Archive for ‘Politics’

07/12/2017

China claims Indian drone ‘invaded airspace in crash’ – BBC News

An Indian drone has “invaded China’s airspace and crashed” on its territory, Chinese state media said.Zhang Shuili, deputy director of the western theatre combat bureau, said the incident took place in “recent days”.

He did not give an exact location.

He was quoted in Xinhua news agency as saying that India had “violated China’s territorial sovereignty”.The Indian army said the drone had been deployed on a training mission and developed a technical problem.

Indian army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand told reporters that they had lost control of the drone which then crossed into Chinese airspace. They alerted their Chinese counterparts soon after, he added.

The two countries saw relations worsen this summer when they became locked in a dispute over a Himalayan plateau.

What was behind the China-India border row?

China ‘racist’ video on India sparks fury

China and India now in water ‘dispute’In remarks carried widely by state media outlets, Mr Zhang said Chinese border forces had conducted “verifications” of the drone.He added that China expresses “our strong dissatisfaction and opposition regarding this matter” and that it would “steadfastly protect the country’s rights and safety”.

Relations between the two countries soured in June when India said it opposed a Chinese attempt to extend a road on the Doklam/Donglang plateau, at the border of China, India and Bhutan.

China and Bhutan have competing claims on the plateau, and India supports Bhutan’s claim.

After weeks of escalating tensions, including heated rhetoric from both sides, the stand-off ended in August when both countries pulled back their troops.

The two nations fought a bitter war over the border in 1962, and disputes remain unresolved in several areas which cause tensions to rise periodically.

Source: China claims Indian drone ‘invaded airspace in crash’ – BBC News

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03/11/2017

Five things to watch for on Donald Trump’s first Asia trip | South China Morning Post

The world will be watching as America’s leader makes his first official visit to Asia, where trade deficits and military ties are likely to be among the hot topics

US President Donald Trump’s first official visit to Asia gets under way on Friday, with a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping scheduled for next week likely to one of the highlights.

After a quick stop-off in Hawaii, Trump will travel to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines over the course of 12 days, taking him as close as he is ever likely to get to his greatest adversary – North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.As well as holding talks with state leaders, Trump will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Vietnam and the US-Asean Summit in the Philippines.

Although he pledged during his presidential campaign last year to be “unpredictable” in diplomacy, here are the five issues that we think are likely to dominate his visit:

How will Donald Trump’s Beijing visit shape US strategy on China?

1) US Asia policy

Trump’s attitude towards the United States’ long-term allies, as well as partner-cum-rival China during his trip could set the foundations for US foreign relations for the rest of his presidential term.

In contrast to the “Pivot to Asia” approach adopted by his predecessor Barack Obama, Trump has made no bones about putting “America First”. It will be interesting to see how rigidly he adheres to that policy in talks with his Asian counterparts.

2) North Korea

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and China’s ambassador in Washington Cui Tiankai have both confirmed that the North Korea issue will top the agenda of the Sino-US meeting.

The restive state has conducted 15 missile tests since February and claims to have developed the technology to land a warhead on US soil.In response, Trump has repeatedly pressed China to do more to contain its long term ally’s weapons development programme and he is expected to further push Beijing to implement sanctions against Pyongyang and take additional steps to rein in its restive neighbour.

Trump to hop a flight home from the Philippines instead of attending East Asia SummitAlthough China has cooperated with UN Security Council resolutions on Pyongyang, North Korea’s official state media reported that Xi on Thursday expressed his hopes to promote ties between the two countries.

Before meeting Xi, Trump will visit Japan and South Korea – the United States’ closest Asian allies on the North Korea issue – and his talks there could well shed some light on how things might go in Beijing.

3) US military alliances

During his presidential campaign Trump made repeated claims that the US was bankrolling the defence of its Asian allies Japan and South Korea. Though he has yet to make any defence budget cuts, it will be of great interest not only to the United States’ allies but also other nations in the region how much he commits to America’s military development in Asia.

Will US President Donald Trump’s Asia trip result in deals to rein in North Korea?

With their shared and deepening concerns over North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities, Trump’s talks in Seoul may touch on the deployment of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence anti-missile system, an issue that has caused a year-long conflict between China and South Korea.

In Japan, whose defence ties to the US date back to the signing of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security in 1960, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is likely hoping Trump will continue to honour the deal.In September, Trump said he would allow both Japan and South Korea to buy a “substantially increased amount” of sophisticated military equipment from the US.

4) Trade

Trump on Wednesday referred to the United States’ US$347 billion trade deficit with China as “embarrassing” and “horrible”. It should be expected, therefore, that while in Beijing he will be keen to rebalance that relationship by proposing new trade terms.

The ongoing US investigations into China’s alleged dumping of stainless steel flanges and Beijing’s intellectual property practices could also be on the agenda.

Donald Trump visit sees China’s US ambassador delay retirement

The United States’ second-largest trade deficit – US$69 billion – is with Japan, so Trump may look to continue the talks he began with Tokyo earlier in the year covering tariffs on US agricultural products and American car sales in the Asian country.

Trump has also called for a renegotiation of the 2012 US-S

Source: Five things to watch for on Donald Trump’s first Asia trip | South China Morning Post

03/11/2017

Despite its reputation, Chinese aid is quite effective

CHINA is one of the world’s largest providers of foreign aid. But it has a reputation as a rogue donor: stories abound of shoddy projects, low environmental standards and mistreatment of workers.

A hospital built by the Chinese in Luanda, the capital of Angola, developed alarming cracks and had to be rebuilt. Aid is widely thought to have been diverted for arms purchases by Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe. The list goes grimly on.

Stories do not abound, however, about who gets China’s aid and what it goes on. The government says that it spends about $5bn a year on assistance to other countries. But it has no aid ministry comparable to, say, Britain’s Department for International Development. Most details of the aid programme are kept secret, perhaps because the largesse is unpopular domestically. Many Chinese think that their country is too poor to give handouts and the money ought to be spent at home. When the health ministry tried to investigate whether Chinese projects in Africa made people healthier, the rest of the government flatly refused to co-operate.

The most detailed study so far of Chinese aid, published this week by AidData, a research group at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, shines a light on the murky data. The report looks at 4,400 projects which China has either committed to, is building or has finished, between 2000 and 2014. It finds that the country gave or lent about $350bn over that period—not much less than the total of American aid, which was $424bn in those years. But almost all of America’s aid is in the form of grants, compared with a fifth of China’s. The rest is concessional lending at below-market interest rates, mostly to Chinese companies working abroad—the kind of aid that used to be common in the West but went out of fashion in the 1990s because it overburdened recipients with debt. The grant component of China’s aid was $75bn, still a lot (about the same as Britain’s), but not a tidal wave of money.

Previous AidData studies of Chinese aid have been controversial. In 2013 the researchers reckoned that aid to Africa alone (which accounts for half of China’s total foreign aid) was $75bn between 2000 and 2011. Deborah Brautigam of Johns Hopkins University in Maryland said their calculation was “way off”. She criticised what she described as its excessive reliance on unreliable news reports. AidData’s new estimate appears to be better grounded. It is based more on official announcements from Chinese commercial offices abroad and from the finance and planning ministries of recipient countries.

The authors use their new numbers to look at whether Chinese aid works—an equally controversial subject. In a study published along with the data set, researchers including Bradley Parks of the College of William and Mary find that the grant kind does. They reckon a doubling of Chinese grant aid is associated with a 0.4-point increase in the rate of GDP growth of the recipients after two years. That is more than can be said for China’s no-strings-attached concessional lending, which, according to AidData, has no effect on the receiving country’s GDP. It appears to be tantamount to an export subsidy to Chinese firms, with a side order of backhanders for local elites.

On a happier note, the study looks at whether Chinese aid damages Western assistance. The researchers do this by calculating whether aid effectiveness declines in countries that receive Western aid and then get an influx of Chinese cash. It finds no decline, implying Chinese aid does not harm efforts by other donors.

Three conclusions can be drawn from AidData’s findings. First, Chinese aid could do more good in poor countries if more of it came in the form of grants, rather than cheap loans. Next, Western aid agencies should not be so wary of co-operating with the Chinese. Co-ordination is important in aid-giving because otherwise you might find, say, three aid agencies each building a hospital in the same city. Because China is regarded as a rogue, it is not roped into the co-ordination efforts among Western donors. That should change. Lastly, the paucity of information about China’s aid (despite AidData’s efforts) is caused by the opacity of China’s government. Perhaps it might consider being more open about a programme that appears, for all its flaws, to be moderately effective.

Source: Despite its reputation, Chinese aid is quite effective

11/10/2017

China to shut down North Korean companies – BBC News

China has told North Korean companies operating in its territory to close down as it implements United Nations sanctions against the reclusive state.

The companies will be shut by early January. Joint Chinese and North Korean ventures will also be forced to close.China, Pyongyang’s only major ally, has already banned textile trade and limited oil exports.

The move is part of an international response to North Korea’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test.

The UN Security Council, of which China is a member, voted unanimously for fresh sanctions on 11 September.China’s commerce ministry said it had set a deadline of 120 days from the passing of the resolution for any North Korean companies within its borders to close.

North Korea is politically and economically isolated, and the vast majority of its trade is with China.

Beijing has traditionally been protective of its neighbour, but has sharply criticised its nuclear tests and escalating rhetoric.

Was your T-shirt made in North Korea?

Earlier this year, it clamped down on its purchase of coal from Pyongyang and on seafood and iron trade across the border.

Coupled with the textile trade ban, North Korea has lost several of its scant sources of foreign currency income.

Beijing has been under public pressure to take action from US President Donald Trump, who has both applauded and denounced Chinese policy at different times.

N Korea: Trump exploiting student’s death

North Korea crisis in 300 wordsMr Trump has also been involved in a direct war of words with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, labelling him a “rocket man” on “a suicide mission”. The US president warned that he would have no choice but to “totally destroy” North Korea if forced to defend the US or its allies.

Mr Kim, in turn, has called Mr Trump “deranged” and a “dotard”, and said the US president’s comments have convinced him he is right to seek a nuclear deterrent, and has even accused Mr Trump of declaring war.

At a news briefing on Thursday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said: “We are opposed to any war on the Korean peninsula.”

“Sanctions and the promoting of talks are both the requirements of the UN Security Council. We should not overemphasise one aspect while ignoring the other.”

North Korea’s slowly growing economy

Pyongyang does not publish accounts or economic data, which leaves economists guessing over the country’s performance. But South Korea’s central bank bases its estimates on information from its National Intelligence Service.

It believes that last year, North Korea’s economy grew at its fastest pace in 17 years – with GDP up 3.9% despite international economic sanctions. Small shops and markets have been springing up in the capital over the past decade.

But that does not mean ordinary people are doing well. North Korea’s economy is geared towards supporting its large military – which analysts believe consumes up to 25% of the country’s GDP. Income inequality is rife, with some shops in Pyongyang stocked with all sorts of luxury goods, while other citizens have very little.

Even the latest sanctions have exceptions. China, for example, can still trade oil to its neighbour in limited supply.

Source: China to shut down North Korean companies – BBC News

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

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

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