FINS Bulletin, March First Half 2017

China plans to increase the size of its marine corps from about 20,000 to 100,000 personnel

China plans to increase the size of its marine corps from about 20,000 to 100,000 personnel to protect the nation’s maritime lifelines and its growing interests overseas, military insiders and experts have said. Some members would be stationed at ports China operates in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa and Gwadar in southwest Pakistan, they said.
The expanded corps is part of a wider push to refocus the world’s largest army away from winning a land war based on sheer numbers and towards meeting a range of security scenarios using highly specialised units. Towards that end, Chinese President Xi Jinping is reducing the size of the People’s Liberation Army by 300,000, with nearly all of the cuts coming from the land forces.
Two brigades of special combat soldiers had already been moved to the marines, nearly doubling its size to 20,000, and more brigades would be added. “The PLA marines will be increased to 100,000, consisting of six brigades in the coming future to fulfil new missions of our country,” one source said, adding the size of the navy would also grow 15 per cent. Its current size is estimated at 235,000 personnel.
China is constructing a naval base in Djibouti to provide what it calls logistical support in one of the world’s busiest waterways. The defence ministry said in a statement last year that the facility was mostly for resupply purposes for anti-piracy, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations.
France and the United States also maintain sizeable bases in Djibouti, with the latter’s Camp Lemonnier home to more than 4,000 personnel. China has not said how many people its base can accommodate, although some media reports have put the figure as high as 10,000.

Source: SCMP, Date: March 13, 2017


Keener on arms from China, Bangladesh dithers on defence pact with India

After several postponements, the prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, has finally agreed to visit India in April but her government is reluctant to sign an agreement on defence that India is pushing for.
While New Delhi has called for a comprehensive, 25-year agreement on defence cooperation, Dhaka is thought to favour agreeing a looser, and less formal, Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that would have no time frame.
India pitched the idea of greater defence cooperation with Bangladesh when its defence minister, Manohar Parikkar, visited Dhaka in December. 
“India wants a long term comprehensive defence cooperation agreement. We want to take a more calibrated, phased approach. An MOU may be a good way to begin,” said a top Bangladesh diplomat who was privy to the negotiations. He said the issue surfaced during Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s recent visit to Dhaka in late February.
“We are for greater defence cooperation with India, the relations between our defence forces are improving and we want to tackle the threat of terrorism together, but I think it is not yet time for a long-term agreement,” the diplomat said.
The agreement India proposed would cover greater military-to-military cooperation, sale and supply of military hardware from India to Bangladesh and coordinated operations against mutually perceived threats. 
Bangladesh sources much of its military hardware from China – something India is wary off. Its recent purchase of two Chinese submarines raised hackles in Delhi with some Indian defence analysts even asking why Bangladesh needed submarines at all.
Bangladesh military officials are not keen on purchasing defence hardware from India, believing that India’s own reliance on military imports suggests it has few quality products of its own to offer.
They point to the poor quality of equipment India supplied to Nepal and Myanmar, while admiring Chinese equipment for being cheap and easy to use.
But India is now willing to offer a US$500 million line of credit to Bangladesh for the purchase of military hardware. Bangladesh might welcome that and could use the funds for purchasing fast patrol craft for its coastguards and radar for its air defence.
Hasina is unwilling to push the military in this regard. “On issues of defence, she would like to go by the military’s advice,” said one of Hasina’s top advisers who did not want to be identified.
Bangladesh has a history of military coups, beginning with the assassination of Hasina’s father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of her family in 1975. Civil-military relations have matured in recent years but Hasina still does not like to cross the line and prefers to go by the military’s advice on defence issues.
She is also keen to strike a balance between her country’s relations with China and India. While India has been a traditional ally for Awami League governments in Dhaka, China has emerged as a key source of development funds and defence hardware.

Source: SCMP, Date: March 1, 2017


With India’s help, will stop China-Pakistan from ‘plundering’ Balochistan: Khan of Kalat on CPEC

Branding China and Pakistan as ‘plunderers’, Baloch dissident leader Mir Suleiman Ahmedzai, who holds the title of “Khan of Kalat” asserted that Balochistan strongly welcomes India’s assistance in stopping both nations with their nefarious plans in executing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Ahmedzai stated that CPEC has no developmental value whatsoever and is simply one ‘occupier’ taking the help of another ‘occupier’ in plundering the region which is rich in natural resources.
“We are not going to enjoy anything, nor are we going to benefit from it. We are not even being asked as it is our land. They are coming as plunderers and we will stop them in whichever way, maybe with the help of your people and friends,” he said ANI.
 

Source: Business Standard, Date: March 14, 2017


Google in talks with China for a comeback

China and Google are in talks for the Internet giant’s return to the Chinese mainland after it was pulled out seven years ago following a bitter spat with Beijing over censorship rules.
“China has been in touch with Google through various channels. Last year, leaders of our country’s important department had further communication with Google,” Liu Binjie, a standing committee member of China’s Parliament the National People’s Congress and former head of the General Administration of Press and Publication said.
Currently Google search engine as well other services, including email services are blocked in China and they can be accessed only with VPNs, (virtual private network). Google Scholar, a search engine for scholarly literature, was among the services on Beijing’s priority list for re-entry, Liu was quoted as saying by Hong Kong-based the South China Morning Post on Sunday.
There was hope that a part of Google’s business would return to China first, gradually followed by others, Liu said. “The academic sector will be the first to get through. China’s focus is on (making) academic progress, such as academic exchanges as well as (exchanges in) science and culture, instead of news, information or politics,” he said.
Other Google functions under negotiation included “service functions that do not involve (politically) sensitive information,” the lawmaker said. But no timetable had yet been set for Google’s return, he said.
Google pulled its search engine out of mainland China in 2010 and established in Hong Kong after a bitter spat with Beijing over its strict censorship rules.
However, with 721 million web users, China the world’s biggest Internet market remained an attractive destination for Google but Beijing’s rigid firewall web system with stringent controls remained a concern.
In the absence of Google, Chinese language Internet search engines like Baidu prospered. Microsoft’s Bing too tried to make inroads in China.

Source: Live Mint, Date: March 12, 2017


Government bans Ansar al-Islam

The government has declared outlawed Ansar al-Islam, the Bangladesh chapter of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), which is responsible for over a dozen attacks on war crimes trial campaigners, secularists and LGBT rights activists in the last couple of years.
The Home Ministry issued a gazette notification in this regard on March 1. Ansar al-Islam becomes the seventh banned militant group of the country.
Following the decision, Ansar al-Islam members will not be allowed to hold meetings, processions or preach its ideologies. Such activities would be termed anti-state and law enforcers would take legal action under the Anti-Terrorism Act, police say.
The current government earlier banned Ansarullah Bangla Team on May 25, 2015 and Hizb ut-Tahrir on October 22, 2009.
Ansarullah later became affiliated with AQIS that eyes establishing Shariah law in the country.
Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden’s successor, Egyptian ideologue Ayman al-Zawahiri, announced the formation of AQIS in September 2014 to carry the group’s fight to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and with a special focus on Rakhine state of Myanmar.
The US government blacklisted AQIS as a “foreign terrorist organisation” and its leader, Indian-born Asim Umar, a “specially designated global terrorist” in a statement issued on June 30 last year.
Ansar al-Islam claimed responsibilities, through Twitter, Telegram channels and other websites, for 13 attacks between January 2013 and April 25, 2016, in which 11 war crimes trial campaigners and secularists were killed while five others sustained critical injuries.
Police have arrested a number of top leaders of the outfit, but its alleged operations chief Maj (sacked) Syed Ziaul Haque and spiritual leader Tamim al-Adnani have remained traceless.
Detectives caught three most wanted leaders of the group out of six last year. Another trainer was killed in a gunfight the same year.
A death-row convict in Rajeeb murder case, Redwanul Azad Rana, was arrested last month in Dhaka. A former leader of Islami Chhatra Shibir, Rana is described by the police as a key organiser of Ansar al-Islam.
The group made its first claim on May 3, 2015 after their supporters hacked to death six people including blogger Ahmed Rajeeb Haider and science writer Avijit Roy. Earlier the group was known as Ansarullah Bangla Team.

Source: Dhaka Tribune, Date: March 05, 2017

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