China continues to develop plans to implement its New Silk Road policy. Specifically, Beijing recently maneuvered to inject approximately $62bn USD into state-controlled “policy banks” in order to further development of the planned trade route. The strategy outlined by the Chinese government includes significant amounts of infrastructure development throughout the region, as well as already-implemented or under-construction natural gas pipelines. The project, if implemented successfully and in its entirety, would stretch from Beijing to Western Europe, as well as into parts of the Middle East and Southeast Asia, among other regions.
In a related maneuver, Chinese President Xi Jinping is currently visiting Pakistan, a country to which Beijing has pledged $45 billion to assist with infrastructure and energy development in the country. Pakistan recently joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, China’s alternative to such Western-sponsored bodies like the World Bank, and highly values relations with Beijing. Apart from investing in Pakistani infrastructure, China seeks to curb the flow of insurgents from Pakistan to its restive western province of Xinjiang, where violence between ethnic Uighurs and Han Chinese has been frequent. Moreover, a shorter route to the Middle East and access to the Indian Ocean are also likely goals.
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- Despite Ukrainian claims to the contrary, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed Monday that the Ukraine crisis is “abating” and that fighting has seen a sharp decrease. Lavrov further condemned what he perceives as Ukrainian violations of the tenuous ceasefire agreement signed in Minsk months ago. The agreement between the two sides, while still in effect, has not prevented periodic skirmishes in disputed Ukrainian cities.
- The Times of Central Asia reports on the economic downturn in the region of Emerging Europe and Central Asia (ECA). An article published yesterday addresses the difficulties faced by regional countries impacted by a combination of falling oil prices and a weakened Russian ruble. A leading World Bank official in the region prognosticated further that the region will continue to reel as a result of the Russian economic crisis and that “low growth prospects” throughout the greater region are expected.
- The presidents of Iran and Afghanistan met in Tehran over the weekend to discuss security cooperation. With the appearance of apparently ISIL-affiliated groups in Afghanistan, the two sides have found a common ground on which to collaborate. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani committed to increased collaboration in the areas of security and intelligence.
- President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev announced that a new agreement between his government and that of Nursultan Nazarbayev’s Kazakhstan has been reached. The “mutual understanding on cooperation in the Caspian Sea” was reinforced as new Kazakh Ambassador to Azerbaijan Beybit Isabayev presented his credentials to Aliyev. The two countries have “jointly implemented” security and economic measures highly touted by both countries, Aliyev claimed.