomy within Serbia. But I don’t know if it would have been realistic and if it wasn’t too late to make such a decision.

Sputnik: Can something from what you’ve mentioned still be realized now?

Martin Heipertz: I think time has already passed and no other decision on Kosovo can be made now.

Sputnik: In your book you often mention corruption as the main problem in Kosovo. You worked in the international administration system, how large is the system’s responsibility for the problem remaining unsolved?

Martin Heipertz: The Bible says that we tend to see the speck in our brother’s eye but fail to notice the beam in our own eye. Corruption is a problem in many states, it’s not only the problem of Kosovo. We at EULEX wanted to create a legal state, and this turned out to be a very high goal, so we failed to reach it. Our result was very bad. I don’t criticize the fact that corruption rules in Kosovo, but us, because we couldn’t do anything about it.

Sputnik: You’ve said that the United States played a critical role is the Kosovo issue. Why did Europe agree to it?

Martin Heipertz: I’m often pretty provocative talking about European impotence. I think Europe can’t show itself as a force, because it does not have an inner unity. We need a political union, a political union within the EU in order to implement coordinated foreign policy. That we can also impliment by military means in some cases.

Sputnik: In other words, does the EU need its own army? 

Martin Heipertz: Yes. We lack political unity and therefore lack a common foreign policy and a unified army.

READ MORE: There Can Be No European Army ‘Without NATO’s Blessing’ – Serbian General

Sputnik: But what about NATO?

Martin Heipertz: NATO is a collective security system, not an instrument of active foreign policy. That’s why we are divided and weak, and we give, so to speak, the battlefield to America, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia. We have a strong economy, but there’s no common foreign policy.

Sputnik: Should recognition of Kosovo’s independence be a condition for Serbia’s accession to the EU?

Martin Heipertz: I don’t want to compare the situation, but West Germany couldn’t pursue a foreign policy towards Russia and the East, until it reconciled and became accustomed to the idea of ​​losing the eastern territories. Serbia will be able to normalize political relations with the EU if it gets used to the idea of losing Kosovo.

Sputnik: What do you think of the Spanish non-paper document on Kosovo’s European integration?

Martin Heipertz: I wouldn’t recommend equating the attitude of Spain and the EU towards Kosovo.

 

India Will Be the Second Country in the World To Use a Novel Nuclear Technology

After 15 years of development and construction, India’s Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) is nearing completion. The project is a testament to India’s resolve to rely on renewable sources of energy in the future

FAST BREEDERS

As a country with a huge demand for electricity, India is wise to step up its renewable energy game. The country recently announced plans to shut down more than 30 of its coal mines and is steadily veering away from coal-fired plants, so naturally, it needs an alternative.

As the country works to develop its renewable energy sources, perhaps its biggest achievement yet has come from nuclear energy, and its newest nuclear plant is a kind you may not even know existed.

For 15 years now, India’s nuclear scientists have been working on a gigantic nuclear facility in Kalpakkam, a city on the shores of the Bay of Bengal near Chennai. Unlike most facilities, this one is a fast breeder nuclear reactor, a technology India has been working to perfect for 27 years now, beginning with an experimental facility called a Fast-Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR).

Fast breeder reactors are different from conventional nuclear plants because the neutrons that sustain the atomic chain reaction travel at higher velocities. This type of reactor is capable of generating more fuel that it consumes, a behavior typically made possible by elemental uranium.

“[F]ast reactors can help extract up to 70 percent more energy than traditional reactors and are safer than traditional reactors while reducing long lived radioactive waste by several fold,” Yukiya Amano, Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, explained to the Times of India.

Uranium isn’t common in India, but the country has the second largest store of thorium, so the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) in Kalpakkam uses rods of that element.

SAFER AND CLEANER

Prior to India’s PFBR, the only commercially operating fast breeder nuclear reactor was Russia’s Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Plant, located in the Ural Mountains. Russia’s fast breeder reactor utilizes elemental uranium, though, so India’s is truly one of a kind. China is also pursuing a similar program, but their technology is more than a decade behind India’s.

Other countries, such as Japan and France, have also tried to develop their own fast breeder technologies, but they haven’t been successful because of technical and safety reasons. However, Arun Kumar Bhaduri, Director of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), Kalpakkamtold the Times of India that the technology is safe: “[F]ast breeder reactors are far safer than the current generation of nuclear plants.”

With the PFBR, India is pioneering a kind of nuclear technology that could potentially be the country’s greatest renewable energy source. That’s a big step, especially since nuclear fission remains the only kind of nuclear reaction we’ve managed to sustain, though efforts to make nuclear fusion viable are still in the works.

India is the world’s second largest contributor to climate warming gasses, behind only China. While the latter seems to be leading the world in harnessing solar and wind energy, India is determined to make nuclear energy work in their favor.