Will China’s bruited $400 bn. investment in Iran make Beijing an oil Gulf power?

By Niranjan Jose

he relationship between China and Iran has been in the spotlight recently. A huge, 25-year deal is reportedly being considered that would see $400 billion of Chinese investment in Iranian energy and transport infrastructure. The deal is the latest effort by Beijing to expand from a regional hegemon into a global power through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which aims to reshape regional economic topographies in its favour.

Beijing has ostensibly undertaken to make such a massive investment in key sectors of Iran’s economy in return for an assured supply of Iranian fuel for the next 25 years. The proposed investment is the biggest China has ever pledged to any country as a part of the BRI and envisages huge expenditure in building Iran’s oil and gas and infrastructure, at $280bn and $120bn respectivel

According to the information available, China is to spend $120bn to develop Iran’s transport network starting with the 2,300 kilometre road that will connect Tehran to Urumqi in Xinjiang Province. This route will be paved with the Urumqi-Gwadar connection built under the “New Silk Road” in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.

When completed, the road link will have an ambitious plan to connect with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, and thereafter via Turkey into Europe.

Beijing also plans to deploy over 5,000 Chinese security personnel to protect its investments in Iran. It is among the top three arms suppliers to the Iranians, according to SIPRI data, exporting weapons worth about $270 million to Tehran between 2008 and 2018.

The first trilateral naval exercise between China, Russia and Iran was held in the Gulf of Oman in December last year. Strategically, all three nations are empowered by the common perception of an enemy in Washington and fears of US military interventionism.

Iran seeks to expand its military influence in the region by obtaining Chinese weapons and expertise, while China seeks to develop Iran as a lucrative arms market and a strategic bulwark against US forces in Asia.

The top economic advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is Ali Agha Mohammadi who appeared recently on state television to address the need for a financial helping hand.

He said that to remain a player in the energy sector, Tehran needs to boost its oil output to at least 8.5 million barrels per day, and for that it needs China. As Iran’s biggest trading partner, China overtook the European Union in 2010, with about one-third of Tehran’s overall international trade being conducted with Beijing.

Iran’s oil industry was more dependent on China as a trading partner, despite sanctions implemented by the US and the UN in 2010. Only 5 percent of Iran’s overall oil exports went to China in 2000; however, by 2011 that had increased to 25 percent.

China has also become a major investor in Iran’s oil and gas industry, as the US and international sanctions have limited Tehran’s access to international finance and the innovations needed to develop its declining energy industry. In 2012, at the height of restrictive economic sanctions, China imported 54 percent of Iran’s oil output by alternative financial structures, including barter.

There are plenty of motives for China and Iran to collaborate as their economies are complementary.

China is the world’s largest oil importer, and Iran wants clients ready to counter US sanctions. Moreover, Iran needs modernized technology in areas such as rail and 5G networks, where Chinese companies have strengths.

Tehran has increasingly turned to Beijing for support in its long-running conflict with the US. China has also been vocal in its support for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, vowing to uphold it even after Washington withdrew from the pact.

Iran is situated at the crucial nexus of the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia, as well as the critical trading networks that run through the region. Beijing has identified Iran as a link along the BRI, connecting Xinjiang with the Middle East.

Relations between Beijing and Tehran, which date back to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “Pivot to the East“ policy, have blossomed under Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is pushing China’s ambitious initiative.

The alliance developed over four decades across three phases: military cooperation during the 1980/88 Iran-Iraq War; energy cooperation in the 1990s as China developed quickly; and oil deals which defied sanctions. The “maximum pressure” policy and sanctions imposed on Iran by the Donald Trump administration has failed.

Far from isolating Tehran, as intended, the exertion of significant economic pressure on the Iranian regime has pushed it further into the arms of Beijing. China is criticized by Western policy observers for its so-called “debt diplomacy”, the strategy of indebtedness through aggressive investment packages to an economically vulnerable country.

This acts as leverage for important property acquisitions; one of the most prominent examples is the Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka, which the government had to lease to China for 99 years after it struggled to repay Chinese loans.

Beijing is utilizing Tehran’s rising vulnerability intensified by the health and economic crises due to Covid-19. The latest cyber-attacks on its atomic and maritime facilities have also driven Tehran into the arms of China.

After all, the growing superpower provides an insatiable energy demand, military and industrial infrastructure, huge spending and a possible global diplomatic shield, with its veto at the UN Security Council.

All are needed desperately by Iran. The agreement is not only seen by both nations as mutually advantageous, but also as a possible tool to challenge US hegemony in the Middle East.

China sees seamless possibilities in its strategic partnership with Iran, with a low-cost supply of oil, abundant mineral resources and an untapped market. Beijing’s Iran strategy is affected by its increasing footprint in the Persian Gulf, where it cautiously develops a position centred on highly diverse ties with regional powers, along with its global confrontation with the US.

The State Department in Washington has already threatened to target Chinese companies if they make investments in Iran which defy US sanctions.

Nevertheless, China is already in a trade and technological war with the US and seems determined to go ahead with its partnership with Iran. Beijing continued to buy Iranian oil over the past year even after the US sanctions’ waivers expired in May 2019, albeit in smaller volume.

With the US swamped by exhausting wars in the Middle East in recent years, China has steadily increased its political, commercial and even military operations in the region.

Its motives are clear, though varied; it aims to promote its goals, such as a growing need for oil supplies and destinations for surplus labour and capital.

China is mindful that none of the major powers returned unscathed from wars in the Middle East and are confronting a very challenging variety of obstacles.

The broad political fissures in the region render it impossible for outsiders not to take sides in the numerous conflicts. This presents a challenge to China, which seeks to be a partner for everyone, Iran, Israel and Arab states alike, in order to reap the advantages of its global involvement.

Even if just a portion of what is envisaged under the planned Sino-Iranian deal comes to life, it presents a deadly threat to the campaign against Tehran by the Trump administration.

China’s investments in Iran allow it to exert its influence on Iranian foreign policy, and will enable China to do three things: allow China to diversify its energy needs without overly relying on Russian energy; elevate its claim to offer an alternative to the “Washington consensus” by defying US sanctions against Iran and continuing to trade with Tehran; allow China to control India’s access to Central Asia by enhancing Beijing’s relationship with Iran.

Originally published at juancole.com

Niranjan Jose is a law student at the National Law University Odisha (NLUO), India.

Location, location, location: Why Russian LNG can beat competition from US & Australia?

Russia’s geographical position makes its exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) more profitable and competitive with American and Australian supplies, according to Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak.

Russia ships most of its LNG (around 69 percent) to Asian markets, where the bulk of global LNG supplies are sent. The country could also export its LNG via traditional Russian pipeline gas European routes, due to low cost and short transportation distance, the minister wrote, in an article for the Energy Policy journal.

“Russia’s convenient geographical position between Europe and Asia allows our LNG to be profitable at current prices and to win competition from the US and Australia,” Novak said. “If necessary, we can deliver liquefied gas to any European country, and it will be faster and cheaper than many other suppliers.”

The Northern Sea Route (NSR) could be a key transport link to connect massive Arctic energy projects Russia is currently developing with target markets. The route, which lies in Arctic waters and within Russia’s Exclusive Economic Zone, could cut the transportation time by a third, compared to shipments via the Suez Canal.

Russia is one of the world’s leading exporters of natural gas. Last year, it produced more than 40 billion cubic meters of LNG – a nearly 50 percent increase from 27 billion cubic meters it had in 2018. By 2035, Novak expects the country to boost production to 120 million tons, amounting to around a fifth of the forecasted global LNG production.

Trump urges Europe to buy American natural gas to ensure their energy security

European countries should rely on US gas imports to ensure their energy security, US President Donald Trump announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“With an abundance of American natural gas now available European allies no longer have to be vulnerable to unfriendly energy suppliers,” Trump told the audience as he boasted that the US had outpaced other countries “by far” in oil and gas production.

We urge our friends in Europe to use America’s vast supply and achieve true energy security.

The statement falls in line with US efforts to boost its energy shipments to Europe, especially imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Meanwhile, many European nations have already stressed that they want to diversify their sources of energy, and the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia could be one of the ways to achieve this.

However, Washington has recently issued an ultimatum to European companies involved in the Russia-led project, threatening to impose harsh sanctions on them unless they ditch it. Fearing the restrictions, the Swiss-Dutch company Allseas stopped all work on the final stages of the project and withdrew its vessels from the construction area in the Baltic Sea in December.

The US approach has already been criticized in Europe, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying that “sanctions are the wrong way to go.” As she met Russian President Vladimir Putin, she also stressed that Nord Stream 2 is set be finished against all odds by the end of 2020 or early 2021.

India could become first non‑Arctic state to develop Russia’s Arctic resources

New Delhi is considering participating in Russian oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in the Arctic as cooperation with Moscow could open vast opportunities for India in the resource-rich region.

“We are establishing cooperation in geological exploration, joint development of oil and gas fields on the territories of the two countries, including offshore projects, which will eventually allow India to become the first non‑Arctic state to extract resources in the Arctic,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with the Times of India

India, one of the largest and fastest growing LNG markets, wants to get Russian LNG from the Arctic to satisfy its growing energy demand. It could join the Arctic LNG project led by Russian energy giant Novatek, according to India’s Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan.

“We are also studying the opportunities to participate in the future Novatek project in the Arctic. We are looking into all the opportunities to get LNG from this region,” the minister told reporters on Wednesday.The interest in Russian gas supplies comes as India turns away from joint projects with neighboring Pakistan. New Delhi has refused to sign a memorandum of understanding on the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline construction amid escalating tensions with Islamabad.

“We don’t want to deal with Pakistan. We are more interested in Russian LNG,” Pradhan said.

In September, Russia’s Novatek and India’s H-Energy Global signed an agreement on LNG supplies to India on a long-term basis. The memorandum of understanding envisages joint investment in future LNG terminals of the two companies, as well as establishing a joint venture to sell LNG and natural gas to customers in India, Bangladesh and other countries.

Crude reserves in Russia’s Arctic are also attracting Indian companies willing to invest into the massive Vostok oil project. According to Pradhan, the project is “very interesting” for the country, but he did not elaborate on how much it is going to invest. Vostok Oil is a joint venture between state-owned oil major Rosneft and private oil producer Neftegazholding (NGH) with the projected production of up to 100 million tons.

Beijing wants 100,000 hydrogen cars by 2025

Lured by government incentives and research, manufacturers are rushing to set up production plants

China expects to have 100,000 cars powered by clean-burning hydrogen cells on its roads within five to six years as it challenges such countries as Japan and South Korea for dominance of the emerging carbon-free automotive markets.

There are already more electric vehicles in China than anywhere else, but an expert in new energy sources with the Chinese Academy of Sciences told Xinhua that the research and production focus was now shifting to hydrogen fuel cells. With their outstanding energy-conversion efficiency and zero carbon emissions, the cells are tipped to replace fossil-fuel engines and rechargeable batteries as the global power source for transport.

The blueprint for the program will be China’s successful marketing of electric cars: There were almost none 10 years ago, but a million electric and hybrid cars were sold to the public and private sectors last year, more than the rest of the world combined.

They use lithium-ion packs, which need to be recharged every 350-600 kilometers. In contrast, fuel cells generate their own electricity when hydrogen interacts with oxygen and do not need charging. Instead, they have hydrogen tanks that can hold far more energy, while the only byproducts are heat and water.

Beijing aims to add 30,000 “clean” vehicles in 30 cities each year from 2019, mostly powered by hydrogen, with the initial emphasis likely to be on public transportation. The government has invested more than US$12 billion in fuel cell technologies.

Lured by government research and production subsidies, domestic automakers such as Great Wall Motor, Yutong Bus and Foton Motor have rushed into the promising hydrogen automotive sector since last year. Changchun-based First Automobile Work, China’s oldest carmaker, has announced plans to mass-produce a fuel-cell version of its flagship marque Hongqi this year.

A 12 billion yuan (US$1.77 billion) hydrogen automobile plant is also being built in Guangdong province, backed by Hong Kong business magnate Li Ka-shing. Production will start by the end of this year, with an annual output of 160,000 units expected within five years.

Chinese policymakers may also offer incentives to accelerate the construction of fueling stations for hydrogen cars, according to China Security Times. There are currently only 12 functioning stations.

Some earlier versions of hydrogen-powered cars are already on the road, such as the Toyota Mirai and Honda Clarity, but the fuel they carry is expensive, volatile and prone to explode. To overcome these problems, the University of Science and Technology of China said this year that it had invented a new catalyst capable of preventing highly flammable hydrogen fuel cells from overheating.

A research team with the university’s School of Chemistry and Materials Science said the catalyst would prevent cells from being affected by carbon monoxide and allow for the manufacturing of high-purity hydrogen at a time when the costs of making fuel cells and building and running hydrogen pipelines and fueling stations are still prohibitive. The battery would be able to work with temperature changes.

Older vehicles may be converted to hydrogen as technologies become available. In one notable breakthrough, Chinese researchers have adapted methanol, an alcohol made easily from coal, to hydrogen gas so it can power cars. The methanol releases hydrogen and carbon dioxide when it comes into contact with water, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Coal Chemistry has developed a way to get a faster reaction under normal temperatures by using a device that can fit into a compact car.

The reaction chamber has a volume of only about 100 milliliters, and the vehicle can carry two fuel tanks – one for methanol and a smaller one for water – according to Xinhua and the South China Morning Post.

Caspian Deal Highlights Shift in Azerbaijan


As the US/Turkish relationship deteriorates it is having spillover effects around the region. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s continued defiance of US’s demands have placed Turkey in the cross-hairs of a vicious hybrid-war attack on the country’s fragile economic foundation.

So, I find it very interesting that during the week of the greatest turmoil in Turkish markets, notably a panic in the Turkish Lira, the five nations bordering the Caspian Sea reach an historic agreement which remained elusive for over 20 years.

And at the heart of that disagreement has been Azerbaijan’s claims over oil and gas rights in the Caspian which rankled both Turkmenistan to the north and Iran to the south.

For the past few years, as US/Russian relations have cratered, Russian/Azeri relations have improved. And it has been the diligent work of both Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov which laid the groundwork for this agreement.

Putin first organized a trilateral summit between himself, Azeri President Aliyev and Iranian President Rouhani two years ago this month.

But, more importantly, it has been Putin and Lavrov’s steady and consistent diplomatic efforts to improve relations between Russia and all the former Soviet states which the US has worked diligently since the early 1990’s to harm.

Azerbaijan has always fallen on the US side of the geopolitical chess board.

On top of this is Russia’s very successful campaign in countering the US/Saudi/Israeli-led civil war in Syria which resulted in a very significant turn in Russian/Turkish relations. And this, to me, is the key to understanding why these long-frozen conflicts around the region are changing, sometimes, like this weekend’s summit, dramatically.

To this point Russia has taken everything the US has thrown at it and survived. And if you don’t think smaller players like Azerbaijan aren’t taking notice, then you are hopelessly naïve. A Russia capable of standing up to the US is a Russia capable of being a valuable regional partner.

And that partnership extends around the entire region.

Take the frozen conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh, for example. For the past twenty-plus years Turkey has backed Azeri claims and Russia, tacitly, Armenia’s. But, despite a flare-up a couple of years ago, just hours after US Secretary of State John Kerry left Baku, settling Nagorno-Karabakh is on everyone’s mind.

Over the weekend Nagorno-Karabakh was on the diplomatic menu in the meeting between Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart, Movlut Çavuşoğlu.

Even the new Armenian Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, is ready to discuss the conflict.

“We have expressed political willingness to continue talks on Nagorno-Karabakh in a constructive way, in line with our political obligations and in the context of Armenia’s interests. However, a preparatory stage is required to revive negotiations, especially in the current political situation,” he stressed.

Pashinyan added that Yerevan “is ready for any scenario on Nagorno-Karabakh.”

I expect that a deal over Nagorno-Karabakh will be brokered by Russia with Turkey’s support now that Turkey will be dependent on Russia for its financial survival as it pursues a painful and necessary de-dollarization process, the beginnings of which have already begun.

With reports that the US is in peace talks with moderate factions within the Taliban out there, the possibility of a withdrawal becomes greater. Moreover, the Caspian Sea agreement precludes any third-party military presence, another sign of Azerbaijan’s shift away from the US’s orbit.

The regional change doesn’t stop there, however. The recent election of Imran Khan in Pakistan changes that country’s role again in the direction of Russian and Chinese integration plans, especially in brokering a long-term stabilization plan for Afghanistan.

The message is becoming very clear to all the smaller regional players, the board is changing. And you can be a part of it or you can be left behind. The US’s plans for permanent chaos in central Asia has harmed all of these places and now is the beginning of the transition period.

I’ve held from the moment it began that Russia’s intervention in Syria would mark the peak of the US’s ability to project power around the world, this is certainly now true in central Asia and the Middle East.

The current defiance by Turkey is another aftershock of that intervention which revealed the lies which everyone on the ground in Syria knew about but felt powerless to change.

That’s why Russia’s intervention and success was so significant. It created an Axis of Resistance that was credible and would pay the kinds of dividends we are seeing today.

This is not to downgrade the contributions of Russia’s partners in Syria, the Syrians themselves, Iran and Hezbollah, but it was Russia that tipped the balance of power in Syria. Because under no circumstances were the Obama or Trump administrations willing to risk a direct conflict with Russia over Syria.

Hillary Clinton was a different story, but, thankfully, one we never had to experience.

So, for Azerbaijan its relationships with its neighbors are about to undergo a sea change, which should see meat put on the bones of this weekend’s agreement about oil and gas rights.

Note, also that while Trump is adamant about there being no exemptions to trading with Iran after November, that the US State Department issued a waiver for Azerbaijan’s Southern Gas Corridor project which it partners with none other than British Petroleum.

The Southern Gas Corridor is one of those ridiculously expensive work-arounds created by US geopolitical meddling to free Europe from the yoke of Russia’s cheap and abundant gas supplies.

Royal Dutch Shell and France’s Total were not given such waivers over the former’s involvement with Nordstream 2 or the latter’s deal with NIOC, which China’s CNPC took over at a discount.

As I’ve said before, never go nuclear in your negotiations, if your bluff is called you are left standing naked as the tide recedes. And the US’s real strength in central Asia has been for many years a weak and disjointed Russia allowing the chaos sowed to flourish.

That condition is no longer in effect and all that’s left for the US is unsustainable military deployments, both financially and logistically, and growing discontent at an international system of trade and finance which is abusive.

Viewed in that context, this weekend’s surprise agreement shouldn’t be much surprise at all.

Source: https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2018/08/17/caspian-deal-highlights-shift-in-azerbaijan.html

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


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.


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.

India seeks a place at the other nuclear table

Since 2016, India has been making efforts to attain membership of the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) , a nuclear technology control organization created to prevent misuse of nuclear technology and proliferation of nuclear materials. As a rule, prospective members have to be signatories of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a prerequisite. Effective since 1970, the international treaty is considered either discriminatory or non-advantageous by the three countries that have not signed, namely India, Pakistan and Israel. Interestingly though, the NSG was formed in 1975 in direct response to India’s first nuclear weapon test as the latter utilized plutonium produced with nuclear technology from Canada and the United States.

Notwithstanding the fact that it is a non-signatory of the NPT, India would like to be part of the NSG. Needless to say, China and some other nations have disapproved of India’s entry as under the present circumstances it could lead to a nuclear arms race. Feeling concerned, Pakistan also applied on May 20, 2016, based on the premise that its inclusion would further non-proliferation objectives under NSG guidelines, as it has nuclear supply capabilities and an excellent nuclear safety record. On principle, Beijing put forward a two-step approach stipulating that all NSG members decide a set format for admission of non-NPT states into the fold first, then consider any individual “country -specific” applications for membership in the second step.

Having had the support of the Obama administration, India expected to be accepted as member at the last plenary session in June and it blamed China for the delay, a view supported by outgoing US assistant secretary of state Nisha Biswal, who remarked that China was the “one outlier” standing in India’s way. Countering this, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying replied, “It is worth pointing out that the NSG membership is not something to be given privately between countries as a farewell gift”.

Not to be left out, India’s then external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup stated that “India is not seeking NSG membership as a gift. India is seeking it on its non-proliferation record,” adding that, “I, of course, cannot speak for other applicants,” in an obvious reference to Pakistan.

Looking for a loophole, India rejected China’s condition that it must sign the NPT on the grounds that France had also joined the NSG while remaining a non-signatory for some time.

Due to its political rivalry with Pakistan, India is in extraordinary haste to become a member first and make sure the latter stays out. There seems to be no other reason for such a huge rush over the matter. In its haste, it is ignoring the real circumstances behind the membership rejection as it expects all the members to set aside the impediments.

For starters, it is not just China that ‘blocks’ its candidature and the sooner that India realizes that the better. At the last plenary session at least 10 countries, including Russia, Brazil, Austria, New Zealand, Ireland, Turkey and China, opposed its membership, even some nations that had initially pledged support backed out at the meeting. Not only that, a senior Carnegie Endowment associate, Mark Hibbs, tweeted that about a quarter of the 48-member NSG raised issues about Indian candidature. Members of the NSG are obviously critical of India for remaining a non-signatory of the NPT, notwithstanding its commitment while getting an NSG waiver in 2008.

Having made no progress towards the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, India did not even separate its civilian and military nuclear reactors as per requirement, and it continues to run the largest un-safeguarded nuclear program, with a fissile production capacity 7.7 times greater than Pakistan. India should be bringing its entire civilian program in line with safeguards laid out by the International Atomic Energy Commission but it refuses to submit to checks by the IAEA. Such circumstances do not bode well for maintaining strategic stability in South Asia.

Having said that, India’s chances of entry in the group remain as bleak as they were last year unless it signs the NPT or shows progress in nuclear security protocols. The next plenary is to be held in Bern, Switzerland this month, and achieving consensus remains improbable as the technical, legal and political aspects of non-NPT states’ participation were discussed at the last NSG meeting in November without result.

Reiterating China’s stance,, Hua Chunying stated last month that “China maintains that any formula [for membership] worked out should be non-discriminatory and applicable to all non-NPT states; without prejudice to the core value of the NSG and the effectiveness, authority and integrity of the international non-proliferation regime with the NPT as its cornerstone; and without contradicting the customary international law in the field of non-proliferation.” In China’s view, the two-step solution remains the best solution, and it wishes to tackle the issue “in an open and transparent manner.”

However, India also had no plans to give up, as announced by Gopal Baglay, the Ministry of External Affairs’ spokesperson: “Our efforts for an NSG membership will continue. We will continue to be engaged with member countries.”

As the NSG 2017 plenary in Berne edges closer, India’s prospects regarding NSG membership are getting even trickier as China has re-enforced its continuous stance by saying that the membership bid has now become “more complicated” under “new circumstances.” On its part, it has absolutely ruled out India’s entry in the forum on the grounds that there should be a non-discriminatory solution applicable to all non-NPT signatory countries.
China’s Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Li Huilai said at a media briefing in Beijing that, “China supports the NSG to have consultation for reaching a non-discriminatory and universally applicable solution, applicable to all members of the NSG, about the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) it is a new issue under the new circumstances and it is more complicated than they previously imagined.” The matter promises to be the hot topic at the approaching plenary session, whilst the prospects of India securing NSG membership seems poor as the group depends on consensus.



Nine of the 10 Biggest Power Plants in the World are Hydro-power

By Editors of Power Engineering

Nine out of the 10 biggest power-generating facilities in the world are based on hydroelectric power, the U.S. Energy Information Administration announced.

Additionally, four out of the group are based in China, with all four beginning operations in the last 13 years.

The world’s largest dam, Three Gorges, taps into the Yangtze River and has a capacity of 22.5 GW. Hydroelectric power is the second-largest source of electricity behind coal, with 20 percent of the country’s total generation in 2015.

Three of the biggest are based in South America, including the second-largest power plant in the world. Brazil’s Itaipu Dam on the Parana River has a capacity of 14GW. In 2015, it ranked first in the world in generation with 89.5 billion kWh, compared to Three Gorges’ output of 87 billion kWh.

The sole non-hydroelectric plant in the list is Japan’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, a nuclear plant and the sixth-largest in the world. However, it was shut down along with most Japanese nuclear plants after the Fukushima accident in 2011 and has yet to restart.

The Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River in Washington is the seventh-largest in the world with a capacity of 6.8 GW. It was also the largest power plant in the world from 1949 through 1960, and retook the title after an expansion from 1979 through 1986.