Archive for ‘GeoPolitics’

22/08/2014

India and China: Strangers by choice | The Economist

For those readers really interested in China AND India, this is a ‘must-read’ article.  I’ve only extracted the first part.  For full article go to – India and China: Strangers by choice | The Economist.

FEW subjects can matter more in the long term than how India and China, with nearly 40% of the world’s population between them, manage to get along. In the years before they fought a short border war, in 1962, relations had been rosy. Many in China, for example, were deeply impressed by the peaceful and successful campaign led by Mohandas Gandhi to persuade the British to quit India. A few elderly people in China yet talk of their admiration for Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengali writer who won the Nobel prize for literature in 1913. And though Nehru, India’s first prime minister, was resented as arrogant and patronising by some Chinese leaders, the early post-war years saw friendship persist and some popular respect for him too. In China, for example, books on India were then easily available—unlike today.

The past half-century has produced mostly squabbles, resentment and periodic antagonism. India felt humiliated by its utter defeat at the hands of Mao’s army in the 1962 war. China’s long-running close ties to Pakistan look designed to antagonise India. In return India is developing ever warmer relations with the likes of Vietnam and Japan. An unsettled border in the Himalayas, periodic incursions by soldiers into territory claimed by the other side and China’s claim—for example—that India’s Arunachal Pradesh is really a part of Tibet, all suggest that happier relations will be slow in coming. Even a booming bilateral trade relationship is as much a bone of contention as a source of friendlier ties, given India’s annoyance at a yawning deficit.

One glimmer of hope, in theory, is that ordinary people of the two countries might start to understand each other better as levels of education, wealth and interest in the outside world all grow. As tourists, students and business types visit each other’s countries, perhaps they will find that they have more in common than they believed. In fact, judging by a sharp and well-crafted memoir by an Indian journalist who was posted in Beijing for four years, ignorance and bafflement are likelier to persist.

Reshma Patil was sent by the Hindustan Times, a large Indian newspaper, to Beijing in 2008, one of only four Indian print journalists in the country (by contrast Chinese media groups had 16 correspondents in India). Her account of time there, “Strangers across the border; Indian encounters in boomtown China”, is revealing for its detail and anecdote, but also for its broadly damning conclusion about the state of ties between the countries: “extreme ignorance and nationalism illustrate their mutual relations”, she says.

Most entertaining, from an Indian point of view at least, are her accounts of Chinese ignorance about India. She visits a centre in Beijing devoted to learning cricket in case it ever becomes an Olympic sport (it is called shenshi yundong, or “the noble game”), whose players have never heard of Indian stars, or of the cricket world cup, and who appear to prefer playing ping pong. During numerous forays to universities she finds students learning foreign languages who routinely dismiss India as dirty, poor and irrelevant. A wide misapprehension, she says, is a belief that India is Buddhist. Officials and journalists tell her that India suffers from an “inferiority complex”, that it is so backward (“naked…children piss on the streets”) that there can be “nothing to learn” from the country. She suggests that one Indian drink, the mango lassi, has become popular in China, but otherwise the Chinese she meets mostly have little interest in Indian products or culture. Indian traders are famously stingy. Its brands, such as those of big outsourcing firms, are poorly understood or assumed to be of low quality. Persistent racism towards dark-skinned Indians is broken in only one case, by the head of a Chinese modelling agency who says he is fond of Indians who can pull off a “Western look”.

India meanwhile makes pitifully little effort to correct Chinese misunderstandings. As well as few journalists, India had only 15 diplomats based in Beijing during Ms Patil’s time, most of them inactive. Only two had any economic expertise, and most only started learning Mandarin after their arrival in the country. A big Indian business lobby group had a single representative based in Shanghai. She estimates that only a few hundred Indian businesses, in any case, are active in China (with even fewer Chinese ones in India), and few of the Indian ventures are led by Mandarin-speakers or local hires. As an example of ignorance, she mentions a Chinese business reporter who has never heard of Infosys, a $33 billion Indian IT firm. India’s low profile in China, she argues, “prolongs the shelf-life of anti-India propaganda”. For if most Chinese are merely ignorant, many are troublingly nationalistic where their neighbour is concerned.Ms Patil dismisses annual exchanges of a few hundred students each as a hopeless affair.  Sometimes India ships a low-cost dance troupe to China. Most such exchanges of students, journalists and others end up in mutual frustration; a failure to communicate; and terrible hunger among vegetarian Indians horrified by Chinese cuisine.

via India and China: Strangers by choice | The Economist.

22/08/2014

As China becomes, again, the world’s largest economy, it wants the respect it enjoyed in centuries past. But it does not know how to achieve or deserve it

Extract from long article – well worth reading in full.  CHINA’S FUTURE | The Economist.

MATTHEW BOULTON, James Watt’s partner in the development of the steam engine and one of the 18th century’s greatest industrialists, was in no doubt about the importance of Britain’s first embassy to the court of the Chinese emperor. “I conceive”, he wrote to James Cobb, secretary of the East India Company, “the present occasion to be the most favourable that ever occurred for the introduction of our manufactures into the most extensive market in the world.”

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In light of this great opportunity, he argued, George Macartney’s 1793 mission to Beijing should take a “very extensive selection of specimens of all the articles we make both for ornament and use.” By displaying such a selection to the emperor, court and people, Macartney’s embassy would learn what the Chinese wanted. Boulton’s Birmingham factories, along with those of his friends in other industries, would then set about producing those desiderata in unheard-of bulk, to everybody’s benefit.

That is not how things turned out. The emperor accepted Macartney’s gifts, and quite liked some of them—a model of the Royal Sovereign, a first-rate man o’ war, seemed particularly to catch his fancy—but understood the whole transaction as one of tribute, not trade. The court saw a visit from the representatives of King George as something similar in kind to the opportunities the emperor’s Ministry of Rituals provided for envoys from Korea and Vietnam to express their respect and devotion to the Ruler of All Under Heaven. (Dealings with the less sophisticated foreigners from inner Asia were the responsibility of the Office of Barbarian Affairs.)

“We have never valued ingenious articles, nor do we have the slightest need of your country’s manufactures”

The emperor was thus having none of Macartney’s scandalous suggestion that the Son of Heaven and King George should be perceived as equals. He professed himself happy that Britain’s tribute, though admittedly commonplace, should have come from supplicants so far away. But he did not see it as the beginning of a new trading relationship: “We have never valued ingenious articles, nor do we have the slightest need of your country’s manufactures…Curios and the boasted ingenuity of their devices I prize not.” Macartney’s request that more ports in China be opened to trade (the East India Company was limited to Guangzhou, then known as Canton) and that a warehouse be set up in Beijing itself was flatly refused. China at that time did not reject the outside world, as Japan did. It was engaged with barbarians on all fronts. It just failed to see that they had very much to offer.

In retrospect, a more active interest in extramural matters might have been advisable. China was unaware that an economic, technological and cultural revolution was taking place in Europe and being felt throughout the rest of the world. The subsequent rise of colonialist capitalism would prove the greatest challenge it would ever face. The Chinese empire Macartney visited had been (a few periods of collapse and invasion notwithstanding) the planet’s most populous political entity and richest economy for most of two millennia. In the following two centuries all of that would be reversed. China would be semi-colonised, humiliated, pauperised and torn by civil war and revolution.

Now, though, the country has become what Macartney was looking for: a relatively open market that very much wants to trade. To appropriate Boulton, the past two decades have seen the most favourable conditions that have ever occurred for the introduction of China’s manufactures into the most extensive markets in the world. That has brought China remarkable prosperity. In terms of purchasing power it is poised to retake its place as the biggest economy in the world. Still home to hundreds of millions mired in poverty, it is also a 21st-century nation of Norman Foster airports and shining solar farms. It has rolled a rover across the face of the moon, and it hopes to send people to follow it.

And now it is a nation that wants some things very much. In general, it knows what these things are. At home its people want continued growth, its leaders the stability that growth can buy. On the international stage people and Communist Party want a new deference and the influence that befits their nation’s stature. Thus China wants the current dispensation to stay the same—it wants the conditions that have helped it grow to endure—but at the same time it wants it turned into something else.

Finessing this need for things to change yet stay the same would be a tricky task in any circumstances. It is made harder by the fact that China’s Leninist leadership is already managing a huge contradiction between change and stasis at home as it tries to keep its grip on a society which has transformed itself socially almost as fast as it has grown economically. And it is made more dangerous by the fact that China is steeped in a belligerent form of nationalism and ruled over by men who respond to every perceived threat and slight with disproportionate self-assertion.

via CHINA’S FUTURE | The Economist.

22/08/2014

India to Unveil First Warship to Deter Chinese Submarines – Businessweek

India will unveil its first home-built anti-submarine warship tomorrow in a move to deter China from conducting underwater patrols near its shores.

CHINA-MILITARY-NAVY-ANNIVER

Defense Minister Arun Jaitley will commission the 3,300-ton INS Kamorta at the southeastern Vishakapatnam port. The move comes a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi introduced the largest indigenously built guided-missile destroyer and vowed to bolster the country’s defenses so “no one dares to cast an evil glance at India.”

India is playing catch-up to China, which built 20 such warships in the past two years and sent a nuclear submarine to the Indian Ocean in December for a two-month anti-piracy patrol. The waters are home to shipping lanes carrying about 80 percent of the world’s seaborne oil, mostly headed to China and Japan.

“As China grows into a naval, maritime power, it will be more and more active in the Indian Ocean,” Taylor Fravel, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies China’s ties with its neighbors, said by phone. “Of course, it will not be due to some hostility or targeted at India, but because of its economic interests in the Indian Ocean, as a lot of trade passes through. Such a presence will certainly raise questions in India, but it need not necessarily be a cause of major conflict.”

Warship Plans

India has lacked anti-submarine corvettes in its 135-warship fleet for more than a decade now, with the decommissioning of the last of the 10-ship Petya-class of 1960s-vintage Soviet corvettes in December 2003. It plans to build 42 more warships, including three more anti-submarine corvettes, over the next decade, according to Rear Admiral A.B. Singh, an Indian navy official.

About 90 percent of Kamorta’s components are local, with the hull developed by Steel Authority of India Ltd., medium-range guns by Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. (BHEL) and torpedo launchers by Larsen & Toubro Ltd, India’s largest engineering company. The ship is two years behind schedule, according to Commodore B.B. Nagpal, the navy’s principal director for naval design.

via India to Unveil First Warship to Deter Chinese Submarines – Businessweek.

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.

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