Geopolitics in Asia Essay
Geopolitics in Asia
The study of the relationship among politics and geography, demography, and economics especially with respect to the foreign policy of a nation. The study of geographic influences on power relationships in international politics. Geopolitical theorists have sought to demonstrate the importance in the determination of foreign policies of considerations such as the acquisition of natural boundaries, access to important sea routes, and the control of strategically important land areas. The term was first employed in the early 20th century by the Swedish political scientist Rudolph Kjellen (1864 – 1922).
Geopolitical factors have become less significant in the foreign policies of states because of improvements in communications and transportation. Geopolitics in Asia: Russia, India and Pakistan-China Cooperation With Russian President Vladimir Putin planning to visit Pakistan, some of my Indian friendsjournalists believe that the proposed trip is a kind of punishment for India because of Delhi’s ‘proAmerican’ foreign policy. I think that such a simplistic explanation underestimates the complexity of the situation in the southern part of central Eurasia, which will experience new changes after foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan.
And then a new geopolitical equation will emerge, where Pakistan and its geopolitical alliance with China will surely be the central element due to historical reasons and geographical circumstances. In 1950, Pakistan was one of the first countries to recognize the People’s Republic of China, while in the 1960s to early 1970s it remained Beijing’s most steadfast ally during a period of a relative international isolation of the latter. China appreciates this support by providing Pakistan with both military, and technical and economic assistance, including the transfer of nuclear technology.
Some experts believe that strengthening multilateral connections between India and the U. S. will make strategic alliance relations between Islamabad and Beijing even closer, even more so, because the Pakistani elite considers the partnership with China to be a security guarantee. Military-technical cooperation (MTC) of Islamabad and Beijing is carried out in three main areas: Rockets: Pakistani armed forces have short range and medium range missiles that experts regard as a ‘modification of Chinese allistic missiles’; Combat aircraft: the Pakistani Air Force has aircraft of Chinese design – JF-17 Thunder and K-8 Karakorum, as well as the co-produced interceptor aircraft. In addition, the Pakistani Air Force uses the early warning radar system made in China (U. S. experts believe that the delay in the transfer of the remains of the stealth helicopter that took part in the elimination of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011, was associated with its preliminary study by the Chinese military); Nuclear program: it is believed that China could have transferred to Pakistan the technologies that are critical to the production of nuclear weapons.
In addition to MTC, Pakistan and China are actively developing economic relations; their development acceleration was caused by a Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement of 2008. By some estimates, the bilateral trade is approaching $15 billion. With China’s help, long-term infrastructure projects are being implemented in Pakistan, covering road construction, minerals development (including copper and gold), the classical energy manufacturing as well as several projects in the nuclear / non-classical energy field.
An important object of the joint activity was the construction of the deepwater port of Gwadar in Baluchistan Province (the port complex operation was started in December 2008. ). This port, located at 180 nautical miles from the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz, through which about 40% of the world’s supply of oil by water is accomplished, is of strategic importance to Beijing as well. First, it provides diversification and hydrocarbons-supply protection and, secondly, it is possible to access the Arabian Sea through Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR), which is important for the overall economic security of China.
Formally, Pakistan has two main strategic allies – China and the United States. However, in the light of the events in 2011 the country’s ruling circles have lost confidence in America and increasingly rely on China, referred to, at an informal level, as the ‘all-weather ally’. (An important factor in the growth of Islamabad’s distrust to Washington was the US-Indian ‘nuclear deal’ that has in fact excluded India, according to Pakistani officials, from the nuclear non-proliferation regime. ) The decision by China to build two nuclear reactors in Pakistan, in addition to the existing ones, was a vivid demonstration of mutual trust.
However, there are still some problems in the ‘all-weather allies’ relationship. China’s elite is concerned with the high level of political extremism in Pakistan. Beijing is worried about the growing militancy of the Uighurs operating from the tribal area of Pakistan. According to experts, a significant number of Uighurs who attended madrassas in Pakistan in the 1980s have been subsequently mobilized to units operating on the territory of Afghanistan – first against the Soviet troops and later against the combined forces of the U. S. and its allies in their fight against the Taliban.
A certain faction of the Uighurs – ‘Mujahideen’ – apparently returned to China. Another cause of concern in Beijing is the frequent attacks of political radicals against Chinese nationals working in Pakistan on contract (more than 10,000 people). The situation is particularly difficult in the province of Baluchistan, in the western part of the country. Therefore, Beijing, preoccupied as it is with the safety of its citizens as well as the country’s prestige in the Muslim world, does not put a special emphasis on combating terrorism in Pakistan, in fact, entrusting a major role in this campaign to the United States.
In its turn, Washington takes into account China’s growing concern over proactive forces of political Islam in Pakistan, seeing the coincidence of the United States’ and China’s long-term strategic interests in combating radicalism. China seeks to maintain a strategic policy toward Pakistan that blends the two contradictory principles: 1) restriction of the geopolitical influence of the U. S. and India in South Asia, and 2) protection of the Celestial Empire against political extremism emanating from the Pakistani territory.
This task is solved both by the balanced development of relations with Islamabad and Delhi, and through the promotion of good neighbourly relations between the two ‘historic rivals’. This, among other things, is due to the relatively ‘impartial’ policy of the Middle Kingdom, in particular regarding the ‘Kashmir problem’. Such a compromise position of Beijing is apparently connected with the fears of a possible impact of the ‘demonstration effect’ of fermentation in the ‘big’, i. e. historical, Kashmir on tentative ethnic and religious turmoil in Xinjiang and Tibet.
PT-2 A point of view has long been firmly established among Indian political analysts that the only function of relations between China and Pakistan is that of ‘containment’ of India in South Asia. It is difficult to deny the logic of such geopolitical constructions, but this position underestimates the importance of trends that cause a significant external impact on the internal political situation in China during the last decade. The permanent destabilising impact of events in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) on the overall development of China is a recognized fact.
Moreover, political circles in Beijing do not rule out the possibility that supporters of the ‘independent Uighur state’ operating from the KhyberPakhtunkhwa or North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) territory of Pakistan are supported by the USA and some Muslim states. Therefore, Beijing endeavours to use various options to neutralise the forces of political Islam in Xinjiang, including those at the state level (Xinjiang is a home to over eight million Uighurs, the most radical of them are seeking to establish an independent state – ‘East Turkistan’).
In this direction the China’s policy towards Pakistan has adopted new important points. On the one hand, Beijing was satisfied with a full support of action to eliminate disturbances in Urumqi in July 2009 by the President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari, the leader of a ‘core’ Muslim state that has formally dissociated itself from the ‘International Islamic Resistance Movement’ in Xinjiang. On the other hand, China has doubts about the Pakistan authorities’ ability to exercise effective control over all its territory.
Beijing is not fully convinced in the effectiveness of such controls and some of Islamabad’s steps taken against extremists, in particular the stringent restrictive measures against the Uighur settlements and their religious schools in Pakistan that have become ‘nurseries’ for the future separatists. The doubts took the form of a direct agreement on multilateral cooperation between the PRC Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan.
The goal of the agreement is establishing direct contacts with the NWFP leaders in order to suppress the activities of Islamists carried out from the territory of the province. The agreement, however, has a significant socio-economic content. Its ‘supporting structure’ seems to be the broadening (with China’s help) of the Karakorum Highway, which is strategic for both countries and (through the Khunjerab pass located at an altitude of 4,693 metres above the sea level) connects Xinjiang and NWFP.
The Pakistani authorities seek to persuade China about the appropriateness of using the Karakorum Highway as a main international communication link for the delivery of imports to China from Pakistan’s ports, particularly from Gwadar in the Arabian Sea that has been modernised with the Beijing’s help. The agreement also provides for cooperation in the field of interregional trade, science and technology, culture, education, health, agriculture, sports and tourism.
It can be noted: filling the NWFP agreement with specific content, China will seek to engage as much of economically active population as possible in the bilateral interregional ties cycle, and thus bind their potentially destructive to China activities in Xinjiang. Interregional relations are only a part of the Beijing’s general course for stabilising the situation in Pakistan.
The PRC leadership is aware that Pakistan’s problems are of structural and systemic origin, and that they are generated by the state’s government course that is constantly and on an extended basis reproducing the contradictions that threaten the unity and territorial integrity of the country. Beijing wants to diversify its geopolitical strategy towards Pakistan and the South Asia as a whole. First, Beijing seems to be confident that because of its involvement in military activities in Afghanistan, the U. S. positions in Pakistan have been subtly but irreversibly weakening.
The new ‘equation’ of geopolitical power in Central Asia is indicative of China emerging as a dominant economic “actor” in the area. Beijing carries out the tactics of gently pushing the U. S. out of Pakistan through the time tested and proven practice of foreign economic relations expansion. In addition, Pakistan is counting on China’s substantial financial assistance, as well as cooperation in the ‘classical’ energy field, primarily the construction of hydropower stations along the lines of tested Chinese projects (based on the experience of the ‘Three Gorges’ project on Yangtze River) in the mountains.
Second, true to its strategic principle of ‘economy defines geopolitics,’ China actively participates in the modernisation of transport infrastructure in Pakistan. In fact, the implementation of projects in this area is subject to reaching a two-in one objective: to ensure safe transportation of energy carriers on the Persian Gulf – South China Sea route and limit the U. S. influence in the regions of the Middle East, South and Central Asia that are a ‘sensitive’ spot for China.
The above-mentioned project – the Gwadar port in the north-western part of the Arabian Sea – is an ideal place for observing the movement of vehicles and naval vessels coming from the Persian Gulf towards the East, and – if necessary – can be used to protect the vehicles delivering energy resources to the Far East. In particular, the active participation of experts from China in modernising bases and stations of Pakistan Navy submarines, which can also be used by Chinese submarines, speaks in favour of this assumption.
Third, according to media reports, China intends to seek permission to open a military base in Pakistan. Military experts believe that there are at least three strategic objectives pursued: providing a ‘soft’ military-political pressure on India; limiting U. S. influence in Pakistan and Afghanistan; direct supervising over the activities of the ‘Uighur separatists’ in the NWFP of Pakistan. Fourth, according to Indian press, China has become a major supplier of military equipment to Pakistan. Currently, the Pakistani army is allegedly armed with Chinese military equipment to the tune of 70 percent.
Moreover, citing some military sources in Delhi, the Indian press says: If the prospect of receiving the Russian fifth generation fighter by the Indian Air Force is materialised, Pakistan will turn for help to China also carrying research in this area of military construction. And finally, for Pakistan, China remains an indispensable ally and partner in the improvement of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems since 1976. And there is no evidence of terminating that assistance in the foreseeable future.