October 15, 2017

Australia unsure how ‘assertive’ China will act, Penny Wong says


Shadow foreign affairs minister says Australia needs to ‘understand China, its motives and its mindsets’

Paul Karp


Monday 16 October 2017 04.33 BSTLast modified on Monday 16 October 2017 05.29 BST

Australia does not “fully know” how an increasingly assertive China will use its power, Penny Wong has warned in a speech pledging to safeguard Australia’s sovereignty while accepting China as a global player.

The defence and security communities must be “on the lookout for threats” as government and business expand the trade relationship with China, the Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman told the Australian Institute of International Affairs in Canberra on Monday.

But Wong warned that discussion about China was “vulnerable … to infection with undertones of race and alienation”, citing One Nation’s “dystopian rhetoric” as an example.

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Wong said Australia must “understand China, its motives and its mindsets” because “we don’t yet know how its pursuit of a more ambitious agenda will play out globally” nor “how China intends to condition its use of power”.


“China is becoming more assertive, and more inclined not only to demand a place at the table, but also a say in which table and what design,” she said.

Wong said that Australia should work with China “to encourage it to play the positive role it is capable of in supporting and furthering regional stability and security”.

Wong said Australia must afford China the “priority it merits”, including by not remaining “defiantly monolingual”, instead committing to ramp up study of Mandarin.

Wong encouraged greater integration of economic and security policy, noting that China’s belt and road initiative was an example where assessment purely on strategic implications could see Australia “missing out on its potential” but a “purely economic approach ignores our own strategic interests”.

She announced that, in addition to engagement at the head of government and ministerial level, Labor would “considerably expand” engagement between the senior public service, not just in defence and foreign affairs but “in particular the Treasury” and other departments with ongoing business in China.

She noted proposals for an independent Australia-China commission, and said Labor would give “serious consideration” to the idea.


Wong said that at times China’s strategic objectives and its “long-term vision of its own place in the world” conflicted with the regional rules-based order, citing the South China Sea as an example.

In 2016 the permanent court of arbitration in The Hague ruled that China had no historical title over the South China Sea.

The Turnbull government has stressed the need for China to respect the binding ruling and the sovereignty of smaller nations, contributing to warnings from Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, that Australia must not “take sides” as occurred in the Cold War.

Earlier, in her speech at the same event, the foreign minister rejected the view Australia was “taking sides” by insisting China and the Philippines respect the international court’s decision. Julie Bishop warned the international rules-based order was “under strain, even fraying” as some nations sought to bend or break the rules for “short-term gain”.

She cited North Korea’s defiance of United Nations security council resolutions as the “most egregious” example.


Bishop said while the US would be the “only global superpower into the foreseeable future”, in the next 10 years – the time covered by the forthcoming foreign affairs white paper – Asia’s combined military spending would match the US’s.

In that time, she warned Australia could fall out of the world’s top 20 economies; it is projected to be overtaken by Indonesia, Pakistan and Thailand.

Bishop noted many territorial disagreements involved Asia’s great powers, citing China’s maritime disputes with five south-east Asian states including the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam, the dispute over the Senkaku Islands (also known as the Diaoyu Islands) with Japan and a land border dispute with India.

Wong said the world was in a period of disruption characterised by “unpredictable political events, re-emergent nationalism, the increasing challenge to democracy as the most effective form of political participation, worsening economic inequality” and a challenge to the international rules-based order.

China was part of that disruption and through economic growth had achieved “a standing as a world power that would once have only been possible through military power”, she said.

Wong argued Australia’s long-term relationship with China would be developed not “at the expense of our relationship with the US” but rather to a “very significant extent” because of that relationship.

She said the Anzus treaty between Australia and the US not only underpinned Australia’s security but “is a key contributor to the peace, stability and security of our region”, rejecting both the view of US regional treaties as an attempt to “contain” China and any suggestion China needed to be contained.

“What Australia, China and the US are looking for is a convergence, as far as is practicable, of our individual national interests in Asia, locating those interests within a rules-based order.”

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Wong argued that China’s long-term interests were enhanced by stability, and that Australia could navigate a path guided by its own national interests rather than treating China and the US as competitors engaged in a “binary relationship

OBOR's geopolitical significance for the EU

Excerpt from report

OBOR's geostrategic significance for the EU

Improving infrastructure along the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt has the potential to contribute to economic development and regional stability in Eurasia from which both China and the EU could benefit in terms of new markets and energy security. OBOR thus opens opportunities for the EU to pursue its geostrategic ambitions in Central Asia by deepening the EU-China strategic partnership through cooperation in
non-traditional security fields, possibly paving the way to EU-Russia reconciliation. The maritime trajectory of OBOR will sooner or later require the EU to take a more outspoken position on maritime disputes in the South China Sea in favour of an international rules-based order.

If OBOR is considered to be 'the most ambitious infrastructure-based security initiative in the world today', it may be argued that it could be advantageous for the EU to consider how its existing policy tools and strategies, such as the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and the EU Maritime Security Strategy, could be linked with OBOR and how this strategic alignment could feed into the EU's new Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy which came out on 29 June 2016.

OBOR's geopolitical significance for the EU

OBOR-induced investment and trade relations between China and countries in hEurasia, Africa and the Middle East are likely to result in China's growing political and economic leverage on these countries. What impact this will have on the EU's long-term geopolitical, economic and geostrategic interests will also depend on whether the EU
responds to OBOR with one voice and coordinated policies.

Until recently, China's infrastructure investment in Europe targeted individual EU countries such as Greece and the 16+1 group rather than the EU as a block. This has led to concerns about China's investment strategy pursuing 'divide and rule tactics' capitalising on the lack of a common EU strategy – as evidenced by the past lack of consultation at EU level as regards the AIIB accession of a total of 14 EU Member States – and EU Member States' propensity to privilege their bilateral ties with China. However, China's strong interest in investing in EU connectivity initiatives and in seeking
synergies between them and OBOR, as voiced at the 2015 EU-China summit, could be a turning point. With the launch of the EU-China Connectivity Platform, the EU has created a common framework for European cooperation with China on OBOR with a view to defining cooperation strategies, plans and policies and to clarifying the rules and principles governing joint projects including governance and rule of law issues. As OBOR is a 'moving concept', it provides the EU with an opportunity to take part in shaping the
agenda jointly with China and deepen EU-China relations.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a source of regional tensions, warns US War College expert


China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a source of regional tensions, warns US War College expert

ANI | Last Updated: Sunday, October 15, 2017 11:33 AM IST

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or the CPEC is going to further escalate regional tensions according to an expert who has served with the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army's War College in Washington, DC.

Washington: The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or the CPEC is going to further escalate regional tensions according to an expert who has served with the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army's War College in Washington, DC.

Dr. Robert G. Darius, a former research professor at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College, said, "The CPEC passing through disputed areas is not only vulnerability, but an additional source of regional tension, which is not needed in an already tensed and unstable area of the world, where India is the only bastion of democracy and stability." 

In his assessment the CPEC could be a trigger point for a regional flare up as it`s infrastructure passed over land which is disputed and is claimed by India to be part of the undivided state of Jammu and Kashmir.

This assessment by a former expert associated with the U.S. War College is important as it follows comments made by the U.S. Defence Secretary James Mattis who had indicated that the U.S. Could not support the CPEC as it passed over disputed territory. 

The U.S. Had also refrained from backing the One Road, One Belt summit held in Beijing as U.S. Government maintains that the World needs multiple belts and multiple roads to integrate rather than one Belt and Road. The U.S and China do not agree on CPEC and this assessment by Dr Robert Darius is a stark reminder of the consequences of CPEC which South Asia could face if China continues with building infrastructure over the disputed land of Gilgit - Baltistan.

The views of Dr Robert Darius have been endorsed by Josephine Derks, senior research analyst at the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS), a think-tank based in Amsterdam. 
Josephine Derks said " No longer can the international community turn a blind eye to the fact that the CPEC is running through a disputed territory, namely Gilgit Baltistan, a region legally part of the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir. Nor can one ignore the fact that Gilgit Baltistan does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Therefore, this Corridor serve as a breach of International law and Pakistan`s own Constitution."

Ms Derks added, "The abundant natural resources of Gilgit Baltistan, such as gold, copper, coal, iron and silver, will be exploited for the construction of this mega-project, while the people of Gilgit Baltistan will be heavily affected by the creation of this economic corridor, yet they have been excluded from any say in this project, indicating that the opinion of the indigenous people of the region are not taken into account." 

October 14, 2017

U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is obsolete

U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is obsolete

by LAWRENCE SELLIN, PHD October 14, 2017

U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, head of Central Command, believes that military pressure will force the Taliban to negotiate:

"That's what the object is here is, to use the military pressure to bring them to the table and enhance the efforts, not only diplomatically but regionally, focused on bringing this to some kind of a political negotiation settlement and some kind of peace discussion that takes place."

It is Vietnam déjà vu.

In his October 5, 1964 memorandum "How Valid Are the Assumptions Underlying Our Vietnam Policy," Undersecretary of State George Ball posed several questions about the deteriorating political and military situation in South Vietnam, among them:

"Can we, by military pressure against North Vietnam, persuade the Hanoi Government to stop Viet Cong action in the South or at least reduce that action to the point where the Viet Cong insurgency becomes manageable? If complete military victory is not possible, can we, by military pressure against North Vietnam, at least improve our bargaining position to the point where an acceptable negotiated solution might be achieved?"

North Vietnam was, for decades, deeply committed to its policy of annexation of South Vietnam and repeatedly insisted it would only negotiate on the basis of a U.S. withdrawal.

The Taliban are deeply committed to controlling Afghanistan and have also stated it would only negotiate on the basis of a U.S. and NATO withdrawal.

The Paris Peace Accords, officially known as the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam, was signed on January 27, 1973. Twenty-seven months later, North Vietnam overran South Vietnam.

After a negotiated settlement, I expect the Afghanistan government to fall to the Taliban within twelve months of a U.S. and NATO withdrawal.

The Taliban have four major operational headquarters in Pakistan covering the entire border with Afghanistan; Peshawar, Miran Shah (Haqqani), Quetta and northeast of Dalbandin. There are literally hundreds of recruiting, training and financial centers feeding into those headquarters with thousands of Afghans being educated in Taliban-influenced religious schools.

It is actually Pakistan with whom the U.S. should be negotiating because Pakistan oversees that vast Taliban infrastructure as well as controls the supply routes to our troops in land-locked Afghanistan.

And Pakistan wants the U.S. and NATO out of Afghanistan because it has other plans, but Islamabad is willing to let us bleed a bit more to improve their bargaining position with the Chinese.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is part of China's larger Belt and Road Initiative, aims to connect Asia through land-based and maritime economic zones. CPEC is an infrastructure project, the backbone of which is a transportation network connecting China to the Pakistani seaports of Gwadar and Karachi located on the Arabian Sea.

But CPEC is more than a commercial initiative. It is one element of China's strategy to overtake the U.S. as the world's foremost superpower. A humiliating defeat for the U.S. in Afghanistan would eliminate significant American influence in the region for at least a generation.

Huge tracks of land in Gwadar have been allocated to the Chinese for port and naval facility development as well as expansion of the international airport to handle heavy cargo flights. Surveying and soil sampling have been done by Chinese engineers along the Dasht River near the Iranian border. In the past weeks, high level talks between the Pakistanis and Iranians, sometimes with the participation of the Chinese, have taken place, most likely involving security, construction and resource use, particularly fresh water.

The Chinese are also investigating other sites along Pakistan's Makran coast including potential naval facilities in the Kalmat-Ormara area. The Chinese have visited and bought land in Sonmiani, which houses Pakistan's spaceport and space research center as well as a planned liquid natural gas terminal.

Chinese military control of Pakistan's Makran coast would allow Beijing to dominate vital sea lanes leading to the Persian Gulf and link to the Chinese base in Djibouti at the entrance of the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, both strategic choke points.

Withdrawal of the U.S. and NATO from Afghanistan would also allow China to exploit that country's estimated $3 trillion in untapped mineral resources, in addition to Balochistan's $1 trillion in gold, copper, oil, precious stones, coal, chromite and natural gas. 

It is unlikely that the Afghanistan strategy currently being pursued by the Trump Administration will produce either military victory or create the conditions by which a negotiated settlement favorable to the U.S. can be obtained.

That is because the strategy was designed more to match the contents of the U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Manual FM 3-24 than reflect reality on the ground.

In 1964, George Ball asked a question about Vietnam policy that is applicable to the Trump Administration's "new" Afghanistan strategy:

"Are we proposing action against the North [in Afghanistan] because we are reasonably confident it will, in fact, work, or merely because we are becoming reasonably confident that the present course of action will not work and we are not able to think of anything else to do?"

There are alternatives to fighting the last war.

Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired colonel with 29 years of service in the US Army Reserve and a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq. Colonel Sellin is the author of "Restoring the Republic: Arguments for a Second American Revolution ". He receives email at lawrence.sellin@gmail.com.

October 13, 2017

Balochistan National Congress (BNC) welcome the U.S Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s statement of support for the Baloch people

Balochistan National Congress (BNC) welcome the U.S Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s statement of support for the Baloch people and other oppressed nationalities in Pakistan.



October 13, 2017

Washington, D.C: - Balochistan National Congress (BNC) welcome and thank the U.S Congressman Dana Rohrabacher for his support to the oppressed Baloch people in Pakistan occupied Balochistan. 

Rohrabacher, speaking in the US House of Representatives, said that,”the US should support the Baloch people and other oppressed groups in Pakistan, who are being subject to grave human rights violations for demanding the right to self-determination”.

"We thank Dana Rohrabacher for his continues and unwavering support to the oppressed Baloch people of Pakistan occupied Balochistan", said Dr. Baloch, the President of BNC.

Dana Rohrabacher is a member of the U.S House of Representatives representing California's 48th congressional district and is serving as the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics. He held the historic Hearing on Balochistan in February 18, 2012 On the Capital Hills to draw the attention of the U.S lawmakers and the U.S Government to the plights of the Baloch people in Pakistan, supporting their right to self-determination.

Balochistan, the homeland of more than 16 millions Baloch people worldwide, is currently illegally occupied and divided between Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan and Baloch people are fighting to re-gain their independence and are being subjected to daily humiliation, subjugation, discrimination and torture in their own homeland by the foreign occupying forces.  

Dr. Baloch asked the Trump administration to support the oppressed Baloch people in their fight for freedom and Justice and against the illegal occupation of their homeland and exploitations of their natural resources by Pakistan, Iran and China. 

He said, “an independent secular and democratic Balochistan in the region is in the greater interests of US and for the regional peace and stability and security. It will also help to eliminate Islamic extremism and terrorist’s safe heavens in Balochistan, provided by the state of Pakistan and army”.


Related Links:

Historic Hearing on Balochistan on Capitol Hill.On the witness stand: Col Ralph Peter's speech

October 12, 2017

The Geopolitics of the Kra Canal


Aerial nature view of Kho Khot Kra or Kra Isthmus. (boonsom/Getty Images)

4 OCT 2017Military.com | by Joseph V. Micallef

Joseph V. Micallef is a best-selling military history and world affairs author, and keynote speaker. Follow him on Twitter at@JosephVMicallef.

The Kra or Thai Canal is a proposed manmade waterway across the Kra Isthmus on the Malay Peninsula in southern Thailand. The canal would connect the South China Sea with the Andaman Sea, providing a link between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.

It would be located about 500 miles south of Bangkok and 120 miles north of Thailand’s border with Malaysia. The new route would reduce the distance oil tankers from the Persian Gulf to Asian ports must traverse by around 700 miles.

The canal would also eliminate the need to transit the increasingly crowded, piracy-prone and dangerous Malacca Strait, as well as the adjacent Sunda Strait between Sumatra and Java or the Lombok Strait between Bali and Lombok.

With proposed funding from China, its construction would have far-ranging implications for the strategic landscape of Southeast Asia and especially for important American allies such as India, Sri Lanka and the city state of Singapore.

The Kra Isthmus runs approximately 700 miles and ranges in width from 26.5 miles at its narrowest to about 200 hundred miles at its widest.

Overland trade routes across the isthmus connecting Southeast Asia and India have existed for centuries. The isthmus lies at the juncture of the Indian Ocean monsoon system and the trade winds of the South China Sea.

Origins of the Canal

The idea of a canal across the Kra Isthmus goes back to the 17th century.

In 1677, upon hearing of the construction of the Canal du Midi connecting -- via the Garonne River, the Atlantic and Mediterranean -- King Ramathibodi III of Siam asked Louis XIV to send a French engineer to examine the possibility of building a canal to connect Songkhla and Marid (Myanmar)

The engineer, known only by his surname de Lamar, surveyed several possible routes, but the idea was abandoned as being impractical.

The idea resurfaced again in 1793, when the brother of King Rama I proposed a canal to make it easier to send naval vessels to protect Siam's west coast from pirates.

The British East India Company examined several possible canal routes over the course of the early 19th century but decided against building one.

In 1858, during the reign of King Rama IV, Great Britain asked for permission to build a canal from Ranog to Lung Susan, the narrowest portion of the Kra Isthmus. While narrow, the terrain is quite mountainous. The project was abandoned when the financial requirements were deemed too high.

The British government, in 1863, again considered the possibility of a canal, this time on the Burmese portion of the Kra peninsula, after lower Burma was incorporated into British India.

In 1872, London dispatched Captain A.G. Lipton to explore possible canal routes that would shorten the distance between India and Hong Kong. A route was surveyed from Victoria Point (Kawthaung, Burma) up the Kra River and across the peninsula to Chumphon, a distance of about 30 miles. This route also, however, proved too difficult for construction of a canal.

Between 1862 and 1882, various French proposals to build a canal were submitted to Rama IV and later Rama V. In June 1882, no less than Ferdinand de Lesseps, the promoter behind the construction of the Suez Canal, visited the area to examine the feasibility of building a canal. Bowing to British pressure, however, King Rama V of Siam denied him permission to proceed.

The king was concerned that France, which by now had taken over much of Indochina, had designs on the Kingdom of Siam.

Great Britain, in turn, did not want to see a French presence across the Andaman Sea from India. Nor did it want to see a canal that would facilitate Paris' ability to project French naval power into the Indian Ocean.

More importantly, London wanted to preserve the critical role of Singapore as both a trading and shipping hub, as well as its strategic position astride the sea lanes between the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

In 1897, Siam and Great Britain signed a secret convention under which the government of Siam agreed not to cede any rights on the Malay Peninsula without British consent and specifically prohibiting the building of a canal across the isthmus.

A variety of commercial interests explored the building of a Kra canal during the early part of the 20th century. These efforts were stymied, however, by British diplomatic pressure on Siam.

In the 1930s, the Japanese government proposed building a canal as a way for the Japanese Imperial Fleet to bypass the British naval base in Singapore. British concerns about the proposal were clearly laid out in a newsreel from the period. Nothing came of this proposal either.

After World War II, Great Britain signed a new treaty with Thailand, the 1946 Anglo-Thai Treaty. Article 7 again reaffirmed that, "the Siamese government undertakes that no canal linking the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Siam shall be cut across Siamese territory without the prior concurrence of the government of the United Kingdom."

The treaty was later revoked by the Thai government in 1954.

In October 1983, an article in the Executive Intelligence Review, a publication linked to controversial American politician Lyndon LaRouche, proposed the building of a Kra canal to the Thai Ministry of Transportation.

A largely Japanese-based consortium, led by Mitsubishi, created considerable controversy when it suggested the use of nuclear explosives to cut a path for the canal across the mountainous terrain of the Kra peninsula.

The project resurfaced several more times during the latter part of the 20th century. In the late 1990s, Japan's Global Infrastructure Fund conducted a feasibility study that determined a 30-mile canal across the Kra Isthmus could be built for around $20 billion.

A variety of other routes were also proposed, including Brandon Bay to Phang Nga, and across Nakhon Si Thammarat and Trang Provinces. In total, 14 different possible routes have been identified for a Kra canal.

Chinese Interest

In 2005, or thereabouts, the Chinese government floated its interest in underwriting the cost of a Kra canal. The proposal was one of several major infrastructure projects that China offered to finance and that would eventually, in 2013, be folded in Xi Jinping's One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative.

The Chinese proposal envisioned a 10-year construction project manned by approximately 30,000 Chinese workers at a cost of $20 billion to $25 billion.

In 2007, it was announced that the proposal had been tentatively approved by the Thai government pending more extensive feasibility studies. However, no further progress was made.

In March 2014, the China Daily Maildisclosed that LiuGong Machinery Co. Ltd., a huge state-owned engineering and manufacturing group; XCMG; and privately owned Sandy Heavy Industry Co. Ltd. had agreed to take the lead in organizing the construction of a Kra canal.

In 2015, an organization called the Asia Union Group, is headed by former Thai Premier Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, signed a memorandum of understanding with the China-Thailand KRA Infrastructure Investment and Development Company of Guangzhou, China, to conduct a feasibility study of the proposed canal.

The initiative was also endorsed by the Thai Canal Association of Study and Development (TCASD). The TCASD is headed by Pongthep Tesprateep, a former Thai Army chief of staff, and consists of various retired Thai generals, politicians and businessmen with close links to China, who are in favor of building the Kra Canal.

The project has also been publicly supported by the Thai-Chinese Cultural and Economic Association, headed by former Thai Deputy Prime Minister Bhokin Bhalakula.

Both the Thai and Chinese governments subsequently denied that any official agreement had been signed between the two countries.

Beijing, however, has often used private Chinese companies to front government-funded infrastructure development projects.

A source at the LaRouche organization has claimed that a feasibility study was completed in 2016, that a group from Peking University and the Chinese company Grand Dragon International Holding have already surveyed a proposed route, and that the consortium is only awaiting official permission from the Thai government to get started.

In September 2017, the King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang and the TCASD sponsored a conference in Bangkok to examine the role of the Thai Canal in the broader context of China's Maritime Silk Road initiative. The conference once again urged the Thai government to move forward on building the Kra Canal.

The Malacca Dilemma

Currently, most of the ship traffic between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea and from there to the Pacific traverses the Malacca, Sunda or Lombok straits. Most ships use the Malacca Strait.

Compared to the proposed Kra Canal, the Malacca passage adds 720 miles, roughly two to three days; the Sunda passage adds 1,700 miles; and the Lombok passage adds 2,100 miles.

The Strait of Malacca is a 620-mile-long waterway between Malaysia and the island of Sumatra.

At its narrowest point, the Philip channel, near Singapore, it is just 1.6 miles wide. Its shallowest point in the shipping lane is 82 feet -- just barely enough for a Malaccamax class, Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC), with a draft of 66 feet.

Anything with a deeper draft would be dangerous, given prevailing currents, during a low tide.

Ultra Large Crude Carriers (ULCC) of 400 thousand or more dead weight tons, only two of which are currently operating, have a draft of more than 112 feet and cannot traverse the Malacca Strait. They must detour through the deeper Lombok Strait.

Approximately 300 ships a day traverse the Malacca Strait. That is more than double the combined number of ships that daily cross the Suez and Panama Canals. In total, about 32,000 ships used the Panama and Suez canals in 2016, versus 84,000 that used the Malacca Strait.

At its narrowest point, only a single, reversible lane is available, and ships must travel in one direction only.

Since 2001, there have been a total of 14 major ship collisions in the Malacca Strait. The most recent event involved a USS Arleigh Burke guided missile destroyer, the John S. McCain, which collided with a Liberian-registered merchant vessel on Aug. 21, 2017, and resulted in the deaths of 10 U.S. Navyservicemen.

According to a study by the Maritime Institute of Malaysia (MIMA), the maximum capacity that could be accommodated by the Malacca Strait is around 122,000 ships. The World Bank has estimated that, given current trends, ship traffic in the Malacca Strait will reach an estimated 122,640 ships by 2020 and 140,000 by 2025.

Currently, 25% of all world trade passes through the Malacca Strait. That estimate includes more than 90% of Japan's and South Korea's oil and liquefied natural gas needs, as well as 80% of China's oil imports, about 20% of its total oil consumption. Between 15 and 18 million barrels of oil, about 17% of the world's production, cross the Malacca Strait every day.

China's ongoing and growing dependence on oil shipments from the Mideast via the Malacca Strait prompted former Chinese President Hu Jintao to describe Beijing's geopolitical vulnerability as The Malacca Dilemma.

Building the Kra Canal

The construction of a Kra canal poses several significant engineering challenges.

First, although the Malay Peninsula is only 26.5 miles wide at its narrowest point, (from the Kra River estuary to the Bay of Sawi), it is dominated by a long granite mountainous ridge, the Tenasserim Hills, that runs down the middle of the peninsula.

The ridge is more than 1,000 miles in length and varies in height from approximately 4,600 to 250 feet above sea level. Digging through the ridge has been the principal problem that has stymied historic attempts at digging a canal.

A system of locks could solve the problem of getting over the ridge. Locks, however, are usually between 10 and 20 times more expensive to build per running foot than normal excavation.

A system of locks sufficient to move ships over a 200+ foot ridge would require around six to 10 separate locks, three to five on each side of the ridge, and would still necessitate significant excavation. The highest vertical distance currently handled by locks is 370 feet at China's Three Gorges dam.

The current $30 billion to $50 billion construction estimate is based on a sea level canal and does not anticipate any lock construction. Any such construction would dramatically increase the expected cost.

Moreover, it is not clear that there is sufficient water available to permit the function of a lock system. Water used in the locks could be captured and recycled, but this would likely increase operating costs significantly.

The actual physical dimensions of the canal would depend on how large a ship it was designed to accommodate. A canal capable of handling a ULCC would need to be much larger than the 61-mile by 1,300-foot-wide and 82-foot-deep proposal that was first unveiled.

At a depth of 82 feet, including the dredging of the approaches to the canal, the entire waterway would be 120 miles long. At a depth of 164 feet, sufficient to handle ULCCs, the length of the canal becomes 250 miles.

Without a definitive route and design, it's impossible to determine exactly how much earth would need to be excavated to build a sea level canal. However, based on the current proposal and the likely possible routes, it has been estimated that upward of 1.3 billion cubic yards of earth would have to be moved.

To put this quantity in perspective, the initial construction of the Panama Canal required the excavation of about 260 million cubic yards. Subsequent expansion of the canal required an additional 200 million cubic yards to be removed.

The initial construction of the Suez Canal required excavating 100 million cubic yards. Its subsequent expansion, including the most recent phase that ended in 2016, required an additional 340 million cubic yards.

All told, the Suez Canal and the Panama Canal required a total of between 430 and 460 million cubic yards of earth to be removed. The proposed Kra canal would require approximately three times the amount of excavation. 1.3 billion cubic yards of earth is enough to bury the entire island of Manhattan under 60 feet of debris.

Dumping this much debris will prove to be a formidable task. The further it needs to be transported, the more expensive the project will be. Dumping at sea or using the debris to create new offshore islands would be cheaper but would have wide-ranging environmental and political consequences.

Land Bridge

One alternative is to use the Kra Isthmus as a land bridge between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. A road construction project was started in 1993 to provide a transportation corridor across the isthmus. The opposing lanes of the highway are about 500 feet apart to accommodate pipelines and a railroad to shift container traffic.

Oil refineries and storage depots were also proposed to be built at either end of the corridor. The highway has never been finished, however, and the railroad, refineries and pipelines were never built.

A project of this magnitude would be expected to add from one to two percent to Thailand's GNP. Most of the labor force, however, will come from China. It's not clear what supplies will be sourced locally, however, or how much of the economic activity generated will directly benefit Thailand.

The Geopolitics of the Kra Canal

The construction of the Kra Canal would significantly upend the geopolitics of the region, in the process producing significant winners and losers.

The two most significant losers would be Singapore and the United States. Singapore owes its importance to the fact that it is adjacent to the narrowest portion of the Malacca Strait and hence, from a naval standpoint, the easiest point to defend and from which to interdict seaborne traffic.

It also lies about halfway between Bengal and Hong Kong. During the first half of the 19th century, it was a convenient stopping point for British ships bringing opium from Bengal's poppy fields to Hong Kong.

Approximately 30% of the shipping traffic through the Malacca Strait subsequently stops in one of four Malaysian ports on the South China Sea: Klang, Penang, Johor and Tanjung Pelepas. Another 50% to 60% stops in Singapore, while the balance sails on through.

It has been suggested that Singapore could lose between 30% and 50% of its shipping traffic because of the Kra Canal. This is completely speculative. Singapore has also developed a sophisticated support network for its shipping industry, ranging from legal and financial services to warehousing and ship repair.

It would be a while until port facilities adjacent to the Kra Canal could offer the range and sophistication of services that Singapore offers. On the other hand, it is inevitable that the Kra Canal would have a negative impact on Singapore's shipping business.

The United States currently conducts anti-piracy patrols in the region, and in the Malacca Strait in particular. Washington has a close working relationship with Singapore and the U.S. Navy has access to port and ship repair facilities there.

The U.S. also operates P-8 Poseidon long-range reconnaissance aircraft from Singapore. The P-8s are equipped with Airborne Ground Surveillance capabilities and can play a varied role in anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare as well as reconnaissance and maritime patrol.

That puts the U.S. in a strong position should it ever need to interdict maritime traffic through the Malacca, Sunda and Lombok straits.

The Kra Canal would create an alternative shipping route to the Malacca Strait, a route where the ability of the U.S. Navy to project power would be less.

Moreover, a Chinese-built canal would presumably be subject to a considerable amount of influence from Beijing, potentially creating a situation where China might have an advantage over the U.S. in shifting naval forces between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.

Thailand would be a significant beneficiary. The construction of such a massive project would revitalize the Thai economy after a multi-year slump from which it is only now recovering.

The canal could be a significant moneymaker for Bangkok. Since it does not offer the shipping efficiencies presented by either the Suez or Panama canals, however, it is unlikely to ever be as profitable as those canals.

Thai promoters of the canal envision it at the center of industrial manufacturing, dry-dock and shipbuilding facilities with the potential of transforming the region into a Thai version of Europort in Rotterdam.

Strategically, a canal would facilitate the movement of Thai naval forces between 

October 11, 2017

India - An Emerging Global Power

Dr Swamy speaking at UN HQ on “India - An Emerging Global Power “

Dr Subramanian Swamy’s video of speech on Tuesday 10th Oct 2017 at the UN HQ New York on *“India-An Emerging Global Power”* youtu.be/vVt5cWWTl78  

October 10, 2017

I will never forget the sound of a body being dropped into the pit when a man was hanged

Source: Dawn, Pakistan

Sohail YafatUpdated October 10, 2017

Countdown to Execution

Jails get quiet when prisoners hear an execution warrant has been issued.

Like every other jail in Pakistan, Sahiwal Central Jail was full. Of course, by full, I mean holding twice as many prisoners than it was built for. If you put thousands of men in cages, it can get loud. I barely slept at night when I was a prisoner there for ten years. The sounds of men snoring, crying and sometimes screaming in their sleep will keep you awake.

The exception was when we knew that one of us was heading to the gallows. We would get silence, but we would lose our sleep.

They would quietly separate the prisoner with the execution warrant from the general population of the prison. We all knew then that his time had come.

Even those of us who were not on death row would tense up. Held like animals in a pen, we would turn to the one thing that we could do: pray. We would collect in groups, praying to a higher power – because the power on the ground was not listening – to spare his life, for mercy to replace vengeance, for a miracle.

We would know that the deed had been done when the prison guard, charged with counting the prisoners every morning, would be late. On normal days, he would turn up at 5:30 am. On an execution day, he would arrive by 8:00 am. That day, none of us would speak. The televisions and radio would be silent.

Jails in Pakistan are always clean because prisoners are in charge of upkeep. They do not have much to do to while away the time. So they clean. But sometimes, they also help with carrying out the execution.

The prisoners helping out with the execution are responsible for removing the body, after it has remained suspended for 30 minutes. This is a requirement under Pakistan’s Prisons Manual. They also clean the corpse, and hand it over to the family that waits outside the prison gate with a charpai and a set of clothes. The family is also told to arrange an ambulance at their own expense.

Prisons have a graveyard where unclaimed bodies are buried. There are not that many graves there, though. Many of us have families. Demonised as we are by the rest of the world, there are still people who remember us as humans, not criminals. We do mean something to somebody.

I was asked to witness an execution of one of my fellow inmates in 2006. Mami Pabal was a burly man, at least six feet tall with a booming voice. He had been at Sahiwal Central Jail for years and had befriended many of us. Even the prison officials liked his company. It was easy to forget that he had been accused of murder. He used to joke, “There are a lot of crimes I should be in here for – but this murder is not one of them.”

When death unnecessarily came for him, he cried like a small child.

He was escorted to the gallows. Half-carried would be more accurate. The Medical Officer, Magistrate, jail Superintendent, blacksmith, and two men from the victim’s family were there. The jail staff who were present kept reminding the victim’s family of the option to forgive Mami.

The superintendent told him to recite the kalma. I don’t think Mami heard him. He kept crying out that he had not done it, that he was innocent, that killing him would be murder, not justice. Even after they placed the hood over his face, Mami spent his last few breaths begging for his life.

There are barely any state executioners in Pakistan, despite having one of the world’s largest death rows. That day, he was not available. So instead, the jail warden pulled the lever. Before he did, he bowed his head and said, “I’m helpless Mami. I’m obligated to do this. If you can, please forgive me.”

You never forget the sound of a body being dropped into the pit. The way the beam creaks is not loud enough to drown out the choking, the sound of a bone breaking. The only dignity they give him, is that at least you cannot see his tongue lolling out of his mouth as he gasps for breath.

The power to take a life has a humbling effect on prison officials. They, too, are taken aback by what they have done. They would be less harsh with prisoners the next day. After all, they have also lost someone who they have seen day in, day out, often for years.

No job should require this much of you.

Sohail Yafat was falsely accused of murder in 2001. He spent ten years in jail before he was acquitted without any charge. Sohail narrated this story to Rimmel Mohydin, who put it in form of an article.

This article is last of a three-part series, curated in collaboration with Justice Project Pakistan, in lead up to The World Day Against the Death Penalty on October 10th. Read the first part hereand the second here.

Russia And China Continue To Boost Oil Ties

Oilprice.com, October 10, 2017, 08:47:17 AM EDT


Even before the OPEC/non-OPEC production cuts took effect in January 2017, Russia had already beaten Saudi Arabia to become China’s single largest oil supplier for 2016. Since then, Saudi Arabia has sacrificed still more of its market share in the prized Chinese market, while Russia has dominated Beijing’s top suppliers’ list for most of this year.

Now Russia’s oil giant, Rosneft—whose chief executive Igor Sechin is a close ally of Vladimir Putin—is reportedly aiming to further increase its crude oil deliveries to China, as Russia looks to boost energy ties with the world’s biggest crude oil importer and top driver of global oil demand growth.   

Since the OPEC/Russia oil production deal began, the U.S. has stepped up sanctions on Russia, which made Western banks and companies even more cautious in dealing with Russian firms. Considering this, it’s not a huge surprise that Rosneft and Russia want to boost ties with Chinese firms, refiners, and banks.

Rosneft now aims to almost double its crude oil exports to China through Kazakhstan, Reuters reported last week, citing industry sources. 

Although it’s not immediately clear when that increase will take place, this plan is only the latest in a series of projects that boost Russian oil supplies to Chinese refiners. Chinese firms, on the other hand, recently made big investments in Russian energy projects and firms, including in a large stake in Rosneft.

Chinese industrial conglomerate CEFC recently agreed to buy 14.16 percent in Rosneft for approximately $9 billion. The deal didn’t come as a surprise, coming on the heels of a Rosneft announcement regarding the sealing of a strategic partnership deal with CEFC, but it’s clearly indicative of a continuing warming between Moscow and Beijing that gave the former the upper hand in the race for market share with Saudi Arabia.

Last year, Russia’s Novatek sold 9.9 percent in the Yamal LNG project to China’s Silk Road Fund for $1.3 billion (1.1 billion euro), months after the Silk Road Fund had extended a 15-year loan of $857 million (730 million euro) to the project financing. The same fund also acquired 10 percent in Russia’s gas processing and petrochemicals group Sibur.

In June this year, Beijing Gas Group closed the deal to buy 20 percent in Rosneft’s subsidiary Verkhnechonskneftegaz for around $1.1 billion, obtaining a stake in one of the largest producing fields in Eastern Siberia.

“Corporate partnerships with China are one of the very few alternatives still open to Russian players to finance their expansion ambitions,” Alejandro Demichelis, director at boutique investment bank Hannam & Partners in London, told the Financial Times last month.

While money flows in the China-to-Russia direction, crude oil supplies are flowing in the opposite direction. Chinese refiners are preparing to receive increased volumes of Russian crude oil via the Eastern Siberia Pacific Ocean (ESPO) starting in January next year, when the expansion of the capacity of the ESPO pipeline—which branches out to China—will be complete. Rosneft will increase its ESPO Blend deliveries to PetroChina to 600,000 bpd next year, up by 50 percent compared to 2017.  

“Plants were told to be prepared for more Russian oil next year,” a Chinese refinery source told Reuters last month.

Russia and China are growing their partnership and investment links as Moscow scrambles to find ways to fund oil and gas projects that are made difficult under Western sanctions. Russia is also stepping up efforts to secure oil dominance in the Chinese market, grabbing some of the market share of OPEC’s de facto leader Saudi Arabia.  

This article was originally published on Oilprice.com

October 09, 2017

Picture of the day: Sameen Baloch

Baloch Activist Ms.Sameen Baloch addressing Hind Baloch Forum in Azamghar , UP.

Telangana #UnDemocratic and #IppressiveRule in the state

Following letter shows the TRS/KCR's in #Telangana #UnDemocratic and #IppressiveRule in the state. Against the #HumanRightsViolations of #Citizens There is a #Fear and #Frustration in the #Political ranks as #Anti-#Incumbency growing against this #DictatorialRule, but they can't #Suppress #FreedomofSpeech which is a #ConstitutionalRight! Let us all #Condemn this #Dictatorial Practice. No one has #Jurisdiction on #SocialMedia, it is the #Gift of #Democracy!

October 08, 2017

Public Diplomacy Handbook


The handbook provides a theoretical foundation and practical tools to construct a successful public diplomacy campaign in the context of Asia-Europe relations. Each chapter combines theories on a relevant topic with useful information obtained from the authors’ hands-on experience. The accompanying interviews with high-profile professionals provide insightful knowledge on the role of public diplomacy in enhancing Asia-Europe cooperation.

Chapter 1: Public Diplomacy, Concepts and Methods

Chapter 2: The Changing Face of Asia-Europe Relations

Chapter 3: Images and Perceptions in Public Diplomacy

Chapter 4: How to Work with Media Content

Chapter 5: How to Work with Public Opinion

Chapter 6: How to Use Digital Tools and Social Media

Chapter 7: How to Interact with Stakeholders (Advocacy)

Chapter 8: How to Manage a Public Diplomacy Campaign and Public Affairs



Valdai Discussion Club


© 2017 Santi Palacios/AP

Oleg Barabanov

The referendum in Catalonia became a turning point not only for the political chain of events in this region, but also for the evolution of the European Union as a whole. In recent days, many expert and journalist comments on the referendum’s results highlight how the example of Catalonia may be infectious for an array of other regions in EU countries. They may all go down the path of escalating and transforming their demands of autonomy and federalization into political struggle and independence from their mother countries. There is already a term, “latent Сatalonias,” which characterizes around a dozen regions in various EU countries that may take the route of Barcelona.

Therefore, in order to better understand the reasons behind the success of last Sunday’s Catalan referendum, we must look not only at internal Spanish problems, but also at the logic of the development of the entire European Union in the previous period. Because as it seems to me, in the question of “who is to blame?” for the autonomist movement in Catalonia crossing the Rubicon is not only the central government of Spain, headed by Mariano Rajoy (with his arrogant inflexibility and unpreparedness for dialogue and compromise with Catalonians), but also the EU leadership, whose past regional strategy has in many ways let the genie out of the bottle. 

Starting in the 1990s, the EU began to actively promote the principle of strengthening intra-state regions in European affairs. In this period, the “Europe of regions” slogans gained broad popularity and the EU’s Committee of the Regions became an active and in many ways innovative organization that permanently gave direct access to the Brussels bureaucracy to regional governments, circumventing their own capitals. 

It is clear that the majority of projects discussed by the Committee of the Regions was of an economic and cultural character and rarely left the scope of a standard lobbyism and PR management. Nevertheless, all of this activity undoubtedly strengthened the feeling of autonomy of power and governance among the leadership and regional elites, as well as consciously focused their attention on the necessity of underscoring their identity and even uniqueness before others. All of this awoke the development of an independent political mentality among the regional elites and their perception of an increasingly divergent identity, compared to the stereotyped national identity. Such a diversification of the region’s identity away from that of the state was de facto only welcomed at the Brussels level, and encouraged the more advanced regions to go further. 

Another key format of EU regional policy was tied to the development of Euroregions, in which border regions of two or more states were united into a single structure that carried out joint projects and created joint governance bodies for them under Brussels’ control. This format quickly gained popularity, and several dozen such Euroregions were created. As a result, regional identity acquired a cross-border character with the idea that a region has more in common with its immediate neighbors than with its capital being consciously postulated. 

This “spirit of Euroregions” turned out to be very strong. In the case of Catalonia, it took on the image of nostalgia of the historical unity of Catalonia and Provence, the closeness of their languages and therefore, their a priori opposition to Madrid and Paris respectively. Analogous processes took place in the Basque Country in Spain and Gascony in France, North Tyrol in Austria and South Tyrol in Italy and in many other cases. As a result, the policy of encouraging Euroregions concertedly put on the practical agenda the issue of eroding the existing state borders, which in the EU, with the openness of the Schengen Agreement, advanced further than any place in the world. 

The next important point is the activity of the European Regional Development Fund, which gave financial and other aid to the least developed regions in the member-states. That includes South Italy, several regions in Spain and other states. After EU expansion in 2004, a significant volume of aid from these regional funds was set to the new member-states, for example, the eastern voivodeships of Poland. 

Naturally, ERDF projects were selected on a competitive basis, which strengthened regional lobbyism needed to win them, frequent trips to Brussels by regional officials and direct accountability to Brussels for the spending. As a result, the direct connection of regions to the European Commission strengthened (again, circumventing national capitals) and so did their direct dependence on it. Among both local elites and in the ERDF recipient regions’ public opinion, the idea that the source of their welfare and development is Brussels and not the nation-state was fomented. 

Another important principle of regional policy, in this case promoted not by the EU, but by the Council of Europe, but still actively supported by many EU bodies was the principle of regional self-governance. As with local self-governance, which occurs in all Council of Europe countries (including Russia), which provides for a separation of local governance structures from the state and their autonomy from it, the same approach of abandoning the direct subordination of regional governments to national governments was proposed on the regional level. The principle of regional self-governance did not achieve a full-scale implementation (the resistance of national governments is clear) but as an ideological postulate and a development goal, it became practically mainstream. 

To sum up, I’ll repeat that this EU policy had a planned and permanent character. And as a result, the principle that water breaks down a mountain began to work. As a result, in the regions that had their own ethnic specificity, such as Catalonia, Flanders and Scotland or had economic reasons, such as Northern Italy and, again, Catalonia, the EU-supported feeling of autonomous identity began to create first public discussions and then a political agenda of independence. The unsuccessful referendum in Scotland and the successful referendum in Catalonia became a logical result of this policy. More than that, it is possible that in the middle term, we will see new examples of this sort. 

Why did the EU do this? There are several reasons. One is that the globalist euphoria of the 1990s consciously emphasized eroding away the Westphalian model and therefore, eroding state sovereignty. The ideal example of global and European policy in this context was the progressive transfer of governing authority from states both “up”, to supra-state integration institutes, and “down”, to regions and local communities. This approach, based on the principle of subsidiarity, emphasized that concentrating all state authority exclusively in the hands of the sovereign state must stop being seen as a ‘sacred cow,’ and instead be based exclusively on the principle of efficiency. Governing authority, according to this logic, must be allotted to the level at which it has the biggest return. As part of this approach, the theory of “good governance,” which defined the correlation of efficiency and the level of government (in the triad: supranational institution – state – region), was spread. Because according to this theory, the state must hand over its authority both upward and downward, there was a logical conclusion that the state will end up an unnecessary, outmoded and development-hindering middle rung between the international integration body and local communities. Because of that, the state, according to this logic, must disappear. It is clear that in the EU, where the level of supra-state integration is already the most advanced in the world, this issue must be put first on the practical agenda. There is an efficient European Commission and an efficient regional self-governance. There is a pan-European identity and a feeling of a lesser motherland in the regions. And this is enough for the future’s ideal. 

Another reason for such an EU regional policy is tied to the political and economic struggle for influence between the Brussels bureaucracy and the member states. It is clear that not all decisions of the European Commission, mandatory on the territory of the entire EU, were favored by the member-states and they tried as much as they could to counter it with their own interests. That’s how, among others, the idea of a “deficit of democracy” in the EU was boosted. In these conditions, it is natural that the European Commission is objectively interested in finding a counter-balance to the member states. And the emphasized attention to their internal regions is rather logical. The direct ties between regions and the European Commission, boosted strengthening of regional identity and feeling of distance from nation-states made the voice of a member-state more vague and less monolithic. In these conditions, the voice of the European Commission received priority. Such a political strategy was coherent. But its result, from my point of view, was the success of the Catalan referendum. And if the European Commission calls it illegal, it is the Brussels strategists and not the Catalan radicals or Spanish Prime Minister who is to blame.


Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise

Dr Swamy met the Sikh Community Leaders

Dr Swamy met the Sikh Community Leaders during the visit to Washington DC on Sunday

October 07, 2017

Balochistan:The worst place for women to be born.

More than 3 times as many Baloch women die during childbirth than all the other regions of Pakistan combined. Every day Baloch women are beaten, tortured, abducted and murdered in a Pakistani Army operations in occupied Balochistan.

By Imdad  Baloch

Even today women in many Middle Eastern & Central Asian regions.
women  are oppressed, victimized and treated as slaves.

Women in occupied Balochistan are deprived of all the basic neccessities of life like clean water, education and adequate health care facilities.

In the absense of proper health care facitilites, Baloch women often have to  travel over 700 km to the nearest hospital in Karachi. Maternal mortality rates are very high among the Baloch women.

According to a Pakistan Health Demographic Survery, more than 3 times as many Baloch women die during childbirth than all the other regions of Pakistan combined.

Since the day Balochistan was annexed and occupied by Pakistan in 1948, the Punjab run State has been plundering Balochistan’s resources. Every day Baloch women are being beaten, tortured, abducted and murdered in a Pakistani Army operations in occupied Balochistan.

Though rich in natural resources like Gold, Gas, Coal and Oil, Balochistan remains one of the most impoverished and underdeveloped regions in the world.

Although Balochistan is a major natural gas producer, Baloch women have to cook food on open fires. Because of lack of clean water, illness and disease are common.

Many Baloch women are illeterate. As a result of threats and attacks on female students and educators and lack of educational facilities, many Baloch women have been prevented from learning Urdu and English and obtaining meaningful education.

Baloch women who have been educated have learnt their rights and realized that Pakistan is directly responsible for the oppression and suffering of the Baloch people. Women like BSO-Azad chairperson Banuk Karima Baloch, and Voice of Baloch Missing Persons activist Banuk Farzana Majeed hold masters degrees in their respective fields. Both are struggling for the rights of Baloch women and freedom for the Baloch nation. Banuk Farzana Majeed was at the forefront of the VBMP Long March demonstration to demand the safe release of the over 20,000 abducted and 2000 killed Baloch people.

Banuk Sammi Baloch, Banuk Saba Baloch, Banuk Farzana Majeed and 11 year old Ali Haider Baloch marched 2000km alongwith Mama Qadeer from Quetta to Islamabad via Karachi. Unfortunately despite promises from the United Nations; the international community has not taken any action to investigate or improve the shameful human rights situation in occupied Balochistan. In addition to the Long March demonstration, the VBMP has also been holding hunger strikes and protest camps for 1918 days since 2009. Banuk Farzana Majeed’s own brother Zakir Majeed was abducted by Pakistani Intelligence Agents 6 years ago. He was never seen or heard from again. Since then Banuk Farzana Majeed has been actively protesting for his safe release.

Banuk Karima Baloch is currently the chairperson of Baloch Student Organization (Azad) and prior to the abduction of former BSO-Azad chairperson Zahid Baloch by state security forces in March of 2014 Banuk Karima Baloch was the vice-chairperson of BSO-Azad. Since the abduction of Zahid Baloch, Banuk Karima Baloch initiated a campaign to protest the enforced disappearance of the former BSO-Azad chairperson. Although BSO-Azad has been holding continual protests, demonstrations, hunger strikes, and social media campaigns, former chairperson Zahid Baloch is still being unlawfully imprisoned by State forces without charge or crime

As a result of her active campaign to demand the safe release of Zahid Baloch, Banuk Karima Baloch has been regularly threatened by the Pakistani State Agents. On a number of occasions her home was attacked by Security Forces, who on one occasion even bombarded her house with mortars. Despite state persecution, threats and attacks, Banuk Karima Baloch bravely stands against the occupier state’s oppression and persecution. She is considered to be an effective leader, and is universally admired and respected as a true daughter of the Baloch nation. Most recently, BSO-Azad announced an awareness campaign and rallies on March 18th the day Zahid Baloch was unlawfully abducted by State Security Forces in Quetta one year ago.

Banuk Farzana Majeed and Banuk Karima Baloch are but two examples of a nation of strong bold women who are perpetually faced with untold suffering and severe inequality. Every day the mutilated dead bodies of their Brothers, Fathers, and Husbands are found dumped in Occupied Balochistan. Pakistani Armed Forces carry out constant military operations against tiny rural villages injuring and killing countless civilians. Thousands more have been displaced within their own homelands, forced to flee the unending violence dealt upon them by the Occupier State’s cruel armies. Many Women too are abducted and martyred by State Forces in occupied Balochistan, taken to torture cells and subjected to usnpeakable atrocities. In 2006 Pakistani Security Agencies abducted Zareena Marrie along with her 6 year old son Murad Bux. Since their enforced abduction, her status and location remain unknown.

Baloch Women have set an example for all of us, they have shown us their bold tenacity and perserverance in the face of extreme adversity. Despite such harsh realities; today’s Baloch Women have never abandoned hope, they are bravely standing at the front lines of the Baloch struggle for freedom with obstinate resolve.

Russia's Surveillance State


(Subscribe to World Policy Journal here)

From the Fall Issue "Secrecy + Security"

By Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan

MOSCOW—In March 2013, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security at the U.S. State Department issued a warning for Americans wanting to come to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia next February: Beware of SORM. The System of Operative-Investigative Measures, or SORM, is Russia’s national system of lawful interception of all electronic utterances—an Orwellian network that jeopardizes privacy and the ability to use telecommunications to oppose the government. The U.S. warning ends with a list of “Travel Cyber Security Best Practices,” which, apart from the new technology, resembles the briefing instructions for a Cold War-era spy:

Consider traveling with “clean” electronic devices—if you do not need the device, do not take it. Otherwise, essential devices should have all personal identifying information and sensitive files removed or “sanitized.” Devices with wireless connection capabilities should have the Wi-Fi turned off at all times. Do not check business or personal electronic devices with your luggage at the airport. … Do not connect to local ISPs at cafes, coffee shops, hotels, airports, or other local venues. … Change all your passwords before and after your trip. … Be sure to remove the battery from your Smartphone when not in use. Technology is commercially available that can geo-track your location and activate the microphone on your phone. Assume any electronic device you take can be exploited. … If you must utilize a phone during travel consider using a “burn phone” that uses a SIM card purchased locally with cash. Sanitize sensitive conversations as necessary.

The list of recommendations ends with the advice to discard the user’s phone and SIM card before returning. The instruction might seem like overreaction, but far from it. Anyone who wants to attend the Olympics needs a Spectator pass, which requires registering on the official Sochi 2014 site, a procedure that includes taking a photo. What is curious is that when clicking to take a photo, a MacBook immediately warns the user that the site “is requesting access to your camera and microphone. If you click Allow, you may be recorded.”

But the Russian surveillance effort is not limited to the Sochi area, nor confined to foreigners. For years, Russian secret services have been busy tightening their hold over Internet users in their country, and now they’re helping their counterparts in the rest of the former Soviet Union do the same. In the future, Russia may even succeed in splintering the web, breaking off from the global Internet a Russian intranet that’s easier for it to control.


Over the last two years, the Kremlin has transformed Russia into a surveillance state—at a level that would have made the Soviet KGB (Committe for State Security) envious. Seven Russian investigative and security agencies have been granted the legal right to intercept phone calls and emails. But it’s the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the KGB, that defines interception procedures, and they’ve done that in a very peculiar way.

In most Western nations, law enforcement or intelligence agencies must receive a court order before wiretapping. That warrant is sent to phone operators and Internet providers, which are then required by law to intercept the requested information and forward it to the respective government agencies. In Russia, FSB officers are also required to obtain a court order to eavesdrop, but once they have it, they are not required to present it to anybody except their superiors in the FSB. Telecom providers have no right to demand that the FSB show them the warrant. The providers are required to pay for the SORM equipment and its installation, but they are denied access to the surveillance boxes.

The FSB has control centers connected directly to operators’ computer servers. To monitor particular phone conversations or Internet communications, an FSB agent only has to enter a command into the control center located in the local FSB headquarters. This system is replicated across the country. In every Russian town, there are protected underground cables, which connect the local FSB bureau with all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and telecom providers in the region. That system, or SORM, is a holdover from the country’s Soviet past and was developed by a KGB research institute in the mid-1980s. Recent technological advances have only updated the system. Now, the SORM-1 system captures telephone and mobile phone communications, SORM-2 intercepts Internet traffic, and SORM-3 collects information from all forms of communication, providing long-term storage of all information and data on subscribers, including actual recordings and locations.  

Over the last six years, Russia’s use of SORM has skyrocketed. According to Russia’s Supreme Court, the number of intercepted telephone conversations and email messages has doubled in six years, from 265,937 in 2007 to 539,864 in 2012. These statistics do not include counterintelligence eavesdropping on Russian citizens and foreigners.

At the same time, Moscow is cracking down on ISPs that don’t adhere to their SORM obligations. We discovered Roskomnadzor (the Agency for the Supervision of Information Technology, Communications, and Mass Media) statistics covering the number of warnings issued to ISPs and telecoms providers. In 2010, there were 16 such warnings, and there were another 13 in 2011. The next year, that number jumped to 30 warnings. In most cases, when the local FSB or prosecutor’s office identified shortcomings, they sent the information to Roskomnadzor, which warned the ISP. Penalties for failure to meet their obligations are swift and sure. First, the ISP is fined, then if violations persist, its license may be revoked.


In 2011-2012, while protesters flooded Moscow’s streets, the phones of a number of Russian opposition leaders and members of the State Duma were hacked. Recordings of their private telephone conversations were even published online. On December 19, 2011, audio-files of nine tapped phone calls of Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and now a prominent opposition leader, were posted on the pro-government site lifenews.ru. Nemtsov requested an official investigation. As yet, none of the leakers have been found or prosecuted, and the official investigation has not identified a single culprit.

Such victims have no doubt they were bugged and filmed by security services, but only in the fall of 2012 did the first clear indication emerge that SORM was used to wiretap opponents of President Vladimir Putin. On November 12, 2012, Russia’s Supreme Court upheld the right of authorities to eavesdrop on the opposition. The court ruled that spying on Maxim Petlin, a regional opposition leader in Yekaterinburg, was lawful since he had taken part in rallies that included calls against extending the powers of Russia’s security services. The court decided that these were demands for “extremist actions” and approved surveillance and telephone interception.


After securing the legal ability to snoop on mobile phones and emails, the Russian secret services targeted social networks next. Immediately after the Arab Spring, they were tasked with finding a response to the threat of political stability ostensibly posed by social networks. In August 2011, at an informal summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a regional military alliance led by Moscow, in Astana, Kazakhstan, the main topics of discussion were the revolutions in the Middle East and the role played by social networks. The summit, which was attended by then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, adopted a confidential document recognizing the potential danger of social media in the organization of protests in Russia.

But nobody in the Kremlin and security services seemed to have any strategies in place in December 2011, when mass protests broke out in Moscow prompted by Putin’s campaign to return to the presidency. All the FSB could muster was a fax, signed by the chief of the St. Petersburg FSB department, to Pavel Durov, a founder of the Russian social network VKontakte, requiring him to neutralize the websites of protest groups. Durov refused.

On March 27, 2012, this failure to find the means to deal with protesters’ activities on social networks was admitted by the first deputy director of the FSB, Sergei Smirnov. At a meeting of the regional anti-terrorist group operating within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization—a broad group of nations that includes most CSTO states as well as China—Smirnov referred directly to the challenge posed by the Arab Spring. “New technologies [are being] used by Western special services to create and maintain a level of continual tension in society with serious intentions extending even to regime change. … Our elections, especially the presidential election and the situation in the preceding period, revealed the potential of the blogosphere.” Smirnov stated that it was essential to develop ways to react to such technologies and confessed that “this has not yet happened.”

The Kremlin’s goal was to use any available type of regional security alliance to build a system of regional cybersecurity—a plausible pretext to help Central Asian states protect themselves and Russia from the fallout of Arab Spring movements. The Russian secret services launched several programs to control what’s published on the Internet. The FSB, the Interior Ministry, the Foreign Intelligence SVR, and the Investigative Committee (the Russian analog of the FBI) have new software systems to monitor social networks and identify participants in online debates. But apparently it’s the FSB’s Center for Information Security that has taken the lead in policing what Russians are allowed to read and write.

A gloomy, monumental building on the corner of Lubyanka Square and Myasnitskaya Street houses the FSB’s counterintelligence department. This looming fortress, built in the 1980s as the KGB’s IT Center, forms a part of a row of buildings, known as the Lubyanka, where thousands of dissidents were imprisoned and interrogated back in the days of the feared Lavrentiy Beria, Stalin’s hated spymaster. Initially the Center was responsible for protecting computer networks and tracking down hackers, but in the late 2000s, it was tasked with monitoring social networks and the Internet as a whole.

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a regional organization made up of nine former Soviet states, uses special analytical search systems developed by Russian programmers. Called “Semantic Archive,” the system is produced by the Russian firm Analytic Business Solutions. On the first floor of the Stalin-era yellow brick building, more than 20 programmers headed by 37-year old Denis Shatrov are busy updating Semantic Archive. Not long after the release of the first version in 2004, it was installed in the Russian Security Council and Ministry of Defense headquarters, as well as the FSB and the Interior Ministry. “From the beginning we aimed our systems at the security services,” says Denis Shatrov, a trained programmer who founded the company in 2004. “We thought that if we worked with them, then we would also attract business from our intelligence services and those of our competitors too.” Shatrov told us that he began developing analytic systems in the mid-90s with his father, the director of a factory that produced automated steering systems for spacecraft. Then they began to produce simulation systems—for electoral and economic applications. Their success came in 1999 when they sold their product to the Ukrainian President Kuchma’s situation room for use in his successful campaign for a second term. In the mid-2000s father and son separated, the elder Shatrov specializing in economic modeling, Denis in media analysis.

The idea of its most  popular product, Semantic Archive, is to monitor any sorts of open data—media archives, online sources, blogs, and social networks—for key words and then to produce analyses, most famously, by building charts of connections. As it boasts on the company’s own website, “the system uses this raw information to extract objects of interest (certain persons, organizations, corporate brands, regions, etc.), their actions and relationships.”

Semantic Archive is not the only product used by the Russian security services to monitor social networks, but all of them seem to share the same fundamental flaw. These systems were developed for searching structured computer files, or databases, and only afterwards adapted, some more successfully than others, for semantic analysis of the Internet. Most of these systems were designed to work with open sources and are incapable of monitoring closed accounts such as Facebook.

The FSB discovered early on that the only way to deal with the problem was to turn to SORM. The licenses require businesses that rent out site space on servers to give the security services access to these servers via SORM, without informing site owners. With this provision, the FSB has had few problems monitoring closed groups and accounts on Russian social networks Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki. But Facebook and Twitter are not hosted in Russia and that has posed a real challenge for surveillance.


In November 2012, Russia acquired a nationwide system of Internet-filtering. The principle of Internet censorship wasn’t new to Russian authorities. Since 2007, regional prosecutors have implemented court decisions requiring Internet providers to block access to banned sites accused of extremism. But this had not been done systematically. Sites blocked in one region remained accessible in others. The Single Register, officially introduced on November 1, 2012, aimed to solve this problem. Three government agencies—the Roskomnadzor, the Federal Anti-Drug Agency, and the Federal Service for the Supervision of Consumer Rights and Public Welfare—submit data for the government’s black list of sites. Service providers are then required to block access to each such site within 24 hours.

Since last November, hundreds of websites have been banned from the Russian Internet. The list ranges from the lighthearted Australian viral YouTube hit “Dumb Ways to Die” to Absurdopedia (the Russian version of Uncyclopedia). Even the parody web site Gospoisk (gossearch.ru) was blocked. The site was a fake search engine, ostensibly created with government support, structured so that when a visitor types a query in the search box, he is asked to enter his first and last name, patronymic, passport details, address, and the reason for the request. Since it was a parody, this data evaporated into the ether.

The new Internet monitoring law has had some substantial offline consequences as well. Institutions providing public access to the Internet—schools, libraries, Internet cafés, and even post offices—have been targeted for law enforcement inspections to check for computers containing software that might allow access to banned websites. This problem took on a new urgency, especially in the Muslim-dominated region of the North Caucasus after the appearance of a YouTube video in September 2012 called The Real Life of Muhammad that was viewed as a direct insult to the Prophet Muhammad. Russian authorities promptly blocked the entire website in some regions. That made global Internet service providers much more cooperative with Russian requests. Google removed the video from YouTube on December 26. Then Twitter blocked an account that promoted drugs on March 15 and on March 29. Facebook took down a page called Club Suicide rather than see the entire network blacklisted by the Russians.

The apparent readiness of global services to cooperate with the Russian government seems to provoke the authorities to push increasingly in the Chinese direction, especially in dealing with social networks. Moscow is attempting to force international social networking companies into Russia’s national jurisdiction.

Then, right on time, Edward Snowden appeared on the world stage. The NSA scandal made a perfect excuse for the Russian authorities to launch a campaign to bring global web platforms such as Gmail and Facebook under Russian law—either requiring them to be accessible in Russia by the domain extension .ru, or obliging them to be hosted on Russian territory. Under Russian control, these companies and their Russian users could protect their data from U.S. government surveillance and, most importantly, be completely transparent for Russian secret services.
Russia wants to shift supervision and control of the Internet from global companies to local or national authorities, allowing the FSB more authority and latitude to thwart penetration from outside. At December’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) conference in Dubai, Moscow tried to win over other countries to its plan for a new system of control. The key to the project is to hand off the functions of managing distribution of domain names/IP-addresses from the U.S.-based organization ICANN to an international organization such as the ITU, where Russia can play a central role. Russia also proposed limiting the right of access to the Internet in such cases where “telecommunication services are used for the purpose of interfering in the internal affairs or undermining the sovereignty, national security, territorial integrity, and public safety of other states, or to divulge information of a sensitive nature.” Some 89 countries voted for the Russian proposals, but not the United States, United Kingdom, Western Europe, Australia, or Canada. The result is a stalemate.

Web services would be required to build backdoors for the Russian secret services to access what’s stored there. Prominent Russian MP Sergei Zheleznyak, a member of the ruling United Russia party, has called on Russia to reclaim its “digital sovereignty” and wean its citizens off foreign websites. He said he would introduce legislation this fall to create a “national server,” which analysts say would require foreign websites to register on Russian territory, thus giving the Kremlin’s own security services the access they have long been seeking. Of course, building such a national system would defeat the global value of the Internet.


Fearing Arab Spring-style uprisings, former Soviet republics have looked to Moscow for guidance on dealing with free speech in cyberspace. On June 15, 2011 Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan, proposed the idea of an alliance-wide cyber police force at the opening of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Astana. He added that it was time to include the concept of “electronic borders” and “e-sovereignty” in international law.

Ten months later, at a second SCO summit, member states agreed on joint measures to be taken by their secret services to “prevent and disrupt the usage of the Internet for terrorist, separatist, and extremist purposes.” In turn, the Collective Security Treaty Organization of the CIS countries established a working group on information security and launched a series of joint operations by secret services of member-states. The operation was called PROKSI, and Nikolai Bordyuzha, secretary general of the CSTO, reported that it has led to the shutdown of 216 websites in Russia alone.

But the leaders of these countries clearly understand that censorship and Internet-filtering should be combined with surveillance. After all, they share the same Soviet legacy. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the KGB’s regional branches became the security services of the newly independent states. But they retained the KGB’s operational  DNA, which is apparent in the CIS states’ continued use of Soviet and Russian terminology for surveillance operations. The term ORM, or Operative-Investigative Measures, was kept by all CIS countries. At the same time, the Russian approach to “lawful interception” has been adopted in Belarus, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. And over the last three years Belarus, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan have all updated their national interception systems, modeled after the Russian SORM.

In March 2010, Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko introduced SORM into his country. Two years later, the national telecom operator Beltelecom installed SORM on its data network. In late 2010, Ukraine updated its national requirements for SORM equipment. And in August 2012, Kyrgyzstan updated its network to make it virtually identical to the Russian interception system—in all, bringing tens of millions of new individuals under potential surveillance by security services.

Meanwhile, the export of Russian surveillance procedures and equipment in many cases also means exporting Russian technology, giving homegrown manufacturers natural advantages over their Western counterparts. This, in turn, has led to the growing presence of Russian advisers. SORM is also not the only surveillance technology imported from Russia to the other CIS countries. The Semantic Archive, the favorite technology of monitoring social networks, was installed in Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan—much to the delight, and profit, of Denis Shatrov.

The further localization of the Internet is likely. Soon, we will end up with a Balkanization of what was once a global internet, replaced by a collection of national or regional internets. Local security services will sell their various surveillance technologies and strategies. Governments will be delighted to extract more controls, with the global Internet services themselves being driven in the same direction of increased fragmentation by the very logic of the advertising business which requires ever finer targeting and accountability of their audience. Russian customers are led to google.ru, not because it’s established by the Kremlin or the FSB, but because Google can target ads with more precision. In the future, however, it could be the FSB directing your Internet travels.

Today, global Internet platforms are rightly considered public services, and for the benefit of the public or its institutions. To keep web services and products, not to mention the information they carry, both transparent and global, companies and countries need to resist pressure to fragment the Internet.

The World Wide Web must keep its first W. It is in the interest of all those trying to spread the ideas of democracy around the world.

A joint investigation by Agentura.RuCitizenLab
and Privacy International



Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan are Russian investigative journalists who cover the operations of Russian security services. They are co-founders of the website Agentura, which chronicles the services’ activities. They also co-authored The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia’s Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB (Public Affairs, 2011).

[Photo courtesy of Maarten Dirkse