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China and Tanzania conclude historic naval exercise

A Chinese warship in Tanzania.China and Tanzania have concluded a month-long naval training exercise, the first joint training exercise in the history of bilateral military relations between the two countries.

The closing ceremony of exercise Beyond/Transcend 2014 was held on November 14 at Kigamboni Naval Base and attended by guests that included China’s ambassador to Tanzania, the chief of the Tanzanian military and heads of the navy and air force.

The exercise between the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and Tanzanian People’s Defence Force (TPDF) kicked off on October 16 in Tanzania’s capital Dar es Salaam, with more than 100 navy officers and seamen participating, although the official opening ceremony was held on October 21.

One of the main activities during the course of the exercise was a counter-terrorism scenario in which a small group of ‘international terrorists’ kidnapped civilians and were holding them hostage on a small island. Marine commandos from both China and Tanzania were tasked to establish a joint team to neutralise the terrorists and rescue the hostages. The Chinese embassy in Tanzania said the participating sides overcame language barriers and cooperated closely with each other, demonstrating high-level tactics and agility on the battlefield.

Training also included areas such as marine tactics and anti-piracy.

Major General Rogastian Laswai, Commander of the Tanzanian Navy, said the first joint training exercise between China and Tanzania was a milestone in the improving relations and cooperation between the two countries.

Vice Admiral Li Xiaoyan, head of the Chinese observer delegation said that during the exercise, participating officers and sailors learned a lot from each other, and successfully practiced joint, coordinated actions.

Tanzanian has emerged as a key ally to the PLAN as it intensifies partnerships and operational deployments in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and conducts anti-piracy patrols in the area. In December last year the 15th Chinese naval task force charged with escorting ships and patrolling for pirates visited Dar es Salaam on its way back to China.

China’s strong relationship with Tanzanian can be seen in its support for the military. China has recently sold the East African country 24 Type 63A light amphibious tanks, 12 Type 07PA 120 mm self-propelled mortars, FB-6A mobile short-range air defence systems and A100 300 mm multiple rocket launchers. This follows military hardware delivered earlier in the decade, including tanks, armoured personnel carriers and combat aircraft.

The Chinese government also built the Tanzanian Military Academy (TMA) and the Shanghai Construction Group has been contracted by the Tanzanian Ministry of Defence and National Service to construct 12 000 housing units financed by a $550 million loan from the Exim Bank of China.

On the economic side, China has invested in various Tanzanian projects and late last month signed investment deals worth more than $1.7 billion, including one to build a satellite city to ease congestion in Dar es Salaam. The money will be used to develop infrastructure, power distribution and business cooperation. Tanzania also announced $85 million in grants and zero-interest loans from China, Reuters reports.

In recent years, Chinese companies have signed deals to build a rail network and a 532 km (330 mile) natural gas pipeline. Between July and September 2014, Chinese investments totalled $534 million, compared to $124 million during the same period last year.

China says it will “speed up the construction” of the Bagamoyo port, a new Indian Ocean project being built north of Dar es Salaam, and begin offshore oil and gas exploration off Tanzania.

China's exports to Tanzania, which totalled $1.099 billion from 2012 to 2013, were roughly double the $495.74 million worth of goods China imported from Tanzania.

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