Archive for ‘Politics’

22/09/2017

China ahead of schedule on construction of hydropower plant in Pakistan | South China Morning Post

Facility in disputed Kashmir could be completed nine months before its December 2021 deadline

China is racing to finish one of the biggest hydropower projects in Pakistan ahead of schedule, yet its location in the long-contested region of Kashmir will draw ire from India.

Construction of the 720MW Karot power station on the Jhelum river began in December and looked set to finish nine months ahead of its December 2021 completion date, a first for a Pakistan hydro-project, said Qin Guobin, chief executive officer of the state-owned China Three Gorges South Asia Investment Ltd.

The company has put in place an aggressive strategy to cut the project’s financing costs.“For us, Pakistan is a strategic market,” Qin said at the site. “If we managed to complete it earlier we can save financing costs and make it more competitive.”

China pips US in race to start the world’s first meltdown-proof nuclear power plant

Pakistan’s energy demand is expected to grow by 6 per cent to 35,000MW by 2024 as its population of more than 200 million people grows along with the economy. For more than a decade, it has been struggling to overcome daily power shortages that have left industry and residents in the dark.

China has stepped in to meet some of those shortages, financing projects worth more than US$50 billion in an economic corridor that runs through Pakistan. The route is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road Initiative” to connect Asia with Europe and Africa with a web of ports, railways and motorways links for trade.

Three Gorges’ focus in Pakistan is clean energy and it has a US$6 billion portfolio in three hydro and three solar power plants. The Karot project is in the Pakistan-administrated part of Kashmir, which India and Pakistan both claim and have fought two wars over since independence in 1947.

The ‘Belt and Road’ projects China doesn’t want anyone talking about

India’s foreign ministry said its views on “Pakistan’s illegal occupation” of Kashmir was “a matter of record”.

“We have objected, they have proceeded nevertheless,” said G. Parthasarathy, a former Indian high commissioner to Pakistan. “This has been going on since the 1960s and 1970s, when they built the Karakoram highway” that links Pakistan with China through the disputed territory, he said.

China has a neutral stance on the Kashmir dispute, said Zhao Gancheng, director of the Centre for South Asia Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies.

“The ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ cannot be delayed or sidetracked by the territorial disputes,” he said.

Relations between China and India hit a recent low during a dispute between a three-way junction between Bhutan, China’s Tibet and India’s Sikkim, which was resolved with both sides standing down in August.

China, Pakistan and the challenges of Silk Road connectivity

More broadly, New Delhi is wary of Chinese investments in neighbouring countries such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka, while Beijing is irked by India’s lack of support for its infrastructure and trade initiative.

India’s concern did not bother Qin. “It’s a political issue and not the concern of a private investor,” he said.

Pakistan considers the hydropower site a national security priority. It is dotted with army pickets and plain clothes security officials. None of the Chinese staff can leave the camp office without registering his or her name at the main gate. Of the 2,070 workers at the site, 750 are Chinese.

The concern is being taken seriously by both sides. Pakistan had created a special force of 15,000 troops to defend the Chinese projects and that number might be doubled, according to people with direct knowledge of the plans, who asked not to be identified as they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Chinese social media users fume over Indian magazine’s omission of Tibet and Taiwan from ‘map’

Yet risks remain after two Chinese nationals were killed in southwestern Balochistan in June. Islamic State claimed their murders.

The stakes are high for Pakistan, with the planned power generation projects potentially adding US$13 billion to its economy in the next seven years, according to an International Monetary Fund report published in July.

Pakistan’s hydropower generation potential is an estimated 40,000MW, although the existing installed capacity was only 7,116MW in the 2015-16 financial year, according to the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority’s latest report.

Three Gorges is now eyeing the contract for the construction of a 4,500MW Diamir-Bhasha power project in northern Gilgit-Baltistan and northwestern Chillas district.

“Pakistan’s total installed capacity is equal to one big Chinese city, like Shanghai,” Qin said. “That’s not enough.”

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Source: China ahead of schedule on construction of hydropower plant in Pakistan | South China Morning Post

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18/09/2017

China and India water ‘dispute’ after border stand-off – BBC News

The river gets severely flooded during monsoon season every year causing huge losses in northeast India and Bangladesh

China and India may have defused a potential border conflict but the stand-off seems to have led to dispute over another contentious issue: water.Delhi says it has not received any hydrological – the scientific study of the movement, distribution and quality of water – data for the Brahmaputra river from upstream China this monsoon season, notwithstanding an agreement.

One of Asia’s major rivers, the Brahmaputra, originates in Tibet and flows down to India before entering Bangladesh where it joins the Ganges and empties into the Bay of Bengal.

Beijing has said its hydrological stations are being upgraded which means it cannot share data..

But the BBC has found that China continues to share data for the same river with Bangladesh, the lowest downstream country in the Brahmaputra basin.

The river data issue between China and India comes after the two countries ended a tense stand-off over a disputed Himalayan border area that lasted more than two months.

The Brahmaputra gets severely flooded during monsoon season every year, causing huge losses in northeast India and Bangladesh.

Megadams: Battle on the Brahmaputra

  • The two countries have agreements with China that requires the upstream country to share hydrological data of the river during monsoon season between 15 May and 15 October.
  • The data is mainly of the water level of the river to alert downstream countries in case of floods.

“For this year…we have not received the hydrological data from the Chinese side beginning 15 May until now,” Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of India’s External Affairs Ministry said last month at a regular briefing.

“We don’t know the technical reasons behind this but there is an existing mechanism under which China is to provide hydrological data to us.

Disputes along the long border between China and India remain unresolved in several areas

The Chinese side last week said there was a technical problem.

“Last year, due to the needs for reconstruction after being damaged by the flood and out of such technological reasons as upgrading and renovation, the relevant hydrological stations in China do not have the conditions to collect relevant hydrological data now,” China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a press briefing last week.Officials from Bangladesh, however, said they were still receiving water level and discharge level data of the Brahmaputra from China.

“We received data of water level of the Bramahaputra from China few days ago,” Mofazzal Hossain, a member of the joint rivers commission of Bangladesh told the BBC.

“We have been receiving such data from three hydrological stations in Tibet since 2002 and they have continued to share the figure with us even during this monsoon season”.

Uncertainty

Bangladesh’s water resources minister Anisul Islam Mohammad also confirmed to the BBC that his country was receiving hydrological data from China.

But for India, China has hinted at an uncertainty over resumption of sharing of data.

“As regards whether the providing of relevant hydrological data will be resumed, it depends on the progress of the above-mentioned work,” spokesperson Geng Shuang said.

India only recently secured the agreement with China on receiving monsoon data of the Brahmaputra river, after years of efforts.

Delhi has also asked for data for non-monsoonal flows of the river, because there are suspicions in India that China could divert the waters of the Brahmaputra to its parched regions during dry seasons.

The river flows down to India before entering Bangladesh

Beijing has constructed several hydropower dams on the river, which is known as Yarlung Zangbo in Tibet.

It says they do not store or divert water and they will not be against the interest of downstream countries.

But in recent years, particularly in northeastern India, fears are also growing that China could suddenly release a huge amount of water.Residents of Dibrugarh in Assam, where the river has one of its widest stretches, say they have witnessed the water levels of Brahmaputra sharply rise and fall in very short periods of time.

There have also been increasing incidents of landslides blocking rivers and unleashing sudden floods in the Himalayas.

Flood warnings

A recent study has in fact, shown Tibet topping the list of places across the globe that has experienced an increase in water. Experts say all these factors make early flood warnings from China even more crucial.

Officials with India’s water resources ministry say the recent developments have left them somewhat worried.

“We thought we would now be able to convince them to share the hydrological data of the non-monsoon season so that there is no suspicion that they would divert water during lean season,” an official, preferring anonymity, told the BBC.”

“But now we are not getting even the monsoon flow information, this is a worrying sign and it also shows their [China’s] intention.”

A year ago, China blocked a tributary of the Yarlung Zangbo river as part of its most expensive hydro project, Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

The news came just when Indian media were suggesting that Delhi could pull out of the Indus Water Treaty – signed with Pakistan – following a militant attack in Indian-administered Kashmir.

As an upstream country for Bangladesh and Pakistan, India too has time and again been accused by these downstream countries of ignoring their concerns.

Experts say these are compelling evidences that water is indeed emerging as a key issue in South Asia’s geopolitics.

Source: China and India water ‘dispute’ after border stand-off – BBC News

15/09/2017

China declares itself a global power

N RECENT days government employees across China, from postal officials in the north-east to tax auditors in the south-west, have been corralled into watching state television.

The Communist Party often orders bureaucrats to study propaganda. This time, however, the mandatory viewing has deviated from the usual themes of domestic politics and economic development. Instead, it has focused on China’s emergence as a global power, and the role of the president, Xi Jinping, in bringing this about.In late August and early September the state broadcaster aired six 45-minute programmes on this topic at peak viewing hours. The Chinese title could be rendered as “Great-Power Diplomacy”, but some state media prefer to call it “Major-Country Diplomacy”. That sounds a little more modest. Describing China’s growing global clout has long been a problem for propagandists. In 2003 they seemed to have settled on the term “peaceful rise”, only to abandon it a few months later in favour of “peaceful development”—the word “rise”, they thought, risked causing alarm abroad.

There is not a hint of reticence, however, in the series’ portrayal of China’s purported foreign-policy successes under Mr Xi, and his personal involvement in them. The programmes, made with the help of the party’s own Publicity Department, are peppered with fawning remarks by Chinese and foreigners alike. In a clip from a speech given in 2015, Zimbabwe’s leader, Robert Mugabe, says of the smiling Mr Xi: “We will say he is a God-sent person.” (China has long admired Mr Mugabe’s contempt for the West.) “I really liked him, we had a great chemistry, I think,” America’s president, Donald Trump, is shown telling an American television interviewer after meeting Mr Xi in Florida in April.

Must-Xi TV

The main message is that Mr Xi is responsible for crafting a new approach to foreign policy that has won China global admiration: “great-power diplomacy with Chinese characteristics”. Mr Xi emphasised the need for this in November 2014 in a speech on foreign affairs (official translations of which often used the words “major country” instead). Last year the term appeared for the first time in the government’s annual work report. Like Deng Xiaoping’s “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, the phrase serves more to obfuscate than enlighten.

The nub of it is said to be “win-win co-operation”. But its introduction marked a clear departure from Deng’s more reticent approach to foreign policy, which was often described in China as taoguang yanghui, or “hiding brightness, nourishing obscurity”. By contrast, in the television series, the narrator says: “Maintaining world peace and stability is the unshirkable responsibility and burden of a great power.” It shows Chinese troops evacuating Chinese (and others) from strife-torn Yemen in 2015, the Chinese navy on anti-piracy missions off the Horn of Africa and Chinese marines setting off in July to establish the country’s first overseas military base in Djibouti.

While the series was being aired, a party newspaper published an article by the foreign minister, Wang Yi, on Mr Xi’s “diplomatic thought”. It said the president’s approach to foreign affairs had “blazed new trails and gone beyond traditional Western international-relations theory of the past 300 years”. The programmes aim to show that, unlike other rising powers in history, China (thanks to Mr Xi) has managed to maintain stable relations with established powers. They gloss over huge underlying tensions with Japan and America. Time and again Mr Xi is shown standing still while foreign leaders walk towards him to shake his hand. “It’s the ancient Chinese tributary system re-enacted,” says a Chinese academic, referring to emissaries from neighbouring states who brought gifts to the Chinese emperor as a means of securing peace.

But for all the talk of Mr Xi’s skills as a global leader, he still shares Deng’s aversion to risk-taking abroad. The series skates over the crisis on the Korean peninsula (a day after the final episode was shown, North Korea tested what appeared to be a hydrogen bomb.) Mr Xi’s great-power diplomacy had clearly failed to avert a grave international crisis—one that has developed not least as a result of China sitting on its hands.

Source: China declares itself a global power

05/09/2017

Xi and Modi mend ties after border standoff – BBC News

Their meeting at the Brics summit in China’s port city of Xiamen came just days after the two countries resolved the three-month border dispute.

According to Chinese state media, Mr Xi told Mr Modi that “healthy, stable” China-India ties were necessary.

This was Mr Modi’s last engagement before an official visit to Myanmar.

In a meeting that lasted over an hour, Mr Xi called for putting its bilateral relationship with India on the “right track”, reported Xinhua, China’s official news agency. The Doklam border standoff and reported clashes between the Chinese and Indian army had strained diplomatic ties between the two countries.

The latest row between the two countries erupted when India opposed China’s attempt to extend a border road through the Doklam plateau.

India and China clash along border

China claims victory in India border row

Why is the India-China border stand-off escalating?

Mr Modi congratulated Mr Xi on a “very successful” execution of the three-day Brics summit, in a show of conciliatory support between the two leaders.

At a media briefing, India’s Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said that the two countries would move forward with mutual respect. He made a reference to a June meeting between the two leaders, held in Kazakhstan’s capital city of Astana, where both countries reached a consensus that India and China must not allow differences to become disputes.

“Both sides agreed that there should be better communication and co-operation so that such occurrences don’t happen again,” Dr Jaishankar told reporters.

The Brics summit brings together the world’s five large non-Western economies – the other members are Brazil, Russia and South Africa – who are seeking a greater say in world affairs.

Economic ties were the focal point at the three-day gathering which began on Sunday. Both North Korea’s nuclear test and the border standoff between China and India were also discussed.

Source: Xi and Modi mend ties after border standoff – BBC News

27/07/2017

Does Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk ignore the role of the Indian army? – BBC News

Christopher Nolan’s epic World War Two film, Dunkirk, which tells the story of the mass evacuation of Allied troops from the northern coast of France in 1940, has been getting glowing reviews in India.

But many are glowering over Nolan turning a blind eye to the role of Indian soldiers in the battle. The Times of India wrote that their “significant contribution” was missing from Nolan’s “otherwise brilliant” work. Writing for Bloomberg View, columnist Mihir Sharma said the film “adds to the falsehood that plucky Britons stood alone against Nazi Germany once France fell, when, in fact, hundreds of millions of imperial subjects stood, perforce, with them”.

Few can deny the role of the subjects. Some five million Commonwealth servicemen joined the military services of the British empire during WW2. Almost half of them were from South Asia. Indian soldiers played a key role in major battles like Tobruk, Monte Cassino, Kohima and Imphal. A multinational force of British, Indian and African units recaptured Burma (Myanmar) for the Allies.

What actually happened at Dunkirk?

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk film reviewed

Has India’s contribution to WW2 been ignored?

What happened with the Indian soldiers in Dunkirk is less clear. Yasmin Khan, historian and author of The Raj at War: A People’s History of India’s Second World War, says she has often wondered why there is very little factual data on their role in the battle, which many say cost Germany the war.

What is well known, she told me, is that four companies of the Royal Indian Army Service Corps, including a unit of the Bikaner State forces, served in France during the campaign on the Western Front, and some were evacuated from Dunkirk. Among them were three contingents of the Royal Indian Army Service Corps. One contingent was taken prisoner by German forces.

According to one account, India also provided more than 2,500 mules – shipped from Bombay (now Mumbai) to Marseilles – to the war effort as the British animal transport companies had been phased out. An Indian soldier, Jemadar Maula Dad Khan, was feted for showing “magnificent courage, coolness and decision” in protecting his men and animals when they were shelled from the ground and strafed from the air by the enemy.

An Indian soldier who was evacuated from Dunkirk

The Indian soldiers and the mules were eventually ordered towards the coast. Many of the men could not take their animals on the retreat and gave them away to local people in France, according to the same account.

Historian John Broich says the Indian soldiers in Dunkirk were “particularly cool under fire and well organised during the retreat”.

“They weren’t large in number, maybe a few hundred among hundreds of thousands, but their appearance in the film would have provided a good reminder of how utterly central the role of the Indian Army was in the war,” he told Slate.

“Their service meant the difference between victory and defeat. In fact, while Britain and other allies were licking their wounds after Dunkirk, the Indian Army picked up the slack in North Africa and the Middle East.

‘Survival story’

To be fair, Nolan has said that he approached the story “from the point of view of the pure mechanics of survival rather than from the politics of the event”.

“We don’t have generals in rooms pushing things around on maps. We don’t see Churchill. We barely glimpse the enemy,” he told the Telegraph. “It’s a survival story.

“Historian Joshua Levine, who is also the film’s historical consultant, told me that Dunkirk was a work of fiction and “it isn’t a film’s job to tell the full story of Dunkirk… and nor, in the time available, could it even try to do so”.

“This film focuses on a few protagonists whose paths cross occasionally, each one of whom experiences just a tiny corner of the whole story. As Hilary Mantel says about historical fiction, ‘The man who is fighting can’t see over the hill, out of the trench.’

What I’d love to see, though, is an Indian film about Dunkirk, or WW2 generally, and I sincerely hope Indian filmmakers are working on it.

“But what about the criticism that the role of Indian and their South Asian counterparts in WW2 has been forgotten?

Two Indian soldiers evacuated from Dunkirk arrive in England in June 1940

Yasmin Khan says that their “sheer scale of the contribution” has become apparent in Britain in recent years. “No longer is it simply an island story of heroic, plucky British fighting against Nazi-occupied continental Europe; it has now become increasingly customary for historians to refer to the contribution made by Asian, African and Caribbean servicemen in the 1940s”, she writes in her book.

A memorial to honour the role of these soldiers came up on London’s Constitution Hill in 2002. There have been museum exhibitions, oral history projects and TV documentaries to “reveal how crucial they [the soldiers] often were to the action, the sacrifices that they made in the face of terrible odds, and also to divulge individual stories of great bravery and intrepid action”.

“It is no longer true to suggest that this is an entirely forgotten story,” she says.

Meanwhile, Indians are flocking to watch Dunkirk, which opened at 416 screens, including 10 Imax screens, across the country, on Friday.

Unlike most Hollywood films, Dunkirk hasn’t been dubbed in any Indian language for wider viewership. Still, says Denzil Dias of Warner Brothers (India), the film raked in $2.4m (£1.84m) over the weekend. “This is the biggest opening of an English language-only film in India,” Mr Dias told me. Clearly, viewers are not fretting about the lack of Indian soldiers in Nolan’s tour-de-force.

Source: Does Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk ignore the role of the Indian army? – BBC News

27/07/2017

Britain plans to send warship to South China Sea in move likely to irk Beijing

Britain plans to send a warship to the disputed South China Sea next year to conduct freedom of navigation exercises, Defence Minister Michael Fallon said on Thursday, a move likely to anger Beijing.

Britain would increase in presence in the waters after it sent four British fighter planes for joint exercises with Japan in the region last year, he said.

China claims most of the energy-rich sea where neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

“We hope to send a warship to region next year. We have not finalised exactly where that deployment will take place but we won’t be constrained by China from sailing through the South China Sea,” Fallon told Reuters.

“We have the right of freedom of navigation and we will exercise it.”

The presence of a British vessel threatens to stoke tensions, escalated by China’s naval build-up and its increasingly assertive stance.

China’s construction of islands and military facilities in the South China Sea has stoked international condemnation, amid concern Beijing is seeking to restrict free movement and extend its strategic reach.

Britain’s Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon, arrives in Downing Street for a cabinet meeting, in central London, Britain July 18, 2017

Toby Melville

Britain’s move could also upset ties between London and Beijing, undermining efforts to shore up what the two governments have called a “golden era” in their relationship as Britain heads towards a divorce with the European Union.

“We flew RAF Typhoons through the South China Sea last October and we will exercise that right whenever we next have the opportunity to do so, whenever we have ships or planes in the region,” Fallon said.

The United States estimates Beijing has added more than 3,200 acres (1,300 hectares) on seven features in the South China Sea over the past three years, building runways, ports, aircraft hangars and communications equipment.

To counter the perceived Chinese aggression, the United States has conducted regular freedom of navigation exercises that have angered Beijing.

Earlier this month, the United States sent two bombers over the region, coming just a few months after it sent a warship to carry out a maneuvering drill within 12 nautical miles of one of China’s artificial islands.

China has repeatedly denounced efforts by countries from outside the region to get involved in the South China Sea dispute.

The South China Sea is expected to dominate a regional security meeting in Manila next week, where Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will meet counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries.

Meeting ASEAN diplomats in Beijing on Wednesday, Wang told them both sides must “exclude disturbances on the South China Sea issue, and maintain positive momentum”, China’s Foreign Ministry said.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-southchinasea-britain-idUSKBN1AC1CB

25/07/2017

India swears in Ram Nath Kovind as 14th president

Ram Nath Kovind was sworn in on Tuesday as India’s 14th president, becoming the first member of a powerful Hindu nationalist movement to assume the highest public office in the world’s largest democracy.

The 71-year-old’s elevation also boosts the representation of his Dalit community, which ranks at the lower end of India’s ancient caste hierarchy, potentially helping Prime Minister Narendra Modi extend his voter base in a 2019 general election.

Kovind, a veteran politician and lawyer with a previously low profile, is a long-time member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or National Volunteers’ Association, a grassroots movement that also helped launch Modi’s political career.

Opposition leaders accused Modi of using the presidential race, which Kovind won easily in an electoral college last week, to further a divisive agenda through which, they say, he wants to redefine India as a Hindu-first nation.

In a speech at his swearing in Kovind, however, praised India’s diversity, saying it was “the core that makes us so unique”.

“I bow to the (1.25 billion) citizens of this great nation and promise to stay true to the trust they have bestowed on me,” Kovind said in parliament’s central hall.

India has around 200 million Dalits, previously known as untouchables, and many suffer social deprivation and economic exclusion.

Kovind’s rise caps a series of top appointments backed by Modi – including naming a hardline priest to lead India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh – that tighten the grip of the Hindu right on key public offices.

India’s constitution foresees a largely ceremonial role for the president, with the prime minister and his cabinet holding executive power.

But the president has a key role during political crises, such as when a general election is inconclusive, by deciding which party is in the best position to form a government.

Source: http://uk.reuters.com/places/india

 

24/07/2017

China warns India not to harbor illusions in border stand-off

China’s defense ministry on Monday warned India not to harbor any illusions about the Chinese military’s ability to defend its territory, amid a festering border dispute.

The stand-off on a plateau next to the mountainous Indian state of Sikkim, which borders China, has ratcheted up tension between the neighbors, who share a 3,500-km (2,175-mile) frontier, large parts of which are disputed.

“Shaking a mountain is easy but shaking the People’s Liberation Army is hard,” ministry spokesman Wu Qian told a briefing, adding that its ability to defend China’s territory and sovereignty had “constantly strengthened”.

Early in June, according to the Chinese interpretation of events, Indian guards crossed into China’s Donglang region and obstructed work on a road on the plateau.

The two sides’ troops then confronted each other close to a valley controlled by China that separates India from its close ally, Bhutan, and gives China access to the so-called Chicken’s Neck, a thin strip of land connecting India and its remote northeastern regions.India has said it warned China that construction of the road near their common border would have serious security implications.

The withdrawal of Indian border guards was a precondition for resolving the situation, Wu reiterated.

“India should not leave things to luck and not harbor any unrealistic illusions,” Wu said, adding that the military had taken emergency measures in the region and would continue to increase focused deployments and drills.

“We strongly urge India to take practical steps to correct its mistake, cease provocations, and meet China halfway in jointly safeguarding the border region’s peace and tranquillity,” he said.

Speaking later, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Ajit Doval, India’s national security adviser, would attend a meeting in Beijing this week of security officials from the BRICS grouping that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Lu would not be drawn on whether the border issue would be discussed at the meeting, hosted by China’s top diplomat, State Councillor Yang Jiechi, meant to discuss multilateral issues.

“China hopes to maintain the peace and stability of the China-India border area, but certainly will not make any compromise on issues of territorial sovereignty,” Lu said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to visit China early in September for a summit of BRICS leaders.Indian officials say about 300 soldiers from either side are facing each other about 150 meters (yards) apart on the plateau.

They have told Reuters that both sides’ diplomats have quietly engaged to try to keep the stand-off from escalating, and that India’s ambassador to Beijing is leading the effort to find a way for both sides to back down without loss of face.

Chinese state media have warned India of a fate worse than its defeat suffered in a brief border war in 1962. China’s military has held live fire drills close to the disputed area, they said this month.

Source: China warns India not to harbor illusions in border stand-off

21/07/2017

Why India and Pakistan hate each other

EVERY AFTERNOON AT sunset, at a point midway along the arrow-straight road between Amritsar and Lahore, rival squads of splendidly uniformed soldiers strut and stomp a 17th-century British military drill known as Beating Retreat (pictured).

Barked commands, fierce glares and preposterously high kicks all signal violent intent. But then, lovingly and in unison, the enemies lower their national flags. Opposing guardsmen curtly shake hands, and the border gates roll shut for the night.

As India and Pakistan celebrate their twin 70th birthday this August, the frontier post of Wagah reflects the profound dysfunction in their relations. On its side Pakistan has built a multi-tiered amphitheatre for the boisterous crowds that come to watch the show. The Indians, no less rowdy, have gone one better with a half-stadium for 15,000. But the number of travellers who actually cross the border here rarely exceeds a few hundred a week.

Wagah’s silly hats and walks serve a serious function. The cuckoo-clock regularity of the show; the choreographed complicity between the two sides; and the fact that the soldiers and crowds look, act and talk very much the same—all this has the reassuring feel of a sporting rivalry between teams. No matter how bad things get between us, the ritual seems to say, we know it is just a game. Alas, the game between India and Pakistan has often turned serious.

After the exhaustion of the second world war Britain was faced with two claimants to its restless Indian empire, a huge masala of ethnic, linguistic and religious groups (half of which was administered directly and half as “princely states” under 565 hereditary rulers subject to the British crown). Just about everyone wanted independence. But whereas the Congress Party of Mahatma Gandhi envisioned a unified federal state, the Muslim League of Muhammad Ali Jinnah argued that the subcontinent’s 30% Muslim minority constituted a separate nation that risked oppression under a Hindu majority. Communal riots prompted Britain’s last viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, to make a hasty decision. He split the country in two—or rather three, since the new state of Pakistan came in two parts, divided by the 2,000km (1,240-mile) expanse of the new state of India.

When the two new states were proclaimed in mid-August 1947, it was hoped the partition would be orderly. Lines had been drawn on maps, and detailed lists of personnel and assets, down to the instruments in army bands, had been assigned to each side. But the plans immediately went awry in a vast, messy and violent exchange of populations that left at least 1m dead and 15m uprooted from their homes.

Within months a more formal war had erupted. It ended by tearing the former princely state of Kashmir in two, making its 750km-long portion of the border a perpetual subject of dispute. Twice more, in 1965 and 1971, India and Pakistan fought full-blown if mercifully brief wars. The second of those, with India supporting a guerrilla insurgency in the Bengali-speaking extremity of East Pakistan, gave rise to yet another proud new country, Bangladesh; but not before at least half a million civilians had died as West Pakistan brutally tried to put down the revolt.

Even periods of relative peace have not been especially peaceful. In the 1990s Pakistan backed a guerrilla insurgency in Indian Kashmir in which at least 40,000 people lost their lives. In 1999 Pakistani troops captured some mountain peaks in the Kargil region, which India clawed back in high-altitude battles. A ceasefire in Kashmir that has held since 2003 has not stopped Pakistan-sponsored groups from striking repeatedly inside India. Pakistan claims that India, too, has covertly sponsored subversive groups.

Analysts discern a pattern in this mutual harassment: whenever politicians on both sides inch towards peace, something nasty seems to happen. Typically, these cycles start with an attack on Indian soldiers in Kashmir by infiltrators from Pakistan, triggering Indian artillery strikes, which prod the Pakistanis to respond in kind. After a few weeks things will calm down.

Just such a cycle started in late 2015, prompted, perhaps, by a surprise visit to the home of the Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, by his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi. Hopes raised by this overture dimmed within days when jihadist infiltrators attacked an Indian airbase. Another suicide squad struck an Indian army camp near the border, killing 19 soldiers. Faced with public outrage, Mr Modi ordered a far harder response than usual, sending commando teams into Pakistan. In the past, India had kept quiet even when it hit back, leaving room for Pakistan to climb down. This time Mr Modi’s government moved to isolate Pakistan diplomatically, rebuffed behind-the-scenes efforts to calm tensions and sent unprovoked blasts of fire across the Kashmir border.

 India’s loss of patience is understandable. It has a population six times Pakistan’s and an economy eight times as big, yet it finds itself being provoked far more often than it does the provoking. When Mr Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014, it promised to put muscle into India’s traditionally limp foreign policy. “India for the first time is being proactive, not just responding,” says Sushant Singh, a military historian and journalist. “This is a huge shift.”

Yet Mr Modi’s pugnacity raises the risk of a dangerous escalation. “After a routine operation, the adversary may or may not escalate; after a publicised operation he will have only one option: to escalate,” writes Pratap Bhanu Mehta, one of India’s more thoughtful intellectuals.

Whether India and Pakistan are reckless enough to come to serious blows would not matter so much if they simply fielded conventional armies. But they are equipped with more than 100 nuclear warheads apiece, along with the missiles to deliver them. Since both countries revealed their nuclear hands in the 1990s, optimists who thought that a “balance of terror” would encourage them to be more moderate have been proved only partially right. Indians complain of being blackmailed: Pakistan knows that the risk of nuclear escalation stops its neighbours from responding more robustly to its provocations. Worryingly, Pakistan also rejects the nuclear doctrine of no first use. Instead, it has moved to deploy less powerful nuclear warheads as battlefield weapons, despite the risk that fallout from their use might harm its own civilians.

India does espouse a no-first-use nuclear doctrine, but its military planning is said to include a scenario of a massive conventional blitzkrieg aimed at seizing chunks of enemy territory and crushing Pakistan’s offensive capacity before it can respond. India’s arsenal includes the hypersonic Brahmos III, the world’s fastest cruise missile, which can precisely deliver a 300kg payload to any target in Pakistan. An air-launched version could reach Islamabad in two minutes, and Lahore in less than one. And in a grim calculation, India, with four times Pakistan’s territory, sees itself as better able to absorb a nuclear strike.

Alarmists will probably be proved wrong. Both countries are prone to sabre-rattling theatrics, but they are well aware that the price of full-blown war would be appalling. And despite the uncertainties generated by the rise of China, the continuing troubles in Afghanistan and the incalculability of Donald Trump’s America, the international community still seems likely to be able to pull Pakistan and India apart if need be.

As this special report will argue, though, both Pakistan and India should more openly acknowledge the costs, to themselves and to the wider region, of their seven decades of bitter separation. These include not only what they have had to spend, in lives and treasure, on waging war and maintaining military readiness over generations, but the immense opportunity cost of forgoing fruitful exchanges between parts of the same subcontinental space that in the past have always been open to each other. Trade between the two rivals adds up to barely $2.5bn a year.

Perpetual enmity has also distorted internal politics, especially in Pakistan, where overweening generals have repeatedly sabotaged democracy in the name of national security. Pakistan has suffered culturally, too; barred from its natural subcontinental hinterland, it has opened instead to the Arab world, and to the influence of less syncretic and tolerant forms of Islam. For India, enmity with Pakistan has fostered a tilt away from secular values towards a more strident identity politics.

Reflexive fear of India prompts Pakistan’s generals to meddle in Afghanistan, which they see as a strategic backyard where no foreign power can be allowed to linger. In turn, India, because of the constant aggravation from Pakistan, has become bad-tempered with its smaller neighbours. Small wonder that intra-regional trade makes up barely 5% of the subcontinent’s overall trade, compared with more than a quarter in South-East Asia. And it is no surprise that Pakistan has opened its arms to China, which is offering finance, trade and superpower patronage.

This special report will seek to unravel the causes of this irrational enmity, and to explore the contrasting internal dynamics in both countries that sustain it. It will examine new factors in this complex geopolitical board game, such as the rise of China. And it will consider what might be done to nudge the two rivals away from the vicious circle that binds them.

Source: Why India and Pakistan hate each other

21/07/2017

India says in quiet diplomacy with China to tackle border stand-off

When Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met on the sidelines of a regional conference last month, officials said they reached an understanding not to let the two countries’ long-standing “differences become disputes”.

Yet within days, Chinese and Indian soldiers were jostling in a desolate but disputed border region in the Himalayas that has since grown into an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation from which neither army is ready to back off.

The flare-up is the latest incident in a steadily deteriorating relationship between the Asian giants who are unable to agree on their 3,500 km (2,175 miles) border, over which they went to war in 1962.

Indian officials said diplomats from the two sides were now quietly trying to ensure the stand-off near the three-way border between India, its ally Bhutan, and China does not escalate into a conflict, invoking the agreement reached by their leaders at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Astana.

Behind the scenes, India’s ambassador to Beijing is leading the effort to find a way for both sides to back down from confrontation on the Doklam plateau – which China calls Donglang – without losing face, an Indian government source aware of the sensitive negotiations told Reuters.

In public, the two sides are saying little about the delicate diplomatic engagement.

“We want both sides to call back troops and work things out with talks,” Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj told parliament on Thursday.

China says India must first pull back its troops from the area before meaningful discussions can take place.

“Of course, we have said before, China-India bilateral diplomatic channels are always open,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, when asked whether talks with India were being held to defuse the situation.

“But with regard to this incident, we have emphasised many times that the Indian border defence personnel who illegally crossed the boundary withdrawing to the Indian side of the line is the basis and precondition for China and India conducting any kind of meaningful dialogue.

“Chinese state media have warned India of a fate worse than then the defeat it suffered in their border war in 1962.

Strategic Rivals

In recent years, the two have clashed over China’s strategic ties with India’s arch rival Pakistan, including a massive trade corridor that China is building through the disputed territory of Kashmir.

New Delhi has also been stung by China’s veto of United Nations sanctions against the leader of a Pakistan-based militant group and Beijing’s refusal to let it become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a global cartel.Beijing has bristled at the Modi government’s public embrace of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader whom it regards as a dangerous splittist. It has also grown concerned at India’s military ties with both the United States and Japan.Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gopal Baglay said diplomatic channels between Delhi and Beijing were open and being used to tackle the border crisis.

“Diplomatic communications to the best of my understanding have never stopped,” he said. “There are diplomatic communications taking place.”

He would not go into further details.

Flashpoint

The latest trouble began when Chinese forces were spotted constructing a road with bulldozers and other heavy equipment in an area claimed by the tiny kingdom of Bhutan, prompting an intervention by Indian troops stationed nearby.

Groups of soldiers pushed and shoved each other, military officials said, but no weapons were used.

India said its action was guided by its special relationship with Bhutan as part of a 2007 treaty to cooperate on security issues, but also by the threat posed by the alleged Chinese incursion in Doklam to its own security.

The plateau lies close to the “Chicken’s Neck”, a 20-km wide corridor that links India to its northeastern states. The biggest fear among India’s military planners is that a Chinese offensive there could cut off the link.

China, which is engaged in a massive regional infrastructure drive to boost trade, says the area where the road was being constructed is part of its territory, and that in any case India does not have a role in what it sees as a bilateral matter with Bhutan.

About 300 soldiers from either side are facing each other about 150 metres (yards) apart on the Doklam/Donglang plateau, 10,000 feet (3,050 metres) above sea level, Indian officials say.

Behind them in the barracks below are thousands of troops ready to be deployed on either side. So far there has been no sign of either side trying to mobilise more troops, military officials in New Delhi said.

One possibility is that the weather may force the two sides to quietly disengage, the Indian government source said. Construction activity in the area can only take place between June and September before it becomes snowbound.

Source: http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-india-china-idUKKBN1A51S9

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