China is pushing for a collective security arrangement, with Russia and Central Asian countries as partners, which would focus on countering mega-terror strikes along the New Silk Road.
On Monday, visiting Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, proposed in Astana, the capital of neghbouring Kazakhstan, that the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)—a six nation grouping led by Beijing and Moscow---should become the guardian of Eurasia.
Mr. Li was amplifying the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s proposal of establishing an economic belt along New Silk Road, which would run through Eurasia, hosting a network of roads, railways, energy pipelines and fiber optic highways. Brand new industrial parks and cities would emerge along the Eurasian landmass feeding from the high quality infrastructure that is being planned.
The Chinese want to open up the transportation channel from the Pacific to the Baltic Sea, from which would mutate a communication network that would also connect with East Asia, West Asia, and South Asia.
Once established, the Silk Road Economic Belt could shift the balance of power in Eurasia towards the East with China and Russia, which is now feverishly developing its energy rich “Far East,” as its two poles.
But worried about the security of this mammoth enterprise, Mr. Li saw in the SCO, a “pillar” on which Eurasia’s peaceful development would rest. Most of the countries along the New Silk Road are vulnerable to security blowouts brought about by ethnic separatists or extremists, not averse to undertaking terror strikes.
During his address to the 13th meeting of Prime Ministers of SCO in the Kazhak capital, Mr. Li called for a new center which would foresee future security challenges to Eurasia. He also called upon partners to hone mechanisms that would to curb terrorism, and target drug trafficking, along with cyber-crimes.
Well aware of the threats posed by extremism, and the derailment that they could cause of the promising New Silk Road projects, the SCO members have made considerable preparations for countering terrorism.
In August they held their biggest joint military exercise, fielding 7,000 troops, including special forces, to defeat a simulated threat posed by a 2000 strong externally backed terror group to topple and bring about “regime change” in a SCO member-state. The Chinese pitched in with J-10, J-11 fighter jets, JH-7 fighter bombers, and KJ-2000 airborne early warning and control aircraft, as well as WZ-10 and WZ-19 attack helicopters.
Russia contributed 60 armoured vehicles, including 40 BMP-2 infantry combat vehicles and T-72 main battle tanks, and more than 20 missile and artillery systems. The Chinese justified the large scale of the exercise by pointing out that the threat of terrorism spilling into Central Asia from Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries has ballooned. The exercises would therefore serve as a deterrent to the “three forces of terrorism, extremism and separatism in the region”.
In Astana, Prime Minister Li singled out Afghanistan as a country which needed support to maintain it “domestic stability” as well as for forging national reconciliation and economic reconstruction.