Archive for ‘GeoPolitics’

14/08/2014

War of Words Erupts Between India and Pakistan – India Real Time – WSJ

An all-to-familiar war of words has erupted between India and Pakistan, threatening to undo efforts to bridge the gap between the estranged neighbors, who have fought three wars since independence from Britain 67 years ago.

The latest rhetorical salvo was fired Wednesday by India’s foreign ministry, which said “mere denials or selective approaches toward terrorism” by Pakistan wouldn’t assuage Indian concerns about what it sees as backing from Islamabad for Islamic terror attacks on Indian soil.

This week’s bickering started when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on a visit to the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, said Pakistan, too weak to fight a conventional war, was using terror groups to wage a “proxy war against India.”

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry the next day denounced Mr. Modi’s criticism as “baseless rhetoric.”

“It would be in the larger interest of the regional peace that instead of engaging in a blame game, the two countries should focus on resolving all issues through dialogue,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif to Delhi for his swearing-in ceremony, it ignited hope for better relations between the estranged neighbors.

The two countries’ foreign secretaries are scheduled to meet in Islamabad on Aug. 25 to “look at the way forward” in the bilateral relationship. But the current spat could cast a shadow over the meeting.

That poses a problem. Deep-rooted suspicion between India and Pakistan has stymied attempts at achieving greater economic integration and better connectivity in the region. Relations between India and Pakistan, a close ally of neighbouring China, also have a major impact on regional stability.

via War of Words Erupts Between India and Pakistan – India Real Time – WSJ.

13/08/2014

Chinese medical workers arrive in Sierra Leone’s Freetown to battle Ebola – Xinhua | English.news.cn

A team of three Chinese medical workers arrived in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown on late Tuesday to help the country fight against the deadliest-ever Ebola virus which has claimed over 1,000 lives in west African countries.

Chinese disease control experts arrive in Sierra Leone

The first batch of three medical workers arrived in Guinea on Monday and another three medical staff are expected to carry out anti-Ebola work in Liberia soon, medical sources told Xinhua.

China announced on Sunday it would send three expert teams and medical supplies to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to assist in the prevention and control of the Ebola virus, with each medical team composed of one epidemiologist and two specialists in disinfection and protection.

China announced on Sunday that it would provide relief worth 30 million yuan (4.9 million U.S. dollars) to the three countries. It was the second round of Ebola relief from China so far.

via Chinese medical workers arrive in Sierra Leone’s Freetown to battle Ebola – Xinhua | English.news.cn.

10/08/2014

Modi has realised that India needs to be a regional power before it can be a global one

One of the many pet projects of those inclined more to the right has been turning the dream of “Akhand Bharat“, or Undivided India, into a reality. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s education saffroniser-in-chief, Dinanath Batra, has even written about the subject in his book Tejomay Bharat, which will now be stocked in Gujarat school libraries. “Undivided India is the truth, divided India is a lie,” Batra writes, referring to a vision of the nation that begins as far west as Afghanistan and goes all the way till Burma, including everything in between. “Division of India is unnatural and it can be united again,” Batra suggests.

Of course, no one in the government has spoken of Akhand Bharat and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has never clearly explained his understanding of the concept. There is no indication that the government intends to implement any policy that aims to reinstate this fanciful notion of what India once was and there is no reason to believe there will be.

But the concept could be a rubric by which to understand the Modi government’s approach to foreign policy, particularly in the neighbourhood. From the very get-go Modi announced his intention to reinvigorate ties with India’s neighbours by inviting to his swearing-in ceremony each of the leaders from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation — the primary multilateral forum for subcontinental nations.

Just two-and-a-half-months in, the PM has visited two of India’s neighbours, his foreign minister has visited four, and India is set to become part of multilateral organisations that will give it many more opportunities to project itself as a regional powerhouse. This is Akhand Bharat 2.0.

Regional power

Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj is currently in Myanmar, the fourth neighbourhood country that she has visited in the last three months. But it was the trip made by Modi to Nepal that really sent a statement, since it was the first visit by an Indian prime minister to the country in 17 years. He received an enthusiastic reception.

“All governments that come to power in India feel that we must improve our relationship with the neighbourhood,” said Kanwal Sibal, a former foreign secretary. “But the difference is that, whereas in the past it remained at the level of rhetoric, in this case they are translating it into concrete initiatives. The fact that an Indian PM visited Nepal after 17 years is a testimony to the fact that, despite our professed position about needing a secure neighbourhood, we have actually neglected it… that is changing.”

That message was sent at the very beginning with the invitations handed out to each of the SAARC leaders for Modi’s swearing-in, all of which were accepted — with the exception of Bangladesh’s Sheikh Hasina, but only because she was on another diplomatic visit at the time. The sight of all the leaders in front of Rashtrapati Bhavan, and Modi dedicating his first day in office to bilateral talks with them, sent a very clear signal. The PM made his first foreign visit to Bhutan, a country deeply connected to India but not particularly important in terms of foreign policy.

“It shows that they understand that unless India is a dominant regional power, we can hardly be an extra-regional power or a world power,” said Manoj Joshi, a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation. “They seem to definitely be working on this understanding, especially because we are facing stiff competition from the Chinese when it comes to projecting power in the neighbourhood.”

Leading South Asia

It’s not just symbolism and rhetoric either. Modi’s visits to Bhutan and Nepal have been accompanied by important agreements, such as a $1 billion line of credit to Kathmandu, as well as the promise of further talks. Discussions with Bangladesh have also indicated progress on key stumbling blocks between the two nations. Modi has also spoken of using the SAARC framework to further cooperation in the neighbourhood. His suggestion of a SAARC space satellite, for example, while criticised by some as a gimmick, certainly sent a message that he is looking beyond the potential disputes towards projects that would allow the countries to work together.

“He has staked his leadership of the region, and this is important,” Sibal said. “There is a gesture to friendship in the neighbourhood, but he has also put across the message that India is leading the region. India is not going to neglect its neighbourhood, and it will take the lead in creating synergies that can benefit all.”

via Scroll.in – News. Politics. Culture..

09/08/2014

China builds friendship railway to link Pakistan | The Times

In a park outside Islamabad, fountains tinkle beneath the huge glass façade of the new Pakistan-China Friendship Centre. “Pakistan China friendship is as high as the Himalayas, as deep as the ocean and sweet as honey,” declares a hoarding above an escalator, which grinds to a halt intermittently due to the country’s chronic power shortages.

Nanga Parbat mountain

Next month, China’s President Xi Jinping will arrive here to finalise plans to turn this gushing propaganda into reality by building a 1,800km railway that would, for the first time, directly link Beijing to Islamabad via its eastern province of Xinjiang. Stretching to Pakistan’s biggest city of Karachi, and beyond to a Chinese-built deep-sea port at Gwadar on the Gulf of Oman, the railway would bore through some of the world’s highest peaks in the Karakoram sub-range of the Himalayas.

“China has a new focus on this region,” beams Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, the chairman of the Pakistan China Institute, who says the railway will be a “game changer” and the most ambitious part of a Chinese plan to reboot the area’s troubled economy and open up its own western flank to development. After years of war and terrorism, Pakistan has suffered an exodus of foreign cash and expertise, but with Beijing now splashing out $32 billion on more than 120 projects in Pakistan over the next seven years, the number of Chinese living and working in the country has leapt to from 3,000 in 2008 to nearly 15,000.

Chinese workers are dredging Karachi’s port complex, and building a giant hydroelectric dam at Bunji on the Indus River, a highway linking Lahore to Karachi, and nuclear and coal-fired power stations, solar power plants and ports.

With Pakistan’s reputation for violence, terrorism and corruption, some westerners are privately raising their eyebrows at the scale of China’s spending spree. However, for China’s former ambassador to India and Pakistan, Zhou Gang, the attractions are clear. “It will promote the economic development of all Asian countries,” he said, pointing out that to reach the Gulf of Oman from Shanghai, Chinese goods must currently travel 15,858km by ship through the Strait of Malacca. A railway, road or pipeline through Pakistan would slash that journey to 4,712km.

Despite the hype, however, tensions exist. India disapproves of the railway, which would run through territory it claims as its own. China also frets about the safety of its citizens in Pakistan, several of whom have been killed. One Pakistani official warned: “If they can’t sort out the terrorism and security then it won’t happen.”

via China builds friendship railway to link Pakistan | The Times.

06/08/2014

Why Modi’s reference to Buddha’s birthplace was among the highest points of his Nepal visit

Nepal has long been irked by the common misconception that Buddha was from India, even though his accepted birthplace, Lumbini, is across the border.

The Nepalese are so outraged about the Indian appropriation of Buddha, some cable operators blocked Zee TV in the country last year for misidentifying the Enlightened One‘s birthplace.  To correct the record, the country has issued special Rs 100 currency notes proclaiming, “Lumbini: The Birthplace of Lord Buddha.” The controversy has even led a musician named Dhiraj Rai to record an overwrought pop song on the subject.

So for many residents of the mountain-kingdom, the highest point of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s two-day state visit to their country came during his address to parliament on Sunday, when he referred to Nepal as “the birthplace of Lord Buddha”.

Though the Indian prime minister’s speech to lawmakers included the announcement of a $1 billion line of credit to Nepal and suggested how energy cooperation could be enhanced, the country’s Telegraph Weekly reported the address under the headline, “Indian PM Modi admits Lord Buddha was born in Nepal.”

The Khatmandu Post added more details. “Nepali lawmakers gave a thunderous applause when he mentioned that Buddha was born in Nepal – an issue that rouses deep passion in the country when various quarters of India claim that the former was born in India,” it wrote. “He uttered the word Buddha five times.”

Many Nepalese Twitter users expressed their delight at Modi’s statement.

via Scroll.in – News. Politics. Culture..

30/07/2014

US official vows to expand India trade, investment – Businessweek

The U.S. secretary of commerce has pledged to help expand investment in India’s infrastructure and to promote trade.

Penny Pritzker spoke Wednesday to business leaders in the Indian financial capital, Mumbai.

She said two-way trade has lagged in recent years but has still expanded by fivefold to $96 billion a year since 2000.

via US official vows to expand India trade, investment – Businessweek.

24/07/2014

China plans railway to India, Nepal borders by 2020 | Reuters

China plans to extend a railway line linking Tibet with the rest of the country to the borders of India, Nepal and Bhutan by 2020 once an extension to a key site in Tibetan Buddhism opens, a state-run newspaper reported on Thursday.

Tibetan railway bridge

Tibetan railway bridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

China opened the railway to Tibet’s capital Lhasa in 2006, which passes spectacular icy peaks on the Tibetan highlands, touching altitudes as high as 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) above sea level, as part of government efforts to boost development.

Critics of the railway, including exiled Tibetans and rights groups, say it has spurred an influx of long-term migrants who threaten Tibetans’ cultural integrity, which rests on Buddhist beliefs and a traditional herding lifestyle.

The Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said that an extention to Shigatse, the traditional seat of Tibetan Buddhism’s second-highest figure, the Panchen Lama, would formally open next month.

That link is scheduled for its own extension during the 2016-2020 period to two separate points, one on the border of Nepal and the other on the border with India and Bhutan, the newspaper cited Yang Yulin, deputy head of Tibet’s railways, as saying, without providing details.

China has long mooted this plan, but the difficulty and expense of building in such a rugged and remote region has slowed efforts.

Tibet is a highly sensitive region, not just because of continued Tibetan opposition to Chinese control, but because of its strategic position next to India, Nepal and Myanmar.

The Chinese announcement coincides with a drive by India, under its new prime minister Narendra Modi, to consolidate its influence with its smaller neighbors.

via China plans railway to India, Nepal borders by 2020 | Reuters.

21/07/2014

China and the Arctic: Polar bearings | The Economist

CHINA does not loan out its pandas to just anyone, so a deal in April for two of the bears to head to Copenhagen zoo raised some eyebrows in Scandinavia. Some commentators suggested that this was all about the Arctic and especially about Greenland, which Denmark partly administers, and its mineral resources.

Certainly China is interested in the Arctic. On July 11th its icebreaker, Xue Long (“Snow Dragon”), embarks on the country’s sixth Arctic expedition, with 65 scientists on board. A new 1.3 billion yuan ($210m) icebreaker will soon be launched, and last December a China-Nordic research centre was opened in Shanghai.

New freight opportunities interest China along the Northern Sea Route (NSR) as ice recedes. In 2010 four ships took the route. Last summer 71 vessels did so. Each ship that takes the route must, at certain points, be accompanied by an ice-breaker, so it is unclear how soon the NSR will be suitable for mass transit, if at all.

Some climate models predict the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer by the middle of this century. The route cuts the distance between Rotterdam and Shanghai by 22% and Yang Huigen of the Polar Research Institute of China has predicted that 5-15% of China’s international trade will use the NSR by 2020. But Linda Jakobson, of the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, says that is a “rather optimistic assessment” and that talk of the NSR as a new Suez Canal is overblown. Weather conditions and environmental sensitivities will make the route a difficult one.

As for energy, China is one of the biggest investors in mining in Greenland. A deal with Rosneft, a state-controlled Russian company, will explore offshore Arctic fields for oil. But the undersea resources in the Arctic are largely within the Exclusive Economic Zones of the littoral states (notably Russia), so if China wants to look for energy it will have to do so jointly.

Meanwhile, other relationships have thawed. A rift with Norway over the awarding of the Nobel peace prize to Liu Xiaobo, a detained Chinese activist, is healing. But the new Chinese presence is not without concerns. Huang Nubo, a tycoon, recently bought 100 hectares (250 acres) of land in northern Norway and has bid for a plot on the island of Svalbard, where China has a research station. He aims to develop a resort for Chinese tourists. Mr Huang had similar plans in Iceland in 2011, but local protests quashed them. A Norwegian newspaper has called him a “suspected imperialist”. Perhaps Norway is in need of some pandas.

via China and the Arctic: Polar bearings | The Economist.

20/07/2014

China appoints special envoy for Afghanistan | Reuters

China’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday that it had appointed a special envoy for Afghanistan, underscoring Beijing’s concerns that the withdrawal of NATO troops will leave a hotbed of militancy on its doorstep.

English: US Army map of Afghanistan -- circa 2...

English: US Army map of Afghanistan — circa 2001-09. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sun Yuxi, a former ambassador to both Afghanistan and India, has been named to the new position and will have “close communication” with Afghanistan and other relevant parties, the ministry said in a statement.

“China and Afghanistan are traditional friendly neighbors. China pays great attention to developments in Afghanistan and is committed to deepening both countries’ strategic partnership, and so decided to appoint a special envoy,” it added.

via China appoints special envoy for Afghanistan | Reuters.

15/07/2014

In First Meeting, Modi and Xi Discuss Decades-Long Border Disputes – India Real Time – WSJ

In their first one-on-one meeting, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about finding a resolution to the long-standing boundary dispute between the Asian neighbors, a goal that has eluded the two countries for decades.

In talks lasting 80 minutes, Mr. Modi told Mr. Xi that “it is necessary to resolve the boundary question,” Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for India’s foreign ministry, said in a televised interview after the meeting in Brazil on the sidelines of a summit of BRICS countries. Pending that, Mr. Modi said, “peace and tranquility need to be maintained on the border,” according to Mr. Akbaruddin.

Mr. Xi called for “negotiated solutions” to the dispute at an early date, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported. He also said the two countries “should join hands in setting global rules so as to raise the voice of developing countries,” Xinhua said.

China has reached out to the new Indian administration, led by Mr. Modi, at a time when its ties with other Asian countries including Japan and the Philippines have soured over territorial disputes. The Chinese foreign minister visited New Delhi last month, and Beijing’s premier was the first foreign leader to talk to Mr. Modi after his swearing-in as prime minister earlier this year, following national elections.

Ties between India and China have long been characterized by mistrust, and the sentiment appears to linger. More than seven in 10 Indians are concerned that territorial disputes between China and its neighbors will lead to military conflict, according a Pew Research Center survey published Monday.

Nearly half of all Indians think China’s growing economy is a bad thing for their country, and only 31% of Indians had a favorable view of China, the survey showed. By comparison, 55% of Indians had a favorable view of the U.S. and 43% had a favorable view of Japan.

Tensions between India and China boiled over into a brief war in 1962, following which China gained control of a 14,600-square-mile territory known as Aksai Chin. China claims another 35,000 square miles in Arunachal Pradesh, a state in India’s northeast. Relations worsened last year when India alleged that Chinese troops had crossed into Indian-held territory in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, triggering a weekslong standoff.

On the campaign trail during national elections earlier this year, Mr. Modi promised to be tough on security issues. In a speech in February he warned China against having an “expansionist mindset.” In Mr. Modi’s first few weeks in office, his government has taken steps to boost infrastructure and connectivity on the Chinese border.

Mr. Modi’s China policy remains unclear, as does his ability and willingness to negotiate a border settlement, a process that has gone on for three decades. Special representatives appointed to work out a solution have so far held 17 rounds of talks.

The two countries signed an agreement last October aimed at easing hostilities on the disputed and ill-defined border, known as the Line of Actual Control, including commitments to ensure that patrols don’t escalate into military confrontations. But the agreement failed to impress security analysts in India, who said it was little more than a statement of intentions.

India is also worried about China’s growing influence in South Asia where New Delhi sees itself as the regional power. Mr. Modi has moved to revitalize India’s neighborhood ties, inviting South Asian leaders to his swearing-in and choosing Bhutan for his first foreign visit.  The government is also pushing to close India’s $40 billion trade deficit with China.

via In First Meeting, Modi and Xi Discuss Decades-Long Border Disputes – India Real Time – WSJ.

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