Global News Journal

from Africa News blog:

Can world now stop Somali pirates?

January 19, 2009

With the naval might of the United States, Europe, China and others now lined up against Somalia's pirate fraternity, shippers are hoping the nightmare year of 2008 will not be repeated.
 
Somali pirates -- mainly gangs of poor young men seeking a quick fortune under the direction of older "financiers" and boat leaders --  reaped tens of millions of dollars in ransoms last year in a record haul of 42 hijacks, 111 attacks, and 815 crew taken hostage. 
 
That pushed insurance prices up, persuaded some ship-owners to go round South Africa instead of through the Suez Canal, and prompted the unprecedented rush of navies from 14 different nations to the region. Even China is in on the act, deploying its navy for the first time beyond its own waters. And Japan is considering following suit despite its post-World War II pacifist constitution.
 
There have been some early successes from all the deployments - half a dozen pirates arrested and a series of attacks blocked, by helicopter and boat. Bad weather, too, has given the pirates some real problems, drowning five of them when their pockets were stuffed with dollars after taking their share of the ransom from the release of a Saudi super-tanker.
 
Yet the pirates have still managed two new hijacks and 11 attacks in the first half of January. They are hanging on to 11 ships with 207 hostages - most notably a Ukrainian ship with tanks on board
 
And with such a vast area of operations -- plus fancy new speedboats that have taken them as far as Kenya and Madagascar, and GPS equipment to keep away from the warships -- the pirates are confident of keeping their business going. So who will win this modern-day battle of the seas? Will the shipping industry lose as much to the pirates this year as they did last? Should they keep paying huge ransoms like the $3 million paid for the Saudi boat?

New world shapes up off Somalia

January 9, 2009

The Somali pirates who released a Saudi supertanker got a $3 million reward, according to their associates. Good money in one of the world’s poorest and most war-blighted corners.But the waters off Somalia are getting ever more crowded with foreign ships trying to stop the pirates. As well as potentially making life more difficult for the hijackers, it has become a real illustration of the much talked about global power shift from West to East in terms of military might as well as economic strength.This raises a question as to whether this will lead to close cooperation, rivalry or something altogether more unpredictable.This week the United States said it planned to launch a specific anti-piracy force, an offshoot of a coalition naval force already in the region since the start of the U.S. “War on Terror” in Afghanistan in 2001.It wasn’t clear just what this would mean in practical terms since U.S. ships were already part of the forces trying to stop the modern day buccaneers, equipped with speedboats and rocket-propelled grenades. It was also unclear which countries would be joining the U.S.-led force rather than operating under their own mandates.The U.S. announcement came two days after Chinese ships started an anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden. This is the first time Chinese warships have sailed to Africa, barring goodwill visits, since Ming Dynasty eunuch Admiral Zheng commanded an armada 600 years ago.As my colleague Sanjeev Miglani wrote last month, the Chinese deployment was being scrutinised by the strategic community from New Delhi to Washington.The Chinese had actually been catching up to other Asian countries. India already had ships in the region. So did Malaysia, whose navy foiled at least one pirate attack this month. Reasserting its might, Russia had sent a warship after the big surge in piracy in the Gulf of Aden between Somalia and Yemen. The European Union has a mission there.For Asian countries there is good reason to send warships. This is the main trade route to markets in Europe and their ships have been seized. Attacks on shipping push up insurance rates and force some vessels to use more fuel on the longer, safer route around Africa instead of taking the Suez Canal.But there certainly appears to be evidence too to back up the U.S. National Intelligence Council’s “Global Trends 2025” report late last year that highlighted the relative decline in Washington’s long term influence in the face of the rise of China and India.As well as being a chance for the world’s old and new powers to show their strength in terms of numbers, the anti-piracy operations off Somalia could prove something of a test of effectiveness.While the hardware the navies have will always outclass that of the pirates, the new powers may have an advantage in more robust rules of engagement. That might lead to mistakes, however. In November, India trumpted its success in sinking a pirate “mother ship”. It later turned out that a Thai ship carrying fishing equipment had been sunk while it was being hijacked. Most of the crew were reported lost.There is a lot of sea to cover, one of the reasons why naval forces have had so much difficulty in stopping the hijackings, but the presence of so many navies in the same area at the same time must raise questions over how well they are going to work together.Will this become a model for cooperation in a new world order? Or are there dangers? Might this also end up being a display of how little either East or West can do in the face of attacks by armed groups from a failed state with which nobody from outside seems prepared to come to grips? What do you think?(Picture: Commanding officer of a U.S. Navy guided-missile cruiser monitors the pirated ship off Somalia REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Handout)(Picture: Forces from French naval vessel “Jean de Vienne”, seen in this January 4, 2009 photo, capture 19 Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden. REUTERS/French Navy/handout)

China’s elusive land reform

December 29, 2008

It is ironic that 30 years after they gave birth to the reforms that transformed China into an economic powerhouse, the country’s vast hinterlands are still dogged by poverty.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India – aiming for diplomatic encirclement of Pakistan?

December 26, 2008

India is piling on the diplomatic pressure to convince the international community to lean on Pakistan to crack down on Islamist militants blamed by New Delhi for the Mumbai attacks.

Panda-mania rocks Taiwan

December 23, 2008

By Ralph Jennings

Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan arrived in a city gripped by panda-mania today. You would think David Beckham or Tom Cruise had just flown into Taipei.

Hu hiccup gives vent to China power speculation

December 19, 2008

By Benjamin Kang Lim and Simon Rabinovitch

When Chinese President Hu Jintao spoke to the nation this week, an unusual six-second pause may have said more about elite politics in this secretive state than the other 90 minutes of
stolid Communist Party rhetoric. In an address marking 30 years of economic reforms, Hu appeared to lose his place in the middle of a sentence, halting awkwardly for 6.5 seconds — the only such break in his speech and an extremely rare bump for Chinese officials long-practised in flawlessly reading out speeches.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

And now the Chinese navy in Somali waters…

December 17, 2008

Chinese naval ships may soon be steaming into the Gulf of  Aden to join a growing fleet of international warships fighting  Somali pirates.

China, and the slowdown showdown

December 16, 2008

America caught a cold and now China has one too. 

IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn said on Monday that the Fund could cut its forecast for China’s economic growth in 2009 to around  5 percent. To think that only last year China was galloping at a double-digit clip. It’s staggering, and it’s worrying.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

China, Pakistan and India

December 13, 2008

 

According to Pakistani newspaper the Daily Times, Pakistan's decision to crack down on the Jammat-ud-Dawa, the charity linked to the Laskhar-e-Taiba, came as the result of pressure from China. Jammat-ud-Dawa was blacklisted by a UN Security Council committee this week.

Remembering Beijing’s cramped housing

December 12, 2008

By Niu Shuping

China’s economic reforms have made a huge difference in the availability of affordable and spacious housing.