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China Footprint Growing Specially In Central Asia (New Geopolitical Laboratory) Draws Attention

China’s push into Central Asia through Belt and Road-linked investment projects has made Central Asia into a geopolitical laboratory—and a new frontier for global trade.

DESPARDES — China is expanding its economic footprint in Central Asia, which Russia has long considered to be within its grasp, says Foreign Policy (FP) magazine in its latest analysis.

On the China-Kazakhstan border, a new city is growing — a bustling inland transport hub and a vital link in Beijing’s vast Belt and Road Initiative. “It is also a launching pad for China’s ambitions to connect Europe to Asia” through new trade and transport routes. Chinese President Xi Jinping has called BRI “the project of the century,” and roped in Pakistan, its all weather ally — as the flagship of the ambitious project — much to the discomfort of India and the US (the two are defense and security partners in the region).

Pakistan was among the first few countries which recognized Kazakhstan when it attained independence in December 1991. They have gotten closer: Kazakhstan, Central Asia’s largest economy, is an emerging market for Pakistani goods. Back in 2015, Pakistan offered Kazakhstan access to Persian Gulf through the CPEC — Xi’s flagship project.

The news analysis report comes as Nato members met earlier this month — build-up to the alliance’s 70th anniversary 2-day summit at Buckingham Palace in London — to show unity in the face of both Russia and China.

“We have now recognized that the rise of China has security implications for all allies,” NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg reportedly said.

The country is on a inexorable path to No. 1. It has climbed to No. 2 in the world, with a GDP of $13.1 trillion that keeps getting closer.

Nato member states meet discussed myriad issues on the table.

These included making space a full domain of conflict — alongside land, sea, air and cyber space — as well as a new report on how the alliance should approach China and its growing international assertiveness.

On the table was their global initiative against terrorism also. However, French leader Emmanuel Macron added to the debate with, “The common enemy today are the terrorist groups, as we mentioned, and I’m sorry to say that we don’t have the same definition of terrorism around the table”.

Still, China’s rise and Russia’s assertiveness in the face of emerging multipolar world and a new world order (globalization) emerging remain on Nato’s frontburner.

Why? According to a Pakistani defense analyst:

  1. China is focusing on the areas relatively unexplored/neglected by current economic world order; namely Central Asia, Africa and South America.
  2. Diluting the established paradigm of maritime supremacy through development of road and railway links in the areas of its interest (Mahan will be uneasy in his grave).
  3. Development of land-based road and railway links is a compulsion given the maritime geography of China and global forward deployment and presence of dominant US Navy at key choke points.

Therefore, he says, China’s growing economic clout will result in enhanced diplomatic and military influence in the areas of Chinese interest: it’s a natural outcome.

FP says China’s push into Central Asia through Belt and Road-linked investment projects has made Central Asia into a geopolitical laboratory—and a new frontier for global trade.

And Pakistan — China calls each other ‘Iron Brothers — is not too far from the laboratory FP has called.

Pakistan was among the first few countries which recognized Kazakhstan when it attained independence in December 1991. They have gotten closer: Kazakhstan, Central Asia’s largest economy, is an emerging market for Pakistani goods. Back in 2015, Pakistan offered Kazakhstan access to Persian Gulf through the CPEC — Xi’s flagship project.

Given that Kazakhstan has fully embraced its partnership with China, branding itself as the “buckle” of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and Pakistan being the gateway to the Middle East thru CPEC, the three nation’s importance in the Central Asia’s “geopolitical laboratory” is significant.

As for Russia, it has traditionally seen the former Soviet Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan as its own sphere of influence, but Beijing’s rise as the dominant economic force has changed the dynamics in the region, opening up a new era of recalibration, according to FP.

“Although Moscow is content to work with Beijing, it worries that Chinese influence in the region will eventually outpace its own”.

It adds: Beijing and Moscow aren’t the only players, either. In addition to advances from India, Japan, and the European Union, the Trump administration plans to publish a new strategy for Central Asia ahead of an expected trip by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the region in January.

Dr. S. M. Ali, a Pakistani analyst says the region is ground zero of the new world order. His comments came as the Kashmir situation arose post PM Modi’s Auguest 5 move.