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The Beginning of Asian Era; Asia in 21st Century

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It was rightly said that the 21st century belongs to Asia. With the recent developments in the region there is no doubt that Asia has already started to dominate in this century.

Whatever it is, whether fastest trains, tallest buildings, longest bridges, highest bridges, modern hybrid cars and intelligent robots. You name it Asia has it. And apart from all this, Asia is largest producer food and feeder as well. While there are fast growing small regions like Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Taiwan, there are also big economy giants like India, China, Russia and Japan.

Time to time this Eurasian block has given challenge to the western world, Soviet Union alone could take care of western super powers in the west who were imperialistic in nature and believed in colonizing and exploiting those  resources to build their own economies.

Source: imf.org

After the breakup of Soviet Union. NATO and US tried its best to bring the region in their influence to avoid any formation of future power in the region against the western bloc. Somewhere it succeeded and somewhere it did not.

Today that time has somewhat gone when people used to compare east and west, now it is more about cooperation than competition. We can not say which one is better now because both the blocs have equal achievement in different fields of technology, space research, weapons, science, and economy.

If communist economy fell down in 1991, Western capital economy also didn’t last much long, as in 2008-09  world experienced a huge recession that still some European countries are struggling. Whereas people in US and UK are trying hard for jobs. Even after all this, mixed economy in Russia, China and India were almost unhurt.

When we asked people form Russia if they are happy now or they were before in USSR period. There were mixed reactions some said yes and some said no. We came to a conclusion that while jobs and life was more secured in USSR time, but openness and exposure is more in this time.

Though if we want to see Asian economies overtaking American economy, then one might have to wait for a long time, but it is true that all recent developments are taking place in east.

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Sanskar Shrivastava is the founder of international students' journal, The World Reporter. Passionate about dynamic occurrence in geopolitics, Sanskar has been studying and analyzing geopolitcal events from early life. At present, Sanskar is a student at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture and will be moving to Duke University.

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Iran’s Chabahar Port: How India, Afghanistan, and Iran Gain From it

Manak Suri

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November 11, 2017 was a significant day diplomatically and geopolitically for Iran, India, and Afghanistan. A trilateral cooperation between the three countries saw Afghanistan receive its first shipment of wheat from India which was set in motion by India’s minister of external affairs Sushma Swaraj on October 29 along with her Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani. The shipment was the first among a series as part of India’s commitment to supply 1.1 million tons of wheat to the people of the country suffering from decades of war and instability. At the center of this achievement lies Iran’s Chabahar port and the trilateral International Transport and Transit Corridor Agreement between the three countries.

The Iranian port in Chabahar: why it is so important

The Iranian port is located in the country’s southernmost city of Chabahar, and has periodically found itself making headlines especially as the Asian powerhouses in India and China compete for influence in the seas to establish trade relationships across Asia, Europe, and Africa. As China pumps more and more investment into its mammoth Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a modern take on the Silk Route to connect 60 countries across the three continents through land and sea routes, the port of Chabahar has over a period of time found its suitors in prime opponents of the BRI such as India and Japan with the former already investing around USD 500 million in the port. While the idea for the port’s development was first proposed in 1979, it is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2018.

It would be rather unrealistic to assume that the Chabahar port will challenge China’s BRI as a whole to a direct geopolitical contest. However, once fully operational, the port is expected to connect the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean with St. Petersburg in Russia and further ahead with Europe through the International North South Transport Corridor or the INSTC. India, Afghanistan, and Iran stand to gain in different ways both collectively and individually through this development in trade routes.

A win-win-win situation

The development of the Chabahar port presents the key for India to reforge an oil based relationship with Iran and to forge trade relations beyond Afghanistan with countries in Central Asia. Once the port is fully developed, it is expected to also carry a larger variety of cargo, including heavy engineering goods and electronics. With a much shorter route to Europe, the time taken to transport goods from ports in India to countries in Europe is expected to be reduced by more than half from the 45 days it currently takes for the cargo to reach its destination. It is also estimated the cost of the deliveries will be reduced by about 30-40%. Moreover, it seems extremely unlikely that India will be a part of the Chinese proposed BRI, given that an integral component of the initiative is the China Pakistan Economic Corrdior (CPEC) that runs through the Kashmir region whose ownership is hotly contested by both India and Pakistan. In that regard, the Chabahar port offers India the opportunity to challenge China at least in some capacity in their ever expanding contest for trade and influence across the globe, by connecting it to rail networks of different countries in Central Asia.

For a landlocked Afghanistan which has no direct access to the seas, the development of the Chabahar port and its agreement with India and Iran coming to fruition holds great significance. The port opens up the country to the world, and provides it with better access to trade, vastly reducing its dependency on its neighbour Pakistan and enabling it to forge even closer ties with India. Pakistan has in the past disallowed India to access the land route to Afghanistan for the provision of aid to the country. Now an alternate route through Chabahar allows for the same to reach the country first from the port to Zaranj, which is adjacent to Afghanistan’s border with Iran, and then further 218 km ahead into the country via the Zarang-Delaram highway.

For Iran, a fully functional seaport in Chabahar appears to be strategically important since it is located away from the historically contested waters of the Arabian Gulf. Recovering now from easing sanctions, Iran looks to climb the geopolitical ladder and reestablish itself in the coming decades. Amid worsening ties with the United States, it has caught the attention of China, Russia, and other countries in Europe and also looks to gain from its relation with India. The Chabahar port may just be the key to put an end to its economic isolation. Even with the United States and India recognising each other as allies, Iran has not yet found any opposition from the US against India’s cooperation with Iran on the port, and that is because the US recognises the benefit that Afghanistan is able to attain from India’s efforts through the Chabahar port.

India, Iran, and Afghanistan share historical civilisational ties and similarities and the same was referenced by Indian minister of external affairs Sushma Swaraj. “This shows the convergence between the ancient civilisations of India, Afghanistan and Iran to spur unhindered flow of commerce and trade throughout the region,” said Swaraj as she flagged off the first shipment of wheat to Afghanistan on October 29.

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Poverty Stricken Australia

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For some people living inside the AU, you might be thinking, “we’re not poverty stricken”. But that’s just because you’re not poverty-stricken, or maybe even the majority isn’t. But some people out there are living in poverty conditions due to the lack of jobs available, or the money they’re receiving. The stresses this causes on families is huge, especially those with younger children.  But who’s fault is it? There are arguments to say that people get themselves into this situation. There are also arguments to say that the government have caused it. This article is going to explore a bit about the causes and effects it has on people across the AU.

Firstly, let’s look at the fact the people of Australia might be the cause. We’re at the minute, a lazy generation. It is easier for some people to sit at home and receive benefits rather than work, even though they’re perfectly capable of working. Which then takes the money away from people who genuinely can’t work due to reasons such as disability. Then there’s the big immigration problem that we’re currently dealing with. Some people are entering the country seeking urgent protection from the countries they have come from. However, they are also taking up a lot of our benefits system rather than working. Is this because it’s easier to, or is it because businesses don’t want to hire? Whichever reason it is, it’s putting a lot of strain on our benefits system. Although it is a lot harder for immigrants to enter AU than it is to other countries.

The second potential cause is the government. For every good decision they seem to make, they make two bad ones. They’re making cuts left right and centre, meaning employers and say for example the public sector is struggling to open up jobs to people. This then circles us back to the point that maybe living off benefits is easier as there are simply not enough jobs going around. But this issue is happening all over the world. Take the UK for example. They’re having massive strains put on the NHS due to funding cuts. If they privatise it, they’ll be no hope left for the people who don’t have the money.

Then there are the effects it’s actually having on the families across Australia. Divorce rates are at an all-time high, as well as domestic violence. A domestic violence lawyer will be dealing with hundreds of more cases than they would have in previous years. But it is easy to see why. When there is no money coming into a household, it’s easy for it to cause arguments that can escalate. It’s also common for people in poverty to turn to alcohol, this can increase the risk of domestic violence cases or marriage breakdowns.

On the whole, you might go through your time not even realising some people in Australia are in poverty. It’s easy for people to assume poverty only relates to people in countries such as India or countries in Africa. But the truth is, it’s happening in pretty much every country to so many families.

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In South Africa, Cherry Blossom’s detention fuels investor anxiety

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Port Elizabeth Light house

Port Elizabeth

As various countries in Africa recover from previous crises and build solid reputations as good places to do business, the champions of past times are losing their luster. That is the case for South Africa, previously seen as a reliable business partner for global trade, but which has been causing more and more concern from international investors. The unexpected intervention of Port Elizabeth in an international territorial negotiation may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

On the Northwest Atlantic coast, between Morocco and Mauritania, lies Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony. In 1967, Spain withdrew from the area, leaving it to its own fate. The desert strip remained inhabited by local communities, and Moroccan businesses which employ them. An armed separatist group, named the Polisario front, was created in 1973, which aimed at excluding Morocco from the land, making it a separate and sovereign nation. The United Nations classify Western Sahara as a “non-self-governing territory”, something the Polisario front would like to change.

The Saharawi people stretch across the area, all the way to the Algerian side of the border, where refugee camps are home to near 200 000 people, where NGOs decry the shortage of food, water, basic supplies and access to elementary services. Yet, there’s no lack of means, as Magnus Norell, Senior Policy Analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the European Foundation for Democracy, points out. “The newly presented report from the EU corruption watch-dog — OLAF — about embezzlement of funds from the EU to Polisario, comes as no real surprise for those of us who have followed the confluence between organized crime and terrorism in West Africa”, he explains. According to Norell, “OLAF shows how Polisario leadership, in cahoots with Algeria, has inflated the number of refugees in the camps in Tindouf in order to increase aid-money and supplies intended for the refugees. Furthermore, good-quality foodstuff like Canadian wheat for example, intended for the refugees were switched to lower-quality provisions, selling the higher quality goods on the open market.”

“Polisario has become even more entangled in various criminal activities, like smuggling and trafficking, says Norell. Even more worrying is the fact that militant Islamists have aggressively targeted the Tindouf-camps in efforts to recruit militants.” From this point of view, life seems better in the western part of the land, where Moroccan companies have heavily invested into the local mining economy, as well as in schools and proper housing conditions for workers.  However, the Polisario front claims that Saharawi people are being robbed of their natural resources and wish to gain complete economic control of the area. UN-held negotiations have been under way for years, and were recently reset in an attempt to find a solution to the dispute. The Polisario front therefore tried to find higher grounds for the negotiation.

Aware that phosphate ore from Western Sahara was transiting through the world on their way towards clients, the Polisario Front sent requests to several courts, hoping to have cargos seized, especially in April 2017. A Panamanian court temporarily held back a Vancouver-bound ship, but released it a few days later, as the case was for the United Nations to rule upon. But a local South African courthouse, in Port Elizabeth, did not declare itself incompetent and decided to judge the case on merits, despite the ongoing UN negotiation.

As a result, the Cherry Blossom, a Danish cargo boat, transporting 55 000 tons of phosphate on its way to New Zealand, has been held captive with 30 hapless sailors on board, for two months, with no solution in sight. The Moroccan government issued a formal complaint through its spokesman, M. El Khafi, describing the self-proclaimed competence of the local South African court as “contrary to international law”.

The Polisario front, on the other hand, celebrated its temporary victory and threatened with further legal action: “The reputational risk for ship owners and charterers is that which results from knowingly participating in the export of resources from a territory widely referred to as Africa’s last colony. This entails possible rejection of trade by parties interested in an end to the occupation of Western Sahara, including commercial enterprise and governments throughout Africa and elsewhere”, as was reported by the Western Sahara Resource Watch, an international NGO favorably inclined towards the Polisario Front and opposed to Morocco.

It’s hard to say whether this initiative could have happened at a worse time. South Africa was recently set back by Standard & Poor’s into the BB+ category, known as speculative, which recommends that investors avoid dealing in the area. In fact, South Africa has been losing speed for some time, while neighboring Tanzania, Mozambique and Rwanda proudly display soaring development rates. Half a century ago, South Africa held a unique geographical position in international trade, with harbor facilities unlike any other in the area. In other words, international business which wanted to deal in the area had little choice but to plant their flag in South Africa.

But things have changed, now that the entire area is developed. In response to the Cherry Blossom caper, businesses who fear being dragged into international dispute they hold no stakes or interest in, have simply decided to stop for refuelling in other countries, in order to secure their activities.  Following the arrest of the Cherry Blossom in South Africa, New Zealand now makes sure the cargo ships refuel safely: “Since the ship was detained in South Africa, Balance Agri Nutrients and their shippers have been finding ways of evading the legal tactics used by the Saharan campaigners.  They and their shippers made sure the carrier, Common Spirit, travelled to New Zealand via Cape Horn, and so avoided South African jurisdiction”, reported Eric Frykberg for RNZ.

South Africa didn’t need this: since 1980, the unemployment rate has more than doubled, hitting nearly one in four adults in 2016. The local currency has been in constant devaluation over that same period: when a rand could buy a dollar in 1980, with change to spare, nearly 16 are necessary to buy a green bill today. According to the IMF “Slow economic growth since 2008 has further aggravated unemployment, real disposable income is stagnant, and households are heavily indebted. […] Stress tests confirm the capital resilience of banks and insurance companies to severe shocks but illustrate a vulnerability to liquidity shortfalls.”, which is exactly what South Africa will likely experience, as businesses and investors avoid the area for fear of being held hostage. This is the price to pay for ludicrous political choices.

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