Archive for ‘foreign policy’

31/01/2018

Theresa May unveils education deal at start of China visit

Theresa May has announced new education links with China as she arrives for a three-day visit to boost trade and investment after Brexit.

The initiative includes the extension of a Maths teacher exchange programme and a campaign to promote English language learning in China.

The UK prime minister has claimed her visit “will intensify the golden era in UK-China relations”.

But she has stressed China must adhere to free and fair trade practices.

In an article for the Financial Times ahead of her arrival, she acknowledged that London and Beijing did not see “eye-to-eye” on a number of issues – and she promised to raise concerns from UK industry about the over-production of steel and the protection of intellectual property against piracy.

‘Two great nations’

Other issues likely to be discussed include North Korea and climate change. It is not clear whether they will include human rights in Hong Kong.

Mrs May, who will hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, is travelling at the head of a 50-strong business delegation, including BP and Jaguar Land Rover, as well as small firms and universities including Manchester and Liverpool.

Her first stop, Wuhan, in central China, is home to the largest number of students of any city in the world.

The education deal includes:

  • Extension of a maths teacher exchange programme for a further two years to 2020, enabling around 200 English teachers to visit China
  • Joint training of pre-school staff in the UK and China
  • Better information-sharing on vocational education
  • The launch of an “English is GREAT” campaign to promote English language learning in China
  • Education deals worth more than £550m, which it is claimed will create 800 jobs in the UK

Mrs May said new agreements signed on her trip would “enable more children and more young people than ever to share their ideas about our two great nations”, helping to ensure that “our golden era of co-operation will endure for generations to come”.

During the three-day trip, Mrs May is expected to focus on extending existing commercial partnerships rather than scoping out new post-Brexit deals.

She said she expected China to play a “huge role” in the economic development of the world, adding: “I want that future to work for Britain, which is why, during my visit, I’ll be deepening co-operation with China on key global and economic issues that are critical to our businesses, to our people, and to what the UK stands for.”

She acknowledged that her agenda “will not be delivered in one visit: it must be our shared objective over the coming years”.

Hong Kong concerns

But she added: “I’m confident that, as China continues to open up, co-operation and engagement will ensure its growing role on the global stage delivers not just for China, but for the UK and the wider world.”

In a statement ahead of the visit, a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said Beijing saw Mrs May’s trip as “an opportunity to achieve new development of the China-UK global comprehensive strategic partnership”.

But asked whether the UK had achieved its aim of becoming China’s closest partner in the West, he replied: “Co-operation can always be bettered. As to whether China and Britain have become the closest partners, we may need to wait and see how Prime Minister May’s visit this time plays out.”

Pro-democracy protester in Hong KongImage copyrightEPA
Image captionCritics accuse China of abandoning its “one country, two systems” pledge on Hong Kong

In recent years, both countries have hailed a “golden era” in UK-Sino relations.

China has signalled its desire to invest in high-profile UK infrastructure projects, including the building of a new nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point – although its involvement has raised some national security concerns.

British trade with China has increased by 60% since 2010 and UK ministers are expected to use the trip to stress that the UK will remain an “excellent place to do business” after it leaves the EU next year.

The UK has said it will prioritise negotiating free trade agreements with major trading partners such as the United States, Australia and Canada after it leaves the EU in March 2019.

Earlier this year, the UK said it would not rule out becoming a member of the Trans Pacific Partnership free-trade zone, whose members include Japan, South Korea and Vietnam and which is considered by many as a counter-weight to Chinese influence in the region.

Chinese President Xi Jinping with his US counterpart Donald Trump in NovemberImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionUS President Donald Trump and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron have both visited China recently

Lord Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, has urged Mrs May to use the visit to privately raise what he says has been the steady erosion of freedoms and rights in the former British colony in recent years.

Hong Kong is supposed to have distinct legal autonomy under the terms of its handover to China in 1997.

In a letter to the PM, Lord Patten and ex-Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown said its residents needed assurances that the UK’s growing commercial relationship with China would not “come at the cost of our obligations to them”.

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18/08/2016

India ready for Pakistan talks; U.N. alarmed by Kashmir violence | Reuters

India is ready to send its top diplomat to Pakistan for talks focused on fighting cross-border terrorism, sources at foreign ministry said on Wednesday, after a spike in tension in the disputed northernmost region of Kashmir.

Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar was willing to attend talks on the invitation of his Pakistani counterpart, the sources said, stressing cross-border terrorism was central to the situation in Jammu and Kashmir state.

The olive branch comes after 40 days of violent protests in Indian-ruled Kashmir set off by the killing by security forces of a field commander of Pakistan-based Islamic militant group Hizbul Mujahideen who enjoyed wide support.

At least 64 people have died and thousands injured in clashes with security forces, denounced by Pakistan, which also claims the right to rule Jammu & Kashmir in a territorial dispute that dates back to partition in 1947.

The Indian sources, who declined to be identified, made it clear, however, that India “rejects in their entirety the self-serving allegations regarding the situation in J&K, which is an integral part of India.”Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is the name of India’s only Muslim-majority state that includes the disputed Kashmir region.

A spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry declined to comment late on Wednesday, saying the government was preparing a response to the proposed Indian visit.

A U.N. human rights official expressed “deep regret” at the failure of both the Indian and Pakistani authorities to grant access to the separate parts of Kashmir that each run to investigate allegations of serious human rights violations.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement issued in Geneva it was unfortunate that sincere attempts by the United Nations to independently assess the facts in relation to reports of human rights violations had failed.

“Without access, we can only fear the worst,” said Zeid.

The nuclear-armed neighbours, which have fought three wars since independence in 1947, both claim Kashmir in full but rule it in part.

In the latest violence on Wednesday, militants killed three members of the security forces when they ambushed an army convoy and then fired on a police jeep that came to the scene.

In a worrying escalation the previous day, security forces fired live rounds at a crowd of stone-throwing protesters in Baramulla district, killing five and wounding 10.

Earlier, police and troops trying to control crowds had resorted to the use of shotguns, whose pellets are meant to incapacitate but not kill.

But residents of Kashmir say the shotguns have inflicted severe injuries and even blinded hundreds of people including bystanders.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi ratcheted up tensions in his annual Independence Day speech on Monday, accusing Pakistan of glorifying terrorism.

In a tit-for-tat escalation in the war of words between the neighbours, Modi said he had received messages of support from leaders in restive regions of Pakistan, in particular the troubled southwestern province of Baluchistan.

India accuses Muslim Pakistan of supporting Kashmiri fighters while Pakistan accuses India of meddling in Pakistani trouble spots, in particular of helping separatists fighting the Pakistani state in resource-rich Baluchistan.

Both sides deny the accusations.

Source: India ready for Pakistan talks; U.N. alarmed by Kashmir violence | Reuters

20/09/2014

To engage with China, India must stop peddling myths about the Line of Actual Control

Nehru’s hubris about his own statesmanship, coupled with a refusal to discuss the matter reasonably since 1962, has led us to the present tangle.

Political commentators have been gushing over the possibilities of strengthened economic and strategic relations between China and India, but the unresolved border dispute remains alive and can always play spoiler in the future. A border is, after all, more than a line on the map or a series of military posts on the ground; it is a reflection of how the political elite of a nation-state thinks about its security.

Chinese-controlled Aksai Chin is claimed by India as part of Jammu and Kashmir, and Indian-controlled Arunachal Pradesh is claimed by China. The only feasible solution is to accept the status quo and transform the Line of Actual Control into an international boundary. There have been several rounds of talks since the 1990s, but a resolution remains distant. Despite its parliamentary majority, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government will be unable to sell a permanent boundary settlement without being accused of ceding territory in Aksai Chin, though in reality it will only be giving up its claim over a territory India never controlled.

This raises a pertinent question: what precisely is the border upon which India and China cannot agree?

New neighbours

Through history, China and India have not been neighbours. The current de facto border has its genesis in a line drawn on a map by Henry McMahon during a secret treaty between Britain and Tibet in March 1914. Both entities, British India and Tibet, are no more: one has been transformed into postcolonial India and the other was occupied and colonised by communist China. Yet India and China, both of whom have overthrown the mantle of Western imperialism, are jostling over the same imperialists’ line – and have completely militarised and destroyed the traditional zone of contact that the border regions were.

The border is a legacy of a few dynamics, including the expansionist policies of the British in the Himalayan regions of India, the disappearance of the traditional Tibetan state, which had political and sacral hegemony over much of the region, and the modern nationalisms in postcolonial India and revolutionary China, which are keen on implementing a rigid notion of sovereignty in the border regions and legitimising the primacy of militarised security over the religious, cultural and human rights of the people inhabiting the region.

Stuck in the middle

The primary loser in the dispute is neither India nor China but Tibet. China has occupied most of Tibetan territory, while India has occupied the Tawang tract, which was historically part of Tibet. The Tibetan state had given up the Tawang region to British India in 1914 on the understanding that they would get friendship and assistance to protect their independence from China. When China went on to occupy Tibet in 1949-’50, India reneged on that understanding, preferring the diplomatically attractive Hindi-Chini-bhai-bhai rhetoric over a strategically sound and morally defensible Indo-Tibetan friendship.

Despite reluctantly hosting the Tibetan exile community today, India did not offer any tangible help to the Tibetans in their struggle for independence. Today, as Modi and Xi plan collaborations on various fronts, Tibetans are reminded that in this world of realpolitik, morality and human rights are subservient. Tibetans are perceived as strategic assets or liabilities in bargaining with China, not people of an occupied land for whom India should raise its voice. For India, it is the border matters, not the border inhabitants.

Myths peddled by India

The popular as well as strategic approach of many in India towards the border dispute is jaundiced by the myths the Indian state peddled about the humiliating war of 1962. After the 1962 defeat, there was no credible reflection at the policy level in India. Indians accepted as real the myths that Indian territorial claims were legitimate and sacrosanct, and that the Chinese were duplicitous and stabbed gullible India in the back. The reality could not be further from this. The first Survey of India Map in 1950 showed the boundary as undefined in Aksai Chin and as undemarcated in the north east. It was only in the summer of 1954 that Jawaharlal Nehru gave personal orders for all old maps to be withdrawn and destroyed and to remove qualifiers and show the McMahon Line in bold, as if that was the de jure boundary.

Nehru later claimed innocence, insisting that there was no boundary disagreement and that Chinese claims were surprising. Since 1959, India rejected all the diplomatic overtures of Zhou Enlai and said negotiations could only take place if China withdrew from Aksai Chin, though India would not offer anything in return. Since 1961, the Indian military followed a “forward policy” in the border regions that was not only provocative but based on the assumption that China would not retaliate.

A great unresolved mystery from the time is why the best Indian minds working in intelligence, military and diplomacy accepted this assumption without a murmur of protest. It can be explained by Nehru’s hubris in his own capacity as a statesperson, bureaucracies subservient to him, and the inability of the civilian and military elite to be independent-minded. Macho posturing was the order of the day. The Indianisation of the top brass in the military occurred only after independence in 1947, so they were inexperienced as leaders. Faced with an army that had its genesis in revolutionary wars, the Indian army, which had been servant to an imperial power, failed to perform its basic duty of protecting the country.

via Scroll.in – News. Politics. Culture..

26/06/2014

Chinese Vice President hands over new equipment to Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority – Xinhua | English.news.cn

Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao on Wednesday toured the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) in Tanzania and handed new equipment supplied under loan terms of the 15th Protocol of Economic and Technical Cooperation between China, Tanzania and Zambia.

Li handed over the equipment, including six forklifts and four mobile cranes, to Tanzanian Minister of Transport Harrison Mwakyembe on behalf of TAZARA.

The Chinese Vice President, who took a short ride on a TAZARA train to Yombo on the outskirts of the commercial capital Dar es Salaam, commended the authority and its workers for upkeeping the infrastructure which was built four decades ago.

Li, who is on a six-day official visit to Tanzania, promised to hold further discussions with his colleagues when he goes back to China to find more ways to help TAZARA.

Mwakyembe said that the assistance was part of the pledge made by the Chinese government to help improve TAZARA infrastructure and his country would continue to value the assistance rendered by the People’s Republic of China since early 1970s.

“The saying that – a friend in need is a friend indeed – was truly reflected in the assistance provided by China 40 years ago, building the TAZARA railway when Tanzania and Zambia fought to liberate other southern African countries,” said the Tanzanian minister.

Mwakyembe said TAZARA was the largest single foreign aid project undertaken by China and the track was built with the highest standards, as evidenced by the infrastructure which remained in good shape after 40 years.

The 15th Protocol of Economic and Technical Cooperation was signed by the three governments of China, Tanzania and Zambia on March 26, 2012 in the Zambian capital Lusaka, with a value of 270 million yuan (about 40 million U.S. dollars) worth of projects to be undertaken in support of TAZARA.

The protocol, which is an interest-free loan, covers the procurement and supply of 18 passenger coaches and accompanying consumables, four new main line locomotives, two shunting locomotives, two rescue cranes and various lifting equipment.

via Chinese Vice President hands over new equipment to Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority – Xinhua | English.news.cn.

17/06/2014

Top China diplomat to visit Vietnam in possible thaw over oil rig | Reuters

China’s top diplomat will visit Vietnam on Wednesday in a sign the two countries want to ease tensions over China’s deployment of an oil rig in the disputed South China Sea, but experts said there were many obstacles to healing the ruptured relationship.

Map of the South China Sea

Map of the South China Sea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The visit by State Councilor Yang Jiechi, who outranks the foreign minister, will be the highest level direct contact between Beijing and Hanoi since a Chinese state oil company parked the rig in waters claimed by both countries on May 2. Yang would attend an annual meeting on bilateral cooperation, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing. Vietnamese officials said Yang would meet Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung as well as the head of the country’s ruling communist party. “We hope that Vietnam keeps its eye on the broader picture, meets China halfway and appropriately resolves the present situation,” Hua said, without directly mentioning the rig. Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh said the rig would be discussed. Ties between the two neighbours have been largely frozen since early May, with both sides constantly accusing the other of inflaming the situation. Dozens of Vietnamese and Chinese coastguard and fishing vessels have repeatedly squared off around the rig, resulting in a number of collisions. via Top China diplomat to visit Vietnam in possible thaw over oil rig | Reuters.

22/05/2014

Modi’s Challenges on the World Stage – India Real Time – WSJ

India is back. Last week’s election tally shows that an allegedly divisive leader has united the country as no politician has in decades. India is now in the hands of a prime minister who has managed the economy of its most industrialized and globalized state—one that has grown faster than China for two decades—and the consequences will extend far beyond India. The U.S., China and Japan all have high stakes in an Indian resurgence that could tilt Asia’s power balance in a democratic direction.

As the first Indian prime minister born after independence, Narendra Modi could now declare Indian independence from the old shibboleths of state socialism and non-alignment that have kept the country poor and geopolitically marginalized. To fulfill his people’s aspirations—tackle chronic underdevelopment at home, close the gap with Chinese power abroad—Mr. Modi will need all the western and Japanese capital, technology and military support he can get.

The last prime minister from Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, Atal Bihari Vajpayee (in office 1998-2004), declared India and America “natural allies” after decades of alienation. He also conducted nuclear tests to deter Chinese adventurism, visited Lahore to sketch out a vision for peace with Pakistan and opened the door to U.S.-India defense cooperation. Yet Indo-U.S. ties weakened in recent years, part of what Mr. Modi calls the general “stagnancy” afflicting his country.

The best way to restore Indo-U.S. momentum is to get India growing again. “A strong economy is the driver of an effective foreign policy,” Mr. Modi has said. “We have to put our own house in order so that the world is attracted to us.”

via Modi’s Challenges on the World Stage – India Real Time – WSJ.

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