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Strategic Importance of Kartarpur Corridor

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With Pakistan and India making history with groundbreaking Ceremony of kartarpur corridor on both sides of International Boundary to facilitate the people by giving access to Sikhs of India to Baba Guru Nanak Gurdwara- the founder and spiritual leader of Sikhism. Imran Khan conducted Groundbreaking Ceremony of Kartarpur on 28th November in a  huge gathering attended by a delegation from India including Navjot Sidhu.

As an agreement, Pakistan will build a corridor of 4 Kilometer up to International boundary and India will build the same from Gurdaspur to International Boundary of just 2 Kilometers.

Apart from a Religious point of view, the corridor will serve a vital role for Trade and Economic relations and improve ties between two hostile Nations for seven decades. The Kartarpur corridor has strategic Importance and can go a long way bringing two countries closer to Diplomatic Dialogue since both countries may turn over a new leaf to build the strong ties and bury the hatchet to spread love and bring peace in the region.

Ever Since Indian Former cricketer Navjot Sidhu Visited Pakistan on the Good Will gesture and bringing in the Message of Peace and Love from India in the Official Invitation from Imran Khan to participate in his oath-taking ceremony, he was warmly welcomed by all including Army Chief  General Qamar Jawed Bajwa. Sidhu appeared very optimistic about the Growing friendly ties between the two countries and bringing the message of love and Peace for the people of Pakistan.

The Army chief General Qamar Jawed had a big hug with Sidhu and offered to open the Kartarpur corridor for the Sikh devotees to visit their founder Baba Guru Nanak Gurdwara by giving visa-free access in order to honour the Guest of honour, Navjot Sidhu. Sidhu was very excited to know that an Army chief had offered such thing as it was really unbelievable for him that an army chief could offer such gesture.

 His immediately discussed the matter with the Indian government upon his return to his country. The BJP Government at first turned down the proposal and the so-called Indian Media criticized Navjot Sidhu of  Hugging Army chief as India consider him the murderer of His soldiers. There were debates over the television that whether Sidhu should have Gone to Pakistan or Not.

The Veteran cricketer turned politician Navjot was undeterred and kept pushing Indian Government to accept the Proposal of kartarpur corridor. At last, the Modi Government accepted the offer and the foundation Stone Ceremony took place on Indian side on 26th November 2018 by the Vice President of India m Venkaiah Naidu. The Distance from the Indian side is 4 Kilometers from Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur District to International Boundary to connect the same with the Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan.

On the Other hand, The Prime  Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan laid the foundation Stone on 28th November 2018 at District Narowal attended by COAS Qamar jawed Bajwa, Navjot Sidhu and Other delegates from India.  PM offered Visa Free Access to the Holy site of   Durbar Kartarpur Sahib in order to facilitate the Sikh community pilgrims. 

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  According to Vice President of India, “The corridor will become a symbol of love and peace between both countries,” Naidu was quoted as saying in Gurdaspur. He went on to say that this was very momentous and historic day and they are fulfilling the wish of Sikh Devotees who are  excited to visit the sacred place for Sikhs to celebrate 550th Birthday anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak next Year .

Indo-Pak Relations have always remained tense due to various Loc based firing, 26/11 Mumbai Attack and the core issue of Kashmir. There were frequent proposals and demands to have a corridor to facilitate Sikh Pilgrims of India to have access to Gurdwara Baba Guru Nanak so as to perform their religious rituals there.

The Immigration and Visa processes were very exhausting and complicated given the tough hostile relations of these neighbours having fought two deadly wars and frequent cold war that impeded the peace efforts and suspended the meaningful dialogue to discuss the grave issues of Terrorism and Kashmir dispute as per the wishes of Kashmiri People through a plebiscite.

The political leadership of both countries have never been engaged in a proper way that might have paved the way to the resolution of issues, Since there has been a great dearth of Confidence-building measures and trust that might have led both countries to ink an agreement.

Unfortunately, the dialogue process was marred and remained suspended given the growing extremist forces such as Shiv Sina and RSS. The Indian leadership failed to withstand the mounting pressure and consequently, succumbed to pressure and took a U-turn from the dialogue by giving any excuse to justify their distancing from the dialogue process.

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However, ever since the PTI-led Government came into power, it reshaped and realigned their foreign policy to suit the interests of the country and defined new terms of engagement with the US and the Neighbours especially Iran, Afghanistan, India and close all-weather friend China.

To break the stalemate and diffuse the tensions between the two countries, the cricket diplomacy came into play when soon after winning the election, Imran Khan envisaged his foreign policy vision inviting India to forward one step and he would go by two steps to reach a lasting solution through dialogue. To display the friendly gesture and using his old cricket fellows of India to bridge the gap and reconnect to Pakistan’s intentions to reinitiate the dialogue process, PM Imran Khan invited Navjot Sidhu to attend his oath-taking ceremony.

Sidhu was given warm reception at the ceremony and the big hug from COAS Qamar Jawed Bajwa was the turning point that melted the ice when he(Bajwa) offered to open the Kartarpur Corridor to facilitate the Sikh Pilgrims to visit their Holy place of Guru Nanak Sahib owing to frequent demand. He said to Sidhu to discuss the issue with his Indian Government to make sure whether they were willing or not.

Sidhu was excited and returned home with the proposal but his Indian Government rejected the proposal by giving the traditional excuse of cross-border terrorism and afterwards when Sikh community pushed the Government to accept the proposal. They agreed to build a modern Corridor equipped with all modern facilities on the Indian side and urged Pakistan to build the same from their side.

Pakistan Government welcomed the move and announced groundbreaking ceremony on November 28th and invited Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, Indian Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu besides 17 Indian journalists to Kartarpur corridor.

Sushma Swaraj and Chief Minister Punjab Amarinder Singh apologized to come due to some commitments, whereas few Indian Ministers, Journalists and Navjot Sidhu were the part of Indian Delegation came to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony. They termed the development as historic since it would spread the message of love for both countries.

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As per the plan, the Indian government will construct and develop the Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab’s Gurdaspur district to the border, while Pakistan will build the other part of the corridor connecting the border to the Gurdwara in the Kartarpur Sahib area of Narowal district as per  the official statement of both countries.

 Geographically,   the two sites – Dera Baba Nanak and Kartarpur Sahib – are barely separated by six kilometres but parted by an international borderline between India and Pakistan that is also toughened by a poisonous rhetoric and lack of Mutual trust.

It is high time that both countries should make serious efforts to ensure people to people contacts and melt the ice that hampered development in the regions. The Kartarpur Corridor may open vistas of opportunities between two countries and they may take the bilateral trade relations to next level if the same corridor is used for trade besides the purpose of Sikh pilgrims.

 It might be too early to predict , yet  to be optimistic , The corridor will play its role to diffuse tensions between two countries and  may bring the relations to normalization if the priorities and attitudes start changing as people set aside all the odds and need love since they are fed up from the warmongering from Indian Authorities . War would be disastrous for both Nuclear capacious neighbours and will bring misery by plunging country into an economic crisis that will never be fruitful for these countries and for South Asia as Whole. 

Pakistan may offer the CPEC partnership if positive and meaningful dialogue process restarts since we have to forward by burying our past differences as quoted by PM Imran Khan during the Groundbreaking ceremony regarding the two European powers France and Germany by saying that if these two can engage in an alliance then why not Pakistan and India  Since animosity and wars cannot stand longer if people Start pushing their Governments to maintain peace and live like peaceful neighbours.

China

Stronger Contractionary Monetary Policy Needed to Achieve ‘Stabilizing Expectations’ for China

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The escalation to war in Ukraine and the series of sanctions against Russia by Europe and the United States has acerbated the volatility of the global financial and energy markets. The increased geopolitical risks have also had a serious impact on the global economy. International institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank have issued warnings one after another that China’s economy will face new challenges as energy supply and demand fluctuate and supply chain distortions intensify. This change in the situation has already affected

China’s domestic capital market. Recently, the common stock market (A-shares) has been volatile, reflecting investors’ gloomy outlook on the capital market and China’s economy. According to the theory of behavioral economics, changes in expectations will affect future economic activity.

This is not only an issue of economic confidence but it also affects the behavior of residents and enterprises in the future on economic activities such as consumption and investment, which will have a substantial impact on the micro and macroeconomy. ANBOUND researchers believe that China will need to adjust and respond to macroeconomic policies, especially to promote further easing of monetary policy in taming market concerns and provide substantial support for “steady growth”.

At The Two Sessions this year, the government’s Work Report put forward the goal of achieving economic growth of 5.5% this year, and at the same time emphasized increasing macro-policy to support the economy. According to the current market reaction, some scholars and research institutions believe that the economic growth target of 5.5% has fallen significantly compared to last year’s economic growth rate of 8.1%.

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However, due to the chaos brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the average growth rate in the past two years was only 5.1%. Therefore, when the impact of the pandemic is removed and the economy returns to “normal”, it is challenging to achieve the economic growth target of 5.5% this year. The further formation of endogenous power is needed and it also requires macro-policy support to stabilize demand.

Some researchers have mentioned that the current target of 5.5% has a positive effect on enhancing market confidence and expectations, but to achieve the economic growth target, the main path is to build infrastructure to support the economy and wait for the real estate market to stabilize.

It is anticipated that the pandemic control measures might be reduced, allowing consumption to rebound. However, the market emphasis point remains primarily dependent on whether the real estate market is improving, and there is little “enthusiasm” about the expansion infrastructure. Under this situation, the “stabilizing expectation” effects of positive fiscal policy are still limited. Judging from the latest CPI and PPI data, the consumer price level continues to be depressing while the production price level has risen.

This represented the fact that the development of China’s domestic consumer demand and investment needs is continually diminished, while the pressure on business expenses from PPI stays constant. Coupled with the recent continuous fluctuations in the A-share market, various situations show that changes in market expectations still reflect the contradictions on the demand side.

This means that China’s overall economic growth will still be a process of “drilling the bottom”. Although fiscal spending will expand this year, in terms of China’s current economic size, its intensity is still in the “steady” category, and the support and coordination of monetary policy are still needed to unleash the effectiveness of the easing policy.

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At the same time, ANBOUND also pointed out that the Russia-Ukraine crisis has further worsened the international geopolitical environment and increased the uncertainty of the global economy. Changes in the current economic situation show that the market still has an urgent need for macroeconomic policies, especially monetary policy support. Therefore, researchers at ANBOUND believe that it is still necessary to further ease monetary policy at present to help the economy achieving a “soft landing” as soon as possible by releasing policy space.

Since the fourth quarter last year, monetary policy has turned to ease and has provided substantial support for economic stability through comprehensive reduce moderately the Required Reserve Ratio (RRR) and interest rate.

However, following China’s Spring Festival, the rate of this continual easing decreased and market liquidity was recycled. On the one hand, the market needs to digest the impact of the easing policy and improve the effectiveness of the policy; on the other hand, it is also a signal for the policy to remain stable, to avoid misleading the market causing “waterfall”.

However, in terms of the forward-looking, precise, and sustainable monetary policy, considering the new situation and changes in market expectations, monetary policy needs to be adjusted promptly, seize the time window, and further reduce market interest rates to stabilize short-term market expectations and prevent panic in the capital market that would cause chain reaction.

Judging from the current changes in the capital market, the RMB exchange rate still shows a strong tendency to appreciate despite the intensified international geopolitical risks and the rebound of the U.S. dollar index. This may be the case though the Federal Reserve may end its balance sheet reduction and start raising interest rates in March. Appropriately lowering the interest rate level will not have a significant impact on the RMB exchange rate under the turbulent international situation.

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Promoting further easing of the currency will help release the pressure of RMB appreciation and increase the profitability of Chinese export enterprises. Increasing currency liquidity and reducing financing costs are also beneficial to the domestic capital market, helping to stabilize asset prices and improve corporate profitability.

With the stability of China’s economic fundamentals, the stable income of its domestic capital market will remain attractive to international capital. Under such circumstances, the impact of changes in the international policy environment on China is still manageable.

Most crucially, by releasing signals to consolidate the macroeconomy through monetary policy changes, the capital market and economic principals can turn their bearish expectations around. According to China’s existing conditions and stages, this will be the crucial key.

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China

China moves closer to Russia, but wary on Ukraine

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China and Russia set off alarms in the West this month with the most robust declaration of their friendship in decades but Beijing has signalled it would not back Vladimir Putin if he sent troops in to invade Ukraine.

The February 4 joint statement by the neighbours included unprecedented support from Beijing for Moscow’s opposition to the expansion of NATO, and came as Washington and its allies were warning of full-scale Russian military action against Kyiv.

It was “quite a quantum shift from what has been a steady intensification, elevation of the content of Russia-China declarations over the last 20 years”, former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd said during an online discussion co-hosted by the Atlantic Council think tank and the Asia Society.

“It is China becoming a global security actor in a way that I personally have not seen before.”

China’s unusually direct position on NATO and support for Moscow’s “reasonable” security concerns have, however, placed it on a diplomatic tightrope, forcing it to balance its close Russia ties with major economic interests in Europe.

With more than 150,000 troops massed on the border with Ukraine, Russia has demanded guarantees that Kyiv will never be allowed to join NATO — a position in stark contrast to China’s long-standing stated foreign policy red line: no interference in other countries’ internal affairs.

When asked if there was a contradiction, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the Munich Security Conference via video link Saturday that the sovereignty of all nations should be respected.

“Ukraine is no exception,” he said.

That position was tested in just two days.

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Russian President Putin on Monday recognised two “republics” in Ukraine held by pro-Moscow separatist rebels, and ordered the deployment of troops there.

The United States and its allies blasted Russia for violating the sovereignty of Ukraine at an emergency UN Security Council meeting, but China was circumspect, urging restraint by “all sides”.

Putin has “denied the territorial independence and sovereignty — indeed, the very existence — of Ukraine”, Ivo Daalder, former US ambassador to NATO, wrote on Twitter.

“Both were core… (tenets) of China’s approach to the crisis. Putin has blown both to bits.”

This is not the first time China has had to strike a delicate balance between its interests and a major international escalation by its strategic partner Russia.

When Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014, China did not join Russia’s veto of a UN Security Council resolution on the issue, instead abstaining and mainly offering economic support.

Eight years later, experts say there are again limits to what Beijing can — or wants to — do for Moscow.

Among the key factors are trade and financial links with Europe. Overt backing of any Russian belligerence could also threaten the major investment deal Beijing is trying to seal with the bloc.

Further, some analysts say China may not want to escalate already high tensions with the United States.

“The Ukraine crisis… carries significant risk of the bottom falling out of (China’s) relationships with the EU and the US,” wrote Bill Bishop in the Sinocism China Newsletter.

“I do not believe that Xi and his team want to see Russia invade Ukraine, as they understand the risks from the expected reaction to any invasion.”

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Others said that, with its support for Moscow’s concerns about NATO, Beijing may be looking to its own future security interests.

By implicitly siding with Moscow, Beijing gains “considerable diplomatic leverage” and “presumes that Russia will act likewise when China finds itself in a critical security situation”, Richard Ghiasy, an expert at the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, told AFP.

Despite Beijing’s guarded language on Ukraine, observers say the China-Russia joint announcement is still a stark challenge to the United States and its allies beyond the current crisis.

The statement contained challenges to the definitions of democracy and human rights, which Moscow and Beijing have been accused of violating by the West for years.

This prompted scathing criticism in Europe, with some accusing two authoritarian regimes of trying to redefine universal concepts to suit their agenda.

“It’s an act of defiance,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday.

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Oil breaks $90/bbl for the first time since 2014 on Russia tensions

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NEW YORK: Oil touched $90 a barrel for the first time in seven years on Wednesday, supported by tight supply and rising political tensions in Russia that raised concerns about further disruption in an already-tight market.

Brent crude rose $2.02, or 2.3%, to $90.22 by 11:21 a.m. EST (1621 GMT), the first time the global benchmark has broken $90 since October 2014. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was up $2.09, or 2.4%, to $87.69.

US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday he would consider personal sanctions on President Vladimir Putin if Russia invades Ukraine. On Monday, Yemen’s Houthi movement launched a missile attack on a United Arab Emirates base.

“World inventories have continued to decline as producers have struggled to restore production to pre-pandemic levels,” said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston. “Mix that in with geopolitical tensions between the United States and Russia over Ukraine and prices have continued their march upward.”

Oil broadly stable as tight supply counters falling US markets

The tensions have only added to worries about the various factors contributing to an already tight market. OPEC+ is having trouble meeting monthly production targets as it restores supply to markets after drastic cuts in 2020, and the United States is more than a million barrels short of its record level of daily output.

At the same time, demand remains strong, suggesting that inventories may continue to decline.

“Historically, markets led higher by tightening product and crude inventories are difficult to solve absent a demand destruction event or an injection of supply. Neither appear on the horizon, currently,” wrote Michael Tran, commodity strategist at RBC Capital Markets, in a note.

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The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, known as OPEC+, meets on Feb. 2 to consider another output increase.

Inventories in the United States rose in the most recent week, with crude stocks up by 2.4 million barrels, against expectations for a modest decline in stocks. Gasoline inventories rose to their highest levels in almost a year – a needed salve for the market.

US refined product supplied – a measure of demand – surged again, putting the four-week moving average at 21.2 million barrels per day, ahead of pre-pandemic trends. The increases have been led by consumption of distillates like diesel, as gasoline use has fallen off modestly in recent weeks.

Investors across the markets are awaiting the coming policy update from the US Federal Reserve at 2 p.m. EST. The Fed is expected to signal plans to raise interest rates in March as it focuses on fighting inflation.

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