Archive for ‘Politics’

21/05/2015

Watch Indian Fighter Jet Land on Highway to Taj Mahal – India Real Time – WSJ

The Indian Air Force on Thursday landed a fighter jet on an expressway for the first time to showcase its ability to use national highways as runways in case of conflict.

The Mirage-2000 jet landed on a cordoned-off stretch of the Yamuna Expressway that leads to Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal.

Test landing of a Mirage 2000 fighter jet of the Indian Air force on the Yamuna Expressway near Delhi on Wednesday. India’s Ministry of Defence

The single-engine, single-seater combat plane is produced by Dassault Aviation SA of France. It can reach a top speed of 2,495 kilometers, or 1,550 miles an hour.

The jet took off from an undisclosed air base in central India. Facilities such as a makeshift air traffic control center, safety services, rescue vehicles, bird clearance parties were set up in coordination with local agencies for its landing.

The air force has “plans to activate more such stretches on highways in the future,” the Ministry of Defence said in a statement.

The Mirage-2000 strike aircraft is a critical part of India’s fighter jet fleet. Its flying qualities and maneuverability came into prominence during the bombing of Pakistani positions in the Himalayas during the Kargil war in 1999.

India’s air force fleet however comprises mainly Russian-origin aircraft such as the Sukhoi and MiG planes.

via Watch Indian Fighter Jet Land on Highway to Taj Mahal – India Real Time – WSJ.

18/05/2015

Narendra Modi arrives in South Korea on final leg of tri-nation tour – The Hindu

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Seoul on Monday on the last leg of his three-nation visit during which he will hold talks with the South Korean leadership aiming to give a fillip to economic and trade cooperation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Seoul National Cemetery. Photo: PIB

A slew of agreements are expected to be signed during the visit including one on Double Taxation Avoidance Convention, cooperation in shipping and logistics, audiovisual co-production, transport, highways and electric power development in new energy industries.

The Prime Minister, who flew in from Mongolia after his three-day visit to China, will hold talks on the entire gamut of bilateral, regional and global issues with President Park Geun-hye and explore ways to upgrade cooperation in diversified areas.

He will have a hectic schedule that will start with a wreath—laying ceremony at the Seoul National Cemetery.

Mr. Modi will address a community reception where about 1,500 members of the Indian community are expected to attend before getting into talks with the Korean President.

Mr. Modi, who is keen to woo Korean investments in India, will address India—Republic of Korea CEOs Forum, which would also be attended by the Korean President.

The Prime Minister will follow this up with meetings with some of the heads of Korean companies that are willing to invest in India or have already invested in India.

He will also visit the Hyundai Heavy Industries shipyard in the backdrop of shipbuilding emerging as an important area of cooperation between the two countries.

via Narendra Modi arrives in South Korea on final leg of tri-nation tour – The Hindu.

17/05/2015

India to open $1 billion credit line to finance infrastructure in Mongolia | Reuters

India will open a $1 billion credit line to bolster Mongolia‘s “economic capacity and infrastructure”, the Mongolian and Indian prime ministers announced on Sunday.

Photo

Mongolia is seeking investment in infrastructure for the transport of its minerals as well as in generating energy. Money has been tight for the Mongolian government since the coal market in China weakened and growth has slowed.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he hoped his visit would bring closer economic relations that could lead to cooperation in Mongolia’s minerals sector. India has no investments in Mongolia’s mines, although Indian companies have expressed interest in its coal.

Modi said economic relations between the two countries had been modest though that would change as India grew.

“As the Indian economy adds strength to our region and the world, it will also benefit Mongolia,” he said.

Modi began a three-nation Asian tour on Thursday with a focus on economic ties.

Before Ulan Bator, Modi visited the Chinese cities of Shanghai and Beijing. He is next scheduled to go to South Korea.

Mongolian Prime Minister Chimed Saikhanbileg said India would be opening a $1 billion credit line that could be used for expanding the landlocked nation’s railway system.

Mongolia is building a rail link from its coal mines in the Gobi desert to overcome bottlenecks in deliveries to China, but it is seeking funding to finish the job.

Saikhanbileg also mentioned establishing a “joint investment fund” but he did not elaborate.

Indian and Mongolian officials signed 14 agreements in areas such as renewable energy, cyber security and dairy production.

Modi’s visit to Ulan Bator was the first by an Indian prime minister although India was the first country to open diplomatic relations with the north Asian country outside of the Soviet bloc, in 1955.

Modi said India and Mongolia shared friendly connections, recalling how millennia ago, Indians helped bring Buddhism.

“We have a strong convergence of views,” Modi said, adding: “We are starting a new era in our partnership.”

via India to open $1 billion credit line to finance infrastructure in Mongolia | Reuters.

14/05/2015

5 Gaps That Define the India-China Relationship, in Charts and Maps – WSJ

1 Trade Gap

To better understand why there is a gaping trade deficit between India and China, take a look at the list of things each country exports to the other.

Some of China’s biggest exports to India are telecommunications equipment, computer hardware, industrial machinery and other manufactured goods. India sends back mostly raw materials such as cotton yarn, copper, petroleum products and iron ore.

As India has grown its consumers and corporations have been importing an increasing amount of China’s affordable products but India’s exports to China have not kept pace.

During his visit to China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be seeking better access to Chinese markets to correct the widening trade imbalance.

“The visit is going to be crucial because our trade deficit with China is very huge compared to other countries,” says N.R. Bhanumurthy, an economist at think-tank National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.

While China has a cost advantage in most products, analysts say India is very competitive in the pharmaceutical, textile and some services sectors. That is where it needs more access if it wants to start to rectify the skewed trade balance.

2 The 13-Year Gap

Even though India is now growing faster than China (see number 4)  the world’s largest democracy still has a way to go to catch up with the size of the economy in the world’s most populous nation.

China, though, got a 13-year head start on India in opening its economy and giving companies greater freedom to invest and produce. In exports, capital spending and foreign investment, India today is remarkably similar to China circa 2001.

That should both console and concern India as it gets back on its feet after three years of weak growth and high inflation. Console, since it suggests the country’s economy could remain on a China-like trajectory for years to come. But concern, because India’s delay could mean that the country has missed out on some big advantages that catalyzed China’s boom.

3 The Border Perception Gap

Friction along the two nations’ 2,200-mile-long border, much of which is undefined and contested, has mounted in recent years, India says. And it poses a serious hurdle to improving relations between Delhi and Beijing.

Part of the problem, Indian officials say, is that India and China have “differing perceptions” of their de facto border, known as the Line of Actual Control. Both sides patrol up to their respective perceptions of the border, leading to frequent claims of transgressions.

Without a clearly demarcated border, “it is quite natural for some incidents to happen,” Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Col.Geng Yansheng said in September during a border confrontation between the two countries.

4 The GDP Growth Rate Gap

Everyone from the World Bank to Goldman Sachs had predicted it wouldn’t happen for another two years but recent recalculations indicate that India has already dethroned China as the world’s fastest-growing big economy.

5 The FDI Gap

While Chinese companies have been great at peddling their products in India, they have been surprisingly reluctant to invest here. China has invested less in India than even Poland, Malaysia or Canada have.

via 5 Gaps That Define the India-China Relationship, in Charts and Maps – WSJ.

14/05/2015

India’s Parliament Just Had the Most Productive Session in Years – Here’s How It Did It – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s Parliament is not known for its productivity. Disruptions, adjournments and delays to proceedings are often a feature of parliamentary business in the world’s largest democracy.

But the recently-concluded budget session was the most productive in recent years, according to PRS Legislative Research, an organization that tracks the affairs of the Indian Parliament.

During the four-month-long sitting, productivity in India’s lower house –the number of actual working hours as a percentage of the total scheduled hours for parliamentary business – was 123%.

That’s the most productive the lower house, known as the Lok Sabha, has been in 15 years. In fact, the lower house decided to extend the session by three days.

The upper house was slightly behind, with a productivity measurement of 101%.

“A lot of financial business got done, a lot of legislative business got done and a lot of issues of national importance were discussed,” said Chakshu Roy, head of outreach at PRS Legislative Research.

“Both the houses met for a longer period of time and that’s the reason the productivity of the Parliament has gone up,” he said.

Such prolonged discourse eventually results in robust policies and laws, which ultimately helps in better governance, said Mr. Roy. ”If you debate something extensively, then the different nuances of the subject come out,” he said.

via India’s Parliament Just Had the Most Productive Session in Years – Here’s How It Did It – India Real Time – WSJ.

14/05/2015

Delayed reforms, market woes tarnish end to Modi’s first year | Reuters

A surprise delay to India’s new goods and services tax (GST) marks one of the most painful setbacks suffered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s government as it nears the end of a first year in power, with markets falling and farmers braced for a poor monsoon.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends an event in New Delhi February 17, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

Investors had hoped that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party‘s majority in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, would ensure Modi could push through reforms far more smoothly, but that assumption has taken a battering.

Late on Tuesday, the government submitted to strong opposition in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house, by agreeing to delay the landmark tax legislation until at least July.

The introduction of the GST would constitute India’s biggest tax reform since independence.

The delay to the bill is a blow to a government that is already dealing with rural discontent over proposed land reforms, which have also still to be sent to the upper house for approval.

The GST would replace a patchwork of levies by the central and state governments, reducing corruption, attracting investment and — according to the finance minister — add 2 percentage points to India’s growth.

Senior officials said on Wednesday they feared the delay could become yet another “sell” signal for foreign funds, already angered by the government seeking to tax them for several years of previously untaxed gains.

“A delay in parliament approval of the GST bill will send a wrong signal to investors, who are already grappling with tax notices,” said one senior government official dealing with economic policy decisions.

India was Asia’s second best performing market last year and the government has scored some successes. It has, for example, improved its finances, held successful telecoms and coal block auctions, and allowed more foreign investment into the insurance and defence sectors.

But the shine has worn off. Foreign investors sold nearly $2.2 billion in shares during the last 16 trading sessions.

via Delayed reforms, market woes tarnish end to Modi’s first year | Reuters.

12/05/2015

Optics as well as substance important as India’s Modi visits China | Reuters

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives in the ancient city of Xian on Thursday at the start of a visit to China, he will be met by Chinese President Xi Jinping, in an unusual departure from normal protocol.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) and China's President Xi Jinping shake hands during a photo opportunity ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi September 18, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

Top Chinese leaders almost never travel outside Beijing to meet senior foreign guests on bilateral visits, and Xi’s appearance in Xian, located in Xi’s home province of Shaanxi, underscores China’s determination to set aside past rancor between the world’s two most populous nations, experts said.

“It definitely indicates the significance our president puts on Mr. Modi’s visit,” said Li Li, an India expert at the government-backed China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

“From the Chinese side, we were very impressed by the hospitality extended by Mr. Modi during Xi Jinping’s visit to India,” he added, referring to Modi greeting Xi in his home state of Gujarat when Xi visited India last year.

Modi will visit a Xian pagoda connected to Xuanzang, also known as Tripitaka, the monk who bought the Buddhist sutras to China from India thousands of years ago, according to people briefed on the trip.

“It is sending a very important message,” Li said of Xi’s going to Xian to greet Modi, a place closely connected to the deep historical links between China and India.

Still, the list of problems both countries face are considerable, ranging from a festering border dispute to China’s support for India’s arch-rival Pakistan.

Mistrust runs deep, something Xi will be keenly aware of despite the bonhomie and billions of dollars in deals likely to be signed.

Modi’s new account on Chinese social media site Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, was filled with messages soon after launching this month asking him to return what China calls South Tibet, otherwise known as the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

“This is the great, great pressure the Chinese government is facing,” said Mao Siwei, a former senior Chinese diplomat who was based in India and Pakistan, talking about the need to manage Chinese public concern about the disputed area.

China claims more than 90,000 sq km (35,000 sq miles) disputed by New Delhi in the eastern sector of the Himalayas.

India says China occupies 38,000 square km (14,600 sq miles) of its territory on the Aksai Chin plateau in the west.

In September, the two armies faced off in the Ladakh sector in the western Himalayas just as Xi was visiting India for the first summit talks with Modi. This time, the border has been quiet ahead of Modi’s arrival.

While chances of a breakthrough on the border look distant, the exchange of visits by Modi and Xi so soon after both took office is a positive sign, said Ram Madhav, a senior leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a hardline Hindu nationalist organization that has close ties to Modi’s BJP.

“There is an earnest eagerness to connect with the Indian leadership,” Madhav told a forum in Beijing.

“Prime Minister Modi has chosen to come in his first year (of office) to China. It shows that the leaders on both sides are seriously attempting to … bridge the most important challenge between the two countries – the trust deficit.”

via Optics as well as substance important as India’s Modi visits China | Reuters.

11/05/2015

U.S. Congressman says engagement with China has diminished under Xi | Reuters

A United States Congressman told reporters that China’s engagement with U.S. lawmakers has diminished under President Xi Jinping in a marked change from the policy of his predecessors.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks with U.S. State Secretary John Kerry (R) during a lunch banquet in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing November 12, 2014.     REUTERS/Greg Baker/Pool

He also said that Chinese and Hong Kong officials were looking for a scapegoat when they blamed last years’ pro-democracy protests on “foreign forces”.

“I think it has diminished,” Congressman Matt Salmon said of China’s engagement with U.S. lawmakers under President Xi. “This president has a whole different philosophy. In fact I think if anything, this president is moving in the other direction, (away) from constructive engagement from the past two presidents.”

Salmon is chairman of the subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific under the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The Republican representative from Arizona is in the middle of his fifth term in Congress.

Salmon was in Hong Kong as the head of a U.S. Congressional delegation, which also visited Vietnam and discussed political, trade and economic issues.

Salmon said he had not been contacted by anyone from the Chinese Embassy since he became chairman of the Asia Pacific subcommittee.

“It’s kind of strange because every other embassy in the region has reached out to me, and their ambassadors have asked for an audience with me, every one of them except for China,” he said.

The United States and China are the world’s two biggest economies. Chinese President Xi is scheduled to make his first state visit to the United States in September as the countries seek to ease tensions over issues ranging from trade and human rights to Internet hacking and theft.

Salmon said he and his delegation had met Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and told him the United States had not played any role in last year’s pro-democracy protests, in which tens of thousands of people occupied major highways for two and a half months to demand open nominations in the city’s next chief executive election.

Chinese and Hong Kong officials have blamed “foreign forces” for instigating the unrest, which Salmon said was “a convenient way to scapegoat someone else”.

via U.S. Congressman says engagement with China has diminished under Xi | Reuters.

08/05/2015

China’s drive to settle new wave of migrants in restive Xinjiang | South China Morning Post

Newly employed as a hotel receptionist in Xinjiang, Fang Lihua is a foot soldier on the front line of a demographic contest for the mainly Muslim region’s identity as China opens it up for migration.

Uygur men visiting a night market in Hotan. Some Uygurs allege that ethnic Han settlers in Xinjiang receive preferential treatment. Photo: AFP

The resource-rich, far-western region is home to more than 10 million Uygurs, a Turkic minority with stronger cultural links to Central Asia than to the rest of China, dominated by the Han ethnic majority.

It sees sporadic violence the authorities blame on Islamist separatists, which has increased in intensity and spread beyond its borders in recent years.

Waves of mass migration from China’s heartland have raised Xinjiang’s Han population from six per cent in 1949 to 38 per cent four years ago.

Now Beijing hopes to trigger a new influx with the most liberal residency rules in China.

Fang, who is Han and in her 20s, took a three-day train ride from China’s ancient capital Xian to reach her new home in Hotan. The oasis town by the Taklamakan desert is renowned for its jade and fruit, but held little charm for her.

“I hate it here,” she said. “It’s completely foreign, I don’t think I’ll be able to adjust to life here.”

She and her builder husband are among the first to take advantage of new rules announced six months ago and she says they may stay despite her misgivings.

In cities across China, migration is strictly controlled, with new arrivals struggling for years to secure the all-important household registration, or hukou, entitling residents to education, healthcare, social insurance and more. Larger cities require advanced degrees, special skills or a job at a well-connected or government-owned company.

But in southern Xinjiang, the latest regulations mean a hukou is available with no educational or skill requirements at all.

Nationwide changes to the system are in the pipeline with urbanisation a key driver of the Chinese economy, but the fact that the Uygur-dominated area has been chosen for the country’s most liberal rules is striking.

More than 200 people died in Xinjiang-linked incidents last year according to official media reports, including a bloody mass stabbing in Kunming in southwestern China.

“The hukou reforms are about trying to encourage Han migration to southern Xinjiang, even though it’s not phrased in that way,” said James Leibold, an expert on ethnic relations in China at Australia’s La Trobe University.

“The idea behind that is to encourage more inter-ethnic mingling and hopefully by bringing more Han, the quality and the civilisation of southern Xinjiang will increase.”

At the same time the government is trying to stem population growth among minorities.

Propaganda throughout rural Hotan encourages residents to “have fewer children and get rich quick”, with a 3,000 yuan (HK$3,800) payout for those who forgo having the third child allowed to many ethnic minority couples under China’s family planning rules, compared to one or two for Han.

Security concerns and poor business opportunities would put off many potential migrants, Leibold said.

But that did not stop construction worker Du Yun, from the southwestern province of Sichuan, who arrived in November.

“I prefer the air in Sichuan, we don’t have sandstorms, but the social benefits are better in cities,” he said.

Areas of Xinjiang have at times been part of different states, including Russia, sometimes independent, but it has largely been ruled by Beijing since the late 1800s.

After the Communists won China’s civil war in 1949, it saw waves of migration from the east.

The semi-military Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps settled demobilised soldiers on work farms and today runs businesses including real estate, insurance, plastics and cement across the region, with its own universities and media.

Throughout Xinjiang, the Han and Uygur communities live almost entirely separately.

At one bazaar nearly all the patrons and merchants were Uygur, and blamed rising prices on new arrivals.

“The government has plenty of money, but any subsidies we’re entitled to just get taken by officials,” said Abduljan, who was buying lamb. “But we can’t do anything, we have no voice, no power.”

Almost none of about two dozen Han Chinese living in Hotan interviewed for this article spoke Uygur.

“Even if these policies do manage to attract Han to places like Hotan it doesn’t mean they will intermingle,” Leibold said.

“They’ll just live in segregated communities and they’ll be guarded by the People’s Armed Police,” he added.

“To create a truly cohesive society you need first and foremost trust, and interethnic trust is in extremely short supply.”

More than 300,000 people live in Hotan, but at night it is a ghost town.

Eighteen people were killed in an assault on a police station four years ago, according to the authorities, who say all the attackers who mounted a fatal car crash in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square 18 months ago were from Hotan.

Now most Han are afraid to go out after sunset and those who gather for nightly dances under a Mao Zedong statue in the main square are guarded by armed police.

The security presence is ubiquitous and many Uygurs similarly avoid the streets during darkness, citing harassment in the form of constant identity checks and probing questioning.

“The police, the checkpoints, the guns,” said a Uygur man who refused to give his name. “It’s all here to make the Han feel safe.”

 

via China’s drive to settle new wave of migrants in restive Xinjiang | South China Morning Post.

08/05/2015

China Parades Closer Ties in Moscow – China Real Time Report – WSJ

When a Chinese honor guard joins a military parade in Russia’s capital this weekend, watched by China’s President Xi Jinping, it will mark more than just a symbolic recognition of the two countries’ contributions to the Allied victory in 1945. As the WSJ’s Jeremy Page reports:

China’s participation also reflects an upgrade of its military ties with Russia, including joint naval exercises and a revival of arms purchases, that could complicate U.S.-led efforts to counter both nations’ expanding military activities, analysts and diplomats say.

The 102 Chinese troops who will join the Victory Day parade in Moscow on Saturday were seen during a rehearsal this week marching through streets near Red Square singing the Russian wartime ballad “Katyusha”, according to video footage posted online.

The only other foreign countries with troops in the parade are India, Mongolia, Serbia and six former Soviet states.

Three Chinese navy ships also made a rare foray into the Black Sea on their way to join commemorations in Russia’s southern port of Novorossiysk on Saturday.

The Chinese ships—two missile destroyers and a supply vessel — will then take part in joint exercises with the Russian navy in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time, according to Chinese and Russian authorities.

Both sides say the drills aren’t directed at other countries, but the timing, after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, and the location, on NATO’s southern flank, have compounded Western concerns about an emerging Moscow-Beijing axis.

via China Parades Closer Ties in Moscow – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

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