Archive for ‘Politics’

27/01/2015

Obama ends day of Indian pageantry with $4 billion pledge | Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama ended a landmark day in India on Monday with a pledge of $4 billion in investments and loans, seeking to release what he called the “untapped potential” of a business and strategic partnership between the world’s largest democracies.

Honeywell CEO Dave Cote (L) and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) laugh at a remark by U.S. President Barack Obama (R) during a CEO Roundtable and Forum at the India U.S. Business Summit in New Delhi January 26, 2015. REUTERS-Jim Bourg

Earlier in the day, at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Obama was the first U.S. president to attend India’s annual Republic Day parade, a show of military might that has been associated with Cold War anti-Americanism.

It rained as troops, tanks and cultural floats filed through the heart of New Delhi, but excitement nevertheless ran high over Obama’s visit, which began on Sunday with a clutch of deals to unlock billions of dollars in nuclear trade and to deepen defence ties.

Both sides hope to build enough momentum to forge a relationship that will help balance China’s rise by catapulting democratic India into the league of major world powers.

The leaders talked on first name terms, recorded a radio programme together and spent hours speaking at different events, but despite the bonhomie, Obama and Modi reminded business leaders, including the head of PepsiCo, that trade ties were still fragile.

India accounts for only 2 percent of U.S. imports and one percent of its exports, Obama said. While annual bilateral trade had reached $100 billion, that is less than a fifth of U.S. trade with China.

via Obama ends day of Indian pageantry with $4 billion pledge | Reuters.

26/01/2015

Five firsts at Republic Day 2015 – The Hindu

The 66th Republic Day saw many firsts. Here are a few:

1. All-women contingents of the Army, Navy and Air Force march through Rajpath for the first time

The Army contingent, led by Captain Divya Ajith from Chennai, wants to serve in combat roles. “We believe we are equal and second to none. We have already marched for the first time on the Army Day and now another first would be the Republic Day parade. So, yes, we do wish to be in the combat force,” she said.

2. The first time that a U.S. President is Chief Guest for the parade

“This Republic Day, we hope to have a friend over…invited President Obama to be the 1st US President to grace the occasion as Chief Guest,” Narendra Modi tweeted in November last year.

3. The President and the chief guest arrived in different motorcades, a departure from the standard practice of arriving together

4. CRPF shows off Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) used in anti-Naxal operations

5. The long-range advanced MiG-29K fighter jet on display

via Five firsts at Republic Day 2015 – The Hindu.

26/01/2015

1.39 million Chinese receive legal assistance – Xinhua | English.news.cn

The Chinese government provided free legal aid services for nearly 1.39 million people in 2014 to help them safeguard their rights, the Economic Daily reported on Monday.

More than one-third of them are migrant workers who are vulnerable to job dismissal and withheld wages and know little about the legal system, the report said, quoting the Ministry of Justice.

The ministry’s statistics showed that about 10 percent more migrant workers than last year said they would like to seek legal assistance if their rights are violated.

Legal service centers have been springing up in streets, communities and prisons across China. The number of new legal service centers in 2014 totaled 70,000, the ministry said. The country will guide more legal service agencies to provide assistance to suspects and defendants in prisons.

It also promised to lower the eligibility standard for people to receive legal assistance and expand services for military personnel.

via 1.39 million Chinese receive legal assistance – Xinhua | English.news.cn.

26/01/2015

Govt sells off premium cars- Chinadaily.com.cn

The first group of premium government automobiles to be auctioned off amid the ongoing frugality campaign have gone under the hammer in Beijing.

Govt sells off premium cars

According to Zonto Auction, the 106 vehicles it sold on Sunday were from six central government departments including the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, China Securities Regulatory Commission and State Bureau for Letters and Calls.

The cars were without plates, which would have to be supplied by the purchasers.

A total of 505 bidders from around the country joined the auction, which brought in proceeds of 6.6 million yuan ($980,000).

The highest bid went to a Toyota cross country vehicle for 200,000 yuan.

Li Guanwen, 40, of Hebei province, bought a Skoda bus for 160,000 yuan.

“The market value of this bus is around 500,000 yuan,” said Li.

“I think the reform of official vehicles is a very good thing and is a very good approach to remind civil servants to cut costs and to serve the public well.”

In November 2013, public agencies were told to cut their vehicle fleets, as well as reduce receptions and overseas trips. The use of all vehicles, except those required for law enforcement, emergency duties and essential public services, were scrapped or severely reduced.

via Govt sells off premium cars[1]- Chinadaily.com.cn.

26/01/2015

Narendra Modi’s Suit and Its Message to Obama – India Real Time – WSJ

Even the pinstripes on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s suit cannot escape scrutiny.

The yellow, almost-gold, stripes that appear against the navy blue wool fitted Indian jacket and pants he wore on Sunday were not simple stitching. They were Mr. Modi’s name embroidered into the fabric, said a person familiar with Mr. Modi’s wardrobe.

Over and over again the lines repeated the words: “Narendra Damodardas Modi.” His middle name is his father’s first name: Damodardas Mulchand, a tea seller.

Mr. Modi, wore the pinstriped suit to receive U.S. President Barack Obama at the Indian presidential palace on Sunday. Mr. Obama is on an official three-day visit to India.

He landed in the capital New Delhi on Sunday morning where he was greeted by Mr. Modi in a break with protocol. The pair also hugged.

Mr. Modi, who changed his outfit three times on Sunday, started with a cream colored shirt paired with a saffron shawl for the airport visit. He then changed into that pinstriped fitted Indian jacket with his name all over it for a luncheon he hosted in Mr. Obama’s honor at Hyderabad house. After lunch the pair walked in the garden and were photographed drinking tea together.

Later that evening, Mr. Modi donned a dove-grey fitted Indian jacket for a state banquet at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the president’s palace.

For the Republic Day parade on Monday Mr. Modi paired a black fitted jacket with an elaborate turban, a nod to his Gujarati heritage. The red, green and orange hand-tied turban, speckled with white dots, is a a tie-dye technique called Bandhani that is practiced mostly in the western Indian states of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Mr. Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat for more than a decade.

But the Obama visit’s wardrobe will probably be best-remembered for those stripes on Mr. Modi’s second outfit. They started a social media outrage especially on Twitter where some users described Mr. Modi as a narcissist for choosing to wear his name all over his jacket.

via Narendra Modi’s Suit and Its Message to Obama – India Real Time – WSJ.

26/01/2015

China’s Xi Builds Support for Big Move: Putting Politics Ahead of the Economy – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Many observers—including U.S. President Barack Obama – claim that Chinese leader Xi Jinping has already consolidated his political power and now commands more authority at a far earlier point than his predecessors did when they ruled China.

On the surface, there seems to be ample evidence for this conclusion. In his first two years at the helm, Xi has taken out powerful political rivals, become a ubiquitous presence in the party media and put himself in a position to dominate policy making.

There’s also been unusual attention in the press to Xi’s experiences as an adolescence and his early days as a Communist party member, which praise Xi’s stamina as a sent-down youth (in Chinese) and his problem-solving talents as a cadre (in Chinese). Chinese media refer to China’s president colloquially as “Big Daddy Xi” and extol his visits and musings as major events. And last week, a series of oil paintings were unveiled on the website of the Ministry of Defense depicting Xi in his role as China’s paramount leader.

This hagiography seems to suggest Xi’s unassailable status.But there’s a better explanation for this relentless publicity: Because Xi’s embarking on a very different path for China, he needs all the positive promotion he can get.

Xi knows as well as anyone that governance in China has shifted. The move away from a Maoist-style dictatorship to a collective leadership means that only by enacting and implementing reforms can a Chinese leader stay upright and ahead politically. It’s authority over policy decisions–not power for its own sake–that drives China’s leaders.

For much of the last half-century, changing China through economic reform seemed to make far better sense than transforming the country through political revolution.

Deng Xiaoping, the chief architect of China’s economic transformation, changed the national focus to getting rich and kept conservative critics at bay; his successor, Jiang Zemin, extended Deng’s achievements by bringing businessmen into the Communist Party and ushering China further into the international economic order. Hu Jintao, who followed Jiang, concentrated on the parts of China’s population left behind by a booming economy—and worked to underwrite those officials who agreed with that approach.

Then along came Xi, looking to invert this equation—to put politics back in command of economics.

In Xi’s view, China’s economic boom hasn’t always enhanced the party’s image, because it’s also offered opportunities for government officials to engage in graft. The Communist Party’s previous emphasis on economics wasn’t the cure so much as part of a larger disease that made too many officials more concerned with growing their bank accounts instead of developing the country. The state of China’s GDP may be a major concern for some, but Xi’s focus on getting the party rectified first indicates that he disagrees. For Xi, only by pushing economics aside and focusing on politics—specifically, ideology–can party rule be protected.

In recent days, Xi and his supporters have been advertising ideology to supplant economics more ardently.

For example, instead of asking China’s universities to become engines of innovation that might invigorate economic growth, Xi and his comrades are seeking to enforce the Party’s control over the classroom.

Xinhua summarized a recent proposal to tighten ideological oversight, quoting a document instructing administrators, that “higher education is a forward battlefield in ideological work, and shoulders the important tasks of studying, researching and spreading Marxism, along with nurturing and carrying forward socialist values.”

The party main theoretical journal, Qiushi, jumped in with a widely-reprinted essay (in Chinese) that slammed those professors who “as part of some new fashion, use their positions of authority to discredit China.” These instructors, the commentary contended, “present views that are not part of the social mainstream.”

Others are also under pressure to bend to politics.

The China Law Society was told last week, according to one report, to “improve its decision-making advisory service to establish itself as a key think tank [by placing] more emphasis on collective thoughts rather than individual thinking.”

That’s a signal to institutions that are largely under party oversight to forego suggestions that hint at dissent and get back in line.

And a few days earlier, People’s Daily, the party’s flagship newspaper, sounded the same refrain of increasing ideological oversight of officials who might be still skeptical of Xi’s changes, devoting an entire page of its Tuesday edition to the need for “political discipline,” with one essay stating emphatically (in Chinese) that “without rules, there are no standards; without standards, a political party cannot exist.”

That sort of talk inspires politically conservative cadres who enjoy their reform in the shape of smackdowns. And building a high public profile is Xi’s way of saying to cadres and citizens alike that he’s the best man to prove that China needs politics to push economics.

via China’s Xi Builds Support for Big Move: Putting Politics Ahead of the Economy – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

26/01/2015

Rain on India’s parade, but Obama visit keeps spirits high | Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama watched a dazzling parade of India’s military might and cultural diversity on Monday, the second day of a visit trumpeted as a chance to establish a robust strategic partnership between the world’s two largest democracies.

Photo

It rained on the parade through the heart of New Delhi, but excitement nevertheless ran high over Obama’s landmark visit, which began on Sunday with a clutch of deals and ‘bromance’ bonding with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The two leaders announced plans to unlock billions of dollars in nuclear trade and to deepen defence ties.

Most significant was an agreement on two issues that, despite a groundbreaking 2006 pact, had stopped U.S. companies from setting up nuclear reactors in India and had become one of the major irritants in bilateral relations.

“Mobama breaks N-deadlock,” the Mail Today newspaper said on its front page, which carried a photograph of Modi and Obama hugging each other warmly.

The bonhomie was a remarkable spectacle, given that a year ago Modi was persona non grata in Washington and was banned from visiting the United States for nearly a decade after deadly Hindu-Muslim riots in a state he governed.

Obama is the first U.S. president to attend India’s Republic Day parade, an annual show of military prowess that was long associated with the anti-Americanism of the Cold War.

via Rain on India’s parade, but Obama visit keeps spirits high | Reuters.

22/01/2015

China’s Communist Party Sounds Death Knell for Arrest, Conviction Quotas – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Former Chinese judge Jianwei Fang doesn’t mince words about the country’s practice of using arrest and conviction quotas to measure the performance of the country’s police, prosecutors and judges.

“It’s very stupid,” he says.

The Communist Party would appear to agree. This week, the party agency in charge of legal affairs, the Central Political and Legal Committee, called on the country’s legal institutions to “firmly abolish” the inclusion of goals for arrests, indictments, guilty verdicts and case conclusions in assessments of staff, the official Xinhua News Agency reported on Wednesday.

The demand from the committee appeared to reinforce a decision by the Supreme People’s Court in December to do away with court performance rankings based on quotas and lessen the importance of quotas in assessing performance.

Xinhua’s report drew a connection between performance standards in the Chinese legal system and a proliferation of wrongful convictions, including in death penalty cases. Some of those cases, it said, “were affected by the presumption of guilt, and were caused by an emphasis on confession over evidence, even torture.”

Mr. Fang, who worked as a junior judge in eastern China’s Zhejiang province in the mid-2000s, described the elimination of quotas as one of the most encouraging reforms to be announced following a major Communist Party meeting on rule of law in October.

“Different judges and different courts are competing based on these targets, which are highly unscientific and unreasonable,” he said. “They don’t mean anything.”

Conviction rates for criminal cases in China are well over 90%. It sometimes happens, according to Mr. Fang, that judges and prosecutors may suspect a defendant is innocent but still find him guilty and impose a suspended sentence in order to maintain good conviction numbers.

via China’s Communist Party Sounds Death Knell for Arrest, Conviction Quotas – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

21/01/2015

As Obama visits, signs that India is pushing back against China | Reuters

When Sri Lanka unexpectedly turfed out President Mahinda Rajapaksa in an election this month, it was the biggest setback in decades for China’s expansion into South Asia – and a remarkable diplomatic victory for India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a campaign rally ahead of state assembly elections, at Ramlila ground in New Delhi January 10, 2015. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee

Despite New Delhi’s protestations, diplomats and politicians in the region say India played a role in organizing the opposition against pro-China Rajapaksa.

His successor, President Maithripala Sirisena, has said India is the “first, main concern” of his foreign policy and that he will review all projects awarded to Chinese firms, including a sea reclamation development in Colombo that would give Beijing a strategic toehold on India’s doorstep.

India has pushed back against China elsewhere in the region since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in May, improving ties with Japan and Vietnam, both locked in territorial disputes with Beijing, and contesting a port project in Bangladesh that could otherwise have been a cakewalk for China.

The new robust diplomacy, which Modi calls “Act East”, has delighted Washington, which has been nudging India for years to dovetail with the U.S. strategic pivot toward the region.

When President Barack Obama makes a landmark visit to India starting Sunday, he will be the chief guest at New Delhi’s showpiece Republic Day military parade, and rarely for a presidential trip, is not scheduled to visit any other country before returning to Washington.

“What is appealing to me and my colleagues is the fact that Prime Minister Modi has undertaken to build from what has been a ‘Look East’ policy to an ‘Act East’ policy,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific Daniel Russel said in Washington last month.

“He has shown in word and deed his interest in involving India in the thinking and the affairs of the broader region. That’s very much to be welcomed.”

Washington made no bones about its distaste for Rajapaksa, who critics accuse of war crimes, corrruption and nepotism. But until last year India was indecisive, perhaps afraid of pushing the hero of the war against Tamil separatists even closer to China.

That changed in September, when Rajapaksa allowed a Chinese submarine to dock in Colombo, without informing India, as it was bound to under an existing agreement.

“That was the last straw,” a senior Indian diplomat told Reuters.

“He told Modi: “the next time I will keep you informed,”” the diplomat said, a promise that was broken when the submarine visited again in November.

In the build up to the Jan 8 election, India played a role in uniting Sri Lanka’s usually fractious opposition, for which the station chief of India’s spy agency was expelled, diplomatic and political sources say.

“At least that was the perception of Mahinda Rajapkasa,” said M.A. Sumanthiran, a prominent member of the Tamil National Alliance, a coalition of parties close to India. “He managed to get one of their top diplomats recalled.”

The Indian government denies any of its officers was expelled. But Sumanthiran said Modi had in a meeting encouraged the Tamil alliance to join forces with others in politics.

“The Indians realized that you can’t do business with this man and they were hoping for a change,” he said.

“FAMILY MATTER”

On Friday, Sri Lanka said it would review a $1.5 billion deal with China Communication Construction Co Ltd to build a 233 hectare patch of real estate on redeveloped land overlooking Colombo’s South Port.

In return, China was to get land on a freehold basis in the development. This is of particular concern for India, the destination for the majority of the trans shipment cargo through Colombo.

“The message is clear, that you do not ignore Indian security concerns,” said the Indian diplomatic source.

Modi is looking for similar good news elsewhere in South Asia. He has already visited Nepal twice, becoming the first Indian prime minister to travel to the Himalayan buffer state with China in 17 years, and signing long delayed power projects.

India has muscled into an $8 billion deep water port project that Bangladesh wants to develop in Sonadia in the Bay of Bengal, with the Adani Group, a company close to Modi, submitting a proposal in October. China Harbour Engineering Company, an early bidder, was previously the front-runner.

“Modi is willing to engage on long-term issues that stretch beyond India’s border, including maritime security in the South China Sea, as well as North Korea and Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria,” said Richard Rossow at policy think tank CSIS.

“That’s when we start to think about India as a regional global provider – or as a global provider of security.”

However, the bonhomie has limits – India and the United States do not see eye-to-eye on Pakistan, New Delhi’s traditional foe that enjoys substantial funding from Washington.

Tricky conflicts over trade and intellectual property hold back business, and India has limits to its ability to project force outside its immediate neighborhood.

But Modi’s policies mark a departure from India’s traditional non-aligned approach to foreign power blocs.

“Having the U.S. president at the Republic Day celebration is a good thing, he is blessing Modi,” said Mohan Guruswamy, of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, a think-tank.

“And that is a lesson to the Chinese that you have to mend your fences with us.”

via As Obama visits, signs that India is pushing back against China | Reuters.

20/01/2015

Obama’s Seven Habits for a Highly Successful India Visit – India Real Time – WSJ

U.S. President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to India won’t be his first trip to the country.

Mr. Obama and the First Lady last swept through Delhi and Mumbai in November 2010 in a carefully- choreographed charm offensive, addressing sensitive issues such as Pakistan and the U.N. Security Council, while finding time to dance at a high school and speak a bit of Hindi.

Much has changed in India since Mr. Obama last arrived on its shores: the government, the prime minister, the number of international coffee and burger chains. Many things haven’t altered however and by the time he leaves next week, the president will be something of an old hand in the world’s largest democracy. By visiting a second time, he becomes the only serving U.S. president to have made two official trips to India.

1. Back a Bid

India has for years coveted a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. In Mr. Obama’s 2010 visit, he used a speech to the Indian Parliament  to back the country’s inclusion “in the years to come” as a permanent member of the council with power of veto.

2. Tread Carefully on Pakistan

Any world leader visiting India must choose their words on the country’s rival Pakistan carefully.  In the same speech to the Indian Parliament, Mr Obama said the U.S. insisted Pakistan limit terrorist-safe havens within its borders, adding: “We must also recognize that all of us have an interest in both an Afghanistan and a Pakistan that is stable, prosperous and democratic—and none more so than India.”

3. Make a Trade Announcement…

Mr. Obama was in Mumbai when he announced a loosening of restrictions on U.S. exports to India. The move was aimed at making it easier for U.S. companies to export technology for military and non-military use after the U.S. imposed controls on trade with India in dual-use technologies — items that have both military and peaceful purposes – after India’s nuclear-weapons tests in 1998.

The president said: “We’re taking the necessary steps to strengthen this relationship.”

4. …And Ask for Something Back

Mr. Obama asked India to reduce barriers in sectors such as agriculture, retail and telecommunications to promote trade. “In a global economy, new growth and jobs flow to countries that lower barriers to trade and investment,” he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, embrace following a joint statement and press conference at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2010. Associated Press

5. Work on Chemistry

Ahead of the 2010 meeting, both Mr. Obama and then-Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh echoed each other’s language on the relationship between their two countries. “I think the India-United States relationship has entered a new phase,” Mr. Singh said before Mr. Obama’s visit.

6. Pick Your Battles

There was much speculation that Mr. Obama would touch on the issue of the outsourcing of U.S. jobs to India during his 2010 visit. In the end, he deftly sidestepped the issue in the name of healthy competition:

“There are many Americans whose only experience with trade and globalization has been a shuttered factory or a job that was shipped overseas,” he said, adding that many Americans still had a “caricature” of India as a place with call centers where U.S. jobs have been outsourced.

On another touchy subject, Kashmir, Mr. Obama let Mr. Singh do the talking. Mr. Singh said he wanted to reduce tensions with Pakistan, including over Kashmir, but could not do so unless Islamabad cracked down on terrorism.

U.S. President Barack Obama bows as he arrives to deliver a speech at Parliament House in New Delhi Nov. 8, 2010. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

7. Visit the Right Places, Wear the Right Things, Use the Local Lingo

Photogenic India provided Mr. and Mrs. Obama with ample visual material. Mrs. Obama gamely joined children dancing at a high school in Mumbai, eventually persuading the president to join her. She also took part in a game of hopscotch and urged students at a college in Mumbai to “keep dreaming big huge, gigantic dreams–for your community and for your world.”

Perhaps the most arduous part of the visit of any dignitary to another country is avoiding any faux pas, embarrassing photographs or poor sartorial choices.

Mr. Obama’s staff carefully chose Humayun’s tomb in New Delhi as an appropriate tourist destination for the president.

Meanwhile, Michelle Obama’s outfits were carefully scrutinized for any embarrassing mistakes – which she seemed to avoid.

Mr. Obama rounded off the whirlwind tour with the crowd-pleasing cry in Hindi of ‘jai hind!’, or ‘hail India!’ at the end of his speech to the Indian Parliament.

via Obama’s Seven Habits for a Highly Successful India Visit – India Real Time – WSJ.

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